Exercise machine...

Can I just say, it's wonderful when kijiji purchases work out. I am so happy to have found this new-to-me elliptical trainer that I can use on rainy days and when running gets to be uncomfortable due to pregnancy. I'm really hoping that the latter is far from coming.

Jake and I stuffed this baby into the car and made it home safe and sound, eager to see how it looked in the basement.

As you can see, it's perfect, and I couldn't have spent $50 any better.



Almost a Mother...

This year I had an interesting and new experience-Mother's Day!  There were varied responses to my pregnancy-

"Congrats! Well, almost.  I guess you still have to wait until September."
"Happy Mother's Day, Ashleigh! Did Jake make you breakfast in bed?"
"Happy Mother's Day! Oh wait, you're not a mother yet."

Ok, so when do I officially become a mother?  In my own reflections and thoughts, I certainly don't feel like one yet.  My body is doing all the hard work involuntarily, and I just sit back and wait for the baby to arrive.  I don't have to change diapers yet, tend to a little crying one in the middle of the night, or worry about feedings.

And yet, if we, as Christians, believe that life begins from the first moment the sperm fertilizes the egg, then there is a real human baby living and growing inside my body, and it is my child, therefore I am mother.

So why is Mother's Day so ambiguous for a lot of people?  In my experience, it was actually older people who were hesitant to congratulate me on motherhood, insisting that it wasn't yet, that I had to wait to become a real mother, whatever that means. 

Next up is father's day, and Jake will experience the same rigmarole.  Let's just call a spade a spade.  We are both mother and father, even though our babe is yet unborn.  Jake protectively and lovingly cradles my belly at night while we are sleeping-just because he can't hold our child in his physical arms doesn't mean he is any less a father.  His concern and responsibility is every sense of real just as if our baby could be seen with human eyes and touched with our hands, skin to skin.

We feel the anticipation of meeting our child with a tangible excitement, and this waiting period only solidifies our amazement for the miracle of life.



Little Desk Fan...

I close my eyes, and allow your cool breeze to caress my face, to dispel the heat that pools between the spaces of my mind.

You keep me sane when an overwhelming fever would otherwise drive me mad.

You are the saving grace of the office and desk workers, our only reprieve when swimming is not an option.

Without you, I would be a hundred times more melodramatic.

Love, Ashleigh


Opportunities ...

Knowing how much Christian influence I can have on my students is amazing ...and daunting.  I've been praying for God to give me time and wisdom in those short yet powerful windows of opportunity.
I was thankful for the reminder of the Holy Spirit's encouragement and conviction in my life as I grow more in godly grace.  Galatians 5:16-26 and Romans 8 were especially poignant for me today.
I'm praying that God will keep growing fruit in my life.



Long Walks and Starbucks ...

Today was kind of difficult. I was super emotional amd self-pitying, it was hot, it was a holiday and I still had to wake up early and work today. But praise the Lord for friends. After my evening shift was finished, Lois suggested we go for a walk. We enjoyed the evening air, discovered a new trail, and regained strength for the walk home with a discounted Refresher from Starbucks. Freshly showered and having spent time with the Lord, I feel rejuvenated and ready for a new day tomorrow. I'm so grateful God redeemed the day!



Jumpin' Junipers...

This might be my last post of the week, since Jake and I are going away for the weekend.  I've been enjoying writing daily, save the weekend, and have noticeably slipped into a routine.   Some days I have an idea ready and waiting, and other days I have to search my mind for what to write about. More often than not I just start rambling- like I am today- and hope that it turns into interesting and soulful prose.  

I have been feeling the baby move pretty regularly for about two weeks now.  I'm still getting used to the sensation.  At the beginning, it actually made me queasy, and I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride.  This baby is a lil' mover, that's for sure!  The technician commented on its constant movements at each ultrasound, so I shouldn't be surprised.  

The baby had been quiet for a couple of days, but yesterday it picked up its twirling and flailing right where it left off .  I was sitting at the table and hadn't felt any movements for a solid half an hour, until Jake came home, and I swear the sound of his voice made the baby start dancing again!

I don't have the faintest idea about a baby's cognitive intuition at this stage, but there are certain things that leave no doubt in your mind.  Baby loves daddy, just like its mama does <3

I hope you have a fabulous weekend.



Any Excuse For Chocolate...

I always enjoy visits to my Naturopathic doctor(ND), since she is a very good listener for any run-off-the-mouth explanations of various health issues.  I am very grateful for the benefits that Jake's company provides so we can afford her services.  Over the past year and a half that I have been seeing her, I have found that this type of medical help suits me much better to an impersonal family doctor who has a mere five minutes for the one issue that brought me into the office.

{In saying that, I am not for a moment ungrateful for free health care.  I recognize that doctors are in over their heads with patients and often don't have the time to be sympathetic and caring like a Naturopathic doctor.}

In suggesting natural ways to improve my health other than the usual quickly scrawled-out chemically-treated medicated prescription, my ND often prescribes expensive vitamins, tinctures, and UNDA numbers that I would never have bought for myself.  I often feel like I spend money every time I leave her office, but being healthy doesn't come with little sacrifice.

At my appointment this week, she told me that I might be low in magnesium, so she recommended that I eat one tablespoon of organic cacao powder (not to be confused with the commonly known cocoa powder) every day.  That can't be so bad, right?

Thankfully I had a little bit left from when I bought it for a recipe last year.  I placed some Greek yogurt in a bowl, dumped my tablespoon of cacao powder on top, and added some honey and a handful of blueberries.  I took a bite.

I was immediately transported to some sort of chocolate heaven when the creamy yogurt and rich cacao touched my tongue.  If you're thinking, "What's the difference between cacao powder and that cocoa stuff I have in my baking cupboard?", have you ever tried eating cocoa powder while making your mother's brownie recipe? 

Yeah, it's disgusting

Cacao powder is nothing like that.  It has a full and deep chocolatey taste that transcends even your wildest chocolate dreams, it's chock full of antioxidants, that plant chemical which makes people crazy for 'superfoods' such as acai (by the way, in Portuguese it's pronounced ah-sigh-EE-- practice saying it aloud so you can correct all the others out there), and one tablespoon contains about 50% of your daily dose of magnesium.  The best thing is that it's not bitter.  

Oh, and did I mention that this form of chocolate is good for you???!

I'm so glad my ND recommended cacao powder for my magnesium deficiency rather than a regular ol' supplement.  This is one expense I look forward to purchasing!



The Smell of Freshly Baked Bread...

After a few weeks going without, I finally decided to make some bread today.  I love how convenient bread makers are, and yet I still find excuses not to make a loaf every week.  We don't buy bread anymore, because homemade bread is just that good (especially for grilled cheese sandwiches!).

I'm starting to see how working full time saps any energy people have for cooking/baking, and I'm feeling a real need to have baking days so I can just get everything out of the way all at once. I have so much more joy and delight in cooking on the weekend.  There's no pressure, there isn't the fatigue hanging over you from working all day, and you can relax while you're measuring ingredients, rather than flying through the recipe during a 5 or 10 minute break.

I've started making the main meal of the day at lunch, like we did in Brazil.  My work hours span over the dinner hour, so after 8pm we usually eat a light dinner such as eggs, or leftovers.  I know that everything will get easier over time, once we get used to new routines and schedules.  My body is still being accustomed to waking up at 4:30am every day!



Becoming Newsy...

A couple of months ago, I made it one of my goals to become more informed.   Before I started my teaching job, I was finding the goal rather difficult to ascertain.  I just didn't have the interest nor the stamina to look at online newspapers everyday.  Now, however, I find myself browsing exciting headlines, looking for new and interesting topics to discuss during conversation lessons.  It's a goal of mine to find something news-worthy that a student might not be aware of.

One of the websites I've been going to is The Korea Herald, since this gives me up-to-date information from within my students' spheres of influence.  The website, offering articles in both English and Korean, is comprehensive and well laid out.

Although I have been only doing this regularly for a week or two, I am still embarrassed when I find things out that the nation has known for 5 months or so (take our Canadian astronaut in space, for example).  I am excited to see how continued practice will keep me 'in the know' and newsy.



To Greet the Day...

Lately I've been having some difficulties with my job, mostly just technical issues.  This morning, my employer helped me to fix some of them.  I was elated about that, but also frustrated because I missed a lesson (he was well aware-I had to let him remotely use my computer, which is a trust issue all unto its own!)

I was recently assigned a video class with three students at once.  I was very nervous to teach them, because teaching a class online is a whole different ball game for me. 

However, when I arrived in the video chat room, there were three, small faces grinning at me from the screen, and I knew everything was going to be ok.

I get to teach kids!

They are siblings: the oldest is 13, and you can tell she is protective of her younger 8-year-old twin brothers who don't speak much English. 

I love them already (especially their giggles and cute mannerisms!), and am excited to see them improve their conversation skills over the next few months.



Responding Righteously...

I'm known to get all bent out of shape when someone says something to me.  I get easily hurt, easily offended, and easily defensive.  I take things out of context all the time.  I judge people's words, intentions, and expectations. 

Right now I'm reading this book called Damsels in Distress, by Martha Peace.  She explores hurt feelings in Chapter 5, and distinguishes between intentional hurts and unintentional hurts.  I was surprised to note that most of my past hurts have happened unintentionally. Listen to this:

Unintentional hurts are sinful on the part of the person perceiving something as hurtful.  Often the person perceiving something as hurtful is overly sensitive, shy, proud, and self-absorbed. (p 82-emphases mine)

Ouch! Martha, give me a break, here! It's 6:30am, much too early to start jabbing at my sore spots.  Nevertheless, I needed to hear that, to be reminded of my humanity, to remember, it's not all about me.  Peace suggests giving others the benefit of the doubt rather than taking it so personally.  She says:

Do not judge people's motives.  Judging other's motives and assuming they mean to hurt you is probably the single most common reason why people are overly sensitive and too easily hurt.  Since we do not have omniscient understanding (even if we think we are especially perceptive) only the Lord Jesus will be able to "rightly disclose the motives of men's hearts" (1 Cor. 4:5).  And until He does, we are forbidden to do so. (p 82-3)
 This describes me to a T, and I'm not proud of it, but I now have a heightened sense of awareness and a better understanding of what to do and how to act in those situations.  Instead of allowing my feelings to be hurt, I must rise above them and consider the other person's true intentions.

Christ's example is one that we must never tire of imitating.  I love this passage in Philippians:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:1-11
May we, the Jesus followers of our generation, grow ever more in the likeness of Christ day by day.



The Rubenesque Woman...

I struggled as I read this post.

Head on over there now, I'll wait for you :)

{There are many people in my life who struggle with weight issues, so if my words come across as offensive or ignorant, that was never my intention.  I want to be as delicate as possible without compromising my own position, thoughts, and opinions.}

The author talks about fierce and fabulous f-t women, unashamed of showing off their voluptuous curves and being willing to take a stand against a society that shames and ridicules them to no end, a society that has the most unrealistic expectations of who and what a woman should look like.  I commend these women for that.  I commend them for being brave, courageous and for sticking their middle finger out to the world.  I agree that society has a skewed view on how women should look.

And yet.

Where is the talk about health issues, the longevity of life they could have if they actually cared for their bodies?

Many of you know me, you see my now slim figure, but speaking from experience, it takes A LOT of hard work to keep in shape.  Many of you are right there with me in this fight to be fit, not skinny.  And it's not because we are conforming to the man.  We want to keep our bodies running efficiently so that we can live to the maximum.  We're not bound by it, or enjoying life less because we eat healthy.  We know it's good for us so we do it.  We don't always have self-control, but that is one of the biggest missing factors in the article:

Self-control and discipline.

I'm not so sure these women want to or even care about trying to develop either quality.  

"In the face of such platitudinous admonitions stands a bunch of big-a**, mouthy fat girls who wear fuchsia and feathers, who walk out in the world with bellies exposed and middle fingers raised. "

I don't believe the article was talking about women who struggle with weight because of health issues or other, so let's get that off the table right now.  From what I understood, she's talking about the women who don't care what people think and who are fighting for the rights to be f-t without being criticized or shamed. Let me say something here.  There are A LOT of rights being fought for right now, and not all of them should be in the running.

"Oddly, the f-word is used to scare women, but it doesn’t scare me. My fat is political because when I show it off it really seems to piss people off. My fat is political because I’m keeping it. My fat is political because it’s f****** hot. My fat is my flag, my claim to fame, my battle scar, my secret fat girl society badge."

Hm.  I'm not sure if they want actual rights or if they just want attention.  Either way, they're probably going to get both.



Still Alice...

I just finished reading this book, and was touched beyond words by the distress of the woman's situation.  Without spoiling too much of the story, Still Alice explores the depths of early-onset Alzheimer's disease from inside the mind of Dr. Alice Howland, who is afflicted with it.  We read about her as she travels into the descent and gradual degeneration of her cognitive cells, which affects not only her tenure as a renowned Linguistic Psychologist at Harvard University, but also her familial relationships.

I'm not going to lie, it was sad and heart-breaking to read.  I cried at the end.  But I also feel more aware of how Alzheimer's disease works, and how people living with it must feel, especially at the beginning, when they know what's to come.

It was a very insightful read, one that I would highly recommend.



Because Goals...

They're important, no doubt.  They're what keep you on track when you've got a big project or assignment, and they give you focus like nothing else.

Even though I'm not supposed to lose any weight during pregnancy, I certainly don't want to gain too much. Even though I have been keeping a close watch on how many treats I allow myself, I think it's been getting a little out of hand.  Subconsciously I have been sabotaging my best efforts, and I have heard myself making small excuses like, I'm pregnant.

WOAH WOAH WOAH...stop right there.

Being pregnant does NOT give me the license to fill my body with junk.  I want to keep a clean-eating attitude while still allowing treats here and then, as well as maintaining a healthy exercise regime (since I do A LOT more sitting now that I'm working.)

So, my goal this week is to have one treat every other day.  I don't want to cut out my sweet treats completely, because, let's face it, I would cave and maybe eat more in the end.  I'm giving myself permission to enjoy the treats, while still being healthy AND watching my pregnancy weight gain at the same time.  

Today is a treat day, and I'm going to make a lemon pudding cake in my crock pot for dessert.

Lemon Pudding Crock Pot Cake
picture source unkown

Looks delicious, no ?



Some No-Cook Help...

It's no secret, I absolutely LOVE to cook.  Jake enjoys my cooking, but he says I have one problem: I don't cook the same thing twice.  

Hence, the weekly meal plans, the complicated menus, you get the picture.  So he's made me promise to make one day of the week a 'no cook day', which means I can't be hanging over the stove, peeling copious amounts of carrots, or washing a spate of dishes that day (despite the fact that we now have a dishwasher, I still end up with a ton!)

So, here's my dilemma: I have absolutely NO idea where to begin.  I have tried searching the Internet, but have only come up with some crazy fennel and crab salads, because we all know that's what you head to the grocery for when it you want a no-cook dinner.

Come to think of it, I probably would. 

But what I need right now is quick, simple, throw-together meals that take all of 10 maybe 20 minutes to prepare.

Give me your best ideas, people.  I would appreciate whatever you've got :)


In the Small Things...

More and more I've been coming to realize God's faithfulness in the small things.  I've noticed a shift in my thought processes.  No longer do I doubt His provision for as long as I used to.  When we trust in Him, He provides in His perfect timing.  

Jake and I have been looking for a washer and dryer for a few weeks now, mostly on Kijiji because we didn't want to buy new.  We had a lead for a while, but you know how some people can get...

Oh yeah, come on by on Saturday (How do you even know if I'm free that day?)
Call me when you arrive (And they don't pick up their phone)
We really need to sell it asap (And then they sell it right under your nose)

You get some crazy doubts when this happens.  We started thinking, taking it to the laundromat down the street really isn't that bad, is it? I mean, it's only $3 per load, and we can hang it to dry outside during the summer and save even more money!

As Jake and I went for our afternoon walk yesterday, we weren't even thinking about a washer and dryer. We had noticed a 'yard sale' sign posted on someone's driveway when we came home from church, so we swung by there.  Immediately Jake noticed the washer and dryer for sale.  When we asked the young couple about it, she said that her grandmother had recently moved to a nursing home, so everything had literally come straight from her house, and was in working condition.  We had no reason to distrust her-we could clearly tell that they weren't from this century.  So, a deal was made, and the guys brought the machines up the street to our house on a little wooden push trolley.  (That was another little blessing.  We had been worrying about how we were going to get the machines from one place to another, especially if it was a Kijiji purchase.  Who knew we'd make a purchase within walking distance?!)  Once they finished the difficult task of manning them down the basement stairs, they hooked the machines up, and we now have a working dryer and a hoseless washing machine (we'll get the parts for it this week). 

As grateful as I was for the laundromat down the street, I'm happy to say we now have machines in working order in our laundry room, and for $25 cheaper than we were going to pay for the ones off Kijiji.

He always proves Himself faithful, even in the small things!



Fair-Trade Thoughts...

I really don't know very much about fair trade.  I know what it is in theory, but I don't know much about how it actually affects the workers overseas.  I've heard some people over the years talk about how they boycott Wal-mart because of where their product comes from (which is why they can sell things for cheaper prices).  I've heard some people talk about how they only buy organic/fair-trade coffee or chocolate, because the people who work on the coffee/cocoa plantations get paid and treated well.  I've heard people say they only buy clothing from certain places because they come from fair-trade factories.

But if sweat shops in places like Bangladesh are continually in trouble because of the lack of fair trade, then I would say, fair trade all the way.  I have actually been to a sweat shop in Bangladesh, and, although I don't think it was the worst, it was a pretty dire situation.  

I am in shock of how many people have lost their lives due to the collapsed factory building of last week, but I'm sure this isn't a rare occurrence.  People all over the world work in deplorable conditions and for very little pay just so that they can support their families and provide food for their children.

It's amazing how much we take for granted.  I don't always like hearing news stories like that, but I think it's important to remember that here in North America, many of us are very blessed.  And we aren't blessed just so that we can support our own families here.  We often have extra that we spend on frivolous things.  What if we use the resources we have to provide for those families in need overseas?

If that means supporting a child through Compassion or World Vision, or if it means buying Fair Trade chocolate, then I'd say that's what we can do to show our love for our fellow human beings.

Just some thoughts.



Because Sometimes We Need a Good Dose of Scripture...

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with[a] thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
    and to walk humbly with your God?"

~Micah 6:6-8