Monday, December 27, 2010

Another Christmas at the castle

Yesterday I caught part of a CBC radio presentation adaptation of "The Christmas Carol".  As much as Ebenezer Scrooge is depicted as a despicable character, I couldn't help but think that any business owner at this time of year must feel a little tainted by the broad brush that Dickens uses to make his many points in this story.  Up until 6 of 7 years ago, Ste. Anne's Spa was open 365 days a year, including Christmas day.  While we were never sold out, there was a certain kind of person who found respite at this time of year in our unique approach to hospitality and the staff absolutely resented having to work on this statutory holiday more than any other.  When I made the decision to close on Christmas Eve and reopen on Boxing Day, allowing our staff to spend this time with their families it certainly was a popular decision, but even more popular was my decision to invite my family to spend these 2 nights at the spa.  You see, back in the early eighties, Ste. Anne's was our home for several years and many good memories of family get togethers were rooted in this place.  The first year we had pretty close to full attendance.  A picture was taken at some point and I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of humanity that had grown out of the union of just two people - I think there were over thirty of us.  This year, a few couldn't make it for various reasons, but it was still a pretty good turn out with 28 bodies ranging in age from 18 months or so to the matriarch at 82.  We all worked side by side to get meals together, to clean up, and to reminisce about years gone by.  Despite all it's complications, family (for the most part) is a wonderful thing and I feel lucky to be part of such a great one, even if I can be a little Ebenezerish at times.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life is an incredible gift

This past weekend, we were hit with a combination of rain and snow on Sunday morning, just in time for staff and guests arrival at the spa.  David and I were on our way to the 9:00 mass at St. Michael's in Cobourg when we came across a number of cars, stuck in various positions on Academy Hill Rd.  Right at the very top of the hill a small Mercedes with two "spa gals" was pulled off to the side of the road, just a few feet from the top.  We pulled off to the side of the road just as Rick (a massage therapist at the spa) zipped up the hill and around the corner.  We all jumped out of our respective vehicles and offered the ladies a push.  You could see just a hint of hesitation in her eyes as she decided whether she should trust these strange looking country bumpkins, (and what to be made of the Latino way out here in the boondocks?).  She quickly sized us up and decided that having us push her up the hill was a reasonably low risk engagement.  As we all gave it our best heave-ho, Rick politely suggested to the driver that she put her cell phone down and straighten out her wheels.  He asked a second time, to which he received the response "I'm not stupid, you know", even though the wheels were still practically perpendicular to the road, and she was in the ditch without snow tires.  Once we got the message across that the wheels needed to be straightened she quickly made the last few feet of the hill.  And off she went.  I ignored the little voice in my head that was growing frustrated with her "city" attitude", as I knew that she was minutes away from being destressed through our program of forced relaxation and renewal.  But the little voice really wanted me to cause a scene, make a point, and leave the scene in a huff, but instead, I exercised self contol for a change, and I'm glad that I did.  Didn't someone once say, "Don't sweat the small things?"

Now, here is a story of sweating the big things.  My sister Marijo asked David and I to go skiing with her and her new boyfriend two years ago, just after Christmas.  Both of them wanted to be in love with each other so much, and yet they both had some pretty big walls up as a result of previous relationships.  When we arrived at the ski chalet, Bryan had prepared a wonderful meal for us.  Later that night we skied in freezing rain and we had a wonderful 24 hours together.  Gradually, over the next few years we got to know Bryan a little better in the context of his relationship with my sister.

The video above speaks to how some people deal with even the worst imaginable circumstances.  When I watched it, I teared up and decided that I needed to share it with others.  If you would like to find out more about Bryan and his miraculous journey, you can write to him through my sister Marijo at

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wasted days and wasted nights

A bunch of dames, hanging around with nothing to do . . .

Mr. Molar, where are you?
 A couple of months ago a filling in one of my molars was pulled out by a piece of toffee.  I called my dentist (who I absolutely love), and made an appointment to have it fixed, a request that was quickly and efficiently accommodated.  However, upon inspection of the tooth, said dentist (a self-confessed perfectionist - not a bad quality to have in a dentist) advised that I needed a crown - estimated cost $1,100.  I begrudgingly agreed to this recommendation, despite the fact that I wasn't experiencing any discomfort, (now that the filling had been replaced), and I thought she had a better view of things than I did.  My first appointment involved lots of grinding to reduce my tooth to a post suitable for mounting a crown, and then a mold was taken to be sent away to the crown maker.  I was then fitted with a temporary crown, glued in place with temporary cement, and advised to avoid toffee until the permanent crown was in place, scheduled for yesterday.  I was advised that this next appointment would be relatively simple - remove the temporary crown, and replace it with the permanent crown, this time with permanent cement.  Knowing this, I made an eye appointment on the same day, in the same building, thinking I would kill 2 birds with one trip, so to speak.  At 9:00 I jumped onto the 401 to make the drive into Toronto.  At 9:30 the eye doctor calls me to say that his office is flooded, and therefore my appointment is cancelled.  By 10:30 I'm in the dentist's chair being told that instead of using permanent cement she is going to use temporary cement just in case I need a root canal in a few months - arghhh - I hate root canals!  Then out comes the needle, the drill, the new crown and an assortment of other tools.  "I've done a million crowns, and wouldn't you know it, yours doesn't sit right - we're going to have to take another casting", says the dentist.  Oh well, better luck next time.  With my face half frozen so that even if I was happy about this turn of events, all I could do was scowl, I jump back into city traffic to pick up a piece of recycled retail furniture at a warehouse in the west end of the city, where I met the "dames" pictured above, along with a collection of floor to ceiling used retail equipment,
Part of a former wife of Henry the VIIIth, perhaps?
many of them looking eerily lifelike and somewhat forlorn in their frozen state of naked boredom.  Somehow there had been a breakdown in communication between our people and their people and the particular piece we had come in search of was lost amongst the mayhem of unemployed retail fixtures.  So back onto the 401 four hours later with the same temporary crown, no eye exam and no new (used) retail furniture!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nothing runs like a Deere, really!

Yes, that is a building being pulled and pushed up a hill by two John Deere tractors.  On it's way to become a shelter for the wild mustangs living at the spa, this horse run-in was built in Mennonite country and arrived on Friday for placement in the mustang paddock.  This movement was actually pretty easy, as opposed to the previous lift, where one of these 10 ft. wide buildings was manoeuvred between 2 fences about 12 ft. apart.  The boys did a great job, and the horses were happier.  Just another day on the farm.  On Thursday, I called the township and applied for a burn permit, as we had quite a collection of scrap wood and brush to get rid of.  Fire Chief Dave told me it was a perfect day for a burn, as there was barely a breeze, and we'd had rain for the previous two days.  As it turned out, the fire burned quite vigorously, and at one point I had to calm it down with some water.  I enjoyed it, but not so much that I'll be taking up arson as a hobby.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finally, out of the barn

When I was a child, we lived on a farm in, of all places, Nashville, Ontario, and no I'm not a country singer.  We had goats and chickens and cows and horses.  There was Stag, and there was Red.  Red was a wild kind of horse - I think she had some kind of racing history at Woodbine Race Track - I'm not sure.  My dad had a theory that farming built character in kids, and I suppose in hindsight, I have to agree with him.  One of my father's particularly cruel character building exercises was placing us on Red's back for a ride.  Red didn't like kids on her back, and it wasn't long before we were summarily discharged onto the ground.  I seem to remember falling through a hole in the barn floor - (I think it was meant for dropping hay from the hayloft into the cow pens), and landing on Red's back - a short, violent ride ensued.  Fast forward to adulthood, and for some reason, I had a fear of horses.  A local riding stable offered lessons so I decided to wander in and see what it was all about.  A very pleasant young lady greeted me and before I knew it, she had me dealing with my fear of horses by spending time grooming them, and eventually learning how to tack up a horse and ride.  For months, maybe even years, I would go to the stable and spend an hour with Heather and a horse, most notably one named Knight riding around and around the ring learning new terms like trot, post, and canter.  My instructor was also a great listener, so much of the time was spent talking about other life issues.  All in all it was a very therapeutic experience.  However, part of what I had hoped to achieve out of my investment in equestrian instruction was the confidence or at least the skill to take the horse out of the barn and safely ride up over the hills and off into the sunset.  We often talked about a "hack", but never quite got around to it.  I took a bit of a hiatus in my lessons when my instructor fell in love with one of her students, got married and had a child, and the stable was sold.  A few years later, another stable opened up even closer to home, and a new team of equestrian enthusiasts came into our lives.  Back I went to the barn, refreshing my rusty skills only to ride around and around in circles again.  And then last week, out of the blue, my instructor sent me a text asking me if I felt like going for a hack on Friday morning.  I had some other things planned, but I thought this might be my big chance to get out of the barn.  I sent a few more test messages to other equestrian interested lads and we all gathered at our barns with Karey (our friend and instructor), where I've now assembled a motley group of horses, most of whom haven't been ridden for quite some time - so I wasn't sure just how things would turn out.  Ryan saddled up Chance, a 23 year old gelding, Dave rode Noche, Jake was on Franklin, Karey took my crazy horse Sophie, and I rode an unnamed, but very gentle gelded horse who might just as well have been called Perfect.  Amazingly, we had a great ride down through the old deer runways, up over the hills taking in the stunning views on this unusually warm November day.  Aside from a few Sophie episodes, everyone was well behaved and the humans and the horses seemed to really enjoy themselves.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You'll never guess who I ran into in Huntsville!

OK, I haven't actually run into him, but his picture is everywhere, and there's no doubt in my mind that this is his kind of place.  I'm in Muskoka at Deerhurst Resort for a meeting of Ontario's Finest Inns and the Ontario Tourism Summit.  This past summer, P.M. Harper and 19 of his best friends also chose this place to meet and discuss pressing world issues - all part of a multi-million dollar extravaganza still being talked about in the media.  I guess for my part, I find it hard to understand why we chose to showcase this particular place to the world.  I love Muskoka, but the mega resort that Deerhurst has become is such a contradiction to everything that the natural beauty of northern Ontario, and much of rural Ontario stands for.  Don't get me wrong, this is a well run resort, the food has been good, the rooms are spacious and clean, the meeting facilities very functional, it just doesn't represent the best of Canada for me.  Obviously it works - its quite obvious that a tremendous financial investment has been made here - something I haven't been able to achieve at my little property, I just think that for the amount of money spent, and for the amount of coverage that this event received, we could have done better.  But then, I'm not in charge of Canada, so I guess I'll just have to suck it up!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A couple of days of growth . . .

If the human body can do this to the face after a couple of days, imagine the results of years of cancerous cells growing in the prostrate, the lungs, breasts, etc.  I am challenging other spa-hipster men to join the Movember campaign to help raise money for cancer research.  I'll post the final product at the end of the month, and would love to see others join in.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Acting, what a job

I'm not sure I fully understand what makes a man want to dress up as a women, in fact, sometimes I'm not sure what makes a woman want to dress up as a women.  But I suppose the old adage, "if you've got it, flaunt it" may apply.  Last Wednesday, I was taken to the theatre to see Priscilla, Queen of The Desert, an incredibly funny and at times moving musical about 3 drag queens and their trip across the Australian outback.  I had actually seen the movie of the same title many years ago, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  However, nothing could have prepared me for the laughs, and the range of other emotions that I would experience during this show.  I guess being transgendered means, among other things, that you wake up every day feeling like you don't quite belong in your own body.  It's hard enough feeling that you don't belong in a place that you can get up and leave from, but I can't imagine how it must feel to be born a man and want to be a woman.  This production takes this topic and has some fun with it, while at the same time subtly underscoring the cruelty of society when it mocks or rejects a fellow human being (created in the image of God) for something that is totally beyond their control, or simply being different.  The play is only playing in Toronto until January 2nd, but if you can't manage to see it, be sure to rent the movie.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Picking up where I left off

It looks so cozy, a warm earth-bound bed with my name on it.  Oh, but wait a second, that's not me, I can tell by the dates, and by the name of my grave-mate Anna Irene.  This past weekend David, Nan and I made the 2 1/2 hour trek along the 401 and QEW, to a land of peaches, grapes, and cheesy amusements to watch David and several hundred other crazy marathon runners cross the finish line in the annual Niagara Falls International Marathon.

I have fond, but failing memories of many childhood trips to Niagara Falls, where my father was born, to visit my paternal grandmother and a myriad of curiously interesting relatives.  Often on the way home we would stop at one of the fruit stands to pick up a basket of juicy peaches.  My sweet grandma was the second wife of my namesake, James Paul Corcoran (the 1st, I suppose), who had three or four children from a previous marriage.   Grandpa died the year before I was born, (I arrived too late for my namesake to revel in this tribute to him, the first of many disappointments that I would be Irishly punished for by my dear dad) but from the snippets of history that I have been able to extract from my father and his kin, James was a feisty fella, often in trouble with the law, (he once told a police officer to shit in his hat), a bootlegger and hotelier by trade, a pistol wielding, typically tough, Irishman with a grumpy, discipline based approach to business, parenting and marriage.  All this to say that his remains are presumably marked by the substantial chunk of granite shown above.  In an interesting twist of fate, I was born on the same date, (32 years later mind you, that James married Anna Irene).  Back to the present day: Dave, Nan, Rusty and I stayed at the Marriott, with a room almost overlooking the falls, but close enough to allow Nan and I to make the short pilgrimage to the Casino for some voluntary taxation.  Unfortunately, Nan left her wallet in the car, so I had to gamble solo, which turned out to be a net loss for the casino!  Getting Rusty in and out of the hotel un-detected was quite an ordeal, but you kind of had to be there to see the humour in it.  I must say that while the falls themselves haven't changed much over the years, and really are incredible in their sheer magnificence and power, the area around the falls is much improved with the new hotels and the area now known as Fallsview.

On Sunday mom and I took in mass at St. Pat's R.C. church downtown, where grandma used to take us as young children.  When I first walked in, nothing felt familiar, but after an hour or so, memories started to creep out of the recesses of my mind; I think grandma sat on the left hand side of the aisle, and I'm pretty sure the church has been updated in the past 25 years. Other than that, a few streets looked familiar, and I think we found grandma's last apartment on Simcoe St., along with a playground where she used to drop my sister Anne and I off while she ran her errands.  I'd love to go back with my mom and dad, a camera and some notepaper to preserve a little more history before time steals it away.  Getting back to the cemetery for a second; I had a bit of a revelation while searching for the graves of my grandparents; our bodies are like cars - they function a lot better when they are maintained and when they have a good driver, but when the car ultimately breaks down and the driver moves on, both are still real, just separate.  David's body proved once again that training pays off - congratulations on your second successful marathon, and on your ongoing recovery from your skiing accident.  But remember, ski season is just around the corner!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kelly's Big Day

I often blog about the many great benefits that I enjoy as a spa owner and entrepreneur.  I hope my faithful readers don't tire of my self congratulatory smug tone on this subject, but I really feel blessed in so many ways.  So much so, that I also think that if there is a next life, what could my creator have in store for me to provide a contrast to so many good things?  Best not dwell on that.  Yesterday, a young lady who I have known for the better part of 15 years had the main street of Cobourg all a-buzz as she officially opened her new business venture - Lia's Boutique - a store primarily targeted to women looking for smart accessories.  The Town Crier, The Mayor, The MP, and the Chairman of the DBIA, along with a handful of friends, family and well wishers were in attendance as the ribbon was cut and the politicians took advantage of the moment to blather on about how great an environment they had created in Cobourg for small business.  When I first walked into Kelly's store a few weeks ago to help with some of the final touches on the electrical side of things, I was really quite impressed with how she had pulled things together.  Kelly has worked at Ste. Anne's in many capacities, most recently in retail sales, but also in the spa as an esthetician, and in the dining room.  She is a bright girl and she deserves to do well.  I hope that the experience that she gained at the spa will provide her with the tenacity that any new business owner needs to beat the odds and to succeed.  Her three beautiful children were also in attendance, Madison, Sam, and Zoey.  Kelly named the store after her younger sister's baby daughter to avoid causing any fights between her children.  Clearly Kelly has a good understanding of politics!  Good luck in your new business venture Kelly!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Turkey time

While Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about family, this year it seems as though most of my family is elsewhere, so tonight we'll be having a small Sunday night dinner, at which the main attraction will be a medium size turkey from Walmart which I will be heading home to put in the oven just as soon as I finish this posting.  I don't think I've ever cooked a full size turkey before, so I will probably do a quick search on the Internet to see what I need to do to achieve the perfect balance between too moist and too dry.  Wish me luck.  I suppose the consumption of a big dumb bird is an appropriate conclusion to this week just passed, as there were a few moments where I felt like a bit of a turkey myself.  In an effort to get some out of the office exercise, I loaded up little John Deere with a chain saw and made my way into one of the pastures to clean up some standing dead wood that was making it difficult to herd cattle (see last week's entry).  In the course of my manly woodsman adventure I managed to get the chain saw stuck in several large logs, I hit myself in the tooth with a hammer, I ran out of fuel, broke a sheer pin in the wood chipper, and made the chain come off of the bar.  Oh well, at least there were no flesh wounds (yet).  In the middle of the week we had our annual septic system inspection, only to find out that the person who we thought was cleaning the filters thought that we were doing it, which resulted in a small spill beside one of the tanks.  We knew this because the ground was mushy, and the grass was growing extremely well.  Looking at this from a farming perspective, and being a guy who is constantly being accused of smelling like either cow or horse poo, I'm not sure what the big deal is about a little human effluent leaking into a vacant field, but the ever vigilant forces charged with protecting the environment see it a little differently.  We ended up hauling 7 loads of very rich topsoil to a landfill site at a cost (remember, we are depositing dirt in a landfill) that would shock just about anybody.  I only hope that there is some light at the end of this rather dark tunnel.  Finally, I spent 3 hours trying to corral 1 more cow into a pen using all forms of humane coercion, and intimidation available to me, stepping in fresh poop several times in the process.  No animals or humans were harmed in the making of this blog.  Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Look out Jim, 1 Cow Out

I was born in Toronto, on a lovely treed street in Moore Park called Inglewood Drive.  From age 4 to 18, I grew up on a farm in Nashville, Ontario.  Our postal code was L0J 1C0, which I remembered with the words Look Out Jim 1 Cow Out.  Moving to Nashville was my father's idea.  I don't remember being consulted, but then doubt that I was consulted on too many things back then.  Looking back, I can honestly say that growing up on a farm had some real benefits.  However, I can't really imagine how my life would have turned out if I had grown up in the city.  For most of the time while we lived in Nashville we had animals on our farm.  We started off with Black Angus beef cattle, which were later replaced with the Charolais breed.  At one time we actually raised a calf in our basement.  I think it's mom died giving birth and we brought it into the basement to keep it warm and so that we could feed it.  Well before we realized it this calf had grown into a cow.  It was embarrassing when we would have dinner guests, only to have to explain the mooing, not to mention the smells wafting from the basement.  Although our basement dweller became quite domesticated, getting him up the basement stairs proved to be quite a challenge.  Ultimately, he ended up in the freezer and then on the dining room table.  We also had chickens, goats, dogs, cats, Guinea pigs, gerbils, fish and rabbits.  I tended to prefer the smaller animals to the cows.  Cows seemed to be a lot of unpaid work, and they were unbelievably stupid and not very cooperative.  They also created tons of manure, which we (7 farm labourers, otherwise known as kids) moved out by hand and pitch fork as part of our "farm chores".  Other choirs included fencing, (not with swords), de-horning, castrating haying, and feeding.  All good character building I'm sure.  Fast forward to 2010 and Jim the spa guy has 22 cows being fattened up for use at the spa - all Black Angus.  This weekend I thought I could single handedly move these 22 cows from one pasture to another across a paved road by tempting them with a couple of buckets of grain on the back of my truck.  This worked reasonably well until the steers discovered the juicy tall grass on either side of the road, and of course a straggler messed up the whole plan by refusing to leave the original pasture and playing catch me if you can.  Fortunately for me, my brother John, his wife Nancy and daughter Jenna showed up just in the nick of time to help corral my furry friends in the right direction, and the day was saved, except for the one loner who separated from the herd.  He'll come around; he'll miss his cow friends and his grain, they always do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Out of the ashes

Just about a year ago, I heard the news.  My oldest brother Bill, and his wife Julie had woken up to the news that their island dream home, Seadream House on Harbour Island had burned down.  Fortunately, the house wasn't occupied at the time and no lives were lost, but still, losing something that you have put so much love into must be heartrendingly painful, especially in the violent destructive force of a fire.  Over my lifetime, my relationship with my eldest brother has had highs and lows, as I'm sure is the case in the relationships between most siblings.  Some of those highs had been when Bill and I shared time together at his island paradise with other family and friends.  While arson is suspected, I doubt Bill and Julie will ever know just what happened to turn their hopes and dreams into ashes and rubble.  None-the-less, once they recovered from the initial shock of it all, and dealt with the inevitable insurance red tape, they picked themselves up and they decided to rebuild.  Building a house on a small Caribbean Island can be challenging even under the best of circumstances, and this project has been no exception.  I recently had a look through some of the photos that Bill has been posting on  Seadream's Facebook page, and I'm truly amazed at what he and Julie, with the help of the Harbour Island building trades, have been able to accomplish.  When they aren't using Seadream House it is available for rent, and many families have adopted it as their bit of island paradise.  I wish them well with their reconstruction and rebuilding and look forward to the next chapter in the life of Seadream House reborn.  Congratulations on your courage and determination.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Faces at the Spa

Mother and Child

White Angel

Big Franklin

One of the great pleasures I have in my job is the opportunity to surprise people with unexpected and wondrous things.  Usually, that comes in the form of a great massage, or a decedent dessert, or a comfy bed, but occasionally I get to wander outside the box.  Pictured above are three recent additions.  On the top left is a bigger than life size angel that I found down in "The County", Prince Edward County.  I had passed her by on several occasions - one of my favorite pastimes is to take a drive down into the county, not necessarily with any particular destination in mind, and see where I end up.  Last time I did this, I found 3 outstanding cheese factories and a couple of good wineries that I hadn't been to before.  In any case, this angel seemed to call out to me, so with much grunting and lifting, I loaded her into the back of my truck and brought her home.  She spent most of the summer in the barn, but a couple of weeks ago, Jake, Debbie and Darlene found a spot for her looking out over the property towards the east in anticipation of things to come.  She is made of cast iron and weighs about 900 lbs.  To her right is a wooden statue that I found in Oberamergau.  Both of these statues have very kind facial features, but the mother and child are especially fine and detailed.  I also had the pleasure of meeting her maker - Josef - a very proud, yet humble German chap.  She is at the barn waiting for a protective coat of varnish before she goes to her place in a new grotto that Deb and Darlene have created in the cedar hedge by the pool.  Finally there is Franklin - a big, friendly gelding who I walked along the road from a neighbours house this past weekend.  Franklin has a bad leg, so he can't be ridden for long periods of time, but he loves to be groomed and he is good company for my feisty mares.  Not a bad gig, I suppose!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Passion Play

The highlight of this trip to Germany was attending the Passion Play.  I have waited for a full week to see if my feelings about this experience would change, but alas, they have not.  I may have set my expectations too high, in that I was hoping that this would be a life changing, faith deepening experience.  As beautiful a place as Oberamergau is, and as incredible a story The Passion Play recounts, in the 5 hours of theatre that we endured, I simply wasn't moved.  Oberamergau itself, like many organized religions, has become a very commercialized place.  I suppose if I counted on an event that only happened every 10 years as my primary attraction, I might be tempted to do the same.  But the play; I found it difficult to relate to any of the main "good guys".  Jesus seemed to be screeching at everybody, Mary Magdalene was not convincing, even Mary wasn't quite right.  I suppose the German language isn't the easiest language to sound passionate in,  Alles klingt so hart, wie eine Reihe von Befehlen.  Maybe I've been watching too many WWII movies, or perhaps Colonel Klink is forever etched in the recesses of my mind, I just can't make a German Jesus work for me.  Perhaps the irony of the whole Christ story is that, like the play, the bad guys, especially Pilate, really did steal the show.  My search continues.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Our Hotel   

After some last minute shopping in Munich, we took a taxi to the train station where we caught a train to Marnau, and on to Oberamergau, the site of the Passion Play.  This quaint little town set in the Alps has been putting on this play every 10 years since 1633, to give thanks for prayers answered.  Of course the scenery is breathtaking and anticipation of the play is building.  This morning after breakfast I purchased a wooden statue that I intend to place in a new grotto that Debbie and Darlene have created back at Ste. Anne's.  I was fortunate enough to meet the carver, a very proud, nice, and very talented German man.  Afterwards we took a short hike to see a statue of the crucifixtion that was given to the town by King Ludwig II in appreciation of their work on the Passion.  Regardless of one's religious beliefs, the story of a man giving up his life for the sake of others is compelling one - hard not to be moved by such an act of selflessness.  The play starts this afternoon at 2:30 and ends at 10:30 with a 2 hour break for supper.  More on this later.
King Ludwig II's Gift

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beer, church and a bike tour

Marraige, dancing, jousting - the story of the Munich Glockenspiel
The altar at Alter Peter, Munich
Lucky for us, we met a very nice priest who stongly suggested that we attend the 10:45 Sunday mass at St. Peter's R.C. church.  During our first day in Munich, we had visited several other churches, but this wasn't one of them.  To be completely honest, I really hadn't thought of Germany as a Catholic destination, but then again, as one of our tour guides reminded us, the current Pope was a former Bishop of Munich, and even today he is apparently a regular consumer of German beer, so there you go.  Before going to church though, we thought we had better rack up some fresh sins, for absolution, so we went out to a very German beer hall and had a very German meal of schnitxel, sausage, and of course, beer.  Munich is a very lively city until about 10:00, when everyone just seems to quietly disappear.  Not surprising, I suppose, since most everyone seems to be drinking beer all day long.  However, the streets feel very safe and everything is quiet compared to most major cities that I've been too.  The 10:45 mass did not disappoint.  It was like stepping back in time, with beautiful organ music, an all male choir, latin, incense and the priest with his back to the congregation for most of the time.  So often now, churches have become like museums full of tourists trapsing through taking pictures of all the artwork and the architecture.  Sitting through a traditional high mass like this brings life into these buildings - even if one doesn't understand a word.  Something like watching a theatrical performance.  After mass we watched the Glockenspiel clock bring in the noon hour; not too exciting but a memorable event, none-the-less.  From there we joined Mike's Bike Tour of Munich, a four hour tour of many of the significant sites of the city.  I would describe myself as a somewhat lazy tourist.  When travelling, I often end up without much planning or research  somewhere wonderful with very little understanding or expectation in terms of what makes it so wonderful.  For me, TripAdvisor has been a life saver, not only in finding great hotels to stay at, but also in terms of recommending attractions.  Mike's Bike Tours is rated as one of the top ten attractions in Munich, and so it should be.  Mike actually introduces himself, and our guide (James from down under) was superb.  Using bicycles rather than buses or feet made it an environmentally positive experience, and we weren't dead tired at the end of the day, infact somewhat invigorated.  The tour ended up in a beer garden where we joined hundreds of other Sunday tourists drinking beer and sampling some pretty decent German cuisine, once again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Machen Sie sich bereit Deutschland, wir kommen!

Marienplatz, Munich at 3 p.m., bells tolling

We left London this morning on a Lufthansa flight bound for Munich.  I love using London as a jumping off point for the rest of Europe.  It feels as though you are taking an ever so gradual trip from your comfort zone into places that take you away, culturally, historically, emotionally, and wonderfully - a little like Alice in Wonderland - Jim & friends in Bavaria!  Even boarding the A320 aircraft - clean, well organized, friendly and meticulous service with English and German being used interchangebly feels new and exciting.  After landing, we collected our bags from a carousel that had a sign telling you when your bags were expected - and they were right on time.  No line ups here - very effecient.  As we made our way toward the ground transporatation options we spotted a ticket machine for the subway.  As we were studying it, a young man approached us, with a t-shirt on indicating that he worked for "Bahn" offering us assistance.  No sales pitch, no trickery or scam, just assistance - what a concept.  He directed us to the appropriate line to get us to the centre of town, where a short taxi ride brought us to our hotel.  Once we were checked in, we took a stroll through some churches, ourdoor markets, shops, restaurants and plenty of beer drinking tents.  Lovely.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the road again

Heathrow Airport is famous for long line ups

About a year ago a friend told me about how the town of Oberammergau puts on "The Passion |Play" every ten years as payback to Big "G" for being spared some of His wrath during the Plague that swept the town back in 1633.  I thought this was as good a reason as any to visit Germany, a country I'd only ever passed through on previous European junkets, so I said, "sign me up".  I had originally booked 2 weeks, with a the better part of the first week intended for exploring Munich, but a few issues that had to be handled at work forced me to shorten the trip to 10 days, and travel via London rather than directly to Munich.  I actually prefer flying through London on Air Canada's day flight, as it seems to be much easier for me to make the adjustment to European time.  Flying overnight and I just don't agree - it usually takes me about a week just to recover from a night of trying and failing to sleep sitting up, leaning over and any number of yoga moves designed to stretch my six feet into a space designed for a mini-me.  We just arrived at our hotel, after spending an hour in line, like a bunch of cattle, for a 1 minute stamp in our passport taking the "Hotel Hoppa" (the Brits have such a knack for naming things) bus to our in transit hotel.  It kind of irritates me that we are members of the Commonwealth, the Queen is our head of state, and yet Canadians entering the U.K. receive absolutely no preferential treatment.  Their flag is on our passport for Pete's sake!  Border control has always seemed like such a waste of money to me even at the best of times, but having to spend an hour in a line up to get your passport stamped between friendly countries really defies logic.  However, I can't see this changing in my lifetime.  Unfortunately opting for the convenience of an airport hotel as opposed to heading into the city centre really limits your choice of restaurants, so we ended up crossing the street to McDonald's, which was closed except for drive through.  We walked through, and then had to convince the cashier to serve us, as she claimed she could lose her job for doing so.  Tomorrow we catch a flight to Munich - should have more exciting news to report from there.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where did the summer go?

Tuesday August 31st, the week before labour day, back to school, hockey practice, closing the pool, fall colours, yikes - where did the time go?  It seemed like just yesterday that the last bits of dirty snow were melting and bits of green were starting to shoot up in the ditches between the dead brown stalks.  This past weekend, as I wandered through Walmart trying to find a canoe paddle to stir the mud baths, I cringed as racks and racks of Halloween masks seemed to follow my aimless aisle search through empty eye sockets.  Of course most of the summer seasonal items have already been stored away to make room for the fall and winter items - snow shovels should be just around the corner.  The creator of time, just like the creator of everything, was such a genius.  Time seems to creep along at just a steady enough pace to make you aware of the movement, like a sheer drapery in a light breeze, and yet not so fast that you worry about it or give it a second though.  And then, all of a sudden, something - a look in the mirror, or at the calendar makes you aware of just how much time has gone by while you were busy doing something, but not really sure what.  My maternal grandfather spent his final years at Central Park Lodge in Toronto.  In those days, he didn't walk, he shuffled.  As I held an elevator for him as he shuffled along the corridor I was aware that a somewhat surly looking female resident was patiently waiting for her ride down.  I turned to her and apologized for the wait, to which she replied, "don't worry, time is all I have left".

Monday, August 23, 2010

The mystery of plant life

Berry delicious
When I was growing up in Nashville (Ontario), we had a neighbour named Mr. Mulder, long before the X-Files TV series made Fox Mulder a household name.  Mr. Mulder lived by himself in a humble kind of a home, I think he may have had a barn or two, and he had the most incredible raspberry patch.  On warm summer days you could find him in a straw hat picking his berries, always willing to share a few with the local kids.  Mr. Mulder's berry's were so juicy, so sweet and succulent, and Mr. Mulder was just a nice man.  Perhaps it was this subconscious memory that caused me to load up my cart with berry bushes this spring while wandering through the local Canadian Tire.  I used a tractor roto-tiller to turn over the soil in last year's failed vegetable garden and spent a day digging in my bushes, along with a peach tree, a couple of cherry trees and some strawberry plants, all the while thinking that this garden will be easy to maintain.  When the weeds come, I'll just run the push roto-tiller through the rows and before I know it I'll be picking fruit for the table.  I applied some fertilizer and forgot about my garden until about 2 weeks ago.  Well, apparently the weeds like fertilizer too.  There were plants in there with 1 inch stalks - dense, ugly weeds.  What to do?  I mentioned to Debbie and Darlene, my gardening experts, that I thought a bush wacker might be the solution.  True to character, these 2 good Samaritans snuck into my back yard one afternoon and pulled all the weeds.  I was overwhelmed.  And lo and behold, in behind all those now relocated weeds were bunches of juicy, so sweet and succulent raspberries ripe for the picking.  I've since put down some weed barrier and mulch in hopes that I can control things a little better, but without Debbie and Darlene, I'd be in quite a pickle!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guilt, a gift from our parents

Wikipedia defines guilt as "a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation.  It is closely related to the concept of remorse."  This begs the question - where do we get our moral standards from.  Presumably, Robin Hood was not raised with a moral standard endorsing the concept of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, any more than Stephen Harper was, but I think its safe to say that this moral standard has evolved over time.  Moral standards that are passed on from one generation to the next through parenting often don't stand the test of time.  Where one generation may firmly believe that computers are a tool of the devil and should be restricted to tools of commerce, another generation may feel differently.  My father used to tell us that he would kill us if he ever caught us drinking or doing drugs.  As a teenager, I remember thinking that killing someone had to be worse than drinking or doing drugs.  What amuses me are people who develop a guilty conscience related to one set of circumstances in their moral code, and go through great mental anguish while being completely oblivious to the hurt they are causing by their actions towards others.  I'm not saying that parenting is easy, but when you see the innocent, trusting face of a small child and see how vulnerable their minds are to the imprint of their influencers, you can't help but hope and pray that some thought will be given to the conscience that they are given.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trip of a lifetime

One of the many friendly faces of Peru

Technically, today is my first official day of rest spent in the office after returning from a two week tour of Peru, the highlight of which was a four day hike on the Inca Trail culminating with a visit to Machu Picchu.  In an effort to keep the weight of my backpack to a minimum, I used a small camera for the hike, which I somehow misplaced on the last day of our trip.  Fortunately, two of our fellow hikers kept a blog, and they provided me with a blow by blow account of the main part of our trip, which I hope they won't mind me sharing with you.  However, even words and pictures cannot fully capture the intensity of this experience.  I travelled with a group of 16 people, ranging in age from 4 to 50 something, and every member of the group had their own set of contributions and challenges.  All this to say that while this trip took me out of my travel comfort zone, it was a trip of a lifetime that I would absolutely recommend and do again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jane Blaffer Owen - a spirit that will linger

Jane Blaffer Owen passed away at the age of 95 two weeks ago, on June 21st, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Jane's parents owned Ste. Anne's from 1939 to 1981, when they sold it to my family.  As one of the surviving Blaffer children, Jane was the main contact for her parent's estate for the purposes of this transaction.  I have fond memories of when we lived at Ste. Anne's - known amongst the locals as "The Grafton Castle", hearing stories about the Blaffer family and their annual summer pilgrimage to Canada for their summer vacation, stories that made them seem like an urban legend in my youthful eyes.  Years later I came back to work for my brother Jim who was in the process of transforming Ste. Anne's from a family bed and breakfast into a country inn and spa.  One of my first projects was to help with the co-ordination of a book called The History of Ste. Anne's. In doing the research for the book, the writer we had hired contacted Mrs. Owen to delve into the details surrounding the Blaffer family and their time in Grafton. Jane was kind enough to send us a number of photos of her wedding day at Ste. Anne's back in the 1940's. I too was married at Ste. Anne's, and instantly felt a connection to Jane. I sent her back some photos of my own wedding, not expecting that this "legend" would have the time of day for me.  But she did.
We began corresponding regularly. This contact led to many visits for myself and my family over the years to New Harmony, Indiana, Jane's home away from home.  Her legend status was quickly replaced with a warm respect and love for this woman who silently did so much to enhance all that she touched. She welcomed us with open arms each time we visited her. Jane had a quiet drive and love for life that was absolutely contagious. My children have fond memories of driving on the back of her golf cart, late at night, down the middle of the road. She was fun to be with, she possessed a keen sense of humour and she was an incredibly astute business woman.
I feel so blessed to have known Jane and to have been touched by her. She never judged me, never made me feel 'less than' or silly, she just accepted me - silently.  I like to think that Jane's vision and spirit are at the heart of Ste. Anne's on some kind supernatural level. She was a woman of faith, community, healing and giving - with no pretension, qualities that have become the basic foundations on which Ste. Anne's Spa has been built.  Heaven will be a better place now that Jane is there.  Adieu my friend!
posted by Marijo Corcoran

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Five Pairs of Shoes and a Bag of Bananas

My dad is almost 84 years old and bent from degenerative disc disease in his back, the legacy of years working as a bricklayer. He suffers from renal failure and must undergo dialysis three times a week in order to continue living. Added to that, the patches of skin cancer on his head and back and his prostrate cancer, I’m sometimes amazed that he is still with us.

My dad is a quiet, introspective man, which is where I get those qualities from. He is also an extremely stubborn man, a trait I hope I have not inherited.

My dad immigrated to Canada in the early 50’s in search of a better life for his small family. Sometimes, out of the blue, he will regale us with stories of the war and of his life.

Before my parents married, dad worked in France in a steel foundry for almost two years. The work was hard but the pay was very good and so dad stayed. Dad tells the story of how, up until that point, he had only ever owned one pair of shoes. The shoes had been bought new but were too tight on his feet from the very beginning. After the soles wore out, he had them resoled, a process that made them even tighter. He wondered whether shoes were just supposed to be this uncomfortable. After all, these were the only pair of shoes he had ever owned. So when he was in France, and earning more money than he had ever seen before, he decided to buy some new shoes. Maybe, he thought, one could actually have shoes that didn’t hurt your feet. So he bought some shoes and they felt divine, so he kept buying, until he had bought five pairs of shoes. Each pair was a different style and colour.

In Italy, there were many fruits that he had seen in store windows but could not afford to buy. In France dad ate his first banana and by all accounts was quite impressed with the taste. After he broke his wrist on the job, he decided to spend some of his disability time back home. He took the train back to Italy to visit his family and of course his fiancée. He must have looked like quite the sight at the train station with his five pairs of shoes and a large bag of bananas. Dad would bring my mother gifts of chocolate and fragrant French soap. She claims to still have a bar of the soap, some 60 years later.

I treasure these stories that dad tells us because they are part of our legacy, to be passed on to newer generations. Some stories, like the ones of the shoes and the bananas, are funny. Others of the war and the resistance movement are frightening and heart breaking.

Dad still loves bananas, but unfortunately now that he can afford as many as he likes, he’s not allowed to eat them because of their high potassium content. In case you were wondering, he still has more shoes that the rest of us and they fit just fine.

Happy Father’s Day Papa

My Aunt Dorothy

My Aunt Akiko Dorothy Nakamachi passed away a few weeks ago. She wasn’t really my aunt, but 40 years ago my best friend Koji generously shared his aunt with me.

Over the years I grew to love and admire this woman. She was intelligent, witty and in the words of my younger brother, “really cool”. Paolo considered her cool because as a single woman she had travelled all over the world, twice going to Africa. That alone made her cool in Paolo’s eyes.

Aunt Dorothy’s life was one worthy of an epic novel. Born and raised in Vancouver, she fought Japanese racism to graduate as a registered nurse from St. Paul’s Hospital, after the Bishop interceded to get her admitted. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour, she was interned in the B.C. interior at Greenwood internment camp, where she was the only nurse treating over 4,000 Japanese detainees. Many of the detainees had contracted T.B. and eventually so did Aunt Dorothy. She was transferred to a hospital and had a lung removed.

After the war the Japanese were not allowed to return to B.C. so she moved to Toronto. She entered the University of Toronto, where she earned an additional nursing degree and then worked as a Public Health nurse until her retirement.

Years later when the conservative government formally apologized to the Japanese who were interned, each of them was awarded $21,000 as a redress settlement. My Aunt Dorothy took that money and promptly bought herself a full length mink coat and hat.

Aunt Dorothy never married but I learned that she remained ever the romantic. I discovered that she and I shared a love for Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It gave me joy to be able to gift her with BBC videos of both, which I know she treasured.

In her last year she sent me a gift via Koji. It was a lovely damascene brooch she bought on one of her many trips to Japan. The brooch, made of iron or steel with interlacings of silver and gold, depicts a pagoda and the ever present Mount Fuji. I wore it over my heart at her funeral.

Since her passing, Koji has been going through Aunt Dorothy’s things and distributing them to family members. He gave me 16 English bone china tea cups and saucers that speak to me of my Aunt Dorothy’s grace and elegance, and of course of her love of tea. He also asked if I would like a statue of the Virgin Mary that St Paul’s hospital gave her at her graduation in 1940. I told him I would be honoured to receive it and to find a suitable place for it in my home office.

My Aunt Dorothy passed away in her sleep, just short of her 92nd birthday. I hope when I grow up that I’ll be just like her; intelligent, witty, strong, romantic and of course “really cool”.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Branko's 50th Birthday Bash

Diane called me up one day and wanted me to arrange a overnight 50th Birthday celebration for her and Branko. She decided that it was time to bring Branko to the world of spa!!! Boy did Branko have a great time. He is no longer a spa virgin. Happy 50th Branko!!!!
Branko enjoying the cold plunge pool.

  • Branko and Diane enjoying the view at the Spa.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do we ever get too old to need our mothers?

I was doubled over the toilet recently being sick for the third time in twenty minutes, when I realized something … I wanted my mother. It wasn’t like I’d never been sick before, but something felt just a little scary this time. So what if I was 54 years old, does the statute of limitations run out on being mothered?

My parents live with me, which makes it easier for me to take care of them as they have multiple health issues. Over time, it seems, I have become the parent in this relationship. I take them to medical appointments, I control medication, and I worry about changes in their condition.

But now it was about me. As I recovered from my third visit to the toilet bowl, I grabbed my trusty Blackberry and dialled the home line downstairs. My mother picked up the phone and I suddenly started to cry and blurted out “I’m being sick, come upstairs please”. I didn’t even hear her hang up the phone and she was upstairs beside me. She got a cold wet facecloth and pressed it against my fevered forehead and immediately took charge. She asked pointed questions trying to determine the onset of my illness and possible cause.

Over the next two hours I made multiple trips to the toilet bowl and by the end I was as weak as a kitten and could hardly make it back to my bed. As I lay spent and sore, she tried to entice me with Ginger Ale and Camomile tea, having success with neither. I tried to sleep but was unable to. She lay down next to me on my bed and began regaling me with an account of the baseball game she had been watching when I phoned her. As she spoke, I remembered back to November 2002 when I had surgery and she helped me get in the shower one day. When I thanked her for being there to help, she prophetically said “Maybe someday I will be sick and you will have to take care of me”. Less than two months later she was diagnosed with cancer. Our roles reversed that day and I cared for her through radiation, chemotherapy, surgery and a blood clot. My once invincible mother had become mortal.

Seven years later, she still has more energy than anyone else in our family. Despite ongoing medical issues with an ulcer that simply will not heal there is no stopping her. In her spare time she knits and crochets beautiful baby items which she sells to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society and come June 11 she will be the centre of our Relay team when we participate in our sixth Relay for Life.

I’m a grown woman, financially independent, mature, confident, but when I’m doubled over a toilet bowl being sick, I am still my mother’s little girl and I’m not afraid to need her touch.

                                          Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Boots at the door

There are many things that have been said over the years about "family", some positive, some not so.  In my experience, the one thing that can be said is that "family" is a multi-faceted organization with weird and wonderful nuances that add colour and complexity to our lives as human beings.  I have 2 brothers, and 4 sisters - I'm somewhere in the middle.  Recently, the first born, my brother Bill, has been working with me to help us with the evolution of an equine assisted "wellness" program as an extension to the human based "wellness" programs we offer at Ste. Anne's.  Bill has travelled and lived all over the world, but his most recent roots have been put down in Los Angeles.  Prior to working with me, Bill had a successful career making movies, so Los Angeles was probably the right place to be.  When Hollywood started to experience the meltdown that has undermined the very foundation of the U.S. economy, Bill started to look for other options to continue his personal growth and support his family.  For the past couple of weeks, Bill's wife Julie, and his children, Cole and Lauren (my youngest nieces and nephews), joined him here in Canada.  Because Bill and his family have lived abroad for the most part, I haven't had as much of an opportunity to get to know them.  This recent visit allowed us to start to build the foundation of a relationship.  Each day Cole and Lauren would help Bill with the horses and the cows (mostly an excuse to check up on the kittens) and experience "life on the farm".  For my part, I got to "hang" with Bill, Cole and Lauren most nights over dinner - we had a camp fire one night, and a visit to my "shack" another.  I know it was hard for Bill when his family returned to L.A., but I hope that not too much time will pass before they can be together again.  Seeing boots at the door, even when they have a little crust of mud or horse poop on them is strangely comforting.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thank you Ste. Annes's for the most wonderful experience of my life. From the moment I arrived until the moment I left I was treated with the highest of respect and luxury. I felt complete serenity and relaxation and was made to feel like the most important person in the world.The entire staff is to be commended for their obvious enjoyment of working there as well as their pleasure in pleasing every patron, at all times. I will be back and I will be recommending to everyone to visit your establishment.thanks again.
Kathy and Lauri

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Helping Hand

There once was a young girl who worked in the packing department of a paper mill in Thorold, Ontario.

She was just out of high school and lucky to have such a job. The year was 1936.

The stacks of paper would come off of the line and she would wrap them up for shipping. Everything was quota based and if her team (they all worked in pairs) didn't meet theirs, they were both out of a job. But she didn't have to worry, she and her partner were the fastest and most efficient team on the floor; young and full of energy.

One half of the team next to her on the line was an older woman; not as fast with a lot less energy, eyes failing. She had worked hard on her feet at that old mill for many a year. Her name was Mary Jordan.

One morning, an announcement came down that cutbacks were imminent. Those teams that were the slowest would be the first to go. The young girl looked at Mary and realized that she was certain to lose her job. So, she marched into the forman's office and strongly "requested" that she be reassigned to work with Mary. The forman looked at her as if she were mad but after a bit of badgering, he relented.

When Mary heard of this, she went to the young girl and broke down, sobbing and crying with relief. She thanked her over and over for her act of kindness and for saving her job as she knew what would have come otherwise. So away they went, a new team, one of them flying fast and high, and the other trudging behind. What a pair they made!

That young woman was my mother. She is now 90 years old and would still do anything to help anyone. You should see her wrap Christmas presants....WOW....still fast!

Is there a Mary Jordan in your life who could use your help?

You'll find one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hug me like you mean it ...

I always wanted to meet Dr Leo Buscaglia but he died before I could. It wasn’t just his extraordinary lectures that I wanted to experience firsthand; I wanted to line up after the lecture with thousands of others to experience a Buscaglia hug. He was a master and an advocate of the hug. He had this to say about hugging:

“Nine times out of ten, when you extend your arms to someone, they will step in, because basically they need precisely what you need.”

I don’t know if it grew out of his doctorial studies or the fact that he was Italian but he surely elevated the hug to an art form.

I love being hugged. Not the air hugs from those who lean in to hug you without actually touching you. No, I’m talking about the hugs that leave you breathless and just a little bit sore. Those are the hugs that cry out “Hey I want you to know that I’m here”. My nieces and nephew hug that way. Their hugs are exuberant and uninhibited and usually accompanied by a kiss and an “I love you Zia Nadia”. My gay friends hug that way. Their hugs say “Thank you for your acceptance and your love”. My relatives in Italy hug that way. Their hugs say “Why do have to live so far away… Oh my God you look just like your aunt Flora… why didn’t you phone, I would have made gnocchi… I didn’t think I’d live to see you come back and visit again”. There are Italian co-workers at the office that will stop me in the hall to give a hug when they haven’t seen me in a few months. Italians certainly don’t have the market on hugging. I recently discovered in our Costa Rican Service Centre that Costa Ricans will hug anybody and everybody. I felt right at home there.

The hugs give me comfort, they sustain me and they feel so good. Hugs don’t cost a cent and they are healing. Dr Harold Voth, psychiatrist has said: “Hugging can lift depression – enabling the body’s immune system to become tuned up. Hugging breathes fresh life into a tired body and makes you feel younger and more vibrant.”


Hugging may sound like the simplest thing on earth, but it will help to keep a few things in mind. Non-hugs are no good. In his book Caring, Feeling, Touching, Dr Sidney Simon describes five non-hugs:

I. The A-frame hug, in which nothing but the huggers' heads touch.

2. The half-hug, where the huggers' upper bodies touch—while the other half twists away.

3. The chest-to-chest burp, in which the huggers pat each other on the back, defusing the physical contact by treating each other like infants being burped.

4. The wallet-rub, in which two people stand side-by-side and touch hips.

5. The jock-twirl, in which the hugger, who is stronger or bigger, lifts the other person off the ground and twirls him.

The real thing, the full body hug, touches all the bases. Dr Simon describes it like this: "The two people coming together take time to really look at each other. There is no evasion or ignoring that they are about to hug... You try as hard as you can to personalize and customize each hug you give... With a full body hug there is a sense of complete giving and fearless communication, one uncomplicated by words.”

So if you should meet me some day and open your arms, know that I will step right in for a hug. Dr Buscaglia and Dr Simon would approve.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A new beginning

Today is the beginning of a new Ste. Anne's Spa blog.  I will be looking for contributors who want to trade stories and insire the exploration of  the healing power of human touch.  Send me an email if you would like to contribute.  Have a happy Easter Weekend!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pie Sunday, er, ah, I mean Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday - most notable for the excruciatingly long Gospel - "The Passion", when good Catholics shift from one leg to the other perhaps thankful that at least they're not kneeling for this part of the mass. It also happens to be the day in our parish that the members of the Catholic Women's League raise money by selling pies to the faithful, many of whom are happy to see the end of the sacrifices made during Lent. All of this against the backdrop of the commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a cross more than 2,000 years ago. Meanwhile, back in the present moment, the same battered Roman Catholic church is once again scrambling to respond to the allegations of more sexual abuse, but the real issue for most of the public seems to be the never ending apparent attempts by the hierarchy to brush it all under the proverbial carpet, and to continue to act as though they operate under a different set of laws, standards or expectations then the rest of us. Oh dear. So, for the Catholic Church, I suppose the question remains, can you have your pie and eat it too?

Monday, March 22, 2010

A spring renovation project

The first time it happened, last Friday I think, I thought it was just a fluke. But when she returned again today, I'm thinking this might be the beginning of a long term relationship. I looked up from my computer screen to see a robin looking in at me, or so I assumed - she may just as well have been looking at her own reflection in the glass. I'm hoping that she will see the remains of a long since abandoned nest in the gnarly old tree that gives me shade in the summer as a perfect place to start a family and that she won't find my presence too much of a deterrent. I guess only time will tell. This being the second day of spring, there are of course other signs that winter is making a hasty retreat. The fields are too muddy for me to easily drive up to my shack, so I'm having to find another route to get up there, or get some more aggressive tires. As far as progress on my shack is concerned, I'm pretty well finished with the inside "decor", (tongue and groove pine boards) other than any semblance of trim, or a finished floor, and am now looking to put some kind of finish on the outside walls - I'm thinking board and batten. It's been a great place to escape to and try developing some of my rusty handyman skills. Today I felt I'd pretty much recovered from the 5K run I did a few months ago, so I started back into my workout routine. I'm still toying with the idea of training for the 1/2K marathon in Ottawa, but can't quite get past the whole pain and suffering thing - I'll have to work on that. The horses are nibbling at the little shoots of green grass that are starting to poke themselves out of the grayish brown stubble, and according to Bill, their winter coats are really starting to fall out. I'm hoping to be able to spend some more time with them in the weeks ahead. As much as spring can be a bit muddy, it really is a wonderful time of the year as life regenerates itself. I hope to get out and enjoy it, and hope you'll do the same.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another mother is busy on St. Patty's Day

A while back I blogged about a friend who had just moved his mother into a nursing home and soon found that he was missing her. My solution to his loneliness was to offer him some company in the form of a little dog. I've never been sure as to whether it was coincidence or the result of my blogging that inspired someone else to drop a box off at his back door with a black cat and 3 kittens. In any case, given that he had his hands full with his new dog, my friend offered the homeless cats to me. They were lovely cats - well groomed, well mannered and very affectionate, so it wasn't difficult to find homes for the 3 kittens, but I decided to keep the mother on at the barn as company for the horses and cows, and in hopes that she might keep the mouse population under control. Kitty, or Blackie, as she came to be known, turned out to be a great fit for the job. She quickly took charge of things and became a popular part of the farm scene. Of course it wasn't long before she was entertaining the odd tom cat and before we knew it she was pregnant again. Yesterday she disappeared and stopped visiting her food, so I suspected that the time had come to bring her new litter into her world. Kitty had made a little nest in the attic of the horse barn where she gave birth to 4 beautiful kittens - Blackie1, Blackie2, Greyie1, and Greyie2. I hope you enjoy her first home video as much as I did; check it out on YouTube!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nan turns 82 on St. Patrick's Day

Perhaps it's the luck of the Irish that has given us Nan Corcoran as part of our lives for the past 82 years. Please take a minute to express your sentiments by posting a comment to Nan.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Race day in Peterborough

Since I started working out on a regular basis, I've drawn attention to myself from a few surprising sources. Marathon man Ryan, who I blogged about a while back as providing the inspiration for several reformed couch potatoes, sees me as a bit of a project, offering encouragement and occasional derision (if I miss a day). David, who aspires to be an expert in almost any field, is quick to provide me with pointers on how I can be a better athlete. So, a month or so when Kelly asked me if I wanted to join her in the 5K run in Peterborough, I took her request in stride (no pun intended), mulled it over in my mind, and replied "sure, what the heck", even though I really don't like running. Kelly then checked back with me a couple of weeks ago to see if I was still willing to do the run, and again, I agreed. Fast forward to Saturday night when I receive a text message from Kelly posing the question for the 3rd time. I hesitated in responding for a few minutes, and got another message saying "I guess that means no". Something told me that Kelly was getting cold feet, so I decided to play along. I sent a non-committal text message back saying that I thought there might have been a little more preparation, to which she replied "Oh come on". I went to bed without replying, but mentally, barring any huge obstacles like a blizzard, I was going to run, and I was going to call Kelly's bluff; after all, how hard could it be to run 5K? Sunday morning I sent Kelly a text telling her that I was going to mass at 9, and that if she would pick up the run kits I would meet her in Peterborough. No reply. I went to mass, and headed up to Peterborough. As I approached the "Y", I sent Kelly another text asking her where she wanted to meet me. Kelly, being a text junkie couldn't resist my messages and wrote back that she had assumed I wasn't going to run and because of that, she had decided not to run. My trap had been set, and she jumped into it - now for the guilt trip! (A lifetime of being raised a Catholic had prepared me for this moment). I sent a text to Kelly, using her own words to taunt her "Oh come on, don't be a flake". A minute or two passed, and back came the message, "are you there now?" I had her! Kelly jumped in her car, I picked up another race kit, and 45 minutes later we were at the start gate warming up for what was sure to be an easy run. Boy was I wrong. The first kilometer wasn't too bad (I had David Bowie in my ears cheering me with "Young Americans", but by the end of the song, and the first kilometer marker I was in pain. My lungs and my legs were screaming. I pressed play again as 7 year old children started to pass me. How embarrassing! I did make it to the finish line in just under 30 minutes. I took 2 short walk breaks and took full advantage of the water and Gatorade stands along the way but I was amazed at how difficult this little run was and have a great deal more respect for those who went on to do the 1/2 marathon on that beautiful sunny day in Peterborough. The next challenge is in May in Ottawa where a group of people are talking about doing the full marathon, and I actually said, in the heat of the endorphin induced euphoria suggested that I might take on the 1/2. Stay tuned!