Thursday, December 30, 2010

holiday gifting...

...our way!

I ADORE the holidays! I know that there are lots of people out there who have a hard time at Christmas, but the commercialism, gluttony and over-spending don't really get to me because I see so much beauty at this time of year. In our little corner of the globe December means lights, glitter and bows (certainly we all need some motivation with creating beauty outside in Onterrible). It means considering those in your life who you love, and spending countless shopping hours thinking about what might make them smile. In December we are held accountable for all that we have, and asked to give thanks. Only at this time of year do we see so much charity and consideration for others. We cook and bake from scratch, and make time for the people in our lives. Regardless of one's belief about Christmas,  it's undeniable that December is a magical month here in North America. 

This year Warren and I decided to make use of our love of creating beautiful and delicious things. Actually, the hours that went into knitting about 20 tiny sweaters, cooking six batches of holiday granola, and delicately roiling countless chocolate truffles far surpasses the hours it would take to go out and buy presents. Warren and I are so incredibly lucky to know so many people who need nothing! We all have so many things! We didn't think anyone would mind not getting another sweater or DVD. To top it all off we came out of December with no financial debt! It's a win-win holiday situation really!

Here are some photos of some of the gifts we gave. I didn't get a chance to photograph everything because frequently I was sewing in ends or tagging gifts on my way out the door to see the recipient! That's how it goes in the handmade world!
healthy home-made holiday granola

not-so-healthy chocolate truffles in chili-chocolate, coconut and peppermint

tiny handknit sweaters make adorable tree ornaments!  

how did I make so many tiny sweaters without pulling my hair our? with the magic of Christmas!

i love rubber stamps over store-bought gift tags!

i often snipped a sprig of our "real" christmas tree too decorate gifts rather than throw-away bows

i wrapped my gifts in brown paper (LCBO bags turned inside out work too!) and yarn...

I hope your holiday season was filled with beauty and love!

Love Always, 
Joan Blondina

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

an exercise in self disclosure...

I wonder if part of my love of journaling has something do to with the fact that I have built a career on tuning into other people's needs. Early in my career I learned pretty quickly that compassion fatigue can lead to resentment which can lead to a pretty painful day at work.

When I graduated from my undergraduate program I began working full time, in two separate jobs, seven days a week, both day shifts, afternoon shifts and night shifts. I was also applying to graduate school, planning a wedding, and pretty well living on my own while Warren was away at army training. I had no life other than trying to build a future. At that time I worked as a case manager in a transitional housing program supporting the needs of women with various mental health and substance use disorders and helping them move forward. Many of these women were my age or close to it. When the women would spend their days in their pajamas reading a book, take really long luxurious showers, go out for coffee with friends, or go on dates I would get extremely jealous; I had no time for any of these things. When I would spend hours on end each day talking through emotional problems and coaching them to address symptoms of depression and anxiety I would feel resentful that I didn't have the same access to professional support (some days we all need it!) All of this resentment did not mean that these women had an easier life than I; far from it. It was a sign that I was not tuned in to my own needs.

This resentment that I was experiencing didn't last very long. I eventually learned how to have a better balance between the needs of others and the needs of myself. This is ongoing learning. As my career progresses I am still taken back by how self-disclosure comes to easily to some people. I can sit and listen to someone tell me there story for a whole hour without needing to say anything, and could probably write a pretty good biography on their life afterward. Just the act of sharing with a trustworthy and supportive person is powerfully therapeutic. I am pretty blessed to have a job where people come to me with emotional pain and leave feeling hopeful.

When it comes to my comfort with talking about myself, well, I'm not very comfortable with it. I will sometimes talk about my feelings with others, but it doesn't ever feel natural. I had a colleague one time earlier in my career who (in a very critical way) said that the reason that I can't talk about myself to clients is that I have no life experience to talk about. I disagree. I have lots of thoughts and insights and I have very relevant life experience that relate to what my clients are telling me but I don't need to disclose this in order to sustain a therapeutic relationship; my empathy comes through in other ways. This is the same for my personal life.

Returning to the topic of journaling, I suspect that my desire to write and have others read is a way of experiencing this transparency that my "clients" practice when they come to me. I observe very real changes in their demeanor once they have had an hour to unload with me - whether I was actually helpful in affecting their circumstances or not. Sharing is good, people! 

I do also have some pretty reasonable fears around this transparency. The likelihood of someone out there taking what I write, finding fault, and criticizing my thoughts is very likely (ie. She's crazy if she things she's going to have an orgasmic birth). Do I care? Yes, a little bit. But I also know that it takes a lot of courage to be open to criticism which is a pretty admirable thing. 

Finally, to finish my thought, having a public journal like this is actually pretty self serving in my case. I don't know how long I will find it enjoyable, but for now it's my little bit of air time to share with others where I come from. This is for me, but I still hope you enjoy.

Love Always, 
Joan Blondina

this would be a lovely room to spend hours in...
 Love Always,
Joan Blondina

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

like a very tall elf...

I'm knitting my fingers to the bone getting ready for Christmas. I hope I get it all done!

Love Always,
Joan Blondina