Wednesday, December 31, 2008

20/20 (as in, hindsight is...)

Since I'm feeling particularly uncreative since the busyness of Christmas and because having my hubby home has taken a lot of my emotional energy (which is a good thing!), I've stolen this recap outline from Sharon, who stole it from someone else. Thanks, guys!

I wish you all a very happy new year!

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Sent my husband away to the Army and spent three months living in my own house alone...with Dora, of course. It's the single life I never had, without all the expensive and tiring partying and dating! We also experienced our first pregnancy, but lost it at 5 weeks in August.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't make NY's resolutions. Mainly because I know I'll find some excuse to break them. Besides, life is so full of twists and turns that I generally don't need them to keep me striving for something new or good. As for 2009, though, I think I will say to myself that I will resolve to be a more open, gracious and kind human being. I will also try to cut back on chocolate (ha! - right).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but Julie's about to pop! I hope she gives birth on my bday - Jan. 23.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My grandpa. He lived in Ontario my whole life but did fly out for our wedding in 2006 (he ended up having a heart attack that morning and spending the evening in ICU - my aunt delivered his speech very well). He was a lovely man and I have fond memories of him. Wayne's grandpa also passed away, though I didn't know him too well.

5. What countries did you visit?

USA (Alaska) - we hope to make it to France sometime in 2009!

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

A better attitude and less anxiety

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 15 - the day my miscarriage began
August 21 - the day Wayne was officially accepted into the Armed Forces as an Officer Cadet
December 14 - the day Wayne flew home after graduating from his Basic Officer Training Course. He is now a 2nd Lieutenant.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving the three-month absence from Wayne and decorating our home in the meantime.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not spending enough time with Christ, and not trusting His plan for our family.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A miscarriage

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Our new car - love it! And the personalized dog tag I bought Wayne for his grad. It has my vows inscribed on it and our photo.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Wayne's - anyone who joins the Forces voluntarily, in my opinion, deserves to be celebrated!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Mostly my own.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bills, the dog, and care packages for Wayne. :)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My first trip to visit Wayne in Montreal in October.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

I listen mostly to talk radio, and Praise 106.5 tends to repeat a lot, so I can't say.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:?
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?

HAPPIER, the same weight, and definitely poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Decorating and cooking. Oh...and exercising.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?


20. How did you spend Christmas?

With family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

Yes. I fell in love all over again when I reunited with my hubby.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

LOST! And So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate is a trap.

24. What was the best book you read?

My Love, My Life, which is all about being a military spouse. And The Shack - if you have not read this, read it now!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Amy Winehouse - she's crude, but she's got talent!

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted Wayne to pass boot camp and he did. To work closer to home again, and I do. A couple of other things I won't list here...

27. What did you want and not get?

Another doggy.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

Oddly, I really loved Iron Man. The growth from an uncaring, immoral and emotionally void human being to a compassionate, righteous man was really interesting and entertaining.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 26 last January and Wayne took me to Federico's on Commercial Drive. I wore my LBD - it was a hit. ;)

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not being separated from Wayne and not losing the baby (yes, that's 2).

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Joe Fresh and Forever 21. Concept? "Bargain-fab"

32. What kept you sane?


33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

The character of Desmond Hume on LOST.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

While I was torn about the presidential candidates' values and background (they each had some good and some bad), I really was impressed with Obama's acceptance speech. Because I was a speechwriter briefly this year, all I could think of while he spoke (he didn't read much, I might add) was, "Whoever wrote this speech is brilliant - and now rich!"

35. Who did you miss?

Wayne, when he's gone.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I have to say it's a three-way tie between Angela, Erin and Marion. Great gals!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

God's timing is far beyond our comprehension; there really is a reason for everything. I need to let HIM write my story - and just go along for the adventure.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"I'll be home for Christmas."

What about you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sara's story

Two-and-a-half months ago, family friends of my parents moved to Vietnam on a two-year contract, as the husband works for the Canadian government in Immigration. His name is Jack, his wife is Shirly and their daughter is Georgia, 20. They have a crazy dog named Mickey. Not surprisingly, they live on a compound filled with North Americans, who are working in Vietnam, with their families. Most of them employ locals as cooks, gardeners, housekeepers and drivers.

I have pasted below the unedited story Jack & Shirly sent us last month, a story about a woman who works in their home and needs help - in a big way. The story is long, yes, but moving. Heartbreaking. At the end, there is information about how to help. If you feel so inclined, please contact me or Wilf personally. I plan to help, as well.


This is the story of Sara, her recurring nightmare and her simple dream. Sara is 47 years old, is married with two children, a boy of five, and a daughter who is eight. Sara is of mixed race, half Arabian, half Vietnamese. She is looked down upon by other Vietnamese, though she was born here, went to school here, speaks only Vietnamese, and is married to a pure blooded Vietnamese man.

Sara works seven days a week from five in the morning til late at night. Her day begins by getting her children up and started on their day. She’s at the local market by 6:30, picking up food for breakfast, kids lunches, and dinner. She also buys food for the family that she will go and work for. She returns home from the market, feeds the children, makes her husbands breakfast then leaves for work on her motor scooter.

She cleans and cooks for a family of foreigners who live in an extravagant home that is safely hidden behind high walls. Sara and her family live in one room. She comes to this majestic house Monday through Friday, cooking, shopping, doing the laundry, the ironing, washing floors, bathrooms, and more. She sees how this family live together in harmony and love. She sees the parents make plans for their two children and how they interact together. She sees the children go from their International school to a language school on weekends. She sees these children flourish.

Sara didn’t get much schooling in Vietnam. In Vietnam you have to pay for your children to go to school. After grade four the cost goes up. If you are poor you must leave school. This is the reality of the new communism in Vietnam. Her children seem destined to follow in their mothers’ footsteps.

On Saturday’s, Sara comes and works for us along with her sister-in-law, Yen. Sara doesn’t speak English, but Yen does. This is how we have come to know Sara and her story.

Sara must work hard every day because her husband doesn’t. He has not worked in a long time. He’s capable of working, but doesn’t. Maybe it’s because of this that he beats her and the children. Maybe it’s because of this that he carries on an affair with another woman and keeps telling Sara that he is going to leave her and the children. Maybe he beats her because she is not pure enough. Maybe he beats her, just because.

Sara is afraid of what will happen if he leaves them. She is afraid that she will be shunned. She never knew her father because he left Vietnam right after she was born. Her mother is dead and she has no siblings.

Sara was born in Saigon. She has spent every living moment of her life in this city of eight million. She has never ventured out beyond the city limits. She has never seen life beyond the perpetual day-in, day-out, need to work from dawn to dusk. She has to work. She cannot stop for one minute. She has no health care. She has no pension. She has no family to go to. She has no one to care for her.

But Sara does have one thing. She has a special thing she holds onto. She has a dream, a very simple dream. She dreams of going to Dalat with her two children for a little holiday. Just the three of them. In Vietnam, Dalat is the destination of choice for newlyweds. Dalat is a place for romance.

Dalat is in the central highlands, a six hour bus-ride from Saigon. The cost of the tickets is a pittance. The cost for the one star hotel, probably less. But it is beyond her reach and why it lives as her dream.

Shirly and Georgia put our Christmas tree up this past week and it looks fabulous. For the first time we will be without family for Christmas and it feels a little strange. But then we start thinking about Sara and our loss seems so trivial and insignificant.

We want to do something for Sara and her two children. We want Sara to live her dream and more. We want her children to have an opportunity to escape from their reality and have a chance for lives that take them beyond the city gates.

We want her children to have the dreams of childhood that we once had. Dreams that have a chance. Not dreams that are still-born at the moment of their conception.

The key to this is for the children to get a good education. A good education in Vietnamese and English. The ability to speak good English combined with a minimum grade 12 diploma will give them a chance. A chance to compete for something higher. An opportunity to meet other students who are being properly prepared for the future. An opportunity to aspire for something above and beyond what they know. A possibility of going to university.

Did you know that economists are predicting that by the year 2050, Vietnam will have a larger economy than Canada? With their work ethic, population size, and natural resources, this will probably happen. These two kids can be a part of that and we can give them their chance. We can make a real difference in the lives that they will lead. We can show them the value of helping others and working together for a better world.

With your help we can raise enough money to help fund their Vietnamese schooling and English language training. The plan is to put it into a trust fund that pays only to a school that the children attend. I can set that up here with HSBC. I’ve met a man who runs HSBC here in Saigon. He’s from Canada and lives on our compound. He will help us with the logistics.

This being the run up to Christmas, it is the perfect opportunity to tap those friends on the shoulder to contribute to Sara’s Christmas story. The beauty of Vietnam is that a dollar will go a long way.

Language classes at the best schools, ie, being taught by English speaking teachers cost approximately $100.00 U.S. (yes, we’re back to that) per student for three months. That’s approximately $500.00 per child per year, if they go year round. That’s $1000.00 per year for ten years for the two of them. Then there is regular school fees that must be paid. It’s a lot of money, but then there are a lot of us. I’m sending this to everyone I know. If each of you reach out and get five of your friends involved, we will make this happen.

Many of you have friends in the corporate world, some who own their own businesses, many of them influential and connected to others who are looking to make a difference. If you believe in a world of possibilities, if you believe that dreams can come true, then we can make this happen.

Feel free to share Sara’s story to others. If you could see the way she is in spite of her situation, it is awe inspiring. She is quick to smile and her face lights up with joy, which turns to bashfulness in her self consciousness. Standing in front of us in her bare feet, in clothes that would be turned away by Sally Ann. She makes me know that the stars were aligned in my favour when I was born. How lucky I was to have been born in Canada to the family I have. How lucky I have been to have had the parents that raised me. How lucky I was not to have been born in Vietnam. If not there but for fortune? How true it is.

The trip to Dalat can be done in a first class way for less than $300.00.

Apart from us giving bus tickets, hotel reservations, and money for food and miscellaneous spending, Sara will never have access to the funds. If she does, her husband will force her to give it to him. This can never happen. She cannot be put in a position where he can abuse and exploit her any more. The reason for a Trust fund.

Neither Shirl nor myself have done this type of thing before. We know that many of you have lots of experience in this area. We welcome all suggestions as to what should be done, could be done, etc. If you would like to give a gift of hope this year, then please join us in making this dream come to life.

We will be sending this out to over 100 people that we know. You are one of these lucky people. If you get just 5 of your friends involved, then we’re quickly at 500. If 500 people threw in $25.00, we will have the funds to turn Sara’s dream into reality.

John Lennon wrote a glowing song to his baby boy, Sean. In the song he has a great line, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”. Lets make a plan to help two young lives take a different path from the one they’re currently on. Let’s help their mother get on the bus to Dalat for that trip of a lifetime.

That is Sara’s story. We hope you will join up with us.



from Jack

I want to thank all of you who so kindly gave me feedback and suggestions as to the next step. After much discussion, we have decided that the best thing to do at this time is to try and get as many donations as we can, and then see if we can turn this into a longer term project for the future. Setting up non-profit societies, getting registered charity status, tax numbers etc, will take time and we can't do it from here in the time frame that we are looking at. As they say, strike while the iron is hot.

To that end, I would ask that you make out a cheque to me, ie, Jack Avery, and notate on the sbj line "donation for Sara's Kids". My esteemed brother-in-law, Wilf has kindly volunteered his time to collect the cheques and deposit them. Once he's deposited them, I will do an electronic transfer to HSBC here in Ho Chi Minh. I will give you all a full accounting of how much money we raise, and how the money is dispersed. You can feel good about your donation in that there will be no administration fees. Every penny will go to the recipients.

In terms of getting the money to Wilf, there are three ways of doing this. You can send it to him by mail. You can arrange to meet him and give it to him. If you are holding more than one cheque, ie, family, friends, etc, he has volunteered to come by and pick them up. Best way to reach Wilf is by email at He lives in Metro Vancouver.

The response to this has really amazed Shirl and I. People are sending her story to friends, who want to contribute etc. To all of you, we say many thanks for your generosity. Your contribution need not be a big one. If you can get some of your friends, associates, etc, to also contribute, then the amount will grow through the generosity of many. Like the seed that finds the crack in the sidewalk, maybe it will find life and surprise us.

Her story is a sad one, but in spite of her situation, she is quick to break out into a big, beautiful smile when you engage her in conversation. I will get a photo and post it in the near future so you can see what we mean.

That's it for now. Stay warm and dry. We think of you all at this time as Christmas nears

Salut..........Jack and Shirl.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hurricane Wayne

Wayne has been home since Friday night and you'd think a bomb had hit the house! While I enjoyed having everything clean and tidy in his absence, it really left not much trace of his presence. Now that he's there and in and out with Dora all the time, there are muddy paw prints on the foyer floor, dirty dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor of the know, guy stuff. And as much as those things themselves infuriate me, the novelty has yet to wear off. It's nice to see evidence of my man around our home. It's also nice to have someone else walk the dog, empty the dishwasher and make my breakfast. I'm really being spoiled.

Wayne's graduation was awesome. I got on my flights there and back - praise the Lord! - and we even got to spend time together on the Tuesday night before the ceremony on Wednesday. I took public transit from Montreal airport to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which, in the thick of a new storm system, took as long as getting from Vancouver to Montreal! But hey, I could have paid $140 to sit in the same traffic in a warm taxi, or a total of $12 (with transfers) to hop from bus to metro to bus to bus, and end up in the same place. It's not like I was busy doing anything else!

I have never felt cold like that, before. The day I left was -13C, and it's so dry. Standing at the bus stop for 30 mins. in that was less than ideal. But for my 2nd Lieutenant...anything! I'd better get used to the cold, especially if we are posted to Petawawa or Shilo next winter.

I shot video of the ceremony - thanks to Christy and Ryan for lending me their camcorder! (I'll return it to you Saturday when you come over) - but I am still trying to figure out how to get the video onto my P.O.C. (piece-of-crap) computer and then post it here. Argh. Afterward, I met all Wayne's platoon mates in the bistro and they are a great bunch. Wayne took me to a fancy Italian restaurant for supper, where many of the grads and their families ended up. It was so fun.

I am so proud of my man for getting through this phase. Even though he's being bombarded with questions everywhere we go now, he's being so gracious and loves to tell his funny stories. He came home with four certificates and three photos to frame, one of which is a professional image of him all greased up with his can paint and lying in the brush with his weapon. It's strangely scary but so cool at the same time. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to seeing him in that environment, but he sure loves it.

He doesn't have to be back in Gagetown, NB, until January 14, so we have a whole month together. I apologize in advance if you come over this holiday season and the house is less than stellar. But you'll have to deal with it; I've got more important things to occupy my time than cleaning. :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monthly (?) update - ha!

Yes, I'm still alive. I have officially received "complaints" about my blog tardiness (it can't be that interesting, honestly). So here I am, at 10:51 pm, procrasinating as I prepare to arise at 4:45 am tomorrow to head to Montreal for Wayne's graduation. Blech.

This month has been (and will continue to be) one of transition: I finished up at Coast Capital after being lured back to Focus on the Family Canada by a fancy new title and a one-year contract to cover the mat leave for the gal who took over for me when I left in March. I've been back a week and it's really like I never left.

***Random blurt: I just signed in to Internet Explorer and randomly some smooth jazz-type music automatically started playing. First it was "Autum Leaves," then "Popsicle Toes" by Diana it's some flamenco-type jazz guitar. It's awesome music but...where the heck is it coming from??? My computer has acquired an ear for good tunage! Should I be concerned?

I digress: In the theme of transition, I have painted the main floor of the house and a wall in the master bedroom (tip: one standard wall takes almost an ENTIRE gallon of red paint!), my dad spent the day here yesterday installing crown moulding (looks HOT!) and two IKEA floating shelves we've had for ages. Now, I get to see Wayne Wednesday (and possibly a brief visit at the base tomorrow night) and we hope he'll be heading home this weekend (if not, then next weekend) for 3 to 4 weeks.

My man has worked so hard these past 15 weeks, I can't wait to have him home just to dote on him hand and foot! It may sound lame, but he asked me last week, "What do you want to do first when I get home?" Know what I said? "Your laundry, make you supper, and sip a beer while we watch your episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger" (I bought him the entire box set for his bday). Yes, this is lame - why would I want to do his laundry? As much as chores suck the fun out of a day, I just can't wait to be needed again, to feel useful to the one I love, and to express love in practical ways. I may have had a different experince if I had never known the wholeness and unity of marriage thusfar - being alone in a home I call my own for four months may have had a different effect on me. But carrying around a heart heavy with longing for unscheduled and enduring connection has painted this experience in a more sombre light. True, I've enjoyed getting the house in order, bonding with my puppy, eating in front of the tv nightly (!), and shopping for only me and cleaning only one toilet (double HA!). Oh, and impromptu girls' nights rock, too. But to come home to everything the same as I left it (initially, a blessing), to come home to a dog I know I'm fully responsible for, to have no one to cook crazy new recipes for, to have no one to kiss my cheek goodnight and good morning...these things have been a little tough.

By no means am I diminishing the plight of others who've endured immeasurable heartache comparatively. However, I only have my life to live, and I only know what I know. And so far, this has been a flash in the pan of time, while simultaneously the longest four months of my life.

And it all ends this week. :)

EDIT: I wrote a longer conclusion with some meaningful points, but LOST IT in the preview box! Argh! Now you knwo why I blog so "frequently."

See you Friday!