Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oh, Canada, did you know these 20 things about yourself?

With Canada  Day around the corner, I’ve gathered 20 known and not-so-well known facts about our beloved nation. With my comments, of course.

1.      Canada is the second largest country in the world, covering six time zones. The largest is Russia, beating us by 7.3 million square kilometers. We do, however, have the longest coastline of any country in the world at 243,977 kilometers.

2.      We can also boast the longest highway in the world with the Trans-Canada, which runs over 7604 kilometers long. I’m not sure if that includes the detour through Portage la Prairie caused by construction six months out of any given year.

3.      Despite being a huge country, Canada has the fourth lowest population density in the world, with only three people per square kilometer. Almost half of Canada’s people were born in other countries, making us a true mosaic. 

4.      The highest tides in the world occur in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.

5.      The world’s most northerly sand dunes are in Athabasca Provincial Park in northwest Saskatchewan. They rise 30 meters high.

6.      Half of Canada is covered with forests, which should come as no surprise considering one-tenth of the world’s forests are here.

7.      The coldest temperature ever recorded in Canada was -63C (-81.4F) on February 3, 1957 in Snag, Yukon.

8.      The median age of people in Canada is 41 years. Guess that puts me on the over-the-hill side by a smidge. Okay, a few smidges.

9.      Speaking of age, the average life expectancy at birth is 81.16 years – the sixth highest in the world.

10.  Hockey and lacrosse are Canada’s national sports. Say what? I can honestly say I’ve never watched a single episode of Lacrosse Night in Canada, nor can I hum the theme song.

11.  The baseball glove was invented in Canada in 1883. Some bloke grew tired of stinging his hand, I guess.

12.  Canada has hosted the Olympic Games three times; 1976 in Montreal, 1988 in Calgary and 2010 in Vancouver.

13.  The world’s largest totem pole was raised in Victoria in 1994 and stands 54.94 meters tall (180.2 feet). Wonder how far into the ground it needs to go in order to keep standing?

14.  Cheddar is the most popular cheese in Canada. On average, Canadians consume 23.4 pounds per person annually. Someone is eating 22.4 pounds of my share.

15.  The Maritimes are famous for their odd-sounding desserts, like Raspberry Buckle and Blueberry Grunt. I’m thinking all that dessert eating makes them loosen their belt buckles and grunt when they stand up. 

16.  Canada boasts more doughnut shops per capita than any other country, although I wouldn’t boast about it. I find this disturbing. Our health care system will never keep up with our sugar consumption.

17.  Each Canadian eats an average of 190 eggs per year. Someone is eating about 107 of my share.

18.  Canadians drink more fruit juice per capita than any other country. This is interesting, since so few places in Canada can actually grow fruit. Maybe we need the extra vitamins to compensate for the long winters.

19.  There are eleven sub species of Canada geese. Wow, right? Makes me wonder if eleven varieties of goose poop adorn Portage’s Crescent Lake walking path. It all looks the same to me. But then, so do the geese.

20.  The Canadian motto is “A Mari Usque ad Mare.” It means “from sea to sea.” This is taken from Psalm 72:8, one of the three Bible verses etched in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill: “He shall have dominion from sea to sea.” If someone tries to tell you this country wasn’t founded on the Judeo-Christian faith, they are wrong.
Happy Canada Day!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Glimpse through the Gap

My backyard neighbours have temporarily removed a portion of the privacy fence between our properties in order to put up a new garage. The gap in the fence enables me to see directly into their yard from my kitchen window. Not that I’m a snoop or anything. Just sayin.’

As long as the fence stood uninterrupted, all I could see over the top was a clothesline, a few bird feeders, and the squirrels who use them. I had no idea the yard was actually a gorgeous, park-like work of art! We are clearly getting the better end of this deal.

Now, while I’m washing dishes, instead of feasting my eyes on my own pathetic attempt at a garden and a boring white fence, I can pretend the other man’s greener grass is an extension of our own. By focusing just a little further away, my whole perspective changes. Since the gap, I’ve also spoken more to the neighbours and met a sweet, 17-year old cat I never knew lived there. 

I think I’ll miss the gap when the work is completed. Maybe privacy is overrated.

What lovely views do we miss because we allow fences to block our vision? Fences come in many forms. Anxiety, illness, grudges, loss, and strained relationships can create a fence between what we’re looking at and what we could be looking at. We’re so focused on the problem, it becomes a barrier to our vision. For example, if you are stressed out over money troubles and you learned you were going to inherit a million dollars next month, your focus would change, even though your bills remained unpaid in the moment. Am I right? 

For me, struggling with daily physical pain shortens my sight incredibly. Sometimes all I can see is the here and now. This highly unattractive fence makes me think negative thoughts. This hurts. I don’t like it. I don’t want to live like this. It’s hopeless. I can’t cope.

But when I choose to focus on something better, even if it’s farther away and all I have to peer through is a tiny knot hole, the fence blurs and begins to diminish. I realize a greater truth exists on the other side of the fence. A future worthy of joyful anticipation awaits. I possess reasons to remain thankful and glad. 

You can find one of these knot hole promises in the first chapter of Peter’s first epistle:

“Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

By focusing just a little further away, your whole perspective changes.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering Dad

Mom tells me I’m like my dad. I figure she says so because she doesn’t want to take credit for my slightly warped sense of humour. 

Dad was a trickster who loved a good laugh. I don’t know if I actually remember this event or if it only seems like I remember it because I heard the story so often. In any event, I couldn’t have been more than three. (At least I sure hope I wasn’t, because any older and it might indicate I’m not as clever as I fancy myself.)

Like many children, I had a favourite doll. I spent a great deal of time and attention on that little dolly, changing her clothes, feeding her, and lugging her around. One day while my back was turned, Dad decided it would be hilarious to smear a little peanut butter on my dolly’s bottom and hang around to watch the reaction.

I didn’t disappoint. Whether delighted or disgusted, I can’t say. But “astonished” would be an understatement. Dad got his chuckle that day and many times over as he retold the tale through the years. Like a prize fish, my eyeballs probably grew with each telling.

Fast forward.

Dad and Me on my wedding day, 1977
I was a 25-year old mother with two real babies of my own. (Dad’s peanut butter prank must not have traumatized me too severely.) One morning I was busy vacuuming our home when the vacuum suddenly quit. What? Had I blown a breaker? Was my machine kaput? I inspected the switch, then followed the cord around the corner. There, in the middle of my kitchen, stood my father, the end of the cord in his hand and a big goofy grin on his face.

He had stopped in unannounced to see the kids and me, a rare treat. While I made tea, Dad squished into the rocking chair with the children to read a Dr. Seuss book. It’s a memory I treasure.
A mere two years later, we laid my father’s body in the grave. If there’s anything positive to be said for cancer, it usually provides plenty of opportunities to say good-bye and tell people how much they mean to us. I’m thankful for that. Not everyone gets the chance. 

Last week, an evil man killed three young RCMP officers in Moncton. Did their families have any opportunity to say what they needed to say? I suppose when your loved one is a cop, there’s more daily awareness that every good-bye could be the last. But what’s true for police officers and their families holds true for all of us. We never know. It’s a lesson I sure don’t want to learn the hard way, do you?

So, in honour of Father’s Day, I’m sending special affection to two favorite dads I am grateful to still have in my life: the father of my children and the father of my grandchildren. You make me proud, guys, and I love you both to pieces. Thanks for loving me, too—warped sense of humour and all.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Happened to Spring?

Is it just me, or did we skip an entire season? Seems we went straight from winter to summer, and now the blossoming trees and shrubs are scrambling into overdrive, trying to catch up with the calendar. Please don’t hear this as complaining; I’m thrilled the weather finally warmed after most of us had lost hope. But it’s easier on the constitution when we’re phased in with a few gentle spring breezes instead of jumping from zero to thirty in sixty seconds. 

Too bad the mosquitoes didn’t miss any clues.

Doing everything the hard way
If there’s a stupider way to do a yard project, I tend to find it. I wanted to turn a 55-foot strip of crushed rock along our side fence into a lovely row of something—something with a little more life than all that stone and the weeds that manage to poke through it. Since my sister had hosta plants to share, I figured they’d do nicely. This meant raking as much of the crushed rock onto the driveway as I could manage, then jumping on a shovel like a jackhammer to dig holes through the remaining six inches of gravel. Rattled a few teeth loose, I think.

When I had all 14 holes dug and was ready to haul soil from our city’s composting yard, hubby was gone with both his truck and his muscles. So I made three trips to the composting yard in my car, using several two-gallon buckets because that’s all the weight my wimpiness could manage.

The next afternoon, I set out to lay landscaping fabric along this 55-foot strip. On the windiest day of the year. But if I waited for calmer weather the poor little hostas, already uprooted from their former bed, would surely die. Now I understand the pressure heart transplant surgeons are under.

Working with landscaping fabric in the wind reminded me of trying to change a diaper on a toddler fresh from his nap and raring to go. Every time I’d place part of it down, another part would billow up like it was ready to set sail. At one point, holding on tight, I went parasailing down the street and ended up two blocks over. 

By the time my hostas were planted and the fabric covered with cedar mulch, I was too cranky to speak nicely to them. Folks tell me all I have to do now is water them. We’ll see.

In praise of clotheslines
Now that summer’s here, I’m enjoying the benefits of a clothesline after eleven years without one. While the kids were growing, two clotheslines graced our country yard—an umbrella type and a pulley type. We faithfully filled them both three times a week. It saved money on power and everything smelled wonderful. 

But our next move landed us in a trailer park where they forbade clotheslines (which I never could figure out) and the next move was into a rented house without one. So when we purchased our home last summer, I was delighted to discover an umbrella clothesline in the backyard. Using it makes me feel all pioneersy and wholesome. Mind you, I still run most of the clothes through a cold fluff cycle with a fabric softener sheet afterwards. Can’t have hubby walking around stiff-legged and chafing.

John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” 

I suppose he had a point. But I could handle summer weather all year ‘round and still find it pretty dang sweet. Couldn’t you?