Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hobbes and Winnie and Calvin and Pooh...

      I love the Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin's dad convinces him it wasn't that they didn't have colour film when he was a kid--it was that the whole world was in black and white because colour had not yet been invented.
      This time of year, the world apparently takes a break from colour and reverts back to the days of black and white. At least my corner of the world. Everywhere you look, there's nothing but shades of gray, from the almost-white gray of the sky to the almost-black gray of the filthy snow heaps along the side of the streets. Even the vehicles, regardless what colour they may have started out, are completely camouflaged to blend into the gray environment. If you look really hard, you might be able to spot something closer to brownish-beige in places, but by then your eyeballs are strained from the effort.
      Which is why I was especially pleased to receive these gorgeous spring flowers from my hubby yesterday - aren't they pretty? The occasion was my two-year anniversary at my "new" job. Guess Jon knew City Hall would not be presenting me with flowers or any other trophies for having achieved this monumental milestone, so he took matters into his own hand. I love them!
     Bright, springy colours bring hope and life and beauty to the tail end of March, and a promise that a new season is just around the corner. Which brings to mind another comic, the one where Piglet is about to drown and Winnie the Pooh encourages him to "Be brave, Piglet. A rescue is being thought of!"
      Be brave. The Creator of the earth's orbits has thought of a rescue and it's on its way.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Long Winter

My hubby says we've still got a couple of mosquito-free weeks to enjoy. Funny how we forget the summer pests when February brings a deep freeze that drags on into March. Everywhere I turn, people are worn out, stressed out, burned out, and downright cranky--even those fortunate enough to be flaunting fresh-from-the-tropics suntans! Maybe it has something to do with returning to chilly reality and facing the credit card company.
      But we’re seeing the light at the end of the snow shovel at last. The slush on our streets and our filthy cars fill us with hope that spring can’t be too far away.
     Some of us, caught up in the pain of whatever losses the past year has brought, are stuck in perpetual winter of the soul. A few warm rays of sunshine do little to curb the cold sadness lodged deep inside. Does this describe you?
     In C. S. Lewis’ tale “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the creatures of Narnia await the arrival of their king, the lion Aslan. They had an old rhyme that said:
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
     Nobody can appreciate that rhyme like Canadians. The hope of spring is priceless, breathing energy into our winter-weary souls and freedom into our imprisoned bodies. If Aslan were real, most of us would invite him to these parts each year before we even had the Christmas decorations put away.
     What if there were a real “Aslan?” Not of the physical world, but the spiritual one? A powerful and noble defender and friend who could bring spring to our souls and drive winter away with a gentle puff of breath? Would we invite him in? Or would we see only the fierce and frightening side of the huge lion and choose to remain in our eternal frost rather than risk his presence? In Narnia, the character Susan expresses this sentiment: “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
     She receives little comfort from the local expert. “That you will, dearie. If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
     Her sister Lucy asks “Then he isn’t safe?”
     “Safe?” says the local. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king.”
     We do have an “Aslan” who, although he may not be “safe,” is eternally good, perfect, loving, and merciful. And he is a gentleman who will never interfere with your life uninvited. He loves you and he longs to bring spring to your soul. You can read about him in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Find a translation you can understand, sweep the deck, dig out a lawn chair, and soak up some “Son!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Task Ahead of You is Never as Great as the Power Behind You

Last Sunday at the close of the service, our pastor had us stand and pray aloud together the prayer from Ephesians Three for the people around us. I said the words as clearly as one can while choking on tears. The passage was intimately familiar and held a place on my bulletin board for years. If you look in my NIV Bible beside that passage, there is a handwritten note in the margin dated March, 1998. Thirteen years ago exactly. In blurry ball point ink, it says "Prayer for myself, Jon and the kids, drama team, and co-workers. If we really grasped how very much God loves us, everything else would fall into place."
      I still believe this with all my heart. It had been awhile since I prayed it, though, for myself or anyone else. I don't remember when it came off my bulletin board or why. Did I think I'd outgrown it, that it had gotten old somehow?
      This needs fixing. For as I prayed the prayer and let the tears drip off my cheeks onto my favorite green sweater, I knew that I and the people I love need this more desperately than ever:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

And if all that isn't enough, the rest of the chapter says...

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

8 Fun Facts About Sleep

     I'm not a fan of the spring time change. If, like me, you find yourself cranky and yawning for weeks after this pointless ritual, you'll be interested in the following fun facts I uncovered about sleep.
     1. You can learn while you sleep! New research suggests that information is transferred between the hippocampus (the area for short term memory) and the cerebral cortex while in deep sleep. Now if I could just get it to transfer from the actual university campus to my cerebral cortex, I'd be in business.
     2. There's a reason men feel sleepy after sex. Men release a multitude of hormones, including prolactin. Prolactin makes you tired. 'Nuff said.
     3. Sleeping can solve your problems. Sleeping on it really does makes a difference. Sleep strengthens memory and extracts information from the day. This is why, when my children call me with their troubles, I pray they'll have a good night's sleep.
     4. Naps improve memory. Studies show that daytime naps not only improve memory, but decrease your risk of heart disease! At least I think that's what they show, I can't remember.
     5. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Apparently, people who sleep more than nine hours a day are more likely to develop Parkinson's Disease. For an adult, sleeping more than nine hours per night is just as bad as sleeping less than six. Where can I sign up to be in the too-much-sleep test group?
     6. Sleepiness can be cured with blue light. Sometimes your internal clock does not match the one on the wall, but you can fast forward your internal clock by exposing yourself to blue light (blue LED lights work) during the day. When I strung some over my desk at work, co-workers mistook it for a holiday and a party accidentally broke out. Which leads to the next point...
     7. Sleepy is just like drunk! If you lose two hours of sleep, you can impair your performance equal to a .05 blood-alcohol level. Soon, police cars will be outfitted with sleepalyzer equipment.
    8. Teens need more.  Teenagers should sleep nine hours and young children require ten hours of sleep. My kids could have told you that by age twelve.
     I got all this information off the internet, so it must be true. Except the parts I may have made up. Take it or leave it. As for me, I'm going down for a nap.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Betcha Didn't Know...

I'll bet you didn't know that...

"...given the intergovernmental linkages of the public finance system, federal government stringency directly affected provincial governments that were concomitantly pursuing stringency policies to a greater or lesser extent."

Don't feel too bad, I didn't know either. I still don't, because I don't have a hot clue what it means. I may not be learning much "Public Administration Professionalism," but I am learning much about myself through this course. For example:
  • Clearly, I am not as smart as I formerly thought.
  • I used to think I was pretty self-disciplined, too. But now I'm procrastinating on reading the 200 pages for this current assignment (most of which sounds like the above excerpt) by blogging instead. Later, I might pull a few teeth or beat my head against the wall.
  • I used to think I was thorough. Now I find myself reading maybe a third of the required offerings, whatever I figure I can get by on to complete the written part of the assignment.
  • I used to think I was grateful for the good gifts that came my way, like this opportunity to take a university program and have it paid for by my employers (ultimately, in this case, by the tax payers of Portage la Prairie.) Now I find myself whining about this course every chance I get. Like now.
  • I used to think I was pretty down to earth. Yesterday I saw an article in People magazine showing several famous people who have been awarded honorary degrees by big-name schools. I indulged in a little fantasy wherein I become someone famous and the University of Alberta (knowing I once took their Public Administration Professionalism course) bestows upon me a doctorate. The prof who suggested I take their writing course hands me the diploma.
Well, now, maybe I'll make a fine public administrator after all. Dumb, lazy, whiny, and lost in la-la land.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Of Maytag and Other Repair Men...

     After 32 years of marriage, Jon and I moved into a home which would contain the first dishwasher we'd ever had. I was ecstatic. It took awhile to fill with enough dirty dishes to finally press that "on" button, but once I did, I smiled and sighed. Oh, the time this was going to save!
      And it did. The first time I unloaded it, however, I discovered the odd fork or utensil stubbornly clinging to some tidbit. Oh, I thought. I guess I should rinse things off a little first.
      Over the course of the next year, I grew increasingly disappointed with the dishwasher. Nobody had told me how much they miss. Because the regression was so gradual, though, I didn't realize the problem was getting worse. I just kept picking out more dirty dishes to hand wash. I tried different kinds of detergents, which sometimes helped for a while. The dishwasher was no longer saving me much time, and I began to wonder why I'd been wanting one all my life. Then came the biggest dirty dish day of the year.
      Too bad no one had the presence of mind to grab a camera. There we were, Christmas Day. My husband, my daughter-in-law, and I alternating places as we inspected the interior of the dishwasher, our butts sticking out into the middle of the kitchen, random appliance parts and tools strewn among the turkey, potatoes, and gravy pots. We rinsed and scrubbed and unplugged holes, then reassembled it. We optimistically loaded all the Christmas dinner dishes into it, pushed the start button, and drove off to the Island of Lights.
      I was apprehensive to open it when we returned home, and for good reason. I spent the rest of the evening re-washing everything by hand. Our efforts had made a barely discernible difference. I called a repair guy and hand washed dishes for the next ten days while we waited. He knew how to take the thing apart properly and clean out the muck. He explained this was becoming an increasing problem since phosphates have been banned from detergents, and left us with a cleaning solution to use monthly.
      The next time I used the Maytag, I could hardly believe it. So THIS is how a dishwasher is supposed to work! Not only was everything clean, it was shiny! Oh, what I had been missing.
      The parallels to life are staggering. Whether it's the marriage, other relationships, or our spirituality: things can become so clogged we don't even realize it's not working the way it was intended to work. So we settle, frustrated but accepting it as a fact of life. The wrongs of this life, both the kind we commit and the kind done against us, work together to mess things up. It happens so gradually we don't notice how bad it has become. We hesitate to call in an expert because we don't want to pay the price or swallow our pride. We tinker with it ourselves, make half-hearted attempts to clean things up. We might make small measures of progress, but deep down we wonder why life is so despairingly disappointing.
      We all desperately need a Repair Man.
      Your Creator knows you and how to get at the gunk of your life. He has solutions for regular maintenance. He inspired a manual you can read for yourself. He has the power to make you what you were intended to be, to make you say "So THAT's how it's supposed to work!"
     The other option is to go through life wondering what that might be, forever doing the metaphorical dishes by hand.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's Happening Here

Here we are, just a day away from daylight savings time and this is what's happening now. This is our relatively well sheltered neighborhood. The photo doesn't pick up the howl of the wind or the constant discord of the chimes by our front door. Or the emergency siren I hear on Crescent Road - God help the rescuers and whomever it is they're rescuing! I'm mighty thankful to not be out there, yet compared to Japan's devastation, this is still nothing. Dare I let it bring to mind an old hymn?

"Tho the angry surges roll on my tempest-driven soul;
I am peaceful for I know, wildly though the winds may blow;
I've an anchor safe and sure that can evermore endure.
And it holds, my anchor holds! Blow your wildest then, oh gale,
on my bark so small and frail; By His grace I shall not fail
For my anchor holds.
--W.C. Martin

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And We HAVE a Winner...!

Congratulations to Erika Driedger, who won a free copy of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers." Send me your snail mail address, Erika, and I'll get it sent off asap. Also, tell me who you would like it signed to (although I think I know!)

Thanks for playing, everybody!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Win a Free Book!

If you
  • ARE a grandmother
  • HAVE a grandmother
  • ever HAD a grandmother
  • ever hope to BE a grandmother, or
  • KNOW a grandmother, 
you will enjoy the stories in this book. (Mine is on page 55). To get your name in the FREE DRAW (to be made Thursday, March 10 at 6:00 PM Central Standard Time), tell me your grandmother's maiden name, either by commenting below, or on my Facebook link, or by email. If you live far away, that's ok - I'll mail it to ya. Good luck!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

TV or Not TV?

     Folks are surprised when I say we don't have a TV. Sometimes their eyes glaze over, or they look at me like I'm an alien. I then explain we do have A television. It's just there's no cable, no satellite, no farmer vision. It's only good for watching movies or my daily torture with Jillian.
     It's not like we never have. Although we've never actually gone out and purchased a TV, we've had no less than six of them handed down to us over the years and we'd watch whatever the rabbit ears would bring us. One summer, we broke down and got cable so I'd have something to watch while recovering from surgery. The summer Olympics were on and it was awesome. After we canceled the cable, the company was in no hurry to unplug us so we just kept watching, convinced it would suddenly go black in the middle of some heart-thumping movie moment.
     Then we moved. Almost two years ago now, and we haven't caved in and got cable yet.
     It's not like I don't miss it. I liked having the news on while cooking supper, or snuggling down with a blanket and hot tea on a frosty Friday night to watch something mindless after a long work day. I confess I enjoyed being told what not to wear and rooting for my favorite Americans/Canadians/Brits who had talent.
     It's not like we never will. It's just one of those living-within-your-means kind of things. One more way to cut expenses. It's also sort of a protest thing, I admit. When you grow up with "free" TV, there's something about having to pay every month that grates on me. I fear I'd have it on all the time, just to get my money's worth. And who wants to waste time like that? I have a column to write, for goodness sake!
     It's not like I don't feel out of the loop when other people start talking about shows I've never heard of or what's going on in the world. I should probably be more aware.
     It's not like there aren't plenty of opportunities. Weekly, there's a flyer in our mailbox pushing the latest and greatest bargain on bundled cable, phone, and internet. For a time. Then the real cost kicks in.
     Here's what I'm waiting for. I want the cable companies to come out with a minutes plan, like you can get for your cellphone. Not that I have a cellphone. Good grief, I really am a dinosaur. But I digress.
     I only want to pay for the TV I actually use. Let's say I choose the Kilo plan - a thousand minutes a month. About half an hour a day. Just enough to catch the news, or, if I skip a few days, maybe enjoy a drama or sitcom. It would force me to choose my TV time very carefully. To wisely plan ahead, to watch with purpose and discretion because when my minutes are gone, the set goes black until next month. I suppose this would be an invitation to civil war in many households, but can you think of a better way to teach kids to budget? Television producers would soon learn what people REALLY want to see, because there would be no more televisions droning in the background half-watched, unwatched, or inappropriately watched.
     Am I crazy? Who's with me?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

You Won't Believe It's the Same Kitchen!

After 19 months in this rented house (which I otherwise adore) and still not finding my groove in the kitchen, Jon and I took matters into our own three hands and remodeled. Yes, in a day. Well, technically about nine days if you count waiting for my kitchen cart to come in at our local Rona store. We assembled it in about half an hour. Voila! I now have more work surface AND more storage space. I can move it around to wherever it might be handiest for the task at hand, and we can take it with us when we leave. All for fifty bucks.

We are geniuses. Seriously thinking of getting into the boxed furniture assembly business. We could call it "Third Hand." Get it?

I love my cart. I love my hubby. Now I just need to dream up a new excuse for not cooking.


AFTER (I KNOW, right? Amazing!)

Communique is a fancy word...

Hazel got me to sign her book.
Hey, how cool is this? My friends from The Door and I made it into the pages of "The Communique"... a monthly e-newsletter that goes out to Chicken Soup for the Soul contributors all over the world. Here it is, on page 3.

Many thanks to PAC (my church of almost 30 years!) for your support, to all the women who volunteer, and to all the ladies who came out that cold, cold night. It was a privilege to meet each of you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Angry Birds and Scooter Cakes

Keegan picked out a "scooter" cake.
Every year, Jon and I are the same age for four days, then he jumps ahead of me on February 28. Nate and Dara had us over for a lovely birthday dinner, ice cream cake, a few rounds of Wii, and some cuddling with the grandboys.

Allistar (15 mos.)

Grandpa and Keegan (3.5) played Angry Birds