Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Good Thing About Cancer

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I had heard good things about this book. As an oncology nurse, I am a realist. As the wife of a cancer survivor, I’m an optimist. But I also know the reality of how this disease can affect every part of a person’s life.
I was afraid this book was going to be morose and melancholy. But it was surprisingly upbeat and funny.
Randy Pausch gives a lecture, which is basically his memoirs. He knows he has terminal Pancreatic cancer and takes this opportunity to say good bye. He says it was about Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, but it was really about him reliving his life in a form that could be passed on to his young children, who would have very few memories of him. I can relate to that as well, since my father died when I was three. I would love to have had something that he had written, or more pictures, or even videotape so I could hear his voice and see how he carried himself.
Cancer is a horrible illness, but it has one thing over sudden death. It usually gives you time to say what you need to say. That’s the only good thing about cancer. Some people don’t take the opportunity, but it’s there nonetheless.
I’ve seen people die who are still in denial about the severity of their illness. For all their denial, they still die, but with unfinished business. I’ve also seen “good” deaths. Those where they’ve said their goodbyes, given their advice, gotten their affairs in order, left a legacy, and asked their family members to let them go. A good death is as much a blessing as a good life.
This book has made me laugh and cry, and look again at the big picture. I’ve liked working with oncology patients because I’ve always found them to be “real”. They’ve dealt with, or are working through the big issues of life, and what’s bigger than facing your mortality and considering eternity?
In all my years of nursing, I’ve only cried at three deaths, all of them young men. I only now make the connection with my father, who died when he was 28. But I digress.
This book is not so much about dying, although he does talk about it, as it is about living, and appreciating the time you’re given. To use a cliché, “Every day is a gift. That’s why it’s called the Present.”

Things I Love To Do With My Family

In no order of preference.
1. Eat. We love to eat, at home, at a friends, or in a restaurant. Our favourite choice for eating out as a family is Memories of Japan, where they cook in front of you at your table.
2. Travel, especially some place tropical.
3. Laugh. I have a funny family.
4. Watch a movie that we all agree on, or at least mostly.
5. Listen to good preaching as a family.
6. Reminisce about things we did together.
7. Talk about current events.
8. Play a game. Learn their strengths and weaknesses.
9. Dance; at a wedding, or even in our livingroom.
10. Camp, except they've outgrown it. I'm the only one who would still want to go.
11. Take a road trip. Our kids are great travellers. I'm usually the one who asks, "Are we there yet?"
12. Be silly. We're good at that. Sometimes we don't know when to stop.
13. Have our family devotions. Discuss the Word of God. I like to hear what they're thinking.
14. Share a good book. Discuss what we liked about it. See how their taste in books differs from or mirrors mine.
15. Complete a project together, even if it's done partly under duress, i.e. spring or fall yardwork, shovelling snow, painting a room, or cleaning out a closet.
16. Celebrate a milestone or achievement, like a birthday, graduation or drivers' license.
17. Shop. Girls love to shop. My husband will tolerate it just so we can all be together.
18. Sing. Some of us are better singers, but I can at least contribute to the harmony.
19. See their creativity come out, in poetry, music, or gifts they make for their friends.
20. Serve God and others. I love to see spiritual growth and maturity in them, as they seek God's will in their lives. I see their devotion and discipline as they are baptized, as I see them read their Bibles, or keep a journal, go on Missions trips or help others, and even when they do unpleasant or hidden tasks (like cleaning the church) without grumbling. I'm pleased (for the most part) with their choices regarding friends, music, reading material, and clothing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Gospel in Miniature

A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur

Charles Dickens called the parable of the Prodigal Son "the greatest short story ever written." But it's more than great literature. This parable pulls at our heartstrings because we see ourselves in it.
It's found in Luke 15, the Lost and Found chapter, where Jesus tells three parables to illustrate the theme of heavenly joy over earthly repentance. He begins with the lost sheeep, one in a hundred, or one percent, then the lost coin, one in ten, or ten percent, and finally the lost son, one of two, or fifty percent, but infintely more valuable than a lost sheep or coin.
The details in the story make it come alive. MacArthur is a great communicator and he takes this already amazing story and adds insights, facts and applications that I had never considered before, even though I've heard this passage preached from so many times.
The poignancy demonstrated in the Father's response when his son returns is unforgettable. There are themes of grace, repentance, forgiveness. It's the gospel in miniature. In only 22 verses, there are rich details and powerful drama.
The Father represents Christ. The Prodigal is the wanton sinner who has no love or respect for his Father. He is also a picture of true repentance. The elder brother is as much of a rebel, but he has been hiding behind a mask of hypocrisy. He has no more love or respect for his Father than the Prodigal does. He represnts the Pharisees who had just accused Jesus of eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus told the parable in order to answer their charge and reveal the true heart of God.
The parable does not end. It leaves you hanging. Jesus stops before you find out if the elder brother responds to his Father's entreaty. He did this on purpose, in effect leaving the next move to the Pharisees. What would the elder son do with the Father?
MacArthur answers by shocking the reader with the real life answer. The elder brother kills the Father, as the Pharisees killed Christ.
This was an excellent Bible study. It was very moving and I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My 2008 Reading List

This has been a good year. I’ve read 75 books, listed below. I have reviews for all of them on my Chapters profile ( My favourite book of the year was By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer. It’s a Christian legal thriller and had at least five twists that made me gasp. Also, you can tell I discovered Nicholas Sparks this year since I read ten of his books. My goal for 2009 is to read 75 books again.

1. The Note by Angela Hunt
2. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
3. Yucatan Deep by Tom Morrisey
4. My Soul to Keep by Davis Bunn
5. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
6. A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks
7. The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
8. The Lifeguard by James Patterson
9. Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn
10. Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson
11. Winter Fire by William Trotter
12. Wrecker’s Key by Christine Kling
13. Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn
14. The High Calling by Gilbert Morris
15. The Miracle by Gilbert Morris
16. The Courtship by Gilbert Morris
17. Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson
18. A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
19. The Beach House by James Patterson
20. The Deposition by Joe Hilley
21. Whose War Is It? By J.L. Granatstein
22. A Woman’s Place by Lynn Austin
23. Eve’s Daughters by Lynn Austin
24. The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks
25. Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
26. The Interpreter of Silences by Jean McNeil
27. Hidden Places by Lynn Austin
28. True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
29. At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks
30. Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake
31. Healing Promises by Amy Wallace
32. By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer
33. A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson
34. The Second Thief by Travis Thrasher
35. No One Cares What You Had for Lunch by Margaret Mason
36. Black Sea Affair by Don Brown
37. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
38. Three Roads Home by Travis Thrasher
39. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
40. Wagered Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher
41. To the Death by Patrick Robinson
42. The Whole Truth by James Scott Bell
43. Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist
44. Spies by Michael Frayn
45. Timing is Everything by Tracey V. Bateman
46. Sky Blue by Travis Thrasher
47. Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
48. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
49. Reason to Believe by R.C. Sproule
50. Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake
51. Lets Roll! by Lisa Beamer
52. Resistance by Anita Shreve
53. All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin
54. Faithful God by Sinclair Ferguson
55. Lucky by Alice Sebold
56. Wind River by Tom Morrisey
57. Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin
58. The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark by Lawana Blackwell
59. Man Overboard! By Sinclair Ferguson
60. Steal Away by Linda Hall
61. The Forgotten War by Mart Laar
62. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
63. The Memoir Club by Laura Kalpakian
64. Whirlwind by Cathy Marie Hake
65. A Lady of Hidden Intent by Tracie Peterson
66. The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
67. Where or When by Anita Shreve
68. Rekindled by Tamera Alexander
69. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
70. All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt
71. The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson
72. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
73. From a Distance by Tamera Alexander
74. A Lady of Secret Devotion by Tracie Peterson
75. A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Food?

Dec. 28, 2008

Outside my window...the rain has washed away some of the snow, but the wind was absolutely howling at 80 km/h.
I am thinking...that I've got to get more self control. I bought twelve more books at the bankruptcy sale, five of which were free, but still...I need to stop. I need help.
I am thankful for...our family. Our gatherings are pleasant, and the food is tasty. Compared to some families, we're okay. We also got to see one of my husbands' cousins who was visiting this week, from Florida. Also, I helped my daughter draft her letter for Scotland. She has six weeks to gather her support. It seems a little tight for time. There are about 30 of them going to evangelize at the university of Edinborough.
From the kitchen...lasagna, curried chicken, jerk chicken, rice and peas, salad, bread, lemon pie, apple-berry crumble with ice cream.
I am dress pants and blouse, and a red sweater.
I am reading...The Blogging Church: Sharing the story of your church through blogs. I thing blogging is a great option, especially for small churches like ours, who don't have a huge budget. Added to our website, it's a great way to communicate. This modern generation wants two-way conversation.
I am hoping...that we can head someplace hot this winter. I just bought a new bathing suit and would like to decrease my pallor factor and increase my tannage factor.
I am hearing...Liverpool beat Newcastle 5 to 1. My husband is happy, since he's a Liverpool fan.
Around the house...I got my Christmas decorations put away and my bookshelves up. I just need a few more magazine racks from IKEA to store some paperwork.
One of my favourite things...a clean and tidy house. I threw out so many old magazines and cassette tapes. It was hard for me to throw out the cassettes. I knew we couldn't listen to them anymore, but I still looked at each one with nostalgia before I placed them in the garbage. There were preaching tapes, some from Pastors now in glory, music from when our daughters were little, music from my teen years, and conferences on home schooling from when I was considering that. It's hard to part with, but time marches on. I hope I don't regret this decision.
A few plans for the week...and eye appointment tomorrow morning, work two nights, then off for six. Nice. New Years' eve supper and service at church on Wednesday. Write. Shop. Dinner party with four other Christian couples on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Finnish Christmas

Dec. 24, 2008

Outside my window...a white Christmas. That's good, I guess, although I could handle lying on a beach just as well.
I am thinking...that the fact that my mom has started having chest pain, and having it frequently, and at rest, concerns me more than I let on. She has an appointment with a cardiologist mid-January. I hope nothing happens before that.
I am thankful...that my husband is so easy-going. Over the years we've changed so that all of our gifts are opened on Christmas eve, and none on Christmas morning. I would understand if he was offended, but he doesn't seem to be. One more reason to love him.
From the kitchen...ham, roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, carrots in white sauce, turnip casserole, Finnish Christmas desserts.
I am wearing... a new teal party dress. It makes my eyes look the same colour.
I am reading...A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It's amazing!
I am hoping...that we can get my new bookshelves up before the end of the week. I want to get organized while I'm off work.
I am hearing...Christmas music.
Around the sister's family is over to celebrate the Finnish Christmas with us. I could live without the gift exchange for adults. None of us really needs anything. They are token gifts and quite unnecessary. I would be happy to buy just for the kids and enjoy the spiritual aspect of the holiday.
One of my favourite things...getting rid of debts. Our main mortgage is paid off next month. The rest of our debt-load is manageable and should still allow for vacations. When we first bought our house and money was tight, we used to joke when we deposited our mortgage cheque, "Well, we have the house for another two weeks." That's as far as we could see. Now, seventeen years later, it's paid. Praise God. It's just a little bungalow in Toronto, but it's ours, and it's home.
Some plans for the week...a day to recover tomorrow. Jamaican Christmas on Boxing Day. Visiting friends.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


December 23, 2008

Outside my window...a cold, snowy day. We've used our new snowblower. For now, it's still as exciting as a new toy at Christmas, but I'm sure that will pass.
I am thinking...that I can't wait to read all my new books.
I am thankful...that our Muslim neighbours only eat Halal meats. Every Christmas when he gets a free turkey from work, he gives it to us. If we have no need of it, we pass it on to someone in our church.
From the kitchen...chicken souvlaki, fries and salad. Amish Friendship muffins.
I am wearing...burgundy v-neck top, navy lulu lemon pants.
I am reading...A Lady of Secret Devotion by Tracie Peterson.
I am have a quiet night at work tonight.
I am hearing...the sounds of silence while most of my patients are asleep. I'm expecting a patient from emerg soon, though.
Around the house...everyone's home for Christmas. We baked shortbread cookies. It's the only thing I bake at Christmas.
One of my favourite sales. I got so much loot this week at the bankruptcy sale.
Some plans for the two nights. Celebrate Finnish Christmas (Joulu) on the 24th at our house. Jamaican Christmas on the 26th at my husband's cousins' house.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We bought our house. We lived there all through my school years so I never had the stress of changing schools. It cost us $10,500.00 which was less than the down payment on our mortgage, but those were different days, and it wasn’t much of a house. (See Singing the Poor Girl Blues in Memoirs). Since my mom’s English was limited, as were her life skills regarding purchasing a house, I recall going house-hunting with her while my sister was in school. The Finnish Consulate, himself, Mauno Kaihla, took us around. When I look back on that, I think that was very nice of him. I always had an admiration for him. The nursing home section of the Finnish Rest Home was named after him. The unfortunate thing was that years later, he died in hospital, waiting for placement. He couldn’t get to the top of the list any faster even though it was named for him. Ironic, eh?
I started school. They didn't have Junior Kindergarten at my school, so I was five. I went to Cody Public School. It was a beautiful old building on top of the hill. It was built in 1919. Each room had a large walk-in closet with two doorways, which they quaintly referred to as a cloakroom. A few years back the school was demolished to make way for condominiums. What a sad thing. So much history, and it had beautiful dark wood railings on the stairs. I hope those were salvaged. It makes me sad that I can’t go back there to walk on the grounds and reminisce. It’s like it was a dream to me.
My first day of school my mom came with me, and I didn’t leave her side for a moment. The next day, my sister was tasked with taking me. I cried, screamed, and fought. She dragged me up the hill in front of our house towards the school, as my mom watched from the window and cried. Although I’m sure I want’ amused by it at the time, I smile now as I remember being dragged that way for a few days until I submitted, passive-aggressively, to go to this place full of strangers.
I liked my teacher, Mrs. McDonaugh. She had black hair and was very kind. She used to say that if we were naughty, she would be very cross. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. I wanted her to like me. Once, I mistakenly called her Mom, which showed the affection I felt for her.
At school I was a real rule follower. It carried over to home. I would wake my mom up in the middle of the night. When she’d roll over and wake up, I’d say, “May I please go to the bathroom?” Eventually, I stopped asking permission at home.
One thing I didn’t mind about school was the toys. They had a whole toy kitchen with dishes and a stove and ironing board, and dolls. I loved it. We had so few toys at home.
My best friend in my early years was Sherri. She was Italian and Catholic. She would talk about going to her first communion. She showed me pictures of herself in a fancy white dress and gloves. I had no idea what she was talking about.
She also had amazing toys. I loved playing at her house. She had many dolls with real baby clothes that her mom washed in Ivory Snow. She had a buggy and crib with beautiful blankets for her dolls. She was fastidious with her belongings. I could never have her over to play at my house because I had no toys, but I appreciated that she shared hers. She also had the best school supplies at the beginning of each year, including a 64 pack of crayons, with a sharpener built-in. I had an 8-pack, maybe twelve, and not much else. It was hard not to be envious.
I had no paper to write on to practice my letters. I dreamed of having a blackboard like at school. Instead, I took the one page I had from school and glued it on the wall of my room. Yes, I glued it, so it would be like writing on a blackboard. When I got to the edge of the page, I just continued with my crayon on the wall. We eventually wall-papered over that, years later, but my early homework was up there for years. Years later, I saw a commercial where a child was writing on a refrigerator. I said to my mom, “Who would let their kid write on the fridge?” She said, “I seem to remember someone who wrote on the wall.”


We went to Finland in the summer. (See My Mother’s Sacrifice in Memoirs). Although I liked a lot of things about Finland, I already thought of Canada as my home. My Finnish cousins said that when I was there I kept saying, “I want to play in English.”


I have assorted vignette-type flashback memories of life on our farm before my Dad died on October 31, 1967 after a motor vehicle accident at work. (See Fathers and Daughters, and My Father’s Death in Memoirs).
Following his death, we sold the farm and lived with my mother’s brother and his family for a few months. I think this was also a small apartment with one or two bedrooms. Then we lived on our own in a tiny apartment on the second floor of a house two doors down from the Finnish Lutheran church. It had a bedroom, hallway, a tiny kitchen, and bathroom that we shared with another Finnish family on the same floor.
I was beginning to learn English at the same time as my mom, by watching Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Dress-Up, and the Friendly Giant. Over time, my mother would speak only Finnish to us, so we’d retain it, and we’d answer in English, so she’d learn it. It’s still that way, unless I need to tell her a secret.


My parents bought a farm with my other aunt and her family. There were eight of us crammed into a tiny two bedroom farmhouse. I guess you do that when you have to. It had a good amount of property and the plan was to eventually sell off plots of land. No crops to speak of, only potatoes (a Finnish staple) and strawberries. There were four cows, and a bull named Mike. Mike once stepped over a chain link fence and it took the help of the neighbours to get him off the road and back home. We also had pigs, piglets, barn cats, and two German Shepherds, Wolf being my favourite. Our neighbours were a Finnish family of poultry farmers. Ironically, they had a dozen children. The oldest boys used to babysit us.


Our first home was a one bedroom apartment in the attic of a Finnish family. My father found work right away as a housepainter. The irony was that he was allergic to turpentine. He told my mother that as soon as he could learn the language he would find another line of work.


I was born in Vaasa, Finland on April 30th. Vaasa is on the west coast of Finland about half way up. There are many Swedes there since they are just a four hour ferry ride away. I was born there, as our Pastor would say, so I could be close to my mother. (Same jokes every time). I was overdue and mother was anxiously awaiting my arrival so we could fly to Canada to join my father and two year old sister, who had already been in Canada for a few months. The 1960’s saw the largest number of Finnish immigrants to Canada, mostly for economic reasons. There are only a handful of Finnish immigrants per year now, since Finland is in the EU and is doing so well.
When I was three weeks old, we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario via Montreal. My kids refer to me as a FOB (fresh off the boat) but I correct them that I’m fresh off the airplane. We lived for a few weeks with my aunt’s family.

Virgin Birth

"When you get to the bottom line, it is not a question of whether one can be a Christian and deny the virgin birth. That is to ask, in effect, "How little can once believe and still be a Christian?" I suppose one can believe very little and still be a Christian. One need only know that he or she is a sinner and that Jesus, the Son of God, died for sinners and in their place. Basically that is all one has to know. But we are on the wrong track when we ask the question like that. The real question is, "Is the virgin birth essential, not to be a Christian, but for Christianity?" And at that point we answer with an emphatic "Yes, is certainly is!"

James Montgomery Boice
The Christ of Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2008

Confessions of a Bookaholic

They say admitting you have a problem is the first step toward overcoming it. I say, admitting a problem is just admitting a problem. I may be a bookaholic, but I have no intentions of changing. I could deny it, but the weight of the evidence is greatly against me.
First of all, I have close to a thousand books in my library. I know, because I’ve counted them. In fact, when I moved the library to the basement, I catalogued them by title, author and price, because I wanted to know what kind of investment I’ve made. I know, it sounds a little OCD. :)
Secondly, yesterday, I purchased 37, yes, 37 books at once. I think that’s a record even for me. In my defense, it was a bankruptcy sale and they cost less than $3.00 each. They were books in the genre I read most; inspirational fiction, and I tell myself I would have bought them eventually, anyway, so why pay $15.00 for each one, when I could get them way cheaper? And most of it was purchased with Christmas money and I have to wrap them up and wait a whole week before I can put them on my shelf. But I’m practicing being patient.
Thirdly, I don’t feel bad about buying books, because I don’t buy them just to admire them on my shelf (although I do that, too). I actually read them. I read 75 books a year. In fact, I’m a chain-reader. Like a chain-smoker, but with no adverse health effects. If it looks like I’m coming to the final third of a book, I take another along with me. On the bus, if I finish it, I put it in my bag, take out the next one and keep reading.
Fourth, I’m very careful with my books. I don’t dog-ear them or splay them face down on a table. I use book marks. I’m hesitant to lend them out, but will on occasion, provided they are returned in good condition. If not, I may have trouble forgetting that.
My husband is an enabler. He buys me bookshelves, and takes me to bookstores for a date, because he knows it makes me happy. He knows that I have a socially acceptable addiction. I’m not an alcoholic or chocoholic. No one gets hurt.
Some women can’t walk past a shoe store without going in. I’m like that with bookstores. If I’m in the mall with my daughters and we’re passing a bookstore, I start veering towards it. They say, “Keep your eyes to the front, Mom. Don’t look. No. NOOOOO!” Too late.
I know exactly what’s on my shelves and where. I know who has borrowed a book. I know what books I still need to complete a series. I follow certain authors faithfully, and often pre-order their newest releases. I review every book I read. I read books cover to cover, literally. My kids say, “Mom, nobody reads the preface, acknowledgements and glossary.” Say hello to Nobody.
The most beautiful room in the country is the Parliamentary Library. You’ve got to see it to understand. In my dream house, I would have a scaled-down version of it. Conversely, my nightmare is to lose my books in a house fire. I would be inconsolable, since I’ve been collecting for half my life.
I’ve actually fallen on my face because I was crossing the street and reading at the same time. I tripped over the curb. It was a little embarrassing, and potentially life-threatening, since I wasn’t watching where I was going. I’ve missed my subway stop because there were “torpedoes in the water”. I’ve also turned down the wrong street when I was walking home from the bus, reading. When I got to where my house should be, I looked up and realized what I’d done. See what a good book can do to me?
My kids can’t have everything they want, but I never refuse them a book. I had very few books growing up and I guess I’m making up for it now. Whenever the Scholastic catalogue would arrive at school, I’d dream of buying books, but we couldn’t afford it. I guess I’m making up for it now. See, I have insight into my problem. That’s a start, right?
If you ever wonder what to get me as a gift, a Chapters gift card is safe. Erasmus said, “When I have money, I buy books. If there is any left over, I buy food and clothing.” And he lived in the early days of the printing press. How would he feel today?
My confession is done, and I’m no less a Bookaholic than when I started. But now you can say you know a Bookaholic.
Hello, my name is Pia and I’m a Bookaholic.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family Tree

A few years back, one of my adventurous cousins in Finland, took on the project of researching our family tree, on my Father's side. I really appreciate that he did this. I'm sure it was a very time consuming project. Currently, there's someone working on something similar for my Mom's side.
I found one aspect of this very interesting: my great-grandmother was not married, but had two sons by a man now known only by his last name, Raitanen. She therefore, having been abandoned by the scoundrel, who apparently went to "America" (which is Finnspeak for somewhere in North America), gave her two sons her last name, Annala, which was then the family name of my grandfather, father, and me, until I married. If he had been a decent man, we would have been Raitanens.
My father's father was in the merchant marines before he became a chimneysweep and father of nine. There's even a picture of the ship he served on. Imagine, a naval connection in the family!
The Raitanen/Annala incident just goes to show that every family has secrets, and that previous generations weren't somehow nobler than we.
It's nice to see the lists of all of my cousins, their spouses and children. As a nurse, I would have liked to know the cause of death of my relatives, purely from a health history perspective, to know what's in my genes, but I suppose there are privacy issues with that.
The family tree was presented in a spiral bound notebook and had some pictures I had never seen. It's a great thing to pass on to my kids. It gives a sense of connectedness to something bigger and a sense of belonging to a group. I had a great-great grandmother named Amanda. I see very little family resemblance even over just five generations. How much of me will there be in my descendants, I wonder?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Resolutions, Schmesolutions!

The beginning of a new year always brings about the inevitable questions about New Years’ Resolutions. Because most people are notorious for not keeping them, present company included, I’ve long since given up on even making any.
However, I do set goals for myself. I find if they are realistic and measurable, I can usually attain them.
I break them down into categories: physical/health, spiritual, professional/intellectual, relationships, household/financial, and hobbies. Then I think about what I’m currently doing that’s worth keeping, plan to continue that and improve in some small way in each category, so I’ll grow.
For example, when my daughters were still very young, I didn’t have much time for reading. So, back then my reading goal was for four books per year, because I figured I could manage one every three months if I worked at it slowly. It seems laughable to me now, since I’m currently on my seventy-third book of the year, and the year isn’t over yet. But, as I said, I made my goals realistic for how my life was at the time.
So, I think 75 books is a reasonable goal for next year.
As a Christian, I don’t think it’s unspiritual to set goals. I still need God’s help to reach them. But I do think that if your goal is to be a spiritually mature person, you’ve got to take steps to get there. It’s like saying, “I want to be a world-class pianist”, and then never practicing the piano. It doesn’t work that way.
So, that being said, I’ll share my goals, partly to make me accountable. I can check back at the end of 2009 and see how I did.

(I won’t make any extravagant goals here, because I know myself. I can start out well, but then I quit. If you set your sights low enough, you’re sure to reach your goals.)
-Lose 10-15 pounds by whatever means, diet, walking, etc.
-Dentist 4 times a year, Doctor once a year. Yearly screening mammogram.

-Attend church twice a week.
-Take sermon notes. (buy a new journal).
-Increase weekly tithing amount.
-Bible reading: a chapter a day. This works out to reading it through in three years. I know if I try to read through in a year, I usually quit at Ezekiel.
-Attend Carey Conference and other conferences, if able.
-Continue with nursery, kitchen, cleaning at church. Find a new ministry at church. Contribute to the church website—book reviews, testimony.
-Serve at Carey Conference for final year.

-Work full time.
-Obtain at least 20 hours of oncology nursing continuing education hours to keep up my C.O.N.(C) certification.
-Do the College of Nurses quality assurance requirements.
-Hospital on-line inservice and continuing education as required.
-Read at least two books on current events/social issues.
-Watch the news. Stay current on world events.
-Read the magazines we subscribe to.

Marriage—continue weekly dates.
-Travel with my husband: south in the winter, to the cottage in the summer, and away for a few days for our anniversary.
Daughters—family trip in summer, Carey conference.
Extended family—keep up socially, with facebook.
-Attend family reunions, events, weddings.
-Send Christmas letter update.
Friends—facebook, blog.
-Entertain friends at least once a month.

-Pay off main mortgage.
-Refinance remaining debts.
-Continue to support other charities.
-Set aside money for daughter’s university fees.
-Repaint the main floor walls.
-Renovate bathroom.
-Buy two more bookshelves and reorganize.

-Read 75 books in total.
-Watch as much soccer as possible. (I love goals like this. Everything isn’t about work.). Take in a TFC soccer game, if possible.
-Complete one of my inspirational romances, work on the others.
-Continue to blog at least twice a week.
-Write book reviews as I read.
-Attempt another month of 100 words a day.

Well, that’s me. I know that equals a busy life. Sure, I could sit around and watch mindless t.v. instead, but what is there to show for it at the end of the year? I hope this inspired you to make your own goals, instead of resolutions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pikku Joulu (Little Christmas)

December 13, 2008

Outside my window...a cool winter day, but with nice clear roads for driving.
I am thinking...that having our own sauna would be a very nice thing. This once or twice a year just isn't good enough.
I am thankful...that my daughter's application for her missions trip to Scotland was accepted. She was very happy. Now she has two months to raise the funds.
From the kitchen...turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots, turnip casserole, trifle. Again, way too much food. I posted pictures on facebook.
I am dress pants, teal blouse, tweed jacket.
I am reading...From a Distance by Tamera Alexander.
I am hoping...that my daughter can go to Scotland. It would be a good experience for her.
I am hearing...the radio on our way to London, Ontario to our small Christmas for the Finnish side of the family.
Around the house...since I'm not in my own house, I find that I often feel discontent and a little envious when I see how much space there is here in my cousin's house. Oh, well, I have a mansion in the sky, right?
One of my favourite things...German Shepherds. They remind me of happy times. Maybe one day we can have one.
Some plans for the far, just work three nights, buy my last few Christmas gifts, pick up our daughter from university, and bake shortbread cookies. We're going to the bank on Friday to discuss our options. Our mortgage is paid off in January. Woot, woot! It may not be much, but it's ours, and in spite of everything, I am thankful for our home.

Monday, December 8, 2008

William Carey by Basil Miller

"William Carey was a pioneer missionary to India. 1761-1834.
This book is outstanding mainly because the life of William Carey was outstanding. He was a lowly cobbler, but God called him to reach the lost of India. He always said he may not be able to do much, but he could plod. He is known as the Father of Modern Missions.
His life's motto was a famous quote of his, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." Many people misquote his saying, but as a Calvinist, he knew it all began with God. He believed in the sovereignty of God and this sustained him through many difficult years before he had his first convert to Christianity.
He also had family difficulties, opposition, illness, and 'technical difficulties'. Once, after nearly completing a Bible translation and dictionary into one of the eleven different languages he translated the Bible into, they had a horrible fire and years of work was destroyed. How do you spell despair? Oh, for a computer with a save button!
He had three wives over the course of his life (consequtively, of course), and he told his third wife he wanted to be buried next to his second wife. Obviously his favourite, but I wonder what she thought of that?
He also pioneered the idea of a missionary society and home support, since back then, missionaries did not usually come home on furlough. He compared his life's work to going down into a mine, and said to the men who would remain in England, "I will go down into the mine, but you must hold the ropes."
One unfortunate slant of the author is that he would spend paragraph after paragraph describing Carey's gardens, but only a sentence or so on the death of his child. While Carey was an eminent botanist as well, I'm sure that doesn't reflect on the importance of that event on Carey himself.
Overall, he is still highly respected in India today for his translation work, and for establishing a Christian witness there. He fought for thirty years to abolish the horrible practice of widows who threw themselves on their husband's funeral pyres.
His humility is seen as he lay dying, when a friend praised his life's work. He said,
"Mr. Duff, you have been speaking of Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey---speak about Dr. Carey's Saviour.""

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Today, December 7th, is the anniversary of the bombing or Pearl Harbour, and yesterday, December 6th, was the 91st anniversary of Finland's independence from Russia. I can't believe how many people think Finland was taken over by Russia in the second world war. They were invaded in 1939, fought valiantly, and then had to cede land to Russia, but they came out of both world wars, with their independence still intact. The man who led them through both those wars was Karl Gustav Mannerheim and he is a hero to most Finns. The main street in Helsinki is Mannerheimentie, which means Mannerheim's street.

A to Z --About Me

This was one of those silly things your friends send you on facebook so you can know each other better, or just maybe to consider things you never considered before.

- Available: no.
- Age: 44
- Annoyance: overly talkative people
- Animal: Sea Horse. I used to think they were mythical, like unicorns, because I first saw them on cartoons and thought they were interesting looking.
- Actor: Ed Harris.

- Beer: Yuck!
- Birthday/Birthplace: April 30, 1964 in Vaasa, Finland
- Best Friend(s): Leah, Kathy, Carolyn, Leena.
- Best feeling in the world: feeling the sunshine on me on a beach in the tropics.
- Blind or Deaf: deaf. I need to see to read, and I’d be too afraid if I was blind.
- Best weather: the hotter the better.
- Been in Love: of course.
- Been on stage?: Yes, but my stage fright is severe.
- Believe in yourself?: Somewhat.
- Believe in life on other planets: NOT.
- Believe in miracles: Yes.
- Believe in Magic: No.
- Believe in God: Definitely.
- Believe in Santa: No.
- Believe in Ghosts/spirits: ghosts? no. spirits? Yes.

- Car: blue van. Functional, but boring. I’m usually the passenger, I hate driving.
- Candy: Turtles, every time.
- Colour: changes with the seasons.
- Cried in school: Yes, in kindergarten.
- Chocolate/Vanilla: Chocolate
- Chinese/Mexican: Mexican.
- Cake or pie: pie!!! (Northern blueberry pie and ice cream)
- Country to visit: Papua New Guinea

- Day or Night: Night
- Dream vehicle: Royal blue Mazda Miata convertible, even though I hate my hair to blow in the wind.
- Danced: I still dance like it’s the 80’s.
- Dance in the rain?: no, I don’t like getting wet.
- Do the splits?: Never.

- Eggs: every day.
- Eyes: blue/green/grey depending on what I wear.
- Everyone has a: gift, they just don’t always use it.
- Ever failed a class? No, but I barely passed Grade 9 Geography.

- First crush: Greg S. in Grade Five. I thought I’d die if he didn’t marry me right then.
- First thoughts waking up: Is it night or day? Where am I? Where’s my coffee?
- Food: Always better if someone else makes it.

- Greatest Fear: having to have a tracheostomy or a colostomy. I’ve given this some thought.
- Giver or taker: Taker. I’m actually pretty selfish, sad to say.
- Goals: Read 75 books next year, complete one of my novels, work on the others, blog, and write book reviews.
- Gum: Excel spearmint, always in my purse.
- Get along with your parents?: Yes.
-Good luck charm: luck doesnt exist.

In guys:
Eye colour: brown.
Hair Colour: anything but red, hair style? Short, tidy. I hate long hair on men.
Height: taller than me (which isn’t that difficult).
Clothing Style: “every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed man”, and uniforms are cool, too. Especially navy whites.
Characteristics: Christian, kind, crazy about me, educated, employed, romantic, funny, and responsible. (Basically, my husband.)

- Hair Colour: blonde, blonder when it’s freshly highlighted, a few grey strands if I don’t.
- Height: 5’ 4”
- Happy: Very.
- Holiday: Easter. There are no gifts or decorating required. It’s a more spiritual holiday.
- How do you want to die: an arrythmia, hypercalcemia coma or cerebral bleed. You can tell I’ve given it some thought.
- Health freak?: HA!
- Hate: whiny, bratty kids with passive parents.

- Ice Cream: Peanut butter chocolate persuasion from M&M’s.
- Instrument: I play none. I always wished I had learned the piano, though.

- Jewelry: wedding, engagement, anniversary rings, my diamond and emerald ring.
- Job: oncology nurse in Toronto.

- Kids: My daughters. Otherwise, I don’t have a lot of patience for any other kids.
- Kickboxing or karate: neither.
- Keep a journal?: Yes, on my blog.

- Longest Car Ride: bus from the Soo to Regina when I was 19. I slept 24 out of 28 hours.
- Love: Jesus, my family, my library, writing, reading, entertaining, travelling.
- Letter: H. It’s symmetrical and can mean Hospital or Helicopter pad.
- Laughed so hard you cried: usually at someone else’s expense. The mark of a true nurse.
- Love at first sight: welcome to my life.

-Middle name: Hannele
- Milk flavor: white
- Movie: U-571
- Mooned anyone?: no.
- Marriage: is just what I expected, and gets better all the time.
- Motion sickness? Only on spinny rides.
- McD’s or BK: McD’s for their fries.

- Number of Siblings: one and a half.
- Number of Piercings: none, but earring holes grew over years ago, and I couldn’t be bothered.
- Number: 21

- Overused Phrases: “Oh, go on. No, really, go on.” Usually when I get a compliment.
- One wish: to publish a novel.
- One phobia: edges, up high. My hands sweat just thinking about it.

- Place you’d like to live: someplace tropical, preferable in the south Pacific.
- Perfect Pizza: pepperoni, bacon and onion.
- Pepsi/Coke: Coke is better but I can’t drink pop anymore.

- Questionaires: I’ve done hundreds.

- Reason to cry: a sad movie, death of a friend, a good book.
- Reality T.V.: the bachelorette, when it’s on. Twenty five men to choose from! Totally mindless, and better than the catty women on the bachelor. My husband says, "I can't believe an intelligent woman like you would watch a show like that." Or Dinner Impossible. I feel his stress.
- Radio Station: I switch constantly to find a song I like.

- Song: Dream Come True, by Frozen Ghost, Eleanor by Low Millions, or Enid by BNL.
Beautiful Saviour by Casting Crowns, or When God Ran by Phillips, Craig and Dean.
- Shoe size: 8-1/2
- Salad Dressing: Greek with feta, or creamy poppyseed.
- Sushi: Yum, especially freshly made.
- Skipped school: Only once, at the end of grade twelve, and I wrote my own note so I could work on my tan at Island Lake. I felt so guilty.
- Slept outside: In a tent.
- Seen a dead body? More than I can count. I used to be the one to teach the new girls how to wrap the bodies when we sent them down. It’s unnerving. You make jokes the whole time.
- Smoked?: the summer I was thirteen, until I got caught.
- Skinny dipped? Yes, and I’ve even rolled around in the snow from the sauna. I got sooo sick.
- Shower daily? Yes.
- Sing well?: Only in a group and I can’t hit the highest notes.
- In the shower? Quietly.
- Swear?: Does, “Oh, snap!” count?
- Stuffed Animals?: Not at all.
- Strawberries/Blueberries: both.
- Scientists need to invent: a submarine for the average person, maybe the price of a car.
- Time for bed: changes everyday. Sometimes, 9 a.m., sometimes, midnight.
- Thunderstorms: are not nice directly overhead.
- TV: only on weekends. Soccer, history channel, NCIS, Law and Order reruns, Dinner Impossible.
- Touch your tongue to your nose:? To what purpose?

- Unpredictable: Only when I have P.M.S. then, watch out!

- Vegetable you hate: can’t say I hate any, but I’m not fond of brussel sprouts.
- Vegetable you love: freshly shelled peas in the summer.
- Vacation spot: Any place tropical.

- Weakness: I’m a bookaholic. If you were a decent person, you wouldn’t encourage it.
- When you grow up: I’d want to be a writer, and be able to do that exclusively.
- Which one of your friends acts the most like you: My cousin, but probably because we’re related and grew up together.
- Who makes you laugh the most:Comedian,Stephen Wright.
- Worst feeling: how I feel if I have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. I hate working day shift.
- Wanted to be a model?: In my dreams, but I was too shy.
- Where do we go when we die: Heaven or Hell.
- Worst weather: A cold snap of -35C in the Soo.

-X-Rays: Don’t have any unnecessarily.

-Year it is now: Sunday. No, I’m not confused. 2008.
-Yellow: is the colour of sunshine, butter, and beautiful roses.

- Zoo animal: black panther. They look at you directly, and it’s like they’re saying, “If this cage wasn’t standing between us…” they terrify and fascinate me at the same time.
- Zodiac sign: Taurus, but who cares?

1. Slept in a bed beside you? My husband, last time I checked.
2. Last person to see you cry? My husband.
3. Went to the movies with you? My usual date.
4. You went to the mall with? My youngest daughter.
5. You went to dinner with? My usual date.
6. You talked to on the phone? I hate talking on the phone. Maybe, my oldest daughter.
7. Made you laugh? Our Pastor. He’s the life of the party.

Comfort Foods

When I was growing up, people would sometimes ask what typical Finnish food was. All I knew was what we ate; soups, stews and casseroles, with meat on special occasions. Don’t get me wrong; even though we were poor, we were never hungry. We may not have had a lot of extras or junk food, but we ate healthy food. Even if we had our standard potatoes; boiled or mashed, we would have gravy with meatballs, or hot dogs, cut up in it, or a white sauce with hard boiled eggs. We would get our protein that way. And when I left home, it was those things I remembered as the comfort food of home.
I think now I get a sense of security from a full fridge, freezer and pantry, although I know not to trust in those things. I’m thankful for the fact that we eat so well. It’s a blessing that you really only appreciate if you’ve had to do without.

Linguine and Shrimp

This is a nice, light supper.

Cook linguine al dente.
In a deep frying pan, pour ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tbsp. butter, 1 tsp. crushed garlic, (or two cloves), 8 sliced button mushrooms, 1 pkg. thawed and rinsed shrimp (with tails removed). Add oregano, pepper, parsley, onion flakes and red pepper flakes. Cook until mushrooms are tender. Add ½ cup of mayonnaise and mix until smooth. Serve over strained linguine.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Dec. 6, 2008

Outside my window...a light snowfall. It is December in Canada, after all, so I guess it's to be expected.
I am thinking...that my first attempt at Pavlova sort of turned out, but I won't serve it tonight because I used waxed paper instead of parchment paper and now it's stuck. Oops. Now I'll have to eat it off the paper with a spoon :) Plan B is cheesecake. See how calm I am? I can hardly believe it, myself.
I am thankful...that we don't have a stranger living in the basement apartment. Becasue it's my mom, I was able to shower in her place while my house is overrun by men.
From the kitchen...warm crab dip with crackers, bacon-wrapped scallops, spinach-stuffed mushroom caps, pina colada punch, cream of leek soup, mixed greens with herbed feta salad, grilled fresh Atlantic salmon fillets, baby carrots and sugar snap peas, wild rice medley, white wine, raspberry cheesecake, coffee and tea. Not our usual supper. It's a dinner party with our Pastor and his wife, and our other deacon and his wife, and my husband and I.
I am wearing...jeans and a blue v-neck top, but later, I think I'll wear a red party dress.
I am reading...Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It's a modern re-telling of the story of Hosea and Gomer. It's good, so far.
I am hoping...that my daughter will do well on her first term exams in university. Last night she had a three hour exam with only three questions. I assume, yes, no and maybe are not acceptable answers.
I am hearing...a dozen men from church upstairs, having a Mens' Breakfast meeting at our home. They made Western omelets, hash browns, bacon, fruit, juice, coffee and tea. I even snuck upstairs and they served me a plate of food. They've made a mess of my kitchen, though :/ so I'll have to do some mad cleaning between parties. I'm downstairs watching soccer and finishing my Christmas cards.
Around the house...we got our big screen back up and running. For a week we were waiting for a $200 bulb that was out of stock. I hardly know how to relax without a soccer game when I'm looking for something mindless to do. I actually got to spend more time with my husband, but I could've done that while watching soccer.
One of my favourite things...the moment when all the prep work (cards, shopping, decorating, etc.) is done for Christmas and I can just enjoy the time with family and friends.
Some plans for the week...Church tomorrow. Dentist on Monday. Finish the Christmas Cards with our Christmas letter and Christmas shopping. Work four twelve-hour nights. Go out of town, to London, Ontario for our family "Finnish Christmas" with my side of the family. Other than gifts for the little kids, I only need to bring a trifle for dessert. I won't be attempting Pavlova again, for a while.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gearing Up For Christmas

Dec. 1, 2008

Outside my window…the expected snowstorm hasn’t arrived yet.
I am thinking…that my husband’s job is very stressful and causes him many sleepless nights, keeping Toronto’s water clean. After two more weeks and many deadlines, he’ll be able to relax and recharge with two weeks’ off over Christmas.
I am thankful…for the good preaching we heard over the weekend at the SGF Fall Youth Day and in church on Sunday.
From the kitchen…beef stew and biscuits.
I am wearing…sweats and a hoodie.
I am reading…The YaDa YaDa Prayer Group. It’s my first taste of the Christian Chick-Lit genre. It’s too early for a decision yet.
I am hoping…to remain calm at all times, and to find all the ingredients I need for the weekend. I also need to find Christian Christmas cards. Almost every store only carries the secular, “Festive Season, Holiday Greetings, Happy Holidays” ones, and I’m so sick of those.
I am hearing…Gravity, by Soul Decision. It’s a fun song, on one of my homemade CD’s.
Around the house…all my Christmas decorations are up. My daughter’s gone for two weeks until exams are over. My youngest daughter did pass her G-1 test on Friday, but she isn’t the least bit interested in learning to drive. We’re making her take driver’s ed during Christmas or March break, anyway, because it’s an important life skill. I hope her reluctance will make her a more careful driver, rather than an absent-minded one.
One of my favourite things…spending time with friends, especially those comfortable couples you click with from the start.
Some plans for the week…begin posting book reviews onto our new church website. Work three nights. Clean like a ninja and prepare for the men’s breakfast and a dinner party on Saturday night.

Christian Charities I Highly Recommend

1.Your own local church, of course. Give regularly, give generously. Ten percent is a good place to start. Remember, it’s not your money, anyway. Be involved in the work, the plans and the future of your church. Make it your own. Teach, clean, paint, serve, entertain, open your home, visit shut-ins. Find a ministry that fits the gifts you’ve been given.
2.Christian education, if it’s within your means to do so. I know, not everyone who wants to, can send their children to a Christian school. There were a few years when our kids went to the local public school as well. But overall, our daughters have been blessed by it. I don’t expect the school to do my job as a parent. And I don’t like Christian schools where they feed a kid’s delusion that because they are being raised in a Christian home, they are automatically headed for heaven. I like that my kids hear the gospel everyday, with the underlying message that they need to make it their own faith, and I like that the teachers are Christians and see their job as a calling, and that the curriculum is God-centred and doesn’t contradict what we teach them at home and church, but rather, reinforces it.
3.Wycliffe Bible Translators. If the Bible can be translated into a previously unwritten language, it preserves the language, speaks to that people group in their “heart language”, and continues to impact and teach that group long after that missionary is gone. Supporting individual missionaries in an organization like this makes it personal.
4.The Bible League. They provide Bibles, rather inexpensively, to people in countries where the Bible is inaccessible or outlawed, like China. The Word of God is not bound.
5.Answers in Genesis. This organization is involved primarily in teaching about origins, but flowing from a proper understanding of the book of Genesis, is a correct view of marriage, the sanctity of life, the fall, and our need of a Redeemer.
6.New Missions. They operate in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This is primarily a child sponsorship program. There are others out there, like World Vision, Christian Children’s Fund, Compassion Canada, or Foster Parents’ Plan. But as far as I know, those others do not offer a Christian education to the child, whereas this one does. We support a girl in Haiti, who is close in age to our daughters. This is one of those things we planned to do for many years before we actually did it. She receives a good Christian education, a healthy meal each day, and free health care. What good is it to take care of the body only, and neglect the soul?
7.Conferences and retreats that teach and encourage your faith. There are many organizations that offer them. It gives you a chance to recharge your spiritual batteries, have Christian fellowship and buy books. We find the Canadian Carey Family Conference to be a foretaste of glory.
8.Missions organizations or other para-church ministries that are close to your heart. One stroll through the main room at Missionfest gives you an idea of the scope of the opportunities to assist in the worldwide mandate of the church. Choose one that has a role in building up or equipping the church, i.e. Toronto Baptist Seminary, Carey Outreach Ministries, the Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Canada, The Christian Blind Mission, or a local Crisis Pregnancy Centre.
9.International Aid, either regularly or at times of crisis. Some examples are the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, S.I.M., Emmanuel International, or Mercy Ships, which goes to foreign ports around the world, offering free medical, dental or surgical care to those without access.
10.Local Christian camps or programs within your church. Our kids have benefitted from the experience of Christian camps and have also volunteered or worked at them. The Scott Mission Camp is a good example. The Scott Mission, itself, in downtown Toronto is also a good place to help out in the kitchen or the food bank. Our church has an outreach called Time Out for Young Moms, which addresses the reality of the neighbourhood in which we serve.

There’s no shortage of places to use your time and money. They say you can tell a lot about someone if you look at their chequebook and datebook. If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?