Tag Archive | Ruth Ann Adams

100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. We remember not only a devastating  casualty of war but the courage and compassion of the Halifax people and their ability to rebuild from the ashes of tragedy.

As a tour guide, I told the story of the Halifax Explosion as we travelled from Agricola Street to the Hydrostone area in the North End. This is my story.


Remember the three red and white smoke stacks that I asked you to keep in mind as we drove down Citadel Hill? Now I am going to tell you the story of the Halifax Explosion.

The early morning of Dec.6, 1917, during the First World War,  seemed no different than any other. Adults went to work or attended to household tasks and children walked to school. The Halifax Harbour was bustling with ships. The two principle characters in our story are the Mount Blanc, a munitions ship from France, under Captain Medec,  and the Emo, a relief ship headed to New York City, under Captain Fromm. The Mount Blanc was like a sailing bomb, carrying such dangerous items as TNT, picric acid, gun cotton saturated with nitric acid, and benzoyl, which was placed in secured barrels on the deck, away from the other explosives. Normally, such a ship would have flown a red flag to warn people of danger but Captain Medec did not want to fall prey to enemy vessels.

On the evening of Dec. 5, both captains were anxious to complete their missions.  Captain Medec wanted to enter the harbour and  join a convoy of vessels which would give protection sailing across the ocean, and Captain Fromm was in a hurry to exit the harbour and load his ship with relief items in New York City.  However, the captains were stalled because the submarine nets, created to keep out German U-boats , were already in place.

The next  morning both Captains were eager to be off. They both travelled towards the narrows, where the smoke stacks are, but because of some blundering decisions, crashed into each other at 8:45. The Mount Blanc caught on fire. It proved  impossible to put out and both crews abandoned their ships.

Few people knew how much danger they were in. They stood at the waterfront, watching the burning vessel. Children looked  out through the large school windows. They were no different than us, full of curiosity about an unexpected event.

Curiosity soon turned to terror. At 9:04:35 the Mount Blanc exploded, the biggest explosion caused by man  before the atomic bomb. Approximately 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured. Windows were shattered and slivers of glass damaged people’s eyes. Many wooden  houses caught on fire and people were stranded underneath the boards. Halifax immediately took control, calling in medical help from doctors, nurses, and  student doctors studying at  Dalhousie. People without homes were taken in by the Armouries, factories, churches and homes. A flood of help arrived  from other provinces and  countries. Can you guess which was the first city to send in supplies and medical help? I will give you a hint. It was a city in the USA. You’ve got it! Boston, Massachusetts! Each year, Halifax sends Boston a gigantic Christmas tree, as a thank you to the people of Boston. The tree is placed in the Boston Commons and beautifully lit.

When my husband and I decided to move to Nova Scotia, 17 years ago, we  read a novel called “Barometer Rising” by Canadian author, Hugh McLellan. The book is a fictional account of the explosion. A comment that has always remained in my memory is that we often remember a smaller event because of its juxtaposition  to a larger one. For example, many of you can likely remember exactly what you were  doing or where you were when you heard of the death of a loved one. During the night of Dec. 6, a ferocious snow storm hit the area. This made the task of finding family members much more difficult. There are many winter storms in Nova Scotia but this one is remembered because it is part of the story of the explosion.

There were several trials but finally the Halifax Explosion was judged an accident.

Here we are now at the Hydrostone stop. This area was completely destroyed. New houses were built of hydrostone, a fire resistant material. Look at the lovely green area and the many interesting shops. Much work was put into reconstruction.

Postscript  for reader:

Halifax has proven to be capable of handling major disasters. I am a transplant from Ontario,  but am proud to be part of an outstanding community. On Dec.6 we need to remember the people who died, and all those who showed great bravery,  provided aid and rebuilt the city.

Lest we forget.















The Finish Line

13307231_10156961266475156_458387478405197081_n“As soon as we go around this corner, Mom, you will see the finish line,” said my daughter, Hannah. We were walking a 5k in the Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon. Hannah could have run the 10k with ease, but she signed up for the 5k walk to be my guide and encourager. We rounded the corner and saw the big arch of the finish line. Then something odd happened. As we approached the end, I had this horrible fear that I wouldn’t be able to finish, that my feet would not carry me any further. Why?

A young woman on my Sunday School team said the arch looked further away than it was and that the last stretch was uphill. Technically it was a more challenging part of the route. This was not really surprising. It is often just before a major accomplishment, significant  change or restoration, that we encounter the greatest resistance.

Sometimes, we can see the finish line ahead but at other times, we have no idea how close we are. This is when we are most tempted to quit. This is also when we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and refuse to back down. I once had a dream, during a difficult period of my life, that I was riding a bicycle towards a destination. I was not sure of my physical ability to ride the bicycle nor of my knowledge of how to get to the place I was heading. I just knew that if I  kept riding, I would arrive.

Situations can come unexpectedly into our lives. They may seem so bewildering and hurtful that we have no ready answers,  That is exactly the time when God wants us to keep walking, keep walking, keep riding, keep riding, trusting him that the outcome of our journey is entirely in his hands. We will reach our destination. We will come through the finish line.

Hannah and I walked through the arch together, holding hands, and feeling the triumph of completing our race. The sense of dread, that I wouldn’t make it to the end, was only a feeling. Reaching our goal was well attainable but if I had stopped walking, I would never have finished my course.

Refuse to quit. Never give up. You may be way closer to victory than you think.







Seize the Day

In Thornton Wilder’s three-act play, Our Town, a young woman named Emily dies in childbirth. The Stage Manager, who narrates the play,  gives Emily the choice of reliving one ordinary day of her life. Emily chooses her 12th birthday. Her expectations are shattered when she realizes that her family goes through the motions of life without really savouring what they have. Emily asks the Stage Manager: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

The Stage Manager  replies: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

Saints and poets. Maybe.

There is an expression in Latin, Carpe Diem, which means “Seize the day.” The word seize implies a deliberate action on our part. What does it mean to seize the day? For some it may mean grabbing hold of every part of it, being in control, moulding the day to their  wishes.12091393_10153140078465778_5869073415636498001_o

There is also a gentler meaning. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me the verse: “This is the day which  the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 24). From this perspective, we recognize that all the gifts in our life  come from God. We cannot live in the past nor the future. We can only live in the present. Regardless of our circumstances, we can rejoice, because God is with us and has equipped us with many blessings. We can “realize life while [we] live it,” by by focusing on our family and friends while they talk to us, rather than being distracted by things around us. We can take the time to deeply appreciate God’s created world, in all its beauty. We can read God’s Word, the highest form of worship, as my pastor says, and focus on his plan  for our lives. Life on this earth is finite, but we can grab every opportunity to take in all the joy and love, all the simple blessings, that each day brings. We can also practice forgiveness and not dwell on offences. Life is much  too short for grudges.

This Thanksgiving, seize and enjoy your time with family and friends. Thank God for all his blessings and be encouraged by the knowledge that there are many more to come.  “Realize life…every, every minute.”

Happy Thanksgiving!













Celebrating Friendship on Valentine’s Day

A few months ago, I was idling away some time on Facebook and almost on a whim typed in the search section the name of a friend who had attended university with me. We had shared many happy hours talking about our studies, hopes, boyfriends, faith, life goals and the many topics that two young women,in their early twenties, might discuss. For a while, we kept in touch, but as the years went by, lost contact. Now, thanks to Facebook, there she was again, just a click away. I sent her a friend request and she accepted immediately. I found out that she had 17-year-old twins, in their final year of high school. She was surprised that I had five children, and that one of them was married. Since then we have been exchanging notes and pictures, and I feel blessed that even though I just recently found out about her twins, I will now have the pleasure of seeing their prom and graduation pictures, finding out what universities they choose to attend, and feeling a small part of their lives.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate not only romantic love but friendship. In the Bible, this type of relationship is referred to as philia love, the feeling of connectedness two friends have for each other. Friendship offers support, nurture, caring, shared interests, laughter and fun. We aren’t meant to walk alone. We are meant to be in relationships with other people. Joy is heightened by friendship and sorrow is lessened. Even if our contact is restricted to an occasional letter or a note at Christmas, we know our friends are there and savour our past history.

Since I tend to find change difficult, during my childhood I envisioned living my life near my family in Southern Ontario. However, I fell in love with a young man who chose the ministry as his calling. Our first child was born in Saskatchewan. The next four were born in Ottawa, during a lengthy period in Eastern Ontario. Then in 2000, we moved to Nova Scotia, where we plan to remain. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to live in the same house or the same location, for most of a lifetime. There are certainly positive aspects to this, including a sense of security, stability and continuity. However, in spite of the drawbacks of our frequent moves, I would not change the past. Everywhere we have lived, we have met people who have deeply enriched our lives. I would not exchange such a precious gift.

In September 2014, we suffered the terrible loss of my sister and brother-in-law’s 31-year-old daughter. There were many people at the visitation, in Ontario, that I had not seen for some time. One of these was my best friend from elementary school. To me, she looked unchanged since we had parted, when her family moved in the middle of our Grade 8 year. We talked about old memories. She said, “Do you remember Mr. White making you stand on the top of your desk? You stood there and tapped your foot!” I had blocked out this memory, but her retelling the story brought some levity into a very sad evening. Later, a woman came up to me and said how glad she was when she heard I was coming. My friend recognized the panic in my expression, which clearly conveyed that I was desperately trying to recall who the woman was. Like the good friend she has always been, she came to my rescue.

On Valentine’s Day, and all through the year, remember your friends with appreciation and love. To all my friends: I am deeply grateful for you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note: Mr. White: name changed.

Friendship and Marriage

Over Valentine’s Day weekend,  New Covenant Ministries Church, our place of worship, invited guest speakers to conduct special services on the subject of marriage. The husband/wife team provided Scriptural insights and helpful examples of what a marriage should be. The sessions were informative and fun, and we shared a lot of laughter, as we explored the roles of husbands and wives and how spouses can serve and complement each other. I thought of how important it is to never take your partner for granted,  whether you have been married one year or thirty. Every day we need to pay attention to our spouses and show them appreciation and respect. Acts of kindness should begin at home.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate both romantic love and friendship. There are few things more precious than friendship in life. In the Bible, Jesus refers to us not only as his children but his friends: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends,  for everything that I learned from the Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, NIV). Jesus puts a high value on friendship. The strongest marriages have not only a romantic component, but a foundation of of friendship, as well.

When our children were small, we would occasionally arrange a date night for just the two of us. One one of these evenings, a lady observed us in a restaurant and said she could hardly believe we were married, because we were having such a great time talking. to each other. We have always had  a common bond, because of our faith in God, and our many shared interests such as history, music and literature. Of course, we have our differences, as well.  I prefer to shop with my female friends because the whole process bores my husband. He sees only the dollar signs, while I think of shopping as a social activity. On the other hand, I have to remind myself to at least ask my husband how his favourite baseball or hockey team is doing!

A few years ago, during a particularly painful time in our marriage, which involved job loss, extreme financial stress and greatly altered  circumstances, I believe that one of the things that held us together was the solid friendship we had developed early in our relationship. The best of friends are there for each other, during good times and bad, even when circumstances are doing their utmost to unravel their lives. Our faith in God convinced us that better days were ahead and our friendship and love  gave us a a point of contact and endurance.

Throughout the rest of 2014, let Valentine’s Day live in your everyday lives. Be a friend to your spouse and others. Perform acts of kindness in your home and outside of it. Many blessings await you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!




Summer Reading: Nurses and Nannies

There were times, when my children were small, when I used to gaze at  the homes of my friends sans infants with wonder. Order and harmony prevailed. At no time was this more evident than in the summer. While my home was strewn with wet bathing suits, dirt on the floors, toys in every possible location, dishes in the sink and laundry piled in the basement, their homes exuded a sense of peace and quiet. I could actually hear the silence. However, now as an older Mom, I miss the crazy days and am longing for grandchildren. Life has its stages and each one is to be treasured.

Summers required a special kind of strategy, as we tended to be out of routine and the sun shown late into the evening hours. Before the last day of school arrived, I had my arsenal devised. Swimming lessons were a must, a survival activity, and now, even in their twenties, several of my offspring can hardly be persuaded to get out of the water.

Crafts also filled up many happy hours. One summer, the kids did a messy outdoor craft , which drew  young neighbours to join in.  On another occasion, we took the kids to a Picasso exhibit in Ottawa and then drew pictures “Picasso style.” The children found their own amusements, of course, and not always to my liking. An assortment of snakes and frogs, recruited by my son, found their way to our home. One day, while I was absentmindedly dusting our long coffee table, I found a toad at one end of it.

Summer was also a particularly good time to read chapter books. When our children ranged in age from one to twelve,  we gathered in the evenings to read Nurse Matilda (1964) by  Christianna Brand . This hilarious story of the antics of seven  unruly  children was turned into a movie in 2005, called Nanny McPhee. However, we first knew her as Nurse Matilda, an iron willed lady who with the aid of her handy and extraordinary staff, subdues  the children, wins their affection, and assists in averting several  disasters. In the way of all magical caretakers,  Nurse Matilda disappears at the end of the story, but not before the family is settled in a happily ever after fashion.

Another book which has its place of fame in our family is The Old Nurse’s Stocking Basket (1931) by Eleanor Farjeon. My youngest daughter, Susanna (in her late teens now), and I still read the stories out loud to each other. “‘Children,’ said the Old Nurse, ‘stop quarreling, or you know what.’” This gentle threat was sufficient because “you know what” meant there would be no bedtime story. The Old Nurse’s method of story telling is unique. While she narrates her poignant and fanciful tales, she mends the children’s stockings. A little hole means a short story and a big whole means a long one. It isn’t hard to guess which type the children like best. Susanna and I especially love the very last tale, The Sea-Baby, a haunting story of childhood and the realization that  growing up may involve letting  something precious pursue its own destiny.

Keep cool and safe and enjoy these hectic but memorable summer months. Tell me about some of your favourite children’s books!


5 X Mama, Happy Mother’s Day!

Head Shot   I looked at my young daughter, her stomach artistically decorated with bright markers. There was no doubt in my mind as to what had inspired her. The night before, we had read Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch, a children’s story  in which the heroine, Brigid, “…colored her belly-button blue. And that was so pretty, she colored herself all sorts of colors almost entirely all over.” The artwork faded from my daughter’s skin, but  her passion for books continued.  Now, as an adult in her twenties, Andrea  devours books, even if she refrains from plastering her belly-button with markers!

As a 5 X Mama, with four daughters and one son, I am convinced that one of the most important things you can do for your children is to read to them. Books have always played a huge role in my own life. My mother said, that as a child, I carried a book with me on outings, instead of a doll. Libraries were like treasures mines, complete with enticing covers, intriguing titles and dramatic tales. By the time I was eleven, I managed to talk the children’s librarian of our local library into hiring me as a page, to put books away and do other small duties. Finally, I entered the classroom as an   English teacher, sharing novels, poems and drama with teenagers, before embarking on another exciting career, as a 5 X Mama. Naturally, books were right, left and centre in our home.

My husband shared  my passion. When our babies were born, he read and re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, while he rocked fussy infants to sleep, and generously gave me some rest. Then when they were older – but not much older – he read the trilogy to them. When our youngest daughter turned 18 last November, her older sister, who once coloured her tummy-button, did much of the work planning a surprise Lord of the Rings theme party for her, complete with costumes, decorations and special food such as “orc pudding.”  My husband, dressed up as Gandalph, read to his now adult children, from one of Tolkien’s books.

All of our lives we tell ourselves stories, and we share those stories with others. Words have the unique ability to create, to empower, and ultimately to determine the course of our days. When children hear a wide variety of stories, the possibilities for creative and imaginative excursions are endless. Through stories, children learn how to respond intelligently and sensitively to the many influences and circumstances of their lives. They learn to look beyond themselves to the needs of others and to relate compassionately to people different from themselves.

In  5 X Mama, one of my goals is to share some of the wonderful stories I enjoyed with my own children, as well as to explore newer books. The possibilities are endless and in this age of digital distractions, it is perhaps more important than ever, that books make an immediate and emphatic presence in children’s lives. Besides all of this, reading books with children is just plain fun and gives parents, grandparents and educators opportunities to connect and converse, that would perhaps otherwise be lost.

the mothers day mice

An enchanting Mother’s Day book to share with your little ones is The Mother’s Day Mice by Eve Bunting. Three mice, Biggest, Middle and Little, go on a private adventure to find just the right gift for their mother. In spite of courting near disaster with a cat, each finds something special. Little discovers the best gift within himself  and in a spirit of generosity says that his present is from them all! Jan Brett’s detailed and colourful illustrations perfectly complement the text.

Do you have books you treasured as a child or enjoy reading to your children? I would love to hear about them! Have a memorable and blessed Mother’s Day!

Disclaimer: Copies of books discussed are my own or from the library, unlessotherwise stated.

Falling in love with Scotland

scottland                scottland 2

My mother once told me, in her practical wisdom, that most of life consists of day to day living. She said that life has its mountain top experiences, but these are the exception, not the norm. Of course, she was right. Our days and weeks, months and years consist largely of the small pleasures of our normal routine. However, once in a while, something so fresh and unexpected comes along, that our outlook is never quite the same afterwards. This was my experience visiting Scotland for the first time.

When Elizabeth I ruled England, one of the biggest uncertainties was her future successor.  She died in 1603, without a child of her own, and the crown was handedto King James VI of Scotland. In 1707, the Act of Union created Great Britain, consisting of England, Scotland and Wales. The Scots had always had a strong sense of their own nationality.  In the time of Roman Britain, the Emperor Hadrian was unable to occupy Scotland and instead built Hadrian’s wall, to keep the Celts out of British territory. Heroes such as Braveheart and Bonnie Prince Charlie  fought for their country, hoping to free Scotland from outside interference. Even now, Scotland has its own currency, the  Gaelic language, and a unique culture. A referendum has even been set for September 18, 2014, to ask the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

During our first day in Scotland, we sailed down Loch Lomond, admired the  breathtaking scenery, sipped complementary tea and listened to the stories of a Scottish tour guide. Later, while my family went up the side of Ben Nevis in a cable car, I remained sensibly on the ground, browsed through some local stores in Fort William, and compared the products to what we sold at the department store I worked at in Canada. That evening, at our hotel in Newtonmore, a Highlander, dressed in full regalia, played the bagpipes and in a short  ceremony artfully presented the haggis, a dish made of sheep’s liver or intestines. The next day, we toured Blair Castle, built in 1269. Our guide told us that Queen Victoria and Prince Andrew had once visited the castle and gifted the presiding duke with his own private army. For lunch, we stopped at  St. Andrew’s, which has as at least three claims to fame, as a well known golfer’s paradise, the city where Prince William went to university, and the setting for the opening and closing scenes of Chariots of Fire. In the evening, after a meal of salmon and potato chowder, I had a conversation with a charming Scotsman who very obligingly explained to me the different parts of his costume.

In the morning, we drove to Edinburgh, took a tour of The Royal Mile and Princess  Street, and  enjoyed some free time to explore on our own. At the Writers’ Museum at Lady  Stair’s House, we saw displays on three famous Scottish authors: Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Robert Burns, my daughter Hannah’s favourite poet, has remained so famous that many people still celebrate Robbie Burns Day each year on January 25th. Burns’ poem, Auld Lang Syne (“for old time’s sake”) is often used to usher in the new year.

While my family lingered over lunch, I walked up the street  and forced my way through a very heavy door into a gift shop on the lower level of St. Gile’s Cathedral. Since many of the cathedrals in the UK charge admittance, I was pleased to discover that St. Gile’s did not.  I ran back to encourage my dawdling family to finish lunch, so we could tour the cathedral together. Inside the cathedral was a statue of John Knox, a famous Calvinist preacher, who once graced the pulpit of St. Giles and preached a reformist message of salvation through grace. He had a particular antipathy towards the beliefs and practices of  Mary Queen of Scots and is credited as an instrumental player in the development of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. At the John Knox house, we saw some fascinating  manuscripts and descriptions of his life and work.

Hannah and I went off look through some stores and were drawn into a little shop with the unusual  name, The Tappit Hen. When I asked the saleslady what the name meant, she said that it referred to a type of drinking mug and showed me where it was located in the store window. The shop also sold Celtic jewelry and an intriguing  item called a quaich, a  two -handled cup which is presented as a friendship gift on special occasions.

On the bus, our tour guide played the Scottish song, “Loch Lomond” and for weeks afterwards, its haunting tune  played in my mind. We drove through the Scottish highlands, saw the heather on the hills and the  cows called “hairy coos” roaming the fields. Perhaps it was the romantic story of the lovers in “Loch Lomond,” the beauty of the landscape, my love for my husband who sat beside me on the bus or the brogue and friendliness of the Scottish people. Perhaps it was because Scotland caught me off guard, a place I had always thought would be interesting to visit but had never dreamed of, as I had  England. Whatever it was, my unexpected love affair with Scotland is something I will never forget and never recover from.

Coventry, a lesson in forgiveness

In Coventry, England, two churches stand side by side. One is a bomb shelled husk, a grim reminder of the flames and devastation of World War 2. The other is the new church, built after the old one was destroyed. Two churches. Two messages. One symbolizes the horrors of death, while the other the miracles of life and restoration.

Why is the old church still standing? To the people of Coventry, the sight of the bombed structure is a reminder that good triumphs over evil. When German bombs destroyed lives and property, in a 10 hour attack on the city, the people chose to focus on forgiveness.

As Easter approaches, Christians focus on two symbols of faith: the cross and the empty tomb. One represents sacrifice and death, the other resurrection and life. We are reminded that as Christ sacrificed his life for us, we need to share his love with others. Sharing Christ’s love in an imperfect world always requires forgiveness.

What would have happened if the people of Coventry had decided not to forgive? They would have lost the opportunity, not only for their own healing, but for the privilege of being an  example of faith and hope to the rest of the world. Forgiveness is always the most powerful option and Jesus has shown us the way through the cross and the empty tomb.

Have a blessed Easter!