Featuring Joy & Geoff, Big Brother , Little Brother , Sis , and various household (and outdoor) critters...

Sunday, 21 March 2010


The ground has re-appeared, and the air is becoming more temperate.

The girls have enjoyed TWO very rare doggie playdates this week. The first was a surprise visit from basset friend Sydney, still technically in her puppyhood. Our girls seem to quite like her, and had a good romp indoors and out while our human friend & contractor helped Geoff with a bit of soffit patching to encourage "our" raccoon to find a more welcoming home (hopefully not someone else's attic).

In this picture, the girls do quite a convincing job of looking mellow, perhaps even bored or downcast. I think subsequent photos will prove that this was a short break in the action when Lulu came to play!

Lu may be small, but she holds her own - especially when Gladwyn starts pawing at her. This was their first time hanging out together, and they settled in pretty quickly. Hesper rarely starts the action, but when she gets going, she sure goes.

Gladwyn thankfully knows the difference between small dogs and, say, squirrels, but you might not know it by the way she gives chase (and bays - have truly never heard such an intense, loud, continuous vocalization from a canine before).

Lu made the occasional quick turnaround, and became the pursuer...

Being out in the yard feels good, although there is ample evidence that plenty of work is in store to tidy things up for outdoor living. At least the Christmas decorations are down, and won't be greeting us upon our return from Thailand after Easter. Well, everything except the greenery and dogwood arrangements. But evergreens are all-season, right? I'll see what I can do about them, but won't make any promises - we now leave a day earlier than we thought (thank goodness other team members had received their electronic tickets & noticed the date was different than the itinerary we had been given). So, tomorrow is our last evening at home, and the next we head to Toronto to sleep for the night before taking off the following morning. Pretty much ready now, I think. Just a few odds and ends on the 'to-do' list...

Friday, 12 March 2010

Thailand: Short Term Missions Trip Info

Thailand 2010: Canadian Baptist Ministries Short Term Mission
Mae Ra Ma Luang Refugee Camp
March 25 – April 10, 2010

(For those interested in hearing a bit more about our fast-approaching trip to Thailand, I have copied the information sheet we used for our presentation at church...)


Northern & Western Thailand, with a focused stay in the Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp, as well as time in the northern city of Chiang Mai, and the town of Mae Sot, near the Burmese border.


1. For Canadians with Karen people in their church congregations to learn more about Karen culture and the circumstances in which our Karen friends lived before coming to Canada.

2. To provide Bible teaching and training through week-long programs including:

• Vacation Bible School (VBS) for 150-250 children
• Young adult ESL (English as a Second Language)
• Bible Study for camp church pastors, leaders, and teachers

Our Roles:

We may help a bit with some ESL work, but expect to primarily be involved with the day camp...the latest is that there could be 300-250 children coming out! I think we will likely divide them into a morning and an afternoon shift, and then further break them into groups with a couple of faciliators per group. The curriculum is in English, and is Easter-focused. Many of the Karen we will be meeting will eventually be coming to English-speaking countries and churches.

Our Team:

Nine of us will be embarking on this adventure together. Five are from Ottawa, one is from Halifax, one is from Windsor (Ontario), and we represent the London, Ontario area. One of our team members is a nurse, and lived in Thailand for 8 years as a missionary. Another is a Burmese Karen man who has been in Canada for 6 years.


The Karen are a primarily Christian ethnic group, which experiences severe oppression by the Myanmar army (government forces in Burma). Many have fled to Thailand over the past 20 years to escape forced labour, death, and destruction of their villages, crops, and livestock. Since 2005, the government in Thailand has been allowing large-scale resettlement of Karen refugees to other parts of the world. Canada has been actively involved with this effort. The Karen in Thailand are recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as a priority refugee group, due to increased risk in their home country compared with other refugees, and to long-standing displacement, which means lack of access to basic rights such as employment, freedom of movement, etc.


Thailand is half-way around the world, and is 12 hours ahead of us! We will be flying with Singapore Air, an excellent airline (which was recently used as an example of "experiential marketing" on CBC radio program...but I digress). Overall, Thailand is a tourist-friendly country, and we will be renting a vehicle and driver to help us move from place to place. The main city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, is full of history and culture. The area is picturesque, with mountains, forests, rivers, and valleys – and it is warm: the country will be in the middle of its hot season when we are there (30+ Celsius)! Mosquitoes are active at night, so we will be taking precautions, including use of bug nets, to keep them at bay. The camp guest house is a bamboo structure, with squat toilets and a dipper + cistern bathing system. Travel within the camp will be by foot, which will mean treks of 5-30 minutes one way to get around.


There are most definitely a few things we would love you to be thinking and praying about!

• Energy Levels & Health – We are quite aware of some of the issues faced by many travellers, including jet lag, general fatigue (especially with such a busy schedule!), gastro-intestinal problems, mosquitoes, etc. Of course, we are hoping these things keep their distance, but at the very least our desire is that however we are feeling, we are able to remain actively involved, and not cause any major disruptions for the team!

• Cultural Acclimatization & Interactions – One of the exciting, but also complicated, aspects of the trip is diving into an unfamiliar way of life complete with a major language barrier. Our desire is to be relaxed and comfortable with others as we spend time with them and communicate as best as we can! We were given a great link to a Karen language overview, but there is definitely a lot more than we can pick up in the month before we travel. Camping and hiking experience has given us a bit of exposure to living with just the basics, although we know there will likely be some adjustments staying in a setting so different from what we are used to.

• Finances – We so greatly appreciate the prayer and financial support offered by the church, which is a truly valuable encouragement to us as we represent our congregation in this way, and seek to more fully serve and integrate with our Karen community. CBM’s stated cost for the trip is $3390 per person, including airfare, accommodations, in-country travel, meals, program materials, camp access paperwork, and health insurance – if you see this as an opportunity to contribute to a meaningful endeavour, your financial involvement is certainly welcome. Donations can be made to First Baptist Church, designated to our names or to the Thailand trip.

• Air & Ground Travel – Neither of us loves to fly! A few trips to Halifax and back have given us a bit of air experience, but this will definitely surpass those little adventures. Prayers for safety, smooth passage through customs (another unknown, other than the occasional US border crossing), and a sense of calm on the journey are most welcome.

• Helpfulness & Responsiveness – We want to take this opportunity seriously, and make sure that we are using talents and opportunities to their fullest extent. We are quite willing to follow directions and go along with plans, and also want to be alert and responsive to ways in which we can take initiative and make ourselves useful wisely, and without being asked! We hope that our presence on the team, and in the lives of those we encounter at our destination, will be meaningful and worthwhile.

• After the Fact: When we return, there will be a lot to digest! Keep us in mind even as we settle back into our routines at home, and consider the impact of this experience moving forward.


While this trip packs a lot of unknowns and unfamiliar experiences together all at once, we both believe this is an opportunity to embrace! In many ways, we are excited about stretching ourselves, so that we are not limited by apprehensions and a fear of stepping beyond what is comfortable for us. We have come to care very much about our Karen friends, and the complicated ways in which their experiences in Burma, Thailand, and Canada, impact their lives. What a great way to understand more about these experiences so that we can more effectively engage with them. We look forward to experiencing new places and people, and seeing more of our beautiful world!

General Itinerary:

Thurs. Mar 25 - Fly away!
Fri. Mar 26 - Arrive in Chiang Mai
Sat. Mar 27 - Arrive to camp
Sun. Mar 28 - Church, orientation, meet church leaders
Mon. Mar 29 - Begin programs in camp
Tues. Mar 30 - Program in camp
Wed. Mar 31 - Program in camp
Thurs. Apr 1 - Program in camp
Fri. Apr 2 - Good Friday, worship and program in camp
Sat. Apr 3 - Possible day trip to another camp
Sun. Apr 4 - Easter Sunday, visiting and saying good-byes
Mon. Apr 5 - Arrive in Mae Sot
Tues. Apr 6 - Visit Mae La camp
Wed. Apr 7 - Mae Sot area adventures (elephants, etc.)
Thurs. Apr 8 - Chiang Mai, enjoy night market, shopping, etc.
Fri. Apr 9 - Fly home
Sat. Apr 10 - Arrive home!


Let me know via comments :)

Here are a few links to check out on the Karen people, Karen in Canada, Karen camps, etc. -


More than Money

As we prepare to head to Thailand in just under two weeks (oh my!), we are feeling *kind of* ready, and very validated in this endeavour. With just a couple of months notice, the trip was confirmed, and about 6 weeks before the travel date, we made our decision & put in our application.

(Quick side note: They anticipate about 300 or more Karen refugee children to attend the day camp we will be helping facilitate in the camp...can't really even picture what that is going to look like)!

Financially, this trip seemed daunting, especially given the additional costs associated with our adoption (agency re-structuring & country switch)...but it seemed like something we couldn't really pass up. Over the past few weeks, we have been so thankful and honoured, as our church and individuals within it, as well as some family members, have willingly come forward to share their financial resources to support us. Being on the receiving end of things, I have been thinking a lot about what it means when others invest in this way into another person's project, ministry, adventure...

Certainly the financial contributions are greatly relieving. But there is so much more - whether people choose to give because they want to help us specifically, or because they value giving to a cause in general, or because they have a particular interest in work with Karen refugess - this money tells a story, and I think it builds community, too. It is very much a tangible way in which we feel people behind us, backing our decision to do this.

I always felt uncomfortable for folks getting up in church and including requests for financial support in their presentations about missions trips. I have grown up in the ministry "system", so it wasn't a particular issue I had with the requests, but feeling kind of bad for the person asking because I always imagined how I would feel doing that. Well, a few weeks ago, I was that person. And I tried to work the financial information into the middle of other prayer requests and points of interest, so it wasn't a big focus. But in the end, it didn't feel that bad, and I really have a sense that those who have given money (I only know who some of them are) have truly done so out of a desire to be part of this in some way, or show their support in a practical manner.

As of today, the official trip costs (for both of us, combined, including airfare, other travel, accommodations, meals, etc., and excluding personal spending related to the trip) are $6780. Today I paid the outstanding balance of $2260. The rest has been covered. Sure, it would be great to have more come in (those adoption costs aren't going anywhere, after all, and a possible second trip to Ethiopia when that time comes will increase them yet again), but I am pretty sure I can honestly say that I am content with what has been given, and the love and care behind it. What an encouragement.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Scratch That...I'm Just Along for the Ride

I'll just be quiet now. Back to hearing that the double travel likely does apply across the board...and I guess in the end we have some bigger hurdles to overcome...like seeing if sibling referrals start to pick up. Won't be much travelling going on around here until those have been happening for a while.

Will hopefully have confirmation on the travel issue tomorrow or Monday.

Cautious Optimism???

Perhaps, it seems, Canadian adoptions through Ethiopia are not affected by the changes announced in the US, where an additional trip is now required. The referral slow-down, though, is still in effect...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Are We Infectious?

Starting to think that we are bad news for adoption programs. While by all reports the Ethiopia program is still alive and well *generally speaking*, it is experiencing some big changes which will (at least for now) impact referrals, and it also appears, travel commitments.

I have to agree with folks that any changes to ensure and improve practices around family preservation, proper documentation & determination of children's eligibility to be adopted, and follow-through by adoptive parents (apparently there have actually been multiple cases of parents arriving in Ethiopia, and deciding to leave without their children - I cannot comment, as I do not know their situations, but...ahhh) cannot be a bad thing at all.

But when you know it will impact the referral wait time, and mean lots more travel costs (looking like two trips will be necessary - but I will be clear that as of this moment, we have not heard this from our agency directly...just from many, many adoption blogs and discussion boards, particularly in the US)...well, it's hard to hear.

What can I say? Because today, this is our plan. And I feel inclined to stick with the plan (guess we can keep earning travel $$ during that long referral wait). I really hope that Thailand (in just two weeks, folks) helps me LOVE air travel. Ha ha ha. One does start to wonder, though, how many times to say "sure, we'll roll with that" before one's sanity and judgment can seriously be called into question. I would like to think we are "persevering" with this adoption, rather than "perseverating" on it...time will hopefully tell.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Yes, Yes, and Yes Again

Article from Blog from Christian Alliance for Orphans

Haiti: Inter-Country Adoption and Evils on the GroundMarch 3, 2010 in Adoption,
Haiti and Orphans, International Orphan Care | Comments (0)

Tags: Adoption, Haiti, orphan

Two news items—one via blog and the other a newspaper report—came on the same
day recently. It would seem that their jarring contents must be coming from
different parts of the world. But both come from Haiti.

From Paul Myhill's blog:

"I need to tell you something," the teary-eyed girl said to Campus Crusade's
country director for Haiti, Esperandieu Pierre, during his recent visit to one
of the tented camps near a hospital in Port-au-Prince.

The nine year-old orphan had been raped by multiple men.

After taking her to the hospital, Esperandieu was told by the nurse that the
rape of a child, especially an orphan, is now a "common event" that she sees

On the same day as this post, an article in the Wall Street Journal began:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—In the aftermath of the earthquake, scores of
unaccompanied Haitian children are living in fetid tent camps here. A few miles
away, Dixie Bickel, an American nurse, is having trouble filling dozens of empty
beds at her tidy orphanage.

Haiti's welfare agency stopped sending kids there on the advice of the United
Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, Ms. Bickel says. The UN agency worries that
many children have been temporarily displaced by the quake. Putting them in
orphanages like Ms. Bickel's could lead to adoptions overseas that separate them
from family here …

What Can We Conclude?

The simple truth is that commitment to family reunification and other in-country
efforts to care for orphans should not be viewed as contradictory to viewing
inter-country adoption as the very best option for some children. The tension
between the two needs to be shown for what it is: a false dichotomy.

Certainly, if there is a reasonable chance that a child could be reunited to
with living parents, that option should be the first priority. No child should
be taken out of a country in the immediate aftermath of disaster, unless he or
she was known to be an orphan before the disaster struck. I have little doubt
that Dixie Bickel shares this perspective as well.

In reality, however, the pretext of protecting children from human trafficking
or other evils is actually locking them into situations that are tremendously
unsafe. It is time for the U.N. to stop presenting inter-country adoption and
reunification as mutually exclusive activities.

Reunification efforts should be aggressive and thorough. Meanwhile, efforts can
also be initiated that will identify those children that truly have no options
for being raised in a family locally. Such children should not be relegated to
life on the streets or in an orphanage simply because many—including myself—hope
that someday there will be much better options for in-country care than now
exist. We should pursue that future doggedly. But until every child can be
part of a family in Haiti, we cannot allow pursuit of this dream to force a
generation to grow up without one.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Whose Hands?

I have held many things in my hands,
and I have lost them all;
but whatever I have placed in God's hands,
that I still possess

Martin Luther

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Bullet the Blue Sky/Chocolate Brown

* HTML formatting issue warning - I hate that the fonts & sizes are all over the place, but apparently the blog is angry at me for copying this from Word, and it is after midnight so I cannot afford to care *

Ok – I’m playing along (kind of - I'm chicken in regard to tagging others, but hey, feel free to consider yourself tagged) – after finding, charging, and figuring out how to use the shuffle feature on my IPod (who knew the menu was longer that what shows on the screen – got to scroll on down). Anyway, what better way to spend the time when you still have over a third of a book to read for book club tomorrow and it's 11:45pm?

1. Put your I-pod, ITunes, Windows Media Player etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question press the Next button to get your answer.
3. You must write that song no matter how silly it sounds.
4. Tag at least 10 friends.
5. Have fun!

If someone says "are you okay?”

White Christmas (Bing)

I guess that would be code for "how could things get better than this?'" - I quite like it - might start using it.

How Would You Describe Yourself?

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (Ray Charles)

Ah, no comment. Sorry.

What do you like in a guy/girl?

O Come All Ye Faithful

True enough...except I don't need them all...that might be contradictory.

How do you feel today?


Hmm, probably pretty accurate - and also another possible term to employ from now on - instead of my usual non-commital "fine" or '''ok''' - would capture something a little more positive than '''so-so''' - yes, I think I like it.

What is your life's purpose?

The Very Thought of You (Billie Holiday)

Depending on how you interpret that, it could be really fitting.

What's your motto?

A Minor Variation (Billy Joel)

Ha ha. I always have prided myself on trying to be non-conformist. And minor keys are my favourite - just a touch of melancholy.

What do your friends think of you?

This Will be My Year (Semisonic)

Well, that is what people like to say. But I tend not to go for that unfounded kind of fairy-tale optimism. One day at a time, my friends (and I'm not being pessimistic - just realistic - so there).

What do your parents think of you?

The Thrill is Gone (BB King)

Oh, so sad. I didn't realize...after the "Joy''' of my birth things have apparently gone downhill.

What do you think about very often?

Thick (Tonic)

Huh. Have to reflect on this a bit. But I do feel "thick" when I start thinking about things I can't quite wrap my head around...and there are a few of those on the go (e.g., adoption situation)

What is 2 + 2?

Set it Off (Audioslave)

Uh oh. Is that like some kind of lift-off/release the hounds type formula?

What do you think of your best friend?

Il Est Ne Le Devin Enfant (Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir)

How very spiritual! (et j'aime le francais)

What is your life story?

O Come All Ye Faithful (Johnny Cash)

This is far too deep for midnight - more reflection required.

What do you want to be when you grown up?

Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park (The Tragically Hip)

At first, I thought, IT IS TRUE! I totally want to be Gus, or a polar bear - because I love polar bears. But then again, with all the melting ice, maybe this isn't the best time. And I googled Gus quickly - seems the poor caged bear has had his struggles - although then I found a link stating he is doing much better. Polar bears have always been my favourite - I do have a whole Christmas tree full of them, after all. And being Gus, who overcomes his sadness and neuroses - well, that's not such a bad thing to be at all - a content, thriving individual who has moved beyond that which formerly squelched the ability to live to the fullest and experience well-being.


What do you think when you see the person you like?

Christmas Pics (Barenaked Ladies)

Yay, photos of people I like!

What will you dance to at your wedding?

Peer Gynt – Suite 1, Opus 46 by Edvard Greig

That would have been interesting, and unusual. If we had had a dance. Might have guessed something jazzy, but with a life motto like "a minor variation'' what else can you expect other than something off the beaten path?

What will they play at your funeral?

We Could Be So Good Together (The Doors)

Oh - this sounds kind of sad and wistful for a funeral - like a dream unfulfilled. Or maybe I am just trying to get others to join me???

What is your hobby/interest?

Wonderwall (Oasis)

Huh. If by that, it means "a little of this, that, and the other thing which cannot quite be summed up very succinctly", then sure.

What is your biggest fear?

No Eye Has Seen (Michael W. Smith)

My spine is tingling...

And on a completely unrelated note, did anyone else watch "Lost" tonight & see Smokey going wild. Ok, maybe not so unrelated. I was always a fan of the Smoke Monster...but watch out.

What is your biggest secret?

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (Instrumental)

Oh, really?!! Seems even I don't know my biggest secret, but it must be a doozy if it happened in the dead of night.

What do you want right now?

Fight (PFR)

Another surprise. Note to self: Become much more self-aware. I'm sure there's something about which I feel that way.

What do you think of your friends?

Sleigh Ride Medley (Canadian Brass)

...lovely weather, for a sleigh ride together, with you :)

What will you post this as?

Bullet The Blue Sky (U2)/Chocolate Brown (The Cranberries)

So seriously...I had been thinking that it was unfortunate no Cranberries songs had come up. And the glimpse of Bullet made me think the game was over...but no lie...my IPod would not hold Bullet and jumped ahead, ALL ON ITS OWN, to Chocolate Brown. Went back and forth a few times, and same thing kept happening. So it's a tie.

All done.

But for the curious, the next few songs were:

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Elmer Isler Singers)

In The End (Linkin Park)

Winter Wonderland (Jewel)

Exotic Night (Martin Denny – a Christmas tune, just to clarify)

Two Thousand Years (Billy Joel)

And what a surprise that there were so many Christmas songs. Shocking ;)

Actually, two Billy Joel songs is kind of surprising.

And there is a glaring and sad lack of Sam Roberts, and others. Another time, perhaps.

I really need to finish this book club reading. G'night.

Ah, the Irony

Just had a delivery person at the door. Could hardly communicate with the guy, or open the door enough, to get the package due to my intense, barking hounds signalling his arrival. I gave my usual "they're ok, just loud" line over the din (which he likely couldn't hear), and he was gone before I had a chance to figure out & let him know that the package actually contained books on dog barking and calming signals for dogs...really...we do want to help them improve their social skills.

It's so embarrassing, and it's really not nice having to limit chats with neighbours because the dogs won't let us alone. Hesper would often bark and "huff" a very little bit around new people, and Gladwyn was quietly timid (basically vanishing) with guests when we first got her. But now that the two have settled in together, and have begun feeding off of each other, wow, do they ever get going. True hounds who love to hear themselves, combined with some nervous excitability. Unfortunately, I think some of the bark training may involve stressful times where they are not allowed outside to roam around freely for a while. Which will mean lots of doorbell ringing (the bells are inside - their signal that they want out) and guessing as to whether they really "need" out for a few minutes or not. But it is definitely important to get this going before having kids around (or having another homestudy update...can only imagine the two of them barraging our social worker with their frantic greetings). It would also be nice to have this under control a bit more before campground season. They would bark a bit at passers-by our site last year, but I suspect they may be a bit worse now...uh oh.

Perhaps I will share any particular wisdom or success after reading (and trying out suggestions from) these books. If you're interested, stay tuned.