Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Picture Perfect?

I sat in the living room staring at our Christmas tree. I could smell the distinctive pine scent, feeling as if I was sitting in a forest, one with the outdoors.

The tree was lush and full, very tall, almost a high as the ceiling. It was over-decorated, as always, covered with hundreds and hundreds of multi-coloured lights. I remember some sort of rule. 100 lights for every foot of tree. Our tree easily had over a thousand lights and our ceiling was definitely not ten feet, they were the average eight-foot ceilings found in most homes. The ornaments were a hodgepodge collected over the years. A gold spray-painted macaroni frame with a picture of me when I was in kindergarten, a glass ballerina from when I was in ballet, an endless number of hockey, baseball, and football Hallmark figurines, a few added to the tree each year. Once the tree was completely decorated, only hints of green could be seen underneath, like the tree was a hanger, branches just arms that held ornaments. Some branches would dip dangerously low because too many heavy ornaments would be placed on one branch.

The final touch to the tree would be adding packages of tinsel or icicles. My Mom and I have had many arguments over the year over what those narrow strands of silver plastic were actually called. I always called it tinsel and she always called them icicles. We still haven’t come to an agreement over the actual name for them.

The tree looked perfect. It looked the same as it looked every year. Overly decorated and borderline tacky, I would always joke that it looked like Christmas threw up on the tree.

Yet, it couldn’t look the same. The tree wasn’t real. The smell wasn’t real either. The tree was plastic, the first artificial tree that we had ever had. So how could I smell the tree? I wasn’t going crazy; I wasn’t making the smell up. Tucked inside the tree were several pine scented car air fresheners. A dozen of them. If you didn’t know that they were there, you would think that it was a real tree. My Dad was sick, so instead of buying a real tree we went and bought a fake one because it would be easier to set up. He couldn’t tell that it was fake. How could you? It looked the same, smelled the same.

It’s one of those clichés, never judge a book by its cover. It’s true though, isn’t it?

Perfect on the outside, artificial on the inside.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sometimes The Lie Is Better

I could say that I never lie, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I lie. A lot.

I don’t think that telling the truth is particularly virtuous. Sometimes telling someone the truth only makes yourself feel better and make the person that you’re telling the truth to feel worse. The reason behind the lie is more important than the lie itself.

“What do you think of this new recipe I made?”

“How do I look in this sweater?”

“How are you feeling this morning?”

It tastes gross, you look fat, and I feel terrible, but thanks for asking.

Who are those answers going to hurt more, you or me?

So, yes, I lie all the time.

I like the recipe you invented. The grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich with blackened burnt corners that I praised, while I choked back chunks of mushy banana.

I like the too-tight turtleneck with horizontal lime green and bright yellow stripes that you fell in love with and got on sale.

I like that I only got three hours of sleep last night. It left me feeling unfocused all day, while you were full of energy because you got eight hours of sleep.

Cook me the gross sandwich, wear the unflattering sweater, and don’t let my crankiness ruin your day.

If the truth is going to make someone be dependent on restaurants and have a fridge filled with take out containers, have low self-esteem, or stop caring about caring, than I don’t want to tell the truth.

I like lying. Sometimes we don’t need the truth. Sometimes, the lie is better.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"The Carley Ruler"

I remember in elementary school how I was always expected to keep the inside of my desk neat, and neat is exactly how I kept it.

On the left side of my desk I kept my textbooks and notebooks stacked on top of each other. Largest on the bottom, smallest on the top, with the entire stack pushed to the far back left corner of my desk.

The textbooks all contained my name written in the section that the borrower was required to fill in. My name would be filled in, always neat, always pristine.

On the right side of my desk would be my pencil box, usually a Spacemaker pencil box in whatever colours were my favourite at the time. I am not sure if they make them anymore, but I remember those boxes with the round, evenly spaced raised circles on the top. Inside this pencil box would contain everything that I needed for school: sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser (white was always my preference), and a wide array of Laurentian pencil crayons, each with my name written across the white band found on the center of each pencil crayon.

I remember one year my pencil crayons were stolen. I saw them later in class when a girl was using them. She had carved my name off of the back of each one of them, the white personalized band was now raw wood. On some of them I could still see the edges of some letters; a curve of a “C” on some edges, the end of a “y” on others, as if they were still acknowledging that they were mine.

The very front of my desk would hold the requisite thirty centimetre wooden ruler with my name written in black marker neatly on the back. I still have one of these rulers today in my current desk.

The names on the pencil crayons, in the textbooks, and the name on the ruler were all signifiers saying “this is me, these are mine” in extremely neat printing. Not just the items, but a signifier of who I am.

I have not changed much in all of this time. You would think that things would be much different now. Some things are; the old textbooks are long gone, so is the desk, even the pencil crayons. Yet, I noticed how similar my desk and its organization are today to that of my childhood.

The small wooden desk with the round hole cut out of the corner has been replaced with a beautiful and carefully selected white lacquered desk. The orange plastic chair is now a softly cushioned pink upholstered chair. Atop the desk is a white MacBook, just as shiny and white as the desk, and to each side is an antique clear glass lamp, both with white lamp shades. The contents of the desk have essentially remained the same. The center drawer of the desk contains neatly piled textbooks, notebooks, and folders, still to the left side of the inside of the desk. The right side of the desk has an organizer that is filled with pens, pencils, white erasers, and that same ruler from elementary school. The ruler looks essentially the same, just like my method of organization, just like me.

I always hear people talk about how a person can change, but I don't think that you can. People are who they are, no matter how different people wish they could be. We may grow older, get new desks, but we remain the same. You are who you are, even in something as mundane as the way that we organize our desks.

The Carley on the ruler from ten years ago is the same Carley today.

The same printing, the same me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I had barely left my bedroom in two days.

I am the kind of person who would rather ignore the symptoms or pains of any illness rather than address them head on and spend the day in bed. I figure that if I ignore illnesses, they will eventually go away. This was one case where I was stuck in bed and there was no way around it.

My Mom thought it would be nice to have the satellite hooked up in my room so that I would have something to watch while confined in my room. Although my definition of confined in a box of a bedroom and what someone else finds to be the definition of confined are two completely different things.

I have never had actual live television in my bedroom before. I can understand why. Television can be very distracting. While I would not normally watch more than one movie in a row at a time, I could watch an endless marathon of movies, from the oldies, the jems of Audrey Hepburn, to the ridiculous “I-would-never-watch-unless-stuck-in-bed-movies” like Disaster Movie. It really is the perfect title though because the movie is an absolute disaster.

On the first night of having television I found an episode of Grey’s Anatomy playing. The channel apparently plays re-runs of the show on weekends. One episode on television led me to watch the first season of the show on DVD. I am really not a fan of hospitals or medical dramas, but I do like the show. I fast forward through the actual medical parts of the episodes when watching them. So what really is a forty-five minute episode on DVD turns into twenty-minutes of perfectly condensed soap opera.

Two days of not leaving my room for any extended periods of time was really taxing. I am not claustrophobic, but after two days, my room started to feel like the size on an elevator, albeit a very pink, well-equipped elevator, but an elevator nonetheless.

You would think that it was Prison Break the way that I am describing things. It may seem mundane, but I like being able to go into the living room to watch live television or the computer room to physically sit at a desk and use the desktop computer instead of being on my laptop.

I know, I had a flat screen and a computer either way, but I found myself going crazy staring at the same four pink walls.

I decided that it would be good to get some fresh air, even for a few minutes. I figured that going to Starbucks would be a way to lift my spirits. There was a man begging for money outside of the store as I was entering and all of my thoughts and complaints about being trapped in what can be seen as a very well stocked and comfortable room seemed absolutely ridiculous. He did not have anything but the small square of pavement that he was standing on and I had a large square of cushioned bedroom.

This was my challenge? Having the luxury to stay at home for two days doing nothing but watch television and catch up on sleep?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

3:53 a.m.

I have insomnia. It is not a matter of whether I would like to sleep because, given the choice, I would rather get a solid eight hours of sleep a night rather than be awake all night.

I have somewhere in the range of three hundred television channels. At night, when the rest of my house and neighbours are sleeping, I am most likely sitting awake watching a paid program. You see, the programmers must not be insomniacs because if they were, there would be way more actual shows on in the middle of the night rather than having ninety percent of the channels showing a paid program. There is not even a good rotation of the paid programming; most of them are the same dozen advertisements over and over again, night after night. Tonight I find myself watching a paid program for the Magic Bullet. In four hours I can watch the same extended commercial about thirty times on a dozen channels. Yes, I will freely admit that I own a Magic Bullet, and yes, it does make great smoothies.

I have this doctor that has a unique prescription for getting rid of my insomnia: go for a walk and drink a cup of tea. Yes, go for a walk and drink a cup of tea. Now personally, I am all for exercise and hydration, but neither is very good at aiding in my quest for sleep.

With insomnia, you have a lot of time on your hands. And with this time, you really have only two choices: spend hours tossing and turning in bed trying to fall asleep or use the time being proactive and doing something during the night hours. I prefer the latter option.

Although I do not recommend staying awake at night, there are some benefits to being awake at all hours of the night. I can complete a lot of readings for school and get assignments done in complete silence. This is both an effective and good use of time. I can also go to Wal-Mart anytime thanks to it being open twenty-four hours. If you have not tried it, I highly recommend going shopping at three in the morning. There is something amazing about shopping in a completely relaxed atmosphere with three other shoppers in the store.

It is all about perspective though, isn’t it? I can spend hours upon hours every night fighting with myself to fall asleep, or I can accept my lack of being able to fall asleep for what it is and turn my situation it into something productive that I can work with. This is true of all things though, isn’t it? You can fight and resent what you have, or you can accept and build upon what you have and turn negatives into positives. This includes the quirk of not being able to sleep a lot of the time. Circumstances are never perfect and a lot of the time they are not desirable, but you choose to do what you want with what you are given.

Really then, there are only two kinds of people. To use a complete cliché, you can only be a glass half full kind of person, or a glass half empty kind of person. You may say that getting less than four hours of sleep a night is unfair, I say, I have four hours more to do anything. I have a colour-coded closet, an alphabetized collection of dvds, and I’ve even made a dent in my quest to make all of the different recipes from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes recipe book (a book that I picked up during one of my middle of the night trips to Wal-Mart).

So yes, I have insomnia. I do not sleep a lot each night and I can either see that as being completely horrible, or I can turn my lack of sleep around into something positive: one situation where I can choose to be an optimist rather than a pessimist. Not a lot of the time, but sometimes we get to make choices and need to ask ourselves what side of the line we want to fall on. Even in deciding what we are going to do in the middle of the night when we cannot sleep.

And yes, because I’m sure you are wondering, it is currently 3:53 a.m.

What can I say? I’m a glass half full kind of girl . . . a glass half full kind of girl who may find herself knitting a scarf tonight.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Round Boy, Square Window

You should really take the hint when you can’t unlock the front door of your house with a key alone.  When you need a pair of pliers and two people pushing the door frame in to open the door, it is no longer the simple act of opening the door, it is an extreme sports event.  I don’t think we’d score high in the technical, but in style, we are never lacking.

Who is this “we” you ask?  That would be my mother and I.  Imagine Lorelai and Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls, but with a larger age difference. 

Of course the door won’t open.  When it is ten at night, extremely dark, you’ve got a puppy, several textbooks, a few shopping bags, and two Starbucks beverages, it is the perfect time to get locked out of the house.  Let me tell you, hot beverages are hard enough to carry on their own, without working on the synchronized door-opening.

Segue to a massive ladder leaning against the side of the house.  My mom tries to lean the ladder against the house, but it’s too long so that it is almost horizontal.  Not exactly safe.  Who would ever think that you would need ladders of different lengths.  I thought they were one-size fits all.  Apparently not.  Certainly I was not going to climb along, not up, along the ladder to climb into the house.

All that we were missing were black clothes and some masks to look like burglars.  It is not comforting to know that when you have a massive ladder leaning against your house that no one bothers to call the police.  So if someone had actually been breaking into the house we would have been seriously lacking contents of any kind.   

Cut to my brother coming to the house at almost midnight with his friend offering to help us get into the house.  It’s nice to have reinforcements.  Unfortunately, tiny window, not so tiny guy.  After a few tries, he makes it up the horizontal ladder and decides to go head first through the window.    Cut to legs waving outside the window of the house.  Not the most graceful way to get into a house.  He definitely gets points for difficulty, though and tackling the challenge “head first,” literally.

Now the thought of having a mini video camera seems like a good idea.  The evening is a popular YouTube video in the making.  I can just see the title now:  Fitting a round boy through a square window. 

Round boy, square window. 

Catchy, right?