Friday Two Cents: Don’t Stress: Laugh And Have Fun


‘A day without laughter is a day wasted.’Charlie Chaplin


  Well this week I was able to put up the Christmas tree, string the outdoor lights and put out my nativity scene for the upcoming Christmas season. Yet one thing that always makes the season more enjoyable is the music of this wonderful holiday.  We in Toronto are quit fortunate to have a radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music all day long.  They started last weekend at the beginning of the Santa Claus parade and will continue until December 26, Boxing Day. 

  Christmas music has always been a big part of Christmas for me.  I think because I use to play in several bands and we were always playing the songs for about a month and half before Christmas to help us prepare for our concerts.  However, about 10 years ago I discovered some alternate Christmas songs that I have to listen to that makes my Christmas complete.

Stressed Out Christmas

  They are a collection of songs preformed by Bob Rivers and once I heard them, Christmas hasn’t been the same. For some reason these songs connected with me. Perhaps it’s because I find that with everyone is running around trying to get things done, buy stuff and it places a lot of stress on people when there shouldn’t be.  I think people need to not take things too seriously. Everywhere people are worried about getting the perfect gift, have the perfect dinner and the perfect tree. These songs help me to see that there is some fun and laughter in this season.  We do not need to take things too seriously; relax, enjoy life, laugh and have fun.   Those are some of the important parts of Christmas.
  Therefore in the spirit of bringing some laughter and fun back into Christmas, I have attached a YouTube video/song of my favourite alternate Christmas song by Bob Rivers.  The tone is from the song “Winter Wonderland” but the lyrics have been changed into a new song entitled, “Walkin’ ‘Round In Women’s Underwear”. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and remember to have a little laugh every once in a while. 

Friday Two Cents: Gratitude Journal


Gratitude: noun – the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Life is rarely easy. There is always something that happens in your life that throws a wrench into the works. I for one have had some difficulties; I won’t bore you with my issues, but suffice it to say I have been a bit down. But then I read an article from the John Tesh Show: Intelligence for your life: An Attitude Of Gratitude Can Change Your Life! that suggests showing gratitude can help with you feeling better about your life.

They state that if you want to significantly improve your life, show more gratitude in your life. It references 40 different scientific studies, that having an ‘attitude of gratitude” can change you life for the better. They stated three different reasons for this statement.
  • Grateful people are happier. Research in the journal American Psychologist showed that making a list of 3 things that go well every day increased the happiness levels of volunteers. And the longer volunteers continued to write down what make them grateful, the better they felt.
  • Gratitude can also improve your relationships. A study by The National Institute of Mental Health found that people who regularly thank their spouse for doing everyday chores – like cleaning the kitchen, or taking the dog to the vet – have happier, more stable marriages.
  • A final reason to be more grateful: It’s good for your career. Numerous studies show that grateful people have larger professional networks, and make better business decisions. They also get more work done, and are more likely to be helped by their superiors. In fact, practicing gratitude at work will make everybody’s day. A recent survey found that 65 percent of employees haven’t received a “thank you” for their efforts in the last year.
Intelligence for your life (2016). Health: An Attitude Of Gratitude Can Change Your Life!.
With this as ammunition I have begun writing a Gratitude Journal. I decided to post my first entry to help remind me what I am grateful for and motivate me to write down 3 things that went well that day.

Gratitude Journal

What I am grateful for …
  • My family
    • Loving parents that support me.
    • My sister, brother-in-law and nieces who love and care for me in what I do
    • My extended family, they are a source of strength.  
  • My friends
    • They are great support but mostly my closest friends D & P & M. They have been there supporting me and encouraging me every step in my life.
  • My health – I have lost weight (65 lbs.) and I feel better. It is hard to maintain but I do enjoy exercising and I feel better after I do.
  • My ability to work in a field that I enjoy. I truly enjoy working with children. It is so hard to find a career that does not feel like a job.
  • My artistic talent – I cannot fully express how much joy I get when I express myself through drawing, painting, pastels, illustrating on the computer or writing.  


Just a few things that I am grateful for; a very good start.

Friday Two Cents: Who Truly Has A Sense Of Entitlement


‘Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.’ Nadia Boulanger


‘The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.’ Benjamin Spock


This week I had the opportunity to revisit an old school that I had supplied in the past. I know the students and the teachers. It is a wonderful school and I enjoy going to there whenever I can. Yet I noticed something very interesting when I was there.

Standing on guard for thee

As in every school the morning routine begins with the singing of O Canada and then the morning announcements. The thing that surprised me was that once O Canada came on over the PA system the kindergarten students all stopped their activities and stood erect and sang the entire anthem. This shouldn’t be too surprising yet in many kindergarten classes, to get the students to stand and sing the anthem and not talk to one another is a constant struggle.
This incident made me think about why did these students stand and sing the anthem proudly and in other classes I have to constantly remind them. Is it because the students are older senior kindergarten students? No, there is an even mix of junior and senior kindergarten students. Is it because of the teachers? No, in every class I have been in the teacher is always the first to stand and remind the students. They are the perfect role models. Then what was the reason?

New to Canada

The only conclusion I could come up with was that the school’s student population (school A) was largely made of immigrant families and visible minorities and the other schools’ populations were largely 2nd, 3rd or greater generation families. In those other schools’ classes I had to remind students on a daily basis to stand and stop talking to their friends during the anthem. Yet that was only one of many differences that I noticed about the students from school A. Wherever I went in the school, the older students would hold the door open and use manners when interacting in the hallway. It made me think about the interactions in other schools with a smaller immigrant family base. There were times I had to remind students to please hold the door for others. Say please and thank you and show proper manners such as not burp in public and say excuse me.
Yet right away my mind went to the question of ‘Why?’ Why were these students in school A showing “better” manners and respect for others then other schools? Is it truly because the families are immigrants? Is it because they are from places where staying alive is a constant struggle and living in a country as amazing as Canada is a blessing?
I have and many studies have shown it, that parents are the greatest influence in their child’s life. More than teachers, celebrities or athletes, parents influence and mold their children into the people they will become as adults. It would seem that the generations of parents born in this country do not know or take it for grated, on how lucky they are to be in this country. New arrives to Canada know from first hand experience how difficult it is and the struggles they undertook to come here.

Parents have the greatest influence on their children.

Many people say that this generation of students is entitled and they want things done for them and I have examples of seen this. Yet perhaps people should be looking at the root cause of this sense of entitlement, the parents. Instead of passing off their children onto others and expecting them to teach their child to be responsible and respectable citizens, they should be looking to themselves. It’s their job, their responsibility to instill manners, respect for others and to be grateful for the blessings of living in a wonderful country like Canada. Maybe the people who need to stop having a sense of entitlement and expecting others to do things for them are not the students.

Friday Two Cents: A Child And A Song



‘Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.’ Plato

It is two days until Christmas and I am in the full Christmas mood. I am feeling joyful and triumphant but it has nothing to do with the long-awaited holiday break from school or the anticipation of any gifts. No, comes from the feeling that this season brings out in me and one amazing act of humanity and a song.

I have always tried to distance myself from the commercial side of this season. From an early age I discovered that Christmas has nothing to do with the gifts you get or give but from the feeling of warmth, togetherness and love for my fellow-man. Every year it has become harder and harder to find examples or to try to get into that feeling. Yet in resent years I have been tuning into a local radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music from the end of November to Christmas day. I have found that listening to the Christmas music has truly helped me to get into the Christmas spirit. Yet one day this past week helped me to truly feel good about this holiday season.
I was supplying at a school where the majority of the students are immigrant families, new to Canada. Many don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious celebration but are into the gift giving and good feelings of the season. While I was in a class at this school many students told me what they wanted for Christmas. Yet one told me that they just wanted running shoes for their mom, dad and brother. I asked if her family needed shoes and she said no but she knew that it would make her parents happy. To say this moved me, would be understating the fact. Instead of asking for a toy for herself, as many school children do, this kindergarten child wanted something to make her family happy. Beautiful.
Then to make a further connection to the true meaning of the Christmas season, that night I heard a song that touched me so much that all I could think of was this child. The song is called “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong. It’s about a boy wanting to get his mother shoes because she has been sick for a long time and he wanted her to look beautiful if she meets Jesus that night. With that song and that child earlier in the day, I realized that I got a glimpse into the soul of humanity. Sometimes we see moments of amazing beauty, whether in art, nature or people. I saw the goodness and love that this Christmas season has to offer and it was thanks to a child and a song. As Plato once said,

‘Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.’ Plato


That song truly speaks of the love and beauty in humanity and it comes from the most innocent member of the human race. A child. It seems appropriate.

Happy Christmas.

Art inspiration: My Nativity Project, My Heritage



In the last post I mentioned that I finished creating my nativity scene for the outside of my home. In total it took about 3 weeks of work to finish the project but I am more than happy with the final results.

After drawing the images onto the primed piece of wood I began the process of painting the characters. Just like any art project I thought of layers and what colours would be in the back and which ones in front. I began painting them with their main colour and the background. Painting this scene I constantly remembered the amazing frescos that Michelangelo painted. I wondered what he thought of as he painted those amazing scenes and I could not be more humbled and inspired to do my best as I painted my scene using his technique.
In the middle of my painting I created the top part of the scene with the remainder of the wood. The top part would be modeled on images of buildings from Jerusalem and places I saw in Malta on my numerous visits. I measured, cut and primed the piece as I did with the lower part/stable. Once dry I painted it the same colour as the background of the stable. I added a few details to make it my realistic such as cracks and brickwork to make it look old and weathered.
The top of the stable was relatively easy to paint in comparison to the lower piece with the characters. For obvious reasons it required extra care and more details. In the final stage you can see that I added homes and buildings, which were indicative of the Bethlehem area, in the background of the lower piece of the stable.
Once I finished painting the characters I then attached the upper piece of the stable to the lower part. I used left over wood as reinforcement with wood screws to attach the pieces together. I then attached a 2”x4” to the lower piece as a stabilizer so it can stand with some support. Once attached, I gave the entire nativity scene a coat of clear varnish to help protect the painting from the elements.
With all this complete I finally mounted the finish nativity scene onto my veranda. The interesting thing is that once it was up my family commented that in Malta the nativity scene is the centre of our Christmas celebrations and not the Christmas tree as it is in most of North America.
Here I am in Canada and I do have a tree but I have always had a nativity scene in my home. Christmas is not Christmas without a nativity scene. Now that I have one outside I feel more connected to my cultural heritage than before. Perhaps it has something to do with my visit to Québec this summer. There I felt connected to the culture both through my knowledge as well through the people I interacted with. I saw first hand the importance and beauty Canadian and Québec culture has to offer. I discovered that this is apart of my Canadian heritage but I also have my Maltese heritage that my parents gave me. The two are not separate but intertwined within the country I live in and within me.

Friday Two Cents: My Nativity Project



Usually the Christmas season is a very creative time for me. I typically have one or two different creative projects in the works and this year is no different.

When I went to Québec this summer I saw many things that inspired me in many different ways. My friend’s family showed me a few things that they do in their town during the Christmas season that inspired me. I saw that they created their own decorations for their homes and a local parade in which they create their own floats. This was amazing to see, not just for their beauty but also for the fact that many were centred on the original meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Seeing all this, I got inspired to create my own nativity scene for the front of my home.
I have a nativity scene in my house but I would love to create one for the outside. I see people put out scary things for Halloween but many only put out Christmas lights and a few decorations, yet nothing on the true meaning of Christmas. So I decided to create my own nativity scene in my own style.
I studied art and I knew how Michelangelo created his frescos, so I took inspiration for his technic and began my nativity project. I first drew out my characters for the scene and then redrew them in the computer to create larger versions with more details. I then printed out the characters on large 11”x 17” sheets. I got a piece of ¼” plywood, cut the piece I needed and then primed it with white acrylic paint. Then, in the style of Michelangelo, I rubbed some charcoal on the back of the sheets so when I redraw the images on the wood, the image will be transferred onto the wood. Once all the images are redrawn on the plywood it is only a matter of painting the characters.
It took me about three weeks to complete the project yet there are a lot of images I took of the entire process. I will post some images in the next couple of posts to give an you all an idea on each stage of the project. For now, I hope you enjoy the first few stages of the creation of my Nativity Scene Project.

Friday Two Cents: Summer Vacation Part 3: I Love Working With My Hands



This past week there was no driving off to some place for a show, an interview or some new and exciting place. I simply stayed home and did a couple of things around the house that needed my attention and a few experiments I was hoping to do.

First off I had to refinish my deck. I built it about 15 years ago but occasionally it needs to be cleaned and refinished because of the harsh Canadian weather. Instead of getting chemical cleaner I decided to sand down the deck before refinishing it. It is a lot more work and a bit time-consuming. That took a day to do it (thank goodness I have a sander) but I have the time. The next day I brushed off the extra dust and applied a waterproof stain with a paintbrush. Again it took some time, however thank goodness I did this all before the heat wave that is now consuming southern Ontario. I still need to apply a second coat but it looks good and they advised me to wait between coats. Therefore I will do it next week. Besides with the intense heat, it would not be a good idea to do the second coat. The paint would not adhere and it would not be healthy for me to be out in the heat for over 3 hours applying it. You can see the before and after effects.
With that out of the way, I was able to indulge in an experience I was hoping to do. Or in other words cook. I wanted to try a few recipes I was interested in. I made some chilly, jambalaya, guacamole and a few others. They all turned really well, as my family of taste testers would adhere to.
It is interesting that even though I am on vacation and I stayed home, I truly enjoyed myself this week. It wasn’t because I did nothing and just lay around the house. I was able to get things done and the best part was I enjoyed working with my hands. I loved sanding the wood and painting it with a brush. I loved chopping the vegetables and spices to make the dishes. I felt alive touching all these different things and textures.
Many people have told me that I am good with my hands. I guess it helps that I also love using them too.

Friday Two Cents: Christmas Poem


Year after year I struggle to pass on the true meaning of Christmas to all I know.
But how do I do it? With words, stories, play or a Christmas show.
Yet I am not sure if people do hear.
The message that I pass on year after year.


The message that Christmas doesn’t come from a store,
That Christmas means a little bit more.
Christmas is about love for everyone big and small,
That you cannot find it in any shopping mall.


It comes from within you and you have a lot to share,
But people do not know this and it seems unfair.
For Christmas love comes from your heart,
You have always had it from the start.


So how can I help you see the joy the season brings?
Is in songs that famous people sings?
No, I saw a poem that speaks of this love.
It dropped in my lap like a sign from above.


It is touching and it inspired me write a few things I wanted to say,
For it speaks of how I feel about Christmas Day.
So please enjoy the poem and read it out loud for all to hear,
Happy Christmas to all and have a Wonderful New Year.


Santa’s Secret Wish

Author Unknown


On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes

Looked deep into Santa’s, to Santa’s surprise

And said as he sat on Santa’s broad knee,

“I want your secret. Please tell it to me.”


He leaned up and whispered in Santa’s good ear

“How do you do it, year after year?

I want to know how, as you travel about,

Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.


“How is it, Dear Santa, that in your pack of toys

You have plenty for all of the world’s girls and boys?

Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way

‘Round the world, in each house just a moment to stay.


“From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,

From nation to nation, reaching them all?”

And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,

“Don’t ask me hard questions. Don’t you want a toy?”


But the child shook his head, and Santa could see

That he needed the answer. “Now listen to me,”

He told that small boy with the light in his eyes,

“My secret will make you both sadder and wise.


The truth is that my sack is magic. Inside

It holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.

But although I do visit each girl and each boy

I don’t always leave them a gaily wrapped toy.


“Some homes are too hungry, some homes are too sad,

Some homes are so desperate, some homes are bad.

Some homes are broken, and there children grieve.

Those homes I do visit, but what should I leave?


“My gift bag is filled with the happiest stuff,

But for homes where despair lives toys aren’t enough.

So I tiptoe in, kissing each girl and each boy,

And I pray with them that they’ll be given the joy


“Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives

In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives.

If only God hears me and answers my prayer,

When I visit them next year, what I will find there


“Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love

And boys and girls gifted with light from above.

It’s a very hard task, my smart little brother,

To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others.


“But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,

For God has a way of meeting each need.

That’s part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,

Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.


“In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day

More love than a Santa could e`er give away.

The sack never empties of love, or of joys

`Cause inside it are prayers, faith and hope. Not just toys.


“The more that I give, the fuller it seems,

Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams.

And do you know something? You’ve got a sack, too.

It’s as magic as mine, and it’s inside of you.


“It never gets empty, it’s full from the start.

It’s the center of lights, and of love. It’s your heart.

And if on this Christmas you want to help me,

Don’t be so concerned with the gifts `neath your tree.


“Open that sack called your heart, and then share

Your joy and your friendship, your wealth and your care.”

The little boy’s eyes was so bright with a glow.

“Thanks for your secret. Now I’ve got to go.”


“Wait, little boy,” Said Saint Nick, “please don’t go.

Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?”

And just for a moment the small boy stood still,

Touched his heart with his hand and then whispered, “I will.”



Friday Two Cents: What Are Parents Teaching Their Children?



This week I was very busy working in three different kindergarten classes on top of the after school students I normally work with. In those classes Christmas preparations are well on their way and the students are looking forward to a visit from Santa Claus.

The best part of these visits was when I was able to read to them my favourite Christmas story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss. If you are not aware of the story I strongly recommend you read or more importantly share it with a young person in your life. It tells a tail of a person “The Grinch” who hates Christmas and in the end steals it from the town below. He thinks that he has stopped Christmas from coming but the town’s people still celebrate Christmas without any presents. The Grinch realizes that Christmas is not about the material gifts or food but there is something more about this holiday. Perhaps that the holiday is about being with family and people we love and care about or even something more.
I have always enjoyed this story at Christmas because for me the giving and receiving of presents, is not what Christmas is all about. Even at a young age I thought that Christmas has become too materialistic, too commercial for my liking. I read this story every year and it helps me to remember the important parts of Christmas. It is about being with people I care about and the good feelings that are shared with people. It is about my traditions and faith that comes from my family and friends. No matter how upset I am during this time I try to see that there are others out there worse off and I thank God for the blessings that I do have.
It is not always easy. I have had Christmas’s were I was down right miserable. But I try to see past these troubles. This year I had a disheartening experience with the students in the older grades. It appears that no matter what good I try to do it falls on deaf ears. One incident had to deal with a student quieting the Christmas play because he wanted to watch Star Wars the opening night, the same night of the concert. But the damming thing was that the parent supported it. Forget teaching their child the value of keeping their word or fulfilling their commitments, if they do not want to do something just quit. What lesson is the parent teaching their child?

I want it because I want it.

Another incident was told to me by a colleague, about another student when the teacher tried to show and teach the students about compassion and empathy. The teacher showed the students images of starving children and asking them why they should try to help, one student said they would rather keep their money and then go on a cruise. That statement was a bit advanced for the student and it sounded like a statement of what the parent’s might say. I sometimes wonder what the students are learning outside the school. From what I saw and heard this week I can get a pretty clear picture.
I have often wondered what kind of people, we as a society, are teaching our children to become. Then I experience these events and I begin to wonder if there is any hope for us. Yet when I see other students look at them with confused faces and shocked looks I know that these few students and their families are in the minority. I then look at my nieces and what kind of little people they are growing up to become and my faith in human kindness is rekindled. The majority of parents are teaching their children the values of how to live a moral life. In the end that is where the real teaching has to begin.  

Parents teaching their children

Friday Two Cents: All Aboard



This week has officially begun the Christmas season, for me at least. It wasn’t just one thing that did it for me but a few. It began with my nieces helping me to put up the Christmas tree and nativity scene. Then the next day I put up the outdoor Christmas lights. Yet there was a bit more to come.


Christmas Lights


Nativity Scene

On Monday I went to the school to assemble the Christmas town and train I built out of plaster and porcelain houses. I say I built it because I hand painted every building, hill and some smaller details added to the village, even some of the train cars. I also carved and created a few of the building too. The entire town took about 10 years to put together with every year I would add new pieces to it. I now have over 50 buildings and a train that can cover an area about 2 m2. For the past few years I would set it up within the school and the staff and students always say they look forward to the town every Christmas.
Yet after I set up the village I experienced a new Christmas tradition, The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. It travels across Canada and the United States, raising awareness about donating to your local food bank. It is a train decorated with Christmas lights and they have a performer playing at different stops along the way. This year it stopped in Toronto near were I live and I was fortunate to remember that it was arriving Monday night.
The Christmas tree, lights, the Christmas town and this year the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. The Christmas season has begun with a loud bang or should I say a train whistle. Those of you who are feeling the season has begun as I have, I say “ALL ABOARD!!! THE NEXT STOP!!! THE NORTH POLE!!!”
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