CBC’s The Debater’s on Is Easter the Best Holiday

So, it’s been a heck of a week.

In Salmon Arm, a shooting in a church service. In Penticton, a shooter on the streets. In Kelowna, bank robberies and police takedowns at gunpoint appear to be becoming the norm, and yesterday the courthouse next to the art gallery where I work was evacuated when someone pulled the fire alarm. Local news called it a false alarm, but in the gallery we noticed the commotion not because of sirens and flashing lights and hot-bodied men in uniforms wandering the street, but rather because the gallery smelled of smoke — causing concern and an immediate investigation of our entire building. Fire is not the friend of art. And I’m not saying the news is lying to you, but…

In France, we saw Notre Dame burn. In response to Notre Dame… memes? Really people? Is nothing sacred with this generation?

In the US, the Muller report, redacted but released, and showing how depressingly immoral a government and apathetic a democratic country can become. Nixon was gone for a lot less; a poll shows that half the American people determined prior to the release of the report that its contents would not change their opinions. Look how far we’ve come, baby.

On the home front, a broken car, a repaired car, a broken car, a repaired car… and a daughter who came home from school in tears twice because of the social and academic pressure dispensed at this mandatory government institution.

Living in the 21st Century, apparently, is not for the faint of heart.

And then it’s Easter. And in a bizarre turn of events a woman with two jobs (me!) has both Good Friday and Easter Sunday off.

This year, I have found that an antidote to the stresses of life and of media immersion is laughter, and I have been turning to comedy more and more often for relief. Thus, I have become a great fan of CBC Radio’s The Debaters.

When my University profs used to speak about listening to CBC Radio in their cars on their way to class, I privately thought, I will never get that old. Turns out, I did. I even downloaded the ap on my phone. So, for those who aren’t familiar with The Debaters, two comics debate opposing sides of a given argument in a comedic fashion, and a studio audience votes for their favourite. Winners are determined by the volume of the audience’s cheers. And it is hilarious.

With topics such as Are the Toronto Maple Leafs the Worst Franchise in Hockey and Pierre versus Justin: Who was the Superior Trudeau, this show is so funny it often has tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.

This week’s topic was Is Easter a Fun Occasion, and the debaters were Lara Rae and Derek Seguin. Once again, I find myself laughing, and crying, and I think, I should post this to Facebook in honour of Easter! I wonder which of my friends would enjoy the humour in it, as I do, which would be touched, as I am, and which would be scandalously offended, as I’m certain a portion of the faith community within my acquaintance would be. To post or not to post, this is the question.

Lara Rae, comedian, Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and transwoman, is given the side of the debate that Easter is a truly “hoppy” occasion. She is given two minutes to argue for her point of view.

Montreal-based Derek Seguin, a comedian who speaks about getting divorced by saying, “I got divorced…not really divorced, I think to get divorced you have to get a lawyer or file paperwork… I’m not really a paperwork kind of guy. I’m more a change the lock on the house kind of guy. But I’m also Quebecois, and I travel all over Canada, so I’m uncomfortable with the word separate, so I always just say divorce,” is given the other side of the argument.

Lara Rae opens, and it is incredible. She starts by talking about the hunger associated with Lent, then says, “Jesus was the first social justice warrior, and the best.” Continuing, she describes the Easter story in terms that would do justice to the script of an epic movie. “It’s got a rock; it’s got a roll. It’s got Golgotha, which literally means hill of skulls. Awesome. It has courage; it has betrayal. It has three women standing up to a fascist military dictatorship; feminism, and a centurion that gets Van Goghed by a hot-headed disciple with a machete.”

And it’s funny, because although I am laughing, it feels a bit like I am in a really good church service. And if more preachers paraphrased the Bible as well as Lara Rae, I’d likely attend a lot more regularly.

Seguin comes back by wondering about the math in the Bible. “Hey, Steve, if I ask you on a Friday, hey, let’s go for lunch in three days, what day are you showing up for lunch?” When Steve responds, “It seems like Monday,” Seguin agrees. “Steve,” he says, “Is very good at math. A terrible Christian, though. ‘Cuz apparently, in the Bible, Friday plus three days is Sunday. What the hell happened?” Then he goes on to say, “What Jesus did, is come back from the dead! That is so huge. What a huge message! And who did we, as parents, choose to bring this message to the kids? A frickin’ bunny rabbit? What? What?” He says, “Maybe Jesus should sneak into the house and.. hide the secret of how to come back from the dead. Maybe in a Kinder Surprise or something.”

And again, I am laughing, but I am actually thinking, that’s pretty profound, really, and some would even say, is exactly what Jesus did that first Easter, year zero (Another Seguin quote).

The debate continues into the bare knuckle round, and Lara Rae laughs that she was “this close to the priesthood! I was set to be one of Rome’s primary transgender female priests.” Even she can’t say this without laughing, and when the host gives Seguin the last word on the topic he says, “I just, I learned a lot about the Bible I didn’t know,” and he sounds serious, actually. The show moves into the firing line, where the comedians answer questions about Easter with their best guess, then finishes up with closing arguments.

Derek Seguin suggests that we are a multi-culture, multi-faith country so we could have an all-faith free 2019. In order to do that, kids should just stay in school on weekends so that parents can have fun with melted chocolate on the long-weekend while the kids are at school. He knows teachers wouldn’t enjoy this, but says, “Suck it up, you have a whole two months off.”

When Lara Rae closes, her speech is reverent, more serious than funny. I mean, she’s funny, but I could be listening to a sermon. Just, a more palatable sermon than most. She says, “You can’t taint Easter. So, they made a pagan holiday to sit alongside it with rabbits and chocolate. Whether you believe in the resurrection, or have a deep respect, it’s still the centre symbol of Christianity and contains a powerful message of forgiveness the world needs terribly today.”

Listening, the audience is hushed, and I find there are tears in my eyes, not of humour, this time, but of respect, of need. And then, in place of an altar call, she concludes with a joke, but the moment is not lost on me, and I find myself extremely thankful that before I move on with my planned day off activities of sweeping the living room floor and swishing the bathroom toilet with its brush, I have had this faith moment, laughing in the comfort of my living room, yet still reminded why I have this day off today in the first place.

In a week that hasn’t had a lot to laugh about, thank you, Debaters, for making me laugh. Thank you, Jesus, for your love that lead you to sacrifice. And thank you Lara Rae and Derek Seguin, for reminding me of the beauty of faith in a world which is most certainly in need of a little faith.

Breaking Bread: Kelowna’s Taste of Home

 

Breaking Bread.

According to the Urban Dictionary, “To break bread is to affirm trust, confidence, and comfort with an individual or group of people. Breaking bread has a notation of friendliness and informality, derived from the original meaning regarding sharing the loaf.”

Another, simpler definition of the term is, “To share a meal with someone.” This comes from Writing Explained, an online site for writing instruction. They go on to state:

This expression means more than just eating; it is sharing a sense of brotherhood with someone or some group of people. It is a significant event that fosters some meaningful connection and cooperation.
Perhaps you are enemies; breaking bread with someone indicates a sense of forgiveness and moving forward to the affair.

Writing Explained (https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/break-bread-with-someone) states that the term breaking bread has Biblical origins, originating with the story of Jesus blessing, then breaking 5 loaves of bread — and feeding 5000 people. Then, according to Mathew 14:20, “They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.” Considering Jesus had twelve disciples, there seems to be a moral in this number. First they fed others, then there was a basket full left over for each. Later on in his life, Jesus would refer to broken bread as his own body. Famously known as the last supper, the instruction given that day was to “eat in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Food is about so much more than simply fueling the body. That’s why, every year at Christmas, I make the same cookie recipes — they remind me of the continuity of family celebrations.

Some of my recipes were taught to me by people no longer alive. I think of them every time I cook them. My English grandmother passed on roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, my Irish grandfather passed on potato pancakes, and my German Aunt (still with us – hi Auntie Marion!) passed on borscht and plotz — a white cake topped with fruit and butter and sugar crumbles. I still have Anne’s chicken wings and Lois’ chocolate chip cookies and Grandpa’s pastry written down in the little red notebook that I started in my early twenties, when I first moved away from my parent’s home.

I remember fondly the church potlucks of my youth, and Nellie Romeyn’s (my first boyfriend’s mom) Flying Saucer Cookies. I also remember the casseroles the church ladies brought our family when my grandmother died. I was thirteen at the time. And I remember Rie Beugelink, who had a tablecloth cross-stitched with all the names of her dinner guests on it. This inspired me, and when I bought my first home, I painted a patio bench and had it signed by all my house guests that first year.

Food reminds us of who we are, of our histories, our traditions, of relatives and homes which have gone before us. It bonds us. The smells and flavours of shared culinary creations take us back, and when shared, they build our united futures. All of which is why I was thrilled to receive the invitation to attend Kelowna’s Taste of Home event, and to stop in on my way home after work on Saturday night.

The event was held in the New Life church building on Harvey, which is an interesting choice considering the building’s original purpose after construction was as a farmer’s market. The main room of the building has two levels, and flags from around the world now hang from the top floor.

The Global Citizen’s event, which is in its fourteenth year, was packed. I had to park a block away, and almost let the blustering cold wind and my post-work lag change my mind about attending. Once inside, I was so glad to be there. It cost a dollar at the door to get inside, and then I handed over five dollars for food tickets ($1 each) and wove my way in through the crowd.

Vendors representing different countries were arrayed around the edges of the room, while the centre was set up with chairs where it was possible to sit and watch entertainers in traditional costume perform dances from their corners of the globe. It had been advertised that food items would cost between one and three tickets per item, and so my first goal was to do a full pass of all the vendors and decide which foods I would sample. I stopped halfway through, though, to film the Chinese dragon dance.

On my second pass, I purchased my first item. For one ticket, I received a dinner roll sized plate heaped high with pumpkin lentil stew (on a bed of rice) from Columbia. I’d never tried this dish before, and found it to be a delicious mild curry-flavoured meal. For a dollar, it was also quite filling.

Although I wanted to try the Venezuelan pastries and the Caribbean jerked chicken, I wandered past Thailand and Venezuela and Mexico, Japan and Taiwan and the Caribbean, mostly because the lineups were long, and there was easier places to wait.

I found myself standing in Israel’s line waiting to be served a cheese Knish with berries, which also cost me $1, and tasted great — not tart, but not too sweet, either. Because Syria was located next door to Israel, I next purchased a skewer of Falafel for $2. I passed on the hummus, though, as that would have taken my last ticket. The food was delicious — far tastier than the falafel I’d purchased this summer at the Kelowna Fruit Market, although, I have to admit, my motivations for that purchase were entirely political sentimentality. Israel was next to Syria. That, to me, simply had to be honoured.

With one ticket remaining, my options were a bit limited. I could have purchased tea from Taiwan, or an energy ball from Venezuela or gone back for seconds in Columbia. Instead, I decided to support the home team, and bought two somewhat gooey maple tarts from the ladies who were looking a little bit lonely at the Canadian booth.

I’d filled my stomach – and I was, indeed, full — with an interesting assortment of cultures. I didn’t get to try the bannock from the First Nations Booth, and I’m not sure what was being sold from Greece, although I did see some Kalamata olives on one lady’s plate. I didn’t get any gelato from Italy, but I did see that the servings they were giving out were quite ample. You couldn’t get as large a dish for as small a price in an actual ice cream shop, I can vouch for that.

On one of my passes around the food booths, I ran into my boss and her husband. Ady is from France, her husband, a local chef, is from Australia. They are expecting their first child, and at work this week, she was mentioning that since their baby will be born in Canada, the child will be legally entitled to three different passport options. I am second generation Canadian — my English grandmother was one of the first war brides to arrive after World War 2. And yet, here we all were, sampling meals from other people’s homelands.

With my stomach full, I found a spot to watch and photograph the entertainment. Peru had taken the stage, followed by Ukraine, and then Japan. I heard that Mexico was dancing at 7:30, but I knew I wouldn’t be staying that long. I didn’t expect it to be tears which sent me running for the door, though.

The Ukrainian dancers were part of a local dance club, and as a result, they had sets of dancers of various ages performing. This extended their time on stage a bit, and at some point as I watched, my eyes strayed from the performers to the crowd. At New Life church, the stage is accessible by a set of carpeted stairs which run across the front of the podium, and my attention was suddenly captured by the scene there. Children with various skin and hair colours, with various ethnic backgrounds and in various different traditional costumes had stationed themselves in an undulating line along the staircase. Sitting together, seemingly oblivious to exterior differences, or historical animosities, or cultural variation, they watched the performers. This, I thought, as I felt myself choking up, is the world as it is meant to be. This is a picture of my country, of my global community.

And I am very proud to call myself Canadian, eh.

 

Kindness

At the start of 2019, I find myself in the position of needing to increase my income level. In October, the company I work for reduced the hours of everyone with my job description, and that same month my daughter, who had been paying rent, moved out. So, as of this week, I have begun the process of revamping my resume and shopping it out. Job hunting, as most would agree, is not the gentlest experience in life. Perhaps that is why I have had the concept of kindness so much on my mind this week.

kind·ness
[ˈkīn(d)nəs]

NOUN
the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
synonyms:
kindliness · kind-heartedness · warm-heartedness · tender-heartedness · goodwill · affectionateness · affection · warmth · gentleness · tenderness · concern · care · [more]
a kind act.
“it is a kindness I shall never forget”
synonyms:
kind act · good deed · act of kindness · good turn · favor · act of assistance · service · help · aid

When I was dating my now ex-husband, we once had a conversation where he suggested I might be ‘too nice’ to parent children. (Ha! I raised four of ’em). Although I never asked for clarification (something I’ve since learned is important to do), I understood him to mean I would not be able to discipline well, nor would I be able to stand up to protect them. Whether that was his actual message or not, I can’t say — and I no longer have any need to know — but I did carry his words with me for a long time. Although I have proven him wrong, I never forgot this conversation, and I pondered it at times as I went through life being ‘nice.’

For a long time, I despised the idea that I was ‘nice’ — it seems such a lukewarm, lame quality, the ultimate in blasé descriptors. At some point, though, I embraced the idea, because, quite frankly, I’m not actually always that nice (our little secret), and also I have observed that being nice, being kind, can so uplift a person. Living a life of demonstrated kindness, I have decided, is a beautiful way to live.

In 2010, I graduated from UBCO with a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts. I’d been in a car accident which had extended my post-secondary education by a year, and over the span of that extra year, my city entered a recession. For six weeks I handed out resumes without so much as a call back, while watching my savings dwindle. Finally, I was hired at Perkins Family Restaurant, where I would work for the next seven years of my life.

I still remember that first shift, standing in the kitchen pass through rolling napkins around cutlery and feeling both deja vu and a shell-shocked, disbelief-ridden kind of despair. How was it possible that after seven years of post-secondary education, I found myself back in the restaurant industry?

And not even back in the industry, but in a family restaurant. My pre-childbirth resume had waitressing experience, but the company names I’d worked for in my twenties were significantly more upscale.

I hated where I’d landed, and I blamed my ex (because, you know, it’s not kosher to blame the kids and not fun blaming your own lack of foresight), and those feelings showed up in the service I gave. Well, okay, maybe not to the customer’s face — I have been gifted with my parent’s dimples and I learned early in life that my smile can hide a multitude of sins — but back in the kitchen with the other servers? I bitched. That’s the truth of it.

I didn’t approach my work as anything more than a way to pay the bills. What I did, I did for the tips. I learned quickly to flirt with the children and the older men, to admire tattoos and hair styles and manicures, even if I was lying through my teeth on all accounts. Waitressing (allow me to enlighten any of you who have never done it) can be the highest form of insincerity; waitressing makes insincerity an art form.

While working at the restaurant, three things happened which changed me. One day while I was not at work, I engaged in a conversation with a woman for whom I have great respect. I was describing for her all the ways in which I hated my job. To my surprise, she told me she had also waitressed, and it had been one of her favourite jobs because she made it a personal challenge to make the crankiest of customers smile. Huh.

I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. What if, instead of ranting in the dish pit whenever someone rubbed me the wrong way, I reframed the interaction, turned defeating unhappiness into my own personal mission? What if, instead of checking what each table tipped, I refused to let myself check my tip tally until day’s end, eliminating payment from my immediate motivations when offering thoughtful care to my guests?

One afternoon, I served lunch to a group of ten businessmen. The check came to roughly $150, and when it was time to deliver it, the man with the Visa card asked me what he should tip.

“I can’t answer that for you,” I replied. “Most people tip around fifteen percent.”

“Is that all you think you are worth?” He asked, laughing, so I jived off his mood.

“Oh! What I’m worth? I’m worth one hundred percent!”

The table laughed, and I left then returned later to retrieve his signed credit slip. When I looked at my tip, I was floored to see he had matched the bill — he had left me a one hundred percent tip. I took the paper to my manager.

“Um,” I said, “Maybe you should go double check that this isn’t a mistake?” Instead, she instructed me to go clarify. I went back to the table. Continue reading “Kindness”

Falling

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** I wrote this years ago as part of a lyric essay class at UBCO.                                                        Posting now in honour of Halloween.

You took me to your beach lot that night last summer when it rained and thundered, and the orange and red spokes of the bonfire hissed and sizzled and smoked and spat at us from where we sat in the lawn chairs underneath the trailer’s awning. I got soaked, anyway, because I never have been able to resist the rain. I got drunk, too, because I never have had a head for beer. And when the clouds finally parted, and the moon was full, I could have sworn that perfect round orb of wonder was hung in the sky deliberately, just for me and you. I felt the heat of your body standing behind me in mute observation. If I had closed my eyes I imagine I would have felt your breath skimming down the back of my neck.

I didn’t want to go, that night in September at your house, but I left. I left that night when the sky exploded around us as we stood on your patio beside the scent of the gardenias in your hanging baskets. That night when flicking off the outdoor lights meant flicking on the show in billions of tiny twinkling stars. I left. I just didn’t leave in time. My hands gripped the balcony railing as you stood there beside me, but even so, with my neck cricked upwards to see the show and with my brain tilting heavy like rocks away from the centre of my skull, my heart swayed.

“I remember what I wanted to tell you,” you said to me Halloween night, when we were trick-or-treating together, one big happy family. “I wanted to tell you I watched a program and it said there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches in the world.” Continue reading “Falling”

The Memory of Eggs

 

IMG_2601 (1)

Today, for breakfast, I made myself hazelnut-flavoured coffee, yogurt with fruit, and poached eggs with goat cheese, slices of red pepper and sprinkles of rosemary. It made me think of my friend, Susan.

Susan was my sister’s friend first, and when she moved from Alberta to Kelowna, she looked me up. My children were young then, and I was in University, so life was busy. I don’t remember how many times we saw each other, but I have this one beautiful memory of having dinner at her place. Susan is an artist, and that night she set my children up with paints while I admired all the amazing work placed in her home. Since I was studying fine arts at the time, this was a boon to the heart. Unable to find the work her teaching degree entitled her to, Susan left the Okanagan for Vancouver a few years later. Our loss, their gain.

Continue reading “The Memory of Eggs”

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