2006 christmas letter

3 beauties(Our lovely lasses, Christmas 2006)
December 2006

Merry Christmas All!

Here we are at the end of another year. For us it has been a good year and I hope it has been the same for you.

Thankfully, we are all in good health and all our needs are met. That puts us in the top 20% of the planet’s occupants. I’m thankful that we have warm beds, clothes, plenty of food, and medical care when needed. I’m thankful for the freedom we enjoy, the good job Gordon has, good friends and family. I’m thankful for this season with the hope, joy, and peace it represents; for the Savior who left His home to come and live among us and make provisions for us to someday live with Him. And I’m thankful for the wonderful people I share this house with.

Gordon is still an Inspector with Edmonton Transit. This year he received a promotion and is now a Relief Garage Supervisor as well. I was torn when he got this promotion, because as a Garage Supervisor he doesn’t get to wear that uniform he looks so good in. I try to be mature about that. The Garage Supervisor job allows him to be home every night for supper and we love that. I’m praying for the position to become permanent, but only God knows what is best. Gordon continues to be my hero. He’s hard working, intelligent, witty, and disciplined. I love his commitment to us.

I took another job this year, working two jobs for a couple months. In August I said goodbye to Pier 1 Imports after two good years in their employ. Now I work at Fabricland. Fabricland, at least the one I’m at, is incredibly unorganized and unprofessional, but I love the fringe benefits. I want to keep honing my sewing skills and now I get lots of fabric to practice with and spend nearly nothing doing so. I miss the tidy predictability of Pier 1, but Fabricland caters more to my areas of interest. As with Pier 1, Fabricland honors my request to only work during school hours. I’m home when the girls leave for school and home when they return. I couldn’t ask for a better fit; I only wish the working conditions were a bit more pristine.

Our sweet Rachael is 11 and a daughter any parent would be proud of. She has an amazing work ethic and is tremendously helpful and nearly always with a good attitude. How she blesses me! In grade 6, she got to join the youth group this year. She goes to girls’ Bible study on Wednesdays and youth group on Fridays. She took a paper route recently delivering fliers to 85 houses three times a week. Gordon or I go with her and we never tire of seeing her good attitude. This year she enjoyed a Fine Arts tour with her school to Vancouver; outdoor school; and winter camp at Gull Lake.

Hannah is 10 and in grade 5 this year. She is our clown. Her sense of humor keeps us tickled as she’s always seeing the hilarious in the mundane. She loves singing, art, and animals. A car struck her dear Frodo in June and her heart was broken. By August she had found a breeder willing to give her a payment plan. Hannah put $100 down and made $20/month payments. Now she has a Pomeranian Chihuahua cross named Bear. She still grieves the loss of Frodo as he was a “perfect” pet, but she is a good mama to Bear who has a perpetual bad attitude and arrogance issues.

Our Deborah is 7 and in grade 2. She is polite, sweet, and a real joy, -- if you’re not her teacher. She tries her dear teacher who may get some extra jewels in her crown for her patience with our little one. Deborah is forgetful and easily distracted, but she is also kind, engaged and quite articulate, which balances the education equation nicely… most of the time. She goes to Brownies and has enjoyed going door-to-door in the neighborhood selling Girl Guide Cookies. She’s the cookie selling diva of her troop.

Today, as I write this, Stephanie and John Mark are celebrating their first anniversary. Stephanie will finish nursing school in a few weeks and hopefully will land a good job shortly thereafter. The really sweet news though, is that they will be having a baby in July. She is about 2 ½ months pregnant and feeling well. Stephanie and John Mark still live in Northwest Arkansas.

Christopher is nearly 18 and in 12th grade. He’s a wonderful young man of character, integrity, and kindness. He is a football star and being “courted” for football scholarships by several universities. He will learn the dollars and cents of these potential scholarships in February. We look forward to seeing what’s offered and what he’ll choose. At this point, it appears he’ll have several choices.

This summer we camped near Aspen Beach Provincial Park with our friends, the Lozchuks, from Calgary. It was our first time to camp with friends and it was wonderful. Their boys and our girls are comfortable with each other and it made for a restful holiday with the children playing well and parents sitting back watching.

Rachael, Hannah, and I spent US Thanksgiving with my family in Arkansas. It was so wonderful to see everyone. There wasn’t enough money for our entire family, so Deborah volunteered to stay behind for “special time” with Daddy and Beppe’. Beppe’ is Gordon’s mom and we were blessed by her willingness to help make it a good time for Deborah.

Our hearts were torn this year as our church went through crisis and subsequently shrunk to the point that nothing was left for our girls. It was painful leaving, but we have found a new church that we attend regularly, and we’ll probably settle in for the long haul. It has what we want for our girls and Gordon and I are enjoying the teaching. We have many fond memories and feelings for those from Zion that we grew to love so much. These are the complexities of the fallen world in which we live. But in this too, God will be glorified.

We at the Dykstra Home are very blessed. It’s been a good year. We’ve enjoyed safety and health and innumerable good times as a family. This letter captures so little of the year; actually it is but an outline. Nonetheless, it’s a tradition that I love; both capturing the overview of our year as well as hearing the overview of the friends and family that also write Christmas or New Year’s letters. I look forward to reading those.

So for now, we wish you a hearty Merry Christmas filled with love, joy, and peace. Hopefully we will connect with many of you before next year’s letter.

Love,
Valerie
For the Gordon Dykstra Family

 

bertha

(Rachael, Hannah, Me baking cookies 1999)
Scan20100 One of my girls has a friend I'm not particularly fond of. Actually, I don't like her. That's more honest. My daughter isn't all that fond of her either, yet Bertha (aka the friend) considers my daughter her BFF. (That's "best friend forever" for those of you who don't have adolescent daughters.)

Bertha is possessive, controlling, rude, and cruel. Although she likes one of my daughters, she's mean to the other two. I could write an extended essay on why I don't like Bertha, but that would belabor the point.

I can take a lot of abuse if it's directed toward me. But my mothering psyche is less regenerate. Tonight my kids, in a less-than-gentle way, drove that home. I only vaguely remember saying this horrible thing, so I can only guess that at the time I was mildly seething because Bertha had mistreated at least two, maybe three, of my daughters.

As the girls and I were baking cookies tonight, they were talking about Bertha and the things she says and does that so offend them. I tried to refocus them a couple times. This of course is hard for me because I am quite confident I dislike Bertha more than any of my girls. My efforts to refocus the conversation were futile, so I said, "You know girls, we shouldn't be so hard on Bertha...," blah, blah, blah.

Hannah reminded me of the phrase I'd forgotten. Accusingly she challenged, "Mom, you're the one who said she may be the anti-Christ."

why is it?

Have you ever noticed these things in the movies?

--All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.
--It's easy for anyone to land a plane, providing there is someone in the control tower to talk you down.
--The ventilation system of any building is a perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building without difficulty.
--The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window of any building in Paris.
--People on TV never finish their drinks.
--A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
--During all police investigations, it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.
--Mothers routinely cook eggs, bacon and waffles for their family every morning, even though the husband and children never have time to eat them.
--Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.
--Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.
--If a phone line is broken, communication can be restored by frantically beating the cradle and saying, "Hello?, Hello?"
--Most people keep a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings - especially if any of their family or friends has died in a strange boating accident.
--During a very emotional confrontation, instead of facing the person you are speaking to, it is customary to stand behind them and talk to their back.
--Dogs always know who's bad and will naturally bark at them.
--If there is a deranged killer on the loose, this will coincide with a thunderstorm that has brought down all the power and phone lines in the vicinity.
--It is always possible to park directly outside the building you are visiting.
--Guns are like disposable razors - if you run out of bullets, just throw the gun away. You can always buy a new one.
--A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

my new toy

Rachael, 2006
I love this girl so much. Rachael I am a bad girl. I say stupid stuff to be funny all the time, and sometimes it backfires in ways that are less than pleasant. Happened today, a prime example.

I got a virtual spa for Christmas and have been living in the lap of luxury for a couple days. I sit in my leather recliner with my new body length massager and smile as the massaging waves move from my neck to my calves. I do not mean to sound erotic, but more than a couple jokes have been made about this new "toy." I also have a new fountain. So I lay on my massager, smiling and listening to my fountain, basking in the peaceful, feel-good experience. Within the confines of my own house, I have affectionately dubbed my massager, my vibrator. This was met with chuckles from my husband and mother-in-law, but my kids didn't get the joke, thankfully.
Today I was enjoying my massaging paradise, listening to my fountain gurgle, smiling as the sun cast its warm favor on my face when the dogs began to bark, alerting me that someone was approaching. I stretched upright and see all the tell-tell signs that approaching visitor was a solicitor. Solicitors annoy me. I maintain if I want to give money to a cause, I'll happily give it, and in which case I will seek out said cause without making them come to my door catching me with no money at my least convenient moment.

I get solicitors frequently and I abhor the exercise. I am nice, I am not one of those horrible people that scream and slam doors in the faces of solicitors. I do however, get annoyed with them. So much so, I have a NO SOLICITING sign on my front door. It gets no respect. They still ring my doorbell unapologetically.
 
My girls are somewhat savvy in getting rid of solicitors with a little admonition. Today when the dogs started their howling, Rachael came to the living room to look out the window to see who was approaching. I let out my ever so frequent and predictable, "Tell them 'no thank you' and that you mother is unavailable." In the past, this has served me well.

I closed my eyes to try to recapture the massage salon mood, trying to block out the small talk at the front door. Hearing Rachael politely say, "I'm sorry but we're not interested," was when my smile returned. She very capably was handling the situation. I knew they would be on the merry way, and I was proud of my Rachael for her ability to send them on in kindness.

I drew my breath in exasperation when I heard the young gentleman ask her if her mother was home.
With stoic reserve Rachael said, "I'm sorry she isn't available. She's on her vibrator."
 

a christian affair?

(My niece Misty and her third child Bear. 2005)

Misty and baby bearI grew up in a Christian fundamentalist home.

To share a story that reveals some of the fundamentalism still flowing through the bloodlines, I want to share a line from my niece. Mind you, it was all a joke, but it's a joke only someone with fundamentalist exposure would make.

We learned about a person we know who was having an affair. It was a sad story, and we were all deeply sobered by it. But we, as dysfunctional as it may be, sooth our pain with laughter. As we learned the few sordid details that were told, we were all on brief downers.

My niece Misty knew just how to bring us out of the funk that had descended. "You know it's not even like he's having an affair with a good Christian girl. Think about it. If they get married they will be unequally yoked."


boxing day

(Deborah, Rachael, Hannah, Frodo, Lucy 2005)

Deborah, Rachael, Hannah Today is Boxing Day. Every country settled by the English, except the US, celebrates Boxing Day. I had never heard of Boxing Day until I met Gordon. But now I recognize it nearly with as much celebratory gusto as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Boxing Day originated in England and some say it was the day that servants were given off. They worked Christmas Day, but were given a boxed gift from their employers on the day after Christmas. Hence the name, Boxing Day.

Another theory is that it's the day that people gave boxed gifts to those who had served them throughout the year; postal workers, milk men, porters, etc.

(1997)
Scan20020 The tried and true facts, I really don't know. But Boxing Day, December 26, is a holiday up here.

Today we had our big Christmas meal. Gordon's mother joined us. It's been a really good day. We think we are onto a Christmas rhythm that we want to remember for the future. It's been one of the most relaxing, deeply fulfilling Christmases I can remember. Blissfully low key, yet totally satisfying.

I did a serious no-no though. Unknowingly, I dealt my family grief. Here's how. I have never ever bought Stove Top Stuffing. But I've been served Stove Top quite a few times and have grown accustomed to it and even kind of like it. I always make cornbread dressing, all from scratch. I didn't realize till today that my family is committed to the Southern style of dressing.

The trouble started when the kids came from the pantry wanting to know why we had Stove Top boxes. I told them they were on sale 50% off and I thought, Heck, why not. No one will care and it will make my day lots easier. The groaned like I told them we drinking strychnine for cocktails.

Later Gordon was on the phone to our friends in Calgary who are coming to Edmonton tomorrow. Gordon was telling them we would eat leftovers tomorrow. "Valerie makes this cornbread dressing like you wouldn't believe..."

At this point, much too late to start the cornbread dressing, I realized, Oh shoot, it really does matter to my family. So with shame, I served my Stove Top Stuffing. I really felt like a cheater. The time and effort saved were not worth it.

As we hashed all this over at the table, I remembered a conversation I had with my family when I was in Arkansas recently. We were discussing dressing and how it comes in two versions: Yankee and Southern. We discussed our tastes, all of us, being from the South, agreed that Southern dressing is the only way to go. I however told them I had had some good Yankee (Northern) dressing.

My brother mockingly rebuked me for my lack of loyalty. He sighed and said, "Valerie, there was a war fought for this cause."

(Just in case you don't get it, he was joking that the Civil War was about Northern versus Southern Dressing.)


cold and christmasy

(Rachael, Deborah, Hannah 2006)

Xmas 06 Merry Christmas! We have had a wonderful wonderful day. It's been fun and relaxing.

Gordon and I have commented several times today about our girls being great gift givers. They obviously studied their subjects before buying gifts and gave every one gifts they will enjoy. This is saying a lot in this household. When Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah were much younger, they were selfish Christmas shoppers. Their unspoken motto was, "It's all about me." For example, once Deborah got Gordon pink lip gloss, Hannah got him red nail polish, and Rachael got him a pink tape dispenser. They were clearly hoping he would pass his treasures on to them. No longer! We've come a long way. It's been a fun, yet relaxing day.

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart."  George Matthew Adams


let the festivities begin

(Our family, Christmas 1997. How do you like Gordon's Mr. Bean (or is that Gumby) stance?)

Scan20063I have to admit, I've been kind of blue this wonderful season. I usually get into the festivities; decorating, baking, guests, blah, blah, blah. But this year has been kind of bah hum bug. I kept trying to get excited, but I never quite accomplished it.

Tonight at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, the Christmas spirit awakened in my soul. I don't know why it waited so long, but I could hardly wait to share the joy with my family.

After the service we came home and did "the stocking thing" that we do every year on Christmas Eve. It was so fun, as usual, seeing the joy on everyone's face as they opened their stockings. I loved it.

I am the family stocking stuffer; I presume most moms are. It's the one time of year I absolutely love being the martyr. I feel so good when everyone realizes I didn't get anything in my stocking. It's such a special time. "Aaawwhh, poor Mom. I'm so sorry," the kids lament. 

Gordon does his annual speech: "Honey I am so sorry. I didn't grow up with stockings, so I didn't remember to put stuff in yours. It just didn't cross my mind."

(Christmas 1999)

Scan20030I reply as usual: "Really, don't worry about it. It's that sick martyrdom thing. I love it that you all feel sorry about forgetting me. It's worth far more than gifts in my stocking."

I know this means I'm one sick puppy, but I really love my empty stocking. For a few brief moments out of the year, I have them all eating out of my hands. It's such a powerful feeling.

Everyone is gathering downstairs to eat junk food and watch The Grinch. I must get down there.

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. -- Calvin Coolidge


a christmas story, by hannah

Scan20122 To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult every year. -- E. B. White

Is it everywhere or just the pagan city I live in? Christmas is so not a religious thing anymore. I have seen no front yard nativity scenes anywhere. None. Zero. Zilch. It was this way last year too and I told Gordon I wanted to have one made for our yard, but I never did. I wish I had carried through with that. Perhaps that should become one of my New Year's Resolutions. Yes, I think I'll include that. Surely I can pull that off if I try hard enough.

Last night I found a report that Hannah had to write for school about a true Christmas story at her house. It amused me. I didn't know this story had happened. It sounds just like my girls, but it surprised me still. I will write it out just like it reads in her story.

(Hannah and Rachael on our backyard rink, 2005)

010_10 (2) "I was 5 years old and it was 3:00 am Christmas morning and I was awake. I was very exited about Christmas and was eager to open preasents. I had been awake since 2:00 am. The rest of the family was in bed. I snuck out of bed and went to wake up Rachael. When I got to her room, she was already awake. "Rachael", I wispered so nobody would hear. Rachael answered, "Yes." "Are you exited about the preasence" I asked. "Yes" she said "lets go see." "ok" I said. We tiptoed to the living room and looked under the tree. There were so many presents. I took one of the presents under the tree that had my name on it and said, "I am going to open it if you won't tell. I won't tell if you open one of yours!" Ok I won't tell" she answered "and I'll take one too." She grabbed a present for herself and tor the rapping off, so did I. I had a book called The haunch Back of Notor Dam. "Cool" i said. Rachael had a pair of socks. They were green with red dots on them, "there so cute" rachael squeeled. The sock were cute. "Lets hid our things under the sofa so mom and dad won't see them" I said. "OK" Rachael said. "I wonder when everybody is going to wake up," Rachael asked. "I do not know" I replied. We went to look at the clock. It was 3:30. "They're not goin to be awake for a long time" Rachael said grimely. She looked at me and said, "Well see you later, I'm going to bed. are you?" "Yup, good night." Rachael went to her bed and I went to mine. I got all snuggled and warmed up and had a good night's sleep."

Big Smiles.

Christmas. A time for love, goodwill, peace on earth, lies, deception, and mendacity.


deborah and air miles

Last night Deborah was musing about living with Meme if Gordon and I died. In the end she concluded she wouldn't be able to live there, "Because if you died, you wouldn't be around to give me your air miles."

She obviously knows that air miles are needed for us to get to Arkansas.

hemmies

When I was growing up, my family was rigid and uptight in matters relating to anatomy and bodily functions. I vowed (and carried out successfully) that I would create a much different environment in my grown-up home.

Some have asked what we called "those" things. Those who ask that clearly don't understand what I mean. We didn't talk about those things, therefore we didn't have to name anything. We did however make references to elimination. "Use it," was short for use the bathroom. So when we needed to "go," we said, "I need to use it." That said it all.

(On a side note, once I was at my Granny's when she was encountering plumbing difficulties. I told Granny I needed to "use it." She was troubled as she didn't want me using the facilities before the plumber came. She asked me if it was my kidneys or bowels that needed to move. I was mortified. Firstly, I didn't know the difference between the two, secondly, it wasn't supposed to be discussed beyond saying, "I need to use it.")

We weren't so terribly uptight that the men in the family couldn't fart. Females however, went to private places to do that. "Fart" was a cuss word, so we called that function, "let one." For instance: "Oh gross, Daddy let one."

Why on earth am I telling these things? Because I want to tell a conversation that happened when I was in Arkansas. To appreciate it to its fullest, one must recognize "from which we've come." Believe me, the following conversation would never ever ever have happened years ago.

Because of the sensitive subject matter, (pun intended), I will give all the characters aliases to preserve their dignity. Now to the intended story:

One day quite a few of us were sitting in my mother's living room when a relative, Joni, walked in. Having recently had a colonoscopy, she was stricken with painful hemorrhoids, not something most people care to know. Evidently there comes a time in suffering when you quit caring what people think. Joni had reached that point.

Tommy, (remember everyone is bearing an alias in this story), quickly engaged Joni in conversation. Innocently enough, he asked how she was doing. Well that was all she needed to open up. "Lord have mercy! Have you ever had hemorrhoids?" she blurted.

Tommy and Joni fixed eyes; clearly he was elated to meet a fellow sufferer. "I can tell you about hemorrhoids," he chimed.

"Next time anyone suggest I have a colonoscopy, I'll be quick to tell them, 'no thanks,'" she said. She quickly rose from her chair. As she headed determinedly toward the bathroom, she said apologetically, "Ya'll excuse me. I've gotta go scratch."

We were aghast. What we didn't know was that another sufferer was about to come out of the closet.

When Joni walked back into the living room, Fred joined the conversation. Rubbing his thumb and fingers together to illustrate, he suggested that massaging the hemorrhoids with Vaseline would ease the itch.

The three of them engaged in details of their afflictions. Tommy, determined his were by far worse than any one else, said, "I've had hemorrhoids so bad I had to wear a jock strap backwards." The grossed out family erupted into gales of laughter, knowing he was more than a bit exaggerating.

Fred was quite confident that his were still worse. "I've used enough Preparation H to slide from here to Dallas," he unashamedly confessed.

In this fifteen minute conversation, I learned a wealth of grossly funny information. Loved ones have suffered in silence for years, but finally the walls were coming down.

Fred went on to tell a well kept secret. His problem was so bad he had had surgery. He made us acutely aware that we didn't want to go that route. "I'm telling you, first time I went to the bathroom after my surgery, I swear, I thought I was crapping a freight train."

As these stories were shared, we were grossed out, yet thoroughly entertained too. There was still another sufferer about to walk into the light. Actually he didn't walk into the light, his child exposed him. He too had had hemorrhoids so badly he had had surgery. She told that Barry was so uptight and tense for his surgery that they had to bring in extra nurses to hold his butt cheeks apart. Again, the laughter erupted.

So if you're a sufferer, they are certainly more common than I ever knew, having heard enlightening details on the subject, I say sincerely from the bottom of my heart, I'm so glad it's you and not me.

bah hum bug

Christmas morningI'm feeling blue. Lethargic, unmotivated, yuk. I put up the Christmas tree early in the week and I've been melancholy since. It's my first year without Stephanie's ornaments on my tree. It's part of a tradition I started when she was a baby. Furthermore, it's a very very dumb tradition, at least that is how I'm feeling right now. 001_1
(Stephanie's Senior picture)
 
Every year each child gets a new "special ornament." Then one day in the very distant future, when said child has his or her own home and own Christmas tree, their special ornaments and the ones they've made over the years go to their home to their tree. For 21 years that has seemed so noble. Now it's a pile of pooh.
(Grade 1)  
059_59Last year I cherished Stephanie's ornaments all season, knowing it was my last year to have them. I boxed them with love and care when I took last year's tree down. I never mailed them. I kept them on my sewing table, neatly boxed up all year long. When I went to Arkansas last month, I hand delivered them.

I honestly didn't expect to have gross sadness over the whole ordeal. Shucks, I've had 21 years to get used to the idea. I think the problem is giving her the ornaments she made me. I look at my tree and what I see are the ornaments that aren't there. I don't really miss the store bought ornaments, but the hand made ones are the ones that are dealing me some misery. The baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes that she made at Little Lamb; the bear from kindergarten; the hand painted wreath with her picture in it. Gosh, it makes me want to cry just typing it.

What a stupid mistake. Now I realize the one's made for me should have stayed with me. The ones I bought for her should have been the ones to go to her.

As I told my sister all this, she consoled me by saying, "I could have told you that was stupid." And sure enough, that was stupid.

bursting light

For a year I've been reading the Bible in the New Living Translation and enjoying it. Yesterday I read Psalm 112. Verse 4 reads, "When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in."

That's a beautiful word picture.

lifestyle change

(Me in my less fluffy days, 1982)
044_44Well something good is cooking. Hummm. Poor analogy, at least in this context. I'm going to lose weight. Yes, simple as that, I've started a "lifestyle change." Diets are so out of style. Lifestyle change is where it's happening.

I've been on a waiting list to get into a program called Weight Wise. My first appointment was last Friday and it was amazing. I left full of hope and inspiration. The good vibes are still there. My appointment was 1 1/2 hours long and I met with an RN and a dietitian. They were very helpful. Now I keep going back, they'll talk sweet to me, and presto, I'm thin.

Seriously, I was so encouraged and I've not been encouraged in this department in years. The first thing I had to do is buy a pedometer to measure my activity. I'm supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day. Today I put on 15,000 steps and am so pleased with myself. You may do that every day of the week, but it's part of my new "lifestyle."

Secondly I eat "right" and write it all down so they can brag on my "lifestyle changes." I thrive on affirmation and since they are paid to affirm me (and offer me gentle assistance when needed) this should be a piece of cake. Oops, another bad analogy.

On a side note, yet still connected, a friend who happens to be overweight herself, asked me if I really planned to tell the truth when I wrote down what I've eaten. I told her, that yes of course I planned to play by the rules. She belied her own weakness by asking, "What if you eat three candy bars?"
She told me she'd not admit all the overeating she does. She said she would tell them she had a "boiled egg and half a grapefruit for breakfast. Mid morning two baby carrots. For lunch a tossed salad with romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. No dressing of course. And finally, for supper, broiled cod, four Brussels spouts, a small serving of cauliflower, and a fresh pineapple ring for desert." I laughed.

All that reminds me of a story from years ago. Somewhere, for some reason that I cannot recall, my brother-in-law Herbie was asked to tell what he had for breakfast. He casually recounted the picture on the side of a cereal box, listing them all: Special K, half a grapefruit, a slice of toast, and a glass of orange juice.

My mom was amazed that he had that kind of a breakfasts. "You really had that for breakfast?" she asked.

He answered her more honestly than he'd answered the other person. "Why no," he said, "I had a Ding Dong and a Pepsi."

ezra

I have a new great-nephew. He belongs to Mindi, and Mindi belongs to my brother Michael.

Baby's name is Ezra.

When I was in Arkansas, Mindi and Dustin were still undecided about the name Ezra. Michael mockingly derided it. "My grandson deserves the name of a major prophet, not a mere minor," he claimed.

He makes me smile.

gordon quips again

 (Gordon and me, 2004)
 
021_21 (2)
Yesterday Gordon was distracted on the computer, I stood beside him "instructing" him on something. Getting no response from him, I threatened, "If you don't pay some attention to me, I'm gonna give you the dreaded silent treatment."

Without pulling his eyes from the monitor, he countered, "No, not the silent treatment. I can't bear it when you're quiet."

a christopher moment

(Christopher, 6-ish)
Scan20117 Yesterday we recalled and laughed about an incident from years ago. I'm guessing Christopher was around seven.

He made a summer friend named Aimee. She wasn't very cute and was very much a tomboy. They played daily.

After playing steadily for weeks, Christopher overheard someone remark about Aimee not being very pretty. Someone said, "Poor thing, she can't help how she looks."

Christopher was very shocked. With great animation in his face he said, "SHE?? You mean he's a girl?"

rachael has a job

Mommy and rRachael started a paper route today. She has 85 houses that she delivers to three times a week. I admire this child. She is responsible and hard working.

Gordon and I both went with her for her first time today. He and I have very different ideas on how to navigate said paper route. I thought it might turn into a fight, but Gordon's humor deflected my annoyance. As he parked in the middle of the street to read the map that told which houses get the paper, I announced when a car was coming, much to his chagrin, I might add. Once he parked in the middle of the street on a curve. I thought I saw car lights, but because we were on a curve, I saw nothing in my mirror.

I asked him if there was a car and he replied. "I'm not worried about cars. If there is a car, I'll know about it a micro-second after you do."
(Rachael and me, 1995. I'm about three months pregnant with Hannah here.)  

in the news

Interesting things that grabbed me from the paper today:

-- By 2024 NASA plans to have a base on the moon. Yes, a place where astronauts will live. Now that is way out there.... The things that are possible. Wow.

-- Queen Elizabeth's English is changing. Since becoming queen in the 1950's many of her speeches are on film. AND there are people who analyze the Queen's speech patterns (and make money from it, no less). These "researchers" can prove that her speech has changed. In the past she would have said "citae" or "dutae." Now she says city or duty. I wonder if she is watching too much American TV.

-- In Johannesburg South Africa, a prisoner Vaselined himself up really slick-like and escaped out a prison window between bars. He was apprehended later. Imagine that, sliding between prison bars.

-- I am a minority. Over 80% of married mothers are in charge of the family finances. I find that fascinating. I'm very happy to NOT carry that responsibility.

for kicks

 (Me, 1991)

 This is fun. It's a name the first thing to cross your mind sort of thing.
Valerie 19911. Yourself: fun and simple
2. Your partner: upright
3. Your hair: frumpy
4. Your mother: warm
5. Your father: private
6. Your favorite item: prayer/writing journal
7. Your dream last night: Oh it was not a good one. I was infected by a disease by a doctor from my hometown. However he wasn't the villain. This horrible lady (she was sort of like Cruella DeVille), kept hunting me down and giving me electric shocks. Poor Dr. Stephens was getting the shock treatment too. I've tried all day to analyze this dream, all to no avail.
8. Your favorite drink: Coffee in the morning, water thereafter
9. Your dream car: perhaps a Honda Odyssey; I don't dream much about cars.
10. The room you are in: bedroom
11. Your ex: Kent
(This is me as a bride at 18 marrying the Kent, 1984)
103_103
12. Your fear: getting fatter and fatter
13. What you want to be in 10 years: a mother who is extremely thankful that her children turned out well and are lovers of God
14. Who you hung out with last night: my kids; after they were in bed, I worked a sudoku, then read
15. What you're not: thin
16. Muffins: coffee cake
17: One of your wish list items: I had to think here. I pretty much have everything I want, but refinishing our hardwood floors comes to mind after a few moments of thinking.
18: Time: "Teach me to number my days so I may gain a heart of wisdom."
19. The last thing you did: washed dishes
20. What you are wearing: sweatpants and a t-shirt
21. Your favorite weather: fall; crisp and beautiful,
22. Your favorite book: Bible
23. The last thing you ate: homemade cream of broccoli, potato, and cheese soup
24. Your life: content
25. Your mood: feisty
26. Your best friend: Stacie, Diane, Shelly, Debbie
27. What you're thinking about right now: Stacie

 (2004)

Villager 28. Your car: Villager Van
29. What you are doing at the moment: typing
30. Your summer: kind of a downer
31. Your relationship status: committed and married
32. What is on your TV: perhaps a remote control, perhaps nothing
33. What is the weather like: snowing, presently there's about 2 feet; it's not too cold though and, for that, I'm happy.
34. When was the last time you laughed: 15 minutes ago
 

canoeing mishap

First off, this is not me in this picture. However, when I saw it I was instantly reminded when something similar, perhaps worse, happened to me.

We were camping in Saskatchewan. We had a lovely beach. Sunsets were idyllic, somewhere between romantic and spiritual. The setting was amazing.

Gordon rented a canoe. I anticipated our family canoe trip around the lake at sunset.
 
Finally sunset was upon us just as Gordon pulled the canoe to shore for us to board. After all the girls were clad in the life jackets, Gordon got them situated just so, making strides to distribute the weight proportionately. Problem 1: There ain't no way the weight distributes evenly in this family.
 
After the girls was seated safely, Gordon took his place. At the time I wondered why he sat before me, but now I realize it was the continuation of the aforementioned effort to distribute the weight. Reminder: There ain't no way the weight distributes evenly in this family.
 
With camera strapped around my neck -- important to capture this special event in photo -- I walked toward the place Gordon instructed me to take. The girls smiled lovingly; their moods were appropriately set for this spiritual moment of canoeing as a family on a calm lake at sunset. I lumbered awkwardly into the canoe. It rocked precariously. Gordon looked pensive, the girls were wide-eyed. When Gordon gave me the go-ahead, I sat down. That was problem 2. The canoe sank to the bottom of the lake and everyone leaped up yelling, "MOM."
Canoeing Greig Lake I lost all presence of mind. I sat there waiting for the canoe to buoy, to rise back to the surface. Of course at this point the canoe is not just burdened with me, it is also holding a hefty amount of lake water. As the kids yelled at me, I regained presence of mind and realized the boat was not going to rise to the surface.
 
Again I lumbered awkwardly, this time out of the boat, now fully aware of what had just happened. Gordon tipped the canoe over to empty the water and then the family reloaded the canoe and went for a ride in the sunset. I took pictures from the shore.
 
(Greig Lake, Saskatchewan, 2005)

hannah's wacky humor

(Hannah and her scooter in Edmonton's river valley, 2006)
 
Hannah and her scooterHannah has a grand sense of humor. It seems to me that her humor is quite well developed for a 10-year-old. She tickles me to no end.

I have warned the kids repeatedly not to let Bear have any chocolate. Knowing chocolate can be deadly to a dog, I'm a bit paranoid that a six pound dog might succumb to death quickly from a small amount of chocolate. The girls are well aware of this paranoia and do not give Bear chocolate.

Tonight when Deborah came home from Brownies, she came bearing treats. Hannah got a small amount of chocolate candy. Bear quickly joined her on the sofa and practically performed a gymnastic show in hopes of piece of candy. We watched his antics a few moments as Hannah fought to bring her little critter into line. He would not calm down. He continued to jump and whine and beg. Hannah said, as if speaking for Bear, "Oh, but it's to die for."

Moments later he bounded up on the arm of the sofa and was standing less than a foot from my face. This time he was trying to get a bite of Rachael's cookie. He let out a little fart right in my face as he whined. Just as I let out a groan of disgust, Hannah chimed just like the sailors on Moby Dick, "There he blows."
 

gordon sings joyfully

Today was the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday to sing Christmas carols. Gordon loves Christmas carols and always belts them out louder and more fervently than every one else. Our opening hymn was Joy to the World, a personal favorite of Gordon's. As usual, his powerful baritone voice rose above all the others.
Between vers060_60es one and two, the musicians played an instrumental interlude. Gordon of course was caught up in singing his heart out. The whole church waited for the usual direction as to when to begin singing. Everyone but Gordon. As the interlude began and all voices hushed, Gordon belted out, "Joy to," before realizing it was an instrumental moment. Chuckles abounded around us, the girls and me chuckling the most. Not easily embarrassed, Gordon smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

By this time, the interlude was finished, or so Gordon thought. Once again when it sounded as though the new stanza was beginning, Gordon rose to the occasion of leading out. Clearly, with much worshipful gusto, his voice rang out, "Joy to," before he realized again that this too was part of the interlude.

This time the girls and I moved beyond chuckles to all out laughing. Gordon is the only person I know who could do this without being humiliated. But again he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. After that he waited for others to start singing before he opened his mouth.

I, for one, was thankful.
 
(This picture is Gordon in his university days.)

benevolence

Today was Communion Sunday. After communion there is always a benevolent offering taken to help people in the community who are in need.

An elderly woman and her upper middle-aged son were sitting behind me. As the offering plate made its way towards us, I heard the lady scrambling in her purse for her offering. Then I heard the son say, "Don't put that $20 in there. Give it to my benevolent fund."