Tell Cancer to Go Suck a Lemon


When a friend’s Mom/Business Partner passed away from Ovarian Cancer, she posted a heart-wrenching video with an idea. It was during the time of the ice-bucket challenge. The videos of ice water being poured on people raised awareness, and money, in the fight against ALS. It was noted recently that 

As her video went on she talked about wanting to tell cancer to go suck a lemon. Through her grief she proceeded to try and handle the sourness of a lemon wedge. 

Cancer has affected everyone in some way. Or everyone knows someone who has been affected. My friends’ idea is a good one. So I challenge anyone to post a video of themselves attempting the same to YouTube and any social media platform. Tell a story about someone you know who is fighting this terrible disease, or who may have lost that battle. Talk about a survivor you know. Maybe you are a survivor.

Tell your story.

Once you have twisted your face up from the taste of the lemon, nominate a few people to do the same thing. Tell the world you want cancer to #GoSuckALemon

As for me, I won’t have a video to post. If anyone hands me a lemon I’m going to throw it in a glass of vodka and ice, pretend it is water and tell people I am on a cleanse….

My thanks to Sharla Hanna of Canmore, Alberta for her idea. You can read on about the business Sharla and Mother started here.




Movie Rental Retail Winds Down Further


No one likes to see the end of an era. Especially for something blissfully positive like the retail movie rental business.

The pending closure of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s “Video Difference” has brought up talk of the evolution in the business again. Video Difference does not seem bitter about it. Instead of complaining about the state of the business as some small retailers have done, they have reached out to say “thank you” to loyal customers and their staff past and present. The story of Video Differences’ closure was trending nationwide on Twitter for several days. Customers from across the country who were once residents of Halifax and Bedford commented on the closure via social media. It was great to see such a wave of positive commentary about this great business.  

You could rightfully argue that the business has long been in decline for several years. With the rise in illegal downloading, Netflix and on-demand programming from television providers, the exit ramp signs were manufactured well before the slow starting vanish of retail video. It was rather pleasing to see so many small businesses survive and outlast Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster’s management generated a series of costly marketing mistakes which ultimately sped-up their demise. One must wonder how much money they spent on television advertising just to promote their policy of “No More Late Fees!”

There was a time in my youth where movie and video game rentals took up a significant part of each and every weekend. Those weekends and the rental places have multiple stories worth writing about another time. In the meantime, there are still many convenience stores across the country that still offer a selection of movies for rent. Many will no doubt continue to do so for some time. Continued technological advancement and greater access for consumers will result in those numbers dwindling further. So no one may really be able to predict when the business of video rental will actually come to an end.

Closures of places like Video Difference draw attention to the reality of the changing times. As tough as those changing times might seem, they are sometimes worth embracing for the positives that come with it. I join the large loyal group of customers that say Video Difference will be missed and fondly remembered. 




The Grand Mother of Grand Central

Backyard Jocko

This picture speaks more than a thousand words. It could represent the book cover of an entire collection of conversations and general memories I’ve had with my Dad’s parents. The long side yard that took up the majority of their property was many things. It was a yard to run and play in. It was an open space where on the nicest days the breeze would clip against the clothing hung from the long lines.  My earliest memories of this yard were its’ divided sections separated two dogs that just did not really get along.

The Matriarch of this home was a relatively quiet, peaceful woman. Sometimes that is still difficult to imagine considering how vocal and opinionated my Grandfather and Dad were. My Grandmother did her damnedest to raise a family of five while working her entire life mostly in the home. In her healthiest days, she was a great housekeeper. She was a bit of a perfectionist. She liked having containers of sweets and different kinds of snacks around. It didn’t matter if she made them herself. Some she did bake. Others were from storefront bakeries, or manufactured processed things bought in preservative-heavy packaging. She loved it all even in her declining years of health when she stopped cooking.

It was her cooking and occasional lunches that drew me there often. In my kid days I loved landing there when she was doing up batches of chips. She loved potatoes no matter how they were cooked. Having grown up on farm country in Prince Edward Island, she was used to the finest crops of red-soil spuds being at the table constantly. If we landed there I would always hope she was planning to fry up a batch or ten. This would always be followed-up with whatever we wanted to help ourselves to.

In 1998 I made a spirited decision that it was necessary to leave home and get away from things. Like my Mom (biggest supporter), she fully supported the decision as did a small number of other close to me. That break did come in April of 1999. Leading up to my leaving, I worked an odd job and attended courses in town that took up my mornings.  When I was completed work for the day, I drove the short trek to their home and was lucky enough to have lunch there at least three days per week. Roast-beef sandwiches and plates of chips were the standard norm. On early days out I might land there for morning tea. Morning tea was practically platefuls of sweets with a fresh cup of classic tea. I was drinking a rather appalling amount of cola still. It was an old hellishly unhealthy habit that spilled over from high school and younger days. She usually kept some on hand for any of us who came through the busy house.

And a busy house it was. Visitors would come and go. Like many busy houses of this type, the placed earned the appropriate nickname of Grand Central. It came to such a point that even leading up to my Grandfather’s passing everyone still answered the phone “Grand Central”.

In 1999 when I left for Western Canada, I left without having a real concrete plan as to when I would return. As the summer went on, I made a plan to return home for six weeks. The intention was to see if I made the right decision in the first place. I decided to keep it a secret from anyone on Dad’s side of the family.  When I came off the train in November of 99, I arranged for my Mom, Stepdad and brother to pick me up. The night would be spent out at their place then I would arrive in town the next day unannounced. My brother graciously drove out to the country the next day to pick me up. I dropped him off somewhere so anyone driving the car would automatically assume it was him. Word had gotten to me that the family was going to be attending the funeral of my former Aunt’s Mom. Everyone was pretty much going to the service except my Grandmother herself. While still able to do some things, her health problems began to catch up with her. It prevented her from walking steady and for long periods of time.

I drove up to the house knowing that she would be the only one home. The house had already been busy with people coming in and out. She was probably happy to have a few minutes of peace. As I came through the door I could hear her from the other room call out, “Now who the hell is that?” I quickly walked into the dining lounge area where her irritation changed to a boisterous laugh. She was not used to being surprised. I helped myself to a cold glass of Pepsi and sat down with her. We waited for everyone to come back from the funeral they had gone off to.

That visit in 99 was life-changing in many ways. I knew that the decision to leave was the right one. I would have been absolutely miserable returning to my home town. With minimal employment prospects and most of my closest friends having moved away. It was not worth it. The decision was helped by new friends out west who called me at my Dad’s while I was away to see if I was doing well. They were anxious for my return. This made me anxious to get back to the new life I was building.

As for Gram, my next visit home would not be for quite some time. On a cold day in winter 2001 I took a mid-day direct flight from Calgary to Halifax to spend a week with everyone. It was a busy enough week. My scheduled worked in as many visits with each of the Grandparents. I long-treasure those discussions at the dining room table over whatever she had out for snacks and the unlimited supply of tea and cold drinks.

It was during the 2001 visit where she would ask me to make a promise. Somehow we ended up on the topic of friends and relatives who had passed away. The conversation turned humourous somehow. For the life of me I cannot remember why. She took my hand and gave it a bit of a tender slap on the wrist.  “Listen”, she said rather sternly. I have to paraphrase her comments as best as possible since I cannot remember them exactly.

She asked me to promise her that when it comes her time, I would not return to Nova Scotia for her funeral. She insisted I needed to find a way to pull it together and keep earning money. It was a moving moment for me. She knew I always dreamed bigger than anyone else I was related to. She wanted me to keep living life and not worry about her. I nodded and smiled. “I promise”. No need to paraphrase that. I DO remember making the promise. In that same conversation she told me how she hoped her and Gramps would make it to 60 years of being married. She didn’t care if she died after that. They made it well beyond 60.

Ten years ago this morning, I remember getting the phone call shortly after three a.m. from my Dad. “You know why I’m calling”, he said in his monotonic tone. I knew right away she was gone. She spent much of the last year of her life in considerable pain residing in a care facility adjacent to the hometown hospital.  She fought a hard battle with her health. She wanted to hang on for as long as she could.

We did not always agree on things. Especially when it came to subjects like religion. There was much we did agree on. We agreed on how society needs to treat animals better. I wrote about her love of animals in my book and how it influenced me. We also agreed that memorializing people was a waste of time and money. She didn’t argue with anyone on the anniversary of a passing of someone. If someone wanted to post something she wouldn’t argue about it. She would just accept it and move on.

She believed in encouraging those closest to her to be the best they could be. She wanted me to go after the life I wanted to live. I’m still working on that.

I kept my promise to her. I did not return to Nova Scotia for her funeral. On the morning of her passing I rolled out of bed and went to my day job. I did my best to keep it together during the day and managed a full day of work. My Dad and a few others did not immediately understand why I would not come back for the funeral. It took a ton of convincing for me to explain to everyone that my promise to her was part of a conversation that actually did happen. The suggestion that it never happened was downright offensive.

This is not meant to be an in memoriam type of post. Rather than mourn that she is gone, I chose to spend my time celebrating those fond memories. Have a quiet drink at home, maybe make up a plate of “chips” and be grateful to have had four wonderful grandparents.







Summer Scenes


The warmth of the sun radiates on the house. A few fans and a curtain keep the heat from chasing me out of my home office. 

If I were to describe the current summer scenes, they would all contain adjectives relating to the heat and humidity. Compared to last year, it seems to be a humidly hot summer with August and early September still pending. I’ve made a good effort so far to complain little about the heat. Often I get understandable flack from people around me who say I have no right to complain about the heat. This is all because I normally spend part of December in Florida on the Gulf Coast. At this point I need to remind people that in December Florida has its’ cool days but also days that to me are hot with a nice breeze. During the hot Florida days I would be running the beach in just shorts while passing people dressed in parkas on their morning walk. The parkas are a sight to behold. You know that these people would not survive a second of arctic climate! 

The summer provides the build up to my favourite season of the year. Summer is the lead-in to what will be another productive Fall. Wisely, I chose to leave much of the firewood work until closer to those days. When cooler weather will prevail and result in more productivity. Both outdoors and indoors. So rather than complain about any excessive heat, I might as well enjoy the scenes before me, and be grateful to live in a place that actually enjoys 4 seasons.




A Scaled Back PEI Ferry Service

Holiday Island

How exactly did anyone not see the possibility of this happening? 

The much-depended on ferry service connecting Caribou Nova Scotia to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island is going to be somewhat scaled back for the remainder of the 2016 sailing season. During the busy tourism season, the service is dependent on two ships being completely operation. The MV Confederation is now dealing with extra sailings to keep up with the demand. The MV Holiday Island remains in a Quebec drydock, burdened with problems. Problems which will keep her from returning to the Northumberland Strait this 2016 summer season.

In 2012, I wrote a story about the second M.V. Abegweit, scrapped at Alang India in 2004. Like the Holiday Island, the Abby was a ship that sailed on the other PEI Ferry route from Borden Prince Edward Island to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. There was only a ten year age difference between the Abby and the Holiday Island.

The Confederation Bridge remains the most vital link to Prince Edward Island. The ferry service remains equally important. When sailing season commences, people expect it to be there. Successive governments have lobbied hard to keep it going. Now, elected officials and citizens as rightfully asking for a backup plan. It is probable that there would be no possible way financially to have three ferries running the remaining service line. Maybe people thought the demand in the summer would not be as high.

I still have fond memories of multiple ferries running both routes when there was only the one way off the Island. One would leave dock, then another would come in. Then another. I cannot count the number of times a ferry would have to hold position while they awaited clearance to dock. Another one had to leave to clear the roadway.

abby 1982

Gone but not forgotten, the MV Abegweit (1982)

One cannot help wonder again why the Holiday Island was kept in favour of the Abegweit? Given the ship’s age, how could no one possibly see this coming? The Holiday Island might have been a ship that could have been more easily sold. Her sister ship MV Vacationland eventually did sell. At last report, Vacationland was being refitted for rock and sand transportation along the St. Lawrence River. The Abegweit was a reliable ship sold and scrapped far too young. It could have aged significantly better than the Holiday Island, and still been in service today.   




Parents Still Consider Themselves Above Non-Parents?

book Cover

I read British Conservative MP, and potential successor to outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron Andrea Leadsom’s comments about having a supposed advantage over her counterpart because she is a Mom. They are completely out-of-touch. Her comments insist that only parents have a real interest in the future of their countries. The comments go on to suggest that being a parent means you have a tangible stake in the country. This is a classic example of a continuing pro-natalist mentality. Politicians want to cater to the family vote. The majority of platforms and policies anyone attempting to get elected revolves around doing things in the interest of “families”. The caveat always is that to them, “families” means households WITH children. It is astounding that the non-parent vote continues to be heavily ignored in democracies across the globe.

Has she thought for a moment about the people who might be trying to have children? Hearing this kind of thing may offend them even more deeply. Those couples may be struggling with medical issues that prevent them from becoming parents. They could be stuck in a long queue waiting for adoption paperwork to clear. They too have a tangible stake in the future of the country.

Let me offer another consideration. Someone who is choosing not to have children may be proving their interest in the future of their country. In the world. How? By not contributing to the problem of overpopulation! It is a very realistic possibility. The global population number is certainly a reason many people have just said no to children.

Having a “Baby-On-Board” sign in a car window does not make that car’s driver more important than a driver with no children. Really need to get on to making signs for myself that say “Non-Parent on Board”, or something like that.

We are all supposed to be equal. Whether we have children or not. Unfortunately, politicians and many of the people who closely support them still do not see it this way.   




Stanfest at Twenty

Stan Rogers

Canada Day long weekend marks many celebrations across the country. In a small Nova Scotia fishing town, another kind of celebration happens. The Stan Rogers Folk Festival, known simply as Stanfest, honours the life and work of a cultural icon.  While born in Ontario, Stan Rogers is most identified with music inspired by the Chedabucto Shore of Nova Scotia and its’ people. Rogers would later go on to compose other brilliants songs about other places and people of the country. Still, his legacy arguably remains anchored in and around the areas where his cultural roots were planted.

Stanfest is celebrated its’ 20th anniversary this weekend. It has become an internationally known gathering to hear many interpretations of Rogers’ music while offering a platform for artists to showcase their own original talents. Folk legend Arlo Guthrie took to the main stage on Saturday the 2nd. If I was able to go even just for one whole day, I would have stayed into the night long enough to hear a rousing rendition of his beloved classic “Alice’s Restaurant”.

Stanfest is providing longevity to the music of Stan Rogers. The number of younger people I’ve seen wearing Stanfest shirts may be obvious proof of this. Rogers’ music is wide-reaching with a clear global impact on the artistic community. It offers a passport into the lives of people and places that inspired Rogers. His music is a kind of informal social studies course that can really provoke thought. It can put you into the mindset of the common person that Stan often wrote about. It can make you reflect on Canada as a whole country. Its’ past, present and potential for the future.