Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Be lucky

I came across this article in the Huffington Post which talks about Essie Weingarten (creator of the Essie nail polish line) and her husband Max. One of the quotes from Max really struck a chord with me because it's something that I have believed for a long time: 

"2. "Be lucky." This isn't something that happens to a lucky few, but a way of being you can choose: Embrace the good things that happen to you! Opportunities will not jump out at you and scream "opportunity!" You have to recognize them and seize them -- choose to be lucky."

When I was in 4th year university, as a part of my placement course, I had to attend lectures with guest speakers on career/workplace related topics. One of them told us something that I'll never forget. He said that good careers don't happen just because people are lucky or just because they work hard. He said that they happen when people recognize opportunities. 

This lecture came at a time when I felt really lost. I was trying to figure out what I was doing and where I wanted to go. I worked hard in university, but with no real direction, that hard work wasn't paying off  in a tangible way. Once I started looking for opportunities, however, my life started changing. I heard the term "emergency management" for the first time. I volunteered for extra projects at the law firm and my work was presented to a bunch of other law firms. I started volunteering for the Red Cross, and asking a million questions of everyone I met. And things started to fall into place, almost by magic. 

The same thing happened last summer, after I had just graduated and was convinced I was never going to get a job. I was starting to get really down on myself, especially when I lost an opportunity to interview for a job that would have been perfect for me. I was at my aunt's house for a dinner party, feeling pretty bummed out, when I started talking to a guy about what he did for a living. He worked for a consulting firm that specialized in business continuity (which is the private sector equivalent of EM)--how random! He promised to share my resume around. 

This fall, I happened to pick up the phone when a friend of my Dad's called. She asked me how my job search was coming and ended up being, I'm convinced, the reason I have the job I do right now. 

A more personal example is my friend Anaïs.* She is one of the happiest, most positive people I know, and she has been through an incredible amount of tragedy in the last few years. To Anais, every day is a beautiful day and should be lived to the fullest. She can't control the terrible things that happen around her, but because of her inspiring outlook on life, wonderful things happen, too. She meets amazing people because of this quality, and those amazing people tend to present more unique opportunities--which Anaïs embraces. She is one of the most inspiring people I know, and I've tried to learn from her. It's only recently that I feel like I've been able to really understand just how powerful her attitude is.

There are a lot of days when it would be easier for me to complain, or frown my way through the day. I am having a spectacularly difficult time dealing with night shifts, for example, or waking up at 4:30am when I work day shifts. I've made some mistakes at work and been reprimanded and it's been really hard not to want to wallow a little bit. Instead, I'm focusing on the things I'm doing right--and there are a lot.  Mostly I'm just trying to find pleasure in the little things: Listening to music on my commute. Having dance parties while I make dinner. The latte I pick up on my way into work. It's a process, but it's one that I'm finding more and more rewarding. 

"Be lucky" sounds too simple. "Stay positive" sounds condescending. It's hard to tell someone going through a terrible time that things could be better with a change in attitude. I get it...attitude doesn't cure cancer. It doesn't give you a job. But I swear it's helped me get through any number of situations, and I don't think I'd be where I am now if I wasn't always on the lookout for opportunities.

Wake up smiling, and tell me it doesn't make your morning a little brighter. 

*Anaïs's blog is in French, but even google translated, it's beautiful and well-written--although as a translator herself I'm sure she would be alarmed that I'm suggesting that google translate is even remotely accurate! 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Grown-up things I'm getting better at

I've grown up a lot in the last few years. Graduating, moving out, paying rent...they are all big steps. But there are still TONS of things about being a grown-up that I struggle with. Things like...knowing how to top up my car's oil. Or understanding the stock market. Or not paying $6 for a coffee because I stupidly stayed up until 2am watching episodes of Dawson's Creek with my roommate. 

But it's all about baby steps, right? There are a few things I've been making a conscious effort to try:

1. Air drying my clothes:

I can be so lazy when it comes to doing laundry, so when I actually get around to it, it's so tempting to shove everything in the dryer as soon as it's washed. The thing is, though, that drying your clothes actually reduces their life span by a significant amount. I have items of clothing that I love almost as much as I love some people, so it doesn't make sense that I wouldn't treat them with care.

I don't have the patience or the room to air dry all of my clothes, but I have started to dry my Nike shorts, Lululemons, more delicate cardigans and tights on a drying rack. This way, I also avoid accidental shrinkage! It makes me feel a lot better to know that I'm taking care of my clothing.

2. Flossing

Yeah, yeah, I KNOW it's good for me, but this is one habit that has eluded me for years. I have a really tiny mouth, which doesn't help matters, but it turns out that it's really not so bad once you get used to it.

What it really came down to was vanity and money. I don't want my teeth falling out, and since leaving school I can no longers claim dentist appointments on my Dad's insurance. The more careful I am with my teeth, the less money I have to spend on cavity fillings later. 

3. Making a schedule

This is really less about making a schedule and more about putting appointments into my iPhone as soon as I make them. For years I went back and forth between different systems, which meant I was always worried I was missing something. 

I started by making sure my iCloud was set up to sync all my devices, so I can pretty much enter/check my schedule from anywhere. Then it's really a matter of keeping it updated. I also set up alerts for submitting paysheets, paying my credit card, and renewing my memberships/passport/travel insurance. 

Also, did you know you can import individual events from Facebook right into iCal? Brilliant

4. Making an emergency kit for my car

I really want to write a whole post on this (maybe for emergency preparedness week), but I'll write a blurb about this now. I already had basics like a first aid kit, jumper cables, etc, in my car, but now that I'm commuting and travelling home so much, I wanted something more comprehensive. I used an old Lululemon bag to store a change of clothes, my old iPhone and a charger (did you know even an unactivated cell phone can call 911?), a photocopy of my drivers license, some extra cash, a toothbrush, a flashlight, and a bunch of other things that are convienient to have "just in case". 

The trick with this is really to pretend it's not even there, while still going through it to update the supplies every once in a while. It makes me feel a lot more secure knowing that I have some basic supplies if I ever get stuck downtown overnight! 

5. Setting up a budget and opening a Tax Free Savings Account

Now that I'm living on my own, I'm trying to become more aware of what I spend my money on and the best ways to save it. 

One thing that has helped was setting up a Mint.com account. It tracks your activity and tells you where you spend most of your money (It made me uncomfortably aware of how much I spend on coffee). It also send you alerts if you go over a budget you set for yourself. 

Another thing I did was talk to a financial advisor at my bank. I explained that I wanted to start saving but wasn't sure the best way to go about it. She explained a couple of options--mutual funds, and RRSP, and a Tax Free Savings Account, which is what I settled on. Basically, I can contribute a certain amount of money per year and any interest made on my savings is tax-free. Because I'm not making a ton of money, and don't feel comfortable jumping into the world of investments, this was the best option. 

6. Cooking dinner instead of getting takeout and cooking ahead of time.

It really helps that I live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so going out for dinner/getting takeout takes approximately as much effort as cooking for myself. I don't hate cooking, I just hate stopping whatever I'm doing to stand in the kitchen for an hour to make a meal. I've been learning how to make things that take less than 10 minutes to prepare or less than 30 minutes total standing in the kitchen. I invented this awesome dish which involves throwing

2 chicken breasts
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of rice
soy sauce
italian salad dressing
3 tbsp water

into a casserole dish and cooking it for 40 minutes. It takes no time at all to throw together, and then I come back in 40 minutes (baring any interruption from the smoke alarm, which I'm sure goes off the second it gets warmer than room temperature in my house) and I have dinner for two days. 

Also, Kate from What Kate Likes tipped me off to Smitten Kitchen and I swear, within 25 minutes of clicking to that site, I had fresh biscuits in front of me and I just ate them and they were delicious. 

After re-reading this post, I have concluded that the secret to adulthood is thinking ahead. What can I do today that will make the rest of the week more smoothly? What tiny step can I take that will save me money and time and sanity later? And how can I trick my brain into doing all of these things in a timely manner?

What kinds of things make you feel like a grown-up? What are you still struggling with?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Liebster Award

SHF at The S Chronicles nominated me for a Liebster Award which was very flattering and exciting!  I've had such a good time reading other people's answers. The S Chronicles is super cute...and as a bonus, it's author is a fellow Canadian...which is always exciting to find! 

The Rules

List 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions asked to you, write your own 11 questions, and nominate 11 other up-and-coming blogs.

Also in the post, you should thank whoever nominated you and link back to their blog.

  • I have a really hard time with things like this...I don't know how to draw the line between being sort of obnoxiously coy or over-sharing. 
  • I drive a 1998 silver Honda Accord which I named "Saoirse" after seeing in everywhere in Northern Ireland. I found out it means "freedom" which is a perfect fit. 
  • Despite living in England for a year, spending 4 months performing the part of Poppy in "Noises Off" and being obsessed with Harry Potter, I still can't do a proper British accent. (My southern accent is actually better, and the only southern state I've been to is Florida, which may or may not even count.) 
  • Last year, during what may as well have been referred to as "the year of mental breakdowns", I got a tattoo on my foot of a hibiscus flower and the word "ohana". I genuinely don't regret it, but sometimes I look down at my foot and think "Am I really a tattoo person?"
  • I've tried online dating 3 times, and deleted my account after about a week each time. 
  •  I wore sunglasses to both my prom and graduation. I wasn't trying to be cool, I had a wicked bad eye infection. 
  • My first celebrity crush was Leonardo Dicaprio.
  • I get anxious when I don't have a pen and glass of water next to my bed, or headphones in my purse. 
  • I grew up Roman Catholic and my faith is a really important, really complicated, part of my life.  
  • There are a lot of things that I want to like more than I actually like them. (Golf. The Velvet Underground. Classic Literature.)
  • I watch disaster movies when I'm upset, especially if I'm upset over a boy. 

Questions from The S Chronicles

1. Which nail polish (brand & colour) is your favourite?

The colours I love the most are probably Essie's Tart Deco or Fiji. I love Essie's colours but sometimes I find they can be difficult to apply, so I've really been loving the Outlast Stay Brilliant line--it's a little cheaper, dries pretty quickly, and you only need two coats--no base or top coat required. I maybe possibly sometimes use this at work when I get bored on night shifts.

2. Which app do you use the most?
On my phone, definitely mail. I check my email constantly. That's a really boring answer though, so lately I've been obsessively playing 4 Pictures, 1 Word, playing music on Songza, and backing up all my stories and Instagram pics with Dropbox. My reminders and calendar app get a lot of use too, now that I'm getting a hang of this whole "being a grown up" thing.

On my iPad it's a toss up between Stanza and iBooks...depending on how legally obtained my ebooks are...

3. If you were throwing a dinner party & could invite anyone, who would you ask?
My best friends and my family, probably!

In the alive/famous category: Jon Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Mindy Kaling, Aaron Sorkin, Connie Britton, Leigh-Anne Tuohy and Carrie Underwood, because I think they would all be able to have really interesting conversations and I would like to pick all of their brains/squee like a fangirl and hug them.

In the dead/fictional category: Elvis, Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights, CJ Cregg from the West Wing, June Carter and Johnny Cash, Theodore Roosevelt.

4. What is your favourite university memory?
Pretty much my entire 3rd year when I was studying in England. One time in second term, we had a massive flat party that migrated downtown to the student union club and everyone was the perfect amount of tipsy and there was no drama, it was just fun all night. And the same year I traveled to Belfast with my friend and we had adventures drinking in pubs, tracking down the Good Vibrations record store, trekking to Giants Causeway and traipsing across the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Those are some of my favourite memories of all time, probably.

5. Which song can you listen to over & over without getting tired of it?
This is hard, because I have a couple:

3 Rounds and a Sound by Blind Pilot
Kentucky Rain by Elvis Presley
Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus

6. What is your dream job?
Secret Agent Storm Chaser Writer who wears pretty dresses and gets paid to drink coffee and flip my hair around. 

In all seriousness, I want to do so many things, but I love emergency management so ideally I'd like to work as a kind of field officer or someone who gets to travel and tell people how to do things. I would love to make a career out of writing, so that I had enough flexibility to go storm chasing and could write about my imaginary adventures as a secret agent. 

7. Which Lilly print is your all-time favourite?
I've only started wearing Lilly in really the last two years, so I'm not sure I could pick a favourite, but I love this "Tossing the Line" one from the current collection. 

8. Do you have a lucky number?
Nope! I like the number 47 because of years of watching Alias, but I don't think it's particularly lucky. 

9. How do you relax after a long & busy day?
Sometimes a bath, and a girly movie or funny show. If it's been a really bad day I  pour a glass of white wine and turn on Friday Night Lights and pretend Tami Taylor is giving me advice. 

10. What is your biggest indulgence?
Coke--definitely. Lattes, too, but coffee is really a necessity. I know soda is terrible for me, but I've been unable to kick the Coke habit, no matter how many times I've tried. It's just too delicious! 

Also, shopping. I shop when I am happy OR sad, which is a recipe for disaster. 

11. What is the best thing about the month of March?
It's almost summer! And I have a lot of shifts this month which means more money--yay! 

My Questions
1. Road trip or airplane?
2. When was the last time you were inspired by something?
3. What do you think people's first impression of you is?
4. Favourite quote?
5. What is a tv show you think everyone should watch but not enough people are?
6. If you ever become famous, what would you like to be famous for?
7. Sequins or florals? (or neither?)
8. If letters had personalities, and you were a letter, which letter would you be?
9. What is your favourite place to blog from? (Desk, couch, Starbucks...?)
10. What is one book that has influenced you and your values or goals in a huge way?
11. Song you would like playing in the trailer for the movie of your life? 

Okay, I know I'm supposed to nominate 11 people, but I'm pretty sure all my favourite blogs have already been nominated at least once. Instead, I'm going to list blogs and bloggers that I love and have really made my foray into blogging totally worthwhile! If you guys want to answer my questions, go ahead! (but I won't be offended if you don't!)

Thanks again to SHF for nominating me! 

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Death by unmet expectations

This is fairly accurate representative of what I thought my mid-twenties would be like.
Being 24 is weird. Like, really weird. The last two days have been filled with such highs and also a bunch of lows (but fortunately just regular, valley-sized lows, and not, like, Grand Canyon-sized lows). I discovered yesterday at work that the most challenging days are by FAR the most rewarding days, and came home on such an adrenaline high. It was so satisfying and awesome and fulfilling, and at 10:00 I fell into bed without taking off my make-up or even brushing my hair, and slept for 14 hours. Today I caught up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, and as wonderful as it was, it also brought up a discussion of people we knew in college, which oddly brought me way, way down. Later in the evening I received an email which confirmed that a proposal I wrote back in the fall had been approved and was now making a HUGE impact on a non-profit I worked for. And then at 1am (about an hour ago) one of my friends called me in crisis mode. This is a pretty regular occurrence and I felt myself getting emotional for my own sake—because I give great motivational speeches, and why doesn’t anyone listen to them? (and while we're at it, could I be anymore self-involved?)

So it’s been a little intense. But throughout it all, I keep reminding myself that it’s intense in a good way. I love my routine and the monotony of some of my days—sitting at Starbucks and writing, watching tv with my roommate and having dance parties in my living room, getting up at 4:30 on the days I have to work and driving downtown in the dark. But I love that other days are completely crazy, full of near disasters and requiring a ton of coffee and advice-giving, testing my patience but ultimately making me into a better person (and I don’t mean better person as in more ethical or moral, but better person as in stronger, more capable and more confident). 

But there is definitely something strange about this period in our lives. Unlike all the years that came before, I don't have a concrete idea of what 24 should "look" like. I feel like I had an idea of what 16 would be, or 18, or even 21, but after that, everything got kind of blurry. As a kid, I had a vague idea that 25 year old me would have "high powered business-y job" and look like Shania Twain. I still have 6 months to go, but it's looking...doubtful. Basically, I have a lot of friends doing really cool things, and a lot of friends that are struggling. Everyone is confused, and no one really knows if we are where we "should be" at this point in my life.

I'm not saying anything new by proposing that there is, or shouldn't be, a standard. Everything happens at a different pace for different people. I feel as though I have quoted this list multiple times to multiple people this week alone, but "Life will never feel like it’s “supposed to”. Being twenty-something can feel like death by unmet expectations. However, let me be so brash to say that you are right now, at this moment, exactly where you need to be. But you’ll only be able to see that five years and thirty-eight days from today."

Fortunately, and this may just be a temporary thing, I feel as though I can see that I am where I need to be, highs AND lows, right now. I hope that if there over comes a point when things are going less swimmingly, on a more consistent basis, I'll still be capable of having this kind of perspective. 

What did you imagine 24 (or 26, or 17, or 48) would be like? Has it met your expectations?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Home Tour

So. This is a long post, because it's very picture heavy and explain-y. 

I had planned to do a "new home!" post weeks ago, but I kept putting it off because I hated the way the pictures turned out on my iPhone. Finally I realized I was never going to take better pictures. There was always something wrong--the lighting, my camera, needing to wash my sheets. So I'm posting the original iPhone pictures with apologies about their lack of quality. 

I was also kind of reluctant about doing a house-tour post, because I didn't want it to come off as braggy. I am extremely fortunate to live where I live, and have the things I do, and I was worried that doing a post like this would seem obnoxious. Like "look at all the cool stuff I have". So I think all I can say is that one of the things I prioritize in my life is having a nice living space--it's one of the things that I spend my money on in lieu of other things. And almost everything in my room has taken years to put together--I could never have afforded to go out and buy all new furniture and bedding for my new place. Anything new I bought was pretty much found at the Dollar Store or Walmart. 

I really don't know if it was necessary to include that disclaimer, but there it is. Now, onto the real post!

I work in downtown Toronto,  but I live north of T.O, about a 45 minute drive (with no traffic) to work. The advantage to this is that I can live in a house, instead of a basement apartment, and have a parking space, and live with a cool friend from college instead of living with like six 18-year-olds, or something. 

I love my house. Seriously. If I could live here forever, I probably would. 
Unfortunately, I'm only subletting, and my roommates roommate is coming back in May, so I'll have to find a new place. I'm really bummed out about this, and maybe you can see why:

For one thing, my room is HUGE. Definitely the biggest bedroom I've ever had. When I was a kid, I used to judge a bedroom's quality by whether or not I could do cartwheels in it. This is the only room that has ever passed that threshold (although I can't do cartwheels anymore, so this is wasted). 

It also gets tons of natural light, which is one of the reasons these pictures are kind of wonky looking. I really need to learn how to use a real camera. 

My aqua bedding (similar) is one of those things that makes me so happy every time I walk into my room, because it's so bright and colourful. 

I think the teal ruffle pillow is from Pier One, the coral pillow is from Bed Bath and Beyond, the white throw is from Chapters and the blanket with the deer I got at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer. 

(Oh yeah, I love my gold sequin knockoff Uggs. I wear them around the house with my UA leggings and pink Roots sweater. Another thing that makes me happy!)

I keep a little fabric box under the nightstand because I hate seeing stuff pile up--and it will. I keep my books, lipgloss, hand lotion, tylenol, and an elastic in there. 

My dresser is a smaller recreation of my dresser at home (aka my Dad's house). I used to display ALL my travel souvenirs with my perfume, but here I've downsized to avoid clutter. The picture on the right is my grandmother with my Mom as a baby, and I feel like everything else is kind of self-explanatory in terms of it's origins. 

I'm sort of tempted to move this desk under the window next to the bed, but I worry that I wouldn't get any work done if I did that. I tend to work in the living room or at Starbucks anyway, but I try to keep my desk clear and organized. If I didn't, it would definitely become a makeshift clotheshorse. 

The closet is definitely the best part of the room. Look how huge it is! It's practically a bedroom. I use a Lulu bag as a hamper because I am a) cheap and b) don't want to take up space with one. 

There are more clothes in the closet now, so in order to see the shelves I have to really push everything over, but how fantastic is this? It's actually twice this size--the other size has some storage boxes, my sewing machine, some purses, and binders/manuals for work. 

The only thing that I don't like about this room is the bookshelf. I have a huge bookshelf at home that I have to constantly curate in order to keep it from overflowing. When I moved down here, I brought only my absolute favourite books (also because this will make it easier to move again in May). I got the little boxes at the DollarStore.

One thing I am totally willing to brag about is the picture on the top of the bookshelf. My best friend painted me a watercolour and acrylic scene from Lilo & Stitch, and it is the best present I have ever been given. This picture has come with me every place I have ever moved (much like the stuffed Stitch on my bed)

The mirror is actually a plain white one I bought at Walmart for $7 and painted with Martha Stewart turquoise glitter paint. It was way more difficult, messy, and time consuming than I thought it would be, but I do like how it turned out. 

I couldn't get a picture of the whole living room/dining room because of the light, but this is shot from the hallway. None of the furniture in the house is mine (I would never have been able to stick to such a neutral palette, but I love how calming it is). The tv sits on one of those block shelves from Ikea, and looks very cool and modern and awesome. This is where, despite the fact that we don't have cable, my roommate and I watch way too much tv. 

Our kitchen is really nice too, but narrow, so it was hard to get a good picture of it. The greatest thing ever is that there is a washer/dryer unit in the other corner. This is especially great because I'm pretty sure the nearest laundromat is about 15km away.

I had to stand in the shower to take this picture, but we have two sinks! So convenient  Can you guess which sink is mine??? 

Also, I love the built in shelving! 

Finally, this is an (instagrammed) picture of the view from my bedroom window of our backyard. Our house is sort of a duplex, so our landlords live in the back of the house, and so most of the time the yard is filled with dogs, which is so cute and funny to watch. I'm excited for it to get a little warmer so we can have a campfire out here! 

So, that is my house! Hopefully it was interesting and not too picture heavy/obnoxious. For anyone who does read/follow this blog--I really want to see where you live! Post a link if you've done a home tour post on your blog. :)