April 30, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

(yeah, I went there. Semisonic for the win. Who doesn't secretly love this song!?)

I wasn't sad about wrapping up my job, and I wasn't stressed about moving.

Until twelve hours before each.

And then it hit me, all the feelings.

Of course, it's too late to turn back then, and I didn't want to undo either decision, but there were all these feelings, and mostly I just wanted to sleep.

The last few days at work were great. I have no qualms about my decision to leave, but I did realize again that my boss and I have been in close quarters for three years, and despite the differences between us, and my lack of career interest in her business, she has been a staunch supporter and frequent encourager of me.

I am grateful.

Then my parents brought a van and a bed in the van, and they were troopers and my mom packs like a pro (no seriously, she is a pro), and my dad moves boxes so well, and what kind of movers also take you out for dinner? The best kind.

Today Karen and I cleaned the old apartment and I hugged our superintendent goodbye, and I squeezed her daughter, who sang me a song on Sunday (while her mom was feeding us lunch) and it went like this:

See you later, alligator.
In awhile, crocodile.
Blow a kiss, jellyfish.
Toodle-oo, kangaroo.
Go home, Beff.

Yes. That is why I will miss them. Also, the meal exchange and cookie runs and all the laughter that was just eight steps away.
photo by Karen

the sweet sight of spring

But on a day like this, with sunshine and skirts and magnolia blossoms and patios, I feel excited for the summer, and hopeful about all these changes - despite my growing terror around the term "job hunt."

April 23, 2013

Because The Conversation Needs to Continue

I bring this up in fits and starts, because it is big and unwieldy and I don’t know all the answers. I didn’t want to call myself a feminist, or an egalitarian, for a long time. I didn’t want to rock the boat.

(I don’t like to rock the boat. I am not a strong swimmer, and one time I tipped a canoe and my dad and sister and I floundered in the lake, and we all survived, but my dad lost his boots and his compass and I still feel badly about that and can taste the fear of clinging onto the thankfully buoyant boat. That's a true story, but it's also a metaphor and I'm sure you can figure it out.)

But I’m not done talking about being a woman or wanting to feel safe or how my communities need to change how we talk about women.

Because it is strange to meet your neighbours at midnight, when two girls come knocking on your door to ask if maybe you or someone you know is on the fire escape.

Because you tell them no, and they should phone the police, because two years ago when there was a peeping tom, that’s what you did, and they took it seriously, and that is the best thing to do.

Because they are scared and now you are scared, and grateful for the extra deadbolt on the fire escape door in your room, and relieved that you are moving in a week.

Because your friend admits that she is afraid she might punch her fiancĂ© sometime, instinctively, because boys in the past have not respected her, and that fear doesn’t just magically go away.

Because now she’s so close to sex being morally condoned and great and etc etc, but there are years’ worth of lies to unlearn, and shame to reject, and who is talking about what it’s all like, and in the church, maybe you have some honest friends, but maybe no one is saying anything.

Because some girls are talking around a kitchen table and one admission of being abused leads to another’s, and you know of more – more girls and more baggage and more people who have taken advantage, who have touched what is not theirs to touch.

Because you know good men who say things sometimes that are wildly upsetting and how do you tell them that there are people in this room who have been raped and what they think is funny is actually a trigger to terror.

Because you walk through the park with your roommate on the way to work in the morning, and a man calls at the two of you and what he says is sexual and you take five steps in silence, and then she says, “Well, at least he used the proper terminology.” And you both laugh, because it is so ridiculous. But you feel such anger too.

Because every man you pass on the rest of the walk seems to have lechery in his eyes, and even though you’ve passed these men a hundred times, and smiled at them, you cannot look at their faces today.

Because the thought crosses your mind, Maybe if I were wearing something more “modest,” he wouldn’t have said that.*

Because there is so much brokenness and what I want is for things to be made whole.

Because Canada is supposed to be the best place in the world for women, but it isn’t good enough.

Because I believe the way forward is love and honesty and courage and listening to stories and looking to Jesus and I want to hear how are you making this world safer? How can I help create a better place? How do we teach our sons and daughters and nieces and nephews a better way?

*I've been saying I'll write about modesty for months - promised it back in October. But I feel like Emily has done an excellent job of saying almost all of what I would say, and now she and Shane are having a dialogue on modesty & lust & porrnography and the whole gamut, and if you're church-folk, I highly encourage you to tune in/check it out/weigh in. And if you aren't church-folk, I still think it's an important dialogue; although you may disagree with many of its premises, it comes down to respect and mutual care and self-ownership. 

April 19, 2013

A Wee Thank You Note

Two thank yous:

1. All y'all who have said kind things since I made my grad school announcement. I have been surprised by the range of people it turns out are reading (or at least read one post) here. And I can't imagine a more encouraging community than you all.

2. Nadine, whose tweets yesterday led to a comment that I can use disqus on my site, which is (hopefully) going to change commenting forever. No more word verification! Let me know if disqus is somehow (inconceivably) worse than those awful captchas. I am certain we'll all be happier now.

And a bonus round picture of the world's most adorable men. Grampie and Sebas hanging out...

I can't stop looking and smiling. I hope when I am 94 I have both the ability and the opportunity to lie on the floor and play with a fat-cheeked baby.

April 16, 2013

How Am I Gonna Be An Optimist About This?

Over the weekend, I formed a slight addiction to this song by Bastille called "Pompeii."

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?


I was on Twitter yesterday, and clicked through an image mere minutes after the Boston blasts. I don't know what I expected, exactly, but I hadn't been thinking blood. A lot of blood.

My friends were there. They left 20 minutes earlier, so they could beat the airport traffic.

I am training a new girl at work. She is wrapping up her degree from a Boston college and lives two blocks away. On Sunday, she went to take pictures of the finish line, went shopping at Marathon Sports. We saw these places on the TV screen. I teared up as I saw footage of a man pushing a wheelchair to the finish line moments after the explosion.

An eight year old boy was among the victims.

The song goes on:

Oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?
Oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?


Walking through my new neighbourhood on Saturday, I saw posters for a missing man. His face was cheerful, and he was described as having a "slight Irish accent." By Sunday, the posters had spread to my current neighbourhood. On Monday, they were everywhere I went. Each time I passed one, I thought, He is very loved. His people are looking for him. I felt the anxiety they must be in. I prayed they would find him safely.

Last night, his body was found in High Park.

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?


My coworker is going to a funeral today, for a friend who essentially died of a broken heart, driven into the ground after his wife died of cancer last year. They leave behind an eight six year old son.

Where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?


Bomb blasts in Iraq and Somalia. Fighting in Syria. An earthquake in Iran.

There are days I want to close my eyes, curl up under a duvet, and wish these things could undo themselves.

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?

April 11, 2013

Going Back to School (3 Years in 1 Post)

This happened last night:

Three years ago, I wrote a big life update on leaving my job & life in Vancouver.
Here is what’s happened since:

May 2010 – I move to Ontario. I don’t have a job or job plan. I know this next phase of my life is about building my identity as me and taking artistic risks. Other than that, I don’t really know what I’m doing.

August 2010 – After applying for over 50 office jobs, I decide to work as a nanny for a year. I take a job caring for two boys, C & G, for 50 hours a week (!).

January 2011 – I throw myself a birthday party that is also an art show. Over 75 people come out to “26 Secrets,” and the cafĂ© asks me to leave my poetry & photography on the walls for an extra week. This project is the most terrifying and affirming undertaking of my life. I begin volunteering with the Philip Aziz Centre.

July 2011 – As I wrap up my nannying job, there is the possibility of working for the mom’s business in the fall. This feels as good a next step as any.

August 2011 – I spend three weeks on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain. Kirsten and I laugh much and occasionally cry. The trip is incredible. An experience even more profound in hindsight. (many more thoughts here. Maybe some more posts will come.)

September 2011 – Working part-time in the office and freelancing part-time, I wonder how the next few months will play out.

December 2011 – For purely financial reasons, I go full-time in this little office. I know that this is not a long term solution for the restlessness I’m feeling.

January 2012 – I start an evening memoir-writing class. I form a small arts collective with two friends, and we sell creative goods at the Arts Market (it lasts until June). I give myself a soft deadline of April and a hard deadline of August for finding a new job.

April 2012 – Things come to a head internally. I fight waves of panic and anxiety on a near-daily basis. I am overwhelmed by not knowing what I want, and the awareness that I feel confused and uncertain about what it even means to hear from Jesus.

May 2012 – I start to meet with a spiritual director (definitely more posts to come on this).

July 2012 – Visiting friends in Uganda moves my heart. I apply for a few jobs, but only the ones I desperately want, mostly in the non-profit/international development sector.

September 2012 – August has come and gone and I am still in my job. My boss finds out I’m job hunting. I panic. We have a two-part conversation that resolves better than it began. I tell her I will definitely be done here in the spring. I write out a list of the 5 things I value most & want to shape my life around. I am asked to help shoot a wedding, photography-wise.

December 2012 – Still no job or career clarity, but I feel a sense of self and peace that I have not known maybe ever before. I am admitting and embracing the internal shifts in my faith, and I am no longer scared of my own feelings. I tell someone I want to go back to school, but there’s no way I could afford it. I do photography at another wedding.

January 2013 – I decide to apply for grad school. Specifically, seminary. The tentative plan/longterm hope is to head into chaplaincy – a career that pulls at me, that draws on my earlier ministry jobs, my hospice volunteer experiences, my growing love of contemplation & space.

April 2013 – My application is in, my references are done. I interview. I am accepted for the Masters of Divinity program at Wycliffe College. My last day of work in this office is April 26th. I'm doing photography at a third wedding this month. I own two film SLR cameras, and I am in love with them.

So here I am. I am taking May off, moving (within Toronto), visiting Minneapolis (the delightful Wendy), and hanging out with my family (kisses for all the kidlets). I need some sort of work for the summer, so I can pay my bills. I need some sort of plan for the fall, so I can pay my bills.

I'm so excited to have something to move towards. Something that will challenge and (hopefully) encourage me. I have wanted to go back to school since I finished my BA, since I felt like Jesus told me, "Not yet." 

I have no idea how things will turn out. I never do. I did not think this "transition" from campus ministry would last three years. But it has.

There are so many more thoughts and related stories. Hopefully I will get to some of them. I might start a thread of posts as I go through my MDiv. I will probably call it "She Does Seminary." 

April 9, 2013

Drafted: Linguistic Ponderings (I Am A Nerd)

drafted August 15/2008

I wonder what it is that makes some people pronounce their "short-e's" as "short-i's." What I am referring to is the tendency to pronounce Men as Min, Wendy as Windy, Ten as Tin and so on. My friends who do this come from different origins, have different social circles, and some don't even know each other.

Still don't have an answer to this. But I know which two friends I was thinking of when I wrote it. Both are male. Do girls do this too? Who knows. I am probably creating a thing, here. 

Related: a few weekends ago I met a couple from Michigan who told me a story about going out for dinner in Washington, and at the end of the meal the wife gestured to her leftovers and said, "Can I get a box?" their waiter looked at her confusedly. She repeated her question, and then he said, "Ma'am, I believe you just asked me for a bax. I have no idea what that is."

I find this story hilarious.

April 8, 2013

Monday Music: Agape

This song by Bear's Den continues to do a number to my heart.

Not only does it sound fantastic, but the lyrics touch at our (my) deepest fears:
Agape // please don't dissipate...
For I'm so scared of losing you
And I don't know what I can do // about it
I don't want to know who I am without you

It's the kind of song that makes me want to crank the volume, stand in the middle of an empty field or crowded streetcar, and sing along at the top of my lungs. Possibly while punching the sky and crying.

Instead, when it wakes me up each morning, I feel strangely comforted. I listen while I blink awake, and stretch. I lie there and feel hope for the day, because even in sadness like the singer's, there is so much beauty.

April 3, 2013

Drafted: Could Be Anyone

drafted May 20th, 2008.

Awhile back, I went for supper with a friend of mine, and over Thai food, we talked about life and creativity. It was good to hear what they are up to, and how they're taking steps away from a "dead-end entry level job" (forgive me if I've overstated my description) towards some opportunities that excite them. These new ventures require more effort and less tangible reward (read: money), but I, at least, feel confident that my friend will not regret these baby steps, and that they will, in the fullness of time, lead to substantial reward, both tangible and intangible.

So why do I tell you this?

Well, we talked about blogging, for one. What the purpose of our blogs are, how to balance the personal with the level of anonymity one seems to expect, and whether or not we should mention friends by name. There's no law against it, of course.

That is all I wrote... re-reading it made me laugh because 
a. I honestly don't know who it was.
b. I am now doing exactly what my friend was (taking steps away from a dead-end entry level job towards exciting but costly opportunities), and reading this was like a little note of encouragement from past-Beth!
c. I still don't know how to balance the personal/private tension of blogging.

April 2, 2013

Reading in 2013: The Cure for Death By Lightning

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but The Cure for Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz hooked me with two details on the front:

  1. The title! What!?
  2. The little stamp that tells me it was nominated for the Giller Prize.

And you know what? I was not disappointed.

Not only is the protagonist a teenage girl named Beth (everyone loves a Beth!), but the story itself is quite riveting as an eclectic and often awkward group of characters navigate farm and family tensions in a village near Kamloops, BC, during WWII.

One of my favourite details is how the author wove recipes and home remedies (including the cure for death by lightning) into the story. In fact, I had planned to write out a few of them before returning the book to the library...but completely forgot. I may go back and flip through just to pick them up!

Don't get the idea that this is a glorified cookbook, somehow. It is an emotionally weighty and somber story that highlights the importance of the kitchen space and her mother's scrapbook to Beth as she finds herself immersed in issues of First Nations history and spirituality, bullying & abuse, family dynamics and mental health... it is a densely packed and wonderfully executed book.

April 1, 2013

Music Mix Monday

Snail mail is a thing of beauty. I love sending it, and I love receiving it.
Know what else I love? Music. 

Combine the two, and you can understand why I'm eagerly checking the mail this week...My friend Alasdair and I have been doing a yearly music trade pretty much since we met. It is getting tricky to find bands the other person hasn't heard yet, but the challenge is half the fun. The other half of the fun is receiving a CD from across the ocean with a dozen songs I don't know, but am almost guaranteed to love.

And probably two songs I already love. That is how I know it's a successful trade.

Anyway. The point is that I've compiled the mix I made this year, and since he has now received the hardcopy, you can take a listen to the mix online (many of you Canadians will recognize more of the artists than the average Brit, so I apologize if few of these are new to you).

Any favourites? Any Canadian music-makers I've obviously overlooked?