Wednesday, July 29, 2009

holidaying in the heat

Family is visiting from out of town and we're enjoying a week of summer vacation at home. It just happens to be the hottest week (on record) in years. Today it was 38 C outdoors here (that's over 100 F and we have no AC). I'm happy not to be confined to my little sauna of an office.

Here are some of the places we've been:

Victoria B.C.

Butchart Gardens. Absolutely WOW!!

Sunken Gardens

Stunning color combinations everywhere!

Japanese Garden
Victoria waterfront:

Houseboats at Fisherman's Wharf

E. and me being water taxied back to the Inner Harbor

Sharing the waterway with float planes, ready for take-off.

My family (hubby, brother and wife, sister and husband) walking on the Victoria waterfront.

A family wedding

Held up at Eagle Crest Vacation Retreat in Sooke. Wonderful views in all directions!

Seen from one of the balconies.

The bridal procession. All the wedding party was in white except for the bride. She wore green!

This wedding was definitely a family affair. After exchanging their rings, the bride and groom give the groom's 10-year-old daughter a necklace. Now she can call her dad's new bride 'Mom.'

My lovely sis - mother of the bride.

My sis with her twins and new granddaughter.

Three sisters (of the grandma generation).


Granville Island - where we had coffee and shared a gooey slab of blueberry coffee cake - yum!

Friends who have bought and are renovating a house in the Mount Pleasant area took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood. On our way past the Davis House (166 - 10th Ave.), someone who lived in one of the units invited us to take a look at the courtyard - all done up with antiques and old fashioned memorabilia.

White Rock

Breakfast with sis-in-law, another sister, and my bro.

Looking down from the pier - tide's coming in.

This might be the first time I'm jealous of a starfish. Ooh, that water looked good!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


West Kelowna mural - fighting the Myra Canyon Trestles fire in 2003

(Given the news of the last few days - this seems like a perfect photo to include in this week's Thursday Challenge. Thankfully the situation has improved and most of the evacuees can have been allowed to go back home.)


Thursday Challenge

Next week: EARTH (Sky, Clouds, Mountains, Rivers, Trees, Plants, Flowers, Rocks, Soil,...)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

book review: Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove

Title: Talking to the Dead
Author: Bonnie Grove
Publisher: David C. Cook Publishing (May 2009), Paperback, 384 pages.
ISBN-10: 1434766411

Talking to the Dead, a debut novel by Bonnie Grove, begins on the day of Kevin’s funeral, the husband of Kate whose memory now has big holes in it and who is so devastated and shattered that in the days following she doesn’t eat, shower, change her clothes and for sure doesn’t go into the bedroom they shared.

That’s because from the night after the funeral, Kevin talks to her. His disembodied voice comes at any old time. It’s frightening. It’s wonderful. Until one day Kevin’s tone changes and the whole thing becomes just plain terrifying. Is she psychic, or crazy? She’d better go for help.

Help presents itself in a variety of guises – a spiritual counselor, a psychiatrist, a miracle advertising evangelist, a therapy group with a mix of people as colorful, zany and troubled as Kate herself, and a very human pastor whose flock is a ragtag bunch of youth who meet for pickup basketball.

The characters and plot were sparked, by Groves’ work in the field of psychology: “In part, the story came out of my experiences as a counselor, sitting with people who were attempting to articulate their pain and distress,” she writes on her Fiction Matters blog. “It occurred to me that many of the things these people were doing (the behaviors I saw) were often an attempt to accomplish something very different than what they were doing – in other words, behavior didn’t match intentions. It caused me to truly see why Jesus commanded us not to judge others. We simply don’t know what’s going on under the surface.”

The intriguing plot is served well by Grove’s story telling style – a slow titillation of revelations as Kate gradually remembers more and more. Groves’ writing is also just plain pleasurable to read as it is by turns descriptive, funny, attentive to details, and always ringing true:

“It was as if my desolation had multiplied the power of gravity. I was stuck….p. 24.

“My mind, luminously awake, sewed blindfolds of anger and forged a strong rope of despair” p. 24.

“Maggie spoke in a loud and careful manner one would use if addressing the UN. Every word evenly parceled out” p. 37.

Besides Kate and the ghostly Kevin, the book is peopled by a multitude – Kate’s mom and her sister Heather, the decisive and colorful Maggie, Dr. Alexander the toupeed psychiatrist, high school friend Blair, the support group members, Jack the gym pastor and more. All come to life – many with comedic features – under Groves’ skillful hands.

While on the surface the book is about grieving the death of a spouse, it’s also about betrayal, disappointment, loyalty, friendship, the fragility and resilience of the human psyche, and essentially about choosing the right foundation for one’s hopes. The story illustrates in Three-D God’s way of invading even the most hurtful situations with the warmth and sweetness of grace. “That is the story I wanted to tell,” says Grove. “God in the midst of our messy lives."

This summer you, your beach bag and this chubby book need each other. But don’t forget the sunscreen – for under Groves’ spell, you may well forget to turn!

Sample chapter of Talking to the Dead

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

this and that

I've spent since Sunday afternoon rattling around in the house by myself. E. went with a friend to Fort St. John to finish up a move. It's been pretty quiet, as I've been busy tying up loose writing ends in preparation for family coming to visit next week, and more holidaying after that.

But I do get out at least once each day. I always carry the camera on my morning walks, which I take early to avoid the heat. Here are some captures from the last few days...

Rabbits - I see them practically every day. Doesn't this one resemble one of those intellectual snobs from Watership Down?

Mother sure has those ducklings well trained!

On Monday I wandered into a new part of town and came across this wooden sculpture. It's another (by Pete Ryan I'm sure, though I could find no plaque) in the series that are all around town. The old car is a pretty good icon - considering the annual antique car show, for which Langley is famous.

And then there's the catch from today's walk. This squirrel blends so nicely with the tree, he could be a sculpture too, for all I know!

For something more substantial, I also blogged "Aging: the silver lining" at The Word Guild blog today.

(psst - loving my new keyboard - a skinny Mac that makes almost no noise at all. Also have a new mouse as my scroll ball one stopped scrolling months ago, and yesterday I saw it had worn through where the tail attaches to the body. The new cheap Logitech is working just great - the scroll wheel even works; who cares that it doesn't go from side to side!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

frivolous (and sentimental) friday

My brother-in-law has been busy for months, scanning hundreds of photos. He sent two disks chock-full of nostalgia home with us a few weeks ago. Hubby has spent hours looking through old photos in the last few days.

Here's one he came across this week. It's of a neighbor girl and my kiddoes when they were wee, playing one of their favorites - dress up. It seems like eons ago...

L-R: Katie: neighbor girl, Benjie: 2-ish, Sonia: 4-5.
Mwah - you kissable munchkins

Thursday, July 16, 2009

blueberry popsicles!

It's blueberry season. But what do you do if you haven't used up last year's?

Well, you make blueberry coffee cake, muffins, strudel, platz ...

Here's something else to try. It will get everybody, even your kids, helping with blueberry disposal without them knowing it's a project.

Make smoothies by blending frozen blueberries, yogurt, sweetener (sugar, Splenda or honey) and a tiny bit of milk to keep the blender blades from getting stuck.

Now you can drink / slurp them as smoothies or pour that all that gorgeous blue antioxidant sludge into popsicle cups and freeze for blueberry yogurt popsicles. YUM!


Niagra Falls
(People on the right of the falls in yellow rain ponchos are about to experience an even closer encounter with the power of water as they go behind the falls)


Thursday Challenge

Next week: HOT (Day, Sun, Desert, Fire, Oven, Stove, Food, Peppers, Hot-Air Balloon,...)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

book review: Exposure by Brandilyn Collins

Title: Exposure
Brandilyn Collins
Publisher: Zondervan, June 2009, Paperback - 272 pages.

Kaycee Raye thinks she has forever rid herself of the paralyzing fear that someone is watching her. But then, after spinning out dozens of therapeutic and fear-conquering “Who’s There” columns, her best friend’s biggest nightmare comes true. That’s all it takes to bring her own anxieties back to malevolent life. Now it seems that even the walls of her once-snug home have sprouted eyes. It doesn’t help that other creepy things are happening too - cameras flashing pictures of her when no one is around, mysterious images appearing on her computer…

But before this heroine of Brandilyn Collins’ latest suspense thriller Exposure can enlist the help of the police, Hannah, her dead friend’s nine-year-old daughter, goes missing. Could the danger she feels be linked with Hannah’s disappearance? Or maybe, as everyone seems to think, her mind is just playing tricks on her.

Interspersed between the chapters about stalker-obsessed Kaycee and the search for Hannah is the tale of Martin Giordano, his wife Lorraine and their daughter Tammy. The eventual weaving together of these two story threads is a feat of plotting that does Collins proud in the clever department.

Though plot is the story’s strength, Kaycee is a nicely developed character with whom it is easy to identify and sympathize. Martin and Lorraine are also interesting. I especially enjoyed the bit characters Nico and Bear for their pure villainy.

The book is written with true suspense finesse, has lots of nasty surprises, and contains an abundance of pounding heartbeat, sweaty palm and adrenaline-producing passages. (Poor Kaycee - what she has to endure to give us these vicarious thrills and shivers!) I found Collins’ writing style so suited this genre, I lost all awareness of it as I was swept along by the story.

The theme of fear dominates this tale, fleshing out how its presence tricks, debilitates, paralyzes, poisons and spreads. Kaycee’s faith in God often helps to calm her inner frenzy, but it doesn’t provide any kind of miraculous cure – something that would have felt like a cheating kind of solution anyway. Instead, her “Who’s There” column at the end of the book speaks of the long-range project that conquering deep-rooted fears is for most people, and the part that God plays in it:

“So Here I am. What truth did I learn? Fear is everywhere. But that is only half the story. The other half?

God is bigger than fear.

Once upon a time I longed for a magic wand to make me all better. There isn’t one. Day to day I still struggle ... But a few nights ago I was gazing at the full moon, and an amazing thought occurred to me. God hung it. That’s a lot of power. If he could do that, why in the world did I fail to believe he could help me overcome my little problems?” (page 260).

For a swift read of seatbelt suspense, air-bagged by comforting and eternal truths, Brandilyn Collins’ Exposure is a good choice.

Read a sample.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

sunday hymn

A few weeks ago, I posted my top ten hymns for Semicolon's Top 100 Hymns project. Since then she has tabulated the results and been posting them. What a gorgeous project! She accompanies every hymn with a recording, some historical background as well as lyrics. It's not only inspirational but educational too.

Here for your Sunday listening pleasure is the beautiful "Children of the Heavenly Father." I found this version on (where else) Semicolon!

Friday, July 10, 2009

frivolous friday - hobbit houses

These intriguing cave house photos (which I put into collage) came to me in an email forward. Aren't they incredible? This short note of explanation about their age and location came with the email:

In the north east of Iran at the foot of Mount Sahand in Kandovan, the villagers live in cave homes carved out from the volcanic rock. The age of some houses is more than 700 years.

Don't they look as cozy inside as out?

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Anniversary roses

We were recently in Toronto taking a little holiday. Part of that time I left hubby to fend for himself while I went off to a writer's conference. Our wedding anniversary fell on one of the days I was away.

When I got back, a dozen roses were waiting for me on the table in our motel room. An ice bucket makes a great vase!


Thursday Challenge

Next week: POWER (Strength, Engines, Vehicles, Electricity, Power Plant, Electronics, Batteries, Wires,...)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

book review: West Nile Diary by Kathleen Gibson

Title: West Nile Diary: One Couple's Triumph Over a Deadly Disease
Author: Kathleen Gibson
Publisher: BPS Books, March 2009, paperback, 184 pages
ISBN-10: 1926645014
ISBN-13: 978-1926645018

It was in mid-August of 2007 that Rick Gibson got the mosquito bite – a most unexceptional thing to happen at a picnic in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. But days later he was in the throes of such mysterious and disparate symptoms, it took a while for doctors to come up with a diagnosis – West Nile Neurological Disease (WNND). Over the next months his wife Kathleen Gibson rode the roller coaster ride of WNND with him. In West Nile Diary she tells their compelling story from his hospital bedside in Yorkton and the Wascana Rehabilitation Center in Regina. Using a mélange of journal entries, emails to friends and family, newspaper columns, and articles, Gibson journeys us through a six-month interlude that changes the course of this couple’s life forever.

We experience at close range the terrifying first days of Rick’s illness as he gradually loses his ability to walk, undergoes a change in personality, and even sometimes forgets his name. During rehabilitation we live the elevator ride of one day’s progress followed by the plummet of the next day’s regression. We cheer for him as he regains function, participate in Kathleen’s joy at seeing the real Rick emerge again, but wonder if he’ll have a job to return to.

Of course the book does more than just tell a story. For in the telling, Gibson touches on many topics, among them divine healing, the purpose of sickness and pain, the beautiful people found in unexpected places, the importance of family, the need for advocacy, what really matters in life, and the key role that faith in God plays when handling such crises.

Gibson (long a successful freelance writer and editor), puts her skills to good use in this memoir. She displays the sensitivity to beauty of a poet:

“I can always tell when Bus is at the keyboard. The man’s music soars to the glass roof, joins the sunshine, and becomes the spirit of optimism itself. Then it rains back down and washes over us, healing things that only music can heal” p. 79.

Her penchant for detail is journalistic:

“Maggie has been teaching me to help Rick transfer from bed to chair and back…. Here’s what it looks like:

Take the side arm off the wheelchair. Bend low in front of him, wrap my arms about his waist, do a lunge, front knee bent, back straight; brace legs, rock both our bodies back and forth, and then, on the count of three, HEAVE!” p. 78.

She combines an eye for the humorous with the timing of a comedian and the result is welcome comic relief:

“The children were especially interested in the putty….

Benjamin accepted the pile of moldable yellow rubber carefully. Hesitating at first, he began digging his fingers in and drawing them forward, just like ‘Gampa.’

Looking up, his eyes met mine. “Not poo, Nana,” he said reassuringly. “Is not poo.”

Amanda and I figured it out: He had never heard the word putty before. Likely ‘potty’ was the closest he could find in his two-year-old vocabulary” p. 94.

With the skill of a novelist Gibson takes us past circumstances to an understanding of heart truths. Though the pirates of West Nile (her description of the disease) could have scuttled the Gibsons’ boat, they didn’t. In fact, just the opposite happened. In Gibson’s own words (from the Preface):

“I’ve learned three things in my journey down the West Nile with Rick and the pirates: God is a lot stronger than I thought he was, I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, and God can do exquisite things with broken circumstances” (p. viii).

This inspirational story will not only encourage you to keep hope alive in the worst circumstances, but will also educate you about West Nile Neurological Disease. Don’t be surprised if after reading it, you find yourself at the local drugstore or supermarket loading up on mosquito repellent.

Monday, July 06, 2009


We got back late yesterday from a lovely mini-vacation, visiting the young ...

(Ah, a boy after grandma's own heart - he loves books!)

... the old (E's dad, surrounded by his kids and in-laws. We sang hymns for about 45 minutes and the old songs brought tears of emotion)

and loaded down with a bucket of goodies straight from the tree! (I'm sure the temptation fruit in the garden was the cherry.)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy 142nd - Canada!!

Today is Canada Day - the celebration of Canada's 142nd birthday. This scenic version of our national anthem comes from the Mother Corp.

"O Canada" is actually a hymn with the second verse a prayer.

Speaking of prayer, Rev. Rob Parker of Canada's National House of Prayer spoke in our church last Sunday. He told of the beautiful former Ottawa convent that now houses this prayer movement's headquarters. As a result of the National House of Prayer initiatives there are now people praying in the gallery of the House of Commons every time the House is in session. How encouraging is that!

(Information about sending a delegation to Ottawa to participate in National House of Prayer activities here.)

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