"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

flashback to Jersey in Alaska

OK. Someone posted today about city-folks complaining about hiking a mountain that was "too tall". And it totally flashed me back to our Alaska trip several years ago. I searched everywhere and it would appear that I DID NOT blog this story! And how is that even possible??

So I'm going to tell it to you now.

We were in Alaska. While there, we did a day trip into Denali National Park, which was ... how can I explain ... breathtaking ... fascinating ... stunningly beautiful ... filled with stories and knowledge from a bus driver who chatted non-stop for hours while navigating wildlife and a one-lane road.

You can't drive into Denali on your own. And you absolutely cannot leave anything behind. Not even a cookie wrapper. They're serious about their wilderness, so you can go on a tour, but it is tightly controlled.

And worth every single second.

Honestly. It was amazing.

But the next day, on the next leg of our Alaskan trip, we found ourselves in a restaurant with other tourists. And the lady at the next table was complaining loudly about HER trip into Denali. In a very strong New Jersey accent. She kind of had the visual style of the mom in Everybody Loves Raymond - remember her?

Picture this....

... And then add in a New Jersey accent.

Because I can't type the accent.
I can mimic it.
I can TELL this story in person like nobody's business.
But I can't type the accent.
I'll try.
It won't do it justice.

Spike, my friendly, mischievous, extrovert-of-a-husband grinned and said to me, "Watch this." Leaned over and asked, all charming-like, "Are you from New York?"

She rolled her eyes sarcastically. "Jersey. How can you tell? The accent, right?"

Spike smiled and said, "So ... you didn't like Denali National Park?"

"UGH!" she said dramatically. "You know ... I've been on othah trips. I've been to Vegas ... I've been to Flahrida ... I've been to Califohn-ya ... and they were great. Just fabulous. But this one ... ugh. You know - we were on a bus for EIGHT OW-WAHS. (That's "hours" in Jersey-speech.) I thought it would nevah end. And they kept pointing out rivahs. And trees. Just rivahs and trees, and a mountain, ovah and ovah and ovah again ("rivers and trees, over and over again").

Note: the "mountain" was actually Denali,
or Mount McKinley.
It's the tallest mountain in North America.
Otherwise known as the Jewel of Alaska.
There are no words to describe its beauty.

She sighed, and until that moment, I did not know you could sigh with a New Jersey accent.

But you can.

"I finally went to the drivah," she said. "I couldn't take it anymore. So I went to him, I went to him, and I sez to him .... IZ ZEER A MUWALL ENYWHEYAH???"

*hands up if you know what that says ...
sound it out ...
listen for the accent ...
"is there a mall anywhere??"*

"And you know what?" she finished triumphantly. "He didn't have an ansah. Nothing to say at all."

"Yeah," said Spike. "I bet he didn't."


To this day, Spike and I can say that line at any moment - IZ ZEER A MUWALL ENYWHEYAH?? - and then lose it laughing, because "Jersey" (as we call her fondly) came to the wilds of Alaska, did a day trip into a wilderness-like national park, and complained because ... because ... because ... there was no mall. Just rivers and trees. And a mountain.

Props to the driver for remaining speechless.

But I wonder when the screaming in his head faded away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

i did it :)

You guys. 

Remember my long-time dream of going back to school for a second degree? Remember when I started back to school, in 2009?

You can click that "school" label
on the right if you want to know
all the other details.

But here's what I want to tell you.

You guys!

I finished the last paper of my degree
in the middle of the night last night. 

Left this note posted for Spike. 

He left at 4 AM for work, but left a reply. 

I spent this morning proofreading the living daylights out of it. 

And I just pressed "send" with it attached, to my prof. 

I DID IT!!!!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

crazy pastor lady

We've had a kids day camp at my church all week long. Which means we provide yummy lunches and snacks.

And it turns out, the local wildlife agrees.

Last night, after everyone had cleared out except me, I came downstairs to set the alarm and exit - and this little guy was right outside the door.

Funny, we've had a few times when we've arrived in the morning to evidence of various city critters, but in all the years I've been here, I've never had a raccoon in broad daylight as I was exiting the building.

We have at home. Not at the church.

We've had bats. And mice. Not raccoons in broad daylight.

So I banged on the door and he ran off, allowing me to safely exit.

Except ...

He ran under my car. It was the only shelter in the lot. Hunkered down there and watched my every move. I tried setting off the car alarm, and although his tail jumped every time the horn went, he refused to budge.

I waited awhile. He stared, unmoving, clearly prepared to out-wait me.

So ...

I slooooowly approached the car and put my stuff in it ... backed away to see if he was still under the front bumper ... he was ... slowly approached the open door of the driver's side ... and took a mighty leap into the car.

I'm guessing that was amusing
for neighbours who had no idea
why the crazy pastor lady
was cautiously circling and leaping into her car
in an empty parking lot.

"She's lost it. Burn-out.
I've seen it before.
Sad, really."

Sat in there for awhile. And then saw this, outside the passenger window.

Hmm. Same guy? Did he run out from under the car without me seeing? Or a friend, worried that I'm about to kill his little buddy?

Sigh. Started the car. Saw his ears flick up in alarm. Ever so slowly, started backing up, an inch at a time.

By the time I backed all the way up, there was definitely no critter under the car. Unless he backed up with me. Maybe he did.

Maybe it's a little "bit" they've developed.
"Confuse the crazy pastor lady."
Who knows.

No raccoons were harmed in the writing of this post.

Monday, August 03, 2015

mixed messages

I really like shrimp teriyaki. 

I really don't like celery.

I see words before pictures.  

Repeated (albeit mild) disappointment. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

level best

This has been, for various reasons, the busiest summer I've had in a long time. If I hadn't planted perennials a few years ago, our front yard would look like a hayfield.

I planted no planters this year.

Our windows are in desperate need of cleaning.

Cooking has mostly meant
and nuke it.
Or steam some veggies over rice.

The back yard is pretty rough in a few spots.
I'm hoping the dozen or so people
coming over for a BBQ next week
are gracious about that.

So ... knowing I've done my level best ...

(what is that? "level best"? where did that phrase come from?)

... I did something today I've never done in my life. I emailed my prof and asked for an extension on this paper, because it's not going to be as complete as I want it to be by Friday. Unless I pull some all-nighters next week. And I am not ... NOT ... an all-nighter person.

Never have been. It's not pretty.
I'm the person every year that wonders if it's really necessary to stay awake,
just to watch a ball drop and yell, "Happy New Year".
... "what if we all have an early dinner and call it a night?" ...

I know.
I'm a wild party.

His response - the prof's - "Of course. No problem. Don't stress over this."

I can't figure out how to change that counter over there on the right. So just go ahead and add 72 hours to it - I'm handing this baby in on the Monday after the originally planned Friday.

And then I'm done.


Friday, July 24, 2015

gaspingly inexpensive coffee

Every now and then, someone asks me what kind of coffee I buy, and I tell them.

And then I tell them the price. Usually $15.99 for a one-pound bag of beans.

And they gasp.

I say, "Well, it's Fair Trade ... and it's really good."

And they say, "Oh."

And then I explain that there are lots of products that people in my part of the world buy, not quite realizing that people in another part of the world are sometimes pretty badly exploited so I can have that product.

And coffee is one of those products. And I drink a lot ... A LOT ... of it. So ... several years ago, I decided that when I could afford to buy Fair Trade coffee ... which involves a lot less exploitation of people ... I would. I started with a 1 to 3 ratio, and worked my way up.

But it still costs $15.99 for a one-pound bag of beans.

It's really good, by the way.

Every now and then it goes on sale for $11.99, and when that happens, I shamelessly clear the shelf, so I hardly ever buy it at full price.

But still - it's a lot of money, right? Like, how much is that per cup???

So I kept track over the last couple of weeks. Bobblehead-Domi helped me.

I got 28 cups out of a one-pound bag. And by "cup," I mean good-sized coffee mug. Not giant, not small.

(Freshly ground and French-pressed, by the way.)

(And for the record, a French press is about $15 or less at Canadian Tire.
I'll refrain from pointing out the cost of a drip coffeemaker.
Or a Keurig or Tassimo.)

If you divide those 28 mugs of coffee by the price of the bag ... well, here's what I'm paying.

57 cents for an excellent quality, good-sized, steaming hot mug of coffee.

If I get it on sale - which I usually do - it's 43 cents.

Which, I am confident, is less than anybody is paying for the smallest-sized, nastiest-tasting coffee in any drive-through coffee shop on this continent.


And it's soooo good, too.

Happy Outrage-Free Friday!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Remember this guy?

It was my job to pick him up from his mom's other workplace today and drop him off at day camp.

File that under #youhadONEjob ...

I forgot. Well, I remembered earlier, but then I forgot at the time I needed to remember, so I maaaaay have been flying at top speed through the city to go and get him a leeeeeeetle bit later than I was supposed to.

Arrived, his mom piled him into the car, and that's when he announced that the times for today's day camp had changed ... "Remember, Mom...?"

None of us were certain. So I took him over, and sure enough - we had an hour to spare. We went and got a bagel.

And that's when THIS stream of consciousness poured forth.

"Have you ever had perogies? I've never had perogies."

"Yeah, they're great.
OK, so you can choose one of these.
A muffin ... or a bagel ... or a croissant ... not a giant cinnamon bun."

"No, that's HUUUUUUUGE. That's way too big for me. I don't want that. ... and I don't want THAT ... and I don't want THAT ...."

"How about you tell me what you DO want?"

"Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..... that. With cream cheese. Not toasted."

So we got his bagel and my muffin and coffee, and after a few bites he started up again.

"Is your coffee black?"


"That's what Mom gets. Black coffee. .... Why don't any of those pots SAY 'black coffee'?"

"Oh ... because all coffee is black until you put cream in it."

"Oh. Mom orders black coffee and then puts cream in."

"Hmm ... maybe she orders a dark roast? Not black?"

"Yeah, maybe."

"Yeah ... this one is a dark roast. That's kind of a flavour. It's called French Mocha, but it's about the same."

"Yeah. But it's not really the same, like ... the words aren't really the same at all."

" ... right."

"What's THAT machine, over there?"

"A coffee roaster. It gets hot, and then roasts the coffee beans so you can grind them up for coffee."

His eyes got large.

"Do they tell everyone to leave the store when it gets hot, because it's sooooo hot it wouldn't be safe for anyone in the store?"

"Uh ... no ..."


When the sesame seeds fell off his bagel, he figured they would grow, because they're seeds, after all. Then he thought about it and realized that actually, they wouldn't, because there's a tile floor, BUT if HOT LAVA came in, it would BURN UP the whole floor and there would be dirt everywhere, and then the seeds would grow.

I suggested that the hot lava might harden over the dirt, but he said no, because "it's pretty cool in here". If it was outside where it's hot, then yes. But not where there's air conditioning.

And then he said,

"You know that guy ... um  ... that man ... you know that man? with the ... um ... with the white hair?"

He gestured, to demonstrate hair. I waited for more information.

"You know, that guy ... with glasses ... no wait, he doesn't have glasses ... he has white hair ..." (another gesture)

"oh, and he plays the bongoes at church ... do you know him?"


"he came and watched my baseball game last night - Mom told him I had a game"

Which I thought was pretty cool. However, when I checked in with the guy I thought he meant, that guy didn't know anything about it. So I'm not sure who the guy with the glasses/no glasses was.

Finished our snack, got back in the car, I dropped him at day camp, and went back to work.

With an extra smile.

And a black coffee.