31 Reasons Why Genius Garold is Great AKA Proverbs 31 MY DAD!!

1. his name is Garold, and he hasn’t changed it
2. he hung out with me and my brother when we were little, and he still hangs out with us
3. he makes jokes that aren’t funny, but are actually kind of funny
4. he builds stuff
5. he always thinks before he acts
6. he fixes stuff
7. he literally figures out how to fix everything, even if everyone else says it’s unfixable
8. he is cheap (frugal for the high brows)
9. he asks God for help
10. he is humble
11. he quits his job in order to spend quality time with his grown kids, ie. cruise the Mediterranean, etc., in other words, family is more important than money … WHAAAattt???
12. he flies airplanes
13. sometimes he changes his mind about fundamental issues, based on what he learns
14. he is loyal, even when others are not loyal back
15. he thinks out of the box
16. he asks God for help
17. he reuses “if you see something good in the garbage, don’t leave it there” – Garold Toews
18. he reads up on stuff, but doesn’t believe everything he reads
19. as my mother would say, he is ‘steady’
20. he’s always coming up with new ideas
21. he never gives up (even when we all think he should, cough cough)
22. he thinks about things
23. he prays about everyday issues
24. he married my mom, duh!
25. he has this amazing ability to be quiet in groups and never get any ‘guff’ about it
26. he is creative
27. he is calm
28. he never freaks out
29. he draws diagrams on napkins
30. he is wise, and shares with those willing to listen
31. he always takes one day at a time

I guess it’s been a while. Our family had a great trip to Israel and the Mediterranean. Dr. Jason can provide you with more accurate details on that than I can, as I was mostly just along for the ride :).

I’ve been taking advantage of Alberta by spending all my free time picking saskatoons on the side of the road and walking around in the woods, which is even better than watching Netflix if you know what I mean. If you don’t know what saskatoons are you should definitely visit me next summer. Although I haven’t had much free time lately because 2 weeks ago I was kind of in charge of a Kids Club/Vacation Bible School at the Native Reserve an hour north. It went OK! Yay! Mostly because we had a lady doing snacks who was well organized. Organized snack time seems to make all the difference. Also probably mostly more because my mom was praying all week about it. Thanks mom! About 25 kids came each day. We also had some young guys come from a 5 day clubs organization to teach the Bible Lessons, although I could rant for a while about how it was mostly about escaping hell and using big words that don’t make sense to kids who don’t like school, but whatever. Now I know what to expect. It could have been worse. It was my idea to make fake iphones for a craft one day, obviously so that we can corrupt the next generation as early as possible. (This way they can call up God and talk whenever they want – and it will actually work!)

Then after that began my month of busy-ness, as I am at a camp specifically for First Nation kids all of August. Last week was teen camp, and a big learning curve for me, just trying to get to know the other counselors and figuring out the routine. The teens themselves were very sweet – even the boys! I was in charge of sports – I don’t really like sports – but I winged it and the teens respected my authority which was very gracious of them. My biggest trial of the week was a camper who was very clingy and needy who hugged me around the stomach whenever possible, and I had to brace myself every time she was in the vicinity so that I wouldn’t fall over when the hug inevitably came.

The camp leadership is very heavy on ‘relying on the Spirit’, so much so that to me it feels like perpetual disorganization to my non-pentecostal mind. Ha ha. So if I had a choice of prayer request, I’d ask that the kids learn some truth to take home with them, along with their experiences. Because it seems, at least with the teens, that they are very interested in God, they just need to learn more – have more to go with – there is a lot of spiritual confusion.

Which brings me to my next rant: I’m coming up against a lot of general opinion that Native peoples are spiritually oppressed, that reserves have a lot of ‘darkness,’ etc. etc. That seems to be the main Christian view, at least in Alberta. All of this might be true, and might not be depending on the situation, but I want to make the distinction that the evil is NOT because these people are First Nations. There may be ‘evil’ in how some practice their native religion, but there is also ‘evil’ in the church – and it’s pretty rampant if you think about it. And there is as much ‘evil’ going on in the White town of Athabasca as there is on the reserve, and yet no one thinks of this town as ‘dark’ or ‘spiritually oppressed’ and is afraid to come here. I think we can recognize that most Native people have had a tough time of it for generations – partly because of the White Man I’m afraid, and alcoholism and all it brings is definitely an issue, but I think it is an unchristian attitude to believe that a group of people have a lesser chance of understanding God than our group does. There’s probably a name for that sin. But I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here. All I’m saying is, next time you walk past a native man on the street, don’t just ignore him like he doesn’t exist, try to make eye contact and SMILE at him. And then one day you could even talk to him. And if you live in ‘Merica, feel free to adapt this concept and run with it.

So I’ll be at camp for another month… I never thought I’d be a counselor again in my old age – lol – but here goes! I realized it might be more fun when you’re younger and actually have peers working with you. As it is, I’m mostly trying to convince the 17 year old counselors to accept me, because they are the closest ones to my age group. Good thing is the cook lets me go to the kitchen and eat extra vegetables whenever I want. But the 17 year olds don’t understand my obsession with vegetables.

Then after that I have to quickly come up with a plan for Youth Group all year in Athabasca. Ah! Plus remember all the other things I was doing before summer happened. Great thing about this job is there’s always a new challenge around the corner.

Helllloooooo from Athabasca! I’ve officially been here for a month and two days as they announced in church this morning. And I’ve been busy meeting a lot of people, and then sitting on my bed staring into space, recovering from so much socializing. #lifeofanintrovert

I have divided my new life into segments, out of necessity:

Most important (obviously), I got an iphone. That is why I never answer your emails anymore. And why I’m one step closer to getting married (refer to previous blog). Presumably it will also help me fit in with the ‘youths.’ So far the most rapport I’ve gotten with my phone is showing people how I use a sock as a case, because I am cheap, and a genius. Sometimes I switch socks just for good measure, and a change of scenery.

There’s a teen center in town, and they let me volunteer there. So I’m starting to recognize a lot of the kids slinking around the streets in hoodies, and purple hair. Actually, it is quite eye opening (a good reality shot) to realize that a lot of people’s lives are really tough, due to circumstances often out of their control (parents on drugs, no food in house, grandparent guardians too far gone in the generation gap, etc). It would also appear that the sending of nude pictures amongst preteens has become an epidemic. Not to mention amongst the teenagers themselves. (If one were to read between the lines, that could be a prayer item).

Church youthgroup: I’m not actually in charge yet, because the lady who led the youth group all year will continue until the summer. Which is very nice, because I can observe and get to know the kids without having authority yet. Although I led youth group this Friday, and I told them an abbreviated version of my life story and I assume it went ok. There’s around 10 – 15 in the youthgroup. I am hoping to start a ‘youth band.’ We have had 2 practices so far. Yay.

Athabasca is possibly the only town in the whole country that has Religious Instruction in the public elementary schools. So I have been watching other townspeople teach those classes, and I filled in for one last week, and handed out a lot of candy to grade 5 boys for answers such as, “I will be a Christian by not doing drugs”. Hopefully I will be more involved in the fall.

Calling Lake is the name of the Native reservation I go to, which is an hour away. This has been interesting because I don’t really know anyone, and I am shy. I am especially nervous to go to a Native Reservation and start my conversations with, “hi, I’m a privileged white girl, and I just moved here, and have no context, and I am a youth pastor which means I embody all the past evils done in the name of Christianity, and I’m here to fix everything.” Actually, I mostly just stick with “hi, I’m Maria, and I just moved to Athabasca, and oh ya, I’m a youth pastor there and I just started and I don’t know what I’m doing, and then I start mumbling and hope something happens. Super awkward but what can you do I guess. I volunteered in Calling Lake for their Bannock Cup, which is their version of the Stanley Cup (I am referring to HOCKEY) and the winners got this huge 3 foot trophy made out of upside down buckets tastefully wrapped in tinfoil, filled with fried bannock. That was cool. Also my first time actually watching a live hockey game in my life. Just putting that out there so you can make fun of me.

I also finally tracked down the elusive undercover Calling Lake Christians (it took me three weeks to find someone who knew), who have been meeting in a back yard for tent meetings – real legit tent meetings – in a tent – set up by an 80 year old man and his grandson. Where would I be without the 80 year olds? Nowhere. I went to my second tent meeting this afternoon – it lasted for 3 and a half hours, with old timer guitars with loud amps, and testimonies (raw and real and therefore wonderful). There were around 20 adults there, although lots of people pace themselves by coming and going. Mostly grandparents and grandchildren. A lot of the adults switched back and forth between English and Cree. That was cool. I then got to join in on the huge feast afterwards of ham, turkey, sausage, and hamburgers, topped off with mashed potatoes and stuffing. Thanks to God that I am starting to meet these people and slowly get to know them.

I live in the church down a hallway. It is nice. There are 3 other ladies that live here, and one man, and a lot of deer, and sometimes students who come here for Athabasca University. My main friend is a lady who lives down the hall, and lectures me on philosophy and the joys of organic gardening in Saskatchewan and the true stories of Hollywood as I eat my dinner. I’m sure she would not want her name released to the public for confidentiality reasons so you can make up what her name is. Regardless, it is very nice to have super intellectual conversations whenever I enter the communal kitchen. Community is nice.

In a few days I will forget about all of this and go to Israel! For my brother’s graduation from Medical School! Yay Jason! Then our family will go on a Mediterranean cruise because my Dad thought it would be a good idea! And my brother was awarded his pediatric residency in Philadelphia! Which was his top choice, and MY top choice! Ka-ching! So that means I’m also more likely to visit some of you in the future.

Here’s another update of my life: I have accepted a position of being a youth pastor in a small town in Northern Alberta! I feel like this is completely random, but I am excited! Here’s the story:

Some of you know that in the last few months I had applied to get my masters in counselling. I made it to final interviews, but was not accepted into the program. The day I was rejected (and feeling a little rejected), I decided to look up my career personality on the internet. Found out I’m a ‘dreamy idealist’ – the BEST thing a potential employer wants to hear! And it said I would make a good clergyman. And I thought, ‘duh, of course that would the ideal job.’ So then I looked up church-y jobs on the internet. And I randomly found a youth pastor position in Athabasca (8 hours north of Medicine Hat, 1 1/2 hours north of Edmonton, small town in the middle of nowhere – where I also lived as a small child). I clicked on the job description and felt like it was describing a lot of things I would LOVE to do. So I applied, even though I am a female (cough cough) and don’t really have formal training in that area. But I’m a Christian – I promise! And a few weeks later I heard back from them, and last weekend I went to visit Athabasca, and it seems as though the church is willing to hire me!

I am very grateful for this opportunity for multiple reasons:

-I’ve been having some issues figuring out what to do with my life, and this job at the very least will help me feel fulfilled and useful, and give me some freedom to do my own thing, which I really appreciate. And I can talk about God for my job, which is somewhat of a luxury.

-Half of the job includes working an hour away from Athabasca at a native reserve (Calling Lake), hopefully eventually starting a youth Bible study/kid’s club. I am quite excited about this because I’ve often wanted to work with indigenous people in Canada, but it’s not usually conducive to just move to the middle of nowhere and do that. This way I am living within a supportive community at the same time, and I get paid to do it! This is one of those things that I’m kind of amazed how God worked it out. Cool.

-I used to live in Athabasca when I was 0 -4 years old, and I have happy memories of the place, albeit strangely convoluted from a four year old’s mind. So I have random family friends who remember me – some element of connectedness. The Athabasca River conveniently runs through Athabasca, and there are really nice trees in that area of the country. I love Alberta.

-The church I will be working for recently moved in to an abandoned old folks home, so they will let me stay in a room there for free, and I can meet other random people who also rent rooms. We will share a kitchen, etc. I move in around Easter time.

24 Reason Excuses Why I’m 25 and Not Married [yet]

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1. I made the life altering mistake of going to a Christian college. Oops. My bad.

2. I don’t talk to boys. And when I do, I ask them questions. And that’s kind of invasive these days.

3. I never got into Pokemon. And it’s been a downward spiral ever since.

4. I’m like not very encouraging. Like maybe I should’ve been like more supportive of like all my guy friends, you know?

5. Crap, it’s because I don’t have an iphone, or a samsung galaxy.

6. In fact, I don’t even have a cellphone. And we all know I will not receive any proposals if I can’t give out my number.

7. When I was 13, my soccer coach told me that I lacked aggression.

8. Sometimes I do things on my own, which is way too intimidating.

9. Haven’t brushed my hair in seven years. I don’t see how that could be a problem though.

10. Back in Kindergarten when every single girl had a crush on a certain boy, I didn’t even talk to him out of spite.

11. Probably haven’t read enough self help books about this topic. Especially by Christian authors about pursuing, or should I say being pursued. At least I definitely know it would be a big no-no to be more wild at heart.

12. I am not a teacher nor a nurse, or even a secretary for that matter.

13. And I don’t have a puppy. Which would presumably be cute.

14. Genetics.

15. I’ve been accidently focusing on other things too much. Like buying groceries and trying to develop my talents, and not going broke and trying to have friends.

16. Too much pressure. So much pressure it exploded and now there isn’t any pressure.

17. I’ve never made a highly successful casserole.

18. Travel too much. Wanderlust: key words being wander and lust. Eww. Totally unfeminine.

19. In Canada I don’t have a Lulu Lemon anything, and in ‘Merica I never owned a Northface sweater

20. and I didn’t wear Uggs with tights when I was young and had a chance.

21. But we all know the real reason is I only wear mascara around 20% of the time. And that might be a high estimate.

22. I like to talk to middle-aged ladies, and we all know that middle-aged ladies and that elusive demographic of future husbands will never go hand in hand. Alas.

23. Probably my cynicism has just burned a hole in my pheromones.


Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. I also highly respect most nurses, teachers, and secretaries. And I’ve met a few nice people who wear Northface sweaters.

My Trip to Africa (the whole continent)

-began by visiting Josephine, my friend from Messiah College, who is living the über professional life in Nairobi at this time. Somewhat surreal to meet ‘on the other side’ and see Josephine’s life. She is quite literally an über professional, and at the beginning of the work week I rode the bus downtown with her so she could do her professional duties in her professional business building, and I wandered around downtown Nairobi, alone, with a large bag made out of African fabrics full of water and other necessities, which Josephine told me would look too touristy for downtown Nairobi, and as usual, Josephine was correct. I should also mention that I am white. I was approached in succession by 8 men. Two of whom had very good stories to tell me, about East African immigration woes and the need for bus money to go to Rwanda/South Africa to hook up with a ‘Christian Organization’ that will fund their education in a Western country so that they can return to their respective countries with an education. First man told me he was in a ‘catch 22,’ which is apparently code word for something, because later, the second man also told me he was in a ‘catch 22.’ There was awkward silence when I didn’t monetarily help out anyone with their ‘catch 22’s’, but I did give out 2 of my samosas from lunch, and the third man who asked me for something unfortunately only received a small lecture that I already gave out all my samosas so too bad. One man had a full leg cast from a matatu accident, and in his words, he definitely “wasn’t making it up.” I talked my way out of another encounter by accepting the man’s email address and leaving it at that. Another man was all set to buy me an icecream from the icecream guy at the park, but that seemed a little fishy, so I said I didn’t want an icecream to ruin my lunch. In hindsight maybe I should’ve gone for it.

From Nairobi flew to Uganda, to visit my cousin Julie, who lives in Kampala, who does things, as well as quite notably speaks African English with a perfect accent, as well as perfect Luganda according to my ears. Some of the things I did with her:

-checked out quite a few schools for children with disabilities, and talked to the teachers, and got tours of places, and found out what the teachers didn’t like, and were told about the ‘challenges’ and financial woes and need for supplies, and said ‘sorry that sounds tough’ (paraphrased by Maria) and then sometimes there was an awkward silence. And we saw a lot of Ugandan MEN working with kids with disabilities because they want to help even though they don’t receive a high status or high salary, which was cool. And some places all the kids were happy despite the fact that they didn’t have enough diapers. And some places there was strange tension even though all the kids did have diapers and were well fed. Speaking of diapers, or lack thereof, one time I sat in a plastic chair full of pooled pee. Oops. And then I wore that skirt for two more days.


-met some rich white missionaries who don’t do much. Except complain. You wouldn’t believe how liberating it is to say that. Also met many rich white missionaries who are doing lovely things.

-ate all the chickens in Uganda

-hung out with Julie’s co workers, including Sue, who does physical therapy, and Sue sucked us in to her social vortex of newly made acquaintances who spring up wherever she goes.

-sat in traffic in Kampala. Sat some more in traffic. Texted on Julie’s phone in traffic.

-ate Rolex’s for breakfast. Which means eggs in chapatis inside of tasty grease.

-crashed an expat American thanksgiving extravaganza complete with smoked turkey and an exuberant American electric guitar player straight out of the 80s. And no one talked to us the whole evening.

-drove to Karamoja land (eastern Uganda, otherwise known as Moroto) on a bumpy red road which was a bumpy MUDDY red road on the way out, and there was some worry about even making it on the way out, because buses were stuck on the way in. Karamajong people, stereotypically, are continuously drinking sorghum beer, they even feed it to their children, and they used to be nomadic cattle people, but a few years ago, the Ugandan government ‘de-armed’ them, which means they took away all their guns, so now the Karamajong people don’t have any cattle anymore (because guns = cattle, obviously), so they are sad, and are confused about their identity. And the area used to be considered very dangerous because of all the guns, but not anymore. Although word on the street is that all the guns are still there, just buried in plastic in the ground, waiting to come out during the 2016 elections (in Uganda).

-‘listened’ to a class of smiling Karamoja children who couldn’t hear ‘sing’ to us in sign language. Beautiful.

-got super sick right after crossing the border into Kenya. So saw the beautiful highlands of Kenya through a wave of nausea. Since I was too self conscious to throw up in front of a vegetable lady on the side of the road, I just suffered for another 5 hours. A lesson for the future.

-and then we arrived back in Nairobi, just in time for our family reunion…. … … …

This is all a big joke

Hey Guys,

I’ve been lounging around my new home now for 5 days, voicing strange noises at inopportune times to convince my parents that I have indeed gone crazy. Got a job at a Crepe place (not to be confused with a crappy place). I start on Friday, and will work weekends. Still waiting on some young adult Bible studies to roll around so I can make friends. That is the extent of my strategic plan for making friends [and influencing people.]

Went to a lovely pie social with a lot of friendly old folks and an old man crooning with a banjo and commented how much I love Canada.

Saw 5 deers (including 3 preteen fawns) yesterday on my run downtown under grey skies. The deer family was hanging out in the parking lot of an insurance broker, and I think I confused them.
Been putting off importing my car because I hate paperwork, and I shudder at the very thought of it.
Speaking of which, my friend Rachel and I drove to Medicine Hat from Harrisburg, and we made it! Memorable overnight stops included…

Detroit, which is weirder than Harrisburg –  so much blight!!!!!!! I’m sorry but I couldn’t stop smiling when we drove around and looked at all the blight. I’ve just heard of it for so long it was exciting to actually see it. Blight means abandoned/run- down houses.

Minneapolis, in which we got to visit my super cool cousins – Daniel and Jen and cute girls Estella and Kharis, and Ryan and Jess. Thanks guys!

and some motel in North Dakota, in which Rachel was confused by the hotel receptionist as a ‘woman of the night.’ Awkward.

We got across the border ok, possibly because I had toothpaste saliva plastered all over the outside of the back seat window (no idea how that got there) and to be honest, it looked like more than just toothpaste, and we flatter ourselves that as a result the customs official had absolutely no desire to search our fully loaded car. (to clarify, it was only fully loaded with clothes and books and artwork and chocolate and Rachel).

My car radio did not work for the 4 day trek, and amazingly no, we did not go crazy. Because Rachel went hoarse reading me a sad and inspiring story. (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn = great book.) Over the course of the 35+ hour drive we also filmed our infamous documentary, in which Rachel aimed at the sky with the camera 75% of the time, and I being the main character do not do anything particularily crazy – and if I did, wouldn’t you like to know? therefore the documentary is so riveting we decided not to share it with the world lest people watch it on facebook and become jealous, God forbid.

That is all.