The World as Best as I Remember it

The last two weeks have gone by so fast that I’m not really sure what happened. Last Tuesday I could have sworn that I had only gotten home from Montreal the night before; apparently it had been the previous week. I’m still trying to figure out where the last five days have gone.

  • My aunt from Montreal was here visiting for a few days, we went to the art gallery (good exhibits going on right now, Victorians), wandered downtown, saw a movie, climbed a mountain…
  • I started a new course, one which I am not thrilled about but am trying to make the most of. Maybe I’ll finally get that A+ I’ve been trying to get.
  • Random note about that course (research methods) – the prof goes by the same name as my UVic stats prof which is kind of weirding me out.
  • These next two weeks are going to be psycho chaotic with course work plus the last two weeks before the big conference on the 28th/29th. It is not to late to register and you know you want to come!
  • The weekend was great,  but too short. Britt, Kelsey, and I had our first road trip of the summer and it was great fun! Bamfield is lovely and since the resident soothsayer decreed that I will return to Bamfield, I suppose I must. We had a pig roast (like a whole pig on a spit turning over the fire), The Broken Group played the house down and people danced all night. The sun shone all day and the stars shone all night. I got in the first real stargazing of the summer.
  • I know I just mentioned them, but I get very happy inside whenever I think of the name of Bamfield’s resident band: The Broken Group. (For you non West Coasters: The Broken Group versus The Broken Group.)
  • Photos of the previously mentioned weekend are forthcoming. Maybe Friday.
  • I booked airmiles flights to Prince George today for my 10 year reunion this summer. Airmiles was the only way I was willing to go. I’m too cheap to pay full price to see people I only had one year in common with… But I’m stoked to see other friends and (quasi!)family when I’m there!
  • I started reading a new book yesterday. Its really good.
  • Ok. Back to the school work.
  • PS – bonus points for anyone who gets the obscure early 90’s Christian music reference in the title. No googling!

Oh the Vanity

Facebook is the ultimate in status and vanity these days, it seems. How hot is your profile picture? How many cows did you save? How often do you update your status? How many friends do you have? Golly, even I’m not immune. Not that I am the pinnacle of that which is pure and holy, I’d just like to think of myself as above all of that.

It would appear not.

I noticed, a number of weeks ago, that an acquaintance-who-shall-remain-unnamed had changed me to a limited view of their profile. Slight insult ensued, but since we were not the most excellent of friends I decided to not care. Besides, the main reason for viewing that particular profile was mainly for its entertainment value.

Last night, when online for various reasons (school work, I promise!), I noticed I was down a friend. How I noticed, I don’t know. I swear that I do not sit and count my friends, my number had just been one with a large proportion of the number “8” which is my favourite number, so it stood out to me. I know, I’m strange. Get over it.

Today, I discovered who that minus one friend is: acquaintance-who-shall-remain-unnamed. Hah! The interesting thing is, our mutual friends are still mutual friends, there has been no “unfriending” of the others.

Take insult or laugh in this person’s face?

Randoms

I am almost half way through the course work for my Masters Degree!

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I drink far more coffee than I should (I think, though I cap it at two per day and rarely get over one).

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I’m contemplating some ink.

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I like church and love being involved there, but sometimes I think I’m too involved. I’d like to have some time to hang out with people not from my church, maybe play volleyball again. Mind you, unless I had something scheduled, school would just eat up all non-spoken for time.

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I’d like to learn Chinese.

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I finished a book this weekend, Striving for the Wind by Meja Mwangi. Its a Kenyan book, so me telling you about it will probably mean nothing because I’m sure you can’t find it here unless you 1) raid my bookshelf (bad option) or 2) order it through something like AbeBooks (a site I love and from which I get most of my textbooks/other books I can’t find elsewhere). At any rate, it was an excellent read and, I thought, an interesting commentary on life in Kenya during the last few decades (post Mau Mau). Dad brought me back a few books from Kenya and I’m gradually going through them and really enjoying them all so far.

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Today is March 15. I have two wonderful friends and a step-mother (who is also wonderful. Whew, almost blew it on that one!) who entered the world today. Happy Birthday Nicole, Karen, and Colleen!

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Tonight, my goal is to get to bed before midnight. That might be a first in, oh, three weeks?

Thoughts

Life.
It is constantly changing yet stays the same.
It provides excitement and disappointment.
There are opportunities and there are challenges.
People come and people go.
In the end, what do you have except yourself?
And the people who care about you.

What’s in a Name?

At the coffee shop close to Matthew’s house, there is a name analysis book. Not one of those books with a million different names for your baby and a few words about each, but a page long personality profile based on the phoneme sounds that make up your name. Strangely enough, when reading the profile associated with Gillian (which, for the first time ever, was not grouped with Jillian), I found myself identifying with most of it – it was pretty much spot on. Even my middle name was fairly accurate.

This got me to thinking, what is in a name? Did I become my name, that is grow into what I have been named? Or did my parents just do an incredibly insightful job at picking my name because they are possessed with crazy super-powers? (I’ll let Dad comment on that last bit!) But seriously, we get called our names multiple times a day, whether by friends, family, coworkers, people at the store or the doctor’s office, telemarketers, to name a few. How we decide to or not to shorten our name can say many things about us (I will accept Gill as tolerable, but not Gilly, for example). How others refer to us can also say a lot. Remember the rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”? They do. I hated it when, as a kid, people called me “Jillian Jiggs” because 1) my room did NOT look like it was lived in by pigs (a periodically messy child, yes, but certainly not pigs) and 2) my name is certainly not spelt with a “J.” (Yes, I was anal about this from a young age!). At work, we sometime chuckle at strange names we come across and wonder about the parents who would bestow that upon their children. A name is a label that you are stuck with your whole life.

Unless you change your name. Like, for example, some famous Bible characters. Jacob comes to mind, Jacob the Deceiver. If anyone would want a name change, it would be someone like him. However, it took wrestling with God to get that name change, whereupon he became known as Israel. Then there was Simon who was renamed Peter or “Rock.”

So what is in a name? Do we become what we are called? Scary but profound implications for all of us and an encouragement to pay attention to what we call each other.

About that Run

It is Saturday morning, I’m home alone. One roommate still isn’t back from her week-and-a-half long field trip (who knew they did field trips in university?!?) and the other probably went to visit her parents. The house is quiet, though I was awoke by the loud rain last night, especially when it started to come in my open window onto my bed. I’m having a lazy morning. I made chocolate brownies yesterday and then proceeded to consume far too many of them. Consequently, I should really go for a run this morning. But that would involve… running. Perhaps I’ll just go for a long walk instead.

The sun is out now and aside from some dark, damp spots on the pavement and rooftops, you can’t really tell that there was any rain last night. It is amazing what can happen without our knowledge while we are sleeping. Like the time I woke up with a spider crawling through my hair. How did it get there? Where did it walk before it got to my hair? Possibly there are things I don’t really want to know.

I like my current schedule: work for the first three days of the week then do school/friends/church on the remaining. I haven’t gone insane yet and I haven’t been too lacking in sleep. I am even discovering the joy of having papers written more than 8 hours before their due date. It is really quite freeing. Currently, my assignments are due Sundays at midnight, so writing them on Sunday is not really an option – I’m much to busy. The last two weeks I’ve taken to writing them on Friday which is amazingly early for me. It is quite a nice feeling to not be rushed in the last remaining hours leading up to a due date. Why did I not discover this during my undergrad years? Possibly because I am actually less busy than I was during my undergrad. Even with three (well, two and a half) days of work, I feel like I’m doing less than I have been. Maybe it is because I have less time I need to commit to school work. Maybe it is because I can fit my school work around the other parts of my life and so still have free time when I need it. (Friends in Victoria, that means I can have coffee with YOU!) Now I just need to transfer that healthy schedule over to other parts of my life. About that run…

Out of Africa

It turns out that getting yourself back onto a time zone is much easier to accomplish if you actually keep a regular schedule and get to bed on time. That was not to be as I was at a friend’s wedding reception last evening. However, it was wonderful to see so many people once again and catch up on the last few weeks. It was the same this morning at church. I have some wonderful friends here in Victoria.

The first question I get asked is one which I have been asked many times before. It is a hard question not because it asks something incredibly difficult or profound but because it is impossibly to answer in a short sentence: “How was your trip?”  How do you encapsulate a trip such as this in words? It is a similar struggle I faced after our Offshore trip around the Pacific for a year where we encountered many different people from many different cultures. We were confronted with different issues and needs that people experience on a daily basis and challenged in our Western lifestyle. It is a similar struggle I faced on arrival home from a life-changing six weeks in China as a part of a culture and language exchange where I was also challenged in our lifestyle and in the accepted norms of our culture.

In Kenya I saw first hand some of the corruption and disparity of wealth that seems to be all over in many African (and, indeed, many developing) countries.  Driving down the road and seeing the differences in how the majority of people live versus how the wealthy live was, at times, disturbing. I struggled with being white because of the legacy white colonials have left in many developing countries; I hate receiving special treatment just because of my skin colour. I took issue with major irrigation projects designed to benefit a small number when thousands suffer because of drought.

These are all issues which are not unique to Kenya. In many ways, they are found in Canada as well. We just do a better job at hiding them. There is still corruption. Climate change and changing weather plans are things we have to deal with as well; lets face it, Western countries have not been leading the way as they should in dealing with these things as they do not seem to affect us as much. We have huge disparities in wealth in Canada, it is just easier to ignore if you live in the suburbs and drive into work each day without setting foot in amongst the really needy in our cities. I am as guilty as the next person in this.

Do I have ideas on how to change things? Not really. The problem seems so huge that I am still wrapping my head around it and wouldn’t really know where to start. For now, I will continue to live my life and to re-evaluate my lifestyle to minimize my negative impact on the world aroud me while considering how I can be of help to those around me.

Lent

Woke up this morning to a bit of a surprise: a light dusting of snow over everything. I had thought about going down to the shipyard to help out for the day but a combination of the snow and the fact that I’m working every non-school day next month made me stay home. I will be cherishing all the time I have to “do nothing” from here on in!
Not that I did nothing today. After some mundane house-related things, I went off on my walk. I’ve come to like walking a lot lately. During my months of serious thinking about my future, I did a lot of walking because it helped to clear my thoughts and was a good way to get away from distractions and pray as I enjoyed God’s creation. It was too good of a thing to give up and now I walk as often as I can. Though lately it has become more of a destination-focussed walk (Cadboro Bay, either the beach or the coffee shop, depending on the weather) than a walk-focussed walk.
As I’ve mentioned, I rarely listen to my iPod when I’m walking around anymore. As a result, I think I’ve been more involved in creation as I go. Rustling leaves beside the path give me a reason to pause and I’ve noticed some cute little wrens; a loud chirping (borderline obnoxious chatter) has introduced me to a new (for me) hummingbird. This morning, despite the snow, the signs of spring were everywhere.

I spent some on the walk, and at my mid-point coffee shop/journaling spot, time reflecting on last night’s Ash Wednesday service at church. It was quite a moving and thought-provoking service. I found it interesting (not coincidental though, because I don’t think it is coincidence when these things match up) that the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 58) directly related, at least in my mind, to the book I just finished reading, Three Cups of Tea. Related, at least, in the sense of vs. 6&7 of the OT reading:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice 
and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free 
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe him, 
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
My challenge for Lent this year is two fold; I’m not “giving up” anything, rather I want to change how I do things. 
I want to spend more time in prayer and reading/meditating on the Word, less time doing meaningless things that eat up time.
And I want to examine how I interact with my world, both my immediate circle and the greater world around me, finding ways to do the kind of fast God deems as acceptable.

Random Observations

Some interesting happenings and observations of the last 24 hours:

But before I forget, Happy Australia Day today.
I noticed myself tucking my kleenex into the sleeve of my turtleneck last night at church. I had no pockets, okay?!? It made me think of my Grandmother. She used to do that all the time. I probably learnt it from her. I wonder if I took the kleenex out before I put my shirt in the laundry last night? I should check on that.

Some patient at work today told me I look like Charlize Theron. Nice of him, but not likely. I can’t do her whole smokey eye thing… He was an awkward 22-year old so that may have something to do with it.

The stars have been pretty darn amazing the last few nights. I just wish it wasn’t so cold so I could go sit outside in the park down the street and look. There is an insanely bright star that I see every evening in the SW area of the sky. I keep thinking it is Jupiter, but I don’t think it is (after consulting with my star program on the computer) because Jupiter isn’t visible right now. Perhaps it is Sirius or something.

I was asked to be on parish council for the second time in a week last night. The catch: the requests are for different parishes. I go to the Cathedral Sunday morning for church, and am active there in the choir and so on. I consider that my church. But Sunday night, I frequently go up the hill to St. Luke’s for Evensong. It is a nice service that is a little less formal than the Evensong at the Cathedral and I’ve met some lovely people there as well. The Cathedral asked last weekend. St. Luke’s mentioned it last night. I think they just want me because I’m young. Exploitation of youth, that is what it is…

I wore my PNG Mother Hubbard Shirt to church yesterday (over another shirt, with a big black belt to make it less pregnancy looking) and not no end of compliments on my outfit. Take that all you SALT-ies who mocked me buying one of those at the market in Madang!

I like sunshine.

In the Bleak Midwinter (Advent #2)

Warning: random collection of thoughts.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent.

I went to St. Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral for Lessons and Carols this week. It was the first time I’d been inside of that beautiful building. One of the carols they sang is, for some reason, a favourite of mine. It is not one of the more popular carols and the first verse doesn’t seem to have much to do Christmas other than snow (which we don’t even get in Victoria).

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.


– words by Christina Rossetti

I love the carols that are a slightly minor key (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) or are about things other than wisemen and shepherds, angels and cute babies. Not that there is anything wrong with angels and wisemen, I just seem to get tired of those much sooner than I do the other ones.  The carols I am constantly drawn to are the old English ones like the Sussex, Coventry, and Wessex Carols. The minor ones like O Come O Come Emmanuel, Ready My Heart, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, and In the Bleak Midwinter. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they didn’t get sung over and over in Christmas Pagents when I was a kid. Maybe it is the lyrics. 
There is something about the mystery of anticipation that is attractive and in the advent carols it rings loud and clear. This attraction is the reason I love advent so much. If we always had everything figured out, there would be no need to have a period of anticipation and expectation to “Ready our hearts for the birth of Emmanuel.” But we need the time to prepare.  And we don’t know what to expect.  Each year brings new surprises and new events (as the last week in politics has shown us…) to challenge us.  We have this gift of time to prepare; lets not be caught unawares.