Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's the last day of 2011 and here is my hope for all of us in 2012:  that we would see the hand of God move in the circumstances of our lives; that we would know He has great plans for us; and that we would have the desires of our hearts. Sounds heavy, doesn't it? It sounds almost ominous and frought with responsibility. But wouldn't it be wonderful to hand it all over to the God who made you and to realize he wants only good for you? That He actually has a purpose for you? That he wants to give you your heart's desires?

In the last years, I have become increasingly convinced that the Lord is good, and only good. Because He is love and His motivation is love, He is for me, and is good to me. I know the Bible says it, and now, in my heart, I believe it. In the midst of trials and tribulations, when the world throws dung from every side, God is there, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) So I look for His hand.

We are here by God's choice. He loves us and reveals His plan for us as we look at Him: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) Again, He is good. So I ask Him what He wants for me.

Like a joyful Father, and He is a joyful Father, He loves to give gifts to His children. "Delight yourself also in the LORD,  And He shall give you the desires of your heart."  (Psalm 37:4) He places His desires in our hearts and He fulfills them in His time. These desires fulfilled bring the greatest joy. So I pray and ask for those desires to be reached. And I thank Him for all He is and does.

Happy New Year. Happy New Day...full of His mercy and love.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

     It’s early Christmas morning and it’s quiet. In the last days, in a flurry of running and wrapping, shopping and smiling, it’s been hard to schedule in a time just to breathe. But now, I ignore the ticking clock on the mantle and, I sit and reflect.
     Yesterday I had an almost two-hour car ride to pick up my son. Listening to various radio programs, I had the realization that the non-Christian world, right here in our country, doesn’t know what to do with “Christmas.” They appear confused or pressured to lean to one side or the other. There’s the long-standing back and forth on whether or not to say the words, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” by shop-keepers and bank tellers. But yesterday on a program on CBC, I heard the epitome. On a show where people were telling “holiday” stories, (none of which had one iota to do with Christmas as a celebration), the announcer said, “Happy December 25th Day, everyone.” That one really made me sad. It felt as though the person who said it was as lost as one could possibly be.
     On that same station and in malls everywhere, there are potent, life-giving hymns being played. In public places, traditional Christmas hymns such as, “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night” make their way onto song lists. The message is there: Jesus was born and He had a purpose in mind:

“Peace on Earth and mercy mild - God and sinners reconciled!”
“Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”
(Hark the Herald Angels Sing)

What child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping? …
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
(What Child is This)

The French version of “O Holy Night” brings light and understanding:

Minuit, chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle
Où l’Homme-Dieu descendit jusqu’à nous,
Pour effacer la tache originelle,
Et de son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance,
À cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple, à genoux, attends ta délivrance
C’est pour nous tous qu’il naît, qu’il souffre et meurt.
Peuple, debout! Chante ta délivrance.
Noël! Noël! Chantons le Rédempteur!

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour
When God as man descended among us
To expunge the stain of original sin
And to put an end to the wrath of his father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night which gives us a savior.
People, on your knees, attend your deliverance.
It is for us all that he was born, that he suffered and died.
People, stand up, sing your deliverance!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!

These songs, and so many others reflect what’s written in the gospels. He is what we’re celebrating. His purpose, His goodness, His love. His message is simple, yet profound: He loves us. He loved us enough to set aside his throne and live among us and to provide an eternity with Him.
Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tis the Season

     My beloved grade five/six class joined the rest of our little private school in visiting the local seniors home to perform our Christmas concert. School uniforms pressed and tucked, the classes lined up in the halls to enter the great room. I looked around and saw dozens of seniors, dressed immaculately, their walkers parked close by their wingback chairs. Camera in hand, I scanned the faces of young and old. As each class stepped in to perform, our enthusiastic music teacher created a bridge between both groups who timidly faced each other. The carols brought smiles and no doubt reflection - our older friends remembering the past and our young students anticipating their futures. I felt caught in the middle somehow and felt tears roll in hearing songs about the Saviour of all. "Let every heart prepare Him room..." Indeed...let every heart prepare room for Him. There's no time like the present. He waits with arms wide open.

Carravagio Nativity

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Mother

        Early on a turning day, the quiet veranda beckoned. Out of the mist, the day unhurriedly dawned. With the azure sea waiting, Martha slipped on her down vest, picked up her coffee cup and navigated her way hip-first through the screen door, carefully, so as not to let it slam and waken the twins. She was jealously guarding that quiet half hour before the riotous demands for breakfast began.

       Settling in the rickety wooden deckchair, she took a deep breath and made a firm decision: for the next 30 minutes, she would quiet the loud lists forming her day and just be.
       Past the salt-scraped floor-boards, she let her gaze fall on the dewy garden. Oak leaves and acorns were starting to scatter to fill in the blanks between the last remaining cosmos and cleome. The rockery, guarded by still-blooming marigolds and copious hens and chicks would soon be joined by the wild mushrooms - boletus and the little browns - the camel-colored, earthy ones. But today, there was still the promise of warmth in the air. The fall sun was doing its best to warm the swelling sea.

        Autumn had long since been Martha’s favourite season, her internal clock tuned to the new beginnings the school year offered. But today, well into October, a deep melancholy threatened to overtake her as she thought of them - her boys. It was their last year of high school. Where had the time gone? Why was it moving ever-faster at break-neck speed? They were no longer those tawny-haired, sweaty boys tearing up and down the beach, delighted in the simple things - the cast-off crab shell, the deep blue sea glass or the intact bivalves washing up on the shore. They had run from tide-pools to her lap for quick kisses, snacks and explanations to beach questions, only to fade into their bunks at day’s end to dream blue in quiet exhaustion.

        Now her sons needed her less. Their eyes betrayed their hearts - they already had one foot out the door. As much as she told herself that it would be tragic if they forever stayed within her reach, she longed for more days when they saw her as someone with something of value to impart.
       “Enough!” Martha said aloud, “Enough.” Taking a sip of her coffee, and struggling out of her chair, she watched the ‘V’ of geese flying high overhead and heard a stirring in the kitchen.
       “Mom!” she heard and she smiled to herself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dog for a Day

A dog for one day…that’s all! For only twenty-four hours, when I was just twelve years old, our family got a dog. We were acquainted with a family who lived near my grandparents who were moving away and needed to get rid of their two Scottish terriers – Holly and Beebee. We were chosen to take “Holly”, a pure white, eight year old Scottie.
Holly came to our family on a warm June Saturday morning. She came to a family of three pet-starved children. Three grasping, mauling children. Our grubby hands reached for her, fought for her, nearly squeezed life from her. Poor baby was smothered and completely nonplussed. In her confused state, she refused the food treats we shoved at her. She ran from room to room, hiding briefly behind shelves and under beds till little footsteps would be heard and she’d be dragged shaking into our arms once again. We LOVED her.
Eventually she found what she could only hope for – a momentary lapse in our ministrations…the porch door was left ajar. She was out in a flash. Holly headed for the hills!
The neighborhood was set on high alert. The new dog was footloose. Volunteers of all ages dropped other responsibilities to search for our new family member. Holly’s former owners were forewarned that she might try to find her old neighborhood. Her name was heard ringing through the streets. One by one, children were called in, darkness fell and only my forlorn father was left to search.

When we awoke the next morning, Holly was back. Our joy was quickly turned to sobbing, as we heard our parent’s decision…. this just wasn’t going to work. Holly was too old a dog, (56 in dog years) to “learn new tricks” as the saying goes, so her previous owners decided to take her back. Perhaps she missed Beebee way too much.
          As kids, we just didn’t get it. We were sad for days. But within a couple of weeks, a new pet was brought home…a milk white budgie, safely in her cage, who we promptly named “Penny.” She was our new companion and our intense love for Holly was set aside.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Choices

        Last week was one that will go down in my own personal history as one of showing off my shortcomings, limping along with one foot placed firmly in my own mouth. One of those weeks, where it seemed that more negative came out of my mouth than positive, where emotions ran high and verbal responses were often melodramatic at best and outright inappropriate at worst. Minor situations became the proverbial mountains of over-reaction. And a number of people, I'm sure, ducked into safe zones at my approach. What happens to us when we have moments, days, weeks like that?
       Personally, I find there are two distinct choices. Number one: Hole up, eat a lot, watch movies and spend quality couch time with intimate friend, Self Pity. That one comes easy, but with a price. That's the one that continues the downward spiral.
       Then there is the other choice: Get up, get moving, take a stand against self absorbed melancholia and pray! Forgive who you need to, apologize to anyone and everyone who needs to hear it and move forward. This progression in the right direction can only be accomplished as we trust in our gracious God to forgive us, hope that others will follow His lead, and forgive ourselves. That was the step it took me a week to come to: Door number two. And having received liberal grace and mercy from those I approached, I was set free to start anew. What a wonderful gift, opens the cage door, unlocks the ball and chain and gives the heart a new place to start.
The Bible says in:

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I am so grateful that God is compassionate and forgiving and that every day I can start anew!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


        It’s always been a mystery to me what people will hang on their walls and live with. I’ve seen paired paint-by-numbers of ducks in marshes, hanging a foot from the ceiling on living room walls. I’ve seen stamped out mall paintings arranged in diagonal groupings. And when I was only 11 years old, I visited my friend Carla at her house for a birthday party. There, in the middle of the wall, hanging over the couch, was the worst thing I’ve ever seen - a large black and white framed photo of a young girl in a coffin. (This was actually Carla’s little sister, who died tragically. Mrs. Sheerholtz thought it was crucial to remember her daily as the family walked through the house. Carla didn’t often have kids over and that day that mystery was solved.)
        Interesting choices, those, but are they art?
        Thanks to a gifted high school art teacher, I became a lover of art history.   By grade 12,  I was tearing apart Impressionist calendars and ripping out reproductions of Turner and Constable from old art history texts to frame. In university, it was the age of posters, and there wasn’t an art representation you couldn’t purchase. My walls were covered with thumb tack holes from pinning up Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer and A.J. Casson. In my spare time, I’d copy these works, trying to duplicate the skill of these masters of colour.

"Glenn Williams" by A.J.Casson

       Art delighted me and still does. We don’t have a great number of works hanging in our house, but mostly because there is a fear of holes in the walls. (I can't explain this. I won't try. Holes seem to indicate a commitment to a certain work of art, and we like to rotate ours.) Our art leans. There are two paintings we rotate on the fireplace mantle. Right now, A.J. Casson’s “Glen Williams” shows the glories of fall in a small Ontario town. (My delight is that this print is actually signed by Casson - a treasured gift from my husband a few Christmases ago.) Soon, the weather will turn brisk and I will put A.J. away for a bit and bring out an original oil by a man named Ole Pii. Ole was an 80 year old artist in a community we lived in up the west coast of BC. He was a master of colour. This particular painting is austere and cold, a painting he did from the side of a van on a brilliant day in Prince George in the seventies. I never tire of the range of colours in the snow in this painting.
          We have another of Ole’s paintings, of two old folks staring at their garden, as their flowers form the sky. This painting makes my heart sing as it carries a huge personal significance for my husband and I.
          And wonderfully, I have three oil paintings by our good friend Reijo. All three transport me to riversides. Just a couple of weeks ago, Reijo, out of the kindness of his heart, sent along this latest painting. I have admired it since the day I first laid eyes on it. It depicts the underside of a river bank, and it is so familiar to me. There is a small stream off of Lochlin Road up in the Haliburton Highlands that could be the subject of this work. On those coming dark and bleary winter days, I will look at it and it will take me right to the river! I know that there are fish there, just under the surface, waiting in the pools for juicy bait. I can smell the earthy underslope and feel a bit of slippery green algae underfoot on the river stones.

          And really, isn't this what art is all about? Good art, no matter the form, causes the heart to sing with a deep connection. It takes us somewhere familiar, it appeals at a heart level. So, I ask you, what is on your walls?

God bless Reijo for this precious gift!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blood Pressure Rising

     Have you ever felt so stressed that you think you can feel your blood pressure in your lips? Even your ears start to buzz and fill up with a pulsing vibration. Today was one of those days. It started out fine enough. Had a good sleep, took my vitamins, had a good breakfast and packed a "super salad" for lunch. By the time I had been at work for 15 minutes, the nonsense started and didn't stop all day long.
      In math class, I felt like I was performing dental maneuvers,  not teaching. Extracting answers from my wee class was like executing root canals. And the chasing for assignments and me! 
      It's about focus, I think. Sometimes, it would be wonderful if all class members focused on the same thing at the same time. I've gotten so that I can spot a "glaze over" from four meters away. Sometimes I look into eyes and see no one there. Is he back at summer camp on the rope swing? Is she anticipating snow tubing in the coming months? Are they all wondering what's for dinner?  My blood pressure rises as I try to get their attention.
     An old teacher friend of mine got so frustrated with a grade two boy that she took a piece of masking tape, wrote "focus" on it and taped it to his desk. Right after that she was in the staff room at recess, when there was a knock at the door. Two little girls were at the door to "report" that they had seen the "F" word taped to little Jeremy's desk. My friend suppressed a giggle and told them she'd look into it.
      Sometimes I wonder though....what is all this stressing and fussing about?  It feels some days that I don't actually take a breath until I get home. I careen from one activity to another, gathering momentum as I fly around. I've set a pace for myself and for these kids that I'm not sure any of can live with.
     So tomorrow I will write on my daybook...LOOK UP. FOCUS on Jesus and share some joy! My aim will be to keep the blood pressure steady. This old teacher is going to find something to laugh at, someone to laugh with and something silly to share with these lovely kids.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Liebster

Fellow blogger, gifted Mary from Beech Croft Tales, (  has honored me by putting me on her list for the Liebster Award.
Now it is my turn to honour others for the Liebster! Check out these noteworthy bloggers:

Leesha tells of her journeys as a beloved child of God at God Walks:

Garth writes about his travels through Africa on a BMW bike at Garth's Africa: 

Maureen provides a clear message of faith at One Day At A Time:

Amy and Ben tell of their preparations, hopes and dreams as they prepare for the mission field in Indonesia at The Eadies MAF:

Belinda points the way to the Lord with grace and beauty at Whatever He Says:


      There’s a student in my grade 5/6 class who is nothing short of brilliant. Where this kid got the extensive vocabulary that he so freely and confidently uses, is beyond me. He is comfortable conversing in complex sentences without ever using “awesome,” “radical,” or “random,” and like many students I meet with daily, does not use the word “like” as a comma. He throws in “dude” now and then, but the word is so competently placed that I smile every time. 

       Today we were working on “similes.” Students were required to do their best to use imagery to compare objects using “like” or “as.” I received the usual “as strong as an elephant;” “as slow as a turtle;” and “as soft as a marshmallow.” I kept inviting them to go further. How can we make “as slow as a turtle” just a bit slower? We came up with “as slow as a three-legged turtle.” That took some doing. Some didn’t get the idea of similes at all. One girl proudly wrote, “the ice cream was a soft as a baby chick.” I could immediately taste a mouthful of stinky feathers. One fellow surprised me by saying, “he was as strong as a mutant wrestler.” This was way beyond this boy’s usual ability of expression and I couldn’t help but ponder on what he watches on television. 

      But my student writer….he wowed me. I told the class that some day we’d be lining up at Chapters for autographed copies of his novels. Grade 6 boys don’t usually come up with things like: “as pretty as sunlight exposed jewels";  "as strong as a workhorse looking for a treat";  "as soft as whipped cream made from scratch"  or "as slow as maple syrup dipped in starch."
       After class, this boy came and told me, for the second day in a row, that I am a great teacher. I thanked him and reinforced my belief in him by telling him he should get a notebook and write every day. He said he would if he had ideas, so I sent him home armed with a list of story starters. And I thought that for one brief moment, that I had reached someone. For it is my highest hope that the atmosphere in my classroom is one of safety, to express, to grow, to be encouraged. Not every student can be a writer. Many struggle with reading, but to move each along the continuum or even to jump start them into a love of reading and writing is my goal as a language teacher.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


     In childhood days years ago, Thanksgiving weekends were spent at my grandparents' cottage on Nottawasaga Bay in Ontario. Life pulsed with bursts of colour. There were no skies like October skies if it was sunny. Gone was the summer haze of humidity. Deep blues and crisp indigo nights reigned. As children, we were beside ourselves in anticipation of that last weekend of the season at the cottage. One more kick-at-the-can to enjoy times with cousins and run wild on the shore and through the reddened forest. We'd rake leaves, jump in the piles and enjoy the dusky smell as Dad burned them in the fireplace. We'd add to our collection of acorns and chestnuts, finding ways to make games with objects of nature.

Grandma, Mom, my brothers and I
       The adults seemed relaxed while preparing the huge turkey dinner and baking pies on Sunday, but at the back of their minds, they knew there was much  to do before leaving for home on Monday. In those days, having an un-winterized cottage, the purpose of spending that last weekend there was to close it up, put it to bed for the upcoming temperature plunge. Water systems were turned off, windows boarded up and bedding was carefully placed in airtight containers in hopes the refugee mice would not reach them. What a bittersweet time it was.

Old Shed near Aunt Alma's cottage - seen better days...

      After hugging the cousins goodbye and having one last look around, we'd pile in the old Chevy and wave at the lake, knowing it would not be until Victoria Day weekend in May before we'd see it again.

Woodland Beach

     Those days are well behind me now. Although I'm tempted to be sad that the cottage is gone and so are many beloved family members,  - Mom and Grandma and Grandpa, there is much to be grateful for. This weekend the weather is perfect. The skies are clear and I'll still spend it with people I love. Thank you Lord for such good memories and many yet to be made.

One Last Look!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Point of View

        I arrived home one day five years ago, in the spring, to find four floppy baby squirrels on my porch inhibiting my entrance by crawling up my pantlegs. Since then, I have longed for a squirrel-free yard. I've not appreciated the high pitched scritching, and their relentless attempts to enter our home through miniscule gaps in the roofline. Especially despised were the red squirrels -their territorial hissing, their attempts to intimidate me, to have me dash to make it into my own car. Did they think I might one day drive away and not return? That they'd finally have the yard to themselves?

The Rocket
          But this summer, after watching one red squirrel daily, getting to know his personality, all that has changed. I've decided I like him. I admire him. I call him "Rocket", "Rocky" for short. That little dart makes me smile. I pointed out his habits to my husband and now we discuss him like a family member. This is what I see: Rocky thinks he is Lord of the Manor. He strives to rid our yard of every other member of the Sciuridae family. He runs the perimeter of the property, leaping from branches, slipping along the rail pipe fence and negotiating wires. He is a rocket. From his lordly perch high in the maple, he is ever watchful. No grey or black squirrels are allowed on our property. The tree nuts, keys, and cones are his. Somehow this non-mortgage payer thinks he owns it all.

        We have a young black walnut tree at the side of the house. This tree bears large, round nuts that look somewhat like limes. I have seen Rocky scale the tree and systematically shake down as many nuts as possible and then start a run, carrying one at a time from the side of the house to hide his cache in the thick evergreens that border that back of the property. To do this, he has to lift and carry something that is about one third the size that he is. The nut is bigger than his head, but his sharp incisors hold the nut firm as he uses his straggly tail to balance his way along. Before he hides the core of the nut, he usually sits in the maple tree and gnaws off the outer shell. But a few times, he brought still-green nuts, outer cores intact and displayed them on an evergreen branch about five feet off the ground. They were there for all to see. My imagination tells me that Rocky showed them to us. He must feel a sense of accomplishment and pride as he shows us his wares.

        At any rate, we've become accustomed to each other. He no longer hisses when we come into the yard, but he goes about his business at his usual break-neck pace. He watches and we watch. I find myself concerned when I've not seen him for a couple of days. Then there he is again, running his course. Why this is a delight to me, I don't know. But I'm glad of the change of heart toward this little creature in God's care.

Monday, September 26, 2011


    Yesterday, after a particularly rough week, I begged my dear husband to take me “to the wilderness.” We’re usually people of lakes, rivers and streams, but every time we happen upon a forest or pond walk, we agree that we need to spend more time in the woods. The rich earth, the precarious hike over tree roots and muddy pools are a far cry from the pavement world in which we dwell. And this is the time of year that all the signs are there - our comfortable outside weather will soon end. Every time we’ve been couching, I’ve pointed out that these are the glory days of early autumn when the summer sun is still making a play - that these are the days we’ll long for when the furnace is roaring and we’re watching the cold, white world through panes of glass.

     So we headed out. The fishing gear was in the car, “in case”, but fishing was not the plan. We headed up to the Wye Marsh, a place I’ve only seen when supervising busloads of kids on school field trips. Yesterday, the Marsh was almost deserted. It was 23 degrees, slight breezy and intensely colorful. Ontario’s leaves are at the beginning of the turn, but the marsh grasses and bullrushes are already yellowing. Snakes and frogs skittered across the path in front of us as we wound our way through the expanse of waving reeds. Snapping turtles and green turtles surfaced and swam amidst swans and mallards. Stick bugs skimmed the pond surface keeping minnows and pumpkinseeds company below them. The air was clean, such a peaceful place.

 I felt my senses fill and my heart slow its beating. For a few hours, the stresses of our workplaces and family concerns took a back seat to migratory birds and aging water lilies. And I was filled with gratitude once more for time spent away.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

      Up early this morning, on this tenth anniversary of 911. How quickly time flies. Whether it was a complete conspiracy, as some would have us believe, or it happened as reported by the media, I am not sure. I only know this. People died that day and it did have an impact on me.
       That Tuesday morning, we were gathered, of course, for our second week of the new school year. As my grade two's were having a second-period gym class with another teacher, I slipped down to the office to check on some textbooks that I had ordered. One of the women in the office had been listening to the radio and heard that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. We thought that it was some random accident and as we were standing there, she came out pale-faced, and said another plane hit the second tower. We were frantic for information. I went up to my classroom and tuned into the talk radio station. It was all over the news and conflicting reports kept coming. I went around to update other teachers and check into the office. There they were listening to other radio stations. We heard of another plane that hit the Pentagon and then another that went down in a field. At one point we were informed of a fifth plane, but that turned out to be false. At that moment, it felt like the end of the world had begun. Seemed that there was to be war starting on North American soil.
       A call came through soon after that from a parent of one of my students. I could hear the controlled desperation in her voice, as she said she was calling from New York, didn't know when she would be able to call again. She was on a business trip there and was on the fly trying to get out of the city. She described the chaos, but very quickly. Her main purpose was to say, "Tell my children I love them." I asked if she wanted to speak to her children. Her son was in my class. She said no, that she didn't want them to be alarmed. She said to make sure they knew that she was all right. She would talk to them when they were safely in their father's arms at home. She further asked that we protect them from the news, advised that we might want to keep all the news to ourselves until children could be advised by their parents. She later told us her whole harrowing experience, taking four days, much of it on foot, to get back safely to Canada. Her whole life changed after that event, but that is her story. I won't tell it.
       Myself, I remember walking around in a daze those next four days. Watching the images on CNN and other major news networks over and over again, trying to take it all in. On Friday, my principal asked me if I had written up an educational plan on one of my students who had major learning disabilities. I turned to her, and in all sincerity said, "What's the point?"  I really felt the end was nigh.
       By the weekend, we decided to head out for a long drive, out to the beach north of here, to get away from the television. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. It was good to breathe again, but I could not shake the dread. My husband and I prayed together, called our son and made an attempt to get on with it. But for a few weeks, I walked around as if wrapped in a thick grey gauze.
       Now it has been ten years. We settled back into our lives. The ups, the downs, life goes on. This morning as I look at memorial tributes and watch the old footage of the towers, I remember. Seems the end is not yet. I'm looking up. Whatever the future holds, "my times are in His hands." (Psalm 31:15) I look into the face of Jesus and find peace there. He is with me. I'm so grateful.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quick Follow-Up

Do you know the symptoms of anaphylactic shock? After yesterday's fiasco, I looked up how to use an epipen on youtube and learned the symptoms. I did not know most of these. I thought shortness of breath and throat closing were the symptoms. Boy, was I wrong. You may want to check this out! It lists the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Like I said before, information goes a long way! Stay safe.

A Little Information Goes a Long Way

     Yesterday, my husband and I were anticipating our annual trip to Port Credit to take part in the salmon run that comes off Lake Ontario into the Credit River. By the first of September, the salmon arrive and so do many anglers. I had sorted through our collection of lures and fish-specific paraphernalia and felt pretty much ready to go. Little did I know then that I’d see no salmon that day.
     My husband had rushed home from work at about 1:30 in the afternoon to quickly cut the grass before we headed out to fish. About 2:30, he came to the back door and yelled, "Quick, quick, get me some Benedryl.” I could see he had some bites on his legs and feet. Thinking they were mosquito bites, albeit very large ones, I gave him the Benedryl itch spray. He then told me that in fact, he had been stung by 4-5 wasps. He thought he should take a couple of Benedryl pills, but I said that it would only make him tired and he'd never been allergic before, right? All I could envision was a drowsy angler trying to stay standing when trying to cast off the banks of the river.

      About an hour later he came in and was very red. His ears looked like slices of liver. Sweating profusely, he took off his shirt and it seemed that he had what looked like mosquito bites all over. I talked him into taking a cool bath and drink lots of water because he was really red and sweating. It was then he took the Benedryl.
      To be cautious, we called Telehealth Ontario, which is a phone in for advice medical line. We spoke with a nurse and she advised we go to emergency. By this time, his face was numb, his lips swollen and those mosquito bites were actually hives, a severe allergic reaction. They were spreading quickly. Good thing the hospital is right up the street from our house!
      He went through triage in the emergency ward quite quickly and within 30 minutes he went behind the closed doors to see the doctor. He still wasn’t out after a half an hour and I thought maybe there was another long wait behind that door. A nurse came to get me. I was shocked to see my dear one in a hospital gown with an IV in his hand hooked to two bags of suspicious looking drips and wires going from his chest to a heart monitor. Seems this wasn’t so simple. He had been given an immediate shot in the upper arm of epinephrine and now he was experiencing the slow drip of a "cocktail" of drugs to settle this thing down.
      He was there for over three hours before they let us go. They warned us to take this very seriously. Seems that once you show an allergy to bee and wasp stings, each episode is cumulative and worsens. This reaction had been “severe” and the next one could be fatal - that he could die if he did not have the proper attention quickly.
      Well, of course, I feel so guilty. I should have given him the pills immediately and maybe it wouldn't have been so severe. There was some information I didn't have. In the spring, cutting the grass in the same area, my husband had been stung before. He did mention this to me, but had left out the part that the neighbour had run over and given him Benedryl!!! She is allergic to stings and gave the pills to him as a precaution. That bit of information would have made a difference to me. When he first asked for the drug, I didn’t even know why he thought he’d need it. Had I known, I would have given it to him immediately. In the hospital, the doctor assured me that if my husband had had the Benedryl at home, it wouldn't have been enough to stop this, the reaction was too severe. But we’ll never know. BUT - note to self..."just do what he says!"
      So we’re calming down now. I’m so thankful this happened here, with the hospital right up the street from our home and not when we were in all kinds of small towns and in remote cottages on our holiday a couple of weeks ago.
      Today, we have epi-pens to carry and the Credit River is still there. The salmon have not all gone away and I’m praying that this is the day that my husband catches the biggest fish of his life!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Time of Blessing

We have had a most wonderful opportunity - a reunion with beloved friends from the Netherlands! Years ago, in a most blessed period of our lives, we lived in the same community on the Sunshine Coast of BC.  Sadly, both our families were compelled to leave that location due to employment and family concerns. In the late 1990's, Our Dutch friends headed back to Europe and we came east to Ontario. We saw each other for 10 short days in 1999, when our family first moved to Ontario. Hans and Jo and baby Liam visited us and we all crammed into a most dismal, upstairs, rental apartment in an old house here in town. As I recall, I had to work most of the time and was just getting over a bout of pneumonia, but we had many laughs none-the-less. We spent Thanksgiving weekend together visiting St.Jacob's and Wasaga Beach. It was wonderful, but altogether too short. 

Over the years we wrote some letters and stayed connected with periodic emails. Last Christmas, Hans mentioned that they'd like to come to Canada once again. Quick plans were made. Shortly after Christmas they called from Holland to tell us that tickets were purchased....a done deal. I had months to plan and wonder what it would be like to reunite with these precious people after 12 years. Liam was now 14 years old. Wow.

I immediately emailed a friend who owns a superb cottage in Muskoka and arranged to rent it for 5 nights. I had only visited it twice, but knew it to be a haven of rest and beauty. My husband and I talked at length about what we could do...and our friends did some research from their end - all of us wondering and dreaming of an Ontario vacation that lay months ahead in August.

And then the day was upon us. We arrived at the airport early and waited and scanned that sizable Pearson crowd for over an hour. And then the doors opened and out they came. Strangely enough, I recognized Liam first. Same dimples! And right behind him, Yo and Hans. Didn't know who to hug first. We all laughed about getting older, but truly, our friends didn't look any different to me. Same smiles, same warmth.

Over the three weeks we were together, we laughed and told stories during, I'm sure, a thousand kilometres worth of car conversation as we scouted out many of Ontario's most beautiful locales - Midland, Penetanguishene, Collingwood, Craigleith, the Cheltenham Badlands, the covered bridge in Westmontrose, Port Carling, Bracebridge, Dorset, Baysville, Huntsville. We took a few boat cruises, did lots of fishing and introduced them to our closest buddies here. We stayed at Jennie and Jim's cottage outside Parry Sound. Both of them were born in Holland, so a smattering of Dutch was spoken around the table. (Not by me....I learned a great word and excuse my spelling - foukschnout - meaning "wrinkled face." It makes me laugh in the mirror as I consider my age -  foukschnout!)

Cheltenham Badlands near Erin.
Lived within an hour of this for years and never knew it existed!

Fishing again! Outside of Huntsville...

Oh Canada!

And a Dutch bakery in Huntsville, I was introduced to Dutch Licorice Chalk, an amazing licorice covered in thin white mint. It looks like pieces of chalk. This has now become my all-time favourite candy. They also brought Strop waffles. What a cookie that is! (I am pleased to report that this can actually be purchased at some Starbucks locations. We saw some in Collingwood.) Yo and Hans made Nasi Goreng and Chicken Satays with cucumber salad - they were always great cooks. And we shared conversations over many meals in local restaurants.

We enjoyed our time at the cottage....highlight being that Hans celebrated a landmark birthday. Cake for breakfast! Hurray! It was a cool and rainy day, so we even lit the fireplace and read and relaxed until Hans took us all out for a great meal in a riverside restaurant in Huntsville. The sun came out to join us.

A highlight was to spend the day in the Niagara region as our son joined the five of us. We rode the Niagara Skywheel and toasted Han's birthday once more at Montana's restaurant where he had to don the dreaded horned hat for a birthday song.

And time again passed quickly...

This was a time of privilege for me. We love our friends. The house seemed decidedly empty the days after they left. We've poured over the hundreds of photos we took and we have dreams of meeting again much sooner...perhaps even next year in the Netherlands!

We are so grateful to the Lord for this reunion.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's Just Too Much - Thursday, July 21

Not in my lifetime, have I seen temperatures like this. Not here. Not in Southern Ontario. I just checked the Weather Network and the humidex is 48 degrees celcius. They said it would get that high today, but I still sit here stupified. My dad called to ask if I thought that God was mad at us. And a sign posted in Markham says, "Satan called. He wants his weather back."  So I ask, what's happening?

Just went out grocery shopping, thinking - I have an air conditioned car. It's an air conditioned store. But the shortness of breath that I don't readily experience testified that being out there is down right perilous. What are the people doing without air conditioning in their homes? I must be kind and invite someone over.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

To See the Minutiae

Lately I've been thinking about life. Life itself. Not the grand questions, not the "meaning of life," kinds of musings, but of living things. When I look across a yellow field of, what is it, canola?, I think of the millions of creatures living in that place - field mice, moles and voles, beetles and bees. Buzzing things and flying creatures, all created for purposes beyond my understanding.

 At my friend's house, all nestled at the edge of the forest, is an oasis of sound. Jays and Pileated woodpeckers, crows and the rustling of the trees themselves, breathing in the presence of their creator. There are not many places in everyday life that are conducive to contemplation. There are no reflection breaks penciled in on the lines of my daytimer. But life is there. It's everywhere. Every tiny creature, like the twinkling fireflies in my yard at dusk, shines for a moment, fulfills its purpose and is gone. I want to see, open my eyes and

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Time to Breathe Again

      Oh, how wonderful to just sit and write once more! The last eight weeks have taken me through a whirlwind of essays and articles, assignments and powerpoints, report cards and graduations! There have been tornadoes of papers in my kitchen and twisters of printouts and handouts landing on every flat surface in the living room.  But time has done what it does best when you're flies! The school year ended in a blaze of tearful grade eight girls and generous gifts of appreciation all round. And in just three weeks, my course of study at Redeemer University will be over.

      Funny how we pressure ourselves into doing and doing, going and going. We were not created to be flying monkeys trying to catch our hats while swinging from tree to tree. In the midst of it all, I've tried to breathe deeply and know that these stresses are causing me to grow. I've conquered some relatively deep fears taking this course. I've felt like an awkward kindergarten child at times. And a forgetful dinosaur too. In a class of young primary teachers, I'm the old one. More experienced perhaps, but definitely not more knowledgeable. I've learned so much from these colleagues. I look forward to implementing new teaching practices. Not just because they're new. But because many of them are truly better. Not just the latest and greatest, but truly better approaches to creating book lovers. And as an Language teacher, that's my goal. So here I am again....writing, thinking out loud. I've sure missed this.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just For A Bit

Dear friends, kind readers,
Life has a way of becoming more than crazy-busy at times and mine has taken this road of late. I am taking a course that adds many hours to an already full work week. It's not forever. It's just for a season, a three month season. And it's good. It's a course that will help me be a better teacher, a better reading teacher...and oh how I want my students to love to read!  That being said, I will take a break from blogging weekly, as I'm sure you've already noticed. Come the end of July, I'll start again, start the discipline of writing regularly. So till we meet again, God bless you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


     After about five solid days of precipitation and giving in to the temptation to just hole up inside the house, it was time to venture out. So Sunday night about 6:30pm, my husband and I decided to go for a drive up to the lake. It's early in the season yet, to pack the car with fishing gear, so we just drove for the sake of driving. It was mostly a silent drive, a peaceful drive, as the radio in my car is broken. We left in light drizzle and about forty minutes into the excursion, the sun peaked through. And behold....a rainbow. A reminder of God's promises and faithfulness. And then we entered the "golden hour' - that time just before sunset until dusk, where everything changes colour. And this is what we saw:

The sky was crimson. After days of grey drizzle, it was all we could do to get pulled over to the side of the road safely and start snapping photos. And it got even more dramatic:

I couldn't help but think about God's glory, His provision, His handiwork. And breakthrough! There are areas in my life for which I need breakthrough. Patterns need to be broken, relationships mended, changes made. And here by the lake I was reminded that He lives and is in charge. The long days of rain will come to an end. He is the God of breakthrough! I look up!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Off to Camp

       Just spent about 30 hours with a bunch of 11-13 year olds at an outdoor camp north of here. It was raining much of the time, but the infectious glee exhibited by these kids was hard to ignore. The noise level, piercing at times, could not be diminished as their seeming freedom from the daily school routine fed the collective din. They loved it. We canoed, ran through the forest playing survival games and worked in teams to solve problems. The affect of this camping experience cannot be measured as yet. This is the stuff of memories.
       I got thinking back about twenty years to when my own son was a young camper….

       When my son was eight, he begged to go to camp, so I enrolled him, almost unthinkingly, at a Pentecostal Camp on Vancouver Island. This resulted in us having to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and drive north to the camp. I don't know what I was thinking. We didn't know anyone who was going to the camp, though my friend and pastor had stayed there in one of the few private cottages and vouched for its reputation. I was a busy mom at the time, and probably longed for some sort of respite from full time mommyhood. A mother of an only child has special challenges. Having to be on all the time...the mom, the companion, the teacher, the friend. I needed a break! And so too, did he need a break from me. We didn't live in a particularly kid-friendly neighborhood in Vancouver, so buddies were not in abundance.  This would give him a much needed opportunity to hang with kids his own age.
        We pulled into the camp and much to my consternation, were advised that they were doing a "lice check" and not to be alarmed. Not the welcome I had hoped for. We were given a cabin number and a counselor's name and we set off to unpack. The camp seemed a little shabby, but my boy was beside himself with excitement. We laid out his sleeping bag on his bunk of choice, toured the grounds and I realized I had to go to catch the return ferry. He looked at me and said, "What do I do now, Mom?" I had no idea. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to grab his hand, pull him close and never let go. I wanted to take him home, tell him I was sorry for every time I showed impatience or ire and just keep him. But instead, I gave him a quick hug, a brush of a kiss and said, "Walk me to the car." I pointed out a group of kids and said, "See you in a week. You know you can call me anytime if you need me. Call me at work, call me at home. It doesn't matter. I love you, love you, love you!" And I let go of his hand. I let go of his hand….I tried not to look in the rearview mirror at that little boy, standing alone in the driveway. But I did. He turned and walked timidly toward the others.
         I cried all the way to the ferry. I cried in the bathroom on the ferry. I felt that strange exhilaration at knowing he was in safe hands and that my schedule was my own for six days, but there was that gut-wrenching guilt at feeling like I had abandoned him.
         It was a long six days. Long. I fought the urge to call until about Thursday. The camp office assured me that I wasn't the only parent who called to check and said he was fine. That would have to do until Saturday at noon, when I'd arrive back to fetch him.
         I didn't know what to expect. Perhaps a cold shoulder, a reproachful glance. But no… he came bounding up to the car with a big kid-made wooden cross on a string around his neck. He talked a mile a minute, recounting all the prayer times, worship services, altar calls. His eyes had a light in them, a new light. I asked about canoeing, and golf and archery and he went on about Jesus. I was humbled. He had been touched and comforted and befriended by the Prince of Peace.
         That was his first experience at that camp and he returned for five more summers after that. As he progressed into the teen years, his experience took on a different dynamic. It was all about friends, then girls, then dates for dances at teen camp. No more wooden cross around his neck, but he did tell of long worship services and encounters with the Lord. He was growing up in spite of me. He was his own person with his own destiny calling. It was so hard to let go. Was then, still is. But I’m grateful for all the help along the way….the teachers, the camp leaders, the youth leaders, and our beloved Heavenly Father, the parent of all.
The Cross...Our Life Saver

Friday, April 22, 2011

What did you say?

Disagreeing, misunderstanding, misreading, not listening, not hearing, debating, squabbling, struggling, tussling, contending, altercating, opposing, disputing, fighting, combating, sparring,  pounding and then...a slugfest, free-for-all, fisticuffs, and all out war!
No matter how you look at it, it takes at least two.
No matter what, there are wounded.
No one comes unarmed.
Snide remarks, nicks, wounds form battle lines
ever waiting, at watch for the signal
and then...
New wounds, confusion, self-doubt, recriminations, mistrust, blood...
Such is life in the trenches of sinful humanity.
But there is ONE who can make a difference.
Drop the weapons. Kick them to the foot of the cross.
Look up.
He's the heart changer. He's our hope.
Look up.

Monday, April 18, 2011

There Are Days and There Are Days

                Being an elementary school teacher, there are days when you think there is not enough money in the world that's worth the noise and heartache. Then there are days when you can't believe you get paid to do it, it's that wonderful. This happened on one of the latter types of days.
        About twelve years ago, I moved from British Columbia to Ontario to take on a new teaching position. I taught a particularly precocious group of grade two students. The Ontario Curriculum required me to teach music. Well, I like what I like, but shamefully, except for about three years of piano lessons that my teacher begged me to quit when I was a preteen, my musical knowledge is limited at best. One of the curriculum objectives states that students, “express personal responses to musical performances.” That seemed easy enough. I came up with a plan.

        Each student was eager to sign up to the “My Favourite Song” program. All they had to do was to bring in a recording of a piece of music near and dear to them, tell why it was notable, and make known which instruments they could hear. I heard raunchy rock music, Inca instrumentals, hoedown music and a smattering of young pop singers. I even was privy to a few children's ditties. I was astonished at the variety of styles.
         Then one day it was my turn. I was all prepared. I started with a recording friends had sent me from Holland. They had taken part in a project called, “War Child,” - a musical fundraiser, to help children from war-torn countries. There were 2500 singers in their choir. I played the recording and the students had to guess how many people were singing. They could easily tell it was more than one, but the first guess was 10 singers and we played the “More Than That” game until we got to 2500. Wonderful.
         Then, in trying to instill in them an appreciation of all types of music, I told them they were about to experience something very special. I was excited to see their first reactions to the Three Tenors: Luciano Pavorotti, Placido Domingo and Hose Carreras singing “Nessun Dorma.” I was careful not to tell the meaning of this dramatic song, which was easy since it was of course being sung in Italian. I just told them the translation of the last line, "At dawn, I will win, I will win, I will win.” I think I told them the hero was going out in battle. As they listened, I allowed them to draw and colour. Crayons waxed along their pages as Luciano belted out the final lines.
         A wonderful little guy, whose mother got me to admit that yes, he DID ask more questions than any other child, said, “Mrs. D.?” I said, “Yes, Mark?” He said, “Well, I like them
- the three guys, but I like the three Stooges better.” I stifled a laugh and asked why. He told me the three stooges were funnier. It was one of the moments that make teaching worth it all. That young family left the school that year to move away and I've always
 wondered if Mark remembers that day. I always will.