An Experimental Life

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Roommate woes

(Note: This is kind of a long and self-indulgent whinge. Don't say you weren't warned.)

I know I said I was unlikely to update this blog while I'm overseas, but I'm needing to rant. I don't really want it to go on my travel blog because it's not specifically trip-related, and I'm sure most people wanting to read about my travels don't want to hear me vent about how frustrating it is to live with Donna. To be honest, a lot of this stuff didn't start bugging me until after the first month - there were plenty of minor irritations that I was prepared to let slide, but after seven weeks the list just keeps growing. I'm at the point though when I feel like we're just so different as people. I can live with people who have annoying habits provided I still feel like I can respect them as a person, but the more I live with her, the more I realise that Donna and I are just chalk and cheese. The most draining thing is how cynical and bitter she seems about life in many ways. She doesn't strike me as a particularly happy person, and that's really hard to live with because I am just loving life so much right now!

Before I go into the big, meta-grumble kinds of things, these are just some of the little annoyances:
  • She sings around the house. Not usually something I object to, except that it's not really singing; it's verbal fidgeting. If you're going to sing, sing with commitment and enthusiasm! Sing like you mean it, not because some nonsense is just tumbling out of your mouth. Plus her repertoire is seriously lacking: so far I've heard I Vow to Thee My Country, Jerusalem, Cockles & Mussells, Kumbaya and If You're Happy and You Know It Clap You're Hands (sung to 'doo'!) And yet Cockles & Mussells she seems to know all the words to about a dozen verses. The Christmas repertoire has started now too, which makes it even worse! The other day I overheard her 'da dee dee dee'-ing her way through Silent Night at a rollicking pace. Aaaaahhh!!

  • She listens to CBC talk radio. Constantly. She goes into the bathroom for two minutes and the radio goes on. She's making and eating breakfast in the kitchen - the radio is on. She sets her alarm to wake her up very loudly and places it on the other side of the room so she has to get out of bed to turn it off. It's loud. It's early. Even on the weekends. She puts the radio on when she has a shower/bath and turns it up so she can hear it over the noise of the water running. And my room is right next to the bathroom which means if I want to watch TV or listen to my iPod (even with the door shut) I have to have it loud enough so I can hear it over the water running and the radio.

  • She spends forever in the bathroom. God knows what she does in there, but it would be a cumulative total of 2-3 hours every day for sure. And she wonders where her time goes! So often I have to wait for her to spend 45 minutes in the bathroom at night before I can brush my teeth and go to bed.

  • She uses a ridiculous amount of toilet paper (like, a roll a day probably!) and for some weird reason I haven't figured out yet, she always seems to have multiple rolls started. What the hell for?

  • She uses a ridiculous amount of liquid hand soap - just because I was mildly amused by this I made a note of how many days it took her to use a 350ml bottle. NINE DAYS!! That's almost 40ml a day, and you only need like a drop or two each time you wash your hands. She must use buckets of the stuff each year! And you know, I don't think these last two things would bother me so much if she didn't pride herself on being politically and socially aware. I think she likes to think she's pretty 'green' but she so isn't.

  • She will never both wash her dishes and put them away. And sometimes she won't wash them for a day and they're in the way while I'm either trying to cook or to wash my own dishes. She always is occuyping space in the sink, the drainer, or all over the bench. It's never just clear. And because you can't get to the microwave unless the drainer is empty, it's really annoying to spend 10 minutes putting her stuff away before I can heat up something or cook.

  • She clomps around the apartment in socks and sandals. Apart from this being a great look (oh yeah), it really is clomping. She doesn't just walk from room to room, it's like a cross between shuffling and stomping, and it drives me nuts.

  • She leaves all the lights on, even when she's not in the room. In this small little one bedroom apartment there are 7 lights, including 2 lamps and 2 light switches in the tiny bathroom. I have sometimes walked out of my room to find every single light on in the entire apartment except in my room, even when the sun is shining and the apartment has plenty of natural light. I know it's her electricity bill and not mine, but I find it annoying so I will often go around turning lights off that are clearly not needed. Because so often she'll walk into the bathroom, turn both lights on in there, wash her hands in the basin (leaving behind a sink full of suds from all the soap) and then walk out again leaving the room blazing away.

  • She has all these quaint or outdated expressions that she uses - or overuses, I should say. Every night, without fail, before she disappears into the bathroom for a hour she'll say "OK, well I need to take a bath - would you like a crack at the bathroom first?" EVERY NIGHT. And what the hell is 'a crack at the bathroom'? And then she'll usually follow it up with "Okey dokey, here I go!!" with a stupid grin on her face. When we went to lunch together the other day, she started to get all excited as we were walking out the door (as if it's some big momentous occasion to have lunch with another person) and said "Alrighty, and away we go...!" It's pathetic that this bothers me, I know, but it does. Other expressions I heard her use which I'm sure haven't been uttered by anyone else since about 1960 are: "Holy moly", "Holy doodle" and "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle". Right... yes...

OK, have I painted a clear picture of what kind of person I'm living with here? I really do think that spending her entire life on her own has made her more than slightly mad. Girls, be warned - this is who you might turn out like if you never find yourself a man! (Or another woman, whatever...)

So, now for the bigger things... These are things which are not so much irritating as they are revealing about how she sees the world and which make me realise just how different we are. I respect difference, I do, really. But I rarely get along terribly well with anyone with whom I have this many conflicts of values.

The first thing is kind of silly, really, but when I told Alison in North Van about it, she had the same reaction as I did, so clearly it's not just me who thinks Donna's insane. I don't know how we got on to the topic, but about a month ago we were talking about Bridget Jones (the first of the movies) and Donna said "You know, I thought that movie was OK, except that Bridget ends up with the wrong man."

"WHAT??" was my first reaction. "You mean you think she should have ended up with Daniel Cleaver? How on earth did you arrive at that conclusion?" I asked her.

She went on to say that she thought that it wasn't so much that Daniel Cleaver was the better man, mainly that Darcy had clearly been such a horrible character and that she had no respect for a man that treated women the way he did.

Huh??? I couldn't really see anything wrong with how he treated Bridget, but get this - it wasn't Bridget she was referring to. Instead, Donna has focused practically all her energy on Natasha, the woman Darcy was semi-engaged to and going to move to New York with towards the end of the movie - the woman he ends up leaving in order to go back to Bridget. Donna's argument was that Natasha had "a reasonable expectation of marriage" from Darcy, and therefore it was absolutely unforgivable that he had run off to be with someone he actually loved. She kept using this phrase "reasonable expectation of marriage" as though that was the only thing that mattered. So, should Darcy have married Natasha even though he was actually in love with Bridget, only to have the marriage probably fall to pieces down the track? What good does that do anyone? And Natasha's a minor frigging character, for God's sake! The only reason she's there is to present an impediment to either Mark or Bridget saying what they really mean much earlier in the film. It's fiction! It's a plot device, you freak!! But I really think that Donna must have been seriously jilted in order for Natasha to be the only character in the movie she can identify with.

Also, since Bridget Jones's Diary was essentially a modern-day re-write of Pride & Prejudice (and Donna read all of Jane Austen seven times when she was a teenager), I asked her whether she also thought that Lizzie Bennett ended up with the wrong man there as well and should have married Wickham. I mean, after all, you could argue that Lady Catherine's daughter had a "reasonable expectation of marriage" from Darcy, and he still goes and proposes to Lizzie.

"Completely different situation", says Donna.


"Because Darcy never showed any affection toward Lady Catherine's daughter, or indicated in any way that he intended to marry her," she argued.

"But Mark Darcy doesn't exactly she much affection to Natasha either. Apart from the fact that Natasha bosses him around all the time, and Darcy's father makes an announcement toward the end of the film, you'd barely even know they were together at all! And besides, just because Darcy in Pride & Prejudice doesn't indicate himself that he plans to marry Lady Catherine's daughter doesn't mean that everyone isn't already aware of the fact that they were intended for each other since birth. Even Lizzie was aware they were supposed to marry one day."

Anyway, there was absolutely no convincing Donna (on either storyline) and so the argument - if you could call it that - sort of went around in circles for another ten minutes before we ended up dropping it. But I still think it's bizarre and that she's obviously screwed up and has a warped sense of perspective on anything to do with relationships.

* * * * *

You know, maybe it's something to do with the huge number of self-help books she reads. I reckon that'd screw anyone up. It's amusing in a way. Just looking at her bookshelf the titles there made me laugh, because there are so many books with "How To..." in the title, or similar, and not one of them seems to be working for her. Some examples:

How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable - she is.

How to Get Lucky - she's not.

How to Buy a Computer - well, this computer's an old piece of junk with the '0' key missing, so no.

How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt & Live Prosperously - uh, no.

Getting the Love You Want - she's not. I asked. And yet she told me this is one of the best books she's ever read... Go figure...

How to Put More Time in Your Life - well, she seems to get a lot less done in a day than most people would, so I'm going to say that this one hasn't worked either.

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life - hmm, no, again.

How to Make ESP Work for You - hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Let's Have Healthy Children - she doesn't have any children.

The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner - well, she's living in a cramped one-bedroom flat that she couldn't afford to live in unless I was here. You do the math.

The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom - given how much she complains about money, I'm going to guess that she's not very financially free...

See?? She's like a living breathing testimony to the fact that self-help books are a lot of shite, and yet still she swears by them and invariably a few more from the library will appear each week as well. Some days I just feel like saying "Lady, you need way more than just a book!"

* * * * *

With Christmas coming up, I asked her a few weeks ago whether she had many people that she needed to buy gifts for, or send cards to. She's the eldest of five siblings, so it seemed to me that surely she had brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews that she caught up with at Christmas, but no. It seems that she's almost completely estranged from her family, which I just find unfathomable given that I'm quite close with mine. I mean, sure, not all families function all that well, but I really don't understand how someone can reach a point when it's been months or even years since they last had any contact with family.

I didn't want to pry and keep asking questions, but she did say that she has a niece who's now in her early thirties who had a child when she was about 22, unmarried and unemployed. That does sound like a pretty tough situation for anyone to be in, but what most surprised me was that Donna takes the attitude that this girl was "old enough to know better how not to get pregnant, and old enough to know that getting rid of it probably would have made more sense than having a child in such circumstances." Woah! Now, I'm pro-choice and always have been, but you can't tell someone that having an abortion is the smarter decision than having the child. That would be something the girl would have to live with for the rest of her life - you can't impose those sort of values on someone else when it's such an immensely personal decision she had to make.

"But surely", I said to Donna (trying to tread carefully and not say that I thought she was being rather callous) - "Surely what someone in that situation needs is love and support from family, not judgement, don't you think? Everyone makes bad choices at some point, and wishes they could make a U-turn. I mean, you can't blame people for the mistakes they make in life."

"Sure I can!" she responded emphatically, and more than a little insensitively.

I think that was the point at which I started to get really irritated. I don't understand how anyone can be quite so judgemental of people who need help. And it annoys me most because she doesn't seem to take the same view with other people who are in underprivileged circumstances, like people with addiction, or the homeless (of which there are a huge and visibly growing number in Vancouver). Yet she can be quite harsh to the people she knows personally. I just find it really hypocritical, because whatever her personal politics are, compassion doesn't seem to play a very big part.

* * * * *

So, as I mentioned, she's clearly not very close to her family. In fact, she happened to mention the other day that in her will, which hasn't been updated in over twenty years, she has specified that when she dies she is to be cremated and there is to be no ceremony. This was what she put into writing when she was in her early thirties, and she specified no ceremony primarily because she didn't think that anyone would come. I don't know if there is anything more depressing than making your own funeral arrangements with the assumption that no one would attend. Surely no one can live like that and really be happy with their life the way it is? And if you're not happy with your life, then why wouldn't you do something to change it? I know I'm being harsh here, and that having never been in such a place in my life, I'm really not in a position to judge. But I just don't get how someone can complain about so many aspects of their life (and she does) and not be proactive enough to do something to make it better.

* * * * *

OK, I know I should really wrap this up because I've vented plenty for one evening, and I know some of it probably comes across as pretty bitchy. But I just have to leave you with one more anecdote.

A couple of weeks ago when Donna was trying to think of ways to make some extra cash, she came up with the hair-brained idea that she could try her hand at writing Harlequin romance novels. Aparrently there are quite concise guidelines for writing the books to the formula the publishers want, but Donna was convinced that she could do this with no trouble at all - how hard could it be to write trashy soft porn? She said she's only ever read one once, a long time ago, and it was as awful as she expected it would be, and yet if she was getting paid to do it, she thought she'd give it a go.

Well, I was greatly amused by this, and having trouble keeping a straight face while she was telling me that she could even try and use a trip to Greece (for example) as "research" for her book and then claim it back as a tax deduction (this is the NDP so-called social activist we're talking about here!) and then write her book set in the Greek islands or somewhere like that. Mmm, yeah, I'm sure the government aren't going to find anything dodgy about that at all!
I couldn't quite understand why anyone would want to write something in a genre which they admitted was trashy and poor quality writing. To be honest, I think I'd have more self-respect (and I said as much!) than to stoop to writing romance novels purely for the money. Aparently she has no self-respect.

Anyway, the whole thing came to a premature conclusion when she looked at the guidelines on the Harlequin website and point number one specified that it was advised that writers keep up to date with current trends in the romance novel genre so they could be aware of what the public and publishers were likely to be interested in.

"Oh well, there goes that idea then!" she said. "I'm too busy to waste my time reading trashy books if I have to do it in order to write my own. Forget it."

So she was prepared to take the time to write a piece of trash, but she wouldn't stoop to read one? That's kind of screwed up. Plus, I have to say that Donna is possibly the least romantically-minded person I have ever met in my life. There should be a rule, a kind of litmus test if you like: anyone who thinks that Bridget Jones ended up with the wrong man is not the right person to be writing Harlequin romances!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bron goes round the world

Well, I can now count on the fingers of one hand how many days there are until I leave the country! I know, it crept up on me too.

Even though I haven't updated here in several months, I've decided to create a separate blog for my trip, which hopefully will be used more than this one has been.

I'll come back here when I get back from overseas, or I may post the occasional entry if there's something on my mind not specifically related to the trip. But otherwise, that's my virtual address for the next 9 months or so. See you there!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sublime singing & clandestine craft

Last night I went to the most amazing concert. I went to hear the Newman College Choir perform a whole range of mostly early music including Tallis' Spem in Alium, the stunning 40-part motet (with one person per part). It must be one of the great all time works of choral music and I have always wanted the opportunity to perform it, but to hear it live was pretty special too. Because the college choir itself only has about 18 singers, they invited other ring-ins to make the numbers up to forty. I was so close to being invited! Jenny was singing and apparently they needed someone else at the last minute, but between her speaking to me and then ringing the conductor back to let him know I was available, it turned out that he'd found another person. But it doesn't matter - I actually do far too much performing with choirs and no where near enough going to hear them perform (though I probably go to more concerts than a lot of other people in choirs I know. But don't even get me started on this!)

Anyway, being an audience member for last night's concert felt like such a privilege. The Newman College Dining Hall is a stunning domed octagonal building (designed by Walter Burley-Griffin who is famous, chiefly, for designing Canberra), with a first floor corridor that runs the whole way round the building and has big arched windows and four balconies. The choir stood all the way round the corridor/balconies so they were entirely surrounding the audience, who were in the middle below. The sound just reverberated round the room, and because of the nature of the work, you'd often hear a short phrase come from one part of the choir and then be echoed again by someone on the other side of the hall, and again a few bars later by someone else. And if you ask me, that's the only way this piece can really be performed to do it justice. Ah, English rennaissance polyphony! Going to hear a really good choir sing music like that is probably the closest I get to a truly spiritual experience.

They also did Arvo Pärt's Nunc Dimittis which I'd never heard, although I'm familiar with a lot of his earlier works. And a sublime setting (in 6 or 8 parts, I think) of the well-known Sibelius melody Finlandia, sung as an unaccompanied hymn with the text 'Be Still, My Soul'. That was the encore, and it was a simply perfect way to end the concert. All the other music was new to me, but I have a heap of things to go look up on eMusic now!

In other general news, it feels like it has been a week of excesses: excess spending, excess eating (oops!) and excess working. I worked probably 5-6 hours more than I do in an average week, including 3 hours yesterday when I went in to help pack a newsletter that goes out to five hundred people. One of the clients had a 4-hour planning meeting with their committee in the morning, and it would have been so easy for the dozen of them to stay round afterwards and do the newsletter together (it probably would have only taken 45 minutes with that many people) - it is their organisation, after all. But no, apparently the president has a 'policy' that the committee shouldn't be expected to do that kind of thing. And yet she complains frequently and loudly about how much the administration costs. Well she really can't have it both ways!

Oh, I meant to post this earlier in the week. Here's the mirror frame I mosaiced for Mum for Mothers' Day:

The photo's a little fuzzy, but I love the way the mirror turned out. I think this may be my best effort yet out of all the mosaic things I've made. I was paranoid at first that Mum wasn't going to like it, mostly because I wondered whether she would have wanted a say in the colours and the design. It had initially been a request, after I did the one for Ann a year or so ago, but Mum hadn't mentioned it in ages so I figured I'd make it a surprise for Mothers' Day. It goes perfectly in the bathroom, and she seems to really like it, which is what counts. Do you know how hard it is to mosaic something in secret though?! Apart from cutting the glass, which I did outside, I mostly worked on it in my room in the evenings for an hour or two at a time, and then hid it under my bed. But when it came to getting it outside to the garage in order to grout, I had to sneak it past her when she had her back turned, and I'm sure she knew I was up to something when I spent an hour out in the garage last Saturday afternoon!

Anyway, today I'm hoping to have a fairly quiet day. I have to return some library books and get a few groceries, and if I have the energy I'll make some yummy vegetable soup to take for lunches during the week. I need to have lots of low-point days to make up for a few high ones lately...

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

All made up with no place to go

This was the photo I mentioned the other day. Last Saturday night Melissa came round with one of her friends who's a Nutrimetics consultant, and we had a makeover evening. It was just a bit of fun, but I hardly ever wear makeup, except when I go dancing or when I'm performing with choir, so it was good to have someone who knew what they were doing do my makeup. I look a bit shiny, which is my only complaint, as she didn't apply powder over the foundation. But other than that I kind of like it.

I told myself beforehand that I wasn't going to buy stuff though. As usual, I didn't hold to that. There's something about party plan consultants that makes them very persuasive, which I suppose is why they do is at a job in the first place. But I also find them somewhat disparaging too, in that they make you feel as though all the other products out there are totally crap and that if you use them you are, therefore, an idiot. The first Nutrimetics thing I went to it was also just me, Melissa and the consultant. I was asked what my "current beauty regime" consisted of, and when I told her, the response I got was "OK, well I won't tell you that I cringe when I think of what products you're using, but that's fine if they work for you". Um, thanks? Saturday's line was much the same: "Well, you know, I'm not saying that you shouldn't go and use Revlon or some other product that's cheaper, but just know this - you only get one skin and you have a duty [yes, she actually said 'duty' like it was national service or something!] to look after it. That's all I'm saying..." I felt like I was being chastised like a small child.

So, yes, I spent more money than I should have, but for products that I will hopefully make use of and that I like. I still don't think I'll ever start wearing makeup everyday, which is something makeup consultants seems to find incomprehensible. But there you go. Not everyone cares enough to spend 20 minutes daily in order to look nice for the 10 people who you are actually likely to see that day.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Busy, busy week

The last week and a bit seems to have been very hectic. I keep trying to find time to sit down at the computer and blog, but when I spend a good part of the work day in front of a computer, it's the last thing I feel like doing when I get home. Plus my evenings keep filling up with things, so trying to find a window when I'm home but no one else is using the computer seems next to impossible some days.

I am back to keeping track of everything I eat in a food diary again - I had stopped for a few weeks even though I was counting points in my head. I wasn't doing too badly, and I think I only had a couple of days when I probably went over on points, but I definitely feel more in control when I track properly. When my last food and exercise diary came to the end I resorted to just using an ordinary notebook to write everything down in. You would think that it would be just as good, but for some reason I think that was part of the reason I slackened off. Perhaps I respond better to the visual setup of a ready-made food diary. The WW one has the QuickTracker boxes which you can tick off easily, plus little pictures of food to make sure you're getting 5 veg, 2 fruit, 2 dairy etc per day. It sounds pretty trivial, but if spending $10 on it was what it took to get me writing down points again then it's worth it.

A week and a bit ago my brother and his housemate Lisa came round for dinner, and Mum had promised Lisa a while back to make lemon meringue pie sometime when they were over. Actually it was Dad who made it, while Mum sat there telling him what needed to be done - she's having mobility problems at the moment with her ankle (or knee, or pelvis... I lose track!) so she has difficulty standing or walking for anything other than quite short bursts. Anyway, Dad grabbed a tin of sweetened condensed milk from the cupboard without checking if it was lite - and it wasn't - so dessert alone ended up being 9 points per serve! And yet miraculously I still came in just on my point total for the day, plus I did 6 bonus points worth of exercise.

But over dinner Cameron kept listing all the desserts we used to have as kids - culinary reminiscing I suppose you could say. Everything full of butter, or cream, or chocolate, or coconut... I felt like I consumed 50 points just by listening to the conversation! It's alright for him - he's never had the kinds of food/guilt/weight related problems that I have. And as he was listing chocolate mousse, apple spice cake, golden syrup dumplings and coffee mousse, all I could think was "Is it any wonder this family is so unhealthy?"

But despite all that, I decided to weigh myself last Saturday morning and in total I am down 10.6kg (since 20 February). That's about 10 weeks, so I'm pretty happy with that! Also, yesterday I reached a new record for the number of k's I did on the bike in one go: 14.2km in half an hour, up from about 12.6 in roughly the same length of time! And wow it felt good afterwards. I do love that post-exercise high! That brings my total to just under 350km ridden since the end of January - I will get to 500km easily before I go overseas in August. In fact, I'm aiming to get there before I leave for Perth. I thought about aiming for the Queen's Birthday weekend, but that might be just a little too ambitious. But we'll see.

Yesterday Concordis had a concert in at the ABC studios which was broadast live across the nation. It went well, I think, except for the last item, where Andrew gave us the wrong starting note (a tone too low). And of course, me being me, I could tell instantly that it wasn't right, and the piece is low enough as it is for sopranos. I did try to say "Andrew, are you sure that's right?" but he didn't hear me. But everyone else could tell by four bars in that it wasn't clicking, so we restarted the piece again on the correct note. A bit embarrassing to do on national radio, but at least it was handled professionally. Everything else went well. Better than I expected, even. I was so happy with the Eric Whitacre we did, Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine. It's a very challenging but absolutely stunning piece, probably my favourite item from our repertoire at the moment.

I will definitely miss this choir while I'm away, although it's made somewhat easier by not doing a whole lot of music that I'm really crazy about. There's a fair bit I like, but nothing I'd be upset at not getting to sing for 9 months.

I finally got organised enough to archive all the minutes and so on to CD for Claire who will take over as secretary as of the meeting this Wednesday evening. I'm not sad at all to be handing it over; it's well and truly time someone else had a go. But I have really enjoyed the past 9 years, playing such a formative role in the group. I love the sense of ownership one gets from being so involved, it's so much more rewarding than just rocking up to sing each week. Plus I love that we are where we are today because of all the work that people have put in. We don't get any funding, and we aren't attached to a university or music organisation, so everything we've done, we've done ourselves. I know I haven't always been the perfect secretary, but I'm sure I've been better than some.

Last Wednesday night I had to be at a meeting for work until after nine o'clock while my boss and her family went off to Cirque du Soleil. Her family had bought the tickets not knowing she had a meeting, so I filled in for her. Don't know how useful I was, but man, that is so not a committee I would ever want to be part of. They're hopeless!! No idea how to get anything done, a president who isn't the one to chair the meeting (and wouldn't even know where to start), a secretary who's even slacker than I was for Concordis, and a whole lot of people who bitch and moan about how much they pay for administration but who keep hurling work our way because of how disorganised they are. There's also way too many people on the committee - more than 15 though not everyone was there. My absolute maximum for an effective committee is about 10, though 8 is better. The more people you have the less gets done, and the more unnecessary bickering there is. I know from experience!

Anyway, I will leave it there for now, and hope that I can post again this week. There's at least one pic I want to put up, when I get around to it. Don't hold your breath waiting, though!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The joy of crossing things off lists

I am in a much better mood this afternoon than on Sunday night. I don't know what came over me as I was writing that long post the other day, but I went to bed feeling down and not very positive about a few things. There were a number of factors, probably: general time of the month moodiness; not enough sleep the night before; being a bit overwhelmed by how much stuff I have to do before I go overseas (and wishing I'd done a lot of it ages ago). Plus, I watched the final of West Wing that morning, taped on Saturday night. Guaranteed to make me sad that one of the best shows ever (yes, ever) has come to an end. It's quite possibly a bit tragic that I get upset when a favourite show ends, but West Wing offered something far more than most crap on television these days - this was a show that was always engaging, never treated its viewers as though they had the mental capacity of a cardboard box, and was constantly challenging from an intellectual, ethical and emotional point of view. Watching West Wing is like reading a great, soul-enriching novel that you don't want to end. It's that good.

Anyway, overall I am in a much better frame of mind today. Going for a walk with Lisa first thing helped. Having a public holiday helps. Having crossed 4 things off my Überlist in the last week has helped! The list itself is updated below, but to summarise, the new things were: going to the optometrist (#17), booking my flights to Perth in July for NYCA (#31), having friends round for fondue on Saturday night (#66), and finally learning all 9 New Vogue dances at Star!(#10). I had been hanging out for the last week in April because Barclay Blues was the only one I hadn't done at all. The dances go on a 9 week rotation, so it's hard to remember all of them between classes, and most of them I'm not at the point where I can do them well enough to dance them in the social. But a goal is a goal, and I love that feeling of accomplishment when I can cross something off a list.

Also, my Letter of Introduction for the Canadian Working Holiday Program came through the other day, which means my US non-immigrant visa can start being processed. Apparently they need to see my Canadian WHP too, as well as evidence of funds. I thought the WHP would take a few more weeks so I was getting frustrated at how long it would be before I could book flights, but I will now do that as soon as the US consulate sends back my passport and I know everything's fine. I also need to apply to work in Ireland which takes up to 6 weeks, but until I have my passport I can't make any headway on that. Why, oh why, was I not doing this 6 months ago?

I think that with all the places I'm going to (US, Canada, UK, Ireland and half of Europe) I need to organise myself a big folder with info for each place and lists of things I need to do before I go, otherwise I'm just going to forget things. In Spain I'd like to take part in Vaughan Town, which is an English-language immersion program for Spanish speakers and they call for English-speaking volunteers to come and spend a week there talking with the other participants (a lot). They don't have dates up for 2008 yet but I should probably contact them anyway. It sounds like so much fun. In Canada, I need to contact some people I'm hoping to catch up with - same for San Francisco, Houston, Germany and the UK. Then there's organising travel insurance and Eurail passes, and a few nights accommodation in major cities before I get there. And buying anything I'm going to need while I'm away... Planning a trip this huge is like a full-time job!

But I'm so excited to be going. I've been talking about doing this for years, and it's finally happening. The reality of being away for so long probably hasn't hit me yet, but I'll just have to cope with that when the time comes to leave. I'm quite sure I will spend the 20 hour flight across the Pacific going "OH MY GOD! What the hell am I doing??" But then I will land in San Francisco and all will be fine. How can it not be? It's San Francisco!

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What girls really get up to on a weekend away

As promised, here is the photo of us playing dress-ups in Daylesford. From left to right there's Sharon, Tash, BJ, Lisa, Dana and... the mad hatter in a sarong. I sort of cobbled my outfit together from whatever was on the rack that was a "one size fits all" kind of garment, so as a result I look more than a little daft. I am wearing a sash that reads something about the Daylesford and District Regional Baby Competition (2nd place, I think). Can you believe this was before we started drinking?

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Girls' weekend away

The Friday before last I went up to Daylesford for a couple of days with some friends for a spa retreat & pampering weekend. It was so much fun!

I'd never done the whole spa experience before. It's costly, but worth it to do every now and then. We went to Endota, and I got the package called 'drenched' which was a foot spa, a full body honey exfoliation scrub and yoghurt cocoon, a scalp massage, and a spa. So relaxing! Well, at least it was once I got over the whole 'oh my god, I'm naked in a room with a stranger'. They give you a paper g-string to wear, but really, it covers so little that you might as well not bother. They're very professional, must see dozens of naked bodies every day of all shapes and sizes. Plus you're under a sheet the whole time anyway and they just uncover the part they need to, and cover you up again when they're done and move on to the next section. So although it was weird at first, I felt comfortable pretty quickly and just let myself relax. I decided that it was time just to get over whatever issues I had about someone I've never met touching me and enjoy it instead. If you've never done it, I highly recommend trying it at least once, with just one thing to bear in mind: yoghurt is cold! Next time (if there's a next time) I'd probably try a mud/clay wrap instead.

Even apart from the spa treatment, it was a lovely weekend spent with friends. Aside from Lisa I didn't really know the others that well. I've spoken with most of them at various social gatherings or Christmas parties, but I wouldn't say I'm part of the same circle as the rest of them. A long time ago the idea of spending a weekend with a group of people I barely knew would have scared me half to death, being the introvert that I am, but it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to. I think travel helps you get over those kind of fears. In fact, I remember when I got back from 2 weeks in New Zealand in 2005, less that half an hour after stepping off the plane, I turned to a total stranger beside me to ask if he knew how to open my phone so I could put my SIM card back in as it was stiff and hard to open. He was perfectly obliging, but I think Mum was astounded at my asking assistance from someone I'd never met without any hesitation - it's certainly not the kind of thing she would do. But perhaps it's true that strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.

Anyway, it was nice to get to know the others a bit better, playing silly games, laughing, drinking. We even played dress-ups! Took me right back to being in primary school! The house we were staying in was called Auntie Em's, and the entire place was like a shrine to The Wizard of Oz - pictures of Judy Garland on the walls, posters of all the characters with quotes from the film, a display cabinet with assorted Oz collectibles, including a pair of red shoes. The dress-ups weren't specifically Oz related, but there was some funky stuff. I have a few photos but I think it was Sharon who took the only group shot that we got. I'll post it once I get a copy.

It was nice being away with a group of people who are all being quite health conscious. We were up at 7:30 on Saturday morning to go for a walk around Daylesford - we walked through the town and then around the lake, which is such a gorgeous walk, though quite hilly in places. But it demonstrated to me just how horribly unfit I am compared with other people, even though I know my fitness has improved significantly from where I was this time last year. So the weekend for me was a bit of an odd mix of being really comfortable and happy being around people who made it easy for me to focus on eating well and looking after myself, and yet at the same time being very, very aware of just how long this journey is going to be. I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter whether someone else only has 10 kilos to lose and can do it really quickly, what matters is that I keep my eye on the goal (to feel, look and be healthier) no matter how long it takes.

At the moment I think that's one of my biggest hurdles - it's not so much about not having the willpower to do it, it's more about not having the patience! I have already stuck with Weight Watchers points counting for longer than I have ever stuck with any other kind of diet/healthy eating plan (I know, I know, WW isn't a diet, it's a change of lifestyle...) That in itself is something I know I should be proud of. But three months is nothing compared with how long it will actually take me to reach goal. On bad days I do wonder if I have what it takes to get there.

Bad days are also when I'm most aware of another hurdle I have to conquer, which is to not beat myself up about getting to such an unhealthy weight in the first place. It's so easy to look back at all the bad choices I've made, all the times when I refused to listen to the voice of reason in the back of my head that said 'Shouldn't you maybe consider not eating that just because you're depressed?' or 'It would be a whole lot better to go for a walk instead of watching 3 hours TV in a row'. If my inner voice of reason said something I didn't want to hear I just ignored it. And look where that got me.

Soon after I started point-counting, I had a realisation about how I have dealt with guilt and food in the past. I used to think that feeling guilty about eating unhealthy food was something that other people made me feel. If I ate junk food and someone saw, I'd often get a look, a glance that indicated they clearly didn't think that was the best thing to be eating. No one would ever say anything, except maybe my parents, and even then they probably stopped trying after a while because it clearly wasn't having much impact. But I always felt guilty about eating crap food whenever I got a 'look'. So how did I solve this problem? Well, not by improving my diet, that's for sure. I quickly discovered (on a subliminal level, that is) that I didn't feel guilty when no one else was around, so I became a secret eater. If I ate a donut, but no one saw me eat a donut, then somehow I convinced myself that it didn't matter that I ate a donut. It just didn't count. And of course, the analogy that a good friend made when I mentioned this was: If a tree falls in the forest and no one was around to hear it, did it make a sound? It's a pretty good analogy, really! If a donut is eaten but no one is there to witness it, does it have any calories?

Well, I'm pleased to say that I think I actually conquered the 'secret eating' thing fairly quickly after starting with WW. Somehow, once I realised what a destructive behaviour this was, it was easy to stop. I don't think my guilt issues are to do with food now. At least, not directly. Now if I eat a piece of chocolate or something, I've gotten rid of the guilt. I know if I eat something that's high in points, I count it and try and compensate in other ways by extra exercise, or having a few less points in the next few days. It's not worth beating myself up over, that's for sure.

But now I think I have different guilt issues, and I don't quite know where to put them or what to do with them. I find it really hard to get over past mistakes: I always have, and not just in relation to food either. I'm the sort of person who will agonise for a month over something that other people might have forgotten in 10 minutes. I'm the freak who thinks back to when I was in Grade One and I punched another girl (lightly) on the arm just because she dared me to (yes, I got in trouble) - and I wonder whether she still remembers that day and, if so, what she thinks of me now. Never mind that I haven't seen her since I was 11, nor am I likely to - this is the kind of stupid thing that runs through my mind from time to time. So even though that's just an example, I have these weird guilt issues all the time. It's the hardest thing to wipe the slate clean and say 'Right, it doesn't matter what happened before, what matters is what I do now and in the future'. It's the hardest thing to look at photos from the last 10 years or so without wishing I'd made changes a long, long time ago. It's the hardest thing to start liking yourself when you never have, and when every fibre of your being tells you that you have no right to.

Last year sometime, I don't remember when exactly, Melissa came dancing with me one night and even though she had only been a couple of times and only knew a few of the dances, she was asked to dance a lot more than what I was. I didn't find this very surprising though, but I made some comment in jest about how "it's always the pretty girls who get asked to dance". And Melissa turned to me and said, "What are you talking about? You're pretty!" "Yeah, right," I responded. "Why? Don't you think you're pretty?" she asked. "No, of course not. Why would I?" was my reply. "Well, you are, so stop saying you're not!" She sounded more stern than complimentary.

We left the conversation there, even though to this day I struggle greatly with believing her. But in the days and weeks after this occasion, I kept turning this over in my head. At first I was flattered, if a little dubious. But the more I thought about it, the more I resisted the idea. I started to get really angry, to be honest. Not at being told I was pretty, but at being told that I should believe that I am. Regardless of whether it's true (and I will forever withhold judgement on that), exactly what positive influences have I had in my life which would make me believe it is? Why should I be expected to believe something like that when I have lived my entire life being treated as though I am unacceptable because I'm a fat person in a society that values thinness? Unless someone had received regular affirmations from family or friends that they were attractive, why would anyone (other than the most vain of people) assume they were? It's not something that comes naturally, as I'm sure many people could testify to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not annoyed at Melissa for saying it - I still think it was a very lovely thing to say, and everyone likes a compliment. But I find it frustrating from my point of view. When I think back to all the unkind things that may have been said to me or about me, including things that I knew people had said, even if they didn't know that I knew, and including things that may have been intended as innocent remarks, even if they didn't come across that way - when I add them all up in my head, well it's almost a miracle that I can somehow summon up the will to get out of bed each morning. For sure, a lot of them were a long time ago, and we all know how cruel kids can be (especially bitchy teenage girls). But I try and counter them with any good things that I remember and it's often hard to find enough to outweigh the bad. Even the people who are meant to be supportive and say encouraging things (and believe them) don't always. I mean, I don't even recall my parents telling me I was pretty. Not even when I was all dressed up to go somewhere, or when I was six and wearing some new party dress Mum would have made. I probably got told I looked 'nice' on many occasions, but that's a rather different thing. Not to mention being about the most meaningless compliment you can get. So I guess my point is that it's a bit unreasonable to expect people to have a high level of self esteem and to go through life with an easy self-confidence when they haven't necessarily had the experiences to warrant it.

I suppose this would be my primary concern every time I hear the phrase 'fight against childhood obesity'. Yes, of course it's important, and no one will agree with that more than I do. But every time I hear it, I wonder what kids who are overweight or obese are thinking when they hear it. It's one of the real hot potatoes in the medical and political arenas right now, and so it should be because of how alarmingly high the rates are. However, I think we need to be really careful that children aren't starting to think that they are unacceptable as people just because they're at an unhealthy weight. Some people might scoff at that and say "Of course no one's telling them them that!" But trust me, it's amazing how fragile children can be - I believe self esteem can take a battering a lot more easily for children than for adults. So whenever I hear talk, especially in the media, about addressing the issue of childhood obesity, I always wonder: who's looking after the psychological well-being of these children?

Anyway, this post headed in a direction that was WAY different from what I intended when I began writing it. I guess from reading it you would assume that this has been on my mind a lot today and that I've possibly had a lousy weekend. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth - I've had a lovely weekend filled with good friends, good food, more sleep than I usually get, and the whole house to myself. That's about as much as I can ask for on any given day! So I don't know where this big long rant came from, but I guess it's better out than in. Isn't that what they say?

Cheerier post next time, I promise.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

The Überlist

It's my birthday today. I'm 27!

I found it hard working up the enthusiasm to celebrate this year, although I'm having a get together in a couple of weeks with some friends (everyone was busy over Easter, and next weekend I'm away). Not sure why I can't get excited, but it felt very strange waking up to an empty house on my birthday, which I'm not sure I've ever done before. My parents are off house-sitting for some friends, so it's just me here. And the ultra-demanding cats. And 8 rabbits. Fun, fun, fun. Family dinner tonight though, which will be nice.

One thing I have always liked doing is setting goals for myself. And I tend to take stock on my birthday of what I've achieved with my life and what I still want to, everything from major goals like 'see the world' and 'find love', to the rather more mundane, like 'buy a new handbag'. I usually make a few New Year's Resolutions each year, but for 2007 I actually made an Überlist, which is more like a year-long list of things to accomplish. Or, as one website described it - like New Year's Resolutions on speed. What started as a super-cool idea by a few bloggers about a decade back has now taken the blogging world by storm. Like millions of others, I am jumping on the Über-bandwagon. It's a pretty big list, but hey, I'm not getting any younger so I have to fit more into each year! It's 107 things to do in 2007.

So this was the list I made shortly before the end of 2006 (things in bold are done, things in italics I have made some progress towards). Oh, and yes, I am so incredibly anal that I even arranged them into categories...

Clothing, Fashion, Accessories
1. Buy a new handbag
2. Mend jeans
3. Buy a new pair of sandals - yes, but now I’m allergic to them! (Apparently I'm allergic to the chrome in leather tanning solution. Yep, it sucks.)
4. Get properly fitted for a GOOD bra

5. Start wearing heels for going dancing
6. Buy a cool swirly skirt (yes, bought 2 actually!)
7. Buy some nicer tops for going dancing (yes, but hopefully will get more)
8. Find some nice jewellery that suits me - well, I think it does. AND I even made it myself!
9. Buy a nice jumper or jacket (well, it's more a coat, but it's what I needed)

Health, Fitness, Beauty
10. Do each New Vogue class at Star Studios at least once (so that includes Carousel, Tracy Leigh Waltz, La Bomba, Barclay Blues, Excelsior Schottische, Twilight Waltz, Swing Waltz, Lucille Waltz and Tango Terrific.)
11. Walk to work at least 3 days each week for a month - I probably did it for about 3 weeks, but now I’ve decided I prefer to drive since it means I can come home for lunch. Plus, I prefer to walk when I don’t have to carry anything.
12. Ride 500 km on the exercise bike before I go overseas.
13. Go to the dentist (though I do have to go back once more in August).

14. Get a pap smear
15. Wash face with a cleanser more often (I paid enough for expensive products, I might as well use them!)
16. Get legs waxed - yes, for the first but also the last time! Never again.
17. Go to the optometrist
18. Look into getting contact lenses for going travelling (maybe) - I think I've decided not to worry about this one.
19. Drink more water
20. Get to a size 20 - I made it! Well, I'm now an 18 in jeans, and sort of an 18-20 in tops. And still going down...
21. Get to bed before midnight every night for 2 weeks - I probably came close when living in Vancouver

22. Experiment with at least 6 new recipes - made a chilli pork stir fry, a Thai red chicken curry, a creamy chicken/mushroom pasta (with evaporated milk, not cream), couscous apple pudding, bircher muesli, and mini individual choc-mint cheesecakes - ALL RELATIVELY HEALTHY RECIPES, believe it or not!

23. Start cooking once a fortnight
24. Eat a piece of fruit everyday for 2 weeks
25. Stop eating McDonald’s/Hungry Jacks/KFC - I basically have. I think I've had McDonald's once since the start of the year
26. Take lunch to work at least 3 days each week for a month

27. Cut down on chocolate - I still have it maybe once a week or so, but small amounts at a time (not whole family blocks devoured during a movie!)
28. Discover at least 6 new eating places locally that do good, cheap food - well, local in Vancouver!

29. Choose a cook book out of the many on my shelf and make at least a third of the recipes (not really unhealthy ones)

30. Book flights for overseas (yes, except for several shorter legs. The round-the-world ticket is booked and paid for).

31. Book flights for Perth
32. Buy a backpack
33. Organise visas (finally!)

34. Organise some sort of work while overseas? Contact temp agencies etc.

Work & Study
35. Update my resume
36. Unenrol from the Masters course (well, not so much as unenrol as apply to graduate with the Grad Cert).

Skills to learn
37. Learn how to take better photos (and take more photos) with my digital camera

38. Learn how to use Photoshop
39. Learn how to use a sewing machine and make something
40. Start learning another language that I might find useful overseas - I bought a Spanish phrasebook with CD, so that’s a start (or it would be if I actually got around to listening to it!) 41. Learn 5 new jokes/stories and be able to tell them really well
42. Learn how to check the oil and water in my car

Art, Writing, Craft
43. Journal more often - both writing and art
44. Start using some of my massive collection of scrapbooking paper
45. Scrapbook photos of 1996 Europe trip
46. Scrapbook NZ photos
47. Finish NZ journal
48. Get into the habit of blogging once a week before going overseas
49. Mosaic a mirror frame for the bathroom as a present for Mum (for Mothers’ Day)
50. Make a piece of artwork other than journalling (just a small watercolour/pen sketch, but it's something)
51. Mosaic something - for me
52. Start using art supplies more (and stop buying stuff!!)
53. Make a watercolour palette with Sheer Heaven and Neocolour II crayons.
54. Find the perfect travel journal - a gorgeous leather-bound softcover book which was a present from Heather & Ross. Thanks guys!!

55. Make something with the marbled fabric I bought in January 2006
56. Do some more on my stained-glass-window cross-stitch
57. Go somewhere - park, café, beach etc - and journal for at least half an hour

Literature & Music
58. Go to more choral concerts - Tallis Scholars (Feb), Newman College (May), Kodaly Choral Festival (June), Vancouver Chamber Choir (twice - Sep & Oct), Musica Intima (Oct), Vancouver Cantata Singers (Oct), Phoenix Chamber Choir (Oct), Chor Leoni/Christ Church Cathedral (Oct), Valley Festival Singers (Nov), Chor Leoni (Nov), Laudate Singers (Dec), Seattle Chamber Singers (Dec)

59. Read 25 books - read 18: City of God (E.L. Doctorow), Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks), The Sunday Philosophy Club (Alexander McCall Smith), Choke (Chuck Palahniuk), Stranger on a Train (Jenny Diski), Odd One Out (Monica McInerney), Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin), Orpheus Lost (Janette Turner Hospital), Saturday (Ian McEwan), The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), Games We Play (Simona Vinci), HappinessTM (Will Ferguson), The World According to Garp (John Irving), Icefields (Thomas Wharton), The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood), Choke Hold (Todd Babiak), Flat (Mark MacDonald), Girlfriend in a Coma (Douglas Coupland)
60. Go to a play - Julius Caesar at the 'Bard on the Beach' Festival in Vancouver
61. Listen (like, really listen) to one new piece of music each week
62. Buy an mp3 player and choose music to put on it that I will want with me overseas
63. Write more reviews for Amazon (and get back into the top 7000 reviewers - I know, hardly a high-status position, but with hundreds of thousands of reviewers, it's not bad).
64. Archive all the mp3s on my hard drive to CD
65. Read one book of the Bible each month

Social life & relationships
66. Have a fondue night with friends
67. Catch up with Josh for lunch

68. Get in touch with Lauren
69. Stay in touch more with Linsey, Larry and Amy
70. Stay in contact more with Ross & Heather
71. Make a new friend - lots of them at NYCA!
72. Do something fun for New Year’s Eve
73. Kiss someone (this one I wasn't expecting to happen!)
74. Go skinny dipping
75. Say ‘yes’ to every social invitation for at least a month (unless it clashes with something)

76. Get $13,000 across various savings accounts (i.e. not including main account)

77. Cut down on buying books (considering last year's goal was to reduce my books by 10%, and I actually increased by about 15%!) - now that I'm overseas I've cut way down on buying books, but only because I can't carry them around with me everywhere!
78. Look into my superannuation and try to understand it (and make sure that I don’t actually have to DO something)
79. Donate $1 to a charity for every book I buy in 2007
80. Apply for a credit card

De-cluttering, tidying, sorting
81. Clear out desk drawers and make better use of the space
82. Sort through the top drawer of my dressing table and start using stuff like bath bombs
83. Stop leaving clean washing in the basket on my floor - hang it up!

84. Keep floor clutter free everyday for 2 weeks (only done because all the junk that lurked on my floor is now piled up on my desk. So next step is to clear the desk!)
85. Make bed everyday for 2 weeks

86. Sort through clothes and get rid of stuff I don’t wear
87. Organise the chaotic mess of shoes and bags in my wardrobe

Places to Visit
88. Do the Melbourne’s Golden Mile walk
89. Do a White Hat tour
90. Go away for a few days holiday in the new year (Torquay with Melissa)
91. Go to the beach more often
92. Go to the art gallery - yes, in Melbourne, Vancouver, Portland (and hopefully San Jose soon!)
93. Go berry picking

94. Frame my degree (it's been 3 1/2 years!)
95. Frame my graduation photos (ditto)
96. Watch some 'must-see' movies - watched It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th St on Christmas Eve, both old American classics
97. Stay up to date with the few TV shows I watch (don't let the unwatched tapes pile up!)
98. Cut down on how much TV I watch overall
99. Go a whole week without TV

100. Sell some things on ebay
101. Get Concordis minutes & archives ready to hand over to the new secretary
102. Stop caring so much what people think of me

103. Learn to like myself - although no one ever likes themselves all the time, I think I've made enough progress with this this year that I'm going to count it!
104. Get less impatient with my mother (it's easier when I'm on the other side of the world!)
105. Complain less about being single - well, I don't think I've complained for a while...
106. Say ‘yes’ more - I've definitely been doing this and some good things have happened as a result!
107. Make another Überlist for 2008

I know some of these are really vague - I'm not quite sure at what point I could claim that #102-106 are done. And there are things on the list that I'm fairly sure won't actually happen this year (or maybe ever). But that's OK. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be on the list, I guess...

I'll try to keep updating progress throughout the rest of the year. Stay tuned!

List last updated 2/1/08


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Back from the void

So, for all three people who have ever looked at this blog, I suppose you're wondering where I've been. Well, nowhere, really - just... uh... busy? For 14 months...

My commitment to this blog has never been especially great, but I have been meaning to get back to it. Not so much for posting art journal scans, as it's been ages since I journalled in any form, although that's another thing I want to start doing more of again. But as usual, life continues to vary from relatively busy to absolutely flat-out hectic, so many things just get pushed to the bottom of the list of priorities. However, since I'm going overseas for 9 months or so (leaving in August) I thought it would be good for me to get back into regular blogging habits so I can keep it up while I'm away.

It seems rather pointless to try and fill in what's been going on in the last year and a bit but here, in no particular order and of varying significance, are some things that happened in 2006 or the first part of 2007:

1. I started working full-time as of last August.

Before that I was 3 days a week, but the extra money and responsibility of being the only full-time employee for the small business I work for has been great. I'm more tired than I was, but ironically I actually seem to fit more into my weeks. Since my free days are rarer I think I make the most of them more than what I used to.

2. I went to Queensland to sing with the National Youth Choir of Australia.

This was my fourth season with the choir - every year is different and it keeps getting better and better! Tony Funk from Canada flew out to be our conductor, which was a truly awesome experience. Not only is he a brilliant choral director, singer and musician, but he was so much fun to work with. And as usual I loved the opportunity to sing with like-minded choir geeks like myself and catch up with all the really good friends I've made through the choir.

3. Concordis, the choir I sing with in Melbourne, was the Victorian Winner and a National Finalist in the inaugural ABC Choir of the Year competition.

For this, we went to Sydney at the end of September for the final and came second! Sure, it would have been nice to win, but I don't think anyone was especially upset. We gave what felt like the best performance I ever remember us giving (and I've been there since we started 9 years ago!) We walked off stage just buzzing with how good it felt. Every little thing that could have gone wrong in performance didn't. No botched entries, ugly vowels, forgotten words... everyone was so focused and 'in the zone', it was great! I'm so proud to be part of this group.

4. I started dancing.

Yep, me - dance. Can't picture it? No, neither could I before I started. When Amy was out here from America she started doing ballroom and latin at a local studio and invited me along one evening for the free beginner class. I was so sure I wasn't going to enjoy it, being the not-exactly-graceful 2-left-footed person that I am, but I went along anyway so I could at least say I'd given it a go. I believe I was hooked after about half an hour! Who would have thought? So I've kept it up, going to classes twice a week and staying for the social on a Friday, moving through the intermediate classes, and on to the New Vogue dances. I still don't have grace and poise and elegance and balance and all those things that good dancers have, but I have so much fun, and I know I am so much fitter. Plus, I know that at least I'm a better dancer than some people who come for the social every week but have just picked up the dances as they go along... (accidentally typed 'picked up the dancers' a second ago, which is something completely different, although that happens sometimes too!)

5. I started following the Weight Watchers points system.

I have been conscious of needing to do something about my weight and my health for many, many years. But I think I'd talked myself into complacency, reaching a point where I just believed I was destined to be the size I was forever. To be honest, apart from setting a half-hearted goal at the beginning of every year to eat better and exercise more, I think I had stopped trying. It's quite depressing to think about actually. But in January this year, prompted by a good friend, I finally started taking control of my health. I haven't actually joined WW and I'm not going to meetings, but Mum and I are counting points together, and I have the support of close friends and family. What's most surprising, I think, is that I'm not finding it especially difficult. Nowhere near as hard as what I'd expected. I still have too many social situations where I don't choose healthier options, but I don't beat myself up about it, and I quickly get back to points counting and eating well and exercising. Both of those mean progress! I didn't know what I weighed when I began because I didn't have any scales at home, but about a month in I weighed-in at the doctor (and yes, I wanted to die when I saw the number). But about 5 weeks later when I bought a pair of scales, I was 5.8kg lighter! I'm not weighing myself every week because I don't want it to become all about the number - once every few weeks will do me. But I would estimate that with the first month's weight loss included, I've probably lost about 10kg already! I am ecstatic when I think about it like that, even though I know I have a long way to go. Baby steps...

6. I was on TV - twice!

Albeit brief appearances, and both of them associated with choir (and both of them pre-WW weight - it was quite mortifying to watch). One was a program made about the 'Choir of the Year' competition which aired in the Sunday Arts spot on ABC last year - they filmed some of our last rehearsal before the competition, interviewed a couple of people, and included footage from the national final. But even though we didn't win we were the 'spotlight' choir they chose to focus on for the program. The second appearance was on the Spicks & Specks Christmas special, where Concordis were invited to take part in one of the games, singing unknown texts (the best and worst of 2006) to the tune of well-known Christmas music i.e. Donald Rumsfeld's 'Unknown Knowns' quote to the tune of Jingle Bells, and the commentary from the World Cup Soccer Australia v Italy match to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus. It was a hoot! And our dressing room was across the corridor from Dame Edna's! What a way to end an amazing year for the choir.

7. We had more rabbit babies... and then more again.

Mum's really getting into this rabbit breeding thing. The first litter was an accident, but the others have been planned. We never wanted to go down this path though, so it's a bit frustrating that Mum wants to keep going. We're about to give away the last of the third litter, and yes, it's always sad to see them go because they're so adorable at this age (coming up for 6 weeks). But I could quite easily do without breeding anymore for quite a while.

So there you have it. My life to date. I was aiming for ten things, but it seemed to be hard to think of that many things that weren't already associated with what I've already mentioned. Anyway, I hope to have more to say in the coming months and beyond, when I'm overseas.

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