The Cookie Exchange,or The Great Chocolate Chip Explosion!

Cookie Newbie 

crying baby







I was just reflecting on that Christmas, twenty-six years ago, as I took out the last of this year’s Christmas cookies I had left over in the freezer.

Ah yes, it was Christmas 1988.  I’ll never forget it, as it was the year our daughter, Heather was born.  Things were kind of manic around our house, because things, as usual,  were not going according to plan.  Heather’s arrival was expected around November 30th, and up to December 15th, despite five attempts to hurry things along, and short of employing a stick of dynamite, there was just no way that child was coming out!  Finally on December 16th, the nurse who met me in the case room at the hospital,  after seeing my discouraged face said, “That baby is coming out  today, come hell or high water.” Great! I thought, unconvinced.

Seven o’clock that night, as I lay in my drug induced euphoria, after they finally put me out of my misery and did an emergency C-section, they placed the little pink bundle in my arms.  Everyone was so delighted.  My mother told me later that all the people out at the Orange Lodge where they were attending a dinner and dance, clapped when they heard the news!    Five days later, the nursing staff said I was ready to go home.  It was December 21st.

I don’t know if it was the baby blues setting in, or what, but once I got home and got settled away, I realised that Paul hadn’t put up the Christmas tree.  This ticked me off no end as I had been waddling around, half the size of an elephant before being admitted to hospital, and was not capable of putting up a cut tree.  He was now gone back to work, so it fell to my mother and father to come  and decorate our tree, which Paul had finally shoved in a bucket and set in place in the living room.  Every other year, he had tied the tree onto the wrought iron railing, to secure it, but this year, he figured, it would be fine.

It was not fine.  I was asleep in my bed, the baby settled in for a nap, when I came conscious with a loud crash and the sound of tinkling glass from the direction of the living room.  I arose from my bed to see what was the matter, only to find the Christmas tree on the floor, my father loudly yelling at my mother who was standing on a kitchen chair, holding a box of ornaments in her hand, and pieces of my smashed blown glass ornaments all over the floor.  By the time Paul arrived home, he was being held responsible for being the person who ruined Christmas by not tying the Christmas tree onto the rail.

Around about that time, I received a phone call from a friend of mine, reminding me of my cookie exchange commitment whereby I was supposed to have six batches of cookies ready for Saturday night to exchange with six of our friends.  Having forgotten all about this with waiting on Heather to arrive, and thinking I would have plenty of time to do the cookies after I got home from hospital, I tiredly put on my apron and got out the ingredients to make cookies.  Of course, I had agreed to make my famous chocolate dipped marachino cherry balls, which were a pain in the ass to make, but I sucked it up, tired as I was and got out the pans to melt the chocolate chips over boiling water.

I don’t know if it was the leftover drugs in my system, or the sleep deprivation of being home less than a week with a newborn, but my hazy brain did not see the folly of putting a tight-fitting saucepan containing chocolate chips into the top of another  saucepan of boiling water until it was too late.  Unsuspectingly, I turned my back on the stove for a moment to roll the marachino cherries in coconut buttercream frosting, when suddenly a sound like a shotgun going off exploded over the stove and chocolate chips rained down like shrapnel all over the kitchen.  Paul, who had been hiding out in his workshop came bounding up over the stairs and looked around in wonder before he started to laugh as I stood there with chocolate all over me as the baby started to wail.

Twelve years later, when we did the final cleaning on the house before we moved, I still found chocolate chips up on the ledge up over the upper kitchen cupboard doors.  I haven’t made anything that you have to dip in chocolate since.

One more note…..Heather is an only child, and it wasn’t only because of the colic.



chocolate chips




The Lion’s Den – Reporting on Islamic Extremists

Islamic Extremists

Recently, CNN  reported on the Rebel fighters in Aleppo, Syria and their duel fight with Bashar al-Assad’s regime forces and ISIS.  The fighters shared with reporters the destruction and fear ISIS has brought to their city, and how they see ISIS as a perversion of their faith.  Parallels can be drawn with the plight of the people of Gao, Mali, West Africa caught between the jihadists and the Malian Government.  In my novel, The Lion’s Den, due for publication in April 2015, American journalist Brent Marshall was in Gao to report on the assassination of the Gao vice consul, Tahar Touati.  In this excerpt, he is taken on tour of the capital city’s town square to view first hand the destruction caused by the Tuareg Rebellion.  It is heartbreaking to hear of the toll  taken not only on the lives of the people of the region, but also on those brave souls who go there to tell their stories, often losing their own lives in the process.

The Lions Den

Brent had spent some time in Gao, speaking to the locals about the battle fought between the jihadists and the Malian government.  They had taken him to the dusty parade ground that had passed for Gao’s main square.  He had viewed the mounds of gray-black ash where the Islamists had burned the townspeople’s CD’s, cell phones, televisions and all of their cigarettes, which were symbols of the immoral and unhealthy western influence on Muslim culture.  He was shown a concrete pillar gouged with machete blows and stained with blood, where they had cut off the hands of children who had been caught thieving.  Brent had asked them how they felt about this, and they had shrugged, saying “they were just thieves, bad boys.”  At least under the Tuareg rule, the raping of women and children and the looting of shops and houses had been stopped.  You might get flogged for smoking a cigarette, but at least the jihadists could restore order, even if it was order without compromise.

A group of Gao patrollers, loyal to the Malian government had taken him to a nursery school filled with munitions they’d found hidden in a safe house, just around the corner.  The patrollers had opened a crate filled with Russian missiles and told him that supplies like this were stockpiled in houses all around the city, waiting for the infiltrators to use against the occupiers, while innocent children played  in their schoolyards

Brent wondered if peace would ever be possible between the people of this region.  There was so much hatred between the religious and secular groups.  There was little room for compromise and such effort put into trying to bend the people to the Islamist’s will through the use of violence and terror which, ironically, Islam categorically forbid.  The Prophet Muhammad, had demonstrated a life of patience in the face of insults and persecution–even forgiving those who previously attempted to assassinate his person.  How then, could violence be the means to bring about peace?


Happy New Year

 A Brand New Year!

new year






Hi friends and followers.

It’s that time again to reflect on the year gone past and to usher in a brand new year.  It’s like starting with a fresh blank page.  You can choose what you want to concentrate on, what to change, and what to let go of.  the last one is really important, because there is so much in life that can hold you back if you let it.  Letting go of old baggage can be very cathartic.  life is too short to keep thinking about old hurts and repeating old habits.  Time to try something new.  It’s helpful to do something symbolic like write down all the stuff you want to change or get rid of and throw the notes in the fireplace, or light a fire outdoors and send them into the cosmos.  If you like, you can put them in a Chinese lantern, if you are permitted to release them in your community.  It’s a visual reminder that you are letting the past go.

Time to think of what you want to change.  Everybody is used to making resolutions to lose weight or stop smoking, and we get about three weeks into the new year and we’re back to our old habits.  Making resolutions is like setting yourself up to fail.  This year, I have decided to make gradual changes is my lifestyle and see if I can maintain them.  Things like stopping using coffee cream and replacing it with 2% milk this week, then maybe next week, buying multigrain bread instead of white.  rather than going “cold turkey” with a multitude of change, it gives you a chance to acclimatise to healthier eating.  if you are a smoker, figure out when you want a smoke the most, then make yourself wait an hour every day for a week, and see if you can eventually eliminate that smoke break.  Substitute another activity, ie:  chew gum or drink water during that time if it helps.  I treated myself to a set of motivational audiotapes which I set aside some time each day to listen to.  It’s surprising how the messages stick in your subconscious mind and help you to shut down that little demon’s voice that urges you to eat those chocolates or have another cigarette.  Visualizing change helps, too. Post a picture of the kind of body you would like to have on your fridge or “stash” cupboard.  (Come on, all of us who are overweight have one.)  Don’t let past incidents of falling off the diet wagon influence you.  We let all that past negative stuff go, remember? This is a whole new approach.  If you have to have some chocolate, go for it!  Don’t be hard on yourself, you can try again tomorrow.  Try not to binge, make a little go a long way.  Enjoy every particle of your smoke, if you have to have one. There’s nothing more  detrimental to a fledgling diet than complete deprivation.  Be kind to yourself!

Try something new!  What have you always wished you could do, but have never taken the time to try?  Would you  like to be able to speak and understand French?  Would you like to try writing, drawing, or painting? Would you like to meet new people?  The internet may be a great source for many of these activities.  You Tube has tons of instructional videos, you can buy software to teach you so many things.  Lots of information is out there on the web to get you started in lots of great leisure activities.  If you want the face to face contact, take a course at a community college.  Be a couch potato no more!  All of a sudden, there’s not enough time in a day to do all of the things you want to do!

You will be amazed by the changes in yourself.  Suddenly you have interesting things to talk about.  Your confidence level rises, and you become vibrant and attractive to other people.  More importantly, you feel better about yourself, and that, my friend, is gold!

And so, to all of my friends, family and fans, I wish you a bright and Happy New Year with all good things coming your way!  I can’t wait until April to share my book, The Lions Den with you.  Taking a chance to try something new has changed my life.  I hope you give yourself the freedom to see what you can do too!

Remember to:

Dance as if no one is watching, sing as if no one is listening and live every day as if it was your last.

Old Irish proverb



Turkey Days

Mr. Turkey 

Christmas turkey







Over the past few days, I have shared some funny stories with friends while enjoying some holiday cheer. As the wine bottle got emptier, the stories got funnier. Here are a few samples. Feel free to comment and add your own stories to the list!

One Christmas when a friend of mine was just a newlywed, she and her husband were trying to figure out how to stuff and truss their first Christmas turkey. She had taken the bird out of the freezer and had carefully followed the directions for thawing and preparing it for cooking. She assembled all of the ingredients to make her mother’s traditional savory stuffing and had the roaster prepped and ready. All systems were go.
Not having had any experience, so far in her short cooking career, with poultry stuffing, and not having paid much attention to her mother’s ministrations to Christmas turkeys in the past, my friend stood there in her kitchen in puzzlement, with the huge bowl of dressing and the decapitated turkey sitting there in the sink. What did you do next? Bravely she grabbed a handful of the seasoned crummey mixture and gingerly shoved it inside the bird’s cold clammy orifice. She was surprised, when she had filled the cavity to capacity, with how much dressing she had left over. She skewered the flap of skin firmly shut and tied kitchen twine around the bird to hold all of its appendages in place. The oven was up to cooking temperature, and she shook salt and pepper on the trussed bird, placed the domed top of the roaster in place and shoved it into the oven.
Several hours later, after a few peeks into the roaster to baste and monitor the level of doneness, the meat thermometer pronounced the bird cooked, and the roaster was triumphantly removed from the oven, delicious smells emanating from the golden browned meat.
Mom and dad were sitting at the dining room table when my friend placed the picture perfect turkey in front of her husband who was poised and ready with the carving implements. He proudly placed succulent slices of turkey onto their wedding china plates. When the time came to scoop out the dressing, hubby looked a little puzzled. He cut open the entrance to the turkey’s chest cavity and pulled out a huge turkey neck and paper bag full of the cooked turkey giblets! My friend’s face was as red as the cranberry sauce as she realized she had only stuffed the turkey’s back end, and had forgotten all about removing the entrails and stuffing the turkey’s chest cavity!
For New Year’s Dinner, she played it safe and cooked a roast!

My best friend related this story about her first encounter with cooking a Christmas turkey:

Before Christmas, my husband and I went to the supermarket to purchase our first Christmas turkey. Not knowing exactly how much meat we would actually go through, we opted for a twenty five pound gobbler. We got a great deal on the huge frozen bird and proudly carted it home and placed it into the deep freeze with great anticipation.
Before the sun was fully up on Christmas morning, my husband and I tiptoed down to the kitchen to prepare the bird for cooking. The stuffing was already made and sat waiting while my husband took the turkey out of the fridge and placed it on waxed paper on the counter. Not having the hang of how to approach the bird for stuffing, I grabbed a large spoonful of the dressing in one hand, while trying to hold the bird still on the counter with the other. Having been freshly washed, the turkey was as slippery as a greased pig, and took off down the counter like a curling stone. Only for my husband caught it as it came flying off the end of the kitchen counter, it would have crashed into the fridge and met its second demise, or landed in the dog’s dinner dish! We had several more skirmishes with the slippery bird until we determined that to stuff a turkey you first need to either corral it in a big bowl or keep it contained in the kitchen sink!

And finally, we found out that you don’t necessarily have to be an inexperienced cook for a turkey to get the best of you! Here’s what happened to my friend’s mother one Christmas:

I was a teenager, about sixteen years old, and let me tell you, I could put away the food! It was Christmas and the smell of the turkey roasting was making my stomach growl with anticipation! The Christmas turkey mom and dad had chosen that year was a twenty five pounder. We were a family with six youngsters, four of whom were teenaged boys, so they knew a turkey with some meat on its bones was needed. Because it was so big, mom’s usual roasters were too small to take it, so she had to resort to a couple of those tinfoil roasting pans stacked inside each other to contain the bird. Into the cavernous oven it went and finally the time came that the turkey was pronounced cooked and mom enlisted dad’s help to take the bird out of the oven. The heat was intense and the steam made the sweat pop out on dad’s brow as he grasped the tinfoil covered roaster in his big oven mitt clad hands. Just as he made to heave the heavy pan up onto the kitchen counter, the pan buckled and the turkey and its juices escaped onto the kitchen floor! As mom made a wild grab to try and save the bird from falling, she slipped on the pan drippings and nearly went down with the ship! Unfortunately, she landed right on top of the turkey and nearly burned the arse off herself as she went skidding across the kitchen on the turkey’s back like a manned torpedo. She held on though, and would have made a great draft poster girl for World War II!
Luckily we were able to salvage enough turkey to still enjoy our Christmas dinner, even though we had to eat it with tinned gravy!

Now it’s your turn! Comment and share your turkey stories here! Merry Christmas!


The Lions Den on Hostage Taking

Hostage taking is becoming common


With all of the drama in the news lately on Hostage taking, I thought I would share an excerpt from my book, “The Lion’s Den” which is due out for publication (ebook), on April 15, 2015. This is where Della’s colleague, Brent Marshall is taken hostage, as part of bin Laden’s plan to lure Della into his clutches:

The Lion’s Den:

Brent Marshall sat in his hotel room, waiting for his phone to ring. He idly reviewed the background information he had gathered in preparation for his much anticipated meeting with Walid abu Sarhaoui, Islamist leader, and president of the MOJWA governing council…….

Brent hoped that today’s interview, might help to open unconditional talks between the opposing forces, and with the withdrawal of coalition troops in Afghanistan, equilibrium might eventually be restored , allowing the way to be paved for resolution of the conflict. He wasn’t looking for the Nobel Peace Prize, but he was hoping to allow Walid a platform to let himself be seen as less of a monster and more of a leader.
Just then, the door to the hotel room was kicked open. Five or six men dressed in the rag tag garb of al Qaeda fighters surrounded him, automatic rifles cocked and pointed at his head. The leader, none other than Ibrahin bin Sharikh, addressed him in English,
“Mr. Marshall, so nice to make your acquaintance. Abu Sarhaoui, sends his regrets that he will be unable to hold interviews today. He thinks it only fair that we allow you to experience the real Africa the way our forefathers did, see how they were treated by you men of the west.
I’m sure you will make of it a good story.”
One of the men shoved a rag in his mouth, and pulled a hood over his head, jamming the butt of his rifle into his ribs, as he forced him to kneel while the others duct-taped his wrists behind his back and shackled his ankles. His belongings were looted, the computer and camera equipment, and anything of value was shared up among the kidnappers, and he was hauled to his feet and marched out into the hallway and down over the stairs while the other guests and patrons of the hotel stayed well out of the way of the armed men.

Outside there was a van waiting and Brent was shoved inside and whisked away through the busy, crowded city, where things like abductions and people being held at gunpoint was an everyday occurrence.

***Food for thought: My husband, Paul subscribes to Here is a link to their recent post about what to do in a hostage taking situation. Note to self: Don’t ever think it can’t happen to you.


While Visions of Sugarplums danced in their Heads

Grab Those Sugarplums While You Can!



We’re down to the last few kilometers in the Christmas madness marathon!

I made the mistake of going out to Wal-Mart this Saturday afternoon to buy a few last minute stocking stuffers. I know, I know, what was I thinking? Blame it on my poor sick mother who needed me to get groceries for her at the supermarket up on Kelsey drive that just happens to be right next door to Wally World. Hey, she needed a new topper for her Christmas tree, okay?

The lure of “everyday low prices” drew me like a siren song as I swung into the shopping district and studiously avoided looking for a parking space in front of the Sobeys Superstore, and instead spied a prime open spot almost in front of Wal-Mart’s front door. Karma, right?

The greeter smiled at me as I breezed in through the portal, the doors opening wide, welcoming me as if I was shopping royalty. She reached for a shopping cart to help launch me into high gear procurement mode, but there wasn’t a four wheeled plum picker in sight. I could see way down in the back of the parking lot, a scrawny little dude remote-controlling the Polar Express of all blue shopping carts, across the tarmac. I couldn’t watch as mothers towing toddlers and little old ladies in walkers scurried out of the way to avoid being mowed down. Luckily for me, a chivalrous exiting shopper offered me his tender, so off I went on my quest for deep discount prices.

My first stop was the candy department, conveniently located right inside the front door, offering every sort of confection known to man. I hunted through the shelves, grabbing all the family favorites; After Eight Mints, Chocolate covered Cherries, Turtles, Hershey Kisses and those Luscious Belgian Chocolate Lindor Truffles, of which they only had the hazelnut kind left. Oh well.

I don’t know what it is about the week before Christmas that puts you in panic mode, shopping. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of the seemingly endless to-do list of tasks still to be completed, or the fear that you don’t have enough stuff bought to fill the bottomless stockings, but there is this feral frenzy that comes over you to buy. Before I knew it, my cart was full of socks and underwear, a velour track suit for Nanny, a fluffy pink bathrobe, some wrapping paper, and a three foot light up Darth Vader lawn ornament, along with the aforementioned candy and chocolates.

I stopped to admire the trinkets in glass cases at the jewellery department and when I turned around, some middle aged dude was picking through the stuff I had stowed in my cart! When I turned on him with the territorial zeal of a rabid German Sheppard, he backed off apologetically, smarting from the glower that was radiating off my countenance. I must have made an impression on him, because when I queued up behind him in the checkout line, he once again apologized for his mistake. I might have forgiven him if his wife hadn’t picked up the last two packages of milk chocolate Lindor truffles on the rack in the checkout aisle. Crap!

Well, the spirit of Christmas must have shone down upon me as I neared the cashier, forty minutes later as the shopping cart snooper’s wife decided at the last minute to leave the Lindor chocolate behind, and I triumphantly scooped them up and added them to my pile of schwag. Happily, I gloated as the cashier rang up my purchases and even managed to remain standing when she finally read out the total of $429.98! Will that be cash or charge? Arrrrgggghhhh!!!!

sparkly norma

The Lions Den on Interrogation of Prisoners

Interrogation or Torture?
My book, The Lion’s Den, is set post 911 in circumstances that require the CIA to obtain information regarding the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Is the use of “alternative measures” ever warranted in prisoner interrogation? You decide..
The ready light on the tazer shone red in Sharikh’s eyes as Major Thoms asked, “Why did you ask Della Rawlins to deliver the ransom for Brent Marshall in person?”
“It was ordered by my commanding officer,” he replied.
“And what is his name?” Thoms asked,”Remember, we have had you under surveillance for months now.”
Sharikh’s mind raced to find an answer that would satisfy his tormentor but not give too much information away, “He goes by the name Amir al Mu’minin. I have never met him. I only communicate with him through email.”
“Arrrrr…..wrong answer,” Thoms said, letting the tazer fly. The prisoner
reeled from the electric shock, his body seizing and bucking on the ground.
“Now come on, that was only a little tickle,” Thoms chuckled, teasingly.
read more of ……….The Lion’s Den, coming out in April 2015
U.S. Senate report condemns CIA harsh interrogations
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is discussing a report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror…

Have You Been out Christmas Shopping Lately?

Christmas Shopping Madness!

Christmas shopping                ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????                batman-robin-24223694

 Have you been out Christmas shopping yet?  Holy Christmas rage Batman!!!

Last Friday was the annual “Save 20% Night” at the Avalon Mall or ”Midnight Madness” as it is affectionately known.  It’s the St. John’s version of “Black Friday” where the fervor of the Christmas shopping rush is stoked by the ingestion of large doses of turkey, compliments of the US Thanksgiving   The week leading up to the event, all you hear on the radio are advertisements for gigantic blowout specials, Bogo deals, and free gift with purchase offers at participating stores.  The kids are whipped into a frenzy with promises of a talking Christmas tree, dancing reindeer*, visits with Santa and a special appearance by Captain America!  It is an event not to be missed!

At quitting time, people in offices all over town are lined up like marathon runners, sneakers on, water bottles in hand, credit cards at the ready,  waiting for the clock to strike five.  All routes leading into the Shopping District resemble Nascar tracks, as rabid drivers jostle for position, trying to gain entrance to the Mall parking lot, horns blaring and rude hand gestures abounding.  Once you finally make it onto the parking lot, the next half hour is spent “hovering”, waiting for a parking spot to open up.  It is a generally accepted rule of courtesy that if one is parked with their indicator flashing when a shopper returns to their car to vacate their parking spot, the waiting driver gets to take it.  However, there is the occasional arrogant asshole who will pull  in ahead of the waiting driver and claim the spot.  This leads to tempers flaring, curses being shouted and threats of nasty retaliation being made.  Some people, of course, will inevitably step outside the bounds of authority and park their cars in no parking zones and places where one would never even think to put a car.

Once you finally gain access to the five hundred thousand square feet of shopping mania, the fun really begins.  The mall is decked out in the season’s finest trimmings.  The ‘muzak’ is blaring and a stroller queue of overtired, overstimulated tots are kicking up didoes in the center court, bawling their eyes out as their mothers plant them on Santa’s lap for pictures.  Terrifying! You finally make it down to the electronics store only to find out the fifty inch smart TVs they were selling for three hundred bucks sold out an hour after opening this morning.  You almost buy the seventy inch with the 3D images of shark week playing, until you realize that you’d have to sell your car, all of your clothes, and possibly your firstborn  to be able to afford it. Your head gets muddled and you try and remember who’s on your Christmas list and who you’ve got left to buy something for, but everything is so distracting, and isn’t that little dress perfect for the company Christmas party!  An hour later, you’ve burned through all your cash and half the remaining credit limit on your cards.  Only five more gifts to buy!  At this point your feet are aching, your head is pounding and you’re dry as the Sahara desert and the line up at Tim Hortons is still a mile long.   Suddenly someone yells, “There’s a fresh delivery of Disney “ Frozen” dolls at Walmart!!” and you plaster yourself against a wall to avoid being stampeded by the hoard of frenzied parents swarming the exit.

Now that you are freshly caffeinated, with a bellyful of Timbits to boot, you get your second wind and attack the rest of the stores with a vengeance.  Jostling bags, boxes, and rolls of Christmas wrap, you squeeze through the Mall exit door at 11:45 pm, your feet ready to fall off, and you realize that you’re parked over in the west parking lot, which means a half hour long hike around the Mall.

And that, my friends, is only the start of the Christmas Madness.  I swear to God, this year I will be ordering my Christmas groceries at the mom and pop store that delivers, and the cookies and Christmas cake will likely be purchased at a bakery.  To hell with Christmas traditions, next year I’m going on a cruise!




*Dancing Reindeer, I kid you not!





Down in the Trenches

Remembering the Trenches, Now and Then

the hole





Down in the Trenches

Last weekend we took an extended long weekend at our country home.  Well deserved, I figure, as not only was it the Remembrance Day holiday, but also my November eleventh birthday!  Awesome, you may assume, a nice relaxing weekend away from work, watching war newsreels and movies on tv, and the laying of wreaths at the local war memorials, with some birthday cake on the side, right? Wrong.  Hubby had other plans.

Paul had been nattering on about having to replace the weeping tile around the foundation of our cabin and he decided that this was going to be the project for the weekend. “Okay,” says I, “Hope you have some male friends lined up to help with the installation.” (Ha! Fair warning, it ain’t gonna be me!)  So out we go over the Trans Canada Highway with a pickup load of construction materials and equipment.  By the time we arrive at the cabin, all of the ground surrounding the foundation had been dug up, leaving a five foot deep trench, right around the perimeter and mounds of dirt everywhere. It looked just like a scene right out of the battle of the Sommes.  The track marks of a large tractor had left scars in the ground, as if a troop of tanks had just rolled through.

Overnight, the turncoat weather decided to side with the enemy.  All night, the rain pounded on the roof.  Lightning lit up the skies like bursting mortar shells and the thunder rolled over us like a squadron of B 52 bombers.  As dawn broke, Paul stared morosely out at the rain streaming down out of the heavens.  “Better wait till it lets up a little,” was all he said.  Plans, instructions, and diagrams littered the kitchen table as he  plotted his strategy like a five star general.

Around about 0-eight hundred the rain started to let up and with no cavalry riding in to lend a hand, I got drafted to “help”.  Just enough water was rolling off the eaves to drip down our necks and the damp cold cut you like a bayonette.  In addition to the weeping tile, Paul had decided to put up Styrofoam insulation AND imitation stone siding, a job that would take most handymen at least a week with a crew of “helpers”.  Unfortunately, I was the only one that showed up for roll call, and I could see my weekend plans for R & R slipping away.

Armed with a hammer drill, an electric screwdriver, and   boxes of screw-in fasteners, we headed down into the trenches prepared to do battle.  The wind was blowing so hard that I feared that If it got behind me while I was carrying a sheet of insulation from the garage to the work site, I would be blown away out over the hills like a wayward paratrooper!  All you could hear was the whining of the drill and the flying artillery of screws being driven into the concrete block wall.  The black goop was still tacky, and every time we got a glob of it on our hands, it inevitably got smeared onto our faces and clothes, like some kind of crazy camouflage.  The only casualty we suffered was the loss of the chuck key for the electric drill, which got lost somewhere down in the dirt and leaves in the bottom of the trench, You can’t beat the camaraderie of brothers at arms, however, and as we paused to admire what we had accomplished at the end of the day, I was  thankful to have survived with all fingers intact and to still be able to hobble up the ladder out of the hole.

Many a time that day, as we endured the uncomfortable weather and the misery of having to be there until the job was finished, it crossed my mind about how hard it must have been for those brave men and women who left their families and homes, dutifully answering a call to arms to go to fight an unknown enemy on foreign soil.

Later that day, we watched the news reports of the Remembrance Day Services, and saw the pride and also the sorrow on the faces of the veterans as they relived the memories of those days of war and the struggle and the loss.  We felt, once again, the pain of the young soldier shot to death as he stood on guard at a war memorial monument in our nation’s capital, and we recognized the enormous debt of gratitude we owe these people, one that we must never forget.

I think next year I will grow some poppies…..



Social Media Schnaffles

Define: Schnaffles


I’m not sure that schnaffles is even a word, but if it describes being hogtied while a tornado whips around you, for me, that’s what being thrust into the vortex of the social media craze is like.

Being in the “over fifty” age group, I have pretty much been playing catch up with technology since the millennium changed, considering we never even owned a computer until 2001. It was only half way through my career with the bank that we went from a manual posting system to a brand spanking new computerized system. Let me tell you, there was as much squealing and groaning and resistance coming out of the old banking matrons as there is out of a seized brake caliper on a car that hasn’t moved in ten years! Funny how we are all resistant to change, even when we know it’s going to make our work easier, faster, and more efficient.

Since I decided to jump into the book writing and publishing arena, my mentor and publishing guru informs me that I need to have a “social media platform” in place so that people will be able to get to know who I am, and can find out more about my work. “Okay” says I, not knowing a tweet from a hoot, and not having a clue how to blog or how to set up a website. My old friend, Facebook was the only familiar vehicle I recognized on the whole SM parking lot. “Not to worry” says my publishing guru, I can set up all of that for you, no problem!

So now I’m out there on the internet radar. I have not one, but two domain names, both .com and .ca, which is kinda funny, being a non-bilingual Canadian, but having a national and international domain name! I have a Twitter account, a Hootsuite account, a personal Facebook account as well as a professional Facebook account. I am LinkedIn, plugged in and friends with people I don’t even know. The learning curve is like that of a giant geodesic dome covering the northern hemisphere! To say I’m out of my element is rather an understatement. I have faith in my mentor and techno-guru, however, that all will be well and in time, I will be comfortable with it all. And so, I’m taking baby steps, sending out a few tweets, blogging a few blogs which will show up on my website, Authornormacook. com/ca. Now that a web designer guru has whipped up this webpage, then I can truly say, “I have arrived”.

So, friends, if you read some of my posts for the first little while, and it doesn’t sound like me, it’s probably not! (But I’m getting there.)


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