Friday, May 31, 2013

Surprise Ending is RIGHT! hahahaha

If your children are learning the books of the Bible be sure that if they say them to an audience they understand that the books of the Bible are all that is required of them at that time....... (heeheehee):

http://www.godvine.com/Boy-Recites-Bible-fb-gh-3371.html#.UaUxedV31EI.email

The Joy of New Parents

Some young friends of ours had their first child recently.  They are so very excited and it is so lovely to see. Today we received a card from them with 3 beautiful photos of their family and a wonderful note expressing their joy in their new roles as parents.

They are wonderful people.  No amount of work brought about by the introduction of the baby is too much to bear.  Their new little one is the centre of their thoughts and lives.  He is not even 3 months old yet but he can mimic their lip movements when they speak to him and mimic them when they wave at him.  I think he is brilliant.  If he turns out to be somewhat less brilliant than I am expecting it won't be from lack of attention and love from his parents.

I love the expression on the faces of this new mom and dad as they gaze at their baby son.  I remember my husband and I gazing at our own newborn with that same mixture of love and wonder and amazement that such a fantastic little creature had been entrusted to our care.

It is so lovely to have some much younger friends and to enjoy watching them go through their lives experiencing some of the same stages of life we once did.  It brings back some joyful memories for us of our own lives as they create similar joyful memories for themselves. 

And Yes It Was a Fun Morning

This morning's English lesson was fun to give and was well received.  For someone who has had no time to practice his English with any consistency over the past 6 weeks, my student did a still presentable job in class.  It is nice to feel that something you are teaching is getting through.

After class my husband joined us and the really interesting discussion began.  Recently our friend took his horses on a solo packhorse trip through the wilderness in the southern half of our province. He was gone for a couple of weeks and had the time of his life. In the fall he plans to return for a month long solo adventure.  I could see my husband listening intently to our friend's description of his journey, in the back of his own mind planning some more interesting events for the canoe trip he is taking with other clergy for a week later this summer. Men and the outdoors....it is fun watching them get all excited about their adventures past and future.

Both these guys also enjoy a deep philosophical and theological discussion so I knew we were good for at least another hour together once they got going.  Out came the tea and goodies so they wouldn't wither away chatting off the calories before lunch.  It was a great discussion about symbiosis and separation, love and hatred, French philosophy and biblical interpretation, the person and role of the Holy Spirit, emotion and reason, traditional Christianity and modern spirituality.  We were all talking over top of each other in our excitement to be able to have such a discussion here in our rural town.  There isn't usually a lot of time for such interaction, even with the other clergy in town, due to the busyness of each person's schedule. Other than fellow clergy there isn't a lot of interest either.  People are too busy, particularly when they are seeding in the spring.  I love it when the discussion happens in our home so that I can participate and listen and learn.

Grocery shopping later in the afternoon seemed like a rather plebian event after scaling the heights of this morning's discussion, but with my husband and his friends the old adage has to be changed to "Man shall not live by theological discussion alone, but by every butter tart in the house!"

Back to Work

I am really looking forward to my morning today.  After a month break for his travels and work busyness, my student is returning to his English classes.  It is nice to have that bit of weekly focus once again.  

Of course this morning I slept in, forgot at first waking that I have a committment to be prepared for and have been flapping about madly so that I am ready in time.  

And now I am........sort of......getting dressed would be a good thing....eating some breakfast is also a grand idea.....the mad flapping has stopped too soon...the lesson begins in an hour.  The lesson is ready. That's good, isn't it?

Yawn........sleeping in is not good for me.  I am having trouble understanding that simply having the lesson prepared is insufficient.  Now I need to go and prepare myself.  Yaaaaaaawn....... 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Historical Rights

Today I overheard someone grousing about our First Nations people and their "demanding all these special rights".  

Well, fancy that......aboriginals demanding that our Canadian governments and peoples honour the rights of the treaties that were signed by the aboriginal leaders, the British and what was to become Canadian governments between 1701 and 1921.  How dare they have such an expectation???!!?

The fact is that our aboriginals DO have special rights.  They conceded much of their previous lifestyle and culture to help bring peace to the nation, their leaders and our government leaders of the time perhaps not completely understanding at the time what would happen in future due to the concessions made all those years ago, the abuses that would eventually follow the treaties, the confusion and unrest they would eventually spawn between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

The rest of us can like or dislike the conditions of aboriginal treaties.  We can agree or disagree with protest movements like Idle No More and the way the protests are  carried out.  We can empathize, sympathize, or ignore the travesties that happened in some of the residential school situations.  We can be understanding or scathing about the amount of time it takes to bring healing and we can be confused by those aboriginals who are not making sure the media promotes as many stories of the good things that happened to some of those people as it is promoting the disasters that occurred to a people who experienced our attempts at cultural genocide.

The point is that aboriginals in our country have every right to demand that the old treaties be honoured.  Those treaties have never been rescinded.  Our First Nations people are "demanding all these special rights" because they are theirs to demand.  

My question is can we take some time as non-native individuals to study our own country's history and learn about the treaties in an attempt to understand what has happened to our aboriginal brothers and sisters?  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So, What's With the Sky Around Here, Anyway?

This is our fourth spring in the rectory here. Each spring I have noticed something I have not been aware of anywhere else we have lived: day after day of overcast, downright black clouded skies that never shed any rain on us.

It is quite fascinating to me.  I am learning now  to not assume that a dark sky filled with thunderheads is going to dump any moisture on our town.  We have had those dark skies for most of this past week with some sunny breaks in between. On two of those days we had a sprinkling of showers once or twice, but the sky looks the same whether or not the rain falls.  

In this town it isn't raining until it is raining, regardless of what the dark clouds lead us to believe.

O To Be Young Again

We have had some good updates from our son as he lives and socializes in New York City.  He has found an excellent niche with his friends there, old friends who have moved there from Vancouver over the past few years, new friends from university, new friends among the staff at his school.......and on it goes.  He is a VERY social being.  He is seeing his favourite art galleries and museums, new art galleries and museums, enjoying cooking his meals, finishing his reading assignments for school and preparing for his crazy summer of classes and painting.  

When I was his age I had been married for ten years, had an overly creative 7 year old son and was settling into our crazy life, but my energy level was all ready on the wane compared to when I was in my twenties.  Not so my son.  He is single, no encumbrances, ready to go and have fun or work hard at a moment's notice.  His health is good, he is a bit of a workaholic like his dad, he loves people:  helping people, being with people, sharing his cooking skills with people, interviewing people, writing about people.......I don't know when he has time to paint, but he not only works that into his busy schedule, he is darned good at it and sells a respectable amount of art. Somehow he got himself invited this week to the welcome party for the new first year students at the home of one of the profs.  Profs...new students.....and.....my son, Mr. Social.

After reading of his experiences just from the past week I have decided that you know you are a people person when you allow yourself to be hired by a school professor to do a completely yukky job like cleaning her sculpture studio for an entire day, absolutely delighted to help her out for your first NYC "hire".  You couldn't pay me enough money to do that kind of a job....and certainly not so cheerily........not even when I was in my twenties! 

Reading about his life makes me feel young....and makes me feel grateful I no longer am!!  As I think back I don't think I EVER had as much energy as he does!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Reminder From The Biblical Book of Exodus

My husband and I are in a quandry about some things lately...actually over the past several months.  Other friends are having their own struggles with health, accommodation changes, career disasters, facing the "retirement unknown", family tragedies and what have you. Usually my dear husband and I have only to look back over all the answers to prayer we have had over the past 30-some years in order to ease the concern about how things are going to work out with our own questions and problems, but lately we have not found it as easy for some reason.

A couple of days ago one of our struggling friends talked about her present biblical reading journey through the Book of Exodus, so I started reading it again myself.

It is just the answer we need here at our house: another strong reminder that we tend to only see our problems and decision making stresses from the narrow perspective of the here and now, or through what has happened during the years of our own lives.  God though sees the entire picture, past, present and future.

After so many years of walking with the Lord, I sometimes feel as faithless as the children of Israel wandering about in the desert, seeing God's provision of manna and the fiery pillar to provide for their daily sustenance and for their guidance eventually into the Land of Promise.....I understand more and more as I get older, the temptation of those people to build material idols to worship when their God seemed so far away and they felt such an aimlessness during 4 decades of homelessness, not sure if Moses was all that trustworthy, and "HEY, what about this invisible God fella that saved us out of Egypt and its trials and disasters only to leave us out here in the middle of nowhere??!!?  AND it took him hundreds of years to get around to it!!"

The problem they faced internally is the same one that seems to plague all of us who are attempting to hear and obey that sometimes still small voice of our invisible (to our earthly eyes) God.  As easy as it is for us to look back and rehearse with joy all the answers to prayer in our own pasts, it is still easy to worry that maybe, just maybe, we are somehow missing the boat right now.  Perhaps we are being "presumptuous" (and o how we love to browbeat our own and particularly other peoples' faith with that word) in assuming God is still going to care for us and guide us in the right path.    Maybe things have changed. Maybe he has kind of forgotten us. Maybe it is all up to us after all to find his way and his will, to hear and obey. Maybe we have been disobedient somewhere along the line and God is no longer able to deal with us, even as drastically as he did with Jonah and get us back on track even in the midst of our direct disobedience.

How tangled up we get with the teeny details of our own lives and our seemingly insurmountable problems and our material, temporal earthly selves and possessions.

I am kind of embarrassed to even admit I have been losing track of how God knows the end from the beginning, not only for myself but for the whole world.  The lessons of the Children of Israel and their desert wanderings has my attention and it is helping me a lot as I face some decisions and some problems of my own.  

I need to chill out and remember once again to "...Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean NOT on your own understanding....".  I need to give my every request to God and leave the details of the outworking to himself.  In earlier times of my life it seemed easier to do.  I need to return to my first love of Jesus Christ, the times I originally understood the power of God in my life.  I need to not only remember the past provision of God in our lives, but to assume nothing has changed.......he never changes. He promises to lead us and get us through the tough times.  I have been too distracted by my own health problems and other stresses in life over the past couple of years.  I have fallen into a bad trap of saying and thinking, "I trust you God......buuuuutttt........".

The Book of Exodus is what I need to read seriously for a few more weeks, get out the seminary text books and delve more deeply into the journey of the Children of Israel and remember that I too am a child of God...I qualify for both the testing and the blessing.

No Alleyway Access After All

I am chuckling tonight...only because we got our car out of the garage today BEFORE the alleyway ended up blocked at both ends.

True to their promise the powers that be in our town have started their street and water/sewer repairs right on time.  It is quite wonderful.  For us there is only one small problem:  the 2 jobs, originally to be spread throughout the spring and summer on the streets around us, have piled into each other on all of the streets at once.  It means we cannot access the alleyway to our garage from either end of the alley and won't be able to for several weeks.  The streets at each end are completely torn up and have huge very deep holes all along their length.  There is only 1 street, the one that runs directly in front of our house, that allows access to our house at all.  The streets at either end of our block are pretty much blocked off, one of which actually partially blocks off even the one accessible street here in front of the rectory.  

We are not complaining.....it means the whole neighbourhood job will be completed much more quickly than originally planned and since we didn't get trapped in the garage, unable to get to work for the next couple of weeks, we are just fine with all this construction.  Just hoping the neighbours around us don't find their vehicles trapped in their garages.  Fortunately there is still room to park on our front street in the general vicinity of our own house, despite the one neighbour's 8 pack of assorted trucks and cars that fight for space in front of everyone's house on the street.  

We have a letter from the town promising alley access throughout the work process, but someone forgot to inform the contractors doing the work.  This experience mirrors similar experiences we have had in smaller towns over the years, BUT the difference here is that the work is actually being done and on time...faster than on time even.  Way to go Our Town! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

After the Rain

I definitely got my "wish" granted tonight.  By 7pm the ground had dried up completely in the yard and the sun shone brightly, so I decided to go out and complete the lawn mowing before the sun moved around sufficiently to shade the front yard and bring on the mosquitoes.

What a perfect spring night it was.  The temperature was mild but not too warm, the sun was shining but not right in my eyes and there wasn't so much as a hint of a breeze.....perfect conditions to spend a bit of time outside working.  My foot survived the experience well enough to allow me to do dishes inside afterward, so it has been a great day of mild exercise...AT LAST!!

My husband joined me to sweep the grass trimmings off the sidewalks and I sat on the trunk of our car by the curb chatting and resting my foot while he tidied up the mess left by the lawnmower.  How lovely to visit outside on such a perfect evening.

Less than an hour later the skies grew dark with cloud once again and the rain poured down.    I am so grateful that the lawn is done for another week or so and I don't even have to think about it now, not worry that only half of the mowing got done today....aaaah....freedom!  My husband told me that he is going to take over the weed whipping this season so I don't have to stress my foot by adding that little job into my week.  What a sweetie!  He is far better at weed whipping than I am.

SO much accomplished today and my foot, while not doing as well as before I did all this work, is not nearly as sore as it was last week when I did yard work.  PROGRESS!  YAY!

Rained Out!

After my hair appointment this morning the race was on to get the front lawn mowed before the rain started.  Well....I didn't quite make it.  In fact I barely got the first half of the lawn done before the downpour began. In fact it had begun before I completed the first half and I only quit because the thunder I heard and the amount of water hitting me made me nervous about continuing to use an electric lawn mower.  At least that much was accomplished.  The rain storm ended about an hour later and I think I will try to do the other half of the lawn later this evening so I don't have to think about it again for a few days.  The dirt that shows through the thin grass on one side of the lawn all ready looks completely dry.......interesting in view of how much snow melted off only very recently.  We have huge trees on our property that slurp the water up pretty quickly.

My outdoor work clothes are laying on top of the dryer and hopefully they will be sufficiently dried out to wear again later tonight without feeling too clammy.  The mosquitoes are out in full force now that we have had major rainfall.  So, more of the mosquito spray to saturate my clothes and bare skin with.  YUCK!  After every mowing or weed whipping frenzy I have to have a long shower to get rid of the allergy rash that is all over me.  There is some kind of plant or grass around here that gives me the worst skin allergy every year that I have ever had.  A good shower gets rid of it quickly, thank goodness!  After tonight's foray back outdoors the work clothes will also get a thorough washing.

My husband went with friends to the walking track today. Oh, how desperately I wanted to accompany them, but after walking 4 blocks around downtown and mowing half the lawn my damaged foot was screaming ENOUGH ALL READY!!  So I haven't done much for the rest of the day. At least our friends were able to come here after their walk.  They brought us some Bedouin tea from Israel....dried sage and some kind of more citrusy herb plus who knows what.  It is my favourite herbal tea ever.

Tomorrow is dentist day for my husband as he continues to attempt to track down what is causing him such pain in his jaw and ear and sinuses.  The saline wash is helping a bit, rest is helping a bit and it is most likely the viral illness his doctor says it is, but my dear husband so rarely contracts viral illnesses that I think he thinks he is dying of terminal tooth rot or somesuch.  I don't mind humouring him on this one.......it is called the joy of having a job at long last with a dental plan!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In the Misty Morning

This morning is a Vancouver Island kind of morning.  The sky is all grey and misty after a foggy night.  Everything is damp after yesterday's rain.  The greens are brighter and the browns redder and more welcoming.  I love this kind of weather.  It energizes me and makes me feel more alive somehow.

The mist has etched the spider webs that have appeared lately between the bars of the metal frame of our summer tent house.  We haven't put the canvas on it yet for this year and the spiders are making full use of that frame to create absolutely huge webs. They are perfectly spun, so intricate, so delicate yet so strong.  In the smaller spaces between the upper cross bars there are smaller webs, each one perfect. The winds have not been strong enough in the past 2 days to destroy them.  If we are to be overrun again this year with dozens of varieties of spiders then I can only hope and pray that those elegant webs will catch many many of the other insects we are also overrun with this year.  I admit that as beautiful as the webs are I would enjoy them more if their manifest presence didn't attest to the volume of spiders we are dealing with.  

I wish they would spin some of those webs closer to the front door of our house to catch all the mosquitoes that congregate there in the shade. That door never sees direct sun so the mosquitoes congregate in there by the dozen and love to sneak into the house each time the door opens.  Juggling grocery bags while attempting to squeeze through the door in the smallest possible amount of open space while batting ineffectively at the mosquitoes coming in with me is a day's exercise compacted into a few seconds. My bone density in my spine and hips may be dropping as my age rises, but the density in my arms must be on the rise from all the swatting of the mosquitoes.  

This morning we noticed the return of the brown thrasher birds. Their feathers are the same colour as the old leaves in our side yard and we almost missed their arrival.  I am hoping brown thrashers eat ants....and/or spiders....surely there is some kind of prairie bird that eats spiders......I do love the artistic webs, but.........

Another Question To Ask Before Becoming Parents

I have a question that I believe all people should consider seriously before they take the plunge into parenthood and that is: how much emotional pain can you bear?

When someone you love is in pain, physical or emotional, how do you yourself cope with their pain?  Are you able to remain calm and be of assistance?  Are you able to cry with them and then put your own pain aside long enough to calm them as well?  Are you able to shelve your own pain long enough to help them problem solve and find a way to get themselves out of some of their own pain, to deal with what is not possible to heal or fix? When they are in pain is it you who loses sleep over it?

These are questions to consider before having children.  There is a bond between parents and children that is so intense it is sometimes difficult to separate a child's pain from the parents' reaction to that pain. Watching your child suffer anything from that first little, bandage requiring, physical "booboo" to the emotional pain of a divorce when they are adults is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting....particularly if you have the type of personality that has trouble putting aside your own emotions when others suffer. Parenting demands a kind of emotional maturity like no other.

I got thinking about this yesterday when someone asked me (again...mommy make it stop....) why my son isn't interested in having children and don't I feel ripped off because it is highly unlikely I will ever become a grandmother.

I can't speak on a public blog for my son, although I do think his deliberate decision to not have children is based on a realistic assessment of his own lifestyle and emotional capacity to handle parenting and I applaud his thinking.

For myself, no, I do not feel ripped off over not having grandchildren.  I know myself well enough to realize how deeply emotional I become over other peoples' pain.  

Every pain my son has experienced in his life has become my pain.  As I look back over my years of parenting him while he was still at home I realize how emotionally torn up I was most of the time as I worried about every little slight, every small accident, every incident of bullying, every case of illness that child went through.  He had no more problems than any other child, but to me every pain he experienced tore me apart emotionally because I couldn't go back and make each incident "unhappen" for him.  Because I am a problem solver I was able to assist him many a time and help him out, but I also see how my unrelenting ability to feel his pain effected my parenting in negative ways.  I was too present in some of his painful situations that he needed to deal with himself. Watching any person bring pain into his life, particularly another adults if I felt they were being unfair to him, caused me sleepless nights, upset stomachs, headaches, crying jags of frustration.......it was completely ridiculous and I still struggle to contain myself when I know he is hurting.  It is natural to never want your child to hurt, but parents have to learn how to deal rationally and realistically with the every day pains of their childrens' lives.  Coping with my son's pain has never been my forte. 

The pain of everyday sufferings in a child's life was too much for me to bear in a reasonable and adult fashion too much of the time. When other people hurt him I became a crazy lady inside, sometimes it showed on the outside as well....a recent situation in his adult life nearly returned me to that state and I am grateful I have learned more about how to control my emotions as he has grown up or things could have become pretty ugly as I watched him suffer. 

Losing sleep constantly over the problems our children experience is not helpful in any way to them or to ourselves.  I don't think I slept for the first 19 years of my son's life.

While I will never regret having become a mother, I do regret my inability to separate myself from my son's growing up pains.  It seems the older I get the more deeply I feel the pain others are going through and while I am coping now better than I did 30 years ago, I have to honestly admit I will never be upset over not becoming a grandmother.  The idea of having more children in the family to care so deeply about fills me with dread.  If my son ever does have children of his own I will find a way to cope, but each hurting child becomes my child.....children and grandchildren of friends, children I have never met who are running down the street sobbing because someone was mean to them or they fell and hurt themselves.  A hurting child takes over any rationality I have and makes me intensely upset that they are in pain. If I have that reaction to children who are complete strangers, how decent a grandparent could I be to my own flesh and blood?  

Before we have children there are all kinds of classes we can take:  everything from pre-natal birthing classes to modern styles of discipline.  None of the classes I took before I had my own son prepared me for the emotional toll parenting takes on the parents.

If other peoples' pain causes you to torture yourself because you feel that pain so deeply for them, it would be wise to stop and consider how you are going to deal with your own child's pain.  Don't assume that if you become a parent you will automatically be able to separate yourself from their struggles and be a fountain of wisdom and emotional control when they are hurting.  If you are a care giver sort of soul, stop and ask yourself how adept you are at dealing rationally with the pain of those you care for and care about.  Analyze your own emotional reactions toward other people.  Try to imagine a bond so strong that any hurt your child could experience is going to be like a knife in your own heart and decide if you can cope with that on a daily basis.  If you aren't sure you are up to it go and seek counselling on coping with parenthood BEFORE you have children.

Parenting for me would have been far easier and far more successful if someone had spoken seriously to me ahead of time about what I was in for emotionally, about how my reactions to my own child's pains could effect my ability to raise him. Somehow that part of parenting was missed out on in the pre-parenthood discussions.  

My son survived my less than ideal parenting, as so many children do survive their parents' mistakes.  He has gone on to live a good life. He is a responsible adult.  However he shares my characteristic of wanting to take away the pain of others in ways that sometimes hurt himself.  When it comes to wanting to emotionally "care give" for others, he is me.  It has gotten him in trouble a couple of times now and he is learning hard lessons about dealing with other peoples' pain, but he is learning far more quickly than I did what his limitations are in helping others.  I admire him for that.

Unlike myself he has counted the cost of becoming a parent. He has made no idealistic assumptions about parenting and children. Between his own childhood experiences and the present circumstances of his life he has decided parenting is not the best thing for him nor for any children he would have.  He is far wiser than I ever was.  

 I hope there are more classes available now about the emotions involved in parenting for people considering becoming parents.  It is an area of the task that is so important and often so neglected in the decision to have children.  It is good to know yourself and how your emotions effect your own life and the lives of those around you.  Learning how to cope with the pains children go through can help make for wonderful parents.


Before having children consider the emotional toll it takes and how you are going to deal with the painful parts of their lives in ways that best benefit them as they grow and keep yourselves from losing your own ability to cope.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

At Last.....An Email From The Son

Our son arrived in New York very late Monday evening.  Other than a brief email to say he had arrived, we have heard nothing.  We didn't really expect to hear a lot as he is a very busy man...for someone who is supposed to be resting up for a couple of weeks before starting his next school term.  All we really wanted was an address of where he is subletting....in case of emergency and all that sort of thing....typical aging parent paranoia...if you have "kids" of any age you know how it is.....

The expected email arrived early this morning.  It consisted of 2 lines. One is the address of where he is staying, as requested. The second one has 2 sentences:
1. All is well!  (followed by a smiley face)
2.  New York has exhausted me all ready.
He also added the word "Love" in closing.  Even his typed signature was missing.

Believe it or not these sorts of emails from our son make us happy.  They mean he is enjoying his life. He is seeing old friends from his home city and new friends that he met at school last term.  He is visiting his favourite art museums.  He is going to parties.  He is gearing down from one of the busiest working winters of his life.  Hopefully he is also completing a last reading assignment for school.  Hopefully his paintings for a June show in Toronto have been picked up in Vancouver in his absence.  Hopefully his works for school have been delivered to the campus in good condition.  So many hopes and dreams now able to come true for him as his hard work over the past ten years is paying off. His sublet in Brooklyn is an old building turned into several residential suites.  It is an old area and if you remove the graffiti from some of the buildings it looks very much like Moose Jaw, where we used to live.  In 2 weeks he will be on campus at Bard, a most beautiful place on the Hudson River.

In other news: the American goldfinches arrived this morning. More bright yellow to add to the bright yellow of the warblers.  I have never seen so many neon coloured birds as I see here on the prairies.....just beautiful!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Great News From One of Our Friends Who Has Been Ill

One of our parishioners who had cancer surgery a few weeks ago contacted us tonight. The pathology report is in. All the cancer was removed at the time of surgery. There will be no more treatments required.  Thank you Lord!!!  Thank you to those of you who have been praying for our various ill parishioners.  So that is one on the road to recovery and one more who needs a bit more prayer and help to break up blood clots in his lungs as he slowly heals.  Today was a good news day on the health front in our parish.  We are so grateful. 

Japanese Cookies

One thing that has consistently brightened up our rather plain existence here is the arrival every few months of care packages from Japanese friends.  Although we have not been to Japan in the past 12 years, the gifts keep on coming.  It is wonderful!!

In the lastest package there was a pack of Japanese cookies.  Japanese cookies are not like North American cookies. They are not sweet. They are not filled with sugar and chocolate and sprinkles.  Many Japanese cookies, other than teeny super sweet packed sugar cookies used for the tea ceremony, are simply a larger version of the round puffed rice crackers with interesting additions.

Today we decided to try the onion cookies....nope, not a mistake.  Actual onion cookies is what they were.  Even if we had not been able to read the Japanese script on the package, the cartoon drawing of the two onions on the front of the package was a dead giveaway.

We opened up the pack and split one of the cookies between us, not expecting to enjoy one mouthful of such a thing....to us it would not be the treat it is advertised to be.

What a surprise we got.  The cookies are delicious!!  The rice crackers are somewhat sweetened and with a bit less soy sauce than on a regular cracker.  The top of the cookie had bits of baked onion held in place by a slightly sweet glaze.  On the underside of the cookie was a layer of glazed black sesame seeds.

To the Canadian eye the so-called cookies look ridiculous.  They look like a satire of a Canadian cookie, or maybe a practical joke to play on an unsuspecting friend when you invite them over to have dessert with you.

In actual fact they are fantastic....a toothsome combination of onion and sesame and rice but with just a hint of sweetness that somehow binds the other 3 flavours together delightfully.  

We have learned over the years to never make fun of any sort of non-Canadian food until we have tried it, no matter how odd or strange it may seem.  Once again it is a good thing we held our suspicion of these cookies in check.  They would be tasty any time of day, before, after or even during a meal. It seems so Japanese to us that even a cookie treat must be created using some sorts of healthy foods.

Yay, Japanese snack makers.........another huge hit to arrive in our pantry.  Thank you Mrs. Watanabe for your amazing gift.

New Birds in the Side Yard.....Yippee!!

There has been a lull in our bird population at the house for the past couple of weeks.  Things have been pretty dull since the departure of the red polls, finches and nut hatches for points north.  The larger mourning doves, robins and blue jays have hung around but we have missed the song birds.

Today marked the arrival of the bright yellow warblers and, wonder of wonders, a pair of Baltimore Orioles!  We have not seen them before in the now 4 springs that we have lived here. They are absolutely gorgeous!  The deep orange yellow is brilliant next to the dark black feathers on their heads. The white bands on their wings are SO white they look almost blue.....like when my grandma would use old fashioned bluing in the wash water for her white linens and lingerie.

The songs of both birds are glorious to hear.  Other than the screeching of the jays and the soft cooing of the doves it has been pretty quiet around here the past couple of weeks.

The uber bright colours in the birds' feathers really stand out against the plain prairie landscape.  While it is lovely that leaf green has been added into the standard brown of this area, the colours of the bird feathers are downright tropical....it is for colours like this that the word "plumage" was invented! 

Welcome spring songbirds!  So glad you are gracing our yard with your presence.

My Buddy Carleton

My good "friend" Carleton is a 12 year old, large, fuzzy, moody, bird and mouse catching feline.  His people are good friends from another town where we used to live.

I was chatting the other day with one of his people and remembered how much fun he is.  Carleton is indeed the king of all he surveys, indoors and out.  At home he does enjoy having company.  He particularly enjoys sprawling out full length on his back or tummy, legs splayed in all directions, right in the middle of the kitchen floor, causing all of us to have to step over and around him as we wander about between kitchen, dining and living room areas.  He is completely calm.  He knows none of us would have the gall to actually step on him or otherwise inconvenience him in any way.  King Carleton rules his dominion with an iron paw.  

Should I happen to sit on his favourite, of the moment, chair or sofa he will sit at my feet for a minute, eyeing me balefully.  If I don't get the hint to move out of the way he will leap gracefully into my lap, stare fully into my face with his nose touching mine and assume I realize I am to vacate for a different seat.  If I miss my cue he will plop down most ungracefully and stare at me some more as if to say, "Hey lady, I tried to tell you to move.  You didn't, so you are stuck with me."  Then he will turn his back on me and stare sadly at the other people in the room, giving impatient shakes of his head as if to day, "Do you believe this woman???  She is STILL in my chair!"

Carleton had to be kept indoors a great deal last summer to protect the song birds near his home.  His bird hunting skills are legendary in his neighbourhood, bringing down the wrath of the neighbours upon his and his peoples' heads many a summer.  Carleton was angry and frustrated and confused of course.  Eventually he developed such a serious case of depression that his people took pity on him and purchased a top of the line collar that is supposed to be the  best available for warning birds of his approach and to be a guard around his neck to prevent him from actually catching them.  He didn't like it, but was unable to remove it on his own so he had to deal with it and outside he went after many unhappy weeks indoors.  It wasn't long before he returned, collar intact, bird in mouth as he sauntered into the house.  The cool calculated look on his face was a direct challenge to his people about the collar he had been forced to wear: "Yeah, so, what else ya' got?  Is this the best you can do?"  He was allowed one more attempt to be outside with the collar a few days later but returned after several hours, the collar gone completely.  Back indoors went poor Carleton for the rest of the summer.  

This summer Carleton has done himself a big favour.  He has finally realized after all these years that catching mice brings him equal pleasure to catching birds, plus it raises his quotient of praise from his people and from the neighbours who, apart from his bird kills, idolize and dote on Carleton.

Hats off to you Carleton.  It is never too late to teach an old cat new tricks....well, okay, yes you did teach yourself with no help from anyone else.  Naturally......

All Hail King Carleton!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Annual Monitor Update

It seems every spring, for one reason or another I end up with a bigger and better computer monitor than the spring before.  It has become a pleasant tradition for me.

This year I didn't think it would happen. The one my husband bought for my birthday last year has held up well and I have had no complaints with it whatsoever. It isn't the largest available monitor but it has that cool feature where you can rotate it, a wonderful feature if you are reading books or long articles online. It reduces the amount of scrolling up and down the reader has to do on each page.

I never used this feature; not once in the past year. My husband however has several books downloaded temporarily from the library where he recently did his study leave research.  While his computer screen is larger than mine, it doesn't rotate so he has been frustrated trying to read books with it.

Today he exchanged monitors with me.  I now have the much larger and newer monitor and he is very happy with my older rotating screen.  Happy "Annual Change in Computer Monitor" to me....and to him....and it didn't cost us a cent!

BONUS!

What Am I Missing Here?

The local online news site I take a gander at each morning has a huge headline today.  Apparently in one of our neighbouring towns, now that the dirt alleyways have dried up after the snow melt and the local garbage trucks can once again navigate them without fear of being mired, front curbside garbage pick up will change to back alley garbage pick up. 

Are you hanging on the edge of your seat yet? You aren't??  Well, then read on and be amazed!

The report states that the reason for returning to back alley pick up is that residents will no longer have the worry that animals will raid the garbage bins and leave the contents strewn all over the residents' front yards.

So.........um.........now the animals will be able to raid the garbage bins and leave the contents strewn all over their back yards?  Or over their back alleyways?  And this is so much better?  How so?

I read the article 3 times looking for a hint as to some other logic in making the change, but no other reason was given.  I am bamboozled. No doubt there are other, better, reasons for this return to the "old ways", but the only reason given in the article made little sense to me. 

My sense of humour though is on overdrive with this one.  In my head there is a picture of various town folk screaming and running amok because there is garbage here and there on their front lawns. The next picture is of an equally disgusting mess all over their back lawns and alleyways, but the residents are sitting out in the midst of it, in hammock chairs and sun hats, basking in the heat, martinis in hand and sighing, "Ooooh, there, that's better!"

There is a reason I haunt news sites.......so much inadvertent humour. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yup, the Comedy Never Stops Around Here

I have to say that life is never boring around here simply because of the sheer ridiculousness of the things my husband and I do every day.  Today was no exception.

This morning my husband had a little sleep in and then decided he needed to visit a couple of older parishioners in the hospital, as I mentioned in my last post.  It was quite a lovely morning, warm, no wind (yet), the perfect morning for a 7 block walk to do his visits.  While he was there he ran into another parishioner, as well as his wife who was having tests done.  They suggested perhaps he could stop in to visit them on his way home, which he did.

Apparently when he rang the buzzer to gain entrance to their building, their visiting daughter tried to answer the buzzer and let him in.  Unfortunately she didn't stand close enough to the intercom and my husband didn't hear her welcoming him. She also didn't press the button for the door opener strongly enough so when my husband tried the door anyway and it didn't budge, he decided they must have gone elsewhere after the hospital tests and headed for home, only 3 blocks away.

I didn't know any of this was going on.  I only  knew he was at the hospital with no particular return time.  My phone rang about 90 minutes after he left.  It was the fellow and his wife my husband had attempted to visit.  They asked me where he was. I told them he was visiting at the hospital and they said he wasn't, he had been to their house and a mix up had occurred so he was on his way home.  I thought perhaps he had gone into his office at the church on his way so I wandered down the breezeway to the office door, still chatting to our friends.  No, he wasn't there.  They assured me he must at that very moment be coming in our front door at the rectory, but he wasn't.  I walked down to the end of the sidewalk and looked up the street toward their building.  No sign of him.  Where on earth was he??  This is a small town. He has lived here for over 3 years.  He wasn't lost.

Our friends really wanted him to collect me and bring me over right away so they could still have their visit, but I had no idea where he could be.  I told them I would have him call them as soon as he arrived home.  I hung up the phone and decided to go back over to the office and leave him a note in case he stopped in there before coming to the house. When I got there, my dear husband was sitting there at his work computer, typing away, completely oblivious that I was about to send out a search party to find him.

What had happened was that about the time I closed the office door and went back through the rectory and out to the street to see if I could see him, he was going into the church.  We missed each other by seconds.  Duh!!  It is so unlike him not to tell me he was back, so I truly was concerned something had happened in that 3 blocks from our friends' place.

We went right away to visit our friends.  They both have a most wicked sense of humour.  We will never live down the day I lost my husband 3 blocks away from home....never, never, never!! By Sunday service we will be getting teased by several others in the parish who just love to make a good joke out of such things.  hohoho  The joke's on us!

Another NOT a Day Off

Today was supposed to be my husband's day off in lieu of the weekend Monday for Victoria Day holiday.  Of course, as suspected, it didn't work out that way, but what a great day it turned out to be.

My husband has been in a bit of a tizzy about getting 2 weeks behind on his pastoral visiting schedule.  It really bothers him when unexpected days away for other work, illness of his own and various other interruptions in the plans get in the way of visiting one on one with our parishioners.  

As it happened, he got a report of an older parishioner being in a bad way in hospital, then another report of another older parishioner being in a worse way in hospital....so this morning over he went to see them.  In the process he met one of our parishioners whose spouse was just leaving hospital after some tests.  He came and got me and together we went to visit them as well.  Later this afternoon he received a call from a parishioner who is recovering from some rather serious surgery but who was ready for a visit from his priest and spouse. So, away we went again.

It is unusual to have time to visit more than 4 parishioners in one week, let alone in one day.  What a successful and satisfying day this has been.  Connecting with people who want to pray and to visit with their priest is a treat for everyone and I think the priest gets the most out of the contact, even if he or she is the one trying to bring comfort to others.

We have decided now what our strategy needs to be to ensure we visit more parishioners for the rest of this spring and summer.  We will choose a day for an extra day off once every couple of weeks and plan nothing.  Then we will telephone around the parish and see who needs or wants a visit that day.  It can be a guilt free day where it doesn't matter if those work emails don't get answered right away nor work phone calls returned instantly.  Administrative duties are necessary and are good things, but can also be a huge distraction from the number one source of necessary contact from the very people priests are supposed to be ministering to, particularly for a priest who has to do the administrative duties without an office manager to take them over.  My husband has had a lot of those lately from the ministerial community, from the diocese and from our own churches; all necessary and of long term use.  But today was a "people only" day and wow, it was fantastic.

In other news:  the mosquito population has begun to boom.....yikes!!!  Is there anything more annoying that accidentally trapping them in the car and then having to swat at them while driving???
--the mourning doves are becoming less skittish now that the smaller birds have headed north for the summer and are allowing us to come quite close to them when they come onto the deck by our kitchen.
--my dad had a good appointment with his lung specialist yesterday and his lung condition has not worsened in the past year.
--road and water line repairs are in full swing and seem to be going quickly and well around our neighbourhood.
--I had fun today wrapping and mailing some small baby gifts for younger friends with new wee ones.
--the prairie winds are in full gale force today, whipping up dust devils along the town streets and blowing great sheets of dirt all over unwitting pedestrians as they try to do their shopping and other chores.  To combat the grit in my hair and eyes I had to take some shopping therapy and ended up with 3 new pair of summer pants I didn't really need.  Aahhh, sometimes life is tough on the prairies.........

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alley Grading

A couple of days ago the town grader appeared in our back alleyway.  It did a great job of smoothing out the huge ridge from last fall's utility repair to the gas lines under the alley.  After bucking over it on dry days and nearly pulling off everything underneath the car on the huge hump of dirt and alternately risking being stuck in the  muddy ruts when it rains, we are now safe to use our garage once again. Thanks be to the town decision makers who arranged this.  

Some badly needed road and waterline repairs are happening in our neighbourhood this year. The town is well organized it seems for this project.  When the water mains and sewer lines are upgraded, all of us effected by the project will awaken one morning to discover a red sign on our doors.  It means we are to boil our water for one minute before use in cooking and dish washing and tooth brushing while the temporary water lines are in place. When the project is completed we will find green signs on our doors to let us know the water from the tap is once again safe to use.  

Last week a representative from the town brought over a letter explaining what would happen and she answered questions we had about the project.  It is wonderful that so much work and time is being utilized to communicate to the residents here what is going to happen this spring and summer.  It is wonderful that our older part of town is being targeted for some badly needed attention to infrastructure.  

Way to go new town council and all the town employees.  Thanks for everything you are doing to improve basic conditions in our town.  Now I am going to telephone the town office to express my thanks to them.  It is all good.  

A Typical Comedy of Errors at Our House

Sometimes I think my husband and I are the worst pair of bumbling idiots on the face of the earth.  What a pair we are.  What happened last night is typical:

I was incredibly tired last evening and so opted to go to bed far earlier than I generally do.  There was some stress involved over our son flying to the USA yesterday for his next school term.  There is always a chance of disaster when crossing borders; sleeping in and subsequently missing transportation and having to find other ways to get to the airport, delayed flights, being turned back at the border for some inexplicable reason, unexpected hold ups here, there and everywhere.  If you travel a lot you know the concerns. If you travel with our son you have experienced the concerns.

Anyway,  I decided to leave my computer on for the night because I knew I would wake up at some point and want to find out if our son had checked in.  It never occurred to me to tell my husband that I was doing this.  He knows I am diligent about shutting down the computers overnight and so when he came to find out where I was, discovered I was all ready sound asleep with my computer still running, he decided to assist me and shut it down for me.  What a lovely, thoughtful man....a lovely, thoughtful man with a ditz for a wife!

Apparently our son sent an email about 3 minutes after I fell asleep.  My husband noticed it when he went to shut down my computer and emailed a response.  He didn't want to wake me from a sound sleep to let me know....again a lovely, thoughtful man who knows how difficult it is for me to fall asleep again after being awakened from deep slumber.

I woke up with a start just after 1am and ditz that I am, came stumbling into my office to check for a possible email from our son.  In my sleepy haze I thought that I was struggling to bring my inbox onto the monitor because the computer had gone into deep hibernation. When my husband shut my computer down he neglected to shut off the monitor, so its little light had changed from "in use" green to "not in use" orange.  The fact that there was no little blinking light whatsoever on the computer itself should have alerted me that, in fact, the system had been shut down.  But, did I realize this as I waved the mouse ineffectively about and madly punched at the keyboard in my attempts to bring the system back to life?  Nope.  Finally I realized I was going to have to shut off the main power bar switch and start again, which I did.  At last I was able to access my email.

BUT did I realize our son had indeed written to us?  Again with the "nope".  I of course was expecting to discover a bright and flashy unread email awaiting me.  There was no such thing.  The fact that there was an email from our son, right at the top of the inbox list, opened, responded to, but still only a few hours old, did not register in my foggy and now distracted brain.  All I noticed was his name and the fact that there had been an email and a response.  Couldn't be anything brand new in that case.  The idea that he could have written and my husband could have been the person who responded didn't occur to me. My husband detests using email and rarely opens his work emails on time, let alone any from our personal account.  Aiiiii yiiiii....I completely missed the very email I had been anxiously awaiting for hours and hours.  Sigh.........

Of course I slept fitfully for the rest of the night, had dreams about our son being held back at the border, kidnapped, dying of a heart attack on the plane.....what a horrible night.  Finally this morning just before 8am I gave up trying to sleep and returned to my computer.  This time it was obvious that our son had emailed us. Found it first try! Other than a flight delay, all went well.  He arrived at his destination just after 1am his time and emailed us immediately upon arrival.  His father sent a good response.  Only I was out of the loop and that through my own stupidity.

My husband was beaming proudly this morning about the way he had helped me by shutting off my computer for me.  Then he was upset that his good gesture had not been the right thing to do.  I was upset at my own foolishness for falling into bed without telling him what I was planning.  Each of us apologized for confusing the other and we had a grand laugh about the whole thing.

So, welcome to our house.  We are nothing if not confused and lacking in communication skills. At least having to work so hard at figuring out what is going on keeps us busy. We are never bored n our house; frustrated, angry, confused, but never bored.

Nope. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Praying for the US Mid-West

I have just watched the first news coverage on tv of the devastating tornadoes that are hitting Oklahoma today.  They were hit badly yesterday and today it continues.  In Moore OK today a couple of elementary schools were hit while classes were in session.  Fortunately some of the children from one of the schools were able to be evacuated to a safe place before the storm arrived, but at this time a number of grade three children and their teachers appear to be trapped in the rubble.  So far a couple of teachers and a little boy have been pulled out of the destroyed building, but what has happened to the rest of them?  The piles of rubble and twisted metal are so deep that I worry survivors will not be found in time.  I will be watching the coverage and praying for the people who have been devastated by this windy disaster.

It seems every day there are new places and peoples to be praying for.  Every area of the world right now seems torn apart by war or weather related disasters, devastating accidents, mass murders, outbreaks of disease, government and business corruption....the list never ends. It only gets longer by the day.  On days like today when I seem to be particularly conscious of what is wrong in the world, all over the world, I am equally conscious of God who knows the end from the beginning.  Sometimes I wish he would step in and fix, prevent, heal in situations where he does not do so. The rain continues to" fall on the just and the unjust." (Matthew 5:45) and sometimes the unfairness of life on planet Earth is quite apparent. For God, justice is ultimate, not immediate much of the time.  In the meanwhile his people are charged to pray and help in every way we can when life's unfairness hits the people around us.

First Mowing of Spring

It feels so good to have completed the first lawn mowing of the season.  I spent nearly 2 hours out there, taking my time so that the first mow was particularly well done.  My husband sharpened the lawnmower blades and helped me string together the extension cord system I need to reach the farthest edges of the boulevard in front of the house.  The sun was shining but it wasn't too warm for working outside, the good mosquito spray I used worked like a charm.  About the time I needed a short break a neighbour stopped by for a quick chat.  I can still fit into my outdoor yard work clothes from last summer.  It is all good!

In the fall we weren't able to rake up our leaves before the snow came and under those many leaves the lady bugs were hibernating all winter.  Today as I mowed there were hundreds of them flying about me, landing on my face and hands, in my hair, smearing my lenses, covering the lawn mower and cords.  I can only hope and pray I didn't kill too many in the process of doing my work.  They spent the winter under those leaves eating the larvae of other insects I am less fond of.  They are pretty and they don't sting or bite me.  Yup, I LOVE lady bugs!

I wish my wonderful photographer friend in Moose Jaw was up here today.  Looking at all the lady bugs sitting on the tops of individual blades of grass was an amazing sight I would love to have been able to capture. Sadly neither myself nor my husband has the camera equipment and ability to take the kind of photo I know my friend could take.

As I completed my task and stood quietly after shutting off the lawnmower, the lady bugs who had managed to fly away or else hide deeper under the flying debris as I mowed, started to return and crawl up on top of those blades of grass.  After a couple of minutes I saw all around me a sea of green grass stalks topped with little red lady bugs...like shiny red polished nails at the ends of long slim fingers.  It was a precious sight.

Our flowering cherry bush is abloom with pale pink blossoms that will last only  until the first stiff breeze comes along and blows them all over the yard, so again I wish I had a working camera.  Even a photographic putz like myself couldn't mess up a picture of this glorious tree whose flowers may last on the branches for twenty-four hours if the winds stay away.  If our town is not the most attractive place I have ever lived, still there is something so lovely about the first flowering of the small bushes and the first bright green of the tree leaves.  Maybe I appreciate such things more than ever this year because the wait for them was so long.

Of course now my foot is killing me again and I am exhausted, but only dishes to worry about tonight after having leftovers for dinner.  All in all a productive day for which I am grateful.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Now THAT'S Committment!

I was talking to a friend in another town tonight.  She was telling me about the confirmation service at her church this morning.  Pentecost Sunday....what more fitting season of the year to have confirmations.......

Anyway, one of the confirmands is an new mom.  She had the baby a day or two ago and her doctor was going to release her and her child at 10am today.  However, she convinced the doctor that he should release her at 9am so that she could attend her confirmation ceremony.  She arrived on time, brand new baby and all, to celebrate with the rest of her church family.

What a wonderful celebration in that church today:  celebration of a new human life, celebration of new committment to the church and its mission, celebration of new life in the Spirit.

Happy Pentecost!!!  I love this season of the church calendar!

As Cute As It Gets (and if you can't see the image below could someone please leave a comment and let me know?)

photos of                                                             kids and                                                             animals

Saturday, May 18, 2013

AND...in Other news.......

......the weeds are dying, the weeds are dying....take that stupid weeds........nyaa haa haa.........a little rain didn't save you after all!!  YIPPEE!!  (Oooh, dat feel gooood!!)

Talked to my parents today.  Dad is doing remarkably well at the moment.  Although he completely exhausted himself doing it and will pay the price tomorrow, he  helped mom make dinner tonight.  She roasted the potato, asparagus and carrots while he prepared the chicken scallopini  in his special white wine sauce.  He wanted to do something extra special for her to tell her how much he appreciates her care of him over these past difficult months.  Mom needs some tender loving care herself as she was in a hit and run car accident a couple of days ago. She wasn't injured but the fright and the damage to her friend's car shook her up pretty badly.  Knowing the driver of the car that hit them took off at top speed without stopping to see what damage had been done  upset her more than the actual collision.

Our son called today....his final call before leaving for the USA for some relaxation, art gallery tours and then a couple of months of school.  He is stressed to the limit with all the things he has had to do to be ready to go. Tonight is the final check on the international paperwork, stashing the last of his belongings so his sublet can move into his suite, getting his art studio cleaned up for his renters to take over, confirming the art moving company will be able to pick up his paintings for a Toronto show after he has all ready left and deliver them down east, praying he has no border crossing problems, getting his bus ticket to cross the border to catch his flight on Monday, arranging a state-side phone number and international phone plan, getting the various addresses and contact information to us, his stressed out for him parents.......the details and the insanity never stop right up to the time he boards his flight. I thought it couldn't be any crazier than last year when he had even less time to prepare, but I was wrong.  Praying it all goes well.

Well, off to watch the boxing and get to bed.  7am comes so early on Sundays when we have to leave less than an hour later to get to our first service.  By the time the second service is done we are both washed up for the rest of the day.  We are not morning people even after all these years of needing to be. Yawn.....maybe I will skip the boxing after all and just go to bed.  

 

Approaching 18,000 Hits

I am chuckling about the 18,000 hits my blog has had in the past year and then some that I have been posting.  I am guessing that about 5,000 of these hits, at best, are somewhat legitimate as far as having people actually reading the blog posts.  Of that 5,000 a thousand were responses to my most popular entry which went so over the top for interest and comments I eventually deleted it, then a couple of thousand more would be my own accessing of my blog because I have never activated the cookies required to stop recording my own hits.  So, 3,000 readers at most, 2000 times of accessing my blog myself, leaving about 13,000 hits from advertising, porn and other tracking sites, some of which are dangerous to the life and health of my own computer if I were to try to access them right back. It isn't easy to get excited about that many hits (about a thousand a month average) when most of them are not from actual readers, but it looks great on the stats page...and it is all about the stats I have discovered!  Nyaa haa haa.........

Another Darned Cute Animated Movie...and Some Great Boxing to Boot!

Tonight we opted for dinner and a movie to get us out of the house, but also get some relaxed time during the break between my husband's completion of writing his article for next month's Diocesan newspaper and giving his sermon for tomorrow morning a final tweak.  

We tried to go to one of the almost more decent restaurants here in town but it was closed.  We ended up at Humpty's.  Yes......Humptys.  Can you believe it?  Finally dinner out together on a weekend and we ended up at Humpty's.  But, you know, it is actually surprisingly okay there.  I know it is a sad commentary on our town when Humpty's is the best sit-in eatery we have, but their current cook seems to have an ability to upscale the plebian chain diner menu fare with little dashes of creativity and excellent plating.  The interior was recently renovated and it is quite nice with little decorative touches and classy colours.  I would have been happy simply to sit in booths with upholstery that isn't ripped and gouged tables that aren't high enough to snuggle up right under my boobs all friendly-like, so these new renos with soft, new, trendy upholstery and unscratched, clean, lower table tops were an absolute delight. The food was edible and neither of us had any dietary nor digestive repercussions during the rest of the evening, which is not our usual experience when we eat out in our town...which is why we so rarely do. Urp......

Unfortunately the movie theater was showing some ridiculous film no one over the age of 16 would want to see, and probably no one under the age of 16 SHOULD see, so we thought that was the end of our great and rare date night.  However, when we returned home we discovered the cute animated film, "Hotel Transylvania" on the tv movie channels.  If it wasn't the most brilliant animated film ever, it was very cute, very watchable and the script was A-OK.  I think Adam Sandler should forget acting and utilize the rest of his career time doing voice overs for animated characters and producing cartoons.

Our date night turned out just fine.  We had some edible food, some great conversation and shared some laughs together.

In a few minutes, now that my husband is back at work, I will watch the first hour of some televised boxing matches on TSN that I missed last night.  I did catch the final match of the telecast last evening: an amazing featherweight bout between a 31 year old Chinese Olympic boxer (Zou Shiming)  and an 18 year old Mexican fellow (Eleazar Valenzuela) that saw them waling away at each other for 4 crazy and exhausting rounds.  They were like 2 machines that just kept going and going and going. It was amazing!  I think the commentators said that for one of the boxers it was his first 4 round bout.  I don't know how he managed it as the blows were non-stop. I think I will watch it again this evening, although it will make it very late for going to bed with an early morning rising for church.  

So, last weekend: 15 hours of televised golf.  This weekend: Humpty's and an animated movie.......and boxing.....this is what my life has come to...teehee  Anyone else out there as excited as I am about the upcoming release of Despicable Me 2?? 

Another Victoria Day Weekend......Ho Hum..........

It is time, once again, for the notorious, infamous Victoria Day Long Weekend here in Canada.  Traditionally it is the weekend of the first camping trip of the season, the first weekend for planting flowers and gardens, first major lawn mowing and the start for many communities of a full week of free deliveries to the local dump sites after cleaning out garages and garden sheds.

For church ministers long weekends, unless they happen to fall during an annual holiday time off, are about as meaningful and different as any other weekend:  ministers have to work every weekend, long or not.  Sermons still have to be prepared, music chosen, services put together for the very tiny group of parishioners who will be in town to attend church.  This year the groups will be smaller than ever as spring planting has barely started at the local farms.  The rush is on to get the crop in the ground if there is to be some hope of a fall harvest.  Long weekend attendance or lack thereof is just part of life in rural ministry.  It goes with the territory. It is no big deal.

Since Monday is my husband's regular day off and it is a stat holiday, it means he gets an extra weekday off this week.  Unfortunately he likely won't be able to take that day off because if he does it means he is another day behind in answering work emails, getting on with his parish visiting schedule, dialoguing and working together with his ministerial colleagues, returning phone calls, writing letters and preparing for the next weekend's services.  It is fairly common to lose days off for doing funerals as well.  Yesterday he managed to do a funeral out of town, even though he was so ill he could hardly function until mid-afternoon.

On paper, the checks and balances written into a minster's schedule to prevent burnout from working too many hours in a week are quite wonderful and well thought out.  In reality, it is difficult to know when they are all that practical.  Telling a grieving family that the minister is not available to comfort and prepare a funeral for their loved one because it is his day off, (plus an extra day for the long weekend), flies in the face of his calling.  Missing Diocesan meetings and clergy days and deanery chapter meetings because it is his day off is not going to go over well with his superiors. Missing the first day or two of a study leave week because they are technically days off is not practical.  Telling a parishioner that a prearranged visit is going to be cancelled because it now conflicts with an extra weekday off post-long weekend is just downright rude and unacceptable and not something my husband would do. Contacting the several nursing homes and seniors' lodges to cancel his monthly meeting schedule with them throws a big wrench into the planning for the staff members and creates confusion and disappointment for the seniors who love to attend the Bible studies and communion services.  

For a minister in a small rural congregation to take off Sundays, even those that are part of his annual vacation time, he has to really scramble to find others to fill in and do the services.  It is often more stressful trying to find people available and able to fill that gap than it is to simply return home from whatever break he is supposed to be on and just do the services himself.  We did that twice on our summer holidays last year for one of our churches and it was far easier than tearing out what is left of our hair to find replacements.  In small, struggling rural parishes you have to be especially careful to not burn out the few volunteers available.  They are extremely precious folk and you want to treat them with care.  One of our churches is blessed with a fair number of people able and willing to do services if my husband is absent, the other has many more seniors and it isn't as easy to find available volunteers, so he doesn't want them stressed out by having to hold a service on their own too often.  Ministers in rural parishes don't only set up services and preach and do Bible studies. They are their own office administrators, janitors, snow shovellers, recruiters for congregational involvement in Sunday services, such as worship leaders (although my husband is quite blessed here with good musicians), Scripture readers and prayer leaders.

So, for us a long weekend is a pretty meaningless time in terms of extra time off.  My husband may or may not get a couple of days in a row to relax.  Our yard work will have to wait until Monday at the earliest and I will probably do it so that he can just veg out for the day.

Being in ministry is pretty exciting in many ways and it is always busy, but I can see my husband is going to have to be more careful about his days off, about how many "extra" services he schedules in the far flung reaches of our large parish, how many Diocesan committments he takes on.  Some of those are coming up soon and they will go well and be a lot of fun, but he will have to take at least one day off afterward to restore his strength for regular weekly ministry.

We have two good churches here. The people understand the role weather plays in the ability of priest and congregation to have church services that meet the needs of the people.  There are very few whiners and complainers among our practical folk.  They understand what is lacking in terms of having enough people to do the jobs the minister wouldn't be doing in a larger centre.  They help when they can and they understand when my husband gets behind on some tasks that he is only responsible for because of the small number of available volunteers. We are blessed.

So, happy Victoria Day weekend to one and all.  May your camping trips be blessed with sunny warmth and may your yard work progress smoothly and be a great source of joy.  For others, like doctors and telephone operators and others who do not get long weekends off very often, enjoy your work as much as we do ours, and do take your days off as soon as possible so that work continues to be a source of fulfillment.


Friday, May 17, 2013

My Brave Friend Struggles Onward

My friend's father is vastly improved so that is one less immediate stress she is coping with.  So grateful for that.  She got herself a chainsaw and eliminated the tree limb disaster in her yard.  Another stress dealt with.  Her car repair issues are being dealt with as her car was vandalized the other night.  So another stress being dealt with one way or another.  So far her life improving somewhat.

The sadder part of her story though is that she had her wee dog put down this morning.  Another kind of stress relief in the long run for herself and for elderly doggie I know, but such a grief to bear in the meantime.  They have been together for many many years.  It took such courage for her to do this.  I remember having to make the same decision with my own beloved pets, but never did I have such a longtime animal companion as herself.

My friend is a tough cookie. She has been through a lot of hardship and heartache in her life and is a true survivor.  She will survive this loss too, but it will be very difficult.  I am proud of her for her courage in making the decision. She will pray and ask God to get her through this and he will.

It is good to have friends.  It is good to have tough, brave, courageous friends like this friend.