Monday, January 18, 2016

Our Memory Tokens

Today is the day I finally took down the Christmas tree.

Yes, I'm one of those ecstatic Christmas lovers who strong-arms her husband into putting the tree up before Thanksgiving and then, begrudgingly, packs it all away mid-January when the last dregs of holiday magic have melted away. I think I stall to hold on to memories of the last year, fighting against the new. I'm not a person who does well with change and the New Year isn't something I welcome.  But when the day finally comes, I look at each ornament in my hands and reflect.

Ten ornaments in particular hold particular memories. These ornaments are thoughtfully planned and created by myself and my husband, then exchanged on the the 23rd of December. It marks our quarter anniversary (our wedding anniversary is July 23) and so it's a special day set aside during the bustle of the holidays for us to pause and share together. I'm not sure how we originally decided the date or the activity. My husband says it was an idea to slowly fill up our tree with personalized ornaments, which rings true. No matter what the origins, it is by far my favorite Christmas tradition.

Our first Christmas is one my favorites. I made for him a bacon (Lord Bacon III, he was later dubbed) and my husband gave me an owl he had painted. The owl looks startled . Maybe he felt threatened by the strange look that Lord Bacon gleefully cast upon him because we quickly accumulated a flock.

Our first owl now leads a legion of startled owls. We adore each one.

For example, this mottled owl is Winifred. Our cat Milton, upon being first introduced, nabbed her off the tree and ran away with her. After much chasing, Donald finally cornered Milton under the bed and rescued Winifred. She was restored to her rightful perch, but she's never lost her wary expression.

Our second Christmas was our first Christmas with Mayhem (pictured left) and Milton (right). The babes. Weren't they adorable? Still are, but not quite so small.

We exchanged a whale (for Donald- his name is Jonah) and a queen piece for me (because I'm his queen). Commence the awws. Each of these was made from scratch. Donald carved the queen's piece and I crafted the whale from buttons. Thank goodness for craft glue and Pinterest, both necessary to complete Jonah's form.

Our third Christmas we unintentionally color coordinated.  That summer, we watched the Legend of Korra together and so I gave him an Avatar ornament crafted from Polymer Clay. It was my first adventure into clay and it turned out well, but I swore never again to work with it-- the potential for burning your creation in the last stage is nerve wrecking. (I re neg on this promise, as you will see later). My husband gave me a beautifully stitched ball with the bells from Milton and Mayhem's first collars inside. I'm amazed by his patience and creativity.

Our fourth Christmas was after Frozen took over the world with its many editions of "Let it Go." Despite its overwhelming popularity, I still loved the movie. Donald made for me an Olaf out of polymer clay. This was his 14th Olaf. His standard is excellence. He wasn't satisfied, trying different techniques until he created the perfect gift. Sadly, we do not have an army of Olafs to balance out our owl hoard. Instead, he gave them away to his coworkers. Can't you hear them chanting, "I like warm hugs!"?

For him, I created a cactus out of felt and pins. He loves cacti and I thought she was too cute to pass up. Her name is Kati; Kati the Cactus. Fits her, right?

Our fifth Christmas catches us up to the present.  I broke my promise to never tackle Polymer Clay again and instead made a rhino (his favorite animal) with a companion atop its head. If you search for clay rhinos, you will find some very...umm...interesting interpretations. I didn't have many finished products to base my study off of, so I used the real-deal images. I think he turned out rather well, if I do say so myself.

As for my gift, he crocheted me a cup of tea (my favorite beverage). Did I mention it was the first thing he had ever crocheted? He just decided one day, "Hmm... What have I never done before? Oh, I know. Crochet." Then he does the research and voila, a perfected stitched result.Again, highly impressed. His diligence and creativity never cease to amaze me.

We hope to continue making and exchanging new ornaments every year, until every ornament on our tree is unique to us, each one telling its own story. But now these tokens are nestled away, safe and sound until Christmas comes round once again when we will unpack them and smile at the memories they bring.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Reflection and Resolution

Before moving forward into this fresh, new year, I'm taking a moment to share some thoughts that have been simmering off screen. For the last two months I've been investigating and discussing the virtual (and physical) clutter of my life. It began after I read an article from the New York Times discussing how the ways we communicate today are being interrupted and transformed by our constant connection to the internet and media. I knew my tablet was never out of reach, but was I allowing my connectivity to dilute my in-real-life relationships?

I took stock of the hours I whittled away on my tablet. Most often, I was browsing Instagram or Facebook, marathoning TV series, or binge watching all the Book-tubers I follow, inevitably growing my To-Be-Read (TBR) pile.

These hours were justified by my "exhaustion" from work or that I was "just browsing." One hour, however,  would quickly turn into a whole morning, and the plans I had to read a book, write morning pages or begin some household chores--something productive-- were out the window. Not to mention, hours in the evening I spent doing these activities were stealing away opportunities to talk with my husband or work on research for a long-dreamed-of novel.

How many things could I accomplish if I divested that time from media consumption and gave in instead to my dreams or responsibilities?

So I set up an experiment. I challenged myself by a No Tech Thursday with my husband. For at least three hours we would turn off all computers, phones, my tablet and the TV. Instead, it was connecting time. Face- to-face without screens distracting or interrupting.

The first Thursday, my fingers itched to pick up the tablet. My brain felt like an Olympic ping-pong match (think Forest Gump). Thoughts jumped and scattered: I need to send this email, write this post, respond to that comment, see what's the latest on Instagram. About an hour into the detox, though, the urge faded and I settled into an evening of laughter and conversation.

When I picked up my tablet the next morning (literally one of the first things I usually do once I'm out of bed), I recognized a pang of guilt and a longing for more "Thursday night moments." There was something attractive about the simplicity of disconnecting. I wanted less waste, more life.

A friend and I discussed at length my growing detest on connectivity and the media's push to binge media. My annoyance was a fiery passion, calling all to arms any who would listen. "The media is brainwashing us into wasting our time in front of screens! Won't you people wake up and see what is happening?!"

 His perspective was more balanced and focused on the portion size of media. Despite my annoyance at his logic, he pointed out that technology in and of itself wasn't wrong, it was how we utilized its benefits to our advantage. It was when we lost the control on our accessibility that it bled into an addiction.

I glumly accepted he had a point and faced reality: An addiction to media consumption is where I am headed if I don't make a change.

This year, I am resolved to not be ruled by my tablet or my "need" for entertainment. I've trimmed my Youtube subscriptions and am determined to only watch videos and shows in which I've truly invested my interest. My Feedly app is daily glanced at and articles I'm never going to read are dismissed. No more guilt about not getting to them. My TBR List has been purged and categorized. I will hear your recommendations but carefully weigh my interest before adding them. Everything has a season and right now, mine is to simplify and focus on my energies on the right things.

Here's to a sweet and simple '16. Cheers!

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