A Slice Into My Life…

I noticed lately I’ve been sharing a lot more about what I think about things rather than what actually happens in my home. Part of it is privacy concerns–I get a lot of people coming her to my blog who read me in the newspaper, and I’m always a little conscious of what I share about my children.

But I thought I’d share one little slice of my life with you.

My mother and I are both avid knitters. We’ve even started some micro-businesses with girls in Kenya, teaching them to knit with knitting machines.

Recently my mother decided to take a machine knitting course offered locally, and she sent this report to her sister:

Decided to take some machine knitting classes now that I have a little time. (a long story but not that interesting). Had my first class this past Tuesday. Asked the instructor how I am supposed to transport the machine to/from once assembled/clicked into place. She told me that the women use gun cases!

I then took a second look and realized that is what they were. However, never having seen one before how was I to know? So – headed to Canadian Tire yesterday and discovered a part of the store I never even knew existed.

The two guys behind the counter were more than a little amused when I said I needed the case to carry my knitting machine! One of them suggested – rather tongue in cheek – that I should paint mine pink so people didn’t get the wrong idea when they saw me carrying it around.

I thought it a good idea so headed down to the paint department. There some customer with long hair and missing teeth saw me looking at some bright wine coloured shiny paint. He warned me against shiny paint in the woods because the animals could see it. When I explained to him what I wanted the case for – well you should have seen his face! Will wait for some nicer weather before trying to paint it.

Now, full disclosure: my mother grew up in rural Manitoba, where hunting is common, and in the part of southeastern Ontario where we live, long gun ownership is probably higher than most parts of the U.S. But my mom is a city girl and hasn’t had that much exposure to it.

Anyway, this sort of thing is quite typical for my family. We’re always doing weird things. I like to tell my girls that when they grow up, at least they will never have to say their childhood was boring!

Why I Love Small Towns…

Some of you may remember my column from last summer called “Date Night”, where I talked about my friend “Sebastien”, who took his wife to a movie, fell asleep, and then ended up posting on Facebook about how he didn’t understand the plot anymore. It was pretty funny.

Anyway, it turns out Sebastien and his wife finally got out for another date last night. They went to dinner–and were seated right beside their assistant pastor and his wife. So they couldn’t get away from church friends. Then, as they’re walking through the mall, who do they run into but me and my daughter? Twice.

So today, as I turn on my Facebook, I see this notification:

Pretty funny. I lived in Toronto for 28 years and only 2 or 3 times ran into people I knew. Here in my town I can’t go out without seeing someone I know. And it actually creates pretty funny interactions!

Thursday Thoughts: Dead Bunnies, Looking Boxy, and Nightgowns


Photo by nblumhardt

Ever had one of those weeks where just weird things happen to you? Allow me to share three tidbits from my life which demonstrate how upside down things are sometimes.

1. When your day starts off with having to kill a bunny, you know it can only get better from here.

One morning this week the girls and I were jogging, as we do almost every morning, when we came upon a bunny that had been partially run over. We assumed the thing was dead, so we all groaned the obligatory, “Ahhhh, that’s so sad,” when all of a sudden said dead bunny started moving its legs.

We screamed and jumped back, as if this bunny were about to charge or something. But since blood was coming out of its eyes, I think the chances of that were rather slim.

Nevertheless, I now had a dilemma. A bunny was lying on the road, not dead, but obviously in pain. And crows were circling. What do you do?

My youngest decided this was ridiculous and she headed for home, but Rebecca and I continued to fret about this bunny’s fate. We’d beg passing motorists to run over it and end its misery, but no one took us up on the offer.

“I could run over it with the van,” I helpfully suggested, but we both agreed I’d be too chicken to do it.

Because we wanted some way to help, we went to fetch shovels, thinking at least we could move it to the grass so it could die somewhere comfortable. Walking around in sunny weather with winter shovels we approached the bunny, who was still not quite dead. Then I thought, “if it has a broken leg and we move it, we’re only causing it more pain.” I briefly considered decapitation, but then realized I could never do that, either. Drowning, perhaps?

In desperation we headed to my nephew’s grandparent’s house, which is just around the corner. My nephew, who is 15, happened to be home, and he came with us and promptly finished the bunny off with a quick blow to the skull. Then he and his grandfather buried it.

Moral of the story: sometimes it’s good to have 15-year-old boys around!

2. Props can come in handy.

Last Saturday I spoke at a Girls Night Out event in Niagara Falls (if you live in the Maritimes, I’m coming in November! Check it out here). I planned to make the three-hour drive home that night, rather than staying in Niagara, because I had to be at church the next morning. I don’t mind driving at night; I had CDs ready to go, and Diet Pepsi to keep me awake. I was ready for anything.

Except a major traffic jam, that had me sitting on the QEW for three hours. After I had travelled only about 40 miles I finally got through the jam, was able to exit, and got a hotel for the night.

“But I’m going to have to sleep in my clothes!”, I moaned. Then, as I was going through my car to see what supplies I might have for an overnight stay, I found the famous nightgown that I use as a prop when I speak.

And lo and behold, I was all set.

If you want to see the routine, here it is from a few tours back:

3. Be Wary of Sales Staff

This year, as I went through my speaking wardrobe, I realized I would need some new clothes. The Girls Night Out set has a background that’s royal blue, and most of my clothes were blue. Take a picture of me up there and you can’t see me.

I have lots of nice clothes, and didn’t really need anything personally, but I needed a few speaking outfits. So I headed down to a locally owned boutique where I have bought some nice things in the past and tried on some clothes. I was in a hurry, so I didn’t look that closely, but the women there told me that the jacket and the blouses looked “just fabulous!”

They were awfully pricey, but I wanted quality, and I knew I’d wear them again. So I bought them. Then, last Saturday, when I was getting ready to leave, I tried on an outfit.

It looked hideous.

It was too big in the shoulders and it just hung there, making me look like a box or a giant rectangle. I had no shape. I called the girls in and we frantically tried to make it work, but nothing did. They said, “we tried to tell you in the store, but the women kept shushing us.”

Note to sales staff: never shush my kids. They have good instincts.

I wore something else, went into a store in Niagara Falls and bought some much better–and cheaper–stuff, and was happy.

So I went to return the things this week and they almost wouldn’t take them back. They’re “special occasion” wear, and I guess boutiques don’t even do exchanges on special occasion wear. I was mightily ticked, but talked them into it. So now I’m in the position where all I can do is exchange (not get money back), and I don’t want or need any other clothes. I wanted to spend money redoing my basement.

I bought some jewellery and a few sweaters, and came away much wiser.

Lesson: When you’re trying on clothes at a boutique, start with something absolutely hideous and ask the salesperson how you look. If they say, “Fantastic!!!”, walk out of there as fast as you can. They only want your money; they’re not interested if you actually look good.

I wish I had figured that out earlier!

The Big 4-0!

Novelty candles may be used.Image via Wikipedia

Happy birthday to me!

I have officially entered my 40s. And life has not come to a screeching halt.

I have approached this birthday with a little bit of trepidation. Somehow crossing 40 seems like a real threshold. In one’s 30s one is still a “young adult”, so to speak. If you’re in your 30s, you’re considered too young to run for major public office, usually. You’re not experienced enough.

But lots of people in their 40s can run, because when you’re 40, you have all the experience you need. You’re not “too young” anymore. I kind of liked being “too young” for a lot of things.

Nevertheless, I don’t really mind not being young anymore, primarily because I didn’t particularly enjoy my younger years. With each passing year I have become more at peace, more fulfilled, and happier. As a teen I was so focused on finding a boyfriend or finding people to love me. In university I was tortured by the quesiton, “will I ever get married?” Once I did marry, I was worried that we’d never work out our problems. And then, as I began having babies, I was exhausted, I was worried about their health, I wondered at times who I was.

Here’s me at 26, sharing some of my special days with my son before he left us:

And here’s me two weeks ago, with no makeup, at a youth retreat with my kids:

Now I sleep all I want (primarily because my oldest is not yet old enough to drive. I hear sleepless nights begin again with the advent of a driver’s license). I truly enjoy my children. I love my husband. I have found my niche in life. I’m no longer insecure about relationships, or about who I am, or about my calling. I’m more at peace with just being me.

I have been told, too, by countless people that the 40s is way better than the 30s, because you’re far more confident, and I do believe that. I’m also relatively healthy, so I don’t see any reason necessarily why I should not be just as active in the next decade. So it’s not like I’m getting “old”.

I did a bit of a shock last week while visiting another church to speak. On the wall was a poster for their seniors’ group, which they called “50 plus”. And I thought, “I’m only 10 years away from being a senior!” That was weird.

But then it hit me: when I’m 50, I’ll likely have grandchildren. And I am so looking forward to grandchildren. At 50, Rebecca will be 26. Katie will be 24. Those will be fun years.

I think you hit an age where you stop measuring yourself by the years that you have passed, and you start measuring yourself by how old your children are, and what stage of life you’re at. I’m looking forward to the Grandma days. I’m looking forward to the days when my husband can cut back from work a bit, and we can go overseas for a bit more of an extended time to do some ministry work. I’m looking forward to having more time to devote to speaking.

Perhaps we’re scared of getting old because we’re really scared of dying. I don’t think about that much. I figure when my time is up it’s up, and God’s waiting for me. I’m more scared of slowly deteriorating, as I watched some of my grandparents do, but perhaps that’s just another period of one’s life when one learns grace and patience.

So today I am celebrating 40. I am confident. I am happy. I so love my family, and I’m grateful that God has given me so many to love. And life is good.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall and Me

'Berlin Wall' photo (c) 1990, NatalieMaynor - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

With the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall yesterday, it got my mind thinking back twenty years ago. I was actually in Berlin in August of 1989. We went through Checkpoint Charlie and took some great pictures in East Germany. My main impressions: nobody smiled. Nobody talked outdoors. The cars were tiny. The buildings were ugly. And there was nothing to buy.

Someone was shot trying to flee into West Germany that month. They would be the last to die before the wall came down.

I had an interesting thing happen to me after our trip, though, and I thought I’d share it with you. I wrote it a few years ago, but it seems relevant today. Hope you enjoy it!

We packed ourselves into the car like sardines. In fact, Rohanne went in first, and we crammed our suitcases around her legs so that she couldn’t move. We did all this in the dark, for it was 4 a.m., and it was time to leave Berlin for our mini-conference in Hamburg. It was the end of our summer missions.

Nine of us were travelling together that day, from eight differnet countries. I was one of the lucky ones. When we picked up our rental cars, we found out that they only had one small one left, so we were presented with an Audi at no extra charge. The others in the small Citroen were not as fortunate.

We loaded up, me, a Canadian, in the car with the American, the Jordanian, the South African, and most of the luggage, and in the other car another American, an Israeli, an Egyptian, a Sudanese, and an English woman. We were a pretty bedraggled lot, having spent our summer housed in a church with no shower and few laundry faciltiies. We made do with sponge baths and laundromats, but we looked ragged. And the lack of sleep didn’t help either.

Nevertheless, we left Berlin in high spirits, looking forward to the conference.

I was elected to sit in the front seat with Pietr, the South African, to talk to him to keep him awake while we drove. A little nervous about directions, he had asked over and over again how to get out of Berlin, and was told it was no problem; there was only one road going west, and you couldn’t miss it. You just drive through the checkpoints, and there you are.

So, reassured, we set out. The checkpoint was easier than we thought, although the guards looked suspiciously at our nationalities. Nevertheless, we drove through, drove over a circular roadway, and were on our way. While Rohanne and James napped in the back seat, Pietr and I discussed our summer.

We had been witnessing to Turkish Muslims in Berlin, many of whom lived in neighbourhoods that had yet to be repaired after the World War II bombings. They were the despised of West Germany, yet they were surprising friendly. Nevertheless, they were very dogmatic in their beliefs, and it had been a difficult spiritual journey.

After about an hour, I noticed Pietr looking a little worried. Finally he turned to me, and asked,

“Sheila, in Canada, where does the sun rise?”

“In the east.” I said. And then I looked ahead, straight at the sunrise.

“Funny.” He said. “That’s where it rises in South Africa, too.”

He quickly awoke the other two and had them get out the map. We started to look for signs, but could find none on the map. Then we realized the map didn’t extend for more than 10 km around Berlin.

“Maybe we should turn back,” said Pietr.

“But they said there was only one road.” James argued. We were all growing nervous. We had heard terrible things about East German authorities.

But then a new sign popped into view. “Look!” I cried, “It says Frankfurt. We have to be going in the right direction if there’s a sign for Frankfurt.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, we continued for another ten minutes, until Pietr noticed something else.

“Look at the cars,” he whispered, as if raising his voice would alert the authorities. And we did. We were surrounded by little tiny Eastern European cars, the kind that look like they’re made of aluminum and would break at any minute. Squeezed into these vehicles were tall men, obviously uncomfortable, staring confusedly at our large Audi.

In the back of the car, Rohanne suddenly hissed, “Look at the stickers!”.

And we did in dismay. In Europe, all cars have an oval white sticker, bearing the initials of the country from which they come. Most of these cars had two ominous letters on them: PL. Poland.

“That’s it.” Pietr said. “We have to turn back.”

And we signalled the car behind us to follow, turned in the other direction, and continued on our way. We even made it to Hamburg in time for the opening worship.

That would be the end of the story except for two other points.

When we reached Hamburg, we checked a map to find out why there was a sign for Frankfurt on the East German highway. That was when we learned that there were two Frankfurts: the second one being a mere 10 km from the Polish border.

The other point was that all of this happened early in the morning on August 24, 1989. To many people that date means nothing, but to those in Poland it means freedom. For it was on that day that the first Communist European government fell; Solidarity had been voted in. And because of that, the Soviets had amassed 12,000 troops to the Polish-East German border.

So I do not like to think of how we would have appeared to those troops had we made it past Frankfurt. The nine of us, a motley crew from some of the most turbulent countries in the world, with our only plea being “we were told there was only one road.”

It was a wonderful summer, and I would encourage all to do summer missions. You meet people from all different countries, experience differnet cultures, get a chance to witness, feel God’s hand protecting you in your everyday life. But not only that. Sometimes you land in the middle of a historical moment. And so you come away with great stories to tell, too.


How I Learned I Am Not Neurotic

My father left my mother when I was 2, and I had major rejection issues. As I child I was extremely shy (though I eventually grew out of that), and as a teen I got into plenty of silly relationships because I was so desperate to have someone love me.

Then, when I married, all kinds of issues from my past surfaced again (as they often do when we marry or have a child), and I was sure I had some deep dark secret that I had never consciously remembered.

At the same time, I was taking plenty of sociology courses focusing on abuse, and I figured sometime, somewhere, someone must have done something to me.

And I had proof, too! I’ve never liked anyone taking my pulse or hearing my heartbeat. It scares me, makes me want to run, and brings on major panic. In fact, I don’t like anything about the heart. In grade 7 we were studying the different chambers of the heart, and I almost passed out. Just thinking about it turns me white.

And I hated those gym classes where they made you take your pulse. I always faked it.

I even hated blood tests. Needles were fine; it was the taking blood out that bothered me. And so I built all these scenarios in my head of weird things that might have happened to me, when I heard my heartbeat echoing in my ears at a particularly scary time, and I had freaked out.

At times, when I spoke with a counselor when I was younger, I would mention this, and frequently they thought it was quite interesting. I would be asked to make a list of all the things that made me feel that way, and there were quite a lot. But the counseling never really went on very long, and soon it would be dropped, leaving me with a vague feeling that SOMETHING had happened, but I could never put my finger on it.

Flash forward to yesterday’s homeschooling. In science, with my 11-year-old, we’re studying the heart. And guess what she did? That’s right. She panicked. She refused to listen to her pulse. She turned white and started bouncing whenever we talked about the chambers of the heart. She freaked even watching her sister take her own pulse.

And I realized that I am simply a victim of genetics! I feel so much better.

It is amazing how many things, including our fears, actually can be genetic. Rebecca looks like me, but Katie is like me in many ways.

So often we’re trying to find environmental reasons for different issues in our lives, and maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree. Maybe that’s just the way we are. Doesn’t mean it can’t be changed, but maybe that’s our predisposition. And maybe I should just calm down!

Made me feel much better! And rather silly, too!

7 Juicy Tidbits About Me


Diane over at Stepping into the Light, whom I know from Twitter, has tagged me to write 7 weird things about me.

It’s quite the challenge, because hers and so weird and wacky! How can I compete with that? But I will try!

1. When I was in grade school I used to fake asthma attacks to get out of gym. I hated gym. I wasn’t overweight, and I was actually quite athletic. I’ve always loved aerobics, and I could do the Jane Fonda Workout when I was 11 without breaking a sweat. I’ve always liked tennis. But team sports gave me hives. The thought that someone was watching me just about did me in. So I’d bring my puffers, have an attack, and presto! It worked great with skiing, too.

I always promised myself that one of the blessings of being an adult is that no one could ever force me to play sports again, and I haven’t played volleyball or basketball or baseball since I was in grade 9 gym. And I’m very proud of it! But boy can I kick butt in baseball on the Wii!

2. I used to fly across the country by myself as a child, starting at age 7, to see my father. The Toronto-Vancouver flight was 4 1/2 hours, and I managed it okay. But I learned something important: when you cry, stewardesses bring you chocolate chip cookies. So I’d periodically turn on the tears. It seems that I spent a great deal of my childhood faking things!

3. Diane met Bruce Springsteen and Dan Aykroyd; I’ve met Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson when they were filming Three Men and a Baby in Toronto. I was working at Maple Leaf Gardens, our hockey stadium, where the three of them had rented a box for the season. They’d arrive early, and I’d sometimes get to serve the drinks! It was kind of gross, though, because Steve & Ted would pick girls out of the crowd (everybody knew they were there) and bring them up to the box to do who knows what. Tom Selleck stayed out of that, and eventually stopped coming to the games. But the ushers basically acted as pimps on those nights, fetching willing girls, and they were happy to do so.

4. I’ve been inside the hotel where they filmed the original Star Wars. You know that scene where they’re sitting inside Luke’s aunt & uncle’s house, and it’s got kind of a round roof? It was filmed in Tunisia, in the Sahara Desert, where everything is built underground. I’ve been to that underground city. I even rode a camel there. Pretty wild.

5. I will always feel guilty that I didn’t pay more attention to my grandparents when they were alive, especially my father’s father. He didn’t live that far away from me, and I could have visited him more, but life got in the way. My mother was always bothering me to email him, but I never knew what to say. I don’t think I was very good with older people. But now that I am getting more mature I think I would have handled it better, but he’s gone. I’m glad my children have younger grandparents that they can be close to now. My grandparents were well into their sixties when I was born, and even though they made it to their nineties, they were still “old”. I don’t really remember them young.

6. I went to an all-girls boarding school in grade 9 and totally rebelled. I didn’t want to board to begin with, but I’m just not one who deals well with rules. All the rules about what time you did his and what time you did that chafed on me. So I’d start protests where no one would make their beds, or I wouldn’t go to study hall. I still got great marks, but I hated most of the other girls and I hated the school, and I left as soon as I could! A few daughters of chairmen of Canada’s banks went there, and daughters of ambassadors. I even danced with the son of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (our Prime Minister at the time) and danced with Jonathon Crombie, who was going to a neighbouring boys’ school. You probably know Crombie as Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables series. But in general it is a year I try to block out of my memory as much as possible.

7. My husband broke up with me on my 21st birthday! That’s part of my testimony that I give when I speak, and I make it into something funny (though it has a serious message at the end). But it was so traumatic. We were to be married on August 17, and he announced in May, on my birthday, that he didn’t think he could go through with it. I was absolutely devastated, because I was certain that he was the one that God had for me. I had to work through a lot of things with God that summer, to make sure that God was the foundation of my life, and not Keith.

Thankfully, Keith came to his senses and we were married in December instead of August. All is well, though I had a really hard time trusting him early in our marriage. We talk about this whole thing at marriage conferences quite a bit, and the poetic justice is that people often boo him! But I can also see how God did a work in my life that summer that wouldn’t have been done otherwise, and it prepared me for my son’s illness and death. God really does take all the crap in our lives and use it for good!

So those are my 7 Juicy Tidbits. And now I have to tag 7 other Twitter people. So here goes:

Mary Beth T @cupcakes5
Cooking with Anne @anniepooh
Lylah Ledner @lylahl
Alyssa Avant @alyssaavant
Karla @karpo
Stephanie Wetzel @redclaydiaries
mama lovelock @mamalovelock

These women are a weird mix–some homeschoolers, some writers, some internet marketers. I follow a rather eclectic mix on Twitter! But we’ll see what they have to say!