Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sex in the Country Part 2

After I "aired" Sex in the Country, I remembered a few more accounts that I want to share.

As I teenager, I was naive. I worked nightshift in a nursing home as a nurse's aid. One particular night as I did my rounds, an elderly, very elderly, man named Kermit (an unfortunate name, eh?) called me over to his bed. In his raspy old man voice, he said, "why don't you climb on top of me and take a little ride."

I reiterate, I was naive (stupid?). I kindly rubbed his shoulders as soothingly as I knew how and tried to talk him out of his hallucination of thinking he was a horse. Don't you figure that gave new meaning to the expression, "sexually frustrated."

My niece Mindi wrote to remind me of a precious story about my girls. At the time, Hannah was in a very "spiritual" phase and was quick to bring God into every conversation.

The girls gathered around and watched studiously as I changed a baby boy's diaper. Rachael asked matter-of-factly, "What's that?"

"It's a penis. All boys have one, just like Daddy," I informed.

Rachael responded with animation, "Yeah, but Daddy's is HUUUUGE."

Not to be out-done, Hannah chided, "but not as huge as God's."

My experience is mostly with girls. But when my sister Diane brought newborn Misty home from the hospital, the 3 boys gathered around for the first diaper change. Randy let out a horrified gasp followed by, "it's cut off!"

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Sex in the Country

I grew up in a home where we didn't talk about the birds and the bees. I remember the day I discovered boy parts. I had seen them before, but I remember the day it "registered." Michael and I were in the bathtub. We were adept at changing identities with the help of Palmolive dish soap. With our bubbles we could instantly metamorph into Santa Claus or white haired Brother Bowen at church. When we were feeling particularly risque, we would slap 2 mounds of bubbles on our chests for breasts.

We didn't have "real" bath toys, but made our fun with cans, shampoo bottles, and occasionally a bowl or cup. On the day boy parts registered, Michael and I were playing when I noticed he had something that would go up and down in the bathtub waves. I was mesmerized by his "floaty." Michael noticed I was staring and he gingerly, yet uncomfortably, took the brown Hershey's cocoa can and placed it over his floating part. That was the last bath we had together.

I suppose all little girls are taken aback the first time they see the male anatomy. When Rachael, Hannah and Deborah were much younger, I fostered 2 little boys. The first time they saw Markus in the bathtub, Hannah exclaimed happily and in awe, "he's got jingle bells." Many months later they were exposed to Shaun. Two-year-old Deborah tilted her head to the side and with affection said, "awhh, isn't that sweet."

I have a young cousin who recently saw her grandpa at the toilet. She ran telling, "Grandpa has a tail!" Now when she observes him walking to the bathroom, she follows him and wails dramatically on the other side of the closed door, "I want to see your tail."

We mothers have come a long way in how we tell our kids the "facts of life." I for one am happy we've made this progress. When I was a youngster I was given 2 books. One I can't remember the name of, the other was Almost Twelve. They really screwed up my normal development. After reading those books, I was ashamed to be among the human race; I couldn't make eye contact with a male for fear of getting pregnant; and watermelon became a forbidden fruit.

The pictures of sperm resembled watermelon seeds, so I swore off the melon family for a few years. I watched in horror as others ate watermelon wondering if they would become pregnant by the seeds. Far as I know, no one did, but I wasn't taking any chances.

One of those insightful books said to make a baby, a husband and wife lay close to each other (a little understated, don't you think?) and gaze into each other's eyes. The sperm enters the female and joins her egg and a baby begins. After learning that, I developed some seriously darting eyes. I didn't want to inadvertedly gaze into someone's eyes and get his sperm in me.

Years passed and the grossness wore off some and was replaced by curiosity. Lawana, my trusted sister-in-law, became my personal expert. She and I once were at our local country corner store where we saw they had recently added Playgirl to their magazine selection. I was curious and I think Lawana was too, but she was more curious about my reaction than the contents of the magazine.

We stood around waiting casually for the few customers to leave and for Mrs Weatherbe to busy herself with something out of sight of the magazines. When the coast was clear, I picked up a Playgirl thinking I knew what to expect. (Was I expecting to see men and women gazing into each other's eyes?)

The magazine fell open to a very large naked man. Freaked right out, I screamed and threw the magazine. Lawana laughed so hard she shook and Mrs Weatherbe came running. I don't remember what I said to Mrs Weatherbe, but to Lawana I formed a shape with my hands and said, "WHAT WAS THAT?" Lawana still shook with laughter.

"It was huge! Did you see it? It wasn't normal," I declared indignantly, as if I knew what normal was.

Stephanie came along years later and me gazing into someone's eyes had nothing to do with it. I was determined that I would not hand a book to my offspring to teach them about procreation and sex. I would save them from the dysfunction of darting eyes and fear of watermelons.

She was an early bloomer in the awareness department. She started asking questions at 3 and I gave enough information to satisfy her questions but not overwhelm her. When I became pregnant with Christopher, her curiousity grew right along with my belly. I put on a brave front, using words that still make me blush. I was proud of my maturity and wisdom.

The day arrived when she asked, "what do you do with your legs?" I don't know where my motherly wisdom and maturity were in those moments, but they clearly weren't giving me any inspiration. I toyed with telling her that "a husband and wife lay close and gaze into each other's eyes....," but decided it wasn't good to lie.

I've given the same little sex education speeches to 4 other children since then, and never have I been asked, "what do you do with your legs?"

"Well," I began to answer slowly, still quite unsure what was to follow "When you are old enough to have sex, you can take your legs off." She was satisfied, although awed, and I was relieved when she walked away.

Stephanie continued to be totally fascinated with the subject. (I'm sure that fascination is serving her well these days as a newlywed.) She told me a couple years ago as we laughed about the above conversation, "I'm still trying to figure it out what you do with your legs."

When she was 8, Gordon bought me a series called Wildlife Fact Files. I was intrigued and fascinated learning about the different creatures God created. I was thrilled when Stephanie appeared to be following in my interest and began spending hours reading it too. Later I figured out she was only reading the mating and breeding habits of all the animals.

When Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah were a few years younger, we got their first hamsters. Chimpy a girl; Reepacheep, a boy. Chimpy was Hannah's and lived in her room and Reepacheep belonged to Rachael and lived in her room. When we were ready for baby hamsters, we put them in the same cage. For a few minutes we watched wide-eyed to see how babies are made. There were squeels of laughter (from the girls, not the hamsters) and expressions of "oh gross."

Since that little exercise, -- that yielded 8 more hamsters that the girls also watched be born -- the girls have been satisfied with their knowledge and haven't asked many questions.

The other night though, Hannah asked if so many sperm are released at the same time, "what happens if 2 sperm reach the egg at exactly the same time?" I pondered for a second or 2 and then said, "I really don't know, but it's a really good question."

She bounced off the sofa and did a gig like a football player after scoring a touchdown. With her arms raised, she spoke for the sperm, "Tie game, tie game."

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lucy All Dressed Up

Lucy and Frodo are at my feet. Frodo is wearing his dog shirt. He wears it most of the time. He gets cold so easily that we seldom take his shirt off. Lucy on the other hand loves the cold. She loves to be in the snow; she wants a walk no matter how cold it is. However, just for kicks, the girls often dress her up. She wears about the same size as Hannah. Right now she has on a t-shirt that reads Olympian Swim Club.

A few months ago before school, the girls dressed her in a lime green turtle neck and a black skirt. When they left for school, she left too. I wasn't dressed so I didn't go after her. She always comes back quite quickly, so I wasn't too concerned. This time she didn't come back quickly and I got nervous.

Gordon and I were having coffee together when I once again went to the window to see if I could see her. I said, "I hope she's ok." Gordon got up and put his arm around me. After a few seconds he spoke, "yeah me too. That's a perfectly good shirt she's wearing."

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Stephanie and her dad.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Blast From the Past

As you know, we recently returned from Arkansas where we saw Stephanie marry. I got a couple pictures of Stephanie with her dad, my first husband.

Funny are the twists and turns, ups and downs, bumps and bruises life deals us and funny how we move on, get over, heal. Best of all is when you can smile and laugh at what once was.

Nervously, I will share one of my funny stories from my life with Kent. I have hesitated to write it down because it is definitely a "you had to be there" story. I want so desperately to share the full impact but I know I will fall far short.

But here is my effort at something I'm relatively sure I cannot do justly.

When Stephanie was about 18 months old, Kent, Stephanie and I took a vacation to California. We were going to stay on a boat belonging to one of Kent's customers.

When we arrived at the boat, I was disappointed to find only single beds. Even the "master bedroom" had 2 single beds on opposite walls.

From the first moment we settled on the sleeping arrangement I was uncomfortable. I didn't like that Stephanie was closer to the door than us. If a bad guy got on the boat he would get to Stephanie's room first. I was a bonafide irrational worry wart.

Before we settled too comfortably Kent spoke with the owner of the boat to tell him we'd arrived safely. In that telephone conversation we learned several of the owner's friends had keys to the boat and might "drop in." Knowing several people could potentially enter the boat did nothing but escalate my discomfort and worry.

At bedtime, we left a small light on in the front of the boat to cast a dim light down the hall should we have to get up with Stephanie during the night. I tossed and turned and listened for intruders. I complained mercilessly about all the people that might enter. I imagined every keyholder was either a child abductor or a pedophile. Meanwhile Stephanie slept comfortably in the room next door.

After what seemed like hours, I drifted into a light sleep. I awoke with a start sure I heard someone walking. I woke Kent on the other side of the room and we lay listening. We heard nothing.

I rolled over and slipped back to sleep. Moments later I woke with another start, this time absolutely positive I heard someone walking. "Kent, Kent," I whispered into the dark. He didn't respond. Just a tad louder, "Kent, Kent, do you hear that?"

At that moment a figure entered the doorway. I let out a shrill scream, "KENT, SOMEONE'S ON THE BOAT."

The figure in the door turned to defend himself. He flailed, he swung, he kicked, he lunged. As I watched him swinging wildly in the dark, it was clear I was watching Kent. When I screamed there was someone on the boat, he thought I meant there was someone behind him and he was hitting the air with all his might to defend us.

I burst into a laughing fit and through gasps said, "I didn't know it was you."

He quickly pulled himself together and yelled, "Damn Valerie. You scared me to death. Damn!"

I laughed for hours. When I would get close to falling asleep, I'd remember him flailing in the dark and I'd start another laughing fit.

He grunted, "I don't know what you think is so funny."

Nearly 20 years later it still makes me a laugh and I never tire of telling it to Stephanie and Christopher.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

US / Canada Part 3 "Painting with Tampons"

Before moving to Canada, I had very little exposure to other cultures. I had a hard time understanding accents and I'm still weak in this department. As a newcomer, I often found myself in embarrassing conversations where I didn't understand. I will share one such embarrassing conversation.

I met a man who had just moved to Edmonton from French speaking Quebec. He was a painter, so I called him for an estimate. He came and we discussed ideas. He became very animated and started shooting off various ideas quicker than I could process. He clearly wasn't just a painter, he was an artist. He wanted my walls to be a piece of art.

He suggested using a tampon. I didn't fall off a turnip truck yesterday, so I knew I must be misunderstanding his thick accent. He must have seen on my face my struggle to understand. He asked me to get him a tampon so he could demonstrate the tampon technique. (I was too confused to retort, "thank you, but I know the tampon technique.")

Out of my comfort zone, I always resort to appearing like I have it all under control. I sprinted upstairs to the bathroom telling myself, "this is no big deal, act like an adult. He just wants to show you a painting technique." I returned with a tampon in hand and tried to appear comfortable with the idea.

I stretched out my arm to hand him the tampon. Slowly and reluctantly he took it. He looked at it. He shifted his weight. He bit his lip. He shifted his weight again. Finally he spoke. "I think the word in English is sponge."

That is the day I learned that "tampon" is the French word for sponge.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

US and Canadian Differences continued

I will continue my US and Canadian observations. My mom pointed out the language differences. There are many of those, way too many for me to address. But I will tell a few of my favorites.

When I was brand new to Canada we went to a home of friends that Gordon loved dearly. I really wanted to make a good impression. As the lady was working on the meal, I asked if there was anything I could do to help. She asked me to set the "serviettes." I had never heard the word serviette before. Nervously, not wanting to look like a country bumpkin, I turned and quickly studied the table. The only thing I noticed absent was the napkins. Hoping desparately that I was right I added the napkins to the table. That day I learned what serviettes are. They are napkins.

Later, that same visit, I was told to make myself comfortable on the chesterfield. Somewhere I had heard that before and I knew it meant sofa. Many older Canadians say chesterfield for their sofa.

When I was growing up we called the knitted caps you wear in the winter tobaggans. This is hilarious to Canadians. Here, a tobaggan is a sled. The knitted cap is called a tuque.

What is the last letter of the alphabet? If you answered zee, you would be wrong in Canada (and every other English speaking country other than the US). That last letter of the alphabet is "zed." Strange, eh?

A rain gutter is an eavestrough.

Our one dollar coin is a loonie. Our $2 coin is a toonie.

What do you call the lace up shoes you wear for sports? I grew up calling them tenny shoes and a proper person would have said "tennis shoes." Here they are neither. They are "runners."

Coffee creamer is called "whitener."

Your butt is your bum. Although everyone knows what butt is, people generally say bum.

Everyone calls urine "pee." I was repulsed by that when I moved here. That was a crass word in my family of origin. I remember getting in trouble for saying pee once. Guess what, I say pee all the time now. I said I never would, but I do. Doctors, nurses, lab workers, you name it, they say pee. "Are you peeing regularly?" "Here, pee in this cup?" "When did you last pee?" Pee pee pee. I can say it without cringing.

Oh yeah, you pee in a washroom, not a bathroom.

Macaroni and Cheese is called Kraft Dinner or KD. I've never adopted that one. The Macaroni and Cheese I make is homemade and I'm not about to call it KD.

In the morning, you open a tin of coffee, not a can of coffee. A tin of tuna, a tin of cookies,...

When Rachael was a baby, I started hearing, "does she make strange?" I didn't have a clue what that meant but finally figured out it meant, "does she get frightened easily by stange people or things?" Last week I actually heard myself ask a lady if her baby "makes strange." For the record, none of my babies made strange.

A baby takes a soother, not a pacifier. I used the word "binky" for pacifier when I moved here. I don't anymore. I say soother because that is what people understand.

Baby cheque. This is an expression every adult Canadian knows. On the 20th of every month, mothers get a "child tax credit." That's right, the government gives me money every month for having kids. It's a sliding scale based on income. It can be a lot of money for a lot of people. Mine is around $200 a month. After Rachael was born I got my first cheque and was amazed to learn it was going to come every month till she was 18. I happily said, "Wow, I love this country."

Double double is another phrase every adult Canadian knows. It means, "I'll take my coffee with double sugar and double cream."

As most people know, all Canadians get equal health care. It is not free as most Americans think. You have to pay for insurance, but if you cannot afford the insurance, the government pays the insurance for you. I wish I could tell you how much the insurance is just to give some perspective, but since Gordon's employer pays ours, I don't know. It too is based on a sliding scale depending on income. The higher income bracket of course pays more for the insurance. Good employers pay the insurance for their employees. Americans tend to view this approach as socialistic and wrong.I do not. I wish America would implement it. I think anything less is criminal. The poor need health care too.

I heard Rush Limbaugh say that Canadians couldn't get good health care. I was highly offended by his stupidity, but then I find him offensive in general. I've had 4 surgeries, 3 babies, and a few other health issues since I've been here, and have always been amazed at the care I got. A homeless person would have received the same care. I am proud of that.

Well, that concludes part 2 of my essay. We shall see if more things come to the fore.

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Subtle (and not so subtle) Differences in My Two Countries

I have spent more of my adult life in Canada than the United States. That boggles my mind. I have reached a place of confusing the two sometimes. I see a person who is vaguely familiar and I wonder, "do they remind me of someone from here or there?" Other times I pronounce things the wrong way, thinking I'm pronoucing it the right way for where I am. And I've lost touch with many of my roots. My hometown has progressed and sometimes when I'm there I wonder if my perception when I was there was skewed or has it really changed that much.

Canada is very multicultural. It is one of the things I love about life here. I have friends and acquaintances from across the globe. The kids' school is very ethnically diverse. Deborah's Grade 1 class is studying 3 specific cultures and skimming the surface of all the cultures represented in her class. Parents were asked to come share about their own cultural background. I don't know who all responded, but I know a Yugoslavakian mom, a Ukranian mom, a Sudanese dad, a Chinese mom, and Gordon - a Dutch dad, and me an American mom will share. This has led me to thinking about the differences in US and Canadian cultures. They may seem the same and indeed they are similar, but there are numerous subtle differences. My struggle in sharing with Grade 1 students is that I can't hone in on subtleties. The obvious things are far less fascinating than the subtle differences. I have ideas on what I will share with the Grade 1 class and it is certainly not anything like the list I'm about to share with you.

The subtle differences are always amusing to me. Since most of my readers are Americans, (actually all 4 of my readers are American :-)), I thought I would share some of my observations. I want to stress that my knowledge of both countries is perhaps skewed. I am writing about my PERCEPTIONS. My perceptions may not be actual reality. Also, it's important to remember that my experience with living in the US is from 13 years ago. Things have changed, but I recall the THEN, not the NOW. Thirdly, it's important to note that although I travelled throughout the United States, I only lived in Arkansas, and it was a small town in Arkansas to boot. So please read the following with that in mind.

So I shall begin recording some of the differences in the two countries:

- Americans are more polarized. They tend to be clearly Democrat or Republican; Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, etc. Two visits ago, I was terribly amused by my sister Stacie and her political knowledge of every movie star, singer or what have you that we talked about. It was so strong that she had an unspoken symbol. When a democrat would be on the screen she would form the letter L with her right hand and raise it to her forehead. She was telling me that said star was a liberal. Bumper stickers are everywhere telling of ones' opinions and my experience is that those opinions are not up for discussion. They are "truth" and there is no reason to discuss them.

- Canadians are more physical. Obesity is a problem everywhere, I am a case in point. However it's not as prevalent here. People bike, rollerblade, run, hike, mountain climb, hunt, ice fish, I could go on and on. Most men I know are on a hockey league and play often. Generally speaking, people are pretty fit here.

- Americans have much more expendable income. The average Canadian, I'm quoting an actual statistic, keeps his or her living room furniture for 10 years. I believe the average American keeps his or her's for 3-7. Canadians are heavily taxed, but there are huge perks for that high taxation. Gordon and I are taxed at 29%. That is not a typo -- 29%.

Until recently, Gordon hadn't been to Arkansas since 1993. He found it amazing how the average person we were around took so many luxuries for granted, unaware that they were luxuries. For example, 2,3,4 car families; turn 16 get a car. This doesn't happen here. Car insurance for a teenager is about 10 times what it is in the states. Gasoline is twice as much.

When we were there in December, we kept saying to each other, "wow, this is so cheap." And it was. Groceries, gasoline, utilities, insurance, property, even gravesites are expensive here. Furthermore, Edmonton is the least expensive place I've lived in Canada. First we were in British Columbia and then we were in Calgary.

My mom and I were driving past a cemetery, and I curiously asked how much a plot cost. She didn't know for certain, but she knew someone who paid $300 for two side by side. She added that in south Polk County, you just had to ask for a site and it was yours. A plot in Edmonton is between $8-10,000. Smart, and considerate, people pre-purchase to keep the family from that burden.

- Canadians put greater emphasis on education. Now my experience with United States is limited to Arkansas, so perhaps it isn't true that Canadians value education more than Americans. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that Canadians appear to me to value education more than the Arkansans that I have had lots of exposure to.

People here often get degrees that are not readily "marketable." I don't really understand that, but I do appreciate the esteeming of education and knowledge.

- Americans have "soldiers." Canadians have "peace-keepers." That says a lot right there. I joke that Canada has 7 submarines and 3 of them are in West Edmonton Mall. That isn't true; I have no clue how many subs Canada has, but I'm confident it can't be many. Canada doesn't send the military anywhere to "fight." They send them to "keep peace."

- Canadians are not religious. Few people here make religious pretenses. If they don't have a religion, they aren't ashamed of it. Americans are very religious. Even pagans have bumper stickers that read "God bless America." Or what about the non-Christian person who says, "I believe God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." It seems Americans readily default to religious talk.

Americans seem to talk their religion much more freely. Truthfully, I find the un-religious approach to life very refreshing. What I mean by that, is I find it more real. There is so much "talk" in America and often the talk and the walk don't line up and I am really turned off by that.

- There are fewer divorces here, or at least it seems that way. I've been here 13 years and I know a lot of people. However, I only know 2 couples who divorced in those 13 years. And those 2 couples, I didn't know well. I meet a lot of divorced people, so I know it happens lots, but it hasn't affected anyone close to me. An uncontested divorce takes a year to get. Maybe that is it. I think a better guess is people can't easily afford divorces. Even a common-law split leaves the more solvent partner paying through the nose. Once a couple lives together more than a year, they're entitled to 1/2 the other's assets. Even with that scary prospect, common-law relationships are VERY common here. And in keeping with the un-religious way of doing things, people aren't ashamed or self-conscious to say "my common-law wife" or "my partner." It's right out on the table. When Gordon pastored, there were 4 couples in our church who were common-law. I found that really weird. They had children and everything, but they didn't marry.

- In the years I've lived here, I've seen a definate shift. However when I first moved here, I was shocked at the lack of materialism. Our first church was difinately a professional church. We were in the homes of 4 doctors, a lawyer, dentist, banker, and an investor. I can honestly say I was shocked every time. Althought their houses were very nice, their possissions were not. The living room furniture in every house was older and worn. But I must add that I think we've grown much more materialistic in the 13 years I've been here.

Well this "essay" has gotten very long, and I'm not all that close to finishing my thoughts. Maybe there will be a part 2, but I want to know you're interested. I don't want to bore you and make you quit coming to check out my meanderings.

Before I go I want to add something purely unique to Alberta, our province. Alberta is a wealthy province. It seems the Alberta government has more money than it knows what to do with. So out of that surplus, every man, woman and child in Alberta will be receiving a cheque for $400 at the end of January. This little bonus has the rest of the country screaming down our necks, but Albertans are happy. Don't you think this is cool?

My apologies for droning on and on here. I hope it was interesting to you all.

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Pet Owners

I recently read that 100% of pet owners talk to their pets. I told Gordon that statistic, and being the pet-tolerater that he is, rolled his eyes in mild disgust.

A couple days later when he got home from work, Lucy met him at the door in a full body wag. Gordon responded to her excitement by saying to her, "oh please. You act like you think I like you or something."

I guess the statistic is true.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Quotes of the Day

God does not waste an ounce of our pain or a drop of our tears; suffering doesn't come our way for no reason, and He seems especially efficient at using what we endure to mold our character. -- Frank Peretti

I have had prayers answered--most strangely so sometimes--but I think our heavenly Father's loving-kindness has been even more evident in what He has refused me. -- Lewis Carroll

There's nothing like a good crisis to increase my energy and remind me how much I need God. -- Anne Christian Buchanan


Notes from the Kids

Last night I began reading a book that I've read before. When I opened it, a few notes fell out. I smiled at the memories.

Before I share the notes, a little background. Before the following notes were written, the dentist pulled one of Rachael's teeth. It was quite the ordeal. He said most kids would need to be put to sleep for that kind of extraction. The assistant and the dentist remarked several times to Rachael that she'd better get twice as much from the tooth fairy given the experience she'd had.

Well the tooth fairy was short on change that night and Rachael was disappointed. After she went to school, the tooth fairy found this note on her pillow:

Dear Tooth Fairy,
You took that molar from the Dykstra house. You gave me $1.15. That molar was worth $2 to $4. I would really enjoy the $4.
Sincerely, Rachael Dykstra

When Rachael came home from school, she found $2 on her pillow and a note that read:

Dear Rachael Dykstra,
Thank you for your note. I do apologize for the $1.15. I had had a terribly busy night flitting from house to house collecting teeth and leaving goodies. Of course your molar was worth more that I gave you. I don't know what I was thinking. You were very brave in that dentist chair. I hope you enjoy the extra $2.
Love, The Tooth Fairy.

Cute, eh? Oh yeah, I should mention Rachael knows who the tooth fairy is.

The other note I found was from Hannah. She and her sisters had looked in all the Christmas stockings. This is the note that followed me learning they had peeked.

To: Mom From: Hannah.
Sorry Mom, I lied to you about the stockings. I hope you will forgive me for what I did wrong. I am sorry for disappointing you and spoiling your Christmas Eav. I hope you like your preasant. I really looked in all the stockings. Sorry.

Sweet, don't you think?

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I'm in my living room as I write this. It's peaceful and quiet in here. Very welcoming. This room, along with the kitchen, is the hub of the house. Many a pleasant memory was made here. Laughter, hugs, tears, nursing babies, bedtime stories, reading, and many prayers.

On the piano are pictures of the most important people in the world to me. Gordon and I share a frame and then the children stretch out in framed splendor. The pictures of the kids are not in any particular order, at least not to an onlooker. But there is an order to me.

Presently, Hannah's picture is closest to mine. Hannah is getting an extra dose of prayers these days. She's closest to my heart at this time, so I moved her picture next to mine. Several weeks ago, Christopher had the #1 spot and leading up to her wedding, Stephanie did. The order of the pictures is constantly revolving.

I read a poem once about a mother being asked if she had a favorite child. She replied, "of course I do." Then she went on to say something to the affect that her favorite child is the one who is sick, until he was well; the one who is away, until he returns home safely; the one who is hurting, until the hurt subsides. Although I can't recall the exact words, the idea has stayed with me.

Every morning when I sit down in this dim living room, I look to the pictures on the piano and I pray. I have many good reasons for praying, but those six pictures represent my greatest reasons.

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The Sea

"Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I read that a few days ago and I've been thinking about it. I can see the wisdom. Just as I can't tell the sea what sea shell to bring me, I can't tell the day what to give me. I can't dictate sunshine and a warm breeze. I can't demand only good things come in the mail. I can't legislate that only
pleasant things come my way today. But I can be receptive and open to whatever washes up on my beach of life. I can even view whatever washes up as a gift. I can greet each day with athe attitude of expectation.

I want to become more open to the gifts from the sea of life.


Friday, January 06, 2006


Last night, I was sitting on Hannah's bed as I tucked her in. After I prayed for her she said, "You forgot to pray for me a friend."

I prayed again, this time specifically for her a friend. When I finished I said, "You know Hannah, sometimes the answers to our prayers are right in front of us."

Puzzled, she asked what I meant.

I mini-lectured, "Well perhaps your 'good friend' is someone you already know and go to school with. Perhaps the answer to our prayers won't be a new student. Maybe there is someone in your class who is wanting a friend too. Perhaps there is someone there already that once you get to know better, you'll really like and want for your best friend."

For a brief moment, Hannah looked horrified. With eyes wide, she said, "It better not be Jeremy."

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2005 Christmas Letter

2005 summarized:

December 14, 2005

Merry Christmas from the Dykstra Family! This is a time of year that I love. I love the traditions, the activities and the peace and joy that come with the season. People often express frazzled feelings during this season, but generally speaking, I’m not one of those.

I write this letter 2 days after arriving home from Arkansas where we watched my sweet Stephanie wed John Mark. It was a beautiful wedding and reception. Stephanie and John Mark will make their home in Fayetteville where Stephanie is studying nursing and John Mark is studying business. Stephanie will complete her studies in May 2006. I am very proud of Stephanie and the choices she has made. She demonstrates wisdom and grace in so many areas. I wish I had been more like her when I was her age.

In addition to Stephanie’s good news, a lot has happened since the last time we wrote a Christmas letter. Christopher will soon be 17. I reveled in my time with him this summer, and again briefly at Stephanie’s wedding. He is quickly becoming a man -- a kind, gentle, patient man. He brings me great joy. He works in the wood shop of his dad’s aircraft interior business and apparently is learning lots.

Two years ago we decided to stop Home Schooling and enrolled the children in the neighborhood Adventist school. It is about 2 blocks from our house. Not only is it super convenient, it’s a wonderful school; we couldn’t ask for better. There are solid Christian teachers, regular worship and Bible memory, a warm and caring atmosphere and small classes. Tuition sets us back a bit financially, but it’s so worth every dime. Coralwood Adventist Academy is a huge blessing in our life.

Rachael is now 10 and in grade 5. She is energetic, responsible, and a voracious reader, and also quite tall. She is an energetic daughter, and a delight to have helping around the house, which she does quite frequently. She is great with little children and looking forward to being old enough to baby-sit.

Hannah is 9 and in grade 4. She is the family clown, always ready with a funny voice or saying. She loves to mimic cartoons they have seen and the kids have their own “inside” jokes. This year she too has become an avid reader. For her birthday, she got a cute little Chihuahua that she quickly named Frodo. She is a good “mom” to Frodo.

Deborah is 6 and in grade 1. She is a very good student. This year she crossed some kind of invisible line. This time last year, her work habits left me thinking we were raising a pig. Every child is motivated by something, and allowance was the key for Deborah. Now she does her chores without complaining and her room is a fair bit tidier. We are all happy about that.

This past summer all the girls went to camp at Gull Lake. It was their first time away from home for more than an overnight with Grandma. They each had a blast and are anxious to return next summer.

Back in 2004 we had a big year for holidays. In February, I took all three girls to visit my family in the U.S. for a month. In addition to visiting aunts and uncles in North Carolina, Florida and Arkansas, it was the girls’ first time to see the ocean, and they loved it. They were just old enough for the trip to be truly memorable, and the girls now have a big place in their heart for all our Southern relatives.

Later in 2004 we spent our summer vacation at Pembina River, just outside of Edmonton. It wasn’t far away, but “getting away from it all” was good. After the first two days of solid rain, and turning our little campsite into “tarp kingdom,” we had seven wonderful days.

This year, summer holidays found us camping at Greig Lake, Saskatchewan. Greig Lake is a beautiful, clean, clear lake and the weather cooperated. It was very hot, but since we were at a lake, it didn’t much matter. Although it was a shorter trip than last year, we had a great time.

Gordon is still a supervisor with Edmonton Transit. He works 10- hour days 4 days a week and the 3-day weekend every week is a wonderful thing. Presently, he is on “holidays” and busy renovating our upstairs bathroom. Goodbye robin egg blue and welcome white. This is a job we’ve wanted to do for 8 years. Finally it’s happening.

I am still working part-time at Pier 1 Imports. I work 9-2 several days a week. I’m home when the kids leave for school and I’m home when they return. I could easily find a better paying job, but I couldn’t easily find a job with hours so ideal. I’m thankful.

I had a hysterectomy in August and happy to have that ordeal behind me. The initial complications cut into our vacation just a bit, but everything turned out well – Praise God!

Our menagerie of pets continues to grow. Deborah is getting a hamster for Christmas. She has wanted one for a couple years and we think she’s ready. She asked for one for her 5th birthday and promised that she “wouldn’t pull his legs off.” Little hamster will join 2 dogs, Frodo and Lucy, our cat Lacy, and 3 charming betta fish.

Our home is filled with love, joy and usually peace. I’ve always prayed that we’d be a family of love, joy, peace, and laughter. Laughter is a wonderful gift and we do lots of it around here. I’m blessed with a husband and kids that make me laugh. So many gifts we take for granted, but laughter is one that I’m acutely aware of and thankful for.

Overall 2005 has been a good year. We are ending the year on a good note; we are healthy, happy and hopefully growing wiser by the year. God has crowned our year with bounty and we give him thanks and glory for his goodness to us.

We’d love to hear from you. Merry Christmas!

With Love,

The Gordon Dykstra Family

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Goals for 2006

So my list of goals for 2006 are slightly on the mundane side. I wish there was something I plan to do that fell under the glamorous category, but that is not the case. Even our family holidays will be campling close to Edmonton. Nothing that I know of this year will be extraordinary.

- Complete the bathroom renovations. We didn't know how big this job was when we started. It seems to keep growing.

- Replace the basement windows, the eavestroughs, faccia, and soffit.

- Along with Hannah and the dogs, take a dog obedience course. Hannah and I will be the "masters." Lucy and Frodo will be the dogs. ;-)

- Enroll Rachael in a babysitting course. She has to learn first aid and go to class on 5 Saturdays. It requires commitment from the parent and the student. Rachael will be a GREAT babysitter.

- Pay off a line of credit I got myself into last year.

- Commit to a date and place for a holiday (3 day?) with my sisters Diane and Stacie for 2007.

- Get Stephanie's furniture to her. It's an antique curio cabinet and a leather antique chair. Anybody coming to Canada who would like to assist me in this one?

- Make progress on my anniversary quilt. 10 squares. I had hoped to finish it for my 10th anniversary, now it's my goal for our 15th anniversary.

- Become a blood donor. Gordon donates blood about every 6 weeks. This year I want to join him.

I told you my list wasn't glamorous. If I can fulfill any of them, I'm further ahead, eh?


Monday, January 02, 2006

Resolves Kept

I get kind of irked by the pessimists who say there isn't any use in New Years resolutions because no one keeps them anyway. It's true, truer than I like to admit, that many of my beginning of the year goals don't get kept. I've never lost those last pesky 100 pounds, nor do I work out everyday. So yes, I don't keep them all, but I do keep some.

For my own encouragement, and maybe for yours too, I'll share some that I HAVE kept.

- 1986. Before legislation dictated it, I began wearing a seatbelt. Stephanie was 9 months old and I wanted to set a good example. So for 20 years I have kept that one.

2001 - I don't usually wear my contacts or glasses in the house. Therefore I use to not notice how dirty my floors would get. I would often be shocked when I put on my glasses to see the dirty floors. 5 years ago I committed to putting on my glasses at least 3 times a week to vacuum. I still vacuum more frequently than I use to.

2003 - I boycotted WalMart and haven't been in one in over 2 years. For those of you who care to learn more about that, go to

2004 - I gave up cream and sugar in my coffee on January 1, 2004. An old lady at church was my inspiration. She said that she lost 25 pounds when she gave up cream and sugar. Well, I never lost any weight, but must admit I still love my coffee and have never looked back.

2004 - I began to live "greener." Reducing, reusing, and recycling. I buy fewer things, recycle and compost everything that can be recycled or composted. (Did you know that 70-80% of North American waste could be recycled or composted?) I mulch cut grass instead of bagging it, walk more when I use to drive, use my clothesline in the spring and summer, don't water my grass anymore, take transit some, and generally try to live more considerately of the planet.

2004 - I learned to take the bus. I'm a small town girl in the city, this was a big one for me. Now I'm relatively comfortable taking transit when I need to or want to.

2005 - Memorized the Apostles' Creed and 2 Bible passages.

When I made this list I was encouraged to see that I have been successful with some of my goals. Soon I'll share my 2006 goals. I've set them, but will wait to blog them. They are relatively small, but I will be ahead of the game if I just keep a couple of them. Do you have any new years goals?


2005's Blessings

This is the time of year where we look back and say, "wow, where did all the time go?" It's a reflective time and hopefully a time where we can see the hand of God in some of the circumstances and events of the previous year. Yesterday during community prayer at church, a lady prayed something like "our God in heaven who dances and laughs over the good things in our lives." I really don't remember her exact words, but it was a beautiful picture in my mind.

I like to imagine that God laughed and danced many times in 2005 because of good things in my family. My 2005 highlights are these:

- Stephanie's wedding. Stephanie married a kind man who, along with her, is striving to be a follower of Jesus. John Mark comes from a good family and has watched his mom and dad interact lovingly all his life. I believe God prepared them for each other their whole lives and I know God has good things in mind for them. Their wedding and reception were beautiful and I think they'll have great memories for years to come.

- Trip to Arkansas. Gordon and I got away without children for the first time ever. I would have loved to take the girls to Arkansas for the wedding, but as some observant person once said, "money doesn't grow on trees." Anyway, Gordon and I had a wonderful time, just the 2 of us. I buy a new Christmas ornament every year that captures something special regarding our year. 2005's special ornament is 2 moose in bed together. It's symbolic of our trip away together.

- I don't actually recall if it happened in 2004 or 2005, but I've reconnected with my dear aunt (Jill) via Instant Messenger. She gives me lots to think about, is a wonderful sounding board, and makes me laugh hysterically.

- Frodo. Frodo, Hannah's new puppy, brings a new element of joy to us. I have shown the girls several times Revelation 3:11, "for His pleasure all things were created." Our dogs make me smile often and it's special for me to think that God smiles (laughs and dances?) with us at the dogs antics. After all, He created them for His pleasure.

- Pier 1. In October, I celebrated (actually "celebrated" is WAY too strong) my first year anniversary at Pier 1. I haven't worked in years, but when Deborah started school, I took a part time job. My job doesn't pay much, but the hours are amazingly tailored to me. I'm thankful for that.

- Christopher's visit in the summer. Christopher gave me loads of laughter in the summer. I enjoyed him immensely. He was wonderful company and an awesome addition to the family while he was here.

- My Hysterectomy. Many things in life should remain "untalked" about. Suffice it to say, I am happy to have it all behind me. I'm thankful for modern medicine.

Perhaps I'll add to the list as things occur to me. 2005 was a good year and I say thank you to God for that.

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Hannah Needs a Friend

Dear God,

Hannah has never had a good friend other than her sisters. She wants a friend. Please send her one. She is sad today. Please fill her heart with joy. Show her Your kindness and goodness by giving her the desire of her heart. Show her how you care about ALL the details of her life. Please give her joy and peace.

Thank you for loving Hannah even more than I do. Amen.

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