October 30, 2012

Too Many Tabs

Sometimes I get SO BORED at work and think, Why is the internet so dull and useless?? Then other times, I have SO MANY tabs open that I can’t catch up on all the thoughts I have.

Today is a many-tab day. Here are most of them:

Charlie Wilson’s “Music for Sleeping Children” -  I don’t even know what it is yet! But I’m intrigued.

Self Service” via The Walrus – convicting and thought-provoking, as I consider my constant desire to move to a developing nation:

This is the conundrum: earnest thinking about work in the developing world brings the potential of neo-colonialism. But if you embrace the approach I felt so proud of, viewing Africa as a place to learn from, then you risk falling down the Kony hole. This can have practical consequences. Young foreigners interested in self-improvement, who may feel unsure about why they are there in the first place, don’t make the best workers, and they can take jobs away from locals. 

Does this mean we should disengage? It would be a shame if, in our irritation, we decided that the greatest virtue lay in staying home. Well-founded critiques should not become generalized into a sneer toward anyone who wishes to be useful.

Sry gotta bail mayb nxt tme” - NY Times looks at how cell phones breed non-commitment. (I think. Haven’t read it yet.)

The Broke Broker – A NY real estate agent without a home of his own.

Wind Map – I refresh this almost every hour. It is mesmerizing. I want someone to make one of Canada.

Slavery Still Exists – photographs from around the world.

Peeps. Click on that link above. It’s a real thing and it’s people's lives.

Parenting As Theological Exercise – a friend’s blog. I’m hoping to weigh in, even though I’m not a parent.

My 2012 Thank List – another friend’s blog, another plan to leave some thoughts of my own. Also considering a similar post here.

October 27, 2012

Fall Colours 2012

With the rainy cold weather, it is easy for me to get super-grouchy super-fast.

To help remedy this, I've put together a little collage of the past month's beauty.

Please enjoy - download either version if you are so inclined!

October 25, 2012

The Other Side of the Camera: Oak and Myrrh

Last month, I had the immense privilege of working for my gorgeous friend Aisling (pronounced Ash-ling). She has recently started a photography business and was in need of a second shooter for a wedding…I was nervous to say yes, because I know that I’m only just a newbie with photography. I haven’t intentionally worked at developing my skills or knowledge, and have actually been very guarded about only doing projects I love. But the timing of her request was just right, so once I verified that she was sure she wanted me, I was in!

It was a fantastic experience – Aisling is the right combination of clear-headed, focused, fun, and laid-back. I felt free to take the photos that caught my eye, but had enough direction to make sure I got the shots she needed. And despite the inevitable flurry of a wedding day, we laughed a lot together. A LOT.

Being a second shooter means I don’t do any of the post-editing, and frankly, I hardly remember which photos I took! But of the ones below, all but the kiss are images I'm fairly certain came from my camera, then made even better by Aisling.

update: I KNEW IT. I totally blew it. MY ONLY ONE of the pictures below is the piano. So even more mad props to Aisling. I did take a few of the other pics on her site, buuuuuuuuut not these ones.
For the rest of the pics (including one small cameo by yours truly), click on over to Oak & Myrrh Photography

I’m lined up for another gig with Aisling in December, and in the meantime, we’re going to do some practicing. She’s keen to help me take my photography up a notch, and I am a very willing student! Especially when the teacher is someone who is gracious with my lack of knowledge, has a vested interest in my success, AND is a friend away from the cameras.

Isn't she great/beautiful/skilled?
Polaroids from outside the reception venue. Coolest cats around.

October 24, 2012

Learning To Be Loved

You know what is weird about being a human? We care so much about how people view us, but then when they actually tell us, we’re all surprised and flustered and either insulted or unable to take a compliment (at least I’m this way, and like to assume I’m not alone in this).

Case in point: my friend Shelly took some photos of me in the summer, and just published them on her site, along with her story of our friendship.

It hadn’t occurred to me that she would write anything about me, how she sees me or how our friendship has grown. And as I looked through the photos, I thought, Really? That’s what I look like? What is wrong with my head? Where did those wrinkles come from? Why don’t I know how to put on eye makeup yet? My arms look…like spaghetti. Ugh. Were the roles reversed and any of my friends had such fantastic photos up on Facebook, I’d be raving all over them (like my friends did for me).

It’s not unusual for me to talk to myself - and subsequently talk back, which is what eventually happened…
Enough! I said. What if you look at this photo like it isn’t you? What if this was someone else, someone you don’t know?

I love her hair. I said to myself, And her eyes. I like the way she smiles. And her legs in that one. They look GREAT!

Then I went back to the kind things Shelly said about me, and I read them like she was talking about someone else, and I let them absorb into my skin, and I thought, You know what? I like this girl. She seems legit - not perfect, but definitely likeable. 

And I had to stop myself there. Because even though I am far more comfortable with my personality and my body than I was a decade ago, I still criticize. I struggle to not control how people see me, or point out why they’re wrong, why I am not so kind or fun or cute as they may say.

Some days I look in the mirror and say to myself, Dang, Girl! (my Summer of the Skirt definitely helped) and some days my heart is full of gratitude and empathy for the complex inner workings of my heart and mind. And that is okay to embrace. It isn’t ego and it isn’t vanity. It’s love.

On the days where I don’t feel quite so excited about who I am or how I look, it is easy to assume that everyone outside my head shares my views. But the reality is, they don’t. And their perspectives on my beauty and my character are just as valid as my own. Maybe even more accurate!

So. I’m going to let my friends tell me how they see me, and take the kind words to heart just as deeply as I take “constructive feedback.” And I’m going to let them tell me I’m beautiful even when I don’t see it. And I’m going to tell you all that I was self-conscious about wearing short-shorts for this photo shoot, but I really like my legs* in this picture:

*I actually like my legs in all the photos I've seen so far. I like all of me in this particular photo. I like the way I'm standing, and my hair and the muscular look of my legs, and the way my shirt sits on my curves. 

October 19, 2012

The D-d-d-dentist

My childhood dentist had a basement office. With fake wood panelling on the walls, a massive poster of BJ Birdie holding a toothbrush, and toys of the 80s. I picture his receptionist with blue eyeshadow and hairsprayed bangs; whether this memory is accurate or not, I do not know.

I do know with great certainty that the door into his office was located past the furnace room. This is the room of strange noises, thumps and wheezes: terrifying to a child. Deadly, when located next to the dentist.)

There was no hygienist in this little outfit. The dentist did everything. He was tall and old-ish and had very bushy eyebrows. When he was leaning over my face, I could see his nose hairs. This was the first time I realized such a thing existed.

He was not much for talking. He gave instructions: "Open. Again. Spit. You can rinse now..." And at the end of every visit, he would say the same thing. "Well, there doesn't appear to be any problems, but I'm going to take an x-ray or two just to be safe."

Then he would put that heavy blanket-vest on top of me, and I wondered if I might stop breathing from the weight of it, and he'd snap his pics, and I'd be back to the waiting room while the other siblings went through.

Then, in a day or two, the receptionist might call with a message that there was a cavity or I needed braces, and off I'd go to get drilled or tightened. And eventually, I wondered why he never saw these things before the x-rays, until finally I realized that it was just a line to keep me calm.


In Vancouver, when I had trouble keeping my mouth open for a cleaning, and my jaw hurt so much, my dentist told me I have TMJ disorder, and that weird clicking-popping of my left jaw joint is actually a thing. So I am not supposed to chew gum, or eat big sandwiches or crunchy apples, and I should try not to yawn.

Yeah, no yawning for me.


So is it any wonder I'm not a fan of dentists and maybe waited too long to find a Toronto one? I just hate shopping around, and everywhere I looked seemed too pricey or too sketchy or too...something. So it was easy to keep putting it off.

Then Karen picked a dentist, and she went, and she raved that he SHOWED HER HER TEETH and was incredibly thorough and I though, I like the sound of this. So I asked for the clinic's info and then I did nothing.

Until Wednesday. I called and asked about an appointment, and they said, "We have one available tomorrow at 5," and I took it and then I sat in dread for 24 hours. And then I went, and what do you know?

This office was BIG and BRIGHT and BUSY. The receptionist was friendly. The hygienist was friendly and EVEN THE DENTIST WAS FRIENDLY. He showed me pictures of my teeth and he showed me my x-rays and he asked questions about my jaw (Did I ever have head trauma as a child? Did I break my jaw? - No, but I played a lot of soccer and definitely took a ball or two in the face. - That could do it.) and gave me helpful mouth-care tips for my non-opening mouth.

He remembered Karen and then when he saw I have no insurance, he knocked $50 off the cost of this initial visit, and I said, "Thank you!" and he said, "You seem like a nice person and I like nice people. I don't like mean people. I'd rather you spend the money on taking care of these cavities." and I said, "Oh, I will."

I am not looking forward to the fillings, but if I have to go through it, I'd rather deal with them now. And have a very thorough (and slightly excitable) dentist take care of my mouth.

October 18, 2012

The Hazards of Online Dating

I'll admit it, I've used the internet to meet some men.

It has its strengths, absolutely. There are hazards along the way, however, and a great deal of filtering is required.

Case in point:

Pretty sure the recipient of this match is not as "unique" as Swagalicious.

(Do his parents call him "Swag" for short?)

October 16, 2012

A Quick Trip to Texas

Texans are a kind and helpful people. Everything is big, yes. And sprawling. But there is diversity, there is beauty, and there are kindred spirits.

Many things happen over four years, but it is possible to hug a friend and know, in a matter of minutes, that nothing significant has changed.

And then you begin to talk and laugh together, and you play Bananagrams, and eat scones with clotted cream (so very Texan of us), and then you make the experience more authentic with Tex-Mex and a hearty breakfast, some Persian food (fun for all to try) and of course, BBQ.

You eat enough meat to feed a small family and you walk around the town where you can't see businesses from the road (bylaws say they have to be behind a row of trees), and you see quinceaƱera parties in a park in Houston.

There are conversations about life, dreams, cycling and writing. You sing along to The Beatles' Paperback Writer with the windows down. You listen to the country music station and discuss the difference between orange tree thorns and lime tree thorns.

There is a beautiful quilt on the bed.

Walking along a creek leaves you soaked by heavy rainfall, full-up with more laughter, and startled at the sudden roll of thunder overhead. And then there are hugs goodbye and the promise to do this again in less than four years.

At the airport, you watch the sunset and think about what a beautiful sky this is, and what a beautiful life you have.

October 11, 2012

Very Big Conversations: Is That Joke Actually Funny?

post #2 in my series on Very Big Conversations About Women

I was going to start this post with the statement, "rape jokes are never funny." But as my thoughts have taken shape, I've realized two things - first, that my concerns extend beyond solely  rape jokes. And secondly, I know that I have laughed at jokes that may fall under the rape-joke category. The one that comes to mind is Mike Birbiglia's story about moving a new bed into his apartment. Last night, I lay in bed unpacking why I find this particular joke funny rather than offensive, and I'm not sure if I can explain or justify it. (what do you think? Is it offensive? Why/why not?)

So I am not going to say, categorically, that any kind of joke is never funny. Humour is a complex blend of art and science, and one of its functions is to push limits and make observations that otherwise may not happen. I recognize that.


I have been in the room when an off-colour story or joke is told, and it is all I can do to keep from berating or hitting the teller. In fact, sometimes I have not held back. I remember walking away in fury over a sexist "joke" someone made towards me as a teenager, came back slightly calmer to seethingly explain why his words were completely unacceptable. On another occasion, I punched someone (hard) in the arm. I was so angry that I didn't know what words to use.

I think that is our problem, often. Not knowing what words to use. Not knowing why we use the words we do. Generally, not thinking about others - the people we're speaking to or the people we are speaking about (either specific or general categories).

Jokes and stories are often told on a whim, so maybe this seems silly, but here are four questions I think it's important to ask about the humour we use:

1. Does this joke potentially minimize the real and traumatic experiences of others? 
It is important to recognize that just because a particular experience hasn't happened to me doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Similarly, if I haven't experienced something personally, it is likely that I don't fully understand how it feels. And here's the thing - chances are high that your audience contains victims. Remember, 25% of women are victims of sexual assault by the age of 18. And while the numbers aren't as high, it happens to men too. (Related: pedophilia jokes are about as funny as rape jokes: that is, not at all. Also, using the language of sexual assault as slang is as minimizing and triggering as telling an off-colour story or joke.)

I have been in rooms with friend who have bit back tears or left altogether when casual treatment of very real trauma has brought back their own horrific experiences. It is heartbreaking enough to have lived through it; to have it made light of and brought up casually by ignorance and carelessness is salt on the wound.

2. Does this joke assert my power/dominance over another?
Making a joke from a position of apparent power is very different from joking about the same matter from a position of perceived subordinancy. (I think this is true - anyone care to confirm/disagree?)Making statements from a privileged or non-experiential place can be, whether intentional or not, oppressive. Life can be cruel enough to minorities of all kinds; let's not add to it.

3. Does telling this joke seemingly support an action/attitude I would not endorse elsewhere?
If a census company or a potential employer or even my grandma came up to me and asked, "Do you believe that _________________?" and I would not answer a confident, "Yes," then I probably shouldn't tell jokes that make it seem like I do hold that stance.

4. Why am I telling this joke?
Am I trying to provoke or shock? Why do I think this is the best thing to say? Being gentle and kind-hearted may not get the biggest laughs, but I'm a firm believer that in the long run, its rewards are far greater.

So is there anything left to joke about?? I think so, absolutely. Just as humour can harm or tear-down, it can be used to heal and build-up. So let's do that. I want to do that.

October 3, 2012

Mid-Week Music Miscellany

There is a lot of singing around my apartment. Karen sings better than I do (don't let her play shy - she's quite spectacular), but what I lack in pitch, I make up for in exuberance.

It amuses me greatly to hear the unpredictable snippets of song that come out of us early in the morning, late in the evening, and pretty much any time. Here are a few that have been kicking around:

Edge of Seventeen - Stevie Nicks

Take a Chance on Me - ABBA

Blood Pressure - MuteMath (mostly, I sing the opening guitar riff)

October 2, 2012

A Very Big Conversation About Women

Disclaimer: I hesitate to write anything on this blog that may be considered ranting/venting/raving/criticizing/complaining. It's important to me that I am careful with what I say, and I usually shy away from posting things that may churn up conflict. This post, while not a rant or vent, is certainly something I feel passionate about. And is likely to surface a little conflict. I'm okay with this, but I do ask that we're gracious with our words.

Back in June, Canada was voted the Best Place in the World for Women to Live.When I read this, I felt incredibly proud of my country and our culture.

Then last month, there was a flurry of sexual assaults in my city, and someone told other women to stop "dressing like a whore" and one of the victims responded and someone else shared their story of writing about assault and knowing their body as "a site of violence."

I took the bus home from a friend's one night, and noticed a guy trying to take a picture of me. I shifted in my seat and shielded my face and thought about calling him out on it, but all he had to do was say, "No, I'm not taking a picture of you!" and what else could I say and then I would feel dumb and awkward in public. So he took his photo and I tweeted that it had happened and the next day I read this article about creepshots and our paparazzi culture. Someone else (not knowing what had happened the night before) sent me this comic, which I find both funny and sad:

from this site.

And I never blogged about the time last fall that a peeping tom stood on our fire escape and peered in my bedroom, and how for weeks (months) after, I walked home at night with my eyes glued to that spot and swear words on the tip of my tongue and so much anger that even in my own home I am not safe. So when topless photos of Kate surfaced, my blood boiled again. I may not be a princess, but I know the feeling of thinking (assuming) you are in a private, protected space only to find out that you actually never are.

Even in the church (especially in the church), the way we talk about women, sexuality and responsibility is often unhealthy, if not overtly oppressive or false. On the weekend, I read an interview with a 26 year-old virgin, and I cringed at my own memories of the "purity" concepts I learned and internalized in my teens, the way women are given responsibility to "protect" themselves from men, while simultaneously we were taught submission. It was confusing, to say the least.

And in a world where the "Best Place to Be a Woman" still has a sexual assault rate of at least 25%, I think we need to have more conversations about how to change the way we think about sexual assault, how to change the things we do, and how we talk about women and sexuality. Canada may be the best place in the world for women, but even here, we aren't fully safe and we're certainly not treated as equals.

My friends have been victims. I have been a victim. It isn't okay. And it isn't okay to think that the conversation is simply about crimes against women. The conversation is huge; it's about what it means to be a woman, what it means to treat women as equals in all areas of life, and what cultural views of women need to be left behind once and for all. The conversation is not solely for women. It requires men.

If any of you are interested in having this conversation, I'd love to write some follow-up posts/conversation starters. Potential titles that come to mind are:

Wife, Mother, Single Woman
Strong Women are Scary
Modesty, Responsibility & Blame-Shifting
Rape Jokes Are Never Funny

Also, I just realized I did a mini-series on several related topics last winter. You can read the entries from Women and Our Ways here in reverse order... Or you can click through to any of these individual posts:

The Moon, The Month, The Mystery (WaoW 1.0)
The Body, Our Frenemy (WaoW 2)
Hoes Before Bros* (WaoW #3)
Friends Without Benefits: Is It Worth It? (4th WaoW)
No, Really: Is It Worth It? (WaoW 4b)
Emotional Porn (WaoW the Fifth)
The Powers That Be (6th WaoW)
The Powers That Be - cont'd (WaOW 6B)