Thursday, December 30, 2010

Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear

I can't believe I've posted 110 times on this blog! I laid out a goal for myself to blog at least twice a week, and I stuck with the whole year! This is amazing for me because I never stick with anything so...go me!

As everyone, I've been taking these last few days of the year and doing some reflecting about where I've been and where I want to go. One thing I would like to work on in 2011 is this blog. To be honest, I'm not entirely happy with where the blog is now and I have a lot of plans to sort of "re-vamp" it. I feel like it grew consistently the first part of the year, but in the past few months growth has slowed down. I have a feeling a big reason for this is that I've had a lot of worries weighing on my mind since September and have been struggling with self-esteem issues on various fronts so I just haven't been as motivated and my mind has been a bit stifled creatively. In any case, I have plans to change this in the new year and I'm excited to make new commitments to this hobby in coming months (more on that later).

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't revisit my old blogs too often and it occured to me that's not really a good thing. It's important to go back and read past posts both to see how you have evolved in your writing, but also to remember some interesting thoughts and experiences you had (as it's very easy to forget about these in the rush to forge ahead).

So, in this spirit, and in the spirit of the end of 2010, I thought it would be fun to revisit my 2010 posts and pick out some of my favourites:

1. Turning over a new...stone (my first official post on my "new" blog!)
2. Today on the Crazy Files... (wherein I dissect the horrifying phenomenon that was Lindsay Lohan + Ungaro...sigh, poor thing. This post also heralded my first official comment!)
3. The Road is Long, with Many a Winding Turn (my post about a trip I booked to teach English in China, a trip I would have departed on in August but alas did not end up taking. Long story on why I didn't go and part of me is still disappointed, however part of me also feels it was the right decision; you can read up on my reasoning here. If you follow the blog at all, you will know that career has been a huge thorn in my side this past year. After I decided against China, I decided on Vancouver, then decided NOT to do that either, then went back and forth various times. Needless to say it's been a confusing and overwhelming year in terms of career decisions. I have felt very "stuck", particularly in the last half of the year, in what is commonly called the Quarter-Life Crisis. I'm still feeling this but on the bright side, I have learned a lot about myself and what I want through all this reflection. I'm getting closer and closer to realizing what I should do. Career is something that is really important to me, and so it will always be something I discuss on the blog. I'm just hoping that 2011 will be a better year for me and I'll finally find a career that has some longevity and gives me financial and emotional comfort. I'm really hoping to find my niche this year. I guess we will see...
4. Don't Worry, Be Happy (the story of Roger Ebert overcoming personal tragedy really spoke to me and amazed me, so I felt compelled to write about it; just goes to show that one shouldn't complain about trivial things because there are always people worse off than you).
5. The Shape of Things (this post touches on an issue that I feel very strongly about - body image, and particularly in the media, more specifically in the fashion industry. I'm a huge fashion fanatic, but this is one part of the industry that just really makes me angry, as you can see by the rant here and a subsequent one I wrote in response to an extremely vindictive Marie Claire article here.)
6. Trip to Boston (this was so great - Boston is somewhere I'd always wanted to visit, and this trip wasn't really planned; it was very spur of the moment because my mom was going for work and I decided to tag along - free hotel, woohoo! I was only there for 3 days but saw quite a bit and it just felt good to be traveling somewhere again. I really needed to get away from life at that point and just move, so it was really good for me. That's one of my favourite things about blogging too, that you have an "account" of your activities that you can go back and review, which is handy for someone like me with a bad memory!).
7. Motivation Mondays (remember how I said earlier that I never stick to things? Well, case in point with these posts, which were meant to record my attempt to lose weight and get more fit. I did a total of five MM posts, which is pretty good, but I only ended up losing about 5 lbs. I think I completely fell off the wagon when I took a weekend trip for work and just ate junk the entire time. Never went back to it, and I think I'm probably slightly bigger than I was then. Sigh. I have been doing better in the fitness department since September because I've been walking to work, but my diet is still pretty bad and I'm really self-conscious about my body. This is something I hope to continue working on in the new year {again, more on that later}. This is a major struggle that can't be tackled overnight, but I know for me a huge part of it is "mental" so if I can discipline myself in that way, I know I can find a plan that works for me).
8. I will gladly bow down to Candybear's cuteness (I know, wierd title, but read it and you'll get it. This was an exciting moment for me because it was the occasion of my first blog award! I know it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things - it's not an Oscar or anything - and I certainly don't blog to get awards and recognition, but it just meant a lot that someone felt like my writing was good enough to think of me. It made me realize that this whole blog thing really isn't a waste of time and that you can actually motivate people and connect with them if you blog with integrity).
9. Blog Challenges (another exciting moment for me on the blog this year was getting to participate in a couple of great blog challenges - the first concerned a global movement called Be The Change for Pets. I donated a large box of supplies to a local shelter and blogged about it, and it was very rewarding. I can't wait for them to do more challenges so I can help out more! In fact, I'm always on the look-out for animal-related blog activities to participate in as it's an issue that is really important to me. The second challenge was one put on by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission right here in my own city. I was given a $100 Visa card to spend anywhere I wished in downtown Halifax then blogged about it here. Wow, what a fun challenge! I mean free money is always great, but I'm also a big proponent of buying and supporting local businesses so it felt great to be a part of promoting my community and what it has to offer. Plus, I got to meet a bunch of local bloggers that I wasn't aware of, and with whom I hope to continue building relationships with).
10. Canada is Cooler Than You (I was really excited when Alison asked me to guest post on this series, writing from an East Coast point of view. Even though I talk a lot about living and visiting other places, I am a very proud Canadian, and I'm specifically a very proud East Coast Canadian. Non-Canadians won't really understand the "regionalism" that exists here and how profound it is, but the different areas of our country are extremely diverse {which is one of the things I love about it}. It was fun to reflect on why I love my home province/region, and hear reflections from other areas. Plus, it was the first time someone asked me to guest post, and I felt very privelaged to be given the opportunity by such a great blogger).

Wow, lots of posts I enjoyed this year so it was hard to narrow it down! But I think these best capture the scope of my year and the more profound issues that affected my life. I recommend going back and reviewing your old posts, if you haven't already, as it can be very eye-opening! It has definitely reminded me how far I've come in some ways, and in what areas I need to go further.

I can't believe this year is almost over!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

...aaaand it's all over

That was a nice little Internet break! Well, I say "break" but I was still on Twitter and Facebook here and, ok it wasn't really a break, but a break from my normal routine!

Anyway, it's also been a nice general break (not having to go to work is quite generally awesome). Time has gone fast though - Christmas is so funny, there is so much build-up and anticipation and then before you know it the gifts are opened, Boxing Day sales are done, and you're halfway through vacation! How does this happen?! In any case it's been a good year - Christmas Eve was quiet, had a yummy dinner of lobster crepes and watched Muppet Christmas Carol ( and Christmas Vacation (NEVER stops being funny). Christmas Day we slept in, ate breakfast, didn't get to the gift-opening until noon (!) and no surprises there (my mom is not very good at being secretive - I pretty much knew everything I was getting hah). My big gift was this baby though:

Anyone who has known me for more than, oh, five minutes knows I love coffee and that I especially love espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. Also, I live alone and I only ever make one drink at a time so I hate wasting a whole filter and pot of water on ONE mug of coffee, and then dealing with cleaning the whole thing. This machine is perfect for me because I can make tons of different drinks depending on my mood, only make one at a time, and not have to deal with messy filters and cleaning - you just put the pod in and that's that! My mom also got me a package each of coffee, cappuccino and latte pods so I'm set for a while! I got lots of great gifts, but this was the one I was most looking forward to. Can't wait to try it out tomorrow!

The boy came over in the afternoon and we gave him the stuff we put together for him (I made him a stocking and my mom got him a 6 pack - thoughtful right? lol), had yummy turkey dinner and cocktails and watched Toy Story 3. I went to his place that night and spent the day with him Sunday (again being lazy, eating lunch at Applebees, etc), then went back to mum's and we went to see The Tourist (my verdict is 'meh'), then went to bed early in prep for shopping Monday.

I wasn't sure if I'd go because money has been tight and I hate the huge crowds, but I got some money for Christmas and there were a few things I wanted to pick up so we decided to go for it. Of course we woke up to a major rain/wind storm in the morning which almost detered us (I said almost...there are not many things that would deter us from shopping in the end) but we still got to the mall for opening at 8am. Omg, BEST time to go ever, there were hardly any people there then; SUCH a smart idea on our part! I picked up a grey sweater ($25 from $70!), 2 pairs of black tights, 2 knit headbands and a knit hat ($15!), black skinny cargo pants, a calendar, cute pink notes that say "Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake" and a new umbrella! The deals weren't amazing but pretty good. We didn't get home until 2:30! Then we went visiting with old friends in the evening (the lady who invited us used to babysit my sister and I, and she's also the aunt of my childhood bff, so it was a great chance to catch up with other family members too).

Today I'm off to a friend's bridal shower and my mom is having friends over for dinner, so I'll probably catch the tail end of that visit. Going to head home tomorrow to clean and put all my new stuff away (gawd, that's not going to be a fun job). I think tomorrow I'm going to go skating (the Canada Games are in Halifax in 2011 so they city built a big speed skating oval in a big park in the middle of the city and it's open for public skates and events!) and going to see Black Swan with a friend, then Friday is New Years Eve (gah, how did that happen?!). It's funny because the boy and I were going to go to this dress-up party, then decided not to and stay in a make sushi instead, then I got a text this morning saying I won a ticket! hah. So, guess we'll be going to the party after all! It's just around the corner from my apartment, semi-formal and they are having food and entertainment (dj's, fire breathers, etc)...ya know the usual. This year is wierd because my best friend and her man are living away now so everyone I normally spend the night with is sort of scattered around, but I'm still looking forward to it. It's sort of the beginning of a new chapter with my new man, which I suppose is appropriate (speaking of a new year and new chapter, I'll be posting about my resolutions - as will everyone, I'm sure - in the next couple of days - looking forward to laying out a positive path for the coming year).

Didn't I say I was on vacation? In typical 'me' fashion, my vacation has actually been quite busy so far lol. Ah well, at least it's busy with things I WANT to do and not HAVE to do (like work). Let me see, what can I fill Saturday, Sunday and Monday with.....hmmmm...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's finally here...

It's officially my last day of work before vacation! No work for me until January 4th - YAAAAAY!!

It seems like this day has taken FOREVER to come, yet it also came quickly - does that make any sense? But then again, I often don't make sense so...meh!

Things I'm looking forward to doing for the next 10 days:

1. Eating lobster crepes (Christmas Eve dinner) and turkey with fixings and Gingerbread cheesecake (Christmas Day dinner), not to mention countless chocolates and other fattening goodies (got my priorities straight, food right at the TOP of the list! That's how I roll)
2. Spending time with family – I feel like I haven’t spent much time with my sister lately and I feel bad about it, so I’m looking forward to some quality time with her. Plus, my new bf will be spending some time with us so I’m looking forward to seeing how he interacts with everyone and making sure he has a great holiday (he works extremely hard and in the past his Christmases haven’t been so merry – long story – so I’m hoping to turn things around for him this year as well as continue getting to know him)
3. Watching cheesy-awesome movies like Muppet Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation
4. Relaxing and taking a break from worrying (haha, ya we'll see how that goes)
5. Going skating and/or sledding
6. Getting together to catch up with in-town friends I haven’t talked to in a while – perhaps on New Year’s Eve or a post New Year’s get-together
7. Drinking lots of yummy white wine and lattes/caps (possibly on my new Tassimo?! We’ll see Saturday morning, hehe)
8. Talking to faraway family and friends over Skype/phone on Christmas day
9. Shopping (though I may have a severe lack of funds, making this rather difficult). I’d really like to get some new tights, a knit headband and I need a new umbrella (discovered mine is broken when it wouldn’t open for my rainy walk to work this morning – excellent)
10. Attending a friend’s bridal shower on the 28th

What are you looking forward to over the holidays?

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas (or whatever you celebrate)!! xo

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Write to me and escape

Well, I've officially been 26 years old now for 10 days and I'm happy to report I feel about the same. No newly discovered grey hairs FTW!

I'm not only excited about my lack of aging, however, but also because Christmas is in 3 or 4 days! (I say 3 OR 4 because I'm kinda counting down to both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day...I know technically Christmas as most people refer to it is the 25th but I'm never sure which one to count down to since they are both pretty cool...anyhoo...)

Ah, I love Christmas so much and reading all the other bloggers waxing poetic about it only serves to amplify this love. It's funny though, as excited as I am for relaxing family time, yummy food, opening and giving gifts, skating and sledding (or swimming, as that's all Halifax weather lately will allow), my excited thoughts have also been revolving around something else lately (not THAT kind of excited thoughts! Get your mind out of the gutter!).

I have SUCH an urge to take a trip somewhere right now, it's not even funny. Well, I suppose you could say it IS funny because there is some humour in the fact that I have this urge at a time when I am the most broke I've ever been in my adult life (haha...ya...hilarious). In fact, I probably want to travel even MORE right now since I'm broke - you know, in the spirit of that whole "wanting what you can't have" cliche. Regardless, I have been daydreaming about where I could go and the places I could see next year (that is if I find a permanent job in this lifetime) and it's kind of driving me nuts! I really really really want to take off somewhere and it's so frustrating to not be able to do that.

Wanting to take a trip is nothing new for me - I tend to get bouts of wanderlust fairly often and at regular intervals - and if given the time and money I would go on a trip pretty much anywhere. But there are a few specific places that I've been dreaming about taking off to lately:

I may have mentioned this on the blog before, but my brother and his husband moved here earlier this year and so have been listening to account after account of the beautiful countryside and climate, including the little gem he passed onto me the other day that they will be spending Christmas on the beach (bastards). To be honest, NZ was never top of my travel list, but since learning more about it I've changed my mind! It just looks like a very scenic, colourful place with lots to see and do. Plus, having a free place to stay is quite the incentive (which is good considering it would take 6 months pay + 20-some hours to fly there from Nova Scotia)

San Francisco is probably top of my list, but I'd be fine going anywhere in the state. I don't know what it is that attracts me to it, but California just seems like somewhere that would really suit me. The warm climate is obviously right up there for a reason (can you tell I don't like winter? One of the only things I HATE about living in Canada), but there seems to be this outdoorsy, beachy, foodie, winey (like the drink, not bitchy) attitude that would suit me. The way I figure it, it's like Nova Scotia but with lots of sun and better-looking people with nice tans, so what's not to like! My mom and I have plans to some day take a road trip down the entire West Coast.

*sigh* Doesn't that photo just make you want to sigh with pleasure and contentment? I mean it's so blue! So charming! Oh and what do you know, another warm climate destination! Aside from all of this, I am really drawn to all of the history and mythology surrounding these islands. Plus, how amazing would it be to eat Greek food all the live long day?! (I just drooled on my keyboard a bit, not gonna lie). This trip would be especially amazing to take next year because my mom turns 65 next December and Greece is her ULTIMATE dream trip. I would love to be able to accompany her and make it a joint inspirational trip or something, much like the ladies in this lovely book I read earlier this year. I guess we'll see...

In addition to these faraway, exotic destinations, I would also love to do some smaller trips closer to home - perhaps to Montreal or Quebec City, Maine or New Hampshire or even just to as-yet-undiscovered places in Nova Scotia. As much as I dream and hope to visit places like the ones above, I also think it's important to visit places in your own city, province or country if you can. It makes you appreciate where you live more (plus, lets be honest, it's a LOT more affordable).

You will notice that all of the places above are on my 30 B4 30 list, so I have alloted myself time to accomplish them. As much as I would like to, it would be damn-near impossible to visit all of these places in the next year or two. But, I can dream can't I? Plus, as I said Christmas is almost here and I'm pretty sure the Big Man will have something special for me come Saturday because I've been very good this year

.........except for those parking tickets...and the incident with the bootleg hooch and the neighbour's cat...............hmmm, perhaps there won't be a trip under the tree this year (if I start being good now, do you think my name could switch lists by Saturday??)

What places are you dreaming of right now? If you could take off on a getaway tomorrow, where would you go?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grab that cash with both hands, and make a stash

I hate money. And I don't really understand it.

Well, I think what I don't really understand is how people use it.

I've noticed a trend in the blogosphere along these lines lately. There are many bloggers that I follow who seem to have an endless supply of money. I say "seem" to because I really have no idea if they actually do have an endless supply of money, and in fact, most of these people are ones I'd assume would NOT have such a thing.

Yet, here they are, discussing the new clothes, house, pet, car, computer, ipad, or whatever they have just bought. Some of them seem to be out shopping and buying hundreds of dollars of new things EACH WEEK.

If they are not talking about buying "things", they are taking trips to faraway places (seemingly) every few months - jetting off to New York for fashion week, jetting to San Fransisco to visit a friend, taking shopping trips to Paris (then proceeding to post all their purchases from Louis Vuitton in enviable photo montages).

It just makes me wonder - WHERE DO THEY GET THE MONEY FOR THIS?! I certainly can't afford to jet off wherever I want on a trip once a year or buy new clothes and electronics every week. Mind you, I'm working a temp's wage right now but that's not even the point (there are certainly enough examples in the world of people who are living the lives they want, while on a tight budget).

How am I SO different from these people? Do they just make enough money that they have enough disposable income to buy these extra things? Are they spending money they don't have? Do they get "income boosts" from other sources (i.e. spouse, parents, inheritance, small side-business, etc)? I'm sure depending on the person, it could be any of the above, and if it is, I can more clearly see how they are able to spend money every other week on new stuff.

But, with some of them you have to wonder - I still can't help thinking to myself, "this person is a blogger/employee at a non-profit/insert other non-well-paying job can they realistically have that much to spend?". I mean, these people must all have bills, same as me! They must have rent/mortgage to pay, just like me!

Am I just horrible at budgeting? Am I just more financially irresponsible than these people? I somehow doubt it; I'm certainly not the Queen of Budgeting but for the most part I'm financially responsible and careful about where my money goes (even more so since dealing with a huge pay cut the past 3 or so months). And, everyone knows that in our "credit-hog" culture it is all too easy to spend money without thinking about it or dealing with the consequences. But I still don't understand how it's possible sometimes. And there is just something that irks me about seeing post after post of "look at all the beautiful, expensive designer things I own and how cool they make me look".

I should say that I realize it's not any of my business how other people spend their money, and I want to make it clear that if you earn your money in an honourable way and you want to reward yourself once in a while, that is totally and completely understandable. I'm not knocking anyone for buying themselves things. Trust me, if I had more disposable income I would be doing the same thing! I also realize it's a no-brainer that what we see from the outside looking in on a person's life is nowhere near the whole story. Many of these people probably ARE spending more than they should and are in dire financial straights.

So, maybe I'm just jealous or being too critical or something, I dunno. I'm probably being too harsh because I wish I didn't have to stress about money so much. I'm sure most of these people I'm wailing on are just resourceful and good at saving money, and I should just get better at it. But I just can't help but wonder if I missed the memo.

Am I totally alone here? Has anyone else noticed this trend in blogs or IRL? Do you sometimes wonder how others do it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now I find it hard to live my own life, pleasing everyone

Something funny happened last night. I say "funny" because it wasn't really a bad thing or a good thing, it was just sort of...thought-provoking. And it made me feel a tad ashamed of myself.

The guy I've been dating was over, and I was trying to decide what to wear to this semi-formal party we're going to Saturday night (with his help). I bought two dressy tops last weekend and was excited about him seeing them, as I thought they were both really cute and looked good on me. However, when I actually tried each of them on (with a black skirt), he was "lukewarm". In fact, he was lukewarm about all of the ensembles I tried on.

I know you're probably thinking, well who cares or what's the big issue with that? But the thing is, not getting his approval on my outfits made me feel very self-conscious and made me look at me IN the outfits in a completely different way. I felt like a contestant on ANTM standing there having Andre tell me I have a strange-looking body or something.

Now before I go any futher, I wish to reiterate that my boyfriend isn't a jerk - he calls me beautiful and compliments me all the time and he's commented on how nice my clothes are before. As he said himself he's just picky about clothes and also he was in a bit of a "mood" because he was tired and had a hard day at work. Besides, he didn't all out INSULT the outfits or the way I looked in them, he just didn't get excited by them, know what I mean?

So why did I take his response so personally if I know it wasn't personal?

I realize it's completely human to care about what others think of you, but I have always been one of those people who care about that more than I should. I have always (and still do) let the opinions of others influence what I do, say and how I dress. Every time I put on an outfit, I worry that I'm going to stand out too much or look "wierd" to the general public. No matter how sure I am of a decision in the moment, I immediately become un-sure when faced with any kind of scrutiny.

I hate that I do this. I hate that I care so much about the opinions of others. I don't want to be that girl. I want to be that girl who is confident in her choices and in who she is and how she looks. I hate that I second-guess myself all the time, that I wonder, 'is there something I'm not seeing?', 'maybe I should have said this, or worn that or...' blah blah blah...

The truth is, it's all about me, not them. If I second-guess one of my decisions after hearing another's opinion, it doesn't show that the other person is mean or that they even see me negatively in any way! What it shows is that I am not sure of the validity and authority of my own decisions, thoughts or abilities. That, deep down, my decisions, abilities and thoughts somehow don't carry any weight (or at least not as much weight as those of others).

I stewed for a bit about my boyfriend's reaction, until the above occured to me - that what happened had nothing to do with what he said or did, but about my feelings re. myself. I obviously have deep down insecurities about how I look and it profoundly affects many areas of my life. Something as small and insignificant as picking out an outfit for a party can cause me the same amount of anxiety and indecisiveness normally reserved for major life decisions.

It's simply ridiculous and I feel ridiculous admitting it but it's the truth. It's one of those things that I don't realize is there, as it's very easy to push down and ignore, but comes out when I least expect it (like the instance I mentioned above). It pops up and says, "Hi, remember me?! Yup, I'm still really should do something about me ya know, but until ya do I'll just go back to my cave in your brain and hibernate".

I realize most of you are thinking that this is totally normal that I'm just whining. Of course there is nothing inherently WRONG with wanting your significant other to comment favourably about you. But when it comes right down to it every single person in the world could validate you - tell you you look beautiful and you are attractive - and it won't make one bit of difference if you don't believe already in your own head. Well, it might make a difference for five minutes, but then you are right back at square one.

I really wish I could just snap my fingers and not care what people think, but I can't. I also can't expect to become one of those people unless I give myself more credit - listen and believe in myself; believe that my opinions matter and that my gut usually has the right answer if I only listen to it (and not let others drown it out). It's just something I need to work on.

And I can start by wearing whatever I damn well want to this party on Saturday and be done with it.

What are you self-conscious about? Are you a people-pleaser?
How do you work on tuning out the opinions of others?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Un-Happy Haulidays

Well, alas I did not win the Chronicle Books Home for the Haulidays contest I wrote about here, which means no free books for me or for anyone who commented. WAH!

However, twas not all in vain! Chronicle is offering we bloggers + our readers the following deal:

35% off + free shipping through December 16, 2011
Use this promo code at checkout: HAULIDAYS

Huzzah! So, you can still pick up some books and if not for free, at a reduced cost.

Thanks to everyone who commented! It was fun to search the site and make some picks (and daydream). Until next time...what are you waiting for?! Go read something!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Right Here, Right Now

Currently I am...

...wearing my multi-coloured print, slightly kooky silk skirt (going out for dinner tonight - it's fun to dress up sometimes, isn't it?)
...loving my friends and family (one of my bff's threw me a surprise bday party last weekend! What a sweetheart - makes me feel like an ass complaining about birthdays)
...figuring out what to do for New Years Eve (NO clue what to do/where to go...what are you doing?)
...thinking about all the things I have to get done (ugh - clean, mail cards, send job applications, shop, make a dip for a pot luck next week, wrap gifts, etc)
...reading Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (loved her first book, The Glass Castle, so had to see what this one was all about)
...craving movie theatre popcorn with lots of butter and dill pickle seasoning (*drool*)
...listening to Christmas music (DUH!), namely Glee and various on Grooveshark. This is one of my new favs.
...discovering my love for making art again (I painted a lovely bday gift for my mom that I hope she likes!)
...watching Dexter (this season's almost over, wah!), Grey's (I'm behind!), hopefully Christmas movies soon (Muppet Christmas Carol and Christmas Vacation are two personal favs)
...playing with my hair. A LOT (it's bugging me, but getting it done on Saturday and can't wait - need a trim and gonna dye it a wicked red colour - tee hee)
...learning to never give up because you never know when things are going to get better

I should note that this post idea was stolen from Hope Dies Last and I cannot take creative credit (though I'd like to).

What are YOU doing right now?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We Are Family

I've been thinking a lot about family lately. Obviously, it's only natural to do so around the holidays. It probably also has something to do with the grandmothers of both of my childhood best friends passing away within the last month, talking to my brother on the phone from New Zealand the other day (he's in NZ, not me, though I do wish it were reversed), spending more time with my sister lately, and my mother experiencing some health issues.

All of these occurances have brought home to me just how important family is and how most of us don't appreciate it enough, at least not until they are gone.

My family is very small - my mom is an only child and I don't have any contact with my dad's side, so (aside from a few cousins) it's pretty much myself, my sister, my two brothers, my mom and my grandmother (who will be 94 next year, I might add). When I was younger, I always used to envy my friends' huge families with their multiple generations and loud, boisterous family gatherings. But as I have gotten older (and arguably wiser) I have learned that sometimes quality is better than quantity. I have learned to appreciate my tiny family and be grateful for it. My family may be small, but the family I do have is close, and we all support each other (which, I think, is something many of us also forget to do when it comes to our families too).

My mom is my hero - she has survived two abusive marriages, raised 4 kids basically on her own (one with special needs) *no, I mean my sister, not me, smart ass...though I AM rather special* and has faced countless setbacks in her life without backing down or losing her sense of humour. Without a doubt, I am the mature, independent woman I am today thanks in large part to her influence. Don't get me wrong, she annoys me to no end sometimes and I'm sure I've pissed her off a couple of times (though usually it's her that starts it, let's be honest here) but it's mostly because we're so much alike (ugh, scary but true).

My sister is 5 years older than me, but since she has Down's Syndrome, I've always sort of been employed in the "older sister" role. She can be difficult and frustrating sometimes, but she can also be very sweet and funny. We have always bickered, just as any sisters normally do, but when it comes right down to it I love her very much. Let's put it this way: if anyone hurts her, they will have my fists to answer to (and if those fail me, I always have my rapier whit to fall back on - just ask a couple of boys from my elementary school, as they have experienced this wrath first-hand).

There is a large age gap between my two brothers and I (15-20 years) and I didn't actually grow up living with them beyond age two, but I still feel that I can count on them for whatever I need. They are far away (one is in Vancouver, one in New Zealand) but never far from my thoughts. I love that we can pick up the phone and chat just like months haven't gone by and that I'm so similar to both in many ways, even though we have barely spent an extended period of time together since I was a baby (certainly a strong argument for nature vs. nurture). Besides, I have a free B&B if I ever visit BC or NZ - huzzah!

I'd be lying if I said my grandmother was my favourite person growing up - long story short, lets just say we haven't always gotten along for many reasons and I have always had trouble understanding and sympathizing with her. Honestly, I still find her difficult to be around at times, but she has "mellowed" SO much with age it's still kind of dumb-founding. I've learned a lot about her and as such understand her more now than I ever have. I've realized that sometimes people shouldn't be judged so harshly because you have no idea what they have been through in life that has made them that way. Plus, I'm fascinated by her in a way - she looks probably 15 years younger than she actually is, still runs all her own errands and keeps her own house, AND still has all of her faculties. If she is any indication, I'm going to be one hot old lady!

Bottom line is, there are good and bad things about all my family members, just as there are good and bad things about me (though I can't really think of any bad right now). Sure, our family gatherings aren't loud and quirky and hilariously dysfunctional, but they are still fun. I never have to deal with people bugging me how my love life is, when I'm going to get married, what the heck is up with my hair/outfit/job, how I'm getting fat, and in addition they are not embarassing in the least (though they certainly can be if they really try).

I love that we are not traditional (single mom, disabled sister, gay brother married to a man from India...I'm pretty much the only normal one), and in my mind no family is "traditional". Every single one is different, and what makes every single one a "family" is different too. I hate that non-traditional families are still not fully accepted in our society, even though no one can really define what "traditional" is. Who cares what your family looks like or who is included in it, as long as you love and support each other and are contributing positively to each others' lives? *um, denouncers of gay marriage, are you listening?!*

When it comes to family, blood has something to do with it, but in my opinion it has more to do with the heart.

What is your family like? What do you like best/least about your family? Do you normally spend your holidays with them, and if so, what do you do?

Friday, December 3, 2010


I had to post this story, as it really spoke to me (and I also felt it related to my discussion of fear in my post yesterday).

I subscribe to regular emails from an online magazine called fear.less, and this is my email from today:

We're anxious, fearful, insecure people. These parts have a lot of pull over us and even when we fight against our own wretchedness and try to improve, we still lose. We begin to believe that no matter how much we do, we just can't change. Hopelessness is created and sustained by self-bullying.

What if instead of exhausting ourselves with doubt, we listened to the parts of us that encourage?

You know the ones. We forget them because it takes quiet and safety for them to come out, and bullying ourselves doesn't make us feel safe.

But these parts do (very much) exist. And when they are heard and heeded, they're powerful.

They give you energy rather than you spending it. You feel nourished, not judged.

Sustained, not drained. They show you that you're all right, maybe even good. You're comfortable, at ease, able to pause instead of quickly react. They show you that you may even be mostly kind and honest.

You may have felt these parts when you've:
-supported a friend even if he's disagreed with you
-expressed patience with a challenging colleague at work or school
-allowed yourself to smile at someone despite your angry, defensive mood

-laughed so hard at a joke that you remembered it all day and it made you laugh every time
-asked someone else how they were feeling even though you felt extremely sad
-paused and noticed if you were about to create unnecessary personal drama
-had a good idea for a project that you didn't care if others approved of
-written something - a line, an article, a blog post, a note to a friend that made you smile
-held back and given guidance only when your child asked for it
-pushed yourself to learn something small you didn't think you could learn
-felt the sincere kindness of a stranger that made you feel super grateful
-went to a meeting even though you felt nervous to contribute
-walked outside in the cold in a big puffy coat alone or with your dog and felt cozy
-completed a task that weighed heavy on your mind for weeks prior
-remembered a memory of someone you once loved who taught you something about yourself
-done the dishes or made dinner even though you really didn't want to
-stayed calm for even a minute during an intense situation or conversation
-felt lonesome and sad and instead of drinking beer, you ate carrots
-shared your second idea even though everyone hated your first one

Sometimes you really make an effort and things work out great. Other times things turn out only okay. That's just fine. Even though you may feel like a hopeless, sleepwalking, nervous fool, these parts show you otherwise. They have proof.

"You're more than just your hungry, habitual parts. Remember that one time you did that one thing?You were super strong then, so we know what you're made of."

These parts show you the fresh reserves of strength, tact, creativity, and gratitude hidden behind your fear.

Before we go deaf listening to the noise, let's realize the power in listening beyond it to the parts of ourselves that matter.
This weekend, take some time to pause and listen to your special, good parts since they're there. If you don't listen, who will?


The thing about fear is that it doesn't discriminate - every single person in every single country, every colour, race, gender, age and sexual orientation - EVERYONE experiences it. There's nothing WRONG with being afraid. It doesn't make you weak, it makes you human.

And most of us experience it more than we let on and let it get in the way of us doing many amazing things, and that's too bad. I think if we were all more open about our fears and insecurities that the world (ironically) would be a much less scary place. Next time I feel scared, I'll take solace in the fact that I'm not the only one.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's No Surprise to Me, I'm My Own Worst Enemy

I've been thinking a lot lately about fear and what holds me back. This year has been a real struggle for me on a personal level - I've learned a lot but I've also felt the most lost and overwhelmed that I've ever felt in my life. When I was younger, I always felt like I had some sort of direction and trajectory in life and I always seemed to know what path would be a good one for me to take. However, I feel that sometime in the past 6 months or so, the rug got pulled out from under me and I was left on my back, gasping for air and disoriented. I dropped my compass somewhere along the way and have been desperately digging through the brush to try and find it with no luck (got stabbed by a lot of thorns though).

And the thing is, though the main precursor to this personal struggle is career, this loss of direction is not really rooted in any particular event or experience. No one "did" anything to me and no major tragedy occured in my life per se. No one SNATCHED the compass from my hand and threw it out of my reach. I dropped it. I lost it (albeit unintentionally).

And somehow, somewhere I let the disorientation and feelings of failure take over and hold me back from going as far as I can go.

I've never been a confident person - in fact, I've always struggled with shyness and self-consciousness and I've always been a slave to my fears that I wouldn't be good enough or that I don't have enough to offer. I've never been what I would call a "fighter". I've always tried and pushed myself, but most of the time only so far. It's not often that I've pushed farther than is comfortable or farther than others around me who I perceived as more this and better at that than me.

I have come a long way in the self-respect department in the past few years, and as such my confidence has certainly improved, but I'm still not as brave as I'd like to be.

Luckily I always had opportunities come my way and enough people to believe in me that it always seemed I'd be going places. This is no longer the case. This year I either found myself with no one to believe in me and give me a chance or people to believe in me a LITTLE bit but not as much as they do in someone else. All of a sudden I was (and am) in the position of having to believe in myself that much more in order to fight to make others believe in me.

And I realized I don't necessarily have that in me. Or if I do, it's buried too far down for me to see and grasp clearly. I started out fighting but as the rejections piled up and rewards for my efforts seemed further and further afield I didn't want to fight anymore. I curled up into a ball, pulled the blankets over my head and decided if I wasn't going to get anywhere than why bother trying?!

So, now here I sit.

This isn't a sob story; this isn't meant to be a treatise entitled "oh poor me" to incite pity. This is meant to illustrate what my mind-set was up until about a week ago. You see, sometime in the past week between reflecting and talking to people and reading and researching, I realized that for at least a couple of months I have settled into a passive state. Subconsciously, I became so fed up with trying and not getting anywhere and thinking and coming up with no logical conclusions (at least not ones that lasted) that I decided to give up. I said "screw it" to life and have been settling for less than I deserve and want.

Well that stops RIGHT NOW.

The real issue is (and one that has affected me my entire life) that I'm my own worst enemy. No one holds me back from going as far as I can go except ME. Sure, opinions and words of others can affect my self-confidence, but for the most part it's my OWN opinions and thoughts that affect me the most. I am the one that lets the feelings of doubt and drowning take over and I am the one that expects the most from me.

And I guess that's what it all comes down to, isn't it? Expectations. I (and I think probably lots of others too) place ones on myself that are very very high; higher than anyone else will ever place them. So, I guess I'm feeling so lost and frustrated, not because I disappointed other people and didn't live up to their standards, but because I disappointed myself. I'm disappointed that I gave up and that I let a few roadblocks stump me and prevent me from moving forward. I may not be the bravest or most confident, but I still pride myself on being a tough, perserverant, mature, level-headed person so I'm not happy that I fell through on these character strengths.

So what if I got a little lost? So what if no one sees what I can offer and won't give me a chance to prove what I can do? I can prove my worth to myself by just DECIDING on a plan, forging a new path and striding along it confidently. At least I'll be doing something - I won't be sitting back anymore and letting life happen to me and strike me down. I'll be moving forward, which is something I've always been good at.

I still feel lost and overwhelmed, and being brave is something I still need a lot of practice in but I feel a lot less lost and overwhelmed having come to these realizations, and having come up with a short-term plan. I feel I have grabbed back a bit more control (and really this is appropriate because aren't WE the ones that have the most control in our lives?!). Each time I am brave and conquer my fear I feel less afraid.

I am slowly finding bearings again - they weren't the same bearings I had before (seems as though I found someone else's compass in the dirt) but at least they are bearings. I have a new direction, and one that I chose myself, FOR myself.

Now that I'm out of my own way, the path is clear (or at least a hell of a lot clearer than it was!)

What is holding you back from moving forward? Are you YOUR own worst enemy? How do you move forward when you're feeling "stuck" and lost?