snow woman

It's just about December and already it feels like Christmas is right around the corner. The snow has fallen thickly on this corner of the Prairies, and it's sticking to around -15 C for the last few days.

The driving has been terrible and last week I was inducted into the club of Stupid People Who Cause Accidents. Yes, my very first "real" car accident, insurance claims, tow trucks, and the embaressment of acknowledging to everyone who asks (and everyone does) that I slid down a hill and hit a parked car two blocks from my home. There were many things that I was grateful for (except the fact I was wearing CareBear pajama pants and cowboy boots) and no one was injured. So it's mostly fine, except it'll cost us. The poor little Civic took a big hit. And yes, I know they say "it's not your fault, otherwise they wouldn't call it an accident". But one can't help but feel a wee bit stupid for hitting a parked car. I am driving very cautiously in my sporty red rental car.

But, hey, it makes life a little spicier. Martin ran like the wind (literally) home from work when he heard, and it's a great feeling to know someone has your back and will care for you in a crunch. (No pun intended.)

Looking out my window with a frosty red rental and snowbanked sidewalks, I could handle no winter right now. We've been discussing getting away from winter, and this week we finally made up our minds: In January there will be another white Canadian and one white Swede taking up some real estate on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have never had the desire to go to Mexico, but we wanted to go somewhere and didn't want to spend too much, so Mexico it is. I am stoked about it - finally, a "honeymoon" with Mr. Sweden, our first time travelling together instead of off on our own adventures, and a warm, sub-tropical destination. Oh, yes.


blogs aren't cool anymore

Someone informed me today that blogging is out. As in, no longer cool. Oh, and that we were all so busy and had so little time that everybody was just Facebooking now. Blogs are on their way out. So I'm concerned. What about my millions of readers out there? Will they stop caring about me because blogging is now so clearly old school?

Okay, so I think only like five people read this blog, and it was never cool to begin with, so there isn't much to wail about. Also, it's only for my own gratification really, so I won't stop writing however uncool it becomes. However, the recent uncoolness of blogs gets me to thinking, which inevitably gets me to writing. . .

The above photos are of a real moment, a sublime moment, sitting on horseback on a wind-whipping hill, Rocky Mountains to the west, blue-brown prairie stretching east as far as the eye can see. They are captures of a good, real day. A day of easy conversations with strangers, good-natured farm dogs, a cowboy, strong prairie sunshine, and red cheeks. A bit of anxiety at trying something new, fear when my horse spooked, belly laughter, fresh air, and the feel of freedom with nature.

And then we come back from the weekend and get back to real life: you know, work, sleep, eat, repeat. And in between we find a little email and Facebook for connection. Maybe a call or a text on our mobiles. Gets me to wondering: are we slowly dipping into an existence where the real world is overcome by the virtual world? What if all the real moments of meaningful conversation and interesting conversations with strangers are supplanted by our virtual lives?

I'm definitely not saying Facebook, mySpace etc. are not real, but a manufactured extension of our daily lives. And what if we continue down this path? How many years ago did we not even have telephones, and already people have decided they are "too busy" to use one? (I won't even begin to mourn letters and the last time I sent one.)

I am not innocent of this. And I think Facebook is a good tool if people can control themselves on it, but it makes me sorry to hear that in such a short time a thing like blogging, which although accused of giving every hack and would-be writer a venue, at least clung still to the written word. And what when Facebook is out? What will be our next reduced, skeletal venue of communication?

It would be cool to learn Morse code.


don't hate sweden

It's early Friday evening, and the weekend is not starting well. I had a run-in with a dentist, and not only lost but had to pay for the pain, irritation and discomfort she caused me. Dentists are pretty much a .5 step up from con artists. I avoid them if at all possible. Now I have been told my great-grandfather died from septic shock from a toothache. I wouldn't let it go quite that far.

Another profession I sometimes wonder about is family doctors. My poor neighbour had a case of foot fungus (he's an elderly man) and it turned into an very bad infection and the hospital is worried it ate away at the bone of his foot. His family doctor couldn't quite figure out what it was and kept prescribing useless meds. Now the poor old guy has to take meds so strong it clearly states in the info that it can also be used to treated things spread during biowarfare, such as anthrax and the plague. Biowarfare? Huh.

So now I head down to the SEED to help serve supper and my face is all frozen and weird. But I am kinda hopped up on Halloween chocolate bars so it really doesn't matter, I feel okay. It was a good week for a few reasons, one being someone in the US successfully sued the cult leader Phelps and his insane group of brainwashed followers. For a while the man was entertaining in his weirdness but I was so tired of reading of his "Christian" and "church" labelled hate. Plus, he said that God hates Sweden. Now that's just not nice.



How can one help but wonder which of your dreams holds deeper significance, which reveal your true mind, or which are just pure crap. Really.

Last night I dreamt of Liberia. Only it was a more secure, comfortable Liberia, with a deep blue roiling ocean and thick sandy beaches that dropped - before the water - impossibly like cliffs. I was a tourist. My dad was there. I was leading my fellow travellers (more than just Dad) across the bridge from Monrovia, (not the real bridge or even the real Monrovia) we checked into a hotel, and went to the ocean. I talked self-importantly about "the last time I had been in West Africa", and then dove in. As the bright blue waves tossed me, I realized for the first time I was wearing a life jacket. And I was so ashamed to be the only loser wearing a life jacket, I discard it, even though I feared those steep, thick sandy cliff-beaches, and doubted I could ever make it onto the beach again.

Does this hold any significance? Does it reveal my deepest, darkest nature? Or could it just be that I have been dreaming of beaches as we consider a Central American holiday, and Liberia happened to feature the most beautiful beach I have experienced?

I wonder. Really. I spent hours in a dreamscape West African nation. But I digress. The above is really only rhetorical self-amusement.
I have learned more Swedish words. And effectively rewritten parts of the Oompa Loompa song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. No, I am not still writing about whacked out dreams. I discovered that the words "sock" and "butt" rhyme in Swedish, AND, how handy, they rhyme with "oompa" and "loompa". I love it, because a silly (favourite) song of mine now has whole new meanings which just a few words incorporated. Of course, it makes just as little sense as it ever did. Still, I began to sing it repeatedly around my niece and nephews, and after they watched the original, English version of the movie two times, boy, were we ever singing the Oompa Loompa song. I loved it. I think they may have, as well.
It made me sad to see our family off to Sweden - especially our niece and nephews because it seems like so much will change in a short time. But it was definitely a fantastic experience to have our family -- my "new" family -- here, to hang out and get to know each other. And there were hardly any fights. Except over the monkey in my car. That monkey (I just called it "dirty monkey" until Evelyn named him a Swedish name I can never remember) caused a fight every time he was in the backseat. Eventually they agreed to hang him from the seatbelt and that seemed agreeable to all parties. Including me and Martin, who was running interference.
Now I just have a silly swinging monkey on the commute to work and it's not nearly as charming as three fun, blonde bundles of energy. Hm. Speaking of energy, I am going to go bust out some whitegirl livingroom hiphop. That should be fun.



Well. It's been awhile. I've been chastened. (Thanks, Hyonjoo.) So. Summer barely began and already makes it's retreat. The nights go below zero and it's not yet Thanksgiving and stores are filled with Christmas junk. No wonder we rush from one thing to the next without hardly stopping to enjoy.
So now that I've returned far enough into to the land of the living to want to write, (which is why I didn't post for so long; I couldn't find enough in me to care about writing) I still hardly know where to begin. This has been a season of emotional and psychological torture. And not in a good way. The kind of torture where you are stretched and stretched until you are so thin and hard you feel as if you are that skim of ice on a cube that isn't fully frozen. Or the kind of torture that if one more thing pricks your skin you'll completely lose your mind in violence or maniacal laughter.
Welcome to life! It hardly ever eases up, which is why there is so many of us looking for therapy in whatever form we think. Retreat, denial, substance abuse, creativity, depression, anger. Or whatever. Even cleaning. That kind of therapy. Whatever we find to occupy ourselves to just avoid that thing crushing, pressing, weighing upon us. I did find some therapy. A short, sweet getaway with my lovely friend in the Okanagan, who treated me to photography opportunities in vineyards and walks in perennial gardens, rich food and much-needed friendship. A trip to the Shuswaps to lounge with Martin in a small rubber boat on the still, empty lake, and sunburn my stomach suntanning with my mom. Losing myself for a short moment in the therapy of the Enchanted Forest, laughing at Martin laughing at me. A second anniversary celebration with Martin in the beauty of Glacier-Waterton National Park. Fresh-baked pizza in a tiny resturant and snow on the ground in the morning. Yes. He's good therapy.
I'll just think on these things. I shant be melodramatic with the other darker, deeper moments. I've had therapy!
Tonight I have cleaned and scrubbed our apartment in preparation for some very important visitors. Martin's sister, brother in law and their three children are planning to arrive this weekend. Of course we are excited and I am proud to be able to show them around. (And off, because the kids are so darn cute.) I will practice my pathetically poor Swedish. (Hello, dessert, 12345678910, thank you, monkey, spider, hedgehog, goodnight,goodmorning.) They will think I am completely silly, I am sure.
So here's to Sweden. Makers of sensible and well-built furniture, cars, and men. (Er, man. Love you, sweetie.)



The summer heat has arrived and I like the stickiness you get in the crooks of your elbows. Summer sounds are music: an oscillating fan or sprinkler, with that familiar rythmn, a lawnmower, crickets, or if you're lucky, frogs in the evening. Of course, if you live in downtown Calgary during the Stampede, it's mixed with traffic, sirens, and untalented cover bands playing in tent-bars across the river. In a way, summer is so lovely it becomes almost tragic - the coming and going of heat, swimming, birthdays and barbecues, and it feels like it's almost over. Or that it's ending as I write. Obviously it's because I live where I do and winter falls like a gillotine in October.
I am going to do my best to keep in the moment. Eat as much Canadian-grown fresh fruit as possible. Enjoy the stickness, eat homemade popsicles, get dirty feet, make picnics and sleep on blankets in the park. Go on roadtrips whenever I can.
Martin and I are heading to BC for a short getaway in the Shuswaps, and I am so stoked - we are going to stop at the Enchanted Forest on the way back. This is one of the ultimates of reliving my childhood. It's the closest thing to entering into a living Narnia as one could get. Of course, not even possibly as close, but it holds the same sort of pure, childish enchantment. I couldn't be more happy to be heading out somewhere. It's almost as good as running away. Not quite. But almost.


my feets is cold

The miracle of modern travel has me bounced around rapidly. A weekend drive to the Okanagan for my grandfather's funeral, drive back to Calgary, and 24 hours later I am hopping off a prop plane in northern British Columbia to assist with flood relief and clean up. I have spent quite a bit of time photo-taking, story gathering, helping recruit volunteers to help people clean out their homes. The experience has been intense: visiting people whose house looks perfectly normal from the front, with four feet of stinking river mud in their basement, and every stitch of anything ruined. People throwing away water-logged and ruined family keepsakes and memories in big dumpsters. A stoic old man brushing away the tear running down a wrinkle beside his nose. A guy who fell in a huge sinkhole that opened up right underneath him.

I get to sleep on a creaky single bed in a college dorm room, and am exhausted by 10 p.m. The single bed is luxury, really. It's cold here in Terrace, a stunning location and beautiful surroundings: two converging rivers, lush valley and thick forests, surrounded by blue-black snow-capped mountains. But it's been raining steadily, and for a flip-flop lover, the cold is just too much. I am wishing for the long, sunny days of Alberta . . . I have been in a big learning curve and it's adventuresome being here, and great to be here helping people in real need, but it's not my dream to spend my 25th birthday with cold feet in Terrace. I want a long summer day, a barbecue, Martin and some Stampede fireworks. And maybe a costume birthday party. But we shall see.
At any rate, Terrace has held for me the highlight of my month: going to The Abba Show, Australia's premiere Abba tribute band. It was fantastically funny - especially the part where a guy from the crowd made a "miss grab" at Ana - absolutely hilarious. And the music was actually pretty darn good. I mean, it was Abba after all.



I've keep thinking of things that I am unable to articulate very well - vague, fleeting thought or mostly just feeling. I feel almost a bit, well, dumb. People ask me "how was it" and I feel this blank look spreading over my face. What do you say? No, no lions. Favourite country? Oh, definitely the one crippled by war. Did I get sick? No. Was I scared? No, only this feeling of enormity churning in the gut.

I have done quite a bit of writing since my return, and having returned to situations in my life and work as pathetic as they are infuriating, I find my expressions are quite effectively blocked... I sat down with a Liberian man last week to talk of his homeland, which he escaped in the early 90's, and his kind, anguished face streaked with tears as he talked of family and hometown filled me with word-stopping remorse. The only thing I could do was cry with him.

There are a thousand vibrant images in my head, and I am afraid I will forget. Incredible voices of Liberians mid-hymn, the irresistible natural rhythm the possess, the grace of people who have witnessed, endured, and been victimized by horrors that we watch in films. An underwear-clad girl-child shrinking against heavy rain, still standing the empty road with her little pile of green mangoes, eager to sell even one to the passing vehicle. Hands with mangoes, bananas, roasted ears of corn, and water bottles dripping with condensation, all shoved through the open window of the truck - eager. Beggar boys from Koranic schools, red tomato paste cans under arm, trying to collect enough to avoid physical abuse should they return without money. Sitting in a dark, curtained bedroom on the bed of our host - a Senegalese man - a cultural custom reserved as a gesture of honour and respect for a guest. Jumping strong ocean waves hand-in-hand with a four-year-old. Sipping a steaming glass of incredibly sweet tea in the chill blackness of a desert night. The surprising coolness of a mud-walled home. Kids following you, watching you, teasing and sometimes taunting, everywhere we went. A kid frightened to death of me - running away naked on flying little legs, a backward glance over his shoulder, howling with fear.

I sit here and smile, thinking of the other kids laughing as we watched him blaze a trail of dust across the village to his home.

It was an intense, short experience, and writing is good therapy: eases the fear that too much of these precious things will be lost somewhere between unloading my damp, stinking backpack and giving PowerPoint presentations to a group of professionals in business-casual.

There was a feeling of dread when I left from Canada: picturing myself as the epitome of rich North American, inquisitive, invasive, notebook in hand, pen scribbling, weak, plump, naive. And I was blessed with the grace of people who treated us with respect, understanding, and conversation. I was humbled by the honour with which we were treated. Who was I? We were shown deference and served the best they had. I felt ashamed.

Senegal, a scape of thick sand, sparse trees, and hazy horizons. My perception of Muslim community in Africa was undone and knit in a completely different way, my desire to better understand Islam lit. In Liberia, my own faith was refreshed, witnessing the visible joy on people's faces, despite war, poverty and injustice. There were endless random experiences: A lecture on having children, in French, from a Senegalese pastor, a beer on the roof of a hotel in the afternoon, a car full to the seat-tops with mangoes, fish guts and animal carcasses hanging at roadside. Walking a former five-star hotel - perched at the top of Monrovia with a wide view of sparkling coast and dim-looking free port - inhabited by women, men, children, the elderly, living in abject poverty. The tile pool filled with refuse, laundry hanging behind the diving board, banana peels and excrement on the deck, and a little girl watching us, squatting in a former hotel room, a tiny smile on her mouth.
I return with a renewed and healthy sense of insignificance. That I am still powerless, useless, hopeless without God. That we've corrupted Eden and live in a world full of our intent and little of it what God intended. And we are still inspired, compelled, driven, spirit-filled creatures. We still seek out hope and justice and peace. The things that were intended for us we all desire. I keep thinking these things, and the story deadlines keep blowing by.


i hate your lies

I should have left work some time ago, butI am tidying up because I like returning to clean living spaces when I come home. Or, the office. Really, I guess work could be considered a "home" - how much time do we spend at work in our lives, anyways? If I liked math I might try to figure it out.

This week has been unbelievable, in the odd, life-throws-curve-balls kind of way. Through strange circumstances I have seen some work relationships crumble before my eyes, and others be built into deeper and beautiful things. I have again witnessed the importance of doing what is right, despite it seeming like the harder road to take, and the crushing results of not choosing to do so. I have thought often about something I do know, but sometimes forget -

poor and foolish choices often wound and destroy others moreso than the chooser.

There is so much freedom in truth! Deceit, or even untruth, is a gnawing beast. Your insides are continually chewed away. Honesty - what release from that inner torment!

So with a completely strange-unhappy-good week behind me, I set my sites on West Africa. We'll be in Senegal for a week, the Liberia. There are all sorts of things I am looking forward to - food distributions with the World Food Program, spending time with children and youth who are being rehabilitated from slavery and abuse during the civil war, agriculture and livestock projects . . . there will be much to pack into a short time.

We go armed with a whole bunch of boy's soccer jerseys and balls, which I look forward to giving away. As I have heard said, for many football is life.

So. Must pack, and help Martin stock the fridge, find a good book to read on the journey, and I will be off. . .

Until May, then.


weird and fun

Today. One of the most interesting days of late. Quite a bit of scrambling around at work to get work done, and at 5 p.m., the word came down: I am going to West Africa. In two weeks.

It's still sinking in, because although it was talked about, I really didn't have my hopes high that it would happen. And now it's a go, so I can let it sink in and get stoked about it. Only one thing I have to wait for: my comrade in journalism and I are waiting for our visas for Liberia. I think there will be enough time for them to process. I hope. They have our passports anyways, so we aren't going to move too quickly without the visa.

So we will be spending a couple of weeks and a bit in two places: Senegal and Liberia. Doing what we love to do - I, to write; she, to shoot photos.

This is definitely a chance-of-a-lifetime for me. Sent as a journalist to places that have such important stories to tell; with an organization I respect; covering things I believe in. I hope I can pull it off. My boss fought the good fight for me to be considered to go despite my detractors (too young, inexperienced, etc.). It's incredible to have someone fight a battle for you; to tell you straight up, "This is what you do. Go and do it!" He definitely has some heart-felt thanks coming his way.

My arms are pretty sore from the concoction of immunizations, and I am about to drink some crazy vaccine to gird me from e-coli and cholera. Now, there are a gazillion things out there that could make you sick, however, I am all for taking what I can get. I really do not want to repeat El Salvador. (The double exodus, baby.) Although, sometimes it's just inevitable.

I wasn't really thinking about the trip a lot tonight though, as I spent the evening volunteering at the Mustard Seed. Martin was working, although he was really mostly a big-haired phantom for a majority of the night. It was pretty basic - get supper, sweep, mop, give out snacks. I gave away a lot of cookies, and I owe my fellow volunteer Mike - a unique guy who has volunteered for hundreds of years - for informing overlyinquisitive or wanderingeyes, "She's taken, you know." Funny guy. So many great people there. A kind and rather peppy greybeard who exhorted Martin's popularity, heart, and work ethics, which I thought was pretty sweet. Not exactly your homeless-man stereotype.

So it was a weird and fun day. Contrasts and loveliness. One reality juxtapositioned with another. The next few weeks are going to be mad.


ingratiate ::

unexpected smile and my lip splits
blood bitten back
sit still : still good : still unhappy

a tvdinner saint :
so far from the real thing
evidence of my absolution
: convincing : oh, yes
like freeze-dried steak

sit still : think hard : still taste blood

self-loathing like a shame-hammer
so easy to dislike:
such a little fool :
full of vanity : a fat little balloon

think : she is intelligent. she is quick-witted and wise.
she is funky and careless. want me around.

still the lip bleeds :
ponder: smiling with all this shame :
what nonsense has become my standard ?
rather be the dancing monkey : yes
than a naked human :

my embarrassment : how swiftly
your approval was glorified
and it’s so tragically funny :
you’re just a tvdinner saint : too

desiring to be:
the real thing



There is a picture of a dead man on my wall. He wasn’t an ancient when he passed, nor was his life full. He wasn’t full of wisdom or grace, or possess knowledge beyond his years. He was, in fact, young, impetuous, wild, someone everyone said they knew and hardly anyone knew at all.

The picture I have on my wall is his memorial bulletin. “In loving memory, 1982 -…”

It’s his silhouette, mid-saunter, hands in his pockets, head down. It’s beautiful, serene, contemplative. Whoever took this picture unintentionally captured something him that wasn’t available outside his social fa├žade. It seems to me that it captures an emotion of his death. This emotion was not revealed by the various recollections of friends and acquaintances. To many it seemed he was the sharp –tongued wit of words, the say-anything, do-anything, lack-of-social-restraint comedian.

No one knows for certain the truth of his passing. On a railroad bridge; contemplating life, the sunrise early Sunday morning, contemplating existence… the contemplation will never be factual. Two train operators witness a figure push himself from a sitting, leg-dangling position, off into a freefall. The sun has barely risen and already death. Some speculate it became an accident, up on the bridge for whatever reason, choosing between certain death under the wheels of an iron horse, or possible salvation in the limbs of a tree far below. This guy, always so funny, energetic, seemingly careless of what people thought of him; on a railroad bridge in a grungy prairie town.

His memorial was the most tragic thing I’ve attended. The room was full of people who hardly knew him at all. “He was drunk and ran naked,” “He had nicknames for everyone,” “He was so funny…” There was nothing of anything that lasts. Nothing of any substance. There was nothing but emptiness, and the tragedy of it broke your heart.

The last time I saw him he was his “usual” self, or at least in hindsight, the usual persona I had come to recognize. He was insulting, witty, and was nearly in a fist-fight with my close friend. I don’t think anyone in that room would have imagined where we’d find ourselves a short time later.

I think about him now. I wonder about the afterlife. I remember how I used to be afraid of dying because if I died people might learn the truth about me. They might talk to each other, and find out that I had facades for every occasion. That I was one person here, and another there. That I cheated that person, told that lie, played people and used people. That I was insincere and insecure. That I was shallow and so were they and we never really knew each other.

I am not so fearful of death these days. I have been reconciled. The slate has been cleaned, and so has my act, and I am not afraid of that which lies beneath. And I have learned reality won’t be revealed in a funeral or a memorial gathering for a tragic, too-early death. The only chance others have to know me is when I recognize my facades and reveal myself. When I let my anger show. When I stomach humility and say “forgive me.” When I look you in the eye and tell you the truth. When I’m not cautious of showing love for fear of being rebuked, or worse, shrugged off.

It’s a lifelong struggle, unto death.


slap me and run

Some loser hit our car last night while I was at a friend's place for dinner. Seemed he or she didn't want to stick around and be responsible for their poor driving, and now I have spent all morning (and probably most of the afternoon) dealing with insurance and police reports and body shops and rental car companies because they (the tool) hit-and-ran.

The principle of it is what annoys me the most: people being selfish and irresponsible. It's a sign of the times, this lack of accountability people have.

But, oh well, it's just money and time lost. It could be a lot worse. And the poor little Civic will get fixed up real good, but it's still pretty annoying.

Hm. I think this is an online gripe session. Not very fun to read. Oh, well, it's my blog!



I have reached the weekend - weary, but satisfied. I can barely keep my lids open, but I will attempt to post something coherent.
It's been a long couple of weeks, but things have finished off well with a retreat with my coworkers to the foothills of the Rockies for three days.

My winter blues were burned away with intense March sunshine, beautiful temperatures, and a brisk wind. My face is tight with windburn, and lips chapped, but it's a great feeling. It feels like spring, and I am greatly enjoying it however short-lived the nice weather will be.

The photo is the view from the retreat centre we stayed - a quiet, picturesque, wholesome place. It's focus is on quiet, rest, and spiritual recuperation. I enjoyed spending time thinking, trying not to talk too much, playing piano and guitar in the little chapel, and just taking some deep breaths. It was really, really good. I definitely needed it.

Tomorrow morning I have my volunteer training at the Mustard Seed, which I am looking forward to. It's a must before you can volunteer, and I have been waiting since Christmas to do so. But I think God's timing is good on this one; even if I was able to volunteer before I don't think I would have been capable of it in these last couple months.

I have been bothered by how busy life has been; when it gets to the point where I am sacrificing people and the real things I would like to be doing to the schedule-god. I hate it, and I don't want to be a person like that. I want to stop by and visit my elderly neighbors. I want to write people real letters. I want to finish the painting I said I was going to finish two weeks ago. I want to give my home a top-to-bottom spring cleaning, and learn how to bake bread.
Instead I am rushing to work and to class, eating out too often, not getting enough sleep, and not connecting with people I care about. Do I really have an excuse? Not really. Some circumstance, some choice. But I hate saying "I am so busy". Everybody says that. I think it makes us feel good. I think we say it to excuse our lack of time for people.
So I think I need to say it less. And maybe look chickens in the eye more often.


little things

On the cusp of an intense week, and I am wishing I could avoid it somehow. Pressing work/class projects and deadlines, followed by a heavy and emotional weekend. The march of time - would that we could slow it!

I have a particular presentation to make that I am dreading. I quite enjoy the class I am taking but I get anxious about the public speaking aspect. This has been a long-held fear of mine. Public speaking. And the other is math. (I really hate math and think I would be a good case study for sufferers of "math anxiety". There truly is such a thing. And I am a pretty good case if there was one. I freeze up if I have to do the most basic of figures around someone, and can only manage the most basic calculations, and sometimes even not then.) But public speaking is something I have successfully avoided most of my life. In high school I openly told teachers I would not do presentations. They could fail me if they liked - I just wouldn't.

Hasn't helped me any, though. Now, I must tackle this thing, because it's begun to hinder me in my job. So I will be making a presentation on the issue of diarrheal disease in the developing world. What a way to start, eh? One of my first public speaking efforts, and I decide to talk about poo. I think it should go over well.

My treat to myself this week is finishing the painting I have been working on, and hanging it in my work space. I have had a bare space just waiting to be filled, but haven't yet found the time to finish it. Now I've told myself this is the week, I will accomplish what I have set out to do, and give myself a new happy painting to look at. (The image included is a working draft of the happy painting I refer to.) This is the last of three happy paintings; they give me a bit of wild colour and mental cheer. A mental health break from white walls and Outlook calendars and never-ending to-do lists.

I am really looking forward to summer. Long nights. Good-smelling breezes carrying through the apartment. Sunday barbeques with Canadian beef. Playing Carcassone on the deck as the sun sets. If I think about it long enough I can almost imagine that it's not -17 degrees and that I have to work in the morning.... Sigh. Does anyone else have the winter blues?


death grip

It is amazing how death clarifies. Whether you're head-first down the throat of a boa constrictor, or someone you love is facing death, things become crystal clear very quickly. The act of living. Faith. Life after death. Relationships. Love. Not just "love", but a clearer understanding of love as it was intended to be - not for what was done or not done, said or not said - but just love.

My mind has been sharpened by this clarity over the past few days. The reality of never seeing someone again, of where I want to end off, of what I really think and feel when it gets down to it. Where all the insignificant crap falls away like dirty snow kicked off a wheel well. What matters is what I can do now. To: Live. Be alive. Show love.

The clarity is as grieving as it is purging. The heart part of me mourns, not what is passed, but what was missed. The mind part of me is energized to lay aside the unnecessary, what is behind, and think about just Today.

I keep thinking how life - complicated, hectic, stressful, frustrating - can instantly boil down to one thing in the face of death. One person. One relationship. And how you instantly know what's right. You may not know what to say, or do, but at your core you instantly know what really matters.

And am I acting on what matters? Do I live a life acting on truth and on love?

"Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun."


friday afternoon

It's been snowing on and off for three days now, and as I suffer with a cold I am starting to get grumpy with winter. Most of the windows in our apartment are old and crappy, and when it gets really cold like this they ice completely up. It's annoying, especially when you are stuffed up and can't breathe, and just want to open a window to get a little fresh air, and you are too weak to open the stupid frozen window.

I shouldn't complain too much; Martin, the kind and gentle one, is out by himself shoveling, leaving me to hang about the apartment on my day off.

It's been intense at work; three major events to plan, on top of all regular work, is a recipe for a stressed and burned out team. It takes effort right now to be nice, stay on top of things, and not run screaming for the hills. I get these moments where all I want to do is to move to the country and become a hippy; work in my garden, live in a haybale house, write a couple of books and eat a lot of organic fruit. That sounds quite lovely.

In the meantime, Martin and I are going to brave the cold to hit up the farmer's market this afternoon, and hopefully watch Shawshank Redemption. And eat some Vietnamese. That sounds like a pretty good Friday afternoon.


best before

In elementary and middle school, my mom had these 'mental health days" for us, where we would just ditch school with her, and she'd take us shopping or something, just anything to get away from school. I think she knew how much I hated school, the atmosphere, the clinging, inescapable social structure.

Of course, once I entered high school, my own mental health days took the form of many a skipped class - my mental health must have been extremely good, judging by the percentage of days missed when I graduated. (Also says something about the school system, when you can skip like 30 per cent of your classes and still get decent grades.)

Anyways, my point is I think I am going to incorporate mental health days into my life. I don't know how my boss will take it though: "Hi, yeah, I just am feeling a little crazy, things are gettin' to to me at work, so I am just going to stay home, wear nothing but a fuzzy housecoat, eat toasted cheese and crackers, and finish the book I've been working on. . . No, I'm not sick, just a little funky in the head today - need a mental health break."

I don't know how it'll go over, but I still want to do it. Recently I have been trying to avidly address my mental health overall. Been working on a painting, a really big, bright, bold thing to cover as much of my cubicle wall as possible. Started a class, and the learning and meeting new people is really energizing. Been dancing a lot, trying to pack a lunch and eat out less often, and making a concerted effort to learn Swedish. (So as to whisper sweet nothings into my lover's ear - or at least count to 20 and say "good afternoon".)

I think it's helping my brain. I feel less negative these days, although with me you know how long that will last before I find another little puddle to wallow in. I am a natural cynic, but at least these days I am more of a cheerful cynic. And I am really going to figure a way to make mental health days official.


counting to ten - in svenska

A long, full, unusual Tuesday. Started early, tried to slog through the work before me, and kept having to backtrack. Got frustrated to the point of saying out loud, "This isn't my job!" But, I guess because it was up to me to do, it really was my job. I'm a bit of a complainer.

Tonight was my first night of a course I am taking at the University of Calgary; since I hadn't been in a class setting for a couple years I was a bit nervous. Refreshingly, delightfully, the instructor is cheerful, oddly humorous, quirky person, and I am looking forward to the next few months. The class (very stimulating title: Management Communications: Interpersonal Relations) has a light course load, but makes for a long Tuesday - work: 8 - 5 and class 6 -9. I am stoked to be doing it: I almost forgot how much I love learning.

Everywhere I drove today, I practiced counting in Swedish. I am still very poor at it, but I think I can count to 12 quite lucidly now. I am going to test it on the next Swede I see.

Got home, and being mentally jazzed up and generally energized, I cranked open the door to the winter night air, turned the stereo up just a little too loud, and danced myself into a lather in the living room. A perfect way to end a very adult day: Flailing in the dark living room with a smile on my face, lost in Muse's Black Holes and Revelations. I love being a crazy person. It's so liberating.

I am yet going to attempt to ingest another chapter of That Hideous Strength. Fantastic title, but I am only a couple chapters in. I very much enjoyed elements of the first two books. If anyone was interested I would elaborate but I won't kid myself.

In less than two weeks I will be heading to Missions Fest Vancouver: I have helped organize my work's "presence" there and will be fulfilling my role there as well. Definitely the best part about it is that Martin is flying out as well; he booked some holiday time, and is going to tap into the already-paid-hotel-in-downtown-Vancouver situation, and hang out for the weekend. Which means my weekend just got a heck of a lot lovelier.

Finally...my brain is tiring and I think I can attempt sleep. I am going to go give in a try, anyways.



A blustery Saturday afternoon, and I am trying to be as quiet as an over-large church mouse as Martin sleeps off his last night shift of a set of four. Poor guy - comes home tired out from a demanding night and gets pounced on by an eager, and somewhat insistent wife.

Hopefully he gets enough rest and we will be able to enjoy seeing our friends off tonight as they leave next week for a year. Sigh. This easy access to the world may have had a hand in me meeting Martin, however it certainly takes friends and family away from you very easily.

But next week will be a bittersweet week of goodbyes and hellos. My sister returns from Australia after a year. I am both anticipating and bit anxious - I am looking forward to hanging out and getting to know how we've changed over the last year, and not wanting to step on her toes or assume too much about our friendship. The elder sibling always has to watch that "bossy" tendency. Apparently I was quite bossy and possibly a bit mean-spirited as a child, so I must try to remedy this.

I am also trying to remedy this crappy weather with a few photos of El Salvador. It's not really working...



Well. Christmas is over, the new year upon us, and that brief break from madness is only a memory. I definitely was struck this holiday season by the, well, monotony of it all. And yet, it's not monotonous. We humans are blessed and cursed with short attention spans and even shorter memories. So it will be with gusto next year that I will participate in a similar routine to this year's. Gusto, I say, and possibly a bit of relish in there.

Yes, I love Christmas. And 2006 was a good one. I was able to spend more time with Martin than expected: He got Christmas Eve off, half of Christmas night off, and we were able to help out at the Mustard Seed on Christmas morning. It was relaxed, although getting up at 5:30 a.m. left something to be desired. I handed out Christmas presents, and hung out with the guests. I was impressed with the politeness, thankfulness, and honesty I encountered there. There are a lot of people out there who could learn a thing or two from people who are living on the streets, myself included. It was also very cool to see how Martin is loved and respected by the people he serves there, and how he is exactly where God wants him. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel blessed to be his wife.

So I got to hang out with my husband, which definitely made the holiday. Our friend Rob visited for Christmas, which rocked. He is a funny, outgoing, honest guy, and from every conversation we have I learn something. I had a blast with him, and I don't think I've ever had a better house guest. He cooked a New Year's Eve dinner for seven that was divine.

I was spoiled with books and music, and have been indulging in both over the past couple weeks. Music: Radiohead, Jill Paquette, Muse, Demon Hunter. Books: The Gift of Fear, and Lewis' Cosmic Trilogy. (I am truly not a huge science fiction reader, but I have gotten into this series, because of course, he is a gifted descriptor and tale-weaver.) Receiving books is a reliable, and lovely part of Christmas. As are socks. Both, especially if the are funky socks, are part of my "holiday". As silly as it is, it's true. And I could not lie on my blog. Because we all know that blogs are entirely honest.

Did I mention Martin is taking me to Costa Rica in February? Oh, yes. And now that it's blogged, we all know it's true.

I think the fact that I am tired and sitting here hooded in a duvet blanket is making me ridiculous. And isn't all the more fun to be ridiculous when you can publish it for the world to see if they so choose. Although I am pretty certain a large majority will opt out.

And for anyone who actually made it this far into this nonsense, guess what? Now, you too can have a piece of Martin's mind. It is quite a sexy mind, if I do say so m'self. Your Piece

Friends, I hope you start the new year off on a good foot, and that it's not asleep from sitting too long in an awkward position.

P.S. Drew: Do you recognize the fireplace?