Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Neglect Your Blog

1. Get a good idea.

2. Pursue it faithfully for a determined amount of time.

3. Get a job and over-volunteer.

4. Start posting less frequently.

5. Feel both wistful and bad at the same time.

6. Have more good ideas, start to write blog posts, then run out of time.

7. Continue to feel bad.

8. Get sick of feeling bad and decide to publish or perish. It’s almost like academia, except your job doesn’t depend on it, just your feeling of self-worth.

9. Publish a post, right before Christmas. Feel better because you did it before the new year and can then claim to avoid the rut of New Years Resolutions That Have Failed.

10. Resolve to take the time to write more often because you really do like it quite a lot.

11. Make dinner.

Frost, Nixon, and the corruption of power.

Frost/Nixon (film)

Frost/Nixon (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past weekend Darren and I watched Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard‘s 2008 historical drama based on the stage play by Peter Morgan. Frost/Nixon reexamines the characters and circumstances leading up to the historic 1977 interviews between the British television personality and the former US president. It looks at the frustration of Frost’s research team with Richard Nixon’s avoidance of legal prosecution, David Frost’s difficulty in raising money for the program, Nixon’s desire to reemerge as a political player, and the interviews themselves.  If you haven’t seen it, it is worth a watch, as are the special features and the director’s commentary, which shed a little light on some of Howard’s directorial choices. Here’s the trailer.

For me, the element that stood out the most was Frost/Nixon as a fascinating exploration of power: the pursuit of power, the loss of power, the misuse of power, and the effect of power on an individual. One of the storylines is obvious – Nixon is the leader who has fallen from grace through his own folly and Frost represents the ascendency of youth. Nixon seeks political power, Frost desires the power of public opinion. As I said, obvious to the point of boredom and beating dead horses. Luckily, Howard has given us something more to work with, something new to explore.

In the beginning we see David Frost talking about the fleeting nature of fame, and of how he longs to re-experience the adulation of the American public. It is clear that his desire to interview Nixon is partially motivated by his desire to reenter the North American limelight. You get a picture of man who isn’t entirely comfortable in his own skin, an entrepreneur and a performer who sees the interviews as an opportunity for self promotion rather than investigative journalism. As the interview begins it is clear that Frost is outmanoeuvred by Nixon who is able to take any topic and bend it to his own benefit. Frost flounders, and it is not until a pivotal encounter with Nixon that he buckles down, does his homework, and emerges as a “worthy opponent” to the exiled politician.

The movie shows the sheer power of the office of the Presidency, even when it takes the form of a disgraced president. We see the fallen Nixon relating a series of banal antidotes for the Orthodontic Society of Huston, trying to make a buck and restore his reputation. Although it’s clear he is no longer a political player, his desire for power is clear as he threatens to wiretap his enemies (this suggestion is quickly quenched by an astute political aide). Frustrating indeed, for an ex-president to be reduced to making a buck telling banal anecdotes.

We get a taste of what Nixon is missing when the ex-President is introduced to David Frost’s prep team.  As Nixon arrives at the interview James Reston Jr (played by Sam Rockwell) vows not to shake the hand of the man he blames for the downfall of American democracy. And yet when the virulently anti-Nixon Reston meets the President, he can do nothing but quietly shake his hand.  That’s the power of power, even the residual power of a disgraced president.

Close to the end of the interview President Nixon says, “No one will ever know what it is like to resign the Presidency.” Although this line was not in the actual interviews themselves, I think this comment reveals a lot about the character of Nixon.  The line conveys the lonely truth that backdrops Nixon’s life and legacy – he is the only person in history who has had to voluntarily give up the most powerful position in the world.  And for a man who long desired that position of power, that is a deep loss.

Nixon damaged many people, he broke the law, he used his office to fulfill personal political vendettas. But his downfall was entirely his own fault. When you are in a leadership position, the buck stops with you. And if a leader chooses to abuse that power, that person is fully responsible. Nixon was the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy, he had the world in the palm of his hand, and he lost it because he authorized illegal actions against his political enemies. His downfall was spectacular, and it was entirely his own fault.

While Nixon is certainly a complex character and certainly not a wholly evil individual, history has condemned Watergate, and justly so. But it is worth looking at the situation from the perspective of the perpetrator.

All the little “Nixons” of the world, all those people who wield power for personal gain, those who run roughshod over others in their pursuit of their own goals, all those people will have to live with the consequences of their choices. While they may deny it, deep down they know that they are responsible for causing pain. Imagine carrying that on your conscience. It is a sobering thought and Nixon’s downfall should serve as a cautionary tale for all of us to follow the old maxim: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Conversely, we should also be careful when pursuing truth and justice lest we lose compassion and become what we are pursuing. As the interview ends, Nixon retreats amidst the celebrations of Frost’s prep team.  Frost himself does not immediately join in the celebrations, but watches Nixon as he leaves, perhaps wondering if they went too far.  Perhaps something intangible was damaged in their pursuit of justice and truth.

And yet, wrongdoing should be exposed. It’s a fine line between exposure and exploitation and Frost/Nixon is a fascinating exploration of truth, power, and compassion and finding the balance between the three.

It ain’t pretty…but it works

I have a couple of meaty posts that I am dying to get out of my system, but due to the tyranny of the immediate they will have to wait for now. A few days ago I opened the cupboard door and saw this.

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Just two pieces of paper, very plain and simple, nothing really spectacular. However, these humble pieces of paper help to keep me sane and organized. The bottom sheet of paper tracks the groceries that we need to purchase this month – this is generally organized by store. Costco hangs out in the bottom right hand corner, Heritage Meats is above that and Superstore/Pricemart takes up the rest of the page. The top sheet of paper tracks the items that we will need next month. For example, if we are getting a little low on maple syrup but i know we can make do with what we have for the rest of the month, up “maple syrup” goes on the top sheet. Another good thing about this system is that it uses scrap paper, so we are recycling what we already have instead of creating more waste. I know that some people use computer lists or shopping apps, but I need that tactile connection of pencil and paper. I am a visual learner and I need to see everything laid out before me in order to make good decisions.

This past year or so I have been playing around with different systems of organization, trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. While I am browsing through Pinterest in the evenings I see countless websites that are geared towards helping you become organized. Some are genuinely helpful, while others just seem to encourage you to buy more stuff to help you attractively display all of your excessive amounts of stuff. I am all for attractive presentation, but there does come a time when you just need to stack the cans in the pantry and forget about the tiered can organizer. Seriously. And anyways, if the tiered can organizer only holds 12 cans of soup and you happen to have 14 cans, what do you do then? You are just back to stacking cans and you should just have stacked them in the first place and saved yourself the $10 or $20 that it cost to purchase the tiered can stacker. (“Tiered can stacker” – this is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss tongue twister!) I don’t care how pretty it looks, if an organizational tool isn’t functional in all situations it isn’t worth buying.

Before I had kids I was able to go on autopilot and stay organized naturally, The addition of three other little human beings into the mix, not to mention a husband, means that I need to be a lot more intentional about organizing our lives. I have discovered that if I really want to be organized, I need to pay attention to how I most efficiently operate and encourage those strengths. I also need to take a look at where I fail (ahem, office clutter) and try to change that unhelpful behaviour. You can’t just go out and purchase a bunch of colour-coded file folders and try to adapt your life to fit a pre-programmed system. Because it just isn’t going to work. The tyranny of the immediate will rear its ugly head and you will be back where you started.

So, the two-sheet grocery list is working for me. It may not be mounted on scrapbook paper or written in a funky font with appropriately coordinated stamps, but it works. And I am satisfied. Now for the office clutter…

Most beautiful thing: Jasmine

Amidst all the general chaos and busyness one very bright light was a visit from Jasmine.  No, not the Disney Princess (although she does bear a striking resemblance to the animated heroine!), Jasmine, the thirteen year old daughter of our friends, Brian and Jean.   Last year Brian and Jean moved to Ottawa with their family of six children.  Brian and Jean are Cate’s godparents and we miss them dearly.  Darren and Brian used to go for weekly walks and discuss all things theological and intellectual.  Jean and I would commiserate over the joys and challenges of motherhood.  Jasmine, the eldest of the six, was our go-to babysitter.  We used to joke about flying her out from Ottawa so that Darren and I could go on a date!

So when the opportunity came up to host Jasmine for three weeks this summer, we said we could be delighted.  And we were!  Not only was Jasmine extremely helpful with the kids, she gave us a foretaste of life with a teenager.  I think the two things that stand out the most for me was having extended interesting conversations with Jasmine (we are just beginning to get to that point with Ben) and watching “Anne of Green Gables” with her.  Re-watching the classic series was made even more enjoyable by seeing Jasmine’s reaction to the action on-screen: “No!  Don’t kiss him!…Ugh, he’s old! (Sorry Dave Foley)… (squeals of delight as Anne and Gilbert kiss on the bridge at the conclusion of the Sequel).”  Her reactions duplicated mine when I was thirteen, and it was wonderful to revisit the feeling of being totally, undeniably, and absolutely in love with Gilbert Blythe.

Jasmine also saved my bacon at Vacation Bible School week.  I led all the kids at the music station (which, by the way, requires lots of practice and a willingness to make a total fool of yourself, including bouncing around and playing a LOT of air guitar) and  Jasmine made all of that possible by watching John at the daycare area provided for the leaders with little children.  Two years ago when I was doing the music, Cate got really nervous being by herself at the daycare and ended up coming to be with me.  So I know what it is like to try to lead multiple groups of children in song and dance all while holding a sad and tired toddler on your hip.  This year Cate really enjoyed the daycare and John, who really took a shine to Jasmine, ended up napping in her arms on most of the days.  So cute.  And I couldn’t have done it without her.

So Jasmine, thank you for coming out and spending time with our family.  It was so nice to get to know you better and to get a preview of life with older children.  I’m really looking forward to your next visit (hopefully we’ll see everyone too next time!)

Oddly enough, Darren and I never did get out for a date while Jasmine was here.  Oh well, we’ll just make sure to schedule one in for next summer.

Finding my niche, revisited.

I originally posted this last October on our family blog. I found it when I was surfing around today. I have a couple of projects on the go, and so I was wondering what my Friday post should be and I found this. It is interesting looking back, even if it is only looking back a few months. Take note of the language I use. This blog has been percolating for a long time.

John is going through a grouchy teething spell, so this morning, after Darren and the two oldest had gone out to a birthday party and to run errands, I was supposed to nurse John to sleep, eat breakfast, and take a shower.

It is 11:30 and I have eaten, but John is sleeping in the Ergo carrier on my chest and I am nowhere near as clean as I would like to be. So, I have spent the last half an hour or so on Pinterest looking at all the beautiful things that people have tagged.

I love beauty. I love order. I love to see things that have been created simply to be visually pleasing. Even more, I love beautiful things that are functional! I aspire to that kind of life – a life that reflects my visual sensibilities. I know that there is an interesting subtext here about beauty being on the inside, etc, etc, but let’s just forget all of that for now. I know it is there, and it comforts me on days like today when I am smelly and greasy in front of the computer. Hey, all I need to do is look down at the kid on my chest to see perfection and beauty!

I think that external, visual order and beauty can be a reflection of divinity. Purple and yellow contrast, green and blue compliment. Three is harmonious, four is structured. Our eyes are drawn to certain arrangements, certain colour combinations, certain fonts, certain expressions because there is an underlying Beauty that tells us about a greater purpose for our lives. It lifts us up, draws us to new heights, challenges us to be better than we actually are. And in the process, that Beauty enables us to reach those heights because in taking in that Beauty, it becomes part of who we are.

So here is my quandry.

One of my blessings/curses is that I am a very well rounded individual. That generally means that I can do a lot of things well, but I don’t think that there is any one thing at which I excel. This has benefits (I am competent and I can learn how to do a wide variety of things) and downfalls (sometimes I can be really unfocused because I don’t know which way to turn).

Being a mother adds to this distractedness, simply because there are three little humans who are, to varying degrees, dependent upon me for all their needs. There isn’t a lot of time in the day for anything other than meeting those needs and keeping the house from exploding.

I have found over the past year that I have the time and discipline to begin a lot of projects, but then I don’t have the time (or, perhaps, the discipline) to finish them. Life intervenes. The immediate tyrannizes. And the wonderful ideas that are partially brought to life sit on the desk gathering dusk, a constant reminder that I haven’t finished what I started.

There is so much that I want to do (here’s where the well-roundedness and wishfulness comes in) – sewing, refinishing furniture, visual design, learn more about fonts, paint, get back into pottery, sculpt, write a book or two, learning to be a better cook, and the list goes on. Websites like Pinterest can be great and inspiring, but they can also be discouraging because they remind me of things I want to do but can’t. At least not right now. I feel like I have all this ability, but no time to indulge it.

Right now my job is to be a Mom to three young kids, and I love it. Watching your children grow is one of the great joys of my life. But I am still trying to find my niche, figuring out the practical outcomes of being a mother and a “well-rounded” person who cares about Beauty in her surroundings. What is the medium that most suits me, my stage in life, and who I am? How can I find that medium and use it for Beauty, for my family and to lift me up from the everyday into the Eternal? Does it have to be just one thing? How can I balance all of this out, how do I prioritize?

So. Goals for the day. Look at my surroundings and be thankful for what I have. Take a shower (eventually). Look at what is already beautiful in my life (hello John!) and make one thing better before I go to sleep tonight.

Make one thing better before you go to sleep. I think that is really one of the reasons why I started this blog, to hold myself accountable to finishing the things that I begin and to remind myself as I am struggling through the tyranny of the immediate, that you can always make something better.

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Here’s what I did yesterday. We removed all the dust jackets from our books on the main floor, and now we have a rainbow of books. See? Just a little thing, but it makes a difference. Have a wonderful weekend.

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(This is what it looks like in the daytime, decluttered. I am planning on painting the pink boxes mossy green or brown. Those are the pictures that still need to be hung. And just to keep it really real, here is a shot of all the extra stuff that was living on the shelf.)

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(I’m not very good with house plants. Anyone need a Calathea?)

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I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while. Guess how I read the cover of the magazine?

50+ Ways to Conquer Glitter. Yep, glitter.

Guess how long it took me to figure out my mistake? At least two days.

And the really dumb part is that I went on and on about how stupid this article about conquering glitter would be, all the while being secretly intrigued as to how someone could come up with 50+ ways to conquer the shiny stuff. I really do want to read that article. The thought of it appeals to the magpie in me. I guess I’ll just have to write it myself.

On the simplification bandwagon

First of all, thank you to everyone who hopped over from Facebook yesterday to check out this blog!  It was VERY exciting to see how many of you came over, especially as my average for the month of February was about one visit per day (thank you Laura!).

I thought I would post this right now rather than waiting until Monday, just in case anyone else wants to join in.  Tsh of Simple Mom is hosting Project: Simplify over the coming weeks.  Basically the idea is that everyone tackles one “problem area” per week and then reports back on their progress. The reporting part is optional, but as I am going to start spring cleaning this month anyways, this is a good kick in the pants for me.  And its nice to know that others are suffering through the cleaning process with you!

First on the list: Kids’ stuff.  I am hoping this will entail a trip to Ikea to pick up some storage boxes so that I can better use the space in the top of Ben and Cate’s closet.  I’ll also see whether I can do a little redecorating because their room is really hurting for some prettying up.  Or handsoming up, in the case of Ben.  Weeks 2-4 are the kitchen; closets, countertops, and drawers; and a “hot spot.”

And depending on how the weekend goes, I may switch weeks one and four.  Our “hot spot” is the office/desk and it really needs some work, especially as Darren is working from home more frequently.

See you on Monday!