Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The (not so) Great Pumpkin Heist

This being pumpkin season, I am on a quest to discover why six perfectly good pumpkins disappeared from our front steps just four days after I placed them there, and four days before Thanksgiving. The assumption we first made—that someone swiped them—is simply and obviously too boring for a drama queen like myself. So I’ve dreamed up a few more creative possibilities. 

Probability #1. Aliens. A band of marauding scientists from the faraway planet Zidgot descended on earth, disguised themselves as humans, stole a van, parked it in front of our house, and grabbed our pumpkins to take home for research. Confused about how a pumpkin turns into a jack-o-lantern, they want to observe the metamorphosis firsthand. They are going to be sorely disappointed. 

Probability #2. Our pumpkins were indeed seized by actual humans, but no ill was intended. In fact, the pumpkin bandits are at this very moment baking pumpkin pies, muffins, and tarts which they will leave on my doorstep any minute now. 

Probability #3. The pumpkins crawled away of their own accord, as suggested by my friend Pat who figures they are on a spiritual journey in search of the Great Pumpkin. If Pat is correct, I hope the little pumpkins find what they’re looking for soon, before they get snatched up and turned into pies, muffins, and tarts.

Probability #4. They were purloined by none other than Robin Hood himself, who steals from the rich to give to the poor. He donated them to a homeless shelter where they were baked into pies, muffins, and tarts and enjoyed by down-and-outers on Thanksgiving Day. I can live with this possibility quite nicely, even if my front porch looks rather pathetic for the season. Robin, if you’re reading this: you should have just asked.

Probability #5. Innocent children mistook the decorative pumpkins for “Help Yourself” trick or treats, albeit a couple of weeks early. The poor little tykes toddled off with their massive treats, tried to bite into them, and broke all their baby teeth. Some local dentist is saying “cha-ching!”

Probability #6. Someone addicted to Pintrest saw the cutest craft idea EVER, and simply had to reproduce it for her Thanksgiving table. Alas, with no pumpkins from which to make it, she pilfered mine to feed her addiction. Get help, girl.

Probability #7. Peter Pumpkin Eater happened to walk by our house and couldn’t resist. He gobbled down all six, and now lives inside one of the shells with the wife he previously could not keep. (Mother Goose made a bigger impact on my life than I previously thought.)

Probability #8. Someone failed to teach their children that taking things from others’ doorsteps is stealing. Or that stealing is wrong. Or that doing wrong carries consequences. Since at least one of our thieves was old enough to drive, those untaught lessons obviously stick. So, relatively speaking, I am not the loser here.

Whichever of these theories proves true, we intend to open our door to our little neighbourhood goblins as long as the treats hold out. Hope they don’t expect pumpkin pies, muffins, or tarts.

An update to this story: my young neighbour, Malachi, showed up at my door with a gift of two lovely pumpkins, carved himself. How sweet is that? (Even if he did make a liar out of me, going on about my bleak doorstep.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rumour has it...

Farce (färs) n. “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay, typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”

When you’ve got nineteen successful Broadway plays under your belt, you can afford to write your first farce. That’s what Neil Simon did in 1988, and people have been laughing at Rumors ever since. They’ll be chortling in Portage la Prairie, too, thanks to the Prairie Players.

Four couples are guests at the home of Charlie and Myra Brock, a well-to-do couple celebrating their tenth anniversary, but who don’t actually appear on stage. It’s left to the dinner party guests to prepare their own meal and uncover the reasons for their missing hostess, her absent help, and their host’s gunshot wound.

These guests include Ken and Chris Gorman (played by Wayne Loeppky and Stephanie Kaufmann), Lenny and Claire Ganz (Christopher Kitchen and Peggy Tidsbury), Ernie and Cookie Cusack (Kevin Hamm and Vicki Hooke) and Glenn and Cassie Cooper (Rob Smith and Danica Turcotte). 

Like any good farce, police must make their appearance, and they do. Officers Ben Welch and Connie Pudney are portrayed by Larry Lepla and Teresa Bergen. 

Rumour has it the Prairie Players are presenting Rumors for the second time. The first was in 1996, directed by Terry Tully. Did he not get it right the first time or did he love it so much he wanted to repeat the experience? Oh, the rumours I could start.

Rumour has it stage manager Rita Carignan is stage-managing for the first time ever.

Rumour has it Stephanie Kauffman, having aced the stage manager’s job, is acting with the Prairie Players for the first time. Rumour has it she would only agree to take the role if she could keep a bottle on stage with her.

Rumour has it Wayne Loeppky is deaf in real life, which makes his portrayal of a hearing person that much more remarkable.

Rumour has it Vicki Hooke wears knee pads under her elegant, antique Russian gown.

Rumour has it Kevin Hamm can be a bit of a diva, demanding a curved pipe instead of the plainer one first provided for him.

Rumour has it Rob Smith was a child actor, since he played the role of the psychoanalyst, Dr. Cusack, when the group did this play seventeen years ago.

Rumour has it Danica Turcotte is a new-age enthusiast who can’t play a role without a crystal on her person, so they needed to work it into the script somehow.

Rumour has it Peggy Tidsbury and Chris Kitchen have a thing. I won’t attempt to define “thing.”

Rumour has it Larry Lepla and Theresa Bergen secretly wanted to join the police force in real life, but were rejected due to former involvement with the mafia. And speaking of mafia, rumour has it a gun goes off during this production.

Of course, you’ll need to attend the play in order to sort out which of these rumours are true. But if you’re looking for sentimental tears, poignant moments, deep inner healing, and personal growth, pick a different show.

Come for the laughs, the mad-cap door slamming, and the nice little plot-kick at the end, all provided by a stellar and fun-loving bunch of people. November 13-16 at the William Glesby Centre. Call them at 204-239-4848 for play-only tickets ($13) on Wednesday and Thursday or dinner theatre tickets ($45) on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five Things I Don't Have...that I don't want

For most of the three decades I’ve been part of Portage Alliance Church, the congregation has celebrated Thanksgiving together a week after the actual holiday with a full-blown turkey dinner. That way, our church shindig doesn’t interfere with family events and we can keep the gratitude, festivities, and feasting going.

So, in keeping with the extended season, I thought I’d do the same. After all, thankfulness should be a habit all year ‘round.

If you’re like me, you find it challenging to be grateful all the time. But I love what some smart person once said: “If you don’t have all the things you want in life, think of all the things you DON’T have that you DON’T want.”

They are countless, but I’m picking five that come to my attention immediately. I challenge you to make your own list.

#1. Orphanhood. My Compassion child, Tarion, lives in Ecuador. Last year, his mother died of complications with Diabetes. Meanwhile, I’ve endured 54 years of my mother and she’s barely slowing down. (Kidding, Mom.) Seriously, I can’t imagine experiencing such a devastating loss as a child and am enormously grateful to still have my mother. I’d keep her for life if it were up to me.

#2. Homelessness. Last week, I listened while CHVN Radio broadcast from Siloam Mission in Winnipeg. I heard stories about life on the streets and how even nights at the shelter, while safer, are so much less inviting than the privacy and comfort I enjoy in my own home. I am truly thankful to have never experienced this misfortune.

#3. Blindness. As I write this, the golden October sunshine streams in through my windows, highlighted by the reds, oranges, and yellows of the autumn leaves and accentuating the warmth of the Persian melon walls surrounding me. I use my eyes from the moment I scowl at the beeping alarm clock until I simply cannot hold them open any longer, savoring the last paragraph of that “just one more chapter” before snuggling down for the night. While I complain about needing bifocals and probably even trifocals, I cannot fathom life without eyesight and I deeply appreciate mine.

#4. Paralysis. I’ve heard of three people who have suffered strokes following surgery in recent months, leaving them in worse condition than before the surgery. As I observe their long struggle to fight their way back, I am overwhelmed with gladness for my mobility. Getting dressed, walking to work, my fingers flying over the keyboard, cleaning our house, preparing a meal; I hope I never take any of it for granted.

#5. A Hellish Destiny. This one trumps all the others combined. Although death is on the list of top human fears, it is not one of mine. Not because I’m a brave or good person, but because I don’t have to dread what happens when I die. I may have been pawned off cheap by the enemy of my soul, but Jesus Christ redeemed me with his own life. I John 5:13 tells me, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” That’s what I call a confidence to be grateful for!

What do you not have that you don’t want? Cancer? Unemployment? A prodigal child? Divorce? Disability? I’d love to see your list.
A tat like this one would make my list eventually. Or any tattoo, really.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Murder Most Fowl

You might hate me once you’ve read this story. But it’s time I came clean about my murderous tendencies, this being Thanksgiving and all.

It was back in the days when we still fed our children. We lived in the country and had raised chickens for several years. One year, we suffered a grasshopper plague of Old Testament proportions. We’d been told you can turn grasshoppers into turkey meat by letting the birds free-range on the property. So we bought a dozen turkey chicks, and as soon as they grew big enough, we allowed them to roam the grounds by day, eating all the grasshoppers they wanted, and then herded them inside with the chickens at night.

Our Redbone Coon Hound, Radar, seemed to think the turkeys should be his own personal roaming buffet. The Alpha male, also known as my husband, trained Radar to rethink that notion. Eventually the birds grew big enough to intimidate the dog and he left them alone. Except for one slightly crippled turkey who had a challenge keeping up with the flock. One day when Alpha Male was away, the temptation proved too much for Radar. My elder son saw him harassing the poor bird from the kitchen window, but by the time we ran out there, the damage was done. We tied the dog and inspected the destruction. The poor turkey was wounded beyond repair and I knew he needed to be put out of my misery.

I had performed every aspect of chicken production except the actual part where their lives end. Time to pull up my big-girl socks and rescue this wretched critter from his pain. 

But far be it from me to let perfectly good turkey meat go to waste.

I filled the biggest pot I could find and placed it on the stove to boil. It was easy to catch the wounded turkey and find the axe. Laying him on the chopping block and avoiding eye contact? Not so easy. I reminded myself he was suffering. With one mighty yell and two mighty blows (sorry, bird), I separated his head from the rest of him and dipped him in the scalding water. Once plucked, it became obvious I shouldn’t have bothered. Crippled birds don’t put on nearly as much meat as the healthy ones. But I’d come this far. Maybe we could get a nice sandwich or two out of him.

I eviscerated and triple-washed him, then threw the skinny thing into the oven, making sure Radar wasn’t rewarded with so much as a feather. By this time, I felt so frazzled from the stress of it all, I decided to go for a calming walk. When I returned, the aroma of roasting turkey filled the house. I should have checked on it then. I’d wrongly estimated how quickly a scrawny young turkey will cook. Next time I looked, he was a slightly burnt scrawny young turkey.

But far be it from me to let slightly burnt turkey meat go to waste. I broke the carcass apart, threw it into a soup pot and cooked us some turkey soup. It tasted slightly charred, but we ate it anyway because…. far be it from me.

From that day to this, I have personally killed nothing larger than a housefly. That I know of. Just another reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. I hope yours is a good one!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Getting Rusty

My last saxophone lesson was in mid-May. When it ended, I bid my farmer/teacher a happy summer and the sax stayed in its case until early July when I pulled it out to amaze my visiting mother-in-law.

She was amazed, all right.

I couldn’t remember a thing! I hastily put the instrument back in its case and there it stayed. I’m to begin lessons again in November. My instructor will take my hard-earned dollars for teaching me the same old things over. My longsuffering husband will have to listen to the same juvenile beginner tunes, with the same excruciating squawks. Apparently, playing a sax is not like riding a bike. 

Or could it have something to do with the fact I started learning in my 50’s?

I did some sewing recently. Hadn’t sewn much for years and forgot how much I enjoy it when it’s something more dazzling than re-attaching buttons or hemming slacks. 

I was dazzled, all right. 

I couldn’t even thread the machine, let alone the needle. Good thing the old woman who sleeps with my husband keeps a pair of magnifying glasses around the house. 

Last week I returned to Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown video workout after giving myself a four month break. It’s not that I intended to give myself such a long break. It was supposed to be a week or two, while we moved. Then I gave myself an extension. And another. I’m generous that way. Finally decided to discipline myself and get back into it.

I was disciplined, all right. 

I thought I was going to get stuck in the Camel pose and die. Some funeral director would make a killing on  a custom-designed, camel-shaped casket for my stiffened carcass. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until two days later I felt the sore muscles – mostly in my shoulders from those despicable Chaturanga push-ups.

Does it seem to you that the older we are, the less time it takes to get rusty? You can’t afford to quit for a minute, or you’re right back to square one. This is why we spend the first several years of our life in school. Youth is the time to study new languages, memorize poetry, scripture, and multiplication tables, and learn how to ride a bike or play an instrument. 

What’s the point of learning anything new at this stage if you forget it all at lightning speed? I may as well sit on the couch watching The Bachelorette and not bother. This is not encouraging.

Or is it?

When I took another stab at my saxophone playing, I realized I could navigate through my beginner book without help and in a lot less time than it took the first go around. In spite of myself, maybe I wasn’t entirely lost after all.

The quality of my finished sewing project is far superior to anything I cranked out when my eyes were only twelve years old, in spite of the ease with which my nimble fingers could thread a needle way back then.

That I found the yoga more difficult after a break tells me it actually was making a difference before the break. It means if we stick with our exercise programs, we really can enjoy some small measure of control over our strength and flexibility as we age—key factors in avoiding falls, broken bones, and aching joints.

Guess I don’t get to quit yet. Bummer.

All this talk of camels and needles reminds me of a Bible verse I once memorized. “It is easier for a camel to play a saxophone than to pass a rich man through the eye of a needle.” Or something like that. 

Maybe I learned that one in my forties.