Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on Spontaneity* AND 153/365

Last year, I chose "spontaneity" as my word for 2011. So, as 2011 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on how it went. I wanted to be able to be more spontaneous, to go with the flow a bit more, to not reactively say "no" to requests and opportunities quite so often. In no means did I expect to completely turn around what is--in part--personality and temperament. But I wanted to ease up a little.

So how did I do?

...Well, I dunno...

I'm not entirely sure that I was really any more truly spontaneous than I generally am. I can think of a circumstance where I was completely spontaneous, and as I alluded to last year, it "surprise[d] the pants off people." I can also think of a circumstance--realistically, a much less ambitious circumstance--that was a spontaneity FAIL; it took everything I had just to pull it together enough to participate. And this is about the norm for me.

That being said, I DO think I was able to go with the flow a little bit more this year, if only because I spent more time thinking the opportunity through. I'm not sure it qualifies as spontaneous anymore when one thinks it through, but in my world, this is the most realistic step forward.

I mentioned last year that the factors of energy, cost, and time play a big role in determining whether or not I can just change gears in my day and go ahead into something new. Instead of immediately letting my brain try and convince me that I don't have any of those things available, I have forced it to stop and think. Is there still a chance for down time elsewhere? Or that doesn't have to cost as much as you think it does. Or, what has become a bit of a mantra for me this year, what else were you really going to be doing instead? (Cuz sometimes the answer is 'nothing')

I also think God blessed me with more opportunities to knock some of those factors of the list so I don't even need to think about them. I was spoiled with a two-week tropical vacation back in April at a significantly reduced personal cost. And when you're on vacation, really, what else were you going to be doing instead? The same is true of this summer. The respite I did this summer was in small bursts of full days rather than short shifts every day, meaning that I had entire stretches of nothing, nothing, nothing on the schedule. Once I embraced this change from what I had been expecting, I was able to enjoy doing whatever came up.

The cost factor is often still a tricky one to work around. I can glean down time or energy elsewhere sometimes. Not so easy with something as concrete as money. That being said, I have started utilizing sites like Groupon, DealFind, etc., which--every now and then--bring up deals on something I actually need or was intending to buy. I either save money, earn extra air miles, or get more service for the price I regularly pay. It hasn't opened up the budget a ton, but just enough.

One more thing I have been teaching myself to do is put the Type A away. If someone has said they will contact me by a certain time, wait. If my brain wants details for something two weeks ahead of time, but I don't actually need that specific detail two weeks ahead of time, wait. There does come a point when I will need information to proceed on something. But I don't necessarily need all the information up front. I think my brain is slowly getting the message.

So. A little bit forward overall?

And on to 2012.

153/365 by gina.blank

*I would just like it to be known that I am an excellent speller--take pride in being an excellent speller, even--but s-p-o-n-t-a-n-e-i-t-y gets me every time!

Friday, December 30, 2011

152/365

Evidence of fun well spent.

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151/365

These boots are made for walkin' (and stylin')!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

150/365

New year, new specs. Entering 2012 in style. :)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

149/365

"Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning..."

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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Collection of Light Reading OR 148/365

I have loved the comic strip For Better or for Worse (FBorFW) for as long as I've known how to read. While I enjoyed reading the daily strip in the Calgary Herald that my parents subscribed to for years, I also thoroughly enjoyed reading (and re-reading) the collections we owned on the coffee table*.

Lynn Johnston, the cartoonist, drew characters of a family that I could relate to--the Pattersons. This family contained a brother and sister pair that made the sibling rivalry between my own brother and I look friendly. The family was Canadian, and no cartoonist quite depicts winter the way Lynn does. Also, one of the main characters, Elizabeth Patterson, was my age. Not just when I started reading the strip, but always--FBorFW was one of the few comic strips that ran in real time, with characters that aged. And I loved it all the more for that reason. Garfield, Adam, Charlie Brown--these were all funny. But FBorFW was funny and had that element of being true-to-life.



Various Christmases and birthdays landed collections of Lynn's work; this year included. Over the last twenty-four hours, I have been quite engrossed in The Lives Behind the Lines... which celebrates twenty years of FBorFW.



A Collection of Light Reading OR 148/365 by gina.blank


Now, I already own the 25th anniversary addition; clearly, this is not Lynn's newest work. But to that I would respond:
  1. None of Lynn's books are new. Lynn retired from writing the strip in 2009. So while there are several volumes I don't own yet, any that I acquire down from here on in will not really be "new."
  2. I could receive one of her earliest works and it would be just as great, because it's a volume I don't own yet. :)
The anniversary collections are especially interesting to read, because Lynn offers insight into the Patterson's lives in more detail than what we might glean from the strip alone, as well as insight into her own life as a cartoonist. She explains how she came to put a certain story in the script, why she chose certain characters for certain events, and interesting reader responses to her work. Plus, reading the strips she chooses to include in the anniversary collections are always a nice trip down memory lane (though I still tear up every time I read Farley's rescue story).

I have long-since abandoned the newspaper and follow the strip daily online. Since Lynn stopped drawing the strip, she has been running FBorFW in syndicate. I get to live life with the Patterson's all over again! It's neat, because reading it as an adult, I have a whole different perspective than when I it as a child teenager. ...I feel like FBorFW is a bit timeless... I do hope that one day, if I have children, they will enjoy the strip as much as I do.

*Lynn also had a couple FBorFW Christmas specials, though I haven't seen them in years--a holiday television highlight, for sure!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

147/365

Coffee-Nog for breakfast; Merry Christmas!

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146/365

Starting the Christmas Eve Angry Birds tradition.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

145/365

And suddenly I remember why the last time I made pie was almost six years ago. Crust = finicky.

(But tastes so good.)

145/365 by gina.blank

Thursday, December 22, 2011

144/365

Still not enough snow in Edmonton to break out the snowshoes, but a pre-Christmas walk through the festive lights is lovely, too!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

143/365

143/365 by gina.blankAnother Christmas childhood memory...

I don't know what the scent actually is, but this candle smells like Christmas. At any other time of the year, I would probably never buy or light a candle with this fragrance. I think it is a medley of something like pine, citrus, and possibly ginger. But at Christmastime... I cannot help but open up the little tin and take in the fragrance on a semi-regular basis.

This little tin of wax has been part of the Christmas decor at my house since I can remember. I even have vague memories of when the wick still existed, and it would get lit for short periods of time on the side table next to the couch.

As I've sat here blogging for the last ten minutes, I have opened up this little tin at least a dozen times, trying to place what it is about the scent that absolutely intoxicates me. Is it the freshness? Is it the overall Christmas association? I don't even know if it's mine, but I know that it was important enough to take from my parents' house when I started living on my own to ensure that I still had it around at Christmas.

I'm glad the tin has a lid, otherwise I'm sure the scent would be long gone by now.

Christmas... you smell so good.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

142/365

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe,
who sanctified us by His commandments,
and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe,
who performed miracles for our ancestors
in those days at this time;
and for the greatest miracle,
Your Son, Jesus Christ.*

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe,
who has kept us alive, sustained us,
and enabled us to reach this season.** Amen.

142/365 by gina.blank
***


* The italicized part is my own, which I've added to the prayer in the last couple of years, blending both my Christian faith and Jewish heritage together.

** This stanza is said only on the first night.

*** YES, I realized afterwards that I put the first candle on the wrong end, as it should technically be lit from right to left. I'm pretty sure God won't smite me down. Get over it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

141/365

Exploring the tree
its first year...
Several times throughout the Christmas season, I find a cat under my tree. (Though there were days when I would find a cat in the tree). It's a cozy place to sleep, on the soft tree skirt, hidden amongst the presents.

Things are definitely comfier UNDER the tree!
This evening, Princess reminded me of how, as a child, I would sometimes lie under the tree. It was generally when Mom or Dad were watching something uninteresting on TV, and my brother was either already in bed or doing his own thing. I would steal away to the quiet of the living room, where our [painfully artificial but nevertheless a] Christmas tree stood, basked in the soft glow of coloured lights. If there were already presents underneath, I would slide them just out of the way. Then I would lay underneath, usually at the back where the tree started to meet up with the living room window, out of one's obvious vision.

I can't remember, now, exactly, what it was that I enjoyed about being under the tree. I know it was not some magical sparkly Christmas feeling--that's never really been my style. ...I would guess that the perspective was visually appealing. Warm, glowing colours peeking through thick green branches and garland strands of gold. My reflection looking back at me from one of Mom's antique ornaments.

Outside of that, I think it was just a nice place for a child to take some solitude during the holidays. To just let my thoughts wander... maybe hum Christmas carols to myself. I didn't come to own my introverted temperament until somewhere in junior high, and even then, I would not know the term 'introvert' until late high school. I've always known I was quiet. I've always known that I've kinda been... socially against the grain, so to speak (to greater or lesser degrees depending on the point in time). But as a child, I couldn't have possibly told you that it was because of the way my introvert brain processes the world around me, and how I use my social energy.

Every now and then, I have a memory of some behaviour or habit from childhood, that I now recognize probably existed to enhance my own learning, or to maintain social competence before I knew why interacting with people was physiologically exerting. ...I think lying under the Christmas tree was one of those things... After a full day of school--the routine of which we all know goes out the window around the holidays--plus extra concerts, parties and holiday events, and visits with family friends... quietly tucking away under the Christmas tree sounds kind of appealing.

Twenty years later, the perspective is just as visually lovely, though it's a little tight getting under there now. But I'm sure if the cat came up to cuddle, I could be convinced to stay there for five more minutes and just... be.

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140/365

An evening of Christmas treats, both edible and non!

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

139/365

The start of a typical Saturday morning at my house.

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Compared to so many stories I've heard, my cats are really quite well-behaved in the mornings. They don't walk all over my head or start meowing at 6am for food while I am still sleeping. During the week, they know that there's no point in getting my attention 'til the alarm goes off at 7, and on the weekends, they wait for my signature stretch and roll (anything else could be an unconscious motor movement). And then the cuddling is on!

Purring in stereo...
there could be worse things on a Saturday morning...

138/365

Christmas memories or ghosts of Christmas past?

138/365 by gina.blank

Thursday, December 15, 2011

137/365

As I have managed to locate energy after two days of muddling through on poor nights' sleeps, I decided to tackle my toilet tank once again. Last week, through a series of events, I converted my tank from a regular to dual-flush. Except that it wasn't flushing properly.

After playing around with different setttings, I still couldn't get it to flush consistently. The tank just didn't like the bowl.

So I decided to switch the tank with the one from my downstairs toilet. It would be back to a regular-flush toilet, but I really just wanted one that worked properly, regular-flush or not.

So after draining, screwing and unscrewing, lifting, transferring, leak-testing, and re-installing, I am happy to announce that not only did I successfully re-install both toilet tanks on their counterpart bowls*, BUT the dual-flush toilet actually works on the bowl downstairs! It is a slightly different shape than the upstairs bowl, and whatever the effect that has, it seems to be enough to make for successful flushes all around!

I tell ya, the satisfaction is immense. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to use the loo...

137/365 by gina.blank

*Truth be told, there is a very, very, very small leak coming from one of the bolts holding the tank to the bowl. The rubber lost a bit of seal in the transfer, it seems. That being said, it is issuing only a single drop of water every 20 minutes or so. I might have enough water in the morning to water my plant. Thus, I can wait to pick up some new bolts on the weekend and pop them in. No big deal. :)

136/365

My favourite place to be as of late.

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135/365

Ugghhhhhhhhhhhhh...

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Toilet Training OR 134/365

So here's the story:

1. My toilet's flapper valve wasn't sealing properly, thus wasting water.
2. In replacing it, the toilet tank got cracked.
3. The old toilet tank got replaced with a new-style, dual-flush tank.
4. Except my dual-flush tank doesn't flush all that great... thus wasting water.

After a bit of research, a website informed me that fancy shmancy dual-flush tanks aren't really meant for regular ol' toilet bowls.

Great.

Toilet Training OR 134/365 by gina.blank

One of those household lessons learned the hard way, I guess. On the plus side, the flush valve doesn't leak...

I am hesitant to replace the entire toilet, because, well, the dual-flush tank was at no cost to me (as I was not the one who broke it). And it was enough of a process as it was to get it replaced. It was not fun to have to use the basement toilet while the main toilet was in the process of being fixed (especially first thing in the morning--it's chilly down there!!!).

That being said, as I've pondered the basement toilet, I've started to wonder if perhaps I can just switch tanks... The toilet downstairs is used so infrequently that if it takes an extra flush on the rare occasion someone uses it, it will not drain the entire North Saskatchewan River like I feel I've been doing this past week.

I want to research and fiddle bit more, though; sometimes the toilet actually flushes on the first try. And I want to figure out why this is. If I have exhausted my learning and have still come to the conclusion that I can't improve my toilet's flush quality, then I will pull out the big guns once again.

........I can't believe I just blogged about my toilet.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

133/365

"May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!"
-- Unknown

133/365 by gina.blank

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Little Light OR 132/365

132/365 by gina.blankWhat a lovely evening for some outdoor winter photography. Night time photography in the winter in Canada is a process. Clothing must be layered. Spare batteries must be kept close to the body to stay warm and functional. Fingers must be kept warm but still have enough dexterity to manipulate buttons. It could be -30C or -3C, and you won't actually know 'til you get there!

Tonight was more on the -3C side of things, for which I was very thankful.

For the first time since living in Edmonton, I drove down to the surrounding town of Devon to take in the Devonian Botanical Gardens' yearly Luminaria display. Thousands of paper lanterns line the paths of the gardens; it is absolutely beautiful.

Upon entering the gardens, I simply stood for a minute to take it all in. The trail right in front of me went forward, and then dipped, and split into multiple trails, winding around a pond, over a bridge, and up past a Japanese gazebo.

I stopped once or twice in each section of trail to take pictures, as well as at several of the campfires to keep my fingers warm along the way! I spent two hours listening to the crunching of snow under many footsteps, the voices of carolers, and Christmas-spirited buzz* of other people taking in the surroundings.

Overall, a beautiful reminder of the Light that is so much a part of this holiday season, and the peace it brings to those who gather around it in community.


"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own."
-- Ben Sweetland



*With the exception of the one child I heard pass by and declare, "You said there would be fun here, but there's not!"

There Goes My Leap Year Bonus Day OR 131/365


Rule of Thumb OR 130/365

Rule of Thumb OR 130/365 by gina.blank

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

129/365

Work, errands, respite, groceries; and now I have to pose in front of the camera, too?

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

128/365

Door decorating contest at work. What category will our team win this year?

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Monday, December 5, 2011

127/365

12 down, 84 to go...

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

125/365

Little help?

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124/365

Arrived just in time for bedtime stories :)

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

123/365

Long overdue for some Saskatchewan love. T-minus 24 hours.

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122/365

"Portrait lens, I missed you!"

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