Saturday, November 30, 2013

Proud of Myself!

My husband made dinner this week for the members of his parish council.  Having dinner together is a nice way to relax into a sometimes stressful meeting.  Everyone there was happy to be able to eat out, but have home made food.  I helped with a few things and it was a lot of fun.  One perk of being the pastoral spouse is that I got to eat with everyone before excusing myself so they could have their meeting.  Yay was a lovely pasta dinner and easy for me to weigh out and measure.

One of our congregants supplied the desserts....2 squares and a carrot cake.  They all looked so delicious and yet I wasn't tempted at all.  In fact, as I finished cutting the carrot cake some of the icing smooshed off onto my finger.  You know the automatic reaction of immediately licking it off as a special treat when you are done cutting the cake?  Well, my finger began heading automatically to my lips, but my eyes looked down at all the icing before it got to my mouth and in the back of my head I heard the mantra: "POISON! POISON! POISON!"  It sounded like an emergency announcement in a Star Trek movie, on board The Enterprise as the Romulan invaders are breaching the security system, complete with loud computer beeping sounds in the background.  I didn't see flashing red emergency lights, but I might as well have.

I dropped my hand to my side and headed for the sink across the room.  All the icing got washed down the drain and not one bit of it entered my lips!  Whew!  Passed my first dietary temptation test! No desire to indulge whatsoever in that gooey, tasty stuff.

And that is why I am so proud of me!!

And that is why I am blogging about this otherwise insignificant event: to make myself accountable the next time temptation crosses my path.

Another Fun Memory of Japan

We have been transferring old photos and slides to video files and some of the crazy things we have found and been reminded of are adding to the fun of the project.

Something we came across yesterday reminded us of a Japanese language class we checked out while we were living in Tokyo.  The class was in our neighbouring city, Musashino.  The class was sponsored by a charitable foundation that was originally founded for the purpose of fundraising for the survivors of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, in 1991.  

Nearly 10 years later the foundation was still up and running.  The English name of the charity was created from a combination of the sounds in the name of the volcano and what they mean in Japanese, plus cross translations as found on hand held Japanese/English translator devices.  

Instead of being named The Mount Pinatubo Restoration, the name was translated into The Peanut Stick Revival.  

It is so much fun to trace the origins of and reasons for translations between languages.  This is one of my favourites.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Some Days I am Glad I Am No Longer Teaching!

A friend called me on the telephone today.  He had a rather difficult day and needed to unload.  He is a teacher.  As he told me about his stressful day I thought how happy I am to no longer be in the classroom facing similar events such as happened in his classroom today.

My friend teaches one of his classes in the home economics lab.  This morning, when he was busy with some of the students in the class, another student opened one of the lab drawers and removed a meat tenderizing hammer.  As he was goofing around, waving it in the air and hoping my friend wouldn't turn around and catch him with it, he accidentally struck the arm of another student; the arm is healing from a recent break and I don't even want to think about the pain that child experienced when the tenderizer hit it. He lost his balance, fell and hit his head on the corner of a counter. A tray of items he was carrying flew out of his hands and the items flew around the room, landing on the floor, counters, was a mess.  

The worst part was that after he struck his head he had a horrendous seizure!!  The child is not epileptic and has no medical history of seizures.  And there was my teacher friend trying to keep the other students calm and standing away from him, in an absolute turmoil about the best course of immediate action, praying fervently that the child didn't have an aneurism.

You may be assuming that my friend would be able to do the obvious thing and call immediately for an ambulance, but because of ambulance fees that the parents of the child would have to pay to transport him to hospital, my friend does not have the authority to make such a call.  The administration has to make the decision about getting an ambulance and possibly not until the parents have been contacted for permission to arrange such expensive transportation in case neither parent has medical coverage for the costs.
Fortunately the child came out of the seizure and was able to be transported to hospital, but the extra steps to receive permission to call an ambulance wasted precious time. My friend has made a decision about what he is going to do should he ever find himself in such a situation again:  he will immediately call for an ambulance and pay the several hundred dollars in transport himself if need be.

The situation turned out well when all was said and done, but it started me thinking about how fortunate I was that the worst thing that ever happened to me in the classroom was when a 7 year old child pulled out a loose tooth that hadn't been as loose as she thought. I spent the rest of our class time cleaning up blood and calming all the kids down, telling them over and over again that there wasn't really enough visible blood to be worth fainting over, while I tried to interest the ones with the weakest stomachs in drawing some pictures for me on the chalk board on the other side of the room.  

There are many things I miss about teaching, particularly teaching ESL, but when I think about days like my friend had today, well, I think I am enjoying my life as it is right now: kinda few complications by comparision.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Oh the Things That I've Eaten in the Places I've Been

Earlier today I was counting my blessings and one of the blessings is the number of incredible, tasty foods I have had the chance to ingest before this disease;  instead of being upset that they can, for the most part, no longer be on my menu, I am choosing instead to list a few of them in gratitude for the experience of having savoured them throughout my life until recently.

- sour cherry absolute fave!!!
- my mother's brownies with thick chocolate icing
- spicy chicken burgers from Wendy's Restaurants
- Japanese rice with every meal
- Welsh tea cakes
- thick home made white bread with garlic salt and butter
- mom's home made butter tarts
- French bread
- 12 ounce sirloin steaks
- huge plates of salty yam fries
- vanilla milkshakes with chocolate droozle
- as much caesar salad dressing as I want at one time
- maple icing doughnuts
- my once a year splurge at KFC
- pulled pork sauce
- baklava 
(and at this point my computer has pulled some stunt that has left a huge space between this and the next item and I can't seem to eradicate it! Scroll down and read on.....)
- bacon and sour cream on baked potatoes
- bacon sandwiches
- bacon bunwiches
- bacon bacon bacon
- caramel lattes at Christmas
- rich sauces in large amounts covering almost any kind of meat
- turkey dressing
- grape juice and orange juice
- giant portions of naan bread with my Indian food
- chocolate any kind of cake with whipped cream
- catsup
- pizza
- pot pies
- chicken fingers
- gin and tonic
- cream of anything soups
- Japanese curry

The list goes on but these are some of the foods I am most grateful to have been able to eat in my life.  It is sort of a plebian batch of foods, but since most of the ethnic foods I like can still be eaten in small amounts, I can't really include them.  YAY!!!

No doubt other foods will spring to mind as I come across them and realize I can't risk eating them any more, but these are the things I am most grateful to have had a chance to enjoy in times past.  

I have been thinking about this list today because my American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving with all manner of wonderful treats that are no longer mine to enjoy and I am happy for them to still be able to enjoy any foods they want.

So, thank you delicious foods, healthy and otherwise, for gracing my palate over the course of the past so many years. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Pew For Prayer

Generally I do my walking through the church and social hall during the daylight hours, partly so that I don't have to turn on lights in the buildings at night when no one else is there, running up the power bill for no reason.

However, today was a busy day and I didn't get to that part of my exercise programme until after dinner.  I went over to the church and turned on only the minimum required amount of lights to do my walking around and around the aisles between the pews and threading my way through the kitchen and dining hall.  The blinds were still up in the hall and so I had light from the street lamps outside.  I suppose it should have been a bit eerie tramping away in there in the near darkness, but it was quite lovely and so serene.

When I was done my time of brisk walking I sank down on a front pew and looked up at the altar and the cross.  Prayer seemed to come naturally sitting there in the semi-darkness, only the light over the cross still on.  It was the most blessed prayer time I have had in weeks. Peace washed over me as I prayed for our own family and our church congregations, friends, particularly from the last town we lived in before we moved here.  As I am sitting here thinking about it I realize I have not ever before in my life sat alone in a church at night in the almost darkness just praying.  When I think of how many years I have been praying and how many churches we have attended and ministered in I find it somewhat incredible that this is the first time I have done such a thing. It was a precious time.

If I get the opportunity to incorporate more times like this into my exercise routine I am going to do it.  What a great cool down routine after an intense walk. 

My Christmas Decorating Ideas Shot Down in Flames

I have what I consider to be excellent personal reasons for not putting up Christmas decorations any more:

- the son is long gone and grown up and is rarely at home with us for Christmas so no reason to "do it for the kids"

- my husband detests having bobbles and figurines around the house collecting dust

- I detest having bobbles and figurines around the house collecting dust

- I can't afford to have classy, top notch, decorator's decorations; only low class, bottom of the barrel, chachis

-  red and green clash with the permanent stains in the rectory carpet left from the last furry pet resident (and yes there is new flooring sitting in the breezeway to replace it at the first breath of spring)

- apart from the church services I find the entire season depressing....except for the cheery colourful Christmas lights on the houses in our town; they are okay if they aren't all crooked

- they make me feel lonely for some reason I can't fathom

- they are a pain to unpack, dust for a month, repack.... and then just try to fit the storage box back into the space in the garage it was in when you pulled it out!

- even though I have lived in this province for nearly 10 years now I still refuse to accept the necessity of putting up Christmas decorations and trees, no matter how pretty the lights outside, during the month of November

So, I am eating crow today, November 26, about the whole Christmas decorating extravaganza.  I am eating crow because sitting plunk in the middle of my own living room is a fully decorated Christmas tree.  

It is not a large, fill the entire living room window so no one can look in to see if I am still alive or have died in my own house, kind of Christmas tree.

It is a smaller tabletop version, out of the way, no needles to be vacuumed up each week, GORGEOUSLY decorated in those teeny, top notch designer decorations I mentioned.

A good friend from church delivered it to us yesterday. It is "on loan" and we will return it to her after the holiday season, but there it my very my very own living room, its reds and greens competing violently with those carpet stains.....and me not caring because my friend is a master at decoration and this wee tree is a work of art.

So, that is how I am dealing with having an actual Christmas tree in my house in November: it is a work of art, lovingly lent by a good friend.  Those kinds of decorating ideas I cope with.  

Also, it is so stuffed over full with decorations that any dust that lands on it will be impossible to locate anyway.  Ah ha! My kind of Christmas tree!

Bless you Bonnie from the bottom of our hearts! It is lovely.



Engaging Brain Before Putting Mouth in Gear

It is interesting how people respond when they find out about my recent medical diagnosis.  I wonder how often I have responded in similar fashion to others in the same type of situation. Please Lord let it not be too often!! hahaha  Aiiiii yiiiii.....

As a society here I don't think we have been taught how to cope with other peoples' grief sometimes.  I think we are taken by surprise by other peoples' bad news and simply don't know how to respond properly.  We feel badly. We want to say something to be supportive but don't know what to say and so nerves take over and the wrong things come out.  

In the past few days I have heard many stories of the maiden aunt or bachelor uncle that died a horrible death from diabetes induced strokes and heart attacks, the parents and cousins who lost limbs to gangrene, the friends who went into diabetic coma for no apparent reason, the grandparents on kidney dialysis and most recently that "nearly all diabetics get Alzheimers if they live long enough."    Sigh.....

I just chuckle to myself, grin and bear it and spend some time helping the people talking to me deal with their own stress about my diabetes.  By then I am exhausted and ready for a nap.

But then there are other people who seem to know exactly the right words to say, the right attitudes to have...different giftings for different people.  They are able to express sympathy and be encouraging in very practical ways that are not over the top in their expression. That appeals to me.  I want to be more like that when other people tell me their own problems....a response somewhere in between "Ooooh, noooo, that is the worst news ever!! My dad (mom, grandparents, aunt, uncle, friend, cousin, someone I heard of once) died of that! It was awful!" and "Oh....isn't it a beautiful day today?".

Oh how I long to be one of the people who get the correct balance between sympathy, encouragement and practicality when I talk to people who are experiencing problems.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Getting on the Bit For My New Diet

Today I woke up feeling a bit overwhelmed about my new diagnosis; so much to learn about diets before I even get to the dietician, home glucose monitoring and the like.  Since I am not sure what day next week I will be able to see her, I wanted to get started and my little book from the doctor has helped me get onto at least the generally accepted diet plans. Of course it will be tailored more when I do my last tests on Monday that check for kidney damage and how my body has coped with sugars over the past 3 months.  In only 36 hours of changing my food intake there has been a positive change or two in my symptoms.  Long may that last, but at least I am encouraged for now.

We got looking at some good websites from a diabetic friend and from there branched out to some other sites....yes, all approved by the right diabetic organizations, not fly by nighters, I promise!!

My kitchen cupboard doors have now got sheets of paper taped to them, listing all the vegetables, fruits, breads, pastas etc. and how much of each one I can eat to achieve the proper number of grams of carbohydrates per meal. I purchased a small weigh scale for the kitchen to weigh everything out.  

My husband is incredibly supportive.  He spent more time on the internet today than I did looking for credible information. THEN he spent 3 hours cooking up some diabetic recipes.  There are casseroles of diabetic lean beef stew and diabetic chicken chili about to come out of the oven to be frozen in individual serving containers for days when I do not have time to cook a proper dinner.  We have researched how many carb items could go into each pot and how to divide a large pot of casserole type dishes so that I don't get an uneven amount of carbs per serving later on.

Tonight I found out what 60 ounces of broiled fish looks like.  It doesn't look like much, but when plated with the right number of carbs and an assortment of "freebies" like cucumber and celery, the meal is filling and completely satisfying.

So I am getting help in stages.  Less overwhelming to start with.  As far as missing desserts and chocolate, I have to be honest:  I think I have actually been eating such things for years without really enjoying them.  Thinking about them brings no craving, knowing I can't eat such things ever again brings no sense of loss.

A great day with my husband of learning how to change the outward physical things to improve the inward physical things.  Now, if I would be as disciplined to take a day or ten to do the same kind of makeover with God on my inward spirit!! 

Where Were You When President Kennedy Was Assassinated?

I was 9 years old when USA President Kennedy was assassinated.  Our grade 4 class had just put on our coats and lined up in the cloakroom, about to depart for home to eat lunch, when the school PA system began to buzz and our principal's sombre voice asked all the students and staff to please be quiet as he had a sad announcement to make.

He made the announcement and the entire school population grew silent.  It was suddenly so quiet in that building full of usually  lively people that the silence was eerie.  Our teacher asked us how many of us knew who President Kennedy was.  Some of us did.  She explained how he was the leader of the United States of America and that someone had deliberately shot and killed him.    We left the room and the school in continued silence. The playground area was a subdued place for the rest of the day, even at afternoon recess.  Our school had classes for grades 1 to 12 and of course the older students had a better understanding of what was going on.

I don't know for certain why I remember that day so clearly.  I knew who the American president was because I had participated with the rest of my school previously when we practised timing how quickly we could get home to safety during the Cuban missile crisis, when we thought it possible we could soon be under attack.  

Apart from that, I had a typical 9 year old's lack of interest in politics, particularly those of another country I had only visited a couple of times.  Something about that day was striking though. Maybe it was because, in my child's mind, assassinations were events that happened in war torn countries, countries so far away as to seem nearly imaginary to a child.  Whatever it was, my emotions were deeply touched.  After school I watched the news coverage on our little black and white television screen and I cried.  

I became aware that day of some of life's more cruel realities I suppose.  

50 years later I remember the Warren Report and I don't fully buy their findings, but 50 years later it is highly doubtful anyone will discover what really happened or why.  The event is a sad day in history for North Americans.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Medical Verdict is In

I do have type 2 diabetes. It isn't a surprise.  I was expecting that.  Fortunately I got the fear and the upset out of the way over this past week and can face my new diet and exercise and glucose monitoring future with a good attitude.  I know quite a few people who have diabetes and one fellow and his wife have all ready sent me all kinds of great information about diets and carb counts, test strips etc.  The support was there before I was even diagnosed.

So after the weekend I will go and have the A1C blood test and some specimens taken to see what the damage may be to my kidneys and how my body has been responding to blood sugars over the past couple of months.  That will go on every 3 months for now.  I will be meeting next week with the hospital dietician and then again in a few weeks with her and my doctor together.  I will be given a glucose monitor to use at home.  My diabetic compatriots have told me that the first couple of months is the worst, taking all manner of home tests and getting the diet settled out.  Then it become more of a routine apparently.

Now my concern is about my kidneys but not much I can do about what has all ready happened before the diagnosis.  Whatever will be will be.

My doctor was so gentle as she broke the news to me. She showed me the numbers and I basically could see for myself that I have the disease before she said anything about it.  She is very interested in and involved with diabetic treatments.  She is not rushing to get me on pills instantly until we get next week's test results and see what has been going on over the past months.  

When she was apologizing for giving me bad news all I could think of was that it isn't cancer.  It is a disease I should have some ability to monitor and help myself with.  

Thanks for your prayers family and friends.  I have to remember the words of Julian of Norwich: All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

Joy Cometh In The New Year

A series of phone calls and emails from our son last night ended in him booking a flight in early January to come east and spend some time with us.  It will be our very delayed Christmas and New Year celebration.  How exciting to have such a visit to look forward to.  YAY!!

Yesterday, in anticipation of my longish walk to the clinic this morning for the dreaded test results visit, I purchased a 4 point ice pick for the end of my winter walking cane.  Until I broke my ankle a couple of years ago I would have been humiliated at the thought of being seen in public walking with a cane at my time of approach to middle age, but now I am just grateful for anything that assists me in staying upright while walking on the ice. hohoho!!

My husband had to go out of town this morning, taking the car, so I am on my own for this walk in the -20C, but I have to say I am kind of looking forward to it.  If I can make my one kilometre return walk without falling down it will go a long way to restoring my confidence as a pedestrian.

The other part of the adventure that is kind of fun is choosing what to wear to stay warm out there.  The windchill presently makes it feel like about -23C so I have been looking at my thick jeans, double layer of socks, knee high boots, long wool coat with liner, a sweater top, a scarf, hat and mittens.  I am going to arrive at the clinic looking like a bag lady but I will be a warm bag lady so who cares?

I admit it.  I have started adopting a bit of that prairie pride that likes to tackle problematic weather conditions with aplomb.  Bragging rights?  "When it's too cold for you, it's just right for me!"? (quote compliments of the now deceased Chico, late of the city streets of Calgary Alberta, who spent his winter nights wrapped in a tattered sleeping bag in the stairwell of an old church manse for about 6 years)  Don't know for sure, but I am bizarrely tickled to be braving the cold today.  My husband wanted me to arrange a ride but somehow the idea seemed wrong to me.  It is about time I conquered my fear of this weather!!

So, in about 90 minutes I will be on my way.  Thoughts of the impending visit with our son, 6.5 weeks from now, will keep me warm and keep me from crying in frustration if the news from the doctor is not what I want to hear.  Yay son!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Funny Little Junko

One of the junkos has discovered the suet pack my husband attached to the top of the metal net house frame on our side deck.  It is unusual to see junkos sitting up so high and so exposed. Generally they feed close to the ground, around the bottom few feet of tree trunks etc.

However, this little bird has claimed the suet for its own.  It was put up with the blue jays and woodpeckers in mind but the junko has put the run on our little woodpecker several times that we have noticed.  She has been sent packing over to the hanging mesh bag of mixed nuts.  The junko hunkers down beside the suet pack on whatever side affords the best protection from the wind, fluffs out its feathers, hunches down to keep its little head away from the cold gales and sits there for hours, grabbing a snack every so often from the suet pack.  Today it is only -17C and will warm up a few degrees by the afternoon, so hopefully the little junko will be okay out there clinging to that metal frame.  Do birds' toes not get cold at some point?  haha  I know so little yet about such details of bird anatomy, but I will learn.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Y'er Late Mate!

We are giggling at some neighbours across the street from us.  They are VERY late this year putting up their Christmas decorations.  They only put them up a couple of days ago instead of their usual date of November 1st.  What is this world coming to????  Christmas decorations not up until the middle of November instead of the day after Hallowe'en??? What on earth????  hahaha  I am still shocked in this province when I see Christmas lights up and on, lighted lawn decorations and fully bobbled and tinseled trees in front room picture windows this early in the fall.  As far as the church calendar year it isn't even Advent yet.  It does make the town look pretty though.  I don't decorate our place any more, no more Christmas tree, but I do enjoy the creativity of other people around here. was quite cold today.  We didn't get much warmer during the daytime than -2oC, so quite a shock to the system after our nice late autumn weather.  The streets in town are all ready so thick with snow and ice that you could send a curling rock down the middle of the road with nothing to slow it down at all as it hurtled from block to block.  Every day I go out I praise God for studded tires.  Hopefully when my husband drives down to our other church town the main streets will have been ploughed. Sunday morning was a nightmare of vehicles becoming stuck in the middle of the main street, ours included.

Yesterday my husband and I returned to the walking track at the sports arena.  It is sad that my health has had to provide me with a scare to get me doing what I should have been doing for the past 6 months, but wow it felt so good to be walking again.  I only walked a couple of kilometres to be kind to my ankle, but it felt wonderful.  We were unable to go today, so I decided to start doing my old back exercises.  I found the binder of exercises quite easily in my that it is all cleaned up and out it is much easier to find anything at all!  So, right after lunch I spent a half hour doing them for the first time in over 3 years.  I am so pleased that, while they were a bit painful after such a long break, I am certainly in better shape than I was 5 years ago when I first had to do them.  Without this scare I doubt I would have thought of starting those again. They are good f0r my back, my hips and knees, upper body strength, my core breathing and posture. I rested for a few minutes and then went over to the church for another 10 minutes of very brisk walking around the sanctuary and social hall.  How lovely to be able to do that without even having to go outside.  The house and church being attached certainly has its advantages.  So I think I will start my days with my back exercises, right after breakfast, then after lunch do my walking routine.  If I get back into the habit of proper exercise all winter I will feel better all over.  Wow, I really let some rotten attitudes of my own get in the way of my health over the past 4 years...bad, bad bad!!

My son emailed me today to thank me for a little care package I put together for him last week.  It isn't physical care, although I did sent a few dollars for coffee money, but for emotional encouragement.  It was fun finding "things that are flat" that would fit into a legal sized envelope:  an old cartoon drawing he did back in highschool, a copy of a really good review he got at one of his art shows, a cheque, a poem, a funny card and some other little things he could get a chuckle out of.  We share such a similar sense of humour and get a sense of comfort from similar things.  So glad he enjoyed it.

My dear husband just realized today he has a medical procedure scheduled for the same day next week as a clergy day in Regina. It really isn't wise to reschedule it as it could be several months before it can be rebooked, so today he wrote to his bishop asking for permission to miss the day for medical reasons.  While I am sorry he has to miss a good day of learning and fellowship with his fellow clergy, I admit I am relieved that he doesn't have to do a 10 hour road trip on icy highways all ready this winter for a meeting that will last about 6 hours all together.  He is tired and facing a very busy Advent and Christmas season once again, has missed too many days off in recent months and generally just needs a break from so much driving....just this once.  If I am being honest I am also relieved about him missing this day away because I would need to go with him to assist with driving and general "STAY AWAKE DEAR, PLEEEEASE!!" procedures.  I feel too tired to cope with it since we would have to leave the day before and stay in a motel to make the start of the meeting the next morning.  In winter it isn't wise to leave at 4am to get there on time.

So, not much news today, but it's all the news that's fit to print. Signing off family and friends for another day.  PS I have been sleeping really well lately so thanks for your many prayers about that.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Bit of Analysis Doesn't Hurt Either

I am still feeling very embarrassed by my freak out last night over a possible chronic health problem. So, I spent some time this morning trying to figure out why my reaction was so over the top.

I suspect it is because these days I have been conscious of what has been taken away from me in life...conscious of these things for reasons of my own....and while I do not feel particularly deprived or upset because my own life has been just like other peoples' lives in terms of loss, it seems to have triggered the worst of my emotional reactions. 

When we reach middle age we occasionally spend time thinking about the past losses.  Losses can be large and small:  loss of career opportunities, loss of friends,  loss of income, loss of savings, loss of good health, loss of various personal dreams and hopes, loss of extended family members through death or dementia, loss of immediate family, loss of hopes and dreams for your own children, loss of reputation, loss of feelings of security, loss of ideals....the list goes on and on.

I think that finding out I may lose out now on even what foods I will be allowed to eat pushed me over the edge.  

Analyzing probable cause for such a loss of emotional control has been helpful to me.  As the day goes on I feel better and better.

Confession is Good for the Emotions

I am glad I went ahead last night and confessed my fears about my health.  First I felt a bit stupid for blogging about such a thing, but some great good came out of it.  

A friend from far away called me to pray with me over the phone, that I would calm down and stop worrying unnecessarily. Several other friends sent emails reminding me that my reaction was perfectly human and to stop berating myself for having a typical reaction to the idea that perhaps I have a longer term medical issue to deal with.
Another friend called all the way from far northern Ontario, midnight his time, to let me know he was praying for me as well and not to worry.
One email reminded me to take my holding cross out to remind me that I am not alone. (What is it about winter that makes me feel abandoned?  It is ridiculous!)  I took my holding cross with me when I went to sleep and felt much more secure.
More than one person reminded me of the words of Julian of Norwich that with God all will be well.

This morning I woke up feeling like a rational adult once again. I am so grateful to my friends and their treating me like an adult who needed some advice and prayer, when I was actually behaving like a 5 year old with all these worries. 

Confessing my failings is cleansing. People can call me to task for my own silliness, encourage me, pray for me and generally remind me that I am not abandoned, by themselves nor by God.  Being part of the Christian community is the most healing experience of my life.  Yes, it isn't always that way. People are people and no one is perfect....obviously I'm not either.  But when a person is really struggling with some kind of personal issue there are always the good friends to help out.  

Sometimes, despite the stresses we all experience, life is very good indeed. Caring friends can make all the difference.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Trying To Not Be Frightened

The medical clinic called late this afternoon to let me know my doctor needs to see me.  She must have my glucose tolerance tests in from last Friday.  Drat!  I don't like the fact that she wants to see me.  In fact I admit to being scared witless at the moment and will be fighting to not make myself sick from stress between now and my appt.  She warned me at my last appointment that I may be pre-diabetic and that would not surprise me.  There has been no family history of diabetes other than in a first cousin of mine who became extremely diabetic in his late 20's.  So my hope is that I am still pre-diabetic and have not crossed the line into full blown diabetes.  I am a middle aged adult carrying a lot of stress at the best of times from other circumstances beyond my control.  I have not had proper medical care for nearly 3 years due to an absence of doctors.  With the shattered ankle I have not been able to exercise properly until very recently.  I have not been careful with my diet over the past 2 years.  It is no surprise I may have a health issue.  I am prepared to hear that there may be an issue to deal with. So why am I stressed out?  I need to grow up!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Is There Any Sweeter Blessing.....

...than hearing a snow machine grinding away outside and realizing the noise is close to your house because the teenaged boy across the street took a notion to clear your sidewalks, just 'cause?

That is what happened to me this afternoon....what a relief to be able to avoid shovelling AGAIN today. Thank you Lord and thank you Shawn!

Come Back Little Atheist

A former seminary aquaintance has recently decided to become an atheist.  He has his personal reasons and I think he has based his decision on some rather immature thinking, but  I hope and pray that at some future time he will be able to put his self-inflicted wounds aside and return to the life he knew previously.  No one in his Christian community set out to hurt him and he is angry about something I truly believe he misunderstood.

Posted on one of his websites is a series of videos produced by an atheist society and after watching them I was blown away by the sheer ridiculous lack of reasoning they embody.  However, I have found this line of reasoning to be behind many atheists' decisions to reject the concept of God.

One of the reasons promoted for not believing an any kind of a creator god is the way things are in the world: wars, abortions, abuse, murder, torture, destructive natural phenomena like erupting volcanoes and tsunamis, even such things as animals and insects eating each other for sustenance. The reasoning, apparently, is that if there was such a thing as a loving creator god then none of these dreadful things would be allowed to happen.

I guess where I lose patience with this kind of thinking is the assumption by atheists that if there really is a creator god then he/she/it would HAVE to ensure there was no pain experienced by his (universal he) creation.  I don't know where anyone gets that idea.  The people whose videos I watched yesterday seem to think that because life is not an original Garden of Eden experience then there couldn't be a god. 

I do believe in a creator and that creator gave us free choice, truly free choice.  WE are the ones who choose to not forgive and love others sufficiently to avoid wars and torture and abuse and abortions and what have you.  We have ruined the earth all on our own with poor environmental practices. We have chosen to create peopled communities in areas with volcanoes and tsunami possibilities.

What I am really hearing in these particular videos is anger at a creator god that translates into a refusal to believe in his existence:  "We don't like you god because you let things happen in the world and in our lives that we don't understand or appreciate, SO, we are not going to believe in you.  How do ya' like them apples, you lousy creator god you?  Nyaaa, nyaaa, nyaaa....we don't even believe in your existence and what are you gonna do about it, eh? SO THERE!!"

I respect those who choose to not believe  in any sort of god or religion, particularly when they have developed some degree of well thought out argument and are able to participate in dialogue with people of different persuasions without losing their tempers, resorting to name calling etc.  There are many atheists in dialogue who are like this and they  need to be heard.  However these videos left me shaking my head wondering what on earth was well thought out about the message this particular group tried to portray.

What I heard in the videos is:  "We have free will and look what we as a group of humans have done with it.  We have chosen to do horrible things to each other and to the earth."  From there somehow a leap is supposed to be made to the refusal to believe in God.  "We have arbitrarily decided that, without knowing God at all, we have the right to believe how he should make our lives to be and if we don't like who he is and what he does then he couldn't possibly exist." Foot stomp!! Pout!

I am disappointed that my well educated seminary trained, once a Christian, friend has joined the foot stomping, pouting brigade of new atheists, but he has free will and can do as he chooses.  If things still do not work out in his life the way he wants them to, who is he then going to cease to believe in? Once he has blamed God it is rather difficult to find anyone even bigger and brighter to take the blame for his own mistakes in life.   I hope he can get over the bitterness toward God he recently expressed and find new reasons to return to the fold.  He could just find some love and acceptance there once again that would make his life sweet again.

Is It My Imagination Or Are We Reversing?

When it comes to some of the improvements in our society here in North America, I think I grew up as certain parts of life were peaking and now it seems to me we are returning to a darker age.

I can't purchase "proper" light bulbs any more; you know the kind that actually emit sufficient light by which to see what you are doing once the sun goes down.  Now with the more energy efficient light bulbs I find myself squinting while waiting for them to reach their full power several minutes after being turned on.  Even at full power they aren't always bright enough for office work, sewing and the like. In an attempt to regain the kind of brighter light I am used to for working in the kitchen or my office I have started purchasing more tri-light bulbs.  I know from my eye specialist that it is the bulbs bothering me, not a problem with my eyes.  These bulbs have  given me another worry: since they are filled with mercury, dangerous, disease causing mercury that can create no end of problems should they fall and shatter on my linoleum floors, where on earth do I safely dispose of them when they do burn out?  Since they can blow up so easily while in use, and several of mine have in the past year, what is the great advantage to their use?  Great if we are truly saving lots of electric energy while using them, but what do we do about the other problems? Looking at the overall picture, how, really, is this progess?

Over the past 2 years I have spent rather a lot of time in a number of hospitals in 2 different provinces.  Cutbacks have forced reduced hiring of cleaning staff obviously.  The pristine examination rooms that I remember from not that many years ago have been replaced with leftover mud and dirt on the floors from the shoes that were in those rooms many days previously.  I have seen doctors cleaning their own emergency exam rooms.  I have been forced to sit on waiting room couches that are covered in dander, lint and who knows what all there on the dirty upholstery.  The washrooms get cursory cleanings when someone is available but apparently the hospitals are just unable to keep up with the dirt any more.  Diseases and infections are running rampant and now I don't just give myself a thorough hygienic treatment before entering a hospital, but immediately afterward as well.  I have watched nursing staff, working with patients with contagious diseases and skin conditions, wandering from room to room, ungowned or with gowns undone and drooping over onto all the patients, no hand washing or sani-gel used between wonder there was a terrible scabies outbreak recently in a health facility I am familiar with elsewhere in this province.  Too many patients, too much paper work, insufficient and often poorly trained support staff, new government rules and regulations that impede the work of the medical profession rather than assisting wonder the age of wonder drugs/antibiotics is drawing to a close.  The new "superbugs" are taking full advantage of overuse of antibiotics, too many people seeing doctors who don't need to and the current economic problems in medical facilities.  When I was growing up you could go for surgery and rarely have fear of infection in the incision afterward.  Now post-op infections have become not only a large possibility but are becoming the expected event.

Being able to listen to the rich sound of music like we did when I was a teenager is becoming a thing of the past as well.  Tiny ipod speakers, cell phone downloads and numerous small devices have reduced the sound of recorded music to a tinny, thin sounding whine.  I remember a few decades ago when we could go to the stereo shops and purchase large speakers, woofers, tweeters, turntables, all the components a person could ever want to have to make those records and tapes and CDs sound like live concerts occurring right in our own homes.  I have moved too often in the last 15 years to be able to keep my good old fashioned stereo equipment, so rarely listen to my favourite recordings any more.  I detest ipods and the miserably poor quality sound, same thing with my computer speakers, same thing with the speakers for MP3s on my tv system.  Younger folk today don't have any idea what some of those recordings are supposed to actually sound like.  

In this age of electronics, subjects in schools like non-calculator math courses, cursive writing, spelling and apparently even proper comprehension of the English (or any other) language are going the way of the dodo bird.  We are returning to an age requiring more visual aids for communication and less true mental agility to figure things out for ourselves.

It just seems that all around me things in every day life are forcing me to have to dumb down if I want to keep up with the latest and greatest.  It is fine for me.  I am old by today's societal standards.  Not being completely up to date with computer literacy is not creating huge problems for me, only some minor inconveniences and I am still young enough to learn more electronic skills if need be.  However, I feel very sorry for the younger generations who are missing out on some of the things I experienced growing up.  

I grew up in a golden age of progress and I wonder if I really appreciated it at the time.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Snow Is Snowing All Around

We had our first big snowfall overnight.  We have about 10cm right now and it is to continue snowing until sometime during the night and into tomorrow morning.  A build up of over 20 cm, with wind drift as well, is expected for this first dowsing with the white stuff. What a blessing that we have not had real winter for a good 3 weeks after the rest of the prairies got snow.  It is helping me to have a better attitude about the season.  It also arrived a whole month later in the year than it did last winter.  So as soon as I am finished eating breakfast, out I will go to shovel.  This year I will remember to take the ice melt with me out there to sprinkle about as I clear the snow off the thin but hardy ice underneath.

Whatever complaints I come up with about the winter, fresh snow does look beautiful as it laces up the tree branches and purifies the look of the otherwise muddy alleyways around town.  So much of the dreaded brown has been replaced with bright, clean white.

My son has come up with an athletic game he calls "jumping rabbit holes" when he is tempted to be depressed or discouraged.  He lives in a city where there is little if any snow in winter so he can go jumping down the street any time he wants to, but I think I could play that game right here in my own house.  We have no basement, only a crawl space, so my considerable weight could jump about the place without causing any damage down below.  Besides, I couldn't play that game outside anyway, not even in the dryness of summer. This is too small a town for a middle aged minister's wife to go hoppin' and boppin' over imaginary rabbit holes on a public street and get away without comment from the neighbours!  (although I do remember once jumping off a transit bus in the last place we lived and diving into a fresh snowbank at the bus stop because it was just calling for me to make a snow angel in it)

Well, off to finish the church bulletins for tomorrow and do some music practise.  I will also do some mental exercises to prepare me for the drive to our other church on the snowy, drifted roads early tomorrow morning. I promised my husband that this year I would refrain from screaming out things like, "WE'RE GOING TO DIE!" and "JESUS SAVE US!!" every time the car fishtails a bit on the ice.  For some reason he finds it distracting.  Go figure......I think he needs to  calm down. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Finally It's Friday....and Winter!

As my rather interesting ancestor, Robert Louis Stevenson, once wrote in the popular book, A Child's Garden of Verses:

"The rain is raining all around.
It falls on field and tree.
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea." 

Wow, it doth raineth here this afternoon, that is fer shur!!  There are flakes of snow now mixed in with it and by morning we should have about 5 to 10 centimeters all over everything, on top of the thin ice formation which will also be all over everything.  Shovelling tomorrow is going to be wicked!  But I am going to do it first thing in the morning as we are to get another 5 to 10 centimeters by tomorrow evening.  It will be wet, heavy snow, but, if the wind continues to be as absent as it has been all week at least it won't form the huge drifts across our front sidewalk and out behind the garage door that are the bane of my life every winter.

This morning I woke up fairly early and headed over to the hospital lab for a fasting glucose test, the one that takes about 3 hours from start to finish, made me nauseous from drinking a bottle of sugar water (just like the last time I took this test) and hopefully gives me a more definitive answer on the state of my blood sugar levels.  Despite the time taken, it was quite lovely to have a couple of hours straight to just sit in the waiting room after the early morning crowd of blood givers had been seen to. I had a book with me that is fairly interesting as far as novels go and it was relaxing to know there would be no distractions for such a long time.  The chair I found to sit on was very comfortable and I lost myself in the story. Next week I should have the the test, not the story.

My husband is working hard in the office today, catching up on administrative duties he had to miss doing a few days ago when he was out of town for a Deanery meeting.  He is tired but feeling a good sense of accomplishment today.  He is able this year, for the first time since we moved here, to be a few weeks ahead of schedule on the planning for Advent. Many of our local church meetings are rather ad hoc and that has taken some getting used to.  In one group we have sign up sheets that no one signs in advance. Everyone is happy to commit to doing things at the last possible second.  We are learning to roll with it.  So many people are in the age group where they simply can't commit ahead of time because they don't know if they will be in town or away with little notice.  But everyone is apparently content with how that works out and it certainly ensures that many folk get last minute chances to do readings and say prayers.  The joy is that every week all the congregational components of the service come together and go well. We have a lot of great people in both our churches.  

We will likely have our first "interesting" winter drive of the season on Sunday morning when we head off to our other congregation. AND I cannot wuss out and not go because I am doing the music there this week.  Nyaa nyaa nyaa to ME!  I think it is just as well that I can't squirm out of it even if I am scared witless.  If I am going to continue living here I HAVE to get used to the bad roads in winter.

I am getting used to the sky being dark before 6pm again.  In fact this evening, with the heavy clouds, I suspect it will be dark by 5pm.  Our house is so surrounded  by trees that all ready I have lights on and it is only 4:15pm. 

So, into another weekend we go.  I am so happy I realized earlier this afternoon that I had better go out and get any groceries we need for the weekend, pay bills that are due next week and generally prepare in case we can't safely go out tomorrow.  The ice melt is all set to go, the birds' feeders and bath are filled, the studded tires are on the car.  I can work on the church bulletin tomorrow, practise Sunday's songs and hibernate with my book for part of the day.  Days like tomorrow are one of the actual joys of being stuck inside in the winter. 

There is also the Western Conference football game coming up...both my favourite football teams, playing against each other to see who is going to the Grey Cup game in Regina next weekend.  Yup, it is going to be a great weekend to be unmotivated to leave the house for most of the time.  See, there are perks to this Winter Thing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Difficult Side of Pastoral Care

There are days when a pastor and spouse just want to be doing a different sort of job...any job in fact, rather than ministry.  

We had a day like that this week.  It was a day when our attention was directed to some parishioners and also family members who are struggling with serious health issues.  

Pastoral visits with people in their homes prior to serious medical tests, surgeries etc. that they may not survive are gut wrenching.  Such visits exhaust us emotionally.  It is difficult to feel more inadequate than when  wonderful people look up at you at the end of a heart felt prayer for their safety at the hands of medical practitioners and that look is one of complete trust that God must be going to do something wonderful for them because YOU, the pastor and spouse, the apparent hotline people to God, have prayed for them.  Fear, looking for something to grasp onto at times of crisis, tends to generate that naive sort of trust in someone "of the cloth".  It is completely understandable.  Helping them retain their focus on and trust in God, rather than in pastor and spouse, is not always as easy as it should be in such situations.

A pastor has to be careful about those sorts of prayers.  There is quite a balancing act between the honest prayer of hope for healing and successful treatment and not raising unrealistic hopes of the person you are praying for.  God is still God. The pastor is not God.  On the other side of the balance, particularly in cases where there is no hope of recovery apart from a specific act of God, a pastor has to be careful not to give in to words that reflect his or her own fears for the ailing person.  

Prayers for the sick are such a combination of honesty, hope, realism, trust in God for final outcomes, acceptance of the present situation, the possibility of heaven, continued life on earth in who knows what state medically....  What is the most loving prayer to pray?

My husband is not a glib sort of speaker in prayer.  He would be the worst televangelist ever. When he is concerned about someone who needs prayer the words do not easily flow out of him.  He does not sound polished in his prayers because his emotions trip him up.  He loves his church family and his biological family and right now there are illnesses and problems in both groups requiring his love and attention.  He is committed to honesty and integrity in his prayers and takes time to formulate what he is saying to God and to the person involved.

There have been many prayers this week and there will be many more to come during this time of struggle for so many.  It is an overwhelming time emotionally.  What is the best way to express love for the ailing person?  How best to give a prayer of encouragement that expresses God's love for them in their time of great need, that is sometimes the conundrum.  

Well, we shall see what God does in the lives of our dear ones who are ill and frightened and how he will lead us to pray for them. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So The Appointment with the Doctor is Over and Now There is One More Test To Go

Pink for MOSTLY good news!

Had a grand time with my new doctor today. She is so personable and easy to talk to, along with being knowledgeable.  She encouraged me greatly.

All my test results for organ function etc. were within normal range except for a bit of an elevation in my blood sugar...again...this has happened before.  Fluctuating blood sugar levels have been a concern for years, but with the lack of exercise in the past 2 years and my not taking sufficient care of my diet, I have set myself up for a possible pre-diabetic condition.  So, off for the big fasting glucose tests in a couple of days.  By next week I will find out if I am going to be trusted to work on my own diet and exercise plan or if I am on my way to an appointment with the nutritionist at the hospital.

My GP also wants copies of results from my last few visits with the bone specialist in Alberta so she can start tracking with him about my osteoporosis...whaaaaa? One doctor in one province actually WANTS to coordinate my care with another doctor in a different province???  Wow, I am impressed.  It seems to be a rare occurrence in my medical history. This is great news.

So, wish me all the best in getting things back under control.  In the morning I will haul out my book of back exercises that I have not had to do for a few years and start doing them again.  I need to work on my core again and these exercises also include a good workout for hips and knees and legs and upper arms.  I remember how much better I felt over all when I was doing them every day.  When I can't get over to the walking track due to lack of vehicle or storms, I can do laps around the church and church hall and time myself with my own stopwatch.

As I contemplate a return to healthy eating and proper exercise I am feeling excited....I have a specific goal in mind now, to reduce my chances of developing diabetes.  

Here's to my test on Friday glad to know there is something specific to follow up on beside the medication allergy.  Good to have a healthy goal.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembrance Day

I admit that as a young person in school I didn't really understand what Remembrance Day was all about.  I didn't grasp the awfulness of war and I certainly didn't understand what our troops had gone through in wars around the world, or what it could possibly have to do with me and my GI Joe and Barbie dolls. (Ken dolls were just too smarmy!)

As an older, emotionally callous teenager, I developed my own ideal of pacifism and had a fairly scathing attitude toward those who went to special services of remembrance or talked about their own hideous experiences in the wars.  My one uncle who had seen action in a submarine that was torpedoed in World War 2 but refused to discuss the war very often, was the only still living member of my family on either side who had actually enlisted for duty.  

As a married adult with a somewhat creative young child, November 11th was just another day, an inconvenient day because in our town all the stores closed for the day and everyone went to services and parades at the Legion grounds.  Still very much mired in my own idealism, I refused to participate. My father-in-law had his ear drum blown out in Italy and watched his brother servicemen blown to smithereens around him.  He never got over the trauma and to me that was just one more reason to hang onto my ideals of no more war.  As I had during my teenaged years I continued to participate in anti-war protest marches, even though the organizers and other participants had a different sort of idealism that did not include God.

When my son was in school there was a great controversy over whether or not students should be forced to attend Remembrance Day services during school hours.  Some children were sent by proud parents, some former military personnel or the descendents of same.  Others with parents even more pacifistic than myself refused to allow their children to attend, picked them up at school and took them home.  I allowed my son to choose what he wanted to do, so he alternated from year to year.

As I got older I had more opportunity to meet many veterans and discovered that my husband's step-father had been a soldier in the second world war in Germany and Russia.  Until recent years he NEVER talked about it but we knew he had been captured and sent to a concentration camp.  We knew it was a horrible experience and that his body and mind still bore the scars.  The man is an over comer and made a happy life for himself, but he suffered in that war. Now that he is very elderly and needing to talk about it we have heard the details and what he went through is sickening. Hearing such stories got my attention as I considered how unspeakably awful things had happened to so many of these people who followed their own ideals about peace and protection of their lands.

As the years went by I had many chances to think about why these veterans had risked life and limb against what they saw as the forces of evil creating havoc for the free world.  My ideals began to change, the unrealistic parts starting to crumble at last.

I am still idealistic enough to try to envision alternatives to world wars.  I still wonder if, when the New York's Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists in 2001, anything would have changed for the better if we in the west had bombed the middle east with "bombs" of food, clothing, school supplies etc. in a show of forgiveness.  It may have created a whole new paradigm for international relations. It may have made the west an even greater laughing stock. It may have accomplished nothing at all. I will never know, but I can't help wondering.  

My own biblical scriptures indicate there is a time for war and our veterans from the world wars can certainly attest to that.  They were doing what they knew how to do to try to stop the spread of various world views that would be destructive to democratic and other ally nations.

War creates a conundrum in my mind, one set of ideals vs another, but I have come to have a true appreciation of why our veterans felt and feel that their participation in war was and still is necessary.  I believe that instead of standing back myself, in haughty self-righteousness about my own pacifism, I need to pray more for our veterans old and young. I need to listen to the stories with a heart of compassion and a mind to understand what they have been through and why.  I need to attend the services of Remembrance and show support for people who see things differently than I do. They have made sacrifices I have never been called on to make.  I am living in a country that has not seen an international war on its soil in the lifetime of my grandparents, parents, my and my son's generations.  I wonder as I talk to our veterans how much longer the peace here is going to last.  Their sacrifices are part of the reason Canada has been internationally safe to such a large degree thus far.

And so, as I continue to ponder war and peace and God and man and good and evil and alternative world views, I will attend the Remembrance Day service in our town tomorrow.  I will go and listen to the hymns, the poem "In Flanders Fields", the mournful wail of the bugle, the speaker at the service. I will talk to the aging world war veterans and now the younger veterans from the present war in Afghanistan and the middle East, the many wreaths being laid at the foot of the war memorial and I will try to understand and show support in whatever way I can.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Ice (Wo)man Cometh...or At Least (S)he Tried........

This afternoon I experienced a reminder that I am indeed living on the prairies where no one but myself is usually in any kind of hurry...sigh...

As I was tearing apart and deep cleaning the living room today I happened to notice that the few pedestrians braving the large patches of ice outside were cutting a wide swath around our front sidewalk, either walking over the slush covered grass and slithering around the big trees, or veering out over a thick ice patch at the curb and walking down the middle of the road.  Our front sidewalk is the length of 3 residential lots and the entire walk was covered in curling rink quality ice.

Out went my husband to use up an entire jug of ice melt so that pedestrians, the people renting our church hall and tonight's congregants for church, could access the walk without falling down flat.  The people renting the hall kindly donated a pull-behind trailer load of ice melt to remove the ice from our parking lot so that their own friends and family could get into the hall in one piece.  That is one of the ways I knew today I was living on the prairies...we needed ice melt and our renting guests had it, so they kindly provided it....LOTS of it...SHOVELS full of big payment required.

The second reason I was reminded of my prairie resident status was what happened when I drove over to the local hardware store to purchase a larger bag of ice melt crystals for later use.

Our local hardware store reminds me sometimes of a larger square foot version of Japanese hardware stores:  everything you could think of that should be in a hardware store is in there and stacked on narrow shelves reaching nearly to the ceiling. melt.  

I knew they had to have it somewhere.  On the way in I saw several people in line at the cash register carrying bags and jugs of the prairie winter's most precious resource.  But where was it?  I looked all over the store and finally had to intercept a slow moving floor clerk...the only one on a busy Saturday point me in the right direction.  

"Hello, could you point me toward the ice melt?", I asked politely.
"Oh yes", he replied, slowly. "It is outside right through that door."

Now I am certain the door he was pointing to was the same one by which I initially entered the store and I hadn't seen any ice melt out there, but off I went back outside.  Sure enough, no ice melt,  just a large stack of icicle covered propane tanks left over from the summer BBQ season.   I looked and looked and finally spotted the ice melt bags. They were behind a fence in what was formerly the outdoor gardening display and were not accessible from outside the building.  Back inside I went to find the door that took me there.  It should have been immediately visible when I re-entered the store and it was, but it was nowhere near where the clerk had directed me.  Okay, so we all make mistakes, even clerks in stores.  I might have been tempted to think he was playing games with me to see how many places he could direct me before I finally located the ice melt, but looking back on it, I don't think he is bright enough to think of it.

The bags of ice melt are smaller this year than the ones the store carried last year and there were two brands to choose from.  I had hoped to pick up an easily lift-able plastic jug or two but they were sold out of those. They did have the fifteen pound plastic bags though. I was delighted that one of the brands in a plastic bag had a handle for easy carrying and there was only one of those left so I grabbed it right away.  Then I tried to maneuver one of the bags with no handle over to the door to re-enter the store and pay for my purchases.  15 pounds per bag doesn't sound like a lot of weight to carry,  but the plastic was so cold and slippery the one with no handle was difficult to grasp.  It fell out of my arms onto the ground just as I got to the door.  

I am nothing if not agile, so I was able to open the door with the hand carrying the bag with the handle, prop the door open with my butt, bend over and pull the other bag toward me.  I got my toe under it and lifted it sufficiently to be able to grab it with my free hand and slide it up my arm as far as my chest, rolled my wrist and hand back around to secure it while I stood up, pushed the door wider with a mighty butt push and fell back through the doorway into the edge of a cashier's counter.  Aah, made it.

That particular till was not open so I hauled both bags around the corner to the till that was open. At least I thought it was open. There was a cashier standing there.  She was the only cashier in sight.  I was first in line. She didn't make eye contact with me because she was making a new key at the key making machine back behind the till but, she watched me haul both bags up onto the counter with nary a word spoken to suggest I should take them elsewhere.  I smiled at her. She smiled at me.  She kept grinding that key.  I stood and watched.  I smiled at her. She smiled at me.  Still nary a word was spoken.  A lady with a box of Christmas cards came and stood in line behind me.  We stood and we stood and we stood some more.  I smiled at the key grinding cashier. She smiled at me. I raised my eyebrows. She ignored me.  The lady behind me asked me if this was indeed where we paid for our purchases and I said it was as far as I knew.  The key making machine was wailing out a most horrific noise as the cashier continued to stand there staring off into space.

I noticed that people were starting to line up at the other till as a younger gal in a pink bunny hug (that's hoodie for you non-prairie types) wandered into that cashiering space, looked at her watch, pulled a pack of cigarettes out from under the counter and hollered over at "my" cashier that she was going on her 10 minute smoke break.  At this point nearly 5 minutes had passed.  I continued to stand there with my bags of ice melt laying all over the counter. Behind me the line was getting longer as the people at till 2 began to realize that pink bunny hug girl really was outside smoking and was not coming back to ring in their purchases.  My cashier finished the key and I thought that at last I could pay for my ice melt and be out of there. Nope, she had to make a second key.  Away she went again with the grinding, sputtering, obviously in need of maintenance, key making machine. The lady with the Christmas cards looked at me with a stricken look and asked me, "When are we going to be able to pay and leave?"  I assured her I had no earthly idea.  Hmmmm...she seemed to think we would be getting looked after sooner rather than later...gotta be new to town.  I was tempted to just leave the bags on the counter and walk out the door, but it being the only place in town with ice melt currently in stock...I know because I went looking elsewhere for some yesterday...I couldn't bring myself to do that.

Prairie people are a patient breed. The people  waiting still at till 2 didn't seem upset that the pink bunny hug girl had gotten their hopes up by entering the cashier's area, only to disappear immediately with her cigarettes. They simply moved over to my line up and waited right along with me and the Christmas card lady who looked like she might start to cry at any second.  Pink bunny hug girl came back in at the end of her smoke break and so I knew I had been in line for well over 10 minutes.  Well, now the second till would open and we could move right along. bunny hug girl looked at her watch and shrieked over the grinding noise at my cashier, who was still trying to make the key machine finish the second key, that she still had a minute and a half on her break. There she stood, taunting us by her very presence, letting us know without making eye contact with anyone on the planet as she gazed out the window, that she was not prepared to help any of us just yet. On the off chance that our plight was part of an episode of Just For Laughs Gags or a reincarnation of Candid Camera, I stood firmly in place there at that till, assuming that eventually I would be asked to smile big for the camera that was hidden right over.....there....., be able to pay and go home again.  Well, you never know right?

FINALLY the key grinding cashier was able to pull the second key out of the machine.  She smiled broadly, looked a little less vacantly over toward my direction and said, "Hey, where did the key lady go? You aren't her. Where did she go?"  I responded, "Honey, (and you know I am torqued when I call someone that disrespectful moniker) I have no idea. I and all these other people just want to pay for our purchases and leave. I have been standing here with Christmas card lady for about 15 minutes now and I just want to go home."  I said it nicely...yes, I did! I am learning the prairie manners.

Somewhere in the thick fog that must surround the dear soul's brain, the word "Christmas" seemed to get through to her. She stood there for the longest time thinking about it before turning at last to the cash register, putting one hand on a bag of ice melt and one on the "open register" key.  But she didn't open it. She instead paused and asked me if I had seen the lovely Christmas lights strung up outside the store.  Even if I had been deliberately looking for them when I drove into the parking lot  they would not have appeared in all their acclaimed loveliness because it was broad daylight (at least it had been when I first arrived at the store) and they weren't turned on.  

I told her I had not seen them and was not interested in Christmas lights, but thanked her for asking.  The Christmas card lady, who had become very excited when she thought we were now going to be able to pay for our purchases and had put her box of cards down on the counter, picked the box up again and looked around as if she hoped the cavalry was going to come riding to her rescue.  I explained to the cashier that I really just needed to pay for my ice melt and be on my way and lo and behold she opened the till and punched in the price of the first bag.  HIP HIP HOORAY, I was going to be at last on my way!!  

Not that anything?  As she started to turn over the second bag, the one with the nice handle, there was a tearing sound and the plastic opened up the entire length of the bag. Ice melt crystals began falling everywhere...the floor behind the counter, the counter, the money drawers in the till, on my feet, on the feet of the now agonized Christmas card lady...o my dear Lord, what next??

I will tell you what next.  My cashier shut the cash register down again and quite calmly began brushing the ice melt off the counter and out of the till drawers.  I was wishing I felt as calm as she obviously did.  The Christmas card newby lady was on the verge of tears.  Then my cashier asked me if I would like her to call the floor clerk to go outside and get me another bag of ice melt.  Very nice of her to offer to do that, but I realized in a split second that by the time he went out there and found another one and brought it back, the now 17 people in line would probably lynch someone in their quiet prairie way...or not.  Yeah, probably not.  Serenity, at least outwardly, is the trade mark of the prairie population.  It is a trade mark I have never had  and will never have, I admit it.  I seemed to be one of only two people who were getting upset at this point.  So, I told her that I would be happy to just buy the other bag that so far had not split in half.  Her response left me speechless:  "Oh, that 's good.  I would have trouble paging the floor clerk because I can't remember his name and I don't know where he is anyway."  Big BIG sigh from me.....

She eventually got around to entering the good bag of ice melt into the till and I paid for it and started out the door. As I left I heard her say to pink bunny hug girl that she should maybe open up till 2 as they seemed to have a lot of customers.  No dear, you only have 17 customers. Those are all the customers you have had in the past half hour, they just all happen to still be waiting to get out of the store, purchases in hand, and go home!!

So that was my day at the hardware store.  I nearly fell on the ice in the parking lot as I hauled the bag of ice melt to the trunk of my car.  

I know why their parking lot was icy.  None of the employees could find the door to the bags of ice melt outside!!!

Moving to Toronto...or looking good to me right now. My patience during the winter months is strained to the breaking point....hey, ya' think???