The Big Difference (K.Blais)

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Awful things happen to us or to the people we love and care about. Terrible things occur continuously in our daily lives. We make decisions which end up being disastrous, although they may have seemed like the best option at the time, and in other cases choices are made for us without our having any say in them at all. Sometimes we hold the power in the decision-making process, and other times we are completely powerless.

Through it all though we strive to stand up and not to sink. We do our best not to let the floods drown us or to pull us down into the depths of despair, even though they may threaten to.

It isn’t always easy. And it doesn’t always work for all of us.

It is essential to remind ourselves that eventually the waters will recede. It’s tricky to remember that sometimes though and, by no means, do we ever intend to make light of the terrible things that happen, but it remains extremely important to attempt to search for the positive amidst the negative.

Out of every horrendous situation is there always a positive to be found? Depending on individual perspectives the answers may vary: maybe, maybe not… and maybe not right away. But, if we search hard enough there is always a bit of light, a small glimmer of hope, a tiny piece of dry land that we can place our feet on, even if it’s just a tiptoe to start. Maybe sometimes the negative just requires a different perspective.

A very close person to me, my dear friend Tracy, has struggled with some health issues over the past couple of years. She one day found herself with mobility issues, needed surgery to repair her knee injury, had a health scare with a dangerous item on the job site, and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after that (all issues completely unrelated to one another). Add to that other issues which she has dealt with throughout her life, the scope of her tribulations was immense. To be perfectly honest, her world was bleak and dark and at some very low points. With so many negatives piling up on her, there were days when getting out of bed was too much for her to think about.

The floods threatened to close in on her on more than one occasion, but through it all she always searched for that tiny aspect of hope, that glimmer of light, that small piece of land on which she could attempt to stand. Her faith led her to the belief that her cancer was a blessing because having gone through what she had, she was able to be a support system to others battling with cancer. Her journey led her to new friendships which she may have otherwise not have made. Her struggles allowed her to realize the love that so many people had for her. The darkness has allowed her to appreciate the light all that much more. All the negatives that have happened to her have led to so many more positives in her life because she chose to see past them.

Some of us battle with physical or mental health issues, or have loved ones which are battling, which have affected our (and their) quality of life. Frustration, powerlessness, and a feeling of incompetency may overwhelm us. It can be hard to find the positive when we feel so awful. Sometimes we have to realize the negative for what it is. Sometimes we need to surf the waves when we cannot stop them.

Financially or materially we may be experiencing damage or loss. There may be days when our situation seems so bleak that there seems to be no place to go. It is hard to find the positive when the negatives are reflected in everything we have, even our bank accounts.

We may have lost a loved one or loved ones. We all know someone who has experienced the immense grief of losing a person very close to them. It’s extremely hard to see the positive in death and loss, especially when we are in mourning. Sometimes though death can bring us closer to those who remain in our lives. Sometimes death brings a new appreciation for all that we had and all that we have shared with that person, and it may encourage us to cherish and hold dear the time we have with the loved ones left with us. A belief that we will be reunited with our loved one one day can offer peace. Sometimes death can lead us back to life: to living each moment to the fullest and with a deeper appreciation, and may even lead us to taking nothing, even the little things, for granted.

Perhaps relationships have dissolved, friendships and partners have been lost, and life as we knew it has become an illusion. It is difficult to see the negative when everything around us in our personal life seems in a disarray. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how things can fall apart so easily… and perhaps we neglect to see that sometimes things need to fall apart so better things can come together.

Being positive does not mean to ignore the negative. There is no need to put blinders on and pretend that the negative does not exist. Being positive, and living a life which chooses to focus on the positive, can simply mean to live by overcoming the negative. That’s the big difference.

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My Fall Down The Rabbit Hole (K.Blais)

In a fall down the rabbit hole, an individual sets off on the path with a goal, gets sidetracked by various events and changes direction several times along the way, eventually ending up somewhere unexpected, typically without having satisfied the original purpose of the quest. Nevertheless, the path often leads to serendipitous discoveries. Furthermore, … the meandering path may eventually turn out to be more productive than a more direct one. (Courtesy of http://whatis.techtarget.com)

  

I fell down the rabbit hole again. Contrary to Alice’s great adventure down the rabbit hole, I haven’t been off on any exciting or intoxicating adventure to a Wonderland of sorts. Nope, just living my regular life, putting one foot in front of the other.

I ‘settled’ into life again though, content with going through the daily motions and adhering to the various hectic schedules in my family’s life. I didn’t push myself to write a lot, to challenge my thinking (or anyone else’s), and my perspective didn’t vary much. I guess in the security and calm of the rabbit hole I focused on quiet for a bit.

In the quiet of falling down the rabbit hole I stopped carving out time for writing and for doing those things that I had originally planned for my own “quest”. I quit fighting against the grain of trying to fit it all in and to make it all work. I went MIA on the literary world and on other parts of my world as well. But… I began to miss those who I had developed strong bonds with, those who supported me in my writing and the other aspirations in my life, and I realized from the quiet calm of my rabbit hole that I simply only needed to reach out, to poke my head up into the light to see that those people missed me too. 

I became sidetracked by other components in my life, none of which I regret because they have led me to now appreciate and explore life in other directions. My goals have changed because of this exploration. My perspective has been jolted a bit, but in that awakening my reality has been altered. Things I once believed to be true have been challenged, but this is not a bad thing. In fact it has been exciting and adventurous (in its own way).

In meeting new individuals I have learned that unusual and different is interesting and refreshing. The known is comforting, but there is something to be said about stepping out of our comfort zones as well. Talking to and reaching out to new people, people who share common interests or don’t share in them, can vary our perspectives in a much needed way. Even talking to someone in the grocery store lineup can change the direction of our day takes us.

I was introduced to someone the other week. The woman I was being introduced to expressed that she felt that maybe she had met me before. I knew we hadn’t met, but I had seen her comments on my blogs through our mutual friend’s Facebook profile. When I told her this, she said, “Oh that’s right – you’re the writer!” Initially I was a bit surprised that anyone would officially call me that, but it was enough to make me stop and think that it was time to emerge from the rabbit hole.

A writer writes, I thought, and that is what I need to do. Couple this with some actual requests that I post again was enough to kick start me into action. Yes, it’s a busy season, and yes, blog stats say most readers drop off reading this time of year because they are so busy with their own lives, but personally I need to refocus on what truly matters in my life. 

My reemergence from the rabbit hole is on my own terms though. I’m not promising that I can still meet the demands of posting every week and that I will finally take steps towards getting published. My goals have changed and I have meandered a bit, but I’m still the same me, my own Alice of sorts, figuring life out and trying to make sense of this crazy world which I am blessed to live in and to be a part of. 

Perhaps the other ‘stuff’ in our lives takes up too much time and energy that we have lost focus on the things that we should be giving our most time to: our loved ones, our hopes, and our dreams. 

Maybe we all need to take a peek out of our rabbit holes and take a good look at the world around us – have we surrounded ourselves with things that make us proud to be who we are or have we become someone or something we swore we never would be? 

You Win Some, You Lose Some (K.Blais)

I was thinking about this phrase as I drove home tonight. I must say that this familiar saying seems to appropriately paraphrase my life lately.
Here’s something you may or may not know about me: I enjoy things that I am moderately “good at”. Things that challenge me are enjoyable as long as I can have a fair amount of success (even feigned success or success in my own mind) at doing them. Things that are left up to ‘chance’ often frustrate me.
Tonight I played bingo with some of my family members. It’s a simple radio bingo. You buy the bingo cards at a local grocery or convenience store and you tune in to the radio station at a certain time to hear the caller ‘call’ the numbers. You phone into the radio station if you win. I don’t play a whole lot and I have never won. My family members play regularly, but they seldom win either. To be honest though, no one really cares. It’s the time together and the laughs that we have (including the tears rolling down our faces!) that we cherish.
Sometimes, though, I get frustrated with these games of chance and perhaps that is because I believe if you work hard enough at something you can probably achieve what you are working towards, at least to some degree of success. Radio bingo is not like that. Sure I can make the effort to drive to the store to buy my cards, I can be successful at purchasing one, and I can even be lucky enough to be on time to tune in to the radio station to hear the numbers called, but beyond that there is nothing more than I can do to be successful, that is, to win. The rest is left up to chance or should I say, God’s will.
So much of life seems to operate on this idea of “chance”. I caught myself saying this week – “We should hope for nice weather and maybe we will be lucky.” This is so totally not the case though, really. That nice weather will only truly depend on the weather patterns and, ultimately, God’s plan.
It goes for other things in life as well. So much we think is dependant on chance or the luck of the draw, I truly believe is part of a bigger, deeper plan beyond our realm of thinking.
Winning or losing though has a lot to teach us. We teach our children to be gracious winners, to be good sports, and to treat others they way they would like to be treated. We should also adhere to this way of thinking ourselves.
There will be things or people in our life who seem determined to knock us down for whatever reason. That reason may be known or unknown to us, but these things will still happen. We may also seem to do and say all the “wrong” things and the only success we may have is screwing it all up or sticking our foot in our own mouth. We can definitely feel like we are “losing”.
There will be times where we seem to do the right things and find ourselves fairly successful at them. Things may seem to be falling into place and going our way. Others may support and encourage us and seem to be “on our side”. We may even seem like we are “winning”.
There will also be times when neither may be the case. We may simply feel like we are putting one foot in front of the other, some days taking five steps forward and ten steps backward, and never seeming to get anywhere. Those days may seem to be the most frustrating of them all. It is those days that seem like we are neither winning or losing, but that maybe we are at a “draw”.
In any case, winning some, losing some, we continue on, we press forward, we trust in God’s will and His plan for us. We can believe that the days will get better if they are rough right now and we know that tomorrow offers a fresh start and a new beginning. If the days have been good, we should remember to be grateful for them.
Tomorrow will offer another day to play again, or, in the case of radio bingo, next Thursday. 😉

Life (K.Blais)

I’m finally sitting down after a long day of work and an evening of conferences. Beside me sits an exceptionally yummy glass of wine. My laptop is in front of me, and once again, because of my busy, crazy, hectic week, I have not even considered a blog topic.

It’s starting to become a bad habit, I suppose, this ‘allowing the week to get away on me and Thursday evening arriving with no topic in mind’. But, that’s what life does, doesn’t it? It gets away on you.

Sometimes I wish I could tether ‘life’ down, maybe like a dog on a lead. I wish I could teach ‘life’ to sit, to heel, and to obey my simple commands. Wouldn’t it be nice if ‘life’ simply did what we told it to?

If ‘life’ would only ‘listen’ to us, wouldn’t things be a lot easier?

Unfortunately, we are not always in control of what ‘life’ hands us. Sometimes we are dealt a crappy hand and we must somehow stumble through the round, hoping for a better deal next time.

Sometimes ‘life’ allows time to get away on us too and we are rushed and stressed because of our lack of time to get things done and to accomplish what we need to.

We may even feel like we are sailing through the sea of ‘life’ on a good and even course, only to hit a storm which sends our sails crashing down.

In other cases, we are a continuous train wreck – one so bad that we cannot even look away ourselves from the disaster which ‘life’ has allowed us to become.

One of the biggest smacks in the face that ‘life’ can give us, though, is disappointment. Am I wrong?

Disappointment comes in many forms – we can be disappointed in situations, things which we really wanted to see happen or not happen. A perfect example – many of us were extremely disappointed when our local ski hill closed down. No one wanted it to go – especially not my family who can see the hill from our backyard and who had just started skiing and snowboarding last winter.

We can be disappointed in people, friends or loved ones who may have let us down, betrayed us, or hurt us in some other way. Perhaps their behavior was out of negligence or intention – disappointment can wreak havoc on friendships and relationships. It is often hard to face those who have disappointed us, or who we have disappointed ourselves. Forgiveness is possible, but it takes time.

There is also personal disappointment. This is often the one which is the hardest to overcome for when we disappoint ourselves it is extremely hard to reach the point where we are able to forgive ourselves after. When we make the wrong choices and realize it after-the-fact, it is hard to “right things” and forgive ourselves.

‘Life’ isn’t always fair; it doesn’t play equally or on equal ground. ‘Life’ will stab in you the back as soon as you look away and, some days, ‘life’ will sooner spit in your face than say hello.

But…

Life can also be beautiful and good. For in all the negativity that life can bring, it also brings learning lessons and opportunities for growth. There are realizations which we can come to about ourselves and about others through the lessons that life gives. We can learn to prioritize and to place what is most important first, knowing that the rest (like blog topics) will fall into place. We can learn to love deeply and to care passionately about the people and things that matter to us and to let the rest go. We can acknowledge that life will have its ups and downs, but we can take each one for what it is and we can move forward into a new day.

Life is what you make it.

Who Anchors You? (K.Blais)

My life has been a bit tumultuous lately – nothing extremely drastic, just a lot of continuous stress at work, deadlines with the course I am taking, and tons of running with the busy schedules of our lives.

I sat staring at my laptop screen for quite a while today, but I didn’t want to write about the things that “go wrong” yet again. I always worry, just a little, that when I write about those things that it could be interpreted as I am being ungrateful for my life and all the blessings which I have been given, when I feel quite the opposite actually. I worry that someone may misread my post as a plea for sympathy or, worse, attention. When I write about “those” types of days, weeks, or even months, my hope is that my readers will realize that it is an attempt to share my thoughts about these feelings, as a way of ‘venting’ so-to-speak, but also as a way for others to realize that if they have ever felt this way then they are not alone.

So I didn’t want to write about those not-so-great days which have occurred lately, but how do I get past what has been first and foremost on my mind as of late? I have always written what’s on my mind here and my readers have always seemed to appreciate and be able to connect with that. So, I will write about what’s on my mind, but I will also focus on the positive side of things: the anchors which have kept me afloat.

(image courtesy of Bing images)

I have had some stress in my life lately, but I am extremely grateful for my friends, colleagues, and my family for all the support which they have shown me. Things are not always easy in my profession. Some years we are faced with challenges that are beyond our realm of expertise and experience and we must learn how to cope and how to deal with them the best we can on a daily basis. Some days we feel stronger than others. It is on those not-so-strong days that we are held up by those who know us best. These are the ones that tell us what we are doing right, instead of pointing out (or agreeing with us about) what we are doing wrong. When we stumble and feel like we are about to fall, it is those people who reach out to us and offer us something to hold onto.

Sometimes I struggle to ask for help. I like to do things on my own for several reasons. One, I don’t like inconveniencing anyone or making them feel “badly” (also known as dragging them down), if I share my problems or concerns. Two, if things don’t work out I only have myself to disappoint or even to blame. Three, I don’t like people to worry about me or to think that I am not capable of handling things on my own.

Even writing these down I know how foolish they may sound when I put them into words. I know that we have been put on this earth to help one another and I know how much people who love you want to help. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to remember that and to accept help. I have realized how important it is to let someone listen, even if that’s all they can do. I am appreciative for all the listeners in my life. Some days just knowing that your voice is heard is enough.

Things are not always easy in the day-to-day of life as well. Some weeks I feel more like a train wreck than anything else. Even with the best of my intentions things go awry, people are disappointed, and things snowball out of hand. Schedules take over my life and there barely seems room to breathe, let alone anything else. Taking a step back and re-evaluating has proven helpful to me. Taking a “mental health” day is never a waste when it means that I can recognize that I need a break from the current stressors in my life. Allowing someone who offers to help to actually help is another way which I have found to lighten my load also. Sometimes it takes a while, but when I am able to recognize how and why people want to help, it’s much easier to accept the help they want to give. I am appreciative of all the helpers in my life. Some days getting a helping hand is enough to keep you going.

This post has been a bit all over the place, but thankfully none of my past English professors will read it (at least not to my knowledge). I guess what I have been trying to say is that sometimes stress and “life” gets us down, but we need to remember that there are people who want to listen and who want to help. There will be days where we become disappointed and hurt by those people who don’t seem willing to be there – those who seem to turn their backs on us when something better comes along. It is important to recognize that we do have those people who are willing to be constant anchors in our lives. We just need to remember to reach out to them.

Enjoying Halloween (K.Blais)

It’s calmed down a bit in my house now. At one point earlier pumpkin guts were flying, scoops were being tossed back and forth, and the excitement and constant chattering of my six year old was making me a bit edgy to say the least. I love Halloween, but it also instills a bit of craziness into the air around here.

My table is still full of sopping wet newspaper, the pumpkin seeds are still begging to be roasted in the oven with seasoning salt, and the floor needs a small scrubbing, but it’s Halloween so these things are all expected and so it’s all good.

It’s technically the night before Halloween, Devil’s Night I believe it is called, and my kids are super excited for tomorrow night’s events of trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends.

There is something deliciously and delightfully eerie about Halloween. There hangs in the air the feeling that things are dark, suspenseful, and a bit spooky in an anticipatory sort of way.

Perhaps it’s because of this excitement that Halloween is one of life’s little pleasures that I still make time to enjoy. Each year we take the time to decorate the house and yard for fall and Halloween, we carve pumpkins and roast the seeds the night before, and we head out trick-or-treating to family and friends’ houses, which also ends up being an excellent opportunity to catch up with people we don’t get to see very often.

Life passes by way too quickly and we seldom get to enjoy the things that we once did as kids. And sometimes, when we do enjoy those things, we are told to “grow up” or to “act our age”. Halloween is one of those times when we can get away with acting young and silly, we can dress up and take on different personas, and we can allow ourselves to be spooked by the things that go bump in the night.

Even if you don’t ‘celebrate’ Halloween, take some time in the near future to be a child again and to do something you once really enjoyed when you were young. Let loose and step out of the adult comfort zone that we’ve become accustomed to and allow yourself to act much younger than your age.

Happy Halloween!

What Matters Most (K.Blais)

I borrowed the title for my blog post this week from a book which I recently picked up off my bookshelf which I had received a long time ago as a gift. Written by Luanne Rice, it’s a book aptly named after its title. Check it out on goodreads here.

The book and its title got me thinking about what matters most in our own lives and what priorities we put first. There are always a million things to do: things that have to be done and things that we want to do. We seldom find enough time to do everything, let alone the stuff that is most important to us.

Lately, in our household, we have been talking a lot about priorities and completing the numerous things that need to be done in order of their importance as opposed to the order in which we might feel like doing them. It’s not always easy to do that. Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing yard work when you’d rather be writing, or fixing the car when you’d rather be tinkering on your four wheeler, or better yet, driving it. Sometimes being a “grown-up” is harder than we think. Sometimes what matters most is doing what is best for everyone, not just ourselves.

What matters most aren’t always the physical things that need to be done. Sometimes what matters most are the little things: taking a moment to read your daughter a book even though you have many other things to do, taking the time to talk to your son about his day because he wants to chat, answering the phone, even when you’re busy, and talking to a friend who needs a listening ear. Sometimes what matters most are the smallest things that make the biggest differences.

There are times when what matters most are the things that you know you need to do in order to feel better about yourself and your own well-being. At times this can take the form of placing more of a focus on your health and fitness levels. It may be taking the time to make sure that you get your exercise in for the day. It can mean planning healthy meals and snack options so that you can stay on track with your weight loss goals. It could mean taking an extra few moments to find some inner peace through prayer or meditation before you begin or as you end a hectic day. What matters most may be doing something that brings you a little bit of happiness in whatever way possible.

The days where it feels like everything and everyone in the world is against you are the times when it is most important to remember what matters most. On these days, I personally find that a refocus on my 3 F’s helps: Faith, Family, and Friends. And, yes, sometimes this is easier said than done. Sometimes we get so consumed with the worries and frets of daily life that we forget to reach out to those who can help us through the tough times. When we do remember to reach out, then there are times when we forget to thank those people for being such a blessing to us. There are days when we find ourselves so involved with things and issues that shouldn’t matter, that we forget how important the ones are that do matter!

What matters most is different for each and every one of us, and sometimes a refocus on our priorities can determine the difference between what matters most for the moment and what matters most for long term gain. It can be a daily struggle to try to remember to put what matters most first and not get bogged down in the other things that often consume our time and our lives. When this inevitably occurs, it is important to remember to SIMPLIFY, to be Living Life, and to cherish the people that are most important and show our appreciation to them. What matters most is that we realize, acknowledge, and take the time to count our blessings.

What matters most to you?

(photo courtesy of pennyturko.com)

(Dear Readers, Thank you for being an important part of what matters most to me! J Love, ~ K ~ )

Friendship: A Song Of The Heart (K. Blais)

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

‘Friendship’ as a blog topic is one that I’ve been mulling over for some time now. It is a subject which I have touched on and alluded to, but never really concentrated solely on in a post before. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write about it, I just hadn’t yet found the right inspiration, I suppose. Today as I considered it once again, I found this quote and it immediately stuck with me: A true friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words (Anonymous). I like the idea of friendship being a song and finding a place in the heart.

Friends come in all variances and really, a friend is a friend. I don’t really think that there are better or worse types of friends. A friend is really a gift from God. That being said, I’ve come to think that there are certain categories of friends that many might have in their lives. I hesitate in classifying or generalizing too much because many of us will fit into more than one of the “friend” categories that I’ve listed, but I’m willing to share my thoughts:

“Forever Friends” – these are the ones that you’ve known the longest and have been friends with, literally, forever. Even though your lives, habits, and preferences change, these friends are friends that you hang on to. Maybe it’s because they remind you of many happy memories of the past, or maybe it’s that they know too much for you to ever not be their friend! In any case, forever friends are the meat that sticks to your ribs. These are the ones that you can pick up with exactly where you left off, even if it’s months or years later. Three hour conversations over coffee, poutine, and pie or hanging out talking in a backyard; these are the friends that even when life changes, they never change in your heart.

“Kindred Spirits” – these are the friends that you make an immediate connection with, whether you’ve known them for years or you’ve just really met. Kindred spirits are the friends who share your opinions, your values, and your interests. They may even look at things the same way you do, whether it be how to solve a problem or strategies for dealing with a difficult person or situation. Kindred spirits view life from a similar lens as you, whether it is with rose-coloured glasses or a magnifying glass. Kindred spirits also help you figure out whether “it is what it is” or whether “it is what I am going to make it to be”.

“Live-Life-In-The-Moment Friends” – this category of friends are the ones you can call up when you are craving fun and adventure. They usually have something on-the-go, or are up for doing anything. You may not share your deep, dark secrets with the live-life-in-the-moment friends, but you do enjoy their loyalty, company, and fun-loving attitude towards life. These friends remind you that life is about living, not just getting by.

“Friends as Family, Family as Friends” – these friends are the ones who feel like family, whether they are in actuality or not, and includes family who are your friends as well. They are the friends that you refer to as “your sister from another mister” or “your brother from another mother”, or your “friend first, relative second”. With these friends a strong, blood-like bond is formed, in that you support, defend, and are ‘there for’ them as if they really were your blood relatives. These friends may also be church family members, or friends who share your faith and beliefs. They can, of course, include forever friends and kindred spirits as well. I like to think that these friends fill a void in your life where your family is not able to and are also family who you are blessed to also call friends.

“The Best of Friends” – friends like these are gems to find. Friends who become your best friends are the ones who accept you without question. These friends are the keepers of the deep and dark moments of your life, but NEVER remind you of them. They are the ones you call, text, or email at any moment to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. They laugh with you, cry with you, and walk with you along the road of life. Best friends cheer for you, even when they know you’re going to lose, constructively criticize and challenge you when you need feedback, and lovingly redirect when you are going astray. The best of friends are ones that look out for your well-being, as well as their own, and protect and defend your family as theirs. These friends don’t judge you when you fail or fall short of your own goals and forget your song, instead they offer you a hand to help you up and get you back on your feet again. Those who are the best of friends hold your hand when you are weak and offer strength to support you in the best and worst of times. (The best of friends can also be people who also fit into all the categories above as well.)

I’ve realized that while there are several different categories of friends, there is a common thread amongst all types of friendships. We were put on this Earth together to help, support, and love one another. We have truly given gifts from God – friends to help us along life’s way. True, not all friendships will be healthy and good for us all of the time. We have also been given discerning minds and strong judgment skills to realize when a friendship needs to be loosened or released.

Friendship is a two-way street: it takes two willing individuals to put forth effort and time to equally be a friend to one another. True friendship is also about honesty and trust; without those two key elements a friendship is shaky at best. Friendship should never be about convenience or taking advantage. Friendship should be considered a revered responsibility, not an opportunity. Friendship is also about acceptance – accepting and loving someone as a friend, flaws and all. Being a friend should always be about mutual respect, equitable trust, and appreciative love.

A final thought: A strong friendship doesn’t need daily conversation; it doesn’t always need togetherness. As long as the friendship lives in the heart, true friends will never be apart. (Anonymous) Some days we may forget the song in our heart, or maybe there are days when we don’t even want to remember it, a true friend will keep singing it until, eventually, we start to hum along.

(Dear Readers, I can honestly say that I truly value each and every friendship in my life, but I will admit that some days I fall short in showing it. I know that I am not always the “perfect friend”. I get caught up in my own life, my own worries, and my own “issues” so to speak, that I sometimes forget to check in with others, to reach out to others, and to let people in to help and be helped. I think I have a really good idea of what a true friend is, but I am in no way claiming that I am that model of excellence, in all places, at all times. Thank you for accepting me without judgment and for your friendship, love, and support! Yours, ~ K ~)

Once Upon A Griswold Christmas

Christmas is upon us! In fact, it is only a mere five days away. If you’ve dared the stores or malls lately, you will quickly realize that the race is on to finish Christmas shopping and preparations for the holidays. This is a happy time of year – a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, to show love and compassion to others, and to spend time with loved ones. However, this time of year is also often a time of stress and strain as the more quickly the days pass, the busier and more stressed people get. Commitments, deadlines, and extra things on the “to do list” pile up and add on, causing us to have less time to actually enjoy the season and the real reason for Christmas.

One small tradition that I have tried to practice over the years to add some laughter to the season, especially when I find myself feeling stressed, is to watch the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (directed by Jeremiah Chechik, released Dec.1, 1989). Since its release in 1989, the movie has received critical acclaim and is often considered a modern Christmas classic. (information courtesy of imdb.com)

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The movie begins with the Griswold family in their station wagon on the quest for a Christmas tree. Clark and Ellen (the parents) begin singing Christmas carols in the car, attempting to convince their children, Audrey and Rusty, to join in. The kids refuse to sing along, and the Griswolds soon find themselves being antagonized by some rough looking characters driving along on the highway. Clark sets the scene for the first of many Christmas mishaps – he succumbs to road rage and finds himself crashing into the sign advertising Christmas trees. (I can relate to the road rage part — thankfully not to the ‘crashing into the sign’ part!)

The scene continues to the Griswolds hiking in search of a “good old-fashioned family Christmas tree”. We are also made clearly aware of Clark’s own quest (and the theme of the movie) : to have a Good Old-Fashioned Griswold Family Christmas. Clark, however, forgets the axe and the next scene is the Griswold’s driving home with an enormous tree, including the roots, tied to their station wagon.

We then meet Clark and Ellen’s parents who arrive at the Griswold home to spend the holidays. They arrive bickering and getting on everyone’s nerves immediately. Clark tries to remain positive and sets out to decorate the home with outdoor lights for Christmas. The lights become Clark’s focus – he can’t control what’s going on in the inside of his house, but he can make the outside look beautiful. Clark thinks that if he is able to achieve the perfect look for the good old-fashioned family Christmas, everything else might fall into place. Ellen even accuses him, “Are you out here for a reason or are you just avoiding the family?” Clark is also accused of overdoing the decorating and his response is, “When was the last time I overdid anything?” (We have already been given a glimpse of Clark’s “overdoing” and this is confirmed by Rusty’s visible eye roll.)

Several mishaps later, the 25,000 twinkle lights are finally lit and are appreciated, for the most part, by the family and extended family. New relatives arrive, unexpectantly : cousin Catherine, her backwards husband, Eddie, and their two kids. They are welcomed to stay and Clark expresses that he hopes the lights “help to enhance their Christmas spirit”.

The lights don’t solve the problems though. The relatives are still bickering, the large house seems to have very little room in it, and the underlying problem (and stress) of Clark not yet receiving his Christmas bonus is evident. (Clark needs the bonus to cover the cheque which he has written to have a swimming pool put in as a Christmas surprise.)

In so many ways, we might find ourselves relating to Clark and the Griswolds. Clark has taken on too much, trying to have the perfect old-fashioned family Christmas, with little to no help from his pre-occupied family. How many of us have been in a similar struggle? We try to do it all, everything that is supposed to be done for the season, and only find ourselves consumed and overwhelmed. Sometimes we are offered help but, for one reason or another, we don’t take it.

Clark doesn’t ask for help. He tries to do it all on his own. Incidentally, his family doesn’t seem to show much support to begin with. His parents are fairly positive : his father says he would get through family Christmases “with a lot of help from Jack Daniels”, and his mother is like the ostrich sticking her head in the sand only wanting to come up when the coast is clear. Ellen is scattered and seems overcome with the enormity of it all, and Rusty and Audrey don’t want to be involved. Ellen’s parents are critical of Clark and we are introduced to the idea early on that they don’t really like Clark. We are left with the impression though that their opinions are the only thing they would offer anyway.

Clark sets standards that are way too high. Ellen even says to him, “You set standards that no family event can ever live up to”. Clark’s quest for the perfect old-fashioned family Christmas is a quest for perfection that the Griswolds (nor any family) can ever complete. Clark’s expectations for how this Christmas should turn out are unrealistic, but yet he doesn’t realize it. He is obsessed with creating the perfect old-fashioned Griswold family Christmas and he can’t see past that. Expectations can get in the way of a clear view of reality.

Clark does realize that Christmas is about resolving differences and seeing through the petty things in life, but his tolerance level begins to wane. He continues to bestow kindness on his family, however, with only a few mild comments : “Can I refill your eggnog? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere? Leave you for death?” Dealing with family can be trying, especially in holiday situations. Add stress to the mix and things can get even hairier. Friction can result and can cause family events to go awry.

“How could things possibly get any worse? Take a look around you, Ellen. We’re standing at the threshold of hell.” Eventually Clark realizes that things are falling apart. His aunt’s cat gets electrocuted, his tree burns down (so he goes out and cuts a tree from his own yard, trashing the neighbours’ house in the process), and a squirrel jumps out of the new tree creating havoc and disaster in the house. The company messenger arrives with an envelope which Clark thinks is his Christmas bonus, but when it turns out not to be, Clark finally cracks. He swears revenge on his boss. Cousin Eddie disappears and returns shortly thereafter with Clark’s boss wrapped in a bow. The SWAT team smashes through the house, explanations are given, apologies made, and Clark finally gets his wish : the family is singing Christmas carols and dancing together amidst all the destruction of the house.

The movie has a fairytale ending of sorts. Differences are resolved, however temporarily, and a family joins together to celebrate Christmas. We, as viewers, are left with a feeling that things have turned out the way they are supposed to. We are left with that “feel good feeling” ; perhaps it is for this reason that the movie became a modern classic. We can all admit that there is some comfort in seeing that things do go wrong for other people, and that it is not just us. It is comforting to know that we are all human and we all make mistakes. The situations which occur during the Griswold Christmas are approached with humour and an attitude that everything will work out just fine in the end. Most of us hold onto that hope in real life too.

At Christmas time, and throughout the year, let’s try to remember that things may not always turn out the way they are expected to, but they will always turn out the way they are supposed to.

The End. 🙂

(Dear Readers, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas! Thank you, as always, for your reads, likes, and shares! Take time to celebrate the Reason for the season! Love ~ K ~)