Why Canada rocks – Canada Health Care and pouty people.


Creepy moment.

It happened at about 5:15 this morning. I stood in an almost empty parking lot next to a locked building. The lights were on inside. I could see a  medical clerk at her desk preparing for the onslaught of Canadian coughers, sniffers and general I-need-to-see-the-doctor folks that would soon fill the waiting room faster than an overflowing toilet in a land without plungers.

While I stared at the woman behind the glass (and, no, that’s not the creepy part) a lady about my age climbed out of her car and walked up to me.

I smiled.

She groaned.

“This is ridiculous,” she said, “it’s five thirty in the morning and we’re standing in line. What’s going on?”

I don’t know. You tell me. You’re the one wandering around before the sun comes up asking questions. Well, that’s what I wanted to say, but I just kept smiling.

I know, strange.

Then, this woman decided to kick this whole creepy thing up a notch. No, she did not try to kiss me or break into an Emeril Lagasse cooking demonstration in the middle of the parking lot.

But, hey, before I freak you out with juicy tidbits of what happened next, let me tell you how we DID get to be standing in an almost empty parking lot at 5:15 in the morning.

It all started with my mother.

At almost 80 years old she got the notion that she was some kind of geriatric party girl looking for a good time.

And, she took me along.

Mom started this medical service spree by waking me up VERY early a week ago  Sunday. I didn’t know that people were even allowed outside in the middle of the night.

They are.

Certainly strange. Possibly creepy. We drove to the White Rock emergency room. Great place. But, not much going on.

Maybe that’s why she decided to really ramp up this Sunday morning and visit every walk-in clinic this side of the Frazier River. After driving by one long line up, we headed to White Rock medical clinic.

What a bust.

Sometime between our last visit and yesterday, they changed their name to Hearing Clinic. And, obviously, hearing anything on a Sunday was not a priority in their book. They were closed.

We finally ended up at the Panorama office. Lots of germs. Really drafty. Mom took my coat and covered her legs to keep warm. I froze.

Good times.

This morning was the grand finale. We headed out to see mom’s general practitioner of 20 plus years. Early.

That’s how I came to be standing in the predawn in the middle of a parking lot with a stranger.


“Can’t believe we are standing in line. Early in the morning,” the stranger said. She then paused and waited for me to match rant for rant. You know, the female dog thing and all.

“What about the States?” I countered unexpectedly, “Some people don’t have any health care at all. And if they do, they still have to co-pay.”

She looked at me as if I’d just told her we should all make hats out of tin-foil to keep the government from reading our minds.

“Co-pay,” I shared with the authority of one who has skyped relatives in Idaho, Oklahoma and Arizona, “you know, you pay monthly for health care but then you pay individual user fees. Sometimes it’s like 40 or 50 dollars.”

I thought she would be shocked considering the fact that Canadians pay a very reasonable fee each month according to their income and no per visit, hospital stay or procedure fee.


  • Did she burst out in some kind of show stopping Broadway musical tune?
  • Did she put her arms down by her side and Riverdance her joy of being Canadian?

Seriously, all I got was a blank stare.

Stranger danger? Considering her age and mine, I think not.

She finally said, “I remember when doctors used to make house calls”. Her eyes widened with sadness and longing for a better time, more gentle era.

Rethink stranger danger. Her attitude was killing me.

“And,” she continued, “ if we wanted to go to the doctor’s office when I was young just walked down the street to the clinic. We just went right in. No line ups. No full quotas.”

I shivered.

Hopefully what ever was effecting this lady’s brain was not contagious.

So what if she had to get out of bed a little early? So what if she had to stand in line to see one of the best practitioners in the lower mainland? She had made no appointment. But she could come anyway.  Ultimately, she would leave the clinic without paying a Loonie.

Pretty cool, this

  1. publically funded health care system  system
  2. guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act of 1984.

After thirty years of working the bugs out, it’s fairly simple to maneuver. As my good friend Wiki explains, “A health card is issued by the Provincial Ministry of Health to each individual who enrolls for the program and everyone receives the same level of care”.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Sure, life is hard. Winters are cold. And, the good Lord knows our  healthcare system is NOT perfect.( Duh, that’s what being omniscient is all about.) But, it is affordable for every single Canadian regardless of

  • financial hardship
  • or medical history.

No one is  turned away.

So what if a doctor doesn’t come to your door anymore?

Canada rocks.

.44 Magnums, Dog sleds and Meditation – what to do when the information age starts to mess with your mind.


laptop time

Sometimes my head literally aches with all the ideas, opinions and clever concepts pouring in from

  • Facebook,
  • twitter,
  • television,
  • magazines
  • and newspapers.

Top that off with a few this-is-what-you-should-do-with-your-life kind of seminars and I’m pretty much in danger of major cerebral breakdown. 

Trust me, not the kind of thing you want to put  on your resume unless you are looking to mayor of Crazy town.  

Good thing I’m a dual citizen. It gives me two options –

  1. Be a good American and blast the offending laptop and computer screen away with my trusty .44.
  2. Do the Canadian thing and ride my dog sled so far up the Yukon any new ideas would freeze before they got into my brain. 

Bottom line, too many ideas from too many sources can be really confusing. How should we think? What should we do? 

Most of the time the answers we seek lie within us. It’s just a matter of listening, not to the chatter around us but to what is going on inside.  


  • worship
  • prayer and
  • just spending time with God

we can began to see clearly who we are and how we should live our everyday life. 

Of course, the gurus will continue to hang around cyber space with more advice than any one human could process in a lifetime. Trust me, I know. I’m writing a blog myself. Right now.

Somebody is always ready to say about something  about 

  1. how to spend your money, save your money, or live on no money whatsoever.
  2. who to marry, where to spend your honeymoon or whether you should even be in a relationship at all.
  3. where to go, what music to listen to and what to eat. 

The dilemma of what to do with all you suddenly know can just about drive you round the bend.  At the very least, you may find yourself spending way too much time on such nebulous matters as likes, comments and shares.  Trust me, I know. 

My advice?

Back off.

Take the time to clear your mind and balance your soul. Then, you can navigate the wild and wonderful information jungle wisely and make choices of your own.

The Legend of Private Henry Schaal

HenryA pic of Henry Schaal

I never met my Uncle Henry. He died before I was born. But, I have heard so many stories about him from the rest of the family, I can recite the facts of his life in my sleep.

During World War 2, three of my mother’s oldest brothers enlisted in the armed forces. Uncle Stanley became a foot soldier. John Hubert and Alfred joined the Air Force.

Their younger bother, Henry Junior, stayed home to help with the farm.

This arrangement made perfect sense to my Grandpa. Who else would help him milk the cows, plow the fields and keep the family fed?

Some folks didn’t see it that way.  They shook their heads at a young man milking cows and plowing fields while the rest the world huddled in fox holes and flew B52 bombers over Europe. Shouldn’t he be fighting overseas?

They were wrong. Uncle Junior was just doing his part to keep the family fed. But, emotions ran high and Junior couldn’t stand it any more.  So, he filled out his enlistment papers and put them in the mailbox at the end of the road.

Grandpa found them in the mailbox and took them out.

What else was Grandpa supposed to do? Grandma’s heart was already breaking over the three sons she had sent to war. Grandpa didn’t think she could stand to say goodbye to one more son.

But, Junior did not give up.

He put his papers in the mail box again and again.  One day Grandpa left the papers alone. Who was he to stop a young man so determined to fight for his country?

Junior enlisted toward the very end of the  war.  Barely 18 years old, he  shipped overseas. Shortly thereafter, he fought in the  fiercest battle between German and U.S. forces during the war.

hurtegan 2Soldiers in the Huertgen Forest

Before they left for battle, the military gave the solders an opportunity to make a recording for the folks back home. My uncle and a few other soldiers sang a song together. Some recruits sent messages and prayers to their families.

hurtegan 3The narrow roads of Huertgen forest

After the Battle of the Huertgen forest, the bodies of young men lay like broken toys in tree branches and along the forest floor. The U.S. suffered at least 33,000 casualties, the Germans 28,000.  A ripple effect of grief from so many dead and wounded made it’s way to a small Illinois  town.

I’ve been told that on a snowy winter’s eve, Grandma saw the red light of a taxi cab  coming down the driveway. She knew that taxis only came to farmhouses for one reason. Grandma started to wail and wring her hands before the driver came to the door.

The taxi cab driver cried as he handed the official military telegram to my grandparents.

Henry was gone.

I can’t even begin to imagine what Grandma and Grandpa  felt when they received his dog tags in the mail. My uncle Henry’s blood still stained it’s metal surface, his teeth marks were still pressed to it’s dull and dirty frame.

There was one bright light in the midst of sorrow’s darkness- John Hubert, Stanley and Alfred eventually returned home.

Of that I am  glad.

Uncle Hubert, Uncle Al and Uncle Stanley have been role models in my life from the time I was a little girl. Their families were and still are a part of mine.

But, Uncle Henry? All I know of him is what I’ve been told. He never went to college on a G.I. bill. He never married his high school sweetheart or started a family of his own.

Fact – Private Henry Schaal was an ordinary farm boy who traveled to the other side of the world to fight for freedom. He gave his life for his country, he sacrificed his future so that people like you and I could have a future our own.

Now his body lies the Arlington Park cemetery of Rockford Illinois. But, he is not gone.

He is legend in the Schaal family. He will always be. 

Private Henry Schaal, today I remember you.  

Weird clothes and strange cars- wasting time worrying about people’s opinion of me.


crayola crayons (1)

When I was a teenager my family moved Kountze, Texas. Think wide spot in the middle of the road. This town snuggled next to

  • the edge of the Big Thicket-
  • an ancient swampland
  • stretching from the last sandy road that snaked out of town to the Louisiana border.

That’s where I first saw the man in the lime green suit.

No, he was not some kind of alien from outer space. His suit had wide lapels, a matching vest and bellbottom pants. 

Most every week this troubadour of all things lime strode through our neighborhood. I never had a change to get up close and personal. But, from a distance, his suit appeared freshly pressed and spotless. In the warm Texas sunshine the bright lime green glowed against the dark sheen of his skin.

Every time I saw the guy one word came to mind.


No way would I be caught wearing something so different from everybody else. 

Years later I got married, started a family and moved to Canada. I don’t think the book Where the Wild Things Are had been written yet. So, I improvised. Whenever I could, I drove the kids to downtown Vancouver.

Now that was poetry in motion. 

  • The naked chicken carcasses hanging in shop windows of China Town,
  • The windshield washing dudes standing on the corner of Main and Terminal,
  • the cars, trucks and bicycles maneuvering  one way streets through the down town core .

Breathtaking. Heart stopping. I figured we’d seen everything. That was before we spotted The Car. 

One of my kids spotted it when we were rolling down Second Avenue, just a few blocks west of Main street. 

Someone had meticulously glued tiny matchbox cars to most every part of the car’s exterior. On the hood Lilliputian cars sat frozen on Lilliputian roads in front of Lilliputian street lights and Lilliputian stop signs. My kids oohed and aahed and begged to see it again and again. 

You know what I thought to myself?

Strange. No way would I drive such a thing. 

Bottom line – What would people think?

Not once did

  1. riveting
  2. extraordinary
  3. su generis
  4. or unique

come to mind.

It should have because anybody maximizing the least bit of cognitive function

  • would know that sporting an outrageous color
  • on a hot Texas day

is riveting. And, driving a car

  • that looks like a daycare mat
  • in mid-play

is extraordinary is so many ways.

Perhaps the words strange and weird really belong to the people pleasers like me.

We love to say that we want to be different. We insist on expressing our unique selves. Then, we try to look and think and live our lives in exact imitation of everybody else.

Actually, that’s not only strange or weird. In a world where no two snowflakes, leaves or storm clouds are exactly alike, it’s bizarre.

News flash –

Human beings do not roll off of some kind of cookie cutter assembly line. Each one of us are fearfully and wonderfully created.

Each. One. Of. Us.

Imagine if you and I and everyone on the the planet were boxes of crayons. That’s a lot of color.

Guess what?

Not one box would have the same shade of colors as any other box.

Not one.

Word to the wise?

Don’t worry about what other people may think of you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Color with the crayons you were given.   Trust me, you will create art beyond your wildest dreams.