3/30: Thank You to my Spiritual Communities

As you’ve seen in my other posts, spirituality has been a big part of my life. It began with my parents and papa Guido. Here, I will outline all of the different folks at the various churches I’ve attended over the years who’ve influenced my life.

Above All & Beyond

I went to more or less the same church most of my life. Then, in Grade 9, we switched to Bethel Bible Chapel. One Sunday I was there to sing a lovely hymn, “Above All.” We went as guests that Sunday and never left. I still attend to this day.

From there I made friends with folks many people. Like Rejean Routhier and his sister Cherie Ayton. Cherie worked as a lifeguard at the pool a couple years ahead of me. She still cuts my hair in The Soo. Her first daughter is the newest baby I’ve ever held: 1 week old. Rejean was always fun at youth group and we have had some great chats as we aged. Thank you Cherie for your ongoing friendship, and thank you Rejean for the same way back when.

I also built a deeper connection with Jennifer and Andrew Sarlo. I ended up going to high school with and singing many duets with their son too. I cherish the conversations I’ve had with Jennifer and Andrew over the years, but especially more recently. Often by text message or phone. Their kindness and wisdom warms my heart and calms my soul. Thank you.

There are countless people I could name at Bethel Bible Chapel. Allow me to thank the entire church community for helping raise me. Thank you all.

Local Legends & Bible Camp

Beyond my own church, there was another incredible spiritual leader in the community growing up: Sambo. The late Sam Norbo who lived behind us. We would play with his grandkids, Ashley & Luke, after worming our way through the hedges between our backyards.

Sambo was a spiritual force in the community. A real local legend. Part of why I chose to be baptized in his church when I was 14, just going into high school. Thank you Sambo for your outsized influence emanating from your lean frame. (I also have no idea if everyone calls him Sambo or that’s just my family — I’ve always found it endearing nonetheless).

I attended 2 bible camps: Joy Bible Camp in Southern Ontario and ABK just down the line from The Soo. I first went to Joy Bible Camp summer 2003.

We got connected to Joy Bible Camp by the Giraldi’s. My mother offered to volunteer as the camp nurse for a week or 2. Those weeks just happened to overlap with the infamous Blackout 2003. It didn’t seem so bad since we were already at camp.

I returned to Joy in 2004 with my dear friend Rachel. It was my first flight alone. It was also the first time I flew with my wakeboard–which made me cool, I think. A freshly minted teenager, glittery girly girl in every way, who could also wakeboard better than most boys. I almost missed the plane back home running through Pearson Airport with Gisella yelling behind me about her orthopaedic shoes. It’s the only time my name has been paged in an airport. And with a last name like Kargiannakis – no one wants that to happen again.

And I can’t forget that Uncle John picked me up from the airport. Uncle John was one of those not-actually-your-uncle Uncles. He was great. As kids he would always play with us. He was particularly fond of a stuffed dog I loved to play with that I think was my mother’s: Hazel.

From Joy Bible Camp I knew I wanted to get that experience again closer to home. ABK was the next closest camp 2.5 hours away. At least this time I could take the church bus or a greyhound bus.

After attending ABK in 2005, I volunteered for 3 weeks the next summer. It was really fun. I’d get up at 6:00am every day to squeeze in a quick wakeboard on the butter-smooth lake before whatever duties I had: whether camp counsellor or kitchen staff. Thank you to Kevin for always taking us out on the lake.

The many folks I met at Joy and especially ABK had a tremendous impact on my life. You know who you are. Thank you so much.

Finding Home while Away

When I was away at university, I attended another church where I built great connections with folks from all generations:

  • Mr. & Mrs. Klassen
  • Mr. & Mrs. Kloetstra
  • Mr. & Mrs. Afolabi
  • Mary Allen
  • Courtney Platt
  • Kelly Routkevicth
  • Brittany Charbonneau
  • and the aforementioned Olivia Kilpatrick and Hannah Lewis.

Through all of these folks, I got to attend a billion weddings. Sang at some. Even MC’ed one. I got to wakeboard again in 2013 for the first time since maybe 2009/10. Learned to longboard. Accidentally almost lit my condo on fire with a forgotten pork chop. I got to live vicariously through everyone’s marriages and learn what that was like–thank you for sharing. I’d bike 6kms across town, per direction, to see Mary Allen. And thinking I was slick with my sister at a weekend getaway with our air mattress – ended up popping it on a nail sticking out of a wall. A lot of laughter. A lot of tears.

Thank you all for the beautiful impact you had on my life. I cherished all of our conversations. You were all so patient with me. I am so grateful. Thank you for sharing your hopes, dreams, fears, successes, and struggles. I learned so much from each of you. Thank you.

Back to The Soo

As I’ve said before, I lived away from home for 8 years: 2008 – 2015. I came back under circumstances that left my tail between my legs. A story for another time.

Home was different. I was different. Most people in town my age, and even younger, were married. Many with children too. I couldn’t relate.

Clearly, home was different from when I left. I was different returning, too. I had big dreams. I still do.

I want to build a multi-billion-dollar technology company that impacts billions of people. I want to make it big—so I don’t have to worry ever again. I’ve wanted this since I was 19 years old. I believed that maybe I could achieve it since I was 24. Also, another story, for another time.

When I came back to Sault Ste. Marie in 2016, I was pretty lonely. My deepest connections in the world were far away. 8 hours, 12 hours, 22. Some by car, some by plane. It was 2016. All I’ll say about my life was that I was working multiple jobs and had already legally incorporated my start-up by this point.

I sought out to learn a new skill: to sew. I had taken sewing lessons in late elementary school/early high school with my sister. In another life I would have been a fashion designer I thought. I’ve now realized the word I was looking for was “stylist”. I can style people, because I definitely can’t sew. Not even a button. Even after my second attempt at lessons.

In seeking to learn how to sew this time around, I reached out to Joan Dufour. She generously offered to teach me, unknowingly in vain. Instead of skills, I got an amazing friend. Joan was WONDERFUL to me all through 2016 – 2018. Joan was probably my best friend in Sault Ste. Marie at the time.

I could ask Joan questions about all sorts of things. Joan’s raised several children and even helps with some grand babies. She’s heard it all. Joan gave Godly, patient advice that I so appreciated. Joan – I really enjoy our chats. I love hearing about your travels. Thank you for being just the right amount of tough on me. Thank you for being my friend when I needed one the most.

Friends of Friends

Spiritual circles run wide. Some of the folks above introduced me to a couple more people who really impacted my life. I believe it was Jennifer and Andrew Sarlo and Paula McLeod Smith who introduced me to Brian and Sylvia Carney.

First, thank you to Paula for letting me stay at your house on one fateful, funny eve in my life that my sister will never let me forget. One of those stories that’s hilarious, but so embarrassing you can’t really tell it. Thank you nonetheless for being there Paula.

To Brian & Sylvia Carney: You have graciously been a home away from home when I need to crash while conducting business. Thank you for asking me questions when we chat in the kitchen. Thank you for inviting me for the odd glass of wine. I absolutely love when I get to stay with you. I look forward to coming by again soon. Thank you so much for everything. It’s been a joy to get to know you both.

Olivia Kilpatrick introduced me to Jen Francis. Jen was meant to be my new friend in Toronto. And what a wonderful friend she was! I had just moved into my new condo on Bay Street in Toronto—crossing off that goal. The first night we met she came to my condo and helped me unpack by steaming and hanging up my dresses while we chatted and got to know each other.

From that point on I have been so lucky to have Jen in my life. To see her get engaged, married, and have kids. To see her charity thrive! It’s a joy and a pleasure to grow with you, Jen. Thank you for all your wisdom. I love how we can share our ambitions together. I also really enjoy spending time with you and Nic. I really hope we can hangout more over the years.

Thank you everyone in my spiritual communities for guiding and growing me all these years.

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