Monday, June 28, 2010

FYI - HST.



Well, for those of us in this small (magnificent) corner of the world, HST is coming. A coworker passed this list along to me and I found it so helpful, I thought I should share! I was actually suprised at the many things that won't be changing with this implementation.

Check out this list of what's taxable and what's not.


(the cartoon is just for fun)

Friday, June 25, 2010

jury's out.

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God is my decider;
it is He who knows my heart.
My faith is based on nothing less
than what the Lord imparts.

Be it wisdom grace or honor,
or His discipline at best:
it is He who tells me when to work,
and when, at last, to rest.

Though the eye of man can see me,
it is not their place or task
to determine if I live or die
once I stop to breathe my last.

©afterthoughtcomposer

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

happy mess

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So this one time I decided that instead of counting all my faults and falls (so graciously pointed out to me by others) and tallying up my self-supposed inconsistencies with a bold, permanent marker, I would pay more attention to the good things about being alive. It’s not been easy, but it’s been very, very worth it. I suppose I expected that without Insecure Pretension or the Need to Please the Common Man I would fall apart or lose my identity – but in fact it’s been just the opposite: in letting go of all the ways I’ve failed you (girl in the mirror), I’ve never felt more planted. In deciding to be happy with the mess of my humanity I’ve never felt more folded up in Grace. The only sad part about dropping my carefully perfected mask is the shock I see in several of the faces around me; there are some who would prefer it if I stayed neatly inside their wildly tight-eyed opinions of how a girl should present herself to the world.


But, I digress, I can’t please everyone – and I’d much rather be alive while I’m living than die trying to meet an impossible standard.

A little while ago, a lovely friend sent a quote to another lovely friend, who then sent it on to me. I liked it so much I immediately and fervently wrote it out (in permanent marker) and tacked it to my cubicle wall – I look at it daily. It reads:

“…but if you hold back from plunging in, while anything enriching is on offer, then the alternative seems to me to be no more than dust and ashes, and a criminal squandering of being alive.”
~ Joanna Trollope ~

Ah, such a delicious use of the English language; what a good sentence to remember.



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Monday, June 21, 2010

i no math, i english.

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It took me approximately half an hour of mental effort (first in my head, then with a calculator, then by writing all the zeroes out in a row, then by asking three coworkers, then by going back to the calculator, then double checking with another coworker) to figure out that a certain number of millions would equal a certain amount of billions - and then, of course, to confirm that Six Billion is the same as Six Thousand Million, because I wasn't entirely sure ("right? a billion has 9 zeros in it? You're sure??"). Ironically, I was trying to add these numbers up for a finance article I’m writing. Yes, I’m writing a finance article, and I can’t even add without the aid of my fingers. Ay yi yi.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

the five hour mom

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Before she arrives, I manage to shower and get in a quick grocery shop.
Home, put the milk in the fridge, and greet the knocking door with a smile
and a heart bursting with L-O-V-E: my niece is here.
Two and a half years of life bundled into the cutest petitest blondest most
adorable package you've ever seen.
And I get to watch her, for five hours.
All. By. Myself.

Lunch: I nearly burn the grilled cheese sandwich, but don't.
Walk to the beach and spend an hour squealing with delight
as we dance in the shallow tide pools near the shoreline.
Sun & sunscreen both are at their best.
My dress is soaked to nearly see through from our splashing game,
I am covered in sand, and her diaper is water logged from sitting in the ocean.

But she is happy,
so I am happy too.

My purse...I can still...see it...?
I forgot the towels. Looks like we'll have to air dry.
The walk back up the hill to aunty's house is strenuous, to say the least.

But because she is happy,
I am happy too.

Bath time; fresh as a daylilly.
All my memories from today include blue eyes and blonde wisps
and giggles. Oh the giggles.

The house was clean this morning, before she got here.
The house, by the end of hour 5, was a semi-small disaster; there were toys
and twistable crayolas and little shoes littering the carpet
from the entrance to the back bedroom.
Lunch's leftovers are still left, over on the counter by the sink.
My hair has gone from well placed to fuzzy and loose.
My makeup seems to have gone away at some point;
My summer dress turned into a pair of yoga pants,
and my grumbling tummy satisfied itself with an orange slice and some crackers.

But...is she happy? She is,
and I find that I am completely happy, too.

Walk number two to the seaside brought reminders
of the train we watched earlier
and with it, the entertainment only brought
by the clumsy seagulls eating their dinner.
And of course, we spent some time picking "flellers."

I love my niece. I love, love love love her.
I love her cuddles and I love her kisses and I love
that she knows me by name.

Is she happy?
Then I am happy too.





- - - the original intent of this post was to remark at how quickly priorities change when a child enters the picture. I have a very noticeable stain on my shirt and my house is a disaster, but lunch got eaten, right? And nobody's crying? And we're all still alive? However, as you may have noticed, I got all distracted thinking about my niece and how perfect she is, and how amazingly well she fits into my arms and heart, and how I don't remember life without her in it. All in all: kudos to you moms, who do this mad and wonderful kind of self sacrifice every day - and not just for five hours at a time, either :)

dancing is an odd sort of thing.

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....or am I the only one that thinks this? Perhaps it's because I am only on wedding three of a newly-started nuptial season, and watching people dance every Saturday forces me to wonder why we do it. I mean, I know why I do it - Music and I breathe the same air; it's only natural that we move together on occasion, too. But if you watch people dance for long enough, you might start to wonder what it is about a heavy beat that keeps a human being from holding still - even those of us with less than graceful technique.

Since we're made mostly out of water (something like 60%), I wonder if music hits all the watery parts of us and moves us involuntarily (much the same as a glass of H20 will be visibly shaken by certain sounds). Science: you should look into this.

These thoughts are important, I'm sure of it. Or maybe I've had an excess of caffeine this evening (2 double espresso drinks in under an hour), and maybe that caffeine high has ended, leaving me in a slump of espresso-or-sleep-wanting tiredness... and maybe I shouldn't record my brain's meanderings at this hour.


...

As a totally unrelated sidenote: I saw a naked bike parade downtown today. Yes - you read that correctly - a naked bike parade. At least a hundred people (if not more) riding their bikes...naked. Through the streets of Vancouver. Anyone know what that was about? My virgin eyes would like an explanation.

*Update: I found the answer - to the naked bike thing, not the dancing and water thing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

nesting

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Laundry's in, kitchen is clean; the ginger cookie recipe (for the upcoming company bake sale) is out on the counter for whichever spare moment I manage to find this coming week. I'm sitting in my hallway, laptop in its named spot, while Jill Paquette sings through my speakers at just the right volume. Aside from the music on my knees and the laundry spinning above my shoulders, the house is quiet. For the first time in a long while, I feel like I have actual space around me. Sure, my frantic calendar has left my house in an odd sort of shamble - halfway to tidy, as if someone got kidnapped in the middle of cleaning up - and The Coming Week looms like it usually does: full, brimming, bending the scales of what one person should normally try to accomplish in seven days' time. But right now it's only Sunday, and right now The Coming Week isn't here yet, and my head and heart are quiet enough to hear themselves breathing. It's nice.

When I stop like this, I'm usually not surprised by what I hear my heartbeat saying; the thoughts I come across in quiet moments are the thoughts I push away the rest of the time - so I know they're coming. Tonight there's one word sitting on my tongue. The word is nesting.

Nesting, for those that aren't aware, is a term that's often applied to newlyweds or new mothers or new homeowners. It's what you do after the big change: you nest. You settle into the space around you, shuffling the furniture and filling the shelves and cleaning the cupboards. To nest is to make the place your own. To nest is to prepare your own version of a safe landing; for you, for your family, for your soul.

This term, this concept of nesting, is something I've mulled over before. I usually pop it back into the "to think about later" drawer, though, simply because it's a bit of an uncertain topic for me; to think about it requires me to pull out years' worth of factoids and documents, journal entries and daydreams. And like a few other things I've come across, I don't really have a solid footing on this one - so it's easier to leave it unattended.

In all the times I've moved (and there've been a lot of moves), I've never really settled. I've never had to; I always knew the end of my stay was coming soon enough that I could leave those boxes unpacked and that drawer in disarray. My furniture has always been of the give-away variety, and I've never minded. The smaller and crappier it is, the easier it is to let it go, or pick it up to move it when the time comes.

The problem with all of this is that I'm not sure it's my natural bent to stay so unattached to my surroundings. I'm a highly nostalgic individual with a preference for spaces I recognize; a homebody, I guess you could say. I have started to get a bit of the travel bug- but only if that trip is short enough that my home, upon my return, is still intact.

I've been living where I am now for a year and a half, which is the longest I've been anywhere in almost 10 years. But unlike the adventure-jumping days of my youth, I'm not looking for an end date. I don't want to move, I want to stay here. The desire to stay has made me want to settle, to shift the furniture and paint the walls. In other words, I find myself wanting to... nest. But nesting implies companionship, doesn't it? If I pick new accent colors, and no one's there to see it, did it really happen?

There's something so... misfitting... about cleaning a table set forever for one, or arranging the couches however I like it, knowing that it wouldn't really matter one way or the other. Sure, it pleases my OCD-like-tendencies to have the stuff of my life in well balanced order, and keeping my house clean keeps me from making an appearance on the next edition of Hoarders. But tonight, as I fuss over the spots in the kitchen sink and watch my laundry fill with suds, I can't help but marvel at the extent of my solitude.

I am completely exaggerating for the sake of this post, by the way. I have an awesome roommate. She will care if I move the couch.

What I mean, I guess, is that at the end of the day, when it comes right down to it, I am by myself - I'm alone enough to sleep when I want and eat when I want and come and go and leave when I want. To be honest, this is something that I'd always thought I'd mind - and yet, I don't. As I sit here and think about setting down physical roots (tentatively or not), I'm in a mild state of shock that I'm even considering it. Shouldn't I want some of the things I don't have before I'm happy with the things I do? Shouldn't I be aching to change every puzzle piece so I can fit one more in? Maybe. But I'm not quite there yet. The days I've gotten to live so far may look differently than I originally expected them to, but that doesn't mean I'd change one thing about the way they've gone.

So this is where I am: right in the middle of expectancy and contentment - at a perfect distance between dissatisfaction and bliss - and trying to nest here, too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

what a difference a day makes

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In making my way through these wobbly 20-somethings, I've discovered something: waiting for clarity is always better than doing something stupid in a fog. Yes, make goals for yourself and set out to accomplish them; I don't mean to imply that you should sit on your butt while the world passes you by... but there are other areas of life where, if it's confusing or feels pressurized or makes you sort of panicky: it's probably confusing for a reason, and that reason is to slow you down before you do something you'll regret.

What am I talking about? Ah, good question.

I'm speaking of things like love and trust and friendship; or morality-altering action, or decisions based on hearsay or constant solitude. I'm thinking of the way we will choose to value ourselves and others, and how we go about showing other people what we think of their worth; I'm thinking of everything to do with human interaction and what to do when the ground beneath your relationships starts to move. While it can be so much easier to gut-punch a reaction than to wait another day, might I encourage you to wait. You feel the pressure to make a decision today; you can't handle not knowing; this box is getting far too small; you simply can't wait another minute. Trust me: I've been there. But in my experience I have found that a day can make all the difference. What seemed so overpowering yesterday is small this morning, and I will be okay.


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Friday, June 4, 2010

wine and cheese.

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I'm always so surprised to find that there are people who don't enjoy their birthdays; that there are people who really don't enjoy getting older. Maybe the trend will stop when I hit 30, but so far, I've absolutely loved aging. Sure, I actually have to watch what I eat now (one green and one orange veggie a day! 1000mg of calcium!). I can't see as far away as I used to or hear as well as I could at age 16 (I...can't...see...who??). I work out regularly now....not for the enjoyment of it (though I do enjoy it) but because if my ass crawls any further down my legs....you get the picture. I'm aging. But even after much thought and consideration, I'm still okay with it.

The core of who I am hasn't changed one bit since I left the womb; I am who I am, and will probably be who I am until I die. All the parts of me that were there in childhood - the good parts, the quirky parts, and even the sharp edges - are still there. But somehow, over time, even those pain-inflicting bits of my personality have become... less painful. I'm still socially awkward, but I can laugh at it now. I still don't dress at the top of the fashion food chain, but I've stopped getting dressed for other people in the morning and thusly, love my wardrobe. I am aware that there are still people who don't really like me... but I no longer care. Essentially, my skin has become a very comfortable place to live.

But even with all of this... comfort, I am still quite fascinated by the aging process. Here are some thoughts I've had lately on the subject.

1. Age, as definitive as it is, doesn't always preclude character. Some people are as mind numbingly naive at 60 as they were at 25 - some people, at 60, know more how to be young and lighthearted than those at 17.

2. Think about the last time you held or saw a baby. Do you remember the baby's parents? Beaming, proud, and hopelessly in love, weren't they. Somewhere in your parent's hearts, they still feel the same way about you as they did the day you were born.

3. Regardless of how old we get, it is still easier to give advice then to take that same advice for ourselves. Think: body image, relationships, finance.

4. They say a wrinkle in time saves nine. I have no idea what that means. How about you keep your nine and take away my wrinkles?

5. When it comes to getting old, you see what you look for: if you focus on the grey hairs and the saggy butt and the joint stiffness, you are going to hate turning one year, five years, 10 years older. But if you look instead at all the extra chances you'll have to enjoy a quiet morning or a sunny afternoon, well, I'd guess you'll enjoy aging a whole lot more.

6. This is an obvious one, but I'm saying it anyways. Your life doesn't care how old you are, and it certainly isn't going to wait for you to get going before it starts running down the clock. Catch up. Do something with yourself.

7. It is a scientific fact that men become men at a much later age nowadays than they used to; something like 10 years later in fact (thirties, instead of twenties). It has to do with the grey matter in their brains and when it develops. This explains a lot.

8. I was in the waiting room at the doctor's office a few months ago, sitting patiently on my chair in the corner. A few minutes into my wait a very, very old couple came slowly up to the nurse's desk to check in. She was bent over a walker and her outfit was printed in floral, he was dressed all in beige and wearing a brown plaid fedora on his head. He held her arm as they shuffled along, checked in, and came to sit in the chair beside me. This man, who must've been in his 90's (and his wife the same), still looked at her with the eyes of a strong young man. I actually blushed because I was so taken aback by his obvious love for this woman, and tried to take mental notes as I watched them from the corner of my eye. It wasn't just the way he looked at her and it wasn't just the way she let him help her sit - passion and grace and humility exemplified in twos - it was their age in combination with all these things; it was the fact that they were in their 90's and they got it. When I am that old, I hope I'm still alive as they were.

9. In so many ways, I'm not at all where I thought I'd be at my age. But in so many ways that matter, I've far surpassed my expecations. I think that's the key to enjoying that yearly mark on the calendar: do something productive, goal oriented, and enjoyable with the other 364 days a year and your birthday will be a celebration of another year gone by instead of a lament for wasted time.

10. Wine and cheese get better with age, so I hear, and even in their older stages they still get invited to all the parties and people really really like them. Do yourself a favor and assume that you get better with age, too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

comfortable faith

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I often wonder if, when we pray, we should be praying not for God to remove the obstacles but rather to help us through them. Think about how often you (or I, or someone you know) has asked of God, “Lord, please remove the obstacles. Please don’t let anything go wrong. Bless us Lord, with a clear and straight pathway.” …or however you want to phrase it. Shouldn’t we, instead of comfort, be craving a deepened faith and the ability to endure? Why do we keep asking God to remove the very things that will strengthen our hearts? I wonder if this habit has effected who we are (it has). I wonder, when we continually avoid the testing of our faith, if we can still call ourselves faithful.

I started thinking about this quite intensely last year, as I came across the story of a guy named Corwin. A regular man in his mid-20’s from Saskatchewan, asked by God to do something quite large and faced with countless obstacles since the moment he decided to go for it. Here’s why his story strikes me: after 3+ years of obstacles, closed doors, and frustrations, he’s still going; he is still trying to do the thing that he set out to do in the first place. How…odd. Is it not the trademark of our generation to say “Ohp! Well, the door closed. I must have heard the Lord wrong. This must not be God’s will for me. There is an obstacle in my path! Time to go somewhere else!” And yet, here is this modern day man of faith, holding fast to what he knows was asked of him, regardless of what gets thrown in his way.

What is it that causes us to shy away from opposition? Are we so afraid of it? Are we so abandoned to our “right to be comfortable” that we’ve lost the ability to endure? We panic and cry and beg God to “take it away” or “open up the right door” so that we can comfortably make our decision, instead of mustering the faith and longsuffering so wholly required of us.

“Lord, remove the obstacle.”

Sure, he could. But then we would learn nothing. Our hearts would remain weak and fragile, and temperamentally reactive. We learn to be faithful by surviving the battle, not by avoiding it. We will never be strong if our strength is never required. If our reason to be brave is kept at bay, then so will our bravery be. My faith is not stretched in complacency, but in the active pursuit of a life lived beyond my comfort zone.

Christians are most often criticized for their naivety; for their belief in what they are told vs what they’ve sought to know for themselves. Let us not be a generation that settles on mediocrity, on bumbling through this life gently and without effect and without real knowledge. Instead, let us be a generation that thrives only when we are actively seeking to know more fully who God is and how selflessly he asks us to live, and by learning why we believe what we believe, instead of simply believing it. Let us come alive, not when we can safely say “God told me so in a book I read,” but rather, when we risk our safety and comfort levels for the sake of loving others (even those who may not return the favour). I pray we are a generation that seeks to ask the Big questions, instead of blindly accepting what we’ve always been told is right and therefore believe. It may be right after all, but we should perhaps learn that for ourselves.

There is a myth in Christian community, so strongly advertised, that venturing into the uncharted territory requires a distancing from God; that to walk into the unknown is to separate yourself from what you Know. But actually, it’s the opposite. When we are walking into uncertainty we are actually walking towards what we know: that God, perhaps, is big enough to hold us steady while we look out over the edge. That he is, in all likelihood, bigger than we realize. Is this not faith, in and of itself? Choosing to see light where no one has yet seen it, choosing to step where no one else dares to? I will never truly know Christ if I do not risk myself to know him better. Do I love him? Absolutely. But love is more than just a word; love is not passive, and neither should my love for my Creator be. I do not venture out into the bigness of my questions or look my obstacles in the eye in order to distance myself from God; I do this to make sure that I know what I know what I know, and in direct opposition to that silly myth: bring myself closer to Him who promises to be faithful.

To avoid risk, or an obstacle in our path, is to imply that we would do these things (overcome this problem) on our own anyway. “I do not have the strength. Please take it away.”  How off the mark. When the obstacle stays and we somehow make our way through and past it, how dare we assume that we did any of it on our own. The strength we muster up for ourselves is the kind of strength that allows us to sit courtside, and that’s about it. By avoiding obstacles and sidestepping the wobbly, uncertain bits of our faith, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to not only be strengthened but to see the hand of God come sweeping unmistakeably into our lives.

Should we, who claim to know the absolute truth, not be certain we’ve looked closely at every aspect of our faith? Should we not know that we know that we know, and not just be guessing? Word to the wise: this doesn’t come from hiding in a foxhole (or a church), and it certainly doesn’t come from isolating myself on a “righteous” island. Faith without obstacle is not faith at all; if there is no risk involved, then there is likely no requirement for Faith, either. You may notice that Jesus spent more time on the street with the crazies and outcasts, and spent more time challenging the status quo than he did sitting quietly in the knowledge of his "rightness". Perhaps we should do the same... not abandoning our faith or beliefs, but bringing them with us when we go.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

cookie fix.

After one long month in a paradigm shift, the endurance of the resulting thousand difficult conversations, and the rebalancing of who I believe I am… I am happy to say that I’ve made it out alive; hopefully wiser, definitely less corner-pressed, and ready for a good, long nap. Combine this state with the all-consuming, euphoric crush I’ve developed for this man:





…and my brain is far from useable. Too busy resting, hiding, looking for reprieve; inside my imagination (it’s so pleasant here), on a cozy couch, listening to Marcus tell me about his life and music. (I promise you, that’s all we’re doing).

Today’s emotions taste like hot apple pie, though I have none. Instead I am snacking on this bag of Fudgee-O cookies – a far cry from pie, but temporarily satisfying my weary little love-struck heart all the same.