Saturday, January 26, 2013



Now here’s a bit of an interesting surprise. I’ve been working on a talking eBook covering a series of essays on a Mennonite settlement in Russia that came into being in 1910. Of course there is a personal connection to the settlement in that my grandfather was one of its pioneers. That in fact is where my father grew up. I myself have never been there. Until a few years ago I had no idea where the heck the place was.

Well the thing is that I was looking for a piece of music to accompany the introduction to the piece when I came upon a Russian hymn that perfectly suited the mood I wanted to create. As I listened to the words I was unable to understand, I suddenly found myself weeping over the loss of the colony that had meant so much to my ancestors. It was as though a great dark cloud of sorrow swept over me that I could not dispel. And therein lies the question. I can’t imagine having written such a moving piece that I was overwhelmed by its message? Or do my family roots extend across the ocean, and if they do, why in Russia or the now Ukraine? Why not to the former Prussia or to Friesland where our ancestors originate? That’s extraordinary.

I remember annoying my mother a number of years ago, just to tease her. I stated matter-of-factly that we were not really of German extraction. Oh sure, for years our ancestors settled in the Danzig area of Prussia, but after all, it was now called Gdansk, a polish seaport. Fiercely proud of her own heritage, she calmly explained to me that if a cat had her kittens in a doghouse, they would still be kittens, not puppies, wouldn’t they? Well, you can’t much argue with that.

 To the point: I was born here in Canada, was educated, worked and earned my living here. I am a true-blue red-blooded Canadian. My children and grand children are all here, and life is generally good. I take that for granted. So what is this longing, this pull to half way around the world – to a place I have never even visited? I don’t get it.

Perhaps it is just a bit of nostalgia over what might have been in the continuum of life on the old homestead had it persisted. But in the cold light of day we already know what happened to those who stayed. The records are quite clear that this blog would be coming from beyond the grave.

No, we should rather give thanks for the indestructible spirit our ancestors brought with them and instilled in us, their offspring so that we carry on the traits and characteristics they learned from those that went before them and that we pass on to those who come after us, no matter what piece of soil we put our blankets down on. At least, that’s how it seems to me from up here on the top shelf.


Just sayin’.




Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My new website

Well, it's finally here! My new website, that is. It seems we have been talking about it since about November or October. I thought it would never see the light of day, but here it is - almost complete. Of course there is alaways something else to do, but at least we're here. We invite you to leave your comments and suggestions so that we may have the best site we can. Or perhaps even just say hello. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Same Old, Same Old

I can't seem to get away from the Idle No More activities. I have never seen such a confused and ill advised "leadership" striving for unknown goals. It's a sad comentary for the people they are supposed to lead.

Same old, Same old.


I would be interested to know the cost of all the various chiefs and their delegations descending on Ottawa this past weekend on an issue that’s none of their business in the first place. Oh sure, “Idle No More” was propelled into the news by Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawpiskat Reserve by way of her “hunger strike”. But who in the end are the protesters; certainly not the chiefs? They are the ordinary people on and off reserve, who are the ones affected by band and government mismanagement. The protesters are mostly young people caught between a rock and a hard place. And who can blame them for being pissed off?

In the first place, Ms. Spence’s “Hunger Strike” is basically an extreme diet with no particular danger to her personal health – but fair enough, she got the business started and invigorated the young people into action. But how many chiefs and counselors are marching and dancing and performing at these protests? Not too many, I’m willing to bet.

What was abundantly clear though, was the dissention among the different reserves. What the hell were they thinking: to get together on the battlefield to come to a consensus as the opposing army was already in full gallop? The ancestors just laugh at their incompetence while today’s children cry out in pain and anguish at the hopelessness of their situation. Who ever heard of trying to decide what you’re upset about while the enemy is charging down your throat? Have they never heard of the saying: “United we stand, divided we fall”? These people were mowed down like ten pins in a bowling alley. And poor Shaun Atleo was left there with his face hanging out. What a mess! Then of course, the government leaks information about mismanagement of Attiwapiskat’s spending habits and accountability just at the right moment and nobody can adequately defend against that.

These people are supposed to be chiefs? Chiefs of what I’d like to know. It takes more than a big mouth to be a chief. I don’t suppose it’s occurred to any of them that they have an obligation to their band members first and foremost and as such, they have an obligation to the AFN and the Grand Chief. If they are to speak with one voice, they want to get over the fact that it’s not their own voice that should be heard, but that of all the Indian nations. I don’t know – perhaps there are a few Indian wars that haven’t been settled yet. They ought to get on that first.

But these are the days of the young people, not the old roosters who have one house on reserve and another in a swanky part of the city. The Idle No More movement is apt to turn inward and there may be sweeping changes if the old boys aren’t careful. Social media are the new form of moccasin telegraph and it’s just a matter of time before the young people show them how it’s done. The people of the seventh fire will be written off and soon the eighth fire can be lit. For my money, it can’t come soon enough. At least that’s how it seems to me from up here on the top shelf.


Just sayin’.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mommy and Daddy and Bedtime Stories

The world is such a mess, it's disgusting. I'm tired of yelling at everybody to smarten up. Jeez, if they haven't got the message by now - well. So I thought I might do something to provide a little smile to my readers. The other day I was going through some of my stories just to keep things in order when I came across a couple that I hadn't posted before. I started to chuckle all over again and so I put this one up on You Tube: for people to watch.

I invite you to have a look at it. The format is part of what I do for educational purposes that I hope people will appreciate. I'm currently converting all my stories to this format and have already done all the TruthSeeker stories, The Song of Hiawatha, and The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses by Robert Service.

Shane and I (mostly Shane) are working on my new website where we will post links to where these stories are available, and I will post that information as soon as I have it.

This is a whole new experience for me, presenting a great number of challenges, but I figured it was worth it to put these stories into a format that you can put into your DVD player and watch the words scroll up the TV screen in synchronization with the sound. I know it's not unique, but it's pretty cool

I would love to hear your comments on this story and this format if you have a minute. email me at


Just sayin'.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard


I can remember the day when I walked into a room of revelers on New Year’s Eve with a great white sheet wrapped around me – and perhaps three sheets to the wind. I was supposed to be father time and it was close to midnight. I was fading fast. The people in the party room were amused. They were hissing and booing for me to get lost. It was the end of my existence (being the old year).

Then suddenly they broke out in uproarious laughter and applause. I didn’t know what to make of that until I looked around to see my brother-in-law come flouncing down the stairs also wearing a white sheet, but arranged in the style of a giant diaper - at exactly midnight. That of course was my signal to exit and I slunk away up the stairs like a worn out prostitute.

We had naturally pre-arranged this, not telling anyone about our antics and the whole thing came off as a hilarious stunt. It all added to the merriment and we suddenly had a feeling of embracing the New Year with a gusto that sort of mitigated the headaches most of us would have to deal with the next day.

Well that was a long time ago. It almost seems like another lifetime. Now in the cold light of day, New Years Eve is actually Monday night. Not only that, but it’s cold as stink. Well and New Year’s Day – that’s Tuesday for crimeny sakes! You’ve got the whole weekend to get ready for a cold Monday night to party so that you can be hung over on Tuesday and get over it more or less just in time to go back to work on Wednesday. Doesn’t seem right – downright uncharitable.

So along with all the extra pounds you put on over Christmas, what with all that turkey, the chocolates and the cheesecake making your clothes two sizes too small, you get the chance to face all those other idiots who did the same as you and it gets to be a lying game of how wonderful it all was (while your guts are still churning and your head is still throbbing). And you’ve still got the longest three days ahead of you until the weekend.

When the Friday you’ve been praying for finally arrives, all you can think of is to get home and rest your weary eyes and even wearier body. Among the pile of letters in the mail slot you find the credit card company’s bill. Oh for God’s sake, they’ve sent it a week early! The final insult! Dejavu! The buggers did that last year too! It’s all starting to come back to you. Wasn’t it July fourteenth when you made the last payment on your Christmas spree? Oh, groan, just put the stupid bill in the inbox and crawl into bed. Everything else can wait – even supper. You’re not hungry anymore anyway.

I wonder how much of this is a product of my imagination or of past experience. But I’d be willing to bet that many who read this will say “Oh yeah, been there, done that, got the Tee shirt.” Or at least that’s the way it seems to me from up here on the top shelf.


Just sayin’.