Thursday Tidbits

Posted on April 19, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Sedona, Arizona


“But it’s alright now; I learned my lesson well,

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself”

Garden Party. Ricky Nelson

It’s so true. Not everything we do in the run of a day is met with universal praise.

My piece on baptism which ran on Tuesday was one the most read stories that I’ve posted in quite some time. Maybe it was the picture of the baptismal font with the stained glass in the background that caught your eye. Whatever it was, most of you liked it. Writing about religion of any sort is tempting fate. It remains an important part in the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

Writing about growing up Catholic is a tricky proposition in our part of the world. There have been good times and times we’d rather forget. A few of you took exception to me taking a light hearted approach to the sacrament of baptism. As I have said many, many times over the past six years, my posts are intended to entertain and give people an opportunity to smile in a world that seems so fragile and agitated. Maybe religion is too sacred a topic to treat lightly. Weigh in!

I was so pleased to hear that a few women have decided to join the local chapter of 100 Women Who Care after reading my post on Monday. Don’t know what this is? Check this out from Monday’s post.

Arizona is as advertised… hot and dry. I’m not going to rub it in, especially in light of the destructive weather that I’ve been witnessing in Central and Eastern Canada. For the next four days, I’m animal sitting for my hosts who are away on family matters. I am looking after three small dogs and two cats. One of the dogs, Daisy, a kooikerhondje, loves to walk. We do a couple of walks daily totaling around 15K.

I have heard a lot about the small town of Sedona, Arizona and yesterday, after feeding and walking the pets, I jumped in the van and drove a few hours north to Flagstaff and then down to Sedona. My guess is that many of you have been there. Driving through the desert, it is hard to imagine how this land became inhabited, being so arid and desolate. I got a kick out of some of the names along the way: Bloody Basin and Horsethief.

The road from Flagstaff to Sedona is quite stunning with high mountains on either side of the road amid groves of pine trees. How did they ever construct this road? It descends over 20 miles or so with some of the tightest switchbacks I’ve ever seen. Sedona is visually stunning with red sandstone mountains. Apparently this area was once an inland sea with high iron content. The iron oxidized giving the mountains their reddish hue. It’s a bit of a tourist trap.

Because my time was limited, I took a one hour trolley tour which went outside the town to some of the famous vistas. The highlight was the tour guide. If he was a Californian, he would be a surfer dude but this guy lives to hike. When he’s not chatting up tourists, he’s somewhere in the mountains. He claims to have seen just about every kind of wildlife including bears, bobcats, mountain lions and rattle snakes. His worst encounter? One day he was walking along a popular trail when he met a young girl walking with her Chihuahua. As he bent to pet the dog, it snapped at his feet causing him to recoil and take a few step backwards… right into a cactus plant. It took him three days to remove the thorny splinters from his butt.

In a week’s time, I’ll be flying up to Victoria to spend some time with Pete and brother Tom.

Some of you have asked about my India book. I am spending a fair bit of time in Arizona doing some editing. It’s coming along well and should be ready to go in the late fall.

Have a great weekend

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The Macdonald Notebook: Business & Politics in Atlantic Canada

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Welcome Aboard

Posted on April 17, 2018 under Storytelling with 6 comments


I was born into a large Catholic family in rural Nova Scotia. It seems that just about every family was big and most in our community wore the Catholic label. In fact, such was the preponderance of Catholics in our community that we became affectionately known as “The Little Vatican”. This sobriquet remains to this day despite the fact that Antigonish has changed vastly over the years. Many faith communities exist and families are much smaller.

All Catholics have a start and finish line. We are born to die. This is not the most appetizing thing on the Catholic menu. But there are promises of greater things when our mortal remains are cast into the wind or set adrift on the ocean at Mahoney’s Beach.

I wake up from a long nap. I squint as the morning light streams through my bedroom window. I attempt to rub away sleep from my eyes. I catch something out of the corner of my eye. My eyesight is not as good as it will be. I see something above me going around in circles. I haven’t quite figured this out. I later learn that this is a mobile. Truthfully, everything is a giant mystery at this point in my life.

I recognize my mother as she gently lifts me out of my crib. She bathes me in warm water and scrubs me to within an inch of my life with bar of Sunlight soap. I sparkle like the sun. She finishes things off with a slathering of Johnson’s baby oil.

She takes me over to a change table. “Hey. What’s with the white dress?” I’m thinking as she places a well-traveled gown over my tiny frame. I distinctly remember dad doing cartwheels outside the delivery room when he heard that he had another son. So, if I am truly a future standard bearer for the MacDonald clan, then why the dress?

My mother cradles me in her arms as we get into dad’s car. It might have been a Studebaker. We drive a short distance to a large stone building with a cross on top. It is my first trip to St.Ninian’s Cathedral but it wouldn’t be my last. This cavernous building is quite scary to one so small. I remain placid amid the wails from several of my peers. I can’t quite figure out what is going on.

I soon discover the reason for the trauma as I am about to be subjected to similar treatment. Every newborn in the church will become part of an important fraternity on this day.

The priest blesses me with the sign of the cross. There are prayers and more prayers. A large candle is lit and I can smell the residue of the smoke from the extinguished match. I am lifted up and positioned over a large receptacle filled with water.

Drip. Drip. Drip. It starts with a trickle and then becomes a torrent. It sounds like a waterfall. Later in my life I will visit Niagara Falls, causing vivid flashbacks. A large man, wearing strange robes is looming over me speaking in a foreign tongue which I later learned to be Latin. He is pouring water on my head but it runs into my eyes causing extreme agitation. I am tempted to ask for a bathing cap and goggles. The situation worsens as I start to whimper and now the water enters my throat, prompting me to gag. I soon realize that being a Catholic involves pain and suffering and possibly suffocation.

Years later, I will come to understand that the events described in previous paragraphs were my baptism. I was born Roman Catholic and as such am expected to take part in several sacraments.

So, why is baptism the first step on the long journey of a Catholic? Good question and one that still puzzles me from time to time. Baptism is the sacrament that frees us from original sin. This is a bit of a head scratcher. How many times did I commit original sin (or worse) in the womb? And at the tender age of 7 days, one wouldn’t think that a wholesale cleansing would have been necessary.

And so, the first roots of guilt were planted in my subconscious.

I would learn that we are all born sinners and only a thorough dousing in a baptismal font would keep me in God’s good graces. It was explained to me that wearing something white (like a Stanfield T-shirt?) was a symbol of purity. I also discovered that christening dresses are handed down from generation to generation.

There’s a party at our home after the ceremony and I am handed around the room like the Stanley Cup. Everyone, it seems, needs to pinch my cheek which is quite annoying and also coo sweet nothings into my tiny ears. It must be an important occasion as mom is serving lobster sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

I am now a full blown member of the fraternity.

The train of life is leaving the station. Welcome aboard.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on April 16, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Antigonish Affordable Housing Society – first $10,000 recipients


The power of 100.

I’ve been involved in fundraising for many years as have many of you. Whether it’s a bake sale, a raffle, an annual campaign or a capital campaign, money raised typically goes to something that benefits the community. It’s one of those things that are a very important economic engine.  Maritimers are well known for their legendary generosity.

It seems that every time you turn around, there’s a campaign of one sort or another going on. In other words, the competition for fund raising dollars can be fierce, especially in larger centers. In many ways, smaller communities do a better job sorting through the fundraising landscape. They know what’s important especially when money raised is spent locally.

We all know the power of one woman. Now, do the multiplier and think of the impact 100 women can make, especially when they have a charitable cause in mind.

Some women in Antigonish have gotten together and created a local chapter of 100 Women Who Care. This organization has been around for many years and has had a major impact on non-profit organizations in places like Pictou County and Truro.

The beauty of the concept is that it’s so simple. Let’s face it; everyone (including retirees!) leads very busy lives. Many people don’t have extra time to volunteer for worthwhile causes but in a lot of cases they have the financial resources to assist charities.

The objective is to find 100 women who can donate $100, four times a year. That comes to a tidy sum of $40,000 annually. Women can also team up in groups of up to four members to share in the cost. Four times a year, the group meets to hand out $10,000. Your donations are tax deductible.

At each of these meetings, three non-profit groups give a five minute presentation on how the $10,000 would benefit their organization and the people it serves. Then the 100 women cast their votes and the winner is announced immediately. This format is great for busy people as the meeting is over in thirty minutes and the non-profit organization chosen by the members goes home with the money that evening.

The initial winner of the first award was the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society.

I mean, it doesn’t get much simpler or more efficient than this.

No here’s the thing. The 100 Women Who Care, Antigonish chapter, needs a few more women to fill out their ranks… 23 to be exact. I showed up in a kilt at a meeting but this clever disguise didn’t fool the sharp eyed executive! If you’re interested, check out their website at . Go to the “Join Us” tab and become a member.

I’m settling in nicely to life in Phoenix. It has been hot and dry as expected and a bit too early to tell whether the healing power of the sun will do the trick for my arthritis.

Have a great week.


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