Sunday, December 22, 2013


Today I learned that my Grandma's health is deteriorating. I went home to BC in November and was able to spend quality time with her, but even though I saw her then, after a lung cancer diagnosis and a stroke, it still comes as a shock to hear that she isn't doing well.

Gram and I at my cousin's wedding in 2011

Today I also learned that a child I knew, a child I held and hugged, a little girl with beautiful bright eyes and a huge joyful smile, died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Rahma was six or seven years old and had a loving and caring foster mother and a foster sister and brother. All three children used to live at Cradle of Love Baby Home, where I volunteered in Tanzania in 2010-2011. Their mother is the nurse at the baby home. And my heart just breaks for her and her family, and their devastating loss.

Rahma playing at Cradle before bed in Oct. 2010

Today I realize anew how unfair life is, and I long for heaven more than ever.

Today Christmas means so much more to me. In just a few days we will celebrate the birth of the King who destroyed evil's grip on this world, and who will one day return here to bring an end, forever, to pain and suffering.

And today I am grateful for His gift, and that I can trust Him in all things.


Rahma, you will be missed by many. Rest in peace now until that day to come when He will wake you again.

Grandma, my thoughts and prayers are with you every second. I love you so much!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Truth

  • Truth: I live in Maine.
  • Truth: While a large chunk of my heart - the chunk belonging to my husband - lives here in Maine with me, other pieces are still back in BC with my family, and in Tanzania with my babies.
  • Truth: Those three pieces might never again be reunited on this earth.
  • Truth: I can't wait for heaven.
My musings on the prompt 'truth' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

My first pet, Lumby

My Google Calendar is set up with the birthdays of my family members and friends. Today I got an e-mail reminding me that if this guy were still around, he'd be having a birthday today.

I miss him, and all the cats we've had. Maybe I just miss cats in general. Once in awhile I see a black and white cat playing or stalking something in the field in front of our house. But I don't know him personally. I beginning to think that either I'm going to have to get a cat soon or I'm going to have to try to convince someone I know well to get one.

Anyway, here's to my good old cat, Lumby. Miss you, boy. You were sure a tolerant pet, even as a kitten. :)

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Grace (Part 2)

Continued from yesterday. Read Part 1 here.

I had another grandmother, and still do! While my dad's mother was always Grandma Q to us kids, my mum's mother was simply Grandma. She has been part of my life since day one, part of my special family support system as virtually my second mother. When my mum went back to work in her kindergarten class when I was a few months old, Grandma was there to look after me. In my early years I grew up half at my own house and half at Grandma and Grandpa W's house. Our time together only grew when I turned five and we moved into a house right next to our Adventist school. From our new house it took less than a 10-minute bike ride to get to Grandma and Grandpa's house. My cousin, my siblings, and I biked back and forth all the time.

Grandma and me on my first birthday

Grandma is also a great cook. My personal favourite Grandma foods have always been her homemade buns and pies. Coming into her house on Friday afternoons you would be greeted with the glorious smell of buns baking. I also loved her canned peaches and cherries. I remember helping Grandma with her cooking and baking. Her pantry storage area was downstairs, off the laundry room, while her kitchen was upstairs. Often she would ask me or one of my siblings to run down to the pantry to grab ingredients she needed. I always loved it when she asked me to get flour. I would take the flour container down to the pantry, and pour the flour in using a small cup left in the large flour barrel. When that task was done, I couldn't resist plunging my hands (and arms) deep into the flour, feeling the soft, silky grains between my fingers. (I confessed this to my mum a few years ago and she said I should tell Grandma. Thankfully she found it funny after all these years and said, "Well, I guess it wasn't that bad. None of us ever got sick from it!")

Grandma was always able to make up fun games for us grandkids to play or ideas for us to do. Instead of simply pouring candies into a bowl and giving them to us, she had us run down the porch stairs, stand on the grass looking up at her on the porch, and then would toss Ju-Jubes down to us. In hindsight, this might have been a cunning way to get us out of the house and out from underfoot for a bit, and if it was, it sure worked well! Doing chores at Grandma's house never seemed too tedious as there were stories to listen to while drying dishes or peeling vegetables. And picking fruit from the bushes and trees in the yard was just plain fun, not a chore at all. Grandma often had us race to see how many we could pick before her timer went off.

Not only was Grandma very clever, but she was also amazingly smart. She had been a teacher at various one-room schools back as a young woman in Saskatchewan. Later she did substitute teaching once in awhile when her girls were in school themselves. She helped me through elementary math far better than any of my teachers. When I was learning to add and subtract she got out her old deck of Busy Bee cards and we would play endless games while I was charged with keeping score and adding up the columns of numbers. When fractions and rounding stumped me in grade six, she spent lots of time with me, writing out multitudes of fraction and rounding problems on scrap paper for me to answer while we sat in the car waiting for my siblings' piano lessons to be over and my turn to come. After weeks and months of that, something finally clicked for me and rounding made sense. Soon after fractions also started to come easier for me.

Games were a big priority at Grandma and Grandpa's house. On Sabbath afternoons we played Birds and Animals (by the Review and Herald), Egypt to Canaan, or Life of Christ. On Saturday nights we played Yahtzee or Probe or Wide World while chomping fruit salad and popcorn laden with brewer's yeast. As a treat Revello ice cream bars or Fudgsicles could usually be found in the freezer, and if not, there was always ice cream. In winter Grandma showed me how to warm it up in the microwave for a sweet, warm treat.

Through the years Grandma has always been a huge source of inspiration. When my family moved to Alberta when I was eight and a half, Grandma told me to write her letters, and when I did, she praised my writing abilities. High on Grandma's praise, I decided to become an author and penned quite a few novellas on small pads of paper, sending them to Grandma as presents. She kept them all, and when she showed them to me years later and gave them back we both had a few laughs at my ridiculous plots. :) I think it's safe to say that Grandma kick-started my love of writing, which might have otherwise subsided once I moved from Language Arts to English classes during elementary school.

Gram and me at Bryn's wedding in September

As sad as I am that I never got to know my Grandma Q very well, I am thrilled that I have been able to form strong and positive bonds with my Grandma. And I am so glad for the hospitality and grace both my grandmothers modeled for me. I am definitely the person I am today because of their positive influences. I love you both so much, Grandma and Grandma Q!

My musings on the prompt 'grace' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Grace (Part 1)

"She's beauty and she's grace."

Remember that scene from Miss Congeniality? The one near the end when miss United States is crowned, and while chaos insues, the announcer keeps repeating the Miss United States lines:
From sea to shining sea like lady liberty
She reigns over all she sees
She is beauty and she is grace
She is queen of 50 states
She is elagance and taste
She is miss United States
Funny movie aside, beauty pageants have never played a role in my life and I've never really been too influenced by the media's portrayal of women. I attribute some of that to very little TV viewing as a child and teen. But I attribute most of it to the women I've had in my life. Strong, confident (or so it always seemed to me) women who exuded beauty from the inside out. My mother, my two grandmothers, women from my church, and a few exceptional women teachers in both school and music. The two women I want to mention in this post, though, are my grandmothers. I am blessed to have called two wonderful, gracious ladies Grandma.

Me, Mum, and Grandma Q after church

My Grandma Q was a wonderful homemaker and an excellent cook. Her house was homey and always smelled amazing. While us kids didn't always enjoy going to Grandma and Grandpa Q's church (there were never many kids at that church), we did enjoy walking across the street to their house after church for our Sabbath dinner. I will always remember the amazing gluten that often graced Grandma Q's table. I have never ever tasted better gluten. Another perk to going to G&G Q's house was the little glass bowls of treats that conveniently lived on the dining room table, the living room coffee table, and on a small bookshelf leading down the main hallway. Peanuts and chocolate chips or licorice mixes lived inside, and us grandkids often took little walks around the house to check out the little dishes (usually several times before the meal as well as quite a few after).

Grandma Q was also a creative lady who had one daughter followed by four sons. She had to be creative with a bunch like that, eh? :) Well, in reality I'm not sure how creative she was able to be while her children were young, but when I was in the picture, she certainly was. She quickly turned old clothes into patchwork quilts and gave them away to family members who could use them. If my older or younger sisters or I needed a slip for Sabbath, she would get busy sewing. Nightgowns and doll dresses and knitted slippers came our way from Grandma Q's capable hands. And when I went through my wanna-be Laura Ingalls Wilder stage, she bought pretty blue material and a bonnet pattern and sewed both me and my younger sister "Laura bonnets." I was thrilled and wore mine all over the place for quite a few months!

Grandma Q also painted. I didn't know until I was older that she hadn't always painted; she taught herself to paint when she was in her 60s. Her sewing room might as well have been called her painting studio. Paintings of gorgeous nature settings - she only did scenery paintings - hung from the walls, with tall mountains, rolling hills, running rivers, and straight, green pine trees bursting from the frames. She gave each of her children and grandchildren a special painting, and mine hangs proudly on the wall of my apartment after traveling across the continent with me more than a year ago. On my bed lies a special quilt Grandma Q made and gave to my parents years ago; as I was packing my things to bring eastward I found it unused and forgotten in my parents' garage. My dad let me adopt it and bring it with me, and I am so glad. I love it to death! The pink and white quilt features hand-painted pictures of the 12 provincial flowers (Nunavut wasn't a territory when Grandma Q made it) as well as maple leaves and a few other types of flowers.

Grandma Q's hand-painted quilt on my bed.

Every time I see it I am reminded of Grandma Q. Two days before my little sister's fifth birthday, my Grandma Q had a sudden stroke. She was in the ICU for a day or so, but wasn't able to recover. I so wish I had known her longer, had been able to make more memories with her and create special bonds with her. But I thank God that I was able to know her for eight years of my life. And I look forward to seeing her again in heaven. Seeing her again has always been part of my incentive to go there, and I can't wait to meet her again and get to know her better in that perfect place.

Read Part Two here.

My musings on the prompt 'grace' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Two years

A month ago I walked all over Niagara Falls, NY/ON with this guy.

It was a wonderful almost-anniversary and we savored every minute of it, especially since we knew we wouldn't be able to be together on our actual 2nd anniversary, which just so happens to be today.

Me pre-Hurricane Deck at Cave of the Winds
My reaction to the Hurricane Deck
Jonathan pre-Hurricane Deck at Cave of the Winds
His reaction to the Hurricane Deck

Two years hasn't changed my mind any. He's still my favourite!

(In case you were wondering - Jonathan's poncho is so much shorter than mine because he's wearing a backpack.)

Love you as much as all the water that flows over Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls, Jonathan! Happy 2nd anniversary!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Belong

I don't belong here. Not in Maine. Not in the U.S. even. And maybe not even in my home country of Canada. I don't think my heart belongs to the continent of North America anymore...

Because nearly three years ago I went to Tanzania for eight months. And I fell in love as I've never fallen in love with another country before. My heart is now torn in two. The one side, the patriotic born-into-me love, reaches west to the sharp-pointed mountains of my home province, British Columbia. The other side pulls far east, diagonally across the Atlantic to the exotic soul-exhilarating love I found halfway around the world.

What's a girl to do when her heart lives in all the places where she does not?

My musings on the prompt 'belong' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present

Being organized is in my blood. I'm nearly 100 percent German and it shows. I like my life neat and tidy, organized and in a good routine. So the past year and a half, I've been making an effort to organize my digital life. Making more folders, choosing better folder names, clearing thumb drives, backing up documents on my external hard drive, making decisions about which things to save on my computer or put on Google Drive. And now sometimes I find myself so caught up in this web of digital organization that I don't know how to stop. How to pull back, leave the computer, and rejoin the real world. And when I realize that, I shake my head in wonder, push back my chair, and find something else to do. Something real and tangible. Find my husband and talk to him. Go make something in the kitchen. Grab a book from the shelf and read it instead of catching up on the latest blogs I follow. Being organized is good, but - as much as I think it might be - it's not vital to my life. This world, real life, being present, that is vital. Vital to my home, my happiness, and my soul. Less time on the computer (even if it's spent doing valuable things) and more time in reality is my goal for the rest of this year. Being present for those around me should always be my focus.

My musings on the prompt 'present' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

The homey lights shining through the windows and the easy conversation floating into the still night air. The beat of rain against the roof, and the promise of a lazy day indoors. The grandeur of high, sometimes-covered mountains seen from van windows traveling up a winding highway. The brilliant green of grass and forest against the grey backdrop of a rainy sky. The next day dawning bright and warm. Too down to the lake for a swim and a boat ride. Kids screeching in joy as the tube bounces over the wake. Cheers as first one cousin, then another, gets up on a knee board, a wake board, water skis. Loon families floating together on still evening waters. Their shuddery calls echoing across the water-filled valley. Games together in the cabin on moist, warm evenings. Looking out from a high ridge to flashes of fireworks popping into the darkening sky from all across the expansive landscape below.

Togetherness, fellowship, memory-making. A week of beautiful at the family camp in southern Maine.

My musings on the prompt 'beautiful' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Five Minute Friday: In Between

In between. Like the PB&J in a sandwich or the blueberry filling in a pie. I'm stuck in the middle right now. Last June I had a job I loved. Then my time overseas ended and I came back to North America, but couldn't work while I waited for my green card. After months of sitting around trying to fill my time with small jobs for relatives, I finally got my green card at the end of April. But I'm still sandwiched between those two pieces of bread, the bottom crust and the top. With five weddings, and two small family reunions on both sides of my husband's family this spring and summer, there's been a lot of time spent traveling and not enough time staying in one place to start working in earnest.

But, I keep reminding myself, it's the in between times that, really, are the sweetest. What would a sandwich be without the spreads? Who would eat a pie without filling? I've been in between this year, but my life has been full of new experiences and exciting discoveries. Traveling in South Korea and Vietnam last summer. Driving a truck and trailer filled with my earthly possessions from BC to Maine. Moving our things into our first North American apartment together. Christmas at home in snowy BC for the first time in three years. Another cross-continent drive to bring my car east in January. Jonathan introducing me to new parts of Maine, and both of us exploring the area we now live in together. It hasn't been normal, but it has been memorable.

I'm ready to settle down into our life here now, come fall and the return of a less-hectic schedule. And I'm ready to have a job again, to have a routine to follow. This past in-between year has been crazy, but one thing I can say about it is that it's definitely been interesting. Normal and routine are good, but sometimes it takes chaotic and in-between to appreciate the more mundane parts of life.

My musings on the prompt 'in between' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rhythm

Last June I woke up every morning, went to worship in the main building on campus, walked five minutes to another building, sat at my desk, and started editing the ESL textbook pages that were set in front of me. Everything in that office had a rhythm. The clack of keyboard keys. The jarring ring of office phones and the jangling songs of cell phones. The quiet Korean chatter between colleagues, punctuated with a burst of English here and there. The occasional impromptu meetings at the table in the corner where those in the meetings would try to discuss the issues our office faced in hushed conversations so as not to disrupt the rest of us still sitting at our desks working at our computers.

Even our physical activity had a rhythm. In the ten minutes just before lunch and again just before the end of our work day, Chilli, the only man in our office, started up the exercise song - a upbeat, high-energy marching-type song. At the starting notes, he stood and urged the rest of us to rise from our desk chairs and join him in a rhythm of stretching, and arm and leg exercises. The entire first week of working in the office I couldn't keep the grin off my face while I mimicked my coworkers' actions and fumbled through the series of exercises. Even months later my mouth formed a slight grin while I expertly followed the music through the routine.

The rhythm of office work is behind me now. Most of the time I'm glad to be free of the unyielding work hours, the frustrating rule of having to stay at the office for the full 40 hours a week even when I'd finished all the work my coworkers could find for me. But sometimes I miss it. Miss the hushed conversations. Miss the mix of Korean and English fluidly filling the office. Miss the camaraderie of having others around to work with, to go to for help when I had a question, to talk to in a moment of down time, and even to join in our office exercise routines. Sometimes, I miss the busy rhythm of office life. And in those times, I dig out my copy of the exercise song and play it loudly, reminding my arms and legs of the rhythm of my ESL textbook office in Seoul, South Korea.

Me with some of my coworkers ~ June 2012
Photo by Glenda Quiring

My musings on the prompt 'rhythm' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Edit: My husband and I drove from Maine to Michigan this week for a wedding on Sunday. When we arrived in Berrien Springs on Friday evening, after the wedding rehearsal, I checked my e-mail, and to my surprise, found a new comment on this blog post from Lisa-Jo telling me that I was her Featured post on Five Minute Friday this week. I was so surprised and honoured to be chosen. Thank you so much, Lisa-Jo, for choosing me and for your kind and encouraging words! I love the FMF writing community!
My post is featured on the right sidebar of her blog

Monday, June 17, 2013

The power of prayer

This past week and a half I read two blog posts that almost, almost broke my heart. Two families nearly lost an important member. Two sets of parents on two different continents came so, so close to losing a child. I know neither family - at least not in person - but through reading their blogs I feel like I know them both.

The most recent near-misfortune post shocked me when I read it on Saturday night, a day after it was first posted. Alissa writes a blog that I found through another blog I read. She has five children, and when I first read her blog I found her kids so interesting to read about that I went all the way back to her first post and read her blog the whole way through up to the present. I found it full of fun kid-antics (at least fun for me to read, maybe not so fun if you're the parent) and enjoyed Alissa's commentary on life with five kids. She posts sporadically, so when I checked my blog feeds and saw a new post, I was looking forward to reading it. Then I read the first sentence and my heart almost stopped beating. "Today, my son, Lucas, drowned." It resumed nearly-normal beating pace as I quickly read the second sentence, "But he is going to be okay." This morning she posted an update blog explaining the circumstances (it features Florida Hospital, all you SDA folks!)

I don't know Alissa or her family. They live in Florida, I currently live in Maine. But I've felt an interesting connection to her and her family as I've read her blog for the past year. I don't have any Mormon friends or relatives, but from the very few things I've learned or read about Mormonism, it seems to me like their focus on mission and their home and family values are similar to Seventh-day Adventist values. Probably for that reason, I feel some kind of small kinship with the couple of Mormon bloggers I follow.

I read about the earlier near-tragedy on the evening of June 6. Zane, an almost-two-year-old living with his missionary parents and older brother in Tchad, Africa, suddenly became quite ill within a few hours. His parents started him on IV quinine, the best treatment for malaria. Several hours later Zane started to have a seizure, turned blue, stopped breathing, and all seemed lost. But then he started breathing again, and he lived. Read his father's blog post or another doctor James' blog post for the full story, for all the emotions surrounding Zane's seizure and recovery.

I don't know Zane's family. I don't know James' family. But I do know James' sister. She was one of my housemates for a year at Southern Adventist University. And somewhere during that year I learned that the doctor working at an Adventist hospital in Tchad whose blog I read was her older brother. I had started reading his blog in June 2009 when a little boy named Caleb died while on IV quinine for malaria. A man in my church who worked as an aviation missionary in the Congo years ago knew Caleb's parents who are also aviation missionaries in Tchad at Bere Adventist Hospital. One Sabbath at church when I was home from college for the summer the man got up and told our church family about Caleb's death and burial. At home that afternoon I found James' blog and read the two posts he wrote about the tragedy, and I've been reading his blog ever since. I read about when James and his wife lost their first child before she was even born. And I read about their first-born son Adam's death from malaria in December 2011. I don't know any of these missionaries in Tchad, but I have read their stories, and I have felt - though of course not as deeply as they have - their pain.

This past week I was reminded yet again how important prayer is, for those around me and for myself as well. Although I read both of those almost-tragic posts hours and days after each took place, I am reminded that prayers for safety are always needed. I need to be faithfully praying for those around me, for my relatives and friends, for those I go to church with, for those I read about in countless blogs, and for those I know who are serving as missionaries, both here on this continent and overseas. I am so glad for the prayers of others who have surely been praying for these two families, and I want to be part of the prayers that get sent up to heaven for them and for others all over the world every day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Listen

Photo by Glenda Quiring

Listen. It was the only way I'd ever be able to learn pieces. In violin lessons I would muddle through the beginner's technique - how to stand, how to hold the bow, where to put my fingers - but when we got to the actual playing part of the lesson, I'd stop watching my teacher and just listen. Listen as he played the short, simple song first for me. Listen to how each note sounded. Listen as I started to try to replicate what my ears had just heard. Listen to the scratch of the bow sliding off the strings, to the note I was playing that wasn't quite right. Listen as I slid my finger slightly up the fingerboard and then, when that didn't correct the tone, as I moved it back down just below where it had been to begin with. The notes on the page meant nothing to me; they were just a pretty pattern. But the notes in my head, the notes my ears picked up, those actually meant something.

At home after my lesson, my mum would put on the Suzuki Book 1 cassette tape, and I'd listen to my song over and over again as I helped set the table for supper or dried the dishes after we ate. When I practiced, I had to think about my feet, then where on the strings my bow went, how to keep my bow hold loose and relaxed, if my fingers were exactly on the coloured dots covering my small fingerboard, which finger to put down to make which note, if I was supposed to be using an up bow or a down bow. But, while my bow went haywire and I seldom got the up bows and down bows right, I was learning the notes. I would listen to the song on the tape, then hit pause on my little purple tape recorder and try to mimic those notes. Slowly, slowly, I learned my song. The notes became clearer and more on tune. The bow still sometimes went back and forth in the wrong direction, but the song had become recognizable. The notes on the page still boggled my mind, but I didn't need them; I had the notes in my head. I didn't need to know how to read the music because in my brain the notes had been woven into lines, and the lines had joined to become an entire song.

When I played my song for my teacher at my next lesson he asked me how I'd learned it so well. "Oh," I replied, "I just listened."

My musings on the prompt 'listen' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

Comfort. It's all around us.

Photo by my mother, Glenda Quiring

It's coming home. It's the smell of freshly baked bread, or cookies baking in the oven, or soup simmering on the stove. It's easing into your favourite armchair at the end of a long, hard day's work. It's the feel of sliding into crisp, clean sheets the first night after they were changed. It's curling up under a warm, thick quilt to fall asleep.

It's slipping into well-worn jeans. It's wearing comfy clothes on the weekend. It's putting on soft, fuzzy pajamas and cozy slippers before bed. It's splashing and jumping into puddles in your gumboots on a rainy afternoon. It's walking on new grass with bare feet, and digging toes into warm, brown earth.

It's making mud pies and play-eating them with your siblings. It's planting bright flowers in colourful pots. It's pressing small seeds into the ground and waiting to watch them grow. It's playing tag, hide-and-seek, or sardines in your backyard in the evening twilight.

It's the relief of entering a building with air conditioning on a humid August day. The warmth of coming inside after enjoying the cold, wet snow in winter. The special family meals on holidays. The snow finally melting, and green spring grass sprouting again. The leaves morphing into glorious oranges, browns, and golds in autumn. It's watching the day fade into night, the dazzling colours of the sunset, the promise of a new sunrise tomorrow.

It's the crash of ocean waves hitting the shore. The gulls' familiar cawing overhead. It's the quiet of mid-afternoon in a sleepy little town. The gentle buzzing of a busy bumblebee moving between blossoms in the community garden. It's the ripples on a mountain lake. The call of a loon in the evening. It's the stillness of night. The twinkling of heavenly stars shining down.

It's the sip of hot chocolate sliding down your throat, instantly warming you from inside out. The first bite of your favourite dish. The juicy crunch of fresh fruit just picked off the tree. The cool glass of water on a hot summer day.

It's cuddling a kitten or being chased by a puppy. It's petting a cat or taking a dog for a walk. It's watching a powerful horse gallop across a pasture. It's hearing the honks of Canada Geese as they fly overhead.

It's the lilt of a fiddle piece. The strum of a guitar. It's the sweet clear soprano voice or the deep rumblings of a bass. It's the lyrical piano solo. The strains of a familiar old hymn being played on the organ.

It's entering your place of worship, feeling reverent and awed. It's kneeling beside your bed, knowing the God of the universe is listening to what you say. It's an answer to earnest prayer. It's witnessing a miracle and knowing others can happen, too.

It's laughing with your friends while eating out, or playing board games, or watching a movie. It's working together to accomplish a common goal. It's having deep talks with a person you trust, a person who knows you almost as well as you know yourself.

It's a baby falling asleep in his mother's arms after nursing. A child drifting off knowing her parents are in the next room. It's riding on Daddy's strong shoulders or jumping into his arms from the side of the pool. It's a Band-Aid on a cut finger. A tight embrace after a heartbreak or the loss of someone you love.

It's having a child wrap their arms around you. It's a healing talk after a fight with your teenager. It's watching your offspring leave the nest and knowing they'll make it on their own because you've trained them well. It's holding grandchildren for the first time. It's grown-children bringing their own children to visit you in the nursing home.

It's snuggling with the person you love. It's visiting with an old friend. It's seeing someone you've been missing for a long time. It's the sight of a beloved place. It's returning from a long trip away and coming―


My musings on the prompt 'comfort' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Brave

The oldest is supposed to be the brave one. But I never was. It was my little sister, Bryna, three years younger than me, who was the brave one in our family.

Holding newborn baby Bryna in the hospital

As soon as she could sit up, then crawl, then toddle, Bryn was always getting into something. I first realized Bryn was brave when she was probably around 10-months-old. Bryn was taking her afternoon nap while Mum and I snuggled on her bed as she read to me. A thump interrupted us. I hopped up to check on my little sister. Easing her bedroom door open and peeking in, I was stunned to find a happy Bryn sitting on the floor beside her crib, back to the door, playing with some of the toys she'd thrown from the crib. No bumps or bruises, no crying, just a happy baby playing quietly on her own. These capers continued. Bryn went from climbing out of her crib in the day to sneaking out at night. My parents once found her standing beside their waterbed with a fistful of kitchen knives in her hand. The next day new child-locks went on every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen and around the rest of the house. New because my parents had never had to use child-locks with me. "Ali, no. Don't touch!" was all they ever had to say. The one time I didn't listen, after dousing my hand in water as they wallpapered my bedroom, I flung my hand toward the electrical outlet in the wall and received a nice shock for my efforts. It was a quick and efficient cure to disobeying my parents.

Bryn soon learned that the opposite of climbing down is climbing up. One afternoon I went into the bedroom we both now shared, in preparation for a new little baby to join the household, and found Bryn contentedly sitting in the top drawer of our five-drawer-high dresser. My drawer. As I watched in horror, she calmly reached deep into the drawer, pulled out a pair of my underwear, and sent it floating to the floor below, which was already littered with undershirts, socks, and other pairs of underwear. "Mum," I turned and yelled, "Bryna's ruining my drawer! If she wants to play in a drawer she could just climb in her own messy bottom one."

But sometimes Bryn's fearless ways made me laugh. She was half-clown. One evening my parents had just plucked Bryn from her bath. As my dad got her ready for bed, my mum helped me into the still-warm bathwater. She left me playing with the bath toys. Suddenly a shadow fell across the door. Before I had time to figure out who was entering the bathroom, my little sister, dressed in a clean, fresh, fuzzy sleeper, dove over the side of the tub. "Mummy, Bryn's in my bath!" I cried as she splashed, happy as a dolphin, from one side of the tub to the other. When Mum arrived, she couldn't hide the smile on her face. I soon gave in and laughed with her as a dripping, wriggling Bryn was fished out of the bathtub for a second try at bedtime.

As she grew up, she was more than happy to drive around our Fisher Price scooter or car while I hitched a free ride in the wagon I'd tied on behind. Her eagerness to learn to ride a bike spurred me on to learn so that my little sister wouldn't beat me to it. When we took our birthday money to the store to buy a toy, I'd convince Bryn to go to the counter to pay for me. She wasn't scared to talk to people she didn't know, and I was terrified to, so this arrangement seemed to work pretty well.

But little by little, Bryn taught me that I didn't need to be scared of every little thing. I could try new things without getting hurt. I could talk to people I didn't know because people weren't necessarily out to get me. I'm still mostly a fraidy-cat inside, but by watching Bryn for the past 25 years, I'm slowly, slowly learning to creep out of my protective shell, to try new things, and not to spend my whole life being scared. Bryna is definitely the brave one, but there's room for more than one brave one in any family. Who knows, someday I might make it there, too.

My musings on the prompt 'brave' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Electrical pole fire in our back woods

On Monday of last week (April 22, 2013) Jonathan and I heard a helicopter flying near our house in the mid-afternoon. We occasionally hear small airplanes flying overhead after taking off from the tiny airstrip in Old Town, but this helicopter sounded a lot closer than those airplanes do. Suddenly it was right above our house, sounding like it might want to land right on top of us. I raced to our bedroom window and watched as a white and green helicopter circled our back field several times before landing near the woods. Then red shapes and bright lights over to the right of the small bit of woods that separate our landlady's land from the neighbours drew my attention. Fire trucks with their lights on. A streak of flame flared up in the woods and I yelled out, "Jonathan, there's a fire!" My excitement was not over the fact that the fire could potentially burn its way over to our hours, but rather that this was a prime picture-taking opportunity and we had a large helicopter in our back field. "Grab your camera! Let's go outside," I shouted, as I scooped up my small camera and ran for the door.

Outside I found a bush fire truck in our driveway and firefighters in yellow jackets methodically gathering supplies. Jonathan and I hurried around to the back of the house, and found our landlady's daughter, Patty, talking to a man. She introduced us to him and we found out he was our neighbour living to the left of the field. Then she filled us in on the fire. "I was washing dishes when I looked out the window and saw flames shooting up toward the sky. I called 911, but they weren't very helpful. They asked me all kinds of questions that didn't seem very pertinent to my reporting a fire. Can you believe they asked for my address, and when I gave them my mother's address here, they said they wanted my personal address, in New Hampshire?" Patty went on to tell us that after her call to 911, she called the neighbour and told him about the fire. His nephew is a volunteer firefighter in the town and he alerted the fire department to the fire. Patty and the neighbour then told us the flames were from an electrical pole that was burning.

Jonathan walked out in the field, but out of the way of the firefighters who had headed that direction, to see if he could take some pictures of the pole. Then another neighbour, Ken, the man who does odd jobs for our landlady, and another man drove up on some quads and asked Jonathan if he wanted to see the pole from a better angle, over by the house it was nearest, where three or four more fire trucks were congregated. Jonathan hopped on the back of Ken's quad and they raced away to the action. I found a place to sit down where I could see both the flames and the helicopter. The firefighters that had headed across the field had brought a water bucket out to the helicopter, and soon it rose back into the air again. I have a love of all things that fly, and I was thrilled to get a personal viewing of aerial firefighting. The helicopter headed off for the river, and returned a few minutes later with a bucket-full of water, which it dropped in the woods around the electrical pole (obviously not actually on the pole, though). Back and forth it went between the river and the woods, bringing buckets of water with it to ensure the fire didn't spread to the woods surrounding the pole. I sat in the dry grass of the field staring at the sky in awe as the helicopter appeared each trips and circled overhead. Far too soon the action was over, the flames on the pole went out (Jonathan later told me that the wind eventually blew the flames out), and the helicopter landed in the field again to return the bucket. I watched as the helicopter soared back into the air, circled around the woods several more times, making sure there were no errant flames, then left the scene. The excitement (especially watching the helicopter) was the highlight of the day, and actually of the entire week!

Helicopter landing to add on the water bucket (right after this shot I rushed from our bedroom to outside the house)
Firefighters heading out to the helicopter and to check the woods for traveling flames
Jonathan following to take pictures
Bush fire truck in our driveway
Jonathan talking to some of our neighbours
Hitching a ride to the real action
Another fire truck arrives
Helicopter making its first pass over the woods with the water bucket
Another trip with a full bucket
Dousing the woods
I caught a video of the helicopter on one of its trips back with water

I stole a few pictures from Jonathan, so I could share his perspective from the other side of the woods, too.
Fire trucks at the neighbours' house (Photo by Jonathan)
Pole aflame (Photo by Jonathan)
The effects of the fire after the wind finally blew it out (Photo by Jonathan)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Exploring coastal Maine I

We plan to explore a lot of coastal Maine while we're in the area, so this is just the first of many expeditions, we hope!

Bucksport, Fort Knox & Fort Point State Park ~ April 20, 2013

The Saturday before last, Jonathan and I decided we wanted to see a little bit more of the area where we now live. And I was getting a hankering to see the ocean again. So Jonathan looked up how to get to the nearest ocean, and after our Sabbath lunch, we loaded up the car with water bottles, camera gear, snacks (for the drive home) and towels*, and set off for unknown destinations. The scenic drive to the ocean took us about an hour, through country neighbourhoods with picturesque glimpses of the Penobscot River popping into view every so often. Then we drove into Bucksport and I was instantly charmed! The small town boasted a Main Street right on the river filled with quaint houses and restaurants. I tried to take pictures as we drove down the street, but luckily we saw an eagle's nest as we headed out of town, and decided to pull over and walk back to take some pictures of the eagles. That turned into a walk back across a small bridge to get a better view of the fort across the river, and eventually - after seeing a sign announcing the best spot to take pictures of the fort and the large new bridge that was being built - we walked back to the car and drove to the designated spot to get a few more pictures.

Bucksport welcome sign
Informative sign at the other end of town (we went back to view the bridge from a good vantage point)
Photographer Jonathan
An island across the river from Bucksport
Bucksport riverfront walkway
The 125-year-old Bucksport library
Fort Knox across the river
The new bridge linking Verona Island to another part of the mainland
Good resting place
Baby bald eagle snug in his nest
(One of the parents was in the nest until just before Jonathan raised his camera to take a picture - it chose right then to fly away)

Once back in the car, we crossed over the impressive new bridge and took a short detour from our intended destination to check out Fort Knox. The fort was interesting, but we didn't stay long since it wasn't open for the season yet. We want to go back when it's open to better experience the historic site and explore inside the fort.

The new bridge
Bucksport from Fort Knox - so picturesque!
I love capturing pictures of Jonathan capturing pictures :)
Covered ambulance near the information center

After that short stop, we continued driving on a cliff-top road overlooking the river that led out to an ocean bay. We parked at the entrance to Fort Point State Park, which also wasn't open yet for the season. A sign on the gate told us it would be a mile walk in to the park, so we grabbed our backpack and headed off. We had a pleasant walk to the state park and enjoyed looking around at the area. We examined the foundation of an old hotel that had burned down years ago, saw the site of the old fort, and admired the still-working lighthouse, the only structure still standing in the park. Then we wandered down to a pebbly beach, and clambered over a lot of large algae-covered rocks to a pier, before starting the walk back to our car. We finished the trip off with a meandering drive around the area, looking at the interesting old houses near the ocean, before we headed back to the bridge and Bucksport for our return drive home.

Rocky beach at Fort Point State Park (you can see the bridge far off in the distance, a bit right of center)
Fort Point Lighthouse
One more picture of the impressive bridge from the other direction
A little history
Beautiful house in Bucksport - I'm in love! (I asked Jonathan to turn around and go back so I could take this picture)

*The towels were to sop up the water that was sitting in the sunroof of my little old Honda Accord after the rain from the night before. We had both gotten a surprising little shower of water falling in our laps that morning when we started off for church - we quickly decided to use Jonathan's van to get to church instead of sitting against wet seats for the half-hour drive...