Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Things I Learned in 2011

Sometimes a year can seem like a write-off until you remember that what you learn is far more important than what you accomplish. As I reflect back over the past year, I realize this old dog actually did learn a few new tricks in 2011. Had you shown me this list a year ago, I'd have said "no thanks" to some of it and "no way" to all of it. Who would have thought, at 52, I would learn all these things for the very first time:
  • How to create a blog.
  • How keeping a blog current is really only fun for the first few weeks.
  • How to conduct oneself at a writers' conference.
  • How not to conduct oneself when one gets one's car stuck in the ditch on a country road.
  • How exciting it is when one's manuscript finals in a big novel-writing contest.
  • How publishers aren't interested in anything less than first place in a big novel-writing contest.
  • How to do Jillian Michael's yoga meltdown routine.
  • How you can feel more fit than you've been in years, yet still be vulnerable to health problems.
  • How one can be subject to lung ailments even when one has avoided smoking.
  • How much one would like to smack those who don't avoid smoking.
  • How to plan a swell party for an 80-year old.
  • How it feels to be scanned, scoped and scrutinized.
  • Why people awaiting medical appointments, tests, results, and diagnoses are called "patients!"
  • How to make a solemn doctor laugh.
  • How to make a roomful of school teachers cry.
  • How to make really good dill pickles using the same old recipe I've always used.
  • How to memorize two hours' worth of dialogue with a Southern drawl, change into six different outfits with record speed, and not freeze to death backstage at the Glesby Centre in late November. And love every minute of it.
  • How to host the "After Glow" party for Prairie Players.
  • How I would love my third grandson just as much as my first two, and how quickly I'd forgive him for not being a girl.
  • How much I would enjoy a contemporary dance recital.
  • How little I would enjoy the new Smurfs movie.
  • How to set up an online survey for Portage's citizens.
  • How to rip out ugly 1970's carpeting which animals have considered their own personal restroom.
  • How to calculate depreciation three different ways: straight-line, double declining, and units of production. (Now if only I could dial a phone number correctly on the first try.)
  • How to say grace at the City Christmas party.
  • How you can do half your usual decorating, buy fewer gifts, go to fewer parties, do no baking at all, skip the family newsletter...and Christmas will still come.
Not too shabby, eh? I feel better already. How about you? Take a look back through your calendar. I'll bet you'll be surprised by how much you've learned, too. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Count Down Begins!

November 30
     I think it was 1985. I was a stay-at-home mom with a four year old and a two year old. Along with a bunch of other young moms, I attended what was then called "LIFT" (and has since evolved into "Daybreak") every Tuesday morning at Portage Alliance Church (which was then located at the corner of Lorne Ave. and 13th NW!). A bunch of us were making these advent calendars and I climbed aboard. I know there are several of them kicking around the country, perhaps one of them is yours.
     Looking at it now, I can only shake my head at the painstaking detail. Not content to merely glue on my numbers, I machine stitched around each one (after cutting them all out!) Each sequin is sown on by hand--up through the felt, through the sequin, through a tiny clear rocaille bead to hold it in place, back through the sequin, and finally back through the felt. Over and over and over.
     Each little ornament, once finished, gets stiffener ironed on to it before stitching Velcro to the back.
Here's how it looks by Christmas.
     Good grief! Where did I find time and energy for this? And, more importantly--why?
     I always said I was going to make two more identical ones so I could give one to each of my children as they left home. Never even started.
     So, here it hangs on our wall still. With some significant exceptions:
  • No one is arguing over whose turn it is to put up the ornament on any given day.
  • Nobody's trying to guess which ornament it will be.
  • Nobody's wondering which pocket has a little Christmas tree inside, indicating that's the day we'll put up our tree.
  • Nobody's doing the math, figuring out how he or she will put up the last ornament, the star at the top, on Christmas Eve.
     All of which, I suppose, gives a healthy hint as to the answer to my "why" question. I'm thinking it might be time to pass this tacky, 26-year old tradition on to the grandsons.
     Maybe next year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Rat Tale

     Some things are only funny 25 years later.
     It's been at least that long since we lived in a trailer court that included a concrete garbage corral. We could toss our trash in there and the landlord would come along and burn it when it got full. Really full.
     One day, unannounced to the tenants, it all got bulldozed and replaced with a dumpster. Which would have been great, except for the rats who now sought a new home.
     They picked our place.
     I was washing dishes when through the window I saw the first of the little darlings on our doorstep. He helped himself to some dog food and zipped back below. Evidently our puppy was big enough to keep the neighbourhood cats away while not actually intimidating the rodents. It was rat heaven!
OK, I admit this one's kinda cute.
     We moved the dog food inside.
     We set out traps.
     We set out poison.
     We tried not to think about it.
     That night we were just about to fall asleep when we heard what sounded like small children in steel-toed boots galloping through our duct work. Seriously. Not a lot of sleep that night. I lay there thinking of our dating days and how I'd dreamed of the idyllic life we would have together. Oddly, rats had not entered the picture even once.
     The next day we attended the wedding of some friends. It was lovely to get away from our rodentia problems awhile and concentrate on flowers, candlelight, and romance. Alas, too soon the festivities were over and it was time to return to our infestation. On the drive home, the bride and groom passed us, smiling and waving as they headed down the highway toward their happily ever after.
     I cried.
     That night, my redneck hubby determined to get himself a rat. We closed all the heat registers tight except for one, which we carefully removed. Hubby braced a piece of plywood over the opening to create an inviting tunnel and placed some bait there. He announced that dinner was now being served on the upper deck, and set up camp under the kitchen table with his .22, waiting for Mr. Rat to come up for vittles. I went to bed.
     I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say we learned bird shot will create little dents in your wall without actually making holes. But Hubby got his rat that night and by the fragrance emerging from behind a wall a few days later, we knew we got at least one more with the poison. Gave a whole new meaning to "I smell a rat." The odour eventually dissipated and we risked having company again.
     What's the point of my tale? Only this. While there are many things in life that will never be funny no matter what, there are a great deal of things that will. Sure, they might make your skin crawl. It might take years. But you'll chuckle, one day.
     What's happening in your life right now that some day you'll be able to look back at and laugh? And if that's truly the case...why not today?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Heart-to-Heart with My Alter Ego

     I'm having a hoot portraying Sugar Lee Thompkins in the Prairie Players' production of The Hallelujah Girls, but only a few people know how it almost didn't happen. Back in June when auditions were held, I was still undergoing tests for my crazy lung ailments and was half convinced I'd be dead by now. Suddenly, "overdoing it" consisted of merely staying up all day.
     "Surely you'll be better by fall," my husband encouraged me.
     So on the way to auditions, I prayed "God, if I'm not going to have the energy for this, please don't let me get a part."
     I got a part.
     Then summer continued and so did my condition. Although it won't kill me, it has me sleeping ten out of every 24 hours. No way could I put in a three-hour rehearsal at the end of a work day!
     "Pull out now, while there's time to replace you," I told myself daily but never followed through.
     Then the rehearsal schedule came out. With no knowledge of either my health issues or my work schedule, our director had set the rehearsals for the days I don't work. I could take naps in the afternoons! Hallelujah!
     And so I got acquainted with Sugar Lee. Our conversation, had there actually been one, might have gone a little like this:

TT: So. Sugar Lee, it appears you and I share a chronic condition. Any idea what caused yours?
SL: Nasty spell of pneumonia in '81. Yours?
TT: My decade as a fire breather with the Cirque du Soleil.
SL: No way! Are you pulling my leg?
TT: Yes, I am. No Cirque. No pneumonia. Still a mystery.
SL: Bummer.
TT: Yep. But I'm taking a week of holidays so I can sleep during the day and keep up with you each evening.
SL: Well, it's like I tell my friends. You are the heroine in the story of your life. You can stand up for yourself and live your dream!
TT: I disagree, Sugar Lee. Being your own hero is asking for an empty life. You can live your dreams, but they are pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
SL: Sweetheart, sounds like you need an ego massage. You are woman, hear you roar.
TT: Real hope is not based on emotional quick-fixes. We can’t save ourselves, Sugar Lee. We need a Savior.
SL: See, it's hangin' onto those old beliefs that keeps you from finding your happiness.
TT: Sometimes stuff happens that we just can't control. Life is strewn with unpredictability and hardship. Multitudes have died seeing their hopes and promises left unfulfilled, but that is what defines faith.
SL: Honey, this is the very part of your life that needs fixin.'
TT: Sometimes the reason God doesn't grant us our dreams is because he has something better in mind.
SL: Like a hunky cowboy in tight blue jeans?
TT: That's another thing. Please don't think the love of your life is the answer to all your prayers, no matter how sexy his legs might be.
SL: Are you done? 'Cuz my next gig is on another stage in a different community in a healthier actor's body.
TT: Yes, I've said my bit.
SL: Well, hallelujah.
TT: It's been good knowing you, Sugar Lee.
SL: Back atcha. Now seriously...get yourself some help. And no, you can't keep my pink shoes.

L to R: Rosa Albanese Rawlings, Christopher Kitchen, Me, Nita Wiebe, Connie Krawec, Kevin Hamm, Laurel Giesbrecht, Lisa Marie Tessier. (Kevin plays Bobby Dwayne, Sugar Lee's love/hate interest. What a good sport!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Glorious and Free

     Surprisingly, not everyone grants me the attention I so clearly deserve. Last week I met my third grandson, Rorin Bennett Todd. He was 48 hours old and slept through the entire meeting. I nuzzled him, talked to him, counted his fingers and toes, rubbed his back, kissed his velvety cheeks, and stroked his brown hair. He made only tiny puppy squeaks, but I know he was saying "I love you too, Grandma, and when I get big I'm gonna read your column every week."
     The blessing of three healthy children and now three healthy grandchildren is one I hope I never, ever take for granted. When I consider the millions of miracles that must go right (and how often they do!) in order for a child to be formed and delivered without complications, it quiets my heart in awe. God has been kind to us.
     With all these boys in the family, my perspective on Remembrance Day has changed. As a kid, I recall assembling in the Amaranth Elementary School's hallway. It meant listening to talk of wars fought by old men, wearing a poppy on an annoyingly wayward stick pin, singing Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past, reciting John McCrae's In Flanders Field, and suffering through that interminable minute of silence. Then we got the rest of the day off, and if we were lucky there was snow to play in.
     Not until I was a mother myself did it hit me. It was not old men who went off to war.
     One Sunday near November 11, I looked around our church at all the guys in the conscription age range, including my own sons. Why, they were just kids! I imagined this was 1940 and these guys were all going off to fight. I tried to wrap my head around what that would mean for our church, for our town, for my family. Tried to fathom the slow or nonexistent methods of communication available once they were gone. And, worst of all, wondering which ones would not make it back.
     Then our daughter joined the Canadian Forces for a brief stint in high school, spending a summer in training at Wainwright, followed by a short time in our Reserve Force. We were proud of her, but no one was more relieved than I when she decided militia life was not for her. While she was there, I simply refused to consider what it would mean if another country declared war on Canada.
     And today, while other grandmothers in other parts of the world welcome little ones into war-torn environments, I have lived my entire life so sheltered, so naive. So free. I will not pretend I understand it; I will only be humbly and deeply grateful.
     I cannot assume this privileged life will be guaranteed for Rorin and his brothers. But for them, and for each child on our planet, I offer this ancient Hebrew prayer this Remembrance Day:
     May God bless you and keep you. May God make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May God lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

If I Had an Extra Hour...

"A man with a watch always knows what time it is, but a man with two watches is never sure." I don't know who first said that, but I believe it. I can leave home in plenty of time according to the white clock on my kitchen wall, then get into the car and realize I don't have as much time as I thought according to the dashboard clock, and then walk into the office even later than I feared according to the clock there. Good grief! I suppose this also explains why, at the end of the day, I seem to arrive home almost before I left the office. Time is just weird that way.
     And the whole switch-over from Daylight Savings to Standard Time doesn't really help. Some brainiac decided that one day a year our planet could take 25 hours to rotate, as long as it also takes a day a year to do so in only 23. Weird.
     At least this month, it's the "good" switch, when we get an extra hour. What will you do with yours?
     You could be like the majority of us and simply get an extra hour of sleep, always a good thing. But if you're not particularly sleep deprived, you might want to do something more productive than mindlessly watching another 60 minutes of TV or web surfing. Be pro-active! Think of the hour as a gift and do something you can actually look back on and say "Here's what I did with my hour."
     Below are a few ideas to get you rolling. You should be able to do any of these in an hour or less. Let me know how you did.
  1. Play a round or two of Scrabble.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  3. Bundle up and lie on your back to look at the stars.
  4. Clean out your closet.
  5. Go online and sponsor a child through Compassion Canada or World Vision.
  6. Go for a nature walk in the park and collect a few acorns and pine cones for a seasonal centerpiece.
  7. Tighten any loose buttons on your winter coats and jackets.
  8. Start on your family Christmas newsletter.
  9. Have a living room dance marathon.
  10. Take a bubble bath.
  11. Pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.
  12. Re-aquaint yourself with the names of the planets in our solar system, in order.
  13. Go for a run or work out.
  14. Order prints of your favorite photos.
  15. Write your parents a letter.
  16. Find a quote or a Bible verse you can live by. Memorize it.
  17. Give your dog a bath.
  18. Clean out your fridge.
  19. Learn how to say “I love you” in five different languages.
  20. Go ice skating.
  21. Get a haircut.
  22. Re-read your favorite childhood book (bonus points if you have a kid to read it to).
  23. Contemplate time and eternity.
  24. Make a Christmas gift for someone.
  25. Sort through your clothes and pack a bag for MCC.
  26. Sort through your movies and pack a bag for MCC.
  27. Make breakfast for someone you love.
  28. Sort through your plastic containers and recycle any unmatched tops and bottoms.
  29. Pray.
  30. Delete numbers 1-28 and just do #29. The one who keeps our planet in orbit loves to hear from you. It will do your heart good, too!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beautiful Gift from a Beautiful Lady

On Monday, I was blatantly coveting my friend Nita's fall arrangement pictured on Facebook. "Make me one," I said, jokingly. To which she instead supplied her recipe:

Fill one container with sand. Put a bunch of red willow standing straight up in the middle. Tie it around the top with a thingy like a ribbon or something. surround that with rose branches. Bandage your hands and arms. Put a bunch of pine branches around that, more horizontally. sprinkle branches with red berries of some sort. If you want, add a diagonal line of another straightish thing like grass. Add some water. Do not bake. Freeze.

While I appreciate the detailed instructions, they were no more helpful than if Nita's talented son Colson were to tell me it was easy to play a fiddle by "simply drawing the bow across the strings like this;" or her daughter Kyla said "you can draw this picture, too, all you have to do is this and this;" or if her husband Stan told me I, too, could take great photos just by doing thus and such. Right.

(This is the artsiest family in the history of the world. They think it's normal.)

ANYWAY... so that evening, I'm handing out Halloween treats at my front door and on one such trip, what should appear on my step but a gorgeous Fall arrangement suspiciously like Nita's. She was no where to be seen, however.

I dashed off to play rehearsal and found her there. Turns out she hauled all the stuff to town and assembled the arrangement IN MY NEIGHBOUR'S DRIVEWAY! In the dark. Then recruited some passers-by to help her drag the lovely thing over to my place. No tricks. Just a big treat.

Thank you, my friend. I love it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Things I'm Afraid Of

Never been a fan of Halloween. I figure there's enough genuine wickedness in the world without having our children pretend to be witches, vampires, or werewolves, even for a night. Nor have I understood the thrill of being terrorized out of my wits by horror movies or books like Stephen King's. And you can ask my hubby why it's just not worth the fun of startling me.
     But neither am I one of those who thumps folks over the head with the evils of Halloween. I refuse to hide in the basement on October 31, lights off and doors locked. I give out treats to be a good neighbour and because it's a handy excuse to have chocolate in the house. (Although last year, I finally got smart and bought the kind of candy that doesn't tempt me. Much.)
     I'll tell you what does frighten me, though, and it's not spiders, snakes, death, or public speaking. Here are three things I find truly scary:
     1. When adults teach children the theory of evolution as fact. If you've read my column much, you already know where I stand on the idea of our having a Master Designer. For my first bit of evidence, I present to you The Ear. Assuming all of life evolved from a single-cell amoeba, I'd like to know why, at some given point along our evolutionary climb, the ear started to develop. For what reason? With no knowledge of sound, how did we "know" to evolve a means to hear? And closer to home, why do creatures much farther behind on the ladder have the ability to grow new limbs while humans do not? Who decided to discard this as a useless feature? I guess I just don't have the kind of faith required to believe in evolution.
     2. I fear how far behind I am technology-wise. Sure, I can use a computer for writing and emailing and Facebook. But all the little hand-held gadgets everybody else seems to be carrying around make me feel like a dinosaur. I don't even own a cell phone. I'm tempted to keep a calculator in my pocket so I can whip it out and pretend to check messages every now and then, just to look hip. When they dim the lights in church, you can see folks' faces all aglow, not from the joy of the Lord but from the reflection of their electronic whatever. Another year or two, and I will have to abandon all hope of ever catching up. This scares me.
     3. When I hear myself and my friends discussing our various ailments, medications, and doctor visits ad nauseum. I used to vow I'd never become one of those people. Now I find myself hammering out long emails to my sister with all the details, and devouring her replies. I get it now. But it's not the ailments that trouble me so much, it's their all-consuming, attention-grabbing nature. It's what they reveal about my own self-centredness versus the person I hoped I was. Scary.
     No wonder almost every book in the Bible includes at least one "fear not." There is much to fear!
     And it ain't Halloween.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Life as a Hallelujah Girl

Two evenings a week since early September, I have been donning the persona of a sweet but feisty southern belle named Sugar Lee Thompkins. Although she and I look a lot alike, Sugar Lee has a more colourful past, a lot more courage when it comes to taking business risks, and a keener interest in helping her friends through their respective crises. I could learn a few things from her, and I hope I do.
     Lest you think this columnist has finally fallen off the deep end, I should probably explain that Sugar Lee and her friends, Carlene (Rosa Albanese Rawlings), Nita (Laurel Giesbrecht), Mavis (Connie Krawec), and Crystal (Nita Wiebe) reside in Eden Falls, Georgia and are becoming known as The Halleluiah Girls, also the name of a play coming to the William Glesby Centre November 16-19, courtesy of The Prairie Players.
     If you enjoyed The Dixie Swim Club in 2009, you won't want to miss this play by the same playwrights, Jones, Hope, and Wooten. As these women attempt to transform an old abandoned church into a top-notch day spa, hilarious hurdles pop up everywhere. You will love hating their nemesis, Bunny Sutherland (Lisa Marie Tessier), hoot with the unannounced arrival of a long lost love, Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt (Kevin Hamm), and howl at the bravado of mama's boy Porter Padgett (Chris Kitchen).
     This play has something for everyone: mid-life epiphanies, music, romance, explosions, rejection, revenge, heartache, an ego massage, wild costumes, and side-splitting comedy. You'll get to be part of a year in the life of these high-spirited women as they help one another fix their lives while there's still time.
     Terry Tully, a veteran member of the company, is the capable director of this piece. I asked him what makes this the best cast he has ever had the privilege of working with, bar none. A leading question, you say? Tully, who admits he once went a full two minutes without making a movie reference, handled it with tact:
"A famous director, Harold Clurman, was once asked what made him such a good director. He replied that 'With a good script and a good cast, you too can be a good director.'  I know that this is one of those times when I will come out looking good. We have a great script and a dream cast. This will be a great play."
If you want to see the play only, you can do so for just $13 but you must go on Wednesday night. If you want to enjoy a fabulous chicken and ribs dinner with your entertainment, you can go Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for $40 a ticket.
     Now a word of caution. Previous years, here is what has happened. The dinner theatre tickets all sell out in advance. On opening night, folks come to see the play (without the dinner) and start talking it up around town. Others hear them and want to see it too, but guess what? The remaining nights are already sold out! Don't let this happen to you. Decide which night you're going, and get your ticket now at the Glesby Centre, or call them at 239-4848.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Strange Doin's are a-Brewin'

Beware the Ides of October. Strange things happen this time of year. At least, to me.

In the Spotlight
     We have a motion-sensor light at the back door of our garage. Neither hubby nor I saw that thing come on once all summer. In fact, if we thought about it all, we assumed it was turned off or burned out.
     Until the first night of frost. I had picked our tomatoes and brought them inside earlier in the day. It wasn't until I was ready for bed that it dawned on me: I had forgotten about one plant because it was in its own pot, separate from the garden. I was already in my ratty old bathrobe, but determined to save those last two or three tomatoes. You know where this is going.
     I grabbed a flashlight, slipped my feet into some flip flops, and headed stealthfully out the patio doors. Wouldn't you know it, the motion-sensor light came on. Hello, neighbours!

Not Exactly Martha Stewart
     I almost always keep a frozen pizza on hand for emergencies. I won't bore you with what constitutes an emergency or how often they occur, but here's what happened last time I pulled one out. Now, I don't always buy the same brand but whatever looks like the best deal of the shopping day. Not all brands are packaged alike - some come with a cardboard circle on which the pizza sits until it's time for the oven. Some don't. Recently, I'd been purchasing the sans-cardboard kind, so I popped the pizza into the oven and set the timer.  You know where this is going.
     When the pizza was ready, I couldn't figure out why it was so difficult to slice. Man, oh man, that thing was tough! Finally picking it up enough to look underneath, I discovered a cardboard circle now fully fused to the pizza crust after having been in the oven for 25 minutes.
     Hubby and I scraped it off as best we could and ate it anyway. Not bad, actually.

     Late one Friday afternoon, the power went out at work. No computers, no fax machines, no lights. Just a bunch of workers with nothing better to do than gawk out the window at the police officer trying to direct traffic at our busy corner. And a boss smart enough and kind enough to tell us to go on home and call it a day.
     I pulled into my driveway and pressed the button on my garage door opener. Normally, it works if you barely touch it so I was surprised when the door stayed down. I pressed the button again. Nothing. Surely if the battery were dying, I could squeeze one last use out of the remote by mashing the button good and hard. This resulted in a broken garage door opener, while the garage door still refused to go up. You know where this is going.
     I let myself in another way and soon discovered the power was out at my house as well.

Since none of this could possibly have anything to do with my being scatterbrained, inattentive or just plain deficient, I gotta chalk it up to the freaky time of year. Beware!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to be Thankful (even when you don't feel like it)

It sounds cliché, but grateful people are happy people. Yet gratitude requires a daily choice, doesn't it? It's so much easier to see what we don't have than to consider all we have. So today I'm giving five tips to help you win the battle.
     #1. Here's a fun exercise you can do online. Log on to and key in your annual income to see where you fall in the world's richest ranking. I was in the top 12 percent. Look at the line-up of people to see where you show up on the scale. Sobering, isn't it? And something to be thankful for.
     #2. Choose someone who has been a positive influence in your life and tell them so. Not good with words? That's why God invented Hallmark. There's sure to be a card on a store shelf that says it perfectly for you, if you take the time to look. Or take your person to lunch, a game, or a movie. Paint them a picture. Use your imagination, but find a way to express your gratitude.
     #3.Pick the thing that's bugging you most right now. Frustrations at work? With a family member? Your health? Now answer two questions: in what ways could this be much worse? What can I learn from this difficulty? Then be thankful that it is not worse, and be grateful for the opportunity to learn something from it.
     #4. Ask yourself: who is doing something good for someone I love? A nurse at the manor? Your child's teacher, youth pastor, or coach? The neighbour collecting for Heart and Stroke Foundation? Tell that person "thank you" for what they're doing to benefit your loved one. It will mean more than you can imagine.
     #5. Write down 99 things you're grateful for today. Think of it as your own little "Book of Awesome." Here are mine, in no particular order: Coffee with hazelnut creamer. Hot showers. Coconut-scented bath products. Toothpaste. Floss. My computer. This blog. Sunshine. Warm slippers. Toast. Canada. Chocolate. Sight. Literacy. Music. Roast beef. Fresh tomatoes. Prayer. Eye glasses. Cork boards. Kleenex. A garage. A garage door opener. Furnaces. Washing machines. The Bible. Family. Blue jeans. Curbside garbage and recycling pick-up. Crescent Lake. Candles. Wayne the Squirrel. Pickles. House plants that don't die. Doctors who call me. Cameras. Indoor plumbing. My job. Baby animals. Ball point pens. Friends. My piano. My pillow. The flip side of my pillow. An email from my daughter. Cinnamon-Apple tea. Flannel sheets. Grocery stores. Inter-generational dancing. The word "shenanigan." Tweezers. Duct tape. Balki and Larry's dance of joy. Hair dye. That little kid on the internet who conducts orchestras. Electric blankets. Hugs. Dishwashers. People who snort when they laugh. Skin. Q-tips. Fuzzy socks. The laughter of children. Laminate flooring. Pretty scarves. Good teeth. Daisies. My co-workers. The delete key. Free parking. Gravity. Coupons. Peaches. My church. Birthdays. Thrift shops. Shingles. Live theatre. My car. Rocking chairs. Free draws. Sleep. Police officers. Tylenol. Mountains. Smiles. Tears. My satin blouse. Distance education. Brakes. Breaks. Cookbooks. Storage space. Toilet brushes. Paved streets. Electric lights. Toys. Self-sticking envelopes. God's unstoppable love.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Case of the Mysterious Shrinking Closet

When our son, Nathanael, was two years old in 1983 we took a cute photo of him peeking out of a closet in my mother's house in Portage la Prairie. Just before Mom sold the house in 1996, we decided to take another picture of this boy, now 15 years old and a whopping six-foot-four, looking out of the same closet.
     Earlier this year, my sister and her husband purchased the house from the folks who had bought it from Mom 15 years before. It was the perfect place to hold a family gathering to celebrate Mom's 80th birthday in September. Of course, I had to get a shot of Nathanael, now 30 and a parent himself, peeking out of the same closet! He's a good sport.



Friday, September 30, 2011

Get Me to the Church on Time

     I was late for my own wedding.
     October 1, 1977. Back then, you simply couldn't get married without fluffy plastic flowers running the length of your car and a giant pair of spray-painted, Styrofoam wedding rings on top. It was the law, I think. The monstrous, glitter-glued diamond on one ring would show the world we spared no expense to host a classy shindig. My dad's gold Newport Chrysler looked mighty spiffy bedecked with those blue and white flowers and elegant, Herculean jewelry.
     Dad was driving my maid of honour, my flower girl, and me from my sister's house to the wedding just seven miles down the highway in said car. We left in plenty of time. What we didn't know was that whatever held the decorations in place was not doing its job adequately. As Dad sped up, the flower streamers started flailing in every direction like tentacles on an octopus. Dad stopped every once in a while to reattach wayward decorations, while the bride and her maid each kept a hand out the window to hold things in place. If Dad drove about ten miles an hour, they stayed put, so we crawled along. Why he didn't rip them off and stuff them in the trunk is beyond me. Respect for the wedding decoration police, I suppose. Or maybe he wanted to make sure we got our money's worth out of those fancy rented adornments. Or, perhaps Dad just figured they were important to his little girl.
     Meanwhile, a church full of guests waited. Key players began to wonder if the bride had chickened out. The bride's mother worried about what they'd do with all the food. The preacher hoped the unused candles could be used in the next day's church service. The groom considered heading back to the field to complete the silage-cutting he'd begun that morning. And every unattached guy there wondered how soon would be too soon to move in on the bride. Okay, I may have made that last one up.
     Thankfully, they didn't go ahead without me. We eventually arrived and proceeded with our I do's, our sluggish parade through town, and our receiving line of hugs and advice from aunties and uncles. The Carpenters' song, We've Only Just Begun played its role in there somewhere, another requirement of a 1970s wedding.
     Over the years, we have joked about the irony of my being late for that event. Of the two of us, it was the groom who tended to be late for things, both before and after that day. But 34 years later, this team is still hitched. Guess there's truth in John Dyer's poem:

Life is a race, where some succeed,
While others are beginning;
'Tis luck, at times, at others, speed,
That gives an early winning.
But, if you chance to fall behind,
Ne'er slacken your endeavor;
Just keep this wholesome truth in mind:
'Tis better late than never! 

Happy Anniversary to the man who has hung in there with me all this time!

And now for the really funny postlude. After writing this story and sending it off to the newspaper for my weekly column, I decided to post it here, along with an actual photo of the wedding car. When I found the photo, I discovered we didn't have giant wedding rings at all, but wedding bells! Here's proof of what 34 years can do to one's memory:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vogue Versus Vujicic

Today I'm featuring a guest blogger. If her style sounds familiar, there's a good reason: she's my daughter, Mindy Erickson of Calgary. It seems she's a chip off the old word processor. Enjoy.

     I am appalled. But I am not sure who appalls me more: the writers of this craptastic magazine, or  myself, for purchasing it. I admit, I occasionally like to spoil myself with a wholesome, educational, shoes-and-bags, celebrities-and-eyeliner magazine. Like Vogue
     I came to a compilation edited by Sarah Brown. One writer hated her sagging earlobes and was considering a lobeotomy, costing $2,000-$2,500. Another hates her jawline. She considers getting a jaw lift and practices vigilant home remedies. Another, who at the age of 45 and after at least one Botox treatment, could no longer live with her aging eyelids. She decided on surgery.  “A series of four treatments spaced two weeks apart, with a day or two of recovery each, the fee starting at $3,500 for one shot, $1,200 per lighter session.”
      Page after boring page, I somehow felt I needed to finish what I’d started. I gave it my best effort, but gave up, incredulous that I had wasted so many minutes and brain cells. Not yet giving up on the entire magazine, however, I flipped pages. 
     I wish I were making this up, but only a few pages over I read, Want to know a Vogue secret? Obsessing about your age and your 'flaws' is never chic.”
     The brainiacs at Vogue apparently don’t proofread. They devote pages to obsessing about aging and flaws, while in the next breath deem the complete opposite view a “Vogue secret.” Their next gem is, “'Don’t-give-a-damn' is the most fashionable quality ever known.” I hate to break it to them, but girls who truly “don’t-give-a-damn” don’t spend $7,500 tightening their eyelids
     For a change of pace, I picked up Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs. My brain quickly switched gears at Nick’s words. “We humans are a silly bunch. We spend half our time trying to fit in with the crowd and the other half trying to stand out from it. . . . Why can’t we be comfortable with ourselves, knowing that we are God’s creations, made to reflect His glory? . . .There has to be a better way to celebrate your individualism ... I’ve adopted an attitude that might work for you. I’ve decided that my beauty lies in my differences, in the fact that I’m not like everybody else . . . I may not stand tall in a crowd, but I definitely stand out.”  (pg 84)
     This is a guy with no limbs. He sees his difference as an ability that is opening doors. At twenty, he went to South Africa where he gave away most of his life savings--$20,000--to orphanages. He loves himself as he is, and encourages others to do the same.
     I have this magical thing called choice. I can decide to follow the advice of truth-tellers and I don’t have to listen to the misguided and selfish nonsense found in a magazine like Vogue. (In case you wanted to know the moral of the eyelid surgery, the author was “Elated. The droop is completely, utterly gone” and “I’m not as self-conscious.” Awesome. Tell that to Nick Vujicic.) 
     I have vowed to never again spend my resources on another waste-of-a-publication magazine. If I am tempted, I will instead put the six bucks into something worthwhile.
      Who knows? Maybe it will eventually be enough for that liposuction I’ve been wanting on my eyebrows.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

When I Turn Eighty

     My high school Home Ec. teacher used to say, "if you want to be a sweet little old lady someday, you have to be a sweet young lady now." Although I agree wholeheartedly, I fear I am lagging far behind.
      This weekend we're celebrating my mother's eightieth year of a well-lived life. It's an appropriate time for her children and former students to reflect on what we want to be like when we reach that age.
      My mother's road has not been an easy one. A child of the depression and a bride at sixteen, Mom had five children in the next eleven years. During that time, Dad injured his hand in an accident at the gypsum mine where he worked to supplement their farm income. My mother got it into her head to finish high school by correspondence and pursue her long-held dream of being a teacher. With a chuckle, she tells about taking her textbooks along to the hospital when she had me, the youngest, so she could study for exams.
      After graduating from teachers college, she taught in a one-room school at Falmouth, then at Amaranth High, where she eventually became the principal. By spending her summers in university, she ended up with a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts. Mom later devoted her skills to the students at Portage Christian Academy.
      With more than her share of heartbreaks and losses along the way, Mom not only survived but thrived, thanks to her faith and her can-do attitude. Like Daniel and his friends in the Old Testament, she has come through the fire without smelling of smoke.
      What about you? What do you want to be remembered for? What adjectives do you hope folks will use to describe you when you're eighty? And what one thing can you do, today, to make yourself more like that person you hope to be then?

Me & Mom
When I turn eighty, if I do
I hope I'll have learned a thing or two.
Tackling new things, big and small
Like swinging a club at a little ball.
Like cheering at a Bombers game
And dressing like a classy dame.
Like how to bake the best darn buns
And playing Scrabble just for fun.
To write a book that blesses others
To love with devotion that never smothers.
To daily pray for all my kids
And grandkids, too, and great-grandkids!
To never spread a nasty rumour
But always keep my sense of humour.
To know that hard roads lead to faith
To walk in mercy, love, and grace.
I hope I'm known as someone kind
Who helped to stretch another's mind.
Who's dabbled with a little art
Who's known for her gracious heart.
When I turn eighty, if I do
I hope I'll be a lot like you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were YOU?

     Numerous websites have sprung up where you can answer the question, "Where were you on September 11, 2001?" I decided to compile my own mini-collection from Facebook friends. I got more than enough stories to fill two columns all by themselves. Two days later, people were still responding in great detail.
     Tracy said, "I took Jenna outside to wait for the bus for grade one and came back inside to find Josh miffed because Magic School Bus had been interrupted on every channel. Shaun was in Bosnia and all communications were shut down. I was very anxious to hear from him, needless to say...sad, sad day."
     Gayle wrote, "I was in my laundry room ironing when my friend phoned to ask if I'd heard the news yet (I hadn't). Had the sickest feeling and watched and listened all day. Resisting the temptation to run to school and gather my kids to me."
     Nathan said, "I was living in Surrey and woken up by my friend's phone call from Winnipeg. His first words were 'It is the end of the world.' Had no idea what he was talking about till I flicked on the TV."
     As for me (Terrie), I was driving to work with my 14-year old son beside me, radio on. When they announced a plane "accidentally" crashing into a New York skyscraper, I pictured a private two-seater, and when they announced a second plane, I assumed a media mistake and forgot about it. An hour or so later, our staff meeting was interrupted and the rest of the day was a write-off as we sat glued to the television. I was in charge of creative arts at Portage Alliance Church, and we immediately knew our plans for that Sunday were out the window. But how could we guess what people would need when we had no idea what might still be coming? I spent the next couple of days creating a Powerpoint show using Anne Murray's A Little Good News and photos I had to scan from newspapers. (Seems archaic now!)
     Two weeks after the attacks, I accompanied my hubby on a trucking trip through the States. Even the most cynical among us would have been hard-pressed to make that trip without a lump in his throat. From the moment we crossed the border until we turned around at Laredo, Texas, we saw American flags gallantly streaming from every home, vehicle, and billboard. "In God We Trust" and similar slogans appeared everywhere. I admired their loyalty, faith, and patriotism.
     A year later, Allan Jackson's song Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? came out. Technically, the world did not stop turning. It has seen equally disastrous events, both the sheer evil kind and the natural kind, without coming to an end. But Jackson's point is, as my Facebook survey proved, we remember.
     We remember because it was a jolting reminder of our collective vulnerability and mortality. We can't assume we'll be here tomorrow, or that we'll have another opportunity to tell anybody how much we love them.
     A good reminder, even ten years later.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How to Enjoy a Squirrely Performance

I was feeling rather sorry for myself, having missed both Rainbow Stage productions this summer. Then I realized I have a nightly performance going on right here, where I comfortably sit in my screened-in porch.
     First, there's Wayne the gray squirrel. Funny how a close-up view of Wayne reveals that were it not for his fluffy tail, he'd look just like a rat. Yet thanks to the tail, he's totally adorable. And nimble? He gallops along the fence or overhead wires at breakneck speed, flits between trees faster than you can say "dog," and occasionally stops to hang upside down just because he can. Showing me the proper way to eat a pine cone, he parks himself on the woodpile not eight feet in front of me and polishes the thing off, as quickly and untidily as a teenager with a cob of corn. Interesting thing about Wayne. One day you see him squished dead on the street and the next day, he's running along the fence again.
     Then there's Bonnie the Bunny. She shows up only on rare occasions, but she owns the neighbourhood with her certifiable cuteness. Her salad bar, otherwise known as my garden, is none the worse for her visits. She's a polite little thing, daintily nibbling only what she needs for the moment and moving on.
     Maury and Maureen, the pair of Mourning Doves, are a sweet couple who nest here and hang around just until their little ones are ready to take off. Don't tell them I said this, but it seems to me their heads are too small for their bodies. Then again, their Designer came up with millions of models, each beautiful in its own way, so who am I to judge? And the shimmering rainbow gray of their feathers would make the most fetching mourning dress ever! Their cooing is tremendously comforting, and I always miss them when they go.
     The stars of the show are our very own Chip 'n Dale. They are red squirrels and proud of it. They can chatter and scamper as fast as any chipmunk, maybe better. I assume they're still adolescents, but they are anything but awkward. We've seen them chase each other up and down a tree, circling around it so many times I get dizzy just watching. When that gets dull, they vault to the roof of the neighbour's garage where they roll together into a tight ball. They spiral down until just before they hit the edge, then leap back into a tree and start the whole circuit again. No worry about obesity in these kids.
     Who needs show tickets? I've got one in my own backyard.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Molders of Dreams

To all you teachers, gearing up for another year. If you are one of the good ones--no pressure, but remember, you are the answer to a parent's prayer. Thanks for what you do!

You may have heard this poem before:

Molder of Dreams

Teachers …
You are the molders of their dreams,
the gods who build or crush
their young beliefs of right or wrong.
You are the spark that sets aflame the
poet's hand, or lights the flame
of some great singer's song.
You are the gods of the young, the very young.
You are the guardian of a million dreams.
Your every smile or frown can heal or pierce a heart.
Yours are a hundred lives, a thousand lives,
yours the pride of loving them, and the sorrow, too.
Your patient work, your touch, make you the gods of hope
who fill their souls with dreams
to make those dreams come true.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Clowning Around

My friend Nita thought I should combine my on-going lung ailments with my love for all things theatrical and write a new musical for the stage. I came up with some great (if not precisely original) titles, like My Fair Lungs, The Lung and I, and Oklunghoma!
     The heroine is diagnosed with Bronchiectasis. It means her bronchial tubes, instead of being smooth and cylindrical, are, in medical terms, knobbly and wobbly. Her lungs are scarred. Alas, her long-held dream of modeling for anatomy textbooks is over. How this developed remains a mystery. That week of smoking in grade seven? (Don't tell her Mom.) Her twelve years of cleaning houses for a living, inhaling Comet and Javex? Possibly. Mold in the walls of her former home? Could be. In any case, it's a done deal now. The audience grows restless. The chorus breaks into a rousing number called "She Might Get Better, She Might Get Worse." But by this point the plot is so weak, the opening night crowd has left their seats and are demanding a refund.
     We've known awhile that I have this condition, but my doc was digging around for something more sinister because Bronchiectasis, while it explains the coughing, is not supposed to hurt. Mine does.
     But nothing more dramatic was apparent, so my doctor's latest attempt at earning his keep was a free sample of acid-reflux medicine. Not the problem. So, here I sit with my mystery and a complimentary membership to the "shot-in-the-dark of the month" club.
     Cynical as that sounds, I do not resent the medical community. Lord knows, I couldn't do what they do.
On a recent visit to my lung doc, he walked into the examining room to find me wearing a pair of bright yellow glasses with a big red clown nose. "What's up, Doc?" I said.
     Poor man probably thought I got off on the wrong floor. I didn't have the heart tell him it was a test to see how long it would take him to notice. Since he passed, I said I just wanted to brighten his day, what with his depressing job and all.
     "I don't think it's depressing," he said. I guess that means he's helping at least a few people, even if I have yet to join their ranks. Oops, there I go again. My pastor tells me cynicism is not a spiritual gift.
     Anyway, I'm living with some new rules which involve more sleeping and less doing. Religiously huffing my way through Jillian's hateful exercise routine. Trying desperately to not become an old crank. (Don't ask my long-suffering spouse how I'm doing on that front.) And stubbornly rehearsing the list of bodily parts that still work right. It's a surprisingly long list. The one who knit it all together knew what he was doing, and I'll trust him to decide when it's time to let it unravel.
     When you come right down to it, isn't it mind-boggling that our bodies function at all? And for that, I can only be grateful.
     Thanks for asking.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Editing Shmediting

YAY! It's sent off!
     Have been working for weeks on editing my novel to enter in CWG's Operation First Novel contest. This is the same novel and the same contest from a year ago, when it placed in the top ten. In the last year, I've learned enough to see hundreds of needed changes and try again. Next year I'm sure I will learn still more. How long do I keep this up? I told myself ten years, so I've got a way to go. Published or not, I am learning and, I hope, becoming a better writer. But for now, I am completely tired of the thing. I hope to not look at it again for a long, long time. I'm so sick of the characters, I'd probably kill them all off just for spite.
     How about you? Got dreams and goals that you've let die because it just got to be too much effort? Too little reward? If it's something God called you to, don't quit. I'd feel sick right now if the first (or second, or third) draft of my book had been published. God knows when it will be ready, and he knows when it's time for your dream to come to fruition, too.
     But if you quit, it never will. And you'll never know. And God will have to find someone else.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why You Don't Want to Read This

You don't want to read this week's column. But that's okay, I don't particularly want to write it. I'd just as soon stick my fluffy blond head in the sand and pretend this issue was make-believe. But I can't. You might succeed in playing ostrich, but at least I'll have done my part by bringing it to your attention. I admire my daughter Mindy who brought it to mine, and who is courageously volunteering like crazy to help bring an end to this travesty.
I'll start with five cold, hard facts. Did you know?
  1. Human trafficking is the second largest business of organized crime.
  2. The average age for prostituted females entering the sex trade in Canada is 13.5 years. (Because this is the average, we know many are younger.)
  3. Prostituted girls and women have a mortality rate 40 times higher than our national average.
  4. There is a direct correlation between pornography and violent sex crimes against women and children. These practices degrade men as well, by making it an acceptable part of being male.
  5. Targeting the demand instead of the supply abolishes prostitution. In 1999, Sweden criminalized sexual clients and decriminalized sex trade workers. Street prostitution went down by 66%. By contrast, countries that have legalized prostitution have seen an increase in all crime.

I'm glad to say there is some good news. Numerous organizations are rising up to do something about it, and there are lots of ways you can make a difference. Here are just five:
  1. Oppose the legalization of prostitution. Write your MP and encourage Canada to take the lead by following the Nordic example. We need to criminalize the purchasing of sex and decriminalize the person being sold.
  2. Educate yourself and others about human trafficking.
  3. Support the education of women and girls, especially in developing countries.
  4. Protest the proliferation of "pimp 'n ho" culture. Movies, sitcoms, language, and video games that make light of pimps and prostitution are not okay! Challenge those who make such jokes or use terms like "pimp my ride."
  5. Give to/ get involved with an organization already fighting human trafficking. Below are three excellent groups working hard to rescue and bring healing to victims.

Servants Anonymous Foundation:
Defend Dignity:
International Justice Mission Canada:

In addition, the Portage Friendship Centre is hosting a training course next month on combatting the sexual exploitation of children.  Contact them at 239-6333 for more information.

Thank you for considering what you can do. Next time you look into the eyes of a child you care about, remember the 27 million people, half of them children, forced into a life of sexual slavery somewhere on our planet--a planet you can make better today. I'm sure you've heard Edmund Burke's quotation, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
It begs the question: when good men do nothing, are they still good?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Who says rhubarb gets tough? You just have to keep picking it, and you can use it all summer. Today I got enough for a double batch of jam and two crisps, one for the oven and one for the freezer. (And yes, Suzie Homemaker is worn out now.)

This is what two batches of my Rhubarb/Pineapple Jam looks like. It's pretty and yummy and makes a great hostess gift at Christmas time.

Recipe for a single batch:

Rhubarb/Pineapple Jam
5 cups fresh rhubarb, cut up
6 cups sugar
1 398 ml. (14-oz.) can crushed pineapple
1 85 gr. (3-oz.) pkg. strawberry jello

Drain pineapple and mix juice with the rhubarb and sugar in large pot. Bring to a boil and cook 15 min. Stir in pineapple and jello. Bring to a rolling boil, remove from heat. Skim off foam. Pour into jars and seal. Makes 4 pints.

Awesome with a little ice cream or frozen yogurt!

Rhubarb Crisp
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
2 cups diced rhubarb
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend first four ingredients together. Press into a 9 x 9 pan, reserving a cup for the top. Cook together the water, sugar, and corn starch until thick. Add rhubarb and vanilla. Pour on top of crust, sprinkle topping over. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.