Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Host with the Least

Yesterday's "Septemberween" gathering of friends at our not-a-manse would have been better had I not caught the flu bug that has been going around.

In the middle of our morning preparations, before people arrived, I had a nap. And while everyone went to the park, I had a nap. As the grown-ups dined on casserole favourites, I minded the kids and controlled the chaos in the Wiggles moshpit.

It was nice to see everyone, but I wish I could have been more interactive. (But not in a vomiting-on-the-guests kind of way).

Church this morning was a one-shot deal, as the fifth Sunday of any month is a regional worship service with 4 local pastoral charges join together for worship. This was a good thing as I expended all of my social energy with the children's story and didn't hang around for the coffee and muffins afterwards.

Again, it behooved me not to throw up on those gathered.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


With Shelley away at a conference earlier this week, taking a sick day because of flu-like symptoms and a Thursday evening workshop, I've made the commute from work to home via the kids' daycare far too often this week.

It's a tidy 90-minute circuit with plenty of nostalgic points of reference along the way (I guess feeling more at home in Forest than Glencoe is still only natural ... 7 years versus 6 weeks) but it sure puts a cramp in one's work routine. Factor in Rei's school days and the bus schedule, it's a minor miracle that I was in the right place at the right time with the right kid.

At least with all the road time, my new music acquisitions got a lot of air play. And as I was singing along with John K. Samson to "Tournament of Hearts", Rei remarked that I sounded just like the song that was playing. High praise, indeed!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reunion Tour

After months away on an East Coast tour, Shelley's parents are back in the area and will be spending the next while stopping in on family and friends. We welcomed them back with a BBQ supper. I'm sure they will notice dramatic changes in the kids as well as in the house as it's been a while.

The kids were giddily happy to see Grandma and Papa, but were sad to see me go off to another church meeting. Such is the life of clergy, it can't all be Sunday morning sermon glamour can it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Independents' Day

A red letter day for my kind of music. The day after the Polaris Music Prize was awarded to Patrick Watson (the man and the band), Stars' In Our Bedroom after the War and The Weakerthans' Reunion Tour sent my musical sensibilities aflutter.

Stars reach a Smiths-sonic level of synth-pop earnestness as male vocalist Torquil managed to channel Morrissey and Beautiful South on a couple occasions. There was a brief second when I thought they were doing a cover of "Bigmouth Strikes Again". It seems that his voice became showcased more than siren Amy Milan's; still, no one does a better lovelorn duet than they.

My dear Antarctic rockers from Winnipeg, met my high expectations on all counts (if you exclude the spoken word tribute to Gump Worsley - thankfully it's only a couple minutes long). Who else but John K. Samson can lead us through the soul searching introspection of a bus driver, while melodically incorporating the lexicon of curling or the feral wondering of a recurring cat?

And such is the state of my aural fixation.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fair Game

After blessing the Temple construction of Appin's Outdoor Funday School, and an ecumenical worship service at the Glencoe Fair with mostly the Presbyterians and Uniteds, it was home for some family time before Shelley heads off to a conference for a couple days.

Such is the life of two young-looking, urbane professionals with conferences, meetings, workshops and the like. Things will settle down for a bit and we'll have some two-parent childcare for a few weeks until it starts again. Little wonder there's four different agendas/calendars on the go here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Curtain Call

After repeated trips to Rona and Canadian Tire, we put up a couple sets of curtains: for Rei's room and ours. Again, it took longer than expected but this time I can blame blunt drill bits instead of poor renovation skills. The kids helped out with their tools and marvelled at the powers of HandyDaddy, not knowing any better.

Progress is being made around the house. There's more floor visible in the office/guest room and artwork is finding its place on the walls. Bit by bit, the house is feeling like home.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Restless Night

While the day was rejuvenating and relaxed, the evening and night were not so much. We were at the airport in good time, returned the rental van and our flight out was early. While that meant an earlier touchdown in Calgary, it also meant a longer stint sitting around in the airport waiting for the 12:45 a.m. red eye to London.

I did manage a few fits of sleep here and there, but nothing more than 10 minutes at a time. Sure the satellite TV is a nice feature, but even with all the variety and time-shifting options, there's not a lot of programming in the wee hours.

Arriving in London shortly after 6 a.m. local time and dropping off a fellow United Church Sabbather I was on the road in good time and managed to make it home to see my family before they headed off to work/daycare, an unexpected bonus.

Knowing that when I do crash, it'll incapacitate me for a long time, I headed into the office for a bit of work. I managed a little nap in the afternoon, but ready for the long sleep now - the first in about 40 hours.

Restful Day

The last morning of our gathering saw us developing action plans and timelines, divvying up tasks, and going our separate ways. Four of us were not leaving Regina until the late evening, and one of us lived in Regina, another of us was going to be visiting friends in town so after we dropped people off at the airport, the remnant numbered 6.

At a loss for what to do for the next few hours, turned loose in the big city, we opted for more action rather than watching a movie. We played Ultimate Frisbee on the front lawn of The Legislative building, posed for some photos by the "lake", and after a brief stop at the Reginan's home, proceeded to Bushwakker Brewpub for supper. I have to recommend their Palliser Porter, a smooth dark beer with a chocolatey-coffee flavour that became my dessert.

As we looked back on our afternoon, it very much was a practise of Sabbath: spending time with friends, self-care/physical activity, sharing a meal, appreciating the company of one another.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Playing in Traffic

After an industrious morning where the possibility of the group collaborating on a book stirred the imagination, we broke for lunch and some afternoon sabbath. There was a large contingent that went to a local potter's studio (it must be the prairies when you can go to someone's place of business, select merchandise and leave an I.O.U.), and a trio of us that went golfing.

At Echo Ridge there was little in the way of water hazards to lose balls, but Highway 56 did cut right through the course and I managed to drive one over the roadway. I took a drop on the right side of the fence, but my next hit was a nice solid shot that crossed over the boundary. I chipped through the gateway in the fence to get back on course. Heading to the next tee, I found a ball by the highway to replace the one I lost.

As per usual, I hit a number of trees and generally made my partners feel like better golfers. It was a gorgeous fall day with a scenic backdrop of biblically-bosomy hills and turning of leaves that made an afternoon with new friends that much more enjoyable.

Until we got back to task and faced the frustrations of committee work.

Monday, September 17, 2007


It’s apparent that I’ve managed to get the wireless internet connection running on the laptop here. I went for a run this morning, and I wasn’t too far along before I came across a guy pushing his stalled pick-up truck to the side of the road. I offered a hand and got him off the road (not that, at 6:45, there was a lot of traffic), my good deed for the day already done.

The balance of the morning has been introductions of the discernment team, and a good chunk of time was spent on developing relationship and rapport. Seeing as this is a year-long project with these folks, it was nice to take our time in sharing our stories about ourselves and youth ministry/misery.

Fittingly, the afternoon has started with some Sabbath time before we launch into further work and perhaps I’ll call the golf course about 9 holes tomorrow. Or Wednesday, my flight doesn’t leave until the late evening. I might take advantage of this time for a bit of a nap.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Middle of Regina

After flying over Regina to get to Calgary and whiling away a few hours in the airport, we finally touched down in Regina. The flights themselves were fine: “comfortably” seated in Westjet’s leather-like chairs, watching live satellite TV on the small screen embedded above the tray table.

I did watch some Pocoyo on Treehouse TV to the amusement/curiosity/concern of my seatmates of row 13, if only to avoid the breaking news of OJ Simpson’s arrest for armed robbery.

From the airport in Regina, a cluster of us had arrived together, and we caravanned through the city on a scenic tour … except the local Saskatchewanian (Saskatchewanite?) was in the other car.

We settled into our rooms, unpacked, had supper, and did some preliminary introductions. Not all of us had arrived yet so much of the “real work” will start tomorrow. Seeing as I’ve been up since 3 a.m. local time, it’s early to bed.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Heading for the Hills of Saskatchewan

There’s a national meeting of youth and young adult ministry folk in Saskatchewan happening next week that I’m attending. So I’m packing my bags and heading out to Calling Lakes Centre in Fort Qu’Appelle. Having been there before, I know it’s beautifully nestled in the Qu’Appelle River Valley with lots of glacially-carved slopes and hills. This time, it’s not November so the weather should permit more outdoor enjoyment.

In preparation and development for a nebulous “Year of Sabbath” program, a group of us are visioning and discerning what shape and implications that may have on our individual lives, as well as the wider church.

On the list of things to bring were items that give us rest, restoration and Sabbath. So I bringing some books, some crosswords puzzles, Settlers of Catan and some golf balls (noting a course next door to the retreat centre) ... who knows what will happen? Back to packing, my flight leaves at 7:15 tomorrow morning which is a 5 a.m. wake-up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

An Open Letter to Political Canvassers

Dear Eager and Zealous Campaigner for the Incumbent,

Thank you for interrupting our evening routine, an extra 30 minutes of shrieking-toddler-going-to-bed was exactly what I was hoping for tonight. Although to be fair, I cannot blame you for overtired and hypersensitive children.

I also cannot deny the (self-interested?) work of the Incumbent to improve the quality of life in Strathroy. Your assertions are correct that no natives have been killed at Ipperwash since your party took office, although I doubt that the absence of murder can be credited to the Premier.

What I take exception with is the cavalier dismissal of my political allegiance, stating a vote like mine is a vote for the dreaded Tory candidate (as if he were Lord Voldemort). That you could not name the NDP candidate (do you even know if this person is male or female?), let alone the Green Party, spoke volumes about political hubris in the riding.

While I'm sure the Incumbent and Premier Dalton need me, I will not use my vote as a negative force, voting against anyone. I prefer my actions to be positive and oriented to a specific vision.

I wish you well on the campaign trail. Please don’t come back. Thank you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hospital Rounds 2

I arranged to meet up with my dear friend, the newly-Reverend Michelle, in London with the excuse that I'd orient her to the parking lots and pastoral care departments of the various hospitals. Really, it was an excuse to spend some time together giggling and catching up.

Surprisingly, we ran into the pastor team from the Pentecostal church in Glencoe, there for the same purpose. We had to swallow our guffaws when they asked if Michelle was my assistant. I guess I didn't have to go too far afield to run into the Senior Pastor phenomenon.

After the photo ID, some lunch and cursory tours of the hospitals, we browsed through Chapters together. I noted that the latest Dune posthumous sequel is on the shelves (Shelley will be so thrilled). We both bought copies of The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, having been won over by the hand-drawn map inside the front cover.

It was a grand day out and a wonderful opportunity to reconnect while pondering some big-time spiritual questions, like what our penultimatums would be in the event of our demise.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Cheese Stands Alone

For about a month, we'd noticed a malodorous presence in the car. It smelled like sour milk. We'd pinpointed one of the carseats as the culprit and had washed the seat inserts. That helped, but the smell was still there.

Today, I went to wash the seat cushion again and found in deep in the abyss of the plastic moulding frame: a piece of cheese. I'm not sure how long it had been there, but it's not there anymore. Such is the sweet non-smell of success!

The Real(ty) World

I was at a meeting today at Four Counties Health Services hospital (yes, ministers spend a lot of time in meetings – I count 6 this week) when I glimpsed a familiar looking person across the acute care unit. I figured he was a doctor that I had seen in my travels before.

A few minutes later, as I crossed his path again, I realized who he was: the previous owner of our new home. I knew he did computer work for the hospitals, and there he was. I gave a polite smile and nod as we passed each other, as did he. Although I think he was trying to place my face, or maybe trying to figure out why I'd be in his place of work.

Later this afternoon, in the car, I recognized the name on the personalized licence plate of the car ahead of me as it made a U-turn. This granted me a look at the decals on the side of the car, identifying the driver as the realtor who sold us the house (who by the way, if I hadn't mentioned already, is married to my high school music teacher).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Run, Lola, Run

I was late getting home from work. Meaning I was late meeting the bus to pick up Rei. Yes, I was a bad Daddy.

I was in an important church meeting. Ordinarily I would have blown it off and left early (which I ended up doing: leaving early anyway) but it was a decision-making meeting about the sale of church property, so I kind of needed to be there. So now I know to account for Rei's school days in my meeting schedules.

I raced home at high speed, trying to be pleasant at the kids waving to me from the line of buses in front of me at the railway tracks. And when I realized the irony of me explaining to Rei about car accidents yesterday, I let up on the gas pedal to a more reasonable level. Were it not for two red lights mere kilometers from home, I would have made it on time.

Two minutes too late, I pull into our driveway. As I get out to the car, I hear a happy cry of "Daddyyyyyy!" and see Rei running to greet me from the neighbour's. Her bus buddies were entertaining her at their house, a couple doors down. Immensely grateful for their hospitality and caring nature, I thanked them profusely for looking after her in my absence.

I asked Rei if she was sad or scared that I wasn't there to get her from the bus. "No." Things did turn out OK. And I'm more damaged by this than she is. Argh. Blah. Still, if she's in therapy, years from now, talking about abandonment issues, I can pinpoint when they might have began.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bluewater Bottleneck

On a whim, we decided that we'd do some school clothes shopping over the border with a supper at Olive Garden. Our apparent lack of patriotic consumerism (really, how many products available here are actually made in Canada?) was immediately, cosmically rewarded by a traffic jam on the bridge. For 53 minutes we crept along on the Bluewater Bridge, recalling a radio news report that identified this very border crossing as the slowest in Canada and listening to the kids lament "traffic again" as they relived Saturday's ordeal on the 403.

After considering that maybe Rei could have her bath in the morning before school, and a quick-paced shopping spree through
Target, we decided there was enough time to have supper at Olive Garden after all. (You can tell we were thinking with our guts more than anything else). Again the food was marvellous, I didn't find the wine-peddling overbearing, the service was prompt and perky. Rei asked, "Why is she so smiley?"

To which Shelley replied, "She likes her job." Apparently the border toll takers and customs agents that we met on our way home also liked their jobs, because we breezed through without delay.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Condo Living

We arrived at Rumiko & Kris's condo, where our fears that our kids would wreak havoc on a hip and trendy living space were unfounded. Rei and Kai did well to create their own fun: jumping, running, playing belly pianos, and acting in a puppet show.

Rumiko dug out some Hello Kitty sunglasses that were too small for her but fit her niece very well. She really is looking at life through rose-coloured glasses.

Jerseyville detour

We went to visit my sister and her husband in Toronto, to see their "new" condo. (They've had it almost a couple years now, but we haven't managed to see it yet). The road trip started out smoothly, until Rei needed a bathroom break near Brantford. Of course that was about the time we hit the traffic jam.

It took 20 minutes to travel the 2 km to the exit ramp, where we learned that both lanes of the highway were closed. After a bathroom break and consulting a map, we first followed the masses and ventured to a highway to the south only to find that another traffic jam awaited. After a few minutes, we u-turned and tried a northern route on a lesser road. We backtracked, zigged and zagged and drove through Jerseyville on the way back to the 403. It was very Amazing Race-like.

As we scooted along our way to Toronto, we felt sorry for the backed up traffic heading east, noticing a few cars reversing back up the on-ramps to avoid the wait. We could feel their pain.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Reiko Goes to School

Not wanting her picture taken, this was the best we could manage of Rei's first day of school.
school day 1
The morning went rather smoothly, although my heart was pounding as bus pick-up time drew near. There were no tears (from Rei) but it was with what seemed a sombre and silent resignation to her fate that she got on the bus with help from our neighbours.

Everyone was glad when she was home again. Her day was good, the bus ride was fun, her teacher is nice, and she made one friend. She drew a picture of one flower but she's not sure where it went. The lunch breaks weren't very long; and she didn't eat all of what she brought.

Apparently a student helper (referred to as "the boy") put her on the wrong bus for home, but that got straightened out. In the end, she's looking forward to going back.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Investigative Reporting

Today I had the joy of picking up the kids from daycare as Shelley had an evening program. We were listening to one of Rei's favourites, Tegan and Sara, when some questions came to her mind:

Where do Tegan and Sara live?
- One lives in Montreal and the other in Vancouver

Which one lives in Montreal, Tegan or Sara?
- I'm not sure.

Do they live in a house or apartment or cottage?
- I don't know.

Where do they play their songs?
- In studios or concert halls or bars, I think.

In buildings?
- Yes, mostly. Maybe outside for some concerts.

[and returning to her first line of questioning] Do they live far apart?
- Yes.

After that, she lapsed into silence - maybe imagining what it would be like to live far apart from family.

Inquiring minds want to know. Emily Yeung better watch out, there's a 4-year old interviewer hot on her tail.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Maytag Makeover

Shelley wondered tonight if there was another colour beneath the panels of the dishwasher. Its 80's white contrasted with the black of the other appliances. Not that I'm racist, some of my best friends are white.

Sure enough, the flip side of the panels were black and some chromatic continuity flows in the kitchen.
kitchen black

You can see the old version here; although I have to confess it's a GE dishwasher, not Maytag but I couldn't resist the alliteration.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

to School

In the staggered start system at Rei's new school, kids are phased into the classroom in smaller numbers. So her first day is on Friday. The bus pick-up is close at-hand and she already has some "bus buddies" in the girls who live a couple doors down.

Rei and Kai are making friends with the locals; there's a 3-year old boy next door that they're always asking about and they were playing together in his yard yesterday. His place seems to be party central – there's a trailer in the driveway that serves as the neighbourhood tree fort.

Such is life in our corner of the world, on the impending eve of the first day of school.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Master of the Bedroom

This morning's labour had me assembling a new bedframe and attaching our head- and footboards to it. Like many of my HandyDaddy projects, it involved some cursing under my breath and took much longer than I estimated.

By this afternoon, our bed was solidly supported and back in place, ready for our soporific endeavours; although, the boudoir now has the smell of shop class.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Sunday worships are curious things. Each incarnation takes on a different flavour or personality even, despite the liturgy and sermon texts are identical. Today, the first service was adequate. For whatever reason, I wasn't feeling a connection and resigned myself to accepting that this one was in the category of "they can't all be winners".

Maybe it was a different energy, or just the fact I'd had one extra run-through the worship material, but things went much better during the second service. One of my jokes set the organist giggling so much that some misplaced notes chimed out as she tried to compose herself. There was applause led by the choir after the sermon, and not because they were glad it was over.

It was explained to me afterwards that at times when applause follows the choir anthem, it's as if the congregation was duly entertained. Whereas if a sermon manages to connect on a deeper level, there is no expression of appreciation. And shouldn't the main substance of the worship experience be applauded? Or so the rationale went.

Still, it was like preaching to a studio audience, as if all the responses were on cue. This must be how Letterman feels! After all, we both have kids the same age...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Golfing with a Pro

I went golfing at Caradoc Sands golf club with Shauna's boyfriend, John, to check out one of my new local courses. He's a far better golfer than I am, but I was glad for his experience and expertise.

It was paradigm-shifting for me to hear him discuss with himself where he wanted to hit his next shot from. I usually pick the longest club and swing away to see how close I get. He was setting himself up for his approach and putt.

John also observed that my lead foot was a little out of line. Which explains why my shots have been shooting straight off to the right: that's where I was aiming. With a corrected stance, my next few hits sailed down the middle of the fairway.

His best advice? I have to play more. I won't argue with that either.