Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 30: O Canada!

The following article was brought to my attention; written in April 2002, after we lost four of our soldiers to "friendly" fire from the US, it honours Canada's efforts in Afghanistan and in WW II.

This week we lost two more of our soldiers. How grateful I am that I live in this unbelievable country that seeks to preserve my freedom and promote freedom and democracy in far less privileged countries.

Remembrance Day will be upon us before we know it. Nilgiris will be open from after the service until 5 p.m. As is our custom, veterans who come to the TH that day will be our honoured guests for lunch.

"God keep our land glorious and free ..."
Salute to a brave and modest nation - Kevin Myers, 'The Sunday Telegraph' LONDON:

"Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.

And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.

Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped Glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved. Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada 's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle. Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it's unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular Memory as somehow or other the work of the 'British.' The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.

Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated - a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces.

Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan? Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past year more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.

Lest we forget."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 29: The gifts to the TH

Nilgiris is truly a group effort - I was sitting here this evening contemplating how much I have been given, and here is a brief, partial, list of the treasures that I see as I look around me: Piano, encyclopedia set, barn pictures, jigsaw puzzles, dining chairs, baskets and embroidery and pictures on walls, Mr. Erickson's chair, lamp, ornaments, tablecloths, tea cups (ALL the teacups currently on the Wall of Great China have been given to Nilgiris!), fridges, toaster oven, cooler, tea pots and kettles, cushions, books, almost all ornaments for the Tea Tree in the entrance ...

Then there's the gift of time: people who have stayed around to help me do dishes late on a Saturday evening; people who've visited in the kitchen and ended up stirring a pudding or pie on a Sunday morning; people who call up to say they're thinking about the TH and they're in the city -- do I need anything picked up?; people who shoot me an email; people who drop by for coffee during the week ...

Of course, my staff is one of my biggest gifts: almost all of them are willing to stay for an extra half hour if we're busy, or come in on short notice, or juggle three tasks at once, or work special functions out of TH hours ...

And one of my biggest treasures is the guestbook. Caite found it at an antique mall and it looked exactly like the ledger books we used to use to order and record delivery of bread and milk when we lived in the Nilgiris! So of course it became the guest book back in 2003. My brother was the first person to sign it on April 5, 2003, when we had the contractors' thank you party. Since then we have accumulated 273 pages full of records of people who have graced this little place. Regulars to the TH and my staff know that if Nilgiris suddenly goes up in flames, the one thing we need to grab is the guest book!

Thank you, all of you, for blessing this place and for being part of the reason it blesses other people.

Thanksgiving Day 28:

I met Karl at a house party in 1990 -- I was the one in the electric green sweater and he was the one with the electric blue violin.

The man can flirt and scold and tease and laugh and pout and charm ... and this just with his violin! When he opens his mouth and starts to sing the velvet bass of his voice can move you to tears or laughter, or sometimes both. He's well read and eloquent, a charming dinner companion and a genial host. He can be caustic; he can produce the "artistic temperament" at the drop of a hat; and occasionally he makes some of the most execrable puns I have ever heard! He says he looks like a biker; the oxblood electric violin is a dead giveaway, I would think. He is "built for comfort, not for speed," as one of the songs he sings attests.

But he has a heart to match his girth. He has played in the TH to help me promote Christmas concerts and Valentine's fondues, and at my South Africa fundraiser -- and then he's stuck around to help in the kitchen. He will do anything he can for his kids and for his friends. His parents know they can always turn to him.

Karl has opened my eyes to sushi and dim sum and Vietnamese food, and his own culinary forays leave nothing to be desired except for more. He sends me recipes and introduces me to tiny grocery shops with fragrant smells and magical ingredients.

And his music! A combination of jazz, swing, and "oddball treasures", woven together with his unmistakable self-deprecating patter makes for a delightful evening. But don't request a country tune whatever you do ...

I am so grateful to have met Karl all those years ago. We have talked extensively about music, politics, literature, travel, cooking, God, family, dreams. He likes my friend Jane and my Dad and he flirts shamelessly with my sisters and the safely married women in the audience at the TH!

He is one of those friends whom I have no doubt would catch me if I fell. Check out his website: . DEMAND that he bring "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" and "Almost Behavin' " back into circulation.

Put his CD on, pour yourself your favourite beverage, curl up on the couch with the one you love, and prepare to be beguiled.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 27:
A cup of water

The beautiful Caite gave me this exquisite pottery tumbler a short while ago. It keeps water cool and steamed almond milk warm. Its size is perfect to rest between my two hands, its craggy surface somehow reassuring to the touch.

When we would arrive at someone's house in India on a hot day, invariably we would be offered something to drink -- our hosts in even the poorest of homes, where provisions might be scarce, would take out their best tumblers and offer some cool water to refresh us.

Each time I drink from this special cup I am reminded of how many blessings I have been given. And I think of how I am told that the simple act of offering someone a cup of water in Jesus' name will bless both the giver and the recipient.

I love that plain, basic, unglamourous water is the offering of choice. Water is integral to life. Villages and communities can die out when the well or the river dries up. The presence of potable water incites hope and optimism no matter how bleak other circumstances may appear.

The story is told of the man who was travelling between two cities when he was accosted by highwaymen and bandits, who beat him and robbed him and left him for dead at the side of the road. A religious leader happened to be travelling that way shortly after the incident occurred; perhaps thinking that the man was dead and maybe not wanting to defile himself, he moved to the other side of the road and kept going. Some time passed and then another spiritual leader appeared, one whose heritage was to serve in the place of worship and also to operate cities of refuge where people could find safety and solace. Even this man, bred to help others, gave him no more than a passing glance and continued on his way.

But then a third man, one with some substance but nevertheless one who would have been scorned because of his ethnicity by the two spiritual leaders, and even by the dying man were he not almost past the point of hope, happened by. He also noticed the beaten man; but instead of carrying on his way he stopped and took stock of his injuries and no doubt of his whole person too. The story recounts that he poured olive oil and wine into his wounds; it is probably not too big of a stretch to imagine that if the wounded man were conscious his rescuer would have offered him something to drink. When the injured man was able to travel his rescuer transported him to a nearby inn and tended to him through that night. The next morning he commissioned the inn keeper to look after him, giving the man an advance on his room charge and saying that he had to go on to fulfill the purpose of his trip, but that he would be back shortly and would settle the injured man's tab upon his return.

I have no doubt that the moment the injured man knew this last man could be trusted and had his best interests at heart was when his benefactor poured out some water, or the wine or oil, and tended to his needs. And he received hope that he would be taken care of, that he would recover, that he was not going to be just another statistic in the city's homicide countdown for the year.

Another story tells of a woman who had lost all sense of personal value and dignity, who was reduced to fetching water for her household at a time when none of the other women of the village were likely to be there because she couldn't bear the whispers, the knowing looks, the outright snubs.

Jesus arrived at the well and instantly recognized the one thing she would know she could do to help Him: "Please give me some water," he asked.

Such a simple request. But it uncovered the first faint hope that someone saw her for who she was and who she longed to be, not the outwardly brash woman cowering inwardly under the weight of her indiscretions and tarnished reputation and social leper status.

And once the spark of hope that she still had something valuable to offer was ignited, Jesus turned the tables on her and offered her unlimited quantities of living water that would wash away her sin and pain and renew her soul and refresh her spirit and outlook. When she received hope, and the forgiveness and love she so desperately craved, she couldn't wait to share it with her fellow citizens.

Even a small child can offer someone a cup of water -- and therein might lie the rub. It seems too simple, rather an anticlimactic gesture, to extend this simple courtesy to someone. But if we do it in the right spirit we might be the means of restoring hope and dignity and importance to someone's life.

The unknown writer commented, "Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope."

That little cup of water, that kind word, even that simple wordless hug when I don't know what to say, might be the tiny nudge of encouragement that someone needs to help them bear their load, to help them on their way, to tell them that they are not alone. Everyone needs water. Everyone needs hope. Surely I can find moments during the course of my day to offer the former, which could very well lead down the road to the latter ...

I am so grateful for the water in my earthenware tumbler this evening.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 26: Management Tactics

Today's will be a short entry, because it is about one of the most private people I know. I debated not mentioning her at all this month; but it would be a terrible omission not to include someone who has been a friend to me for almost 15 years and who has impacted my life so profoundly and directly in the past three.

This woman possesses an enormous, tender heart squeezed into her compact fencer's body. She will go far above and beyond what anyone could expect in caring for those whom she loves and has a responsibility to.

She is well read and well travelled and can spin an entertaining yarn. But she also has the gift of being a thoughtful listener, with an ability to size up a situation objectively and then speak words of advice and comfort into it with a great deal of empathy.

She has my back. And she has my gratitude and affection and friendship.

Here's to you, my personal Divine Miss M!

Thanksgiving Day 25: A father to the fatherless

Right away, may I say that my Dad is fine! He is on a trip to India, where he got to visit Nagaland and many former students in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But the day before he left it seems like some of the circumstances in my life became quite topsy-turvy. While Dave Epp and a couple of his friends were wrapping up their regular Monday morning meeting at the TH, I got the phone call from Mike that Andy was in the hospital, that he had, in fact, suffered a minor stroke.

Without hesitation Dave enveloped me in a comforting hug and he and his friends immediately prayed for Andy and for his recovery.

Dad and I went to Calgary shortly thereafter; and before Dad had to make final preparations for his trip, he got to spend some hours with Andy.

During these subsequent days, Dave has been an enormous encouragement and source of wisdom and guidance and strength for me. He was already scheduled to take Dad's Tuesday morning study at the Manor -- and in his three devotionals he reassured me of the power and omniscience of the eternal God. What a way to put things in perspective!

When I was questioning something I had heard in a sermon one Sunday, he gave me context; and when I wondered aloud about the motivation of a leader, Dave gently reminded me that it was not for us to judge - I could almost hear my Dad speaking thus to me too!

Dave and my Dad go back over 50 years; Dave mentioned that he was actually at the train station with the group of people who were seeing Dad off on the first leg of his journey to India in 1959! Dave and Shirley were such treasured friends of Dad and Mum. At one point Shirley and Mum were in the hospital at the same time; and when God released Shirley from all the pain and suffering she endured on this earth, Mum and Dad felt her loss to us who remained just as keenly as though she were their sister. Dave in turn ministered to Dad when Mum joined Shirley in heaven four years later.

Dave is a fascinating man: a missionary himself for many years, in his retirement he has taken on the chaplaincy of the Three Hills Health Centre; a heart attack survivor, this year he did a 200-km bike ride for cancer in honour of Shirley. He is sought out for his spiritual knowledge and insight. He likes both bowling and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He's always up for an adventure, and he and his daughter have a major one planned for next year!

Thanks to Dave, in the last few weeks I have come to understand to a small extent the verse where God says that He will be "a father to the fatherless." When I read that verse previously I thought it was more cerebral, more spiritual than practical. But during these days when my own father has been out of reach for the most part and I needed the physical presence of a dad, God has graciously provided the perfect stand-in.

So in this month of thankfulness I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to a wonderful, wise, funny, caring man. Thank you, Dave.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 24: Happy Birthday, Hez!

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of the most efficient workers we have ever known at Nilgiris. Heather can turn a disaster kitchen around before you can say, "Bissell: Life's messy. Clean it up!"

She also has an artist's eye when it comes to decorating desserts and garnishing dishes ... or planning a wedding ...

Matt and Heather's wedding this summer was one of the most lovely nuptials I have attended. It goes without saying that the bride was exquisite and the groom dapper; that the weather was perfect; that the wedding party performed their roles nobly; that the reception was fun, with the MCs keeping things charming, poignant and entertaining.

But the true beauty in this wedding was the spirit that pervaded every aspect of it. From the moment that Heather walked down the aisle and Matt stood there transfixed, we who were privileged to be the witness part as they came together "before God and these witnesses", witnessed an incredibly meaningful, spiritual ceremony reflective of this young couple's beliefs, values and personalities. Douglas Lewis gave the most thoughtful, tender, practical homily on marriage I have ever heard -- one that I feel should be published and mandatory reading for any two people, no matter what age, who are thinking of joining their lives together.

When finally the minister pronounced them husband and wife and gave Matt permission to kiss his bride, the way Matt lovingly cradled Heather's face in his hands before he did just that somehow captured in that one gesture all the solemnity and joyousness and love and romance of the occasion.

It is such a privilege for me to be given the opportunity to see "my" kids grow from awkward, unsure teenagers with big dreams and high hopes into young adults who are beginning to realize some of these dreams and hopes.

So happy birthday, dear Heather - your first as a married woman!

Wedding photograph by Sarah Ortega
Thanksgiving Day 23: Not just another Friday night

I was looking forward to my regular Friday evening Costco-Superstore run this week with about as much anticipation as I look forward to seeing my dentist ... wait a minute; I like seeing my dentist! Okay, as much as I enjoy doing expenses, which is zero enjoyment.

As I was about to leave Three Hills, feeling a little sorry for myself, I had the happy thought of asking Angela, my sister-in-law, to join me. She agreed and immediately stopped what she was doing, got ready and in half an hour we were on the road.

I must say, rarely have I enjoyed my Tea House Friday night more! We careened around Costco in record time; then we made our way to one of my favourite restaurants, Babylon Quattar, where we were joined by Angie's son Craig. Samosas, hummus and pita, lamb, chicken, tabouli salad, spicy eggplant -- all were chosen and cooked for us by our charming host who likes nothing better than to be given free reign as to what he can serve. (SPOILER ALERT: This is the restaurant we will be having dinner for our Nilgiris family's Christmas event ...)

Then we drove over to Superstore and made our way through that maze with all due despatch. One last stop at Starbucks for one for the road, and we were on our way back to Trois Lumps.

The thing I dread the most about the weekly TH chores is this shopping, loading into car, driving home, and unloading. And so I am so very grateful to my dear Angie for giving up her Friday evening plans in order to come and keep me company and help me with it all.

The evening was a gift for me in another way, too: Angie and I lead very different lives and our paths cross much more infrequently than I would like. So to have the privilege of her company and a chance to chat, to exchange ideas and stories and to laugh and be quiet together was a rare treat. Even though we got home just around midnight, it seemed to me that the evening was over too soon.

Why did I never think of doing this before? The gift of someone's time is the one I always appreciate the most. Thanks, Angela, for giving me so generously of yours on what turned out to be a memorable Friday evening.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 22: Comfort food

I spent a little time with Theresa today. We painted pumpkins. Then we strolled to Farm restaurant and shared the creamy mac and cheese and the crisp BLT salad and the decadent chocolate chip cookies and traditional Earl Grey tea.

If I were to design the perfect comfort meal, this would be it. We perched up at the counter and watched as the chef tasted sauce (double dipping, for anyone who keeps track! But it did look and smell awfully good -- who knows? we might have done the same thing!). We chatted about our lives and the lives of people we love. We, both of us, started to breathe a little bit more deeply and slowly; and when the food arrived we allowed the flavours to reverberate in our mouths, teasing and ultimately satisfyling our palates, instead of gulping down our food as both of us are prone to do.

"Look after each other," Theresa's dad admonished me before he and her mom headed away for the winter. So both of us, with parents far away, did just that on this Thursday evening out of time.

And her dad was right. Both of us were comforted and sustained and entertained and fed and rejuvenated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 21: Sonnie and Chère

Many people who drink coffee at the TH comment on how good it is. I am not ashamed to tell you that 18 per cent of the credit should go to Sonnie, who told me that the only coffee worth drinking is the coffee with 18% cream in it -- none of this half-and-half stuff for her! I started getting a carton of it when I knew she would be visiting; and then we started to serve other guests the same cream; and the rest is history. So not only I, but all coffee drinkers at Nilgiris should be grateful for Sonnie today ...

Sonnie has a personality that doesn't quit. She has a spirit that yearns to make people laugh and a ready wit that enables her to do so. She is smart and resourceful and forceful when it comes to standing up for what is right. She loves God and has the tender heart of one of those children Jesus commended when it comes to her learning about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sonnie's faithful sidekick is Chère, aka Zoe. I have never been much of a pet person, but Zoe has stolen my heart. How can you not love someone who is so excited to see you that she pretty much knocks you over every time you arrive at her home? Someone who wants to be near you, even if it's just sitting on your feet or with her head in your lap? Zoe is truly Sonnie's child, and has inherited her mother's personality to boot!

Sonnie has offered our family much comfort over the last two or three years; but she herself has had her share of deep, dark waters to navigate. I believe that Zoe has been her faithful companion and one of the sources from which she can derive comfort.

So Sonnie, thank you for the love and joy you bring to your adopted family. And come visit Nilgiris soon -- there'll be seafood quiche, strawberry cheesecake, and some of the best coffee you've ever tasted waiting for you!

"I've got you, babe!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 20: Sweet Jane

When it comes to treasures of the heart, Jane has her own compartment in my jewelry box. And yet this is a woman who should not be - cannot be - compartmentalized.

Jane and I met in 1992 at Carswell and we slowly started to get to know each other. At first I was rather intimidated by her - she is someone of great erudition, of wide-ranging interests and of intensely felt passions.

But then one day I felt at a loss and desperately needed a friend and there was Jane, arm around my shoulder, mug of tea at the ready, willing to take on the foe for me.

We have laughed together and cried together -- Immortal Beloved and Shadowlands and layoffs and new prospects and weddings and funerals. She's a gifted writer and a talented editor. She doesn't suffer fools gladly, but she will drop everything to help someone in need. She can play the bagpipes and sing alto in Handel's Messiah. She's a voracious reader and a competitive lawn bowler. She is true to herself.

Sometimes we don't speak for a few months, due to the divergent paths our lives have traversed; but when we do, it's like no time has passed. A month or so ago we managed to get together in Victoria for a lovely couple of afternoons that involved livestock, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, good strong coffee and free snacks, second-hand bookshops and the weekly farmers' market where I got to meet the woman who created the bracelet Jane is wearing in the picture. And, of course, there was a trip to a kitchen store. Jane is one of the people who opened my eyes and my palate to the wonders of off-the-beaten-track flavours in cooking and eating.

Jane is a confidante, a friend, a counsellor, a pick-me-up; when she is enthusiastic about something, she makes those around her want to discover it for themselves too.

And so many times it has been Jane there for me -- even two weeks ago today, as I was standing in the TH kitchen feeling at a loss and desperately needing a friend, my cell phone rang and it was Jane, calling from Victoria: "How are you?"

How did she know? How does she always know? All I know is that she was once again there with a shoulder, words of comfort and counsel. That phone conversation helped me make it through the rest of the week and through Thanksgiving at the TH.

"Anyone who's ever had a heart wouldn't turn around and break it
And anyone who's ever played a part wouldn't turn around and hate it

Anyone who's ever had a dream, anyone who's ever played a part
Anyone who's ever been lonely, and anyone who's ever split apart ..."

Sweet sweet Jane, indeed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 19: The gift of being heard

There is so much noise in this world: TV, radio, iPod, Muzak, electronic voices on the phone and at traffic lights, in airplanes and elevators. GPS navigators. Twitters and tweets and IMs and txt msgs. Facebook and LinkedIn and Youtube.

And good old-fashioned verbal chatter insists on filling up any nooks and crannies not already invaded by the electronic armada. I am guilty of it myself far too frequently, as I blather on about what, exactly, at the TH ...

Sometimes there is no getting away from sounds. There is increasingly little opportunity in this age of sensory overload simply to be silent and to ponder.

Speech and information are gifts that should not be taken for granted and squandered frivolously. And so when I am blessed enough to have people I cherish tell me that they don't need me to talk if I don't want to, that they can hear me without having to hear my words, I find this gift more to be appreciated than a legion of eloquent speeches, more to be treasured than pearls.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 18: The Benavides Brothers

One of the better decisions I have made for the TH was through listening to Tina. Tina, a dear friend of my Mum's, called me one day and said that her grandson needed a job. I asked her if he was a good worker. "He's a good boy," she retorted. "He'll be a good worker if you give him a chance."

And from the first shift Brent has proved his grandmother right. He always arrives early ("being on time's important," he advises the younger workers) and dresses appropriately for the occasion. I knew he was going to be a perfect fit when we were catering a private dinner at the TH and Brent showed up all in black and with a tie on!

Brent is a hard worker, it's true; but on top of that he's consistent, even keeled, compassionate, intelligent and wickedly funny. It will take Lois a long time to live down her foolhardy tossing away of the few crumbs of dressing left after our turkey dinner: Brent has taken it upon himself to "instruct her in the art of leftovers" ... Former and current teachers of Brent tell me how fortunate I am to have him at the TH. His hockey coach fought to overcome the age issue and get him eligible to play this year, because Brent exerts such an influence for good on the whole team. He was elected President of the student council (his brother told us that's only because the girls all fall for his deep voice and for no other reason!). He was involved in choir last year. He is disciplined and he takes leadership courses and volunteers in the community.

Maybe the most telling thing about Brent is this: his own younger brother and cousin both look up to him with the utmost respect. He never raises his voice with them, but they are guided and instructed and supported by him; and he always makes them feel like they are accomplishing important things, no matter how small the task. Yet he manages to make work fun and varies his educational style. One memorable occasion comes to mind when he was teaching them how to package desserts to go. He said, "Listen up!" and they both literally snapped to attention. Immediately running with the moment as one of them prepared to dart off to get a take-out container, Brent said in a mock-military style, "Did I tell you to move?" And as one started to ask him a question, he said, "I'll tell you when you can talk!" All of us in the kitchen were convulsed with laughter by the time this exercise was completed -- but both the junior officers knew how to prepare food to go by the time the drill was over!

Brent is 17 for one and a half more months "If I'm 17, I must be perfect," he will remind me, knowing my predilection for the number. "I've got to capitalize on it now before I turn 18 and am over the hill!"

Brent knew he was truly part of the TH family when, not so long ago, he referred to one of the guests he was serving as "Peanut Butter Pie Person". A lot of times we have nicknames for our guests derived from what they seem to like to order -- "Rice Pudding Lady", for example -- and a moment after Brent made his comment he asked, his face wreathed in smiles, "I really do belong, don't I?!"
The other half of the Benavides brothers is Curtis.

After Brent had been at the TH for a few months, I was determined to have Curtis work here as soon as he was old enough. And finally that day came, again courtesy of Tina. Dad and I were visiting Tina in Foothills hospital between Christmas and New Year and Curtis arrived with his mother shortly after we did.

The initial shock of seeing his grandmother looking so wan and frail took its toll on Curtis, naturally; but a few minutes later, with the buoyancy of youth, he said to me, "Karyn, I turned 14 and I got my learner's permit -- do you want to see?" He started the next weekend.

Curtis is as amazing as Brent; but he is no mere shadow of his talented elder brother, although they share the same extremely clever sense of humour and quick-wittedness. Curtis possesses one of the biggest, most tender hearts I have ever encountered in a human being. The elder guests love him because he is a hugger -- and everyone could do with more hugs, especially the elderly! He goes out of his way to look for opportunities to help people. For example, Erna, pictured with Curt, was having trouble getting out of the car one Sunday evening not so long ago. Curt happened to be arriving for work at just that moment. I chanced to glance out of the window to see him hoisting her out of the low-slung car she had ridden in, followed by a reassuring little pat on her shoulder. Erna was delighted to have her picture taken with "that kind boy!"

Curtis learns very fast, and within a week or so he was bussing tables, taking out water, keeping up with the dishes and charming everyone in both the kitchen and the dining room with his witty repartee and his unique take on life. He has grown about a foot taller since he started working at Nilgiris. More importantly, he has developed his natural ability for connecting with people; he has become more disciplined in his work habits; he is learning to take initiative; and he has quickly become an indispensable member of the team. He's so smart -- one of those kids who you are very confident will be able to do anything he sets his heart and mind to do.

Family is important to Curtis -- on Mother's Day he brought his mom in for dessert and coffee; prior to the event he had obtained Jackie's cheesecake recipe, which we made in her honour and which she enjoyed that evening. On Father's Day he met his dad for dessert and a man to man chat.

But "family" for Curtis extends past his own Belt / Benavides clan: he has adopted all of us who work at the TH as part of his family and he cares for each of us passionately. If Lois seems tired he will try to take the load off her any way that he can, or speak some encouraging words accompanied by a brotherly hug. When I was in the throes of my foot woes he was the one who reminded me to take my Advil and do my exercises and was I icing my foot?

This young man is no namby-pamby bleeding heart, however; he can give as good -- or better -- than he gets. "Hammer" is a word he'll throw out when he feels the occasion warrants it. Calling Lois out on "violations" and then patting her back to let her know that it's all in jest is one of the ongoing sources of amusement in the kitchen. Most of the time, however, his take on a situation is fresh and often unintentionally humourous. For example, when he was talking earnestly with me as to what I was doing to mitigate the pain in my foot and to prevent it from recurring in the future, I told him that I just needed to lose some weight. His ready sympathies roused immediately, he blurted out, "Karyn, you're not fat; you're just very, very short!" The look of horror and consternation on his face after he realized what he had just said was even funnier than the words themselves ...

As teenage girls seem to arrive at the TH in droves on the days that Brent and Curtis work, both of these boys do have one strict policy to follow: when either of them gets serious about a girl, they know that they have to bring her to the TH; and Lois and Brenda and BethAnne and I are going to vet her to make SURE that she deserves the attention of one of the two best catches in Three Hills!

It'll be a long time before I am privileged to see the like of Team Benavides again. Their work ethic is incredibly strong; their attitude is exemplary; their kindness to and acceptance of people from every walk of life is praiseworthy. Their loyalty is unwavering. And it can be traced to two people who should win Parents of the Year awards, Oswaldo and Jackie. The unconditional love they give their children is the foundation upon which these kids can build the edifices of their lives.

For myself, I have learnt from these two exceptional young men that there are many different ways of examining a situation; that with every problem there are solutions waiting to be uncovered; and that there is joy to be experienced and always love enough to share. I am greatly enriched -- and enchanted -- by the opportunity to see life from their perspective. They are more than just good workers; they're good boys.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 17: Sweet Seventeen

Seventeen has been my favourite number ever since I can remember. There's something so musical about it -- its perfect balance of syllables, the melody of it and the way it ends on a ringing tone. It's strong but delicate. Songs have been written in honour of it. It's a number on the cusp of maturity. A prime prime number.

And today is a very special seventeen, because it marks seventeen squared for a special couple: on October 17, seventeen years ago, they married.

So happy anniversary, R 'n' B (even their acronym speaks of two aspects of music converging to make one amazingly catchy musical style!) and may the next seventeen be even sweeter!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 16: Air casts and cars

What a big difference a small kindness can make! Dad told me that while he is in India, I could borrow his car. And shortly before he left, one of Deb's friends lent me an air cast for my foot, which has been causing me a lot of pain lately.

What's the connection? With my foot esconsed in the air cast, I can't press the clutch of my little standard far enough in even to start the car! And Dad's car is an automatic ...

The verse "All things work together for good to those who love God ..." resonates with me this week. Even the working together with the timing of the air cast and the use of the car.

Even when it doesn't seem like things are working together for good at the time. I like to think that I have my little story mapped out, at least a chapter in advance. But who could have predicted the events of even the past couple of weeks, for example? These are the times that I have to hold on to the words all things work together for GOOD.

I would note something that I never stopped to ponder before and that is that the "all things" are actively working; they are not just sitting passively by and hoping that it all comes together somehow. And that teaches me to keep persevering, keep doing what I need to each day.

But it also teaches me that I am not an island, having to hold it all together by myself. Even though I might not be able to see and comprehend the other "things" that are working with me in some mysterious way, they are there, also working, and it will all ultimately come out for good.

So today I am grateful for the hope -- for the promise -- of good coming out of every situation. Even if the good isn't what I would predict ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 15: Three Decades of Friendship

Have you ever had a friend who you hit it off with almost immediately? A friend with whom you can walk home from work, both talking all the way. A friend who will patiently wait for you to be done whatever activity you feel you need to complete. A friend who takes the time to get to know and love your family.

A friend who makes the effort to keep in touch despite the disparate time zones, occupations and commitments that could just as easily have put distance between the two of you. A friend who can be pragmatic but who also can indulge your whimsy. A friend who listens to you and you know you're heard.

A friend whom you can call and say, "She's in the hospital; we don't think she'll make it through the night ..." and who will drop everything to be with you and your family in that hospital room, holding you up at the exact moment you realize that the person who had held you up throughout your life to this point will no longer be able to do so.

A friend who knows not only your history but also your dreams and is loyal and encouraging to you in both. A friend whose presence adds depth and colour and context to your being. A friend with whom you can weep and with whom you want to rejoice.

And so today, in this month of thankfulness that of course fittingly includes your birthday, I want to say Happy Birthday, truest of friends. What a gift you are to my life!
Thanksgiving Day 14: Wednesday nights at the TH

This is the evening I look forward to throughout the week. Each Wednesday evening, starting in September and going until June, Mum and Dad's long-time Bible Study group meets ... and for the past two years, the TH has had the privilege of hosting!

The chairs are set out a certain way: two upright chairs, one near a light and the other near the purple chair for Mrs. Tuck; the parlor settee next to the purple chair that Dad sits in; three upholstered dining chairs next; the red couch followed by another chair; then Mr. Erickson's chair, the piano bench, and the other big red armchair, and two more upright chairs.

Every chair has a place and every one of us has a place here too. We are all a valuable part of this little group, which has seen dear faces go -- Mum, Dick and Thelma, Norma, Willie, Tina, Mae, Marion -- and other dear faces come to take their place.

And so to the group that meets together now -- George and Leona, Mrs. Tuck and Marjorie, Ralph, Ted, Brenda, Bob and Diana, Betty, Joyce, Linda, Ed and Ruth Anne and baby Anna Grace, and of course Dad our wonderful teacher -- thank you for the gift of your presence and your wisdom and your willingness to share. My life has been immeasurably enriched by each one of you .

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 13:
One Grand Mother

The Bible uses the term "grandmother" only once and she is Timothy's grandmother. Her name means agreeable or desirable. She would most likely have been a quiet woman but she was instrumental in bringing up her young grandson in the way he should go.

Her name was Lois.

We too have a Lois in the TH and no one could have been more well named. Our Lois is a midwife by calling and profession. She has been actively present at the birth of hundreds of babies. She has worked in the Philippines and in India and in Haiti. Any newborn baby who has been "caught" by Lois has no idea how blessed he or she is to have the first hands to touch you -- to cradle you as you draw your first breath, to clear your passages so that you can cry, can eat, can live -- the first hands to care for you as you enter this world, be Lois's.

I have been so very fortunate to have Lois work with me in the TH on and off for several years. She is in charge of the kitchen and I know that when she is in it the day will go smoothly and the food will be good and the atmosphere will be harmonious.

She is talented in so many ways. But how she avoids the spotlight! She is not one to push herself forward: one time I asked her if she wanted a break from the kitchen, if she would like to work up front in the dining room so that customers could see her, and her response was that she just wanted to work where she could be most useful. The only time she has willingly stepped in front of a crowd is when we threw her a "Babies' shower" in the TH to raise money and baby clothes for the desperately poor families with whom she would come into contact on her trips to the Philippines and Haiti this summer. And that evening, in her understated, inclusive way, she instructed about forty people on what it was like to be a midwife in these impoverished regions. We sang. We danced. We laughed. We did multiple choice quizzes. We sampled Philippino cuisine. We all left with a feeling of awe and gratitude at what this wonderful woman has accomplished; and we were challenged to give, to do, to BE the best we could.

Our Lois is wise beyond her years, kind, compassionate, industrious, with a great sense of humour and gentleness. What I appreciate most about her is how she nurtures the young staff members under her direction. Somehow she sees through the bravado or the anxiety to the heart of the person, and from there she draws what is good and strong and true from each one.

She never appears to chasten: her ability to discover and then coax and encourage the best out of the staff can be found in the value she places on each one's individual strengths and the respect she offers them. She invests her time and her knowledge and guides them by example as well as by words. She genuinely enjoys them and cares for them.

We have had four Timothys in recent days who have been the beneficiaries of working with Lois: Matt, Brent, Curtis and Corinne. Four very different personalities unify and work as a team under her aegis.

We have Lois for only a couple more months before she moves on to the next stage of her life. But everyone in the TH, myself included, will be marked and changed by the great influence she exerts so quietly.

And from Paul's letter to his young friend Timothy, I discovered the reason Lois is so successful in all she does and is so loved by those with whom she comes into contact. Paul writes to his friend, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

Lois is the crown jewel of Nilgiris.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Day:
The Family You Choose

He loves to tell this story:

"One day at the beginning of July 1988 I was in my office and this person walked in all dressed up in a smart skirt and high heeled red shoes and said, 'I need a job.' And I thought to myself, 'Oh my gosh, will we have to change the dress code of the King?!' "

Twenty-one years later, Don and Norma are two of the most important people in my life.

Don hired me at the Dairy King right after I arrived from Alabama, a deportee due to a "bureaucratic error", shell shocked by the events of the preceding weeks. He tried to train me in the kitchen: I dropped food, cut my hands and burnt myself and the chicken on a regular basis. So he gave me another shot, in the dining room; and he found that I had a natural aptitude, and so he let me stay.

Norma took me under her wing and got me oriented to life in Three Hills. She would invite me to their home and make me tea and let me talk.

These are some of the things I learnt while working for Don and Norma:

1. How to make a good burger: was there ever a hamburger like the Don's Burger?!
2. It takes the same amount of time to do a good or a shoddy job, so do it right the first time.
3. Hockey - Don was a Flames fan and I was an Oilers fan, and nothing could change this until the firing of McTavish; now I am a Flicker ...
4. The balance between a cool head and a warm heart.
5. How to swear in sign language.
6. When to keep trying and when to walk away if need be.
7. Attention to detail.
8. The 'F' word - no, not that one; get your mind out of the gutter!
9. When to talk and when to listen.
10. The value of a second chance.

And when we opened Nilgiris Tea House, the very first people through the front door were Don and Norma: he had done the unthinkable and set an alarm clock for the occasion! It is Don who sat through -- and ate through -- my attempts to come up with the perfect recipe for chocolate cream pie until I produced the one we make now and he deemed it good ("If you don't have good chocolate pie, you might as well be closed!").

Don and Norma have always been there for me all of these years; and even now, as I struggle with knowing what to do about the TH, they listen and clarify and share from their own experience. When they are here they work hard to help me in whatever way they can (as you can tell by looking at the pictures!).

But more important than that, they bring me joy just by my being with them . One of the highlights of my summer is when I gather a few friends together on a lovely weekday evening and I persuade Don to bring his saxophone and we play some of the old songs together.

I know of almost no one outside my family who loves me and accepts me for who I am more than Don and Norma do. And so on this day of the year when we are reminded particularly to be thankful, I want to thank God for bringing these two into my life so long ago. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He guided me to them when I had nowhere to turn. I pray for His hand of protection on them as they head back south and I go into hibernation, waiting for the spring to return them to us once more.

Thanksgiving Day 11: A Friend in Need ...

I could not go through this month without talking about Brenda, the woman without whom Nilgiris Tea House would not exist.

Brenda and I sat down one cold night in Calgary and talked about moving out to Three Hills and starting the TH ... she arrived one week before I did. Before that, she helped me pack up the household in Calgary (and she has helped me pack and move three times in Three Hills as well!). She organized the kitchen and she and I came up with the original menu. She has trained almost all my kitchen staff.

When we closed the TH in 2006, Brenda stoically got things in order. When I wanted to open again at the end of 2007, it was to Brenda that I first went, and she enthusiastically said she was on board.

But all of that is just scratching the surface; the reason I love Brenda so much is I have been privileged to catch glimpses of her heart. She has a heart for God and she has a heart for people and service. If anyone is in need and she gets wind of it, she will do whatever is in her power to assist.

During Mum's illnesses, it was more often than not Brenda on whose shoulder I would sob. During other difficult periods in my life it was she who would listen to and weep with and counsel me.

And even now, I know that all I have to do is call her up and say, "I need you," and she will be there for me.

We share very important relatives too: Elliot and Oliver, her grandsons and my nephews, figure prominently in our conversations!

Although Brenda officially "retired" from the payroll at the end of 2008, she continues to come by and help out at the drop of a hat. This week alone she came in and did my mid-week dishes; and then on Saturday night she was here with Don and Norma, getting all my veg prep for Thanksgiving dinner completed, getting me organized like she has been doing for the past six years ...

And so, right on the cusp of Thanksgiving day I want to thank Brenda for all she means to me. And I want to thank God for bringing her into my life.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 10: "Someone to Watch Over Me"

Quite a long time ago in a country far away there lived a little girl who was happy almost all the time; but she longed for a friend to play with, someone whom she could look after like everyone always looked after her.

Then one day her Mummy came home with a beautiful little baby, a baby with velvety hair and creamy skin and eyes the colour of cloves.

"My Baby!" the little girl cried. And how she loved her baby sister! She would have done anything for her. She watched over her and talked to her and sang to her; she was overcome with love for her, so much so that she gave her her greatest treasure, her own cherished bolster cushion, nearly suffocating her in the process ...

They were inseparable: when the elder started school at age 3, the younger missed her so much that she started school at age 2 1/2! And as they grew, they played together and sang together and studied and travelled together. They would choose each other as partners for board games -- they could read each other's silent signals and they would win. They were in each other's weddings.

Fast forward, and now the tables are turned. Last night I stayed at Bronwyn's home. I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. I arrived late, but she was still waiting up for me. Not long afterward, I went to bed and slept better than I had all week.

This morning, as I made up the bed, I saw why: the top blanket had a picture of cardinals, Mum's favourite bird, and I felt like Bronwyn had put them there to let me know I had been cared for all night.

And when I went upstairs, there she was, waiting for me with a cup of tea.

How thankful I am for Bronwyn! Through all my comings and goings, she watches over me. She provides me an anchor for my soul.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 9: Aunt-tea

As I write today's entry I am munching on a delicious chocolate chip cookie at the home of Elliot and Oliver, two of my nephews. In the middle of my hectic day, I found myself driving to their area of town. Their mother assured me that they would be delighted to see me and it turned out that -- as with most things -- she was right.

Elliot put the kettle on to boil and got out mugs and cream.

Oliver found some wonderful brownies and cookies and arranged them artfully on a beautiful stoneware plate.

Soon the tea was made and treats presented and we sat down for a lovely time together, chatting about each of our days, discussing school and the incredibly long weekend they were enjoying. We talked about music and musicians. We reminisced about people we love. We sat in long moments of companionable silence.

And in the presence of these two loving children, my myopic view of this week began to come into focus and my disjointed days started to find their rhythm.

So today, and every day, I am thankful for "my" two boys. No one brings me comfort like they do. They are the point of my heart and the apple of my eye.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 8: Mercy and Grace

Today I am thankful for this verse:

"Therefore let us come with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
It struck me for the first time today that the verse makes it clear that when we ask for something, we don't always initially receive what we had asked for. In this verse we are told to go to the throne of grace -- and what we will receive first is mercy, which will then help us to find the grace we need.
And how often life turns out like this. I need to learn to be grateful for mercy. Grace will develop in the proper time.
A big thank you to whomever dropped off the beautiful tumbleweed -- it will add to the decor of the Thanksgiving festivities! xo

Thanksgiving Day 7: K & B

I met Bernadette on a hot July Sunday afternoon last year, when she stopped into the TH to see what it was all about. A couple of weeks later, she brought Ken. We were serving chicken crepes. K&B were hooked.

And so was I! K&B are a couple who really care about people and they look for ways to help out wherever they can -- for both friends and complete strangers. The bright new tablecloths at the teahouse? K&B. The pedicure for my tired feet? K&B.

They bring an energy and a sense of anticipation with them when they enter a room.

This evening, they bailed me out again. I was operating on about four hours' sleep for the week; and in my panic to get back from Calgary to the TH and unlock for the Wednesday evening meeting, I locked my keys in the car.

At the end of the evening just after the guests left, almost as if they sensed I needed a friend, Bernadette telephoned me. In a very few minutes the two of them were over and Ken took care of it for me while Bernadette and I sat inside and sipped lattes and chatted.

I think I needed the chat and K&B's hugs as much as I needed the car to be unlocked tonight! These two put me in mind of the verse, "A friend loveth at all times."

K&B were brought into my life when I really needed friends just like them. And I am so thankful for and blessed by both of them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 6: The Keys to the Kingdom

Some days I think that if I had my druthers, all the grown-up furniture would be tossed out of the TH and miniature couches and chairs and tables would be brought in. And we would serve mini cinnis, peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, and smarties cookies, and lots of pink tea and apple-juice milk. And we would read stories and play pick-up sticks and make up silly songs and count monkeys spilling out of the barrel to play with us ...

Alli, above, and Nev, below, are two of the many TH kids whose very presence helps make Nilgiris the joyful place it is. Alli told her mommy the day this picture was taken, "We have got to go visit my tea house"; and she was the first person who got to use the china tea service that looked like it had been designed and painted with her as the artist's muse. The stars in her eyes when she lifted the lid of the sugar bowl and served herself made me delighted to see that this fairytale child was already taking after her wonderful mother and grandmother in being able to spot beauty and make a simple moment into a special occasion!

Her brother worked for me a few times before their family moved away. After months of waiting and keeping track of his height on the wall at home and desperately trying to get taller so that he could see over the kitchen sink and thus be eligible for employment, finally he qualified and promptly served a table of his friends and their mother with the aplomb of a seasoned waiter, an aplomb far past his years - 6 in all! Alli, too, assures me that she also will be working for me when she grows "big enough."
Nev, on the other hand, sees miniature china cups only as a useful accessory to the latest game his fertile imagination dreams up. Last time he visited, he spooned jelly beans into cups and we were to tell him what flavour tea we were drinking! After that, the cups turned into a convenient receptacle for marbles ... Nev has a secret jelly bean stash at the TH and each time he comes in he solemnly checks to make sure that the goods are still where they should be. Then he eats them and refills ...

I mentioned within earshot of Nev that I would love to decorate the TH with tumbleweeds for Thanksgiving; shortly thereafter, he spotted one across the road. "Wait right here," he instructed. "I'll get it for you."And off he trotted, retrieving this beautiful one you can see in the picture.

No wonder Jesus wanted to play with the little children and said that of such is the kingdom of heaven! After days of listening to people question His motives, demand that He justify His actions, bicker about fiscal responsibility or who was the greatest while quite forgetting in whose presence they argued -- just simply not getting the mysterious workings of faith -- it would have been fantastic to be able to hang out with the children, who did get it, who didn't find a box and then try to make Him small enough to fit into it. After all, the children knew He was bigger than any old box although if they asked Him to He would crawl into that box with them and play fort or train or house or shop. And they knew that if they played "jump" with Him they could say, "Here I am! Catch me -- I'm going to jump to You!" and He would put out His arms and catch them and never let them fall!

I'm grateful today that kids bring a bit of the kingdom of heaven into the teahouse. To be able to witness the beauty of the world all around us through the eyes of a child is a gift that we should treasure like an iridescent bubble blown in the sunlight, dancing just out of our reach.

Thanksgiving Day 5: The Gift of Life

This day I am so thankful to God for the gift of life. Where there is life, there is hope, the old adage goes.

There is life.

And so there is hope.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 4: "Pulpit Supply"

One of my greatest privileges over the past couple of years has been accompanying my Dad as he goes to different churches preaching on Sunday mornings. I see firsthand how his words bring comfort and healing and encouragement and sometimes even rebuke. I personally have received all of those things as I listen and learn.

And then I remember: these are not only his words; these are the messages that God lays on his heart for each of the places and the people and the situations for that specific time.

Dad picks me up somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30, depending on where we have to drive. And always, without fail, before we pull away from the TH he humbly prays that God will use him and that he will be a blessing.

The picture is of Dad at Penhold church this morning. This struggling little church has had no pastor or pianist for 17 months; and yet people are coming -- this morning there were three new families. Dad and I have gone to Penhold quite a few times in the past months. We both love visiting here because at this church you can feel the love the people have, for God, for their community (the food on the platform is the youth group collecting for the Food Bank for Thanksgiving) and for each other.

And so today, I am grateful that with the exception of just two Sunday mornings, I have been so blessed to hear my Dad speak every week this summer. As he journeys to India for the next three weeks, I am going to miss the rich spiritual teachings of a truly godly man.

And I am also going to miss the conversations we have driving to and from the places; Thomas R. Wyatt and Let the Bible Speak, two radio programs we listen to in the car; and the mug of hot tea and the sandwiches filled with homemade jam between slices of homemade bread Dad has baked for me -- the rich earthly provisions of a truly loving father.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 3: A Sister's Love

This having to choose one thing a day for which to be grateful is hard work: how does one narrow it down to just one thing?!

Yet my gratitude for this person runs very deep. BA is there for me like no one else has been in my life. For example, yesterday I was hosting a small luncheon for teachers at the TH and at the last minute needed some help in serving them. I called BA at work, who arranged her lunch hour so that she could be at the TH; and we managed to plate and serve three courses, plus beverages, in about 45 minutes!

If I require any material thing, whether it be ice or an icepack, BA will always pick it up for me. She keeps on top of my banking. She drops in to the TH on her way to or from somewhere else to help with a load of dishes or clear some tables or run coffee out for a guest.

And when the TH is not open, she will spend an evening with me on the verandah or in the purple chairs by the fireplace or going to the city.

It doesn't even occur to her how special she is. But it occurs to me almost every time I see her. She is truly a selfless individual and I can learn so much from her lack of guile; from her fierce protectiveness of her family; from her conscientious attitude at work; and from her boundless generosity of time, talent and treasure.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2: Superstore Superstar

I haven't seen my middle nephew since he started university about a month ago, and today I got to pick him up to bring him home for the weekend. We detoured by Superstore to purchase the TH groceries needed for Saturday and Sunday; and he cheerfully pushed the cart for me, at least not appearing to mind being around his hobbling old aunt.

He seems suddenly so grown up, so intelligent -- one of the funniest things I have read in a long time was something he wrote on his Facebook page yesterday! -- and I am indeed privileged that we are in the same family and that I got to spend time with him today.

A Monthful of Thankfulness - Day 1

As I was driving back from Calgary today, I was thinking about how blessed I am in every way.

So during Thanksgiving month I am going to try to come up with one thing a day for which I am grateful.

Today I am so happy that I have business cards! My sister gave them to me this afternoon. I love the logo -- honestly the sweetest logo that I have ever seen, representing "two leaves and a bud", and in a turquoise green to symbolize the Blue Hills, which is what "Nilgiris" means.

She also gave me the little porcelain elephant card holder -- this woman thinks of everything!