Paddling the Battle

Our new kayak’s maiden voyage on Sedgewick Lake yesterday afternoon just whetted our appetite for a longer paddle today. The Battle River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan, meanders its way across central Alberta and western Saskatchewan. We headed for Burma Park, a small campground on the river about a 40 minute drive from here. The park itself is located on the south side of the river where the bank is too steep and unstable to access the water, but we found a perfect spot just across the river on the north side.

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We spent an hour paddling upstream enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the breeze which kept the mosquitos away. The only sound was our paddles in the water and an occasional bird call. Paddling steadily against the river’s flow, I was very thankful for the weights I lifted all winter!

When we decided it was time to turn back, we lifted our paddles out of the water, leaned back and let the river carry us for ten minutes while we enjoyed a snack and simply enjoyed the solitude. After that it was only fifteen minutes of easy paddling before the vehicle came into sight again.

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Though much of our kayaking will probably be done further from home when we’re on holiday, I also foresee many more hours paddling the Battle in our future.

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Maiden voyage!

Well there she is; our brand new toy!

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After debating whether to buy two individual kayaks or a tandem, we decided on the two person variety for a couple of important reasons. The first one is ease of transport. It’s much simpler to strap one kayak to a roof rack than two and easier to carry one boat to water than two. Secondly, with a tandem kayak, one of us can take a grandchild out and introduce them to the sport. It also doesn’t hurt my feelings any to have the stronger paddler of the two of us in the boat with me instead of in a separate one!

Once we’d made that important decision, it was time to go shopping. The field was instantly narrowed significantly as tandem kayaks are much less common than single seaters. We first considered the Pelican Alliance 136T, available at Canadian Tire, but I wasn’t overly impressed. It was the plastic molded seats that concerned me the most. I didn’t think my bony butt would find that very comfortable especially on longer trips. We took a quick look at a sleek, shiny model at MEC, but it looked like the Lamborghini of the kayak world and was way beyond our price range. Then we saw the Pelican Unison 136T at Atmosphere and it was exactly what we wanted!

It’s made of RAM-X Premium, a multi-layer polyethylene and is built to provide a high level of stability and great manoeuvrability and tracking. It’s an excellent recreational kayak that is also built for comfort. In addition to padded seats and seat backs, it also has adjustable footrests. For longer outings, it has plenty of space for gear including a quick lock hatch with a 60 L storage bag, a cockpit table with a 4 inch day hatch (perfect for carrying cell phones and other small items), bottle holders, and a bungee cord on the bow to carry extra belongings. At 67.4 lb, Richard and I can carry it and load it onto the vehicle quite easily.

We brought it home yesterday and took it for it’s maiden voyage this afternoon, a spin around the perimeter of Sedgewick Lake. It handled beautifully.

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Now the only question on beautiful days like today will be do we go golfing or kayaking? Today, we managed to do both!

We aren’t what we wear

logoI recently had an interesting conversation with two young women that I tutor. Members of the Old Colony Mennonites who have been relocating to Canada from Mexico in recent years, they wear traditional dresses and kerchiefs. I’ve been teaching them to read, a skill they didn’t have the opportunity to learn as children. One of their many reasons for wanting to learn to read  is so that they can read the Bible, so we’ve been using a children’s Bible story book as one of our texts.

“Do we have different Bibles or do we just understand it differently?” M asked me after one of our recent sessions. “Our Bible says that we should wear dresses and cover our heads,” she continued. She was clearly referring to the fact that I don’t dress that way.

So what does the Bible actually say?

“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” Deuteronomy 22:5

We talked about what that might mean and M was quick to point out that though we might both wear blue jeans, her husband would never wear a top like I was wearing. No one would confuse me with a man because of the way I was dressed!

There was a time, not too long ago, when regardless of what they wore during the week, everyone dressed up to go to church on Sunday morning. Heaven forbid that a woman should wear pants or a man show up without shirt and tie! Thankfully, for many of us, that has changed.

Several years ago, before it became commonplace, I made the very intentional decision to begin wearing blue jeans to church. I don’t wear them every Sunday, but I do make a habit of wearing them quite often.

Why?

There were several young families in our church at the time who were struggling to get their teens to come to church on Sunday mornings. One of the issues of contention was what they wore. The kids rebelled at the idea of having to dress up. It always boggled my mind that anyone would consider one fabric (blue denim) less holy than another and rebel that I am, I felt that if I, sometimes considered a leader in the church, wore jeans, the younger parents might feel more comfortable allowing their kids to do the same.

Who knows? Maybe someday my young Mennonite friends might feel comfortable dressing more casually too. In the meantime, they wear their dresses and I wear my jeans and we have a wonderful time together! After all,

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

On Sedgewick pond

Weather-wise, this might have been the nicest May long weekend in almost forever. The weekend, a Canadian holiday in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday, is the unofficial start of camping season. It’s often cold and rainy, but not this year. After playing a round of golf this afternoon, Richard and I headed out to Sedgewick Lake to try out the little kayak that we’re borrowing from our youngest son.

We used to own a canoe; a big, cumbersome and heavy canoe. A canoe that was perfect for a growing young family, but not for an older retired couple. It went to Vancouver with us last September when we took the Beatrice home and it now resides with our older son and his family. We want to replace it with a kayak, or maybe two. That’s why we’ve borrowed Nate’s little Escapade, to help us decide what we want before we go shopping.

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Sedgewick Lake, just 2 km north of our wee Alberta town, isn’t much more than a big pond, but it was an easy spot to get out on the water and take the kayak for a spin. The immediate and obvious advantage over our old canoe was the ease with which we could load it onto our SUV. In fact, Richard could easily do it by himself. Carrying the kayak from the parking lot down to the water was also simple. Again, Richard could have carried it by himself and, in fact, I might also be able to, but it was much easier for the two of us to simply grab the toggles on each end and carry it between us.

Since Nate’s is a single person kayak, we had to take turns today, but we love being out on the water together so our big decision is whether to buy two small kayaks or a tandem one that will carry both of us.

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We are not, and will never be, whitewater kayakers. I love peacefully gliding over quiet waters. Today, I as I paddled through the reeds near the water’s edge I watched red-winged blackbirds and stirred up a pair of Canada geese who seemed to think that they owned the lake. Protesting my presence, they flew out to the middle of the lake where they continued to honk their displeasure at being disturbed. They didn’t let me get anywhere near them, but I was able to paddle closer to the loons before they dipped below the water and came up somewhere else. Unfortunately, I haven’t perfected the art of keeping the kayak still enough to take good photos with the zoom lens. My bird photos all turned out blurry, but that’s okay. If the good weather holds, we’re probably going to go out again tomorrow! Maybe I’ll have better luck then.

Fast fashion is not frugal!

logoI almost never buy “fast fashion”, or disposable clothing as I like to call it. Fast fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics.

I seldom enter retailers like Forever 21, H&M and Zara that specialize in fast fashion, but I made a rare exception about three months ago. Walking through the mall, I spotted the cardigan that you’ve seen before here on a rack at the entrance to one of these stores.

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On a dreary February day, it was the blush pink colour that caught my eye and made me think of spring. At $15, it was definitely an impulse buy and one that I knew wouldn’t last long, but after just a handful of wearings, look at the way the fabric is pilling!

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Fast fashion has also come under criticism for contributing to poor working conditions in developing countries where these garments are churned out, not to mention the garment factory disasters that have claimed the lives of many workers. It also has a very negative impact on the environment. Producing the staggering number of fast fashion garments that are sold worldwide requires tremendous amounts of energy and releases enormous quantities of harmful bi-products into the environment. In addition there’s the problem of disposing of the used garments which, like my cardigan, don’t last long and aren’t worth passing on to the second hand market. Instead, they end up in the landfill where the mostly synthetic fibres take hundreds of years to break down.

I’m proud to refer to myself as a frugal fashionista, but frugal is not buying cheap, poorly made garments; frugal is buying quality items at bargain prices. Buying fast fashion is definitely not frugal!

How to choose and fit a bicycle helmet

logoStudies show that wearing a bicycle helmet significantly reduces the risk of head and brain injuries as well as facial trauma in riders of all ages.

That might seem like an odd introduction to a fashion post, but a bike helmet is something that I wear quite a lot at this time of year and something that I feel strongly about. I first started wearing one when my children were young because the best way to convince them to wear theirs was by example. In our province, helmets are only mandatory for riders under the age of 18, but now I wouldn’t consider riding without one.

The first time I went riding this spring, I noticed that the shell on my old helmet had become quite discoloured. Closer inspection showed that it was also cracked in several places. It was obviously time for a new one which didn’t break my heart because I’d always thought it was rather ugly!

I started by asking my daughter-in-law for advice. After all, Robin thinks nothing of riding her bike 50 or 60 km a couple of times a week and has ridden in several Gran Fondos. She suggested that it ought to be comfortable and lightweight and that it should be snug without feeling tight. I also wanted it to look nice. Riding is excellent exercise and if I like how I look, I’m liable to do it more often!

I chose a Bell True Fit helmet which is designed to fit properly every time with just one simple adjustment. In addition to looking better than my old one, it’s also a much better fit.

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How to properly fit a bicycle helmet:

  • Ensure that the rim of the helmet is 1 to 2 finger widths above the eyebrows. It needs to be worn low in front to protect the forehead.
  • The side straps should form a “V” beneath the earlobe.
  • The chin strap should always be buckled and pulled tight. It should rest under the chin against the throat. When you open your mouth, the strap should feel snug and the helmet should hug your head.
  • Standing in front of a mirror, grasp the helmet with both hands and twist back and forth. If it fits properly, the skin on the forehead should move with it. Now try rolling it backward and forward. If it slides forward and blocks your vision or backward far enough to expose your forehead, it is too loose.

And now, before we leave the topic of bicycling, I’d love it if you would check out the latest post on Robin’s blog, Sky to Sea, where she writes about a very special cycling challenge that she is going to participate in during the month of June. She plans to ride 500 km to raise funds to fight childhood cancer, the disease that took our daughter at the age of 5 and robbed Robin of a sister-in-law that she never had the chance to know. Perhaps you’d even consider sponsoring her.

The dots keep disappearing!

My life is broken into 6 month, 3 month, and 28 day units with a treatment every 6 months, a scan every 3 months, and an injection every 28 days. Last Tuesday, was treatment day followed by a scan early the next morning. I usually get the results right away, but this time the doctor wasn’t going to be in until later in the day and because no one was expecting anything worrisome, it was suggested that I not wait around to talk with him. Instead, I got the results over the phone today and they were definitely worth waiting for!

Six months ago, we heard the good news that one of the five tumours that I had at diagnosis was no longer showing up on the scan. There were only four black dots instead of five. This time, apparently there are only three! Another one seems to have disappeared! The primary (original) tumour in my colon as well as one of the three on my liver are no longer visible! That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re gone. They could be, but what we do know for sure is that, at the very least, they’re so dead that they are no longer absorbing any of the radioactive substance that I’m treated with! In addition, two of the remaining three tumours are smaller than they were 6 months ago! That’s a lot of exclamation marks, but that’s a lot of good news!

My cancer is still considered incurable but when we spoke with the doctor prior to Tuesday’s treatment, he did tell us that people who get as far as I have (8 treatments) with this kind of success seem to have a very good chance of living a quality life for a long time. That’s a pretty vague prognosis, but it’s about the best they can say at this point and it’s good enough for me. It’s called hope; a lot more hope than I had a couple of years ago!

I would be remiss not to mention that though I have utmost appreciation for the medical advances that have brought us to this point and for those who are involved in providing my care, I also serve a miracle working God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” and I give him full credit and glory for today’s good news! (Ephesians 3:20)