What’s the story?

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This is what I wore to church last Sunday. Before the service began, a friend who reads my blog regularly told me that she liked my skirt and asked if there was a story behind it. That got me thinking and I quickly realized that my closet is full of stories. Today I’m going to tell you how I put this outfit together and the story behind each piece.

Since our church reopened in early July, I’ve made a point of wearing dresses and skirts on Sundays so this outfit started with the skirt which has been in my closet for more than thirteen years. I don’t remember exactly when I bought it, but that’s how long I’ve been retired and I know that it dates back to my teaching days. It’s funny the things that stand out in your memory, but I distinctly remember wearing it to a district wide teachers’ event when it was new. I don’t recall where I was prior to the event or what I was doing, but I do remember arriving at the venue with my outfit for the evening in a bag and slipping into the ladies room to change!

When I decided to wear the skirt to church, I knew that I’d be wearing it with my tall, dark brown boots. They were a lucky find at our local thrift store early last winter when the pair that I’d been wearing started to leak. The closest shoe store is an hour away, so I was very fortunate to find a suitable replacement in my size in our small store.

Next, I had to decide what to wear on my upper half. I decided that the sleeveless patterned top would add a bit of visual interest. It was purchased last November while I was on my annual Christmas shopping weekend in the city with several close girlfriends. In the 18 (soon to be 19) years that we’ve been making this trip, I’ve missed only two of them. In 2008 I was living in Japan and in 2013 I was isolated in a lead lined room at the Cross Cancer Institute.

It’s chilly in Alberta at this time of year, so I clearly wasn’t going anywhere in a sleeveless top without something over it. Would you believe that I tried on five different toppers before I finally settled on this one? It was given to me by my very generous sister-in-law several years ago and is one of those well loved pieces that remains in my closet even though I don’t wear it very often anymore.

Accessories put the finishing touches on any outfit and the necklace that I chose to wear with Sunday’s outfit has a very special story.

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I was a young teenager in the 1960s when my aunt visited a friend who was teaching in Japan and brought the necklace back for me. Over 50 years later, it’s now considered vintage. (Perhaps I am too!) The back of the pendant is stamped with the name, Amita, a Kyoto company that started selling damascene jewelry like this in 1932. Damascene is made by etching an intricate design into oxidized metal and then pressing gold and/or silver metal into the chiseled design. The images on Japanese damascene are usually either pagodas or floral designs like this one. I have worn mine over and over throughout the years and it still looks as good as it did the day I received it.

Are there any stories in your closet? Why not share one of them in the comment section below.

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Why is it so hard?

As I’ve seen the news about pastors, like Rev. Tony Spell in Louisiana, who are insisting on their “right” to hold Easter services in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have to ask why is it so hard to obey stay-at-home orders that have been put in place to protect the lives of the vulnerable; the very people that churches profess to care about? Why is it so hard?

I fully understand people wanting to be with family and to take part in their traditional Easter celebrations. I’d love to be with my kids and grandkids too, but I’ve been pondering why we do what we do and why we think we need to. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded to gather together for Easter (other than the instruction not to give up meeting together in Hebrews 10:25 which, thankfully, we’re able to do virtually) or given any instructions about how to celebrate the resurrection. These are manmade traditions. Perhaps a quiet, at home Easter without all those extras is not a bad thing. Perhaps it’s a time for us to reflect in a more intentional way on the real meaning of the event which is not bunnies, eggs, and chocolate. It isn’t even necessarily going to church!

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the ways we usually celebrate Easter, but just this once, it’s okay to do things differently. In fact, we need to do things differently! As the church, we need to be obedient to the Word of God which tells us in several places to obey those in positions of authority over us. Romans 13:1 tells us, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Regardless of what people like Rev. Spell proclaim, we are called to obey those who put the current social distancing regulations in place! Why is that so hard?

I’m reminded of the two Easters that we spent in non Christian countries. In Japan, we did attend a Christian church and celebrated Easter there, but outside the walls of the church, there was no recognition of Easter at all. In China, where we weren’t part of any Christian organization, I’ll always remember that we went out for dinner with a couple of our college students on Easter Sunday and ate roast duck and bullfrog! Not frog’s legs, the whole frog! It was delicious, but I digress! At the end of that day, I wrote this and I think it applies as well to our current situation as it did then.

“Easter isn’t really about what we eat or who we spend the day with. Whether we’re with family around a table laden with ham and all the trimmings or in a shopping mall in China eating bullfrog, as Christians, Easter is at the centre of who we are and what we believe.”

 

Kintsugi… broken made beautiful

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“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”   2 Corinthians 4:7

When I read this verse in my morning devotions today, my mind went in several different directions. It immediately brought to mind a couple of verses from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

“You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”   Isaiah 64:8

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Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’”?   Isaiah 29:16

We are all vessels shaped by God’s hands for His purpose, not our own.

Next, my mind went to the value of a clay pot. Many are plain on the outside and made for ordinary everyday purposes. They might not look like they have much value, but from earliest times people the world over have survived in the harshest of circumstances because they had simple clay pots to carry life giving water. We ought to be like those jars carrying life to those around us.

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Finally, I was reminded of the centuries old Japanese art of kintsugi. or “golden joinery.” Life is hard and sometimes our jars of clay are chipped, cracked, or broken, but God is not only the potter; he is also the master of kintsugi!

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Kintsugi is a method of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum. Rather than trying to hide the brokenness, it becomes part of the beauty of the piece. The process often enhances the value of the item as each mended piece is completely unique.

In a similar manner, when we bring our brokenness to God, He doesn’t reject or discard us. Instead, where we see only ugliness, he sees potential and the possibility of creating something new and beautiful. He takes our broken pieces and carefully puts them back together so that even though the cracks and scars might still be visible, they become part of our beauty. Through His loving grace and mercy, he forgives our failures and heals our hurts. When His gold fills our cracks, we are made stronger and more beautiful and His power and glory are seen in us. We simply need to put our broken lives into the hands of the master of kintsugi and trust Him to put us back together!

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Crazy (old) sock lady

LogoI’m a long-legged 5’8″ tall. For much of my life I worried about finding pants that were long enough to ensure that my socks didn’t show. Then along came ankle length cropped pants. Suddenly everyone’s ankles were showing. It took me awhile to warm up to the trend, but it really has made life easier for me.

I usually wear white sports socks with my jeans and other casual pants and black socks when I want a somewhat dressier look, but when I was cleaning out my drawers recently I realized that I’ve gradually accumulated a fairly sizeable collection of patterned socks. There are certainly much more colourful and fanciful pairs available, usually worn by gals who are several decades younger than me, but once in awhile it’s fun to look down and see something funkier than plain old black or white.

Some of my patterned socks, like these two weather themed pairs, are quite subtle. I’ve obviously worn the snowflake ones on the left a lot as they’re almost worn out. You can begin to see my gold toenail polish shining through!

These are definitely bolder! Both pairs were gifts from my daughter-in-law. There’s a story behind the zebra print pair on the left that make them very special to me. Robin is a long distance cyclist. She rides with a club that expects members to be able to ride at a minimum speed of 23 km/hr for at least 50 km and has taken part in many longer races and fundraising rides. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I have neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) and that the zebra is our symbol. Robin wore the zebra socks for the first leg of a 2 day fundraising ride for cancer and then gave them to me (freshly washed, of course!)

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While zebra stripes hold special significance to me as a NETS patient, the giant panda is my favourite animal. Apparently Santa Claus knows that as this pair was in my Christmas stocking last year.

When we lived in Japan, I discovered that I love wearing toe socks which are very popular there. I brought several pairs home with me. I don’t wear them very often only because they’re a bit of a bother to put on, but once on they’re warm and comfortable. We were in Japan to teach English and I specifically bought this pair to wear to my Saturday morning preschool classes. Teachers and students alike take their shoes off before entering the classroom, so these were perfect for my little ones who were learning to count in English. They loved them!

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I didn’t realize until I started preparing for this post that almost all my patterned socks are in shades of black, white, and grey. Clearly, if I’m going to become a crazy (old) sock lady, I’ll have to invest in some coloured ones!

What about you? Do you wear patterned or brightly coloured socks? Would you?

The notion of “home”

When and where are you truly at home?

Except for short stints of five months to a year spent living in Asia, I’ve lived in the same small Alberta town for more than four decades, but there’s always been deep within me a yearning to be somewhere else, to be traveling, to see new places. The dictionary calls it wanderlust.

When I did live overseas for a time, it sometimes felt almost surreal. I remember walking the streets of Funabashi, Japan shortly after our arrival there and marvelling that this place, so foreign, so different, and yet so fascinating was actually my home. I lived there!

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Funabashi

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The view from our apartment

A friend who has been an expat for almost six years, living in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and now Mexico, recently said this: “I am very comfortable here, but every once in a while, say, once in six months, I will be out walking in my lovely colonial town, which looks nothing like what I grew up with, and all the sounds I hear are in a language which I did not grow up hearing, and it is like I am in some kind of strange dream place, and I wonder what is going on.” That got me thinking about the notion of “home.” What makes a place home and why is it that I always have that yearning to go somewhere else, to see someplace new?

I have a theory about why I feel this way. In the New King James Version of the Bible, 1 Peter 2:11 calls us “sojourners and pilgrims.” The New International Version translates it “foreigners and exiles.” The writer of Hebrews says that “we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:14), “longing for a better country—a heavenly one. (11:16) At best, we are temporary residents here. We are pilgrims on a journey. While there is much to be experienced and enjoyed along the way, I believe that there is deep within me a longing for that eternal home. That, I believe, is the source of my wanderlust, the reason that I could probably settle almost anyplace and yet not truly feel at home anywhere.

Interestingly, I was in the middle of sorting through my thoughts and had already started writing this post when I attended the funeral of a long time resident of our small community. Though she was only 71 years old, the lady who passed away had suffered debilitating illness and endured a great deal of pain in the final years of her life. In his message, entitled “Home Sweet Home”, the pastor told us of her readiness to go “home.” He referred to 1 Corinthians 5:1. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Our bodies are but tents, temporary dwellings! Like refugees, we live in them until the time comes when we can go to a more permanent home.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in any hurry to vacate my tent! In fact, with the help of medical professionals, I’m doing everything I can to keep it intact. Though life is often far from easy, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy all that we’ve been blessed with during our sojourn here on earth and I’m in no hurry to see that come to an end! I’ll have all of eternity to enjoy my heavenly home. In the meantime, I will continue to wander this globe, perhaps never feeling quite at home, but marvelling at all the good things that this life has to offer.  There is, after all, a lot of world that I haven’t yet seen!

Welcome to Canada, Uniqlo!

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.07.24 PM 3One of the things that I loved about living in Japan was Uniqlo, that country’s popular casual apparel giant. When we spent a semester in China, I was delighted to discover that Uniqlo was there too and I was able to add several basic items to the rather minimalist wardrobe that I’d brought with me.

I’ve long been hoping that Uniqlo (pronounced you-nee-klo) would come to Canada and today my wish comes true with the opening of it’s first Canadian outlet in CF Toronto Eaton Centre! A second store will open in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, also in Toronto, on October 20. The only problem for me is that Toronto is over 3000 km away, a bit too far for a shopping trip!

The world’s fourth-largest specialty apparel company behind Zara, H&M and Gap, Uniqlo is taking a slow, cautious approach to expansion in Canada. The company eventually wants to open stores in all major cities across the country, but it hasn’t yet set a timeline for future openings.

Though not yet well-known in Canada, Uniqlo has stores in 17 other countries and is recognized for its innovative yet functional apparel and simple, modern designs as well as its high-quality, reasonably priced, easy-to-wear basics for men, women, children and babies.

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With winter approaching, Canadians might be particularly interested in the brand’s Ultra Light Down jackets and vests which fold into their own tiny carrying bags. Also of interest would be Uniqlo’s HeatTech line made of innovative fabric that absorbs body heat and stores it in air pockets deep within the fibres to keep the wearer warm. The brand also offers cashmere sweaters and extra fine merino garments suitable for our cold climate.

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Here are a just few of my favourite items from Uniqlo’s American website. Uniqlo doesn’t yet have online shopping in Canada, but items can be ordered from the US.

Biker jackets are everywhere this fall. This faux suede offering is available in black, brown and tan:

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The cotton 3/4 sleeve crew neck t-shirt is available in a wide variety of colours:

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This 2way stole comes in single colours as well as combinations like this one:

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And, of course, I love the comfy looking loungewear:

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There are also sweaters, shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, pants, jeans, leggings, activewear, intimates, socks, slippers and numerous accessories to choose from.

Yes, welcome to Canada, Uniqlo! I can hardly wait for you to come to the west!

*Please note: This is not a paid endorsement. All photos are from either uniqlo.com/ca or uniqlo.com/us.

 

 

70s girl

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.07.24 PM 3When we lived in Japan in 2008 and 2009, lightweight, loose-fitting tops made of almost sheer fabric were very popular amongst the Japanese women. Many of them had floral patterns. I bought this one at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall shop around the corner from one of our main schools. It usually had a rack of clothing on the sidewalk out front and I often stopped to take a look on my way by.

Until this week, I hadn’t worn this in a long time, but I couldn’t quite make myself part with it as it was one of many reminders of the wonderful time we had in Japan. In keeping with my commitment not to keep things that I don’t wear, however, I pulled it out of the closet earlier this week and put it on. I was immediately glad that I’d kept it. Worn over a neutral camisole, it was cool and comfortable in the summer heat which doesn’t come close to the heat and humidity we endured at this time of year in Japan.

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Rather than transporting me back to Japan, it took me all the way back to the peasant tops I was so fond of in the early 1970s! I know I’m dating myself, but I really don’t mind. I’ve worn some things over the years that would make me cringe now, but I really liked the comfortable boho chic style that I wore in the 70s and I guess I still do!

I sewed most of my own clothes back then. I wish I had some pictures to share, but here are a few of the Simplicity patterns that I might have chosen.

Yes, I guess I’m still a 70s girl at heart!

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