June 2008


What a wonderful weekend. It was really, really nice.

Carter and I spent the entire day in town at the Summer Solstice Festival. I have not been for a few years and as I said before, I was hoping it would be good for Carter’s sake. It was fabulous. We got there at about 10:00 a.m. and I had to drag Carter away at 8:00 that evening. There were some really entertaining children’s performers, there were other kids to play with, the weather was FANTASTIC, and there was a food court area that sold cheese strings for fifty cents. Carter has been quick to tell everyone that he was allowed to drink TWO cans of pop. It was really great. Really.

I just hung out, listening to the music, visiting a bit, and people-watching. My favourites were a man and woman who (I think) must have been from out of town. At least I have never seen them before. They had blankets and a cooler, and they settled in for the day. They seemed to really enjoy the music, they each had an afternoon nap, and when the reggae band played they got up and danced in the street. There were others dancing, but they were all girls or women, dancing alone or in groups. My couple was the only couple out there. They kind of hung out on the edge of the “dance floor” (which was a blocked off section of Main Street), and just grooved out to the music. He was blind, so they stayed close to each other and danced in the way that people who are really comfortable with each other and with music do. I loved watching them.

I dragged Carter to a book reading by Sharon Butala. He did pretty good. It is very important to be quiet at a booK reading. I was able to listen to all of the reading, but had to leave before the question and answer time. Ms. Butala read from her new book, the name of which I can’t remember and I am too lazy to look up. It’s a true crime story about a woman that Sharon went to High School with in Saskatoon, who was later murdered. The crime was never solved. Very compelling. I am currently reading a collection of short stories by Sharon Butala called Queen of the Headaches.

On Sunday, Carter and I picked up Nathan and Clayton and drove down for church at the Trail Ride. Another lovely day, and a beautiful service. Lynn Anderson led us in Communion, and Grady King spoke after. I was “amening” in my heart all morning. Lynn was talking about the vital role of communion, as an activity of community and fellowship, and as a remembering of the blood of Jesus. Things Lyndon and I (Lyndon especially) have been talking about lately. Communion seems to get lost sometimes in all of the other worship activities we partake of on Sunday morning. Lynn also talked about simplicity, a topic so dear to my heart. I would have loved to hear more from him about that.

Grady shared a beautiful lesson, drawing on his own experiences from his past. He shared the things he had learned from his own abusive father, mainly that only God could free him from the bitterness and anger that would be the natural result of his background. Again, I would have loved to have heard more.

The down side of the weekend, of course, was that I hardly saw Lyndon and now he is gone again. I think he is going to bring the boys down to the Ladies Trail Ride next weekend, and just hang out and help. So I might catch up with him a bit then!

And, sadly, our friend Darcy received news yesterday that his mom has had a massive heart attack. She is on life support in Regina, and the family is gathering there. Many prayers, Darcy and Toos, and your family.

My big boys have gone with their dad to the annual Christian Men’s Trail Ride. Lyndon got home last night about 6:00 and they left about 6:30. Threw the tent, sleeping bags, and saddles in the back of the truck and they were off. So, hello and goodbye, Honey.

That means it is just Carter and me. We rented a movie last night, Scoobie Doo 2, and got some junk food to go along with it. So that was our evening. Today we are going into town for the Gravelbourg Solstice Festival. The boys and I have built it up quite a bit, so that Carter would not be too disappointed about not being able to go on the Trail Ride. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Tomorrow, Carter and I will zoom down to the Trail Ride for church. Should be quite a crowd for that. And yesterday (pause to pat myself on the back) I started an outline for my talk next weekend at the Ladies’ Trail Ride. Nothing amazing, but its a start. Thanks to those who responded to my SOS regarding ideas about replacing a covetous attitude with an attitude of contentment. Any other ideas out there, bring ’em on.

I’ll tell you what I am coveting lately — a riding lawn mower. I have been pushing all week, and while I appreciate the exercise, I would love to have a riding lawn mower to zoom around on (or have the boys zoom around on). And, I admit, there is a little “what do people think” in there too. Our little farm is right on the highway, so people see it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. And all of our neighbours are very good at keeping their grass cut and their trees cultivated. So there you have it, my confession for today. But you know what, even though there is more grass to cut, I am going to leave it all behind and take my little boy into town for the Solstice Festival. Maybe I can fit in an hour or two of pushing when I get home. And maybe not.

A couple of days ago I left the kids home for awhile and ran into town to do a few things. When I got back, Tyson said there had been a phone call from “someone who said they were a friend of yours”. Whoever it was had said she would be at the pool that evening with her kids and would like us to join them. Of course, Tyson couldn’t remember her name. “It sounded something like Heather,” he thought.

Hmmm. Who could the mystery caller be? Turns out it was my friend Lara (sounds nothing like Heather?) and her children. We had a good visit while the kids played. Lara is one of those people, you probably know some too, who’s daily ordinary life is an inspiration. She lives humbly and walks with the Lord.

So… this is where my head is at these days. I am still reflecting on the book of James. Some friends and I recently shared thoughts about this book after spending some time in study. Definitely lots to ponder there. But James wasn’t really about “mulling it over”; he was all about “getting on with it”. Which I appreciate. He is blunt and to the point. It’s not good enough to think about it, know it, believe it. You gotta get in there and do it.

Of course, that begs the question: Do what?

The best answer I have come up with: Just do the next good thing.

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This is where my head is supposed to be at… I am one of the speakers at the annual Christian Ladies Trail Ride next weekend. My topic is “Replacing a Covetous Attitude with an Attitude of Contentment”. I am FREAKING OUT about this. I haven’t done any public speaking for a long time and, to be honest, I question my ability to come up with something to say that will be of value to those who will be listening. My respose to this challenge, so far, has been procrastination. Yeah, I know, not very productive.

So, if ANYONE has ANYTHING to contribute to this topic, please feel free to inundate me with your wisdom.

Yesterday, the boys and I drove to Regina. It turned out to be a lovely and full day. We met Mom and Dad for lunch. My two aunties from Weyburn and one of their friends also came, and we had a nice lunch and visit. We went to Chapters after that, and I bought the book Into the Wild, which I have been wanting to read ever since I saw the movie. Then, back to the Southland Mall where Mom and Dad kept an eye on the kids and I got my hair cut (yeah!!). The hair stylist did one of those flip things with it that makes me feel like a Barbie doll, but it was still nice to get it cut.

The boys and I piled into the back of Mom and Dad’s rental car, and we drove over to visit Bernard and Carole Straker. Carole is very ill with cancer, which is why Mom and Dad flew down from Calgary for a couple of days. Carole had been in the hospital for a few weeks, but yesterday was able to go home and so that is where we went to visit. It was a beautiful thing to visit in the gracious home of this godly couple.

The Straker family entered my life in 1976 when our family moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. That was “into the wild” for me. I was thirteen years old –not an easy age to be starting over with friends and school. Bernard and Carole and the other families in the church helped make a difficult adjustment much easier. It was a fun church to be a part of… lots of potlucks, picnics, waterskiing, and just fun times in peoples’ homes. Carole treated me as kindly as she did my friend Lisa, who was her niece. She has been an example to me of how to treat children in the church. Of how to treat people, period. She and Bernard have lived the “church as a family” thing that we always talk about.

Yesterday, spending time in the Straker home, I was struck by the thought that Carole’s world, to an outsider, would appear to have become very small. I don’t think so. Yes, she spent the day in her bedroom, but she was surrounded by love. Family, friends, cards, well wishes… these are a constant part of her life now. Those she has blessed over the years are blessing her. It was precious to see her daughters on the bed with her — hugging her, touching her, loving her. These days are a treasure for all of them. Carole’s world is rich with the love of her family and friends, and with the enduring hope she has in her Lord.

Many prayers, Straker family.

Wow. I can hardly comprehend that my baby is seven years old today. He was born just after midnight on a Thursday morning. Hospital staff, including nurses, were on strike then. I remember getting off the elevator on the third floor of the Weyburn General Hospital, and not seeing a soul. It was like a ghost town; I almost expected to see a tumbleweed come rolling down the hallway. Lyndon and I looked at each other, and called out a few tenative hello’s, and finally a nurse came padding down the hallway with a cup of coffee in her hand.

Oh, she said. I didn’t know anyone was here. Can I help you?

Yeah, I think I’m having a baby.

My babies have all come quite quickly, but Carter took a little more time. I started fine, but labour slowed down about halfway through. He was facedown, and his arms were kind of up around his head. When he finally came out, it was a sort of head-shoulder-hand dismount. Ouch. He’s kept us guessing ever since.

Happy birthday, Number Three.

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Yesterday, Lyndon, Carter and I took a trip to Assiniboia to get a haircut for The Puddle. (The Puddle is the way Lyndon refers to my sweet, girly poodle, Bella.) We checked out the Prentice African Safari exhibit while we were there. The boys and I had been before but Lyndon had not. Pretty cool if you don’t mind looking at the heads of dead animals hanging on a wall. I am always amazed at the number of different types of antelope that live in Africa.

We took Carter for lunch, did a little shopping, picked up The Puddle, and headed home. We picked up Tyson and then went back into town as Lyndon and Tyson were scheduled to have their last Hep A and B injections. There was a long wait at the doctor’s office so we left for awhile to buy groceries and get water, and then went back to the office. Of course, like any small town, we knew most of the people waiting with us so there was lots of visiting going on. Lyndon and Tyson were finally called and had their shots. We were getting ready to leave, gathering coats and chatting with the others still waiting, and I heard Tyson behind me say, Mom.

I turned to him just as he swayed and then crumpled to the floor. I was reaching for him and trying to get the attention of the receptionist to let her know Tyson had fainted. Carter was doing something silly at the time and everyone was focused on him and laughing. Finally, Lyndon realized what had happened, and hoisted Tyson up, and the receptionist called the doctor. Lyndon was holding Tyson up, and Tyson was just sort of sagging in his arms, and Lyndon says, Are you feeling okay, Son.

I almost laughed. That is the weird way my brain works under stress.

Anyway, we got him back in the doctor’s office, and before long he was okay and we were good to go. The doctor had a name for what had happened but I don’t remember what it was, and said to always mention that this had happened any other times Tyson was getting needles or whatever. A little scary for poor Mom.

Also big news in our family — Colton and Carter got buzz cuts last night. Their hair had gotten so long and it was needing to be cut. They both look great, and Lyndon is much happier. Tyson was a holdout. He is keeping his long hair.

Yesterday I received in the mail a copy of Pages of Canada, an anthology that contains a piece of my writing. I have been published in magazines and online, but this is the first time anything of mine has appeared in book form. Kind of exciting. Books can be purchased online at Books Handmade, a Canadian company that publishes little, personalized, handmade books. I certainly don’t receive any money from the purchase of these books, but you can check the company out on the web if you are interested.

Yesterday morning, Tyson and I sat at the kitchen table after breakfast and listened to a CBC radio interview of Dina Babbitt, a holocaust survivor and artist. It was incredibly moving. Dina and her mother were two of only 27 Chekoslavak Jews (out of a group of more than 5,000) to survive Auschwitz. They survived because Dina agreed to a request by the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to paint portraits of Gypsy prisoners in the camp. Mengele, known for the horrendous medical experiments he performed on prisoners, was frustrated with the use of photographs as he felt they didn’t accurately document the true skin colours and features that he deemed inferior. Mengele singled Dina out for this assignment after seeing a mural she had painted on a wall in the children’s camp. The mural was a mountain scene along with, by request of the children, pictures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This was apparently the last movie seen by any of the children.

To hear this now 85-year-old woman speak of her time in the Nazi camps was an unforgettable experience for me. She spoke of Celine, a gypsy woman she painted. Celine had just lost her baby because she had no milk to breast feed, so the baby starved to death. Dina described the relationship that developed between her and Celine, a friendship in the most awful of circumstances. She painted Celine with a blue scarf covering her shaved head, and one ear exposed, because Mengele linked the shape of Gypsy ears to inferiority.

All of the Gypsies in the camp were killed.

After the war, Dina met and married American Art Babbitt, and Became an animator in Hollywood, working on the characters Wiley Coyote, Tweety Bird, Captain Crunch, and others. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in Auschwitz to Warner Bros in Hollywood. An amazing story.

But there is a reason Dina is telling her story. In the 70’s she became aware of the fact that seven of the paintings had survived and were on display in at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland. For more than three decades, Dina has been trying to get them back.

When asked by the CBC interviewer why it was so important to her to regain the paintings, Dina hauntingly expressed herself. They took everything away from me, even my underpants. I had nothing. In the midst of that I created something. It is like those paintings hold a piece of my soul. They belong to me.

History is not just events. History is people. Yesterday, Tyson and I heard history speak.

I am a big fan of questions. I encourage my kids to ask them. I personally have a lot of them. Part of our homeschooling philosophy is that questions, whether about reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, or religion, are a good thing. My almost seven-year-old, however, has taken question-asking to the extreme. Here are a few questions that have been posed lately:

What is your favourite bug?

What is your favourite arachnid?

Which is stronger, a scorpion or a black widow spider?

Is a blue whale bigger than the water tower?

What is the tallest building in the world?

How many blue whales could fit in the tallest building in the world?

What’s bigger, a t rex or a blue whale?

What does a liver fluke look like?

What does a heart worm look like?

Would it be deadlier to have a liver fluke or a heart worm?

What does a kidney look like?

What does a mosquitoe’s saliva look like?

Is anything bigger than God?

Who came first, God or Jesus?

If you left Gravelbourg and drove for ten hours, where would you be?

How long would it take to drive from one end of Chile to the other?

How long would it take to fly from one end of Chile to the other?

What takes longer to get to, B.C. or Mexico?

Why do we have to go to bed when it is light out in the summer?

If a bull ant and a black widow had a battle, who would win?

Can I keep my garter snake in the house?

***

Whew, are you as tired as I am. No kidding, these have all been recent questions. I could go on… and on. They never stop. I have to tell you, heart worms and liver flukes are extremely disgusting! And I wouldn’t have known that if Carter hadn’t asked the questions and asked me to find pictures on the computer.

This inquisitive fellow will be seven years old on Saturday. Wow.

Today was potluck Sunday at church. I came downstairs this morning, ready to fix my potluck perogies (which I take to every potluck), and found a plate of pancakes on the kitchen table. There was a note on top of them that said Enjoy! from Tyson and Nathan. It was so sweet. Apparently Tyson and his friend Nathan (who was sleeping over) got up around 6:00 in the morning and made pancakes, ate pancakes, and then went back to bed. It was a nice treat for everyone. Thanks boys!

It was great to worship with our church family this morning. Potluck after was yummy. We all ate too much, as usual. And then we went to the pool for the afternoon, along with our friends the Ratzlaffs. Esther and I visited while the kids swam, and swam, and swam.

Lyndon has to leave tomorrow morning around 5:00. He starts his new job in Regina. Hope it all goes well for him.

We are counting down our last few weeks of school The boys and I are all looking forward to a break over the summer.

We have been enjoying a lovely rain for the last few days. It could rain like this for a week and no one would complain.

Yesterday was Rhubarb Crisp Day in our home. It happens every spring. The kids notice the rhubarb and decide we need to pick it and cook it right there on the spot. So we do.

It was yummy. Colton and Carter cut up the stalks, and Carter and I assembled the crisp, and Carter, Colton, Tyson, and I ate it… all… for lunch. Delicious. The taste of spring.

I like rhubarb. As a plant I mean. It gives me a taste of gardening without actually having to do any gardening. I know that as a Saskatchewan woman living in the country I should have a huge garden so that I can harvest and preserve all kinds of good things for the winter table. Part of me would like to do that. A big part of me feels guilty for not doing that. But it is one of those things that sounds nicer than it actually is, at least for me at this stage of my life. We are gone a fair bit in the summer, and there is nothing more depressing than coming home to a field full of weeds where the lovely carrots and peas are supposed to be. So, a few years ago I just decided to not put in a garden. It has been quite liberating. Maybe one day I’ll take it up again, but for now I am enjoying my freedom.

Other noteworthy events of the past few days include:

– The “other” mama cat did, indeed, have her kittens. They have not yet been located by the children. This is probably a good thing.

– The boys started their swimming lessons. So far, so good. Carter, of course, wants to be first at everything — first to put on his life jacket, first to take off his life jacket, first in the pool, etc.

– Lyndon starts a new job with Saskpower on Monday in Regina. He will be working on a transmission line crew. Transmission lines are those REALLY big power line structures. His crew will work on the transmission lines in the southern half of the province.

We are almost done our “official” school year. Every year seems to go more quickly than the last. I am thankful for the time I get to spend with my kids. I am thankful for the interesting people they are. I am a blessed mom!

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