Sunday, October 29, 2006
I think the best part was the water. As I said, it looked forest green, probably because of the reflection off the evergreen-covered mountains. Color alone gave it an aura of mystery, but it had many more secrets. Soon after arriving, Leanne and I set off in a canoe. Only a couple minutes into our trek, Leanne let out a gasp. I followed her gaze over the side of the canoe, and was so astonished and excited I nearly fell in. Aurelia aurita! (Translation: the moon jelly, or common jellyfish.) There was nothing common about them as I saw them for the first time in the wild! The moment was dream-like and surreal; there must have been twenty of them around the canoe, at different depths, all slowly rising. About the size of dinner plates, they seemed to glow fluorescent pink in the dark water, especially the horseshoe-shaped gonads and the peripheral pink fringe, which reminded me of the gathered bottom of window blinds. The glow came from the whole animal, eerily… how can something transparent glow? Upside-down was my favorite view. Its four translucent oral arms drifted lazily in a spiral, and in the center, a strangely lovely ribboned cluster fringed with white light seemed to be the treasure it was protecting under its bell, the secret location of its radiance… (I found these pictures online – I couldn’t take any satisfactory photos of my own!)
As I observed this beautiful undersea suspended animation, I remembered my only other experience with Aurelia, examining one in a glass dish in Bio 203 (have you done Cnidaria yet, Terice?), turning the dead gelatinous mass (haha, Strongbad) with my tweezers and trying to imagine what it would look like alive in the ocean. My imagination wasn’t near as wonderful as the reality. The process of watching is half the fun. It starts out as a gauzy outline, playing with your depth perception, causing you to look twice – was that just the watery reflection of a small cloud? No, it’s moving!…in slow but determined spurts, rising into greater clarity, growing brighter and larger, sometimes drifting, open and careless, its fringe of tiny hairs floating listlessly, before its muscles contract and it resumes its pulsing motion. It seemed to be deciding where and when to move, which parts of itself to reveal to me, even though it had no brain. (What is it with me and these brainless ocean creatures?) As we circled and circled in our canoe, more and more Aurelia surfaced in this surreal, enthralling way. The scientist in me tried to memorize what it looked like at every angle, tried to remember what all the parts were called. The child in me knew that the water was enchanted, and I was seeing pure magic, whose depth only an ocean-deprived prairie girl could fully appreciate. I am thankful that Leanne shared my delight.
The next morning, I sat on the dock for two hours, stalking the water, trying to see past the surface reflection. I saw many more moon jellies, and my breath caught in my throat every time. At times I would see tiny flashes of light erupt randomly all through the water, which reminded me of the very artificial “sparkle” effect they used to put in movies after something magical happened, like someone disappearing. When my eyes adjusted, I realized it was a school of small fish, with scales catching the sunlight when they happened to be at the right angle. I also saw a burrito-shaped white spiny thing on the bottom that moved very slowly. I think it was a nudibranch, a.k.a. sea cucumber, one of the weirdest things I studied in biology. Again, seeing creatures in the ocean is entirely different from examining them in a biology lab dish.
Since I got home on Wednesday, I’ve been trying to put the “reading” back in Reading Week. I’m marginally satisfied with my productivity, considering the high expectations I had for myself. I had a great morning with the Crazy Boggers yesterday. Instead of pulling bad, invasive things out of the bog, we got the rare pleasure of planting good things in the bog! Both activities are necessary and restorative, but I’ve discovered that it’s more emotionally satisfying to plant than to remove. As I pushed little bunches of sphagnum moss into the wet dirt with my thumb, I found myself silently pleading that God would cause them to grow and spread, and un-do the damage we’ve done to this part of our/His earth. It was deeply satisfying to do this repetitive, dirt-under-the-fingernails work of redemption with the Creator of bogs. God-willing (and God-very-much-helping), the bare ground in that section will once again be covered with sphagnum...but not until about five years from now. It’s weird being part of such long-term work, work that might not even pay off if the weather doesn’t cooperate. I can’t imagine working on those cathedrals in the Middle Ages, knowing the finished product was 150 years off and you’d never see it. (If you for some reason happen to be interested in this bog thing, the website is great – http://www.naturalhistory.bc.ca/CamosunBog/ As is my custom of late, I leave you with a quote. I read some of Annie Dillard’s “Teaching a Stone to Talk” this week, and this part in particular resonated with many experiences I’ve described above…
“The mountains are great stone bells; they clang together like nuns. Who shushed the stars?…Billions of stars sift among each other untouched, too distant even to be moved, heedless as always, hushed. The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. But God knows I have tried.
At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world’s word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep – just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don’t do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life’s length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression; instead, it is all there is.
We are here to witness. There is nothing else to do with those mute materials we do not need… If we were not here, material events like the passage of seasons would lack even the meager meanings we are able to muster for them. The show would play to an empty house, as do all those falling stars which fall in the daytime. That is why I take walks: to keep an eye on things.”
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Some ways God’s been blessing me this past week:
- Seeing a rainbow near my house during a brief break in the clouds.
- Getting to hold a 1-mo. old baby for an hour at my church.
- Watching a movie with a ten-yr.-old who wanted me to sit very close and cuddle her.
- Receiving a hug from a First Nations lady who I’d just met at Jacob’s Well.
- Eating a caramel apple with Danice at the UBC Apple Festival. (She got a gross candied one...)
- Gifts of baking from two different people this week (I don’t have an oven!)
- Being called “beautiful” by two different men on the bus in the past two days. Both were definitely drunk and probably homeless (I’ll take compliments wherever I get them!) All I did to provoke these compliments was to say hi to them. Maybe saying hi makes you beautiful.
- Sharing excellent meals with two different groups of friends.
Let me expand on that last one. I grew up in a family that put a priority on eating together. This was so built into me that I took it for granted. Now that I’m away from family, I realize how deep a blessing it is to eat meals with other people. Eating by myself seems so much like filling up a car with gas – it’s just refueling of my body, and I don’t enjoy it nearly as much, even if I like the taste of the food. But eating with other people makes me feel very Kingdom-y. I’ve heard it said that community meals can be a way of announcing the Kingdom, so long as we’re welcoming everyone in and sharing what God’s given us… it’s a foretaste of the Feast we’ll all be sharing together one day.
Since coming to Vancouver, I’ve heard (and used!) the word “community” ad nausea. But as much as the word is overused at Regent, I can’t say how important it’s been to find places to belong and people to share life with, especially coming from a big family. Fortunately for me, many of these communities love eating together. Jacob’s Well has harvest parties. Regent has Tuesday soup lunch. Kits church always has excellent post-service food. The photos are from a backyard dinner party Tora threw for a bunch of Regent students in September. My good old Wednesday morning prayer group has always included a sort of potluck breakfast. Lindsey Fox (who hosted the best meal I’ve had in months at her house last night) pointed out that “companion” comes from the Latin words “with” and “bread”, referring to the person you share bread with.
This is what I am realizing as I’m paying so much to learn theology… I need to learn a lot of other things besides theology to live the kind of Christian life I want to live: a life that’s closely tied to the earth and to community. These are things that don’t even cost money to learn. Things like gardening and wrapping presents and being hospitable and planning for long trips with people. And especially cooking. I have a poor track record with cooking… ask my siblings about the infamous wieners and beans fiasco a few years ago… These are all things I could have learned growing up with my mom, had I put more time and focus into them. Mom, I’m coming home for Christmas, and I want to learn more from you…
To end this post, I will be helpful and offer you some cooking tips I’ve picked up in the last month. Well, they’re not really about cooking, per se. They’re more about microwaving and condiments. They will show you that I have a lot to learn about REAL cooking. Here are my tips nonetheless…
1. Get this… you can make a baked potato in a microwave in under 7 minutes. I suppose it isn’t actually baked, it’s microwaved. But hey, in this oven-less house, that’s not bad. If I had known this microwave trick I would have had a lot more starch in my system last year. Don’t forget to poke a fork in them first, though. Fun fact: the Brits call these “jacket potatoes”, which I kind of fancy. Special thanks to Lindsey and her grandma for this tip. (And happy birthday Lindsey!)
2. Peanut butter is good on just about anything. Mostly ice cream. I rarely eat ice cream without mixing in a spoonful of peanut butter and chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. But I’ve also learned that it’s delicious on waffles (with syrup), sandwiches (my grandpa used to eat peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches) and rice cakes, and it’s funny to watch dogs and cats eat it. Special thanks to Danice for expanding my peanut butter horizons.
3. The piece de resistance… Frank’s Hot Sauce. This cayenne-pepper-based phenom is a welcome condiment on nearly any food. It is especially delicious on cheggels (cheese-egg-bagels) and in yaki soba. There’s something supernatural about it that blends into every flavor. Special thanks to our roommate last year, Bryanna, who had a bottle of this wonderful stuff in the fridge, which Danice and I would constantly use behind her back.
Well, I’m getting hungry with all of this talk of eating… time for some yogurt-covered raisins. I’m off to the Sunshine Coast tomorrow morning – I’ll let you know how sunshiny it is there…
Friday, October 20, 2006
So the first movie I saw last week was called “Into Great Silence” or, in German, “Die Grosse Stille”. I saw it with Peter, who had been waiting for a long time to see it. The movie was part of the Vancouver International Film Festival, which I knew meant that it was going to be weird. I was prepared for weirdness. And I knew it would be about monks. Monks in the French Alps who take a vow of silence. I was all excited that I’d understand the French until I realized they wouldn’t be speaking…
So this was a very silent movie. A very long and silent movie. The person who introduced the movie said it would be calming, but at times I was a little TOO calm, if you know what I mean. After a long day at school, three hours of silence was difficult, and it felt like an accomplishment to have made it through the movie. No voice over. No background music. Only ambient noise. It’s crazy that these monks live this day in and day out. This is MDT solitude times a million.
I spent most of the movie in utter confusion as to how to feel. Should I admire these men, or pity them? Or some combination of the two? I’ve wavered in my view of the monastic life. Admittedly, these monks are among the most ascetic. Besides not being able to talk except on Sunday afternoons, they never sleep a whole night through. They sleep for three hours, wake up and sing chants for two hours, and sleep for three more hours. That has to be unhealthy somehow. There were some beautiful parts of the movie, mostly in the rare instances when the monks had some contact with oeach other. A very old monk sitting shirtless, hunched over, the vertebrae in his neck sticking out grotesquely, most likely from the continuous bowing of his head, being rubbed gently with salve by a younger monk, in silence. An initiation ceremony culminating with each monk in the monastery embracing the new monk, and squeezing into his room to sing blessings over it. A Sunday outing where the usually solemn monks start sledding down the snowy hill on their feet, in their robes.
All in all, this movie didn’t make me want to be a monk – at least not a silent, secluded one. Not that I could be a monk, as a female. Hypothetically, though. In talks with Peter and Lindsey and Danice, I came to realize that I don’t think God put us here on earth to hide out in a building up in the mountains, out of the world, and just pray. Alone. Is that too judgmental? I know these guys have sacrificed their whole lives for this. But one thing I learned about last year is that in the Christian life, there has to be a balance between Mary and Martha – contemplation and action. Most of us outside of monasteries err on the Martha/action side. These monks were definitely erring on the Mary side. I think we need both. And I think we can’t know all of God when we’re isolated. We can’t know the relational part and the part of the kingdom that seeps through culture. And we can’t hope to do any kingdom-announcing work if we’re secluding ourselves from the people who need that message most. What do you guys think?
Aware of my Martha imbalances, I got wondering, what is the place of contemplation, solitude, silence, and simplicity in my life, outside the monastery? Incidentally, I have felt much more contemplative lately. I’ve been trying not to rush to fill my empty spaces with music, and I’m even trying to silence some of my inane mental conversations with myself to hopefully hear more from God. I’ve been feeling very much at rest most of the time (which Rachel says is equivalent with beauty). Except the last couple of days, which have been more scattered and difficult. But I’m going away on Monday, up the Sunshine Coast for a couple of days, so hopefully I can find an inner listening-to-God environment again.
If it be your will that I speak no more
And my voice be still as it was before
I will speak no more, I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will that a voice be true
From this broken hill I will sing to you
From this broken hill, all your praises they shall ring
If it be your will to let me sing
From this broken hill, all your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
If it be your will, if there is a choice
Let the rivers fill, let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill on all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well
And draw us near, and bind us tight
All your children here in their rags of light
In our rags of light, all dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I have three or four different things I want to write about, all unrelated, and all in different…moods. Some of them will have to wait.
Yesterday morning I came back from my Rock to find a great message on my machine. It was a 403 area code, so I thought it was my sister Sarah, but it ended up being Bob and Brandon Webber. (You may remember them from such posts as “Homowebmape” in May 2006). They were in Vancouver on a father-son road trip to see Sufjan Stevens in concert, and they wanted to hang out. And since they’re almost the closest thing to family next to my family, and I had a free night, I was thrilled.
So they picked me up and asked me if I knew of any restaurants nearby. I told them I don’t get out much, but I’d heard Regent students (and probably Danice) mention “The Naam” on 4th. So I accompanied these two Alberta farm boys to “The Naam”. (If you live in Vancouver and you’re more cultured than me, you may already be laughing). The waiter who seated us had a very thin, braided goatee. This should have been my first clue. We opened the menus. I scanned the menu items. Bob and Brandon were silent, with quizzical looks on their faces. “Wait a minute,” Bob said, “…where’s the beef?” He was right. There was no beef. And no chicken. And no pork. This menu was starting to look, shall we say, tofu-ey. Under the “Burgers” heading, there were veggie burgers and tofu burgers and veggie-tofu burgers. I looked more closely at the front of the menu. “The Naam: Vancouver’s Oldest Vegetarian Restaurant”. Yes, of all the myriads of eateries in Vancouver, I, Beth Malena, took two beef-loving Albertans to a vegetarian restaurant. We had a great time joking around with gravelly soldier voices: “Yeah, I was in ’Naam. I had the miso gravy.”
So yeah, it turned out fine. Then Brandon took me to a movie. (Incidentally, this is the second time a boy has taken me to a movie in the past three days… I’m becoming quite a player. I’ll tell you about the first movie next time.) We saw “The Illusionist”, which Jordan and Chris told me was good, and it was good. I came home and my roommates were watching “Speed”. I got ready for bed, and the boiler furnace thing, which is right off my room, made loud banging noises and I thought it was going to explode. My roommates assured me that if it exploded, we’d probably all die, but I would die the most. How reassuring. Thankfully it hasn’t yet exploded.
I tell you all this to set up my final story, which took place this morning, but likely very much as a result of the weird, mysterious, expect-the-unexpected sort of mood I was in. And it was slightly foggy, which also makes things feel more surreal. I was sitting on my Rock, looking out at the ocean, like I do every morning. I saw a seal, and then it dove again. Then it resurfaced, and I saw more seals pop their heads up – there must have been at least four. I’ve seen seals in groups before, but this was different. They were swimming around like crazy, and there were some things that popped up out of the water that didn’t fit. One of them seemed to have something white in its mouth, which I thought was a fish. There was so much splashing. And then something weird jabbed out of the water suddenly – I swear it was a human leg. I think I saw a foot. “Oh my goodness… the seals are murdering somebody!” I thought. Then everything stopped, as quickly as it started. They all dove down, taking this poor soul to their secret undersea lair, presumably to eat him. I have a lot more sympathy for people who think they see sea monsters. The ocean can be very confusing. I was seriously disturbed.
I thought about telling the people at the yacht club, but they probably already think I’m crazy. Some of them are usually working on (sitting on, looking really cool in) their docked sailboats when I arrive at the beach, and they see me stumble down the hill with grubby clothes on and messy hair (because I wake up and go to the beach without combing it), sitting on this big rock with my binoculars, occasionally dancing (thanks to the suggestion of a friend). I wonder if they have names for me. They probably call me “beachcomber”, because many mornings, like today, I spend the first 15 minutes of beach time picking up after the previous night’s beach partiers. It’s so aggravating. There must have been 30 beer cans this morning, a couple of them floating in the water, and those 6-pack rings that choke sea animals (though maybe the murderous seals need to be choked…). I always bring the cans to my house and leave them in the alley for the shopping cart guys in the neighborhood. Occasionally I glean more exciting things… like when I find unopened beer cans (I guess the party people are too plastered to realize they’re leaving beer behind) – I usually give those to Danice, because I hate the taste of beer. And this morning I found a Nalgene bottle, which I think was a gift from God because I don’t have a water bottle here. Sometimes my conscience gets to me, and I wonder if I should leave these things on the beach in case their owners return (my bottle has “Marina” written in white out on it…), but my logic is that I’m cleaning up their gross mess, so I deserve to keep whatever I find in it. Tell me if you think I’m wrong…or crazy.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
You may be saying, Beth, you have an obsession with starfish. Yes. I do. Well not really. I just like taking pictures of them, and watching them. Just think about these creatures for a second. Pretend you’ve never heard of them. Starfish are so surreal. They’re astonishing. Could you have imagined them up, had you never seen one? They’re just not logical. You couldn’t infer them from the rest of the animals you see. You couldn’t have predicted them.
I’m reading an incredible book called “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton, and it’s not about starfish, but he does say this, which I think applies (just replace “rhinoceros” with “starfish”): “It is one thing to describe an interview with a gorgon or a griffin, a creature who does not exist. It is another thing to discover that the rhinoceros does exist and then take pleasure in the fact that he looks as if he didn’t.”
Their shape is too easy, as if it were designed to be readily identifiable when seen outlined in children’s coloring books. Their color could be used to teach the same children the meaning of “purple” – it’s so well achieved. The amazing number of tiny suction-cup tube feet on their underside seems like overkill – couldn’t a few big suction cups have done it? The tiny white ossicles on their back are perfectly placed, like constellations. Constellations on a star…that’s a paradox. They glisten in the sun, leading me to believe that they’re slimy, but really they’re hard and unbendable.
They lay there, all overlapped. I think some of them are extroverted and don’t mind, but others are probably really uncomfortable touching that many other seastars and can’t wait until they can move again. Because they can’t move when they’re exposed to air – they move by a hydraulic system, using their tube feet, and when they dry out, they don’t have enough water to work the system. They’re so vulnerable in low tides, immobile, stranded, clinging to rocks, waiting to be revived by the ocean. I walk around knowing I could destroy them all if I wanted to. It doesn’t seem right that some of the most beautiful things are also the most fragile and helpless.
It’s weird to think that they’re alive, since I’ve never seen them move. They seem like part of the rock. But if you try to pry one off a rock, you see how much power they have in their suction-tube feet. They really are like aliens. They eat things by inserting their stomachs into them. They can squeeze their stomachs into a 0.1mm opening in a mussel shell. They secrete fluids to digest their food before they swallow it. They have no brain, just a nerve ring. They have a pair of sexual organs in each arm. Wow.
Listen to this… it’s so brilliant… I thought this deep thought one morning at the Rock. Ready? The stars don’t like the moon. Seriously. Think about it. The moon is responsible for the tides. When the moon pulls the tide out, it exposes the starfish, and the seagulls start pecking at them and dragging them around and eating them. Which, I assume, they don’t like. Therefore they don’t like the moon. This is logical. Although the moon also re-covers them with water. So I guess it all evens out.
Okay, I’m done with my starfish rambling. I want to tell you about something equally geeky I have involved myself in. I have joined a club at UBC called “Friends of Wetlands”. Yes. The shorter form is “FOWL”. Mostly what we do is restore the Camosun Bog on Saturday mornings. This is a bog that is close to where I live, on the edge of the huge forest that surrounds UBC. If you don’t know what a bog is, you’re not alone. It’s much like a blog, but without an “l”. Just kidding. A bog is a place with wet, spongy soil, mostly covered with sphagnum moss. It’s very poor in nutrients. That’s why almost all carnivorous plants live in bogs (they get their nutrients from the insects they eat). The problem is that in the 1920s, people tried to drain this bog to build houses nearby. As a result, it got a lot drier, and a lot of invasive species moved in. We mostly weed them out to let the natural bog species thrive, like the sphagnum moss. It’s great. There’s usually people of all ages working in there on Saturday mornings, and we all have a tea break together, and I get to talk about plants and birds with people who like them as much as I do. And I’ve already had a few great conversations with UBC students who are intrigued with my “interdisciplinary biology/theology” master’s degree. The best part: I got a pin that says: “I’m a crazy bogger”. Ecologists are the wittiest people around.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
On with the real reason I'm writing... I need to introduce you to my housemates – my surrogate family in Vancouver. They look rather scary in this picture, but I assure you, they're not dangerous. Danice (dance with an “i” in the middle) you may remember from last year’s blogging. She is a fellow Regent student, studying to be the really incredible youth pastor that she already pretty much is. She dances like Michael Jackson. Danielle is studying liberal arts at UBC and mostly enjoys making time-lapse videos. I like stealing M&M peanuts from her jar. Lindsey is studying Native people and coordinating the production of a TV show about Aboriginal athletes. She makes me tea. All of them are from places close to Vancouver. All of them are lovely. We decided to celebrate our housemateness by having a camp night. In other words, Danice had to air out her tent, so we set it up in the middle of the living room.The best part of camp night was definitely the smores. We roasted marshmallows on chopsticks over the stove element (thanks to Tora for this idea!). We didn’t have graham crackers, so we used arrowroot cookies – you know, the ones that are always in the closet of the toddler room at church. We spent a good amount of time singing campfire songs. Actually, they were Beth-songs. Songs in which you replace a word that sounds like “Beth” with “Beth”. For example… “You take my Beth awaaaaay…” and “You’re simply the Beth” and “Baby boy make me lose my Beth” and “Every Beth you take”. It’s a good thing that so many songs can become about me, because if you’re trying to write a song about me, I warn you, my name is very hard to rhyme with anything. So far, the only rhyming words for “Beth” I’ve thought up are “breath” and “death”. And, as Jared so helpfully pointed out this summer, “crystal meth”.
After a brief but vicious pillow fight, we put the tent to good use by laying in it and watching a movie through the door. The movie was Labyrinth, a movie from Danice’s childhood. I’m sure glad I didn’t watch this movie as a child. The title should have been “Some very disturbing Muppets with an even more disturbing David Bowie”. David Bowie was the King of Goblins, but mostly he wore tight pants and sang something like “Dance magic dance”. I am scarred for life.
For those of you who are worried about the possibility of more rats in my house this year, I wanted to show you this picture to reassure you. Our landlords built this lovely little door to cover the hole in the wall where Melba the rat enjoyed entering our basement. Unfortunately, the door is secured by Velcro. I surmise that a rat who had the sense and strength to chew through packing tape and Tupperware last year could push open a Velcro-ed door this year, if it didn’t chew through the door itself. So when I received a decorative bell as a present from my Japanese friend Toshi, I decided to hang it on the mini-doorknob, so that when the rat pushes through the door, we will at least be aware of its presence.
In other news, I’ve had a weird day...Lindsey and I were riding the bus to church, and all of a sudden, two cars smashed into the side of the bus. I think they ran a red light. I don’t think anyone in the cars was seriously hurt, but one guy was bleeding from his head. It shook us up pretty badly. We walked the rest of the way. Then, at the beginning of the church service, an elderly lady fell over after tripping, and an ambulance was called. And after the service, I was talking to a friend I’d met at the church last year, and I asked about her roommate, and she told me that he died suddenly, two weeks ago, after falling during a hike. All of this within a 3-hour period. I’m not sure what God’s trying to say through all of this, but all day I had a craving for the familiar and the safe. Luckily I had Jodi this morning and Rikk at Rock Garden, not to mention supper at Lindsay's, to bring some sanity back into my life. Also, I got to spend some time with Lisa Nazarenko tonight, which briefly satisfied my desire for familiarity and for Ukrainians, who I've grown to love. Sometimes I wish I were one of them... but my name would have to end with an "a". Betha. Bethica. Oh well. I think you've seen my name enough for one blog...