Gardening update! (3)

My plants are still alive! Let’s just take a moment and recognize how amazing it is that I’ve created and sustained life for 3 whole weeks.

I am also now realizing that some of these seeds are simply not going to produce plants – I have accepted defeat.

My tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and basil are doing quite well. OK, the basil’s doing alright – I’m not great with basil. Most of them have two or more leaves and haven’t died of thirst yet (my usual M.O.).

I’ve also planted a new crop – dinosaur kale, cauliflower romanesco, and spaghetti squash. I wasn’t originally planning on doing squash, but my friend Rita (who is also gardening this year) had some extra seeds, and I never turn down free seeds. Plus squash is good.

I’m becoming a little concerned with how many plants I actually have. I went to the community garden for the first time ever for the “pre-opening worker bee.” We fixed up a lot of the communal areas (ie we weeded them) and got to see how the plots would be resized. While my plot is a great size, I’m honestly not sure if all of the plants will fit in there. I may be giving some away to a good home.

My garden plot was one giant weed. I didn’t even know where to begin. But that’s the beauty of a community garden – everyone was willing to help. A few people volunteered some time to help me dig up the weeds (they were all weeds, so fortunately we weren’t worried about pulling up anything good), and one guy took a shovel to my whole plot and churned the soil. There were kids everywhere, and they loved looking for worms in my plot  – for every worm they dug up, the also dug up a weed, which I considered a fair trade.

There may also be a berry bush in my plot. The other (more experienced) gardeners think it’s a berry bush, but they’re not quite sure. There’s an equally good chance it’s a giant weed. Either way, it’ll probably do quite well this year as we took away all of the surrounding weeds.

Every time it rains now, I’m happy for my soil.

Week 26: Dancing on a Pole

This was, hands down, one of the best challenges of my year. So. Much. Fun.

I had planned on doing this challenge with a bunch of ladies from work, but planning an outing for six busy women proved a bigger challenge than I was up for. I ended up going with my friend Dominique, who was enthusiastic about the outing from the beginning.

We registered for a beginner pole dancing class at Brass Vixens in Toronto. Heels were optional, but we did not opt. I was a little nervous going into this – anything new and requiring a fair degree of confidence and booty makes me nervous. And it turned out that “beginner” doesn’t mean “first time ever”, so many of the other students had done classes before and seemed like pros to me.

The real pro, however, was the teacher. She had a real name, but I couldn’t remember it after she told us her stage name – Crystal Chandelier. I liked her. She walked in six inch heels better than I walk. Period. And she had fishnet stockings. And a lot of upper body strength. I really liked her.

Dominique and I picked poles in the back of the room, for obvious reasons. We wiped the poles down (DIY) and started the warm up. I immediately felt like I was all elbows and knees – my body just wouldn’t move the same way as Crystal’s. Her butt and hips seemed to move independently from the rest of her body. How does she do that? But it was a very positive environment. Everyone was trying something new and trying to be ultra sexy and confident, so it didn’t feel weird at all. It’s just like improv – it only looks awkward if you feel awkward about it.

We learned moves such as the body roll, the crawl (so much harder than what babies do), how to get up from the ground without falling over, two types of twirls around the pole, and how to pull yourself up the pole (pre-requisite for moves like sitting on the pole). It wasn’t the hardest I’ve worked in a class, but it was challenging.

I also understood why we had cleaned the poles at the beginning of class – my hands are really sweaty! We did one move where we would hold ourselves up on the pole (just hands, no feet on the floor), and I kept sliding down. Much like a sexy fireman.

The moves themselves were lots of fun, but what I enjoyed most was the atmosphere. It was a very sexy-positive vibe, and we were encouraged to try moving our bodies in ways we don’t usually (or I don’t usually, at least). Dominique and I spent most of the class giggling and attempting to emulate Miss Chandelier.

I am seriously considering a career change.

 

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Week 23: Stand Up

This was a big one that I’ve been working on for a while. At the beginning of the year I started taking stand up comedy classes, which includes an end of term stand up show.

Stand up has been on my list of things to do for a long time, but I felt I needed the guidance and push of a class (or at the very least, a deadline) to get started. I had heard of Comedy Girl classes (a stand up class for women only) and decided to sign up. I ended up doing a co-ed class, purely because of my schedule, which was fine by me.

As it turns out, the more work you put into this class, the more you get out of it. Strange, that seems so similar to so many things in life. And yet, of course, I was so good at procrastinating that I put in the absolute minimum amount of work required from me. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but I can’t find it right now because I’m quite busy – Facebook isn’t going to stalk itself.

Even though I feel like I could have worked harder throughout the seven weeks of class, I think my show went fairly well. I had a solid 3:30 minutes of material, and got quite a few laughs.

During the class, Dawn Whitwell, the amazing and talented teacher, told us that it’s always good to have a bit of nerves before a show, so that you aren’t too relaxed and care-free on stage (you have to work for it). The problem was, I was somehow way too relaxed leading up to the show. I had rehearsed my material all day, and had confidently memorized everything. But nerves eluded me.

This fact alone should have made me anxious, but it didn’t. During rehearsal, I was so relaxed that I messed up most of my material, couldn’t remember the order of my jokes, and overall did exceptionally poorly. Because of this (I’m pretty sure) I was put third in the line up (while stronger performers were put later in the show). While I was a little disappointed by this, it acted as incentive for me to work harder and prove that I could be funny.

A few days before my stand up debut, I had an interview for a tour guide position. The person interviewing me had done stand up before, and gave me some good advice. He said to tell the audience the material like I was delivering a tour. I’ve done many tours, so that wouldn’t be too difficult at all.

Listening to the first couple of acts in the show (everyone in the show was from the class), I realized that speed is pretty gosh darn important for stand up. Go too slow, and the audience gets ahead of you or gets bored. Go too fast and no one can understand what you’re saying. I think that part of my problem in rehearsal (besides being unable to remember what came next), was that I was speaking far too slowly.

About five minutes before I was due to be on stage, I got nervous. Success! If nothing else, those nerves boosted my confidence. I went up on stage and delivered my material like a tour to a sea of black (I couldn’t see anyone because of the stage lights), and got some nice laughs. It also helped that I had written down a show order on a post-it and brought that on stage with me.

I would like to continue with this but I know myself, and I know I won’t have motivation without a deadline. Fortunately there’s a level 2 class, which I will be signing up for. And I plan to actually work hard in this one.

Week 20: Let There Be Wine!

I went wine making! Because Groupon is great.

My original plan was to actually brew my own wine – but that involved a lot of planning, a lot of work, and a whole bunch of supplies (like giant carboys and a significant amount of space dedicated to wine making). I was down for the idea of getting cheap wine, but I was not quite willing to put in a significant amount of work or money.

For years my dad has made his own wine from a wine making kit (it pretty much supplies all of the ingredients, so that you don’t have to pick and wash and crush all of your own grapes). He has experimented with altering the flavour, the fullness, the whatever-else you can change about wine, and has found one that he loves. Because of this, I have a decent idea of how much time and effort goes into at-home wine making.

Liz (the same one who came fencing with me) and I made appointments at The Wine Butler and trekked all the way up to Yorkdale to drop some yeast into a larger container. For real, that was it. I knew the appointment would be short and sweet, but this was a bit ridiculous. It took us an hour to get up there (stupid buses and their transfer times), and we were only inside for about 5 minutes. The actual act of dropping the yeast was roughly nine seconds. It’s surprisingly little yeast.

It’s a weird workaround, but if they witness me “dropping the yeast” into the soon-to-be wine, I don’t get charged a bunch of government taxes. Because of that, I’m getting 14 bottles of wine for $40. Of course, I have to either supply or buy my own bottles (for $1 each), but still, that’s a pretty good price.

In a few weeks I will be going back to bottle and label my wine. As far as I can tell it’s a pretty idiot proof system. The only complicated part is that for my wine to mature fully, I have to wait at least 8 weeks after bottling it before drinking it. That’s a huge time commitment for someone who’s not into waiting for alcohol.

I would like to eventually make my own wine from scratch (as thrilling as dropping the yeast in was), but maybe when I have some more space. I can’t imagine having a huge carboy in the corner of the condo for several months, when we have enough trouble making room for a new recycling bin. Of course, now I’ll have to store 14 bottles of wine for two months, in a place where we won’t be tempted to open the under-developed, probably gross tasting wine before it’s ready. Win some, lose some.

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Week 11: Fitbit!

I used to work in a gym, so I used to get paid to work out. Now it’s all up to me, and boy am I lazy.

OK, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I’m not as motivated to actually go to a gym, or push myself. One of my favourite things about teaching classes (and attending them) is that I get pushed further than I would ever push myself when I work out alone. Two pushups? Yeah, that’s probably good for the day. Who has cake?

So when my boyfriend bought himself a shiny new Fitbit (it’s actually pretty cool, it keeps track of your heart rate and sleeping patterns), his old one was up for grabs. And free – let’s be honest, I was mostly interested in the fact that it was free.

His old Fitbit (my new Fitbit) is pretty basic: it keeps track of the steps I take and the calories I burn. I’ve never been a big believer in a machine’s predictions of calories burned, but since I’m looking at it every day, it’s a nice gauge of how I did compared to yesterday.

And now, I get to compete. I’m a pretty competitive person, so when I’m offered a challenge (do over 10,000 steps, have over 60 minutes of activity, exercise 5 days per week), I have to complete that challenge. Even if I set the challenge for myself. I find myself “forgetting” things in one room so I’ll have to walk to them later to get my step count up.

The Fitbit is providing accountability for me. I’ve made my steps visible to my friends (at least I think I have, I’m still figuring out the app), so if I don’t achieve a goal, everyone will know! And I will not accept public failure.

For example, my boyfriend challenged me to a “daily showdown” challenge today (please insert your own duh-duh-duuuuuhhh music here, because that will help this sound way cooler). Unfortunately for me, he walks about 20,000 steps on a work day, and I work from home. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of on-the-spot jogging today. But I also went for a run and did some yoga, because that was also a part of my goals.

The Fitbit app also offers a calorie food counter, which I would never have used before. When I was working in the gym, I could basically eat whatever I wanted, and then just volunteer to teach a bunch of classes and work it all off. Now, I could easily spend the day in front of the computer eating everything in the fridge, and lose my incredible two-pack (which is actually better than a six-pack, for reasons I won’t get into now). So I’ve started keeping track of calories in and calories out. This is actually a good idea for me because some weeks when I do end up teaching several classes, I sometimes don’t adjust my food intake accordingly and end up not eating enough. You think I’d have figured this out by now.

Although this is a weekly challenge, I think it’s going to be more long term. At least to make sure I get 10,000 steps, and as a tool to motivate me to workout. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go walk back and forth in the hallway because I’m losing by 8,000 steps.

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Get stepping!

 

Finding My Voice… Again

I first started finding my voice in university. I went far away from my home in Oakville, Ontario, to the beautiful little Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec. It was tough being away from my family and high school friends, but it was also one of the best decisions of my life.

During my first year at university, Bishop’s full-time students numbered about 1800, which was only a little larger than my high school. The small size, in addition to the rampant partying at the school, allowed me to make some life long friends, and a huge amount of acquaintances. I would walk 15 minutes to campus in second year, and be able to say hi or wave to about half of the people I saw.

It was here that I realized that my voice was valuable. In class, at parties, and in extra-curricular activities, I started speaking up and voicing my opinions. I had done this a little in high school, but I didn’t think anyone was listening to me. Now, at university, I was not just saying words, but making my statements heard.

Between my third and fourth year at school, I decided to take some time off and do some travelling. I travelled for 10 months throughout Europe and Australia, and most of my travel was done solo. I had to speak to complete strangers at a new hostel every few days, in addition to meeting locals (many of whom did not speak English) on a daily basis. I gained a sense of independence and self-confidence that had eluded me before: if I could navigate my way around a foreign city, I could do anything.

After completing my university degree, I found a couple of jobs and moved to Toronto. I was working as an executive assistant at a retail design firm, and also giving tours on the big red sightseeing buses. As the youngest person in the retail design firm (by several years), I focused on being clear and well-spoken, and through a lot of trial and error (as well as some very supportive bosses), I learned to state my thoughts confidently.

A few months into these employments, I also started doing improv comedy. Once I got over my stage fright (six months and countless silent performances later), I felt pretty confident going up on stage and being ridiculous in front of a crowd. I was finding my voice, and learning to use it.

I left those jobs to cycle my way across Canada, and when I returned I started working at a fitness facility, which included a pool and gym. I was working as a lifeguard in the pool, and a sort-of consultant in the gym – basically, I was enforcing rules, while also getting to know members.

This meant that a lot of people didn’t like what I had to say. A lot of people were either defensive and rude to me, or angry and aggressive. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great people there, but on bad days they were often overshadowed by a horrible member’s behaviour. I had a guy yell at me for several minutes because I asked him to put his bag in a locker. I got called more names than I care to recount.

Even when I had pleasant conversations with members, I was still guarding my tongue. I stopped stating my opinions because no one wanted to hear them; people were happier talking at me than to me.

There were also a lot of sexist undertones to the conversations I started having. When I was carrying a 45 lbs. weight up a flight of stairs, someone told me it was good practice for motherhood. While I was cleaning a machine, a guy told me I would make a great housewife. I had to explain to a member why it wasn’t ok for him to say to his male buddies that he loved Lululemon while I was walking away from him.

I also started watching the way I spoke to members: I found that asking politely and succinctly worked better when enforcing rules, because it meant I wasn’t embarrassing anyone. Apparently men don’t like having behaviour corrected by a female, especially in a gym setting.

I started realizing that new people I was meeting (outside of the gym and pool environments) weren’t getting to know the real me, because I was getting lost under layers of fear, self-doubt, and apathy. My stage fright came back, and I stopped pushing myself to try new things. I was at a complete stand still and started getting frustrated with myself for my lack of drive and passion. I was losing the things I loved about myself.

And then I quit my job.

I quit because this wasn’t the career path I wanted to be on, and also because I had identified the source of my stalemate. My job was making me doubt myself and my abilities, and stopped me from being myself, finding a vocation I was passionate about, and pursuing hobbies that I loved.

I’m two and a half weeks out of work, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I’ve been doing my challenges, writing, reading, doing good improv again, podcasting (more to come), cycling, leading tours, making friends with strangers, reaching out to old friends, and applying to amazing jobs. I feel more confident; I’m starting to recognize again that my opinions are valid, and that by not speaking up and out I am denying people the privilege of getting to know me and hear my voice. Because I’m worth knowing.

Girl Yelling Close Up

Week 3: Tattoo me!

Oh man, it’s been a painful couple of days. Because my week 2 challenge (waxing) happened on a Saturday, and my week 3 challenge (a tattoo) happened on a Monday, my body sort of hates me right now.

Long ago, when I first thought about getting a tattoo, I promised myself that I would have to absolutely love something for one whole year before getting it permanently inked into my skin. Over a year ago, I saw a friend’s tattoo of the world map on the tops of her feet and decided I had to have it. (Side note: I just realized this was also Natalie, the girl from the aerial class. I promise I’m not obsessed with her and copying her every move.) Thirteen months later, here we are.

I went into BluGod in downtown Toronto last week for a consult, and met with John Russo, my tattoo artist. He had been recommended to me by a heavily tattooed friend from work, who insisted that Johnny was the best person for what I wanted. I think Johnny had just woken up (my appointment was very early for artsy folk, at 11am), and it was a brief and to-the-point consult. I was pretty sure I was ready.

I went down again today and signed yet another waiver! Although, the girl there said that if a tattoo parlour doesn’t make me sign a waiver, I should probably walk away. Good point.

John and I discussed the placement of the tattoo, what thickness of needle he would be using (to balance detail with staying power), and how big the image should be. After my mis-communication with my waxer, I was not afraid to be vocal with my tattoo artist. He made a stencil of the image and placed it on my feet. I was getting very excited.

“Do you have any other tattoos?”

“No, this is my first”

“And you started with your feet? Why?”

Oh shit. Was this a bad idea? I told John about quitting my job and my challenges challenge and how I had gone for a bikini wax a few days ago, so this couldn’t possibly be as bad as that. John just laughed a little. But he also told me how he used to be in construction and quit that a few years ago to pursue tattooing.

Here’s how I chose to look at it: women get brazilian waxes every few weeks, but I only have to sit through a tattoo once. So really, who’s smarter? Except I had both in a matter of 3 days, so maybe this isn’t the best way of looking at things.

The needle started and I took a deep breath, and it wasn’t that bad. Just like the waxing, there were parts that weren’t so bad, and there were parts that were quite bad. I quite enjoyed the northern countries, but did not care so much for the southern hemisphere. John was nice to talk with; I imagine many tattoo artists double as therapists.

One of the other employees is a very nice person named Kat. She has more piercings and tattoos than I can count (and I can count pretty high). She walked by the room I was in during a particularly painful country, and just stood there and laughed at the expression on my face. I’m glad I amused her.

After less than 30 minutes under the needle, I was done. I got the instructions for touch ups and after care, got a big black bandaid, and was on my merry way. Because of the location of my tattoo (on the top of my feet), I wore flats. This was a mistake. I hadn’t worn these shoes in a while and they ripped up the backs of my feet, making the commute home much more painful than piercing my skin repeatedly with an inky needle.

I am very happy with the results of my tattoo, and I can completely understand why people get addicted to them. I think I get a discount if I go back for a facial piercing, which would be really cool. Just kidding, mom.

My cool new foot tattoo! (Red lines are just pen to mark the middle of my feet)

My cool new foot tattoo!
(Red lines are just pen to mark the middle of my feet)