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The Definition of Family

“To Us, Family Means Putting Your Arms Around Each Other and Being There. — Barbara Bush”

I woke up this morning, and do you know what I thought? “Today is the day. Today is the day that I’m finally going to write that post.”

The other day I was talking to my good friend Margaret about the wonderful post she’d written on her blog and how much I envied her that after eight months of starting her blog, it was still rolling. Margaret is one of those people where you look at them and wonder, “How do they do it all?” They’re at the top of their class, everyone loves them, they have a caring family, they hop on a plane three times a year to travel the world (speaking of which, for the next week she’s staying in North Carolina – send me a post card!!) and they overall just love life! If Margaret can do it, why is it so hard for me to do it?

I was asking myself this the other day and I was lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling with what I fear was summer boredom kicking in. I like to believe that boredom is a state of mind – you don’t have to be bored. You can easily get off your butt and call up a friend or go for a bike ride or . . . even clean your room! It’s your choice on wether or not you’re “bored.” And yet – I couldn’t gather up the will to go and finally write that blog post I’ve been meaning to write for the past seven months.

I have this other good friend called S.L. who I’ve always been jealous of her close-knit family. She has no brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t mean a thing to her – her cousins are family. Her friends are family. Heck – the pizza delivery man is as good as family, too! So when she invited me to spend a week with some of her family at their cottage in Sauble Beach, I couldn’t be more ecstatic! I pictured spending fun-filled days tossing a beach ball around (even though I don’t like volleyball), splashing in the water and reading on the beach. I’ve never really had that whole beach house/cottage/house-on-water experience, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I can tell you that it was more then I could ever have hoped for.

On Tuesday, when we visited this amazing grotto an hour’s drive away, I got sick. The “there’s-a-knife-in-my-stomach” kind of sick where it hurt to move. I won’t say much except for that it’s happened a few times before and it’s not a pleasant experience. So there was SL’s family – in the middle of nowhere with a sick kid in the backseat. I can not explain to you how embarresed and awful I felt about the whole situation. SLs family had come to enjoy themselves – not to spend the day looking after a person some of them barely knew. 

This is the part where whenever I look back, a smile spreads across my face and my heart just fills with gratitude.

SL’s family met up with some extended family in a nearby trailer park, and I got to rest inside their trailer. They looked after me and treated me as if I was part of their very own and . . . maybe it’s just an Italian thing, but, well, I felt right at home, too. I still can’t believe that these two people who hardly knew me were so ready to look after me and give me what I need.

The rest of the week was one of those weeks that when you describe it, you basically just list ordinary things that ordinary people do, but somehow that’s exactly what made it so perfect: We went to the beach. Had sand fights. Giggled over cute boys. I learned how to play Botchi Ball. Stayed up late watching the History Channel. Had lunch at 4 in the afternoon. Burnt marshmellows together at late-night bonfires. We went to the boardwalk and did everything from sample the flavours at Dip N’ Dots ice cream, to drag one another to the Antique store (actually, that was just me, but we all did have fun). I had an unbelievably awesome time. Each one of the people that stayed at the cottage made it unforgettable, and I know that most of you won’t ever read this, but I wanted to tell you all how great of a time I had. So thank-you. Many people (and I was one of them) define vacations as exotic places you travel to and pay $2 for one postcard. But really, I think a vacation is just spending time with people you care about. And you’ve given me that. :)

(By the way, I am sending you all a telephathic hug . . .  right now!)

And so the very first goal off my Christmas challenge is checked off – #26 – Express Your Gratitude. Thanks. :)

The Starting Point

This year I got Mr. S- for my Science teacher. Last year I had him as my “main” teacher so I got to know him pretty well. In fact, my friends and I still love to bug him with our random questions of the day (which reminds me – Crest or Colgate?).

Anyways, today during Science class Mr. S- was talking about the lab reports we have due this coming Monday. To be quite honest with you I was only half listening because, well, it’s Science, but I did hear him start talking about the difference between taking Academic and Applied Science for next year. Mr. S- went on to say that if we were planning on going to college or university, we would definitely need to take Academic to even be considered. He than got this really serious look in his eye and looked at the class and said, “There’s no such thing as fate or destiny in this world. You have to make your own luck .”   It was the way he said it with that . . . that note of finality that made it seem like one of those moments in books where the main character looks back at their journey and sees that part as the real starting point of the story.

I don’t think I necessarily agree with Mr. S – on the “there’s no such thing as fate” thing. I think that maybe, on the most basic of terms, there’s already a plan laid out for us. It’s like we each get a colouring page – let’s say you get one with Winnie the Pooh on it and I’ll get a Barbie one – and we may think it’s dull or even horrible, but once we start colouring it in, it starts to look better. If we add a heart sticker on Barbie’s shirt it totally makes her eyes stand out and that teal for the sky really lightens up the whole picture.  Does that make sense?

Well, anyways, no matter if fate is real or just another word with an “e” at the end, I feel like I need to get started on something. I have a brand new-and-improved New Year’s Resolution. And it involves this blog.

You see, when I went to my younger brother’s Christmas concert last December, the programs they were handing out had a little poem on the back. When I first saw it I thought it was really nice so I held on to it, and afer finding it laying around on my desk around the same time I saw the movie Julie & Julia, I got an idea.

What if I, like Julie Powell, created a goal for myself – something to do in about a year’s time. Something original. Something inspiring. Maybe even something life changing? What if I, starting on the the week after Advent officialy ended, set a goal for myself to do ALL of the things on the back of that little program and document them on this blog, all before December 24th, 2010?

Let me just quote Julie for a second from her book, Julie & Julie: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, from the part where Julie is talking to her mother about starting her blog, on page 42:

“Don’t worry. It’s just for a year. I’ll be cooking every night and writing every morning. It’ll be like a regimen.”

“Mm-hm? And why are you doing this again?”

“What do you mean?” What an obtuse question – though, I did dimly realize, one I’d not actually asked myself. I noticed my voice had gotten a little squeaky.

“Well – I mean, maybe this isn’t the best time to start a new project like this? While you’re trying to move?”

“Oh – no. No, no, no, no, it’ll be fine. I have to eat, don’t I? Besides, it’s already out there. Online, where anybody can see it. I have to go through with it now. It’ll be fine. It’ll be great!” 

Even though Julie Powell’s mother, and even Julie herself, were very skeptical on the idea of Julie starting such a big project, Julie stuck through with it until the very end. And look at where Julie is now! She has two published novels, one which the new movie Julie & Julia is partly based on. And you know what else? Julie found her passion. And at the end of the day, don’t we all want that?  

So, after doing some research, I finally found a copy of the same poem (more or less) on-line, at http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/00-2/lp2256.shtml :

This is
Christmas.
End a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten
friend. Dismiss suspicion,
and replace it with trust . . .
Write a love letter. Share some
treasure.
Give a soft answer. En-
courage youth Manifest your loyalty in
word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the
time. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen.
Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand.
Flout envy. Examine your demands on others. Think
first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind; be gentle.
Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence.
Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your
gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart
of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the Earth.
Speak your love.
Speak it again.
Speak it still
once
again.

So, to break it down, I, Iryna of the blog What I Didn’t Know, commit to completing and documenting all thirty-three goals listed above, all before midnight on December 24th, 2010.

(I feel like I’m reciting some sacred oath that in the future will come back to haunt me.)

(I also feel find of weird talking to myself in all of these little brackets.)

(Okay – I’m stopping now.)

In The Beginning

Today is January 10th, 2009 – fifteen days after this blog was officially born.

Gosh, where did I go wrong?!

On January 1st I had so many resolutions on how I could lead a better, more picture-perfect life, and I never even carried out my first one: create a new blog and post at least once every week.

Well, I guess I did create a new blog but that part is pretty pointless if you’re not going to post anything in it.

Ugh. I’m mad at myself. Isn’t there a quote somewhere that goes, “I love the fact that no one has to wait a single moment before they can change the world”? Well, it’s not like I’m expecting this blog to reverse Global Warming or anything, but it would be nice to know that somehow, in a small way, I helped someone out there in a world. Maybe I just brought a much-needed smile to their face or maybe something I wrote triggered something life changing (it could happen!), but that is my goal for this blog (and also to practise my writing skills :D).

And also, now that I think about it, it would be nice to finally finish something in my life (I still haven’t finished that scarf I started  knitting when I was nine . . . or pasted anything into that scrapbook that I bought four years ago . . . and there was a time last year when I started making cookies but never actually put all of them into the oven to bake).

Anyways, back to The Beginning (in case you’re interested):

I am and always will be a great fan of the YA author Meg Cabot, so imagine my surprise when I discovered last in December of 2008 that not only did Meg have a website, but a blog too (for some odd reason I didn’t realize back than how many famous people had websites). From then on I started following her blog avidly and I would refresh it every five minutes to see if she had written anything new. She was just so funny and full of life that I wished (and still do) that some of her radiance would rub off on me.

Now, I don’t do that anymore (I promise!), but that’s how this whole blogging business started. One day in the late winter/early spring, she wrote a post centered on her new book, and she posted a list of some of the book bloggers that reviwed it. I clicked on one of the links - The Compulsive Reader - and came face-to-face with my first book blog.

I think my first thought was something along the lines of, “Those are weird ducks” (because the blogger was talking about Lauren Myracle’s new book Peace, Love and Baby Ducks), but my second thought was indeed, “Wow! A book blog! I want to do something like this!” And I did eventually start a book blog, but, long story short, I realized I really wasn’t that into it anymore, and isn’t one of the main goals of life to do things that you enjoy and make you happy? I think I might still post book reviews on this blog, but I’m planning for this blog to be “a little bit of everything” so we’ll see.

P.S. Is anyone else’s computer being a pain? (I’m sorry Toshiba Laptop, but it’s true. You have hurt me in a way that can never be healed. No, an apology will not be accepted.)

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