January 31, 2011

Friends Without Benefits: Is It Worth It? (4th WaoW)

Can guys and gals be friends? Just friends? Real friends?

Short answer: Rarely.

Mid-length answer:

Casual, circumstantial friends? Absolutely.
Close, committed friends? I usually recommend against it, and I have far more disaster stories than I do "success" stories.
Best friends? No.

Long answer:

Casual friends:
I think that, in church circles at least, we don't do enough of this. These are the people you work with or the people you see on a regular basis at your church, or friends of friends that you're often in contact with. When group events happen, you can have genuine (but general) conversations with them. You don't avoid them, you like them, you enjoy your interactions with them. But you don't seek out time with them. In this context, I think men and women can do a much better job of being encouraging and caring than we often do. I think you can love someone without an intimate friendship. And we should do more of that.

Close friends:
The first thing I have to say about this is that sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. If you're committed to having healthy and appropriate friendships, you have to walk into this type of friendship with a willingness to let the whole thing go. If you don't have that, I would challenge you that it is already an unhealthy friendship (I say "you" but ask myself this question in each of my guy-friendships).

Here are some other boundaries/opinions I have on this:
  • If dating has occurred or been on the table, it's unlikely that a close friendship will work. Certainly not without a break of some time.
  • Compliments and physical touch are best kept to a minimum.
  • Certain topics are left un-broached or broached hesitantly and lightly and with great generality. (For example, although I've just blogged that I wish it were less awkward to talk about girls' hormonal cycles, I can't say that I want men to bring it up with me. Just don't be weirded out if I need to mention it. Once in a blue moon.)
  • If either person begins to feel possessive, you need to reevaluate. If your relationship is in some capacity "exclusive," it is no longer a healthy platonic friendship.
  • Are either of you in a relationship? Make sure your friendships include significant others.
  • If the man is married, I need to be friends with the wife as well. The wife actually calls the shots on what the friendship looks like, even if that's not explicitly stated. I assume any and every thing I say to him is repeated to her. And if anything he says or does wouldn't be said or done in front of his wife, that is the end of the friendship. 

Best Friends:
I've never seen it work over the long haul. And I've seen enough train-wrecks that I don't want to put myself in the danger zone. (But I didn't believe there were women who've never struggled with body image, and apparently there are a few exceptions to that, so feel free to disagree with me!)

January 30, 2011

People Are Funny

My weekend was 89% good times, 7% a difficult conversation, and 5% so full it exploded at the edges and left me quite tired.

Here are some comments I enjoyed this weekend (I've helped a little if you want to guess which are from Nadine):

girl #1: "AND he (Adrien Brody) is attractive."
girl #2: "What?! I guess so. In a sewer rat sort of way."

girl #3: "You can't go to guys when you actually want someone to make you feel better!"

girl #2: "I found a jumbo bag of Smarties. And then I ate one. And then another...but now the bag is gone and at least I can't do it again."

in a board game conflict:
girl #2: "As a woman, I need you to understand the essence of what I am saying."

decision making & my winter coat:
guy, to me: "You're wearing a seatbelt. So you're in the driver's seat! But can we decide fast? It's Canada, and it's winter!"

girl #4: "You could sell that booze to bums on the street for profit!"

guy, to me: "Let me teach you how to pick up women at a bar."
me: "Please, because that is a skill I'm really needing to develop."

trivia game, asked to players on a couch:
girl #1: "What bait do you use to catch crabs?"
guy: "Roofies!"
girl #2: "Um, I'm getting scared of the couch."

January 28, 2011

Hoes Before Bros* (WaoW #3)

Important facts to establish: women are competitive (almost always) and catty (occasionally).

A few months ago, someone (I genuinely forget who), told me they find it difficult to be friends with other girls and that they'd rather spend time with the guys. This bothered me, more-so the longer I thought about it.

Not that I've never had the same thought. I am totally guilty of my fair share of Ugh. Girls. I'm done with them moments. But the thing is, in those moments, I contribute to the problem instead of helping solve it.

Oooh, problem-solving. That is a good approach for this topic.

The problem:
Girls often stink at being genuine friends with other girls. The main factors are comparison and competition. It is a dog-eat-dog world, and although we're subtle and passive, we have great capacity for aggression towards one another. We are jealous of others' bodies, their relationships, and everything else you could be jealous of in someone.

What it boils down to is insecurity. We are insecure creatures and we do not trust each other. Sometimes for good reason. If my own experiences are any indication, we women are capable of

causing immense hurt to one another. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident, sometimes by a combination of both.

The goal:
This is all a terrible shame, as my experiences also tell me that women can offer the most life-giving friendships to one another. There is something about having someone who understands how I think, who has experienced the same range of emotions, with whom I can laugh and rant and rave about the things that only another woman would fully understand... It's beautiful.

I am a firm believer that each woman needs a community of female friendships to support, encourage, and challenge her as she walks through life.

An exacerbating factor or two:
In conversations, men tend to default to abstract ideas and outside events, while women default to feelings and relationships. This can be exhausting. There are times that I just. don't. care. to hear any more mushiness or griping. I have the ability to be incredibly empathetic. I also have limits to my emotional well (which, of course, is very much influenced by my own emotional state). Often it is a relief to spend time in the "heady" world of men. (And I have much more to say on this in my next post...)

Our culture is not one that values or models healthy conflict resolution. And let me tell you, if you are a girl being friends with another girl, there will be conflict. If we don't know how to handle this and default to avoidance... our friendships will plateau at a certain boring level. Or take a complete nosedive.

A series of suggestions:
Refuse to compete. I have a clear memory of a specific social setting that produced a heightened awareness of my singleness, the greatness of the women around me, and the sparse number of eligible men in our midst. This birthed a life-changing conversation with one of my most-respected friends. Whether the issue at hand is the attention of a man or something else, I think that we as women simply need to stop competing with each other. And that is something that starts in my own backyard. Something that is not a one-time switch, but an ongoing commitment to trusting God and loving others.

Own your crap. This goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Often, the things that make us angry with other women are manifestations of our own insecurities. Recognizing what is my problem, my mess, my baggage to deal with is freeing, as strange as that sounds. I am responsible for me, first and foremost. Also, owning my own issues reminds me that other women also have their own issues, and as often as I "demonize" them, they're just like me, trying to wade through a world that's left them waist-deep in insecurities. This gives me greater compassion.

Be honest. Vulnerable, even. I am amazed at how the choice to be vulnerable can change the world. In my most stressful and gut-wrenching conflicts with girlfriends, the shift towards reconciliation almost always comes when one of us is fully honest about how we feel and the other person responds, not defensively or derisively, but with an increased vulnerability of their own. When we honour another's choice to be vulnerable, we create safe spaces where friendship puts down roots.

I could tell many stories about my female friendships, how we've navigated murky waters and the horrible mistakes I've made and the surprising places I've found kindred spirits. I am blessed with an over-abundance of women in my life who truly love me and with whom I can be myself. It breaks my heart that this is a rarity, and I have a strong commitment to fostering this type of friendship wherever I can. It takes time and effort and is sometimes stressful and exhausting. And it doesn't happen with just anyone. But it can happen with far more frequency than I would have guessed. And it is worth it.

*I'm sorry if this title causes offense. I was going to go with an even more offensive (and in my mind, funnier) title, but toned it down to this. Which is still funny. And mildly offensive.

January 26, 2011

The Body, Our Frenemy (WaoW 2)

I appropriated this title from a friend of mine, one of the most physically beautiful people I know. She commented not long ago that she currently views her body as her "frenemy." (frenemy = friend + enemy) On one level, this surprises me ("But she's beautiful!!"); on a deeper level, I know that all women have a love-hate relationship with their bodies.

What else is there to say?

I was talking with a guy friend about body image not that long ago. A paraphrase of our conversation -

me: All girls struggle with it.
him: I think I know some girls who actually like themselves.
me: Really? Good for them. (sounding sarcastic)
him: (looking at me sideways)
me: (not sarcastic sounding) I mean, good. That's great. (pause) I hate them.
him: What?
me: Kind of. But not really. I mean, I don't actually believe them. Maybe they like themselves most of the time, but I can't believe they never have a bad day about it.


Beth's Scale of Self-Image
(pun intended)

Very concerning: complete self-hatred, eating & exercising disorders
Low end: dissatisfied with looks, disordered eating & exercise habits 
Low-mid range: ambivalent about body, neither neglects nor puts effort into self-care
Mid range: believes self has potential, occasionally likes appearance, mild maintenance of health
High-mid range: likes their appearance more often than not, makes careful and caring health choices
High end: loves the look of their body almost all the time, caring for it is second nature
Doesn't exist: complete body satisfaction

Personally, I've slowly moved from the bottom (What!? you say. Yes. I completely disdained myself in my early teen years. I did not have an eating disorder, but that was purely based on the fact that I could not make myself throw up. I tried. At the time, I found it distressing. Now... I feel like Jesus protected me from myself in a way I am immensely grateful for. Um. This whole thing is like six hundred other entries that maybe I could write someday. Or you could ask me about. Or we could just move on.) to high-mid range. I have a clear memory from the fall of 2008 that marks the move. I looked at myself in the mirror one day and thought, I look good! My next thought was, I must have lost some weight. But the fit of my jeans (and the scale) told me I hadn't. Strange, I thought, I guess I just like me! It was a turning point in my life. And I'm not being melodramatic.

You may be wondering where the "friend" part fits in to this "frenemy" post.

Well, we all like our skinny-selves. You know, those days that the clothes fit a little bit looser and that one part of your body you care about most seems not quite as roly-poly/chubby/round/big/flabby/etc. We walk a little bit taller. We wear that dress we haven't been able to pull off for a year or more. We notice ourselves being noticed. We like feeling in control of our bodies, because frankly, there's so much about them that we can't seem to control. My hips will never be smaller than my shoulders. I will never be not-tall (okay, maybe in another 50 years? But relative to my peers...still gonna be tall). Should I go on? If you're a woman reading this, I bet you have at least three items on your list of "out of my control but not off my mind" issues.

There are "enemy" body parts/characteristics, and there are the "friendly" parts of ourselves. Sometimes the enemies can become friends. Like my freckles and curly hair. We're quite cozy now, but I used to wish them away. I have always liked having blue eyes. Genetic mutation WIN!

Am I making any sense? I feel like this is an insanely long ramble that should probably end soon. But before I do, I have a Question For The Men:

In an all-girls conversation, we were discussing beauty and our bodies and the way we pick out parts that we don't like. One girl (who has a boy in her life) commented, "I don't think guys notice things like this. They just see the whole girl and like it."

Is this true? Do you pick apart our bodies and notice the little things we whine and pine over, or are we wasting all this obsessive energy?*
Be honest.

*I'm not convinced that all our whining and obsessing is purely for the attention of men (or women, if that's whose romance you crave), but that is for my NEXT post on female friendship. 

Postscript: I have SO MANY MORE thoughts on the topic of body image. Like my take on where makeup/hair/beauty products fit in this fight, the question of how we befriend our bodies, and a rant on the fact that women are not meant to be sleek and hairless sphinx cats (animals that are hairless are always creepy. Take the naked mole rat, for starters.) And I'd like to sneak in a reminder that I would prefer people not take this opportunity to leave anonymous complimentary comments. You can leave anonymous comments on the general subject at hand, if you like, but please know that I'm not fishing for affirmation and would actually prefer it be left entirely off the table for now. 

January 25, 2011

Today (A List of Happenings)

I woke up before my alarm. Poor sleep has been haunting our house for TOO LONG.

I felt sick enough to be grumpy, but not sick enough to skip work.

I had a cultural misunderstanding. G needs a dress-up costume for school later this week.
G's mom: You could be a Hanson brother!
Me: Yeah!! No one would get it but the teachers, but it'd be great! I love their new single. Well, I guess it's not new anymore...but it's great!
G's mom: What?
Me: Yeah, they're still making music. Crazy, hey?
G's mom: No, I meant the hockey players.
Me: Oh. (who're they?)

I went to the zoo.
C: What's that hanging down there?
Me: (trying to remain calm) Um, I think that's the rhino's penis.
C: Oh. What's that animal? (pointing elsewhere)
Me: It's a tapir.
C: I want to be a baby tapir.

I sang along to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes with a 3 year-old. It seemed wrong and yet adorable.
(I skipped some lyrics)

I enforced health and safety rules.
(after school, picking up G)
Me: Where'd you get the gum?
G: Well, originally the floor, but I washed it off first.
Me: No. Get rid of it. You don't eat gum off the floor.
G: But I washed it off really well!
Me: No. Out.

I worked late. I work late tomorrow too.

I noticed an attractive man on the streetcar. For some reason, his shoes caught my eye. Matte red loafers. Very good choice.

I felt gall bladder pain. All the fatty goodness of raclette, and the jars of clotted cream that Nadine brought home this weekend have finally caught up to me. I dislike this reoccurring gall bladder issue, but it does keep me eating healthy most of the time...

I did laundry. I sang about doing laundry. I don't understand why I love laundry. Tomorrow I will do more laundry at work, and I will not mind.

I continued to receive feedback and follow-up from my 26 Secrets party that surprises and astounds me. I am still processing it. I think it will take months for me to see what this all means, in my life and for others (okay, that part I may never see).

I blogged.

January 24, 2011

The Moon, The Month, The Mystery (WaoW 1.0)

It started with a tweet from a friend:
"A girl said this to me today: "I hate ovulating! All the guys are soooo attractive and I want to eat everything!"
I retweeted it. Said,
"I've said this before."
Friend #1 (girl) was impressed that I'd admit this publicly.
Friend #2 (boy) said, "You've said that before!? Actually that doesn't surprise me anymore."


Then I had this conversation with myself:
Women have hormones too. Why is this surprising?
I suppose I'm surprised and bothered when men admit to hormonally-based attraction to women. Why should it be different for women?
I feel like it's different for women.
Why is it different for women?
It is different because... because it's part of a cycle?
That can't be right.
It's different because it's surprising?
That is true. But is it reason to make it acceptable?
(I gave up at that point in the conversation)

But here are the things I would like to say about women and hormones and our reproductive cycles. (I, of course, will generalize to all women, but you can know I'm mostly talking about me and the dozen friends with whom I have discussed these things. They shall remain nameless and secret unless they choose to go public with their identities in the comments.)

1. It's science.
It took me a long time to accept this reality. There are certain aspects of my experience of life as a woman that are unavoidably tied to my hormonal cycle. All sorts of physical things - insomnia, headaches, energy levels, skin conditions, etc - tend to "flare up" at certain phases. A couple of years ago, I took part in a research study on ovulation that had me track and record a whole myriad of possible physical & emotional markers. It was fascinating. Several things that had previously been a mystery to me suddenly made sense.

Even so, it's hard for me to accept the fact that my emotions are swayed by factors beyond my control. It is mind boggling to me that I cannot understand or control this about myself. Which leads me to point #2...

2. It's surprising. 
Hindsight is 20/20, and I know I'm not the only woman who often says, Oh, that's why I just wanted to cry myself to sleep all week! But in the moment of experiencing emotions, I am often surprised and frustrated by them. Whether it is a wave of ineffable loneliness or a seemingly irrational desire to kiss men on the bus, I am stumped and perplexed. Why do I feel this way!? This is not "normal" me! I have yet to accustom myself to the ebb and flow of hormonal emotions that would allow me immediate perspective. Instead, I often end up feeling like an idiot, relieved that no one can read my mind.

Sidenote: yes, a woman's sexual appetite increases noticeably within her hormonal cycle. I remember one friend telling me about her startling attraction to a man one month, and how she connected the dots to her hormones...she said, "I realized, This is what a fifteen year-old boy must feel like All. The. Time... It's no wonder they never accomplish anything!" Oh, how I laugh about that. But even in saying that, I believe...

3. It's not an excuse. 
Hormones do not control me. And hormones should not run the world (although it often seems that they do). So in admitting that I sometimes find almost all men attractive, I am not giving myself license to kiss them all. I don't think it acceptable for me to ask everyone to give me extra affirmation when I'm feeling deeply (and hormonally) insecure. Nor do I think that fifteen year-old boys should be excused for their life-laziness due to immense amounts of hormones (although their lack of a fully developed frontal lobe is perhaps a feasible excuse). While we all should be aware of and not hate ourselves for our hormones and their impact on our emotions, I still think we are responsible for our thoughts and actions.

4. Does it have to be awkward?
Why is this such an embarrassing and awkward topic? Is it inherently inappropriate to have cross-gender discussions on this topic? I feel like there must be space somehow for something between non-acknowledgement and overshare. (I haven't mentioned blood or tampons or even the word menstruation until this sentence!) Ok, I'm noticing my own tendency to handle this topic with humour and make light of both genders in order to play it safe. The point is that I don't want to gross guys out, but I dislike the cultural assumption that we all pretend these things don't happen.

There you have it.
Some of my thoughts...

January 23, 2011

Women And Our Ways: Intro

Last summer, I started writing a blog entry that I never finished. There are several like that, actually.

This particular one starts out:

If you are male, you probably don't want to read this entry.

I mean it.

If you were grossed out by my entry on placenta lasagna, didn't understand the problematic tea commercial, or were surprised by my thoughts on the curse of Aunt Irma, this one is bigger, badder, and more bold. I'm going for broke.

I've been meaning to write this girls-only series ever since. But then I realized that I want to write a series that may frighten or surprise men, but is not meant to exclude them. Then I thought that maybe I don't want to do that, as it will stir up controversy and I will be misunderstood and I will unintentionally offend both men and women and I will write about things that don't often get talked about.

But I think I'm willing to risk it.

Titles in the series Women and Our Ways may include:

The Moon, The Month, The Mystery...More on "Aunt Irma"
The Body, Our Frenemy
Hos Before Bros: Women & Friendship
Friends Without Benefits - Are Male/Female Friendships Worth It?
Emotional Porn

If you can think of other topics I should tackle (chances are high that I have opinions on all topics pertaining to womanhood), please suggest.

January 21, 2011

Set The Fire to the Third Bar*

This song is beautiful and haunting and spinning round and round in my head.

Snow Patrol + Martha Wainwright = wow.

I hope you find it is the same sort of fantastic.

*I don't actually know what this phrase means. I apologize if it is inappropriate. 

January 20, 2011

Buy Nothing Month

It is a combination of

  1. my Christmas bills. I am so thankful I could pay my credit card bill this week.
  2. my deep desire to travel later this year, but no current savings.
  3. my distaste for culture's (my) lighthearted consumerism.
  4. curiousity. Which kills the cat, I know.
From January 16- February 16, I am having "Buy Nothing" month!

The exceptions:
  1. food.
  2. necessities I run out of (ie, "I have no toothpaste" is okay, "Hey, toothpaste is on sale. Let's buy 7!" is not).
  3. haircut (It's prescheduled for the 12th).
  4. gifts for other people.

I think that's it.
Hopefully I won't try adding more exceptions.
Hopefully I won't forget and buy something before I remember. You'd think this unlikely, but I find(found) it often happens(happened) when I fast(ed).*

*all those tense substitutions are a reminder that I don't really remember the last time I fasted. Which is, as always, a topic for another post. Now I'm going to be mulling that over too. As if there are not enough things on my mind these days. Gah.

January 19, 2011

Happiness Is...


My cheeks are full of deliciousness. That's why my face looks funny. But happy.

The friend who took this photo said this (me eating a pre-dinner slice of bread because I was SO HUNGRY) was the "saddest thing they'd ever seen."

An exaggeration. And, according to my love of carbohydrates and baked goods, a tragic misunderstanding.Who doesn't love fresh bread and butter!?

On that note, I think I'll slather myself another slice of sunshine.

January 18, 2011

What Is Love?*

Last night, a friend asked me, "Have you ever been in love?"

I have never been asked this question before.

In November, the same friend asked me if I'd ever had a serious boyfriend. I answered something along the lines of, "Well, none of the guys I've dated have been flings. But none of them have made it to the six month mark."

"So no," he replied, almost instantly.

It made me sad. Not because of what he said or how he said it, but because it rang true. (I think this is one of the things that makes me sad about my relationship history - I've yet to get into the nitty-gritty of relationship, the daily grind, the conflicts that are inevitable. Is it strange that I want that?)

This time around, I didn't have an answer very quickly. I scrolled through the memories in my mind. I umm-ed and uhhh-ed for a minute or so. Then I said something like this:

"I don't know. I really don't know. I have been giddy and crushing and so excited to spend time with someone I'm quite attracted to. I have been ready to commit to a person and a relationship indefinitely, to walk through the boring parts and the conflicts and the differences. Is that being in love? - I don't think I know what "in love" means."

I've been thinking about it all day. What is "in love"? What is the difference between caring deeply for someone, loving them, and being "in love"? Is it all about mutuality? Continuity? Is it simply the sexual attraction factor? Where's the line between self-centred desire and actual love?

In Love?

Please comment.
(Starting with you, Nadine.)

*Of course, I've had this song all day:

January 17, 2011

Am I Being Overdramatic Here?

Last week, C and I went snowshoe-ing in a nearby cemetery. I love cemeteries, although it is less of a reflective experience when you're with a 3 year-old than if it were just me and my journal. But I still looked around and took note of a few interesting things.

One epitaph felt like a punch in the gut. I read it, and my first thought was, I would never want my life to be summarized that way.

I did my duty in life.

Isn't that tragic!?!?

If, at the end of my life that is the best thing that I can say... I will consider myself a failure.

January 16, 2011

26 Secrets: The Photos

Dear God
Originally uploaded by bethaf.
This afternoon I took down my art and chatted with the barista (who has GREAT dreads) about art and literature and metaphysics and the divine. So fantastic.

Now I've uploaded the images to my flickr account. Here they are, for those of you who couldn't make it. Some of them are ones you've seen before... but of course, not paired with the poems!

The poem partnered with this image was a surprisingly popular one. It was really fun for me to see which poems resonated with people most strongly.

Also, if you're interested, most of the 8X10 prints are still for sale. Not sure what I'm going to do with 20-odd prints if they don't sell - I don't have enough wall space for them all!

January 14, 2011

Stream of Consciousness

At the end of this work week, here are some of my thoughts and feelings:
  • I miss the interweb. I wish I weren't away from the internet for 12 waking hours each day.
  •  I feel tired. I think that 8 hours of sleep is not enough.
  •  I came up with more blog topics to write about: Player One. Prayer. Brand Loyalty. A depressing epitaph.
  • What is next?
  • I want to live my whole life believing that my best days are still ahead of me. 
  • Did I mention that I'm tired? 
  • I am impressed by my ability to remain calm in the presence of a perpetually whining child. Two grouchy children, is, however, unbearable. I dislike the way my patience disappears. 
  • Can it be springtime now?
  • My room is a disaster. When will I have time to clean it? Next weekend? Yes, next weekend.
  • I used to say I would never drink alone. I need to figure out the new modification for that rule. It was a good rule. It is a good rule. But this is the second time this month I've had a glass of wine by myself. Ok, technically Nadine also had a glass tonight. But I went into my room and closed my door and read my book and drank my wine... so, that is pretty much alone. 
  • Vancouver. India. Spain. UK. Africa. How many places can I travel to? How soon can I go? How little money can I live off of?
  • Bed. Gotta be up in 9 hours.

January 12, 2011

Notes on Christmas Gifts

I finally started reading Player One, the latest novel by Douglas Coupland, delivered as the Massey Lecture series last year (woah, feels strange to call 2010 "last year"). I am sucked in and want to skip work or make C take care of himself or something similar so that I can finish it. Thank you to my sister-in-law for gifting it to me at Christmas!!

G and I were discussing his Christmas gifts while I was prepping dinner yesterday. He told me he'd gotten one book:
me: From whom?
G: N__________
me: Who's that?
G: She lives across the street. She's a doctor. She was the first doctor to do wiener surgery.
me: Oh? (not really sure what to say to that one, although I doubt his facts)
G: Yeah. I'm glad it wasn't on me.
me: I'm sure you are.
G: I would cry for nine days if I ever had to have wiener surgery.
me: Nine days, hey?

I gave my nephew this super-cool art paper that already has frames printed around the edges, so you draw/paint/whatever in the middle, and then, voila, preframed art by child geniuses. Tonight, I got this email from his mom:
Beth, Just wanted to let you know Jake really loves his picture frames...today he did pictures of Tinkerbell in Lava (with her insides showing), Tinkerbell in a volcano with lava..and Maggie, with Tinkerbell's lava footprints around her :)

Maggie is their dog. I LAUGHED. OUT. LOUD.
Christmas success!

January 10, 2011

26 Secrets: Music & Absent Friends

I was going to post Saturday's entire playlist, because that is not at all my "work" and is very much open for sharing...but even though I tried to cut it down, it was still 86 songs long. Which would be a very long entry. I'll happily share it with anyone who really wants to know the whole deal, but for this morning, I'd like to highlight some of the artists I included because they remind me of faraway friends.

Chromeo - KIRSTEN! Thank you for calling. Can't wait to see you and hug you and sit in silence with you this summer. (Hurry up, time!)

Franz Ferdinand - Karen, do you even know I associate you with this crew? You introduced us. Also, you are my first ever "arts patron" and there will be an 8x10 photo coming your way later this month.

Shout Out Louds, Boris Smile - Alasdair, you have great taste in music. And I still think you should have chosen Canada as your vacation destination last week.

Headwater - Laura. Of course. I can't wait to trade Christmas break stories - India! So exciting.

Guster - Mav. I feel like we would have long conversations out of all this writing.

Hanson - Nadine, you were sorely missed. I am SO HAPPY that you're coming back to our home today.

Passion Pit - AmyLee (it's always one word in my brain), I love seeing art with you; seeing my art with you would have been phenomenal.

Andrew Marcus - Jackie. Oh, Jackie! Thank you for calling in the midst of your own crazily exciting weekend. I am so proud of you.

(Just to clarify, I chose the artists for my friends, the specific songs for other reasons.)


how did I forget!?!?

Mutemath - DRay. You are like a big brother, and I wanted you to be there and be proud of me. Remember the time we went on a photo adventure to try taking shots of the massive harvest moon?

January 9, 2011

26 Secrets: The Debrief

I'm pretty sure that everyone is waiting for a recap and summary of last night's shindig. I don't feel capable of doing a full and complete breakdown tonight - possibly due to lack of sleep, possibly due to my generally slow emotional processing speed. But I do have a few point form thoughts I'll throw out there in no particular order.

1. (okay, the order for this one is particular) I feel incredibly loved and encouraged deep in my being. More than a punch on the arm, You're great! kind of thing, but that the core of who I am is worth existing and sharing with others.

2. The trio of pairs that I saw as "central" were well-noticed and generally liked: "Hope Is" "Come Home" "Permanency Frightens Me"

3. The closest thing to "negative feedback" that I received was the three or four people (all male), who were surprised at the "darkness" of some poems. I don't know whether this was a good or bad thing in their perspectives. Also, interesting to me that none of the girls were surprised. Or didn't express their surprise.

4. Donations, at the end of the night, totalled the exact rental cost of the space. Exact.

5. Strangers came and we discussed art and that felt great and grown-up and right.

6. Several people think this should become a book. Others have said they need more "quiet" time with the poems to let them sink in - do I make this a traveling show? I have possibilities ahead of me.

7. I may have already mentioned this, but after hanging the work, the gallery/cafe manager asked if I'd like to leave them up for a week, as they have no other bookings and were impressed with the work. I said no.

Kidding. I said yes, of course! They're up at *Hotshot (181 Augusta Ave) until next Sunday. The cafe is open from Wednesday to Sunday.

8. Reoccurring favourites seemed to be "Palimpsest," "A Lament," "Dear God," and "Zeno's Paradox."

9. In all the excitement, there were only two things that fell to the wayside. One was the opportunity to talk deeply about the art on site. But I think that will unfold outside of the four walls. The other was that I didn't tell many people the prints are for sale! Fact. You can own one for $30. I will package it prettily and mail it to you after I take the show down. First come, first serve. Some are already spoken for.

10. All art shows should have a post-party karaoke party. Um, I love karaoke. Even though I can't sing. Even more when I have friends who CAN. Yes. Good times. I have decided that karaoke boxes are a strange time warp, wherein you enter the room, and time speeds up so that you are shocked and dismayed and perplexed to get your 5 minute warning. THERE IS ONLY TIME FOR ONE MORE SONG!?!?

Those are my thoughts. There may be more in the coming days. There may not be.
If you have specific questions, ask away in the comments!

Thank you to everyone.
Ten thousand thank yous.

(if you weren't there, there are photos up all over FB. if we're not FB friends...we probably should be.)

January 7, 2011

Finally Feeling Old

friend: You blab.
me: No! I'm a verbal processor. (pause) And have a lot of good friends.
friend: Nice get out clause.

This conversation is going through my mind as I prep for tomorrow's big art show, and wonder if I am really as secretive as I think.

What I do know is that I'm blessed with an abundance of fantastic people in my life. This last month has been full of encouragement from people who are thrilled that I'm doing this.

I can't stop smiling.

I thought to myself earlier today, I hope this is what a wedding feels like. Other than a wedding day, how often does a girl have (almost) all her favourite people come to one place to ooh and ahh and compliment and celebrate her life?

Not very often. But if I never get married (which I hope is not how my life pans out), I will have had at least one good party with people from all parts of my life. I am amazed by the assortment of people who are coming.

If people like my artwork half as much as I do tonight, I will be smiling for a week.

This is honestly, the most exciting weekend of my (not-quite-so-young)* life.

* Someone sent me an email this week that said, "Enjoy your last week of being 25!" They are younger than me, although it doesn't seem that way. But it hit me. For the first time in ever, I felt old. As someone who has wanted to be older for most of my life, this surprised me. And I felt a little bit sad and a little bit happy - I beat back one insecurity. And am gonna make room for a new one. HOW DO I ALREADY HAVE WRINKLES!?

January 6, 2011

Inception in Real Life

I woke up at 5:18 this morning from a dream about a dream.

In my dream, a guy I know and I were telling my mother a "funny story" - namely, how we had (independently) had the same dream. We interrupted each other, filling in details and saying how strange it was that we'd dreamt the same thing. There was a barn involved; I think we were stranded at a farm, and had to spend the night in a tent, which I remember thinking was a detail that sounded sketchy and maybe shouldn't be included in this retelling.

Arriving in my dream (the movie makes a good point - you always arrive in the middle of a dream, when something is in process and you're just suddenly there), I noticed that this guy was massaging my feet as we casually chatted with my mom. I guess we're dating? I thought. In Dreamland, I was fine with this foot massage, although I'm not sure how I would feel about it in a real life relationship...

Anyway, I woke up and looked over at the clock, and wondered, Did that happen? Did we really share a dream? How long ago was that? I felt like maybe it was at the start of December.* I wasn't really sure. And then I thought, Woah - Inception in real life. Weird...

It wasn't until I had started my day a few hours later that I could confidently say we did not share a dream. If we had, I would surely have told someone before now. Also, I am not dating this guy, and I would have a very clear (and I'm sure awkward) memory of a conversation in which one of us admitted to dreaming about the other, and the other one returning the admission that they had also dreamed about the other, and then the super strange reality that it was THE SAME DREAM would have come to light. And then we probably would have started dating.


(Sidenote: all y'all who are trying to guess who said guy is and if we might, in fact, end up dating, I will just tell you that I've dreamed of dating various guys whom I have never dated and never will date for a variety of reasons, and that a man's appearance as a boyfriend in my dream is in no way indicative of our real-life relationship.)

The point is this: I honestly didn't know how much of my dream was dream. This has happened a few other times. Once, it was only after referencing a conversation from the night before with someone that I discovered that conversation was a dream, not reality. Oops.

It's a strange feeling, and I kind of wish that Inception were a real thing.
(I wonder what the message is I needed to hear.)

*sometime this fall (I'm not sure when), my friend Amelia and I discovered that a mutual friend made an appearance in both of our dreams on the same night. This came up briefly in conversation last night, and is where I lay the blame for all this other wacked-out-ness.

January 4, 2011

2010's Biggest Disappointment

...was that I did not get to go to North Korea.

This means that:
a. My life has been good. I am not entitled to many complaints.
b. I will travel in 2011. Travel is as engrained in me, perhaps, as the arts.

I have been in Ontario for seven months now.
Seven months without getting on a plane.

It's the longest time I've gone without flying in...six or seven years.
I'm feeling itchy.

But blessed.

I Did Not Stowaway

I am on holidays until January 10th. This is lovely, as I've not had any vacation time (apart from Thanksgiving) since I started work in August. It is also strange, as I miss the boys by the end of each weekend; who knows how it will be after two whole weeks!

On Christmas Day, I got a call from the family. The boys wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas and tell me what Santa brought them. It was an adorable and chaotic call. Apparently, C asked if it was "a Beth day" early in the morning. While on the phone, he asked if they could come to my house in the morning to see me.

Two days into my time off, I found myself promising to stop by for a visit sometime (granted, I forgot a camera card that I would like to have back). But I'm not surprised. It's the obvious build-up after a great month of work. The visit fell through, but a second phone call reminded me that I have indeed fallen in love with these boys.

December was the best month so far. We're all hitting our stride.

G broke the touch barrier with me - I can now get away with an occasional squeeze or tickle, and he no longer moves away every time I sit too close to him on the couch. He confided in me that he'd hidden candy in his room, and then asked, wide-eyed, "But you have to promise not to tell Mom and Dad where it is if you find it, okay?"

When C found out that I have never been to their tropical island vacation destination, he invited me to come with them. When I said thank you, but I think it's just his family going... he said quite solemnly, "Well, we're going to miss you while we're gone. We are really going to miss you." And on the last day before the holidays, G suggested I stow away in his suitcase to come along; although I should be careful because some things explode at high altitudes...

So while I'm loving my time off this week, I am also excited to get back in the groove with The Family (that's how it is in my head). I am glad that I enjoy my job. I think everyone should be a nanny before they have their own kids.


Kind of.

January 3, 2011

It's Obvious We're Useless On Our Own

I wanted to tell you all about my current favourite song, which feels like a perfectly soft and cozy and much needed scarf during these winter months. I was so excited to share it.

Then I went to see if there are any videos of it on Youtube. There aren't. So I widened my search, and came across this interview with the musician, Kelli Schaeffer. And I read it, and I felt happy and then I felt sad, because I thought, "Oh, she loves Jesus!" which I sort of assumed from the lyrics of said song-that-I-love, but then she talks about not being a Christian anymore, and I thought, "WHY!?!?" because that is how I feel about these things. Like I felt about Mumford & Sons, and like I feel about my friends who have decided that Jesus isn't for them (or isn't real).

It's not a judging WHY!?!? (I don't think), but an honestly perplexed one. I want to understand the process of how it happened for each of them.

I share a lot of my friends' criticisms of the church and Christianity as institution. But at the end of the day, no matter how many days I have woken up thinking, "I don't want to be a Christian anymore," (and believe me, those days have happened), there is something about Jesus that I cannot deny. At the same time, I don't see myself as inherently any different than these friends or these musicians...which is why I'm perplexed.

One of the poems I'm showing on Saturday is kind of about this. And I wonder how people will see it. One of the things that is most terrifying about my art show is that each person who comes will view me in light of these works, and probably view me in ways that I don't view myself. Or they will read in my art what I never intended to say. But I can't control these things, because that is a risk that is inherent in creating and showcasing art. It is uncontrollable.

I still love the song. It opens with these lines:

Jesus, turn this wine back into water,
So we can quench our dry and thirsty souls.
This desert's dry as hell and getting hotter,
And it's your love that makes us whole.

You can listen to "Carry Us Over" here, or head over to Fuel/Fire (it's at the very end of the entry) for a free download of it.

(Also, if you have thoughts on any of these topics, I am very much happy to see a dialogue start up in the comments. But please keep in mind that I am a strong believer in respect; I have readers with all manner of perspectives and the issue of predestination, which I know is tied in to my thoughts, is a particularly thorny one for some.)

Did You Miss Me?

I'm back! Did you notice I was gone?

It was great to take an unannounced break from blogging. I wasn't planning on it, and then it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Here are some things I loved on my holiday:

1. Family.

"Scheme-ish people are all around me! I mean squeamish. But scheme-ish too..."
- my brother makes me laugh.

"That is like playing with food in my country..."
- my Peruvian brother-in-law, on our nephew's new ZhuZhu pet.

"When I am old and rich and own my own garage, I will get some Chia pets in my head."
- same brother-in-law, on dealing with going bald.

Crokinole tournaments are fun - especially when the entire family is cheering for the same person to lose. Twister is fun, especially when you play with five twenty-somethings and a 3 year-old. Hopefully the photos your aunt took of your bum sticking out of the strange tangle do not end up on a Christmas card, as she suggested.

And if a cousin ever offers to show you photo of their field research collecting Bot flies, say no. Unless you already know that Bot flies are parasitic larvae that are roughly a quarter of the size of their mousey hosts, and that collecting them means anesthetizing said mice so that the larvae leave and you can measure and photograph them, and the massive holes they leave behind. Shudder, gag. Can't unsee those images.

Watching movies with Grampie is always fun. I love his laugh. But he is more deaf than he lets on.

2. Holidays, themselves.

I don't actually care that much about New Year's. Realizing we missed midnight by five minutes didn't phase me at all. And it was nice to have a small group of friends over, especially after spending the last seven (SEVEN) years at major parties.

Christmas gifts; I can hardly remember what I received, only what I gave. Which is, I guess, how it should be...  What I care about on Christmas is time spent with my family and eating good food(s). I have mixed thoughts right now on the whole sacred/secular duality of Christmas. Too many thoughts and not enough certainty to dive into them on the blog at this point, though.

3. Friends.

I feel incredibly blessed and encouraged by the overwhelming amount of support and surprise people have expressed about my birthday art show.

Last year, I ran a big student conference. This year, I showed up and helped out (a little bit). Mostly, I caught up with old friends. And it was glorious. I loved hanging out with the "older" moms. They aren't actually old. They're just the women who were married when I met them. As opposed to the girls I once mentored who now have husbands and children. They are the "young" moms.

Okay, that's my recap. If I have forgotten anything super-important, I will write it later. Now that I'm back!