Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Stickers

This week, I went through some of my old high school assignments, and I found something really interesting.

On Monday, March 20, 2000, I wrote my OAC Writer’s Craft journal entry about the “U”-shaped bench where my friends and I sat during lunch. As usual, that day, there were so many people talking so loudly that I easily caught snippets of several conversations around me. I wrote down some of those snippets in between paragraphs of my journal entry (I don’t remember why; maybe to add a twist of flavour to the writing):

“Oh no, they’re gonna fight again…”

“Are you getting a tattoo?”

 “It’s not a fish”

“…and then you just hear his brother screaming…”

“That’s why I have that pause between steps.”

That the people involved in these conversations remember having these conversations, now eleven years ago, is unlikely. That the people involved in these conversations even remembered having these conversations a day or a week later is also unlikely. These conversational snippets made me think about how a huge percentage of what we say only temporarily registers in another person’s mind…usually to eventually be forgotten.  Most things just don’t stick…

…like a gust of wind that hits your face and then blows away.

Wall Stickers:
Can you recall all conversations you’ve ever had, how many stories you’ve heard (or told) or how many things people have said or done that have made you laugh? Obviously not. Do you even remember all the “serious” talks you’ve ever had with people over your life—the ones that seemed so earth-shattering at the time? No, we only remember the most “memorable” ones; the top five, ten or twenty (depending on how melodramatic you or your life is); the ones we want to remember; the ones we can’t help but review, repeat and relive, whether in favour of building up or tearing down our own self-esteem; the most extreme events or stories (the funniest, the nicest, the meanest, the most honest, the saddest, the most significant, the most relatable…).

I was too young to remember, but my mom has told me countless times (and has told countless people) about a conversation I had with my grandma when I was three years old. Apparently I noticed a woman on the street, who I apparently found unattractive, and had the gall to point her out, exclaiming, “Grandma, that lady is ugly!” My grandma quickly reprimanded me, saying, “Now, Christina! That lady is not ugly. You shouldn’t say such things.” I quickly replied, “Trust me, Grandma. She’s ugly.”

 (I can’t believe I said that! I would NEVER say something like that now! Remember my Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful post? Maybe that post was some sort of recompense for what I said when I was three…)

My mom and my grandma probably retold that story so many times, reinforcing its memorability, because it was really hilarious to them. That little story trumps all the other things I said when I was little, so it is The Reigning Story about Christina From Her Childhood. (What’s your Reigning Story?)

That story was a sticker.

Anyway, the point is, there’s no way we could remember all the things we think about, talk about, hear about and laugh about—we only remember the [you fill in the blank with a superlative appropriate to your life and personality] stories.

I wonder, apart from the random things that just “happen” and become memorable without any effort, what can I do or say that could have a lasting positive (of course positive because why would you want to have a negative) impact on someone?

What can you do or say that could have a lasting positive impact on someone?

How can we make sure that what we talk about, or do, is something that sticks instead of something that just floats away as though it was never said, or done?

What do you think?

Here are a few words that came to mind as the starting point for potential “stickers”:








Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ironic Renovation

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been renovating our downstairs bathroom. (By “we,” I mean Joel and some other guys. I “tried” to operate a drill on Thursday to drill in some drywall screws…too bad you weren’t here to laugh at me. It was hilarious. Thank God I have a patient husband.)

Our house was built in the 1960s, and the original bathroom fixtures have lived long and prospered since then. Upstairs, the bathroom and sink are a grayish-lavender purple, and downstairs, the bathroom, sink and toilet were pastel-seafoam green (until a couple of weeks ago).

Downstairs bathroom "before" 

We have been talking about renovating our bathrooms for a couple of years. The downstairs (seafoam green) bathroom took priority because there have been several issues with the plumbing and the toilet (including one fateful overflowing of the toilet during a consequentially memorable New Year’s party).

After bathtub was removed. See the lovely green toilet back there?

I originally had an old-fashioned-antique-ish vision for the downstairs bathroom (warm bronze taps, dark, fancy wood, deep red accents), but somehow my vision gradually changed into a less antique-ish and more modern classic look. We even strayed from the safe taupe turf and delved into the land of cool urban purple for the wall colour.

Then last night, I had a thought. I thought, Oh my goodness: we picked a purple paint colour for the downstairs bathroom. Also, oh my goodness, the colour of the bathtub we can’t wait to dispose of (hopefully next year) upstairs is purple, too. Then I brought the paint color chip upstairs and placed it on the side of the bathtub. The new downstairs bathroom colour (Fog Grey) is not at all unlike the old upstairs bathtub colour (maybe just a little foggier-grey). In fact, in some ironic circumstantial twist of fate, the colours are quite similar.

"Fog Grey" (with the "X") is the new bathroom colour. (It's not painted yet.)

Our purple "fog grey-ish" upstairs bathtub. Emmett's strategically-placed arm and leg justify me posting this bath picture.

How ironic is it that in the effort to purge our house of colours that were trendy 40-50 years ago, we managed to select a new, “modern” paint colour that is actually reminiscent of that which we are itching to remove?

That fashion and style moves in circles is very true—we all know that. I mean, with a modern twist, so many ideas from so many years ago have come full circle and are stylish yet again.

So I guess if you don’t renovate often enough, you may not need to renovate at all (as far as aesthetics go).

New bathtub/floor (bathroom isn't totally finished yet)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Definition of You

Mount Rushmore

I have been doing a lot of retrospection over the past month or so.

Why? Maybe because I’m turning 30 this year, I’m looking back at everything that has happened in my 20s (and seriously, so much happens in your 20s). I am also job searching right now, so I’m continually poring over my resume and analyzing—or probably over-analyzing—all of my educational and employment decisions to date, revisiting the reasons why I made those decisions.

During all of this retrospection, one considerable change I’ve noticed in myself over the last 10 years (or more) is my much improved ability to be true to myself.

Be true to yourself.

I had heard that phrase many times before I actually learned its invaluable lesson. Once upon a time, as a teenager, I was so caught up in pleasing people and wanting everyone to like me that I can’t say for certain that I was always true to myself. Do you know how easy letting your own personality, preferences and point-of-view fall by the wayside to accommodate others’ is?

I also avoided any types of confrontations at all costs. I resented situations that forced me to decide one way or another about an issue, especially if it meant that I would have to take a side, thereby creating opposition to myself. I could hardly bear that sort of thing!

I have never liked being put on the spot to make a tough decision. I have never liked being confronted with opposition or being forced to choose between two things. I like to keep everyone happy, so even though a decision might be good for someone else but bad for me, I still struggle and tend to want to decide against myself. During every difficult situation that demands a response from me, I spend a lot of time wondering, What is the right thing to do?

Be true to yourself.

As I got older and matured into adulthood, I realized that I would be regularly required to make serious, potentially life-altering decisions, for the rest of my life. We are consistently put in difficult situations and faced with challenging circumstances as adults. How do we survive and still remain strong and completely sure of who we are? By knowing who we are in Christ and by remaining true to that person we know we are.

Picture this: let’s say you are a big, square block of slate-coloured stone. You are plain and have no definition—until life happens to you, and you are met with challenges, and you have to make serious decisions, and you have to confront people who attack what is important to you. Every time you act, every time you form an opinion, every time you stay true to yourself by saying “no,” every time you avoid trouble by walking away and every time you decide how to deal with difficult circumstances, a chisel strikes the stone and creates a new slope, curve, indentation or definition. With every strike of the chisel, you take more shape—you become less indistinct and more interesting.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’d rather take some risks; I’d rather stand strong in the morals I believe in; I’d rather stay true to myself; I’d rather square my shoulders and be what I need to be if it means that I can become an individual carving, unlike any other carving there is. Wouldn’t you rather have defined lines than remain an unremarkable block of stone?

Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Embrace life’s opportunities and challenges because they enable you to emerge from the boring blob of rock and become something of shape and substance; for we are defined by the way we handle all of the problems and blessings alike that we encounter.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Books, Books, Books

I love books. Books, books, books.

What is so awesome about books?

I love the smell of books—the smell of new books, library books, old books you’ve had for years and years and used books at used bookstores. Every book smells sort of different from the next one.

I love the idea of curling up somewhere comfortable and quiet, maybe with a soft blanket wrapped around me (NOT a Snuggie—those atrocious blankets are all wrong because they don’t have BACKS to them—if they have sleeves, they should have backs, too), reading a book.

What about all of those words to look at? I love reading a word I haven’t thought about in a while (and then secretly issuing a word point to the author). I find reading the names of people and places helps me to remember them later (as opposed to hearing them).

Sometimes I’ll read something that pushes my mind away from the book, and I can’t help but ponder or wonder about a larger idea that the story has implied. For example, books set during World War II always cause me to sit there for a moment, feeling grateful that I am living now instead of then. I love reading suspenseful, exciting chapters. Sometimes I get so involved in parts of the narrative that once I stop reading, I feel my entire body relax and realize I had completely tensed up and my stomach had been in knots.

I have mixed feelings about finding errors (grammatical, chronological, etc.): I can’t help shaking my head at whoever edited the book for missing something, and I kind of relish in the fact that I noticed something that someone else overlooked.

Since I’ve been on maternity leave, I’ve kept track of all the books I’ve read.

Here is the list of books I have read over the past year. Most were recommended to me by friends and family, some were recommended by Oprah, and many were lent to me by a good friend who also shares a love for books, and I have to confess that while several were quite educational, many were indulgences:

1.       Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
2.       Green by Ted Dekker
3.       Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
4.       Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
5.       New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
6.       Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
7.       Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
8.       The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry
9.       The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
10.   The Texas Legacy by DiAnn Mills
a.       Leather and Lace
b.      Lanterns and Lace
c.       Lightning and Lace
11.   The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein
12.   Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
13.   Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
14.   The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
15.   Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
16.   Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
17.   In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
18.   Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
19.   The Host by Stephenie Meyer
20.   New York by Edward Rutherfurd
21.   The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
22.   The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
23.   Eragon by Christopher Paolini
24.   Eldest by Christopher Paolini
25.   Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

The last few books I’ve read are set hundreds and hundreds of years ago (The Pillars of the Earth takes place in the 1100s, and, well, the Eragon books take place in a fantasy world, but I’d place them just as far back as The Pillars of the Earth, if not farther, if they had existed in our world).

Books set in those far away days, far before technology and immediate information became so commonplace, are usually the ones that attract me. I wondered why that was (other than the fact that I just like them).

Maybe they help provide a little balance to my life.

Do you ever find yourself mentally exhausted by the end of the day—exhausted in the way that only people who live in this day and age, with the accompanying pressures and demands, would?

Here’s an example: One evening, I find myself standing in the living room, typing a text message while answering a question Joel is asking me, as I am pulling my coat out of the closet. I have half an hour free while Joel is watching the baby, so I run out to Wal-Mart for a few things (dangerous) and my cell phone rings and I answer it, thus talking and looking at thousands of products under bright lights around lots of people, all at once (OVERLOAD). I go home, make supper, put Emmett to bed, check my e-mail, then scan the Home page of Facebook, perhaps changing my status. Then I realize I wondered, since watching the Academy Awards, who won last year? Who won the year before last? I don’t remember. After looking that up, I quickly surf over to my online banking to see what payments are coming out this week, and then forget that I was supposed to reply to a certain e-mail, so I have to go back to my e-mail to do that. Then it’s later than I had expected, and my eyes are not focusing so well on the bright computer screen anymore, so I walk away. I walk past rooms and rooms full of stuff. I think, Why in the world do we have so much STUFF? (And we aren’t anything close to hoarders...I’m too anti-clutter for that.) We have racks of CDs and shelves of movies in the rec room, clothes upon clothes in our bedroom, toys upon toys in the spare room, cupboards full of food in the kitchen, papers on the fridge, and the junk drawer… (well, there’s a reason why it’s called the junk drawer – you probably have one, too). Then we watch TV or a movie (I prefer movies because Joel is notorious for watching two TV shows at once, flicking back and forth between them during commercials). Images upon images flash before my eyes and enter my mind.

Then I go to bed, and my mind is so full. My brain hurts. My mind is thinking about something I read about, something I talked about, something I forgot to do, whether I am doing all I can do to be a great wife and a loving mother, and then I realize I haven’t prayed yet, so I begin to pray and then fall asleep at some point during the prayer.

Did that sound a little neurotic?

Anyway, I’m saying all this to say that although of course I appreciate that we aren’t living in the Middle Ages anymore, and that we have great technology, and we have all of the neat and interesting things we have nowadays, and that a wealth of information is immediately available to us through the Internet—even so—sometimes these great things make me feel sort of tired. Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure from the world to succeed and be great at every part of the multi-faceted life I (and everyone else) lead(s). I like to bury my nose in an aromatic book, especially if I am reading about characters who only own what they need, and a few other interesting things like a jewelled belt or a nice goblet. It’s refreshing to read about people who spend an hour walking through town to run an errand (maybe they had no choice but to walk, but still, it makes for a little bit of reflective time, right?).

We have a lot to be thankful for and appreciative of, but it’s still nice to spend some quiet recreational time reading about people whose lives were free of the complications of our Age.

Reading is a great escape. I love books.