Sunday, 29 December 2013

The inbetween

I just love the week between Christmas and New Years. Sometimes I think I love it more than the build-up to Christmas itself. It feels so much more laid back than the rest of the month, and even though I always expect to feel sad because Christmas is over, I almost feel more festive and relaxed than I do before. It may be because this December has been so hectic with the moving and starting a new job and all the travelling I've been doing for work, but I've been cherishing these last few days so much. 

Some of my favourite activities for this "in-between" week include:

1. Cuddling in front of the tree with a good book


Even when I was living at home, it was always hard justifying reading for fun in December. If I didn't have exams to study for or papers to write, I had Christmas shopping to do or jobs to apply for. But the week after Christmas = no obligations. Absolutely perfect for sitting down with any books I received for Christmas or the magazines I've neglected in the pre-Christmas rush. I have such fond memories of the books I've read around Christmas time. I remember reading Harry Potter for the first time when I was eleven, and two years ago I devoured the entire Hunger Games series. This year I'm reading "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton, but I'm looking for recommendations!

2. Watching a long(er) movie

My favourite is Gone With The Wind. I watched it for the first time a few years ago at Christmas when I was sooo sick I couldn't do anything else. I almost never have the stamina to sit through it during the rest of the year, when it feels like I should be doing more "important" things, but this time of year is perfect for it. Unfortunately for my family, it means that I will now be responding to everything they say with "Fiddle-dee-dee" and "Frankly, my dear father, I don't give a damn."

3. Long walks with my brother

Our family had a tradition of driving around looking at Christmas lights that has been neglected the past few years because of our schedules. My little brother and I have gotten in the habit of taking walks after the rest of the family has gone to bed, and talking about girl problems (him) and work problems (me). This year, I am especially appreciative of the fact that I can walk around outside in Ottawa without risking frostbite, which has not been the case in Thunder Bay.

4. Casual plans with friends

Whenever I come home for a weekend, I always get completely exhausted trying to catch up with every single Ottawa friend. It's just too much to cram into two days. This time, even though I am home for two weeks, I avoided making concrete plans, which means I've had the freedom to have 2-hour laid-back brunches with quality conversations with some of my friends, which I honestly think I prefer over rushed half-hour coffee dates.

What are some of your favourite things to do during the "in-between" week?

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Post Holiday Pintrest-ing

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday! I made it home despite the ice storm and have spent the last few days overdosing on family time, chocolate, and Pinterest.

My life has been really crazy lately, with moving and starting a new job, so I haven't to just gorge myself on the internet. I just moved into my new apartment the week before coming home, and I haven't set up internet yet, which means I've been DYING to get on Pinterest to start planning how I want to decorate my new place.

Here are some things that I've been coveting over the last few years (lets face it...living at home and a million rentals doesn't give you many options!):

A classy gold bar cart

I know, these are all like a million dollars, and I have no hope in hell of finding one at a reasonable price, especially in Thunder Bay. But a girl can dream, right? Also, as this is my first time not living with parents or judgemental roommates, storing alcohol in plain sight has now become a wonderful freedom I plan to enjoy. 

A National Parks Explorers Map

My love of National Parks has been well established. I've wanted one of these for forever, but I wanted it to be nice and framed, and now I can FINALLY do it!

Vintage Marquee Light Arrow

This isn't within my budget yet, but as my apartment comes with a serious lack of overhead lighting, I'd love to have some unique lamps and lights on the walls!

 Nautical Shower Curtain:

I want this. I want it so bad. It's a little pricy for a shower curtain, but I have decided that my bathroom is going to be totally nautical. Suddenly having multiple rooms I can personalize has filled me with so much excitement! 

If anyone can point me to some good resources for pulling multiple styles together, please let me know. As excited as I am, decorating a whole apartment is a bit overwhelming! (and expensive)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

First Day

Isn't it funny how First Days always stand out so vividly in our heads? I can't remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I can recall EXACTLY what I wore on the first day of fifth grade at my new school (Black bellbottoms, platform keds, and a Titanic t-shirt).

My first day in England was spent bawling my eyes out in the Manchester Airport Crowne Plaza. My first day at Foreign Affairs was spent flinching every time someone walked by my cubicle, terrified that someone would realize what a fraud I was and tell me to go home. Obviously, I have great First Day memories, too. The first day meeting my flatmates at Lancaster, drinking tea in someone's kitchen and thinking it was all so perfectly British. The first day of my emergency management program, listening to the teachers tell us about the industry and knowing I was in the right place (though what came after was a lot more challenging!)

Yesterday was my first official day of my new job, and I have to say--it was great! One of the benefits of my new job is that it's quite mobile, so I started off the day by working from bed (the "horizontal office", as my coworker calls it) and making a million phone calls, trying to get organized for my move this weekend.

(I need to get a block heater installed in my car--one of the not-so-fun realizations of my new location is that it's so cold my engine will freeze without one!)

I also got to take my first "real" business trip. I'm in Huron County today taking a course for my new position, so I drove down yesterday afternoon. This is a picture of my hotel room--I have a feeling this is going to be quite a common scene as my job involves a lot of travel!


Honestly--I'm so glad I decided to take this job. I know that the next few months are going to be really hard, both work-wise and life-wise. Even this week, just trying to sort out the move and my first steps, I've come close a few times to a complete meltdown. But even though I'm a little daunted by the task ahead of me,  I am completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that I've had. It's reminded me that as hard as distance can be, it is survivable. It's never been the end of my relationships before, and it's certainly not going to be this time!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

New Adventures!

As you may have been able to tell if you follow me on Instagram, I decided to take the job in Thunder Bay. At first, it was with a sort of ambivalence. I knew I couldn't turn such a great opportunity down, but that didn't mean I was thrilled about it. 

As soon as I took the job, I ran out and bought new boots. Hopefully they will be warm enough! 
Last weekend, I flew up to Thunder Bay to look for apartments, and since then, my excitement has been growing. 

Don't get me wrong--it's was REALLY cold. And apartment hunting was exceptionally difficult, because Thunder Bay has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the entire country. 

But literally everyone I talked to loved living there. And they were all SUPER friendly. And Thunder Bay has a special kind of charm, one that I think comes from being so far north and so isolated from other major cities. 

And once my new manager made the announcement that I had the job, I got dozens of emails and congratulations from people, some of whom I had never even met. It was really overwhelming but so nice. I had people telling me how wonderful the city was, how fantastically lucky I was to being doing the job, and how they knew so-and-so who could help me out. 

(Then someone made the mistake of telling me I was the youngest person in the position by 17 years. And let me tell you, if I thought before that modesty was one of my strong suits, that delusion was quickly shattered.)

So I've been getting really excited to get started. And even though packing and apartment searching and trying to get everything organized has been soooo stressful, it's a good kind of stress. Like anticipatory stress. 

This is going to be the view from my apartment. For real. 

I'm really hoping that this is the start of an awesome new adventure! 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Big, scary decisions

I have a big decision to make this weekend.

I've been offered a job. A good job. One might even say that it is my dream job, or it was, or it probably will be again, one day.

The problem is that this job is in Thunder Bay. Never heard of it? Trust me, a year ago, I probably couldn't have located it on a map. And now I'm considering moving there. By myself. In like, two weeks.

Here are some of the factors I'm considering:

  • This is an amazing opportunity, especially for someone my age. This is not a position I ever dreamed I'd have by 25. 
  • It's also an incredibly intimidating opportunity. I'd have to confront every professional fear I have. (Public speaking. Flying in tiny airplanes. Dealing with people who don't think I'm capable because of my age. Dealing with people who don't think I'm capable because I'm a woman. Having to know stuff for sure and communicate it with confidence.)
  • I'd also have to confront a bunch of general fears (Cold. Snow. Lots more cold and lots more snow and having to start all over again in a new place with no friends and no family)
  • Did I mention the cold?
  • It's a full time job. With benefits, and a pension. If I were to stay in Toronto, it would be with the knowledge that come January, I'd be going back to part-time contract work with no guarantee that another opportunity will come along. (That's only partly true. I'm pretty smart. I'll probably find another job...eventually.)
  • It would be an ADVENTURE. This is something that has been sorely lacking in my life lately. I would get to see a whole different part of the country, experience the north, figure out what the deal with Finnish pancakes is, and be paid to drive around and visit communities that I would never see otherwise. 
  • It would a CHALLENGE. A chance to get better at the things that scare me. Maybe it will turn out I love public speaking and flying in tiny airplanes!
  • It's far. Really far. For some reason, this wouldn't be as much of a consideration if the job were 18 hours south (anyone want to pay me to move to South Carolina?), but the fact that it is an 18 hour drive north, away from my family, is probably the biggest factor holding me back. 
  • It's gonna be friggin cold, y'all. 
So that's the debate. Do I take a job I feel woefully unprepared for, in a frigid city 18 hours away from my friends and family, or let this opportunity slide and keep doing the job I've been doing with the hope that something similarly great will come along? 

How is it that either decision feels crazy in it's own way? 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Things I Love (cooler weather edition)

Our awesome extended summer has finally ended. :(  It was frosty when I got in my car this morning! As sad as I am that winter is coming, here are some things that are keeping me happy:

1. My new desk:

When I took a break from blogging a few months ago, it was mostly because of work (and was really only supposed to last a month or two). After a few months, it really became about not having a good workspace. When the girl I was subletting from moved back in, she also reclaimed her furniture, including her desk. Hypothetically, all I should need in order to blog is a computer, which I have at home and work. But it was a challenge working on creative projects at work, especially on night shifts, and when I work from my bed (which I used to not mind at all) I had a bad habit of falling asleep.

Finally, finally, my roommate sold the futon that was taking up so much space in my room, and I found a desk! It took way too much internet browsing and internal debates, but I finally purchased the small portion of this desk from JYSK. It's big enough that I can spread out, but small enough that I can put it in multiple spots in my room. The only (slightly) annoying thing is that the base is larger than the glass, so it doesn't fit right up against the wall. It's just a small annoyance though, and I am way too happy to have a functional workspace again to care!


2. Gone Girl

Yes, everyone's read it already. Yes, I avoided it for exactly that reason. I was wrong. I couldn't put it down. And when I did, it was with a resounding "WTF." (It was the best kind of "WTF", though)

3. Under Armour Leggings

I may have written about these before, but hello best thing that ever happened to me. With the weather getting cooler (even with the warm fall we've had so far), these babies have been my go to, whether I'm wearing a dress or just a long sweater. So comfy and warm, and I don't have to worry about getting a run in them (I'm looking at you, stupid Walmart tights!)

4. Maps

I've seen a lot of maps-based crafts on Pinterest lately, and badly wanted to make some. I was considering doing some contraband printing at work to obtain some maps (note: I never ever ever sometimes do this), and then I found a North American road atlas at the dollar store for $3. Problem solved. Hipster-decor, here I come! 


5. Tim Horton's Coffee

How original, a Canadian loving Timmies coffee, right? Okay, but I've honestly never been a fan, usually preferring Starbuck's or nothing at all (I still think most of the food is gross and pointless). But I've been trying to save money for a trip to Japan, and so I'm having a really hard time justifying $6 a day lattes (sometimes $12 if it's #oneofthosedays). 
I have discovered, however, that Tim Horton's has flavour shots, which makes a medium double-double with a shot of vanilla taste almost as good as a vanilla latte (almost. Let's not get crazy). And at about $2, plus the fact that I can hit it up before my commute at 5:30, it's been worth the temporary switch. 

6. Investopedia

I have started venturing, very, very slightly, into the world of investing. When I sat down with my financial advisor, I understood maybe two of every three words he said. And then I started reading Michael Lewis's The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine and realized that I lack even a very basic understanding of investments, the stock market, and maybe the whole economy?

Fortunately, this site explains everything in a really simple, non-condescending way. I started with Investing 101 and then branched out onto the topics I found interesting. I'm not going to be brokering my own trades anytime soon, but I feel more secure knowing what's actually happening with my money. 

The weather is getting colder, and it's harder to remain in a perpetually good mood. What are you loving lately? I'd love suggestions for books or things that keep you warm!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Autumn Playlist

I don't know what it is about autumn, but it makes me crave music that is cozy and sunny and kind of warm. I don't know how I classify music as "cozy", but I know it when I hear it! 

Gatineau Park, QC - I'll be heading here next weekend! 
I associate music so strongly with seasons, that there are some songs that just feel wrong to listen to at any other time of the year.  Feist's "The Reminder"album falls into this category, bringing back memories of my 19th birthday and trips to Gatineau Park. Sam Cooke will always remind me of my 4th year of university, especially the reverse culture shock I had coming back from England. 

This fall, I seem to be craving a sort of folk-bluegrass-country combination of songs. I suspect two factors are responsible:

1. O Brother, Where Art Thou? was on AMC the other night, and if there is any other movie that would turn a non-bluegrass fan into one, I don't know of it. 

2. My life changing trip to Yosemite National Park a few weeks ago (if you follow my instagram, or know me in real life, you're probably sick to death of hearing about Yosemite, but I can't help it. It was incredible). The trip left me yearning for more connections to nature and history, hence, I think, the attraction to folk music.

ANYWAY. After much trial and error, I finally figured out how to publish a mix on 8tracks (no Spotify in Canada, sadly), with some songs that remind me of autumn and other songs I've been listening to lately.



Autumn Sun Playlist

Mason Jar - The Bitterroot Band
Sweet Spot - Tiff Merritt
People Turn Around - Delta Spirit
Thunderheads - Dixie Chicks
Someday Never Comes -  Billy Valentine & the Forest Rangers
You & Me - Sara Watkins
I'll Fly Away - Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch
Goodbye California - Jana Kramer
Anyhow - Tyler Lyle
Down to the River to Pray - Alison Krauss and Union Station
Do Re Mi - Woody Guthrie
Heart of Gold - Neil Young
Oh My God - W.B. Givens
Home to You - The Peasall Sisters
Down in the Valley - The Head and the Heart
No Diggity vs. Thrift Shop - Ed Sheeran ft. Passenger

What have you been listening to lately? What songs remind you of autumn? 

P.S. I find/found a lot of great music (and a few of these songs) through the blogs Back Down South and FolkHive. Lots of free downloads with options to buy or pay-what-you-like.  

Monday, 2 September 2013

Making Time

Pretty sure I need this above my bed! (etsy)


It has been WAY too long since I updated. I almost forgot how to start a new post! (I literally have about 30 unfinished"drafted" posts and this is the first to make it through in almost 4 months) . Working so much has been very, very demanding. I love my job, but the hours, not to mention the night shifts, are slowly starting to kill me (just a little bit). 

Life is good. It's just been challenging. 

For the past few weeks, I've been trying to figure out how to make this schedule work for me. Or rather, how to do the things that everyone keeps insisting I have to make time for. I've heard variations on this theme a lot

"You have to MAKE the time."

I've been told I need to make the time to cook healthier food, exercise, get more sleep, apply for jobs, be social, go on dates, network, and spend more time with my family.

Sometimes, I just want to say that if I had the ability to make time, I would quit my job. (Because I would obviously be a wizard and would head straight to Hogwarts). Truthfully, I know that everyone means well, but it can be very difficult to "just get up just a few minutes earlier" when I already wake up at 4AM. 

This isn't one of those posts where I talk about how I've figured out the answer to making more time, or prioritizing. This is more of the "I'm trying to figure it out, and here's what I've tried." :

Sleeping less
Definitely not the answer. The  benefits of sleep are pretty widely known, so I won't get into that. I'm still not sleeping as much as I should, but I haven't cut back in an attempt to get more done, either. 

Coffee:
Coffee is great. Coffee actually significantly improves my mood, which I never expected, but it does. Coffee is not a replacement for sleep though, and it doesn't save me any time. It is delicious and has become an awesome reminder for me to take a minute and just breathe, at work or on my commute or on a day off that I inevitably try to fill with all the things. 

Online Dating: 
In an attempt to be more social/meet new people/make sure I'm getting the most out of my 20s, I signed up for Match.com, thinking that it would be the perfect way to meet people, while saving time. 
Well, it turns out that online dating actually takes a lot of work, and, surprisingly, it requires one to sit in front of a computer. Which, after doing for 12+ hours a day, 4-5 days out of the week, is exactly the last thing I want to do when I get home. 
The GTA is also really big. Like, really big. So the second last thing I want to do on my days off is spend more time in my car, where I've just spent approximately 10 hours of my week getting to/from work. 
Online dating still may prove itself to be AWESOME. A time/sanity saver, it is not. 

Exercise: 
Really, I know I'm supposed to be getting at least 150 minutes a week of exercise, and I don't come even close. Like, I think there are some weeks when I get zero minutes of purposeful exercise. 
I tend to be really ridiculous about making goals, in that if I don't think I can meet the best possible goal, I don't even want to try. So, if I can't hit 150 minutes of exercise a week, I won't set a goal to get, say, 100 minutes of exercise a week. Because in my head, it's not good enough. Even though it's WAY WAY better than zero minutes, right? 
Anyway, I finally told myself that I had to try to get an hour of purposeful exercise a week. Usually this just consists of me walking down the street while I talk to my dad/grandmother/best friend on the phone. It's not going to win me any fitness competitions (and some weeks I don't even hit an hour), but it at least quells a little of the guilt I've been feeling. 

Silver Linings:
There have been a few less-than-ideal changes at work lately. While my job is (relatively) safe, my future opportunities here are a lot more limited now. I'll probably be bumped back down to part-time in the New Year, and I've been really stressing about it. Then I came across this article, and the last line really got to me: 
"I edited a great story for XX once about Dutch women in Holland and how the Dutch government is desperately trying to get women in Holland to work full-time, and unlike other places, they add incentives, they’ll do anything to get women to work full-time, and they don’t want to. And it’s not just women with children – like the answers they give on forms are like, “I want to go to a yoga class,” “I want to go to coffee with a friend.” And we laugh at that, but there are worse things. There are worse things than being a Dutch woman at a yoga class at 3:00 on a Thursday."
And it made me realize -- there are worse things than having time to go to yoga. Or learn french. Or sleep in and drink coffee and go on long walks. When I was working part time at the beginning of the year, I wasn't saving money like I am now. But I was able to pay rent, and go to the occasional movie, and I wasn't hurting, is what I mean. Maybe, going back to part time is exactly what I need to figure out which direction I feel like going next. 
So, silver linings. I need to keep looking for them. 

I would very, very much love to hear how other people prioritize things like sleeping and exercise while balancing school or work or children. Any tips? 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Whew!

Wow! What an insane two weeks! I swear that I am alive, though I'm sure it would be hard to tell by my blog, Twitter, or Facebook.

A few weeks ago, I found out that I was going to be put on a full time contract which means that for at least a few months I'll be working full time hours. This will go a long way towards helping me prepare for the the rest of the year, where hours can be a lot more scarce.

Then flooding season happened, and now I basically live at work. I worked 74 hours last week, and that's continuing into this week, and I am exhausted! But exhilarated, because I love what I'm doing and I'm having a lot of fun.

(I know that sounds horrible--- that I'm having fun while people are experiencing a disaster, but it's a different kind of fun)

(And most of the time that fun involves being nearly constantly near tears due to a combination of stress and exhaustion and still being new at my job and desperately trying not to screw up)

The adrenaline has definitely kept me going, but this week I am taking a tiny, baby step back, and while I'll still be working a lot of hours, I'm trying to make sure I have one 48-hour period in order to recharge. And maybe eat a meal that's not in bed before I pass out and maybe have a conversation with a friend that doesn't take place in my car on the way home from work.

I can't do any job well when I'm so exhausted.

But, in other good news, my apartment search is on hold for the time being. The girl I've been subletting from is moving back in but is taking our smaller bedroom, which means that I am able to stay where I am. This has been a huge load off my shoulders, as I can't imagine trying to take on an apartment search or worse, an apartment move, right now!

This post was really just to say that I'm still here, and I'm going to keep blogging, I just need to take my free hours right now and use them for sleep before anything else!



Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Apartment hunting is the worst

I just want an apartment that looks like this...that's not too much to ask, right?

I haven't been able to blog in the last few days because I have just been the biggest bundle of stress! I've been trying to find an apartment in Toronto, and it is hard. Almost as hard as applying for jobs (a torture I don't wish on anyone). Not only is everything REALLY expensive, it seems impossible to find a place that meets our criteria for safety, cleanliness and parking spots. That's not even mentioning being remotely close to the actual city---the Greater Toronto Area seems to extend as far north as Barrie, or almost 100km north of downtown. 

The other struggle is how many people are involved in the decision. There's my roommate, who has her own requirements in a living space. Then there are the landlords and realtors in charge of the places. Then there is my father, who I need to justify costs to, as he'll be the one subsidizing if (god forbid) I lost my job. All of the people involved make it that much more challenging, because they are all out of my control. Even if I LOVE a place, I still need to wait on at least 3 other people before I can lock it down. It is a perfect recipe for a stressed out Alex! 

Anyway. I think we may have found something, and I'm hopeful. I feel as though my shoulders, which have been hovering around my ears, have had a small weight lifted off of them. I'm crossing my fingers that everything works out. 

I think that because things have been going so well (great job, great sublet, great roommate) I forgot how to deal with any kind of prolonged stress. I found myself having a minor meltdown after the second person yelled at me today (seriously, how do you expect to sell anything by yelling at people??) and I had to force myself to remember a few things I learned about dealing with stress in college:

1. I have to eat. 
This is the #1 contributor to my bad moods and general crankiness. It's so tempting to skip meals in order to "save time", but I always, always pay for it in headaches and a decreased ability to handle things like a rational human being.

2. I have to sleep.
The reasons for this are almost identical to the ones above. 

3. I have to trust that I am capable of handling disappointment.
It's so easy for me to get caught in a spiral of "What if's" and "If only's" and to try to "logic" my way out of a problem. I forget that my brain is smarter than I give it credit for, and can handle disappointment and rejection better than I think. I get worried about being disappointed that I forget that I am a natural optimist. No matter how things turn out, I will make the best of any situation. 

Now that things have (hopefully) calmed down, I still want to keep these things in mind! I'm sure that actually moving will bring about challenges of it's own :)

Have any of you guys had to deal with the ordeal of apartment hunting? How did you deal with it? 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

What Sun Records taught me about surrounding myself with good people


I've been an Elvis fan for a long, long time. I recently watched the 2005 Elvis miniseries and loved it. It brought back memories of my "Intro to Popular Music" class, which was the first time I learned about Sun Records and the role Sam Phillips played in the evolution of rock n' roll music. Phillips was responsible for recording some of the biggest names in music--Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbisson, and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few, and is credited with marrying the rhythm and blues sound of the African-American community with mainstream country/hillbilly music to create some of the first rock 'n roll records. 

Watching the miniseries, it becomes pretty clear that without Sam Phillips, we might never have had Elvis Presley. Music as we know it today could be completely different. I started thinking about it, and doing a little research, and before I knew it, I had a whole diagram drawn up about all of the ways Sun Records influenced music of the 50's and 60's, and how in return, all of his artists influenced each other (yes, it's possible that I have too much time on my hands).*

I also realized that Sun Records is a perfect example of the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. And by good people, I'm not just talking about talent. I'm talking about people who build you up instead of tearing you down, who recognize your talents and know how to bring out the best in you. People who have strengths that are compatible with yours, and weaknesses that don't exacerbate yours. And it's just as important for you to nourish those people in your life as it is for them to support you.


Sam Phillips knew this. He had an inate talent for getting the best out of his artists. He wasn't interested in having technically perfect sound; he was interested in having a song that felt right. He could get that sound out of his artists. His unique production methods included the now famous "slapback" method, which involved using tape delay--running tape through a second recorder head to create an echo effect. (Even after spending loads of money, RCA could never get the same effect on "Heartbreak Hotel"). He paired Elvis up with musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black because he knew they would compliment his sound. He knew how to push his artists, and could bring them to a point where they surprised even themselves with the music they created. That talent undoubtably benefited Phillips financially, but more importantly, it launched some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. 

"I think a great part — if not the major part — of my success was working with my artists, and I have always considered that God gave me one thing if he didn't give me anything else, and that was a good ear. I would do anything in the studio to alleviate as much tension as I could, yet I wanted them to really have that feel, that spark, like they're ready to come out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby, while at the same time not injuring themselves in the process. All of these things are so important, and I owe all of my success to that psychological bent. I knew that I had to do my very dead level best to go in the right direction, and that's why it took so many months before we finally came up with the very thing that we should have, which was 'That's All Right (Mama)' and 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky'." - Sam Phillips


When Phillips first brought Elvis, Moore, and Black into the studio, Elvis was fooling around with a version of Arthur Crudups "That's Alright Mama" between takes of ballads. It wasn't meant to be serious, but it was the moment when Phillips recognized that Elvis could be more than just a ballad singer. Elvis could help him achieve his principle goal of bringing traditionally black rhythm and blues to a white audience. 

Phillips figured out how to build his artists up, how to push them and combine them to make the most of their collective talents. I like to think that I surround myself with people who see the best in me, and help to develop my talents. For example, when I was freaking out about my last job interview, it was my friend Marissa who pointed out just how much I've accomplished, and showed me that I was actually capable of doing the job. My father was the first person who ever told me I might have a talent for writing, and that regardless of my English grades, writing was something that I should keep working at. My best friend Christine has delivered some mind-blowing perspective when I most needed it, most recently reminding me that feeling guilty is neither productive nor indicative of actual wrongdoing in personal relationships. My other friend Nahmi even proofread this very post, telling me it could be better than it was. The people I surround myself with are the people who have helped make me who I am because they can see my strengths and they don't accept my excuses. Like Sam Phillips, they know how to get the best out of me, and more importantly, how to use their own talents to make mine shine brighter

Just like Elvis, however, I also have people in my life who try to bring me down more than they build me up. When Elvis left Sun Records to sign with RCA, he was managed by Colonel Tom Parker. Under the Colonel, Elvis became the larger-than-life force we recognize today--but it was also the start of his struggle with drugs, depression, and isolation from the real world. By most accounts, the Colonel controlled most aspects of Elvis's life, from his friends to his band and the tours and movies he did, all in the name of protecting the singer from people trying to take advantage of him---while ensuring a hefty commission for himself. Conflicting views of the Colonel's motivations aside, the bottom line is that for most of his career, Elvis allowed the Colonel to make almost every decision for him. 

I know I definitely have people who push me in negative ways. Some of these people are inescapable, but most of them are there, and have an affect on me, because I let them. 
Because, deep down, I think that I'm the one who has the problem, and if I just do one thing differently, everything will be fine. 


The truth, I'm starting to realize, is that sometimes people just suck. (Colonel Tom Parker, in my opinion, just plain sucks**) While I want to treat everyone with kindness and respect, people who suck don't deserve an assigned place in my life, and more importantly, they don't deserve a place in my thoughts. I don't want to change who people are--everyone has the right to their own personality (to their own suckiness, if you will), but that doesn't mean that I have to accomodate it in my life. The following quote from Phillips demonstrates that while Sun artists presented their own challenges, there was a big difference between having a disagreement and trying to control someone:

"I didn't have any difficult people. And that's not dodging the question. I really did not. I had people... Hell, Jerry Lee and I got in the damnedest religious argument in the middle of a session. A lot of things like that came up. Hey, everybody's got their own damn personality, and they should have their individuality. Any time anyone tries to destroy that in you, you better watch out." -Sam Phillips

Phillips was content to let his artists have their personalities, while still bringing out the best in them. I know that I can be a little better at accepting people's personalities for what they are, and a LOT better at recognizing when those personalities don't have a place in my life. 

Sam Phillips pushed his artists, but they also pushed each other. Rivalries weren't unheard of, but at the end of the day, rock n roll wasn't the work of one individual. Sun artists covered each other's songs and they toured together, pushing the boundaries of popular music. Blue Suede Shoes was originally written by Carl Perkins  but it was Johnny Cash who suggested the song and Elvis who is most frequently credited with it. The song "Ring of Fire" was originally written by June Carter for her sister Anita, and later became the biggest hit of Johnny Cash's career. (June wasn't a Sun artist, but you get my point…). The artists may have had their personal disagreements, but they could recognize talent in each other, and build upon that.



I consider myself lucky to have friends that are massively talented. I don't spend nearly enough time acknowledging that fact, and even less time helping my friends to develop their talents. If I spent half as much time trying to collaborate with people as I do pursing my own personal projects, I bet we would all create some amazing things. Maybe not "Blue Suede Shoes" amazing, but amazing nonetheless.

Sun Records is credited for laying the foundation for rock n' roll music, through a combination of innovation, collaboration, and a great deal of good timing. Without Sam Phillips, we may have had rock n' roll, but we may not have had Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, or any of the thousands of artists that have been inspired by them.  You may be born with talent, but the people you surround yourself play a big part in determining what you do with that talent, for better or for worse.

'He was stooped down on one knee and grasping a guitar trying to tune it to somewhere near the correct pitch to make a correct cord ring - 'Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down, Ah-ummm - A - ummm', and he'd strike the guitar again. Plink: plunk: 'A-ummm ...' 'What are you trying to do?' I asked. 'I'm trying to tune this blame guitar, honey, and I'm trying to sing like Johnny Cash.' 'Who is Johnny Cash?' I asked Elvis Presley, and I grabbed the guitar away from him. Mother Maybelle would never let me or Elvis go on the stage with a guitar that was that far out of tune! 'What's the a-um-a-um for?' 'That's what drives the girls crazy,' Elvis said. 'Cash don't have to move a muscle, he just sings and stands there.' 'I don't know this Johnny Cash' I said, and Elvis said: 'Oh you'll know Cash. The whole world will know Johnny Cash. He's a friend of mine.' -June Carter on Elvis introducing her to Johnny Cash. 
___

*It wasn't just Phillips, either. Marion Keisker, Phillip's secretary, is often credited with convincing Phillips to give Elvis a shot. It really does take a village...

** There's tons of room for debate about whether Colonel Tom Parker was the best or worst thing for Elvis's career. Elvis became a superstar under the Colonel; but he also became a slicker, more produced version of himself. This is evidenced in both his physical appearance and his songs. The Colonel pushed Elvis to make trashy but commercially successful films, and refused to let Elvis take on a world tour. Both of these decisions seriously hampered the singer's credibility moving into the mid-60's, and were in direct opposition to Elvis's desire to be taken more seriously. In fact, the enormously successful 1968 Comeback Special was completely against the Colonel's original plan for a traditional Christmas special. Personally, I think Elvis would have been a lot better off without the Colonel--maybe not from a musical, but definitely a mental health, perspective.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

What I'm Loving Lately

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. I had to work Sunday and Monday, but my Dad and little brother came to visit on Friday-Saturday, and we had a great time visiting family friends, lunching on a patio (finally! sunshine!) and wandering around downtown. I stretched my idea of work appropriate wardrobe by wearing this dress to work, and ate wayyyy too many chocolate eggs on Sunday! 

I was a little surprised by how bummed I was when my family left. I even felt a little...homesick? It was strange, and completely unexpected. I think it may be compounded by the fact that I am looking for apartments and finding it completely discouraging (Toronto is way expensive--I had no idea how cheap my rent actually was until I started looking around). But fortunately  I have a lot of things to cheer me up. Things like:

Kacey Musgraves

Kaitlyn at kaitastrophical introduced me to this awesome country singer and I. am. obsessed. Her debut album "Same Trailer, Different Park" has been on repeat in my house and car and iPod all week. I'm especially in love with "Silver Linings" "Follow Your Arrow" and "Merry Go Round":


Starbucks Snapfish tumbler

I've been looking for a coffee travel mug for a while. I'd been relying on my Tervis tumbler but I hated that I couldn't throw it in my bag, and I hated that it was clear. I could never find a travel mug that was quite cute enough to justify spending $15+ on it, until I found this one at Starbucks. You can create your own collage on the insert, or put your own pictures inside of it. This is absolutly perfect for me, because I get bored of things so easily and the customizability of it means that I can switch out the inserts whenever I get bored.


Right now I have this Lilly print as the insert, but I also printed out this gingham print and this Blue Jays wallpaper 

Baseball Season

Speaking of the Blue Jays, how excited am I that today is opening day? So. Excited. When I was living in Ottawa, I always said I'd make it down to Toronto for more games, but it never happened. Now, I can see a game anytime I want (except for tonight, because it's sold out, and I don't have cable). 

I just love going to baseball games, especially in Toronto. I used to go with my parents all the time, and something about sitting in the stadium, when the dome is open and you can look up and see the CN Tower, just makes me nostalgic in that happy, kid-again sort of way. 


I'm heading to my first game on Thursday with my roommate and my soon-to-be roommate, and I could not be more excited! Although, given this recent cold snap, I'm sort of hoping they keep the dome closed! 

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Full confession: I've never read Pride and Prejudice all the way through, but my Dad took me to see the play last month and I loved it! I have several English-major friends who love P&P, and now I totally get it. 

I know I'm about a year late on the uptake, here, but I JUST stumbled across the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and it was like my love welled up and exploded into tiny, 4-5 minute long pieces. 

The LBD is YouTube adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, if Elizabeth Bennet were a 24-year old Mass Comm major in California with a video blog. It's FANTASTIC. It's cute, and clever, and so so well done, and the episodes are all short enough that you can watch 1-2 while you're eating breakfast (or, you know, 10-20 when you should be doing important things with your life). 

And it's not just YouTube videos. There are also twitter accounts for the characters, and tumblrs, and I love multi-media story telling like this! 


Honestly, I think anyone would find these videos enjoyable, whether you've read P&P or not! They've certainly brightened my mornings for the past few weeks. 

Instagram

I've been going a little instagram crazy the last week, mostly because I realized that I only really use it when my life is exciting. I decided I needed to a) do more exciting things and also b) be excited by more things. So I've been taking more pictures and trying to cherish the little things that make my day brighter. 

The view from my office building

Any recommendations for other web series/music/books/apps I might love? What's making you happy lately?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Be lucky


I came across this article in the Huffington Post which talks about Essie Weingarten (creator of the Essie nail polish line) and her husband Max. One of the quotes from Max really struck a chord with me because it's something that I have believed for a long time: 

"2. "Be lucky." This isn't something that happens to a lucky few, but a way of being you can choose: Embrace the good things that happen to you! Opportunities will not jump out at you and scream "opportunity!" You have to recognize them and seize them -- choose to be lucky."

When I was in 4th year university, as a part of my placement course, I had to attend lectures with guest speakers on career/workplace related topics. One of them told us something that I'll never forget. He said that good careers don't happen just because people are lucky or just because they work hard. He said that they happen when people recognize opportunities. 

This lecture came at a time when I felt really lost. I was trying to figure out what I was doing and where I wanted to go. I worked hard in university, but with no real direction, that hard work wasn't paying off  in a tangible way. Once I started looking for opportunities, however, my life started changing. I heard the term "emergency management" for the first time. I volunteered for extra projects at the law firm and my work was presented to a bunch of other law firms. I started volunteering for the Red Cross, and asking a million questions of everyone I met. And things started to fall into place, almost by magic. 

The same thing happened last summer, after I had just graduated and was convinced I was never going to get a job. I was starting to get really down on myself, especially when I lost an opportunity to interview for a job that would have been perfect for me. I was at my aunt's house for a dinner party, feeling pretty bummed out, when I started talking to a guy about what he did for a living. He worked for a consulting firm that specialized in business continuity (which is the private sector equivalent of EM)--how random! He promised to share my resume around. 

This fall, I happened to pick up the phone when a friend of my Dad's called. She asked me how my job search was coming and ended up being, I'm convinced, the reason I have the job I do right now. 

A more personal example is my friend Anaïs.* She is one of the happiest, most positive people I know, and she has been through an incredible amount of tragedy in the last few years. To Anais, every day is a beautiful day and should be lived to the fullest. She can't control the terrible things that happen around her, but because of her inspiring outlook on life, wonderful things happen, too. She meets amazing people because of this quality, and those amazing people tend to present more unique opportunities--which Anaïs embraces. She is one of the most inspiring people I know, and I've tried to learn from her. It's only recently that I feel like I've been able to really understand just how powerful her attitude is.

There are a lot of days when it would be easier for me to complain, or frown my way through the day. I am having a spectacularly difficult time dealing with night shifts, for example, or waking up at 4:30am when I work day shifts. I've made some mistakes at work and been reprimanded and it's been really hard not to want to wallow a little bit. Instead, I'm focusing on the things I'm doing right--and there are a lot.  Mostly I'm just trying to find pleasure in the little things: Listening to music on my commute. Having dance parties while I make dinner. The latte I pick up on my way into work. It's a process, but it's one that I'm finding more and more rewarding. 

"Be lucky" sounds too simple. "Stay positive" sounds condescending. It's hard to tell someone going through a terrible time that things could be better with a change in attitude. I get it...attitude doesn't cure cancer. It doesn't give you a job. But I swear it's helped me get through any number of situations, and I don't think I'd be where I am now if I wasn't always on the lookout for opportunities.

Wake up smiling, and tell me it doesn't make your morning a little brighter. 

*Anaïs's blog is in French, but even google translated, it's beautiful and well-written--although as a translator herself I'm sure she would be alarmed that I'm suggesting that google translate is even remotely accurate! 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Grown-up things I'm getting better at

I've grown up a lot in the last few years. Graduating, moving out, paying rent...they are all big steps. But there are still TONS of things about being a grown-up that I struggle with. Things like...knowing how to top up my car's oil. Or understanding the stock market. Or not paying $6 for a coffee because I stupidly stayed up until 2am watching episodes of Dawson's Creek with my roommate. 

But it's all about baby steps, right? There are a few things I've been making a conscious effort to try:

1. Air drying my clothes:

I can be so lazy when it comes to doing laundry, so when I actually get around to it, it's so tempting to shove everything in the dryer as soon as it's washed. The thing is, though, that drying your clothes actually reduces their life span by a significant amount. I have items of clothing that I love almost as much as I love some people, so it doesn't make sense that I wouldn't treat them with care.

I don't have the patience or the room to air dry all of my clothes, but I have started to dry my Nike shorts, Lululemons, more delicate cardigans and tights on a drying rack. This way, I also avoid accidental shrinkage! It makes me feel a lot better to know that I'm taking care of my clothing.

2. Flossing

Yeah, yeah, I KNOW it's good for me, but this is one habit that has eluded me for years. I have a really tiny mouth, which doesn't help matters, but it turns out that it's really not so bad once you get used to it.

What it really came down to was vanity and money. I don't want my teeth falling out, and since leaving school I can no longers claim dentist appointments on my Dad's insurance. The more careful I am with my teeth, the less money I have to spend on cavity fillings later. 

3. Making a schedule

This is really less about making a schedule and more about putting appointments into my iPhone as soon as I make them. For years I went back and forth between different systems, which meant I was always worried I was missing something. 

I started by making sure my iCloud was set up to sync all my devices, so I can pretty much enter/check my schedule from anywhere. Then it's really a matter of keeping it updated. I also set up alerts for submitting paysheets, paying my credit card, and renewing my memberships/passport/travel insurance. 

Also, did you know you can import individual events from Facebook right into iCal? Brilliant

4. Making an emergency kit for my car

I really want to write a whole post on this (maybe for emergency preparedness week), but I'll write a blurb about this now. I already had basics like a first aid kit, jumper cables, etc, in my car, but now that I'm commuting and travelling home so much, I wanted something more comprehensive. I used an old Lululemon bag to store a change of clothes, my old iPhone and a charger (did you know even an unactivated cell phone can call 911?), a photocopy of my drivers license, some extra cash, a toothbrush, a flashlight, and a bunch of other things that are convienient to have "just in case". 

The trick with this is really to pretend it's not even there, while still going through it to update the supplies every once in a while. It makes me feel a lot more secure knowing that I have some basic supplies if I ever get stuck downtown overnight! 

5. Setting up a budget and opening a Tax Free Savings Account

Now that I'm living on my own, I'm trying to become more aware of what I spend my money on and the best ways to save it. 

One thing that has helped was setting up a Mint.com account. It tracks your activity and tells you where you spend most of your money (It made me uncomfortably aware of how much I spend on coffee). It also send you alerts if you go over a budget you set for yourself. 

Another thing I did was talk to a financial advisor at my bank. I explained that I wanted to start saving but wasn't sure the best way to go about it. She explained a couple of options--mutual funds, and RRSP, and a Tax Free Savings Account, which is what I settled on. Basically, I can contribute a certain amount of money per year and any interest made on my savings is tax-free. Because I'm not making a ton of money, and don't feel comfortable jumping into the world of investments, this was the best option. 

6. Cooking dinner instead of getting takeout and cooking ahead of time.

It really helps that I live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so going out for dinner/getting takeout takes approximately as much effort as cooking for myself. I don't hate cooking, I just hate stopping whatever I'm doing to stand in the kitchen for an hour to make a meal. I've been learning how to make things that take less than 10 minutes to prepare or less than 30 minutes total standing in the kitchen. I invented this awesome dish which involves throwing

2 chicken breasts
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
peas
1 cup of rice
soy sauce
italian salad dressing
3 tbsp water

into a casserole dish and cooking it for 40 minutes. It takes no time at all to throw together, and then I come back in 40 minutes (baring any interruption from the smoke alarm, which I'm sure goes off the second it gets warmer than room temperature in my house) and I have dinner for two days. 


Also, Kate from What Kate Likes tipped me off to Smitten Kitchen and I swear, within 25 minutes of clicking to that site, I had fresh biscuits in front of me and I just ate them and they were delicious. 

After re-reading this post, I have concluded that the secret to adulthood is thinking ahead. What can I do today that will make the rest of the week more smoothly? What tiny step can I take that will save me money and time and sanity later? And how can I trick my brain into doing all of these things in a timely manner?

What kinds of things make you feel like a grown-up? What are you still struggling with?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Liebster Award



SHF at The S Chronicles nominated me for a Liebster Award which was very flattering and exciting!  I've had such a good time reading other people's answers. The S Chronicles is super cute...and as a bonus, it's author is a fellow Canadian...which is always exciting to find! 

The Rules

List 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions asked to you, write your own 11 questions, and nominate 11 other up-and-coming blogs.

Also in the post, you should thank whoever nominated you and link back to their blog.

Facts
  • I have a really hard time with things like this...I don't know how to draw the line between being sort of obnoxiously coy or over-sharing. 
  • I drive a 1998 silver Honda Accord which I named "Saoirse" after seeing in everywhere in Northern Ireland. I found out it means "freedom" which is a perfect fit. 
  • Despite living in England for a year, spending 4 months performing the part of Poppy in "Noises Off" and being obsessed with Harry Potter, I still can't do a proper British accent. (My southern accent is actually better, and the only southern state I've been to is Florida, which may or may not even count.) 
  • Last year, during what may as well have been referred to as "the year of mental breakdowns", I got a tattoo on my foot of a hibiscus flower and the word "ohana". I genuinely don't regret it, but sometimes I look down at my foot and think "Am I really a tattoo person?"
  • I've tried online dating 3 times, and deleted my account after about a week each time. 
  •  I wore sunglasses to both my prom and graduation. I wasn't trying to be cool, I had a wicked bad eye infection. 
  • My first celebrity crush was Leonardo Dicaprio.
  • I get anxious when I don't have a pen and glass of water next to my bed, or headphones in my purse. 
  • I grew up Roman Catholic and my faith is a really important, really complicated, part of my life.  
  • There are a lot of things that I want to like more than I actually like them. (Golf. The Velvet Underground. Classic Literature.)
  • I watch disaster movies when I'm upset, especially if I'm upset over a boy. 

Questions from The S Chronicles

1. Which nail polish (brand & colour) is your favourite?

The colours I love the most are probably Essie's Tart Deco or Fiji. I love Essie's colours but sometimes I find they can be difficult to apply, so I've really been loving the Outlast Stay Brilliant line--it's a little cheaper, dries pretty quickly, and you only need two coats--no base or top coat required. I maybe possibly sometimes use this at work when I get bored on night shifts.

2. Which app do you use the most?
On my phone, definitely mail. I check my email constantly. That's a really boring answer though, so lately I've been obsessively playing 4 Pictures, 1 Word, playing music on Songza, and backing up all my stories and Instagram pics with Dropbox. My reminders and calendar app get a lot of use too, now that I'm getting a hang of this whole "being a grown up" thing.

On my iPad it's a toss up between Stanza and iBooks...depending on how legally obtained my ebooks are...

3. If you were throwing a dinner party & could invite anyone, who would you ask?
My best friends and my family, probably!

In the alive/famous category: Jon Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Mindy Kaling, Aaron Sorkin, Connie Britton, Leigh-Anne Tuohy and Carrie Underwood, because I think they would all be able to have really interesting conversations and I would like to pick all of their brains/squee like a fangirl and hug them.

In the dead/fictional category: Elvis, Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights, CJ Cregg from the West Wing, June Carter and Johnny Cash, Theodore Roosevelt.

4. What is your favourite university memory?
Pretty much my entire 3rd year when I was studying in England. One time in second term, we had a massive flat party that migrated downtown to the student union club and everyone was the perfect amount of tipsy and there was no drama, it was just fun all night. And the same year I traveled to Belfast with my friend and we had adventures drinking in pubs, tracking down the Good Vibrations record store, trekking to Giants Causeway and traipsing across the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Those are some of my favourite memories of all time, probably.

5. Which song can you listen to over & over without getting tired of it?
This is hard, because I have a couple:

3 Rounds and a Sound by Blind Pilot
Kentucky Rain by Elvis Presley
Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus

6. What is your dream job?
Secret Agent Storm Chaser Writer who wears pretty dresses and gets paid to drink coffee and flip my hair around. 

In all seriousness, I want to do so many things, but I love emergency management so ideally I'd like to work as a kind of field officer or someone who gets to travel and tell people how to do things. I would love to make a career out of writing, so that I had enough flexibility to go storm chasing and could write about my imaginary adventures as a secret agent. 

7. Which Lilly print is your all-time favourite?
I've only started wearing Lilly in really the last two years, so I'm not sure I could pick a favourite, but I love this "Tossing the Line" one from the current collection. 

8. Do you have a lucky number?
Nope! I like the number 47 because of years of watching Alias, but I don't think it's particularly lucky. 

9. How do you relax after a long & busy day?
Sometimes a bath, and a girly movie or funny show. If it's been a really bad day I  pour a glass of white wine and turn on Friday Night Lights and pretend Tami Taylor is giving me advice. 

10. What is your biggest indulgence?
Coke--definitely. Lattes, too, but coffee is really a necessity. I know soda is terrible for me, but I've been unable to kick the Coke habit, no matter how many times I've tried. It's just too delicious! 

Also, shopping. I shop when I am happy OR sad, which is a recipe for disaster. 

11. What is the best thing about the month of March?
It's almost summer! And I have a lot of shifts this month which means more money--yay! 

My Questions
1. Road trip or airplane?
2. When was the last time you were inspired by something?
3. What do you think people's first impression of you is?
4. Favourite quote?
5. What is a tv show you think everyone should watch but not enough people are?
6. If you ever become famous, what would you like to be famous for?
7. Sequins or florals? (or neither?)
8. If letters had personalities, and you were a letter, which letter would you be?
9. What is your favourite place to blog from? (Desk, couch, Starbucks...?)
10. What is one book that has influenced you and your values or goals in a huge way?
11. Song you would like playing in the trailer for the movie of your life? 

Okay, I know I'm supposed to nominate 11 people, but I'm pretty sure all my favourite blogs have already been nominated at least once. Instead, I'm going to list blogs and bloggers that I love and have really made my foray into blogging totally worthwhile! If you guys want to answer my questions, go ahead! (but I won't be offended if you don't!)



Thanks again to SHF for nominating me!