Thursday Tidbits

Posted on March 22, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

The Way of the Cross – A Play


Our dear friend, Bernie Vosman, died on January 11th. but he won’t be soon forgotten…not as long as Bernie’s family and friends have anything to say about it.

The first annual “Bowl with Bernie” will be held at Pins Bowling Center, Post Road on Saturday, March 31st. from 1-3 p.m. An endowment fund is going to be established through L’Arche in Bernie’s name to assist them with the great work they do. One can only imagine the money Bernie would raise himself if he were still with us. It would be hard to say no to Bernie.

So, for those of you on Facebook, here’s the link so that you can pre-register: But if you just show up that afternoon, and can “spare” a few hours of your time, that would “strike” a chord with organizers. (Have they created a groan emoji yet?!).Hey, you don’t even have to bowl. I would like to but can’t because of my well documented lack of talent for bowling and some painful arthritis.

But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be there to support the cause. I am going to bring several copies of my three books to the event. For “Bowling for Bernie,” I’m going to charge full price: $20 for any one book. (3 for $60. Now there’s a deal you can’t pass up! ). I will donate all proceeds to the endowment fund. I will accept cash or credit card as payment.

Now, I can already hear the litany of excuses for not coming and I am prepared to accept just about all of them. If you are stranded in Meat Cove in a blizzard that day but still want to support this effort, get in touch with me. Buy a book (or 10) as Easter gifts. The receiver of the book will get some chuckles and you will have made a valuable contribution to Bernie’s legacy. I can also ship books to you if you live in some other part of the country.

In Bernie’s words, ” Come on, come on.”

Add the following to your events calendar: Next week is Holy Week for Christians and St. Nininian’s Cathedral will be the scene for a dramatic re-enactment of the Way of the Cross. Performances will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m. in the Cathedral. There is no admission charge, how a free will offering will be taken to defray expenses. The performance lasts approximately one hour. There is a stellar cast of actors and musicians representing many different faith communities in and around Antigonish.

One year ago, I witnessed another re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross near New Delhi, India in the small town of Khera Khurd. It was held on a sports field by an adjacent school. It was over 40 degrees Celsius and there wasn’t a tree in site. The “performance” (I have a few other choice words but will refrain from using them in mixed company!), lasted 3 hours and people were dropping like flies. I was living with a group of Brothers at the time (during my visa troubles), and ducking out from the proceedings was not an option. Now, THAT was penance!

Easter will come and go. You will eat too much food, consume far too much chocolate (is this possible?) and will need to get out of the house to appease your conscience. Ok. Start humming with me… “Like a Bridge over Troubled Waters.” Would you like to take a little trip down memory lane and hear some unique and quite stunning arrangements of some old classics? The Antigonish Chorale Ensemble will be performing their “Earth Day” spring concert on Sunday, April 8th at 7:30 p.m. at St. James United Church. Admission by donation. We’ll be performing Big Yellow Taxi, Bridge over Troubled Water, Song for the Mira, Gaia (James Taylor) along with classics like Shenandoah and many more. Also joining the choir will be the St. James Handbell Trio and St.F.X. Vocal Ensembles. These concerts typically last about an hour with no intermission so you old farts (like me) can still be home and in bed by 9:00.

No. There’s never anything to do in Antigonish!

Have a great weekend.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on March 19, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 12 comments

St.Patrick’s Day at the RK


“Every man (woman) desires to live long, but no man (woman), desires to be old.*

Jonathan Swift

(I don’t think Jonathan Swift was a feminist. Parentheses inserted by yours truly!)

I’m hanging out a lot these days at the RK MacDonald Nursing Home. Some people are convinced that I’m just scouting the place out for a room! Mom moved in as a resident a few weeks ago so daily visits have become the norm.

Years ago, I was driving around the Cape with my mom. Her health was in decline. We drove and sang together, in two part harmony. We stopped in Ballantyne’s Cove for an ice cream. As we made our way along the twisting road with spectacular scenery, she turned to me and said, “Don’t ever grow old.” It really hit me and has stayed with me ever since. Swift was so right. We want to live a long life but we don’t want to regress.

I’ve got news for you. Unless you are lucky enough to be drinking form the fountain of eternal youth, your warranty notice will show up one of these days.

I always thought of the RK and other nursing homes as places to go and die. There’s no denying that many people will spend their final days in a facility such as this. But nursing homes are SO much more than this. They are very much about living, loving and laughing. They are places that ooze compassion and caring. They are filled with physical, emotional and spiritual healing. They are places of grace and gracious people.

I have also witnessed the great work at other public nursing homes, including Milford Haven in Guysborough and the Sherbrooke Nursing Homes. These are also first rate facilities.

The staffs at nursing homes are quite remarkable. This is not easy work. It is tough physically and mentally. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that this is much more than a job for many employees. It is a calling and a passion. I don’t think you can feign enthusiasm when you’re cleaning up after an accident. I have found the staff at the RK uncommonly kind to residents and their families.

Lest you think that nursing homes are just for the aged, think again. There are young people who have been dealt life changing blows who call the RK their home. They didn’t choose to be unwell just as older people didn’t choose dementia, Alzheimer’s or physical incapacity.

And guess what? Many of us are standing on the precipice, staring old age and infirmity straight in the face. Our turn is coming soon.

Like so many other things that make small communities run, volunteers are an integral part of the day to day life at the RK and other homes. I stood at the back of the main dining room the other evening and watched Bill Grover, Ronnie Hull and their buddies, hold the residents spellbound with wonderful old tunes. The next night, it was the Lion’s Club who came by for bingo. I routinely see university students in the hallways. And Brenda’s greyhounds!The Family Council and Foundation Board are also key pieces in the overall structure of the home.

I will tell you that nursing homes are not the depressing places that one often conjures up in discussions about aging. Yes. We would all like to live long healthy lives and die at home shortly after spending our last dollar at the casino. But for many of us, that’s not how the script will unfold.

I was playing music the other day at the RK. I watched this gentleman as he smiled, obviously enjoying the camaraderie. A few hours later he passed away.

Needless to say, I was quite shocked when I heard of his passing. I spoke to a senior staff member. Her words resonated with me then and now: “Our job is to make every day as comfortable and enjoyable for people as we can. We honestly have to love them like it’s their last day.”

None of us know when the light will flicker for the last time.

When my day comes, as it surely will (unless I make it to the Casino!), I won’t mind one bit if my family puts me in a nursing home. As long as it has wonderful folks like those at the RK, Milford Haven and Sherbrooke, I know I will be in caring hands.

If you come and visit me, pull up a chair, take out your guitar and sing “Heart of Gold” (Neil Young).

Even Neil Young will be Neil Old someday!

Have a great week.


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The Macdonald Notebook: Business & Politics in Atlantic Canada

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Believing in the Possible

Posted on March 15, 2018 under Storytelling with no comments yet


“Our house is a very, very, very fine house.”

Our House. Crosby, Stills and Nash

Most people in this part of the world expect to have a roof over their heads, food on the table and a means of supporting themselves. Most, but not all.  For the poor and the working poor, nothing can be taken for granted. Affordable housing in a university town is particularly challenging.

The Extension Department at St.F.X, in partnership with the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society (AAHS), is hosting a People’s School on Affordable Housing on March 24th at St.Ninian Place from 10-4 and you’re invited.

The Extension Department planted its roots in Antigonish 90 years ago. Throughout its long history, the Extension Department has focused on economic self-reliance and social well-being through adult education and collective action. It is no surprise to see them working in collaboration with AAHS to tackle the thorny issue of affordable housing. The Sisters of St. Martha have shared the journey with Extension from the beginning. These remarkable women have always demonstrated wisdom, generosity, vision, social justice and a “can do” attitude.

The purpose of the People’s School is to build awareness about the current state of affordable housing in Nova Scotia and to initiate a broader conversation about what communities can do collectively to make a real difference in the lives of people living on low incomes.

So, who all is invited? It is expected that people will come from all over the province to share knowledge and experience. This could include educators, researchers, community groups, service providers and people living on low incomes.

People’s Schools are not new. In 1943, the Diocese of Antigonish and St.F.X created CJFX. One of the station’s primary mandates was to broadcast Extension Department messages to the region. Back in 1954, one of the topics was the problem of outmigration. Here we are 64 years later having a similar discussion.

The Extension Department and AAHS want to hear from all the stakeholders in a discussion about affordable housing. Everyone attending the People’s School is welcome to share their expertise and their vision.  Organizers hope that by the end of the day, people will be inspired to take action and that it will stimulate further discussions.

The problem can’t be solved by a handful of dedicated volunteers. This is the responsibility of the broader community. Someone once said that you’re only as strong as your weakest link and there is little doubt that affordable housing is a weak link and must become a priority. From the very beginning, the Extension Department has been committed to fostering local leadership, sharing knowledge and building civil society.

Are you interested? Are you willing to share a day of your life that might help address this chronic problem in our town and in this region?

If you want to attend, you’ll want to register in advance as numbers are limited. Go to and click on “Events Registration.” Registration is free and lunch is provided.

Anything is possible. It starts with believing and finishes with action.


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Highland Hearing Clinic

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