Monday, November 7, 2011

Not really inconvenienced...

I tweeted last month to ask if having the heated seats on in the car, in October, was a bad sign... 2011 has been a strange year for weather, hasn't it? 1,817 tornadoes, thus far, in the U.S. have caused 550 deaths. Compare that to the 564 people who died in tornadoes over the past 10 years combined. Hmmm... cold weather is a very minor inconvenience when I view it in that context.

I am so honored to know and love some military members. I can't fathom what they do but am humbled that they do it. My friend, Melissa, just welcomed her husband home from deployment. My husband getting home a little late from work is a minor inconvenience.

The chiropractor has been tweaking the pinched nerve in my shoulder that shoots pain through my bicep. It's "fixable" and is a minor inconvenience when viewed in the light of my friend Denyc's mom. Cheryl was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer and was, as Denyc and I used to say, "the healthiest dying person we know".  Did you know there's no test for uterine cancer until it's already present. Perhaps we should move some of the pink ribbon money over to save women in another way.

I'm not melancholic; I'm just vehemently aware that I am only slightly inconvenienced by the daily adjustments I make. I'm thankful today to be able to make them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Not yet...

The weather has turned cool, and I must admit I wasn't ready for that - just yet. I'm under no illusions about it being warm in Canada, but we skipped fall. The leaves have yet to change, and we moved directly to cold and windy. They're predicting a low in the 30s this weekend...

I've switched my wardrobe. Although I pulled out the boots and Cuddl-Duds (no 'e'), I can't seem to put my sandals away - just yet. The flannel sheets are on the bed. My lap blanket, lovingly and hand-made by sister, Ronna, is out and being used. Neighbors are leaving the island to head south for the winter. Yesterday, I made Harvest Muffins, with grated apples and carrots, for the ferry crew. Summer is gone.

What I love about fall is that it is the time that God designs for things to begin to rest. Those of us with Operation Christmas Child are geared up for Collection Week and have no intention of resting - just yet. This is what we work for all year. This is our harvest - His harvest - of shoebox gifts that will travel around the world so that children who have no hope know that someone, some stranger, somewhere, wants them to know they are loved. "The power of a simple gift" isn't just a saying to us; it's real. We feel the urgency to reach just one more child. We're not ready to be finished - just yet.

I'll leave you with 2 things -  a picture and Garth Brooks words...

One hand
Reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
They say what good have you done
By saving just this one
It's like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying you'll never change things
And no matter what you do it's still the same thing
But it's not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Things I like about Canada so far

It's been almost 4 months since we moved to Canada. I thought it was about time to make a new list, so here are some of the things I really like about Canada.

1)  The people! Amazingly warm and friendly. Plus, if you're not talking about taxes, Canadians are really happy people. (C'mon, none of us is happy talking about taxes.)

2)  The calmness! Okay, using an exclamation point there is inappropriate. The pace, and the people, here are not easily excited (except about hockey) or agitated. It's so refreshing. Canadians take everything in stride, and I find myself enjoying the day - even the ones with lists - a lot more.

3) French! Thankfully, it's a lot like Spanish, so I'm not completely lost. I have, thus far, resisited taking French, because I still haven't mastered Spanish. First things first... Here's a good example:

In Spanish, chicken is pollo, and, well, we have to give them credit, because bouillon is a French word we already know. Some packages have English on one side and French on the other. I panicked before I realized that I simply needed to flip things over.

4) Packaging! Threw you on this one, didn't I? Stick with me... I was one of those homeschooling parents who loved "How Things Work", and these little differences are fun & challenging. Let's look back at the broth, from a different angle:

If you can get past my slightly blurry photo (still learning how to shoot macro), can you see the little tab inside the opening? No tiny foil tabs to shred! Just open, press, pour, seal. Yes, I said 'seal'... the top actually snaps closed, and I shook it to test it. (Snow waited patiently in hopes spillage would come her way, but, alas, the product closed tightly - as it should have.)

Now, on to the 'scrip I swore I wouldn't take. I gave in after looking at how horribly red the spot on my ear is... That saga will continue at Henry Ford Health this afternoon, but I digress. Segue (ooooh - another French word!) back to containers...


   Ingenious! The tab fits through the opening. Dare I say I laughed watching Michael trying to open it. His engineering mind was waaaaay over-thinking this! You press the tab with one hand, and lift the loop over it. Simple. Two-handed? I'm guessing that makes you concentrate on what you're doing and keeps you from spilling pills all over the floor. Not that any of us have ever done that, mind you...

5) Alter the name to make it Canadian! Why not, right? Visitors tend to notice what's not just like the U.S. version, but why should it be? I'm in Canada, the product is in Canada, shouldn't it show it's pride?  Check this one out:

Yes, Chipits! Hershey - yes, new name - yes! Same product - different name. C'mon... you have to love this one... They come in more flavors here, too!

And this one is a two-fer:

"Biscuits graham wafers"! You know the product... How many of you love that they show a S'more on the front? Admit it... Then you'd also love that the packaging (here's the two-fer part) has the wafers squared. Yep - cut & ready for chocolate and a marshmallow. No rectangles to challenge the Monk-like character in those of us who want everything straight. Open - eat. Ta-da!

You all asked me to blog about the Canadian experience, and this is all part of it!

(PS - Fine. I admit it. I shot all these pics on my ironing board. It's a constant in my life. I love to iron, as if you didn't know...)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Big Pharma is alive and well...

I had my first experience with the medical system here in Canada today. Sunday night, I had a cough, and now I have laryngitis and a fever. Michael's company offers us Cigna International health insurance, but it is not accepted in Canada. Finding a GP who takes new patients was my first challenge, and I was fortunate to get an appt. this afternoon. I did not have to wait the allotted time for a new patient appointment since I was paying cash. Interesting...

The physician was dressed in a suit & tie and walked me to the exam room. He was nice enough but never got up from his chair once the "exam" started. He did lean over to check my ears and ask me to say "Ahhh." He never checked my glands or breathing. That was it. 3 prescriptions later and a bill, and I was out the door. Interestingly, none of the 'scrips are for what I went in for. My illness, he says, is viral, so I should wait it out. For 'scrips, he decided I needed a cream for an old keloid (the subject came up when I talked about skin cancer), and antibiotic for a red spot on my outer ear, and something to guard my stomach against the antibiotic he said would "tear up (my) stomach". Oh yea.

The Walmart pharmacist was wonderful. She'd never seen Cig-Intern'l before but worked with them by phone for 10 minutes. She alone has enabled all of us, here on the Fluor project, to fill 'scrips when we need them. She made my day.

For what's it worth, I haven't taken an antibiotic in 20+ years. I believe they are overused, in all countries, and destroy our immune systems. Under the right circumstances, they can be highly effective, but because of overuse there are now only 2 that still work for children. What does that tell us? Okay - off my soap box.

If you're interested, I called the Henry Ford Health System, registered with them and have an appointment on Thursday. I'm really curious to see what my diagnosis is there. I've decided to hold off on taking the meds, so I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What I've learned about cleaning...

1) the amount of dog hair in a house has no direct bearing on how hairless a dog should appear after shedding so much. She shows not a sign of balding; it boggles the mind.

2) the satisfaction of vacuuming carpets last but a moment - or until the dog shakes.

3) a Dyson on clearance at Home Depot still works like a Dyson at waaaay less cost. Older models still suck stuff up with abandon, although they may be last year's color. I'm an 'older' model, and I have no idea what last year's color was on me. I'm still working, too, for what it's worth.

4) sucking up a live wasp, into the vacuum, does not bring about any feelings of sadness. Am I a bad person?

5) high ceilings make me wonder what I can't see and can't reach...

6) does thinking about what it would be like to set off the indoor/fire sprinkler system to 'wash' the house top-to-bottom make me a bad person?

7) wrought iron is lovely but impossible to clean effectively with any tool currently known to man.

8) no chemicals or name-brand mopping devices clean a floor better than water and a rag on one's hands and knees.

9) ironing makes things smooth and soft. It's a comfort drug of sorts. (You knew I'd mention ironing, didn't you?)

10) stone fireplaces are beautiful but can never be clean enough. Crevices, stone, cement = dust bunny heaven.

11) spiders thrive in Canada in the summer. They thrive, I tell you! Don't come here if you're an arachnophobiac. Consider yourself warned. I clean - they build; I clean - they build. It's becoming competitive, and, yes, I know their brains are smaller... but still... I think they know.

12) a gym membership is not necessary if you consider cleaning your house a personal challenge. It's all about winning...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the worst blogger? Probably not...

Why do we blog? I know it's not ego, because everyone I (personally) know who blogs went into it against their better judgement. What could we possibly have to say that others would find interesting? Each of us (Kathy, Robin, Melissa, etc.) started out hoping you would find our words heart-felt, inspirational, or even funny.  My hope is that we were right...

We just returned from our 1-month Lasik exam, and all is well. Michael's vision is a little better than mine - darn! Not that we're competitive around here - ahem... Is it okay to blame mine on my age? Please? Otherwise, I'll feel like I only got an A rather than an A+ - not that it matters (I'm lying).

Since we traveled over the weekend, we thought we'd throw in a quick cruise. I know... shocking, right? Seriously, though, the cruise cost less than a hotel room, and the meals were included. How can you not love food, housekeeping, and the Bahamas? Sunday, on Coco Cay, we grabbed two lounge chairs and a hammock under the palm trees. Once in the hammock, we didn't move for 2 hours. Maybe we could move there after, or if, we survive the Canadian winters...

OCC is kicking into gear here in Canada, and I continue to learn all the differences. Same project - different processes (and, by the way, that's "processes" with a long O). Coming home from an OCC meeting in Leamington last night, we passed the Canadian Trampoline Museum... ummm... Do you think I should take visitors there?

The weather is beautiful (remind me of this in February's cold), and fall is just around the corner. Fall is always lovely to me; I don't see it as a dying off at all. It's just a turning toward a restful cycle in nature before God blooms it all again. And He always does. That so encourages me... every day is new and full of its own possibilities. I pray that as God gives me those, I walk into them with obedience and excitement (remind me of this in February's cold).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weeds...and bitter roots

I pulled weeds (again) today. The house we rent has been a weekend vacation home for the couple who owns it, and, as such, has had intermittent care. The weeds, however, have been full-time residents. It is they who are established and I who am temporary.

God has used weeds to teach me a lot through the years, and those lessons come to mind every, single time I pull one. Seriously, without exception, I am struck by the following things:

1) It is a matter of commitment for me to pull every last weed in an area. Should I just grab the larger, easier ones and leave the smaller ones that take more effort? How long will I stay with the task? This is a lesson I review every morning as I question my commitment to the things God has called me to.

2) The size of the weed has no bearing on the size of its roots. A 2-inch tall weed can have footlong roots. It's easy to break off only what I can see, but seeking out and loosening that root takes time. Again, am I willing to do the harder things?

3) The struggle is worth my time. Why I find victory in pulling those roots out (and spraying dirt everywhere) is silly really. This makes me feel validated? Perhaps this goes back to the old "job well done" philosophy, yet I believe it's the slightest little reward for following through.

4) These weeds are just like my heart. The Bible talks about "bitter roots" that "cause trouble". My heart, like areas of my garden, is full of things hanging on for dear life - things with deep roots that I don't always want to work to pull out. It's hard work to tackle those deeply-rooted 'weeds', but God wants them out indeed.

What a sad statement it is that the larger the weed, the easier it is to pull. How big are those things in my heart that come out easily? How long have I allowed them to grow there? The little 'weeds', the newest things, are much tougher to go after. They may actually be shaded, protected, by the bigger things that have made a home in my heart.

Today, I found garden weeds in the tiniest places, all but hidden from view. I wanted to leave them until they'd be easier to see and to reach. But God had other plans, and we attacked those sprouts with a vengeance. Oh, that I would do that in my heart today...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I can see clearly now!

Things I've learned about LASIK:

1) Don't get me started... I've been reading about it daily for a year... but since you asked... You did ask, right?

2) We had SBK, which, simply put, is the latest version of Lasik. It's fast, it's permanent, and it was so much fun! I loved it. 3D - are you kidding me? Ms. Information Junkie drove everyone there crazy, I'm sure...

3) The surgery was a BREEZE at Hunter Vision in Orlando! Yes, Michael & I flew there to have ours done. Ask me why it's the only place you should have yours done. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Go there. Immediately.

4) Michael & I will be buying stock in Allergen, the maker of Refresh Plus eye drops. I'm addicted.

5) Vision, my long lost friend, is back with a vengeance! Near, far, it matters not to my eyes or brain. (I'll be stopping by the Lions Club to drop off my collection of reading glasses on Friday...)

6) All that "I don't want anyone sticking something in my eye" stuff is for the birds. The night before the procedure, it haunted me. The day of the procedure it was NOTHING. I didn't feel a thing. Honestly, folks, did you think they'd let you feel something like that? You can poke yourself in the eye without drugs if you'd like, but how many surgeons operate without them? (Don't get me started on childbirth. This is waaaaaaaay easier. And faster. And less embarrassing. You know what I mean.)

7) And last, but certainly not least, why didn't y'all tell me about all these wrinkles?! You know... the ones you could plainly see on my face but I could not (before Lasik). Ugh.

Go to the phone now. Do this. You won't regret it. I'll fly in and walk you through it. Really, I will. Because we're friends, and we all have wrinkles at this point.

Operator, uh, can you help me place this call?

So, we gave Rogers Communication the boot. Shocking, I know. When our 2nd bill from them was wrong (again), I reached my limit. Bell Canada is our new provider, but since the technician readily said, "Bell has its problems", I'm not jumping for joy just yet. The trade-off? No more Rogers headaches but no more 'high speed' internet. (Bell's speeds are 1/5 of Rogers - it's worth it to me.) How desperate am I?

As for the phone, we had to get a new number. That's okay, because no one calls here... it's a mixed blessing. Not being on the phone all the time has been peaceful and rewarding. I find myself on the computer less as well. Ask me again in the dead of winter, but for now I'm really enjoying it.

Life in Canada is different, yes. I think God "mixes it up" when we need it, though we rarely recognize that. He is not a God of "Comfortableness" lest we confuse that with 'comfort'. I (dare I say we) grow through the tough things not the easy ones. I used to say I get bored easily, yet now I know it's when I'm not moving & growing spiritually that life seems to be at a standstill. No manner of entertainment fills that gap satisfactorily.

We say "it's all about relationships" but the first, and most important one is deeply personal. If we cannot connect to God, we cannot connect to His world, His people. Go ahead - I dare you - spend some time with God today, and get off the computer. Now I must go do the same... (I love having his private number; it's the one He uses just for Him and me.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Here and There

I've never been out of the U.S. on the 4th of July before. Normally, I line our driveway and the street line with little US flags, I decorate the house and the patio, and pull out all manner of red/white/and blue paraphernalia for the back yard. But not this year...

Canada Day was last Friday. I live in Canada now. Granted it was fun, and the fireworks were great (more on that in a minute), yet we were, interestingly, watchers rather than partakers. I wore red & white and put on a little dual-nation flag pin showing my allegiances to my own country and my adopted one. We walked into town, checked out the historic sites in Amherstburg, and took in all that is the same and different about our countries' Independence Days. Jared, Jordan, and Rhiannon were here, so the day was special in many ways. I made them gift bags with Canada things in an attempt to help us all fit in somehow.

Back on Boblo that evening, all the islanders went to a neighbor's house to "watch" the fireworks. And I do LOVE fireworks. This year, however, brought something totally unexpected. The Fire Dept. showed up, with the City's fireworks, AT THE HOUSE where we were. The owners have a little finger of land that faces town, so we were at 'ground zero' for launch. Our chairs were about 30 yards from the firing range. It was amazing, scary, perhaps a bit life-threatening, and fabulous, depending on the moment. Jordan kept saying, "we're all going to die" as the fireworks exploded literally right over our heads, and we burst our laughing every time he said it. We sat there, marveling at our luck or death wish, depending on your perspective. This would NEVER happen in the States, so I have Canada to thank for a fireworks experience I'll never have again.

Today is the 4th of July, and there are no decorations out. Friends say to go ahead, but, honestly, I want to honor those where I live. This is not their day, and I'm in their country. Lest you wonder, I am a die-hard American, and my heart is with you all today. You live in the greatest country on Earth, and don't let the media tell you otherwise. No other country affords the freedoms the U.S. does. 

I'm thankful today for the warmth and friendliness of Canadians, but I'm forever thankful to be an American.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This is Where We Live

I thought y'all might like to take a walk with me... And, yes, I do say "y'all" in Canada; why do you ask?

That's Michigan on the left (thank the cell phone gods for a Sprint tower!) and Amherstburg, Ontario on the right. You can't see it, but the arrow points to our little house ;-).

Our house is a "townhome" in "Canadian" and a "duplex" in "American".  This is the front entry:

We share a common wall with our neighbors which you can see from the back view (ours is the left side):

Ships pass from Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair, and the big ones rattle the house. Otherwise, it's quiet, and I admit the water views are calming.

The Canadian geese (of course they are) cackle at us and are not happy when the ferry honks to get them out of the way. The ferry, of course, yields until they swim to safety.

The ferry does not, however, wait for me. I miss it more than I catch it, and, for those of you who know I'm not exactly what you would call "early" to things, I say "It's not my fault..." Every Capt. has his own version of what 'every 20 minutes' means. Yes, we plan our car trips by the ferry schedule. I plan my time in the grocery store by the ferry. I plan my trips to Windsor by the ferry. I plan what time to put ice cream in my car by the ferry. You get the idea... I have started baking for the ferry personnel, and if it means they won't leave me at the dock when they see my car coming, all the better. (Not that it's my reason for doing it, mind you...)

We're renting on Boblo Island. It used to be an amusement park, and there are remnants of the "glory days" such as the old dance hall where Sinatra and Elvis once played - but not at the same time.

The old Observation Tower still stands as do the docks where Michiganders would boat over to in order to play here each summer. Now, we have early urban development and lots of trails for walking and exploring if you don't mind the snakes. Two of them managed to short out the electricity for the whole island Sunday morning. They gave their lives for a little adventure; I think there's a lesson in that...

My uber-hardworking husband fishes each night. What a gift it is for him to relax like this after dinner. Living on an island means he always catches something. I'm looking into investing in companies that make lures, because at the rate Michael loses them, I can retire on that investment alone.

Did I mention it's allergy season here? The WalMart people tell me "allergy season ends in winter".  I cry, but they think it's just my allergies.  This is how the ground looked this morning as I walked the dog:

And it's 'snowing', thanks to the Cottonwood trees. I wear sunglasses... for many reasons. If it weren't for the pollen storms, life here right now would be idyllic. It's a breezy 70 most days, and the nights sit in the 50s.

Boblo Island has a 113 year history; we're adding ours to that now. Wanna come visit?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In the News

I have to share a few of the Yahoo Canada headlines as of late.

Angry Beaver Terrorizes Town was the original headline here:

Flying Bear Kills Two Canadians in Freak Accident is a truly sad story, but I admit to laughing at the title when I first saw it. My question is, "How fast would one have to be driving to launch a 440 lb. bear through another car?" A tragic story with an odd headline:

(Granted the U.S. has its share of oddities; these 2 just caught my eye early in the morning.)

In personal news,
1) I'm learning to quickly multiply kms by 6.2 to check my speed limits, because I feel like my Virginia license plates are a target.
2) Temperature conversions - double the Centigrade, subtract 10% then add 32 - take me a moment longer, but, hey, my math skills can always use some tweaking.
3) Rogers is replacing my internet hub. I'm sure my file with them is volumes by now. They also charged us for a phone number we don't have. I wonder if Nadir Mohamed, their CEO, has these problems... maybe I'll write and ask him...
4) The weather is gorgeous. (Y'all feel free to rub this one in my nose in January.)

In other news, and this is for my US OCC peeps out there:
   1) We call them all Collections Centers (just local or regional)
   2) We call it National Collection Centers Week
   3) We use decos, known as OCC Boxes here, so much that almost no one uses regular shoeboxes.
   4) We are all doing the same work. Remember that.
It's not the differences that matter; it's what's the same that is important.

Isn't that true in life, too? Let's seek our common ground and get past the things that separate us. Uniqueness comes from God, but so does unity.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good vs. Evil

Waiting can be a very good thing, but we sometimes romanticize it so we can use it as an excuse for being lazy. C'mon... admit it; I know I'm not the only one... However, I've found that 'doing' can also be a bad thing if I'm the one behind the motivation. In Acts 1, those in the Upper Room were told to wait and see. With today's frenetic pace, we forget to heed that counsel.

My Canadian OCC Reg. Mgr. reminded us last week that God loves Operation Christmas Child more than  I (we) do. I needed to re-hear that. As I settled in to Canada, and after meeting the 3 ladies on the team, I felt that familiar urge to go and get it done. Was God telling me to "Go" as he did with Abraham? Um, no, He was not. He was telling me to wait.

I confess to fighting that. How many times have I (do we) set the path, the goals, and politely asked God to make it happen? Puh-leeze... We all know that's wrong, and yet it's exactly what we do. (You can agree - I won't tell. You're in great company here...)

By the way - I waited, and when I felt 'pressed' to, I made my first 3 calls. All 3 said "yes". No surprise there...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Good Things

So as not to appear negative - y'all know me as the eternal optimist - I've decided to share a few areas where I feel Canada gets it right. To each his own, but here's the list:

1) The govt. owns all the liquor stores. I know it's not fair to the vendors, increases taxes, and stifles competition, but it certainly sets the "tone" on drinking. (They have drink recipes on their website... isn't that a bit hypocritical?)

2) No smoking - anywhere - unless you are extremely creative. (Essex county has 4 full-time smoke-free monitor people. Tax dollars at work...) Recently, a man was arrested for smoking "in the workplace"; he was sitting in his cab. Ha!

3) One has to sign a release for anyone to check your references. Privacy is a good thing; I tire of thinking about who knows what about me...

4) Cities do fireworks for everything :-). I love fireworks.

5) Pay-for-usage internet has driven me away from the laptop. I knew the computer could be a huge time waster, and now I find myself getting SO much more done each day.

6) All new chefs on the Food Network (who are these people?).

7)  House Hunters International goes to the States!

8) Your credit rating does not apply here (okay - this is a positive for some people, but we're basically starting all over. I haven't put down a security deposit in 25 years...until now)

9) You can scare "certain" vendors" with your 41-page credit report from the States! (I got that security deposit back in one week.)

10) The spring/summer weather. Hey, friends, we're headed for a high of 70 today... (The thought of winter scares me already...)

Off to plant pansies - in summer!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ferns and Turtles and Soccer (oops, football) - oh my

The Top 10 things I've learned in 3 weeks:

1)  I know it's football everywhere but in the U.S. I'm slightly insulted when others say, "Oh. It's soccer to you".  Hey... I can adapt, people... it's just a vocabulary thing, right?

2)  There are resurrection ferns in the vegetable department at WalMart! People eat those?! Oops... I missed that little "Product of the United States" tag. Ummm..

3)  Turtles walk across my backyard. Are they coming from or going to the river? Either way, I must keep the dog otherwise occupied. (There are bullfrogs out there, but we will never speak of these again.)

4)  Canadian geese don't faze my dog. They squawk, they fly, they run. Snow cares not.

5)  Dogs can get laryngitis. You don't want to know how I know this... She barks; I laugh.

6)  Canadians are friendly, although my jury is tainted thanks to Rogers Communications.

7)  I'll never complain about the price of anything in the States again. Ever.

8)  The same recipes I've made for decades taste different here. (And, no, it's not the cook.)

9)  Skechers will not change your body, regardless of what Kim Kardasian says. They will, however, cause you to trip more easily.

10) Breaking the habit of saying, "in the States..." is harder than I thought it would be.

Slow and Steady but why SO slow?

The mailer we received today said "lightning fast internet speeds" and offered us 3 Mbps - another gentle reminder that we're "not in Kansas anymore" - and we've adjusted to that. We are living in another country, albeit in close proximity to our own. My new OCC-Canada associate, Ben, said, "if you pass through, visiting, you're not likely to see the difference", and he's right.

We all flit from place to place on vacation but rarely "see" the every day life of people. I think that's why our family presses in to tour guides to ask the real questions. Islam, our guide/now friend, in Egypt taught us not only about the history of his country but also gave us so much insight to the lives of 20-somethings there. We bonded - something we need to do wherever we go or live.

Isn't that the whole point of traveling and life? We need to get close to people. What are we afraid of, and why are we slow about it? Rick Steves thinks everyone is out to pick our pocket; I think I'd rather pick their brains and their hearts. Are you ready, my friends? Let's get to know each other.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

That's What They Think...

"Oh, you're from where it's nice" said the workman as he looked at my car's Virginia plates. I found myself saying, "it's been beautiful here" to which he responded. "just wait".

"We don't have 'free' health care; in fact, it's not "health care" at all - unless you're not sick. Americans don't 'get' that..." said our neighbor who was recently treated for his cancer, in Michigan, after the system here told him they could see him in 18 months. I was struck, as he pressed the point, that people in the U.S. are naive about how socialized medicine actually works.

"Want to keep your job? Buy locally" read the NAFTA-inspired bumper sticker on the car in front of me. The optimistic patriot in me thought, "oh, that's nice... I believe in buying locally" before I realized the sticker was almost threatening in its tone. Ouch.

Here's what I think, and you know how I love politics... Americans live under the freest government on the planet and yet we find plenty to complain about, don't we? If you've ever read The Light and the Glory you know we, as a nation, were predestined to be a light to the world. What an honor.

I feel privileged to be an American. It's not just the creature comforts that make me miss the U.S. All countries have a sense of national pride, and they should. But God (don't you love that phrase in Scripture?) predestined me to live in the home of the free and the land of the brave. I don't need a holiday to remind of that.

God plants each one of us exactly where He wants us - regardless of nationality. Where I come from is part of who I am, but where I'm going is part of who He is.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's farther than I thought

I’m struck by the fact that we, as Americans, consider Canada “a lot like us”. We assume that because Canada is just north of the US that our countries are alike. Is that pompous of us or just presumptuous? I admit it never occurred to me how stark the differences might be.
Canada is much more European, its people more laid back and private, and its technology much less advanced than I’d imagined. This country of 35 million, one-tenth of the US’s population, simply does not have access to much of what we take for granted in the US.
Long distance calls here are to anyone outside your area code. Organic chicken at Costco? They thought I was crazy. Fast internet? Bell offered me speeds of 2 Mbp... (does everyone remember dial-up?) Here’s a kicker - you pay for internet by usage!  No sitting around and surfing the web, or streaming TV shows, unless you want an enormous bill. This is not a bad thing when you think about it. 
Here’s what I’ve learned... I’ve been pressing for the wrong things. I’ve been expecting the same things in a different place. Why would I? Yesterday, while unpacking, I stepped around an upside-down plaque. Walking past it, I was immediately struck not only by its familiar shape but also by how God immediately pressed, from my memory, what it said: “The Will of God will Never Take You Where the Grace of God Cannot Keep You”.
I’m not where I was - I am where God has sent me. I am not in the familiar, nor should I be looking for that. This is different. Canada is different. I am different. This isn’t about geography. It’s about God moving me - pushing me, pressing me, reminding me, to rely on Him and not what makes me ‘comfortable’.   

Friday, May 6, 2011

Canada is not a Third World country, right?

I consider myself fairly adept at getting things done. However, I have met my match in Rogers Communications. After 14 phone calls, and 415 minutes on the phone (no joke), we have an account but no service. How that works is a mystery to me... I even had a call today from their Collections Dept.; the poor woman was dumbfounded as to how I could be in "arrears" after having an account, but no service, all in under 8 days. Trust me, she was no more flabbergasted than me. I'm happy to report that, after talking to 3 customer service (?) reps and 47 minutes on hold, I now have a $50 credit on an account for which I have no service!

The weather has been rainy and cold, but when the sun comes out, it's beautiful here.  Oregon taught me to appreciate the sun more than I ever did when I took it for granted in Florida. Again, the lesson is being relearned; how quickly I forget so many of the things that God tries to teach me.  I learn quickly, but, as my mom says, "I don't forget things; I just fail to remember them in the first place".

We're headed to shop in Detroit tomorrow. Crossing that border makes me giddy, but I am learning what to love here in Canada as well. The people (Rogers employees excluded, bless their hearts) are friendly and keep wishing me an enjoyable stay. It's wonderful to hear them wanting us to like their country. I fully understand.

Having an actual phone number (Rogers, are you reading this?) will enable me to get started with Operation Christmas Child here. I am SO ready for that challenge, as OCC-US has poured into me and prepared me "for such a time as this".  Can't wait to meet, learn from, share with, and encourage people here to pack shoeboxes and change a child's life forever.

Off to put flannel sheets on the beds...

Will we all regret this?

Philippians 3:12 says: It's not that I've already reached the goal or have already completed the course. But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.

It seems this verse is my life's struggle and goal. I'm pressing on daily in my walk with Christ, and that's exactly where I want to be. Pressing in, pressing for more. Pressing to find what needs to be (constantly) corrected. Those of you who know me, know I love to iron. It's true; I confess it. There is something soothing, rhythmic, and fulfilling about 'pressing' clothing. It can be addicting, and, yes, I have been known to iron even t-shirts (just ask our sons...).  Following Christ is like that - rewarding, soothing, challenging, and addicting. He is the Finisher of all things about me.

My sister, Ronna, is the writer in the family, so I'm not sure how I dare take on a blog. I'm pressing on through your encouragement - or curiosity - to blog "the Canada experience". I'm a diehard American patriot, living in Canada through no fault of my own. How could a country so close to my own be so different?! I admit I'm very surprised, which, for an information junkie like me, is saying something.

Friends will also appreciate that we have no TV, no home phone, no Canadian cell phone, and no internet - yet! My gift of administration has been slapped at every turn, but I will 'press on'. The reasons abound, but suffice it to say that Canadian businesses are in no hurry to get anything done. They're friendly enough when they tell you 'no'; I'll give them that.

So, here I sit, on Boblo Island, in a darling rented home, in the quiet. Truthfully, silence can be golden....