Tag Archives: self expression

37 Reasons to Celebrate

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!

I sound just like one of my kids (B still wishes herself a happy birthday months later). By my age, most women are less enamored with the birthday process than I. They ignore, complain, avoid or simply celebrate “29” year after year. I’ve never understood that.

I’m not gonna lie. I do feel older. And not in the gee-I’m-so mature-and-sophisticated-and-sure-of-myself way. In the I’ve-never-felt-so-tired-and-out-of-touch-and-wth-is-that-cracking-noise-my-knees-are-making way. It doesn’t help that when asked, my husband tells people we are “almost 40” and reminds me that “by his calculations, our lives are nearly half over.” Such a ball of sunshine, that man.

BUT, and this is a big but,

(if you just heard Sir-mix-a-lot singing in your head, that’s a sign you are getting old, too)

I wouldn’t trade it. Not for extra time or a younger body or even the ability to start over. Because it’s been a good life and it’s only getting better. God has blessed me with an embarrassment of riches.

He does it so I can spread it around, make the world better, but also, enjoy what I’ve been given.

So Happy Birthday to me!

At the beginnning of the year I chose One Word to represent this year: DREAM. And though I chafed at the cheesiness of the word itself and the project, it’s forced me to see how powerful they can be. I have so many great dreams. And even though I may not achieve every one (especially all my travel dreams), each one is a reason to celebrate and look forward. It’s not the years under my belt that matter, it’s the ones still to come.

37 DREAMS for the years to come:

  1. Catch a fish.
  2. Try scuba diving.
  3. Write a Novel.
  4. Watch the Hobbit and all 3 LOTR in one sitting.
  5. Tour Europe.
  6. Publish a book.
  7. Watch the Anne of Green Gables play in Prince Edward Island.
  8. Go hang gliding.
  9. Snorkle on the Great Barrier Reef.
  10. Get a blog post on “Freshly Pressed.”
  11. See Les Miserables.
  12. Go on an African Safari.
  13. Finish my Psychology degree.
  14. Spend a weekend in New York City.
  15. Kayak with the whales.
  16. Walk the Cinque Terre (Italy).
  17. Attend a blogging conference.
  18. Visit my sister in Boston.
  19. Speak to a large audience about something I’m passionate about.
  20. Road trip with each of my children (one-on-one).
  21. Learn to crochet.
  22. Celebrate our 20th anniversary in Mexico.
  23. Eat chocolate cake for breakfast
  24. Ride a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs (Venice).
  25. Spend a weekend by myself, in silence.
  26. Take a painting class.
  27. Make my own salsa.
  28. Take the boy to Disneyland.
  29. Tour Israel.
  30. Lead the cheering section each time one of my children graduates/gets married/performs/gives a speech/wins an award/cures cancer…
  31. Go to Comic-Con.
  32. Go on an overnight white water rafting/camping trip.
  33. Reach my ideal weight (and stay there).
  34. Get a PhD.
  35. Become a Grandma.
  36. Ride a motorcycle.
  37. Celebrate our 50th anniversary with all our family.

So here’s me, tooting my own horn. Kind of obnoxious, but it’s my party so I’ll write what I wanna.

What about you? What dreams are on your bucket list? As soon as I cross a few of these off, I’ll need to add some more…

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Little Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside,

little boxes made of ticky tacky,

little boxes on the hillside,

little boxes all the same…

And the people in the houses

went to the university

where they were put in boxes

and they came out all the same…

My life is filled with boxes. Boxes of toys and clothes and diapers and household products from Costco. Boxes of time in Microsoft Outlook, colour coded for each child with overlapping commitments. Boxes to check for another damn assessment.

The boxes keep us together. They bring order out of chaos. They are manageable. They are safe.

There are some boxes, not constructed with cardboard or computer code or even pencil strokes, which order our life as well. Boxes full of 8-year-olds who sit in their desk all day and listen to their teacher and keep their hands to themselves. Boxes of children who climb stairs one foot at a time and ride bikes and jump rope. Boxes of car keys and university applications and grandchildren.

It is everything we expect from life.

Then it happens. A child who simply won’t fit into our comfortable boxes. She is fun and interesting and determined and charming and challenging and not at all box-friendly.

So we try to construct new boxes for her. New expectations. We read books and go to workshops and join support groups. Special boxes, diagnostic boxes, supportive boxes, therapeutic boxes… all very good boxes.

It’s hard work tracking down, even building from scratch, so many different boxes. While the rest of the world takes their pre-fabricated, standard boxes for granted.

Then it happens again. And again. And again. She refuses to stay in the box. She is unpredictable and sweet and moody and unique and not at all box-friendly.

In a world full of boxes, she stands out.

And the world can’t help but take notice and smile.

Boxes are kind of boring after all.

So here’s me, celebrating all the Outside-the-Box beauty Down Syndrome brings to my life. This week is National Down Syndrome Awareness Week (Nov 1-7).


Lies I Tell Myself

Sleep is for the weak.

I’ll just have ONE bite.

This is the best I can do.

I don’t know how this happened.

It’s not like she’s going to wear diapers forever.

That’ll wash right out.

I’m sure it’s just a phase.

There’s probably some nutritional value in it.

These pants must have shrunk in the wash. Again.

I’m just resting my eyes.

It’s not my fault.

And the TRUTHS that make all the difference:

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Sex burns calories and releases positive endorphins.

I AM doing the best I can.

We’re in this together.

They’re worth it.

God made me special and He loves me very much.

So here’s me, preaching the gospel according to Bob and Larry. I think Preschool Theology is highly underrated.

Note: I do realize that “doing the best I can” made both sides of the list. I shuffled it back and forth several times. Figuring out if it is a lie to let myself off the hook OR a truth to accept about myself is the real trick right now. Well, that and naps. I’m pretty sure a nap will help too.


Breaking Up With Normal

From: Christie
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2012 4:27 PM
To: Normal [mailto:conform@JustLikeEveryoneElse.com]
Subject: It’s over.

Dear Norm,

I’m sorry. I’ve chased after you most of my life. But I’m done. We’re through.

I know it’s not cool to break up by e-mail, but it’s your own fault. Despite your constant presence in my life, you’re hard to pin down. We don’t really talk. It’s all hidden pressures and unspoken expectations. Not healthy at all. I’m not angry. Really. I’m just done.

It’s not you, it’s me.

After all this time, I’ve outgrown you. I’m finally ready to admit after more than 30 years that you’ve never been my type. Because a relationship like this shouldn’t be so hard.

I’m tired of checking with you about what I should wear – sometimes your suggestions are uncomfortable. And I know we never saw eye-to-eye on hair. You make me nervous when we go out. What should I talk about? Which opinions can I share? What parts of myself should I hide? I know you’re thinking “the hair, that crazy hair” – but I kind of like it the way it is. So there.

You’ve changed.

It’s not all bad. I’m glad that you are recycling more and have dialed back the racism. But I hate the unhappy marriages, the workaholism and anorexic body ideals. Democracy is great, but it’s not always the best way to decide what is good and right and true.

If that’s not enough, you’re constantly reinventing yourself. And it’s exhausting juggling the different versions of you. There’s “Church Norm” who’s really into Jesus-talk, but kind of gossipy and judgmental. She tries to do a lot of good, but is arrogant and clumsy about it. “School Norm” talks a good game, but expects everyone to act and learn and regurgitate in exactly the same way. She’s inflexible and competitive, and sometimes more of a hindrance than a help to learning. “Hipster Norm” prides herself on being edgy and enlightened, but often forgets to be kind. Cynical and sarcastic makes for a funny punchline, unless you are on the other end of the punching.

Without even realizing I was doing it, I’ve tried to keep up with you. And I don’t like juggling the different versions of me either.

I’m ready to just be. Rough edges, awkward pauses and comfortable pants… the me who isn’t trying so hard.

I’ve met someone.

I’ve met a lot of someones, actually. People who dance with their dogs competitively. People who sell their belongings and move to Africa. People who dress up in costume for movie premieres. They’re offbeat. Out of step from the rest of us. Flat out weird sometimes. Which kind of freaks people out.

But here’s the thing: they’re awesome. They are fun and passionate and not afraid. And that’s looking pretty good to me right now. That’s what I want.

I hope we can still be friends.

There’s nothing wrong with you. I’ll raise my children to respect you. I’ll teach them to be appropriate, even socially acceptable. But they are special and unique and ultimately, I don’t see you as a life long companion for them, either.

We’re just not that into you.

I’m sure we’ll run into each other from time to time. After all, you’re insanely popular. That’s kind of your thing.

So, no hard feelings, k? I wish you the best… or the average, rather. Cause that’s more “you” after all.

Christie


Book Review: You Are A Writer

When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up. I think, “at age 36, WHY on earth are they assuming I’m ever going to grow up?” Then I think, “I want to be a writer.”

But I never said it out loud. It seemed akin to saying, “I want to be an astronaut.” One of those wacky, ridiculous pipe dreams that’s too embarassing to admit past the age of 8.

Then I started blogging. My mom read it. My friends read it. I wrote more and more. People who aren’t even related to me started reading it. I met an english professor who believed in me. That whispered dream was getting louder.

One day last month a stranger asked, “What do you do?”

I answered “I’m a writer.”

Turns out, I am.

Jeff Goins is like a personal trainer when it comes to writing. Not the harsh, yelling-in-your-face kind of trainer who makes you feel like a flabby, pathetic worm, but the other kind: the one that inspires and motivates you to become your best self.

I have learned so much about writing, blogging and this weird little world of social media from his blog, goinswriter.com. When I had a chance to read and review his new e-book, I responded with a dignified and professional, “Oh yes, certainly”… okay, fine, I jumped up and down waving my arm in the air: “I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Pick me! Pick me!” – like the total nerd that I am.

You Are A Writer (So Start ACTING Like One) is both the shot in the arm and the kick in the pants I need in this creative lifestyle. It is a toolbox of ideas geared specifically towards writers, but anyone with an artistic calling could benefit.

His premise is simple: “Believe you already are what you want to be. And then start acting like it.” I can’t think of an area in my life where this isn’t good advice – as a writer, in my faith, as a parent, or as a human being.

So here’s me; I am a writer.


How Do You Find The Time?

It’s a question I’ve asked many times. I ask people who garden, people who decorate their homes, people who floss… How do you find the time?

It’s also the most frequent question I get about blogging. How do you find the time? The answer is simple.

You don’t.

Time does not spontaneously appear when you say the magic words. (Unless they happen to be “we-don’t-really-need-TSN-in-our-house”, because I’m sure my husband’s free time would grow exponentially at that point.)

Time is a limited resource, and often one that feels out of our control. I’ve always admired those buttoned up, disciplined souls who manage their time with military precision. I’m an orderly person, but trying to emulate them leaves me exhausted, cranky and desperately unhappy. Usually I find myself somewhere in the middle – enough routine to keep life moving, but margins for the unexpected (and the occasional hour of blissful uselessness).

Whether you wing it from one moment to the next, or plan your day down to the minute, we are all subject to the same limitations.

86,400 seconds

1,440 minutes

24 hours

Each day, everyday, it’s all we’ve got.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. In this day and age, we can do almost anything, but we can’t do everything!

When I choose to make something a priority, then I am going to have to sacrifice somewhere else. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with this necessity. No one has it all together – even if they look the part. Look at Martha Stewart. She has a large, talented staff and a bazillion dollars to help her get things done. But even she drops the occasional ball along the way. Her foray into white collar crime wasn’t terribly successful.

This is why my backyard looks like the set of Jurrasic Park. Who decided grass was the superior weed anyway? Dandelions are cheerful and prolific, plus my kids love them. This is also why I have boxes of pictures in the garage, not from our most recent move, but from the one before that nine years ago. I’m honestly working on the flossing thing. My brother-in-law is training to be a dentist and I don’t want him to know that I’ve had five cavities in the last year. Shhhhhh.

You don’t find time for the things that matter to you, you make it. In my busy life stage, this tends to be in bite-sized pieces scattered throughout the day. We pray in the van on the way to school. While driving, I’ve also found time to discuss important issues with my kids – like sex, work ethic, the value of money and whether American Idol is better with or without Simon Cowell. I talk on the phone while I fold laundry. I write my blog posts anytime, anywhere… there are notebooks all over my house, in my purse, in the car. I have written entire posts in blue crayon, because that was all I had at the time.

This is my very first blog post.
Written in my daughter's My Little Pony colouring book.

Right now:

Mount Clean Laundry is mocking me from atop my bed.

Life-Span in Human Development is taunting me from the kitchen table.

I can hear echoes of crucial sibling posturing in the hallway.

So here’s me, quite happily blogging away. THIS is how I find the time.

How do you find the time to do what matters to you? What are you willing to sacrifice?


Outgrowing New Years Resolutions

Hello, my name is Christie and I am a list addict.

I have discussed this predilection before (The “Honey Do” List). If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kind of a nerd. My absolutely favourite flavor of list has always been Resolutions.

There is something so intoxicating about this fantasy of future perfection. So, each year, I carefully craft a comprehensive manifesto for the year to come (okay, that sounds a little Una-Bomber-ish, but it’s an accurate descriptor). My administrative little soul shivers in pleasure at the thought of measurable targets and color-coded schedules. As if that’s not embarrassing enough, I’ve been known to alliterate the list categories: Health, Home, Happiness, Helping Others, Holiness… (a disturbing symptom of Sunday sermon brain rot).

This excess of order in the creation of my Resolutions has no actual benefit when it comes to their execution. I think the word is dissonance, as I cheerfully munch my way through a jumbo bag of sour patch kids while neatly formatting my diet goals for the year. In fact, the more time and energy I pour into drafting elaborate goals, the more I avoid any real action. I can ride the wave of optimism and good intentions for days, even weeks, before it all comes crashing down. And it always comes crashing down. The more elaborate the plan, the more spectacular the fail.

But this year will be different. No, I’m not giving up entirely. There is something inspiring about a new year and a new beginning. I am not willing to give that up, but I am changing my approach. Here’s a few things I’m trying to do different this year:

  • Let God weigh in. Too often I bring God a list of my objectives and plans, expecting that He will be thrilled that I thought of Him at all. Good things, valuable things that I’m sure will please Him, like a cat dropping a dead bird at her master’s feet. But my Maker has a better idea what I need and who I am becoming than I do, so why not consult the expert right from the word go?!
  • Focus on Being, Not Doing. Changing what I believe, my attitudes and my feelings, is so much more complicated than reading my bible each morning or eating leafy greens with dinner. But it is the only way for my resolve to outlast that early January idealism. It is more about my heart than teeth clenching, white knuckled willpower (which is good news, since I’m not so great with the willpower).
  • Keep it Simple. Instead of a long-winded list of Resolutions I am joining the One Word project this year. It’s such a great idea – find a single word to build your whole year around. In the next few days I’ll be posting my One Word 2012.

So here’s me, facing a year of change and upheaval without a mission statement or exhaustive list of goals. I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of relaxing! I should have done it years ago.

What are your resolutions this year? Do you have a structured timetable or cute acronym to keep them all straight? (Do you need one? I have years of experience after all!)


For the Cause

In the continuing saga of Christie vs. the Chocolate Corporations (a follow up to my earlier posts here and here about child slavery) I have learned about a new phenomena: reverse trick or treating.

Not only do true believers hand out fair trade chocolates along with the appropriate literature, they have their children give it to neighbors when they receive their own treats. One man sees Halloween as an ideal time to educate undiscerning chocolate consumers. In the face of such conviction, commitment and certainty I can’t help but think… what a douche!

Did Mother Teresa’s family ever say “Good Lord, someone needs to get that girl a hobby”? Was Martin Luther King Jr. a good time at a party? Did kids actually want to sit by Jesus at school… was he a drag or a genuinely likeable guy?

I like to think they were kind and winsome; able to communicate without alienating, because they sincerely cared about others. Even the little things like making sure there is enough wine at a wedding and noticing grubby children while the VIP’s clamored for attention. Perhaps they could tell us how to crusade for a cause WITHOUT being obnoxious, but I’m pretty sure it goes something like this… Do not judge or you too will be judged (Matthew 7:1).

I’m not going to lie, I have been on both the giving and receiving end of this. Most of us have: stay-at-home moms or moms who work full-time; kids in private, public, or home school; those who read Harry Potter before bed or those who demonize it. We are always drawing lines and feel the need to let others know that:

I am/My kids are/My family is/My cat/dog/pet iguana is…

MORE

ethical/godly/organic/grammatically correct/educated/potty trained/baby wise…

than you.

So there!

Because the only thing that feels better than being right, is being more right than someone else. Maybe deep down we need to convince others because we need to convince ourselves. But here’s the problem – you are wrong. About something, somewhere along the way you will be wrong. It’s inevitable. If you think you are infallible you are WRONG about that.

So don’t be obnoxious. You can’t afford it; none of us can. Be passionate about the things you belive in, but present your case in a gentle and respectful way. Let people follow their own conscience. That’s in the bible too (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).

So here’s me, trying to keep my soap box socially appropriate.


Snake Lover

She was four years old. A tiny little thing with curly pig-tails and big blue eyes. We had enrolled her in a program called Wee College. It was a weekly program for preschoolers to teach them the bible, kind of like a beefed up Sunday school for overachievers. The system was pretty old school, but the teacher was dedicated and creative, so it worked.

We coasted through the lesson on the creation of the world, but when it came to the garden of Eden we hit a snag. It wasn’t that she was uninterested in the story, in fact, she was fascinated by it. Satan in the form of a serpent tempts Eve to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge and the innocence of humanity is lost. While all the other children learned important lessons about temptation and sin, she had a completely different take on the story.

“Mom, I like the sneaky snake. He’s my favourite.”

We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but settled somewhere in the middle. No amount of discussion or explanation could convince her that the snake wasn’t the BEST part of the story. She drew pictures of him, talked about him and dug through her children’s bibles to find pictures of him. Was this a sign of things to come? Did my precious daughter have a rebellious streak a mile wide? In a word, yes.

The year before, we had enrolled her in a community dance program. She disliked being ordered around and preferred to literally dance to her own rhythm in the corner of the room. In one situation when the teacher instructed the girls to dance around in a circle, she proceeded to pull her tutu over her face and run around in the opposite direction, knocking the poor little ballerinas down left and right. I must admit that after removing her from class and disciplining her, I had to retreat to another room to roar with laughter.

But she is also a free-thinker and a non-conformist. That same year she decided that she was a true princess and proceeded to wear a tiara at ALL times. It was with some difficulty that we convinced her she must take it off for baths and at bedtime (though occasionally we would go back in to check and it would be back on her head).

Lately she’s become more and more concerned with what people think of her. She still marches to the beat of her own drum, but it’s quieter now, less flashy. She’s gotten shy in new situations and less comfortable with being the off-beat, quirky one.

It makes me sad. I know that life is easier if you’re not the “weird one”, but I think it’s better if you are. Conformity to the norm is great for assembling Ikea furniture and making origami, but it’s not a virtue I admire. While I don’t want her to be weird for its own sake (a la Lady Gaga), I want her to find their own voice; to be the unique person God made her to be.

On a completely unrelated note, this same daughter has begun a campaign to get her own snake. According to her, they make great pets.

So here’s me, absolutely refusing to buy a snake, but appreciating the sentiment all the same.

Here’s a blast from the past on finding your own rhythm:


Commas

I love to write and I always have, ever since I started writing short stories about Rascal the Raccoon in the back of my grade 3 exercise book when I was supposed to be learning my times tables. I may not be the most brilliant author of all time (every single Rascal Raccoon story started and ended exactly the same, after all), but I’m fairly confident in my skills, except for one thing: I’ve never been very good with commas. It seems like such a small thing, but it can make all the difference between a well-crafted sentence and a wordy, unreadable mess.

I didn’t always appreciate this fact. When I recruited a friend to proofread my English 11 essay on Macbeth, I was frustrated by his insistence on punctuational accuracy. I mean, who cares about commas, periods and semi-colons when I have important things to say? But he knew these little breaks make a huge difference. He was a good editor.

So, I decided to keep him… and now, when my husband edits my blog posts, he teases me about my poor punctuation. Even with the casual format of blogging, I need to do better. In my last post he had to add only one comma; that’s my all-time record!

“Say it out loud; wherever you take a natural pause, that is where you put a comma” he says.

I’ve never been good with commas, in writing or in life. There are times when I need a deliberate pause. Time to take a breath before moving on to the next thing.

I tend to operate at two speeds: go and stop. When I am really busy, I often forget to eat or even to take reasonable bathroom breaks. There’s nothing dignified about a 35 year old woman doing the pee-pee dance, because she just had to get one more thing done. And on the rare occasions when I’m not busy, inertia begins to set in and it’s hard to get my butt off the couch at all. Yet life, like good writing, flows best with an unhurried rhythm and the occasional pause.

Today I needed a pause. I needed to get out of the house and find some solitude. I felt guilty about it. I worried about all the things I should be doing (knowing full well I wasn’t going to do them even if I did stay home). I asked my husband repeatedly if he minded, until he was irritated at me for thinking the world would fall apart if I left for a few minutes. “It must be hard being a single mom” (his new favourite line from Modern Family). When I finally took a walk in the woods, it was EXACTLY what I needed. Why do I fight it?

What if I took a few minutes each day to enjoy what is, rather than worry about what still needs to be done? What if I saw interruptions as a natural pause in my life, not a ghastly inconvenience? What if I took a moment to pray, to listen, and to catch my breath, whenever I can, all day long?

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

~ Jesus (Matthew 11: 28-30)

I’ve never been good with commas, but I have a good editor who’s teaching me to do better.

So, here’s me, embracing the comma.


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