Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snowshoe!

I went snowshoeing for the first time today; what fun! JM and I rented shoes from Totem and headed out to the River Valley to 'blaze a trail' through the soft snow. We had some relief from our cold snap today (here's hoping it will last even just a few days!) which made it absolutely perfect for a winter jaunt. We went up, down, around. We were actually snowshoeing through what is, in the summer, a golf course. But, covered in a foot of snow, the golf course has become a great field for cross-country skiers and snowshoers alike. We crossed sand traps and water hazards with ease (technically, I walked on water today)!


At one point, I asked (more thinking out loud), "I wonder if you can make snow angels with snowshoes on?" to which JM replied "Yes, you can!" in a tone that clearly indicated that she had done so before. Perfect! We graced the golf course with angels shortly thereafter. We also 'walked' across a log today, and defied gravity coming down hills. We did a full circuit of the golf course; I will feel it tomorrow if I'm not careful!

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 Reflection

2008 is drawing to a close already; creike! ...I think I say that every year. But every year it continues to boggle my mind.

2008 was excellent. I rang in 2008 with a wonderful and relatively new group of friends and acquaintances. I have always been with wonderful friends at New Year’s, but ringing in the new year with more of a fellowship community was so refreshing. I got to pass the peace at New Year’s; I’d never done that before! …Definitely looking forward to the same this year.

My social involvement definitely went up this year. I continue to run the projector at church on various Sunday mornings, and have taken more of a leadership role in that ministry. I am also involved in two small groups which I thoroughly enjoy (I am among the oldest in one, and among the youngest in the other, which is a nice diversity). I continue to do respite for my ‘respite family’, and became Aunty Gina for the third time when they had their youngest back in April.

Chicago Shore Line by gina.blankOver Spring Break, I went to visit my friends S&J in Davenport, with a
whirlwind side-trip to Chicago. It was fun to meet S&J’s little ones for the first time, and way cool to see some of the main attractions of Chicago (I think to do the city justice I’d need to stay two weeks, not two days).

I graduated in June; I am officially Gina Blank, B.Sc., M.Ed. It is so nice to be done. And NO, I don’t have any intentions of getting a Ph.D. Maybe an M.ScOT or MSLP one day several years in the future if circumstances allow. Maybe. And certainly not any time soon. Right now, I’m happy where I’m at. My role at work provides a good challenge, and while this is my second year in the same role, the daily work has enough variety that I don’t think I ever have to worry about doing the “same old, same old”. It’s never really the same day twice. If God wants me somewhere else, He’ll let me know.

I thoroughly enjoyed summer this year. I enjoy summer every year, but this was the first year where I didn’t have a “summer job”, in the typical sense. I opted to just do respite for my respite family and a couple GRIT families this year, and it was so wonderful (yes, even the five-day, four-night respite stint with the girls while N&S went to a conference in BC).


(Click on this comic to enlarge it for reading)


Doing respite gave me a way more flexible schedule as far as fitting in my own summer desires (namely, travel and sleeping in), and my days were so much more relaxed and just… nice. I was able to ride my bike to ‘work’ about half the time, which was great for the wallet, the waist line, and the environment.

I managed to get two camping trips in this summer. The first was out to Cadomin, where I nearly hiked my legs off—but still had the best time ever with wonderful friends in a wonderfully peaceful place, topped off with a visit to the Miette hot springs! In August I camped with a friend from church and her three daughters, and that was… definitely different than what I’m used to. In theory, we hiked. But I’m pretty sure we spent more time walking through the town of Banff than we did hiking through any sort of wilderness. And whereas my July camping trips are always hot with possibly a little bit of rain, my August trip was mostly rain/cloud with possibly a little bit of hot. Nothing the Banff hot springs couldn’t cure, fortunately! The August trip was also nice, because I hadn’t been in the Kananaskis area in quite a long time. We passed through and/or spent some time at locations I’d been to as a child; it was neat to see what had changed and what had stayed the same. And I got some great photos.

Exploring the Lake by gina.blank


This summer I realized two things. 1). I love Edmonton. Sorry to disappoint all you Calgarians. I love a lot of what Calgary is; that being said, I have definitely embraced Edmonton as home. I own a condo that places me six blocks from the River Valley (which is phenomenally beautiful and peaceful), I have a job that I absolutely love, a second family that I cherish, and wonderful friends that I don’t ever want to give up. I am home here. This sort of coincides with the other realization that 2). I am in a good place. Not that I was in a bad place; I rarely am. But for quite a while, even though life was good and I was content, I was still pining for more. Constantly checking-in with God about what’s-next-what’s-next-what’s-next? But over the summer, I came to a peace just being where God has me. I still have the occasional inquiry about what God has in store for me, but it’s no longer the urgent “c’mon, let’s GO, show me NOW” kind of state.

Throughout the summer and into fall, my photography has really advanced in all areas. I was asked to take family portraits for two families that I’ve worked with, and just did some Christmas shots of my respite family’s youngest. One family at work wants me to do their portraits in the spring, as does my respite family, and the parents of one of my work families want me to ‘re-do’ some of their wedding pics. While I have no desire to get into the professional category, I am excited about the potential of this passion at the amateur level. Using the bounce flash effectively is still my biggest challenge, and I am excited to discover new techniques this year.

I am definitely looking forward to all that 2009 could possibly have in store for me; I hope your 2009 is fantastically blessed!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I am posting today's blog in between the 7pm and 10pm Christmas Eve services at church. That is how busy I've been today. Not even home long enough to blog in the comfort of my PJs. Today has been busier than a busy work day. On Christmas Eve! I did not think it would be quite so jam-packed full of things to do, but how quickly time gets eaten. Mental note for next year: don't plan anything for Christmas Eve.

I haven't had much of a holiday since I finished work last Friday (19th) for two weeks. I shouldn't really complain; so many people don't get va-cay time at Christmas at all. But if I'm getting two weeks off, you'd think I'd take two weeks off. I don't usually have trouble taking holidays. I love time off. Time to sleep in. Time to myself. Time to do nothing productive. I relish in that kind of time. And I DO have time to do that in the next two weeks. It just seems that none of them are this week. Instead, I've been tackling pre-Christmas errands and commitments, appointments that need to be taken care of before places close for the holidays. Those kinds of things.

So, as I sit here with an hour to go before I am once again operating the overhead projector at the 10pm church service, let me take this opportunity to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS!May God's peace and love be with you as you head into 2009.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blessed to be Cold

So, it's been -30C here this weekend (-22F), and I'm just so glad that I haven't had to go out very much (SO glad my Christmas shopping is taken care of!). Bitter cold is just that. Take a deep breath through your nose and your nose hairs almost stick together. Take a deep breath through your mouth, and you stop short for the shock of the breath against the back of your throat. It's that cold.

I was out babysitting this evening, and the kids wanted to skate on the little rink in their back yard. Wool socks: check. Down vest: check. Scarf, hat, mitts: check. It was good! We were outside for a good hour, even at -30C! ...It was a might colder (mite colder?) driving home. You know it's cold when the frost is on the inside of your car windows, and when you sit down to start your car, there's no give in your cushion. It's not entirely foreign to me. We have a cold spell like this once or twice each winter. I expect another one at the end of January. Still, the first cold snap always makes me stop and go, "oh... yeah."

So now I'm home. I came home, poured myself a nice creamy liquer beverage with milk, ran and enjoyed a hot bath with relaxing epsom salts, and am now stretched out on the couch with my laptop and a small electric pad on 'Low' keeping my back cozy warm while I type and watch TV. I have a cat sleeping on each couch, and my tree's lights are aglow. Mmm. Cozy.

I am so blessed. There are so many people who certainly aren't enjoying the luxuries I've enjoyed just in this evening. Some don't even have a home to go to on a night like this. I can't complain. I just can't. And yet, I know I have days where I do. Days where internally, I balk at having to even go out in the cold (I'm blessed to have work to go to), having to remember to plug in the car (I'm blessed to even have a car), having to come home to my tiny little 1-bdrm that hardly has enough space to store my snowpants (really, my place holds everything I own, and I am SO blessed to have a place that I can call my own--REALLY call my own, cuz I don't rent).

So whatever 'cold' looks like where you are, the next time it gets really cold, cozy up at home, and remember how blessed you really are.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Time of Day I Am

Found this when poking around my mom's blog--fun!

You Are Noon
You are upbeat, ambitious, and never at loss for energy.

You have a lot that drives you in life: the desire to be the best and a secret hope of fame and power. And while you definitely have a Type A personality, you are still fun to be around.

You have a ton of charisma and a genuine interest in others. You are adored by many.


Christmas is Coming!

I realized I haven't posted in quite a while; December gets that way, hey? I'm actually trying to alter my daily schedule to have less jam-packed days. Build back a margin. I've been trying--today was Day 5--to get up half an hour earlier than normal. Usually, I wake up at 7, so I figured 6:30 wasn't that far of a stretch. And then I'm using that extra time in the morning to do some of the puttering that I usually dread doing once I come home from work (emptying the dishwasher, tidying up counters/tables, cleaning the litter box, etc.). Tasks that don't require a lot of cognitive effort (because it IS early morning, after all). This way, they don't build up and build up and leave my place looking like a disaster zone by the weekend. And it allows me to have more time to do everything else that has to happen after work (errands, respite, flier route, etc.), as well as more time to do the enjoyable after-work activities (reading, TV, computer, etc.).

This is only the first week, but it's working pretty well. Thursday I slept 'till 7, but only cuz I'd been out a bit later the night before. In addition to waking up early, I am trying to go to bed a little earlier, too. You may think that I'm not really gaining any time that way, but regardless of when I get up in the morning (except when I sleep in on weekends), I generally don't engage in productive activity after 10pm. But when I was waking up at 7, I wasn' t tired enough for sleep till around 11. So 10-11pm was completely unproductive awake time. Now it's usually lights out by 10:15, but from 9-10, I'm still awake enough to be doing things. So that last hour of my day is now more productive than before.

Overall, I have felt less pressed for time, and that's a good feeling. Most of my morning 'puttering' has been in the kitchen. My bedroom still looks a bit disastrous. But I don't feel like I can vacuum at 7am and have happy neighbours below me. After all, right below my bedroom is someone else's bedroom.

I think it will be easier to get up at 6:30 once the sun starts rising earlier. Sunrise time today was 8:43am (and it's not even the shortest day of the year yet; creike). And this last week, we haven't really had sunny sunrises, cuz it's been cloudy (a couple weeks ago there was such a brilliant sunrise front-lighting the downtown skyline that I briefly wished I was a professional photographer and not simply an amateur constrained by the need to get to my real work on time--but that's a whole other story). So it's completely dark when I get up, get ready, leave for work and arrive at work. So completely opposite from July when there's often a faint hint of daylight still left when I go to bed!

December Dark is nicer than November Dark, though. Christmas lights, candles, and finally some snow to pretty up the ground! (I don't mind snow, it's the bitter cold I can't stand). In my dark drives to work in the morning (or in my daylight lunch-time driving, or my quazi-dark drive home), I listen to Shine FM, which is playing all Christmas music right now. A couple weeks ago for the first time, I heard what has become my newest favourite Christmas song. I have also posted this on Facebook, but feel free to check it out again:



Beautiful!

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's...

...NOT Superman. But definitely something exciting!

So, I do a small flyer route in my neighbourhood (the only way I seem to be able to keep active in the winter is if someone's paying me...), and as I was finishing up yesterday evening, absorbed in my iPod, the sky lit up. I felt like the source was behind me (south-east), so I turned, thinking, "lightning? No; it's November." But by turning, I was looking in the direction of the oil refineries that lie on the outskirts of Edmonton, and one of the towers has a constant flame coming out of the top of it, so I figured the flame had a burp of extra gas or something and had emitted an extra large flame. I remember thinking, creike, if that starts happening often, gas prices are going to go back up. And that was it. I finished my route and didn't think about the event anymore... until a friend through Facebook noted the 'big flash' in her status.

I commented that we must live close to each other to have seen the same thing until one of HER friends said she saw it in Saskatchewan. Now I was confused. But shortly thereafter, yet another Facebook aquaintance revealed that it was a meteor. A meteor! So, off I went to find more details. Behold:

The written news story (I intro'd my blog before reading the article, I swear!)
Footage of Meteor on Global TV Edmonton
And if that doesn't work, check this out:



Very cool.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just as I'm Getting Into It...

So, I watch four TV shows; CSI, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (EM:HE), Supernanny, and Ghost Whisperer. It has become routine to end my Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evenings with this mix of drama and family-friendly reality TV (you didn't think that "family-friendly" and "reality TV" could go together, did you?). There is something in each of these shows that either totally draws me in (in the case of the dramas), or makes me feel like parts of the world are being made a better place (in the case of the reality shows). These are mental and emotional states I look forward to each week. And this routine is slowly unraveling!

EM:HE has not lost any of its wonderful-ness. If anything, it's getting better. So we will give praise where praise is due (yay, EM:HE!), and move on. CSI still boggles my mind (in a good way) with the crime situations it solves each week. Brilliant CSIs whose attention to detail make me look I have ADHD (okay, maybe not quite that bad). Overall, I'm not disappointed in quality. But I am concerned. Last season, CSI Sarah left, and that was a bit of an adjustment. This season, CSI Warwick got killed, so more adjustment. And there's a bit of a shift in the overall tone of the show because of it all. Grissom, the solid core of the team, is acting occasionally in un-Grissom-like ways--not way extreme, just subtle; but enough that it makes me wonder if the quality of the show is not going to crumble in the near future. That's where I stand with CSI.

Ghost Whisperer and Supernanny are on the Friday line-up. What a treat to have two great shows back-to-back! That was my thought when the season started. I have come to enjoy Ghost Whisperer, primarily for two reasons: 1) Melinda sort of has to solve a mystery each week and she does a good job at it, and 2) Melinda is married to Jim, and they have a wonderful marital relationship--and as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't come across as artificially wonderful. It comes across as a REAL marriage (except for the whole she-sees-ghosts thing), and it's refreshing to see on TV.

Except that last Friday Jim died. I was choked. This changes the entire show! ...So of course I was tuned in tonight. In a nutshell, Jim didn't want to cross over. Melinda understood but told him he had to because it's what has to happen and it's best for both of them. While dealing with that, together they help this other ghost cross over. Yes, pretty predictable. But Jim doesn't cross over the entire episode. By the end, even I'm getting impatient. And at the end, what does he do? He decides to jump into the body of someone who's died at a car accident scene. No! Nonononono! And not only has he jumped into some random person's body, but when he wakes up, he looks at Melinda and asks, "do I know you?" The body possession didn't even work properly! Are you kidding me?! I don't mind storylines that continue over more than one episode, but they have to be credible. This is not credible (although how writers thought this would be a good move is rather incredible). And the whole rhythm of the show has changed. It's no longer about helping ghosts reconcile with their issue and cross over while running an antique store and creating a life with a loving husband. It's moved into the realm of weird. Lois & Clark did that in its last season (ever so long ago), and I held out to the end, but I remember that the series finale was less than satisfying, because the last season hadn't been its strongest overall. I fear the same is happening.

It was just so unexpected--this season started with Melinda and Jim trying to get pregnant--and then they kill him off? Ya just don't see that coming. There are so many things that could end up happening in this show, now that the game has changed, and each of these possibilities is just... well... stupid. But of course, I'm going to keep watching, because I am hoping that the pain of watching crappy episodes will be short-lived and that the show will get back on some credible track. But BOY is it frustrating when writers take something that isn't broken and try to fix it. Which brings me to Supernanny.

Supernanny is still fabulous. Nanny Jo is smart, and is good at what she does. She is consistent within and between families, and it is clear that what she teaches families to do is based on sound child development principles and best practice. So what's the problem, you might ask? The problem was that Supernanny was not on this evening. A show called Super-Manny was on instead. In the aftermath of a less-than-stellar Ghost Whisperer, I wasn't even sure I wanted to watch, but I tuned in (only part way, cuz that's when I started blogging here), because I thought the dynamic of a male doing the Supernanny thing would at least be interesting. ...Well, yes, it was interesting, I can at least say that.

I know things happened, and I know that in the end, the family was happy with the improvement, but I didn't get the process. There was no plan to say, "we're going to focus on A, B, and C" with teaching days followed by practice and then review. Super-Manny Mike never really explained what he was doing and why; he just kinda did things. And he did a couple things that I felt were counter to what Jo would have proposed (and I kinda like her better at this point). The whole thing seemed highly disorganized. There were a couple good points, but overall, it has not scored any pilot points with me. And I would like to know where Jo went.

So this is where I'm at. Somewhat disgruntled with the ways of my TV shows. Only two more sleeps until EM:HE. Thank goodness!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Way God Answers Prayer

November already! Looks like we're getting our first taste of snow here in the city, although except for a dusting of the stuff on the tops of cars, it's still falling and landing much like rain. Rain! Warm enough in November for rain! Last weekend--Nov 1--it was sunny and 15C out (60F); that just does not happen in Alberta. ...I'm starting to wonder if global warming is really all that bad. ;) J/K--as neat as it is to have warmer temps around here, there are plenty of other ramifications of global warming that I don't even want to think about.

So God's been neat lately. Or maybe I'm just listening better. Or something. Since I've been a Christian, I've always known that I can go to God/Jesus with anything. He is the ultimate best friend. He is unwavering, ultimately patient, infinitely understanding, etc., etc., etc. God is the God of big things, but also of small things. He likes to hear my deep felt prayers, as well as the petty little stuff, and the stuff I keep complaining about week after week. I've never had a problem feeling that I couldn't or shouldn't bring certain issues to God. So many people often think that, "Oh, God doesn't want to hear me pray about that; that's not important enough to waste God's time with." Which is a big fat lie, and I've always known it. That being said, I am human, and I do have a tendency to pass over prayer about the little things on the basis of, "whatever, that's life. Stuff happens. I just gotta deal with it." Y'know, things like traffic jams, forgetting your lunch, discovering a hole in your favourite shirt. It's not that I don't think God doesn't want to hear about it; it's just so easy to deal with them on a human level (switch lanes, hit the McDonald's, get out a needle and thread) I often just don't take it to God. So I've been trying to do that more lately with 'little' things.

So last week at Bible study, we were doing our round of prayer requests near the close of the evening. I knew that I was getting a cold. I had already started the battle with echinacea ammo. But when it was my turn to announce any prayer requests, I stated, "I'm getting a cold. And I don't want a cold." Pretty much as simple as that. I'd never prayed through a cold before. It's just a cold, for Pete's sake. Buy Kleenex, don't drink milk, carry on.

Anyway, my cold didn't miraculously disappear (although God could have done that if He'd wanted to). And I didn't just sit there and not do anything to proactively care for my own body (I drank a LOT of tea). BUT--I realized afterwards that it was one of the shortest-duration colds I've ever had, and the only cold I remember having where I didn't feel lethargic and 'blah'. It was the best cold I ever had!

Overall, God's been showing me answers to those 'little' prayers that I've stepped out on a limb to pray about, and it's been just as cool, in a way, as the profound answers to 'large' prayers. God is so much fun.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall to Winter

Daylight Savings Time ends next week. I have mixed feelings about it every year. I revel in the extra hour of sleep that I get, but not at the thought that it will be dark by 6pm... and then 5:30pm... and then 5pm... and while I love the cozy, snowy darkness in December when Christmas is close, and I can curl up on the couch with a good book, a cat, and amidst Christmas lights and candles, I have to go through November to get there.

November is my "blah" month. Nothing really exciting happens in November. The city is at its ugliest, too. All the fall leaves are gone, the grass is brown, and it's all exposed because any snow we've had hasn't really stuck yet. I bet if I went through all my photos, November has the least amount of photos taken each year. I'll have to check that out some time (I bet June or July has the most). I'm remedying that a bit this year, because the Edmonton Photography Club (which I recently joined) is doing a scavenger hunt mid-November. I just hope it's not -20 out!

One thing I am definitely looking forward to--albeit it is at the end of November--is Great Big Sea in concert! I have seen them five times, and will never tire of it! It will be the first time I see them in Edmonton without Chris and Lorie--that might be strange. But it will also be the first time I see them in Edmonton with a decent camera!

Lately I have been working on using my bounce flash. My dad had two flashes with his camera gear, and I recently discovered that one is way cooler than I thought it was, and it has now become my favourite flash. I have one that rotates just horizontally 90 degrees, and one that I thought rotates just vertically 180 degrees. WELL. I was going through the old manuals and such that my mom found while unpacking her new place, and I discovered that not only does the vertically rotating flash rotate L-R 180 degrees, but the body of the flash rotates side to side 180 degrees. This all translates into a flash that I can basically position at whatever angle I want (except backwards). Which is SWEET especially for photos taken on an angle, cuz I can bounce the flash off a complementary angle. It's been pretty fun playing around with this feature. So far I've only blinded my cats and a pumpkin, but I intend to experiment on people in the near future. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hanging Out in Mirror

I have been able to breathe a little bit this weekend. Even though last weekend was a long weekend--which usually means EXTRA time to sleep in and fill my hours with whatever my heart desires--such was not the case. Thanksgiving wasn't particularly stressful, and I can't even say I was busy, in the way that I am busy during my work weeks. But there was definitely lots of activity, and on Tuesday I was already ready for another weekend!

I am housesitting my mom's place while she is at some sewing/threading workshop in BC. My role is that of caregiver for her ailing 19-year-old cat, Fred, and boundary-setter for Diesel, who I brought down this weekend (see August posts for more info). Diesel has established his alpha status through hissing. Not so much the "you are Other cat and therefore evil" hissing so much as the "just to let you know I'm here now" hissing. Akira did the same thing when he was at my place right up until yesterday! Fred, on the other hand, hardly even notices that he's here. Partly because I don't think he can physically see Diesel unless he's up close, and partly cuz I think he's too old to care. He's lived with several cats in his life time. What's one more?

Except for a walk to the general store, I haven't even ventured out of the house, and don't plan to until it's time for me to return to the city. I have spent a lot of time editing photos, looking at photos, and researching photos.

My mom found a bunch of slides in her packing/unpacking (all circa 1970-1980), and gave them to me. I thought it would be beneficial to put them onto CD, since I haven't seen the likes of a slide viewer since I was in elementary school; to ever view these photos, they'd have to be updated technologically. What I didn't realize was that to scan slides to CD is $1.25 per slide (and that's lower resolution). $213 later, I have a CD full of mostly so-so photos. SIGH. Some of them are a bit interesting, as you can see, but for the most part, these were not my dad's best photos. 90% of the photos had a horizon that was off by 3-5 degrees (and always in the clockwise direction); I am still trying to figure that one out. Ah, well--ya live, ya learn. I have done some basic editing on all of them, but may go back to a few in time and recolour them and what-not. I was having fun making the trees on a mountain landscape picture look a better shade of green (instead of green-black), but to do the entire picture properly would have taken more patience than I have the time for right now.


I have also been looking at lots of photos today, because I have been asked to do the photos at a wedding next year (!). Yes, I have agreed to do the photos, knowing that I have almost a year to gear up! That started today by looking at the photos of friends who have their wedding albums on Facebook and getting ideas, as well as looking through some galleries of professional photographers. I visited their sites mostly to get ideas of pricing, because I need a reference point; being an amateur, I need to price appropriately (it is fricking expensive to hire a professional photographer, did you know that?!).


One of the families I do respite for was disappointed in their recent wedding photos, so I get to 'practice' on them in the spring--they'll get all dressed up again so I can do the close-ups and creative shots that they are missing. Until then, I will be doing a lot of playing with portraits and light and all that fun stuff!

Anyway, I think I'm off for a relaxing bath before bed. I am swimming with my girlies tomorrow, and my legs are currently in no state to be seen in a bathing suit. I need to go remedy that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Who Wants a Brownie?

So, a couple posts ago, I mentioned acquiring a couple old cameras. Well, yesterday I discovered that you can still purchase film that is functional for them, and so I went and bought two rolls of black and white 120 film for my Brownie Hawkeye camera. There are two big photography shops in Edmonton (they are actually Canada-wide, but larger cities probably have other specialty shops--I have yet to discover any in Edmonton): Black's Photography and McBain Camera. Black's doesn't sell 120 film--they have to order it in. McBain just has black and white; not colour. But that's a step. At least I don't have to order film online (except maybe if I want colour). And with either store, I have to send it one province east, to Saskatchewan (Sara, that's pronounced suh-SKA-chew-in, or suh-SKA-chwin, depending on where you're from), to have it developed. There is apparently not high enough demand in Alberta for 120 film developing. I, personally, think Alberta has way more photographic potential than SK (no mountains there, that's for sure), but that's just me. I've never actually been to SK. Whatever. It will be worth it.

I've taken all of three photos--the roll has 12 exposures on it. It's weird, cuz you have to hold the camera at roughly belly-button level, and you look down onto this piece of glass that gives you a flipped mirror image of what the shot will be, and you press the shutter from there. The exposures will be square when developed--not your standard 4x6. I have one exposure level--roughly 1/30 sec., which on a modern camera is about as slow as you can get and still hold the camera steady enough to get a crisp shot (although most people don't go below 1/40 without a tripod). It's meant to be used on bright sunny days, because there are only two ISO options--100 and 125. On the plus side, my photos will not be grainy, which can happen with the higher ISOs.

HOWEVER--if you remember from two posts back, in addition to the antique cameras, I also acquired the uber-lamp. I still have no idea what the wattage is, but when I plug it in, the sun gets jealous, it's that bright. So I had that on for my three photos this afternoon (cuz it was too grey outside to take photos outdoors), and we'll see how they turn out. Once I've finished and developed the roll, I will scan any good pics and put them up here. But that will be at least a month, because I need to a) take the photos, and b) get them developed over in suh-SKA-chwin, which'll take a couple weeks above that. But I'm definitely excited!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Intro to Introversion

So, as you are well-aware, I am an introvert (even more specifically, an ISFJ, which is described best here and here). It's one of those things that I emphasize about myself; right up there with my favourite colour and my love of cats.

I am happy as an introvert. Most of the time. Today seems to be one of those days where I've been struggling with my own temperament. I find the times I wish I were an extrovert tend to be the times where I am home alone when I feel I should be out with friends. I start feeling like I'm the only one who's at home in front of the computer or TV, and everyone else is out being social without me, when in my head I know that's not true. And I also know that I socialize plenty, and shouldn't be worrying about whether or not I'm being social 'enough'.

I think I also tend to worry that people don't really 'see' me. I've been finding lately that my socializing is always in the form of pre-arranged and set activities (like Bible study), or otherwise I've had to be the one to say, "hey, we should do X sometime soon." And my friends are always willing to make time for whatever I think up, but how come it's always me organizing this? It seems to be less often that one of my friends will Facebook or e-mail or call and say, "hey, Gina, we should do X sometime next week". Sometimes... but I feel like I have to initiate more often. Why is this? Do people think I lean towards not wanting to be social? Do they think I'd say no so why bother? Am I just not thought of right away when planning social activities?

That sounds so unconfident, I know, for someone who is quite confident of herself, and has always had a good self-esteem. But it's a realistic concern, I think. I know very well that I don't stand out in groups--I don't crave a spotlight, I'm not a squeaky wheel, and I listen more than I talk. That could very easily add up to someone who doesn't jump out on the invite list. Who knows? What I DO know is that I have been trying to spend more time putting myself 'out there'--flexing my extrovert side. Creike, it's a lot of work! I don't know how you guys do it. But then again, most extroverts don't really know how us introverts do what we do, either.

All my friends know and understand that I'm not the most gregarious person around. But I feel that only a couple of my friends really 'get' me (and they're extroverts, even). Introverts are outnumbered 3:1. Therefore, society tends to be made for the extrovert, and the introvert preference runs contrary to a lot of societally encouraged human behaviour (e.g. partying all weekend; chatting around the water cooler at work; etc.). I'm not surprised that only a couple of my friends really understand and accept the tempermental difference (and I am uber-grateful for them).

I am NOT shy. And I enjoy being social--sometimes even CRAVE social activity and connectedness with others. The major difference between introverts and extroverts is that socializing is how introverts spend energy, while it is how extroverts gain energy. Please remember that, and appreciate how much energy it takes us introverts to be in the social scene. I might turn down an invitation out if I've had a particularly busy week at work, or if the invite is too last minute. But not always. It's so wrong to assume that the introvert doesn't want to hang out with people. I want to spend my energy hanging out with my friends; they are so worth it!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

So I went down to Calgary this weekend to help my mom pack up her basement. She's moving to a [very small] town about an hour and a half from Edmonton, but this new house has no basement. So in addition to putting things in boxes, we also went through boxes to see if there was anything I could utilize here in Edmonton, wanted for sentimental reasons, or that belonged to me in the first place.

I'm not quite sure how I've managed to find room for everything I brought back, but I seem to be doing okay. I brought back a retro receiver to tide me over until I can get a more modern one. So I now have more oompha coming from my television, as I have attached external speakers (which were also brought up from Calgary). I also have a record player, but have not yet hooked it up to the receiver. I was not quite in the mood to listen to Fraggles this evening, which is pretty much my option given the few records I own. I think I might have Sharon, Lois & Bram, too.

I have also become the keeper of the audio-visual media. I obtained the hard copies for all our home videos and my dad's family home videos--some dating back to as early as 1956 (my dad would have been almost four years old). The fun part is that I also got the movie projector and movie screen, so I could totally go back and watch old home videos the "old fashioned" way! I also acquired the 8mm movie camera that my dad used to use in the 70's/80's, as well as three cameras (one video, two photo) that my grandma used to own. The video one requires being wound up to generate the motor, and the video running time lasts about a minute after winding it full up. Of the photo cameras, one is a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, which you hold at roughly belly button level and look down into a little mirror as the view finder. It gives you a backwards image, but I guess that's what you dealt with back then. And then there's the Jiffy Kodak 620, which has a lens that pops out like an accordion. I haven't yet figured out where the view finder is. None of these cameras has film, but I'd be interested to know if I can obtain some somewhere... like e-bay or something. One of the accessories that will be neat to experiment with is this projector lamp I got. Innocent-looking enough, but I plugged it in, turned it on, and I swear I could land planes with this thing, it's so bright. It will be neat, though, to see the lighting effects I can get.

Of course, with all this fun stuff, I did have to take back my Ex Box--AKA the large Rubbermaid-style bin I used to store marriage-related paraphrenalia. Because that bin now stores all the cameras, reels, tapes, and accessories I acquired, I will have to pick up a box for all the former contents. It has been long enough that I tackled the stuff surprisingly objectively. I recycled a bit (did I really still need to keep the list of shower gifts?), set a couple things into my Sally Ann box (someone will be thrilled to own a Build-a-Bear), and broke down other items so that I can reuse them (i.e. removed pictures so I can reuse the frames). The rest--love letters, engraved/personalized items, and pictures--will be returned to a box, and put into the corner of the top shelf in my closet.

I sifted through some photos over the weekend, and brought back some oldies that I will hopefully be able to scan this week and play around with in Photoshop. Snagged some CD's to import into my iTunes, too. It's so neat how I can take older technology and mesh it with the new to keep memories alive. I really hope I can find film somewhere for those old-old-old cameras, so that I can take 2008 photos in 1930's style. Artistically speaking, that would be so fun!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Settling In

So, I've been back at work for three full weeks, now, and I must say, I am SO glad that it's the long weekend! Usually it's the working-with-kids part that is the busiest part of my job, but orientation was this last week, and I gotta tell ya, I'm absolutely exhausted!

I think--in addition to getting used to being busy again--part of the exhaustion comes from still trying to do extracurricular things on a summer schedule. And it's cooled off quite a bit with a few rainy days that just make anyone feel blah after such a wonderfully hot August. And then there's my new visitor...

C&L moved back home to Nova Scotia a few weeks ago, and my mom agreed to take their cat--Diesel--because he could not go east. However, my mom is also moving--from Calgary to a small town close to here--and it's a bit chaotic at her place as she packs and ties up loose ends. There would be no way he'd get the attention he needs while she's focusing on moving. And to ship him down to Calgary only to have him come back up again? It made more sense to just keep him at my place until she was settled in her new house, and then I would take him down.

So I picked him up on Monday. And having a 3rd cat hasn't made my house crazy or anything like that, but it's a change in routine, and definitely a change in the normal activity level of this little household.

As you can see from the pics, he spent most of the first couple days hiding out in my bedroom. A lot of hissing ensued those two days if any one of my cats made eye contact with another. They hissed at him, he hissed at them, my two hissed at each other (which I still can't figure out)... all of them just had a wee bit of sass and attitude. Diesel even had the nerve to "do the leg thing" for attention, and then as I walked away, he attacked my feet!

But now that it's Friday, the hissing has gone down, and he seems to be settling in quite nicely. He enjoys sleeping with me, I think, as he is often on my bed when I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and he's still there when I wake up in the morning. He sits on the end of the bed and guards it (or me), I think. The girls--Akira especially--are very put out by this. They have not cuddled on my bed all week. Akira came up last night while I was reading, but then Diesel hopped up, and that was it. She hissed and left. ...They'll get over it.

See? He made it out of the bedroom!

One thing that's been interesting to see (and I wonder how long it will last), is that Diesel's eating habits have changed. With my girls, I can fill their bowls, and it will last a couple days as they eat through it. Diesel has always been the kind of cat that eats everything all at once, no matter how much or how often you feed him. So he was on a food schedule. And I was prepared to deal with that and force my girls to get onto a schedule, too. However, since he spent the first two days hiding in my room, he only ate in little bits whenever he could sneak into the kitchen unnoticed. So I wonder if he's realized that he won't starve if he leaves some food behind in the bowl, because after four full days, he still eats the way my girls do. Hopefully it will last!

In the mean time, I think he's enjoying it here, and I'm enjoying him!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Day at the Beach

I spent this last weekend at Sylvan Lake--pretty much Alberta's only beach town in this land-locked province. It's quite a popular spot year-round, but especially in the summer, and especially on a weekend like this last one where it was 30C (85F) the whole time!

My two friends and I enjoyed spending a chunk of Saturday and a chunk of Sunday on the beach and in the water. You will be pleased (intrigued? surprised?) to know that each of the four times we ventured into the water, I submerged myself of my own volition (the water was slightly colder than a cool swimming pool). And two of the four times, I actually swam. As in, propelled myself several metres at a time (mostly back stroke and flutter kick), occasionally in areas where my feet were not able to touch the ground. That's not to say it's going to be my newest hobby, but suffice it to say I was actually productive in the water.

I think the most interesting part of the weekend was people-watching while we were soaking up sun on the beach itself. I feel there's more diversity among people at a beach than in general public areas, and it's neat to see. Bodies are more exposed in bathing suits, so everyone's uniqueness is on display (whether it should be or not). Wow, that guy's hairy; oh, she has a cool tattoo; so that's 'pear-shaped'; she must tan at a spa somewhere, she has no tan lines; wish I could put my hair up like that; ooh, that looks red... And at the same time as I'm marveling at the diversity of people, I'm in materialistic awe at the diversity of bathing suits! Plain, checked, jewelled, striped. One-piece, two-piece, one-and-a-half-piece... Two girls had similar bathing suits (one a bikini, one a tankini)--they were black with little gold 'G's all over them. That would definitely work for me, I thought. Too bad the only thing I really liked about it was the 'G's.

Sunglasses are pretty wide and varied, too. A lot of people had what I call the "bug" sunglasses--those big huge-lensed ones. Very Hollywood-celebrity, but slightly on the insect side of things. One girl had glasses with lenses shaped slightly like guitar picks (pointy side down); those were awful.

I wish I had been more able to take in the conversational culture (that's a polite way of saying I wish I'd eavesdropped more). Most of the audible conversations around us were punctuated with profanity, and I quickly tuned out. I do have to admit, though, it was hard to hide a smile as I overheard (and discreetly observed) the guy next to us receive a ticket from the RCMP for alcohol possession. She found it in the guy's cooler. "But it's sealed!" the guy declared. Um, DUH, doesn't matter. I think watching this little scene was just as funny as when his friends returned and tried to make him feel better. "You can't get busted for public drinking if it's sealed." "No, she ticketed me for 'transporting liquor'." (...inaudible conversation...) "Well, I didn't know this was a Provincial area... I thought this was just a town..." Yeah, cuz THAT makes a difference when it's prohibited nation-wide... It was actually very tempting not to get involved.

...Anyway, it was a highly enjoyable weekend--warm beach-weather, fun water activity, gorgeous evening sunsets, and a great time away with good friends!



Friday, August 8, 2008

Melting

So after a wonky-weathered July (alternating daily between windy, rainy and sunny/hot), we have had a full-week stretch of sunny, near-30C weather (80-85F). I am loving it (notice large smile in the photo on the left), but boy is it hot in my south-facing, large-windowed condo. Early in the week, with the help of a fan, my room still cooled off enough at night that I needed a blanket. Last night, with the fan going, I couldn't handle anything heavier than the sheet, and just on my legs. I should have fried some eggs on my patio for breakfast this morning. I am currently typing with my feet in a bin of cool water (it feels SO nice). My cats only come out from under the bed or dresser to eat or use the litter box (although Princess still feels the need to cuddle her furry body onto my lap, as well as lick my salty arms).

And yet, I refuse to buy an air conditioner. In part because I don't have the space. I'm not going to block out an entire window panel to stick a box in there, and the portable ones are huge! Portable for who? The hulk? For the two weeks of the summer where it actually roasts outside, it's just not worth it. Especially when it does get down to 15-20C outside (60-68F) at night. As long as I'm not out of town, I can usually keep it bearable in my tiny space with fans and open screens.

I figure it's a trade off. I might melt for a week or two in the summer, but my place is always cozy warm in the depths of winter; ya just can't beat that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Extreme Parenting

Sandy Hands by gina.blank

I am home from my five-day, four-night respite adventure with my girlies. I had a ton of fun, and would totally do it again for N&S the next time they go out of town. That being said, it has been nice to sleep in today, to take it slow, to enjoy the quiet space that is my home. The week has ensured me that I will be an effective mother one day (not that I had any significant doubts, but being a mom and being an early childhood educator are not the same thing), and has also encouraged me to appreciate being child-free just a little bit longer.

It was interesting to serve a role as a parent this week. Working with children in a play-based educational setting, I know what's expected of me. Most of the time, I know what I need to carry out in the time I am spending with that child (usually a three-hour block). I know how to make the time I work with children meaningful, productive, and fun. But spending 24 hours a day with children is another story all together. I know I am expected to take care of all the basic needs, ensure safety and well-being, and have fun with them, but more often I wondered so many things. Am I letting them watch too much TV? How much should I let S play on her own, and how much should I be setting up activities to do with her? How much one-on-one does P need when she's not in her therapy time? Do they think it's boring when I have to go down and do laundry? Do they think I'm in their face too much?

I ended up presuming that I balanced everything out all right, because they were still happy by the last day, and still wanted to be around me. As you can see from the photos, we were definitely active! All I wanted to be sure of was that Aunty Gina would still rock by the end of the week, and I think I managed to succeed in reaching that goal.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Halfway Point

I am halfway through my respite stint with my girlies; utterly exhausted, but still having a good time. The grandma offered to do the overnight with P tonight so that I could get a good night sleep, and as I thought about this throughout the day, the more it sounded like a good idea. So after I am done catching up on e-mail, Facebook, blog, etc., I will be getting into PJs and cozying under a blanket with a book until my eyes cross; then I shall sleep like I have never slept before!

I have always known that families appreciate the care their respite providers put in. When I tidy the kitchen, or bathe the girls, I am always thinking, "they've had such a busy day; I know they will appreciate this." Now, being on the other side, I know it that much more intensely!

The girls are still happy, even if they are slightly off-schedule sleep-wise, food-wise, etc. Today, S and I took a special car ride to my place to visit my cats and water the plants (and for me to make sure the place was still cool--it's been warm out). My cats are now well-fed, well-cuddled, and slightly traumatized. They're not that overly fond of children. Princess puts up with it; Akira hides out under the bed and hisses at all passers by, child or not. I am hoping the copious amount of soft food I left them will make up for it.

Tomorrow, assuming my sleep is restful, I will be taking the girls--by myself--to the nearest wading pool-equipped playground. If I'm still feeling not-so-energetic, the playground across the street from their house will suffice. And Saturday, the other aide will be coming and we will go to Millennium Place! Woo-hoo, swimming! This will be a good end to the week, I think.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Into the Night

Well, I am currently winding down the first day of my 5-day babysitting stint. We picked raspberries, played in the rec room, and went to the park. They both ate well, and I stayed on top of the meds and toothbrushing. Both girls went to bed without a problem, and everything's clean, calm, and quiet... for now. P is in a hair-pulling phase, and has already woken herself up twice, despite wearing "mittens", but she is easily put back to sleep with a sip of bottle and her soother. She's quiet when she does this, though, so I don't know if I'll catch it all the time if she pulls her hair in throughout the night. But we'll see, I guess. Fortunately, I know where the coffee maker is and how to use it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Bicycle Built for Me

It has been absolutely gorgeous out this weekend, so I've been doing a lot of biking. Today, I biked down to the south side (about an hour) to check on my friends' cats one more time before they returned home from BC. Then I biked to the University area (about 40 minutes) to have supper and join Bible study with another friend. Then of course, I had to bike home (about an hour).

On my way to friend #2, I stopped at United Cycle and picked up a holster for my bike lock. The fastening clip on my old holster had rusted off ages ago, and I had been putting my U-lock into my bike's carrying pack ever since. But I was getting tired of doing that, and the store was on the way to where I was going, so I picked one up. EZ Install, it said. Yeah, "EZ Install" my butt. Every single piece was stiff to move and put together. Like those thin lego pieces that just don't come apart. Only worse. Lift here and strap will slide through. 'Lift' actually means "reef on it". Slide piece A into piece B and fasten. 'Slide' actually means "jam it in as hard as you can." And I had absolutely no leverage, since I was fastening this thing to the frame of my bike; just a metal tube. Plus I had to make sure everything was angled properly so I can yank the lock out when needed, without getting it in the way of my water bottle, but without getting it in the way of my legs, either. The thing took an hour to attach to my bike. ...So it's on. But what a hassle.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Any Song is Worship?

So, I was loading up my iPod with songs for a bike ride this afternoon, and I was trying to decide if I felt like Christian music or secular (I went with secular in the end, but that's beside the point). As I was pondering this, I remembered something interesting from high school.

In my high school, we had a lunch-hour youth group kind of thing. I only participated when I was in grade ten, and I only remember two of the get-togethers. One was ice blocking (also beside the point), and the other was listening to secular music from a Christian perspective.

I remember we listened to "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, which talks about a guy who's pretty much stalking his ex. Except we were told to listen to it as if it was God speaking to US, and I remember thinking that was kind of cool (feel free to check out the lyrics).

So that memory went through my mind this afternoon as I was choosing between Christian and secular, and starting to wonder if it really mattered.

Now clearly, there are songs out there that can't be viewed from any sort of Christian perspective; and I'm not simply talking about garbage types of songs. There are just some that tell a very specific story and can't be viewed from another perspective... like the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," for instance.

But that still leaves a lot of other songs. In fact, Stephen Curtis Chapman took the one-hit wonder 500 Miles and turned it into a praise song (although he replaced the line "when I get drunk..." with different lyrics).

I think there are so many songs that could be re-framed. That could shift your perspective on your mid-day drive while you are stuck in traffic. That could offer up a new form of praise. That could alter your presumptions about what love really looks like.

Jumping into the Learning Curve

After having a Geocities website for years that just seems to be "outdated" all around, I figured it was time to enter the world of blogging. I'm not sure how this will go. I have the same feeling I had when I was deciding to make the jump from a film camera to digital. I loved my film camera. But once I made the switch, I never looked back. I'm hoping this will be the same.

I will slowly be downsizing my website as I get rid of what's irrelevant, find a bloggy type place for stuff I still want to share with people, and generally figure things out. So you can check it out at:

http://www.geocities.com/gina.blank

It will be there for a while. But now this is here, too.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Crazy Trip Home

Note: This blog entry happened chronologically before I actually started blogging. Prior to regular blogging, I would occasionally post musings and stories in the form of a Facebook Note. While I have, several years later, converted my Facebook notes into blog entries, I've decided to keep the chronology true to the original posting, regardless of platform.

It wasn’t fair. We arrived at the airport way in advance of the required ninety minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. We made sure all our carry-on items met airport regulations. We booked the entire trip over two months ago. We did our job in making sure everything would go smoothly, and so far, everything had. So when we checked in at the gate to get our boarding passes for the flight back home, it didn’t even cross my mind that one of us wouldn’t get one.

I got my boarding pass; Vince didn’t. Are you kidding me? I’m thinking. I had to jump through about five hundred hoops just to make sure Vince was on the same flights as me when we booked the trip in the first place; there was not supposed to be any additional hassle.

“We’ve oversold our flight. Seat assignment is based on check-in times,” the rep* explained. But Vince and I checked in at the same time! I explain that we need to fly together. The rep says if we want, we can give up both our spots and wait for the next flight, with the added “perk” of a free round trip anywhere in the main 48 states… to be taken within one year, and non-transferable. Great. A perk we can’t even use. Talk about adding insult to injury. Perks aside, this is not an option; we need to connect in Seattle if we plan on getting home.

“Well, we’ll be asking people to volunteer up their seats. If no one volunteers, though, guess what—you just did.”

That was the crossed line, right there. No one tells me when to play Good Samaritan. If you’ve never seen me shut down emotionally, well, you missed another opportunity in that airport. I went into lockdown like the castle doors in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. Don’t touch me; don’t cheer me up; just put my boyfriend on the same plane.

I sat; I stewed; I ate yogurt. I asked a couple more questions without answers, I watched the clock, and I watched the TV screen with the list of cleared names and stand-by names. I couldn’t tell if things were getting better or worse.

“It’ll all work out,” Vince says calmly. He has patience to the same degree that I don’t.

“I know that,” I state. And I do. It always does, even if it’s not quite how I want it to. “But it shouldn’t have to ‘work out’ in the first place. We should both have seats.”

Eventually, it does work out. Vince gets called for a boarding pass as they are boarding their first-class passengers; his seat is in the row in front of me. And once we get on the plane (I did not greet the stewardess when she said ‘hi’), the lady next to him is willing to trade spots with me. What a hassle. But I am able to relax enough to take in the in-flight movie and read through my new magazine.

Landing in Seattle, we brace ourselves to have to hoof-it through the airport to go through the process all over again. Three monorail rides between terminals gets us to the gate we need to be at. At the gate is a rather cheery lady named Lori. I explain what’s been going on and how we’d really love less stress on the next flight. She looks at our itineraries, our passports, and gets us seats right next to each other. No hassle, no questions.

“You’re a lot nicer than the other guy already,” I tell her. She smiles and gives us our boarding passes. I decide that anybody named Lori(e) must be a good person.

It is definitely a calmer wait and a calmer ride home; one Vince and I enjoy. Upon landing in Calgary, we move through the airport swiftly and right up to the customs booths, as it is midnight, and there aren’t many people to compete with.

The customs representative I approach is a very formal-looking First Nations man. Definitely looks like someone you don’t want to mess with, but doesn’t look rude or gruff, either. Thank goodness.

“Where did you come from?” he asks.

“Chicago and Davenport.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Visiting friends.”

At this point, customs usually stamps the paperwork and sends me on my way. Apparently not tonight.

“And what about the guy behind me? Who’s he?” I glance up and see Vince, already through customs, waiting for me behind the booths. Does this guy have a mirror?! He never even turned around!

“He’s my boyfriend,” I explain, caught off-guard.

“What’s he doing there?”

“Umm… waiting for me?” It’s more of a question than a statement.

“Why?”

Is this for real? I shrug my shoulders. “I dunno… cuz he cares about me?” I have a nervous smile on my face. Please just let me go!

Customs man stamps my form and hands it back with my passport. As he does, I think I catch the faintest hint of a smile on his face, but I’m not quite sure, and I’m not about to joke around with customs. I move past the booth and quickly grab Vince’s hand.

Our baggage is already circling when we arrive at baggage claim; thank goodness. We head to the exits to wait for Vince’s mom to pick us up. As we watch for her out the windows, a guy waiting near us moves to look out the window as well and bumps his head on the metal trim (I swear, the trim jumped out of no where). Vince and I each discreetly try to hide a laugh.

But given the day’s events, it’s good to be able to finish it off with a smile.



* As a Public Service Announcement, this was a US Airways flight operating under United Airlines. I have never chosen them when flying to/through the USA ever since this incident.