Monday, 6 December 2010

dogma, dinner, and doing the dishes

*this was written late Sunday night...*

There are a strange list of things that make me feel completely at
ease, and doing the dishes after dinner at my brother's place is one
of them.

It is probably, perfectly honestly, the dinner itself and being in the
presence of Tosh and his wonderful wife that actually put me at ease,
but doing the dishes after dinner at his place (after he's told me not
to twice already) is one of those strange things that I actually enjoy
even though the task itself is often considered grunt work. Tonight
we (Tosh, his wife, and I) consumed about three pounds of t-bone steak
and MAN was it one Happy Cow. Happy Cows always taste better because
they were healthy and happy and full of endorphins or whatever the cow-
equivalent is and it (and the asparagus and olive bread and goat
cheese and the apple-cranberry-ginger pie with ice cream that followed
dinner-proper) sent us all into a happy daze that had me seriously
considering never moving from their couch ever again. My reasons for
not wanting to move were mostly food-coma-based, but I was also a
little reluctant to move because I was feeling emotionally exhausted
as well.

Over dinner we had what was perhaps the most intense conversation
we've all had in months. Granted, I've barely seen them since they
got married at the beginning of October, and every serious
conversation I've had with them in the past year has somehow revolved
around said nuptials (not that I minded AT ALL; if either of them gets
married ever again I will be genuinely shocked) but that's beside the
point, because this conversation was about CHURCH.

This is when I am required to pause to mention that my brother,
Tosher, is not actually my brother. We share values, memories, tastes,
and opinions; I consider he, his wife, his brother, and his parents a
second family, but we do not share blood. He is not related to me at
all. He isn't even Canadian. He's from upstate New York. I am from
Ontario. We met when we were both 14 at a leadership conference
through the church we belong to. We're Unitarian Universalist. If
you don't know anything about the church, you may want to Google it
because I do a terrible job of explaining what UUism is all about. All
I can really do is tell you what it is To Me: for me, it's about
belonging to a community that supports peoples' need to question
things, and debate, and decide for themselves the details of their
dogma. For Tosh, it's (at least partly) about a having a place where
he didn't have to live up to anyone else's expectations. At least,
that's what it was for him when he was in Youth Group.

Recently a friend of mine found out I'm a youth advisor for the youth
group at my UU church. He laughed pretty hard because of how it
sounds. Also because he's a hardcore Marxist-anarchist philosophy PhD
student who was brought up by missionary parents who dragged him to
central America and Africa when they 'heard the call of God' (his
words, not mine). He assumes certain things when he hears the words
"Youth Group"... as do Tosher and I. And I can guarantee they are NOT
the same things.

I may have met Tosh for the first time when we were 14, but we didn't
become close friends until nearly four years later, when we were
brought together by an individual who had s big influence on Tosher
and who has had perhaps the biggest influence on my life of anyone
I've ever known: my little sister, Anya.

Tosh and Anya were both on the district YAC, the Youth Adult Committee
that operated under the auspices of the UU Board that presided over
probably a couple of dozen churches (I'm guessing at numbers here
since the St. Lawrence district has since disbanded) in Western
Quebec, Eastern Ontario and Upstate New York. Essentially, the YAC
was a forum for youth and adults to discuss issues that affected us
both... soooo, everything. Institutionally, the YAC helped write the
rules for conference behaviour and help facilitate intergenerational
dialogue.

Tonight, Tosh and I got talking about church because I was recently
elected to the BC YAC. As an Adult (and yes, I feel it requires
capitalization). I was never on YAC as a Youth and that may be a
blessing, because I don't have as many pre-conceived notions of how it
ought to Be, but I have still been curious about Tosher's experience.
I have been confronted with some challenges as a youth advisor -one of
the other advisors is somewhat domineering, which concerns me- and I
was eager to confirm that my uneasiness was not just based on my
having glorified memories of my own youth group experience. Yeah, I
was not. Tosher's memory of what Youth Group was to him were exactly
what I had recalled it being to me: a safe place where you can bring
up ANYTHING and where no one tells you you're absolutely wrong. And,
no, he assured me, there was none of this "programming" bullshit.
That, he argued, was the whole point: YOUTH GROUP WAS DEMOCRATICALLY
SELF-DIRECTED.

A few weeks ago I googled something I shouldn't have: my sister's
name. This is a BAD plan for so many reasons, but it was utterly
idiotic mostly because I did it shortly after Anya's birthday, which
happens to be the toughest day of the year (for me). Anya would have
been 26 this year. This year was harder than others because Anya
celebrated her last birthday ten years ago. A decade ago. As if I
didn't feel old enough as it was... What I found when I googled her
name surprised me a little bit, mostly because one of the links was
one I'd never seen before. It was a link to a blurb she'd written for
the YAC over ten years ago. It was about the exact issue I am now
dealing with in the YAC and in my Youth Group: Youth Empowerment. In
the strangest way, it was like a gift, to see this thing she'd written
so long ago exactly when I needed to read it; to have such an
important idea summarized so clearly and so suscinctly for me (by a 15-
year-old, no less); and then, when I brought it up over dinner, to
have Tosher recite it back to me almost verbatim because he was there
when it was written and because it is such an important part of his
beliefs too.

It is amazing what young people produce when they are allowed to
define their own reality, when they are encouraged to explore exactly
Who they are and What they believe in and WHY they believe in it and
How they wish to manifest those beliefs in this, their, world. That's
what I hope to do, the encouraging bit at least, because the whole
point of youth empowerment is that young people must be given the
opportunity to discover the power within themselves. That is how they
develop. That is how they grow up. That is how we all become who we
are. The process doesn't end when you turn 18, or 19, or 20, or 21,
or 25 or 30 or 50. Ideally, it never ends. But it has to begin
somewhere.

Anya has been dead for nearly a decade now, but she is still
influencing my life. She brought Tosher and I together as friends
(little did she know how her death would forge the deepest and most
meaningful friendship I have ever known), and it is her words that are
helping me articulate things now that I'd begun to worry were
ineffable... just like the peace of mind that overwhelms me whenever I
pick up a cloth and start putting a dent in the dirty dishes after
dinner at Tosh and Sal's place.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

All the little shoes

**Again my apologies in advance for the layout; blame the iPhoniness...*

I'm going to admit to something I shouldn't in a public forum: I ADORE
one of my profs. Far more than I should. I could try to justify this
in some semblance of a rational manner, but what's the point? It is
simply one of those cases of my meeting someone to whom I cannot help
saying: "You. Yes, YOU. We need to be friends." Even if I can only
ever say it in my head.

Being friends with a prof is tough though because there's always that
underlying sense of 'you are determining a fraction of my GPA' and
that blurs the lines of friendliness. Or it should. [What can I do
when someone gives me better marks than I feel I deserve? (Even if I
go back and re-read that essay question on which I was given full
marks and I am forced to grudgingly admit that it's actually kind of
'Excellent!' like the single red comment at its conclusion claims...)]

I really like this prof. Not because he's young. Not because he gave
me a wicked mark on my midterm. Not because he's one of the most
passionate profs I've ever had. Not because his class may be in the
running for the second-best course I've taken in university. (No one
will ever top HIST151 with Bill Cleveland; it's impossible, the man
was simply inimitable.)

No. The reason I like him so much is because he cares. He gives a
shit. And so many people (forget the prof distinction for a moment,
because really it's irrelevant), SO MANY PEOPLE JUST DON'T CARE. I'm
not taking about him caring about ME. God, no. I'm talking about him
caring about the world, and his students, and their education, and the
fact that he manages to convey more hope for the world than anyone
else I've known who's spent a couple of decades steeped in IR.

I'm sure part of the reason I like his class so much is because it's
about a topic I am irrationally passionate about. But part of it is
also how he's teaching it, what readings he's assigned, and how he
lets us get WILDLY off-topic in seminar now and then. And then a
whole other category of why I adore him is because of all of the
things I've spoken to him about when I've gone to see him on his
office hours. (Yes, I am one of those unforgivable brown-nosers. You
should try it, it's amazing how human YOUR profs may prove to be...)

Somehow, a couple of weeks ago, we got on the topic of vacations and
how one year his brother went to Vegas and he went ... to Auschwitz.
When he told me this, he seemed to be waiting for me to react. If I
was supposed to be shocked, I expect I disappointed him a little. I
was a little envious, but that's it. He went on to tell me about the
museum there and how he'd been okay with everything, the empty
canisters of gas and the rooms full of luggage and jewellery --

"And shoes!" I interrupted. "And eyeglasses, and..."
He stared at me, a little shocked, and nodded.
"They have a section of the Holocaust Museum in Washington that is
recreated to be like that part of Auschwitz," I explained.
"The shoes were what got me." He said it quietly. "All the little
shoes."

It's all the really little shoes. The little, tiny shoes. And they
were what got me too, one day nearly two years ago as I wandered
through the Holocaust Museum in DC. Because, as he pointed out, you
can imagine being at war and being threatened by another adult;
perhaps you can even imagine killing an adult. But how do you conceive
of a small child --or an infant-- as a threat? How do you kill
someone whose shoes fit so easily in the palm of your hand?

I got sick the other day and today with no TV the only way to keep
myself in one place long enough to recover was to start reading (and,
I'm sorry, but I need to be at full strength to tackle Karl Polanyi,
let alone write a paper on the 'double movement'...) so I grabbed this
350-page book I'm supposed to have read by this coming Friday and
started reading.

The book in question is by a journalist named Philip Gourevitch and
it's entitled "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed
with our families" and it is about the Rwandan genocide. It is an
excellent book if you can stomach it. It's brutally honest,
relatively unforgiving of the international community's absolutely
shameful apathy, and an interesting commentary on both the problems
that led to and followed the genocide in 1994. But the one line that
got me more than any other (and a LOT of lines got me) was 198 pages
in, when one of the author's acquaintances says, "They were like all
the luggage."

And suddenly I found my chest closing in on itself and wishing I could
know if that one line triggered the same reaction in my prof when he
first read it. Because the line took me back: first, to his office and
that conversation; then, to DC and standing in the one other part of
the Holocaust Museum that left me short of breath -- this long, bright
solarium corridor, where, etched in glass, are all the names of all
the towns and villages in Europe whose Jewish populations were
eliminated and how I half-hoped I wouldn't find my maternal
grandmother's home town on the list; and finally, to the feeling of
standing in silence holding my friend Ali's hand like we'd been
friends all our lives even though we'd only met face-to-face for the
first time an hour and a half earlier. And I was choking back tears.

Why is it that our humanity is so defined in moments like that? In
those moments when we find that common ground --often such DEEP common
ground-- with someone we barely know? And what makes it so impossible
to imagine that shared common ground the other 99.99% of the time?

Perhaps it is because people can be total jerks. Like that bus driver
who speeds by you when it's pouring rain and you're already running
late... Or that person who slams into you, spilling that 6$ latte you
really can't afford all over you, and doesn't even apologize for
ruining your white wool coat that you JUST spent 30$ getting dry-
cleaned... Or that guy you meet who never calls after that great
conversation you had at the pub that night... People are jerks. But
people are also incredible. It's knowing how to differetiate them
that takes some time to learn. And sadly, there are more people who
end up not being worth my time than there are people who trigger the
"You. Yes, YOU. We need to be friends." instinct.

But jerks or not, does anyone deserve to be slaughtered? And even if
some people do kind of have it coming, is it pssible for anyone with
little, tiny shoes ever deserve to die? Can that kind of insanely
thourough slaughter ever be justified? Can anyone sane look at the
Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide and argue that maybe the Nazis and
Hutu Power were JUSTIFIED in killing todlers and infants and unborn
babies? Sure, people have tried. But mostly they're biased. Or
crackpots. Or criminally insane.

How can you look at all the little shoes and think "That's
threatening!" -- How?

Perhaps that is simply something I will never understand. Perhaps my
own bias --towards individual agency and free will-- makes me unable
to conceive of a manner in which a parent's crime could ever reflect
negatively upon their child, or how any racial prejudice could be wide
enough to include a human who can barely speak or walk, let alone
read, write, or kill. Perhaps it is a testament to the limits of my
own creativity that I cannot fathom the psychological conditioning
that would be required to induce me (or anyone) to kill a child, any
child, especially one with shoes the size of a doll's. Perhaps that
is precisely why I study this, why I cannot seem to even read enough
about genocide: because I have not yet been able to wrap my head
around it; because there does not seem to be an adequate answer;
because none of the answers ever provided ever make sense to me.

I simply cannot comprehend what could ever compel a person to kill
someone with such little shoes. And neither can my prof. And that is
at the core of why I adore him the way I do.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hockey Rant in Canada: An Open Letter to Idiotic Male Hockey Fans

A few months ago a friend of mine hooked me up with a job doing guest
services for the Abbotsford Heat. What can I say? I get paid to
check tickets and watch hockey. (I'm sorry, this is a JOB? What?) In
any case, because I work weeknights at my other job, I can only really
work the Heat's Saturday games (so about 1/4 of their home games).
Tonight was my second night.

The Heat won 4-2, but the game was theirs. They scored 5 minutes into
the first and totally dominated the Milwaukee Admirals, who only got
on the board at about 5:20 in the third. And it was Matt Halischuk who
scored their first goal. My WJC boys do me so proud... :D

Earlier this week I was actually wondering where he'd gone after
junior. Apparently, he went to Milwaukee... Matt Halischuk was on Team
Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championhip with the trio of awesome:
Stefan Legein, Karl Alzner, and Steve Mason. Although Halischuk
wasn't a huge contributor throughout the tournament in Pardubice, he
scored one very crucial goal: the OT game-winner in the gold medal
game that year. It was so epic because he's not really that clutch;
he just got lucky and got 'er done. Which is sometimes how you win
championships.

Tonight, I was working up in the club lounge in Abbotsford which is
accessible from the stands but only if you have seats in Section 100
or in a suite. (Section 100 is at centre ice behind the penalty box.)
Most of the people I dealt with were awesome, but there was this one
guy who was the dad of a kid involved with the 50-50 draw who was ...
Oh man... There are no words. No polite ones, at least.

We were chatting about minor hockey and the former Vancouver Giants
who were playing (Lance Bouma and Jon Blum) and other players I'd seen
play in junior (notably Mitch Wahl) and I mentioned that without my
glasses on I couldn't tell which number Matt Halischuk was so I asked
if I had it right (I did). This man kind of smirked and asked me if
I'd scoped out Halischuk's photo earlier and thought he was cute. I
just stared. My response was just brutal, mostly because of my tone.

I didn't even answer the question he'd asked. Instead, I told him I
was rooting for Halischuk because he scored the GWG for Canada in
sudden-death over-time of the gold medal game of the 2008 WJC. And
then I turned back to the game. I mean, what the hell? We'd been
talking about hockey for over ten minutes. I knew more about the teams
than he did (which is impressive given that I know practically ZILCH
about the western conference of the AHL). And his kid was right there.
His kid, who was maybe eleven or twelve, looked mortified by the
comment his dad made. That made me a little happy; at least the kid
respected me.

I was thinking about it in the car on the way home and something
finally clicked. This has happened before, that men make comments like
that after ample proof that I know my shit about hockey. And then it
occured to me -for the first time ever- that maybe they're doing it
BECAUSE I KNOW MY SHIT MORE THAN THEY KNOW THEIRS, that maybe they do
it in a twisted attempt to bring me down a notch.

To that I have only one thing to say: screw you, sir.

I understand that there is this ingrained assumption that girls like
hockey because the guys are cute or rich or talented (or all three in
the case of guys like Sidney Crosby or Jordan Staal or Jonathan
Toews). But this has to stop. Yes, as a heterosexual female, I will
OPENLY admit to thinking that Kris Letang is gorgeous. But you know
what's even prettier than his floppy hair and his oh-me eyes? HIM
SCORING FROM THE POINT IN THE THIRD PERIOD OF A PLAYOFF GAME TO TIE
THE GAME BACK UP FOR A TEAM I'VE BEEN ROOTING FOR SINCE I WAS FIVE
YEARS OLD. That's what is what I love most about him. That, and the
fact that as of yesterday Letang was on pace for 82 points this
season. Just like Marian Hossa. (Dear Hossa, Please go die. No Love,
A Still-Disgruntled Sens Fan) Did I mention how much I love offensive
d-men? Did I? Cause I do. I love the game, and I love the players who
play for the teams I love, no matter what they look like.

What annoys the hell out of me is the fact that obviously some men
cannot separate sex drive from sports. My preference for players is
not based on looks, nor is it often even based purely on talent,
mostly my favouritism is based on ridiculous criteria like a few
clutch goals in game seven of the Cup Final (Max Talbot, can I buy you
a bottle of scotch for that?) or how much they made me laugh during
the worst Christmas of my life (do not even get me started on how
awesome Stefan Legein is...) or the fact that they can't skate for
beans but they were the scariest 19-year-old sniper I've ever seen
(Dany Heatley, I should loathe you... but I cannot do it. I will
defend you to the death).

Sure, this is not the most logical criteria, but when has logic ever
factored into hockey? Think about it: how insane would you have had
to be to say "I'm bored... you know what we should do? LET'S STRAP
METAL BLADES TO THE BOTTOMS OF OUR BOOTS AND GO OUT ON THIS FROZEN
POND IN THE DEAD OF WINTER AND WHACK THIS PIECE OF FROZEN COW SHIT
AROUND WITH CURVED STICKS!!!! THAT SOUNDS LIKE AN AWESOME PLAN!!!!"
You would have had to have been effing bonkers, is what.

So pardon my for picking my favourites based on strange criteria, and,
gentlemen, if you truly are gentlemen stop assuming female fans are at
a game for the eye cand and ought to be impressed by YOUR hockey
knowledge. Try being impressed by ours, for once. Or at least try
not to betray your intimidation by accusing us of being something we
almost certainly are not.

If you want to go as far as applying logic, here's some for you: if my
objective really was to get with one of the players, would I have
taken a job that forbids me from speaking to them unless they speak to
me first? [FYI, the correct answer is NO. If that was my objective,
I'd have a ticket to the game and be sitting in some hideously visible
locale trying to look cute and be distracting. Instead I am forty
feet away from the boards, in the lounge chatting with season ticket
holders and your SON, who is visibly impressed that I know Tim Thomas'
current save percentage (.984, just so YOU know...) and that I saw
John Tavares play when he was still a General.]

And next time some female hockey fan tells you she's rooting for a
player, kindly assume it's for more or less the same reason you root
for any given player.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

'Africa'

Back in the day ('the day' being any given Sunday in the 1997 to 2002ish span), we used to tease these two brothers in my church youth group about being from 'Africa.' Not actual Africa, we (my church and all of the members of its congregation) were WAY to P.C. for that. These brothers lived in Russell, Ontario... which you have never heard of. (Don't lie, you've never heard of it.)

Russell is a tiny little town outside of Metcalfe (which you've also never heard of) off Highway 417 in the Eastern Townships (ditto above), which is itself southeast of Gloucester (which, admit it, you've ALSO never heard of, unless you're a massive Dan Boyle fan) and is mostly farm-type land that does not do much of anything but buffer Ottawa from those crazies down in Upstate New York. That, and produce milk and maple syrup.

Thing is, we teased these boys and we called Russell "Africa" because it was FAR away -so far that I never went to their house in the 6 or so years I knew them- but also because it kind of scared us to go there.

A couple of weeks ago, my prof used the following map in class when we were talking about media coverage of wars in Africa. The map is 100% to scale.



A little scary how many countries (BIG countries) fit inside the continent, isn't it?

I think sometimes people forget just how huge Africa is, and how many people live there. I think it's easy to forget (or to deliberately not think about it) because when you actually try to wrap your head around it, it ends up hurting a little from having to stretch so much. Africa is still a big mystery to most of us. I've been wanting to go there for 20 years (literally, since I was seven years old). I've traveled quite a bit, so what's stopping me from going to Africa?

Money, for one: plane tickets to Tanzania are WAY more expensive than tickets to Toronto. Malaria medication (and all the other shots you have to get). Visas. And... as reluctant I am to admit this, fear. Africa (like Russell) is a long way from home. I'm good with new places, but I'm not sure I could parachute into a given country in Africa and just wing it the way I tend to do when I travel. In intimidating places, planning is my fallback which, if you know me well at all, you know is not my forte. But mostly it's fear. I think most of it is simply a fear of the unknown: of not knowing what may go wrong.

A few years ago in London, I got pick-pocketed (in Westminster Abbey of all places). I was pissed off, but I wasn't ever scared. I knew the language. I had my train ticket back to Brighton. I knew where I was sleeping that night. And I knew that I had a friend whose parents would bail me out if I was in really serious trouble. Maybe that's the trick: most of the places I travel, I know people. I don't know anyone in Africa. Which shouldn't stop me from going there, but probably has at least a little. If something went wrong, I'd be a long way from home with no one close by to give me advice or to help me out if I got myself into trouble (and let's be realistic, I am MORE than capable of getting myself into the strangest situations *coughnearlydrowningintheNorthSeacough*).

That map, however, gave some validity to my worries about traveling to (and in) Africa. It's a huge continent, just huge, and even if I knew someone in one country, it wouldn't necessarily be much help. Flying home to Ottawa from Vancouver is a heck of a trip, one I tend to avoid because I lose a day of travel going there. Flying from Cote d'Ivoire to South Africa would be no less daunting. Probably more so.

The strange thing is that, sitting in my chair in the library at school, I'm no less determined to go at some point. The map simply made me realize that this will have to be planned -well planned- and that my extensive talents using Hotwire and CheapTickets will be of absolutely no use.

So... on that note, who wants to go to Africa? In, say, early 2012? Anyone?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Atheist Goes to Church

I went to Church today. Which is not a big thing, except that I am pretty comfortably atheist, so going to Church is always an interesting adventure for me. It was actually pretty wonderful. My church isn't a Christian church per se, it's Unitarian Universalist, which is sort of like if the United Nations had a church... Or as someone else put it, a church that believes that all religions have value, that we should all be nice to each other, and that we should recycle.

The sermon today was entitled 'To Transform Lives in a Profound Way' and our minister began by asking the congregation if our church has a soul.

The sermon itself had a lot to do with the soul of a community and how we create, nurture and help that soul to thrive. Oddly enough, it also reminded me a lot of some of the things Rick Warren talks about his book "The Purpose Driven Life" (#58 on the 2010 Books Read List) about how one of the purposes of life is giving back to your church instead of simply trying to get what you need from it, and how the act of giving back to a place (or a group, or a person, or a university class ;P) enriches the experience. Despite all this, Jesus or no Jesus, the act of true fellowship seems to be a universal challenge in churches around the world. True fellowship is unselfish and (to use my favourite Mahatma Gandhi quotation wildly out of context) requires us to be the change we wish to see in our church.

I've been asked why I go to church if I don't believe in God. I go because I believe in the world, and in the people in it, and in helping others, and in face-to-face communities where you know peoples' stories and care about their problems, and your being present and able to offer a smile or a hug or a hand to hold is more important than if you're getting points on a cosmic score card for doing it. I don't need to know I'm pleasing any greater power to know that offering sympathy or encouragement to someone in need of it is worthwhile. I know it's worthwhile when someone smiles back at me or thanks me. That's all the validation I need. (Sometimes, I don't even need that.)

I've been missing that kind of community (and that kind of validation) a lot lately, and it took meeting a number of very lovely Christian friends and living with a very lovely Christian room-mate for almost two years for me to admit that maybe what was missing from my life was Church. Church; not religion, not faith, Church. The actual community. I have my own kind of beliefs that aren't quite religious (unless worshiping at the alter of reason and decency is now a recognized religion), and I have faith (although it's more in people and the world as a whole than in a God of any kind), but I didn't have Church. And I missed Church. I missed the community and the diversity of people and having the opportunity to discuss interesting issues with people of different backgrounds and generations.

I went last week. To the same church. The bus ride there took forever, and it was raining, and the service was a bit too long, and a bit pointless to me, and, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit disappointed by the whole experience. But on my way home, I thought about what Warren had written about not being so picky and perfectionistic about our churches and how sometimes they aren't what we think we want or need, but how we have to give back to them to get what we truly need -what's most valuable- out of them. I was on the fence about going back to church again this weekend. And then last night, I remembered something my mother told me in ninth grade when I was whining about the high school (Lisgar) I was forced to attend. I wanted to go to a different school, where all my friends from eighth grade had gone. She turned to me and said, "Maybe you don't need Lisgar, but maybe Lisgar needs you."

Turns out, she was wrong on that one. I needed Lisgar, and I stayed and graduated from Lisgar five years later, (in Ontario at the time we had grade 13) but I think that maybe she was right too; maybe Lisgar needed me, too. And the same goes for church. My new church may not be the perfect church, I realized as I went to bed last night, but I got up this morning and I got dressed and caught the bus to church and I gave it a second chance. I am really glad I did.

There probably isn't a perfect church, not even my old church in Ottawa, which I love and miss and may have idealized a bit in my heart... but there are good churches with soul. And I think I've found one. And so, I'm in. I'm going back next week, despite the hour-plus on the bus, and the rain, and the temptation to get a few more hours of sleep on one of the few days I truly have OFF. And I'm pretty happy about it. I'm happy to buy in, whatever the cost, because I have the feeling that the payout to everyone who buys in to the community is the sum of what everyone else is putting in the pot: unlike a hockey pool where you give your 40$ and only one person in the pool wins it all at the end of the season, we all win here, and we don't have to wait nearly as long to see the return on our investment.

I hope I can contribute to the soul of my chosen church, to make it mine, and to give back to it, not because God would want me to, but because it's what you need to do to build a healthy community and to be a part of that community it has to have a part of you. You have to give it some of your self. We are so used to wanting everything to provide us with what we need, to give us something. I think a lot of times people forget how amazing it feels to give, to contribute, to donate your time and your energy, to volunteer, to give a little piece of your soul to something greater.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Mother Mother, Said The Whale and other inspiration

I spent the weekend working guest services -- over 24 hours of work in two days after working full-time all week -- for the Live at Squamish music festival. My job was to help all the VIPs and media whosits (and a few bands) find their respective wranglers and parking if they needed it. Pretty dope job, frankly. Essentially I was paid to stand around and tell people where to park, who to talk to to get their media/VIP/artist passes and, in a couple of unfortunate cases, where they could shove their VIP-attitude.

Mostly, though, people were awesome, especially the people I worked with and a few of the bands who I met, most of whom are small and indie and have ghetto camper vans with their name scrawled in spray paint on the side of their trailer. (The guys from Said The Whale were sooooo funny and nice! Plus they're talented. They may be my new favourite band. A+!!!)



Them, or Mother Mother...



In any case, the bands weren't the best part of the weekend, the best part of the weekend was the half-hour or so I spent in the medical tent chatting with the head of the festival medical team who I worked for a couple of years ago when I did this advanced first aid training and briefly debated becoming a paramedic. The head doc, who is one of the amazing people who can't help but put a smile on my face, told me all about his research and how his hobby of doing medical for big events (his team does marathons, charity runs, music festivals, and even did a whole bunch of the medical for the Olympics!) has become something WAY more serious than he'd originally imagined. He doesn't seem too unhappy about that though. It made me miss being on his team. He is one of the easiest people to work for, and I really love being useful at big events like the music festival I worked this weekend. I may just have to re-certify so I can work for him next summer :)

School starts today, but my first class isn't until tomorrow. I'm beyond excited. I may be narrowing in on something resembling a direction (or maybe I should call it a mission?) in my studies. For now, I'm going to ride my great mood and listen to some more Mother Mother and Said The Whale.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Okay, so... The Great Big Summer Reading List, discovering Anderson Cooper, and re-discovering Star Trek

I've been absent for MONTHS. I wish I had a good excuse, but really the biggest reason is that I've had nothing much to say. I'm not saying that I have anything particularly interesting to say NOW, just that so many things have been swimming through my head lately, and I need to get a few of them out somewhere, so I may be turning to this blog again.

Mostly I've been reading a lot, which is fantastic (since I've had no luck doing any writing). In any case, a few words on my recent favourite.

One day a few weeks ago, I was walking home from the grocery store when I saw a box of books outside my local charity shop: paperbacks 25 cents each. I am not sure how anyone can resist 25 cent anything, let alone 25 cent BOOKS. And what was right on top? A book called 'Dispatches from the Edge' with Anderson Cooper's ever-handsome photo. It's as though it was right there waiting for me, specifically, to walk by and make it mine. Sometimes, kismet happens.

I have this thing for war correspondents, and the books they write. They're generally pretty amazing books, and they invariably make me want to catch the next flight to the worst war-zone I can find... (My all-time favourite is a book by Chris Hedges called 'War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning'. EXCELLENT BOOK.) I know that Anderson Cooper isn't technically a war correspondent, but his book is no different than those other memoirs I find so compelling.

The book was a heck of a lot more personal than I thought it would be, and then not in the ways I thought it might be. If you can find it, please read it. It's an easy read, and well worth the couple of hours it will take.

It's funny though, because I've never been much of a Anderson Cooper fan. In fact, when I bought the book, I'd never actually watched his show. I've long known who he is, obviously, since I've seen him on CNN during American election coverage ever since I started watching US election coverage on CNN (turns out he was hired right around the time Bush started bombing Iraq and I started watching CNN out of sheer morbid curiosity and because, being in New York in March of 2003, CNN was the sane alternative to Fox 5's Right-Wing-Terror-Apocalypse-Fear-Mongering-Bullshit). The fact that I don't watch ANY of CNN's programming is probably somewhat more indicative of why I've never watched Anderson Cooper 360, but Anderson's book got me curious.

I hit up the CNN website a few days ago and found the podcasts of his show. I've got to admit, I'm kind of a fan. Ever since I re-enrolled in classes for the fall, I've been trying to find a way to make myself watch 'the news' again. Most of the time, news programming makes me alternately shut down or verbally assault the television... and yet now it seems I have found a show I can watch without tuning out or lashing out. Yay!

'Dispatches' is not the only book I read this summer. The top ten list includes Peter Gzowski's book 'The Game of Our Lives' (about the Oilers and Gretzky in the VERY early 80s, before they won the Cup); 'A Problem From Hell', Samantha Powers' incredible book on genocide as well as her biography of Sergio Vieira De Mello which is called, simply, 'Sergio'; 'This Side of Paradise' by F. Scott Fitzgerald; 'Erewhon' by Samuel Butler; and Leonard Nimoy's memoir, 'I Am Spock.'

The last one I blame on my lovely friend Ali, whose unexpected love of last summer's Star Trek movie finally convinced me to rent it, and then brought back memories of being 12 and wracked with insomnia and curling up a foot and a half from my family's 13" television at 3 a.m. with the sound really low when they played the original Star Trek series. I watched them all out of order, and I can't, for the life of me, remember a single plot. My main memories were thinking that Spock was a lot like my math teacher and the production value of the show was SO sixties. But seeing Leonard Nimoy in the newest Star Trek moved me (COMPLETELY UNEXPECTEDLY) to nostalgic tears. Two days later, I saw 'I Am Spock' at a charity shop for 6$. Again with the kismet...

Overall, this summer can be summarized thus: 60 days off, 13 days of work, 33 books read, one news anchor discovered, and one old show re-discovered. Not too shabby...

Hopefully, this semester will be as good (albeit with a LOT less days off!).

Friday, 21 May 2010

Twice the Speed of Life

*

*

For some reason, I was at work tonight, missing this blog like nothing else.

Maybe I miss having people read things I write.
Maybe I miss the people I've met writing this blog (and W2TBL).

Or maybe, just maybe, I miss the actual act of writing.

I haven't written anything I felt is worthwhile in a long time. I've been so wrapped up in living life lately, in the daily grind of my job and my flat and my attempts to write, that I never feel like I have time to chronicle it all. It may also be that the people who I initially began writing this blog for have become such a part of my life that I would feel strange writing about our adventures in such a public forum.

And then I heard this song. I downloaded the album on my iPhone from the bowels of the kitchen at work whilst on shift (gotta love technology for that ;P) and I was listening to it, praying it would get me through an unexpectedly brutal shift, when it happened: I shuddered with the realization that my life is speeding by at twice the speed of life.

It's such a beautiful concept. The Speed of Life. Mine seems to be barreling by at an unbelievable speed right now and I wish I could just grab it by the collar and hold it back, slow it down, so that I can breathe a little less frantically. How the hell did I get to be 27? I wish I could just hit the pause button on life and try to catch up to how old I'm supposed to be.

Only life never works like that, now, does it? It never slows down when you want it to. That's the beauty of it. You have to learn when to savour that feeling, that incredible flavour of the unforgettable.


My birthday this year was understated. It was on purpose. I deliberately didn't try to re-do my 26th birthday. Mostly because nothing could top it. And I knew it. Even that night, over a year ago now, I could taste it in the air on Mount Washington: there was never going to be another night like that. One night wherein I met someone for the first time who I already knew I loved more than life. One night in which I would sit in a King size bed opening presents I knew I could never deserve drinking peach champagne and giggling like an idiot about Kris Letang. One night in which everything was changing even as I was drawing breath, trying to catch it for a second, to nail down that flavour in the air, that sweet, tangy taste of love, friendship and a peak moment of my life.

This year, I met someone at the Phoenix airport, rather than being the one met. This year, I got gifts that made me giggle and cry. This year, I drank beer and happy-hour margaritas instead of red wine. This year, I wasn't overwhelmed... and yet I was. This year, I spent my birthday with someone I love dearly, someone whose mere willingness to fly to Arizona to lay in the sun for a few days was her real gift to me. Her generosity and spontaneity put me to shame. And my birthday still ended up being its own little miracle.


Then, tonight I was thinking about those two birthdays and it made me realize just how much time has gone by. How different this past year has been, compared to the one that came before. I could toss around the word 'destiny' and it wouldn't be completely nuts. The 2008-2009 hockey season felt like it was destiny, like the world made it all happen just for me and my friends -girls I didn't know two years ago, who over the course of that 2008-2009 hockey season became friends with me, but more importantly, with each other- even the one of us whose team had to lose the Stanley Cup. My comparative lack of enthusiasm for this year's finals just drove home how special that was when it DID happen. Because it's not every year that you watch the same two teams go to the Cup final AGAIN. It's not every year that you bond with girls who are both crazy and incredible. It's not every year that the Stanley Cup parade is on your birthday. And that's what makes it so special. The fact that it happened at all seems almost impossible. The fact that it has brought so many people I care about together. The fact that all our memories of that Cup-run will always be unbelievably intertwined with the people with whom we watched those games, the friends we met, the players we cheered for, the teams in whom we invested our trust that they could bring home glory.

And they did.

They made it unforgettable. But we made it more unforgettable.

It makes me wonder if any season will ever reek of destiny the same way ever again. Will I ever be able to separate these people from that memory? Will any of us feel as good when our team wins the Cup again? Will it be as special? Or was it that much more intense because so many things came together that season? Because of the friendships that blossomed, and because of the almost blind faith with which we believed that the Penguins were going to win the Cup.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know it will never be the same again. It can't be. And maybe that's for the best. Because there have to be things that top the list in life. I feel blessed that I have that on my list at all.

It's sad that it can't last forever, because it felt so damn good while it lasted. You can tell yourself that it's just life, that it's just how it is, and that, at some point, you have to get back to the grind of the real world. Truth is, the real beauty is taking a bit of the incredible back to the everyday. Finding a way to work that into your everyday life. I still haven't figured it out. Maybe I'll figure it out someday. In the meantime, I try to remember those incredible days, on the tops of mountains and in the blinding sunshine by resort pools and crying in pubs when Crosby raised the Cup, and I do my best to love the people who made those days so special.

But life's going by way too damn fast, regardless.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

This goes without saying...

I miss you more than makes sense.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The 2010 Book List

Books I've read this year. Roughly in order. Sort of. When I remember to write them down. Will be updated sporadically.

The entire 'Sword of Truth' series (12 books) - Terry Goodkind
Open Ice - Jack Falla
Rossum's Universal Robots - Karl Capek
Blades of Glory - John Rosengren
Baby Proof - Emily Giffin
Something Borrowed - Emily Giffin
The Wisdom of Whores - Elizabeth Pisani
Ransom My Heart - Meg Cabot
The Nanny Returns - ?
The Boys of Winter - Wayne Coffey
Crashing the Net - Mary Turco
Seule devant la filet - Manon Rheaume
Midnight Hockey - Bill Gaston
The Rookie - Shawna Richer (reprinted under the title 'The Kid')
The Meaning of Puck - Bruce Dowbiggin
The Lunatic Express - Carl Hoffman
A Spell For Chameleon - Piers Anthony
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
A Parent's Guide to Minor Hockey - K. Hatwig
Chasing the Flame - Samantha Power (reprinted under the title 'Sergio')
Irrelevant or Indispensable - eds. P. Heinbecker & P. Goff
Hiroshima - John Henry
Love You To Death - Gail Bowen
The Death of Hockey - Kidd & McFarlane
A Problem From Hell - Samantha Power
The Game of Our Lives - Peter Gzowski
The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum
The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama
The Shack - William P. Young
Honeymoon in Purdah - Alison Wearing
The Dive From Clausen's Pier - Ann Packer
The Balkan Express - Slavenka Drakulic
A Chosen Faith - John Buerens & Forrest Church
Blind Faith - Ben Elton
Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
Dispatches From the Edge - Anderson Cooper
Shut Up, I'm Taking - Gregory Levey
This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Stephenie Meyer
I Am Spock - Leonard Nimoy
Erewhon - Samuel Butler
Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid - Evelyn Lau
The Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren
Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
The Places In Between - Rory Stewart
Humanitarian Intervention - Thomas G. Weiss
Prosperity & Violence - Robert Bates