Archive for the ‘Tuesday writing conversation’ Category

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

July 11, 2017

 

 

Tis The Last Rose Of Summer

 

‘Tis the last rose of summer,

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred,

No rose-bud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

Or give sigh for sigh.

 

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Why thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

 

So soon may I follow,

When friendships decay,

And from love’s shining circle

The gems drop away.

When true heart lie wither’d,

And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

This bleak world alone?

 

 

By Thomas Moore.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

July 4, 2017

 

 

 

Catharine writes:

One third of Neil’s listeners were francophones. During that first referendum he kept everyone talking on his CJAD open-line show. He also interviewed Premier René Lévesque on the show more than once, with the last time being only a couple of week before Lévesque’s death.

A well-known Montreal lawyer later told me that without Neil’s efforts to keep people listening to each other there could have been violence on the streets of Montreal.

My question is: is there anyone out there in the United States in the midst of this divisive election keeping people listening to each other? The most divisive in US history. Is CNN doing that with its’ panels of commentators from both sides? My impression is they are trying hard – what do you think?

Got something you want to share on the blog e-mail me at: linesarestillblazing@gmail.com

To see all the videos of Neil’s TV show, visit the YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrJeanpl

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

June 27, 2017

The Senior Times

Pit Stop by Neil McKenty

Pope’s reaction to Williamson curious and disappointing

It is now clear that Catholic-Jewish relations have been seriously damaged by the Vatican’s lifting the excommunication of a schismatic bishop who is a Holocaust denier.

Vatican authorities claim Pope Benedict XVI was unaware of the anti-Semitic attacks that Bishop Richard Williamson has launched in the past. Is this claim credible? Williamson’s diatribes have been in the public domain for years. In 1989, for example, Canadian police considered filing charges against Williamson under Canada’s hate speech laws after he gave an address in Quebec charging that Jews were responsible for“changes and corruption” in the Catholic church, that“not one Jew”perished in Nazi gas chambers, and that the Holocaust was a myth created so that the West would “approve the State of Israel.”

Williamson also praised the writings of Ernst Zundel, the Germanborn Canadian immigrant whose works include Did Six Million Really Die? and The Hitler We Loved and Why, both considered mainstays of Holocaust denial literature.

A 2008 piece in England’s Catholic Herald documented Williamson’s anti-Semitic record and included a judgement from Shimon Samuels, director of international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to the effect that Williamson is “the Borat of the schismatic Catholic far-right.” Samuels also said at the time that Williamson is “a clown, but a dangerous clown.”

To be sure, the subjects of Williamson’s controversial views are not confined to Jews. He has also suggested that the 9/11 bombings were not the result of airplanes hijacked by terrorists but rather “demolition charges,” has criticized The Sound of Music for a lack of respect for authority and has expressed sympathy for what he described as the “remotely Catholic sense” of the Unabomber for the dangers of technology.

A number of strong voices have spoken to condemn Rome’s rehabilitation of Bishop Williamson and none more so than Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reminded the Pope that in her country denying the Holocaust is a crime. Several Jewish groups have suspended all dialogue with the Catholic Church and, by all accounts, the French bishops are furious. Recently the New York Times questioned why no U.S. or Canadian bishops had publicly deplored the Williamson scandal.

It is also curious that the moderate German Cardinal Walter Kasper was not consulted in this whole damaging affair. Cardinal Kasper is the head of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.

Nevertheless, the Vatican moved swiftly to try to contain the widespread damage done by the Williamson affair. The Pope confirmed that he was looking forward to his visit to Israel this May. The Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson must retract his views unequivocally if he is ever to serve as a bishop in the Catholic Church. In the meantime Bishop Williamson has been dismissed from his post running a seminary in Argentina and the government there has expelled him from the country.

To make matters worse, the Pope named a new bishop in Austria whose well-known public utterances are as outrageous – he described Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as divine punishment for homosexuality and abortion, and the Harry Potter books as Satanic – as Bishop Williamson’s are evil.

This appointment raised such a storm of opposition in the Austrian Church that the appointment has been rescinded. The irony here is that when a bishop is appointed the diocesan authorities submit three names for the Pope’s consideration. In the Austrian case the Pope rejected the three names and appointed another candidate so unpopular he had to withdraw.

There may well be a silver lining to the affair in Austria. If the Vatican backed down because of opposition at the local level, will this set a precedent for future Episcopal appointments. At the very least it would seem that Rome must take more seriously the views of the local church. In fact, this would be in the spirit of Vatican 11, which urged a more collegial governance for the Church.

Both the fracas over Bishop Williamson and the aborted appointment in Austria beg the question of whether the universal Catholic Church can be competently led by a small group of male celibates isolated in Rome. It is a question that requires an urgent answer.

Originally published in March 2009

Jean P.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

June 20, 2017

 

 

Catharine writes:

 

Today, Friday June 16 is Bloomsday, named in honour of James Joyce’s hero.  I was hurrying out of the Manoir Westmount to attend a reading of ”Ulysses” by Joyce, at the Westmount Library.  This novel, which I had never attempted to read, has been translated in many languages, and is considered perhaps the finest work of its kind in the 20th century.

As I walked away from our front door, I caught sight of a small bed of white flowers, their petals glistening from the rain that had just stopped; they exuded joy.  I stopped for a moment and suddenly I was back in my grandmother’s garden at Donlands Farm on the edge of Don Mills Road, Toronto.  I had just been scolded for some minor misdemeanour by a well meaning but stern aunt.  I was four years old.  I crouched by my favourite stone, thrown up centuries by a volcano.   The sun had melted the snow around part of the rock.  There in the warm brown earth was a single blue flower.

I had the strongest feeling that small flower was trying to send me a message.  I couldn’t quite decipher its meaning.  Years later, I thought, that flower was saying ”Bloom for the day.”  Now here I was on Bloomsday, 2017, and these small white flowers were nodding the same message.

I also attended an absolutely outstanding lecture by Prof. Micheal Kenneally about Jane Joyce’s “Ulysses”.  For many of us there we decided we could dare to approch the complexity of this book.  The book may, however, have to wait until next winter, since Montreal in summer is so captivating, with its flowers and trees and strolling musicians.  I am told Westmount Library has 30 books just about trees.  Which reminds me … but that’s another story.  

If there is that much to say about trees, what could be said about the lives of each of us?  The entire book ”Ulysses” is almost just one day in the life of Bloom.  (Perhaps I won’t wait until winter to start.)

 

 

Tuesday Writing Conversation: John Main

June 13, 2017

 

From the forthcoming new edition of In The Stillness Dancing – The Journey of John Main this is chapter 3.

 

3. Special Communications Unit No. 4

During his school years Douglas Main did well in English and he liked writing. So it was natural that he should apply for a position on the Hornsey Journal, a suburban newspaper, located in the area where the Main family lived in north London. He was accepted and began his journalistic career in July 1942. In his wallet was a journalistic pass number, 23. Unfortunately, his duties were not very significant. The reason was not lack of enthusiasm on his part, but that the war had reduced the paper’s impact. For security reasons, the Hornsey Journal had no mast-head, and for the same reasons there were no signed stories or by-lines.

Still, Douglas managed to keep busy. As a junior reporter he covered the local courts, council meetings and social events. If the occasion called for it, he was not above a little journalistic licence. Clearly, the wedding of his older sister, Kitty, in August 1942, called for it. Douglas described the wedding lavishly, listed the bridal gifts, then added half as many again for good measure. He was also generous in other ways. With his first week’s pay from the Journal, Douglas bought his friend, Diana Ernaelsteen, a second-hand bicycle. She describes the scene, ‘I could see Douglas wheeling the bicycle up the road. It was in good condition. I was eight years old and Douglas promptly taught me to ride it over the week-end.’ Besides the Ernaelsteens, one other stop for Douglas was the local church, St Peter-in-Chains, Stroud Green. Douglas was checking on church news for his paper but he often stayed to chat with the pastor, Canon Aloysius Smith. The parish was staffed by the Canons Regular of the Lateran, a group that would later affect Douglas’ longer journey.

Besides his work at the Hornsey Journal, Douglas was also involved with his family on the war’s home front. The danger to their home life at 108 Muswell Hill Road was real enough. All the windows had been blown in by bombs dropping nearby. The church just up the hill had been set on fire by German bombers. Eileen Main was in charge of the red alarm-box located in their home. Their father, David, was a fire warden. Douglas and his sisters were all fire-watchers. During severe raids, Eileen would shepherd everyone onto mattresses under the heavy dining-room table.

Presently the war became more demanding for Douglas. Call-ups were becoming more numerous, so in the spring of 1943 he left the Hornsey Journal and took a course as a wireless operator. Then on 13 December 1943, he enlisted at Barnet, Hertfordshire, not far from his home, in the Royal Corps of Signals. He was then nearly 18 years old, and his russet- coloured ‘Soldier’s Service and Pay Book’ described him as 6 feet, l3/4 inches tall, weighing 145 lbs, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He wrote down his trade as a ‘student journalist’.

Douglas (John Main) in 1949 with his niece Anne-Marie Stanley

At this time, Douglas’s knowledge of the Morse code (some of it learned from his father, David) and the wireless course he had taken gave him a leg up in the Royal Signals. He was sent almost immediately to a training station in Kent. There he spent most of 1944 with his unit (Special Communications Unit Number 3) perfecting the sensitive skills required to recognize and retrieve enemy signals. He was never far from home and his family. That summer David Main had rented a house in Sussex. As the holiday time approached David sent his son a telegram. It read: ‘Tell your C.O. to let you home for the week-end for a family gathering or you will be our missing link. Your Daddy.’ The sergeant read the tele­gram to the troops in a booming voice, stressing the words, ‘Your Daddy’. Douglas William Victor Main of the Royal Signals was not amused.

In the autumn of 1944 another group (Special Communi­cations Unit Number 4) was formed for more specialized intelligence work overseas. The unit embarked for the Euro­pean theatre of war in mid-January 1945. S.C.U.4 was a mobile communications unit that included several ambulances containing wireless equipment for both receiving and sending messages. The unit proceeded overseas by landing craft to the port of Ostend. They then moved on to establish a listening base near Brussels.

The intelligence work itself was demanding but not specially dangerous (except for the occasional buzz-bomb). Primarily Douglas and the other ‘special enlistment’ were searching for hostile signals, especially the signals of enemy agents, some of whom were left behind the lines of the rapid Allied advance toward the Rhine. The knack was to pluck the correct signal out of the air, often cluttered with hundreds of signals criss-crossing like tracer bullets. Douglas would sit at a bank of receivers, one to monitor the sender, the other the receptor of enemy signals. (To confuse matters further the signals sometimes emanated from friendly agents.

Of course, there was help to penetrate the confusion. Normally Douglas and his fellow operators would receive a schedule of the special frequencies to monitor on a given day. But if they had no assigned frequencies, they searched for specified enemy signals. This demanded acute attention. Sometimes the listener-operator would recognize the appropriate signal by the manner in which the enemy operator pounded the keys. A secondary task involved locating enemy transmissions by D/F (directional finding). Bearings would be taken on the enemy transmitter from two or more intercept stations. Then the transmitter could often be located, at least in a general area, and its subsequent movements traced. Sometimes the Germans alone had as many as 4,000 messages in the air daily. These were normally transmitted in a variety of codes and ciphers, the most well-known being the complex Enigma, first broken, unknown to the Germans, in 1940. The undeciphered messages, whether from Enigma or other enemy ciphers and codes, usually ended up in a place called Bletchley Park. Located about 50 miles from London, Bletchley Park became the nerve centre for receiving, deciphering, re-encoding and disseminating information from the enemy intelligence system to Allied commanders in every theatre of the war. This information was one of the decisive factors in the eventual victory.

In spite of the pressure of their intelligence work, Douglas and his friends, especially Harry Spendiff and Tudor Jones, had their moments of leisure. Harry Spendiff was an older man. He had enlisted as a policeman from Newcastle-on- Tyne. He liked Douglas and, to some extent, took him under his wing: ‘Doug was a hell of a nice fellow, bright, out of the ordinary and definitely officer class.’ Douglas also spent a lot of time with Tudor Jones, a shy and retiring soldier from Wales. Jones taught Douglas how to swim and dive and, at Douglas’s insistence, they visited almost every church they passed so that Douglas could take a picture. Occasionally they spent a short leave in Brussels or dropped into a bar in Assche for a drink and a visit with a friendly young woman bar-tender. They also got to know and like a hair-dresser of English background in Assche to whom they took cigarettes. Tudor Jones remembers Douglas telling her he would like to become a priest.

Whatever the future held, Douglas did not like army life. He saw the war as something to be endured. He obeyed military discipline because he realized that was the way to endure it with the least inconvenience. He certainly did not relish army food, he did not appreciate the rigmarole of mili­tary regulations and he did not like some of his officers (Harry Spendiff characterized one of them as ‘a real bastard’). Still, Douglas made some good friends in the army, many of whom he tried to stay in contact with after the war. And he had fun writing poems for his mates. These lines describe the reaction of the unit’s brass on hearing Europe had been invaded on D-Day:

Our Colonel one morning, his headquarters in Bucks,

Had heard talk of invasion, amphibious ducks,

His game of golf was near its end,

Invasion! he thought, ‘For my majors I’ll send. . . . ‘Immediate action!’ the Colonel decreed,

Three months later the idea gathered speed.

When Douglas’s unit, S.C.U.4, arrived in Belgium on 19 January 1945, the Germans’ last major attack, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ had failed. Then the massive Allied sweeps across the Rhine into Germany began. After crossing the Rhine in late March, Field Marshal Montgomery (to whose Second Army S.C.U.4 was attached), proceeded to mop up enemy forces in north-west Germany. The Germans surrendered to Montgomery on 4 May. About the middle of June, Special Communications Unit 4 was ordered to follow the Allied advance into Germany. Henceforth they were based at Bad- Zalsuflen, a spa not far from Montgomery’s headquarters between Hanover and Osnabruck. Two months later Douglas managed a short leave to England to celebrate VJ-Day and the wedding of his sister, Yvonne.

When Douglas returned home from Germany to be discharged from the army in the summer of 1946, he had served two years and 285 days in England, Belgium and Germany. He received this testimonial, extant in the Public Records Office:

Military conduct exemplary. This N.C.O. has been with the unit since enlistment. He has always carried out his duties in a highly intelligent manner and is a popular member of the unit. He is honest and can be trusted in any position.

Until his death Douglas kept a small red address book with the names of most of the men in S.C.U.4. Some of them, such as Harry Spendiff who returned to his police job in Newcastle- on-Tyne and Tudor Jones who went back to Wales to join a small business, he never forgot.

Nor did he ever forget the fascinating intricacies of his work in intelligence. The intense search for the right signal and the appropriate frequency, the discipline required to ignore or discard all irrelevant distractions in the search for the assigned objective, required attention, stillness and concen­tration. This search demanded patience and, in the face of failure, perseverance. This experience provided Douglas Main with his most striking images for describing the inner search. This is how he drew from his experience in S.C.U.4 to portray an aspect of meditation:

In a previous incarnation … I served in the Counter Intelligence Service and one of the jobs that I had to do was to locate radio stations operated by the enemy. And so we would tune in our receivers to them, but the enemy were very clever and if they were operating that day on a frequency of ninety metres, at eighty-nine metres they would send out a jamming wave, a jamming signal, and at ninety-one they would send out another. So, in order to tune in exactly on their station you had to have an extremely fine tuning on your own radio. But we liked to think that we were just as clever as the enemy and so, when we found out the frequencies that they were broadcasting on, we took quartz crystals and then we would plug in the crystal to our receiver. Our receiver would then pick up their signal absolutely spot on, and none of the jamming devices interfered with it.

He went on to describe how the meditator, like the signaller, required a clear frequency so as to be ‘absolutely spot on’. But he was only to realize the full significance of these wartime experiences in another time and another place.

For the rest of the summer of 1946, Douglas, now for all practical purposes discharged from the army, helped his parents move from London to Belfast where David Main had been transferred by Western Union. Then Douglas enjoyed a trip through southern Ireland visiting the family and friends he had missed during the War.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

June 6, 2017

Here is Neil on the other side of the microphoneisd

interviewed for his biography of John Main.

Two short clips, the first was for the show

 » Take A Brake  » on CFTV aired on January 29th,

1987 and the second one was for  » Midday  »

on CBC aired on April 17th, 1987.

Enjoy!

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

May 30, 2017

 

Catharine writes:

To my surprise I was sitting in a restaurant this morning, enjoying a cup of Mocha coffee and having a riveting conversation about writing and all its’ possible permutations and combinations with a young waitress I had never met before. Earlier this morning I had been thinking about Barbara Moser’s comment about Neil (Barbara is publisher/editor of Montreal’s Senior Times) she wrote “He’s edgy, he’s provocative and he’s ours.”

This is a comment about Neil who wrote a column called Pitstop every month for the Senior Times newspaper here in Montreal.

Well, wouldn’t you know I was sitting in a dentist’s chair earlier today while my dentist described his patient, Neil, in similar terms “We had the craziest and best arguments about all kinds of subjects. Sometimes Neil would rise half out of the chair, sometimes he was furious with my point of view, but if my argument made sense, had some logic to it, he’d admit it. My sense was that these discussions owed a great deal to his Jesuit training, how to formulate an argument clearly.”

Well, why should I be surprised? There was himself, my husband, never happier than when he found himself in the midst of an argument, even in the dentist’s chair!

Neil also loved to write, starting from the time he entered an oratorical contest aged nine. I found his original hand-written version among his papers in an old black suitcase that had been stored unopened in our cellar for some twenty years. The title was “When Grandad was a Boy” and will be included in the book about Neil being published later this year by Shoreline Press in Montreal with veteran journalist Alan Hustak as editor.

Over the years, Neil tried his hand at all types of writing – at age fifteen he became a stringer for the Peterborogh Examiner under Robertson Davies. He went on to write 5 books which you’ll see <here>

I had the fun of working on two of these books with him. From the time I was ten I had scribbled stories and playlets for my cousins and friends. Never in a million years did I expect to write a book. Too much work, I thought, as I watched Neil hour after hour at his typewriter (later his computer of course).

Has anybody else reading this felt the same and left bits of writing hidden away in a cupboard?

I did recently get an iPad but I see myself as more-or-less computer illiterate. And when I did find myself compelled to write a book (launched at my 79th birthday with the best Irish band in the city), believe it or not the whole thing was written by hand. Years ago, in 1970, I had started typing lessons, then landed a job as speechwriter for the Ontario Minister of Education, complete with secretary. End of typing lessons. I was working six days a week, researching, writing and rewriting, to keep up with my boss who was a splendid orator, when I met Neil on the dance floor.

Two weeks after our August honeymoon in 1972 he landed the job as Editorialist for CJAD, known as the best English-language station in Montreal. We moved lock, stock and barrel down the 401 to Montreal. He would be writing editorials in one corner of our tiny apartment on the 21st floor of a building behind the old Montreal Forum, while in another corner I was scribbling a story for the Reader’s Digest. I had landed a job there as researcher, then was lucky enough to be sent to Quebec City to write a piece for their Explore Canada book.

Another piece I wrote, about 2 Quebec children’s writers, never got published, but it landed me a rewarding experience as literary agent for one of the sisters, Suzanne Martel. Then one of her publishers, Heritage, asked me to take all his French-language children’s books to sell to libraries and bookstores in Toronto. I ended up collecting all the new French-language children’s books from his and other publishers at the Christmas Salon du Livre, lugging them on the train, and having a ball going around Toronto to sell them. This gave me enough money to visit my mom in Toronto every 2 months. That experience also stood me in good stead when Michael Price of Price-Patterson published our book on the early days of skiing in the Laurentians and Montreal (Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club, now available on Amazon as book and ebook). We had more fun tootling around with the trunk of our car loaded up with copies, to all the local bookstores in the Laurentians, Montreal and Toronto. Thanks to Neil’s skill in writing, this book became a best-seller, and won the international Skada award 2002 for the Best Skiing History at Vail, Colorado.

Working on this book with Neil and going to Ireland with him earlier ( a first for both of us) must somehow had an encouraging effect on my own interest in writing.

Neil had been asked to write the biography of a remarkable Benedictine Monk, John Main, who had been invited by Bishop Crowley to found a monastery right in the heart of Montreal, based on an ancient tradition of silent meditation found in early Christianity. This, at a time when many English-speaking Montrealers were leaving the city in the wake of the FLQ crisis.

Going to Ireland sparked Neil’s interest in his own O’Shea ancestors (on his mother’s side) and my determination to find the farm that our Fleming family (on my mother’s side) had left in 1847, in the midst of the famine. Neil’s family were Catholic, O’Sheas from the south and McKentys from the Glens of Antrim in the far north. My family were Northern Irish Protestant, from the Dromore/Omagh area, not all that far from the Glens of Antrim as I realised later.

Those visits to Ireland with Neil strengthened my awareness of the riches of Irish history, far deeper than sectarian differences that in many cases had economic and political causes.

The long-term result was that the book I eventually wrote, Polly of Bridgewater Farm – an unknown Irish story – was reviewed in both Catholic and Protestant newspapers and accepted into Catholic, Protestant, and integrated schools in the North.

A Dublin broadcaster told me he had never realised that Protestants suffered along with Catholics during the Famine,” the Great Hunger” as it has been called. I was asked to read from the book by the mayor of Monaghan at the first ever memorial in their city of the Irish Famine. And an Omagh school principal wrote me that “we need more books like this, that speak of hope in the midst of adversity.”

All the above experiences have shown me the power of each of our stories, to build connection with other people, and to bridge differences of outlook, age and background. Also the importance of making sure these stories don’t get lost.

This raises questions about writing. What kind of writing interests you most? Have you tried your hand at poetry? Writing your family story or a novel? Trying a short story?

Have you done a lot of essay writing? Is anything of this a labour of love or a drudge? Do you re-write?

Have you done an article for a student newspaper or any other publication?

I loved Vin Smith’s story of his 40 books, some published, some not.

Have you tried to get a book published, what was your experience?

When Neil wrote his memoir, The Inside Story, I tried 40 publishers without success. Some would say “maybe in a year’s time” then someone gave me the name of Judy Isherwood, founder of Shoreline Press. I will never forget what happened next. But that is a story for another time.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

May 23, 2017

Resolution Blessing

by

Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Let our breath be gentle wind,

Let our ears be of those who listen,

Let our hearts be not ones

that rage so quickly and

Thus blow dramatically,

And useless.

Let our spirits attend and be

Most diligent to the soft

Yet desperate whisper of

Hope and peace for our world.

Let our souls be those

Which watch for the Lord,

Waiting with wonder and want.

Let our eyes be attentive

With interest and respect,

Let our minds be committed

To health and happiness,

Let our hands join

In helpful resolution

To being our best person,

Praying and playing and

Passing through moments

Of pain or memory-

Makers of pleasure

Touching the future, together.

Mattie’s poem is a shy reminder of our self-worth and potential as we shrive for a more beautiful future.  The music is appreciable, beautiful and engaging.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

May 16, 2017

 

The Senior Times

Pit Stop by Neil McKenty

On the Shrivers, the Special Olympics and floor hockey.

I was enjoying a winter holiday in Palm Spins, California, when it was announced that Sargent Shriver gad died.  I met Shriver, married to President John Kennedy’s sister Eunice, in the early 70’s.  I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Mr. Shriver was the founding director of the Peace Corps, the signature success of Kennedy’s New Frontier.  He directed Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, founded Head Start, created the Jobs Corp and Legal Services for the Poor.

He served as President of the Special Olympics, which was founded by his wife.

Writing in the New York Times, Bob Herbert said that  »Mr. Shriver affected more people in a positive way than any American since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. »

When I met Mr. Shriver in 1971, he struck me as an enormously enthusiastic and energetic man.  I met him to discuss an award the Kennedys were making to Jean Vanier, the son of the former governor-general.  Mr. Vanier was being honoured by the Kennedys for his work with the mentally challenged.

My boss at the time, the Toronto philanthropist and sportsman Harry  »Red » Foster, thought it would be appropriate if Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau wrote a short statement to be delivered at the awards ceremony in Washington.

I called Mr. Trudeau’s office and he agreed to send a short statement to honour Vanier.  There was, however, one condition: The statement would be in both English and French and must be read that way.

I explained Mr. Trudeau’s condition to Mr. Shriver and he readily agreed to find someone who would be able to handle the French.

At the event, however, somebody dropped the ball.  To my exasperation, the statement did not get read in French.

I expressed my anger to Mr. Shriver.  He was upset as I was and apologized profusely.

As this was playing out, we were negotiating with Mr. Shirver’s wife, Eunice, for Canada to play a larger role in the Special Olympics.  We had a Canadian Special Olympics at Exhibition Park in Toronto and we had been invited to join the Kennedys for the first international Special Olympics in Chicago.

One of the most successful elements of our own Olympics was floor hockey.  We had convinced the National Hockey League to get behind this project and we were eager that Mrs. Shriver accept floor hockey into the American Special Olympics.

To that end, I had several meetings with Mrs. Shriver in Washington.

What a though lady she turned out to be-though in the sense she knew what she wanted and used any means to get there.  Smart, too.

I was not the only person who thought if Mrs. Shriver had been born later she might well have become the first female president of the United States.

She questioned me carefully about the suitability of floor hockey for the Special Olympics program.

I am writing this wile still in Palm Springs.  While here, I’ve talked to a number of Americans about the Obama presidency.

Most people seem all for it or all against it.  There is no middle ground.  As one of the naysayers put it:  »My husband had a job under George Bush and he lost his job under Obama. »

My own view is unchanged.  If the unemployment rate comes down one full point or more, Obama will win a second term fairly easily.  I mean, who is likely to beat him?  Michelle Bachmann, the poor person’s Sarah Palin?

Published in February 2011.

Jean P.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

May 9, 2017

Does Gratitude Impact our Health and Happiness?

An ”overnight” trip, took days due to a series of airline ‘mishaps’.  Instead of dwelling on the negatives, author Anna Bowness-Park decided to be appreciative of all that was good along the way – resulting in unexpected pleasures!

”Gratitude shifts our thoughts from the negative aspects of life to noticing and appreciating the positive incidents, even if they are small.

I thought about this on a recent, difficult journey to the UK.  What should have been an overnight trip, took three days due to a series of airline ‘mishaps’.  Though the marathon journey was worrying – especially as I had a meeting to attend – I decided to be appreciative of all that was good along the way.  That included expressing gratitude to the airline staff who were trying to make things easier for us, the taxi driver who tried his best to find yet another hotel we were supposed to stay at, and even the cleaners in the airport.

And it made a difference.  For the most part, I remained relaxed and calm, even enjoying some humour-filled moments.  When I got to my destination, I completed my meeting with no ill-effects, even though I had about four hours of sleep in three days.  What helped?  I actually prayed for gratitude.  I wanted to ensure that my time was not wasted in anger, frustration and criticism.  A recollected phrase, written long before the current challenges of airline travel, spoke to me about the impact that gratitude or ingratitude can have on our experience and well-being.

Are we really grateful for the good already received?  Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.

How did that relate to my situation?  I noticed the little moments of kindness and goodness on this journey, and was grateful.  This opened me up to recognize and experience more goodness.  I treated others with kindness and they reciprocated.

In popular, one aspect of the experience highlights this.  During this long, drawn-out journey I made friends with a young women who was looking after a small child.  We teamed up together, looked out for one another, and in the ensuing days developed a beautiful friendship that I would not have experienced otherwise.

Gratitude allows us to move through life with more grace, affording greater rest and peace.  It opens our thoughts to notice the good all around, even in trying circumstances.  How can that be anything less than health-giving?

For many of us, Thanksgiving this year will be a time for travel, long lines and inevitable delays.  It’s a great opportunity to try out these ideas.  But whether we are travelling or not, committing to a language of gratitude for the everyday things of life opens our eyes to new possibilities and makes a huge difference to our health and happiness.”

Anna Bowness-Park, author.  Story found in Grateful News, October 2014