Saturday, December 27, 2008


I went snowshoeing for the first time today; what fun! JM and I rented shoes from Totem and headed out to the River Valley to 'blaze a trail' through the soft snow. We had some relief from our cold snap today (here's hoping it will last even just a few days!) which made it absolutely perfect for a winter jaunt. We went up, down, around. We were actually snowshoeing through what is, in the summer, a golf course. But, covered in a foot of snow, the golf course has become a great field for cross-country skiers and snowshoers alike. We crossed sand traps and water hazards with ease (technically, I walked on water today)!

At one point, I asked (more thinking out loud), "I wonder if you can make snow angels with snowshoes on?" to which JM replied "Yes, you can!" in a tone that clearly indicated that she had done so before. Perfect! We graced the golf course with angels shortly thereafter. We also 'walked' across a log today, and defied gravity coming down hills. We did a full circuit of the golf course; I will feel it tomorrow if I'm not careful!

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 Reflection

2008 is drawing to a close already; creike! ...I think I say that every year. But every year it continues to boggle my mind.

2008 was excellent. I rang in 2008 with a wonderful and relatively new group of friends and acquaintances. I have always been with wonderful friends at New Year’s, but ringing in the new year with more of a fellowship community was so refreshing. I got to pass the peace at New Year’s; I’d never done that before! …Definitely looking forward to the same this year.

My social involvement definitely went up this year. I continue to run the projector at church on various Sunday mornings, and have taken more of a leadership role in that ministry. I am also involved in two small groups which I thoroughly enjoy (I am among the oldest in one, and among the youngest in the other, which is a nice diversity). I continue to do respite for my ‘respite family’, and became Aunty Gina for the third time when they had their youngest back in April.

Chicago Shore Line by gina.blankOver Spring Break, I went to visit my friends S&J in Davenport, with a
whirlwind side-trip to Chicago. It was fun to meet S&J’s little ones for the first time, and way cool to see some of the main attractions of Chicago (I think to do the city justice I’d need to stay two weeks, not two days).

I graduated in June; I am officially Gina Blank, B.Sc., M.Ed. It is so nice to be done. And NO, I don’t have any intentions of getting a Ph.D. Maybe an M.ScOT or MSLP one day several years in the future if circumstances allow. Maybe. And certainly not any time soon. Right now, I’m happy where I’m at. My role at work provides a good challenge, and while this is my second year in the same role, the daily work has enough variety that I don’t think I ever have to worry about doing the “same old, same old”. It’s never really the same day twice. If God wants me somewhere else, He’ll let me know.

I thoroughly enjoyed summer this year. I enjoy summer every year, but this was the first year where I didn’t have a “summer job”, in the typical sense. I opted to just do respite for my respite family and a couple GRIT families this year, and it was so wonderful (yes, even the five-day, four-night respite stint with the girls while N&S went to a conference in BC).

(Click on this comic to enlarge it for reading)

Doing respite gave me a way more flexible schedule as far as fitting in my own summer desires (namely, travel and sleeping in), and my days were so much more relaxed and just… nice. I was able to ride my bike to ‘work’ about half the time, which was great for the wallet, the waist line, and the environment.

I managed to get two camping trips in this summer. The first was out to Cadomin, where I nearly hiked my legs off—but still had the best time ever with wonderful friends in a wonderfully peaceful place, topped off with a visit to the Miette hot springs! In August I camped with a friend from church and her three daughters, and that was… definitely different than what I’m used to. In theory, we hiked. But I’m pretty sure we spent more time walking through the town of Banff than we did hiking through any sort of wilderness. And whereas my July camping trips are always hot with possibly a little bit of rain, my August trip was mostly rain/cloud with possibly a little bit of hot. Nothing the Banff hot springs couldn’t cure, fortunately! The August trip was also nice, because I hadn’t been in the Kananaskis area in quite a long time. We passed through and/or spent some time at locations I’d been to as a child; it was neat to see what had changed and what had stayed the same. And I got some great photos.

Exploring the Lake by gina.blank

This summer I realized two things. 1). I love Edmonton. Sorry to disappoint all you Calgarians. I love a lot of what Calgary is; that being said, I have definitely embraced Edmonton as home. I own a condo that places me six blocks from the River Valley (which is phenomenally beautiful and peaceful), I have a job that I absolutely love, a second family that I cherish, and wonderful friends that I don’t ever want to give up. I am home here. This sort of coincides with the other realization that 2). I am in a good place. Not that I was in a bad place; I rarely am. But for quite a while, even though life was good and I was content, I was still pining for more. Constantly checking-in with God about what’s-next-what’s-next-what’s-next? But over the summer, I came to a peace just being where God has me. I still have the occasional inquiry about what God has in store for me, but it’s no longer the urgent “c’mon, let’s GO, show me NOW” kind of state.

Throughout the summer and into fall, my photography has really advanced in all areas. I was asked to take family portraits for two families that I’ve worked with, and just did some Christmas shots of my respite family’s youngest. One family at work wants me to do their portraits in the spring, as does my respite family, and the parents of one of my work families want me to ‘re-do’ some of their wedding pics. While I have no desire to get into the professional category, I am excited about the potential of this passion at the amateur level. Using the bounce flash effectively is still my biggest challenge, and I am excited to discover new techniques this year.

I am definitely looking forward to all that 2009 could possibly have in store for me; I hope your 2009 is fantastically blessed!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I am posting today's blog in between the 7pm and 10pm Christmas Eve services at church. That is how busy I've been today. Not even home long enough to blog in the comfort of my PJs. Today has been busier than a busy work day. On Christmas Eve! I did not think it would be quite so jam-packed full of things to do, but how quickly time gets eaten. Mental note for next year: don't plan anything for Christmas Eve.

I haven't had much of a holiday since I finished work last Friday (19th) for two weeks. I shouldn't really complain; so many people don't get va-cay time at Christmas at all. But if I'm getting two weeks off, you'd think I'd take two weeks off. I don't usually have trouble taking holidays. I love time off. Time to sleep in. Time to myself. Time to do nothing productive. I relish in that kind of time. And I DO have time to do that in the next two weeks. It just seems that none of them are this week. Instead, I've been tackling pre-Christmas errands and commitments, appointments that need to be taken care of before places close for the holidays. Those kinds of things.

So, as I sit here with an hour to go before I am once again operating the overhead projector at the 10pm church service, let me take this opportunity to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS!May God's peace and love be with you as you head into 2009.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blessed to be Cold

So, it's been -30C here this weekend (-22F), and I'm just so glad that I haven't had to go out very much (SO glad my Christmas shopping is taken care of!). Bitter cold is just that. Take a deep breath through your nose and your nose hairs almost stick together. Take a deep breath through your mouth, and you stop short for the shock of the breath against the back of your throat. It's that cold.

I was out babysitting this evening, and the kids wanted to skate on the little rink in their back yard. Wool socks: check. Down vest: check. Scarf, hat, mitts: check. It was good! We were outside for a good hour, even at -30C! ...It was a might colder (mite colder?) driving home. You know it's cold when the frost is on the inside of your car windows, and when you sit down to start your car, there's no give in your cushion. It's not entirely foreign to me. We have a cold spell like this once or twice each winter. I expect another one at the end of January. Still, the first cold snap always makes me stop and go, "oh... yeah."

So now I'm home. I came home, poured myself a nice creamy liquer beverage with milk, ran and enjoyed a hot bath with relaxing epsom salts, and am now stretched out on the couch with my laptop and a small electric pad on 'Low' keeping my back cozy warm while I type and watch TV. I have a cat sleeping on each couch, and my tree's lights are aglow. Mmm. Cozy.

I am so blessed. There are so many people who certainly aren't enjoying the luxuries I've enjoyed just in this evening. Some don't even have a home to go to on a night like this. I can't complain. I just can't. And yet, I know I have days where I do. Days where internally, I balk at having to even go out in the cold (I'm blessed to have work to go to), having to remember to plug in the car (I'm blessed to even have a car), having to come home to my tiny little 1-bdrm that hardly has enough space to store my snowpants (really, my place holds everything I own, and I am SO blessed to have a place that I can call my own--REALLY call my own, cuz I don't rent).

So whatever 'cold' looks like where you are, the next time it gets really cold, cozy up at home, and remember how blessed you really are.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Time of Day I Am

Found this when poking around my mom's blog--fun!

You Are Noon
You are upbeat, ambitious, and never at loss for energy.

You have a lot that drives you in life: the desire to be the best and a secret hope of fame and power. And while you definitely have a Type A personality, you are still fun to be around.

You have a ton of charisma and a genuine interest in others. You are adored by many.

Christmas is Coming!

I realized I haven't posted in quite a while; December gets that way, hey? I'm actually trying to alter my daily schedule to have less jam-packed days. Build back a margin. I've been trying--today was Day 5--to get up half an hour earlier than normal. Usually, I wake up at 7, so I figured 6:30 wasn't that far of a stretch. And then I'm using that extra time in the morning to do some of the puttering that I usually dread doing once I come home from work (emptying the dishwasher, tidying up counters/tables, cleaning the litter box, etc.). Tasks that don't require a lot of cognitive effort (because it IS early morning, after all). This way, they don't build up and build up and leave my place looking like a disaster zone by the weekend. And it allows me to have more time to do everything else that has to happen after work (errands, respite, flier route, etc.), as well as more time to do the enjoyable after-work activities (reading, TV, computer, etc.).

This is only the first week, but it's working pretty well. Thursday I slept 'till 7, but only cuz I'd been out a bit later the night before. In addition to waking up early, I am trying to go to bed a little earlier, too. You may think that I'm not really gaining any time that way, but regardless of when I get up in the morning (except when I sleep in on weekends), I generally don't engage in productive activity after 10pm. But when I was waking up at 7, I wasn' t tired enough for sleep till around 11. So 10-11pm was completely unproductive awake time. Now it's usually lights out by 10:15, but from 9-10, I'm still awake enough to be doing things. So that last hour of my day is now more productive than before.

Overall, I have felt less pressed for time, and that's a good feeling. Most of my morning 'puttering' has been in the kitchen. My bedroom still looks a bit disastrous. But I don't feel like I can vacuum at 7am and have happy neighbours below me. After all, right below my bedroom is someone else's bedroom.

I think it will be easier to get up at 6:30 once the sun starts rising earlier. Sunrise time today was 8:43am (and it's not even the shortest day of the year yet; creike). And this last week, we haven't really had sunny sunrises, cuz it's been cloudy (a couple weeks ago there was such a brilliant sunrise front-lighting the downtown skyline that I briefly wished I was a professional photographer and not simply an amateur constrained by the need to get to my real work on time--but that's a whole other story). So it's completely dark when I get up, get ready, leave for work and arrive at work. So completely opposite from July when there's often a faint hint of daylight still left when I go to bed!

December Dark is nicer than November Dark, though. Christmas lights, candles, and finally some snow to pretty up the ground! (I don't mind snow, it's the bitter cold I can't stand). In my dark drives to work in the morning (or in my daylight lunch-time driving, or my quazi-dark drive home), I listen to Shine FM, which is playing all Christmas music right now. A couple weeks ago for the first time, I heard what has become my newest favourite Christmas song. I have also posted this on Facebook, but feel free to check it out again: