Saturday, 20 February 2016

Stress is Good

Stress is good for you. A couple of weeks ago I watched a Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal entitled, How to Make Stress Your Friend. Previously, I had been spending my time and effort trying to reduce stress in my life as I believed that it could lead to many health issues as well as a lesser quality of life. McGonigal highlights a large study that shows stress has no effect on health or life expectancy, rather, our attitude toward stress being what makes the difference. People were asked to rank their stress, and then asked whether they thought that their stress was good or bad. The people who thought that their stress was good for them, lived far longer than those people who thought about stress as something negative, regardless of how they ranked their stress.

What a life changing concept! So many of life's stressors are impossible to avoid. Sure, one could shut oneself off from any experience or person which causes stress, but this seems to be a way to avoid life. Life is messy and imperfect and STRESSFUL. I would like to experience all that life has to offer, and I am learning that stress is part of it all. Humans are capable of greatness, and it doesn't seem possible for creations, inventions, humanitarian movements, scientific achievement, discovery, or really anything exciting to happen without stress. McGonigal says it best, "chasing meaning is better for your life than avoiding discomfort."  

It's been a wild week in my world. Extra appointments, lugging children downtown in frigid temperatures and snow drifts, illness, record cold temperatures followed by record snowfall, snow days, impossible to do lists, plenty of opportunities for my faith in humanity to be restored, as well as some, humanity is dead, soul squashing moments. In the end though, my stress levels (which were definitely higher this week) don't matter, only my attitude toward the stress. Whenever I had a stressful moment, I would say to myself, "Stress is good for me. Stress is good for me!" and sometimes, "Stress is good for me?" I am far from perfect at this exercise, but I hope to make it a habit. It actually feels easier than eliminating stress, which feels impossible!

I am not sure how my anxiety is good, but it is there. Anxiety is a survival instinct which has evolved over millions of years to protect us. So perhaps my protection skills are developing?

I do believe that all stress is not equal. I had formerly thought that there was good stress and bad stress. Examples of good stress would be stress for a test, performance, or a new challenge at work. Bad stress would be family issues, having too many demands, or worrying about things you can't control. This belief that all stress is good, has shifted my view on the "bad stress." I now view these challenges as good for me, and that simple change in attitude could make all the difference in how I deal with my stress, and how my body deals with stress.

There are some stressors which must be avoided, regardless of your attitude toward stress, toxic and abusive people, for instance. If the situation you find yourself in is dangerous, physically or emotionally, get out! However, if you find yourself in a situation that you would have previously avoided for the purpose of lowering your stress levels, take a chance, go for it! Stress is good for you!

This was so fun to make, like colouring maps in elementary school. Yay for colouring!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Top 10 Romantic Movies (plus one bonus for Valentine's Day Haters)

The perfect escape for me is sneaking off to a movie, by myself or with a friend. It's wonderful to immerse myself in someone else's story while sitting in the dark and not hopping up to help little people. I love movies, all genres. Any genre can be well done, or poorly done... A film is the ultimate art. It combines all the artistic disciplines, visual, dramatic, costume, comedic, music, camera work, directing, writing, editing, and many more, into one engaging package.

Perhaps you are searching for the quintessential romantic movie to watch this Valentine's Day, or perhaps you enjoy reading lists, or perhaps you have a list addiction like I do (every time I see a list I feel like I must complete/read/watch every item on it- and I wonder why I am tired). Whatever your deal is, here are my top 10 romantic movies. Grab some chocolate, you will need 20 hours and 20 minutes to watch them all. Clear your schedule- jokes! If you are strapped for time, you can always remove Gone with the Wind, it's difficult to commit to a 4 hour movie (but in this case, worth it). 

Something I learned while compiling this list, older movies are fantastic, older movie trailers, not so much! Enjoy. Happy Valentine's Day!

10. Once
I rented this movie from Blockbuster video in 2007- I am certain that this sentence makes me old and that my kids won't even know what it means. Once is so beautiful and engaging that I watched it twice before returning the DVD. I absolutely adore the music and the naturalistic feel that the actors bring to the film. This is not a traditional love story in any sense and the bittersweet storyline feels a lot like real life. 

This movie is so so so cute! I can hardly stand it! I saw it in the theatre with my sister, we had our hands on our cheeks and had to hold back saying, "aw," in practically every scene. Wall-E is easily my favourite animated feature (also Mr. L's favourite- so proud). It is a love story between the ever sweet and heroic WALL-E and his new friend Eva, as well as a love story between humankind and our beautiful earth. It's a cautionary tale of what might befall us if we don't take proper care. The main characters are robots who do not speak (speaking is overrated, just ask my oldest, he will show you by example how this is true). Pure creative magic. WALL-E also features music from Hello Dolly throughout, which I enjoy very much.

8. Sabrina
I am actually in love with Humphrey Bogart. He is charming, unassuming, stylish, clever, and why Audrey Hepburn would ever prefer William Holden is the great mystery of this film. Hepburn won an oscar for her portrayal of Sabrina, and it is extremely enjoyable to watch her grow up and learn about love and human character as she takes far too long to discover that Linus is the man for her. Please skip the 1995 remake altogether, the original Sabrina, released in 1954 is far superior. 

7. Gone With the Wind
Oh Scarlet. I read Gone With the Wind when I was 19 and I spent most of the book annoyed with Scarlet, but then missed her profusely when I was done the novel. Gone With the Wind is on my "to read again" list for this very reason. How would I feel about Scarlet now, at the age of 33? I think it would be different. Such a rich, complicated character, so perfectly portrayed by Vivien Leigh. She will annoy you and you will love her! Clark Gable is dashing as Rhett Butler and the perfect foil to Scarlet. Beautiful film, and long. Take a walk or do some jumping jacks during the intermission (yes, there is an intermission). 
Interesting side note, my parents first date was to Gone With the Wind, so that is romantic as well. 

6. The F Word/ What If
If I could dream up a perfect romantic comedy, this would be it. It is quirky, believable, hilarious, relatable, and Canadian. Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan both remind me of people I grew up with and the Toronto landscape feels pretty close to home for me. Prepare to become obsessed with magnetic poetry and a sandwich called Fool's Gold. Get to know Adam Driver before he became Kylo Ren. The Motion Picture Association of America took offense to the implied foul word in the title of this movie, so it was released under the title What If in the United States but retained it's original title for it's Canadian release. 

5. Edward Scissorhands
I find Johnny Depp especially attractive when he is soft spoken, gentle, introverted, leather wearing, scar faced, pale, with wild black hair, and has scissors for hands. Edward is a beautiful soul in a fantastical story of love, isolation, self discovery, loss, prejudice, and acceptance. Edward Scissorhands is a modern day fairy tale, the first to unite Depp, Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman. It is unclear how many times my sisters and I watched this movie, too many to count. The injustice in parts is almost too much to bear, my cousin once ruined a perfectly good plastic water cup out of frustration while watching this film. Edward's love for Kim is sweet and pure. My heart breaks a little every time I watch the part where Kim asks Edward, "why did you do it?" and he replies, "because you asked me to." 

4. Sense and Sensibility
Emma Thompson is perfection as Elinor Dashwood, my absolute favourite Jane Austen heroin. Thompson also won the Oscar for writing the Sense and Sensibility screenplay, adapted from Austen's lovely book. I think the entire cast is fantastic, and the story of an oldest daughter trying to keep everything together in times of crisis may be something I aspire to and relate to. The love triangle between Marianne, Willoughby, and Colonel Brandon is heartbreakingly captivating. The "love triangle" between Elinor, Miss. Steele, and Edward is perhaps the most frustrating I have encountered. Painful lessons are learned and things work out as they should, which is Jane Austen's charm. I am completely obsessed with the music in this movie, written by Patrick Doyle.

3. The Princess Bride
I have yet to meet a person that does not love The Princess Bride. If this person exists, we probably wouldn't be friends. The Princess Bride is the most romantic, exciting, hilarious, action packed, memorable, QUOTABLE, movie... ever. It was adapted for the screen by William Goldman, from his novel of the same name, which happens to be the most hysterical novel I have ever read (highly recommend). Westley is a dream come true, brave, mysterious, loyal, and smart, "as you wish," is something that I am sure everyone would like to hear more in their romantic relationships. Buttercup is also a beguiling character, head strong, equally as brave, and utterly romantic. Every character that these two encounter is unforgettable. 

2. About Time
I like this movie more every time I view it. Okay, it is impossible for a time travel movie to ever really work (too many opportunities for plot holes), so let's acknowledge that this is the case and move on to the main themes of this delightful movie. When Tim learns that he has inherited the ability to travel back in time, his main concern is that he use this gift to get a girlfriend. There are plenty of hilarious and heartfelt moments as Tim learns about what is important in life and grows up. Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams are believable and adorable as a couple navigating modern life and family. I feel that this is a love story between the two main characters, as well as between Tim and his father, and a love story of being human and appreciating the gift of life. It is beautiful, and a wonderful reminder of all that is good. 

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
There is a special place in my heart for any narrative existential in nature, how could I not absolutely fall in love with this non linear romantic science-fiction comedy-drama? It has everything that I could ever want in a romantic film. The amount of times that I have debated dying my hair various bright colours just to be like Clementine (Kate Winslet) is considerable. I love to think that as humans, we are drawn to others who will help, match, challenge, compliment, and ultimately, love us. Clementine and Joel (Jim Carey in his best performance- my opinion), are drawn to each other, even when they try to erase each other from their respective memories (you really must see the movie to make sense of this), there is still a magnetic pull between them, as they are destined to be together. Eternal Sunshine is an imaginative, poignant film, that is worth viewing, repeatedly.   

AND, if you dislike Valentines Day or are not in the mood for anything romantic, may I recommend the ultimate Anti-Valentines Day movies, Kill Bill, volume 1 and volume 2. So much revenge! Husband is trying to convince me that Deadpool is the perfect Valentine's movie. I have yet to be persuaded!

What are your favourite romantic movies?

Saturday, 6 February 2016

One Fish Two Fish

Goodbye red. Hello blue. 

Remember when I was so proud of myself for purchasing a red area rug? Well, it turns out, my red aversion is still going strong. I blame Van Gogh, or my mother (I love you Mom), or my own rebellious tendencies, or my emotional attachment to colour, or my emotional attachment to everything. 

Mr. G and Mr. L are enjoying their new cosy bedtime arrangement. Hopefully I don't pass on my red aversion (although mine was most definitely not inherited). 

The psychological effect of colour is an interesting topic, often discussed, but difficult to to scientifically support due to personal preferences, and due to our personal feelings about colour being rooted to our cultural upbringing. Warm colours can evoke feelings of love, passion, happiness, or anger, hostility, stress. Cool colours tend to evoke feelings of calm, coolness, peace, or sadness, indifference, cold. 85% of consumers cite colour as the primary reason that they buy a product. Restaurants, hospitals, airports, most public spaces, have colours selected to create the optimal experience, whatever that may be. Colour to make you eat more, colour to make you buy more, colour to help you relax. 

I really do love all colours. Even red. Just not in my room apparently. 

Sneak peek. I have been painting! Do you recognize this lady? My kids sure did!