I'm amazed that it's already Christmas Eve and this is the first moment's respite I've found to sit down at the computer. Between making mexican dip and dessert for Christmas day, I thought I could find a bit of time to write about my recent little adventure in Central America.

"Quechevo" is a Salvadoran Spanish equivalent of "cool". Having learned it from a friend who lived in El Salvador, it was put to good use while playing soccer with kids in a makeshift shantytown of people displaced by last year's earthquakes. I learned how to properly head a soccer ball from a 11-year old boy named Seryio. The ball many times ended up in the sewage filled ruts that ran along side the dusty road - we all made disgusted faces, but I didn't want to embarress them by not touching the ball. I scrubbed myself quite hard in my cold shower that night.

That is a brief picture of how I spent my time in El Salvador. Playing with kids, giving out soccer balls, toys, treats, and Christmas presents in shantytowns, impoverished enclaves, orphanages. We helped set up medical clinics and eyeglass clinics in these same communities, and part of our group helped with temporary housing construction.

The last night was spent on the coast, in a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean, volcanic rock and sand. I got up at 5 a.m. to sit on the cliff and watch the sun rise over the Pacific: The moment that molten ball of fire peeked over the horizon I shall never forget.

There are so many things to say,and I have such little time. Indeed, I have had very little time to even mentally digest all that I saw and experience. Arriving back to the North American Christmas has been interesting.

One thing I should not fail to mention is how wretchedly ill I became on this trip. Humbled to the point of vomiting into a filthy grate, kneeling on warm pavement as people pass by... That was indeed an experience I could have foregone, however, and experience it was. Poo talk at mealtimes became commonplace as we suffered stomach cramps and diarrhea, and for some of us, something I coined a term for: "The Double Exodus". I can't even imagine how aweful it would be to suffer and die from dysentry or cholerathat way.

That being said, El Salvador is a country struggling to stand and move forward. It's highways are surprisingly decent, cities bustling, a struggling tourism business along it's shores despite the caution issued to gringos. We were cautioned alot by the locals, but despite heavily fortified homes, armed guards everywhere, and alot of guns, it was a completely uneventful 10 days. Only one bag was stolen.

It's a country lush, hilly, with over 2,000 extinct volcanoes, dominating coffee and sugar exports, with tantelizing limes and pomegranets, kind, helpful people, and delicious 30-degree weather. I loved the change in humidity and the riot of roosters and wild birds as the sun rose at 6 a.m.

Sigh. Winter doesn't have it's same appeal at the moment, although spending time skating yesterday with Martin, Rob and Jordan was certianly lovely. I must rush off to find a decent outfit and finish the dip now.

Merry Christmas all. Those of you in Sweden we miss you very much, and I wish we were all together. Thank-you for the presents and cards and drawings.

May everyone find this Christmas quiet enough to hear His voice.


un dressed

Someone, whom I love and respect, once said that sometimes people know us better than we know ourselves. I often think about this. We are far more predictable, transparent, obtuse, and fragile than I think we think we are. But is someone "knowing" us only their knowledge, and consequently, their opinion, of our behaviour and speech? Then do they know us, or just see us differently than we see ourselves?

Like most people, I am sure, it is a pleasing, uncomfortable sensation when someone starts talking about how they see you, particularly when people are complimentary. Why is it so hard to accept a compliment sometimes? I don't mean flattery, but a genuine, thoughtful compliment? Why is it almost instinctual to cringe, brush it off with self-effacing remark?

Beyond the compliments or encouragements, though, I always find it so weird to hear how people perceive me. I met with the director of my department today to talk about where I was at and where I should go in terms of professional development, and it was a very strange thing to hear how he knew me. It's just so different than how I see myself, and one has to wonder what is the most accurate perception.

There have been people I have known who have so brilliantly deceived themselves about their own persona it's terrifying. Or maybe it was just that I thought they deceived themselves into believing they were many things that they in fact were not, but the reality was that they led people to believe the act they put on to cover gaping insecurities.

We live in a world of medicated reality, where the true and basest parts of "us" are couched in a manner swallowable. We find the politically correct ways of saying things, talk in circles, edit our photos, wear a lot of makeup, and pray in a different kind of language. I have heard Martin say that some of the most beautiful prayers he has ever heard were raw, first prayers, complete with expletives.

Which leads me to this reality: My God knows me better than I know myself, better than any other knows me, better than I will be ever known by human or by self. And what does he see? He sees me falling asleep when I should be praying, knows those moments where explosive anger is simmering and spitting on those around me, how I don't like some parts of the Bible, how sometimes fear of what happens after death paralyzes me. And he knows my heart's desires. Do I even know my own heart's desires?

Ah, well, much rambling thought with never any conclusion. How do we come to know ourselves? A good question for which to find an answer.


Swedish pancake

My arms are all sore and I feel weird: Hopped up on diptheria, tetanus, hepatitis immunizations. I'm sure it's just all in my head, but I ache and don't really feel like myself. (Whatever that means.) These immunizations were the first in a little string of fun things to prepare for El Salvador. I also picked up my malaria medication today and I am looking forward to seeing how crazy it makes my dreams. They are already way out there. I doubt they can get much weirder.

Along with fun trips to the doctor, I have been all over the place in the last few weeks... I suddenly realized how much I have to get done in the next few weeks, and it's not helping my stress level. Not terrible stress, but it just recently occurred to me that I have to do all my Christmas/work/trip preparations before December 8, as I will not return until shortly before Christmas.

Having spent this past weekend on a short, busy work trip to Montreal, I found myself thinking about our family in Sweden. This is one thing that I discovered as a beautiful and happy thing: How when you get married you get a whole new family. (I know for some this is not always a positive thing, but Martin and I are so blessed to both have "new" families that rock. This gift I will give thanks for for the rest of my life.) So I find myself thinking of our family in Sweden, wanting to just hang out in the welcoming, beautiful comfort of Martin's parent's home, to enjoy the company of those we see far too little. The images in the post are from Martin's calming home-village, and there's no-one who could disagree that it is pure, peaceful, and quaint.

With the approach of Christmas I feel this seperation between families more keenly... I wouldn't change who and where we are, and all the blessings and learnings that came from marrying two different cultures, but I certainly wish I could just hop in a car and drive to Sweden. Also I have this desire to experience Christmas - Julen? - in Sweden, to participate in the Lucia celebration, which to my understanding is a medieval celebration to usher in the Christmas season. And smörgåsbord! (Apparently us English stole a Swedish word - who knew?)

I have come to realize I am definitely a "family" person. I very much enjoy family gathered around, enjoying a meal together, sitting and having coffee (or tea, in my case). To me it's one of life's simple, God-created pleasures. I suppose this means I may one day want children. But not yet!

This Sunday Martin and I are heading out to the Rockies (Kananaskis, to be specific) where we shall partake of a fantastic Sunday brunch, and enjoy the mountains. This is a brunch put on by one of the hotels in the region, and it defies the imagination. From fresh baked bread to seafood, omelettes, waffles, Alberta beef, and a chocolate fountain. The last time we went was before our wedding, with Martin's parents, and there is a picture snapped of me downing a gargantuan plate of desserts. Heaven!

It should be a restful weekend; we both need it quite badly. Martin's been working long days over and over; almost a week of 14 hour days. We are both walking a fine line of physical and mental exhaustion. Thankfully the work is fulfulling!

And with my thanks for cancelled plans, and a quiet Friday evening at home with music and solitude, I am going to bed - early - and hopefully awake with enough inclination to whip up some crepes.

What is with me and food?!



I've been feeling like a deadbeat person often these days. Tired so often I don't have much to give people after work; stressed and harried enough at work that I don't feel like I am doing my best or working on relationships.

Life can be such a vicious circle; the more stressful and troubled life becomes, the more it requires of you mentally and emotionally, and all the stress and trouble leaves you hapless; emotionally drained, mentally incapable.

Both Martin and I have had alot of job pressure lately; I think mostly because what we do is more than just a job; for both of us the motivation is more deep-seated. It's hard to have two people in a household worn out; emotionally thin. Thankfully we don't have kids right now. I can only imagine the added pressure. For myself much of my work pressure is the workload I build for myself; accepting projects, putting the responsibility on myself, being worker bee while self-managing. It's not a good place to be, because I think the only place it can lead is burnout.

But I do get to be involved in such cool work. To get an idea, check out a short CBC Report covering the return of Sudanese doctors to their homeland to set up medical practice. We became friends with a few of the doctors, and watching my friend Daniel see his father for the first time in 20 years is so awesome. I never imagined I'd get to witness it on camera.

I went through training this week for the trip I will be helping lead in December, and that was an interesting study in human behaviour. The group of leaders was divided 50-50: Half were new, half had done a trip before. I found it so interesting that even as adults humans gravitate to cliques, and social "cool" groups. There was a fair amount of insensitivity showed in the experienced leaders; they talked in a foreign language of inside information, inside jokes, and nonsensical references. Us new folk sat there, real quite like, trying to figure out what the heck people were talking about. I also found it very ironic. I grew a strong revulsion towards youth group as a young miss because of (among other things) the cliques and the exclusiveness of it all. Here I found myself training to be a trip leader and small group leader for youth, and it was like those youth group things all over again.

But - it was great training, and despite my massive headache during the day (which led me to hardly crack a smile, and therefore led my fellow leaders to think me a dull companion) I am energized to slog through the material and be as prepared as possible.

I leave this week for my very first trip to eastern Canada. It's quite sad; I've never been further east than Saskatchewan. I guess I am truly a born-and-bred Western Canadian. (That really is a demographic, too.) So I will get to check out a bit of Montreal this weekend between work engagements. Should be interesting. Hopefully I will get to do a bit of the tourist thing; I have had the desire to see Montreal for a while now.

Now, sleep for my tired head. More work tomorrow.


winter woolies

Today marks winter's first good snowfall; an all-day snowfall that left the world muffled and purified, and the roads treacherous for the unprepared, or the unskilled.

I had an unusually great day, although it's general goodness as a day certainly tacks onto someone's not having a good day at all. This lack of sympathy shall be explained.

We awoke (after an extra hour of sleep due to time change) to the snow already fallen thick. Scratch church; check fresh-baked croissants and a couple hot cups of tea. Then some relaxing in slippers with a good book.

Realizing the snow would not soon abate, we headed out to shovel the driveway and car park. This is not a small task. It can take two people working steadily over an hour to do it right. Especially if you have a landlord who doesn't provide a snow blower or similar mechanical wonder. In that time our road took it's first victim.

Our road is fairly steep in it's own right, and with a bit of ice and no sand, it's a devil. If you don't know how to drive it, you will fail in your attempt to make it uphill. Today, the first was a woman from a neighbouring apartment who put part of her car in the ditch and then hiked the rest of the way to her apartment.

We did what we could to help her, then walked up to Blockbuster to get ourselves some movies, had lunch at the Joshua Tree Cafe, (and no, U2 is not cool), watched Trainspotting, ate some homemade apple pie, started watching Shakespeare in Love, and couldn't finish it (such boring crap! I remembered why I always avoid romance, or it's evil twin, romantic comedy), and ate a pretty good omelette for dinner.

By this time our road had take many casualties; a lot of spinning out, and Martin and I watched one fellow make at least three runs to take the hill. We tired before he did. I finally went out to sand part of it. It may have helped a bit, but the climax was five cars spinning out and trying to make the hill at once. It may be evil of me, but I thought it was pretty funny. Or, maybe I am just a loser with too little to do. Oh, well.

I just love the first snow of winter... I feel kiddish, and it makes me especially appreciative of a warm little apartment, with tea and slippers whenever I want them. With an Abba cd in the stereo, I feel fit to take on winter. Sigh. Only five months to go.


chicks who do devos

If I ever had anything edifying to say, it surely doesn't feel like now. However, I thought to post something that sends me into fits of giggles.

Baby Got Book video

Oh, it makes me laugh. And quite smart.

Work is sucking up much energy these days; feeling really drained and not able to offer much once I reach home. I mentioned to Martin how I sometimes one is so aware how the toil of mankind is a curse. Day in, day out - all the maintenence of keeping a house clean, a car running, eating proper meals, getting the bills paid.

Martin is working alot of hours as well. The cold weather sets in, and tensions go up as people on the streets want a place to sleep, and they are understaffed. I fear sometimes that he will wear himself out with such long hours, extra shifts, and demanding work. But he is dedicated and a hard worker who really sees right to the core needs of the people he is serving. I am so amazed at his clarity of perception, and his non-assuming way of loving people without looking for personal glory. If I sound proud, I am. He can spell "caramel" backwards faster than I can.

I have been spending alot of time reading a very thick, very fantastic collection of vintage mystery and detective stories. They are highly entertaining, mostly because of the history revealed in the writing. The moral altitudes, the stereotypes, and the character development. I was struck recently with the notion of starting a book-lending club amoungst co-workers and friends. I know I (and other like me) have stacks of great books that a not enjoyed as they should be. I try to keep only books that are worth re-reading, however, I also would never get rid of a good book. So rather then hording a treasure, I think it would be nice to start sharing. Hm. We shall see if it goes anywhere.

Also, something I have been anticipating began last week; our Friday work floor hockey game. We have an excellent setup, including boards. It was awesome, and by Sunday I could move again. It's a great outlet for energy, and, er, aggression, and a great chance to hang out with fellow labourers from other departments.

Speaking of exercise, I think I will go eat a piece of pie.

Mmmm. Pie.


like a rockstar

There are many things I want to be. But I will never be talented enough to be anything close to the variations of my persona I think would be fun: Artist, chef, rock star, stock car or sport bike racer.

I get close sometimes, I think. I am producing about one piece of art per year, (and sometimes only when I lose a bet);I can whip up a mean breakfast for Martin; I often look at my guitars and wish I was dedicated enough to play more; and I push the rather gutless little Civic off lights, trying to bruise the ego of the fella in the lane beside me.

But am I really good at anything? I start to doubt it. And I am growing more okay with that every day. That's a good feeling; realizing you are more comfortable in your own skin than you were last week or a month ago. That good feeling is also stepping back and seeing that 'search for significance' as a dog chasing it's tail. So what if I am not particularly good at anything, and my grandmother refers to my piano playing as "banging"? I have fun when I play, and I think I'll be okay just doing things alright. And besides, partying like wannabe rockstars was never really fun anyways.

Satisfaction in the way God created us. Appreciation, even. It's a difficult thing. We're always urging each other on to improve upon ourselves, rather than just be. And I find it easier to despise myself than honour God for the way he's created me. But I am trying to let go of the past, trying to accept grace, and trying to live out this head knowledge that nothing good comes from me unless it's from God.

I mean, so what if I write that book I have always wanted to? What will it be if it's not God-lead? Ashes and dust: Futility.

And just when you think you're helpful or valuable doing a certain thing, you're plucked out and plopped somewhere else. A plan in the works is for me to go to El Salvador in December; not as a writer, researcher, or communications person, but as a leader of a team of 12 ladies aged 16-20. All I can do is steady myself as I am dropped into an unknown world of spiritual mentor to girls who have been Christians much longer than I, guide in a culture and country I do not know, teacher of things I have not yet learned.

Obviously, I am stoked, but freaked out. And I suspect that's a good way to be.

Maybe I'll come back more satisfied and less talented than ever before.


everything's a trigger

Martin and I have rented the Lethal Weapons; 1, 2 and 3, and watched the second before Martin went to work tonight. Bust my gut laughing. Humour's good, but oh, the cheese guitar riffs and the eighties vehicles are far better. It's the funniest. A gold woody station wagon - brand new in 1989. And wow - the language and nudity must have been really out there for the eighties. There's some fairly obvious gay-bashing as well. Both of us noted how much culture has changed in the last 20 years.

So watching flicks is one way we have been spending time lately. We also watched 3/4 of The Wizard of Oz; the first time Martin's seen it. Unfortunately, the DVD crapped out and he never got to see you-know-who melt. I love that movie. It scared the junk out of me when I was a small child, and ironically, it also scared the crap out of my father as a kid. (Now, he had a much better reason to be freaked; that movie has amazing visual effects for the day. I just have a totally vivid imagination.) And for anyone who watches it in the near future, check out the Munchkin soldiers goosestepping... Definitely pre-WWII.

It sounds weird to me, even as I think it, but some people are really good to watch movies with. Martin is such person. We both are willing to watch just about anything, but thankfully both gravitate away from the romances. I have never really liked to watch movies with someone before; in fact, I was notorious for passing out during. But along came Martin, and like so many other things in my life, this did an about-face. I am free to laugh as loud and long as I want to, at anything, and he enjoys it. Sometimes he watches me instead, and that feeling heats my heart. It's so good to be loved. I had no idea.

Last weekend we checked out this particularly good flea market in Hillhurst area; I think Martin's caught the garage-sale bug. It was awesome because this flea market was more like what people do in Sweden, so I got more of an understanding of what he had described to me in the past. Now, I have some not-so-secret fascinations. Shoes, and bags. More specifially, lately, retro luggage. And I picked up the most divine little set of suitcases for $15, and we got some sweet deals on a 4-CD ABBA collection, Phantom of the Opera, and Bjork. I was a happy little girl, skipping through the flea market with my green little suitcase. I may be able to retire the red pleather one I've been using for a few years now.

There were so many awesome and bizarre people flea-marketing. I love it's earthy, sensible feel. Most people were jovial and chatty; alot of easy, no-hassle conversation. Not the painful tiring chit-chat of air-conditioned malls or high-end stores, but genuine, enjoyable interaction with old guys, people with questionable mental health, and be-ringed, ageing hippies.

When we are not doing things such as this, I am spending alot of time on my own lately. It's been good; something I needed. (We had someone billeting with us for 3 weeks, and by the end, I think I was getting a form of cabin fever. There was too little space, and too much people, if you know what I mean.) Now that I have my "space" back, I feel more sane. I have been enjoying the quiet apartment, music, books, writing, etc. The thinking time has been healthy. I recently read all of Romans. This was significant for me - my Bible reading up until now has been sporadic, just reading bits and bites. Reading a book from beginning to end was enlightening and inspiring. I am in the process of rereading it, and it's really hit me how important it is to dwell on the word of God. When it sinks in, you carry it in your heart, and these verses just pop into your head at rondom moments, and it's awesome to be thinking about God's word when you are just going about your business. This is a new and awesome experience for me. Something I have been thinking about in particular: The Holy Spirit, praying on our behalf, and praying in line with the will of God.

I am also rereading the Chronicles of Narnia. I haven't counted how many times I have read them; the books are like rags, and I've owned them as long as I can remember. Literally. For me, Lewis writes the most soul-stirring allegories. Every time I read a book I have this new image of God's omnipotence, of His grace, love, fatherhood, of the fear and reverance I should feel, of the inexplicable glory. On a side note: I haven't seen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, nor will I. I know deep down the movie will taint and ruin the purity, innocence, and reverence of the writing.

On that note, I believe I shall go bunk down with a good book and a cup of tea.


the colour blue

"my heart is darker than these oceans
my heart is frozen underneath"

Friday night and my only company is a little music, ambient lighting, and as usual my runaway mind.

Thinking too much can be unhealthy, I've decided, although there was no real answer to the question I posed. (That's usually the way I operate anyways; I ask, and as soon as I have posed the question, the answer comes, as though I knew it all along.)

My conclusion is two-fold: Thinking too much becomes unhealthy when one becomes so immersed in self and absorbed in dissecting that reality is skewed. (You know, the whole, standing too close and not seeing the whole picture.) The other danger is, of course, when one is focussing too much on unhealthy thoughts.

So why am I thinking about all of this? In a way, it's a conclusion from a progression of thought. Is this making any sense? Hm.

I am no stranger to depression, my own and other's. Many of us aren't. In many ways, it's an age of depression. It's one of the top issues claimed by developed countries, and one of the leading causes of death in these countries. Suicide rates have increased dramatically in the last decade. Probably most of us are wondering why, too.

The prevalence got nothing to do with faith in God, or whether you are a Christian. It's just I don't think Christians and churches particularly like to talk about it. It doesn't jive with Christian values or expectations, and let's face it, if you're feeling blue you're not being much of a light.

More and more people are clinically depressed, and still more are prescribed antidepressants. Now, knowing what lucrative business drug companies do, (and often the terrible, lying, deceiving, people-sacrificing lucrative drug companies), I believe often-addictive antidepressants are an over-prescribed method of shooing people out of the doctor's office and into the pharmacist's line. However, if it weren't for antidepressants, I can't imagine where my family would be today.

My grandfather was what they used to term "manic-depressive", now coined bi-polar. Before antidepressants, he was "treated" via electroshock therapy and other methods of torture. After antidepressants, he balanced enough to, in a small part, regain relationships his behaviour had shattered. But his illness was hereditary; it was not a question of if his descendants would suffer it, but only which of them would.

Now, this is a reality for our family, as it is for many. I do not question the legitimacy of diagnosed mental illness, but the source and the prevalence.

:: Why are so many people depressed, and why do so many people claim to be depressed::
:: Why are more women suffering post-partum::
:: Do we just have more time (too much time) to contemplate our feelings and thoughts::
:: Are we dangerously self-absorbed::
:: Is the term an easy way of saying "my life sucks and I'd something to fix it"::
:: Is legitimate depression caused by chemicals, additives, preservatives, hormones, pesticides, and unknown crap we are ingesting::
:: Is our culture morphing into white collar societies with less and less phsyical work/activity::
:: Have we lost our grounding of faith as a culture::
:: Or that depression has little stigma::
:: Is it fashionable::
::Are we more depressed than ages before us? ::

Mental illness, is of course, no new thing. Definitely chronicled in the Bible. Definitely chronicled through the ages. Back in the day, sociopaths were harnessed as religious leaders, and psychopaths into military leaders. People who went mad because of trauma or war had no name for their unknown terror. Farley Mowat refers to it as "the Worm" in And No Birds Sang. Families like mine have violence, fear, and sadness in their tree because of it.

I am asking questions with no answerable answers. Especially answers that aren't stupid or clinical or black and white. But I would be interested in opening a dialogue here if anyone's interested.

"We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms. The first answer, then, to the question why our cure should be painful, is that to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our won, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain." -- The Problem of Pain



So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth...For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Well. Haven't posted for awhile. Where to begin... It sank in tonight that I have been married for over a year now. The fact that it sank in tonight is weird, because our anniversary was last weekend. But I just got to thinking. Barely a year ago, Martin was on another continent, and we were crazy in love with an unfathomable future. How things have unfolded. I also got to thinking about what a gift we've been given. I had absolutely no idea how amazing it is to be married to someone. I never truely wanted to get married until I got to know Martin, and then marriage became the most natural, non-frightening thing to do. (You know, you'll know when you know. I explained it to my cousin this way: "You'll know when you know, and until you know, you won't know what it is that you'll know.")

These thoughts of marriage... I keep thinking about how God has worked in my life over the past three years. Drew and Beth: You should see my travel journels after I attended your wedding. I was sick with envy and heartache, so completely aware that in my present state of life I would never have what you had. I have never been so aware of two people spiritually in tune. And things went so wrong and so right from there... God getting my attention. My decisions forcing me to my knees, and what a blessed place to be. Forget anniversary presents! What could I be given to commemorate one of the most beautiful, tangible gifts of grace?

So things are good. Work is very hard, very physically and spiritually draining. I have been very tired and very frustrated, but tonight I have perspective and clarity of thought. The worst days have come when I have been so wrapped up in work politics and frustrations and feeling lost and aimless that I couldn't find God in the picture. It's so stupid! Just doing my thing, feeling more empty by the day. Feeling more cynical, forgetting who I am serving. Not myself, but that's easy to forget. It's nothing that I do.

It's hard, too, that Martin and I work very different schedules... You have to fight to not let your job consume you when it feels like it's all you're doing. It feels so good to just relax with each other and talk and laugh. It's taught me to appreciate his company so much more. But I just have to watch that I don't get too wrapped up in work, and to make sure I am doing other stuff when Martin's working.

A random thought: What good has the billions of books out there on management, and the gazillions of books on there about Christian leadership and management, done us? Nothing! My gosh, I can't even imagine how many forests we have raped and pillaged in the name of self-help. I was recently made to participate in a "strengths finder" evaluation. Ugh. It goes against my personal beliefs. I am afraid I will be next forced to have my spiritual gifts evaluated. Suffice to say, to use a Christmas analogy, I have never liked to "discover" my gifts until the day that I am meant to. I think He can reveal them in His timing. For me, creating that "consciousness" opens the door to self-gratification and wrong motivations.

What a ramble! How cathartic, this blog thing! I plan to do a few more cathartic things in the next while, including:

Drawing a bath with bergamot salts / Writing / Helping teach motorcycle lessons with my dad / Lying on the floor and listening to music / Reading / Praying / Eating yummy things, like cereal before bed

I'll leave off with this: Live feed from the Mustard Seed.


wanting it

Thinking time. Is too much of such a thing unhealthy? I wonder. I can see in myself the ability to immerse myself in thinking so deeply, reality is blurred.

It's a stifling September day. September. Time swims away. The summer already fades, the mornings crisp with that delicious coolness that speaks of autumn.

I've been working hard, and this weekend, the Labour Day long-weekend, offers a much-needed respite. Work has a frantic pace lately - spending very little time on any project, pulled in a million directions. The highlight of last week (and I am sure of the coming two) is being part of training sessions focusing on water and water filtration and improvement projects. The issue of global access to safe drinking water seems to fall away under all of the current madness of the world we live in. Yet, diarrhoeal diseases are one of the world's most devastating killers, behind only respiratory diseases and HIV/AIDS. It is good to participate in the sessions, learning how I can better communicate this issue, the intricacies of tackling access to improved water globally, the importance of teaching health and hygiene, culturally appropriately.

This subject, along with a host of my own personal issues, I have been mulling over. I get in these moods where even speaking one sentence pulls too much energy from me, where any social interaction is a bore, a pressure. Often it's connected to my spiritual well-being. When I am drained, nothing to offer, feeling like I have little love to give. We're having someone billeting with us before she heads overseas for a 6-month contract, and it seems like in the past few days its taken all of my effort to summon up the simplest of conversational responses.

It's easy to feel like no-one understands when I am in these moods, but I was reminded this week of how many people in vastly different circumstances feel the same. A friend sent me a beautiful, poignant email, describing her struggles with the pressure of her culture and that feeling of social incompatibility and loneliness.

"It seems like the farther I detach from them, the less they care of me and the faster they forget about my existence."

Her thoughts, so similiar to mine, made me mourn the distance between us. Too many people, too far away. There's no glamour in having oceans between you and your most beloved friends. On the heals of this thought, another. What really holds me to Canada? What are the bonds here? Mom, dad, brother, grandmother. That is one short list. Of course, Canada would be my comfort zone, but Martin completely shed his comfort zone, left what he held dear. I am beginning only in the last while comprehending the sacrifices he and others have made for him to be with me here. The sacrifical love of a mother and father knows few bounds.

It's reached the hottest part of the day, too hot to sit huddled over the keyboard. I think I shall bury my nose in a book for the remainder of the afternoon, remembering that no man is an island.

PS Drew, haven't checked out that band, but will, however, I am not much for 'borrowing' as certain members of the Aspegren household have strong feelings on that.


in my own skin

It feels like, for the first time this week, I am coming off overdrive. I have tuned into my usual online listening, Reign Radio, and feel all this crap tension I have felt all week drain away with the coming of the weekend.

It's a week I'm glad to see over. It was a heavy week; feeling like a hamster in a wheel, racing to get nowhere. Nothing really accomplished; getting out of it sweaty and exhausted, same place I started. But it's the way it goes.

I'm tired (as usual when I post) and stink of work day and cigarette smoke. I spent the late evening with neighbours of ours, drinking black tea with too much sugar, wreathed in smoke from handrolled cigarettes.

The neighbours; he's from Quebec, she's Cree, from Saskatchewan. I am more comfortable with them than with people my own age. He translated French recipes for me and we discussed WWII and his years in the Canadian airforce in the 1950's. I think the most fulfilling part of spending time with them is I know they like me; they call me "girl", send me off with gifts, invite me back. And that sure is something these days. Maybe I'm jaded, but my faith in people of my generation dwindles. People are so involved, so engaged, but there's so little community: They already have friends, church, committments. It seems there's little room or time to get to know another person or extend oneself. And it's rare that I can tell if someone genuinely wants my company or not.

So it's a strange mixture of feelings I sit here stewing in. Frustration, satisfaction, gratitude, disappointment, peace, uncertainty. Like something's healing. Like I want to lash out.

I feel frustrated with my faith. I feel frustrated with my hang ups. I wonder if I'll ever be in a social structure of believers; of people who can be real and help each other grow. I sometimes miss old friendships, however unhealthy. But I'm alien to the old; yet don't fit the new. Clumsy limbo. Awkward participant.

But I guess wherever this is going, I feel the molding. I can see that I need time; time to come out of the narcotic haze. Time to see my real personality cut loose. Time to be formed in the shape I have been rebelling against for so long. Time to let ingested untruths seep away. Time for Martin and I to see to each other's core, to find in each other more wholeness and blessing than we thought earthly possible.

"I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him."

"Behold, it was for my welfarethat I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back."


mouth like a magazine

It's early, but I am already tired. It's a rainy, cold, dark day for August. The apartment's strewn with laundry brought in from the rain to dry but I can't bring myself to do a thing about it. I have been struck with inexcusable relaxation (borderline laziness) since returning home. It's nice - I like work and I'll drain myself finding things to do. So it's nice to chill out and not worry about chilling. Feels a bit like days of old although now the chill is natural and not chemical.

Ah, vacation. Tranquil, blessed, fleeting. Over all too quickly. I fully intended to write about Sweden and our time there (it's the best way to remember) but really, I've been too relaxed to feel like doing so. But here I am. Martin - he's one hour into his graveyard shift. I've got good, raw tunes going and moccasins to keep my feet warm.

Our travels left me both satisfied and strangely empty. It was a near-perfect respite. I had a lovely sense of familiarity in Martin's parents home; happy, at ease, feeling welcome and appreciated. His dad - a merry, well-read, warm-hearted man. His mom - smart, hard-working, the ultimate hostess. She has filled my daydreams with vanilla pastries, Swedish strawberries, home-baked bread, buttery cheeses, cream sauces, gooey carrot cake, rhubarb soup and pie, oh my. I never did weigh myself upon my return home. Why spoil it all? It was a food-lovers paradise. That's all I should say on that particular subject, or I shall weep over my keyboard.

There's so much I could say, and it all falls flat on the screen. I was sad to go. It seemed like we were leaving many good things behind... I felt sad and impotent, feeling Martin's heartache as he said goodbye to his nieces and nephews. He said they would remember less of him with the passage of time, and I had to work hard to hold back the tears. I fear that as well - but I hope it won't be so.

What I enjoyed most, in no particular order:
  • Our Swedish wedding celebration, basking in the support Martin's family and friends
  • Swimming and sunbathing with Martin at a lovely, calm lake
  • Eating a whole bowl of wild blueberries with a spoon
  • Blowing bubbles with the kids - I was strange but cool with the ability to make giant bubbles
  • Sitting in Martin's parent's beautiful backyard arbour
  • The crystal clear pure silence
  • Receiving welcoming hugs - warm, good, real hugs
  • Mocking stupid American movies with Martin on the plane
  • The wood floors and artistic window sills
  • Pastries at every meal
  • Going "mining" with our parents in a very dark, cold mine
  • The curious, blushing looks of Martin's nephews
  • Standing at the rail of a ferry in the fresh, clean wind
  • The cathedral in Uppsala
  • Sharing a basket of fresh strawberries in the sun
  • Understanding far more Swedish than I ever expected
  • Beating Martin soundly at minigolf
  • Soft beds, feather pillows, heavenly-smelling laundry soap
  • Martin's nephew teaching me to count to 10 in Svenska
  • Soaking in the fact I now have another fun, loving family
  • The medival churches and climbing the tower of one
  • Taking a little boat slowly across a sunset lake

Now, I must commence my study of Swedish with real fervour, and I must convince Martin to speak more around the home so my mouth can become bilingual. I've mastered "Can you pass the dessert, " and now I must move onto other basics.

Hm. Still relaxed. Still sleepy. Methinks I will go find my book where I left it and burrow under a quilt. Adjö!



Martin let me know that my blog was getting boring because I hadn't updated it in awhile. So although I don't care if anyone thinks it’s boring, I am updating it to say that I probably won't be updating for the next while. We are leaving today to the fine province of Småland, to visit Martin's family.

I am looking forward to the peace and quiet, and am excited to get to know Martin's family more. (And meet the many that I haven't met.) My parents are going as well, and Martin's parents are putting on a fine wedding celebration for us, including program planned by Martin's witty brother-in-laws, and a fantastic dinner cooked by Martin's uncle (yes, an actual Swedish chef).

What's not to anticipate? I am a little envious of my parents, who are also going to Denmark, but I will have ample opportunities in my lifetime, I am sure.

Martin and I will get to relive my last visit to Sweden - visiting the place where we got engaged, "Martin's" lake, the nearby ruins. We are actually so organized we've packed our wedding clothes so we can have "wedding" pictures taken in Sweden... I am starting to think I am a closet romantic. I believe my dear sweet husband has helped me come out of that particular closet. I even call him "honey", and worse, more sappy nicknames which I will not mention publicly.

Where was I going with this? Anyways… the photo is portrays the classic colors and architecture found around where Martin lives. If it looks to idyllic, too pastoral, too serene, to be real, that’s because it is. But it is a real place. (I can attest to it.) It’s one of the most fantastic, beautiful, well-tended, calming places in the world. (I even know someone who tells me this little spot in the world holds her heart - she calls it her Narnia.) I agree, although my heart is held by one of the sons of this ethereal place.

So, ciao!


first venture

On the Oregon Coast.

First gasp.

A look of delicious secrets.

The rolling northeast storm.

Regretful goodbye.


birthdays suck

It's been a long day, and I am feeling moody and excluded. It doesn't help that I am home alone, the heat oppressive, with woe-is-me jazz playing, and our fan making an irritating rattling noise as it oscillates. Martin is working graveyards at his new job at a local homeless shelter, so I won't be seeing him till after 8 a.m.

I can empathize with this poor dead jelly fish I took a picture of. He was just floating along, all pretty and bright-blue, and then he dies a lonely death, washed up on the Oregon Coast. Well, not totally alone. There was thousands of his dead jellyfish buddies washed up along with him.

Am I really feeling that mopey that I can empathize with a dead jellyfish? Yes, yes I am. And I can hear his final farewell playing on CBC Radio.

Ha! Now I am being silly. But seriously, long day. Plus, tonight Street Church made it's usual loud appearance across the river. (I found a neighbourhood call to action taped to the apartment building door tonight - the 'hood is riled. They want Street Church to TURN IT DOWN.)

Now the Stampede fireworks have started and I am reminded that the blessed calm of Martin's village in Sweden will be a sweet haven for the last two weeks of July. The city is nice when you feel like it - when you want a little silence it can make you downright ornery.

Wow, I'm really a ray of sunshine. I think it's bedtime. How'd this all start? Oh yeah! Birthdays that suck. Well, I think I truly transitioned into adulthood. I admitted to myself, nay, recognized, that birthdays, beyond the age of 18, really do suck. I'll be honest, I looked forward to putting back a pint or two or six on my 18th birthday, and that anticipation was fulfilled, although not with good results. However, my point is that your birthday is way more important to you than it is to anyone else. And it never really fails: My birthday passes and I realize, man, that totally, undeniably sucked. (This is no reflection on certain persons by the name of Martin or Mom, by the way.) I think I was just a big kid, all like: Woohoo, my birthdays comin', I'm gonna have so much fun and everyone who loves me is going to make my day super awesome.

I guess I should be glad I have addressed my naivete, and now I can move on like the cynical soon-to-be-birthday person that I am. Maybe when the day comes I'll treat myself to a loaf of rye bread or something.



blaim someone else

Having spent the Canada-day long weekend in a remote area of the Rocky foothills, I failed to celebrate the maturing of my country by one more year. I think the subject came up once - "Hey, isn't it Canada Day today?" and was promptly forgotten.

Since I am so incredibly patriotic, I cannot let this dissing of my birth nation pass by unnoticed. Here is a list (in no particular order) of thoughts on Canada, Canadians and what we like to call our "culture":

1. Although the Canadian dollar is now over 90 cents US, no one seems to notice or care that much of our Canadian-US pricing is not reflecting our dollar's value. Take a look and see for yourself - we're getting ripped off.

2. We still are laid back - we're like, almost totally sleeping, eh? As long as it doesn't take too much effort or passion, we're cool with corrupt government bodies and pocket-lining old boys clubs, low voter turnout, flagrant market dishonesty and exploitation, poor health care, high education prices, and a flaccid justice system.

3. All that "I am/We are Canadian" stuff? The beer, the rant, the commercials, the Canuck mockery of the US, the impassioned national pride it inspired? Yeah, it was sold to an American company. One of the oldest Canadian "institutions", sold by a profiteering Molson son, to a US buyer. Quite amusing. Does it indicate a market trend? I hope not.

4. "Multiculturalism" as it is is fracturing our society. We are unintentionally segregating ourselves, and blocking the ability to really understand each other and what drives us. We are dissolving common identity and values and creating misunderstood factions.

5. We know lots of people and have very few real friends.

6. Born and raised Canadians are one of the most polite (sometimes painfully) people groups in the world and are extremely space-oriented. We like our personal space "bubbles", in everyday interaction we don't get too physically close, don't touch very often, and like our privacy.

7. Customs and Immigration Canada waivers between Totally Anal and Totally Nonsensical. Did you know if you are approved as a permanent resident of Canada you only have to live in Canada two of five years to be eligable for reapplication? Someone can be a card-carrying permanent resident and only have to physically be in Canada for 24 months in a period of five years.

9. We have lots and lots of mosquitos in Canada. I personally can count nearly 80 bites from one weekend of camping, and will enjoy killing any mosquito I see for the rest of the summer.

10. We are valued in the non-governmental agency world for our strong work ethic, intelligence, diplomacy, and ability to get alot of places others can't with our Canadian passports.

11. Finally, this would not be a good list about Canada without a disclaimer.



Words and thoughts are like a traffic jam, all stopped up trying to get somewhere, reach that destination, a conclusion.

This topic of "character" has kept reappearing. Defined in all sorts of ways from all sorts of sources. This quote had been very clear in my head over the past while. "Character is who you are when no one is looking." Don't know where it's from, but it sums up the direction of my thoughts in the past while.

What am I like when no one is looking? I recently did a very short 'character evaluation'. The results? I probably could have failed myself, if you could actually fail such a thing.

A very clear realization came to me today, after hearing someone speak on Christ-like character.
All the surface stuff aside, what lies beneath?

I've spent too much time wasting time, wasting energy, pouring myself into bottomless pits, going nowhere, telling lies to cover it all up, losing myself in person after person, hobbling around with all sorts of crutches. What character can develop out of that?

I'm not dwelling in the past: I know forgiveness and freedom. But it scares me to really look at myself and wonder if I have the strength of character that Christ wants of His followers. Have I really looked deeply, see myself for who I really am when no-one's looking?

I know what I desire, what my ideals are. I want to be transparent. I want to be whole and full of love and empathy for people. Instead, honesty is a conscious and ever-present choice. I feel fractured, divided between worlds sometimes. I am easily angered, territorial, driven by wrong motives. I pull down judgement upon people, I sit in church, disengaged, critical, caught up in the world rather than my relationship with God. I want to be able to pour myself out to people, to realize their needs are like to mine. Instead I am still so self-centred, fearful, cynical, doubting people's motives, crouching in my shell. Where is Christ in me? Oh God, I am no reflection of You!

I guess this is crawling. after acknowledgement, moving so slowly in the right direction. Ragged knees and palms. But still moving... Let my heart ache for the things You want for me. I am unable to face this without You. I have no strength, no peace, no love to offer without.

"...I want you to get out there and walk - better yet, run! - on the road God has called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline - not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love...
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all..."


watching them go down

Ha ha!
Oilers lose.
Fly your silly little flags, you bandwagon riders.


he's my butter pecan

We just arrived back from a walk through our neighbourhood - my passport had arrived in the mail and we took a walk to the post office to pick it up. Once finished, Martin felt a rare craving for dessert, so we extended our walk further to the Northeast Grocery, home to yummy ice cream, and also featuring one of the best-tasting flavours ever: butter pecan.

So we're walking along, enjoying our ice cream, the warm evening air still and thick with unshed rain. I'm in the midst of talking tough, and Martin is laughing at me as we pass by this cute little elderly lady. We smile politely, and she's already a little ways past, when she turns around and asks, "Can I say something to you?"

I can't quote her exactly, but I hardly forget the point.

"Does life get any better than this? A young couple in love, having ice cream, enjoying a night like tonight?"

At that moment, it didn't feel like it could get any better.

I've never experienced something quite so natural, lovely, and poetic. I could have kissed her. I could take many a lesson from a person so observant and transparent.

I was ever-more aware of the touch of Martin's hand on the walk back, of his comfort when I pinched my finger throwing something in the trash bin, when he laughed with abandon.

To love and be loved. I need to relish it, cherish in it, bathe in it. To be vulnerable and bare, to acknowledge the perfect beauty in humility to one another. To cradle God's precious example of love and sacrifice with gentle, awe-struck hands. To remember His unforeseeable ways, and the incomparable blessing of obedience.

What a wonderful little lady. I hope I see her again.


like cats at night

2:36 p.m., Sunday. The apartment is quiet, and I can hear the irritating howl of the singers in the nearby street church. They run the church in small park across the river near the homeless shelter, Sundays and Mondays, and it's starting to drive me mental. I have often wondered about the whole scenario. I have nothing against them putting on church for those living on the streets, but the way they do it is a bit in-your-face. I mean, what's welcoming about giant loudspeakers and yowling worship leaders? Everyone in the neighbourhood is subjected to it.

At least I can still hear the rain outside; increased to a dull roar on the roof of the apartment, and pattering on the leaves of the trees. The sound of a generous rain is so soothing, and it takes the edge off the singers.

My brain is a soft jumble of unfinished thought lately. I've been tired and working alot and haven't had much energy for creative process. I've started reading the book The Righteous, by Martin Gilbert, a collection of anecdotal accounts of unsung heroes of the Holocaust. While informative and carefully written, it's ghastly and incomprehensible. I am only reading it a bit at a time.

My learning process right now has slowed to trying to learn a bit about the game only Americans and Camericans call "soccer". I started with a National Geographic feature, and worked my way to some online reading, to actually getting up at 7:30 a.m. to watch a World Cup game. It's funny: When it comes to soccer, my whole family cheers for Sweden. Hockey, of course, is another sport, but it was enjoyable to be gathered around the boob-tube in a heightened state of anxiety and anticipation. The tie is another story; a fluke, I say.

Now street-church preacher is up, and I can hear in the cadence of his tone exactly how he is preaching. Can't they ever just speak to people in a normal tone of voice?

I think I will end this... time to get ready for dinner at my parent's place with my grandma. More on my thrilling exsistence later. I'm sure you are going to hold your breath.

And Jakob, if you read this, I promise I won't say anything more about U2 if you tell me what you guys are planning for the reception :-)


i like the friday feeling

Wanna read a desperately sad, unbelievably hilarious story containing, but not limited to, Wal-Mart, Mexican delegates, a total British wiener, football, and unfair trade, all set in the truly exotic backdrop of Arkansas?

If so, read this article. Workers of the world spice up meeting

And if you are totally bored with reading a rather long-ish article by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (although I insist it's worth it), go watch this video from the Daily Dancer, an absolutely wicked nerdy web person who loves dancing. Like me! Except he's a man. And I am a much better dancer, right bunny?

Anyways, this video gives rap and all it's sexist ridiculousness the treatment it deserves. Daily Dancer gives new flesh to Ms. Booty


the great wall of emericasa

With the rising immigration angst in that country south of us, I thought it fitting to chime in.

How do you like them immigrant-picked strawberries?

What to do with millions of people you exploit and degrade, while using as a scapegoat for a variety of economic, social and administrative ailments?

Send 'em back. Hire more rentacops. Build a wall. Get GIJoes with bigger guns to guard the wall. Then find other poor people to exploit. Lastly, do nothing about disparity. To keep them poor.

If they stick to that plan, you needn't worry. The price of your strawberries won't go up.


temper girl - the sequel

Apparently, we all have faults. Even more apparent is the fact, despite any and all desperate attempts to conceal them, these faults will be exposed.

I have spent some time thinking about this for the past few days, provoked by the recent revelation that a leader of the church we've been attending resigned with the admission of extramarital affairs. Very sad thing - something that sends people into a spiral of soul-searching and mental confusion.

All this thinking in turn triggered my thoughts of weaknesses and faults. Of course, according to the cliché, apparently we love people for their faults, but that's definitely crap. Our character flaws may be at times amusing, sometimes cute, but they are still faults.

I will use myself, as a perfect, er, imperfect, example. I have a temper. This is no secret, although I do try to not let it get the best of me. Now, Martin knows how to get to me - like all wise husbands, he has learned the art of provocation. He knows the perfect little thing to say to get a dark look and a feisty retort. Now, this can be, shall we say, "cute". Martin’s also dubbed me with the nickname "temper girl". This is meant in the nicest way, I’m sure.

But it’s not about sarcasm or scathing glares. The problem is when this thing does get the best of me. It can be a blinding, powerful rage that sweeps away all logical thought and leaves me seething with un-communicated feelings. It leaves me sputtering and clawing at any vocabulary I can find to attempt expression. It can urge and bait me to lash out violently.

I want to note, however, how much I have been honed and soothed over the past year. Weaning myself off of some of the music I was listening to helped hugely. Marrying someone who sees my core being helped more. I haven’t thrown or punched anything in a long time.

Obviously this makes me sound like psycho chick. If so, oh well. It’s reality. Of course, when you factor in seeking a relationship with Christ, it changes the picture. Not only am I agro, with barbarian tendencies, but I am a Christian to boot.

But seriously. Pastors committing adultery? Christians with anger issues? How can I reconcile this?

I think it’s harder to believe that God loves those who don’t know the truth, than loves those who do know the truth and don’t obey. But yet, here I am, dealing with some of the same issues I have been facing for years, and yet totally aware of my reality as a Christ-follower. It is hard to reconcile. Especially when my faults are so far from lovable, cute, or even hip. But He does.

This is one of my thought processes which has lead me to a conclusion I’ve reached many times before, through different routes. I will never understand infinite grace, unconditional love, His relentless pursuit. I don’t really want to understand, except to know what He has made available to me. His ways are above mine. If I did understand these things, could He really be God?

I’m tired. And although it is not late, I am also a nerd and therefore it’s time for sleep. I think I am more on this subject to mull over. Maybe more on this later.



It's 9 a.m. and I can tell it's going to be a hot day - no wind, and a cloud of tiny insects darting about below the window. Someone from the neighbouring apartment is shaking a spray paint can, and I agree with the intent. I have to put the final coats of oil on a table we bought for the deck. It will be a perfect day for it.

I'm shocked at how quickly time passes right now; it seems I blink and another week has passed. Now another weekend gone, and already work tomorrow. Not that I mind, really; I'm one of those irritating people who can claim they love their job. I haven't always liked it, but circumstances change and you grow into things.

On Friday I had the opportunity to interview Ezekiel, south Sudan's government advocate in North America, and representative of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement party. The interview was too brief; he and his companion, Moses, had a rigorous schedule of discussion, debrief, and media interviews.

Ezekiel is part diplomat, part activist, part recruiter. Six-foot-eight, with the tribal markings of the Nuer, he is based in Washington, DC, creating awareness of the plight of the southern Sudanese and the importance of retaining the tenuous 2005 peace agreement as presented by the late John Garang. As recruiter, Ezekiel and others are reaching North America’s south Sudan diaspora with the message that the south Sudan government wants them to return and help rebuild the country. According to Ezekiel, there are approximately 80,000 Sudanese diaspora living in North America - skilled workers, professionals - with a passion to return to their homeland and see it rebuilt.

Ezekiel’s activism is his whole persona - spread thickly, potently, over every word or nuance. He is completely dedicated, single-minded, quick-witted, intense. I ask him about his history as a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army under Garang. He joined around 15 or 16, he doesn’t know his age. He must have been dedicated - he spoke at Garang’s funeral. He described journeys two months long, with no provisions, only a gun, bullets and necessity to kill any antelope or wildlife in order to survive.

The same morning I spoke with Ezekiel, there was word that a peace deal had been reached for Darfur - momentous, if kept.

After writing all this, it seems unbelievable that I could put my attentions on the weather, work to be done, or any other inane occupation. Sometimes life here seems so small, so ineffective. I like what I do, I get to be on the forefront of exciting things, but it’s still so easy to feel like a pointless little piece, an invisible mechanism. But I know these insidious thoughts - they come jumping in unannounced and will stay indefinitely if welcomed. They are not of You. What need have I of acknowledgement by man? What do I need to know of my role as that seemingly insignificant mechanism?

Well, the lawnmower won’t start without a good sparkplug. I know that.



It's about dinner time on Sunday - we've just returned from this weekend's trip to Edmonton. I have a bad taste in my mouth and I'm so tired - I feel like I am staggering around in a haze.

I took no pictures, although I fully intended to and even suceeded in dropping the digital camera. Instead, I've posted a completely unrelated picture of my favourite cousin showing me his puppies.

I am in a more non-committal mood than usual; I can't decide if I'm grumpy or not, if I'm hungry enough to try to scrounge up something resembling dinner, if I want to try doing something worthwhile or not. I have downloaded Google's SketchUp program, which is pretty cool. I think I am going to flounder my way through a tutorial.

Martin's going in and out of the apartment, rummaging around in his tool box, putting on a new license plate on our car. I'm just sitting here, killing minutes.

I don't know why I even started this post - I have nothing to say.


the square of simplicity

Belly full, relaxed, happy. I am especially appreciative of the life I lead. Gratitude is always there, but it’s good to dwell on it. I recall a book a friend leant my some time ago, a persuasive, albeit “new age” book: The Circle of Simplicity. The premise was, ahem, simple. Trim the fat. Get rid of the unnecessary. Western lifestyle is all about entertainment, distraction. Life should be about enjoying the basics; silence, calm, family, nature, relaxation, creativity. Life should not be about rushing around endlessly, microwaved food, stress, road rage, endless hours in the bathroom primping…

Partially unconsciously, partially deliberately, we’ve lead a comparatively simple way of life, with a easy amount of “social” activities, uncluttered and entirely pleasing. So many people have so much going on; I lifted an eyebrow when some of my coworkers started talking about their schedules. I’m surprised they are still sane. I’d be stark raving mad if I couldn’t take a break from people. It’s such a sweet relief to come in the door to a calm apartment, to someone who knows you in and out, who loves you genuinely and appreciates you fully.

The Carolina-Montreal series is on right now; we’ve decided to allow ourselves TV only until the playoffs are over and then it goes back into storage. It’s completely unnecessary, especially with the ushering in of warmer weather. Martin and I have no trouble occupying each other, and not just in the most obvious way. We vintage shop, and try to find cheap places to eat. He helps me pick my hockey pool and flexes his sexy belly for me. We work in the yard and clean up the neglected property. We work around both of our loner streaks. We play Settlers fiercely, competitively, and although I do not cheat I could be described as ’devious’. Martin is very displeased when he loses, or when I gloat. I’m no better when I lose. When I was freshly engaged, someone who went to Bible school with Martin warned me against playing games with him. I find that very amusing, as now he is my favourite challenge. Ah, me, who knew Bible school boys could be so deliciously bad.

I am greatly anticipating this summer; hopefully a chance to see old friends in Portland, and Drew and Beth in August. And of course, returning with my new husband to Sweden and revisiting the scene of some of my finest adult memories. This time I need to get some better photos.



It's crazy: The world is sailing along smoothly, things are fitting well enough, and then the smallest thing stops you mid-stride and you wonder.

My thoughts are muddling about the idea of "identity". I am wondering how people perceive me. I wonder if people read something into my way of being that I can't see. I wonder, "Do I have any self-perception at all?" Or is the idea of thinking I am self-aware just another deception? Do people know ME, and do I really know MYSELF?

I have made some large "awareness blunders" in my short life. I thought I loved with someone for a long time before realizing I didn't. I thought I was doing well for myself but wasn't. I thought I was convincing people of my happiness and didn't realize they could see right through me.

I mean, everyone has a story, and you wonder if people can really "get" people if they don't know that story. Take the above photo. You will see a rather tall Santa's elf kissing a pleased, albeit bloodied and bruised, female Asian hockey player. What's the story? Is there anything to get out of this but a little curiousity and confusion?

I wouldn't be who I am today without these two people as part of my story. Jihae and Aaron are their Halloween costumes. I did Jihae's makeup. Jihae is back in Korea now and my eyes burn if I look at this picture too long.

I am in this channel where I can't stop thinking I must be a different person to each person who knows a chapter of my story. And where do I fit my definition of myself? The answer, I know, might be: A new creature in Christ. But who and what is the new creature, and does anyone know it?


am i who i say i am

Night is settling in; the sound of traffic bounces off cement walls and I can hear the drive clearly even from the back bedroom of the apartment. I feel quite satisfied. Winter is a season of the past; snow melted and green things poking from the earth. Tired from a good day's work, bare-fingered from working in the yard, turning up everything worn and dirtied from the winter. Working outside is so satisfying. I have secret unrealistic dreams of hobby farming or having private acres of land to create my own little haven.

I like to hammer things and clean things and dig up things and chop things. I wish I was enough of carpenter to build my own four-poster bed, but that may come. I dreamed up long ago how I could build such a bed with simple materials, and then saw this bed in a tredy futon store in Kensington this past weekend, for over $1,000. It was beautiful and made me laugh. I think I should try building one. Martin may be dreading the prospect of such a project as it took me 6 months to finally complete the window sill in our bathroom. But maybe I can win back his confidence.

The apartment creaks and the ceiling makes odd noises; sometimes it sounds as if ghosts are walking above our apartment. We are on the top floor and there are no apartments above, yet it often sounds like someone is walking and thumping on the roof. I don't believe in ghosts, of course, at least not in the traditional "haunted by a poltergeist" sense, but it definitely sounds like someone is up there sometimes.

It's too dark now and evening has lost it's charm. The only light in the apartment is the white of the computer screen. Martin's already gone to bed and he's too quiet, therefore I miss him. I have been an insufferable tease today; I am sure he's enjoying his moment's peace. But now I will go cut that short.


free love

Today is Maundy Thursday, in which the liturgical gather together and wash eachother's feet in a symbolism of Christ's washing of His disciple’s feet. I can hardly concentrate at work.

The sun is shining, we have a long weekend ahead of us, and most importantly, Martin's visa application was approved! No more waiting or wondering! No more hanging around, waiting for Canadian bureaucracy and wondering when we will be able to see Martin’s family again. No more indefinites on our relationship. We are free!

Well, maybe that's an exaggeration... but we are more free than before. And we were a bit shocked at the speed of approval; the government had been so painfully slow up until this point, to have an answer so quickly was very unexpected. We were thinking we'd find out in summer or fall, even.

So the question remains, what to do?

First we send his passport into to get his “landed immigrant” status. Then, we can drive to Portland, Oregon (please, Martin, can we go to Portland?). I am so stoked! And we can go to Sweden, and any other place we want…

I love my hot Swede. (Yes, Martin, you are mine!)

We are going to eat Alberta steak tonight and celebrate. My mom is cooking brunch tomorrow (Good Friday) and that's going to be a happy occasion.

It's definitely weird to think of Martin getting a job and being out of the house. I have become so dependant on his work around the home. He does the laundry, keeps our place shining clean, and has become a pretty good cook. He thoughtfully goes grocery shopping, makes our bed, runs baths for me, and generally makes himself completely indispensable. I don't know what I'll do when he doesn't plan dinners. Or when he isn't waiting to wolf-whistle or call suggestive things to me from the apartment window when I get home from work.

Well, things can't last forever. He's absolutely spoiled me for the past six months. I wouldn't say I am totally rotten yet, but I sure have been enjoying it.

Ah, me, I should get something done.

I get to keep my hot Swede!


i like/i cannot lie

Today is Sunday; I am up fairly early as usual. At 11 a.m. we are invited for a Sudanese lunch with our friends Daniel, Benjamin, and their roommate. I have been looking forward to it. They are wonderful people with a hugely inspiring story. ( I wrote about it once; the SPLA post.) I hope we will have the chance for good conversation; their life experiences are unbelieveable, and I learned much from hearing Daniel share his opinion and observances on life, culture, politics and destiny.

My life this week has consisted of work, getting better from a sinus cold, watching a lot of Flames hockey (and enjoying it), and experiencing my very first cold sore. Gross! The worst part of realizing that I have a cold sore is knowing that now I am susceptable to them for the rest of my life. I hate being an adult sometimes.

I have been working on finishing our bathroom window - finally. It's been going on six months. The window is in the shower, and was totally nasty when I moved in. It's involved stripping old paint and silicone off, removing mildew, dirt, and miscellaneous crap, re-enforcing the weak window frame, sanding, heavy puttying, painting, etc... on it goes. I am finishing priming, and soon it shall be completed. I am quite proud of what I've accomplished. It's not perfect, but it was quite the job, and it's looking excellent. I really like the feeling of being able to do things like this by myself. I enjoy home renovations, alhough I can be slow and Martin really hates it when I leave my stuff out.

I read a piece yesterday about low-end prostitution in our city; a profile these poor, desperate women who will sell themselves for "$10 or a pack of cigarettes." Drug addictions eating away at them, wearing long underwear and running shoes while working... one of the girls spoke of having "the dream": husband, home, kids. What a simple, sad, dream. I have so much! How many of us have that "dream" and still strive for more? I have all I need and then some. I have been really caught lately by how the Bible talks often of the woes and dangers of wealth. We wouldn't be considered "wealthy" in the this culture, yet still it's so easy strive for something worldly and not realize it. I said to Martin yesterday how I wanted a flat-screen for our computer. What a stupid thing to say. This screen works just fine.

To think I am living someone's dream... I wonder how often we stop to think that we are literally living out someone's dream. It's humbling, it makes my mind heavy with responsibility.

Outside the church bells are ringing, spurring me to notive the time and realize that I should try to make myself look presentable, as I cannot wear a read fuzzy housecoat. From the window the sky is clear-blue, and sun shining, the traffic moving busily, and it's only 10 a.m-ish. I think I shall wear a skirt, in honour of spring.

First things first though; teasing my husband out of bed.


temper girl

Sunrise from our apartment building at 7:15 a.m. Saturday, April 1.
This is as much as I can manage for a post. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. for no good reason and now I think I am going to go take a nap. Maybe I will explain the "temper girl" thing some other time.



Left work a couple hours early today due to this ridiculously strong sinus cold I picked up over the weekend. Woke up with a sore throat on Sunday, and by Monday I feel like my head is going to pop.

Bad time to be sick. Work is crazy busy; I am balancing the duties of three positions right now, and not sure if I am really succeeding. I guess someone would tell me if I sucked, but you never know. We are to have another media event on Wednesday, and I have material to prepare, sick or not.

Can't complain really at the moment, though. I awoke from a short nap and Martin has gone to get some movies to watch. I get to sit around in my red fuzzy housecoat and eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches, savouring the delicious spring breeze blowing through the open window.
The days are becoming noticeably longer; the sun still low in the sky after 7 p.m.

I have realized spring has become something more than even the invigorating lift of winter. The smell of the air and the general atmosphere transport me emotionally. Each spring for the past two years has marked something momentous. April, 2004, I met Martin for the first. March, 2005, he arrived in Canada to take me for "coffee". Six months later we were married...

And now Martin's back with the movies, and he's already making fun of me. Now he's dancing, shaking his tail. I think I will conclude this wasting of time for other unproductive but far more enjoyable activities.


right now

It's a Saturday afternoon; 2:40 p.m. on the computer. I'm in a moment of happiness and inspiration.

Some days, I think you just wake up more in love than others. I awoke today in the dull morning light and laid there before realizing Martin was not there.

I got out of bed, found him for a long, close hug. I am needy for his love; so much it scares me sometimes.

We broke our fast at Nellie's on 17th Ave. We've go often, but today we got a good table, and it was warm, noisy, cheerful. It was a simple sort of bliss to sit there across from him, his face bright, pale eyes intense, ordering what he always orders. I call it "dirty Nellie's"; it's not the cleanest of cafes, but the food is good and Martin likes the candy they give you with your bill. I never eat it.

We went thrift-store shopping on 17th and laughed alot. I tried on hideous 50's dresses and he feigned bitterness when I decided to buy something he picked out for himself. We're kinda the same size in clothes. I get another pair of shoes; I think I am up to around 25 now. It's sick. But amusing. We all have our addictions. Accessories, shoes, bags, jackets; at least one.

Now, back at our apartment. The overcast sky teases with the promise of spring; it's raining lightly which is odd for this time of year. I am enjoying sitting here, relaxed. Waterdeep is playing in the living room, and Martin's slowly falling asleep on the couch. Someone must be having a shower in the apartment below us; I can hear the water in pipes. I've promised to help my dad with some writing for his job, but I am procrastinating. I am just too happy and inspired at the moment to think about writing resumes. Maybe it's the Coke and painkillers. Maybe the great cup of tea I had earlier, or my new No Name brand shoes. Maybe it was the afternoon slow-dancing with my husband in the living room. Maybe the good sausage and bread at breakfast. Or Martin trying on nice, tight pants that show his soccer legs.

Whatever. I'm in love.


in little rivers

It's the middle of the day. I have finished my woefully insufficient lunch, andam trying to distract myself from the growling yearnings of my stomach. If only I had a loonie to by some sort of horrible food-replica from the vending machine. I'd eat anything in there, even salt and vinegar chips.

But back to trying to distract myself. My day has been quite busy. I seem to usually avoid talking shop, unintentionally or not, I am not sure. But I have had an interesting week. Since I have "moved up", (as I have heard it referred to), I participated in various activities such as helping organize a press conference and reporting on several different projects run by our Canadian office. I interviewed one of our overseas Canadian staff this morning, a lovely, dark-skinned (she said her father was a Frenchman) Vancouverite who had spent the better part of nine months deep in the Aceh province of Indonesia. From the moment I heard her speak I loved her. She was frightfully candid, charming and straightforward, and crackled with life.

She was in a small area within the province of Aceh, a devoutly Muslim community close-knit before and after the tsunami, a place she describes as "dark". Police oppression and brutality are a part of every day life, corruption, even among religious leaders, is common, and the aftershocks of the tsunami are carved deeply on people's faces. Anger is quick to the surface; tempers easily boil over.

"You see this vacant, staring expression on a guy's face, and you think to yourself 'This guy's a ticking time-bomb'."

I have thought today about many of the things she said. How there are always different stories for every situation. How one person’s story is never enough. Information from one organization is never enough. A story from one media source is never enough. How western society is so good at creating a picture for ourselves that fits our needs, our perceptions, our philanthropy. How we can’t hear about the everyday strivings of NGO staff, the strange ‘battles’ they wage on a daily basis, the administrative mountains they must scale, the inner, moral, and cultural struggles with encouraging oppression by being “culturally sensitive”, paying bribes, and being forced to enforce superiority in order to maintain order and law. We don’t want to hear how UN office employees can make $100,000 per year. We don’t like food-for-oil nastiness. How non-Christian NGO’s are even further reviled by Muslim communities because of copious alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking.

Left, right, all motivated, all with a mission. All consume according to their specific diet. It’s all in perception, educated or no.

The sun outside is melting the snow, melting it in rivers running down the north side of the parking lot. Could it be spring? It seems as if I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. Oh, I hope its spring. It would mean so much to me.



me on one end
one step either direction one step

should i like this tension?
it keeps me sharp

guardians of propriety

fit this space fit this space fit this space fit

so i like to dance?
it keeps me sane

be this be that
cookie cutter Christian cookie cutter

should i say this?
should i feel this?
pray for this?
carry this?
bow to this?
turn my cheek to this?