Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, June 30, 2023

The First Performance of O Canada

 As a Canadian kid attending a Christian high school in South Dakota in the 1970s, I was a bit of an anomaly. Although I knew all the words to The Star-Spangled Banner, none of my friends knew my national anthem. At least one thought she did. My pal Pat, in my honor, would go about singing, “O Canada, O Canada” to the tune of O Christmas Tree. Luckily for her, I had a sense of humor.

Is it any wonder few Americans can sing O Canada? While they might find the tune familiar from sport events, the lyrics have changed so often that even we have trouble keeping up. The deeper I dug, the more versions I found. I wonder if Canada might hold a world record for changes to its national anthem, especially given that we didn’t officially have one until 1980.

In the 1800s, English-speaking Canadians were content with God Save the King and The Maple Leaf Forever as our patriotic songs. It was the French Canadians who desired an anthem. Between 1829 and 1880, so many songs had been introduced—all with mixed reviews—that authorities decided a competition should be held. In the end, however, time was of the essence in order to have a song ready for the Saint-Jean-Baptiste festivities in June in Québec City. So, on March 15, 1880, a 23-member music committee was appointed to produce a song. Among them was Calixa Lavallée, who was eventually credited with the composition of the music to O Canada. Adolphe-Basile Routhier composed the French lyrics, and it was first performed on June 24, 1880, under the title “Chant national,” at a banquet at the skaters’ pavilion in Québec City, attended by more than 500 distinguished guests. The next day, it was repeated at a large reception for 6,000 in the gardens of Spencer Wood. Six concert bands played the song twice, and the words were sung by a full choir.

So why did it take a century to become Canada’s official national anthem?

Beginning in 1901, various English versions began to crop up. The Richardson version, a literal translation from the French, was sung before King George V. In 1909, the McCulloch version, written by Mrs. Mercy E. Powell McCulloch whose contest submission won over 350 other participants, was introduced. This was followed by versions by poet Wilfred Campbell, the critic Augustus Bridle, and a Vancouver bank manager named Ewing Buchan.

The English version that became most widely used and most closely resembles today’s version was that by Robert Stanley Weir. Even then, revisions were made in 1913, 1914, 1916, 1967, and 2018—the latter to make its lyrics gender-neutral.

Although schools, sports, and community events had been using it for decades, on June 27, 1980, the House of Commons and the Senate finally and unanimously passed The National Anthem Act. On Canada Day, July 1, 1980, in a public ceremony featuring the descendants of Routhier and Weir, O Canada was proclaimed the official national anthem of Canada.

As for me, I cherish most the words to a fourth stanza few people know or recognize. I believe it’s the dearest and most wonderful prayer any nation could pray:

Ruler Supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion in thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Happy Canada Day!

Robert Stanley Weir


Friday, June 23, 2023

Graduations that Never Were

I attended a wedding shower recently and heard the comment that invariably arises at these events, while guests admire all the shiny new gadgets and fluffy towels. “When you make it to forty years of marriage, you should be thrown a shower to replace all your worn-out stuff.” Having reached the 45-year milestone and still contending with several items in my kitchen of the same vintage, I heartily agree.

Okay, maybe I’m the one who made the comment.

But then I realized I’d need to attend showers and buy gifts for others on a weekly basis, using money I could use to replace my own stuff.

With graduation season upon us, similar thoughts occurred to me. What if we held grad ceremonies for accomplishments beyond school? A few categories come to mind.

Marriage and becoming a parent both typically include more parties, so I’ll skip those.

When parents graduate to empty-nesters, they are still parents but their roles change so significantly that some sort of ceremony might help. Graduating to “in-law” without any training or input deserves a diploma. Crossing the platform for your “grandparent” title is an even more significant milestone.

I know a woman who taught Sunday School for forty years. Last time I checked, teaching Sunday School did not come with a paycheck attached. I imagine she has learned at least as much as her students and probably a whole lot more. Surely that kind of dedication merits a cap and gown.

When seniors reach the point where they have little choice but to downsize, selling or giving away decades’ worth of memories, they deserve a graduation. Surrendering your car and driver’s license requires humility. When they possess the courage and dignity to make that call themselves rather than waiting until it’s forced upon them, they deserve some sort of recognition, don’t you think?

Maybe when you reach a certain age, you should be granted the privilege of participating in a “School of Hard Knocks” mass graduation ceremony simply for surviving your share of difficult surprises, health issues, relationship breakdowns, and heartaches too personal to share. A formal acknowledgment might give you a much-needed motivational boost to stay the course and finish your race.

Well ... again, I suppose we’d find ourselves attending grad ceremonies of one kind or another on a weekly basis if we did all this. Perhaps a better idea is to learn how to celebrate our own life moments and invite those closest to us to participate. As I look over my own history, I see too many significant events and accomplishments glossed over in the name of … I don’t even know what. Busyness? False humility? Laziness?

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Job changes. Book contracts. Course completions. Finishing the tax returns. What’s on your list? Can we do better at this? I’d sure like to.

Meanwhile, if you’re graduating from high school or college this year, Congratulations! Enjoy every minute of your festivities. Stay safe. And don’t forget all the people who helped get you there.

“So I conclude that, first, there is nothing better for a man than to be happy and to enjoy himself as long as he can; and second, that he should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of his labors, for these are gifts from God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

Friday, June 16, 2023

Great Advice, Dad!

I asked a question on Facebook: “What’s the best advice you ever received from your dad?”

My friend Vicki’s dad advised her to go into teaching—for the good pension! She took his advice, taught for over forty years, and continuously advanced her education, improving both her salary and her retirement benefits. She tapped in early to what many of us don’t think about until retirement age is rapidly approaching and we’ve been diddling life away at part-time work or jobs without pension benefits. Now she’s enjoying the freedom and security of that long-ago choice. (That said, if Vicki hadn’t also been cut out to be a wonderful teacher, such advice might have made her life mighty miserable.)

Debbie’s dad taught her to never trust anyone who is mean to an animal. Solid advice. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, people who hurt animals often don’t stop with animals. One 2013 study found that 43% of those who commit school massacres also committed acts of cruelty to animals — generally against cats and dogs. If a child behaves cruelly to animals, research shows it may be a sign that serious abuse or neglect has been inflicted on the child. Children who witness animal abuse are at greater risk of becoming abusers themselves. As sad as that is, none of it surprises us. While trusting an animal abuser is not advisable, a much higher road would be to compassionately view that individual as someone in dire need of help.

Susan’s dad taught her that you can never out-give the Lord. I believe this, and because I know her parents and have witnessed their generosity over the years, I know they practice what they preach. Think of all the people we could bless if we truly tried to out-give God!

Charlie, one of my high school classmates, offered this: “‘If you have a small business, if you can keep from borrowing to operate, you will do much better.’ It was good advice and it worked for me!” Charlie is a successful rancher in South Dakota.

My own brother-in-law advised his daughter, Erin, that “Worry works.” His reasoning almost makes sense. He says, “Most of the things I’ve worried about never happened.” So, keep worrying, everyone. And if you can’t think of enough things to worry about, I can probably help you out.

Robin says her dad taught her this valuable bit: “Any job worth doing is worth doing well, whether it’s a high-paying government job or picking up litter along a highway. Do it with the pride that you are a contributing member of society!” I love that, and I hope we can also dignify others who do those undervalued jobs.

I appreciate this one, from Linda. “If you find happiness in receiving, you’ll never be happy because there will always be something else you want. But if you find happiness in giving, you’ll always be happy because there will always be someone with a need.”

A different Linda was told by her father to never let someone else take the blame for her mistakes. That’s golden. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being willing to take the blame for my mistakes, and even harder to think about living with the guilt from such deceitfulness if they did.

I can think of one major exception to this rule. Out of his great love for me, Jesus took the punishment (not the blame—there’s a difference) for my sins and mistakes, and I accept his gift with gratitude. In some cases, I know I must live with the consequences of my actions, but the punishment was His alone to bear.

I suppose that’s something my dad taught me.

Thanks for all the awesome advice, dads. Happy Father’s Day!

Friday, June 9, 2023

When Emotions Collide

 I had a car accident last week.

No one was hurt.

But you know me. I can’t let a single episode of my life remain unheralded. I can’t resist tracking my emotions, examining what might be learned, seeking something to gain. I was mentally drafting this blog post ten seconds after the airbags deployed.

So, here goes.

On my way to pick up Hubby from work, I decided to stop at the post office to check our mailbox. As I waited to turn left, the oncoming car in the inside lane stopped. I could have sworn the driver was waving me through, which in hindsight seems ludicrous and even if he was, I knew better. Cars piling up behind me added to the pressure. 

I went. When I saw the oncoming car in the curb lane, I stepped on the gas. Too late.


Thoughts in the next several split seconds, in random order:

Oh no.

I’ll be late picking up Jon.

Am I hurt?

What smells like burnt matches?

What do I do now?

A beautiful face appeared in my windshield. “Are you okay?”

I nodded but couldn’t speak.

My door opened and a man materialized. “You’re in big trouble, Lady.”

“I know. I’m so sorry.” I managed to say. “Were you in the other vehicle?”


“Are you okay?”


I assumed the two were together. I was wrong. The understandably angry man was passing through town. The lady with the lovely face and calming demeanor was local resident Kim Espey, who witnessed the collision. She stuck around while Angry Man and I exchanged information, then stayed with me until Angry Man drove away and my tow truck came. Then my friend Gloria appeared and waited with me until Hubby arrived. Should I be surprised that these two heaven-sent angels both have years of experience as first responders?

I spent the rest of that Monday mad at myself for making such a foolish move and seriously inconveniencing several people. If I had a dollar for every “if only” marching through my brain, I’d have enough to replace my car.

Tuesday, I filed the insurance claim. My anger changed to sadness as I realized my car would be written off—the same car my mother gave me less than two years ago when she valiantly decided it was time to give up driving. I’ve never been one to become attached to vehicles, but I cherished that car for the love it represented.

Wednesday morning, I moved on to guilt. How could I have been so reckless? I clearly don’t deserve good things.

That afternoon, I received a swift and fair offer from our insurance. I began to shift into gratitude.

Thursday, we retrieved our personal belongings and saw our damaged car one last time. All emotions hopped on board for this leg of the journey, but humility took the driver’s seat.

Humility continued to drive on Friday morning when our good friends, the Bakers, dropped off their car for us to borrow while we hunt for a different one. Having others trust you with their vehicle when you’ve just wrecked your own is a humbling experience.

So far, here’s what I’ve learned:

· Do NOT succumb to pressure from traffic behind you when you know better.

· The smell was nitrogen gas from the airbags.

· Seatbelts can leave abrasive burns and bruises, but that means they’ve done their job.

· My loss-of-use coverage becomes void the minute my insurance company makes an offer on my vehicle (not when I sign off on it.)

· Like insurance paperwork, all emotions need to work their way through your system, whether they’re logical or not.

· Above all, I have a million things for which to feel grateful. I’ve decided to focus on those while we hunt for a different car.


Friday, June 2, 2023

A Letter from Bridget

In my Creative Writing class, I gave students the assignment of creating a fictional character and then having that character write them a letter. The exercise helps you climb inside your character’s head and make them reveal their deep, dark secrets. When I decided I should do the assignment along with them, I chose Bridget O’Sullivan, the protagonist from my third novel, Bleak Landing. Bridget’s letter to me took a twist I hadn’t expected, but which seemed too good to keep to myself. Enjoy!

Dear Terrie,

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I’m only writing this for my class assignment because I’d rather die than settle for less than an A. I feel silly addressing a letter to you because, as you already know—or would know if you really existed—I don’t believe in you. Just so we’re clear: I do not believe you exist. When I told this to my best friend, Maxine, she said, “How did you get here then?”

Maxine is so gullible.

On those rare occasions when I sometimes wonder if I’m wrong, the best conclusion I can draw is that perhaps you exist, but if you do, you certainly don’t care about me. So I return to my original conclusion because deciding you don’t exist is easier than hating you. And if you existed, I’d have to hate you.

Supposedly, you are the Author of this miserable story in which I find myself. Supposedly, you control what happens to me. So, I must ask the inevitable. Why did you let my mother die when I was only five? What kind of love does that to a little kid? Why couldn’t you have taken Pa instead? My mother might have had a tough time providing for us, but at least she wouldn’t have been drunk half the time. She would never beat me, and she certainly wouldn’t have promised that filthy ol’ poker player he could have first chance at me as soon as I turned fifteen. I hate Pa for that, but I hate you even more for not preventing him from making that wager.

If you cared at all about me, you wouldn’t have let those rats Victor and Bruce lock me in the outhouse. You’d have come to my rescue somehow, but you didn’t. Near as I can tell, you let it happen for one reason only: to entertain your precious readers. You care more about them than about me.

If you loved me, why did you let my landlady’s house burn down with everything I owned inside? And while I was at church, yet? Trying so hard to be good. Harriet Watson says I should be thankful I wasn’t home at the time or I might have been badly burned or even died. She says I should feel grateful to you for sparing me. She’s wrong, but I can’t very well argue with her when she’s been so kind to me. Far more kind than you’ve been.

Victor’s mother says I should trust you and be patient because the story isn’t over yet. “All the bad things will be redeemed,” she says. “One day you will look back over your story and you’ll see how Terrie was with you every step of the way.” She tells me you allow us to go through hard things so we can grow. She says you hurt along with us, and sometimes you even cry when those awful things happen. I want to believe her, but how can I? Even the few good things that have happened in my life turned bad. They’ve made me mean enough to lose my best friend.

The way I see it, there’s only one way I could believe in you. If you really are my creator and you’re in charge of this book and you love me … you would need to write yourself into this story. You’d need to leave your precious home and come here and be one of us. Live in our world. Go through this Great Depression alongside us. Walk barefoot in the dirt. Eat nothing but eggs and potatoes for weeks on end. You’d need to do something truly heroic. Perform some miracles to show us your so-called power. Sacrifice in a really big way to demonstrate your love. You might even need to die.

I guess if you did all that, I would have to believe in you. Write yourself into my story and then I’ll believe.



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