June 30, 2011

Does Jesus Care About My Workout Routine?

Months ago, a friend asked me to blog/ramble out my thoughts (& my thoughts on God's thoughts) on exercise.

I should note that the concept of God having an opinion on exercise is amusing to me.

I didn't write the post, because I was fairly discontent with my body (isn't everyone, in February??) and didn't want to think about it.

Now it is June and I am slightly happier with how I look and less lethargic than I was all winter. But I'm not convinced my attitude is all that better.

On most days, when I am feeling sane and calm and thinking more about the rest of the world than myself, I think this about exercise: we should do it. We should be active and healthy and social. Or alone, if that is what we need. We should be balanced and neither overthink nor neglect our well-being. Just know yourself and take care of yourself, and stop kidding yourself.

I feel better about myself, healthier, more alert and happier when I am consistently exercising/active. I like competing at sports. And I like getting away on my own for a walk/run and using up that excess emotional energy.

But I'll be honest, on other days, exercise is the vehicle for feeding my unhealthy attitudes and dreams/despair over what it means to have "the perfect body."

When someone commented recently that I am going to lose weight in Spain, my first response was joy at how GREAT I might look when I get back. Then sadness that it won't last through the winter. Then anger at myself for thinking this way. And then I settled on an attitude of justified self-indulgence for the next month: "Who cares what I eat?! Spain will rectify everything!!"

All of these responses are wrong, I think. I can't deny it. They all centre around the idea that exercise and an active lifestyle is more about being skinny than healthy.

Why can't this be more straightforward??

This is my concluding thought: we are a strange culture for the very fact that "exercise" is something separated from our natural lifestyle. In theory (I think this is how heaven will be, and therefore this is what God thinks), exercise shouldn't even BE a thing. We would just naturally have active, integrated lifestyles. Those who feel God's pleasure when they run, will run. Those who are happiest on the ice will play hockey. And people like me, who love to walk through the woods, will wander for hours.

June 28, 2011

In Which I Have Difficulty Keeping It Together

G went into the ravine yesterday with some friends, even though I had expressly forbidden it. I told him we would discuss this with his mom when she came home. Our conversation went thusly:

Mom - G, there are strange men in the ravine.

G - Not where we were!

Mom - If you don't believe me, we can go down and watch them and you will never want to go down there again.

Me - (trying to hide a smile)

Mom - I'm telling you, there are strange men there. And they like little boys.

G - (looking perplexed, distracted by his quest for more chicken)

Me - (still trying not to smile)

C, across the room - Do they want to kidnap him?

Mom - I don't know if they want to kidnap him, but they want to do SOMETHING to him... (she KNOWS I'm cracking up)

C - They want to take him home and cook him and fry him for dinner!!

Me - (bursts of laughter)

Mom - (silently eating her chicken, totally non-plussed)

Today, C and I went into the ravine. We didn't see any strange men, and he seemed to have entirely forgotten the matter. Which I suppose is for the best.

June 26, 2011

Blogstalking Strangers

I have been meaning to write this post for months. I don't know why I haven't.

I don't read the personal blogs of many strangers, and I'm never really sure how I ended up with the ones I do follow, so I can't tell you how either of these two very different ladies wound up being among my favourites.

The Frenemy: Sharp-tongued, slightly cynical, younger-than-I-guessed single girl. I think in NYC. Despite our vastly different worldviews & general life choices, there is distinct and important common ground. She is honest about women, how messy we are (figuratively and literally), and regularly pokes fun of Cosmopolitan. I crack up on a regular basis reading her rants, but rarely (never) share them publicly (until now!) since I know the chance of offending someone within the realm of my readership is quite high.
I really love this recent entry, "In Defense of Bodies." ( warning: crude language - probably not for my mom, girls under 18, or others with sensitive dispositions)

The Very Worst Missionary: Witty, dry, older-than-I-guessed married missionary somewhere warm. She loves Jesus, and so do I. She also uses the occasional cuss word and gets frustrated with churchiness. So do I. If I could pick someone to be an additional older-sister-slash-life-and-writing-mentor, I would choose her. I imagine her response would be something along the lines of, "But I don't really know what I'm doing and have made enough mistakes that you probably don't want to follow in my footsteps anyway." Again, what I think I like most is the honesty. And I'll be honest, I'm still amazed that she looks as AWESOME AS SHE DOES for being the mother of a 17 year-old. I may be jealous, because at first I thought she was kind of close to being 17 herself.
Anyway, check out this entry on "Trying Too Hard." I couldn't relate at ALL. (lies)

June 22, 2011

Just a Bunch of Quotes

mother of a child with curly hair: "Do strangers stop you in the grocery store to comment on your hair?"

me, to the father of C's friend: "Hi, I'm C's nanny."
mother of C's friend: "Au pair. I feel like nanny isn't the right term for what you are."
me: "Sure, au pair..."

friend 1: "Sometimes I feel like you're more of a hired mom than a nanny."
me: "Um, that is a nanny."

me: "Let me get the door for you."
brother: "Sure. But first, can you take my socks off?"

my nephew, in an awed voice: "Aunt Beth, did you know that asparagus are plants?"

my nephew, again: "I'm having my ice cream in a clone!"

friend 2: "I fell in love with ribs. It is kind of like falling in love with a person, but better. Because there is more licking at the start of the relationship."

friend 3: "People say they want real community, but usually they don't. They want what they think is community, which is really a big pity party."

June 21, 2011

The Story Behind The Dream

Where did this dream come from?

I have wanted to travel to the Africa/Middle East/India arc of the world for nearly a decade. The six weeks I spent in northern Africa during the summer of 2009 fed this, and kindled a desire for in-depth interactions with women in Muslim regions of the world. The more I talk with friends who have spent significant time in developing nations, the more I want to go. And the more I'm convinced that I could learn much from the people there.

If you have read my blog much over the past year, you will know that the idea of Hope - what it is, where we find it, why we need it - is often on my mind.

And over the last year and a half, I have been embracing the idea of taking risks, not just passing time, but LIVING my life.

So all these things have been simmering. And then a series of moments brought it all together.

Moment #1
For the first time ever, I go to a concert on my own. When I leave, I instinctively turn to the friend next to me so we can discuss the night. But no one is there.

What was the point of coming? I wonder to myself. Who do I share this with? How do I debrief it?

I believe that life is meant to be shared, and the vast majority of my best memories are not moments that have happened on my own, but communal events, adventures, and conversations with people I love.

Moment #2
A friend invites me to the Banff Mountain Film Festival's Toronto visit, and I can't help but notice that all six short documentary films we watch are man-centric. The main characters are men, while women are the wives, sisters, and mothers who watch them go. I think to myself, I have zero desire to jump off a mountain or climb one without a harness, but I believe in adventure! And it is the 21st century. So why aren't women represented here??? I want to travel and make a documentary. I could do it.

Moment #2b
One of the films, Crossing the Ditch, tells the story of two guys from Australia who decide to kayak across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. This has never been done before. Do they know how to kayak? No. But you know what? They learn. I don't want to spoil the story (it is fantastic), but I will share this key quote/paraphrase from one of them: "Adventure isn't necessarily about extreme sports or putting yourself in stupid situations. It's about pushing the limits of who you are and what you're capable of, and then seeing how you've changed as
you reintegrate into your regular life."


Moment #3
The next day, I am at hospice volunteer training. As we learn about the realities of cancer, I find myself thinking, If I were diagnosed with cancer, I would go on an adventure. I'd make a movie. And if I had cancer, people would give money to make it happen.

When I realize what I've just thought, I rebuke myself; I don't want to wait until I'm dying to live my dreams. And money - lack of money is not a reason to give up. It is a problem to be solved.

So there you have it. I sat there in the volunteer training, thinking to myself, I guess that means I should just do it. And over the past 3 months, as I've talked with friends and laid it out, more shape has come to it. It's an actual plan now, not just a dream. I want to do this. With you.

June 20, 2011

I Have a Dream

And you are invited.

There are three parts to the dream and four ways you can be involved.


Good. Because I don't think I can back out at this point, and I am going to be talking about this A LOT in the coming months.

It will take a few posts to flesh it all out, but here is the skeleton plan:

1. Travel & volunteer in Africa/The Middle East/India (tentatively May to August 2012).

2. Make a documentary film that looks at life and where hope lives in the developing world. Also, how we North Americans are changed by our cross-culture encounters and experiences.

3. Do this whole thing as a community. This is not about me going off on an adventure, coming back and having three-sentence conversations about my time away. I want to be a part of a team from start to finish.

What does that look like? How does something like this become a community endeavor?

I am asking for EVERYONE I KNOW to consider being involved by answering one (or more) of the following questions with a resounding YES!

A. Do you know of anyone involved in/living in any of these regions? People and organizations who might welcome a couple of short-term volunteers and be interested in being a part of a documentary.

B. Are you interested in coming with me for some of the time? Maybe you really want to volunteer in a specific location, or maybe you have a set vacation time and will come wherever I am then.

C. Do you have skills, expertise or equipment that you would like to lend? Maybe you are King of the Budgets, or know how to survive out of a backpack for four months, or would like to edit all our video footage.

D. Do you have ideas on how we can fund this? What creative ways can we find to make this a reality without putting any of the team in debt?

You don't have to answer yet. Just start thinking about it.

Speaking of thinking, I bet some of you are wondering...

Beth, this is kind of big and crazy. And unexpected.  How did you come up with this idea?

Great question. I will post on that next.

June 17, 2011

Keeping My Word

I have been promising big news this month. It is coming in the next post. Probably Monday.

(drumroll please)

Teaser: You are invited on an epic adventure.

We Are Not Who You Think We Are

A couple of nights ago, I "danced" to this song. My "dance" involved running on the spot, punching the sky, and shaking my hair.

It felt glorious.

(If it were socially acceptable to dance like that in public, I would go clubbing EVERY NIGHT.)

You should try it. Blast this song and just give 'er. Dance out any fear and sadness and shout until you are joyful again.

June 16, 2011

Sweet Love of Mine

Every time my mind wandered from the game tonight (which happened frequently), I found myself singing one line from a song over and over. It took me a period and a half to figure out what it was...

I fully lay responsibility for this on C and G, who recently downloaded the album. But you know what, I realized yesterday that I really love these boys and will be sad when I no longer get paid to dance around their living room to Justin Bieber.

June 14, 2011

More Cuteness

B&WJake Swings
Originally uploaded by bethaf.
Don't they make your HEART MELT?!

Or is it just me?

(more photos through the link)

June 12, 2011

The Gift of Presence

I like being active and doing things and helping people (usually) and solving problems (always).

But sometimes things can't be fixed, for one reason or another. That is difficult for me to handle.

In the past few months, I have been hearing over and over, and slowly grasping, the profound value of presence. Often, simply BEING THERE is the best gift possible.

When there are no words or solutions or even identifiable problems, reality is made bearable when someone else is there. When they say, "I love you." or "I'm really sad about this too." or "I wish I could fix this. I can't. But I'm not going anywhere," it validates that yes, life is crap, things are broken, I don't understand it either, but you are not alone.

Often, that is the one thing that keeps us together and gives us hope.

And WHO KNOWS how any of this messiness will turn out? I certainly don't. But I'm along for the ride, and when sorrow gives way to celebration (I believe it always can, eventually), we are going to par-tay.

June 11, 2011

It's How I Feel*

This morning I feel happy and sleepy and I want to know why my body refuses to sleep through the night or past 7 am, even when I beg it. And I miss Vancouver and all of my friends and I wish we could watch Game 6 together, although I also like the current company I'm keeping for hockey watching here in Toronto, and I feel quite blessed and content, but I'm ready to be done my job, and WHY CAN'T I SLEEP like a normal person? And this training-with-no-end will finally come to an end, after one more day of sitting and talking and learning. I'm looking forward to it, but I am ready for it to be over and I don't have any more Saturdays I can spend inside learning now that it is summer and I need to be outside walking or I am going to die in Spain.

Like Kirsten said in an email last night, "Crappity crap bang."

Crappity crap bang.

*Obscure Mike Birbiglia reference FTW. Favourite inside quote with Aban, who always understands how it is meant to be heard, and the accompanying hand gesture/shrug.

June 7, 2011

Blogging Envy

Sometimes, I am jealous of mommy bloggers, because they can be honest and talk about the crappy parts of their lives and jobs without fear of being fired.

Most of the rest of us do not have this luxury. A couple weeks ago, my delightful friend Jackie blogged about her perusal of several mommy blogs. One realization she had was that my job as a nanny is probably a lot less fun and games than my occasional #MyLifeAsANanny tweets may infer.

She is a thousand percent right. There is a lot that I won't or can't say online about my job, and it is certainly not very glamorous work on most days, although I do get paid to jump on a bouncy castle and go to the zoo and teach manners and help two strong-willed boys learn about the world around them.

But this entry is not supposed to be about me. It is just supposed to be this: of all the tough things about motherhood (and there are a heckuvalot a lot of them), one privilege that few others have is the ability to tell the interweb whatever they want to about their daily lives.

I salute you, moms, for the emotionally taxing work you do and the honesty with which you talk about it.

And I salute my other friends with intense jobs who cannot share half their burdens with the world.

(Because today was a day of cheeky smiles and cuddles and cooperation,  I can publish this draft with the least bit of current jealousy.)

June 5, 2011

Sunday Night Chez Nous

America's Got Talent is interesting. Sometimes in that I-can't-look-away sense. Sometimes in that heartwarming-story sense, and sometimes in that Dang-they-good sense. I hate the first and refuse to give them any extra airplay...some people need a friend to tell them that they are not as good as they think and/or slightly delusional. And they need to learn to listen.

My favourites from the episode Nadine and I watched (some of) tonight (while drinking red wine and hoping we both sleep through the night for a change).

Introducing, THE SH'BOSS BOYS!

"We was listenin' to the wadio and we started wapping."

Also, I just want this guy to win at life. What a sweetheart.

Me: "It's kind of nice to hear this song without any images of abused animals accompanying it."

35 Years Is A Very Long Time

I think if you do anything for 35 years, you should receive an award. (Actually, I think you often do.)

If you have been married for 35 years, you should get an extra-amazing award. If I had lots of money, I would buy one for my parents today.


And they still giggle and kiss and roll their eyes at corny jokes.

I'm incredibly grateful that I know, with certainty, my parents love each other. To have that modeled throughout my childhood and into my independent adult life is a major blessing. They have taught me many things about marriage and romance and all relationships simply by living their lives together.

When I think of how many broken marriages I know of among my peers, my heart breaks for their heartache. And it grows a little more afraid of my own hopes for life-long love. But I often think of my parents - imperfect people who make mistakes, but keep turning towards each other - and I hold that up to my fears and remind myself that it is possible.

So thanks, Mom and Dad.
And Congratulations.

Here's to the next 35!!

June 4, 2011

Question (Responses Desired)

Which is more difficult/humbling/sacrificial:

Rejoicing with others when you are experiencing personal difficulties


Mourning with others when you have great personal joy?

I have been mulling this over recently and can't make up my mind. Would love to hear your thoughts!

June 3, 2011


Did I mention that flights are booked for Spain in August?

This is now a real-deal, no-going-back event in my life.

I think I should have a glass of Spanish wine in celebratory anticipation.

*raises imaginary glass*
Here's to us, Kirsten.

June 2, 2011

Happy Anniversary/New Year To Me!!

One year and one day ago, I moved back to Ontario.

Since I'm a reflective sort of person, I have been remembering all that has happened since then. And it seems to me that although relatively unremarkable, this year may have contained some significant markers that I will look back on later in my life.

I am curious to find out!

June 1, 2011

I Am Not a Purse Dog

Friend, to me: "I don't know why you're still single, Beth. You're totally great. But I guess I can see why some guys are intimidated by you. You're not a purse dog."

Friend's wife: "You had better explain that."

Friend: "I mean, you're not just a pretty accessory that will sit there and do nothing."

Me: "You mean, I have opinions? A strong will? I'm not passive?"

Friend: "Yes. But I don't get why a man would want a purse dog anyway."

Another friend, another time: "My mother told me that when you are dating there's a lot of appeal and smarts in being hard-to-get and demanding, but all of that should end when you get married. Playing those kind of games and doesn't have a place in marriage."

Me: "Wait, I should be a demanding girlfriend!?! This is counter-intuitive."

Both of these conversations come to mind frequently when I think about dating & singleness, and I feel they're rather controversial.