September 29, 2008

Stuff White People Eat

I came to a realization this weekend, when necessity forced me into contemplating my week's menu choices for the fourth time. (We've just resumed communal cooking & groceries, which requires less work in the end, but also requires planning ahead so we have the necessary ingredients).

In my search for a dish that we've not yet eaten, I decided that as a white person, I am limited to, essentially, 40 different dishes. I've boiled it down (pun intended) to the following main ingredients: meat, starch, and sauce. Vegetables don't count because they're a minor thing, and they vary greatly within region, but not so much within house.

So our formula is currently M(eat) x St(arch) x S(auce) =V(ariety)

For meat, you have: chicken OR pig OR cow
Starch: potato OR rice OR pasta OR dough
Sauce: tomato-based OR white OR meat-based (ie broth/gravy)

V=3 x 4 x 3

Of course, there are variations that give me more freedom. I could eat seafood. Or veal. But these are too expensive for regular consumption and require special preparation. And, of course, as a white person I do love ethnic food. But the thing about being white is that I can't eat it too often.

So our modified equation is V= M x St x S + E(thnic)

If I throw a Thai or Mexican meal in once a week, that's pretty good. Any more than that, and my gut will be displeased.

Thus, V= 36 + 4 (we're going on a monthly basis here) and then V=40.

This means I will eat the same thing virtually every month. I can't avoid it.

September 28, 2008

A Dream & A Nightmare

Night #1: I am traveling with my family. A boy I know shows up (of course he is there too - apparently this is where he lives now!) and he is clearly interested in me. This is amusing to my family, and flattering to me. Until I wake up and realize that no, he doesn't actually like me. And I'm not somewhere on another continent with my family.

Night #2: I am back in the hometown. My parents are away for a few weeks, and I have their car. And one of their cell phones, which happens to get news headlines texted to it. I receive a headline that says Baptist Woman Slain By Husband and somehow I know precisely who it is. She is from my parents' church. So I try to call them, let them know so my mom can come back for the funeral. But I can't get through. Then I remember that they have changed their area code because they've moved or are away somewhere for an extended I try the right code (250, in case you're wondering), but still no luck. Then I wake up, this time relieved.

So here's the question: why two vivid dreams on consecutive nights? Does our locale affect our dream patterns? If not, what does? Was it the plenteous and rich food? Something about the moons and tides? Or just coincidence?


September 25, 2008

Conclusion. (Post Case Study Synopsis)

Aren't you glad you're almost done reading this all? I'm sure glad I'm done writing...

Several things stood out to me as I was reading and writing.

1. Communication. We avoid vulnerability and are afraid of risks. I understand this. But if we're talking about well-adjusted adults here, the chances of a well-timed conversation bringing relief and peace to an uncertain situation is high. I'd guess 75% or more.

2. Girls. We don't always know what we want - whether it's the boy or just the attention. Sometimes we don't know til we're asked out (I speak from experience on this one). Sometimes we don't know til after we've been on a few dates (I speak from experience on this one too). But if we're relatively mature, we will still treat you with respect. And you will gain our respect for even broaching the topic of "where do we stand." Because if you've thought about it as a boy, we've probably been thinking about it for three weeks already. (I also speak from experience on that one.)

3. Boys. I don't understand them or know what they are thinking most of the time. So I need them to tell me. I would much rather know that a boy likes me than wonder what the crap is going on. Even if I don't like him. I'd rather he came out and said it and I could tell him no to his face instead of avoiding him. (experience again). Also, I realize that isn't really about boys...because I know nothing of boys I will stop there. (Actually, I think there is a boy phenomenon akin to this whole girls-not-knowing-what-they-like, but that is for another post in another year.)

So. To conclude. I have a firm philosophy that life would be far less stressful if we were more honest with our thoughts and clear with our expectations (this extends beyond boy-girl stuff too). Would it be a more awkward place? Yes. Do I really want to have an hour long conversation with each of my guy friends about "where we stand"? No. I think that's unnecessary. But when it's unclear, it doesn't need to stay that way. And I generally put the onus on the guy to do the initiating. Not just because they're meant to be "spiritual leaders" but in all practicality, it takes them longer to get there. By the time they're even thinking about having the big conversation, the girl has had it six times in her head and another ten times with friends (and yes, she has the conversation whether she's for or against dating you). If the girl were in charge of initiating, every guy would be blindsided on a regular basis by girls whose names he doesn't even know.

And that is where I say good night. For now.

Case Study No. 5 - Seinfeld Non-Dating

Girl and guy know each other. Girl finds guy interesting. They bump into each other on occasion and he asks her to coffee. They have a good time. She's interested. Subsequently, she feels like he pulled a Seinfeld, indirectly asking her out on multiple non-dates, but nothing solid. 3 months later she's fed up with mundane interactions and feels like maybe it's time to have the DTR talk. Should she have the talk? Does she have reason to believe that maybe he's still interested but just immaturely avoiding?

I think a conversation is needed here. She should probably not come in guns blazing and shoot you down like the Gestapo. Either a) Guy is still interested but for some reason gun-shy or b) Guy is not interested but not able to transition to some sort of mature interaction. I don't think it would be out of place for her to say, "Hey, can we talk...?" Of course, some girls might not say anything because they are waiting for the guy to figure out what he thinks. Sometimes this is hard, but I think it is also a "right" thing to do. His behaviour indicates a waning interest, and if what he's communicating and what he's feeling are two different things (and if he realizes this) then it's his responsibility to communicate otherwise. She's not out of line to ask, but he's definitely in line, on the train and doing well to offer the info...

Case Study No. 4 - Best Girl Friend

Guy's best girlfriend decides to hang out with Guy and his friends because she really has nothing better to do. Over the course of a couple months they spend nearly every day together. Guy has huge adamant respect for her, although he doesn't think he likes her romantically. He suspects that there might be more going on on her side, but doesn't know whether to breach the topic, or what he would say if she breached the topic. Also, almost everyone tells him that he should date her. He's actually considered it on occasion. What should he do?

"Best girlfriend" is a phrase I am sometimes confused by. Apart from romantic interest or a complete lack of female friends (which I think is a massive red flag in a girl's maturity), I can't understand why a girl would hang out with the same guy every day. Everything in this scenario says that she likes you, Guy. And while I am a strong proponent that you should not date someone just because everyone tells you to, it sounds like you already agree with them. And your dilemma is not "Should I say something?" but "What do I say?"

I can't tell you that. I'm sure it will be awkward. Most guy-girl clarifying conversations are. But you know what? If the girl likes you, SHE WON'T CARE! And if she doesn't like you, even the smoothest transition will go sour.

Case Study No. 3 - Co-Worker

Guy has a potential crush on one of his co-workers. They are both working in the same place for the next couple of years and they go to the same church. He considers her a good friend but doesn't get any sense that she's particularly interested in him. He wonders if he should tell her how he's feeling or ask her out, but is fearful that doing so could make the next couple of years complicated and threaten their friendship. She also treats him like a "close guy friend" and even talks about other boys she's interested in on occasion. This is a bit confusing for him. Should he push the envelope here?

Wow, Guy. You get a lot of crushes! Oh wait, you're not a real person, just a conglomerate of many men...still. You know how to work the ladies.

Should you ask her out? I don't know. See, I'm not sure what the difference is between a "potential crush" and a good old-fashioned "regular crush." But I do know that girls sometimes talk to boys they like about other boys they like. It's called "throwing them off the scent." Or "I-like-him-but-I-don't-know-if-he-likes-me-so-I'll-see-how-he-responds-when-I-mention-these-other-men." Of course, she could just see you as a good guy friend. For some reason, you may be decidedly off her radar. How do you know for sure? I don't know. (aren't I a good 'advice' columnist) I also don't know what it means for her to treat you like a "close guy friend." Depending on what that is, this could be similar to the last scenario, where it was an indication that she either a) totally secretly digs you or b) is using the emotional bond you share to affirm herself as a woman.

The question is inevitably: is it(she) worth the risk? Only you can decide that. But if your relationship is genuinely and maturely friendship, she will be able to handle you initiating clarity and either accept or reject you graciously. If she goes all juvenile and seventeen, then the relationship wasn't healthy anyway. At least not on her end.

Case Study No. 2 - Roommate's "Girl"

Guy's roommate and good friend spent the whole last 2 years being madly in love with this girl called "Enid". Guy always found Enid attractive but never really thought much of it because of his roommate's affection. It didn't work out between Enid and roommate and that recently became official. At the same time Guy and Roommate started living in separate residences. All of a sudden Guy notices a lot of attention from Enid, including her calling him and the occasional long phone conversation. Guy likes her but the risk is obvious in terms of relationship with roommate. Does he proceed?

Guy. Way to let your roommate have the girl. Enid likes you. Or is, like in Scenario No. 1, a fan of your attention. Enough reason for you to talk to her. How do I know this? Girls call boys to get their attention. Girls have long phone conversations with boys because they want to bond emotionally.

BUT The issue here is not actually about Enid. The issue is about Roommate. What you need to do is talk to Roommate.

Case Study No. 1 - Best Friend's Sister

Over the course of a really great and awesome best friendship, Guy has noticed that he is pretty seriously attracted to his best friend's sister. As far as he can tell, she's not particularly interested in him as opposed to anyone else, but she is always friendly and often flirtatious. Guy is a bit nervous around her and clams up now and then, but he sees going out with her as a reward worthy of taking a bit of risk. He concerned about the fallout with the best friend and the best friend's family though, to whom he is very close with. If anything goes wrong he'd hate to have those relationships suffer. He goes out to coffee with her once and they email now and again but nothing substantial. Does he spill the beans?

Well, Guy. This is what I see.
1. She is flirtatious.
2. She is otherwise unattached and seems to at least be favourably friendly.

My short answer is No. My long answer is Yes. This is why: I don't think you necessarily need to "spill the beans" or propose marriage after one date. But if your one coffee date went well, why not ask her for a second one? The fact that she is flirtatious and that she regularly responds to your emails, I would say, is a high indicator that she has some level of interest in you. Especially if she responds to your emails promptly and at-length. Her flirting with you means either a) she kind of digs you or b) she's insecure & wants attention or c) she's a bad girl (cue Kardinal Offishal's Dangerous). I'm assuming that c) is out because you don't run with the dangerous girls. So it's either a) or b). And to be honest, the girl might not know herself which it is. Most likely, it's a mix of the two.

Confusing? Of course we are.

So what do you do? Well, the past of least risk + most results would be: take her out for coffee again. And maybe a third time. I'm a firm believer that you can get away with three dates and no "DTR." But after the third date, you need to say something. Anything. At this point, you have three choices again.
1. Hey, I've had a great time and would like to keep going for coffee with you. And no other girls. Would you be interested?
2. Hey, I'm glad we've had a chance to go for coffee a couple times, but I just want to make sure that our expectations are on the same page, and I'm pretty confident that I'd like to just keep things as friends.
3. Hey, we've gone out for coffee a few times now, and you're probably wondering what's going on, so I thought we should talk about it. I'm not sure what I think - partly because I don't want to jeopardize my friendship with your brother by accidentally breaking your heart, but I think you're great and am curious to know what you're thinking right about now....

I think my big challenge to you would be: if you see so much potential here, then why are you just keeping her on a string? Also, if you're such great friends with the brother, can you not even broach the subject of dating his sister? If that's enough to ruin the friendship, then you're not such tight friends...

September 24, 2008

Boyz 2 Men (Read Me First)

The Background:

In my last post, I used the word "boys" instead of "men" when referring to my male peers. Someone corrected me, and then I replied: most of the "men" in my life are actually more "boy" than "man."

A great discussion ensued. Someone else asked if that was a loaded statement. I confessed that it was and that it was related to the lack of initiative I often observe in the male species. Many other side trails were visited. I've promised a follow-up post and from various sources I have been given case studies to work with.

Where do I even start? My thoughts are far too...non-linear. And a caveat: I may be wrong. Feel free to disagree with me or correct me in these thoughts. I have no credentials to say any of this. But the beauty of the internet, is that I can anyway. And the beauty of me, is that I will.

The three areas of life that I look at when considering maturity are how people handle
a) finances
b) conflict
c) relationships with the opposite gender.

And when I notice consistent....lack of thought or straightforwardness in these areas, I tend to consider them as "boys" or "girls" instead of "men" and "women." Often, relationships with the opposite gender are the most apparent area. So I sometimes put more weight in that. And by sometimes, I mean usually.

This manifests itself in a lot of different ways. In men, my pet peeve is not taking the initiative in verbal clarity in a relationship. In women, my pet peeve is over-assuming and under-handedly manipulating (I pause here for roughly 20 minutes of reflection and talking in circles and backspacing).

This is what I'm going to do. I have been offered some scenarios. I will put them forth in their own entries with my analysis of the situation. You have probably already read these entries, because they appear in reverse order.

September 22, 2008

Toy Trains & Deep Thoughts

Intro: I think about relationships & boys on a fairly regular basis (If you doubt me, just do a quick search of either of those words on this blog). And this past week has been no different. Scratch that, this past month has been no different.

Body: I can fully admit that I've been living through various friends in differing stages of relationship, gleaning from their experiences and filing away thoughts. It's funny - it seems like many friends come to me for advice, which is ironic, since I don't actually have a huge success rate with relationships in the typical sense, and my last attempt at a relationship ended in what one of my friends called a cosmically unavoidable trainwreck. Or maybe it was the other way around - an unavoidably cosmic trainwreck. Regardless. My friends share their stories, and maybe it's meant more for me to listen and less for me to advise, yet I advise anyway. I have offered thoughts recently on:
  • what to wear on a first date
  • what to write on your profile for an online dating service
  • how to become friends with someone who noticed you in a bar
  • how to clarify with said new friend that you will only ever be friends
  • determining whether fears are your own or others' projected ones when you're in a long-term relationship
  • waiting patiently in/on/for an undefined relationship

editor's note: I keep getting interrupted while writing this, mainly by my computer's inability to behave itself and I have now lost my train of thought.

Summary: People share with me, I have thoughts. I feel sympathy. Every stage is difficult. Every stage needs grace and effort. We all have big fears. And eventually, I'd like to make it past the trainwreck stage.

Epilogue: Two thoughts from two friends, both related to relationships & not limited to the romantic kind. Both profound, well-timed, and thought-provoking. I will paraphrase them thusly:

"Sometimes, you need to choose between being right and being good. And in this situation, being good means letting go of your need to be right."

"Devotion to someone should make you more of the person that you are meant to be. It should not take away from who you are."

Thank you, Wendy & Laura!

September 21, 2008

Everything is Illuminated (For Someone Else)

This has been one of those weekends. I conquered the rain by wearing a baseball hat. I conquered my cold (I hope) with lots of sleep. I conquered TV by watching four movies. I conquered social interactions with a bonfire on Saturday night, and church & lunch on Sunday. All good.

I feel like neglecting my blog, which is generally a sign that I have lots going on and my mind is working at 6 miles a minute, but I'm avoiding the heavy stuff. When life is good-good, I have lots of fun thoughts to share. And when life is boring, I always find ways to waste time by blogging.

Anyway, one of the movies I watched this weekend was called Everything is Illuminated. I've wanted to see it for about a year and a half: since I first saw it on the shelf at Blockbuster and though, Oooh, Elijah Wood! But I have limited success in choosing fringe/indy movies for viewing, and the cover - with many, many sunflowers and a sleepy looking Elijah. But after finding it at the library and thinking, A free rental can never be a waste! I picked it up. And I am glad to say that the worst part of the movie is the cover. Whoever was in charge of graphic design and marketing for the film should be canned. There would have been so many better ways to capture what this movie is about...

(What is this movie about, Beth?) The film (and the book it is based on) is about an American Jew who goes to Ukraine in search of his family roots. Specifically, the place his grandfather fled from during WWII.

It is touching, it is funny, it is tragic. I am a sucker for nearly anything related to WWII (I have many more thoughts on this, mostly tied directly to my Grampie, a war vet whose memories I wish I could capture through osmosis and put in a bottle for safekeeping), but I wasn't the only one who thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, to whet your appetite, I leave you with this excerpt from the start of the film (warning: some content offensive):

September 19, 2008

Shake It.

So I first heard this song on the radio, and it was catchy. Then I saw the music video and I adored the dancing. Then I downloaded it so I could listen while running (not that I've run all week). THEN I discovered the lead singer of Metro Station is half-brother to the infamous Miley Cyrus, and therefore, son of Billy Ray.

Now I'm not sure what to think. Can I keep listening to it? Or does my distaste for Disney's pop-crafting machine extend to people who, through no fault of their own, are vaguely connected to Hannah Montana and the like?

I don't know. For now, I'm watching that video again. The nerd with the bowtie is amazing.

September 18, 2008

Wasting Your Time

So, in lieu of actual content, another video run. I discovered this series today, via this video.

If only life were like this:

September 16, 2008

A Bit Premature

So today, I kind of bought a wedding ring.

I can hear you now: Beth, isn't that a bit early? You're not engaged. I didn't even know you were dating someone...

I'm not. See, that's the "kind of." It's not really a wedding band. Just a plain silver band designed to look like a wedding band.

I can hear you again: Beth, isn't that a bit deceptive? And won't that kind of hinder you in all your marriage hopes and dreams?

I hope not. There's a very specific purpose to this ring. It is designed to hinder, yes. My plan is this: I'm going to be traveling a fair bit this next year. And since some of the places I'll be going to (including the planes) tend to be places women get hit on more frequently, I've got a plan to keep myself safe.

Hence the ring.

I can still hear you: But Beth, are you going to lie? You aren't married!

You're right. And no, I won't lie. If someone says, "Oh, you're married?" I'll say, in all honesty, "Nope. I just have this as my first line of defense against unwanted attention." Which should be obvious enough to accomplish its intent.

And I will avoid wearing the ring while at home in Vancouver.

September 15, 2008

Help Me, Douglas!

I saw a movie last night that I enjoyed less than the trailer I'd seen for it. Maybe because I wasn't expecting the two closest-to-likeable characters to die, since it was billed as a comedy. Maybe I just don't have the right sense of humour. Maybe it was just not as funny as it could have been, but since the makers are famous, I'm sure it will do just fine.

But then my $12 was redeemed. Because we had a star-sighting. Yes, right here in Vancouver at the 5th Ave Cinemas. Which shouldn't be surprising, since we are in Vancouver, and 5th Ave is one of the best independent cinemas (maybe they aren't independent, but they don't say CINEPLEX or GALAXY out front).

Anyway. We stood up at the end of the movie. We turned to the back of the theatre, watching the sold out theatre melt into a crowd.

Wendy said, "Is that ---------??? No. I'm that person (who sees famous people everywhere)."
Me: "No, that is definitely him. Wendy, this is the moment you've dreamed of!! (she really has)"

We are Canadian, though. So we won't push through a crowd or eagerly assault a famous person out for a quiet evening. Instead, we get just close enough to not be creepy, and walk behind him out of the theatre. He turns down the same street we're parked on and we walk to our car. We watch him keep walking. We contemplate running after him. Someone threatens to yell, "We love you, Douglas Coupland!" And I threaten to hide behind the car if they do.

We are Canadian, though. So we don't. Instead, our adrenaline still pumping a little, we take note of what kind of car he drives and then rehash our almost-encounter. And then, we go home.

**for all you non-Canadians who are reading and saying, Douglas Coupland isn't famous! I have never even heard of the guy! He actually is famous. He coined the term Generation X (in a book of that title), and he's written a number of books that are compellingly poignant in the way they capture our generation.

September 14, 2008

Funnier AND Cuter!

My amazing friend Karen is visiting, and she is a source of all things wonderful and internet related. She introduced me to this site. I am contemplating doing all of my Christmas shopping online this year. At this site.

She also showed me a clip that everything in me tried to resist (because it is just so stereotypical), but consummately failed.

A laughing baby made my day, folks.

Is it creepy if I start hoping my children are like a YouTube video?

September 11, 2008

"Poetry in Motion"

Today has been a good day, for a number of reasons. Namely, every meeting I had today was positive and encouraging, I went for my first jog in a good two weeks, and when I got home at the end of the day, I had dinner AND flowers waiting for me.

And now, I am laughing hysterically at a ridiculous game show called Hole in the Wall.

Oh, and tomorrow, I get to go to the Space Centre and go on a Mars Simulation ride. How exciting!!

September 9, 2008


Originally uploaded by bethaf.
I love the texture of these clouds. This was the view out my window tonight, and it made me happy. Real colours, folks. Real colours.

September 8, 2008


My little brother got his wisdom teeth out on Thursday. I haven't heard from him since, so I don't know whether it was easy as pie, or whether he was flat on his back for four days.

But since I find this amusing, and to join with him in his suffering, may I present a photo from my own wisdom teeth removal experience. I believe this was Day 3 Post Surgery.

A Duplicate From the List Blog

I'm feeling like I'm hitting a bit of that September slump.

I attribute it to:
- lack of time spent with God (this could be unpacked in so many ways)
- excess of time spent socially
- uncertainty of my schedule for the next few weeks
- others' stress that I tend to take on

September 4, 2008

Sympathy, Empathy - What's The Difference?

Which is worse: saying a permanent goodbye to a spouse of 62 years after an illness, knowing what is coming? or saying an indefinite & partial goodbye to a spouse of 3 months with no warning?

Yeah, I wouldn't want to choose either.

In the past week, I've seen the grief of a spouse, and it is a deep and exclusive thing. I don't fully understand it, and I don't think I will until I have to experience it myself. But definitely the hardest thing about being home this time has been watching someone mourn without being able to offer any solution.

Standing by my Grampie's side as the casket is lowered into the ground, tears on his cheeks and mine. Watching Lalo drive away as Sarah cries, not knowing when they'll get to live together again.

I can't help but note that the grief, although incredibly sad, is a beautiful thing because of where it stems from: mutual love. A love that is deeply felt and shared between two people is perhaps one of the most lovely things to see. And so I sympathize (or maybe empathize?) with my sister & my grampa, but I am also glad they have these relationships. I guess what I'm saying is that their grief now is better than to have never known joy.

(note: Sarah & Lalo will get to see each other again, which is some consolation, I suppose. But the process of living together again could take significantly longer. Hurrah for Homeland Security...)