“It was only a brief little note with a sentiment prayerfully spoken, Yet not in vain, for it soothed the pain of a heart that was nearly broken.” –Anonymous

“I just enjoyed the sweetest, juiciest, tastiest nectarine. It was delicious and a reminder that life is about the little things, the accumulation of subtle sweet surprises. Appreciating that each day will have a blessing or two in camouflage is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

Arlene Martin, Face Book post, August 2011

The following is a letter I received ten years ago from someone in response to the above quote. If I think I am having a bad day, I only have to think of this special lady and the anguish she has been dealing with. I tell her she has it all wrong – SHE is the encouraging, positive one. Read on. You’ll see what I mean and how your day, too will suddenly seem another day in paradise. Her poignant words are also a reminder to ‘stay sweet’ – one never knows along the way who will benefit from a friendly wave and smile.

“Dear Arlene.
Thank you for replying to my little message.. I got your reply on what was a really hard week – my son was hospitalized again for blood clots and his spirits as well as mine were pretty low. So just as I saw your little comment on nectarines when I really needed to remember that life is still sweet your reply came at a time when I needed a hug and that’s what it felt like – a hug, so thank you for writing back. As you know, no one can really prepare you for what life is like when cancer hits someone you love. It’s been a rollercoaster in soo many ways.
My son said a few weeks into his treatment that cancer may be the best thing that’s ever happened to him because he sees life and everyone and everything around him so much differently now. It has done that for both of us. But there are still times when it’s scary – when his spirits lag, when he’s just tired of being tired and sick and I lay awake at night wishing my boy was little again and I could tuck him in at night. And when he came in with a scraped knee I could bandage it up and make it all better. This is so much bigger than a scraped knee but the need to make it better for him is still there. I guess it’s hard to feel so helpless.

We have been blessed in so many ways since he was diagnosed though so many family and friends and people we didn’t even know have reached out to us and have helped us. I would be soo grateful for your prayers for us. Thank you for being a light in what feels like such a dark time sometimes.

There is a little poster hanging on the wall in the cancer ward in RUH* that says, ‘Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.’ When I read it I thought of you. Thank you for sharing your sunshine with me. Bless you.”

As I read through this I was reminded on an old Irish proverb that rings so true and especially now during pandemic times. I have tucked it in my heart and double-dare you to do the same: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

HOSANNA: an expression of adoration, praise, or joy.

Thirty men, red-eyed, downcast and disheveled, lined up before a judge of a police court. It was the customary morning judgement day of “drunks and disorderlies.”  When the brief chaos that accompanied the arrival of the prisoners quieted down a bizarre thing happened. A strong, spectacular, clear voice began singing: “Last night I lay a sleeping, there came a dream so fair . . .”

The song continued, uninterrupted. The judge hesitated, then made a quiet inquiry. A well-known member of a famous opera company belonged to the voice wafting into the courtroom. Awaiting trial for forgery, he was singing from his cell. 

Every man in the line stilled, showing emotion, the lyrics contrasting with their previous night’s drunkenness. Wiping unashamed tears – one by one, they fell to their knees as the clear strong voice wafted the poignant words: Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Lift up your gates and sing, Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to your king.”

As those last words magnificently loudly rang out a touching silence hung over the room. The judge looked into the faces of the men. The song’s conclusion resulted in the judge dismissing the men without punishment, each having learned a lesson from the song.

In the Christian faith, Jesus died on the cross as the ultimate act to forgive humanity of its sins and open the gates of heaven. He was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha. It was not human beings who accomplished anything here – it was all God. God comes down into the fullness of human dysfunction. He came to human beings in infinite love. He judged what is human and He granted grace beyond any merit. In Jesus, God wears the body of anyone who is lost and broken. The cross brings freedom from future judgement. 

The words resonating in my heart are seeking release:

. . Sing for the night is over! Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna forever more!

 Happy blessed Easter dear friends.

Love, Arlene


(Song excerpts from THE HOLY CITY: Written by Frederic Weatherly (1848-1929); Weatherly is estimated to have written about 3,000 songs. One was Danny Boy, which he wrote in 1910.)

Your Words Have the Power to Heal or Hurt

Enjoying a moment with father years ago. I miss our talks. He wasn’t a man of many words, but each word was carefully thought out and spoken with love, gratitude and gentleness.

There are so many times when I wish I could sit with my father and hear him talk and laugh again. He laced thankfulness in almost every situation and always welcomed a good joke or story. His quick easy droll comments reinforces my belief that humor is power. It has muscle when we have nothing left. My father was my maharishi. His simple grasp of common sense could un-compliCATe any situation. He frequently said that one can’t control circumstances, but it is possible to control one’s responses to them.

He vividly came to mind recently as I retrieved a carton of eggs from the fridge. Before his health failed and he was able to drive, he enjoyed spending lazy summer afternoons at our farm. That day as I placed a cup of coffee on the table near him, I reached too quickly for the fridge door. In my haste a dozen eggs flew from their perch landing with a sickening crunch, slowly oozing their creamy textured yellow and egg-shell white around his feet. I watched, almost as in slow motion as he lowered his head for a closer look, my mind wondering his response and how to clean such a mess. His shoes and ankles were splattered in raw egg. Daddy then looked at me, a big grin spreading across his face and with that unforgettable twinkle dancing in his dark eyes, he simply said, “I always did like them scrambled.”

When I was eleven I believed my six grade teacher hated children. Domineering and humourless, he ran a tight classroom. I was self-conscious and shy so this tall man with piercing black eyes and booming voice seemed to me everything a teacher should not be. I cowered behind my desk always avoiding eye contact, praying he would not look my way or direct a question at me.

One day writing in my scribbler as he was making notes on the chalkboard whispers and snickers spread among the classroom. Students began to notice he had large white chalk smears on his nose, cheek and in his slick, black Brylcreemed hair. Suddenly with a booming, “WHAT’S SO FUNNY,” he whirled around and livid black eyes were staring directly into mine. Indeed he had white streaks on his nose, his cheek and in his hair. His clown-like appearance created a knee-jerk reaction and regrettably, I giggled. Others were also trying to suppress laughter. “You think life is funny, Arlene,” he roared. “I’ll show you something funny. Get up and get into the corner.”
My parents and adult relatives were soft spoken and kind. Rage was unfamiliar to me. The classroom was deafeningly silent as I walked on shaky skinny legs to the corner where, with livid hand, this teacher was pointing. “Get down on your knees,” he yelled, “and put your arm and hands in the air!” Angrily he placed heavy books on my up-raised hands ordering me not to drop them, to stay like that till I learned respect in his class.
It seemed infinity. With aching arms I can still feel the humiliation and tears that trickled down my face; tears I could not even wipe away. With his abusive, destructive anger, that person would not meet the criteria to teach today. He sought respect and short-changed himself misinterpreting fear for respect and admiration. I do not remember what I wrote in my notebooks during his classes but even today, with aching clarity I remember how demeaned and humiliated he made me feel.

Fast forward four decades. I am in a crowded department store. Carefully I placed a large fragile beautiful ornament inside a towel to protect it in my shopping cart. Later, forgetting it was there, I reached in and rearranged items forgetting the towel housed that delicate item. It fell to the floor with that unmistakable dreadful sound of shattering glass. Heads turned, eyes stared. This never happened to me before and it’s not a pleasant experience. Suddenly a nearby customer flashed me a reassuring soothing smile, then, her voice edged with laughter, yelled, “CLEAN UP IN AISLE FOUR!” She came and stood beside me and reassuringly told me it was no big deal. A clerk arrived and this saintly person explained, “We had an accident here.” “WE.” It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me and a stranger yet. That afternoon I learnt a poignant lesson from her, one that I try to emulate.

Broken glass, misspoken words, misdirected rage, spilled milk (or eggs) – life is a composite of negative mishaps, bad indignant behaviour, demeaning ridicule and responses. Regrettably, I have realized that resentment and reprisal comes easier than acceptance and forgiveness. Also, everyone has something to offer a fellow traveler because we are all on pretty much the same journey. There are times when we momentarily intersect and touch one other. Often, sadly, there are no second chances, no return trips. For the stranger, the angel who came to my rescue and stood beside me near a pile of splintered glass, this is me applauding. She didn’t have to but she chose laughter and compassion and stayed beside me. And father – he laughed as I cleaned the egg from his shoes.

Life plays out in the silent ticking of each minute and it offers no rehearsals, no do-overs. Kindness is so very uncompliCATed. When my curtain drops I truly hope it falls among the accolades and echoes of kindness.
Even when it is bittersweet, I have learned that forgiveness and joy make a beautiful duet.

Childhood ~ when all you had to do to lose weight was take a bath.

When school doors closed for two glorious months, as a kid on a mixed grain and cattle  farm, the entertainment  possibilities were endless.  I didn’t dare mention the “B” word” should mother catch wind of me saying, “I’m bored.”  She always responded quickly and with determination: “Well, if you’re bored, I can fix that!”  Then I’d be sent, pail in hand, out to her huge garden to pick peas, raspberries or Heaven forbid – to the bushes to pick  pincherries or saskatoons. I learned real quick never to say that word when mother was in hearing range. The following are some of the things that got me enjoyably through a prairie summer in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s:

-Playing fetch with our gentle collie, Lassie, tossing a new thing called a Frisbee and tail wagging, he always returned it.

-Thinking how sophisticated and grown up we looked enjoying a package of candy cigarettes and/or BubbleGum Cigars with my brother Brian.

Enjoying mother’s delicious homemade vanilla ice cream, and popsicles she made with orange and pineapple Jell-O.

Listening to songs with my sister on her very modern leather encased, little transistor radio.

-Drinking grape Kool Aid with my cousins and laughing at our purple moustaches. And homemade Root Beer – waiting and waiting for it to finally be ready and enjoying that sweet sticky flavour.

-Playing with my Pez, a gift Aunt Mona from Kentucky, would bring when she she came home to family on the hot summer prairie.

-Riding and bouncing on the hay wagon.

-Cleaning and converting a wooden granary into a bedroom then running, screaming into the house in the middle of night because of all the monsters and ghosts that lingered in a young girl’s imagination.

-Laying on the grass at night with my cousin Donna and hoping for a flying saucer sighting.

With my siblings cooling off in the the murky dugout. I think we all went to the same hair stylist, though Janice is holding a bathing cap to keep her ‘do’ dry and pretty. I am at the far right beside my cousin, Andrea. I have a feeling our swim suits, with the exception of brother, Brian’s – were all hand-me-downs! But – don’t we look happy? We were!

-Swimming in the dugout, trying to catch salamanders in the shallow clay bottom murky water.

-Working on my Paint-By-Number or reading LITTLE WOMEN when it was too stormy to be outdoors.

-Playing dress-up with old curtains and mother’s cinch belts and scarves.

-Tossing a baseball high over the roof of our garage and yelling, “Anty-eye-over” to my playmates on the other side waiting to catch it.

-Sleeping at grandmother’s house and waking up to her delicious oatmeal porridge. Also the joy of collecting nickels simply by giving my grandpa happy kisses and laughing through his whisker rubs.

.-Listening in on the ‘party-line’ telephone till Mother saw me and told me to hang up and respect our neighbour’s privacy.

-Putting sewn-by-mother doll clothes on cats and kittens in the barn then placing them in my doll carriage for trips around our farm yard..

-Riding bareback on our two gentle white work horses, Lady and Prince.

-Giggling with my cousins, Andrea and Linda, over absolutely nothing when they’d visit.

-Falling asleep so tuckered from the fresh air, watching the stars through my window and listening to daddy play his violin while mother played the piano and hummed along.

-Gyrating, spinning and swiveling to keep at least two hula-hoops circling my scrawny gangly torso

Going to church Sunday mornings wearing a dress sewn by mother, my hands tucked inside white gloves, feet in white leather Sunday shoes.

In the blink of an eye those days have vanished. Still I find myself often thinking of  golden summers growing up on our little farm. I smile as I imagine having today’s electronic/digital ‘toys’. I know my folks would never allow ‘us kids’ to spend endless hours playing on those devices while daylight burned and the moon shined.
It is easy to get lost today in the warp speed of time and who we once were fades. Telling our stories endorses that once we were little and loved and though we didn’t know it – we had a wonderful life. 

My family, 1958. Left to Right: Barbara, Yours Truly on my dad’s lap, mother, Brian, Janice. Kurtis was born 2 years later.
Our neighbours, Bill and Emma Braitenbach at our home for an evening of visiting, lunch and music. I am wearing the tall socks and standing with my sisters in the doorway. My friend, Valerie Braitenbach is beside me. I can’t remember the songs, but I remember the warmth and love in our little farm house when friends came to visit.

Home is where you hang your @

Truth is, I wouldn’t know a gigabyte from a snakebite.~Dolly Parton

There is a world market for about five computers. ~Thomas J Watson, 1958 Chairman of IBM

The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most. ~IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.

This ‘telephone‘ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us~A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).

Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons-Popular Mechanics, March 1949

Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop – because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds. ~TIME, 1966, in one sentence writing off e-commerce long before anyone had ever heard of it.

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. We will never make a 32 bit operating system~Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Co. Maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year. ~The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

But what the hell is it good for? ~IBM executive Robert Lloyd, speaking in 1968 microprocessor, the heart of today’s computers

Everything that can be invented has already been invented.  ~Charles H. Duell, director of the U.S. Patent Office, 1899

Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.  ~John F. Kennedy

Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do – don’t need to be done. ~Andy Rooney

One of the most feared expressions in modern times is ‘The computer is down’. ~Norman Ralph Augustine 

The problem of viruses is temporary and will be solved in two years. John McAfee, 1988

Our computers have become windows through which we can gaze upon a world that is virtually without horizons or boundaries. ~Joseph B. Wirthlin

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing. Emo Philips

By 1985, machines will be capable of doing any work Man can do. ~Herbert A. Simon, of Carnegie Mellon University – considered to be a founder of the field of artificial intelligence – speaking in 1965

A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires. 

~News item in a New York newspaper, 1868

Of all the inventions of humans, the computer is going to rank near or at the tops as history unfolds and we look back. It is the most awesome tool that we have ever invented. I feel incredibly lucky to be at exactly the right place in Silicon Valley, at exactly the right time, historically, where this invention has taken form. ~Steve Jobs

At least my pencil never crashes!  ~Author Unknown

Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition~Dennis Gabor, British physicist and author of Inventing the Future, 1962.

In a few minutes a computer can make a mistake so great that it would have taken many men many months to equal it.  ~Author Unknown

Mac users swear by their computers.  PC users swear at their computers.  ~Author Unknown

Computers add a new aspect to my character. I cuss more. ~Yours Truly

I closed the top of my laptop, laid my head on the shiny black surface, and wept. ~Yours Truly

Byte me. ~Yours Truly

Share this:

My Best Regards

(Excerpts from my articles, re: 2010)

About Courage:

  • The best courage is the kind that rouses you quietly every morning cheering within your spirit telling you to try again, today.

About Loss:

  • As the calendar must fling away January and February to move on to seasons alive with life and growth; grief, I have discovered, strips away the fluff and is a raw reminder that I have loved deeply and I have loved well.
  • I believe that when one can’t say good-bye, love says it for you.
  • Barbara and I spent the afternoon at a funeral – what better time to appreciate that life exists only in the present ticking of each minute. That meal tasted especially wonderful and I thought my sister never looked more beautiful.
  • Cats chase the falling leaves and gentle snowflakes because it’s their way of appreciating brevity.

About Life:

  • Life is not about me. I am just the audience. But I watch and learn.
  • I don’t have to be perfect, I don’t have to be the size I was twenty years ago and I certainly don’t have to emulate stars and compare myself to others. I just have to be the best me that I can be, complete with flaws and faults.
  • I measure my character by the size of the things that upset me.
  • Thinking ‘right’ isn’t complicated.
  • The honesty behind me saying “I’m sorry” is eye contact.
  • I prefer to simply be guided by something mama taught me a long time ago: Common sense.
  • We all have something to offer a fellow traveler because we are all on pretty much the same journey. . . there are times when we momentarily intersect and touch one other. Often there are no second chances, no return trips and I can only aspire to toss out the things that don’t matter and get the greeting and meeting right the first time.

About Humor and the Lack Of:

  • hUmor should always include “U.”
  • Prickly people are always, well – just prickly.
  • To disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.
  • He who angers me; owns me.*Beware of anger–it’s just one letter from danger.

About Things That Go Bump in the Night:

  • The human race is divided on the paranormal: believers who can live with shades of grey – and the skeptics, who prefer their world to be black and white, rock-solid.
  • I can live with anonymity. I don’t have to know all the answers.

About Things That Go Bump In the Day

  • My apologetic words seemed to fall on deaf ears, “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?” she accused. I looked around the sparse parking lot. I didn’t know myself how I could have been so careless and backed directly into her half ton. I pointed at a rusty early ‘80’s pick-up and told her: “I didn’t single you out. If I was going to deliberately hit another truck, I would have chosen that Dodge. I sure wouldn’t have rammed another Chevy.”

About People and Pets:

  • We have to pick our battles and find our comfortable place in the world of people and animals. I find it so very disturbing when I see the mistreatment of the helpless, animal and human.
  • If our calico, Brandy could add her two cents, I know exactly what that kitty would say, ‘Life is hard. And then you nap!’
  • I would rather be scratched by oblivious claws than wounded by careless, callous comments.
  • Alone, hungry and cold isn’t a nice place to be whether one has four legs or two. And a neat, tidy sparkly clean house can also be a lonely place.

About Home Renovations:

  • We had saws and their big tables, plastic pails (for tile work,) boxes and large trash bins and rubble and muddle directly in front of our main entrance. Although it didn’t bother the guys, I often thought the toilet, chucked mere feet from the front door, was an unabashed Feng Sui felony.

About Writing:

  • Not everyone understands the allure and adventure of writing and words. If my doctor told me I had only fifteen minutes of living left, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’d just type a lot faster!
  • It’s really true and Earnest Hemmingway said it best: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemmingway

About Valentine’s Day:

  • Many of my friends have lost their Valentine and are left with only memories. Grasping this makes me draw an invisible blazing red heart around the kind, gentle and hard-working man who doesn’t bring me flowers.
  • For many decades I have wished for roses and even Rose-scented cologne on this day. But often it arrives on the Canadian prairie during a bitter, bone-chilling snow storm or cold snap. So as I sit with a cup of hot coco I listen contentedly to the sweet warm peaceful hum of heat blowing through the pipes up into the registers and I thank God for a Valentine who gives me the best ever well-maintained and serviced furnace.

Revisiting MOUSELAND

In 1944, a Baptist preacher turned politician ran for premier of Saskatchewan and Canada’s political landscape began to change forever. Tommy Douglas had a new vision for the role of government; he believed that it had the responsibility to improve the lives of ordinary people. In Saskatchewan people faced tough times. Farmers were working hard but prices for agricultural products were kept low to help the war effort. And the Depression of the 1930s had left its mark. Most farms still had no electricity and a bad crop could mean losing the farm. A trip to the hospital could mean destitution.
As a preacher, Tommy Douglas had seen the suffering first hand:
“Again and again we would leave some sitting in the hospital waiting room while we went out and borrowed or begged a few dollars here and there till we’d make up enough to pay the bill. In some cases I knew people who simply died. I remember burying a girl fourteen years of age who had died with a ruptured appendix … I buried a good many people that I knew, some of whom I loved. “
As a politician, he would do what he could to change the system. Tommy Douglas had faith that someday socialism, (not EVER to be confused with communism) which recognizes human rights and dignity, will win over capitalism and the mere pursuit of wealth and power.

Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do. They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats. Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws–that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouse holes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds–so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouse holes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouse holes.” And they did. And the square mouse holes were twice as big as the round mouse holes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat. You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?”
“Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.
My friends – I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.

(I make no claim as representing any Canadian political party. It just seems a great and timely uncompliCATed story. However, as a Canadian, every time I make a medical visit whether for consultation, check-up or surgery, I am indebted to this man who saw the completion of his dream of free medical services (and pensions) to all Canadians.)

Kiefer Sutherland stands proudly beside the bronze statue of his grandfather, Tommy Douglas. Statue is situated in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where Douglas was pastor of the Baptist Church. It was the joint efforts of of Lester B Pearson, John Diefenbaker and Tommy Douglas that made possible, among other things: minimum wage, Family Allowance, Free Health Care and Pensions to all Canadian citizens. Douglas always referred to himself as his brother’s keeper.