Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Home, Home Above the Range

How many months does it take to change a light bulb?

When we moved into our house in 2013, it came with a built-in microwave above the regular oven. Complete with two lights shining down onto the stovetop, it seemed state-of-the-art and I gladly gave away our 1988 microwave with the wood grain exterior.

In August 2014, the first of these two light bulbs burned out, followed by the second in September, plunging my stovetop into darkness and sucking all the joy from the daily meal grind, I mean, preparation. When I went searching for replacements, I discovered our microwave was made in 2003 and is considered practically obsolete. Following is a diary of my light bulb quest.

Mid-September: Find bulb at local hardware store that looks close to what I need. Try to install, but it is too long to fit. To avoid repeating the mistake, I put the burned-out bulb in my purse (affectionately known as “the black hole”).

Sept 30: Take the burned-out bulb to local appliance store. They don’t have one in stock, but tell me to call back with the model number. Later that afternoon, after three phone calls back and forth, I am told I need to go directly to Sears.

Oct 1: Call Sears’ toll-free number. Spend 17 minutes on the phone with my new best friend, “Joshua.” I ask him to ship the bulbs to the Polo Park outlet, but he says my closest option is the St. Vital mall. Joshua says it will take 3-6 business days. I hope to have the bulbs in time for Thanksgiving cooking.  

Oct. 14: Joshua has dumped me. I call again and go through four voice menus, hoping I am choosing the correct number each time. Finally, I’m put on hold where I listen to the same four cheesy bars of music, interrupted every 30 seconds with reminders that my call is important to them. I read a novel to pass the time. Someone answers but before I am done explaining, I am transferred to a parts department. The Parts Dept. answers, not with a greeting, but asking, “what part number?” I do not know the part number. I explain what I need. They ask for my phone number, immediately after which the phone begins making a busy signal. Then the line goes dead. I hit redial to start over, but my phone starts to beep – low battery. 22 minutes of my life gone and still no light bulbs.

The illusive bulb.
Oct 15:  Call Sears again. Only wait on hold for a minute. The guy says the bulbs do not appear to have been shipped by the manufacturer, but they will call me when they arrive. Meanwhile, he suggests Reliable Parts might obtain them faster. I call Reliable Parts. I am placed on hold where I listen to ads for fridge water dispenser filters between reassurances that they will be right with me and thanking me every 30 seconds for calling their Parts Department. The guy looks up the number and says there are none of these bulbs in the country. He orders four and informs me it will take 3-4 weeks. I hope to have the bulbs in time for Christmas baking.

Nov 12: No word from Reliable Parts, but Sears leaves a message on our answering machine saying the bulbs are in. Do happy dance.

Nov 16: Discover the burned-out bulb broken in the bottom of the black hole that is my purse. Empty purse. Clean up mess. Bandage finger.

Nov 17: Hubby has an appointment in Winnipeg, so he goes to Sears Parts Department at St. Vital Centre. The bulbs are for inside the oven, NOT what I need. The guy finds the correct part number and orders four.

Nov 20: A voice message from Arnell at Reliable Parts tells us our bulbs are in. I’m pretty certain they’re not the right ones. 

I hope to have the bulbs in time for Easter baking.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Things Not Worth Dwelling On

A few final thoughts on “It’s a Wonderful Life” and then I promise to be done with it…
You might be sick and tired of my going on about “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the third week in a row, but it’s my blog and I’ll brag if I want to. The fact is, I had not actually seen the production when I wrote the last two columns. (Such is the nature of deadlines.) I confess, I passed judgment on something I hadn’t seen and I was mistaken. It wasn’t just a great play. It was absolutely fantastic! The Prairie Players nailed it, and it proved far more entertaining than I imagined and much funnier than the movie.

Although everybody did a brilliant job and looked marvelous doing it, I thought Jonathan Britton  played an outstanding George Bailey. And I must express special appreciation for the two on-stage Foley artists, the father and son team of Keith and Lindsay Burch (soon to be introducing a third generation to the Prairie Players!) You guys rock. Thank you, congratulations, and bravo to all of you!

If you didn’t see the play, I feel sorry for you. But not too much. Listen to me next time.

I worked “front of house” all four nights and learned something about myself in the process—something I’m not too proud of. I discovered the whole donning of the 1940s outfit, trying to keep those seams down the back of the hosiery straight, and the hour spent curling my hair into victory rolls got old by the third night. Yet, had I been on stage, four nights would have felt like not nearly enough.

I don’t like to consider what this might say about me. Not a team player? Not happy unless she’s in the spotlight? Probably some truth in that. But then, there’s probably some truth in that for most of us. Anyway, I fulfilled my commitment. My hair held up, even if my enthusiasm waned. Some things are not worth dwelling on.
Now it’s time to turn to Christmas preparations in real life…
At least I didn't do THIS.
Before the cold and snow arrived, I strung Christmas lights across the front of our house. Correction: almost across. I kind of ran out of lights before I ran out of house. But hey, I never claimed to be Martha Stewart and my home was not on the Homes for the Holidays tour. While this type of imperfection would have driven me crazy in younger years, I’m just glad to see lights on the house. Some things are not worth dwelling on.

Our family is foregoing gifts this year in favor of spending our money on travel expenses so we can all be together. I did, however, pack a Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Since God saw fit to bless us with three grandsons, it’s a treat to choose items for a little girl. It’s amazing how, once you dispose of all the packaging, you can fit twice as much stuff in your shoebox. Don’t make the mistake I did: shopping before reading the list of what NOT to pack. Guess I get to keep the grape flavored, Disney Princess, melts-too-easily lip balm.

I wish I could witness the little girl’s face when she opens her box. Truthfully? What I’d really like to see is a video of her opening it, watched from the comfort of my own home. I’m not keen on travelling to jungle climates with bugs and no air conditioning and poor sanitation. Pathetic, I know. More revelations about myself I’d rather not dwell on.

And in other Christmas preparations…
I will also forego our family Christmas newsletter—again. What was once a fun annual tradition seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird with the launch of my blog a few years ago. If anybody really wants to know what’s going on with the Todds, it’s not hard to find out.

But I am happy to report that newsletters are being written at my desk nonetheless…from the most unlikely of Christmas characters. It will be my joy to share these with you throughout December, so I hope you stay tuned and I hope you’ll find them to be columns worth dwelling on.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is it REALLY a Wonderful Life?

Is your life wonderful every moment of every day? Dumb question, right? It’s no secret that pain and grief invade even the most wonderful of days. Who among us hasn’t experienced times when we’ve imagined what life would be like without us, or been convinced others would be better off if we’d never been born?

Such is the plight of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Threatened with bankruptcy, scandal and prison, compounded by the words of his nemesis, “you’re worth more dead than alive,” George begins to believe it. In George’s case, he actually gets a chance to find out what his hometown would be like without him, thanks to a rooky angel named Clarence who hopes to finally earn his wings. 

The story contains some wonderful truths. The prayers we immortals pray really do reach Heaven, and angels really do come to our aid. However, the idea of us becoming angels after we die is fabricated. The Bible draws a clear distinction between the two. Humans are humans and angels are angels, with no need to earn their wings. The premise does make for some thought-provoking and entertaining stories, though.

Does your life always feel like the incredible gift that it is? It’s challenging to find the wonderful in life when it’s marred with broken relationships, loss, unstable health, financial woes, the nightly news, or even lousy weather. Isn’t it?

But what if the word “wonderful” literally means “full of wonder?” If so, then it’s our own choice to discover wonder in any given moment, if we open our eyes to it. Photographers are masters at this. My friends GayleLoewen and Stan Wiebe amaze me with their ability to find majesty in the minute objects of nature or everyday life. A cloud formation which goes so easily unseen is a masterpiece, if we but notice. A fall leaf, to the observant, is a dazzling display of intricate design. And a ninety-year-old woman’s hands are objects of great beauty when seen through the eyes of a thoughtful beholder.

Have you stopped to consider the workings of your own eyes? Or how your heart beats nonstop for decades without your command or awareness? Have you sliced into a fresh orange and marveled at its aroma, its intricacies, its life-giving sustenance? What about the wonder of language or reading? How can we look at black squiggles on a white page and from them become informed, inspired, or so engrossed in a story we’re unaware of the passing of time? 

Life is beautiful. Life is hard. Both statements are true. I believe the wonder-filled moments we enjoy in this life are a tiny taste of what awaits us in the life beyond this—where the truly wonderful is yet to come. 

You might think you wouldn’t be missed had you not been born. After all, someone can’t miss what they never had. But Psalm 139 tells us your Creator spread all the stages of your life before him, the days of your life all prepared before you’d even lived one day. The God of the universe would miss you! And I think that’s pretty wonderful.

The Friday and Saturday dinner theatre tickets are no longer available, but if you’re reading this on Thursday, November 13, you still have a chance to see the Prairie Prairies’ performance of It’s a Wonderful Life tonight at 8:00 at the William Glesby Centre. $15 will buy you a ticket, rush seating. 

 Enjoy the story. Be inspired. And embrace your wonderful life.

A scene from the Prairie Players production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It’s a Doggone, Holy Mackerel, Wonderful Life

Next week, the Prairie Players will stage It’s a Wonderful Life at the William GlesbyCentre for their fall production. Under the direction of Lisa Marie Tessier, a diverse and talented cast will play multiple roles. You don’t want to miss Terry Tully, Stephanie Kauffman, Autumn Thornton, Jeffery Arndt, Jon Britton, Kevin Hamm, Rob Froese, Rob Smith, Laurel Giesbrecht, and Christopher Kitchen as they bring this classic story to life. (On a side note, we’re all proud of our president Christopher Kitchen for winning the well-deserved 2014 Arts/Cultural Person of the Year award!)

I didn’t manage to land a role on stage this time, but am working on my best 1940s outfit to wear while I take your ticket and hand out programs. And I can hardly wait to see the production! If you’re a fan of the 1947 movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, test yourself on the following trivia. Did you know…

It’s a Wonderful Life was the first movie Jimmy Stewart made after serving in World War II and his personal favourite. He admitted he felt nervous about the phone scene kiss, but Stewart filmed the scene in only one unrehearsed take. It worked so well, they cut part of the embrace because it was too passionate to pass the censors. Oh, how times have changed.

And speaking of changed times, Stewart’s character, George Bailey, says “Holy mackerel” and “Doggone it” each three times in the movie. Shocking, I know.

For the scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock into the window of the Granville House, director Frank Capra hired a marksman to shoot it out for her on cue. To everyone’s amazement, Reed broke the window with true aim without assistance. She had played baseball in high school.

As a drunken Uncle Billy is leaving George’s house, it sounds as if he stumbles over some trash cans on the sidewalk. In fact, a crew member dropped some equipment right after Uncle Billy left the screen. Both actors continued with the scene, with Uncle Billy ad-libbing, “I’m all right, I’m all right!” Capra decided to use it in the final cut, and gave the clumsy stagehand a ten dollar bonus for improving the sound.

The gym floor that opens to reveal a swimming pool was real and located at Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles. The actor who pressed the button, in an uncredited role as Freddie Othello, was Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer of Little Rascal fame.

Despite being set around Christmas, the movie was filmed during a heat wave near Encino, California. That’s why George Bailey is sweating profusely in the bridge scene. It turned so hot, Capra gave everyone a day off to recuperate. The special effects people utilized a newly developed method for creating the fake snow used in the film and earned a Class III Scientific or Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy.

The screenplay originally called for the movie to end with Ode to Joy, not Auld Lang Syne.

In 2006, the movie was voted the #1 inspirational film of all time in the American Film Industry’s “100 Years, 100 Cheers.”

Whether It’s a Wonderful Life is your all-time favorite movie or whether you’ve never seen it, you don’t want to miss this play. On Wednesday and Thursday, November 12 and 13 at 8:00 p.m., you can see the play for $15, rush seating. If you’d rather attend the dinner theatre on Friday and Saturday, November 14 and 15, $45 will buy you a ticket. Get yours at the William Glesby Centre. There is still time—but not much. Hope to greet you there!