Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your Vote Needed!

By Belinda

One of Paul's deep callings is to come alongside the First Nations of northern Ontario personally and by encouraging others to support their efforts to build strong communities where young people grow up with a sense of their value and worth.

The North South Partnership needs our votes as they compete for funding for a beautiful synthetic ice rink for Nibinamik First Nation!. Check out their creative video and follow this link to vote.  Click on this link and vote! As the grandmother of 3 hockey players I support this great project for children!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Story Continues...

By Belinda

We waited in the emergency department at Langley Memorial Hospital until it was Mum's turn to be treated.

The nurse attending her exclaimed at the dressing on her arm. "Who did this?" she wanted to know, "This isn't just any dressing."

"It was a vet!" we took delight in telling her.

"Well," she said, laughing, "You should be careful, they shoot horses you know."

As usual wherever I went with Mum, a party was happening, even in the middle of a stressful situation. 

I hurt with her as I saw the nasty gash in her arm, thinking that the fragile skin would be hard to stitch together. I wished that it was my arm into which the doctor put the long needle loaded with anesthetic. Thirteen stitches later it was over, and we were on our way to enjoy the wonderful wedding with dear friends that was the real reason for our trip to British Columbia.

We had certainly not been quiet, unobtrusive guests so far, to Cors and Ank, Ingrid's friends. Getting to know them over the next few days of our visit to BC turned out to be delightful.

Ank was the epitome of hospitality and both of them were lively and vibrant human beings. They had emigrated from Holland in their forties, a brave thing to do, and bit by bit we shared the stories of how we had arrived where we were in our lives just then.

All around us was such breathtaking natural beauty. My bedroom window overlooked a ravine and I gazed down in wonder at the moss covered trees leaning tipsily in morning mist and leaf filtered sunlight.

On Sunday morning we joined our hosts at what felt like the Mount Lehman United Church "branch of the family." We were amazed but not surprised at the instant bond we felt among these BC believers. Their 82 year old preacher had a very quick mind and sense of humour and had copies of his book, "The Making of a Preacher," for sale.

In the afternoon, we sat in easy chairs in the de Lint's outside living room, and had coffee beside the pool while gazing at the majestic peaks called Golden Ears

We returned to our little cabin then, both of us promptly falling asleep. It had been a non stop up and down adventure since Mum had arrived in Toronto from England just five days earlier. 

We expected to prepare something later on for ourselves for supper and I planned to drive into town and do some shopping for food, but Ank would not hear of it when she dropped in and invited us over to their house for supper.

The meal was delicious: green beans ("tuinbonen" ) and peppers; buttered new potatoes; tossed salad with pine nut dessing, and spring salmon baked in foil on the barbecue--with white wine!  To complete the feast we had a raspberry, chocolate and nut sponge cake; light and delicate!

Again we talked and talked, this time about faith, until I noticed at 9.00 that Mum was beginning to nod off. We said our goodnight's and retired again to our comfortable cabin, breathing prayers of gratitude and blessings on our hosts who were so gracious, hospitable, and full of humility and kindness.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Holocaust Education Week Coming Up!

By Belinda
Note: I almost forgot to add that this post was submitted as Whatever He Says's entry in Dave Hingsburger's 6th Annual Disability Blog Carnival!

My continuing story about Mum is not forgotten, but the 32nd annual Holocaust Education starts next week (it runs from November 1-8,) and this year I intend to participate in it by attending as many local events as I can manage. I reviewed the brochure, Culture of Memory,  published by the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto and chose carefully from an overwhelming number of options.

Yesterday I had the honour of attending the grand opening ceremony of The Maxwell and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Remembrance Garden, at the Reena Community Residence in the City of Vaughan.

Paul had the greater honour of having participated for two years on the committee designing the garden and of being the keynote speaker. Sometime in the next week I will share a story, or maybe more than one, from yesterday, but for today I will share a short part of his speech and some photos of the day.

 “Memory is what shapes us. Memory is what teaches us. We must understand that’s where our redemption is.”

“It is not enough to curse the darkness of the past. Above all, we have to illuminate the future. "

These statements, made by Estelle Laughlin, Holocaust survivor, encapsulate the vision of the Education Centre and the Holocaust Remembrance Garden: 

We must learn the dark lessons of the past so that our future is brighter and better for all people.

The vision of the education centre and garden is to promote tolerance of racial minorities and those who are marginalized in our society; to highlight what can happen when people who are different become devalued.

In the case of the Holocaust as in other genocides, those who were most vulnerable were the first victims. The dehumanization and marginalization of people was the initial step in desensitizing the public to inhumane acts, beginning with compulsory sterilization of those judged unworthy to reproduce.

But the eugenics movement, with its roots in Social Darwinism and “survival of the fittest,” did not begin in Nazi Germany and this philosophy was embraced in rural North America well beyond the first half of the 20th century.

In 1933, it was an American Eugenics Society ‘model sterilization law’ that was adopted in Nazi Germany. 

The eugenics movement helped justify class systems and racism and implied that some groups of people had less value. The movement argued that people with an intellectual disability were the cause of many social problems and needed to be removed from society.

“The Law for the Prevention of Diseased Offspring” came into effect in Nazi Germany on July 14, 1933, laying the groundwork for the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.These laws formed the legal basis for the killing of the disabled, political dissenters, Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals, and religious minorities under the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. [1]

It’s important to remember that no society is immune to ideologies that devalue people. In Canada, Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act, received Royal assent on March 21, 1928 and was only repealed in 1972. This legislation enabled the government to perform involuntary sterilizations on individuals classified as “mentally deficient.” Over the span of 43 years, 2,832 procedures were actually performed.

Ontario too, under the influence of the eugenics movement, separated men and women from one another in institutions. It is likely that involuntary sterilizations occurred here too. In Nazi Germany, sterilizations were followed by the so called “mercy killing” of children with disabilities through the program known as “T4.” Next came the killing of “impaired” adults from mental institutions in centres equipped with carbon monoxide gas.

The organization and creation of the infrastructure and killing centres resulted in the rounding up and killing of over 200,000 people who had disabilities, with little public opposition. This led to genocide; the attempt to destroy the entire Jewish race.

Holocaust survivor, Sara Bloomfield, says that, “The important thing to understand about this cataclysmic event is that it happened in the heart of Europe. Germany was respected around the world for its leading scientists, its physicians, its theologians. It was a very civilized, advanced country. It was a young democracy, but it was a democracy. And yet it descended not only into social collapse but world war and eventually mass murder.”[2]...

Standing here today reminds me of a winter morning in 2011 when I visited Yad Vashem the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There the names of every child that perished in the Holocaust are read out perpetually.

Yad Vashem means "a place and a name" or "a monument and a memorial": Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future.

Today, we remember those who have come from a culture that threatened them with death to one that celebrates their life; those who have come from the shadows of exclusion to inclusion; and from captivity, to freedom. We congratulate Reena and celebrate with them, the outstanding contribution of these wonderful resources to the community and society.

[1] Eugenics and the Firewall, Canada’s Nasty Little Secret, p. 15 -Jane Harris-Zsovan, J.Gordon Shillingford Publishing Inc.
[2] Sara Bloomfield, Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, from the video, “Why We Remember the Holocaust.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Canadian Blog Awards Reminder

By Belinda

Dave beat me to this gentle reminder not to miss voting in the Canadian Blog Awards! The site is a great place to visit to discover new and interesting blogs that you might otherwise not know of.

Dave's blog Rolling Around in My Head is nominated in two categories: Best Personal Blog and Best Health Blog. Whatever He Says is nominated in Best Religion or Philosophy Blog. 

You can vote by clicking here. :) Voting in round 1 ends November 1!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Signs of Grace

By Belinda

After our misadventures of the night before, Mum and I woke up on the day of the wedding that we had traveled so far to attend, in the well appointed comfort of the de Lint's guest cabin.  

I peeked through the slat of a blind and saw that we were in beautiful natural surroundings, with mountains beyond the trees that encircled the cabin.

We had not been up long when Cors de Lint came over from the house to check on his "patient." 

As he carefully unwrapped the dressing that he had applied in the early hours of the morning, we both saw that the jagged gash was serious and in need of medical attention. 

This only confirmed my assessment of the night before but we were grateful to at least have been refreshed by a few hours of sleep before going to Langley Memorial Hospital. 

With Cors' directions we dressed for the wedding but set off for the hospital instead of the luncheon at Ingrid and Arthur's home We had no choice but to go with a different flow than we had planned.

We registered at the desk in the emergency department and settled in patiently, prepared to wait, knowing that in the triage process of a hospital we would not be the most urgent case to be seen.

A young woman walked into the emergency waiting room soon after we sat down, and said with unusual calm but great urgency to the nurse at the desk, "Excuse me, my father is having a stroke right outside the hospital. He needs help immediately."

I began to pray for him right away as I imagined the devastation that can happen in a brain in seconds. I prayed for protection of his brain, for quick intervention, for help for this man. I was surprised at the deep emotion that overwhelmed me as I prayed for him and I sensed that I was meant to be there, right at that moment.

A few seats away sat a young couple. The woman was pregnant, in distress and crying. I silently prayed for them too, as well as the baby boy I heard about who had been born 5 weeks prematurely. 

The drama that unfolds in a hospital emergency department could keep a person praying all day long, I realized.

A few moments later, the young woman whose father was having a stroke, returned and made a phone call. To the person at the other end, she said, in the same tone of controlled calm but intensity, "This is serious, listen carefully. I'm at hospital with Dad, and he is having a stroke."

She then gave instructions to the person she was speaking to, to make calls to several other people, asking them to also pass on the information, "But first," she said, "tell them to pray."

All of the events of the past 24 hours had been woven together mysteriously, so that before she even asked for prayer, it was fervently being offered, by a stranger.

She hung up the phone and left so quickly that I had no chance to tell her. She never knew of this sign of God's care for one of his children. 

And I didn't know how important that moment would be for me over the coming months.

To be continued...

Let Go and Let God

My cousin Deborah, sent me a link to this song by  Olivia Newton-John .  Maybe someone else will be as blessed as I was by the simple message of surrender. Belinda

Sunday, October 21, 2012


By Belinda

At dinner on the eve of the wedding, my friend Ingrid leaned over and pointed out an animated, slim, woman with short blond hair who was laughing as she talked to someone. "That's Ank, whose guest house you'll be staying in," she said. 

As the celebratory meal wound down, she introduced us to Ank, and Cors her husband; tall, trim and grey haired, a retired veterinary surgeon. After brief "hello's!" we prepared to follow them to their home, a little out of town.

It was already late evening and dark when we got there, and Ank showed us to the guest house on their property, a short distance from their bungalow. 

On the door of the guest house, or "cabin," as they called it, hung a sign that said, "Mi Casa Es Tu Casa," "my home is your home," in Spanish. That turned out to be an indication of the warm hospitality that awaited us.

Ank quickly showed us around the two bedroomed guest house that contained everything we could possibly need. In the kitchen she opened the fridge, which was stocked with a big wedge of Gouda cheese, some grapes, preserves, bread, butter, eggs and cold meats. We were overwhelmed by her kindness. She showed us how everything worked and then bade us goodnight. The wedding was the next day, and after the festivities of the evening, we were all ready for bed.  

We began settling into our rooms and I had just gone back into the kitchen when Mum came out of her bedroom to look around again at our beautiful surroundings. She came towards the kitchen, but didn't notice a step down from the level of the bedrooms. To my horror she missed her footing and fell down, with a cry, onto the hard ceramic floor.

I felt sick as I saw that the fragile flesh on her right forearm, on which she had somehow landed, had been gashed open. It was nasty, although Mum was being brave. I used a towel to gently staunch the bleeding and helped Mum up and onto a chair. I was sure that it would need stitches but I had no idea how to get to the nearest hospital. There was nothing for it but to run over to the house for help.

Ank and Cors looked bewildered to see me at their front door, so soon after saying goodnight, but Cors quickly came with me and examined Mum's arm. He felt that the best thing to do was to dress the wound, which he did, carefully and skillfully, using a special antiseptic solution from Russia. 

At 1.00 a.m. we finally settled down for the night! Mum immediately fell into a deep sleep, aided by exhaustion and the shock of the fall. I lay awake longer, worried about her poor arm, sure that she would need to go to the hospital in the morning, but grateful that at least for the night she was okay.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

BC Landing

By Belinda (emerging from a busy week and back to continue the story!)

The plane circled over the Pacific on its approach to Vancouver airport. The islands off the coast of British Columbia, the blues and greens of the ocean, took my breath away with their beauty.

Mum and I had passed the time on the plane journey, in the past, tracing the forming of friendships almost 60 years ago, one of which had brought us to this place, here and now. I wrote down every detail. The friend who wrote letters to her fiance in Holland, while hidden behind the curtains of the stage of the lecture hall in the hospital they worked in, would be known to me as Tante Mies, tall, elegant and beautiful. Her fiancee would one day be our beloved "Ome Bart," with brown eyes always twinkling with mischief, a playful smile ever ready at the corner of his lips. They were as loved by us as our blood relatives.

We were about to enter a sub-culture of British Columbia; the flourishing Dutch community of the Vancouver area, for the wedding of Tante Mies's great niece, Birgit de Jong.

Mum was no longer the girl who came to England still wearing ankle socks, full of fun and life. That was who she was when she met Tante Mies in 1949, at 23. She was now 77 and frail. Her life had been hard and had taken its toll on her health, but not her humour or bright spirit. I treasured every moment spent with her.

At the airport I picked up our rental dark gray,Toyota Corolla, and followed the directions on my map, to our first stop, the large, beautiful home in Langley, on the United States border, where my dear friend Ingrid, and her husband Arthur, live.

We entered the pre-wedding excitement at the house, which was filled with other family gathered from Alberta, Holland and Australia. The house buzzed with the electricity of anticipation. Glasses of wine; tapas (those delicious finger foods in the Spanish style;) and animated conversation and laughter in Dutch brought back the happiest memories of my childhood. It felt as though we had landed in heaven!

Mum and I had just enough time to get changed and get ready for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner at a restaurant that evening.

Ingrid had arranged for us to stay with Dutch friends of theirs, Ank and Cors de Lint, in their guest house. We would be meeting them that evening at the rehearsal dinner.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

By Belinda

Two days after Mum arrived in Ontario in September of 2003, we were in the air together, on our way to British Columbia.We were going for a wedding and would be there for five precious days!

The bride, was the daughter of my friend of 50 plus years, Ingrid. Ingrid is the niece of Mum's friend of almost 60 years, my Tante Mies. So many connections of the heart.

In my hand luggage as always, I had packed a small journal, this one with two pairs of hands on its cover; a younger pair holding a pair that were slightly wrinkled, below which were two words: "Life's Journey."

Alone together, with the luxury of several hours ahead on the plane journey, I pulled out the journal and began to pepper Mum with questions.

I learned the details of Mum's travels back and forth between Holland and England, starting in January 1947, and her friendships, up to 1949 when Tante Mies came to England to spend a few months working in the same hospital as Mum, before her wedding to Uncle Bart. By the time we landed I had every important detail recorded.

Mum's friend, Tante Mies, never had children, but her niece, Ingrid was born two months before me in 1950, and when we were 4 years old we met for the first time in Holland. We saw each other again at 8, 9, 12, 15 and 16, always in Holland, when Rob and I went with  Mum for holidays with the Dutch half of our family.

Ingrid always seemed so sophisticated to me, so "European!" I was quiet and shy; she was always a great conversationalist with great curiosity. How we compare ourselves to others even as children, and fall short.

From our teens we corresponded, and then I married at 19 and left for Canada shortly afterwards with Paul and settled in Ontario.

Ingrid married Arthur a few years later, a Dutch market gardener and businessman. I had never met him, but she sent me a photo of them both about to board his plane for their honeymoon, she in her wedding dress and carrying her bridal bouquet.

In the 1970's they stayed with us for a few days while in Canada, and made their own plans to settle here eventually, in British Columbia, on the same continent at least, but feeling as far away as ever.

They had three beautiful daughters, and Paul and I had flown out to BC for their first family wedding. Now Mum and I would be there for a second wedding. Tante Mies was not well enough to travel anymore, but it was a dream come true for me to share this part of their journey of friendship with Mum...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Looking Back

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Christina G. Rossetti

The words of Christina G. Rossetti's Christmas carol perfectly describe the bitter cold of the January day in England on which Dad was buried, less than eight months before, Mum had arrived to spend a month with us in Canada in the fall of that year. Thursday, January 30, 2003 was sunny, but gnawing cold, foreshadowing the snow that came with evening. 

Rob wore a  rented gray suit, shirt and tie, and looked dignified in the overcoat I had helped him choose. 

We had been dreading the day, and prepared in our own ways, to endure it.

Mum, who never in her life had an extensive wardrobe, wore a simple black suit and ivory blouse that we had bought together at British Home Stores a few days earlier. 

Both Rob and I inherited our height from Dad who was still a fine figure of a man, when he died at 81; 6 feet tall. Mum, on the other hand, always joked that when she had applied for her first passport and had to enter a height, she had written down the height she wanted to be--5 foot 6 inches. She was several inches shorter than that but no one ever challenged her on it! And as she aged she diminished in height. She seemed so small and vulnerable.

Mum did so well and seemed so strong as we all rode in the limousine together for the short drive up to St. Laurence Church. In front, with great pomp and respect, a man in top hat and tails, led the way on foot with slow, solemn steps. 

Inside the ancient church, a small crowd had gathered. You realize when you go through the loss of someone, how much each person's physical presence means and how each card feels like a hug.

The strains of the organ quietly filled the sanctuary, as Dad's coffin was wheeled forward, covered in the Union Jack and with two standard bearers from the Royal British Legion

Mum stood beside me in a pew very near to the front of the church. As we began to sing, "The Lord is My Shepherd" she suddenly recoiled as though from a punch to the stomach. Her dear face was red, eyes tightly closed, and I realized that she was crying.

Rob and I gently lowered her to the pew and I held her close to me, so very glad to be there to support her.

We listened as the Reverend David Martin delivered the eulogy, based on a conversation he had with us a few days before; we were so grateful for his calm and kind support.

But that all seemed so long ago now. Mum and I were together, on Canadian soil, where she loved to be, with four deliciously long weeks stretching ahead of us before she had to leave. We both prepared to cherish every minute.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Annus Horribilis

By Belinda

The Queen had one in 1992, and I had mine in 2003. My own, personal Annus Horribilis.

On the eve of the new year 2003, Dad was taken to hospital and died before the end of January. Between Christmas and the end of January I flew to England and back twice; once to be with him and the second time to help plan his funeral with Mum and Rob and say goodbye to him one bitterly cold January day.

In May, a dear friend of our family, Stanley Houseman, a man with intellectual disabilities known as Poppa Stan to our grandchildren, died. He had been part of our lives for almost 40 years and we loved him dearly. 

And then in July, another old friend with disabilities died, who I knew because she had been supported by our agency before moving to a nursing home: Evelyn, who can still bring a room alive with just the shadow of her memory when we talk about her. She nearly drove us all insane, but oh, I loved her, and I think she might have loved me, if she could have got beyond the next plan that she was hatching. When she died I was surprised at just how hard it hit me. A fighter, it had seemed that she would live forever.

Mum and Dad had lived such a sad life together, and Rob and I had always wished for happiness for Mum, but Dad's death hit her hard. Even a tortured relationship takes up space in a life, and when gone it leaves an empty hole. They needed one another in a strange mutually destructive way. 

Rob and I worried about her. I started getting calls late in the evening from Mum. It would be 8.00 p.m. here, which meant it was 1.00 a.m. in England. Mum had always been a night owl. She liked to be the last one up, tidying up and turning off the lights for the night. A creature of routine, normally the last thing she did before going up to bed was read her Bible and her Daily Light, and pray, but she would normally be in bed by 11.00, a little after Dad.

Now she was up alone in their empty house at 1.00 and calling me. She sounded unlike Mum, her words slightly slurred. I recognized the signs eventually and worried even more.

I wanted so much to have her here, look after her, spoil her, love her and bring back joy to her life. And we made plans, hoping that she could make it here for September and join me for a trip to British Columbia for the wedding of a dear friend's daughter. She had something wrong with her leg that the doctor had been treating; a redness and heat--cellulitis; but he cleared her to fly, to our relief and joy.

On September 17th I wrote:
Last night I met Mum at the airport. What joy to have her under our roof. She managed the journey without too much difficulty, and, as usual, made friends of her seatmates. What an extrovert!
She was with me...once here she had no need to anesthetize pain. She was so happy, surrounded by three generations of family and our circle of friends who all simply loved her. We were so grateful to be together at last.

To be continued....:)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Quick Note!

By Belinda

It has been a while since I've written memoir posts, but whenever I have, readers have seemed to enjoy going back in time with me.

Over Thanksgiving weekend I pulled my box of journals out of storage to try to find the description of a particular Autumn day I was sure I had captured in writing. I couldn't find it, but I read instead about the time of Mum's stroke in 2003, and the months following. I have written about some of it before in smidges, but I'm going to try to pull a little more detail out of the journal  in a series of upcoming posts.

Just wanted to let you know where I'm headed. Coming along? :) 

The Canadian Blog Awards

By Belinda

Whatever He Says has been nominated in the Canadian Blog Awards in the Best Religious Philosophy Blog category. I am honoured--and would greatly appreciate your vote--you can vote even if you are not Canadian! 

My friend Dave, whose blog Rolling Around in My Head is on my daily "must read" list, is also nominated. If you would like to vote for him, he is nominated in the category of Best Personal Blog  (where you would vote for Dave Hingsburger) and for Best Health Blog, where you would vote for Rolling Around in my Head.

Let the fun--and voting, begin! :)

Monday, October 08, 2012

She Had a Plan

By Belinda

I'd been working hard all week trying do better at slowing down and focusing. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, I realize that my Blackberry conditioned hair trigger response to incoming stimuli 
is counterproductive in terms of efficiency. I have to learn to calm my brain and focus on the task at hand in order to get beyond the immediate influx. 

So at lunchtime on Friday when I had a couple of errands to run--a trip to the post office, and to the florist to order some flowers for a sick colleague, I thought it efficient to type out the name, address and phone number, as well as the encouraging message to accompany the flowers, with the names of our each of our team. It was printed out in large font to make it easy for the person placing the order.

It was invigorating to step out into the fresh fall air and bright sunshine. The small town of Bradford was bustling with traffic and busy shoppers getting ready for the Thanksgiving weekend. 

I briefly paused at the florist's window to admire the fashion accessories and gifts for sale, then entered the store, which was filled with tastefully displayed floral arrangements, mirrors, and home decorating accents.

From towards the back, where she was working on something at a counter, a young girl in jeans and a baseball cap, called, "I'll be right there!"

I unfolded the piece of paper as she finished her task and walked over to the sales counter.  

When she began to ask for the details, I presented the cheerful girl with the piece of paper and she began to copy the information into the computer.  I was sure that she did it several seconds faster than if I had had to give each piece of information one by one! :)

Then she said, "Would you like to write on one of those?" pointing to the rack of little cards for various occasions, "We can attach it to the flowers. Or, we can just put the names on the piece of paper that has the address on it for when the flowers are delivered."

Of course the second option seemed very impersonal now that she mentioned it, so I picked out a card and began transcribing the greeting and our names. And she began to present a range of other options.

"What time would you like these delivered?" and she had a number of choices, from right away, to later in the day, to tomorrow.

I knew that the co-worker they were going to would very likely be asleep in the afternoon, having been at the hospital overnight, so I settled on late afternoon.

"If nobody answers the door, would you just leave the flowers?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, we can!" she said, and went on, "We can leave them inside the door, if there's a door that isn't locked; or on the porch if the door is locked and it isn't windy. We can put them inside the garage, if the door opens, and then we'll put a note on the outside so they'll know that they are inside the garage. Or in an alcove if we can find one, and we would put a note telling them there are flowers there, or we can put them in the backyard if we can get over the fence and again we will leave a note."

I thought that at any moment the roof would come into play! My head was spinning, dazzled with the determination to deliver. And in the space of listening to the stream of options I went from a focus on efficiency with my piece of paper, to slowing down and enjoying the moment; smiling to myself at the extreme lengths that this young lady would go to in order to make sure the flowers were found. 

I looked into the face beneath her baseball cap, eyes bright with enthusiasm, cheeks flushed with joy in the job, and I said, my own eyes twinkling with merriment, "You have a plan!"

"Oh, yes!" and she went on, "We will even leave them at a neighbour's, but not a neighbour they don't get on with, because (she lowered her voice conspiratorially,) we wouldn't want that!"

It was one of those funny moments when you sense that God is laughing with you or maybe gently at you, and certainly enjoying himself.

Well, that's how it felt to me as I smiled back at, the Girl With a Plan for Every Eventuality.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday Summation

By Belinda

In honour of the late Rich Mullins, whose music and heart I love, I share this recording of his song, "Creed," by Third Day and Brandon Heath.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Fish, Birds and Furry Things

Introduction by Belinda:

An anonymous friend left this story in a comment on my post, Just Saying...It's Been a Good Week, and it was too funny to leave hidden in the comments. So with her permission--enjoy!
Well - thank you for help with my diet. Won't be eating pasta for a while :-)!! Makes you wonder. 

The motion sensored fishy made me smile too. I had bought a motion sensored bird that actually calls out it's matching call. (Don't ask me what kind of bird - it's yellow - that is the extent of my ornitholology.) I bought it to "annoy" one of my very uptight co-workers. The kind that turn their noses up at any stuffies or chitz-pa on or around ones workspace. I knew this would drive him crazy whenever he walked by...just to tease for a few days. It had it's desired effect. 

So home it went (not worth getting fired for...ha ha). Kind of forgot about it after placing it that evening in an alcove in the hall until my husband woke me up urgently in the middle of the night. 

"Something is in the house!" 


"Something is in the house. I think it's a squirrel." 


Squirrels are a great source of amusement in our family for some reason. Just the word squirrel makes us laugh...go figure. 

"What would a squirrel be doing in the house?", I asked half asleep. 

His voice drops to a whisper..."Listen".  Heard nothing. 

"I don't hear anything." 


 I almost went back to sleep,so intent was my listening. Not! 

"I heard squeeking on the way to the washroom. Couldn't trace it - but as I entered the bedroom it chattered again."

 "Really? You're serious?" 

"Of course I'm serious!"

So I thought I'd better check it out or I'd never hear the end of it. I head out to the hall with my hubby at my heels. My hero. As hard as I strained I heard nothing.

"Maybe he's gone to bed", I said, my words tinged with much sarcasm. "Lucky little fellow", I added with a smile. 

I figured since I was up, I too might as well use the loo - and then it happened. "Chirp, chirp, chirpee-peep-pee churp."

My husband was on me like white on rice. "There, there, there - did you hear it??? Sounds close!"

I flicked on the light and moved towards the yellow bird, whose head moved, tail moved and voiced sounded as I approached.

Now you would think that the discovery of an inanimate object verses rodent would bring relief, yet my husband didn't seem to feel that way at all. "What the sam hill is that???" 

I thought it was hilarious and chuckled as I told the tale - not so much my husband who claimed he could have had a heart attack. Of course having him wake me up in the middle of the night with cries of "squirrel" wasn't jarring at all!! :-)

So bring on the singing fish. It will probably go off all during the meeting :-). Better a fish than a bird - better a bird than a squirrel. And don't feed any of them pasta!

Post Script by Belinda: 
I now am the proud owner of TWO singing fish. Susan insisted I go looking for the one I threw out in the garbage--and, to her relief,  it was still there. She is sure she can fix them both! I NEED two singing fish with flapping tails, after all! :)  

I wrapped them both up in a white plastic garbage bag to bring them home from the office. When I opened my trunk, the movement set off the one that won't turn off, and from inside the bag I heard, "Take Me to the River, " the other song in Big Mouth Billy Bass's repertoire besides "Don't Worry, Be Happy." It thrashed around inside the bag like something that wouldn't die in a horror movie! 

I left them both in the trunk. I'll be seeing Susan on Sunday. :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Just Saying--It's Been a Good Week...

By Belinda

It's almost Thursday, which feels like almost the weekend, and in Canada it is Thanksgiving weekend.

So I thought I'd share some moments from the past week that made me smile and for which I'm grateful.

These moments have been with the people I work to support. Since my office is in a group home, I have the joy of daily reminders of why I do what I do.

Because we are a not for profit organization we are grateful recipients weekly of a drop off by another charitable organization: Lifecorps. They do a lot of amazing work internationally, but we get the delicious surplus bread and sometimes pastries from a local bakery.

One of the people we support calls all of our agency's other nearby group homes, to tell the staff that the bread has arrived, and remind them to come and get some for the homes they work in if they can use it. 

Last week I noticed that this time there some large bags of pasta. 

"Take some," she said, urging me to share the largesse. I thanked her but explained that this was to be used in the homes. Then I told her what had happened to me at home on the weekend when I was looking for something in my pantry. 

I noticed a strange smell, which probably meant it was more like an offensive stink as I have very little sense of smell. By now I had a captive audience. Three people in the vicinity were listening with interest to find out what caused the smell. I told them that I had sniffed my way to a large bag of pasta, which had a tiny hole nibbled in it--and there lying on top of the macaroni inside the bag, as though it was a funeral pyre, lay a little very dead, furry mouse!

Well, everyone thought that was hilarious! We all laughed and I went back downstairs and on with my day. Just after 3.00 when the people who had been out all day came home, there was a loud rapping on my door. I got up to see who was there, and there stood a tiny man, wiry of frame with wildly curling dark hair and dark brown eyes like melted chocolate. 

Arms folded as though he meant business, he demanded, with halting speech, "What about the mouse?" He had heard the story from the others but wanted the full details from the source. I told him and he laughed, his eyes dancing with delight at the thought of a mouse in a bag of macaroni. He wanted to know if I ate the macaroni and "Why not?" when I said I'd thrown it all away. Who knew that a mouse in the pasta would cause so much mirth. I wasn't sure how I felt about this story spreading far and wide.:)

Then, last thing on Friday afternoon it was the meeting of our Anger Management Group. We were on session 9 of the curriculum and as I came upstairs from my office with photocopied handouts and book, the staff on duty stopped me to say, "Whatever you are doing together it's working!" and she told me specifically what improvements she'd noticed. That made my day.

I thanked her for the feedback and went right down to the family room where four people were waiting. I never have to remind them of the date or the time, and they always beat me to the room. If I'm five minutes late I would hear about it so I try not to be! I told them that people were noticing the difference and gave them credit for all of their hard work. We had an amazing session. 

Nothing makes me happier than the hour spent with them. We used to have a battery operated fish that sang, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," to start off the meeting, but the battery died and I couldn't replace it because the screw thread to the battery cover was stripped. This was a big disappointment since there was always hot competition over who would press the button to start the singing. But we improvised with one of the more musical people singing the song for us.

Then the married couple that attend the sessions told me they had seen one of these fish at Goodwill and my heart skipped a beat--until they told me that someone else bought it from under their noses. So close!

On Monday morning I had hardly been in the office for a minute when there was a knock on my door. The couple stood there smiling. Most mornings I have barely dropped my briefcase when they are at my door with a cup of steaming black coffee (I know, I am totally spoiled,) but this time they were holding a bag out to me with a secretive look of anticipation. 

As I peeked inside they said in triumph, "We found another one at Global Village!" and yes! It was another singing fish. I pushed the button and it sang loudly while flapping its tail. But then we found out that the "off" button didn't work. The fish was motion sensitive, starting the song all over again whenever a hand came too close. VERY carefully, with my friends laughing in the doorway, I put the fish way up on top of a bookcase so that it wouldn't startle me unawares throughout the day. 

So many happy moments of purest joy. Thank you God for a job that includes such moments.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Summer Past, Part 4

By Belinda

When we got to the hotel where we all went for refreshments after the church service, Dave wanted to know what I thought of the church. 

I had so much to process that I stalled for time! Two months later I'm not sure I'm any more coherent than I was then, but I want to pour out some of my impressions and thoughts here. It just seems important to do so at last.

First of all, I was struck by the intense sense of community that I felt immediately. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise, since I would think that community is most precious of all to those who have experienced such rejection outside of it. 

But for all that, it wasn't an accidental community. I read the bulletin and I had already checked out the website. MCC is a huge organization. I just rechecked the website and they have an impressive new one. The website says that there are over 800 congregants. I can't even imagine the work that it takes to care for the spiritual and practical needs of a church that large. 

The choir is known for excellence in music and their Christmas concert is held at Roy Thompson Hall. I hear it is always sold out.   

Rev. Brent Hawkes, who has shepherded the congregation for 35 years, must work very hard indeed, that was easy to see. And I heard from a friend who would know, that he has at times worn a bullet proof vest for protection. I would have to say that going to a job that means you're risking your life is a brave thing to do; huge understatement. 

At the end of the service there was communion. A row of men and women stood at the front of the church, facing the congregation, each holding a goblet of wine in one hand into which they dipped a small circular communion wafer. They gave it to those who came forward, with the words, "The body and blood of Christ. Go in his peace."

I had wondered whether I would take communion, right up to the moment that Shan turned to me and said, "Are you going up?"

I said, "Yes," and she got up too. I resolutely walked behind her, joining the lines of others waiting to be served, in little clusters of families or friends who shared communion together. I loved that. 

When I read "What We Believe," on the website though, I found that I fundamentally differ with some of their "bedrock beliefs," some of which are universalist. It feels as though the church wants so much to embrace all without judgement, that it is in danger of having made a creed that is based on man's ideas rather than God's. There were echoes of that in the way Reverend Hawkes interpreted passages of scripture too, which is his perfect right of course, and many people more learned than I would agree with him.

But I think that not everyone in that congregation is there because they wholeheartedly agree with the core beliefs. At least some people may be like a colleague of mine over 10 years ago, who went there, even though she was Roman Catholic, because she found acceptance as a lesbian believer there, while not in her own church. She was spiritually hungry but her choices for plugging into a welcoming Christian community were limited because of her sexual orientation.

I have done a lot of thinking about this since. I don't want to abuse the privilege of being a guest in this church, and it did feel like a privilege; but Dave asked me an honest question and it demands an honest answer and that's what I'm trying to give.

I wonder if we could ever find a different way than shaping the Word to say what we want, but also a different way than judging what we don't have all the answers for. 

What if we acknowledged that some things are hard to understand and we are going to seek God and try and figure it out honestly together, without pointing fingers or being scared and threatened by what is different, but still one of "ours."

What if we all held precious, God's word, and especially those profound passages on not daring to cast the first stone at another's perceived sin and cared first about simply loving people for who they are.

How about trusting God to speak to individuals' hearts and souls if they are in relationship with him, and not assuming that we know what he would say.

And what if we let one option be not having all the answers this side of heaven?

RICH MULLINS: "And this is what I have come to think: That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved. *******************************************************************************