Friday, May 28, 2004

"Fire, Police, or Ambulance?"

So.... yesterday was fun.

I started a fire in the kitchen.

And no, I didn't mean to.

It's a little hard to explain oven grills here in the UK, since I'd never really seen one til I was here. But just use your imagination. Anyway, I put a couple of frozen burgers on the grill, and apparently grease splattered onto the top of the grill (where the heat comes from), and caught fire. I'd just gone in to check on them when the fire actually started, so the alarm hadn't gone off yet. And yes, I saw flames and sorta panicked. But I did take a second to stop and think about what I'm supposed to do in such situations. I don't know if you've ever had an unplanned fire occur in your vicinity, but your initial reaction is to throw some water on it. However, I (thankfully) remembered, from my work in the food industry, that throwing water on a grease fire is never good. (Not to mention it was an electric grill.) I looked for a fire extinguisher in the laundry room (I coulda sworn I saw one in there before...but that could have been my old flat), but found the fire blanket instead. Aha! I know how to use a fire blanket! Not only do I know how to use one, I've been TRAINED TO USE ONE!

Now, the small difficulty was that I'd been taught to use one on a horizonal surface fire, (such as a pot...I learned in a big square-shaped um...metal thingy...) but the grill opening was vertical. Slightly tricky, but I was sure it could still work. So I place it around the opening, trying to seal the edges, and suffocate the fire. Hmm. No bueno. Try again. No salami.

Of course, by this time I was freaking out. The flames had spread to pretty much all the upper surface of the grill, and 3 of the EXTREMELY loud fire alarms in my flat were blaring. I had visions of burning down my entire flat, and the flats next door, upstairs, and downstairs. Heck, it might even take the whole block with it. So I thought I should maybe call the fire department.

I ran into the living room to get my mobile phone. And, as I suspected might be the case if ever an emergency happened over here, I did not remember the UK emergency number, because all I could think of was 911, since it had been INGRAINED IN MY BRAIN since childhood. (I think its 112 here. Or 999. Or something. They just changed it, either way. ) But I also remembered that apparently, 911 works here too, and is directed to whatever number it was that I couldn't remember. So I just dialed 911 and hoped that I wouldn't get an American answering the phone. ("San Bernadino Emergency Services, what is your emergency?") I propped the phone between my ear and shoulder and tried again to use the fire blanket, while on the phone.

Operator: "999, What is your emergency?" (999. I was close.)

Me: "Yes, I've got a grease fire in my grill in the kitchen...."

Operator:"Ma'am, do you need Police, Fire, or Ambulance?"

I am not joking. She actually asked me that.

Me: "Um, FIRE, please."

Operator: "Please hold..."


Oh hey, I put out the fire! Hurrah! By myself! While on the phone! I don't need no stinking firemen! HA!

New Operator: "Fire Brigade, what is the problem?"

Me: "Well I had a grease fire in my kitchen grill...."

Operator: "You have a grease fire in your kitchen, is that correct?"

Me:"Well, no, I had one. It's out now, I used a fire blanket, so...."

Operator: "We'll just send someone anyway, just for precaution. What is your address?"

From there, I calmly gave her my address, and she said someone would be there shortly. In the meantime, I opened the kitchen window to let out the smoke (which wasn't bad), got the broom handle to reset two of the alarms, and the ladder out to reset the one that I couldn't turn off with the broom handle. All this took me maybe two minutes, max. Just as I had all the alarms off, I hear sirens coming.

The big loud ones.

Just for me.

Had she not HEARD ME when I said that the fire was OUT?! It was EXTINGUISHED! I used the FIRE BLANKET for crying out loud! No need for the sirens, people!

I'd left my front door open (the stair cleaners were there, so I assume that's how they got in the bottom door) for them, and a fireman knocks, then comes barging in my door, all ready to attack. He actually seemed slightly disappointed that there was no fire. (Which I can somewhat understand, really. All that pomp and circumstance for nothing.) He inspects the grill, which was, of course, without fire at this point.

"Are you okay?"
, he asks me, in all seriousness. I really really wanted to laugh at this point. Or at least make up something for him, like I'd singed an eyebrow or something, but I figured that would be a bit too obvious. So I kept a straight face and told him I was fine.

"Fire team, stand down."
He says into his walkie-talkie.

For a minute or so, he seemed to be inspecting...nothing at all. Nope, still no fire. He looks at the grill a little longer. Nada. Then he said he needed to take some of my details. (I'm telling you, guys will go to great lengths to get my phone number.) He then talks again into the walkie-talkie:

"Team, can we get a few guys up here to ventilate?"

I couldn't understand the answer, but within a few seconds, I had THREE MORE firemen in my house, in their big yellow suits and all. Now, first of all, I've had more smoke in my flat before when I've burned toast. (And I've burned a lot of toast in my day, I can handle it.) I think most pubs are smokier than my flat was at that particular time. And the only smoke was in the kitchen, which is fairly large. There wasn't even any in the hallway. Third of all, the guy comes in, and asks the team leader:

"Angus, (or whatever his name was...they have a lot of Anguses here in Scotland), would you like some through-wind-back-double-covey-emu-ventilation?"

"Yeah thanks, Ian (because all the ones that aren't named Angus are usually called Ian. Or Scott...)."

The team then goes about opening EVERY SINGLE window in my flat, as FAR as it opened. That's 9 windows, including two that I'd already opened. Three men to open seven windows. Despite the fact that there was no smoke anywhere besides the kitchen, where I'd already opened the window. All to get this crazy-fancy-named kind of VENTILATION going through my flat. Why the big name? Why not: "Hey, Mac, how bout some air?" "Cool." "Ten-four."

I mean, now it's just getting silly, kids.

So he took my details, and the team left. I was so sad. You want to know why? I'll tell you why.

I wasn't even congratulated on my superior fire-fighting skills......

"Way to use that fire blanket, Mic."

"Those flames really never stood a chance against your swiftness of thought and movement."

"Those three days of firefighting training in the jungle in the Philippines really paid off, eh, Mic?!"

"We could use a girl like you on the team!"

I mean, any one of those would do. Kids these days. No one is encouraging anyone anymore. Granted, I should have cleaned the grease pan, which probably would have prevented the fire in the first place. But never mind that.

I fought the fire.

And I won.

I bet it was just their disappointment that there was no fire. I bet they get that a lot.


That must be it.

Thank you ,and goodnight.

Don't forget to tip your waitresses.


Michaela @11:45 PM :: Comment

Thursday, May 27, 2004

"There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's money loaned from your parents."

One grande Cappucino at Caffe Nero: 2.15 pounds.

One copy of The Scotsman newspaper: 60p

One library-loaned Shawn Colvin CD: 50p

One new pen for journal-writing: 2 pounds.

One precious day off, far from the maddening crowd:


Michaela @12:18 AM :: Comment

Friday, May 21, 2004

I'm practically famous...

You know, I've had a pretty long day, on the go from 7am-11pm. Totally shattered. So it has been nice to come home and find this.

(Yes, many of you will have already read a longer version of it. I edited it a bit.)

:) It made me happy.

Michaela @11:28 PM :: Comment

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sorry for the lack of posting, folks, but this week has been really busy! Busy means its going by fast though, which is also good. I'm definitely ready for this term to be over. Bring on the summertime!

In case you are wondering, however, here are a few links I've been reading recently that I've found to be greatly encouraging:

Onward, Christian Soldiers:
(A great little article from Newsweek on the growth of the Chinese Christian Church. I still have a great love for that place.)

Desiring God Ministries:
(This is the website for John Piper's ministry. It's just good stuff, bottom line. Check out the "topic index" for some quality reading.)

Enjoy. :)


Michaela @11:41 PM :: Comment

Monday, May 17, 2004

In "Altared" Worship

Oh Love divine, how sweet thou art!
When shall I find my longing heart
All taken up by thee?
I thirst, I faint, and die to prove
The greatness of redeeming love,
The love of Christ to me.

God only knows the love of God
Oh that it now were shed abroad
In this poor stony heart!
For love I sigh, for love I pine;
This only portion, Lord, be mine
Be mine this better part

(Charles Wesley)

I don't think I'm an overly moody person, most of the time. I'm probably "average" moody. At least for a girl. But I easily let myself get wrapped up in one thing someone has said, or has not said, or one moment, even one that should have been forgotten. So I sulk for the rest of the day - sometimes days on end - which is just childish.

I went to work tonite in a foul mood, for many reasons. Sometimes things get better if I take a walk, and think on things, but the walk - even in the beautiful weather of today - just made things worse. (There's nothing good about over-thinking things.) So I showed up at church for a meeting that I thought started at 6, only to find out that it didn't start til 7:30. The rector, Robert, saw me out of the manse window and invited me in for a cup of tea. He's a good guy, a Canadian, and we hadn't had much of a chance to chat before. So he kept me entertained til 6:30, when he unlocked the church and let me hang out there, since he had to leave. (I was also accompanied by a book of T.S. Eliot poems and another of Jack Gilbert, which he let me borrow.) I didn't end up reading either, though.

St. James is a beautiful little church. The only light in the sanctuary came from one small tea candle, hanging above the altar, and from the stained-glass windows. It's an old stone church, with hard wooden benches, and embrodiered pew cushions made by the faithful old ladies of the church - which make up most of the present congreation. Churches like this remind me of how much many of our modern churches- plain in their large stages and off-white walls, and comfortable, connecting chairs-miss. There's nothing wrong with these churches. Back home, I attend one of these myself. But there is a sense of awe and wonder that can only be found in these old churches. There is a sense of "otherness", a sense of complete sanctuary and rest that can be more easily found in these. The sanctuary at my church back home could just as easily be a large school auditorium. In these churches - with their intricate wooden ornamentation, their stained-glass, their red carpeting and wooden floors, their high-vaulted ceilings - there is no mistaking their purpose.

I'm not one to say that God prefers one over the other, or that one does a better job of pleasing the Lord. God is pleased in both, and sometimes in neither. But until I came over here, and discovered the beautiful (albiet rather empty) old churches and chapels, I didn't undertand the relatively new attraction by young people to more traditional services, to the liturgy and communion and hymns that were passed over for many years (and still are, in many places) by the "seeker-sensitive" movement. The postmodern age has brought about a time where people are searching for something that looks as other-worldly as it feels, seems separate from this world, rather than a "spiritual clone" of it. They are less interested in the familiar, and more interested in the sacred. Many say this is a major reason the Islamic religion is growing more than ever - young people see a dedication and sacred-ness that much of the Christian church has forgotten about, in their drive to make themselves look more like the world.

I sat there for a long time, in the back pew, not sure what to do. I didn't want to leave, I knew that much. I wanted to write, but I wasn't sure what to write. I wanted to pray, but I wasn't sure what to pray. Eventually, I picked up the smaller hymnal from the shelf: "Hymns, Ancient and Modern, Revised". (Number 67.) The year is not included, but my guess is that it is at least 40 to 50 years old. It has that smell.

There's something both intimidating and wonderful about singing by yourself, in an empty church. I knew no one could hear me, but I felt like everyone could. I guess in the end I couldn't really help myself. A church like that is a bit like the shower - it makes everyone sound good, with its echo. I opened it to number 361....

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord to thee;
Take my moments, and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless prais.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of thy love
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for thee.

Over the past 2 or 3 years, I've grown to love old hymns more and more. I love that they have been sung for so many years, by so many believers. I love that they often speak the truth of the church and of worship much better than many modern worship songs. This is one of the ones I love.

Take my will, and make it thine:
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart: it is thine own;
It shall be thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord I pour
At thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only all for thee.

I'm so rarely this passionate, so rarely this recklessly abandoned to His will. I am so often selfish and discontent. I almost found it difficult to sing, knowing how messy and stained I am. But as I sang, verse after verse, which became song after song, I more fully understood that it is not something I can do on my own. He takes my will, and He shapes it to his. One day, it will fully be so. Until then, I am moving toward.

And even when I hit the wrong notes, He smiles, shows his abundant grace, corrects, and asks me to keep singing.

Michaela @12:00 AM :: Comment

Friday, May 14, 2004

Just so you know, in preparation for my transfer to the new blog, I'll be trimming down a LOT of the links I have. Please don't take this personally. I still love you.

Michaela @10:18 PM :: Comment

Yesterday I paid a visit to the ladies staff toilet at Liberton High School. Once again, I was stranded without toilet paper.

I really should start carrying my own.

I'm beginning to see a pattern developing, here.

Michaela @2:36 PM :: Comment

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Do me a favor?

Nick Pickrell (of Gametime fame) was one of my good friends in high school. Nick remains one of the funniest people I've ever known -- securing that place by running, full-force, into the lightposts in and around Circular Quay and Darling Harbor, in Sydney, Australia.

Why? Because it was hysterically funny. He made it look like he was just running, and not looking at where he was going. He came close to seriously injuring himself sometimes. I'm pretty sure he broke his glasses at least once. One of my favorite memories from that missions trip to Australia was him doing this routine in front of a large group of 5-6 year olds, getting out of a bus on a trip of some sort.....and 2 old ladies sitting on a bench near the kids. Nick does his thing, and one of the ladies said - loud enough for us and the 5-6 year olds to hear - "Holy S---t!" Oh man. We could hardly contain ourselves, even while we were trying to make it look like we were surprised that Nick had hurt himself. (It became a routine....all of us were involved in the act.)

Another of my favorite Nick moments also happened in Sydney. If you've ever been to Circular Quay, near the Opera House, you know that there are a fair number of street performers. Well, Nick and his friend Matt had run out of money. So they came up with a great plan. The decided to sing on the street, leaving a hat out for change from passers-by. (I've since been informed that they would have needed a permit for this. Luckily, they were not arrested.) So they stood there for quite a long time, singing, with the hand motions: "With Christ As My Vessel (I Can Smile at the Storm)" Over and over, with the hand motions, leaving out words, and everything.

Now, what you might also know (if you've been there), is that there are a fair number of seagulls that hang around. Amazingly enough, one of these fine birds felt the need to do a "Number Two"....right on Nick's forehead, dripping down towards his nose.

What did Nick do?

What any noble and brave young man would do.

He left it there.

And kept singing: "With Christ As My Vessel (I Can Smile At The Storm)".


Why do I tell you all of this? For good reason, I assure you. Please go visit Nick's blog, which can be found HERE. (Or on my links at the right.) You don't even have to read anything. Just listen to the song playing. I beg of you. It's hysterical. It may take a while to load, especially if you are on dial-up, as I am. But its worth it.

You'll all be happy to know, you can get a used copy of that single started at the low low price of $99 on Amazon. (Seriously.)

You're welcome.


P.S. Today I discovered that there is an actual place called "Two Buttes, Colorado". Call me juvenile, but you can't deny, that's just funny.

(There are apparently no children in Two Buttes, according to this site. Not that this surprises me. They'd be scarred for life. )

Michaela @12:00 AM :: Comment

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Today, kids, we are going to talk about POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.

My day has been good. Why? Mostly due to the fact that two of my work superiors - youth workers that I look up to and admire - told me that I do a good job. They probably didn't think it would make the huge difference to me that it did. (And does - one of them is my interim college tutor, and I've been extremely grateful for his encouragement over the past few months. ) My tutor simply sent a 3 line email in response to my weekly report that I sent him. The beginning of it said: "Once again you have found a way of improving youth work, and as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The other came from a teacher that I work alongside, teaching Religious Education classes in a juvinile detention centre. It may sound a bit daunting, but its honestly one of the highlights of my entire week. I love those kids. But before I left, she said, "Thanks again for coming. You really have a way with them."

On the walk (and bus ride) home, I was nearly giddy. They think I am a good youthworker!

I think part of my feeling this is because its been in great contrast to a horrible management meeting I had the other week. I walked into the meeting thinking that I'd done a pretty good job that week - I've been working at adjusting my time management to incorperate a whole new 10 hour work placement on top of my usual 20ish hour placement and my college classes. In that meeting, I was told more or less that my organization skills were pants (a statement that, while not unfounded, was extremely unfair considering what I was being yelled at for) and that because of my organizational skills, all my "good" youthwork, face to face with kids, is completely worthless and underminded. I was literally in tears, in the middle of that cafe where the meeting was.

I'm not normally one to ignore constructive cristisim. I certainly do not write this to brag about how great a youthworker I am, because I could write a book about where my faults lie. But the points my line manager was making were completely unfounded. It was a matter of priorities, more or less. What I felt was a very very minor priority, I had waited to act on, while I was working on much more pressing issues, such as summer missions and weekends away. I tend to speak my mind, even in tears, and I did so. What resulted was both sides understanding the other a little better. It was the first time I've heard my manager really admit mistake, and say that he would try and change for the better. That was a different kinda way.

But it was still a downer for a few days. This is why today was good.

Last night, I ran into one of my favorite girls, Nikki, outside the chippie. Nikki acted all hard when I first met her at the Youth Cafe, but as I've gotten to know her, she's proved to be an absolute sweetheart. She asked to borrow money for some chips, and of course I lent it to her. (I fully trust she'll try to pay me back on Friday.) At the end, she gave me a big hug. "That's the first time I've ever hugged you!" she said. "It's cool, I love hugs!" "Really? Well then..." And she gave me another big hug. Everytime I see one of my kids like Nikki, its an encouragement to me.

On the way to the chippie, I was walking with Neil, who is an 18-year-old guy who helps lead the youth group. He's been an apprentice chef for the past year, after he left school. We were talking about professions, why I got into youth ministry, and about how difficult it is to be a Christian in the resturant business, and how he wants to do something meaningful with his job, instead of just cooking food for people.

"It's about passion, isn't it? Doing something that you are passionate about - that you know will make a difference", Neil said.

"Yeah. That's pretty much it."

I don't always love my job. There are things I don't like, there are people, young and old, that I find difficult to work with. But at the end of the day, God has blessed me with people who are, whether they know it or not, greatly encouraging me. I pray that I will be equally encouraging to those around me. I know it is something that I often forget.

"Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thess 5:11)

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Heb 3:13)

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." (2 Thess. 2:16-17)

Michaela @11:08 PM :: Comment

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

"New in Marketing: Disposible Undergarment Memories"

I like it when my flatmate gets those blue tablet things that you put in the toilet bowl to make the water blue.

Why do I like it?

Because blue plus yellow equals green.

Honestly, this is really the only reason anyone buys those things. There's no way that they actually keep your toilet any cleaner than a little bleach would. But yellow plus clear only makes YELLOW and that's not new and exciting, IS IT?! It doesn't make your toilet smell any nicer, either. Or at least, not from where I'm smelling my toilet from. I try not to get my nose too close, to be honest. If this is a problem for you, you probably need a little more help than those blue tablet flusher thingys can really give you.

It's okay to just like that you can turn the toilet water new colors. It's okay to get excited that your pee somehow makes a difference in this world: that something that was one color is now a NEW COLOR. The baby industry has this down to a science....

You know those diapers that make cool designs show up when they are "full"? (Do they still make those?) I would totally buy those if they made them in adult sizes. Maybe not now, I guess, but in about 60 years when I will need them again. That would be awesome. Especially if they could make designs that could harken back to my youth, giving me fond memories in my old age. Prehaps these Designer Depends could have little pictures of Vanilla Ice, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Sesame Street, or "TOTALLY" Minnie. Maybe they could even make things like "Class of 2000!" or "GO JAGUARS!" to remind us fondly of our high school days. Those of you who played sports could get your old uniform numbers. And for some of you, we could even make the "Chess Team: Its not just for losers anymore!" or "DB8+4N6 Team RULZ!" (If you got that last reference, you win a gold star.)

Okay I'm sorry, this is getting out of hand.

I still want those cool diapers though.

For now I will stick to my blue-green toilet water.

Michaela @11:38 PM :: Comment

Sunday, May 02, 2004

"The World Forgetting, By The World Forgot..."

I did not go to Alton Towers. Honestly, I just wasn't feeling up to it. I needed a couple days recharge, instead of just wearing myself out more. Sore throats and headaches abound this weekend. I've been okay though.

In celebration of saving all that money, I decided to spend just a little of it. Hooray for Ella and Louie and Duke, for under a fiver, total.

But even better... I saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", which I've been waiting forever to see.

Its been said already (namely by Meg), but this movie really is great. I'm a big fan of Charlie Kauffman's work in general anyway, but this movie is just plain class. I like smart movies, and this one is smart, while not getting too confusing or dark. It's full of simply beautiful subtleties, details that are perfectly executed. (I loved how all the books went blank when "The Speech" scene ends, in Barnes and Noble, and how the "forgetting" starts in the flea market with just one sign behind them going blank. How perfect was that?)

I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't seen it, but I did love how the ending was done, too. It's one of those movies that you can sorta predict from the trailers ("Well, of course they'll end up together again....right?"), but I just loved how it happened. It's a movie that doesn't overlook the ugliness and the messiness of love and relationships and of being with someone - it does not romanticise romance. I think that's part of its beauty though. The casting is perfect. I'd have never thought to put Kate Winslet in that role, but I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job. And Carrey too - I've always been a fan of the funny folks playing "straight" roles. (See: Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting"...)

I often like going to movies alone, but I wished there were someone next to me to discuss it with afterwards. It made me happy to be in love though...I think that if I weren't, I'd have left with that longing. You leave wanting to enjoy those moments with someone, the good and the bad ones.

I highly recommend you go see it.


P.S. Dear Ladies Who Wear Too Much Mascara - Please stop. Really. It's annoying. If you get more than 1.5 layers of mascara on those eyelashes, they start to look like spiders. I have a tendency to smash spiders. So this advice is really for your own benefit and safety. Thank you.

P.P.S. Dear Men, Women and Children Who Wear Jackets and/or Shoes with Zippers or Laces That Go Off To The Side, Instead Of Straight: You too. Stop. Totally unnecessary. It's not cool, and it never has been, it just looks like you put your clothes on the wrong way, like the way your grandpa used to button up his cardigan and missed one button at the top, so the whole thing went wrong. That's what you look like. No, seriously. Remember Kris-Kross? You know how RIDICULOUS they looked, wearing everything backwards?

I'm just sayin.

Michaela @9:59 PM :: Comment

"In the city you will find that the poor and the broken are often much, much more open to the idea of Gospel grace and much more dedicated to its practical outworkings than you are." (Tim Keller)

"Always On Your Side" by Sheryl Crow