Friday, 31 December 2010

A PAINFUL, BUT NECESSARY, LESSON.

Have you ever had a friend tell you something that hurt yet was also meant for your own good? We all like to think of ourselves as being as good or somewhat better than others. To the same extent, we hate receiving a "talking to" from self-important busybodies. What we need in many cases is gentle-but-firm counsel from caring individuals when we go astray.

When I was on a short term missions trip in 1977, a church friend exposed one of my character flaws in a way that was gentle yet firm. It stung at the time but I recognize in hindsight how immature I had been when I desperately sought my group's approval. From my How I Was Razed memoir, here's how this Christian handled what could have been a nasty confrontation in a loving and Christ-like way.

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During my time in Mexico, I learned a painful, but necessary, lesson. Being an ardent Goon Show fan, I often tried to make my fellow missionary trainees laugh with absurd statements and word plays. When awkward silences inevitably followed my witticisms, I assumed they merely misunderstood.

"Let's go for a walk, Bruce," Jay invited after the Sunday Service and lunch. "We have some free time this afternoon and a walk would do the both of us good." Jay shepherded me through the bustling streets, telling me when it was safe to cross. After ten minutes, we arrived at a park next to a plaza. We sat on a polished wooden bench shaded by trees and chatted for a few minutes. Then he came to the point.

"I need to talk to you seriously about something. You've probably noticed that nobody laughs when you tell a joke. There's a good reason for that. I hope you won't be angry with us when I tell you this but you've been acting childish."

His accusation stung. I hung my head and said, "I was only trying to be funny."

"I know. Unfortunately, you've been trying so hard that it ends up annoying everybody."

I sat and pondered what he said. Though I hated to admit it, I desperately craved the acceptance of the group. If I had only acted naturally, it would have helped relations between those three and myself. From then on, I resisted the urge to impress people.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A SUPERSTITIOUS FAITH.

The word 'superstition' conjures up images of primitive religions and irrational practices. Even in our modern culture, people carry rabbit's feet, pick four-leaf clovers, throw coins in wishing wells, and snap wish bones in order to hopefully obtain what they desire.

Charismatic Christian sects have their own form of superstitions. One of these is the expelling of demons attached to possessions. During the seventies and eighties, I attended a cultic church that was an offshoot of Pentecostalism. When one of the members and I went on a short term missions trip to Saltillo, Mexico in 1977, he rebuked me for buying an object that depicted pagan sacrifice. From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here is one example of Thee Church's illogical and unscriptural doctrines.

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One of the shops we visited sold china and leather goods. While walking the isles, I noticed a small loaf-sized chocolate-coloured case with a handle at one end. I picked it up and examined it. Inside, it had a small rectangular mirror sewn into the lid with a leather strap next to it. I assumed the latter was for holding tooth brushes or combs. The case also had a grey plastic pocket attached inside it and a brown zipper ran around three sides of the lid. It seemed like the perfect container for my toiletries so I bought it. At the counter, I noticed a rack of post cards. I chose about a half dozen and paid for them as well as the case.

Jay confronted me when we stepped outside the shop. "Do you realize what that case of yours has on it?" When I looked blank, he continued. "That's a Mayan priest offering corn to the sun god."

"I didn't notice that. Do I have to throw this away? I need it for my tooth brush and other things."

"I suppose if you prayed for God to take away any demonic influences from it, that would be all right. Just don't show it to any of the other Christians. They might misunderstand." Having been misjudged too many times in my life, I kept it in my trunk. Before I put the case away, I rebuked any demons which may have attached themselves to it and banished them to the abyss.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A NON-LINGUAL COMEDY OF ERRORS.

The following vignette sounds like a sitcom or scene from a movie. Four "gringos" on the way to a short-term missions assignment in Mexico try to order a meal at a restaurant without knowing either the language or the cuisine. In my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, I recount this humorous scenario and its outcome.

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Our unfamiliarity with the language caused some humorously awkward moments when we stopped at a modern-looking local restaurant for supper. None of us knew Spanish and we struggled to make sense of the menus. After much pointing and smiling from each of us, the waiter took our orders and retreated hastily to the kitchen. As we waited for our food, we overheard the waiter and cook agitatedly whispering.

"I wonder what they're saying, one of the Bible study friends said.

"I hope they aren't thinking we're gangsters with that big car outside," Jay said. Then he added, "I parked it in clear view of the window. Make sure you keep watching it, Bruce, in case somebody tries to steal it."

I tried my best to keep an eye on it as we waited, the food arrived, and while we ate. Timidly tasting my food, I discovered it contained none of those super hot peppers of which people had warned me. "That was better than I thought," I remarked to Jay as we stood up and walked to the cashier's counter.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

WHY BUY TOYS WHEN YOU CAN MAKE THEM?

When I was five years old, my dad made a remarkable little wind-up toy for me from odds and ends. I learned while doing research for an article that this gadget is called a spool tank. As environmentally-conscious people want to reuse and recycle materials, I provide these assembly instructions.

You will need the following materials to build the spool tank:

1 taper candle
1 empty thread spool
1 wooden match stick
1 tooth pick
1 elastic (about the same length as the thread spool)
scotch or masking tape

You will need the following tools:

1 knife
1 nail or awl

1. Push the elastic through the centre hole of the thread spool. if the rubber band is too long, fold it double and then push it through.

2. Cut the match stick in half.

3. Place the piece without the match head through the loop of the elastic at one end of the spool and tape it securely.

4. Cut off about a half inch piece from the bottom of the candle.

5. Take the nail or awl and carefully drill a hole in the centre of the slice of candle.

6. Stretch the elastic, at the other end of the spool, and pass it through the hole in the candle wax piece.

7. Slide the tooth pick through the loop of the elastic so that the pick is most of the way through. The rubber band should hold the pick and candle wax snugly against the spool but without being too tight.

Wind the tooth pick, either clockwise or anti-clockwise, until the tension feels sufficiently tight. Overwinding could break the elastic. Place the spool toy on a flat surface and watch it go. Some people carve notches in the rims of the spool to give it traction on carpet and other uneven surfaces.

In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I relate my experiences when I was sent five hundred miles from home for months at a stretch. Click here to read more about this story of my poignant and hilarious experiences.

Friday, 17 December 2010

AN UNFORGETTABLE SUPPER IN LAREDO.

In many ways, America is a remarkable nation. The chief reason being that its constitution limits government's powers while respecting the individual. Because of this, it has been called the land of opportunity by many people. Its history abounds with stories of immigrants making their fortunes after arriving with next to nothing.

This greatness, which has allowed the nation to become the world's major super power, has also created an ingrained attitude of national haughtiness in its citizens. As a result, Americans are generally ignorant of their next door neighbour and best trading partner: Canada.

While on the way to a short term missions assignment to the Mexican city of Saltillo in December of 1977, my three friends and I had a disturbing encounter with a certain restaurant manager. From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here is what happened.

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After forty-eight hours on the road, we checked into a motel in Laredo and then ate a late supper at an upscale hotel's restaurant. As we finished our meal, Jay said, "I'll pay for this. It's my treat." As we stood waiting by the till, he pulled a Canadian twenty from his wallet and handed it to the cashier.

She gawked at the bill and asked, "What sort of money is this? I'm not sure we can take foreign currency." While Jay explained that it was legal Canadian tender, a heavy-set middle-aged man, wearing a white dress shirt and black pants,brushed past and almost bowled me over.

"What's going on here?" he glared at Jay. "What's this thing supposed to be, a traveller's cheque? What are you trying to pull anyway?"

"This is a Canadian twenty dollar bill. It's legal tender," he said in a calm voice.

"I don't believe you. Don't you have some real money or traveller's cheques?"

"I was hoping to pay for my friends' dinners with this Canadian twenty."

"Oh yeah? You either pay with American money or traveller's cheques. Otherwise, I'll call the cops."

Jay turned to us and said, "I guess you'll have to pay your own bills. I'm really sorry about this." Reluctantly, we produced our cheques and signed them.

Once we stepped outside, Jay confided, "I was tempted to sign the bill and walk out." We burst out laughing at the mental picture of this naive American restaurant manager at a bank, trying to cash in what he assumed was a traveller's cheque.
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How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

ANTICIPATING A SURE THING.

Pastor Steve Wells, of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, made a very good point in his third Advent Sunday sermon. Because we Christians know what happened in Bethlehem two-thousand years ago, we can anticipate the joyous celebration of Christ's birth each December. Added to that, children await the end of classes and the prospect of presents. Most adults likewise contemplate having a few days off work and being with loved ones.

My inmates and I had a special reason for being excited in December of 1964. Having been sent hundreds of miles from home to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, we rejoiced that the seemingly interminable term neared its end. Here from my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir is a vignette that expresses our yearning to escape that impersonal institution.

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My dorm mates and I eagerly counted down the days until we would leave for home. Over breakfast one Friday, we excitedly discussed what we would do once the holidays came.

"Did you guys know it's exactly a week until Christmas?" one of the boys at my table asked. My heart leapt for joy. I could easily comprehend that length of time. Better yet, we would be going home in only a few short days.

Classes became fun as the holidays neared. Regular lessons were set aside as we decorated the room with paper chains and snowflakes. The very air was charged with excitement.

Mrs. Rose organized a class Christmas party one afternoon in the junior girl's Play Room. Santa Claus was scheduled to make an appearance. One of the boys warned me not to say it was only Mr. Brice, our irascible principal, since it would ruin it for the younger children.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Friday, 10 December 2010

HEAVY SNOW PANICKED LOWER MAINLAND RESIDENTS.

Canada has a reputation around the world of being a cold land. In most of the country, winter starts in late October and ends in April. Heavy snowfall is a common occurrence, particularly in the eastern provinces.

Only on the west coast is snow a rarity. Many Canadian seniors retire to cities such as Victoria and Vancouver so they can escape the bitter cold. The climate of this region resembles that of the United Kingdom, being that the autumn and winter months are usually rainy.

In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I recounted my first experience with the unusual snowfall that Vancouver received in December of 1964. Being eight years old, the white stuff that troubled adults was merely one of many natural wonders that God provided for my entertainment.

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Vancouver received plenty of snow that month. Because I was accustomed to several feet of it back home, this unseasonable weather seemed totally natural. The "Day Kids," those fortunate local students who went home each evening, and the grownups were very alarmed about the roads.

The snowfall did provide me one sublime experience. One morning, I came across a snow-covered part of the drainage ditch by the school. A strange roaring and gurgling noise came from it. I excitedly showed it to one of my friends. Instead of leaving it be, he stomped on it and ruined whatever made the sound. I felt as crushed as the snow bridge he destroyed. I vainly tried to reconstruct it but the stream kept washing the snow away.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

HAY DUST SETS OFF SMOKE DETECTOR.

Technology is wonderful when it works. Smoke alarms have saved countless lives and prevented massive fires. Many of these devices are monitored by security companies, giving property owners added protection while being away from home or work.

With every technological benefit, there's a down side. I was reminded of this fact in 2001 when my monitored security alarm kept sending false signals from the smoke detector. In my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) memoir, I explained how I solved this problem.

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I learned something surprising in December about my hay supply. The dust coming from it was setting off my monitored smoke detector. After about the fourth or fifth false alarm and a visit by a technician, I decided to move my bunny's food. Back in 1999, I had purchased a plastic cooler. Since it was only being used for storage, I decided a cardboard box could hold the junk just as well. I emptied the cooler and put the hay inside of it. Then I put my new hay container in the bathroom, making sure to place water bottles beside it, so that Gideon wouldn't try to squeeze between it and the wall.

There were no more false alarms caused by hay dust after that. Plus, the alfalfa stayed fresher in the container.

Once again, Gideon was mystified by the changes I'd made. He sniffed around the laundry room and searched for the missing ironing board with its coveted stash of hay. The poor lad even thumped at the strangeness of it all.

I sympathized with him, remembering how annoyed I had become when my mother rearranged and tidied up my things?particularly when I was a teenager.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more charming stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Friday, 3 December 2010

CHURCHES EMBARRASS THE BLIND.

Well-meaning though they may be, churches generally aren't geared to the needs of blind worshippers. The hymn book lyrics are either printed in small type or projected onto a screen. Houses of worship rarely have braille Bibles or hymnals available. Though Redwater Alliance Church provided me copies of the hymns in large print, most visually-impaired congregants are left to memorize the choruses and sacred songs or suffer the embarrassment of not being able to sing.

In my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, I wrote the following about my ongoing worship problem.

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Before the ceremony, Sister R lead a short worship service. Unable to read the hymn book Sister E proffered, I hung my head in shame as everybody else sang "Shall We Gather At The River." This perennial humiliation haunted me throughout my life. I would visit a church, the singing would start, and somebody would hold out an open hymn book which I couldn't possibly read without a strong magnifier. Even when I had one, having to press my nose almost to the paper made singing awkward.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

HARRY'S HORRENDOUS HAIR CUT

In this age of instant information and widespread computer access, there's no excuse for not knowing how to take care of rabbits and what they require for their care. Just as dogs and cats have different needs, so bunnies have their own set of requirements for healthy living. I highly recommend The House Rabbit Society because it has a wealth of information for both novice and experienced rabbit owners.

In the summer of 2000, a friend of a friend gave me a bedraggled black and white bunny named Harry. His long fur was so matted and his rump so caked with feces that he could barely move. He formerly spent his days in a cramped carrier that stunk horribly. After taking him to a vet to get the mat and feces removed, Harry's fur began growing until it became a tangled mess. No matter how often I brushed him, mats and knots kept occurring.

From my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), here is how I learned first hand just how much care fuzzy lops needed.

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I didn't realize how expensive it would be to take care of
Harry. In November, I had friends take him to the vet for a
haircut. The poor guy's long, fine fur tangled easily and all my
brushing only helped a little and made Harry angry with me. He
soon avoided me whenever I had a hairbrush in hand.

While the vet was working on my lop-eared lad, I went
shopping for groceries and other things. When I returned, I was
handed the bill. It was over sixty dollars. I couldn't believe it.

"We had to anaesthetize him because he kept squirming,"
the vet tech informed me.

My heart sunk as I visualized paying that amount every
three months.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click Here to read more about this book and to order it.

Friday, 26 November 2010

COMPASSION FOR A STARFISH.

Judging from this vignette from my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I had a tender heart for even the lowest of animals. Having never lived in a family that regularly hunted and fished, my view of wildlife was shaped by Disney cartoons and nature documentaries. I still care about the welfare of animals but my view of God's creatures is tempered by the knowledge that he gave them to us for our use and management.

In November of 1969, my schoolmates and I were taken on a field trip to the beach. As I attended Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia, I yearned for the Christmas holidays when I could be with my family in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Here's how a starfish became a souvenir in my suitcase.

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Another gift I packed was a starfish. Mr. Moiarty took us on a walk along the beach one Saturday afternoon. As we strolled, a few men in diving suits called us over to see what they brought from the ocean floor.

One man held up an oblong, translucent, orange-brown creature. "This is a sea cucumber," he announced. He let the totally blind students touch its blubbery surface as he explained about the animal. "If they're attacked, they expel their innards to distract the predator," he claimed.

Then the divers gave us each a starfish to take back with us. When I received mine, it was purple and had only four rays.

"How come this one has one leg missing?" I inquired.

"A fish must have eaten it," the diver explained. "Starfish can lose a point and regrow it again."

He explained how these creatures ate and how they could live out of the water for up to twelve hours. I thought it might be fun to have a pet starfish but then I realized how impractical that would be.

Before we parted, the divers gave us some coral. It was hard and greyish-beige. Mine reminded me of the human brain which Mr. Warner once let us touch.

"We'd better dry these starfish before they rot," Mr. Moiarty said when we returned to our dorm rooms. He took each one and scraped out its innards with a butter knife. I refused to watch, feeling queasy at the killing of even these simple creatures. Then he laid them on the table to dry.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

IF ONLY SOMEBODY CARED ABOUT BULLYING IN 1966.

November 14 to 20 was Bullying Awareness Week, an event started eight years ago by Bill Belsey of Cochrane, Alberta Canada. The theme for this year was, "Stand Up! (to bullying)" Click here to visit his home page.

I wish the authorities had dealt decisively with bullies back in the grim autumn of 1966. While at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia, a certain boy, who I refer to as Charlie, began picking on me for reasons known only to him. When I complained to teachers, supervisors, and the principal, I was unanimously advised to ignore him so he'd lose interest and quit. That was exactly the wrong thing for me to do.

From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is how Charlie's mistreatment of me began.

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Living with Charlie became progressively worse for me. When I first came to Jericho, I could tolerate his company. He eventually became bossy and scornful. As I left the Dining Hall after breakfast one morning, Charlie followed me. Suddenly he twisted my left arm and held it behind my back.

"You want me to break this again?" he taunted as he held my arm. "I could do it easily you know." I quickly begged him not to, not wanting to have a cast on and suffering more pain. "You better do as I say or I'll break your arm," Charlie warned as he let me go. I felt miserable as I walked to class. When I went to public school, I could get away from bullies for the evening but not so in Jericho.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Friday, 19 November 2010

WHAT HARM COULD A PEACE SYMBOL DO?


When I look back at all the crap I learned at Thee Church, it's a wonder I can think at all. Its elders kept me on a spiritual treadmill for 15 years, all the while severely abusing my trusting nature.

From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here's just one example of how my seemingly innocuous activities were grounds for rebukes by that superstitious cult's members.

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Because nobody discipled me until I joined Thee Church, the Christian faith seemed to consist of many peculiar prohibitions. Apparently, somebody somewhere forbad the drawing of certain symbols. A few years previously, a cereal company offered free booklets containing photos of famous N.H.L. hockey goals in each box. When flipped, the figures seemed to move. Though I hated sports, I became enamoured with the concept of still pictures being made to look like a short film clip.

During my first month at Jay and Linda's home, I realized that I too could make my own animated booklets. Whenever I had an evening with no homework to do, I sat at the kitchen table and drew each frame of my short animations. One displayed a peace symbol rolling like a wheel.

"Look at this, Jay. Isn't it cool?" I said after showing him how to animate the pictures.

He frowned at the booklet and then at me. "You shouldn't draw this. Peace symbols are evil."

"Evil? How come?"

"It's an ancient pagan fertility sign. Christians should have nothing to do with it because it's of the Devil." Not knowing any better, I reluctantly tossed out my creation and refrained from drawing peace symbols.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses. It should be in print sometime in 2011.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

CULTS CONDEMNING CULTS.

When I was a high school student, handing out tracts on the street was a popular activity among religious practitioners. This was especially true of cults. Even when most pedestrians tossed aside the handbills, true believers persisted in importuning passers by with their messages. The litter from discarded paper became so serious that the City of Toronto banned tract missions.

In the autumn of 1974, the followers of a man calling himself Moses David fanned out onto the streets of Edmonton with tracts containing the sayings of their leader. Being targeted to teenagers, these mini epistles appealed to me.

From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here is how I, who was also a member of an obscure cult, became acquainted with this equally obscure cult.

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This misplaced confidence caused me to defer unquestioningly to Brother H in all spiritual matters. "What are these Moses David people all about?" I asked him after supper one Wednesday in November. "Some guy on the street gave this Mo Letter to me but I don't understand it."

He examined the tract that I handed him, read it over, and came to a conclusion. "This is a cult. If this Moses David man was like either Moses or David, he would recognize that Jesus is God. I advise you to have nothing to do with these people."

As soon as Sister E drove me home after the meeting, I gathered up every Mo Letter I had collected. "It's too bad they're not of God," I said to myself. "I liked the comics." I sighed and tossed them into the garbage. After that evening, I refused to take the tracts that the Moses David followers offered. The fact that I myself was in a cult didn't occur to me.

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My previous memoirs, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) are featured At my InScribe writers group page.

Friday, 12 November 2010

MY FIRST FINANCIAL REALITY CHECK.

As far as I'm aware, debt is the biggest crisis this world faces today. Governments, increasingly influenced by Marxist notions of redistribution, recklessly tax and borrow to finance activities once performed by hard-working charities. The bigger the bureaucracies of the nations have grown, the more dependent citizens have become on government largesse.

The concept of prudently spending finite funds is opaque to socialist rulers but I had no choice but to learn it. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is how I found out that there really is no free lunch or treats for that matter.

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During that autumn, I learned the hard way that life did not owe me a living. The weekend supervisor, a loud-voiced, heavy set, middle-aged, authoritarian whom I shall call Mr. Moiarty, took us to the beach one November afternoon. We walked along a road, which ran parallel to the ocean, for a few hours. We finally stopped at a kiosk selling candy and chips.

"Could you buy me one of these?" I asked our supervisor and pointed at the chocolate bars.

"Use your own money; I'm not your dad. This isn't the little kids dorm. You're supposed to buy your own candy. You can't expect people to always buy everything for you, you know," he chided. Mr. Moiarty's rebuke stung. I foolishly hoped some measure of grace would be extended to us and we could have a few more treats than usual but I realized then that I must make do with my allowance and could not expect help from others.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 5 November 2010

SOMETHING THE PET STORES DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW.


Did you know that you can make your own pet toys? Many folks assume that they can only buy them from the pet store. With all the rabbits I've lived with, I've discovered that they often ignored the store-bought chew toys that I gave them while they had hours of fun with the ones I made.

From my debut memoir, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), here's how I turned a discarded cardboard box into a chew toy.

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One November afternoon, while shopping at Dickensfield
Mall, I found a cardboard box with hand holes and no lid. I took
it home and decided to play another prank on Gideon.

I placed the box over him and waited to see what he'd do. Would my bunny bro try to chew his way out?

At first, he pawed at the holes. When that didn't work, he
started nibbling at the bottom edge of one of them. My bunny
buddy made steady progress and the hand hole grew larger. He
tried several times to hop through it, but broke off the leap at the last minute. His whiskers must have told him it was still too small.

Finally, he leapt through the new opening and took his
bearings. That silly rabbit seemed to be having so much fun
chewing the box and ripping it up that he almost forgot he was
escaping it. He hopped in and out of his former prison, rejoicing
in the novelty of his newfound freedom.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click Here to read more about this book and to order it.

Friday, 29 October 2010

WHY BOTHER REMEMBERING BIRTHDAYS?


"Birthdays are for kids." I've heard adults say that to me at various times in my life. I think they can't face the fact which Pink Floyd pointed out that they're, "Shorter of breath and one day closer to death."

When I moved up to the Intermediate dorm of Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in the autumn of 1967, I felt hurt when nobody threw a party for me. I assumed incorrectly that sentimentality was discouraged in the dorm. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here's how my supervisor, Mr. Cooper, surprised me and proved that he really did care for us boys.

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My birthday came and nobody told me of any party arrangements. Fearing that they forgot me or thought I was too old for that sort of activity, I went with the group to what we nicknamed the Chinese Store and bought a Moon Pie pastry and a few other baked treats.

Geoffrey walked in as I pensively munched my ersatz birthday cake. "What are you doing?" he enquired.

"I'm having my own birthday party since no one held one for me. I thought there would be one now that I'm in the intermediate dorm," I added.

I do not know if my roommate mentioned to our supervisor about what I did, but two days later, the dorm held a real birthday party for me. I felt overjoyed, having assumed that nobody cared about my natal day. My already high estimation of Mr. Cooper soared after his act of thoughtfulness.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 22 October 2010

EASY RULES FOR THEM -- HARD RULES FOR ME.


Throughout my life, there seems to have been two sets of rules that I encountered. The rigorous set applied to me and the lax set related to everybody else.

This seemed especially true in the autumn of 1964 after I received three wonderful presents for my eighth birthday. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is what happened.

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Added to my feelings of suffering injustice was the fact of other children not being punished for breaking my toys. My dad's brother Bill and his wife came to visit me one October afternoon. Miss Boyce ushered me into the waiting room, normally off limits to children, where my uncle and aunt sat.

After asking how I was doing, Uncle Bill gave me a white race car, a gas station, and a silver dollar for my upcoming birthday. As we chatted, Uncle Bill assembled the gas station. Then he presented it to me. I marvelled at its gas pumps and rows of toy automotive products. A cosy feeling, similar to being home, swept through my heart as my uncle and aunt encouraged me to play with the toys. Jericho faded into the background as I enjoyed being in the company of my relatives.

All too soon, my uncle and aunt hugged me, wishing me well. Sadness engulfed my heart as they walked out the front door. Christmas was still two months away, almost an eternity for a child on the verge of turning eight years old.

"I'll keep your dollar safe in the desk and you can ask for it next June when you go home," Miss Boyce promised. As I had no reason to disbelieve her, I meekly handed it over. "A whole dollar is a lot of money for a schoolboy you know," Miss Boyce explained.

My beautiful gas station did not last long. Piece by piece, it became progressively vandalized until my supervisor threw it in the garbage. The race car did not last either. I felt heartbroken that everybody was allowed to play with my toys and wreck them with impunity while I was severely punished for taking apart Charlie's space station.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 15 October 2010

WINNING MATTERS: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPORTS


John Cleese's favourite phrase from Monty Python's Flying Circus is, "Where's the pleasure in that?" I've asked the same about sports for decades. From the examples shown by supervisors, teachers, and my fellow dorm mates, I concluded that winning is what really counts. After all, that's why people keep score and viciously condemn anybody who makes a bad play. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's how the authorities turned what should have been fun into drudgery.

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Playing sports for hours at a stretch was another unpleasant change which I faced that autumn. Since blind children were unable to strike a baseball in the air, our teachers taught us to lay the bat on the ground and the ball was bowled to us. Other than that modification, and having children on base calling to the runner, the rules were the same. We used an old rusty backstop on the plain at the top of Jericho Hill but the field had no proper bases or lines to indicate where to run.

We also played football. I actually scored a touchdown once. Even so, my team lost, robbing the pleasure from my accomplishment. The rudeness of the game also seemed fundamentally wrong to me. Tackling and barging through lines of players was not what I considered fun. The gloating by the winning team also soured what little enjoyment I experienced of the game.

On rainy days, we played floor hockey in the breezeway. I hated that sport too. The captain of my team placed me in goal once. Though I tried my best, I was humiliated when Charlie kicked the ball past me. My teammates hurled angry comments at me as a result of his winning goal. Once again, I was reminded of what poor sportsmanship was by their example.

Mr. Cooper ordered us to lift weights as well. Everyone crowded into a tiny windowless room off of the breezeway and pumped iron a few times per week. Once one of my weights fell off, striking Larry on the top of his head. I felt extremely worried that my carelessness caused some serious damage but he suffered no lasting injury. My unlucky friend had already lost his sight and I did not want to make his health worse because I neglected to tighten the weight's screw properly. I repeatedly apologized to Larry and he magnanimously forgave me. I believe he realized that I felt genuine remorse regarding the accident.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 8 October 2010

"AND YOU TELL THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF TODAY THAT AND THEY WON'T BELIEVE YOU"


This punch line from the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch entitled The Four Yorkshiremen certainly reminds me of many of my generation's experiences, though we really didn't have it that bad. The fact that parents buy their school-age children smart phones with more computing power and data storage capability than my first PC, a 386SX, still boggles my mind.

Today, people under 18 years old would sneer at my first telephone. It was a black rotary dial instrument which could only be connected to terminals in the wall by a qualified Alberta Government Telephones engineer. We had to wait at home all day for him to arrive too.

Having applied for Social Assistance in the autumn of 1974, I decided I now had enough money for my own phone. I attended a special high school in Edmonton where visually-impaired students could receive help with recorded book assignments and filling out test papers. Because my dad previously gave me just enough money for groceries and rent, I used a pay phone located a block from my room if I needed to call anybody.

I felt like a real grown-up as I began using my phone. No longer did I need to beg anybody's permission to call anyone anywhere or pay a dime a time while braving the elements for the privilege.

I soon discovered the down side of having a telephone. Strangers kept dialling my number to make appointments. Apparently, my number once belonged to a dentist who had moved or quit his practice. I'd eagerly dash over to the phone when it rang, pick up the receiver, expect to hear from my mom or somebody from my church, and I'd find myself explaining that Doctor So-and-so wasn't at this number anymore. Some callers actually became irate because I wasn't him.

As the telephone was government property that we only rented, I left the phone behind when I moved out of that cosy room in 1979. This alone must sound like something from the horse and buggy era to today's cell phone users. They can buy the model they like, set up a payment plan for their service, and use their phone anywhere. Even with corded phones, nobody has to wait all day for a government repair man to bring them an ugly black telephone and connect a few wires.

The house I bought in 2000 still has it's antique wall phone. While I can't use it to choose options in voice mail, it still works well when I talk to people. Unless I find a job that requires having a cell on my person at all times, I'll stay with my old faithful technology.

Speaking of faithful technology, I wrote When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) using WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. Click here to check out these paperbacks.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

THE BENEFITS OF BRAILLE

According to The National Federation of the Blind's report from the Jernigan Institute, there is a "Braille Literacy Crisis in America." They claim that fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million people who are legally blind in the United States are Braille readers. Only 10 percent of blind children in the US are learning Braille. Over 70 percent of blind adults are unemployed, and as many as 50 percent of blind high school students drop out. The report's authors blame this on factors such as a shortage of qualified Braille teachers, an increasing reliance on recorded audio, and text-to-speech technologies.

I now recognize the benefits of knowing braille, particularly as my vision is failing to the point that I can barely read notes I wrote to myself with felt pens. If my sight worsens, I'll have to relearn braille. It certainly would help me keep track of writing opportunities and I could make my own address and phone directory.

In the autumn of 1966, my vision was somewhat better than it is today. I couldn't understand then why I had to learn something that I believed was meant only for totally blind people. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), this excerpt shows that even my teachers didn't realize how beneficial Lewis Braille's alphabet would be to their students.

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Another subject which caused me difficulty was braille. "I can see large print. Why do I have to learn braille?" I objected.

"You have to learn it. It's part of the curriculum," Mrs. Auld explained.

I tried not to look at the arrangement of dots on the page but occasionally the temptation became too strong. "Stop looking at the paper," our teacher admonished whenever I peeked.

As I returned to feeling the page and trying to figure out which letter my finger was on, I silently wished Louis Braille had not invented his alphabet of raised dots.

Mrs. Auld also began teaching us to braille with a slate and stylus. This device was a long strip of metal with a hinge in the middle. Half of the strip was perforated with holes which formed the braille letter cells and the other half had corresponding dimples. braille paper was inserted between the arms of the metal strips and the stylus was poked through the holds, creating braille text.

Using a slate and stylus proved difficult. I had to learn the braille letters in reverse so they would come out right on the paper. It was like learning a whole new alphabet. As with braille lessons, my teacher gave me no choice in the matter. Consequently, I hated each lesson. Using the Perkins brailler, a typewriter-like device with eight keys on its front, seemed to be a much more efficient way to write braille. The machine was heavy but at least I could relate better to it than brailling backwards with a slate and stylus.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 24 September 2010

HOW I BROUGHT THE WORLD TO ONE ZAMBIAN PRISONER



In an institution such as Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, little things meant a lot. Like all schools, this one had its "in crowd" as well as those who languished at the bottom of the social ladder.

In the summer of 1966, my father tired of my begging and bought me a six transistor pocket radio. It was black with silver paint on its speaker grill and tuning dial. I fell in love with that little set. With it, I heard some of the greatest rock music the record industry ever produced.

Realizing how precious such a simple receiver was to me when I was exiled 500 miles from home, I sent a wind-up radio, one with a dynamo and rechargeable battery, to a Christian prisoner in Zambia. It literally meant the world to him as he could finally get news from "outside" via the BBC. His next letter to me was filled with thanks for this simple-but-effective receiver. As in my case when I had a radio at Jericho, Geoffrey's cell mates were also able to be entertained.

From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is an excerpt that shows how my little AM receiver changed things for me at that institution and helped me endure it.

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For the first time in my life, I owned my own radio. All the boys without receivers envied me. To have a transistor portable of one's own was a real status symbol. Instead of begging somebody to turn on their set, I could tune in the local rock stations anytime I desired. Now I had the privilege of entertaining others with my receiver.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 17 September 2010

WAS THIS A FORM OF SEXUAL ABUSE?


In recent years, the news media have exposed many egregious cases of sexual child abuse in residential schools and orphanages. Citizens rightfully felt shocked at these revelations of heinous acts perpetrated by adults upon innocent children who had absolutely no choice in the matter. In Some institutions, such as Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, even the children abused their younger dorm mates. When 350 deaf alumni and students sued the British Columbia government, Jericho was permanently closed.

We blind students were fortunate in that we could communicate with our parents, giving the perverts pause that they might be found out. Even so, we experienced a few disturbing incidents that might possibly be regarded as sexual abuse by today's public standards. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's one instance which I witnessed in September of 1966. To paraphrase Fox News, I write -- you decide.

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Conditions in the dorm remained the same that autumn. Mrs. Parker was her usual domineering self. She demanded that I sleep in the little boys room again, and the food at the Dining Hall had not improved. In addition, we continued to lack privacy during the evening hours. For example, she periodically watched us bathe, ostensibly to prevent dawdling.

After supper one day, Mrs. Parker ordered everybody to shower as quickly as possible, instead of using the tubs. Because the single stall allowed for only one child at a time, we took turns. As we stood naked in the Tub Room, she positioned herself next to the stall and watched with the curtain drawn. Any boy who loitered was immediately chided.

When my turn came, I tried to wash my body as fast as Mrs. Parker demanded. As I did so, a stream of hot water hit my right pectoral in a sensitive spot. "Oh, my tit!" I exclaimed involuntarily.

"How dare you swear!" Mrs. Parker exploded. "Get out of here! Out! Go to your bedroom!" she ordered. I obeyed and stood, dripping and shivering, by my bed.

A minute later she called me back to the Tub Room door and gruffly handed me a towel. "Of course, you have to drip water all over the place. Why can't you use your head?" she complained.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

THE DICTATOR OF JERICHO


Throughout my childhood, I've known adults who, though strict about obedience, were fair-minded individuals. We had our disagreements but I sensed that these folks were basically decent.

On the other hand, I periodically encountered those grown-ups who cared only for their own power and enjoyed lording it over us. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is an excerpt that proves how self-centred and petty some of our minders were.

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Our new supervisor further asserted her authority by organizing a neatness competition. Each of the three bedrooms were given names. One was called Red House, the second White House, and the third Blue House. The scores of neatness points were kept on a chart which Mrs. Parker mounted on the hallway wall. Each afternoon, she ordered everybody to sit for a half hour on the marble floor along both sides of the hallway. Our supervisor then paced back and forth like a drill sergeant, going over each of her self- imposed regulations in excruciating detail.

Mrs. Parker dispensed condemnation for infractions such as having wrinkles in our bed sheets or shoes not put away. She continually brow-beat any inattentive boys for letting their "house" down. This contest seemed to be a farce to me. I did not even try to be neat beyond what it took to keep from getting in trouble. Apart from a few sycophants, who our supervisor lavishly praised, I and most of the others hated this new system. I especially despised it because it cramped my freedom. The competition between "houses" was abandoned after a month. Doubtless, the strain of enforcing this unpopular contest took its toll on our supervisor.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 3 September 2010

R.I.P. CAROLYN


Why should death be such a shock to us when a beloved person or pet dies? We understand that it's an inevitable fact but people are still grief-stricken when it happens.

In my case, my bunny, Carolyn, passed away on the morning of August 28th. I knew something was wrong the night before when she refused to eat her pellets. She would usually hop ecstatically around her pen whenever I brought her food bowl into the living room. I set the bowl down and gently massaged her belly, hoping that it would jump-start her digestion. After a restless night, I force-fed her some Gas-X dissolved in warm water in the hope that I could relieve her intestinal pain.

As soon as the office opened, I called the vet. He picked up my ailing bunny on his way to work because I have no form of transportation. He phoned a few hours later with the bad news that Carolyn was already dead when he took her out of the carrier ten minutes after he arrived.

I believe that we have more than a physical aversion to the cessation of life. According to the Bible, we were created to live forever but because Adam and Eve sinned, they and their descendants were condemned to die. Along with humanity, the creation itself was subjected to decay. Whatever your beliefs are, it's still true that our natural instinct is to recoil from the dead.

All my friends and acquaintances know me as "that guy with the rabbits." These long-eared creatures so captivated my heart that I wrote When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), a memoir of my experiences with them as house pets. Please click here and read more about it as well as my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) paperback.

For the best information about house rabbits, please click here.

Friday, 27 August 2010

WHY I HAD THE CHRONIC BACK-TO-SCHOOL BLUES

Most parents understand why children wish they didn't have to go to school. After two or three glorious months, depending on the country, the fun and carefree times suddenly end.

I had an additional reason for dreading my return to school, namely that it was five hundred miles away and I wouldn't return home again until Christmas. Worse yet, no adult agreed with me that the finest facility without freedom still resembled a prison. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is one example of my complaint going unheeded.

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Suddenly it was September. "Time sure flies during the holidays," I complained to Mom one day. "It seems to speed up during the summer and drag by when I'm at stupid old Jericho jail."

"It isn't like that at all. The days are all the same length." Mom suddenly changed the topic. "How come you don't like it there at Jericho? They have a swimming pool and a bowling alley. You should be grateful for the three meals a day that they give you. You get a bed to sleep in, and they have special teachers there. Many kids in poor countries would love to go to school, you know."

What could I say to adequately express the longing in my heart to stay home and live a normal life? She never had supervisors watching over her. How could I verbalize to Mom that being with the school bully twenty-four hours a day was oppressive? How could I explain my feeling of injustice regarding the Vancouver students being able to go home every afternoon while I waited for months? Since I realized the futility of my situation, I said nothing.

I felt extremely homesick as Dad drove me once more to the airport. It was as if I had a bottomless pit inside me and my heart was in freefall. I gazed longingly at my home town and waved farewell to it until it vanished from site.

"Why do you keep waving like that?" Dad asked, clearly baffled.

"I'm saying goodbye to Fort Saskatchewan," I explained.

"You silly guy," Dad laughed.

"What's wrong with going to Jericho?" Dad asked after a prolonged silence. "They give you three square meals and a bed. They teach you and take you out to all sorts of places. Don't you know there are children starving in India?"

I tuned out, realizing that he failed to understand as well. Adults had given me that sort of speech often in the past and it only demonstrated their total insensitivity to my feelings. Both parents failed to realize how Jericho was affecting me.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.

Friday, 20 August 2010

"UNBREAKABLE" EH?


One characteristic of children is that they take things quite literally. My sister and I were no exception. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is the story of how we tested the claim of a manufacturer's "unbreakable" jug of vinegar in the summer of 1966.

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"It says here that this bottle is unbreakable," Diane informed me one evening.

"Let's toss it down the stairs and see if it really is unbreakable," I challenged.

"Yeah, let's do it," Diane agreed.

Standing on the landing in front of the basement stairs, jug in hand, I hurled it as hard as I could. The bottle bounced around in a most satisfactory and hilarious way.

"Let's throw it down the stairs again," I exclaimed and retrieved the jug.

Diane tossed it down with the same amusing results. Since the third time is the charm, or so people say, we thought that the bottle would last once more.

That's when our experiment went horribly wrong. The bottom of this allegedly unbreakable bottle split, sending a flood of vinegar all over the bottom landing and into our bedroom. "Oh-Oh!" both of us exclaimed.

Aroused by the racket of our "research," Mom raced to the stairway and caught us in the act. "It wasn't us Mom; it was Linda," I explained. Diane heartily agreed.

"You kids clean that up," Mom ordered. She was not fooled for a moment by our doubly lame excuse. Linda, a toddler and barely able to stand, did not even have the strength to drag the jug out from under the kitchen sink.

Both of us felt ill at the unpleasant prospect of cleaning up. Gagging and coughing, we mopped up the mess, astonished at the unbelievably powerful stench. Diane and I resolved never to toss vinegar bottles down the steps

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here or
e-mail me for more information about this book and how to order it.

Friday, 13 August 2010

REMEMBER THE COLD WAR?


Isn't it amazing that there are college students today who weren't even alive during the fall of the Berlin wall. This thought often gives me pause as the ominous tension between America and the Soviet Union was a factor for a large part of my life. Though there has been some political conflict between Russia and the U.S. of late, it can't be compared to the impending threat of nuclear annihilation that we post-war children lived with each day.

My family's home resembled a version of the divided city of Berlin in the summer of 1965. No concrete wall was erected and nobody was shot but the lines were quite literally drawn in our home. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is the part where I arrived home after six months at that institution and discovered the sad state my family was in.

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Unbeknownst to me, my parent's marriage relationship had worsened during my stay at Jericho. Mom accused Dad of seeing prostitutes. Meanwhile, Dad claimed that my sister Linda was fathered by another man since she had blue eyes. The tension set everybody on edge as we children dreaded what would happen next.

Home increasingly resembled a miniature version of Cold War Berlin. Suddenly, Mom designated two parts of the kitchen counter for my dad and the rest for us. Half the table was Dad's and the other ours. Mom also assigned him one stove burner, cupboard, some dishes, and fridge space. We never ate dinner together as a family after that time.

Mom moved her belongings into the bedroom where Linda slept and which once belonged to Diane and I. Dad slept alone in the master bedroom. Mom only let him sit in the easy chair in the living room while we used the chesterfield. Since life became extremely uncomfortable at home, Dad spent increasing amounts of time at the bar with his friends.

My parents rarely spoke to each other unless it was absolutely necessary. Mom ordered us not to talk to Dad, Whenever we disobeyed, she would interrogate us regarding what he said and what we told him. I hated being forced to take sides.

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Though modern marriages fail frequently, it's still traumatic for the children. I can remember longing for a "real dad" who would stay home from the bar to play games with me and my siblings. Complicating matters was my poor vision and my brother's behaviour problem. Getting a divorce was much more difficult back then so my parents kept up their "cold war" until 1976 when Mom got a separation.

Though my memoir deals mainly with being at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, I included vignettes of the times I spent at home during Christmas, summer, and three Easter vacations. The book is available by clicking here. I also have a short bio and When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) featured on the site.

Friday, 6 August 2010

A PASTOR'S DISASTER


Most clergy are decent folks who understand about disabilities. Unfortunately, one man I met didn't. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's how I was expelled from Vacation Bible School in July of 1968.

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The Lutheran Church held Vacation Bible School again. As in previous years, I expected the usual cookies and Kool-Aid as I walked through the front doors. Much to my surprise, an usher sent me to a small room, which I suppose was the pastor's study. I sat at a polished oak table with approximately six other boys my age. Our teacher was the pastor, a gruff, no-nonsense, older man who wore a grey suit. As soon as we were seated, he plopped large black tomes in front of each one of us.

"Open your Bibles to First Kings," he ordered. Not only was I unable to read that tiny print but I had no clue where the book was located in scripture. Sighted folks had previously read the Bible to me or recited the stories so I had no idea of how to look up verses or even that the Bible consisted of sixty-six books.

"Why aren't you looking up First Kings?" the pastor demanded.

"I don't see very good and I don't have a magnifying glass," I explained.

"You're just being lazy. Either look up that scripture or get out of my class. You're here to learn, not fool around."

I felt too shocked to object. Could not this man realize that I was unable to find that book even if I wanted to? My thick glasses alone should have shown him that I had vision problems.

When I continued staring at the Bible and not looking up First Kings, he pointed to the door and said, "Get out! You're disrupting my class. Come on. Out!"

I shuffled through the front door of the church with my head hanging, my heart broken, and a resolution never to return.

The assistant pastor stopped me as I walked toward the street and apologized. "He doesn't really mean to be mean. Please come back for the rest of the Vacation Bible School."

"No," I said as I tried hard not to cry, "I'm going home." Though he was a kindly man, I had quite enough of church and of unreasonable sighted adults.

My expulsion astonished Mom. "How could he expect you to look up verses when you couldn't even read the Bible?" she exclaimed. I felt comforted that Mom was on my side for once. As a result of that pastor's misjudgment, I never attended his church again except for Diane's wedding nine years later.

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This book, as well as When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), are available by clicking here or e-mailing me directly.

Friday, 30 July 2010

A BORED BOY IS A BAD BOY



I once thought that forcing children to do household or farm chores was despicable. Childhood, so I was lead by grown-ups to believe, was supposed to be a time of carefree play and freedom. My exile to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia reinforced this belief as everything was done for us by the staff except that we had to make our beds.

In july of 1965, my family visited my mom's sister's husband's farm. Since the adults were all busy with chores and my older sister was helping care for my baby sister, I became restless. Consequently, I found myself getting into trouble. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here's what happened.

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As I never spent any length of time on a farm, the experience was new and exciting. Doubtless, it was that factor which kept me in continual trouble. One day I wandered into the barn and saw the cream separator. I yielded to temptation and sipped both the milk and cream streams.

Uncle Herman came in at the moment I held my head over the spouts. "Have you been drinking from that?" he accused. When I admitted that I had, he stormed out of the barn without a word.

"You ruined his days milk production you know that?" Mom lectured. "Because you had to pull a stupid stunt like that, he can't sell his milk. You got germs in it. Now he'll have to throw it all out."

I felt mortified that I cost our host so much in lost money.

The next morning I found a wooden pallet near the house. Thinking it was junk, because it was lying in the grass doing nothing, I stomped it to pieces.

"Why did you have to break that pallet, huh?" Mom demanded. When I told her, she exploded. "That wasn't yours to break. Why can't you think about other people and leave things alone? Can't you do a damn thing right?"

Since I seemed to get in everybody's way, I spent most of my time alone. That was the safest course of action as I appeared to upset adults no matter what I did. One morning, I found a pond near the farmhouse with cattails growing along the edges. Their bushy brown tops reminded me of microphones which I had seen television news reporters use. I pulled up a cattail and strutted around, making up imaginary interviews. That helped to pass the time on that sodden vacation.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book or to order it.

Friday, 23 July 2010

TWENTY-SIX HOURS WITHOUT POWER


Electricity is such a constant and useful part of our lives that we're helpless without it. I had this fact amply demonstrated on July 12 when a severe weather system knocked out the power to my home for twenty-six long hours.

It started while I was shaving at about 8:30 A.M. As soon as I finished, I called the power company to report the outage. As I had no electricity to run my computers and the UPS back ups wouldn't last for more than a few minutes, I listened to two audio magazines on cassette.

At 11:00, somebody from the alarm monitoring company called to ask about why my system sent a low battery alert. I explained that we had a power outage and that I had to get off the line as there was a thunder storm overhead.

I called the power company after lunch and felt discouraged by the recorded list of blacked-out areas in the province. After being on hold for a half hour, I spoke to a man who told me the repair crews were working "flat out" and would restore service as soon as possible.

As Canada Pension Plan expects me to seek some sort of gainful employment each working day, I considered what writing-related tasks I could do while the power was out. A woman from Edmonton ordered a copy of When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) on the previous Thursday but I was too ill to fill it promptly. Fortunately, the blackout didn't effect my accounting as I still use old-fashioned books. I wrote a receipt, packaged the paperback, and placed it in my bag, awaiting posting the next day.

The power continued to be out all evening. I had wisely bought a gas stove the previous year so I was able to make hot drinks and cook supper. When I moved to this house ten years ago, I foolishly had an electric stove installed without realizing how many times the power would be interrupted.

After supper, I listened to a battery-powered radio with a built in dynamo power generator. As I have previously posted, I used my computers' battery back-ups to power compact fluorescent bulbs in order to have ample light in the house. I could have watched a small black and white TV too but I don't care for the local programming.

My security system had been making squealing and bleeping noises since the early afternoon. I became so annoyed with the din that I put duct tape over the intercom speaker grills to stifle the racket. This was only marginally successful.

The power was still out by the time I went to bed. Having no electricity to run the pump in the well, I boiled some water, that I keep in large plastic bottles for such emergencies, and washed my face in it. I had also collected three large pails of water from the down spouts so that I could flush my toilet.

Though it's dangerous to do so, I slept that night with ear plugs so I wouldn't be awaken by the alarm's intercom. It was still whining faintly when I woke up the next morning.

After breakfast and boiling more water so I could shave in comfort, I phoned the power company again. The recording said that service in some areas would be restored the next day while other areas would be out indefinitely. I called several local folks in Radway, who weren't effected by the outage, for permission to temporarily store my perishable food in their fridges. One man loaned me the key to the seniors centre, since its fridge was almost empty, and drove me there with my bag of thawing food.

When I returned home, I was astonished to find that the power had been restored. I walked all the way back to the seniors centre, retrieved my groceries, and returned them to my fridge.

I learned from this blackout that my emergency preparations weren't as adequate as I supposed. I need some way to keep my food cold during prolonged summer outages and a hand pump connected to my well so I can have potable drinking water. I also must have a larger storage battery connected to my alarm system. Power outages of more than a few hours have occurred in the past and the built-in battery failed quickly.

I realized too late that I should have had my old lap top set up so I could continue editing my How I Was Razed manuscript. My hope is to have this book in print by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, my Inscribe page features my two previous books and a short blurb about my writing.

Friday, 16 July 2010

LET THERE BE LIGHT DURING POWER CUTS


Here's a tip that can really benefit you. About five years ago, I realized that I could use my computer's uninteruptable power supply (UPS) for another purpose. Since it's essentially a storage battery and inverter, I reasoned that I could power almost anything with it. I connected a lamp to the UPS and when the power failed, I had plenty of light. The success of this experiment inspired me to try different types of light bulbs to find out which would both provide sufficient illumination and last the longest.

First I tried a 15 watt compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb and it stayed lit for 2 hours and 10 minutes. This type of bulb gives off much more light than incandescent lamps of equivalent or similar wattage. The next day I tried a 34 watt CFL bulb. That one stayed illuminated for an hour and 1 minute before going out.

To see what would happen with various kinds and wattages of bulbs, I conducted the following experiment. I first tried using a 100 watt incandescent bulb in the lamp. It lasted for only 12 minutes. Each evening of my experiment, because I had to let the battery fully recharge, I tried lower and lower bulb wattages. Though this wasn't strictly a scientific study, here are my results.

The 60 watt incandescent bulb's light lasted for 28 minutes. The 40 watt bulb stayed lit for 56 minutes. The 25, 15, and 7 watt bulbs stayed lit for 1 hour and 24 minutes, 2 hours and 21 minutes, and 3 hours and 42 minutes respectively. I also tested a 5 watt light-emitting diode (LED) spot light bulb replacement which stayed lit for 5 hours and 3 minutes. The two lowest wattage bulbs were only a little brighter than candles but much safer.

I now have a bigger UPS on my main computer, located in a bedroom next to my kitchen. Connected to that is a 15 watt CFL bulb in a lamp and when the power fails, I place it on my fridge. The power was out for twenty-six hours on Monday, July twelfth, and that UPS, plus several others I had recently bought, came in very handy at night.

I'm giving serious thought to purchasing a UPS meant for internet servers so that I can write during power failures. Had I owned one during the most recent blackout, I could have continued editing my How I Was Razed memoir. I have two other books in print called When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), available from the InScribe Writers Group site.

Friday, 9 July 2010

OUT AFTER CURFEW

Every once in a while, municipalities consider reinstating a curfew on children out on the streets after a certain time in the evening. It usually happens after citizens become fed up with vandalism and other crimes committed by a small-but-persistent minority of teens.

Fort Saskatchewan, my home town when I was a child, imposed a curfew back in the early sixties on all children under sixteen years old after 9:00 P.M. The air raid siren sounded each evening for about ten seconds as a warning to any youth who wasn't at home yet.

After Mom had her cataract operation, some of her friends treated her and Dad to a "welcome home" party one evening at the Fort Hotel bar. My sister Diane, my brother Roy, and I were left to wait behind the hotel in the car since children weren't allowed inside. "Don't let Roy play with the emergency brake again," Mom admonished Diane and I before she closed the car door and walked with Dad into the hotel. When we were left in the car alone behind the beer parlour one afternoon, Roy released the break and the robin's egg blue Volkswagen rolled backwards into a low fence.

The air raid siren went off as usual at nine. My frustration grew as I could hear the music drifting out from the bar and the sound of people celebrating. I felt tempted to go inside and ask that we be taken home but I was afraid of getting yelled at or spanked again. I knew better than to get Dad angry when he was drinking so I tried to pass the time as best as I could.

As that warm summer evening wore on, Diane and Roy drifted off to sleep. Dad eventually staggered through the back door of the bar and flopped down behind the steering wheel, waiting for Mom to finish socializing. Soon he too dozed and wouldn't wake up when I repeatedly shook his shoulder.

I ran out of patience with all this seemingly endless waiting and left the car in a huff. "What are you doing out so late?" , a middle-aged bar patron in the hotel front doorway demanded, "Don't you know that kids aren't allowed out after curfew?"

"I'm going home," I declared, "My dad won't wake up and drive us."
"You better come with me," the man said, "You know the curfew is at nine o'clock and it's almost midnight now."

"It's okay, I can walk home by myself," I shot back.

He impatiently grabbed my arm and hauled me into the hotel. After phoning the police, he walked me back to Dad's car and told me to wait inside.

An officer shone his flashlight in the car at the faces of my deeply slumbering brother and sister, then he and another officer pulled Dad out from the front seat. The sound of his shoes dragging through the gravel seemed loud in the silence of the night. Dad came to life, swearing and struggling as the cops restrained him. Another officer gave us and Mom a ride home in his cruiser while Dad was taken to the station.

I felt thrilled at the prospect of riding in a real police car, having never done that before. As we drove toward my home, I peppered the policeman with questions, such as how many bad guys he caught and why he wouldn't turn on the siren. I also marvelled at how big the cruiser's interior seemed compared to Dad's car. The officer left the ceiling light on for us as he drove. Roy and Diane were too exhausted to care but I was elated as I watched the passing lights of the town through the left back seat window.

Mom complained bitterly once we arrived home but I was still excited that we actually rode in a real RCMP cruiser and met the officers. I danced with glee at having such a wonderful ride. Mom carried my siblings to bed but I had a hard time drifting off to sleep.

Some days later, Mom and Dad had to go to court and my parents were fined. They didn't tell me how much they paid but Mom felt mortified by the whole situation.

My days of being a free-roaming child came to an abrupt end in September of 1964 when I was sent 500 miles away to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia. I wrote about my adventures, misadventures, and trials in a memoir called Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) It's available from the InScribe Writers Group page.

Friday, 2 July 2010

WHY NOT HAVE A "STAYCATION?"


Many of us have been told by our teachers to write essays on what we did on our summer vacations when we returned to school. For some students, it was an easy essay to write. Others, myself included, didn't have much to tell. In my case, Dad spent much of his pay cheque on booze and Mom was too poor to travel anywhere.

Is it so wrong to stay home and enjoy two whole months of indolence? In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I related stories of doing unremarkable-but enjoyable things such as listening to all the ground-breaking hits of 1966 on my new transistor radio. In fact, my father bought it for me because I wore down his Volkswagon's battery from listening to his car radio for hours at a time. I can recall the excitement I felt when distant TV stations from America came in on our set without the aid of satellite or cable. Even the thunder storms were exciting spectacles for my sisters, my brother, and me to watch. Being children, we could have fun even without technology.

Though I didn't mention much about what I did during the summers of my adulthood in my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, I did go on what some call a "staycation" on many of my holidays from work. During my 1983 vacation, for example, I decided to visit as many local attractions in Edmonton as I could afford. One of those was the Muttart conservatory, four glass pyramid-shaped greenhouses containing plants from around the world. There was one pyramid for tropical species, one for desert plants, a third for temperate flora, and a fourth which contained various flowers. I brought my new 35mm camera and took plenty of photos while there.

Staycations are even more fun when a friend comes from another country. Mike, who lives in Oregon, visited me in July of 1994. One of the places we went to was the Space and Science Centre, as it was known then, Edmonton's planetarium. Through my connections with the venue's music composer, Donovan Reimer, Mike and I were privileged to see equipment and facilities that were off limits to the public.

West Edmonton Mall was also an excellent place that Mike and I visited. My friend especially wanted to see the dolphins and ride the submarines. Though we enjoyed the other attractions, our jaws dropped when we learned from the ticket sales lady how much it would cost to use the water park. The water slides and artificial waves enticed us but we didn't want to spend all day there.

Mike noticed a local indoor swimming pool as we passed a shopping mall near my home and we visited it the next day. I think we had just as much fun there as we would have had in the expensive water park.

Good times can even be had for no cost for both children and adults. Whether it was exploring the local creek as a child or the river valley as an adult, I have spent many hours exploring as well as appreciating nature without spending a penny.

It is a wonderful experience to visit distant lands such as Mexico, Russia, and Trinidad, which I wrote about in my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, but there are many fascinating local attractions just waiting to be seen and enjoyed. In these times of economic hardship, it only makes sense to get the most value for the least amount of money. Since municipalities work so hard to attract out-of-town visitors, you and your family will also benefit from visiting local attractions.

Some people use books as a way to fill the long lazy days of summer. My When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoirs are filled with interesting and poignant vignettes, many of which have been posted on this blog. I have also posted them on Wordpress. Blurbs describing my books are on the InScribe Writers Group page.