Monthly Archives: March 2017

HAL Panama Canal – Day 1

Check in was effortless. We arrived at the Park and Go lot at 12:30 and we’re in our cabin at 1:30 PM. Only hitch was Marie’s photo at check-in failed and we had to go to guest services on board for a retake. They also made me carry our box of wine all the way to our cabin. I had lot’s of offers of help from fellow passengers!

We walked around the ship and had a light snack in the Lido. We like the Zuiderdam – spacey, quiet and uncrowded. Did not have to bring our life jackets to the emergency drill.‎ Room is great – a large ocean view. Found a couple of pieces of glass and a pill on the floor.

The sail away was 75 min late and some people were napping. When the fog horn went off, we awoke with a start.

Bon voyage on our first cruise day to the Panama Canal.

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Jacaranda Tree

This beautiful Jacaranda tree‎ is struggling to put out its yellow blossoms. It has been so dry here of late. There are other colours of this wondrous tree including purple, fuscia and blue.

It is native to Central and South America, Cuba, Hispanola, the Bahamas and planted in Florida is seems.  The one above is in our previous condo community.  I check on each year to see how it is doing.  I love the shape of this tree, the colour and its will to survive.


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Yoga in the Park

One or our favorite activities in Florida is yoga.  Marie attends frequent classes at Yoga Bird Studio about a 10 min drive from our condo.  Dave has been going to weekly outdoor yoga classes at the Alliance for the Arts park nearby.  He got interested in yoga thanks to Marie’s yoga classes at Galilee last fall.

The outdoor yoga class is absolutely fantastic under the apricot trees.  The smell of fresh soaps and BBQ pork wafts over us from the nearby green market stalls.  There is always live music playing in the background.  Chip Woodrow of Yoga Bird does an excellent job of instructing.  He says things like “If you tried it, you did it.”, “It’s your practice.” and “Yoga is not a competitive sport.”  Hence everyone is made to feel welcome no matter what level you are at.  It is a special time of calming, breathing and relaxing your thoughts. After you finish you feel really focused and balanced in your body, mind and spirit.  Dave looks forward to continuing his yoga practice back home.


Yoga practice for Marie and I is a great way to honour our temples; as our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Marie studied yoga at Yahweh Yoga which is clearly Christian based.  This is what we practice.




In the moment, we give God thanks for the gift of yoga.

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Knawk it out of the pawk!

One of the fun activities we discovered around Fort Myers is to attend a MLB spring training baseball game or two.  There are two stadiums and two grapefruit league teams playing here:  Boston Red Sox at Jet Blue Park and Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium.

This year we saw the Toronto Blue Jays play the Twins and the Boston Orioles play the Red Sox.  Hammond Field is newer and very impressive.  We attended the game with John and Anita Jarrell from Saskatoon.  John and I went to U of W together many years ago.  We reconnected at a class reunion and discovered that we were both coming to the same area in Florida each winter.  Hence we have reunited our long time friendship.


The lineup


Great scoreboard


Pretty good seats


Enjoying the game


Toronto coach John Gibbons


Jays lost but we had a blast!

Anita is a great and gracious host and we have met their daughter Beth who has been coming here with her family for many years too.  They stay on Sanibel.  We have become quite enamored with the lifestyle there through our association and also through seeing our other friends Dick and Carol who live there.

Marie and I also ventured out to Jet Blue Park to see Boston beat the Orioles.  We had fun singing ….Love that Dirty Water.. Oh, oh, Bastin you’r ma home! Learned some new expressions like: “Knawk it out of the pawk!” and “Where did we pawk the caw?”  A lot of Bostonians made the day memorable for us.






Where’s the caw?

We have made plans with the Jarrells to attend a Jays game or two here next year, God willing.

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A couple of books

I read the English copy of this book by Peter Hessel entitled Hitler’s Boy.  He was in Arnprior last fall to speak about it so I bought a copy.  It is the fascinating tale of what it was like to grow up in Germany during the WWII years.  Peter, raised by a single Mom was enthralled with Hitler and joined the Hitler Youth.  He proudly wore his uniform and badges at every opportunity.  He longed to fight for his country and to even die for the Furher who was seen as making Germany great again.  He was too young and never able to soldier.
Hitler told the Germans that the Poles were committing atrocities against Germans which was a lie, in order to justify the invasion of Poland.  He also told the Germans that the Jews were dangerous.  Everyone was following orders and hence there was no limit to the wrongdoing that could be and was done to the Jews in the holocaust.  After initial victories in the east and west, gradually the tide turned and shortages of food, fuel and commodities grew.  For example citizens were asked to hand over their jewelry to be melted down for munitions manufacture. Finally he and his mother, near starvation are forced to move back from Prussia to the homeland.  There are constant air raid sirens and eventually the Americans liberate their home town for the Allies with little bloodshed.
The book is an interesting first hand account and eerily relevant of how a demagogue can brainwash a whole generation through lies, scapegoat others and emerge as the invincible savior of a nation.  Well written personal family history, well worth the read: 4.5 stars of 5  If you want to borrow my copy, let me know.
This is book I inherited from mom and had always intended to read.  Written by evangelical journalist Philip Yancey, it has sold many copies since its 1995 release.  A little wary of what an evangelical Christian might say, I was pleasantly surprised that there was no Catholic bashing, and in fact praise for Catholic theology.  As well, the author is not as fully supportive of Trump as the 80% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump are.
Talking about the parable of the Pharisee (who thanks God for not being a tax collector) and the tax collector (who admits he is a wretched sinner) whom Jesus exalts in Luke’s gospel, he concludes: “Can we infer from Jesus story that behaviour does not matter, that there is no moral difference between a disciplined legalist and a robber, evildoer and adulterer. Of course not. Behaviour matters in many ways; it is simply not how to get accepted by God concludes Yancey A great point.
In writing about the Sermon on the Mount Yancey talks about the great reversal that the Beatitudes must have heralded: Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the world.   Then if so, why does the church strive to eradicate poverty rather than promote it Yancey asks?  He says the strict rules laid down by Jesus here was his way of describing what God and heaven are like. Yes we should strive for this behaviour on earth but no, we will never attain it. Enter grace the new logic of the world. Because God loves the poor, the suffering, the persecuted and sees no undesirables, so should we!
The author praises Doesteyesky and Tolstoy novels saying they showed him what the Sermon on the Mount really means! The Brothers Karamazov he says is probably the best novel ever written.  The novel tells the story that perhaps Jesus made the wrong choice when tempted in the desert by the devil.  All he had to do was cure some major disease forever, wipe out war etc. to ensure the triumph of Christianity.  Tolstoy on the other hand tried to live the Sermon on the Mount, gave everything away and constantly tried to serve others (except his wife and family members apparently.  He died a lonely impoverished in a train station as did not get the grace and forgiveness part.  I had forgotten about these Russian authors.
I started to lose interest near the end of the book as Yancey seemed to be just repeating what is in bible verse.  The main point I took away from this book is the huge restraint Jesus used throughout his ministry.  He could have literally moved mountains, eradicated poverty, ended racism, defeated Rome etc. Perhaps this was a mistake Jesus did make in his ministry the author wonders?  Rather Jesus chose a rag-tag group of low levels to be his disciples and pass the word on to the world. He permitted himself to die on the cross.  It was all God’s will, not necessarily his.  4 out of 5 stars.

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Nature Calls

As we enter our last two weeks in Florida, we wanted to show you some of the beautiful birds, animals and fish we have seen here.  The birds in particular are very numerous and active.  It’s fun to sit and watch them as they go about their daily routine of feeding and calling.  All the different species get along with each other so nicely.  There are so many other birds (e.g., hawks, green heron) that I just could not get a photo of in time.  Here is a sample of what we see down here everyday.


Muscovy duck




Easter Bunny






Gopher tortoise


Monk parrot


Yellow bellied slider turtle


Brown pelican


Great Blue Heron


Snowy egret


Bottlenose dolphin


Night Heron


Flying stingray (he had it on his fishing rod)


Pileated woodpecker


Great white egrets nesting


Tri-colored heron

This abundance of nature is thanks and due to God the Creator.

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The gift of pilgrimage


Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84:5


In medieval times many millions of people were ordered by their Bishop or Abbot to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Santiago de Compostela or other sacred place as a penance for sin.  Since they had to walk there, this disrupted their life and many died along the way.  Pilgrimage was a punishment back then.  Today pilgrimage is more of a means to deepen ones faith by journeying to a holy site or shrine to increase consciousness of God.  As they say on the Camino of Santiago, it is about the journey, not the destination. Hence we see pilgrimage as a gift.

While living in the U.S . with all its consumer choices and temptations, we remain conscious of being pilgrims, particularly during the Lenten season.

We feel blessed to be full-fledged pilgrims, especially since retirement.  It has been almost 10 years and many of our travels have been to sacred sites that have enhanced our prayer life and relationship with God.  This is our 4th year traveling to Fort Myers and every year we know that God wants us to be here.  Despite the consumerism, shopping, food, traffic and aggressive people – especially the drivers – we still connect and glorify in the beautiful graces we receive from the Almighty while we are living here.

We seek to live within our means in a simple and safe condo environment without having all our worldly possessions with us.  Some stay in gated communities or highrises on the beach for shorter vacation periods – this makes perfect sense. As pilgrims, we seek to stay longer down here in a way we can afford and still really enjoy.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”                                                                                                                                      John 14:6

We are surrounded here by beautiful nature that we love and revel in.  For example, the spring fed lake with the palm trees, birds and fountains right out our back door.  Plus all the beautiful sunrises and sunsets on Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach and the Cape Coral Yacht Club beach.  We thoroughly enjoy the quietness and serenity of our winter environment.  We are able to pray each morning, meditate and go on fabulous walks through the villas and poolsides of our neighbours.


The lake out back


Our nearest neigbours

There is one little special place we have found with a bench to pray the rosary on most days.  The Lord has given us the gift of beautiful sunshine, lots of vitamin D, healthy bodies and plenty of exercise that we enjoy outside away from the cold elements of the north.  We truly love the proximity to the Catholic churches, especially the Church of the Resurrection and the beautiful outdoor farmers markets, especially Lakes Park where we buy delicious organic produce every week.


Our Rosary bench


View while praying the Rosary


Church of the Resurrection of the Lord

Another fabulous gift we receive in Florida is more frequent contact with family and friends who we do not see as often back home.  We also have met a beautiful community of friendly snow birds who are hospitable and like to socialize at the pool.  Are we coming back next year?  We can emphatically say yes, the Lord willing.  Are we also being called to do a sacred pilgrimage on the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima?  Yes.  We are contemplating going to France, Spain and Portugal with the Divine Mercy group in October.  Please pray for us as we discern if God is really calling us to go on this pilgrimage.




Divine Mercy group in Poland


Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco at Fatima, Portugal in 1917


We give thanks and praise to the Lord for all we have, especially the gift of pilgrimage.




Love and Blessings,

Marie and Dave



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Lenten Journey

Getting ready for Lent has been a great experience down here.  There are many Catholics at the pool, on the golf course and of course the Catholic churches are packed.

The other day I played golf with a couple of Irish Catholics from Boston.  We had a great time and I learned more about Boston and golf.  One of them shot a 76 (that’s good!)  I shot 93.


Getting ready to tee off with the Boston group

Then there was the fat Tuesday party at the pool.  A Catholic couple from Cleveland organized it.  Chuck plays the keyboard and sings.  John from Kanata accompanied him on the concertina (tiny squeeze box) and ukulele.  They played and sang from a songbook the types of songs everyone knows e.g., O Sola Mio.


Left to right Jack, Chuck and John

Everyone brought some food and drinks. There was pizza, egg rolls, spinach pie, spare ribs, chicken wings, salsa and lots of sangria.  Yum!  People gathered round or stayed in the pool.  We had so much food and drink, no dinner was needed. Americans are very sociable, hospitable and loud!  We had a great evening and the temp was 32 celsius.

Ash Wednesday we went to the 9 AM service at the Church of the Resurrection of our Lord.  It was a wonderful solemn mass with Msgr. McNamara celebrating.  We  lingered to take a few pics.


Then it was off to Lakes Park for the Wednesday morning green market stroll.  We felt blessed with the abundance that God has provided us with as we embark on our Lenten journey back to Him.




Our Lenten journey begins

May you have a productive and deeply spiritual Lenten journey too.

Here is a poem I loved reading this morning by Rita A. Simmonds entitiled Almsgiving.

An unseasonably warm March morning has brought of assortment of souls to the boardwalk:

Young women pushing strollers, talking on cell phones, the local crowd conversing loudly, swilling beer before lunch, old men sunning themselves on benches reading Russian news, a pack of boys on big-tired bikes riding, skipping school –

All seeking sun and warmth leaving behind the longest shortest month.

Me too or so I thought, but why this cry I can’t suppress, “A perfect day is not enough!”?

A thin dark man with missing teeth somehow must have heard.

He came to me with cup in hand, but it wasn’t the giving that made me glad.

It was the coming of the man.

(The Magnificat Lenten Companion, c. 2017)

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