I really love...

I suppose Candice and I were thinking along the same lines... We both had a "love" themed blog in the queue. I think hers is better, but here is mine, anyway. :)

I really love...
... This town. It's bright and alive. Full of things to explore, although it may have a few things that I (as a Christian man) will NEVER explore. People from everywhere have converged on this place, so that it absolutely sparkles with diversity. Sometimes you want to go where everybody nobody knows your name. You are forced to tackle something "new", almost every moment. You learn to love the "new". You realize your actually pretty good with "new", and that "new" isn't scary at all.

I love to hear three or four different languages spoken every day. I am beginning to understand that it's a privilege to understand what someone is saying, not a right. I don't get upset anymore with a tv station because it is in french, I feel challenged to learn french so that I can enjoy that station.

And why find a pattern? Why shop at the same place? Every bagel shop here is probably very good! Why should I return to the same one? And there are a hundred paths to work, each one with its own set of discoveries! I am beginning to feel liberated from routine! It's wonderful...

I suppose a lot of that has nothing to do with Montreal as a city, but with Montreal as a "new" city to me. Maybe it could have been Vancouver or New York or Timbuktu. In fact, I'm sure it could have been. I'm sure I would have, or will in the future, love those towns, too.

I really love...
... My wife. I suppose everyone needs a little bit of solid ground. I know I do. And I have that in Candice.

She loves me and takes incredible care of me. She's the ace up my sleeve. She makes the rest of life so easy, like walking into an exam when you know you're already guaranteed an A in the course, even if you bomb the final. She's my miracle cure, my get out of jail free card. Oh Lord, may I never take her for granted!

Because: Can anyone ask for more from a wife than someone who loves you and cares for you? Can anyone ask more from a partner than one who inspires you and supports you?

I really love...
... My Creator. I suppose too, that everyone needs a context and meaning to their life. Candice and I often remind ourselves that we are here to pursue His plan for us, as best as we know that to be. For now, it seems to go through Montreal and Panama; we don't know where after that.

And He has given us such amazing grace. Life, love, joy. Energy. Enthusiasm. Confidence. Strength.

When I remember this, when He is the center of my life, life makes sense. When He gets the praise, my life fills with reasons to give Him more praise. Problems disappear, because what is a problem in comparison to the Ultimate Good? It is when I fall into the trap of selfishness, of self-centered-ness, that things are hard.


This post is not to brag, or to lecture. Just a few thoughts that I needed to get down. Perhaps you're looking for a good story, and have no real interest in a list of things I love. Because this may not be a good story, but, hopefully, it will be the basis for a great one.


Molly Update

To any possibly concerned readers:
Upon arriving back in Montreal, we checked on Molly, the little grey ball of fur that stole our hearts, as soon as we could and were happy to learn that she was fostered out shortly after being returned to the SPCA. We know that that little girl could melt anyone's heart - so we are sure she is in a good home.

As for our home? We have welcomed two new little kitties. They should be bunking with us for the next 2 weeks until they are heavy enough to be adopted out. You see, if you were a kitty, you would need to be at least 2 pounds to have a shot at a permanent home.

Say hello to Milo and Otis.


Canadian Christmas?

Brianna, a friend of ours, is currently doing missionary work in Cambodia where we visited this past May. As a part of a Christmas pageant, she was asked to do a speech on what Christmas means in Canada. She had a tough time thinking of anything besides a materialistic holiday in which people spend way too much money in order to purchase the perfect gift for someone who already has too much [Brianna's Blog] She pleaded with her fellow bloggers to help her think of the positives – sadly, nothing immediately came to my mind.

During the days leading up to Christmas, I tried to search for positives in mainstream Canadian Christmas, but the materialism was blinding. Soon I realized that I too was being sucked into the perfect-gift fa├žade. To ensure I didn’t get carried away and solely focus on the material goods that we were going to supply the individuals on our gift list, I decided to purchase useful, meaningful gifts instead [WorldVision's gift catalog] similar to my girlfriends doing last year. I truly believe in the cause and the work that is being done by Christian organizations around the world, and I truly could not think of anything better to give. Yet, to my surprise, I often felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to run to the store and buy something to “supplement” these gifts. You know, just a little something the “receiver” could keep for themselves. I (mostly) restrained myself – only having to head to the returns desk once and only wrapping a few extra little things.

Interestingly enough, at a Christmas gift exchange one of the recipients of what I thought to be a meaning gift decided to enlighten me as to why it is “a waste to give any handouts to those people” Wow! When we were deciding whether or not to give these gifts I remember thinking “What is the worst reaction possible?” That one didn’t cross my mind!

[Hey, Bri? Can you please not tell the extremely impoverish children you work with everyday that a well-to-do Canadian can even fathom to think that way? Our little secret, k? Thanks.]

Alright, back to searching for something Bri could actually include in her speech…but honestly, by now it was too late to help Bri, but I had to continue searching for the sake of my own sanity. Seriously, how far has Christ been removed from his own birthday?

But, eventually, it hit me. Love.

God loved us so much he sent his Son. On the first Christmas, people traveled from afar to show their love by offering gifts, or even a song on a little toy drum. Canadians still celebrate by traveling from afar and offering gifts to each other, even songs on a little plastic guitar (yeah, you know what I’m talking about you guitar heros out there). Is this not a beautiful thing?

Love is still why we gather together at Christmas. People from all over this vast country make great pilgrimages to share time with the ones dearest to them, even if the people around the table don’t see eye-to-eye on all issues, we are there because of love.

Love. It drives it all. Why else would someone wrap up each little stocking stuffer? Why else would someone get up at 4:00am to roast a turkey? Why else would someone drive across the prairies, alone, to share a few short days with family?

This is love and we are commanded to love one another. But the meaning can be so easily lost once we take the focus off of why we are traveling, celebrating, and loving. Why? Jesus was born on Christmas. Jesus, our only way to heaven.

So yes, I agree that materialism is polluting our celebrations, but I don’t think we can forget the love behind all of it. People travel out of love, gifts are wrapped out of love, turkeys are roasted out of love. We are to love one another, and that’s what drives these gatherings and celebrations.

But, we must keep at heart why we are to love – for Christ’s sake.


Dear Molly,

Last night we dropped you back off at the humane society here in Montreal; because you are only a few months old, you will probably never understand why this happened. You see, we were only your foster parents – you came to live with us because you were sick and had to leave because you got better.
We want you to know that we love you very much and didn’t have to leave because you did something wrong. You are the most wonderful cat I’ve ever known. Tom says that you are the smartest cat he has ever met – considering all of the internet surfing you have been doing at such a young age.
We were so proud of you for being so brave when your mother was returned (because she got better) a few weeks ago and we are proud of you for staying so strong during the car ride last night (if you can’t remember it – it’s because you were sleeping). We will miss your constant purring and will now have to throw our own papers and pens on the floor.
When we return to the city on Wednesday, I promise to check in on you. Although it would give us such joy to see you again, it would be more joyful if you were adopted before we returned.

We love you and we miss you,
Tom and Candice

(she's in the paper recycling basket - not the garbage!)


Hot chocolate ice cream cones...

How to make an hot chocolate "ice cream cone", using an engineered approach (a.k.a. the hard way).

Okay, this is a somewhat difficult process to describe in words.

First, you need to make a cone out of cardboard. You may wonder where you are going to get the cardboard, but then you'll remember that cereal doesn't need to be in a bag *and* in a box. One or the other is good enough.

Bend a square piece of cardboard into a round pipe, then tighten one end of the pipe until the hole closes completely. On second thought, actually, leave just a tiny whole, you'll see why later. This should result in a cone shape... Tape the cardboard together so it holds that shape. Duct tape, of course.

Stick the cone, pointy end first, inside a clear plastic bag, so the point is buried into the corner of the bag. Wrap the rest of the bag around the cone, and tape it to itself with clear tape (yes, you can get clear duct tape). You now have a cardboard cone inside a clear plastic cone. Good job, but we're not done yet.

At this point, it is best to have a wife. Foremost, she able to help you in what has become a four-handed process ("Need a hand?"). She is able to guide you in focusing on the task at hand ("What in the world are you doing?"), and aid you in developing proper process justification ("Why are you doing that?"). And very important to any engineering process is recognizing the resources you have at hand ("Look at the mess!!!"). Then she gives you a little wink and you remember who you're doing this for.

Hold the cardboard cone upright, while your wife carefully pours hot chocolate mix into into it. For a big freezer bag, we found about 2/3 of a cup to be about right. Slowly pull the cone out of the plastic bag so the hot chocolate pours out of the small hole and into the plastic bag. Once all of the mix is in the bag, place the bag *inside* the cardboard cone. (The cardboard one will help it hold its shape while you do the next few steps.)

Shake things carefully so that the mix settles down into the bag. Your belly may jiggle a little bit as you do this, so distract your wife while you do it... "Look over there! Is that cat eating your casserole?". Pour a few (1/3 cup) chocolate chips into the cone, and then put a few (2/3 cup) coloured mini marshmallows. Tie the top of the bag shut with a twist-tie.

When you pull the clear plastic cone out of the cardboard one, you should see something resembling an ice cream cone, with the hot chocolate mix as the cone, the chocolate chips as chocolate dip, and the marshmallows as the ice cream? And your wife will tell you its beautiful, even though it probably isn't.

Now, start again, and try to salvage some of the hot chocolate. Because at this point you will realize that you don't have nearly enough hot chocolate mix to make as many "ice cream" cones as you wanted to. Don't fret, 'cause a quick walk in a snowstorm for the two of you should get you the extra chocolate chips you are going to need.

Clear as mud? Actually, it doesn't matter... Like the best things in life it is about the process, not the product. And a walk in the falling snow can be kinda romantic.

If the response to this is good, next week I'll describe how to make your own version of the space shuttle's hydro-pneumatic thrust affectors out of expresso beans, milk, and a steam injector. It may feature an early morning metro ride and a quiet movie night out.


Montreal Myths

Before moving to Quebec, we heard some wild rumors about the “backwards, French speaking, non-Christian city” we were planning on moving to. Its time to put some of these puppies to rest:

1. In Montreal, Christians are hard to come by.
FALSE. We have seen just as many churches and fish stamped bumpers here as we did in Winnipeg. We’ve met a number of Christians at church as well as in passing. I firmly believe there should be more of us here, however I think that of all places on this earth.

2. In Quebec, milk comes in bags.
TRUE. However, you can buy milk in cartoons too – its just $2 extra to do so. (Our milk comes in bags!)

3. In Montreal, you have a huge problem if you don’t speak French.
FALSE. So far, its been terribly easy to get by in English. However, you can’t help but feel a little ignorant for not knowing French, considering everyone around knows at least 2 languages.

4. In Quebec, margarine is white.
TRUE. The dairy industry has patented the colour of butter, leaving the margarine industry to leave their products looking like lard.

5. In Quebec, you can’t use your spousal name.
UNFORTUNATELY TRUE!! You must use your maiden name for anything concerning the government (drivers license, health card, social insurance number, etc.) Talk about a pain.

These are the five that I remember wondering about. Have any questions? Maybe I can answer them from other side of the border.


Christmas Giving




New Parents

Alright, so now that we have been in the same place for more than a week, we got a little restless. I love animals and started pushing for a pet. My husband, on the other hand, is more realistic and knows that we aren’t going to be living here long enough to commit to an animal. So, happy compromise: we became a foster family for a local animal shelter. We decided that we should help out with a straight forward case, as we were going to be new at this parenting business.
Well, if you know us, we tend to not take small steps. We saw this mom and baby couple, sniffling away in their contamination-room cage, which had a beautiful view of a huge German Sheppard. “We’ll take those two.”
So we get home in one piece and plop the animals down in the spare bedroom. The cats were fantastic! The little 7 week-old baby (Molly) started eating and playing right away. Momma cat (Mary) purred and rubbed against us. She kept rubbing, rolling around on the floor, rubbing, rubbing….We thought “is she super itchy?” Then we hear “MEEEEOOWWW!!!” Nope, not itchy – she’s in heat.
So, picture our first night. We have terrible scream-like meows coming from all rooms in the apartment keeping us (and probably all the neighbors) wide awake. I had no idea how to calm her, tried everything from distracting her with toys to reasoning with her over the logistics of the request. We also have a terribly cute kitten trying to cuddle up in bed (between us), but is sneezing every 20 seconds – including in our faces.
I struggle with patience and over the last while I’ve been praying for more. Well, did I honestly think that I would receive some in the mail? Nope, I was blessed with this opportunity to gain some.
So, all night, whenever Mary started screaming, I got out of bed and tried to reason with her. Talking tended to calm her down a bit. Whenever the kitten started to sound super congested I would switch her position to ease the pressure on her lungs. But, although my patience got a good exercise, my energy started to run low. I would nudge my husband to get out of bed and help whenever Mary started screaming and I no longer have the energy to content with it. After my poor husband of endless patients returned from carrying out the ridiculous requested task of talking to the strange in-heat cat, he would return to bed and hear “Make sure you don’t squish the kitten!”
Come morning we were exhausted! Molly was sure to pounce on us when she thought the day should start. So all three of us hung out in bed for a bit, Molly separating us and ensuring we had no time for each other. We laid there until Mary started screaming again, ensuring we had no energy for each other.

I looked at my husband and asked “is this how it is when you have kids?”
He answered “I think we will wait to find out.”


We will always be home.

It’s morning and we walk out the backdoor of the apartment. The Mazda awaits its journey into the city. She sits, blanketed with oranges and yellows that fell from the maple above. We drive, in awe of the city around us. Auto routes bustle. Parking lots packed. Signs with unknown cautions. Almost a rip in our map.

The boxes are gone as well as the happenings of our first month of marriage; the view in Toronto, the beaches of Mexico, the goodbyes in Winnipeg, the snowstorms of Ontario, the hospitality of Ottawa, the wonder of Montreal, the comfort of #4 Maple.

We are home. Actually, we have always been home, but now we have walls surrounding an area that is ours. A place to learn, a place to grow, a place to meet up after the hustle of the day is over and our real day begins. Over time the apartment number will change, the city lights will change, the type of currency will change - but we will always be home.

Here is to day thirty-one.


Testing, testing,...1...2...

Its amazing what your friends can talk you in to.