Twenty-Two Flights of Stairs

Quick link: Daunted Yet Determined

Today I’m writing at Brain Child about climbing 22-flights of stairs on the day I gave birth to twins. Yeah. Want to know what that was like and what it taught me?


The day I gave birth to twins I walked down twenty-two flights of stairs. I was twenty-two years old. We lived on the twenty-second floor of an apartment building in downtown Minneapolis. The building had two elevators that were often broken and on July 26, 2000 both were broken. I was thirty-eight weeks pregnant and roughly the size of a beluga whale. Stretch marks crisscrossed my stomach in between faded temporary tattoos of stars and planets, and blue ink marks where my husband had drawn a map of the world, boundaries of continents loosely guided by the stretch marks.

If these babies didn’t come out soon my stomach might explode. My belly button had long ago spread flat and had been turned into an imaginary mid-Atlantic island on the map. I ate meals with my plate balanced on top of my belly. I wore a dress my mom sewed for me. I called it a dress because it had flowers but it was a tent with holes cut out for my head and arms…


Click here to read the rest: Daunted Yet Determined

Let’s Go Flaneuring in Kansas City, USA

Today’s Flaneuring post comes from the center of the USA, as fascinating a place as any. I love being able to see the similarities and differences between blocks all over the world. And one of the fabulous things about looking at our cities with flaneuring eyes is that everything is unique, worth noting. Take a walk with Ashlee Englund around Kansas City, Kansas.

A couple miles from my house, across the parking lot from Chick-fil-A and Culvers, a senior-living apartment complex is rising from the construction dust. Three cement-block stairwells stand empty and alone like medieval castle turrets. At the top of one perches a white pole with a blue flag proudly declaring “KC.” I first noticed this after the Kansas City Royals—our own baseball team—clinched the American League division title.

But before I continue, two facts perhaps need to be established. First, baseball is somehow woven into the fabric of what it means to be American—like pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and almost as essential as the pledge of allegiance. And, second, in my memory, the Royals have been bad—so bad that some years Kansas City baseball only made national news for being in last place. There’s something demoralizing about living year after year of this.

And I should know. I was born and raised here, in a suburb of the city.

But now, there’s a breath of something new. Who knew so many people owned blue baseball caps and Royals t-shirts?

Royals Church SignA church sign in my neighborhood reads, “Royals=David, Giants=Goliath, We know how this ends.” In the grocery store parking lot, a white canvas tent provides a temporary marketplace for the team’s postseason gear. Long sleeve shirts in brilliant blue swing on hangers in the October breeze.

In fact, the words “baseball” and “October” haven’t been said in the same sentence about the Kansas City Royals since 1985. I recently told a friend at work, “I feel like I’ve been plucked up and placed in an alternate reality where we have a good baseball team.”

Preparing to wire money on an errand for work, I entered the bank and saw that it was blue day for them, just like me. Game one of the World Series was that night. Out of four women behind the desks to my left, at least three wore the right color. Both managers in the glass-walled offices wore Royals’ shirts. And as I was leaving, one of them said, “We’re going to win tonight, aren’t we?”

“We’d better!” I answered.

He made an x with his fingers. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

It’s inspiring in the best of ways. There’s a surge of pride, a sense of community between me and that stranger at the gas station with the blue KC hat. Look, he’s a Royals fan, too. I love you, man!

But this 2014 fall season brings with it something else, in addition to startling baseball and beautiful leaves in reds, yellows, and purples. This is an election year, the off year in between presidential elections where other offices at the state and national level are filled.

Across the four-lane street from our house is an apartment complex—several multi-family dwellings enclosed by a black metal fence. A couple of their political signs are ok, but then there is that other sign—the one with three red “vote” cards added for emphasis for that would-be senator whom I hope loses. I don’t like it.

When I play my online radio station at home and at work, I keep hearing the same ad for the candidate running against our governor. They even have a poor picture of the current governor in black and white, trying to convince me of all the reasons I shouldn’t vote for him. I don’t like it.

Last Sunday night, we were gone from home for about an hour and a half. As we neared our house, I saw them: political signs in my neighbor’s yard, sprouting like mushrooms while we were gone. And they were for the other party. Inside, I felt the barriers rise; I plan to vote the exact opposite way. You mean he’s on their side?!

But then a thought came to me. If given the chance, could I cheer on the Royals alongside my neighbor? Or, in other words, could I overlook our differences and focus on our similarities for a common goal? I was relieved to discover that, yes, I think I could.

That is the story of this strange dance called life. There are multiple times in myriads of situations where we have to choose to overlook what divides and focus on what unites us to work together. Special thanks to the Royals and to my politically-minded neighbor for reminding me.


Ashlee Englund is an administrative assistant at a non-profit by day, and a wife, God-follower, homemaker, and reader all the time. She loves considering life and sometimes writes about the connections she sees. She is one of the writers featured in a quarterly devotional, Opening the Word. She can be reached by email at ae_englund(at)yahoo(dot)com or you can find her at

*image thanks to Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, KS

18 Things To Do When There Is No Electricity

  1. Watch a movie until the battery on the computer dies.
  2. Light candles and do homework.
  3. Look at the stars and try to find or create our own constellations.
  4. Go for a drive.
  5. Make popcorn with a candle for lighting and eat it while sitting outside in the dark with the neighbors telling folktales and watching the kids play ghosts in the graveyard.
  6. Bake cookies. Unless your stove only works when plugged in.
  7. Cry.
  8. Play board games.
  9. Go outside, go for a walk, exercise but hopefully the power will come on by the time you finish or you won’t be able to take a shower.
  10. Go swimming. Eat something but shut that fridge door quickly.
  11. Sing and play guitar and laugh at the out of tuneness of the guitar and our voices.
  12. Perform a play and don’t worry about the acting, no one can see you anyway.
  13. Tickle the kids.
  14. Tell them a story, or rather, have Tom tell them a story.
  15. Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.
  16. Pray for a house with a generator, an automatic generator.
  17. Tell your husband you won’t live for another month in Djibouti without an automatic generator.
  18. Praise God for answered prayer (the power is back and your next house will have that generator).


*image via Flickr

Ebola and Africa, Fear and Risk

Quick link: No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

Ebola is really terrible and Africa is really big and, unfortunately, I need to say this again: Africa is not a country.

Today I’m writing at Babble about Ebola and living with my family on the continent where Ebola is. It is not in our country of residence. Ebola is really serious and I don’t want to skirt around that. There are also huge and horrifying future possibilities if the disease spreads. Many nations, Djibouti included, are likely not prepared for a full-fledged outbreak. Health workers and politicians and average citizens need to take this seriously, to react appropriately, and to make wise decisions.


At the same time, being asked if we are leaving Djibouti because of Ebola (to return to a country with eight confirmed cases total) sort of sits wrong with me. It seems based on the assumption that when/if things were hard, we should leave. But this isn’t a vacation easily abandoned, this is our life. Our real, real life. Plus, we don’t make choices based on fear, or we try not to. We might make them based on a reasonable assessment of risk, but at this point there is no need to do so.

Or when I read a story that in Texas a Nigerian man is denied entrance into a college because he is from Nigeria and they aren’t allowing students from countries with Ebola*…that bothers me. Or some of the incredibly ignorant way people are talking about Africa –  a Fox news reporter talked about how the world needs to worry because Africans go to witch doctors. Laura Ingraham apparently thinks that the reason Obama hasn’t instituted a flight ban (which most professionals think will be ineffective anyway) is because of his familial connections to the continent. One former GOP official suggested we just kill everyone who has Ebola, stop the spread that way. Do I even need to comment on the deeply offensive, ignorant, racist, and just plain stupidity of these types of comments?

On the other end of the spectrum, I recently received a message from a friend in Minnesota, before this essay at Babble even came out, and she demonstrated exactly what I encourage people to do. She had done due diligence and found out how far we live from Ebola-affected countries and acknowledged that we are far away. And then she asked if we were doing okay, if we needed anything, specifically prayer support. Her message was compassionate, sincere, not fear-mongering, and a real encouragement to me.

May God have mercy, may Ebola be stopped in its tracks, and may we all live with wisdom, compassion, courage, and faith when things get hard.

*in the days since I sent this to be published, two countries have been declared Ebola free. Two African countries. Nigeria and Senegal. Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from them.

Click here to read more of my thoughts about Ebola: No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

*image via Flickr

By |October 22nd, 2014|africa|6 Comments|

Let’s Go Flaneuring in New Delhi, India

Today’s Let’s Go Flaneuring post comes from Ren Ward, writing about her neighborhood in New Delhi, India. Ren blogs at Tea, Teach, Travel and happens to have Minnesota connections – hooray! Click here to read more about the series including how you can participate.

“Beep, Beep”, my unrelenting alarm goes off at 5:45am and I slowly move my body off a mattress that is a solid piece of something that is most certainly not good on your back. I walk in to the kitchen, careful to turn on the light and give the bugs inhabiting my kitchen the opportunity to scurry into hiding places so I can avoid seeing them. “Click!” The water tank is switched on to be left on for the next hour; if my roommate and I fail to do this, we can forget having water for the rest of the day! Week day or weekend, the drill is the same; water is special here in New Delhi.

driving in new delhi

The house is cool, it’s early morning and the fans are still on and the AC that kept us cool during the night is now turned off. But the minute you step outside, the fact that it is the beginning of October means nothing. The rains lasted less than a week at the end of August and the city has failed to cool down. It’s in the early 90s by 8am, and only gets warmer throughout the day. The humidity is less, but still there, causing you to drip with sweat all over your body even if you are just standing quietly by the side of the street waiting for an auto or a cycle rickshaw.

They say that Indians aren’t dirty, but India is. There couldn’t be a more true statement. You can clean and clean and it’s still dirty. It can be discouraging and frustrating, but don’t forget that it is completely culturally appropriate to have house help. My heart is so full of thankfulness as Sapna cleans my floors and kitchen, ensuring that our home doesn’t become a dust bowl! And her face when my mum speaks a little bit of Hindi to her as they meet via Skype is priceless.

As I leave the house, I take the garbage bag from the kitchen out with me. But, there isn’t a garbage bin right out the door. The many wild and dirty dogs would be all over that craziness. We walk a block away to a huge garbage skip area and dump our garbage there before walking to our common shopping area near our house. We have a sabziwalla (a vegetable stand man) who wanders around with fresh veg on his cart, but it takes going to several stores and even to several markets to stock up on different things for the house. However, because the electricity is temperamental, it is important to be wise in what and how much you are buying! You don’t want your groceries to go bad. And, this is a day to day culture, so it’s okay to go out shopping every day if you need to, which will happen.

new delhi

Life here in Delhi is like living at full speed with your mind switched on all the time, which can be a lot to handle. Especially as a short, white, red haired woman who gets the stares, the leers, and the comments from the men who apparently have nothing better to do. Delhi is full of autos, cars, rickshaws, motorbikes and people. The other day a young girl with a baby on her hip came to my auto, begging.  We looked and smiled at each other. I said, “When the light changes, I will give you something.”  I talked to the baby, but the baby wouldn’t engage; I could tell by the baby’s eyes and how the girl held it that the baby had been drugged.  The light was just about to change and I handed her two oat biscuits and said, “Yeshu ka nam se” meaning “In the name of Jesus”. She nodded at me, and the auto moved away. She is one of the 23 million people here in Delhi.  Yup. 23 million in ONE city.

There is a language barrier here. Most people speak Hindi, so I can’t communicate in words about my faith in a loving God with the girl on the street or about the reason for the hope I have with my auto driver or the man helping me buy groceries.  But I can look at them and see them, I can pray for them.

But for now, excuse me while I go and murder the cockroach that is daring to walk down the hallway.

Love from India,


ren wardI’m an elementary school teacher with a classroom of 25 4th/5th graders from all over the world.  I am short, red-haired, and talk constantly with my hands.  I have a crazy energy that gets crazier the longer I am around people and I have an intense desire for those around me to meet my best friend, Jesus!  I used to drink my tea with biscuits, before I moved and filled up on pumpkin pies and lattees, but for now I eat curries and drink chai!  My website is and my FB name is Serenity Mary; I would love to connect with anyone who is interested in finding out more about New Delhi!