Prov 17:22

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

Saturday, January 27, 2018

My Stint as a Bootlegger

One of the forty items on our fortieth anniversary list last year was to visit the Tunnels of Moose Jaw. We didn’t really know much about them, but we’d heard intriguing reports. So, on our way to Calgary for Christmas, we allowed an extra day to stop and check them out. I recommend the adventure!

Beneath the streets of downtown Moose Jaw, a complicated series of tunnels hold some fascinating—and disturbing—stories of our own Canadian history. The city has shrewdly turned these dark secrets into a tourist attraction that entertains and enlightens. Part museum, part theater, the tunnels include multimedia and even animatronics.

In the “Chicago Connection” tour, we relived Al Capone’s bootlegging days. Guests become bootleggers in 1929 who have come to Moose Jaw to buy booze from the Capone organization. Needing to steer clear of the local police chief, “Miss Fanny” led us through her club, Al’s office, and bedroom—both of which hid secret escape routes—until we ended up in an underground tunnel. The only one who knew the way out was the lovable Gus, one of Capone’s goons, complete with “Joizey” accent.This tour began on the opposite side of the street from where it ended, proving that the tunnels truly do go right under the streets.

The tunnels were the work of Chinese railway workers who’d dug them decades earlier so they could hide whenever officials decided to collect the notorious head tax. The “Passage to Fortune” tour tells the story of these immigrants. Population pressure, political instability, and poverty brought many Chinese people to Canada seeking a better life. Chinese labor played a major role in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which reached Moose Jaw in 1882. With that project finished, many Chinese ended up living and working in laundries in these tunnels because—as harsh a life as it was, it beat the discrimination and hatred they endured above ground. The conditions they lived in and the near impossibility of moving up can only be described as slavery. Certainly, it was human trafficking and a shameful, dark blot on our history. This story needs to be told, and you won’t find it in our Canadian History textbooks—at least, you didn’t in my day. The tales left me with a new appreciation for what many Chinese endured, passing down an irrepressible spirit of determination to their descendants. 

At the end of the tour, we could ask questions, and I wish I had. I think we felt too subdued by the somber story. Later, I wondered several things. Were the tables, benches and bunks the actual ones used by the immigrants? Was a lot of that stuff left down there? When were these tunnels “discovered?” What went on in between the time they quit being used and the time they were developed for tours? In what condition were they found?

If you go, perhaps you can ask my questions and let me know!

The Tunnels of Moose Jaw are a family friendly attraction offering an experience like no other. Tickets are available from their website and cost $15.00 per tour or $25.00 for both. They offer discounted tickets for seniors, youth, and children, with no charge for kids five and under.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January Blows

My lone mug

It never fails. You’ve finally got all the Christmas decorations boxed and stacked neatly in the storage space. Half an hour later, you unload the dishwasher and discover one loan holiday mug.
It’s just another one of January’s sneaky little tricks.

A writer friend I admire says January 2nd is her favorite day of the year. Fresh start and all that. Well, that’s fine for her. She’s clever enough to box up Christmas on Boxing Day, after which she reorganizes and cleans her lovely home office, adding something new to breathe freshness into her environment. She doesn’t need to go outside for work because a book publisher is eager for her next story. Besides, she lives in Kansas where spring actually comes when it’s supposed to.

Not that I’m bitter or anything. Our brutal Canadian winters are too character-building for me to become bitter.

2018 got off to a slow start for me. We returned home from Alberta on New Year’s Eve and I began sneezing as I unpacked. By morning, it was a full-on cold. Though due at work on January 2nd, I stayed home for the next three days and dragged myself to work on the 5th looking like something left over from the zombie apocalypse. There, in my foggy-brained state, I proceeded to make enough mistakes to last the year. I’m grateful Darren, our I.T. guy, bailed me out without also chewing me out. 

I can’t complain, really. I wasn’t nearly as sick as some people or for as long.

Here’s the strange thing. By the time I was in the swing of January, with Christmas put away and goals set for the new year, the month should have been at least half over. It wasn’t. And now that it finally is (half over), why does it still loom endlessly before us like an impossible glacier and me without my ice pick?

I could never figure out why January lasts for years and July for mere days when they’re supposed to be the same length. If I had invented the calendar, I’d have divvied January into two short months and called the second one “Tundruary” or “Frostember.” It might not change anything, but at least it would feel like progress.

One of these years, I’ll take my vacation in January and go somewhere warm. I admit I’m enough of a pessimist to think that when I finally save enough money for that once-in-a-lifetime trip, it will rain the entire time. Or an earthquake will strike. Or I’ll come down with Montezuma’s Revenge. Or flights will be delayed and rerouted, so I burn an extra week’s vacation time at O’Hare. Far better to simply stay here, gaze at the stunning photos of gorgeous sunny beaches posted on Facebook by others, and hate them for it.

Did I mention I’m not bitter?

At least the days are growing noticeably longer. Or is that just something we Canadians say to survive?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Great Minds...

My kids may want to shoot me for yet again turning every insignificant incident into a blog post, but here I go anyway.

For Christmas, I made a not-very-subtle wish for candles. Specifically, three-wick candles from Bath and Body Works. Burning them in my home office while I write in the pre-sunrise hours before it’s time to go to my regular job is often the best part of my day. Nothing like a cup of steaming coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer, the quiet of early morning, and the warm glow of a scented candle to remind me of something important. You see, for me, the candle represents a spiritual truth: God’s triune presence with me, helping me as we work together. As I light the three wicks, I ask him to fill the room with his Spirit, to infuse my writing with his light and fragrance and warmth. To somehow ignite a spark in a reader’s heart through the words I type.

Well, maybe that’s a tad lofty. But I pray for it anyway. And so, I asked my family for more candles for Christmas. “The kind that smell like something yummy is baking,” I said, since I rarely bake any more. Writing is more lucrative and less fattening.

Hubby toed the line by giving me three candles in three different scents from the specified store. Not exactly cookie dough or banana bread scents, but very pleasant fragrances nonetheless: Midnight Blue Citrus, Winter, and Goal Digger. These will keep me typing for months, leaving no excuse for not writing.

Then we drove all the way to our daughter’s house in Calgary to spend Christmas with her family. By December 29, the remainder of the family had arrived from Manitoba, some by plane and some on wheels. It was our first time all together in ages, and the first time ever for our newest member. Thirteen of us under one roof created delightful chaos, especially when it came time to open gifts.

When dear old mom’s turn came, we enjoyed a good laugh. Two of our three offspring had been thinking similar thoughts. While desiring to honor my request for candles, neither of them wanted to risk buying the same scented candle as anyone else. So they didn’t shop at Bath and Body Works. To ensure their gift would be unique, they each picked a different store, one in Calgary and one in Winnipeg.

The result? Two identical 3-wick Mercury candles in the same Mulled Cider and Cinnamon scent from Indigo. From two different people who, it turns out, might think more alike than they want to admit.

For the record, “Great minds think alike” is not from the Bible. But I’m glad God gave my kids great minds. And the matching candles look (and smell) terrific side by side on our dining table…at least until it’s time for each of them to take their turn at my writing desk.