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Le Update

It’s saturday morning and I am sitting in my livingroom staring out my bay window at very green trees.  I think that summer has finally come.  I still feel the need to pinch myself because I dreamt of this moment all winter long and was starting to believe it would never come.  I don’t know about you, but this past winter felt so very long.  In some ways it was like I took a deep breath in November– the way you do when you are about to get a needle in your arm–and didn’t let it out until i saw the first buds on the maple trees, sometime in early May.  Six months is a long time to go without breathing.

But i am alive and i am well, and i have been told i am so very neglectful of my blog!  I have been waiting for something grand to report but it turns out that changes in life are mostly gradual–seldom happening all at once.

My roommate moved out last month and I have decided to move into an apartment just upstairs at the end of summer.  It’s nicer but a bit smaller which will be great because I have decided that I would like to live alone for awhile.  This is my attempt to bring some sort of balance into my own life. I can be a social butterfly and a people pleaser and if I don’t force myself into contemplation it may never happen–a tragic thing as those moments are among my most treasured. I am also hoping to start my Master’s thesis in the fall so I will need all the help i can get to concentrate!

In other news I started gardening. I don’t consider myself of the domestic sort and have never grown a thing in my life but I am actually enjoying the process.  It is a test of patience.  I like to see immediate results and I am not good at waiting but  I think there is lesson in this.  The more time and space and attention i give the vegetables, the better they grow.  If I am patient and responsible, i will see the reward of my efforts.  We are not used to waiting for things in our culture. We are not used to bearing the responsibility of producing that which we need to sustain our lives. We are only used to consuming it.  But there is this strange freedom and ownership that comes along with knowing that I CAN do it–that we all have that ability because we were meant to be connected to our land. I think the more we are connected and actively working with the land, the less we are inclined to abuse it.  But that is a blog for another time…

ON IRELAND…

I promised to keep everyone updated on my plans to go to Ireland.  The short story is that i still have not heard news from the research grant I applied for.  They said it could be as late as the end of June when i would find out…i was just hoping it wouldn’t take so long!!  But I am making plans to go either way. The grant will determine how long I can actually stay (probably 5 or 6 weeks if i get it, but only 3 if i don’t).  I have done a great job at compartmentalizing it all so far, but as the departure date draws nearer (2nd weeks of july, hopefully) the more anxious I am getting about it all.  I worked so very hard on the proposal and in many ways it is like the seeds i planted in my garden. It is a small action that represents a bigger hope.  For me this is more than just a trip, it’s part of a bigger dream.  Perhaps the only dream that is fully mine that I have ever dared to pursue independently–therefore, in many ways, it is like I am on the line, not just  a cool opportunity.

But I have had overwhelming encouragement and support which I will honestly say has been the only that has gotten me this far. I am so inclined to doubt myself and lose confidence so quickly.  People’s prayers and support have been like the wind that keeps me in the air. I am reminded daily that I can do nothing well when i am fully alone. I need people to help me “grow” my dreams, and I need to help others do the same.  I am learning that the things I deem worthy are valid and I have a right and a responsibility to pursue them.

So, despite the fact that I was overcome with anxiety last night and unable to sleep thinking about logistics and how I am going to make this possible if I don’t get the grant, i am stating with confidence that i WILL  go. Someway, somehow, I will be in Ireland a month from now.

If you are DYING to help me I could use all the prayer and encouragement i can get. If you want to donate, I actually have found a way you can do this and get a tax receipt.  You can donate to an education fund for me through  a non-profit organization within St. Stephen’s University  called “St. Stephen Association for Christian Education” (SSACE). Anything received for me will go toward this trip.  Unfortunately you cannot be an immediate family member (no parents or siblings…sorry mom!).   Make cheques out to SSACE (with my name in the memo) and sent to: SSACE; 8 main st.; st. stephen, NB; E3L 3E2….

or you can call toll free to donate: 1.888.call.ssu.   FYI this can be done for any student at SSU, in case anyone out there is interested! It is registered in both canada and the US as well for all you americans 😉

Well, thanks for following along in my journey and pushing me to share my life with you on this blog (i am still stunned that people want to read about my life).  I hope you, too, are enjoying these new summer days!

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New Year Top 5s

Champagne Toast

To say that this blog is overdue is a bit of an understatement. But since I begin EVERY blog with an apology about not writing, I am going to try something different this time. It’s getting old anyway, and well, it’s my blog so I can do what I want, right?

Sometimes my lack of writing has more to do with deciding on a topic than anything else.  Without a bit of direction I think the idea of simply “writing” is overwhelming.  So, that being said, the theme of this blog is New Year (i’m only a couple weeks late…). Possible titles included “Feeling Fine in 2009” ; “Up for Debate: 2008” ; “Unwind in 2009” and “2008…It wasn’t THAT bad!”  I realize that last one doesn’t rhyme, but it was the actually words I used for toast on Dec. 30th with two of my friends.

But, instead I am going with an old favorite– “Tops 5s!!!”  These are my “Top 5s” for this coming New Year, and the year which is now behind us.

Top 5 things to be grateful for in 2008

I know it sounds, well, anticlimactic, to raise a glass to toast 2008 and declare with confidence that “it wasn’t THAT bad!”  BUT, the truth is, it has been a bit too long since I could say anything of the sort about an entire year. However, it is true that 2007 significantly lowered the bar–beginning with a stressful family feud, the death of a friend, the death of my grandmother, a “break-up” of sorts culminating in a terribly broken heart, a broken bank account, and a great deal of what I will affectionately call “friendship drama.”    I had never been so happy to see a year end.   So it is with great gratitude that I look back on 2008. Here is my list:

1. A supportive family: every family has it’s ups and downs and mine is no different.  Both together and apart we have all had our share of hard times, but the thing I love THE MOST about my family is our commitment to one another. That even though we do not necessarily agree with one another on every issue, or personal decision, we can argue and move on.  We are family because we are family (we have no choice), but I now realize that we are also friends and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. This past year  I had so many moments where I felt truly supported and loved by my immediate family. I also had many moments where I saw each person’s greatest assets and talents. I had so many laughs, so many deep conversations, and just in general, a lot of fun.  We actually ended the year by spending a few days together in New England just enjoying each other company, and getting to know the soon-to-be new member of the family–my sister’s fiance!

2.  Parties: This is a given, I know. But looking back on the year I realize that I participated in a lot of great parties and the truth is,  I love going to parties (i hate hosting them).  Highlights include my birthday part,y themed “Mardi Gras” with guest appearances by Shannon & Brian (sister and fiance), Peter and Steph, and other long-distance friends; Christmas in July (with someone even dressing up as the baby Jesus);  St. Patty’s Day (need I say more?); Half-way to St. Patty’s Day (really, this should be a twice-a-year celebration);  and of course New Years Eve (both years).This isn’t even mentioning spontaneous parties, bonfires, and wine nights.

3.  A New Job–as much as I complain about this, I am thankful to be considered a good candidate for a demanding position…and a pay raise!

4.  Really, really good friends–I say this, like, every single blog. But it’s because it’s true! This year I felt so supported from friends I see everyday and those I don’t.  This is particularly something to be thankful for because since I started new job AND a master’s degree, I have become a much more terrible friend.  I hope to find balance this year and remedy that.

5.  School–It’s funny how, after you have been out of school for a while, you become so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to study. Or at least that’s what happened to me. I love everything about it, and even though it might take me forever to complete my master’s degree, I don’t mind. I have the two best advisors any graduate student could ask for, who have taught me more than just history and literature. I am learning how to teach, how to mark, how to study, how to think, and how to love learning.

Well that’s my gratitude list. Now, quickly, here are my Top 5s for 2009.

Top 5 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2009!

1. Ireland!! Nothing is set-in-stone just yet, but I am hoping to FINALLY take this dream trip. Right now I am applying for some grants in hopes of finding funding. The trip will be primary research for my thesis (intertwined with Guiness-tasting sessions) and will hopefully include the Scottish Highlands as well.   If anyone has any fund-raising ideas please let me know!

2. Balance: I did NOT do this very well last year. I had many many moments of pure anxiety and panic about my work load, nearing a burn-out sort of state, especially in the fall. I do not plan on repeating this, but instead I am striving to find some balance in my life.

3. No Speeding Tickets–I got another one in Massacheusettes in November.

4. My Sister’s Wedding–I realize that for her, right now, this more a point of anxiety than excitement, but I know it will all come together fine. She deserves a beautiful wedding and I love being a part of the process!

5. The Great Unknown–I love not knowing what the year holds. Likely some hard times, but surprises too.  Not just for me but my friends and family as well.  I’ll try to keep you posted on the really significant stuff!

The Pieces of Me

the view from the driver's seat of my car

I fully admit that I have been a terrible blogger. I know, i know…i keep saying I’ll change but have i? no. You’re right, i’m sorry. Please forgive me.

I guess it just seems like i have nothing to say. This tends to happen to me every so often. I would call it writer’s block, but the truth is i don’t have anything to say because I haven’t taken the time to think about anything very important. I will attribute that to brain-overload with work, school, and social life. I have always been anti-journal blogging.–as in, making your blog like a personal journal–HOWEVER, in an attempt to write a new post, I just might have to resort to such measures so that you know what I have occupying my time with the past month (isn’t that what facebook is for?). I’ll try to be entertaining by providing pictures.

me and my guitar

1. END OF TERM!! This is very exciting for me for two reasons: A.) I am a student B.) I work at a school. Both of these reasons give me cause to be excited about the end of term. I love students and I love being a student but there are reasons that it’s an eight-months-of-the-year thing. After many long late nights INew River Beach finally finished my online Gaelic class. Let me just say that “no”, i do not recommend taking a language online (if you say “i told you so” i will slap you). I am still doing some school work throughout the summer, but the workload is far less. Highlights of our famous SSU convocation week included campfires, beach days, and of course, pub night which featured three very awesome SSU student bands and a packed house. I also got to play at convocation (accompanied by good friends Raymond Funk and Shannon-May Pringle) and performed the song “When it Don’t Come Easy” by Patty Griffin, a personal favorite of mine.

Didgedeguash Lake 2. Bye bye Europe-bound friends..

SSU once again saw another travel-study term leave this spring for Wester Europe (Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, and England). Some of my very best friends are on this eight week trip and although I am so very very happy for them (and not at all jealous), it is hard to see them go (o.k. like 90% happy and 10% jealous). I spent most of May sucking up all their free time in my needy fashion, trying to make up for the rest of the summer without them. Dear friends, Shelley and Kendall, won a Nintendo Wii. Enough said. That, in a nutshell, explains where most of my spare time went (and might I add, I am AWESOME at Wii boxing).

Shelley and Kristi drinking beer3. Boston…AGAIN!
Simply because i absolutely cannot get enough of this city! Kristi and I wentShannon and Kristi at EarthFest ventured south to visit my sister and Future-Fiancee. As usual, we had a smashing time and even attend EarthFest…which is basically an excuse for an all-day outdoor concert under the guise of loving the earth. It was a vegan hippy’s dream day!

4. L’Isle de Prince Edward!Melanie and Baby Aiden close up

Last weekend took me back to the motherland for my friend Christina’s wedding. Christina used to be a consecrated sister of Regnum Christi, but about a year felt her calling was to the sacrament of marriage instead. Sure enough, she met Thomas and they are now happily wedded! I had a great time at the reception dancing everything from the Salsa to the Polka, eating yummy maritime seafood, and seeing old friends. It was a short weekend but fun. I plan to be back for a longer period around the end of June which I am very much looking forward to.Christina and Thomas at the reception

Christina and Thomas Black and White close up

The happy couple, Christina and Thomas Yep!! Aren’t they cute?

Shelley Kadatz walking on the St. Andrews BeachShelley laughing5. The rest of my time?? A mixture of family stuff (a funeral, a sick aunt, and time at home), wine-tasting nights on a friend’s patio, essay writing, reading, and some great live music….

Kristi drinking wine by candlelight

(sigh) I am SO glad it’s summer.

WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?

(AFRICAN TOWNSHIP)

I went for a drive a few weeks ago. Everyone is talking about social justice issues these days and I can’t help but wonder where the justice is in my own community. The pictures below are just a few of the ones I took on my drive through “the ridges”. Charlotte County, I’ve been told, is economically the poorest county in Canada and just a few minutes drive on some rural back roads is found the evidence. Looking at some of the conditions people live in makes me wonder are we really any better here in Canada then some of the developing nations we criticize?

I spent some time in South Africa a few years ago and one thing for which we heavily criticized the government was the dramatic gap we saw between the rich and the poor. In the midst of Cape Town or Johannesburg we could convince ourselves we were in any 1st world, Western city. But just a few miles out into the rural area were massive townships where thousands of people lived in destitute conditions.

How can everyone just ignore such a huge problem? I wondered. How can the government justify allowing so many people to live in such poverty? Now I understand that there was a plank in my own eye and that we live in the same sort of denial here in the Maritimes. Sure, it may not look like a South African township, but some of conditions here, when combined with harsh winters, no electricity/water, and the rising cost of fuel, mean that many New Brunswickers live in 3rd world standards. I know it’s not just Charlotte County, in fact it’s a country wide problem and very much a wide spread problem here in the Maritimes (I have seen some similar areas in Cape Breton, Western PEI, Northern Aboriginal Reserves, etc.).

Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. Believe me, I think it is beyond necessary that we all move toward a way of life that consumes less resources and I would never want to criticize someone for choosing to live simply. But we all deserve the opportunity to make that choice. I do not think that this perpetual cycle of poverty is of many people’s choosing.

I can’t seem to escape the nagging question playing on repeat in the back of my head asking “Why do we allow this? How do I allow it?” I know there is no one, single, solution–nothing so simple or else we would have fixed it by now. In part the federal government has taken much and given back very little in return; in part it is corporations like Irving that we have allowed to run our province, take our land, and determine working standards; and in part it is our own “poverty mentality” and inability to step up and assume responsibility for our neighbours. As Maritimers it is all we have ever known and therefore we do not know anymore what is and is not acceptable.

Let me say this now.

This is absolutely not acceptable.

I don’t know what the answer is but I will continue to seek for one, and I hope and pray that as we all become more aware of the plank in our own eye we will stop ignoring our own economic problems, convincing ourselves that we are “making poverty history” because we verbally encourage our government (and Bono) to give more of our federal dollars toward eradicating 3rd world hunger at a G8 summit. There are plenty of justice issues next door and we need to stand together and figure this one out.

March Madness

redneck ray and dave

yeah, i know. I haven’t written in awhile. But yes, i’m still alive, and yes, i still use this this thing.

End of term is approaching at SSU and with it always comes a rush of chaos which just about sums up my life the past few weeks. I will try and recap the month of March which for some reason is always such a crazy month for me. The month started out with a great weekend in Moncton with some girls I graduated SSU with. We had a spa and shopping weekend which was so much fun. I love that we all remain close still, making concentrated efforts to see one another. In another year we will have known each other for a full decade. I can’t believe I am THAT old…

Speaking of old…I celebrated my 28th birthday this month. It was so much fun! My sister and Future Fiance (see previous entries) came to visit for the weekend. I never cease to be surprised by her willingness to always meet me where I am at and celebrate my life. I think we lead such very different lives but somehow it has never been a point of division. She is always so unconditionally supportive. Having her and Future Fiance here was like delicious icing on an already fabulous cake because Kristi had already planned the event of the century! This girl loves to party plan and she is so good at it (which is great because I’m not so much). The day started with a great brunch with close friends followed by a party later that evening. I knew we were having a party, but had no idea what the theme was…as it turns out the theme was “Mardis Gras” (a very sacrilegious theme to have in the middle of Lent…) and everyone went all out with their hilarious costumes! The party was followed by a bigger “post-party” event at the local pub. I love having all my friends in one room! I think that was the best part of the night.

Kristi pulled off a great party, only to do it all again two days later for St. Patrick’s Day (her favorite day of the year). This party was a bit more low key, but included green beer and the movie “Waking Ned Divine.”

The following weekend was Easter and I returned to a cold, snowy Island to celebrate that, and my Dad’s birthday. Kristi came along as well and we had a great weekend with my family! It was also so nice to see people I haven’t seen in too long, but unfortunately just not enough time to really catch up. It never feels like there is enough time…My friends, Mark and Melanie just bought a new, beautiful house, and their baby is growing so fast! Other friends are going through major life changing stuff as well and I know I am missing out on some huge moments which is always so hard. In that way it is always bitter sweet to return home.

Last weekend had me in Halifax for work at a Christian conference. These are my least favorite events to attend as they are always full of crazy evangelicals who want to debate theology and let you know who is and who is not getting into heaven (and of course, some lovely people as well…they just get overpowered by the crazy ones).

All of the in between times can be summed up in one word: work.

My daily routine looks like this:

wake up
go to work
eat supper
work on my essay/presentation/assignment until the wee hours of the morning
go to bed.
Repeat.

I also bathe regularly somewhere in that mix (in case you were worried), and sometimes I even have these little moments of hilarity that keep me going. The above picture is an example of one such moment…my friends, Ray and Dave, who in support Mandatory Mustache March, are sporting their new look to go along with their disgusting facial hair. I will be laughing at these pictures for a very long time. Thanks guys for making my week way more fun!

So that’s my excuse for last month’s lack of blogging. Hopefully I’ll do a better job this month. I am looking forward to the term being over and finally having time to think…

Until then…*sigh.

My Old Man

 b17-aircraft.jpg

The past year or so I have been visiting an old man who lives on the outskirts of St. Stephen.  I originally got connected through Hospice, an organization I have been volunteering with but as I started back to school while still working full-time it seemed I could no longer give the time needed and I resigned. However, I asked if I may still visit ‘my old man’ as it seemed that we had become friends. They agreed and so, even though our visits were few and far between, I continued to see him. 

He was 82 this year. He had congestive heart failure and so was constantly attached to an oxygen machine. He never left his small bungalo house in the country and his younger wife enjoyed the chance to get out to the grocery store when I came to visit.  We would sit in his living (which smelled rather like a hospital) and he would tell me his stories.  He had immigrated from Eastern Europe with his family at a young age and settled out west. During WWII he joined the Canadian air force (he said it was because he noticed that the girls went after the guys with uniforms), and eventually became a pilot and then an aero-mechanic. Airplanes were his whole life.  He particularly like to tell the story of when he learned how to land a plane on an aircraft carrier. He was sent to Florida for training and learned along side a man who later became very famous. His name was Bob Barker! Then he would say “of course he was nothing special in those days.” 

After the war, he moved to the states with his family, though reluctantly. The Korean war was just beginning and he was afraid he would be conscripted.  Sure enough, he was and spent his time as a combat pilot in the war.  Painstakingly he would tell me about a day that would change his life forever.

He was given orders to bomb a village. He and another comrade weren’t given much hope of coming out alive.  He was given the coordinates and somewhere in translation something got confused. They dropped the bomb on the village only to find out a short time later that it was the wrong place.  His eyes would fill with tears as he related his responsibility in killing so many innocent people. I don’t know if he ever forgave himself for that mistake.

After dropping the bomb he was quickly pursued and shot at.  He remembers hearing his comrade radio him saying there was a guy right on his tail and then before he had a second to think his plane was shot down. The entire back end was blown off and he was ejected. He remembers nothing more but apparently he landed in the ocean where he floated for 20 hours before a Japanese ship picked him up and took him to Tokyo.  

He stayed in Tokyo for 11 months, most of the time he was in a coma. It took many more months to get his memory back.  He would speak bitterly of the US government often to me, and it seems with good reason. For when he immigrated to the US he had to sign a declaration saying he would not be a liability to the government for five years. He also had to give up his Canadian citizenship. This all led to the US government refusing to accept him back into the country and without a Canadian citizenship he was stranded. His parents ended up having to move back to Canada in order to sponsor him back into the country. He was forever grateful to the Canadian government for the good treatment he received. 

If you can imagine, this is just a small part of his story.  82 years gives you a lot of life experience!  The last time I saw him was just before Christmas. He told me he was going to build a plane piece by piece in his basement. He got out the blue prints and went over them with me (I pretended I knew what he was talking about). His mind was as sharp as ever! Unfortunately his heart wasn’t and just this last weekend he passed away. 

I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with my old man. I wish I spent more time with him and his stories and his wisdom. I wish I didn’t let my life become so busy that squeezing in an hour here and there was so difficult.  It is sad to me how we let the wisest people in our society waste away without notice.  How after so many years of triumph, struggle, action & adventure a man can sit in his living room day and night alone, just waiting to die.

I think the elderly are our greatest treasure, our biggest asset, and our best resource. I think that we are a lost culture in part because we have lost our connection with our past, choosing Wikipedia wisdom over personal relationships.  We have a lot to learn if we could only take the time to learn it from the people who know best.

 To my dear old man, thank you.  May you fly fast and high in your new plane.

My New Relationship

confed-bridge-view.jpg

So I think I’m falling in love. Not sure, but it’s the only thing I can equate my feelings to at this point so I’m just going to go with it.

It all started about two and a half months ago. It was innocent at first and very unfamiliar–often overwhelming–and mostly I wanted to bolt. But I didn’t. And now here I am and I can’t believe that this is my life because I never expected to feel this way. I want to give my all my spare time to this new strange relationship. Suddenly it’s like everything has purpose again…

You see, I just started a Masters degree.

It was like jumping into cold water with my eyes closed. I tried my hardest to see what was down there and look around to make sure it was the right decision but there was no way to tell except to take the plunge. But once I dove in I found that the water was warm and full of life and that was more of a shock than the cold sting of the ocean in December.

I am studying Maritime Celtic history and literature. I know there’s no one out there who can really understand this, but I love it. I am particularly focusing on the poverty of the Irish and Highlanders as they arrived here and how that has since influenced our culture. My topic keeps getting more and more interesting and the more I learn the more interested I become.

I never ever expected to fall in love with my homeland. In fact, I spent most of my time growing up expecting to leave it. But it’s like there is something I just can’t get away from and it’s scary because now I know I might not ever be able to leave. I find myself driving around and wondering what things were like here 100 years ago…or hear a maritime accent and instead of being embarrassed I beam with pride. I look at the run down houses and the struggles people here face everyday and feel compassion and empathy…but never pity. How could I? This is where I come from. And the more I understand and uncover the buried treasure of my land, the more my heart softens. It’s like blinders have been taken off my eyes and I can see what was always right in front of my face.

How crazy do I sound? I drive around and just silently take it all in–the land, the architecture, the people-because there are no words to describe the way I feel. I am the luckiest girl I know. I have a place where I come from, a heritage, and I am part of what I see as a great story. It’s like we’re in the middle of it all, only part way through, so no one else knows how amazing the story is going to turn out but somehow I got a glimpse. The past, the present, the future all connected…and I get to live it. The only feeling I have ever felt that can compare that of falling in love…only without the fear that it won’t work out because it’s all already finished.

I don’t expect you to understand. I know that I may stand alone in this, but that’s o.k. I just wanted to share this new relationship and tell someone that I have never felt so whole.

And yes I love studying local history, literature, and language and I thought I should share that with the world. If that makes me crazy, well I guess I can deal with that.


Good Advice

"Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things"

Currently reading…

"'Tis" by Frank McCourt

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