Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Live with Me for 35 Years (...and counting!)

First of all, yes. I was a child bride. Now that we’ve cleared that up, I can tell you October 1, 2012 will mark our 35th wedding anniversary.

Like most people, I’m super easy to live withwhen I’m alone. If I could travel back to 1977 and present my groom with a manual called “How to Live with Terrie,” below are just three of the things it might contain. Too bad I didn’t know any of them then.

#1. She’ll expect constant praise.
The first few months we were married, I was crushed when nary a word was forthcoming about the meals I placed on the table. I grew up in a home where expressions of appreciation for food were a natural part of the meal. At the very least, “mmmmm” was heard as we enjoyed whatever was placed before us. If nothing was said, that could mean only one thing: nobody liked it.

Somehow, I’d failed to notice Jon’s family didn’t necessarily share this custom. You came to the table, you ate what was offered, you left. Conversation flowed freely, but rarely about the food.

Gradually, I got used to this and stopped expecting applause for my efforts. And Jon has learned to say “thanks for lunch” before he leaves the table.

#2. She’ll try to run your life.
We were about eight years and two children in when Jon gave me the loveliest surprise for Christmas: a coupon for a weekend away, just the two of us, to do whatever I wanted. Being the planner I am, I prearranged every half-hour slot of our weekend. My schedule included times for rest and recreation, but also long chunks devoted to evaluating our financial, housing, parenting, and every other goal I could imagine. I created charts and graphs to keep us on track. I was in my glories, knowing we would return home with all our problems solved. I just knew that once Jon saw how great this was, he’d agree it should be an annual event.

At last, the big weekend arrived. I couldn’t understand why Jon wasn’t thrilled with my plan. My schedule lasted about 30 minutes before he had enough. One small goal would have been sufficient to tackle in a weekend.

#3. She’ll become a writer and blab your life to the world.
I promised my family I’d provide the opportunity to veto anything pertaining to them before hitting the “send” button. Jon’s a good sport. Last Valentine’s Day, he agreed to let me tell column readers the story of his on-stage pants-splitting adventure. That story later landed in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, many of which are translated into foreign languages and sold all over the world.

One day, we’ll find ourselves on a tour bus in Jerusalem and a little old lady will read our nametags and say, “Hey, you’re that guy who split his pants on stage after his wife dragged him into a church drama.”

But she’ll say it in Hebrew and we won’t have a clue what she’s saying. I’ll assume she wants my autograph. Jon will assume she’s saying, “God bless you, you poor man.”

It’s just as well such detailed manuals don’t exist, or most of us wouldn’t have the courage to commit in the first place. But had I stayed single all these years, I would still think I was practically perfect. We’d both have missed out on countless rough edges rubbed smoother, and on the multitude of private jokes that accumulate during three and a half decades together.

Life’s storms have made us lean hard on God, family, friends, and yes, counsellors to help us hold on. A song sung at our wedding said, “We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.”
True then. Better understood now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

Time for another exciting episode in the Adventures of Naturopathic Medicine. When I see my lung specialist in December, I don’t know whether I’ll be bringing him a disease-free patient, but I’m confident I’ll be bringing him a less exhausted one. Some days I even skip my nap like a grown up. And I cough only enough to know I’m not home-free yet.

There are a few questions I get asked a lot, about the food plan. Being three months in hardly makes me an expert, but here are my answers.

“How do you know you’re getting enough protein?”
I’m getting plenty of protein from beans and nuts, but did you know spinach, mushrooms, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and many fruits also provide protein? I didn’t, but it makes sense when you remember the strongest animals on our planet are herbivores. Where do they get their protein?

“What about calcium?”
Spinach and other leafy green vegetables are loaded with the stuff.

“Are you going to be on this diet FOREVER?”
Yes and no. I’ll be on it until I’m either well or I give up, whichever comes first. But honestly, I’m enjoying the food and how it makes me feel so much I can’t imagine ever going back, at least not totally.

“So...what DO you eat?”
Lots of salad, stir-fry, and soup. Admittedly, some days it seems every dish I make uses the same ingredients, but in different proportions with varied methods of preparation. Breakfast is homemade granola or cooked oatmeal loaded with extras and topped with almond milk. Snacks are fruit, veggies, popcorn, or unsalted tortilla chips with hummus, bean dip, or guacamole.

“Isn’t it hard?”
I got through the first month by telling myself, “If you think of this as food, it’s going to be hard. But if you think of it as medicine, it’s wonderful.”

I got through the second month by reminding myself I’m the only one who can choose what goes in my mouth, and everything I put there holds power. Will I give my body something it has to fight against or will I give it something to make my body say, “Yes! I can work with this”?

In my third month, the cravings for meat, bread, sugar, coffee, and cheese became increasingly rare. I can walk into Sobeys and just enjoy the bakery smells—like flowers or perfume—without wanting to eat it.  It really does get easier—but not without God’s strength.

“Do you ever cheat?”
Yep. I’m attending a wedding this weekend and intend to eat whatever’s offered.

I’m not making this up.
Daily, I drink what I affectionately call my pond scum. It’s made from running one apple, three carrots, two celery stalks, and five large leafy greens through the juicer. My favorite leafy green thing is Swiss Chard.
On Labour Day, I realized I was out of pond scum and needed to do some juicing. I had all the ingredients except the chard. But the stores were closed, and the next day was going to be busy so I thought, oh well. Guess I’ll survive a day or two.

Then I went outside and Linda from across the back fence, who had earlier offered me zucchini, said, “Oh, hi Terrie. Sorry I don’t have any zucchini for you today after all. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in some Swiss Chard?”

I can’t pretend to understand why God takes care of these crazy little details while sometimes the big things appear to drag on forever unaddressed. But I do know this: you can’t tell me He doesn’t have a sense of humour. (And thank you, Linda!)

PS. Congratulations to Barb Knott of Portage who won last week’s free book draw.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why Dyscalculia is easier to spell than 2045739418

Are you in the habit of dialing all ten digits for local calls yet? Me neither. No matter how painlessly MTS eases us into it, I don’t think it will become habitual until long after it’s absolutely required. 

It has always been cause for a party when I dial a phone number correctly on the first try, even with only seven digits. Now I must remember ten? Somebody shoot me.

I’ve long held the opinion that there are three types of people in the world: those who understand numbers and those who don’t.

Words make sense. They mean something. Numbers are like ancient hieroglyphics—meaningless without an interpreter. My brain contains memory space for precisely three phone numbers, and right now that space is occupied by home, work, and 911. I consider it God’s good humour that landed us the simplest-to-remember phone number in the history of the world nearly 30 years ago. We dare not move. This probably explains why I don’t own a cell phone, too.

As for calculators, I can punch in the same column of numbers three times and find three different answers. I just keep at it until I get the same number twice and go with that.
When my friend Gayle told me there is a name for this mathematical deficiency (Dyscalculia), I felt so much better. It always helps to give your problem a name.

You can imagine the trepidation I felt when I learned the Continuing Education program I’m working through for my job included two Accounting courses. I left them for last. Last fall was time to tackle the first, and I looked for excuses to procrastinate. But with the two courses offered alternate years only and time running out, I dived in.

I studied like crazy. Saturday mornings were spent banging my head on the kitchen table with textbooks, computer, pencil, and reams of paper spread out before me. I did every exercise and some of them twice.

Yes, there were tears.

Lucky for me, I married a genius. He helped me figure out a couple of problems when I had no more hair left to pull. When even he found them puzzling, I felt much better.

It didn’t hurt to have our own Nettie Neudorf as the instructor, either.

When my grade came back from U of M in the spring, I nearly flipped. A-plus! Now there’s a number I understand.

Was it a mistake? A fluke? A miracle? I’m going with that last thing.

This month I’m embarking on the second, still more challenging Accounting course. If I make it, I will graduate in May with a Certificate in Manitoba Municipal Administration. Having not graduated from anything since high school 147 years ago, I am pretty pumped about this prospect. Already considering what I’ll wear. Is that counting my chickens before they hatch? If so, I’d better count again.

Here’s what I do know. This column is #52 in my second year of writing it, which makes it an anniversary and time for a give-away. If you would like a free, autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life! email me at with the words “Book Draw” in the subject line. (I wrote one of the stories in this book.) All email senders’ names will go into a draw and one will be drawn on Monday, September 17, at 3:00 PM.

Just my way of saying “thanks for reading.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On Becoming a Grandmother

In honour of Grandparents’ Day this weekend, I’m sharing a story I wrote upon the birth of my firstborn’s firstborn.

I thought I was prepared.

I was a mother, after all. I already knew what it meant to love someone so much it hurt. I understood the old adage that to be a parent is to walk around forever with your heart outside your body. I had written in my journal, revealing all the emotions I’d discovered tag-teaming in my heart: happiness, melancholy, anxiety, joy, anticipation, worry. I had seen the ultrasound pictures. I’d crocheted a soft, fuzzy blue blanket, patiently undoing all my bungled stitches and doing them over so it would be a perfect square. I had memorized the verses in Psalm 139 that tell how God wonderfully forms us in our mother’s womb. I had prayed daily for this child and for his parents since I learned of his existence. I had written letters to his mom and dad, assuring them how proud I was of them both, how they would be excellent parents.

I’d prayed for myself, too. I’d wrestled with the idea that I was going to be a grandmother. Shouldn’t I be wiser first? Or sweeter? Or at the very least, a better cook? How exactly did one cram for this event? I had even admitted to myself that I would soon be sleeping with someone’s grandfather. That idea took a little getting used to, let me tell you!

I had bragged to my friends. I had celebrated with my mother. I had gifted my daughter-in-law with maternity clothes and bought the most irresistible little stuffed puppy for the baby.

The day he was born, I rode along with his other grandparents to the hospital to meet our mutual little descendent for the first time. We were told to wait in the hallway while the nurses finished up whatever they were doing with him and his mother in the room. Given the hospital rules, I fully expected my first sight of my little grandson would be in his plastic baby bed and I was prepared.

But when I turned around, I instantly knew that no amount of groundwork could have prepared me for that moment. Instead of the expected baby bed, I was beholding my own firstborn carrying his firstborn in his arms.

Keegan and Me on the day he was born in 2007
I came unglued. Part of me was carried back 26 years to the day I first laid eyes on my son. But those 26 years had passed in an instant, and here I was looking at the next generation, with the same dark skin and the same head full of thick, dark hair. He was beautiful and I was smitten. I didn’t even try to check the tears running down my cheeks as I held him in my arms and hugged his dad as tight as I could with the baby between us. What a cherished moment!

This little boy is now in Kindergarten and has two little brothers. Every day brings new adventures, new things to learn, new memories to make, and new opportunities to wonder at the marvelous work of our Creator. These little guys have taught me that sometimes stopping to watch ducks is more important than getting in out of the rain. They’ve uncovered my own impatient ways, the ones I thought I had overcome but now realize the opportunities to demonstrate patience have only become less frequent. They’ve reminded me that time spent cuddling a sleeping baby in a rocking chair trumps pretty much anything.

Most of all, I’ve come to realize that no matter how hard I tried, I could not have prepared to love someone so profusely, or to learn so much from someone so small. 

Happy Grandparents Day!