Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I feel so happy and so blessed!

I have three jobs!.
I got everything that I asked for.
Part-time work in social services, working with children in care, with good organizations that actually care about their kids and I get to have so much fun!
From the shift-work at the group home, where adorable little boys greet me with giggles and affectionate, lisped "I love you"s, to taking the kids on fun activities like ice skating and swimming- it's wonderful! It hardly feels like work because I enjoy it so much.

Full-time work in criminal justice, working at various half-way houses with youth and adult offenders. This is my first week at this job, but I had such a great night tonight, I am really looking forward to working here. It's with a reputable organization and great experience to get me started in my career field.

Only, my first day on the job didn't go through without a hitch; there was a small incident.

I went to the head office to provide paperwork and sign new employee paperwork. I told the front desk I had arrived and was waiting for R___. The receptionist directed me to have a seat, but I only waited a minute before the door opened and a small, grey-haired woman smiled from the doorway and motioned for me to follow her.
I followed her down the hallway, noticing that it reflected what I expected from a not-for-profit agency; not necessarily shabby, but resourceful and sparsely decorated.
I went into Interview Room 1, and considered that there may be an ingoing interview, as many organizations have an exit interview.
The interview room was child-friendly with a sandbox and a poster of feelings for children to use to identify their emotions before they may be able to actually put them into words.
The woman asked me how I was doing and I responded with a polite "Good."

Woman: "How are you since we last spoke?"
On the phone yesterday? Me: "I'm fine."
Woman: "Anything you want to mention?"
Me: "I am excited to start."
The woman looks a little frustrated, "I need you to share more."
Me: "Excuse me?"
Woman: "You are not opening up enough. I need more from you."
Me: "Um... I think I'm in the wrong room. I just started working here."
Woman: "You're not here for therapy?"
Me: "No! I am here to fill out tax forms!"

She thought I was one of her clients for therapy!

She led me back to the front desk to find the woman I was supposed to meet, R___ who looked confused as to why I was coming back with their drug rehabilitation therapist!

What a way to start a new job!

Thursday, November 03, 2011


The same day I wrote the previous post, October 27, I was granted a temporary work visa!
I called November 1 because I had not heard anything regarding my permanent residency application and was informed that the documents were in the mail and I should receive them in the next week.

I immediately started applying for jobs, well, after I woke Biruk up by jumping up and down on the bed, of course.
Two days later, in our mail box was a letter from the government of Canada - for me this time! And I already received my first call-back, so things seem to be going well.

Some have questions about what this means and if I am now a Canadian.
This doesn't mean I have permanent residency; it means that I have been "approved in principal"- that I am half-way through the process and I will probably get permanent residency. Getting actual permanent residency could take another year.
And that doesn't mean that I am a Canadian- it means that I have permission to permanently reside, including work and study in Canada. A few years after I am a permanent resident I can apply for Canadian citizenship.

I am so happy! I can't believe I finally got it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This short time

My last post lingered on my mind; this idea of time and patience and aspects such as the granting of a work visa being out of my control.

Being raised as a daughter of a financial advisor, I grew up with a concept of stewardship. That what I was given, what I was blessed with, should be handled in a way that was responsible and considerate of the future. It was a responsibility, not just a gift for me to throw around.
I never had an allowance as a child- I think my parents were against that terminology because it suggested 'allowing', which was not what they wanted to instill in their children. Instead, it was called a 'budget', which fulfilled the same category as the allowances my peers received, only under a different name.

Even as a child, and then a teen, I had this urgency around timing and my life. That I HAD to complete my dreams and goals as soon as possible. Not to rush them, or plow through anything hastily, but that in the near future I needed to grasp these things and live out my calling, put my talents to work and use my time well.
I graduated high school early, and I still remember the fervency in those months preparing for that, while I looked for something to do with the time before I would begin college. I couldn't waste that time- I had to do something good, something productive, something useful with those months.
My dream to reach 6 continents was achieved by the age of 21 (I never have any desire to visit Antarctica). My dream and calling to be a missionary was fulfilled when I was 18.
And all my life, I have this sense of urgency to use my time well.

That is in part why waiting for a work visa has been so frustrating. I feel like I am wasting my time- and I absolutely do not want to waste time.

But, maybe, that's not the proper perspective of this situation.

Matthew chapter 25 is the parable of the servants given talents/money from their master. Some versions say talents, some say gold, others silver. In any case, the servants were doled out bags full of money from their master.
When I was a child I did not like this parable because it did not seem fair: Servant 1 got 5 bags of gold, Servant 2, two bags, and Servant 3 one bag. That's not even! That's not fair! And in the end, the servant with the most bags was given even more!
And even now, I still have sympathy for the servant who did not grow the money.
The problem is that my perspective is that this money was given to the servants as their own to keep.
The scripture reads that this was 'entrusted to them'. It was not given as a gift, it did not become their property- it was the master's; who some day would be returning to claim it. The master was not being fair; it was not based on fairness. It clearly states that the amounts they were given was based on their own abilities. How they had shown themselves to be responsible for it in the past.
The term 'earn' almost fits, but it still suggests that in some way they would then keep what they had earned. The best way for me to clarify it in my mind is that they were entrusted based upon how they had previously prepared for it. They were not keeping this money, it was not their own, but they needed to show themselves responsible for it in any case.

Still, I side with the servant who had one bag. As a servant, a worker, subject to another's authority, this concept of being handed money while the master went away seems bizarre. Why would the master entrust is wealth to servants?
I think that part of this example portrays the upside-down Kingdom of God that does not focus on power or might, but uses ordinary people, even lower than ordinary people. That servants would be the ones with the treasures, instead of the politicians or the rich friends of the Master.
However, when I put myself in the shoes of the servant with one bag, I think of the huge responsibility- even the craziness of a responsibility to take care of the money of the Master while he went away. In this parable, the Master does not outline any rules for the servants, guidelines or even suggestions. He just doles it out and goes away.
So why then does this servant get in trouble? It seems he protects what he was given- he even hides it. He doesn't lose the wealth, he doesn't spend it frivolously, he simply digs a hole and buries it in the ground. Not the best idea, but it seems to make sense. He was a servant, after all- this was his Master's money. He needed to keep it safe!

The other servants- they get creative. The one with five bags invests it. My father would be proud. He takes a risk and comes out on top! He gains back twice what he was entrusted with. The one with two bags puts it to work. That's what my husband would do- take action, use the money but gain back even more than what was spent. The third servant buries it in the ground.
So, if they were not given instructions on what to do with the money, what was wrong with defaulting to protecting it?
I think it boils down to the third servant not knowing the Master, not understanding His will. He knew his character- he calls him a harsh man. He knew about the Master, but he didn't understand the Master's will, and so, he did nothing.

Doing nothing at all was worse than taking a risk and losing. Doing nothing at all was lazy.
The Master wasn't interested in gaining more money- he gave money to servants! Who expects mere servants to be business-savvy and make more money?
But to do nothing at all was to waste the money.
The Master told the servant he would have been better to deposit in a bank- my understanding of this being, if you aren't going to do anything at all, it is better to pass the responsibility off onto someone else.
If it was the servant's own money, would he have at least put it in a bank? Would he have invested it?

The servant's excuse is fear. He was afraid of losing it. So instead, he wasted it.

It's clear that these servants were accountable for what they had been entrusted with. In the end the servant who made a good investment and earned more was not 'given' more money as his very own- he was given more responsibility because he had prepared for it and was ready to handle more in a productive way.
It is not about fairness of doling out in equal parts, it was about stewardship.

And we, too, are accountable for what we have been entrusted with.
So, if my time is not my own, how am I using it?
Instead of looking on this past year as the lack of opportunity to work, I can consider that I have been entrusted with immense amounts of free time. Have I used it well?
It changes everything when I consider that this is not about me, but about God and His Kingdom.
Am I being a good steward of my time?
I have been given a large amount of time, when it comes time to account for it, will I have put it to work? Will I have at least taken a risk?
Or, will I have wasted it? Wasting it is worse than taking a risk and losing it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thank God for Facebook!

Yesterday I babysat for a friend. Her one-year-old son is a happy little boy, and very easy to watch. If he gets cranky simply turn on some music and he'll start dancing, if he cries, take him in the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror, he gets so enamored with his own reflection he forgets what he was crying about.
Minutes after mom left, the little boy fell asleep and I was left to watch TV and fiddle on my laptop.

I arrived back at our apartment building around 10:15 or so and headed up in the elevator. I pushed the button for our floor and the door shut, but it didn't go up. So I hit the button for our floor again, still nothing. After hitting it a third time, I finally just hit the 'open door' button.
Nothing happened.
This is when I also realized that the place where there would be an 'emergency stop' button had only a hole on the panel; the emergency stop button had been removed!
So, one by one I hit every button, every few seconds hitting the 'door open' button, just for good measure.
I look at the shiny, smooth silver door locking me in, I look around at the three, shiny walls creating a box around me. There is no way I can open the door from the inside.
It's at this time that I realize, I think I left my cell phone in the car...
I check all my pockets. I check them again.
Yes, definitely left it in the car.
I push the alarm button several times, but there is no one in the lobby to hear me.
At my feet is my laptop case and I consider that I really have nothing to lose if I try to get on the internet.
Fortunately, I am able to grab 2 bars from our wireless router in our apartment, even from inside the elevator. There I am, sitting on the floor of the elevator logging on to Facebook- where I know people will be active at 10:30 at night.
I immediately post as my status that I am locked in an elevator and if anyone could please call my husband to contact the site manager.
Signed on to Facebook chat is a man I used to work with about three years ago, whom I haven't talked with since I left that job. I apologize first for not keeping in touch with him and ask if he could please call my husband for me, because I am stuck in an elevator. At first, he thought I was just making a strange joke, but then, after laughing, agreed to call my husband. The phone call must have interesting, "Um... I don't think you know me, but I am calling because your wife asked me to. She is stuck in an elevator at your apartment."

Then, I instant message my little sister, who is living in Tennessee, and she calls my husband. Apparently without introducing herself, and then immediately hung up.
My husband said both phone calls were very odd.
Also, the friend I was babysitting for saw my Facebook status and called Biruk, too.

While all of this was happening, two people finally heard me hitting the alarm and called the site manager for me (he never came, or he came and didn't speak, because I couldn't see anything, only hear). They stayed for a while and talked, but then left when the fire department arrived.
I'm still not sure who called the fire department.
I heard their voices, panicked, asking if I was okay.
"I'm fine. The door just won't open. There is no hurry, I'm not hurt."
Ten minutes later a burly fireman dressed in the characteristic pants and suspenders forced the elevator door open with a crow-bar (I think that's what it was).
And Biruk was on the other side of the door, laughing at me.

Technically, I was probably saved more by the two individuals I never actually saw when they entered the lobby and heard the elevator alarm than by social networking. However, I still think that Facebook potentially could have been the resource I used to get help. Either way, I am thankful for Facebook!

The experts (okay, the elevator repair man) aren't sure what the malfunction was, but now the entire six-floor building can thank me for the 'out of order' elevator and the extra stairs they will have to climb.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seven boys and Fifteen Days

I went back to Wyoming two weeks early. The last course had too few students, only enough for one course instead of two, so they sent people back to Wyoming, where there was a nearly full roster.
On our drive back I mentioned out loud that there were three things I really wanted to do while in Wyoming: go horseback riding, visit Yellowstone National Park and go white water rafting.
I was immediately put with a group of seven boys, aged 11-13 and two amazing leaders; J and M. (I was lucky, the rest of my team was on maintenance duty; which meant painting and putting up a new deck.)

Let my introduce the boys (names have been changed):

Daniel Boone: The first day in Yellowstone, Daniel Boone bought a fake coonskin cap and wore it literally everywhere. He was wearing it when we woke him up in the morning. He was the leader of the group; starting a spaceship/star wars game (of course, played while wearing their coon hats), something about Red October and endless 'gun fights' fought with sticks that looked like rifles or handguns, occasionally bazookas. Once, I heard him yell orders to a soldier "Hold your fire! We don't want to waste ammunition!".
On the long van rides, we would play games. A favorite was a guessing game for animals, one would think of an animal and answer questions until it was solved. "Is it a mammal? Does it live in the desert? What color is it? How many legs does it have?"
Daniel Boone's animal was red and brown, with four legs and a fluffy tail. We guessed for a half an hour until at last, we all gave up. He proudly announced, "It was that squirrel, about twenty miles back, the one that M ran over." For the rest of camp, M's dead squirrel was a running joke, one that became a zombie dead squirrel, and then a ghost zombie dead squirrel and later a squirrel that wanted revenge and had a whole army of road kill squirrels. The grand finale was "How did the squirrel cross the road?" "It didn't. M ran it over."

Fred: He just seems like a Fred to me. Quiet, steady, sure of himself. He took his time and succeeded at everything he attempted. Sliding down the natural water slide, with the waterfall to his right, he was the only student who did not take my assistance in getting out of the freezing water; he actually pushed my hand away and swam to shore alone. He loved the woods, and sticks. And rocks. He wanted to build a lean-to to sleep under, instead of in the tent. While wrangling kids and starting dinner, I would intermittently tell him to stop, put that down. Another leader came over to drop something off and in a deep, booming voice, shouted "PAUSE!!!" I turned to look, Fred was crouched, reading to jump on a long, strong branch that Daniel Boone was holding the other end of. "We just wanted to break it for our lean-to." He said, sheepishly.
The next day, before setting out on a six mile hike, Fred complained that his backpack was heavy. Upon closer inspection, it was heavy because he was carrying a giant, plat rock, about the size of both my hands, together.
"But it's a perfect skipping rock!" He exclaimed.
The last few days of camp, the boys' stick gun fights turned to Harry Potter wands and shouting spells at one another. One evening, when going back to the tent, Fred was running with his wood wand in hand.
"Fred, don't run with a stick in your hand." I called.
Fred stopped, looked down at his hands and promptly stuck the stick in his mouth and continued running!
"Fred! Don't run with a stick in your possession in any way!" that should cover all bases.

Chipmunk: I really did refer to him as a chipmunk many times, because he was so small (4'4" at 11 years old), and twitchy-always moving in jerky motions, twisting his head when he was distracted, jumping up and running when his name was called, moving sporadically as he talked. And chattery! He had a story with everything! "This reminds me of the one time...." and a million questions a day. It almost became a joke, how many questions this boy had. He was incredibly articulate, speaking like a 25 year old man, shoved into the body of a small, small boy. One night, while we were having the evening meeting, where the boys said their favorite and least favorite aspects of the day, he jumped up, exclaiming that he had to go to the bathroom.
J told him to wait, the meeting was almost finished and he would take Chipmunk afterward. "I can't wait!"
Finally, J consented and directed Chipmunk outside of the cowboy tent (a canvas tent erected on a wooden platform) to the corner where the boys would pee off the edge when they needed to go in the middle of the night.
Silence fell over the ten as we heard J scream in horror: "Stop! Pull up your pants!"
And then they high-pitched squeak from Chipmunk as he cried "I can't hold it anymore!"
I started talking loudly and randomly to cover-up the sounds and voices as Chipmunk took a dump on the corner of the tent.

An hour later, J returned and quietly whispered, "I'm done for the night, I'm going to bed now."
For the next few days, whenever Chipmunk had to go to the bathroom, we had to be very clear with him about what he needed to do and being self-aware, and taking advantage of when we were near a toilet.
About a week later, we were camping outside of the mountains- real, ghetto camping.
There was a line of three boys waiting for the small shovel and their turn at the edge of the woods. Suddenly, Chipmunk started pacing.
"I need to go!" He squealed.
"Just wait!" J ordered. "He'll be back with the shovel soon."
But he couldn't wait. He started running, his hands pressed against his butt.
Right beside our camp site, in front of everyone, Chipmunk dropped his pants and started to go.
J yelled, told him to at least run into the woods!
Instead, we had to move all of the other boys away, while J again dealt with Chipmunk and his droppings.

Carrots: I joined the group because Carrots had a low frustration tolerance and easily blew-up. I spent three nights sleeping beside the kitchen, away from the group because Carrots had threatened the group, or injured someone in the group (the injury being hitting Chipmunk with a foam sleeping pad). I slept out on a tarp beside three nights because he had gotten upset over mosquitoes, or because there was no ketchup for his chicken nuggets. I call him Carrots ironically because he claimed he never ate any fruits or vegetables at home; pop tarts and doughnuts for breakfast every morning. His parents had even supplied food that he would eat: pop tarts, graham crackers, and chocolate chewy bars. At camp, he was required to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal; usually it was an apple with peanut butter. Once, he ate two grapes, crying while he did so. One night, he freaked out, screaming, cursing, and crying because he couldn't handle all of the mosquitoes. The very next night, he was the cook for a meal of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. There were so many mosquitoes that they were even in the macaroni and cheese! It was disgusting. Instead of freaking out, while I cooked, Carrots acted as my protector and killed all the mosquitoes around me, laughing manically as he counted how many he killed.
"Die! Die!" He screamed while he killed them.
Dinner was a disaster- people running in all directions, walking in circles and swatting with their arms, while trying to eat. The leaders consulted and decided the thirty minute drive back to base camp would be well worth it to avoid the horrible mosquitoes. I drove about five minutes away to find cellphone reception and call to tell them we would be coming back early. No service, no service.
Finally, I headed back to camp. As I did, I saw a haze over the camp site. No, not haze... rain? hail? Hail!
I sped up and arrived to a group of seven boys waving their arms frantically, who piled into the van before I had scarcely come to a stop.
Lightning, then thunder. All of the boys started counting. "Fifteen seconds!" One boy called. "Do we need to get in lightning position?"
"No!" I laughed at them. "You're in a van!" Silly boys.

With the boys in the van, we began loading all of the gear- including the still-full pot of macaroni and cheese. I passed sleeping bags, sleeping pads and backpacks to the boys in the van, directing them to stuff them under their seats.
I came back, the campsite now bare and the leaders all soaked through, ready to get in the van. I opened the door and laughed; the sleeping backs and pillows were all piled on their laps- so high, that some of the boys were not even visible. The spot where I was supposed to sit was a mound of sleeping bags and sleeping pads. I took off my shoes and dove over two seats, and buckled up, propped up on the soft hill.
That day was a turning point for Carrots, he became one of the most helpful, positive boys after that day. He would sit off to the side, reading, but always offered to help load or unload the van. He still became frustrated, but this time it was based on if someone was being a team player, not mosquitoes.

Dr. Doolittle: He had a bearded dragon, a pet tarantula, and yes, a pet lobster. While hiking, he would spot a bug and describe what kind it was, if it was poisonous or not. Once, he listed the ten most deadly spiders in the world, the most being a Brazilian something or other, it was brown, I think.
He was my favorite; small, with a huge backpack that reached past his bum. He had too-big ears that stuck out a little and buck teeth. When we were in Yellowstone, he would continually ask, "When are we gonna see Old Faiff-ful?" So cute!
The night after we did go see Old Faithful erupt, his tentmate, Fred, got a bloody nose. M was in the van, trying to get Carrots to take his nighttime medications and go to sleep, J was helping Fred and I was in the tent, wiping up the blood to not attract a bear. What a night!
When Fred finally was all cleaned up and headed back to bed, Dr. Doolittle popped and said said, "Fred, you're nose is like a geyser; it's big and unpredictable!"
Dr. Doolittle provided my favorite quote of the summer. While ghetto camping, the students had to dig a hole for pooping. The small shovel was given a nickname and became a thing of pride to 'have the experience in the woods'. One morning, a boy announced that he had to go No. 2. Dr. Doolittle hopped up and announced, the truest offering of friendship: "I dug a hole yesterday that I never used. Let me show you, you can poop in my hole!" And proudly led him off into the woods to share his hole with a friend.

The Goldfish: He had a poor memory, that is why I call him the Goldfish. He would get in an argument with another boy, and within five minutes, literally forget it all. When a leader was trying to process with him and discuss an issue, he blinked, looked a little blankly at her and then said "What are we talking about?"
And he always wanted juice. The directors tried to use activities as incentives for good behavior, but we knew what he really wanted- he just wanted juice. Once, he stopped walking because he wanted juice. He shuffled his feet and took ten minutes to go 100 meters because he said he was 'faint' because his body needed juice.
We went on a canoe trip, paddling about an hour to a small, rugged campsite near the lake. As soon as we arrived, we saw evidence of bears. We warned all of the students that they would need to stay close by, and if they needed to go to the bathroom, a leader would accompany them with bear spray for protection.
That evening, the Goldfish was supposed to wash the dishes; he refused and took off into the woods. A leader immediately grabbed bear spray and chased after him. When they returned, the leader said that the Godfish had said that he wanted a bear to come, he really wanted to see a bear.
The next evening, he got upset because of bugs and took off running down the road. I followed him for about a mile, he paused occasionally, threatening to kill me with a rock in his hand, obviously quoting from some movie or video game. Finally, he ran off of the main road, and over to a small ravine. He threatened to throw himself down the small, tiny slope, to kill himself. I stayed back, waiting for him to calm down.
But he continued to freak out, screaming and yelling and making himself more upset.
He started screaming, "come here! come here!"
I asked him if he was yelling to me, he said he was yelling for a bear. He wanted a bear to come.
I told him the truth; that bears don't come to yelling, that will scare them away. He needed to be quiet for a bear to come. He immediately grew quiet, and squatted in the tall grass. When another leader showed up twenty minutes later, the Goldfish was calmer, and just wanted to go to bed.
The next morning, he gave me a letter:
 "Dear Ellan:
I am sorry for threatening to kill you. I was very angry. I know you were just doing your job."

The Goldfish didn't have a good memory for events, or what he was directly told, but he absorbed stories like a sponge. If he heard a story once, within two days, it would become something in his past, part of his life, nearly word for word. Sometimes these stories were more than far-fetched; he was best friends with Justin Beiber. His brother had a Ferrari that he let the Goldfish drive sometimes. He had eaten llama eyeballs while on a trip through a tropical rainforest.
We went to a birds of prey show, at the request of Chipmunk, who was an avid bird lover. All of the birds at the exhibit were removed from the wild for a specific reason- one could not fly because it had a deformed wing, another had been blinded in an injury. A great horned owl, which we learned was the greatest of all birds of prey and known for it's hunting ability because it had been raised by people and never learned to hunt. It was ironic that it couldn't hunt, rats and mice would run over it's feet, but it wouldn't attack them, it only ate already dead rats and mice.
Three days later, while getting ready to ride horses, the Goldfish casually bragged to another student that he had a hunting horse (yes, a hunting HORSE!). Only, it sort of had a mental problem, and it wouldn't eat rats or mice- they would run over it's hooves and he wouldn't do anything at all to them. (A hunting horse that eats rats and mice?) The other student seemed mildly interested, but was more focused on the real horse in front of him.

Clutzo the Clown: He was somehow always injured. His glasses were broken- and then the lens fell out.
While horseback riding.
While rappelling.
Somehow, the lens was always found, even in the dark, on the edge of a cliff.
It was Clutzo who had to go to the doctor, it was Clutzo who had a fever and it was Clutzo who got a bloody nose while white water rafting. While going over a large rapid, Clutzo's nose knocked the shoulder of another boy. He turned and looked at me, blood spurting down his face. "I'm bleeding." He said, pathetically.
We told him there was nothing to do (we were in the middle of a river), except pinch it and lean forward. Finally, it stopped bleeding and he looked up- a red line from his nose to his chin, even blood in his teeth when he smiled. "What do I do now?" He asked.
"Ride the bull!" We declared- and sent him to the front of the raft for the water from the river to splash up and wash his face.
We finished the ride and he ran out of the boat, smiling at his adventure; dried blood still all over his face.

Clutzo had a special diet, but never tired of peanut butter and honey on a corn tortilla. He would chant "PB and H! PB and H! Peanut Butter! Peanut Butter! Peanut Butter, Honey and a baseball bat!"
We never found out what the baseball bat was for.

One day, while having lunch at a park in Jackson Hole, the boys started chasing away the Canadian Geese. They started chasing them because they were approaching too closely to our lunch and they kept chasing them because it was fun.
Someone pulled over and got out of their car, yelling that it was illegal to chase wildlife in Wyoming. J called to the boys to stop running- but these are kids with ADD, ADHD and behavioral problems- they don't listen the first two times. The man became irate, cursing and yelling at J. He threatened to call the police. J asked him to please stop using curse words around the young boys and then the man actually called the police.
He stood there, glaring over the boys, telling them that he had called the police.
Clutzo froze. He was in the green grass, in the shadow of a small tree, completely frozen, white-faced. He shuddered a little. Then he started crying.
"I don't want to go to jail!" he cried.
I loudly suggested that we may have to leave the park to get some peace, and finally the man went and lingered beside his car instead of our group.
The police arrived within five minutes, and upon seeing that it was a group of boys, most who were 11 years old, laughed about it and told them not to chase the geese any more.
Chipmunk, famous for his questions, asked the police officer if they were allowed to chase the geese away if they were trying to eat the food.
"Well, you have a right to defend your lunch!" The police officer laughed.

I had so much fun working with these boys.
And because of them, I got to do everything on my list and more;
Visit Yellowstone. I saw the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic
Visited the Grizzly and Wolf Center, where we could see the animals in their natural habitat
Went on a two-day canoe trip
Horseback riding, including an all-day trail ride
Rock climbing.
Went down a natural water slide
Went white water rafting for the first time

All in all, it was a wonderful summer!

Santa Cruz and the Sea Lion

Previously, every time off I had run away to San Francisco, to take in the sights and sounds of the city- the trolleys, the crowds, the street performers. But this was the last break I would ever have in California, and with my co-workers, so I decided to stay in Watsonville, a small immigrant town situated between Santa Cruz and Monterey. Too bad the two other girls decided to go to Berkeley, and my staff partner went to visit a friend. That left me with Q and X. The first night, they talked about poop.
Yes, poop.
After 5 minutes on the subject, I walked to the van and turned on the radio.
"What are you doing over there?"
"I'll come back when you stop talking about pooping."
Ten minutes later, I rejoined them, when the topic was something else other than bodily functions.

The second night, it started to rain. We we hooked up a laptop between the front seats of the van, cuddled up with blankets and pillows and had a TV marathon in the back of the van while it rained all around us. That was pretty fun- except the potato chips dipped in potato salad, that was just gross.

We spent our days at Santa Cruz- the boardwalk, smelling of fried foods and flashing over priced T-shirts, the beach, with beautiful white sand and endless sun. We drank Margaritas; the boys complaining that they looked too girly, but tasted too good to pass up on looks alone. We got seafood sandwiches at little stands along the pier, crab, shrimp and calamari- so, so good!
We sat beside some steps at the edge of the docks to eat, serenaded by barking sea lions. When we finished, we walked down to the bottom to see the sea lions we could so easily hear. There were at least 50, maybe more, propped up along the cement blocks holding the posts of the dock, a few barking, many of them sleeping. There was a small, chicken-wire fence preventing the sea lions from entering and climbing up the stairs, and probably also from people to reach the sea lions. Against the fence, one huge, at least 600, maybe 700 pound sea lion was fast asleep.
Q gave me a wink and reached his hand through a hole in the fence, brushing the back of the sea lion's head.
"I wanna do that!" I said, excitedly.
I took a breath, and reached my hand through the same hole. For a moment, I touched the bristly, but soft hair on the back of the sea lion's head- like a rough stuffed animal, but softer and hairer than he appeared to be.
It was only a moment, because the sea lion whipped it's head around and stared at me with giant, almost animated, brown eyes. Eyes that did not look happy with me.
I jumped back and laughed: I had touched a sea lion.

X was still at the dock, talking on the phone, we called him down, bragging that we had touched a sea lion. He ended his call abruptly, saying he needed to touch a sea lion (I'm sure the person on the other line was confused) and ran down the steps.
By now, the sea lion was prepared, and had turned it's head so it was facing in our direction (a fact we decided not to mention to X). He refused to be outdone, and bent down to reach his hand through the hole.
Half an inch past the hole in the fence and the sea lion's eyes popped open, as did his mouth and he snapped his jaws, nipping his sharp, fish-eating teeth at X's fingers. The grown man squealed and jumped back- sending everyone, even a random old woman, laughing. She even called him a 'sissy' and told him to try again, he needed to defend his honor and touch the sea lion

He never did touch the sea lion, he said he liked his fingers too much.

When people ask me what I got to see and do this summer I mention three things:
I went white water rafting.
I saw a bear.
And I touched a sea lion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This one time, in Lake Tahoe...

It actually began on the Saturday, with biking around Lake Tahoe.
The older group started in the morning, and everything went smoothly. After lunch, the younger group was supposed to arrive, but they showed up more than an hour late- several with faces or shorts covered in the icecream they had been eating earlier.
As they were getting set up on their bikes, one of the students muttered "I'm not sure about this, I haven't ridden a bike in a really long time." A quick test-run proved this to be true and he was so uneasy that it seemed the best option would be for him to ride tandem with one of the leaders.
As he was getting set-up on the extra-long bike, I announced to a few other students that I had never ridden tandem and it looked really fun and I wanted to try it some time.
Five minutes later, another student started off for his test-run and promptly crashed into a nearly stationary bicycle- blaming the other person, of course. He tried again, but it was clear he could not even make it down a slight hill on his own. The third and last student to set off refused to put his feet on the pedals, but kept them extended so they would catch him each time he lost his balance and began to tip over- which was pretty much the entire time. Three students needed to ride tandem, and there were only two leaders.
I got to ride a tandem bicycle!
It was a really good work out- as I had to pedal for two and balance a long bike with a wiggly little boy at the back. He was not happy to have to ride with someone else and decided to 'get back at me', as he said, by kicking the pedals off sync while I was pedalling. He said that he wanted to make us crash.
A little while later, he got into the spirit of things and wanted to help pedal and wanted us to ride faster and race the other students. He became so enthusiastic that he demanded we go faster down hill and began whipping his handlebars back and forth in frustration- the same handlebars that were connected to my seat; causing me to be jerked to the right and then jerked to the left, all while trying not to crash the long bike as we sped downhill. I quickly brought the entire bike to a halt, we lost the race, but soon my young partner was using the word 'please' and not doing anything else that might result in us crashing.
After our experience with the biking, we decided that this group may need a little extra help when backpacking the next day. We grabbed some food for lunch, and packed a few extra items and hit the trail wtih the younger group.
The student that I had been biking with the previous day believed that he had th heaviest pack (one of the leaders' packs weighed about 60 pounds or more- the heaviest student backpack was 15 pounds) and did not want to hike. He would stop, he would scream, he would run ahead and then slow down. I went to switch up with the other staff who was hiking with him, so he wouldn't lose his mind. When I met up with them, the student was crying. Yes, literally crying/moaning/wailing/big tears/exaggerated breaths and all. Other hikers came upon us and passed seven smiling, joking, singing-even rapping- students, and then finally, the last who was crying as if he were being tormented. However, when he cried, he continued to hike. When he stopped crying, he also stopped walking and would sit down- and he was very hard to get back on his feet again after he sat. So he cried and hiked.
A while later, I was the staff walking with him again. He had since stopped crying, but complained of feeling tired (probably more from crying than any other activity) and then began to complain about his dad- how dare his father make him come to this camp and miss the opening of the newest Harry Potter film? Curses toward his father flew out of his mouth- he continued to get more and more angry. And then, his anger turned towards the mountain and he would declare all of the ways he would destroy the mountain- dynamite his favored method. However, the angrier he became the more he would stomp- and the faster his pace. Through his anger he hiked further and faster than he had all day. Soon, we were at the highest point and I paused him, told him to look around. He grudgingly admitted that this was the first time he had hiked a mountain, and maybe, he was a little, just a little, proud of himself.
The seven other students, who had not been model students throughout this trip, during this hike transformed into encouraging, positive students- always praising and offering to help the slower, angry student. Each one of them said something positive to him and clapped when he came into camp. While it made not have been a shining day for him, I was able to see alot of maturity and progress in the other students during the hike.
We were not prepared for the 5 mile hike to take 6 and a half hours. It was well past dinner time and I had no more food. My staff partner opted to spend the night in the woods, eating his stash of almonds as dinner. I chose to hike out.
So, starting at 9:00 pm, I started my five-mile hike out of the Desolation Wilderness, using the light of my flashlight to light the way. It was a strangely creepy and empowering feeling to hike at night, in the dark. Too many boulders were imaginary bears and the wind was a thousand different animals scurrying in the trees. But when I reached the trail, I was so proud of myself and glad that I had decided to hike out. It only took me an hour and a half to hike back.
I got in the van, quickly ate a granola bar and headed to the campsite to check-in. I arrived at the gate and scanned the clipboards with the names of late-checkins, but nowhere on the list was our group. I shrugged my shoulders and decided I would just head to the site, and if I was hassled in the morning I would show them my reservation and confirmation number. When I rolled up to the campsite, I was surprised to see a trailer, boat and jeep parked in the parking spot. The jeep portrayed a vehicle pass- matching the date and site number. They were in the right spot, and now I had no campsite.

I sighed, and drove across the street to the free beach and parked there for the night. I cleared off a bench and laid down to sleep in the van. I called my husband to lement the trials of my day to him, but he quickly informed me that he had an equally crappy day: our car had broken down on the highway on his way back from Calgary (a three hour drive). Bad day for both of us.
I woke early, to the sun brightly shining on me. I treated myself to a McDonald's breakfast and free internet before I headed back to the campsite; where a ranger confirmed to me that our reservation had been canceled. Apparently, our program had selected some of the wrong dates for that section and had done a sweeping cancel of all sites- including ours.
My partner would have to spend another night out in the woods with the groups, so I loaded up food for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning, my trusty hammock for sleeping in, and headed back on the trail.

I was the first person on the trail at that time, and it was a beautiful, cloudless, blue-skied, warm morning. I set off and my mind started running. I got so focused on my thoughts that I missed the branch-off trail and ended up almost walking right into a river. Wait! We didn't get to the river so soon yesterday. Wait... where was I? Oh, there's the trail. No. that ends at a dead end in the middle of the woods. Is that the trail? Oh... no, it's too steep, we didn't climb that with the kids. I tried to back-track, and was still lost and confused. I followed a little path that narrowed and shortened and soon, after spotting some fresh bear tracks, I looked around and confirmed I was heading into bear habitat and that it was an animal trail, not a man-made one. Then I decided to just follow the river. I remember that yesterday, we had crossed the river on a small, simple bridge. If I followed the river for long enough, I would reach this bridge and therefore, the trail.
I hiked for nearly an hour and a half- finally finding an old path for maintaining some sort of pipe system connected to the river, and kept the river to my right and praying, asking God to point out the way to go. At one point, a small pine tree seemed to stand out as a beacon, so I hiked up through some thick sage brush, scraping up my legs to the pine tree. I stood on a large boulder near the tree, and suddenly- up, to my left I spotted a turn in a distinct trail! (Thanks, God!)
Fifteen minutes later, I came upon the bridge and river crossing. Just after crossing, I looked down to a granola bar promising to be cherry-pie flavored, still in the wrapper, warming in the sun. I picked it up and pretended I was eating warm cherry pie as I celebrated finding the trail (Thanks again, God!). I finished the hike in about three hours, laughing to myself that I found my way in the dark, but somehow got lost in the day light.
I met my partner on the trail, near where the group had camped for the night and told him the bad news first- we had no campsite.
And then I told him I had food- and he feasted on crackers and cheese (compared to his breakfast of a chocolate bar that morning).

I had a wonderful night- chicken burritos, a beautiful, clear lake, sleeping under the stars and an incredibly bright moon. In the morning, I woke up and climbed a few boulders to view the lake, sitting in the warm morning sun, fushia-colored flowers bobbing in the wind beside me and all I could do was smile. It was going to be a good day.

And that is my story of the time that I hiked five miles in the middle of the night out of Desolation Wilderness and ended up having to sleep in a van by the beach at Lake Tahoe. The only animal I saw that night was a deer- while I was driving!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hard at work.

I'm sitting in the Monterey Visitor's Center, taking advantage of their free internet and complimentary computer. For the past 6 hours I have:
taken a short nap in the van,
talked to my mother on the phone for nearly an hour,
did my devotions,
journaled until my hand nearly cramped up,
ate a little lunch
and then strolled the Monterey Wharf.
It was crowded, being a Sunday and I had to push past crowds of tourists with matching souvenir hats and parents with bulky strollers in the shops and in the candy stores. It's a hard life, I know.
I have to (yes, it's required) to spend the day in Monterey while the groups tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I did see them briefly when I passed them off their tickets. And if there are any problems- behavioral or medical, I'll be only a phone call and 2 minutes away. But, since there have been no problems, I have had a wonderful, easy day.
After lunch I:
I bought loads of salt water taffy
Wrote a few postcards and addressed them
Got an original TollHouse chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven (wonderful!)
and found more flag patches to add to my backpack: Haiti, Cuba and Kenya.

Really? This is my job? I am getting paid to just walk around?
If it had been a sunny, warm day I would have worked a little harder: walked down to the Monterey beach and tanned for a while. I know, it's a hard life I live.

Biruk came to visit me and we spent three wonderful days together in San Francisco- so good that they deserve their own blog, which will come later.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Holler to a Hood Mom

Today, while the group and kids rode mountain bikes around Lake Tahoe, my staff partner and I got some down time on the internet, which quickly became instant messenger conversations with friends from all over, including A, who just decided to enroll in college in the fall, L, who is packing for a semester with the International House of Prayer and a woman I know fondly as "Mama G".

I have a few friends in Winnipeg that I have only met in person several times, Mamma G is one of them. Our friendship defies the normal rules for making connections- we are not peers by age, background or hobbies. However, we are connected through people and a shared passion for those people. I heard about Mama G before I ever met her.
Someone would often referred to her, and a few others mentioned her, asked me if I knew her. It seemed we were doing the same thing: diving into a group of young, refugee boys who were selling drugs and into violence, and for some reason, we were drawn to love them.
It was only after I left Winnipeg and returned to school in Michigan that I even talked/emailed Mama G. My old boss had asked permission to pass my contact information on to this woman who was asking about me. And so, we began to talk. And it turned out we knew many of the same people, prayed many of the same prayers and wrote similar letters to people in jail. I finally formally met her when I visited Winnipeg, meeting up at a coffee shop, she gave me a warm hug, as if we had been friends for ages. On other visits to Winnipeg, I would simply show up at her house, noting the iron gate and characteristic porch, but never remembering the house number. She would always greet me with a smile and a hug, usually introducing me to some one she was hosting in her home.
We would talk for hours on the phone, praying together, or offering encouragement, talking about what we had learned recently. Afterwards, Biruk would look at me and ask who I was talking to for that long, laughing that it was someone I'd only met once before. And now, no matter the miles between us, or the time that lapses between our emails or phone calls when we chat again, it is always an encouragement to me. She is a mother in so many ways and an inspiring person, without question.
Recently ChristianWeek wrote an article on Mama G, which I believe captures many of the beautiful and radical things about her. But if you can, you should meet her- she is even better in person. And, I'm thankful to call her my friend. Love you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I wish that I had a chance to upload my photos so share with all of you. I've been to such beautiful places! From the beach to the mountains, wilderness to San Francisco, from bears and elk to seals and blue herons.

San Francisco was lovely, beautiful houses lined up against each other and steep hills that made me feel like I was on an amusement ride. I did not enjoy driving a fifteen passenger van in the ghetto of San Francisco, where people were constantly running red lights and honking at me if I stayed stationary until the light turned green, and the trolleys rolling past me were unnerving. The next day, using the public transportation and being a passenger on one of those trolleys was much more pleasant. I walked the piers- from 2 to 40, reaching the AT&T stadium filled with Giants fans when I realized that I was not going to reach Pier 39, because I had been walking in the wrong direction. Instead of back-tracking and walking about 80 piers back, I surrendered and hopped on the subway and took a tourist-filled trolley to Fisherman's Warf; which was a combination of a boardwalk, county fair and any beachy souvenir area: filled with people, treats, bright colors, fish and plenty of ways to spend money.
I ate some famous soup- and rightfully famous from what I tasted, and a shrimp and crab sandwich that left me licking my fingers, finished off with some fudge and Ghiradelli chocolate. My family should be jealous; I perused a Shaffenberger chocolate store outlet for a little while, smiling as I thought about the many Christmases that those chocolate bars were presents to my father, although I think we ate more of the chocolate than he did.
Next time, I'm visiting Chinatown and maybe hitting up a beach.
The place I stayed in was in the Tenderloin district, which made me feel like I was back in my little apartment in Winnipeg- someone was always out on the sidewalk yelling something, there was a siren blasting somewhere within hearing range and downtown was only two blocks away. I walked around Union Square, enjoying the free entertainment and mobs of people until the chill from the Bay drove me indoors.

Tonight, I'm sleeping near the beach again, and hopefully will wake up to another beautiful, sunny summer day. And then driving to Yosemite for some beautiful hikes with energetic kids- it's bound to be fun!
I've been having a wonderful time! Loving my job, loving traveling and visiting all these beautiful places, my only wish is that I could share my photos right away, but you'll have to wait until I'm back in Edmonton.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Big White Van

The drive from Wyoming to California took two days of driving, each of the six of us taking our turn behind the wheel of the fifteen passenger van. The back loaded up to the ceiling with tents and gear and backpacks, even with the rear seat missing, we were still wedged between bags of groceries and sleeping pads. With four Ipods, we were well entertained and two people in the back seat became obsessed with a game called "Angry Birds" and would randomly start screaming out things like: "Get them monkeys!" or "The bird blew up too early! Got to try again!"

We began at around 8,000 feet, curving slowly in first gear down the side of a mountain, surrounded by aspens and various evergreens. Then we drove through Utah, and spent the night in Nevada, just off the highway, surrounded by sage brush and dirt, under a clear sky and a glowing moon.

The next day we arrived safely in California and set up camp. 5 minutes infront of us, and lulling us to sleep each night is the Pacific Ocean, with barking seals and diving pelicans. 2 minutes behind us are strawberry fields, filled early with bent workers collecting the sweet red berries that we buy for change at the fruit stands lining the hiway and gorge ourselves on pails of fresh berries, along with sides of guacamole made from fresh and ridiculously cheap avacados.

We didn't stay long, but loaded back up in the vans and did a super-speed run through of the program we are taking kids on later this summer. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, the American River and San Francisco in five days!!!
We hiked, backpacked, went mountain biking, rock climbing and visited hot springs. Near Lake Tahoe I saw my first bear, sniffing and licking around the campsite beside ours, as they had left food sitting out. I was so excited to see a real black bear right across the road from me, we were all so enamored, taking pictures, that we didn't even try to scare the bear away.
Lake Tahoe and further hidden, but just as amazing, Marlette Lake parallel that of Lake Lucerne: vivid blue, from the glaciers of mountains, surrounded by stone and snow peaks. The Yosemite Valley was a too-perfect painting, so surreal I had to tell myself to breathe because I was too taken by the majesty of the mountains and waterfalls. We hiked up to a waterfall, following the natural stairs, almost constantly surrounded by rainbows as we climbed through the mist and spray that soaked us until we reached the top, and laid on a slab of rock and dried in the sun.
And now I'm back at the beach, two hours or so from San Francisco, ready to eat piles of fresh fruit and laugh in the sand, lay in the sun.
I am having such a great time!

In two days the actual program, youth and all, starts. I am so excited! Everything has been wonderful and so much fun!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dubois, Wyoming

After finally arriving in Wyoming, I was tossed in a whirlwind of driving two hours to Jackson Hole and immediately starting lifeguard training, which ended with hilarious stories, including me having a leg cramp while trying to save a pretend drowning victim, so I just pulled him up by his dreads. We are now working in the same group and get along well.
Other stories include Wilderness First Aid training where my other co-staff ran up to a pretend hypothermia victim and immediately began cutting his shirt off. He opened his eyes and exclaimed: "I just woke up and I'm surrounded by girls who are ripping my clothes off!"
I am now lifeguard certified and wilderness first aid trained.

The rest of the week is sitting around class-room style learning about ADHD, dealing with youth and non-compliance and program protocols.

This is my first time to Wyoming, and the first day here it was chilly, but I had to consider the elevation, we are staying around 9,000 feet above sea level. But then Sunday came.
And I woke up to a foot of snow.
In the last days of May.
And only a fleece sweater.
And I left Canada for this?

It's true. It sucks. But I have been very good about not complaining constantly.
I am going to California in 7 days. That is what I signed on for- the warmth of California. And I just keep counting down the days.

It has been fun so far. I'm working with great people- backpackers who have been around the world, people who have lead kayak expeditions, a girl who walked across 37 states- including from Maine to Alaska and plenty of people in interesting careers and hobbies.
I forsee and awesome summer- when winter finally ends and the snow completely melts!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Laramie, Wy, where the heck is that?

The adventure began on Wednesday.
Biruk dropped me off at the airport and I went to check-in for my flight.
"Flight to Denver is delayed for two hours."
So I called Biruk back right away and he turned back around we got to hang out for another half an hour.
After talking with three gate agents I was told:
#1 "Once you get to Denver, there will be no flights out of Denver. You will be stuck there for the night. But don't worry, we'll put you up in a hotel."
#2 "You definitely will get to Denver tonight, and maybe even get to your destination, since those flights are probably delayed, too. But if not- yeah, you're just stuck in the airport."
#3 "We may or may not get to Denver tonight. And if you do, I am pretty much guaranteeing that you will be stuck at the airport because this is do to weather. And we don't provide accommodations when it's an act of God."
So, I prayed for accommodations, asking for something nice and unexpected to happen.
The two hour delayed turned into a 5 hour delay- all from the first airport in Edmonton. And, since going through customs and immigration, and the last flight was supposed to leave by 6 pm, all immigration personnel left, meaning we couldn't leave the terminal if we wanted to, because that would be illegal! So there I was, for 6+ hours, waiting at the gate, but only 45 minutes away from my own home.
Finally, we were given meal vouchers and the last restaurant in the terminal stayed open for the 30 of us to eat. I ate with a group of guys from Arkansas, who had been working in the city for about a week, starting up a new store. Later, I sat with them while waiting to board the plane and we had some crazy conversations- from working in Mexico to issues of prostitution.
When we finally did land in Denver the news was grim: flights were missed, re-booked for first thing in the morning, and there was no where to stay. The airlines were not giving vouchers, but even if they had, the nearest hotel with any availability was 45 minutes away, there was just nothing with room anywhere.
I was under the impression that my friend, R, lived 6 hours from the city. Nope- 30 minutes! So God answered my prayer and I got to hang out with a home-town friend for the night, and had a great bed to sleep in, two meals and a shower and was dropped off at the airport in the morning. I had a place to sleep! My friends from Arkansas slept in the airport, poor things.

But it wasn't over yet:

I was still heading to Wyoming.
I had changed my flight to JAC into RIW instead, because both airports are an equal distance from my actual destination and RIW worked better for pick-ups this next day.
I boared my flight to RIW and the plane took off. The one-hour flight went quickly and soon we were informed that the plane was ready to land. It began to circle the airport below- I assume, because there was too much cloud coverage to see anything.
We kept circling.
And we kept circling.
And then we were told we weren't actually going to land there and flew another hour to a different- tiny, tiny airport in Laramie and landed there.
With the cloud coverage, the oncoming snow (WHAT! I thought I was SOUTH of the border! Oh the mountains!) and the runway equipment not operating properly, we would not be landing in RIW at all that day. Some people opted to drive through the mountains and exited the plane at the dinky airport- our flight returned with only 4 people left on the plane. One being a girl I am working with this summer- what a nice surprise! And she is part of my team for the summer, so it's been great having someone to hang out with and we will already know eachother by the time we finally get to the base.
We have to wait, sitting on the tarmack for more than an hour, because with hail in Denver, we can't get clearance to return there, yet.
And we're starving; but all they have to eat are mints.
I ate five.

Finally, we get back to Denver, beg for the first flight out to RIW (because at this point, we're already going to be late for our training, but an hour late is better than 8 hours late).
And, because is it not due to weather, we are put up in a hotel for the night and given a meal voucher. The hotel is decent; with a hot tub that I took advantage of. And the restaurant that I used my meal voucher in had monsterous calzones. I'm serious- like a full-fledged pizza folded in half. I really did eat most of it; I was so hungry. But it could have easily fed four people instead of one me!

Today is day three in Denver, maybe I'll get out today?
We'll see!

Please, please pray that my baggage isn't lost. It was sent ahead to JAC, and is supposed to be sent back to Denver where I can pick it up and take it with me to RIW. However, the agent mentioned something jokingly about RIV and the spelling error sending it to India? Oh, please don't even mention that! I would really like to change my clothes, because my emergency outfit wasn't supposed to last more than 1 day.

If it starts like this, I wonder what the rest of the summer is going to be like?

Thursday, May 05, 2011


I jetted off to Winnipeg for a few days to visit friends.
The weather was horrible- rain the first day I was there, as well as the last. And snow, yes SNOW on Sunday, May 1. Not just a dusting, but enough to cover the sidewalks and probably at least an inch. I didn't bring shoes for snow, and my walk to church left me with numb feet.

I had 'church' nearly every day. First with my beautiful friend, Mrs. de Meza on Saturday night; great songs in Spanish and ending with good food. Sunday there was morning church, followed by a great lunch with my Canadian family and the whole afternoon continued to be praises and prayers. And Monday was even more, with unexpected twists and great conversations over sushi and Belgian chocolate. On Tuesday I spent the afternoon with B#2 laughing and yelling and having a wonderful conversation. That evening I went back to Central Park; which has been renovated and changed from the drug-dealing dangerous park it used to be. Then, with G-mama and L---, went for a walk for ice cream and talked about anything and everything.

I felt like I was on a spiritual retreat with an amazing mix of food: Guatemalan, Japanese, Indian, El Salvadoran, American and Italian. YUM!

My cell phone didn't work in Manitoba, which was frustrating, but not crippling. I used payphones. I borrowed cellphones. It worked out.
When I talked to Biruk most of our phone calls consisted of 'where is this?' 'I can't find that'. It seems that he is more dependent on me than he thought!

I visited the zoo and took a walk around the Forks, looking at the flooding and an all-hemp store. I played poker in the park and went to a candy store, proving that 'Sugar Daddies' are a real candy.
It was good to see everybody, and while I don't want to live in Winnipeg, I do want to see them all the time! I wish I was neighbors with them. Now it's their turn- come visit me!
Too bad most of them are heading out to Alberta, whether Edmonton or Calgary over the summer, while I'm in California. I guess they have to take two trips!

Friday, April 29, 2011


Today, while on a too-long bus ride I started a game to help my creative writing juices flowing.
The rules are:
'the' and 'and' are not allowed, except when a t or a is in use.
Only use 'of' 'for' 'a' 'at' and 'to' when absolutely necessary (unless their letter is in use)
Extra bonus points for using X (but not as a name, that's too easy.)
Skipping a letter is allowed, as long as it follows alphabetical order.

Here is my first paragraph, I call it "Hide n Seek"

Annie and another attacked arbored areas, amply bordered by branches. Bobbing behind curtained covering, coupled children cowered, camouflaged. Court deserted, daring Dylan dashed down, escaping eyes, edging enveloping foliage for fresh fringes guarding gamers. Grasping ground, glittered girl giggled. "Hush!" her half-sister harried, hammering her hand into impulsive imp's. Kneeling, kin kept lowered, lifting leafy limbs, listening for muffled movement. Near narrow opening, over ornate object, person perched, posture perfectly pairing. Quickly, quietly, rival ran, reaching statue, signaling seeing shadow. Sullen, student surrendered, stumbling to turf. Together, two took to task, under, up, unveiling vacant vines. Wait-wavering, "Willows!" yelled youths, zealously zooming at an adversary. Among branches, children darted, escaping from grasps in just moments. Sisters smile, safely sheltered.

It took me a while to write such a short paragraph, and it required that I use a lot of words I would never have otherwise considered. I wouldn't submit this, but it does help me write. If you write one of your own, I would love to read it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

DONE!!!...sort of.

I finished the book!!! But it's not yet done. It still has to be edited by some of my favorite people, who will tell me what changes I should make and then I will be combing through it all over again, up late at night re-reading and changing one adjective, adding a comma here and there.

So its not done... but its a little bit done.
I know my mom wants to read the last paragraph- she always cheats and looks at the back anyway (I do it, too). So here is a little from the last paragraph*:

I lit a match and held it against the paper. Against the big letters "At Risk". The orange flames ignited on the paper and started eating away the words. I let it burn until all that was left on the paper was the word “Girl”.

*subject to change depending on my editors!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Indiana Connection

In preparation for this summer, my inbox has been flooded with carpool emails. None of them applying to me, because I'm flying in, but I scan them all just in case it has information for me.
And that's when I saw an email from a girl, from Bloomington, Indiana who is driving to Wyoming. Would you look at that? I'm going to have to meet her. There is about a 99.9% chance that we have someone who know in common, right?

Have I mentioned yet that I am so excited? Whitewater rafting. Surfing. The beach. Rock Climbing. And helping kids with behavioral problems. Its like everything I want- adventure and helping teenagers- mixed into one summer, all set in California!
I'm sure I will be tired, I'm sure I will miss Biruk, and certainly I will want to get a break, but I'm thinking it will be worth it.

3 more weeks!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happily Ever After

I put up new curtains in our bedroom- the old one wasn't even really a curtain, but a sheet. We both hated it, it made our apartment look ghetto. The curtains I bought are very pretty- taupe, with what I would call and see-through pattern all over. But I like that, it means most mornings I wake up with the sun shining in my face- what better way to wake up?
But if Biruk worked until 3 am the night before, he doesn't really prefer to wake up that way. Sorry babe! Looking for thicker ones.
But this morning, my alarm woke me up, and I looked out the window to see a dinghy white color. I thought it was only cloudy at first- but then I went to the window.
It was snowing.

In mid-April? You have got to be kidding me!
I remind myself that I'm going to California in a month, that makes me feel better.

I've been writing a book, and I'm almost done.
But I never knew that writing the ending would be so hard.
I've been at the last 'five chapter's for almost a month now!
I remember, when I was little, we would play a game where you 'pass around the bedtime story' and everyone contributes to part of the story. Only, I never wanted it to end. I kept adding twists and turns and bringing characters back to life until the babysitter finally said 'Enough! The end.'

I've gotten past my elementary years of an inability to tie ends together, but ending is still hard.
I've settled on three endings so far, but kept altering them because something wasn't right about it- it was too perfect to be realistic, or it gave off a different message than I wanted to send.
I am set in this ending, and I hoped that I could reach it within a solid three chapters- wa-la and we're done! That was silly.
I want it to be believable and applicable for readers, so I have to give a few more days for main character to do some things. I want to bring out the epiphanies after I've hinted at the questions a few times. I want to bring some redeeming qualities to the somewhat 'villians' of the story. But, I want it to all wrap up, quickly, too, because I don't want it to draw out forever.
I've written the ending chapters three times now- once, they were lost (which I would have changed anyway), the others I've just written over, or moved those passages to the side, to glean whatever I can from them.

I want to make it believable, but sometimes I have to rewind and consider that just because this similar thing happened in my own life or in the life of someone I know, doesn't make it believable. I've lived a pretty unbelievable life, and so have many people I know. Being realistic to readers means editing my own life, a little, I guess.
I considered having the main character be held at the police station as one of the climactic points of the story, but each time I started to write it, it wasn't what I wanted. Even though I had used experiences from people I know, they still seemed too false, despite that the are true stories.

Hopefully, I can tie it all up in 3 more chapters!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sleep and Summer

It's 1 am, which is not late for me.
With Biruk's work schedule, I often stay up until 3 am to greet him when he comes home and we'll have an after mid-night snack together.
Then, we sleep, which develops into sleeping in.
A 10 am phone call may wake us up, with the caller surprised that I sound so sleepy on the phone.
We lounge in bed for a while, have a little breakfast. Maybe go out for breakfast. Biruk likes the breakfast sandwiches from Tim Horton's, but too often we arrive after the breakfast serving hours. Drat!

A few days ago, we woke up early (as in 8:30 am) to drive someone to an appointment and we both remarked about how refreshing it was to be up in the mornings, feeling the gentler morning sun and drinking hot beverages to wake us up. It felt like I accomplished so much more because I finished some things before noon- something I haven't done in a long time!

I often give myself a hard time, feeling like a slacker because I can't work, and I sleep in frequently. But, I'm taking a new approach:
For starters, I am doing as much as I am allowed to with volunteering, writing articles on the internet, helping watch kids and writing a book.
One day, I will be envious of the time that I slept in late on a daily basis and got to indulge my night owl. So, I won't refer to myself as a bum anymore- it's not by my choice.

I have one more month to enjoy sleeping in before I start my summer job.
I had decided to not take a position as a counselor working with youth with ADD, because I considered how exhausting it would be working hands-on with high-energy youth in a camp setting. Even imagining it made me feel tired. Also, the option for working in Southern California didn't seem to be viable and I wasn't interested in working in Wyoming for the summer. I prayed about it and felt secure that I was not to be a counselor, what I really wanted was to go to San Francisco and I felt that a leadership position would be more fitting.
After being set in this decision, I received a phone call: a new position had opened up and they needed someone to be a director for the Northern California program, helping behind the scenes, running of the program, leading the counselors and doing less hands-on with the youth. Also, it would be beginning and ending in San Francisco each week. All the training I would need would be included in the staff training, and the dates would have me back in Edmonton two weeks before my work visa (hopefully!!!) arrives.
Well, thanks God! Biruk and I prayed and talked about it, but the smile on my face told it all -- it was perfect, everything that I had asked for and even more, including a higher salary.

As it gets closer, I find myself getting more excited. It's not just the location- either San Francisco or California, although I do smile when I consider the warmth and a place I've always wanted to visit. It's not just to work, although I've missed working for 8 months.
I can't think of anything more perfect than leading groups of kids on adventure trips; it will give me so much experience for my future goals working with youth and young offenders. And how much fun! Part of our training includes a run-through of the trip we will be taking the kids on, but without the kids. I'll get to go white water rafting, surfing and rock climbing!
Do I have to say again that I am so excited!!!

We're camping near Lake Tahoe

All of my days off will be in the San Francisco.
My job covers my food and housing, except on my days off. I contacted YWAM San Francisco and I am going to be staying at their base during my breaks from work.

I haven't traveled in a while. Okay, not since December which may only be four months, but feels like an eternity. I didn't really consider it 'traveling' to go to California, because it's in the US, but I told someone this and they said that I'm just a travel snob; it counts as traveling and because it's adventure-packed, I have no reason not to consider this to be traveling.

I know what you're thinking- everyone has already asked me already: what about you and Biruk?
Biruk has been with me for these past months while I've hated being in Edmonton and hated not working.
Biruk and I had a long distance relationship for 2 and a half years, going up to six months without seeing eachother.
Biruk knows my goals and dreams and sees how this summer job fits so perfectly into that.
We know that it will be hard, we aren't beating around that. But I think any option for the summer would be hard; either bored and lonely in Edmonton, or adventure and missing Biruk away from Edmonton.

And, the man that I love always kindly kisses me and says "I just want you to be happy". What better answer?

What would make this even more perfect, is if my work visa comes right away after I return and I can start working immediately.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Birthday List!

As tradition, I have compiled a list of 23 things from the past year, and 24 for the year to come.

23 Things from Last Year:

1. Earned my Bachelor's degree in Justice and Ministry *

2. Completed my Internship at the women's prison in the chaplaincy department *

3. Began volunteering with Young Life *

4. Received a phone call from a four year old

5. Testified in court, swore on the Bible and the whole bit

6. Played 'broom ball' which is like hockey, except with an inflatable ball and broom handles

7. Had a few puffs of a cigar (it was disgusting)

8. Framed my art and put it up on our walls *

9. Learned how to make biscuits and gravy *

10. Submitted poetry for a contest

11. Bought a car

12. Bought another car

13. Had a wedding anniversary with my husband

14. Opened a small business

15. Tried my hand at bookkeeping

16. Got a job in social services (that I love!)

17. Got a second job in social services (that I hated)

18. Quit my second job in social services

19. Learned CPR

20. Began the process for permanent residency

21. Got my own cell phone (but it's still pre-paid, I just can't sign a contract!)

22. Went to Cuba for my honeymoon*

23. Watched a performance at Havana's Tropicana

24 Things for the Future:

1. Get regular massages + (they are more regular, but Biruk isn't a therapist, so it doesn't count)

2. Surf (or, at least try, because I've heard its really hard and I want to try at least once)

3. Meet my new niece (I know, it's terrible that I haven't met her yet)

4. Meet my new brother-in-law (I know, it's terrible that I haven't met him yet)

5. Play soccer again + (well, I did play soccer last summer, but it didn't really count)

6. Get a work visa/ be allowed to work in Canada again

7. Get a job in the criminal justice field +

8. Move from Canada +

9. Speak Amheric fluently +

10. Get another tattoo

11. Touch a dolphin +

12. Learn how to make yogurt +

13. Go to Spain +

14. Be more conversant in Spanish +

15. Go hiking in Banff +

16. Drive a standard/stick-shift vehicle + (I started to learn, but it just made me too nervous)

17. Return to Phi Phi Island +

18. Have a wedding anniversary with my husband every year + (So, I did accomplish this, but it's an anniversary, so by the definition, it will be on this list every year)

19. Record our own answering machine message + (I cannot believe that something that simple I still haven't done!)

20. Go to California/San Francisco

21. Lead a program for groups of teens

22. Submit a story for publishing + (the first step of this has begun, hopefully this will be completed next year)

23. Go white-water rafting

24. Be happy! (yes, this was on the list last year, too, but I think it's a pretty good goal, right?)

* denotes on my list from last year that I completed
+ denotes on my list from last year that I still haven't completed

I'm excited to turn 24.
I feel like I am headed toward so many good things; my recent jobs have all been in positions in my career field, and my job this summer is going to give me great experience for my goals in the future and I feel like so many things are coming toward a point, aiming at my goals and what God has called me to. I'm doing going on rabbit trails as much.
Well, besides the whole 9 months of not working because I don't have a work visa, I guess that is kind of a huge thing, but I'm trying to think positively!

Biruk and I have been talking a lot about when we move from Edmonton, and where we want to go and making plans and decisions that will help enable us to travel and live overseas. That is so exciting for us!

And, I am glad to say that I look older now. For such a long time, people assumed I was still in high school, or entering college. Maybe it is because I dress better now, instead of just T-shirts and jeans, or because I got a hair cut- but I look older and people react differently to me now.

So, 24 is going to be a good year for me. I am prepared for a good year, expecting a good year.
Happy Birthday to me!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Working full-time for YWAM (which was often more than a 40 hour a week job, considering a month in Uganda, leading the Discipleship Training School, and the summer program in addition to community outreach and visiting people in prison)
Volunteering on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a church drop-in center
Volunteering on Tuesday evenings, and some weekends with a youth program
Volunteering on Wednesday afternoons with a program to persons involved in prostitution
In the summer, playing soccer 3 times a week for 2 hours or more

2007 Fall:
Full-time student
Working part-time at a grocery store

2008 Spring:
Working full-time at a doughnut factory
Working part-time at a clothing store
Taking classes online (part-time student)
Helping babysit for my friend and her children

2008 Fall:
Full-time student on-campus
Part-time student on-line
Played soccer for the university
Had a lot of fun
Worked as the score keeper for the basketball games

2009 Spring:
Full-time student on-campus
Full-time student online
(combined credit hours: 25. 12-15 is regular full-time)

2009 Fall:
Full-time online student
Worked twice a week baby-sitting
Monday evenings volunteered at the prison
Spent a month in Ethiopia

2010 Spring:
Internship at prison (30 hours a week)
Part-time online student
Working part-time as a youth worker

2010 Summer/Fall:
Being a care-giver to my husband
Helping start up a small business
Renovating for the restaurant
Part-time student
Working part-time as a youth worker
For a very short time working full-time at a group home

And then, everything screeched to a halt when I was notified that I was no longer eligible to work in Canada.
Is it any wonder I don't know what to do with myself?
Even the summer when I was 18, I worked a full-time and a part-time job. Even when I was in high school, I was a student, I played sports, and I worked part-time.
I don't know how to just... not work.
If any of you have ever met my mother- who has, on several occasions vacuumed at midnight, and owns her own wheat grinder, just in case, and never, ever just sits down. She is busy constantly. While I can sit down for more than five minutes, I cannot stand loafing.
And yet, I feel that I have become a loaf because I have not worked, really, really worked in six months.
I hate it. I want to work so badly.
Maybe some would like to trade with me, who hate their jobs, would love to lounge on the couch all day and eat bon bons?

So, I applied for several positions working with summer camps over the summer (in the US, of course, because I cannot work in Canada). It fits well, because almost all the positions are for 2-2.5 months, and I would be back in Canada by mid-August, hopefully to meet up with my work permit. And, all the positions include housing and food, because why would I bother renting a place for 2 months?
And, Biruk and I think that 2 months is just enough that we won't lose our minds, but would help me feel like I was able to live an actual warm summer and get away from Edmonton for a bit.

The down-side, is that I applied at the tail-end of the application deadlines and already received some responses that all the female staff positions had been filled. I did a phone interview this morning for an interesting summer program for youth with ADHD and learning disabilities, which included excursions and over-night camping. I think that program would give me wonderful experience for my long-term goals working with young offenders. However, I need to be first-aid wilderness certified. I'm not sure how that's so different from regular first aid, would we learn how to make a splint from trees? Or put pressure on a puncture wound with something other than a towel?
But, if I don't get employed at any of these summer camps, then I still have a Plan B and a Plan C.

It should be a good, hopefully very busy, summer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Tomorrow marks our first full year of being married.We didn't have traditional marriage counseling, we simply asked for the advice of couples we knew- people who had been married for a year, some who had grown old together, people who had been divorced and those who had numerous children.
But nothing, nothing at all could have ever prepared us for this year.

But that's okay. We didn't need to be prepared. No one can ever possibly plan their whole life or be ready for the craziness that comes with even the most every-day of events.
We needed (and still need) God.
We needed to support each other.
Even now, we talk about doing this or doing that, but we hold them loosely. We can't prepare or expect our life to follow the pattern we have set.
I know a year isn't very long, so I'm not claiming to know much on the subject. We did learn a lot this year, and what made me fall in love with Biruk in the first place has helped hold us through.
It's nice if you have common interests, and would be good to dream the same things in the future, but the real cement is values and ethics; the true heart of a person. When the crazy stuff happens, that's all that's left. You don't care if you both like soccer if someone just died, and you aren't thinking about if you are dog people or cat people when you're giving your testimony to the police.
I'm never going to know everything about Biruk, I'm always going to learn about him. But I know he is a good man, he's generous and sweet. I know he's strong, and I was able to see his strength extend this year. He's optimistic, which I've heard in thousands of conversations. And he's full of faith, which I feel when he prays before he gets up in the morning.
I love him.

So here's to one year together, with many more, better, years in the future.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I am a woman. And that's okay.

In October, I began volunteering with a Christian program for youth.
It was sort of a fluke, that I even became interested.
I was working at the one horrible group home that treated the children/youths in the home terribly and, in my opinion, did not sufficiently satisfy their basic needs. After one particularly horrible day (I had given my notice, but agreed to stay on for another week while they found a replacement), I came home and began looking for jobs. In a frenzy, powered by AWOL youths and patronizing supervisors I began looking for another job. I had heard of this program before, I knew that they were Christian and that they worked with youth. I sent an email with my contact information.

The next morning, I received a phone call. They were interested in me.
I left feeling a little bombarded; too much information, too much excitement for me to 'come on board'. I needed time. Which was awarded me; I was set-up to meet with the local staff member and given the option to pursue volunteering.
Which ended up being a better fit, as I couldn't see myself fitting in as staff with this organization. They do great things, but it's not my passion for a career. However, working with youth is important to me, and for the mean time, while I cannot work, I can at least volunteer, and this is an outlet in which to do so.

What I like about the program I am volunteering with is the focus on positive relationships for youth. It's not a program with a big agenda or professional boundaries; those are already available to kids. They need something more.
I think that focus is incredibly important and the other leaders are very passionate about the kids they know. I'm still in the process of meeting kids, which brought us to a unique discussion at the last meeting.
There are some approaches that I don't agree with, such as limiting the outreach to youth in a specific radius from one's home, or same-gender ministry/mentoring.

It's not surprising to me, as many ministries take the stance of female to female relationships in ministry, I just don't agree. I understand about avoiding controversial situations, but I also think that Jesus had his feet washed by a prostitute and right there, at the dinner table, although it was in a group and there were witnesses, people still thought poorly of Jesus- because how dare he let such a terrible woman touch him. Jesus's response was that for the rest of time, wherever the Gospel was preached, people would hear this story and know how she had honored Jesus.
I struggled with this when I worked in Winnipeg. I felt called to love and serve young men and old boys who were in a local gang, or in at-risk activities. How could I, as a white person speak into the lives of these African immigrants? Some of the theories of ministry say that someone who has something more immediately in common with them should fill that role, as being more likely to quickly gain their trust based on something visibly uniting. How could I show God's love through befriending them? I'm a female, and women aren't supposed to minister to males.
And God's response was that he knew what he was doing. He knew I was a female, he knew I was a white, American woman and he was doing this on purpose.

Someone asked me once; another woman who is called love this same group, she asked me how it was, being a younger woman with these guys. She's older and can jump to an 'aunt' or 'mother' role, but she wondered what I faced, being almost the same age as many of the guys. I never noticed it as an issue.

I remember once, sitting in the park, having someone help me with my World Religions homework. And this guy; a complete stranger, walked up and asked the young man I was with some question in reference to me as a prostitute (not a ridiculous query for the area). My tutor-of-sorts jumped up, said a string of curses and chased the random man out of the park, threatening to hit him all the way. It makes me laugh every time the image flips back through my mind.

Another time, I was sitting with S----, who is now a type of brother to me, and we were talking (in the same park) and a random man introduced himself to the two of us and then tried to rub my leg. Before I could order him to stop, 'my brother' jumped in and verbally decapitated the man.

I don't remember feeling objectified, preyed on, or that any relationship was turning romantic. I do, however, remember feeling protected and cared for, even by men who in other ways might have been seen as heartless. I had lots of big brothers.

God told me to love these men, and so, I just kept listening, and kept offering apples and home-cooked meals, hugs and jail visits. I'm so glad that I did. I still talk to so many of those men- and they surprise me all the time by popping back up and calling me or sending me letters. I wouldn't say that I changed their life, but I wonder what would be different if I had listened to all those other voices, instead of listening to God. I definitely would miss out on a blessing of knowing them and seeing God move in their lives, and that is only based on my own small field of vision.

I still feel called to serve at-risk youth, or young adults in urban settings. Including, almost especially, young men, with a criminal justice aspect.
It's different than many of the other people I volunteer with. And sometimes my comments are alone in a category, but it's alright.
I can love and serve kids in that context, with that program. But if I'm led to some kids, who are boys and don't go to the local school in the right amount of mileage from my home, I'm still going to hug them and care for them. I'll just do so separately from this program.

But first, I need to meet the kids.
In Winnipeg, it was through soccer in the summer, it will be interesting to see what it is here in Edmonton.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Horizon

Mombasa, Kenya

Elk Island Park, Alberta, Canada

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Varadero, Cuba


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Outside the cigar factory, Havana, Cuba

Lira, Uganda

Somewhere in France

Gondor, Ethiopia

Varadero, Cuba

Spring Arbor, Michigan