Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Image Source: Bluewinx15 on Flickr

Image Source: Bluewinx15 on Flickr

I had the privilege of growing up in a home with relatively more wealth than average. I did not want for anything that a kid needs, and I had a lot of incredible experiences that I didn’t need but that made my childhood more special and prepared me better for life as an adult. The most eye-opening of these experiences was attending a very expensive and exclusive private high school from age 13 until I graduated and went to college.

The choice to send a kid to private school elicits very strong opinions that are often tinged with jealousy. Also, people are usually surprised with the career struggles I’ve had, considering my educational background. (SO AM I. Let us all take this as a lesson that money or education do not guarantee perfect outcomes!) So I hesitate to invite a critical look at my life through the lens of knowing I shared textbooks with the girl whose dad basically owns all of Whistler, and that Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell sat directly in front of me at my sister’s high school graduation. But having attended school with some filthy stinkin’ rich kids (many of whom are lovely people!), I’ve observed firsthand how wealth can shape a person’s judgment of others, materialism, and sense of entitlement. And I would love to have a discussion about that aspect of it.

Among the general population of Vancouver, my family was considered well above average in terms of family income. However, relative to the pretty insulated environment at that school, we were friggin’ paupers. My parents made ACTUAL FINANCIAL SACRIFICES in order to pay the tuition. So I had the interesting perspective of feeling both wealthy and poor at the same time. NOTE: I am in no way insinuating that I had the same financial struggles as someone who is actually below the poverty line. But I know what it’s like to have relatively less wealth than others in your circles.

A lot of my classmates always had the latest gadgets, wore the most coveted clothing brands, and a brand new convertible on their 16th birthday. For many, if they wanted something, all they had to do was tell their parents and it would be purchased for them. I know that this was mostly done because those parents wanted to give their kids what they hadn’t had growing up. Or in some cases, because they had to work insane hours and were using “stuff” to replace quality time. But I don’t think it did the kids any favours.

This was not the case for my family or for a few of the other kids I was friends with. I had the opportunity through this school to go on exchange to Australia for four months at age 15, but my parents made me help pay for my plane ticket with my own money. I had to save half of all my babysitting money, and I got a summer job to help pay for it as well. I was allowed some of the clothes that I wanted, but I rarely owned the most expensive brands. I never owned a car until well into my 20’s and I paid for it myself.

As an adult now, I don’t really get along with my peers who were given everything they ever wanted as kids. I was always jealous of them in school, but I’m not anymore; we don’t understand each other. They never learned concept of earning what you buy and were usually judgmental of kids or people who didn’t have the best of everything. And it made sense back then: from their perspective, why on earth would you choose a tape deck when you could have picked a Discman? YOU MUST BE AN IDIOT. (Can you tell I was a teenager in the 90’s?!) But that attitude persists into their adulthood, only now it’s bigger things: Why would you rent when you could just own your home? Wow, a basement suite must be so dark. Why don’t you just go out and find a husband?

I’m proud that I have well and truly earned every modest piece of my life. I don’t need immediate gratification with the things I’d like to buy. I wait until I can afford them. I enjoy them more when I get them. And I seldom experience buyer’s remorse because I almost never buy things on impulse.

I think it’s great, if a family has the means, for the kids to be given things and experiences that will benefit and enrich their lives. Send them to the best after-school programs! Enroll them in private school, sure! Give them spending money to hang out with their friends! Heck, buy them a car or a house one day if that’s what you’d like to do, and sometimes, shoot the lights out and just buy them an expensive gift they want just for the heck of it. But don’t say yes to everything, every time. It’s so important to talk to kids about money and where it comes from, how it is earned, and how it must be used carefully to pay for the things you want and need. It’s great for them to have a job as a teenager, even if they don’t need one. The humility gained by having to sweep floors or clean up counters is a good trait. And the sense of pride from having earned that money themselves is truly priceless.

Do you have kids? How do you talk to them about money and gifts?

Fun Reads for the Weekend

Jesse & Celine in Before Sunset... one of my favourite screen couples of all time.

Jesse & Celine in Before Sunset… one of my favourite screen couples of all time.

How was your week, everyone? I went hiking to see a waterfall with my mum, did a Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy movie weekend, and found a great dress on clearance while shopping.

Some links I enjoyed this week:

Do you like playing Would You Rather? Then you will appreciate the incredible difficulty of answering these ridiculous 15 WYR questions.

Some creative pregnancy announcements!

The Heineken Dropped! campaign is pretty neat. They set up some departure boards in airports, and offered travellers a free trip if they would give up their existing travel plans. The catch? They had to press a button on the departure board, wait to see what random location it generated, and leave right away. Would you be up for that adventure?

Lululemon’s app specialist posted his three favourite apps for summer 2013.

Five financial tips for young couples. I like the one about combining finances for income splitting purposes.

Dying to try this summer salad this week: grilled potato, lemon & zucchini salad with romesco.

I highly enjoyed this American girl’s Twitter tale of playing hooky from school in Morocco to track down Matt Damon on a movie set. Promptly followed her on Twitter. Best part: how she stole toilet paper rolls.

The 10 worst people on the subway. YES.

Sailing Off Into the Sunset

I have this feeling that I’m in one of those years where I’m leveling up, and it feels very freeing, but it’s also stressful. In a good way.

2008 through 2011 were very challenging, unsettling years for me where it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did. I was not in a phase of making progress toward big dreams in my life then. If my life was a boat, then my boat had been ravaged in a storm and was full of holes, and I was so busy frantically trying to bail out the water to keep from sinking that I sure couldn’t focus on sailing away to discover new land.

2012 was the year I finally got all that water bailed out, and patched up all the holes. The boat looked a little worse for wear, but it was keeping afloat and I’d found calm seas. Didn’t really get anywhere, though.

And now 2013? THIS is the year of discovery. This is the year where things are actually moving in the right direction. I not only got my own apartment without a roommate, but IT HAS A SPARE ROOM. I upgraded my old beater car to the car I’d been dreaming about for years. I took a vacation to Vegas to hang out with a bunch of strangers from the Internet who have turned out to be some great new friends, and I checked my most dearly held item off my bucket list:  I went to see Shania Twain perform live. It’s looking gooooood this year.

But there’s a lot more I still want to do. Things I need to do. Bigger things, things that would have a bigger impact on my day-to-day life. Career things. Expanding-my-comfort-zone things. Taking big risks that have the potential for huge reward or crash-and-burn disaster.

That’s the clincher, of course, is that these things will require me to leap outside my comfort zone, and that is Scary with a capital S. So there have been some freakouts.

My general process for dealing with overwhelm looks something like this:

  1. Lightbulb goes on… big idea! Inspiration! Excitement!
  2. … which lead to more ideas, more than I can keep up with. Write them all down.
  4. Deny & hide. Watch some Netflix.
  5. Turn off Netflix, take a good long hard look at brainstorm notes and attempt to create an action plan.
  6. Realize just how much work this is likely to take, how uncomfortable or risky it’s going to be, and how little time I have to get it done and how impatient I am for progress. This usually hits me in waves.
  7. FREAK THE EFF OUT. Cry for two days and watch more Netflix while talking my sister’s ear off about how my life is so hard and I’ll never amount to anything and this is all impossible.
  8. Get over myself and get to work on that action plan.
  9. Watch as my hard work yields actual results. Celebrate with champagne!

I’m doing a pretty good job of staying focused on #8 most of the time these days, but I’m having my moments of #7. Thank God my sister is a saint but also not a pushover and will listen and offer advice but then call me out when I’ve been navel-gazing for too long. I hope to be able to share some of the bigger stuff I am working on soon.

What’s your recipe for dealing with overwhelm? How do you “do it all”?

Fun Reads for the Weekend

This beautiful image of an elephant under an acacia tree, by Johan Hoekstra, is just what I've been searching for as tattoo inspiration.

This beautiful image of an elephant under an acacia tree, by Johan Hoekstra, is just what I’ve been searching for as tattoo inspiration.

How was your week? I made a fantastic Thai shrimp salad, wore lots of dresses in the gorgeous sunny weather, and declared that this was National Technology Fucks With You Week while restraining myself from throwing my work computer out the window. That would have been awkward… then we’d have a busted window AND a busted computer. And a hefty bill from the alarm company. And technology that really didn’t work. #PatOnTheBack?

I am one of those people who always has a million tabs open on my browser and I love weekly link roundups, so I thought I’d start posting one of my own as well when the mood strikes me. Here are some of the blog posts and articles I enjoyed this week:

Are you watching The Bachelorette? It’s my trashy, guilty pleasure made doubly fun by the hilarious recaps written each week by Lincee and Drea. Prepare to snort-laugh.

I met the amazing Jessica Manuszak in Vegas, and loved her post this week about how to pull off pink hair. Spoiler alert: it’s less about the hair and more about just doing the thing you wish you could pull off.

This professional design blogger encourages us to execute & spend on design with careful intention.

ManCakes Bakery is a real cupcakery in Vancouver run by two guys who wanted cupcakes to be less frivolous and have more interesting flavours. Apple Brie cupcakes? Chocolate red wine? Don’t mind if I do…

I’ve been inspired by all the great recaps from World Domination Summit in Portland this weekend, so much that I signed up for notification about next year’s tickets.

Loved reading Alex Franzen, one of my blogging idols, gush about meeting some of her blogging idols.

It’s taken me awhile, but I’m pretty happy with The Old Reader as a replacement for Google Reader. #RIP #ButStillAnnoyed

There are a lot of common phrases in the English language that are commonly misspoken. As a Northerner, I will admit to having uttered the phrase, “What’s you guyses’ opinion?” So. Ashamed.

My Morning Routine is dedicated to interviewing others about how they start their days. It’s an intimate peek at a part of people’s lives that are rarely shared and it’s fascinating.

Have a great week, friends!

Books I’ve Read Recently

Time for a whirlwind update on what I’ve been reading in 2013 thus far! I’m not what you’d call an avid reader of books… I love them, but find myself spending far more time reading online than in paper form, though I always seem to think this will change. But I’m a Goodreads addict (join me, won’t you? Let’s be book buddies!) and want to share my recent hits and misses.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:Gone Girl By now, nearly everyone’s had their say about this book. I’m not sure I have much new to add. This was a great thriller novel about a wife who went missing and the process of her husband finding out what happened to her. This story provided gripping insight into a very dysfunctional relationship between a husband and wife and I couldn’t put it down, but I found the ending highly disappointing. Still, a good engrossing read. 4/5 stars

The Age of MiraclesThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: This is a coming-of-age story set in a dystopian future in which the earth has begun to slow its rotation, thus continually lengthening the days and nights. This impacts the earth and its inhabitants, human and otherwise, in crazy ways and causes rampant uncertainty about the future and polarized views about how The Slowing should be handled. But amid this upheaval, Julia is still dealing with normal day-to-day life… her parents’ fractured relationship, falling in love for the first time, and changing school friendships. It’s such a great premise for a book, but I actually had a hard time feeling really connected to the characters and understanding how Julia’s personal story mattered in the context of The Slowing. 3/5 stars

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Oh, how much I loved this book. This is a YA historical novel set in England & France during the Second World War. Perhaps my obsession with European World War historical novels plays into my love of this book, but the characters and the writing were also exquisite. This is the story of the wartime friendship between Maddie & Julie, and it opens with Julie having been captured and detained by Nazis after the plane that Maddie was flying, in which Julie was a passenger, crashed… killing Maddie. Julie is trying to buy time with her story while mourning for Maddie. The story has so many plot twists, I won’t say anything more, but read this book! 5/5 stars

Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman: I loved this historical novel set in the 1920’s off the coast of Australia. This is the story of a lighthouse keeper and his beloved wife who live alone on and island in the lighthouse, and struggle with multiple miscarriages trying to have a child. Heartbroken, one day they find a wailing newborn baby washed up on shore in a wrecked boat with a dead man. This is the story of the choices made in the wake of this discovery and the lives it irrevocably affects along the way. I had to suspend my disbelief over the actions taken at times, but this is a lovely and thoughtful novel with interesting characters. 4.5/5 stars

The SistersThe Sisters by Nancy Jensen: Another historical novel, this time set in 1920’s Kentucky. With their mother dead, sisters Mabel & Bertie live with their sinister step-father and take comfort in their love for each other. On the proudest day of Bertie’s life, Mabel sets out to improve things for the sisters, but a series of staggering misunderstandings alters the course of both of their lives. The book takes place over the course of several generations of Bertie & Mabel’s families so you truly see the lasting effects of this single day. I found most of the characters relatable and believable, if not likeable. 3.5/5 stars

RequiemRequiem by Lauren Oliver: The third and final book in the Delirium trilogy, so of course I can’t say a damn thing without giving away spoilers from the first two books. But I’ll say this: the trilogy is a dystopian YA series based on the premise that in the USA, love has been classified as a disease called deliria nervosa for which there is now a cure, administered at age 18. After receiving the cure, people don’t feel emotions anymore. They are paired with an appropriate match as their life partner, and live their live as they’re told without stress. But before age 18, teens are susceptible to the deliria and of course there are resisters to the controlling regime who leave society to live in The Wilds, uncured and free to love whomever they choose. These resisters are a threat to the controlled society, as they are “diseased.” It’s such a great premise for a story, and well-written with fantastic characters. Sort of like the next Hunger Games, if you ask me… 4.5/5 stars

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue: One of the most creatively written novels I’ve read in a long time. Jack is 5 years old. He was born in a small room and has never been outside it in his life. His mother was kidnapped 7 years ago by her captor & rapist Old Nick (who is Jack’s biological father), and she is locked into this room where she lives with Jack. She is desperate to escape back into the world of course, but she’s built a life for Jack within this four walls with games, activities, stories, chores, and lessons. To Jack, Room is the whole world and it’s pretty great. The story is told from Jack’s point of view, in the voice of a child who doesn’t understand that there is life beyond the four walls of his home. It’s incredibly thought-provoking. 5/5 stars

Mindy KalingIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling: Yep, the same Mindy who wrote The Office and now has her own show called The Mindy Project. Mindy’s a gifted humour writer, but for me that humour translates better onscreen than on the page. Ehhhh, it was funny. But I definitely didn’t love this book. A good & fluffy beach or airplane read, nothing earth-shattering in here though. 2.5/5 stars

That’s what I’ve been reading lately. I’m currently working away at another light beach read and a non-fiction book for a change. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

June Highlights, July Intentions

Wow, did June ever just fly right on by. The year is half over! I’m not ready for this yet! Honestly, this month wasn’t the best, but let’s get to it:

June Highlights:

  • I hiked up Grouse Mountain (my personal Mount Everest, thankyouverymuch) for the first time this season. Let’s not discuss my time, ever. Or the fact that I lost my way and had to bush-whack my way through a swampy, mosquito-ey, overgrown mess to get back to the trail. Let’s blame my time on that, ok? Yes, let’s go with that.
  • I had a couple of friends over to my new apartment. I’ve been really resistant to this; I miss my old place something fierce, but I’m slowly getting there. I think a new sectional couch and rug for the living room would help matters immensely.
  • Won a gift certificate to a sports clothing sample sale and discovered a great new-to-me brand, Tonic.
  • Had a blast brunching and pitch ‘n putting with my dad & the rest of my family for Father’s Day.

    The parents, waiting to tee off at the pitch 'n putt golf course

    The parents, waiting to tee off at the pitch ‘n putt golf course

  • Tried dark dining – what a great experience!
  • I made a cake from scratch for my sister’s birthday using Joy the Baker’s White Chocolate Rose Cake recipe, and it was a huge hit!

    White chocolate strawberry rose cake with real rose petals

    White chocolate strawberry rose cake with real rose petals

  • Went on one horribly boring first date and one fun one with a super guy that I unfortunately had no chemistry with.
  • Spent half the month unable to hike or do yoga due to my neck & shoulder going out. This is related to my back injury and the type of flare-up that really gets me down because it throws me off my exercise schedule.

How did I do on my June intentions?

  • Go live with the custom blog header that Karlyn made for me – YUP! Click through to check out the new look if you haven’t already!
  • Participate in Nicole‘s 30 Day Sugar Detox program. – I participated in this, lost about 2 pounds (not as much as I would have liked), finally kicked my daily sugar cravings, but didn’t fully complete the detox. I detailed my experience with it here.
  • I WILL NOT BAIL ON MY BOOK CLUB THIS MONTH. I WILL NOT BAIL ON MY BOOK CLUB THIS MONTH. I WILL NOT BAIL ON MY BOOK CLUB THIS MONTH. – I didn’t bail! But book club ended up being cancelled this month because literally everyone else bailed, so let’s call that a wash.
  • Celebrate my sister’s birthday this month without breaking my resolve to avoid sugary treats. I can celebrate with her without eating cake. – I made the cake myself, and I totally ate a piece. But I didn’t take any home with me, and I decided a couple weeks into the detox that I still want to enjoy sugar for special occasions, so this was in line with the way I want to eat.
  • Complete the Grouse Grind hike up Grouse Mountain this month. – Sure did!

July Intentions:

  • Finish unpacking the moving boxes in the spare room
  • Put artwork up on the walls in my apartment
  • Put some money towards paying off my line of credit
  • Go paddle-boarding
  • See Before Midnight in theatre as a solo date night
  • Go to a yoga class at the top of Grouse Mountain. My favourite yoga studio is doing a free class there every Sunday morning for the summer!
  • Go on at least a couple more dates that do not involve sitting at a cafe and interviewing each other for the position of boyfriend/girlfriend over a caffeinated beverage. I AM SO SICK OF THE FIRST DATE COFFEE-INTERVIEW.

Sugar Detox: Recap

30-Day Sugar DetoxWell, I was going to do weekly posts on how the sugar detox was going for me, and I haven’t. Here’s my confession: Out of this six-phase program, I stopped reading halfway through phase four. And phase five was the actual whole-hog detox phase. So I didn’t even do the full detox, and I don’t know what it’s like. Oops.

But I don’t feel guilty.

One could say that I didn’t get the full value that I was paying for out of the program. I can’t really argue with that, it’s true. But here’s the thing: I got what I was looking for out of the program. And I still think it was worthwhile. I did make some serious changes to the way I eat this month. Here are my takeaways from this program.

I am an abstainer for specific foods. I would like to be a moderator… a person who can have just a little bite or two of a sweet treat and be satisfied, and then not have any more. But I cannot be a moderator with specific trigger foods – I have to abstain totally or I will eat unreasonable quantities in a single sitting. I already knew that ice cream, fruit pie and cookies were in the no-fly zone. But since trying to avoid sugary foods, I’ve learned that this problem extends to any food that I consider a tasty snack.

To avoid unnecessary sugar, I need to plan out my food much better, and snacks especially. Snacks are my weakness when it comes to sweets! And half the time, it’s not even due to a craving, it’s just poor planning. If I’m at work, it’s 10 am, I’m hungry and I don’t have any snacks? Guess I’m having a cookie or a muffin from the coffee shop. Having healthy food on hand is key.

There are some really great sugar-free snack options. My favourite go-to snacks now are bananas, pistachio nuts, apple slices dipped in natural almond butter, veggies with hummus, and sliced strawberries mixed with plain yogurt (never thought I’d see the day that I’d enjoy plain yogurt over a sweetened type, but see the next point…)

Your tastebuds & cravings change when they’re less accustomed to a flavour.  Now that I’ve become less used to sugar in everything that I eat, I don’t need as much of it to enjoy a food. And I have been genuinely enjoying plain yogurt with fruit instead of the sweetened vanilla kind, which now tastes cloyingly sweet to me. And today? I found myself craving OLIVES. This is WEIRD. But I’ll take it!

And the big reason I wasn’t really on board with the full detox… I become exceedingly sensitive to sugar if I’m not accustomed to it even in small quantities in my diet. In a bad way. I ate the least sugar for the first week on the detox. I was very proud of myself and my choices. But then when I did have a bit of sugar, BOOM. Debilitating headache, fatigue and dizziness. I am not okay with this.

I want to keep eating some sugar to keep my tolerance reasonable, but not indulge every day. I definitely have successfully kicked the cravings. But I don’t believe in avoiding fruit or natural sugars, and I think they’re necessary to keep my body accustomed to processing sugar without sidelining me with negative side effects. That way I can still indulge in actual treats like birthday cake or gelato on a date in the summer, without eating real sweets every day.