This Blog is a creation of the Confederation Park 55 + Activity Centre's Writing Club, No Dead Horses.  All Views expressed in this blog are strictly views of the writing club and not the Confederation Park 55 + Activity Centre. If you have any questions about the blog or would like to be a guest writer, please email

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  • 26 Nov 2021 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    Freedom to Read

    by Bev Cumming

    “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.”
    ― Laurie Halse Anderson

    As a life-long reader, it made sense that I could morph from my Phys. Ed. background into a Junior High Librarian/English Teacher.  My goal was to help kids want to read for pleasure, for information and for an understanding of their world. Through analysis, response, and discussion these teenagers became more confident critical thinkers.  As long as they were reading anything – cereal boxes, magazines, comic books, short stories, essays, poetry or novels they were tuned into the power of the written word.

    Imagine my dismay when I noticed a recent headline in the Calgary Herald EVERY BOOK IN EVERY LIBRARY .  The story went on to describe how an Ontario school board is hunting for harmful books to  “cull” from school library shelves. Challenging and banning of books is not new and Canada is not free from this alarming practice.  Individuals or groups who challenge books are obviously uncomfortable with their message.  You may be familiar with a few of the books they are challenging.  Harry Potter series ( witchcraft & sorcery ), To Kill a Mocking Bird (language & racial themes ), Lord of the Flies ( violence & language ), Are you there, God?  It’s me, Margaret ( religion & puberty ).  

    Another controversial book often challenged is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451  (the title is the temperature at which paper burns) and  was published in 1953.  Set in the future, it is about book burning and censorship.  The people in this society do not “read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.”  Does any of this sound familiar? The controversy -   words like “hell” and “damn” are inappropriate and objectionable!  What about burning books like the Nazis did in the 1930’s? The whole idea should scare all of us.

    Historically, there have been times when possession of banned books has been considered an act of treason or heresy and could result in prison, torture, and even death. Today, Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, guaranteed to them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

    Even the Bible and the works of Shakespeare have been banned over the years.

    I agree with the person who said that author, “ . . . must be a great writer if the school board is scared of her.”  I believe that a discerning reader is better able to judge what is right for them when not shielded from access to diverse ideas by small- minded groups. So let’s continue to read, thinking critically before accepting or rejecting the ideas presented in books and enjoy your freedom to do so!

    You can see a historical overview on this website 

  • 19 Nov 2021 1:29 PM | Anonymous

    Toque Off 

    by Pat Pitsel

    Remember “Son of a biscuit”, “h-e-double hockey sticks” “horse pitooty”, and “Jumping Jehosophat”?  In a time, long, long ago, these were the sanitized version of cuss words that only the disreputable used.  When we took French in high school, someone (definitely not the teacher, a rather ancient Nun) told us that the French said things like “Sacre Bleu”, and “Tabernac”. Personally, I couldn’t see anything profane, let alone sacred, about a colour, nor did I understand why a tabernacle would have to be said in hushed tones.

    Today? Well. . . 

    Although I grew up in a home absent profanity (My Father’s expression if he got REALLY irritated, was “Hells Bells,” and that was the signal to quickly and quietly tiptoe into another room) that innocence quickly disappeared while I spent a year in graduate school in New York City. That was in the early ’70s but the infamous F word had already become commonplace among the younger generation-which I learned to my amazement when I did a practicum in a New York Experimental School.

    The school was experimental in that the student body was 1/3 white 1/3 black and 1/3 Puerto Rican. In those days all Hispanics were called Puerto Ricans. In addition, students were expected to graduate from grade 12 with a minimum score covering the level of 8th grade in both reading and mathematics. That says something about New York City standards for high schools in the poorer areas of New York City.

    The language was I might say fluid, flowing, and without censure. Consequently, I encountered the word as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition. One day someone said “fanfuckingtastic” and I knew that I had heard the infamous word in all its iterations. I managed a rather cool and calm reaction to this language I must say. When one student invited me to go F myself, I calmly replied “Anatomically difficult don't you think?”

    This brings me to the topic of today's blog: why we need a new profanity lexicon. Actually, I think this is an area where Canadians can play a substantial role in literature, films, books, and daily discourse. First, we need to reverse the process. Profanity has started out as an underground word.  It was used by the “lower” classes or the disreputable, and eventually over a period of time (short or long) moved more and more toward the acceptable end of the spectrum. I suggest we reverse that process and use a word that’s already in common parlance and turn it into a profanity. 

    My candidate for Canadian profane word of the year is toque. Every Canadian knows what a toque is as do Americans who live in any of the northern States. This means that they are already saying it and can easily make the transition in times of distress, annoyance, or profound emotional states. I can hear it all now “toque you”, “toque off”, “no toquing way.” The applications are endless and open to everyone but I do think it will be especially relevant for Seniors. 

    Just picture it, fellow Seniors. People pushing ahead of us in line, giving audible sighs because we're too slow to find our credit card or coupons at the grocery store, forcing us into the street because we're not walking quickly enough on the pavement. No longer do you have to suffer in silence. No longer do you need to keep that rage carefully contained. Starting today my friends, just look at them, smile as befits the countenance of a kindly grandmother, and say clearly, “toque off, buddy”.

  • 11 Nov 2021 3:34 PM | Anonymous

    Who Knew That I Could Have So Much Fun Playing Cards!  

    By Kathy Newman

    My parents qualified their answer when I invited them to come to Switzerland with my family, by the statement, ”Only if you learn how to play Bridge!” I could see their reasoning as it would be nice to share time around the card table in the evenings after a busy day of exploring a new country; especially with our two little daughters lapping up the sights, sounds and new taste flavours. (They really missed peanut butter!) So, I learned the basics of bridge.  

    However, the evening when I was partnered with my father was the end of my attempt at Bridge as he was just too serious a player and lacked the patience necessary to encourage my skills. Thus, the end of Bridge playing for me.   I stuck to Crib!

    Luckily, when visiting my 90 year old Mom at her seniors’ home, many years later, I was reintroduced to cards and I loved playing with Mom, Margaret, Gertrude and Anne.  The game was called “65” and was a form of Rummy that started with three cards with card number 3 as the wild card.  The next hand, I was dealt 4 cards and number 4 was the wild card.  Thus, the game progressed with one major difference. No one got angry with me!! If I mistakenly played the wild card, it was gently handed back to me with a smile and the advice, ”You might need that one, dear.”

    This wonderful group of ladies also kept me chuckling by their easy banter and spontaneous singing while waiting for their turn. “Seven old ladies were stuck in the lavatory…nobody knew they were there…” had me joining in and loving every minute of the gaity.

    Mom passed away on October 16, 2008 as did her great buddies who were all of similar age.  I haven’t played cards except solitaire on my cell phone since! Maybe I need to have another stab at Bridge!

  • 5 Nov 2021 11:52 AM | Anonymous

    On Turning 80

    by McTwachle  

    “ Oh Mom - Its your big Eight Oh ! We need to celebrate !” “ NO THANKS “ I have one  reason to be thankful for the pandemic. It took care of that. I had arrived at 80, but I did  nothing to help or hinder that occasion. From where I was sitting this looked like the down  portion of the roller coaster - the one where you scream… really… really… loudly.  There have been very few bullets I have had to dodge. As an infant in Scotland, my life was  saved by a Canadian baby formula - Sister Laura’s… I wonder if I read the outside of the package in my infant state? Our city was never bombed, although my mother did drag us  through to the north shore of the Clyde so she could watch the German bombers blowing up Clydebank… do you think she wanted rid of us ? In the intervening years I was cared for by  the god who looks after children and drunks in that order.  

    Since then it's been Healthcare all the way. It rescued me from Chronic Asthma and years  later from going Insane in a Psychiatric hospital - the previous remedy to immuno Therapy for  my malady (a rare seizure disorder). Super efficient Orthopedic and Physiotherapy shot me back to normal when I cracked rather than broke my hip. ( that one used to be a death sentence). Aside from acquiring glasses - I’ve been good to go, muttering all the way “When I’m OLD I’ll need to do “- such  and such - like purge my house , simplify my chaotic self-created Garden, hire snow removal and so on. Nagging bairns told me I was going deaf.. So Hearing Aids… Then I suspected my stentorian unwitnessed snoring might be an issue. Word on the emails ( no street anymore )  was CPAP. So now I sleep silently looking like an Elephant but only awakening x1 per night -  ….aah.  

    Did I mention my mouth? Don’t forget that Scottish upbringing, munching our sweetie ration while riding the tram into town. This syndrome was aided by teenaged dentists who must have been found in the same sweet shop - great for removing vital molars !  There’s an entire city in there now - 2 bridges (or underpasses), a couple of townhouse  complexes, a larder in case I get hungry and the highlight is the hi rise. The dentist here offered  to add a lighthouse light for an extra $3K in case I got lost at night. I reluctantly declined this option.  

    So, if I ever do get around to a celebration - it will have to be a celebration of amazing 21st  century Healthcare delivered almost free of charge in a benign and tranquil country of friendly  folks. It is nothing I have done to arrive at Four Score. It is true we are as old as we feel. I think I have rocketed through many of the stages in all the wrong order. Speechless at the  top of Burstall Pass I felt older than the 75 yr old who had shepherded me up and ever up the  trail. I wasn’t yet 65. Health is an extraordinary matter of luck and genetics. So It isn’t Age we  celebrate, it is Stage. Celebrate whichever stage is meaningful to you and celebrate daily. The  numbers don’t mean a thing.

  • 29 Oct 2021 8:48 AM | Anonymous


    By Anita Mann 

    ‘New normal’. That’s a phrase I hear quite often these days as people deal with living in a  pandemic. There was a time when if I were dressed in a toque, sunglasses and a face mask I  would have been stopped by the police and questioned. Now its ‘normal’. In fact, people  without face masks stick out. But that’s not where I am going with this. That’s an argument for  a different crowd.  

    People act like little heat seekers trying to find the elusive normal but what is it really? Perhaps  we are such creatures of habit that normal becomes whatever we do regularly without  mindfulness. Pay attention to all the little things you do in a day. Many of them are done  without any thought at all because we have done them so often. I golf and curl. In watching  others get ready to hit the ball or throw the rock often enough, their routine becomes evident.  Watch yourself in slow motion as can be recorded on the nifty cell phones. Little movements  done mindlessly which result in a good shot…or not. It’s mental efficiency supposedly allowing  to move about your day not having to deliberate over everything.  

    These behaviours are ingrained and when something interrupts them we experience  discomfort. Body aches and pains can do it for sports. A sore knee changes how you sit in the  curling hack. Or a bum shoulder modifies your golf swing. Angst! You are complete aware that  this is not normal.  

    Physical habits are constantly adapting to our bodies as they age. We get out of chairs  differently or climb stairs in a modified way. But what about our minds? Unlike physical habits  we can’t necessarily see how our thinking is changing and adapting to new realities. But  change may show up in not remembering a name or direction to turn. Others often see it first.  Like your physical movements, challenge yourself to observe your mental habits. What mental  habits have become calcified, done without any due consideration and so habitual we are not  aware of the benefits or damage they may cause?  

    All is not lost. Just as exercise, stretching and therapy such as massage can help with those  physical adaptations, we can practice mental steps to break us out of seeking normal and help  us embrace change and, key word, adapt.  

    I am not a psychologist but I have come to believe in a few ‘tips’ I have learned along the way. I  humbly offer them to you, the reader: 

    - Drive or walk a new way home 

    - Read a book or watch a tv program you would not usually consider 

    - Meet a new person and really listen to a different perspective 

    - Reconsider automatic opinions and responses 

    - Try a new hobby or craft.  

    - Cook or bake a new recipe that calls for unfamiliar ingredients. 

    - Play a challenging board game 

    - Organize your closet differently 

    - Try a new style of clothes or hair style 

    That’s just a few things but you get the idea. Yes, normal is your routine and it is very  comfortable. But normal does not always serve you well. Adaptability does. Making little  changes in your life helps prepare you for the inevitable big changes we must make as we age.  “New normal” happens every day when you challenge your brain to be flexible and open to  new ideas. Consider it Pilates for the mind.

  • 22 Oct 2021 10:45 AM | Anonymous

    Macintosh HD:Users:beverleycumming:Desktop:images.jpgI woke up this morning, 80+ years old, feeling like Wonder Woman, maybe not invincible, but ready to meet the day.   Over many years I have had two knee replacements, cataract surgery, partial dentures, and breast cancer surgery (twice). I am TRIPLE Vacced and have had my Flu shot so I don’t need golden bracelets to deflect the bombardment of viruses.  All of this I can attribute to my luck to be living in Canada  

    I have been educated, worked for 30 years, and now I am enjoying the benefits of monthly pensions that keep me comfortably.  There are many organizations (like Confederation Park) to provide opportunities to enhance my life through entertainment, socialization, recreation and travel.  I appreciate the role played by technology. Over the years there was telephone, radio, and television and now I have a cell phone, laptop computer, along with the Internet which keep me informed.  They provide the facts and opinions  I need to help me be an informed citizen.   All these things again are possible because of my luck to be living in Canada.

    Around the world Canada is viewed as one of the most desirable places for people who are searching for a better life. Some wait years and face many obstacles until they are welcomed here.  No matter their culture, race, or religion, Canada prides itself on the mosaic created by our diversity.  Unfortunately, there is a danger of some groups putting their own agendas ahead of the common good.  This self-serving approach is picking away at our multicultural “quilt”. We all deserve comfort, respect and dignity as we promote our similarities and appreciate our diversity. These ideals seem possible to me because of my luck to be living in Canada. 

    I am not Wonder Woman, Princess Warrior.  My tiara is tarnished, my super senses are fading, and I don’t have a “ Lasso of Truth”. I managed to arrive at old age with some worry about the tattering of our multicultural identity, but with optimism about the future.  We don’t have a Wonder Woman or any Super Heroes to help us. We must work together to set aside our differences and promote our sameness. I believe this is possible because of my luck to be living in Canada.                                   

    Macintosh HD:Users:beverleycumming:Desktop:th-2.jpg
  • 15 Oct 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Advantages of Being 70 Plus

    Yes, there are advantages. No, really.

    As we made our way through our life, there were all sorts of things that we thought were important, imperative, rules that had to be followed, injunctions the breaking of which would lead to eternal unhappiness.  We worried about pimples, our hair, our weight, the cute boy we had a crush on but seemed oblivious to our presence.

    As we grew older the worries grew in number and weight. What if nobody asks me to the grad dance? What if that geeky, spotted kid with the thick glasses and braying laugh asks me? Should I have sex? What if I get pregnant? What am I going to do after grade 12? What if the university doesn’t accept my application? What if I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up? What if I never grow up?

    And did the worries cease once you became a working woman? Hah! Should I get my own apartment? Do I fit in with the rest of the people in the office? Do they like me? Am I doing a good job, or will I get fired? What can I do about the creepy boss who is so touchy-feely? How can I find a nice guy? Will I ever get married?

    If our years between 12 and 70+ were properly misspent then at 70, most, if not all, of those worries will have dissipated like a mild mist when the sun rises. We had sex, or we didn’t; we became pregnant, or we didn’t; we found a job that we loved, or that we hated. When we were twenty, we worried about what others thought of us; by 70 we realize that they weren’t thinking of us at all.

    “Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator”. Confucius.

    Most people at 70 plus are grateful. They are grateful that they wake up in the morning; they are grateful for the friends who are still living; they are grateful that they have a good reason to not have to join protest movements; they are grateful that young relatives are willing to do tech repairs for them and they are not expected to figure it out themselves.

    When they are 70 plus nobody criticizes their choice in clothes or tells them to get a hair cut or a perm. After 70, people pick YOU up, and you get to sit in the front seat without having to yell “shotgun”. People don’t try to change your political views, pressure you to upgrade your education, or learn a new hobby.  Everyone is super complimentary about any artwork that you have produced (even if you believe they are being just a tad patronizing, praise is always more welcome than criticism).

    Visitors come and go after a reasonable amount of time, and your grandkids pick up all their toys and take them all with them. Expectations (our own and those of others) dimmish and are replaced by astonishment and awe. “My god, she’s 75 and she can out hike us all!” “80 and she still volunteers at the Food Bank”. “Can you believe? She’s 90 and still driving herself and her friends to Church on Sundays.”

    No, best to remember the observation of Frances Bacon: “I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.”

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