Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

The course of true love never did run smooth, but Shakespeare’s audiences must have been experts at untangling complicated plots. It may be one of the earliest romantic comedies ever written and I missed my chance to audition because…well, truthfully? I chickened out. Methinkest memorizing all that Elizabethan English seemeth too tough a challenge for this ol’ wench. 

But there are younger and braver souls than I among the Prairie Players. So young, in fact, that few of the present cast were alive when the group began in 1969—which speaks to the excellent health of the company. And so brave, they’ve taken all that Shakespearean syntax and added further challenges. For starters, change the time frame to 1960 and adjust costumes accordingly. Then, just because you can, move it to New Orleans. Which, of course, requires delivering all those old English lines with Louisiana accents. Now throw in some toe-tappin’ fiddling for the wedding dance. Oh yes, and just for fun, turn the fairies and wood nymphs into zombies.

Well, why not? Dreams are weird, and this is a dream after all. I wonder if Freud ever tried to interpret the deeper meaning of this one.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen or read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, let me refresh you. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the play more if you already understand the gist of the story.

Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius. To escape the arranged marriage, she and Lysander escape into the woods. Demetrius follows, but is pursued by Helena, who nurses an unrequited passion for him. A love quadrangle develops among the young lovers when the mischievous Puck plays Cupid. You with me so far?

Meanwhile, a group of amateur actors rehearse a badly-written play to perform at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, set simultaneously in the woodland, under the light of the moon. But soon the actors find their lives changed by the doings of Oberon and Titania, the quarreling king and queen of the fairies. Oberon seeks to punish Titania’s disobedience and recruits Puck to help him apply a potion which makes the victim fall in love with the first living thing they see when they wake. Still with me?

Puck uses the spell on the four lovers, resulting in Lysander and Demetrius both falling in love with Helena and leaving Hermia out in the cold. Helena’s convinced they’re all mocking her and a rollicking good catfight ensues. Puck also works some magic on Bottom, one of the amateur actors, turning his head into that of an ass. Unfortunately, it’s Bottom whom Titania first sees upon waking, and is now in love with him, ass-head and all. Still following?

Eventually, all is restored, a three-way wedding takes place and Bottom gets his head back. Forsooth and forthwith, you’ll holler “Yee-HAW!” as the hillbilly hootenanny unfolds.

Bravo, Prairie Players, for taking on an enormous challenge and breathing so much life and color into an old story in this, our 45th anniversary. Directed by Mary McCown and assisted by Stephanie Kaufmann, the cast features Jordan Thiessen, Kimberly Cairns, Paul Warthe, Ember Rodgers, Tyrone Taylor, Travis Roberts, Jenn Bach, Fran Myles, Sebastien McCown-Kobinger, Mary McCown, Alistair Wright, Tessa Lupkowski, Shania Jack, Josh Walker, Lisa Marie Tessier, Jeffrey Arndt, Simone Switzer, Carolann Roy-Kobinger, Emily Hutchinson, Meghan Anderson, Vicki Hooke, Ashley Anderson, and Rachel Sokolowski.

This lively production runs at the William Glesby Centre for three nights: April 24, 25, and 26 at 8:00. Tickets cost $13 and are available at the door or during regular box office hours, or by calling 204-239-5591. 

Fare thee well, y’all!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Value of a Good Question

What is the most significant question anyone has ever asked you? (Not counting that one.) Think about this now. Probably, you’ll quickly eliminate those which you’ve been asked repeatedly:
·         Would you like fries with that?
·         Did you remember to put out the garbage?
·         Can I interest you in a great offer on long distance services?
·         Got milk?

Your mind skips instead to the “biggies” you have been asked only once or still long to hear:
·         Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?
·         Will you accept the position?
·         For one million dollars, is that your final answer?

And then there are those questions we hope we’re never asked:
·         Sorry to wake you, Ma’am, but is this your son?
·         Where were you on the night of...?
·         Have you ever used…lied about…been convicted of…cheated on...? You can fill in the blank.

Sometimes one seemingly simple question holds enough power to send us into a tailspin. Jesus Christ proved himself a master at asking questions. Often, he answered others’ questions with another question—a technique I find irritating when it’s used on me because it forces me to think, and I don’t always want to think. When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day tried to catch him off-guard with tricky questions, he came back with clever questions of his own, beating them at their game and leaving them speechless. (For more on this, check out Matthew 12:9-14 and 22:15-22.)

Whichever question you deem the most significant pales in comparison to the life and death question Jesus asked his disciples in Mark chapter 8. It’s the same question he will eventually ask you and me: “Who do you say I am?” Like his disciples, we can easily deliver the things others say about Jesus. A good man. A prophet. A holy man. An example. A legend. A little misguided. A naive idealist. A boat-rocking, rabble-rousing rebel. 

But what others say won’t matter one whit when the day comes that you find yourself face to face with Jesus and he asks “Who do YOU say I am?” This Easter season, you owe it to yourself to check out the claims he made about himself and decide what your answer will be.

What was it that riled those leaders so much they wanted him destroyed? Do you really think he’d have been put to a brutal death for being a good teacher, a loving healer, or even a little misguided?
It was his claim to be the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah, the Resurrection and the Life, that got him nailed to a cross. How dare he? If that’s who he was, it meant he possessed authority, a closely guarded commodity already diminished by the presence of a foreign government. Any further threats, even from God himself, were unthinkable. No wonder they would do anything to prevent this man from influencing the crowds. Too bad they were so short-sighted they missed the most significant question of all: “Who do YOU say I am?” 

Don’t let it happen to you.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Keeping the "imp" in "Mission Impossible"

This spring break, I decided to take a week’s vacation so Grandpa and I could host sleepovers for our grandsons – three in a row, one rascal at a time. Knowing the solo stays would be easier to manage, I told myself they would provide a chance to get to know the boys as individuals. I stocked up on children’s books and videos from the library and shopped for easy-to-prepare food and treats. 

I knew better than to clean the house.

Alfalfa, six, was first in line. We took him to our local theatre for the matinee presentation of Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Back home, we played Scrabble Junior. Alfalfa showed off his reading skills by reading a couple of books aloud. After supper, we played hide and seek and discovered Grandpa finds the best hiding spots while Grandma tends to rely on camouflage.
A few rounds of Uno, some ice cream and berries, and a Snoopy video got us to bedtime. The next morning we found time for a couple games before church, a fast food lunch after, and a few computer games before home time. I felt pretty smug about how Project Sleepover was going.

While Grandma napped in preparation for round two, Grandpa took Alfalfa home and picked up Buckwheat, age four. With him, we played Candyland and Memory and made the coolest fort EVER where we ate popcorn and watched Duck Dodgers. Buckwheat slept in the fort. 

Due to circumstances beyond my control, his sleepover stretched into two nights. I watched while Grandpa and his boy spent a good hour in the PCU Centre pool. That evening, my energy giving out and round three still ahead, I started questioning my sanity.

By the time we arrived home with Spanky, age two, it was supper time of the fourth day. Did I mention Spanky is also known as Hurricane Spanky? If it moves, he chases it. If it doesn’t, he moves it. If it’s tall, he climbs it, and if it has a button, he pushes it. His mom advised that taking him outside or putting him in the bath tub would make him go to sleep faster. We did both, to be sure. 

Next morning, books and games didn’t make Spanky’s agenda, just a lot of chasing around. Grandma was rapidly wilting. I took him outside awhile, only to discover he could easily walk on top of the high snow drifts and escape while I plunged in hip deep. I swear this kid’s guardian angel deserves some kind of medal.

Back inside, I peeled off his coat, mitts, and boots first. In the time it took to remove my own, Spanky had made his way to Grandpa’s home office, photocopied the entire phone book, and Skyped with somebody in Venezuela.

After lunch, Grandpa took over while I fell exhausted onto the couch, feeling less and less successful as the involved grandparent I fancied myself. I was still there when Grandpa returned after taking Spanky home, a miserable lump of a failure sitting in the middle of the chaos.

“Guess what?” Grandpa reported.  “The boys’ daddy hinted that maybe this could become an annual tradition. Alfalfa and Buckwheat haven’t stopped talking about their sleepovers.” 

I know the day is coming, faster than we’d like, when the rascals will lose interest in sleepovers at our house. Until then, I truly do hope we can make it a tradition.

Just let me take a long nap before I commit.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

25 Semi-Interesting Things I've Learned from City Hall

This week marks the fifth anniversary of my job with the City of Portage la Prairie. I told my hubby I was thinking of doing a column about the things I’ve learned in those five years. Problem was, most of what I’ve learned is boring to the average reader, and anything really interesting might land me in a heap of trouble.

I probably knew less about municipal government than your average bear before I was hired, so it’s a good thing they based their decision on my skill set, my teachability, and my gosh-darn good nature rather than on my knowledge. Here’s a list of 25 things I now know that I couldn’t have told you five years ago, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you might not know all of them either. Give yourself a point for each fact you already knew.

1.      The guys who collect our garbage are not City employees—it’s contracted out.
2.      Our City Council is made up of one mayor and six councillors.
3.      An election is held every four years.
4.      Seats on Council are not staggered, which means you could (in theory) elect an entirely new Council every four years.
5.      You cannot run for mayor and councillor in the same election.
6.      You cannot run for City council and for the School Board in the same election.
7.      Like for voting, there are only three requirements for running for Council, provided you can recruit 25 people to sign your nomination: you must be 18 or older, you must be a Canadian citizen and you must live in or own property in the City.
8.      The next election will be held October 22, 2014.
9.      Portage la Prairie was incorporated as a city in 1907.
10.  More than 8,000 by-laws are on our books.
11.  One of those by-laws is a curfew by-law for youth, passed in 1998 and available (among others) on the City’s website.
12.  A by-law must receive three readings before it is passed, signed, and sealed.
13.  Only two of those readings may take place in the same meeting.
14.  A by-law can only be amended or rescinded by passing another by-law.
15.  It’s against the law to place garage sale signs—or any other signs—on City boulevards.
16.  Many of the rules and regulations the City must follow are set out by something called the Manitoba Municipal Act—which you can read in its entirety here.
17.  Public Hearings are required for variations, conditional use applications, rezoning of property, and the passing of the annual financial plan (which will happen this year on April 14).
18.  Variations are when someone wants to “vary” the rules regarding how close a building or deck can be to a fence, or a fence to a curb, how high the fence is, where a sign can go, and that sort of thing.
19.  A conditional use application is when someone wants to use the property for something unique or nonconforming, but still within the zoning rules, for example if a church wants to start a daycare on its premises.
20.  Rezoning is when someone wants to change the zoning on a given piece of property (say, from residential to commercial).
21.  You violate a by-law if you keep more than three grown cats or dogs or combination of cats and dogs without an excess animal permit.
22.  Saskatchewan Avenue and Tupper Street are maintained by the province, not the City.
23.  The correct name of our wastewater plant is the Water Pollution Control Facility.
24.  If your neighbour throws his snow onto your property, it is not a matter for the City—you will need to work out that dispute on your own or with the RCMP.
25.  The City does not run a social services department.

How did you score? If you didn’t already know them all, now you do!