Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Your Worship, Let the Record Show...

With fewer City Council meetings during the summer months, I play catch-up in my job at City Hall, tackling tasks there isn’t time for the rest of the year. This summer, I’ve been working my way through Council minutes of past years, updating our resolutions list to improve efficiency.

Portage la Prairie City Hall
If you think Council minutes are not riveting reading, think again. Didn’t you always want to know which company won the bid for the supply of Hydrofluosilicic Acid in 1999 or who applied for a variation to allow the construction of a deck in their backyard in 2001?

Once in a while, I come across a tidbit of information in these public documents that is interesting only in hindsight. Go back far enough, and you can see where grants were approved for renovations to buildings that no longer exist. You see names of Council members and citizens who have died. You see the names of people who worked hard to develop our library, our arts and sports facilities, and so on. Their names stay on record.

In the Bible, there’s a cool story about a king who can’t sleep one night and asks for these types of records to be fetched and read to him. I guess he considered them a sure cure for insomnia. Instead—surprise, surprise—he discovers a good deed done for the kingdom but gone unrewarded. The king promptly sets out to rectify the situation. Mordecai is rewarded and the story’s villain is justly humiliated, all because the king decided to read those records late one night.

I keep hoping I’ll come across something cool like that in the City’s council minutes. I could go to Council and say, “Looky here. In 1981, Jerry Maksymyk single-handedly diverted an army of man-eating lobsters away from Portage la Prairie and saved the whole town from a certain and gruesome demise. Overnight. With nothing more than a homemade dulcimer. While wearing only pajamas.”

And Council would erect a 7 foot tall statue of Jerry and his dulcimer in the centre of Heritage Square for future citizens to admire forever. Children would ask, “Was he really that tall?” And parents would solemnly nod. Eventually, the Legend of Jerry Maksymyk would circle the globe, and we’d all enjoy a holiday every year on Jerry Maksymyk Day. Someone would write a musical called Jerry and the Incredible Carnivorous Crustaceans. It would have its world debut at the William Glesby Centre and young performers all over the planet would vie for the role of Jerry. Council might even spring for some new jammies for Jerry.

Just an example.   
Ever wonder what it might be like to have such a record of your own life? Every choice you’ve ever made, forever engraved with the date and either “Defeated” or “Carried” stamped boldly on the bottom? It could certainly settle a few arguments. Get you out of some pickles. Maybe even win you some rewards. 

Or not.

Believe it or not, such a list exists, and I ain’t talkin’ Santa Claus. It includes things you’ve forgotten and things you wish you could forget. Things deserving of reward and things you’d give anything to erase from the record.

There’s good news on both counts. But don’t take my word for itI’ve been known to make stuff up. Grab the nearest Bible and check out II Corinthians 5:10, Psalm 130:3 & 4, and Romans 8:1 & 2.

It’s in the record.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Life without Chips

     I promised to keep you abreast of my naturopathic treatment journey, also known as my war against the evil MAC Lung disease and Bronchiectasis. You could call it a rollercoaster ride, although an actual rollercoaster might be more column-worthy.
     Dr. Lisa has me doing expected things like sticking to my exercises and my diet of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, rice, oatmeal, and the homebrew I affectionately call my pond scum.
     And she has me doing unexpected things like keeping a gratitude journal and singing in the shower (the louder the better – I’m surprised the neighbours haven’t asked if I take requests).
     On the up side of this rollercoaster, I spent ten wonderful days in a row when I didn’t cough and felt energized for the first time in 16 months. On those days, I am convinced it’s totally worth every sacrifice.
     On the down side, each time the good doctor tries weaning me from her hydrotherapy treatments, my symptoms return and it becomes hard to stay positive. Honestly, in those times I feel the sacrifices outweigh the benefits.
     But each setback seems less severe than the one before. So two steps forward, one step back is progress, right?
     Down side, I crave bread. I do appreciate all the fresh fruit and veggies this time of year, but let’s face it: a toasted tomato sandwich just ain’t the same without toast. And the aromas wafting over to City Hall from The Grindstone each morning may prove my undoing.
     Up side, I’m not missing meat as much I expected.
     Down side, I don’t like going to the grocery store every third day because our fridge won’t hold all the green stuff we consume in a week.
     Up side, I’m in and out pretty fast what with skipping the meat, dairy, and bakery departments.
     Down side, my husband is not exactly eating up the new food plan. He adds chicken to his stir-fry, cheese to his salad, hamburger to his soup, butter to his corn on the cob, and chocolate chips to his fruit salad. In my presence.
     Up side, we are learning to work through conflict in a never-before challenged arena. I guess that’s good.
     Up side, I have not had a headache since starting the new food program. I used to average one a week and thought it normal. The Tylenol lasts much longer with only one of us needing it.
     Down side, I might bite my tongue clear off before I master the art of not getting preachy about food. Man, it’s hard!
     Up side, my clothes are getting baggy.
     Down side, my clothes are getting baggy.
     Up side, Dr. Lisa’s got me doing old-fashioned eucalyptus steams every morning and night which I love. It opens up the bronchioles and I can breathe deep and easy.
     Down side, this practice steals yet another 15 minutes out of my day. After a while, it’s easy to believe I do nothing but take care of ME.
     I’ve been warned I shouldn’t be taking these crazy risks with my health. Which is sort of laughable when I remember I’m in the hands of the One who placed his first people in a garden and who will ultimately raise my dead body from the grave.
     Dr. Lisa would be the first to say God is the one who heals—she is merely his little helper. Still, it’s nice to think I’m doing my part, too.
     I’m stickin’ with it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Leapin' Lizards, Annie!

The Sun’ll Come Out…       
Ever try singing before a crowd? Ever try keeping a distracted dog in line? Ever try doing both at the same time? Now add the fact that you’re wearing an uncomfortable red wig all the while. Oh yes, and you’re only nine years old.
     A challenge not for the faint of heart.
     Zoë Adam of Winnipeg pulls it all off in the title role of Annie at Rainbow Stage, where 17 children, 18 adults, and one dog present the wonderful rags-to-riches story of a spunky orphan who has known only a hard-knocks life.
     According to an article by Alison Mayes in The Winnipeg Free Press, “When she [Zoë] opened her mouth and effortlessly poured out Tomorrow, Director Donna Fletcher and Choreographer Kimberley Rampersad knew they had their star. ‘She was very, very natural—no pretense, no artifice,’ says the director. ‘She just stood and sang, and the goosebumps just went up everywhere. She’s a powerhouse.”
     Indeed, this kid owns one healthy set of lungs.
     One word of caution when you go: take along a couple of cotton balls. Hopefully they’ll have improved the sound before your arrival, but we found some of the singing came across as shrill. To say nothing of Miss Hannigan’s whistle. With a little scrunched up Kleenex stuffed in our ears, we thoroughly enjoyed the show.
     Go if you can – it runs until August 31.

Clearing away the cobwebs and the sorrow…
     The “we” I refer to included my mom, my two sisters, and me. All four of us have experienced hard knocks of various kinds in the last year and decided we needed to do something fun together and not wait for that elusive day when everything is “fixed.” Sometimes a girls’ night out is just what the doctor ordered.
     We sisters yackety-yacked all the way to Winnipeg. There, we picked up our 80-year old Mom, no less spunky than Annie herself, and found our way to The Mongo Grill for a scrumptious supper. I recommend that place, too. Oodles of delectable options for vegans like me without forcing the omnivores to compromise.
     From there, on to beautiful Kildonan Park where we feasted our eyes on the exquisite flower gardens and  posed for pictures before the show. For Mom, the park holds special memories of playing there while visiting relatives as a preschooler.
     We found our seats as the orchestra warmed up, one of my all-time favorite sounds. “Something electrifying is about to happen,” it says. And indeed, it did.
     “I really needed this,” Mom said on the drive back to her condo. She wasn’t the only one. Nothing like a little mother/daughters/sisters bonding time and a dose of Annie’s optimism to make tomorrow look brighter.
     So, next time you’re stuck in a day that’s gray and lonely, just stick out your chin and grin, and say… oh, you know the rest.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bad Hair Day? You're not alone!

     I stood gazing at the assortment of hair dyes on the store shelf when a reader spotted me and suggested a column discussing why we need so many different brands. Sure, why not? If Lady Gaga can sing, “I am my hair,” surely I can dedicate one column to it.
     I don’t really know what colour my hair is. I’ve been dying it blond since Grade Ten. Before that, it fell somewhere between light brown and dark blond, depending on your perspective. Which, as we know, is everything.
     At some point in the 37 years since Grade Ten, my natural hair colour changed from mousy brown to mousy grey. I have no idea what it would look like now without the wonders of Miss Clairol’s chemistry kit. When highlights became the new requirement a decade or more ago, I quit dying it myself. My capable hairdresser has handled the details ever since. I let her figure out which colour to choose, when to apply highlights, and how long to leave it on. It’s wonderful.
     Until she needs to cancel an appointment.
     Some of you will understand this terror. Who ya gonna call? My lips say, “certainly, no problem, take care of yourself,” while my narcissistic heart yelps, “But but but but but but…my hair!” I wish that were not true about me, but there it is.
     I decided to let my hair grow until the next regular appointment and dye my own roots the old-fashioned way. Thus, I was shopping in the hair dye aisle, eyes glazing over.
     In the years since I last did this, the selection grew from maybe six different shades to six different brands, each offering 147 subtle shades of blond alone. Shelves bulge with varied formulas, depending whether one requires root touch-up or an entire new colour.
     And judging by the selection of men’s products, women are not the only ones obsessing about tresses.
     I couldn’t guess how much is spent annually on hair in our country, though I suspect it could feed a small nation for a long time. On the other hand, it’s feeding a lot of hairdressers, chemists, and retailers here at home. They need to eat, too, right? Like I said, perspective is everything.
     I grabbed a box of Natural Medium Champagne Blond and it didn’t let me down. Toughing it out until my cut will be my next heroic feat.
     Speaking of heroes. Smiling back at me from my computer desktop these days is a photo of my 35-year-old niece and her two small sons, all three sporting identical buzzed haircuts. Mommy cut her hair off because it is falling out.
     Chemotherapy will do that.
     I thank God that, unlike Miss Gaga, my niece knows she is so much more than her hair. She is optimistic, faith-filled, courageous, and truly beautiful.
     Perspective is everything.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Civic Holiday 101

Ever wonder what exactly we’re celebrating this long weekend or how the holiday came to exist? I have. So I did a little research, and here is what I discovered.
    Civic Holiday is the most widely used name for a public holiday celebrated in parts of Canada on the first Monday in August, though it is only officially known by that term in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, and Manitoba.
     The date is historically linked to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, but was chosen primarily for its timing: between Canada Day and Labour Day there were no recognizable holidays, one of the longest stretches on the Canadian calendar without a holiday. And in the middle of our precious, fleeting summer I might add!
     Thus, this holiday was placed roughly halfway between Canada Day and Labour Day; it is celebrated under numerous names in the jurisdictions it is recognized. In many communities, however, Emancipation Day celebrations are also held, specifically commemorating the abolition of slavery in Canada in 1834.
     The holiday is known as British Columbia Day in BC, New Brunswick Day in New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan Day in—you guessed it—Saskatchewan. In Alberta, it’s Heritage Day, and is celebrated as Natal Day in Nova Scotia.
     In Ontario, the day may be known as Simcoe Day in honour of the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, or by Mountie Day in North York, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, George Hamilton Day in Hamilton, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Founders’ Day in Brantford, and I could go on. Apparently, Ontario has a tough time agreeing.
     I suspect most of us are just glad to have a long weekend.
     Summers being so short, I think Canadians would be happier and healthier if every weekend were a long one. Therefore, I propose we throw in a few more holidays, one for every Monday during July and August.
Here are half a dozen random ideas.
1.      Different Coloured Eyes Day. On this day, we’d all get a holiday and people with two different coloured eyes (a condition called Heterochromia) would be eligible for free flights or meals or whatever businesses decided to offer. On a side note, famous people who have Heterochromia include David Bowie, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Walken. Now you know.
2.      Rock Appreciation Day. This is the day you go out and hug a rock, the larger the better. (And, if you happen to be a lover of rock music, you could take this to a completely new level, in which case the rest of us might want to declare it Ear Plugs Day.)
3.      Take Your Pants for a Walk Day. This day is cheaply celebrated: simply go for a walk. Give your pants some exercise. After all, they are looking a little tight around the middle. The walk will do them good. (Alternatively, this day may also be known as Take Your Skirt/Shorts/Dress for a Walk Day.)
4.      Sidewalk Egg Frying Day. Self-explanatory.
5.      Wear Your New Underwear Day. Also self-explanatory.
6.      Random Act of Kindness Day. On this day, everybody does something kind for a total stranger. Do it anonymously, and the grin you take to sleep that night will be even bigger.

Well, that’s almost enough to see us through the summer. What holidays would you like to create?