Finding our natural talents

For my 26th birthday, Mr Science took me dancing.

We’d been talking about taking dancing lessons for quite a while but we just hadn’t gotten around to it. So we took dancing lessons on my birthday!

We went to the Ted Motyka Dance Studio in Winnipeg (parts of Shall We Dance were filmed in the studio) for a drop-in beginner class on the waltz and samba. As it turned out, there was only one other couple attending the class, so Mr Science and I pretty much got a private lesson for an hour. It was awesome.

Since neither of us have ever danced properly before (unless you count me doing ballet for a year when I was in elementary school, and then taking salsa lessons for a week in Costa Rica about 10 years ago), the instructor started with the basics. The very simple first steps of the waltz. But when we were able to do those without any difficulty, she showed us more new steps. And more new steps.

Throughout our lesson, she kept asking us, “Are you sure you’ve never danced before? Really?” The truth was, Mr Science and I were both actually very good at the waltz! We picked it up very quickly.

Here’s the thing: when I was a kid, I wasn’t naturally very good at, well, a whole lot of extra-curricular activities. The only reason I did well at piano recitals was because I practiced like crazy. I was *fine* at field hockey and cross-country running. I definitely had to re-take levels in swimming. I never made the basketball team (I wish I could blame that one on my height, but my friend Westwood is no giant and she rocked at basketball in high school).

It was kind of amazing, when we started waltzing, how natural it felt to me. Yes, I had to concentrate on what we were doing, and yes, we were only practicing it for an hour so it was still pretty basic, but in a way it felt almost… effortless. The steps seemed so natural. And the samba, I found, felt much the same as the waltz.

Perhaps I should have realized a long time ago that dancing might be the right activity for me. After all, having one leg shorter than the other by 3/4 of an inch does help my hips to roll more easily, Marilyn Monroe style! But all kidding aside, it was something of a magical moment. I think I might be naturally good at dancing. I think I could be very good at it if I learned more styles of dancing. And even better, I loved the waltz. The samba was a great deal of fun, but the waltz was simply beautiful.

I’m kind of excited to have found something that I really enjoy and I might be really good at. It’s so nice to have stumbled upon (danced my way into? ;)) something new this way.

Have you found activities that you seem to be naturally well-suited for? Were there any activities that you had a tricky time excelling at as a child? Have you tried waltzing? Share in the comments section below!

What’s life like on a farm?

I’m blogging for My Farmers’ Market and I had the opportunity to interview Ashley from Food Ethos Farm last month. It was super interesting to learn all about what life is like on a farm – I am such a city girl (and more specifically, a center-of-the-city girl), so I loved getting a glimpse of a totally different lifestyle than mine.

I thought some of you might be as curious as me about it, so here’s some of the interview:

1) What made you decide to start farming?

There were a number of reasons we got into farming. Curtis got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and shortly after that we went to Asia where he thought he would have trouble with all the food being spicy. Turns out it was the best he had been in a long time due to the fact that all the food is fresh! That is when we figured out his trouble was more about processed foods; whole foods, he was great with. We changed the way we look at health, starting with what we put in our bodies.
A friend had told me to try a Manitoba Farm Mentorship internship and I tried my hand at working on a farm for a season. We like being outside and growing things and had a family farm to go back to, so we just went for it and have never looked back.
day in the life of a farmer

How cute are these guys?!

2) Why is growing your own food important to you?

Growing our own food is important to us because it means we will never be hungry. This is our way to ensure we have lots of healthy good quality food all the time. We found something we love, and by farming and selling food we have found a way to make a living and a job out of it.

3) What have been some of your biggest challenges in farming?

Some of our biggest challenges in farming have been finding employees; you get to the point where you can’t work more, and there are not enough hours in a day to get in everything that needs to be done. There are not a lot of people who want to do this work! Another big challenge has been finding a work-life balance which goes hand-in-hand with the amount of work it takes to run a farm. This is something I think most farmers struggle with, as farming is a lifestyle and work and life blend together.

Click here to read the rest of the interview (including what a day in the life of a farmer is like, healthy eating tips, and more!).

Blog Makeover: 2014 Edition

Living Healthy in the Real World has undergone quite a few blog makeovers over the six years that it’s been around, and now it’s time for another one!

Over the past couple years, I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like, in part because I’ve been trying to figure out what I want this blog to be and where I want it to go. I’ve also been itching for a little more structure lately (probably since my freelance life is inherently rather structure-less!). And then I was featured in an article on the Top 10 Health & Wellness Blogs in Canada, with this description:

top health blog

To be honest, I was blown away by the accuracy in the description for my blog. I’ve struggled to define what exactly my blog is, and in just two sentences, AHAALiving has nailed it exactly! It also reinforced that itch for structure and balance for writing about different topics within my overarching blog themes.

With all of this in mind, I’ve decided to start blogging twice a week for each of my blogs – so if you read them all, you’ll have a new article to read every day from Monday to Saturday! I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I’m really excited about some of the upcoming posts that you’ll be seeing. It will be fun to mix things up a little.

The new blog schedule is going to look something like this:

Living Healthy in the Real World:

  • Mondays: Nutrition and fitness.
  • Thursdays: Mental / emotional health and other general health topics that aren’t related to food and exercise.

Living Fashionably in the Real World:

  • Tuesdays: Tips and how-to articles on fashion, style, beauty, and accessories.
  • Fridays: Outfit of the day / inspiration pieces.

Living Rhetorically in the Real World:

  • Wednesdays: Tips and tricks related to writing, editing, social media, and general communications.
  • Saturdays: Re-cap of my week as a freelancer / home-based business owner, thoughts for the week, and answering FAQs about the freelance lifestyle.

So that’s what you can expect on Living Healthy, Living Rhetorically, and Living Fashionably! We’ll be starting the new schedule next week. It’s going to be a fun and fresh new experience for the blogs.

Have you re-assessed your blog or changed your schedule or the types of articles you post? What would you most like to see discussed here at Living Healthy (or Living Rhetorically or Living Fashionably)? Share in the comments section below!

26 Things I’ve Learned in the Year Leading Up to My 26th Birthday: Part Two

My birthday has come and gone, but the reflection continues! If you haven’t already, check out last week’s post on 13 things I learned in the year leading up to my 26th birthday.

Thirteen (More) Things I Learned in the Year Leading Up to My 26th Birthday:

14) Dusting can make the surfaces in your home look super shiny and new. This I discovered after putting off dusting for an embarrassingly long time. On the other hand, everything in my house looks really pretty now!

15) Sometimes you don’t know how bad you feel until you add / remove something in your life. I didn’t realize that my “normal” actually felt really bad until I started getting massage therapy and acupuncture. My new “normal” is so much better and happier and energized than my old “normal”! It’s the same with stopping drinking coffee – I feel better now that I’m not drinking it on a regular basis.

16) The theory behind changing a tire. When we got a flat, it was a neat chance for me to learn the logistics of changing a tire (can you believe that I didn’t know how to do it?) – but then we couldn’t get it off completely, even after we removed the lugs, because the tire was stuck. But at least now I know the theory behind what you have to do to change a tire! (And evidently it’s more important to have a CAA card than to know how to change a tire. :))

how to change a tire

Jacking up the car!

17) You can learn much more when you summarize rather than take down notes verbatim. This is something I noticed with my transcribing / computerized note-taking job (in which I write down the lectures for deaf and hard-of-hearing students). For some of the university lectures, I’m typing exactly what the professor says, and in other lectures, I’m taking notes in the class. In both situations, you have to pay very close attention to the professor, but I find that I’m actually getting something from the class and learning from it when I’m taking notes. When I’m transcribing verbatim, I’m much more focused on getting everything down as quickly as possible to pay too much attention to the actual content.

18) If you budget properly and pay very close attention to your finances, you can get by on a pretty small income. Budgeting is one of the first things people should learn about when they’re thinking about launching their own business!

19) Living in the present makes a difference. Having anxiety sometimes makes it tricky to live in the present and do what you want at that moment, but I’ve been able to let go off things that I can’t do anything about much better over the past year. It’s important to know when you should think things through to find a solution, and when you need to let something go because you can’t do anything about it anyways.

20) If there’s no reason to keep stale and stagnant things in your life, get rid of them. This past year was a little bit of an overhaul in a bunch of different areas of my life. There were many things, such as a couple of volunteering gigs, which I had enjoyed immensely at one point but which I was gradually starting to feel like were dragging on a bit. In these cases, it’s really important to recognize that it’s time to move on! For me, the people were great, the issues were important, but it was just time for something new. Trade the stale for something fresh – you’ll be happier and it will free up space for someone with new ideas to take your place!

21) Burnout is a very big problem that a lot of people face. I recently was going back through some of my old Twitter updates, and I realized that a couple years ago, I was bringing a lot of my work home with me. I used to work slightly longer days Monday – Thursday so I could leave early on Friday, but I would often still respond to emails on Fridays and sometimes on the weekends, too. It wasn’t at all a requirement of the job – but it was something I did because I really enjoyed my work. In short, my enthusiasm for my work was part of what burned me out at my non-profit job! When I became aware that I was burning out, and left that job, many other people approached me to tell me their story of burnout, and it was rather surprising to see how many other people experienced similar issues. That’s one of the things I like best about working from home, now, too: if I get too enthusiastic one day, I just take an extra day off work at another time. It all works out, since I’m the one making my own hours.

22) We usually have a little bit more left in us. This is a funny one to follow a point on burnout, but it’s true! Things were pretty hectic at my non-profit job around the holidays this past year, and I ended up needing to take on a project and organize an event with less than two months to spare (the year before, I had been given six months to prepare for it). I’m not quite sure how I managed to do it and keep on top of the rest of my work, but I did. I’ve found the same thing when I go running, too: I might think that I’m running as fast as I can, but if you push yourself… we can always go a little bit farther. I don’t think we should push ourselves to our limits every time, but it’s important to remember that we have an extra reserve available if needed!

23) There’s nothing quite like following your passions. I was certainly challenged at my job in the non-profit industry, and I gained a huge amount of experience, but although I was passionate about the issues, I wasn’t passionate about the work. I am so happy every day that I get to write and edit for a living. A couple of full-time opportunities came up this summer, but for me they just reinforced how much I love having a home-based business and being my own boss. I can’t see myself taking on a full-time position for a very long time (if ever).

24) Taking a day off isn’t the best thing for your immune system. As I write this, I’m ill – yet again. I don’t think I’ve ever caught so many colds as I have this year. In fact, this particularly illness started off as a combination of a cold and the flu (I didn’t even know it was possible to have both at the same time!). It seems that whenever I give myself a full day off of work – or a day off of really doing anything – to just veg out and read books and watch Buffy and Angel (best. TV shows. ever.), the germs attack. Consequently, as Mr Science observed, I’ve been getting sick once every couple months pretty much all year (which also leads me to wonder, do I only really take a *proper* day off every eight weeks?). Moral of the story: if you spend much of your time in go-go-go mode, it’s going to catch up with you sooner or later. So maybe this point shouldn’t so much be that “taking a day off isn’t the best thing for your immune system,” but rather, “we should all take more days off so that our immune systems are better able to handle said days off.” Hmm, yes, I like that better.

25) It’s okay to be on totally different pages from others. I tend to feel that I go throughout life not really *getting* what other people *get* and vice versa. Like the appeal of having children (sorry, guys – your kids are cute and I really like the ones I know, but I am completely flabbergasted as to why anyone would want to have a child of their own), or why no one else seems to think Science Style is nearly as funny as I do (please go and watch it. Is anyone else cracking up as much as I was when watching it?). But here’s the thing: that’s okay! It’s even a good thing, especially when we appreciate the differences that we have and can discuss them candidly and enjoy the quirks of others and ourselves.

26) If something’s not working… change it. On my last birthday, I wrote about how I was feeling discontented with who I was as a person and what I had accomplished. So… I made some changes. I realized that I couldn’t deal with my anxiety by myself, so I started getting acupuncture and massage therapy. I realized I wasn’t as good of a friend as I wanted to be, so I started trying to be there more for people. I realized I wasn’t happy with my job, so I created a new one for myself. If there’s one thing that’s wonderful about the passing of years, it’s that each year is another opportunity for growing, making changes, and progressing to be the people we want to be.

What have you learned over the past year? Share in the comments section below!

26 Things I’ve Learned in the Year Leading Up to My 26th Birthday: Part One

This week I turn 26 years old. One of the biggest questions that’s been eating away at me in the past few weeks leading up to my birthday is, where did 25 go? This year seemed to happen so fast. Already the cusp of 24 – 25, when I had a mini quarter-life crisis, seems such a very, very long time ago. What happened to 25?

So much has happened this year that it’s been something of a blur! And now, as I turn 26, and the leaves start to change color yet again (which begs the question – where did summer go?), I think it’s time to turn to some reflection on what I’ve learned over the past year.

13 Things I Learned in the Year Leading Up to My 26th Birthday:

1) Everything will go smoother if you take a few deep breaths. This is a great one to apply in yoga, since the deeper you breathe, the deeper you can get into a pose. But it can be applied to a lot of other areas in your life, too. A few deep breaths can calm you down, can make you more relaxed, can help you think more clearly, can make you more focused, and can help you connect with people better.

yoga clothes

♥ yoga

2) Others will understand if you have to say “no.” At my old job in the non-profit sector, I was so exhausted all the time and so inundated with being around others and talking with people all day that I had to cancel on social plans with my girlfriends a couple times. I could have made up an excuse for why I couldn’t make it, but instead I explained that I was tired and I really needed some alone time – it’s not that I don’t want t hang out with you, it’s just that I really need to be by myself for a while! And they completely understood. From time to time we all need to say “no,” and there’s no shame in that.

3) I adore the “business” side of owning my own business. This came as something of a surprise to me. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the business component of being a business owner until I started freelancing full-time. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating or boring (as with anything else), but most of the time I really like the process of business planning and marketing and doing administrative work for my little editing and writing business.

4) Appreciation goes a long way. There’s a lot to be grateful for in life, and expressing our appreciation is really important. And the moment we don’t feel appreciated anymore, we’re probably going to lose interest. Not feeling appreciated can be a real turning point. It can even lead to quitting jobs and forgoing friendships! Appreciation is extremely important to express.

5) At a certain point in your life, being tired gives you as much of a hangover as drinking too much. Last week I attended a bachelorette party where I had a measly two little glasses of champagne, and I stayed awake until 2am. The result? The next day I had a total exhaustion hangover. I was too tired to do anything but curl up with a book for most of the day! I’m definitely not the type of person who goes out and gets drunk, but I am the type of person who has a hard time doing much of anything the next day if I stay out past – ahem – midnight. Moral of the story: most of the time, I’m in bed before 10pm.

I’m too old for this… stuff.

Because double references are always better than single references!

6) It’s a good idea to always have multiple back-up plans. My full-time freelance editing and writing business is working out pretty great so far, but I definitely put several contingency plans in place before I launched my business! You want those back-up plans to be there in a pinch if something goes wrong, but you also want them to be difficult enough to access that your first plan will work.

7) Letting go of things that aren’t working can be a huge relief. This year, the board of directors and I decided to disband our non-profit, The Food Label Movement. We just didn’t have the resources we needed to make it be a catalyst for change, and there are also other groups doing similar work in Canada, so we decided that it was time to dissolve the corporation. As soon as we agreed, I was surprised at the weight that lifted from my shoulders – it’s still an issue that I feel strongly about, but I know that I / we were not the right people to make the difference. And that’s okay.

8) Sometimes you just need to rearrange your environment to give you a fresh state of mind. For several months I was moping about how there were a lot of things I wanted to change about our condo, but we simply couldn’t make the changes because we can’t afford it at this time. So one day, Mr Science announced that we were going to rearrange some of the furniture. It only took a couple hours to change up our work stations, hang things up on the walls, and organize everything. I love the result and it feels like we’re making much better use of our open-concept suite! And we didn’t have to spend a penny.

9) I am much more sensitive to the caffeine in coffee than I expected. I gave up coffee just a couple weeks ago, and it’s amazing how much deeper and longer I was able to sleep for that first week! I’ll still have coffee occasionally, but I don’t actually miss it. It’s rather nice to go back to drinking my chai green tea first thing in the morning.

having coffee for the first time

10) There are few things as beautiful as waking up when it’s still dark out and getting outside to watch the sunrise. The days are certainly getting shorter, and one day not too long ago when Mr Science and I went running along the river, there was the most gorgeous pink and red sunrise. We started running when it was still dark and by the time we arrived back home, the sun was up. It was the perfect timing and a good reminder that sometimes getting up a little bit earlier than usual can really be worth it.

11) Learning another language is so much more difficult when you’re an adult. I used to catch on to languages pretty good, and at the very least understand what people were saying, even if I couldn’t read or speak it very well. But Mr Science and I are learning French and it is tough! (Of course, it’d probably go smoother if I studied it every day rather than every few days…)

12) Identifying your learning style can make life easier. I really enjoy the challenge of learning a new language, but I think I’ll have to use additional supports while I’m using Rosetta Stone to learn French. I learn much better when I write things down, as opposed to when I’m just supposed to pick it up as I go along. I’ve found that when I write down words and sentences, I get a better hang of the grammar of the French language. I really like Rosetta Stone, but a few extra language-learning supports (like a French-English dictionary!) make a big difference for my ability to learn.

13) It’s possible to write a first draft of a book within the space of one week. Last year, National Novel Writing Month was a bit of a failure for me (I think I wrote 1,000 words and then stopped, rather than the 50,000 words you’re supposed to aim for). But I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this summer and I surpassed my word count goal within the first week! It will still take a few more drafts before it’s ready, but I’m hoping to launch a little series of business e-books in the next year or so (speaking of which… does anyone have small business questions they’d like me to answer in said books??).

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post, which will featured 13 more things I learned in the year leading up to my 26th birthday!