Advice from a Dear Friend

I’ve discovered there’s a beauty in my spirit only released when I write. Even if I’m the only one to glimpse that glory, it’s something worth releasing. You have that same beauty. Set aside the doubt’s and embrace the truth – you are a writer and writers write — my friend Miss Eves

photo courtesy of google image search

photo courtesy of google image search

Living the Good “Chai”

Chai is the Hebrew word for life, so let’s celebrate it. Let’s raise our glasses to us, to ourselves, to each other, and drink deeply to the good chai and all its daily wonders.

life is a gift we can choose to unwrap

The only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars …  — Jack Kerouac

Here’s to the dreamers, the seers, the believers and deep sleepers.

Here’s to secret keepers, weepers, sighers and wishers.

Here’s to the pioneers, the forerunners, the trailblazers and groundbreakers, the innovators, the strivers and succeeders.

Here’s to the thinkers and feelers, the followers, the resolvers, the carers and creators and supporters.

Here’s to careerists, to workers, to healers and helpers and everyday heroes.

Here’s to the inbetweeners, the 9-5ers, the punch-in / punch-outers, the stepping stoners, the mobile phoners, the just-get-byers and one-more-dayers.

“you and me and five bucks”

Here’s to the cafe lingerers, the hummers and singers, the coffee spoon clinkers and fresh air drinkers.

Here’s to the ones that wake up, back to sun, already undone as the alarm sounds their impending day.

Here’s to the ones that jump out of bed roaring, ready to attack the invaders of peace.

Here’s to wallflowers blossoming in corners.

Here’s to late-bloomers who make the sweetest flowers.

Here’s to the broken who are just on the mend, and here’s to the soothers with honey in their hush.

Here’s to dwellers of the Land of Someday, the citizens of Maybe and the clairvoyants of Tomorrow. Here’s to the keepers of the Past, and the ones that live on the high mountain of It’s Possible.

the best time to celebrate is whenever you can

And here’s to the moments that make this life rich and wonderful and, well, worth rising for.

Here’s to:

Evenings you could drink in a cup, the sun setting in resplendence, the trees lush and green and waving good-bye to a day fully lived.

Hundreds of hands raised and swaying like sea anemone in the strobe lights at a raucous concert and everyone nodding yes and music pumping in hearts and stomachs.

Hands fingering tall weeds and grass as you stroll.

A friend lovingly touching your hair.

Pink sky, blue lake.

Cities still sleeping at 4 am, lights across water twinkling.

Long stretches of road to be driven down, roads winding leading to stories yet untold, country roads with stories in the overgrown brush and untended fields.

Idling atop your car, looking out onto the world with quiet meditation and good music instrumenting what words cannot express.

Getting fresh air, getting fresh thoughts.

Hope spoken in ocean spray and whispering winds.

Teaching toddlers to speak Pirate and tickle the clouds with their feet on the swing set.

Soy lattes made with love by singing baristas.

The world made magical by sunshine, strength, and possibility.

All I was searching for was me

But if it just hurts too much, and you can’t see the sun for the clouds, and you feel like everything in your life is broken,

remember:

Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong.

Celebrate one thing and celebrate it anyway, and distract yourself with something beautiful, knowing that this too shall pass.

Be Good

let them eat cake

“No, thank you. I’m being good today.”

I probably hear that multiple times on a daily basis. Mostly women, with sheepish, apologetic smiles on their faces, peering longingly at the pastry case lined with goodies.

“I would have that cookie, but I’m trying to be good.”

“Ohhh, that brownie looks so delicious. Too bad I have to be good today.”

Out for dinner, the dessert menu is passed, promising decadent treats and temptations. We all rub our “bloated” middles guiltily and suddenly regret the three cheese lasagna or greasy pizza.

“Any desserts?” the waitress asks, and there’s that pregnant pause when we all exchange glances. Will anyone be brave enough to order a slice of pie or bowl of ice cream?

“No thanks. We’re trying to be good.”

words to live by

Why is it that, as women, we equate being good with not eating? 

I mean, obviously it’s important to have a balanced diet and exercise and not eat a diet of fast food and sugar-filled pastries. But the way we talk about food and indulging our cravings once in a while is disturbing, especially when we infuse our rhetoric with good and bad. 

This is nothing new.

“I was bad today. I ate a handful of chocolate covered almonds after work and had a cupcake for dessert.”

Oh really? How about you were bad today because you gossiped mercilessly about your coworker and lied to your family?

“Want to have some ice cream with me?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Wow, you’re so good. I wish I could be more like you.”

So, you wish you could be more like me because I won’t have ice cream and not because I’m kind or generous or diligent?

We all talk like this and it’s so easy, so easy, to engage in these conversations.

I hear it every day. I have these conversations myself. The constant beating up of oneself if we’ve been “bad” and had … (insert any food you feel guilty about here). The incessant, “If I could just lose 5 pounds  … If I could only fit into a size 4 again … If I could just go back to my pre-baby weight …”

The weight loss centres, the gimmicks, the specialty weight loss teas (not recommended!), the fitness programs, the diet pills, the willpower, the withholding, the starvation …

How is this acceptable?
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Honestly, I’m sick of our culture’s obsession with appearances and the message it sends that as long as you look hot, your character doesn’t matter. Teenage girls are going on YouTube, asking anonymous viewers whether or not they’re hot, when they could be wondering whether or not they have integrity.

I get this, because I was a teenage girl once lost in an obsession of my own making. But I wish I understood then what I am getting now. That, as Audrey Hepburn once said, “the happiest girls are the prettiest.”

And how can you possibly be happy if you’re preoccupied with your appearance, which will never be good enough by society’s standards anyway?

So let’s do this.

Let’s stop measuring our goodness by how often we say “no” to treats because honestly, life is too short to not have chocolate. End of story.

Let’s look for new ways to be good: smiling at strangers, making someone’s day, working hard for no extra credit, giving freely and generously, embracing those that are despised by everyone else, being honest, being loyal, being kind and warmhearted and gentle …

I can think of no better beautifier.

Paperbag Princess

the beauty of the story

I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses. All of us. Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?   — from “A Little Princess” (1995)

cherish me as much as I cherish you

We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are. We want beauty that can be seen; beauty that can be felt; beauty that affects others; a beauty all our own to unveil […]

There is an emotional promiscuity we’ve noticed among many good young men and women. The young man understands something of the journey of the heart. He wants to talk, to “share the journey.” The woman is grateful to be pursued, she opens up. They share the intimacies of their lives – their wounds, their walks with God. But he never commits. He enjoys her … then leaves. And she wonders, What did I do wrong? She failed to see his passivity. He really did not ever commit or offer assurances that he would. Like Willoughby to Marianne in Sense and Sensibility.

Be careful you do not offer too much of yourself to a man until you have good, solid evidence that he is a strong man willing to commit. Look at his track record with other women. Is there anything to be concerned about there? If so, bring it up. Also, does he have any close male friends – and what are they like as men? Can he hold down a job? Is he walking with God in a real and intimate way? Is he facing the wounds of his own life, and is he also demonstrating a desire to repent of Adam’s passivity and/or violence? Is he headed somewhere with his life? A lot of questions, but your heart is a treasure, and we want you to offer it only to a man who is worthy and ready to handle it well.                                                                                                                   –from Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge

Puffy Sleeves and Harem Pants (Or, All the Single Ladies!)

*  Warning: this blog may contain high doses of Empowerment and Grrrl Power. I make no apologies, but you’ve been warned.

you look fab, but your puffy sleeves don't bring all the boys to the yard

Girls, when you think about how much time and effort (and money!) is put into making yourself attractive to the opposite sex, it’s kind of depressing. What was the point in our feminist predecessors burning their bras and fighting for equal rights when we’re still obsessed with dressing to impress and displaying our bodies to secure the elusive, yet predictable, male gaze?

While I like dressing pretty and ladylike, I feel angered at the prospect of having to show off “the goods” in order to get a man. The whole notion is shallow, primitive, tiresome, and frankly exhausting. We’ve heard that “men are visual creatures” ad nauseam and are taught by popular culture that overt sexy-ness is the way to a man’s heart. Really? So we’re going to let men dictate our fashion choices and tell us what’s sexy and what’s not? The premium placed on female beauty is ridiculous. I’d love to see a guy standing in front of his mirror before a big date, agonizing over how his butt looks in his jeans and wondering if the girl he’s dating will want to go on a second date if his butt looks saggy. I’m fairly certain men dress for themselves and so should we.

I recently came across this fashion blog via a Hamilton Spectator article. I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about fashion (I get most of my inspiration from Blair Waldorf and Grace Kelly), but I applaud 21 year-old Leandra Medine and her groundbreaking blog, The Man Repeller. Taking cues from celebrities and high fashion, Medine fills her hilarious and subversive blog with styles aimed at repelling, rather than attracting, the male gaze.

According to her blog, being a Man Repeller is: “outfitting oneself in sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full-length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent machinery and clogs.”

Gaga is a textbook Man Repeller

I don’t know if Medine realizes how revolutionary her blog is. On the surface, it’s a tongue-in-cheek fashion blog full of ugly-ass fashion that men hate. But on a deeper level, I think she’s subverting popular notions of female beauty and pinning them down with a clog-footed toe. It’s about wearing whatever the heck you want, the male gaze be damned. It’s about owning your style and realizing that, no matter how you’re dressed and how much skin you are or aren’t revealing, you’re fabulous because you’re you. I am woman; hear me roar.

Isn’t that so incredibly liberating?

On a slightly related note, my cousin and I are compiling a list of reasons why it’s awesome to be single. I’ve come up with a few here but if you have any to add, please feel free to comment below. Put your hands up, single ladies!

 

Rosie the Riveter

Why Being Single Rocks

  1. You’re not a slave to your phone and therefore, not prone to spells of craziness: “Will he call? Will he send me a text message? Why has he taken 3 days to contact me?” … Ridiculous. No girl needs that kind of drama, and no guy worth his salt should cause it.
  2. You get the whole bed to yourself (extra points if it’s Queen or King-sized!)
  3. Want to experiment with a new look? Cut off all your hair? Wear blue eyeshadow? Take a night class? Jet off to Paris for the weekend? Adopt a needy puppy? Become a roadie and travel with a band for a year? Have Gossip Girl marathons?  By all means, do it! You have no one to answer to and no one else’s opinions or timetables to consider. It’s your life, baby!
  4. This may sound snarky, but being in a relationship can make you frumpy because you don’t have to try anymore. I know this kind of goes against the whole Man Repeller thing I was just raving about, but think of it this way: aren’t you more likely to put more thought into your appearance and health when you’re single? You also don’t have to worry about whether or not your boyfriend will like your haircut or eyeshadow colour. If you like it, nothing and no one’s stopping you from trying new things and taking risks.
  5. Your schedule is more open to Alone Time, Social Time, and mingling with new and exciting people.
  6. You can flirt shamelessly and check out cute guys without the guilt.
  7. There’s time to work on yourself and become the strong, independent, capable, wise, mature, and well-rounded woman you were created to be. Sometimes relationships can bring out the worst in an individual and make you more aware of your many weaknesses and insecurities. Or, depending on how unhealthy the relationship is, it can create these weaknesses and insecurities.
  8. You can figure out what you really want in a potential mate and what is invaluable to you instead of dating a bunch of frogs and duds and settling just because you don’t want to be alone. It’s not worth it.
  9. When you’re in a relationship or married (with or without kids), you may look back on your time being single with wistfulness and nostalgia. I recently ran into a former neighbour who is married with three small kids. When I told her I was single she said to me earnestly, “I love my husband and kids with all my heart, but part of me really envies you.” This is a time to cherish, not to resent!
  10. Mani/pedi? Brand-new fancy-schmancy laptop? Trip to Europe? Hot winter boots (I’m thinking of getting some after I write this!)? Professional massage? Writer’s Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon (something a friend and I were just discussing)? Mission’s trip? Invest in yourself wisely because you can!

Mirror Mirror: A Fairytale

chained to images; blinded by sight

It’s the same twisted fairytale since the day she was born:

Girl is tucked into bed with milk and cookies and a bedtime story glittering with perfectly pretty princesses, strong princes and ugly, jealous step-sisters. As her head hits the pillow, the moral of the story echoes in her mind: Beautiful is good. Beautiful is desired. Beautiful is next to holiness. Beautiful wins the prince and the happily ever after. Beautiful is a girl’s prerogative; a woman’s power.

Very quickly, Girl learns that life opens its doors for the beautiful; that talent, integrity, and intelligence have very little to do with it. She measures herself in the lens of a camera, in simple mathematics (36-26-36 to be precise), in glances from princes (for they are visual creatures, you kn0w), in her ability to reflect the painted ladies and glorified jades who grin seductively from storybook, stage, screen, bedroom, and bumper sticker alike. At a young age, Girl is fed maxims with her vitamins: the pretty are praised, the ugly and plain are either overlooked or mocked.

Her mirror becomes her closest friend and harshest critic. Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? The answer is always: Not you.

And then: thoughts like poison become obsessions. Girl wages war on her reflection, on what Mother Nature has bestowed upon her, on every other damsel determined to be Princess and have princes falling at her feet. In this war, there are no victories, only casualties. Starvation, exhaustion, self-harm, jealousy, insanity. The prize is always just a skipped or regurgitated meal away …

spin me a new story

It’s the same old story and in this bright and shining New World we’ve heard it over and over. Bras were burned, body fat accepted, intelligence praised and eating disorders recognized for endangering the lives of many a hopeful princess. There was hope that Girl would be finally be free and happy and put her fairytales to rest, that she’d stop neglecting her inner self to perfect her temporary outer self. That her gaze would turn outward and she’d see other girls as human beings just like her, rather than competition.

But the story hasn’t stopped. The war against aging, fat, and not being able to win a prince rages on. The battle for beautiful still glints fiercely in Girl’s eyes and motivates every action. That old mantra–Beautiful is good. Beautiful is desired. Beautiful is next to holiness. Beautiful wins the prince and the happily ever after. Beautiful is a girl’s prerogative; a woman’s power–is her daily prayer. She knows better, but those demons have a sneaky way of creeping back in her life just when she thought she had burnt the pages of that story forever.

… Because as long as Girl is preoccupied with fad diets, skinny jeans, anti-wrinkle creams, Botox, food portions, back fat, hip-to-waist ratios, and winning princes based on those thin parameters, she’ll never walk away from the war, throw down her weapons, and become a princess in her own right, creating her own happily ever after.

Adornment

" ... a beauty neither of fine colour, nor long eyelash, nor penciled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance ..."

As a feminist in a post-feminist world, I’ve always had an issue with the Apostle Paul and his whole “wives, submit to your husbands” shpiel and sometimes I like to pretend it’s not in the Bible.

As a Christian, I’ve always kind of felt guilty about that.

Surprisingly, much debate still arises from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and verses that have been used out of context to keep women silent and uninvolved in ministry (or in any position of authority). What do you really do with verses that state, as in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, that “the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church”?

You would think that, in 2010, Christians would be aware of the fact that Paul was speaking to a particular church about a specific problem in a certain culture (ie. the womenfolk using the church as their place to gossip and heckle each other), but sadly, I’ve had some debates with believers who strongly believe that the Word is as alive to today as it was then and it is blasphemy to try to make the Bible culturally relevant because it clearly states “man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake” (1 Corinthians 11:9); therefore, a woman is inferior to a man and it is in God’s design that a man have the power and authority in church and otherwise, and a woman ought to be silent and submissive.

I have actually heard those arguments, and when I hear them spoken by women, it grieves my heart. Yes, I believe the Bible is as alive today as it was when it was written and you cannot mess with the word of God, but still … it’s all about context, context, context. I don’t think it’s blasphemous to take a step back from scripture sometimes and think it through, keeping it mind that yes, it is living and true, but it was also written a very long, long time ago and some things just aren’t relevant anymore. Women can vote, own companies, be CEOS, and get equal pay, yet they shouldn’t be in positions of authority in the church (with the exclusion of Children’s and Women’s Ministries)?

Something doesn’t quite add up there … We certainly don’t sacrifice our livestock anymore, and if we did, it would be ridiculous since the society back then was far more agricultural than it is now and animals were often used as currency. So to subordinate women for the sake of obeying God’s word? It just doesn’t make sense.

there is truth in the red letters

In cases like this, I always go back to the life, words, and actions of Jesus, since He is what it’s all about. Jesus was culturally radical when it came to his treatment of women. He spoke to women, personally, in the same way He spoke to men. Not only that — He spoke to marginalized women, like the adulterous Samaritan and offered her truth and hope rather than judgment. In Luke 10, Jesus is at the home of Mary and Martha and is teaching Mary, something a rabbi in that culture certainly would not have done. He says, ” … Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 42)

It certainly shall not.

While there are portions of the Bible directed to women that admittedly still make me cringe, there are passages I can learn from and apply to my everyday life. Proverbs 31 is one. And 1 Peter 3, even though it does start out with, “wives, be submissive to your husbands” (but I don’t have a husband so I don’t need to worry about that!)

Last Sunday, I was at a church service, and my friend’s husband was preaching from 1 Peter 1 and for some reason, I found myself drawn to 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says, “your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

That verse touched me like it never has before, and I didn’t interpret it as another attempt of the early church to subjugate women. Instead, it speaks of something greater, something close to my heart. It’s not merely what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that is lovely and beautiful to God. It’s who you are in secret, when you’re not in church and around other Christians and playing Perfect Little Christian Girl. It’s ridding yourself of performance, jealousy, insecurity, and pride, and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform you.

There is, I think, a marked difference between silent and quiet. I can live with that.