Category Archives: family

On this page:
  • I hate flying
  • Gifts
  • Learning about my grandmother
  • Lucas
  • Flowcharts and drawing
  • Vacations and the introvert

I hate flying

Long flights are the worst. New security restrictions and winter mechanical problems meant delays at the gate in the Pearson International Airport. That meant sprinting through the Detroit airport to catch my connection to Nagoya, a 14-hour flight on which I got stuck beside a talker—an American who told me he initially assumed I was some teenager on a trip with her parents and who, upon finding out I was in IT, showed me a picture of a pile of computers he’d refreshed and tried to impress me with the certs he was going for: CCNA, MSCE, etc. “ASP – you know Active Server Pages?”

I was polite. I made conversation. And I made it very clear that I outgeeked him, in the hope that would get him to stop trying to namedrop technology or military jargon.

I hate flying. I hate the expense of airfare and the time commitment of a trip. I hate the rigmarole of airport security. I hate the paperwork and queues. I hate lugging heavy bags around. Why did my work laptop have to be so big?

As the flight from Nagoya to Manila touched down, the passengers around me broke into applause. Filipinos, glad to be home.

Home. I slipped back into it like a second skin. Home. Family; long-running in-jokes with friends; conversations in Tagalog; even ads that I can relate to. Even my cat remembers our old routines.

How strange and wonderful it is to have two homes, and to know what I take for granted in either.

Gifts

Christmas gift-giving tends to be a little stressful for me. My defence used to be that holidays shouldn’t be about gifts unless Santa Claus is involved. Those adopt-a-family gift drives at work? It sounds like a good idea, but I feel uneasy about requests for Xbox games or branded clothes.

I’m working on that, though. I do get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I’m surprised by a gift, and I’m coming to realize that gift-giving is a neat little way to build relationships.

I’d still prefer it to be spread out over the year, though.

When I come across something I think someone will enjoy, I can’t wait to give it to them. For example, I could have stashed the micro-fleece sheets somewhere in the house, waiting until Christmas to give them. I decided more days of warmth were better than more days of anticipation. (Okay, so that was also a self-serving gift, but you get the point. ;) )

In addition to my impatience, I find it difficult to think of things to give people. I don’t shop recreationally (easier to avoid temptations and practice frugality!), so good deals or interesting items seldom cross my radar. My parents and sisters can buy whatever they want.

I don’t really need anything, and I like saving up for experiences and tools. What I really want for Christmas: Shared time. Shared fun. Donations to philanthropic organizations. More people sharing what they know.

My middle sister and her fiance, on the other hand, have a real flair for gift-giving. They think about all the staff at the office and all the people they meet on trips, and they come up with wonderfully individual gifts for each.

Me, I’m glad that my middle sister and my mom sent me their wishlists. I don’t mind learning about gift-giving using training wheels. I’d like to get better at noticing people’s interests. I suspect that my gift-giving will involve horrible puns. I’m giving my eldest sister and her husband a gift for adventurous people who’ve been there, done that. I’m giving my dad a gift related to passion and energy.

I’d rather make things for people than buy people things, though. I’d rather give people jams and jellies, cakes and cookies, biscuits and bars. I want to learn how to sew organizers, make scarves, duct-tape wallets.

So we’ll see how this gift-giving thing works out. Has anyone deliberately tried learning this? Any thoughts?

Learning about my grandmother

When I told my mom about the hooded fleece bathrobe I’d made for W-, she laughed and told me a story about how her mother used to make her dresses. My mom would beg my grandmother to make some time to work on the dress, which was low priority compared to running a business and keeping everything sorted. Sometimes that meant finishing the dress the day of the party, I guess!

My mom also told me a story about how my grandmother bought my mom a new dress. When the top part was too worn to wear, my grandmother replaced the top, keeping the skirt. When the skirt part ended up being too worn, my grandmother replaced the bottom. My mom asked if that meant she had a new dress.

I’d never met my maternal grandmother, but it was great hearing stories about her, and seeing my mom smile as she told stories. =) Just as I like coming across things or stories that remind me of my parents, my mom probably enjoys hearing about my newly-discovered hobbies and thinking about her own parents. =)

I’ve gotten to the point where I enjoy sewing. I like making things I can wear, and W- and J- humor me occasionally by asking me to make things for them and enjoying things I’ve been experimented with. ;)

I wonder what other common hobbies I’ll discover along the way…

Lucas

I remember when Lucas entered our lives. My sister had been staying late at the zoo, taking care of a sick foal. My father insisted that she have someone or something for company and protection. A big black dog, perhaps.

What did my sister go and do? She got a black Labrador puppy. Labradors can’t help but project instant friendliness. We joked that he would guilt-trip prospective muggers into leaving my sister alone.

With his easy charm, he became the mascot and client service ambassador for Adphoto, my sister’s favourite model, and a friend to everyone.

image

Old age has taken its toll on Lucas. He’s hanging on bravely, but it’s almost time to let him go. My sister hopes Lucas can stay until we can all say goodbye to him, but our flights are more than a month away. We’ll see how things work.

I’m happy that of all the families who could have shared Lucas’ life, we were the ones who got to know such a fine dog.

Flowcharts and drawing

J-’s social studies lesson included two flowcharts. W- asked if the flowcharts had diamonds indicating conditionals. Apparently not, so we seized the Teachable Moment and started teaching J- (she’s 11) about flowcharts and logic.

In related news, decision trees and flowcharts are awesome when they involve cats. ;) Will sketch some when I get my new tablet.

(In quite tangential news, I’m thinking of picking up the Wacom Bamboo pen and multitouch tablet. It’d be way cool if I can figure out how to use it for presentations. Maybe next next year, I’ll save up for a proper tablet PC.)

Vacations and the introvert

What’s your ideal vacation? Many people would probably describe an idyllic retreat on a pristine beach. Others dream of action-packed adventuring or blitzing through foreign hotspots.

Me, I want a clean, well-lighted place. So I’d better figure out what I want to do with my vacation, or else I won’t get to make space for it.

I don’t think of a vacation as an escape from work. I like my work, and I live an awesome life even during the weekdays. I like investing blocks of time to prepare the foundation for even more awesomeness. I like developing skills. I like catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while. I like reflecting, writing, drawing, expressing. For me, a vacation is a block of unstructured time that I can use to make things happen.

Last August, W- and I took a staycation. We got so much done around the house. We picked up a new hobby (canning), deepened existing interests (sewing and photography), got some exercise (biking), and puttered around for two weeks of weekends. It was absolute bliss.

I guess I’m a strong introvert that way. It’s not about external stimulation from scenic views or activities. I want to explore the inner landscapes of my mind. This may sound self-centered to extroverts, but introverts understand that self-centering – becoming centered – isn’t necessarily bad, is even essential.

The previous paragraph still looks somewhat scandalous to me. I imagine other people’s reactions: “Are you saying that the world isn’t as interesting as your thoughts?”

It is impossible to explain. Yes, I see the value of stepping out of my comfort zone, of exposing myself to new and interesting things. I read with interest my eldest sister’s stories of awe in the African savannah, and the adventures my middle sister takes around the Philippines. But for myself, everyday moments already contain a universe of insights waiting to be unpacked. I don’t need to gaze on the Mona Lisa in the Louvre to feel inspired by the sublime (although I have, thanks to my mom’s love of travel; the painting was smaller than I’d imagined, but beautiful). The wood grain of a table is fascinating enough for me. I think of the complex processes needed to shape it and bring it to our kitchen, and I am amazed. I’d be perfectly happy to stay at home and explore the intricacies of Manila, or even to stay in Toronto and connect with people online, or even just to sit in silence, reflect, write, read, and maybe chat with a few people. Actually, I wouldn’t mind spending the vacation doing voluntourism instead. Building houses, that sort of stuff.

What an unpopular way of thinking! So I adapt, because my sisters chafe at being confined to the city boundaries during a vacation, and my parents insist on the value of shared experiences. (Which is true; we do have some great shared stories, such as the one involving schlepping a box of iced tea around Europe.) It seems to be the only way to convince my father to set aside his work, relax, and take a real break. Easier by far for me to pack a notebook, a pen, and the fortitude to ignore my sisters laughing at me for being such a geek. I do join in activities—I breathed water during our attempts to learn wakeboarding, and I got the hang of bodyboarding—but I don’t have to do everything or be into everything, and I certainly don’t need to be fixed.

The more I understand about myself, the easier it gets. For example, now I understand why that last car trip drove me crazy.

The introverted daughter or son in a family of extraverts, for example, may learn to be more extroverted to keep up with the rest of the family but also must find time alone, perhaps through reading in his or her room. However, car trips or other situations in which s/he can’t physically get away may remain difficult. 

Leslie Sword, The Gifted Introvert

By golly, it really is liberating to give myself permission to be myself. I’m happy that my sister’s excited about the vacation, and I’m okay with tagging along. I’m definitely going to geek out when I’m there, though, and my sister is not to drag me into activities or spike my orange juice.

What are the ingredients of a perfect vacation for me?

  • Time to meet up with family and friends. After all, that’s why I’m going halfway around the world, despite airfare and travel time.
  • Enough alone time, too. I realized that this had gotten on my nerves a few vacations ago, when I was getting stressed out over the fact that I didn’t have as much myself-time as I used to, and people expected real-time interaction all the time when I’d gotten used to being able to reflect on and get back to people about deeper questions.
  • Skill development. I want to get better at writing, sketching, sewing, taking pictures, and cooking.
  • Choice. I want to be able to spend time on the things I want to spend time on, and get out of the things I don’t want to spend time on.

I think we can make this trip work out, and maybe we’ll get the hang of the alone/shared-time dynamic too.

Sharing this here because I think other introverts struggle with this too, and I’d love to hear what you think and how you deal with vacations. My mom once asked why I blog about family things. People say it takes a village to raise a child. Y’all are my village, and I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to figuring things out. And who knows, maybe sharing these thoughts will help someone else down the road…

So… Introverted? How do you deal with vacations?

(See my comment below for additional reflections.)