Monday, 26 September 2016

"One of the Few" Review

"One of the Few" is the account of Marine fighter pilot Jason Ladd's journey to faith and the belief system he has come to embrace. It follows his story from childhood through college, and well into his adult years, taking the reader to many locations around the globe. Jason recounts his younger years, being passive to the idea of God, until he was forced to think about what he really believed when challenged by his wife. With time and searching, he comes to embrace the faith that he further presents in the his book.

Aside from his personal testimony, Jason uses his experiences to draw comparisons between military service and the life of a Christian. He tackles many engaging topics, including Christians serving in the military, the transgender movement, pornography, marriage, alcohol abuse, and why various worldviews have become so popular. This variety does make for an engaging read.

Jason finished the book better than he started. The first part was less engaging for me. This was partly due to all the military terminology, which I am largely unfamiliar with, although he does try to explain as much as possible. I found that many of his illustrations didn't flow well. He touched on some subjects, but didn't discuss them fully, leaving me with questions. There were also inconsistencies in some details, causing confusion, and some incorrect facts were overlooked.

However, the style did improve as I progressed and the author was more successful in engaging me. Jason shares his beliefs with strong conviction. He is not afraid to share what he personally believes. He doesn't shy away from sensitive topics and chooses to speak up against them, rather than stand on the tolerance fence. The reader is left without a doubt that the author has truly been transformed.

"One of the Few" is a worthwhile read, exploring the life of a Marine, questions about faith, and the answers with the power to change a man. It provides a well-informed perspective on various worldviews and emphasizes the importance of holding to one, as well as teaching our children, instead of leaving them to search for answers on their own. This is a book that will perhaps challenge you to get off the fence and choose where you stand.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and was in no way compelled to write a positive review.


As posted on Amazon.com.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

My Low-Fodmap Life

There's an aspect of my life that I haven't shared much about on this blog: IBS.  I've often thought about sharing my story, but have never quite gotten to that point.  In short, about eight years ago, I became really sick with a parasite, and even after using a couple rounds of antibiotics and going through a few natural cleanses, I was still having problems.  So my road of testing began, and we were able to solve a smaller problem, but still didn't have an explanation for my stomach pains and bowel patterns.  After a series of tests, some very uncomfortable and humiliating, the results were in. Nothing.  However, with my set of symptoms, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a functional bowel disorder where nothing appears to be wrong with the bowels, but they don't function properly.  As a result, the patient often experiences abdominal cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, gas, bloating, etc.

Well, there seemed to be ways to at least control symptoms, and the mantra my doctor gave me was "fibre, water, exercise" as well as managing stress. And so I tried a high-fibre diet, eating All-Bran, Fibre 1, multigrain bread products, adding inulin to my drinks, etc.  Also, yogurt and probiotic supplements were recommended.  I also tried using an antispasmodic drug for a while.  So I tried different things. However, as much as I was pushed to have a big bowl of fibre cereal every morning, I kept telling my doctor that milk in the morning made me feel queasy.  Eventually this led to the question of lactose intolerance, and about a year after my initial testings, I was confirmed somewhat lactose-intolerant.  Now I was diving into experimenting with expensive dairy free milks and lactase enzymes.

In short, after some time, I learned to manage my condition, and when I didn't feel good, I could usually trace it to something I ate.  Then about two years ago, it all started to go downhill.  This happened after a rather stressful time in my life, and I confess I prayed suffering upon myself.  Soon, no matter what I ate it seemed, almost every afternoon I was plagued with pains in my stomach, back, and got bad gas.  After awhile, this sent me back to a doctor's office to see if anything else was going on.  Tests related to my digestive tract were clear and I was back to assessing my diet.

While working with a dietician, I learned about the Low-Fodmap diet, a diet developed in Australia, with credible research behind it. About 70-80% of individuals that suffer from IBS experience improvement.  The basic theory behind the diet is that there are certain groups of carbohydrates that don't digest and then create a lot of water and gas in the digestive tract, causing pain, bloating, discomfort, gas, etc.  In order to go through the diet, you cut out all five carb groups (fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols) for about 6-8 weeks, until you see improvement, and then add each group in individually to see which foods cause symptoms.  So it means a time commitment of several months to follow through with the elimination process.  The research and success rate did make me consider it, but the lists of foods to avoid were outrageous.  I tried finding recipes for this diet, and most of them contained unfamiliar ingredients, would have been expensive, or just didn't look like food I would eat.  Many other books on IBS recommended high fibre recipes including lots of beans or carciferous vegetables; not good when they really cause gas issues.  Besides all this, in a home down to three people, I would have to make most of my own food, which hardly made sense.

So, I left it on the shelf.  But since my husband and I started dating last year, my health became a frequent topic of discussion, and often caused inconvenience.  After we were married, I tried a few different elimination diets, including gluten and dairy.  This seemed to provide some relief.  But I was still daunted by the Low-Fodmap experiment.  However, my husband was supportive and willing to go through it with me.  A trip to El Paso was also necessary to get ingredients, due to lack of availability of certain products in Mexico.

To give readers unfamiliar with the diet an idea of what I was up against, here is a brief list of foods that were off the menu, or could only be eaten in limited amounts.
  • apples, pears, peaches, plums, mangos, guayaba, blackberries, apricots, watermelon, dried fruits
  • honey, fructose syrups
  • milk products like milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc (unless lactose free)
  • beans
  • wheat based bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods
  • garlic and onions (the green part of green onions was allowed, as well as garlic/onion infused oils)
  • barley, rye, regular oats
  • avocados, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, beets, peas, corn
  • almonds, cashews, pistachios
  • chocolate
Giving up gluten especially was hard.  Cooking without garlic and onion.  Being limited as to which fruits and vegetables I could eat.  Having to read labels on pretty much any packaged food.  It was daunting.

So I spent a lot of time preparing, researching, gathering recipes, and becoming a Pinterest addict.  And we began our endeavour. We started the process in early January and we're still going at it.  We have a couple weeks of the process left, after which I will start eating more foods I can tolerate, but still be careful for a few months while I experiment with others I'm still unsure about.  Although some dairy is allowed in this diet, for most of it, I have been very low dairy/dairy free.  I have also done a natural cleanse, taken probiotics, bone broth, sauerkraut, other supplements, etc. It has been a lot to keep up with.  Also, I cook all my own broth, make my own salad dressings, ketchup (which we actually like better than Heinz), and my own sausage.

When people hear about all this stuff I can't have, they wonder what we actually eat.  Well, I have been able to adapt and cook really good meals.  I cook more with raw herbs and spices and use fruit/citrus flavours.  There are things that are still harder.  There are foods I miss terribly.  But we have managed.  At home, it's not too bad.  The challenge becomes greater when we go out somewhere to eat.  But here are some examples of the great food we do enjoy.

Breakfasts generally consist of some sort of potato and egg combination, heuvos rancheros, veggie omelettes, baked oatmeal, gluten free pancakes, or simply fruit, cereal, or smoothies.


This orange french toast on homemade gluten free bread was a real treat.


Lunch is generally our biggest meal, and I've discovered some great new recipes and played with some different flavours.  Chinese five spice and fresh ginger is what makes this an awesome beef ginger stir fry.


Sometimes a little modification is all that's necessary to make a dish that you normally enjoy. Such is the case with this Hawaiian chicken and Herbed Basmati Rice.


This Cincinnati Chili included a unique blend of spices and is served on gluten free pasta.


Homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning and warm sauteed pineapple totally puts a new favourite kick on chicken fajitas.


Orange marmalade isn't just for toast. Sometimes it's for Spicy Orange Glazed Pork Chops too, with a rice and veggie pilaf.


Comfort food can be had too, and we enjoyed a classic Shepherd's Pie with a salad and homemade ranch.


And sometimes, you just need some gluten-free chocolate pudding cake! :)


In addition to this, we also eat lots of salads (although we avoided raw veggies for awhile), and eat lots of soups to get cooked veggies for easier digestion.

I must say, I am looking forward to being done with this process. It hasn't been easy to stick out, and without my husband, I think I would have caved numerous times.  It hasn't brought as much relief as we had hoped for, but slowly we're working through what's okay, what's not, and what we're still not sure about.  We've had to work with the challenge of getting enough fibre without eating wheat.  Right now, it looks like I may have to stay low-gluten or gluten-free, although we're not entirely sure yet. That is one really sad possibility for me. There is definitely a wealth of fantastic gluten-free recipes out there, and although I have succeeded in baking a few fairly good breads, it still doesn't measure up to wheat. And in times when I get super frustrated about what I can't eat, I have to be thankful for what I can still eat, remember that I'm not alone, and know there's more to life than food.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Effects of Communism on the Identity of Russian Mennonites

I wrote the following essay for my final assignment for my "Mennonite History" class at Steinreich Bible School.

*****

Communism had detrimental effects on Russian Mennonites, turning their peaceful, prosperous lives into lives defined by persecution, pain, heartache and intense suffering.  I decided to write about the persecution of Mennonites in Russia during communism because I was sure to find a wealth of information.  However, I discovered it to be a heavy and depressing subject.  The documentary “And When They Shall Ask” describes the lives of the Mennonites prior to communism as “a long, soft summer evening.”  However, in the early 20th century, their economic progress, well-developed educational systems, churches, culture, and family life were slowly snuffed out by the Marxian philosophy adopted in a nation for the first time.  The goal was to change not only the face of the nation, but also the face of the individuals.  And it did.  For the majority, the face of the Mennonite was not transformed into the “communist man” that was hoped for, but it did transform the Mennonite face into one of pain, hardship, grief, and, starvation; a face robbed of its freedom of religion, education, culture and prosperity.  Moreover, it robbed untold faces of their existence and left behind a trail of broken families.  Those who survived were indeed changed.      

            The years before the introduction of communism were the Golden Years for the Mennonites.  They had increased in numbers, wealth, and had built a good life in a new home with their own public institutions. It was a time of growth, peace, and prosperity.  Leaders in agriculture, Mennonite farmers developed new methods and machinery and also became involved in industry.  Motivated to be well-educated, they governed quality schools with their own curriculum.  Some respect was given by the government to their pacifist views, and alternative military service options were made available.  It was a culture admired by Tsar Nicholas I, a culture that was able to contribute to the nation, but was also able to remain independent with freedom of language, education, culture, and religion.       

“Communism” is defined by Merriam-Webster simply as “a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property.”  It made its way into Russia shortly after the turn of the century.  Dissatisfied peasants rose up in 1905, World War 1 began in 1914, and the Russian Revolution followed in 1917—the year that communism was fully established.  Civil war ensued, as the Red Army, made up of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, fought against the White Army, those resisting communism.  In 1924, Lenin died and Joseph Stalin began his rule in Russia.  He introduced the Five Year Plan in 1928, demanding rapid industrialization (supposedly to defend against invasion) and large collective farms; the plan resulted in a severe famine from 1932 to 1933.  Furthermore, churches were shut down and schools forced to adopt Marxian philosophy. Throughout Stalin’s life, countless people suffered under his communist rule.

            During the earlier communist years, from 1918 to 1921, one of the greatest terrors to the Mennonites was an anarchist named Nestor Makhno. Makhno led a huge army, comprised mainly of peasants under the motto “anarchy is the mother of all order.”  Every land owner was viewed as an enemy, and thus, the wealth of the Mennonites made them a prime target.  The army invaded villages where they robbed homes, murdered innocents, burned property, and raped women and children. They took food, livestock, and anything else that could be taken; what was left was destroyed.  When the German army entered the Ukraine in April 1918, the Mennonites were able to experience a brief time of peace and security.  The soldiers came with a familiar language and background and became welcome guests in the homes of the Mennonites.  However, with this also came some conflicting feelings.  Children were curious over the weapons that accompanied the soldiers, which made it more difficult for parents who held strong pacifist values.  Nevertheless, the peace was short lived.  When the war ended in November 1918, the German army retreated and the Mennonites’ security went with them.

            With the German army gone, Makhno returned to terrorize the Mennonites once again.  The Germans had left weaponry behind, and with it a great struggle of faith and values, particularly for the younger generation.  As young men watched their mothers and sisters get raped by the anarchist army, they became angry and questioned their non-resistance philosophy.  Many became convinced they had to take up arms with their roles as men and protect the ones they loved.  Thus the “Selbstschutz” was formed, meaning self-defense. However, this defense only provoked further attacks.  Hundreds were killed by the army in the fall of 1919, including 245 in Chortitza alone.  Some villages lost all their men.  (A severe famine also affected the Mennonites between 1919 and 1920, and approximately 2,200 Mennonites lost their lives during these two years.)  In later years, the “Selbstschutz” was regretted by many members of the Mennonite community.

            The Mennonite church continued to suffer greatly under Stalin’s rule which began in 1924.  Gradually their freedom to practice their faith was snuffed out. In 1925, the General Conference petitioned the government for eight rights for the Mennonites which they felt critical to their survival; the appeal was denied.  In 1929, laws were introduced forbidding churches from helping one another materially and having organized meetings or events. When the Marxian philosophy was forced into schools by 1930, Mennonites could no longer educate in accordance with their faith. Teachers unwilling to adapt were exiled and the well-developed educational system fell apart.  Churches were closed down and ministers arrested and exiled.  Also, military service exemption now required an application from each individual.  Some young men who applied were imprisoned, while others who refused to participate in service were sent to forced labour camps.  Eventually, almost no exemptions were made and many were forced into regular military service.  Communism had made a direct attack on their faith and cultural practices.

            According to Stalin, communism was not a choice, and those unwilling to conform were sent to forced labour camps or exiled to remote areas of Russia, like Siberia.  The Black Raven became another terror to the Mennonites.  The term referred to black vehicles used by state police (the NKVD) during Stalin’s rule.  Families would lie awake at night in fear.  Would the knock come at their door that night?  The car would arrive in a village at night and men would be arrested, never to be seen again.  This left many homes without a father; women now had to care for their families.  In some cases, mothers would work long days on collectives, leaving young children alone at home.  In their desperation to survive, their children suffered emotional neglect and only distanced themselves from the parent they had left.  Women often minimized their difficulties and loss and they became hardened by their experiences.  The effects of their pain remained until the later years of their lives, as well as those of their children.

            Persecution during the communist years divided families as well as dispersed the Russian Mennonites across the globe.  Many had left Russia prior to the introduction of communism.  23,000 left Russia between 1922 and 1927, settling in the Americas.  In 1929, 13,000 attempted to escape, but only 5,677 succeeded. Prior to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Ukraine in 1941, nearly half of the Mennonites in Russia were sent to Siberia, forced labour camps, or uninhabited areas of the country.  Many were dispersed to Germany and the Americas again during World War 2.  Following the war, many tried to escape with the retreating German army, but Stalin ordered all the escaped Russians to be returned, so most were captured and returned to their homeland, now a prison.  After Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, no Mennonites were left in Molotschna or Chortitza, although some returned later on.  Similar to the effects of persecution in the early church of Acts, communism caused the Mennonites to be dispersed around the world.

            Communism had a direct effect on approximately 120,000 Mennonites, the majority of whom experienced loss of homes, property, and/or family members.  It also had direct effects on their church life, educational systems, and presence around the world.  Years of peace and growth were followed by years of destruction and suffering.  Communism sought to take away the identity of individuals and cultures and replace it with the identity of a “communist man.”  Although the identity of many or all Mennonites in Russia changed, for most, it did not change to a “communist man.”  Some Mennonites became stronger in their faith while others turned away and abandoned their heritage.  What communism did do was further spread the face of the Mennonite around the globe and spread its influence, especially to the Americas.  Now scattered in numerous countries were the faces of Mennonites that carried untold pain, many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses.  Some opened up and shared their experiences while others remained closed.  Although church meetings did resume again in Russia in the 1950s, surely the people that met there were different from the ones who met fifty years earlier.  As of 2012, only about 3,000 Mennonites remained scattered throughout Russia, many located in Siberia.  They no longer possess the wealth or recognition they once did, but many continue to possess the faith of their forefathers.  It was a faith that remained despite persecution and the loss of all they held dear.  It was a faith that endured through the fires of communism.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Henry and Margaret: Our Love Story

Hello again Readers. I'm back. And just so you know, no, I did not continue on with my New Years' Resolution. But I have had an abundance of new experiences this year, some of which I will share in this blog. I'm married now, and my husband and I have quite an interesting story, which we took time to write while we were engaged. That is what I share here in this post, with some edits. I changed some details in my story to reflect what has taken place since I wrote it. 

Margaret's Story

Henry and my story started several years ago. We met around the time that he became a Christian, since we were part of the same church and youth group. So when I was 16. Henry went to Mexico five and a half years ago in 2010, initially to go to Bible school for three months. I was 18 at the time. When he came back, I found out he was going back to work at a rehab centre. However, during his time at home, he hosted a bonfire where he invited a bunch of youth from different churches and he asked a few people to share a devotional. I was one of those few, and the only girl he asked. This made me wonder why. And after sharing that evening, he told the people why he asked me, that he often noticed how much I had going on in my mind. I wondered at the time if he liked me. I didn't know, but I did see that Henry saw things in me that not everyone did. He saw what I had to offer and gave me opportunity to express it. I have always really appreciated that.

Time went on and although I did pray for Henry and his work in Mexico from time to time, I didn't give him too much thought otherwise. We did keep in touch via facebook from time to time though. However, in my mid to late teens, I also started praying for my future husband on a regular basis. I prayed for him, and I prayed for God to grow qualities in him that I wanted in a man. Although I don't remember everything I prayed, a few things I remember I wanted was for my husband to have a love for people, a man that I could support in ministry, and a person who was strong in the areas I was weak. One day late in 2011, close to the end of Henry's second year in Mexico, I was praying for my husband when Henry's name came to mind. And Henry fit everything I was praying for right then. That's when I started praying about the possibility of Henry being my husband, and as I thought about how our lives and personalities fit together, I felt more and more sure that it was God showing me he would one day be my husband. He came home to visit again that winter, and I was excited to see and spend time with him but nothing happened. 

The following year, now his third year working at the rehab centre, he shared with me that he felt his time at the rehab centre was coming to an end. I was looking forward to him coming home in December. He had three more months of Bible school left before he graduated, but I had just assumed that in the spring, he would come home again. I never thought he would stay in Mexico. However, that December day when we got to see each other again, I found out that he had been asked to be a youth pastor and work on the radio in Mexico, and it seemed to be God's leading. I went home and cried so hard, pleading with God for some other way. I knew he would make a great youth pastor, but I wanted so badly for Henry to be at home, and I wanted him to start a relationship with me. One of the hardest realizations for me was that Ontario was not Henry's home anymore; Mexico was. And that winter I wrestled with whether or not I was willing to go to Mexico if that's what a life with Henry would mean, and I painfully decided yes. But again he left and nothing happened. Around this time, I also determined that a man will love me best when he loves God most. If Henry was saying No to what God wanted him to do to pursue a relationship with me, then something was wrong. I had to trust that if God wanted us together, He could still make it work.

In the fall of 2013, Henry came back to Ontario again. However, it seemed that any interest I had sensed from him before wasn't there that time. I saw very little of him that time, which was disappointing. But before he left, I gave up. For about two years I had waited and prayed, I had watched him come and go, and I still didn't know how he felt about me. I couldn't hold on anymore. I stopped hoping. I stopped praying for him as my future husband. And for the first time, I was okay. 

What followed was a very difficult year where I had a lot to deal with. From the time Henry left in the fall, until July of last year while I was in NY, we had no direct communication. Then he got in touch with me again. This got me wondering again if something could still happen between us. It was just enough to get me hoping and make me feel absolutely torn when considering another possibility. And I was angry with myself that I had ever stopped praying for Henry. Henry and I chatted occasionally throughout the year. However, with no real indication that he was interested, I was ready to go back to school this year to pursue an education and career in accounting. However, when I shared this with Henry, he honestly told me he couldn't see that for me. Thinking back several years, knowing Henry had insight into me that many others didn't, and wondering if maybe there was a personal interest involved, I decided to back out. I'm very thankful now I did.

Even so, Henry didn't have plans to come back to Canada anytime soon. But in the new year we did start chatting more on Facebook. I started to notice I could expect to hear from him about once a week, then soon we started talking almost everyday. I knew this couldn't go on too long without talking about where our friendship was headed. Meanwhile I was praying fervently that Henry would talk to me about how he felt. I wanted to know and see something happen, or I wanted him to leave me alone. I also stopped praying for my future husband, and started praying more only for Henry with faith that he would one day be my husband.

At the end of March, I felt God calling me to prepare for ministry and it seemed very likely it would mean Mexico. At this time, Henry and I were getting closer and I shared this with him. The next day he told me he was thinking of coming to Canada in the summer after all. Although I got an indication from him that he was planning on spending some time with me, he didn't make his intentions clear until Easter weekend, when he told me he wanted to come and see if things could work between us. Soon we started skyping, which allowed us to see each other and talk more openly and within a few weeks he asked me to come to Mexico when he went back home in July. I wrestled with this for a few days, but agreed that I would come to Mexico with him so we could get to know each other better and I could get used to the idea of a future here. 

After being in Mexico for about five and a half years, my prince came back for me.



On June 20, Henry and I saw each other again personally for the first time in over a year and half, and we made our relationship official. On July 7, we flew back to Mexico together, where we got to know each other more, and I have been helping at the Friedensplatz children's home. On August 12, I got an idea for a poem, which I decided I wanted to save for when we got married. The next day I found out that that same evening Henry was writing a song for me. (Initially we planned to share them at our wedding, but didn't after all.)  And that next day, on August 13, after a picnic down by a little lake, he asked me to marry him. And I said yes.



We started planning a small simple wedding in Ontario in a 48 day engagement. September 30 marked the beginning of our lives, truly together, and we have made our home here in Mexico for the forseeable future.

And that's my story in a nutshell. After years of praying, tears, wrestling, surrendering, and picking my dreams up again out of the dust, those dreams have finally come true.


Henry's Story

I have known Margaret for about seven years. The first memory that I have of her is shaking her hand in church one morning. She had a really tight grip!

I remember her from youth although a relationship never crossed my mind while I was living in Canada. During my first two years in Mexico I came back to Canada for two months each year to visit after Bible school. I still had never thought about a relationship at that time. Although one thing that I did always see was that she did take her Christian walk seriously. She studied and shared openly. I noticed she was always very attentive to the things I shared when we were together with the youth or elsewhere. I could see that she took things deeper than many of the other youth did.

We kept in touch occasionally during the time that I was in Mexico. Sometimes more than others. We shared things that were going on in our lives. She went on various mission trips and did other things and I lived and worked in rehab. I still didn’t think about a relationship but I was interested to hear the things that she was going through.

The first time that a relationship had crossed my mind was about two and a half years ago. We had been talking on facebook again at that time. At the time it was just a small thought…could it be something? But one thing that crossed my mind was whether she would have any interest in Mexico or whether God was leading her life in a different direction. For me it has felt like a clear calling to stay in Mexico so it was something that I needed to know.  So I started to kind of beat around the bush and ask her certain things and talk about stuff to see kind of what her thoughts were like about Mexico. And through some of the things that we discussed it seemed that there wasn’t very much interest in coming here and maybe God was leading her life in a completely different direction. And I thought that was ok. It was just kind of a passing thought I had at that moment. No big deal. That was just what I had wanted to know. And so I put it out of my mind for the time being. (Note from Margaret: I was trying to make my interest known without being obvious. I guess it didn't work.)

But, later on that year I had visited Canada again and while I was there some family had mentioned to me that she WAS interested in me. It came as a surprise… and yet it didn’t. I hadn’t known that she liked me but as I thought about it it made sense that maybe it could be. But I didn’t want to do anything with it then because at that time I had been talking with someone else and thinking about a possible relationship (which never happened, but ended up really complicated). So I wasn’t going to start something at that time while thinking about this other girl as well. So I left it and went back to Mexico.

I had finished working at the rehab center the previous year and also graduated from the Bible school. That’s when I started a new life on the radio and youth pastoring. But at that time in my life I sunk to a place in my Christian life where I had never been before. I had had some difficulties during that year already before I went to Canada but after I had come back and through the following year (which was last year 2014) I was struggling with depression and faith. I was a depressed pastor. It was up and down with me but I did my best to try and be faithful to the youth and help them the best that I could but it was very difficult at times. And my faith was shaken throughout the year. Sometimes I would feel like I was coming out of it only to have something smack me in the face and bring me right back down. And talking with Margaret this year, it seems that she and I had both been having a really hard time during the same year and a half. I feel like maybe there were some struggles that we both needed to battle through before we could be joined together. 

I tried my best to hide my struggles from people. Some people noticed but for the most part I think I kept it hidden. But I had gotten a good friend for a roommate last year and it was really needed. I needed someone to talk to and I broke in front of him a couple of times. But it helped me a lot having him live with me. But this happened throughout the year until this year started. I spent one day a week at the Bible school again this year which really helped me again to revive and be strengthened spiritually.

I still struggle even now to get completely out of the pit that I was in. I have gained much strength this year already but I still have a ways to go to get back into shape spiritually and ministering more again. I think that maybe I have been broken and reshaped. Things are different and I am still working through the pain of the reshaping.

Coming back to Margaret. We started talking again the end of last year and more coming into this year. We shared things and I liked reading her blogs of new experiences. I started to think about whether a relationship was something that could happen. I didn’t know. It was hard trying to determine things from 3000 kms away. But I do remember reading one of her blogs one day in which she poured her heart out about no one being hopeless to Jesus. That article really did a number on me. It was actually a big turn on. I thought about the struggles that I had gone through the year and a half before and I thought to myself that I needed someone like her in my life to help me and support me while I was also struggling. Someone that I could trust. Someone that loved Jesus and would help me build up my faith again. I know I’m supposed to lead but sometimes a broken leader needs a helper to get back up.

I had thought about stopping my work on the radio and things I was doing earlier this year but everything in me just wouldn’t give me peace about leaving. I couldn’t help but think I was running away from the place that God put me if I left. So I decided I would stay. And I started thinking about the things that God had lead me to do and when I looked at everything it just seemed like Margaret was one person that would fit. End of March I decided that I would fly back to Canada for 2 weeks just to kind of hang around and observe Margaret so to speak. I had mentioned to her that I was coming, but not that the reason was her… until a couple of weeks later. So finally in April we started talking more about us and a potential relationship but I didn’t like texting. That’s when we decided to start skyping. She was the first and only person I have ever skyped with. But doing that helped make a lot of things clearer.

We started skyping every day and eventually made plans that she would come here for the summer with me. Things haven’t always gone smoothly and we’ve had to learn how to communicate to each and be open about things. But learning that has brought our relationship a lot further. We’ve talked about difficult things but after each one was done we became stronger as a couple and our love has grown deeper. It’s getting harder to spend time apart but, Lord willing, soon we won’t have to.

I’ve realized that we have both come out of a period of distress and weakness in our lives and both needed to come to a place of refreshing and strengthening. Maybe God had his purpose in it being that way. Maybe this way we can both be built up into a new life together. 

Our Wedding

We had a small, simple wedding in Ontario on September 30 and then we honeymooned through the U.S. back to Mexico, making stops at the Creation Museum, Southern Grace Bed and Breakfast, and Pigeon Forge, Tennesee. And now I'm settling into life as a housewife in Mexico.



















Wedding Photo Credits go to Heidi A. Photography

Friday, 15 May 2015

What Did I Do?: New Accomplishments

The last couple weeks have once again been a busy flurry of activity. I am happy to say that, aside from a few finishing touches, the redecorating in my room is completed and it's reorganized. It's imperfect like I am, but I'm happy to call it home. That means I'm slowly able to return to everyday life again, although it's filled with catching up on a lot of things that have been left behind.

April 30: I tried making myself a smoothie using kefir instead of yogurt. This eliminates the need to add juice or almond milk to thin it out. I discovered that mango, banana, pineapple, and mango coconut kefir makes for a delicious combination.

May 1: Do not attempt to work with wood stain without using gloves. However, if you do try this, and get upset like I did trying to wash it off, scrub your hands and fingers with olive oil. That works to clean them.

May 2: pedagogical: "of or relating to teachers or education."

May 3: Emmer is a type of wheat, as I learned in my devotions in the morning. I also had questions for my mom about how colonies are divided in Mexico, trying to understand names of places and how they relate to each other.

May 4: I recently started reading a great book called Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most by Compassion International's President Dr. Wess Stafford. It has been teaching me so much about African culture, and is giving me a very different perspective on children. It's a book I would highly recommend.


On May 4, I read about the author's childhood in the village of Nielle in West Africa, and how they hunted baboons:

"Tradition dictated that the smallest child involved in the hunt got the most delicate part of the beast--the hands. In fact, it was a great honor; the little guy would sit there proudly chewing on a hand that looked just like his own except bigger and now roasted over the fire." Dr. Wess Stafford, Too Small to Ignore

May 5: Seeing as it was Cinco de Mayo, I learned that the holiday celebrates the Day of the Battle of Puebla, which occurred on May 5, 1862. It's observed by Mexicans and Americans.

I learned something else I didn't intend to learn. It's what happens when a grease trap is full. Yuck. And I didn't even know we had such a thing at work!

May 6: Back to Too Small to Ignore, I learned how different the culture in Nielle, West Africa treated certain human activities than we do in North America. Bathing, defecation, and nursing babies were done openly. Rather than covering up, it was each person's responsibility to protect the dignity of others.

I also learned a little about the pentatonic scale, which uses only five notes per octave. The hymn "Amazing Grace" is written using only the pentatonic scale.

May 7: I mounted a curtain rod above the window in my room. This took a whole lot longer than it should have, as I read the instructions over and over, and measured over and over. But I wanted to be sure to do the job right.

May 8: I was proud of myself last Friday at swim class! I swam backstroke the whole length of the pool, from shallow to deep end! That meant for "chillaxing" and gloating a little bit, before I attempted to swim back front crawl. That attempt didn't get very far. I'm still getting used to the deep end, where I can't just stand up if I panic and sink. I also found pink heart-shaped sunglasses in a shoe store and tried them on. :)

May 9: On Saturday, I starting reading the Bible in Low German, which I also learned in the last couple weeks is now an official language! It takes some getting used to the written language. And I have realized quickly that I have a very limited vocabulary in my mother tongue.


May 10: riparian: "of or on the bank of a watercourse."

I also heard a story about a girl who planted a seed and grew a 40 pound cabbage, which she donated to a soup kitchen. This inspired planting a garden and using the produce to feed the homeless. You can read more about her story at Katie's Krops. Children can make a difference!

May 11: technobabble: "technical jargon."

May 12: I learned how to ride a lawn mower. I know this may sound pathetic, that I had never ridden a lawn mower before, but as far as I can recall, I hadn't. It was actually really intimidating for me, but I braved learning something else new.

May 13: On Wednesday afternoon, I had the task of mounting a towel bar on a kitchen cabinet beside the kitchen sink. This sounds easy, but it was awkward to figure out how to position myself to get the control I needed with a drill. The solution? Climb up and sit on the divider of the kitchen sink, with my feet in the sink! The job can be done much easier now!

I also learned that a solopreneur is "a business owner who works and runs their business alone."

So, that recaps the last two weeks! It doesn't seem very exciting, but I did try things I would typically avoid or like to pass on to someone else.

Friday, 1 May 2015

What Did I Do?: Two Weeks Fast

Busy life continues so I'm summing up two weeks for my readers very fast.

April 16: I tried an insanity cardio workout, tried doing some crazy thing with my cheeks, and learned that tomatoes will stain countertops if you leave them sitting there for awhile. Oops. But I'm wondering if I learned that last one on April 17th, because I don't have anything written down for that day. And I don't remember.

April 17: I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I failed. I don't know.

April 18: I ate key lime greek yogurt straight out of the tub. This is what happens when I'm really hungry and in need of a break. I ate my first fresh cut fries this year. Also, Jonathon Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables died.

April 19: I tried a new chest and tricep workout, learned how to play "Be Unto Your Name" on my flute, and worked on Christina Perri's "One Thousand Years".

April 20: I learned the "Pepsi, Coke, 7 Up" breathing technique in swim class, so now I know what that's all about and it makes breathing a lot easier. I also visited some friends and had some of the best homemade chocolate ever!

April 21: I tried a chocolate banana cookie and endeavoured to clean and unclog a Nescafe beverage
machine with next to no idea what I was doing.

April 22: I ate garlic bread for breakfast. And I tried a little bit of mudding.

April 23: It was World Book Day, and I tried Pollo Asado. Yummy.

April 24: I learned what a crane fly was and tried sauerkraut on my smoked sausage bun. There's a first time for everything, and that was also a last.

April 25: Lissome means "nimble or easily flexed".

April 26: Rococo is a hilarious work and it means "excessively ornate or intricate."

April 27: I tried using pull buoys in swim class to isolate my stroke. This was interesting and took some getting used to. It did help me deal with what to do when I flip over in the water.

April 28: I tried kefir for the first time. I wasn't quite brave enough for plain kefir, so I bought a mango coconut flavour. I drank a little straight and this would certainly take a little getting used to. A lot of stuff that's good for me does.

April 29: I tried the Cherrios Effect. It doesn't work in almond milk. If anything, the cherrios repel each other. They do gravitate to each other in regular dairy milk, but it takes patience. And a little nudging and encouragement, cause I don't have that much patience. And enough milk in the bowl to make sure they really float.

The End.

Friday, 17 April 2015

What Did I Do?: This and That

I'm taking some time to write a real quick update on the last week. I'm really busy right now with lots of things going on and a to-do list more than a page long. So I'm keeping things simple.

April 9: On Thursday, I tried a plain butter tart at work, which I determined isn't quite my preference. It didn't have pecans in it; only a little bit of coconut. And although the syrupy filling is good, that much at once is a little too much. Then I dumped popcorn all over the floor, when I tried to pour it from a big 50lb bag into a bucket. The bag was almost empty, so it should have been easy. But no, not for me. I found myself laughing as I looked at my mess of popcorn all over the floor. When I got home, I found out what bicoastal meant: "of or relating to or living or working on both the east and west coasts of the United States." I don't think I will ever afford to be bicoastal.

April 10: April 10 is National Sibling Day. I rely on Facebook to inform me of days like this. I only found this out after I noticed a number of friends posting pictures of themselves with their siblings. I didn't know there was such a thing.

April 11: A friend told me about Worldometers, a site that provides real time data on a ton of different facts. A lot of those numbers change way faster than I can keep up with. I picked something random out of all of them. When I checked on April 11, over $164 million had been spent on video games so far on just that day. That baffles me, that this world collectively spends hundreds of millions of dollars on just video games in a single day.

April 12: At a book study with a group of believers, I got to try some monkey bread, and was also offered a double salted "dropee", which I said I had to try. You may have seen my video earlier this year of eating a regular Dutch salted black licorice, but this was a double salted variety. I can't describe how horrible. I would maybe eat one of the regular coins again, but I think that was my first and last time eating a double salted. I looked down at the coffee left in my mug, and sadly knew it would not suffice to wash the awfulness down. But I survived.

April 13: On Monday, I discovered how depressing of an endeavour redecorating can be, especially finding bedding for a twin bed that had an adult design and matches the other colours I have to work with in my room. I walked from store to store and was unsuccessful in finding something satisfying, And then I got hungry. So I drove out to Farm Boy, a newer market in London to check that place out and get some supper. I really like the store, where I was able to find coconut milk to add to coffee. They sell a lot of healthy/organic/alternative foods. Definitely a good place to go if you have a food allergy or intolerance. I did find their regular groceries more expensive though. But, their fresh bakery bagels are the closest thing in Canada I've had to New York bagels!

Figuring what to eat for supper was hard with the amount of options available. Eventually I settled on a southwest chicken wrap (which had real chicken in it, not processed!), a roasted pepper bowtie salad and a chicken samosa. I'd heard/read/seen something about samosas before. It's kind of like a fried stuffed dumpling. I don't know how else to describe it, but it was good.

April 14: On Tuesday, I tried a new Minestrone Soup recipe. I have a recipe I like, but it doesn't have any tomato in it, like most minestrones. This one was a combination of veggies, including tomatoes, herbs, beans, and pasta in a chicken broth, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. It was kind of a combination between the minestrone I usually make, and a Vegetable, Bean, and Spinach soup I really like.

April 15: As I've been trying to make my health a bigger focus this year, I've been exercising a little more frequently when life and schedule allows, and I'm looking for some new things to try. And I think I have found something that will be a little more manageable and effective. On Wednesday I tried a 12 Minute Leg Devastation workout. I made it through, although I wasn't able to do all the exercises quite properly. I now know what a duck walk is. I'm looking forward to trying more of these kinds of workouts, and seeing some results!

Friday, 10 April 2015

What Did I Do?: Red Shoes!

I had an interesting week, although I kept my New Year's resolution a little more low-key. It will likely be that way for the next while, since I have a lot going on right now and it may be hard to get really adventurous in the midst of the busyness. But I will try to be creative where I can.

April 2: Has anyone else ever wondered what Throwback Thursday is all about, or was I the only one who hadn't exactly figured it out yet? I had a bit of an idea because the pictures I often saw on Facebook, but I now understand this social media trend a little more. I found out that "Throwback Thursday is the name of a weekly social media posting trend and hashtag game that users participate in to share and look back fondly on some of their favorite memories--hence the "throwback" theme. In this case, the "throwback" component of a post can pertain to basically anything that happened in the past." (webtrends.about.com) I thought about trying this, but that would mean digging out pictures from the 90s or something. Cute, but naw. At least not now anyway.

Thanks to Anne of Green Gables, I learnt that elocution is "the art of clear and expressive speech, esp. of distinct pronunciation and articulation" or "a particular style of speech." And I learned that "kerwollops" is not a word. While first at Queen's, Josie Pye talks about a French professor giving her the "kerwollops of the heart." An online search led me to believe the author made up the word, since I couldn't find it defined in any dictionary, and anything I found referenced to this instance in the book. But I think the context gives me a pretty good idea of what she meant. 

April 3: Good Friday was a good day, but I was a slacker. While having lunch, I look out across neighbouring yards to see turkeys and other fowl come through the neighbourhood. It really was a sight to behold! There were a number of white birds and I was trying to figure out what they were. Ducks, geese, swans? One was bigger than the rest, and my mom suggested it was a turkey as well. "There's such a thing as white turkeys?! I didn't know that!" Clearly, I do not know my birds. Indeed, turkeys do come in white, as well as dark colours. It reminded me of Staten Island days when I would be driving down the road closer to the beach and would have to stop and wait for the turkeys to cross the road. And listening to them gobble is so hilarious! It often takes only little things to make my day!

April 4: This past weekend, we had another hockey tournament at work, and these are usually accompanied by various vendors selling clothing, pictures, hockey memorabilia, knick-knacks and other items. There was one such vendor set up across from the concession, tables arrayed with lots and lots of leggings, in some very bright and bold styles! But there were certainly none like the leggings being sported by the half manikin standing behind him. And I got one of my CRAZY ideas! I mentioned it to my co-workers, who I fill in on some of the things I've been doing. At a quiet moment, I made my way casually to the table, explained my intent, got a pair of said leggings, and made my way for the bathroom. I would not come out of the bathroom wearing them, nor will I make my photo public. All I will say is that they were black, white, purple, fluorescent orange, lime green and bright yellow. Not only that, but these were the colours that made up a collage of various animal print patterns in diagonal stripes from top to bottom. I don't know how else to describe it. They were intense! This was my first time trying on them tight leggings that are so popular now.

However, I did feel like I owed the vendor for my experiment. I decided that I wouldn't mind having a pair for a few purposes, and realized that they could keep my legs nice and warm at the beach the next morning. So I did go back and buy a solid black pair. These were different. I don't intend to wear them on their own as pants, but upon trying them on at home, I understood why many girls do. They are way comfy! And part of the fun in doing stuff like this is having fun writing about it later. :)

April 5: This Easter Sunday, I got myself out of bed way early to attend my first Easter sunrise service on the beach with my church.

April 6: Again, thanks to Anne Shirley, I now know what a chaplet is. Sort of. I think. There are a few definitions for the word "chaplet." It can be "a wreath or garland for the head" or a string of beads, similar to a rosary, used for prayers, among a few other definitions. I think Anne was likely referring to a wreath, especially since she isn't Catholic. 

"But Anne, with her elbows on the window sill, her soft cheek laid against her clasped hands, and her eyes filled with visions, looked out unheedingly across the city roof and spire to that glorious dome of sunset sky and wove her dreams of a possible future from the golden tissue of youth's own optimism. All the Beyond was hers with its possibilities lurking rosily in the oncoming years--each year a rose of promise to be woven into an immortal chaplet." --Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery

April 7: Sometimes you just need a pair of red shoes!


I'm not usually this bold, and although I liked the black ones, my first reaction to the red was "Ugh! No!" But I tried them on and went "Heeeeyy!" and thought of the numerous possibilities. So I bought them. I could have fun experimenting with these. I also tried a plain cappuccino at work. I liked that it wasn't as sweet as flavoured ones, but I do like other ones more I think.

April 8: I will talk about another book now. Aren't you all so relieved? I conveniently forgot to look up the words I was wondering about Tuesday night in The Edge of His Cloak by Kevin Abell. Kevin talks about a young man he met during his first year at university, whom he refers to as "the first person in my life I knew to be a 'Christian.'":

"Knowing what I know now about the faith, I often wonder what he would pray about when he knelt beside his bed at night. He should been praying for the hellions that shared his alcove. However, years later, I found out that he was primarily concerned with removing the log from his own eye." --The Edge of His Cloak by Kevin Abell

When I read the word "hellion", it didn't sound very good. And "alcove"? Well, that reminded me of "cove" and this wasn't talking about any water body or anything. So I figured it out today. A hellion is "a disorderly, troublesome, rowdy, or mischievous person." Hellions are also fictional characters in the Marvel comics. And "alcove" just referred to the space they were living in.

This book has been a blessing to me and continues to be to me. If you're interested, I would definitely recommend it.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

What Did I Do?: The Deep End

Well, it was a good week. Having some extra time off, I took the opportunity to catch up with friends, be social, have fun, etc. However, I was also happy when I had the chance to have a few quieter days to slow down and stay at home more.

March 26: On Thursday night I had dinner with a friend, and we tried The Open Kitchen. Although they had a $12 steak special that was very tempting, I knew there was no way I was going to eat a 14 ounce steak. So I opted for a California Chicken Salad. Yeah, there was no way I was going to eat all of this at once either!


It reminded me of the salads I would get at a restaurant in Staten Island, except there they would have twice as much chicken on them. People may wonder why I would order just a salad when I eat out, but salad veggies and lean protein is usually a tummy friendly option for me. This one had romaine lettuce, spinach, cucumber, strawberries, candied pecans, dried cranberries and goat cheese. This was my first try at goat cheese. It's softer than I like most of my cheeses and has a more sour taste, so it's not a new favourite. Although I want to brave blue cheese yet and try goat milk. I've tried  many milk alternatives (rice, soy, almond, and coconut), but not any other animal sourced alternatives.

From there, we went to a prayer meeting with a small group of believers I hadn't met, and it was a blessing to meet with them. It was here I also heard about antinomianism. I'm not one to delve deeply into theology and although I'm familiar with some ideas, this was new. According to the dictionary, an antinomian is "one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation." I would be interested in learning more about this idea, even if I don't agree with it.

March 27: Friday was a see what happens kind of day where I didn't really plan anything. I was reading a local magazine publication and learned a little about DMQ (Difference Making Quotient), but I never did figure out how you measure a person's DMQ. I tried a Salted Caramel timbit, which was tasty. I set out to explore some different educational options I had found out about in the previous 24 hours, ways that I could grow in my administrative and writing skills, or take Bible school type courses, without making a big commitment. I was definitely very interested in The Silo Project and hope that later this year I can work through some of their courses.

I also learned that in Hawaii, after the Pearl Harbour invasion, the state was concerned about another Japanese invasion and what would happen if the Japanese stole cash and used it to fund their war effort. So the state recalled all the bills, with small allowances, and printed new ones, so that if money was stolen, people could see it came from Hawaii. Not knowing what to do with the $200 million recalled, and it being too expensive to ship the bills to the mainland, they burned them.

March 28: Tom Ryan was the culinary scientist who invented the McDonald's McGriddle, stuffed crust pizza for Pizza Hut, and a lot of other fast foods.

March 29: Sunday was a bit of an emotional day for me. It was a day of God bringing together the things I was thinking and praying about in the previous few days and revealed to me a purpose. I don't know yet what it will look like and exactly what He has in store, but it could get exciting.

I also had another friend catch-up day. After bowling, which we discovered goes way too fast with just two people, we pondered what to do while we got hungry enough to have dinner. We set out to find the Jumbo monument, which I hadn't seen since I was a kid, knowing the general part of town. From there I followed signs and winding roads to see what Historic St. Thomas was all about, which reminded me of Staten Island. This exploring came in very useful the next day when I tried to get from one part of town to a place I had never been, with a few directions, an address and a general idea of where to go. After letting our appetites build, we settled on Bella Jack's which I had often wanted to try. The first unique item on the menu that caught my eye was a shrimp and pineapple quesadilla. I like shrimp, and I like Hawaiian pizza, but pineapple in a quesadilla? It was good, although they could have filled it a little more. All in all, a good afternoon catching up on life, which is what really mattered.

March 30: I swam in the deep end! We kept it simple the first time, and I learned that once you cross that black line, it really does drop off far and I was hanging onto the wall to keep my head above water. I just swam across the pool on my back, without strokes, just to get used to it. My instructor stayed beside me, to make sure I didn't drown in case I panicked, but I actually remained quite calm and made it without any problems. Keep your chin back, stay calm, and keep kicking! I also made some significant improvements on my whip kick. The hardest part has been keeping my feet out, since I keep wanting to have ballerina toes or something. Thankfully I'm not a kid or my instructor would make me walk around the deck like a penguin!

In the afternoon, I got a hair cut, and in addition to enjoying my bouncy curls again, I also got my hairdresser to wax my eyebrows for the first time! I have eyebrows that tend to want to take up more of my face than I like, and I was quite pleased with the end result! I didn't get as many tears as I expected. I mostly giggled. I don't know which is worse for the person having to do it!

March 31: You know when you kind of know the meaning of something, or have an idea, but not really? Yep, Anne Shirley felt "unregenerate" around Mrs. Lynde and that set me searching. Also, the word "contrite" came up at Bible study, so I now have a decent understanding of that. How often do we read stuff in our Bibles and miss lots because we just don't understand the meaning of a word?

April 1: And sometimes I like to know where days on our calendars or traditions associated with days came from. You know what else this means??!!!! I'm a quarter way through my year!!! I think there will be a great sense of relief when this year is over, but also a sense of satisfaction to look back and see what I accomplished.

Anyhow, to my point! And this is no joke! It's April 1st. The first association between foolishness and the date is found in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Other references and dates go back  to the 1500s and 1600s. During the Middle Ages in Europe, people celebrated New Year's Day on March 25, and others over a long-weekend ending on April 1. There is also an April fish tradition (poissons d'avril) that French-speaking people have of trying to attach a paper fish to a person's back unnoticed. Hmm, this gives me ideas!

And, it's now sinking in that a quarter of this year is indeed done and it has gone by fast. But I'm looking forward to what's ahead. :)

Friday, 27 March 2015

What Did I Do?: Overalls and Authentic German Cooking

This week started off a little low-key, then got a little more interesting. I started mostly with my cheater approaches: online articles and the dictionary. I hope I can move away from this more again, and actually do some stuff worth talking about. Something I have been challenging myself with is limiting distractions in my life. One of my approaches the past week has been to leave the music off. Music is great, but I find that when I'm always listening to music, or looking for this or that song on Youtube, I get hardly anything done. And I need to stop surrounding myself with noise all the time.

March 19: Since I had put making Jaegerschnitzel on my list awhile back, and planning to try it soon, I explored many recipes, and also learned about how to make Spaetzle, and found out what a potato ricer was. I also learned that thumbing the touch screen on your smart phone changes the way your brain responds to touch. There's an intriguing article about that here. It's crazy how technology affects us.

March 20: Scientists in Australia have figured out a way to use ultrasound technology to restore memory loss in mice. It could be used in a few years to treat Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's develops as a result of lesions--neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques--building up on the brain.

March 21: I learned about the various benefits of coconut oil, and thanks to Anne of Green Gables, I now know the meaning of the words vim, implicit, impeach, and veracity. And you're probably thinking, is she ever going to finish that book? All in good time. :)

March 22: Sunday one of my coworkers saved me a ton of efforts by informing me that James Watts invented the steam engine. Except I thought I had heard John Watts. Good thing I verified the information when I got home. Steam engines were first used in commercial enterprises in 1776.

March 23: Monday was a very interesting day for me. It consisted of various activities, lots of driving, and lots of waiting. I started my morning at the pool. I didn't really learn anything new this week, but just kept practicing things I've been working on. However, I did venture deeper into the pool. Although not ready for the deep end yet, my instructor had me go in up to my shoulders. Although I have waded into water this deep before not knowing how to swim, there was something scary about actually swimming in it, taking my feet off the bottom. And in my mind I was singing, and the the words seemed to take on a whole new level of meaning.

"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand." --"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong United

From there I headed to The Pita Shack for some lunch. Although initially disappointed that they didn't warm or toast the pita, it was actually excellent. Hours later, I found myself near the downtown core of a city, that as it turns out can be a little uncomfortable to be in. I parked in the parking lot of a convenience store, where I got myself my mid-afternoon coffee and a pack of Cadbury Mini Eggs. This way I could justify parking as a customer while on the premises, instead of putting change in a parking meter. As I waited and enjoyed my afternoon snack, I observed my surroundings and the various people. I looked in the rearview mirror to see a guy vomit in front of Pizza Pizza. My eyes followed an animated young woman with a shopping cart, full of various items and bags. The real curiosity though was a bundle of wrapping paper rolls attached to the cart, which she showed off to many passing by. She later got some assistance from a man to make some modifications to this bundle, and soon he was busy with a roll of electrical tape, utility knife and other items I was unable to recognize. I never could figure out exactly what they were trying to do. And then there was the man parked a few spaces away from me in a black SUV, wearing big black shades, with his window rolled down, having a smoke. And he was watching something. Or for something. Or someone. At times I got a little unnerved, thinking he was watching me. Well, of course, I was watching him too...with locked doors. And then I saw the moment something switched, he took off and sped across the intersection, dodged a cyclist as if he had somewhere real important to go really fast, only to pull into the laneway right across the intersection, and later across the street. I never did figure that one out either, but "drug deal" certainly did cross my mind more than once. It was way too much like a movie! And as I watched these people with seemingly broken lives, I couldn't help but admire those who have the courage to walk into them, build relationships, and show them hope.

Then I went to the mall and shopped for a couple hours, which was all I could handle after my already eventful and slightly draining day. I walked into Urban Planet, not expecting to find much I would be seriously interested in. I saw some denim overalls, which seem to be fashionable again. I never would have thunk. I entertained the thought for a moment, then walked away. But my mind kept going back to those overalls. And I thought, Why not? Might as well take time to have a little fun. I grabbed a pair from the rack and headed for the dressing room. The straps were difficult to adjust and they fit rather awkwardly. I was wearing one of my many MDS T-shirts, my favourite everyday go-to item in my closet. And I thought, if I ever go back to a project to work on the job site, I might just have to get a pair of these for kicks.


And I went home later and looked up the word "epoch", but wasn't about to find out what all the unfamiliar words meant that I came across while reading Anne of Green Gables during my afternoon out.

March 24: Sometimes I just need to pretend I'm a pro chef. On Tuesday I attempted an authentic German meal, with help from my mom. I made Jaegerschnitzel, or German Hunter Schnitzel, and Spaetzle, which is a boiled dumpling. I considered finding a noodle to cook instead of Spaetzle, but after finding out how it's made, I had a real hankering to try it. Also, having had Spaetzle in Germany, I really wanted to try this.

I used a recipe I found online for the schnitzel, which was a bit of a task. Most recipes either called for packaged gravy mix or the sauce was mostly cream based. I wanted to make my own sauce if I was going to do this. So I used pork loin chops, and we discovered the secret to an awesome breading on schnitzel that fries really nice. I made the gravy out of beef broth, wine, flour and cream, which then had fried onions and mushrooms added to it. This was poured over the schnitzel and then sprinkled with fried bacon. The Spaetzle was an interesting endeavor. I didn't have a Spaetzle maker or a proper potato ricer, so I tried using a colander. Spaetzle is made from a simple dough made of milk, eggs, and flour. The dough is then ideally pressed through a Spaetzle maker, directly into a pot of boiling water. Once it's cooked, you toss them with melted butter, although I used bacon fat I had left over. To serve, I also spooned jaeger sauce onto it.


On a whole, it was good, and pork schnitzel like this has me spoiled. However, I have learned that I way overcalculate mushrooms when I buy them, and could have done with a fraction of what I bought. The gravy didn't thicken well, which was disappointing. I think if I make this again, I will try a different gravy recipe, or eliminate the wine and thicken it a little more. I'm a little undecided as to how much I liked the wine flavour in it. And it made a whole lot more gravy than necessary. Also, I discovered making Spaetzle using a colander does not really work, and dropping the dough into a pot with a spoon isn't great either.

But in the end, it was a good experience and I tried something new and unique.

March 25: I made dessert! Shocking, eh? I usually keep a good supply of frozen fruit in the freezer, especially berries, to use in yogurt and smoothies. I never would have thought that I would go crazy over sales at the grocery store, but with frozen fruit I often will. I saw a recipe on the back of one of the bags for a Berry Buckle and I thought it sounded yummy. Especially when I read you were supposed to serve it with ice cream. So this morning, being at a loss and tired of the cheater solutions, I ventured into the kitchen, even though we didn't need more dessert things.


This cake does take a good hour to bake, and I was hesitant even taking it out because, although the recipe said it would be moist and instructed not to overbake it, I was afraid the centre would be dough and berry juice. However, I let it rest awhile, served myself a nice warm slice with frozen yogurt, and poured a cup of Earl Grey, and it was delicious. Definitely did not disappoint!


In the afternoon, I tried some new exercises as part of my workout. One was an inchworm exercise. I didn't get very far before I fell on the ground laughing until I almost had tears. Gotta have fun!

Random note: I saw my first robin this year on the first day of spring. It's coming!!! :)