Wednesday, December 23, 2009

an american in christmas

Golly I like this season. And not just the story of the Nativity! I love celebrating Jesus' birth, but I also really like many of the things we've "customized" about this season. I know I should be lamenting the commercialism and the distraction from the Real Story (and I suppose I do, to some extent), but I really love finding just the right presents for people, sitting near a lit tree, hearing Christmas music of all sorts (well, everything except the Charlie Brown Christmas theme), and baking/cooking like crazy to get ready for the fun of just enjoying friends and family to the utmost. I'm goal oriented, so I also like the motivation to pull things together, get things done, make things ready and welcoming. I kind of feel like it's a dirty secret, but there you have it.

At church last week they were reading the story of the shepherds being visited by angels in the middle of the night and I got to thinking about just how crazy that had to have been. If you’re like me, the story’s been told so often now that it’s hard for it to feel any more noticeable than wallpaper. But I just had this picture in my head of shepherds: real, live, ordinary people going about their real, live, ordinary lives, when suddenly WHAM! a Real Live Other is right there too. How much would it jar you to have an angel show up right next to you, right where you are right now? What defenses would you have to shoot up around yourself, what questions would smash through your brain as you backpedalled and tried to align what you were seeing and feeling with everything else you’ve experienced in life so far? People in the Bible who saw angels felt anything BUT casual about them. Try terror, speechlessness, and a huge sense dirty-ness and smallness in the light of such beauty and perfection. And I’m guessing we’d add stuff like doubting one’s own sanity, suspecting a prank, and other forms of skepticism. Yet Christians believe that supernatural events really did happen, in history.

That kind of experience just doesn’t seem to fit within the Western understanding of the world. Am I the only one that can easily lapse into codifying, modifying, tweaking, dumbing down, watering down, and reinterpreting the Story and the Person until they fit within my boundaries, affirm my life, and don’t make things too awkward? I know I have to work pretty hard at stepping back to real awe and wonder about anything that “other.” I love that the season reminds me of that gap… that faith is relatively pointless unless it’s actually about believing something. And that I can’t just tweak what I believe till it works for me and makes me comfy… that if God is real, and if Jesus is Divine… well, I'd better be feeling some serious awe, sometimes. Otherwise - I’m missing a major something about Christmas even in the midst of the lovely presents and food and family.

So blessings and “awe” to each of you, this Christmas. May it be the best one yet!

Monday, December 14, 2009

guns, germs and steel

In the book Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond hypothesizes that those who domesticated plants and animals early got a head start on developing technology, weapons, and immunity to germs. It's an interesting theory. While I have not myself knowingly domesticated any plants or animals, I must have forebears who did. So far this season I have not fallen to H1N1 or the flu (in spite of not being able to get the immunizations- lovely egg allergy!), I've had more fun with technology at work and at home than ever (we're planning all sorts of cool Web 2.0 stuff for next year and I finally have gps/internet/texting on my phone), and uh, I've used weapons to kill stuff that I plan to eat. That third item is not nearly as straightforward as you might think, but it is a part of my heritage, and I really feel privileged to be able to do it - so I think I'll tell you this year's saga. [picture: me sighting in my 30-30 last year at a range my step-dad Tim set up]
Our story begins back this past spring when an old gunsmith tried to teach a new gunsmith new tricks - with my "baby", a 30-30 rifle that I've hunted with since I was 14. They took it apart to look at it and put on a new scope for me. Once that was done it needed some planning to get it sighted in with the new scope because the shooting range around here is expensive and life is busy. So my friend Javier (he went hunting with me this year) and I headed to to Iron River, and planned while we were there to sight it in at a range that a guy just lets people use. (Un?)fortunately, some guys we met there noticed that the barrel was *wiggling* in the stock - (of course, after I'd wasted some ammo) so all the sighting in in the world would do it no good; it needed a gunsmith. Thankfully, that night we were visiting my dad's family, and my cousin Scott - a great person, and - conveniently - a gunsmith - took a look at it and tightened it right up. Unfortunately, the gun now needed again to be sighted in, so the only option was to do it back around here. It turned out that the weekend before opening day was the only one that worked for both me and Javier. Almost as soon as we were set up this guy - we'll call him Buzz - came up and started criticizing the way we were doing things (he meant to be helpful, but it sounded a lot like, "why are you doing that? why don't you just go do this? those f-ers [other shooters] are always doing things wrong here. What's with people putting this off till the last minute?"). After blowing more ammo and missing the target completely, Buzz asked why I didn't just go back and have "Fred" bore sight the gun. I didn't know there was a Fred, but I took him up on it. Fred was kind and got it all set up, so I brought the gun back out and STILL was completely missing the target. I think that's the point where I started to get really upset. I'm pretty serious about being a decently accurate shot (you just can't mess around with that stuff). Buzz doesn't know me from Adam, so has no idea that this isn't normal behavior for me or this gun, and he just kept picking on everything we were doing. Finally - after aiming exactly at the top of the target and hitting the bottom (but at least being able to see where it was going), trying to manually adjust for that and getting nothing but MORE criticism from Buzz, I headed back to Fred again. This time he bore-sighted inaccurately, but based on what I told him... and it worked. So now I'm within 4 inches at 100 yards, which is not nearly where I'd like to be, but for the kind of hunting I do, good enough. I was trembling and upset, so it for sure wasn't going to get more accurate at that point, anyway.
[picture: my stand, when Javier, Dean and I were checking it out last year]
People who think hunting is just a matter of meandering into the woods and blowing away at a myriad of living creatures as they go by should come along sometime. Our Saturday started with a super-early rise, being filled with waffles and coffee that Aunt Dar made (ok, NO complaints about that part!!), heading out to our stands before it started getting light, walking as quietly as possible for about a half mile to my stand, waving at my cousin Scott as I passed him in his stand, and climbing up and getting all settled in to... wait. And wait, and wait, and wait.
After a while it got light, and the woodpeckers started to work and the chickadees, ducks and ravens decided to let the world know they were around too. At one point I heard a rushing right on the tree behind me and realized that a squirrel had been at the top of it and had had to go by me to get down. I think he scared me way more than I scared him! I saw a few deer far off, and then I heard something to my left.
A small buck was going by at about 75 yards - and he was wounded. So I didn't have a great shot but since he wasn't going to make it I wanted to try to put him out of his misery. I shot twice and thought I hit him but wasn't sure. My cousin Scott had heard the shots so he came over and we found blood and were able to track the deer down. Another hunter, Jerry, actually put him down, and I ended up gutting and tagging him. I had bought a doe tag as Amy was hoping for extra venison this year, and I had asked Javier to take a doe if he had a clean shot (I really don't like killing things if I don't have to!) so just as we were on our way back Javier radioed me that he needed my doe tag! Turns out he'd had a nice clean shot at a doe at nearly 100 yards and had taken her with a minimum of fuss. After that I headed back to my stand. More waiting, a few more does going by, a bit of sandwich and hot cocoa, and more waiting. Probably around 2:00 or so I saw some does running along a hill opposite me. Another deer came down from the top of the hill toward them and all five deer started heading my way. And that other deer was a decent-sized buck! They slowed a bit as they got closer, and as the buck was around 50 yards away, he paused just long enough for me to squeeze off a shot. He didn't get much further than that - though he did make me nervous as I couldn't see him when he fell and a different deer took off from that spot. I would have felt terrible if I had wounded him. But he was dead when I got to him, so there was another one to gut and drag out! I wish I could say I got better at that with practice... the gutting, I mean. I didn't have to do the dragging (that's why you go hunting with boys!).
Many people I talked to about hunting this year didn't see a deer all day long - I'm wondering if the deer are getting over-managed. But Javier and I had good stand spots; we both got to watch a bunch of deer, many of them within shooting range. We both filled our tags, and just plain had fun being out in the woods. It's really a privilege to have someone like Uncle Dean to help get us set up, look after us, coordinate meat processing, and look after the land year-round. I miss my Dad most this time of year, and Uncle Dean reminds me of him. It's just good to have a place to go, people to go with, and traditions! Here's a picture of us, wearing our mean hunter faces.
And a note about "the killing of innocent animals". I hate killing things. I particularly don't like seeing them suffer. Since those things happen when we hunt, I might as well explain myself! I'm a big fan of eating venison: good, natural, lean meat. And since, if there is not herd control of some sort by humans, nature will do it herself in more brutal ways - disease and starvation - I'd rather get food that will be appreciated out of the deal. And aside from the actual killing there is so much that's fun about hunting. Hanging and playing cards with my cousins and Aunt Dar, hearing stories from the hunting crew, tramping about the woods doing drives with other hunters, thinking about my dad, sitting silently in the woods and just enjoying the beauty and wildlife... and the feeling of independence that comes with knowing how to use weapons to provide food that you and your friends and family will enjoy... ah! I hope our family never loses the tradition. So, let me know when you're coming over and I'll put some venison to thaw!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

not all who wander are lost

IMG_0331 [Pictures of the weekend]

Labor Day Weekend. I've been looking forward to it for quite a while: six of us heading up to Canada's Lake Superior Provincial Park to bask in the solitude and camaraderie unique to backpacking. On this trip: me, Jeff, Tom, Tammy, Javier and Jamie.
The below is paraphrased from Javier's description of the trail to our friend Jason (he didn't know I was attempting to transcribe his words as spoke!). This is illegal in 11 states.
IMG_0295 <Mostly Javier >It turns out that not all paths are created equal.
This thing is insane in that on the eastern shore of Lake Superior there is a lot of elevation change, and they try to maximize your awareness of it as much as possible. Sometimes they have you rock climbing. Sometimes they have you climbing rock rather than walking trail. So when you're climbing you may or may not be moving forward. You're expecting from your experience with Colorado’s Rockies, Pictured Rocks, and Isle Royale, that you’ll do 1-2 miles per hour and in a full day you’ll do 9-11 miles. And here it' s just not possible. So when the ranger says it takes 4-5 days to take your planned route, you say yeah, if you're grandmas! If the Ranger hadn’t been Canadian her message would have carried more weight.
102_6354So there was a plan as we drove up. Tom got nervous about the whole thing, Javier was all gung ho. We compromised. but it turns out that even from where Tom wanted to start we wouldn't have had a chance. We started out early the second day, hit it hard, had a late lunch, and decided that there was no way based on our progress that we would make it. The decision was made to do the trail we'd just done back to our car and take it from there. Which worked out ok, we did it. IMG_0057We went out in 1 1/2 days and back. got all 6 of us (including packs!) in a Toyota Corolla and drove to the finish line. We camped there, and did a 2-hour packs off on Monday morning.

Turned out to be a nice trip. We saw a lot of things twice. The first time we were kind of rushed: we didn't take time to swim when we saw nice spot. IMG_0285On the way back there were plenty of stops. We found a sandy beach at one point. At another place there were these rocks that you could kinda sorta jump off if you were careful. It was neat.
It was crazy walking on all kinds rocks. and rocks of the same size would all be together. So you'd go from a field of gravel to a field of boulders. The worst were these bigger-than-softball-but-smaller-than-volleyball ones that looked like dinosaur eggs. You’d step on them and they’d either hold or or they’d move and you twist your ankle. When they’d move you'd be standing between two and they’d smash your twisted ankles above your hiking boots.
Also, the Cookhouse was good. The End. </Mostly Javier>
IMG_0249Speaking of food… "civilized" people eat inside wayyyy too much! Most meals we ate away from our camp site, out on the rocks. Watching the water, the sunsets, and filling up on hot food after a full day of hiking… there’s really nothing like it.
Life becomes simpler – or at least more straightforward - when you’re picking up everything and going somewhere else each day. IMG_0251It’s a great test of group dynamics to work together to get everything done – the food cooked, the water pumped, the tents set up, the bear bag hung, the tents packed up, the bear bag taken down, more water pumped, more food cooked. I love it when everybody just does something and somehow it happens. And it doesn’t hurt that you’re doing it all in the most beautiful setting possible! It almost makes you forget how tired and aching your body is! Almost.
102_6374One of my favorite things about this part of the world is the cairns. There’s something completely enchanting about a trail that requires following rock stacks to know where you’re going. In the woods there were little blue guy signs, but on bare rock, cairns were such a simple, artistic way to navigate the elusive, winding trail.
IMG_0359 Another thing that just can’t be beat is Lake Superior itself. The weather was unbelievably perfect all weekend, and the Lake – which I usually associate with crashing and beautiful waves – was as calm and mirror-like as I’ve ever seen it. It made for indescribable views of underwater rocks and sunsets.
<more from Javier> Also, we had McDonald’s. The End. </more> (for real this time).

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Ever feel like a leg that's been sat on too long, patiently waiting for the pain and relief of returned blood flow? Yep, that's me at the moment. Life since Monday morning, the morning of Aug. 3 on which I still heard nothing about the funding, feels like it got put on freeze frame advance. I'm not unhappy, but my time has been chocked full of stuff (good, fun stuff) that's allowed me to hold off thinking - or feeling - too much. It hasn't been good for paying bills, returning phone calls, texts, or e-mails. Neither has it been good for figuring out what to do with all the plans/ideas/thoughts that are hovering mid-air, silently waiting for closure or redirection.
I'm thinking I'll head up north for the weekend; not sure if it's to escape, or to push "play" again on my swirling thoughts. The "swoosh" is gonna hurt!

(One thing that has been nice is the amazing presence of friends (here and remote), and the excitement of co-workers that I'm staying after all; they're disappointed for me but genuinely happy for themselves. And golly it's nice to have people around you that like you!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

oh jeepers - she's goin' in

IRD is running into problems with the logistics of the project as it was originally scoped (they're finding it a LOT more expensive than anticipated to do the stuff outlined in the project). That means that pretty much anything could happen. Yes, Shelter has a signed agreement with IRD, but that doesn't mean they still might not change the plan signficantly.

While none of us really knows the future, can I just say that I've been finding it really difficult to cope with my two - and REALLY different - looming futures? Future 1 has the funding for Liberia all falling into place, and me heading out of here in mid-September with a few more shots and my stuff all sold/stored/packed. Future 2 has the funding falling through and me staying here, trying to cope with the bottom falling out of what I've been prepping for and figuring out what to do instead. I know that what will probably happen is something entirely different, but somehow the thought of Future 3 happening isn't exactly comforting - to someone who's already slightly on edge about the whole deal. Go figure!

So yeah, I've been dealing with some mild depression. Nothing debilitating; just lack of energy and initiative for much that needs to be done around here. I'm getting the bare minimum done, but it's taking a lot of effort. And I have lots of unanswered e-mail piling up!

I think I'm coping by existing on multiple levels.

The friend level - Honestly, I think this is a major part of what's keeping me going right now. I haven't had the energy to post about them :) but I've spent some fabulous weekends with close friends and family. I've also had just really good and fun times with the "every day" friends here in Appleton. It's been so huge to just have good quality time with people who care about me and who I just love and admire and like being with so much.

The work level - Work just continues to be awesome. Have I mentioned that I love my job? :) We're doing some really neat projects and I just have great people to work with and great automomy in getting stuff done. The only way that I know something's a bit "off" is that I'm completely emotionally exhausted at the end of the work day - that's just not usual.

The God level - Ok, so I think this one permeates the other levels, but also warrants its own. I've felt a strong need to slow down more and spend time praying and reading and contemplating. It's been really good. I've been feeling down but not unloved or despairing. Probably a good step toward having better reliance on Him while I'm still living in a culture where self-sufficiency is not only possible but expected. We need God here just as much as we would anywhere else, but we have a lot of easily-available crap that we can use to medicate and distract ourselves to keep that need at bay. Having my need exposed is helping me offload at least some of that crap.

Also - the college-age Bible study has been meeting at my apartment this summer. We're studying I Corinthians and it's really been amazing. There are some great thinkers in the group and every week we've been thrashing through all sorts of stuff and finding insights that I haven't seen there before - and I've read the book a lot! Just cool that that there's always more to learn - and fun how other people help you see stuff you wouldn't find on your own (and answer tough questions!).

The book world level - I've been reading like crazy. For me that's always been a great escape. And I hope it's not unhealthy because it's for sure helping me put some distance between myself and the uncertainties in my life for small amounts of time. I just feel guilty when I know I could go pack or organize or clean something and the energy/motivation just isn't there - and so I read or sleep!

Sorry to be so introspective and me-focused; I really don't think I'm the only person in the world with struggles! Thanks for being patient as I stepped back and processed a bit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Amy, Tim and my first tussle with move preparedness!

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Amy & Tim good weekend! My step-mom Amy and her husband Tim had just made a looping tour of the midwest and stopped in to visit me for the weekend. We had a lovely time talking and catching up, eating, and generally just hanging out. Tim and Amy got some time to explore Appleton while I was at a wedding. They also actually had some successful clothes shopping experiences, which I can’t help but find admirable.

We talked quite a bit about what would stay and what would go with this whole Liberia transition. The general plan at this point: selling/giving away the furniture and most of the toys (bike, skis, motorcycle), along with most of the winter clothes, many of the books and other stuff that is almost more “simplify your life” stuff than anything. Things that would be hard to replace, or things for which I’ve saved up to get something precise, would go into storage (mementos from my Grandma & Dad, cooking stuff, antique books, and so on). [Joy – any idea on what I’ll want for cooking/baking stuff in Liberia??].

Part of the original activity plan was to hit the Farmer’s Market in Appleton on Saturday morning – it was the first one of the summer and believe it or not I’ve never made it to an Appletonian Farmer’s Market! That plan changed, though, when Amy took a look at my closet. It wasn’t that it was messy, per se. It was squunched. (Hmm, now that I think of it I really should have taken before and after pictures.) And Amy knows me well: for whatever reason dealing with clothes just overwhelms me. In an ideal life I would never think about clothes at all – I’d wear a jumpsuit or a perfectly cute-and-comfortable outfit would just be there waiting for me every time I’d hop out of the shower. Amy’s put up with me clothes shopping, so I suppose she felt it was time to earn more jewels in her crown or something. Or maybe she just likes suffering! At any rate, she proposed skipping the Farmer’s Market and helping me go through my closet to make decisions about stuff.

image I think I struggle because I hate feeling that I’ve spent money on something that I haven’t used to the “completely worn out” stage. And living alone, it’s just plain hard to be sure that something really should be jettisoned without solid moral support. So she patiently waded with me, hanger by hanger, through the entire closet. Ooof! I was – of course – quite crabby and miserable, but she knows me well enough to just laugh at my scrunchy faces and keep on pushing.

You wouldn’t believe how freeing it is - nor how happy I am that it’s done! Now I “get” to decide what to do with all the clothes! Suggestions?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

rant about people who clean

[rant] What is it with complaints about people who clean? I talked to someone recently who was laughing about how she and her colleagues had put a pea somewhere in their office just to see how long it would take the person who cleans to find it. Maybe I used to be in this camp, but golly people-who-don't-clean-for-a-living! Must we pick on people who make - how much an hour - picking up after US?! Are we really that sure that if cleaning was our job we'd do it better? I'm an indifferent enough cleaner of my own place that I have nothing but respect for people who get up every day and go and do the kind of work these folks do for the kind of pay they earn - and put up with hassling and disrespect on top of it. Yeah, I'm not saying everyone who cleans for a living is a martyred saint or anything. But there's got to be something better we could be doing with our lives....[/rant]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

30ish miles of goodness in the wilderness

With considerable re-shuffling, Tom, Nancy, Javier, Jeff, Ray, Becky and I were able to make the backpacking trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore this past weekend. It did NOT start propitiously. What is it with miserable starts to really cool things lately?!
* Javier had all sorts of issues with work, so ended up driving separately so he could come late (he arrived at our car-camping launch site at 4:00 AM), and leave early. He had to drive to/from work-related road trips in Rochester and Madison on both ends of the trip. We cooly and callously went to one of his favorite restaurants without him - and it was GREAT! Good ol' burgers and shakes, and for super-cheap! Mickey-Lu Bar-B-Q in Marinette - you must go there!
* Ray, Jeff and Nancy were good sports and volunteered to drive the 2 cars we'd need to the end point. But a 2-hour shuttle ended up taking 5 or 6 because of crazy road construction backtracking (strikes one and two against PRNL cartographers). Given the lack of cell phone coverage, you can imagine how agitated Tom (because he's Tom) and Becky (what with being married to Ray and all) were by the time the Three Musketeers rolled back into the camp site. Javier and I continued the cool and calloused theme: we tossed around his football pillow and took naps and generally waited to panic till we knew what actually happened.
* We decided that even with the late start we'd still be able to catch Grand Sable Dunes, and then hike from the bottom of them along the shore. This area is seriously one of the most fantastic spots in the world. If you like sand dunes you'll be on the right track, but imagine Lake Superior dumping so much sand there that it piles up to 500 feet above the shoreline! Pictures don't do it justice.... After de-sanding our feet and donning our hikin' boots we wandered along a shrinking shoreline until we found ourselves bushwhacking through forests and losing shoes in mud and water - for real! You guessed it - there was no trail from the bottom of the Dunes (strike 3 against those dang cartographers)! Javier and Tom scouted ahead along a cliff-like face to see if the shore would re-appear, and Jeff went straight up to see if we could climb up to the trail without backtracking. Thankfully the second option was an actual option. It was a LOT of work to climb up all that sand with backpacks on (it was definitely lower than 500 feet by that point - may 2-300??), so when we finally made the top and relatively quickly found the trail we were all pretty stinkin' relieved.

From there on, things definitely got easier! We found our camp site, which was actually a car camping site: cushy with things like the cleanest outhouse I've ever - uh - experienced and a picnic table!

It rained during the night with a good chance things might get worse. After some discussion, Tom and Nancy decided to hike back out and bring the car around to meet us near our 2nd night's destination while the rest of us hiked. It didn't end up raining on us so we had a great hike and had fun playing games like "how many mosquitoes can you hit at once?" (we think the record might have neared 7 - check out Jeff's jacket!) and "is that a blister?" Meanwhile Tom and Nancy toured a lighthouse we had passed on Saturday and rejoined us. We walked nearly to our camp site, and then backtracked to a water-hole we had admired earlier on the trail. Tom, Javier and Jeff all braved the freezing water!

Monday we were off for the most scenic part of the trip. We got a decently early start and so were able to pause for long stretches at the incredible views and waterfalls. It was great fun looking back along the shore to see how far we'd come. Picture Rocks really is one of the most beautiful places in the world - and there are great day hikes and car camping for those of you would like to see it all without quite so much crazyness! The day ended with Jeff and Javier going for the cars, and Tom and I randomly deciding that we needed to dunk ourselves in the lake one more time - clothes and all (there was this spot where a river was entering the lake and it was just breathtaking - in more than one sense)! There really is nothing like it - I'm sure you would have done the same!

Once we were all bundled into the car we stopped for food at the Dogpatch in Munising (remember that one, Katie, Jen, Ben and Aaron??!) before heading back south. Here are the pictures from the trip.

And I can't end this without mentioning all of the flowers we saw. It was so fun to be there in the midst of the late spring blooming. Bunchberries, Blue Bead, Wintergreen and Starflowers galore, but then we also saw Pink Lady Slipper (both pink AND white), Daffodils (how did THOSE get out there?!) Trilliums, Nodding Trilliums, Jack in the Pulpit, and Forget-Me-Nots! *sigh*

Saturday, May 23, 2009

intellect and emotion

I think I've mentioned before that I'm on a listserv on the life and writings of CS Lewis. I read this post by a man named Francisco a few weeks ago, and it's stuck with me, so I thought I'd dig it up and share. Good stuff!

I have been reading with interest the discussion of intellect v. emotion, head v. heart, and (shall we say?) faith v. reason, and how they are intertwined. As many of you have pointed out, both are necessary. But how they are conjoined so as to achieve a balance is where the problem lies. There's the rub, indeed. Yet it seems that unless such a balance is achieved there can be no true integrity. Unfortunately, for most of us, an imbalance exists, a disintegration as it were, which leaves us in a state much like that of a pendulum, now emphasising heart over head, now vice versa. Is integrity possible? Can it be achieved? I think it can. I think Lewis, to a certain degree, did achieve it. And most of his writings were an attempt at trying to pass on what he had learnt to others, to us. But the question remains, how did he do it? And how, in turn, can we go and do likewise?

I think one of his best clues is found in Mere Christianity. As far as he is able he attempts to enlighten his readers to help them arrive at that state in their spiritual growth as Christians where they can become those new men and women who "even now dot the landscape." He speaks of the new life is Christ as being an exponential leap beyond mere evolution. He speaks of the new birth in Christ, compares it with the birth of a child, but points out that a child born in the natural order has no choice whereas those who wish to be born into new life in Christ do. He also uses the analogy of an egg, which if it were to choose to remain an egg rather than hatching only succeeds in becoming a rotten egg. And here, and again in The Weight of Glory, he gives us the "secret" of making this exponential leap. He tells us that above all one thing is required, for in order to carry that weight of glory one must have humility, "and the backs of the proud will be broken." Elsewhere he speaks of how when we seek to grow in our faith we invite the Lord in, thinking He will make some nice, cosmetic changes to the house that is (what we think of as) ourselves: a new window here, a fresh paint job there, a bit of varnish. Then to our surprise and dismay, and at considerable cost to our comfort, we learn that He plans to tear down our house completely. He is not content to live in a shanty. Only a castle is fit for the King. So He proceeds to tear down all that we held so dear, to demolish everything we thought of as the persons that we are, to put the old man to death in order to raise the new one to life. But He will not do so without our permission. Unless we are willing to undergo this process, we remain natural, carnal men and women. We live the life of bios, a life we share with the animals and plants, but we will never attain to the life He wishes us to have, the zoe life, the eternal life which is to know the one true God and the Christ whom He has sent, and which can, in fact, begin here. We will never become fully integrated Christians.

In the end I think what Lewis is trying to drive home is the fact that we really do not save ourselves. Our intellect is not enough to bring about this change he speaks of, this making of the new man. Certainly our emotions are even less capable of doing so. In fact, both our intellects and emotions together cannot achieve it either. If they could, what need would we have of a Savior? The temptation is always there for us fallen human beings to think that somehow we can improve ourselves, become good, become holy, by our own efforts. This sort of thinking, if we were to really admit it, is exactly the kind of claims made by adherents of the New Age. The sad and (paradoxically) wonderful reality is that this is not so. We do not, cannot, save ourselves. What we can, and must, do, is allow ourselves to be saved. Easier said than done. Whether we are willing to admit it or not (and here again Lewis has much to say) pride gets in our way. To have the humility to relinquish control of our own lives, to submit to the divine will, to surrender totally to the new life our God so earnestly wants to give us, is no easy matter. But unless we are willing to do so, we, like Orual, will only have personas and never truly become the persons we were meant to be. We will always only be wearing a mask, and never truly have faces.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and die...

My tuppeny-ha'penny on a Saturday evening on the eve of the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Happy Mother's Day, too, to all the moms in SpareOom, and to all the moms of all SpareOomers of whatever persuasion, male or female.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sole Burner!

update: I don't know you you-all managed it, but you landed on $350 even for the total donations! Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who sent in money!
Woo hoo for the American Cancer Society - sure hope they're doing good things with all the money we raised for 'em! You may remember that I ran in the Sole Burner last year for the first time. Here's a video from this year that does a pretty good job of giving the feel of it:

Since I had found it necessary to walk three or so times last year, I wanted this year to run the whole thing this year, if possible. My friend Javier took on the task of pushing me toward that goal - he ran track & cross country in high school, so it's been great fun to learn way more about running than I ever knew before. Toward the end of the training I was able to run the whole course with him - even doing the "hill of hope" at the beginning AND end - crazy! I don't think yesterday's scafuffle helped too much - but then again, maybe it did! After all, they did pump me full of fluids and steroids. (Hmm, I wonder if I should be glad they didn't do any drug testing??) Breathing was definitely a challenge, especially on (as my friend Erin calls it) the hill of hope-I-don't-die. But I ended up finishing in 31 minutes 30 seconds (9:50 minute miles), which is way better than last year's 33 minutes 34 seconds (10:49 minute miles). Hooray!
So many thanks to those of you sent money supporting the event. Dang - I should have totals of the money raised but I left it at work - I'll update this post with it when I get back on Monday. Like last year, I wrote on and posted two stars: one in memory of my dad, one in honor of my friend Deanna, who beat throat cancer 2 years ago.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Africa for grown-ups

So. I created a blog (you're surprised, right?!) for the upcoming Liberia trip! It's called Angela Ad Lib . Like this one, it's enabled for e-mail or RSS feed updates, so you can stay as updated as you care to on what's up with me! I'll continue to post slightly more personal/general life updates here on ladybugblue. Oh - and I may re-post some of general stuff about Liberia from this blog - so don't get weirded out if you see a few repeats!

I don't know if this happens to you, but every so often I have these little moments where I just sense God's love for me. I had one today as I was finishing a run. I was tired and coming in toward home, and the most cooling beautiful breeze came up around and behind me. I knew right then that I was so loved, and not alone - a big deal, particularly if you're single. And I started thinking, dang, I'm kind of getting the sense that there won't be too terribly many cooling breezes in Liberia - how will God show His love for me there?! Silly I know - I WAS tired - but that was the thought. I'm loving the Wisconsin spring this year, and although I may very well end up not doing the 2 year project, I really hate even the thought of two years without the seasons changing and without springs. How will I know God loves me, there? Will I be ever be able to be out in the wilderness (where I so often sense His presence) without fear? How often will I be able to just be out in His beautiful world, enjoying it and Him? Will everything be crisis and heat and being strong and striving and seriousness and others and their suffering? Will I get lost in that, and forget how much I - like any child - desperately need not only guidance and wisdom, but love, from my Parent?

I guess I will rely extra-heavily on my friends and family - the other big way I sense God's love! Can't even describe how encouraging it's been to have folks listen, share thoughts, email, shop, hang out, brainstorm, and just generally be there as I'm sorting out details of the upcoming trip, and the implications of the bigger project. It's funny because 10 days seems short compared to two years - but it's still a big deal! And I'm excited, but I'm also nervous about it. It's probably the least defined trip I've taken to one of the more challenging places in the world. As one girl (who's been to Kenya) put it this weekend: "Liberia is Africa for grown-ups"!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I feel like I'm surfacing toward "normal" with the completion of my class. If you can call it that when you're heading to Liberia in 2 1/2 weeks. EEEEP! I spent an hour talking to a Very Cool Person who's lived in Liberia last night. Her name is Joy, and I found her by wandering across her blog, Finding Joy in Liberia! She was amazingly patient with a-thousand-and-one clueless questions, and I'm starting to feel less prepared than ever for this trip!
In the meantime (and to get my mind off it for a few moments) , my kayaking class just wrapped up. There have been seven sessions over the past 2 months or so (well, I missed one b/c of the Colorado trip), and they've been such fun. Did I ever mention that I love kayaking? I do. It's true. I will tell you why.
  • You get to go places just not accessible in other ways. Sea caves & stuff like that. There's just nothin' like exploring nooks and crannies that are otherwise inaccessible.
  • You're down low to - and almost in - the water, rather than on top of it. You're constantly aware of what it's doing, so it forces you to slow down and pay attention.
  • It's efficient: you have a paddle on each end - so you can go nearly straight, which isn't really possible in a canoe unless you're an incredibly skilled paddler.
  • You have direct, immediate control of the boat - and you can learn to do amazing things just by tilting your hips, keeping your head positioned just so, angling your paddle a certain way, and so on.
  • It's an art as well as a sport - there's always more to learn, more to master, though you don't have to know too terribly much to just get out and get started. I think finesse is the word I'm looking for.
  • It's beautiful and peaceful.
  • You can roll! (or not - but it's technically possible!)
  • You can camp - you can pack quite a bit more in a kayak than you can in a backpack > more food > longer trips. Or just more comfy things!
The classes were great because they covered all sorts of stuff that's good to keep learning - safety stuff, planning group trips, learning rescues and rolls, playing with different kinds of boats. I did get to the point where I can roll - it ain't pretty nor consistent, but it was fun to get a few decent ones in. I wore my scuba mask, which was highly unattractive, but awesome because I could see and it kept water out of my eyes and nose. When you're repeatedly submerging yourself for an hour or two at a time, that starts to be signficant. The other great thing about the class is the kayaking community; it's great to get to know others who love the sport, who are free in sharing their expertise, who invite you on expeditions (and might even lend you a boat if you don't have one), and who invite you after every class to hang out for pizza and beer. What's not to love?!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

there's nothin' that a hundred men or more could ever do

(more Liberia-thinking updates)

I've been wanting to write this update for a while now, but would not let myself till I finished my class! It was due today, so I'm done! I can't tell you how great it is to have that off my mind and be able to focus on other stuff now.

So the plan has changed: apparently "prime" - the main organization we'll be partnering with - still needed to get some documentation in that just wasn't going to be doable, so they're asking for an extension of the initial project date to July or August. However, they are planning to send someone (who's currently in Bogata!) to Liberia in May to start getting things organized. Once that was known, Shelter and the other partner organizations pretty quickly decided that that would be a great time to get set up as well.

The change is great for me. I'm actually going to be able to go with Mustafa in May, so I'll get to be a part of all the initial planning and set-up and contact making, along with him. Then (if I sense that this whole 2-year thing is a "yes") I'll be able to go in July or August and actually start with the start of the project rather than coming in midstream and taking over from an interim project manager, which the original June plan would have entailed.

The bad news is that the shift to May puts the trip smack over our upcoming Pictured Rocks backpacking trip. :( We're trying to sort out right now what to do about that - delay it, or do it anyway... I don't want them to delay it on my account, but I'm super-bummed to miss as well. Why do good things all have to happen at once?! :)

In the meantime (and in the midst of mad studying, and trying to somewhat-train for the upcoming 5K Soleburner run), I've been trying to sort out immunization stuff (this egg allergy things really makes things ridiculously complicated! - but just try to infect me with polio or Hep A or B now!) and read/learn more about the country. I've contacted one person who's lived there and now is back in the States, and I'm hoping to talk with her this week.

A few cool updates on the country: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (the president) has been going around the U.S. taking interviews and promoting her new book. Just this week Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart hosted and interviewed her - and it's worth watching if you haven't seen it (click here if the video below doesn't work):
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor
Also, I thought this was a really informative interview of her by NPR: - it's really informational.

Jen got me This Child Will be Great for my birthday and it came in the mail this week - so I started reading it last night as soon as I hit "submit" on my last homework assignment. So far, it's great!

Regarding the decision: several things have fallen almost eerily into place. Example: I stopped by my eye doctor on a whim, just to see how long my last contact exam was good for. It was expiring the next day! So I was able to order contacts for 2 years (don't tell them I'll stretch it out that long! :) without needing to pay for another exam. Don't want to read too much into stuff like that, but I am grateful!

I did tell my boss & coworkers about this possibility on Friday - which is a relief. I don't like feeling like I'm hiding information. When I get back in May - decision (hopefully!) in tow - we'll try to figure out succession planning for my role. That will be interesting!

So, the plan is that Mustafa will get tickets for May 16-28 tomorrow - if that changes again, I'll let you know!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

thought I'd post an update of my current thoughts about Africa.

Lots of my thoughts in 2009 have teased away at the snarl of "what is it I'm supposed to be doing here in this world". I love Appleton, I love my friends here, I love my church family, I have an amazing job that I absolutely find fulfilling, challenging and meaningful. Aspects of my life ARE hard, but as I look at it in comparison to what the rest of the world faces, I really have so much more to be thankful for than otherwise. And what, really, do I want to see when/if I'm 80 and looking back on it?

I know the next "appropriate" statement for a post like this would be "Enter Liberia" - suddenly all that changes and falls into place and gives me meaning and purpose and direction. There's something to that. The times in my life when I've felt most at peace, most purposeful, have been when my whole life - at that moment - is focused on being where I am and doing my best within that context. The two weeks before my dad died. The weeks I've spent in St. Louis. The two weeks in Tajikistan. Even backpacking trips and travel. I love that feeling of, "I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, right here, right now." All the complexity of my every day life (much of which, I'm sure, I bring on myself!), can be addressed and simplified by how it relates to the purpose at hand. It also gives a basis from which to deal with what's difficult about the situation (from being physically "discomfy" to extreme gut-wrenching emotion). I'm not - of course - looking at this 2-year project as delivering two solid, non-stop years of that sense of purpose, but I'm thinking there would be good doses of it.

Actually, the thought of Liberia has already given me some of that. When you have the possibility of that magnitude potentially looming in front of you, it does make many decisions easier, even when its tentative. Because to some degree, considering the possibility means you make some decisions as if it's a certainty.

But (and you knew there was a "but" coming, right?) all of that is hardly reason enough to completely up-end one's life! So then - what exactly IS reason enough to do so? What scale there that will consistently measure "yea"s and "nay"s until it eventually reaches a tipping point of solid decision-making assurance? Pfffooof!

So, for right now, I'm
  • praying. Asking God to give me a clear indication, increased direction, circumstances falling into place, a sense of peace about one direction or the other.
  • listening. Seeking thoughts and insights from folks around me, who know me well and care.
  • moving forward. Taking steps toward making it a reality; watching to see if doors bang shut in my face or swing silently open. So far, no major bangs!
  • learning. Sifting through the plethora of information on Liberia to gather the bits that yield understanding of what life there is like. Picking Mustafa's brain to learn all I can about the project, about Shelter for Life, about Liberia from his perspective.
Status at this Point: as best as I can tell I'm at a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Don't get me wrong - I'm terrified about this. But while there would definitely be relief if all this came to nothing, there would also be some pretty major let-down and disappointment.

Today I drove to Fond du Lac to meet Jen and Mustafa for brunch (they're in Milwaukee with family for the weekend). Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia's president, spoke at the University of Minnesota yesterday and they got to hear her, so I got to hear about that and we also discussed more possible logistics (there's a chance Jen would come and help get things set up at the first part of the project - how cool would that be!). We had a lovely time as we always do when together, and I feel like I've gone a few more inches down the path....

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a yurty update, and wayyy to much about skiing

Friday we headed to the Never Summer Range! We stopped in Fort Collins to meet up with Laura and Aaron, who were coming from Denver, and to get sandwiches. Wednesday I had run into the post office to mail some Liberia stuff to Mustafa and had fun joking with the folks there about whether I was allowed in the building: a sign outside read "Guide Dogs Only". So when we stopped at the Moose Visitor Center, Laura popped out of their car and wondered if I knew what noises moose make so we could blend in if non-mooses weren't allowed. Unfortunately, I'm not really up on my moose calls, but no one seemed to notice and we made it in and out again with nothing more alarming than our car passes for the weekend.
Some technical notes about what we were up to for the weekend (skim ahead to the ** if this bores you - I found it fascinating and wanted to share!); Justin, Aaron, and I rented Alpine Touring (AT) skis. Michelle and Patrick had Telemarking (Telly) skis, and Laura had Nordic (traditional, cross-country [X-C] skis like mine in Wisconsin, only with metal edges for better turning in alpine conditions). Traditional X-C skis have light boots and completely free heels. They generally have a "kick zone", waxless - where "fish scales" give grip, or waxed - where wax is used for friction. They are bowed, so that the "sticky" part of the ski doesn't really contact the snow until you put your weight on it, giving you the friction you need to take your next step forward. They're great for flat and slightly hilly areas, but once you get vertical enough, they just don't have the grip to keep your skis pointing up the slope - you start sliding backwards. Then it's time to push your skis out side-by-side and 'herringbone' your way up the slope - exhausting! There is an easier way to do this - more on that in a moment. They're not really built for going down steep hills either, especially when it comes to turning!
Telly skis are similar to X-C, but they are constructed for back country skiing: essentially finding cool mountains in the back country wilderness, climbing them, and then skiing down. So for the downhill part, the boots are heavier and more supportive, but the heels are still free. To aid efficient downhill motion, they are not bowed like x-c skis, nor do they have a kick zone; they're also wider to better hold the skier on top of the snow. Watching a skilled telly (or freeheel) skier (like Michelle) is just awesome as they crouch with one leg forward to make turns (since the heel isn't locked in, there isn't the same side-to-side control you have with regular downhill skis). So how do telly skiers go uphill? Well, the free heel is a great start; you can imagine that trying to walk uphill with your heels locked to the ski would be taxing in the extreme - even going horizontally in traditional downhill skis is painful. But to actually give the friction needed to keep the ski from going backwards, backcountry skiers use "skins". These used to be actual animal skins, with the fur pointed in line with the slide, so they would go forward, but not easily backward. The same effect is now achieved with synthetic materials. Picture a long, flexible strip of that material they use to make lint brushes with super-adherey rubber-cementy stuff on the back. Sliding forward is fairly easy, sliding backward is nearly impossible. While you can't glide on them (it's pretty much a slidey walk to get around), you don't have to work to keep yourself angled up on a slope. The lint brush grabs the snow and holds you in place. So backcountry skiers carry around skins, apply them to the bottom of their skis when they need to do significant climbing or horizontal movement, and pull them off when they get to the top and have earned the fun of going down!
AT skis are a hybrid of telly and downhill skis. The binding lets you lock the heel down to the ski when you're going downhill, and unlock it when you're climbing. Though they're generally heavier than telly skis, you get the fun of backcountry skiing without having to learn a whole new way of going downhill. Again, skins are used for significant horizontal/uphill.
Here are some pictures of me putting skins on my skis. To keep the sticky stuff sticky, the skin is bonded to itself when not in use, so pulling it apart is major work. Once you've done that, you hook the loop around the end of the ski. Then you gradually smooth the skin to the ski, keeping it centered as you go. Once it's on, you're ready to climb! When you get to the top of the slope, you peel the skin back off the ski, fold the sticky part back on itself and stow the skin away, lock down your heels, and ski off down the mountain! Unless you're me, of course. Then you ski in very quick, short runs, dump yourself into fluffy-looking snow banks to slow down, somehow re-right yourself and your pack, sort out your poles, and shake off accumulated snow, then repeat! It's jolly good fun for everyone, as long as you don't count worn down, blister/bruise-causing rental boots, frequent pauses for breath during climbing (especially as the air gets thinner), having a very screwed up sense of balance because of the huge pack on your back, and constant wardrobe adjustments based on the temperature, wind, and whether your next intention is to go up or down. Ok, I'm overstating the negative - it really is a blast.
** (resuming actual story!) We got out at the trailhead, unloaded our gear, put the skins on our skis, and headed out. Having a pack on my back while skiing was quite a different experience for me - it's not terrible, it just means your balance is different and it's more work to get uphill. And that downhill you have more momentum - which may or may not be a good thing. :) We skied up for about 2 1/2 miles before reaching our destination, the Upper Montgomery Pass Yurt. It was a great little spot, at about 9500 feet above sea level, and the closest yet I've been to true winter camping. It's amazing how roomy it was, given that there were six of us in it, but with a little coordination, we really didn't have too much of a problem keeping our gear straight. Patrick was primarily the fire man - they leave you with a good-sized pile of wood right there, and ask that you split more before you leave. The temperature was comfortable until the fire went out at night, at which point it got down to freezing, but we all had good sleeping bags. Patrick would be the first one up in the morning (he should get LOTS of points for this!) and would start up the fire, so by the time the rest of us tumbled out of our bunks the yurt was at a pretty comfy temperature again.
Friday night, Aaron and Laura cooked up a delicious shepherd's pie while the rest of us played Euchre, and then we all went out for some star gazing. The ski was clear, and there were so many stars I couldn't find the little dipper without help - there were too many other visible stars around it! It was breath-taking. Justin set his camera on super-slow shutter speed, and actually captured part of Orion in a picture (I get major nothingness when I try to get star pictures!). The funny thing is that 30 seconds was enough to blur the stars a little, just with the movement of the earth or something. Crazy. We went back in, played Up and Down the River, then headed to bed.
Saturday morning, Justin and Michelle cooked these yummy egg-veggie-ham-toasted bagel thingies and we got ourselves set for an expedition. (Here's a short "yurt moment" video I took accidentally.) We re-applied the skins, climbed our way to about around 10,800 feet (we didn't go further because of concern about avalanches given recent snowfall), then skied back down. Laura kindly swapped her x-c skis with me for the day (the AT boots were grouchy at my shins for some reason), so I had great fun trying to navigate the downhill with them. I kept the skins on for the first, steepest part, but then pulled them off for a great cruise back down to the yurt. It's just so fun to go downhill after you've worked so hard for it. And, it goes down and down and DOWN - unlike Wisconsin which I love, of course, but that's generally flat and flat, little up, little down, and flat again. We still had packs on because we needed to keep the avalanche gear with us - and it was also nice to have storage for lunchy things and extra clothing for the windy top.

Back at the yurt, the others settled into Cribbage - Patrick and I were on for dinner. I played prep cook and he sous chef, and he pulled off this yummy veggie beef stew that had everything from eggplant to green pepper in it. We talked and laughed and played Dutch Blitz (the boys LOVED it…) and more Up and Down the River before heading to bed.
Sunday was a flurry of berry/chocolate chip pancakes, packing up, cleaning up, wood splitting, and generally pulling things together. We took off down the mountain in decent time, and again had a blast cruising down the mountain. Michelle took a short video of me skiing around a turn (doesn't it look FUN?!).

The trail leveled out for the last mile or so, so some folks put on their skins for the trek out. Unfortunately Aaron really had trouble with his ski boots and blisters, so that part wasn't much fun for him. (Aaron did a lot of trail breaking throughout the weekend, and - whether backpacking or skiing or anything else - is generally leading the group, so we knew it was serious when he just eased himself along for that last mile).
The mountains were beautiful (as was the reggae Michelle was playing) as we drove our way out; already the snow from Thursday's blizzard was clearing out. We stopped in Fort Collins for a delicious Mexican lunch/supper where we all ate far too much, and parted ways with Aaron and Laura. We did stop to watch a full train go right through the middle of Mason Street in Fort Collins - a very odd but fun sight - and had fun talking and joking right up to when we headed out. Then it was back to Boulder for regrouping, picture sorting, and - OF COURSE - the loveliest-ever of showers.

Today, Patrick had taken the day off (it was his birthday!!), so he and I bummed around and returned rental stuff. He picked up Frank (who seems to be doing a bit better!) from the vet where he'd been watched for the weekend. We then had a chill brunch at Blueberry Hill, picked up rental gear from Justin and Aaron (and went out to lunch with them - hooray!), and headed off to Golden where the group had rented the avalanche gear. We bummed around the town a bit, found ourselves back in the foothills at White Ranch Park admiring the state from that fantastic vantage point, and then headed into Denver to prowl a bit at an amazing book store - Tattered Cover. I have to say it's about the best book store I've ever visited - wowsa. Antiques everywhere, and lots of character-filled nooks to tuck into for an afternoon. I didn't want to leave! Patrick needed to get me off his hands, though, so I soon found myself back at the airport, boarding an on-time plane, and back in Appleton. (Even if I wasn't now afraid to complain about any air travel, I wouldn't have found much to complain about on this flight - hooray for that Appleton-Denver nonstop flight!).

So many, many, thanks to Michelle (particularly for all the gear, coordination, insight, patience, and hospitality!), Patrick (for schlepping me to and fro and for entertaining me today), Justin (for making the whole thing happen and for the advice, photography and being such a great vegetable), and Aaron and Laura (for picking up the gear and lending me your skis and being excellent trail buddies). And to all of you for being so swell to a clueless flatlander!
Click here for pictures of the trip

Thursday, March 26, 2009


So - there had been warning of cooler temps today, and they predicted 3-5 inches of snow. Last week it was in the 70s so Michelle has been bummed for me that I missed all that lovely weather. The forecast kept getting a little worse (last night they were saying 5-8) though, and when I came down this morning, Michelle informed that they were declaring it a blizzard, calling off school, and were expecting 12-18 inches of snow! It's so weird - yesterday we were bouldering, today we were taking the skis we rented for our trip this weekend out in the same park! Here's a pic of us today in roughly the same spot we were in yesterday in the last pic from yesterday's post! (Justin was supposed to make a scrunchy face too!).

The blizzard cooled off (hah!) many of the plans we had today. It ended up including excellent coffee (thanks Michelle!), applications for teaching jobs in California (Michelle - looks like she and Justin will be moving there this summer), application work for the Liberia job (me), driving 2-wheel-drive vehicles in crazy, adventurous snowy conditions (Patrick & Justin), shoveling, shoveling, and then shoveling again (Michelle), grocery shopping (Michelle and Patrick), renting AT (Alpine Touring) skis (me and Justin), crossword puzzling (Patrick) and a chance to try out the skis in Chautauqua Park (me, Michelle and Justin). That was followed by Michelle's amazing lasagna, more chilling out/plan making/food prep, and general exhaustion.

Some sad news: Patrick got a call from the vet today regarding some blood work they just ran on his cat, Frank. Apparently he has renal failure, and any interventions they do will probably only prolong his life - they can't cure it. :( It's hitting Patrick pretty hard - Frank's been a great buddy to him. We all feel for him...

Still thinking about this Liberia thing; talked to Jen and Mustafa on the phone about it a bit today. Mustafa referred me to a site as a source for info: and I thought this article did a good job laying out some of the very practical issues the country is facing.

OK, time for bed! Here's a great picture of Justin and Michelle - and the beautiful-blizzard-that-may-cause-avalanches-but (we're pretty sure)-won't-keep-us-from-the-adventure-tomorrow!

(I - of course - won't be updating this till I get back. And don't worry - Justin and Patrick are SUPER safe people, know the signs that indicate likely avalanches, and know how to avoid them.)

a little Wednesday in CO

Hooray for good friends in cool places! United recently opened up a direct flight from Appleton to Denver, so I arrived remarkably unfrazzled and excited to be here. Patrick picked me up and we headed to Michelle’s place in Boulder. Justin was working, so the three of us hit Know Thai for lunch and headed out into Chautauqua Park for a 6 mile hike to Mallory Cave. I’m happy to report that Ponderosa Pines continue to smell like butterscotch if you get close enough, and that the Flatirons maintain their majestic coolness through the winter. The day wrapped up by meeting up with the rest of the group (Aaron, Laura, and Justin) at Yak & Yeti’s (where I had the best Lamb Korma I’ve EVER had – even the leftovers were outstanding) where we caught up and worked through more details of our trip, and then hanging out and talking at Michelle’s. These people are outstanding, and I’m having a fabulous time being with them.

Africa thoughts & activities are still going on in the background – perhaps more on that later.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

yurt yurt

Well, I'm off! Justin, Michelle, Patrick, Aaron and Laura and I will be cross-country skiing back to a yurt for the weekend! I'm all packed into my 49L backpacking backpack (which I hope they'll let me carry on - it's smallish as backpacks go) and my laptop shoulder bag. A few days at a higher elevation will hopefully give me a clear brain and some good space to mull over this whole Africa bit.
(Yesterday was a tad crazy; Mustafa said that if I can get the stuff to him by the end of March, he'd send in my visa application with his. This would be for at least a visit with the team to Liberia. Somehow in the midst of wrapping stuff up at work, packing & having "game night" with 8 people, I made it to the travel clinic - you need a yellow fever vaccination to get a visa - and got passport photos and the other stuff I'll need (I think) to get to Mustafa. Jeepers!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

a little chat about Liberia

8:48 AM Mustafa: hey stranger
happy new year
me: hello!
Mustafa: Hi :)
Mustafa: sorry... we keep falling off the earth.
8:52 AM me: hey - how are you guys doing?
9:04 AM Mustafa:
we're good
how areyou?
me: I'm good, overall. miss you guys!
9:05 AM Mustafa: we miss you too
sorry that last weekend didn't work out
did you go to the wedding?
me: no worries
no - long story, but basically I ended up being sick!
Mustafa: oh I'm sorry
Mustafa: hey...a question
9:06 AM Mustafa: would you like to go to Liberia as a project manager?
me: sure!
for how long?
Mustafa: it's a two year project though
me: ahhh
what would I be doing?
Mustafa: it is a school feeding program
me: wow
9:07 AM Mustafa: our portion is the renovation of 100 schools
9:08 AM me: wow
so what kind of person are you looking for?
Mustafa: a good project manager, skills in managing/leading people
group of maybe 5-10
organized and plan-oriented
9:10 AM the PM will work with our partner agency, IRD, to 1) select the schools 2) lead the construction supervisor team to assess the rate of repair 3) work with the logistics peron to get the proper material
4) be the face of rep of SFL in the country
9:11 AM and reporting
me: wow, sounds amazing
Mustafa: well...if you want to do it, I can make it happen
9:12 AM even though you don't have constructio management experience... that sholdn't be a hurdle
but the two-year
me: would there be fundraising?
Mustafa: the project will pay but not a full salary that I had initially budgeted for
I'm in the process of negotiation and will know exactly how much can the project pay
Mustafa: and you can add more support to it
me: what languages would I be working in?
Mustafa: even a circle of praying friends
9:14 AM Liberian English
me: definitely!!
Mustafa: it's old American slave English
oooooo Whiteman can lie-ooo
me: I would seriously consider it - where would I find more info, and what do you need to know by when?
Mustafa: is a Liberian phrase
9:15 AM me: very true
Mustafa: let me send you the link
the last in the list
the person will also bear the title of Country Director
9:16 AM me: wow
(I know, I keep saying that)
Mustafa: :)
9:17 AM Jen too thinks you'll do a great job
me: she's always getting me into situations!
9:18 AM so what would happen with the fact that I know little about construction?
Mustafa: hahaha Jen's screaming from the bathroom
saying that if she gets laid off she'll join you
me: awesome!
9:19 AM Mustafa: the construction will be a plus but the main responsibility will not be construction quality control
it's directing/managing people
making sure the corruption doesn't take over
representing in the government offices, working with the Minister of Education
and even the president's office
the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia
9:20 AM so lots of connectiong building, accountability
and so on
me: really sounds cool
I know nothing about the country so I'm reading about it right now...
Mustafa: ok.... let me know, seriously, what you think
9:21 AM
me: wow, so crazy
so you must need somebody pretty bad at this point, huh?
9:22 AM Mustafa: my contact in the country is a theologian who will be part of the program
he's a great guy
Mustafa: so all to say that there is familiar faces
9:23 AM me: what kind of dress do western women wear there?
Mustafa: it's a secular christian nation
and Monrovia in 70s was a modern city
but no restriction that you'd expect in many muslim countries
their president is a woman
9:24 AM Johnson
maybe your sibs
me: :)
Mustafa: :)
me: must be!
Mustafa: she's a harvard grad
me: wow
Mustafa: give it some serious thoughts
and send me a resume :)
as if it's only serious if you say yes
9:25 AM me: send you a resume as if I'm serious, you mean?
:) I think I can manage that
Mustafa: :)
me: thanks for thinking of me!
Mustafa: you're welcome... it'll be a beautiful opportunity.... I would personally love to spend a yr or two in West Africa
9:26 AM extremely different from the East
me: yeah
Mustafa: or Central, for that matter
me: it would really be an amazing opportunity
9:28 AM alright friend, back to study
let me know what you think
me: one more quick question
Mustafa: ok
me: it says report to Director of Field Operations
who's that?
Mustafa: it's our Op director at HQ
he's an architect and a very cool guy
9:29 AM me: where is he based?
Mustafa: just came back from a two+ years in Pakistan
me: dang, so I don't get to report to you?
Mustafa: I'm telling you... you'll be the chief
your first boss will be in the US
on the operations you'll work with the ops
me: just crazy to think about... but I'm thinking!
Mustafa: but because you'll bear the CD title
9:30 AM you'll have to work with me too
to develop new program activities
me: cool!
Mustafa: basically, besides project management, doing some basic statistics and ethnographics studies of needs assessment and best solutions
9:31 AM if we get more funding your income will go up :)
Mustafa: but it doesn't seem to be approved by our prime
me: prime?
Mustafa: it's a consortium of the organizations
9:32 AM the prime = the main recipient of the funding
me: ahh
Mustafa: does the feeding and food processing
we do the school renovation
9:33 AM me: good to know!