Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Port Soiree

By Belinda 

It got a brief mention in The Secret Adventures of Susan's Scottish ScarfPort Soiree in Schomberg. When I wrote about it then, I mentioned the artsy ambiance and tasty food. Although Susan and I decided to share a slice of apple pie for dessert, instead of serving it on one plate with two forks, the host, Alvaro, presented us with two plates, with our mini slices of pie, beautifully presented, each with a swirl of caramel sauce. Susan had joked with him that the pie would not be as good as mine. Alvaro said, "Oh, you make pie?" And after we ate every crumb of the scrumptious pie and proclaimed in ecstasy over its perfection and the tangy cranberries hidden among the slices of apples, he said, "But not as good as yours?"  

"Oh, better than mine," I had to admit!

I regretted then that I hadn't taken my camera along, but today when I went there with another friend, Joanne, I remembered. And here, so that you too can know about an amazing place to eat if you are ever in this area, is a photographic record of our meal today!

I am a great lover of vegetables and so I had the ten vegetable stir fry in teriyaki sauce with saffron rice. Delectable! 

My friend Joanne had penne in cream sauce with chicken. 

The home made bread was a treat. Joanne did not eat any and I had to restrain myself from eating her share too. :)

The decor is dramatic, rustic and splendidly colourful!

On every hand are interesting things to look at and admire. Outside the snow reflected back bright sunshine and a blue sky canopied the crisp, Ontario winter day. Inside, the rich warmth of our surroundings contrasted beautifully.

We spent a happy two hours chatting. I was sorry that Joanne staunchly resisted desert and Alvaro thought that I, too, only wanted coffee. 

But I took it as a hint from God that I should know when to stop! :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

By Belinda

In the countdown to my trip to England, I will land there 6 weeks from today!

One of the things I decided to do was have copies made for Rob of some of the old family photos I have--and while I was doing it for him, I made extra copies for other family members. 

They were ready today and after picking them up I gave Brenda her set of 32, 8 x 10 photos. As we sat at the kitchen table looking at them together, I realized that I will have to number them and make a chart to go with them, explaining who it is that is on each of the photos as Brenda did not of course recognize the faces, some of them in photos taken 90 or more years ago.

But there was one that she picked up and said, "Mom, who is this?" as she stared at it,"Those are my cheekbones, and my jawline."

It was a photo of her great grandmother; my father's mother, Lucy Cater; taken in about 1920, that she was looking at. I had never noticed the striking resemblance before. Brenda is beautiful, but I always wondered where she got her features from. Looking at the face before us in the photo, we both had the strangest feeling. It was Brenda's face!

How cool!

Friday, February 22, 2013


By Belinda

Hawaiian and pepperoni pizza; miniature red velvet and white velvet cakes and Sinbad Turtle Shells--we were celebrating Tippy's 15th birthday. 

As we devoured slices of George's pizza from the Bond Head Restaurant, Brenda regaled us with Tippy's birth story and we all remembered the day she entered the world at 6lb 9 oz, and looking a lot like her great, great grandmother, my own Omie Schipper, from Holland.

The girls talked about the new high school they'll be attending in the fall, and Tori said that she already knows which university she wants to attend--the University of GuelphOntario Veterinary College

They were on their way out of the kitchen to go back downstairs to their apartment when Tori noticed something in the glass part of the coffee grinder hanging on the wall. She slid out the square glass "coffee grind catcher" and cried, "Aaah! Spider!" and put it down on the floor where she and Brenda both gazed down on the helpless arachnid in horror, Tori having turned into a glazed eyed spider hater with murder on her mind, calling upon me to "Kill it!" 

"No," I said, "What has the poor thing done to you? And besides, I thought you wanted to be a vet!"

"For ANIMALS, not horrible INSECTS," she said, "Do you know how many spiders you swallow in a year while you're asleep?" and she gave some wild number that made me inquire, "How do you know that?"

"Discovery Channel and Animal Planet!" said our budding vet authoritatively. 

Well, I'm not a vegetarian yet, but I'm not keen on munching on spiders as a midnight feast, so I went to the authority that trumps Animal Planet--Google of course!

And I will be putting my granddaughter's mind at rest.
Apparently this rumour of orally fixated spiders is an urban legend. At least I hope so because our kitchen spider is back in his coffee grinder! :) 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Really Matters

By Belinda

I drive snow covered roads under the blanket of night. Up hill and down; a roller coaster country road slicing through fields waiting, hushed and cold, for spring.

Light twinkles from distant windows; from farmhouses dotted in the dark fields. 

The village I call home is a cluster of light in the darkness and I think that fifty years from now, most of us; and a hundred years from now, certainly all of  us; will be gone. And this land, this village will be inhabited by people completely different, just as one hundred years ago it was also so.

It makes me think of what really matters. It isn't houses, furniture or any of the stuff we sweat our lives away to buy or dust and tidy!

The only thing that really matters is the way our lives touch the lives of others in the endless chain of connection that forms the river of life.

Do we touch lives at all? Because that matters. Do we touch with kindness and gentleness, humour and grace? 

Is our touch infused with the fragrance of the Pierced One? That matters even more.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Good" Bye Remembered

By Belinda

Here in Canada this is Family Day weekend. Last year it was just a couple of weeks after we left England after what we did not then know was our last visit with Mum. On Family Day I called Mum and Rob, not realizing that it was to be my last conversation with Mum. We rarely know those "lasts" but we can look back and see how God in his graciousness was giving us gifts in those moments. 

Of course I have been thinking a lot about this time last year, especially this weekend. I am thanking God for the gift that Mum was to my life and to many who have read so much about her here, and have had my posts resonate with your own memories of loved ones.

As I remember her, I will be sharing a few posts from last year that I hope will bless you too, to read again. This one was posted on January 27, 2012. I hope that you, as I, can see God's fingerprints on our lives in it:

It was Saturday evening and Mum was tucked up cozily in bed. Our friends, Eileen, Chris and Nel-Rose had left a couple of hours earlier for their long drive north to Kendal, in the Lake District. Nel is studying nursing at Lancaster University and we are all so happy to see her following her dream.
I sat on the side of Mum's bed, as usual going over the lovely moments in the day that we had shared. I told Mum that Nel is hoping to do one of her placements in Canada.
"Wouldn't that be nice?" I said, "She might be able to stay with us."
Mum nodded, "She can stay in my room," she said, smiling.
"Do you still remember the loft room?" I asked; Mum's stroke in 2003 took some of her memories with it.
"Oh, yes," she said, "I remember all of your rooms. I don't remember the other house," she added, making a face, and I knew that she was referring to the last house she lived in with Dad, on Snake Lane; a place with no happy memories. That is a house whose rooms she has chosen to forget.
We reminisced about how she loved looking up at the stars and moon through the skylight over her bed in the loft room. There she was surrounded only by love and happy times with family. And also by all of our friends, who like everyone who ever met Mum, loved her at first sight.
Mum was up for anything and everything; coming with me everywhere I went: worship practices; writer group meetings; church, cell group; shopping--and endless coffees and teas with friends. She loved it all and partook to the full--never admitting to being tired.
It was so good to know that some of those memories remain with Mum as well as with me.
Goodbyes at the end of our happy times together back then, were hard in a different way to now. Then, she was leaving intense happiness for a hard life at home. And yet outwardly we spoke only of gratitude for what God had given us together, and "next time."
We held our sadness close inside and did not admit to it; that would have been too hard. As I watched her brave, smiling face vanish finally from sight, I would turn away, holding tightly to Paul's hand, head bowed to hide the brave smile on my own face that was now crumpling into tears in spite of my valiant effort to hold them back.
I am grateful that now it is different when we part. I leave Mum in the care of loving hands; those of Rob, and her carers, who are respectful and kind. She knows that I leave for a life that is happy, and I know that she is cherished.
We still focus on being grateful, as we should, for all that we have been given, and we still cling to "next time;" for always there is next time. We can count on that, whether here, or in heaven, where one of us will be waiting for the other at heaven's gate one day.
With grateful hearts always, we will say, "Until we meet again."

Friday, February 15, 2013

By Belinda

I'm sorry that the story of Mum's stroke and how that impacted all of us, has taken so long to share! I am almost finished.

Tonight I am rereading words I wrote on February 25th, 2004, on a plane flying home to Canada, reflecting on the month I had spent in England and all that it had meant to us. Here is some of what I wrote:
It was so hard to leave dear Mum this morning, but I feel so grateful for having had four precious weeks with her and for all that God enabled me to accomplish. 
So many supports have been put in place: Her feet are taken care of; hairdressing appointments arranged; supplies ordered; vision checks scheduled; care givers organized (well "organized" sounds too militant--but what I mean is that they know Mum a little better than they have done without me;) and--so wonderful--Mum has been out with people--her friends--to the Sycamore Club.
It was so different leaving Mum this time. I found myself caressing her and kissing her so often, especially over the last few days. Yesterday I said, "I love you Mum," and she said, "And I love you too," in her slightly slurred way of enunciating words now. It is still easier for her to repeat back a similar sentence to what has just been said to her. She said then, "I know I don't show it very much," and I said, "Oh, Mum, you show it every moment of every day."
I am praying that God unlocks her speech more. So often she would want to say something and would stop, with a perplexed expression, unable to access the word she wanted. I would guess at what she was going to say and sometimes would get it! Other times, most often when she was under pressure to answer a question from someone less familiar, only unintelligible sounds would come forth, and I would see the person she was speaking to, stop, thinking that she would say more. I hope they keep trying. The funniest moments were when Mum would answer one of my questions with a hilariously unintelligible phrase and look at me as if I should have understood, and when I said, "Pardon Mum?" would repeat exactly the same phrase. I was just as lost as ever, but we were laughing, together. She never minded. I never saw her angry or frustrated. Sometimes she said something to someone else, that I understood perfectly, but they didn't, and they would stop talking. I felt like saying, "No, don't stop, that made sense!"
This morning we had 20 minutes with Mum before the taxi came at 5.00 a.m. to take us to the airport (Paul had joined me for the final two weeks.) Before her stroke Mum was always up, making us coffee, seeing us off, but this time she lay in bed and we kissed her and said our goodbyes and left. As we drove away I thought of all the changes over the years. Dad always used to rush to carry our cases to the car, but gradually gave in to our insistence that we do it. Our final glimpse of home always used to be both of them standing in the doorway, waving us off.Then last year it was just Mum, and now Mum was content to remain in bed and be kissed.
I wonder what thoughts she was thinking as we said goodbye. She says so much less now because it is such an effort to pull the words from their hiding place. In her stillness and quietness though, she is still Mum and possessed of a gentle sweetness. 
When I think of how I feared that we had "lost" Mum, I laugh. How right was the insight God gave me, that the essence of those we love does not change and that we love them powerfully as they are in a way that is inexplicable in its purity.
Now my thoughts turn to home--to managing a different life and different challenges until I can come back again, should God grant me that blessing. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Many Plots Thicken at Once

By Belinda

As I have been hatching my plot to surprise Rob, Mum Burston has been planning a trip to England in April as well. This is quite a big deal, since she is the same age as my mum would have been--87 this year.

She is flying over with Paul's brother John, and his wife Wendy. They will spend 3 days with family in Redditch--just 3 miles from Alvechurch; then they will travel south to Cornwall and spend a week in Penzance  before going on to Southampton and then to New York City by boat. Quite the amazing trip! But it was the 3 days in Redditch that excited me this morning  when Mum B was filling me in on the details after church, because they will be there on April 8th--and I get to Alvechurch on the 6th! Sorry for all the exclamation marks but this is exciting.

This afternoon when I got home I picked up the phone to call Rob as we hadn't spoken for a few weeks. I noticed that it was beeping to alert me to a message. It was from Rob, who left it yesterday, when I had been so busy I hadn't checked the phone for messages.

I called and we both had three week's worth of news to catch up on.

He told me all about a spontaneous visit to our friend Diane's new house, where he saw Auntie May (Mum's dear friend) and Uncle Tommy who had come down from Newcastle to help her unpack. He told them that Diane's kitchen smelled like mine--a faint smell of coffee, and my perfume, which is the same as the one Auntie May wears--Aromatics Elixir by Clinique. Rob said that Auntie May was going to email me when they got home to South Shields.

I told Rob about Mum B's trip to England and that she would be in Redditch. "I will give her your mobile phone number," I said, "And maybe you can all meet in Redditch for coffee." The fact that I would be there too was so deliciously funny that I could hardly stand it!  

When I got off the phone with Rob, I checked my email. There was the email below from Auntie May. :)
On Monday morning,we had a surprise visitor,( who we thought was the expected plumber..)
Robert had arrived in his red car, we couldn't believe our eyes, he got loads of hugs, as we were so pleased to see him, although he didn't do the plumbing, but he did drink the coffee... 
We had a lovely chat,and a few good laughs, he only lives a 30 min. Drive away,if that!! 
It is so comforting,to us, to think Diane has someone she knows so well, not far away... 
We said we were coming back at Easter,and he is coming to see us then,but Diane has told him,to pop in anytime, and vice versa. 
He never mentioned his birthday, and has no idea of course of the lovely present he has coming dropping from the skies... 
Lots of fun ahead for all, love and hugs and hope to see you soon, take care,,Aunty Mayxxx.
While asking about Bruce, I also inquired as to the status of the Liver Chops stock. Apparently, he is only part way through the 2nd of the 7 bags I took over last year but Bruce reminds him every day if he hasn't had some by staring intently if Rob sits down for a cup of tea without giving him any. Rob said, "But don't worry Belinda, when he runs out, I will get some other kind of treat to give him." :)

Ah, Brucie, do not fear. You shall have more Liver Chops--and very soon! :)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

By Belinda

"Aargh, I can't believe I did it again!" Have you ever found those words more frequent flyers on the airline of your life, than you wished? I know I have.

I was thinking about that this morning and pretty much complaining to God about it. I mean, how often have I prayed, "Make me more like you?" 

"When is he going to take me up on the offer?" I wondered to myself. 

Then I realized that the weakness I was frustrated about at that moment, is not really a weakness at all; it's just part of who I am; in my DNA and neither bad nor good. 

This morning it was my quick reactions that I was feeling hopeless about; but I also respond quickly in many ways that aren't negative. For instance if you enjoy watching movies in peace and quiet--do not watch them with me. And at concerts I am the first and last to applaud, and may be the first to jump to my feet in a standing ovation. I have conversations in my head all the time, about toning down my impulse to express myself and thus draw attention my way.

I realized that who we are is not the issue. The self is a good gift, but like all the gifts God gives: time; finances; talents etc., it is to be stewarded; an old fashioned word that means "managed."

I thought, "Wow, I wonder if that's why 'self control' is mentioned so often in scripture?" And I flipped open my Bible to look in the book of Peter for the verses that have the list of qualities such as kindness, gentleness etc.--and self control. On the page I opened to, my eyes fell, not on those verses, but on another passage entirely; and the words "self control" seemed to jump off the page--although here in the Easy to Read Version, which I like a lot lately, it just says "control:"

1 Peter 5:6-8

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
So be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then he will lift you up when the right time comes. Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you.Control yourselves and be careful! The devil is your enemy, and he goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack and eat.

"Self control;" the self is like a car--it can get us places and be a great asset--but if not driven carefully has the potential to do great damage. 

I finally found the verses I was looking for in the first place:

2 Peter 1:3-9

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

God Has Given Us Everything We Need

Jesus has the power of God. And his power has given us everything we need to live a life devoted to God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus chose us by his glory and goodness, through which he also gave us the very great and rich gifts that he promised us. With these gifts you can share in being like God. And so you will escape the ruin that comes to people in the world because of the evil things they want.Because you have these blessings, do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add patience; to your patience add devotion to God; to your devotion add kindness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to this kindness add love. If all these things are in you and growing, you will never fail to be useful to God. You will produce the kind of fruit that should come from your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who don’t grow in these blessings are blind. They cannot see clearly what they have. They have forgotten that they were cleansed from their past sins.
And here's another great verse on the topic. Peter had a lot to say about self control I notice. Maybe God spoke through him so much on this topic because  he was also a man of quick impulses both for good and bad:

1 Peter 4:7

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Be Good Managers of God’s Gifts

The time is near when all things will end. So keep your minds clear, and control yourselves. This will help you in your prayer
Be blessed in your day!

They Said There's Snow Coming!

By Belinda

Granddaughter Tori took this photo of Hazel and Mo Mo! It had to be shared!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Sharing Some More Excitement

 By Belinda

We had some great news on Friday. Tippy ((of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream fame) was accepted into the Secondary Arts Program at Huron Heights Secondary School this fall. The website describes it as: A four-year intensive arts program for artistically talented students in York Region.  

Tippy had to put together a portfolio and audition for a space. There were 48 applicants for about 20 spaces. Brenda was intensely stressed!!! Tippy had a quiet calm. When I talked to her after she heard the news and asked her about the audition, she said with a smile, "I was pleased with my work."

We are so happy for her! And it called for a family celebration with ice cream cake. 

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake of course!

Saturday, February 02, 2013


By Belinda

I have a secret to share--so that everyone who follows this blog can anticipate with the same excitement I am experiencing...

April 6 is Rob's 60th birthday and after thinking about it for weeks, I committed a week or so ago and booked a flight to England on April 5. I will arrive in Birmingham, with a brief stop over in Amsterdam, at 8.40 a.m. on THE DAY. Rob will have no idea that I'm coming, but everyone else close to us knows already--my nephew John--Chris, Eileen and Nel-Rose, and Auntie May and her family. Rob has no internet--not even a computer--so I am safe in writing this here.

John will be at the airport to meet me. Chris, Eileen and Nel-Rose, who live up in the Lake District in Kendal, are going to call Rob and ask if they can visit that day, which will be a normal thing for them to do. This will probably spur a bit of a clean up in Rob's flat to get ready for their visit.

I am so excited. I've only done this once before, I think it was for Mum and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary, or Dad's 70th birthday--one of those two--and there is no joy like it; that feeling of anticipation, the drive in the early morning into the village and entering the world of someone you love who thinks that you are thousands of miles away.

And of course, I am dying to see Brucie.

Just 9 weeks to wait!!!

The Wisdom of Waiting :)

By Belinda

Disasters--well, let's just say they are all relative. Bearing that in mind, we had one at cell group dinner last night.

Let me set the stage. It was Thursday, so people began coming upstairs, or in from the chilly February Ontario evening between 6 and 6.30, until 13 people including 4 teenage girls, 5 people in their 60's and others between were setting tables, opening cupboards and getting out condiments, slicing buns, carrying salad and salad dressings and setting out the drinks, while I worried about whether the Pulled Pork recipe that I had made for the first time, had turned out right. 

The buns lightly toasted were brought to the tables and I called people from couches and conversations to be seated. They came in a flurry that looked like a grand game of musical chairs.

The salad circulated, the pork was heaped onto buns and declared just right. I was relieved! Something in my own soul is fed in some inexplicable way when I have placed a meal on a table before a hungry horde. I think that it is one of the things God created me to do. It makes me happy.

Many hands gathered dirty plates and brought them into the kitchen while apple pie was sliced and passed back through to the tables. The kitchen freezer was emptied of tubs of ice cream which were scattered over the two tables. I noticed that several of the tubs were feeling almost empty, so as soon as I had a moment I went to the big freezer in the laundry room, where I remembered that I had some full tubs.

As I brought in a tub of Chapman's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ice cream, the icecream scoop in Jane's hand wavered over the tub of Kawartha Dairy Moose Tracks she was about to dig into. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ice cream is a big favourite, but she decided to commit to the Moose Tracks so I carried on towards the next table.

"OH NO!" Tippy wailed dramatically, at the sight of the tub in my hand, while looking down in disappointment at the bowl in front of her, which she had just finished piling high with Heavenly Hash ice cream. 

DISASTER, at least for Tippy, is when you COULD have had Chapmans Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.

Sometimes if you are patient, God saves the best to last!

John 2:9-10

The Message (MSG)
9-10 When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”