Friday, May 29, 2009

Today I Threw My Friend Dini’s Coat in the Garbage

Dini and I were part of a crew of four women cleaning up a few things in Georgina’s apartment. Once in a while Georgina needs a few women to help her get her place in order. The person who arranged our clean-up duty, conveniently happened to be somewhere else.

“You know, I won’t be there,” she sheepishly admitted when she recruited us.

Next time, I'll be the recruiter.

We were ruthlessly going through Georgina’s second bedroom, tossing some things in the garbage, sending some things to the laundry and putting other things in donation bags. I volunteered to bring the garbage to the garbage room. Carelessly I swept up Dini’s $90 coat (all the more valuable because she only paid $10 for it) and included it with the garbage pile.

As we were leaving, Dini asked, “Marian have you seen my blue coat? It has a hood.”

I knew immediately where to look.

I’m glad Dini is good-natured, but I’m still blushing.

Yes, next time I'll be the recruiter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Robin With Big Plans

Outside the kitchen sliding door where Doug and Joel are building us a new deck, we saw...

...a robin with its own building plans. The robin hijacked the string used to line up the deck's foundation. Is this the beginning of an elaborate nest?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

13 Fruits of Blooming

1) An acquaintance from Owen Sound emailed to say, “I just finished reading your book-- BLOOMING--and thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me laugh and it made me cry and it has also challenged me to be more open about my faith. I admire your honesty and openness. Your willingness to share some very personal stories is commendable.
2) A relative told me reading my book makes her want to pray.
3) Blooming was product of the week at Virtual last week.
4) John Arnott invited me to be his guest at the I Need More Conference at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. For me this turned out to be one of the most fantastic conferences ever—healings, impartations and just plain drunkenness.
5) Several people told me they are reading Blooming for the third time.
6) A writer friend phones regularly to share her writing and we pray for each other.
7) My mother-in-law bought a copy of Blooming to put in her church library.
8) Blooming is part of Word Alive’s Great Canadian Authors promotion in over 60 bookstores across the country.
9) My daughters and daughter-in-law all enjoyed reading the book.
10) I’ve joined The Word Guild and am making new friends.
11) I’ve joined Facebook and reconnected with lots of friends and acquaintances.
12) Phyllis was healed after reading Blooming and deciding that if God could do it for me, He could do it for her.
13) My Grade 4 teacher reintroduced herself to me and bought a signed copy of Blooming.

Do You Want to Read a Thought-provoking, Disconcerting and Well-written Story?

She walked with a slight shuffle, her long pleated dress swishing against the backs of her round calves. Her curly hair was black but had a purplish tinge when it caught the light a certain way, betraying t... (continue at Boerishbwoy)

Monday, May 25, 2009

How to Buy That Perfect Dress

This story is dedicated to my friend Ellie
who likes shopping as much as I do.

Shortly after Amanda was born, Marty looked at the unbecoming bulge still camouflaging my waist and announced, “You deserve a new dress. Go out and get one...when your weight goes down.”

Now I like a new dress as much as the next woman, but when my weight went down I didn't rush out to buy one. The truth is I dislike shopping: I hate looking for things on racks; I can never remember my size; I don't know prices; and I don't like trying on clothes in those little cubicles they call dressing rooms.

The only way to make shopping bearable is to invite along a helpful friend. Most of my friends love shopping so it's not difficult to get someone to come along. Even so, I was quite content without the new dress; thus after several months the shopping trip was still only a vague notion.

But then on my birthday I got a card from Marty, who really likes to see me in a new dress. It said “You are hereby entitled to buy one (1) new dress.”

I gently reminded him that I was already entitled to one new dress for losing the weight. Now I would have to go out and buy two new dresses.

I figured I better get this bit of shopping over with or I might get a new dress for Mother's Day, our wedding anniversary and Christmas. On paper, Marty could go on giving me new dresses; and as long as he kept giving me new dresses which never quite materialized, he probably wouldn't be giving me anything else–-like a microwave or a dishwasher.

I immediately got on the phone to my trusty friend, Marnie. She understood my dilemma and took me to the mall.

In the first store the dresses were too old womanish. The second store was aimed at young girls. I would have walked right by the third store for everything I could see from the entrance was either bright red, black or white: colours too bold for my complexion, but Marnie pulled me into the back of the place to the softer spring colours.

We had come to the right establishment. The saleswomen informed us of the store's super buy-one-get-one-free sale.

Marnie took control. “What size are you?”

“Fourteen,” I guessed.

We proceeded to pick a pile of mix and match items in size 14.

The saleswomen noting the half dozen articles I wanted to try on, quickly waived the rule about only allowing three items in a dressing room at one time. She must have seen that we were honest and serious buyers.

To my delight, everything we picked was one or two sizes too big. It's much nicer to go into a dressing room with clothes that are too big than to begin with a size too small. I suppose this works on the same principle as Jesus's teaching about not picking the most honoured position at the banquet.

There was no mirror in the dressing room: it was out in the store. This must be so the sales staff can help you buy things. As I twirled in front of the mirror everyone nodded approval. Marnie was saying, “You wouldn't know she has five kids.” My ego soared.

The saleswoman waited several seconds to say, “You have the skirt on backwards.” My ego landed with a plop.

I tried on various combinations. We agreed I should buy a skirt, matching top, jacket and walking shorts. (Don't ask me how the shorts got involved.) That's when I began seriously looking at prices.

The prices seemed high, but then again at this kind of a sale in which you buy one item and get one free, the higher the price, the better you feel about the free part. I mean a free $10 pair of shorts doesn't feel nearly as wonderful as a free $60 pair of shorts.

The bill came to $200.

Marnie gasped.

The saleswoman explained, “It's the tax.”

Then as she carefully pushed the articles into a bag, she quietly mentioned, “These are non-returnable.”

I bought them anyway. I liked the things and figured one good outfit was the same as two dresses. Besides I had done enough shopping.

I modelled the clothes for Marty that evening and thanked him for the presents. He thought I looked stunning.

The next night we happened to be going out to a play. I proudly put on the new outfit. There was a certain distinction about the clothes that spoke of me as a women of means.

Before we could get out the door, Baby Amanda spit up on the jacket. There are plenty of ways to keep a person humble.

Next pruned story

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Striking the Ground

"Then he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, Strike on the ground. And he struck three times and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him and said, You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had destroyed it. But now you shall strike Syria down only three times. II Kings 13:18,19 Amplified

Until very recently, when I read these verses, I suspected this to be a royal set-up. I thought Elisha (on behalf of God) was asking the king to do something totally asinine: hit the floor repeatedly with a quiver of arrows. How stupid is that? The king didn't want to damage his arrows. Arrows aren't made for that kind of abuse.

Thanks to the book Manifestations & Prophetic Symbolism by John Arnott, I now realize when the instruction is taken in context with previous verses, Elisha (on behalf of God) is asking the king to strike the ground with the arrows by shooting them from his bow through the open east window. Totally obvious, Duhh.

How often do we misinterpret the Bible?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

10 Things Steeltown Toastmasters has Done for Me

Now that our season is winding down, it's time to review what Toastmasters International and specifically The Steeltown Club has done for me this first year as a member. Thanks to Toastmasters:

1) I've made new friends whose company I thoroughly enjoy.

2) I've gained confidence speaking to an audience.

3) I've acquired skill at impromptu speeches.

4) I've learned how to evaluate others' speeches.

5) I've become a better listener.

6) I've learned how to best organize a speech.

7) I've learned how to use gestures, facial expression, and eye contact.

8) I've experimented with vocal variety.

9) I'm becoming comfortable with visual aids.

10) I've practised using speeches to inspire and to persuade.

I am definitely signing up for a second year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Would YOU Buy a Book By This Woman?

According to those who know, a writer must be able to promote her own book. Nobody has time to read even 1/10,000th of the books available. Bookstores don't have room to present all the published works. Thus potential readers will need help discovering my book.

I must present my work and myself. A good impression is what I'm after. That is why I tried to sign up for an image consultation at The Word Guild's upcoming Writer's Conference. I say 'tried' because there was only room for six consultations and I was the seventh in line.

So, I am going with an alternative. I am posting my picture here and soliciting your honest opinions. Would you buy a book by this woman? At her age? Married to that man?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Needed: a Saviour

Marty rushed out the door this morning with one instruction, “Figure out how to get that mouse.” He grinned because he knew any mouse, dead or alive, had the power to transform me into a screaming idiot.

He looked at my terrified face and apologized, “I'm sorry,” he said, “but I have to be in London today.” He kissed me and was gone.

The kids followed him out, off to their various schools. I was alone, except for the mouse which I could hear scratching under the dishwasher.

This mouse had eluded us for days. Michelle had sighted its tail disappearing under the fridge early one morning. She called it a rat.

On the kitchen floor we set a trap with a hunk of cheese. He robbed it. The next night we tried peanut butter. He licked it clean.

Last night we tried cheese again. This morning the trap was gone and we could hear the scratching. When I listened carefully, I could also hear the little steel bar dangle and click against the wood of the trap. I didn't relish spending the day with a dying mouse.

I cautiously shone a flashlight under the dishwasher. Then with a fork taped to an old curtain rod I warily pulled out a pine cone, and a variety of coloured balls. I still couldn't see the mouse or the trap. The scratching continued.

I turned on the loaded dishwasher and tried to forget the mouse. An hour later I unloaded the clean dishes. The scratching continued.

Then I noticed three screws holding the dishwasher to the counter top. I unscrewed them and tugged at the machine. It rolled easily toward me. My stomach churning, I desperately wished for someone to come to my rescue.

I decided to just take a peek and then quickly shove the dishwasher back in place until a braver person (like Marty) came along. I eased the machine completely out from under the counter and peered behind it. There was nothing there. I started to relax. Then I heard the wooden trap dragging. I screamed. A mouse no bigger than my thumb scampered across the kitchen floor with a trap attached to his very long tail.

I escaped to the family room, hyperventilating and chatting inanely to myself. The mouse fled under the fridge but the trap, a little too large, wedged at the fridge door.

Amanda would be coming home from junior kindergarten in half an hour and here was a mouse with his tail in a trap blocking the way to the refrigerator. Our lunch was in there.

I cringed and gasped and tried to calm my pounding heart. The hairs on my arms were standing straight up.

I tried to think logically. What could be the worse case scenario? That the mouse escape? No, that I die of fright.

I carefully squeezed the barbecue tongs around the trap. Then I pulled the trap, mouse and all, across the floor. His little legs gyrated futilely as he tried to run the other way. I got him out across the deck and onto the grass. I dropped a rock on the trap. I'd let Marty deal with him later.

For me, mice are like sin. I absolutely need a Saviour.

go to next pruned story

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Christians Come Out of the Closet (I Blush ...)

"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:26 NIV

In church on Sunday we were reminded of the above truth. If you had the cure to the Swine Flu, would you keep it to yourself? If you are a Christian, you have the key to eternal life. Are you ashamed to share it?

I Blush to Tell You This

Early each morning of our camping holiday, as the sun was just pulling itself over the horizon, I would slip out of our tent, grab the Bible and head over to the rocks for my hour of morning devotions.

Up on the rocks among the trees in Muskoka at 6 a.m. is the perfect place and time to commune with the Lord; that is, unless a night rain drenches the rocks.

Thus, on one rather wet morning instead of sitting on wet rocks (slapping mosquitoes), I strolled along the road praying. I carried my Bible with me. The cool morning air made me grateful for the bulky green sweatshirt I had pulled on over my other clothes. As I wandered, the quiet country road led me past “Group of Seven” scenes: rocks, trees, bushes, water and muskeg. I thanked the Lord for the beautiful wild country.

My prayer changed abruptly where the road dipped through a patch of muskeg. That was where the flies attacked. First one, then two and then a whole swarm of them, circled my head, dive-bombing my face and hair. These were relentless little invaders with broad triangular wings and striped bodies—bigger than houseflies, smaller than horseflies, and peskier than both.

The flies had me swinging my arms, swatting wildly at the air and running. You might call it fly-induced aerobics. My prayer was reduced to a single plea: “Lord, get these flies out of my life.”
Because they seemed only interested in my head, it occurred to me to take off my sweatshirt and tie it up around my head into a turban. Now the flies could buzz and dive-bomb as much as they pleased; I couldn’t hear them as my ears were covered, I couldn’t even see them because they didn’t bother coming down past my strange lopsided turban.

Finally, back at my devotions, I thought I would read a Psalm, a praising one. As I opened my Bible, I noticed a pick-up truck driving up behind me. Immediately I felt embarrassed—but not because I was wearing a large green bundled-up shirt on my head with a swarm of flies buzzing around it. I had actually forgotten that for the moment. I was embarrassed because I was walking along the road reading the Bible—God’s Word.

So I discreetly closed the book and continued walking nonchalantly along. Three vehicles: two trucks and a car whizzed by, one after the other on that otherwise lonely quiet road. A rooster couldn’t have crowed louder.

I instantly realized what a fool I was. I felt totally stupid and ashamed of myself.

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory...” Luke 9:26a.

If you are a Christian, you have the answer to eternal life. Are you keeping it to yourself?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In Honour of Tami

Yesterday my friend Tami and her daughter Sara dropped in for a surprise visit. We don't see Tami and Sara too much since they moved to Walkerton, where Tami bought a house, found work and joined that community. Tami is a remarkable woman. So, on this Mother's Day I want to honour her. She is a single mother, who has faced numerous challenges as she brings Sara up to love and serve the Lord. I am tempted to say she has done this single-handedly, but no, she knows she does it with the strength, wisdom, insight and favour the Lord gives her. So, have a wonderful Mother's Day Tami. Love you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

PS# 4: A Puppy Only a Maker Could Love

We all know people with magic fingers. They are able to craft beautiful objects from the most ordinary material. With a flick of the wrist they can transform a toilet paper roll and a piece of fluff into a shining angel.

There are people who demonstrate the virtues of a glue gun. A dab here, a dab there and presto–a lovely wreath or doll or silk flower arrangement materializes.

I am not one of these people. I have never used a glue gun without burning myself. I can't put down a paint brush without leaving paint on my hands, in my hair or on my clothes. My attempted handicrafts have a bedraggled, waifish look with wrinkled ribbon, misplaced lace, and dripping glue.

So why do I bother? God gave everyone different talents, right? Well, most often I steer away from craft making, but every year when the Christian school bazaar comes around, a voice (my husband's usually) tells me I should craft a contribution. I try to stick to rug hooking or embroidery–something with simple explicit instructions. Then I simply follow the pattern, concentrating on even stitches. My product looks quite good until I get to the finishing procedures. The directions tell me to bind ends, attach beads, mount, frame or simply finish off. But how?

Instinct fails me. Consequently my masterpieces are finished in creative and original, if not neat, ways. This was never a problem at the school bazaar in the community where we used to live. True friends would purchase my works, touch them up and kindly display them in their homes.

Moving to a new community changed that. The people here didn’t recognize my crafts as essentially beautiful or even as needy causes. Last year, in this community, my rug-hooked, puppy-wall-hanging was tossed onto a craft table where it buried itself beneath knitted slippers and cute baby sweaters.

I was tempted to buy the forlorn thing myself, but it was priced at $15 and who would touch it up for me?

One year later at the Christian School bazaar, I casually scanned the craft tables, hoping my puppy would not still be there. When I couldn't find him, I assumed someone must have adopted him.

But no, it was not so. Late in the afternoon as I toured the white elephant room where the tables were piled high with junk, I discovered my puppy. I humbly bought him for 50 cents and hung him in my back hall where I pass him every day. Every day he looks at me sadly and I smile sadly back.

I miss my old friends.

go to next pruned story

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mrs. Z. Goes to the Hospital

Yesterday 96-year-old Mrs. Z. went to the hospital in an ambulance. Her back was so sore she could barely walk; her eyes, so dim she could hardly see; her appetite, so sparse she scarcely ate. She'd been living rather capably on her own since her husband died in the 70's. That is until the last year. The people she had come to rely on to buy things for her, take her places and help her read labels had each been telling her about senior's residences. When I foolishly mentioned "nursing home," I think she wanted to kill me.

Her main objection to such places, "I would die there."

She was right of course.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Do I Treasure?

When our 24-year-old daughter Michelle offered to pick up her little sister Amanda and her van-load of belongings from McGill at the end of the school year, Marty and I were pleased. This meant a mini-holiday for Michelle, bonding time for the sisters, one less thing for my accountant-husband to fit into the April tax season, and one less trek for me.

When Michelle phoned home to say she and her friend had arrived safely in Montreal late the previous evening, but she had “scratched and dented the van,” we were not quite as pleased. There had been a little altercation with a cement wall in a parking lot. “The door still works,” had been Michelle’s observation to her dad over the phone.

“‘The door still works’ sounds like more than a scratch,” noted Marty after he got off the phone.

Four days later when they pulled into the driveway, I happened to be standing at the front window, looking out. (This was precisely ten minutes from the time Amanda phoned to say they were ten minutes away.) It was a long scratch.

Amanda, who we hadn’t seen for two months, and Michelle, who had suffered a sleepless night before the phone call, hopped out of the van. What were they wearing? Were they smiling? I don’t know. For as Amanda so observantly observed, “You looked at the van before you looked at me.”

Sunday, May 3, 2009

PS # 3: Do I Deserve This Parking Ticket?

Whenever I get a parking ticket, I feel injustice has been accomplished. Oh, I agree a city with limited space needs parking regulations. I have never parked too close to an intersection or a fire hydrant (unless, I didn’t see it). I have always put enough money in the meter (unless I forgot). I try to be a conscientious law-abiding citizen.

Tickets should be for those who refuse to put money in the meter, park in no-parking zones on purpose, or block traffic by double parking. Why do I get ticketed? One slip of memory and I’m caught.

For example when I went downtown to buy music theory papers for nine-year-old Angela’s piano lessons, I neglected the meter for mere minutes....

That particular afternoon I had no more than three children in my charge and a car at my disposal. The yellow pages told me there were several sheet music stores right in my neighbourhood. When we arrived at the nearest music shop, Brenda (the chunky two-year-old I was babysitting) was fast asleep. I untangled her from her car seat and lugged her out. There was still time on the parking meter from the previous parker.

My own children, Paul (5) and Michelle (3) questioned: "Where we going, Mommy? Why? Is it here?" I attempted to answer them as we approached the music shop door which was locked.

I could see Angela’s theory papers on a display rack, but a sign in the window told me to come back at 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. I would have three more children and fourteen other things to do.

I buckled us back into the car, all the while explaining to Paul and Michelle where and why. We headed for the other address on my list. Brenda was still sleeping. I parked in a side street where there weren’t any parking meters. I untangled sleeping Brenda and lugged her out once more. Paul and Michelle continued to appreciate up-to-the-minute reports on what we were doing. This time we couldn’t find the door to the music outlet. I asked in a radio and TV place where a man sent us upstairs, but said there was probably no one there. He was right.

On the way to the car, I found a phone booth. With sleeping Brenda propped up on the ledge inside the booth, I searched the yellow pages. I noted a promising ad, but the address was downtown. Oh well, why not?

In the car I looked up the address on my trusty map, carefully studying the direction arrows (downtown was a maze of one-way streets), and planned my route.

I drove right to the store and only had to circle the block twice before I spotted an ideal parking place on a side street. There was a meter; "I’ll feed it a quarter," I thought as I wheeled into place. That would be better than paying two dollars at a parking lot.

I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I untangled sleeping Brenda for the third time and headed for the shop. Paul and Michelle continued to demand minute-by-minute reports. We found the store; we found the theory papers; we headed back to the car. Brenda woke up. She wanted to walk. We ambled along.

We were at the corner of the street where I had parked, when it dawned on me that I hadn’t actually put my quarter in the meter. At that same moment the kids discovered a bench that had to be climbed. I looked up the street–-sure enough, there was an officer with a clipboard standing by my car, writing.

I glanced at the kids who were enthralled with the bench, left them, and ran toward the officer. He was an old fellow who looked at me helpfully as I breathlessly explained I had just remembered the meter and had run back to give it its due.

"Which car is it?" he asked as he looked at the two cars he was concerned with.

"The station wagon."

"Sorry, it’s already written up." He showed me the ticket. "I can’t do anything about it. But, you’ll be okay here for the rest of day, now," he offered.

I felt like one of the five foolish virgins. I wanted to kick the man, or scream or at least kick the car.

Instead I remembered my abandoned children and ran back, hoping they hadn’t been kidnapped. They hadn’t and were ready to leave the bench.

When we got to the car, the officer was gone but the ticket was there on my windshield. In my mind I swore. I strapped the kids into their seats and looked at the dumb thing; six dollars; that’s more than I gave the Cancer Society; it’s more than I paid for the theory papers. I hated paying for nothing. It wasn’t good stewardship. I was sorry I swore.

I asked myself, "How should a Christian deal with a parking ticket?" I could consider it a lesson learned, but I already had that lesson the last time I forgot to feed a meter.

What would Christ do? He would find a coin in the nearest fish and move on.

Pay it, Marian, and take care of your kids.

Next Pruned Story

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gushing Goma's Grandkids

Aren't they adorable?

Photos are courtesy of Karen Angela Langelaar at Our Local Pond