The Gentle Project

In the past, whenever I have made “big announcements,” they have been really BIG announcements. For example: “SURPRISE I’m moving to Uganda!” Or, “Surprise, I’m married!” So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I announced on Instagram I had a “big” announcement, and everybody over shot. 

No, I’m not moving or winning a Grammy. 

This announcement does have the potential to be life changing though. 

Let me set this up a bit for you. 

Be Careful

I recall as a child being told to “ Be Careful!” an awful lot. Be careful not to break your toys, your bones, your friends toys, or your friend’s bones. As I grew older the list of things I needed to become more “careful” of changed. Be careful where you walk at night, be careful with how you dress, be careful to choose the right friend group, and be careful with what you say and how you say it. An endless list of all that could befall me developed. 

As a result, I have grown to be a rather “careful” person. I would not say that I exhibit very risky behaviour: I have never broken a bone, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, I don’t think I’ve ever been drunk (I got giggly once after my second Bellini, does that count?), and I’ve led a pretty vanilla young-adulthood. 

As careful as I have attempted to be in my life, I had an epiphany over the past year: I am a very careful person, but I am not very gentle. 

Peaches, Pampers, and Baby Animals 

When I hear the word, “gentle” I think of baby ducklings and Dove soap. I think of pastel colours, Jesus holding a lamb, and diaper commercials (which is funny because diapers themselves are quite possibly the complete opposite of gentle). 

To me, being gentle to the earth meant: “The Three ‘R’s.” 

Being gentle to myself meant: don’t get drunk, or high, or obese. 

Being gentle to others meant: treat other’s the way you would like to be treated. 

Being gentle looked a lot like abiding by Sunday School directives, and if you did those things, Congrats! One ticket to heaven! 

I have taken great pride in the illusion of my “gentleness,” but really I am just good at being careful not to appear as if I am a shitty human being. 

An Alarmist 

I think that I need to become more radical about how I treat the earth, others, and myself. The older I get the more I recognize that these things are intrinsically connected; I can no longer merely exist knowing the way I mindlessly shop, eat, clean, spend, and talk affects those around me so deeply. I also think it is hypocritical of me as a “Christian” to say I believe theologically I am meant to be a steward of the earth, and then on a practical level treat the earth like trash. 

I thought a great way to start thinking more deeply about this would be to calculate my ecological footprint. I went to www.footprintcalculator.org and did their quiz to determine what my ecological footprint is, and to calculate my overshoot day. 

Do you know what an overshoot day is? I had no idea. The world’s overshoot day in 2018 was August 1st; that is the day humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. To put it in financial terms, August 1st is the day we stop paying cash, and start throwing all our coffee orders on the credit card. 

I did the quiz, and to be honest, I thought my results wouldn’t be too bad. My husband and I carpool to work or use public transit, we recycle, I buy my clothes from consignment, and we make the occasional vegan meal… what more could you ask for Earth? 

I was expecting a hearty pat on the back for all my efforts but instead, I was floored! 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.42.42 PM

2.3 Earths! That’s how many earths we’d need if everyone on this planet lived like me. To make matters worse, my overshoot day was June 10th. To remind you, humanity’s average was August 1st… which still sucks. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.43.07 PM

After calculating my Ecological Footprint on www.footprintcalculator.org  a teacher-friend of mine shared another more extensive Eco footprint calculator. 

That quiz can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/how_big_is_my_ecological_footprint.pdf

I thought surely I would be around the average consumption level, but this quiz gave me an even WORSE score. 

Our earth has approximately 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and there are about 6.3 billion people on the planet. This means that the average person should use approximately 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land (the “Average Earth Share” number). The average Canadian uses 9 hectares (22 acres). 

Do you want know how many hectares I use? Approximately 20.3 Hectares! That’s right, recycling, no-meat-Monday Ashley is using 20.3 hectares of land. That’s 11.3 more than the average Canadian, and 18.4 more than I should as a human. 

The Gentle Project

It’s time for me to make some changes, and I would love all of you to keep me accountable.

Each month in 2019 I will develop a new way in which I can be gentler to the earth, those around me, and to myself. At the beginning of each month I will share what my “Gentle Project” will be, and how I am planning to stick with it. I will do my best to share what I learn and to be honest about how committed I’ve been. My goal will be to build upon each month, and not ditch what I learned the month before. 

Each month I will also retake the ecological footprint quiz to see if I can move my “overshoot day” (and perhaps also adjust the number of earths I use). 

I am, clearly, not an expert in this area so I could use all the help I can get. Feel free to share your feedback, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz for yourself, let me know how many earths you’re using, and maybe even join in on the fun! 

Changing how I live is a scary thought, but I am excited for the challenge. 

The Gentle Project begins January 1st, 2019! 

Monday Moments of Joy: Money Saving Apps

My husband finds my love for points programs comical. He knows that almost everywhere we go I have a punch card, a phone number to give, or an app to make use of. Though my enthusiasm for contests and rewards programs may seem a little “intense” (Me? Intense? Never!), our household does end up saving a lot of money, and earning lots of free treats. 

I believe in using my enthusiasm to help those around me, so in the name of being helpful, here are some of my favourite rewards apps that have great pay-offs. 

PC Optimum (Click & Collect)

I love the PC Optimum card and Click & Collect. I know what you’re thinking: “You are a young-ish, married woman with no kids. Why on earth would you use Superstore’s Click & Collect?” Well, Judge Judy, let me tell you why. 

Why am I so in love with this app + feature?

  • I save a butt-ton of money
  • I earn free groceries
  • Makes life easier

What’s the deal?

Recently, Superstore and Shopper’s Drug Mart merged their points systems from PC Points and Shoppers Optimum to the PC Optimum card, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s just a typical points card, but if you keep close track of your deals on the app, you can earn points quickly. I also love Click & Collect, and I believe it’s helped me earn more points and save money. When I order my groceries online with Superstore, I am home! This means I am not impulse buying, I can check my pantry as I shop, and I can sit with the PC Optimum app open next to me and check what deals I should be jumping on. It also really helps my grocery-shopping rage because few things can require me to renew my salvation than shopping inside Superstore on a Sunday afternoon. 

Check it out

Ebates

I am constantly preaching the gospel of Ebates. 

Why am I so in love with this app?

  • It’s easy
  • There is NO “catch”
  • I make money on items I would purchase anyway
  • Free money

What’s the deal? 

Basically, you start on the Ebates website to access stores you’d already be doing your online shopping on. Then you access your desired store, and shop as you’d normally do. Once you have made a purchase, Ebates will give you a percentage of the amount you spent back to you (every store has a different percentage). They literally just send you a cheque in the mail. It’s flipping amazing! I use Ebates regularly for Amazon, Sephora and Groupon purchases, but my absolute favourite was when I was booking Giddy and my trip to Uganda on Expedia. It made dropping thousands of dollars on a flight feel a bit better knowing I’d be getting an Ebates cheque at the end of it all. 

Check it out 

Groupon

Thanks to Tiffany Haddish, most people know what Groupon is. I love Groupon but probably don’t use it enough. 

Why I am so in love with this app? 

  • It’s simple to use
  • It saves me money 
  • It helps me discover new local restaurants and activities

What’s the deal?

Simply download the app, view coupons for everything from food, spas, travel, stuff… you name it! But don’t forget: Ebates is a supporter of Groupon! Make sure you use Ebates to access Groupon and then you can save even more money! 

Check it out 

Carrot Rewards

This card requires little work, and zero money to earn points. 

Why I am so in love with this app?

  • I can earn points on cards of my choosing (I use my Scene Card)
  • I can earn points both consciously and unconsciously 

What’s the deal? 

Download the app, and decide which card you want to earn points for. You can earn Scene points, Save-On More points, Aeroplan, Drop rewards and Petro-Points. Once you’ve decided, there are two ways you can earn points: Carrot Rewards will track your daily step count and give you points accordingly, or complete short health questionnaire’s to earn points. The questionnaire’s take typically about 5-10 minutes; I’ll do one when I’m in line somewhere and it’s a quick way to earn some points. I have had the app for about a year, and I’ve earned 4 free movies. Totally worth a few minutes here and there! 

Check it out Use my personal bonus code when you sign up for Carrot and earn 50% more points on me! ashleym5321 http://www.carrotrewards.ca

And there you have it! Now it’s your turn: do you have a favourite money saving, points earning app? Tell me more *Ashley said as she drums her fingers together in a Jafar-like manner.* 

 

Monday Moment of Joy: Netflix

Working at a high school is great for lots of reasons… lots of respectable, admirable reasons. One reason I love working at a school (probably not the most respectable, and admirable of them) is my true love for Summer Vacation. I get almost two full months that I can spend in any way I choose. Sometimes I spend that time in useful, life-giving ways, like hiking, volunteering, or learning a new skill. Other times I spend it in my romper, on the couch, with treats, binge watching Netflix. 

Sure, I could do more useful things. 

I could do a lot of things. 

So could you. 

But regardless, here we are.  

So as a salute to the fast approaching summer vacation, and the terrific ways I waste time, here are some of my favourite Netflix series (when I’m not just watching re-runs of The Office).

Jane the Virgin

“The life of a pious, hardworking Latina woman is turned upside down when a doctor visit reveals she was artificially inseminated by accident.”

This Telenovela themed show is addictive! I don’t know that I want to admit how quickly I worked my way through this series. I. just. couldn’t. stop. Every episode begins with reminding you of what “chapter” of the story you’re in. It was somewhere around chapter 72 that I realized, “I have watched 72 HOURS of this show.” And then I hit, continue. In my eagerness I finished this last season without realizing that it was the season finale, and now I’m emotionally distraught until it begins again #teamrafael 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

“Imprisoned by a cult leader as a teenager, Midwesterner Kimmy is freed after 15 years. The first thing she decides to do is move to New York.”

If you like Tina Fey, a black man too gay to be cast in “The Lion King” musical, and poking fun at religious cults, THIS is your show. I’m going to leave it at that. 

 

Imposters

“Ezra Bloom gets an unwelcome wake-up call when he discovers his beloved wife, Eva, is really a marital con artist who has fleeced him and fled town.” 

This one is husband approved. I love shows where there is a good con underway (which is why I am committed to the Oceans franchise). 

The Five

“A woman’s murder at a hotel leads detective Danny to discover a shocking DNA match to blood at the scene. A traumatized girl is found on the streets.” 

After binge watching Broadchurch, Giddy and I were on the hunt for another show to fill the void. The Five was a great fix. 

Alright, now it’s your turn! I need some new shows… what should I watch? 

Dear Amy Schumer,

I am writing this letter to inform you that I was not offended by your movie, “I Feel Pretty.” 

In fact, I’ll take it one step further: I left your film and I felt pretty. 

I read an article the other day written by a fellow female movie goer who seemed morally and ethically offended by your film for several reasons:

  1. It was too mystical; women shouldn’t have to be magically knocked unconscious to find themselves beautiful 
  2. The movie portrayed your character, Renee, as a chubby bunny, when in reality you’re just a moderately curvy bunny
  3. The movie did not show Renee’s acceptance of herself at the end of the movie without these magical powers

I don’t think at any point your movie implied that the only way to reach self-acceptance is through a traumatic head injury. I merely think it’s hard to unpack how beauty is a construct that has been formed over hundreds of years and impacts girls from the moment they are born, in an hour and fifty minute rom-com. And let’s be honest, I don’t want to sit through a movie that demonstrates, in real time, the journey women take towards self acceptance. That would be one sad, long-ass movie.

Further more, I was not offended when a bicycle seat accidentally collapsed beneath your character. I did not interpret that as, “She must be so fat that the bicycle seat cannot support her weight.” I thought, “Yes, bicycle seats are famously unreliable.” 

I will admit; I giggled at the scene where you walked into a clothing store and the woman who worked there condescendingly told you that they wouldn’t have your size in store. I thought, “Oh poor size 6 Amy Schumer, life must be so hard for her.” But as a woman of a shapely form, I could relate to going into a store and seeing size XS as far as the eye can see, and not being able to find my size. No matter what size you are, it is hurtful going into a space and not feeling represented or welcomed. 

Perhaps that is why so many people were offended by your film; everyone wanted to feel represented. That, however, is a tall task to ask of any movie. 

Amy, I think those who were offended by your film may have missed the point.

Correct me if I’m wrong Ams, but I think this film was trying to initiate the question: what if attitude really was everything? How would I live my life different if my outward appearance wasn’t of any concern?

If you’re wondering what I would do, I would: 

  • Wear a two piece bathing suit confidently; regardless of how curvy or pale I am.
  • Show off my legs more (I know it’s not possible, but if I could sustain a head injury and then mystically be able to remain curvy while also wearing shorts and dresses without my thighs rubbing together, I’d be super into that.)
  • Participate. Participate in sports, participate in swimming with friends, participate in new exercise classes at the gym. I have definitely improved in this area, but for years I quite literally took myself out of the game in fear of looking foolish or not being able to keep up.

Your movie reminded me, in a very simple way, I don’t want the way I perceive my looks to hold me back from opportunities for fun, growth, or wellness.

The other potential reason I think some were offended by your film is that people are just really dang hard to please. There has been an outcry for more positive body-image messages in the media, however panties wad if the messenger is too fat, too thin, too blonde, or too popular.

I don’t know about everybody else, but I left the theatre feeling pretty good about myself. I walked out with a little more swagger, and a couple extra hair flips. And at no point since watching your film have I sought out a blow to the head in the pursuit of higher self-esteem. 

You started a conversation which is typically a hard and painful one to start, in a funny, light-hearted way, and I appreciate it. 

Kind regards, 

Ashley

Monday Moment of Joy: Surviving the Outdoors

I am not a camper. 

Yes, yes, I know. I live in BC! I should be adorned in head to toe North Face, traveling in a canoe towards a secluded island for camping adventures every weekend. 

But I’m not. 

Because I don’t like camping. 

You’re not going to change me. 

Stop trying to make me something I’m not. 

With that said, I do LOVE being outside. I merely have boundaries with the outdoors. I feel like boundaries are healthy and show how mature I am. 

Criteria for an “Ashley Outdoors Excursion”:

  • No “packing” required. I do not have kids yet, therefore I do not want to be schlepping bags full of other peoples snacks and living supplies around. 
  • No encounters with wild animals larger than maybe a raccoon. I want my interactions with animals in the outdoors to look like Snow White is going on a casual stroll, not like Leo in The Revenant 
  • All potty incidents happen in an actual potty. 

I don’t feel like I’m asking for the world. 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Now that’s the kinda gal I can get on board with,” then this is the list for you. 

Here are three of my favourite local excursions that are unlikely to kill me: 

Quarry Rock

When I first visited Quarry Rock I was very mad. Why you ask? Because it was listed as an “easy hike” in an article entitled, “5 Easy Hikes for Lazy People in Vancouver.” I read that and thought, “Sweet. I’ll develop a lovely glint of sweat but not so much sweat that I smell bad.” So I went. I think I said, “Easy hike for lazy people my foot!” at least 5 times on the way up. It was a lot more “hike-y” than I thought it would be. However, with that said, after the initial surprise that I was hiking , I did really enjoy Quarry Rock. The view at the top is beautiful, you’ll sweat, you’ll get a great laugh at the girls who clearly read the same article as me and showed up in high heels, and you can reward all your hard work at the end with the best donuts you’ll ever have in your life. If that isn’t enough reason to hike, I don’t know what is.

 

Light House Park

I went to Light House Park a week or so after I went to Quarry Rock. It felt almost too easy after that. I just can’t be pleased. Located in West Vancouver, Light House Park has several scenic, easy trails, with lovely views. No donuts though.

IMG_2261

Lower Falls

A beautiful (easy) trail tucked in Golden Ears Provincial Park. The whole trail is a little under 3km and follows along Gold Creek all the way to the falls. There are beautiful views of the mountains, a rocky beach about half way through that’s perfect for a refreshing sit-down, and at the end you’re rewarded with the beauty of the falls. Giddy and I like to climb around the side of the trail and sit on the rocks near the falls. For me it’s a climb. For the average person it’s probably just an elevated walk. 

 

So there it is, a simple guide on how I survive the wilderness. Happy Monday. And you’re welcome.

How to Keep your Husband Alive

When I got married to my husband, Giddy, I had a lot of people volunteer relationship advice:

  • Never let the sun go down on your anger
  • Men want sex all the time; prepare yourself
  • Your first year of marriage is going to be hard 
  • Never say “you always,” or “you never” 

And then, of course, I got a ton of unsolicited advice about when, where, and how we were to have children. 

But of all the advice I received, no one warned me of what would be the greatest challenge my marriage would face. 

The dreaded question: “What are we going to eat for dinner?” 

I knew before we got married that Giddy had a very specific list of foods he would not eat:

  • Shepherd’s Pie 
  • Lasagna 
  • Sandwiches 
  • Soup
  • Pirogies
  • Macaroni and Cheese

In my mind that left me with: 

  • Chicken
  • Rice 
  • Potatoes
  • Left-over chicken, rice, and potatoes 

At first I thought he had merely had bad experiences with these foods but surely he would like my versions of them. 

Giddy would sit quietly at the dinner table looking at me as I devoured my handcrafted sandwich. 

Me: “What?”

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches”

Me: “But you haven’t tried THIS sandwich” 

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches” 

Me: “Why don’t you just try it before you decide it’s not for you.” 

G: “I have tried sandwiches. I don’t like them. I don’t need to try yours.” 

This would throw me into a fit of rage. 

Then I decided I would try to be tricky and rename the foods on the fated list in an attempt to broaden his pallet. This had a 50% success rate.

G: “What is this?”

Me: “Baked Pasta”

G: “It looks a lot like Lasagna.”

Me: “No, it’s baked pasta.” 

*Insert Gideon giving me a dubious look* 

My adventures and misfortunes of attempting to find foods my husband would eat only began to expand his “do not serve list”:

  • Lettuce Wraps
  • Anything with a cream sauce
  • Tacos 
  • Anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter (fine on their own but combined? Atrocious!)

I floated between being infuriated that Giddy wasn’t eating all of my cooking creations, to being panicked that I was going to unintentionally starve my husband within the first year of marriage. I could hear the voices of my critics/advice givers now, “The man could survive living in Uganda during the civil war, but his wife’s food killed him.” 

Well, isn’t that interesting

Almost immediately upon Gideon’s arrival to Canada, we were invited over to friend’s houses for dinner so they could meet Giddy. Friend’s would ask, “Does Giddy have any allergies?” The truthful answer is no, no he doesn’t have anything that physically keeps him from eating certain foods. “But should I mention Giddy’s list of aversions?” I’d think to myself. No, I determined that would be rude, and I could risk the purchase of McDonald’s on the way home to keep Giddy’s BMI up and keep down my wife-guilt about starving my husband. 

But then something interesting would happen. 

He would go to other people’s houses and eat every, dang, thing. He would even make proclamations across the dinner table like, “Ashley, why haven’t you ever made this for me?” 

OH, you mean this cream-based soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? Because it causes us to doubt the validity of our marriage, that’s why. 

And this was not a show for my friends, he would genuinely request these recipes after the fact. 

99 Problems But Food Ain’t One

I am happy to report after four years of marriage, our food saga has (mostly) ended. My husband is not malnourished, and I do not have an anxiety disorder over what to pack for lunch. I have at least 10 recipes I can throw into rotation (though many of those recipes are just chicken and rice cooked in a variety of ways) and Giddy even cooks a great deal of our meals. Self-high-five! 

Marriage Advice

Four years of marriage does not feel like enough time to become one of those people who hands out relationship advice. With that said, this was the only piece of advice I didn’t get when Giddy and I got married, and it would have been really helpful. 

So get ready for some unsolicited marriage advice:

Spend your pre-wedding date nights strolling the isles of Chapters Indigo in the cookbook isle, and scrolling through Pinterest. Have your significant other identify recipes that look appetizing; use force if necessary. 

If at any point your significant other mentions their mother, abort all plans, register for gift cards to major food chains, and call it a day. 

Now go in peace. 

Monday Moment of Joy: Tiffany Haddish

Have you ever watched a movie, or seen a celebrity interview and thought, “I want *insert celebrity name here* to be my best friend. We would have a blast together; they would grow to love me. This is destiny”? 

That’s how I feel every time I see Tiffany Haddish do anything. I am certain I could never keep up with her wit, and I am also certain that at least 60% of the things she would talk about would make me blush like a school-girl. Regardless, she would learn to love me, and I would give her all the adoration a friend could ever require. 

All of this leads to my Monday Moment of Joy: Tiffany Haddish meeting Oprah on The Ellen Show. I can hardly keep count all of things that bring me joy about this video: 

  • Tiffany Haddish being Tiffany Haddish
  • Oprah being Oprah
  • Ellen being Ellen

I guess I can count all the things. 

I laughed to the point of tears. 

May this bring you some joy on your Monday morning. 

 

Monday Moment of Joy: Target

I love Target and I don’t care who knows it.

I even loved CANADIAN Target. Talk about commitment.

For those of you Americans who don’t know what I mean, let me give you the Coles Notes version of what happened with Canadian Target.

  • Canada did not have Target
  • Target was brought to Canada
  • Ashley rejoiced
  • Canadian Target didn’t do so great
  • ALL Canadian Target’s were closed down
  • Ashley mourned

In my opinion, Canadian Target could have been successful. They opened too many stores, too quickly, and they were poorly stocked, and staffed. If they had opened a few, stocked them like Granny stocks her pantry, and hired staff that embody the energy and charisma of a Disney Land attendant, the powers that be at Canadian Target would have been rollin’ in the Benjamin’s (or the Borden’s I suppose).

Regardless as to it’s success, it was still Target and I still loved it. To this day if I hear someone say, “Target in Canada was terrible,” I escalate into a well rehearsed rant about how it’s that kind of attitude that got us here… with no Target. Quitters… bunch of quitters.

So with passport in hand, and American Target merely twenty minutes away, I proclaim with a full heart, and a full shopping cart, Target brings me real joy.

A friend tagged me in this video and it is all too true; I’m sharing it with you to bring a little joy to your Monday.

Happy shopping.

The Good Place: Sexual Abuse, Church, and Why Everything is NOT Fine

Netflix cheating and shows about Hell. 

My husband and I have a very strict rule in our marriage:

No Netflix cheating.

If you do not know, Netflix cheating is when you watch episodes of certain series without your significant other present. I struggled with remaining Netflix faithful during summer vacation; I just had so much free time.

My solution to keep myself Netflix monogamous is to get deep into shows my husband has no interest in watching; I can binge watch in peace, and the hubs isn’t subjected to watching 8 seasons of The Gilmore Girls.

My new alone-time binge series is “The Good Place.”

To serve the purpose of a rant I am going to go on shortly, here are a few spoilers from the show. You have been sufficiently warned.

“The Good Place” is about a woman named Eleanor Shellstrop who, in the pilot episode, dies and goes to The Good Place. However, a problem arises when Eleanor realizes she doesn’t actually belong there. She has lived a terrible life, and has accidentally taken the place of another Eleanor who was in turn sent to The Bad Place. In an attempt to remain in The Good Place, Eleanor begins taking ethics lessons from her friend (and soul mate) Chidi.

Okay, so all of this info is in the general description of the show, but here’s the spoiler: at the end of season one, Eleanor makes a frightening discovery:

The Good Place is actually The Bad Place! 

Michael, the architect of The Bad Place, created a unique form of torture for Eleanor and three others, to put them through mental and emotional torment.

The show is downright hilarious, and actually quite thought provoking, so even though I have kind of ruined the big plot twist, you should watch it anyway.

I promise I have a good reason for the spoilers.

Fake news and a real shame

Over the last week, I wish Trump was right, and everything I was reading in the local news was fake.

*Side note: Should be the only time I ever utter the words, “I wish Trump was right.”

This past week, news broke of a local pastor and his wife who have been charged with 28 sexual abuse related charges. Sadly, these charges were no surprise to my household because, for a short time, my husband and I attended the church in question.

My husband and I had left the church by the time these charges came to light. Several other issues had came to our attention regarding the leadership and the treatment of the congregation which urged us to leave. We were upset to hear the stories from the girls, and about the charges laid, but we were by no means taken aback. The behaviour described by the girls, and inferred by the charges, are in line with behaviour we witnessed when we attended the church.

I have no doubt in my mind; these are not false accusations.

I watched interviews with the senior pastor (the accused’s father) on local news stations whilst screaming, “LIES,” at the television screen. He stood in front of his church building, claiming all these charges were a huge surprise to him, and included that he’s refusing to choose sides. He said this while also lamenting about how his son’s education will now be rendered useless.

*I interrupt this broadcast for a dose of reality: Hey, guess what? If a teacher, who went to school for teaching, started beating their students, they would no longer be permitted to teach. This kind of behaviour would be considered inappropriate and they would have to find a new profession. I would say the same should be true for a pastor who sexually assaults and spiritually manipulates their congregants. If you want a job where this kind of behaviour is appropriate, become a pirate, not a pastor.

As news came out, I had two conflicting thoughts:

  1. Good! These people should not receive anymore anonymity or enabling for their crimes.
  2. Bad! Why is the “church” so often the hub for this nonsense?

“Wait a second, THIS is The Bad Place!”- Eleanor Shellstrop 

tenor
https://tenor.com/view/nbc-the-good-place-the-good-place-gifs-holy-mother-forking-shirt-balls-kristen-bell-gif-9684992

It can be easy for Christians to over-spiritualize this situation. I attended the church in question long enough to witness this Christian-Phenomena happen many times. When the accused were arrested, their pastor/father took to Facebook to write, “If you know us and our church please pray. We are under attack like never before and we need the accuser of the saints to be silenced and Truth prevail.”

Two days later he wrote, “Thank you to everyone who is praying for us and expressing love at this time. You are making a difference. This is a time when we must not believe with our eyes and ears but with our spirits. Let God be true and every man a liar. Can’t be specific at this time but your prayers are making a difference.”

Other news posts on Facebook were peppered with comments from people saying things like, “The devil is running rampant,” and “These pastors are under attack.”

It can be easy for Christians to over-spiritualize things. But what if we didn’t?

Young girls were spiritually manipulated and sexually assaulted by their pastor and his wife.

This couple has also been enabled to behave like this for many years by their parents (and senior pastors), which also points to their abuse of spiritual authority.

There is no need to find flowery Christian language to frame this situation in an effort to protect the church.

What if we just said it? THIS is a Bad Place!

Pobody’s Nerfect!

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http://www.spoilertv.com/2017/01/the-good-place-whats-my-motivation.html

I have never been so critical of my own discernment before. How could I have been friends with these people? How did we attend this church for any amount of time? How did I let myself be so manipulated by this couple? Because I was all of those things, as painful and embarrassing as it is to admit. I was their friend, I was a volunteer in their church, and I was spiritually manipulated by them.

My experience at this church was particularly painful as it was my grand return to church after several years. The pastors appeared compassionate and welcoming to me when I was at a personal “church-low,” and so, despite several red-flags, I stuck around. When it came time for my husband and I to step down from leadership, we were slandered and gossiped about. Instead of announcing our stepping down from leadership on a Sunday while we were still attending, the pastors waited until we were gone to proclaim to the congregation, “Well, we thought we heard from God about those two, but I guess we were wrong.”

The church is never going to be perfect, because people, in general, are a mess. There are churches with good protocol, safe leaders, healthy accountability, and trustworthy financials. There are some churches that, may not be perfect, but they are good places. However, let us not be so naive or so proud to think that because we are in a church, it is a safe, healthy place to be.

Welcome. Everything is Fine. 

http://www.indiewire.com/2016/09/the-good-place-review-kristen-bell-ted-danson-nbc-season-1-1201726723/
THE GOOD PLACE — “Everything Is Fine” Episode 101– Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

In the finale episode of “The Good Place,” Eleanor thanks her friend Chidi by telling him, “It’s like I was dropped in a cave, and you were my flashlight.”

Throughout scripture, Jesus is referred to as a “light,” and it is true, He is. It is not “the devil” who reveals sins. The darkness is about lies, and hiding. It is the light which reveals sin and creates opportunities for the sinner to either seek repentance or a darker corner to hide in.

Spiritual manipulation can really leave a person grappling with their faith in God; wondering what “side” Jesus will be taking: the victim or the pastor. Some Christians would say that Jesus is not taking sides; he’s somewhere in the middle. I would have to disagree with this sentiment. It sounds a lot more like Jesus’ character to seek justice for those who are oppressed than it is to believe He is passively standing in the middle shrugging his shoulders.

The ladies who have stepped forward about their abuse and their abuser, who had the bravery to say everything is NOT fine, are the flashlights in the dark cave. They have not only revealed the sins of the pastors, but they have also lit a path for others who have not yet been able to step forward and name what has happened to them.

Being the first ones to come forward, to be the whistle blowers, is not an easy place to be in. It is a hard place to be, it is a vulnerable place to be… but it’s a good place.

Are you pregnant?

I am not pregnant.

Just in case you were wondering.

I thought I would let you know because I am asked… often.

How often?

Modestly: once a week.

Let me repeat: I am not pregnant.

I know I am a married woman, of a childbearing age, but I do not feel these facts should give people carte blanche to look me up and down and ask me intimate questions about my reproductive health.

In my opinion, there is never a good time to ask a woman if she’s pregnant.

I do not care if the woman looks 10 months pregnant, and is waddling so hard it looks like she is crowning, I will NOT ask about her ripe pregnant belly until SHE mentions she is currently “with child.”

Until that time, I will carry on talking about the weather, and the latest episode of Broadchurch.

I have had a few stand-out instances when I was asked if I was pregnant.

Incident #1: I was registering children in for a church event. I was standing next to my very petite, very pregnant friend. She’s one of those gals who is “all baby” and looks like she’s got a basketball shoved up her shirt with every pregnancy. She looked adorable (and pregnant—not that I would have said anything to her if I was a stranger). I remember I was feeling particularly cute because I was wearing this flowy bohemian shirt. Flowy… not, basketball under my shirt. A father approaches our table; he looks my friend up and down, he looks me up and down, and then looks at ME and says, “How far long are you?”

I went home, burned my shirt, and cried.

Incident #2: I was dismissing my students from class on the last day before summer break. One of the mom’s came over to bid me farewell. As we stood chatting, she stopped mid-sentence, looked me up and down, zoned in on my stomach and said (in a whispered voice): “You’re not pregnant, are you?”

If you have to whisper it, you shouldn’t say it…

In my experience, when my friends are pregnant they are usually pretty excited to tell people about it. In fact, in many cases, it’s hard to get them to shut up about it. Which is wonderful, and should be expected.

However, if one of my friends does not immediately announce their pregnancy I am assuming there is a reason.

Jokes aside, pregnancy can be a really touchy subject.

Some people struggle for years to get pregnant.

Some people get pregnant but have suffered several miscarriages.

Some people (believe it or not) do not actually want kids.

I do want to have kids eventually. When I get asked if I am pregnant I take offence not because I do not want kids or because I have struggled with infertility but because it feels like I am being subtly told, “You look fat in that outfit.” In reality, I could have worse things said to me but I can not help but think about my friends who are actually struggling in this area.

So, in an effort to change the world, here is an exhaustive list to help you know when is a good time to ask a woman if she is pregnant:

  • She recently got married and should be pregnant by now.
  • She has a glow.
  • She is wearing flowy clothing.
  • You are related and feel you have the right to know.
  • She is starting to “show.”
  • She is really “showing.”
  • Her stomach is so huge she has to be pregnant.
  • She is rubbing her belly in a nurturing fashion.
  • You are so curious you can’t stand it anymore.
  • Her water broke. (At this point I would encourage the person to seek medical attention for their incontinence, not letting on any suspicions)
  • She is holding a baby in her arms… to which an appropriate response would be: “You were pregnant? I could not tell due to how thin you’ve looked over the past several months. Congratulations!”

Now go in peace.

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