Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop #1: Let He Who Hath No Sin Cast the First Stone

Mama's Losin' It
This is my first attempt at Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop! Each Tuesday a list of prompts is posted, you pick one, write about it, then link back to her blog the following Thursday. I thought this would be a great way to practice writing, and get my mind flowing with creative energy and ideas. Plus, reading others' writing will be a great way to hopefully find some inspiration. All in all, I'm hoping this will be a good way to expand my mind and further my writing (including making me more brave). This will be linked to Mama Kat's website with everyone else's tomorrow, per the workshop code, but thought I'd share on here a little early:


So, this week's chosen prompt is: #4 “let he who hath no sin cast the first stone…” Is there anything you have judged prematurely, only to find yourself walking in the same shoes later?

For the most part, I like to think of myself as a very non-judgemental person. My philosophy is "live and let live", meaning if someone wants to live their life a certain way and it doesn't directly affect me, than I say "who cares?!". However, I wouldn't be human if I were never critical of others' choices and I'd be a liar if I said I've never thought to myself "they are crazy". We all do it and usually unconsciously.

Even though I consider myself non-judgemental, I do admit that I can be extremely cynical. I've been told I'm pessimistic, but I would call myself a realist. I'm practical and independent. I've always done things on my own and in my own way and that's the way I like it.

I'm sorry to say that I've looked at others who aren't this way with condescension; laughed at their foolishness of doing everything according to another person's wants/needs, rather than their own. Of falling head over heels in love after a week or two and blindly deciding to take huge life steps before really thinking about them, or just spending every waking minute with a significant other. I've always dismissed this kind of behaviour as silly, self-conscious and immature. I had a personal vow to never do this myself and was really convinced that I never would. I took solace in the fact that I was a rational person with two feet firmly on the ground.

So, when I decided I thought it would be a great idea to move into my first apartment a little over a year ago, with my boyfriend at the time, whom I'd only been dating approx. 9 months, it's hard to say where this stoic nerve went. What a stupid decision. Neither of us had ever lived in our own place, plus we hadn't been together long enough to really know each other deep down. You could see someone every single day for two years and think you know them, but still not be fully prepared to live with them. I see now that I was desperate for my own place and I used our relationship as a way to get that; a way to afford this lifestyle change. And, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I probably got caught up a little bit in the romance of it all; in being with someone who loved me enough to want to start building a life with me. I didn't see these things at the time, of course, but it became crystal clear after a few months.

Needless to say, we did not live together well.

After I came to the realization that this was an incredibly stupid and rushed decision, I wanted to kick myself. Where had that independent, rational, grounded girl gone?! Out of anyone I knew, I was the last person I would ever think would make such a dumb decision. I felt ashamed and silly. I had become those girls that I scoffed at with disdain; the ones that took chances on love. Psssh, please!

Now that I've had some perspective, I don't regret the decision. The embarrassment still stings a bit, but I wouldn't take it back if I could because I learned so much. I learned what a big step moving in with someone is, I learned I like living alone, I learned that I am tough, that I can make tough decisions and follow through with them even though they suck (along these lines, I also learned that the right decision doesn't necessarily feel good, and the wrong decision sometimes does). In other words, I grew up.

Most of all I'm glad that I took the chance. Always being a grounded, rational person frankly was kind of boring. Sure, it's safe and it may keep you from getting into some dramatically stressful situations, but it will also ensure that you never have any great stories to tell, and what's the fun in that?! How are you going to learn who you are and what you will/won't tolerate if you don't take the leap? You would think this kind of experience would make me gun-shy, and it has in a way - I will certainly think longer and harder before moving in with someone again - but it has also made me more open to chance. Life never turns out how you plan it anyway (NEVER!) so sometimes a chance is all you have. Besides, me and my ex are friends now, so it all turned out for the best.

I still judge my friends when they talk about moving in with their boyfriends or getting married and having babies. I feel scared for them and worry to myself that they are rushing or that they don't really understand what they are getting themselves into. But, underneath that voice of cynicism and judgement there is now a more wise, calm and optimistic one; a voice that wholeheartedly and genuinely says: "good for them".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jagged Little Pill

One of my favourite blogs posted a link today to a great jewelry company called Cast of Vices. The items inspired by pharmaceutical products particularly caught my eye, including this one:

The Cast of Vices website states the following: "Born out of a desire to create artifacts out of our vices, Cast of Vices celebrates the inherent design asthetic of these substances while casting a critical eye on pop culture and our obsession with self-medication and addiction."

I was immediately struck with the fascinating uniqueness of their pieces, and my interest was piqued even further after reading this mission statement. Obviously, since I work for a retail pharmacy company and there is a history of pharmaceuticals in my family (as in employment, not injestion; my mother works in clinical research and my grandfather, her father, was a pharmacist way back when), I find anything related to this field interesting on some level. I can relate to it. Also, I'm attracted to things I've never seen before, everyday things reimagined in new and interesting ways; ways that push the envelope or the level of the status quo a little bit.

Both parts of the statement above speak to me in different ways: for one, I had never thought before about the "inherent design asthetic" of pharmaceutical products, but once I read that statement and thought about it, I realized how true it is! Picture a pill - just your average capsule or tablet - and you will realize how pleasing to the eye the shape is; they are smooth, geometric, sometimes have graphic design on top of them or come in bright, vibrant colours; they come in every shape and size you could think of. This could be pushing it a little, but in a way they are like mini pieces of art. And considering your average pharmacy fills hundreds of prescriptions a day, it's mind-boggling how many of them are out there at any given time, and in the possession of many different types of people. Not just mini art pieces, but mini art pieces for the masses!

This statement struck me on another level with the statement referring to "our obsession with self-medication and addiction". This is a harsh-but-true statement about society today. Since, essentially, I work for pharmacists, you would think that I would be all for giving medications, and many of them, to everyone all the time but alas it's the opposite. Obviously I'm not AGAINST medications - sometimes they are needed, and some of them have resulted in great strides in the management and control of certain disorders and sicknesses; they have made millions of people feel better and lead more productive lives, and continue to every day. Trust me, I have gladly and thankfully consumed my share of medications when really sick or in pain! However, I do feel that our tendency in dealing with medical problems is to "throw a pill at it", i.e. write a prescription, or take a medication of some kind over-the-counter as a knee-jerk reaction, sometimes without really thinking about whether or not it's the best way to go.

Nowadays, there is such a huge industry built up around medications it is almost impossible to point a finger of blame in any one direction - each and every one of us perpetuates it in a way. Now, if I were to place pharmacists on the "blame scale" for this issue, I would honestly place them somewhere near the bottom, which I obviously realize is biased since I work with them, but the fact is I do have first-hand knowledge of the work they do every day to assist patients with their medications. Not that other medical professionals don't help patients as much, but lets be honest here, pharmacists are merely filling the scripts given to them/the patient by doctors. Something to think about.

Anyway, regardless of whose at fault, it's a problem that won't be going away anytime soon because too many are making too much money from it, which is rather sad.

I could go on and on about this issue, including the (known, yet overlooked) corruptive activities that go on behind closed doors between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals, but I don't want to go off on a rant from atop my high horse. I merely thought it was interesting that a company like Cast of Vices is addressing such an important and timely issue in society in their own unique (and slightly subversive) way. All I will say is that when I get sick, unless I absolutely need a pill to get better, I prefer to not take one. In most cases of illness (obviously of the non-chronic and/or serious variety), rest and fluids, and perhaps a few doses of an anti-imflammatory such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, will make you as good as new in no time. Sure, throwing a narcotic at it might help too, but that may not necessarily be the best solution.

My grandmother takes a whole load of pills, and most of them she has no idea what they are or what they are for. She takes them because she was told to. How many of your medications do YOU really need?

Aside from this bitter diatribe, I totally want to buy this bracelet! It would certainly be a hit in my office, I imagine! (or Mother's Day??)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This Just Ain't Where I'm 'Sposed to Be

I'm a little slow with my posting right now; work is fairly busy and I ended up being out all weekend the weather was so amazing! I don't absorb much sun during the week working in an office, so whenever I have the chance I like to get out in it on my off-time. Besides, I'm still totally on track for my 8 posts a month goal - I'm at 7 and there's still a week left in the month!*
*So, technically I'm ahead and I'm NOT in fact slow with posting!

Anyway, I've had a lot on my mind lately, which is not really out of the norm for me, but I've had more on mind than usual. Mostly related to career and the future. My plan to move to Vancouver is now a tad up in the air because of recent changes in my life. I won't go into detail here because I prefer to keep the names of people in my life and the details of my relationships with them out of this blog but all I will say is that there has been a change. It's a good change, but it makes my plan to move away possibly not as realistic or desirable, at least not for the near future. It will remain to be seen whether or not my plan will be thrown out the window altogether or not (it's still on the table right now), but there's no denying the fact that the decision is now in question.
So, I'm now confronted with the possibility of staying here a little longer and that means I need to figure out a career plan - I would have had to figure out a career plan moving to Van as well, but the good thing about the move is that there existed the possibility of taking a job at the National office for my company. There are shifts going on that could open up bigger and better doors that could be really good for me. However, as much as I would like to be on some level, I'm not someone that can abandon all personal ties in order to further my career. It would depend on the situation of course, and I would never compromise what I want unless I felt 110% sure about it, but I'd be completely heartless if I said that the personal connections in my life meant so little to me that I could just leave them in a heartbeat and not be torn apart about it. So, this means that changes in my personal connections affect my career future whether I like it or not.

Ah, such is life. The good news is this is not so much a current dilemma, but an anticipated one; a dilemma that's not really present right now, but one that I will surely be confronted with head-on at some point in the near future. In other words, I'm putting the cart before the horse (my speciality).

Regardless of personal change mumbo-jumbo, I thought there might be some possibility of my contract being extended at my current job; however, it was recently confirmed that it's very likely I won't be able to stay in my position past this summer. This sucks on so many levels - not only because I will have to face the round of cover letters, interviews and searching that has been a yearly occurence for me for the past 3 years - but I will also have to leave a job that I've grown to really enjoy and a company that I could see myself working for in the long term. I love my boss and coworkers, and the nature of my job suits me - it's not too hard, not too easy, makes good use of my creative skills, allows me a lot of flexibility to do my work how I want it, and gives me a lot of freedom (if I want to take a couple of days off here and there or leave early on a non-busy day, I can).

I'm not convinced I'll be able to find this kind of harmony in another job. Worst of all, I feel like I'm back to square one on the career board, not knowing where I want to be or what I want to do; floating around, having some ideas but not really knowing for sure. I'm still in the same boat in terms of experience (I have a little bit in a lot of areas, rather than a solid chunk of 3-5 years concentrated in a particular company/industry/position which is something many employers look for) so I don't even know where I would apply or what type of job I'd want to do once my time is up here.

I do have some ideas and I do feel confident I will find SOMETHING as I have enough experience and education, so it's not as if the situation is depressingly dire. But, I'm tired of doing just SOMETHING; I want to do a job that I feel passionately about, that affords me enough freedom and financial comfort that I can still have a productive personal life, that utilizes my best skills, that will give me room to grow and move up the ladder. I don't want something that is another short-term contract with no chance of renewal or movement, or a general administrative job at the bottom of the office hierarchy. And I guess I'm not entirely convinced that this is NOT what I'll get.

I hate to be Debbie-Downer, but it's all very depressing to think about. I mean I am not one of those people whose whole life is their job and when it comes right down to it I would be satisfied in any position as long as I had the financial and personal freedom I crave. But as silly and incredibly naive as it sounds, I feel like I'm supposed to be doing something with my life, like there is a job with my name on it somewhere out there waiting for me; all I need to do is find it. Besides, it's nice to have a "career" and not just a "job"; one that you feel really fits you and allows you to grow. Career is still important to me, even if it's not THE most important thing.

I realize that life is as much about the journey as the destination, and that just because you find your dream job doesn't mean that your life will automatically fall into place. I also know that I may not ever find my dream job and I should be satisfied with what I can get. But I feel like I came close to the dream here so it hurts to know that it's being taken away and in a way that's completely out of my control.

Anyway, so much in life is up in the air right now, I'm trying to just take it one week at a time. I know answers will come to me soon, hopefully the right ones.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You (and Me!)

I'm shamelessly stealing these questions from a quiz post by Carly (who is growing to become one of my fav bloggers) because I thought they were fun. It's always nice to learn little obscure things about other people and to think about them in terms of yourself.

Chances are everyone knows the obvious about you - what's your favourite colour, where do you work, what's your favourite movie, blah blah blah. The likes and dislikes and habits that lie a little underneath the surface are not as easily revealed and much more interesting! I actually find that just the WAY different people answer different questions can be very revealing about who they are and what makes them unique, so I'd love to hear other responses! Feel free to pass on in your own post, or comment with your answers! Some of the questions are silly but that's part of the fun
*Warning this is really long, even for one of my posts*

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:30am (in the pitch dark, ugh. Damn you, daylight savings)

2. How do you like your steak? I actually am not a steak fan. I'll eat it if it's being served to me and there are no other choices but I would never order one or cook one for myself. Not a big meat eater at all actually, aside from chicken and fish. Reading up on becoming a vegetarian in fact.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Alice in Wonderland - loved it! What a unique twist on the story!

4. What is your favorite TV show? Oh gosh so many - Dexter, Sex and the City, Friends is my favourite of all time (can quote pretty much every episode from the first 6 seasons, some of them are just hilarious), True Blood, Grey's Anatomy, recently gotten into Republic of Doyle (set and filmed in Newfie-land) and Glee.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Again, too many to name - Vancouver, London England, somewhere warm and tropical.

6. What did you have for breakfast? Bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese (mmmmm *drool*)

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Gah, again with the hard questions! I love all food but favs are Greek/Lebanese/Turkish (mediterranean food in general I guess), Italian. Fav dish of all time is good ol' mac n' cheese and anything chocolate (natch - I'm a big health nut *rolls eyes*).

8. What foods do you dislike? Olives, onions (in some things), anything super-duper spicey (as you can see it's a very short and vague list).

9. Favorite Place to eat? Brooklyn Warehouse, It's All Greek to Me, Saege, Il Mercato, The Old Triangle 

10. Favorite dressing? Pretty much like all them but had a Mandarin Orange one recently that was good, and I also like poppyseed and raspberry vinegrette.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive? Alas, I don't own a car and must brave the Halifax public transit system. I manage to escape with my life most days though some are close calls. I have this slightly impractical and kooky idea of getting a Vespa one of these days! Perhaps in the next year?!

12. What are your favorite clothes? Bright graphic tees, scarves, cute sneakers (not for work of course), coloured tights, leggings. If I could wear flip flops every day of the year I totally would.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? Anywhere and everywhere! Seriously. I would travel anywhere if I had the time or money. Some places that are top of mind right now though are California, Thailand and Australia/New Zealand.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? Ask me in an hour or so, I'm sure it will have changed by then ;)

15. Where would you want to retire? Hmm that's a long way away but somewhere warm and sunny with lots of cultural activities and great restaurants (sensing a theme with the warm weather references? Read: I hate the cold/winter).
16. Favorite time of day? When I get to my office first thing in the morning and it's quiet and the whole day stretches before me.

17. Where were you born? New Westminster, British Columbia

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? Never watch sports - will go to the occasional game/match whatever if invited though as the energy at events can be infectious and invigorating. Though I'll only know maybe .1% of what's going on.

19. Bird watcher? Nope. Unless they are doing something odd or funny.

20. Are you a morning person or a night person? Hmm this is a toughie - I'm a morning person because I hate wasting away half the day in bed and I don't like to be up late if I have to get up early the next day (less than 6hrs of sleep makes Kim a dull girl) but I'm a night person in that I usually function better in the evening and don't like going to bed too early. So, I guess both?!

21. Do you have any pets? I have a chubby, 14 yr old cat whom I love dearly even though she's a cranky old lady underneath all her fur and flub.

22. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share? I've recently met someone that I'm excited about :) That's all I'm sayin lol.

23. What did you want to be when you were little? Ok it's basically impossible for me to answer any of these questions in a concise way. Veterinarian, animator (I had a phase where I wanted to be a Disney "Imagineer"), fashion designer, stylist/fashion show producer, etc.

24. Are you a cat or dog person? Cat person, but I love all animals. I've always had cats so they hold a special place in my heart, plus they are very low maintenance pets but I would get a dog someday when I have a yard and the time to walk it.

25. What was your last drink? Coffee - sweet nectar of the gods.

26. Always wear your seat belt? Of course!

27. Been in a car accident? Got rear-ended before - wouldn't say it was an accident so much as an act of stupidity on the part of the other driver - but close enough.

28. Any pet peeves? Again, how much time do you have? (wow I'm learning a lot about myself in the process of this quiz). Close-mindedness, spitting, not signalling, loud obnoxiousness, narcissism, littering, etc.

29. Favorite Pizza Toppings? I like hawaiian pizza, also chicken, tomato.

30. Favorite Flower? Daisies are the "friendliest flower" (I'm in agreement with Meg Ryan), but I also love lilies (anything bright and vibrant and tropical).

31. Favorite ice cream? Not a huge ice cream fan, but get a craving once in a while. Anything really chunky with peanut butter and chocolate in some combo is great.

32. Favorite fast food restaurant? Not a huge fast food person but probably Tim Hortons or Subway.

33. How many times did you fail your driver's test? Once - but it wasn't my fault! My examiner was a jerk!

34. From whom did you get your last email? The instructor for my Photoshop class.

35. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Oh another toughie since I love shopping so much. Probably H&M or Winners. Or there's this awesome chain in England called Primark that would be tempting.

36. Do anything spontaneous lately? Went out for dinner with my two best friends on Monday - was sort of spontaneous as it was only suggested a few hours before. I was expecting to go right home after work so it was a nice surprise.

37. Like your job? I have always liked it, but wasn't sure I LOVED it, but lately I'm realizing that I do, in fact, love it (kind of depressing since I have to leave it in a few months :(

38. Broccoli? Ummmmm, cheese?

39. What was your favorite vacation? Trip to St Lucia with my mom in 2008 was pretty awesome.

40. Last person you went out to dinner with? Mark. May or may not be the person referred to in #22 (tee hee).

41. What are you listening to right now? The silence of the office punctuated with the tapping of my keyboard and my music (SXSW channel on Accuradio!) playing quietly in the background.

42. What is your favorite color? Yellow!

43. How many tattoos do you have? Four, though honestly one of them I'm not the most proud of now (got it when I was 18 and had an attitude problem).

44. What time is it? 10:33am - man, time flies when you're procrastinating.

46. Coffee ?? Yes please!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Shape of Things

Why, in the name of god and all that is holy, do we live in a society that so demonizes fat, eating and curvy body shapes?! Why, also in god's name, do we keep having the same lip service paid to this issue over and over again without any changes actually being made? When are we going to see women with real bodies on the covers of magazines, and because it's the norm, not to give the illusion of morality?

I asked myself these questions after seeing the latest cover of Vogue magazine (April 2010). It's the annual "Shape" issue as they call it, or as I like to call it "the issue where we pretend to be inclusive and accepting of all body types, but then use a girl who's a size 4 as an example of a "curvy" body." Or something like that.


The Shape Issue always features 5 or 6 women of "different shapes" - tall, short, thin, curvy, and pregnant. This sounds like a great idea in theory; so refreshing. But the fact is, the short women featured are not always that short and the curvy ones are never that curvy. Curvy to Vogue is anything larger than a size 4 and short to Vogue is anything shorter than 5 ft 7 (uh, hello, if you think that's short you should jump into my stubby pantlegs and try out 5 ft nothing for a day!). Heck, just a couple of months ago the magazine had a story regarding a new, hot model Lara Stone who, AT A SIZE 4, is considered by many in the fashion biz as "fat". I don't know anyone who would think size 4 is fat. For most women I know, fitting into a size 4 is a pipe dream. And, hello, Gisele is wearing booty shorts and a skin-tight, body-suit top on the cover?! That's not "fashion to flatter every figure", that's fashion to flatter .2% of every figure.

Now, this being said, I do read Vogue every month religiously. I read it because I think it's beautifully presented, culturally relevant and features very well-written, insightful articles by great writers. It's an escape of sorts. However, it doesn't mean that I approve of the standards that such magazines uphold. There's no denying the fact that all of the women within its pages are tall and thin with nary a wrinkle or fat layer in sight. Yet, look outside the pages, at the real tangible people all around you, and how many tall and thin and perfect men and women do you see? I'm guessing you could count the number that you see in one day on one hand (maybe only one finger if you're in the suburbs or a Wal-Mart*).
*one finger may be slightly generous in this case

Sure, as I mentioned, the magazine is beautiful to look at and when it comes right down to it, that's sort of it's purpose. But there's also something sickeningly fake about selling page after page of people who are airbrushed of any character.

Sure, this issue has moved more to the forefront than ever in recent years, and many within the industry, such as supermodel Coco Rocha and some designers, have spoken out about it. Rules have been put in place regarding the health and weight of model's, and celebrities like Beth Ditto and Beyonce with a little meat on their bones have been celebrated as cultural icons, thanks partially to their curvy shapes. I hate to even add my two cents into the fray because it's almost tired now; "old news". But it's just so frustrating. And in spite of all the hype, nothing has changed. Magazines have been taken to the cleaners over this issue, yet there they sit on the newsstand with vacuous, slim models staring out in short shorts, mini-skirts and bikinis, singing their siren song to bystanders, filling them with self-consciousness.

Everything changes, and yet nothing changes, all at the same time.

I'd be lying if I said I love my body; frankly, some days I downright hate it. But for the most part I'm happy with myself and I prefer to have a few curves. Most of the guys and girls I know prefer this as well. I like food, and though I try my best to keep healthy, I'm not going to deprive myself or feel guilty about something that should be a pleasure in life. If I wanna eat a brownie or a handful of mini-eggs then I will.

Luckily I'm realistic and self-confident enough to realize that I don't need or want to hurt myself in order to look like the models in these magazines. But the fact is there are millions of girls that do (and guys, but lets be honest, girls are the ones who bear the brunt of this) and that makes me sad. It makes me sad that we live in a society that promotes such unrealistic ideals, fully KNOWING the damage that it causes.

Maybe someday seeing Size 12 or 14 women on the covers of magazines will be the norm.

Yeah. And maybe I'll wake up tomorrow looking like Gisele.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Old Habits Die Hard

Well, I swore to myself I'd never do it again. After my last experience, I wanted to get as far away as possible from it. But here I am, back at it again.

I have re-joined (word?) Plenty of Fish. Yes, it's true. No, my doctor didn't switch up my meds. I'm really just that crazy and/or masochistic.

The good news is that within a day of re-joining (I like my new word, it's catchy), I got a message from a guy who is cute, seems to have similar interests and personality, and actually seems normal, which let's be honest is saying something for guys on POF. We are going out tomorrow and I'm excited, like a silly eleventh-grader or something. And we're not just going on any date - he's taking me to the gold medal game of the Brier! That's right, a curling game (are they called games? I don't even know); and not just any game, the big one. His treat. Heck, I was just excited that someone put a little thought into the date and didn't a) leave me to do all the work of planning where to go and when, and b) thought of doing something other than going for coffee or lunch or some other perfectly acceptable yet boring first-date activity.

We shall see. Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to get prematurely excited about things, and in turn end up disappointed when my higher-than-normal expectations are not met. Anyone who knows me would also know that going to a curling game/match/whatever it's called is not the norm for me as well - nothing against curling, I just don't follow sports or watch them. Ever. Again, not that I don't like them but I'm just sort of indifferent. My mind is preoccupied with deeper things like clothes and food.

I'm still asking myself why I'm doing this online dating thing again because it's just never worked for me. And I'd be lying if I said I thought it was really going to work this time either, but what can I say. I guess if nothing else, I'm a persistent person who doesn't let a few bad experiences get me down. I thought to myself the other day too that even if I go on a date and it turns out bad or doesn't go anywhere, at least I took that step. At least I got out there and met someone and took the leap. At least I didn't stay home alone and lay on the couch with a box of cookies talking to the cat and watching dvd's (I mean I've never done that....ok maybe once or twice). And hey if you have a really bad date that's really awkward, at least you have a funny story to tell!

So, bottom line is, I'm back at it and not sure about it, but also happy about it. Make sense?

In any case, it's impossible to be down when it's sunny and 5+ degrees outside (it's sad and a testament to the shittiness of winter that 5 degrees is considered warm)! Plus, I'm getting ready to go out for a walk in Point Pleasant Park (a Halifax treasure), then coffee at the Wired Monk (another HT) then out for dinner (Turkish restaurant - ooo new!) and dancing with some fun gals! All this combined with my exciting date tomorrow, it's shaping up to be quite an awesome weekend.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go kick myself.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here Comes The Sun

For a few days there on this fair East Coast, it seemed spring might be starting to descend upon us (FINALLY!!). It was sunny and warm and people were out in bare arms and legs and feet like it was the middle of July (kinda crazy in my book, but still sort of feel-good in an odd way). Alas, this morning brought snow flurries and -8 with the windchill. We're not quite there yet, people!

However, there are at least small glimpses of spring and that makes me feel good. One thing that really blew my mind was when my alarm went off at 6:30 this morning and I turned over and could see the sun coming up through the window! After months of getting up, showering and often leaving for work in the pitch darkness (and therefore feeling as though I was getting up in the middle of the night), the days are finally lengthening! The time change this weekend will, I'm sure, amplify this effect even more and make spring seem even closer.

I think I can speak for the entire northern hemisphere when I say I'm SO sick and tired of piling on three layers before leaving in the morning to catch the bus, dry eyes and dry/windblown hair, frozen-to-numbness fingers and toes, and a white road-salt film all over everything. I need sun and fresh air and flowers and green. So, now that I'm seeing these things starting to pop up, I'm very much looking forward to springy and summery things. Here's just a few of the things I'm looking forward to:

* Dressing in green and partying it up Irish style for St Patrick's Day
* An Easter weekend (5 days off!) road trip to New Brunswick
* Leaves budding on the trees lining my street
* The smell of freshly cut grass
* Trenchcoats, umbrellas, wellies, and swingy, flowered skirts
* Nicole's bday/bridal shower/bachelorette and wedding!
* Walks on the beach
* Bicycles
* Fresh air
* Laundry hanging out on the line
* Bonfires and camping
* The cottage in PEI
* Iced coffee

There. Those should tide me over for a few months until the really warm, sunny weather gets here. Or at least for a few hours.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Where the Streets Have No Name

At pretty much any given moment, I want to travel somewhere. All I have to do is read an article or hear a story about someone's experience in a far-off locale, and that restless envy creeps up my spine. I long to take off and experience it for myself.

I would go pretty much anywhere at any time, but there's only one problem - having the money and time to do this. For most people it's just not practical to take off on a plane somewhere without having time to plan and money to pay for it. This is a rather crushing yet constant notion that plagues me, and I'm sure many other travel-lovers, like a hand on your shoulder pushing back your momentum and preventing you from moving no matter how hard you pump your legs.

However, this post entitled "5 ways to travel more with less" provides some great tips about changing your perspective on travel and what it means, and also ways to make it more realistic financially. I like that the author, Annabel Candy (whose blog can be found here), stresses that travel doesn't have to include some faraway, exotic beach; one can travel to places very close to home and get the same feeling of adventure and mobility.

In fact, I think most people don't explore the places they live often enough, if at all. I've had conversations about this with my mom, about how we never visit museums and tourist attractions in our own city even though they are right on our doorstep. I have lived in this province for over 20 years and there are whole huge sections of it I have never been to. Just last summer, my mom, sister and I traveled to Pictou, Bridgewater and Lahave within the span of one long weekend and all of these places were new to me. Who knew there was a cute (and affordable) little ferry to carry you across the harbour to Lahave?! I didn't, and I was shocked by that; frankly kind of ashamed.

I know when I move to Vancouver, I plan on doing as much exploring in that city as possible - I want to see every nook and cranny that I can. Sure, I'd love to go to Thailand or California, but I'm sure I will find as many surprises and charms sticking closer to home, and lord knows I'd spend a heck of a lot less money.

There are many places within Nova Scotia, and the other Atlantic provinces, that I have always wanted to see and have yet to. And now that I'm planning on moving away I almost have a stronger drive to see them now because who knows when I'll be back again. I'll have to try my best to play tourist this summer I guess. (It always goes to show that you never appreciate things until you lose them, or are faced with losing them. Such is life).

I also love Annabel's tips regarding slowing down when you visit a place. I totally agree with her that a trip can often become a hyper-scheduled list of "to do's" and becomes more about crossing as many items off as possible rather than absorbing the essence and character of a place. In most cases you won't find this essence through visiting big, expensive, crowded tourist attractions (and in my opinion many of these have, unfortunately, become tacky tourist "traps", which can make them more nauseating than awesome). Where you will find it is off the beaten path, in the quieter nooks and crannies where the locals hang out. You often find the most charming and unexpected surprises if you just walk around a place, with no particular agenda or timeline. I mean, isn't the whole point of travel experiencing the novel, unexpected and thrilling?

Now, I like to see big-time tourist attractions as much as the next person - it would seem criminal to go all the way to Paris, for example, only to skip the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Sacre Couer. I also am possessive of a personality that thrives on structure - scheduling, planning, knowing where I'm going and when. However, there is something freeing about throwing at least a bit of that out the window, tempering one or two big attractions with a few quieter sites, and not having a heart attack if you find the hours of the day dwindling and your "list" not being checked off in order (or at all). Let's be honest here: most of the time things don't go according to how you plan them anyway so why get so hung up on that?

I still have a constant drive to travel and still have a huge list of far-off, exotic locales that I want to visit and that's not going to change. And I still plan to visit these places when I have the time and money, even if that's not anytime soon. This post just reminded me to not be discouraged by a lack of funds and free time and to keep some perspective in terms of traveling.
When you think about it, we're all traveling all the time in one way or another, even if sometimes it's only in our heads.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I read a lot of magazines; probably 2-5 every month regularly, and that's not even counting all of the online content I read. It's not very often that I read an article that deeply touches me and makes my mind and heart race with countless feelings and impressions; good and bad. But once in a while, I do, and this is one of those times.

If you have not yet read the Esquire article on Roger Ebert and his fight against cancer, DO IT NOW! I actually knew nothing about this (even that he HAD cancer) until I saw him on Oprah yesterday. That interview prompted me to read the much-talked-about article today and see what the fuss was about.

Well, wow. Not only is the writing in this piece extremely engaging, the soul of the story and subject practically jumped off the page and grabbed my face. What a treat to get such an intimate glimpse into the private life and struggles of Ebert; to feel as though I'm at his shoulder as he writes and sitting next to him and his wife as they watch yet another movie in a screening room.

The tribulations that Ebert has endured throughout his cancer struggle are almost unfathomable - a body and face mangled by surgeries, almost drowning in his own blood after the sudden burst of his cartoid artery, the loss of the entire bottom half of his jaw, and to me the worst loss of all - that of the ability to talk, eat and drink. Ebert is almost unrecognizable now, a physical shadow of his former self. I would even go so far as to say that his "new" face looks slightly creepy and unsettling.

But underneath the physical deformity is clearly a warm, intelligent, insightful, brave soul. The article portrays Ebert as a happy, positive, hard-working man - no complaining, no tantrums. In fact, the only time he appears angry is when his loved ones are somehow slighted - which is illustrated in one of the most powerful sections of the article. When Ebert attempts to watch a video of his first "At the Movies" episode by himself (following the death of long-time "other thumb", Gene Siskel in 1999. Ebert embedded the video in his online journal tribute to his partner entitled "Remembering Gene"), he is greeted with blank squares that show the video content has been deleted. They assume the culprit is Disney (you'll have to read the article to get the connections here) due to terms-of-use violations or some bullshit. The account by Chris Jones of Ebert's reaction gave me goosebumps:
"This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn't press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they're just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he's still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he's shouting now. He's standing outside on the street corner and he's arching his back and he's shouting at the top of his lungs."

I can't even imagine how frustrating it would be to be robbed of the ability to express emotions like this out loud. Although I love writing and it's a kind of catharsis for me, sometimes nothing compares to yelling or swearing at the top of your lungs. The feeling of the words and sounds rising up your throat, out of your mouth and into the room can be, in itself, a kind of salve for your anger and frustration. To never again be able to have a conversation in an easy, natural way or open my mouth and have words come out just as I think of them would be heartbreaking.

And to never again taste or enjoy delicious food and drink! To never again feel the creamy heat of a chocolate melting on your tongue, or the sweet bite at the back sides of your tongue as you bite into a ripe tomato, or the robust and tangy flow of a cup of coffee flowing through and down. I love food and drink so much I can't event imagine not ever enjoying it again, to be relegated to the bland and sad existence of liquid tube-food, and worst of all, to watch others around you enjoy such luxuries without even thinking about them. I honestly think this would be a kind of hell on earth for me.

And he's been doing it for THREE YEARS!

But I suppose the upside to all of this loss is that you would learn how to appreciate more. And it certainly seems that Ebert does that. At one point he writes to Jones on a post-it, "There is no need to pity me. Look how happy I am. This has lead to an explosion of writing". I was so inspired by this, by the fact that he is still happy after everything he has been through, and that he only sees the good things that have come out of his experience. Too many of us (me included) get caught up in the everyday annoyances and setbacks we encounter and completely lose sight of the good things in life. I have good health (extra weight on my bootay notwithstanding), I can walk, talk, eat and drink as I please, I can go where I want when I want, I have loving family and friends that I can count on, I have a good, stable job and funny, friendly co-workers, I have a closetful of clothing (and two dressers, and another closet and...well,you get the idea) and a fridge full of food. What exactly is wrong with this picture? Really, nothing, when you compare it to the pictures of some other people.

I was so inspired by the strength and courage of Ebert and his wife. The words of this article and of Ebert himself and his ways have opened my heart and my mind. I hope to keep this inspiration alive in the back of my heart and brain for a long time to come, and remember it when I'm feeling down about something that has not gone my way. Imagine what the world would be like if every single person did this too.

I'm giving Ebert TWO BIG FAT THUMBS UP!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Racey Days

Ah life is a funny thing. Actually my brain is a funny thing - it works in very funny and mysterious ways sometimes, ways that I don't even understand.

For one, it changes its mind quite often and on a whim. Take going overseas - at first I was going to do an internship in China, then I was not doing that program but still going overseas. Well, as it turns out, now I'm not going to be going overseas at all!

I'm certainly still attracted to the adventure and amazing experience that TEFL can provide, but I started to realize that it was going to be too big of a life upset for me at this stage. I just don't have the money or the wherewithal to deal with it right now. I realized also that I honestly don't want to teach! I had this nagging notion in the back of head from the beginning but just thought I would get over it with time and coursework. However, the notion only grew.

I realized the thing I was most attracted to about teaching overseas was the traveling, and I figured I can always do that in other ways at other times. The other main reason I had for wanting to do this was to find a change of scene. This is something that I feel I need SO bad right now it turns my mind inside out and drives me nuts! I realized I can also get this in other ways at other times, maybe in more practical ways but still almost as adventurous. I realized I can go somewhere closer to home, but still far enough away to make the change of scene big enough to scratch my itch.

So, without further ado I've decided to move across my very own country to, literally, the other end - i.e. to Vancouver*! I have a brother and sister-in-law there, so there is also the added comfort of family and support. In addition, the head office of the company I currently work for is there, so going there opens more employment possibilities for me. It's also just a large, beautiful city that offers the things I love about my hometown but on a larger, more varied and cosmopolitan scale. There's just so much to DO - I'm looking forward to traveling around BC, including Victoria and Van tourist attractions, road-tripping it to visit friends in Alberta, training-it down to Seattle, etc. I'm contemplating taking a writing course, signing up for yoga classes, taking hikes and joining dating sites (well, maybe; we'll see how desperately lonely I get after a few months), and just generally taking full advantage of the myriad amenities the city has to offer!

Sure, this isn't the grand adventure I envisioned when I first started on this quest to make a change, but it's still an adventure and one I'm really excited about. I'm no longer going to complete the TEFL online course for several reasons, but I am going to keep my profile on Chalkboard just in the off-chance that I change my mind again sometime down the road (as I'm wont to do fairly regularly) and decide to partake of an i-to-i program after all. When the time is right. I'm confident that I'm making the best decision for me at this stage in my life and that it will work out nicely. I may change my mind a lot, but one thing's for sure, I'm always looking forward to the future!

*It is quite possible that this decision was pushed along by the immense wave of national pride and group huggyness that permeated this nation after the conclusion of the Olympics yesterday, but I can't say for sure. I wanted to move out there long before these games, plus I'm a very practical person, so I know it's not THE reason, but I think I'd be lying if I said it didn't inform my feelings about going and make them more warm and fuzzy!*