Sunday, 28 August 2011

more things that made me happy

Things that go well need to be celebrated, since negative things take up so much of our mind-time. In contrast, I want to be a thankful person. One of the best habits I ever had was to write each night a prayer to God thanking him for (at least) six things that day. This made a great impact on me, and helped me see my blessings much more clearly.

Here are a few things, then, for which I'm thankful. Ant made me this delicious coffee the other day. It's tasty and beautiful, and it represents how grateful I am to have Ant in my life. He's a great support for me and always so encouraging.

I'm happy that I reconnected with all my amazing friends this summer. And I am blessed to be finding new friends in Hong Kong.

I'm grateful for the time I spent at the beach today with friends from church. It was relaxing and it was good to chat with them.

I have been taking my camera pretty much everywhere lately and this has led to some nice pictures. I am helped a lot by my new camera handbag, which I looooove. I am very grateful that Ant let me buy it!

I'm grateful for the authentic, informed, and open preaching at church. Our pastor talks a lot about how he has wrestled with the passages in the weeks leading up to each message. He often comes to tears or sniffles in the sermon as well. I am amazed by his openness and insights. He always has something to say that the Holy Spirit uses to impact me. For this I am very grateful.

I am thankful for the technology that helps me keep in touch with all of you. (Although I probably don't need all three of these laptops to do it!)

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, 19 August 2011

my summer holiday in numbers

34: days away from home

5: cities and towns visited:
Kelowna (BC, Canada)
London (UK)
Halifax (NS, Canada)
Miramichi (NB. Canada)
Ann Arbor (MI, USA)
Shanghai (China)

14: take offs and landings

14 hours 52 minutes: longest flight, from Chicago to Hong Kong
1 hour 3 minutes: shortest flight, from Detroit to Ann Arbor

17: sleeping tablets used in the avoidance of jet lag
12: times I went out jogging in the avoidance of jet lag
6: jogging partners: Pari, Judith, Claude, Nyarku, Andrew, and Katie

4: farmers' markets visited

21 kg: luggage with which I left
37 kg: luggage with which I returned
900: the number of snack-sized zip lock bags I brought back to HK to use in my classroom
1.2 kg: mass of 900 snack-sized zip lock bags

1: wedding attended, for Sarah and Eric

1: bridal shower attended, for Dawn
2: baby showers attended, both for Helen

3: pregnant bumps I stroked, and 1 smaller one that I admired: Sonya, Helen, Sara (below), and Carolyn

1: happy-you-finished-your-PhD party attended, for Micah

1: baby baptism attended: Julia Iris

5: novels read: Room by Emma Donoghue, Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro, Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, Little Bee by Chris Cleave
0: airline movies watched

1166: photographs taken

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Abiding in Christ

Pari lent me a Christian book by Andrew Murray called Abiding in Christ. He is a somewhat well-known writer who lived in the late 1800s. It is a 31-day devotional, with about five pages to read each day about Christ saying, "Abide in me," in John 15:4. I am finding it really interesting and useful. I think that it has been a year since I have really prayed or learned anything from God. (In retrospect, I am not too surprised since I have been very sporadic at talking to him or reading his word.) I am glad Pari lent me the book (it was very casually done), because I feel as though I really needed to reconnect with Jesus.

Murray says that a life of abiding in Christ can be for any Christian. Jesus said to us "Come to me," and we responded when we became Christians. But he also says, "Abide in me," and this is him calling me to have rest in him. Murray says that "entire surrender to Jesus is the secret of perfect rest." He also says that when Jesus said that his yoke was easy (in Matthew 11:28-29), he was telling the truth. I have often felt that following him is hard, but Murray says that actually the hard thing is resisting his yoke. Surrendering to Jesus is restful because we are trusting in him and agreeing to obey him, knowing that it will be best.

I have read before in a famous Christian's (published) diary that they spent hours with God in prayer and they describe it as sweet relief to their soul, or they say things such as feeling refreshed after talking to God. I realise that I felt refreshed after my time with Judith or Helen or Pari because of our friendship and fellowship, but tonight was the first time I felt refreshed after speaking to Jesus. I am really amazed by my feeling, and that's what made me want to write about it.

I think another time I learned about this idea is from the book The Shack, which is an incredible story. It's a novel that describes Jesus (and also the Father and the Sprit) in the most understandable and friendly way. I feel like rereading some parts of it, because it helped me see how Jesus can be more like a friend and less like a Bible character from history.

Thanks for reading all of this. I hope that I can read and learn more, and especially come to have my soul dwell with Jesus more, because I am finding it to be quite an appealing idea. :)

Sunday, 17 July 2011


At Kevin and Sonya's church today, the pastor was announcing about a church member who had died. "There seems to be a lot of funeral announcements lately," he explained, "and our brothers and sisters have gone to be with the Lord. If Jesus doesn't return first, the day will come when we will be announcing your funeral up here. It makes each of us think, doesn't it? Are we ready for what comes next?"

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

five ways to become a no-excuses runner

A few months ago I wrote about how I am not a runner. But I decided to start jogging a little anyway since my bike was no longer a good option for exercise after we moved. I have discovered that being a runner is all about how you think of yourself. Here are the tips I've picked up so far about becoming a regular exerciser.

1. Keep a record. Get a small diary and keep an exercise journal. I just record how long I was out running, where I went, and how I felt. Today's run: "The usual 4.8 km loop, walking four times (1 min each), extra runs up the hill and walked down to recover (1 lamp post, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, and 1). Really tired afterwards but happy." You can do this online, too. Or I'm sure there's an app for that.

This is a photo of me, happy and sweaty, after my run this morning.

2. Get inspired online. One of the food blogs I read is also occasionally about running. I feel more motivated to run after I read it. This is the entry I read yesterday about marathon running. (I don't want to run a marathon, don't get excited!) And last week I found a blog called Healthy Motivation that posts a handful of pictures every day. The photos of fit women who are obviously very committed to training makes me want to shape up, too.

3. Talk about what you've been doing. I don't know if my friends find this annoying... if so, I hope they would say. But when I miss a phone call in the morning I am eager to say, "Sorry I missed you, I was out running." I think that the more I tell people the more they will ask me about it. And then if I stop mentioning it after a while, they will catch me out. It's like a mini version of accountability that I'm encouraging. Also, I want to change and develop the picture of myself in my own mind. I want exercising to be a part of who I am. So it's not really my friends I want to convince, but myself. Then if I feel tempted to stop exercising, I say to myself, "But I'm a runner--this is what I do." It's hard to argue with that kind of logic!

4. Trick yourself into going out to exercise. I often give myself a way out if I don't feel like exercising. "I'll just go out for 10 minutes. Then I can stop if I feel bad." Usually after 10 minutes of getting started I realise that I am fine to carry on. Or I say, "I'll run up the hill and then walk down. That will be enough." On some days I take the easy way out and end up with a very short workout. At least it was better than nothing and it keeps the habit going. But most of the time I actually end up enjoying my run.

5. Put out your workout clothes the night before. When I wake up and see them sitting there, it's like my shorts, shirt and trainers have been waiting for me. My gear wants to go out running! And as soon as the shorts are on, it seems like a shame not to go out for a run. So I try to go directly from my pyjamas to my running clothes, and as quickly as possible, while I am still bleary-eyed. It really reduces the excuses I can use. Another trick is to put my contact lenses ready by the sink. Then when I get up and go to the bathroom, after I wash my hands I put my contacts straight in. Then it seems inevitable that I will go out for a run.

Since I began running in October it seems that I have become a runner! What tips do you have to share?

Monday, 7 March 2011

sick day

I can smell the remenants of cinnamon toast. The warm bread had melting butter glistening on it. I wanted to cut the rectangles into thin fingers, like my Dad used to. A sick day treat--toast fingers and a glass of juice. Instead of being looked after by Mum or Dad, I'm home alone on my sick day. The quiet afternoon sun, a little breeze from a cracked-open window. Drinking lots of fluids, yes, mother, and I've eaten two oranges. I hope the enlivening vitamin C starts working in me soon. Other people talk about eating chicken soup on their sick days, but I don't remember ever doing this. I did feed myself some lunch with the leftover fried rice that Ant made last night. My darling husband has carried the cooking AND cleaning load this weekend. I hope to be able to cook the steak that's thawing for dinner in his honour.

I have been sitting or lying on the couch, and I've fallen asleep there several times. During the real sleeping time, at night, I have been coughing instead of sleeping. Ant can't sleep because of it. "Cough syrup doesn't work," I read today. Well, I'm willing to try. And I keep a big glass of water at the foot of the bed to sip when the hacking begins. Trouble is, I have to sit up and slither down there to get it. (My side of the bed is against the wall--ah, the Hong Kong life.)

(I'm reading Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick between naps. Hence the more freely associative style.)

recent discoveries

I have recently discovered that:
  • "reader" is my favourite one-handed typing word.
  • sharing magazines with others is a clever type of recycling.
  • the laundry dries more quickly in the guest bedroom than in the living room (due to the morning sun)--and it's out of the way there, too.
  • pruning and washing the leaves on my indoor tree has revitalised it. (And I bet the same is true for people.)
  • falling asleep on the couch for a nap with a book in hand is one version of luxury.
  • persistence in rearranging my classroom furniture has finally led to a more open, spacious feeling. It's still the same number of desks and children, but they finally feel as though they fit.
  • lesson planning is sometimes just "activity sequencing".

What have you discovered recently? Please share your pithy wisdom in the comments.

Monday, 14 February 2011

chinese parenting

A recent Wall Street Journal article titled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior has sparked an intense debate about parenting styles around the world. The article is written by Amy Chua, the author of the bestselling book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and she argues that effective parenting does not allow children choices such as TV, sleepovers, or the school play. Today I read this insightful article in The Guardian; it's a reponse to Chua's article by parent and professor Peter Singer. In it, he argues that elephant mothers are more what we need. It's an intriguing read. Please let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday, 31 January 2011

the craft of writing

Do you remember in high school when we filled in a multiple choice survey with tens, no hundreds, of questions, designed to help us choose our future career? The seemingly endless questions were about abilities, lifestyle, and "workplace values", whatever they were. After we nervously filled in the answer sheet bubbles with our sharpened pencils it was sent off to be analysed. Two weeks later we received a one page printed sheet with our best choice careers bluntly stated. Several of my friends and I were mystified by the names of jobs we had never heard of previously. My two optimal jobs? Metallurgist and technical writer.

I laughed off these two bizarre suggestions. I floundered through university, undecided, eventually ending up with a maths and history degree. And then I hit upon what I wanted to do: I became a teacher.

But recently I have started to wonder about writing again and I have begun practicing on my food blog. And I've been reading books about food writing, style, and vocabulary. It's exciting to learn a new thing.

I'm not saying that I've decided to change careers. But maybe those hundreds of questions had something to say, after all.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Chinese New Year is approaching

I saw this as I walked up the driveway tonight. At work tomorrow I will ask for some help from my local colleagues and learn how to wish you a very lucky New Year in Cantonese. We have just over a week at work until we have the holiday and Ant and I are looking forward to enjoying all that happens in Hong Kong over the period. Our friend Laura will be visiting and we plan to see the dragon parade. And we are going with some of my colleagues on a junk boat on the harbour on the night of the fireworks. Stay tuned for pictures soon!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

our new coffee mugs

Don't you think that our new coffee thermos flasks are quite "his and hers"? They have been fantastic at work, even after an hour's teaching, my tea is still hot when I pick it up.

(I took this picture and typed this post on my new phone, the HTC Desire HD. I'm expecting some glitches.)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

communicating--by email?

Below is the abstract of a workshop at a school leaders' conference. (For non-Hong Kongers, Sir Donald Tsang is the chief executive of HK Government.)

Donald Tsang Does It.... Do You?

As educators, it appears we use email as our communications tool of choice whether we are communicating with colleagues, with students, or with parents. We still use letters for impact when it is something of real consequence but otherwise we send an ever increasing barrage of emails to our communities. Is this really the best we can do in reaching out to our target audience when we have an array of sophisticated alternatives at our disposal? We pride ourselves on being "good communicators" but when the average student views email as "something that old people do" then perhaps it is time to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "are we really doing everything we can to be good communicators and adapting our communication strategies to meet the needs of our target audience?"

And in case you were wondering what Donald Tsang does ... he blogs!

I wonder if my teenage students will turn to emails when they get jobs? Or will communication be different by then? What do you think communication will look like in our future?

This is on my mind because I got my first smartphone yesterday and now I can be in touch with the world all the time! It feels quite exciting. I checked some email on the bus. I did some Twitter at my desk. What will be next? Maps while I am out and about? How thrilling!

Now I can even blog from anywhere. Since that appears to be the communication of the future.