Saturday, December 31, 2005

an unexpected post-Christmas treat

After 9 hours of travel, I finally arrived back safely at my home in Vancouver. I was only travelling from Saskatchewan, which should take an average flight time of 4 hours. I was too interested in taking the latest flight out in the afternoon and failed to notice there was a 3 hour layover in Edmonton (plus the 2 hour delay from Regina).

Anyway, I got home just in time to make the beds and set the towels and chocolates on the pillows just in time for my cousin Christal from Ottawa and her friend to come stay with me for the week. They're in town for a wedding of a high school friend of theirs who happens to go to my church. It'll be fun to go out on the town and ring in the new year with her at this wedding, though it feels admittedly a bit weird to do that with her (she will always be in my mind my little cousin!) Six degrees of separation continues to be true -- one of her friends in Vancouver turns out to be a friend of one of my roommates who was here for our Christmas party earlier this month!

I was looking in the paper for a show to take Christal to... I thought perhaps improv, but the timing didn't work out. Instead, we went to take in the Nutcracker by Ballet BC. This is something I've always wanted to do but not so badly that I've ever looked it up. I thought it was playing before Christmas while I was away, but lucky for me it was playing this Boxing Week and Christal was into it too.

What a treat! I think this beats the live theatre and symphony for me personally. I just love the grace and movement that flow from the dancers. If I can ever get my butt in gear, I want to take dance lessons again as a form of staying active. I look back on my dance memories of childhood with great fondness.

Speaking of childhood dance memories, while I was in Regina this time, my dad somehow dug out our old childhood dance costumes. They were soooooo cute! Most of the great ones were my sister's. The two funniest ones had to be the cute little yellow leotard that had the rows of soft feathers on the bum for the "six little ducks that I once knew" dance (my sister was 3 I think at the time) and the white leotard with gaudy giant silver sequins that my mom painstakingly sewed on one at a time for the dance where they imitated LA show girls, complete with a white fur thing they threw around. What a hoot we had laughing at the cuteness of the costumes (though we weren't laughing at the not-so-pleasant smell coming from the outfits!).

Monday, December 19, 2005

sorrys and smiles won't get us drunk

After a season of going to see live theatre on subscription tickets to a local theatre with a friend, we got bored with it. So we upgraded to the symphony!

It was a different experience than when I had gone as a teen for my music history classes. Quite enjoyable in fact! The first show we saw was music from the Rat Pack. The maestro for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Bramwell Tovey was quite humourous and interactive. Being a performance on Rememberance Day, he had all the vets stand up. That was a nice moment. But he also cracked jokes all night and gave background info on each piece so we could better enjoy it.

Then we went to see a child prodigy play one of Mozart's violin concerto. That was nice too. Mozart is one of my favourites. When I used to play piano as a child, I was pretty terrible at learning and getting the notes off the page. So I prefered Mozart -- simpler notes, but the challenge in perfecting his pieces were in the musicality. That I could handle.

Anyway, on the way home from the Mozart concert, I walked by an interesting sign from some of the panhandlers on the street. It said "Sorrys and smiles won't get us drunk!"

It made a good point, I thought. Just because I choose not to give change to someone, doesn't mean that I should ignore them and brush past like they don't exist. There's a basic human dignity that is respected when we make eye contact, smile and say "sorry, I can't help you in that way" or even "hi, how are you doing today?"

Every time I do say "hi" or some other comment to a panhandler, every single time I've received a polite response -- either "thanks anyway" or "have a good day" or "God bless you." I guess it's true like my friend's husband from England said during his first visit to Canada (Vancouver) -- the bums are polite here! Or maybe it's just that Canadian politeness coming out...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

modern day freak show

My roommate was watching Oprah the other day as I walked to the kitchen.

I guess this week is "neurological disorders" week. The show was featuring heart-wrenching cases like the mermaid baby whose legs were born attached together, and a baby that kept chewing her hands, among other cases.

I'm a bit squeamish so I quietly left and went back to my room. My friend who is a massage therapist and thus in the medical profession loves that kind of stuff.

Anyway, I was thinking about it, and pretty much I realized that Oprah was just getting away with presenting a modern day freak show, but with a sentimental twist. As if the attention these people get already in their daily lives isn't enough to ostracize them or make them feel abnormal. Why not broadcast it on national TV?

While I admit to sneaking in a daytime soap once in a blue moon, I guess I never really got the extremity of Talk TV of daytime TV. Maybe there's some sort of odd yet comforting "look how crazy or bad or sad their lives are -- at least mine isn't that bad!" element to it.

I don't get it. I don't know what's triggering it, but it looks like my critical media studies training is resurrecting itself in me again...

Friday, October 14, 2005

film that makes you go hmmm....

Tonight I finally went to the Vancouver International Film Festival for the first time, just as it was winding down. (Thanks Ann for the free passes!)

We saw 2 serious flicks that leave you with reeling thoughts (no pun intended!).

Their Brothers' Keepers: Orphaned by Aids chronicled the plight of families in Africa affected by the AIDS epidemic which is wiping out the whole middle generation, leaving young children to fend for themselves, sometimes with or without the help of the surviving grandparents.

The film interspersed excerpts from an address by Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa with portraits of several child-led families to illustrate Lewis' comments.

Indeed it was sad to see the extremely poor conditions of these young orphaned children, yet the film still managed to end on a note of hope. The few examples they provided ended up receiving help and having some sort of happier ending. Amazing how "feel good" endings appeal to something deep within the human heart.

But it was sad to consider the millions of other children not receiving the help they need. One area coordinator for a non-profit compassion organization visited one of the child-led families but did not have the resources to help him other than a visit. It makes you want to just drop everything here and go there to offer some kind of direct help.

One thing that really struck me, more as a sideline in the film, was how communal and collective the African culture is. There was one orphaned family of kids that were about 2 days travel away from the village where their grandmother lived. They wanted to go visit her and see if they could move there to be with her. The way this came to eventually be was a village council meeting which decided on behalf of the kids if they could go. Once they arrived at their grandmother's village, again the village council decided if the children could move in.

We are so individualistic in our culture here in North America. I was already feeling this from my Vietnam trip as I observed the communal and interdependent life of the locals there.

And so I continue to unlearn my independent ways in order to make way for a more interdependent way, even while watching a world-issue flick at the Film Fest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

quit trying so damn hard

This week I've been getting quite distracted with bringing my future business ideas to the front burner. My sister is taking a web design course and will be creating an initial website for my future company. I've been quite happily distracted at that, drafting parts of my business plan and web copy. I seem to only get things done if there is a concrete deadline attached!

As I was thinking about how cool this opportunity is to get my butt in gear on making some steps towards my card company dream, I came to realize a lesson I am slowly starting to learn.

Being the over-ambitious goal-oriented person that I am, often I am setting goals that only set me up for failure (I am terribly unrealistic in goal-setting). But this year, I see that a lot of growth in my life has simply just happened, without planning or intentional mustering up of my energy and self-effort. Sure, it is helpful to have goals to know which direction you're headed, but the actual execution of them is a different story altogether.

With the card company dream -- The Tim Botts calligraphy course fell on my lap this year totally unexpectedly, which should help with some of my future card designs. Then I am working on 3 wedding invitations this year for friends, which broadens my portfolio and gives me enough to show people what I can do. And then now my sister is starting up this website for me, which gives me a concrete deadline to build my business plan which I've been meaning to do for years.

And of course, the other major area in my life that I want to grow in is the whole being overly-independent thing. The Vietnam trip, co-mortgage on the new apartment, and having 2 very social roommates were direct answers to my prayers and desires to learn to live interdependently, yet were all things that I could not have orchestrated myself and were exactly what I needed to stretch me in this area of my life.

Both of these seem to be part of a broader theme/lesson that God is trying to teach me (as usual there is seemingly nothing coincidental in my life happenings). Self-effort and mustering up enough energy to live out my millions of good intentions will only get me so far and leave me exhausted when I tread down that path for too long.

Let's hope I can practice what I am learning to let go and not try so hard to make everything happen (and thus stress myself out unnecessarily!). This way I think I can enjoy the ride more...

Monday, October 10, 2005

an unexpected thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving this year, I was deliberately planning on lying low, despite knowing there would be many open doors welcoming me to gluttonous turkey dinners, if I so chose to indulge.

Instead, on the Saturday of the long weekend, my two roommates decided relatively last minute to have a Thanksgiving dinner. I figured I could offer to do my 5 minute cranberry chicken. It may not be turkey, but hey, it has cranberry in it. And it's easy to make.

Well, my roommates would not hear of such a thing. They were set on roasting a turkey.

It turned out really nice. While we waited for the turkey to finish roasting, we all sat on the couch and did some reading. It was peaceful to just sit in their company even though we were not in direct conversation.

Then Dilys read an excerpt from a book she was reading to direct our thoughts. We followed with a short time of prayer thanking God for all the amazing things he's given us in life. Then we chowed down on the turkey (along with Stove Top stuffing and gravy from a package).

Then we vegged in front of the TV for the rest of the night.

We realized it was the first time we've sat down to eat together, all three of us, since Rebecca moved in 3 weeks ago.

At some point in the evening, a key realization struck me which I chose to share with the others. I contemplated out loud to them, "You know girls, I think I am finally getting used to having other people around." After 3 years living with a roommate who was hardly ever home, I'd gotten used to living practically on my own.

This is a sign of growth -- evidence of God working in my life. It's a big deal as I continue to work on learning to live interdependently with people, rather than being overly independent which is my default mode. Back in February when I prayed, "Jesus, I am finally willing to begin to learn an interdependent way... please bring situations in my life that will help me grow in this way." I had no idea the answer would come in the form of roommates.

Thank you Jesus for the way that you work so unexpectedly to answer our prayers and grow us to live more like you do.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

two sinkfuls of orange puke

"How could anybody be so sick?" thought one of the staff of the neighbourhood house down the street from me, after two days of cleaning out two sinkfuls of orange puke in the bathrooms.

It turns out it wasn't orange puke; it was really two sinkfuls of fresh squeezed orange juice. Well how did the juice get to be there?

I heard this story at a community meeting tonight about different shower programs for those in need in communities throughout the city. Every Saturday morning the neighbourhood house down the street from me partners with churches and volunteers in the community to provide a hot breakfast, clean towels and underwear, a hot shower, and more importantly, friendship and hopefully the tools to begin thinking and living in healthier ways.

It turns out one of the program participants, after having been fed several times by the program, came to the desire to want to change his eating habits to healtheir ways. So he went out and bought himself a juicer. And he wanted to share it with people at the community centre and give back to others as he'd been given to.

I guess there was juice all over the place -- in the front lobby, in the bathrooms, everywhere!

Anyway, it's neat to see when programs like this can really touch people and make a difference in their lives.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

why does it always happen the one time when...

Last week I sent a parcel Xpresspost. I totally forgot to pick up the tracking slip. By the time I realized it, I was too lazy to go back to the post office to pick it up. I rationalized that the system has never failed me before. I've never had to look up a tracking number due to tardiness before.

Well, wouldn't it have to be the one time that the parcel gets lost? Without a tracking number it's impossible to check. Looks like I lose the 25 bucks that I could've argued back because Xpresspost is supposed to be a guaranteed service.

Why does it always not work the one time you don't do the one basic routine thing that's supposed to save you?

It reminds me of the time I was working at Campbell Soup on their employee newsletter. Every month I was supposed to double check with the HR guy at the Listowel plant about the how-long-an-employee-has-been-around awards (I can't remember the proper name right now -- maybe "employee anniversary awards"?). And every single time I double checked there was never a problem. So one month I decided to assume it would be just fine to print like all the other times.

Well, wouldn't it have to be the one time that there's a guy on the list who's worked on-again-off-again for the company. Man did I get in trouble for that.

I guess that's the way these things work. I suppose that's how I learn. So I will try to be glad for it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

the anatomy of an addiction

Not long ago my friend Renae asked me if I would like to go on a sugar fast with her. I didn't particularly want to, yet I knew it would be good for me. And in my past experience, having accountability in forming a new habit can be the key difference in succeeding. So I told her sure, I would.

Well each day since then has fallen into one of two categories:
  1. totally forgetting about the conversation I had with her and eating sugar (like chocolate chips or something similar) first thing in the morning and then all day.
  2. 2. totally wanting to honour what I said to her yet totally failing 2 hours into the day (again, usually on chocolate chips or something sweet lying around the house).
It seems like the harder I try and resolve not to do something, the less likely I have been to succeed.
I think I am addicted to sugar (and food, period), among many other things. How do I know? Because I can't control it. It has more control over me than I have over it. Crazy that an inanimate substance can have such power over me. But there are many other things that I am addicted to, things unseen -- like getting approval on a job well done, and the rush of getting my way in a conflict.
I think addictions make empty promises, offering to satisfy some kind of real need, but once the rush wears off, leaves you empty.
Good thing I am starting a 12 step course tonight (same 12 steps as AA), as part of a Spiritual Transformation course my church is offering. I tried taking it last year, and the addiction I was working on then (and likely will continue to work on this second time around) was being overly independent and commitment-phobic. In the end my Commitment-phobia won out and I dropped out of the course half way.
The hardest work is going deep and addressing the real roots of our addictions.
Let's hope I make it past step 5 this time.

Monday, October 03, 2005

lessons from a dying plant

I received a beautiful orchid as a housewarming gift when I had my party back in June.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am plant killer through and through. I've never ever bought myself a plant because I know myself well. Two other friends have bought me plants (one for my birthday 2 years ago, another for my housewarming at my last apartment 4 years ago). I even got quite excited when I saw noticeable growth in one of them.

Alas, it was only a matter of time before I killed them both after a few months of concerted on-again, off-again effort.

I was quite excited to receive the orchids as they are one of my favourite flowers. So simple and elegant. I was thrilled to discover the instructions for care were simple -- indirect sunlight and water once a week. I thought I could handle once a week. And I did for quite some time. I even managed to ask my roommate to water it while I was away in Vietnam for two weeks in August.

I gave up on it in early September. Until my new roommate Becki, who has a green-thumb, gave me new hope this week. She cut the dried, flowerless stems, watered it again, and dusted off the green leaves. I had written it off as dead because the blooms had long fallen off. She pointed out the leaves were still green which meant the plant was clearly not dead yet! She made a comment about different seasons and how it wouldn't be blooming every single day of the year.

Something clicked in my head when she said that. I think I expect everything in my life to be in bloom all year round. I am quite impatient with long term anything in life, especially things like transforming my heart and forming new habits and perspectives. I want to see everything happen now. I want my food and sugar addictions to end now. I want my dream business ideas and career plans to happen now. I want my character flaws to change now. I want to see my friends' problems end now.

How unrealistic that kind of thinking is, and how it only serves to set me up for disappointment and frustration. One of the things I want to learn more is finding (and being satisfied) with rhythm and rest in my life. I want to enjoy any season I may find myself in on any given day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

the miracle of technology

So here I am doing something unbelievably unusual and supernatural for me. I would even call it a miracle.

Many who know me might associate me with words and technology (due to my last job working on the webzine To these people, it might seem that starting a blog would be a natural thing for me. Yet I remember when I first discovered reading blogs, I subconsciously swore to myself I would never have one of my own. I figured it was too much commitment and too hard to keep regularly updated. All the more recently I continue to unearth the depth of my phobia of commitment and maintenance. I can barely keep a regular (handwritten) journal of my own; I can barely stay on top of responding to the emails in my inbox (despite the fact that I compusively check email several times in an hour). What makes me think I can keep up with blog entries regularly?

But hey, things change. I think technology (among other things) is changing the way I think and live. Like the way it has changed the way I write... I used to have to do a pencil-on-paper draft whenever I wrote a paper or article. Now, that's been excluded from my writing process. Now, I can't even conceive of handwriting a first draft. I can only compose text while at a keyboard. So technology has changed the way I write in a short time.

While my overly pragmatic entries in my handwritten journal (i.e. "This is what I did today, this is who I saw, etc.") , bore me enough to drop it for 11 months of any given year, I've recently found myself thinking differently about the possibility of online journals. I've found that I've been more observant of things I see throughout my day -- whether it be on public transit, on television, online, or in conversations. Some are things that I wonder if others have thought about. Some are things I wish I could share with my friends about perspective in life. Others are simply inane things I might get a kick out of reading several years later. I think technology, specifically the concept of blogging, is changing the way I think about and process life.

And so here I am, doing a totally supernatural thing for me -- starting a blog. Do expect that the frequency of my entries will match my personality -- extremely on and regular vs. extremely off and silent. Nevertheless, I hope you'll enjoy the ride with me.