Prov 17:22

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

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.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Driving Miss Terrie

Recently, one of my seat-belt buckles broke. Not a big deal if it's just one person driving around, but while still waiting on parts, my husband and I needed to make a trip to Winnipeg. I had two options: travel illegally and unsafely; or, ride in the back seat like Miss Daisy. I opted for the latter.
     Normally, no one rides in the back seat unless the front seat is occupied. It causes others to stare, hoping for a glimpse of royalty or celebrity. And me without my tiara.
      "Don't worry," my chauffeur/husband said as I waved to my adoring public. "If the lack of a tiara doesn't give you away, the missing hubcap, cracked windshield, and desperate need of a wash job will."
     At that point I named my chauffeur Killjoy.

Once I relaxed, I noticed something. With the front passenger seat empty, the view from the back is actually superior to the view from the front, because you not only see out the wind shield, you see a lot more along both sides. It was a beautiful summer morning, and I relished the panoramic scenes of yellow canola fields, ripening flax fields, and rows of aging straw bales along the Number One. (Okay, so maybe we don't live in the most picturesque corner of the country.)
     My new exalted position got me thinking. If such a slight change, just three feet further back, could make that much difference in my outlook, how much more could be accomplished with a slight shift in other areas?
     The next day, our kids from Alberta arrived for a 10-day stay which I had gleefully anticipated for months. When the kids from Winnipeg joined us, we were all together for the first time since Christmas 2008. I was one happy mama!
     Then the inevitable moment came when they were all gone again and I went through what every mama does...sniffling my way through the day, wondering whether the joy of reunion was worth the pain of separation.
     The following day in church, my perspective changed in an instant. I left my seat to embrace a woman who was commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death of her teenage son. Even with a year of firsts under their belts, this family's heartache had only begun.
     I cannot imagine their pain. But by changing my field of vision, I went home flooded with gratitude for all that is still mine. My thoughts shifted from "poor lonely me" to prayers of compassion for those who have real losses to grieve.
     Need a new view? Try a different seat.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Take Your Pick...

So, I have Bronchiectasis.
Or Sarcoidosis.
Or possibly something else.
It may go away all by itself after a few months.
Or it may not.
Or it may get worse.

There, now you know just as much as I do.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Save the Last Dance

The story below placed third in this year's Brucedale Press "acrostic" contest. 26 sentences long, each sentence begins with the next letter of the alphabet. This story was inspired by and dedicated to friends Kinelm and Holly Brookes of Portage, who celebrate 25 years of marriage this year.

     Applying Grandma's advice, I resolved to find myself a man who didn't dance. Because she herself had  married a guy who could really cut a rug, my grandmother spent much of her 85 years waiting while other ladies cut in, one after another, for their chance to promenade with the only male on the dance floor. Charlie Hooper was a regular Fred Astaire and it was this trait that had made my grandmother, and so many other girls, fall in love with him. Dashing and debonaire, he made Grandma the envy of Xenia County when he proposed to her that hot August night. Even at their wedding, the lovely bride danced only once with her graceful groom.
     For me, though, things were going to be different. Goodness knows I loved to dance, but I would not be taken in by fancy footwork and smart stepping. However lonely I might be, I would not be swayed by such shallow and superficial shenanigans. It mattered not that I went alone, danced alone, and returned home alone afterward.
   Just as I was finally beginning to believe that my partner-free dancing was more fun anyway, I met Kelvin. Kelvin Kellogg was the best dancer I had ever seen. Light on his feet and always in step, he moved as smoothly as a cat. My heart skipped a beat when I first laid eyes on him, tripping the light fantastic on the dance floor of the Xenia Community Hall. Not wanting to weaken my resolve, however, I did not join the lineup of young ladies waiting their turn to dance with this young Patrick Swazye. Older women even swallowed their pride and practically begged Kelvin to twirl them around the floor just one time.
     Perhaps it was this reluctance on my part that caught Kelvin's eye. Quietly, I made my way to the cloak room after the last dance was over and as I turned around to go, who was standing right in my path but Kelvin Kellogg.
     “Ready to leave?”
     “Silly question,” I muttered, not looking him in the eye.
     “The band will play one more if the prettiest lady in the room will dance with me,” Kelvin coaxed, holding out his hand.
     Under any other circumstances I'd have zipped right past him and gone on home, but such a charming invitation was more than I could resist. Visions of red roses and a long white gown were already dancing in my head as Kelvin took me in his arms and waltzed me around the room to Elvis Presley's I Can't Help Falling in Love with You. With our eyes locked tightly on each other, it seems we did fall in love that night and the rest is, as they say, history. Xenia residents came out in droves to celebrate with us and to dance with the groom at our wedding reception.
     You 'd think I would regret repeating my grandmother's mistake, but I've learned two things Grandma never did. Zeal for dance is much too precious to keep to oneself; and after the band plays its final song, I will always be the one who gets to take my dancing man home.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Three Things...

     I picked up a book called The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication. The author has successfully syndicated her newspaper column, meaning she sells it to many different newspapers and gets a whole lot more buck for her bang, without having to share her profits with a big syndicate. Interesting concept.
     In theory.
     I knew I was in trouble right off the bat when her first point was "if you are reading this book, it's safe to assume you already write a regular column and that it is about something."
About something? Hm. Yes. It's it's a slice of life occasionally a little fiction or poetry... sometimes a 12-step "how to" deal. Lately I've even regaled readers with my swash buckling adventures with our health care system. I'm certain it will one day be about something, once I've finally found my niche.
     I decided the easiest way to figure this out would be by process of elimination. What are some things my column is definitely NOT about? I easily thought of three.
1. Cars.
I own one, and I know how to drive it. I know the make and color of it. I also know how to clean it, although you'd never guess. Most of my friends also have cars. Liz drives something orange, Vicki drives a little red thing, and Brandy's is the color of crème brûlée. Beyond that, I don't know who drives what, how fast it goes, what kind of gas mileage it gets, what it cost, or what's under the hood. Furthermore, I don't care. If it gets me from point A to point B, it's a good car. This would not make the auto pages.
2. Sports.
Friends have heard me say sports in general could cease to exist tomorrow and I wouldn't notice. I admit I do enjoy watching the artsier sports like gymnastics, figure skating, and ballroom dance. But that's where I draw the line. In high school, I broke our basketball coach's heart. Because I'm tall, he needled me relentlessly until I agreed to come out for the team. I went to practices for a week, then quit. Sorry, but barreling back and forth waving my arms like a lunatic, chasing a ball around with hopes of throwing it through a hoop, only to start all over again, is not my idea of a worthwhile time. Hockey, football, baseball, soccer, golf, curling? Don't understand 'em, don't really want to. This might make me a bad person, but it does not make me a bad columnist.
3. Gardening.
Back in the day when we still fed our kids, hubby and I planted a monstrous vegetable garden. I did the whole canning, freezing, and pickling thing. While there was a certain amount of satisfaction in putting up our own produce, I can't honestly say I enjoyed it. My green-thumbed friend Barb talks about her need for "garden therapy." I, too, find Barb's garden therapeutic. But working in it? Please. I've threatened to just plant plastic flowers around the yard, and I will just as soon as I'm ready to be written off as a crazy old lady. Besides, who could ever compete with Mr. Ted, garden columnist extraordinaire?
     Well there, that eliminates three things this column will never be about. Maybe I'll hold off on the syndication thing until I narrow it down some more. Meanwhile, if I'm cagey enough to keep you reading this far, writing about what I'll never write about, I can't be entirely out of my mind now, can I?