Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Your Hidden Talent
You are both very knowledgeable and creative.
You tend to be full of new ideas and potential - big potential.
Ideas like yours could change the world, if you build them.
As long as you don't stop working on your dreams, you'll get there.



Hat-tip: Waterfall

waah! time for holidays

I can’t remember another time I’ve had the hate on for my blog like I do now! This is unprecedented. It’s like I’ve turned Jekyl– or is it Hyde (whichever is the nasty one).

Perhaps it’s because in a few days we go on holidays, and my whole self is getting in the holiday mode. I just want to focus on that - not writing silly blog posts!

It reminds me of when we used to holiday in the tent trailer. Come time to load it, my head would suddenly be buzzing with things to do. Well, that’s how I feel right now – let’s get on to doing the important stuff, like getting packed!! (Trouble is, we don’t leave for a few days yet.)

Sonia in our tent trailer days

Monday, July 25, 2005

it's summertime...

The Nicola d'Italia

The weekend just past had some wonderful moments. (We traveled to Kelowna - 4 hours- to visit with hubby’s sis Marilyn and bro-in-law Don who came all the way from Thunder Bay, Ontario.)

Friday night was a surprise planned by Arnold (hubby’s brother) who lives there. So 4:30 found us at Shelter Bay marina, boarding the Nicola d’Italia for a Classic Woodenboat Cruise.

For four (plus!) hours we toured Lake Okanagan on this beautifully restored 1965 wooden vessel. Captain Doug not only manned the boat, but also cooked us a steak dinner which we ate to the crooning of Tom Jones and other oldies. Even the weather eventually cooperated. The rain, which had begun around noon, petered out soon after we got on board so we not only had mostly dry sailing, but enjoyed the sunset on the lake.

If you’re ever in Kelowna, check out Doug’s Classic Woodenboat Cruises and Charters. His afternoon cruises stop for a 45-minute swim break, his boat has the jam to pull skis or a tube, he has a karaoke machine on order, and knows all about local fishing (he cut his boating teeth on his dad’s fishboat).



The siblings: Arnold, Ernie and Marilyn - parked in front of an antique sailboat - part of this weekend's antique boat show in Kelowna.



The outlaws: Violet, Don & Daphne - outside the Cherry Festival (why do our teeth look so weird? Must be from sampling all those cherries).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

out of sorts

It's Sunday night. We had an odd evening. E. had it marked in his diary that we were on to serve communion in the evening service. But when there was no c. service this morning, we wondered whether there was one tonight. So we went to church with more than half an expectation that we would not be needed. We were right.

So instead of taking in the p.m. service, we went to the bookstore and bought five bargain bin CDs (at a price of less than $7 each). Then we drove out to Whiterock and walked on the beach. We got lucky (blessed really) there too, as we found a meter which had 40 minutes left on it...just enough for a walk.

Now we're home and what to put on my blog is heavy on my mind.

This is one of those days I wish I hadn't started a blog. It's a day I'd like to be a snail, and just hide inside my shell for a combination of reasons:

1. Today I feel like a lousy writer. Often bloggers recommend their favorites. Instead of simply relaxing and enjoying those new writers, I compare. More often than not I come away feeling completely and utterly deficient. That happened today. I read someone who writes all in small letters, with an interesting poetic angle to her observations. My first thought: could I write like that? Would I even want to? Even if I could, I think it would make me feel phony. I'm too much of a literary flatfoot.

And then I get down on myself for comparing. For I'm not anyone but myself, and try as I might, I probably won't change much. Plus the reasons I would want to are all egotistical -- so that I come across more interesting, deep, mysterious, caring or warm; so that people would like me more.

2. Today I feel like a shallow person. I've realized again in the past few days how little it takes to trip me up. How easily I transgress my own code. How much I am about saying the right words, but when it comes to living the life, I'm pretty inconsistent. Oh, I know about how in me there's no good thing, and grace and forgiveness and second (and third and fourth) chances. But I like to think I'm making progress in this life of obedience and I hate it when I let myself down and give myself yet another illustration of how far I still have to go.

3. The weekend just past was wonderful but busy and has left me feeling wrung out instead of replenished. I need some time in the shade to catch my breath and be private. I feel I have nothing worthwhile inside. I must give the creative space inside me time to refill. I'll be back later in the week for a few more posts before HOLIDAYS!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

blueberries!

It’s blueberry season. We have wonderful blueberry farms all around us here. Yesterday hubby went to find some for family in Kelowna, who have put in an order, and whom we go to visit today. He came across a farm fruit stand about 10 minutes’ drive away selling fat luscious berries (for $1.60 a pound - yes!).

When we get back from our few days away, I will send him out to buy berries for us. My favorite way to preserve them is to freeze them. It’s easy. All you do is wash the berries, drain as well as you can, then spread them in one layer on cookie sheets to freeze. When they’re frozen, dump them in ice-cream buckets or some such large container (and replace in the freezer of course). This way they are loose (not frozen in a clump) and you can scoop out a cup-full or two any time during the winter to add to muffins, fruit salad – or to snack on, like candy popsicles. Yum!

One of my favorite ways to use blueberries – or any fresh, frozen or canned fruit, for that matter – is to put them in Fruit Platz.

Fruit Platz*

Layer 1 - the crust
½ cup shortening
1 ½ cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cream
Mix shortening and dry ingredients together. Add liquid. Place in bottom of 8 x 12 inch pan.

Layer 2 - the filling
Spread fresh, canned or frozen fruit** of your choice over the crust. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1½ teaspoon cinnamon

Layer 3 - the topping
½ cup margarine
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
Blend to form crumbs and add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake at 375 F. for 45 minutes.

Serve warm with ice-cream.

* From the recipe book Are There Meals After Marriage? put out by the Circle Drive Alliance Church Young Couples Group - 1981.
** How much fruit? The recipe doesn’t say. I think it usually takes 2-3 cups to make it nice and fruity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

senate sanctions same-sex marriage

They voted last night around 11:00 p.m. The vote passed 47-21.

The Senate erupted in a loud cheer as it adopted the Liberal government's Bill C-38, which will give gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in courthouses and city halls across the country..."

[...] The bill will become law when it receives royal assent in a ceremony as early as Wednesday.

[The entire Globe and Mail story]

God have mercy on our land!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

wake up canada!

I think I've posted enough heavy stuff lately. Was going to post something nice, light and feel-good next, until I found this. (I know it's just someone's opinion -- but it gives me a creepy feeling...):


OTTAWA, July 19, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Just as Senate approaches the final vote on the gay 'marriage' bill, C-38, Canada's national public radio CBC Radio (THEY BROADAST ON OUR DIME!) has aired a commentary by a retired professor from the Royal Military College calling for state control over religion, specifically Catholicism. While parliamentarians dismissed warnings by numerous religious leaders and experts that such laws would lead to religious persecution, former professor Bob Ferguson has called for "legislation to regulate the practice of religion"

Given the inertia of the Catholic Church, perhaps we could encourage reform by changing the environment in which all religions operate," Ferguson began his commentary in measured tones yesterday. "Couldn't we insist that human rights, employment and consumer legislation apply to them as it does other organizations? Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood. "

[...] The former professor pitched his idea as a boon to religious freedom. "We could also help the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions," he said. "They will never achieve unity so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?"

Ferguson, would see religion regulated by provinces in the same way professions are regulated. "I am an engineer so the model I am thinking about is rather like the provincial acts regulating the practice of engineering,".... The different branches: mechanical, electrical, civil and the like have a code of practice that applies to everyone. Why can't religious groups do the same?"

Continuing his comparison Ferguson stated, "I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners). To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification."

Ferguson also suggests 'obvious' prohibitions on religion including preaching of 'hate'. "I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity. It should be unethical for any RRP to claim that theirs was the one true religion and believers in anything else or nothing were doomed to fire and brimstone. One might also expect prohibition of ritual circumcisions, bans on preaching hate or violence, the regulation of faith healers, protocols for missionary work, etc.," says Ferguson.

The retired professor concluded his comments aired on CBC yesterday (that would be Monday, August 18th) morning saying, "Now what is the point of proposing this? I do it because I am worried that the separation between church and state is under threat. Religion is important in our lives, but it can become a danger to society when people claim that the unalterable will of God is the basis for their opinions and actions. Yes religion can be a comfort and a guide, but we cannot take rules from our holy books and apply them to the modern world without democratic debate and due regard for the law."

(emphasis mine)


Wake up Canada -- the coffee's burning!

Listen to Professor Ferguson’s commentary.

Want to tell CBC your thoughts about this? Do it here.

I just did. Here's what I wrote them: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is in regard to a "Commentary" by Bob Ferguson, broadcast Monday, July 18,
2005.

I am frankly shocked and disappointed that the publically-funded CBC would give credibility to such repressive ideas by giving them air time! Do you not realize that thousands upon thousands of Canadians came here to escape just such box-in-religion regimes like Mr. Ferguson advocates.

I used to be a fan of the CBC. But your recent and consistent left-wing and anti-American tack turn me off. This attack on Canadian people of faith, though, with its complete and utter misunderstanding of religion and its role in people's lives goes beyond the pale!

Let Mr. Ferguson have his say. I support his right to say it. But not on the CBC where I’m forced to help pay the bill! I will be doing my best, in the future, to fight for privatization of this propaganda machine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hat tip: ProudToBeCanadian

celebration carnival is up!

Paula at GraceReign, hosts the latest "Celebration of the New Christian Fiction Carnival" (I think that's its official title). This edition is called Art from the Inside Out. Thanks Paula!

marker stone - part 2

So, this is part 2 remembering a time I heard from God.

marker stone part 1 is here.

My friend – who just ‘happened’ to contact me the weekend I was going through a personal crisis re: writing direction – answered the email I wrote her:

***************
Dear Violet,

I agree that it’s a God-thing that you and I should be in contact at this time. I’m glad I obeyed the nudging of the Holy Spirit to write you.

The experience you’ve described is biblical, logical and normal. God gives a vision and eaterly you grasp it. Then the vision dies and you wonder, ‘what was that all about?’ After you’ve relinquished it all to God, He restores the vision but in a purer more alive way.

This happened to Moses, remember. As a young man he had a vision to become an advocate for the oppressed Israelites. He probably rationalized: Why else was I spared as a child and raised in Pharaoh’s house? For what other reason is power invested in me except to use it in just this cause? He killed the Egyptian. It didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped, and he had to run for his life. What was that all about? he may have asked himself. I thought I heard God speaking to me. Years later God appeared to him in a burning bush and commissioned him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. The vision again! Only now it was God doing it, and not Moses. There are so many examples in Scripture. Think of Joseph.

It happened to me as well. I received many green lights to write a book, went ahead and then the whole thing died. Years later it was revived and became a published work.

You’re doing the right thing in praying "Your will be done. I relinquish my writing to You."

I wouldn’t be too concerned about not falling to the ground when Fergus MacIntyre prayed for you. Not everyone does. I didn’t, and yet God;s anointing was on me too...

Yes, writing is hard work and often doesn’t feel like flowing inspiration. The secret is to do
something every day. That way you keep mentally in the flow...

Love Helen.
**************

Finally, here’s my return note, sent the following Tuesday:

**************
Hi Helen,

Thanks for your reply to my Summer Blues email on Saturday. I sure appreciated it and took a lot of encouragement from your positive suggestions and spiritual wisdom I must say that since the soul-searching of last week, my attitude toward writing has shifted dramatically.

God has showed me that I need to hold it loosely, dispense it generously (in encouragement, letters to friends, other ways that may not necessarily pay money) and above all, listen to His instructions, not strive to make my own way. Success then becomes not manuscript sales, but whether I’ve been obedient. I’ve begun each new year recently by taking a life scripture for that year.

My scripture this year is Matthew 6:33, 34 and at this time I see the principles in these verses being made abundantly clear – in my resolve and hopefully my experience too....

Love, Violet

Monday, July 18, 2005

marker stone - part 1

As has become my custom on Mondays, I’m going to do another of Nancy’s weekly Sabbath Journal prompts.

This week the prompt was: From the Genesis passage (28:10-19a): Jacob said, "Surely the LORD is in this place." Have you ever felt an awareness that God was present in the place where you were?

In response to this, I’m going to relate something that happened in July of 2002. I actually journaled about it then, and wrote emails to a fellow writer-friend about it. I saved those notes, and will quote from them. (And sorry, this is waaaay too long for a blog post, so long, in fact, that it will be two long posts!)



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Email to Helen, a writing friend, July 27, 2002...

[...] I personally am at a crossroads. Here is the story of how I got to that place.

This spring has been difficult writing-wise. I haven’t sold much and find myself unfocused. Some of the markets to which I’ve sold many pieces no longer appeal to me...I feel like I need to stretch. I queried Guideposts for Kinds Online, got the go-ahead to write an article for them, did and haven’t heard back for three months (I know I need to follow up on its fate). I researched and wrote a two-piece article on John Bunyan for Guide, which the editor liked, but no payment for it yet. The longer historical fiction project just became too burdensome to research and the binder with my notes is sitting on the shelf, untouched for many weeks. It all feels like such slogging, like swimming through neck-deep mud. Should an inspired thing be so hard?

I have prayed and asked God to fill me with the Holy Spirit power and inspiration. But nothing changes. I start a project then feel, ‘that’s not it, and file it away to start another, which meets the same fate.

Last week we had a special speaker in our church, an Australian itinerant pastor named Fergus MacIntyre. (We attend a Pentecostal church. The story of how we got there from the Mennonite churches of our childhoods via the Alliance Church is a tale in itself.) The last meeting – Wednesday – was especially interesting. Mr. MacIntyre has a prophetic gift and during much of that last sermon he reminded me of Jeremiah the weeping prophet. Helen, he wept for a large part of his sermon as he talked about the church and how we have our own goals, agendas and ministries but fail to love Jesus and love people.

Mr. MacIntyre’s ministry is also characterized by how when he prays for people, they fall under the power of God (sometimes called ‘slain in the Spirit’ – Helen, this will probably sound weird to you... I would have thought the same a few years ago, but my study of the Bible on how God worked in the Old and New Testaments and the results in powerful changed lives has opened me up to it).

After the meeting, he offered to pray for as many as wanted, that would God would anoint our lives in a new way. Hundreds lined up in the hallway around the sanctuary (which is a circle) and as he went by and prayed, each one fell to the floor. Then he came to me. When he prayed for me (twice) I felt nothing and stayed standing. He went on to Ernie, my husband, who crumpled – he said it felt like he was a deck of cards; he couldn’t have stayed standing if he tried.

I went home from that meeting devastated. I felt confused, hurt and snubbed by God.

Yesterday morning in my quiet time, I again asked God, "Why didn’t Your power fall on me like it did on everyone else?" This is what I heard back: "I will not anoint what is not of me."

Immediately I thought of MY writing career...for that is basically how I think of it. It’s MY thing. I do write FOR God, but woe betide anyone who messes with MY writing time etc. etc.

And so this is the crossroads I’m at. I feel that I need to give everything related to writing to God. I need to relinquish it completely – my ambitions, personal goals, any kind of agenda – realizing that if I never send anything away for publication again, that’s okay. Helen, this feels like death.

We bought a CD (Restore Us) last weekend (put out by Norm Strauss, a B. C. worship leader, active in the Vineyard and other charismatic churches). A song on it expresses exactly how I feel and the place I’m at. I’ll quote the lyrics below (it is, of course, copyrighted – Norm Strauss 2001):

*******************


You and Me Alone

Take all I have and all I have gained
Lay me bare to the bone
Shake the foundations and see what remains
It’s just You and me alone
Until it’s just You and me alone.


Tear down the borders that I have built
Crush the walls, stone by stone
Destroy my resistance that I hold so strong
It’s just You and me alone
Until it’s just You and me alone.

Lay me down, let this place be an altar
Lay me down, let this death be complete
Lay me down, let this song be a marker stone
That others can easily see.
Lay me down, like a drink that is poured out
Lay me down, like a seed that must die
Lay me down, so I can rise in the morning
While the grave clothes fall down at my feet.

--Norm Straus c. 2001


***************
What do you think? Am I crazy? It’s just that when I ask myself, "What really matters?" it’s His ‘Well done’ when I appear before Him someday. If what I’m engaged in won’t lead to that, then how can I help but relinquish it? For what? I’ll leave that with Him.

[...] Thanks for writing this morning. I think that was a God-thing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts,

Love, Violet

Sunday, July 17, 2005

peace

From a "Kingdom Dynamics" sidebar piece in the Bible I use. It is in commentary to Isaiah 9:6:

For unto us a Child is born
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NKJV)

Peace comes from God (Romans 1:7) and is an evidence of the rule of the Messiah – whose character as the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6) waits to instill the settledness of His own rule in our souls. Just as the saving power of His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to have peace with God (being reconciled to Him, Romans 5:1), and the indwelling of His life and character through the holy Spirit’s work in our lives is intended to help us learn to abide in the peace of God, Jesus said to His disciples, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you" (John 14:27).

Surrender to His will and submission to His Word will bring inner rest, as we allow the peace of God to "rule" in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), that is to let God’s peace act as umpire 1) over decisions that would trouble us, 2) overruling doubts that would disturb us and 3) overthrowing the Adversary’s lies that would defeat or deter us. Perfect peace is available when the heart and mind keep focused on God’s promise, power, and presence. Trust Him. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." - Isaiah 26:3

Fuschia Pickett

Saturday, July 16, 2005

mundane art

"Art can only be Art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact of the interior life." – Margaret Fuller

Yes. On the one hand, that seems perfectly obvious. In writing (the art we’re discussing here), the works I would call art are simply works that communicate something significant about being human. And when one examines these works – yes, they are surely more than the surface recounting of events.

But as I reread the quote and notice that "Art" is important-looking, as if personified– capitalized as it is – I question, is this little proverb saying that real and genuine Art is something special, rare and hard to attain? (And what is meant by adequate, outward, symbol?) Maybe I’m way off base here, but my formula for making a work of art is really rather simple.

1. You pay attention.

This is trickier than it looks. Because it is so easy to live life as one reads a book – focusing forward, anxious to get to the next scene, forgetting to highlight and flag and scribble in the margins. But to be tuned into your own particular brand of art, it’s necessary to listen and respond to that tiny voice inside your head which says, "This is important. Pay attention here. Mark this spot – or you’ll have a hard time finding it again later."

Someone who is a master at doing this is the Canadian short story writer Alice Munro. When you examine the characters in her stories, they are simple, ordinary people to whom you as a reader may even feel superior. And her plots are frequently mere ripples: a father who is a salesman, takes his kids along on one of his routes, making a detour to visit an old flame ("Walker Brothers Cowboy"), a spinster piano teacher’s annual music recital takes a unexpected turn when a mentally handicapped boy gets up to play ("Dance of the Happy Shades"), a toddler falls into a swimming pool on a summer vacation trip ("Miles City, Montana").

This shows that the things that snag your attention don’t have to be big. It’s the fact that you notice them and ponder their significance which gives them the possibility of becoming art.

2. You deliver the goods.

You make every effort to communicate your truth with honesty, skill and passion (I suppose this is where the adequate comes in, in the quote above). By make every effort I mean the doing of all the stuff the lectures and how-to books tell you, like considering genre, length, point-of-view, voice etc. etc. And then you write, edit and rewrite -- squared.

By your truth I mean colored in the way you personally see, understand and make sense of life. This, of course, is where your world view (Christian or non-) will dye the story.


Here’s how Alice Munro tells the story of the toddler falling into the pool.

She begins with the first-person storyteller relating a spooky childhood memory:"My father came across the field carrying the body of the boy who had drowned." Then she goes on to tell us about this boy, his funeral and how even as a young child, she felt the adults in his life were in some way implicated in his death.

White space here, and then we step into the main story:

"Twenty years or so later, in 1961, my husband Andrew and I got a brand-new car..." With that the narrator starts, in a rambling way, the description of the family’s trip in this car, from Vancouver to Ontario. She, her husband (Andrew) and their two girls Cynthia, 6, and Meg 3½, decide to take the most northerly west-east highway through the states. Here is a scene from their trip:


I had made peanut-butter-and-marmalade sandwiches for the children and salmon-and-mayonnaise for us. But I had not put any lettuce in, and Andrew was disappointed.

"I didn’t have any," I said.

"Couldn’t you have got some?"

"I’d have had to buy a whole head of lettuce just to get enough for sandwiches, and I decided it wasn’t worth it."

This was a lie. I had forgotten.

"They’re a lot better with lettuce."

"I didn’t think it made that much difference." After a silence, I said, "Don’t be mad."

"I’m not mad. I like lettuce on sandwiches."

"I just didn’t think it mattered that much."

"How would it be if I didn’t bother to fill up the gas tank?"

"That’s not the same thing."

"Sing a song," said Cynthia. She started to sing...

This ordinariness makes you comfortable, lulls you so that you forget about the dark story at the beginning and simply enjoy the familiar family journey.

They spend the night in Wanatchee Washington, then a second night in Missoula Montana. Finally, on the third day, as a sop to the little girls, who are getting restless and cranky in the cramped hot car, the family stops midday in Miles City, Montana. There’s a pool there with a lifeguard who is hanging out with her boyfriend, isn't on duty but who reluctantly agrees to watch just the two little girls as they swim. Meanwhile...


Andrew and I sat in the car with the windows open. I could hear a radio playing, and thought it must belong to the girl or her boyfriend. I was thirsty, and got out of the car to look for a concession stand, or perhaps a soft-drink machine, somewhere in the park....Dazed with the heat, with the sun on the blistered houses, the pavement, the burnt grass, I walked slowly. I paid attention to a squashed leaf, found a Popsicle stick under the heel of my sandal, squinted at a trash can strapped to a tree. This is the way you look at the poorest details of the world resurfaced, after you’ve been driving for a long time – you feel their singleness and precise location and the forlorn coincidence of your being there to see them.

Where are the children?

I turned around and moved quickly, not quite running, to a part of the fence beyond which the cement wall was not completed. I could see some of the pool....

"Cynthia!" I had to call twice before she knew where my voice was coming from. "Cynthia! Where’s Meg?"

It always seems to me, when I recall this scene, that Cynthia turns very gracefully toward me, then turns all around in the water – making me think of a ballerina on a pointe – and spreads her arms in a gesture of the stage. "Dis-ap-peared!"

A mother’s worst nightmare. Of course Munro has, with her structure and style, her dwelling on the sunny day and the benign details, sucked me in. But isn’t this exactly how these things happen – out of no where, like the bang of cars colliding ends a pleasant drive (life)? Now I flash back to the anecdote at the beginnin,g and recall the discussion of death in the car a few pages back, sparked by questions from one of the girls after seeing a dead deer. I realize I shouldn't have been surprised. For hasn't the dark ribbon of death been twisting through the whole story? Munro has played me well. (The end of the quote above, however, is not the end of the story.)

All that to say, a mom, tuned to the events and instincts of her mother role, can create, out of the mundane and ordinary details of her life, an adequate (especially if she is Alice Munro!) outward symbol (story) which is Art as fine as any.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

thank you !

Prairie Messenger, a Catholic paper published in Muenster, Saskatchewan published my poem "Some Words" in the June 29th issue. Thank you!

book review The Thinking Toolbox

Book: The Thinking Toolbox
Authors: Nathaniel Bluedorn & Hans Bluedorn
Genre: Young-adult non-fiction
Publisher: Christian Logic, paperback, 235 pages
ISBN: 0-9745315-1-0

The Thinking Toolbox is a 35-chapter book written by brothers Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. Its purpose is to help kids and adults develop reasoning and thinking skills.

The book is divided into three main sections: "Tools for Thinking," "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints," and "Tools for Science." Each chapter is a lesson and the lessons build on each other in a logical (of course!) way, though each is self-contained.

The lessons are short. They are introduced with an example or problem to solve, then the concept is taught, and this is followed by a sum-up statement of what was learned. The lesson concludes with exercises, giving the reader practice in applying the concept to real life situations (answers and explanations are at the back of the book).

After the brief introductory "How To Use This Book" chapter, the first main section – "Tools for Thinking"– teaches (Lessons 1 - 8) concepts like what is the difference between a discussion, a disagreement, an argument and a fight; when is it appropriate to argue; what are fact, inference and opinion; and how does one state a premise and come to a conclusion.

I found Lesson 6 in this section, which taught about listing and sorting reasons, the weakest in that the example used to illustrate how this was done was more confusing than helpful. But Lesson 7, "How to Defeat Your Own Argument," was excellent in the way it suggested anticipating objections to arguments. I also appreciated the way Lesson 8 "When Not to Use Logic" taught the importance of knowing when to hold one’s tongue:


But sometimes a different logic takes precedence; the logic of human relationships and emotions. When we realize we should not speak our thoughts we are not being illogical. We are being logical in silence.
The second main section "Tools for Opposing Viewpoints" (Lessons 9 - 21) includes lessons on recognizing opposing viewpoints, evaluating the quality of evidence, defining primary and secondary sources, and recognizing and analyzing circumstantial evidence.

In this section I found myself arguing with the sum-up statement of Chapter 12, the rule for analyzing sources: "If you don’t know how a source obtained his information – how he knows what he knows – then the source should be considered unreliable." Come now gentlemen, do you even follow that advice yourself? In this day of information glut, is such a thing even possible? I doubt it. Some tips here on the hierarchy of, say, web and print sources, may have been helpful in explaining how to realistically put this principle into practice. On the plus side, a highlight chapter in this section was Chapter 18, which uses as its example the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. story from American history.

The third main section (Lessons 22 - 32) teaches "Tools for Science." It covers topics like what are scientific tools, observing, brainstorming, forming hypothesis, setting up experiments and analyzing data.

The book ends with a three-chapter section of games and puzzles. (And if you want more, the authors have set up a web site: www.fallacydetective.com where they invite questions on logic)

The book’s target age range is 13 to adult, although I think younger kids could read and benefit from at least parts of it. It is written in a light-hearted, friendly style with lots of humor and the text is broken up with Richard LaPierre’s cartoon illustrations. I can see this book being a welcome resource not only for home school kids and their parents, but for any kid or adult who is bombarded by 21st century media and its "Believe Me!" messages.

************
Disclaimer: The book The Thinking Toobox was sent to me by Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers

**************
- July 14, 2005: This review was posted on blogcritics.org and selected by the editor for use by Advance.net to appear in the "Book Review" section of www.cleveland.com etc.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the end of faith?

This Monday a Canadian radio network talk show, Adler Online, featured an interview with author Sam Harris (The End of Faith). I’m sure he was dug out of the woodwork as someone who had a meaningful contribution in response to the London bombings.

I was transfixed as Harris gave his analysis of and solution to the terrorism post-9/11. It’s all the fault of religion, he said. Not only Islam, but any religion that is a closed system and purports to give answers, including Christianity and Judaism.

He advocates a type of intolerance. For starters, people who are religious believers should not be allowed to hold public office. They should be intentionally excluded from public debate. After all, what relevant contribution would people who hold to the teachings of a first century book have to decisions about 21st century technology-driven problems – such as stem cell research? Therefore, according to Harris, society with its own interest at heart is justified in marginalizing people of faith – whatever their faith may be.

I checked out Sam Harris’s web site and read the reviews of his book posted there. It appears that, predictably, The End of Faith came out to a smattering of applause when it was released in August 2004.

The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated and almost personally understood" - Natalie Angier, New York Times Book Review Column, September 4, 2004.


Sam Harris is tired of being nice to religious people. Why, he wonders, should we be expected to respect individuals who in the year 2004 still believe in virgin birth? And Christians rarely return the favor. Instead they’re down in Washington holding prayer breakfasts and smiting "sinners" through mandatory drug sentences, intrusive sex laws and prohibitions against stem cell research." - Daniel Blue, The San Francisco Chronicle - August 15, 2004.



This book will strike a chord with anyone who has ever pondered the irrationality of religions faith..." begins a book review from The Economist.

It appears Harris has as little time for religious moderation and tolerance as outright belief. The Economist review continues:


Many people would think that (religious moderation) a good thing, since moderation implies tolerance and respect for other faiths. Mr. Harris disagrees: tolerance on the part of moderates is precisely the attitude that allows extremists to flourish. "By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do," he says, "religious moderates betray faith and reason equally." And therefore, goes the argument, they connive in all the horrors carried out in the name of their imagined creator. Only when we renounce the impossible paraphernalia of religion – for example the virgin birth (attested to by only two of the apostles) or the ascension of Muhammad to heaven – will reason be free to rescue mankind from religious terrorism that tries to send all non-believers to hell and only the faithful to heaven."
Sam Harris quoted on religious moderation: "Religious moderation is a product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance."

Mr. Harris, however, has a few chinks in his own armor. In the Adler interview, for example, he acknowledged his own brand of faith when he granted that paranormal and psychic phenomenon were valid and valuable at least insofar as they could be shown (by reason I suppose – though how one would do that I’m not sure) to be real and to fill a spiritual hunger. And in a book review by avowed atheist Johann Hari (February 11, 2005, The Independent U.K.), comes an interesting observation about Harris’s own admissions in the book:


And then the book takes another strange turn. Having savaged the idea of religion for over a hundred pages, Harris suddenly announces that he wants to craft an atheist brand of "spirituality." He praises "the great philosopher mystics of the East" including Buddha – and says that "spiritual experience is clearly a natural propensity of the human mind." At this point – as somebody who feels no hunger for a ‘spiritual’ dimension in my life at all – I began to choke. Didn’t Buddha peddle notions just as absurd as the Christianity Harris has mocked? Didn’t he say that we lived before as insects, and may live again as goats? Where is Harris’ tide of scorn now?
Whew! Now I feel better. It seems even this atheist Goliath isn't invincible

However, hearing this man interviewed and snooping around on his web site has alerted me to the rising tide of vitriol toward people of faith (not that I needed much alerting – I come from secular Canada, after all, where the biggest gaffe you can make as a politician is to admit you have a faith, especially a Christian faith, and be seen to take it seriously). And so I ask myself – is my life lived with the kind of radicalism that would justify this response? I hope so!

Sam Harris interviewed by Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

an apology

I’m taking part in a poetry reading tonight (want to come...there will be at least five people – the two other readers, the lady who organized this, hubby and me -- and FOOD).

Actually poetry readings are a lot of fun, in the right crowd. Since this is a crowd of strangers (to me), I’m not sure what it will be like, but we’ll make it fun anyway.

So, I’m looking through my ‘body of work’ trying to figure out with what to fill 20 - 25 minutes, and I come across this ditty about summer gardening. It’s feeling bad because it doesn’t make the cut – so I tell it, I’ll put it on my blog.

An Apology to Timid Plants

Sage has bloomed riotous purple most of May
– no heart to trim those peppery stems last fall.
Poor yarrow, now you’re crushed and bent and splay
must take my shears to sage and prop your sprawl.

Veronica, only one spear appears.
It seems your gray-green foliage is squeezed
by hardy heather and hosta’s big ears.
Forgive me for my lack of pruning, please.

Even the lowly mosses take their cue
opportunists of my permissive ways
encroach at will, hide slugs and snails that chew
new growth all night, sleep undisturbed through days.

My garden needs a stronger hand, I fear
Live and let live has been my lazy tune.
I’d best get off my duff to work before
plant bullies make my plot a boring ruin.

–V.Nesdoly 2004

Monday, July 11, 2005

blogging as lentil stew

In her 8th Sunday after Pentecost Sabbath Journal, Nancy Nordenson asks (in response to reading Genesis 25:19-34 - the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew):

What exchanges or tradeoffs have I made in my life? At the time, have I been conscious of the exchange? On what basis have I made my exchange decisions? What have been the long term effects of these exchanges?
I sometimes wonder if self-publication by means of blogging hasn’t in some ways been my pot of lentil stew as a writer. The image of a blog satisfying certain hungers – for control, quick feedback, relationships with readers to name a few – certainly fits.

What is given up?
- Time. Blogging takes time away from what I could otherwise spend on possibly lucrative projects (that ‘possibly’ is always the stickler. So many other variables here though and no guarantees).
– The ability to be patient. Blogging makes me impatient – with the traditional writing, submitting, and publishing process.
- The carefree ‘who cares what people think’ attitude.
- The honed piece. Though I know that to write something I am happy with has always taken me time, sometimes days to weeks of re-reading and editing, blogging militates against that. It has a trigger finger mentality.

I wouldn’t say I was conscious of these exchanges when I started blogging. They are things that showed up as I went along.

Fortunately, my exchange of ‘blogging for real writing’ (although who’s to say blogging isn’t real writing) isn’t permanent or irrevocable. On any day, I can delete my blog – or stop submitting my writing to more traditional media for that matter – and reverse this exchange.

The germ of the reason I haven’t chosen to do that is in Nancy’s last question: ‘What have been the long-term effects of these exchanges?’ Because that’s what I don’t know. One effect I’ve noticed is that blogging is making me a quicker-thinking writer. But I’m still not sure about where this is all going and what is its value in the coin of eternity.

Friday, July 08, 2005

life trumps blogging

I feel speechless over yesterday’s London attacks. It’s as if on September 11, 2001, the (western) world lost its innocence. Every new attack like this is a reminder. Our leaders so need our prayers! (I guess the silent rebuke to me is, why am I not as troubled at the lives lost in the same senseless way around the world every day.)

Here is today's pay-attention thought:

Remember your creator before the silver cord is loosed
Or the golden bowl is broken
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain
Or the wheel broken at the well.
- Ecclesiastes 12:6 NKJV


~~~~~~~~~~~~

On a happier note, today we go visit the newlyweds! Yesterday I bought a housewarming gift – a frivolous but beautiful stained glass circle thing with a holder for a tea candle behind it so the light shines through the colored glass. (I'm sure a washing machine would be more appreciated -- right Sonia!?)

We are also taking the couple of totes of Sonia’s stuff the kids left here when they came through on their honeymoon – no room in the truck, they said. Well, we’ll find room in the car. Now that my little girl has a home of her own, I feel some urgency to divest my home of all her stuff. (What is that? It’s not wanting to be rid of her, for sure. But in some way I just feel I want the deck cleared.)

So it’s time to fill up the travel mug with this morning’s brew (the distinctive house blend we call Star-Max Bucks-Well, a dark, full-bodied coffee guaranteed to kick-start any day – YOWSA!) and hit the road.

(All that to say, bye-bye blog few days.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

live8 vs Hidden Riches...

I haven’t been following the Live8 thing closely. Given the little I know of it however, I think I’d be hard pressed not to agree with Mark Steyn* in his opinion column of the U.K. Telegraph: He says, in part:


Africa is a hard place to help. I had a letter from a reader the other day who works with a small Canadian charity in West Africa. They bought a 14-year-old SUV for 1,500 Canadian dollars to ferry food and supplies to the school they run in a rural village. Customs officials are demanding a payment of $8,000 before they'll release it.

There are thousands of incidents like that all over Africa every day of the week.... [the entire article]

(*Toque tip: Proud to be Canadian)

The whole Africa poverty vs. western wealth thing reminds me of a book I read by John Charles Kerr - Hidden Riches Among the Poor. It addresses the issues Live8 attempts to remedy, but from the viewpoint of a westerner who actually lives and works there. Here’s a review I wrote of it after it was newly out in 2003:

Hidden Riches Among the Poor - Reflections on the Vibrant Faith of Africa
- by John Charles Kerr
ISBN 1-55306-659-6;
Essence Publishing, Belleville ON, Canada © 2003
Perfect bound, soft cover, 256 pages.

Want to experience Africa? John Kerr’s book Hidden Riches Among the Poor will take you there!

You will jog with Kerr through Kitwe (Zambia) on back paths, drive down its potholed streets, visit its hospital, cemetery and shanty-town. You will face an all-African cuisine (caterpillars included), interview perspective college students, be lifted by the exuberant worship of an African service and finally collapse with a book on your favorite bench under the guava tree, only to find you’re being watched – by a lizard.

But missionary and Trans-Africa Theological College (Kitwe, Zambia) teacher Kerr does much more than spin a good yarn. With elegant and efficient prose, Kerr uses vignettes and quotes (from sources as varied as Augustine’s The City of God to the Zambia Daily Mail), as jumping off points to illustrate his thesis - that in Africa’s apparent poverty is found her greatest spiritual wealth.

Based on the scripture, "Blessed are you poor," he unwraps the blessings of Africa’s poverty under twelve main headings (each contains three to four chapters). He begins with a probe of "Could Poverty Be a Blessing?" Included are sections on "The Blessing of Family," "The Childlike Blessing of Dependency" "Living Close to Nature" and others. He ends with a section that explores the question "Could Affluence Be a Burden?"

Kerr succeeds in creating layers of take-away. We feel sympathy toward and admiration of the African people. We discover that, as hurried, harried westerners, we may well have lost our way when it comes to reveling in warm relationships and seizing the serendipitous moment. I, frankly, did some squirming as I faced the uncomfortable question Kerr poses in various guises: what is our responsibility as citizens of fat western nations toward these brothers and sisters - and others like them around the world.

If you love Africa, if you love missions, if you love a thought-provoking read, you will love this book!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

w**k: a nasty four-letter word?

I happen to be in Ecclesiastes in my present trek through the Bible. Though it is clever, wise, and probably contains some of the most-quoted aphorisms in the Bible, I’m not crazy about this book. I find it mainly negative and fatalistic. However, this morning Ecc. 9:10 provided the jumping off point for a great little study of that nasty four-letter reality of life: work.

This advice – "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for (balloon prick here) there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecc. 9:10 NKJV) – is so typical of the glass-half-empty attitude of the "Teacher." But my margin notes led me to other passages on work which were a whole lot more optimistic.

Colossians 3:17: "And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Giving thanks: the same word used as when Jesus was ‘giving thanks’ the food before feeding the multitude and for the Lord’s Supper. It means to be grateful, express gratitude, praise words given to the Godhead.) Work is something for which I can and am expected to give thanks, as Jesus gave thanks for other necessities like physical food and food for the Spirit.

Romans 12:11 – to the list of how to live in a Christ-like way Paul adds, ""Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." (Fervent: living fervor, fiery hot, full of burning zeal vs. dignified, unemotional, cold.) I can be fervent, zealous, passionate about work.

1 Corinthians 10:31: "Therefore whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." I am to do all to the glory of God. If something as trivial as eating and drinking is included, surely my work also falls into that category.

I admit I often don’t feel like following these admonitions. Yesterday morning was one of those days. It felt like Monday to me, and I had a hard time even staying awake at the computer, let alone ratcheting up a sense of thankfulness, zeal and enthusiasm at the possibility of glorifying God.

But that’s the thing about work. You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it. The beauty is, after you’ve done it, you frequently realize you do like it, or at least the feeling of satisfaction you get from having done it.

That was the story of my yesterday. I soldiered on, got the medical letters out of the way and even put a writing submission in the mail. By the end of the day I felt tired, but satisfied and looking forward to the next day. All that, Mr. Ecclesiastes, not because I had no better options. Rather, because through long habit I have learned that to regain thankfulness and fervor, I must fight through lethargy with obedience and faithfulness. More often than not, when I do that, I regain not only those but also the reward of knowing even in these mundane things God is glorified.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

pickings from ...a Watered Garden

Since I’ve been blogging reviews of books, I read differently. I not only read to enjoy the story, but with more construction-consciousness, i.e. with a view to noticing and interpreting what the author is doing in areas of (in fiction here) characterization, plot, structure, language – that sort of thing.

To help me do this I highlight sections and make marginal comments in pencil (in books I own, of course; ‘I can always erase these later,’ I tell myself, though I seldom do). Then I usually go through the book again, tabbing significant spots with sticky notes – to have quote or ‘for instance’ places handy – before I write about it.

I’ve just done that with the Patti Hill novel, Like a Watered Garden. And so, before I remove all those stickies and shelve that book – or lend it to someone – I’m going to make all that effort work for me in one more post and quote some places I found her writing particularly good.

Here is the place where the main character (Mibby) contrasts herself to her best friend Louise. Good showing of characterization:

The fact that Louise and I were friends was it own kind of miracle. We were a study in contrasts...The differences began with how we viewed clothes. Louise wore outfits. Everything from earrings to socks was carefully coordinated to a theme or color. A butterfly print dress required dangling – never studded – butterfly earrings and a tiny butterfly decal on her left thumbnail....

I subscribed to the indigo rule of fashion. I wore denim every day; it went with everything. I only started wearing socks that matched my T-shirts due to Louise’s influence. I owned a pair of everyday Birkenstocks and a dress-up pair of Birkenstocks. They were suitable for shorts, pants, and skirts, which meant I wore them to church.

Here’s a place where Mibby has just had a dream about her dead husband. I love metaphor she uses:

I brought my dream to the surface like a pearl diver and dropped the treasure into a small boat rolling with the waves. I pulled the covers over my head and went down into the murky water for more, but the dream of Scott was replaced with a dream of a picnic with neighbors I didn’t know...

Finally, here’s some more characterization stuff – and a cool metaphor too (Roseanne is one of Mibby’s garden clients):

When I first met Roseanne Mitchell, I wanted to dislike her. Perfect body – long and fluid. Perfect face – symmetrical and as smooth as a river stone. Perfect life – which for me meant having a living husband. Innovative hybridization would have been required to include Roseanne in a fruit salad with Louise and me, say a cross between a banana and an Elberta peach – the late summer variety with no stone and the sweetest, most rosy flesh.


You can actually read the entire first chapter of the book (from Patti Hill’s web site).

Monday, July 04, 2005

consider the lilies...

Nancy Nordenson (Just Thinking) has begun a Sabbath Journal to which she posts weekly liturgical-calendar readings and a question / writing prompt based on one of these. This weekend (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost) is week five of this journal, and based on the reading from Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, Nancy asks:


From the Matthew passage: To what extent are your actions a function of wanting to be known by other people? If it were true that one can be fully known only by God, how would that effect your actions? What would it look like to be content with being fully known only by God?

I find it’s difficult to tease apart what I do from underlying motives. The motivation to be known by people, to gain or maintain a certain reputation is one of the trickiest and insidious to even recognize, let alone change. Some thoughts:

1. If I truly lived my life for God’s eyes first, and His approval was my overriding concern, I would stop being so worried about optics. Jesus in the Matthew passaged certainly didn’t give any mind to how his actions looked, especially to his main critics, the religious leaders.

2. A corollary of that thought is, abandon a slavish adherence to consistency. Oswald Chambers is a great proponent of this. He says


The Christian life is stamped by "moral spontaneous originality," consequently the disciple is open to the same charge that Jesus Christ was, viz that of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent to God, and the Christian must be consistent to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to hard and fast creeds. Men pour themselves into creeds, and God has to blast them out of their prejudice before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ. -- Oswald Chambers, July 2, My Utmost For His Highest
I apply the above, for example, to what I choose to post in my blog. I usually think to ask for advice from God about what to put up here (yes, I do), or if I should even post at all. And usually I get an impression of something. Lately, it’s not always been overtly spiritual.

One day, for instance, I couldn’t shake the thought of "peonies." So I wrote about peonies, and was surprised at the lively (for my blog) discussion it sparked. As a part of that, a friend who writes beautifully put up her own "Peony Post" which links us to a moving story and poem. I sensed what I’d written was a catalyst for a good thing (– a "God thing"?).

Though I sometimes agonize over the value of writing on subjects that are not in-your-face spiritual, mostly I have to admit my misgivings are fertilized by the fear of what others will think – and that they will write me off as shallow and earthly.

However, when I stand before God, I hear no condemnation. Instead He says, "Consider the lilies..."

Yes Lord, I just have. Only this time it was peonies.

**********
The peony saga goes on. One of my favorite bloggers just emailed me a peony post she blogged a few years ago: Memorial - fragrant as always, but just a little bit spooky!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

book review: Like a Watered Garden

"I received a box of flowers from my dead husband," begins Patti Hill’s first novel, Like a Watered Garden. The "I" is Mibby Garrett, widow of six months. The story is hers and she tells it in first person.

We join Mibby on May 2nd (the date on the first chapter) puttering in her yard. Of course the "box of flowers" was really not flowers at all but a box of bulbs delivered weeks after her husband Scott’s death the past November. Now as she looks for their sprouts, she flashes back to the accident and Hill begins to put in place the foundation for understanding why Mibby drives blocks out of her way to avoid a certain intersection, goes to meet 13-year-old son Ky to walk him home from school, and still hasn’t tackled the laundry or the grocery shopping.

For the next two months we follow Mibby around as she takes steps in coping with Scott’s death and comes to life again as a mother, friend and generally functioning person. She’s helped by her neighbor and guardian angel Louise who is constantly checking in on her to deliver basketfuls of leftovers from her B&B.

Mibby’s own garden design business is another salvation. It’s through this that she meets the handsome widower Ben. But that poses its own set of problems. Is the forlorn and neglected Ky, who has avoided talking about Scott because it upsets his mom, ready for a step-dad? And is Mibby herself ready for a new relationship when thoughts of Ben fill her with guilt and the fact she enjoys being with him makes her feel like an adulteress?

Mibby’s quirky storytelling voice with it’s range from hilarious to poignant is the book’s biggest strength. In addition to Mibby’s narrative, Hill makes us privy to her thoughts with wry asides (set in italic font), that further cement our loyalty to this hurting, self-deprecating but astute woman:

"Ben," I started again. "I’m a widow." That explains everything, doesn’t it?

Silence.

It hasn’t been that long." I’m still in the raw zone.

Silence.

"November." Has it been that long?


Besides Mibby, Louise, Ky and Ben, other characters of note I enjoyed were "Earring girl," Droop (the handyman, so nicknamed because of his penchant to reveal a bit more of his backside than you really want to see), and Blink, Mibby’s black Lab.

The story is framed by the Christian worldview. Hill eschews preaching, though. Instead she delivers her take on where God fits into the whole dealing-with-the-hard-stuff-in-life thing through the neighborly Louise who regularly brings over her wisdom, encouragement and prayers along with those leftover lemon scones and raspberry muffins.

The 318-page volume encompasses a bare two months in Mibby’s life (though through timely interjected memories we gain a perspective of her entire life till now). In that space, Hill manages to address a bouquet (oops!) of themes – among them, how one deals with the death of a spouse, forgiveness, parenting, and friendship – ensuring the book will appeal to a much wider audience than just women who love to garden.

I came away from reading the book feeling like I’d made a couple of new friends and wondering how they’re doing. Apparently I won’t have long to wait. Hill’s second book in the "Garden Gates" series, Always Green, is due out this summer.

And hey, if in the meantime I really need my Mibby-fix, I can go to Patti Hill’s web site to get Book Club discussion questions, Mibby’s gardening tips and Louise’s recipes for Lemon Scones and Raspberry Dream Muffins. (This website supplement stuff must be the adult variation of kid’s book action figures – another take on trans-media marketing, I suppose)

Friday, July 01, 2005

happy canada day!

Today is Canada Day and we celebrate 138 years of Confederation.

It’s a day when people go on picnics or to local celebrations like the one that will happen at Canada Place in Vancouver. People don all kinds of Canada-wear, and paint maple leafs on their hands or faces. In the evening there will be fireworks.

My Mom used to have an annual Canada Day brunch. She was a collector of Canadiana so once she’d assembled cups, saucers and glasses with provincial floral emblems and crests, what better day to put them to use than on Canada Day?

For years she’d invite eleven people (plus herself makes twelve–one for each province and territory) and each person got to drink out of their own provincial teacup. Of course once Nunavut became a territory on April 1, 1999, the number changed to twelve. She wrote to the territorial government that year to get the necessary info. Although she couldn’t find the appropriate floral-stamped teacup in time for her brunch, she used typical Albertine ingenuity and cut a picture of the Nunavut flower – purple saxifrage– from the info she got, pasted it on a plain teacup and the set was complete again. (By the way, do you know the floral emblems of every province and territory? If you live here, do you know your province’s floral emblem?)

Another thing we did at her brunches was play Canada Trivia. She always made up her own questions and frequently stumped quite a few of us!

I’m afraid I can’t come through with the food part of this annual tradition. But in the spirit of Mom’s Canada Day Brunch, here is a collection of Canadian quizzes.

If you passed Grade 4 Social Studies, you’ll ace this test of the provinces and their capitals.

This Canadian geography quiz should also be no problem.

This Canada in General quiz is more varied.

And this University of Saskatchewan Canada Quiz is the most fun. Informative answer sheet!

If by now you’re not quizzed out, this Govt. of Canada - Department of Natural Resources web site has a variety of quizzes – timed too if you're craving a little more stress.
Again, Happy Canada Day!

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