Celebrating 95!

Our main reason for choosing this particular time to come to Vancouver was the fact that my father was turning 95. Rather than all three of we Alberta siblings visiting at once to help Dad celebrate this momentous occasion, we determined some time ago that it works better if we space our visits out giving him company more often. Thus it fell upon me to make this birthday a special one, but I certainly didn’t do it on my own.

On Dad’s actual birthday last Tuesday we took him to his favourite restaurant for dinner. There were four generations at the table that evening. We told Dad that our son, Matt, would pick him up after work and bring him to the restaurant where we would meet them along with Matt’s wife, Robin, and their two boys. What we didn’t tell him was that Matt would be driving the Beatrice, the 1983 Volkswagen Westfalia van that my parents picked up at the factory in Germany, lived in in Europe for over a year, and that Dad drove until just a few years ago when his sight began to fail! It’s now one of Matt’s most prized possessions and the grin on Dad’s face as they pulled up to the restaurant was heartwarming.

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Dinner out, as nice as it was, wasn’t enough to mark reaching such an amazing milestone, however, so we hosted a birthday party at Matt and Robin’s home yesterday afternoon, managing to pull together a group of sixteen relatives, again representing four generations of Dad’s family. There were cousins and second cousins and cousins once removed, though I’ve never really figured out for sure what those terms mean! I just call them all cousins. There were relatives who hardly knew one another and spouses that some had never met. It was truly an enjoyable occasion and though I’m sure he was quite exhausted by the time the festivities were over, Dad was delighted to see everyone.

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Choosing your Grandma name

When this hilarious video showed up on my Facebook newsfeed this morning, I couldn’t help laughing out loud! Those of us who have grandchildren have all faced the question… What will your grandchildren call you?

Next Tuesday I will have been a grandmother for ten whole years. That’s right! Our Drew is hitting the double digits! I can’t believe how quickly that decade has flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was thinking about what I would want him to call me.

Growing up, I had a Gran and a Nana. I only have one clear memory of my Gran who passed away when I was five. Though she was younger than I am now, she had a serious heart condition and all I remember is a frail little lady who needed help from the car to the house when she and Grandad came for a visit. Tiny and frail wasn’t the kind of grandmother I hoped to be, so that name didn’t resonate with me. My Nana was robust and a woman known for speaking her mind. I think I must have inherited that trait from her! She was very much a part of my childhood and lived to see my first two children. The only reason I didn’t want to be called Nana was that some of my childhood friends didn’t know what a Nana was. I wanted a name that clearly identified me as a grandmother, but like the lady in the video, I wanted one that sounded younger and hipper than Granny.

I didn’t want to be called Grandma because Drew’s other grandmother already had three grandchildren who called her Grandma or Tiny Grandma because of her small stature. I wanted to choose a name that was different from hers and I most certainly didn’t want to end up being Big Grandma!

After considering many possibilities, I settled on just plain Gram. It’s simple and easy to pronounce, or so I thought. I was thrilled when Drew, at the age of 15 months, began to call me Am. Of course, we didn’t realize then that that was a symptom of a severe phonological disorder that caused him to drop the initial sounds off almost every word. As he began speech therapy and he and his Mom worked diligently at home, we began to see a marked improvement in his speech and finally the wonderful day came when he called me Gram! Thankfully, you wouldn’t know today that there had ever been a problem with his speech.

Now there are five children who call me Gram. Distance prevents us from all getting together very often so the photo is over a year old, but these are my treasures. That’s Drew in the top left hand corner with his siblings in front of him and their cousins to the right.

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Do you have grandchildren? What do they call you? How did you choose your Grandma name? If you don’t have grandchildren yet, but hope to, have you thought about what you would like them to call you?

Thankful for a root canal?

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:8 is a scripture passage that can be very easily misunderstood. There are many things in life that I am not thankful for. Fortunately, I’m not told to be thankful for every situation, but rather in every situation. In even the most difficult circumstances of life, we can find things to be thankful for, whether it be the resources to handle the crisis or the support of family and friends through it.

That being said, I am actually thankful that early Monday morning I’m going to be having a root canal! How can that be? Thankful for a root canal? Am I crazy?

No, I would rather not have to have a root canal, but considering the other possibilities that crossed my mind after I discovered a lump on my gum a few weeks ago, I’m quite delighted that the problem is only an abscessed tooth and that the solution is as common as a root canal. You see, this is something that happens to ordinary mortals, not just cancer patients!

So, yes, as crazy as it sounds, I’m thankful for a root canal!

It isn’t going to be a simple procedure which is why it’s being done by an endodontist, a root canal specialist. The roots of this particular tooth are fused together. Apparently that’s not terribly uncommon, but it can make the procedure more complicated and it’s something my own dentist didn’t feel comfortable tackling. In spite of that, I’m still feeling

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Have you ever been thankful for something as crazy as a root canal?

What to do when life seems overwhelming

What do you do when life seems overwhelming?

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Recent circumstances have resulted in us leaving the church that was our strong support system for many years. We’re living in the midst of a home renovation project gone very wrong and trying to figure out how to deal with that. I’m off to the city early next week to see a specialist about a lump growing on my gums that my dentist hasn’t been able to find the cause of. We’re moving into the busiest season of the year for me in one of the volunteer positions that I hold. And to top it off, we seem to be living through the winter that will never end.

You’ve probably lived through similar seasons. Maybe you’re there right now. You may be dealing with an enormous stressor such as job loss or the death of a loved one or it might simply be an accumulation of smaller aggravations that have left you feeling completely swamped.

So what should we do when life leaves us feeling like we’ve reached the end of our rope?

If you’re a young parent, you probably feel this way a lot of the time and with very good reason! I asked my daughter what her advice would be and her reply was, “In my case the answer is don’t bite off more than you can chew!” That’s good advice for all of us. Sometimes we’re the cause of our own stressful predicaments. We simply take on more than we can handle. None of us has an infinite amount of time available, so perhaps in those cases the answer is learning to prioritize, learning better time management skills, or simply learning to say No!

But what can we do when we’re overwhelmed by circumstances that are beyond our control? I’m reminded of a dear friend who often asks, “In the light of eternity, does this really matter?” Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the situation from a wider perspective. Yes, the new ceiling surface that was applied throughout the main floor of our house on Saturday is a superb example of shoddy workmanship and will have to be redone. We’re not sure how or when that’s going to happen. As stressful and aggravating as that is, it isn’t life threatening and years down the road, it won’t seem as big a deal as it does right now.

The lump on my gum, however, could be a big deal. When you’re a cancer patient, any inexplicable lump or bump is reason for concern, but the same wise friend once reminded me that 99% of the things we worry about never come to pass and all the worrying in the world won’t prevent the other 1%.

Whether we’re overwhelmed by the busyness of life, legitimate concerns, or distressing circumstances that are not of our own making, there are things we can do to help alleviate stress when it threatens to overcome us. What works for me, might not necessarily work for you, but here are a few suggestions to try.

  1. Focus on getting through one day or even one hour at a time. Matthew 6:34 gives this wise advice, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  2. Don’t skip meals. When I’m severely stressed my appetite is the first to go, but our bodies need fuel. Eat regularly to avoid low blood sugar, fatigue, and brain fog.
  3. Drink a cup of tea. My automatic response to crisis situations has long been to brew a pot of tea, but now studies conducted in the UK have actually shown that drinking a single cup of tea can significantly reduce anxiety levels after suffering a stressful experience.
  4. Escape. Go for a walk or a drive in the country, lose yourself in a good book, get out of the office over your lunch hour. Do whatever it takes to get away from the stressful situation even for a short time.
  5. Exercise. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, exercise in almost any form acts as a stress reliever, providing a distraction from worry and boosting the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.
  6. Pray. Prayer is an age old stress reliever that doesn’t require a prescription! Taking a few quiet moments to pray can help you gain perspective and find peace in the midst of turmoil. When the situation is so overwhelming that you can’t even find the words to pray, remember that Romans 8:26 tells us that “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
  7. Soak in a hot bath. Add a few drops of lavender oil which is commonly known for its relaxing effects on the body.
  8. Sleep. It may be difficult to quiet your mind enough to get to sleep when life seems overwhelming, but getting a good night’s rest should be a priority. A cup of chamomile tea half an hour before bedtime is widely regarded as a mild tranquilizer and sleep-inducer. Lavender oil can also be helpful here. Rub 2 or 3 drops on the palms of your hands and inhale deeply then wipe your palms on your pillow to leave a hint of lavender there.
  9. Don’t try to handle everything on your own. Delegate, ask for help, share your struggles. When stress doesn’t go away, and you’ve tried your best to manage it, you may need talk to a doctor or mental health professional about it. There’s absolutely no shame in that.

Spring trends for 2018

LogoI’ve complained a lot lately about how long winter seems to be lasting here on the Canadian prairie, but the days are gradually warming up and some of you live where spring has already arrived, so let’s take a look at a few fashion trends for spring and summer 2018.

Fanny packs

That’s right! 1980s looks are back and with them come the fanny pack, or as it’s called in some places, the bum bag. The popularity of this simple zippered pouch worn around the waist like a belt was short-lived in the late 80s and who would have thought that it would make a reappearance thirty years later? It doesn’t do much for the silhouette, but when you think about it, the fanny pack is very functional. It allows for hands free shopping and is great for bikers, hikers and travellers. In our family, the fanny pack’s popularity in the 1980s was literally a life saver. Our oldest son was severely asthmatic and had to carry his inhalers with him everywhere he went. Now his asthmatic niece and nephew carry theirs in fanny packs just like he did. Fanny packs are available in a wide variety of colours and materials.

Head to toe denim

Dark wash denim seems to be making a resurgence this season and it’s being worn from head to toe. Ignore what I said in last week’s post about making sure the washes are different! This season denim is all about a monochromatic and slightly tailored look.

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Sheer top layers

This trend allows us to show off as much or as little skin as we like depending on what we wear underneath. I can see a top like this one, worn over a simple camisole, looking good on a woman of any age.

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As the weather gets hot, I’m afraid that this transparent look could be a style that goes very wrong! Hopefully modesty prevails and everyone remembers that some looks are meant only for the beach or the bedroom!

Fringe

Full-on fringe was a big look on the runways of New York, Paris and Milan, but there are simpler versions of the trend, like this poncho inspired blouse, that might appeal more to the majority of us.

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Adding a fringed or tasselled accessory, such as a handbag or even earrings, is also a good way to bring this trend into your wardrobe in a smaller way.

Pastels and paintbox colours

Soft pastels are a classic spring staple and they’re especially big this year. If you shy away from these “ice cream colours” try pairing them with your darker neutrals. Yes, you can wear black in the spring and summer, but add a pop of something pastel to lighten up the look.

Bright saturated colours are also on trend this season. Think Crayola crayons in primary colours or the paintbox that you probably had in grade school.

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If you invested in a trendy pink piece last year, you’re in luck. Pink is still on trend for spring and summer this year and it’s being seen in every shade imaginable from the palest blush to neon. Yellow is also popular, especially in dresses.

So now that I know what some of the latest trends are, it’s time to take a look at my spring and summer wardrobe and see what I already have that will work again this year. Believe it or not, I have a black leather fanny pack from the 80s hidden away somewhere! I also have a fringed top and some tasselled earrings as well as a summer tote with tassels. I have golf shirts in bold primary colours and here’s a very casual head to toe denim look. The photo was taken almost a year ago, but my dark wash jeans and waterfront shirt from cabi’s Fall 2016 collection will definitely work again this year!

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Sometimes it’s hard to be humble

One of the characteristics of grace listed in yesterday’s post was “acts with humility, not pride.” As I pondered my One Word for 2018 and asked myself how I’m doing at becoming a woman of grace, I was also challenged to examine myself and wonder how I measure up in the area of humility.

The Bible has plenty to say about being humble. The book of Proverbs contains many warnings for those who refuse to put others before themselves and both the Old and New Testaments tell of blessings for those who do. Colossians 3:12 has become my life guide. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

There’s an old country and western song that says, “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” I’ve also heard it said that if you think you’re humble, you probably aren’t. So how can we know if we’re humble or not?

After much reading and pondering, I came up with the following 20 characteristics of a humble person. I’m sure it’s not exhaustive, but I think it’s a reasonably good checklist.

A humble person…

  1. is not boastful
  2. is able to set aside personal preferences for the sake of others
  3. treats others with respect
  4. is not easily offended
  5. is grateful for what they have
  6. is able to rejoice with others
  7. is not wise in their own eyes
  8. is teachable
  9. is able to seek advice or ask for help
  10. willingly serves other people without drawing attention to themselves
  11. accepts their own limitations
  12. accepts correction without becoming defensive
  13. takes responsibility for their actions and apologizes when wrong
  14. is merciful, forgiving quickly and not holding grudges
  15. doesn’t get frustrated with the weaknesses of others
  16. is self-controlled
  17. listens to others and doesn’t feel the need to speak their mind in every situation
  18. is comfortable allowing others to have centre stage
  19. doesn’t always have to be right
  20. doesn’t insist on their own way

In a “me first” world, it isn’t always easy to be humble and there are many misconceptions about what it means. In the same way that being gracious is not the same as being wishy-washy or weak-kneed, humility is not a sign of weakness. Being humble is not belittling or undervaluing oneself, nor is it an indication of poor self-esteem. Like grace, humility is actually a strength.

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Growing in grace

With a thick blanket of snow still on the ground, it’s hard to believe that it’s the middle of March already. We’re two and a half months into a new year and an incident this week reminded me of my One Word for 2018.

Grace.

How am I doing? My initial response indicated to me that I still have some growing to do in order to become the woman of grace that I would like to be.  It also prompted me to think about what that woman would look like. How would she respond in challenging situations where it’s sometimes difficult to show grace?

Almost three years ago, Christian author, speaker, and Bible teacher, Kathy Howard, penned this list of 15 characteristics of grace (compiled from passages in Ephesians and 1 Corinthians) on her blog.

A person of grace…

  1. Doesn’t insist on being right, but seeks to make things right
  2. Is willing to be inconvenienced
  3. Seeks the welfare of the other person
  4. Speaks words that build up, not tear down
  5. Doesn’t demand to be heard, but strives to listen
  6. Focuses on others needs instead of their own
  7. Acts with humility, not pride
  8. Doesn’t keep score
  9. Looks for ways to help and encourage others
  10. Freely forgives
  11. Seeks to understand
  12. Doesn’t expect a return
  13. Focuses on the important over the urgent
  14. Doesn’t pick and choose whom to show grace
  15. Doesn’t overlook sin, but encourages holiness

I would also add…

16. Doesn’t always have to have the last word

After this week’s incident, I think perhaps I need to focus on #4. I consider myself quite gifted with words, but it’s a gift that can be used positively or negatively. I can speak life or condemnation. It’s pretty easy for me to write a scathing response to something that irritates or upsets me, but as a person of grace I would choose to use gentler words.

Does this mean that a gracious person is wishy-washy? Absolutely not! It’s entirely possible to be strong, even assertive, and yet still be gracious. Jesus was a perfect example.

That thought brings me to #7, another area for self-examination. Humility. But that will be the topic of another post.

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