Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Letting my child decorate

My home has begun to show increasing evidence of the smallest of humans. When I first had my son, I made sure his toys were safely tucked away and brought out when needed. His bassinet was in my room, and the only way to know I had a small child was to see bottles in the sink or the swing set up in my living room. When people came over, it bothered me if I didn't have all the baby things put away. Then I noticed a slow progression: soothers began showing up in the most random of places. Baby spoons peeked out from beneath furniture and on top of the piano. Soon, my carpet had a tint of orange in places where the vacuum had overlooked crunched goldfish crackers (and for the record, orange does not match my decor in any way, shape or form) and my glass coffee table was perpetually smudged with fingerprints, no matter how often I took Windex to it. My son's door has abstract art on it, exactly 32 inches above the ground and in haphazard purple lines. My fridge is decorated not with designer magnets, but fingerpainting keepsakes and photos of a very wary toddler on the lap of a big man in a red suit.

Still, I tried to make sure toys were always off the living room area rug and stayed in his playroom or bedroom, where I could shut the door and pretend the mess didn't exist. I would be running after him a dozen times a day picking up random cutlery from the dishwasher and toy cars while tripping over bath toys that had somehow migrated to my kitchen, adding a face print to the wall that already had hand prints all over it. I never purported to be an excellent housekeeper, but this was ridiculous; we tried to make this home comfortable with dried flowers and matching curtains, but rattles and trains didn't match my Pinterest-perfect idea of what my house should look like!

Then I began to look around. I had decorated with framed paintings and leather couches. I had overlooked my own dishes in the sink because they were forgivable; after all, I have a toddler! If my floor wasn't swept, well, at least put the broom out in the corner to make it look like I'd made an effort. My counters showcase bins of pasta and granola and small appliances, and my husband's text books lie neatly stacked next to the couch. Everywhere, I've allowed evidence of myself and my husband to occupy the space in my home. I can even overlook the pile of folded laundry in the basket, as long as it's contained. Even a dog toy seems somewhat acceptable! But if I see a stuffed toy sitting on the couch, a fork placed on top of the chess set, or a sippy in the corner of my kitchen, I find myself irate.

"How can I never get ahead?" I shriek.

Likely because my idea of decorating is on glossy magazine covers where no one lives. I have yet to see a small child walk out of the pages of HomeSense asking, "Mommy, read dat?"

My son's idea of decorating consists of a half-eaten cheesestring on the kitchen chair so when in 10 minutes he wants more, he can reach it and still keep it away from the dog. His idea of decorating is six books on the floor so Mom knows which one he wants to read next. He believes the best form of art is the picture he drew with applesauce on his high chair tray.

His idea of decorating is not very clean, so it needs to be temporary... but perhaps not so temporary that I need to erase every iota of evidence that he lives here, too. Maybe I can leave the chess piece in the fridge, the crayons on the piano bench, and the two toys on the carpet - just as I've left my dishes in the sink - for just an afternoon so he can play outside and have me watch him jump on the sandbox cover and chase the dog. There is something to be said for cleanliness, but a red toybox beside my leather couch is not going to hurt anything except my sense of style... which apparently needs a minor adjustment. And if someone sees that evidence, I may have to accept that a package of wipes on the table is just as acceptable as a few plates in the sink.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What is your passion?

A mom recently asked this question. I imagine a lot of moms ask themselves what their passion is... along with the rest of the world. If they haven't, they should. It is a good question.

What is your passion? What is my passion?

I have been pondering this a lot lately, mostly because I have so much going on that it is difficult to know where to focus my energy. It has also been difficult to pinpoint what, exactly, my passion is.

Take for example 15-year-old Jan Lisiecki. Haven't heard of him?

He is a superbly talented teen from Calgary who has been wowing audiences since he was very young with his ability to make music flow from the keys of the piano. He has been compared to Mozart, but hates being called a prodigy, saying that someone who is a "prodigy" has their abilities come easily to them while he has to work extremely hard to accomplish his goals. However, because he has such a passion for music, he is willing to work that hard. Lisiecki had his orchestral debut at the tender age of nine (you know, when most of us are getting our kicks by jumping off swings and swindling nickels from our parents to buy corner store candy). He has played at Carnegie Hall (if you don't know what this is, don't talk to me... until you Google it and educate yourself), along with numerous other notable (no pun intended) concert halls.

He writes music, performs Sonatas I could never dream of perfecting, and excels academically as well. I had the great pleasure of interiewing him when I worked at Metro newspaper in Calgary, and he was also very well-spoken and pleasant.

Music is his passion.

So what is yours? What do you dream of accomplishing?
What do you hope you can do with your life?

What is it that you spend your time promoting, furthering, practicing? Do you have a hobby? A mission? A goal?

When you post on Facebook or Twitter, what do your posts usually talk about?

Lately, mine have focused on my family and my newest little addition, Kaleb. A 13-month-old little character who loves bolting through the dog door and putting chess pieces in my refrigerator certainly makes for some entertaining Facebook statuses.

Are you proud of what you stand for? Are you furthering yourself and others by what you do with your life?

It has been difficult for me to pinpoint my own passions because I have recently discovered that I love to do so many things.
For example, I thoroughly enjoy organizing events, fundraisers, and parties. I organized Canada Day for my town. I went all-out for my son's birthday party, even though he will never remember it. I have organized fundraisers for different charity organizations and would call them successes. But I wouldn't call event-planning my passion like it is for some people.

I have also taught piano for nine years. Nine years of explaining where Middle C is, understanding my parents' frustration at how many times I played "Birch Canoe" (Leila Fletcher's Book 2), and encouraging my students to add dynamics, feel the rhythm, create stories with their pieces, and stop looking down at their hands, because their hands won't tell them what notes are next. Some days are frustrating... other days are so rewarding.  When I see the shining looks of pride on their faces after they perform their pieces at the year-end recital, I am so content and happy to know that I was able to play a part in encouraging the arts and showing them what fun music can be.
Is that my passion? I also used to relish times I could play and practice my own pieces, but have had to give up my hours of playing in recent years in favour of earning money to support myself and my family. I would have called music my passion in high school, but is a passion something that comes and goes?

When I was five, I wanted to be a journalist. When I was 18, I started college to become one, and worked for a few years at different papers. The thrill of seeking out stories and interviewing people never really died for me. However, the feasability of continuing in that line of work took a backseat when I had Kaleb, as the hours were not conducive to being a mom. Maybe I would have called that my passion, and maybe it has just been put on the back burner for now.

I am also a youth leader. Right now, I teach piano and help run a youth group. I love the youth I work with. Sometimes I am discouraged, other times it is invigorating to see them so full of life and energy, even if it is exhausting. One-on-one coffee times, pancakes in my office, and sampling fries around town allows me to pretend I'm not really growing up. The teens love having my little boy around, so it's great that I can bring him along to a few things here and there. While I say it is at times discouraging, it is equally rewarding. I look forward to seeing them every week, and I hope that I can be a stone, in their huge pond of experiences, that leaves a few ripples... but with that hope comes the huge responsibility of making those ripples count.
When I began preparing for a Bible Study or event, I become very passionate about what I am doing... I am excited to think that I am allowed to be a part of their lives. However, every time I hear the song "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath, I am reminded of why I really do this: because I love them and want to show God's love in a tangible way to these youth. Don't know the lyrics to this song? I won't type them all out... but look them up.
I would say that my passion for being a youth leader is sparked whenever I work with, spend time with, or prepare for events with the youth.

But I'm certainly not a Jan Lisiecki. I don't seem to have one passion. I can't seem to differentiate between being a perfectionist (because my motto, thanks to my mom, has become "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right") and having a passion. Whenever I work on something, I am wholly there. I might get distracted, but in that moment I want to do that task and finish it well.

Have I not yet found my passion? My one thing I would focus on?

Is it my baby boy? My family? I do all of this so Kaleb can have a good life and a mom who takes care of him. It influences all of my decisions. I want to be a good wife, a loving mom, and a woman who God would be proud to call His own.

What is your passion?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Adventure

Jacob's Darth Vader and my creative carving.
Have you ever had an idea invade your mind, take hold, and not let go?

I find it happening far too often. Once an idea grips me, I can't shake it. (Inception, anyone?)

Anyway, on Saturday evening I decided I didn't really want to give up my tradition of carving pumpkins. Don't get me wrong – I was actually prepared this year! I bought my pumpkins two weeks early, and they were beautiful. Round, plump, and flawless. They rolled around in my backseat for the whole time, just waiting to be carved into masterpieces. However, I thought I was brave enough to give them up. When we decided to do pumpkin carving at the Hallowe'en party for youth, I offered my two since I already had them, on the condition I could take them home and place them on my step.

Well, after the hoopla of the party and the huge breath of relief I took, I completely forgot to bring them home. I thought I'd get over it... until Saturday afternoon.

What? Go a Hallowe'en without carving pumpkins?? Unheard of! Carving one at the young adults' party we went to didn't suffice. We didn't take it home, so we had no proof of our labour.

It had to be done again.

Unfortunately, I forgot to get some while we were in Lethbridge. Thank goodness for a cell-phone and GPS! We looked up locations all over Lethbridge while parked by the side of the road in Fort Macleod. We fully intended to go back... until we found out nowhere in Lethbridge had any left. Fort Macleod was out. Pincher Creek was out. Claresholm didn't have any. In fact, Nobleford, High River, and Nanton didn't either. We called 16 places before finding out that Okotoks had some pumpkins left. "Quite a few", in fact. Perfect! We headed north.

I was little concerned, though. Why would I want to drive almost an hour one way just to get pumpkins if they ran out in the meantime? And what if they were closed by the time I got there?? And so Jacob, being the obliging husband he is, called and asked the customer service lady to put a couple aside for us. I had to beg, because, well, I didn't want to call again. And sound like a desperate fool. 

I dropped Jacob off at home so he could continue with some work at home before I sped into Okotoks. (Well, only a little speeding). I realized at 7:55 that they may close at 8 p.m. What then?? No matter, I was slated to make it there at 7:59... until I missed the exit. And the turn-around point. 

Thankfully, when I arrived at 8:06, they were still open. 

Walking up to the doors, however, I discovered they did indeed have "quite a few" pumpkins left. In fact, they had nine full-size boxes sitting outside the doors. Four feet tall and five feet across, they probably had 200 pumpkins, and the customer service lady had been kind enough to put two aside for me.

She probably thought I was little insane... especially since I drove that far for a $12 purchase.

I made it worth my time, though, and spent another few dollars at Starbucks. 

So how about it? Have you ever had an idea grip your mind and just not let go? How far would you go for your proverbial pumpkin?

(And let's not talk about the time I wanted whipped cream on my hot chocolate...)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finding hidden gems

I've always been told that God does things for a reason.

I think to revamp that a little, I would say that what God does, He does for a reason. What we do that is outside of His plan or because of our own free will, He can use for a reason.

I was reminded of this when I saw Deanna Storfie come to the church to perform "Impossible Faith" through her Christian Heroes series, featuring Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was a Jewish sympathizer who lived in Holland with her family when Hitler began his reign of terror. In their home, they rescued 100 Jews before a Dutch informant told the Gestapo what was happening and the ten Boom family was sent to several political camps, and finally Corrie and her sister Betsie ended up at Ravensbruck. It was there her sister died, Corrie was released due to a 'clerical error' and days later the older women were systematically murdered to get rid of those who were too old to be of much use (Corrie was in her 50s). It was a very powerful presentation, but what struck me most was when Storfie told of the fleas in Barracks 28.

She complained about the bites, the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements they created, and the fact they were everywhere in the Barracks.

Later, she wondered why the guards never came in to find them reading the little Bible she had smuggled in, and discovered it was because the fleas had been keeping them away.

What man had intended for evil, God has intended for good.

I was reminded of that again today when I could hardly walk against the wind. This was nothing that "man had intended for evil", but it certainly felt horribly uncomfortable. I really detest the wind... but as soon as I saw how many combines were out and how relieved the farmers were because the wind was probably quite literally a God-send along with the drying sunshine after the soaking rains we'd had, I realized that my perspective needed to change.

So I suppose there are two ways to look at it: either God can use our situations for good, or His reasons are totally unknown to us and are good even if we can't see why... but either way, maybe my perspective needs a shift sometimes. I can probably find a whole lot more hidden gems in unfortunate, frustrating, or challenging circumstances.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You might be surprised, but I married for love

It has finally gotten to me. After hearing the same phrase over, and over, and over, I have a new pet peeve.
I like to pride myself on being a fairly tolerant person. Yes, I have some things that grind my gears a little bit... such as tags sticking up above the collars, hearing someone scrape their teeth against their fork while eating, and dragging the knife across a ceramic plate in a sound akin to nails against a chalkboard. I also occasionally push the cards back into a neat organized pile while playing a game... but I usually only do it once or twice and give up.

But overall, I try not to be annoyed by petty things.

However, I've about had it with the phrase "You picked him!". For anyone wondering if I was in an arranged marriage, what I'm about to say might shock you: I really did choose to marry Jacob.

Yes, I understand he can be a little constant in his jokes or picking up on linguistic nuances. Yes, I realize his sense of humour is a little weird sometimes and I very well know he can play the fool; however, I might add he does this to interact with people.

I can't even count how many times from how many people I've heard that one single phrase: "You picked him!!". I also get "He's yours!"... both said (almost always) with a half-joking/half-condescending tone and a self-satisfied little laugh at the end. Guess what? You're not even a little bit clever, original, or funny.

In fact, the next time someone says that, I might just snap. I might just break down from my normal response, which is usually a "Yes, I know" preempted by a smile, and start LISTING EVERY SINGLE REASON why I married him. Unfortunately, it will likely be with someone who means it in a casual, friendly manner who is trying to engage us in banter.

It's not even the phrase itself. It's the way it's said, what it implies, and the intentions that may or may not be behind it. It says to me I'm "stuck with him", and it's not a good thing. It says I shouldn't be satisfied with his sometimes-childish antics. And it screams disrespect.

For anyone who has ever even considered the idea that my husband, with whom I have been happily married for three years, doesn't deserve respect, please let me enlighten you:
• For our first wedding anniversary, he spent about 150 hours creating paper 101 origami roses, and on each one placed a typed-out reason why he loved me. He then colour-coded those reasons (yellow for character, white for spiritual, red for physical) and arranged for the waiter at our restaurant to bring out one rose to represent one year, and the rest to represent 100 more years of marriage.
• His "honey-do" list (which he created himself) is written on the side of the fridge in dry-erase marker. The first item on the list is "make Alicia feel loved", and he has it permanently checked off. He looks at it every day as a reminder, though I dare say he doesn't need one.
• Shall I list the breakfasts in bed, random flowers, poetry written, and countless shows of love?

Okay, maybe not. You'd probably puke half way through.... lol

Instead, let's list a couple of other things:
• Anything he picks up, he can accomplish. From cake decorating, to cooking amazing dishes out of nothing in the cupboard to building a staircase on the front of our house, tiling the bathroom, replacing flooring, carpeting downstairs to constructing a vanity, specialized fish-tank shelving unit to creative activities such as embroidering a home-made leather baseball for our third anniversary, painting, drawing with precise detail, and writing poetry. I'm not sure I've ever met someone who can touch something and just make it work or create it the way he wants.
• He knows an astonishing amount of random trivia, the etymology of words, and absorbs information from everywhere... though he can never remember where he learned it.
• His work with small children, games with teens at youth group, and gentle dealing with our puppy makes my heart melt. Once we have kids, I can guarantee he'll be an excellent father.
• How different he is compared to who he could be. I can't lie: his childhood wasn't good. He's fortunate and can't remember it (another result of the accident), but it's a blessing. He has been able to recreate himself to the person he wants to be without the hindrance of a painful past.
• He has settled right into my family and has made an effort to get to know them
• He is willing to work a job he can't stand (plus overtime hours) because he's determined to provide for us and our future, but is also making strides towards a career in which he can help others.

If I were to list other things, such as his patience and understanding or other character or physical qualities, I think I'd run out of room.

But if one more person says "You picked him!" I might just fill their head with everything I didn't list here and more.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning my tetiquette

Tetiquette [t,eti'ket] - noun: Following acceptable rules of social behaviour regarding cell phone, e-mail, and social networking, particularly when interacting with someone face-to-face.

Okay, so this isn't a real word. But the concept should be! My co-worker came up with this term (combining "technology" and "etiquette", or maybe simply "texting etiquette, though it could encompass so much more than that) when I was lamenting some particularly rude and inconsiderate behaviour from a person with whom I was recently speaking. In my case, this person completely disregarded the fact we were having a conversation (and it happened to be during an interview) and they, instead, played with their phone the entire time. Now, I really wouldn't have minded a couple of taps on the phone here and there. Maybe it was really desperate and needed a response asap. But for all I know, this person was playing brickbreaker, or at least having a very extended conversation via text message, as, in the entire fifteen minutes, I think we only made eye contact once.

Maybe I'm out of touch -- is this the new way to interact?

You see it everywhere: people with their eyes glued to their cell phone screens, bumping into you on the sidewalk and glaring at you as though you weren't watching where you were going... or almost running their car over a pedestrian because their conversation was too important... you know what I mean.

I think there needs to be an established "tetiquette" for people who cannot seem to come to their own conclusions as to polite behaviour (or just have no clue as to how rude they're being).

1.) If it's a face-to-face conversation, pocket the phone. It's thoroughly frustrating to try and have a conversation with someone when you're not sure if they're listening. I fight the urge to ask "sorry, but would you like me to call you instead? Perhaps we could carry on our conversation that way."

2.) If you're in the customer service industry, don't be a gum-chewing-mouth-breather. It's a lovely little term we've been using lately for those individuals behind the till who would much rather smack their gum, breath loudly, and text to the other cashier than ask you for your Sobey's card. (Imagine: *smack, smack, smack* *DEEP SIGH* "Anything else?" [whiny voice]) I know it's an inconvenience to have to work for your paycheck, but I'm pretty sure daddy doesn't want to pay that texting bill you've been racking up at work.

3.) Don't flood the other person's inbox! My phone makes a rather loud "ding" when I receive a text message. It's a fun little sound and means someone wants to talk to me. What's bad is when I hear "ding"... "ding"... "ding".... and this person is sending two or three word text messages over... and over... and over. (Oh, and the forwards? Those weren't welcome when e-mail came out... neither are they welcome to my phone. I promise, you won't die if you don't forward the text message, and if you do, your crush won't come kiss you at midnight. That's a little creepy to think about anyway.)

4.) Take time to respond properly. E-mail, text, Facebook message, whatever it is, a very short, curt response is difficult to decipher true meaning from. Especially in a professional environment, but even between friends, a cryptic e-mail with a two sentence response can appear very rude. In a text, it's not necessary to say "Hi _____, hope your day is going well. Here's what I have to say back to your text"... but in an e-mail, it needs to read a bit like a letter. Without something of a greeting at the beginning, body, and an ending, your two sentence e-mail response that reads "Come at 8. Bring a salad." actually reads "I didn't care enough to type out a full response"; "I'm annoyed with you for some reason unbeknown to you"; or "e-mailing you was an inconvenience." That's especially true if it's in response to a longer e-mail that someone has put care into typing out.

5.)  Use abbrev. with care, and sparingly. "Hey ppl idk if i can 2nite, sry" just gets annoying. "Sorry not sure" actually uses less characters.

6.) Adding a little bit of casual emotion is more than welcome, but not in a professional e-mail. If you insist on using two sentences to respond, at least put a :) at the end to indicate it was said with a smile. Adding an "lol" to the end of a sentence is great if the meaning can be construed in two different ways, and using little asterisks to indicate an action (*said with sarcasm*) clarifies the meaning without over-explanation. But for goodness sake, don't put an "lol" at the end of your e-mail to a potential employer! They'll lol you right out of that job. :)

7.) Let the other person know if you're not going to respond. Have you ever come back to your MSN Messenger (if anyone actually uses that anymore), Facebook chat session, or blackberry messenger to find four or five messages going, "So, what do you think?" "Are you still there?" "Hello?" "Okay, well I guess I'll talk to you later..." If you do need to pocket the phone, use the bathroom, or take a hiatus from the conversation, use a quick "brb" just to let the person know you can't respond for a moment. It's always appreciated.

8.) Don't respond with "lol". That's a clever little opt-out of a response. If I send you something you think is mildly amusing and you have nothing to say back, please don't use three letters to take up an entire text message. I'm sure if you were smart enough to catch on to my humour, you're smart enough to think up something a little more creative. I'd just term that L-A-Z-Y.

So, what do you think? Do you have any "tetiquette" suggestions? Do you think I'm way off the deep-end and should really just clue in to how the world of technology actually works?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good-bye summer

Well, there it goes. We enjoyed a couple of weekends of summer warmth, but despite the heavy smoke from B.C. and rainy days I'd say it was a pretty good camping season.

But with the Labour Day weekend done and past, camping season has about wrapped up for the year.
It makes me wonder why we do it.

Whoever came up with the thought, "I know! Let's abandon all sense of cleanliness, society, amenities we work each and every day of our lives to obtain, comfort, and a dry home so we can eat sub-par food in a questionable environment before we sleep on the ground, hoping animals, rain, and bugs leave us alone."
It's the only time you'd wash your hands in the river and be okay with a little dirt in your sandwiches. I can't think of another place you'd settle for dishes you're not sure are clean and wear the same jeans (complete with ash, sand, and mud on the bottom) so many days in a row.

And yet it's a choice vacation. I love doing it. Maybe it's because we can truly get away from the things that aren't important and focus on beauty, fun, and relaxation (though, unless you have an air mattress, relaxation is really kind of questionable too). But I can't say I caught up on my sleep. The sun shone through the smoky glaze covering Martha Creek (near Revelstoke) to awaken us early each morning. We were eager to do some hiking (11 km later I was wondering whose brilliant plan that was) and, with our legs still recovering, paddle-boating the next morning.

If you break it down, it sounds ridiculous. Bundle up to go to bed? Skip showering and hope you don't have to go to a public place? Regardless, I just can't fathom using a fancy trailer complete with a microwave, dishwasher, and heated water. It just takes away the point of camping.

Might be good for kids – we'll see... we don't have any yet. But really, I think abandoning all sense of established propriety, aside from letting us feel like we're really roughing it (air mattress and all), lets us truly escape. It feels so different from home that our thoughts don't have to linger on responsibilities. It takes work to make yourself look presentable each morning – but it really doesn't matter when you're camping.

In general, it's natural.

So what do you think – why do we camp? And is camping in a fancy trailer cheating?