Sunday, January 13, 2013

Take A Seat

Over Christmas, GP and I went to see my family on Orcas Island. My aunt and uncle there own an incredible 1950s house. When my brother and I were little kids (now we're big kids), we used to spend hours playing hide and see there, because it's so big. There are three floors, four bedrooms, (plus a beach house), four bathrooms, a butler's pantry, a "den" with a lovely great big fireplace, a formal living room with a lovely great big fireplace, a formal dining room which looks out onto a courtyard filled with roses, two different attic spaces, and a room for my aunt to do her crafts. These rooms are tastefully furnished with beautiful antiques, such as an old French wash basin, with a copper tub, and incredible bird's eye maple armoires. I take after her in that I love to spend time sewing, painting, and otherwise nesting. (Ok, well I don't love painting, but I do love transforming the house, so we'll just leave that there). When we were there, my aunt happened to be cleaning out some of her not often used furniture, and I just happened to be the lucky beneficiary of that exercise. I made off with:
  • a beveled mirror with a gold-ish frame
  • a darling little footstool with very old carved wood
  • a framed print of an old French milk ad, with cats on it (clearly this was the highlight of the trip)
  • a small side table, perfect for a spot in our bathroom
  • an occasional chair, with needlepoint seat
  • some fabrics and a table cloth
  • a bistro chair that had seen better days 
This last item, the little chair she gave us, I was scheming up ideas for the whole way home. I've now given it a bit of a face lift. Below was the process, from filling in the cracks due to weather and wear, to free-handing the wheat garland on the back. (Ignore the box of recycling next to my desk!) All that's left is for me to sew a cushion for the seat. That'll come soonish. Yes, I'm aware that the chair looks like it belongs at the UN. I love it!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Had a Shitty Day, or 50 Ways to Recover from a Shitty Day

  1. Buy flowers for a stranger at the grocery store
  2. Buy flowers for yourself
  3. Do yoga
  4. Clean the house
  5. Play piano
  6. Do something else creative
  7. Phone your mum
  8. Phone your best friend
  9. Get hugs
  10. Give hugs
  11. Breathe deeply
  12. Drink something soothing (doesn't have to be alcoholic)
  13. Be silent
  14. Go outside
  15. Spend time with animals/your pets
  16. Spend time with cute kids (unless they also happen to be brats)
  17. Cry loudly and let your face be really red and ugly and snotty
  18. Go for a run
  19. Play with Legos
  20. Cook something outrageously delicious and don't feel guilty about eating it
  21. Change into the most comfortable clothes you own
  22. Take a nap
  23. Sing, even if it's a sad song and you have a terrible voice
  24. Listen to music
  25. Attend a place of worship
  26. Write down what happened
  27. Cuddle up with something soft
  28. If/when you're driving, let another vehicle into traffic ahead of you
  29. Meditate
  30. Lift weights, if you're into that
  31. Take a bath, if you don't have to clean the tub first
  32. Do a chore you've been neglecting
  33. Look at old photos
  34. Make a list
  35. Make plans with a friend
  36. Get in touch with a sibling
  37. Write someone a happy letter
  38. Write someone an angry letter, if necessary, even if you don't intend to send it
  39. Think about five good things that happened today. Could be as simple as "I came home today and my cats came to greet me", "my skin looked amazing today", "the store had my type of vacuum bags in stock", "I don't have to go to choir tonight", etc.
  40. Put on a ridiculously fancy dress and do nothing important. Works even better if you're a man
  41. Read some fiction
  42. Let someone take care of you
  43. Watch mindless television
  44. Plant a seed, even if it's just a bean you're sprouting in a cup with soggy paper towel, like kindergarteners do
  45. Recall a dream you've had and look into what it would take to make it a reality, as though you were serious about it. Don't feel bad if you lose interest or never intend to follow through.
  46. Take a walk down the street
  47. Look at videos of babies laughing and cats being ridiculous
  48. Tell someone you love them
  49. Tell yourself you love you
  50. Remember that the only constant in life is change, good or bad

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On Gratitude

New year's resolutions suck. I can never remember the myriad ones I end up making and, when I eventually do remember what mine were (around June, usually) and realize that I haven't kept them, I feel guilty and failure-y. Last year, instead of making meaningless resolutions that will make me beat myself up and feel bad, I decided to pick a virtue to focus on throughout the year. That way, I'd still be improving myself, learning about myself, and helping improve the lives of others. Plus, it's a lot easier to remember a virtue than it is to remember a specific and usually unattainable goal.

2012's virtue was kindness and, originally, I meant to choose this virtue to remind myself to be more kind to others. Little did I know how far-reaching this wonderful virtue would be. Of course, I wasn't kind to everyone the whole year, and I didn't always remember that I was supposed to be focusing on kindness, but it gave me a surprising amount of clarity. Now when I make decisions, I keep kindness in mind: "Is this going to benefit me? Will it benefit whoever's on the other end?". At work, writing emails to shitty clients, I sometimes ask myself, "what's going on for this client? Are they strapped for cash? Could that be why their email is rude?". This doesn't always happen, because I'm not a saint. But it's helped me become a more compassionate person, and it's something that I'll always keep in mind because I've focused on it so much over the last year.

I've also started to see that I'm often not as kind to myself as I should be. This is not an extension of the virtue that I predicted, but it's something that's been very important over the last year. I used to be on the executive of my choir, but after choosing kindness as 2012's virtue, I decided to free myself of that obligation so that I could focus on other hobbies that I find more fulfilling. There were many times over the past year that I've had to say "no" to obligations in order to be kind to myself. I get panicked, overwhelmed, and my immune system suffers if I don't have adequate time to be creative, or exercise, or be alone, or be in nature, or be with my family and friends.

I know you're just dying to know what my virtue for 2013 is. I'm choosing to focus on gratitude this year. There are so many things that I have to be grateful for that have happened over the past year and I can't wait to see how this virtue morphs and what parts of my life I can apply it to.

Reese, for example, is grateful that Greg is warm and hungover, because it means she has a very comfortable place to sit.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

 “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
― William Arthur Ward

"This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meaness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house,
empty it of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
― Rumi

Here's to a beautiful, healthy, abundant, and joyful 2013!