Writing practice: resisting the delete button

Recently, I’ve been inspired to write, but I haven’t been writing — I’ve been reading about writing in coffee shops, and dancing to Bachata remixes in my bachelor apartment.(Yes, I’ll do anything to procrastinate!) However, I think the combination of reading and dancing is loosening me up, so that I can write from a place where I’m not afraid to fall flat on my face.

I wasn’t sure what to read, but a writer/editor friend of mine had some great suggestions on her blog, commatology, in her fabulous post concerning writer’s block. Honestly, I’m not sure if that is my affliction, but I made a list of the books she recommended anyways. I was able to find Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Pantheon Books, 1994) by Anne Lamott, and Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambahala, 1986) by Natalie Goldberg at the public library, and then stumbled upon Room to Write (Penguin/Putnam,1996) by Bonni Goldberg at a used bookstore. I’ve barely cracked Room to Write, but it’s filled with writing exercises, and quotes that I love. But have the courage to write whatever your dream is for yourself. -May Sarton; One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others’ minds. -Alfred Kazin; and A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.Frank Capra, are just a few that are resonating with me.

Lamott writes about ‘shitty first drafts’ and ‘perfectionism’ –Allowing myself to expose a shitty first of anything is nearly impossible because I strive for perfectionism. (However, I’m learning to let go, and letting myself be the follower on the dance floor.) Her words made me realize that it’s okay to write really crappy stuff, and that I need to stand up to my ‘oppressor,’ the perfectionist within. The parallels she draws between writing and life are beautiful, funny and bang on! And Goldberg (the Natalie one), also highlights the correlations between life and writing, and the importance of practicing and composting.

Tonight when I sat down, I decided to just let the words pour out. I’m practicing. I told myself I was just going to let it happen — I wasn’t going to listen to my inner critic, I was going to resist the urge to hit ‘delete’. Prepare yourself – what follows might be a really shitty blog post. It’s all me, uncensored.

bell

“It’s been a long time since I’ve sat myself down to write. There always seems to be something more pressing — the dishes, the laundry, a run, a chat with a friend, an overdue email. It needs to stop — I’m not going to let my voice dry up, even if I’m not sure what I’m saying has any relevance. What’s that sound? Oh yes…..the eggs are boiling — better tend to that….maybe I’ll just turn them off and come back here to write. Wait….okay, they are simmering.

My inner voice has been talking a lot of shit these days. You’re not a writer. Everything that comes out is so constipated. You’re just on the surface. Reach deeper. You need to read more before you can get anything out. Do you think anyone is really interested in that? That doesn’t sound right. Yawn……you’re putting me to sleep. It’s so loud in my head; I want to scream SHUT UP!!! Okay, I did it. Now what?

Silence….just keep your fingers moving. Whatever comes out, comes out. And now I will be deleting all this, but at least I am writing. I’ll give myself ten more minutes to come up with something witty, something that I can use to hook you in. What I have been learning is that I’m not alone. Even great writers think they can’t write….sometimes. They sit down with loud voices in their heads, and write crap….sometimes a lot of it. This makes me feel better.

And I know that I can write. Inside me I know there is this honest, somewhat naive voice, that has fresh things to say. Stuff that might make you laugh….or cry….or go hmmmm….or think really?! Yes, it’s inside. They’re my stories. We all have them. It’s just finding the right notes to strum, the right moves to make, the right stuff will come to you, but first you need to silence that inner critic that says you can’t.

The other day I found out that my mom reads my blog. That made me smile because I know I don’t share enough with her. This can be a way for her to get to know me better. But what got me was that the thing she remembered was how I said I was going to blog everyday in February and then I didn’t. It’s my shortcomings that she remembers. Me, too. I still beat myself up for that one. What was so hard about blogging everyday for one month? And February only had 28 days? Why couldn’t I do it? I couldn’t do it because I love the delete button too much and I’m a perfectionist. Or at least, I try to be. When I notice a mistake….usually my own….I cringe. I need to get over that.

Anne Lamott says allow yourself to write shitty stuff. You will write a shitty draft. So, my blog posts are my shitty drafts…..at least the first time I publish them. Sometimes I read over old posts and then I go in and make changes. Sometimes I’m so tempted to just delete them. But then I think, just let it be. This is you….flaws and all. And who is really reading it?! If they can’t deal with the flaws, they will move on. Sorta like life and those you let come close to you. If they see your flaws…..those parts that need some polishing….those parts we try to hide…..and they still want to get to know you, then they’ll stick around.

Okay…..it’s been over ten minutes. Time to wrap this up or should I keep going on this tangent. Not really sure where it’s going, but the words are still coming.

Maybe what makes us really wonderful are those flaws. I think so.I look for those flaws. I don’t like shiny, sculpted things….they seem too unattainable. a fantasy. I don’t like fantasies. It has to be believable. I have to feel like I can connect. Connecting  is important to me; it’s what keeps me going. as an introvert, maybe this is strange….I guess I like to do it on my own terms, but either way I want to feel a closeness. I want to relate. we all want to relate and see ourselves reflected in someone else’s eyes. It’s this connection that says I see you, I know you, I hear you. We all want to be heard; we all have an inner desire to be heard — to live our stories, to share our lives, and to be known. Sometimes I don’t share. Is it the only child syndrome? I’m not sure, but i like to be on my own, I like to have the freedom to do my own thing, I like my own space. sometimes it’s lonely, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes i want to be loud. I want to be able to talk to anyone. I look at my extrovert friends with green eyes; i wonder what it’s like to be in their shoes. To always know the right thing to say? To never appear awkward. To never be at a loss for words. “

So, that was it. That was about 15 minutes of non-stop chatter on the keyboard. I’m not going to leave you with any promises. Maybe I will try one of the exercises from Room to Write next time or maybe a reader (if you stuck it out till the end) will give me a topic. Hint, hint….let me know what you think. I want to connect.

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Introverts are worth it

quote-i-m-an-introvert-i-love-being-by-myself-love-being-outdoors-love-taking-a-long-walk-with-my-audrey-hepburn-83549

He’s an onion. I just wish I’d started peeling back the layers sooner. She looked up from her tea with a smile, and I knew it was those layers that she found captivating and frustrating. It’s those layers, those many reasons, that make introverts worth it.

*****

1. We are more than what meets the eye.

“What you see is what you get. I’m an open book,” said no introvert ever. Our book is firmly shut, some of our pages stick together, and we’ve been dogeared. Don’t pass us up though; we’ve got a plethora of interests and stories galore. We aren’t that shy girl or that nerdy guy — we’re enthralled with our own world, but we’re eager to learn new things, too. And because we have patience we strive to be really good at something or to develop an array of hobbies.

Have you ever just met someone and felt like you’ve known them forever? That won’t happen with us. We’ll continue to surprise you.

2. We are amazing listeners.

Unless we are hearing impaired, you’ll never have to repeat yourself. We may not always give you the response you want or respond immediately, but your words will never go unheard. We’ll take it all in –the tone in your voice, your body language, the words you choose, even the way you hesitate. Most introverts are able to focus, so if you’ve got their attention, you’ve got all of it. And some of us are even good at giving thoughtful advice. Be patient with this; we usually need to let stories marinate before we can articulate our own take on the dilemma.

Need someone to listen without passing judgement? You can always count on us.

3. We are highly perceptive.

When you take a step back you can see more clearly. Introverts are on the periphery consuming the whole picture — we’re the ones with the x-ray glasses seeing the truth and deception in everything including ourselves. We don’t take things at face value — we don’t buy into ‘what you see is what you get’ — there’s usually a lot more….or sometimes a lot less. We pick up on slight nuances, shifty eyes, genuine smiles, and all the little things that go unnoticed when you’re in the thick of it.

Wondering if there’s something strange about that guy? Ask us.

4. We are the voice of reason  little voice that has nuggets of wisdom.

That’s too bold of a statement — the voice of reason! We may have a little voice and not say a whole lot, but when we do speak, take note. Since we’ve spent so much time rehearsing in our head, it’s likely that what comes out is something to reflect upon. Maybe it will make you look at things in a different light or give you a new idea. We don’t like to waste our breath, so you’ll likely find some nuggets of wisdom is our exhalation.

Do you want some honest insight? We’ll offer some up, but you’ll have to be patient.

5. We are curious creatures. 

We are curious about ourselves and others. Self-reflection is something that we do a lot of — introverts are always having loud conversations in their heads. We’re also fascinated by others and feel quite comfortable interrogating someone who peaks our interest. We like to dissect situations and figure out the whats and whys. If we think it would be fun to try something new, like scuba diving, we’ll research it before jumping in. If we’re planning a trip, we’ll spend hours pouring over guide books, try to learn the language, and cook up some exotic cuisine.

Are you looking for a partner in crime? Let’s be curious together.

*****

So, you see, introverts really are worth it. Even though we are onions that sometimes make you cry with grueling one-sided conversations, awkward silences, solo parties, and guessing games, you’ll want to keep peeling away to discover our many layers. And you know what? Introverts know that extroverts are worth it, too — they balance us out, they introduce us to new worlds, and they spark our curiosity.

CuriousGeorge

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The art of connecting with an introvert

introvert

I never know what he’s thinking. Why can’t he just talk to me? His idea of a fun Friday night is playing guitar for three hours by himself. He’s at home, and I’m out at a dinner party. I feel like I’m pulling teeth trying to get him to open up. We’ve been together over 5 years, so why is it so hard for him to share with me? Over green tea and a chocolate cookie, my friend vented her frustrations and confusion. Being an introvert myself, I thought I could shed some light on the art of connecting with an introvert.

1. Be Patient. We’re not open books.

I told my friend this and she looked at me as if I were crazy.  Yes, after 5 years you still need to be patient. Introverts don’t openly divulge information or talk about their feelings. We need to be gently coaxed out of our shells. And even once we feel comfortable with you, we often don’t see the need in sharing with you. Sometimes we assume that you should just know what’s going on in our head. Other times, verbally articulating our feelings is nearly impossible. We do want to connect, but it just takes us a little longer to overcome our inner dialogue that worries about being judged and misunderstood.

Be patient, learn to be okay with silence, peel back the layers, and read between the lines.

2. Don’t take it personally when we don’t want to go out with you.

Please don’t make us feel guilty when we don’t want to go to that party with you. When we think of a party, we think of awkward conversations with strangers. If you drag us there against our will, we’re going to be miserable and so are you. Attending large social gatherings can be extremely exhausting — it’s like spending the whole day at an amusement park. Sometimes it’s a great adrenaline rush, but when it’s all over we need time to recharge.

When you give us guilt-free time on our own, you’ll get the best of us when we do connect.

3. Take an interest in our solo hobbies.

The stereotype is true. Introverts are somewhat nerdy; they like to read, write, crochet, go on solo runs, play musical instruments alone, and watch movies. I’m not suggesting you take up these hobbies and do them together. Most introverts would be annoyed if you did.

Ask us to recommend a book or movie, take a peek at our blog, and just let us know that you appreciate the beautiful nerd in us.

4. Give us acknowledgement and show us you care in subtle ways.

Grand displays of affection and acknowledgement make us want to curl up into a little ball. Most of the time, introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. Never call an introvert up on stage without warning her first – she’ll never forgive you. Never kiss an introvert in public – he’ll quietly hold it against you. What introverts do like are letters and thank you cards. They’ll treasure these and read them until they’re memorized, so don’t say generic things. As for the special introvert in your life, love notes, home-cooked dinners, playing footsies under the table, and mixed CDs will let them know that you care.

When introverts feel cared about they’re more likely to open up and share with you.   

5. Ask questions, but not too many.

Introverts like questions. We’re usually the ones asking them to avoid talking about ourselves. We hate the ‘tell me about yourself’ interlude on dates — it’s not even a question. However, we like to be heard and we’ll answer your questions — just don’t make us feel like we’re being interrogated. The more we feel interrogated, the shorter our answers will become. When you have a conversation with an introvert, it will often feel one-sided. However, if you get into a debate about an issue we are passionate about, watch out. We’ll talk the issue to death until you see it from our perspective.

Don’t overload an introvert with trivial questions, if you want to get them talking.

*****

The art of connecting with an introvert isn’t easy. I won’t lie; you’re in for quite a ride. Headaches, confusion, and mixed signals are par for the course, but I promise you that you’re in for a whole lot of surprises, too. It takes patience to really get to know an introvert, but it is worth it for so many reasons. Check back soon to find out what those reasons are. (Sorry, that’s the introvert coming out in me.)

introvert-goldfish

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Listen up, ladies: 6 tips for playing nice online

It’s time to play nice online and land a date. You’ve been attracting guys that just aren’t your type and some complete weirdos, too. You’re tempted to take your profile down and just forget about dating. Well, before you do that take a look at how you present yourself online. With the help of a couple real OKCupid men, I’ve come up with 6 tips for playing nice online.

1. Stop posting pictures of you and your friends.

Yes, we know that you go to the ladies’ room in herds, but online you have to stand out on your own. If you’re a social butterfly, write about that in your profile. No proof is necessary at this stage. A picture with too many beautiful women/men will distract your prospective matches — you want them to just focus on you.

If you were to apply for a job, would you staple your friends’ resumes with yours?

2. No more duckfaces, obvious selfies, or photoshopped pictures. Post actual pictures of yourself.

These pictures are going to have him ignoring the text of your profile. Expect to get some one-liners along the lines of “Funny face” “Hot stuff” or “Are you fo’ real?” And then there are many men that won’t even take the time to write a message because they’ll think you’re fake or immature.

Be real and post actual photos of yourself. No one wants to be duped by a fake profile.

3. Don’t be too modest or mysterious.

Modesty is an attractive quality, but online you have to play up your strengths. You’ve got a lot of competition out there — stand out. What are you proud of? What makes you unique? What are your ambitions? Don’t lay everything out on the table, but don’t be mysterious. Mysterious isn’t always sexy.

If you’re having trouble writing about yourself, ask a close friend to help you out.

4. Make the first move.

This is your opportunity to take charge and make the first move. You don’t have to wait for a guy to message you. If you come across an interesting guy, send him a message. Tell him why his profile stood out for you– I’m sure he’ll appreciate it and return the favour. There are no guarantees that he will respond, but I’m sure you’ll live with the rejection. Men have been coping with it for years.  And there are plenty of fish out there — find a new one!

5. Stop with the long lists. 

Lists are for grocery shopping not online dating sites. Write in full sentences — good grammar is sexy and it shows that you’ve actually put some thought into your profile. And when it comes to the ‘you should send me a message if….’ section, keep it brief and to the point. It’s okay to have a few deal breakers, just don’t be a ball breaker.

6. If you don’t want to meet him offline, stop messaging him.

If you both have an understanding that your communication is going to stay online or distance prohibits you two from meeting, carry on as email (maybe phone) pals. However, if you live in the same city it’s likely that the guy will want to meet you in the flesh. If you don’t have the same desire, stop messaging him or tell him that you don’t feel a connection. Don’t be the ‘nice girl’ and string the guy along. You’re wasting his time and yours.

*****

Online dating comes with its own set of rules. Be real (as much as you can online) and expect the same in return. There are some great guys out there…..and some creeps, too. Watch out for those profiles that are filled with cliches (long walks along the beach) and airbrushed pictures (guys who say they’re 35, but look 20). Never feel obligated to reply, even to an apparently normal guy who enjoys bike riding, and has a receding hairline. The beauty of online dating is that you’re in the driver’s seat and you can control the speed.

Happy dating!

friends

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Listen up, fellas: 7 tips for improving your online game

I’m not talking about FIFA or online poker — I’m talking about online dating. In real life you’ve got game, but are you effectively communicating that online? Do you ever wonder why the ladies aren’t sending you messages or replying to yours? And maybe they are responding, but you’ve yet to meet offline. It’s a stalemate. So how do you make the next move? Surely, you’re interested in improving your online game and venturing into the real world of dating. Here are 7 tips to help you get there!

1. Read her profile before you message her. 

Most women won’t respond to “hey, what’s up?” “How are you?” “Sweet smile” or “Are you having a good week so far?” The last line gets a half point for ending in a question mark and being over three words, but it’s still going to that special place……the trash.

So, the good news is that you don’t have to write an essay or memorize her profile because there are no tests at this stage in the game. You just have to read it. What did you like about her profile? Tell her. What didn’t you get? Ask her to clarify. How are you similar? Share with her.

2. Don’t insult her taste in music, TV shows or anything else she lists as her favourites.

So, you’ve read her profile and notice that she likes Ally McBeal. You get brownie points for reading her profile, but then your opening line is “Someone actually likes Ally McBeal?” Maybe you meant this as a joke, but it’s too early in the game and online jokes often get lost, especially when you forget to use winky faces. It’s never good to offend someone right off the bat. If you don’t share the same favourites, comment on what she’s really good at or how she spends her Friday nights.

3. Don’t post half-nude pictures.

If you are on the hunt for a booty call, please go ahead and post your topless pictures — it’s only fair that you are upfront about your offer. However, I’ll assume that you want something more, so leave something to the imagination. I don’t want to see a selfie in front of the bathroom mirror or you hiking a mountain topless. Remember women tend to read more than stare. (And the staring I do is at your eyes and lips!)

4. Don’t post pictures of your children.

True story: I confronted a guy online about posting pictures of his child on his dating profile. Well, it wasn’t really a confrontation–it went something like this: why is your child in your profile picture? It seems to be a trend among online dads looking for love, etc., and I don’t get it. Would you care to enlighten me?  His response was this: the one in front of the airplane I recall putting up but only because it was one of the only recent ones I had. Not that I would avoid putting a picture of my son up it wasn’t really intentional…….Finally that’s totally fine if you don’t think we would mesh. I will find a topless picture of me in the bathroom and post it :P.  In hindsight I should probably post other pictures of my kid he is definitely a Gerber baby but you can’t really see him in the recent one. Maybe I’m just a dorky proud dad.

What?! He didn’t even think about the fact that his child was in the picture. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s great that men are showing up and playing active roles in their children’s lives, but I don’t think they should ‘use’ their children to attract a mate. And children’s right to privacy should be respected; did your children give you the right to post their pictures on a dating website? I think not.

I don’t see anything wrong with mentioning that you have children and that they light up your world, just don’t post their pictures. Puppies are okay.

5. Be authentic.

Be yourself. If you have a quirky sense of humour, let it be known. If you really don’t like camping and outdoor sports, just say it. If you’re not completely happy with your life, admit it. Most women want to date a real guy, quirks and all. Perfect is boring — you’re not perfect, so don’t pretend. By being authentic you’re opening yourself up to a real connection.

6. Ask her out on a real date.

Don’t let the messaging go on for too long. After two or three exchanges, it’s safe to ask her out. If she rejects your offer, then maybe you misinterpreted her ‘lols’ and emoticons. It’s likely she will accept because after all she’s on a dating site. So what next?  No coffee! I know a coffee date seems like the next logical step and it is……so don’t do it. Take her on a real date. Do you remember when first dates were dinner? It wasn’t that long ago. Now there are so many other options, too. Ice cream, live music, art gallery, Karaoke, Pottery class……

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So, number 7 isn’t going to help you with your online game, but it is going to save all interested parties some time.

7. If you don’t have time, take your profile down.

I seem to encounter these guys that just don’t have time to date. With their wonderful profiles, I’m conned into contacting them. Then after a couple offline dates they tell me that dating is a low priority and that they need to focus on school, work, etc. If you’re not sure dating is what you want to be doing right now, don’t put yourself out there on a dating website. Maybe you’re not ready to date, maybe you like the idea of dating, or maybe you really don’t have the time. It does take a lot of time……searching, figuring out what to say, writing it, sending it, responding, organizing a date, meeting up, following up, and planning another date.

Sometimes it’s best to take your game offline…..take up dancing, join a Meetup group, learn a new language, or just show up. You never know who you might meet.  

date

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Eyes and lips: two reasons to look deeper

Oh yeah, he's got great eyes and kissable lips....

Oh yeah, he’s got great eyes and kissable lips….

Women are visual creatures too, but we’re just more discreet. While men ogle openly and usually fit into two camps – boobs and butts – women steal quick glances and appreciate the finer details – eyes and lips.  These features are windows to what’s beneath the surface.

Recently, I checked out a new follower of my blog, and the feminist in me actually enjoyed his posts, Breasts: Two Reasons to go on Living and Butts: Behind Every Great Woman Stands a Man, Ogling Her Inappropriately. They were pure honesty backed up with humour and research. After reading, I got to thinking – maybe men want to know what women discreetly ogle. I don’t want to speak for all women, but I do want to share what makes me do a double take, admire silently, and gush to my friends. First you should know that Fabio and pretty boys do absolutely nothing for me.

Eyes

Johnny Depp's got some sexy eyes!

Johnny Depp’s got some sexy eyes!

Lively, dark windows framed with long eyelashes make my heart skip a beat. Bold eye contact that initiates the conversation either pulls me in or holds me back. A million questions run through my head when I meet your glance. Are you sincere? Can I trust you? Do you believe in your own words? What makes your eyes light up? Are you holding my gaze? Are you listening? Are you appreciating the time I’ve spent running and doing my hair? It is okay to admire my beauty – in fact, please do. Respect my mind and body, and ask for my permission before you undress me with your eyes.

Eyes express desire, affection, love, concern, and so much more. They truly are the windows to our souls, our inner world.

Lips

Taye Digg's got some sexy lips!

Taye Diggs’ got some kissable lips!

Sweet lips that turn up in a mischievous smile make me melt. After our eyes meet, it’s your lips that will do the seducing. It’s your words that are going to get us past our friendly hellos. Hopefully, you have a good story, a sense of humour, and some chapstick. If you have all three, I’ll be swallowing my gum just in case your kissable lips meet mine.

And my eyes stray below the neck. I know I’m not alone when I say I notice if you work out. Your time spent at the gym is not is vain. (However, popping veins do freak me out.) When you reach for your glass I may just check out your defined biceps, and also notice the outline of your triceps as you get up from the table. I may even make an excuse to squeeze your arm or that shoulder you pulled at work. And the more I get to know you, the more I’ll want to know about that scar above your eye and the beauty spot on your chin. As time goes on, your eyes will show me another world and I’ll long to be enchanted by the words from your lips.

It’s your inspiration and aspirations, quirky sense of humour and fun, and genuine respect and love that are going to keep me, but it’s your eyes and lips that are going to pull me past the exterior and make me want to look deeper.

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Super Bowl Sunday in Chinatown

A trip to Chinatown on Super Bowl Sunday was the perfect way to ring in the Chinese New Year. Dancing dragons and lions, red envelopes and lettuce hanging from doorways, and overflowing restaurants brought Victoria’s Chinatown to life this afternoon. As the oldest Chinatown in Canada, it is a special little gem with a rich history and a modern vibe. It’s two alleys, Fan Tan Alley and Dragon Alley, boast a number of unique shops that carry everything from candles and incenses to hemp seeds and dog biscuits, and even fine art.

Chinatown

And it’s enchanting art, too. If you’ve never been to the Arrogant Pirate, it’s worth a visit. The hole-in-the-wall art boutique is one of Dragon Alley’s hidden treasures. As you step in the door, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a different time and place. It’s a feast for the eyes –an antique typewriter, framed art creations, and hand-crafted jewelry are beautifully displayed. The flavour is Asian with a twist of pirate. Arrogant Pirate has claimed it’s territory in the alley known for Dog In The Bakery, The Thai Spa, and Union Pacific Coffee.

Dragon Alley, Chinatown

Dragon Alley, Chinatown

Today I was a tourist–after a warm bowl of wonton soup, I was happy snappy. All the lettuce and red envelopes hanging in the doorways and scattered in the entrances — evidence that the lion had stopped by – fascinated me. I’m familiar with the red envelopes, but not the lettuce. After a little research, I’ve learned that shopkeepers and restaurant owners hang the lettuce for the lion dancers, so that they will pluck the greens, cai quing, and spit out the greens at the entrance to bring the owners good fortune. (The lettuce isn’t actually eaten by the dancers, but blown apart by the firecrackers.)

Chinese lettuce 2

Chinese lettuce 3

Chinese lettuce

Those lion dancers must have been dancing for the Seahawks today, too. The Denver Broncos didn’t stand a chance against the Seattle Seahawks. Truth be told, the only things that kept me watching the game were Bruno Mars, photo editing, and laundry. And all in that order. You would have thought the year of the horse would bring the Broncos some good luck?

For a monkey like me, the Year of the Horse is suppose to bring me luck. Money is looking good, and I’m going to be moving or traveling somewhere. The love outlook is still dismal, but I’ll have my health….and my sanity! I’ve already planned a trip this year, so it looks like my 2014 predictions may have some truth to them.

What does the Year of the Horse have in store for you? Find out here.

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Lessons learned at home and abroad

Did you think I was going to stop at 9? I’ll admit it has taken me a long while to sit down to write, but I’m back now to complete my list of 13 things I’ve learned in 33 years. By now you know that I have a thing for chocolate milk, I prefer to spend the holidays with my friends, and I’m an introvert. Here are 4 more things I’ve learned at home and abroad.

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10. Home isn’t a place.

Having spent over seven years away from my birthplace, I’ve often wondered where my home is. What I’ve figured out is that home is not a place. It’s neither where you grew up nor where you’re living now. Home doesn’t fit inside four walls or come with a welcoming committee. Home is a part of you. It is your memories, your experiences and your choices that make you ‘you’.

Victoria

When you miss home, close your eyes and you are there. 

11. Play outside your comfort zone. 

This must sound like strange advice coming from an introvert, but it’s not. I play outside my comfort zone more than most — I have to. My curiosity drives me to try new things, meet new people, and explore new paths. So far my biggest and best move outside my zone has been Thailand.

Start on a journey

If you want something different, you’ve got to stretch yourself.

12. I’m a feminist.

The other day I was accused of being  “quite an extreme feminist”. I’m not really sure what that means — either you believe women and men should have equal rights or you don’t. In defending myself, I replied with this.

I believe in equality and respect; equal pay for equal work; women being able to have a family and a career; women feeling safe and having the freedom to make choices about their bodies; women and men living their lives free of gender constraints; and feminism having nothing to do with shaving or not shaving your legs. My world view is not of hairy legs; I shave my legs, wear makeup, hold the door open for men and even buy them flowers, and have no problem picking up the bill…..or letting a guy pay my way. 

we-can-do-it

Feminism — it’s so complicated, yet so simple.

13. Waking up your childhood dreams is always a good thing.

When I was a child, I spent my afternoons writing never-ending stories. I’d type away in my own little world for hours on end. It was something I was good at. When I wasn’t dreaming about being a veterinarian, I was dreaming about writing books. Writing made me feel alive. It was a way for me to express my inner world.

Writing this blog is me waking up my childhood dream. I’m connecting the dots and sharing my stories here. And like my childhood writing, I’m not sure where it will lead. Will it be never-ending or culminate into a beautiful book?

snoopy rejection

Childhood dreams are those that are pure and honest. They’re the dreams that come from the heart. 

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In the spirit of following my childhood dream, I’m going to be blogging everyday for the month of February. It’s going to be a challenge filled with moments of clarity and moments of ‘what am I doing?!’. However, if there is anything I’ve learned in my 33 years from my time abroad and at ‘home’, it’s that I stumble gracefully through challenges and in the end they make me stronger. So here’s to stumbling towards better writing!

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Let’s be honest

I’m back again to continue my list of 13 things I’ve learned in 33 years. It’s the third day of 2014, and I’m SO happy the holidays are over! I’m being completely serious. Pretty soon people are going to stop talking about New Year’s Resolutions, and start putting them into action. And I’ll no longer have to answer questions about my New Year’s Eve. I was in bed before midnight.

So, let’s get the ball rolling!

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7. Use a filter. Honesty isn’t always the best policy.

I know I have a blemish on my forehead, and I’ve gained weight since I last saw you. In Thailand, I could always count on my friends to point out my ‘flaws’. No judgments were attached to their comments; they didn’t love me any less. In fact, they would often empathize, and pinch their own rolls. However, I still took their comments to heart. Honesty wasn’t necessary. I didn’t have bird poop in my hair, and my boyfriend wasn’t cheating on me. I had a mirror, and could easily see what they saw.

monkey

As an introvert, I always think a moment or two before I let the words come out of my mouth — I use my filter. Is honesty the best policy here?

8. I’m an introvert, and I’m okay.

When I was younger I was labeled a snob. That’s what happens when you are smart and quiet. Later in life, I was labeled boring and anti-social. That’s what happens when you are sober and introspective. I would dread going to parties or large gatherings because I’d always have to answer the same question: “Are you okay?” I’d always reply with a fake smile, “I’m fine, just a little tired.”  In reality, I would be counting down the minutes until I could excuse myself from the intoxicated chit-chat. But there were also times when I enjoyed being that gecko on the wall — the one taking everything in, and only talking when I had something sufficiently witty or interesting to say.
karaoke

Now, I’m a well-adjusted introvert. I’m the listener that gives thoughtful advice. I’m the friend that you’ll share secrets with. I’m okay. In fact, I’m better than okay, so don’t ask again, and please take a look at 21 things that introverts love.

9. A smile goes a long way.

I miss living in the Land of Smiles. When I moved away, I became acutely aware of how people reserve smiles for those they know or those they want to know. My smiles are sometimes returned, but often not acknowledged or even worse, thrown on the ground. Here it is even hard to make eye contact with someone. We are too busy exchanging emoticons on our devices. A smile makes us vulnerable — it says, “I see you.” What’s the harm in this basic acknowledgment?

smile

Never underestimate the power of a smile. It can start a conversation, brighten someone’s day, and even make you look younger!

*****

Until next time, remember to use your filter, stop asking, “Are you okay?”, and smile at a stranger!

I’ll be back Sunday with 4 more things that I’ve come to realize in my 33 years.

What insights have you gained in your life?

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Happy 2014!

As promised, I am back to add to my list of 13 things I’ve learned in 33 years. Before I start, I’d like to share a couple fortunes I’ve kept from fortune cookies over the years. These are the two staring at me right now.

“You will make a change for the better within the year.”

“Welcome the change coming soon into your life.”

May your 2014 be filled with changes for the better!

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4. Holidays are best spent with friends.

I love my family, but my best Christmases and New Years have been spent in foreign countries with friends. Christmases free of cooking and family drama are pure bliss. I’ll take silver sands and blue waters over Christmas presents and home cooking any day. And ringing in the New Year on the beach can’t be beat!

Koh Samet, Thailand

Koh Samet, Thailand

Throw off the expectations, and enjoy your holidays! 

5. Staying in touch is easier said than done. 

Stay in touch is my mantra. I can’t even count all the farewells I’ve been through. Living abroad is an incredible experience that is filled with many goodbyes. Just thinking about the friends I’ve made along the way, brings a smile to my face and fills me with gratitude. Upon departures, mine and their’s, we’d exchange our best intentions for keeping the friendship alive. It’s tough; we’re all playing out our lives in different time zones. And sometimes, we just become silent witnesses, with the odd ‘like’ or comment, to our friends’ successes and failures. I hope they know that wherever they are, whatever they are doing, they have touched my life, and that I wish only happiness for them.

Dobongsan, Uijeongbu 2011

Dobongsan, Uijeongbu 2011

When we meet again, even though we haven’t stayed in touch like we said we would, let’s just pick up where we left off. 

6. New places give us new perspectives.

Before I turned eighteen, my travels were limited to an Amish quilt auction in Montana, and a band trip to Hawaii. In 1999, I spent two months in Southeast Asia, and my life changed forever.  At the time, I didn’t realize there would be ripple effects, but over the years, I’ve seen them in my everyday life, and this has prompted me to go somewhere new each and every year. It’s the people I meet, the stories I hear, and the customs I observe, that give me a new way to look at life. And traveling and living abroad have helped me understand myself and others better.

Ubud, Bali

Ubud, Bali

Before I went on exchange in 2002, I read Karen Connelly’s Dream of a Thousand Lives: A Sojourn in Thailand. It spoke to me then, and much more now after studying and living in Thailand. So, what do we gain by exploring other places? Connelly puts it beautifully in the following excerpt(preface) from her book.

“To slow down, to listen more carefully, to watch the surface until we glimpse what is underneath, to learn from people who know well what we do not know at all: these are choices, steps towards dismantling the barriers that separate not only nations and strangers, but neighbours, too.”

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Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with 3 more things I’ve learned in 33 years. So, what have your learned over the years? Would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives!

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