Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just Checking In Before 2009

It's been a whirlwind of a week. We've had the craziest weather, and our driveway is like an ice rink. My husband is wonderful about not letting me fall, which would be quite dangerous if it were to happen now.

We've had a crazy busy social calendar, what with doctor's appointments, trips across the border to get fun mail, taking dinner to friends, meeting for brunch with a favorite blogger friend, having other friends over, and still more to come this week. I think we have two more dinner engagements this week and a private childbirth course to get through.

After Sunday evening, when all on our calendar is said and done, I'd be game to give birth. Okay, maybe not. I'm petrified. But ready. Still afraid. But also longing to give up my Zantac addiction, sleep on my stomach actually lying down, and be able to paint my toes and tie my shoes all by myself.

For an introvert who prefers to keep social engagements to less than one per week, we sure have a full calendar. But everything thus far has been utterly wonderful, and I wouldn't trade any of our social things. Still, this redhead is tired. Our latest guests are on their way home; the dishes are washing thanks to electronic technology, and I'm headed to bed to put my feet up and see if the cankles will go away overnight. (I always wanted full calves, but this is most decidedly not what I imagined. It will be nice to have that part over with soon.)

Good night for now. I'll catch you next year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snowed In For Christmas

We here in the Pacific Northwest (can this American call it that in my neck of the Canadian woods?) are snowed in completely. This is the kind of snow one sees east of us, like in Manning Park. This is not the kind of snow we ever see in our town. We are too close to the ocean for that. But not today. Today we have snow of Northern Indiana proportions in the early 80's, at least the kind of snow a redhead remembers when she was eight. (And isn't everything bigger when you are eight?)

The pics aren't spectacular, as I took them in seconds from our front window looking into the front yard belonging to our landlord, and the driveway we all share. But you get the idea. Church is cancelled tonight.

Oh, and I'm am thanking God for an early Christmas gift of hot water. A repair man who was recommended by the manufacturers of the boiler came out and worked yesterday. I knew he was a dream when he put on booties to walk through my house and he brought a tool bag so he wouldn't be putting his metal monstrosities on my furniture. Yes, my friends, he was competent and courteous. And it appears we can take hot showers, wash dishes, and do laundry all without having to boil water on the stove. The most luxurious Christmas gift I've ever received. =)

Merry Christmas! And if you are related to G-ma Christmas Gift, well then, an early (and practice only) CHRISTMAS GIFT!!!!!!! to you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Managed To Be More Like Marilla, And I'm Glad

Well, this morning I am not paying for soaring on the heights of ecstasy by dealing with the inevitable thud. Thankfully, I didn't let myself get too excited.

The hot water is gone again.

We don't know what we'll be doing, as Christmas Eve and the shutting down of businesses is just hours away.

Oh my. The adventurous life is getting old. I'm ready for calmness, hot water, an easy birth anytime now, the ability for our town to actually plow the roads, and for something in life to go easily. But I have a feeling it's a pipe dream at the moment, and instead we're being thrust into survival mode in just about every aspect of life.

And so we wait. And we do our best to keep our heads. But it isn't easy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Could It Be?

Could we really have our hot water issue fixed? Dare I believe it? At this point, this Missouri girl in Canada is going to remain skeptical, not allow her hopes to soar Anne-like on the wind, and try to keep positive about the efficacies of boiling water for a 3" deep bath in the tub.....just in case her hopes get dashed yet again.

Still, she hopes this is really true and hot water on demand has come back in time for Christmas. Even if she did have to greet her landlord at the door this morning at 7:34 a.m. with little warning, trying to hide the fact that her pregnant body had no bra on with a fuzzy fleece poncho. Thank goodness I'm not voluptuous. And thank goodness I've learned to face the world without mascara and perfectly coiffed hair.

This redhead is going to take a well-deserved nap (hopefully) now. G'night.

Hanging Onto Hope Is Horribly Hard Over Half The Time

My husband is hanging onto hope for us today, because I seem to have let it go. I'm hoping it is just a temporary thing, this inability to find joy or hope in a season that's supposed to be full of it.

It would be a little easier if we had hot water. And if I didn't have heart burn. And if this baby would just get here already so I could miraculously sleep better. And if I didn't have weird things coming out of my body making me feel disgusting and highlighting the need for hot water.

Today, to be honest, everything bugs me. But the good thing is that my husband has hope for both of us, which is good, because I can't be expected to hold onto it by myself consistently.

While I'm back to thinking it would just be easier to skip Christmas with everything that is happening, I would like one gift. Hot water. Coming out of the faucets. Regularly. Brought to us by competent boiler repairmen who don't leave messes on every surface in the baby's nursery and who don't flood my bathroom cabinets leaving four boxes of feminine hygiene products and various rolls of toilet paper to mop up their mess.

Yes, that would be a good Christmas gift. And it would go a long way in restoring hope.

If I could ask for a stocking stuffer, it would be the ability to drive myself somewhere without getting stuck or sliding in the snow that covers every road. But that wouldn't fit in a stocking, because it would mean the city would have to buy more than one snowplow, and everyone knows real snowplows don't fit in stockings. Ah, the joys of living in a town where they don't expect snow. Only in Canada can it be this unreal. Something tells me it would be more bearable in Florida, because you sort of expect them to be clueless about snow. But Canada? Geez. They are north after all. You'd think they'd own at least two snow plows.

Santa, I know I've been freaking out the past 24 hours and have earned myself a piece or two of coal. But it would be nice, considering all my good qualities hiding out beneath this current crisis, if you'd see fit to do something involving hot water and independent transportation. If you need Jesus to help you, make sure to ask Him. I'm currently too cranky to talk to anyone myself.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hope In The Cold

We are in the midst of an adventure. The boiler that provides the radiant heating to our landlord's house and our suite, as well as heating all the water we use for other things quit working last week. But after some strange happenings, it perked up again and kept us going just until the repair guys could finally come. The repair guys began their work yesterday, not only to fix the boiler but to fix our gas fireplace (yes, we are quite cold in this place), and they are back again today. It's going to be a rather large job.

We asked some friends down the road if we could use their shower to get ready for a company party tonight in Vancouver. Upon our return from that, we stopped to check the mail at the bank of boxes at the end of our road. There was a package waiting for us to pick up a couple miles away, so we just turned around to go get it since we were already out and my driving days are numbered until after Grasshopper's arrival.

It was so cold and my hair was wet, so I stayed in the car while my husband went in to retrieve the package. We noticed an older gentleman putting up signs with reflective tape that said, "Will work for food or money". In our area, most of the time, we just see guys asking for handouts. Because our climate is normally mild, there are a lot of homeless and poor around us. But we currently have snow and below average temperatures, and it's not fun being out there - even for a girl who loves snow.

Well, we don't have any work to offer, and we really don't have much to offer ourselves. If you only knew what adventures we've had lately, and what the cost has been, you would realize that the amazing blessings we do have come from God's provision. We found ourselves going to a drive-thru, ordering a couple burgers, and taking it back to the gentleman. After all, if God is going to keep on providing for our needs, we can't stand by when we could provide for someone else.

This life I'm living sure is different than I ever imagined. And to be honest, I wouldn't trade it for all the financial security in the world, nor would I trade it to have my new Rav4 back. I never thought I'd say that or believe that, but I do. There are just too many things that make this life I get to live now richer than my old one, and growing brave enough to see that gentleman as a fellow person and being able to look directly in his eyes and talk to him is one of them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On Building Living Cathedrals

I read something really amazing today about motherhood and how moms are in the business of building cathedrals. But what I really want to talk about today is how teachers also build cathedrals. Yes, parents are the primary shapers in their children's lives, but teachers have a huge impact that cannot be ignored.

Recently, I've been tracking down the history of my life to prove to the United States consulate in Vancouver that I qualify to have my child be a United States' citizen once he arrives, though he will not be born stateside. Taking the advice of a friend, I've actually gone above and beyond what basics are required and have tracked down my history all the way down to Kindergarten transcripts. No kidding.

Yesterday, when I crossed the border, I picked up an envelope from the school where I attended grades 6-8. It was a little private school in Indiana. The report cards not only recorded my academic grades, but they included marks on my character and behavior, pages completed in independent reading, and the usual attendance numbers.

While my sixth grade year was fairly traumatic in the friendship department, including a lovely goose egg and black eye from a swinging purse with a metal frame wielded by a badly aiming girl who was supposedly gunning for the boy next to me, my grades and all marks were stellar. From my report card, one would never know how many nights I was up with stress induced stomach aches. I remember how our teacher read the Hobbit aloud, and how she lent me her sweater and comb when I came in completely drenched one day from the short run in the pouring rain from my mom's van to the school door. It was a tough year, but I made mostly A's for academics and C's for character (C equalled Consistently Commendable).

The reports from my seventh and eighth grade years spent up in the junior high loft hint at some of the challenges I was facing. My grades from all the teachers in the subjects of home-ec, music, art, physical education, English, and a few other things were still all A's in academics and C's in character. My seventh grade year also showed nearly perfect scores in history/social studies from the teacher I had that year. But my seventh and eighth grade years showed less than stellar scores in math and science, and my eighth grade year history score tanked both academically and character-wise. Why? And what was the end result?

Well, my math and science teacher had a thing for valuing boys above girls, and he was more changeable and unpredictable than the weather. I never knew when he was going to be kind or when he was going to impatient with me. Instead of helping me learn in a gentle and scientific manner how to not be grossed out by dead animals we needed to disect, he took a more direct and traumatic approach. He literally threw the dead and pregnant perch at me, thinking that would get me to not hesitate in touching it. Instead, it simply turned me off to all seafood for over 10 years. The main message I learned from him was that girls, especially me, were not made to be mathematicians or scientists, and that we really had no business earning more than an average or passable grade in those courses. I believed that until I began teaching and discovered that math and science were actually fun. But by then, it was too late to go back and redo all the basic courses I would need. Sure, I tried to go back, but when you're 22, it's hard to go back and start fresh in seventh grade algebra. To this day, I have plans to work through a comprehensive math book hidden behind all my other books on one of our shelves in our living room. And my scientist/chemist dad never got to see his daughter excel in science, though he spent hours with me working on re-enacting Edison's lightbulb invention and paying for tutoring. All because I stubbornly believed a misguided teacher named Mr. P.

I don't quite know why my history grade tanked in Mr. G's eighth grade class, but I am quite certain that his assessment of my character was very wrong. What I do remember is that he really didn't spend time loving his students, investing in their lives by inspiring them to great things. Instead, I remember off-topic sermons and rants, his attempts at garnering attention by goofing off and trying to be humorous (but never allowing that in his students), and a basic lack of knowledge about how to be gentle with impressionable girls. From him I gained the message that true historians were males, and any success or love of history I had experienced before was simply a fluke.

It was at that time that I began to box myself into a tiny container where I allowed myself only to be good in a few things related to English. I stopped challenging myself, stopped learning how to have a study ethic in things that no longer came naturally for me, and stopped being consistently diligent. I believed that I was not smart, not deserving of high achievement, and incapable of excelling in what I now considered subjects for boys. And even though we moved to another state before my ninth grade year, I continued to tell myself those messages, and continued to interpret those messages from my future teachers (whether or not they actually communicated them).

My point is this: Teachers and their words and actions matter more than they realize. Teachers have more power than they know in shaping a child for life. Teachers have incredible power both in the spoken and unspoken, in the clearly spelled out and the merely assumed. Teachers have the ability to build a gorgeous and sprawling cathedral capable of standing through wars and storms and years. And teachers also have the ability to build a cathedral made out of hay and stubble that will collapse at the first sign of a breeze.

When I look back on my own teaching career, I see the times I built stunningly beautiful and strong cathedrals. But I also see the times when I wounded a child's heart, misguided them in their thinking (or in the mathematical order of operations as is the case of my first year of teaching), or taught them to put themselves into a box. My successes are great and all, but it's my failures that makes me wish I could go back and do things over for the sake of those precious souls I didn't properly nurture or appreciate.

I don't know if Mr. P and Mr. G have regrets, or if they are still contentedly resting on their legalistic and insensitive philosophies. But I do know that they practically knocked down this cathedral that God designed in His image. Thank goodness He didn't let them totally destroy it. And thank goodness it takes more than 34 years to complete a cathedral. There's still hope for me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thank You, Canada

This is my second post of the day, but I just had to write.

I just got off a 40 minute phone call from a prenatal nurse with the local health unit. She called to see how I was doing, ask me a few questions, and allow me to ask any questions I had. It was incredible. We talked about everything from breastfeeding to family support to weight gain to vaccines to postpartum issues like recovery and depression. She was a wealth of information, and the best part was that she affirmed my intuition, resourcefulness, and the study and preparation we've already done. I think that strengthened me more than anything.

She will be sending me a package of information, and a local health unit nurse will call and visit at least once after we bring the baby home.

And the cost for all of this? I have no idea. We won't be getting the bill. The BC government pays it.

Sure, one may have to wait six months for carpal tunnel syndrome surgery (as my friend did), but I have to say that I'm grateful for Canadian health care that provides for my family without draining our savings or disappearing when employment disappears or changes. And yes, I still have to be assertive and proactive and do the research to make sure my doctor is acting in my best interests, and I have to not be afraid to ask for a second opinion or to change health providers. But that is normal and necessary in any developed country that offers health care.

So thank you, Canada. Now we just have to figure out how to provide this for the broken system in the United States so that everyone - not just those with an employer who is privileged to be a part of a big group plan or those with no pre-existing conditions - can have the care I have.

When I think about moving back to the States, this is one very big reason I currently say no. Canada has cared for me just as well as my wonderful private insurance company did in the States. The other thing Canada has that I feel is superior is that family doctors here seem to know more and be more competent than ones in the States, simply because they are the first line of offense and defense here before any specialists are ever called in. In fact, I have not yet seen a specialist in my nearly three years here. Considering I saw specialists for everything but strep throat in the States, that's a very big change. It freaked me out at first, but now I'm actually good with it.

Again, thanks Canada. I have to say that the benefits here outweigh the costs. And that is a rare find indeed these days.

Adventure Abounds, Or So I'd Like To Imagine

Well, folks, the living room is making progress. It's beginning to look more like a home and less like a UPS shipping center. I'm quite proud of myself, really.

The phone has already been busy this morning with various business issues to accomplish before Grasshopper arrives.

Slowly a carseat issue is getting fixed enough to make me okay with Graco Canada, though not thrilled. (The car seat issue has actually been one involving more culture shock than I'd like to admit. Dealing with the French in Montreal, the laws of Canada that make Graco USA unwilling to even mail me a piece of fabric or a rain cover accessory to my Washington post office box, and the whole being an assertive American living in courteous Canada hasn't been exactly a walk in the park.) If companies hired folks with old-fashioned common sense and the ability to know what the golden rule looks like in customer service to be CEO's, I bet we'd be having a lot less bail outs, and a lot more satisfied and thrilled customers. And if Canada and the United States could work together to agree on safety standards, I bet there would be one very happy redheaded immigrant.

We have snow. This means I don't get to go anywhere today. BC's Lower Mainland handles snow about as well as Florida would handle frost. We just don't get it often enough to know what to do with it. It's funny how the rules change when you're married and about to give birth in just a few weeks. Suddenly, your average 16 year old has more privileges than me. But that's actually okay. I'd rather be safe and sound than stranded in a ditch in premature labor on my own.

We plan to decorate the tree this weekend. I'm hoping to make truffles today, and maybe do some other baking in the coming days.

My husband has work for at least the week, and that is a blessing. While I was looking forward to having him home, I know we need the work during this season more than I need his time. If I'm patient, I'll get 12 days of time with him, and then a week more after the baby arrives.

I was going to enter a writing contest, but am just not feeling the inspiration. Maybe next month.

We had a freezer adventure with our brand new upright, and it appears to be calming down at long last. We lost shrimp, scallops, and a few other things. My husband was able to save the rest of the meat, including the whole salmon we plan to make for my parents when they come to meet Grasshopper. My berries are all a little mushier for their time outside in barrels, which is kind of sad considering how long it took me to freeze them individually on cookie sheets before vacuum sealing them in bags for the freezer. But they aren't ruined or rotten, so I'm grateful. My hours spent making soups and sauces appear to be saved as well, for those stayed mostly solid in the barrels outside while we waited for the repairman to come. It is truly a blessing that we got one of our rare below freezing cold snaps of the year right when our freezer decided to malfunction. So far, it appears to be working with the adjustments made yesterday by the angel of a repairman.

Our boiler adventure is still ongoing, but we have warm water, so we're surviving nicely. We do need to get it resolved though so our heat will work properly. And we need to get our gas fireplace fixed so that corner of the house can be warm if BC gets another cold snap like this one. For now though, it's nice to actually feel cool even with an automatic little heater kicking and shoving his bum into my ribs. My husband wears a toque in the house and multiple layers. Too bad he can't take a turn carrying Grasshopper under his ribs.

And that is our life right now. My most exciting hopes for the week involve a trip across the border to get one box from my mom after seeing my doctor for my now weekly appointments. My mom is sending another box, but I'm hoping they won't both be there tomorrow, because the border guards might not be so generous with letting me pass duty free. So here's hoping it's spaced out well enough to enable me to make another trip early next week.

So maybe, just maybe, it will feel like Christmas while it's still December. The one good thing going for me in that aspect is where I'm at in terms of waiting for Grasshopper. It sure makes the whole Mary and Joseph giving birth in a stable thing a lot more real and understandable.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Skipping Christmas

It doesn't feel like December. There are still boxes from our September move in the living room. Our special Advent/Christmas book by Dr. Grant remains untouched this year. I've not had energy for baking, let alone cleaning or decorating. The temps just turned cold, but there is no snow. We flubbed Thanksgiving this year, so it doesn't even feel like we've had November. People around us have up lights and trees, and it always seems to make me wonder what they are doing putting up decorations so early. But then it dawns on me how close Christmas really is. I even bought us tickets to see Ravi Zacharias' Christmas program in the hopes it would put me in the mood. His talk was awesome and deep, but the music part of it just seemed too entertaining and lacking in the sacred Advent preparation I was expecting. The main girl singing made me feel like I was in a lounge, and not trying to prepare my heart for remembering the birth of Jesus.

This past week, I've actually wanted to skip the whole Christmas thing. Decorating seems like too much work, and I don't have an income this year to get my husband anything really special and he won't give me any ideas on what he wants anyway. I'm supposed to listen all year, take notes, and then be brilliantly thoughtful in December. This year, it seems I failed in the listening department, on levels beyond gift giving.

It's the third year in a row that I've only been able to make my family jam as a gift, instead of lavishing them like I used to do and they all still do for us. And I wonder if they think my love is less or that I'm selfish, even though my brain knows this holiday isn't about gifts.

I think I'm just in this extended pity party at the moment, wanting to stay there when I know there are a zillion things for which I should be grateful. I won't go into all the reasons. So I was kind of hoping we could just pretend to be ostriches, stick our heads under the dirt, and wait for next year's December. It seemed easy enough. Even our church is studying Genesis and not taking a break even though it's December, so it's not like we're surrounded with Advent preparations.

But no one around me seems willing to cooperate. When I told my mom that it's just getting too hard to call and talk to everyone who gets to be together at the holidays, she said they would call me this year. It's just that everyone is so busy connecting with each other at my grandma's, and sometimes I feel awkward trying to carry on a conversation from 2,500 miles away. (Thanksgiving is always harder though, because I'm at home alone with a husband out working and in a country where their somewhat similar holiday already passed over a month before, while everyone in the States is actually celebrating.) And something tells me that if I don't keep up the hollering "Christmas Gift!" tradition that my other grandma left behind when she went to live with Jesus eight long years ago, that my brother will make sure it's not forgotten.

When I told my husband that we could just skip the whole tree thing this year since he won't let me tromp in the woods at this late date (and we never finished researching the whole permit issue someone told us BC had) and I knew money for a farmed tree was the last thing we had, he wouldn't hear of it. So we found ourselves counting out change, braving bitter cold (no snow though), high winds (60-80 kph), and asking for the Charlie Brown section. Now I have a tree that is pretty attractive in its own way, though upon contact makes one wonder if it's related to a cactus, sitting in our living room.

So it doesn't look like we're skipping Christmas. It may be a quiet one with just the two of us, and there may be nowhere to go and no traditional baking in site, and the turkey I planned may still sit in the freezer since my husband decided on lamb instead. But we'll have Christmas. And I guess that's a good thing. Hopefully the feelings will show up by the 25th of this year. Because it reminds me that God didn't forget Christmas all those years ago, and His story says He hasn't forgotten us now.

I love Christmas. All holidays are holy and special days in my book, and I love to celebrate and highlight them. I don't know exactly why or how all this happened, but I look forward to having a "do over" next year, with the chance to treasure the time and make the most of each special day.....even if I don't feel like it at the time. Yes, a do over sounds marvelous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Story From Mumbai

Ravi Zacharias told a story tonight that I want to remember, so I'm choosing to write it out here. Here's the story according to Ravi......

There was a man eating with friends at a restaurant in Mumbai on the day the horrific trauma occurred. I guess he was Indian, but also English and spoke with a perfect English accent. As he and his friends sat eating, they thought they heard fireworks. But soon they realized it was gunfire, and all of them dove under the table. Every single one of his friends eating with him was shot to death in the attacks. Only this English Indian man survived.

When he was being interviewed, the reporter asked him why he thought he alone survived. His response was that he was covered in blood belonging to someone else, and was probably assumed to be dead.

Ravi meant that story to strike a profound note in our hearts, and for me it certainly did. If you think on the meaning of Christmas, how Christ came to Earth, and you realize that His journey would lead from a manger to a cross, it suddenly hits you.

We can be covered in His blood. And in a sense we become as dead men. But it is through being covered by that blood that we find life beyond this one.

I guess if you didn't practically get born in a church pew like me, that sounds rather gory and disgusting, rather morbid and sick. But it isn't meant to be. While I've never been covered in actual blood belonging to another, I can imagine the symbolic meaning in this idea. Just so you don't think I go to some wacked out church that actually paints blood on attendees. That's not at all what I mean. But the story hits me somewhere deep inside. I'm safe and my soul will always have life because Someone decided to cover me with His blood. I can't begin to really comprehend that. But it strikes me deeply, and I want to remember this story.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Old Dogs Take Time To Learn New Tricks

So my private blog still operates with the old blogger format, and I use html language to change anything. When setting this blog up, I was forced to use the new blogger, which isn't too bad, but does have limitations that aren't fun. It's just so template driven and the choices are mostly made for you already. I find that a wee bit boring, and it gives me no excuse to call my comp-sci friend from college to have him teach me html over the phone. He probably appreciates that though, since he's still most likely basking in the euphoria of being a newlywed.

Anyway, I should tell you that it took me awhile to realize you couldn't see the links I put in the way I saw them. My wonderfully capable and techno-savvy cousin informed me that I needed to actually pick a font color for links. Oops. So that has now been rectified. If you read some posts and wondered where the links were, they were indeed there but were just hiding from you. Now they should be more visible. I even remembered to pick two colors - one for links you might want to visit, and one color for links you've already visited.

Monday, December 8, 2008

For All You Wives Out There, Or At Least Some Of You (Well, Actually, Your Husbands)

I happen to be blessed with a husband who knows how to live with an incredibly difficult roommate/wife/woman (that would be me). Neither of us is perfect, but really, I'm the more selfish and moody of the two. Trust me on this one. I'm not easy to live with. Even I think that about myself. So I've married a gem.

But I have to say that this video made me laugh, despite the gift I've been given. And I have to say that I know some of you out there have husbands who could actually use this advice. Trust me. I've been in your homes. I've had my ears open. You wives deserve a medal or something for not hitting your hubbies over the head with a cast iron skillet. At least, that would have been my response. (Not that any of the particular folks I'm currently thinking of would actually be reading this blog. But still....)

Check out this humorous link...

Encouragement In The Wee Small Hours

I can't sleep. And I'm getting up early to fix my husband lunch before he heads off to work on constructing a dairy barn upgrade, and then I'm meeting a friend to chat. So I ought to be sleeping, but it's hard to sleep with a belly that feels as heavy as a wheelbarrow of lead.

My email inbox says I won the maternity hospital gown contest from awhile ago, which is very fun and interesting news to someone who hasn't really won anything since a grade school writing contest. So now you all can visit me while I'm in labor since I'll be fashionably attired. That was a source of encouragement today.

Some other sources of encouragement this past weekend that I want to mention to keep my gratitude in mind are.....

1. My husband and I had a great time setting up the new stroller, hanging pictures in the bedrooms and living areas, and unpacking our rock collection for the display areas. Yes, we have a rock collection. God did such an incredible job when He made the earth, and we find it hard to pass up some beautiful evidences of that whenever we are traveling. We love rock. Collecting it and climbing it. I love the fact that we are getting better at working as a team after 2.5 years of marriage. That says a lot about my growth as a human.

2. The baby clothes are all washed and put away. We have been so blessed with gifts. Some of the clothes passed down to us may be the wrong size for the season, so we may not be able to use them. But as I folded each item with care, I was overwhelmed at the thoughtfulness and generosity of everyone who gave. From a woman who would love to be a grandmother herself to a woman I've never even met who heard from my pastor's wife that we could use some clothes, we have been blessed.

3. Our dear adopted parents/grandparents did it again. This time they gave us tickets to our church Christmas banquet and told us they wanted us there as a part of their family. I love them and am just overwhelmed at how wonderfully God provided an incredible adopted family for me in a new country so far from my own family. I cannot get over His provision, and that's a good thing. It's nice to not be able to take this amazing gift for granted, and to know it for the treasure it truly is. This couple has taught us so much in word and deed, and we are not the same because of knowing them. What is even better is that their hearts are so big that they do this for many others in our church community.

4. This place is slowly turning into a home and a haven for me. It isn't perfect, and it's not our own. But it's definitely becoming a place of peace and provides a bit of brightness and shelter from the gloomy BC winter.

5. We have a new-to-us refrigerator that is a bit bigger than the one we had. It will be plugged in tomorrow, and the old one carted away to BC Hydro by our landlord.

6. We made a bit of headway with our landlord in the relationship/interacting department last night. My husband showed him the painting he had done in our bedroom and the nursery, as well as the insulation and pine tongue-in-groove finishing he is nearly finished with in the closet under the landlord's stairs. Our landlord was impressed with my husband's quality work, and it just seemed that his tone with me was more gentle and kinder than it usually is. We still have a long way to go, but I'm warming up to accepting that this is the person with whom we are essentially sharing a house. Sometimes I wonder if the letter to Jesus about peace for this place that I stuck in the insulation before the pine covering went up is being answered. I'm pretty sure it is. Someday, if someone takes down that wall, maybe they will find it, and maybe they will see how incredibly He answered each and every one of my heart's cries in that letter.

7. It's been really neat to watch my husband take time to study the magazines and books we have on pregnancy. I know he's going to be an amazing support in the birth process, and he's going to be a great daddy. Anyone who prays for his son, talks to his son, asks me in his sleep if I'm doing okay every time I get out of bed, and sings silly songs to my belly is someone to be treasured.

8. I may not have a "bosom friend" in this place, but God has really been growing the affection I have for the women in my prayer group. I feel loved and accepted there. It's been a long time coming, and I'm so grateful for each one of them.

Well, it's even later and I really should try to snag the remaining 2.5 hours of sleep available before our alarm goes off. It's been nice to focus on some good things just now. I may be sleepless, but I'm content despite that. That must be a God-thing, because it's certainly not a natural redheaded thing.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

When Generosity Beats The Bottom Line

In these days of corporate bailouts, greed run rampant, and companies caring more about the bottom line than what is right or moral or caring, there is one story that just made my day. While I'm still not a fan of American companies selling out to overseas business ventures, this is one time I have to celebrate. Check this out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What Is It With Black Friday?

So this post isn't for a contest either, but a redhead has to process her confusion somewhere.

I come from a long line of bargain hunters. I remember getting up early one Friday after Thanksgiving to go with my grandma so we could nab all these great deals. Such a feeling of pride and accomplishment swelled up in me, and I knew that at last, I had made it into the hallowed halls of the women in my family who know how to get a discount on something that is already 90% off. So why am I suddenly filled with distaste and a bit of uncomfortable sadness as I read about all these moms who got up early today to go shopping at the crack of dawn? I mean, it's not like we're supposed to judge each other or say how someone else should live. So what is my problem?

I mean, really, I grew up with baby dolls and Fisherprice toys, and have nothing against them. And giving gifts is a blast. So what is my deal? Am I turning into Scrooge?

Maybe it's that the economy is crazy tight, and I see so much brokenness increasing daily around me. Maybe it's because I know that we could give the world clean water for just a few billion out of what was spent today. Maybe it's because the stories of people being killed or beaten up just so someone can get to the electronics section first or get that last "it" toy this year breaks my heart and makes me wonder if I belong to the human race or a race of animals. Maybe it's because I'd love for someone to make me something, for someone to spend their money on me by buying a ticket to come see me, or to just give me their time or attention. I don't know.

People keep asking me what I want for Christmas. Aside from some fun baby items and maybe something to clean my bare floors easily each day, I have no idea. I don't really need anything. I'm not in danger of going naked, though I may not be in fashion. My toes are warm, though Zappos may be missing me. I don't need any new nail polish until I can begin seeing my toes again, and I can't remember the last time I was able to use body spray since there are all these "thank you for not wearing perfume" signs everywhere I go. Our pantry and freezer are well-stocked with the fruits of my labors this summer and fall, and we've loaded up on other non-perishable items so I don't have to worry about a major grocery store run in between contractions. I have a personal library of books I can read over and again, a good collection of music, a warm house, a working computer and telephone to keep me connected to you, a car that goes most days, and one package of diapers waiting to clad a little bottom in a few weeks. What more could a girl want?

So while I could come up with something to "want", I can't say that I "need" anything. Oh, I'd like to turn my wants into needs, but when I think about folks getting their drinking water from the same place animals and people use to bathe, suddenly all of my needs vanish. And I'm left with no reason to think of today as any other day than just a regular Friday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thoughts On Gratitude Of Course

I imagine one of the turkeys is already in the oven at my grandma's, and she's probably getting sweet potatoes peeled by now. People will be waking up in her guest rooms, and more people will be arriving in a few hours. Meanwhile, I sit here on the west coast before my corner of the earth decides to reach toward the sun, and I ponder the day.

We won't be having our Thanksgiving celebration today, because my husband has to go straight from work to help some good friends of ours move into their new house. Obviously, folks here don't think about what day it is. To them, it's just another Thursday. They had Thanksgiving last month, and Christmas is at the forefront of their minds already. So we'll have our dinner tomorrow. This time it will be just the two of us, since we're still moving in and getting settled. Maybe next year I'll get back to inviting Canadian friends to participate in an American memory making event.

But just because I haven't even begun to make the dressing or figured out how I'm going to roast the cornish hens (the $5.55 turkey is being saved for Christmas so we can share the leftovers on Boxing Day with some special folks), I can still make a list of all the things for which I'm grateful. I think that's a good thing to do, especially considering that I'll be heading to the doctor in about three hours to find out if they know anything yet. Being thankful no matter what is always a good thing. So here goes in stream of consciousness order...

* I'm thankful for my husband who loves Jesus and me with all of his being. He sacrifices his own needs consistently just to take care of mine, and his gentleness and strength are a beautiful and steadying combination.

* I'm thankful for the women I get to meet with on Wednesdays. We pray together and through that work we have become friends that feel like family. I'm the youngest by a long shot, and it's nice to have all these mom and grandma types to look to.

* I'm thankful for the mountains I get to see on sunny days when the clouds part long enough. Yesterday, in one drive, I saw over six different mountains, and thanks to my husband, I know them all by name. I like how it's possible to tell the seasons based upon how much snow is on top or how packed the glaciers on a couple of them look.

* I'm thankful for Eugene. He's the ancient Jetta I drive, and though he's not nearly as attractive or perfectly reliable as the new Rav4 I owned in pre-marriage days, he faithfully partners with my mechanically inclined husband to give me mobility.

* I'm thankful for the chance to tell a part of my story just about every time I cross the border. The American border guards love asking me why in the world I'd leave home to come to Canada, and I delight in telling them.

* I'm thankful for a post office box in Washington that keeps me connected to friends and family in the States. They send me good mail with some really fun treats and surprises.

* I'm thankful for The Shack and Paul Young. God used that combination in a big way in my life this past year. My prayer life is totally different now.

* I'm thankful for my two doctors here. They both love Jesus, look to Him as the Great Physician, and feel called to be His hands and feet in their respective offices. They combine the best of faith and science.

* I'm thankful for internet connections and phone plans that let me call my best friend and other folks I only get to see once a year. Because we get to talk so often, it doesn't seem quite like I'm missing them so much.

* I'm thankful for my grandparents who have always been prayer warriors, and I know that I can always call them and ask them to talk to Jesus about something in particular.

* I'm thankful for the adopted grandmas God put in my life here, women who can teach me to can, make bread, sew clothing, answer my cooking questions, and instruct me on rainforest gardening techniques. And they do this patiently just about every week.

* I'm thankful for all the times God provided. Sometimes He did it up big with anonymous gifts of money, and sometimes He worked in small ways with a free canner or free venison or free moving boxes.

* I'm thankful for the musicians in our church home here who have taught me to connect with Jesus through worship for the first time in my life. I used to be a theological tome reading girl, who couldn't connect unless it was on a brainiac level. Things have now changed, and I like it that way. My heart has grown bigger.

* I'm thankful for Grasshopper. No matter what his story may become in these future weeks, he is one precious creation. It is such a privilege and a treasure to feel him dance and move within me. He is teaching me how to love on a deeper level, and I know he will continue that as time goes on.

* I'm thankful that Canadians allow you to bring in meat and cheese (among other groceries from the States). That sounds crazy until you realize that even with the crazy exchange rate, we saved over $35 on our turkey and routinely save over $12 on cheese. Besides, the States knows how to make good sharp cheddar.

* I'm thankful for good BBQ, even though it's been eons since I've had it.

* I'm thankful for black beans and brown rice. What can I say? Even 34 year olds can learn to love new foods.

* I'm thankful for the new relatives we recently found on my husband's side. They are such blessings.

* I'm thankful to live in berry country where blackberries grow like weeds for free everywhere, and fields of blueberries paint the landscape fiery red in the autumn.

* I'm thankful to live amongst Mennonites and East Indians. Not only do I learn to cook some really amazing foods, but I get to live in a diverse culture that is always opening my eyes to something profound.

* I'm thankful that God gave me a husband who would teach me to love adventure, to love climbing, to love ocean kayaking, and to camp primitively and actually enjoy the entire experience. Who knew a redhead could forget the last time she used her curling iron or hairspray?

* Well, I could go on and on. But I'll close by saying that I'm thankful that God doesn't leave us to our own devices, that He rescues us sometimes from making terrible mistakes (even if that means breaking our hearts), and that He sometimes lets our fairytale dreams come true. That's true in my case, and I'm so very glad and grateful. The life I live now is more than I could have dreamed, and something my own impatience and willingness to settle could never have created. How glad I am that God told me no all those times before. He knew what an amazing yes was in store for me, even if I didn't.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Always A Girl

So I've finally been brave enough to stomach the pregnancy book sections that talk about the actual act of giving birth. In my first trimester, I couldn't even go there because it made my morning sickness worse. In my second trimester, I was having too much fun to think about throwing up during transition or pooping on the delivery table. Now that I'm in my third trimester, I figured it behooved me to study up a bit. Yeah, I finally caved and got the "What to Expect" book today at the thrift store. I don't like it, and am glad it was only $1.50, but I figured I might as well have multiple versions of the various stages of agony - er, I mean labor - that I'll be going through in seven weeks or so. We've now got a collection of books from the 70's to today, written by docs, midwives, and people who think they know everything I will go through. It's thrilling, on the edge of your seat reading. Well, not exactly.

Anyway, if I'm going to possibly lose my lunch or at least the electrolytes I will have been imbibing on all labor long, and if I'm going to poop for the first time in front of my husband, I'd at least like to do it while looking fashionable. Yes, even while I'm bleeding and experiencing strange and painful bodily sensations, I want to look smashing. Since the mascara will probably have faded by then, the docs probably won't let me come in wearing jewelry, and I can't vouch for how my hair will look, a fashionable gown seems just the solution. But of course, only if it's free. (Please tell me that my quirky sense of humor is coming through, and that you know I'm not really that shallow in real life.)

That's where this post comes in. Healthy Moms is partnering with Labor Looks to provide this giveaway of a maternity hospital gown.

It seems to have a bit more potential in the fashion department than the lovely over-sized blue one I got to wear for the ultrasound at the hospital. So I'm writing this post just because I might win, and because I'm procrastinating on making dinner. It is much more fun to enter giveaways when you have heartburn than to wonder what to feed your husband when you'd rather not think about food at all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Very Keen Giveaway

I'm about to write a post because I would really love, love, love to get my husband a pair of shoes for free. But, just so you won't forget, please, please scroll down and read the next post about my dad's friend, Bill Kennedy. Now, back to something I'm really keen on.

The Daring Young Mom is having a giveway over at her place for one person to win one item of their choosing over at Keen's website.

If you visit the site, figure out what you would love to win, and go leave her a comment on this post, she will give you one entry into the the contest. And if you write up a shameless plug like I'm doing and go back with the link to your post on her comment form, she will give you another one.

Personally, I'd like to win so I could shod my husband's feet in something really comfy and wonderful, even though that means I'd be passing up the Mary Jane's I've been wanting for a long time. But my hubby is wonderful, and I'd love to surprise him with something this cool, and I know he would never go for it if he knew I'd spent the last of my babysitting money on him for shoes.

So that's what I'm keen on today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

You Can Help With Justice For A Modern Day Joseph

So I have this new public blog with an unknown readership. And I've got a really big request for you.

In these lame duck days, President Bush's focus goes to doing last minute things while he still has the Oval Office as his headquarters. One of those last minute tasks happens to be pardons.

I just read a story about likely pardon candidates that made me kind of roll my eyes and wonder if we'll ever get a man of complete and total integrity in political office. What I mean by that is that the candidates listed need to serve their time; they don't need a pardon. Granted, they need God's forgiveness, but they also need to face the consequences for their greed, stupidity, and outright sin.

But there is one man my dad personally knows who does not fit that description. That man is in need of a pardon. He's had everyone from big name religious folks to big name lawyers championing his case, but nothing has worked.

So I'm asking you to do what I'm going to do this week. I want you to please visit Bill Kennedy's website and read through it. Then I'd like you to write President Bush a letter, and I'd also ask you to send a copy to your local senators. And I'd like to ask you to do it this week. (And if you aren't an American, why not write anyway? After all justice is justice wherever humanity resides.)

Bill Kennedy is a modern day Joseph, and it would be nice to see him set free. Please take time out of your busy schedule to do something that would indeed fit the category of "justice for all". Please.

Feel free to copy this post and pass it on to as many people as you like.

Thank you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anyone Thirsty?

So this post isn't for a contest or anything, and I have no idea if anyone will read it or not. But I wanted to share something.

Yes, I'm going to share a link. And yes, it's clearly connected with church-going folks. BUT, the whole idea doesn't have to be pigeonholed in Christianity. I think
the whole world could take part. After all, doing the right thing isn't just for people who subscribe to a particular religion. So if church isn't your thing, don't
tune me out yet.

Think back to the gifts you got last year for Christmas, birthdays, etc. Can you list them all? Every single one? And which ones changed your life for the better, made you joyful all year, and succeeded in finally making you fall in love with your hips? Any of them? Just asking.

Okay. Now think about what it would be like if you had a little pool of water in your neighborhood. All your neighbors got to share it with you. You used it for washing clothes, since your Whirlpool front loader just disappeared. You used it for washing dishes, because your dishwasher quit on you. You used it for bathing your thousands of body parts. You used it for brushing your teeth. You used it for cooking. Oh yes, and you used it for drinking. So did all your neighbors. The same pool of water. Doesn't that sound like a recipe for giardia or cholera? Oh yes, and your neighborhood isn't close to any medical care. So you're stuck with the bacterial infestations racking your body. So are your children. So are your neighbors.

Now that we've used our imaginations, let's head back to reality. The reality is this.

Americans spend a disgusting amount of money on gifts. We rack up credit card debt to buy things we think others need or want. Some of what we buy really is needed or wanted. But a lot of it isn't. And then we moan and groan in January when the credit card bills come and we discover that we spent more than we earned. In this economy, that's even sicker than normal.

So what if we did something different?

What if, for a tiny portion of what we spend collectively every year on gifts, we spent less and used the money we saved to bring clean water to a neighborhood?

Whether you believe Jesus is God or you think he was just a really loving guy way back in history, I think that he would approve of this idea in place of celebrating the day known as his birth. Here are some links to check out if you're so inclined....

Advent Conspiracy
Blood Water Mission
Living Water International

Here's a cool video you can check out too. It's from one of the early groups who decided to collectively give less and give the money for a clean water project instead.

I hope your Christmas is filled with meaning and beauty and satisfaction. And I wish you peace and joy and love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Introductory Post

Since having to privatize my original blog, that has meant I cannot enter writing contests, participate in theme posts, or meet new folks. So this little blog is going to rectify that issue. I won't write on it very often unless it's for one of those purposes. But it will be nice to tiptoe back out into the world again, if only a little bit.

So welcome!