2012 in review

In a nutshell, 2012 was one of the hardest years of my life. Gone are the days of children who adore me. Gone are the days of being on the same wavelength with Gordon regarding parenting. Gone are the days of loving to be home enjoying my haven, my castle.

I write this in a brand new year and I feel great. I think 2013 is going to be an amazing year. But it's far from traditional, and that's an understatement. More of that later . . .

My first response when thinking of the past year is one of heaviness and darkness. But as I really thought about it, as I forced myself to on December 31, I recognized some bright moments and times of growth. That is my focus at this moment. 

Thinking spot
This is my "Time with God" spot.

Started consistently getting up at 5:30 for extended time with God. It's the most glorious part of my day! When I'm tired and tempted to sleep in, I realize how badly I'd miss that sweet communion if I didn't have it and pull myself to the family room to bask in His love. I'm convinced that early morning time with God got me through the year without a clinical depression. It's consistently the best couple hours of my day.

 ~ Got mostly grain free. In July I went to a workshop on eating habits. My eating habits have been a trouble spot, to say the least, for years. Since 2007 I've got better, but still there are many hungry demons in my soul's pantry. At the workshop I heard the grain-free school of thought for the first time. And it made sense. I read a couple books on the subject and decided it was worthy of pursuit. It's been a battle, but I'm getting stronger all the time. When I fall off the wagon and experience the drug-like symptoms that grain products induce, I'm amazed that I'm still tempted by them. Cheers to the new knowledge of grain being practically a poison to my body.

~ Started a Happiness Project Group. I'm a real sucker for personal development. In May during a boring layover I explored a bookstore and found Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. I've read her blog for years and quickly got excited as I pored over my new purchase. Within a few chapters I was chomping to share the project with others. I put a poster at the library inviting anyone interested in a group to contact me. A local newspaper editor phoned for an interview and wrote an article about my desire to start a project. Over 20 women came to the first meeting (which was way too many for a successful Happiness Project group). Many recognized it wasn't for them. 10 or 12 have stayed and we are a fabulous support group as we are all working on changing different areas of my life. Once a month we get together and we are connecting well.

Updated the family room. Spiffied it up a bit and now we love hanging out there. 

Fam room
The updated family hang-out spot

~ Started attending BILY (Because I Love You), a support group, to help me parent my rebellious disrespectful teenagers. It helped. I'm no longer going, but while I attended, it was a good support.

~Read many books, 45, I think. Some of them were of genres I've never read and they stretched me intellectually. I learned a lot.

Joined a home Bible study. Sunday nights will find Gordon and me with four other couples. We appreciate their friendships and their collective wisdom.

Joined a Classical Literature Book Club. One of the things I learned from The Happiness Project is to pursue what makes me happy. I've long said that when I turn 50 I want to start courses in literature. Gretchen made me question why I needed to wait till I turned 50. I found a group and, with a work colleague who shares my love for literature, began attending. It's a fascinating group and I enjoy it immensely. 

Learned the benefits of Melatonin. Being able to easily get up at 5:30 is a by-product of Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural ingredient that balances sleep patterns. It aids my falling to sleep and it aids my waking.

I got a significant raise at work. It makes a huge difference. 

Flossing. Someone said that growing makes one happy. They said it more eloquently, but you get the idea. Flossing is an area I chose to grow. I floss everyday now.

Enrolled in university, Bachelor of Arts, History Major. I'm super excited and start my first course in February: Western Thought and Culture.

Thora mosaic
Thora, Rosalie and me

~ Held a snake. Sounds innocuous enough, if you don't have a GREAT BIG FEAR OF SNAKES. Rosalie, a young girl I work with, has a Boa, Thora the Explora. Thora had occasion to spend several days at my office (in a very big cage). I decided to "grow" and work up to holding her. I watched her through the cage, paying particular attention to her breathing. She seemed to lose some of her "badness" as I watched her breathe. The next day I asked Rosalie if she'd take Thora out and put her on the table. There a watched her creep around without my running, screaming, or fainting. The next day Rosalie took Thora out of her cage and I touched her. The day after that, with Rosalie's help, I held Thora. You cannot imagine how my heart pounded and how hard I shook. But I did it! I wrestled my hugest fear! I'll probably never own a snake {huge understatement}, but I don't think the talons of fear are nearly as deep.

 ~ Went to North Carolina to see Stacie. We had a wonderful time. I was struggling as a wife and mother and needed the respite from it all. Nearly every morning I sat in a rocking chair on Stacie's front porch admiring the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and pouring my heart out to God. It was refreshing to my soul and gave me the will to keep on keeping on.

 ~ Moved out of the family home into an apartment. On December 4th I took this huge step and I didn't take it lightly. I feel like God said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." And I have peace. I feel like I'm seeing in color and not various shades of gray; that I'm in the driver's seat of my life; that I'm truly alive again. My family still means the world to me. We are still a family. Gordon is still the love of my life. He and I spend lots of wonderful time together and I'm madly in love with him. 2012 was a hard year on our marriage and this space is the best thing that's happened for our relationship in at least a year. It's divine and, strangely, I think we are in the middle of God's will. On the way to church this morning, Gordon said, "Surprisingly, this set up is working great."

2012, one of the worst years of my life. Thankfully, it ended well, but in a way that is awkward to explain. God continues to be in control and we continue to be submitted to Him.

Now on to 2013. I think it's going to be my best year yet. 

god's purpose on the job

(I will now break all cardinal rules for the internet by talking about work. I have never done this before.)

I'Gorgeous flowersm having a hard time at work. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't environment. I strive to rise above the annoyances, abuse and negativity. Last week I failed utterly. Failure is tough when you take being an example seriously. I don't know how my work struggles will end. Sometimes I think I should get out while I still have sanity or while I can still get a good reference. On the other hand, when things are going well - which they are more than they aren't - I love my job, really love it. But it's a volatile environment governed by values I abhor.

Last week was horrible. I felt antagonized and abused and a co-worker is driving me absolutely bonkers. I snapped. I said nothing "bad," but I totally abandoned my convictions about letting stuff slide.

Years ago I had an epiphany that almost every struggle I gohad boiled down to pride, my pride. Since that revelation, I have made "let it go" a personal commandment. Last week I let nothing go. I behaved no better than my colleague and am quite ashamed of myself for being as small as she. (Work aside, I had some significant issues going on at home and that made my tolerance level pretty low. That's not an excuse, that's simply a fact. I was running on emotional fumes.)

At work, people are not appreciated or esteemed. I'm in a position of influence and think my purpose in being there is to improve the lives of those I work with. This is counter to the whole environment. It's a mission I take seriously; a mission I think God placed in my heart. I want desperately to make a difference in the lives of those I work with. When the going gets really tough, I try to remember God gave me a mission to improve the lives of my co-workers and that seems to make my resolve stronger.

Yesterday Pastor Serge spoke on God's purpose in our lives. ("David served God's purpose in his own generation." Acts 13:36) I was reminded that I have a purpose and an assigned job. Improving the lives of those I work with is a significant purpose in my life. It's far behind my relationship with God or my family, but nonetheless a God-given purpose.

Points from Pastor Serge's sermon that I will remind myself of regularly:

- When God gives a purpose, He equips us.

- God works in our desires. (My desire to better the lives of those I work with is a God-given desire.)

- He empowers me with certain skills.

- He is always with me, even when I mess up like I did last week.

- He provides development. Part of the development I see working in my life is last week's screw ups. He used that to remind me how badly I want to be better than that; how badly I want to be an example of joy, peace, patience and humility.

- It's not in vain and it will be rewarded. I may never know if I made a difference, but God knows my heart and my desires and He will reward my efforts.

- The reward will be based on my faithfulness. This is more encouragement to carry through with the mission and not succumb to the pride that wants to destroy me and that God-given purpose.

- My work will be tested. And it was. Last week.

- Works are an expression of my faith. My whole life is an expression of my faith. I want the work I do, the way I act, my smile, my concern for others, my casual greetings to my co-workers, I want it all to express my faith; to express that I am different.

- God is with me to fulfill His purpose. I was renewed by this reminder. I can go back to work tomorrow with a clean slate (in my heart) ready to continue the commitment to make a difference.

- David wasn't rejected by God when he sinned. Even having sinned big time, David served God's purpose in his generation. I can too.

(Disclaimer: This post by no means indicates I will be at this job forever. There will come a time when I leave. I don't want to leave prematurely and I want to leave knowing I have served God's purpose in my being there.)

thursday thirteen

Sibs and daddy1
2009, Valerie, Michael, Diane, Daddy, Stacie

1. I did a very foolish thing by not refilling a prescription. I've been out of it for about a week and a half. Bad, bad idea. Evidently it helps keep me sane.

2. I'm extraordinarily cranky and edgy.

3. I would kind of like to stab a few people with a fork.

4. Some people simply need a high five. In the face. With a chair.

5. Need those pills. I will get myself fired without them.

6. Went to the pharmacy. Took three pills right there at the counter.

7. Should be able to control the spastic tongue soon.

8. Wish I got paid for the hours it felt I worked today.

9. Did I mention it was a hard day at work?

10. I'm known for my smile, kindness, patience, positivity and good cheer. Literally. I hear it all the time.

11. I bet they're wondering what got hold of me this week.

12. Can't decide if I was surrounded by a--holes or if I was one. I think a bit of both. I seriously regret being such a crank.

13. This evening I talked to Stacie for a long time. We laughed and I felt much much better. Nothing like good sister time. I sure love her. And Diane. And Michael and Lawana. I have great siblings.


just for fun

Morning backyard
my backyard in the morning, I adore it out here
A few weeks ago I referenced Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project, in which she challenged me to think about what is fun for me. And I did; I thought long and hard about the things I like to do, the things I look forward to, the things I make time for. In the process, I had an epiphany: it's okay to call the things I thoroughly enjoy "fun."

In the spring and summer I look forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings when I'll sit in the backyard, have breakfast and drink as much tea as I want. All week long I look forward to that. And when the weekend finally arrive, I bask in the experience.

After work, I like putzing in the yard, watering plants, dead heading flowers and generally admiring my "container gardens."

The very best hour of my day is my walk in the ravine. It's a lovely semi-secluded area where I pray, work on Scripture memory and worship the Creator of the beauty surrounding me. And my little side kick Peewee is by my side enjoying every second of it with me. 

along my ravine walk

I love to read and usually have three or four books on the go. Right now I'm reading The Happiness Project,  Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager, and Wild Child, Waiting Mom. By the last two titles, it's easy to ascertain my season in life. The first book is indicative of my effort to take care of myself and squeeze as much joy out of life as I can. I love personal development and am always challenging myself to improve. As time allows, there are a number of blogs I read on the subject.

I love to write, capture stories, blog, be the family historian. That's where this blog comes in. I've been blogging since 2005 and have tomes of family stories. The kids love them and it's not a bit unusual to see Deborah curled up with one of my books.

I love beautiful pictures of kids (any kids), nature and animals. I get regular doses of that beauty through Tumblr. I look at my Tumblr pictures probably every two weeks. My Tumblr motto is "Because It Makes Me Smile." My Tumblr photos do just that. I'm smiling as I think about them.

I like to look at pictures that spark my creativity; do-it-yourself projects, lawn and garden, organization, home decor, etc. I get this "fix" from Pinterest. I peruse Pinterest nearly every weekday for 20-30 minutes. I find lots of clever ideas that inspire me and spark creative thoughts.

It's almost kind of sick how much I love to laugh. Most days when I'm on Pinterest I will journey through the humor section to garner a few chuckles.

As I read about fun, I was glad to figure out that I've already built it into my life. There are some things I love that I cannot do regularly like hike, travel and visit my southern family, but I think I've got a balanced, enjoyable life. Reading The Happiness Project got me thinking about it and I was pleasantly surprised to see I had this area of life in order. There's always room for improvement, but I'm confident I'm on the right path.

marty from reno

It's not safe to talk about anything and everything on my blog like it used to be. With Facebook, anybody and/or their dog can find you. And sometimes they do.

I'm as bad as anyone at creeping people's Facebook. I think of someone I haven't thought about in decades (or since yesterday) and see if they're on Facebook. Finding them I look at their pictures and see who their friends are and then stalk their friends' pictures and then look at their friends' friends . . .  I'm a relatively busy person, but give me some down time and a computer and I can cover lots of territory.

If I do this kind of creeping and stalking, it stands to reason that somebody out there just might be curious about me. It's a stretch, but it could happen. If someone gets as far as finding me on Facebook, it's a simple jump to this site which used to be my little babbling joint. When I started this blog in 2005 it was a fairly safe place to post my intimate little thoughts. Not quite as safe anymore.

I'm really thankful for my Gordon. I landed a really good husband, much better than I deserve. It's the grace of God, let me assure you. I dated some doozies.

Let's call the fellow in this story Marty and let's pretend he lived in Reno. Marty and I met through work and started talking on the phone. I went to Reno to visit him. Then he came to visit me.

When rabbit owners get ready to breed their rabbits, they take the doe to the buck. If the buck goes to the doe's cage, he's distracted with the change of scenery and doesn't perform. I am similar to bucks this way. Not that I went to Reno to breed, but I was distracted by the change of scenery and stuff to do and was unaware how terribly incompatible Marty and I were. I was into seeing new things and Marty was subsidizing my sight-seeing so I had a good time. I realized afterward that Marty had nothing to do with my enjoying Reno. Nothing whatsoever.

Several weeks passed and Marty decided to visit me. The gender-confused buck in this story was on her home turf and no longer distracted by the scenery. Things were obnoxiously clear; Marty was the worst obsessive compulsive disordered person ever. 

At my house, when I came out of the bathroom he got up and went and straightened the towel I'd just used. After I got a drink and put the glass in the sink he jumped up like a jack-in-the-box to wash it with soap and water. He rearranged my Tupperware and swept the porch. He put my videos in alphabetical order. He always turned my radio and air conditioning off when I stopped the car.

About 12 minutes into Marty's Arkansas vacation, my head was about to blow off. I didn't think I could possibly last two more days. I took him to work hoping to wear him out on the people who had more destructive behaviors than me:  Hey look, Herbie missed a belt loop. Edith has ink on her finger. One of the stalls in the ladies' room is out of toilet paper. Oh drats, the janitor missed this spot. See her chipped nail polish?

My efforts back-fired; colleagues thought my predicament hilarious. The office crew went to lunch and invited Marty. Turned out Marty had a Reno stomach not a greasy Southern-fried one. He got diarrhea from our little diner. For the next six hours he reported all his bowel movements complete with how many sheets of toilet paper each took.

I was beside myself with crazy. We went home and I promptly went to the mailbox to get a breather from him. When I got back to my front door, it was locked. I knocked and he opened the door and told me Stephanie and Christopher were "wild" and asked, "Why can't they be more like your sister Stacie's kids?"

If it were possible for eyeballs to rupture out of one's head in fury, I never would have seen my eyeballs again. I told him I was taking him to the airport. And I did. 27 hours before his plane left.

Some people don't get into Facebook. That's fine, but they shouldn't start a profile and not finish it. 

Last night I told the family about my few long hours with Marty. Out of curiosity I got on Facebook to see if Marty had ever married and see if his kids were noticeably deranged. I found him. His profile had nothing but his age and location, not even a picture. I went to his friends and thought it ironic and hilariously sad when this notice popped up: Marty has no friends.

me tootin' me up

Due to the overwhelming sales of my book, I'm working on volume two. The previous line is of course baloney. Stacie, mocking my sales numbers, said, "I better hurry and get mine before they're all sold out."

I am seriously working on volume two. In the process I ran across these sweet greetings I received many moons ago. You all know I'd rather walk on my lips all day long than toot my own horn. But these are too sweet not to toot up a little. So picture me walking on my lips as you read these toots I received for my birthday several years back. Yeah, I should have waited till I had a birthday to share them, but I was just so overwhelmed with the feely-goodies than I wanted to share them RIGHT NOW.

006_6 (3) (Stacie and me, '71 or '72)

Stacie made my day with my first birthday greeting.

"Happy Birthday, Valerie.

You always write such eloquent birthday tributes to those you love and this simple greeting seems so pale in comparison.

What do I love about you: You have the most wonderful humor. You can make me laugh like no other and you laugh with me so whole heartedly. Your writing is so fun to read because it can make me laugh though you are so subtle in the effort. I'm so impressed.

You are a great listener. Truly. You don't interrupt (like me) and I always feel like you really hear. Poor souls that have no one to listen. You listen to me blab on about what I made for dinner, what I wore to work, all the places I went, blah, blah, blah. Wonderful.

You are a willing learner. I mean, you've learned to sew, candle make, quilt make, cake decorate, genealogy sleuth, write, etc? You do it with gusto and competently. I stop before I start because I know I can't be an "expert".....

You are humble. Yes, you are and no, you haven't always been.

You share freely and graciously your mistakes, mis-judgments, hurts, pain, embarrassments, social errors, mis-steps, etc. There is something "freeing" about it when you share your confessions so honestly. God bless this trait.

You are a wonderful sister. I love you so much and I am so blessed to have such a dear dear friend and confidant. You are important to me and I miss you ever so much. Happy birthday, Stacie"


And then, lo and behold, my sister Diane wrote:

Scan20014 - Copy (2) (Diane and me, 2000)

"My favorite thing about you is how much fun you are and how easy you laugh. I was thinking about this today, and I've decided that we Callahan kids enjoy ourselves like no others. I mean literally; we enjoy OURSELVES. I enjoy me, you enjoy you, etc., etc. No one laughs harder at our funnies than we laugh at our own. That's the mental picture I got when I was thinking about you today. I could see you making a funny comment and then slapping your knee real hard and laughing boisterously! I laughed just thinking about it (because that's what we do; we laugh at ourselves).

You and I have had soooo many fun times laughing at ourselves and at each other. Do you remember the time we were at the motorcycle rally in Colorado and a guy walked off after talking us near-comatose? Before he was out of earshot, you turned to me and said, "He bores me."

I could go on and on, but you have already written about most of our funniest times, so mine would be redundant and not near as entertaining. You are a great writer. I always laugh out loud when I read your blog.

On a serious note, I appreciate how transparent you have become. You used to protect yourself at all costs, but you have become very vulnerable and "real." I truly appreciate that, but especially since I know how hard it must have been for you.

I remember vividly the day you were born. Do you remember how much I doted on you when you were a little girl? I know, I know, you remember what a witchy older sister I was, but maybe in the recesses of your mind, you can conjure up a memory of when I used to call you "To-Val." Strange nickname, I know, but it was my pet name for you.

I love you and wish you the very happiest of birthdays. Diane"


I couldn't have asked for more feely goodies in one day. But another one came from my aunt, Jill. Scan20031 - Copy (2) 

(Twins, Aunt Jill and Mama)

"I love you because you are funny. I love you because you are articulate. I love you because you are intelligent. I love you because you so obviously love me! I love you because you are strong.I love you because you are warm and supportive. I love you most of all because you are you! Jill"


Beautiful. I had all I needed for days and days of high spirits.

You know how I hate talking about myself. Ok, so that's a lie. But you know how it's so much cooler if someone else toots your horn rather than you tootin' you're own? Here's my rootin' tootin' niece Mindi tootin' me up:

Scan20008 (Dustin and his lovely wife Mindi, my niece)

"Valerie, I know that you cannot know what you mean to me. As a child I always felt a bond to you because I was often told that I was so much like you. Little did I know, that the adults in my life were referring mostly to negative traits that we had in common, namely stubbornness. As an adult, I still feel a close bond to you, and now it is because there are traits that I see in you that I admire and want to develop in myself. I admire you as a mother and a wife. I admire your commitment to your marriage, and your commitment to raising your children to be kind people. I admire your skills in the domestic life you lead, as well as the way you push yourself to try new things all the time, even if those new things lead to "butthole roses" in a cake decorating class. I admire your transparency. It is ever so humbling to admit our shortcomings. If you are anything like me, humility is not our strong point. I appreciate your open mind, and for proving that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I in no way think you are old or a dog, but I can't think of a better metaphor. Who would have thought that a little country girl from Arkansas, would grow into a tree-hugging, Wal-Mart boycotting Canadian. (All said in jest, of course.) I do admire you Valerie, and love you dearly. I hope your birthday is fabulous. *ching ching*


When the goodness was just too much to imagine anymore,  my sweetheart added this to my day's blessings:

Scan20003 (Gordon and me, 1997ish. Perhaps that's a monstrous zit between my eyes.)

"I love you because you hung on. It has not been easy, but you kept getting up each morning and caring as you could, without going anywhere. I love you because you have learned through much pain to adjust to my weaknesses without kicking back. I love you because you keep trying new things, even when the last thing didn't work out like you planned - including things between us. I love you because you love our kids, and do your best to bring out their best, even after they have annoyed you into temporary isolation. And, I love you because you kept on laughing at my weird, silly, and sometimes asinine comments, and then went and cooked a meal or did the laundry or just prayed for all of us. I guess if you get right down to it, I love you because in spite of how life works out sometimes, you have been faithful to me, our kids, our life together, and our common Lord, in big and small ways, even when it was the hardest thing in the world for you to do. And I'm thankful to God for it. Will you be my Valentine, Valerie? Love, Gordon"

That day was a most glorious birthday. I don't think I've ever received so many kind words. I was truly blessed that day and re-reading them today, I was blessed all over again.

Thanks for listening as I tooted.

my 1000th post

Valentines morning
Howdy. It's a lovely bright day here in Alberta and I'm soaking up the sunshine. I hope you are enjoying this fine Friday as well.

THIS IS MY 1000th POST on this blog. One might call me verbose, but remember, I'm only verbose in written form. Usually, anyway.

I had a birthday. Turned thirty-fourteen. I'm not getting any younger and complained to Gordon that my face falls a bit more everyday. He assures me he'll still love me even if I have to carry my face in my purse to keep it from dragging.

He is an absolute amazing support and friend to me. This table is what I woke to on Sunday morning, my birthday and Valentines Day. The girls and I always feel so loved on Valentines Day. I was about to get my breakfast on this morning when I spotted the table. I said, "Awwh," forewent the toast and grabbed three cookies and said, "gotta jump start the ole metabolism." It was an amazing day. Thank you, My Love.

I got a special gift, my blog made into books. They are huge -- even I had no clue I said so much over the past few years. Now I'm busy editing, deleting, cleaning up my spelling and grammar. When I get done, I'm turning them into real hardcover books. Anyone want to buy an over-priced book? I say "over-priced" because they are expensive when printing so few, but once I get them cleaned up -- that's a very big and time-consuming job -- I'll be happy to print a few extra just for you. They will make great bathroom reading. My kids are fighting over the books and laughing out loud frequently. Gordon and I have done some of the same.

I'm taking a wee break from posting fresh new stuff. I'm going to devote my blogging time to editing my book. However, keep reading this blog because I'll still be here recycling old posts. To celebrate my 1000th post I'm doing reruns. I hope you'll enjoy them. If you have a favorite, just let me know and I'll put it out there again. 

So keep visiting. Who knows what you'll find.

2010 goals


"Create the kind of life you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."  Foster C. McClellan

If you've been reading this blog long, you probably already know that I'm passionate about self-improvement. Part of that is liking a challenge, but the bigger part is I get high on accomplishment. Accomplishments are to me what endorphins are to an athlete. I love to set a goal and work toward it.

 "All lasting inner change requires time "*

I know how discouraging it is to set a goal and fall flat. I've done it plenty of times. But somewhere along the way I figured out and internalized that moving in the right direction is good, really good. Now I can be happy making improvement even if I don't reach the goal.

"Daily incremental improvements produce lasting results which, in turn, lead to positive change."*

Back of roman
It's all in the baby steps. "Baby steps," remains my mantra.

"There is nothing noble about being superior to another person. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self."*

I'm competitive within myself. I like to break my own records. I love knowing that I'm getting better.

"We think about 60,000 thoughts a day. By writing your desires and goals on paper you send a red flag to your subconscious mind that these thoughts are far more important than the remaining 59,999 other ones."*

I think the key ingredients of the small measure of success I've enjoyed in reaching my goals is simply writing them down. This blog is a great resource for me in that way. There's always a record and that creates an element of accountability for me.

"The best time to plant a tree was 40 years ago. The second best time is today." Chinese proverb

Copy (1) of 002
This quote is my favorite with respect to the physical body. It's hard to change a life-time of bad habits. It's hard to be encouraged by the loss of five pounds when you're 100 pounds overweight. It's hard to be pleased with walking around the block when you'd really like to be running a marathon.

Most of us didn't get a perfect start in this area but the only way we can change the pattern is to start fresh everyday and not focus on the past. Start fresh with small steps. Instead of saying today I'll only eat 1000 calories, saying today I will eat an apple for a snack.

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means improving every aspect of yourself ceaselessly and continuously.*

Evidently we don't have a similar word in English. So I've adopted this word, kaizen, as the state in which I want to live. I want to be headed in the right direction and improving all the time. That's the idea.

"Every arrow that hits the bull's eye is a result of 100 misses. Don't fear failure. Failure is your friend."*

In the spirit of that last quote, I'll now share my 2010 goals.

  • Begin every day with quiet time with God. 
  • Buy a new Bible.
  • Do my treadmill routine four times a week.
  • Have a regular date night with Gordon, every other week.
  • Have lunch with one of the girls once a week.
  • Keep a 5 pound weight at the computer and lift repeatedly as I surf.
  • Walk on my lunch break.
  • Make two dinners (one for later in the week, of course) on my Monday's off.
  • Have a Christmas party for Deborah and her friends making Christmas cookies and a craft.
  • For snacks at work, keep only apples or carrots on hand.
  • Run in a 5k.
  • Have a regular coffee date with my friend Lydia.
  • Take a yoga class.
  • Start buying 1% milk.
  • Mail a special gift to my siblings.
  • Get a new clothesline.
  • Ride bike to Morinville.
  • Get my hearing checked.
  • Get an eye exam.
  • Get an estimate for a gas insert for the fireplace.
  • Be a better friend.
  • Read all the BBC top 50.

My list isn't grandiose at all, is it? But it's keeps me headed in the right direction. It's the beginning of February, and I'm on track, and lovin' it.

* Taken from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, by Robin Sharma, one of my favorite books.

2009 high points

Moutain peak 
made lots of homemade jam

rode my bike to work very often in the spring and summer

had a 24 mile bike ride

made Roman an I Spy with my Little Eye quilt

made Avery a rag quilt

read over 60 books

started reading the BBC top 100 book list; am reading things I never would have without the list and I am expanding my knowledge in lots of areas

took the plunge on volunteering at the prison

got my craft room more functional

had a great visit to Arkansas

made it through the year without complaining in front of the kids about a certain topic

got a new job that's teaching me lots

new job

Avery and beppie's hands 

Avery and Beppie, holding hands. Oct 2009


I have a new bookkeeping job and it's been nearly 20 years since I did the bookkeeping thing. So, think tension. 

But on a lighter note,... Do we all hate job hunting? I'm assuming we do. I do. I hate nearly everything about job hunting, so I'm very thankful that I got the first job I interviewed for. For this interview, I wasn't well prepared. I got home from Arkansas at 3:30 am and had this interview at 10 am. I felt rushed and ill-prepared.

While I was in Arkansas, my sister, Diane, and I were sharing funnies and agreed that we both get a real kick out of thinking "what might have been". For example, we imagine how funny something would have been if someone had said such and such during such and such time. We shared potential funny stories, but to us they were already funny because they were playing like real life in our minds. I had one of those "what might have been" funny scenarios running through my brain during my interview.

I was Ill-prepared, like I said. I had not mentally prepared for possible questions and their brilliant answers. I was totally flying by the seat of my pants. Then interviewer (now boss) asked me to name my strengths. Putting my most poised foot forward, I nervously began to list them. And list them. And list them some more. If there was another flattering word in the English language, it escaped me.

Then she asked about my greatest weakness. This very question tripped me up the last time I had an interview and I made a mental note to rehearse my answer for my next interview. Forgot I'd made that mental note, so I stammered and stuttered trying to answer coherently. I have plenty of weaknesses, but most of them don't really pertain to the job setting. Sure I could have told her about my flossing negligence, about the people I dislike and how it's their issue not my own. I could have told her about my cooking abilities, how they seem to be digressing with age. Or about that gunky-buildup on the floor around the toilets. I could have told her I eat too much and sleep too much. In real life, I'm quick to admit that I abhor the telephone, but that probably isn't the right thing to admit in a job interview.

I stammered a bit and then had a flash of what-might-have-been humor. I imagined a scene that would fit with Bill Murray in What About Bob?.

After losing my breath telling my bajillion strengths, to her "tell me your greatest weakness," I imagined myself deflated-ly and in somber seriousness saying, "self-loathing."

I still chuckle when I imagine that scene that never happened.

So Valerie, tell me some of your greatest strengths.

I'd be happy to. Blah blah blah blah... I'm really good at blah blah blah blah. ... Repeatedly I've been told I'm amazing at blah blah blah blah. I take great pride in blah blah blah blah. I should probably mention, blah blah blah...

And your greatest weakness?...

Self loathing.


You're probably wondering what I really answered and I honestly can't remember, except that it was stupid. It was so stupid that I might as well have said how repulsed I am by KFC's greasy chicken. My answer had nothing to do with anything. While I was saying it, I was thinking, this is so stupid and that's the part I remember, not what I really said.

It's a stretch trying to tell a story that only happened in my head. But maybe I told it well enough that at least Diane will get it, since she shares the same propensity to imagine what would be funny if all the stars lined up just so.

Bottom line for this post: New job, very thankful.

swearing in church

Father lacombe church

“When I decided to marry Peter and go to the country to live, I had expected to learn new things and meet new people; what I hadn’t expected was to be changed myself in elemental ways by my new environment, not thinking that an environment in itself could change one in any essential way.”  Sharon Butala in The Perfection of the Morning; An Apprenticeship in Nature

I just finished the above book. That quote jumped out at me, instantly giving me an a-hah moment. It is true for me although I’d never articulated it with such clarity. I’ve been in Canada for 16 years and have spent more adult life here than in the US. I’ve been here just the right amount of time to be regularly confused. (This just the right amount of time has been the case for about 5 years now). Sometimes I’ll begin to say something and stumble and falter trying to decide which pronunciation I’m to use and which pronunciation goes with which country. I can’t think of a good example at the moment, so I’ll use the color mauve to illustrate. In Canada mauve is pronounced mov with a long o. In Arkansas, it’s mov with a short o. Two very different pronunciations which rend “huh?” from the listener if I mistakenly use the wrong one. But I easily get confused and wonder which pronunciation to use in both places. It’s a strange feeling.

Also things like kitty-corner/kaddy-corner; I often get confused on those type things. Matter of fact, I don’t know which one goes with which location even as I think about it right now. Honestly, I stammer quite a lot trying to ascertain things as I’m speaking. I’ve actually been corrected by folks in both locations for some pronunciations; people who have no idea that there is a just-as-acceptable-in-a-different-part-of-the-world pronunciation.

It my earliest days here a lady and I were talking about wills, you know, last will and testament. Even though we were on the subject of wills, when I said “will” she didn’t know what I meant. When I spelled it, she said, “Oh, will.” It still happens with pen and Jen. Now when someone introduces themselves as Jen, I ask if they are a Jennifer and if I can call them Jennifer. I cannot pronounce Jen. It sounds like gin and confuses people. (If you want to take a quiz about your way of speaking, here is one:  https://www.gotoquiz.com/what_american_accent_do_you_have).

I’m in a book club (with other Americans) and we’re having lively discussions from a book we’re reading. A couple weeks ago I shared this quote: "I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night." Tony Campolo  I like the quote but in our discussions, I realized how very, very Canadianized I’ve become. Shit is an ugly word, quite an ugly word, but in the above context I’m far from offended by it. Not so with some.

In one of my first church services in Canada, I was mildly traumatized when the pastor, while praying for a parishioner with cancer, said something to the effect of “God, how we hate this damn cancer.” I honestly couldn’t believe it and thought about it for days. It was quite a big deal to me. But as I meditated on it, I began to see a side of the issue I’d never seen before. Cancer is damned cancer. One day it will be damned forever. Same with pedophilia and pornography; damned pedophilia and damned pornography are accurate descriptions. But this is a Canadianized deduction. I heard the same pastor say shit in a churchy meeting too. And, to my deduction, he wasn’t swearing, he was accurately describing something.

We moved to Edmonton and my new pastor said some words that would have been scandalous in the church of my youth and others I’ve attended. Back in Gordon’s seminary days, he went for a brief counseling session with a famous Bible teacher/pastor/writer that you’d know by name. Gordon’s purpose for visiting this man was to talk about lust and its guilt-inducing emotions and such things that are common to young (any?) men. In the course of their conversation, the famous, Godly, teacher/pastor/writer reminded Gordon that love is far more than a cheap f---. Yes, he used the actual word. Gordon was not at all offended, as f--- really fit the context, -- to a Canadian. We don’t refer to loving relationship sex as f---. That gross word is for cheap sex that’s void of anything sacred and loving. Right? My intent is to show how cultures seep into our beings without us even knowing it.

Last week I was having this conversation with some book club mates and I mentioned speaking at a Christian ladies’ group and referring to some of my past as “my shitty past.” From my point of view that’s an accurate and honest and fitting description. I think my mates were mildly horrified. J But I didn’t say it for impact, to be risqué, and especially not to offend. I said it because it was honest and fitting, and perhaps also, because I was unwise. As my book-club mates and I bantered this back and forth, I realized how I’d changed “in elemental ways by my new environment, not thinking that an environment in itself could change one in any essential way.”

I imagined what would happen if someone said any of the above examples in the church of my youth. Scandalous cannot accurately depict the fallout that would follow. I realized how wrong and sinful and utterly horrible those words would be in another environment. I would never say anything “bad” in these settings.

I’m left wondering if God visits us all in a way that is fitting to us culturally. My thoughts, perhaps wrong, are that he does. I told my friends who I had the discussion with that I’ve prayed those words and felt no shame. I’ve cried (literally) out, “God, I’m so tired of this shit.”

To my credit, I want to say I don’t think I’ve ever said any of these words in a non-Christian setting. I am conscious of “my testimony” and don’t want to hurt it or the Christian community. I’ll defend any of the people whom I’ve used in my examples. They are all fine upstanding Christians and all walk in utmost integrity.

These thoughts have been on my mind. Maybe you, dear reader, are horribly offended and mildly traumatized to hear of people who “swear” in church. Maybe I’ve written it out poorly and it still seems so wrong to talk this way. But I want to know if you can understand where I am, and the others I’ve quoted, are coming from? Any one up for the discussion? I’d like to hear your (polite, even if contrary) thoughts.


feelin' groovy

Vomit Happy Monday Folks. If you're keeping track, you know I wasn't around last week. I was very sick with the Norwalk Virus. I thought for sure I was going to throw-up my toenails, but that is probably more detail than you'd hoped for. I try to be open-minded and learn stuff along the way, no matter what the situation. In my sickness I re-learned a few lessons about myself.

I am not a fighter. Many times I've watched sick people "fight" their illness and cling tenaciously to life. If I should ever get a life-threatening illness, I can tell you right now, if it causes me any sickness or pain, which I assume most life-threatening illnesses would cause either pain or sickness, I will succumb sooner rather that later.

As I hugged the porcelain last week, I found myself saying, "God, take me now." And a couple times when Gordon came to check on me lying on the bathroom floor, I mouthed, "Please shoot me." We don't even own a gun, but at the time it seemed so logical.

Some people might read what I just wrote and think how awful I am to speak those words. After all, life and death are in the power of the tongue, and, some might say, I'm speaking death words. I think that's a bunch of hooey. I know my days are numbered and God knew my last day long before he even created me. So I don't buy the idea that I can bring physical death to myself by saying  I'd rather die than live sick. And if I did believe it, I'd have lain vigil on the bathroom floor last week saying I'm dying, I'm dying just to end the agony.

(On the other hand, I believe with everything in me that I can speak death or life words into the lives of others. Through my words I can sow positive thoughts into my kids or negative. I can sow life-giving words or life-sucking words. And I choose to sow life most of the time. I'm working on all the time, but I am a work in progress.) 

Last week as I heaved my kneecaps up to my chest bone I had numerous thoughts. One, I am thoroughly convinced that throwing up so much through six pregnancies has left my innards deformed. I think there are things that no longer work, like the shut-off valve. When most people are finished vomiting, they stop. Right? That's not rocket science. It doesn't work for me. I keep heaving until all the bunyans are dislodged and an hour's worth of pee has escaped. And I'm very loud and I have no control over the volume. Trust me, if I could control the volume I would. After all, I've thrown up in more public places than I care to think about. Yes, it would be nice to delicately puke in Walmart's purse department, gingerly wipe my face and move on, but no, that's not the way it works. Masses have gathered and watched me and offered to call ambulances and such, and all the while I say, "No, really I'm fine. This is just something I do."

When I was pregnant with Rachael, we lived in an apartment - very unfortunate for my fellow apartment dwellers. I vomited often and loudly. One rare moment of bliss, Gordon and I were laying on the sofa talking. Suddenly we heard the people beneath us making the most awful noises. We quietened to listen. Then Gordon and I said in unison: "They're making fun of you [me]." They had company over and were showing the company what they had to listen to regularly. I was embarrassed and felt so vulnerable. I wanted Gordon to go and confront them and say something to make them choose a higher road. Instead he said, "Boy, are they ever good. That sounds just like you. This is so hilarious."

Last week Mindi announced that our Photo Challenge Color for March is green. Because I was sick and thinking sick thoughts, I was reminded of my neon green vomit days with Stephanie's pregnancy. Yes, I have a vomit story for just about every occasion. You may be thinking that I'm lying. I'm considering doing a series on some of my public vomiting experiences. Now that's a series I've never seen before.


25 things about a b'day girl

Vday morn

I had a birthday over the weekend and received many well wishes. It was a good day. This is what was on the kitchen table when I got up on Saturday morning.

Recently there has been this "25 things about me" list going around on Facebook. Here's my list.

1. I'm the youngest child in the family. I have a brother and two sisters that I love very much. They are all dysfunctional and count on me to help them along life's highway with some semblance of normality.

2. I am in an online bookclub with "kids" I was in junior high with. Our teacher is in the same bookclub. How weird is that? But it's beautiful to be connected.

3. I have been in 47 US states, many of them on a motorcycle.

4. I toured the US on motorcycle in 1992.

5. Besides the brother and two sisters I've already mentioned, there was another daughter. Her name was Deborah and she died when she was almost 2 of a brain tumor. She is why I named my baby Deborah.

6. In 1991 I was in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam.

7. Going to Vietnam with a US passport when the US had sanctions against Vietnam still has repercussions with US immigration.

8. I'm about to go public for the first time with my biggest self-development goal. Here goes... I want to be a marathon runner.

9. On Wednesday I'm going to my first Weight Watchers meeting. Yikes, that's embarrassing.

10. For most of the time Gordon and I have been married, we've had extra people living with us. Either foster children or foreign exchange students. I've been foster mom to 15 children and home-stay mom to 17 foreign students (many of those were short term). No one has lived with us since 2004.

11. I studied Business. That cracks me up now as I have NOOO interest in it.

12. I received a full scholarship to East Texas Baptist University.

13. I love St Francis of Assisi. I have tried to join the Ecumenical (as in non-Catholic) Order of Franciscans on three occasions. I never succeeded.

14. I have done freelance writing under a pen name that I've never told a soul. It's such a pretty name.

15. I have a huge desire to do a volunteer vacations in third world countries throughout the world. Some day we (the whole family) hope to take a year off for just that.

16. A few of my heroes are Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Gary Larson.

17. 25 interesting things is pretty hard to come up with... I won 2 gold medals this past summer in dragon boating. And I went to physical fitness boot camp for 7 weeks this past fall.

18. I sympathize with vegetarianism. I am repulsed by lots of meat. I'm not a vegetarian yet, but I think it's coming. Gordon and the girls still want meat.

19. Weddings give me panic attacks.

20. I've been blogging since 2005.

21. I drive very slowly. I think that comes from years of speeding through life, or at least pretending to be speeding through life.

22. I have gone through serious depressions that have lasted years.

23. I haven't had television in over 20 years. I do not miss it.

24. I love simple living, I love living simply. I'm becoming a minimalist.

25. Other than mortgages on two houses, Gordon and I are nearly debt free.

2008 most memorable moments

A few weeks ago someone posed the question what my three most memorable moments in 2008. This was my answer.

1) Becoming a Canadian citizen

2) Crossing the finish line for my first gold medal in dragon boating.

3) My grandson’s face when he got off the plane when he and my daughter came to visit.

I would have felt very blessed by any one of these things. Experiencing all three helped create an exceptionally good year.

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links to some good reading


I have an annoying habit of sending myself emails. Usually they are notes to remind me of something I need to do at work or at home depending on where I sent the email of course.

I subscribe to a number of blogs that challenge and encourage me. Through bloglines.com new posts come to me instead of me searching all my favorite blogs looking for updates. We all know how annoying that is. :) Wonderful helpful info just shows up for me to read at my leisure. Often times I just skim it yet other times there is some great info that I'm grateful to learn or be challenged to think about.

Presently my inbox is full of things from me to me and I need to dump them somewhere. Remember that this blog is my magnificent virtual filing cabinet serving me remarkably well as a record of stuff. So this is an email dump posting. These are links that I've emailed myself so I can store them here on this blog. Maybe you'll glean something from them too.

I love some of these quotes.

I love this picture and found this post a sweet meditation for Christmas. I should have linked to this last week as maybe one of you would have found it inspirational as well.

I love setting goals for each new year and I find doing so extremely beneficial. I think this post is really good for anyone who struggles with the particulars of making goals.

I am a journal-er. I write down tons of thoughts, feelings, prayers, etc. I told a friend recently that it is imperative that I write things down. If I didn't write things down I wouldn't know what I think. I feel things easily, but often until I write it out, I may not know what I think on the subject. For instance tonight was incredibly stressful for me. I thought my head was going to blow off with emotions. I needed to get my journal out ASAP to figure out what was going on. I'm not saying writing things down solves my problems but it goes a long long ways to give me perspective.

Several months ago I was terribly agitated by a meeting at work. I was tapped right out emotionally by the time it was over. That night as I dumped my feelings into my journal, God gave me incredible insight into why I got so agitated. I might still have heart palpitations to think of that meeting had it not been for journalling. Journalling saved the day and I cannot count the times that has happened. That is why this article is significant to me. The numbered points that he makes are so bang on for how I experience journaling.

Being a stay-at-home mom when my kids were little was one of the best choices/sacrifices I ever made. I haven't one regret in that department. I'm out of that stage of life now that the kids are bigger, but the subject matter is still near and dear to my heart. That is why this article is special.

As you may have deduced from my blog and other things I've said or done, I love simple living and am on a continual quest for simplicity. Articles like this one remind me of why I embrace it. They make me smile and think, "Yes, this is it!"

Similar to the above article, this one itemizes some of the benefits very succinctly.I love simplicity and this article lists many of the reasons why very well.

And here's just one more article on simplicity. The paragraph that mentions CS Lewis is the one that made this post especially noteworthy.

This article was good for me to see ways to reduce stress in home life. I'm still a nag in plenty of ways, (the article didn't cure me), but I found her observations clever and insightful.

And lastly, I emailed myself this quote: “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” - Mary Engelbreit

The reason this quote is presently striking a chord with me is simply this; winter. Right now it's -30 and it's just, well, it's cold. Several months ago a friend astounded me by saying that winter is her favorite season. Honestly, it had never occurred to me that winter was anyone's favorite season. I was flabbergasted. Winter is my least favorite season which explains very logically why I moved 2500 miles north to live where it's winter nearly half the year. I love Canada but I wish it was a mite warmer. :)

This quote encourages me to change the way I think about winter. I'm trying to find things to enjoy and love and embrace about this cold white season. A few years ago I was able to change my thinking about mosquitoes. I still don't like them but I don't hate them passionately like I used to. If I can change my attitude toward mosquitoes I figure I can do it with winter too. I'm trying and this quote helps me.

So there you have it. This post went a long ways to cleaning out my inbox. There is a lot of good reading represented here. Let me know what you think.


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fushia thong

A few days ago at the gym I had the pleasure of standing behind a fit little thing in the dressing room. As she disrobed she took great interest in her toes. Seemingly she had lots of lint between them and needed to tidy things up. The whole time I changed clothes she was bent over cleaning between her toes.

Her thong was fushia and I'd be remiss to not admit she wore it quite nicely and proudly. But the toe thing,... I got a little suspicious. I think she wanted me to see her cute butt and how fit she was. Truly, it was a bit odd how long she stayed bent over with her butt as the main attraction.

Once that suspicion kicked in, I could barely control my giggles. Everything in me wanted to tap her shoulder and say, "Excuse me, you've got something in your butt crack."

When I left her she was still toying with her toes. 



thanksgiving 23 - a speaking engagement


Sometimes the changes in me make me stop and wonder, "Who are you, Girl?" I used to be terrified to speak in public. I had to do it on occasion and I covered those times with prayer, fasting, and a good amount of nervous sickness. 

A few nights ago I had the honor of speaking to a ladies group (Women's Ministry). Amazingly, I wasn't nervous. I often hear what a great sense of humor I've got and how well I tell a story. I've accepted that perhaps these things are gifts that I'm supposed to use. Out on a limb, I started my little talk to a bunch of church ladies with funny stories I've shared on this blog. It worked. My audience laughed lots. One old lady had tears running down her face.

I spoke on how I have a lot of joy in my life but how misleading it would be to not tell the other side of my life. I shared my submission to the book called Six Word Memoir

It went well. (Of course, I laid awake that night tormenting myself: You are such an idiot. Never before has one so stupid had a mic in front of them. When word spreads, even more people will know what an ass you are. Sweet thoughts, oh such nice things played through my brain).

After the event was over and people were mingling, several ladies told me some snippets of their story. I'm always touched by what the person across the room has been through. Everyone, every single person, has a story to tell. Some people haven't plunged the depths of their souls and therefore can't articulate their story, but I am convinced that everyone doesn't just have a story, but that everyone has an interesting story. I'm glad to have regurgitated my story enough to be able to articulate some of it. I hope and pray that no matter what may happen in my life I'll always be able to cling to the Romans 8:28 factor, that I'll always be able to comfort myself by saying, "Every thing that's happened so far in my life, God has brought good out of. He will do the same in this situation too."



thanksgiving 4


I'm strong in body

Yesterday I had the opportunity to help a lady I go to church with. She's recently diagnosed with cancer and is in a lot of pain. She's recently moved into a new house and her kitchen grout was dirty. It was bothering her but she's physically unable to tackle the job. It was a big job but I got her grout clean. I'm thankful for my own health and ability to do that kind of work.

Her grout wasn't nearly as bad as mine is. There's a touch of irony and humor in me cleaning her grout when mine is clearly more in need of it. I told Gordon I was going to go figure out how to clean grout, come home and show him how to clean ours. He didn't think that was as funny as I did.



chinese food

Scan20027(HanEy and Hannah, 1997)

Tonight we went out for Chinese food. Hannah passed off a piece of ginger beef that she thought looked "disgusting." That reminded me of something that happened about ten years ago.

We had a Korean teenager living with us and Rachael and Hannah were both babies. After church one day we went to a Chinese buffet. Gordon fixed my plate as I stayed behind putting babies in high chairs. Shortly he and HanEy returned with our plates. We prayed and began eating. Before long I came across what I was sure was an aborted baby's hand in my ginger beef. I was mortified -- stricken completely speechless. I sat 100% stunned, unable to even raise my head.

My mind was racing, computing dozens of scenarios. I knew I had stumbled onto serious criminal activity and was trying desperately to ascertain a working plan of how to handle this. I knew if I went to the proprietor with such I thing, he could grab it from me and destroy the evidence. I was thinking the logical thing to do was wrap it in a napkin and take it to a police station. Still I sat there very close to vomiting, unable to speak.

Aware of nothing but the horror in my plate, I slowly became conscious of laughter beside me. I looked up prepared to shatter any light mood that existed at the table. HanEy and Gordon were looking at me laughing. They were saying things like, "It's a chicken's foot," and "It's just a joke." They had no idea the horrifying images running through my head.

When I finally grasped what they were saying, that what I thought was an aborted baby's hand was actually a battered and fried chicken's foot, it was way too late to redeem the situation. I was sick to my stomach and very near tears.

I took one of the girls and went and sat in the car while they finished eating. I was so upset; not by their joke, but by the horrible images that had just been in my head. My adrenaline was pumping as if I'd just witnessed a murder.

It was several years before I ate ginger beef again. We never went back to that restaurant which before that day had been considered a "special" place. And until tonight, I guess I've not thought of that most horrific image in several years.


butts, big and small

Another Capernwray story.

One evening Gordon and I arrived to dinner earlier than the couple we were dining with. We faced different directions as we looked for them. I didn't see them so turned to look in the direction Gordon was looking. As we scanned the crowd, I put my hand on Gordon's butt. Now I realize that in the recesses of my mind I was aware something wasn't quite right. Now I realize that his butt didn't feel right, but at the time I was mindlessly feeling around trying to ascertain what was awry. 

If asked, I could not have told you that Gordon's wallet is always in his right pocket. This butt had a wallet in the left pocket. I also realized another thing: this butt was flat; Gordon's butt is round. I didn't put these pieces together but continued to squish this butt, mumbling about our companions not being there and whether we should be seated or not. 

The man muttered a subdued, "Val."

I turned toward him and started screaming like an idiot. Then I started stamping like the central figure in an Indian pow-wow and shaking my hand as if trying to get bugs off. Words weren't coming out of my mouth, just horrified screams. I saw Gordon about twenty feet from me. I ran to him and buried my face in his chest. 

The wife of the man I'd fondled had seen the whole thing, as did a few others. They were laughing heartily. (Fortunately, we'd had dinner with them the previous night. I likely came across a bit daft, but not as a woman on the prowl.)

The wife came to me, still laughing. She told me a story she'd told few people because of how terribly embarrassing it had been. Her story made me feel better as her goof was worse than mine.

She and Bill were shopping. She left him in the tool department while she went elsewhere. When she returned, she found Bill squatting looking at the tools on the lowest shelf. She noticed he had a hole in the butt of his pants. She put her index finger in it and did the gichy-gichy-goo squiggly movement.

The man - who wasn't Bill - jumped up screaming obscenities. She responded with a scream and a mad run. I was comforted that she could relate and knew I was a harmless frumpy woman.

The next day when we saw them, they said they were still laughing at 1:00 in the morning about the look on my face.

That is me. I try to bring cheer wherever I go.


This is a Capernwray story. I wanted to canoe all week, to go to a small islands and look the seals in the eyes. I expected my canoeing expedition to be invigorating and deeply spiritual.

My husband however wanted to kayak. So kayak it was. To use the kayaks I had to sit through a brief safety lesson. I had heard it several times with the kids (who had gone tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and speed boating). I had on a life vest, so I knew I wouldn't drown, and really that settled the safety issues for me. Besides, they claimed the kayaks were practically un-flippable. (I wondered when I heard that if ever there was a person with more flippable prowess than myself.)

The only thing I was actually concerned with was fitting in the kayak. For three days I occasionally wandered up and down the boat dock where the kayaks were to "size up the situation." I needed more privacy than was afforded me, so I didn't get to see if I fit in the privacy of my own, uh, my own ocean.

So on the fateful day, I decided to just do it. I squeezed myself into the kayak and was very pleased to find I had a few centimeters to spare. I was set. I got out and proceeded to put on the splash skirt. This was a silly little rubber skirt that one wears to keep water out of the kayak. The safety lecture stated clearly that we had to wear the splash skirt.

My fear regarding fitting into the kayak wasn't grounded, but the skirt was a different story. I pulled, wriggled, and squirmed right there in plain sight. I decided, in the interest of pride, to forgo it. I was just too proud to continue shimmying on the dock. Gordon hesitantly went along with my plan but made it clear he had a problem with my rebellion.

We had a sweet trip to and from one of the islands. It was nice, really, really nice. But because I felt guilty for not having on the silly skirt, we didn't "land" we just turned around. I didn't frolic with the seals.

As we were nearing the dock, a lifeguard - the one who had conducted my safety lesson - started walking toward us on the dock. I panicked. I didn't want him to see I had disobeyed the rules regarding the splash skirt. I kept paddling like I was planning to drive right up on top of the dock. Thud! The kayak collided with the dock.

I desperately wanted to disembark the kayak before he noticed my missing skirt. I pulled myself up and began my cultured exit. Gordon started screaming, "VALERIE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" The lifeguard's eyes said the same. With extraordinary delicacy and grace I heaved and hauled myself out of the seat. The last thing I heard before going underwater was "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" The "practically un-flippable" vessel capsized with poor Gordon still sitting.

When I surfaced, my husband growled, "You crazy woman, what were you thinking?" Others gathered to help the lifeguard and Gordon right and empty the boat. I walked to land.