Monday, 28 January 2013

Bi-Border Disorder

I am a unique person in an interesting situation. You see, I’m bi-border.

Not to be confused with bipolar. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My doctor and two of my best friends are bipolar. But I digress.

To clarify, I live and work five minutes north of the US-Canadian border. However, I shop, visit friends, and attend church functions several times a week south of the border. This arrangement is riddled with both pros and cons requiring me to adjust my thinking back and forth several times a day.

For instance, a favorite family recipe from our American church friend's cookbook is written with imperial measurements but my cups are in metric. Every Thanksgiving I stand in my kitchen covered in flour, ranting over how many millilitres of evaporated milk equals eight ounces. A sane person would of course work this out once, marking down the correct conversions, but we are talking about me here. Even if I wanted to take the rational route and record the measurements, it’s become part of the children’s tradition to hear me fuss over my dilemma. They find it amusing to watch me unravel. Who am I to disappoint?

Then there’s the car. One minute I’m heading south going a cool seventy-five kph but once I cross the mysterious forty-ninth parallel, I’m expected to focus on the teeny numbers etched beneath the larger ones and drop it down to forty mph. I wear distance glasses in Canada to take in the wide open spaces, but then switch to progressives in the US in order to read the microscopic speedometer. Two countries . . . two sets of specs.

In fact, coping with this disorder means keeping multiples of several things—beyond just my eyeglasses and personalities. Take my wallet for instance. In an attempt to keep things orderly, it includes separate currency compartments for both sets of bills and change. When told how much I owe, I have been known to ask clerks what country I’m in. Sad thing is, they’re so used to me now, they don’t even react to my bizarre behaviour.

So why do I bother? Who on earth would choose to live a bi-border existence? Why not just pick a country and stick to it? Ah, as I said, there are bonuses to this arrangement! As a Can-American I can boast that I am 64 inches tall and weigh only 63 kilograms. Doesn’t that sound . . . wonderful?

God bless our lands!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Bubble Wrap and Airbags

Mercy. Anyone know where I can buy Loreal Excellence in bulk? 

My youngest daughter, Mia, is walking on air, and I’m walking on pins and needles.

She got her learner’s license this past week. I got a whole new patch of grey.

Four years ago I went through this with her older sister and knew the day would come when I would have both of them on the road. Somehow I thought it would be easier the second time around. Not so.

Now my anxiety is doubled as I wait in a state of stupor, exhausted but keenly listening to hear the tell-tale sound of the garage door opening. They love to take the car and do late night coffee drive throughs. What fun . . . for them.

If you recall, I am a tad bit overprotective. A few months before Tia got her license I went on the search for a car equipped with the most airbags I could afford.  (An airbag is an occupant restraint system consisting of a flexible fabric envelope or cushion designed to inflate rapidly during an accident - see blog below on bubble wrap and you’ll see a pattern here).

Several car lots, and a half a dozen salesmen later, I arrived home with a shiny red Rondo which boasts twelve different restraining systems. Mia promptly climbed on the roof and secured a pink crown to the antennae, marking it as their own.

Four years and two drivers later, I realize that I was duped into putting my trust in technology instead of the Creator of force and nature. That I should have trusted in Him rather than inflatable cushions. I have since confessed and repented from my dependency on bubble wrap and am currently working on setting up a support group to see me through recovery.

In the meantime, instead of staying up late at night waiting for my girls to come home, I commit them to the Lord and roll over. And, He who sits in the heavens and laughs chuckles I’m sure as I pray:

Lord, watch over your princesses, Tia and Mia,
As they drive their little crowned Kia,
Out far too late I fear-ah,
Along with their little friend, Leah. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sleepless in the Valley

Many years ago, my daughter used to ski at Wintergreen near Calgary. She was the teeniest, tiniest seven-year-old on the hill.

Not a skier myself, I would wait dutifully at the bottom of the run in the warmth of the lodge until she would appear exhausted but smiling and head back to the T-bar. After a few runs, I would run outside and force her to come in and eat something. My little ski bunny!

However, at least once a season, my baby would not appear at the end of the run. Her ‘buddy-up’ partner would arrive solo, shrug her shoulders and go back up alone. Dang. What a sickening feeling to a parent to be separated from your child with no means or ability to reach them.

Thankfully I would find young snowboarders–typically random strangers-who would take on the challenge and go on a hunt. Minutes would pass as I anxiously waited for a sign. Sure enough, he would appear, holding a set of skis, my daughter flung over his shoulder fireman lift style. Whew.

For a mother who was known to yell, ‘Don’t run’ whenever the girls were on the playground, and ordered bubble wrap in extra-large rolls, losing her on a ski hill was far out of my comfort zone.

So, flash ahead over a dozen years and imagine my horror a few nights ago when my daughter called me atop some mountain, in my car, lost on a logging road in the middle of nowhere. She could not give us a definite road, visibility was poor, the car was stuck on ice and slowly slipping. With the rescue team from a local conference center in one ear, and her in my other, the night went on for hours as they tried to locate her.

I was proud of her ability to keep her head. She never got angry or blamed anyone for her predicament. She was cold, hungry, scared but doing fine. As was I. Until the car died.

Now she was on a dark road, with no power and the car lights were off. I lost it. I'm not proud to admit it, but that's the sad truth. My sweet husband was sitting on the couch praying the whole time. I got off the floor (okay, so I was holding it together, but not in style) and handed him the phone.

“The car is dead. FIX THIS!” and with that, proceeded to walk into the kitchen for a well-deserved melt down.

Oh, you woman of faith you! Clearly God is in control . . . as long as the car is locked, warm and she has power to keep her cell charged. You Hypocrite! You viper!


They found her a few minutes later.

We all learned a lot that night. My husband learned that when he married me two years ago, he inherited three women who can, at times, become hysterical when left in the dark. Tia learned that God has his hand on her 24/7 – even when the lights go out.

And me? I learned that when your daughter is stuck up on a mountain, it doesn’t matter whether she’s seven or almost twenty, you will do anything to move that mountain and be reunited.

Crazy love.

Which makes me consider how much God desires to be united with us. So much so, He sent his only child and was temporarily separated from him to make a way for us to be with him forever. To walk with him and never be alone . . . not even on a dark mountain.

Kinda like the footprints poem, except I’m so stubborn it means he has to fireman lift me off the floor sometimes when I forget about His love for me.

In the meantime, I’m considering moving the whole family . . . to a province without any mountains! 
Enjoy one of my favorite parent-child reunion scenes!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Barking Like an Idiot

My dog barks. 

While this may appear to be an elementary statement, it is much more than that.  You see, my dog barks like a flipping idiot — all the time.

She yaps at every living creature that dares to pass by.  And some inanimate objects as well. If ever a rogue leaf decides to take over our home, we will be advised well in advance.

Several times a day she will yelp in the kitchen, banging her metal dish as backup accompaniment. 

But, as irritating as these other semi-normal dog responses are, there is something she does that absolutely puts all of us over the edge. A kazillion times a day, she will roll one of her tennis balls under furniture, then yowl incessantly until one of us retrieves it. It’s her own take on fetch. It doesn’t matter that three other balls are scattered less than two feet away, the one she wants is out of reach. Ignore her if you’d like, but she’s not going to stop. Finally, one of us is forced to lift the couch two feet in the air.  Slowly she saunters underneath, sometimes lying down to give it a good chew. All the while the poor sucker who bothered to help her—arms cramping from the weight of the seven foot sofa—is howling for her to get out.

So, why do I put up with her crazy behaviour? How has she (and all of us) survived ten years of this irrational existence? Well, it’s because of the other reason she barks.

Whether away for ten days or ten minutes, her response upon my arrival home is always the same . . . she will yap and yelp in sheer ecstasy for me.

Yeah, I guess I’ll put up with the hairy terror. Who else is going to give me ‘red carpet moments’ several times a day? I only wish I could become the person she thinks I am. Clearly she truly is an idiot to think so highly of me.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


Part Two: Svay Pak’s glimmers of hope (with video)

“Yum yum!  Boom boom!” the chatter of excited young voices leached through the thin door.  I stopped picking the dirt from between my toes and pulled my legs up, wrapping my arms tightly around them.

Rocking back and forth, I prayed that Mamasan would pass by my door.  The old cot creaked.  Leaning back into the corner, a small yelp left my lips when the welts on my back made contact with the cold, brick wall. 

One of the men the night before had been so mean and angry, he left me feeling like my insides were going to fall out.  The night had been busy and most of the men before him wanted boom boom too.  My body throbbed and my head ached.  Showing the blood stained sleeping mat to Mamasan, I refused to see any more clients that night.  Calling a few of the other girls into my room to watch, Madam tied up my arms, flipped me over the bed, pulled up my dress, exposing my back.  Taking an old electrical cord from her apron, she began to whip me.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  With each blow, I begged her to stop.

The beating finally over, I struggled to straighten myself. Cold, rough hands pushed me back down. From the corner of my eye I saw her grab the plastic cup next to my bed. Draping my dress across my back, she doused me with water.  For a brief moment, the coolness of the water soothed me, but not for long.

She plugged the exposed electrical cord into the wall next to the bed.  If words could have escaped my lips, I would have begged her to continue whipping me instead, but with each jolt my teeth clenched tight allowing only a scream to release.

A few hours later, one of the girls risked her life to sneak into my room and untie my hands.  She brought a bucket for me to relieve myself, rags to place between my legs, and a fresh glass of water to drink.  With a silent nod of thanks, I crawled into my threadbare bed, not sure if I would live to see the morning.  Not sure if I cared. 

“Yum yum! Boom boom!” the menagerie was right outside my bedroom door now.  The fierce competitiveness of the voices could only mean that a high paying foreigner had come.  They were all so young and still believed Mamasan’s lies.  Not I.  Six rainy seasons had come and gone since I’d arrived in Svay Pak.  Life was hopeless. 

Pulling my legs in even tighter, I held fast to the hope that he would want a younger girl, not someone as old as me. I would be thirteen next week and my scrawny body was beginning to develop, making me less and less desirable.  Burying my face into my knees, I wondered what my parents were doing back in the village.  Did they know what they had done to me?  Did they get enough money from Mamasan to buy Daddy’s medicine?  Would they come and rescue me . . . ever? Did anyone care?

I squinted through the darkness of my room, focusing on the door.  My heart beat faster and faster with each passing second. 

The doorknob began to spin.


Every night, over fifteen-thousand underage children in Cambodia live out this nightmare.  Forced to service 10-20 men a night, many will have had sex with over a thousand men before they even reach puberty.  If they live long enough to reach puberty.

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Good Vibrations

I used a vibration machine for the first time yesterday. NO, not THAT kind! I was at the local Curves gym; (for Pete's sake women, I mean really)!

It was called the Vibra Pro Slim; just the name alone was motivating.  From what I can tell, the whole idea is to stand on it, hit some random buttons and giggle the fat right out of you. 

I was sold.  

Standing on the machine, I began to eye the various settings and programs. Leaning over the front bar, I brought up two straps and began to try to figure out what body parts they should be attached to.

Lori, the ever enthusiastic trainer was by my side in mere seconds. "Wow, you're going to try our Vibra Pro. Good for you!" Taking the straps away from me, she held up her hand, bobbing her head in an awkward invite to greet her high five. I left her hanging.  

Giving up on her offensive attempt at gym-rah-rah-dom, she began to explain all the various settings. I could feel my eyes dilating. 

"Wow, I lost you didn't I? Okay, so let's see, I seem to recall that you have a sensitive shoulder.  Does it still act up sometimes?"

"Yes as a matter of fact-"

"Great! Let's have you step off the machine for a second." I watched as she began to hit button after button. "There, now then, sit down right here in the middle." She tapped the rippled platform.

"I thought we just stood and waited for the shaking and gravity to do the work?"

"Oh, you’re so funny! Trust me. Sit."

Suddenly I wished I hadn't rejected her high five.  I glanced at the flickering numbers on the machine and wondered what setting she had adjusted it for. Around me, a few geriatrics had gathered, no doubt to watch the show. Obediently, reluctantly, I sat.

"Okay, put your arms here, sit straight but lean back, legs bent out in front of you . . . keep looking straight ahead . . . perfect." And with that, she reached over my head and hit something.  The whole machine began to shake; and me as well. "Now, just relax and get into it."

Things began to jiggle that shouldn't; parts moved east, west, north but mostly south. My face felt like it was distorting, jowls vibrating so hard I could see them peripherally moving side to side. The flesh on the back of my arms shook violently. I wondered what I looked like to the other women and dared to break Lori's rule to turn my head.  All had left, save one.  Sadness etched her face.  She placed her hand over her mouth and walked away. Clearly the sight was disturbing.

Turning my head back to face the wall, I closed my eyes and began to 'get into it'. Popping sounds came out of my neck and down my back . . . my shoulders and arms began to feel lighter and lighter. No longer self-conscious about my distorted appearance, the more I relaxed, the more rewarding it felt. All too soon, the machine whirled to a silent stop. Darn.

Slowly bringing myself to my feet, I did feel pounds lighter. Now, I'm not delusional enough to believe I lost any excess fat, but I had lost the stress and tension from my shoulders which really is one of the main reasons I go to the gym anyhow.

Lori bounded over, excitement beaming from her face, "Don't you feel awesome? Isn't it amazing?" 

Not wanting to break the tranquil relaxed state I was in, words escaped me.

I raised my hand and she enthusiastically acknowledged, slapping me a high five. 


Monday, 7 January 2013

Silence is Not Always a Virtue

Esther 4:14

English Standard Version (ESV)
14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

Have you ever been nudged to do something, but then justify or flat out ignore the niggling in your heart?  I have.

I wish I could say that I've always been obedient and ready to jump into action, but often my life takes precedence over, well, everything! Which is stupid. The whole point of my life is that it's not my life at all.

We have been called to more than 'I'. Yet will live in a world controlled by iPods, iPhones and iPads. They can use a small i if they like, but let's get real.  It's all about me when we tune others out once we turn those devices on.

This is my downfall.  This is all of North America's downfall.

We have been called to die to self and to live for Christ; to be His eyes, arms and feet here on the earth. Somehow I don't think we're doing a great job when we are so engrossed in the tiny screens that we are tuned out to those around us.

We are all called 'for such a time as this' and if we 'keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise . . . from another place'. I think this is where we are really tuned out. We don't realize what a privilege it is to be used by God! When we don't heed His call, He will use a willing soul instead.  His will will be done on earth, whether or not we tune in or not.  When we don't, we are the ones who miss out!

I remember not too long ago I drove by an elderly man who was flat out on the sidewalk, a white haired tiny woman stooped over him . . . paramedics were checking his vitals.  Clearly and without any debate I felt the Lord telling me to go and offer assistance.  To use my cell phone to notify someone, to give the woman a lift to the hospital, to pray.  Instead I kept driving as I had somewhere 'important' to be.  What a loser!  Three blocks down the road as I debated turning around, I felt the Lord say, 'Don't bother, I found someone else - your loss'.  Months later and I still feel the twinge of regret and longing to know the 'what if' of that missed moment. I can't shake it.

I'm making 2013 my year of intentionality. I'm not delusional, it's going to be hard to break the habit of opening up my phone and surfing when in line-ups instead of looking around to engage others around me.  To step out of the 'i' world I have created.  But, it's time to change; to engage those around me.  To be His hands and feet.

Eventually, we will be standing before the Lord and He will ask us what we've done with our time on earth.  

I want to finish well.