Monday, August 27, 2007


Member how in this post I was talking about my church's isues with City Hall requiring them to stop our meal and shelter programs? Well I wrote that the Friday before I left for Mexico, and while at the airport on Saturday morning I saw this article on the front page of the Vancouver Sun. I cringe at the title a little bit, but it's other than that, it's a really good article! Go check it out!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Oh wow. I'm home.

What. A. Trip. Tijuana slums. Building a house in three days. Dozens of cute CUTE kids. Issues in short term missions. The beach. Dead Sea Scrolls.... What an amazing, amazing trip. That's about all I have energy for right now. More to come over the next... well... week, probably. Stories! And pictures! It's good to be home, but a little overwhelming.

But for now, I'm going to SLEEP! Buenos Noches!

Friday, August 17, 2007

We can't all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love ~ Mother Theresa

I'm headed off in a few hours for Terazzas, near Tijuana, Mexico. A team from my church is headed down for a week to build a house for one family who is living in total poverty. If people are lucky, they live under propped up garage doors, but most live in less than that. The house we will build is small, but adequate, and I've been told when we actually hand over the keys to the family, there is rarely a dry eye to be found. In addition to building the house we'll visit an orphanage in the 'slums' along the river to play with the kids and pass out gifts that we're taking down with us, and run some children's programs in the afternoons. I really don't know what to expect farther than that, but I know it will make a BIG impact on my life.

It's true, that short term missions trips are often more impacting on the team than they are on the people the team is going to serve, but we ARE going to be making a HUGE difference to one family. Maybe it sounds cliched, but I'm really honoured to be able to be able to be a part of this team. The quote in the title of this post is really the theme of this week. It's not so much about the house, which really is a small thing for us to do, but about doing what we're doing with great love.

I am SO incredibly excited. I'm looking forward to hanging with the kids, getting to know my team, actually building a house from start to finish in four days, and eating some goooood Mexican food. But more than that, I'm looking forward to getting to see God in a new way. That song I posted a few days ago kinda describes the way I am feeling these days, and I'm looking forward to experiencing God afresh this week. I also think that it will be sooo good (and sobering) to get out of this stinking rich place and get some perspective on the way people live in the rest of the world. We are SO privileged here, and we don't even know it.

It's gonna be an amazing, challenging week. I can't wait.


As I've been mulling this all over today, I got an email telling me that my church was in the news again today. It's different, but there is poverty on the home front, too. This may be a little different than my usual posts, but it's important, and it's something that I'm becoming more and more aware of...

So, some background. My church runs two meals a week for homeless and under-privileged people, serving about 200 people per week, and running a once-a-week shelter for about 25 people. Recently, the City of Vancouver has told us that we may not be able to continue these programs, because they don't fit the city's definition of "what a church does." Basically, the city is classifying these programs as "social service" use and not as "church" use, and so may require permits (which mean beurocracy and large fees), or they may be discontinued altogether because of zoning regulations. It's not even a money issue: it's an issue of the city dictating the functions a church is and is not allowed to fulfill. A major function of the Church - not just mine, but in the global sense - is the care for the "orphans and the widows" - those less fortunate than ourselves. But the city isn't seeing things that way.

We've been in the news a bit recently, but there was a segment aired on CTV this morning about this whole issue. Read the brief article here, then click the link on the right of the article for the TV clip, too. Check it out! If you like more in-depth reading, you can try this.

People from many different faith communities, and many who don't adhere to any particular group, are pretty stupified at the fact that a church is potentially being denied the ability to serve to poor, and have developed an organization called "Faith Communities Called to Solidarity with the Poor" that is working to have City Hall expand the definition of what a church does to include things like social outreach programs. Their fundamental belief states that "solidarity with the poor, the practice of compassion and justice, is fundamental to the vocation, identity and mission of the church / faith communities." (taken from here)

If you agree with the above statement, regardless of your belief system, this organization has started a petition you can sign if you so choose. The petition is open for Vancouver City residents only, but if you live in Vancouver and wouldn't mind taking a minute, go here and download the petition form, fill it with signatures, and drop it off at City Hall! Thank you in advance! It would be your small thing done with great love that really will make a difference! :)


Well, I don't know if we'll have internet access where we're going, so for now, I'll say...

Adios! Hasta luego!

Road Trip 2007: The Final Frontier

Or, you know, the final part. But I like "frontier" better. Anyhoo...

After leaving Grand Rapids (now two weeks ago, oh how behind I get!), I set off to visit SarahCool in Cincinnati. That's spelled with two N's, dont'cha know. ;-)

But. BUT! En route, I planned on making a few different stops. I had heard Ann Arbor was a pretty little town, so I wanted to go through there. But should I go east and south or south and east through Michigan? Well, a quick gander at google maps and I had my answer.

KALAMAZOO?!?!?! Really? There's actually a real live Kalamazoo? Dude, I wanna go THERE!!!!! I was rather excited by this fact. It's a neat little town, too. I dropped by a little festival, grabbed lunch and wandered around a bit. And got lost. In Kalamazoo. Now there's a headline I wouldn't have minded: "Lone tourist plucked from the streets of Kalamazo, cold, dehydrated, but with giant grin on face. Can't seem to stop saying 'KALAMAZOO!!!' "

I decided to had to have a souvenir, so what better to pick up than a KAZOO from KALAMAZOO? Good thing I did, too. It provided absolute minutes of entertainment in the car on my driving days. Apparently it also turned me into a pirate.

After Kalamazoo - KALAMAZOO! Go on, say it, it's fun! - I stopped in Ann Arbor and wandered around downtown for a bit. It's a very cute little town. I took some pictures, wandered the campus of Michigan State, and caved to the sweet pull of the Ben and Jerry's shop. Oh sweet Banana Split ice cream, where have you been all my life? Sheeshers, it's sure a good thing I did boot camp last month. Cause road trip = sit on your touckas and eat junk. Mmmm, banana spilt ice creamy goodness type junk.

I knew I wasn't gonna hit Cincinnati on Thursday, so I drove till I got tired and crashed in a roadside motel - notice I didn't say crashed INTO - then drove the final hour to Cinci the next day.

I had a few hours before I met up with Sarah, so I wandered around downtown a bit and took in the sights. I apparently took in some famous Cicnicnnati chili, too, without knowing it was famous. Mmmm, cheese coney. (I'm sorry, arteries!) I met Sarah at her work, recognizing the building from her blog posts. Now if THAT don't make a gal feel like a stalker....

The weekend was totally full but also really relaxing. I met a bunch of her girlfriends on Friday night, then on Saturday, Sarah took on the role of tour guide and showed me all over the city. She told all kinds of stories about the various places she's lived and worked, and I learned all kinds of neat-o information about the city. Like, for example, it used to be called Porkopolis. hehehe! And once I got the story of Skyline Chili, we went there and had a 4-way - spaghetti topped with chili, red beans, and habanero cheese, served with a side of oyster crackers. Yum! From downtown to Eden Park to Findlay Market to the mushroom house to ... many other places (Sarah, help me out with neighbourhood names!), it was a great tour! Sunday we took in the National Underground Railroad Museum, which was really interesting. As the Ohio river is bsically the border between the North and the South, that whole region played a really important role in the escape of slave from the South on their way to Canada. See? Ya come here and ya just might learn something! :-)

PorkopolisA 4-Way at Skyline ChiliDowntown SkylineCarew Tower Art Deco LobbyEden Park - I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille
Eden Park FountainFinday MarketThe Mushroom HouseCincinnatiSarah and Hillary
Roll your mouse over the pictures for a caption, or click for a larger view.

Saturday night we headed over to Sarah's aunt and uncle's place for a BBQ, which was SO MUCH FUN! They were funny and hospitable and sweet and welcomed me in right away. Yay!

Highlights would have to include Sarah's haircut:

Sarah: My bangs are crooked! SAM! You should cut them!
Sam (Sarah's 16 year old cousin): I dunno...
Sarah: Yeah! Totally! You just cut your dad's hair! Do it! Do it! Do it!
Sam: ... Ok...
{gets scissors, heads outside}
Sarah: SAM! Be careful!
Sam (who is masterfully pulling out Sarah's bangs and cutting just tiny bits off, doing quite a good job, and had just given his dad a very good haircut 45 mis before): [snip snip]
Sarah: AAAHH!!
Sam: [snip]
Sarah: Oooooooh!
Sam: Well YOU asked me to!...
Sarah: Eeeeeek!
Sam: [snip]
Sarah (fanning her face): OK, I'm hot. Stop! I wanna go inside!
Sam: [snip] There! I'm done.
Sarah: PHEW!

Also, pretty much Sarah's whole family hates her cat, Flora. I was caught in the middle of a Flora fight...

Sarah: Oh Flora! She's so sweeeet!
Sarah's family, eyes glinting, hoping to pull me over to the dark side: So! Do you hate Flora, too?
Hillary: uhhhmm....

Who WOULDN'T love a sweet creature like this?

What you DON'T see in the picture are the lasor beams of hate coming from her eyes. I was clearly in HER territory, and she was mad. BUT, Sarah.... She loves YOU, and that's what's important. And she had kinda sorta almost warmed up to me by the time I left. For example, she let me get close enough to pet her abuot 7 times. Some of those times she even knew it was me.

For the record. I LIKE Flora. She's got definite spunk and she makes her mommy happy. I just won't get too close to her. ;)

So. Cincinnati is cool, and chillin' with Sarah was a blast! It was fun to see a little slice of her world! I really am so grateful for my blog girls: Anne and Jean and Sarah!

Now it's just a matter of plotting to get them HERE for a visit! Muah hah hahaaa!!!!

Monday morning bright and early (5:50am, to be precise!) I started off for Toronto. Nine hours later (!!!) I arrived, took in some of the zoo - lions and tigers and bears, oh my! - and chilled with my friend Ann for the evening before catching an early flight back home.

Windsor, Toronto, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Cincinnati. Nearly 3000km. Lots of pictures. Good times with friends all along the way...

Makes for a very happy Hillary!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Sometimes a song plays in the background, and you're going about your business, barely aware that it's there. Then suddenly, WHAM! The volume hasn't changed, but the lyrics are screaming at you, touching your heart, bringing tears to your eyes. How many times have I listened to this album and never really heard this song? Truth, conviction, and love, all reaching out and stopping me in my tracks...

by Sheree Plett

Has it been six days already since you
got your Sunday shoes out,
since you grabbed your untouched
Book of Life?

The same old routine
finds you in the sanctuary;
you say your fake hellos and pretend
all is well.
You bow your head before a Father
that you don't really know...

And the bells ring
and you know it's time for you to pray,
chant your amens and halelujahs.
Glued to your wooden pew,
involved in your unconscious praise,
the cliche stained glassed windows
veil your eyes
to see beyond...

Has it really been that long since you
opened your eyes
to see that you're captivated by
old loves and lies?
How much longer will you submit to your illusions
to narrow your path to a Father
that you don't really know?

And the bells ring
and you know it's time for you to pray.
You chant your amens and halelujahs,
glued to your wooden pew,
involved with your unconcious praise;
the stained glass windows veil your eyes
to see beyond...

And bells ring...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I FINALLY know where I'll be moving my boxes for the upcoming teaching year!

Though of course, saying this, there will be all kinds of changes the last week of August and first week of September, and I'll probably end up moving again, but for now, at least there is a definite plan. Saying that here probably guarantees that it will change, but hey.

As of right now, I'll be teaching a grade 1/2 split in September.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ah, summer

Time for sitting out on the patio, sipping cold drinks. Long days, sunshine filled moments, hot weather... or so the story goes...

Some friends and I decided that we were going to go for a hike on Saturday. We decided on heading up to Elfin Lakes just out of Squamish. I had been there before last year, but nobody else had, and I didn't mind doing it again. I mean, with memories of a place like this (picture from last July), who WOULDN'T want to go back?!? The trail was long (22km "A half marathon!") but not too strenuous, and high enough that we would already be hiking in the high alpine (instead of just climbing to it). There are sweeping views of mountain ranges and lakes, and we'd be hiking through meadows filled with red heather and wildflowers. At the top are two pristine little lakes set against a pretty spectacular backdrop. Yippee!

The day was kinda cloudy and unsettled, but we were promised breaks of sun, so we set off, not letting a few little car glitches atop us: Um, why is the temperature needle a-waaaay up past the "I'm about to explode" mark? I just had a coolant leak fixed yesterday! And 2 km into the 16 km gravel road up a mountain into nowhere, Ooooh. Gas. Below the red. Ummm... it's ok, we're on a hill, the gas gauge just LOOKS that empty. Uh huh. {to self: wellll... it's all downhill on the way back, we can just coast to a station if need be. Provided we get UP. PleaseGod pleaseGod pleaseGod} Pshaw. We made it. (ThanksGod ThanksGod Thanks God!) There was a little bit of snow last time we went, but not much, and we WERE pretty high up. I anticipated a little bit more this year, as it's not been a realyl hot summer. No problemo.

Ha! This is SO not gonna help with the stereotype that Canadia is the land of year round ice and snow, but here goes anyway.

We hit the first little patch of snow about 3/4 of the way up. It was just little, no worries. But the last quarter was mostly snow with patches of clear ground. And when we got to the lakes? Well, they say pictures are worth a thousand words, so here's what we saw:

Yeppers. See all that snow? STILL IN THE LAKE??? Ho-LEE!

Last week when I was still in Cincinnati (holy cow, that was only a week ago? That part of the story is still coming...) it was HOT. And HUMID. Like, 35C/ 96F degrees hot. And "my glasses fogged up when I stepped outside" humid. Six days later, I was looking at lakes covered in snow and wandering the wilderness with a wet a$$ from tobogganing down a slushy snowy slope. In August.
Good times. Good times.

Here are some more pictures from our day of hiking. Roll your mouse over them to see the caption, or click on them for a bigger view. Click here to see the whole set. this is what Ken gave us instead :-)Carol!Wheeeee! Chris whooshes down the hillKen's form is beautifulCan't... stop... laughing...

This is as close as I was gonna get swimming in there!Elfin Lakes CabinWho says you can't dance on snow?Still...View of the Chief in Squamish

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Road Trip 2007, part trois

Oh man, I've fallen off the blogging bandwagon for a bit here. Been too busy whooping it up and driving all over creation...

My stay in Grand Rapids with Anne and Jean was awesome, of course! The first day I was there, I headed to Jean's house and hung out with her and her kiddies - seriously about the cutest kids you've ever seen. We had lunch, where I was grilled by Jean's 6 year old son, Sam, about what I was going to eat on my sandwich so he could copy it - I'm THAT cool! - and played all kinds of fun things downstairs. Basketball, colouring with Alina, who's three, jumping rope, tickle fights, lots of spinny rides ("Just one more! Pleeease???")... TOTALLY fun!

I of course had my camera out and so decided to show Sam how to take photos. It turned into a photo shoot extraordinaire, with exclamations of, "AWESOOOOME!" and "YOU LOOK LIKE A MOVIE STAR!" after every photo. The random photo of Anne's ear I think is my favourite.

That afternoon, Anne and I went for a pedicure and a wee shopping spree, and can I just say, she is the best shopper EVER. She finds deals on cute stuff like nobody's business. She is my hero! I got a whole load of stuff for SO CHEAP. Sah-weet!

Wednesday was beach day. What a production! It was the most glorious beach day I've had in quite some time, let me tell you. Anne made a PIE for the day, THAT'S how fantastic it was. Well, I kinda helped to make the pie. And kinda screwed it up. Nothing a sieve full of blueberries, flour, and brown sugar can't fix, I tells ya. Heh. Heh. Oh man, I'm such a dork. It still tasted great... a little extra sugar never hurt anyone!

Anne has friends who have access to a private beach on Lake Michigan, so we pretended to be residents and took our beach umbrellas, chairs, cooler full of yummies, and all things beach related down the stairs to claim our very own piece of heaven. White sand, blue water, a lake so big it reminds you of the ocean, yet without any pesky shells or barnacles to cut your feet or salty water to make you all... er... salty. And the water was WARM! (Yes, Anne and Jean, it was WARM! ;-) ) We sunned, we slept, we swam, all afternoon long. Gloriousness, I tell you. Sheer gloriousness.

We grabbed pizza in town at a little diner and headed home for some more serious hanging out. After a lazy morning Thursday, I was off to tootle my way down to Cincinnati...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Posts about the rest of my trip will follow (I'm home now), but for now, here's a video I found via the Beatnik Poet. I'd love to hear your thoughts - girls AND guys - c'mon, guys, I know you're out there! I'd love to hear your thoughts/reactions/yays/nays. What do you think?

Cheryl James: We Follow Your Lead

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Never has a justification of blogging been so important

Whenever you mention to someone that you have to use the 'facilities,' it's inevitable that somebody slyly tells you, "Whatever you do, don't think of rushing water!!!" Hardy har har.

Well can I just say this? Pretty much the worst place ev-ar to arrive at after a three hour drive and a very, very large tea is NIAGARA FALLS. I was hopping around like a maniac, battling THRONGS of people, wanting to scream at the world, "I hafta pee, I hafta pee, GET OUT OF MY WAAAAY!" But really, they wouldn't have heard me over the gush of millions of tons of water hurtling itself off a horseshoe shaped cliff.

It was a potty eeemerrrrgency.

But don't worry. I survived. My pants were only wet from the spray of the falls, I promise.

So. Err... moving right along...

After returning to normal human status once again, I really enjoyed the falls. I was considering skipping them for the sake of time, but I'm glad I didn't. The falls are spectacular. The surrounding crowds/town/hotels/casinos/rides/lookout towers/attractions/shops/midway/and various other money-munching monsters were a complete gong show, but hey, ya don't have to get pictures of that! *grin* I wanted to do a trip on the Maid of the Mist or the walk under the falls, but time was short, so I just enjoyed them from the top. Still pretty awesome.

After Niagara, I began my 9.5 hour trip to Grand Rapids. Just driving, it really should only have taken 6.5 hours, but I probably made about an hour's worth of stops (including one 15 minute detour when I somehow ended up on the wrong highway and had to backtrack - d'oh!) and T-W-O H-O-U-R-S at the border in Sarnia. Shooot.

There's a bridge to the states (as there are in lots of places, but I've never seen that, so it was kinda novel for me. Yes, I'm easily amused.) that was a toll bridge, so there began the ginormous lineup. An hour and a half of me battling sleep - I was there in my 4-6pm energy dip, and had been driving already pretty much all day - being bored out of my mind, and having no clue how far I still had to go, I FINALLY arrived at the booth, passport out and ready to go. But noooooo. This was just the TOLL booth. There's another lineup on the OTHER side of the bridge for customs.


It took two hours to get through altogether. I know that's not a huge deal, but I'd already been on the road since 8:30am, and it was about 7:15 when I finally got through. Raga! It would have gone by slightly faster had I not been the subject of a rather lengthy interrogation at the border:

- Where are you headed today?
Well today I'm going to Grand Rapids, then in a few days I'm headed to Cincinnati, then I come back to Toronto next Monday.
- And what is the purpose of your visit?
I'm visiting friends! :)
-And how do you know these friends
Uhm... well, I know them through my website.

And that, folks, is where things all went wrong.

- Your website? What kind of website?
It's blog.
-What's a blog?
Well, it's kind of an online journal of sorts. I write entries, and people read them, make comments... the people I'm visiting and I have become friends via that...

She continued to drill me... Well what's your common interest? Don't blogs talk about politics?
What kind of entries do you write? Really? You have time for this in your life? And why would they be interested in reading about your life like that? I've never heard of this, explain it again? How did these people find your blog? What would I google to find your blog? And you trust them enough to go to their houses? Etc, etc, etc.

I had to explain about blogging, commenting, and blogrolls, justify once again why I do this, assure her that I HATE writing about politics on my blog, give her to topis of my last three or so posts, tell her what my friends did for jobs ( was sure to mention that they all work or voluneer for CHURCHES), how long I knew them, tell her about my trip to Chicago in March to visit the same friends, exactly what to google to find my site, what it was called, and on and on. It was taking a long time, so a second border guard came into the booth to check in and see if she needed backup. I heard them debriefing as I drove away: "So she's from Canada, and is meeting friends from the inter.... " I'm glad they let me through. She was sooooo skeptical!

Friendly border guard lady, if you're reading this, hello and welcome! Thanks for letting me visit my lovely friends! Feel free to keep reading!

There was still three hours of driving once I got through, which I passed by using my steering wheel for resistance and gave myself a good arm workout as I drove across the state of Michigan. My arms were actually sore the next day! Sweet!

I finally arrived safe and sound at Anne and Andy's, where Jean was also there waiting for me. I knew which house was hers cause I recognized if from photos she'd posted on her blog! So funny! It was like I had been there before.

And so began the Grand Rapids part of my adventure...