Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Clock Gadget by Widgia

New Years Widget by Widgia

book review: When Heaven Comes Down by Ché Ahn

I rate this book * * * * *

Title: When Heaven Comes Down
Author: Ché Ahn
Publisher: Chosen, November 2009, paperback, 191 pages
ISBN-10: 0800794796
ISBN-13: 978-0800794798

Using easy-to-understand language Ché Anh unpacks one of the most mysterious and hard-to-comprehend qualities of God – His glory. But not only does he help us get a head comprehension of God’s glory; in When Heaven Comes Down he also guides us into how we can experience more of that glory in our lives.

In the first chapter of fourteen, Anh arrives at a working definition of God’s glory. He explains that though God is eternally glorious, i.e. glory makes up His very essence, what we experience is His manifest glory. Using the sun as an illustration, he explains it thus:

“…The eternal glory of God is like the sun itself, far too fiery and brilliant for us to encounter directly or even to look at. But the sun’s light manifests itself to us in a variety of ways. It illuminates darkness, revealing the objects around us. It gives us spectacular light displays in beautiful sunrises and brilliant sunsets. It warms us and even tans our skin. Everywhere the sun goes, the sun’s light goes. But the sun’s light is not the sun itself. Rather, the light we experience from the sun is a manifestation of the sun.

“This distinction is helpful in understanding God’s glory. His eternal glory is like the sun: it is His very essence, beyond our comprehension or ability to encounter. Yet His manifest glory is like the sun’s light: a reflection of Him we can encounter in ways we are able to perceive, whether through physical healing, a peaceful presence in our spirit or an angelic visitation.” p. 26

The chapters that follow are a delving into God’s manifest glory as we experience it in His presence, His nature and character, and His power. The book also has chapters that talk about what people need to do to stay and increase in the flow of God’s glory. It concludes with a section on the purpose of God’s glory, i.e. the transformation of us and our society to ultimately bring about the answer to Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

Anh’s writing style is warm, encouraging and understandable. His teaching is peppered with scripture, stories from history, and illustrations from his own life. He uses lists and subheadings to break up the text and make it easy to read.

Ché Anh is a well-known minister in Charismatic circles. (His endorsers include Jack W. Hayford, C. Peter Wagner, and Bill Johnson. He is closely associated with Lou Engle and is the pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California.) Though he describes what some might think of as unusual and dramatic evidences of God’s glory (angel sightings, miraculous healing, the mysterious appearances of gold or gems in connection with the ministry of some of his colleagues), he doesn’t dwell on these or make them out to be signs that someone has arrived spiritually. Instead he stresses the need for discipline, personal holiness and a commitment to God that lasts for a lifetime.

I appreciate the way he stays away from negativity. In the book he talks about unity among Christians as one of the evidences of God’s glory. Nowhere does he sully that ideal by dwelling on controversy or criticizing other Christians of any stripe.

When Heaven Comes Down is a book that will not only help you understand God better, but motivate you to seek Him more. It would be a worthwhile addition to the library of any twenty-first century disciple.


More goodies:

Read an excerpt (pdf file)
Table of Contents (pdf file)

(I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

book review: Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish

I am seriously behind in posting book reviews. (I put them up at Blogcritics first because they want initial publication due to Google rankings or some such - and then forget to add them here.) But if you think I've forsaken my beloved books - you'd be mistaken.

I'll be catching up in the next few days. We'll start with the captivating 2nd novel by Christa Parrish - Watch Over Me, which I finished reading in early November.


I rate this book * * * * *

Title: Watch Over Me
Author: Christa Parrish
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2009, paperback, 352 pages.
ISBN-10: 0764205544
ISBN-13: 978-0764205545

Abbi works a regular shift at the local grocery. Her husband Benjamin Patil is a member of the local police force. But Ben’s tour of duty in Afghanistan has changed things between them. They’re no longer the easy-going newlyweds they were when they first came to Beck County, South Dakota.

The day Ben finds a newborn girl abandoned in a grocery bag beside a dried-out stream near town starts a chain of events that alters their lives forever. When Ben can’t find out who the baby belongs to, he and Abbi agree to foster it. They call the little girl Silvia, and over time looking after her draws them together. Abbi stops stalking the laxative aisle, and Ben begins sleeping at home again instead of at the station. The crowd at church, oblivious to their problems, welcomes them back as the happy family they are becoming.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Matthew Savoie wonders what his medical condition will take from him next. The brilliant but deaf math whiz lives with his aunt and her four daughters. In an attempt to raise money to visit his father – maybe, just maybe he’ll agree to give Matt the kidney he so desperately needs – he gets a job helping Abbi and Ben cut the grass and look after Silvia. His involvement with them leads to the uncovering of a tangled web of relationships, emotions and coping strategies. Watch Over Me is a tour de force of a second novel by Christa Parrish.

Parrish’s very real and flawed characters make this book interesting and delightful. She draws her people with a particularity that brings them to life and makes them feel like folks one has met.

Abbi is especially convincing with her hippie outlook, her anti-establishment views and her veganism (she’s even true to the latter in her bulimia, binging on bags of baby carrots).

War-shocked Ben is often unpredictable, though one can’t miss his sterling qualities especially as little Silvia brings them out.

The cultural tension between Abbi and Ben’s immigrant parents feels believable.

Matthew the brilliant is the most sympathetic of the three. Who couldn’t like a kid who looks after his little cousins like a mother and takes comfort during hours of dialysis with thoughts of how God is like his favorite math concept:

“In pi he saw the reflection of God. Pi was constant, always the same – today, tomorrow, and forever. It was irrational, like the cross, foolishness to those who didn’t believe. It was transcendental; no finite sequence of operations on integers could ever create it.

It never ended.” pp. 50, 51.

Parrish’s writing is also a treat – brisk, gritty. specific and poetic. Note, for example, how this description of eating cereal rings true:

“The cereal, a store brand that came in a huge plastic bag, lost its crunch before Matthew sucked the first bite off the spoon. Still, he finished it, the soggy flakes filling the pits in his molars. He dug the mush out with his tongue, a silvery pain shooting through his jaw as he brushed the cavity he needed to have filled.” p. 21

In another poetic passage she brings together the setting with the emotional state of Abbi and Ben:

“He heard Abbi come out of the bedroom, the swollen door opening with a sticky pop. Everything swelled in the heat. Problems. Fears. Sins. All puffed with humidity and ready to rain out with the slightest change in air pressure.” p. 27

In telling the story Parrish alternates between Abbi, Ben and Matthew’s viewpoints (all third person) – giving us a rich experience of the workings of three very different personalities. The dialogue rings true. Deaf-and-dumb Matthew’s notepad contributions, rendered within the book in a hand-printed-type font, deliver an unexpected but effective layer of realism.

The book takes on some heavy issues. Parrish weighs in on things like love, marriage, family, the church, forgiveness, and redemption. Though the story has many bleak moments, it left me feeling hopeful about my very flawed self and the ability of God to redeem the most unlikely situation.

More goodies:

Read an excerpt.
Watch Over Me Q&A (pdf)

(I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

christmas 2009

Christmas is over again. How did that happen so fast?

Was yours good? Ours was FABULOUS!!

The weather was clear, roads were good and our whole family was here from Christmas Eve till the 27th.

"Whole family" = this family plus Benjie, of course!

The Christmas turkey turned out great in the new Turkey Roaster (nice - because it leaves the stove oven free for other jobs). We made serious work of my Christmas baking stash (whew! - wouldn't want much of that left past New Years and the annual Resolutions). Only gravel in the boot was that hubby came down with the flu on Sunday. He never gets sick so this must be quite the bug. I haven't caught it yet - hopefully won't ever.

Of course the babies were the stars of the show.

Here is little David (born mid-September 09).

... showing some of Sonia's pensive here.

He has this soft cloud of hair on top of his head which makes him a total delight to snuggle.

Combine that with a happy disposition that's generous with smiles and you'll understand why we found him irresistible. 

Uncle Benjie could sure bring out the grins and chortles!

Liam will be two in March. What a fun age. He took a shine to my music box, which has a little bear that skates on a magnetic pond while the music plays. It was entertainment every time he had his own snack time at the table.

He also loves coloring, cars, animals, helicopters, his talking Handy Manny doll, getting into Mommy's bag (Vaselined hair anyone?) and her suitcase.

On Monday morning when the kids were getting ready to leave, daughter called me upstairs. There was Liam. He had just come from spending a few very quiet moments in the closet and was wearing all her freshly laundered unmentionables around his neck.

And now I have the pleasure of reliving all these moments and many others over and over, courtesy my sweet hubby, who gave me an S-Frame (digital photo frame) for Christmas. Love it!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

merry christmas!!

To all who read here - may you and yours have a wonderful, blessed, safe and healthy Christmas!

My gift to you - this beautiful song which is a poem by Christina Rossetti, put to music. (Musical arrangement is from the Our Daily Bread Christmas CD series #4)

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love came down at Christmas 

Love all lovely, love divine; 

Love was born at Christmas 

Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead 

Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus 

But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token
Love shall be yours and love be mine
Love to God and to all men 

Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Rossetti - 1885

Thursday, December 24, 2009

one more sleep!

I can't believe that Christmas is one day away. This has been a fabulous week - getting ready for the big day and for family to come. By tonight we'll have babies in the house. YES!!

I have so enjoyed the run-up to Christmas this year. Somehow all the stuff got done and I've still had time to relax and enjoy the beautiful lights and the music.

With my Mom's stuff I inherited a couple of Christmas CDs put out by Our Daily Bread. Some of the songs on those have become favorites.

Here is one I just love - only sung here by the boys of the St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir. (I've included the lyrics because these angelic kids sing with an accent and are just a tad hard to understand.)

How Far is it to Bethlehem?

How far is it to Bethlehem? 

Not very far.

Shall we find the stable room

Lit by a star?

Can we see the little child? 

Is he within?

If we lift the wooden latch

May we go in?

May we stroke the creatures there
Ox, ass, or sheep?

May we peep like them and see
Jesus asleep?

If we touch his tiny hand

Will he awake?
Will he know we've come so far

Just for his sake?

Great kings have precious gifts

And we have naught

Little smiles and little tears
Are all we brought.

For all weary children

Mary must weep
Here, on his bed of straw

Sleep, children, sleep.

God in his mother's arms
Babes in the byre
Sleep, as they sleep who find

Their heart's desire.


Candles in church last Sunday


Next week: FREE-FOR-ALL (A two week theme. Any favorite photo you have taken.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

daily devotions in 2010

If one of your New Year's Resolutions in 2010 is to have a daily quiet time, Other Food: daily devo's may be just the place for you.

Starting January 1, 2010, Other Food will feature a new meditation every morning.  Based on Bible readings from the Canadian Bible Society, these devotionals will link a Scripture passage, focus on one idea from the text, lead in a brief prayer, and supplement the idea with inspiration in quotes, songs, links to check out, etc.

I'm really excited about writing these daily meditations - and would love for you to join me January 1st!

Monday, December 21, 2009

behind christmas customs

100 Huntley Street has put together a wonderful little series of videos on the origins of some of our most popular Christmas tradition and symbols.

Here, for example, is a little bit about bells.

View more of these here (they include origins of the candy cane, holly, the Christmas tree).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cracker Toffee

A delicious treat that's easy to make and fabulous for giveaways.


- 40 soda crackers (1 sleeve from an approximately 250-gram box)
- 1 cup butter (or margarine)
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 2 cups chocolate chips (or more if you want a thicker chocolate topping)
- Other optional toppings: salted peanuts, candy sprinkles, coconut, dried fruit, granola; I used 1 cup salted peanuts)


1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Line a 17 x 12 pan with parchment paper or tin foil (if using tin foil, spray with non-stick coating - like Pam - or butter/margarine).

3. Arrange crackers in pan, flat side up and set aside.

4. Combine butter and sugar in heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.

5. Increase heat to medium high and boil 3 minutes without stirring.

6. Pour mixture evenly over crackers; spread to cover.

7. Bake 5-7 minutes.

8. Take out of oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over crackers. Let stand for about 1 minute to soften. (If you're using additional toppings and want them covered with chocolate, spread them over the softened chocolate chips at this point). Spread the softened chocolate to cover base (and other toppings if used).

 9. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 2 hours to cool thoroughly.

10. Break apart and package.

Original recipe from The Savvy Shopper blog

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Doll orphanage?
(Thrift store in Lynden Washington)

Next week: LIGHT (Candle, Reflected, Shiny, Colourful, City Lights,...)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

7-layer squares

Still working on Christmas baking? Try these quick, easy, sinfully rich squares!

7-Layer Squares

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
1 - 6 oz. package chocolate chips
1 - 6 oz. package butterscotch chips
1 can Eagle Brand milk
(this is sweetened condensed milk; 1 can=300 ml.)
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (walnuts or peanuts)


In 9 x 13 pan melt margarine.
Sprinkle graham crumbs evenly over melted margarine.
Sprinkle coconut over crumbs.
Sprinkle chocolate chips, then butterscotch chips over coconut.
Dribble condensed milk over all.
Sprinkle with nuts.


Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes. While barely warm cut in narrow bars. Yields 32.

Friday, December 11, 2009


We did our first performance of The Perfect Christmas Song last night. Five more to go!

I came down with a wicked cold, so am thankful for cold drugs - especially the night ones that stop the sneezing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Sidewalk advert - Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC


Next week: TOYS (Cars, Dolls, Video Games, Puzzles, Balls, Board Games,...)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

book review: How God Makes Babies by Jim Burns

Title: How God Makes Babies
Author: Jim Burns 
Publisher: Bethany House, Hardcover, 48 pages, October, 2009 
ISBN-10: 0764202103
ISBN-13: 978-0764202100

One of the characteristics of six to nine-year-olds is curiosity. If your youngster this age hasn’t asked about sex, you can be sure he or she has questions. How God Makes Babies is a resource designed to help you bring up the topic with your youngster. Author Jim Burns has written this book about the family, sex and how babies develop from conception to birth with six- to nine-year-olds in mind. It is part of the Pure Foundations series of resources that teaches about sex from a Christian perspective.

Burns begins by introducing the idea of pregnancy and the belief that it belongs within marriage. He goes on to detail the differences between boys and girls using anatomically accurate body part names and line drawings. He then tells the story of human development from conception to birth, touching on some of the miraculous things that occur during gestation. He uses understandable comparisons to make the ideas kid-relatable – e.g., “After one month the baby has grown to about the size of a Cheerio.” He concludes by talking about the birth process, and the helplessness and needs of newborn babies.

The physical book is attractive and sturdy with a colorful hard cover and color photo illustrations printed on heavy glossy paper.

Burns’ tone is upbeat, warm, and affirming. Though the vocabulary is simple enough for the capable reader to read God Makes Babies for him- or herself, it would be a shame for parents to miss out on the discussion that could arise out of reading the book with youngsters. As Burns states in his Special Note to Parents, “One of the greatest benefits of teaching them at this age is establishing a healthy trust, demonstrating that you are willing to bring up the issues and that they can come to you for more dialogues.”

I’m impressed with how much information is packed into this slim volume. It certainly covers the basics, and follows nicely on the heels of God Made Your Body, the Pure Foundations book for three to five-year-olds. Burns’ directness about topics that can be touchy to introduce will certainly open the door to all kinds of discussion between you and your youngsters. I wish I’d had this book when my kids were six to nine.

I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. I highly recommend it and will make sure my copy doesn’t molder on the shelf but gets passed along to a family with some curious little people.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A journalist's faith trek

Journey to faith of CBC journalist Brian Stewart: Fellowship Hall - Brian Stewart

Thursday, December 03, 2009




On our Vancouver Island holiday last fall (2008), we stumbled across the Campbell River Driftwood Carving Competition with the carvings still on display on the lawn of the arts center.  This carving, done by Vinay Chafekar, won first place in the Amateur Division


Thursday Challenge

Next Week: WRITING (Pens, Paper, Words, Signs, Graffiti, Books, Magazines,...)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book review: God Made Your Body by Jim Burns

Title: God Made Your Body
Author: Jim Burns
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2009, hardcover, 32 pages 
ISBN-10: 0764202111 
ISBN-13: 978-0764202117

If you’re hoping to preempt what modern media would teach about sex and the role of the family to your youngsters, God Made Your Body – a colorful read-to-me book for the three- to five-year-old crowd – is a good place to start. This first book in the Pure Foundations series by Jim Burns introduces kids to the basics of sex from a Christian point of view.

Kids will learn that God made their bodies, their bodies are full of variety, and boys and girls are different. Burns explains these differences accurately using the anatomically correct names of body parts and line drawings (though in-the-main the book uses full-color photographs of kids and adults). He answers the question of where children come from. He also describes the baby’s growth within the uterus in general terms, and talks about birth and adoption. The book ends with an appropriate biblical passage, Psalm 139.

The book is attractive and sturdy with a colorful hard cover and photo illustrations printed on heavy glossy stock. The concepts are simple and presented clearly with a single idea-per-page spread. The tone of Burns’ writing is positive, warm, supportive and affirming.

In a “Note to Parents” at the front of the book author Burns (who is also a radio host and has founded a ministry to struggling families) states that he wrote the book as a countermeasure to help parents introduce values-centered sex ed to their kids – this in the hope that children will be less likely to become sexually promiscuous and have better views of their bodies and relationships.

l think Burns has done a great job. In a book designed to answer the questions of very young children he has introduced enough detail but not too much. His discussion about sex is direct, open, and respectful. I can see how this book could become the foundation for ongoing dialogue between kids and their caregivers. Reading God Made Your Body could easily lead to discussions that expand on the facts presented, as parents take advantage of teachable moments.

I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. I’m delighted to recommend it to all the young families I know – and will make sure it goes to one of them!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving

... to our American neighbors!

If your memory needs jogging about things for which to be thankful, Rebecca Writes is running a November series of thankful posts. Not only will you see what she is thankful for, but each day she provides a list of links to other thankful blog posts. There's enough fodder there for an entire year of thankfulness!

water water everywhere!

The deluge continues. In order to get our walk in once a day we've taken to going whenever there is a break in the rain. Lately that's meant leaving the house a little closer to 7:00 (a little farther from 8:00) every morning. We're feeling like the three little pigs who had to get up earlier each morning to outsmart the wolf. Yesterday we left shortly after 7:00 and saw the sunrise - even as it continued to drizzle.

This morning it's warm, there are blue spots of sky peeking through the clouds, and the only drips you'll get are when you brush against or walk under water-laden branches.  But after it rained most of yesterday and through the night, there's water everywhere. Here are a few photos taken on our walk this morning. They will be an interesting contrast to the Nikomekl in summer, when it again becomes a trickling creek.

Last week there was water on both sides of the path and road here. Today everything's awash.

High water under the bridge that leads to Michaud Park

The bridge, above, as seen from Michaud Park

Looking west from Michaud Park - the Rotary path is flooded in many spots.

Of course the ducks are having a ball!


Niagra Falls - energy you can see, hear and feel.


Next week: WOOD (Buildings, Furniture, Toys, Trees, Boards, Pencils,...)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

a wordy, wet week

Well, I see I haven't written a proper post for a week. It is as I thought: my NaNo writing project has sapped all my energy. I am presently at 43,708 words - 6292 away from the goal of 50,000. If I reach that goal before the story is completed, I will be writing more than 50,000. But the end is definitely in sight!

Outside we're in the monsoon season. We've had a series of rain and wind storms in the last couple of weeks.

The flooded area above is usually all grass. But on Tuesday (17th) it was a a duck paradise. 

Several rivers in B.C. have flooded their banks, including our little Nicomekl. The paved path beside it was put in by the Rotary Club some years ago (thus we call it Rotary Park), and most days one can follow the river on it from 208th to 200th. Not this week. Here is the view of the path from the 206th St. Bridge. We usually walk UNDER the 206th Street bridge, but haven't been there for a while.

The path on Tuesday

The path on Thursday.  As you can see, the water has subsided quite a lot.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The church ladies sing African

... and dance to the song in the YouTube below, which we first heard performed by the Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda.

Thursday Challenge

Next Week: ENERGY (Batteries, Power, Electrical Devices, Light Bulbs, Energy Efficient Things, Wind Mills, Walking, Cycling,...)

Friday, November 13, 2009

book review: Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman

Title: Leaving Yesterday
Author: Kathryn Cushman
Publisher: Bethany House, October 1, 2009, paperback, 320 pages. 
ISBN-10: 0764203827 
ISBN-13: 978-0764203824

What business could a police officer have with her except to bear the bad news that her son Kurt has been found dead, Alisa Stewart wonders as Detective Thompson’s car turns into her driveway. But a few minutes later she is saddled with an even greater burden as she discovers her 21-year-old drug addicted son is wanted for questioning about a murder. When he calls home a few days later with the news that he’s been in rehab – and for a while – she reasons it couldn’t be him, could it?

In Leaving Home Kathryn Cushman combines what Alisa finds in a box of Kurt’s things with old frictions between Alisa and her estranged husband, the need to keep up appearances at her church and, above all, the determination that her son will have the new start he deserves to give us the tug-of-war tale of a mother’s love.

The story, told in first person by Alisa, has a rapidly thickening plot. Pressure on her to look good in her position of women’s ministry leader mounts even as her relationship with her husband Rick deteriorates and questions about Kurt multiply. She finds she can be most herself with her neighbor Lacey, a retired lawyer who is canny, pragmatic and a mistress of rationalization. Cushman takes Alisa and the whole family through some tough situations and decisions in a book that is hard to put down.

Character-wise I found myself with mixed feelings about Alisa. Though I sympathized with her as a mom and understood her mother bear impulses, there was something Barbie-dollish and plastic about her too. She came off as shallow in her role as wife and women’s pastor, and smug as a public speaker. My favorite character was her 10-year-old daughter Caroline who was completely believable with her bouncy ways and excitable, dramatic clinginess. Alisa’s husband Rick rang true as well – even though he was a bit of a downer. Jodi and Monte were recognizable and fun as aging hippies. I wasn’t sure what to make of Kurt. He was sweet and genuine on the surface but showed just enough deviousness to keep me wondering, through most of the book, just how genuine his reformation really was.

Cushman does a good job of bringing up some weighty themes even as she weaves this entertaining story. No mother will be able to read this book without asking herself if she would she go to the lengths Alisa did if she were in the same shoes. The story touches on other issues of parenting as well, like permissiveness, tough love and the possibility that parents drive their kids to self-destructive behaviors with dysfunctional parenting. Cushman introduces God the Father as the greatest example of a parent. The story also makes us think a lot about guilt.

For a hard-to-put-down read that will prompt you to take a thoughtful look at your role as a parent and as a child, Leaving Yesterday is a good choice. 

Reading Group Guide for this book.

(I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Little brother's tale of woe

Of course big brothers know...

how to make it all better.


Next Week: MUSIC (Guitar, Playing an Instrument, Things that make sounds, iPods, Sheet Music, Noisy Things,...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

we remember

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. In communities around the country we gather at cenotaphs to remember the soldiers who have died fighting for Canada's freedom and to honor those who are presently on assignment in places like Afghanistan.

The tribute below was put together by Global Edmonton for Remembrance Day several years ago.

There are many Remembrance Day songs floating around these days. Some are newly composed (like this one, and this one). Others (like "A Pittance of Time") have been with us for a while and are resurrected each November 11th. It's nice to see that Canada is developing its own brand of patriotism and expressing it in song.

Monday, November 09, 2009

book review: Things Worth Remembering by Jackina Stark

Title: Things Worth Remembering
Author: Jackina Stark
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2009, paperback, 320 pages. 
ISBN-10: 0764207113 
ISBN-13: 978-0764207112

Kendy Laswell can’t wait for her daughter Maisey and fiancé Marcus to get home this third Monday in July. It’s a mere six days till Maisey’s wedding, and there must be a thousand things to do – though Maisey hasn’t told her much.

But when the kids arrive, Maisey says she’s tired and goes straight to bed. Kendy hides her disappointment but inside asks, for the thousandth time, what is at the root of her daughter’s avoidance? The only thing she can think of is the months-long depression she suffered when Maisey was 13. Things have never been right between them since that dreadful summer nine years ago. Now, though, they still have the rest of the week to patch things up.

In Things Worth Remembering, Jackina Stark takes us through the week before Maisey’s wedding. Through the first-person voices of Kendy and Maisey we live the memorable six days, but much more, as incidents trigger memories. These, plus Maisey’s surprising outburst on Wednesday and a health crisis on Thursday, work together to create a heart-wrenching story about mothers and daughters, marriage and marital unfaithfulness, family, love, and forgiveness.

In Kendy and Maisey, Stark has created two flawed but sympathetic main characters. The supporting cast of Luke (Kendy’s husband), Marcus, Jackie and others also feel real and convincing. Stark’s style of writing current happenings in present tense with the back story in past tense helps dispel any confusion about now and then. Her contemporary American setting feels absolutely believable and authentic.

The story is seen through the lens of a Christian worldview. Stark works the faith of her characters into the story seamlessly and in a way that feels organic to its plot and characters. To underline how integral faith is to the story, we find that even the title hearkens back to a discussion of it:

Luke (to Maisey): “’Children of dust, Maisey, children of dust. That’s not an insult to the human race; it’s just a fact. Making mistakes is unavoidable; we are the created not the Creator. But it is also a fact that God loves us despite our frailty. And it’s a fact that life is good when we choose love and forgiveness.’
I close my eyes against his words.

Dad puts his hands over mine and I dare to look at him.

‘These things are worth remembering, Maisey – they really are.’” 248-9

Being a daughter myself and the mother of a daughter (with whom I planned a wedding a few years ago) I related to Kendy at a gut level. Maisey’s rudeness and the way she shut her mother out of all her wedding plans and activities made me wish I could take Kendy aside and tell her she’d better stop acting so passive and make an effort to get to the bottom of their rift. Yet Kendy downplays her hurt to the extent that at times she seems almost stoic when one would expect her to be falling apart. However, this downplaying is probably safer than over-emotionalizing, as Stark has created a minefield of a situation, and the tone of Kendy’s telling could easily have degenerated into sentimentality and self-pity.

Altogether, the book flew by far too fast for me. The way it explores the mother-daughter relationship, marriage and forgiveness make it an excellent choice for individuals or reading groups.

Discussion questions are here.

Read an excerpt here.

(I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaNo update

Just a little update on the last week. I've written. A lot. If you check the NaNo widget to the right, you'll see my word count is 16,110. My goal was to reach 16,000 before I quit for the weekend. Now the story gets a rest till Monday morning.

I'm learning so much!

  • I can write for long stretches at a time.
  • I don't work like I thought I would. I envisioned myself working for hours at the keyboard. However, I've discovered my best way of composing is longhand, with pencil. This is about the speed my brain works (I know, I'm slow). Then I read what I've written onto a minicassette tape and type it out as if it were dictation (good thing I kept my transcription tools)  making wee changes along the way but of course never officially editing. I've sworn off that for the month!

    (For your interest, check out this piece about the variety of ways 'real' writers work - sent to my by one of my NaNo buddies)
  • This story has been brewing inside me for years (I first had the idea and did some work on it in 2002). It feels very good to get it out of my head and onto  a document  - I was going to say 'paper' but I haven't even printed the thing out yet.
I'm celebrating the end my first week of NaNo with hubby, and friends. We're going to see and hear Adrian Plass and Glen Soderholm in the Story and Song Tour - Delta BC. Woot!

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Nuts 'n' Bolts
(A sweet sight for those of us with a salt tooth)


Next week: YOUTH (Young, Energetic, Optimistic, Children, Baby, Education,...)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

the last post

Well, not exactly. But I may not be posting much during November. On the other hand, I may be here more than usual. It's really hard to say right now how writing a novel (yep, I've registered for NaNoWriMo and will try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days) will affect posting here at the blog. I may be silenced by exhaustion or so stoked after logging my daily quota of words, the excitement is too much to hold in.  (I'll be tracking daily progress on my NaNo profile.)

In other news - I went shopping yesterday. Yep - braved the mall to fill up our two Boxes of Love (shoeboxes of gifts for orphans in Zambia and due at church tomorrow). Of course after avoiding shopping for a while, I had a list of other stuff to buy as well. Spent probably two hours at Wal-Mart. (I'm such a dithering shopper - choose A, find B, put back A, rethink, put back B and look for C...).

But I did have some fun too. Like buying these dolls. Aren't they cute?

My great-niece is coming to Vancouver for her annual checkup at Children's Hospital next week. We're meeting the family for the afternoon one day - so decided auntie needed to bring a present for her and little sis.

And bought these sweet boots at my favorite shoe store (20% off too).

They're called 'Biker.' I'm not a biker, not even a hiker. But despite the racy name, I think we'll get on. We had a date this morning; first impressions are good.  How about the cool side zippers. Tie them up once, zip forever after. Love it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

jack-o-lantern who's who

It's the season for carving pumpkins, so when my bro-in-law sent me these photos of pumpkins carved by Thunder Bay resident Betty Krebs, I just had to get them for the blog. 

When, in my email asking for permission to post them, I complimented her on her talent, Krebs replied, "I've been carving real pumpkins for 15 years and use subjects from current affairs from whatever happens from Oct. to Oct. I carve purely for fun and I really don't look at it as a talent."

More on Betty Krebs and her pumpkin carving here.


Michael Jackson - Before © Betty Krebs

Michael Jackson - After © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Jordan Staal © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Farrah Fawcett © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Bea Arthur © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Patrick Swayze © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Brett Favre © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Steve Tyler © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Tiger Woods © 2009 by Betty Krebs

John Travolta © 2009 by Betty Krebs

Bob and Jillian (The Biggest Loser trainers) © 2009 by Betty Krebs


I beg to differ. I think Betty Krebs has talent - don't you?

Betty's  husband is obviously talented too. He runs the Vienna Bakery in Thunder Bay. I may have more info on that later. For now drool over these.

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