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Since 1987, Jim Low has prepared annual newsletters that were sent to friends and relatives. The early ones were simple reports about family activities and members. Gradually, however, they developed a theme of the year of general spiritual expression, as related to family life. This became a conscious goal starting in 1995. Starting in 1990, I titled the newsletter Gatherings. This title represents a gathering of family and friends where we show how we care for each other and exchanged information about ourselves: including activities, thoughts, and feelings.
Go to the Christmas newsletter for the year:
1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
We hope you had a good year. The nice thing about this time of year is that we have a chance to exchange greetings again. We are always interested in you, and we like to pass on a little information about us.
We had one short holiday this year. In July, our family spent five days touring Quebec City.
Eleanor continues as Administrator of a Nursing Home, which she successfully saw through a tough accreditation inspection this year. She is currently taking a course at Ryerson to upgrade her gerontology management skills
Jim continues working as a computer consultant with the Atmospheric Environment Service. He keeps busy with his hobbies (Astronomy, Genealogy, Computers) and "moved up" to an Apple IIgs computer this year.
Carrie is now officially an adult, having turned 18 this year. She has "itchy feet" and is always wanting to travel. Since she got her driver's license, she is always off somewhere with the family car. She will be joining Jim on a trip to the Philippines next March to see a total eclipse of the sun, and then taking a side trip to Hong-Kong and mainland China. Carrie is now in grade 13 (last year high school) and plans to attend an out-of-town university next year. She currently has a part-time job at a video store.
Our "social butterfly" Cheryl is 16 and in French grade 11. She has a part-time job doing telephone surveys. Paying Cheryl to be on the telephone is like paying someone to breath!
Peter, 11, is in French grade 6. He is active in the local church Boy's Choir and loves it. He spent a week at Choir camp in August. Recently he spent a week at a nature school on Toronto Island. Peter is fascinated with maps and is a "geography freak."
Jerry, 9, is in grade 4. As usual, he is very active and into everything! If you ever read the "Curious George" series of children stories, then you have an idea what Jerry is like. If he had his way, he'd take the world apart to see what makes it tick.
Please let us hear how you are. We hope you have a Merry Christmas and a great new year.
Jim, Eleanor, Carrie, Cheryl, Peter, Jerry
Another year has gone by and it's time for another news letter from the LOW family in Toronto. We hope you had a great 1988. Please let us hear from you, as we are always interested in you and your activities.
The big excitement in our family during 1988 was the total solar eclipse expedition to the Philippines in March. Carrie, Cheryl, and Jim took the two week trip with a group of 22 members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. As Jim has been an amateur astronomer for over 30 years, solar eclipse-chasing has become a habit for him. This was his eighth eclipse trip, and Carrie and Cheryl's second. Why chase eclipses? Well, if you see one total eclipse of the sun, you will become an eclipse-chaser yourself. There is no way to describe this spectacle of nature and no photograph can do it justice. And besides, eclipse-chasing is a good excuse to see far-off and exotic places!
This trip was an educational experience for all of us - we learned about different cultures and saw what real poverty was like. Jim went on the trip with his "two little girls" but lost them somewhere. He returned home with two young women. We arrived in Manila and were immediately fascinated with the "public transit" system: privately run "Jeepnies" which are old converted WW II jeeps, that hold about a dozen people each. One peso (six cents) took you three kilometers in whatever direction the driver decided to go - usually after a majority vote by the passengers! We noticed a large number of children. Our local tour guide said "In Canada, you have Family Planning. Here we have Family Planting!" Next, a trip to Cebu, Philippines and a couple of days at a nice resort before we caught our DC3 (or something similar) to General Santos City on the southern island of Mindanao. We were treated like Royalty. The city officials had expected large crowds for the eclipse. However, because of the threat of rebellion, many U.S. astronomical tours had been cancelled. We were one of the few groups who decided to go anyway. This area had some terrorist activities, but not while we were there. The day of the eclipse happened to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the formation of the local Muslem separatist organization. The military, under the direction of General Ramos, were out in full force to prevent trouble during the eclipse.
We observed the eclipse from the rooftop of Mindanao State University with total success. We were lucky, as most other groups were clouded out. President Aquino flew down from Manila for the eclipse, but she failed to find a clear spot in time. Her helicopter flew over our site only a few minutes after the eclipse ended.
Since we were so far from home anyway, we blew the extra $200 required for a side-trip to Hong Kong. What a place! It's the world's biggest duty-free shop! From there we took a day trip into China and visited the birthplace of Dr. Sun who was the founder of the original Republic. A great trip! The next eclipse expedition is with Peter, Jerry, and (if she can be talked into it!) Eleanor to Baja California, Mexico, in 1991.
Eleanor is still working as the Administrator of a Nursing Home. After the challenge of bringing it up to high standards a few years ago, she now continues the challenge of maintaining those high standards. She continues to upgrade her education by taking courses at Ryerson, and does various volunteer work for two local churches in her spare(!) time.
Jim is active in Canada's largest Apple Computer User Group. He arrived late at a meeting in September and found himself elected President. Moral: never arrive late at a meeting. He also organized a user group for genealogy computer software. And, in his spare time, he continues working as a programmer with the Atmospheric Environment Service where he recently completed 25 years service. He also still spends time with his astronomical pursuits and genealogical research.
Carrie, 19, is now attending Ryerson, the same school where her mother is taking courses. Carrie is in first year of the Urban Planning program. Watch those cities change under her guidance! She also works part time at the local video store.
Cheryl, 17, is enjoying grade 12 and is still our social butterfly. Watch closely, and you might see her and her friends fly by once in awhile. She also works part time at the same video store as Carrie. Wow - all those free movies!
Peter, 12, is now in junior high school - grade 7. He is active in the local church choir, and recently sang at Roy Thompson Hall. He's the third one in our family to get a part-time job at the local video store: he spends every Saturday morning sorting and filing the movies that have been returned. Early in the new year, he's off to Ste. Donat, Quebec to ski for a week as part of a school programme (they didn't have things like that when we went to school!).
Jerry, 10, is busy dissecting the world to see what makes it tick. He's in grade 5 and the school has certainly found a challenge in Jerry! But he's a great kid - it's just that schools sometimes don't like it when kids insist on learning everything on their own, in their own way.
Eleanor, Jim, Peter, and Jerry spent a week camping, hiking, swimming, and canoeing in Algonquin park for a week last summer. Other routine summer activities included trips to the local playgrounds with the boys, bicycle rides to MacDonalds, and walks along the boardwalk by the local beach. It sure is nice living only a ten minute walk from the beach on Lake Ontario. Summertime is for Jim. Winter is for everyone else: time to sharpen the skates and wax the skis.
Well, that's our news for now. How about you? Please let us hear how you are and what you're doing. Have a Merry Christmas and a great new year.
Jim, Eleanor, Carrie, Cheryl, Peter, Jerry
Looking back over our calendar for the past year, there are very few dates without entries. On some days, we were supposed to be in several places at one time! Anyway, the LOW Family of Toronto kept busy as usual during 1989.
Eleanor finally completed her Gerontology Certificate course after five years of part-time studies and classes, and graduated on October 21. She has kept busy as Administrator of a Nursing Home for several years, but has decided it's time for a change. She's planning to take a well deserved rest for a while, before moving onto something a little different. No new job is lined up, but she has several prospects. ... She is also involved with two local churches, a United Church where she is a member and in a unit of the United Church Women, and the Anglican Church were Peter and Jerry sing in the boys choir.
Jim completed his year term as President of LOGIC - Canada's oldest and largest Apple Computer User Group. It was a lot of hard work, but he enjoyed it and learned a lot about the politics of a voluntary organization. Although no longer President, he is still involved with meeting organizations and many other group activities. As part of his computer activities, he added a Macintosh SE computer to sit beside his Apple IIgs, and still has his original Apple II+ which is used mostly by the kids for playing games. And he has taken over the job of System Operator ("SYSOP") of a popular computer electronic Bulletin Board Service (BBS) and has added an Apple IIe to the computer room. Gee, that's four computers being used in the house, and two more gathering dust. ... He is still with the Atmospheric Environment Service where he has worked for over 26 years, but work here is no longer enjoyable. He is planning an early retirement in August 1990 and perhaps do independent computer consulting. ... Jim is still an amateur astronomer and has been at it for about 35 years. He attends a few meetings each year of the Toronto Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and helps with the newsletter. The big event of the year in astronomy was the total eclipse of the moon on August 16, where the entire neighbourhood came out to watch through binoculars and Jim's telescope. Excellent pictures were taken. ... Jim is still active in Family History (Genealogy). He was founder of the Family Roots User Group of Toronto (FRUGOT), a group interested in using computers to assist in genealogical organization. Jim took three months off work this summer to maintain his mental health, to spend time with the boys, and to get other things done.
Carrie, 20, is in her second year at Ryerson, but has transferred from Urban Planning, where she won the Theory Prize, to a more general program for now. Her program consist of a variety of day and evening classes, night plus a correspondence course. A heavy program. She worked part time at a video store earlier in the year, but now has such a heavy course load, she takes odd part time jobs and does babysitting. During the summer, she worked as a receptionist full time at the same Nursing home where Eleanor worked.
Cheryl, 18, is in her last year of high school. She enjoys being with her friends and we see her drop in once-in-awhile. She loves to be on the go. Oh well, we remember when we were 18! She works part time at the local video store.
Peter, 13, is very active in the local Anglican Church choir, where he is now Head Chorister. Since he is so active in this Church, he decided to become a confirmed Anglican this year. So our family has loyalties to both the Anglican and United Churches. He took flute lessons for a few months, but guess he lost interest. Now he is thinking of joining the Army Cadets. He is in grade 8, and goes off to High School after next summer. He works a few hours each weekend at the local Video store. He also maintains an interest in maps and has a collected over 400.
Jerry,11, joined the same choir as Peter this year, and seems to enjoy it. He also is involved in a trampoline club, a place where he can burn off some of that extra energy! He has more energy that the rest of us combined. He has to figure out how things work, and we have a "Jerry's Law" here: "If it can't be taken apart, Jerry hasn't tried!" ... Jerry is in grade 6. He shows signs of following his father's interest in computers.
Peter, Jerry, and Jim went camping this summer and spent several days at Windy Lake Provincial Park, north of Sudbury. The boys loved riding on the lake with their inflatable boat, while Jim spent hours picking - and eating - wild blueberries. They visited Sudbury for the usual tours: The Big Nickel, Science North, and a tour down a Nickel mine. From there they drove to Cochrane, the "end of the road" to the north where they spent a night. While driving into Cochrane, they nearly hit a Moose that was casually walking down the centre lane of the highway! They took the "Polar Bear Express" train to Moosonee, an Indian Community on the Moose River near James Bay. The boys had a chance to see how native Canadians live in an isolated community. Also, they had tours of Fossil Island, and a boat trip down the Moose River to James Bay. They visited nearby Moose Factory, which is the oldest continuous English-speaking settlement in Ontario, having been settled by Hudson's Bay Company fur traders in the late 1600's.
In the "good old days" we made trips to Ottawa several times a year, but with the kids growing and developing their own activities, it's difficult to have everyone free for a trip at the same time. Only Eleanor made several trips, with the others making one or two at different times. With the girls at adult age now, they are more independent. The nucleus family is rapidly developing into the four of us (Jim, Eleanor, Peter, and Jerry). That's part of a normal growing family. Change, growth, etc. We are even toying with the idea of moving from Toronto next year - with an eye on Kingston. Prices are skyrocketing in Toronto, and we could sell our mortgaged home and buy an equivalent home in Kingston for half the price, then live mortgage-free.
Well, that's the latest from our family. Let's hear about you. We hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year.
Jim, Eleanor, Carrie, Cheryl, Peter, Jerry
The so-called mid-life crisis is a great and positive event, as long as you have an optimistic outlook, and grab those opportunities as they come by. What greater excitement and challenge is there to life when you have no idea what tomorrow may bring? When you stop to think of it, do any of us know what tomorrow may bring?
Eleanor left her job as Administrator of a Nursing Home just before Christmas last year. She continued working in long term care for a while, as a consultant. She then took a few months off in the summer to set a new course. In September she began work as a staff nurse at Casey House, the AIDS hospice in Toronto, where she can finally get back to bedside nursing. She is also studying at the Centre for Christian Studies. Eleanor wants to minister to others, but has no plans to pursue a career in the Church... so she says... but Jim keeps saying, "sure, Eleanor." Eleanor remains active in two churches: the local Anglican Church where the boys are active in the choir, and where she has developed friendships; and the local United Church, where she is a member and has several friends.
Jim "retired" after 27 years with the Government in the Atmospheric Environment Service. The pension is minimal, but it was time to move on as he felt he could develop his talents and interests better on his own. He struck off and established his own consulting business, specializing in computer related services. Although not earning much money yet, he's much happier and keeps saying "I'm going to work at what I enjoy during the last half of my life" (don't laugh, just because he's 50 - he means it! His list of "All the Things I'm Going to Do in My Life" keeps growing faster than he can check things off). Jim has special interest and knowledge in areas related to the Apple II and Macintosh computers, along with Genealogical Computing. These are specialized areas with limited market, but since there are few consultants in his areas of interest, he's managed to get a few contracts so far. One is teaching "Introduction to the Macintosh" at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Jim is still active in LOGIC, the large Apple User Group, and is back on the Board of Directors. He also continues his interest and studies in astronomy and genealogy.
Carrie, 21, "flew the coup" this year, and is attending the University of Guelph. Earlier in the year, she left Ryerson to take a full time job for eight months as a dental assistant, so she could earn the money to attend this university. She's taking sociology, with possible plans to move into law. Besides carrying a full school load, she has worked part time as a hostess in a restaurant in Guelph, and will be working at the dental office again while on her Christmas break. Since she's coming home for a few weeks around Christmas, guess we'll have to clear our stuff out of the "den" which is what her bedroom became within hours of her moving out!
Cheryl, 19, is living at home, or at least she has a bedroom here. She's still our social butterfly, and we have to look around fast when she comes in, for usually it means she's in-and-out pretty fast. She certainly has a large circle of friends. She's taking some final credits required to complete her grade 13 certificate. Cheryl continues to work at the local video store on a part-time basis.
Peter, 14, started High School (grade 9) this year, and learning what work is all about. He continues to be a member of the local Anglican Church choir. Peter now has a part time job at McDonald's where he works a few hours after school once or twice a week, and on some Friday evenings and weekends.
Jerry, 12, is in grade 6 and is doing quite well academically. As usual, he is very active and always has to be on the go. Sitting still for five minutes is a real chore for Jerry, but he's getting better at it, since it is required behaviour in school. Jerry decided to leave the choir at the Anglican Church, and there are plans for him to join the Sunday School program at the United Church.
This summer, Eleanor, Jim, Peter, and Jerry spent a couple of weeks at a cottage we rented from a friend. We had a great time sightseeing and swimming in the area around Picton and Prince Edward County of Ontario. Just before we went to the cottage, we were in Ottawa, where Jim and Eleanor attended the centennial celebration and meetings of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Thanks to Eleanor's mother, Arline, for watching the boys while we went off to the meetings and dinners.
While in the Picton area, Eleanor and Jim shanghaied a real estate agent, and had him give us a free tour of property in the area. We nearly bought an old church, school, and antique shop. However, "reality" struck, and we didn't buy. Every once in a while we get itchy feet, and think of moving to where the grass is greener. Sure was green up that way!
Except for a short visit by Carrie, the girls didn't join us on this trip, as they are now old enough to lead their own lives. We've probably seen the last of the days when the whole family strikes off on a trip together.
In July 1991, Jim will be taking off to Las Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with the Astronomical Society to observe the total eclipse of the sun. Other than that, we have no definite plans for our family next year.
Well, that's the news from Toronto for this year. We are interested in you, too, and hope to hear from you soon.
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.
Jim, Eleanor, Carrie, Cheryl, Peter, Jerry
"What greater excitement and challenge is there to life when you have no idea what tomorrow may bring? When you stop to think of it, do any of us know what tomorrow may bring?" These were my words in the first paragraph of my family newsletter last year. How prophetic they turned out to be.
On the journey through life, we never know where the road may lead us: sometimes to the top of the hill in happiness--sometimes to the valley of despair. But we must always remember: the road through life will lead to both hills and valleys. Even when in the lowest valley, we must think positively--for there is nowhere to go but up--to the top of the next hill--or even to the top of the mountain of happiness.
So--while currently my journey through life has led to a valley, I look to the hills and mountains in the distance. I am determined to face the challenge of climbing the hills of the future in a positive way.
Eleanor decided we must follow different roads in our lives, thus we are going our separate ways. While we are both still living at the same address, we live separate lives and it's only a matter of months before the separation process results in one moving out. Although I have feelings of anger and bitterness, I know that one cannot lead a productive life with such feelings, and these feelings must change. It will take time, but I am working hard to change these feelings. It's best to develop positive feelings....--and I shall--as I follow the road to recovery.
I am starting to accept the fact that our separation is inevitable. But the death of a marriage and separation is a painful time; as painful as the death of a loved one. Thus, I am going through the same mourning process that exists when a loved one has been lost which, in fact, is what happened. Hopefully, at the end of this difficult process, Eleanor and I can remain friends. There were many wonderful years in our marriage. I shall always cherish these happy memories. I am lucky and thankful to have four wonderful children.
As mentioned last Christmas, I left my job of 27 years in 1990 to follow a path as an entrepreneur in specialized areas of computer consulting. Although there has been some success, the current recession resulted in fewer contracts than hoped for. Well, the government tells us we are coming out of the recession now, so if I can believe that...
In my consulting business, I obtained contracts to teach Introduction to the Macintosh at the University of Toronto Continuing Studies department. I also developed another Macintosh course for them, and hope to be teaching it soon. I continue to obtain sporadic short-term contracts for individual training, computer setup, file transfers, and genealogical computing.
In July, I took a trip to the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico, for the total eclipse of the sun. Even though part of the eclipse was clouded out, the trip as a total success. I travelled with 20 other members of the Toronto Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), as part of a ten day trip that included tours of southern California and the "Tropic of Cancer" area in Mexico near the eclipse site. I really enjoy these eclipse trips: my ninth since 1963. I keep running into old friends (we really are getting older!). Three were with me at the 1973 eclipse to Africa. Several were with me at the 1988 Philippine eclipse. I expect to see the same familiar faces at eclipses years from now. On the day of the eclipse, we met up with 165 members of the national RASC expedition, that was an in-and-out trip. I met many more who were with me on previous eclipses. Ahhh... the joys of eclipse chasing--seeing exotic places of the world, meeting old friends again, and--oh yes--finding time to look at a total solar eclipse!
I remain very active in a local Apple Computer User Group and a Genealogy computer program user group.
During the summer, I took Peter and Jerry, and one of Peter's friends, camping to Algonquin Park. We had a great time, and spent some time canoeing. We took lots of pictures but, unfortunately, lost the camera overboard. The boys had a great time exploring a deserted island ("Treasure Island"?), chasing moose (we saw lots of them), and hiking. Gee, this is the first time I had trouble keeping up with them when hiking. You don't suppose that means I'm getting old, do you?
Carrie is now 22 and has been at the University of Guelph all year, except for summer when she was home. She currently shares an apartment in Guelph with two friends and has a part time job in the university library. During the summer, she worked full time in a dentist office. She has been accepted for a semester at La Sorbonne, Université de Paris, and will be there from January to April of 1992.
Cheryl, 20, although graduating from high school in June 1991, decided to return for another semester to get a few more credits she felt were needed to give her the flexibility in pursuing more options in community college or university. She hasn't said what her future plans are yet, but she may take a year off to work full time--if any jobs are available. In past years, I have referred to her as our "social butterfly." But, gee, she's worked so hard at school lately, she actually isn't out socializing all the time any more!
Peter, 15, is in grade 10. He's taking base guitar lessons and really enjoys it. He and some friends have started up their own band and are having a great time. They're good, too, and played in the school Christmas concert. This band was set up entirely on their own, without any adult interference. He left his job at McDonald's and left the church choir. He's currently keeping an eye out for a part time job, but they're hard to find these days (I know, I'm looking myself!).
Jerry, 13, is in grade 7--Junior High School. He's as active as ever, and is always playing with his many friends. During the summer, Jerry and I made many trips to the local beach. He has no special activities at the moment--having left the church choir early this year. In late summer, he had a job delivering advertising flyers.
The best to you this holiday season. Please let me know how you are doing. I really do enjoy hearing from all my friends and relatives.
The first year in the rest of my life has progressed better than expected. While enjoying less than the best time of my life, I did survive and grow in a positive direction. As one of my friends said, it's important to maintain a sense of humour --and that has never been a problem of mine!
As you can see, I'm still at the same address. As indicated last year, Eleanor and I separated in 1991, but remained in the same house for a while. She moved last January.
One of the secrets to recovery from separation is to keep busy. I've done that-- even without a job or much paid work in my computer consulting business. In fact, sometimes I wonder how I would ever find the time to do all the things that need to be done if I actually had a full time job. But I have to organise myself and have already said "no" to some of my voluntary work, as I am starting a full-time job with an Apple Computer dealer just before Christmas.
I'm active in my Computer User Group--being on the Board of Directors, in charge of the "Help List" and "New User Group" which assists people with computer related questions and problems. I am also assistant system operator (sysop) of the club electronic bulletin board service (BBS).
My local Anglican Church asked me to "help" them set up a computer program. The next thing I knew, I had my own keys to the church, a mailbox assigned, and was more involved than ever.
I really enjoy all the volunteer work I'm doing but some of it must end to make time for my new job. However, I consider it important to continue doing what I enjoy --and I am! I also maintain activities with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and have done voluntary work for the Ontario Genealogical Society. I still get a little paid contract work teaching introductory Macintosh computer courses at the University of Toronto, some sales in computer genealogy software, genealogical consulting, and other various short term computer consulting contracts.
I'm also involved with a newly organised Separates' Support Group in my area. Although it meets at the local church I attend, it's non-denominational and is a self-help group to meet the spiritual, psychological, and social needs of separated and divorced individuals. Without forgetting the first two aspects, I'm trying to emphasise the "social" part. After several meetings where there was talk and suggestions of social activities, but nothing actually being done, another member and I got together to brainstorm and come up with definite plans. One was to go to a meeting and say "this is what is organised, on this date at this time--now who can come?" It worked. We organised a "Pub Night." Me? Organise a Pub Night? Hahahahaha. I won't even drink communion wine! Anyway, two of us went to "case the joint" before deciding, and to hold a "business meeting" there on a "typical evening." We happened to pick the night of the last game of the World Series. So much for business! Must admit, though, while having no interest in sports, I got caught up in the game. For some strange reason, it was being shown on TV in the pub. The last time I got caught up in a sporting event was the Canada-Russia hockey game about 20 years earlier. So I stood there (no sitting room) calmly drinking my diet coke. The game ran into extra innings and tension was rising as the pub carried out it's nightly ritual in accordance with Ontario's 19th Century liquor laws, and rang the 15 minute warning time gong at 12:45. Pubs cannot serve past 1:00AM. "Boooo!" came the chorus. However, when the game ended after 1:00AM, the police were nowhere to be seen as the pub blatantly broke our provincial liquor laws when the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. I even ordered another diet coke. No one would believe that story, as I must have smelt pretty high after all the champagne was thrown around and dumped on me. The pub actually came to attention at one point and sang "Oh Canada"--and got it right (I think... has anyone decided on the "right" version yet?). Then there was the Canadian flag marked "+ this end up +" Oh yes--we managed to meet a few days later to discuss business. We presented the de facto arrangements to the group at the next meeting for their rubber stamp ...err... approval, and had a very successful pub night--which we plan to make a regular event. Next event scheduled is a dinner party. I'm planning a pot-luck supper at my place early in the new year.
Carrie is back at the University of Guelph, after having spent a very successful semester at La Sorbonne, université de Paris. Upon completion of the semester, she spent a few weeks touring Europe before returning to Canada. She had a summer job with a dentist in Toronto, before returning to Guelph, and currently works part-time at the University of Guelph library.
Cheryl was disappointed when she couldn't get into the college program she wanted (Dental Assistant). With government cutbacks to education, and more students staying in school because of the recession, even highly qualified students are not able to get into higher education in certain areas. So she is taking time off school, and took over Carrie's job in the dentist's office. She's looking into other college programs she can get into during 1993. Cheryl main-tains an active social life.
Both Carrie and Cheryl are adults and, while they will always be my children, lead their own lives. They have essentially "flown the coup." Carrie lives in Guelph, while Cheryl rents a room from me.
Peter will be 17 next month and is in grade 11. He's active in a band he and his friends organised. He obtained a drum set and is the band's drummer. He keeps the drums here, as I am half-deaf and probably the only adult who can tolerate the practice--including practices of the entire band--on a regular basis. Our neighbours have been consulted, and have agreed to tolerate the practice at mutually satisfactory hours. The boys also have arrangements to practice in the local church hall several times a month.
Peter also got his drivers license this year, so he "needs wheels." I purchased a 1987 Chevette for myself this summer. Although I didn't intend to, I kept the 1980 station wagon. It's in bad shape, and the rule is that it's not to be driven further than one can walk home. Would you believe that with two vehicles, there have been times when I wanted to go out and there wasn't a car available?! Both Peter and Cheryl had my vehicles at the same time on several occasions. Seems the rare time I do use a car, my first stop has to be a gas station....
Jerry is 14 and in grade 8. We can't seem to find any
organised activity he would like. But he seems content with sporadic
and spur-of-the moment activities. He is always with his friends, and
they are in-and-out of the house all the time. During the summer, he
and friends would sometimes join me for a walk down to the local
beach--if I promised a treat of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. That's
another ritual of many years that ends--Baskin-Robbins closed down
recently, along with many of the other local businesses. He and a
friend still enjoy a visit to the local Mcdonald's or Harvey's with
me. Kid's are lazy now, though. They want to drive, rather than spend
15 minutes walking, as I prefer.
The annual Camping Trip
This summer, Peter, Jerry, and I did the usual camping trip ritual. Peter wanted to go camping with most of his band members, and did not want any parents along. I insisted at least one parent had to be close by--it ended up being me. Boy, was I mean! (My line whenever one of my children said I was "mean" over the years was: "Of course I'm mean. I went to Mean School. It's a requirement before becoming a parent to graduate from Mean School"). The compromise was that we would travel to Algonquin park in convoy, and that I would stay in the same campground, but not on adjacent sites. Jerry and one of his friends were with me, while Peter and his friends did their own thing with a daily check-in. Since we were away on my birthday, all six boys took me out to dinner. Jerry, his friend, and I went hiking and did canoeing. We all had a great time, and the boys insisted on staying longer. We did stay an extra day, but I had commitments and couldn't stay even longer. The older boys said they would stay while I could return home. Uh-uh. I was mean! A week later, Peter, Jerry, and I visited their grandmother in Ottawa, and we made a return trip via Algonquin park.
While the past few years have been difficult for me, I look to the future in a positive way. I have survived crisis in the past, and will not only survive this, but will flourish. It has been heartening to learn that I have many good friends who helped me--and continue to do so--through my difficult times.
I must express special thanks to my friends Geoff and Robert for seeing me through this crisis. Not only did they "lend an ear" but gave practical help, too. My sister Penny, and cousins Bill and Ann have also been vital help during my difficult time--more than they may realise. My mother-in-law Arline has also been very supportive--to both Eleanor and me--and I realise this must be a very difficult time for her, too. Father Allan Kirk, rector of St. John's Norway Anglican Church, has been a special friend in both spiritual and material ways. It was with sadness I said goodbye to him as he recently left to become Dean of the Cathedral in Saskatoon, but I wish him well in his advancement in the clergy. Thanks to the many others, including my four children, who have helped in many ways--to both Eleanor and me.
The best to you this holiday season. I like to keep in touch with all my friends and relatives. So please let me know how you are doing.
This is my twentieth Christmas in the same home and am Iooking positively to the future with dreams that I may remain here for many more years. When buying this home in 1974 I said then: "I've moved 28 times in my life. This is my last move. My roots are here." Even with all those years here, however, I've still averaged less than two years between moves during my entire life! 1994 will be a major decision year that determines if I remain here or not. The home must be refinanced, and mortgage qualifications depend on my financial status over the next few months. Things are looking favourable, though.
No--I don't tire of this place. I couldn't ask for better. Great neighbours. Street car and bus stops within a block to take me anywhere in the city. A ten minute walk to the beach. The style of house I've always liked on a living residential street. Yes, it's a living street--not a deadly quiet one. Kids are always around. There's never a dull moment. Typical of an urban residential street, there are street hockey and ball games. The kids faithfully ignore the sign placed in the middle of our block by city officials which says "Ball and Hockey Playing Prohibited." Of course, we assume there is a misprint on that sign, and the last word should be "Encouraged." Hurrumph. Whoever had that sign installed forgets what it's like to be young.
Last year, my letter mentioned I was just starting a new job. Well, it lasted two days! Sales is definitely not my line of work. However, my freelance computer consulting work continued, and I started to get regular contract work with an Apple Computer dealer in Oakville in May. This led to part time employment with them three days a week starting in November, with the possibility of more contract work arranged through them in the new year. I'm working in the service depart-ment, and assisting customers with troubleshooting problems. I was sent to Apple Canada on a couple of service courses. This means I can now open your Apple Macintosh and PowerBook computers without voiding your warranty. I'm not sure about voiding your computers, though...
Getting more work has a serious disadvantage, though. It interferes with all my voluntary work, and I'm having to say NO! more often. However, it's important to maintain activities I enjoy.
While remaining very active in my Apple Computer User Group, I decided to leave the Board of Directors for the year. Less time in administrative work leaves me with more time doing what I enjoy--learning and helping people. I remain active with the New User Group, Help List, and continue as assistant system operator (sysop) of the club electronic Bulletin Board Service (BBS).
Of course, I still have some administrative volunteer work to do. I accepted nomination for second term as Envelope Secretary of my local Anglican Church, and will continue on the Advisory Board. I'm their "computer advisor." Those who know me must be laughing like crazy to hear of me being involved with a church. Well, rest assured--I haven't really changed that much, for I'm rarely at the church on Sundays! However, they offer a valuable community service, and I'm always ready to assist any organisation that offers community services.
I also maintain activities with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and have done voluntary work for the Ontario Genealogical Society.
My activities with the Beaches Separates' Support Group in my area continues. Although it meets at the local church I attend, it's non-denominational and is a self-help group to meet the psychological and social needs of separated and divorced individuals. I've met a number of great people in this group, and some of us meet for "pub" nights, dinners, dances, and movies.
The Annual Camping Trip
Yes, it's still an annual event. This was the first time in years, though, that the old Apaché camper was pulled out and used. Arrangements were made with Wayne McArthur (Eleanor's first husband) to tow it to Algonquin Park for a month. We travelled in convoy, with him in the van while Jerry, a friend of his, and me followed in my car. We set it up, then Wayne left. Jerry, his friend, and I had a great week. We rented a canoe and the boys enjoyed their annual exploration of "Jerry's Island"--a small uninhabited island in Lake-of-Two-Rivers. Apparently the island was unnamed--well, it's named now! As previously arranged, Eleanor arrived to continue another week with the boys, while I returned to Toronto.
Then Peter and three of his friends went to the campsite. They spent a few days there on their own, and I went up again with Jerry and another friend of his to "keep them company" for four days Actually, I was an unwelcome guest, as the boys didn't really want a parent around. Teenagers won't be seen dead with a parent! However, parents of the boys felt it might be best if there was adult supervision at least part of the time. I generally let them alone to do their own thing. But I seemed to be very welcome some of the time--such as for meal preparation, cleanup, and a trip to a restaurant on a rainy day.
So there I was, one adult with six teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17 on one campsite. One afternoon, when all the boys were off doing all those safe activities they assured me they were doing <snicker>, I was relaxing at the camp-site in a beach chair, sipping on a diet coke, when a neighbouring camper came up to me and asked "are all those boys yours?" "Of course," I replied. I think she actually believed it for a minute. She was with two pre-teen boys. She was wondering what camping would be like when they are teenagers. "Don't worry," I replied. "It keeps getting worse as they grow older." She was shaking her head as she walked back towards her children, who were now screaming and fighting. Wonder if I'll see her there next summer?
The boys were great the whole time. They faithfully obeyed the 11:00PM camp-ground "quiet time" rules, which is more than I can say for some adults there!
Carrie is still attending the University of Guelph. She has been taking one course this semester, as she was able to get almost full time work with Alias Research, a graphics design company. She's working with Macintosh computers. She will be completing her final few subjects by summer of 1994 and expects to graduate with her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree by June. Carrie wrote the Law School Admission Test and came in at the top 15%. This means she is assured of acceptance in the Law program of any university of her choice. So it appears she will be spending the next few years working towards her law degree. Guess being a lawyer is her aim.
Cheryl worked full time, then part time, for a dentist, since she was unable to get into the university program she wanted. However, in the fall, she entered the Social Work program at Ryerson University, which was her first choice this year. She's finding university interesting but hard work. Since Cheryl has been the "Ann Landers" for all her friends for years, I think she's getting into an area that's ideal for her. During the summer, she spent three months in Greece with friends who originally came from there. It sure was an educational experience living in another culture! But she really enjoyed it.
I guess with Carrie in law and Cheryl in Social work, I can go to them with all my legal and personal problems in a few years.
Peter will be 18 next month. He's really active in a band that he and his friends organised. He's the drummer. Even though the music they play isn't exactly the type I appreciate, I must admit they are good. They managed to pick up a few paid "gigs" and have been asked to return. He seems to be at the "lost age" at the moment. Wants his freedom, but not sure what to do with the rest of his life. Welcome to adulthood, Peter! Anyway, he's considering an alternative semestered school in January. He is interested in doing electrical work.
Jerry is 15 and in grade 9--first year of high school. He actually seems to enjoy school now and is doing fairly well. He is always with his friends, and they are in-and-out of the house all the time. This was the first summer he wouldn't let me join him on a trip to the beach or pool--it's that "I-won't-be-seen-dead-with-a-parent" age. However, he and friends still enjoy a visit to the local Macdonald's or Harvey's with me. He and friends have built their own play-house in the back yard. It's a real eyesore but, heck, they are having fun and it's something they built themselves. Funny what kids like. A parent down the street built a very nice and neat playhouse in the back yard. It looks spotless. The kids never play in it. They all come to the mess they made in my back yard. Guess it's because it represents them. They made it by themselves and for themselves. Of course, it's right next to the typical urban back lane, which is better than any playground the city can build! If they aren't playing there, they're bouncing a ball off the sign on the street out front that says "Ball Playing Prohibited."
Please let me know how you are and what you are doing. I look forward to hearing from all of my friends and relatives. I enjoy keeping in touch. Sometimes we are so busy, the human interaction is forgotten. During this season it is time to pause and remember the important aspects of life--people. We are not "things." We are not "resources." We are living beings with feelings, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses. Each of us is unique. Every story is an exciting one. I look forward to hearing your story.
Life is a wonderful learning experience and this past year has been no exception. My learning grows and I continue to check off and add to my long list called Things I Am Going To Do During My Life. Since I'm still adding things to that list faster than I can check them off, I expect I'm in for a long and fulfilling life. Fortunately, at 54-going-on-30, I remain in excellent health.
Too much learning in life has centred around computers lately. I remain active in the local Apple User Group as chairman of the New User/Help Special Interest Group and as an assistant System operator of the club electronic Bulletin Board Service (assistant Sysop of BBS). Recently, I was re-elected to the Board of Directors of the club after a year off. I've helped as a volunteer on the Free Advice Expert Table at a few computer shows.
Of course, I maintain my many other interests in family history, astronomy, and photography, although I haven't spent as much time in those areas as I would like. I did a little corresponding related to genealogy in the past year but have done no research. My astronomical activities included another solar eclipse "expedition" in May. For years, I promised my boys I'd take them to this eclipse--in our back yard! The narrow path of the Annular eclipse passed right over Toronto. While observing from my front yard, Jerry reminded me that I promised to take them to the back yard for this eclipse. So we had to make a quick trip there! I also attended the annual General Assembly of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in St. John's, Newfoundland. I wrote an article on the trip that appears in a recent issue of the Society's publication. My photography has been limited to taking pictures, but I dream of setting up my darkroom again some day.
Even with insufficient time to be fully involved in all my other activities, I took on another. I have recently started a course called Basic Concepts in Psychotherapy. While this is one of many courses that could lead to certification as a Psychotherapist, I have no intention of following that route. It is an interest developed over the past few years, when I became curious about "the other side" of how therapists worked, since I was exposed to several. Now that I am more involved in a local self-help group for separated and divorced people (currently as co-chair), I feel it would be helpful to have a basic understanding of therapy. There were a few meetings where individuals were in desperate emotional condition, and no one was there who had background in how to best handle it. "Self-help groups are great" I thought to myself, "but there are dangers if there is no professional present."
Speaking of the support group for separated and divorced people: two of the most active members of the group got married--to each other. I was "Best Man" at their wedding and a number from our group were there. It was a happy event, but tears were shed as I thought "those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine." We remain good friends and the friendships grow among those with the group.
I'm still on the Advisory Board of the local Anglican Church as their computer advisor and Envelope Secretary. As long as I don't offer any religious advice, the church and I get along fine. I'll be at church on weekdays, but rarely on Sunday.
Over twenty years in the same home! Yes, after 28 moves between 1940 and 1974, I really have set down roots here, and am looking forward to remaining. Eleanor and I successfully negotiated a buy-out, and the house is now shared between me and the mortgage company. Early in the year I took in a roomer and it is working out well, so may add a second roomer in the new year.
My neighbourhood has "Our Gang." Sighhhh... The local teenagers get together and have fun. Sometimes a little too much fun. They are all basically good, but sometimes the litter and bits of damage cause frustration. Time to get the Neighbourhood Watch program active again. I may have to be the one to organise it--and will encourage the teenagers to take part and develop pride in their neighbourhood again. Sometimes I think "Our Gang" has just developed an aimless role that can lead to mischief. I'm determined to see that all their energy is turned into a positive force in the neighbourhood. My dream is to make the kids like we were at that age--perfect in every way... <Do I hear snickers out there?>
While my income is less than it was when I left my job of 27 years in 1990, I'm enjoying life much more and happier in my work. I work three days a week in service and as a Technical Support representative at an Apple Macintosh dealer, and make a little extra money doing freelance computer consulting. I really could use a full time job, but then it would interfere with life in all my other activities. Now, if only I was paid for all my volunteer work, I'd be a millionaire!
Camping and travels:
It was a first: there was no camping trip with the boys this year. Teenagers just don't want to be seen dead with a parent! But Jerry spent two weeks at a group camp, and Peter went off a couple of times with friends. Of course, Jerry set up the tent in the back yard as usual, and he and friends camped out there as often as possible.
As mentioned earlier, I went to Newfoundland. I drove and camped by myself along the way. It's a small world: on the ferry crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence I met with three acquaintances in my astronomical society--one of whom I travelled with to Africa in 1973 on an eclipse expedition. For years I said "I've visited every province except Newfoundland"-- so was looking forward to this trip. If you ever drive to Newfoundland, don't just take the Trans Canada Highway between Port aux Basques and St. John's as most people do. Drive up the Viking Trail to St. Anthony on the Northwest peninsula. The fiörds of Gros Morne National Park put the fiörds of Norway to shame. You feel a sense of wonder as you stand in a Viking home at l'Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland--knowing this was the first European settlement in the New World--500 years before Columbus. This area is considered, by some, to be the site of Vinland of the Norse sagas. One thing I learned about the people of Newfoundland: in spite of a collapsed fishing economy and an unemployment rate of over 20%, they are a proud people. Driving through the fishing coves, I saw well-kept homes and met high-spirited people. No matter how poor financially, they are rich in spirit. Only Newfoundlanders appreciate the spiritual aspect of life that us mainlanders could never understand.
Carrie graduated from the University of Guelph with her Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree, with Distinction. But she's not finished her education yet (are we ever finished education?!). She is now at Queen's University in Kingston where she's taking the law degree program. In a few more years, we'll have a lawyer in the family.
Cheryl is in her second year of the Social Work program at Ryerson University here in Toronto. Although the work is hard, she is enjoying it. Cheryl has a large circle of friends and is known as the "Ann Landers" of the group--always willing to help. Looks like her studies will lead to a more official role in this area of expertise!
Peter will be 19 next month. His interests revolve around his drums and playing music with a group, but there appears to be no organised plan of action in his life at the moment. But, then, who says life has to be planned and organised, right? He'd like to be out on his own right now, but there is a little question of resources. Maybe the School of Hard Knocks will be his next school.
Jerry is 16 and does well in school, but could do even better if he'd put his mind to it. He is busy being part of "Our Gang" in the neighbourhood, and "discovering girls." Oh! Oh!--and the girls are discovering Jerry!
Throughout life, one must occasionally take time to pause and reflect. Although life is not without troubles, and would be boring if otherwise, there are always good times to cherish. I think of the people who have contributed positively to my life--and there have been many. This year, I'd like to mention just two whom I recall as significant in my youth: Paul Allman and Dick Tanner. It's the "little" things in life that help develop personalities. I will always cherish the time spent with Paul and Lillian Allman at Blue Sea Lake as a young child and visits to their home near Akron. Paul sowed the seed of my interest in astronomy and encouraged me to develop an inquisitive nature. Later, throughout my teens, Dick Tanner of Ottawa carefully fertilised and developed that interest that led to further interests in life resulting in positive personal growth. Small things. But significant. Little do some people know how they can positively influence others through just being themselves. Sometimes it's necessary to let them know. I can't thank them, for how can you thank someone for just being himself?
My life includes taking a sincere and caring interest in my friends and relatives. I wish to share personal experiences with them. There is often the limitation of time and distance. I look forward to this time of year as an opportunity to share a little of myself with you through this letter. Hopefully you will share a little of yourself with me, and keep me informed of what is going on in your life.
What is life?
"Jim, go for your dream."
As mentioned last year, I was still adding to my long list called
Things I am Going To Do During My Life faster than I could check
things off. One night during the Spring, while dreaming of all the
things on my list, I thought of my Brother-in-Law Jim Davis and
others I knew who were seriously ill. A voice in me said "Jim, it's
time to start checking things off that list faster than you're adding
to it." The item on my list the longest was my dream of driving to
and exploring the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It appeared on my
list in 1949 when, as a nine year old living in Edmonton, I pulled
out maps of The Territories, and planned my future trip.
A Journey to Civilisation
It's early summer. My son Jerry and I pack our tents and sleeping bags to start our 18,000 kilometer journey north in my little 1987 Chevette. Almost 4000 kilometers of this is over gravel and dirt roads. Jerry has to be dragged along. He wants to hang out all summer with "Our Gang" but I feel he needs a wee bit of time away from the gang. On the third day of our journey, travelling through the forests of northern Ontario, he comments "I heard the rain forests supply a lot of oxygen for the world, but all these trees must supply a lot, too." Very observant, Jerry-- the fact that this vast land is covered in rich forest. Glad you are learning something on this trip. I like Jerry's comment as we enter the Badlands of Alberta: "They're not 'bad.' They're 'cool'." So now we call them the "Coollands." In northern British Columbia, just short of the 60th parallel, we relax in a tropical paradise with lush vegetation surrounding the Liard Hot Springs and freshen our bodies and souls bathing in the bubbling waters flowing from deep within the earth.
During our first night in the Yukon, I have a very vivid dream of my brother-in-law Jim Davis, who indicates he's with my father. My father died 25 years earlier. I awake with a start--thinking about the ravages of cancer Jim Davis is suffering and how close he was to my father. A few hours later, I call my sister's home to discover that Jim died at the exact time of my dream. Although sad, I feel this is a positive sign of a spiritual journey throughout the north. Within days, I have a strong feeling that the spirit of my brother-in-law is on this adventure with me, helping me to better appreciate the important things in life and nature.
The most spectacular part of our journey is a 1500 kilometers (round-trip) exploration of the gravel Dempster Highway which runs from near Dawson on the Klondike Highway in the Yukon, to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. This highway crosses two mountain ranges, arctic tundra, and the Mackenzie delta wetlands. One stretch of the Dempster has no community or services for 370 kilometers--almost the distance between Toronto and Ottawa. It is the only road in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle. We celebrate our passing of the Arctic Circle with our only flat tire of the trip. Thanks to Jerry, the tire is replaced in short order.
One morning, I'm driving for several hours without seeing another vehicle in either direction. I stop the car, turn off the engine, and walk out over the tundra. Jerry and I are the only humans for, perhaps, a hundred kilometers. There is no wind. Not a sound from an insect, bird, or animal. There is total silence. I never "heard" such silence before in my life. I'm at one with Nature which I feel is synonymous with God.
After enjoying ferry rides across the Peel and Mackenzie Rivers we reach the end of the Dempster at Inuvik where we pitch our tents for a few days. It's here, well north of the Arctic Circle, where I get a sunburn. But what do you expect, with the sun up 24 hours a day? Jerry and I take a short flight to Tuktoyaktuk where we enjoy a most invigorating and refreshing swim in the Arctic Ocean.
To describe the entire journey would require a book, including my many spectacular photographs. Our journey takes us up the Alaska Highway, onto the Klondike Highway, the Silver Trail, and Dempster. We visit Whitehorse, Dawson City, a number of other small communities, and take the Top of the World Highway south to Alaska. We explore the St. Elias Mountains of the Yukon. Jerry returns home by bus from Whitehorse, as he has to get back before me so he can attend summer camp. The rest of my trip covers the Liard, Mackenzie, and Yellowknife Highways, with a trip to Yellowknife. On the journey to Yellowknife, I spend some time sitting in a park that runs the entire length of the village of Fort Providence, looking out over the Mackenzie River, near it's source at Great Slave Lake. This river is full of history in the exploration of Canada and the north, and I am feeling akin with the explorers of the past. While driving, I enjoy sighting buffalo, caribou, moose, bear, and mountain goats.
Exploring the north is a spiritual journey for me. Besides being close to nature and God while enjoying solitude time, I learn about the people of the north. One would think that in such a harsh environment, "survival of the fittest" would prevail with a highly competitive spirit. I discover otherwise. Cooperation and mutual aid is vital for survival in the north. In the "civilised" south, I can be in a large crowded mall, surrounded by people, yet feel very lonely because, in spite of the hordes of people, no one cares. Everyone rushes by without so much as a "hello" in the big city.
In the north, you wouldn't think of passing a soul without a friendly greeting. If a car is stopped by the side of the road, everyone who passes by stops to ask if you need assistance. You see, in the north, be you Inuit, Dené, southerner, or whoever, everyone is a friend. People really care about their fellow humans. They go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. You can enjoy your solitude time with nature in the north, but you are never alone. I used to wonder where real civilisation is found. Civilisation is where people care for each other. Civilisation is found in the north.
Last year I drove to Newfoundland and have now journeyed through all ten provinces and both territories. I have touched the most easterly and westerly parts of Canada at Signal Hill and Beaver Creek. I have journeyed to the furthest north and furthest south parts of Canada reachable by road from Pelee to Inuvik. Canada is a vast and wonderful land. Typical of Canadian modesty, out motto is "From Sea to Sea." It should be "From Sea to Sea to Sea" for we must not forget that Canada has three seas. Most of us live in urban centres and in our busy lives rarely take the time to think beyond the hustle of the crowded cities. There is a whole new experience out there in Canada for those who look for it. Go North. Little is known about the Yukon and Northwest Territories. This land mass, with so few people, makes up almost half of our country. The entire population of these territories is less than the number of people in my neighbourhood in the east end of Toronto. Our land is still open for exploration. Take risks. Go exploring. Your soul is out there awaiting an adventure.
The Rest of the Year
My part time job in Technical Support and Service at an Apple Macintosh Dealer has increased from three to four days a week. I really enjoy the work and people. The only problem is that this work interferes with all the other things going on in my life. I actually have learned to say "no" to people who want me to do things. That's unfortunate, but sometimes one must give priority to making a living.
Two areas where I have not spent as much time as I would like are in astronomy and genealogy. Oh, yes, I dusted off the old telescope a few times during the year, and became a hit at the street party when I set it up. I exchanged a few letters with others doing genealogy research on distant branches of my family.
While slowly trying to "pass the torch" in my volunteer activities with the local self-help group for Separated folks, I'm still co-chairperson. This group has resulted in me making a number of close friends, and we get together often.
My involvement with the local Apple Computer User Group continues, where I coordinate the Help and Hardware group gatherings and as assistant system operator (sysop) of the club electronic bulletin board. I took another stint as sysop of another bulletin board, and am currently assistant sysop of it, too.
The local Anglican Church is still stuck with me as their Envelope Secretary, and I assist in the maintenance of their computer. While, by virtue of being Envelope Secretary, I am also on the Advisory Board, I must admit I have refrained from "advising" them. If I started to advise them, I'd really rock the boat, and I feel they have enough boat-rockers, anyway. Sometimes, though, I think the Anglican Church needs some real boat-rockers and, some day, I just might...
As already mentioned, Jerry was along on our journey to northern Canada. He's in high school, but his mind seems to be learning more about life outside of school. Jerry spent a month as Counsellor-in-Training at summer camp. He's a very independent person. That's good, but it can lead to conflicts with parents at time. So what else is new with teenagers?
Peter has been on the move this year. He lived in Vancouver for a few months. Then he returned here for the summer before moving to Montreal for a short exploration. He got a little practice using his French, which was a bit rusty from not using it since his French Immersion school days. After returning for a while, he and his friend Lisa decided to take their own apartment--only a block from where I live! He has a job at a local coffee shop and is looking for other work. I don't always agree with Peter and his activities, but at least he's following his dreams, which is more than I did at his age. He's taking chances in life. I grit my teeth in worry at times, but he has to lead his own life, and I respect him for that.
Cheryl is keeping very busy in the third year (of four) of the Social Work degree program at Ryerson University in Toronto. Of course, she maintains a very active social life. She does some part time work at a dental office. She was involved in an auto accident recently. Fortunately, however, she and the others in the car escaped with minor injuries. Cheryl had some bruises and she is healing rapidly. She says "at least I know next year will be better than this year!"
Carrie is in the second (of three) years law program at Queen's University in Kingston. No one sees much of her this year, as second year is a very intense program. She is actually working with case preparation and assisting in court now. Last summer she worked at Alias Research, a graphics design company, and still gets a little work there when in Toronto during school breaks (no holidays for Carrie this year!).
A vital aspect of my life is to maintain contact with my friends and relatives. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to be as close as I would like. My experience this past summer has re-enforced my belief that personal relationships with people is the most important expression of life. This letter is just one small touch with you. I am also interested in you, and look forward to hearing abour your life. I encourage people to look on the positive aspect of life and to enjoy our real riches. Life is the most precious gift we have.
My children grew up in the blink of an eye as I sat on the verandah. They were busy on the lawn and street in front of my verandah engaged in the truly important things of life: skipping rope, riding tricycles, playing ball or street hockey, and engaged in voiceful expressions of joy and happiness with their many friends.
The lawn in front of my verandah is the worst looking on the block. You can have a nice lawn or children, but not both. I neglected the lawn and welcomed the children. It became known in my neighbourhood that the lawn in front of my verandah was open to all. Oh, sometimes I gave out a hurrumph when my flowers were picked or a ball went flying through the front window. But I always welcomed them back when I calmed down--usually about an hour later.
For a quarter century, I watched and guided my four children from the verandah. Three have grown and moved to their own homes. My youngest, while still at home, turned eighteen this year and officially became an adult. But I still sit on my verandah and watch as he and his friends (known locally as "The Gang") socialise on the front lawn every evening. I continue to let out the occasional hurrumph over the litter and late night noise, but they continue to return. For some reason, they can't find a better place to hang out.
Soon, the last of my children will leave. Will I then have a nice lawn? Not likely. You see, there is another generation growing up in my neighbourhood. Already, they have developed a habit of showing up in front of my verandah.
Join me on my journey to Labrador last summer:
You discover that the Trans Labrador Highway has been passable by cars (with a little luck) since 1994. What are you waiting for? Head to Baie-Comeau, Québec in your little Chevette with your tent and sleeping bag, and drive up the partly paved Manicouagan Highway to Labrador City in western Labrador.
The first part of the Trans Labrador Highway is considered good. It's a gravel road known as "The Washboard" which leads you to Churchill Falls in the middle of Labrador. You soon learn why it has that name--it's like riding over the surface of, well, a washboard.
When you stop to make your picnic lunch, you have a pleasant surprise: lunch has already been prepared for you. With all the vibrations over The Washboard, the jars have their lids jarred loose (now you know why they are called "jars"). Of course, the jars that you carefully set upright were jarred onto their sides. The tab holding the bread in the bag is also jarred off, and the bread is free to spread out. Voilà--the peanut butter and jam have miraculously spread themselves over the bread, and you have ready-made peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Enough for a week, no doubt.
Passing Churchill Falls, you reach "The Pit Run." It's not as good as The Washboard. It's the pits all right. Pitted with large boulders jutting from beneath the surface, and pitted with potholes between the boulders. Watch for the strategically placed potholes where the wheels go down as a bolder sticks up underneath the car and--voilà--no more underbody of a car. The speed limit on The Pit Run between Churchill Falls and Goose Bay is 50k/h. That means "We dare you to try going that fast!" In your Chevette, plan on doing the 288km Pit Run in 15 hours over two days. 20k/h is pushing it. There are no facilities along the way, so you pitch your tent off the side of the road.
Even as you travel through the wilderness of Labrador, you find many friends. They are mosquitoes and black flies. Of course, you welcome them with "Deep Woods OFF." You can almost hear them cheering "Oh boy, dessert with our dinner" as you carefully apply the wretched stuff. You put on the head net. You then have an especially cozy relationship with those bugs inside the net. One word of advise: don't try eating with the net on.
Camping in the true wilderness of Labrador, the only toilet is that provided by nature. You learn not to tie up nature's toilet too long. Besides contending with our insect friends, you learn that the next time you visit Labrador, you will bring an ice scraper. It's a real challenge using credit cards to scrape ice off the car windshield on a frosty July morning.
By the time you complete The Pit Run, your appearance matches that of the pitted road. Don't you just love having all those love hickies from those loving bugs?
Having reached Happy Valley-Goose Bay, you complete the Trans Labrador Highway branch to Northwest River before returning to Goose Bay for the 36 hour ferry ride through Iceberg Ally to Lewisporte, Newfoundland. Don't even think of the Titanic as you pass icebergs! You quickly drive to northwestern Newfoundland where you catch another ferry back to Labrador, then drive the Labrador Straits trail to the 16th century Basque whaling station at Red Bay. Along the route, you look over the Strait of Belle Isle to enjoy the sight of many icebergs. You have now traversed every road in Labrador from one end to the other--all two of them. I hope you enjoyed the challenge and adventure as much as I did.
Leaving Labrador, you travel along the west coast of Newfoundland. You visit the oldest European settlement in the New World--the thousand year Viking site at l'Anse aux Meadows and walk in the footsteps of Lief Ericsson. You sail the spectacular fiörds and hike the Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park. You notice something different from when you were here two years ago: the many garden plots along the side of the roads. Newfoundlanders are a hardy lot. The land is not suited to farming. The fishing industry has collapsed. There are small fertile patches of land between the rocks. Families rope off these little patches of soil, plant vegetables, and grow enough to feed the family for the year. In spite of hardship, you won't meet a Newfoundlander who isn't smiling and cheerful.
Next year? I'll probably stay home. One can't take a dream trip every year. Of course, I'm eying that solar eclipse in South America in February 1998. I also imagine my dream of driving to South America. Will the Chevette, already at a quarter of a million kilometers, hold up for such a trip? Impossible? "Just do it!" a friend, who never heard of the word "impossible," keeps telling me.
Chevette challenges Snowmobile Trail
"Dad, can we go for a drive together tonight?" I nearly fall out of my armchair, where I am comfortably reading about Comet Hyakutake. Here is my young adult son, Peter, actually asking for us to do something together. This was unheard of!
It must be important, for 20 year old sons just do not want to have anything to do with parents.
"I'd like to observe the comet from a dark sky" he continued. "Well, okay" I reply from my armchair in bright downtown Toronto. "Perhaps it's time to see what a dark sky looks like again."
As we step out of the house on a cold March evening and gaze up among the city lights, I'm astonished to see the comet--with my naked eye! I'm about to suggest we just observe it from Toronto but decide to continue the journey to a dark sky.
We have no idea where we were going. About a hundred kilometers northeast of Toronto, we pull off on a narrow country road. We are thinking of pulling over as we near one isolated house with outside lights on, so decide to travel just a little further. Suddenly, the road narrows to one lane as we are going down a hill, and is snow packed. Then I see tracks that were not made by a car. Suddenly I realise we are travelling on a snowmobile trail in my little Chevette! There is no way to turn around. I can't back up the hill we just came down. Our only hope is to go forward and have faith we reach another road.
We actually drive a couple of kilometers further along before the Chevette sinks into the trail and becomes hopelessly stuck.
Peter and I look at each other and we start to laugh. "Well, we got a dark sky, all right" I comment. "So let's take a good look at the comet."
It's a great view. We haven't seen such a dark clear sky in many years. We are both fascinated. What appeared as a faint fuzzy blob in Toronto a couple of hours earlier is now a spectacular wonder of nature with a long tail easily visible to the naked eye. We look at it through binocular but agree the best view is with the naked eye. We spend the time, ignoring our plight, observing this and other wonders of a truly dark sky. For once, I'm glad I pulled myself out of my armchair to become an active observer again.
Eventually, reality hits home. A walk along the trail brings us to that last house we passed a few kilometers back. Although we are enjoying our view of the comet as we walk, we are also glad to see a light from civilisation again. A few phone calls later, we manage to get a tow truck out. The driver of the truck is not amused, and takes no interest in our explanation or the comet. After a few choice words, including "how could anyone be so stupid?" and after his truck got stuck a few times, he manages to get us out. It takes the help of Peter working the winch and then driving the car while the front is hoisted up, to give extra traction to the tow truck. In the end, even the driver is laughing as he comments "I've pulled cars out of rivers and lakes, but this was the most challenging job I've ever had. I don't know how you ever got so far along a snowmobile trail with a Chevette!"
For many years, my "active" observing has been largely limited to adventures in far-off places to experience solar eclipses. I always regarded observing as only one small part in the adventures through life. This adventure of comet observing so near home may just be enough to get me out of my armchair more often.
In May, I travelled with my sister Penny Davis to visit our cousin Lillian Allman in Kent, Ohio. Lillian and her late husband Paul were special to me in my youth, and it was a joy to see her and children Nancy, Sandy, and Susan after so many years. It was a sad when, in November, I made another trip to Kent upon her death. Earlier in the year, Lillian's brother Dick Tanner died in Ottawa, and I felt the loss of a very special friend. At the gathering to celebrate his life, not only did I meet with many relatives, but enjoyed visiting with many of his astronomy friends whom I also got to know over the years in our activities with the astronomical society.
In the past year, I was saddened at the passing of two other cousins: Jim Paterson and his sister Joan McMurdo. But it was a pleasure to meet with their sister Ann Stokes when she was in Toronto. I was also saddened at the death of the last of my grandfather's sibling, Frankie Rosenthal. I enjoyed a visit with her daughter and grandson Barbara and Reed Kirkpatrick in Ottawa. Several times this year, I enjoyed visits with cousin Bill and Irene Flinn and their family in London, and visits with Arline Brackenridge and Marjorie Low in Ottawa .
Carrie is in her final year of law at Queen's University in Kingston. She starts her Articling position with the large Toronto law firm Blake Cassels & Graydon in May.
Cheryl expects to graduate with her Bachelor of Social Work degree in 1997. She's has done some counselling at The House--a service for young women facing pregnancy alone or who have been abused.
Peter was sharing apartments with a friend earlier in the year. Currently, he is renting a room in my home while planning a trip to Europe with friends in 1997. He works for a coffee shop chain in warehouse and makes deliveries of coffee in the greater Toronto area. He's involved in setting up an Artists Co-op and hopes to organise a band within the co-op.
Jerry is in high school and continues to express his independence with "The Gang" --usually in front of our home. He's at that age where he'd prefer not to let parents know where he is or what he's doing. Oh, sometimes he'll be seen with me, but I know it's difficult for someone his age to be seen with a parent. He spent a great month last summer camping with a group near Lake Superior.
My annual A Little Taste of Summer barbecue in February is becoming more popular, with almost 20 friends visiting. As usual, I was dressed in shorts as I cooked with the barbecue on the verandah. I'm looking forward to an even better barbecue this February, so if you can make it, please call and let me know. Everyone is welcome. My number is 416-690-3943.
At Easter, I served dinner for 12 friends and family. I didn't notice the number until someone asked "Is this the Last Supper?" Just to prove it wasn't, my next gathering for friends was a barbecue during the summer. Thanksgiving was another opportunity to do one of my favourite things--cooking turkey dinner for 16 friends and family. I'm looking forward to another great time sharing Christmas with friends again this year.
Speaking of friends: During four years involvement with the local self-help group for separated people, I gained many special friends. I can't name all, but some include: Elaine, co-founder of the group I met at the the first meeting in May 1992. She encouraged me to follow my dreams and, in her words, "just do it!" Brian and Kay, who met at the group and married each other, have extended me considerable support. Sheila helped me grow as we later co-chaired the group. Maureen and Simon became friends who host our New Years parties. This early serendipitous friendship became a close circle I call "The Group of Seven." Later, many others in the self-help group became friends, including Carole, Helena, Jane, Karen, and Linda. Special thanks to Jim Loftus and Elaine Harris for organising and initially leading this group which led to so much positive influence in my life and was of benefit to many others.
Christmas Last Year.
Late Christmas Eve my good friend Kay arrives unexpectedly at the door. I invite her in, expressing my joy that she is taking the time to visit, knowing she is very busy at this time. "Where's Brian?" (her husband), I ask. Looking at me with sad eyes she says "With the rental car, a block away. It broke down on our trip to Oakville to spend Christmas with his parents and his children." This is the first opportunity they have to spend Christmas with the children of his first marriage since the divorce. The rental car is from a small company which is closed for the holiday. I assist them in arranging a tow to the company's lot. They are disappointed, resigning themselves to missing Christmas with the family. Of course they don't, as I drive them to Oakville. We comment how lucky they are the car broke down a block from my house and not on the expressway.
During Christmas day, I welcome many into my home, including my four children and eight for dinner. I make and receive many phone calls. It's a joyous day. A time to share and recognise our real riches in life. During dinner, I receive a phone call from my friends Brian and Kay in Oakville. They and his parents and children thank me for saving their Christmas which appeared on the brink of collapse. I felt I did nothing special--I did only what friends would do. But they made me feel good, so I was thanking them. And my children and friends were thanking me for preparing a turkey dinner and opening my home. But, I am the one who is lucky to have such wonderful family and friends, and I thank them.
Christmas is a time to reflect upon what is important in life. It's people, not things. Life, friends, and family are the most valuable treasures we have. Take care of them.
Have a very Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year.
The Back Lane
Catch a monarch butterfly then let her fly away. Feel the tickle of a ladybug as she strolls along your arm. Colourful wild flowers sprouting between the cracks of broken pavement makes the perfect bouquet. Collect your autumn leaves to show off nature's display. In winter, build the snow forts and snowmen to guard your way. In summer build a treehouse from scraps the workers throw away.
Rich is life in our urban back lane. It awakens the dreams, imagination, and freedom of youth who find the back lane grander than any playground. While adults in our mature communities carefully tend their front lawns, they ignore the back lane. Thank goodness. This bestows upon children the freedom to relate with nature as she makes inroads into the urban lane. Neglected? No. Attentively tended by our flowering youth.
Building that clubhouse by the back lane is a child's first experience in planning and cooperation with peers. Constructed out of scraps of wood and metal with a roof consisting of a discarded paint-covered tarpaulin, and furnished with chairs and mattresses that never survived the front curb for trash pickup, it is the pride of our gang. It may be an eyesore to adults, but it is the most beautiful house in the world to the children who built it. Neighbourhood children develop their own community spirit.
Beautiful yellow flowers sprout around the old rusted paint can. Adults call them weeds; to children they are Dandy Lions. Insects and birds challenge you to play with them. Angels and mysterious tracks appear in the snow. Remember when you were a child: you noticed a new weed growing at the back of your property by the lane? You grow up to discover that "weed" has grown into a large tree. Now you see children climbing and building their new playhouse in that tree. Hanging from a limb is a swing made of rope tied about an old bicycle lock. Today, two girls knock on my kitchen window that looks out over the back lane. "May we play on your swing?" they ask. My swing? "Of course" I reply. Watching them play I kept thinking: my swing. When they finish, it will be my turn on my swing.
As the children grow older and move mischievously through their teens, the back lane grows more significant. They discover the night life of the lane. There, they prowl by night: exploring the derelict cars as they dream of the freedom of the road; experimenting with all those forbidden things that only adults are supposed to use; learning how to socialise with members of the opposite sex: doing all the things that are forbidden--the same things we never did as teenagers.
Have you explored your back lane recently? Looks terrible? It's beauty from heaven to children. Look at your local back lane through the eyes of youth again.
Years were spent wandering and searching across Canada: from the Arctic Ocean through The Territories across the mountains and prairies to the Great Lakes; from the Pacific to the Atlantic; across tundra, Labrador and New Found Land: Searching for the vigorous life of nature. But it is found at home as I look out my kitchen window: treasures of nature and people found in the back lane. No where else on earth will you encounter such richness.
After spending the summers of 1995 and 1996 exploring the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Labrador with my Chevette, it just wasn't up to another trip. I made a detailed proposal to General Motors, requesting sponsorship to drive to South America but they turned me down. So I put my dream of driving to the Strait of Magellan on hold and put the Chevette out of it's misery. It met a glorious end at the caring hands of a local fire department who made good use of it as it was carefully demolished with the "jaws of life" as a training exercise. There is an old saying that "Chevettes just keep on running." So true. I watched as they converted it into a convertible, cut the frame, removed seats and the steering wheel, then turned the key in the ignition, only to have the engine start. One of the firefighters then drove it around the training field.
With the Chevette rapidly failing, a "link" was needed until I could find an affordable and reliable replacement car, so ended up with an old Olds for a few months. This is what I used to drive The Link to Prince Edward Island this summer. Oh, yes, the Canadian Government called it Confederation Bridge when it opened June 1, but the islanders had other ideas: Mainlanders can call it whatever they want, but it's still The Link. The bridge is quite a site from the distance as it curves in the middle of Northumberland Strait, but it was designed as a strictly functional transportation structure. The speed limit is 80 kilometres per hour along the 13 kilometre bridge. There is one lane in each direction, and stopping prohibited (enforced with surveillance cameras). Solid concrete barriers the entire length of the bridge prevent you from seeing a thing except the road straight ahead.
Camping at P.E.I. National Park is a joy. Total relaxation was felt combing the red sand dunes with my toes. Watching the daily catch coming into the fishing village, buying fish directly from the fisherman, then frying it at the campsite after a day of exploring trails made full satisfaction of filling my hunger of body and soul. My annual camping trip and being close to nature refreshed my soul for another year.
Next year? I now have a 1995 Ford Escort wagon. I'll put it through some challenging paces next summer, then approach Ford for sponsorship to South America.
Summer in February.
A Little Taste of Summer barbecue in February is my traditional mid winter gathering, where I dress in shorts as I cook with the barbecue on the verandah. My friends and neighbours don't think I'm crazy any more--they know it! Everyone is welcome to my winter barbecues, so if you can make it, please let me know and I'll let you know the date of the 1998 gathering. Dress code is strict: bright summer casual clothing. However, I don't insist on eating and socialising outside. You will find lawn chairs in my living room.
It's a brisk October Saturday morning as I leap out of bed and head to the St. Lawrence Farmer's Market in downtown Toronto. As usual, it's already busy shortly after the 5:00AM opening. Regular early Saturday visits to The Market throughout the year are always enjoyable, but this is a special trip as I select the last of the local fresh vegetables for my traditional Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends. As usual, I am the lucky host of a joyful Thanksgiving dinner. Again, I realise how much there is to be thankful for.
Carrie graduated with her Bachelor of Law degree this year and keeps busy in her articling position at the law firm Blake Cassels & Graydon in Toronto. Did I say busy? Well, on some days, she has nothing to do between ten at night and four in the morning!
Cheryl completed her Bachelor of Social Work degree. Unfortunately, with all the cutbacks she hasn't found a job in her field, and is busy looking for any work. I keep encouraging her to hang out her shingle and go into independent counselling, as she has spent years being the "Ann Landers" among her friends. She really is good at helping others, and she should start getting paid for it.
Peter has a steady job, working for a local coffee company (The Roastery), doing dispatching and making deliveries throughout southern Ontario. He sure spends a lot of time on the road. He's talking about going back to school next year.
Jerry is (hopefully!) in his last year of high school. As usual, he spends too much time prowling the back lane with his friends. I kept bugging him to get a "McJob," but even those are hard to find these days. As of writing, he's lined up some work selling subscriptions for the Toronto Star newspaper.
- With Jerry and Peter here part of the time, along with friends and good tenants, there are usually more people in this house now than when the whole family was growing up!
- My volunteer activities continue with computers and just completed another term as a Director of a computer club. While not a Director for the coming year, I'm chairing a Special Interest Group and am assistant sysop of the club BBS. I also maintain another BBS that is currently running from my basement. I've also been dragged, kicking and screaming, into using the internet. If you are wondering why there are two voice telephone numbers listed at the beginning of this letter it's because one line may be tied up while communicating on the internet or BBS's. So if you try calling me and one line is busy, try the other. Don't be surprised, though if you find all my phone numbers busy! If you are on the 'net you can always reach me via e-mail at Jim.Low@logicbbs.org.
- Astronomy is of the armchair type, and work with family history has been limited to passively collecting information as it arrives.
- Good friends Brian and Kay moved to Sri Lanka where they are involved in revitalising a mission helping children. Mutual friends gave them a great send-off and wish them the best. - Visits with my sister Penny were regular, and also enjoyed seeing relatives Bill, Irene, Edna, Ann, Arline, Marjorie, Winifred, and others throughout the year. ***Another good year was enjoyed with friends, and feel so lucky to have such great friends and family. I thank you for being part of my life.
Life is a series of beautiful dreams. I enjoy life and appreciate
the beauty of my dreams. While all dreams may not always be
fulfilled, only I can choose which ones will come true. I continue to
dream the impossible dreams and am working hard to make them fulfil
my life. May you find happiness as you work towards making your own
dreams come true and may your life be full of joy.
Have a very Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year.
Footprints on the ceiling
Love of children by their parents grows stronger as love guides our youth to maturity. Eventually they no longer need us, except for one thing--love. This is as it should be. With my four children now in their twenties, the time has come to reflect upon a quarter century of parenting--a mission that is drawing to a close. Are all my children treated equally? No. Each is unique. Each is treasured differently. Each is my favourite. I don't share the pie of love equally--each receives a full pie of love: one blueberry, one apple, one strawberry, and one peach. Each receives her and his favourite pie of love.
Through love, my children received guidance and were taught responsibility. Never did I try to control them, for parents have no right to control the lives of their children. While teaching responsibility, I never took responsibility from them. A parent cannot take responsibility for how their children behave. Children are entitled to responsibility for themselves and their lives: to face the consequences and reap the benefits.
Parents do their best when raising children. Mistakes are made. The hardest job in the world is being a parent, but the satisfaction is enormous. With multiple children, you see the miracle of each developing a unique personality. No matter how your children turn out, you succeed as a parent when each develops in a unique way through giving of love. Savour the beauty of each unique blossom as your flowering children bloom into maturity.
Love is unconditional. Love is the sustenance of life. Appreciate that no matter where your children may take themselves, they will always need your love.
"I'll let you know when I find out"
For twenty years before leaving my job in 1990, Larry and I arrived at work early each day to discuss the world problems and chat about our families. Eventually, we solved the problems of the world but were never able to unravel the family mysteries. His family was ten years older than mine. Since he was much more experienced at raising children than I, he always had words of wisdom. One profound piece of knowledge was: "Don't worry, Jim, it keeps getting worse." I recall asking, over 15 years ago, after arriving at work frustrated over the mess the kids left: "when do they start picking up after themselves?" He replied "I'll let you know when I find out." Last Christmas, I called Larry and dared ask the same question. "Don't worry, Jim, I'll let you know when I find out."
Kitchen, footprints, and miracles
"Where are the kitchen scissors?" I often bellowed over the years--and replaced them just as often. No one admitted taking the kitchen scissors. No one knew where they were. No one ever used them. I would have--but they were never there. The last time I replaced the kitchen scissors, I tied them to the drawer handle with a rope. For years, that rope hung there--sans scissors--cut at one end. Ahhh... but I finally found a pair of scissors that remained in the kitchen. I bought them at The Dollar Store. Of course they remain in the kitchen: they won't cut anything!
Speaking of the kitchen: Often, after the routine Saturday morning grocery shopping, the kids would rummage through the cupboards and refrigerator. "There's no food in this house!" echoed through the rooms. Of course not. There's only milk, juice, fruit and vegetables. No pop, chips, and other "real" food.
Then there are the footprints on the ceiling. Those footprints appeared on the ceiling years ago. Oh, I understand the footprints over the bunk beds. They were finally painted over. But footprints on the living room ceiling? Don't even think of asking how they got there. Those footprints still adorn the ceiling. They will always remain a mystery and part of the living room decor.
Memories of my children growing up appear in the kitchen each day as I glance at the door frame. There you find four rows of dashes, with dates by each, marking the growth of my children over the years. The first dash, way down here by my knee has moved to the last dash, way up there over my head. How did that happen? A miracle? Yes!--that's it--a miracle!
Laughter and Tears
Life is full of joy and laughter, along with pain and tears. Both laughter and tears are essential for positive spiritual growth. For years, my family grew. But I grew most of all. Immense happiness I felt, watching and guiding my children through their early years: the camping trips; a hundred birthdays; walks to the park and beach; playful games on the street in front of the verandah and in the back lane. Toys scattered about our home and yard was our beautiful decor. Sound of children's laughter brought joy to my heart. Our "family room" was the large kitchen where my children and all their friends would gather as the rich aroma of fresh baking beckoned welcome and happiness to all.
It was a tearful and painful day for all of us, years ago, when my children's mother and I parted. Even through my feelings of pain, I asked myself: "Would I do it again?" There was no doubt: the answer was yes! Those years of joy and growth with our children was worth any pain. For beyond the pain, love continues. My children have grown: children I would not now have had I not given my love. Hardly a day goes by when at least one of my children doesn't call. Great joy and happiness fill my heart when a daughter asks "can we meet for dinner tonight?" or a son inquires "dad, what is your opinion on..?" My children are adults. We are equals. We are friends, and express our love for each other.
It really does get better!
My Adult Children today
Carrie (she got the Apple pie of love) and her boyfriend of 12 years, Brian Porter, bought a house. It's located a kilometer west of here, half way between my home and Eleanor's home. She commented "just the perfect distance from both of you." We had a laugh when she said Brian was always reminding her to turn out the lights. Now she understands why I always yelled "turn out the lights!" as she was growing up! Is this known as The Parent's Revenge? *** Carrie completed her year articling with the law firm Blake Cassels & Greydon and has been taking courses and writing Bar exams the past few months. She will be Called to the Bar in February and continues to work with the same firm.
Cheryl (Peach) and her boyfriend Jameel Khan share an apartment a kilometer north of here. She graduated with her Bachelor of Social Work degree last year, and currently works as a Social Worker for Karrie's Place Autism Services. *** They seemed to like the description of my Maritimes trip in 1997, so decided to make the same trip this past summer. Originally, they were thinking of visiting California but because of the high cost of U.S. money they did as many other Canadians are doing these days: deciding to vacation in Canada instead of heading south. It was a pleasant surprise when Cheryl phoned me in the middle of their trip to let me know they were having such a great time, and mailed me cards to let me know how much she remembered of the family trip we took there years ago.
Peter (Strawberry) gave up his job at a coffee company early in the year, and now works for a flower shop. He enjoys delivering all those flowers. He's renting a room from me. It's working well, but with him being a paying tenant, I have to be careful to remain in "landlord mode" and not to go into "parent mode." Sometimes I'm tempted to suggest that he not go into "kid mode" (when do they learn to pick up after themselves?!) but if I did that, then I'd be going into "parent mode." At least he does his own grocery shopping now. I had to laugh when he just finished shopping, put away all the nourishing food he bought for himself, then looked through the stuff he bought and bellowed "there's no food in this house!"
Jerry (Blueberry--wild, of course!) graduated from high school this year. During the summer he worked for the neighbourhood lumber store where he did his school co-op. Currently he does various contract work through an agency, and finds some additional work in construction (demolition is his specialty!). He's living with Eleanor, but is often over here raiding the refrigerator and cupboards with the neighbourhood gang. I see hopeful signs of that typical teenage gang breaking up as they enter their twenties. What's this?--I now see younger teenagers congregating on the street. Oh! Oh! *** Jerry registered with the Adoption Disclosure Service of the Children's Aid Society and was pleased to learn that his biological parents also registered. As this letter is being written, initial contact has been made with his birth parents Ken and Betty, and blood siblings Kenny and Stephanie in Newfoundland. Everyone is excited, and we hope arrangements to meet can be made next year. Lucky Jerry--he has two families of love!
September 8: the first day of school. Suddenly, I realised: No plans for "back to school." It was totally ignored. No more back-to-school clothes, books, and other supplies.
The End. Of school, that is. Now the education begins.
Just like all the other kids, I still haven't learned to pick up after myself. I haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up, either. No, I'm not in my second childhood--I haven't left my first childhood, yet! Call me Peter Pan--the kid who never grew up.
Early this year, I bought a bread making machine, and haven't bought a loaf of bread since. Fresh hot bread has always been my favourite delicacy. Now, several times a week I enjoy the rich aroma of fresh bread throughout my home. Only one problem: I notice my belt size is increasing.
The old barbecue was falling apart and was given an honourable retirement when I bought a new one. I decided to cut down on meat, so discovered that barbecued vegetables tastes better. Several times a week, I greet the neighbours as I cook and eat on the verandah. A permanent fixture on my verandah is a dining room table complete with tablecloth. Most weekends during the summer, I have one or two friends over for a barbecue. Of course, I maintain my annual ritual of "A Little Taste of Summer" barbecue in February, along with a summer event for friends and family. Traditional turkey dinners continue to be prepared for family and friends at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Since I'm still paying off my Big Trips of the past three years, I decided it wise to be practical this year, so--no big trip. However, I spent a few days camping in the Bruce Peninsula and hiked along part of the Bruce Trail. Although I have lived so close to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay for so long, this is the first time I have visited these waters. Many hours have been spent walking on the local boardwalk and cycling along the neighbourhood bicycle trails. I'm looking forward to the completion of the Trans-Canada Trail in 2000, and do some hiking along selected parts of it. In August 1999, I will be in Rumania to observe a total solar eclipse. I'm eying a lengthy camping trip through Australia in 2001. ***
It looks like 1998 will be the first calendar year since 1953 that I haven't visited Ottawa.
This has been a great year. I continue to enjoy working at an Apple Macintosh dealer. Time is spent organising my 10,000+ photograph collection, attending the occasional meeting of the astronomical society, and carrying out my volunteer work with a computer club. My home provides income by renting rooms to a son and a couple of good tenants. There have been many activities with my friends. No "significant other" has appeared in my life, but that's not needed when I have the loving support of my family and friends. Sometimes, though, as I recall the great days of my children growing up, I say to myself "I want to start all over--and do a better job next time!" After all, I'm more experienced now. I feel I've just had a taste of parenting which was a dress rehearsal. Next time, I'll solve all the mysteries of parenting. All I need is to meet the right woman with young children-- perhaps someone with an active career who waited until her late forties to have children and now wants a househusband to take the kids to the park, beach, and other delightful outings. Maybe I could eventually collect both the child tax benefit and old age pension-- simultaneously! (I hear a chorus of voices saying "Jim must be mad!").
Did I say there was no "significant other" in my life? That's
wrong. There are many significant people in my life. Besides my
children, there are my many friends. They continue to be my joy,
support, and love. All are significant to me. I am blessed by having
many significant others. Thank you for being a significant person in
my life. How lucky I am to be surrounded by such a great circle of
Have a very Merry Christmas and a loving New Year.
Home and the Caretakers
"Billy Hodder November 1933." It was exactly fifty years later, in November 1983, when I discovered this on the dining room wall after stripping away six layers of wallpaper. Two unrelated families. One home: an history where the home has been under construction, not only materially, but spiritually for the better part of a century. "It will be a nice home when it's finished" I would joke. Naturally, a home is never finished but is always being built.
Twenty-five years ago, in October 1974, I moved into this home. Within months, it was filled with my new young family where my children grew up. The growth of our home continued throughout this period, as it did throughout the fifty years Billy Hodder and his family lived here before us.
We talk about owning our homes. We never own them. We are caretakers, with responsibility for maintaining a loving place as a sanctuary from the uncertainties of life. Eventually we pass our home to others. Knowing that, we add our personalities to our homes so future families will know and enjoy the fruit of our labour.
Although I never knew the Hodders, I learned the history of our home. Three generations of Hodders lived here. I always feel their presence. It is a positive feeling. When finalising the sale with the late Billy Hodder, the conversation gave me a feeling that I had a responsibility towards this home. He knew I had that feeling. He probably accepted my offer at a price he would not have considered from anyone else. He knew I was responsible enough to take care of "the Hodder home." I never relinquished that responsibility as I turned it into "the Low home." On Sunday, as I walk through the cemetery on my way to church, I pass the gravestone of William and Alice Hodder to see them smiling with approval.
Hopefully I will continue as caretaker of my home for many years to come. Eventually another family will make this home, where I am a link in the chain connecting loving and caring people of this home with such a rich history and future.
It was a dark and stormy night...(with apologies to Dracula)
That really is how my story should start!
This year's adventure was a trip to Romania with the Toronto Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, for the total eclipse of the sun in August.
Of course, I just use total solar eclipse expeditions as an excuse to explore exotic, far-off lands. Such trips never go as planned. There are always unexpected problems. One such problem became the highlight of our trip.
Having so much fun, we are, as usual, late in getting to our new destination: a hostel in the Alps of Transylvania. It's a dark and stormy night of the new moon (after all, it is just after the eclipse!) as our tour bus gets lost on a winding dirt road. Our loving bus&emdash;the one with the cracked windshield and broken front door that won't open&emdash;has brakes that squeal and smoke at each hairpin turn. The working headlight gives a ghostly white appearance on the evergreen trees ahead of us, which suddenly turn black as the sky lights up with each lighting flash, every second or so. The scene appears as a positive and negative image alternating, as we look at it through the spider-web crack in the windshield. It's obvious where the inspiration of Dracula stories came from. They are just stories, right? Right??
Just after midnight, we arrive at a building near the spot we were told our hostel was. It looks like a small deserted castle. There are no lights, and no other building in sight. We are desperate, as we have travelled many hours on a bus with no washroom. Exploring in the thunderstorm, the men go off to mark their territories. The women, being more adventurous than men, find an open window in the darkened building. One woman crawls through and tries to open the front door, without luck. No one is home except a couple of squatters. I'm not sure who is more surprised: the squatters or the women.
The women round up the scattered men and we continue to drive around another hairpin curve where we find a hostel&emdash;in total darkness and visible only in the lightning flashes. A knock on the door and a sleepy man, who could be mistaken for Dracula, answers. It was our hostel, but he was expecting us the previous day. When we didn't show up, he assumed we were not coming. He finds room for us (a couple sleep on the floor). Next morning, one woman discovers what appears to be two mosquito bites on her ankle, about a centimeter apart. One fellow comments "Dracula is going fetish on us." Then, on Friday the 13th, we drive down the mountain in the same bus with the squealing and smoking brakes.
The eclipse? Yes, we saw it from the sports stadium in downtown Bucharest, just before the storm moved in. As totality began, we could hear the roar of awe from about a million people in the city. City officials seemed to think they could compete with the eclipse by firing a cannon and shooting fireworks during totality. Of my many solar eclipse expeditions, I found this one darker than most: I couldn't read my instruments during totality, and the bright stars and planet Venus were visible. I recorded temperature changes, and noted a seven Celsius degrees drop during the eclipse.
I have been eclipse-chasing since 1963, and with the Toronto Centre of the RASC since 1972. The tour leader of this trip was with me in 1972. This was the last total solar eclipse of the millennium. I look forward to the first eclipse of the next millennium, the solstice eclipse in Africa on 2001 June 21.
Jerry and Peter explore Newfoundland
While I was in Romania, Jerry and Peter drove to Newfoundland, camping at Gros Morne National Park. While there, they visited Jerry's birth family in Corner Brook. This was Jerry's first meeting with his birth parents, Ken & Betty Barry and his siblings Kenny and Stephanie. They had an absolutely fabulous time, and this turned out to be a very positive reunion for Jerry with his birth family.
The boys became official Newfoundlanders by going through the Screech-in. What's that? Never heard of a Screech-in? Well, Screech is a Newfoundland beverage with a suitable alcohol content and a distinct flavour. For the Screech-in one also kisses a cod. Seems Jerry and Peter didn't drink enough Screech to do the kiss-a-cod part. I hear there is a shortage of cod, anyway.
The Scattered Family
Scattered&emdash;closely that is. It's a great feeling to know that all four of my adult children lead their own lives and continue to grow. No, we don't grow apart. We grow closer as they become independent. The parent&endash;child relationship has long since changed from provider&endash;dependent to equality&endash;friendship where love continues to blossom.
Carrie was Called to the Bar in February and worked as a lawyer for a few months. However, after years of constant work and long hours, she decided some time for herself was essential. Carrie is taking a well-earned rest at a crossroad in life before deciding which fork in the road to take. She's discovering there really is a life outside work&emdash;a fact too many businesses don't want people to know about. She and Brian are caretakers of their own home not far from me. Carrie and I sometimes take brisk walks together, when I get some much needed exercise.
Cheryl is a social worker and finally received full-time status at the social agency she has work with for the past two years, helping autistic clients. She and Jameel have an apartment a short distance from me. Cheryl and I often get together for dinner, which I really enjoy. We usually haunt a Greek restaurant on The Danforth, or fill up with chicken at the Swiss Chalet.
Peter keeps busy delivering flowers for an exclusive flower business, and gets to meet some celebrities. He's an expert on the greater Toronto area, and is the first one I turn to when I have to get directions to some place that's unfamiliar to me. He's renting a room from me, and it's working out well.
Jerry is back at school, having started a carpentry apprenticeship program. He completes the schooling part in February, then starts getting paid while he does actual work during the apprenticeship period. He's sharing an apartment with another fellow. Jerry recently found a part time job at a local nursing home. He kept busy during the warm weather working for a couple of contractors. I went grocery shopping with him recently, and the checkout clerk thought we were brothers! We don't look that much alike, so it must be our similar personalities. I was really flattered by that mistake, just as a few years back when a sales clerk thought my daughter was my wife!
What's this? Jim, a single man, living in a four bedroom house? It must be lonely?
No such luck. Having three tenants who work different shifts means there are always people coming and going. As mentioned, Peter is one of my tenants. A friend of his has been another tenant for over two years. For over a year, another tenant has been an asset to this home. All are great. If only I could keep them, as they have added warmth and personality to this home. Alas, tenants do move on, and am losing two over the next two months. It's sad to see them go, and I wish them luck. Hopefully we will keep in touch. However, change is always exciting, and look forward to new tenants who will add their personalities to this home.
My work continues with service and technical support for a great Apple Macintosh Dealer in Oakville. It's a joy working there, with the only drag being the long commute each day.
Time is such a rare commodity and there just isn't enough to do everything. I maintain my interests in astronomy, genealogy, photography, and computers, with rationing of my time in each field. A recent activity was guitar lessons, but decided I would prefer to improve my skills on a keyboard, instead. Priority is given to what I enjoy most: spending quality time with my good friends.
As usual, I take joy in entertaining friends and family in my home whenever I can. There is my midwinter barbecue with the theme "A Little Taste of Summer." The summer barbecue has a Christmas theme. My friends also honour me by sharing dinner at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We get together at other times, but never often enough. I express thanks to my friends for sharing time with me and also welcoming into their homes.
Home is what we make of it. While this house has been my home for a quarter century, I know that home is not a physical place&emdash;it's a place in the heart. More than one place is home. I've felt at home in many other places. I'm at home when I visit my children and my friends, for they are all in my heart.
During this festive season, it is time to reflect on the wonderful life I have with so many people who always make me feel at home, no matter where I am. How lucky and thankful I am. May fulfilment always enrich you while you rule as caretaker of your own heartfilled home.
Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful Year 2000
- Jim Low
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