Wednesday, March 30, 2011

TNEL Day 22: Spring!

I know I've had several spring-related thank-you's so far in this series but this morning I really felt it. After dropping Jonathan off I had an errand on campus so I walked there, enjoying the warm sun on my face. There were just the barest patches of snow to be seen in the shadier spots. I could wear my shoes, a lighter coat, and no hat. I saw snowdrops several times along the way and saw lots of geese making their way north. Spring is a beautiful time of year and I look forward to all it has to offer.

TNEL Day 21: Below the surface

Yesterday Allison was working on a school project in which she had to design a T-shirt with a slogan that was meaningful to her. I was impressed with her thoughtful reflections. She chose the slogan "Everything happens for a reason" and stated that although she often feels "weird and different," there must be a good reason that she is the way she is. She commented that even when bad things happen like doing badly on a test, there might be a good reason that it happened -- maybe to encourage her to study harder -- and that people should try to look positively at the bad things in their life. Allison is not always the easiest person to communicate with, but I'm thankful that every now and then we get a little peek below the surface and see just how she is maturing and coping with life in her own unique way.

Monday, March 28, 2011

TNEL Day 20: Faithful friendship

I'm very thankful for my good friend Lori, whose birthday it is today. I met Lori on one of my first days on Queen's campus in September of 1986. We were classmates and shared an office during our Master's degree programs, and we have been friends ever since. Our lives intersect at many points: we're in the same writers' group and book study group, we're both part of a small worship group that meets monthly, we're working together on a project for the Queen's Writing Centre ... in fact, we often jokingly say that we have to stay friends because if we didn't, our entire lives would fall apart! Lori's a talented writer and teacher and most of all a beautiful person, inside and out. We've enjoyed thousands of coffee dates, catching up on our lives, talking about faith and books and writing and everything else under the sun. Here's to many, many more. (photo Ray Vos)

TNEL Day 19: Small world

I'm thankful for 2 reminders I had yesterday of our small world. In church we had a missions week and the focus yesterday was on a small village in Ecuador, Santo Domingo de Onzole, which our church is supporting. The villagers are descendants of African slaves who fled from Colombia. They are totally ignored by the Ecuadorian government and are also discriminated against because they are black. In church we watched a video of some of the villagers talking about what they like about their community but also the struggles they have (no infrastructure, poor education so kids have to board at a school in another town, etc.). The presenter talked about how amazed the people of the village are to know that in Canada there's a church that cares about them and whose youth group is having a 30-hour fast to raise money for them. For me the video was the best part because we got to hear the people's own perspective on their life, their joys and struggles, etc. Then later in the afternoon a girl came to the door trying to raise money & awareness for Amnesty International. She spoke with passion about AI's work on behalf of prisoners of conscience and said how encouraging it is for these prisoners to know that people all over the world care about their plight and are actively trying to help them. Both of these things made me think of the words by poet John Donne: No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

TNEL Day 18: Our neighbourhood

We've lived in our current house for nearly 11 years now, and we hope we never have to move. Our street is a wonderful little hidden jewel -- a circle drive that gets mostly local traffic and that has a nice little park right in the middle. It was created as postwar housing so the homes are (mostly) small and similar. But houses and parks are one thing; people are another. And we have great neighbours. There are at least 8 homes on the street that we'd have no hesitation going to if we needed help. (And we have: I've knocked on a neighbour's door at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday to ask for help with a dysfunctional sump pump -- and he still speaks to me! :-) At least once a year we have a neighbourhood party, and it seems there's always at least one "new" person comes out to that, even if they've lived on the street for years -- guess they just can't resist the friendly atmosphere. It's a great place to live, and we hope we're here for many more years to come.

TNEL Day 17: Richard

I couldn't write a thankfulness series without expressing thanks for my great husband! We both really enjoy the simple things in life -- like each other, ha ha. It is great just to have coffee together, hang out with the kids, and laugh at the same silly things. I feel very blessed to have him in my life. I love you hon!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

TNEL Day 16: S4W

Every Thursday morning I attend a group called "Something for Women" at Bethel Church. We drink coffee & tea, sample the various treats people bring, catch up on each other's lives, pray for each other, and do a study together. I've been going to S4W ever since we started at Bethel in the fall of 2005. Meeting people at a new church is challenging, but about 2 weeks after we started going to Bethel I met two women who attended this group and who urged me to come. I remember that first sunny September morning, pushing Jonathan in the stroller on the way to the church. Sue, a regular S4W member whom I'd met once before, caught up to me on her bike and walked the last block with me. Jonathan headed off to child care with Phyllis, who has been caring for kids at Bethel for, oh, 40 years or so, and I went to the women's meeting where about 15 friendly women greeted me and made me feel very welcome.

Our group is a little smaller now, as people come and go and their schedules change, but our format is still the same: socialize, pray, and study together. I consider these women my good friends and I look forward every week to getting together with them. So today I'm very thankful for S4W.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TNEL Day 15: Working at home

I feel very thankful that I can work at home and have been able to do so ever since the kids were born. This has been a particular blessing since Jonathan started school, especially because for his first 3 years of school he came home every day for lunch. He goes full days now, but I still enjoy the flexibility of home work. Right now I'm involved in 2 projects: my regular assignment marking for a correspondence writing course, and a major revision of that course into a new online format. To be able to do 99% of my work from home is really convenient. Not everyone has this opportunity, and I'm grateful that I do.

TNEL Day 14: Quintilian

For the last couple of years we've been fortunate to be connected with a great local organization called Quintilian. They run a very small private school mostly for kids who have had trouble learning or socializing in the regular school setting. They also have summer day camps and a Tuesday night social club that runs through the school year; Allison has been attending both since 2009. Every Tuesday night they do a different activity: laser tag, board games, movies, crafts, skating, hiking, swimming, you name it. It's an accepting, relaxed environment where the kids (who, to be honest, are all a bit quirky) can just be themselves and have fun. We're really thankful to have so many resources in the community for our kids; Quintilian is just one of them.

Monday, March 21, 2011

TNEL Day 13: Overflowing grocery cart

Today was grocery-shopping day. It was snowing huge fat wet snowflakes and I had to brush the car before leaving home, after dropping Jonathan off, and after getting the groceries. It wasn't really a nice morning to be out. But I'm glad I went, because every time I come home from getting groceries and start putting everything away, I feel thankful that we have money to buy food. We can buy fresh healthy things like apples, oranges, potatoes, and milk, without having to worry whether we can cover the cost when we get to the checkout. We are blessed.

TNEL Day 12: Greek takeout

Restaurants and our family (make that Jonathan) do not really get along, so takeout is a great solution. Once a month, usually on a Sunday, we have Greek takeout from Minos Restaurant. Jonathan is crazy about it: he loves the tzatziki, the red onions and feta cheese in the salad, the spicy pink salad dressing, and especially the potatoes. Last night Uncle Errol came for supper and we had a big feast of Minos food, so we had a great evening. And there's always lots of leftovers, so for two nights in a row I don't need to think about what to make for supper. Sweet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

TNEL Day 11: "Thou silver moon with softer gleam" ...

... NOT!

As I sit here typing, a huge, bright moon is beaming in the window behind me. Tonight (in case you didn't know) there is a supermoon: the moon is passing especially close to earth tonight on its elliptical orbit, and because this happens to be a full moon it's particularly bright and big (14% larger than usual). It looks very proud of itself tonight.

I'm thankful that it was a clear, cloudless day and evening that allowed us to see this unusual, beautiful sight; there won't be another supermoon until 2029.

Friday, March 18, 2011

TNEL Day 10: Mmm .... cheese

I said this series would be cheesy, didn't I? But seriously -- isn't cheese great? Today I helped Allison with an experiment for her upcoming science fair. We put 6 different kinds of cheese on bread and put them in the oven for different lengths of time at different temperatures to test how much each would stretch. We held a tape measure next to the bread and pulled the cheese upward with a pointy knife until the cheese broke. Findings include the following earth-shattering facts:

- Cheese slices (process cheese) do not stretch very well, and they burn easily.
- Extra-old cheddar gets very soft and runny but is not very stretchy.
- Mozzarella will stretch at least six inches when heated at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

Who knew?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TNEL Day 9: A not-that-bad day after all

After 8 days of cheerful posts it was hard to think of an entry today. Jonathan was a little under the weather last night, so we kept him home from day camp today just to be on the safe side (he had had a bit of the runs and today they were going to the swimming pool; we didn't want to inflict THAT on anyone!). He was not really sick today at all, but he was kind of cranky. I suppose I should say I am thankful he wasn't very sick, but to be truthful I felt cheated of my "free day" and I felt like I got absolutely nothing done, so I really wasn't feeling very thankful.

But tonight I took the kids with me to music practice at church and we had a good time. Just like people say they feel better after strenuous exercise (I wouldn't know), I feel better after singing -- physically and emotionally. Then after we got home my brother Errol dropped in. He is in the Army and is currently stationed in Alberta with his wife Alycia, but he is taking a 5-week intensive French course here at CFB Kingston. So he arrived last night and started his course today. He came by this evening to visit and have a snack; it was great to see him. So the day ended well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TNEL Day 8: Allison

Today Allison and I had a girls' afternoon out: shopped for jeans at Old Navy (she tried on about 12 pairs and bought 1), went to the library, got our hair cut. When we have outings like this it is usually a fairly quiet time because Allison is not much of a talker. But she is a very sweet girl who brings a lot of joy into our lives. I remember how happy I was the day she was born and the doctor said "It's a girl!"

(photo credit Ray Vos)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TNEL Day 7: Extend-a-Family

Extend-a-Family is a wonderful Kingston organization that provides programs for special-needs kids and adults and their families. For the last 2 summers Jonathan has attended EAF's day camp program for several weeks, and he'll be doing the same this summer. He also goes to their Saturday programs twice a month and enjoys a day of games and swimming.

They also offer a March Break day camp, so Jonathan's going to that for 3 days this week. He went today and had a fun day with his friends. We're very thankful for EAF because it gives Jonathan a chance to do outings and activities geared to his abilities, and it's a respite opportunity for us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

TNEL Day 6: Sun

Today was one of those days where you can just feel Spring (with a capital S) in the air. We hadn't seen the sun for nearly a week so it was very welcome. It's March break so it's great to be able to get outside and enjoy it.

TNEL Day 5: Daylight savings time

OK, I know this is day 6 but I went to bed last night and forgot to make my Day 5 entry. (That may happen frequently in the next 6 weeks so get used to it....)

In any case (since we just changed our clocks Saturday night) I'm very grateful for Daylight Savings Time. I love it when daylight extends into the evening hours -- just another sign of spring and the longer days ahead.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

TNEL Day 4: Sump pump

I'm thankful for our sump pump, which has been working steadily the last few days to cope with our heavy rainfall and melting snow. But even as I say that, I think it sounds very selfish because of what has just happened in Japan with the terrible earthquake and tsunami. It seems petty (some would even say obscene) to be thankful for something that really prevents a relatively small problem from occurring, when so many thousands have lost everything, even their lives.

How do we wrap our minds around this whole issue of being grateful for the good in our lives while others suffer? Some would say we can't be thankful (to God, "the universe," or whatever) for the good without also assigning blame for the bad. I don't really agree with that. I don't think true gratitude is ever the wrong response to the blessings you enjoy. If you are ungrateful about what you have (much or little), then you will cling to it, control it, and hoard it -- after all, if there's no one to thank, then you did it all yourself and it's all up to you. I think gratitude helps you live in the moment, hold things lightly ... AND give to others in need.

Friday, March 11, 2011

TNEL Day 3: Geese flying north

This morning as I walked Jonathan to school we heard and saw the first geese of the season: a big checkmark of them, and then a smaller flock afterward. Can spring be far behind? That's a prospect to be thankful for.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

TNEL Day 2: Rubber boots

With 10-15 mm of rain today and 20mm more forecast for tonight, I'm very thankful for my rubber boots! I wish mine were as cute as Allison's, though.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

TNEL Day 1: Jordan and Jordyn

I'm thankful for Jonathan's classmates, who look out for him at school. Today his classmate Jordan (male) met us in the schoolyard and joined us throwing snow-chunks into the yellow-blue-red structure. He talked to Jonathan, encouraged him, and urged him toward their line when the bell rang. When they were in line, his classmate Jordyn (female, very cute, chubby, and blonde) greeted him. She told him it was their friend Sam's birthday and that they might have cupcakes later; she stopped another boy from butting in line; and she helped Jonathan up the steps. He gets by with a little help from his friends!

LENT spelled backwards is TNEL

Our discussion last night about "giving up something for Lent" got me wondering what I could give up. Once I gave up pop & chips (that was in our pre-kid days when Rich & I drank pop & ate chips on a regular basis); another time I gave up desserts. Yes there's a pattern there.

This year I thought I might give up complaining. Not that I think I complain any more than the average person, but it's easy to get into that mode. But then I got a different idea: I'm going to turn Lent around and instead of giving up something, I'm going to add something. Every day in Lent I'm going to write one thing I'm thankful for. Does that sound cheesy? Oh well, next year I'll give up cheese.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

no Roll Up the Rim for him

We had pancakes for supper tonight in honour of Shrove Tuesday. I commented offhandedly that I should give up something for Lent -- maybe pancakes. (ha ha)

Allison turned to Jonathan and said, "Jonathan, what are you going to give up for Lent?"

Without a moment's hesitation, Jonathan answered, "Coffee."