Monthly Archives: May 2009

The fam

Spring photoshoot 2009, originally uploaded by becky b..

You wouldn’t believe what efforts it takes to have a good family picture when there’s a 2 year old involved! But, I love love love the way it turned out.

(Photo taken by my friend Cindy Ramsfield.)

What he said:

If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822),
from The Necessity of Atheism.

Grad student no more

[the blur of this picture is appropriate on so many levels]

It is finished.

Really this time! I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet that I’m no longer a student (in an official capacity, anyway). I am now the holder of my long-awaited Master of Arts degree.

Earlier this month I missed an important anniversary in my life — May 11. May 11, 2002 marked the first day I came to live in Canada. I graduated from my undergrad program on the morning of the 11th, and then I flew up to Saskatoon later that evening. I started summer classes a couple days later, and here I am — finished my Master’s.

Part of me wants to paint this achievement of mine as anti-climatic, but I’m not going to let myself do that. Maybe my temptation comes from the fact that it would be really easy for me to sit back and diminish what I’ve accomplished in this degree –

I could lament about how long it took me to finish,
I could rant about some of the horrible experiences I had as a graduate student,
I could regret some of the directions I took in the writing of my thesis, not to mention the horrific defense I endured,
I could disparage the fact that it’s just a Master’s degree (and not the academically-acceptable PhD),
I could inwardly cringe at how long it will take me to pay off my student loan debt,
and on and on…

But this morning when I put on that silly gown and felt the weight of my hood against my neck, and then saw that piece of parchment with my name on it — all the mental downplaying I had been doing went away.

I did this. I finished.

I finished despite the delays and setbacks in my personal life that caused my program to run long.
I finished despite the horrible experiences I had as a student.
I finished and created a thesis whose research/insights belong solely to me and is something that I’m proud of, despite feeling at times that I wasn’t capable as a scholar.
I finished by holding my own at my defense (and I’ve got witnesses to attest to it!).
I finished a degree that while it may not add a “Dr.” in front of my name, still is something many don’t bother attempting.

And so on. The sense of accomplishment I now feel isn’t just motivated by a new academic credential. To finish this degree required more from me than taking graduate courses or writing a 100-page thesis. There were so many points in this process where I came so close to giving up and walking away — but I didn’t. I finished.

So it’s for these personal reasons that I’m really glad I decided to mark this occasion and walk for my commencement. I’m not one for much pomp and circumstance, but more and more I see how important it is to pause and mark accomplishments and these special moments in our lives.

I had 2 special people watching me walk today — Jerry and my good friend Alison. Alison was one of my first friends in Saskatoon, as she was in one of those first summer classes of 2002. She’s been present for many important chapters in my life — from being a witness in our small wedding, to being one of the few people I can call on when I need a listening ear (or better yet, a babysitter!). Alison must truly love me if she sat through the entire 3-hour convocation ceremony this morning, and still raved about how happy she was to have been there.

But it wasn’t just Alison and Jerry who helped make my day today. Of course I also felt the Facebook and Twitter love comin’ at me, thanks to my bragging and posting of pictures. There’s something to be said for having people from all over your life (friends from the past, present, online, in town, family, etc) who’ll leave you little messages of encouragement and congratulations. Social networking may be a time-suck and a bit of a modern bane, but for today, I liked all the little bits of attention I received.

But with all the good, of course there was some bittersweet. Not everyone in my life either remembered or cared to call or comment on this event of mine — and while I can logically explain the reasons behind the forgotten calls, I’m still a bit sad that this achievement of mine wasn’t recognized.

Oh well. Today, I felt like Rebekah Bennetch. Not “mommy,” not Becky the wife, not Rebekah the communication instructor — I wasn’t any of those roles — I was just me. Today reminded me of the grrrl who started this blog as she started her new life as a US stowaway on the Canadian prairies. As cliche as it all sounds, it was a full-circle moment.

I spent [way too many] years prostrate to the higher mind…

Convocation 2009, originally uploaded by becky b..

got my paper, I was free!

What he said:

United with his fellow men by the strongest of all ties, the tie of a common doom, the free man finds that a new vision is with him always, shedding over every daily task the light of love. The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, toward a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry.

One by one, as they march, our comrades vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent death. Very brief is the time in which we can help them, in which their happiness or misery is decided.

Be it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing courage, to instill faith in hours of despair . . . let us remember that they are fellow sufferers in the same darkness, actors in the same tragedy with ourselves.

And so when their day is over . . . be it ours to feel that, where they suffered, where they failed, no deed of ours was the cause.

Bertrand Russell
from Why I am Not a Christian

We interrupt these rants to…

Happy!, originally uploaded by becky b..

show off another picture of my beautiful grrrl.

(and to prove that I’m not always as nasty as my online persona portrays)

Why everyone needs access to marriage

If you’re still in favor of denying same-sex marriages, read this article and look me in the eye and tell me why.

As recounted by Ms. Langbehn, the details of the Miami episode are harrowing. It began in February 2007, when the family — including three children, then ages 9, 11 and 13 — traveled there for a cruise. After boarding the ship, Ms. Pond collapsed while taking pictures of the children playing basketball.

The children managed to help her back to the family’s room. Fortunately, the ship was still docked, and an ambulance took Ms. Pond to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial. Ms. Langbehn and the children followed in a taxi, arriving around 3:30 p.m.

Ms. Langbehn says that a hospital social worker informed her that she was in an “antigay city and state” and that she would need a health care proxy to get information. (The worker denies having made the statement, Mr. Alonso said.) As the social worker turned to leave, Ms. Langbehn stopped him. “I said: ‘Wait a minute. I have those health care proxies,’ ” she said. She called a friend to fax the papers.

The medical chart shows that the documents arrived around 4:15 p.m., but nobody immediately spoke to Ms. Langbehn about Ms. Pond’s condition. During her eight-hour stay in the trauma unit waiting room, Ms. Langbehn says, she had two brief encounters with doctors. Around 5:20 a doctor sought her consent for a “brain monitor” but offered no update about the patient’s condition. Around 6:20, two doctors told her there was no hope for a recovery.

Despite repeated requests to see her partner, Ms. Langbehn says she was given just one five-minute visit, when a priest administered last rites. She says she continued to plead with a hospital worker that the children be allowed to see their mother, even showing the children’s birth certificates.

“I said to the receptionist, ‘Look, they’re her kids,’ ” Ms. Langbehn said. (Mr. Alonso, the hospital spokesman, says that except in special circumstances, children under 14 are not allowed to visit in the trauma unit.)

Ms. Langbehn says she was repeatedly told to keep waiting. Then, at 11:30 p.m., Ms. Pond’s sister arrived at the unit. According to the lawsuit, the hospital workers immediately told her that Ms. Pond had been moved an hour earlier to the intensive care unit and provided her room number.

At midnight, Ms. Langbehn says, her exhausted children were finally able to visit their unconscious mother. Ms. Pond was declared brain-dead at 10:45 that morning, and her heart, kidneys and liver were donated to four patients.

Is your piously-motivated homophobia worth causing this kind of heartache? At least ‘fess up to it.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating — this is the civil rights issue of my day. For those religiously-minded people who are working hard to keep these rights away from fellow human beings — all because of outdated bigoted dogma — well, you WILL be on the wrong side of history. I hope you’re ready to explain that to your descendants. The Church’s PR people better start working on how this is going to get spun (hey, you could always go the route of “we supported same-sex marriages!” a la “the Church was instrumental in outlawing slavery!”).