Countdown Calendar

On March 1st, my man went to Thailand. Alone. With a backpack. For three months.

Since we met, we had virtually been in constant contact via text message, and the longest we had been apart was for a week this past January.

When Johnathan told me about his plan to go away, I knew he had to. I also knew I’d miss him like crazy. But I have already done a lot of traveling and I understood that he simply had to go and see the world. He needed to have his chance.

After long months of planning, he left two weeks ago tomorrow. He’s been to Bangkok and Kuala Lampur and has seen some amazing things, with so much left to see and do!

Meanwhile, my life goes on as usual. Well, yeah, I’m seeing some people I normally don’t get the time to, and staying up way too late and “reading” books on tape, but I didn’t realize the degree to which I haven’t been on my own in almost a year and a half. My apartment is so empty without Johnathan laying on the couch telling me to get back to my studying!

I’m lonely. Perhaps it’s especially hard considering how much grief I’ve gone through over the past few years. So, I’m in a bit of a distraction mission, filling my days and weeks to the brim.

But when I come home and everything’s so quiet and no one “sees” me quite the same way he does, I needed something tangible, something fun to mark the time.

So I made a countdown calendar and hung it on the wall of my bedroom, and now I look forward to crossing off the days and weighing my accomplishment of getting through three months alone.

I can do it!



The A&W sign was referring to the Mama Burger, of course, but I thought it appropriate that I would see this message in lights today, January 13th, the day when I remember just how much I still (and always will) love my Mama.

Three years ago this morning, my amazing mother left this world for a better one. At least, that’s what I believe. Mom would never have expected me to stand outside in the middle of winter to take a moment of silence in her memory, but it has become a little ritual I treasure.

It was a not-so-snowy day in January, 2008, that my siblings and I trekked out to the end of the rock breakwater at the Cove in Goderich to have a private memorial together before the funeral. We each held a flower, which we took turns tossing into the open lake. It was beautiful and nostalgic. We read some meaningful prayers and poems, and took lots of pictures. For me, it was the beginning of an annual tradition.

One year later, on the coldest day of the year, my siblings and I gathered for dinner, then trekked out to the Maitland Bridge, under which flowed the only open water we could find. What a difference a year makes! Once again, we spoke a little, then dropped cut flowers into the river, where they would be carried into the lake.

Last year, only a few of us managed to get together. This time, we wrote little notes to Mom, put them inside plastic containers, and attempted to break the ice to get them into the lake, but wound up mostly just shattering our containers and scattering our notes. Still, we remembered our mama, who left us too young. There were flowers then, too.

Today, I’m the only sibling “in” Goderich, and I didn’t make any plans ahead of time that I could invite my siblings to, so it was only my boyfriend Johnathan and I. We walked out on the pier, my hand holding tightly to 6 stems of yellow mums, and Johnathan’s hand holding tight to mine.

We broke the think layer of ice with a nearby rock, and then stood back to ponder. And cry. And sob. Then I dropped the 6 stems one by one, imagining that they represented each of my mother’s children, and Johnathan held me and we cried some more.

It’s amazing to have a partner that loves you so much he will stand with you on a freezing winter day out in the cold and hold you as you sob, and even cry with you, for a person he never met.

I don’t think my mother ever had that kind of love on earth, and I ache to think that she didn’t get to meet Johnathan or see how well I am loved.

Still, I learned today that she was satisfied with her life when she came to the end of it, at peace with how she was leaving her family and her friends.

I also learned today that she accepted the otherworldly task of embracing and taking care of a friend’s baby who had died at birth, once they were in “the great beyond” together. I know she has plenty of babies to embrace in Heaven, and now also her father and brother Dean.

I wish she could hug me, though…

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Today started out nicely. I slept in and had a late breakfast with my man. The middle of my day wasn’t as productive as I had hoped (as per usual), but I returned some emails, did a bit of reading, and put readings and due dates for 3 of 5 courses in my planner.

I didn’t have time to do all the get-pretty things I normally do, but I figured I was presentable enough and left the house with might have been just enough time to get to class on time. Again, the usual.

It wasn’t until I was in my car driving down the highway towards school when I realized I needed to get gas. Argh. I didn’t budget time for that! But I had no choice, so I stopped in the first town that had a gas station, which happened to be full serve. When the attendant didn’t come out right away, I got out and started to walk towards the pump. The attendant met me there. I asked for the measly amount of $10 – just enough to get me there and maybe part of the way home again – and walked back to the driver’s door. Locked. I hip-checked it because it was partly open. Locked. I checked my pockets. No keys. I checked the passenger door. Also locked. My keys dangled unobtrusively from the ignition. Awesome.

I explained to the attendant what had happened. He tried his keys. Nothing. Other customers started calling out names of locksmiths in nearby towns. I thanked them and decided to go inside and try calling CAA. I do pay them every year, so it would make sense for me to actually use their services. The man inside (who didn’t speak very good English) suggested I try the garage across the street: perhaps the mechanic could jimmy my lock open.

The mechanic said he had the kit, but not the know-how. He did, however, have a car identical to mine in the shop. I asked him to try the key to it, just in case it might work. He hiked back across the street with me, but no luck.

So I called CAA. Because I was blocking the gas station from receiving business at one of the pumps, they deemed my case a priority one and said the service person would be there within 30 minutes.

I tried to call my boyfriend, but I couldn’t remember his number and called the same wrong number twice. Dang technology, allowing our memories to go soft!

Luckily, I have a friend that lives around the corner. She gave me a glass of water, a magazine, and a friendly face. Ahh. Then back to the weird ghetto Indian/Huron County restaurant/gas station I went. Soon enough, the CAA guy was there and had my door open in a snap. I was finally able to pay for my $10 of gas, and was embarrassed that I had caused them such hassle for such a measly amount of money, so I tipped them $5.

On the road again!

By this time, my class had already started and I still had about 40 minutes left to drive, plus parking and all that, so I knew I’d be about an hour late. On the way, I got hungry, and decided to rummage in my lunch bag for a snack. What I found instead was a lunch bag soaked in leaking broth from a container of delicious homemade soup. Gah! It had not only soaked my lunch bag, but also my pencil case, wool mittens, and planner. Also awesome. There I am, late for class, trying to drive AND clean up a soup spill before it wrecks my books.

Then, not long after I was satisfied that my books would be fine, I found myself several cars behind a snowplow going the doddering speed of 50 km/hr in an 80 zone (which means I usually do 100). Plows are always slower than general traffic, but not THAT slow, and usually they can be passed without too much fuss. Not today. I did 50 for the majority of my trip to school. Again with the awesome!

After using the washroom and taking the only seat available in class (right in the very front in front of the professor) and doing my best to figure out where the lecture had gone for the first hour, I got a basic grammar quiz back. 77%. Really?!

But on the plus side, because I got to school after 4, I got to park in a prime parking lot where my car is usually unwelcome. And I experienced a delicious “Mexican” salad. And I treated myself to a large skim decaf latte.

As Monty Python taught us, always look on the bright side of life! (and we all whistled the tune together…)

Limbo: A Return to Transparency

I’ve been on a journey. We’re all on a journey, I guess, but my journey took me into territory I couldn’t have foreseen. It could also be said that it took me out of territory that I DID foresee myself living in forever. If you had asked me when I was 25 what I would be doing in 4 years, I would not have said, “Going to university in Canada after living there for 4 years”! I would not have guessed I’d become a server (and a good one, I daresay), join a local band (or two), fall in love with a local guy, have my own apartment in a tiny hamlet without even a general store or gas station… the story goes on. Key to this blog is the fact that I definitely wouldn’t have predicted leaving my church, growing disgusted with the institution that is the Church, and setting my whole “Christian” life on a little-used shelf in the back of a dingy basement.

Looking back, I can sort of trace my progress out of the “Christian” culture, step by tiny step, all the way to where I am today (which is a sort of limbo, I think). Did I turn the wrong way at those decision-markers? I couldn’t tell you for sure. All I’ve got is where I am today, and a hope that all will be well.

Back to this idea of limbo: I’m definitely not in a faith world right now, nor do I have any desire to be. “Christian” culture and lingo and attitudes continue to creep me out. Worship songs do not stir me; I don’t want to sing along even if I know the words by heart. Churches that I know are working hard at casting out hypocrisy and shallowness still don’t appeal to me.

Privately, there are times I cast up a prayer; I know God is listening. Every now and then I yearn to be discovering ancient and earth-shaking truths about the divine. Once in a while I think, “God is the only being that knows EVERY. SINGLE. BIT. about me”, a fact which is sometimes comforting, sometimes intimidating (but I wouldn’t want to believe in a God that a; didn’t know me, b; was never comforting, c; was never intimidating). I occasionally miss a certain depth that I was once working on, “down in my heart”, but then I think about how I’m working on balance and knowledge, and, therefore, depth in other areas that were too shallow before this exodus of mine. At university, I find myself interested in the history of the church and the changing trends that led to the traditions accumulated and passed down through the generations.

It’s limbo because I feel as if I’m going somewhere; I’m on a winding path that is nowhere close to being finished. Along the way I’m discovering more about who I really am, what the world is like, where my moral boundaries are, and what I can actually believe in and why. If/when I return to faith, it will be because my path has led me there, because the time is right and things have lined up; it won’t be because of a feeling of guilt over not going to church or praying or speaking churchese or reading my Bible.

So. Limbo… sometimes an uncomfortable place to be, but for me it means that the place I am going is not the place I’ve come from. It also means there IS a forward motion in effect. I’m liking limbo, and I’ll like it until I don’t, and then I’ll move on.

A Transparent Truth

The more observant of my readers may have noticed that all of my recent posts (notice I didn’t use the words frequent or regular), recent being over the last year or so, have been either about grief, ranting, or something superficial. The reason? Fear, mostly. Fear of what others may think of me, of how […]

Transparency Goes on a Date

Before: Excited and a Tiny bit Apprehensive

I have a first date tomorrow. My first first date in a long time, my first first date that I feel has been planned the right way and preceded by the right events. I am so excited! I am positive that I am going to laugh my bum off with this guy and not worry about my front teeth overlapping while I cackle. All my girlfriends will want to know his qualifications going into the first date, so here goes:

  • taller than me (even with heels on)
  • know how to dress himself! (unless his mommy secretly does it for him)
  • doesn’t really like to watch sports on TV (except hockey with the guys and, of course, the Olympics)
  • is hilarious
  • isn’t afraid to get up and dance (after a pint or two). In fact, we met on the dance floor!
  • has sweet glasses
  • won’t make fun of me for loving chick flicks
  • he’s Canadian!
  • hates domestic beer (the Blue-Bud-Coors category) as much as I do
  • is built! (arms the size of small trees, which, of course, is relative, but impresses me!)
  • asked me for my number the first time we met (true, he thought I lived in Toronto and so didn’t call me until after we met again a month later, but still!)
  • has an iPhone (my next technological gadget for SURE)
  • isn’t afraid of wordy text messages, sending or receiving them
  • loves the beach
  • can only take so much hip-hop (Me! Too!)
  • …and that’s more than enough for a first date, you romance freaks!

One of the most exciting things going in is that I still don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow night: he’s going to tell me today! Yup, he’s planning it, after a helpful discussion about things we like and don’t like and an inspired idea from the Sarah camp that unfortunately fell through but perhaps was inspiring. Guess I’ll find out! More to come soon…

The Next Day: Impressed!

So I went out with the Great Guy last night, and I am now a Foolish Grinner. It was perfect! I don’t know why I ever went out with anyone else, except for the obvious fact that I hadn’t met Great Guy yet. I need to add to the list of qualifications:

  • courteous and gentlemanly (would hold the door for me, wait for me to walk through, etc.)
  • good driver
  • good listener
  • he planned the date and paid for everything – wow!
  • he was in control of the evening’s progress, but not in any way overbearing
  • we communicate well (this one is HUGE: I often feel misunderstood, or too smart or too dumb or too critical or too snobby, but he just gets me)
  • when he’s serious, he’s quietly confident, which is trust- and respect-inspiring, and then laughs so easily and so contagiously in the next moment
  • we have so much in common (our opinion about DQ, for example: they should stick to the Cool Treats and get rid of the Hot Eats)
  • our differences are complementary
  • he makes me feel like it’s great to be me!

I smiled all the way home from our date. In fact, I smiled during the day any time I thought of our upcoming evening together, and, during a washroom break at dinner, had to will myself to stop grinning like a fool before I got back to the table. Even the fact that he kissed me on the cheek and hugged me good-night contributed to making it perfect. Second date? Yes, please!


Success is generally understood as being demonstrated by wealth, power, beauty, etc., but it seems to me that a truly successful person knows who they are first and foremost. They realize their giftings, their raison d’etre, and do all that is in their power to use such qualities for good. They do not settle for status quo and are often unsatisfied by that which is merely superficial. When they do strive to get ahead, they do not knock down others along the way, rather they build bridges wherever possible.

A truly successful person is prosperous of soul, of emotion, of character, of experience, of relationship, and of opportunity.

A Transparent Truth

The more observant of my readers may have noticed that all of my recent posts (notice I didn’t use the words frequent or regular), recent being over the last year or so, have been either about grief, ranting, or something superficial.

The reason? Fear, mostly. Fear of what others may think of me, of how those who have known me as The Good Little Missionary Girl might regard me if I delve back into the topic of faith, or get as truly

To Gym or Not to Gym

I made a resolution to work out this year, in a manner of speaking. I told my doctor that doing cardio was a goal of mine, and I really hate lying to people in authority. It’s just rarely a good idea. One can get away with telling fibs to servers and cashiers and nosy aunts, but when one’s health is in question, honesty is definitely the best policy.

When a friend gave me a two-week membership to the local YMCA, I thought, “Aha! My break has come! In I go”. So I did. For two weeks.

And I loved it. I learned how to use all the machines, talked about going to work out with my friends, dreamed of attending morning classes, took my brother ones, looked for the combination lock from my high school locker to put on my gym locker, bought non-cheap new running shoes, etc.

Then I encountered a wall I haven’t been able to breach: $44 + GST/month, plus the $80 activation fee. GULP.

Sure, when you think of it in terms of your long-term health, or how it costs $10/visit if you’re not a member, or how you have absolutely no motivation to do anything physical by yourself and have no TV with which to employ Wii Fit, that amount of money makes sense.

But then the scale flips and you remember your rent, cell phone bill, home phone bill, hydro, gas, insurance, groceries, investments, and other financial responsibilities, and suddenly it’s a big deal again. Yikes.

Yet, if you’re willing to humble yourself

Life in the H.C., Part 4: Dangerous Drivers, aka: Cocky Buggers

Dear Huron County Driver,

I’d like to say you know who you are, but I am not at all sure you do. Here’s a clue: if you see no problem following the car in front of you so closely that you can dig earwax out of the driver’s ear, I might be talking to you. Or if you think those bumper stickers that begin with the phrase, “If you can read this…” are part of some sort of literacy outreach program, I might be talking to you.

Even with my amazing new snow tires, it seems only prudent to me, seeing as how I value my life, to exercise caution when driving on snowy roads. When I say “exercise caution”, I am mostly referring to slowing down below the speed limit (If you’re saying “What?! Who DOES that?!” I am definitely talking to YOU!) and occasionally taking my foot off the gas pedal or, heaven forbid, even braking every now and again!

I understand there are some people who didn’t get the chance (or simply didn’t bother) to take Driver’s Ed, and they might try to use this as their excuse for believing that driving 3 feet behind the car ahead of them is okay, but I’m here to tell them it’s SO not! Did they really want to be collateral damage if I hit an invisible snow drift?

It boggles my mind how some people drive in winter, and, honestly, it scares me. I don’t care who you are or what driving super-powers you may have, I believe I have a right to peace of mind on the roads. If you’re driving behind me, I expect you to respect that. When I flash my brake lights a few times at you, please take the hint: “Back off! I’m uncomfortable with you being all up in my grill!” If you don’t get it the first time, my attitude toward you will NOT improve, and, in the privacy of my own vehicle, I’ll be saying mean things about you, and my impatient brake-light flashes will mean, “Hey jerk! You may not value your life but I do mine! Back the h— off!!”

Yours in fear of her life and limb til the snow departs,

Sarah Koopmans