Saturday, June 30, 2007

No Cheap Crap

One more item off our summer checklist completed: the yard sale. Most evenings this week have been spent gathering up items and pricing them; our place had been cluttered with banana boxes filled with trinkets, toys and kids' clothes. Kudos to Shelley whose borne the brunt of this work.

The bargain hunters arrived shortly after we began setting up at 7 a.m. and by the time we packed up the remains at 3:00, (with a trip to the Canada Parade downtown and the church-sponsored breakfast at the ball park) we were tired and weary. A lot of our belongings found new homes and we have some dollars to go towards appliances for our next home.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cruise Day 5, At Sea

As we make the 39-hour trek to Malta, 735 nautical miles, we indulged in a lazy day at sea. We ordered breakfast in bed and made our way poolside at 8:30 a.m. to secure the good seats.

We napped through the day, read, watched some movies on our TV. Happy 10th Anniversary to us.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Setting the Setlist

This morning during office hours, I worked on worship services for the next few weeks and realized that this was one of the last planning sessions in the church basement. I grew sad when I selected the closing hymn for July 29th's service. It's really real, and I'm on the move.

We see the lawyer tomorrow with bank draft in hand for the house downpayment, then it's yard sale time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

School Is Cool

Tonight, Rei "graduated" from School's Cool, a school readiness program run through the Ontario Early Years Centre. I think she was more excited about the afternoon thunderstorm than the prospect of receiving her certificate/diploma in front of everyone's family and friends.
school's cool grad
Kai was intrigued by the appearance of cake.

Cruise Day 4, Valencia

Oft-overlooked, Valencia is a blue collar, child-friendly, city that doesn't share the same high esteem or regard of Barcelona or Madrid. Still, we quite enjoyed the modern architecture mixed with the Arabic and Roman history of the region.

This sculpture is a representation of literacy and the many different possibilities that reading can lead to. Of course, Shelley wanted a picture of it. I'm glad it turned out OK; taking pictures through a tour bus window is always dicey.
literacy scupture

We left the city for the small town of Sagunto where we strolled through the streets on the way to some Roman ruins. Obediently following our tour guide, as group #2, she tells us that this town square is used for Sagunto's version of the running of the bulls, featuring flaming balls affixed to the horns of the chasers.
Sagunto Square

A semi-spelunking venture to San Jose Caves in Vall d'Uixo received mixed reviews, but a serving of orxata, the region's "typical drink" went down smoothly.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back at It

We interrupt the travelogue with a return to the real world. After clearing my email account of 378 junk email messages (really, how much Viagra can one person order online?), I spent the morning getting caught up with things.

In the afternoon, I visited my Student Buddy through Big Brothers for the last time. It's more than just the summer break at school, this time it's a final goodbye. I brought back a Ferrari lanyard and some Euro coins to give my buddy as a souvenir and remembrance. We finished our time together with our usual: basketball and board/card games. I am the reigning Uno champ!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cruise Day 3, Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo looks a lot like the other places we've been, except there was a noted absence of graffiti.
Monte Carlo

Also, money was flashed everywhere. Parked outside of the casino, we saw a Ferrari and a million-dollar Bugatti. We took a cab ride in a Mercedes to the Princess Grace Rose Garden, along a section of road that is used as Formula 1 Grand Prix racetrack.

After our morning gelato snack, we saw the changing of the guard at the palace and found an internet café for a quick check-in.

Cruise Day 2, Geno(v)a: onto Portofino

After a picturesque drive through cliffside roads along the north shore of Italy and negotiating small hairpin turns of small villages, we arrived in the port of Santa Margherita Ligure. With its patron saint watching over the community, we ferried across to Portofino.
St. Marguerhita

We wandered along the streets and paths, taking in the view and history. While visiting yet another church, we roamed through the cemetery. It seems there are some Protestants in Italy after all:
Protestant Cemetery

The day was overcast, but you get an idea of what this "famous place of international gathering of jet-set" was like:

Cruise Day 1, Rome: Morning Tour

Morning light in St. Peter's Basilica:
St. Peter's
Too bad the Pope wasn't around to see it; he was busy in Assisi.

Trevi Fountain:
That's me being too cheap to toss a 1-Euro coin into Neptune's fountaining realm.

Italian Fashion:
Furla for Ursula
Right after taking this picture of a Furla store for Ursula, some street vendors selling knockoffs went running by, their bedsheet sacks of merchandise jostling behind them. Apparently, they were illegally parked on the Spanish Steps and spotted by local authorities.

Cruise Day 0, Rome: Double Entendre Deux

I saw this sign and thought of my Kentucky friend and his knack for detecting double entendres:
Gay Village
Turns out there was Gay Pride Parade that day and maybe the entendre was straightforward after all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

European Update

Here we are in Monte Carlo, grabbing a few minutes in an internet cafe to upload some photos and say hello.

Yesterday was a busy day in Portofino and Genoa, Italy; tomorrow is some cave cruising in Valencia (had to talk Shelley into that). This afternoon is bumming by the pool and a "gala night" for supper.

I'll do more proper blogging about our many adventures and exploits when we get back. For now, we're happy to say we're having a wonderful time, we miss our kids and will be glad to get back to tell you all our stories in detail.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

When in Rome

Here we are in Roma, the Eternal City. After a sleepless flight and an agonizingly long layover in Venice, we arrived with little incident.

Although a couple things stand out from our recent experience: if you're travelling on a plane, it's best not to wear a belt decorated with bullet replicas; also, if you like to sit in an airport bar & grill to be ignored and watch people seated after you be served before you're even approached, the Playwright Bar & Grill is the perfect place for you. (Shelley and I were looking forward to a hot supper before boarding the plane, but after being ignored by the waitstaff, despite our repeated attempts to attract their attention, we no longer felt like giving them our business and our good tip money.)

Once we met with our tour group and travelled to our hotel (the very European "Beverly Hills Hotel", 4 stars, no less) we headed out for some authentic gelato and a walk around the neighbourhood. We saw lots of SmartCars, VW Golfs and other compact cars here, not an SUV or Hummer or mini-van in sight.

Tomorrow is a sightseeing tour (St. Peter's Square, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps) before boarding the ship and setting off for Genoa. I can't upload any pictures right now, so that will have to wait until later.

Even though it's only 2:45 p.m. EDT, our 7 a.m. wake-up call is going to come early so the nightlife of Rome will have to wait for another visit. Ciao!

Friday, June 15, 2007

And We're Off ...

Happy Anniversary to us. Having a lovely time. Wish you were here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mad Dash

There was a lot of scurrying around today as you might imagine a family preparing to close on a home purchase upon returning from a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. My list of duties was long and began with cutting the lawn at 8 a.m. and vacuuming upstairs afterwards.

I had some productive time at the office before heading into London where I exchanged Kai's birthday shorts for a smaller size, deposited some cheques, made a pastoral visit to someone in ICU, bought some US dollars and euros, bought a little present for my sister and made it home in time to vacuum the car, remove the car seats, make an appointment with our lawyer and check in with our insurance agent and make supper.

Shelley and I relaxed a bit while we watched the finale of Six Feet Under: Season 3 before writing some notes for the grandparents about the daily routines of the kids and packing our own bags. After giving myself a summer haircut, getting some sleep, there will only be a few last things to do before we jet off to Rome. Good thing too, after all this work, I'm ready for a vacation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Death Pledge"

Shelley and I signed our lives away at the bank tonight. We completed the last of the paperwork for mortgage and downpayments. Then we went across the street to shop for appliances.

While we're pleased that we locked in on a good interest rate (the rate's gone up 3 times since our pre-approval), the realization that after our five years of payment, we'll have paid twice as much in interest than off the principal dimmed our enthusiasm somewhat.

We stopped at McDonald's for some McFlurry dessert and a couple of the highschool guys from Monday night basketball pointed me out: "Hey! it's the basketball guy!" I didn't tell them about my injury, me being so macho and all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Birthday 2.3

Maybe you're tired of the birthday series of photos. Don't worry, this is the last one until next time.
Birthday 2.3
Looks like he's got the routine down pat now.


I woke up this morning still unable to breathe properly and a very tender side; I suspected that I might have cracked a rib last night. Ordinarily, I'd ride out the pain for a few days and see what happens (there's nothing that can be done for a cracked/broken rib treatment-wise apart from time).

Considering that Shelley and I leave on our anniversary cruise on Friday, I thought I better have it checked out just to make sure that it wasn't something more serious. After Bible Study, I packed a bag full of work and books and headed to the ER.

After triage and registration, it was a surprising few minutes before my name was called. I gowned and waited. This was where my book came in handy. I was moved to a different room and waited some more. I read a lot of the book.

The doctor came in and figured it was a bruised rib, but ordered X-rays to rule out a hairline fracture. I waited some more. I was shown to the X-ray department, zapped, and went back to my ER room. Where I waited. And read.

Eventually, I learned my ribs are intact and received a prescription for a painkiller. And that was 5 hours of my day.

Monday, June 11, 2007


For the past few weeks, I've been playing some pick-up basketball at the Bible Chapel here in town. We're a small group of players and enthusiasts that like to bang around under the hoop and shoot the lights out.

After a couple hours, we finish our time, a little battered and bruised. I've rolled both my ankles one night, the week after I jammed my finger on the ball, another week my neck had a little spasm. Tonight when I jumped up for the ball, the other player ducked down to go around ... and his shoulder met my ribs with great force.

The wind was knocked out of me and it took a while to recover, but I was able to finish the game. Lovingly laughing at my litany of injury, Shelley likes to remind me that I'm not 20 anymore. (Although I still look it).

As Happy as a Butterfly

Rei has been enjoying all the partying going on; any excuse for cake, balloons and party hats is a good one.
She's waterpainted a butterfly to join the festivities.

Birthday 2.2

We have plenty of cake leftover and a package from the Parsons-Sheldrakes to open, so we once again happy birthdayed. Kai's going to think birthdays are week-long events.
Birthday 2.2
I guess you only turn 2 once. Although we've been saying that he's been acting 2 for many months already.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Birthday 2.1

We had a family birthday party for Kai in the afternoon. He was generously spoiled by everyone and hopes they enjoyed the cake he selected.
Birthday 2.1
Here, he's singing "Happy Birthday" to himself.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Lovely Day for a Picnic

In this time of transition, I'm doing my best to keep my focus and energy on Arkona and Ravenswood churches despite the natural anticipation of a new ministry. I did make an exception this afternoon, as we attended a barbeque (roast beef in a garbage can) with the members of the Search Committee of Glencoe and Appin churches.

Reiko wanted to swimming in the pool and we spent a good chunk of the afternoon sitting on the pool steps happily splashing about and making wet handprints on the deck. Kai was interested in the pool, in theory, but shied away when it came time for aquatic entry. Shelley, despite being tired and weary from her previous night's Relay for Life, enjoyed meeting the people that had met with me about their church vacancy.

The gathering was hosted by a campground owned by the son and daughter-in-law of Arkona church's treasurer. It's a small world, after all.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Kai had been up and crying off and on through the night so I was already awake when I went to investigate the sound of running water through the pipes. I found the water softener filled to the brim and spilling its surplus over the basement floor and all the sundry items we have stored there. So bailing and mopping at 4:30 a.m. wasn't the start to the day that I envisioned; neither was going to the church at 5:30 a.m. to check the plumbing situation there.

In the end, we unplugged the water softener and turned off the water to the house. I left a phone message with the plumber explaining what was going on and expressed appreciation for a return of my call.

Later that morning when I called back, I was informed that they wouldn't be out to see us today, they'd call tomorrow before heading over. I bluntly asked, "So what do we do about water?" Surprised, she responded, "There's no water at your house?"

I repeated the same message I left that morning, was transferred to someone who tried to walk me through a bypass of the softener. I told him I had a two-year old with me and he assured me that was OK. Except I couldn't really look for, or follow, any of his suggestions while holding a squirmy toddler in a wet basement setting.

Not the most helpful phone call.

Later in the afternoon, someone showed up to rebuild the water softener valve and figured out how to reroute the water flow the next time something happens. I paid attention and labelled the valves for future reference. Then I mopped and bailed some more. Flush toilets and indoor plumbing really are marvels, aren't they?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Neither Rain nor Sleet ...

I had lunch with a minister in the neighbouring town. Our plan was to golf 9 holes after our repast, but the weather was less than ideal: windy and cold. He opted to take a pass on the golf but I had bundled up in golf-appropriate layers and decided I'd tempt the elements and brave the course.

With a busy couple weeks ahead, who knows when my next opportunity to golf would be? My Christmas present, a windproof pull-over jacket, kept me toasty warm and my game went smoothly and quickly (because I was the only one out there, it seemed).

As for how I did? I acquitted myself well on hole #4 but was undone once more by #9.

I guess this makes me a diehard golfer, that "neither cold nor wind stays this courageous golfer from the swift completion of his appointed round."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Flip Flops

Maybe it's because I'm most familiar with the world of basketball, but of all the sports it seems to have the most renegers and backpedal-ers of any arena.

Roger Clemens, notwithstanding, has any athlete worn out his welcome more than Michael Jordan? Blasphemy, I know, to impugn the holiness of His Airness, but I couldn't have been the only one tired of his "retiring", trying to play baseball, coming back, retiring, coming back with the Wizards, retiring finally.

The latest is Kobe Bryant burning all his bridges on national radio with his team only to take all of that back and committing to being a "Laker for life".

The latest latest is coach Billy Donovan signing a 5-year $27-million contract with Orlando, with much agonizing drama, only to back out and return to his University of Florida job.

What is it about the sport that eschews accountability and value of one's word? Must have been that new, high-tech ball that they introduced this past October only to bring back the old classic ball in January.

Startling personal insight: maybe this is why my friends call me "Quitter Bastard".

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apostolic Succession

This afternoon, my dear friend Michelle was duly commissioned to a ministry of Education, Service and Pastoral Care, to the puzzlement of the presider. He perhaps was perplexed that someone would dedicate their vocational life in ministry with the church in offices other than Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care.

I had the honour of being one of those to lay on hands for her, a channelling of the Holy Spirit and a long church tradition that creates a mystical link through all time and space to the first ministers of the Christian faith, the disciples of Jesus himself.

During the meet-and-greet afterwards, the comment made to her after she told someone she was on the move to London Conference was "Oh. That's more good than bad..." I suppose that would be an accurate statement but not so fetching as a slogan. For catchy taglines, I like the one that my cohorts and I came up with last weekend: "London Conference - not as anal as Toronto".

Saturday, June 02, 2007


It's a strange fortnight at work: two consecutive Sundays I'll be away from the pulpit, but not away on holiday or study leave. Last weekend was London Conference's AGM, tomorrow is the conclusion of Toronto Conference's AGM when my learning partner Michelle will be commissioned as a diaconal minister.

So even though the weeks have remained full workwise, with Monday School, Bible Study, hospital visits, office hours, meetings, and other administrative duties, I have not had to prepare a sermon for Sunday which is always a big chunk of time. Here it is Saturday and I haven't puzzled out and researched material for a scriptural exposition.

I feel strangely unanchored in my work and time management without that time of writing. However, I did manage to organize my files and tidy the home office somewhat. I'll be back in saddle, so to speak, in 8 days time and my sense of purpose will be nestled in routine once more.