It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Well, here we are! We are in the last days of 2017 and I am sitting in my living room reflecting while listening to Christmas music with a bunch of candles lit.

So I am just going to come out and say it. For the most part, 2017 was a challenging year for me. I have choice words! Now, some people who know me are going to think to themselves “but Steph … this year was a life changer!” and my response to that is: YES! Finally, I caught a break … ON DECEMBER 3RD!! There were 11 heinous months prior to that! So let’s begin story time, shall we?

Remember when I went rogue in August? I was initially hesitant to share about this but I am ready now. At this time, I spent three weeks in Europe and learned three very important lessons.

Lesson #1: Self-Care

To begin, I needed to figure out how to take time to look after myself. This manifested itself to me as I sat in my future mother-in-law’s living room the first afternoon after flying to Dublin … catch that? … not yet? okay, don’t worry, it’s coming. Anyway, I was in her home and she was at work. Maciej’s mom lives very humbly in the countryside. Her internet access is extremely limited and being abroad, I do not have cellular access. The walk to the nearest town is 2 hours by foot. I did have some tasks to do – which I worked slowly on – but I was horribly jetlagged. Instead of engaging in virtual overstimulation, I opened the door where I could see the lush Irish fields, and I read a book. Despite not having the internet to contact people, it was the first time in months I did not experience the physical symptoms of anxiety. I was so calm. The air was fresh and my MIL – did I do that again? – has exquisite taste in coffee … and in hard liquor but that, my friends is a selective tale I will not share on here because what happens during girls night, stays with girls night! I digress. Sitting there reading while not even anticipating a phone call, text, e-mail, push notification … whatever … was the best peace I had experienced in months. It was time to take it easy.

Lesson #2: Work Better, Not Harder

The second lesson was that I needed a professional kick in the ass. I am guilty of overworking and feeling like I am getting nowhere in the process. After spending some time this weekend reviewing my portfolio in preparation for upcoming applications, I realized that for someone who has a few years before reaching the grand “30” mark, I am accomplishing more than average. Furthermore, I learned I really need to not rush through these processes! While having an end-goal in mind is important, I need to stop being so bloody anxious about the process and find a way to enjoy it because when I finally accomplish that end goal, then what? Retirement? That means I have spent the bulk of my working life in a panic when really, I do enjoy the work I do. The World Happiness Report (2016) expresses that,

Most Americans sampled daily in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey feel happier on weekends, to an extent that depends on the social context on and off the job. The weekend effect disappears for those employed in a high trust workplace, who regard their superior more as a partner than a boss and maintain their social life during weekdays.

(Helliwell, Layard & Saches, 2016 p. 30)

While working hard is great … commendable even … balance is paramount.

I am currently tying up some loose ends; however, come the new year, I intend to make it a focus to be more deliberate and organized with my time and tackle my endeavors in smaller chunks rather than adrenal binges followed by exhausting crashes post-completion. This will allow for more time to do things that I enjoy including this creative writing project and spending time with good people.

Some recommendations:

  1. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way of Living Well by Miek Wiking
  2. Rushing Women’s Syndrome by Dr. Libby Weaver
  3. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (Available on Netflix)
  4. The Minimalists Podcast

These are a few of my favorites, I’m sure more will come to mind.

Lesson #3: Don’t Forget Your Love for Others

The last lesson that really took me and shook me was while I was lost in selfish “Me-Land” – which I needed for a while; however, overstayed my tenancy – is that while Maciej can be stubborn (so am I), I needed to transition from being my own frantic mess and his girlfriend to loving him as my evil sidekick … too personal? Yea, I’m uncomfortable but I have lingered with the “appropriate language” long enough. It’s not that we ever stopped loving each other, it’s just that when chaos reigns, it pours! I have to remind myself a lot that when he is trying to take me away from my work, it is usually because he wants to just be with me and that is not bad.

So, while 2017 started with me wondering who pissed in it’s Cheerios ( … sorry), it was a closing chapter in the middle of my life’s story.

That can’t be it? Can it?

No, I save the best for last.

On November 18th, 2017 I stood in Costco comparing coffee choices while Maciej was going bat-crazy wanting the latest, greatest iPhone X. His phone was binging as he frantically tried to place holds for pick up crying out in a panic “WHAT TIME CAN WE GET THIS!?” and I was like “WHAT COFFEE ARE WE CHOOSING!?”. This ended up with me in a large shopping plaza on a Saturday. Like the masochist I am, I simply love driving in shopping center parking lots on a Saturday afternoon. It’s my favorite. I kicked this man out of my car and told him to get out and head to Apple while I park as far away from civilization as possible. When I successfully found my spot, I walked in. He get’s his phone and I decide at that moment, he is not winning after that show! No, no, no. On our walk back to the car, I saw Michael Hill. I grabbed this man by the arm out of nowhere and proudly stated that this man was going to buy me a $10,000 engagement ring.  Tell me how he goes along with it and the poor customer service representative is like shouting “GET THIS WOMAN A BIGGER DIAMOND”. We, of course, were not going to buy, I just wanted to make him uncomfortable. Well let me tell you, Maciej was a little too comfortable. So in the car, I told him that I did not want a ring out of our budget and especially since I work in a job where my hands are exposed to the elements …. you know … finger paint … markers … boogers … the works. He calmly responded that the next week being Black Friday, perhaps we could get something nice in our budget. I worked that week and come Friday, I was getting hasty so I asked him as soon as I walked in the door, “Honey? Can we go shopping?” he said “sure”. We found a small jeweler who had the whole store on 50% off (*Bonus!*) and I sat while he put a couple on my finger and held my hand close to his face until he found the one. It needed to be resized and I have the car so that Wednesday I received my call that it was ready and I was there. Now, in the store for resizing, they have to check to make sure it fits properly. So I let them. I also told them that they should just leave it on there because I wanted to make sure it did not fall off as I drove home. And on my drive home, there was a bridal shop. So obviously I tried on a few dresses. Leave me be!!

When I arrived home, I put it back in the box and left it on his desk. This man played hard to get! But that Sunday, he was pretty insistent on a hike so I took the bait. We stopped for lunch and the outlook was beautiful. He stood up and reached into his pocket. I thought to myself, “This is it!” … and he pulled out a tissue to blow his nose … lovely. We continued hiking and finally, after having to climb uphill, Maciej asked me to marry him. I personally told him …

Yes! Actually, I will be honest I was nodding my head because like, I don’t even know, apparently I lost my words? Which seems unlikely, he had to ask me … “are you going to say yes?” LOL, I did! And I am thrilled. I get that some people hear the story and respond that “Oh so it was not really a surprise??” to which I am totally fine with because they aren’t invited anyway … sooooo. This proposal is who we are – two people who exchanged CVs on our first date. And I am thrilled for 2018 to be a very special year! And I know that 2017 was the year I learned that we are well matched.

So that being said, why does 2017 invoke such choice words from me? Because it was uncomfortable even though it finished off perfectly. What can I say, I’m a wimp! And no offense, but the cosmos totally owed me after that Saturn Retrograde crap! Would I redo this year again? Nope. But I am so happy with the outcome!

To you and your families, I wish you the best Holiday Season and may 2018 bring many great experiences, memories and as the Danish say, Hygge.

Steph xoxo

Learning to Run & Menu Plan – July 31st to August 6th 2017

Well here we are again! Another week has passed and I must note, the word of my week has been: stamina. 

I have two things on the go: (a) my thesis is going through its finalization process (I’m so f***ing tired. I apologize but seriously, this warrants swearing); and (b) I have begun the process of learning to run.

I have come to realize that writing a thesis is literally like building a baby. It takes months out of your life. You cannot properly be a friend, a family member or a girlfriend because you are so tired building this thing as you devote every. waking. hour. to it. (Trust me, if you want to know who your real friends are, go to graduate school). You laugh and get excited during the milestone triumphs (you know, the “EUREKA!” moments). You cry when you cannot take the process of building the parts to your argument anymore. Heaven forbid you think you have a final product only to be let down because it is not ready yet as it is returned to you with cold-hard edits by your lovely partner.  I am mentally exhausted and realistically, I am fed up. I want it submitted so I no longer need to be that awful friend who ditches every occasion or the crappy aunt whose spider-nephew hangs-up FaceTime on you because he’s pissed off you won’t come over and play (even though you really want to). I am nearing completion at this point and more importantly I am on my role. I realized yesterday that there are only a couple weeks left until I am leaving for my trip to Dublin to attend a conference and that hit me hard. I really need to finish this all up and get some additional work done as well as prepare for my presentation abroad. There is no rest for the weary, I’m afraid.

On another note, I promised myself I would learn to run and this week, I started! My stats obviously were not great. Maciej poked fun at my average of 7:04 min/km (he is half of that!!); however, I saw a quote about running that stuck with me given the challenges I have been facing:

It does not get easier, you just get stronger.

Realistically, this is true for many facets of life in addition to it encouraging me to keep up the physical fitness (something I have not been great about during university if you have read my about page).

With my thesis, at first it completely sucked; however, now that I know what I am doing, I have my role. I got stronger.

With aspects of love in my life, the first time I fell in love, it completely sucked – a whirlwind of poor decision making, really; however, now that I know how to remain true to myself with another person, I am happily in love. I got stronger.

When I started a new job and was thrusted with responsibility that no post-secondary institution can prepare you for, I panicked. I wanted to leave. However, now that I pushed myself to learn from others was humbled to reach out to those who have more experience than I do, I made a very good name for myself and carry a strong reputation. I got stronger.

When I had to bravely stand up for someone who could not stand up for themselves earlier this year and face the wrath that triggered my anxiety beyond anything I had ever experienced to the point I did not want to work again, I pushed through it and I am still ready to stand up for those who need a voice. I got stronger.

Something I have come to learn is that real success is not sheer luck. It is being malleable to your surroundings and willing to be uncomfortable while you push forward for the best version of yourself. And with that, I have this weeks meal plan to keep me fueled as I run as well as keep my mind healthy and nourished as I keep climbing these mountains.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Admittedly, breakfast this week is (albeit delicious) but very monotone. My reason for this is, I find that the iron and protein in the green monster smoothies are keeping me energized and focused while I write. I mean, like, I am totally strong and not snacking out of boredom when I have one in the morning. They are seriously magic. Additionally, I need a quick breakfast because my brain works best in the morning at extensive mental work and I am better at physical work in the evening. As a result, I aim to quickly eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast but get straight to work so I can get the most out of my day. Hence, cereal and smoothies it is!

Additionally, my dinners are very summery. Usually by August, I have no patience for full-on meals and tend to opt for BBQ type meals, fruits and salad. I have not tried the Smoky Vegan Carrot Dogs; however, I have heard about people in the vegan community making these carrot dog things and I figured after smelling the barbeque smell in my neighbourhood that it would be a fun recipe to try. I will definitely let you know how it goes!

While it is not listed in my meal plan, I have been keeping up with my water intake and the results are amazing. I have no idea how I let myself get so dehydrated because the more water I drink, the better I feel. I find I am not snacking as often, my thought processes are clearer, I feel stronger and way healthier both physically and mentally. Honestly, I really suggest everyone to try and increase their water intake because it is difficult to put in words, you just feel amazing when you do. It makes a huge difference. I will be starting up a new challenge this week, so stay tuned for that!

If you missed it last week, the blue items shown in the meal plan are linked to other blog posts (as well as a few non-blue items) which I will list below:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

**Lightened-Up Crispy Baked Fries from: The Oh She Glows Cookbook – Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon p. 203

Snacks:

And there you have it! Very simple, mostly quick and light meals to accommodate my hectic work schedule as well as the warm weather.

Wishing everyone a productive week in hopes that you too, will become stronger no matter what challenges you face!

The Milestone Race

What is life!? LOL

How is the work week going, readers? We are just over the “hump” so to speak. I have been productive at both working to complete my master’s thesis and doing some data management for one of my (many) jobs.

A topic that has resonated with me lately is the idea of, what I am coining, the milestone race. Humans are competitive by nature and in a variety of different ways. Many women (of course not all women) in their 20s are in the “family” race. You guys totally know what I am talking about: get some post-secondary education, find a partner, get married, buy your forever home, have 1.8 kids … the works. In fact, some people go to the extent completing the race within 10 years! All the by the age of 30! Now, let us consider this for a minute.

To be clear, the above chart is meant to be humorous, not offensive. What I am doing is poking fun at the prescribed decade that is your 20s … (I heard your 30s are better? If not, keep it to yourself, I need some hope LOL) and with that being said, I question this notion. I question rushing through so many of life’s joys in the quick span of your first decade as an adult! We are socialized as young girls to believe that this is happily ever after. We have seen it in the millions of minutes spent watching our Disney princesses find their prince, our rom-com protagonists finding love in the most apropos way and do not get me started on 50 Shades of Grey!

While there is nothing wrong with hitting these milestones, and flourishing happily – I congratulate you if this is what you needed – consider the flower children who make different choices. What about those of us who do not follow this pattern. The problem I have come to notice is that while there is nothing wrong with “settling down”, this prescription is not a prescription for happiness and it does not define your worth as a person.

Furthermore, while you are busy running the marathon of your third decade to hit the finish line quickly, you miss all the fun and joy that comes from the blunders, processes and lessons you are forced to learn as you navigate your transition into adulthood. Take for example the ample arguments on paint colour and design I watched my parents so passionately argue about growing up. I swear, being on the brink of bloody divorce over the colour of wooden spoon (I am exaggerating, my parents love each other going on over 30 years now LOL) – has brought many hilarious memories when we look around their house and the warmth that colour brought into their home. In addition, those whose families were built out of order and in different circumstances has brought forth my most favourite little spider-nephew as I watch my sister so confidently flourish in her career and raise her son with no remorse nor care to rush into a marriage because “that is what you do”. She is confident and is in the process of raising a beautifully smart, confident and silly little guy.

And with that, I come back to me – the overworked and exhausted overachiever who looks forward to one day marrying my partner, but keeps up the hustle! I have not achieved “marriage” (1000 XP right?? LOL) and there is some time until I will. I am nowhere near being able to afford a house. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto and love every quirk that comes with it. The fact I decorated my home, my kitchen sucks, and my bedroom is my sanctuary of calmness – but I do not own it – I still love these moments. Looking on social media, one can see that I have a handsome partner who is going to have a fabulously successful career one day. In addition, I have worked so hard and my career thus far has been pretty successful, I am independent. This, however, is deceiving because while I have had some amazing successes, people are not seeing the not-so-glamourous stress I put on myself to cultivate my passion. Have any of you spent 16 hours consecutively editing and eating your quick leftovers at your desk all on 3-4 hours of sleep? If you have, I send you all my empathy – you are amazing!

Furthermore, when analyzing my life using the above “milestone race” (which I get often in an attempt to diminish my successes), of course I do not come up to par! We all make the story of our lives. It is not up to other people to assess our stories in accordance to one prescription. As so famously stated by Aerosmith: Life’s a journey, not a destination. And with that, I leave you my readers with a vote of confidence and wisdom. Consider your life and every single thing that has not worked out the way you think it should. What has happened instead? What have you learnt from it? Are you happy? If you are not, what can you do to try? Is it by removing yourself from the milestone race? Wishing you joy as you make your history.

Feel free to comment below or connect on social media. Every one of you is going to have the story of a lifetime, I promise.

Cheers and enjoy the rest of your week!