Thursday, November 27, 2008

Finland, the Country No One Knows About

Finland is a small country of only five million people. Most people don’t personally know any Finns, since there are so few of us. If you’re unsure of its’ location, look up, look way up to the top of the globe, in Northern Europe. From west to east, you’ll see Norway, then Sweden, then Finland, then Russia. If Finns are ever represented in the media, usually the accent is either done in Swedish singsong or Russian harshness. No wonder, since it’s a very difficult accent to do, even for me. Also, most are blonde and blue eyed, but not all.
Finland is the land of the midnight sun in the summer, with a festival in June. Winters are depressing, with Arctic darkness for many hours. Finns are known as the inventors of the sauna (pronounced sow-na, not saw-na). The sport of biathlon originated in Finland, when, during the Winter War of 1939 when Russia invaded Finland, Finnish snipers would dress in white, ski in, snipe at the Soviets, and ski away. Finland, though left leaning politically, with a social democratic government, is nonetheless an independent democracy, in spite of several invasions by Russia. Finns fought valiantly to defend their homeland.
Finland is a land of forests and lakes, and warm summers, due to the Gulf Stream. Finns are known to be subdued and serious, although I know many exceptions to this stereotype. Finland is the land of the composer, Sibelius, who was able to capture the feeling of winter and the land in his music. An example is Finlandia, which by the way, is NOT the national anthem of Finland, though many feel it should be. Finland is the home of Nokia phones, Fiskars scissors, Rapala lures, Arabia china, Marimekko fabrics, Aarikka jewellery, winter sports and ship building.

Running To and Fro

Nov. 27, 2008

Outside my window...I put some Christmas lights and garland on the stair railing. I like Christmas lights, but I don't like ladders.
I am thinking...that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were horrible. Do the Muslims really think that people will be sympathetic to a cause that uses such means?
I am thankful...for my daughters. My eldest turned eighteen yesterday. They've been nothing but a joy to us, and I'm proud of them both.
From the kitchen...chicken breasts, glazed carrots, spinach and strawberry salad, flatbread with pesto and feta, brownies and ice cream.
I am wearing...jeans, a black tank top, and a dark purple blazer.
I am reading...All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt. An inspirational romance. It's a fun adventure.
I am get my Christmas shopping done early, so I can enjoy a stress-free holiday.
I am hearing...Back for Good by Take That. My husband calls it the Grovelling Song because it says, "Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn't mean it. I just want you back for good. Whatever went wrong, just tell me the song and I'll sing it. You'll be right and understood."
Around the house...I'm running errands; Christmas shopping, etc. I have a five day weekend. I love my job!
One of my favourite things...that my husband buys me roses every Friday. He's been doing that for the past five or six years. He's so romantic!
Some plans for the week...two days full of errands. My youngest is writing her G-1 driving test tomorrow. My eldest is coming home briefly on the weekend. I hope to do something special for her birthday. Saturday we're out of town with the youth from church for an SGF event. Sunday after church there's a class for us on how to get around on the new website for the church, add pictures, etc.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oncology Nurse on Purpose

When I meet someone for the first time and they ask what I do, I say, “I’m an oncology nurse.” It’s always the same response. If they know what oncology is, they then tilt their head to the side and say, “Aw, that must be hard.” That’s where I have a hard time knowing how to respond. They’ve already assumed I work at a horrible place, and now I must simple agree with it. But I don’t. How can you say, “No, actually I like it,” without sounding like a heartless woman who enjoys the suffering of others? You can’t.
So then I have to explain myself. "Actually, we’re an active treatment hospital. On my unit they walk in and walk out, because they come for overnight surgery or a day or two or three of chemotherapy. We have very few deaths on our unit. And I like the oncology population. They’re very real. They are dealing with the big issues of life and they usually want to talk about it. Sometimes, they just need to tell their 'story', how they were diagnosed, or how they’re treatment is going. I enjoy teaching patients, letting them know what to expect with their chemo or surgery, or talk with them about how they're coping. I get a lot of satisfaction when a patient says, 'Thanks.'” Then, they kind of understand.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Singing the Poor Girl Blues

I grew up poor. I don’t say that to get sympathy. It’s just a fact. It made me who I am. It makes me appreciate what I now have. My kids have heard some of the examples. They mostly laugh. They really have no idea. When they were young, money was tight, but as our income increased, they never knew what they had to do without. Sometimes, when they see videos of themselves as babies, they’ll say, “Mom, we didn’t even have any furniture!”
First, the reason I grew up poor: My mom was widowed and didn’t have much in the way of life insurance from my dad; only enough to buy our tiny house. She also had low-paying jobs; as a waitress, then a bartender, then a cook. The result: not a lot of opportunities.
Here are some examples: Our house was a WW1 era war house, one and a half stories, with one bathroom and no basement. It had a crawlspace that would flood in the spring. It was poorly insulated. It was tidy, but because we didn’t have a dad, there wasn’t a lot of upkeep or renovations done until I was much older. In particular, I remember that although I loved the sound of rain on the roof, I soon learned to dread it. For more years than not, a few minutes after the rain started, we’d wait to hear the drip, drip, drip of the rain in the attic room my sister and I shared. Even if we were sleeping, it would wake us up. In a really bad storm, it would drip from three or four places throughout the room, all because we couldn’t afford to re-shingle the roof. We would place bowls under the drips. Plastic bowls were better because stainless steel pots made too much noise. It’s a far cry from the relaxing sound of rain on the roof to an annoying drip into a pot.
Also related to our house; for many years it wasn’t insulated, and we never did have air conditioning. Our attic room was unbearably hot in the summer. This drove us to sleep on the floor downstairs that we called “the little room” for reasons that I can’t recall. If it was still too hot, we’d set up our old canvas tent in the backyard and sleep there, sometimes for most of the summer. It seems strange to me now that we did that, but as an alternative, we would have a basin of ice water and sponge ourselves down throughout the night, almost as if we were feverish. It was an uncomfortable, sleepless night, and one that I was not pleased to repeat, if I could avoid it.
Now I appreciate a well-shingled roof and an insulated and air conditioned house.

Homemade Costumes

When I was a kid and Hallowe’en was approaching, my friends would ask me what my costume would be. I would always pretend I was still trying to decide. The reality was that “costumes” as real characters, were totally beyond our reach, financially. I used to wander through the Woolco, looking at all the costumes, trying on masks, knowing I couldn’t afford such a luxury.
Not a big deal, right? Many people make homemade costumes that can be just as good as store-bought ones. However, home-made costumes assume a sewing machine, fabric, ideas and skill at sewing. I had none of those. Our homemade costumes had to be made with things we already had, and of those, only things we could spare. That narrowed it down to some old sheets or old clothes. It's hard to be a princess that way.
Many years, I was a Hobo. Easy enough when all you needed was old, torn clothes and a dirty face. I still had to tell people what I was. I guess it wasn’t so obvious.
One year I was garbage. I wore a green garbage bag over my clothes (good, because it was raining), and I glued candy wrappers and chewed gum all over me. Talk about low self-esteem. Art imitates life.
But my best idea was to go as a fried egg. I cut arm slits out of a white pillowcase, then taped a round yellow yolk made out of construction paper. I thought it was rather creative under the circumstances, even if I was the unfertilized offspring of poultry, rather than a princess. And I still had to tell people what I was. :(
When I was older, I wore my sister’s white confirmation gown, and made a halo out of a wire hanger wrapped with silver tinsel. People at least guessed correctly that I was an angel.
They may not have been great costumes, but I couldn’t bring myself to go trick-or-treating without one, as some poorer kids in our neighbourhood did. It’s funny that there’s a pride there, that makes you tell yourself, “I may be poor, but I’m not as poor as they are.” It’s almost a snobbishness, I think.

Are Those Bread Bags in Your Boots?

A fact of life when you’re poor and you’re still growing, is that you get only one pair of winter boots per year, if you’re lucky. And the type you get are “play” boots for the snow, not “dressy” boots. So the few times you dress up to go out, like at Christmas, you have to wear your short snow boots with a dress, which is not much of a fashion statement, but what could we do?
Another consequence of the “one pair of boots” rule was that if they got a hole in them, which they usually did, we’d have to wear a bread bag over our socks to waterproof them. I remember being very careful when I was pulling my boots off or on in the cloakroom at school, so the bag wouldn’t show. I would either go into the cloakroom first or wait to be the last one out, so no one would see them. Those were some of the times I felt our poverty. Now I appreciate that everyone in our family can buy new boots every winter, if needed, with warm boots and dressy boots, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sovereign Grace Assembly 2008

Our yearly assembly of like-minded Reformed Baptist churches was once again a blessing. In fact, I would say it was the most encouraging of them all, but then, I say that every year. What sets this years' assembly apart was the vision for the future, and the encouraging news from the churches.
Locally, Grimsby Bible Church, a church plant of Trinity Baptist Church in Burlington, Ontario, has officially flown on its' own. Grace Fellowship Church in the West end of Toronto, has TWO potential church plants starting this year; one in downtown Toronto, another in Markham, Ontario. That's great news! We also heard from a representative of TBS, (Toronto Baptist Seminary), which is a solid Bible College and Seminary in downtown Toronto and is one of the few schools that is serious in its' study and commitment to the Word of God. They are renovating their residences and branching out by having satellite schools in other cities in Ontario.
Internally, there are plans for an improved magazine to teach and inform families within the SGF. In addition to the usual high quality articles, there will be a new format and many new features, including a childrens' section, reviews, updates from the churches, upcoming events, and international concerns.
Internationally, we heard from Carey Outreach Ministries. Several of our Pastors have travelled with them to Mongolia, India and the Philippines. They gave reports on how the Pastors who they teach are so grateful for the opportunity to learn in order to better teach their congregations. An interesting change in the way things are done, is that in India, they are taking two groups that would normally be a ministry in themselves (widows and orphans), and helping the widows minister to the orphans, as cooks, cleaners, housekeepers, teachers and moms. In this way, the women have dignity and work. We also heard from a young couple who are planning to go to Turkey as missionaries, and an American Pastor who is planning to go to teach missionaries at the TETM (To Every Tribe Mission) school. This group goes to unreached groups to preach the gospel.
The assembly was hosted this year by Bethesda Baptist Church in Delhi, and they gave us a warm welcome. We were well fed with three hearty meals and several coffee breaks. I must add that the singing was outstanding, even though there were more men than women. The preaching on Friday night by Brian Robinson from Scarborough (my home church), was uplifting as he helped us focus on our exalted Christ, so that we could remember that we are on the winning side, and not be overwhelmed by the apparent ascendancy of evil in our day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finnish Comedian: Not an Oxymoron

Finns are known to be reserved, even a little stoic. Although they don't like to be made fun of, they can laugh at themselves. This past summer, at the Finnish Grand Festival, Finnjoy, held this year in Toronto, we attended a comedy play done by the Suomalainen Sisters, about three sisters; second-generation Finns who combined stories, jokes and songs to tell about life as a Finn in a new country.
They told about how our social custom, the sauna, weeded out potential suitors. Their Dad would take the poor young guy (usually a non-Finn) into the sauna the first time he visited, (naked, of course) and then outside to roll in the snow to cool off. (My husband has a similar story to tell, but he obviously wasn't scared off).
They also said, "Our father told us he loved our mother so much, he almost told her."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Going With The Flow

Nov. 17, 2008

Outside my window...a cold day. It may snow this week so we have to buy my daughter new boots.
I am thinking...that I think my boasting about being mellow is being tested, since we just got a call that a friend is coming to stay with us for a night on Saturday when we return from the Sovereign Grace Assembly, and will stay for Sunday dinner. I know it'll be exhausting, but I will try to smile.
I am thankful...that I finished drafting my Christmas letter today. Now I just have to print it and buy Christmas cards. Also, it was nice to have my daughter home from university again. I find she's more talkative now that she doesn't live at home. Also, my youngest daughter had an 88% average on her interim report card.
From the kitchen...chicken amandine, rice, baby carrots and sugar snap peas, sugar cookies.
I am wearing...Black Lulu Lemon knock-off pants, a GAP sweater.
I am reading...Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, about two native Canadians who fought in WW1.
I am write some memoirs this week.
I am hearing...a soccer game. Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion. I was rooting for Chelsea. They won 3-0.
Around the house...I think that my new bookshelves look beautiful. I transferred my Inspirational fiction to those two shelving units.
One of my favourite Japanese maple in its' full red colour in the fall. If we ever move, that's one thing I'll miss about this house. See photo.
Some plans for the three nights, Christmas shop, clean, attend the Sovereign Grace Assembly on Friday and Saturday in Delhi, Ontario. Entertain a friend from out of town. Continue the challenge of writing 100 words a day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Nov. 13, 2008

Outside my window...the leaves are off the trees, but it's still relatively mild for November in Canada.
I am thinking...that I can't believe I booked myself to host two events on the same day next month. We'll have the men of our church over for a Mens' Breakfast, then that evening, we offered to host the Annual Deacons and Wives' Dinner Party. I could try to change the dinner party, but I've decided to rise to the challenge and cope, instead. Life is about events like this.
I am thankful...for stable jobs (as much as can be expected) during a Recession. Am I allowed to use that word?
From the kitchen...chili with cheese and bread.
I am wearing...jeans and a blue v-neck top.
I am reading...Rekindled by Tamera Alexander, about a Christian married couple whose marriage gets tested by fire and comes out as gold.
I am get my Christmas letter drafted this week. That's always a big project, along with Christmas cards. I also need to plan my menu for that upcoming dinner party. I'm thinking salmon.
I am hearing...the sounds of the dishwasher. I love not having to wash dishes.:)
Around the house...we had to buy four new tires for the van, but at least there are no payments on the van, itself.
One of my favourite
Some plans for the a few Christmas presents. Go out on Friday night to finally, hopefully buy those bookshelves. Check out the bankruptcy sale at the Christian bookstore. That's my idea of a date!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mixed Feelings

Nov. 8, 2008

Outside my window...a cool fall day. They've sodded the boulevard and changed the sidewalks and curbs. Now they are repaving the street, even though it doesn't need it. I guess it's a make work project.
I am thinking...that while it was an amazing election south of the border and a significant achievement for Obama to be elected, considering their history, I would not have voted for him. As a Christian, I find his policies, particularly his approval of the horrific practice of partial-birth abortions, to be the biggest stumbling block for me. I hope he won't have too radical policies. Hopefully, he can be a true statesman who looks to the next generation, rather than a politician who only looks as far as the next election.
I am thankful...for my oldest daughter who came home this weekend to tell us she wanted to go on a Missions Trip to Scotland in February. I'm glad she's serving God with her life. I'm also happy to hear that our youngest daughter has asked for baptism. The grace of God is evident in both their lives.
From the kitchen...Creamy Chicken and Pasta Soup,(see recipe below)salad and brownies.
I am wearing...jeans and a pink hoodie.
I am reading...Where or When by Anita Shreve. It's about second chances.
I am hoping...that my daughter will be able to raise the funds for her trip. I'm not worried though. We serve a Sovereign God. She knows if she's meant to go, the money will come in.
I am hearing...the sounds of soccer. Lots and lots of soccer. AAAAHHHH!
Around the's nice to have my family together. I don't just love them, I like them, too.
One of my favourite things...Jane Austen movies. We watched one last night. Such a romantic time period; the clothes, the manners. I'm sure I wouldn't have liked the health care and class system, if I had lived then, though.
Some plans for the week...a quiet weekend. We have plans for the next four weekends, so it's nice to stay home for a change. I plan to organize my spices today, and do some yardwork. I'm working four twelve hour night shifts again this coming week. That's my life.

Creamy Chicken-Pasta Soup

Although it sounds ordinary, it definitely isn't. It's a comforting and tasty soup. Add a salad, fresh bread or biscuits, and a rich dessert for a nice Sunday meal.

3 tbsp. butter
10-12 button mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp. flour
6 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups half & half
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1-1/2 tbsp. thyme
2 chicken breasts,chopped
1-1/2 cups uncooked bowtie pasta
1 cup sugar snap peas, halved
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Bake chicken breasts with any spices you like. Boil the pasta in salted water. Add the peas in the final two minutes.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms, celery, onion, and carrots. Cook until softened. Add the chopped chicken, parsley and thyme.
In a large pot, add flour into cold chicken stock and stir to get rid of lumps. Strain pasta and peas and add to stock. Add contents of frying pan to stock. Add lemon juice, half & half, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer.
Makes 12 first-course or 6 main course servings.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I liked that this was a World War One movie done from a Canadian perspective. There are so few movies about WW1 compared with WW2. This was a lengthy battle for Canadian soldiers. They did well to bring out the main feature of that particular battle: muck and rain.
The love story was okay. Not likely that a nurse would be addicted to morphine, or that she "gets over it" by just being held for awhile.
The brutality of the hand-to-hand combat with bayonets was enough to make me close my eyes more than once.
It would have been great to get a better sense of the soldiers' lives in the countries in which they fought. I think that came out much better in the actual WW1 footage they showed at the end of the movie. People stayed to watch that as the credits rolled. You look at the faces on the live footage, and you see people like us, and you wonder what they were thinking about.
It was sad that after so many lives were lost to win Passchendaele, it was so quickly and easily retaken.