Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spontaneity for 2011

I was recently exploring the blog of Christine Kane, a musician and also mentor for women. I have not explored her whole site in depth, but came across a post she made a few years ago around this time about changing the way we look at New Year's Resolutions. As in, not having resolutions at all. Instead, she chooses a word that she allows to intentionally guide her through the year. She goes into more detail in her blog post as to how this way of entering the new year came about, and I think I like it. I don't necessarily set resolutions each new year. When I do, they tend to focus on a way I'd like to be rather than something I'd like to do, so I feel that choosing a word for 2011 is not too far-fetched from practices I already put into place each January. In fact, it might even give more focus than other, past, resolutions.

It didn't take me long to find a word for 2011, which I hope means I'm ready for the challenge. Spontaneity. To put it simply, I suck at being spontaneous. I'm an introverted, type A personality, which--in a nutshell--means I like to know what's going to happen and when, so that I know I have the energy to engage in it fully. So the ability to just drop what I'm doing and say, "sure, let's go for it!" is a rare occurrence.

On the plus side, when I have been completely spontaneous, it surprises the pants off people, which is kind of fun. But I think--overall--I'd like to be a little more care free and not have it be such a complete shock.

What is it about just letting go and doing things in the moment that seems so difficult?
  • Energy -- whatever it is sounds like fun, but I don't know that I want to do it if I don't have the energy to enjoy it fully. As well, if I need energy for things later, how do I know this new activity's not going to suck out all my reserve?
  • Cost -- I live on a tight budget. Depending on the cost of whatever this new activity is, I may now have to re-do all my math for other activities I want to pursue that week/month.
  • Time -- I have other things on the go a lot of the time. Many are commitments that I can't just drop to make way for something new. And if I can make time, it still often means a mental re-shuffle of the sequence of events I'd originally had planned for that chunk of time. Sometimes that takes a lot of effort.
These are my stumbling blocks. When I am presented with an opportunity to be spontaneous, I look at all those factors. And it is often easier to turn down the activity or dig my heels in against a decision and stick with what is known, what is comfortable. I don't know that I will like X, Y, or Z, so why risk the energy, cost, and time, when I know that I will enjoy the already-planned A, B, and C?

But surely I can let go a little bit.

I don't know how this will look for 2011. I don't know where to start. And things like scheduled commitments and tight budgets aren't just going to go away. But there's got to be room for spontaneity. I'm ready for it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mouse

There's a mouse in my house. Possibly more. My cats were playing soccer with one they had caught and killed last weekend, and as I went to put a dish in the dishwasher this morning, I saw a flash of tail scurry behind the stove. My girls have spent a lot of time in the kitchen inspecting, but no success yet on this one.

Oi. I suppose having a mouse [family] isn't a huge surprise, given the age of my house (almost sixty years); still, given this week, it was like adding insult to injury. We had a blizzard on Wednesday/Thursday, and I have been shoveling my driveway ever since. I shoveled for two hours on Wednesday evening, and only got 2/3 of it. However, considering I felt like throwing up after that stint, I decided to listen to my body and pace myself. I have been working away at it for 30-45 minutes at a time each day after that. I'm almost done. Except that it keeps snowing. And my body's not used to the physical demand. I ache all over. And the cough/cold that has moved through the entire Kindergarten class that I am in finally found me in my weakness. I am seriously reconsidering purchasing a snow blower for large dumps of snow such as Wednesday's. An inch is one thing--ten is entirely another. Who buys a house with a huge driveway, anyway? (Oh, wait...)

I have been fighting the snow. And fighting a cold. And now I am fighting a mouse.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm Still Waiting on This...

Taken from How to be a Canadian, by Will and Ian Ferguson.

"Indeed, many of Canada's shopping malls have cities conveniently attached. Mall technology (MT) has reached its highest level in Western Canada (defined as 'that part of Canada which is not Toronto and which doesn't speak French or catch fish'). The city of Edmonton, for example, is now working on a retractable roof that will enclose the entire community in a single climate-controlled environment. If you have been to Edmonton, you will know why."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Apple. Tree.

The two are so close together sometimes.

So I own a house. A house that I must heat in the winter. I programmed the thermostat early on to be cooler while I was at work or while sleeping, and to be the warmest for the hours I am typically home--both to be cost-effective as well as eco-friendly. As I was deciding on temperature preferences, I chose 20C (68F) for the times when I am home. It was partially an arbitrary choice. Cooler than some friends' homes, warmer than others. Seemed like a nice, round number. A little cool in the living room, and on really cold days, but overall, not bad. I'd give the whole system a couple of heating bills to see how I felt about the settings I'd selected.

I turned the thermostat up to 21C (70F) when I had company over a couple times, just to ensure extra comfort. But it didn't really cross my mind to make it a regular setting... until yesterday.

I don't know what prompted me to remember it. But I had a recollection back to my adolescent years. It was a point I'm sure I brought up every winter, although the recollection is not specific to any one year. My parents always had the thermostat set to 20C. I would inevitably try and move the dial even just half a degree up, but was often found out. And my scientific argument was always the same: "Room temperature is 21C." I figured if scientists deemed that to be a comfortable base temperature from which to measure all sorts of things, and if they were calling it room temperature, then rooms should be at least that warm. ...I never won my case.

But I'm in my own house, now. ...Suffice it to say, I have reprogrammed the thermostat. :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pondering the Miracle

It's Christmastime. AKA Jesus' birthday. I have grown up knowing this, and accepting without question that Jesus' birth was miraculous. I mean, of course it's miraculous. God placed a baby inside a virgin. He sent angels to tell Mary and Joseph what was going on. He sent angels to the shepherds. He placed a star in the sky so the three wise men could find the new King. These are not your ordinary, everyday events. I would say they are some of God's showier "stuff."

But the miracle goes SO beyond that--and is so UN-showy that I think many people miss it. On my drive to work the other morning, I was thinking about the fact that Jesus was born in a stable. It wasn't just coincidence that there was no room at the inn--God meant for there to be no room at the inn so Jesus' birth would be the first display of the Jesus' humility. And I think we mostly recognize this humility in terms of the uncomfortable quarters the stable affords, the presence of animals, and that the stable was where servants spent their time (certainly not kings). But something else struck me the other day. Jesus was born in a barn--a barn!!! I've been in barns. They stink. They're not the warmest. They're dusty. And you get cow poop on your shoes. It's certainly not a sanitary place to bring a child into the world. Angels and immaculate conception aside, it's miracle enough that Jesus' tiny little immune system wasn't overrun by the myriads of microscopic organisms on the floor of that barn!

...I think it's the so fully human aspect of Jesus that continually blows me away. Fully God and fully man. All the knowledge of being Lord, and yet all the experience that goes along with being human. Choosing to set aside power and enter into the world's poop (literally and figuratively). I read once that "every religion in the world is about man trying to reach up to God, like working your way up the ladder. They’re all about striving to achieve something for yourself. Christianity is the only religion about God reaching down to man and offering salvation as a free gift, with the added bonus of a personal relationship with the Creator God through Jesus Christ..." I love it. I love that God loves me that much. To render Himself human so He could be intimate with me.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Quirky

I've been working in a kindergarten this year, covering for a coworker who's on medical leave until the new year. The school I'm at is a solid 45-minute drive from where I live; good music and a warm coffee is what gets me through the drive most mornings.

Getting bored with my own collection of CDs, I opted to listen to CBC 2 Radio Morning. While I've always found their afternoon drive program hit-and-miss, I thought I would give the morning program a chance. And so far, so good!

Anyway, recently, they started doing this thing called the Sweet Mix. Listeners can submit three songs that they think go really well together, and the host will play the mix in the morning. Early last week, someone submitted a sweet mix that they dedicated to 'quirky friends' (each sweet mix has a dedication), and it became the Quirky Friend Mix. As the radio host described the 'quirky friend', I thought to myself, "I think I am the quirky friend." I can't remember the exact qualifiers the radio host listed off, but generally speaking, it was me.

Someone who 'does their own thing', was a basic descriptor. I wouldn't say I fall into the extreme end of that qualifier (i.e. eccentric), but I definitely act and live in a way that seems to be more of the exception rather than the rule. I'm an introvert. I think linearly and literally most of the time. I choose the eco-friendly way to do things moreso than what's just trendy. I liked math when I was in school. I prefer comfort over the newest trend in fashion. I have a corny-pun type sense of humour. I'm a picky eater. I like Pachelbel's Canon in D. ...I'm sure I could go on.

Most of the time, none of this bothers me. It's who I am. Really, it's who I've been for thirty years. And I like a lot of who I am. Still, some of my quirky traits land me in socially awkward conversations, afford me interesting looks from others, as well as having to accept that some people just don't get it.

I can't be that far out in left field, cuz I have friends--friends who are normal, even! Ha! ...And they may not care about recycling the stray pop can that landed on the front yard in the night. And they probably like to eat at more restaurants than I do. And they were probably better in phys ed than me. And, no, they don't always get it. But it's not like I hide my 'quirkiness'. Regardless of it all, my friends accept me. Presumably, if they didn't, they wouldn't hang out with me. They probably accept me more than I accept myself some days.

I am the quirky friend. And I think I'm okay with that.


Part of the Quirky Friend Sweet Mix, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mine

When I graduated from university in 2002, my parents 'sold' me their car. I had driven it while living at home in the summers for the previous four years, and it had been our family car for eleven years. It was red. It was a standard. And now it was mine.

Except it didn't really feel like mine. It had always been the family car--really, my parents' car. And if I accidentally referred to it as "my car," my dad was very quick to remind me, "whose car?" until I had it well in my brain who was ultimately responsible for that vehicle. So even once I'd given my parents the whole dollar they charged me for it, even once my first insurance payment went through, even once I'd driven it back to my apartment three hours away, it didn't quite feel like mine. Until one day that first summer, while driving on the highway to work, a semi-truck traveling in the other direction fired a rock into the right side of the windshield. BANG. Now the car felt like mine.

I had a welt in my windshield for which I was responsible. And what hit me was not just the fiscal responsibility of paying for the repair of said welt, but the overall sense of responsibility that this was my car, my baby, and that its long-term well-being depended on how well I took care of it for even such little things as these. (Please do not tell this to my current Honda Civic, the windshield of which boasts several welts and a few cracks, all but one of which I've ignored.) I almost felt like my car would grow resentful if I did not treat it properly, and would be more appreciative if I kept it 'healthy' in all respects (yes, I am well-aware that cars do not actually have feelings).

From that point forward, I consciously started knowing my car. It's noises, it's quirks, its flaws, its strengths. And I fell even more in love with it than I had been before.

In late October of this year, I moved into my house. Except it didn't really feel like mine. It still smelled like the previous owners. It had rooms that were not my preferred colour. So even after all the papers were signed, even after I re-painted my bedroom and ripped out all the old carpet, even though the space has all my stuff in it and therefore reflects my personality, it didn't quite feel like mine. Until this week, when it snowed.

A house requires maintenance inside and out. In the winter in Canada, that means shoveling the front walk and driveway. And I have a massive driveway. Despite recommendations, I opted for a regular snow shovel instead of a snow blower. Cheaper, more eco-friendly, and healthier for someone like me who likes to be active, but does everything in her power to avoid stepping foot in a gym. For an hour, I shoveled snow. I made sure it was all shoveled evenly. I took care not to pile the snow in poor locations (i.e. against the side of the house where the grading needs to be re-done). I cleared stairs not just for my own safety but for that of the post man and friends who might stop by. And what hit me was not just the physical act of removing the snow to be a responsible citizen, but the overall sense of responsibility that this was my house, and its long-term well-being depended on how well I took care of it for even such little things as these. I kind of feel like my house will grow resentful if I do not treat it properly, and will be more appreciative if I keep it 'healthy' in all respects (yes, I am well-aware that my house does not actually have feelings.)

The first mortgage payment has yet to be withdrawn. I have yet to receive my first heating bill. And I still can't quite navigate my way effortlessly in the dark. But the snow shoveling did it. I am already aware of how I am coming to know my house. I know which rooms are warmer, even when the thermostat says the whole house is at 20C (68F). I know which doors open effortlessly, and which require me to wrestle a little with them as I turn the key in the lock. I know to expect the sound of the bathroom pipes after I wash my hands. And I'm falling even more in love with it than I was before.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'd Say So!

"Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of 'systematically assisting Sisyphus’s stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister,' which is easier done than said." -- Unknown

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Home!

It feels like forever since I've last updated the blog, but I feel like moving into a house is a justifiable excuse. The days leading up to the move involved cleaning, packing, taking care of final legal details, and renovating the bedroom within hours of gaining possession. And while I have now been living in my house a full week, I only just regained the internet a couple of days ago. But I am here!

The move went really well. I have an amazing community of friends who all pitched in throughout the day. By mid-afternoon we had actually finished moving things in and had begun some unpacking. I have been continuing the task throughout the week in the evenings, and am now almost entirely out of boxes. There are some things I am waiting on until next weekend, mind you, when the new carpet goes in throughout the house. No point putting all the books onto bookshelves if I then have to move the bookshelves out of the room.

I love my house (granted, I have yet to receive my first heating bill). I absolutely love coming home after work! ...Not that I didn't like going home after work when I lived in my condo. But the feeling is different. I can't really describe it. I guess it has to do with the fact that, even though my condo was mine, it wasn't fully my personal little space. My house exudes Gina-ness. My condo suite did, too, but then the guy next door would turn the bass up on his stereo. Or someone would drop something upstairs. Or someone would run down the hall. Those external little things still impacted how much my space felt like mine. And I don't think I fully realized that until I got here. This space is all mine. Inside and out. And is therefore all me (and what's not yet will soon be).

I love my house. And I think it loves me back!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Most Important Thing I Learned This Week...

Soft Bubbles by gina.blank "...play-deprived childhood disrupts normal social, emotional and cognitive development... limiting free play in kids may result in a generation of anxious, unhappy and socially maladjusted adults."

Taken from an article published in Scientific American, February/March, 2009.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Reflections From the Other Side

I sat on the other side of church today. I generally sit on the right side, near-ish the middle aisle. It was where I sat when I first started attending, because the two people I knew at the time also sat in that area, and it just kinda stuck. Having grown up in the Anglican church, I have many times heard the joking cliche that Anglicans don't like change and therefore sit in the same spot every week. Personally, I feel this has less to do with being Anglican and more just being a creature of habit. Still, it's true.

This morning, my friend suggested that one Sunday we should try shaking it up a bit and sit "over there" (sweeping her hand in the general direction of the left side of the church). "We totally should!" I agree, "Let's go!" In a split-second of spontaneity, I make 'one Sunday' today, and we find ourselves sitting on the left side of the church (and a bit closer to the front, too). It was great!

There's no structural pillar on the left side to potentially block the view of the screen (which displays the worship lyrics) or the pastor when he delivers his sermon. And for whatever reason, about a half dozen people came up to say hi to my friend and myself, which has never seemed to happen on the other side. The music was the same. The message was just as good. I s'pose it was quieter--not as many people seem to sit on the left. Overall, the service was not drastically different because we sat somewhere different. But it was definitely refreshing somehow.

I heard somewhere several years ago that when driving to places you visit frequently, like driving to work, it can keep your brain stimulated (and therefore more alert) if you take a different route every now and then. Apparently this makes for better driving cuz your brain's not bored. ...Perhaps it's the same with church seating. ...Perhaps it's the same with everything.

JM and I had contemplated a walk for today, and when she texted, she inquired about a walk vs. a bike ride. Having only ridden my bike two or three times this summer, I jumped at the opportunity to bring out the wheels on such a nice day. Again, refreshing. And not just physiologically. But given as I go for walks with my friends quite regularly, this made the excursion a little different.

There is definitely something to be said for routine. In my work, we often create regular and predictable routines for our children. The predictability of what's happening lowers stress, can enhance social interactions, and facilitates learning. Still, when I talk to coworkers about play routines, I often emphasize that while it is crucially important to keep the routine the same, it is also important to have regular variety within the activities that make up that routine. Otherwise the child gets bored. New activities are refreshing; fancy that.

Balance. It always seems to come back to balance. Here it's the balance between enough predictability in our routines to minimize stress and chaos, and enough variety to keep it interesting. Today I am balanced.

Perhaps next Sunday I will sit in the middle.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

No Agenda

I've misplaced my day timer. Well, no. I'm pretty sure I know where it's at. I'm 99% sure it's in my house (the one I'm moving into next month and therefore can't get into right now), but my realtor said she couldn't find it when she went to look for it. I could get a new one, but September is a strange time to buy a new day timer--they don't really make 16-month day timers the way they do calendars. It's kind of expensive to get a new day timer for not even four months. And I have a lot of information in my current day timer from over time that has come in handy throughout the year. I want my day timer. But I'm trying to wait until I take possession in just under a month. My realtor was really nice to go look for it in the middle of her day; I don't want to ask to meet her there one more time. I'll try to wait.

It's a bit more challenging not having my agenda with me. I'm living off Post-it notes. Meetings, doctor's appointments, out-of-the-ordinary respite. My brain is oddly good with numbers (thanks, Dad), but it's a pretty tall order to trust it with an indefinite time frame. I'm not that good. ...Challenging.

And then along comes today. Saturday. In a completely different sense, I also have no agenda. As in, I had no obligations today. I could play out today however I chose. So. I chose super comfy clothes. I chose to pick up my camera, lenses, and tripod. I chose to leave my car and take the train. I chose to take advantage of this impromptu summer day in the middle of autumn. And I chose to capture elements of it in pictures.

Fully Feather by gina.blank During the week, I like to know what activities I have going on. They're generally things I like to do and/or can look forward to in the dull moments of my day. Still, my week is delineated in these set blocks of time; I enjoy these activities at a pace set by the start time of the next thing (whether that be small group, respite, or bed time). I try to keep my Saturdays as agenda-free as possible. Today, it afforded me the time to lie on my belly and get just the right close-up of a feather in the grass. It allowed me to tackle a decent chunk of a book I'm working through. It allowed for an impromptu social meet-up that didn't end with, "well, I gotta run!" And it allowed for maximum enjoyment of the sunny blessing that was poured over the city today!

No Post-its today.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I am Moving!

I am moving.
I wrap fragile items in paper.
I pack them into a box.
I think about all the things I need in a house that I didn't need before.
     A lawn mower;
     A snow shovel;
     A compost bin.
I am choosing paint colours in my head.
I think about all the things I have in a house that I didn't have before.
     A pantry;
     A guest bedroom;
     A basement!
I make a list of all the businesses who need my new address.
I call the furnace cleaning company.
I pack another box.
I mentally arrange--and rearrange--furniture.
I enlist help from friends.
I get a little excited!
I feel like one month is forever away.
I hear the neighbour thump on the floor upstairs
     and smile,
          because soon that won't exist.
I can't wait to be able to park my car in a garage!
I book a trailer.
I look around at three years of growing
I smile at the growing that will happen in my new house.
I am moving.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Seasonally Torn

Hudson's had billboards around Edmonton this summer advertising its patio. They were horrible. In June, the billboards stated, "only 18 weeks until it snows" with details about the patio in smaller print underneath. In mid-August the signs had changed to, "only 10 weeks until it snows." Driving through Edmonton in a tank top and shorts, with the windows rolled down and the sun warm upon my skin, my brain's happy functioning screeched to a halt every time I drove past one of those billboards. Even though I was basked in warmth, sunglasses on, with summer tunes exuding from my car's speakers, reading the word 'snow' raised up an instant reactionary urge to hunker down in my bed under my feather comforter and hide from the dark and cold. My fellow sunshine-loving friend captures the feeling exactly: "it makes me hurt on the inside."

I just love summer. This summer felt particularly short after two years of unseasonably warm Augusts and Septembers. I have been adjusting to the beginnings of autumn relatively well, I think, but the word 'snow' is still quite painful. And yet...

I was flipping through a magazine this evening, and showcased on this one page were several styles of winter boots that are 'in' this season. This reminded me of my own winter boots, which were new last year. Currently, my winter boots are sitting in a box in N&S's garage, waiting to move into my as-of-yet-unpurchased house. But looking at all those boots in the magazine, and thinking of how wonderful my boots were last year, I suddenly craved winter. Well, maybe not so much winter. But my boots. Last winter, my feet stayed SO warm! With each snowy footprint, it was as if my boots were saying, "ha! Take that, snow!" I don't crave winter, exactly, but the toasty, comfortable feeling of things like warm boots, crackling fire places, cozy blankets while watching TV. ...Except... these things only come with winter. So torn.

I changed over my coffee and kitchen table centerpieces to autumn decor the other day. Their colours are warm. Their ginger-cinammon-y scent brings to mind leaves crunching underfoot, late afternoon sun glowing through yellow trees, crisps and crumbles for dessert. ...All pleasant.

Hello, again, autumn.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'll Take the Glacier

At the beginning of April, I put my condo up for sale. I endured five full months of keeping my place painstakingly clean, watching interest rates go up, and sale prices go down, and playing the waiting game in a slow market. A couple weeks ago, someone finally showed enough interest to make an offer! A bit of back-and-forth between realtors left me with a final offer that was lower than I wanted, but higher than I really deserved. Would it go through? ...I waited again.

The conditions were set to be lifted on the same day that I was leaving to go backpacking with friends. Would I find out my condo's fate before I lost cell reception in the mountains? ...Sure enough, as we were loading packs and tents into my friend's truck, my phone rings. The condo sold. I can celebrate! The excitement of knowing I would soon be in a house laced its way throughout conversation over the weekend. My friends were just as thrilled as I was!

The entire weekend was just so wrapped in blessing! Hiking a total of 30km through God's creation; spending time with seven friends who are gifted in seven unique ways... I was in a place where I could be energized, encouraged, and open. It was such a safe space to be in; it is hard to describe it accurately with words, even though I have been in this abundantly blessed place numerous times. No running water, mild amounts of rain, wind gusts, temperatures typical of mid-fall rather than late summer, risk of bears, a smelly outhouse, blisters on my feet, achy shoulders... and I'm at peace?!

In the quiet of the forest, I feel peace.
In the crackle of the fire, I feel warmth.
In the rustle of the trees, I am humbled.
In the thumping of my heart, I feel alive.
In the circle of conversation, I am accepted.
In the hugs and high fives, I feel loved.
In all these things, I am blessed.

Upon return home, I got right into the week's activities. On top of work, appointments, respite, and general errands, my newly sold condo (!) meant number crunching and house viewing. Thankfully, I can still afford a house (although I would not complain if I right now stumbled into a random windfall of money!). Still, the half dozen or so I viewed just yesterday were not really worth getting excited about. ...And such will be my routine for the next few weeks.

What a brain full.

Can I go back to my glacier?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Sleepiest of Times

In an earlier post, I made mention that my sleeping bag deserves its own blog post. It really does. At something like 35-years-old, it is one of the oldest blankets I own. It is one of a set of two that my parents had, and I'm pretty sure my brother currently has the other of the pair. There are a lot of memories associated with this sleeping bag. I remember snuggling in it at Brownie camp at the age of six; sleeping under the stars in it at Girl Guide camp at age ten; hauling it to many, many a-sleepover, a couple school camps, and to the summer I spent in Sorrento at 16; and then finally removing it from my parents' basement sometime in university and claiming it as my own for independent adult adventures.

The sleeping bag is olive green on one side, and... 70's-printed (for lack of a better description) on the other. I'm pretty sure it's reversible, although I have never opted to sleep with the printed side out. I don't think I--or anyone I was sharing a tent with--would sleep properly with a print that... loud. It's definitely not the most aesthetically attractive sleeping bag out there. It's as if it walked out of a 70's camping catalogue and straight into the 21st century without looking in the mirror.

My bunk at Sorrento Centre

I seemed to sense the sleeping bag's dated quality even when I was young. As a child, I was often envious of the shiny, slippery fabric and fun colours of my peers' sleeping bags, and--while I was small enough--I always, always pined for a mummy bag to snuggle down in (now that I'm an adult with a tendency to sleep like a starfish, I appreciate the extra inches of roll-around space that barrel bags provide). However, I knew that until my sleeping bag was worn right out, there was no way my parents were going to just up and buy a new one. And this thing had a lot of give. Then why did you take it instead of buying a new one when you had the first chance? you ask. Srsly? You had to ask that? Hello--free sleeping bag. I had other, more important camping gear to buy at the time. Like a tent. And as an adult, the sleeping bag became a conversation piece. Laugh at the cheeziness; marvel slightly at the retro factor.

Anyway, in the last four or five years, Olive's old age has finally revealed itself. While still physically in great shape--only one small tear on the loud side from its zipper--thermally, its ability to stand up to Alberta Rocky Mountain camping has declined. At first, I noticed I was just a bit chilly at night, often requiring an extra layer over my PJs. I chalked it up to being a girl with little self-produced body heat. Then last year, after two ridiculously cold camping experiences in which three layers plus a toque and mittens didn't even help, I decided I was done with Olive. 2010 would be the year of the new sleeping bag.

I did my research on the MEC website. I looked at the temperature ratings. I debated the synthetic vs. down. I briefly compared bag weights (important factor in backpacking trips). I even considered my colour options. In the end, I chose the MEC Mirage sleeping bag--a synthetic barrel sleeping bag with a -5C (23F) rating. And while each of MEC's sleeping bags only come in one colour, this one just happened to be red. It's like it was meant to be.

My new sleeping bag made its maiden camping trip was this past weekend. I went camping with N and her little ones in Jasper National Park. The temperature went down to about 10C (50F) at night, and while my cold experiences from years prior involved night temperatures of 1-5C (34-41F), I was nevertheless smiling in my sleep at how fantastic the experience was! The first night, I ended up taking off my hoodie, and the second night, I opted out of the camping socks as well. I never once woke up because I was cold (one of my coldest nights last summer had me shivering so badly I only slept for four hours, and they weren't consecutive).

Olive still came along on this trip. I can't bear to part with her quite yet. Given that we were sleeping on air mattresses, which tend to make for colder sleeps, the aging sleeping bag was opened up and spread out (loud side down) on the air mattress that N slept on with the kidlets.

I have a backpacking trip in a couple weeks that I am quite excited about. I am expecting the temperature to be colder at night, as we will be higher in the mountains at a later point in the summer. Still, it's comforting to know that I will be warm, and therefore able to sleep solidly through the night. Pleasant dreams!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Door

Oh, the metaphorical door of opportunity. I have been in and out of several. Thing is, I sometimes wonder...

How do I know if the door of opportunity really is closed, or if there's just someone leaning against it on the other side, waiting to see how hard I'll push?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Something That Lasts


The blanket is an antique. Which sounds weird to say, because normally when I hear the word "antique", I associate it with things that are dusty and breakable. Certainly not a blanket. But at 86 years old, it's certainly not new.

The blanket isn't much, either, relatively speaking. Just two sheets quilted together, with stitching to delineate thirty squares; a simple picture embroidered in red thread on each. And red trimming around the edge. My great aunt made it when she was 17. In her older years, she quilted several blankets--specifically for me--the substance of which far exceeds the simplicity of this antiquity. It is not a cozy-by-the-winter-fireplace kind of blanket. Or even a Sunday-afternoon-nap-on-the-couch kind of blanket. It is a summer blanket. And I love it.

I acquired it ten years ago, and since then, it has come in so handy each summer. It spent four summers (possibly five?) serving as a sunning/napping blanket on my breaks at work. It participates in at least one picnic outing each year. It was once an inner lining for my sleeping bag. Once a back-drop for a photo shoot. Folded up, it has served on occasion as a sit-upon. And just last week, it was a table cloth.

Every time I pull this blanket out of the linen closet, I marvel at it. It is the oldest blanket I own (second in line is my 35-year-old sleeping bag, which deserves a blog post in its own right). I am continually in awe that after 86 years, it hasn't disintegrated. It is certainly not in pristine condition. There are rips and tears around the edge where the fabric has worn. Some of the trim is faded. There are a couple small holes. And a few small (like pea-sized or less) stains. And yet... I feel that, given its age, this blanket is in really good shape! ...The embroidery threads haven't unraveled or broken, meaning that all the pictures are still pictures. And it's still white! (Certainly with no bleach on my part to keep it that way.)


I love how old things last. We live in an age where so much is disposable--and is seemingly made to only last a short time. If the electronics crap out, or a part breaks, or something rips we just up and buy a new one. Is there anything we can hold on to anymore? Along with this blanket, I cherish things such as my dad's Canon SLR (not an antique, but still...), a turntable and handful of records, and my grandma's Hawkeye Brownie and Jiffy Kodak cameras. And all these things still work! I know my own DSLR won't last long enough to pass to my child, let alone a grandchild. And I've already worn out two CD players in the last 12 years. Nuthin' special about passing one of those down. ...Is there anything that will last long enough to carry my personal history forward?

...Possibly a blanket...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dancing in the Dark

Word to the wise: when moving your vacuum cleaner out of the laundry room to access something, don't place it in the entryway to your bedroom. Inevitably, you will forget it's there... until you decide it's time for bed. You will cross from the dark hallway into the dark bedroom, and step into the vacuum the way cartoon characters step on the forked side of a rake. You will all but dance with the vacuum in an effort to keep from falling over before you finally figure out what the heck you are dealing with, and return it upright. You will reach out towards the bedside lamp for some semblance of illumination, and stand but for a brief moment in the soft glow that now encompasses your bedroom space. But instead of silently cursing, as you normally do when you stumble into things, you start laughing uncontrollably on your bed. The cat--who was resting peacefully there before you stumbled in--looks at you like you are an absolute moron before making her exit. You and the vacuum glance at each other one more time. "Sorry." "Hey, no worries. It happens."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pajamas

My nephew is 2. As such, he is adorable--physically, playfully, and linguistically. Right now his big conversational 'game' happens when I say it's time to get dressed. It goes something like this:

G: "Okay, A, time to get dressed."
A: "Dressed? ...No 'jamas?"
G: (in a 'you're so silly' tone) "No, no pajamas! Pajamas are for night time."
A: "Night time?"
G: "Yeah!"
A: (in the same 'you're so silly' tone) "Oh, yah."

I think my favourite part is how he says 'pajamas'--he just says 'jamas'. It's very cute. But it had me muttering, "jamas... pajamas... PJs... pajamas..." as I drove from my morning Place of Play to my afternoon Place of Play. And then I got to wondering--how did they get to be called pajamas in the first place?

Ah, Wikipedia--how I love thee. A quick search revealed that "The original paijama are loose, lightweight trousers fitted with drawstring waistbands and worn in South and West Asia. ... This word originally derives from the Persian word پايجامه Payjama meaning 'leg garment.'"

Who knew? :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Relationship and Community

For about a year, I've had a real sense of the notion that God calls us to be in relationship and community. In a lot of areas, I have seen the abundant blessing in the relationships I have, and in the communities of which I am a part. Lately, though, I've been in a stuck place.

My relationships are still blessed; and I am still part of communities. But there is some.. flux, I guess. Opportunities to be a part of new communities, form new relationships. And changing relationships, and change in current communities.

Where do I go? Do I stay put? Do I jump into new social connections? Do I step back from connections that aren't strong or fight to strengthen them? Which communities and relationships does God want me to foster for His glory, and which do I think I should foster for my own well-being? And are those always mutually exclusive?

Little Boxes

I don't have a socio-political opinion either way (well, I probably do, I've just never taken the time to think about what that opinion is); I've just heard the song a lot in the last couple weeks (don't ask), and think it's kinda cute...



There are several covers of this little song--and spoofs, even. Of course, Wikipedia (I love Wikipedia) has the details on its satirical origins.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Get Your Canadian On!

...Pick your style of patriotism and enjoy the day; happy birthday, Canada!

Traditional:


Majestic:


Contemporary:


And totally fun!


...Yeah, I watched them all in a row, too. :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chewing on The Lord's Prayer

I read a book of my mom's a couple years ago called Christ Wisdom (Christopher Page), which looks at each part of the Beatitudes, as well as Lord's prayer, and offers a perspective on the meaning in the words of each. I pulled some highlights from the book that I thought I would share. Something to think about the next time you're taking a wander through the book of Matthew.

"The first Beatitude ... may seem at best ridiculous, at worst offensive. Jesus seems to be saying, "Happy are poor people." But we know that material poverty is no guarantee of happiness. An overdraft at the bank and a stack of unpaid bills do not bring anyone into a state of bliss. It is possible to be miserable in poverty every bit as much as it is possible to be miserable with great wealth. Getting rid of all your possessions and going to live in a homeless shelter will not get you closer to God or any closer to being happy than winning a million dollars in the lottery and retiring to a beach in Bermuda. ... Jesus is not referring to an external condition but to an inner attitude." (p. 20)

"Christianity is not a self-help program; it is a self-surrender program." (p. 20)

"No one had to tell me to hunger and thirst for my fiancee. It did not require self-discipline to long for her. My desire was a natural expression... Similarly, to hunger and thirst for righteousness is our true human condition. Just as it is natural to long for food and water or for a fiancee from whom one is separated, so it is natural for us to long for God. The sad reality, however, is that we often forget what it is wear are really hungry and thirsty for. We forget that our true longing is for God. So we fill our lives with other things to avoid facing the hunger in the deepest part of our being." (p. 39)

"It is a foundational principle of the spiritual journey that we get back from life what we put into life. If we are always pouring forth frantic, grasping, needy, intense, dramatic energy into the world, this is exactly what we will receive back. If we release steady, merciful, peaceful, grounded energy into the world, this is what we will receive in return." (p. 43)

"Richard Rohr says, 'Secular freedom is having to do what you want to do. Religious freedom is wanting to do what you have to do.' ...You can settle for less. You can settle for seeing your own great achievements or for the comfort and distraction of an entertaining life. But anything less than the full surrender that results in seeing God will always leave you empty, dissatisfied and sad at the centre of your being." (p. 52)

"There are times when all our spiritual practice does not seem to make our lives any better or any more rewarding than an ordinary life lived with no reference to God at all. However, we need to know that, if we are looking for the rewards of the spiritual life in the realm of feelings, we are looking in the wrong place. This is why it is easy to fall away from spiritual practice. If we are hoping to get good feelings from our spiritual practice, we will give up when those good feelings vanish, as they inevitably will. Our relationship with God is not about feelings." (p. 61)

"...when Jesus instructs us to pray 'Our Father,' he is telling us that there is something in our nature that is like God. ... The problems we experience in life and in our world all stem from the fact that we lose touch with our true identity. Jesus placed at the beginning of his prayer a reminder of our true nature. We are identified with God." (p. 74)

"God can give bread, but bread is useless unless it is eaten, and God does not force-feed anyone." (p. 102)

"We create what we are. If we are bound, pinched, and tight, we create bound-ness, pinched-ness, and tightness wherever we go. If we are free, open, relaxed, and at peace, we will create freedom, openness, relaxation, and peace wherever we go. We can only receive from God what we are open to receiving. The sign of being open to receive is the ability to pass on what has been received. God offers and offers and offers. The moment I decide to offer, I am opened to be able to receive the grace and the mercy and the welcome that God constantly extends towards me. It is not that I am controlling God. It is simply that I cannot receive that to which I am closed. Nor can I ask from God what I am not able to pass on, because I cannot receive from God what I am not able to share. If I come to you with my arms crossed over my chest and my face set in a stern grimace and say to you, 'Give me a hug,' you are unlikely to fulfill my request. Everything in my body is resisting the hug that I am asking for." (p. 123)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In the Little Things

So, I've been reading this book that I bought on a whim called The Book of Awesome. It's based on the website 1000 Awesome Things, which is a blog devoted to appreciating the little yet ultimately-satisfying things in life, despite this crazy world we live in.

While I don't relate to all the things the author and his fans deem as sheer awesomeness, there are definitely a few that made me laugh out loud knowing that I was not the only one who reveled in a certain guilty pleasure. Or ones that I would read and couldn't help but state aloud, "exactly!"

For example, Awesome Thing #482. Or Awesome Thing #973. Or especially Awesome Thing #797.

It's neat to see the little things that are appreciated by [presumably] large chunks of North American society. I don't generally have a problem appreciating the little things. But generally the "little things" are quite specific to my world. Take today, for instance. Today has been full of little things that have accumulated to a great day:
  • The sun shining.
  • Wearing red.
  • Realizing that my tip of my pony tail now brushes the bottom of my neck (i.e. realizing how long my hair actually is!).
  • Coffee.
  • The words "Aunty Gina" from a child's mouth.
  • Successfully expending said child's energy. ...And that of his sisters, too.
  • Successfully expending that energy outside.
  • An afternoon snack and beverage with friends on a patio in the sun.
  • Friends who let you hone your photography skills using them as models!
  • Seeing the photos that turned out 'right' (oddly enough, one or two perfect photos actually make up for the enormous number that don't quite do what you want).
  • Cats purring.
  • Chick pea salad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunny San Francisco!

Last weekend, I was able to take a couple days off work and spend some time with a friend for an extra long weekend in San Francisco and the surrounding area. I cannot even describe how wonderful this little getaway was!

CR and I arrived on Thursday around lunch time. We had a permanent grin on our faces from the time the plane touched down, I think! Thursday was quite windy--gusts of over 50mph (80km/h); coming off the ocean, that breeze was quite crisp! Nevertheless, we traipsed through a bit of downtown SF that afternoon and evening. After an 80-minute bus ride, and going up and down hills through a sketchier part of SF, we were rewarded with delicious burgers at Sliders. Here you could build your own burgers. We started with the Avocado Cheeseburger and went from there. And we had strawberry milkshakes.

After satisfying our stomachs, we satisfied our eyes by arriving at Alamo Square--home to 360 degrees of horizon city-scape bliss! Part of this city-scape included the Painted Ladies row of houses, which, after seeing on TV all the time growing up (Full House), was such a delight to see! We took in the sunset at this sweet little green space before heading back to the hotel for deep sleep.

Friday was a full day. We took the rapid transit into SF, and started by checking out the piers. We ensured a visit to Pier 39, and took in all the shops and sights. Alcatraz, the sea lions, and lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe were probably the highlights!

After lunch, we made our way over to Lombard Street; renowned for it's zig-zag road through part of it. Lombard Street was something else! These were the steep hills we thought we had mentally prepared for. We definitely stopped to rest more frequently than initially anticipated, I think. On the plus side, this afforded many great picture opportunities along the way, including wild parrots!

We continued down Lombard Street a ways and then caught the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can't visit San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate Bridge! We also decided that visiting a beach near the bridge sounded good. 2km from the bridge, along a meadow-like path (with a constant view of the water), we arrived at Baker Beach. Oh, how wonderful the hot sand felt on tired, achy feet! ...We did make a point of stepping into the ocean (cold!), and taking more pictures. We also learned the hard way that the northern part of the beach is clothing-optional. This made for a brief awkward period as we deliberated as to if and how we wanted to keep going. We decided to head down to the more all-ages end of the beach instead.

After sitting on the shore for a bit and just taking in the sun and the warmth, it was time to head back onto a bus and visit a friend I hadn't seen in years. My friend BV just completed her Masters of Illustration at the Academy of Art, and took us to the California Pizza Kitchen for supper. Afterwards, we meandered through Chinatown back to her apartment, where we just chilled and chatted for a couple hours. It was so good to catch up with her!

There was not a dull moment as we traipsed through San Francisco. The city is geographically engaging, demographically dynamic, and aesthetically gorgeous. ...Throw in the sunshine and palm trees; how can you go wrong?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Txtng + Drvng

I don't get vocally passionate about a lot of things, but there are a range of safety issues that totally get me riled up when people just don't use common sense: driving impaired; not wearing a seat belt; not wearing a bike helmet; and, as technology has made it an issue, texting while driving. Seriously, how does anyone think this is functional?

(Head's up, this video is quite graphic in the first 60 seconds)


And while that video is a dramatization, those exact scenarios do play out in real life:



Srsly.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just Three Days

In just three days, the weather has gone from warm and sunny to cold and snowing. Snowing. Wet snow for the last several hours and to continue into tomorrow. I have been keeping an eye on my flowers, and am not really sure what to do to ensure that they survive this crazy weather.

(Those blurry white spots in the background of the right image are snowflakes.) 

...In three more days, the forecast is sunny and 18C (64F). Oh, Alberta.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fleurs!

I am not the best green thumb in the world. Indoors, the only plant I have ever managed to keep alive (and propogate, actually) is a philodendron that lives on my bookshelf. I have killed all the other so-called 'hearty' plants I've ever owned: ivy, spider plants, cacti, bamboo. This year, mind you, people seem to keep thinking that I must know what to do with plants, because they keep giving them to me.

It started with a lavender that NA gave me about a month ago; which I seem to have transplanted successfully to an outdoor box. Don't ask me what happens when I need to bring it back inside in the fall. Then, JP's aloe plant exploded baby offshoots, so she gave me one of those. A week-and-a-half and it's still alive; that's a good sign! Last week, my mom offered me a tomato plant seedling. Considering last year I seemed to grow them quite successfully without even trying, I figured I could try one on purpose. He got transplanted today, and I will move him outside once it's more predictably warm. And today, a coworker bought me a peace lily plant to say thanks for taking photos of her kids. As that plant needs "indirect" sunlight, I am keeping it at work and away from my south-facing, large-windowed condo. The plant is beautiful and I want to keep it alive.

And yes, I've even bought plants myself on purpose. I went to Costco last week with my friend JC and bought flowers for my balcony boxes. The last couple of years, I have had moderate success with vegetables. This year, since my place is up for sale and I am hopefully moving (two months and no showings later...), I thought flowers would be a better option aesthetically and practically.


The day after I bedded them, we had the rain of all rains, and then four more days of subsequent drizzle and cloud. I watched as all my flowers got repeatedly beat up. A week later, and they're faring all right. The two boxes contain the same flowers. The hanging, vine-like flowers in one of the boxes is looking quite sad, and I think it's beyond recussitation at this point. Everything else seems to be doing just fine, however. The daisies, which spent last week with its petals mushed together, have opened up to the sunlight that returned yesterday. And the pansies are starting to lift their heads again, too.

Purple by gina.blankWho knows? You kill enough plants, something's gotta start living, right? ;)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ammendment to Relationships

Okay, I think I want to add something to what I was talking about the other day on expectations in relationships. I had reflected upon the idea that we should engage with people in relationships not just for what they bring to the relationship, but for who they are in the relationship. Not focusing just on what needs we are expecting them to fulfill, but meeting them where they are at in the moment and focusing on the person.

And I haven't changed my mind.

The thing is, different relationships do fulfill different needs. The author of blog from which I drew my reflections commented that she started to "strip away the definitions of what I thought a friend, a mother, a sister, a brother, a father or a companion were supposed to mean, and see that people simply did the best they could. They did what they were emotionally and physically capable of doing. ...Something you think you should get from a friend… maybe that actually comes from your mom. Or a comfort you want to have from your mother, maybe a sibling steps up and fills that role."

I get this. Many times I have had something going on in my life, and the response from my friends has maybe been contrary to what I was expecting (both good and bad).

The author says her relationships are more fulfilling because she's "not expecting people to be something they’re not." I do believe this is quite important. If you expect something from someone, and they can't provide that, it's disappointing. So by shifting your perspective and meeting them where they're at, there is less room for disappointment, cuz you're not expecting them to meet the need that they just can't. You know that need will come from somewhere else.

But I do think there is a role for us to express our various needs to the people we are in relationships with while still meeting them where they're at. I think there is a difference between expectation and accountability. I should not place expectations on people and automatically ditch the relationship if those expectations aren't met. That's pretty superficial. I do think, however, that we can hold people accountable to their potential.

For example, if I have a friend that I regularly went to see movies with, let's say, and suddenly she's injured such that she is rendered blind, obviously the nature of our friendship changes. I shouldn't abandon the friendship just cuz she and I can't share that connection anymore. I need to shift my perspective to meet her where she's at and foster new activities together. However, if that friend who's injured starts behaving differently in response to her new disability--turning down requests to hang out; refusing help from others; isolating, etc.--I should be able to call her on that, and ask her to seek the assistance necessary to pull it together or it will impact our friendship. I can still meet her where she's at emotionally, but she also needs to know that meeting her where she's at without moving to where her potential lies will alter the relationship significantly. ...And I would expect this the other way around, too, if it were me.

That's not a completely out-to-lunch idea, is it?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

BBQ!

Today I barbequed for the first time. I inherited JM's old (ancient?) BBQ when she moved. She assured me that it worked (with a caveat that some parts might need fiddling around with), so I decided to test things out this afternoon. When all systems looked good but nothing was happening, I was concerned that the tank might be empty. I was prepared for this, given the lightness of the tank when I initially brought it home. However, a neighbour's quick inspection found that the tank just wasn't screwed in tight enough to the hose to engage the flow of propane. ...And the ignite button's broken, but not crucial for successful lighting.

So I was up and running! I seasoned my steak accordingly and put it on the grill. I then oscillated back-and-forth between photo editing, meat-checking, photo editing, meat checking. It looked good; it smelled good. When I started thinking my steak must be close to ready, I realized that my barbeque was no longer lit. It had run out of propane.

I was prepared for a slightly less-well-done steak than is my preference, but upon cutting into it, it was nothing but perfect. Just the faintest hint of pink on the inside. I had had just enough propane for my steak. I smiled. I may have also engaged in a very mild happy dance. I complemented my steak with corn on the cob, grape tomatoes, and cucumber slices. I sat down and enjoyed a perfect summer time meal.

In the same breath with which JM assured me the BBQ worked, she also assured me that it would "revolutionize" my summer. ...I think she's right.

Relationship, Fellowship, Community

Sometime last year, my passion for the people in my life got heightened. I just got this sense that I needed to start really focusing on my interactions with others--in all relationships; in fellowship and community. Not just with the people I'm close to, but with people I might only cross paths with once; acquaintances; friends of friends. God calls us to be in relationship, and to be in community. He has blessed me with a core group of people that I see more, communicate with more, desire to grow more closely with, and whom I love fiercely. But I interact with so many other people, too.

I might be in a kindergarten in the morning, at playgroup in the afternoon, at Bible study that evening. The next day I might be in a family's home, and then at a consultant meeting, and providing respite somewhere that evening. How many people might I have interacted with in just 48 hours?

Needless to say, I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about my best fit at work, with friends, with family, in different social circles... where am I supposed to be building relationships? What does God want my different relationships to look like? And how do I live that out?

Via a link off another blog I tend to follow, I found an interesting article on relationships. It is something I think I intuitively figured out several years ago, but never really thought about overtly. It talks about being in relationship not solely for what each person brings to the relationship, but for who each person is in the relationship. Not expecting that because someone is a certain type of friend or colleague, they will fulfill criteria X, Y, and Z; but instead, that friend or colleague brings something of themselves which gives the relationship value, regardless of what they do, but instead, because of who they are.

Interestingly, I think--at least, for myself--this mindset is more likely in relationships that have I've been in for a long time. While each of the people I am close to have strengths that I admire, and that I expect I can count on them for (as I'm assuming others would of me), my desire to spend time with them or grow the relationship starts to have less and less to do with their tangible contributions to the relationship, and more and more to do with just wanting to enjoy that person.


What I've been wanting to do is be able to extend that to the relationships that don't necessarily have a history behind them. To enjoy families that I might only interact with once, and not just carry out the consulting role I am expected to perform. To not expect something specific out of a relationship just because that person meets criteria X when we hang out, but to just be with the person. And the opposite: to seek to build a relationship with someone I might not necessarily take the time to form a deep relationship with because I only expect them to meet criteria X.

It's a work in progress, but it's a blessing-filled journey so far!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Don't Mess With My Music

I love music. While my science-loving, left-sided brain dominates a lot of what I love to do and my overall temperament, there are still artistic, musical, right-brained clusters of neurons that permeate many of my activities. I enjoy having music around for most of my waking hours; in the car, on the computer, as I play with the children I work with... I have quite a bit of fun still making mix CDs for my car. I get so much satisfaction ordering the music in just that perfect way. ...And over time, the music forms associations depending on where it's heard. There are certain songs that will induce in me a strong craving to go camping. Or to drive to Seattle. Or to relive some of my university years.

I have to admit, though--although I love music, I'm not as current in the music scene as you'd think I would be. I don't actually listen to the radio a whole lot, and even less to the most mainstream of stations. The stuff I like, I generally either find by accident (i.e. I hear something on someone else's stereo that I find kind of catchy), or seek out for a specific reason (i.e. a friend recommended it, or it's from Grey's). I only really know a handful of artists across musical genres.

Regardless, I love music. And because I love music, I love iTunes. Along with Photoshop, it is probably one of the best-loved programs on my laptop--which I also love. I've had my laptop for four years, and while I'm not on the newest-of-the-new operating systems, my XP is not entirely obsolete, and my laptop holds up well. But occasionally it has issues shutting down. So when it was doing that the other day, I manually forced it to shut down with the power button. Which I've done several times before in moments of impatience, without consequence. Not so much the other day.

The next time I started my computer after that, I noticed my internet settings had been reset. Fair enough. Whatever, I thought. Then I opened up my iTunes. It, too, had been reset. My over-1200 songs and nine customized playlists were gone. "Oh, crap." My brain started racing. The music can't be GONE-gone, I thought. I forced myself to think, enlisting Google to help remind me of technological details I was having trouble remembering in-the-moment as my brain was trying to solve the issue and keep from freaking out at the same time. The iTunes folder. Right! It's where iTunes automatically organizes song files when imported or downloaded from the iTunes store. Most of my music was there. The rest was in My Music folder. It took over an hour, but eventually, I had virtually all my music back in my iTunes library. I even put music back into the simpler of my customized playlists. It was midnight by this time, however, and I made it part of the plan to deal with the more complex of playlists the next day. I went to bed with a sense of satisfaction at how resourceful I'd been in solving the issue.

My mom (who stayed with me the past few days) went on the computer early in the morning when she was up, however, and it asked her about a "disk cleanup". It must have done a heavy duty clean up, cuz when I went into my programs, the internet and iTunes had been reset again! I was not impressed. I called Tech Support at Apple to see if I should just uninstall and reinstall iTunes at this point (yes), and got e-mailed details to uninstall all of iTunes' various components in proper order. I ran another disk clean-up. Then I de-fragged the C:\ drive outright. Then I uninstalled iTunes and its friends (QuickTime, etc.). I emptied the recycle bin for good measure. And finally, downloaded and reinstalled iTunes.

I added ONE song into my music library. Then I shut down the computer and started it up again. I wasn't about to go through the process of re-loading over 1200 songs again until I knew that there were no more issues. Upon restart, the one song was still there (and my internet started where it was supposed to start). Halle-ja-loo-yah!

So for a second time, I re-loaded all 1200 songs (distributed across 4-5 main folders). And we are now good. I still have a playlist that needs to be ordered properly, and my larger playlists may not have all the songs that they originally had (I can only cross-reference so much with what's on my iPod, cuz I haven't up-synced the iPod in a while). But I'm pretty much there.

I love my music. Most of the music in my iTunes is on CD, many of which live in my car. But aside from the hassle it would have been to have to reload that way, it's nice to have all my music in one location to just listen to whatever I want, however I want, with one click.

I worked hard to build a library of music I love... don't take that away from me!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spiritual Food

I'm really liking the sermons here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shaky Thoughts

So... I don't tend to dwell on things like the rapture, the end of the world, or events in the book of Revelation; a lot of Revelation goes over my head, and as far as the end of the world, I kinda really don't care.

Still... an earthquake in Haiti, an earthquake in Chile, an earthquake in Japan, an earthquake in California, and a volcanic eruption in Iceland. The globe seems to be averaging one major disaster a month... does that seem like a high frequency to just me?

Would we even know if it was God starting to set His Revelation plan into action or if it was just the world "burping"?

And should it change anything?

Attack!

PPrincess has done this occasionally with the DVD player and my cell phone (if it's on vibrate). Not quite as intensely, mind you, but nevertheless, good free entertainment value!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Day That Rocked!

I can't even describe how much today has rocked, but I'm sure as heck gonna try. From the moment I got up this morning, the day has just rolled out so nicely!

1. Apparently, I woke up at the exact right moment in my sleep cycle, because despite only six hours of sleep, I did not have to drag myself out of bed, and did not have the usual almost-Friday function inertia to deal with.

2. I think this was the first day since my new condo-for-sale-cleaning-regime that I got out the door on time!

3. Despite my uncharacteristic a.m. get-up-and-go, I still decided to play it safe and have my morning coffee. And why brew your own when Starbucks is offering free coffee to promote eco-friendly beverage holders? I have a beverage holder. I like free coffee.

3b. And I especially like their Pike Place blend. I couldn't actually tell you if it tastes superior to other blends. I don't drink any one coffee frequently enough to know one blend's taste intuitively. But it's called the "Pike Place" blend. It's a good coffee on the name alone! (and if you don't get why there's a warm fuzzy association, you need to follow up this post by reading here and then here).

4. Spent the morning with Cutie #1. Spent a good chunk of that time outside under the cloudless sky. While an April Alberta morning is still a bit 'crisp', the sun was warm through the clothing, and so refreshingly bright!

5. Drove to Cutie #2's house with the car window rolled down.

6. My otherwise usual lunch today was accented with fruit salad from JM. One thing we agree on is that fruit salad actually needs to be fruit salad. Not just honeydew and canteloupe chunks. In fact, no honeydew or canteloupe chunks. Grapes, apple, orange, mango, blackberries, and raspberries--that's what was in my fruit salad. And like I told JM, it was like summer time in my mouth!

7. Spent the afternoon with Cutie #2. Also spent a good chunk of that time outside under the [still] cloudless sky. Except even better cuz now it was warm enough that I didn't need the hoodie.

8. Played in awe as Cutie #2 conquered new things and showed off new skills!

9. Drove home with the car window rolled down.

10. Sat on the deck for 45 minutes enjoying still more sunshine and a good book.

11. Ate supper that I didn't have to make myself.

12. Drove (still with the window down) to the River Valley for my first ever Edmonton Outdoor Club (EOC) event. I scaled Glenora Stairs (202 stairs from the bottom of the valley to the top) 4 1/2 times, followed by a 90-minute walk along the trails in the setting sun. Flexed my social self in a new setting (this might come back to bite me later). Educated people about special needs. And, as one lady pointed out to me, was not huffing and puffing by the end of it.

13. Came home. Treated my well-worked legs and feet to a hot bath before settling on the couch for CSI.

I have now reached bed time. It is cozy there among the pillows, blankets, and felines. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Most Intense

Probably one of the most intense and yet most real sermons I've heard in a while. It's almost an hour long, but if you are looking for some good, spiritual brain food to 'chew' on, this sermon on Sanctification in Marriage is a good one.

And after that, if you're like me, and wanting to listen to other sermons from this church, you will want to go here.

Joy--There's An App For That!

I'm pretty sure that yesterday was an example of the way God designed community to be. And I got to be smack dab in the middle of of it all!

It started out with a birthday party. I have been working all year with a little guy, J, who just turned six, and I was invited to his birthday party at Galaxy Land. My respite family was also invited, having met J at our office's Winter Festival at the end of February. So I picked up S and we headed to the party. We met family. Ate pizza and birthday cake. And we enjoyed the rides (S took me on the Cosmic Bounce [read: miniature Drop of Doom] three times!). It was such a treat to be a part of the celebrations. J and his family looked like they were having a ton of fun, and it's nice to be able to chill with kids from work but not have to make them 'work'! I also love it when the families I work with can interact and connect with each other outside of office functions. AND it was so nice to be able to take S out for an aunty-and-niece afternoon. I have been working with N&S and the kids for almost four years, and the enthusiasm with which I took S to this party just reminded me how much they really are my second family. I could have gone on that Cosmic Bounce with S indefinitely, just for the joy of sharing the activity with her!

After J's party, I shifted gears for SC's birthday. Just a slightly different affair. But just as much fun! SC got a pasta-maker for her birthday, so we all had home-made pasta for supper. Four foodies and two non, and yet all six of us were fully and enthusiastically engaged in the pasta creation and production. I think at one point we were even cheering each other on! So fun! After the most yummiest of suppers, we continued to celebrate with dessert, drinks, gift-opening, and post-supper conversation. The atmosphere was light-hearted and peaceful. Added to the beauty, mind you, was the conversation itself.

A significant portion of the evening included stories of one person, or their friends or family, helping out someone else in the group in some way, or vice versa. The stories were so uplifting and positive. I thought, this is how community is supposed to be! Having the means to help friends in their circumstances; caring about the people and the things they care about; being purposefully engaged in the goings-on of their worlds; the fluid interaction and overlap of social circles. And all of it being so... valued! ...Like, "of course I can help you figure out that!" or "of course I want to be a part of that!"

"We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something." -- Sandra Day O'Connor

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Joy Comes!

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I was running the projector for the interface worship service that was held tonight at St. Paul's. Through art and liturgy and music, the worship service is meant to facilitate listening to the Holy Spirit. The theme of the Holy Saturday service is the Rending of the Veil, which refers to the veil that was torn at the time of Christ's death, symbolizing the direct relationship now available between man and God. A member of the congregation gave a small talk on suffering, touching on Christ's suffering, the suffering that happens to us today, etc. Following the talk was a meditative time. Often there is a slide show running during this time for those who prefer to meditate with visuals. Because I was running the projector, I also monitored the slide show.

The slides were portraits (photos, paintings, drawings) of both random people and Jesus (kind of alternating back and forth). It started out that in all the portraits, the facial expressions or poses portrayed suffering, pain, sadness--that sort of thing (similar to the photo on the left [not mine]). I didn't much like the pictures, although many were very striking. And yet my strong interest in looking at pictures kept me watching each one. The thoughts running through my head were things like, we suffer, He suffered; our suffering doesn't compare to His; there is a time for suffering; suffering is universal. And I could totally appreciate those truths in my head. In my heart, however, was an underlying feeling I couldn't describe right away. There was a part of me that was keeping track of the number of slides viewed relative to the total number in the presentation, because as engaged as I was in the photos, I kinda just wanted to be at the end of them. Kind of like how a person watches the clock in a boring class. You know you have to be there, and that the information presented is important, but if it wasn't necessary, you'd totally be elsewhere.

About half way through the slide show, there was an image of Christ with His arms outstretched upwards, His face towards the sky, and His facial expression kind of neutral. The slide after that was a photo of a little girl with her arms outstretched, and with a silly, sticking-out-her-tongue facial expression. It caught my attention; this child was definitely not suffering! The images following still alternated between photos of people and portraits of Christ; however, in each image now, the facial expressions were happy, smiling, laughing. I quickly realized I had a subtle smile on my own face; the same kind I get when I watch my nieces and nephew play, or when I'm looking at photos of a past event I've shared with friends. I suddenly liked looking at the images a lot more!

After the slide show had ended, I realized that the process (on screen and in my head/heart) kinda mirrored the process that happens in real life. We know that suffering happens. We wouldn't ask for it, and given other options, I'm sure many of us would choose the out rather than the pain. We don't suffer all the time--we're not meant to. But because we live in a fallen world, we know that we will experience suffering, and that God sometimes places us in those circumstances to "grow us" in some respect. Still, I would have to say that I tend to move through times of hardship in a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of manner. It's a time when I know God's truths in my head, but I don't really feel it so much in my heart. And I'm continually looking at the clock and wondering when it will just be over. ...And then there is a moment where it changes. A blessing; a healing; a realization. And I notice that the growing pains are gone, and the suffering has stopped. The blessing washes in and lightens the heart.

The disciples probably knew in their heads the promises Jesus had made right before His crucifixion. But how long those three days must have felt. Even Jesus had moments where He just wanted it to be over (Mark 14:36; Mark 15:34). Yet when we suffer, we grow by remaining engaged in Him, even though our heart doesn't like it and we feel like it's just our head that's keeping us going. But engagement heightens awareness, which heightens our relationship with God, and opens the door for His Spirit to work in us. And we then also become more acutely aware of when circumstances shift. And the next time we encounter suffering--whether in our lives or those of others--maybe we find ourselves looking at the clock just a little less often.

...It's almost Sunday. The suffering is done. Time to get your joy on.