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They love

Once I met a plagiarist who took my words, and for many years I refused to write poetry. It was heartbreaking, a thief, already rich would steal from a young homeless girl. When I’d learned of his deception, I threw away most of my compiled words. I didn’t want any thieves to have access to any more of my creations.  I did save one poem I had titled “The Eden.” I’d felt God would be unhappy with me if I would toss it away. I am glad I saved it!



What holy place is this?
Is it not built on grace?
The trees, so full and ripe.
The wind’s a warm embrace.
I see the sky – clear blue,
And Oh!, the pure white clouds.
The grass, so green and plush.
Where is this I have found?
Those lolling hills I see,
Beside great gentle seas.
Vast fields, with vibrant flowers.
A warm breeze, passing me.
Gentle animals abound,
They nuzzle my hand long.
What friends these creatures be,
Harmonious as song!
Here, true purity,
That I see.
But stranger yet,
No man there be!!!

On February 22, 1991, my father died. I was living in Windsor, Ontario in adjoining hotel rooms with my son who would turn 15 in April. We had fled from St. Catharines, Ontario where I had experienced some horrible things. St. Catharines is another story for me to blog on another day.
My son had gone to classes at his Secondary School, and I was sitting alone in my room at the Royal Windsor Hotel. I was feeling sad, helpless and useless. My son and his need for his mom was all that was grounding me. I otherwise felt no need for my existence. Yes, I did have those horrible thoughts.
I had, some months before lost my love. I couldn’t, and still cannot understand why he’d gone. He’d seemed to love me as dearly as I loved him. Life can be beyond odd sometimes.
I’d fallen asleep and dreamed of God, or a mighty beautiful Angel, delivering a message to me. His message was, “Things were taken from you, rejoice instead as so many around the world have fallen in love hearing your messages. Is it so important to you that everyone should know the gift originated with you? I ask you then, should you give up this gift given to you in defiance simply because of the evil of another? Is that not self-defeating? Rejoice instead!” I woke, still angry. That emotion is hard to shake. I did leave my bed though to sit at the desk and find both paper and pen to write. A few days later I found a small red-bound book in the department store to record my poems.
A couple of years later my son Carlos and I moved to an apartment on Ottawa Street above a restaurant. We rescued a beautiful dog, in the morning she was headed for the pound. I was confident she would have been put down. The dog was beyond frisky, and her original family believed she would not be trainable.
I couldn’t let that dog go. I had sat on the sofa, and that puppy jumped on my lap and wrapped dog arms around my neck! Now, you tell me, could you let such a loving creature go to her death for the mere ‘crime’ of hyperactivity?
Phoenix, as they had named her, and the name we chose to keep for her proved to be a fantastic pet. She had her faults, like chewing everything from our shoes, my son’s Nintendo paddles, my Bible and my little red book!

Red book

Phoenix’s charms far outweighed her bad habits though. I loved taking her for walks. Nobody dared to get close, and it was safe to walk late at night in the park. If she got bad vibes from anyone approaching her wolf growl sent them hurriedly away! Her vet told me she was part wolf and it was very apparent to people who had seen wolves. Wolves run differently than dogs. If you get a chance to see videos of wolves running in the wild, you will understand how unmistakably her gait was that of a wolf.

Toronto Island

A photo of Phoenix in her heyday as she bounded across the beach of Toronto Island with Carlos. On one occasion a man yelled at me from across the street, “It isn’t legal to keep a wolf as a pet.”
Five days after Carlos’ 21st birthday he moved to Toronto. Phoenix, who’d bonded closer with him, chose also to move to Toronto. Dogs will select their master!
Her fur turned grey with age, and we sadly watched her once boundless energy sap away from cancer. I still love that girl. Yesterday I stumbled upon the little red book while I searched the bookcase for my photo albums. Although I had plans to write a different story, in memory of Phoenix, I chose instead to share the first poem I’d written after the dream.
The poem is about a man who had never believed love could be real. He’d made his way through many lovers, and each had been disposable as another girl was always just around the corner. He told me his love for me was unique, that I was his only and I believed him. I’d never loved anyone the way I loved him. One day he quietly left, and I never saw him again. I wrote the poem, still hoping then he’d find his way back to me. He never did.

They love

They Love
A grown man, and still
He’d viewed love as wry
To his needs, until now when
Few grey hairs would ply
Upon his forehead, and the truth
Of love could cause his cry
In honest tears that slid on
Cheeks accustomed to the dry
He sat there in confusion of
Experience that was breaching
Upon parts inside himself
He’d believed beyond reaching
For certainly they’d never been
As none thought need for teaching
Of love to him, as definitely
It would be as they were preaching
Yes, preaching as the minister
When they believed his hand
Must have waved through love
Many times, as sifting in sand
For hadn’t he done his share
Of travel from land to land
True, too, they were assured
To him – love must be bland
While he recalled her smile
For he knew she had possessed
The love he’d always waited for
(If only to himself confessed)
He remembered how she took
Pleasure when her hand caressed
While it had pleasured him
To feel as if he’d regressed
Exactly! Back into a time
When innocence was everything
Where old songs had sounded
Silly, even though he’d sing
To see a girl smile and lounge
Beside him in trust he’d bring
Reality to her girlish longings
In something, in shape of ring
Now he sat back into this time
To realize he’d wandered away
From the only love he’d known
As it was the habitual way
For him to do so, as he’d done
To the other girls, for to stay
Would be new, yet, she was
His own, he knew to pray
While she sits in wish to say
To him, love’s without doubt
Faith, my darling, is truth
Believe believe the turn about
Will come when you come back
Not as to beg or bringing pout
For his smile is gift enough
Come again for love to shout
In proclamation that love
Is everything! As olden songs
Had claimed, and, they’d example
For others that all the wrongs
Were in deeming the simplicity
Of love as weak, when the strong
In love, are the eternal bonds
That provide the feelings of belongs
For while he sits with silent tea
She awaits his love to return
To her again, while he again
Would fill the space of yearn
That’s open in him, as in her
True, they’d then cause the learn
To others who were as them
Once, before love brought concern

© 2016 Zora Zebic

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A mile high and a baby on board

I’ve never taken lessons to learn to drive a car, but I did have flying lessons. It is one of my quirks that I would excitedly and eagerly climb into the cockpit of a plane to soar into the air!
I learned how to do a safety check, takeoffs and landings, stall a plane to then recover along with other maneuvers. There is a sense of security piloting the craft. Unfortunately, I did not even get close to earning enough of the hours to achieve my Private Pilots license.

IMG_5802 (1)

IMG_5805 (1)

Despite my ease at learning to fly, you cannot get me onto a Ferris wheel or roller coaster. I’ve never believed the rides are safe! In 1987, when my son was 11, this conviction of mine would prove correct.
An old friend from the streets, Lee Anne, brought over her step-daughter, from Detroit, Michigan to spend the day with us. We took the ferry at Amherstburg, Ontario across the Detroit River to Boblo Island Park.

Boblo group

We had an enjoyable day until the children asked to go on the Roller Coaster. A young man herded the line of children into cars and pulled down metal bars across the children’s laps that were to serve two purposes. It was to ensure the passengers did not get thrown from the car and it was something for the frightened to grip. In horror, we watched as the metal bar flew up during the ascent of the first peak. I screamed, and Lee Anne and I pushed our way through the crowd to get to the ride attendant. Other people became aware of the danger the children were in, and the group soon joined us to beg the ride attendant to stop the ride.

The fear

He refused, saying he didn’t want to get fired for interfering with the ride! I was sick with fear watching my son and his companion holding desperately to the sides of the car. The train continued up and down the peaks with a stunned and desperate crowd praying for the safety of the two children. In what seemed an eternity the ride finally stopped, and Lee Anne and I were utterly stunned when the ride attendant screamed at the children accusing them of deliberately undoing the safety bar!
It wasn’t possible for the children to reach the safety latch, a man behind me insisted, and the ride attendant glared at him then said, “I’m not getting fired because a couple of kids unlocked the bar.” The man sternly replied, “You are going to have a lot more to worry about than your job.” We never saw either the attendant or the man again as we had rushed away clutching our precious and terrified children.
I don’t care for jet planes. If I can’t enter the cockpit, then I cannot feel assured the pilot is in control. I have flown across the country a few times out of necessity, but I did find every flight distressing. Jets have autopilot which has some similarity to cruise control. The actual differences are cruise control continues the vehicle at a specific speed while autopilot continues the plane at the particular rate, altitude and direction. Autopilot is deemed safe and gives the jet pilot the ability to keep watch of the mechanics and other vital tasks. Still, I’d prefer knowing a human was flying the jet.
The bumping sensations in the jets are also more pronounced than in the smaller planes because the aircraft are flying higher at much faster speeds. I’d learned during my flight lessons and the flight simulations that the air is very much like the water in a lake! If you’ve been swimming in Lake Erie, you know there are pockets of cold water. Swimming or wading you will find the warmth of the water replaced by a frigid area with a single step or stoke in another direction. As planes fly they encounter similar pockets of air of different temperatures, and this effect is the turbulence that, to passengers, can feel like the craft is bumping into things.
It was 1975, and I was 18, my boyfriend would turn 28 in a couple of months. He had a Piper Cherokee 140, and he owned a small flight school at the Detroit City Airport. The Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan International Freedom Festival fireworks display would occur that night. We planned to fly as near to the show as possible to see the presentation from the air. I became pregnant that evening with his child. You read that correctly. I knew precisely the moment as I felt the egg attach to the wall of my uterus. Even Dr. LeBlanc, my family physician, was unsure a mother could experience this, but I did. My son was born nine months later.
We had set off on a day excursion to Cedar Point. While I refused to get on the rides, we did enjoy strolling through the park, eating cotton candy and delighting over the acts of the magicians and other circus performers. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it was just one of those moments in life when all felt right with the world.
We stopped at a booth that offered old style photos. You didn’t put the clothing on but rather a pioneer-style dress draped over me, and my son’s father stood behind wearing a Wrangler cowboy shirt and a Stetson western hat. The photo processed similar to the instant Kodak ones, but instead of paper, it printed on a sheet of tin. Our images on a brown and white picture did look antique and cute. I don’t know what became of the photo over the years.
One Carnie had nothing but a weigh scale as his attraction. The size was similar to the ten cent ones I’d seen in department stores. The man was offering to guess your weight for a dollar, and I knew he wouldn’t ascertain mine. The dollar I paid was pretty steep in those days as my boyfriend could buy cigarettes for 3 dollars a carton at Selfridge Air Force Base. I knew I’d win the twenty-dollar prize and eagerly handed the man a George Washington!
He underestimated my weight by 20 pounds, and the man accused me of cheating him by wearing hidden weights. I was wearing a tube top, spandex shorts and sandals. Braless and in skin-tight clothing, it was impossible for me to hide anything. The Carnie insisted I take off my flip-flops so he could weigh me again. My boyfriend had been getting angry, but I laughed and got back on the scale. My weight showed the same, and amid the applause of onlookers, the man begrudgingly handed me an Andrew Jackson. I told the man he couldn’t correctly guess because my body weight was mostly muscle.
We climbed into the plane at the Sandusky, Ohio airport and prepared for takeoff. My boyfriend radioed the tower to set our flight plan, and the flight tower radioed back we were to remain on the ground as a sudden storm was approaching fast. They would let us know when things cleared up. We were young, in love, bored and horny. Soon we found a way to make love despite the confines of the small plane, and he joked afterward, “That won’t get us into the Mile High Club!”
The radio crackled, and the man in the tower said, though his laughter, “If you folks have liftoff, the storm passed a while ago and you are free to go!” We were both embarrassed but while we didn’t get to see the fireworks over the Detroit River, but we’d made some of our own!
The skies had clouded over significantly, and our visibility was the worst I’d seen. My son’s dad instructed me to keep an extra vigilant eye on the skies. In the moment of exiting a cloud, we found ourselves in a small cloudless space, but we were not alone. In what I would guess at 20 feet in front of us I found myself looking into the eyes of another terrified pilot.
In horror, I pointed both hands down and screamed at my boyfriend, “Dive!” He would tell me later that in some uncanny way he heard my voice as a command from a Superior Officer or he would never have nosedived the plane. It was only a few seconds later when the radio crackled with the sound of a man’s voice. He said, “Your wife, or whoever the lady was, saved our lives. I saw her motion you to dive and I pulled up at that same moment. We were so close our wings wouldn’t have cleared, and we would have been a mid-air collision. Thank God!”
The (1) flight rules are that when two planes were approaching head on both pilots must bank to their right. The other pilot was correct. So close that we had eye contact; we would have sheared off each other’s wings had we followed the proper procedure.
It is true; sometimes rules are made to be broken.
During the flight back to Detroit City Airport and, my knowing a baby was on board, the fear I’d had of taking flying lessons dissipated. I knew with certainty, from that day on, I wanted to soar through the sky in control of my airship! Life is too short to always to stay grounded.



Title 14: Aeronautics and Space


Subpart B – Flight Rules

  • 91.113   Right-of-way rules: Except water operations.

(e) Approaching head-on. When aircraft are approaching each other head-on, or nearly so, each pilot of each aircraft shall alter course to the right.

© 2016 Zora Zebic



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Angels floated the baby

It was 1978, and my two-year-old son was ‘making music’ in the kitchen. I had read in books that children could get into the lower cupboards. So, as a precaution, inside those, I’d stored all the pots and pans along with other unbreakable items. Carlos loved to crawl into them and pull out various pots with wooden and plastic spoons to use as drumsticks. The racket was often exhausting, but I didn’t like to deprive him of the fun he was having.
One beautiful summer day I opened the back door and brought some of the pots and spoons outside on the small sheltered balcony for the baby to play. We lived on the second floor, and the enclosed balcony was chest level, and the stairs were gated and locked. I was sure my baby would be safe. I happily cleaned my house, enjoying the quietness inside but suddenly felt very uneasy. It was too quiet.
Screams filled the air at that same moment of my concern. I rushed to the balcony and was horrified to see my baby was gone! I could hear loud voices and looked toward several Italian grandmas who lived across the way.
Our backyards were separated only by chain-link fences. There was no alleyway. As I watched them all make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and chests one lady in very broken English called out to me, “Baby fall. Angels floated the baby!” I looked over the balcony, my heart nearly exploding with fear and saw Carlos. He sat in his diaper on the grass. His arms reached up to someone he could see but I could not, and he was giggling.
Those grandmas were very religious ladies. If they said they saw angels floating my baby safely to the ground, then that is what they saw. That was the first miracle.
The second miracle happened in the front of the same house. I sat on the porch drinking coffee with the lady who lived next door while our children played on the lawn. Suddenly the screeching of tires filled the air, and I looked to see a car trying to stop in time to avoid hitting my baby. I didn’t have time to think. Somehow I was able to propel my body through the air and onto the road. In what seemed like a second I’d grabbed Carlos, and we both fell back onto the grass. My baby looked up at me and reached his hands to wipe the tears away that had been streaming down my cheeks. He looked bewildered but not afraid.
I looked up at the car that had narrowly missed hitting us. The driver of the vehicle sat sobbing, his head resting on his folded arms over his steering wheel. I could not take my eyes off him, feeling overwhelmed at the site. He said nothing as he composed himself, but I knew. I knew he was thanking God for answering his prayer. He’d prayed for God to help him avoid hitting the baby.
As I walked back up the steps, Carlos safe in my arms, my neighbour asked, “How did you do that? One second you were here with me, I look away, and there you are in the middle of the road with your baby! I blink, and you’re lying on the grass with your baby on your chest! What happened?” I said, because there was no other answer, “A miracle.”
I’ve gone back to look at that porch, and it is easily 20 feet from the road. It is not physically possible for me to leap from the porch to the street. It is not physically possible for my baby to have safely floated from the second story to the first story. There is only one explanation, miracles.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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The angel of light

Exodus 33:20

“But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

2 Corinthians 11:14-15

“And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

It was 1990, and I was 34. I’d been out at a bar in Windsor, Ontario to hear a band. They weren’t the greatest, but I applauded to encourage them after they concluded their set. A man sitting at a table next to me sneered, “They weren’t good.” I smiled at him and said, “If it weren’t for the little stars the big stars wouldn’t shine so bright.” He didn’t comprehend so I explained the singers and musicians who are not as talented help the big stars. If everyone were equally talented, none would be special. “Yeah, okay,” He said, “but they don’t deserve applause.” He put heavy emphasis on the word “they.”
Another act at the bar that night was a hypnotist. It was the man who didn’t appreciate my applause of the band. I didn’t much believe in this ‘art.’ Still, it was a performance, so I stayed to watch. The show was hilarious. People became chickens; men became thumb-sucking girls with pigtails, two women became famous male boxing champions challenging each other to a fight and one of the waitresses put on a hilarious act of being a famous movie star.
Later in the evening, the hypnotist challenged me. I honestly believed he couldn’t put me under his spell. Before me sat a man dressed in white garments. He told me he was God. I said him that was ridiculous. “How dare you call me ridiculous!” he snorted “I will prove to you I am God.” Suddenly brilliant lights emanated from him and surrounded him.
I laughed at his show, and he became all the more furious and bellowed, “You will burn in hell for your insolence!” I laughed all the more. The light vanished, and he said, “Why do you refuse to believe I am God?” I smiled and answered, “There are a couple of passages from the Bible that come to mind. One of those is a clear message if anyone were to look at God they would perish, and, I’m not dead. The second is the bible says Satan can transform himself into a being of light.”
“You’ve never read the bible.” He challenged me, and I replied, “I have read the book three times.” “If that is true tell me where you read those things in the bible.” I laughed so hard I almost doubled over and answered him, “I read the book I didn’t say I memorized it. Besides, if you were God, you would know where to find those passages! God wrote the bible.” “That just proves you didn’t read it.” He said.
Later that year, in St. Catharine’s, Ontario I had gone to see a doctor about my debilitating migraines. He suggested I try hypnotism. He told me how people had successfully stopped smoking and he’d wondered if the headaches were psychosomatic. He asked if I had suffered any trauma and I told him some of the stories of my life. He said any and all of the events could have caused my migraines.
Unbeknownst to the doctor, he became another genuine angel for me. The doctor’s voice was calm, and his request was easy to follow, “You will wake slowly and remember everything. Take your time and breathe using the exercises I showed you.” As I regained cognizance, I became painfully aware of another similar incident.
In a rage because I would not believe he was God he had commanded my body to refuse to respond to me. I was unable to move my arms, my legs and I could not scream. Another man lifted me and carried me to a bed. I was painfully aware of what was going on. The two men had a camera on a tripod to film their violence and the degradation of me. I did the only thing I could do. I prayed.
The vile man lifted his head and smiled at me. He said, “I know you want me. Show me how you want me.” Suddenly I had control of my neck I turned toward his face, and he snuggled his cheek next to my mouth in anticipation of a kiss. He shrieked as my teeth sunk into his face. I felt his blood run into my mouth as my teeth broke through his skin. I bit harder into the fat and flesh. I was debating my ability to rip away the chunk of him that was firmly between my teeth. He writhed in pain and fear. He begged his accomplice to help him. The other man struck me a couple of times, but the man begged him to stop. “Don’t do that. She’s biting me harder!”
The other man had gotten a screwdriver and wedged it between my teeth to break my grip. He succeeded, and the two of them fled, taking with them their gear and the blood-soaked pillow. Were they worried about leaving behind their DNA? DNA was a relatively new science in 1990.  I had no memory of that rape until waking in the doctor’s office.
A few years later, having returned to Windsor, I sat in a dentist’s chair, He asked what happened to the lower tooth. I said, “That is from a man who used a screwdriver to pry my mouth open. Another man was raping me. I had been biting down on the other guy’s face and wouldn’t let go. I felt the tooth break.” The dentist, shocked, simply said, “That would do it.” I often wonder if the rapist has scars on his face to remind him of the time he thought he could pretend to be God.
© 2015 Zora Zebic

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The Christian rock band & tithing

Barren trees in winter sun

During the early 80’s, and I was living in Calgary, Alberta. I was married, and it was rocky, but we were still going to church each Sunday.
My husband played drums, and he’d joined a Christian rock band. I didn’t think they were talented, though I never let my opinion be known. My husband seemed happy, and I didn’t feel there was any harm in his activity.
I hoped his new peers would be a good influence. With his previous band, he did not make me welcome at their rehearsals; the few times I was invited, it was at the behest of the other wives or girlfriends.
I wasn’t impressed with my husband when I had surgery on my right foot. I had broken the foot years earlier, and I had gone to a surgeon begging for help. I was in my 20’s, and after walking a mere few blocks, I was forced to sit on the curb in tears. The pain was that intense.
On the day I was released from the hospital my husband came with one of his Christian rock band members to give me a ride home. My husband told me he and his buddy were going horseback riding. I said I was hungry, as the hospital had given me breakfast but no lunch because the doctor had scheduled me for release. I asked him to make me a sandwich, and he flatly refused to say he wasn’t going to be late for his plans.
His buddy looked down at his feet in shame, I presume? In pain, I hopped on one foot into the kitchen to make a sandwich. The two of them went out the door and watching them leave I noticed something bizarre. My two budgies had wholly changed colours! How could that be I’d wondered? Now is not the time to tell the budgie story.
Meanwhile, going to church gave me hope our marriage could improve and the ‘until death do us part’ stuff would be a reality. More importantly, I was the mom of a three-year-old who was living in the southern United States with his birth father. The church gave me a place to pray for my son to come home.
My son’s dad had never really been a part of our lives – to the point once the child was born he denied being the father. Learning we were planning to move out west he had asked for a three-week visit with his son. I didn’t like the idea, but it did seem logical my husband, and I would have that time to find an apartment and ready the home for my son. Three weeks passed, and my son’s father told me he was not giving my baby back to me.
I was devastated. A few years later I regained custody of my son. Back then there were no agreements between Canada and the United States concerning child custody. To make matters worse, I hadn’t been advised to go to court to gain legal custody of my child. I had no idea that was a requirement – nobody had even mentioned such a thing.
Not having legal custody meant the child could live with either parent. I was in that proverbial boat without a paddle. Shattered on so many levels, going to church was the only hope I had. Surely my faith in God would ultimately make it all better.
It was Mother’s Day, and the minister called all mothers to stand and be acknowledged. I stood and was shocked to see the many stares of disbelief from the minister and his congregation. I was shaking from their condemnations and wanted to sit (in fact my husband was whispering to me that I should stop embarrassing him and sit down), but I knew God wanted me to stand proudly before him.
Later that week a young mother from our church confronted me in the mall. She told me I had no right to call myself a mother if I didn’t have my son at home with me. I was furious and loudly and angrily told her she was a clueless busybody. I went on to say to her it wasn’t my fault my son’s father had stolen my child from me, and she was downright sinful to accuse me falsely. A small crowd had formed, and I wasn’t ashamed by the horrible intense redness of shame that overcame her entire face. I worked in that mall and suddenly was overtaken with a fear that my boss would learn of my outburst and fire me.
The sound of a single person clapping hard diverted me from my thoughts. A man in a business suit was the person clapping and when he saw he had my attention said to me “Good for you. Whether father or mother, when someone takes away our rights to our children it does not diminish our roles as parents.” That man knew my pain. He was like an angel to me at that moment when I needed the support. The young woman scurried away in her shame, and I went to work not caring one way or another if my boss would fire me.
We continued going to church, and I continued to drop our weekly envelope of precisely 10% of the earnings from my job and that of my husband. He wasn’t happy I was insistent on paying our 10% tithe, but I was determined. I’d read the expectation of God in the Bible, and I would be doing my part. The Bible also convinced me my husband didn’t need to believe – it was important I found God, and this saved both of us!
A few weeks after the confrontation in the mall the minister focused his sermon on the sin of failure of those to offer their 10% tithe. Throughout his lecture, I felt the minister’s eyes alighting on my husband and I. My husband squirmed in his seat as many eyes of the congregation stared at us – proclaiming us as guilty! Only my husband had known I had been, anonymously and faithfully, dropping into the collection basket an unmarked envelope. My husband argued with me that I should at least put our names on it so the minister would know we had been faithful after all. Besides, he said, we could use the benefit of the tax receipt. I had argued in the days of Jesus there were no tax receipts. Moreover, as the collection plate had already taken our weekly envelope, there was nothing I could do.
The next week and for the weeks we continued to attend that church I never again dropped in an unmarked envelope or any other envelope. I wondered if the minister noticed the drop in his income and my husband scolded me each week for having a “bad attitude.” My position was this man had centred us out in his church. He and his faithful flock had condemned with their eyes. I didn’t care what they thought of us now.
© Zora Zebic 2015

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That Cup’pa Warm Is a Blessing

Photo © Ernest Barry Furlonger 2016

We had opened our new centre for the homeless on June 1st, 16 years ago. The winter to follow was a mean one.
We received a small amount of funding to hire a team to work with homeless people living on the streets. A local charity offered to provide the payroll service and did so for a few years – I eventually learned how simple the process was and took over the payroll on my own.
I insisted we hire only people who had recently experienced homelessness as they would be in closest contact with each other. They would know where the other folks were calling ‘home.’ Some of these places were a wooded area affectionately called “The Bunkers,” and particular dumpsters, emptied on regular schedules. Abandoned cars (usually the property of the homeless but without gas to operate them), abandoned buildings, crawl spaces under porches, unheated garages or sheds behind homes and both underground and multi-level parking lots.
The City of Windsor had received numerous complaints from the patrons of the downtown library. The most common complaint was “fear” of the homeless. People had to walk from the parking lot into the back entrance or around to the front. In response, the vents that poured out heat behind the building were sealed off by a chain-link fence enclosure.
An employee of the City of Windsor Social Services had learned a few industrious homeless men had tunnelled and shored up a cavern under a group of bushes next to city hall. One of the men had experience working in the nickel industry, and they had built a fantastic genuine Man Cave!
The next day the men found a working crew bulldozing the site. They had uprooted the bushes and filled in the cave. All of their possessions were gone – the men lost their photo albums, identification and other personal items buried perhaps. They never did find out.
A tarmacked parking lot took the place of the grassy area. (1) “Don’t it always seem to go…”
I am confident the welfare employee went to bed with the self-assurance she had done her part to secure and beautify the city.
Our patrollers were going out each evening locating the homeless and providing sleeping bags, warm socks, hats, scarves, and mitts. Orders were taken for footwear when needed, and special requests were put out to our Union friends to help us provide the much-needed boots.
Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for a homeless person to wake up to find someone has taken their shoes or boots off their feet while they were sleeping. The perpetrators think it is funny or they believe they are doing the community a service to “punish the homeless.”
If these people could witness the aftermath of their cruelty, I am sure they would have a change of heart.
A client rushed into the centre one morning to tell me a homeless lady had frozen to death. Denied shelter because she had been drinking, she was without options. She sat in a doorway and froze to death.
We would not shut our doors, and we would stay open the duration of the winter. Somebody had to care.
We would have to deal with the brutal reality of charity competition and government micromanaging for making this decision – but that is another story.
I was selling roses in the downtown bars. It was the way I made money to buy the items I could not purchase with the government funding – things like computers which were essential tools in the fast enveloping “information/electronic age” – as I sat down at my desk I heard a terrible moaning from the back of the room.
Bill would later become one of our employees but that night he was not at all well. He had injured his feet but would not go to the hospital.
I went over to Bill and demanded he let me see his feet – sometimes it is a good thing to be a motherly middle-aged woman!
Bill pulled the covers away, and I saw he had no skin on the bottom of his feet. Bill told me the morning before he had woken to find someone had stolen his boots. He said it was surreal, as he had looked back seeing his skin clinging to the ice on the sidewalks.
He was afraid to go to the hospital. I assured him they would not judge him or cause him to suffer more and with that, I called him an ambulance.
Bill was sent back to us the next day with bandaged feet, and after a few days, he entered a homeless shelter.
The big problem was Bill could not shower unless they could furnish a clean area. He needed a home and attendance from homecare nurses.
(2) The Windsor Star featured Bill in a story published on Friday, February 28, 2003.
In that story, Bill recounted how he had almost died trapped in a truck’s trash compactor! The danger was real, and that was why he had joined our team and happily searched the dumpsters.
Our patrollers worked the downtown core searching alleys, streets and other locations for the homeless trapped outside until the winter 2008/2009 when we learned the government would no longer provide funding for our much-needed service.
In fact, we lost all funding for all of our programs for the homeless. The survival of our agency from then until now has been a story of despair, faith, and many blessings and once again that is yet another story to be told!
God has now blessed Street Help and our homeless folks again!
We are putting out the call to hire a team leader and patrollers to search the streets of Windsor for winter 2015/2016 and hopefully for the duration of time homelessness exists in Windsor.
We still have some of the first coats worn by our patrollers! We will need to order more, but it touched my heart to once again hold the vivid orange colour with our Street Help logo!
We are also asking for a van. Perhaps a car dealership will provide one in exchange for a tax receipt?!
With an orange coat of paint and our logo it will be easy to transport sleeping bags and other warm items – it will save a lot of footwork for our patrollers who in the past had to go back to the centre for the things to then meet back up with the person in need.
It would be nice to also have a big thermos – like those Tim Horton’s rents out – to keep full of hot cocoa! That cup’pa warm is a blessing.
I recall the childhood memory of the toboggan hill and the building with the fireplace where they served free cocoa. I remember how the warmth of paper cup felt so good to my little cold, cold fingers.
© Zora Zebic 2015

(1) Joni Mitchell lyrics
(2) Patrols help homeless survive, Windsor Star Friday, February 28, 2003
© 2015 Zora Zebic