Saturday, July 28, 2007

In Our Spare Time We Fight Fires

Yesterday the Husband and I spent a glorious day relaxing together. It was a generally stress free day out in the sun. In the evening we kicked up our heels and watched a movie on TV, our dog splayed out between us. The Husband went to the kitchen sink to rinse out his glass.

"Hey Babe. It looks like the neighbors are having a bonfire," he said. After a moment we both thought that was strange. The neighbors are usually in bed early. And they have no fire pit. The Husband turned off the kitchen light for a better view. "It looks awfully close to the garage," he said, before going outside to investigate.

He was quickly back at the door. "Go wake them up! I'm going to douse it." I rang the doorbell and pounded on their door while the husband poured water on the small fire that was burning by the wall of the garage. The neighbors groggily stumbled out of their house and pulled out the hose for us. They watched as the husband and I sprayed down the embers.

She opened the garage door and smoke poured out. The glass from the window had broken and lay shattered on the concrete floor. Small wisps of smoke continued to trickle out of the wall of the garage. We decided it would be best to call the fire department to make sure there was no more burning inside the wall of the garage that we couldn't see or douse.

The fire department arrived with sirens blaring, despite the fact that the neighbor told them the fire was out. They tore down pieces of the wall and found smoldering embers a foot or two higher than what we had been able to hose down.

The immediate suspected cause by the fire department - arson. Actual cause - neighbor burning weeds at the side of the garage with a weed torch and assuming stucco can't burn. She even came out a couple of times after torching to make sure nothing was burning. Amazing how an ember can smoulder. We found the fire almost 4 hrs after the fact.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Yesterday I got the phone call. Ingrid is really sick. She's been placed in palliative care, her husband said. I knew it was coming. I'd received no response to the email I'd sent her last week. Most unusual.

I met Ingrid in 2000 as a 1st year university student, shyly poking my head through the Mennonite Chaplain's office door. She loved me immediately. I kept her safely at arm's length.

Later that year when I fell sick, she visited me faithfully in the hospital. She never told me how to feel or gave me the kind of pat answers that made me want to open fire on so many perfect Christians. She just told me that she loved me and showed me that I could trust her. Always gentle.

When she retired we kept in touch. She was one of my biggest fans when I hit the road to recovery. Always cheering and believing, never judging. We created "breakfast therapy". For the price of breakfast I could throw jumbled, whacked out thoughts at her for hours and receive love and sensible advice. She would encourage me through one feeling and one bite at a time.

She loved my friends and family and spent time with them because if I loved them, she certainly did too. She never charged a penny to the people I sent her way for various things.

She told me she loved me when I couldn't say it back. She worried when I struggled despite my insistence that she shouldn't. Always asking if I was working too hard. She watched me grow from brokenness to a fragile kind of strong.

She saw me through various relationships and rejoiced at my wedding. That day she gave me a clay water jug with a letter describing the life giving qualities of water and the life she had seen grow in me. It made me cry.

Her last bout of cancer was last year, at the same time as Wendy died. I begged God to make her better. My heart couldn't handle two great losses. I wrote her a goodbye letter then and sat with her as she struggled for breath and wept as if my heart would break. She rallied and went home. But she remained weak and sickly. Our relationship changed. Visits were short and not filled with talk of my most recent struggles. I wanted to protect her, not transfer the weight on my shoulders onto her frail ones. I took the opportunity to always tell her I love her and responded to her hugs that have a way of enveloping my soul.

I've noticed my prayer has changed to "God, don't let her suffer long. And help me please". I don't know if I should go see her one more time. I don't want to be fragile, to have my heart fall out of my eyes in tears. I don't want to feel that giant Ingrid-sized void

She's going to die. And I already miss her.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How I Became my Mum's Sister

My mum grew up with two sisters - Carol and Wendy. Mum was the oldest, Wendy the youngest. For the last number of years the sisters have had "sister's weekend". It meant a chance to get away from the humdrum of life, rent a hotel room, relax in the hot tub, shop to their hearts' content, and play limitless hours scrabble.

Unfortunately, dear aunt Wendy got sick in November of 2005. ALS first took her voice, then her swallowing, coordination, and all other muscle control. By last summer she was in a hospital, unable to cavort in the summer heat with her sisters. Or her children, for that matter. And by November 2006 she was gone.

Unwilling to abandon tradition, Mum and Carol planned a sister's weekend last summer. But the hole that Wendy's absence left was too great a gap. Just the two of them didn't feel complete.

This is how I got invited. Mum said that since I have no sisters nearby and they are missing one, perhaps I should come along. I didn't put up much of a fight. The real sisters reminded me that it would be a trial basis. That meant driving them around and playing Scrabble (one of my least favorite games).

I passed trial last year. Only to learn that the trial period is indefinite, as defined by the sisters.

This year we decided to take a weekend trip across the border. Like an obedient servant I made arrangements, drove, and played my least favorite game for hours. Never winning. Winning would lose me marks in the trial. I came close to passing this year. Until the trip home. Whoops.

And that is how I became my mother's sister. Almost. Which is MUCH better than becoming my sister's mother. Wendy's void will never disappear, and I certainly don't try to fill it. They'll miss her forever. As will I. But spending time with her sisters and her kids reminds me that she was here. Plus, weekends out with two of the women I admire most, women that I can laugh and cry with, is always a good time.

Here are some photos of the trip:

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's in a Name?

I'm taking a vote. What name did you like better? The old name was "Mostly Whatnot." The new name stands at the top of my page.

Please let me know. And check in shortly for "How I became my Mom's Sister" Hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I've been on the verge of Grumpy lately. Sometimes even over the verge. So, in true grublet form, here is a list of things I hate most these days.

1 - 68 hrs of night shifts in a one week period

2 - Scoliosis

3 - Spinal surgeons' wait list times. 2-3 YEARS for a CONSULT?! Come on.

4 - Men who get married 8 months after their wife dies without giving a damn about the kids

5 - Gas prices. And fuel mileage on gas vehicles.

6 - Sharing a house with an almost non-shift worker. We hardly even live together anymore. Just share the same house.

7 - That Dad has to get another job to pay for his habit. Namely - farming. Now he's a floodway expansion project employee on top of all the farm work. Also, that Mom has to work at all. And that she has a stupid boss.

8 - Dogs who eat their beds. Bad dog, Bentley!

9 - Sleeping when it's sunny out.

10 - 2 hrs of commuting in addition to 12 hr shifts

11 - Families who refuse to let go for dying parents. A simple goodbye and permission to let go would send him straight to heaven.

12 - Church politics. Women in ministry, recognized or not, have influenced me more than all of the pompous EMC'ers that sit on the board to keep women out put together.

13 - Fake nice. Love me or hate me. But don't pretend to love me when you hate me.

I believe I've created a Tuesday Thirteen. I know the rules are for Thursdays, but I've never been one to follow rules. So there.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


It's strawberry time! There's nothing I love more than fresh berries grown right here in our province. Portage is, of course, the strawberry capital. There are so many strawberry farms that their prices are quite reasonable. Around here, U-pick is $8 or $9 per pail. Out there it's $6.50, buy 10 get 1 free. I won't subject my back to such torture, so I usually buy the pre-picked
at $9.50/4litre pail (also buy 10 get 1 free).

Strawberries with sugar, vanilla, and milk are pictured above. I also made strawberry pie, which I was going to take a photo of as well. However, I found the pie was more like a wonderfully sweet soup as I cut into and the berries slid to fill the gap where the last slice had been. So no picture.

If anyone wants some, place your order! You'll just have to drive to my place to pick it up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Here are some shots of my first attempts at gardening:

See if you can find the attention craving dog hiding in these (nobody wins a prize for finding him... sorry)

And lastly, the all important Herbs including lemon thyme, oregano, mint, and parsley.

Monday, July 9, 2007

It's Not Fair!

I never thought that I was the kind of person who figured life should be fair. I really didn't. I've always thought that children should learn that life isn't fair so that they can be prepared to accept the fact when they are adults.

But recently, I've caught myself saying "that's just not fair! Why do they get this, and I don't?" and other similar whiny statements.

Then I catch myself. Because I really don't like whiners. And life really isn't fair. If we all got what we deserved, we'd all be in much worse situations.

And I will just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Pansy Caterpillar

It turns out that the Pansy has an enemy. Mine were starting to look a bit pale. On closer inspection, their leaves and flowers had small holes in them. On even closer inspection, spiky brown caterpillars were gnawing at said holes. And so, I googled these pests. Turns out they're called "Pansy Caterpillars". Funny, that's what I would have named them.


Guess who bought pesticide today...