Monday, February 23, 2009

How Much is Enough?

A rich man was asked "How much money is enough?" to which he replied "Just a little more".

A wonderful story about life arrived by email this morning from the people at Free Range Studios. I had heard it before, but this is a great little 3 minute movie version of it.

The email preface to the movie is this :

Dear Free Range Fan,
Nearly everyone agrees that this economic crisis was set off by a simple human foible — greed. From the bankers to the borrowers, people just couldn't seem to get enough of what they thought would bring them The Good Life.

Sure, there's a time to point fingers, but there's also a time to look at ourselves and consider how we are a part of this "more, more, more" culture. So, Free Range has teamed up with social values business leader Mark Albion to create the parable of The Good Life, a story that asks what "enough" really means.

This isn't your usual urgent call to action; instead, it's a chance to take a moment to reflect on your own life and the work you do. We hope this three-minute story of The Good Life adds some helpful perspective to your life.

Click this link to view the movie "The Good Life"

I wish I could say that I have already taken this insight and wisdom to heart, and am living life a bit more like that fisherman. But instead, my first thought was "Who should I email this to?" with the intention of then continuing with my work. As I started to compose the email, it occurred to me that I might benefit from taking the story to heart also.

When I think about it, my husband and I have all that we already need: good health, a wonderful family, a beautiful home (and garden!), a good neighbourhood, friends, church community, promising careers. But in the past few years, our enjoyment of these has been threatened by the company we founded and now find ourselves dedicated to. I try not to complain, since it's all good news. Our company has encountered much success in all ways, and is growing at a furious pace to keep up with the market demand. But that has meant a lot of long hours for us. Most nights working past midnight, after the kids go to bed. On weekends, we spend time together as a family, and then go back to work most nights also.

My only hope seems to be a "liquidity event". The vague hope that somehow someone will one day buy us out, and let us return to some sort of "normal" life again. For me, to spend more time in the garden, and to enjoy being with the kids, working on homework, or piano practice, or going to activities, or just "playing" and spending time. Not looking at my watch while talking to them, or being repeatedly called away by the phone. To finally make time for the wonderful friends I have been neglecting so long. Even to visit with our extended family.

I work from home to allow me to care for the kids before and after school, but the result of this is that I am never really "off" work, and have my work always close at hand, to mix into my home life any time I want to (and being a workaholic, it happens very often). As my daughter complains, any time I have a discussion with my husband, the first thing we seem to talk about (and the topic of the majority of our conversations) is work.

It is interesting that the topic of Sunday's sermon was "Finances and Faith" (click the eyeball link to watch the video), and one of the key verses for me was I Timothy 6:6 "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment". Recent events in our family have made it painfully clear how fleeting life is, and how we cannot take it for granted.

So will I heed the message that I keep receiving in so many forms? Not to sit back and live life selfishly (since that is not the message, either), but to stop to "smell the roses" and enjoy the people in my life, while I have time on this earth, with them? And to enjoy some of the things that give my life meaning.

For a start, I took advantage of the wonderful weather (a respite in between one day of rain, and the threat of more) to spend 1 hour at lunchtime, cleaning up more of my front garden. Now I will get off the computer (!!), and try to really spend some quality time with the kids before returning to work again this afternoon/evening. I hope to watch the video again tonight, as I plan out the remainder of my week.

If this movie has inspired you to consider how you are living your life, please share your thoughts with me, too. I know I will benefit from more reminders. Thanks.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Manga Kids Portrait

I am exhausted, but in a good way. I decided it is finally going to be Spring, since the snow is ALMOST gone from the ground, and there is sign of daffodils and tulips breaking the surface and starting to sprout. So today I took advantage of beautiful clear weather, to wash down the driveway.

It might sound funny, but this is one of my favourite jobs. There is something therapeutic about shooting out all the grime and dirt which has accumulated on the concrete, and in the cracks between. Our builder gave us a high-pressure hose connection (i.e. it takes advantage of the pressure from the City supply, prior to the pressure being reduced for our home's drinking/water system). So while it is not a real pressure washer, it does a pretty good job of blasting the driveway.

I ended up doing the driveway, a section of the road, both sidewalks, and the back stairwell. While I was doing that, the kids helped clean up fallen leaves and pull the old grass out of our blue oat grasses. Then I did some trimming of plants, bushes, pulled weeds, and cleaned up the beds at the front of our yard. With the grasses and cuttings, we ended up with two full clear garden bags. The kids lasted for about an hour and a half, but I was out there for almost 4 hours, working non-stop. Then I fought with the hose, which is very stiff, to put is away. By the end of it, I was pretty exhausted.

However, I still had energy for my manga (anime) portrait of the kids. I had finished the black & white of it while at soccer practice this morning (I "watched" from the car). I think I had put in about 4 hours total on the B&W drawing, so pretty quick progress. Here is the result (click image for a larger view):
Manga / anime portrait of the kids in black and white
I wanted to try colouring it also, but wasn't sure if I would destroy the drawing, or have trouble colouring some of the areas which I had drawn & erased (sometimes it leaves a trace), so I scanned a copy of the black & white, then used this scan to colour on. I think it turned out pretty good, too (although the scan doesn't render the colours and details very well - it looks a bit better in real life):
Manga / anime portrait of the kids in colour
My husband says he doesn't really recognize the kids, but I think it is a pretty reasonable likeness of them. It has their favourite bunnies (stuffed toys) and my daughter's hamster also. My daughter has boots like that. So to me, it represents them fairly well. If I have my way, I'll plan to frame it and hang it someplace where I can look at it often.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Manga Family (or at least Kids) Portrait

I guess it's been two years since I worked on my garden painting, and one year since I finally hung it, while waiting for my life to return to "normal" so that I could find some personal time for such pursuits.

There seem to be no end to the late nights, but somehow I manage to squeeze some time for some expression of creativity... I found a great how-to-draw book at the library recently (see below), which inspired me to attempt a manga family portrait. Or at least of the kids. I don't know if I could really pull off a good likeness of myself (hmmm, have you ever seen a fat manga lady?) or my husband (hmmm, bearded handsome bishie gentleman?).

I started the image while waiting for my son's soccer game on Saturday. Then put in a couple more hours one late night. It's coming along fairly well, with my daughter and her favourite stuffed bunny, her hamster on her shoulder, and my son with his favourite bunny. I am pretty close to being done the details, and then need to figure out how to add colour. I'm not so confident with that part of it. We'll see. Here it is, so far:

What do you think?

Pokemon Birthday

It's officially the end of birthday season in our house. My daughter's birthday (see posting) is past, and now so is my son's.

We had the party on Saturday, and being encouraged by my success with my daughter's campfire cake, and since the grocery store (we usually order a cake at Save-on-Foods) didn't have any Pokemon-themed cakes anyhow, I decided to bake my own.

I know anyhow that the kids pick a cake for the characters on top, which they get to keep, rather than for the design itself. So after trying to decide how I would draw a Pokemon image on it, I realized that it would be a better treat to just buy a set of Pokemon figurines, and decorate with those. So I prepared a basic cake (from a mix), and icing (from a can, with the addition of green food colouring), and the kids placed the Pokemon figurines. For the Pokemon ball, I made it with Perler beads:

I think it turned out well, what do you think (click image for a closeup)?

We ended up hosting a combined party with a classmate, since his family was thinking of holding his party on the same night, and inviting pretty much the same set of kids (including each other). So we had one Pokemon cake, one ice cream cake, a lot of balloons in an otherwise empty living room, good school friends, and lots of fun.
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