Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Disarming Anniversary

As of next week, I have been married for 36 years, half of them to a right-handed man and half to a left-handed one. I suppose you could argue it’s the same man. Like greatness, some people are born left-handed and others have left-handedness thrust upon them.

Many families can name a day that slashed a giant mark across their life’s timeline, forever dividing “before” from “after.” For us, it was September 29, 1995: the day Jon lost an argument with a piece of farm machinery and subsequently, his right arm. 

Once, after we described this before-and-after concept in a group setting, a friend nodded knowingly, then embarrassed herself by calling the event “The Great Cut-Off.” We all laughed wildly and learned laughter really can help.

To prove it, Jon’s been known to accuse long-winded people of talking his arm off.

I once told my husband he’d make a great magician because he has nothing up his sleeve. 

And when he took too long in Polo Park one day, I threatened to leave him behind, reasoning he could hitchhike home since he still had a thumb.

I know. Be quiet. 

Did you know there are actually advantages to being left-handed? Everyone knows you can’t sit left of a lefty at the dinner table, or you’ll bump elbows. Smart southpaws use this to their advantage to gain a spot with more space. 

Apparently, many more words can be typed solely with the left hand than with the right.

And southpaws also have an easier time writing in Hebrew because it’s written from right to left. How handy is that?

However, finding advantages to being one-handed proved a greater challenge. But if he ever visits Belarus, where clapping is outlawed because dissidents use applause as a form of protest, it is unlikely Jon will be arrested. Good to know.

This photo appeared with an article in our local paper four months after the accident.
Two days after his accident, we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary in the hospital. I remember falling asleep that night with the words of our marriage vows running through my head: “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.” I particularly focused on the “for worse…for poorer… in sickness” sections. In the following weeks and months, all three would surface, but death had not parted us yet and for that, I was grateful. Neither of us knew there would be ugly days ahead when we would wish it had. I won’t lie to you—it sucks. 

But the God who promises to walk with us through the dark valleys keeps his word. In those early days, a peace settled over our home that can only be the result of hundreds of prayers raised on our behalf. We gained a new reverence for life, more gratitude for community, and a deeper perspective on what matters. We grew closer as a family and felt ourselves carried along by a sweet spirit. Supportive friends and strangers blessed us in countless practical ways. I like to think our kids are more kindhearted people because this happened to us.

Would we get Jon’s arm back if we could? In a heartbeat.
But it’s been my bittersweet privilege to observe a man grow in his faith when he might have scorned it forever. Where he could display bitterness, I’ve seen him instead demonstrate compassion toward fellow strugglers because everyone carries their burden of seen and unseen pain. I’ve watched him tackle the daily challenges of one-handedness in a two-handed world with patience, determination, courage, and grace. I am certain I would not have done as well, and I am proud of my lefty.

Happy Anniversaries, Jon. And safe harvest, everyone.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tomatoes and Apples and Carrots, Oh My!

My family doctor suggested I go home and consume a steak and a beer.

Before you all call to ask for my doctor’s name so you can book your appointment and receive similar advice, I should clarify. Maybe it wasn’t exactly a suggestion. He said it was the quickest way to gain weight, implying I should be careful not to lose any.

It takes diligent munching to keep your weight up while on a gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan diet. And don’t be fooled, I compromise a little every day: a slice of “real” whole-wheat for a toasted tomato sandwich; a cookie at the staff meeting; a little chicken in my stir-fry. Overall, though, I’m still finding this a wonderful way to live, eat, and avoid that overloaded, comatose feeling after a typical meal. Gifts of fresh produce, such as the gorgeous acorn and spaghetti squashes from our friend Percy Phillips, help keep me steadfast.

Is it just me and my new garden plot, or has this been an exceptional year? I’ve somehow grown the biggest carrots and the healthiest tomatoes in the history of my horticulturally-challenged life. Even as I write, a bag of large carrots and a bowl of smaller ones, soaking in water, wait in our fridge. Another couple dozen await digging. Three large bowls of tomatoes sit on the kitchen counter: ripe, ripening, and slightly damaged. If only I enjoyed the digging, washing, picking, canning, and freezing as much as I enjoy the eating. I look forward to some great servings of chili and soup in the months ahead.

We don’t have an apple tree, but our friends Tim and Alison gave us a massive batch of applesauce and a bunch of apples from theirs. I tried a new apple crisp recipe and once I tasted it, I knew I must share the recipe. This may be the most delicious apple crisp I’ve ever eaten, although the inviting aroma alone would have been worth it. This comforting, cinnamony, juicy apple dessert with a crisp oaty topping is perfect for a fall evening. Best of all, if you can believe this, it contains no sugar, no gluten, and no fat. Yes, it’s a little more work than the unhealthy kind I used to throw together. But it’s worth it and we can pig out guilt-free. It’s from the Forks Over Knives cookbook, with a few modifications of my own. This recipe will make six to eight servings. Or possibly only two, once you start in.

No steak or beer was consumed in the writing of this column.

Apple Crisp
For the filling:
8-10 apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin. (Home grown tend to be smaller. I used ten.)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
½ cup 100% pure maple syrup

For the topping:
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. almond butter (best if room temperature for spreadability)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups rolled oats (I prefer the smaller flakes for this)
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt

  • 1.      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper or use a non-stick pan.
  • 2.      For filling, place the sliced apples in a large bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and toss to coat well. Pour the maple syrup over and stir. Place the mixture in your prepared pan.
  • 3.      For the topping, use a fork or small whisk to stir together the syrup, almond butter, applesauce, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Add the oats and toss to coat.
  • 4.      Spread the topping over the apple mixture. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F and bake for another 20 minutes or until topping is golden and filling bubbly.
  • 5.      Remove from oven and serve warm.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

No Beefs, Just Bouquets

I’ve experienced so many events in the last while that made me wish I could hand out bouquets, I decided to present some here. Space allows for three and a half this time.

1.                  The RCMP.
One night around midnight, we awoke to a persistent DING-DING-DINGING of the doorbell. Seemed like an odd time of day for Welcome Wagon, but what do I know? Maybe this is how they do things in our new ‘hood.

By the time my knight in terrycloth bathrobe made his way to the front door, said bell-ringer had moved around to the side door and was BAM-BAM-BAMMING with still greater tenacity. Turned out he was being pursued by bad guys and wanted us to call the cops, which hubby gladly did while the frantic man waited on our deck. I won’t make the judgement call on who the actual bad guys were in this story. I just know the police arrived very quickly, to our relief, and handled things from there. Although it took a while to fall asleep again, I never left my comfy nest. Thank  you, officers!

2.                  Portage’s Public Works Department.
Leaving the house one Saturday morning, I noticed the fire hydrant next door spewing water, but didn’t think much of it. When I returned at suppertime, I learned a watermain break had occurred and we would be roughing it until Monday. 

Workers provided us with a weak trickle for an hour, in which we filled the tub for flushing, and we went to my sisters’ house for showers. I thought about how often we take our running water for granted, and how many people on our planet live without it or feel blessed to enjoy it for even an unpredictable hour each day.

Early Monday morning, crews dug a huge hole in the street. The workers accommodated us the best they could and by 4:00 p.m. everything returned to normal. Clean, clear, hot or cold water at our fingertips anytime we want. We truly are blessed, am I right? Thanks, guys.

3.                  The carnival volunteers at PEC.
Our two oldest grandsons, Buckwheat and Alfalfa, came for a weekend sleepover. (Spanky is too young for sleepovers. That’s grandma’s story and she’s sticking to it.)

On Saturday, we took them to the western carnival put on by Portage Evangelical Church. They loved it! Hay rides, train rides, pony rides, water games, bouncy castles and bouncy slides, face painting, balloons, all for free! Grandpa and I spent a whopping five bucks and we all consumed hot dogs and drinks, cotton candy and popcorn. 

As you can imagine, it takes an army to pull off such a terrific event. I doff my hat to all the volunteers who gave their time, talent, and energy on a hot day to express God’s love to their community. Well done! I sure hope you all went home to air conditioning that night. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to make a wonderful memory with our grandkids.

3 1/2.                  My 82 year-old step-dad, John Klassen.
The half bouquet goes to someone far too macho to appreciate flowers. He made my day with the suggestion that when I walk to work come winter, I should pull a sled behind me so I can soar down the other side of Tupper hill. Can you picture it?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Evolution of a Book Nook

The book nook in my new office is done! The office was formerly a hair salon, and the closet alcove held a shampoo sink. When we took possession, the sink and plumbing fixtures had been removed and the pipes plugged. Too bad I didn't think to get a "before-before" picture.

I hired Pat Hennan of Integrity Home Renewal to turn it into a book nook. This one was taken after Pat got started on his shelf and bench creation:

Pat also wired it up with its own lighting, on a dimmer switch and everything! When he finished his magic, I painted it all (and the whole room) and made the cushions:

What looks like a drawer beneath is deceptive. The entire front lifts up, providing access to storage space

And the finishing touch, a photo on canvass (taken by Gayle Loewen) of some wild cranberry blossoms with my favorite Bible verse: "The Lord will accomplish what concerns me." Psalm 138:8.

I love it!