Saturday, February 27, 2010

Glass or Glace?

Ottawa is a bi-lingual city, with government services in both French and English. So it seemed logical - when our children were young - to send them to schools where they would have the opportunity to learn both languages equally. When they were 4, all began their bi-lingual education by attending a half-day kindergarten program where they alternated between a French teacher one day and an English teacher the next.

It was a great opportunity to learn French at an early age.... But occasionally linguistic confusions occurred!

One day, when my son came home from kindergarten and I was washing out his snack containers, I noticed some orange liquid in his little thermos.

Why didn't you drink all your juice?
I asked him.

There was glass in it,
he replied.

Glass?!! I panicked. But the thermos is plastic! How could glass get into it?! Are you okay?! I hope you didn't swallow any glass!!

Not that kind of glass, he said calmly.

Then I realized what he was trying to tell me: To keep the juice cold, I had put a few ice cubes into the thermos. He had drunk the juice, but left the ice, which had melted, and now looked like juice.

My son was trying to tell me that he hadn't left any juice in his thermos, he had just left ice. (Ice is "glace" in French, but pronounced the same as "glass" in English!)

(I was reminded of this incident because sometimes on the road, at this time of year, pieces of ice - or "glace" - look just like broken "glass"!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Snowing Again...

We haven't had all that much snow this winter. After the December snowfalls and thaws - which cemented the ground with a layer of frozen snow and ice, we have had occasional light dustings, which kept everything looking fresh and white...

The big snowfalls that hit Washington and other eastern seaboard cities didn't come our way. I had begun walking again ... on some days, it has almost felt like spring! On Sunday, puddles were forming on the sides of the road from melting snow...

But now it is snowing again - every day...

One comfort in late February snow - it rarely lasts that long! It's usually all gone by the end of March... and that is only about 5 weeks away!

Hooray! Winter is almost gone... (I hope!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Haman Cookies

I was wandering around the supermarket, when I spied a once-a-year Jewish treat:

cookies. (In Israel, they are called Ears of Haman. In Yiddish, Haman Taschen or Haman pockets.)

They are made only at the feast of Purim... a Jewish celebration dating back about 2500 years, commemorating how God brought salvation and victory when there was a threat of annihilation. All this is recounted in the book of Esther (found in the Bible).

I had to get some... I mean, they are only sold once a year!

I really didn't need two boxes, but I wanted to try the chocolate filling as well as the prune filling. (I seem to recall that they had ones with poppy seed filling in Israel as well.)

Good-bye diet! Hello memories!

Maybe next year, I should try making my own. I noticed a recipe on the Purim link I posted above. The recipe calls for part wholewheat flour! (So maybe they aren't all that bad for me!)

Here is the recipe, copied from the Judiasm 101 webpage, for anyone wanting to make their own...

Recipe for Hamentaschen

  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (the smooth kind, not the pulpy)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour (DO NOT substitute white flour! The wheat flour is necessary to achieve the right texture!)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Various preserves, fruit butters and/or pie fillings.

Blend butter and sugar thoroughly. Add the egg and blend thoroughly. Add OJ and blend thoroughly. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating white and wheat, blending thoroughly between each. Add the baking powder and cinnamon with the last half cup of flour. Refrigerate batter overnight or at least a few hours. Roll as thin as you can without getting holes in the batter (roll it between two sheets of wax paper lightly dusted with flour for best results). Cut out 3 or 4 inch circles.

Proper folding of HamentaschenPut a dollop of filling in the middle of each circle. Fold up the sides to make a triangle, folding the last corner under the starting point, so that each side has corner that folds over and a corner that folds under (see picture at right). Folding in this "pinwheel" style will reduce the likelihood that the last side will fall open while cooking, spilling out the filling. It also tends to make a better triangle shape.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown but before the filling boils over!

Traditional fillings are poppy seed and prune, ... Apricot, apple butter, pineapple preserves, and cherry pie filling all work quite well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Awesome Things

One of the blogs I follow is entitled 1000 Awesome Things. It's fun to turn to and see what "awesome" detail the young Toronto man who authors this blog focuses on every day - in appreciation of the many joys of life!

I have had a few awesome things happen to me over the past few days... and I have the internet to thank for them! One was reconnecting with two old friends - from my Israel days - via Facebook. I had been the maid of honor at the wedding of one friend 40 years ago! Hearing how they were doing after all this time was truly awesome!

The second awesome thing happened to me the other evening while I was checking my gmail (email) account and reading an interesting online article my daughter had forwarded to me... Suddenly a chat box popped up. (It is possible for two people with gmail accounts to type messages back and forth and "chat" if they happen to be online at the same time.)

There was my son - the traveler - in Geneva... "Hi Mom, Are you there...?" So for the next half hour we "chatted" back and forth, typing questions and answers to each other... It was 5 pm in Ottawa and 11 pm in Geneva - we were 6053 kilometers / 3761 miles apart - yet the text kept popping up with hardly any time lapse between - so fast! It was truly awesome!

Bridging time and distance - connecting me with people from my past (in Israel) and my son (an ocean and a continent away) - the internet is truly awesome!

PS - And if you want to calculate distances between places anywhere in the world, here is a website that is awesome too!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some Thoughts on Dying

Dying isn't a popular topic in blogs I read - and understandably so. Most of us don't like to talk about death, though we may think about it from time to time, especially if we follow the news.

(So if you decide that today's posting isn't for you, I completely understand!)

This past week, I have been thinking about death a little more than usual. A week ago I received a phone call informing me that the 50-something-year-old husband of a cousin had died in an accident. A day or two later, we received an email telling us that the mother of a close friend - in her 80s - was dying. She had been like a second-mother to Terry, and she wanted him to have a part in her funeral.

Thinking of her lying there, knowing her days were numbered, made me reflect on how my father died - suddenly - in the midst of a busy life. At 85, he had gone back to Poland to visit the village where he had lived as a child. There, standing in the cemetery where so many of his relatives were buried, he was ecstatic to be back.

This is where it all began, he told my mother, then added. If I die right now, bury me here where my life began.

Nobody suspected that within a week he would die from bacterial meningitis, and indeed be buried in Europe, where his relatives lived.

I also think of the gentle death of another relative - a woman in her 80s who had returned in her mind to her teenage years. Her life was happy. Her daughter visited her daily, doing her hair and make-up. She still looked lovely. One day at tea-time in the lounge, she put down her tea cup and closed her eyes. Everyone thought she had fallen asleep...

Or the priest here in town, who served communion, sat down in his chair ... and closed his eyes...

There is something beautiful about living a long life to the fullest until the very end end, ... keeping busy until that moment comes...

But that also means being prepared - by being at peace with all, especially those we love. And by striving to make all parting words kind words - in case they are the words we are remembered by...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Asking (the Right) Questions

Questions in a job interview are meant to determine if a candidate is the right person for the job, and also if the job is right for the applicant. Happiness - on both sides - is determined by asking the right questions...

But of course, asking probing questions isn't limited to job interviews!...

When we decided to get married, we really hadn't known each other that long. Perhaps fearing we had made an unwise, rash decision, one of Terry's friends gave us a list of questions couples should ask each other before making that marriage commitment. We rolled our eyes when we saw the list! But we did read it through - and some interesting discussions ensued.

I don't know what happened to our original list - but I found a similar one online. (Most of the questions listed below are taken from it...)

We had already discussed many personal things that were on the list, like...
  • What was your childhood like?
  • Was your family an affectionate one?
  • What values do you want to bring from your family into our marriage?
  • What do you like and dislike about your family?
  • What do you like and dislike about your parents' marriage?
  • What do you like and dislike about my parents' marriage?
But there were others we hadn't broached, such as those concerning finances...
  • Are you a saver or spender when it comes to money?
  • Do you want to have a budget?
  • Should we have a joint checking account or separate accounts or both?
  • Who is going to be responsible for making sure that bills are paid on time?
  • What are our financial goals?
Asking each other these questions probably saved us some anger and heartache in those early years of marriage. In fact, the area of finances - where we found ourselves most at odds - never became an issue after we were married - probably because we had discussed our personal preferences so fervently beforehand.

So now, all these years later, as we embark on a new phase of life - RETIREMENT - with its 24/7 togetherness! - we are again asking each other some of those same pre-marital questions, like...
  • What do we as a couple want out of life?
  • How are we going to divide up the household chores?
  • What are your expectations about how we will spend our free time?
  • Do you believe that we should be doing everything together?
  • Can we each pursue our own interests?
  • Do you need or want time alone?
Because this is REALLY, REALLY different from anything we have ever undertaken. And we want to make sure we're both on the same page!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Music Bridges the Generations

Strange - our tastes in music...

One of my adult kids loves Johnny Cash, a singer who was already popular when I was a child. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash songs on the radio. Even in his old age (when my son became a fan), Johnny Cash was a great performer ... Here he is singing I Walk the Line, one of my favorites.

Ironically, two of my favorite singers are much younger. In fact, they're about the same age as my kids!

My current favorite Canadian singer, Jenn Grant, (from Prince Edward Island) writes and sings her own songs. This video gives a taste of her sound... To listen to my absolute favorite, a song called Morning Break, you have to choose it from the column on the right on this CBC radio website.

And of course, for years I've loved Josh Groban, especially his song, You Raise Me Up...

Is there anything like music to bring the generations together...?!

(Well,... sometimes it does keep them apart!)

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Nutty Cake

I don't make a lot of cakes these days, and when I do, I've developed the habit of freezing at least half. Cake doesn't disappear as quickly as it did when there were 3 kids (and their friends) around to eat it.

Also - since developing type 2 diabetes - I have begun to make my cakes "healthier." I substitute "healthy" flours (spelt and whole wheat) for at least half the white all-purpose flour recipes usually call for. Another "healthy" flour substitute is almond meal (another name for ground almonds). At times, I use roughly one-quarter almond meal, one-quarter whole wheat flour, one quarter spelt flour and (grudgingly) one-quarter white flour in place of all white flour. My cakes are now heavier, denser, but I still enjoy them...

So I was intrigued when I came across this cake which has very little flour in it. Instead, it is full of walnuts, not almonds. But walnuts are good for you, too.

I found the recipe on the blog, Smitten Kitchen. (An adaptation of a recipe on

True to my habit, I substituted whole-wheat flour for the half cup of white all-purpose flour the recipe calls for...

The roasted walnuts are ground up in the food processor together with the sugar - then other ingredients are added! I haven't made a cake in the food processor in ages... It was so easy!

The cake tasted delicious... nutty and buttery... Flavors were enhanced on the second day.

I planned to cut it into squares and freeze it - then add the jam and topping later when I served it to guests ... but (confession time) it didn't last that long. (OK, it was a smallish cake!)

I didn't photograph the finished cake - I planned to decorate it first... But then it was all gone!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

"She vacuums around furniture..."

I'm not a perfectionist when it comes to housework... Rather, I have a comfort level... On a scale of 1 to 10, my tidiness comfort level probably ranges between a 5 and an 8... If our place is too tidy, it feels a little too sterile to me. It definitely doesn't feel like home. (My husband, on the other hand, would like it to be a constant 9 or 10!)

I'm always on the look-out for housekeeping shortcuts. So a few years ago, my ears perked up when a friend commented:"My mother has her own style of doing housework. She vacuums around furniture - she would never think of moving it to vacuum under it... It drives me crazy!"

Vacuums around furniture?! (An interesting concept!) As one who had been taught to lift and move all furniture when vacuuming, this sounded like a dream come true! No longer would vacuuming be a chore! In fact, my vacuuming time would be cut by 50-75%!

(Terry will be relieved to know I didn't adopt the practice.... yet!)

But recently I made a startling discovery...!

We had to buy a new vacuum cleaner. One of the nifty features of this newer model is a red and green light system to tell you when a carpet is clean.

On the beater bar, if dust or dirt are being sucked up, a little light turns red, indicating that the job isn't done yet!

But if no dirt is going into the vacuum, the sensor turns the light green... a sign to move on.

So here is my discovery...! When I vacuum around the sofa, the light initially is red, but when I move the beater bar under the sofa, the light invariably stays green - indicating that there is no dust or dirt to pick up there!

Wow! After all these years of unnecessarily-thorough vacuuming, I now realize that our friend's mother was on to something: on a carpet, at least, dust and dirt build up where we walk - not under furniture!

Mmmmm... This calls for a re-evaluation of my housework habits!

(I can already hear Terry groan!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Decision Updates...

For those who follow this blog - and have been wondering about the various decisions we had to make a few months ago:

1.I did have laser eye surgery, and now - 2 months later - am really happy I did!

2. Terry will be taking early retirement in spring.

3. We got the simple furnace (not the extra-fancy one) and we are very happy with it. It was the right choice.

4. And I paid the parking ticket - Christmas was too busy to add a traffic court date to my TO-DO LIST!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hard to Believe...!

My grandfather, Hugo Bartz, was an amazing story-teller. Often when visitors came, they would begin to talk about bygone years, and the stories and laughter would start...

Grandpa Bartz had a strong memory into his early 90's, but as he approached 100, his memory began to play tricks on him. At times he imagined that he was still a boy living in the Ukraine, waiting for his father to come home for supper.

One of the last times I visited him, he recounted stories I had never heard before... Were they true stories from his past? Or figments of his imagination? I really don't know...

A week or so before our visit, he had told his housekeeper that the Czar of Russia had given him a medal... Where was the medal? So she began to hunt high and low for it. When my mother and I came, she asked my mother if she knew where this medal might be.

What medal? Do you have a medal from the Czar?! my mother asked Grandpa in surprise. She had never heard about it...

Of course. When I was a boy, I played the tuba in a Mennonite band. One day the Czar and his family were passing by on the train going to their winter home in the Ukraine, so the whole band stood at the side of the tracks and played as he drove by. We were all sitting on horses to play. The train stopped and they listened. When we were finished, someone from the train came up to me and asked me how old I was. I was about 12 or 13 - the youngest in the band. I told him my age, he wrote down my name, and a while later I received a medal in the mail from the Czar.

You played with the Mennonites? I asked... And you played sitting on a horse?

Yes, he replied. We sometimes played while the horses walked. Then someone had to walk in front of me holding the music... Sometimes, the horses walked so fast that the poor guy had to run! He could barely keep up!

One time I took the horse home to show my mother. I brought it into the house - and she yelled at me: "Get that horse out of here!"

You brought the horse into the house? I asked...

Yes, when you were issued a horse, you had to keep it with you. You were responsible for it. The horse was smart... It even knelt at the alter in the church...

You took the horse into the church?! I asked, laughing...

Yes, he said. The horse even knelt...

It knelt?!!

And it took communion...

It took communion?!!

That day I left Grandpa puzzled and confused... His stories were so rich in detail, I could visualize them... But could they be true? ... Why had nobody in the family heard about this medal before? And the strange story about horses in church...

Then I remembered the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi in the Catholic Church, where people bring animals to be blessed by the priest. Did the German Lutheran Church or the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine have a feast to bless animals too? I looked it up on google... Yes, there were apparently some ceremonies for blessing both traditions... Was this what he was referring to?

As I looked for more clues about the practice of blessing horses on the internet, I googled "blessing of horses orthodox church." I then came across a travel blog where a visiting North American discovered priests in Romania, who once blessed horses and carts, now bless cars... Suddenly Grandpa's story didn't seem all that far-fetched!

And what about his other story - about his medal from the Czar? Did this really happen to him or was it a story he had heard from someone else? If it happened to him, where did this medal end up? Did Grandpa leave it behind at his parents' home when he got married? Was it abandoned when they fled the Ukraine when Stalin took their land? Did Grandpa have it or did someone in his family - perhaps his mother - take it along? In those hard times, was it perhaps sold?!

I will probably never know!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canadian Medicare: A Day in the Life...

Ever since my 90-year-old mother moved into a retirement residence, she has been keeping so busy with their many activities that she rarely thinks about her aches and pains. But yesterday, when I got home from church, there was a message on the answering machine from a nurse at the residence: My mother had a sore toe and her foot was swollen. It looked infected - so she needed to see a doctor immediately.

Since it was Sunday, I had two options available to me: a walk-in clinic or a hospital emergency room, where xray equipment and labs were on site. I opted for the emergency room, even though I knew it would probably entail a longer wait.

When we got there, dozens of people were waiting to see a doctor - some had cuts, others limped, and a few just looked sick. Most were accompanied by someone, so the waiting room was full. Progress seemed slow for the first two hours - more serious cases had obviously preempted those of us sitting in the waiting room. But then, three groups of people were called into the examining rooms in quick succession, and we were finally seen.

Within 10 minutes a doctor determined that my mother had a fungal infection. She decided to administer a strong dose of antibiotics inter-venously before sending her home with a prescription. This procedure took about an hour, during which time the doctor also disinfected the blister on her toe and bandaged it, sending the fluid from the blister to a lab to have a culture done.

In the meantime, an ER nurse arranged to have a visiting nurse go to my mother's residence and administer inter-venous antibiotics for several more days. A wound-specialist would also visit my mother at home, and we would need to come back for a follow-up appointment.

The cost of all this - absolutely nothing.

(A portion of the tax we pay goes to medicare... so that when we need it, it's there!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

First Impressions

What do Canadian men do? a distinguished-looking Somali man asked me one day in class. The 40-something-year-old had recently arrived as an immigrant from Saudi Arabia, where he had been working in a bank.

What do you mean? I asked.

Well, whenever I go into a bank, I see women everywhere. In Saudi Arabia, I would never see a woman in the bank because there were separate banks for men and women. Men worked in the men's bank - and the women's bank had only female employees. I worked in a men's bank. If I had to give something to a woman employee in the women's bank, I passed it to her through a small hole in the wall. I never saw her. But here - in banks, stores, coffee shops, school, everywhere - I rarely see men. I mostly see women... Where are all the Canadian men?

Where do you think they are? I asked, curious to hear his interpretation of the situation.

I don't know... Are they at home, looking after the children?

I smiled... But he didn't - he was completely serious... So I explained that in Canada, young women often serve the public, so they are the ones you see. But men also work in banks, schools and stores - often behind the scenes, in decision-making positions...

For him, this totally different way of doing things - in Canada - was almost beyond comprehension.

He may someday laugh at his first impressions, just as another student - a young Somali woman - did when she told me about her arrival in North America.

Her husband was supposed to meet her at the airport in New York City, but he wasn't there when she got off the plane. Not knowing what to do, she went over to the information kiosk to try to get help. But she couldn't speak English. The person in the kiosk called over a woman security officer to help her. This security officer was wearing bright red nail-polish - something my student had never seen. So she panicked! Thinking the woman's hands were dripping blood - and having heard of the dangers of New York City - my student assumed that the woman was going to attack her! She was so frightened, she fainted!

What happened next? I asked, laughing.

When I woke up, my husband was there, standing beside me.

I was so stupid, she laughed, recalling the event. I really didn't know anything about life in North America!

Experiencing another culture can be very confusing!

Friday, February 12, 2010

How Long Should I Keep These Boxes?!

(You can never have too many boxes... or can you?!)

I have a hard time parting with boxes... You never know when you might need one! I started keeping shoe boxes when my kids were in school and occasionally needed one for a school project - nothing more annoying that a teacher telling them to bring in a shoe box, and I had just thrown one out...

I no longer have kids needing shoe boxes for projects, but they are a handy size... so I keep them! (plus most of the other boxes I get)

When I took a quilting course, the instructor suggested keeping cereal boxes to use for quilting templates. I don't need that many templates, and we go through a lot a cereal, so I no longer keep them...

I also sell spelling workbooks, so I need sturdy letter size boxes to mail them in.

Then there are the boxes I need to return items in. Whenever I buy something, I need to keep the original packaging in case I need to return the item if it proves to be defective within the warranty period. (They say to return it in the original packaging...) We have been accumulating boxes for years, so - needless to say - there are probably a few we no longer need.

I've started to write the date (and place) I purchased the item on the box. I really should also put the length of the warranty on the box as well. It would save me some aggravation!

Recently I made the very bold move of throwing out some of our boxes on paper recycling day...

I mean - you can't keep everything, can you?! But at the back of my mind, I know that whenever I throw something out, I look for it about 6 months later!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Apricot Fruit Leather

I was wandering through the international food section of our supermarket, when I noticed something I hadn't eaten in years... apricot fruit leather (from Syria)...

Years before fruit roll-ups became popular in North American, this was sold in the Middle East. I first bought it in the Old City of Jerusalem. I think there was another kind, reddish... (plums?) I don't remember...

It comes wrapped in cellophane and is about three times as thick as fruit roll-ups. Each package is a big folded sheet, which you have to cut into serving pieces.

Most surprising of all, it only cost $2.50! I wonder how many apricots go into making a 500-gram (1-pound) bundle?

Mmmmmm... Delicious memories...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who Can I Change?!

I was driving past a neighborhood church, when I noticed their sign:

It made me think of a recent blog I posted on how to change a husband! I concluded that the only person I can successfully change is myself...

But now I'm having doubts about that too! Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to modify my eating habits (also known as dieting...) and I have come to the conclusion that even changing myself... and my beloved habits (like snacking on cookies in the middle of the afternoon for an "energy break") is next to impossible.


These habits are so ingrained! They've become habits because I love them! In other words, I want to change my weight, but not the habits that got me there! I think that reminds me of another blog posting... If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

Ottawa's winter festival - WINTERLUDE - has begun.

Held over the course of three weekends in February, it features (among other things) ice sculptures - made by ice artists from around the world.

Here is a Japanese ice geisha... holding a Canada goose...

It's really hard work!

I'm not sure why anyone would want to labor over a sculpture that will soon melt!

But here are a few we saw...

My personal favorite was this ice cactus made by a Mexican sculptor... It seemed so incongruous! (Do they even have ice in Mexico?!!)

Another interesting one for me was an ice "ogopogo" - the legendary monster in British Columbia's Okanogan Lake.

My parents lived near the lake for over 40 years... but they never did see the real ogopogo (who apparently pre-dates Scotland's Loch Ness Monster).

There were pioneer demonstrations in rope-making...

... and boiling down maple sap to make syrup over an open fire. (Maple syrup really does taste better made that way!)

There was even a gallery of beautiful winter photos ...

... in case you weren't feeling cold enough!

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Motivational Gimmick

Aren't you a little old to be playing games? my husband asked me after reading my blog post, The Power of TEN.

I was taken aback...

But that's what I do, I said. I've done it all my life. It's a motivational gimmick that I use when I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task... I want to do something - but I know I can't do it all in one shot. In fact, I read an article on organization in the newspaper recently that suggests breaking a task down and prioritizing, if it's too large to do all at once.

Well, if it works for you...

You probably don't understand because you're an all-or-nothing kind of person... which is why you procrastinate until you have the energy, determination, stamina - whatever it takes - to do it all...

He nodded, I guess so...

Even after so many years together, we are still trying to figure each other out! And sometimes it's the blog that gets us talking....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Prayer isn't Magic!

I must admit that I have often prayed for something - hoping that it would suddenly (magically?) appear... in an instant (or a very short time, at least). Then everything would be all right... like Cinderella, whose "fairy-godmother" waved her "magic wand" and immediately changed the pumpkin into the fancy carriage, and everything else was different too... (for a while).

But prayer isn't like that. After years of praying for situations large and small, I have come to the conclusion that prayer is often about growth... Sometimes God changes situations or illnesses quickly - and we recognize those miraculous answers to prayer. But, in my experience, prayer more often sets in motion growth that is almost imperceptible - like the slow and steady growth of a tree, with its leaves and branches visible - while the equally slow but steady growth of its roots isn't visible above ground.

We often don't appreciate how large a root-system a plant needs. There was a tornado in Edmonton, Alberta in 1987. We were in Edmonton a month later, and I took this picture of a patch of overturned trees.

What are those tall things sticking up in the air? I asked my aunt who lives there. You said all the trees were overturned.

Those are the roots! she replied.

I stared in amazement: Some were as tall as the trees that the tornado had uprooted! Of course! Tall trees need a strong, wide root base to hold them up!

Sometimes we pray but we don't realize that God is answering that prayer - because we simply can't see the (necessary) changes that are occurring, just like we don't see the growth of the roots - which are holding up the tree.

One of my favorite authors, Catherine Marshall, tells of once writing some prayer requests on egg-shaped pieces of paper, putting them in a book - then forgetting about what she had done. She discovered the prayer "eggs" years later when she opened the book and the slips of paper fell out. As she re-read them, she was amazed to see that every prayer had been answered. (I should probably add that this "exercise" was part of a workshop on prayer that Catherine attended, where the point of the exercise was to visually remind oneself that some answers to prayer take time... She tells of it in the chapter "The Waiting Prayer" in her book, Adventures in Prayer.)

For me, keeping a prayer journal helps me remember what I have prayed about. Re-reading it years later, I am amazed at how the prayers were answered - often in ways I could never have imagined.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Helping Those Visually Impaired

My three weeks (more or less) of impaired vision after having PRK laser surgery for vision correction taught me a lot about what others must go through when their vision diminishes.

I remember a friend who had visited his mother - and been horrified with the dirtiness of the kitchen sink and counter. It was very unlike her.

It's as if she can't see the dirt, he said.

Maybe she couldn't! Changes to the eye can cause impaired vision. I know! Those first few weeks, before my vision improved, I wouldn't have been able to see dirt either!

What to do? Well, an eye test - and a physical - would the the first steps, in order to determine if vision is the problem... And if it is, try to fix it...

If someone really can't see all that clearly, perhaps they need a helping hand with their cleaning.

I also realized, at that time, that my cookbooks - with their fine print - were useless to me. I needed enlarged printing to read any recipes. Had I been facing long-term vision impairment, and still wanted to cook, a personalized cook book - perhaps favorite recipes printed up in large font in a binder would have been a wonderful gift. Most recipes are available online and could be copied from a recipe website, such as Recipe Link (my personal favorite) and then enlarged before printing.

Also measuring cups with large, clear measurements marked on them are essential!

As an aside, when I refer to my laser vision correction, I usually specify PRK because it takes longer to heal than some other methods of correction, such as Lasik. I needed PRK because my eyes needed a lot of correction. Had I been teaching, I would have needed at least a month off work ... A detail I didn't know when I decided to have it done!

That first month, I went through moments of doubt, when day after day my vision only improved marginally. But now - after almost 2 months - everything has healed well and my vision is really clear. I definitely have no regrets! In fact, for me, it's a dream come true!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


There aren't enough hours in a day - daylight hours, at least. The dawn starts to break just before 7 am and by 6:30 pm it is pitch dark outside.

It gets dark sometime between making supper and tidying up the dishes... I know because last night after supper, I mentioned going out for a walk... but when I looked out the window, it was completely dark.

I have been trying to get outdoors to walk a little more. There is something relaxing about walking and talking. Thoughts flow. (And according to some magazine articles, pounds begin to come off!) A few good reasons for going for an evening walk!

I particularly enjoy leisurely after-supper walks. They are a way of winding down after a busy day. When my kids were younger and still living at home, if I ever asked them what was happening at school or with their friends, they would invariably say: Nothing... But if one of them went for a walk with me, we'd talk... And they'd share bits and pieces of their day - it would spill out naturally as we talked. Walking provided a way of staying in touch.

Now that our February weather has quieted down to calm, cold - and occasionally sunny - days, walking for an hour or so would be fun. If I put on a warm winter jacket and boots, there is nothing that should keep me from going for a walk... except the fear of slipping on ice(!) and ... the lack of daylight (which increases that risk!)

So for now, I guess I'll have to do my walking during the day, when Terry is at work. Maybe I'll even go to an interesting shopping area where the sidewalks are sure to be cleaned off... and where my biggest risk is buying something I don't need!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Power of TEN

TEN has been a motivating force for me as long as I can remember HAVING TO DO things. When (as a child) my mother used to give me the clean-up ultimatum - You can't go out to play until your bed is made and your room is tidied! - (after the initial disappointment of realizing that I will probably never see my friends again, as it will take me 100 years to clean up my room!) I used to motivate myself by telling myself: Okay, just do 10 things! Put away 10 things.

Counting them down gave me a sense of accomplishment - and often made a difference in the way my room looked. Sometimes, TEN things made such a difference that my mother let me go! At other times, I got so caught up in my little game of TEN that I just kept working...

As a student, having to read a less-than-interesting text, I'd say: Just read 10 pages...

As a teacher faced with a pile of assignments to mark, I'd tell myself: Just do TEN now and TEN after supper and TEN in the morning...!

And I must confess that at times I still play that game with myself... When tidying off my desk looks like a daunting task, I sometimes tell myself: Just put away 10 things today, and 10 tomorrow.

I know TEN will make a difference... and will eventually get it all done. So today, as I look around me at the many jobs around the house I could do, I think I'll aim to do just TEN!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Tree Comes Down

This Manitoba maple at the back of our yard had worried us for years, situated as it was under the electric and telephone lines. Would it bring down the lines in an ice storm? we wondered every winter. We knew it was rotting. A tree-specialist confirmed that in a year or two it would be unsafe to climb.

Time to let it go...

Last Saturday I watched with fascination and amazement as a skilled young tree-cutter climbed into it, and proceeded to carefully delimb it - so that none of the branches would get caught in the wires - and the trunk could be safely cut down.

I spent much of the day staring out the window, watching the young man approach the challenge like a puzzle - which piece should come off next?

I snapped dozens of pictures through the window as he worked patiently for hours.

Before removing each limb - cutting off pieces bit by bit, he had to trim off all the branches. He rigged up a pulley system to lift each piece over the wires.

He needed the agility of a mountain climber...

And no fear of heights!

Finally - hours later - the trunk was cut down...

We will miss its green leaves in the spring, but are relieved it is safely down... Now to get rid of the wood!