I’m Not The Sort of Person Who…

Guys. I’ve been on holidays for over three weeks now, and one thing that keeps popping up is my idea of Who I Am. Indulge me for a minute here: Take out a piece of paper or open a blank document on your phone or laptop. (Please make a cursory attempt to do this at least– it’s fun and enlightening, I swear). Answer the following prompts as honestly, as thoroughly, but as spontaneously as possible, and then meet me in the next paragraph for discussion. ūüôā

Prompt #1: I am someone who ____________________ (or simply “I am ____________”)

Prompt #2: I’m not the sort of person who ______________________ (or simply “I’m not _______”)

List as many things as you can think of for each prompt. For example, coming into this vacation, some of my answers for myself would have been:

I am someone with high standards. I am someone who believes in doing the best job I possibly can. I am someone who is careful and conscientious. I am disciplined and in control.

I’m not the sort of person who enjoys crowds. I’m not one to let loose in public. I’m not a party-er.

That’s just the start. I’ve also discovered how widespread and totally arbitrary my “rules” about who I am (or should be) are. Many times, I’ve caught myself saying things like “I can’t eat dairy” (i.e. I am someone who is limited by what she can eat), “It’s late– I should really get to bed” (i.e. I’m not someone who deviates from her usual routines), or “I don’t think that’s worth it” (i.e. I don’t splurge on anything. Ever.)

Take a look at some of your own answers. Do they lay out very specific– and, let’s face it, highly unlikely– circumstances under which you’re finally allowed to have fun or to experience joy? Do they make you feel free or do they keep you trapped indeterminately? I don’t wear skirts or shorts. I’m not a ‘two piece swimsuit’ kind of woman. I’m not a swimsuit person, period! I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat carbs. I don’t eat fat. I swore off sugar. I don’t have sex during the day, on weeknights, or when the kids are at home. (Or at all.) I wear my hair up. I usually wear my hair down and part it on the right. I hate my job. I love my job! I gain weight just by thinking about food.¬†

This idea really hit home for me when Marty and I went to Florida for a week. Originally, we had planned to winter in Ecuador, and when we discovered that you have to fly through Florida to get there, we thought, Well, we might as well spend a week in Orlando! Our travel plans changed dramatically soon after we had booked ourselves into a random resort in Orlando, leaving us far away from Ecuador but still scheduled to fly across the continent and to partake in things like Disney World and Universal Studios for a week. Eek!

En route to Orlando, I nervously peppered Marty with questions on the plane. Do you like rides? What if we hate it there? When’s the last time you’ve been on a roller coaster– what do you mean, ‘never’?¬†I was extremely apprehensive about deviating from our usual vacation MO– camping or staying in a cheap hotel, hiking, logging extensive urban kilometers, discovering hidden gems in nature, etc. The thought of staying in a¬†resort¬†and going to¬†theme parks for a week made me sick to my stomach, especially when I read the cost of Disney admission in our guidebook. Having fun ain’t cheap, sister.

Anyway. We arrived in Orlando and checked into our villa, with my carefully crafted idea of Who I Am rearing its head and ramming into our surroundings at every opportunity. Ugh– I don’t do ‘poolside’. What do you mean, there’s a cigarette butt station right outside the elevator? Gross. Mandatory mini golf fee, are you kidding me? It got worse when we purchased tickets to both the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios, my hand quavering as I signed the exorbitant credit card slip. You mean I’m paying to spend time in a crowded theme park with a bunch of screaming kids? Am I crazy?! And I have to set my alarm for what time¬†to get there? That’s, like, 4 whole hours before I normally get up… What on earth is happening to me?

Ever the strategists, Marty and I made a game plan the night before heading to the Magic Kingdom. Being the crusty, childless couple that we are, we decided to capitalize on Parade Time throughout the day, bee-lining for the far flung corners of the park while¬†everybody else jammed Main Street to see the floats and to have their photos taken with Mickey Mouse.¬†We don’t do parades. We don’t care about Mickey Mouse. We hate crowds. We are serious adults, for gods sake. It will be the perfect time to get photos without any people in them, for once.

At the park the next day, everything was going according to plan. At 1 pm, we saw the park attendants rope off a generous area for parade traffic and heard some spirited, G-rated music blaring from some speakers in the distance. Let’s head for Tomorrowland!, we mouthed to each other and enthusiastically pushed through crowds of people to make our way as far from Main Street as we possibly could. Marty decided to shoot some photos of Cinderella Castle en route, and that’s when we saw it:

IMG_3731

Some poor soul dressed up as King Louie, the orangutan from The Jungle Book, was doing the twist with a young girl in the middle of Main Street. I made a snarky comment–¬† likely ridiculing people who were shallow-minded enough to unwind and have fun at a theme park of all places– and then Marty dared me to go dance with the orangutan. The default programming flooded in immediately:¬†I hate parades. I don’t like crowds. This song sucks. I would never dance with an orangutan period, let alone in public. What are we doing in Disney World, anyway?¬†But Marty persisted. And I got curious.

This is what curiosity looks like for me-- a mixture of sheepishness and disbelief about what might happen next.

This is what curiosity looks like for me– a mixture of sheepishness and disbelief about what might happen next.

Hmmm… Am I really ‘not a parade person’? What if I could enjoy a parade, just this once? Maybe I can enjoy this one, right now? Maybe dancing with a person in an orangutan costume isn’t so ridiculous after all? Maybe it will even be– gasp– fun?!

That’s how this happened:

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Yup. I finished that song feeling completely exhilarated and didn’t even have to prompt Marty to join a congo line right afterward. (He was in there before I could even dare him!) Pure joy rushed through my veins for the rest of the parade– not to mention the rest of the day– and I felt like hugging that orangutan when everything was over and the floats were being steered back to the garage. ME! DANCING AT A THEME PARK! HAVING COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF FUN! LOOK AT ME, EVERYONE!¬†

Needless to say, we happily crowded around the barricades for every subsequent parade that day, and we gasped in collective wonder that evening when the cast from ‘Frozen’ transformed Cinderella Castle into a bedazzled, snowy confection. (I even wept when Jiminy Cricket narrated the fireworks show. I was overcome with emotion about dreams coming true!)

A super cool "Sleeping Beauty" float at the next parade.

A super cool “Sleeping Beauty” float at the next parade.

I don't believe anyone who says this display wouldn't bring them to tears...

I don’t believe anyone who says this display wouldn’t bring them to tears…

Yes. The moral of this story is to examine “who you are” and “who you are not” in light of new opportunities and experiences that come your way. You never know– maybe, like me, you’ve got a parade-loving, monkey-dancing persona just itching to break free from your disciplined, super serious facade. (Or maybe not, in which case, at least you’ll have some incriminating photos taken of yourself for the future…)

 

     

When 650 Equals 450

Closets and boxes and crap... oh my!

Closets and boxes and crap… oh my! (Old apartment flashbacks)

I have learned a schwack of lessons during our recent move. (Yes, a whole SCHWACK!) I am still processing the adjustment of everything on an energetic level (which partly explains my dire absence from the interwebs lately). However, while my delicate chakras continue to digest everything that’s happened to us in the past month, allow me to shine a light on a very particular lesson that I must have learned simply so you don’t have to. Read on and learn, dear friends– read. and. learn.

Two years ago, when we left our beloved winter cottage on the lake and came back into the city to rent something “basic and cheap” for Harbour season, we stumbled upon our ghetto apartment in the heart of Victoria. It met our sole criteria– “basic” and “cheap”– so we signed our names on the lease and thus ushered in an era of Pain and Suffering for ourselves. (That was Lesson #1, by the way: “In the future, craft a more extensive/less pathetic list of criteria for winning apartments”. CHECK.)

Anyway. Right after* (*yes, not right before) we had signed our souls away for the low, low price of $650 per month, I asked our landlord what the square footage of our glorious new residence was. I needed this information for tax purposes, and our landlord didn’t skip a beat when she answered “640 square feet”.

Okay– 640 square feet. Small. But manageable.

Since I am a mathematical genius and have a keen attention to detail, I proceeded to take the measurements of Marty’s studio space manually. I needed to know the percentage of Marty’s work space to our whole apartment (yay for home office deductions!), so I wielded the Measuring Tape, divided the size of Marty’s studio by 640 square feet and voila! I had a number I could plug in to the tax forms come tax time.

Welcome to our bike room slash art studio slash plant storage space! Yeesh...

Aaahhh… Welcome to our bike room slash art studio slash plant storage space slash recycling depot! Yeesh!

During the next two years, we did nothing but complain about our 640 square foot apartment:

Yes, we have a lot of stuff in here, but gee– it feels so cramped in here!

It would sure be nice to live somewhere with 2 million square feet! At least! Then we could fit all of the art supplies, bike stuff, books, etc.

By golly, 640 square feet sure feels small!

(This wasn’t even factoring in our other complaints, like having elephants for upstairs neighbours and that time when the building leaked, flooded our apartment, and ROTTED OUR MATTRESS!! But I digress.)

For nearly two whole years, our apartment felt supremely tiny. We were horrified at the thought of having visitors there, so nobody was allowed to enter unless it was 100% essential. (My mom never actually saw our place, despite coming to Victoria several times during our lease. Cough. And when we needed to have a friend water our plants while we were away on holidays last year, I probably spent about three hours blathering about my supreme embarrassment before permitting her to even cross the threshold of the apartment.)

And then I needed to e-mail her helpful photos from afar, so she could locate specific items that could technically be ANYWHERE

And then I proceeded to e-mail her helpful photos like this from Arizona, so she could locate specific items that could technically be ANYWHERE on our jam-packed shelves.

Needless to say, when I saw a listing for a much, much larger suite on the top floor of a heritage house, I lunged at the opportunity to jump from our microscopic ship. So we packed. We cleaned. We unpacked. We cleaned some more. And just before we had our final walk through in the old, tiny apartment, I decided to measure the whole place, just for kicks. (Yes, I am a nerd.)

I whipped out Ye Olde Measuring Tape for the last time there, calculated some lengths and checked them twice. A few days later, I plugged the numbers into my trusty adding machine and was stunned to discover that they yielded 445 square feet total, not even close to 640. Thinking I must have made an error in the basic length x width formula, I calculated all the areas again. And then again, when I arrived at the same number and thought to myself that I must have missed a decimal place or something.

Nope. 445 square feet. No wonder it felt so small!

For two years, Marty and I crammed an art studio, a fully-stocked inventory of art reproductions and supplies, a virtual Tour de France of bicycles, and normal things like a bed, couch, and dressers into a teensy-assed 445 square foot apartment! If somebody had asked us out of the blue, “Hey! Do you want to live in a 445 square foot apartment?”, we would have answered an emphatic HELLS NO! If we were methodically checking out places to rent, a 445 square foot place wouldn’t have even made it onto our radar. By a long stretch! And yet we lived in one, quite miserably, for nearly two years of our lives.

LESSON LEARNED: Use a measuring tape and figure it out for yourself.

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED: If it feels small and cramped… it probably is.

So there you have it! Now you never have to live in a 445 square foot apartment unless you’ve made an informed, conscious choice to do so! Aren’t you glad that I learn these embarrassingly simple lessons so you don’t have to? You’re welcome! ūüôā

Sunday Signage: Beware of Giants!

Ah, riding the ferry! Nothing but sparkles of sunshine on the water and long, sweet line-ups to the indoor cafeteria for $12 paninis. Sounds like paradise, right? WRONG!

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble of bliss, but don’t you know that¬†GIANTS are lurking in the shadowy caverns of the ferry hull, waiting until everyone returns to their vehicles to pounce? (Not that Giants ‘pounce’– they are too large and lumbering for that– but you get the idea.¬†They are waiting to kill you while you are innocently waiting for the ferry to dock!)

Need proof? An actual, official warning sign from the vehicle deck on board BC Ferries:

IMG_1629One minute, the cars are safe and sound, parked within 12 inches of each other. The next minute, though? WHAMMO! Out pops a Giant, towering over the vehicles and waving a leg of wildebeest in rage! His torso is like a glowing furnace of fury! He’s even wearing red Oven Mitts of Doom!! Noooooooo!!! (Car #1 is lucky to escape, no? Even if that “escape” is straight into a watery grave from the not-yet-docked ferry.) I feel sorry for the people in Car #2, though. They are total goners… or at the very least, their windshield will get all greasy from the meat dribbles. Fact.

Are You The Artist?

“Are you the artist?”

I get asked this question approximately twenty times per day each summer, and even more so on weekends and holidays. I can understand why people ask it– after all, I’m standing behind a table full of artwork and have a cheery, “Ask me Anything!” expression on my face. However, the question always makes me laugh. Why? Because, sitting less than a foot behind me– on a concrete pedestal, no less– is The Artist Himself, paintbrush in hand, easel and canvas on full display. He might as well be wearing a beret (though a straw fedora lends itself nicely to the artist stereotype as well).

Marty at the Harbour. He is literally right behind me, i.e. I spun around and took this photo of him painting.

Marty at the Harbour. He is literally right behind me, i.e. I spun around and took this photo of him painting.

(It’s also funny because we have numerous “Acrylic Paintings by Martin Machacek” signs plastered everywhere, some of them giant ones. A few of these signs even feature larger-than-life-sized photos of a bearded, blond man on them. With a paintbrush in his hand. I don’t know how much more direct we need to be with our messaging, but it appears the most crucial bit of information– the Not-So-Secret-Identity of the Artist– is still getting lost in translation.)

An actual sign at our harbour booth. This one is about 4 feet tall. (Shakes head in disbelief.)

An actual sign at our harbour booth. This one is about 4 feet tall. But are you the artist, miss? (Shakes head in disbelief.)

Anyway. Sometimes, in response to the “Are you the artist?” question, I’ll state the obvious: “Actually, my husband is the painter”, while subtly tilting my head back in Marty’s general direction. Other times, I’ll let my sweeping Vanna White motions do the talking for me. [In exaggerated pantomime] Wow, right behind me is…. A NEW CAR! THE ARTIST HIMSELF! Would you look at that! [Imaginary clapping and fanfare]

The truth is, I am an artist, just not the capital-A Artist that people are referring to when they ask me The Question. I do lots of creative things, both business-related and in my spare time, but Marty is The Painter and understandably gets the spotlight when we are down at the Harbour. (It would be creepy and disturbing otherwise, no?)

Me being artsy. (Not to mention orange.)

Me being artsy. (Not to mention orange.)

Over the past few months, Marty and I hatched a way to blend¬†his¬†creative energy with¬†my artistic awesome-sauce. After much deliberation and several bad ideas, we came up with videos. Time lapse videos, to be more specific. We figured, “Hey! You [Marty] make super cool paintings, and I [Dana] know nothing about making videos whatsoever! We don’t even own a camcorder (or whatever the hi-tech term is for those newfangled machines that record moving pictures)! Therefore, we MUST make videos of you [Marty] painting! THEY WILL BE AMAZING!”

Ha. This is how I suddenly became great friends with Google. After doing some preliminary research, I determined that:

  1. This would be so much easier to do with a camcorder! But what fun is ‘easy’ when you can make things way more complicated than they need to be?
  2. In the absence of a camcorder, I still didn’t own– or want to purchase– an “intervalometer” to help me time the photo taking remotely on my camera¬†
  3. I definitely didn’t own– or want to purchase– a graphing calculator to help me time the photo taking remotely on my camera (because, hello— the lack of graphing calculators is the main reason why I majored in Communications in the first place)
  4. I didn’t even want to borrow a graphing calculator from somebody else, because that would mean I’d have to program it to take time lapse photos, and even I’m not that big of a dork
  5. I might want to borrow a camcorder from somebody else, but meh– I was too lazy for that and would rather spend hours on Google trying to figure out camcorder alternatives instead
  6. Time lapse video making was still possible with our older camera. I’d have to rig up a tripod, many random cords, a camera, my laptop, and free software… in our kitchen… but making a time lapse video was still possible. Perfect.

And so (drumroll please), we did it! Marty hunkered down in his painting cubby (you can’t even call it a “studio”), I worked some serious nerd magic on the laptop, and our camera magically started taking photographs every five seconds. It took Marty a while to adjust to having his picture taken by the kitchen paparazzi every few seconds, but eventually, he settled into a rhythm and created his masterpiece. When he finished, I spent some more time poring over DIY video-making threads online and finally figured out how to stitch everything together into a bonafide time lapse video! Behold– my masterpiece:

Hey??? Are you super impressed or super DUPER impressed? Haha! I had caught the time lapse video-making bug– a rare but apparently potent condition. Ahem. So I made another time lapse video of Marty painting, this time taking my nerdiness to the next level and individually screening each and every photo (over 10,000 of them!) before stitching them together in a moving picture. So it could be crisp and perfect, obviously. (And don’t even start: I already know how deep I am into those dork-o-rama waters.) Anyway. I can’t even tell you how proud I am of this particular video (below), because doing so would reveal all sorts of geeked-out layers in my psyche, and I’m not prepared to do that just yet. We’re still at the “taking it slow” phase, right? But check this out:

I know. I KNOW!! I love this video because I can honestly say, “I made that!” at the end. Am I the artist?¬†Hell, yes! Did I figure out a convoluted but effective way to create time lapse videos, without a camcorder or a closet full of geek equipment?¬†Double hell, yes! Now all I need is a beret. And Vanna White. And then I’m set!¬† ¬†