Tuesday, December 6, 2011


On a much more positive note from my last post, I scored in the 90th percentile on my pushup test at the course last weekend and did some TRX tricks that the boys couldn't do....but then scored very poor with respect to shoulder flexibility. Yay - I'm still strong....boo, I'll never be a pretzel!

Why do women feel the need to assault people around them with intoxicating perfume? I don't mind a light whiff of scent as someone walks by, but to be drowned in noxious gases upon every movement? We don't accept people polluting our air by smoking around us, yet perfume still seems to be acceptable....

Why do I have a wierd kid and a super-extroverted kid? God decided to have a laugh at my expense....let's see what she does with these ones!! I still wonder if the super-extrovert was switched at birth...she's way too bendy to be my child, but my mother says it's like my face on a bendy body.

I wonder if I killed my aunt at bootcamp, would my grandma yell at me?

Off to the Mustard Seed tonight - can't wait!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rugby to Yoga

It's been a tough week in the World of Jo. It started with Grey Cup weekend, and my mind revisited every detail of the happenings of one year ago, from the fender-bender on Friday to the feelings I had before the fire, when everything was great, and then the feelings I had on Monday morning after the fire, when the world crashed down. I found some Facebook posting I wrote literally right before I went to bed that night, telling a friend, "See you in the morning", looking forward to teaching spin class, and then hours later I was kneeling in the snow, scooping with my bare hands as I tried to douse the flames from the gas cans left on our front porch.

It hurts to even write about it now, but as the week has progressed, I have thought about it less and less, but that gave my brain more time to focus on my physical problems.

I went to a course on the weekend to get my Personal Training Certification, and it was an awesome course, but I felt like such a wimp. Rewind a year ago when I would kill the spin classes, I would always lift heavy, and would also try to keep up with the men (and often succeeded!). Now I can't lift more than 25 pounds, my core is as weak as it was after I had kids, and I had to keep saying, "I can't do that, no, I can't do that either, I can't jump too many times in a row, I get vertigo easily (which I believe is an after-effect of the anaesthesia), etc. etc." Last year at FIS training I was the strongest, most fit person there (or so I thought, anyway), and this year I felt like the weakest person there (no chance to keep up with the boys anymore). I thought to myself, "WHY AM I EVEN HERE????"

And then, Zumba class, which is silly to begin with, but it's a workout and Yvonne is an awesome instructor. I guess at one point I twisted the wrong way and felt it through my abdomen, couldn't even lift my left leg without pain, and thought, "I CAN'T EVEN DO ZUMBA WITHOUT GETTING HURT." Zumba, a class for the old and overweight (I know, that's mean, but that's my perception), and I hurt myself. I broke down and had to leave class, and later soothed myself with a Turtle Pecan Blizzard.

However, this morning I went to yoga, and even though my hips are still ridiculously tight, my instructed commented that she has seen improvement in just two weeks. It made me think, maybe it's time to stop having the mentality that we need to kill ourselves in order to be "healthy and fit" - maybe at some point it's more important to stretch and release our sore muscles so that everyday tasks are easier. After all, at some point we all need to settle down a bit and stop acting like we're 20 - bodies age, it's a fact of life.

So now I'm rethinking things - maybe I won't ever be "skinny", since I would have to work out like a crazy person to achieve that "ideal body", as I've done it before, but sure wouldn't have called myself "healthy" at the time. Maybe yoga is better for me than running, maybe walking is better than running, maybe endurance weightlifting is better than trying to outlift he guys.

Before, I thought that I shouldn't be a personal trainer since I can't do all of the "tough stuff" anymore, but now I think that I might be a great personal trainer since a lot of what people need is just to be active and to take care of their bodies, and now I can relate, since I'm not so focussed on working out like crazy, but instead on what my body needs to feel good.

It's been a tough week, but a good one - lots of soul-searching for me in the past seven days. It's time to embrace what I have, instead of mourning over what I've lost.

Yay yoga!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


There is a couple that comes into the Mustard Seed from time to time - Paul and JJ. I've seen Paul around a lot; he helped in the coffee bar one night while I was alone and he asked me some tax advice in April, but a month or two ago they came in together with the new love of their life: Thomas.

Thomas was six weeks old when I first met him, and over the weeks he grew bigger and brighter, into such a cute little guy. Paul absolutely glowed when he talked about Thomas, and showed him off to the community - I thought about their little family often throughout the week, and was so happy that Paul was happy.

Last night Paul and JJ walked in, and I should have know something was wrong by the look on JJ's face. I asked casually, "Where's young Thomas?" and JJ responded flaty, "24 hours ago he was taken by social services." I stood there, unable to fathom how their little darling could have been taken away, and had to choke back tears as I imagined their pain. They left before I could talk to them about it, but Sean filled me in - Thomas and their older daughter had been taken, and they had to go to court to try to get them back.

It was one more reminder that I have no idea what goes on with the Mustard Seed regulars when they leave our safe walls. I definitely don't think it was an abuse situation - Paul and JJ love Thomas to death, I can see that, but maybe they are leaving in a dirty apartment, maybe their neighbours are not the type you would want around small children, and someone must have thought the kids would be safer away from their parents.

And so throughout the rest of the night I thought of them as I handed out blankets and jackets to those who would be sleeping outside, and thought about all who I haven't seen in so long: Ricky, Clayton, and many nameless people whos faces are etched in my memory.

As I drove home, I saw a man lying on the sidewalk on the corner of Jasper and 99th street, nothing covering him.

There are so many sad stories.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Greek Yogurt!

Gee, I looked at my last post, thinking it had been a couple of weeks since I last posted, and it's been well over a month - where does the time go??? On a very happy note, I visited my surgeon yesterday and everything apparently looks GREAT! She was very happy (as was I) that she didn't have to take me back into surgery. I left the doctor's office thinking, okay, I'm better, so now it's time to get back into the right gear.

Perfect timing allowed my new Oxygen and CanFitPro magazine to arrive just as I needed some inspiration, and boy oh boy, did I find inspiration! I found great exercises to use in my classes which will begin in November, and some great new food ideas. I have been reading about Greek Yogurt forever and always wondered how different could it be? Well, very different! A good Greek yogurt packs 18 grams of protein per 3/4C serving (compared to about 6g in some normal yogurts), and the consistency is almost like pudding. For lunch today I threw 1/2 a scoop of protein powder into some plain Greek yogurt and it was almost like eating a chocolate mousse (there was just that little hint of yogurty sourness reminding that it was a close imposter!). So, I'm hooked!

Another new thing I tried today was egg whites right in my oatmeal. The consistency was odd (I'm used to a bit of crunch in my steel cut oats), but certainly better than cooking and eating egg whites separately. I think I can get used to it.

Interesting how a few little things can happen to change your mental focus. Really, I could have been eating all this stuff before, but I thought, why bother - you're just heading back under the knife anyway, so why bother being healthy? Silly.

Incidentally, I think I have uncovered why the drive thru lines at Tim Horton's are unexplicably long. It just not make logical sense that anyone would sit in a 15 car lineup when there might be two or three or even five inside. However, that car makes us anonymous - we're just a voice on the other end of a microphone, and no one can see us as we order donuts or ice caps or B.E.L.T.s or whatever. The drive thru worker has no judgment, since she goes through dozens of orders per day. But if we go inside....then someone might hear us ordering a Boston Creme and think we are full of poor choices.

Interesting...I think someone should study the Tim Horton's Drive Thru mentally, or maybe someone already has!

In the meantime, I'll skip my Ice Caps in favour of Green Tea, and ponder more important things in life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's Great To Be Back!

I haven't been to church since July 10 - the Sunday before my surgery. To be honest, there was no way I could have gone back until at least mid-August, since being in a sitting position for more than about 20 minutes was quite uncomfortable. Once I was feeling a little better in later August, I then was reluctant to return, since my buddy and her family were gone, and I wasn't sure how I was going to react upon returning to church with them not being there, and I certainly didn't want to make a spectacle of myself! I already had done that once - in the hospital, when I looked at the clock on Sunday afternoon and realized I was missing their going away party, and I had a major meltdown in my hospital bed. Luckily, my favorite nurse was in the room at the time and helped me breathe again - the problem was that I was starting to cry, and crying hurt, so I was hyperventilating, and caused a big scene.

And so I stayed away, but did some studying (Song of Songs!), and read some great books (Chuck Missler and Francis Chan!), and decided that the Fall Kick Off would be a great time to return. The teaching series was on parables - some of my favorite parts of the New Testament, and best off all, we were burning the church mortgage!!

The return was even better than I could have imagined.

A few times during worship I was reminded that there was a big family missing in the pews behind us, and my eyes glistened, but I didn't feel sad, because I knew it was time to move on. So often this past year I have used them as a buffer (after all, it's easy to hide among a bunch of kids!) and I have been terribly anti-social, but in hindsight it's just been one of those "trying years" where God becomes so much clearer.

And sitting there in my seat, with my precious buffer gone, everything seemed more clear. I was excited to begin Sunday School next week, after grumbling for the past couple of years that "nothing interested me" (when the truth was, I really didn't want to hang out with a bunch of people). I felt called to The Mustard Seed more than ever, and may expand my horizons beyond Karaoke Tuesday and into PAC - the Personal Assistance Centre. I had a great chat with one of our worship leaders and I may get onto a worship team soon....or at least be able to hang around with them a bit to learn the ropes. So many exciting things to do after a summer of laying around and feeling sorry for myself.

But then....I had to remind myself that we can get so busy "doing" that we forget about nurturing that relationship with The One for whom we are "doing" everything. I made that mistake last year, trying to do too many things at once, and I completely burnt out. Done. Finit. I had enough of life.

Maybe all of this stuff that happened over the past year was God's way of forcing me to slow down, to give up the things that weren't important, and to force myself to rely on Him for strength when some days it felt like I couldn't continue any longer. Now that I seem to have poked my head out from beneath the dark clouds, I sure can't forget everything He helped me with.

I think it might be better right now to continue in this quiet space of life I've created and just let Him lead....to whatever and wherever.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It Doesn't Really Matter

The other day the kids were listening to one of my "feet songs" (ie. dance music that I typically use for my fitness classes), and one was a song that sampled an old 80s tune: Obsession by Animotion. Now, I this would be a song which I could pull on "Don't Forget the Lyrics" and rattle off 12, 15, 20 words - essentially the entire song. I then went onto Youtube and showed the kids the Animotion video. There's nothing like 80s videos, and there's nothing like 80s hair.

After the giggles about the hair in the Animotion video, I said to them, "Oh, I have some videos that show even better hair!" That led to pulling up Images in Vogue's "Call It Love" (I dare you to check it out and not bust a gut - when I was a child in the middle of the cheezy 80s I saw that video and thought, "this is really bad"). Elizabeth's first comment: I thought that was a girl. We moved onto Platinum Blonde, and Elizabeth echoed her comment: I thought that was a girl. She really gets a kick out of Boy George, and yes, she thought he was a girl too.

Music is so awesome - it can make you smile, it can bring back memories, and I watched those videos longing for those carefree days of youth, of the summer before grade 9 when Bananarama's "Venus" was released and I practiced dancing to it in my bedroom. Maybe that's why I enjoy karaoke night at The Mustard Seed so much - because everyone just hangs out and forgets their troubles, singing, clapping, laughing. The last song of the night was a great rendition of "Ice Ice Baby" (Vanilla Ice, of course!), and Stewart and I boogied around the coffee bar as we cleaned up.

And as I headed out into the night, crowds of people hanging out on this warm summer evening, I pondered about all that we think we need to worry about, and all that we complain about, and none of it really matters at all.

And if none of it really matters, why does it continue to take over our lives???

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Best Day of the Year!

The first day of school is pretty close to Christmas Eve for my favorite day of the year. There's nothing like sorting school supplies, picking out new clothes, and heading off to school with anticipation: Who will be my teacher? Who will be in my class? For us, we knew who the teachers were going to be, but had no idea that there would be so many new kids coming into the school! Last year, my kids were the new kids, but this year I saw a lot of unfamiliar faces, and found out later that the school's population had grown once again!! I'm so happy for the school - those teachers work so hard.

Matthew was very happy with his class - 13 kids, only a few girls (only 1 girl today!), and lots of buddies to chat with about lego. He even had a buddy at recess, and they ended the day chatting about the lego movie that will be on TV on Monday.

Elizabeth was also very happy - loves her new teacher, there are lots of girls in the class (compared to last year when she was one of only 5 girls!), and she was playing with a gaggle when I arrived to pick them up after school.

And so another school year begins, and we're all off on the right foot. I feel so different from last year, when I wasn't sure whether I had made the right choice to switch schools, but there is no doubt now that they are where they always should have been, and I'm lucky that there are lots of great years to come!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boy, am I stupid!

Tomorrow I visit my surgeon for my six week checkup, and my plan of running on Thursday morning (or any time in the near future) has been blown to bits. However, in hindsight, the events of the past few days was a thankful sign that I'm nowhere near ready to start running again.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, our delightful little town hosted the "Kraft Celebration Tour" on TSN, complete with celebrity hosts, free Oreos, and an Edmonton Eskimo thrown in for good measure. It was a hot day, with no parking in the river valley, so we walked down the steep hill to get to Voyageur Park. I felt good, a little slow, but then I was overtaken by the madness of the live TV show, knowing that my mom and dad were watching for the kids on TV. Scott had Matthew on his shoulders, so Elizabeth went on my shoulders - that was mistake #1.

At the end of it all, we headed towards the busses, but so did everyone else, and I decided that we should walk up the hill. After all, I had run up that hill a zillion times, it wasn't that big of a hill (?!?!?), and I didn't want to wait for the bus in 30 degree heat. I was proud when we beat the busses up the hill.

That was mistake #2.

I woke up on Monday morning and felt absolutely AWFUL! I was nauseous, was trying to force myself to eat bits of fruit, and felt like I was going to throw up any moment. I tried to do a bit of work but instead decided to spend the day in bed. I felt like I did when I came home from the hospital, and was kicking myself. I had a fever, my incision was hot, and I was worried that I had blown some stiches and had an internal infection. I envisioned returning to the hospital, going back into surgery, my doctor cursing me the whole way. It was a very depressing day.

Thankfully, I woke up this morning and felt 100% better. I was able to eat, I drank lots of water, and my fever was gone. Scott wisely "suggested" that I skip The Mustard Seed tonight, and I agreed - my body needs sleep, not a late, busy night and a midnight (or later) bedtime. Time to go to bed and continue to rest.

So 5 Peaks is out, but I'm going to cheer on my friends at the start and the finish. As my sister said, I have a lifetime to enjoy exercise, but if I screw up this recovery, it could be a long time before I do anything again, including returning to The Mustard Seed, and I want to get back there as soon as I can.

So for now, there is only rest in my future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

This healing process is so FRUSTRATING!! I was feeling great, tempted to run (but I still won't until August 25...if I get the doc's okay) and then we went on a little holiday around Alberta. Throw in three days of driving, walking around, and me deciding to walk up hills in the mountains, and I felt awful last night - sore, swollen, and depressed. Before we left last week I had my sights set on 5 Peaks on September 24, but now I wonder if I'll be running by Christmas. I slept almost 11 hours last night (another sign that my body was hurting), but felt better this morning.

Part of me wishes I would have listened to the doctors when they told me this was major surgery and that I'd be out for six weeks, but I know that once I'm healed it will all be worth it. I have to stop letting my ego get the best of me and realize I'm not going to be in the best shape of my life right now - I just need to rest and heal. But as I rest and heal, I also feel so lazy - but that's life - it doesn't always roll the way that you want.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

25 Minutes

Boy oh boy how we take our good health for granted! After thinking that I would be out walking only two weeks post-op, I came down to earth with a crash when I realized last Friday that it wasn't going to happen. My energy was still low, my insides sore, and so I delayed my walking program for a week.

Fast forward to yesterday, three weeks post-op, and so much has changed! On Thursday I started to feel better, and thought I'd just try to walk for ten minutes on Friday. I did a mile loop around our house and was happy to have finished in 24 minutes. I felt great all day, drank lots of water and ate good food, and woke up this morning feeling like I could do it again. I walked a full 2 km in 25 minutes, meaning I'm speeding up already! I now have my sites set on a trail run in September and maybe a 5 km run in October....but only if my doctor gives me the okay.

Who ever thought I'd be happy completing a 25 minute walk?!?!?!

After three weeks of less than optimal health, I'm definitely appreciating my body a lot more as it continues to heal, and I'm realizing how important good nutrition and hydration is to the healing process. We're only given one body, and at some point we need to realize that we need to treat it properly or it begins to fail us. I don't want to be living a life of regret 20 years from now thinking, "I wish I had taken better care of myself." I think there are too many people living that regret right now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Hate My Bed

It's now been 11 days since my surgery and I've been home for just over a week. I find it amusing what my pre-surgery self thought I'd be doing right now: Meeting with friends, going for walks, returning to The Mustard Seed, working, etc. The reality is that I've barely been out of the house since I came home and I have spent way too much time in bed. For the first few days after I came home, I could only stand for 5-10 minutes before I became dizzy and nauseous, and had to return to bed. Each night was torture as I tried to get comfortable sleeping on my back, only to awake with stiff insides and a sore back.

I spent most of my time in the hospital doing number puzzles, grew tired of those, have now memorized the TV schedule, grown bored with the drivel on the screen, and I still won't be able to go for a good walk for at least another week, and running or lifting weights is at least a month away. I dread the dusk turning into night, as I face another uncomfortable sojourn with pillows piled all around.

But I am optimistic; I feel better than I did just a couple of days ago, I have minimal pain, I can laugh at my frozen and swollen stomach, and I know I'll be returning to normal life soon.

And on top of all that, I am thankful for our knowledgable doctors and access to great healthcare. We live in a wonderful country and we are so blessed.

So, even though I hate my bed, I thank God every day that I have a bed, and a house around it, and I am healthy and strong.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sarah Wallace

Today I had the privilege of meeting the Great Sarah Wallace, who moved to Haiti in 2008 to start a clinic that would help provide prenatal and birth care to the local women. I have been awe-inspired by her story - she is so young (maybe mid to late 20's, if that), but seems to be so wise. Hearing her speak was like listening to a well-versed missionary - she spoke the facts, and her goals, and listening to her, I fully believe that her goals will be met.

Sarah is a bit of a legend at our church, the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs Bailey, and I have followed her blog in the last year or so, and last month was asked to help out a bit on the bookkeeping side of the organization. After speaking to my sister while we were in Victoria, she explained that so many of these small charities are in desperate need for someone with a particular skill set to organize the numbers and comply with Canada Revenue Agency. I guess I take my skill set for granted, since numbers have been an integral part of my brain as far back as I can remember. While I understand that many people have trouble with numbers and keeping books, I just can't understand why, since it makes too much sense to me!

Lately I've been longing to do something to help those who are less fortunate, maybe The Call has become so strong now that I just can't ignore it anymore. But where to help? There are so many needs, how will I know whether I have picked the correct one?

As my sister said, having just returned from the Phillipines where she witnessed people living in garbage dumps and pushing each other aside for a small bowl of pasty grub, we can't believe that we were just lucky enough to be born here and they were unlucky enough to be born there. It's our duty as Christ's children to help His other children.

So why are we sitting around watching reality TV, eating fast food and twittering our lives away?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rain, Pain and Shania Twain

You sit and stare out at the sky
And think of ways to fake a smile
But life is never what it seems
Sometimes it only takes a while

I'm in the way of falling down
I won't let you go that far now

If you think that hope was left behind
I picked it up a mile ago
And I am running close behind
So don't give up and don't let go

This was the song that ended my run this morning, good ol' Jars of Clay, a run full of reflection on this second day of July. Where has the time gone? It seems as if the last six months have been a blur, and I can hardly remember them.

I was watching a documentary on Shania Twain yesterday as I was folding clothes, getting ready to go to Victoria, and it was tough watching this brilliant superstar be stripped down and confessing her pain over her broken marriage and a friend's betrayal. She reminded me of me, saying, "I just want to yell at myself to GET OVER IT!", and she won't cry, and she won't talk, and holds it all in. Boy oh boy that can it away at your insides. For her, she lost her voice, and for me, I lost all hope that life could ever be good again. Why do anything positive when tragedy could just be around the corner?

But she also said something that stuck with me, "I realize that I have these scars and I have to learn how to live with them." Gee, people live with scars far worse than mine, and somehow they get through it and carry on with life. Does it help to wallow in self pity, eat myself into oblivion, and make decide to never build myself up again because sooner or later, something is going to send me crashing down?

And so I have to just live with these scars, acknowledge them, and move on. I'm sure there will be more tough times ahead - that's what life is all about, but I need to remind myself over and over: He's in the way of falling down, and He won't let me go far.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


School's out, the kids went to visit their grandparents for a couple of days, and Scott and I decided to go out for supper. Little did we know that while we were gone, a rainstorm like no other would descend upon Devon. When we arrived home our backyard was half filled with water and the sump was going off every ten minutes. As I was talking to my mom on the phone, I heard a commotion in the basement, things banging, more than the usual Scott noise.

I got off the phone and he took me to Matthew's bedroom, where the carpet was soaked. Luckily, the water was limited to the carpet, but we're now spending what was supposed to be a relaxing night without the kids ripping up carpet and shop-vaccing water off of the cement floor.

Good luck sleeping tonight - I think I should just plan an all-nighter.

I just don't get it. Why?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


People come and go from the Mustard Seed, and I've always assumed that they moved (to a warmer climate!) or no longer have the need for our services. It's been over a year since I've been there, and I finally have realized where some of those people may have gone: Jail. It honestly hadn't crossed my mind until last week.

One of the more "colourful" karaoke singers has been gone for a long time, since way before Christmas. Last I saw him he sang a Dylan-esque rendition of "It's My Life". Hilarious. I've thought about him over the past few months, but thought he had probably moved on. He showed up last week with John (another regular), and I naively asked, "I haven't seen you for a long time - have you been away?" John replied for him, "Yah, he's been away at the Remand."

I then thought of so many others I haven't seen in a while. Clayton, the mohawked singer of Nirvana and STP - he came in every week since I started, and then all of the sudden was gone. My crazy haired friend, who when I last saw him, said he had been "in hiding". I thought maybe he was hiding from some "bad people", and maybe he was, but he may have also been in hiding from the police, for I haven't seen him since.

Today one of the regulars returned after a month or two of being gone, greeted by hugs and squeals and cries of, "You're out!"

Why didn't I see it before? I guess I never thought that jail was a reality for a lot of the people who seem fairly normal when they walk through our doors. I wonder, if I visited the Remand Centre, how many I would recognize?

But on a positive note, Sheldon came by for a visit, seems to be enjoying his new place, and is off to Saskatchewan tomorrow to visit his brother. He seemed happy. God is taking care of him.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The human body is a miraculous thing. We can abuse it through lack of sleep, poor food choices, and lack of movement. Stress is an unseen abuser of our miraculous shells, but it too poisons from the inside out, but the body is strong. It keeps on ticking through all sorts of storms, until it finally gives up and screams, "ENOUGH!"

How long have I been abusing my body through stress? Probably too long. This winter was particularly stressful, mentally as I tried to cope (and still cope) with the aftermath of the fire, a crazy tax season, and trying to take on a side job at the gym. It was all too much, building at a frenetic pace to a climax that I didn't expect....it knocked me flat on my back.

I should have know something was wrong when I felt so tired for so long. I should have known something was wrong when I was sleeping until 900 on the weekend. I should have known something was wrong when a step aerobics class that I usually sail through almost killed me. I did know something was wrong when I woke up last Friday and my face and neck were swollen and my lymph node was painful to the touch. But still, I didn't want to bother with the hospital - it wasn't an "emergency". Scott finally made me go last Friday and I ended up with a staph infection and on IV antibiotics every eight hours for 72 hours. It was an emergency.

I never get sick, but this one has knocked me flat. I still feel like I could sleep all day, and wish that I could. I think my body has decided that enough is enough, and it's time to relax. It's time to get rid of the stress-causers and forget about the poisonous people, and just chill.

I'm not sure I even know what that means.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Lots to say, not a lot of time to say it....it's been nice to wind down after a VERY crazy tax season. I spent a lot of this week cleaning up my office, tying up loose ends, and preparing for our trip to.....DISNEYLAND! I'm happy to say that I'm not overplanning - I'm just familiarizing myself with the park and the attractions. Our plan for Monday when we arrive is to have NO PLAN. We're going to arrive, take the Monorail around the park to look at everything, and then just take everything as it comes. After all, we have a six day pass - lots of time to see lots of stuff!

While we are gone I will miss my first Tuesday at The Mustard Seed in almost a year. I have likely seen my buddy Sheldon for the last time; he finally got his own place (YAY!), but it's over on 153rd street so he won't be visiting too often, if ever. He is often grumpy and very sarcastic, but I know he's going to miss us. One of the last things he said to me, as I was clearing away his coffe mug, was "You'd make somebody a good maid." Of course he was smiling when he said it, and I should have chatted with him again before he left, but off he went into the night, and will probably be in his own cozy place by the time I return. I'm going to miss him, but I'm sure another character will cross my path to entertain me on Karaoke Night.

I'm a little wary about going away, and yesterday brought back a flood of bad memories as the winds and the heat made our front entrance smell like a campfire. I almost called a friend who is on the Devon Fire Department, but then my logical self told my irrational self that I had been smelling the smoke all day - if there was a fire, there would be evidence of it by late evening! I spiraled downward and sat awake, thinking, "Is this how it's going to be....forever???"

As I sat, wallowing in self-pity, a message came through my head loud and clear - You've been trying to do this by yourself and it hasn't been working. It's time to start leaning on God. I've been searching for God throughout the past six months with little luck, and I think I had just finally given up. After this message went through my head, I decide to google, "Is there a scripture that can bring me out of despair" and part of Psalm 71 popped up. Since I wanted to see the entire Psalm, I went to a bible website, but "erroneously" typed in Psalm 70. It became one of those bible moments where the scripture pops out in technicolor and screams off of the page:

The first line: Hasten O God to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me.

The last line: You are my help and my deliverer; Lord do not delay.

It was call from David thousands of years ago, and it was my call to Him last night. There's no way I can do this alone.

This morning the smoky smell was gone and I went for an early morning run and enjoyed His Creation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Backup Your Stuff!

It's been quite a fast and furious tax season this year, and one thing that seems to get onto the backburner when we get busy is backing up our files. We always think, "I'll do it later" and then later never comes.

After the fire, I reflected on the fact that my laptop was one of the things I thought of as I was shuttling everyone out of the house. How silly, but the truth is, my laptop has a lot of important data on it. I immediately went onto Cabonite.com and set up a backup process - it's offsite, and I no longer had to worry about taking my laptop in case of an emergency.

Imagine how relieved I was today when my laptop absolutely crashed. I went onto cabonite.com, my data is all safe, and I probably just need a new laptop, on which I'll restore everything.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


We always have favorites in life - my favorite ice cream is chocolate, my favorite colour is blue, and my favorite season is fall. We're not necessarily supposed to have favorite people in life - everyone should be treated equally, but there are always those who work their way into our hearts just a little more than others. At The Mustard Seed, Gary is Minnie's favorite, as she is always watching for him to come through the door so she can help serve him (he is a senior and walks with a cane). My favorite is Sheldon. I have always believe that God speaks through dreams, and Sheldon was first introduced to me in a dream, not long after I started my work downtown. He was the one familiar face in a lineup of people in a dream I had one night, and I didn't even know him then. I began talking to him shortly before we had the fire, and then he became a source of comfort throughout the winter as I struggled to keep it all together (who knows if I succeeded - sometimes I still don't feel all together). I have been bugging Sheldon to sing karaoke for months, and last night as we were cleaning up the coffee bar I heard a different voice to an old familiar song and I had to pop out to see who was singing, because it was a good voice. I looked towards the front of the church and there stood Sheldon, in a white t-shirt (he rarely takes off his coat), singing his guts out. It was just one of those moments where you see these people in a different light - they aren't homeless or poor or down on their luck, they're just people, made in God's image like the 6 billion others roaming around on this planet, doing the best they can with the life they were given. I drove home wondering about all the people we cross paths with every day, and why there are some that we pause to reflect about, and there must be a Plan in place, and we have to follow those ebbs and flows and maybe someday He'll reveal how it was all part of the Master Design. But for now, I'll just wait for that revelation and enjoy my time with these people that I now care about so much.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How I Spent My Saturday

This time of year is always tough - client demands, deadlines, and the volume of tax season. It happens every year, and I've been doing this for a while now so it's not so much of a surprise anymore. Being the last week of March, which is always the busiest week of the year, I sent the kids off to the in-laws for the weekend so that I could catch up on work and spend some time with them next week during spring break. I have been doing volunteer tax returns with the town for a few years now, and decided this year to visit the seniors' lodges in town so that they didn't have to trek down to the library, risking their limbs on the snow and ice (is it EVER going to melt???), and I could complete their tax returns in the comfort of their own buildings. First stop - Goldring Manor, where I arrived at 1000, just in time to see the Canadian ladies curling team beat China and win a place in the gold medal game. There were a few waiting for me when I arrived, and they were all patient, and Ed, being the gentleman from another era, let the ladies go first even though he had been one of the first to arrive. They were all appreciative, thankful, and I received a box of chocolate dinner mints from one of them. One lady commented that she just couldn't go down the stairs at the usual place she has her taxes done, and was so grateful that I came for a visit. Next stop - Discovery Place, where the seniors I met we primarily over 80 (and almost 90), and sat with me, chatting about life and the weather, happy to sit for a few minutes to get their taxes over and done with! After some minor technical difficulties, I was rolling, and sadly ended my time by telling the last gentleman that he owed tax. "What do you mean," he cried. "I don't make any money!" I walked away with a resolve to find him some extra tax credits if it was that last thing I did! Last stop - The Mustard Seed, dodging monster-sized potholes along the way, Saturday night, with the Oilers playing the Flames and the inner city folks gathered together to see if the Oil could spoil Calgary's hopes of making the playoffs (they didn't - surprise, surprise). I ran down the list, punching in government benefit slips, printing pages, and providing instructions. I think I might have convinced Gary to file the tax returns he has missed for the last 11 years. He had been homeless for a long time before recently getting his own place. It would be worth it even if he could just get three years of GST credits back. At first, he was reluctant, but just as I left, he came over to chat about it further....when I see him on Tuesday, I'll make sure I bug him. And the quote of the night, of course from Sheldon, who wandered over to say goodbye as I was leaving, and I asked if he filed taxes to get GST, and his response: "Who cares about GST? I don't need any money!" and off he went, back to his table to cheer on his beloved Flames. I'll keep working on him. It was a frantic and busy Saturday, rushing in and out of the house, trying to do bits of work in between visits, but I went to bed thinking about becoming a nurse....and working at The Mustard Seed....and helping whoever needs it - healthy or sick, rich or poor. It was so worth it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Conversation

Me: Sheldon, do you want to take some food home?

Sheldon: HOME? I don't have a home.

Me: Where do you go when you leave here?

Sheldon: I've been staying at a friend's place, but before that, the Hope.

Me: Well, at least it's getting warmer.

Sheldon: I hate it when it gets warmer.

Me: Why?

Sheldon: Because then I can't walk on the river.

Me: Why do you walk on the river?

Sheldon: I don't know.

Me: Well, it's spring, don't walk on the river.

Sheldon: Why?

Me: Because the ice would break and that would be the end of Sheldon.

Sheldon: Why would that be a bad thing?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I hummed happily to myself as I headed downtown to the Mustard Seed, ready to do my duty, anticipating another great night. And it was a great night, but marred by the harsh reality of things that go on in the dark inner city while we're curled up in suburbia, oblivious to anything other than our warm beds.

The wind started to kick up as I arrived, and a few of the guys called, "Hey Jo, can you ask us to let us in early?" Thankfully, we did, and the crowds wandered in out of the biting wind, and I was amazed at the volume of families that came in last night. One of the crowd that came in later was a young guy that I've noticed before, the one who walks with a cane and wears a heavy downfilled jacket, long and down below his knees. Some days he walks very slowly, and last night his head was hooded, hiding his face, and I soon saw why. His eyes were blackened, his face cut, obviously the result of a serious run-in with the wrong guy. He politely came for coffee and I tried not to look at him with pity, but I'm sure I did, and I wonder what happened to him during the week.

Then I found out more about Sheldon, who has become very talkative these past few weeks. His mom died a while ago and he kept telling me how much he hates people. I felt sad for him, because when he first mentioned his mom to me a few weeks ago, he called her, "Mommy", with love in his voice, and I didn't realize at the time that she was gone.

But the night wasn't all gloomy and sad - after all, it was karaoke night! A young guy did an awesome rocking rendtion of "Sunglasses at Night" - one of the best songs I had heard since I began at The Mustard Seed back in June. He probably wasn't even born when that song was released, and the video aired with a cool young Corey Hary and his elf-like shoes.

And so I take it all in, the good with the bad, and do what I can to help each week, and maybe if I'm lucky I can make someone smile. I'd like to think there is hope for all of us, and I can see it in myself as I'm coming out of the storm that has enveloped me for the last few months.

On Monday night, I was able to fall asleep before 10:00 for the first time since November.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Have No Friends!

When you really think about it, Facebook is so silly and useless. People that you didn't really care about 20 years ago want to be your "friend" - why would they want to be your friend now when they didn't 20 years ago? We then feel all pumped when we have new "friends", and waste away hours perusing their profiles and seeing what they have been up to. I started to wonder about the privacy of Facebook when I was able to stumble upon photo albums of "friend's friends" - looking at pictures I had no business looking at, and then I wondered who could see my pictures? I thought my privacy settings were accurate, but who really knows in this age of rapidly changing technology. And so, a couple of months ago, I deleted about half of my "friends", leaving only some family members and people I actually talk to. Then, this past Saturday, in an act of internet rebellion, I deleted everybody.

I hadn't intended on deleting everyone - I started with acquaintences who had avoided the chopping block before, then moved onto other real friends, then family members, and then just thought, "What the heck, let's get rid of all of them!". It was oddly liberating, and the few people with whom I shared the news could hardly believe it. "What do you mean you got rid of all your friends?" "You didn't take ME off your list, did you???"

I still have my Facebook account, and I'm sure I'll get friend requests someday, but for now I've chosen to just stay off and keep my pictures to myself. After all, do we really know who might be lurking out there??? Certainly not a friend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tammy Has Grandkids!

I feel like a broken record going on and on about weekly occurances at the Mustard Seed, but so many neat things are starting to happen as walls come down and people start opening up to me. I took a brand new karaoke machine over on Monday afternoon, and Helen gave me a big hug - it was a lot of excitement with the karaoke crowd that they were going to be able to ditch the old, run down machine. The afternoon crowd had a different vibe - people coming and going, sorting clothes on the tables, sipping on coffee. It was nice and casual. And of course who would I run into but Sheldon, first looking at me like, "What are you doing here?", and then saying in his slow sarcastic way, "I saw what you brought in." He does not enjoy karaoke night. I told him I'd bring him some extra donuts to make up for it.

When I arrived on Tuesday, Nathan and Mel were setting up the new machine, and it worked perfectly. No skipping disks, no issues, but most of the great karaoke regulars (Amos, Clayton, Gary) didn't come last night - maybe because they thought there would be no karaoke? The music was good last night, lots of different people, great renditions of songs....I was so glad to be able to contribute! Even when Helen called me up on the mike, although I was embarrassed to be recognized openly, it was so nice to be thanked and cheered for, just for that small gesture. Georgie then came over to the coffee bar to thank me personally - it was worth it to hear her sing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in her crazy way!

But the highlight of the night had to be when Tammy (the women that it took me months to get a smile out of) started telling me about her new grandson, and that she had three grandkids now! For one thing, she looks way too young to be a grandma, but I was just thrilled that she decided to share that with me!

I've never thought of myself as a "people person" - I like to be alone most of the time, but when I do interact with people (on my own terms), whether it's with clients, out in public, or at The Mustard Seed, I really enjoy myself. Maybe as I'm getting older I'm appreciating human interaction a bit more....who knows.

But my thoughts of becoming a staff member came to a grinding halt last night as the staff filled up buckets with bleach to clean a urinal which someone decided to use as a toilet. There is some truth to the inner city that I don't often see because we are in a safe place where people are sober, and I am just a volunteer who hangs out and serves coffee. I wonder if my posts would be so full of optimism and hope if I went and hung out at George Spady for a day, where all people are welcome, drunk, high or sober.....

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My dad and I were having a chuckle about whether Scott would enjoy hanging out at the Mustard Seed. We decided he would not. My theory is that Scott has no empathy - he just can't relate to those who are a little down and out, and sees everything in black and white. If he just knew that a lot of people that come in to the Mustard Seed are neither down nor out, and many are just looking for a place to hang out for a couple of hours. On the other hand, maybe not everyone is right for an inner city mission, and I just can't see that because more and more I am seeing it as a place where I could be all of the time.

Our karaoke machine broke on Tuesday...now that made it a long night as the TV was tuned into a tennis match (why they weren't watching hockey, I have no idea). Apparently the laser is gone and they need an entire new machine. Not only is the machine used for karaoke on Tuesday, but also movie night on Friday. I am waiting to hear whether a new machine is in the budget, because if it isn't, I told Megan I would buy a new one (at which point I received a thankful hug from Helen, the community member who runs karaoke each week). Tuesday night just isn't the same without Gary's rendition of Johnny Cash, or Amos' rendition of Johnny Cash, or Clayton's wailings to Stone Temple Pilots or Nirvana. Even when some "less talented" singers take their turn at the mike, it's still fun. I have to make sure that they have a new machine for next Tuesday - I don't want to be stuck listening to tennis again!

Of course there are those who cringe at karaoke night, including Sheldon, who was very happy that the machine was broken (I didn't tell him I was going to buy a new machine!). We had a spirited discussion about our hockey teams (he's a Flames fan), and it was great to find something else to talk to him about. He's a funny guy, with that biting sarcasm that often leaves him sitting alone at the tables. But underneath he's just like the rest of us, with a mom and a dad, and a love for his sports teams (even if they are the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg BlueBombers!). It's taken me seven months to dig under his layers, but it was worth it to have a great, yet insulting discussion about our rebuilding Edmonton Oilers!

And remember the woman who comes in every week, looking all grumpy, and I managed to eak a smile out of her a couple of months ago? She came in this week and addressed me by name with a cheery, "Hi Jo." Wow, I never would have guessed that in a million years. I even found out her name - Tammy.

So even though my beloved karaoke machine was broken, it was still a great night at The Mustard Seed. No wonder I can't wait to go back week after week.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So Cold

There is a song by Breaking Benjamin that came out a few years ago with this title, and even though it's not about being cold, I've been thinking about it a lot this morning after a sad night at The Mustard Seed. The lyrics that keep going through my head:

Show me how it ends, it's all right.
Show me how defenseless you really are.

My heart was crying last night for the people that walked through the doors of The Mustard Seed. Some were only wearing layers of sweatshirts, few had proper boots, and many were very cranky. I was yelled at twice last night for refusing second plates - the first time I had been yelled at (apparently, it won't be the last). I could only look at them with sympathy and understanding - what I day they must have had.

The temperatures had been hovering around -20 all day, and was dropping by the time we let the community in around 630. Stewart and I watched the window thermometer as it dropped, and the people kept streaming in from the outside, looking for some warmth, however brief. Usually by 930 there is a noticeably thinner crowd, and cleanup can begin, but a lot were hanging around last night. I watched as they gathered their blankets and headed out. One man and his girlfriend came in about 945 and he was begging for food, but we didn't have any to give - the food and hot chocolate was all long gone. I gave him some peanut butter and jam that we had behind the counter, and I saw him munching on some ice cream cones that had been left on the shelf. His girlfriend helped clean up so that they could stay a little longer, and then they gathered their blankets to head off, who knows where. I thought about them every time I woke up in the night.

And then there was Sheldon, who came in to play cards, Sheldon with the crazy curly hair, who had been the only recognizeable face in a dream I had about the Mustard Seed when I first started back in June. The dream had a winding lineup of people, and I didn't know any of them other than Sheldon, who stood out from the crowd like a bright light. Last night as I was cleaning up the tables he paused before he left, looked at me, and I just felt a call to go say good night. All I said was, "Have a good night, see you next week", and he responded in his slow way, "I'll try." There must be a reason why he was pointed out to me in that dream.

As we left, a couple came in to ask if they could use washroom, even though we were closed. Maria was angry with them, but the young guy, who I had always seen as a rough and tumble cool guy, pleaded with her, "Please Maria, I need to go pee."

Show me how defenseless you really are.

Show me how it ends, it's all right.

I can only hope it all ends up all right. How blessed I felt last night to be sleeping in a warm bed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Can I Be a Cliche for a Day?

Like zillions of other bloggers out there, I'll wish everyone a Happy New Year and reflect on the year that was and hope for the year that will be.

What a crazy year, full of emotional ups and downs, ending on a significant down as a lunatic attempted to burn our house down (with us in it), and we were saved by the angel on my sleeping shoulder who woke me up before any significant damage was done. I now sit here still depressed and anti-social, but putting up a good front, I think. It was so nice to be out of this house for a couple of days and not lie awake in the night watching the windows for any sign of something strange. But now we're back, and life goes on. I hope I can sleep tonight.

But I smiled as I read my posting from June 15th of this year, written minutes after I arrived home from my first shift at The Mustard Seed. I have gone down there faithfully every Tuesday for over six months - nothing has kept me from the drive downtown to meet and greet the friendly folks of our inner city. I can hardly believe how I have been transformed over the last six months; I never would have believed how close I would become with these people, many of whom I still don't know their names (Is it rude to ask now that I've been talking with them for so long? I'm not sure.). I sat on the couch New Year's Eve, wishing I was at the party with them, serving coffee and snacks, and ringing in 2011 on a hopeful note. I am counting down the minutes to Tuesday when I can see them again. I wish I could be there more than just one night a week, but I have to be grateful to be there at all. And to think that I almost didn't go - it was only because a local Senior's Centre didn't call me back that I decided to send my application to The Mustard Seed.

I wonder what will happen this year.....last I talked to Darryl, he and Monica were hoping to move into an apartment today - they have been homeless for over six months. I hope they are sleeping in their very own warm bed tonight. Will my Vietnamese buddy quit smoking this year - he told me if I brought him candy canes he would try to quit. Will I finally learn the names of all the people I talk to, instead of calling them names like "Vietnamese buddy", "Guy with the thermos", "Young guy with the crazy hair". Maybe that will be my resolution - to learn the names of at least two community members each week. Stewart will help me, I'm sure - he knows everyone!

January 1 - a day to start all things fresh and to forget the bad times of the past year. I have faithful optimisn that it's going to be a great year - not just for me, but for those who need a bit of a lift. Only God knows......