Wednesday, 19 November 2014

This!

I collapsed into bed last night, mind swirling, almost nauseous. 

I've got myself worked into a tizzy.....about Christmas.

As in, I have to get busy and Get. It. Done.

NOW.

I realize it's Nov. 19.  But the panic to get rolling is real and exists in my gut.

I've already been making my lists and am checking things off, almost daily.

I'm patiently impatiently (truth) waiting for wish lists so I can finish my shopping. 

Waiting for the next pay check so that all this spending can be spread out appropriately.

I'm getting the less-than-favorite jobs done ahead of time so that I don't leave the worst jobs for last when my Christmas cheer lags.


But, this morning as I sat with my fuzzy housecoat on, sipping coffee, mind foggy with "what can I do next?" I had a thought.

"Why am I so consumed and driven to get this done so fast?"
 
 
Straight into my heart came the thought.....
 
"Because I don't want to miss Christmas."
 
 
Dec. 25 comes to me fast, like a rocket ship, and I find myself drifting through the day, exhausted, and distracted.
 
And tired.
 
And I don't want that.
 
In my hurry to strike things off my to-do list, I don't want to miss out on being there, body, soul and spirit, on Christmas Day.  I want to be in the moment  when the big day comes.
 
 
But I do have to pause and wonder.....
 
Have I EVER missed Christmas?
 
Has it ever come and I failed to be impacted by its' beauty?
 
Have I ever not paused to remember that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus?
 
Has the wrapping of the gifts and the cooking of the turkey and the meeting of the family ever taken more out of me than it's given me?
 
No.  Resounding no.
 
Oh my.  No.
 
 
 
I think the "big day" is part of the "big season".  A season meant to be for the giving of love and the receiving of The Love.
 
So I'm going to strive to be less frantic about the to-do list, and more focused on thinking about the ones I want to give to.  I'd like to be less annoyed with writing cards, and more grateful that I have friends who might like to hear from me.  I'd like to prepare a feast for my table, a feast of loving conversation.  I'd like the joyful Christmas music to be reflected in my joyful heart, not in a stress-induced nauseous stomach.
 
I'm reminded that....
 
This!
This is Christ the King!
Whom angels guard
And shepherds sing
 
Joy!
Joy for Christ is born
The Babe
The Son of Mary
 

 


Friday, 14 November 2014

Come In, The Door Is Open

I was feeling pretty good about myself the other night.

We had invited someone over.

Arms welcoming a friendship from years ago - we just lost touch - and now, we touch hands again.

My house was spotless.  We had worked extraordinarily hard.  Even surprised The Boy with The Tidy.

And I had baked fresh cinnamon buns, timed to be ready upon their arrival.

The coffee was freshly ground; a favorite roast.

Napkins matched the 'coffee and cinnamon buns' theme.

Quiet music played.

Picture perfect.






The door burst open and shyness quickly faded with the "it's good to see you" and the "you haven't changed a bit" and I'd forgotten how easy it was to share life and conversation with them.

As the evening progressed, we got beyond the casual things and started to share our hearts about our teenage kids residing under our roofs. 

Funny, it's these kids that have brought us together again.  In a good way.  ;)

We talked and talked about wanting positive things for our sons and daughters- good friends, good influences.  Godly friends.  Godly influences.  And we laughed at the spider web of friendships that our kids share - you know, our kids are friends with the 'offspring of our friends' from both near and far and 'who knew' and 'how did that ever happen' but 'I'm so glad it did' and 'we've known those people our entire lives' and 'now our kids are friends' and 'you're kidding' and ..... just feeling blessed that these kids have, somehow, ended up with some amazing people in their lives and, as a parent, how could you be anything but grateful?

And then they talked about how it has become tradition in their home that on Friday nights, teenagers start gathering in their home after school and they stay there until it's time to go to youth group and then they all pile in their cars to get them there.  They said "it's a mess when we get home from work; backpacks piled everywhere.  People everywhere."

And....she said.....

"We always make sure there is Kraft Dinner and hot dogs and Ichiban noodles in the house for them to eat."


I've been thinking about that all week.

Kraft Dinner, hot dogs and Ichiban noodles.

Messy backpacks.

Lots of people.

Every Friday night.


All of a sudden, my (for once) tidy house and fresh cinnamon buns faded into the background of my mind.


I don't think it's about the tidy house and fresh cinnamon buns.  I'd like to think it is.  I'd really like to think that I can be occasionally gifted in the hospitality department because I can make a pretty decent cinnamon bun and can set a pretty table when needed.  I actually DO invite people over.....when it's convenient and when it doesn't stress me out too much.


I've been doing some reading about Hospitality lately and it is challenging every preconceived thought that I've had.  Today, I scrambled to write down this quote:

"Hospitality isn't about a home
or a physical table
or food
or any of that.
 
Hospitality is about love.
 
It's about loving other people;
The rest is just trappings."
 
She Reads Truth
 
I am learning that hospitality is a state of the heart and doesn't need cinnamon buns to prove anything or impress.
 
I think that, beyond anything, people today want sincere friendship.  They want to matter to someone.
 
I want to matter.
 
And I think the kids that come over after school and eat Kraft Dinner together on Friday nights probably feel like they matter to someone.  If they don't see it now, they'll soon realize what a gift this family is.
 
Years ago, when I worked with a community of special needs people, I visited my clients in their homes weekly.  The appointments were booked ahead of time and my visits were seldom a surprise.  Sometimes I was welcomed;  sometimes I was not (ha ha, truth!); sometimes I was tolerated and sometimes I was loved deeply.
 
One of my favorites (shh, don't tell) was a gentleman with Downs Syndrome.  He was one that loved me.  Always.  "Oh Ma-wee, I love you in my hawt....will you mawwy me?"  A weekly conversation.  I smile still.  (mild speech impediments made him even more endearing)
 
But I'd arrive at his house and knock on the back door and from deep inside the house, he'd ALWAYS call out "Come in!  The door is H-H-H-Open!" 
 
He welcomed me with the biggest smile, without fail.  He made the worst coffee ever but I drank it (sometimes) and (secretly) washed the rest down the sink.  He sat beside me and beamed his affection in my direction.  He was probably one of the most gracious people I've met.  Of all the people that I left behind when I resigned from that job, I knew I'd miss him the most.  His tenderness touched me.  I miss his friendship.
 
 
We only get a short opportunity to live this life and make a difference in the lives of others. 
 
I don't think loving others is always convenient.  I don't think people need my friendship only when my house is tidy.  I don't think that every time I want someone to be friends with me that I'll have fresh cinnamon buns handy. 
 
Praying that my heart will be open to love....always, and in all ways.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Tossed Salad Of Memories






It's Friday morning, Sept. 5 and this is my view this morning as I drink my coffee.

I'm drinking Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend, French pressed, thank you for asking.

And it's perfect.

My Lavatera are showing off, just for me.  Pink and white blossoms, looking me in the eye through my front room window, telling me that they're happy and it's nice out and it's a good day to  be alive.

I concur.

Things are a bit different this September day.

For the first time in many years, there will not be a train of hopeful music students parading in and out of my back door, down the stairs into the music room, awaiting enlightenment from Mr. Dean.  Dean is working for someone else now, sales and distribution, gone every morning, early.  Home every night, occasionally late.  Our family has rolled with the dynamics of music students and Dad working through supper and strange people in our home several nights a week.  But we're ready for something different ... having Dad around for supper, and the house quiet with just us....as if we're actually quiet!  But it's OUR quiet for now so we're good.

The really touching thing is that when the music teacher informed his students that he wouldn't be teaching this fall and may teach after Christmas but encouraged them to look elsewhere for a music teacher, many students replied "no, we only want YOU.  Please fit us in in January if you can."  Rather touching.  Rather rewarding.  He's poured himself well into these students.

The boys are back to school.  Last year at JD for Ben - we've been involved with that school since 2004....they will be a hard habit to break but we'll be ready.  JD's been good to us.  Andrew is back at high school, full hopes and intentions to do well this year.  Making his own lunch every day, getting up on his own every day. 

I let him drive as often as I can.  And I'm calm.  Until the moment comes when I am not calm and then there is all manner of screeching and gulping and fuming and all of that other encouraging behavior from mother to son as son learns to drive.  My nerves.  Poor son.  He's really doing well.  Really.

My five month relationship with my physio therapist drew to a close a couple of weeks ago.  No, I never got around to mentioning that, did I?!!  Well, remember my exuberance over my running program?  I hit a snag.  Major snag.  Did some fantastic damage to an already damaged Achilles tendon.  After 5 months of physio, we (me and he) both agreed that running probably isn't for me.  Sigh.  Can't express how disappointed I am with that but it is what it is.  My legs take a beating on the job, I have pre-existing Achilles issues and, if given the choice, I'd rather have my legs able to sustain my career than force them to run for the fitness satisfaction.  So I guess I'll have to find something else that fits me better. 

No, Dean, not TRX.

Does anybody else have major house cleaning goals for the fall?  I look in every corner of my house and see things that need to be sorted and cleaned.  A couple of easy goals/day should eliminate the mountains, but right now, the whole thing feels insurmountable.

I think I should have another cup of coffee.

You know, sustain myself.

Build up my strength.

We went on a big trip this summer to Vancouver and Seattle.  I had initially thought I'd share all the funky details of the trip here, but, meh, sometimes the memories just have to stay tucked neatly in my mind where they remain precious and beautiful.

I will say that I am a prairie girl, through and through.

When we planned the trip to Vancouver, I decided that seeing the Capilano Suspension Bridge was a bucket list thing that I had to do.

 
I AM AFRAID OF HEIGHTS.
 
Here's me, realizing that "what goes up, must come down"...
AKA
If you go across the bridge
You eventually have to come back across the bridge again.
 


And so I did.  White knuckled.  Glaring at my kids for enjoying it with no fear at all.  Grabbing their arms when it appeared that they were determined to do something stupid like .... look around.



You'll note in this picture that I have my hand on Andrew
....to keep him safe, of course....
And I'm also holding on to Ben's arm
...in case he has the urge to jump over the side.
Just trying to be a helpful mother.
You'll also note the two young men that photo bombed our family photo.
Thanks a lot for taking our Christmas 2014 Family Picture to new heights, boys.
They were actually park staff that got stuck behind this 'crazy mom' who was holding on to her teenage boys, holding up traffic.

 

Later on that same day, we decided that, while we were at it, we should just ride up a gondola while we were in the adventurous mode.

I AM STILL AFRAID OF HEIGHTS.
 
Make no mistake.
I was a willing participant.
But there were 3 rules in that gondola carriage.
No foolishness.
No foolishness.
No foolishness.


We got to the top of the mountain.


I opted to not cross this suspension bridge.
Instead, I stayed inside and fought tears.
I.  Am.  A.  Prairie.  Girl.
 God bless the residents of British Columbia
but you can keep your mountains.  ;)
 
This represented my true feelings....

 


But then we went to Seattle.  We took the train from Vancouver to Seattle and that was the nicest journey I've taken to date.  Just beautiful.  We wandered around Seattle for a few days, enjoyed more Starbucks experiences than I'm willing to expound on, feasted on a seafood meal that was one for the record book, and spent far too little time absorbing the ambiance of Pike Place Market.  I keep searching the internet for a cross stitch pattern of the flower markets there, but haven't found anything comparable yet.  I just want to remember those sights, smells....the beauty.

We had also planned to go to the Space Needle.

Obviously I hadn't done my research.

"Space Needle" ....  wouldn't YOU think that it might host, say, a museum of SPACE....space crafts, space missions, spaceships?????

No?

I did.

You can imagine my horror when we pulled into the parking lot and I looked UP and got this sick feeling in my stomach.

There is no museum.

You all knew that.

I didn't.

I confess. I feel stupid.

But I'm in this for the adventure and I refuse to be the mother that stands alone at the bottom, too afraid to participate, so I jumped in the elevator (well, maybe not exactly a jump....maybe more of a cautious serious of small steps) and stood bravely (well, actually, I made sure I was at the back of the GLASS elevator <good heavens people....GLASS was necessary???>)  and sighed a brief sigh of relief when the elevator attendant told us we had a 47 seconds-long elevator ride in which she would tell us the history of the Space Needle.  I can put up when anything for 47 seconds. 

I AM STILL AFRAID OF HEIGHTS, YOU KNOW
 

They say the view was nice from the outside deck.


I'll never know.
 
Later that afternoon, we heard that Robin Williams had died.  It will forever be etched into my mind...."where were you when you heard Robin Williams died?"  I was in McDonald's in Seattle by the Space Needle, that's where.

Our last major adventure in Seattle was attending a Blue Jays/Mariners ball game.  It was one of the most inexpensive adventures that we had arranged. 

When we arrived, I figured out why our seats were so ... cheap.

Yup.

Kinda high.

Lower level of the upper deck.

Great view of the ball game.

I guess.


NO ONE GOT THE MEMO THAT I'M AFRAID OF HEIGHTS!!!
I want a new seat.
 







Andrew, is that pose really necessary?
Will somebody make him SIT DOWN?


I did sit in my seat and consider googling the following topic when I got home:
"Statistics of deaths occurring whilst falling from upper level deck seats, Safeco Field".
But I survived the game.  It was a lot of fun, actually.
A beautiful summer night..practically perfect.



There is a point to my story telling!

I really can't help it that I'm not a fan of heights.  It's just the way I am.  I know it's not particularly rational, but it is what it is and, try as I might, I haven't been able to change the strange feelings that I have to fight when faced with things that make me afraid.

BUT!


I have learned to just do it anyway even if it scares me.



And at this time in my life where my teenaged boys had to learn how to handle a mom who was more anxious than normal and who required a little more reassurance than they're used to giving, what I want them to remember the most is that, even though I was afraid....

I DID IT ANYWAY!

So when they go back to school or start college or get a job or move away from home and have some quiet (or LOUD!) fears about it all...

....maybe, just maybe ....

......they'll remember their crazy mom who had fears, too, but ......

didn't let that stop her.
 
 
Thanks for listening!


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

In The Garden

I come to the garden, alone.
 
Back to the sky.
 
Face to the ground.
 
Knees bent.
 
Hands grasping the undesirables
 
Heart hoping that the desirables will flourish.
 
 
 
 
And somewhere
 
Between the beet leaves
 
 
 


...and the beans....



 
 
I start to pray.
 
 
 
I pray for you
 
 
 
I pray for the men, the boys
 
The women, the girls
 
 
 
 
I pray over the joys
 
And I pray over the sorrows
 
 
 
 
I pray for those carefully planted, toiled over
.....dreams....
....that they would flourish....
 
 
And I pray over those weeds
....that threaten the dreams.....
 
 

 
 
Your faces stare back at me
I think I'm seeing peonies in bloom
chickweed and thistles
Tomatoes and cucumbers
 
 
But, my heart is seeing you
As God Himself
Asks me to fall on my knees
And dig in
On your behalf
 
 
This
This is why
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on
 
To hear His voice

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Songs Of Life

At approximately 4:00 p.m. yesterday, I declared a truce with the day, donned my pyjamas, pink house coat and fuzzy red socks.  By 8:30 I was in bed...done, done, done....with the day, the week, the month.  The middle of the night found me seeking relief for inner ear issues that have been visiting me and my sleep was regretfully disrupted, again.  The end of the school year can't come soon enough; I'm hardly even pretending to make the effort to have the makings of school lunches in the house.  Can't we just not make school lunches anymore? But a quick look at the calendar shows no evening obligations until Friday and that is one sweet piece of relief for this chicken!

We've celebrated a lot since my last post!  Mother's Day, Ben's birthday, our anniversary and Father's Day!  We've gone from celebrating well to just barely remembering to acknowledge the day.  Mother's Day was a fun afternoon with family hosted here for good food and good visiting.

Ben's birthday....well!  Ben loves birthdays!


This guy is 13! 
Rides the line of being 'all grown up' (my words)
and
...never too old to play.....
He is ALL IN with the World Cup
and cheers for Mr. Messi
and the Argentina team
Sports, sports, sports
....and more sports.....
 

One guest gave Ben some of his favorite homemade cookies as part of his gift.
There was a sudden assumption among the group that Ben should share.
Ben did not share this assumption
and took off out the front door, running across the field -
ten friends in hot pursuit.
He arrived back home, cookies safely clasped in his hands.

Seems it pays to be fit.  And fast.






Our anniversary came and we actually got to go away.  We haven't been able to really celebrate our anniversary for years as Dean has a huge gig that is always scheduled on that June weekend and the gig is understandably top priority.  But this year, the gig was behind us and we exited reality for the comforts of Elk Ridge overnight.  We are not great at going all out for our anniversary but this year we both managed to at least buy each other a card.  We were pretty proud of ourselves.  We're actually fairly good with cards - there have been two years where we have gone shopping for anniversary cards for each other at random stores and arrived home with the exact same card that the other one bought.  Too cool.  Well, this year, we picked unique cards but when it came time to exchange them, Dean said "um, I haven't actually signed this" to which I replied "I haven't signed mine either" and we shrugged, laughed, exchanged unsigned cards and enjoyed the comfort of being married 18 years which has brought mutual understanding that, sometimes, actually obtaining a card is a pretty big victory when life all around is demanding ++.  Signing is secondary, right?  ;)

And Father's Day....well, we didn't do very well celebrating Father's Day.  Dean finally reminded me that I still had 2 blu-rays stashed for him for his Father's Day gift, which he bought for himself many weeks ago.  I handed them over in the London Drugs bag that they were handed to me in and sighed a sorrowful sign that I hadn't done better than that.  The grim reality of busy lives.


Way back in May, Dean and I were invited to chaperone the Senior Band Trip to Regina for 3 days.  We had chaperoned this group for last year's trip to Banff and were delighted to join them again this year.  It's a great way to get a peek into school life, relationships and we enjoy a delightful and warm  relationship with the teacher.  We did all the touristy things that Regina offers and managed to so some band-related things while we were at it!

We toured the RCMP Depot and museum.
Dean and I were quick to discover that there were red serges that could be donned!
We quickly dressed in the hats and coats and hid around a corner, waiting for our students to come by so we could surprise them.  SCARE them, even!
Much to our disappointment, only a couple of students walked by us.

We got kind of hot.



And then....there has been our little dip into becoming the Dynna Three, or the Dynna Trio, aka 'Dean, Maureen and Andrew Pretending That They Are Jazz Musicians'.  To be fair, Dean IS a jazz musician.  Andrew is uninterested in being a jazz musician but will play the gig to please his parents.  Maureen would like  to be a jazz musician but recognises that she doesn't have the head for it.  Yet.
However, it's been really fun to be part of a couple of very special evenings, providing ambiance and perhaps surprising a few people here and there with the pleasant sounds that do come as a result of our combined efforts.



Kin Enterprises Gala held last Saturday



National General Conference Welcome Reception
Western Development Museum, Saskatoon
Talk about a cool venue!



And, proving who the REAL musician of the family is, here is Mr. Dean Dynna, (the one with the red shirt and long hair) bass player, house band for WHACK BAM THUDD:

"Sir Duke" was way too much fun to hear!  Wish I could have played something so that I could have been part of it!  Triangle, anyone?



Amazing night of music.  Might, just might, have left with a wee bit of ringing in my ears - it was a 3 hour drum concert.  Ahem.  So fun!


Speaking of fun things, I sit on the board of Kin Enterprises (the local sheltered workshop employing people with challenges).  Many of you would not know that I spent many, many of my professional years working with people with intellectual disabilities before I resumed my nurse work.  I <heart> these people.  The work isn't easy but these friends have a way of bringing life into perspective.  Kin celebrates 50 years of business this year and our final event was a Gala on Saturday night (where we did the jazzy thing).  It was a remarkable evening of memories and comedy and we will remember the celebration for a long time!


Here are a few members of the Board, with comedians Jamie Hutchinson on the far right
and
Brent Butt, Corner Gas fame, third from the right.

I didn't really get to MEET him, per se.
I kind of, um, talked AT him.
Briefly.
He nodded, politely, at my unnecessary explanation of some program detail and then I smiled and fled.
I can be painfully shy meeting celebrities.

 



So, yeah, there have been lots of busy, busy events.  Very happy events, celebrations, accomplishments. 

My mind keeps straying back to the May long weekend when we hauled the camper out to an empty campground and plopped ourselves in the middle of nature for the duration of the weekend.  We had too much food, plenty of movies, lots of books and more internet-free time than any of us had had for a long time.

You gotta know that did my soul some good.



I sat in my chair by the fire for hours and hours Saturday morning.  For being a person who enjoys being busy and involved, this solitude was amazing.

The birds sang.

Their pitch was perfect.

And I wondered why it is that we worry about all of the details of the music so much when we want to express ourselves.  The notes, the lyrics, the pitch, the phrasing....all seems important when we want to 'sing our heart' and yet God created the birds to 'sing their heart' too and they open their beaks and let the music out and....

It.  Is.  Perfect. 
 
There is this song inside of them that needs to come out. 

NEEDS to come out. 

I can relate. 



I sat awhile longer and began to recognise that there were bird songs coming from all around me - in front of me, behind me, to my left, to my right  - each singing a unique song.

I was completely overwhelmed.

I almost wanted to yell "STOP!  I want to concentrate on your song!"

But nature does what nature does and they don't sing in competition. 

They just sing.


And so, when my memory bank has been overloaded for the past 6 weeks with school band concerts, band trips, jazz gigs, and WHACK BAM THUDDs, "happy birthday to you's" and the songs of life....

.....I think I'll just focus on the sources of the music.....
 
The friends that came to the birthday party because of their friendship.
 
The comradery of the band students mashed together on a big yellow school bus with no air conditioning on a hot day in May.
 

The music made between mother, father and son.
 
The marriage of 18 years.
 
The house band that just loves to play,
even for a beginner drum student that can't quite keep a steady beat.
 
And the amazing people of Kin Enterprises who dance with abandon to joyful songs inside their souls and while we can't always hear the music, we know it's deep inside them.  Watch them, and you'll just know....they just have to sing.
 
 
 
Friends, when life brings you music, please play with abandon!  For yourself.  For me.  I'll cheer extra loud!  Sing your song!
 
 


Thursday, 24 April 2014

Easter Moments

 
I'm finding myself at a bit of a loss about what to do today.
 
Easter has come and gone.  All of the preparation and planning, suddenly unnecessary.
 
I'm almost disappointed.  Company came for a bit of the weekend, and with that company, the motivation to cook good food and share our best.
 
The up side of having a lot of snow hit us on Good Friday was that the kids (all ages) spent all Easter Sunday afternoon outside, building forts.  We had a giggle yesterday when, the snow now having melted, the forts, once seemingly impenetrable, have become dishevelled junk piles.



Once the company returned home, we headed to Saskatoon for a long overdue visit with my family.  This father of mine - 86 and going strong.  He used to delight in playing with the boys and a John Deere tractor.  He made many miles around the condo with them on his back when they were little, giving them the best horsie rides possible, always a big grin on his face.  Now the game has changed to pool.  And he beats them.  All the time.


Line 'em up.


And another successful break.


He teaches good technique

Always a gentleman


And BIG news!!!
Papa got new wheels!!!
I'm not sure who's happier....
.....him, my mom, or me!
Or Ben!  He wants to drive that puppy!


Meanwhile,
Mom "hangs" around!
She's so cute!
79 years young!
Feet slung over the side of the chair.
Slippers have fallen to the floor.
Bare footed.
In the midst of telling me a story.
Always.
Or giving advice.
Good advice, too.
Always.


It's hard to leave their safe, warm (actually HOT) condo/home to come back home.  They love so deeply and laughter is always at hand.

But we came home to our own little home and I hope we can give these boys that love and warmth and good instruction and laughter memories, too.

For now, we're preparing....

Three of us have landed a couple of jazz gigs.
And our noses are deep in the middle of jazz charts.
Our living room has been taken over with drums, cymbals, amps and a keyboard.
Ben applauds occasionally from his room - how I wish there was room for a tuba in this jazz combo.
Maybe next time.  ;)
Andrew patiently rehearses, occasionally drumming with one hand and tweeting on his phone with the other hand.
Regrettably, he remains on beat, regardless.  'Regrettably' only because it makes me look bad.
My nose is in my book.  My piano hands struggle to find....
....F#m7b9.....
"Explain to me one more time how to play a diminished 7?"
Dean leads us all - this is old hat for him.
This is music that I used to put the boys to bed to when they were little when Dad was in a jazz duo.
Lucky me, they practiced in my basement.  Good memories.


And so our Easter Break of 2014 will pass by.  There won't be any more company as Gig #1 comes Monday already and we've got a lot more rehearsing to do so we will stick to ourselves for a few more days, preparing.

But, there were two 'Make Again' recipes served this Easter weekend.  Actually, three. And all thanks to the great girls at "Mennonite Girls Can Cook". 

First, if you're friends with me on Facebook, you'll remember that I baked a batch (or two) of Lovella's Paska.  No, it is not mis-spelled PASTA, it is indeed PASKAA sweet citrus infused bread, similar to what I grew up with every Easter from Mom's kitchen.  I made my batches, shared bits and pieces with friends and family and was so pleased with the results so I took the recipe to Mom to show her.  She started to copy it down and then paused and said "maybe I don't have to write this down - Maureen can take over this tradition!"  I'm pretty honored and delighted to be able to do that. And this is a great recipe.


Further inspired by the Mennonite Girls Can Cook crew, I made a couple of simple appetizers that will grace our table again in the future, I know!!  These were taken from their Celebrations cookbook that was released a year ago.

Recipe one - Stuffed Mini Peppers - I purchased a bag of mini peppers, cut the tops off and stuffed them with smoked salmon cream cheese and baked in the oven until the peppers had softened.  The original recipe called for cream cheese with smoked salmon OR diced dried apricots OR diced figs stirred in.  I wanted the savory flavor and substituted the smoked salmon cream cheese instead of purchasing them separately (hello, budget and convenience!).  You could prepare these on the BBQ.  I don't remember what oven temperature the recipe called for, but I had something else in the oven and stood the mini peppers up in a mini tart pan and shoved them next to the roaster until they were appropriately cooked.  Mmmm.  I should have made more.

Recipe two - Chili Cheese Dip - spread a softened brick of cream cheese (250 grams) on the bottom of a pie plate.  Next layer - a can of chili (or two cups homemade chili).  Top with 2 cups of shredded cheese (mozza and/or cheddar).  Bake in a 400 F oven until the cheese is melted and the chili bubbles.  Serve with nacho chips or baguette bread. 

Like I said, these recipes belong to the Mennonite Girls!  They were hits in our house and will be repeated, with fond memories.

While tempted to think that spring and summer will never come to our wet, cold province of SK, the robins grace our yard today and the tulip bulbs are pushing their way through the wet muddy flower beds.  Soon, we will see enough to believe that Spring is here.  Until then, it's taking a bit of faith. Never a bad lesson, right?!!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Truth About Pain

I've had a secret goal for a long time.


I want to be fit.

But I've been struggling to find a "fit" that fits me.

Mr. Dean-o loves his TRX and has been suggesting that I try it out. 

Oh, he is somethin' else.
Not to worry, TRX isn't usually done outside in northern Canada in the middle of winter.
We're not that silly.
;)


And so I have tried it out.

Sort of.

In the fashion of "I just spent 2 minutes with this device and I don't like it so I give up"  manner of "try it out". 

I think 2 minutes was fair, don't you?

I am so uncoordinated and bodily challenged - "just put your foot here and stand like this and then lean forward....

Argh. 

Sorry dear.  I just can't.

And I just don't want to.

I foresee stitches.

I foresee YOU in stitches, giggling at my ill-fated attempts at being a graceful swan.

Don't misunderstand - if you need a teacher, Dean's the man.  He's patient and careful and encouraging, etc., etc.  And he never ever laughs at me.  He really wants me to succeed.  He really thinks I can succeed.  (Silly man.)

But it's not for me.

So then, I debated through the gym memberships and I think that's too expensive for a person that hates to leave the house on her days off.

Our Wii died so the Wii Fit thingy that I did once that nearly killed me  attempted is out of the question.  I also can't "Just Dance".  On soooooo many levels......

Ding ding ding - we found a good deal after Christmas and bought an exercise bike!  I was pretty sure that this was a good option for me.

Five minutes, I kid you not, on the lowest gear, and I was bagged.

To make matters even more embarrassing, I talked to my 85 year old dad about how pleased I was to have this bike.

He then told me that he rides his exercise bike every day for 30-35 minutes, in four different gears.  Without fail.  First thing in the morning.

Oh.

Dear.

One day, not long ago, I told my friend that I'm a wanna-be runner.  I told her that, from the couch, I picture myself running.

And we had a good laugh.

And I started to think.

That was a stupid thing to say. Out loud, especially.

I walked the halls while at work one day and thought about this whole fitness dilemma.  I  admitted to myself with a great deal of honesty that I had absolutely no motivation to become fit.

Except the fact that heart disease runs rampant on both sides of my family and I'm starting to feel sluggish and I'm aging and expanding and can't stay on a bike for five minutes without feeling bagged.

Now that you put it that way......

So, the next afternoon, I "just did it".

I found a running program and got it onto my phone and developed a playlist and announced to the family that I was going to get 'er done and I headed out the door.  I obeyed the nice lady's verbal instructions to 'change pace now' and I completed Day 1 of 'learn to run'.

I went out the next day and did it again, and now I have a few days under my belt.

And I feel good.

Well, today I feel good.

The other day.....not so much.

The other day, raising my leg to get into bed hurt.  Standing up hurt.  Sitting down hurt.  Walking hurt.  DON'T TOUCH ME.  Help me up.

Oy.

We went out and ran again the next day.

And came home and did a few more strategic stretches and attempted to walk around the house as if I didn't hurt even though I did.

We went out and ran again the next day.

And, today, I came in from the run and did my strategic stretches and walked into the kitchen and realized that I.  Don't.  Feel.  Bad.  At.  ALL!!!!  In fact, I feel GOOD.  I feel refreshed!  Even though the last run/walk just about got me!  And I'm thinking back to a few days ago when I thought that I'd likely injured myself for life, that I wouldn't walk upright ever again and that it would be impossible for me to ever master this skill....I just hurt so bad. 


I'm convinced that there's a life lesson in here.

It's got something to do with continuing to put one foot in front of the other when in painful or difficult circumstances. Just keep going.

And it's got something else to do with being patient in the middle of pain and difficulty.  Grace.

And something to do with not giving up, even when it hurts.  Persevere

It's got something to do with making good decisions along the way that will help when times are challenging (hello, stretches).  Be wise

And something else to do with choosing a goal and committing your focus even when it's harder than you want it to be.  Be focused

And something else to do with deciding that it's never too late to try....it just might take more work and pain to accomplish it.  Never stop trying



So there, now I've made a confession to you.  I've let you in on a little secret.  And now I am, at some point, feeling accountable to a bunch of people to keep working at this little secret; I haven't decided if I like that yet or not.  Just sayin'.

But if you see a somewhat middle aged lady walking/running through the quiet streets of Crescent Heights - don't wave, because I won't see you.  Don't say hi because the music is blaring and I won't hear you.  Don't talk to me because I don't have enough breath to chat.  Yet! 

But I might try and smile!




And, swinging the pendulum of topics really widely, I have to share this recipe with you because it's a hands-down-instant-family-favorite!  And I, at least, have to record it for myself for future use!  It was found during a stroll through Pinterest here. 

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs lean hamburger
8 slices bacon, diced and browned
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dry Stove Top Stuffing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
1 tsp salt

Combine the above ingredients, then top with BBQ sauce or combine 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup mustard and 1 Tbsp brown sugar and brush on top (that was too much sauce for our taste - I'd cut that in half, at least).

Bake at 350 F until it registers at 160 on a meat thermometer.  Mine was in the oven for about an hour and a half but I think I actually had closer to 2-2.5 lbs of hamburger -mine was huge!

Very moist and tasty!  Not sure if I can go back to my original boring meatloaf!












Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April Fools, Wasn't Me?!?!

I've been a little short on words here.

I' bin BIZ-ey!

Perhaps I'll share my busyness another time!  It's been fun, but writeable?  Probably not very interesting to read about!
Anyway.......

It was April Fools Day yesterday and I may or may not have done anything at work.

Ahem.

Cough.  Cough.

Somehow, I just DON'T know HOW, this memo showed up in our managers' mailboxes yesterday morning.


 
 
I don't know about you, but I side with the nurses and hope that they get everything they asked for.
 
Amen.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

All Manner Of Grace

This is a year in which I have chosen to pay attention to words.  I've been faithfully writing in my 1000 Gifts journal, listing both my gifts for which I am thankful and words/song lyrics/scriptures/thoughts that strike me with deep meaning.  I am somewhere around the #250 mark.  Only 9 1/2 months left to go to complete this challenge, which is, truthfully, sometimes a challenge and more often a joy.
 
The author of the 1000 Gifts book/concept, Ann Voskamp, often challenges to remember to give thanks for the hard eucharisteo, the gifts that are indeed gifts, but are hard to be thankful for.
 
And my mind turns to my work.
 
I find inspiration to write millions of blog posts in my mind about the things I experience at work but confidentiality prevents me from sharing.
 
.....I wish you could see....
...these moments where grace is lived......
......in moments, every day, where.....
 
some moments make you smile
some make you weep
some make you strive to live better
to follow examples of those
that have chosen to live in grace
regardless of
MOMENTS OF HARD THANKSGIVING
 
HARD THANKSGIVING = you're not living in moments that you would choose, but you choose to be thankful regardless.  You choose to live well, you choose to learn, you choose to 'hunker down' and make the best of it
 
 
 
Being an RN in long term care - this is my work desk

But this is where the reality is lived

The real moments of my work that impact me the deepest occur...

in that little space between
 a precious soul left in my care
and my heart.

I observe, I participate, I initiate, I respond, I watch, I learn, I dry tears, I cry tears.

Grace - in abundance -
  • in the elders who come to live with us who have no family - who have fallen through the cracks of society with no one to care for them.  Except, now, we get to do that.  And some caregivers are exceptionally good at lavishing love on those who haven't been loved much before.  Grace.
  • in the spouses who have prematurely lost their partner to the grips of dementia or illness but who determine that life isn't over and they boldly and surely walk through our doors into a new way of living, living new moments of grace in new circumstances in peace, to the best of their ability
  • in the elders who have needed to abandon all that they hold dear and familiar by this outrageous move but who do so with courage and grace 
  • in the families that have lived at odds with each other over history gone bad, but are drawn together by the last twilight moments where grace helps all
  • in staff who wear grace like a cloak and serve serve serve, love love love, help help help - and go home and, on many occasions, shed a tear or more because life is hard and moments are sweet and sometimes the sweet hard moments make you cry.


So this is me, at work, celebrating something special with my friend, Emma.
We're celebrating the 30th anniversary of our facility
We're celebrating on this afternoon by playing dress-up with elderly ladies and pearls (for the 30 years) and hats and makeup

We're celebrating grace!
We're celebrating joyful moments!
We're celebrating partnership - and on this day, Emma is mine
and I'm ALL IN WITH THAT
because she's awesome!!



And when I go home, I reflect on more words
that are giving ME life
 and grace
...for 2014....
- courtesy Robin Mark -
 
"In life, in death, whom shall I fear
Closer than breath, I feel You near
Oh hold me in Your strong embrace
Where I find rest within the Year Of Grace"
 
 
May GRACE find you where you need it most today.  

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

....In Like A Lion....


....and out like a lamb!!!
 
This is the wish of everyone who lives in Saskatchewan in regards to winter 2014.
 
Enough already.
 
 
It's been cold, cold, cold.  What was it Saturday morning at 0500?  Somewhere in the -52 to -55 range with the windchill?? 
 
We're Saskatchewan-ites.  You'd think we'd be hardened to it. 
 
Uh-uh.
 
We took advantage of the cold weekend and
 
.......stayed home.....
 
That wasn't too hard - the weekend before we had done some travelling.  We ended our road trip with a day on the slopes of Saskatchewan's best - Table Mountain, by North Battleford.
 
During the whole trip, we noticed more and more that these boys of ours are able to be rather independent.
 
 
The boys - geared up for a day of skiing/snow-boarding

They'd come in every hour ....
.....to warm up.....

......and eat......



While we sat in the chalet, watching, er, reading.....
 
 
.....and writing and reading and thinking.....
Too bad there wasn't a Starbucks close by.
 

I did spend a lot of time watching the skiers as they came in and out of the chalet. 
 
First off, it was nice to be in a setting that was loaded with young people.  They're so vibrant and ready for adventure.
 
And loud.
 
Just sayin'.
 
Then I tried playing a game - "guess if this one is a boy or a girl". 
 
Hmm. 
  • The snow gear is equally colorful for both sexes. 
  • Tall and skinny - could be either one
  • The faces are covered with face guards and goggles, so that's not giving me any clues. 
  • Long hair is flapping out behind this one so MUST be a girl! 
Nope.  Wrong again. 
 
I soon gave up.
 

Next, I noticed that most parents there had the same posture - 'sit quietly and read a book' then 'reach in the pocket for cash when the offspring come in through the door so that they can go buy more food'.  Repeat every hour.
 
It's good.  It's very good.
 
And, tonight, it is 7:16 and it's still a little bit light out.  Summer is coming.  I promise!
 
 
 
During our weekend 'in' last weekend, I roasted up a turkey.  I wanted to make a soup today with the leftovers and went searching for a "Turkey Chowder".  I found this recipe on Pinterest and it is definitely a "Make Again". 
 



Turkey and cheese chowder recipe

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 cup corn (if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add a bit more later if you desire more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 10 grates fresh nutmeg
  • 4 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken stock
  • 2 cups milk (or 1 cup cream, 1 cup milk)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3-4 cups leftover shredded turkey (a combination of light and dark meat works best)
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (plus more for garnish if desired)
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot, over medium heat, begin melting the butter. Once melted, add onion, celery and a nice pinch of salt and saute about 5-8 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add garlic and corn to the pot and saute, stirring often, another 2 minutes. Add cayenne pepper and thyme and stir together well. Add sherry and continue cooking, stirring often, another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add potato cubes, nutmeg, another pinch of salt and mix well to incorporate all ingredients.
  4. Add stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover pot and turn down heat to a simmer and continue cooking about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
  5. In a separate medium-size bowl or mixing cup, add milk and cornstarch and whisk together well until there are no lumps. Slowly add the milk-cornstarch mixture to the pot, whisking continuously until it's all added.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium and bring the chowder to a light boil/simmer, stirring very often. Turn down heat to a simmer, stir in turkey and cheese and allow the chowder to continue cooking about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the cornstarch is cooked off and the chowder is thickened and hot.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

On The Occasion Of Turning Fifteen

I spent two hours yesterday morning, baking a cake for Mr. A.'s birthday supper. 

Dean took a photo and I was so proud - IT LOOKS SO GOOD!!!





A few hours later, we dug into the cake.





Yeah.....um......well.......

Cough.

Not that good.

......dry......tough......pass the water......

How could I have messed this up so badly?  I followed instructions.  It looked easy, even.

My kind and wise mother-in-law (who bravely ate this cake) told me that I should freeze it and taste it again another day...sometimes cakes need to sit and age and, with time, they soften and moisten and improve.

I reluctantly had a piece this afternoon.  Yup.  It's better.  The flavors have blended.  It's moister.  I think it has avoided a trip to the garbage can.



Sorta makes me think about parenting.


All of a sudden, you're pregnant and you read all of the
 "What To Do When You're Expecting" books
and parenting seems so EASY!!!

It doesn't take long to realize that, as a parent, you suck.  ;)    I mean, let's be honest - parenting doesn't always bring out the best in us.  We realize that children now, and forevermore, come first and we come second or third or fifth and they don't always do what we want them to do and they embarrass us and disappoint us and sometimes we can roll with it and sometimes it's cause for a giant sized mother-fit and ......

....it ain't always pretty.
 
 
 
But, like this silly cake that I made, becoming a good parent takes time.  You learn to mellow out a bit and relax and lighten up and, like the cake, after some time, you find that this whole parent/kid relationship improves with age.  Your kid improves.  YOU improve.  Your kid and you together improve.  And it's sweet.
 
This kid!
The worst part of birthday parties for him when he was little?
The song.
He hated the song.
It never failed, singing "Happy birthday" was cause for him to cover his ears.  Every.  Year.
Or cry.
Or hide under the table. 
 
 


This year he complimented me on the beautiful cake,
marvelled at the colored flames on the candles,
and told us to "sing it again, and do a better job this time" after version 1.0 was a little lackluster.
(Surprising, I know, for a Dynna party)
And, he sat and smiled the whole time.


He loves his brother and puts up with his quirky sense of humor.
"Ben, sign the card, and write his name on the envelope."


And he reads every verse and every written word on each and every card.
(apologies for the blurry pic)



He thinks that hanging out with family is a perfectly acceptable way to celebrate his 15th birthday.

 
 
 
And he's even willing to smile while doing so!

 
 
He passionately pursues his dreams.

 
 
 
And confidently.....
......marches to the beat of his own drum.


On the occasion of his 15th, I do think that all things have ......
 
.....definitely....
 
.....and most certainly.....
 
improved with age.
 
Especially - him!