An Experimental Life

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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