Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moving is Never Boring

We've survived the heat. Didn't think we were going to when we woke up the next morning and at 9:00 am the Humidex was reading 38 degrees already! But that afternoon all the humidity brought a thunder/rain storm that cleared the air and has brought temps back to a reasonable 25-30ish. Feels great.

Our little girl is making some serious progress on the moving front too. She has been able to get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth - crawling is coming soon! She also has started moving like crazy even in her sleep, resulting in some odd contortions.

I've been able to meet some great "beer guys" here and have been treated to some amazing goodies that they've been able to stockpile. Last week the highlight was this beer, The Abyss from Deschutes in Oregon.

Rated currently #4 in the world on Beer Advocate. Difficult to find (re: limited release). Silky smooth with a viscous body. Lots of roasting malts and dark chocolate - just insanely good.

Not only that but I've been able to get some great bottles for my cellar so when the peeps come visit something special can come out. Now if that's not incentive to visit us in Toronto, I don't know what is!

Lastly, and perhaps least boring of all, was this afternoon. We were out working in the tragic mess that is our back yard and we found these little gems hiding in between the fence slats near the house.

The last owner's security system? Neighborhood boys stockpiling for gang wars? Last owner was an accomplished knife-thrower who misplaced a couple? Guess we'll never know...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Extreme Heat Alert

Toronto has issued it's first extreme heat alert of the summer and the CBC website tells me that, with the Humidex, it is now 34.7 degrees. I am now telling you that it is friggin' warm here. Luckily, our house is mostly shaded or we would be toast (literally) without A/C.

To top it off, the city is on strike and places such as swimming pools, splash pads, garbage pick-up, etc... aren't happening.

Welcome to summer in Toronto.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baby in the Big City

First update from the recent Torontonian-ites (that's what they call themselves, I swear!). Nolana and Daija arrived last Friday night, late, and I rented a car to go pick them up (cheaper than a taxi). I carried them both across the threshold of our new abode with all their luggage in the other hand. The past week has been a crazy one unpacking, moving furniture around and finding places for everything - all compounded by the fact that we are now moving with a little one who demands attention.

But we're adjusting. The place is now livable for the most part, lots still to do though. We've walked around our area and have been scoping out the good places to shop, the Canadian Tire, and finding out that we can buy injera (Ethiopian flat-bread) at the corner store! Nothing's perfect but after a week here we're definitely a week ahead of where we were last week - which is pretty amazing.

Here's some random shots of our babbling, bouncy baby and facts about the big city we'll be calling home for the next while.

Extra boxes are great for playing in... though somehow Daija still manages to get all tangled up!

We had one day without water (some sort of maintenance - kind of felt like Ethiopia!) so Daija had her bath in a mixing bowl.

In Toronto they have recently just made it law that all retailers have to charge at least 5cents for all plastic bags - a great idea to promote cloth bags! But then, instead of recyclable jugs for milk you buy it in bags (which aren't recyclable)!

Reminds me of days gone by.

Today was Father's Day so we walked down Danforth through Greektown and down through a couple big parks; about 3 hours of walking in the 30 degree heat. We're a little nuts. But we got this shot of our new city - "The city within a park" as all the park signs say.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Can We Choose Family?

At some point, I am sure, we have all heard the expression, “You don’t choose your family.” It’s meant to imply that you might as well learn to live with them, learn to love them, and regardless of how it all works out – they’re still your family.

Often we refer to the Church as a body or a family but somehow we rarely seem to apply this idea of not choosing your family. As Nolana and I move to a new city we hope to enter into a new faith community and I am struck with the dilemma of how to “choose” a church for our family. Often people look for good programs, welcoming people, lively worship, a dynamic speaker, convenient location or times, etc, etc.... And I am struck by the way we often shop around to choose a church that seems to fit us. This isn’t how I got stuck with my family!

I think most people find, that like with family, when you become active and involved in a church – when you give of yourself sacrificially – this is when you feel connected and rewarded by community. Before I left I had a good chat about this with a friend whose challenged heart I admire and we discussed in great length what it is that church should be about. Often, when we look for a church, we look for something that fits us and that fits what we define as church. We want to worship with like-minded people who like drums or calls to worship or liturgical prayers. We want what is safe and what we know.

So as we go about figuring out where to call home I am struck by the question: should we just show up one Sunday morning to our local place of worship and, as long as they’re grounded in biblical truth, call it home, choose to make it family, and then stick with it regardless of worship styles or if they have lots of little kids for Daija to play with?

This seems to be along the lines of family. And yet, there seems to be things that I value that I want in a faith community: missional focus, community and social justice minded, built in the scripture, etc... I wonder if some of these are merely selfish desires and if I should be working as an advocate for these things in whatever family I land in? Sometimes it’s hard to separate our wishes, even when they sometimes seem so spiritual, from those of the Father.

Pictures taken from the hilarious site:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eastern Wanderings 2009 - Day 6 and beyond: Arrival

I traversed the last couple hundred miles from Grand Rapids to Toronto. No problems crossing the border again and upon arrival I broke out into "Oh Canada".

Coming into Toronto I caught the tail end of rush hour(s) traffic but it wasn't so bad. Until the part where I missed my exit and ended up in the heart of downtown Toronto with my 24ft truck. Drove right past the Hockey Hall of Fame! Tight streets down there but I made it out and found our place. Spent the night on the floor because there was no way I was opening the door of the moving truck that night!

Next day I started unloading in the afternoon and a couple guys came and helped in the evening. Both I had never met and both, despite this fact, generously offered to come help. You might remember the post a while back where I told you about the beers I traded; well, Rob was that guy and he came out to help move and Troy from Great Canadian Pubs and Beers was the other - great guys. We got all our stuff in the house and it all looked in pretty decent shape (minus the things that had fallen out!). After we had the chance to share some great beers I had brought back.

So everything is in the house, Nolana and Daija fly out to join me Friday night and then the fun of unpacking and making a house a home happens! Can't wait to see my girls again!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eastern Wanderings 2009 - Day 4-5: Driving Truck Isn't Much Fun Any More

Vital Statistics:

Miles: 648.9m, Minneapolis, MN to Grand Rapids, Michigan

States Traversed: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

Hours I spent driving around Minneapolis lost: 1.5 (I don’t like Minneapolis very much anymore)

Time of day I passed through Chicago: 3am-4am Sunday morning (there was still busy traffic!)

Deer road kill I have seen before today: 1 (complete with someone’s bumper lying next to it)

Deer road kill I have seen in the past 36 hours: 17 (the Eastern states are a bad place to be a deer. I’m actually getting a little tired of seeing deer bits and massive blood smears all over the road. I’m starting to wonder if perhaps there are not some weird ritual killings going on...)

Today I relaxed in my hotel a bit and left Minneapolis around 11. Well, I left my hotel at around 11 but didn’t leave Minneapolis until a few hours later. There was construction on all the exits that I was planning on taking to the highway and I got majorly lost, so lost that at one point I ended up driving through a cemetery (picture my U-Haul trucking through your last funeral procession) Stopped to ask directions and I’m pretty sure the guy had no idea what he was talking about even though I asked him clearly, “Are you sure?” Finally, after about an hour of following bad leads, I stopped at a dumpy hotel and asked the guy there, despite the sign outside that said No Direction Given. He was friendly and showed me on his spider-web cracked iPhone the map and how to get back to the highway. Kind stranger again.

Made it through into Illinois and stopped at the info centre, planning to stay the night in the truck there. I nestled in with my Subway sandwich and watched Slumdog Millionare on my laptop in the cab of my truck. Then I fell asleep for a few hours and woke up at 2:30 ready to take on Chicago. I wanted to go through Chi Town when it wouldn’t be busy, this seemed perfect. In fact, while it wasn’t Chicago busy (the traffic was still moving at the speed limit) there was a fair amount of traffic for 4am on a Sunday morning. The 6 lanes each way can be daunting but it’s done now.

Along the way there were ton’s of fireworks billboards, firework outlet stores and firework warehouses (these Americans like their fireworks!). Some of them even advertised “Buy 1, Get 6 free!” That’s a deal. I’m actually surprised more crimes aren’t committed with fireworks (Give me your cash or I’ll put this Roman Candle through your stomach. What, that doesn’t scare you? I’ve got 6 more where that came from)

On the other side of Chicago I stopped and slept for another hour, then spent some time writing up the blogs and uploading the pictures at a picnic table at a rest stop. Feeling pretty exhausted so there’s going to be some rest time in Grand Rapids. Sitting, eating, sleeping, and driving in the truck seems a little old right now. Have to say, not as much of a fun adventure as I saw it playing out in my mind. More along the lines of mind-numbing driving, crappy eating habits, crappy cups of truck-stop coffee, and not enough sleep. I must be getting too old for these kinds of shenanigans.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Eastern Wanderings 2009 - Day 3: #1 IPA in the World

Vital Statistics:

Miles: 526.3 Dickinson, ND to Minneapolis, Minnesota

States traversed: North Dakota, Minnesota

Pro-life billboards I’ve seen: 5

Pro-choice billboards I’ve seen: 0

Hours I spent walking around Minneapolis lost: 2

I slept in a bit (if you call 7:30 sleeping in and hit the road again. The target was Minneapolis where Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery and their #1 I.P.A. in the world awaited me. The drive was quite uneventful (which I have learned is a blessing, not an assumption) aside from the billboards. I guess the life side is more into propaganda but I have to say some of it wasn’t very subtle (“Abortion? You’re parents had you didn’t they?” – the logic there astounds me. Maybe my parents abused me too [they didn’t for the record] should I do that as well?) I arrived to my hotel which overlooked the city and the Metrodome (where the Twins play). And just to the right of that was my patio with my beer. I had dinner and the IPA and it was quite fantastic, brilliant, refreshing, and quest worthy.

After dinner I decided to take a walk and seek out a beer store that I had seen online carried a beer I was looking for. I had the general location, the address and the name of the place and I started off. Google maps said 35 min walk but thought I saw a shortcut. Lesson of this story – listen to Google maps. I ended up wandering through a neat historic park call Mill Ruins Park right on the Mississippi River, the University of Minnesota, Dinkytown, etc... that area has a cool vibe. After getting directions from a couple of people I made it – only to realize it was not a beer store but a beer bar and I had looked it up wrong. Phooey. So I walked back. 2hrs later I has blisters on my feet, was sweating like a pig, and had some crazy swelling/water retention thing going on in my hands.

At least I got some exercise.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eastern Wanderings 2009 - Day 2: Settling Back In

Vital Statistics:

Miles: 725.8, Just inside the Montana border to Dickinson, North Dakota

States traversed: Montana, North Dakota (Montana’s a big state!)

Sign that most made me want to stop: The hotel that advertised “jumping pillows” – sounds interesting!

American custom that needs to be explained to me: The old fellow driving his pickup truck alone with a hand-written “Just married” sign on an 8 ½ x 12 sheet of paper. I’m thinking “Just Married” means something different down here...?

Buffaloes seen: 1

After the eventful Day 1, Day 2 seemed like a breeze! The roads were straight (though Montana had some crappy roads in spots), the sun was shining, and all the stuff stayed in the truck!

By just after noon I had made it to Billings where I had hoped to stop at a small brewpub, that supposedly made a mean peppered Elk burger, for lunch. As I followed my directions I realized I was in the middle of downtown Billings (which really is not too crazy) and was immersed in narrow one way streets, which with a 24ft. Moving truck is not all that fun. After almost getting hit (how do you not see a massive U-Haul truck!) I tried to extricate myself minus the elk burger and got mildly lost. Once I found my way back to the highway, instead of elk burger, it was Arby’s and orange Powerade for me. Though it did allow me to stop at a neat rest stop where I climbed to the top of the bluff and ate lunch.

I also made a quick stop at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in the badlands of North Dakota (where I saw the buffalo) before arriving in Dickinson. I got a cheap hotel that supposedly had wi-fi (if you call 20min of spotty reception wi-fi) and relaxed with some Moose Drool.

Eastward Wanderings 2009 - Day 1: Mountains and Valleys (of the Shadow of Death)

Vital Statistics:

Miles: 580.5, Victoria to Just inside the Montana border

States/Provinces Traversed: British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, Montana

Times I ran out of gas within sight of a gas station: 1

Times our belongings were strewn across the road: 1

Times I cursed the day I thought driving our stuff across the country was a good idea: 70

Creepy trucker who followed me to the bathroom twice: 1

Times I’m joking about all of this: 0

As you can see, my first day on the road was a rather eventful one – and not in the good sense of the word. The day dawned sunny and I started out early to catch the 7am ferry off of the island. I just barely caught it which I took as a good omen. I said goodbye to the beauty of the BC oceans and took off for the U.S. border. I had been a touch worried about crossing over but after a 30 min wait and a quick inspection of the cab they waved me through (thanks to me having a bunch of extra paperwork with me [lease, acceptance letter], Thanks Matty B!)

I cruised down the interstate, waded through Seattle traffic and then disaster struck. I had been keeping an eye on the fuel gauge, not too sure how quickly I would go through a tank. It was reading ¼ full so I thought I would wait until I was through Seattle to stop and fill up. Just as I was exiting Seattle all of a sudden the needle dropped to empty and the light came on. I thought, I guess that means I should pull over for gas. I waited until the next exit, signalled, started going up the ramp and then.... nothing. I ran out of gas on the exit ramp, with the Shell in sight. No jokes. Crappy fuel gauge. Someone stopped and went to the gas station to get a jerry can so I didn’t have to leave the truck. Now I have a new jerry can. And now, as soon as the gauge reads half I stop at the next exit to fill up.

With that behind me and being a little shaken I decided to take a pit stop at beautiful Snoqualmie Falls. I stopped for lunch in town and then proceeded a mile over to go see the actual falls. They were quite stunning but then, as I was leaving the parking lot, disaster struck again (curse you Disaster and your big stick!). Somehow the back door of the truck had come loose and was open, unbeknown to me. As I turned out of the lot, the door opened and stuff came tumbling out. No joking again. The padlock was still locked on but somehow the door opened. I turned back to the dismal sight of a pile of our stuff laying there and a gaggle of strangers standing in wide-eyed shock. Thanks to the immense kindness of Connie and her 2 kids and the 3 guys in their SUV, I got most of it back in the truck (tough because everything had shifted) and only a few things were damaged beyond salvaging. Their kindness was probably the only thing that kept me from losing it and sitting beside the road and wailing.

As I resumed my trip I began to prepare for my impending death. I figured that with my day, that was the next step. The immense number of blown-out tire shreds on the side of the road seemed to suggest to me that would be my way to go: blown tire. I also at a number of stoplights ran back to check the door because I thought I heard something (I was a little spooked) But nothing so calamitous befell and I made it to my goal of Spokane. I tried to sleep in the truck but it was a freezing cold night (and my blanket was locked away in the back – there was no way I was opening that door again!) and there was the creepy trucker dude, so I drove on through the night into Montana and spent a few fitful hours in the truck there.

All in all, it was a trying day - To say the least. But it gave me an appreciation for kind strangers and for a God who made sure I was safe through it all. As for the stuff, it’s just stuff – right, honey?!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eastward Wanderings 2009 - Day 0: Goodbyes

Well, the day is nigh, the truck is packed, we say goodbye to our dear house and car today, and tomorrow, bright and early, I drive out on the beginning of a new chapter.

Yesterday was busy. Thanks to the totally rock-star-amazingness of the people who came and helped us move, not only did we get it all done, but we managed to fit everything we needed into the truck (and let me tell you, that was no minuscule feat!) while somehow not having room for that bookcase of Nolana's I've been trying to get rid of for 3 moves now ; Andy and JL, Steph, John, and especially you Mr. Chris Dawes, I applaud you.

Today we are finishing up some errands, cleaning the house, etc... while we stay at Nolana's parent's place. Then tomorrow I take off for a journey that will have to scratch my traveling itch for the time being. Nolana and Daija are spending some time with her parents and then flying out to meet me on the other side. I'm planning on keeping the blog updated with pictures as much as possible as I go along (come on free wi-fi!).

Lastly, some good-byes. I really am terrible at them even though I've had to do so many through-out my lifetime. Maybe that's why. I feel I need to keep some distance, not let myself get down by recognizing that many amazing people are slipping through another chapter of my life. And yet, I know that I will miss them and want them to know that I truly appreciate their friendships and the time they've invested into it. So, instead of leaving it at that awkward hug and promises to keep in touch -

For all of those who I've had the pleasure of sharing good food, good beer, good conversation, and good company with (you know who you are), I'll miss you. Thanks for the good times, the fellowship, the community, and for the encouragement; there will always be a room in Toronto for you. I know people don't tell you this enough - but I appreciate you.

That said, onwards!