Wibbly Wobbly, Time-y Wimey

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually,  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”
– Doctor Who, “Blink”

I wish. There are many times in life I wish for the ability to travel through time. When I’m feeling nostalgic about England, I could hop in my TARDIS and go spend a week in Shakespearean London, and be home in time for tea. When I’m curious about life elsewhere in the universe, I could pop up to Saturn and explore. When I’m really poor after Christmas, I could go forward a few days and nab the lottery numbers. Or when I sleep two hours past my alarm clock on a Monday work morning (hello boss!), I could rewind to 11:30 on a Sunday night and decide NOT to go for coffee and philosophical talks on the state of humanity.  Actually, scratch that, I definitely still would. I’d just remember to set the alarm instead.  🙂 I’m a couple of weeks into the 26 Before 26, and it’s already been a rollercoaster of nerves, excitement, and awesomeness – but the biggest challenge I’m having is with finding the time to do it all.

Our daily waking hours are finite. Unfortunately, no matter how many Borg regeneration alcoves one prototypes, this is a sad fact.  If you’re going to throw  two-dozen new things into the mix, this doesn’t leave much room for life in the status quo. My schedule in the last two weeks has been packed with visits, yoga classes, writing dates, birthdays and meeting amazing new people lately, but I’m not going to lie and say it hasn’t left me all sorts of exhausted! My problem is that I’m continuing to do all the things I did before I made the list – including wasting too much time on Facebook, watching too many Star Trek reruns (I have a Trekkie to convert!), straightening my hair, and cleaning the house. If I’m ever going to tackle this list, I’m going to have to re-prioritise – and some things are going to have to go.

I have to learn to ask myself if what I’m choosing to occupy my time is going to benefit me, or others, in the long run. There’s been all sorts of studies on Facebook usage, and I can’t help but think it’s a curse as well as a blessing. It’s full of win in terms of getting concert notifications, creeping on new friends’ likes and interests to see if they’re as big a nerd as you are, and to see how the girl that bullied you in high school is now an overweight mess. But it’s also awful. They change their privacy settings faster than the Enterprise rotates shield frequency under an attack from the Hirogen. You can peruse photos and interests all you like, until you look at your watch and realise your entire afternoon’s gone, and that a new album from a weekend get-together has just gone up and you weren’t invited. Facebook’s been hailed as the saviour of modern communication, reconnecting us with relatives and long lost friends. But in the last few weeks, in endeavors at balancing new activities, online presence, visits and hobbies, I’m finding online time to be more draining than it should be – and that it’s eating away at time I could be using infinitely more productively.  Social media fosters an ephemeral feeling of connectedness, yet in reality causes enormous disconnect from real life.  I had a great chat with someone recently about productivity, and we both decided that this probably has something to do with the increase in distractions as the world moves forward. In ages gone by, there was no Facebook, TV, blogging or MMORPGs. People had time in bucketloads, which they spent interacting with other people, seeing new places, coming up with ideas, which would pave the way to the way we see modern-day science.  Without distractions, they were more productive.

I made the list to push myself out of my comfort zone, to experience and interact with the world in ways that would help me grow, help me become a better person so I could in turn do and become something better for the world. Wasting time wasn’t on that list, so as alluring as “social” networking is, I have to see both sides of the equation, and weigh out the pros and cons. Ask myself if spending as much time as I do online is in line with what I want my life to be. At the end of the day, it’s the things we did, the people we spent time with, the lives we touched and the memories we made that are going to be remembered. Not how many followers we had on Twitter, or how many blogs we commented on. I’m realising that in order to make room for the awesome, I have to cut out some of the crap. Allocating categories to productive internet time (AKA staying in touch with all of you lovely people) vs. wasted Internet time. So this means, as of now, I probably won’t be online as much as I may have been in the last little while. I probably also need to stop prioritizing laundry and a clean kitchen and just say to heck with it, sometimes there are more important things in life.  Every 60 minutes spent reading status updates on a Sunday morning could be an hour running, learning dance moves, writing, or at a hot yoga class. (Sidenote: first one was full of accoustic live music, candles, and AWESOME.) Dr. Who‘s finished for another year, so there go TV Saturday nights. And I need to stop being so obsessive about getting enough sleep, and actually enjoy staying up with people I love spending time with, even at the risk of turning into a pumpkin.

There’s a lot I want to do, and I think it’s high time the routine was shaken up a little.  Out with the old, and in with the adventure of the new. I want to be able to say I lived this year. It’s just going to come down to prioritising, and deciding what’s going to make the cut.  How do you make time to achieve your goals?

The Physiology of Fear. And How to Pwn It.

Once  upon a time, I had a dream. A dream of being able to stand in front of a group of people and speak, with excitement, passion and confidence, without fear taking over, making my hands tremble and voice shake, without the constant worry of being good enough, intelligent enough, or entertaining enough. If you’ve been reading for a while now, you’ll know that it’s an ongoing challenge, and something I’ve been trying to tackle at every opportunity. But getting my body to cooperate with the direction in which my mind wants to go has proved… difficult.  The first efforts were small. Attending meetings at work, and actually speaking up instead of keeping my mouth shut for an hour. Breaking out Cranium at parties and choosing Star Performer over Word Worm. Facilitating workshops to groups of 5 or 6 . Tiny steps along the path to my goal of shaking free the fear. Talking the talk is becoming easier, but physically walking the walk? Not so much.

Through those workshops, I realised something that helped push me forward: I wasn’t public speaking, I was teaching. I was giving people information that they could use to help them succeed. When I started thinking of it that way, it was a doddle. No longer was I in the spotlight, all eyes on me, ready for judgment day, but I was simply being blessed with the opportunity to pass on helpful information to others. The desire to help outweighed the fear, and it became okay. It became okay when it stopped being about me.

A few weeks ago, however, I was put into one of the most terrifying situations I could imagine. All the extroverts out there may very well laugh at this – but I had to do a public reading of a piece of my own written work.  Fiction. In a public bookshop.  I couldn’t use the same mechanisms I could in front of a class, because I wasn’t “teaching” or providing anyone with helpful information. I was just baring my words to the world; something I’d poured my heart into was to be lifted from the refuge of the page and thrust into the great wide open. I was petrified. I arrived at the bookshop an hour early, frantically texting one of my dearest friends, ordering a large glass of wine, and trying to remember to breathe. The seconds crawled by and the world followed in slow motion; rows upon rows of chairs slowly growing, bodies starting to fill them.  I’d prayed nobody would come, but the faces kept coming, their words of encouragement and support filtering through my ears,  landing heavy on a rapidly beating heart. 6:00 rolled around. I was up.

The 10 minutes seemed almost an eternity, but I kept reading, my eyes glued to the page. As the words came out, I tried to lose myself in the story I’d created, forcing my mind into the scene and the character, subsequently forcing out thoughts of self-deprecation. I made it through, took a deep breath, and lifted my head. I saw rows of smiling faces and clapping hands. I heard “wow”s whispered and was asked when I was going to finish the book. It didn’t seem real – I felt like I was living someone else’s life for a moment; someone who was actually able to do something well in the real world – and I couldn’t quite grasp it. A moment I’ve longed for for as long as I can remember, and I came out the other side unscathed.

So I did what any hip and cool person would do, and proceeded to burst into floods of tears. I don’t know what it was – the release of weeks worth of pent-up nervous energy, the unexpected victory, the compliments I’d spent years convincing myself I wasn’t worthy of receiving – or a combination of the three, but I bawled like a BABY.  In front of everybody. Luckily I was back in my seat, and even luckier I was struck after my performance, but it was something I’d never felt before. As with every difficult thing, practice = less panic and greater confidence, so as uncomfortable and scary as it is, I have to keep going.

So, next steps? I’ll do what I always do, and throw myself in at the deep end. My new job starts in a matter of weeks, fifty percent of which is going to be teaching in the biggest classroom in the building. This weekend and next, I’ll be standing in for a couple of DJ friends of mine who host their own radio show (who just had a beautiful baby girl, who though adorable, may not fit right at home in a radio studio). Hosting it. I want to learn new coping mechanisms of how to throw off the anxiety and embrace the challenges and opportunities. Mentally, I think I might be on the right track, but how do you overcome the body’s natural tendencies to fall into the physiological reactions to fear? The heart racing, the hands shaking, the pit of the stomach wallowing, and the mouth drying. Changing your mind about something is one thing, but changing your body’s defiant behaviour is quite another. I want to get in front of those classes and behind the mic and just bask in the excitement of it all – project enthusiasm and confidence, rather than the telltale signs of nerves.  I’m really working on changing the way I think about the situations – but any tips on altering the way I physically react would be hugely appreciated.

Failing that, pictures of kittens/celebrities falling over/the OMG Cat/OMG Cat vs iPad always fixes anything. 🙂

In which I accept sweets from and get into cars with strangers

Okay, first order of business here is a MASSIVE THANK YOU for all the birthday wishes this weekend! You guys absolutely made my week and I love you all!! Also? BEST. BIRTHDAY CAKE. EVER.

So, moving on, one of my tasks on the 26 Before 26 was to meet new people, branch out and make new friends. Pardon me while I get a little deep for a minute, but I’ve had the experience once before where I’ve put something out into the universe, and the universe has abruptly halted whatever it was in the middle of only to deliver in abundance. In situations where I’ve suddenly decided I didn’t like something about the way I was living, and actually declared I was going to bloody well do something about it, things seemed to… kind of just fall into place? I don’t know what to chalk it up to, but the universe is proving to be a supremely awesome listener/provider.  One of the things I’ve been uncomfortable with in my life lately is the lack of really close friendships.  There are people I absolutely adore… but have moved away for education, still live back in England, or I just don’t see as often as I’d like to here in the city. And I want to change that this year. I want BFFs, dammit!

So, in the last week or so, things have started changing. New people have started cropping up at every turn, and with them (hopefully!) the opportunity to build the foundations of new friendships.  It started just over a week ago when someone who’d originally been a Facebook suggestion (You have 8 friends in common!  Surely you know each other!) turned into a weekly penpal with whom I started exchanging emails for the past couple of months. We shared all sorts of interests, and he recommended the book I’m currently reading (and ADORING) on life, purpose and seeing the world differently. (Review to come!) Long story short, we met in person last weekend – and proceeded to chat for over three hours about where we grew up, football, science, philosophy, music and personal goals… TOTALLY nerded out, and it wasn’t awkward in the slightest! I really hope this turns into a more regular thing – and I’m still surprised this person still actually showed up after a random ‘hello Internet stranger, you seem awesome, be my friend? kthxbai’ – but as a mid-twenty something in a world where friendship circles already seem to have formed long ago, making new ones calls for something outside the box. Even if that’s at the risk of coming across a total weirdo. I’m very grateful the risk was worth taking and I’m hoping this is the beginning of a great friendship. 🙂

Coincidentally, said recommended book had a part to play in last Tuesday’s event: going out for dinner with one half of the duo that’s going to perform at our wedding in December. I interviewed one half of Keith and Renee a few weeks ago for the magazine that was kind enough to publish me, and Keith used to pop into the post office where I worked back in 200….3? On top of touring the world, travelling to Africa to build schools and water supplies and going across the country promoting positive messages and new albums, he plays in the same church band Sweet does on Sunday nights. Oh, and coincidentally does hot yoga every day, and is totally up for a buddy. Turns out the author of that book I’ve been reading is one of his favourites, too, so we chatted about literature, personal growth and making a difference in the world over dinner. One of the most POSITIVE people I’ve ever met in my life – it was great just to get to know someone so upbeat that little bit better, and with both of these people, it felt more like I was catching up with an old friend I’d had for years than someone I didn’t really know much at all. After dinner he drove me to the bookstore and bought me a book I “had” to have. When I asked why, he said “because you basically quoted the title of the book while we were talking,” and he felt like I was “meant” to have it. What was it called? Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.  If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know how incredibly meaningful and apt that is. I was left with a really good feeling of just finally having the right people on my path, who left me feeling like I could totally be myself, and that was absolutely okay, and full of encouragement, inspiration, and real self belief. I can’t even describe the sense of excitement I felt after two such awesome connections within such a short time frame.

Then came Thursday. The Meetup. I went to the pub to meet a group of “strangers” – the Winnipeg Creative Society ‘Secret Handshake’, who get together once a month for networking and chatting and sharing projects. Sounded totally my cup of tea, so I’d added a few people on Twitter before I went, and since it was around my birthday, what I thought was a  joke about cake and party hats TOTALLY became a reality when I got there.  I ended up quickly surrounded by about 40 people wearing elasticated pink cones on their heads, with a giant carrot cake, candles, all singing me happy birthday!! I “knew” maybe two people, who I’d only been tweeting with for a couple of weeks, and proceeded to chat with a whole bunch of other people about work, about creativity, technology, writing, art and sci-fi.  There were too many people to meet individually, but the ones I did get to connect with were awesome, and as a result I am apparently now starring in one advertisement, one music video, having ice cream with a new neighbour and going to a dance party at a composer’s house, as well as preparing for an ’80s karaoke night in drag. After the cake actually showed up, I’m taking everything entirely at face value. This is going to be fun 🙂  Someone caught some video clips on the night (and edited this on their iphone!!) (including the cake!)

Photos courtesy of Luc Desjardins @ http://www.at-first-sight.ca

I spent so many years consumed with the worry that I wasn’t popular enough, fun enough, or into the same things as most people, worrying about something being wrong with me because I didn’t have those Sex and the City friendships by which I seem surrounded. Only recently, I’ve been learning, writing, and thinking more about the importance of staying true to who you are and letting go of the cares and worries of how big (or small) a social circle is. I think it was shortly after my impromptu blogging rant that I really began to believe and carry out the notion that you shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to fit in. If you have to carry around a persona that masks your true self, how will you ever have true friends? I spent far too much time prioritising popularity over integrity, and it almost shames me to say it. I guess it’s all part of growing up and finding out who you are. But these days, I’m learning that when you cease to empower societal expectations, almost dictations that you need to look or act a certain way in order to succeed in life, life just starts to become genuine, natural, and incredibly fulfilling. When you choose to let go of what doesn’t matter… the people that do will naturally start to flow in.

I feel blessed right now for the changes happening in my life, and excited about what’s to come in the near future. I sign off today with a song that I feel is quite fitting these days – reflecting a journey from fear to awareness, from old chapters to new journeys, from uncertainty to determination, and of the excitement I feel this very moment.

…Stars, hide your fires, for these here are my desires,
And I won’t give them up to you this time around
And so I will be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul…


At the beginning of the month, on top of being slightly lame and asking the Internet how I should celebrate my 25th, I decided I wanted to make a list of goals for the year of 25.  I’ve heard from so many people that 25 was their best year EVER, and I really think this will help make it awesome in terms of challenging myself, trying new things, and continuing a journey of growth. So here’s what I’ve got so far. The 26 Before 26:

  1. Get in crazy good shape. I’ve used my back pain as an excuse for far too long, and I’ve come to the realisation that it’s going to hurt whether I’m exercising or not, so I may as well be doing something good for myself! Right now, I’m running once every two weeks. Not a good plan. Now my evening classes are done, I’m scheduling time for at least 2-3 times a week for running, and getting back on board with strengthening exercises as well. SO I CAN DANCE LIKE TOBIAS.
  2. Start hot yoga. There’s a place ten minutes away from me that I’ve heard rave reviews about, and I’ve talked about trying it (without actually doing it) for six months now. And last night I met up with someone for dinner who absolutely raved about it, goes for two hours every day (intense!!), and offered to be my hot yoga buddy. Apparently it’s life changing! Hopefully as much so just three times per week.
  3. Learn a choreographed dance. Last week I posted videos from this year’s Britain’s Got Talent finals and the incredible precision, strength and creativity of some of those dancers just blew me away. So what if I wasn’t in gymnastics or dance at five years old? I may be 20 years late to the party, but even if it’s just learning Bad Romance off YouTube, I want to dance properly.  Or pop and lock. Yes, I realise the eighties are calling and want their moves back. Yes, I also realise I will need to vlog this. I’m on it. 🙂
  4. Team up with Sweet and cover a really popular song in a totally different style. Bluegrass Radiohead or something, I don’t know. He’s a drummer and has guitars and banjos upstairs, I’m sure we could figure something out! And I can bash a… Tupperware drum? I just think it’d be really fun, and the whole point of covering a song is to do something different with it, right?
  5. Get my driver’s license.  I know this is the only 2010 resolution I haven’t tackled yet, but I still have 6 months left of the year. 4 before the snow comes back. I need to get my arse in gear.
  6. Write non-blog or magazine material. The creative writing class I took this spring really opened my eyes to what I really love to write. Blogging and writing for magazines is all well and good, but I’ve found that I don’t really feel proud of that kind of style when showing it to people. I’ve been working on some fiction over the last couple of months and have found a passion for literature, for creating, for the English language, and for eloquent prose, and I’m feeling totally motivated to keep going. Even if it is a sci-fi story. 🙂
  7. Meet new people.  Pretty self-explanatory, but just taking opportunities to invite people into my life instead of being held back by societal “norms” of keeping to myself. I’m not going to lose anything by trying. This one started last Saturday, when I met my first Internet Stranger (thank you Brittany for checking in throughout to make sure I was safe, LOL), a friend-of-a-friend penpal of sorts I’d been exchanging emails with for the last couple of months. It was a brilliant time, not awkward in the slightest, full of interesting, inspiring, fun and intelligent conversation, and I’m really hoping the beginnings of a new friendship. 🙂 This challenge continues this week , when I meet a bunch of local ‘strangers’ I met on Twitter for a “Creative Show and Tell”. Who are apparently bringing me birthday cake. At the pub!
  8. Do REAL karaoke.  The infamous Wicked! attempt was tough cookies but it went over pretty well, and even if I can’t sing well or reach the high notes it doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE doing it!! This year I won’t be scared to break into song, and I want to gather enough balls to do it in front of real LIVE people. 🙂 Partner in crime, anyone?
  9. Plan meals and cook better. One of the big things I decided in January was that I wanted to cook from scratch more often instead of getting so many takeaways. This proved far more difficult than anticipated and we’ve ended up eating out at least once a week. I want to make it a routine to shop on Sundays, and prepare for a week’s worth of meals, including buying less prepared/easy stuff and switching to healthier options. Including switching my beloved morning porridge to these Green Monsters – started this week, YES that is spinach in a smoothie… but I just feel better starting the day without copious amounts of sugar and carbs.
  10. Speaking of cooking, MAKE ENGLISH FOOD! There’s a local place called The Brit Café that makes brilliant Toad in the Hole, Bangers and Mash, Steak and Kidney Pudding, and of course, Fish and Chips, and I miss it all terribly. I want to make something traditionally English. But maybe once every 6 months, because I don’t want to be a lardarse.
  11. Floss. Self-explanatory.
  12. Stop hating how I look. Short of winning the lottery, I can’t change it. I can’t half the size of my nose or shrink my chin or erase the bags under my eyes. I can’t grow taller and I can’t chop my thighs in half. I can’t make my hair naturally straight and healthy and I can’t in good conscience keep up the “olive skin” look.  I want to be able to look at a picture of myself and NOT have my first thought be of how much I wish I could change. I want to seriously be able to like myself just the way I am. Apply to myself what I try to do with life: that things are the way they are for a reason, and to make the most of the cards I’m dealt.
  13. Get a laptop and become a Starbucks blogger. Or writer. I just want to get out there and do more writing.
  14. Perform something in front of my coworkers.  Around Christmas there’s all sorts of festive events – costume competitions, talent shows, games and cook-offs – last year I was too scared to get up and rock the sing-off. But it’s all in good spirits, and nobody really cares if it’s any good. This year, I’m joining in.
  15. Teach a full class of people without shaking with nervousness and actually be excited about doing it. In the year of 24, I managed to work up to a classroom full of about 8 people, max. I want to be able to do 30 like a proper teacher. In July, I’ll be starting a new position where facilitation makes up fifty percent of my job. For some reason they think I can do it. I just want to thrive on it instead of being scared, and fuel the nerves into enthusiasm, focusing on the fact I’m in a position to relay information that will help people. Which is way more important than fear!
  16. Get (and stay) entirely debt-free.  After the Europe trip in August, the only major expense left is the wedding, for which we’ve been putting money aside for months. Sweet’s parents are helping with the cost of the food (which is an ENORMOUS help, we’re so lucky!!), and with our savings (and DIY stuff), it’ll hopefully not be TOO big a surprise in December. I can’t even imagine having $0 debt, but I’m determined to get and stay that way during 25.
  17. Volunteer somewhere. I haven’t volunteered in two years now and I feel dreadful about it. I’m going to make time for a good cause again.
  18. Go on a blogger meetup. Some of my favourite people in this world live MILES AWAY FROM ME and it’s about time I met them. And thankfully I am marrying the best man in the world, who BOUGHT ME A TICKET TO CHICAGO this September. I get to see Ashley and Brittany, Jen and Phampants . Go on a chocolate tour and visit a secret bar and dress up and have a Glee-off and my first big girly weekend ever.  SO. EXCITED.
  19. See more of the world. Somewhere I’ve never been before. And soak up every last drop.
  20. Go a bit feng shui. Right now my walls are covered in black and white photos from a year or two ago, and oversized framed Doctor Who, Tim Burton and Hives posters.  Sure, I have some “grown up” stuff, too – the Book of Kells hangs proudly in my living room along with a cityscape of the London skyline. But I need more art. Modigliani, this is your year to move from my heart to my bedroom walls.
  21. Finish my tattoo, even if I have to be hypnotised, drugged, hardcore trained or anaesthetised. This thing’s getting finished THIS YEAR.
  22. Forgive. I’ve learned that relationships will only work if two people’s timelines are ready to coincide, and that it’s okay to opt out if clearly the timing isn’t quite right, all the while having faith and leaving the door open. I also realise that by not forgiving people, we waste so much time we’re given on maintaining grudges and harbouring negativity, instead of doing the hard thing, sucking it up, swallowing pride and actually being the one to take the difficult step toward what’s hopefully a better future.
  23. Do something drastic with my hair. After the wedding I have no reason at all to keep abstaining from haircuts and keep it black, so I may very well go for a totally different cut and colour. Hey, I’ve had a pillarbox red pixie cut; nothing can be too drastic! (What’s that, pictures?)
  24. Become more spiritual. I don’t tackle the topic of faith on my blog at all because it’s something I’m still relatively new to, but I’m determined to grow more spiritually this year, and learn all I can about faith and purpose in this world, really figure it out and try to be the best person I can be. Things have happened in the past week that are just BEYOND coincidental and I feel are leading me down the right path, and I’m so excited to explore that this year.
  25. Stop being scared of talking on the phone. I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m more scared of talking on the phone than I am of talking in front of a group of people. Up until now, this has pretty much been my rulebook (you can’t say you don’t agree with at least HALF of those!!), but I’d love to be able to chat on the phone or ring somebody up without worrying that I’m bothering them. Less e-mail time (well, maybe not) and more real conversations. This means phone me up and hold me to it. 🙂
  26. Set up a professional website. (Read: have someone set one up for me.) Right now I’m using a WordPress-hosted site for my graphics and writing portfolios and though it does the trick, it’s hardly the most impressive thing in the world. This will be the year I get a site to match my business cards, and look like a real pro.

This was a tough one to make – but I’m going to ask you lot to keep me on track, and I’ll be sure to share the fun ones when they happen. Can you do me a favour? Take a look at the list I made for 24.  Just a few bullet points about halfway down the page, but this time last year, they seemed impossible. I can’t believe this weekend I will be 25. This year’s flown by and been full of amazing things, in a large part thanks to YOU, and I really hope I can fill this upcoming one with even more adventure. Wish me luck!! Has anyone else made one of these lists? If not, what would you put on yours? Resolutions don’t only have to come in January. 🙂

See you on the other side!

Chock full of pride and inspiration. With strong possibility of popping and locking.

A couple of months ago, I posted something I’d been holding back for a little while: how I honestly feel about living away from England.  Though I still don’t quite feel at home here, I am thankful for everything my time in Canada has taught and brought me… but every once in a while I can’t help but feel terribly homesick.

Like the whole of last week, when a small phenomenon known as Britain’s Got Talent took over the UK and the whole of the Internet. Now, stay with me here, I know America’s Got Talent has a bit of a bad reputation – but BGT brought us Susan Boyle, Paul Potts, and Diversity – the street dance crew that set the bar for the future of modern dance, combining innovative DJing, INSANE synchronization, unpredictable moves, comedy, surprises and stories throughout, pretty much rendering every former style obsolete.  I remember watching last year’s final, eating my tea with my mouth open and my fork stuck mid-air, not being able to take my eyes off them for a second.

This year, I was a little nervous the acts wouldn’t live up to last year’s standard. But with the strange, the compelling yet vomit-worthy (yes, a regurgitator made it to the semi finals – and tore at the country’s heartstrings!), and the downright bizarre have also come moments of sheer genius that have given me goosebumps, and had me giving standing ovations in my living room, applauding like a madwoman. (This is why we have curtains.)

What I love about this competition is that it gives the opportunity to showcase not only variety, but imagination, something different, and gives ordinary people a platform upon which to surprise the world. This year’s final was nothing short of STUNNING, and I honestly had no idea who’d take the title for 2010 and go on to perform for the Queen. Here are some of the acts that made my SPINE tingle with awesomeness:

Spelbound – a young gymnastics troupe who auditioned to Carmina Burana, with routines including human cannonballs, bodies as skipping ropes, launching bodies over the judging panel and SUPER HUMAN STRENGTH, balancing upside down, on their heads, sideways on a single hand, building stories, drama, and will literally make your jaw drop to the floor. I’ve never seen anything quite so exhilarating and awe-inspiring (and so proud they’ll be representing the country – amazing winners!!)

Tobias Mead, a 22-year old “body popper” whose limbs and joints appear to be held on by jelly, or string… who absolutely defies physics and throws in totally creepy and downright GENIUS imagination. Probably the most mind blowing two minutes you’ll ever see.  Plus, he’s gorgeous. LOVE him:

Tina & Chandi. The first human-canine dance team I’ve ever seen – this dog does whole routines, ballet, Sinatra, and the can-can all in perfect timing. Their bond reeks of absolute devotion to one another and it’s one of the most simultaneously adorable and impressive acts ever:

And I couldn’t leave out everyone’s favourite 80-something diva, Janey Cutler. A great grandmother from Scotland who’s delightfully oblivious, endearingly full of absolute joy, and belts it out just as well as Shirley Bassey and Whitney Houston. I ADORE her spirit, her strength, her absolute DARLING personality, and the fact the her massive voice blew the entire nation away. NAN’S GOT TALENT!!

The finale was made up of all these acts, as well as a street dance comedy double act, the man of a thousand voices (<3), another Susan Boyle moment with the petrified but incredible opera-singing ACCOUNTANT, the smallest boy band in the world, a UFO flying drummer and more… I’ve always been a little bit patriotic, but after being thoroughly blown away last week, I HAD to share with you one of the things that really make me love Great Britain.  I had no idea who’d possibly win this year…but it’s confirmed that one of the things on my 26-before-26 list is going to be learning to sing and DANCE.

Not ballroom dancing or hopping about my kitchen (although Ashalah may argue the latter)… but actually moving. Like Tobias!! I want to dance (and sing), even if I start from nothing. Even if it’s not for me – I want to try!! This year’s competition has filled me with pride and inspiration, so they’re both going on the list.

I hope you loved this lot as much as I did. 🙂

In which I celebrate 25 with Internet strangers and…

It has come to my attention that within a matter of weeks I will be turning 25 (contrary to popular belief – when asked how old he thought I was, my stepmum’s son replied “16”!!).   Since my last birthday, I’d like to think of the year so far as the year of finding myself in this world.  It sounds dreadfully cliché, but I feel like I’ve really been… awakened?  And maybe even grown more in the last 365 days than I have in my entire life. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs recently that talk of new chapters, of goals and determination, awakenings and realizations, and it makes my heart happy to read that so many of us are going through such positive transformations.

I’ve heard the term “quarter-life crisis”, but I don’t think the word ‘crisis’ is that fitting at all. It would be fine if, upon reaching our mid-twenties, we all went into a panic about time running out and not having long before thirty and OMG what do I do with my life everyone else has a degree and a house and a baby on the way and WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME. But these days, instead, it seems this generation is waking up. Questioning and exploring and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Not being content to settle, or let people tell us we’re not good enough.  Proving our capabilities to the world and learning to love ourselves. Maybe it’s just a blogger thing, maybe it is generational, but whatever it is, it’s making me smile.

Since my last birthday, I’ve been on a mission.  I’ve really tried throw myself into terrifying situations, knowing that the only way to overcome them is to take a leap of faith and throw myself in headfirst, assured by the hopes of coming out the other side unscathed, and for the most part, relatively untraumatised. Learning to weigh my priorities, and realising fear is never going to outweigh the desire to grow, to serve, and to inspire. I’ve added to my education, I’ve had doors close and new, shinier ones open.  I’ve grown in my faith and been amazed at the unfolding of the grand plan in front of my eyes, but I still have so much to learn.  I’ve come out of my shell of an existence and led meetings, taught classes, and serenaded the Internet, Broadway-style. (I’m sure that’s going to resurface on my wedding day.)  I’ve learned to give myself a break and actually have a little bit of self-belief – an ongoing effort that I hope one day may become effortless.  It’s been a year of a 180-degree change, and so many  amazing things, and for all of the above I’m eternally thankful.  But I’m still fuelled by the desire to keep learning and growing, and I want the year of 25 to be even better. I want to continue this journey of learning, of growth, and of becoming someone who’s capable of contributing something good to the world. To continue to document my story in the hopes of encouraging others to begin theirs.

In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to come up with a new list. 26 before 26. Twenty-six new things I’ve never done before that will keep my horizons open and keep pushing me forward. Twenty-six dreams to achieve and twenty-six experiences to make my little corner of the world that little bit better.

Looking back at this past year, the ups, the downs, and the incredible difference a change in attitude can make just fills me with excitement at what 25 could bring.  But first, I have a question for you all.  After seeing what you guys got up to in Vegas, who else could I ask how to celebrate? Last year I was put on a glider plane, taken shopping, and ended the day with friends at a local wine bar, surrounded by laughter and sparklers.  I do have a handful of wonderful people I love dearly, but my relationships with them are separate of their relationships with each other. Ideally I’d love to have a costume party, or a posh wine and cheese cocktail night like a Proper Grown Up where everyone got dressed up in dress shirts and cocktail dresses. With endless rounds of Cranium and Balderdash, surrounded by great music where everyone would get along with each other like a house on fire.  But I don’t want to put anyone into an awkward situation where they don’t know anybody. And I don’t want to force anyone to do something they’re not interested in!  (Like a cheese rolling competition – you can’t tell me this wouldn’t be the funnest thing EVER!! Anyone? Hillary? :))

So how do I celebrate 25? My birthday falls on Father’s Day this year, so naturally I’ll be spending most of the day with my Dad. And two nights before, I’ll be meeting a bunch of awesome Internet strangers – apparently the city has a group of local “creatives” who meet up at a local pub monthly and share projects and drinks – which can definitely count as part of the festivities!!  But SATURDAY NIGHT is still open… and your thoughts as to how to spend it would be greatly appreciated! And yes… a mass group Skype date definitely counts as a suggestion. As does a one-man World Cup party. 🙂



Last week, we’d been blessed with sunny skies and temperatures hovering just slightly below zero (officially coat-free weather!), and I know that spring is in the air.  Unfortunately spring here in Winnipeg means vast amounts of water and brown slush everywhere for several weeks, but with the imminence of warmer horizons I can’t help but feel excited as we move into another season.  As we move forward I have to remind myself to reflect back – those New Year’s Resolutions aren’t going to be maintained if they’re not addressed every once in a while, so today: a quick check in, to make sure my arse remains firmly in gear.

My first was to read a book a month. I know this is a laughably puny goal compared to some of you literary connoisseurs but my heart has always belonged to the written word, and it’s a goal I was determined to keep (if not exceed). I’m happy to say I’m still on track, and last month picked up The Lovely Bones – I refuse to see a movie without first reading its inspiration, and so far, it’s absolutely gripping.

Second – the whole driving thing.  The resulting treachery from daytime melting and nighttime freezing has left even walking a feat not to be undertaken without protection, so it’s still on the backburner for now – but this time in a month or two, I may very well be reporting to you from the driver’s seat.  Or (likelier) from behind my Driver’s Handbook.

Third: Becoming pain-free.  I started seeing a massage therapist earlier in February who had a background in osteopathy (gold!), and have been seeing him weekly since.  Yes, each session involves lots of pain, yelling and tears, but is balanced out nicely with information that actually makes sense – and a weekly dose of nerdiness as we chat about Star Trek and Scandinavian power metal. Definite bonus.  Apparently I have a case of “sacral and pelvic torsion” at the base of my spine, trapping all the nerves on one side and making the entire other side of my back hurt ALL THE TIME. The way he explained it made sense, for once – so I’m going to plough through another few sessions and see how it feels at the end of March.  Fingers crossed (I only have coverage to carry me through until then, anyway!).

Number four: Losing the anxiety.  I taught my biggest group yet in February, and through initially terrified by an almost-full house, relaxed halfway through and found the key to comfort and confidence is to make things funny.  People who don’t really want to be there will relate more easily if you make them laugh, and once you’ve caught them, they’re more likely to retain/be interested in the information.  I’m going to revise my PowerPoints over the next few weeks, learn to relax a bit more, and make people laugh.

I’ve probably said this to you already in an email, but everyone who commented on my “Real Self Portrait” post– you have no idea how much you’ve helped me in addressing that part of my nervousness.  Thank you so much for sharing and for reaching out – I’ve learned recently that other people don’t see or pay attention to the flaws I see in myself.  I’m just retraining my mind to not be so quick to criticise myself and actually give credit to some of the positive things other people say about me.  You’ve helped me so much in my ongoing journey and for that I am truly thankful from the bottom of my heart.

Five! Cooking! Did any of you try the awesome salmon recipe from a few weeks ago?  Recently we’ve made a few more dishes, no exploding noodles this time but a great (simple) lemon pepper shrimp pasta.  We’re going to move on to more adventurous things in the next couple of weeks, I swear, but I’m still learning lots along the way.

And lastly – singing in front of peopleLiLu posted a great guide on how to pwn at karaoke recently, and Sweet and I have been powering through Rock Band on Friday nights and I’m getting more and more comfortable. Maybe I’ll have the guts to vlog it sometime. Or try real karaoke.  But the most important thing is it’s not intimidating me half as much as it used to – I’m almost excited to get back on stage!

So how am I doing? I think this is the first time I’ve really held myself accountable to keeping my annual goals, and it’s a fun process. I’m learning, I’m happier, and I’m growing.  And big thanks to you guys for helping keep me motivated. How are you doing with your resolutions?

And PS: Totally recorded my vlog and answered all your questions last night.  GOODNESS am I awkward on camera!! Will post on Friday… 🙂

Updates – and some quick and easy decadence!

1. Huge heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who wrote to me with their prayers and kind thoughts and words about my nan last week.  The good news is that this weekend, I had another email from my dad:

Nan is on board with the idea of being safe, looked after and worry-free when she comes out, wherever that may be.  I’ll be speaking to her doctor this week. I am trying to organise a family meet with everyone.  Nan is in good spirits.  I was making some calls this morning and saw a slip of paper with the name “Brenda” and a phone number. This is Nan’s sister, so I called her to let her know what was going on.  She didn’t know.  To cut a long story short, she is 83, has had a heart attack and a stroke.  She came up to the hospital today after the call to see Nan. Nan was so happy!  Aunt Leslie too, didn’t know and will be visiting.  I’m pleased with my progress and what I have achieved so far.  I hope you are proud of me.  I’m glad you blogged and got the replies and support you have.  I’ll keep you posted.
Love, Dad

It was a huge turnaround to have such strides made in only a few days. Family that hadn’t seen each other, or Nan, for years are reuniting at her time of need, and I can’t imagine how happy she must have been.  I’m not sure when the surgery has been rescheduled for, but it sounds like a lot of prayers have been answered, and positive vibes sent her way have arrived in spectacular fashion over the weekend, and I can’t thank you guys enough.

2. I also purchased a treadmill this weekend.  The elliptical I got off Kijiji ended up being totally useless; with the dial broken and providing no resistance at all, it just wasn’t working.  I might try and sell it again, but for now, I’ve switched to this baby, made sure it worked and was ADJUSTABLE first, and it’s settling in in my living room.  Hopefully this will be a little more exciting to use, while I’m watching Eastenders in the week, I’m hoping to make this part of my weekly routine.

3. Speaking of Eastenders, Sweet and I spent our Friday night watching the first ever live-filmed episode in celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary.  The documentary afterwards was ridiculously interesting, showing how they had to move the actors quickly and quietly between far-apart sets, and how they kept the biggest plot ever secret from the public AND the cast until the real “whodunit” was revealed on the live episode.  It was great to see something I grew up with uniting the country (16.6 million viewers!!), with celebs and old friends alike ALL over Twitter the whole way through.  Brilliant.

4. Yesterday I went to my first Blogger Meetup!  Unfortunately I could only stay for about 40 minutes, but I’m hoping we can all do it again sometime. 🙂

5. Many of you know that one of my new year’s resolutions was to try and cook actual recipes from scratch.  So far, Sweet and I have learned new cooking vocabulary, had adventures with exploding noodles, and spent way more time together actually engaging in something fun and productive, and last week, in a pre-Bachelor panic to find something we could make quickly, we scoured AllRecipes.com and found something that looked delightful.  Promising us dinner in twenty minutes, we set out to make this near-replica of something we’d fallen in love with on holiday last month: Fettuccine al Salmone.  Honestly? One of the most deliciously indulgent meals we’ve cooked to date, and done faster than you could get through a verse of On The Wings of Love.  I had to share!

2 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon, cut into thin strips
1 leek, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup light cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
8 ounces dry fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced
salmon, chopped leek, onion, and garlic, and fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream, sour cream, and cornstarch; stir into the skillet. Stir in the lemon zest (or lemon juice as we did), pepper, and paprika (which we also didn’t have, so we used cayenne pepper!). Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine (we used fettuccine with cracked black pepper in it already), and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, and toss with the salmon sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese to serve.

OM NOM NOM! This was one of the most gourmet-tasting, quick and easy recipes we’ve made yet!  It was done in less than half an hour, perfect for those Monday nights when you may or may not have a 7:00 date with a certain pilot.  Bon appetit!

Human-alien hybrids changed my life

“So you just figured you’d come here, to the most hostile environment known to man, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?”

Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn’t do.”

This weekend, two months later than the rest of the masses, Sweet and I went to see Avatar.  I’d heard so many amazing things, but we don’t tend to get out to the flicks very often (especially in winter; braving -30 on a Friday night isn’t always our first pick after a busy week), but this week, we decided on a date night of dinner and a movie (followed by late night rock band karaoke, could a girl ask for more?).  And I was STUNNED.

One of the first pieces of dialogue in the movie, there, made me instantly question its relevance to my life.  (Well maybe not instantly, I was initially preoccupied figuring out how to keep 3D glasses on my face over the top of my normal ones, and thoughts of how science was not only correcting my vision but allowing me to see 2D as 3D at the same time.  I’m a nerd, I know.)  The protagonist is an uneducated, physically disabled man who goes on to stand up against evil and save the world.  Seconds after I heard the on-screen exchange, I felt… empowered.  Motivated.  Determined, not only to keep taking small steps to my ongoing goal of overcoming anxiety, but blowing it out of the water – taking a giant leap out of my comfort zone and surprising everybody, most of all myself.

It’s been six months since I made the decision to stop living trapped by a fear that had taken over my life for so long.  I look back on the words in this post in astonishment at the fact that it was only six months ago when I decided I wanted to break free.  I recognised that I had a choice in how I lived my life; I could see what I wanted, but I was choosing to live it differently.  There was a discrepancy between what I dreamed of and held important… and what I was actually doing.  So I made the decision to change everything, and it’s been a journey of small steps, but always choosing to take the risk into new territory in the face of fear, bluffing my way through it… and getting incredible feedback.  Evaluation forms in my classroom full of “strongly agrees”, and this Friday, when I was put in a literal “fishbowl” on the spot in a training room full of staff to demonstrate what I’d learned over the week, inside I was shaking – but I chose to go first.

And as well as some incredible feedback, I got a round of applause! These small victories have kept me going – checking things off lists, practicing with increasingly difficult situations, and getting through them okay – I have an incredible sense of momentum, and I can’t wait for the day I can not only speak in front of a large group without my cheeks flushing or my heart racing, but the day I’m fuelled by the adrenaline and self-belief to actually want to do it.

The quote from the movie really made me think.  It’s taken six months to get to where I am now, but I still have a long way to go.  Every time I’ve pushed myself along the way, chosen to take a step – my initial worries were blown away by positive feedback; success.  I still get nervous – but I don’t let it stop me any more.  I’m no longer held back on the outside – I just want to be totally free on the inside, too.  My outlook has changed enormously – and I realise that the power of choice, making the decision and actively following through has been invaluable.  So if I’ve done okay in my little steps – what if I took a leap? Instead of following my PowerPoint to the letter next class, what if I threw things in on the spot? Games, jokes… and delivered with passion, positivity, and total confidence? It’s the people who can do that effortlessly that inspire me, because they can use it to make such a difference in people’s lives.  And, for the time being, at least – I’m in a position where I could potentially do that.

Found on Caro's blog

Avatar was not only visually stunning, incredibly written, and moved me to tears – but those first few words fuelled me with a desire to reach the finish line.  I’m going to choose to trust those little victories and take a risk next time I get up there.  I’m going to speak up, make people laugh, and really try be a positive influence in my little corner of the world.  Not for myself, but for the hope I might make a difference if I do.  I’m faced with the same choice I was back in July, just on a slightly larger scale.  I see how I’m choosing to live, choosing to let the nerves and anxiety sometimes get the better of me before I get up in front of people, resulting in an impression of a girl who’s uncertain and scared… I’m choosing to appear nervous, and I have the choice not to.  I think now, it’s time to take another risk.  What’s “going through my head”, as the movie said?

Maybe I’m sick of thinking of the things I can’t do.  I’m going to show the world I can.

A three-week check-in (with video!), and a fond farewell

Before I head off for a week full of indulgence in the Caribbean (! – I still can’t quite believe it myself), I figured it’d be a good idea to do a little check-in and see how I was doing on keeping those resolutions I made for the new year.  This is the first time I’ve ever formally set out a list of tangible goals for a year, and actually had anyone to really keep me on track – your encouragement, as well as the support of friends, family, and coworkers has made an enormous difference, and really motivates me to succeed in sticking to my resolutions.  Unkept resolutions usually become that way as a result of one day’s worth of declarations, and several weeks of disregard.  Unacknowledged resolutions have zero potential to be accomplished, and I’ve found that having a support system, as well as a changing of habits and schedules, makes an enormous difference in dedication and achievement.  Since 1st January, I’ve added a couple more resolutions to the list – so I figure now’s a good time to share them, and also to see how I’ve done for the last two weeks! 

1. Reading. I vowed to read one book per month (a seemingly rather tiny goal in comparison to some of the resolutions I’ve seen, but a long way from my two books of 2009!), and for the last fortnight I’ve made the effort every couple of days to set aside some time before bed – I’ve been going upstairs an hour or so earlier, curling up and reading a wonderful book.  I’m rediscovering my lifelong love of literature, and I feel there’ll be no problem at all if I keep to my altered schedule.

2. Cooking. Sweet seems to have undertaken this little resolution as well, and recently, we’ve had quite the culinary adventures.  We started with the avocado creamed chicken and baked parsnips, and after unintentionally overdoing it on cream and butter, have pulled out the Kitchen Bible his sister got us for Christmas.  It’s full of tonnes of recipes from all around the world, and even has little pictures of what it’s supposed to look like, which keeps things easy.  We’ve made tuna-pasta bakes (and, in comic misunderstanding, set our mouths on fire when two whole chilli peppers were crushed onto MY PLATE rather than being mixed into the whole 8-serving-dish); a delicious and ridiculously easy Italian dish full of spices, asparagus and sundried tomatoes (who knew buying them in oil made such a difference?); Chicken Jalfrezi, and an Asian beef concoction full of experiments (cooking vermicelli noodles are the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen – here’s a video of Sweet’s initial attempt, taken while preparing for a house fire!).  I’ve learned different ways of preparing food, and the best part, in addition to actually being able to see exactly what you’re consuming, is spending an hour in the kitchen actually doing something together instead of blobbing in front of the TV.

As for the daytime; I’ve switched my breakfast to a regular morning helping of All Bran Strawberry Bites.  It’s very healthy, and the strawberry part’s on the inside, not those horrible freeze-dried flakey bits of fruit they use in other cereals, so it actually tastes nice too.  I make sure I have a big glass of water before I head out as well as the coffee, to balance out the hydration, and I’ve started keeping bulk packs of water bottles under my desk, as well as a bag of apples.  It’s a wonder I didn’t get scurvy in 2009, but this year, as well as cooking more, I’m vowing to eat more healthily all day long, too.

3.  Kicking the anxiety. I found myself toward the end of the Christmas holidays starting to worry about going back to work, about if I’d forgotten things, about getting back into routine, about doing a good job and of course, about standing up and teaching my little class again.  So much so that on the day before work I lay awake for hours, my closed eyes’ attempts at slumber sabotaged by my mind’s constant looping of thoughts and concerns, and was barely able to function the next day.  But Friday rolled around, and after a week of getting back into a schedule, I went into work with a skip in my step.  It was Teaching Day, and instead of worrying, I told myself I can do it, and I’m actually looking forward to it.  I’ve been doing it for a few months now, and have become more comfortable with my material, and if I think about it as helping people; giving them needed information, as opposed to the old “all eyes ore on me and everybody wants me to fail” mentality I struggled to escape, I found myself floating through the morning.  My heart rested as normal, comfortable in its pace, and not beating up a storm trying to escape my chest.  Doing a 180 of your thought pattern is a tough thing, but as with my other resolutions, it’s all about changing habits.  It’s working so far – now to keep at it, aim for bigger classes, less prep, and even applying it to other areas of my life.  (Body image, anyone?)

4. Losing the back pain.  Unfortunately, I haven’t. I’m still in horrible amounts of pain all day long, but I’m actually sticking to a schedule here, too – a daily schedule, with (somewhat excruciating) strengthening exercises to help support myself using muscles I haven’t used in ten years, modified situps in an attempt at some sort of toning, and, thank you Kijiji, I bought a second hand little elliptical machine for my living room I plan on using three times a week.  (Which also ties in to my added resolution of fitness).

5. Learning to drive.  It’s still winter.  All sorts of treachery lie on those roads.  This one I can hold off until spring.

6. My other added resolution: sing again! I used to sing in a punk rock band and have no nerves or qualms about performing to crowds.  It was full of adrenaline, excitement, and being that in control of music that rocked was the best feeling ever.  Since I lost my confidence, singing plummeted to the very bottom of the things I wanted to do – but I always secretly loved to belt out the Wicked soundtrack whenever nobody was home.  So I bought a couple of karaoke games for the Wii, and Sweet and I have been taking turns rocking out, which is surprisingly AMAZING amounts of fun.  I told my dear coworker about them – and she confessed she had the same goal!  We’re going to keep each other on track, and hopefully at some point this year, actually go do karaoke.  In front of strangers.  Or maybe I’ll just pull a Jenn, and serenade you over the small screen – at least that way I’m less likely to fall over in a fret of nerves.

So my dears, I think I’m doing okay! How are you doing with your resolutions?  Tell me all about it, and I can’t wait to hear when I get back.  While I’m away I’ll be leaving you in some very capable hands (all of whom I adore dearly) – much love to all of you, and thoughts/prayers against missing luggage would all be very much appreciated while I’m gone. 🙂

Also – everyone who stopped by to comment on my second entry in the Weddingbells finals is a total rock star.  Seeing all your comments pretty much made my day on Monday and I’m so lucky to have you all in my life.

See you on the other side, lovelies!

New Year, New Goals, and a Culinary Adventure

It’s a new year, and with a new year comes celebrations , a new look for the blog (what do you guys think?), and of course, resolutions.  2009 was a big one for me, and after making (and, for once, keeping) the toughest resolutions yet, I want to make 2010 even better.  Looking back at the last ten years has been interesting.  I’ve seen highs and lows, good decisions, bad decisions, lulls in which I did nothing to grow as a person, and more recently, a lot of soul-searching, risk-taking and pushing boundaries, which have ultimately led me to a happiness and peace I haven’t felt before.  And I want to make 2010 even better.  I want to look back in another decade and see hopes and goals realised.  So I suppose I should really start off with some sort of new year’s resolution list.  This year, I want to…

1. Read.  Not just blogs and newspapers, but actual books.  I’ve always loved to lose myself in stories of wonderful imagination, but reading was kind of put on the backburner in 2009.  This year, I may not have a book club to join, but I resolve to finish at least one book per month.

2. Learn to drive.  My nan never learned to drive her whole life, and as much as I love her dearly, I don’t think this is the wisest example to follow. I must be the oldest twenty-four year old non-driver in the world!  It’s been an ongoing resolution of mine for the past eight years, and I think it’s about time I stopped being so scared and got into the driver’s seat.

3. Work harder on becoming pain-free.  I’m done with the zillions of appointments with as many different people I can find in an attempt to do something about my back pain.  I’m going to pick a strategy and stick to it, instead of trying a load of things once and giving up after not seeing immediate results.  I’ve been assigned a strengthening plan, which I will stick to daily, I’m going to live more healthily (eat better, drink more water, stop being afraid of exercise for fear of exacerbating the pain), and I’m going to use heat and positive distractions instead of pain killers and self-pity.  And we’ll see about going for another round of injections.

4. Do even more to lose the anxiety. I feel like, with the help of Sweet, my friends, family and so many of you, I’ve come a long way from the person who used to be scared to even pick up the phone.  I’m still a little nervous about being in the spotlight, but I’m at the point where if I prepare, take notes on what works and what doesn’t, breathe deeply and think positively, I can teach a small class once a week.  In March, my term position is up, and there’s been talk of potentially moving into a new position – involving a lot more facilitation.  It might be the hardest task yet – but it’s my goal to be able to teach more classes, be more at ease speaking in front of people, critisise myself less and be more comfortable in my own skin, both physically, mentally, and emotionally.

5. Learn to cook properly, and stop eating “conveniently”.  Since moving out on my own six years ago, I’ve fallen into the trap of eating what’s cheap and what’s convenient.  I don’t eat junk food, but my meals are carb-heavy, unvaried, and more often than not, involve microwaving something.  A few weeks ago, I decided I was going to learn how to cook.  And yesterday, I began the challenge!

I pulled Delia off the shelf and picked a couple of recipes I thought I could tackle.  Creamed Chicken with Avocado, Baked Parsnips, and Sweet’s special roasted potatoes.  Two hours and only one cut finger later, we had a success!  I learned how (and why) to “blanche” vegetables before baking them, I learned how to make my own cream sauce to the perfect consistency, and I learned that I never want to have prepare parsnips ever again.  They’re probably the most delicious vegetable in the world, and baked in butter were absolutely divine – but cutting the core out of something shaped like a carrot was slightly too frustrating.  (Lucky for me, Sweet was on standby, and took care of them for me!)

The meal was lovely (although, looking back, I would’ve picked something with a bit more colour), hearty, and I felt an enormouse sense of accomplishment at having made something so delicious (and took half an afternoon!).  I also felt enormous after eating something with so much cream and butter in it, which leads me to want to do something slightly healthier next time – but I think I’ve definitely found myself a new hobby for 2010.

What about you guys? Tell me about your resolutions for the new year!  And of course, if you’d like the recipes, drop me a note and I’d be more than happy to send them your way. 🙂