February 28, 2011

Who Was I!?

During Jeopardy (teen week means easy "US-curriculum-based questions"), I commented to Nadine that I remember reading The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter and Animal Farm - in grade eight.


I was twelve. Turned thirteen halfway through the year. At a conservative Christian school.

I applaud my teacher for allowing (encouraging) this. My love of literature was fostered. Look at me now!

I would like to find my old book reports. I wonder if they're around in a box somewhere.

*the same year, I was asked out for the first time. After spending an entire evening of youth group trying to avoid the request I'd been told was coming my way, I answered the boy, in all seriousness, "I'm not ready for a relationship." I think I had more common sense at twelve than I do at twenty-six.

February 26, 2011

On A Lighter Note

Yesterday at work:

C: Can we make gingermen sometime?
me: Sure, we can make gingerbread men.
C: At Christmas, we make gingerbread houses. And we can eat them, 'cause they're food.
me: Yes, they are for eating.
C: But if they were chickenbread houses, they would be healthier, right? Because chicken is protein, right? And protein makes you run faster.
me: (laughing) Yes, chicken is protein. And protein helps you grow strong.

And an assortment of texts I don't want to delete:

Get out of my head.
Just saw a sign that says free lunch. First thought: I should go there! Second thought: why is it free? Oh no! It's a strip club! (no such thing as a free lunch these days)

Cool. Date b

If ur not sleeping well maybe u need a husband to keep u warm.

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are shooting stars?

I can't believe I didney reply to this text from now 24 hours ago. Eesh. Work was so busy I couldn't...and then my brain fell off and...

Serious, bree.

Mmm quite. God is _________.

Hand to forehead and swoon. Miss you lots. I'm checking for that T.O. job all the time!

I love you Beth. No. None of us are blameless. It's okay though. Really, it is.

Try 100 pounds. My heart feels sexy!!!

Reachin for the stars...Run away with me...To another place...

Yes yes yes to everything you said. And I didn't mind THE SHOUTING!

Como estas mucho tiempo que no escuchamos nada de ti.

The point was that you went, and had pointless fun. Does it have to be more than that?

Me too. I miss our talks.

Does ________'s apartment seem completely impersonal to you? Like it came from a catalogue of Young Urban Male.

I'm 80% there. Aren't you dick?
(one minute later) Wow. Sick. Sick
(two minutes later) So I will get ill as well?
(five minutes later) I meant sick. Just to reiterate.
(ten minutes later) Like it was supposed to be the word sick. 

February 25, 2011

"Eyes, Beth."

Sometimes it is really difficult to package thoughts into a blog entry. Tonight's most pertinent thoughts require two prefaces and will potentially be quite lengthy. I am tempted to watch an episode of The Mentalist instead of sorting it all out.

Preface A:
I don't know how to give myself permission to feel what I feel and want what I want even if it is irrational or "less" than another's feelings/pain/suffering/etc. I find it unbearably hard to say, "This is where I'm at: __________." Without following it up with some sort of plan to move forward or "fix" those things I dislike.

(Today, I feel overly possessive of friendships, jealous of girls dating men I do not want, grieved over the death of someone I haven't seen in five years.*)

Preface B:
I have found myself hesitating to blog about my relationship with Jesus this year. Partly because hesitant is exactly the word I would use to describe our relationship right now. And partly because as my readership expands and my non-church readers grow in number (and, frankly, church-readers who don't know me offline), I am afraid of misconstruing my thoughts, misrepresenting who I am (and/or who I believe Jesus to be).

The Main Thing:

(took a break here to watch The Mentalist, write a lighthearted post for tomorrow, chat with the roommate and her boy, and generally do all sorts of other things)

Over the past year, I have seen too much pain and brokenness.

The thin outer shell that I held in place to protect my heart has been worn down by global catastrophes, the heartaches of those I hold dear, loved ones making choices that I see as damaging, and my own inability to do (or be) the good I believe exists.**

It has left me wondering, Is the kingdom of God merely a promise for "someday"? Why are the pockets of beauty and wholeness that do exist so small, so seemingly insignificant, so far from perfect? and I have been asking God, What are you DOING? Why aren't you doing anything - or why are you doing THIS? How is this something that brings GOOD to the world?

Trying to express my distress, I asked a friend, "If people who know Jesus are just as screwed up, if our lives don't have anything noticeably better or different about them, what's the point?" She asked me what I meant. "I mean, what's the point of Jesus, if things aren't any better or different and heaven is just a probable promise for a possible afterlife?" (I may have let a little cynicism sneak through in my voice.)

"I have never thought about that question before. What's the point of Jesus?" She was a bit incredulous. "The point is to be loved."

I thought about that some more. What do I expect of Jesus?What do I expect of people? Where do these expectations come from?

Then on Tuesday, Jesus rebuked me, using his words to Peter at the end of the Gospel of John. After his resurrection, Jesus and Peter have this intimate conversation that reestablishes Peter's place in his plan. As it wraps up, Peter glances over at John and asks Jesus, "But what about him?"

"If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" Jesus replies.
"You, follow me!"

It hit me that I have been far too much like Peter lately - my focus has been on everyone around me and God's plan for their lives, and as I've asked God, "But what about this? What about them?" I have stopped asking, "What about me?" because:
a. I clearly have my s#@! together (not. at all.)
b. As I've become more perplexed by what he is (or isn't) doing, I've feared the implications for my own life.

Again, like Peter, I've taken my eyes off Jesus and noticed that the waves are SO BIG and the wind is SO STRONG and O GOD, I'M GOING TO DROWN!

When I am working with C, and he is going haywire or having a tantrum or unwilling to listen to me, I say to him, "Eyes." And then I wait. And wait. And wait. Usually holding onto him. Until he is able to look me in the eyes and hold my gaze. The act of doing this calms him down. Refocuses him. Enables me to speak to him and be heard. Then we talk. And then we move forward.

For the past few months, I have been that three year-old, shaking my head and running around and running away and panicking - and Jesus has just taken me by the shoulders and said, "Eyes, Beth." And now he's waiting while I, like C, look everywhere else I possibly can, because for some reason, meeting his eyes is the most painful and difficult thing in the world for me to do.

*When I learned today that Rob Hall had died, tears came to my eyes instinctively and immediately. I haven't seen him or his family in 5 years, but they are a family I have loved and respected for years. I had thought of trying to connect with them when I came back to Ontario... Then I found out they had taken their 3 children on a bicycle pilgrimage through Spain. (!) Then they went to Africa. Now Rob has died and communities literally around the world are grieving the loss of a genuine Jesus-loving man... I feel grieved by his death, by the shock and the loss to his lovely family. As I scoured the FB page created in his memory, I read stories from strangers that added to my sadness. And I discovered that in two days, seventeen thousand dollars has been donated to his wife and children. This is a statement that says that good exists in this world, and this was a man who impacted many lives.

The overwhelming thought in all this (after immense sadness for his family and my friends who've been quite close to them), is this: That's how I want to die. Is that strange? I feel like this is a man who died well, because in his living, he lived well, loved well, laughed well. The man lived.

It reminds me of the final line in Ever After: "While Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after the point is that they lived." I don't know about the "happily ever after" part. But I know I want to live.

**I don't mean to imply that the past year has sucked. It hasn't. Which reminds me just how GRACIOUS Jesus is and how I can't possibly EARN good things (This just in: The Secret is a lie. Also, it bears startling resemblance to the ideology of The Secret Garden which I just re-read after seeing the musical last weekend. Good musical, weird Christian Science philosophy in the novel.)

February 24, 2011

Tired in Toronto

It's not falling asleep that's the problem; it's staying asleep. It has now been officially a month since I slept soundly through the night. Possibly longer. The last time I remember sleeping through the night was the first week of January, for one night. Before that...well, I started paying attention at the end of December, after my fourth experience of sleep paralysis, this time accompanied by the shadowy figure of a man in my bedroom doorway.

I'd guess I'm still getting 6 hours of sleep a night, so I'm not dying from sleep deprivation. I have not gone to the doctor (I don't even have a doctor!). And I don't like to over-spiritualize this sort of thing... So I'm left waiting it out.

Other suggestions I've received include a glass of wine before bed, melatonin, some type of nasty-tasting tea.

That is all. Just telling the world. A shared sorrow is a half sorrow, right?

February 22, 2011

Don't Speak Too Soon

I had a little moment today that may have been an epiphany. I am hesitant to call it that until I see how (if) it impacts my heart and life. Publishing this will remind me to take time to let it sink in...it might be just the oh-so-obvious insight that I need to shift my focus in this somewhat angst-y year.

It also would make a half-finished but very-serious post irrelevant, so you'll have to content yourself for a day or two with this adorable baby and this cryptic post of nothingness.

Allow Me a Moment...

Baby in Bath
Originally uploaded by bethaf.
...to be that girl and shout, "I LOVE BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

How could you not want to snuggle with this bundle of adorableness!?

I am in noooooooooooooooooo rush to have babies of my own, but dang, I love to borrow others'.

February 20, 2011

All By Myself

I was rescued from a night that could have looked something quite like this by the voices of a few good friends, the warmth of fresh laundry, and a stern talking-to from my own self.

Scene: The movie theatre, watching the opening scene of Bridget Jones' Diary (sometime during Grade 12):

me: (whispering) Kim. If that is me when I am thirty, I give you permission to shoot me. Please, shoot me.
Kim: Are you kidding!? That is totally going to be me!

I'm not thirty yet, but it is strange to think back to being 16, and how completely impossible it seemed that my reality would ever be anything like Bridget's. Um, it's not so far off, some days. Ten years ago, I would not have predicted any of my current life.

And SPEAKING OF COLIN FIRTH! I really need to see The King's Speech. And I still want to see A Single Man from last year. I am sure both of them are quite good movies and warrant viewing even if I didn't have a soft spot for this dashing Brit.

I will laughingly admit that I once watched What a Girl Wants with my cousins, strictly for his role as father.

It's snowing out and I should eat dinner. Or is it too late for food?
That's all.

February 18, 2011

Bought Nothing Month

I did it. Almost.

These are the thing I said "no" to because of my little challenge:

  • Incendies (I nearly went on a solo movie date, which I have never done. Then I remembered that I couldn't.)
  • Eharmony (They gave me an offer I could hardly refuse! $10 a month! Better chances of meeting a man with that investment than any other option in that price range, I think.)
  • Shirt (Glad I didn't, as I don't even remember what it looked like.)
  • Belt (If it was $10 like I thought at first, j would have bought it. But it was $35.)
  • Thrift store!! (Note to self: go thrifting next time I am in Guelph. Way cheaper than Toronto.)
  • The Fighter (Not a movie I really care about, but I missed out on some quality company.)

Things I forgot I'd pre-planned to pay for:
  • Massage therapy
  • Trip home (BUT I got a ride with a friend that halved the cost!)
  • Part of my iPod touch. (I had the second portion to pay the friend I bought it off.)

Things I Broke The Rules For:
  • Taxi (after a particularly late night out, I justified it by the fact that I had not paid for food, drinks, or cover)
  • Tickets (if the event doesn't happen for a month, it is kind of like I didn't spend the money yet, right? There was no way around this expenditure, I'm afraid...)

So. Success ish. Did I save any money? Not really. Turns out most of my spending money goes to meals and coffees with friends.

This next month I am going to try something really radical: sticking to the budget I made for myself last summer when I first got my nannying job!

We'll see how it goes...

Tomorrow I am buying a shirt. I have wanted it for months, and then my friend's tweet reminded me, and tomorrow I am buying it after work. 

A Love-Hate Relationship

Every Thursday night, I hang out with the same group of people from my church.

We share stories from our weeks and tease each other and read the Bible and talk about why it matters that King David gave a fig cake to a dehydrated Egyptian.

I hate going, most weeks.

No one there is who I want them to be. I am never who I want to be. Conversations go in directions I don't want them to. People have opinions I do not share. Some of us talk too much *cough* me *cough* and other people hardly speak up at all. It is insanely frustrating to me.

The worst part is that every week, my pride gets slapped in the face.

There is no other way to put it. It takes a big ol' beating and I leave feeling tired and sad and with questions I hadn't had three hours earlier.

At the same time, I have no plans to quit going. I am coming to love our crew of peeps. Not just like, but love. Care about deeply. Be willing to fight for. I see myself differently and know myself in light of this little community. And every week, there is something new and startling/surprising/confusing/beautiful/humbling that Jesus communicates to my heart.

I need these Thursday nights to be difficult. It makes them beautiful.

Postscript: fifteen minutes later, I have turned my computer back on to add these two thoughts:

a. I don't always feel that it's "beautiful" at the end of the night. Sometimes I go home and fall asleep feeling irritated with the entire world.
b. I wonder how other people in the group feel about our Thursday nights. And how they might feel about how I feel.

February 15, 2011

If I Hear One More Brit...I'm Getting On a Plane

Today, I feel homesick for the UK. This is strange, since the longest consecutive time I have spent there is a month, so I can't say that I've ever lived there. (Although I did realize an hour ago that in three of the last five Februarys, I have gone to Scotland. So this missing-feeling sort of makes sense.)

Each of these songs caused wee pangs in my heart when I heard them today.

Loch Lomond - I sang this song as I stood on the shore of Loch Lomond last year.

Chasing Pavements - "Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements?" GOOD QUESTION, Adele.

Fancy - This song has nothing to do with the UK, except that the chorus always makes me remember a wee Glaswegian lass saying to me, "Do you fancy him? I think he fancies you." (I thought at first that the chorus said, "You fancy her"...it actually says, "You fancy, huh")

Grief & Play & Growing Up

Last month, I spent three consecutive Saturdays learning about children and death.

No joke. I want to volunteer with the Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care, specifically with children who have a life-limiting illness or who have a family member with a life-limiting illness. One of the first steps through the door is a series of Saturday training sessions.

It's been interesting seeing peoples' reactions as I've told them how excited I am at this opportunity - each weekend I left the training tired from sitting all day, but eager to be in someone's home and life during a turbulent time. Is that weird? It isn't that I am glad of trauma and devastation, but I think the services that Philip Aziz offers are a beautiful thing.

Most of the training focused on two topics: grief and play. Because that's what we volunteers are there for. Helping children have some stability and support as they walk through grief, and giving them the freedom and opportunity to play.

Play is very important in childrens' lives, and the speakers told story after story of life-processing in the context of play. It made me wonder why we cut play out of our lives as we grow up, and how perhaps we adults would be a little more well-adjusted if we gave ourselves the freedom to play. Not play as mind-numbing escape, not play as competition, and not play as moral debauchery...but play as play.

I also think most adults could use some training in how to interact with people who are grieving. Sensitivity training! That's what we need. How to navigate potentially awkward conversations (and not just about death), how to give people the freedom to say no, how to let people know we support them without demanding more from them. We all have life-crises of one sort or another, and yet most of us are ill-equipped to step into others' lives and walk beside them. If the general population at large had the maturity and knowledge to do this, I would be out of a volunteering opportunity. And wouldn't that be a beautiful thing?

Two links to clips from The IT Crowd to wrap things up with a laugh.
One shows how awkward and afraid our culture is when it comes to death.
The other shows how good intentions don't always equal comfort.

February 13, 2011

Watching The Grammys With Nadine

Prior to living with Nadine, I don't think I've ever watched an entire awards show. Now, it's tradition. But with commentary like this, who wouldn't want to watch!?!?

(the opening singers come out)
me: Jennifer. Florence. Martina? Yolanda...and - boobs!!
her: Yeah, Christina doesn't get a name.

(a commercial for an upcoming movie)
me: I find Vin Diesel strangely attractive.
her: To me, HELL would be a double date with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. I think they're the most boring people. I can't stand them...If you showed me a picture of your boyfriend and it was Paul Walker, I would say, "That is a very attractive man." But if we had to have a conversation, I would be like, "You're dead inside." He's the male Jessica Alba.

(Lenny Kravitz introduces Muse)
I would rather you date Paul Walker than Lenny Kravitz. He wears more eye liner than any girl should. I'll find you a boyfriend by the end of the night.

(B.O.B, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae)
Is B.O.B wearing a monocle? He should have come to the party last night!
You could do THAT with your hair! All you need is a little curl.

I like Bruno Mars...I also like his name, cause Bruno is like the bad guy from Popeye, and Mars makes him....intergalactic!!!

(Leann Rimes is nominated)
I don't think we should support her right now.
me: We being...you and I?
Anyone. The world. Women!

(Justin Bieber is introduced)
How about "a young kid from Canada with a dream, not a kid with a dream from Canada!?!?!" Who writes this crap!?

He gets, like, a ninja marching band!?


(Muse says their thank yous)
I never want to be introduced to anyone as "my beautiful pregnant girlfriend." It sounds so white trash.

(Lady Gaga wins)
Wow! Who doesn't want a dress that has a built-in bum!?! Is that a dress?

(Lea Michele introduces Lady Antebellum)
Wimmers? She said wimmers! I love it!

(CeeLo starts)
me: You have nothing to say about this!?
her: It's like Elton John meets Lady Gaga meets Big Bird meets awesomeness! 

I don't know what that was, but I think it was good? Awesome, cool, life-changing... I don't know. It's the Muppet Outkasts.

(Dolly Parton cover)
I think Norah and Keith stole all the good hair...John is really in an unfortunate situation on that stage.

Why is he so gross!?!? He wasn't like this.... Oh, John!! It's so SAD!

(Love the Way You Lie)
If you're allowed to find Vin Diesel attractive, I think I should be allowed to find Eminem attractive.

(Matthew Morrissey & the Grammy Foundation)
I think he wants to be Justin Timberlake, and I don't think he can be.

Awkward. This whole... Dear Grammys, stop boring us with good things.

(Mick Jagger)
me: He is a scrawny man.
Yeah, he's too skinny for me.
me: That's the only problem?
Too skinny. Too shiny... (camera pans to crowd) UGH! John Mayer! Every time I see him I convulse with repulsion!

(Barbara Streisand)
It's not extreme enough for me to have an opinion.

Love is evergreen? (sticks out tongue) I'm sorry.

(P-Diddy intros Rihanna & Drake)
me: I don't know how I feel about his metal teeth. I certainly wouldn't want him biting me.
her: Is that usually what you think when you see a man? "Would I like him to bite me?"
me: silently shaking my head
her: Drake has nice teeth and he's local. So....yes?

I don't understand her outfit. The back is a little Pocahontas-y, and the front is Wonderwoman, and her hair is Ronald McDonald, and Drake is dressed like a cool guy in a Canadian winter...

(Album of the Year approaches)
It'll be Lady Antebellum. Or Lady Gaga. It will be a Lady. Are there any other Ladies out there? Ladybug...Lady...there's gotta be more Ladies.

(commercial interlude)
You could always fight with the Canadian Forces next year! If you're worried about unemployment...line it up!

(Barbara Streisand back on stage)
You know, if I were an old lady, I would wear that to bed. To seduce my old lover!

Then Arcade Fire won, and all of Canada was happy. And I went to bed.
Also. Every celebrity I didn't know, or has-been that I was curious about - SHE KNOWS!!!* An amazing fount of pop culture knowledge, folks.

*except Esperenza Spalding. But she did know Rafael Saadiq.

Why I Go To Work on Mondays

(waiting for food to cook)
C: How long will that take?
me: Mm, probably six minutes?
C: Six!? Six is a really long time! Way longer than it takes to get to Antarctica!

(bumps his shoulder)
C: Ow, my arm! I don't think I can lift anything until my next vacation!!!

(wearing his penguin costume)
C: Can I tell you how penguins give love on Valentines?
me: Sure. How do penguins give love?
C: They do this. (he wraps himself around my leg) They hug.

February 12, 2011

Top 40 Thoughts

I listen to a lot more Top 40 than usual these days. The boys I nanny love the radio while we drive to and from school and the club. Although I am trying to introduce them to some more indie/rock style, the current reality is we listen to a lot of 99.9 and 92.5... Here are some of my thoughts on some of what we hear:

1. For someone who is supposed to be an international sensation, I don't think I have ever heard Justin Bieber on the radio. (sorry to mention him, Becca!) I find this fascinating.

2. Rihanna...she can sing. But her lyrics are too much for me. And even if they don't really catch it, I'd argue that they're too much for little kids too. "Sure, C...those are the words..." Katy Perry and Britney Spears also make it into the category of no-video-sharing from me. Bleh.

3. Usher. I heard that he was the most tweeted about person at the Superbowl, which is funny, because it's supposed to be about football. I am going to admit, I really like this song:

I like that he says, "I think I remember those - eyes, eyes, eyes." It makes me laugh a little, cause I'm pretty sure that's not what he'd remember.
Also, the line, "Thank God the week is done, I feel like a zombie gone back to life..." was going round and round in my head last night. It's how I felt.

4. I'm a big fan of the sound of Bruno Mars. Love, love his voice. And I usually approve of his lyrics. Apart from the obvious melodrama of Grenade, I like its sentiments. And I love the way he sings, "I shoulda known you was trouble from the first kiss. Had your eyes wide open - why were they open??"
Good question, Bruno.

He looks different than I expected.

5. I disliked the song Stutterin' by Fefe Dobson on first listen, but I've come partway around. I fully agree with her sentiments on dishonesty and betrayal in relationships, and I'm okay with calling guys on their crap. I just dislike the framework of stuttering. Having dated someone with a stutter and having other friends with fluency difficulties, I don't think they're something to make light of.

Ok, I just watched the music video, and the story it tells is not. what. I. expected. Hm. (The car dancing in is TOO MUCH.)

6. I'm not sure if this song really counts as "Top 40," but we heard it in the car the other day, and the lyrics stuck out differently than they had before. I didn't really expect Michael Buble to get it quite this well, but I can't get over the line, "You'll make me work so we can work to work it out..." In the bridge, he sings, "I'll work to work it out." This is a good thing, and he gets it and I want it someday. The biggest thing I dislike about the song is how he uses the word, "kid."
And who doesn't love a good grocery store dance sequence!?
(This video is sweet and simple, and probably made a lot of fans extremely happy when they saw their own photos!)

February 10, 2011

The Powers That Be - cont'd (WaOW 6B)

(continuing on from yesterday...)

The right to say no.
Many women I know feel great amounts of guilt each time they say the word, "No." Whether it is "No, I don't want to go on a date with you." Or "No, I can't stay an extra hour tonight." Or "No, I am not interested in another credit card." They feel trapped by questions and favours they cannot seem to refuse.

There are, of course, women who only ever say no. Their life is their life and heaven forbid anyone should ask for a corner of it. Rigid in their structures, they make you feel guilty for asking.

Some might see the ability to say, "No" as a fairly passive power (or perhaps, not even a form of power at all), but it is something I am increasingly awed by. As humans, we have the right to say, "No," without guilt - whether it is to a date, a work request, or a family member. As women, we are (I think) more often on the receiving ends of such requests than men are (or perhaps we simply tend to carry the weight of them differently?). But we are not powerless.

What would it look like if your life held a balance of "Yes's" and "No's"? If you felt free to make choices, not out of obligation, pity, or guilt, but out of freedom and desire? What if "No" was not a defense mechanism ("If I say yes to on more thing, I will fall to pieces!") but was a gracious way to establish the space that defines who you are?

The gift of knowledge (emotional intimacy).
I almost don't need to describe these extremes. You already know them - one is "The Ice Queen" who never lets anyone see past her veneer of smooth perfection and control. You don't have a clue what is going on internally or emotionally, because it is all facts and external realities from her.

And we've all met our share of women with a bad case of emotional diarrhea. The minutiae of their life are available for all to see and hear, and there are constant eruptions of interior woes and unnecessary oversharing.

The thing is, giving others knowledge about ourselves is a giving of power. We cannot control what they say or do or how they respond to our vulnerability. We also wield power here, because we shape how others view us by the details that we share (or withhold) about our interior lives. Although I am a firm believer in the importance of honesty and vulnerability, I also think we also need to check ourselves and our motives. Why am I compelled to share this story in this setting? Am I bypassing these details for the sake of my reputation? Does this person need, deserve, or want to be invited into this part of my life? Am I holding back out of fear? What would best serve the other person in this situation?

These are my thoughts.
They don't have conclusions.
But I am genuinely and earnestly interested in hearing others' perspectives - maybe one of you holds the key of knowledge that will help a whole piece of my life fall into place! (if only it were that easy.)

How do you ladies who are older and/or wiser than I am walk powerfully and humbly through life? 
Men, do you think at all about empowering women? What does that mean/look like in light of what I've shared?

I think this is the last post in the Women and Our Ways series. Unless you all send me suggestions of topics that urgently need addressing. But don't worry, I'll keep talking about being a woman (because I am one) and will share my strong opinions (because I have them) and will ask for your thoughts (because I want them).

I've really enjoyed this. It's had me thinking through a lot of life experiences (oh, the stories I could tell!) and re-establishing what it is I believe. And with each entry, I've had to apply my bold statements to my own life in real time...which is always humbling and never as easy as you'd think.  But good for me. So thanks for being a part of this and letting me ramble and sharing some of your own insights!

February 9, 2011

The Powers That Be (6th WaoW)

I'm not sure exactly what the phrase "female empowerment" means, but I am guessing it has to do with women and with power and having opportunities to wield our powers. I have been thinking a lot, in the past year or two, about the unique powers I have as a woman and what it looks like to use them well. Because our powers (like all powers) can be, and often are, used selfishly or inappropriately. And figuring this out as a woman is quite complicated. Sometimes I run from it in fear and sometimes I abuse it, and every so often, I find that delicate middle-ground.

In my mental meanderings, I've identified four specific areas that I would like to someday navigate powerfully and yet selflessly. I'm not sure that these are explicitly "feminine" arenas, but I do think that the way we approach each as women is distinctly different than the way a man would.

So let's jump in.

The power of sexuality.
From my conservative church upbringing, I internalized an ideal that thought good Christians would essentially be asexual beings until their wedding nights, at which point they would be rewarded with an easy and flawless and fantastically mutual sexual relationship for the rest of their lives. This is naivety in its extreme.

At the other end of the spectrum are the new wave of feminists like those in Female Chauvinist Pigs, whose philosophy seems to be not only to embrace their sexuality, but to flaunt and commodify it; something men have been doing for us for millenia. I find this problematic for many of the same reasons that I find pornography problematic. In fact, I think it's worse, because we are selling ourselves.

So where is the middle ground? What does it look like to live as a woman, not a man or an "it"? What does it look like to live comfortable in our skin and the reality of our sexuality without being consumed by our sexual identity? How does our sexuality integrate with the other places we find our identity?

The ability to nurture.
At one extreme is the "mothering" syndrome that feels compelled to coddle and cradle every person who comes across her path. She pulls people in and can't grant freedom. She stifles in her desire to be needed.

On the other end are women whose words habitually cut, tear or manipulate. I am convinced that pre-teen girls are some of the most evil beings on earth; a large part of it is because they have discovered the emotional/social power of their words, but have no moral compass to drive them north.

It is not that I think men are incapable of nurturing or fostering the emotional well-being and growth of others. But there is something notably different in the capacity of women to build up (and tear down) those she interacts with. How do we do it? When do we speak, when do we give space? What does it look like to be a woman known for genuine, life-giving encouragement? How do we hold back from the temptation to subtly manipulate those in our sphere of influence?

Phew. This is a lot. I'm going to take a break here. We'll continue tomorrow. 
But no need to wait to offer thoughts or questions or comments!

How do you ladies who are older and/or wiser than I am walk powerfully and humbly through life? 
Men, do you think at all about empowering women? What does that mean/look like in light of what I've shared?

February 7, 2011

Handy Manny

These days, I watch a lot more kids' TV and cartoons than I ever did as a child. For weeks now, one of my favourites has been Handy Manny.

Handy Manny is a helpful guy with a box of lively tools and a handful of quirky neighbours. His thing is fixing things. And teaching a few words of Spanish (of course).

I have to admit, I developed a little bit of a cartoon crush. His voice is smooth like butter, he's one of the most helpful guys around, and he can fix anything!

This weekend I was chatting with my sister & sister-in-law and discovered two things. Well, three, actually.

1. They both know the show. My nephew loves it too. We have similar tastes in a lot of things. We also love the same songs on RockBand...

2. My brother-in-law goes by Manny at work, and the joke is that he is Handy Manny... When I admitted my cartoon crush, my sister jumped in, "Sorry, he's taken!" And I've got to say, my brother-in-law is a bit like Handy Manny. Helpful, gentle, quick to laugh and lend a hand. He's a good sort of man.

3. Handy Manny's voice is the voice of Wilmer Valderra. Or Fez from That 70's Show

Here's Handy Manny, for those of you without children. Can you hear a little bit of Fez?

February 6, 2011

Emotional Porn (WaoW the Fifth)

The weekend that our new roommate moved in, she sat in the living room while the other three of us sat in the adjoining room discussing our culture's views on pornography, masturbation, and sexuality. I'm not sure how far into the conversation we realized this was strange and uncomfortable for our new arrival, but I do think this probably didn't make the transition easy for her.

However, I am a big believer in frank (but sensitive) conversations.

To start, I am decidedly anti-porn. In all of its varieties and forms. (This is a huge topic, but today we are only going to take a small bite out of it. If there is a demand, though, we can come back to this another time.)

One of the major reasons I am anti-porn is because it is incredibly selfish, treating sex and sexuality as a commodity, fulfilling the 'needs' and desires of the consumer without any sacrifice on their own part, dehumanizing the relationship. It actually hinders real-life relationship building, as it creates expectations that are unrealistic, two-dimensional, and self-serving.

I used to feel slightly self-righteous and pious for being a non-user of pornography. But one day I had a startling revelation.

I am not so different.

I may not watch XXX movies or surf the net for adult only content, but I am guilty of consuming media and feeding stereotypes that hinder healthy romantic relationships, just the same.

As women, we have our own not-so-hidden culture of objectification and unrealistic expectations. I call it emotional porn.

Romantic comedies, chick lit, love ballads on the radio... Most media that portrays romance and is targeted at women is intentional in feeding unrealistic emotional expectations. In the same way that conventional pornography objectifies bodies to meet physical "needs," emotional porn turns the man into an object meant to fulfill all our emotional longings. Is this any less unhealthy, dangerous or detrimental than objectifying women's bodies?

I remember one of my friends telling me that on a bad day, she thought to herself, Wouldn't it be great if my fiance brought me a latte when we meet up later? He didn't. And she found herself annoyed with him. Because in her mind, he should have. In the movies, he would have.

This way of thinking is so ingrained in our minds as women. And it's so unhelpful. It prevents us from interacting with men as they are, because the dream-version (TV-version/movie-version) of a guy will always be better than the real-life man.

My point is that I have a strong dislike for the ways that we objectify each other as men and women, and how culture and media feed us lies and we buy into unrealistic expectations that only harm our relationships.

Let's cut that shiznit out, okay?

February 5, 2011

This Is Just to Say...

...that more thoughts and entries are coming.

But today, I need a nap. And then I need a pedicure. Ok, I don't need one, but I'm getting one because that is what the girls in my family are doing today.

Maybe I'll blog tomorrow. During the Superbowl. Because that's the kind of thing that single girls can do. I like sports, but I like sports in community, which sometimes means I don't care enough about sports to go find a community to enjoy said sports with. I may decide to sit in my living room and blog instead.

We shall see.

Also. January?

Good month.
Not what I expected.
Why does this surprise me? I don't know.
How is it already February? That's just how time goes.

(Happy Belated Birthday, Big Brother of Mine. I'm glad you're in my life.)

And just so you don't feel like this post was a waste, here is a song that I'm currently in love with.

February 1, 2011

No, Really: Is It Worth It? (WaoW 4b)

"No, really, Beth. Is it worth it?"

Oh yeah. I didn't answer that question. I also didn't answer the question, "Why is it so dang complicated?" which is the one that actually gets into Women and our Ways.

So allow me to tackle those two now.

Is it worth it?

At this point in my life, I would say a resounding, yes! From grade 1 until university, I didn't know how to be friends with boys (In kindergarten I had a boy-best-friend. When we reconnected as adults, dating came up. It didn't happen. He's married now. All is well. But that's a little bit hilarious, isn't it!?). Seriously though, the only two ways I interacted with guys were a) minimally or b) massive crush. Often both simultaneously.

In the last five years or so, I've begun navigating how to interact with men in a healthy way. It is hard and I screw up often, but it has been good for my development as a human being, as a person who loves Jesus, and as someone who would like to be married someday. I now know that I know nothing about men. They think so differently from me that I couldn't even explain how a man processes life. I honestly do not know. But isn't realizing you don't know half the battle (admitting defeat is the first step to victory, or something like that)?

That said, I do think that we ought not go trampsing around, squashing peoples' hearts or letting our hearts get stepped on and say, ALL IN THE NAME OF GROWTH! There are limits to these things. And sometimes, certain friendships get to the point where they aren't worth it. And that is sad. SAD.

What makes it all so complicated?

I blame it on woman's inability to compartmentalize, and the ways in which we are emotionally wired. Namely, emotional bonding and romantic interest go hand in hand. At least, that seems to be the general consensus of my gender. Again, I'm open to correction.

But really. My brain struggles to compute that a guy would want to put effort into building a friendship with me but NOT want to date me. (I will freely admit that I have thought, "I don't understand. If he thinks I'm so great, why doesn't he want to date me? I must be ugly.")

I don't actually think that women have a monopoly on the murkiness of friendships and crushes. I am quite sure we do not, in fact. But I do think that in 99.9% of guy-girl friendships (assuming both participants are straight, because otherwise this whole entry and the last one are irrelevant), one or the other person will have a crush on the other at some point and time. How intense that crush is, how determined they are to make something of that crush, and how long that crush lasts are variables that no one knows.

I would say also, that in those one-way-crush-friendships, 98.5% of the time, the other person suspects something like this but says nothing for fear of losing the friendship/making things awkward/etc etc. Well. I don't blame you. Because I have been there and done that. That being all of the above. I have also lied about my crush, denied it completely for the sake of the friendship and/or the elusive hope that one day he will wake up and realize that the only thing missing in his life are MY LIPS (to paraphrase a friend of mine).

What am I saying here? Pull yourself together, Beth!

I am not saying that I have crushes on all of my guy friends (you can all heave a sigh of relief).

What I am saying is that crushes happen and that when we pretend that they don't or hold on to unreasonable hopes (and this applies to both sides of a one-way-crush, because you can choose to ignore signs you're being crushed on, or hold on to the unreasonable hope that this will fade without any inconvenience to you), we are not actually in healthy friendships. We are fake-dating or using each other and not loving each other and wanting the best for the other person. We are not guarding each others' hearts and treating our friends the way we want to be treated.

I want to be honoured and respected. And I want to be a woman who honours and respects the men around me, not someone who uses or abuses them.

"So, Beth, what do I do when I have a crush on a friend? Or what do I do if I suspect a friend is actually crushing on me?"
"Ask me in another five years. Maybe I'll have found the formula by then. Otherwise, I recommend being honest with yourself, praying, and doing what you need to do. Which should probably not involve kissing the other person, at least not until after you have established that you mutually want to be in a romantic relationship."