Friday, 31 August 2012

Exploration Wrap-Up

August has been so interesting!

Highlights of my month of exploration have included:
-Attending a yoga class with 2000+ other yoginis
-Buying a dehydrator
-Swing dancing
-Attending my first meditation class
-Painting again
-Hosting my coworkers for apps and drinks

I also attended karate classes for a few weeks before realizing that the experience was causing me a fair amount of stress. I was dreading going to class because I hated being yelled at and harshly criticized. So, I decided to tuck the "get my black belt in karate" project on the backburner for now. I am currently in a season of my life where my extra-curricular activities need to be things that bring peace and happiness to my life.

The biggest change in me this month is that I am now much more comfortable attending classes or functions solo. I often invite friends to join in whatever project I have dream up; but, I'm always ready to just go on my own. I don't want to miss out on something just because of social insecurity. I'm also being braver socially. A year ago, I don't think I would have been the one driving the social activity within my work group. But, by sticking my neck out a little, I've discovered that I work with some really great people that I now consider friends. 

I am happier and feel more like myself than I have in years.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thought Bite: Right Places

Image source
So, I married the wrong guy.
However, in navigating the fallout of my marriage, I am discovering a strength and boldness within me I never knew was there. I am more in tune with who I am now than ever before.
Happily ever after may very well be just around the corner...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


How I spent the afternoon
During this month of exploration, I have taken the opportunity to rediscover things I onced loved dearly. Today's project was to paint on a canvas.

As a child, I loved to draw. Art was my favourite subject in high school. College gave me the opportunity to continue refining my skills. Then, I stopped doing art cold turkey. I had met my future husband, and there just didn't seem to be enough hours left in the day to devote to such unproductive activities like art. I mean, it wasn't like I was going to be the next van Gogh or anything. But, the lure of sculpting and painting never really left me. So, when I saw an easel and canvases on sale, I splurged.

 When I got home, I set up my easel and canvas and just stared at it. The fear of painting something not good enough made me hesitant to put a pencil to my perfectly blank slate. I felt like I needed to paint something grandiose, something that would pay hommage to the years I spent taking art lessons. Something truly great. It was a lot of pressure. The whole issue became stressful, so I put the project on the backburner for a while.

Then, while out jogging, I spotted something in an art gallery window that looked like this:
This is actually a much more polished version of what I saw.
The real deal looks like crayon scribbled on yellowed, partly torn paper.

This is when it occurred to me that of all hobbies to give up because of feeling not good enough, painting is a pretty ridiculous choice. Clearly, there is room for everyone in this field - as evidenced by the crayon-on-torn-paper work on sale around the corner. I also realized that this time around, no one was going to be evaluating my portfolio. I was doing this for me. I didn't need to slave for weeks over creating a photorealist depiction of some stupid fruit bowl. And you know what I enjoy painting most? Abstract designs. I love plotting out colour schemes on a colour wheel. I love watching the colours blend together when I mix them on my palette. I love seeing the effect colours have on each other when applied next to one another on a canvas. This is precisely the kind of art my ex-husband would deam "not real art." (As an aside, he also considers Renoir "a hack" and nearly got us thrown out of an art gallery for being a wee bit too vocal about this opinion a few years ago.)

Boating on the Seine by Renoir

Anyhow, I decided to give myself permission to paint what I wanted rather than what I felt I should. This was the result:

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Swing Dancing: 2 guys and 1 girl

Photo Source

As part of my effort to a) be more social, and b) figure out what to do with my arms while dancing (see previous posts: Zumba and Azonto), I decided to give swing dancing a try. A quick Google search confirmed that drop-in, introductory lessons were available in my area. I intended to go regardless of whether or not I would know anyone there. That said, I (M) tossed out an invite to my coworkers (C):

M: So, I'm going to go swing dancing on Saturday. Do you want to come? The intro drop-in lesson is $5, and there's an open practice night.
C1: Actually, I would like to go!
M: That's great!
I turned to another coworker.
M: Me and C1 are going swing dancing on Saturday. You should come!
C2: Yeah, maybe. We'll see.
Next coworker.
M: C1 and I are going swing dancing on Saturday. C2 might come, too. You should totally join us. It's going to be great.
C3: I actually love swing dancing!
Who knew I had such cool coworkers?

Anyhow, I invited all eight of my coworkers and successfully recruited two of them for the event (and a third joined us for post-dance drinks). My two recruits were both male. I'm sure the instructor (I) was trying to figure out just what exactly was going on when we walked in together, because he said:

I: You're going to have to choose between your boys to partner up for the lesson.

Slightly awkward situation given that I don't really know either of these guys especially well. But, I'm not going to lie, it is fun walking into a dance lesson sandwiched between two boys. I chose C1 to start. In spite of our great enthusiasm, we did not demonstrate any real natural swing dance talent. In fact, we somehow ended up moving backwards at a furious pace every time we danced together -- numerous near-collisions with walls, posts, a desk, other people. Luckily, C1 found this situation as hilarious as I did, and we spent most of the lesson laughing. C3 can actually dance. He's a good lead. We didn't laugh as much, but I was glad he came out for the evening.

During the practice session, I was asked to dance by some of the other male attendees.

Excerpt from conversation between one of these guys  (G) and me (M) past the midway point in the song we were dancing to:
G: Do you know the basic the step for this style?
M: Nope. 

I thought that was a very nice way of telling me I wasn't especially good. My beginner lesson had been in East Coast swing. This, I learned, is not the same thing as West Coast swing. My fake-it-til-you-make-it strategy failed. On the bright side, the male leads in both East Coast swing and West Coast swing - meaning that the guy essentially decides what the girl needs to do with her arms at all times. This appeals to me.

C1 and I have already made plans to go swing dancing again this weekend. We intend to become superstars by the end of the year (watch out, So You Think You Can Dance!). And, we are going to convince our other coworkers they all secretly harbour desires to become really good swing dancers so that our workgroup kicks butt at the next work talent show.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Karate Part III: Sayings From Sensei

Last week, Sensei said:
If you don't understand the directives, ASK for clarification!

This week, Sensei said:
A white belt should be seen, but NOT heard. You got it?! A white belt should NEVER open their mouth in a karate dojo! They learn by imitating. That's it.

Take a guess as to who both comments were directed at. Yup, this little white belt right here. The second comment was in response to me engaging in dialogue with a black belt who was working one-on-one with me. I'm actually fairly shy and generally don't say much at all in big groups.

I work long hours at what most people would consider a fairly stressful job. The precious time I have outside work I tend to devote to either a) things that need to be done, and b) things that make me happy. Getting yelled at twice/week in karate does not fall into either camp.

So, the debate is really as follows:

A - Toughen up. Work hard. Eventually, I'll get the hang of how this dojo rolls and get back to the level I was at when I stopped training nearly 10 years ago. I really would like to get my black belt eventually.


B - Decide that life is too short to intentionally subject myself to being yelled at and feeling sad as part of my recreational time. Join a yoga class and run club instead.

Any thoughts ?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

I See You Have Big Legs

Friends of mine have two young kids who I adore. I've offered to baby-sit to give them some time out sans children. Today, they took me up on my offer. I had a great time, but I will wholeheartedly admit that my six hour playdate reconfirmed my belief that stay-at-home parents have one of the toughest jobs on the planet. I mean, the baby had a five-alarm meltdown when I stuck her in her crib for 30 seconds so I could pee without worrying she would tumble down the stairs or stick her finger in an electrical socket. That said, these kids are just delightful - and quite entertaining - and I am already looking forward to our next visit.

Excerpt from a conversation between me (M) and the four-year-old(F):

F: Okay, who wants bubblegum who is old enough?
There was definitely a snide look in the general direction of her younger sister, who was decidedly too young for bubblegum. She then looked over at me.
F: How about you?
M: Oh, I don't think I will be having any bubblegum today. Thank you for offering though.
F: But, you look old enough -- I see you have big legs.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. All this time, bars and liquor stores have been asking for facial photo ID when really, it's the size of your legs that matters.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Get Your Azonto On!

As some of you may remember, I am perplexed by what exactly one does with their arms during freestyle dancing. Always open to new solutions to this predicament (so far, having a glass of wine in each hand seems like my best bet), I recently stumbled across Azonto. Azonto is an African dance from Ghana, which reportedly is gaining mega popularity here in North America. According to Wikipedia, "Azonto, when taught effectively, can be learned within ten minutes." 10 minutes?! I had to check it out.

And so, I present to you for today's daily dose of dancercise: AZONTO!

Here is part one:

Part two of the tutorial from the self-proclaimed "Chosen one of Africa" for all you budding Azonto keensters out there:

If you watch part two, I recommend stopping the video one minute before the end -- this way you'll avoid an annoying plea to rate the video/share the video. Immigration authorities and deportation are mentioned. That said, there are 4 or 5 different options as to what to do with your arms when dancing. This alone made watching the 8 minute clip totally worth it.

And lastly, if you're REALLY keen, here's a jazzy music clip to practice your new moves:


Friday, 24 August 2012

Thought Bite: Good Morning, Beautiful!

I love this.

Someday, when I rejoin the world of dating, I hope I meet someone that sends me a "Good morning, beautiful!" text every now and again. I mean really, how can you have a bad day after getting a text like that when you wake up? That's right, you pretty much can't. It's like a garanteed good day. For free, and with a very minimal time investment.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Single Girl Snippet: Counselling

There are as many different ways of coping with trauma as there are people in the world. For lots of people, seeing a counsellor can be quite helpful. In the months before and after my separation, I gave it a try. Here's how it went:

Excerpts from conversations between a counsellor (C) and me (M):

Appointment #1: 2 months before separation
C: You know, I have to tell you -- I think I have a lot more in common with your husband than with you.
This comment startled me. I mean, really, who SAYS that to their counselling client?!
M: Um, ok. Well, clearly I'm not communicating well with him, so maybe you can offer me some insight into what he might be thinking.

Appointment #2: 1 month before separation
C: It sounds like you've already tried everything I am suggesting. Have you considered that maybe he is just brain-damaged?
M: Um, no, actually. That thought hadn't occurred to me.

Appointment #3:  1 week post separation
C: How long did you say you and your husband were together?
M: Six or seven years, I think. It’s a long time considering I’m only 29.
C: You know, I ended a relationship of 10 years.
M: That’s a very long time.
C: It really is.
M: I’m sure that must have been very difficult for you.
C: It was. It’s your whole life that changes.
M: So I’m learning.
C: And you know what the most difficult part was?
M: What?
C: The memories. We had shared so many memories together. This was someone who had walked with me a long time, and knew all the stories of my life over those ten years.
In my head: Oh my God, I hadn’t even thought of it that way! I’m losing a quarter of my life worth of memories in this divorce! How distressing!!!  Out loud:
M: I can appreciate how that would be pretty tough.

Appointment #5: 1 month post separation
C: So, you seem to have a number of stressors other than just the divorce on your plate right now.
M: Yes.
C: You know, I'm dealing with a similar situation myself.
M: I'm sorry to hear that.
C: Thanks. It's hard. No one expect these things.
M: True enough.
C: Came out of nowhere.
M: I understand. I hope everything works out ok for you.
C: Thanks. Well, we’re at the end of our time today. I think you should come back in next week.
M: We’ll see. I need to look at my schedule.
C: I think you really need it.
In my head: Uh lady, I think YOU really need the session more than I do. Out loud:
M: Um, ok. I’m not sure.

That was the end of counselling for me.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Low-Maintenance Entertaining

My goal this year is to host at least one gathering per month. Historically, I would get all riled up when I hosted anything and spend hours and hours preparing the house, food, and drinks. This high energy input generally resulted in good results, but I would be so tired afterwards that the idea of hosting anything again anytime soon was overwhelming.

So, time for a new strategy: I call it low-maintenance entertaining.

The basic tenets of this entertaining style are as follows:

1. More often than not, schedule gatherings for hours that do not overlap with meals.
2. When inviting guests, clearly state what you intend to offer them during their visit.
3. Actually just do what you said you would, rather than prepare eighteen different dishes "just in case." If you are hosting outside meal hours, no one is going to starve.
4. Invite your guests to bring their favourite appetizer and/or beverage to the gathering should they so choose.
5. Only say "you don't need to bring anything" when you really mean it.

For example, last week I invited a group of coworkers over for drinks and apps. The email invite went something like this:

Hi guys,
It's been a while since we all got together, so I am taking the opportunity to invite you over to my apartment Saturday evening. I am going to make an appetizer of some sort and open a bottle of wine. You are welcome to bring your favourite appetizer and/or beverage if you'd like.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Voila. People came. Some brought food, others brought wine. I opened said bottle of wine and made a large platter of hummus with veggies and gluten-free crackers. We had a great time, and the effort it took to put together the evening was minimal. So minimal, that I would be willing to do it again as early as next week.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

How to Install a Curtain Rod

It dawned on me recently that perhaps my lack of curtains in my apartment was contributing to my lack of quality sleep. It just doesn't get that dark. I went to a local department store to try to fix this issue. Curtains are actually surprisingly expensive. So, I took the cheap way out and decided just to wall off the bed area with a curtain (my apartment is pseudo-open concept, with just a big opening in the wall delineating the "bedroom" from the living room area).

When I got home, I realized that I didn't really know how to install a curtain rod. So, I looked it up on YouTube:

It seemed simple enough. I had all the right tools.
Regrettably, my attempt at curtain rod installation was not as smooth and effortless as what is shown on the video.

First, I was trying to install a curtain rod on a solid wood window frame. I didn't think this made any difference; it is actually a huge deal. When I tried to hammer in my "wall supports" like on the video, they just sort of went kersplat and broke.

First text message to my brother (B):
M: Do I need wall supports if I am installing a curtain rod into solid wood?
B: Nope, screw into the wood n ur good. :)

So, I tried screwing into the wood. Didn't work especially well. So, frustrated, I took a hammer to the stupid thing.

Next text message:
M: Ummmm... can I just hammer the screw, or would that be bad?
B: Lol. It wouldn't go in properly and grab the wood.

Yeah, that's what I thought. Ok, so back to the screwdriver. By this point, I've destroyed the top of the screw (even I knew that was not a good thing). Clearly, this was a job that needed a drill.

Email a friend (F):
M: Random question: I don't suppose you own a drill?
F: Yes, it's all yours. I'll bring it to you this morning.

This particular friend is as awesome as they come. This is not the first time she has rescued me from a pickle. Back in business.

The screw still didn't screw in easily.

Phone call to 1-800-HIDADDY:
D: Sounds like you're using drywall screws. You need wood screws.
M: I didn't know they were two separate things. The curtain rod came with the drywall screws.
D: What drill bit are you using?
M: Uh, the one with the X on it.
D: You should be using a square-head. Bring your square-head drill bit with you to the hardware store and pick up some wood screws.

Off to the hardware store. I probably had a bit of a deer-in-headlights look when standing in front of the display of screws because it wasn't long before someone (S) offered to help me:

M: I need something like this (holding out the drywall screw) in its "wood screw" version with a square-head.
S: What are you using it for?
M: Installing a curtain rod. The rod is kinda heavy; it sits on three big hooks. The hooks are screwed into a solid wood frame.
S: How thick?
M: Like this (I showed a small space between my index and thumb.)
S: This is what you need. (He picked out a box in nanoseconds out of the like 300 that were on display.)

$2.52 later, and I'm back home.
Not surprisingly, with the right tools and the right screws, the job actually was easy peasy. 15 minutes, tops.


And this is how I discovered that the advertised width of the curtain panels is actually 4" wider than the actual width. An extra 8" across would have been nice. I need to decide whether it's worth returning the curtains, or just springing for a second set of panels. Any thoughts?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Single Girl Snippet: Just Call Me Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart

I stopped at a department store to shop for curtains on my way home from work. While standing in the middle of the store, trying to Google the dimensions of my Expedit bookshelf so I could select a wide enough curtain rod, I was accosted by a guy roughly my age.

Excerpt from conversation between this guy (G) and me (M):

G: I was wondering if you could help me with something.
In my head: 'No. I can't. Seriously?! Do I LOOK like I work here?! Can you not SEE I've had a really long day?!' Luckily, I managed to smile and say:
M: With what?
G: Well, I just redecorated a room in burgundy and grey. What would you suggest as an accent colour and for lighting?
In my head: 'Oh my God, I'm not your decorator. Ask your girlfriend. Oh wait, you probably don't have one or you wouldn't be asking some random girl in a department store for decorating advice. Ok, I get the whole single person thing. I actually do know a bit about colour theory. Let me think...'
Out loud:
M: I would go with a white/cream for your accent colour, and use indirect lighting to soften the feel of your room.
My advice was met with a very quizzical look.
M: Bounce the light off the wall or the ceiling.
G: Oh! Got it!
His whole face lit up.
G: Wow! Thanks so much!!! That's awesome!!!

And that was it. He raced off to the lighting section. This guy was SO happy. I felt rather guilty about my earlier non-helpful feelings and very glad I kept them to myself.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Now on Pinterest!

Click here to go to the Kissing Toads page.

Hello Readers,

Kissing Toads can now be found on Pinterest!

Thank you to Stacey for this suggestion.

There is a board set up for each month of this one-year project. I've pinned links to various post topics/resources as well as some ideas for related projects.



As part of a promotion, I had the opportunity to attend a free meditation class. I feared I would feel like a bull in a china shop at this type of event, so I made sure to go for an 8K run in the morning and attend a yoga class held just before the meditation class. I was also sleep deprived. I figured if ever there was a day that I could sit still for an hour, this was it.

I was a little nervous entering the room. The other students seemed to know each other. I settled onto my mat, and just tried to mirror what everyone else seemed to be doing. It had been a rough day of dealing with divorce-related paperwork. My mind was racing with all the things I had meant to get done that would now be delayed until tomorrow. I was in anything but a zen-like mindspace.

The class started with a very pleasant visualization exercise. I began to relax a little. There was a very positive energy in the room. A soft breeze came in from a large window, and the evening air was very mild. The instructor explained today’s class would focus on The Four Noble Truths. I had no idea what these were, or that there were four of them. (Wikipedia link for the curious, here) “The first truth,” he began, “is that life means suffering.” He had my attention. During the decline and demise of my marriage, I had become acquainted with the concept of suffering. Prior to that, I had led a blessed existence that while characterized by many ups and downs, had never touched the despair I now knew. He discussed working toward an acceptance that everything we know in life is temporary.

The class then moved into a walking meditation. We were supposed to walk around the room and make eye contact with people while observing them without judgment. I don’t know why, but something about this exercise made me feel terribly awkward. While I was reflecting on why something so trivial would make me so uncomfortable, I realized that I had probably communicated this to the group:

It became clear that I was going to have the join the group inside the circle of yoga mats. So I did. I smiled shyly at all these people who kept acceptingly staring at me. That’s when we were told to close our eyes, and then move toward the first person we saw once we reopened them. I had a flashback to being one of the last kids picked for the dodgeball team in primary school. Everyone seemed to have a partner, except me. Mercifully, another single emerged from the crowd. “Your hearts have chosen each other tonight,” the instructor told all the meditation pairs strewn about the room, “your partner is your mirror.” Oddly enough, my partner and I did share a number of physical features. “Ok, now look into your partner’s eyes.” We did. Within a few seconds, I broke eye contact and glanced over to the instructor. Surely this can’t go on for much longer, I thought. “Reaaaaalllllyyy look deep into your partner’s eyes.” My partner did not break eye contact. I wasn’t sure what to do. It felt like some strange staring contest, kind of like we used to play at Girl Guide camp – whoever giggled first lost (generally this was me). My partner eventually smiled, and then shook her head apologetically. I smiled back, relieved. The exercise continued on for what seemed like an eternity. “Keeeep looking into your partner’s eyes. Try to peel back the layers of vulnerability. What are you seeing? What are you learning?” I fought the urge to run. My partner’s eyes stayed locked on mine. Oh my God, what IS she seeing? I thought. Can she tell I’m a mess? Can she tell I’ve been hurt? It’s been a really long time since anyone has stared into my eyes. There is nothing like having someone’s eyes bear into yours to make you feel vulnerable. I noticed my partner’s eyes mist over. Are you hurting? I wondered. I wish there was something I could do. You seem like such a nice person. The exercise continued for several more minutes. I tried to send my best thoughts of comfort and kindness over to my partner; I am sure she did the same. My trust in this gentle stranger grew. Feelings of vulnerability and angst were replaced with a quiet calm. It was actually a very healing experience in spite of my initial reticence. When the exercise ended, I smiled warmly and mouthed “thank you” to my partner. She placed her hands over her heart and bowed her head.
We very briefly crossed paths again at a later yoga class, and greeted each warmly like we were long lost friends.
Namaste, my friend. Namaste.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Type B Running

Normally, I'm a bit of a "Type A" runnner. By that, I mean that before each run, I decide that I will run X kilometres in Y time. If I don't make my target, I get very disappointed. I don't especially like this about myself. I am a very recreational jogger, and I should be able to just relax and enjoy the exercise. I decided to tackle the issue head-on.

Today, I brought my camera with me on my run.

Carrying the camera slowed me down. Stopping to take pictures slowed me more. For the first couple kilometres, I felt rather annoyed and wondered whether I would make up the time later. The camera started to seem like a dumb idea. I continued following a route I had already run a few times previously. Suddenly, I saw things from a different perspective:

It was a perfect summer day.

Sometimes, it's the imperfections that make things interesting.

Even when conditions are not ideal, success is possible.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Karate Part II: Senior White Belt

There is an adorable lady named Thelma who attended the same karate session I did. I would guess she is in her late 70s/early 80s. Thelma came to class wearing a Caribbean holiday t-shirt over a purple hoodie with knee-length, oversized Adidas shorts. She had a beige stocking on one leg. The look was completed by a white belt wrapped around her waist over the t-shirt. As evidenced by its fraying edges, this belt had clearly been to many karate classes. Thelma has a gentle chin tremor, which gives the impression she is always in agreement (though her words often reveal her confusion). In class, she sometimes followed what the rest of the class was doing. More often, she moved to her own rhythm, in her own style. She wandered in and out of the class multiple times during the two-hour training session.

When it was time to line up at the end of the session, everyone scurried to their places. There is a very strong hierarchical structure to karate. You must line up according to belt colour, and then seniority within each belt. The chief instructor stopped the class to make a point of moving the handful of first-time karate participants (all girls in their early 20's) down the line so that Thelma could take her place as senior white belt. It was explained very clearly that she had trained longer and therefore outranked them. It was a beautiful moment. I think too often, the more vulnerable among us are overlooked. But, we all have something to learn from each other. Thelma teaches the class a lesson in persistence. Her presence offers us the opportunity to tap into a softer side of the human spirit.

I hope that when I am in my 80's and have dementia, I will be welcomed to take my place in line at the end of class as senior white belt.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Karate Part I: Try your gi on the day before

Not too far from my work, there is a karate club of the same style I studied years ago. When I emailed the group to find out their rates, they offered me the opportunity to come try a class for free.

The day of my class, I decided to try on my karate gi 30 minutes before I had to leave.

It had not been worn in eight years. My brief stint in karate coincided with my Freshman 15. Currently, my weight is about 10 lbs below my normal baseline. The 25 lb gap between then and now meant I was swimming in the gi. No problem, I thought, I'll just pull harder on the drawstring and tie my belt really tight. That's when I noticed there was a stain on the front of the uniform. I'll just bleach it. I've never bleached anything in my life. Ever. After pouring bleach directly on the gi, I realized what a dumb idea that was. I added water to the bleached -- though now stain-free -- area. So, now I had a wet gi, my kitchen smelled like a public swimming pool, and I needed to leave in 10 minutes. Epic fail. I ended up abandoning the project and tossing the gi into the washing machine. Luckily, I had an Aikido gi kicking around, and I just wore that.

For anyone else who is domestically challenged, Martha Stewart has a great stain removal chart, which I should have consulted sooner.

The karate class itself was great.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Single Girl Snippet: But Hey, You're a Babe

Source - click here

On my way home from karate class tonight, I was accosted by a fairly innocent looking guy in his early twenties.

Excerpt from the conversation that ensued between this skateboarder (S) and me (M) at 10pm while waiting for the light to change at the intersection.

S: Just hit my skateboard with your foot. Really hard.
M: What?
S: Just do it.
I had just finished a gruelling two-hour karate class where a wrong move meant your partner would send you to the ground. I wasn't going to give this guy the upperhand.
M: No.
S: Come on, just like this.
He was pretty friendly, and really not intimidating. I feebly stuck my foot on the stupid skateboard.
S: Not like that. Harder. Give it a good kick. No, wait a second, let's try this instead.
He put the skateboard on the ground and pointed for me to kick it in the middle so that it would spin. Again, I feebly made some gesture with my foot because clearly this guy was not going to relent.
S: No, not exactly.
M: Ok.
Finally, the light changed.
S: You know, you were kind of slow to learn the concept; but,'re a babe.
He smiled shyly and nodded approvingly, as though my 'babe status' made my lack of skateboarding skills forgiveable. He then skateboarded off to meet his group of friends.

And, you know, this little exchange was probably the highlight of my day.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Splash Park

Today, I spent the afternoon at a splash park with some of my very favourite people.

Similar-looking splash park in Michigan. Sadly, I did not have my camera today.

Among our posse was my friend's 16 month old daughter; I'll call her Holly. Once we got her swimsuit on, Holly grabbed my hand and led me to one of the water jets at the park. Water bubbled up from the round grate. For Holly, this was pure magic. While still holding onto me with one hand, she gingerly reached out with the other to test the water. Feeling a little braver, she let go of my hand and ran her fingers through the water jet. She frequently turned to look back at me, smiling broadly, as if to say, it just doesn't it get any cooler than this. After a few minutes, the jet stopped. Holly yelped a little, and started stomping on the area where it had been. She leaned over the round grate to investigate. The jet started up again and just about knocked her over. Holly reached for my hand, and the 'learn to trust the water jet' routine started over again. We must have spent an hour like this.

Someone else's kid - from an article on splash parks and germs.

It was a terrific afternoon.
Holly reminded me that I am surrounded by beautiful and wonderful things; I just need to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

From Curiosities by Dickens

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Farmer's Markets

Farmer's markets have a special place in my heart. I love being able to purchase produce from the very person who nurtured the plant its entire lifespan. And, there's a certain charm to farmers. They tend to really be salt of the earth types, which I admire.

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience a farmer's market in the small town I was posted to for a work assignment. Saturday mornings at the farmer's market are quite the social affair, in spite of the fact there are only a dozen or so vendors present. The whole experience has inspired me to make more of an effort to support local farmers and merchants. Too often, time pressures lead me to cop out and shop at large, mainstream grocery stores.

My farmer's market haul looked something like this:

The organic kale ($3) and collard greens ($3) were grown by a lanky guy who is debating buying horses. He wants to get two so that his first horse doesn't get lonely. The zucchini ($1 each), basil ($3), beans ($4), and beets ($2.50/bunch) were from a darling older lady who seemed to know everybody at the market. She was also very concerned about me carrying "all those heavy vegetables" home in my backpack. The big tomatoes ($5 for the basket) and the orange baby tomatoes ($3/bag) were my favourite thing that I bought. The tomato stand was manned by two older women who were overwhelmed by the demand for their produce. The market opens at 9am, and by 10am there were very few tomatoes to be had. I was very lucky. The orange tomatoes were amazingly sweet. I had never tasted anything quite like them. The whole bag was gone within a few hours of purchase.

That evening, I prepared my go-to lazy hot meal:

"Whatever I Have Around Miso Soup"
Whatever I Have Around Miso Soup
Start by chopping whatever vegetables are hanging around in your fridge.
Put 1-2 tsp miso in a big bowl.
Add a splash of Bragg's liquid aminos (or tamari/soy sauce), sea salt, garlic powder, ginger powder, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne.
Pour a bit of boiling water over the flavour medley, mixing so the miso dissolves.
Add your more robust veggies (i.e. things that would need a longer cooking time), then pour boiling water over the whole thing.
Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Add your more delicate veggies plus or minus herbs of your choice.

The soup in the photo was made with kale, zucchini (both "robust"), and tomato ("delicate"). It was really tasty.

Friday, 10 August 2012

One Song per Day

During my quest to become my best self in this new, single season of my life, I have been reading a lot of inspirational stories and listening to podcasts of people who have overcome adversity. Today, I would like to introduce you to one of these role models.

Her name is Kris Carr. After being diagnosed with a stage 4 incurable cancer at the age of 31, she created a documentary about her quest to reclaim her health. Ten years later, she is a best-selling author and 'wellness warrior.' You may have seen her on shows such as Dr. Oz and Oprah. If you would like to hear her share her story, click on the YouTube video below:

 One of Kris Carr's recommendations as part of a 'therapy' program is to dance to one song every day. This seemed like a great idea. So, I tried it. That's right, by myself in my apartment, I play one song and dance my heart out daily. It's not pretty, but it is therapeutic. Today's choice: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness. I had a friend in college who was a fabulous guitarist and vocalist who would entertain our little posse with his rendition of this song during weekend parties. Happy memories.

Conclusion: Play it. Dance it. Stop thinking that being happy is only for other people.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Yogic Fortune Cookie

The handout from my raw food uncooking workshop included a coupon for a free class at a local yoga studio. I was finally able to take advantage of the offer this afternoon.

When I walked into the class, the teacher was walking around with a deck of letter envelope-sized cards fanned out. They were royal blue with a white star on the back. The teacher knelt by each student on their mat, asked them their name and then warmly introduced herself before offering a 'yoga card.' I've been to a lot of yoga studios over the years, and this is not a custom I had encountered previously. However, I gathered this was pretty normal for the other students based on their reactions. It was a kind of yogic fortune cookie, minus the cookie.

I pulled out a card from the middle of the pack, not really expecting much from the exercise (I admit I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to these things). Here is what it said:

Resistance is futile. You cannot control the world around you. Trust in the Universe that everything will work out for the best in the end. God is with you, and He will give you the strength and the tools you need to overcome the challenges in your life. Surrender to inner peace.

I reread it three times.

It was a very appropriate message for me at this time in my life.

Life can be funny like that -- the people you run into, the reading material you stumble across, the song on the radio. Sometimes the stars align to gently remind you that you're on the right track and things are going to be ok.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Single Girl Snippet: How to Save $9.35

After years and years of pining, I finally bought an Excalibur dehydrator (Aside - after shopping around, I found the best price to be at, and you can click here for a $10 off coupon).

Unfortunately, I wasn't home when Canada Post came to my door. The Post Office is a 2 km walk from home. When I showed the Canada Post employee (C) my parcel redemption form, we had the following conversation:

C: Are you alone?
M: Yes.
C: Did you bring a car?
M: No.
C: You'll have to come back with a car.
M: I don't actually own a car, so that will be problematic.
C: Take a cab.
M: Why?
C: The box is too heavy for you.
Now, I am a wee bit stubborn -- being told something is too hard for me is like daring me to do it.
M: How heavy is the box?
C: Too heavy. 25.
M: Pounds or kilograms?
C: Well, there's a sticker. The sticker says 50 lbs. You won't be able to lift it.

M: Fine. I'll take a cab.
C: Go get yourself a carriage to bring it to the front of the store.

I reached over and grabbed the box. My arms barely reached around it. It felt very light. I was in a bit of a snit by this point. I carried the box out the front door. A surprised looking clerk wished me a nice day. I kept walking. And so the adventure began:
-A middle aged guy just outside the door looked at me and said a loud "Phhhssssht!" while shaking his head.
-A few hundred metres later, another guy flexed his biceps at me and exclaimed "Whoa, muscles!"
-People stared. Blatantly.
-One lady made a face at me that looked like Edvard Munch's The Screamer:

I eventually caught a glimpse of my own reflection and realized how ridiculous I looked. The box is big enough that I am fairly sure I could fit inside it and close the top. It wasn't long before the box stopped feeling light and instead felt very heavy and awkward. I was passing through a big park, and I needed to stop at virtually every bench or bike stand to readjust my grip on the box. I tried to do this in as natural-looking a manner as possible. At one point, I thought my biceps were going to explode. So, I ever so casually sat down on a bench and perched an arm over my ginormous box. Oddly enough, no one else in the park was taking their dehydrator out for a walk today.

Finally, mercifully, I made it back to my apartment building. I live on the 3rd story of a walk-up. Lifting the box up the three flights of spiral metal stairs was grueling. However, I managed to get the box into the apartment.

I was exhausted. And starved. Preparing dinner was a challenge because I had no arm strength left. My fork felt like it weighed 100 lbs. Even the banana I ate for dessert was a challenge. (I'm thinking of launching a new diet -- first you exercise your arms to exhaustion, then you try to feed yourself a meal. It would totally work.) Anyhow, the crazy part about this whole silly adventure is that, as mentioned, the postal outlet is literally 2 km from here. According to the city's website, cab fare would have been $9.35. All this over less than ten bucks.  I need to learn to keep things simple.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Single Girl Snippet: Marital Status

Recently, I needed to fill out some paperwork related to my new job. On one of the forms was a large box labelled MARITAL STATUS. It wasn't that many years ago that I would have been thrilled to see that box. Heck, there was a time I would have considered drawing one in myself. I would have proudly printed MARRIED and considered adding a happy face for good measure. Oh yes, this would have been around the same time in my life when every conversation somehow managed to include the words "My husband..."

That time has passed.

I looked at the MARITAL STATUS box and thought Who the heck do you think you are?! How utterly invasive and inappropriate! In what way does my marital status have any impact my career?! A few choice words came into my head that would be inappropriate to include in this blog post. I mean really, who wants to boldly print SEPARATED in that little box? That's right: nobody. SEPARATED is hands-down the least desirable marital status; it even makes DIVORCED look sexy. SEPARATED implies a certain amount of ongoing emotional turmoil in a person's life. SEPARATED is messy, undesirable.

However, I have come up with a happy compromise that will even out the playing field. I propose the form be amended as follows:

1. MARITAL STATUS: __________________________
If you answered 'Separated,' please give yourself a big hug on our behalf and continue to question 3. For all other answers, continue to question 2.

2. Please clearly list one good reason why we would think you are emotionally unstable and/or why we should second guess our decision to hire you (you may use additional pages as necessary). _________________________

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Vegan Leather Purse

This may look like an ordinary purse, but it's not. It's a vegan leather purse. Just what is vegan leather? According to the Made in China label, it's polyurethane foam. Also, I suspect, it's a justification to charge twice as much for what most people would just label 'fake leather,'  or, albelit less polite, 'plastic.' I actually found this purse on clearance at a tea shop that sells vegan fake meat products in a trendy neighbourhood. At $15, it seemed like a reasonable price. My mom insisted on buying it for me - she was tickled I demonstrated some interest in accessorizing. My mother is much more fashion-forward than I am, and she worries I do not keep pace with my age cohort (which, to be fair, is reasonable).
I am quite enjoying my little red vegan leather purse. I find it very cheery. There was a little  mishap when the zipper pull broke, but a dab of crazy glue fixed that up nicely. Don't worry, I only used organic crazy glue. You know, the stuff that comes in four little bottles for a dollar... I had to leave my purse in the windowsill for an entire day because the fumes were so strong.

My vegan leather purse violates some of my minimalist principles. I already owned a purse that could serve the same purpose. That purse looks like this:
From Mountain Equipment Co-Op.
The MEC purse is arguably more practical its vegan counterpart, given the extra space and ruggedness (my current MEC purse is actually the replacement for the previous one I wore out). I felt guilty for buying something that, strictly speaking, I didn't need.
However, what my utilitarian purse lacked and the vegan purse had in droves was the smile factor. Every time I look at the ladybug and flower, I smile. The salespeople at stores also frequently smile when they see my ladybug purse as I take out my wallet to pay for things. One of my friends wants to go buy herself her own ladybug purse because of the smile factor.

I am learning to balance minimalist aspirations with the occasional retail indulgence.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Supersize My Yoga

On July 28th 2012, Lole hosted the mother of all yoga classes at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
I was one of the 2000+ yoginis (yoga students) who were there. 
Sadly, you can't see me in the picture -- I was a litle closer to the front.

I forget how I first heard about the event. When I realized I would be in Montreal that weekend anyways, signing up was a no-brainer. I mean really, how cool is a mega-sized outdoor yoga session? Plus, the session was free. I guess Lole figures that the PR resulting from the event will offset the monster costs associated with putting on such a mammoth affair. There was even a helicopter hired to take arial photos, and everyone went home with a super treat bag.

Treat bag contents, which included a 1-yr subscription to Chatelaine

The class was really cool. Everywhere you looked, people were dressed in white and doing yoga. The class intention was to promote peace. The energy was great. The live music was great. I was there early enough to spend a half hour in savasana (ie. corpse pose -- lying on my back with my eyes closed) just soaking it all in.

I almost missed out on this magic though. The night before, the idea of setting an alarm was almost too much to bear. When said alarm went off in the morning, I hit snooze and debated sleeping in. I was going to the event alone, so no one would have missed me. Reflecting on this now, I wonder how many positive opportunities I miss out on because my status quo feels too comfortable.

The experience of going to this event is inspiring me to continue seeking out interesting opportunities, to try new things, and to meet new people.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Blog Comments

A number of people have asked me how do I leave a comment on your blog?
So, here's how:

1. Click on the 'comments' hyperlink for the post you want to comment on.
2. A new screen with a white box on it with "Post a Comment" just above it should appear.
3. Write whatever you'd like in the box.
4. Select an option from the 'comment as' toggle box at the bottom (where it has 'select profile' greyed out). At the bottom of that list, you have either 'anonymous' or 'Name/URL.' If you select 'Name/URL,' you can choose whatever screen name you want, and can leave the URL blank or put in the address for your own blog. (For some reason, if you don't choose one of these options, it won't post the comment.)
5. Once you've typed in your name, the 'comment as' box will then show your name where it used to have 'select profile' written.
6. Click on 'preview'
7. Fill in the 'to make sure you're not a robot spammer' quiz box.
8. Click publish.


Also, on posts where it says "No Comments:", this means that no comments have been made yet. You can click on the hyperlink and leave a comment. In fact, I love it when people leave comments! :-)

Single Girl Snippet: Was He Flirting With Me?

Why do you keep blowing off the guys who hit on you? This is the question my best friend asked me one night after we had been out at a bar together many years ago. We had both just turned 23. It was summer. We were single. I looked at her, startled, What guys?
This is when I was informed of my pronounced flirtation recognition deficit. Sadly, this disability coupled with a fairly pronounced shy streak meant that - unbeknownst to me -  I was giving off cactus vibes to potential suitors. Now that I am single again and contemplating re-entry into the world of dating, I can't help but wonder whether my flirt-o-meter is still broken. Like, for example, the other day when one of my co-workers invited our work group over for drinks this evening.

Excerpt from conversation between my coworker's roommate (R) and me (M) as I am preparing to leave.
M: Oh geez, I have to go. I have dinner plans.
R: A date?
M: No.
The rest of the group chuckles.
M: No, really guys. Not a date. I'm going to be a third wheel, actually. Meeting a friend and her boyfriend for dinner.
There's a murmur of supportive Oh's.
M: It's fine. I'm looking forward to it. Really.
R is on his way back into the condo to get drink refills. I thank my coworker for hosting us, say goodbye to the group, and head indoors with the roommate.
R: So, you live really close, eh?
M: Yeah, less than a five minute walk from here.
R: We'll be seeing a lot of you here, then?
There seemed to be an almost hopeful note to his voice. Big smile. However, I thought this seemed like an odd question. I mean, I work with the guy's roommate; and, I don't even know my coworker all that well. Spending oodles of time at his apartment had not crossed my mind. 
M: Possibly.
More likely, I thought, was that each of us would take a turn hosting post-work drinks.
The roommate smiled, and then reached out and touched my back.
M: Ok, so to get out of here, I go down this hall?
R: Yes. Here, I'll open the door for you.
Note: my hands were empty. My purse was on my shoulder. I could have opened the door.
M: Thanks.
The next part of the conversation was something along the lines of him profusely wishing me great enjoyment in my next work assignment, and me saying that I was really looking forward to the project and wishing him a great summer.

Ok, so voting time:

A) Yes, this was flirting.
Evidence: invasion of my personal space and the roommate's thought that it would be normal - even pleasant -  for me to spend copious amounts of time at his apartment this summer.

B) No, he's just a friendly guy.
Evidence: he spent the evening hanging out with his buddy's work colleagues when he could have been doing something else. He smiled a lot. He made a point to learn everyone in the group's name.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Single Girl Snippet: Intruder?

When I came home from an evening meeting the other day, I found the back door of my apartment in this configuration:

I was positive I had left it like this:

Being a single girl in a very urban milieu, I consistently check that the doors are locked before I leave the apartment or go to bed at night.

Now, the first thing that popped into my head was:
Oh God, if there's an intruden in this apartment, that would be SO annoying. I have stuff to get done and I'm tired.

A more appropriate response would probably have been to knock on my neighbour's door, explain the situation, and just have them leave their door open while I checked the apartment. I did, however, check all the hiding places in the apartment. Mostly because I figured that if this potential intruder was going to disrupt my evening, I'd rather it be sooner than later. My apartment is not huge, but there are five large closets, any of which could easily hide one or more adult-sized individuals. As expected, I found nothing out of the ordinary. Even my laptop, which was lying in plain sight in the livingroom, looked untouched. I still had this unsettling feeling of someone's been here. But, I figured maybe I was just being a spaz. Maybe I did forget the door just this once and the wind was so strong it blew open the bolt that keeps it shut and turned the key? Suuuure... Anyhow, I wasn't going to let it bother me more than that. I was reassured that I was the only person in my apartment, and locked all the doors.

While sitting in my livingroom later that night, I heard a bing. The kind of bing that might be caused by a doorbell. My doorbell had never worked since I moved in. In fact, I had been waiting to hear back from the maintenance guy as to when it would be fixed for weeks. But, I hadn't heard this particular bing before. I poked my head out the door just in case, and noticed my friend was standing at the bottom of the stairwell waiting for me to let her in. And that is how I figured out that the mystery intruder was the maintenance guy who said he would call before dropping by.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Exploration Intro

August will be a month of discovering new things and rediscovering old things.