Friday, August 07, 2015

Beartooth Plateau

Returning to “God’s country” is always a joy. This is true, in part, because of the people there and, in part, because of the country itself. Now that I am in Spokane, I am not sure what will happen with this blog. But until I figure that out, here are some photos of a recent hike on the Beartooth Plateau, with one of the greatest hiking partners a person could have, Mother Mary.

Here’s the view just below Sheepherder Lake, looking up at the Plateau.


This is the view that awaited us on the other side of the Plateau.

Looking down into the Rock Creek Canyon and at the Beartooth Highway (Red Lodge side) switchbacks.



Here the canyon has turned, but you can still see the Rock Creek road in the lower right corner. The lakes are Emerald, Lower Glacier, and Glacier. To the upper right of the lakes is Spirit Mountain, with the Bear’s Tooth hidden in the background.


While on top of the world we encountered a herd of 15(!) mountain goats, one of which was a little-too-curious-for-comfort. He came within ten feet of me before deciding I wasn’t worth much to him… thankfully.


The goats let me stalk them for the next hour or so, not caring that I was within 25-40ft. of them the whole time.

Do the Beartooth Mountains get any better than this?



On the other side of the Plateau was this view. Not bad at all.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A New Normal

Did I ever tell you about the time that I moved to Spokane, where I would (fingers crossed) spend the rest of my adult life? I didn’t? Hm. Well, allow me…

My passport was stamped for the final time on my re-entry to the States on June 25th. US Customs never smelled so nice. From then I spent one week in Minnesota, visiting friends, squeezing the niece and nephew, unpacking my Scotland life, repacking my pre-Scotland and post-Scotland lives, and, with the help of Stan, a master woodworker down the road, building a dining table (see finished product in photos below).

On the weekend of the 4th, we loaded the moving truck with my meager possessions I’ve collected around the world. After six months of waiting, I was finally heading west… beyond Cooke City. As of today, I have been in Washington for two weeks, and they’ve been two weeks of chaos, introductions, details, shopping, heat, exploring, ‘Craigslisting’, hiking, and nesting. It’s been a full two weeks. And as of 2.5 hours ago, I am now an official resident of Washington. When they punched a hole in my MN license, they also punched a hole in my heart. I love Minnesota and am proud to be known and recognized as Minnesotan. How long will it be before people stop guessing whether I’m from Minnesota or Canada? The day someone can’t recognize my accent will be a sad day. The last major task now to be accomplished is switching my car plates—another bittersweet day.

Alas, I am so grateful to be here that even the thought of giving up Minnesota is positively bearable. 

I have a dream job.

I have an unbelievably spacious office.

I have a quiet and clean apartment.

I have new friends whom I won’t be saying ‘goodbye’ to in 2-4 years.

I have a paycheck!! (Well, I will sometime this month, anyway!)

I have mountains, rivers, and lakes (not to mention Cooke City!) at my finger tips.

God. Is. Good.

Today was Day #1 of my new normal, which means only that I spent the day in the office actually working on class syllabi and lectures. Life is good.

Here are a few pictures of my new flat apartment. It’s just what I was hoping for.

Notice my homemade table!


Isn’t it pretty?!





I also have a spare bedroom and bed, so guests are always welcome!!

Someday I’ll show you a picture of my office, when the all-white walls get some color on them and when my books look less like the victims of an earthquake. Probably around this time next year. :)

And here’s a photo from Northern Idaho, from a 1-day, 12-mile hike I did with several other professors last week. We were just a few miles from the Canadian border. It was a beautiful introduction to the surrounding landscapes.


I think I’ll like it here. :)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

My Last Day

My life as I know it is nearly finished. By the time you will be reading this, mom and dad will have descended upon my territory and claimed it as their own playground for the next three weeks. I don’t begrudge them, since they’re letting me join in their fun. But it does mean that my life in Scotland, as I’ve known it for the last 3.5 years, is over.

In some ways that makes me happy; in some ways it makes me sad.

Since I’ll probably be posting photos of the crazy adventures I plan to take mom and pops on, I figured I’d do a final post about these final weeks of normalcy. Though, even these last few weeks can’t truly be classified as ‘normal’, since I’ve been filling it with all kinds bucket-list and end-of-season events.

- My PhD colleagues and I had our final seminar session. This semester we’ve been studying in-depth Paul’s letter to the Philippians (this was great not least because I’m teaching Philippians in the fall!). Normally the seminar is held at St Mary’s College, but the final session was held in celebration at Professor Wright’s house. We studied the text and then finished with a great meal and lots of laughs. I will miss this element of the PhD life.

Notice my minority status.


- I also completed my work as the University of St Andrews Study Skills Tutor. For the last three years I have tutored literally hundreds (an average of 10 students per week) of undergraduate and postgraduate students on how to write essays, manage their time, read effectively, etc. This job has been one of the highlights of my time here in St Andrews. Last week the department had a going away party for myself and another colleague, which finished with twelve of us at a restaurant.

- Judith and I have been ticking boxes on the bucket list, and over the last two weeks we ticked two pretty big boxes: Falkland Palace and The St Rule Club. Falkland village and Palace have been on the list for some time, but it took my impending departure to make them finally happen (per usual). The Palace, once lived in by Mary Queen of Scots, was a treasure of history and very interesting to walk around in. No photos were allowed, unfortunately.

That same day, though, there was a local castle/estate open to the public for the annual display of their Montana Clematis exhibition. And Judith loves gardens, so we cruised up the coastline to it. The exhibition (and gardens in general) did not disappoint. The garden wall was covered yard after yard after yard with flowers.


And the Blue Bells were absolutely stunning.


- Judith and I have also often talked about having lunch at her club: The St Rule Club. At its inception it was the female-only version of the Royal and Ancient golf club, which was male-only up until last year, and it remains that way. To give a sense of the type of club it is, I was not allowed to wear tennis shoes or jeans inside, and, once inside, we had a drink at the window before being seated at our table.


You can look for them when you watch the British Open on TV this July. They’ll be standing in their Clubhouse waving at the film crews across the 18th Green of the Old Course: the most famous green in the entire world. You can see the stands, screens, and tents erected for the Open. The ladies have quite the view!


In just one day from now mom and dad will be here. I’m looking forward to playing tour guide and to having my own break from St Andrews as we travel about  the countryside. If the sun shines some and the rain isn’t constant, I expect it will be a great trip. Photos to come!

Friday, May 15, 2015


Being the epitomic Type A personality that I am, I not only have a bucket list of to-dos for my final weeks here in Scotland, but the list is a literal list. If it was just confined to the dark recesses of my mind, I would fail to get the satisfaction from crossing items off the list. And that satisfaction, my friends, to a true Type-A personality, is almost better than the doing of the activities themselves.

Two nights ago I was able to cross one thing off the list: seeing the blue bells of Craigden. On a whim, Judith and I decided to head into the woods, declaring that if it didn’t happen just then, while the sun was out and the night was free, it probably wouldn’t happen. I’m glad that it did.

The blue bells were stunning, covering the woodland floor like carpet.  Craigden is a stretch of woods that runs along the Ceres Burn about twenty miles from St Andrews. It’s an off-the-beaten-path kind of place that only locals know about, and even then many are less enlightened than others. A guarded secret, and I can see why.



We invited Holly Pops to come along for the ride. An invitation she gladly accepted.



Along the way we met these munchkins. Aren’t they sweet?


Sometimes it’s the spontaneous, unplanned, on-a-whim adventures that hold the most memories.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

London 101

As it turns out, the first class  train car is just as good headed north as it is headed south. I’m home now, and, while London in all its glory is fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it, the quiet streets of St Andrews are equally as glorious and welcomed. I had a great week with Mungo; that is, anyway, other than upon discovering he had peed on the corner of a bed whilst I wasn’t looking. Twice, mind you. Great dog sitter I am. Keep that in mind if you ever are in Spokane and need a dog sitter!

I won’t inundate you with narrative ad nauseam; just a few photos of highlights. I begin with the Major himself--Mungo Pug. We  had walks morning and afternoon in Clapham Commons, the area of Greater London where William Wilberforce and other like-minded abolitionists lived.


Between morning studying and walks and evening walks and studying,  I explored The City.

The London Eye


Trafalgar Square



In the business district, there are more men in suits on one street at any given time than I’ve ever encountered anywhere at any time. Architecturally, though, it boasts a smooth mingling of the old with the new.  I quite liked it.


St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge


Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I took in Romeo and Juliet… from the yard (i.e. standing, in one place, in the sun, for far too long… but for 5 quid!) Sadly, no photos were allowed once actors took to the stage.



Harrods. I managed to walk around for twenty minutes or so. Finding a jacket I loved, I decided it was time to get back to the streets. The jacket was 500x the price of Romeo and Juliet. I’ve acquired a taste for the expensive since moving here, obviously.


Instead I wandered through the Natural History Museum. Fantastic, and free! But not fantastic because it is free. Just fantastic because it is fantastic. Fantastic in and of itself. You get the point.

The building is gorgeous, and, had I the time, the displays could have captivated my interest for the day. But Mungo wouldn’t have appreciated it. I did manage to check out the huge cross-section of a Redwood, as you can see in the upper right corner of the below photo.  Also note the dinosaur on the floor. Fantastic, I tell you!


In fact, the entire dinosaur display was fantastic. And it was even more so whence I stumbled upon this ditty:

Montana meets London!


Parliament and Big Ben. Did you know ‘Big Ben’ refers to one of the bells in the clock tower, rather than the tower itself?


St. Pancras Hotel. Beautiful!


I liked London. It is classy, ornate, contemporary, and has everything a person could want. That is, besides peace and quiet, and empty sidewalks, and roads without traffic, and the ability to walk everywhere, and the whole small town feel that makes a person raised in the woods feel sane. But besides that, London’s great!

I had a good week. And though I was ready to say goodbye to the city, I wasn’t terribly keen on bidding farewell to this guy. Knowing that departure day from Scotland is now less than two months away, it was one of many final farewells to come.


Mom and dad arrive five weeks from today. That’s five weeks of the Scotland life I’ve known for 3.5 years.

Cue the official start of Transition Time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A First Class Life

First class is the way to travel. Having just been served lunch with a side of as much Black Forest cake and coffee as I wish, I feel a bit like royalty. Too bad the journey from St Andrews to London is only five hours. As we’re currently at Newcastle Station, I’ve got 2.5 hours to eat my fill of chocolate goodness.

I’m heading to London to spend the week looking after Cousin Mungo, while Ronald, Judith’s son, is away on a business trip. As my dear mom often reminds me, ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’. In my world it’s a bit of both, but the point is taken. I have a week ahead of playing tourist, with very nice and very free accommodation, a wee pug at my side, and a first class train ticket generously purchased by Ronald in my name to make it all happen. Am I lucky, or what? 

Cousin Mungo

IMG_9031 - Copy

It won’t be all fun and games, though. The work must still get done, particularly now that I’m down to a mere two months  before I say ‘adios’ to Scotland for good, and only six weeks before my mom and dad start flashing their passports in their race to see me. So I’ll spend my early mornings working away, followed by afternoons of London extravaganzas (i.e. walking around and taking in free or very cheap attractions), followed by evenings at home with Mungo and the computer.

The viva feels like ages ago now. My days are again consumed by early morning till late afternoon study sessions, adding, tweaking, and revising sections of the thesis. As discouraging as it is to still have things to do, I’ve been very encouraged these last few weeks, and have been reminded of God’s grace in all of my life’s pursuits. The viva examiners’ reports where strongly encouraging. One examiner wrote that my thesis is perhaps ‘more intellectually ambitious than any [he has] ever examined or supervised’. Elsewhere they called it ‘theologically ambitious’. And, because it is so ‘ambitious’, they’ve requested special permission for me to have an additional 20,000 words to use in order to sustain the argument. That means that I don’t have to take out anything from the current thesis but that my thesis ultimately will be 100,000 words when it would have been the standard 80,000 words—a huge increase.  The beautiful thing is that, everything they’ve requested I add to the thesis now is what I had already anticipated adding for publication purposes at a later date.  I’m just being forced to do it now rather than then—a long-term benefit to me.

And in the midst of trying to wrap up things here in the United Kingdom, I’m increasingly looking forward to my transition to Spokane. How can I not do so, when I get notes like these from future colleagues:

‘Let it be a comfort to you to remember that you're coming into a maximally supportive situation here at Whitworth and in our department.  Everyone is rooting for you. . . . There's no doubt that you're going to flourish once you arrive here’.

And: ‘We're excited for you to arrive. There is quite a buzz among the students about you!’

Changes are afoot!  I’m riding first class on a train, but I’m pretty sure I’m also living a first class life.

As ever, stay tuned for photos of Londonland!

Monday, March 30, 2015

slow and steady

Judith, my landlady, just served me a Drambuie on the rocks.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in celebration.

The viva lasted three hours today—three long but surprisingly enjoyable hours. The examiners pressed me hard on a number of my arguments, and my answers were not too shabby. Nevertheless, the result wasn’t what I had hoped it might be. Though my answers in the viva were all that one can expect for an oral exam, they felt the thesis itself is in need of some further work before it can be considered complete. Though my supervisor felt the thesis was in good shape, the examiners had other opinions. This was perfectly within the realm of possibilities, just not what I’d hoped for, nor what my supervisor expected. 

But, all is well. I already have a job, which in itself is quite the feat, and the PhD will get finished. I’ll just need to spend some additional months making that happen. The plus side is that I would have spent these months working on the thesis anyway, in preparing it for publication. Now  it will be closer to publication readiness and probably a whole lot sooner, as well.  I’m taking a bit of a detour before finishing, but slow and steady still wins the race, or at least still finishes the race. And that’s all I care about.

Thanks for all your prayers, love, and encouragement during this process. It is truly the most trying thing I’ve ever done. I’m disappointed that it will continue for a while longer, but will be glad to have a better final product in the end.