Thursday, March 31, 2011

dem der boids.


thanks to Aunty Sherry for that cute little poem!



Der spring is sprung, der grass is riz.
I wonder where dem boidies is?
Der little boids is on der wing.
Ain't dat absoid...
Der little wings is on der boid!









I am certainly feeling the flip of spring - the new hope, the idealistic daydreams, the
wandering through parking lots just to feel the sun...it's a good life. For the record: my
favorite things are the cozy things: cuddles and kisses, spontaneous naps, and comfort
food. But I might add "Spring" to my list of liked things; especially after this year. This
Spring has been a good Spring, indeed.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

if you can vote, and you don't, you are dumb.

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yah, I said it.
 
Rick Mercer said it more eloquently, though.
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...and a note specifically for you, students.



Canada, we've got a vote coming up. A VOTE. It's called that for a reason.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the Three

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I have spent my week in la-la-land and have made no inky commitments for my return to reality and logical thought. But it’s been almost a week since last I posted and I feel obligated to put up something, though I can’t for the life of me formulate enough thought today for an entire post. Vis a vis, the following: I will put up someone else’s words instead. I don’t usually like to do this – call it “pride” if you want to, but actually it’s my wobbly writer-self-esteem; the stark realization that my words, in comparison to the greats like Anne Lamott and Emily Dickenson and Oscar Wild…well, my writing is poop if you place it next to these guys. Irregardless, I am inspired by these people, and so I leave you on this should-be-home-Tuesday with a few of my favorites by The Three.


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“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us
where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
~ Anne Lamott


“Only the shallow know themselves.”
~ Oscar Wilde


“To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is
not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.”
~Emily Dickinson.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

build me a rice house, on Cranberry Lake.

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Anita,

I think maybe you should be sitting down when you read this.

Of course you know that last night, I went to the Ari Hest concert at the Railway Club, here in Vancouver. And I know that even though you’re touring Europe with one of your most favourite people on earth, you are heartbroken that you couldn’t come to the show; that in fact your plane tickets were booked two days before he’d play here, and that made you sad. Without you giving me his CD two years ago, I may not have even known who Ari was. You LOVE Ari, which due to our twinness means that you knew I’d love him too (I do). So, knowing you’d be gone, that I’d be going to the show without you, there was a small part of me that was hoping it wouldn’t be a good evening, so I could say “Nah, you didn’t miss much.”

…but I can’t say it. Anita, it was the best concert scenario you could imagine. You were right, having seen him before you’d told me that I would fall in love with his music all over again and it’s true. But there was some crazy you're-not-gonna-believe-it stuff that happened. Ready? Here goes.

So Sharelle (one of my favorite concert buddies, specifically chosen for this event in your absence) and I went downtown a bit early, to grab some dinner before the show. We (well, I, keener that I am) wanted to arrive at the Club early enough to get a seat right near the front. So a couple hours before he was scheduled to play, we walked in to the Railway Club and started deliberating on where we should sit. There was this tall bar table near the front, with what looked like two empty seats, but there was a man sitting at the table. He had slick hair and was wearing a gorgeous leather jacket, beer in hand; he looked settled, but friendly. I don’t normally talk to strangers, or ask to sit with them no less, but this was Ari, and I would sit beside almost anyone if it meant being closer to the front, so I took my chances. “Is anyone…can we sit here?” I asked, my Canadian timidity right on par. “Sure!” said the man, so we sat down. A few moments later, Sharelle and I started chatting with the guy, Doug, and we mentioned who we were here to see, and he said with noted surprise, “You’re here to see Ari!” …”Yes” I said, completely unaware of who else we would be coming to see, hello. Doug continues, “I’m his drummer. That’s who is sitting beside me.”

Did you catch that, Anita? WE WERE SITTING AT HIS TABLE. (Sharelle says there are certain moments in life that warrant the all-caps recap. This is definitely one of them).

“No we’re not...are you joking!?” I asked, my jaw loose with shock.
Doug laughed, “No, this is his table, I’m his drummer.”
“No you’re not!!” I said, completely unable to hide my abject excitement. This continued for a long minute (longer for patient Doug, I’m sure), until finally the news sunk in: I was sitting at the same table as Ari Hest (and Doug, who turned out to be as awesome as you would expect Ari’s drummer & best friend & roadmate to be). I thought of you immediately, and how you’d die if you were here.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I should get a drink, because what I clearly needed was to calm the heck down, so I grabbed my cash from my purse and hurried off to the bar.

“One Strongbow, please”.

When I got back to the table, Anita, he was sitting there. And you know what I did? I acted so cool, and totally nonchalant and sexy, the way you’d imagine yourself acting if you met the tall drink of water in person yourself.

OR what happened was that I nearly tripped walking up to the table (because I had momentarily lost the location of my feet), stared at him with my eyebrows on top of my forehead, and said “ohmygoshiamlikesostarstruckrightnow!” as we shook hands. Throw in a bit of drool and a giggle, and the scene is just as pitiful as you imagine. Ari, on the other hand, actually was as cool and nonchalant as you have assumed he would be; the contrast in our behaviour immediately embarrassed me, and I calmed my wretching nervous system with a big ol’ sip of cider.

Ari & Doug had to leave our table soon after that, to set up the merch table…well, the videographer for the band before Ari sat on one of the stools (it was a prime videographing location), and then Sharelle let a band member take one of the stools for the band, which meant there were no longer two seats left, just one, so there technically wasn’t room for them anymore. Originally Sharelle and I joked that I’d be calling this post “Damn the Videographer”…but we decided later that it probably wasn’t her fault, or Sharelle’s for giving the seat away, or mine for being so shockingly ditsy, but rather, they simply had to set up their table. Right? We’re sticking with this explanation, to save my self esteem (and the videographer’s reputation).

I did talk to him a little bit later, before he went on stage, to see which albums he had with him and which payment methods he was accepting – and his gracious demeanour convinced me that I hadn’t embarrassed myself at all, and if I had, he was a true gentleman for not letting me know it. He really is as cool as you think he is, Anita.

Finally, Ari was on stage. His first note in the mic inspired me to punch Sharelle in the arm with excitement (Dear Sharelle, thank you for putting up with such a blatant dork). Once they finished sound check, they went on to the show, and I sat mesmerized. We ended up sharing our table (once the videographer left) with two of the other super fans in the room, whose names I can’t remember at the moment, but they were a chill, appreciative couple from Langley, and you would have liked them as I did. You would not have liked the quasi-drunk chicks dancing without propriety at the front for the first half of the concert, or the mass amounts of loud conversation going on behind us (afterward, quite a few of Ari's fans apologized to him actually). But I did my best to block all of the distraction out – an easier task than you’d think, because Ari’s voice takes the room over, and it’s easy to forget there’s anything else happening beyond the scope of his microphone. The four of us at our table, and the other Ari fans in the room, sat rapt with our attention on the stage. He sang a good mix of old and new – some so old I didn’t know them, one so new it’s not even on the new album. I thought of you when he sang “Dead End Driving” (because I think you really like that one?), and how they mixed it up at the end, he and Doug, and did a really cool a cappella bit to finish off the song. You can tell they've been doing music together for awhile.

At one point (between songs, don’t worry) I told Sharelle that I had been practicing Cranberry Lake in my car a lot, daydreaming frequently (since you gave me the album 2 years ago) about how unbelievably cool it would be to sing that song with him. That in fact every time I played it in my car, I considered it a practice for the main event. She laughed, understandably. I figured, though, that I had missed my chance earlier – I had been talking with Doug and Ari, after all, and failed to casually mention how great it would be if they sang that song wink wink. I settled my little heart by telling myself that at least I was at his concert, and at least I got to hear him sing live, and did I tell you yet that I won an autographed set list? I did. Those things combined appeased me.

But then something funny happened. A few songs later, Ari started a sentence between songs…a sentence I had pictured him saying so much that I actually answered him (loudly and obnoxiously, from my seat) before he had even got half way through the sentence. Here’s the re-inactment:

Ari: “Are there any women in the audience, who kno-”
Me: “I DO!” with my hand reaching toward the ceiling.
Ari: “Do we have any volunteers?”
Me: “ME!!!” I said again, nearly squealing (or, okay, maybe I actually was)
Ari: “Okay, come on up!”

DID YOU HEAR ME ANITA.

I walked carefully up to the stage, sure not to trip over the now-quiet-and-cool fans sitting down in front; watching my steps because I wasn’t sure I could still feel anything below or above my massive grin and pounding heart. I stopped in front of the stage, Ari refreshed his memory with my name, and then I joined Ari on stage. He let me hold his wine glass, because some people like to hold things while they sing (and I do, it’s true, it calms my nerves in a weird way), and then he told me I could have a sip, so obviously, I did.  Then…then we situated ourselves around the mic and he started to play Cranberry Lake. Just like on the CD. Only this time, IT WAS REALLY ARI AND HE WAS PLAYING THE SONG RIGHT BESIDE ME AND I WAS GOING TO SHARE HIS MIC AND SING WITH HIM. Intro, first verse, musical break…it was my turn. I actually remembered most of the words (Ari had to feed me the last few lines, though, and I did mix up some stuff t’ward the end), and then we both leaned in to the mic and “ooo-oo-ooo”d together and I heard a dude in the audience say “eh, they practiced”, and I smiled as I watched my spirit ascend straight into heaven. And I thought of you, twin, and wished you were there to see me.
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Thanks Sharelle for snapping this!!!


The song finished and I looked at Ari and he smiled at me and I died and then I somehow landed back in my seat where I once again punched Sharelle in the arm (I think I need to take an Excitement Management course?). The concert moved on but Sharelle and I sat in a shared state of awe as we giggled and she repeated how crazy it was that THAT had just happened and I responded by saying I can’t believe THAT just happened (our conversation may have been peppered with the odd punctuatory expletive). All the way home I repeated, “Sharelle, I just sang on stage with Ari Hest.”


How often does a silly little daydream become reality? How often does a “Wouldn’t that be hilarious if --” turn into a “Hey, remember when?”


Your autographed CD awaits you.
Come home safe,
..
love
ashley
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

blogbumps

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Drawn by Allie at hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Like you, there are a few stops I always make in my hop around the blogsphere. Even so, I am always keen to find a new blog to read/check, and know others who feel the same way. So, I thought it might be fun to start sharing things I like as I find them. Here are my latest & favoritest findings:


Unsaid, While You Were Angrily Cleaning Up Dinner 
by The Trouble With Poet.
This poem gave me heart sighs, goosebumps ...and poem envy.

The Concert
by Bill Richardson on Sonic Gypsy.
Sonic Gypsy makes the lofty world of classical music accessible and welcoming - an invitation I think this world needs a lot more often. I like all her phrasing and link shares, but this particular post features a poem by a well loved CBC radio host, and the poem was too smart and witty not to share it.

We Passed Each Other When the Sky was Pink
by Sophie Blackall
This is a link to MissedConnectionsNY - a site that, if you haven't visited already, is very much worth a stop. Sophie reads through the Missed Connections section of New York City, and then paints the moments. Hard to explain, unless you see it. Warning: if you are oft' swept up in whimsical daydreams, you might get stuck inside the world of Sophie Blackall. She is quite lovely.

Every Person in Vancouver
Anonymous
I actually do know who this is, but I have a feeling it's supposed to be a secret. I like the all-encompassing "Vancouver" blogs that have been springing up lately (like vancouverweloveyou.com - been there yet?). This one is up on that list.

The Scariest Story
by Hyperbole and a Half.
Another favorite from Allie. Don't read this post until you've swallowed your milk and moved your glass out of reach. Also, don't eat Triscuits while you're on this site, or anything else that's poky when inhaled.


...well that's it for now! Hope that passes some extra time for those of you bored at the office this afternoon.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

naked cliff diving

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I am stopped;
who are you?
Even the earth is watching to see;
even then hum that comes from
taught heart strings
(the melody of nerves in waiting)
holds quiet in my chest;
scared to move, perhaps;
or scared that you’ll move, too;
or scared to hope that nervous humming
was my last bit of apprehensive nervousness.
My tongue has been swept up
by clichéd visuals: craggy rocks
and plunges into water; precipices,
blinded tours, and giant leaps.
But before I utter any phrase  (clichéd or not),
I am stopped:
who are you?




© afterthoughtcomposer



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Thursday, March 17, 2011

things I learned about dating by joining (and then leaving) eHarmony.

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*precursory note: if you love to sing the praises of eHarmony, you might not like this post.


Awhile back, I wrote a post entitled “Things I learned about dating by joining eHarmony.” The problem is, I wrote it on my phone with the intent to post it “later”, and if you’ve followed this blog for a short while or longer, you know what happened. In the time since then, I have tried to scratch the inner recesses of my brain to retrieve said post, but have had a fair amount of difficulty. I could only remember the first 2 items on the list. Dang. But, since my stint on eHarmony is quickly becoming irrelevant, I thought I should post something. Also, I have discovered that a large majority of the people I interact with are either semi-to-wildly curious about what it’s like on eHarmony, or have joined it themselves. So you see, it’s kind of a hot topic. And since I want to be popular (who, whatnow?), I thought I should make up some stuff that feels like it relates to my time there, so people will see I’m talking about relevant things, and in turn, think I am cool. Or, something completely unrelated to that reasoning.

In this post, I will first address my overall thoughts about the website, and then, of course, move on to the Things I Learned.

Oh, eHarmony. You are so famous. It is because of your fame and for no other reason – I wouldn’t believe those commercials were the norm if I could spit on them (or whatever that cliché about spitting says) – that I chose YOU for my social experiment last fall. I enjoy a good social experiment, and decided I should give it a try. I haven’t dated a lot, and as such my SAQ (Social Awkwardness Quotient) is still running higher than the average 13 year old wallflower. So, off I went, hoping I would at least learn how to talk to boys without having my brain swell up inside my head.

Now, you’ll have to forgive me, eHarmony, because I don’t really believe in soul mates, and I especially don’t believe that you’ve gotten a hold of this thing called “Love” and boxed it in to a scientific formula and an hour long questionnaire. But I know some couples that have met via your website (okay, I know of two couples. Wait, three), which piqued my curiosity to the right level. Plus, people kept telling me that this is just what you do nowadays, that really, there’s “nowhere else left!” to meet people. Apparently, everyone in my generation has gone indoors; either to the sleezy onenightstandclubs, or to their computers. Hmm. Which one do I pick?

For the record, I will henceforth and occasionally be referring to eHarmony as eHarm – for the sake of brevity, sure, but also because it became a quickly adopted double entendre, and that’s just what I call it.


eHarm observation #1: there are a LOT of people looking for love…online. This is a phenomenon that honestly shocked me; just how many men I got “matched” with in my short time on the site, and how many more men and women were flocking forward to sign up. My issue isn’t really that people are looking for love and companionship – that part is cool – but what makes me pause and wonder is how they are doing it. A direct quote from one of the famed commercials is by a guy who excitedly exclaims that eHarm “takes the work out of it for you”. Uh, remember when men fought and hunted and used their strength? Remember when women knew how to be pursued and how not to be desperate? When dating was a social, and not an anti-social, thing? The internet dating phenomenon has certainly, to an extent, taken over my generation (and the ones immediately surrounding it), but I truly wonder where the benefit lies. I know of more desperate people on dating sites than I do successful online-beginnings couples.


eHarm observation #2: Matched? No no. Available. The word “match” on the eHarm site is supposed to imply that you are specifically matched with that person based on the scientifically proven criteria within the initial questionnaire. The problem lies in this: eHarm’s matching system assumes that everyone who has joined and made a profile knows themselves well enough to do so accurately, and honestly. Obviously, this isn’t the case. Plus, it’s basing the “match” on ideas and thoughts and standards, not on attraction. Yes, ideas and thoughts and standards matter, but if there is no attraction, these things become irrelevant. So instead of being “matched” with people you are sure to get along with, you are sent the profiles that sort of kind of maybe fit in with what you probably want in a person. It’s too ambiguous. Example: in the twelve short weeks I was on eHarm, I accepted new matches for a total of less than 6 weeks, and was matched with over 400 men. Four hundred. Shall I retrieve my calculator? Ahemahem: On average, while I was accepting matches, I was matched with 66.6 men per week (this worked out in reality to about 7-10 new matches per day – and no, I did not go on dates with more than 1% of these people). Now, I am not special, I am not prettier than the other girls, I am not cooler or more dateable (in fact, I’m willingly high maintenance and have my stubborn ugly bits, like anyone else). There is no way in Hades that I am actually scientifically matched in a lovey-dovey-meant-to-be way with 400 people. The dates I went on with my “matches” would confirm that I was not, in fact, “matched” to them, nor they to me. I don’t believe in The One, sure, but I certainly don’t believe in The Four Hundred, either. On the flip side: I had a friend on eHarm around the same time as I was, and she was matched, on average, with one or two people per month. According to the great gods of eHarmony, this hilarious beautiful spunky intelligent woman was less likely to date than me: the all-knees-&-elbows-awkward-teen knockoff. Highly unlikely. In fact, she started dating one of her real-life connections, in real life, before her time on eHarm was even up.


eHarm observation #3: It’s not science, it’s a game of percentage and chance. Okay, so in that group of 400 there were maybe possibly a few that I could have actually gotten along fine with – odds alone will tell you that much. But how does one search through the masses to find someone they like? Or should my friend, being matched with only a few, assume that she should just marry one of these three guys, because eHarmony’s proven science told her so? Not likely. There’s too much stumbling in the system, too much happenstance, to make it an exact science. Yes, your chances might increase because you already have marginally important things in common – but what of the chances that you’d meet someone in real life with common interests, if you, say, left the house? My other thought that’s roughly related to this one has to do with time, and the testing of time, and the beauty and honesty of time: how long will it be, do you think, before the "eHarm divorce" trend starts?

eHarm obvservation #4: ...Next! One of the guys I was matched with, right about the time I was seriously getting over this whole experiment (about 3 weeks in, if I recall correctly), was actually really cool. Albert (not his real name) was a coast guard; super laid back, one of the few guys I actually wished I was friends with in real life. We had only started to chat over email, and at one point I wrote to him that eHarm felt more like auditioning for a school play than it did dating. He agreed with me, and then added this comment: “Except maybe it's even just like sending in your short bio and head shots, and barely making it to auditions?” In other words, the trend is this: flip-flip-flip, profile-picture-profile, scan-scan-toss… next! The thing is that everyone does it, and simultaneously wonders why it 'happens' to them. In observation #1 I wondered what the benefit of online dating is, and it was for this very reason. You are paying to meet people that are dating other people. You are voluntarily pitting yourself against a group of unknown strangers with only a picture of your best side and a few words about yourself. You are choosing who you will meet based on a sentence and a headshot. And almost none of this happens in your real, human-to-human life – it happens in the pseudo-honest world of the internet, and, if you make it, through the first date. Instead of being intuitive and natural, you are required by force of format to be judgemental and defensive and on guard. Instead of having your expectations rise as you get to know a person and who they truly are – in context, and naturally – your expectations rise before you know them in person at all. ...Let down? Imminent.


eHarm observation #5: The Snobbery.
Yes, I capitalized that one. Maybe I should emphasize again: there are some really cool couples that have formed from this website. Some couples so cool, in fact, that they’ve made commercials out of them (ironically, the only 3 couples I know who met on eHarm could be commercials themselves). But here is my point: apparently, the fact that I didn’t marry one of my matches implies that I have issues; that my “failure” at the outset & the end of this social experiment is indicative of great fault. To those who have used this site and “succeeded” (this observation is pulled from internet and other research, not just conversation), the general attitude is what I heard before I joined: this is, basically, it. There are no other realms left, really. If you want to date, you have to go online. This, to me, is as ludicrous as saying that since my parents met on a blind date, and obviously landed a successful relationship out of it, that I should stick only to blind dating. And then, of course, speak boldly to my friends who are (gasp!) not open to blind dating. My thought, instead, is this: online dating can be a useful tool for some. But so can offline dating. More often than not, I would say, the context-filled world outside your computer room is a healthier field to date in. It’s almost as if the world survived, met, loved, and procreated before the internet arrived.



...But let’s put all that ado aside for now. Maybe I should get on with my list? Though I don’t like the system as the system it claims to be, I did learn a fair amount about myself and about dating through my experience on the website, and on the dates created there from. So to that end I will give eHarmony the credit: it was a useful tool in expediting my social experiment. I will also say, though, that much of my learning came in the afterwards, once I had finished the whirlwind term and moved on to the great outdoors and the rest of the world. Friends, here you are: the Things I learned about Dating by joining, experiencing, meeting people from, talking about, and then leaving eHarmony.



1) If your date feels like a job interview, it probably is.

2) When a beautiful French man offers to make you beautiful French food, you accept. When he makes marriage inferences on your first date, you run.

3) Profiles and pictures are one dimensional, people are not. Vis a vis, the following: people are not their profiles, and they usually aren’t their pictures, either. Heck, even I sound cooler online.

4) “The Rules” were made up by single, lonely women and are analyzed, enforced, and stressed over by…single lonely women. Men, as far as I can tell, don’t even know what The Rules are, save one: “If I am interested, she will know I am interested.” My advice for women? If you have to apply and analyze The Rules, there is a 99.9% chance that he isn’t interested (and a 0.1% chance he’s probably not interested), plus a 100% chance that you need a new hobby. Put your Rules where the sun don’t shine. Walk away slowly. Enjoy your life. At the very least, stop telling me what The Rules are, before I drop kick you into the pile where I threw The Rules.

5) “Likeability” and “Compatibility” are two very, very different things. If your self worth doesn’t understand the vast difference between these two concepts, don’t date.

6) If you’re convinced you’ll never meet someone unless you join a dating website, you will not meet anyone unless you join a dating website.

7) Dating can be fun, so long as you resist The Empirical Tyranny of The Rules. Not having fun? See #4.

8) If you expect me to perfect my hair, makeup and outfit, smile brightly and show interest in your stories so you might think I am an attractive woman, I expect you act like an attractive man, and pay.

9) You probably won’t know what you want until you find a whole bunch of things you don’t. Contrary to the implication, this makes actually finding what you want a lot more exciting.

10) Paula Cole, I have the answer for you: most of them are at home, sprucing up their online profiles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I am ready for you, Summer.

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I am so ready for you,
Summer.
I can see you cresting over the hilltop,
carrying your beach buckets
full of sand;
wiggling your toes in
anticipation;
defrosting my soul with your ever
approaching arrival.

Melt away, winter.
Go away, frost.
You’ve had your turn, and now
your time
is up.

I’m trading you in, for
a different kind of love;
catching my breath in
anticipation;
holding my heart
in buckets full of sand;
watching you crest the hilltop
with my hope, and your arrival.

© afterthoughtcomposer

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

huh.

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I have been feeling a quiet urge all weekend to post something From the Archives, although I wasn't entirely sure what it should be. I heard a sermon on Sunday that pointed me in one direction - a post I had written a few years back on Jesus' instructions to get up and walk. But somehow, reading those thoughts today, they didn't really fit the feeling in my gut. What was I looking for? So I read down the list of titles on that old blog of mine, till I found it. A post I wrote 3 years ago today, called The Beauty. The date part of this posting was a genuine shock; I didn't know that today was the date that matched that date three years ago, until I looked it up just now. I suppose I shouldn't be too suprised; God is usually funny like that with me. It seems fitting in so many ways, that I should find these words today, on a really weird sort of anniversary.

I'll leave the actual subject matter a mystery (that vault was closed years ago), but I'm reposting my afterthoughts in their original form anyway. Reading through this just now, I experienced what felt like the cathartic healing of an old wound, and I also had a small epiphany (one I've had many times before) - that at the end of the day, this is why I write. I write to be reminded.




saturday, march 15, 2008
the beauty

as fast and as big as a thunderous passing train, the moment - first daunting, then normal - is gone. all of the build up and all of the praying and all of the questions add up to a very normal day. and so i am sitting here in the midst of all the normalcy; my pant legs still soaked bottom up from puddles and fragmented sand, my cheeks still freshly felt with tears of understanding. and i am realizing that this is a moment i chose; i chose to break my own heart. Today is here as a direct result of grace, and Grace has to be here because of the choices i made that led to it.

how amazing is it that such a great and powerful God could stoop so low to love us in the forefront of reality? it amazes me, really. not that i expect any less from Him; i know what He has said. but it amazes me because even when we are forced to understand things that we don't want to (even things that we knew already), He is gently there beside us, here to gently hold us; when we are spent, when we are at peace, when we have finally begun to realize that He has loved us unceasingly from the beginning. where else should i look?

i have said before that life comes at me in themes. well this time, i am creating my own theme. it's called, "ashley, stop hiding"... and so, with that decision made, i am going to stop hiding. although, it might take me awhile to get used to that... why do we hide? ...yes, i know why; i have been there in repetition. but again i ask: why do we hide? hiding can bring no good. when we hide our truest thoughts, or our greatest beauty, or our deepest spoken words, we end up in regret, or we end up saying things too late, and we end up like Today; in moments like this one, where we can only know that it was by choice we have landed here; understanding, but hurting a little bit all the same.

i can not pretend to know the Lord's plan in all of this. each time i pretend to know i end up...well...like today. but i do know this: He has seen the last four years; it was He who began them, He who led me through them, it was He who kept me in them, and kept me in them, and kept me in them. and He sees me now, just the same as always. this is the greatest mystery i have ever known; how He could lead us down a path that has no ending; to hold us to a point and at the end of everything, keep the questions answerless. i am in love with this God. and i am starting to realize that the beauty of not understanding is that we don't actually have to. so, hurting hearts or peaceful hearts or both, He knows.
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan

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You know, I wasn’t entirely sure I would post about Japan’s earthquake. Where does one even begin? Are there even words for this? The pictures are breath-taking (and not in a beautiful way, but in a humbling, soul-chilling kind of way). As the day moves on here at the office, the stories continue to pass around; nuclear plants, giant ocean whirlpools, tsunamis, full-earthquake-sized-aftershocks. So maybe I won’t say much, but instead, encourage you to pause with me; to engage, to help where we can.


Most recently, I’ve been reading a book called The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten. Gene is a two times Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the Washington Post; Fiddler is a collection of articles that he has written; some of his best, I am sure of it (this book is well worth the read). Each story has me captured from the opening line to the ending. Gene manages to make the reader feel and think about issues, and people, they might not normally feel for or think about. He is intelligent, witty and thoughtful, and his delivery is approachable and poignant. The article I started yesterday was called “None of the Above”, where Gene speaks frankly and insightfully about the large population of Americans that do not vote (near the 50% mark, if not higher). He discusses the idea that, contrary to popular expression, each vote doesn’t really count on its own. Not mathematically, at least. But the moral obligation of each voter to actually vote, well, that’s something else entirely. It is the moral obligation that makes each vote, and voter, count. (read the full article here)

When it comes to things like earthquakes and epidemics and natural disasters (which happen with a significant degree of frequency), and how we respond in the aftermath, a different sort of argument could be made. The response on our part plays both parts equally: a mathematical and moral role. To a great degree, how I, and you and you and you, choose to respond will impact relief efforts, hearts, and lives.

I’ve heard it said by more than one person today that this earthquake, for some reason, hits closer to home. We do live on an “earthquake hotspot” here in Vancouver, after all, and have been hearing cautionary tales about “The Big One” for years. We are no less susceptible than the rest of the world. So maybe that’s what I’m thinking about today, as I sort through the mess of stories and heartbreaks flooding over to us from Japan – I’m thinking about the fragility of life, and the resiliency of the human spirit, and of course, my moral obligation. I am a human and I am on one of the richest parts of the planet. How do I respond?




*Resources:

Google Crisis Response for Japan - this will be a helpful tool for those of you that know people in Japan, or are travelling in and around the area.

Red Cross (Canada) online donation center - obviously, one of the only ways many of us can respond is financially. Make sure you choose a reputable organization before donating funds.
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high point conundrum

Since January, I have made it a goal to name a daily high point. Specifically, I decided to take a picture of my high point every day. Those of you in my closer circle will have seen the odd picture here and there, and for those of you who haven’t seen the pictures, I promise you haven’t missed much: food item, food item, sunset, food item, food item, sunset (to sum it up). When I started this practice back in January, I was using it as a motivational tool to kick my S.A.D in the rear; to give myself a daily purpose (small though it may be, it still felt like something). To be entirely honest, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find a high point every single day (I blame you, Winter's Din). Soon, though, the sun came up, and I realized there were too many high points to pick just one per day.

Specifically, I began to notice a trend, and I admit it was a bit of a surprise. My daily high points, at their finest, aren’t captureable in pictures. The pictures I have taken are at the slower times of the day; in my cubicle after lunch, in my living room after dinner. The better ones (the uh…the ones not relating to food, I mean) usually come when I am out and about and moving; enjoying life, not staring at it. How do you put a conversation into a camera? How do you squeeze a hug into the frame? You don’t; and that, I suppose, is something I’m not sure I expected.

Harry and his brood of Dinosaurs.


The other day, for example, I was chillin’ with my buddy Seth (he’s 4). We were watching Harry and his Bucket Full of Dinosaurs, snuggled under a blanket on the couch while he ate his brie and crackers. “Water please” he says. Okay, Sethy. The cartoon is simple and amusing; the boy and his dinosaurs race around on wheely machines to try and go FAST, or FASTER, as they learn about gravity and speed. Most of the vehicles are impressive looking, with lights and colors and chrome, but poor Steggy (um, the Stegasaurus, hello) is in a wooden log with wheels on it; he doesn’t go quite as fast as the others; he can’t catch up. Plus, the thing keeps falling apart! At one point, it’s not even a vehicle, it's just Steggy, on wheels. Have you ever heard a 4 year old laugh so hard he can’t breathe because the dinosaur’s tires keep falling off his log-car? If not, you’re missing out.

And what of the letter that arrived on my step yesterday from Natalie, my childhood best? It was the high point, but it was because my friend is thoughtful (today’s high point: Natalie is thoughtful), and also because of the really cool feeling I got while reading it: I’m loved, and I have the coolest friends ever. A picture of an envelope doesn’t quite cut it, and in a way, felt like cheating.

So I am still looking for high points, and I am finding more than I thought would be there, and I am humbled by that realization. But more often than not, the pictures I take will probably look like this:


Today's High Point: someone just brought me a donut.


…Although…free donut? That’s gotta count for something.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

I left my umbrella at your house; and other useless trivium.

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1. This morning I sprayed hairspray directly into my eye, from a high powered aerosol can, less than six inches away, after my makeup was done. Fearing blindness, I flooded my eye with water, prayed fervently, and started from scratch on the shadow & liner. Much to my chagrin, this wasn’t an acceptable excuse for why I was late to work.

2. Just now, I managed to spill my coffee all the way up my sleeve; from cuff, to shoulder. Talented? Yes.

3. Apples and oranges are to fruit as garbage day and Ikea shopping trips are to February 14.

4. Recently, my roommate’s Fiancé remarked with a laugh that I watch too much F.R.I.E.N.D.S. “Listen,” I said, “I don’t have a fiancé to talk to, so I eat my dinner with my show.” I don’t know what made me feel worse; his shrewd observation, or the fact that I have “TV” proudly sitting in the “boyfriend” slot.

5. Last week, I ate a sum total of 10 avocados in a six day period. Blame the sale.

6. In less than two weeks time I have a date with a beautiful man who happens to be one of my favourite musical artists. The room will be full of people, and he will be 20 feet away, on stage, but what I ignore can’t hurt me. I wonder what I should wear?

7. There is always a moment, right before I open my paystub, where I very much believe it is going to be a larger cheque than usual.

8. “My goal is to get healthy,” I said to Candice, with my body reclined on her sofa and my mouth full of Toblerone.

9. Yesterday at work (a particularly slow Wednesday) I was so listless that I decided it would be fun to make a list of all my favourite foods, starting at “A” and ending with “Z”. About halfway through I realized; all I had listed were entire food groups…and avocados.

10. One of life’s hard and fast rules: it will be sunny until you lose your umbrella. Sorry Vancouver; yesterday was my fault.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

for Lent I'm going to watch more Johnny Depp movies.

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The season of Lent is upon us; in fact, it starts tomorrow. Traditionally, I have pondered the idea of Lent with a wary but prominent squint in my eye. The first time I remember hearing about Lent was during my freshman year at Bible College nearly 10 years ago; it was all the rage, in fact. We learned about it in chapel. We talked about it in class. We discussed with fervency what we’d be giving up: in the halls, in our dorm rooms, and over steaming piles of sauce-laden cafeteria food. I played the part; nodded along at the right moments, threw out suggestions as needed, feigned interest. But really I wondered, “what is the point?” To me, it seemed more of a contest or bragging right than a genuine spiritual movement among the student body.

This was back in the day before Facebook existed, when we were IM and Messenger and text message and cell phone free; it was a simpler time, and therefore, it was harder to think of something to “give up” for Lent. I will always remember the Second Semester Student (already in a socially awkward position, entering the tightnit clan halfway through the year) that decided to give up talking for Lent. I remember it because he joined the student body right around the time that Lent started; so when I introduced myself and he stared blankly at me, it made a mark in my subconscious. Thankfully, his neighbour translated for him, informing me of the sacrifice. “Cool” I said, unsure of where to go next, knowing conversation would be impossible. I wondered if he would really do it; if he would really start a new school and not talk for the first six weeks after his arrival.

He didn’t. Actually, he got made fun of so badly, that I don’t think he lasted more than a week at it (if that). And I think that’s the other reason he stuck to my memory; here was this guy that none of us knew, doing something he felt was significant in his spiritual walk, getting ridiculed belligerently by his dorm mates (both in front of and behind his back). Meanwhile, these were the folks that were giving up chocolate, or carbs, or music – things that, to me, seemed equally as preposterous as not talking for a month and a half. Who eats so much chocolate that they forget to pray? I'm pretty sure the chocolate isn't your issue. So the idea that Lent was a spiritual exercise got lost on me. Sure I heard it in class, but I had yet to see it worked out as something sacred, quiet, private, humble, or genuinely sacrificial – as it was apparently intended to be. To me, it seemed more like a game; a test of the will against the will – not necessarily a test of the spirit.

So, with Lent starting tomorrow, I am faced again (as I am every year) with the decision on whether or not I will participate in this ancient ritual. When people ask me (as they are inevitably going to ask me) what I am giving up for Lent, what will I say? Truth be told, I still don’t know. Every year I consider the exercise and every year I struggle to find something worth the apparent valiance. My understanding, from what we learned in class, was that Lent was meant to be a spiritual exercise; a giving up of the Earthly and a replacing with the Holy. But what is it really? Let’s go to the Source of All Knowing Knowledge, Wikipedia.

There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.

One of my favourite movies of all time is Chocolat. It takes place in a small, dull French village. The people of the town are both appalled and mystified when Vianne Rocher, the travelling beauty, opens a choclaterie on the first day of Lent. There are a few reasons why I love this movie – the aesthetics, the accents, the chocolate, the Johnny Depp – but more than these first three, I am always captivated by the obvious juxtaposition between the Obligatory and the Felt. This movie shows quite clearly that duty for the sake of obligation is life killing; while duty for the sake of Love is something quite the opposite. Here in this small town, from the unlikeliest of sources, we learn that Love is a better motivator than rule.

In the Wiki definition, the traditional practices of Lent are to “renew with vigour” prayer, fasting, and giving to others. Three things that, at their base, are not about “me” so much as they are about (as indicated in the brackets) Justice. Their emphasis is not on “giving up” but on doing. Something about “Today”’s version of Lent doesn’t quite fit – me first, God second, justice as an afterthought.

So, what am I going to give up for Lent, you ask? It might not be any one thing; it might be nothing; though I do have a few ideas. But then the question comes, would I be giving these up for Lent? Or am I giving these up for me? I am the queen of impulsive, quickly retracted decisions (um. Have you read my blog?), and as such, anything I do decide to commit to during this season will be kept a tightly wound secret. Blame my pride.

I do wonder though, if I should forget the “give up” definition altogether; to move closer to tradition, and take something up, instead. Live with fervour instead of laze, perhaps (like tradition suggests); balance the challenge of an addition instead of the relative ease of subtraction. Spend less time in my head and more time giving my time to other people. Now, this is a Lent I can get on board with.

Oh – for those of you giving up chocolate? I’m not.

That was a hint.

Friday, March 4, 2011

skinny Bridget.

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So if, perchance, there is a reeeally cute delivery guy moving file cabinets around the file room (ooo, burly), and you are an alternate contact on the delivery which means you get to be in there, legitimately allowed to watch him do his thing (swoon)…and you become so inebriated with his cuteness (heart shaped pupils? Check.) that you should lean over to your coworker and whisper how dreamy the delivery guy is, you should probably (just an idea) make sure the dude is out of earshot.



...Oh, shit.

Exit strategy: 1) “remember” something 2) hasty retreat to cubicle.

Smooth Ashley, real smooth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

tinkering.


I’m tired – as though I sound the same. I’d
change, but I can’t direct the wind; my heart beats
in iambic pentameter. The rhythm that I write with is
the rhythm that I breathe with is the rhythm that
I nod myself to sleep with.
So I, changeless, watch my words;
and wonder if the pulsing of my heart will win this one.
If the strings will loosen their grip, change might escape
these lips; to produce something beautiful, or
something worth it, or maybe, if I’m lucky: something
different.

© afterthoughtcomposer