a year of reading

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads, lives only one.”

George R.R. Martin

As we grow up, our lives become overrun by responsibilities. Going to work. Paying the bills. Car maintenence. Attending appointments. We often forget to take time for ourselves, because we become so consumed by these mundane tasks. It’s difficult to find a happy balance. For the year 2016, I’ve committed myself to making time for me. More specifically, I plan on reading more books. I have always been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, but unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten how to incorporate reading into my busy schedule.

I’ve currently set my reading challenge goal to 12 books for the year (1 book per month). It may seem like a small number, but to me it’s manageable and realistic. Hopefully I’ll be able to go above and beyond that number, but if not, I won’t be disappointed.

As I complete a book, I’ll add it to my list below. By doing so, I’m hoping it will keep me accountable. And more importantly, I look forward to re-reading this post at the end of the year to reflect and celebrate my achievements.

If you have any book recommendations, please feel free to comment. I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Happy reading!

MY 2016 READING CHALLENGE:

1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
(Although Wonder is considered to be a children’s literature book, I think every human (young and old) should read this beautiful story. In some way (big or small), we can all relate to Auggie Pullman at some point in our lives. I loved that this was the first book I read for my challenge. I completed it within a week, and to be honest, I was quite sad that it came to an end. Hopefully more people read this book, and hopefully more people choose kindness)

2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
(“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.” Yes, this book does involve a love story between two very different people, but I don’t think that’s the entire focus of the story. The most important take away for me, is that life is precious and we shouldn’t settle for ordinary. The story is about pushing your limits, living boldly, loving life and never holding back. ‘Me Before You’ took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions that I think I’m still trying to recover from. However, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie and reading the sequel.)

3. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
I’ve never been a huge Oprah fan, but I do respect her. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and found myself highlighting/bookmarking specific inspirational quotes that I could relate to. Someone describes this book as a “deep cleansing breath” and I couldn’t agree more.

4. The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith
The moment I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. I actually finished it in 4 days. The subject of this story is pretty sensitive in nature. It’s about the sexual assault of a young teenage girl named Eden. For me the story was heartbreaking, yet beautiful at the same time. I sympathized with Smith’s characters and felt that Eden’s story was powerful. Her experience pulled at my heartstrings. A worthwhile read, for sure.

5. The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine
If you’re looking for a simple beach read, then The Season of You & Me is for you. I liked the concept of the story, two teenagers looking to escape the realities they are faced with in their lives. A summer romance. It was good in theory, but I just didn’t really enjoy the writing. The author utilized a hashtag throughout the story (#wheelchairperk), which just didn’t make sense to me. I know this was to appeal to an adolescent crowd, but it made me cringe every time I read it. It just didn’t seem to fit in. A little disappointed by it.

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (currently reading)

 

all good things must come to an end

On Friday afternoon, I said goodbye to my first classroom and my first group of students. As I stood in the classroom at the end of the day, with all of my belongings, it almost brought me to tears. I did it, I thought to myself. I followed my dreams and (hopefully) touched the hearts of 15 little kindergarten kids. A bittersweet feeling.

I think back to my first day in September. I couldn’t sleep. I was anxious. I didn’t know what to expect. Basically, I was being thrown to the wolves. I had to make my own path, set my own classroom rules, be the teacher I had always dreamed of. I was just trying to figure things out day by day (with the help of my teaching partners of course). And, although there were endless work nights, and days where I felt tired and run down, it was all worth it.

Not only did I grow as a teacher, but I grew as a person too. Patience. Compassion. Flexibility. Parenting. Sense of humour. Open-minded. Firm. Just to name a few. 

For 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. 5 months of the school year. These children were learning with me. Growing and maturing. Interacting with other kids. Developing their self-regulation skills. Yes, there many times when I felt frustrated. Overwhelmed really. After three months of school, I felt like some kids still weren’t quite getting it and that worried me. As a result, I was really hard on myself. What was I doing wrong? What could I be doing better? Am I really cut out for this? 

I doubted myself at times. After all, they do say we are our toughest critic. But, this process taught me not to be so hard on myself. Sometimes I had to take a step back and appreciate these little humans for who they were. Take each day as it comes. Enjoy the little moments. Learn from your mistakes. And remind yourself, that it’s okay to cry on your drive home from work (as long as it’s not every day).

During my last couple weeks at my school, the other teachers were asking me if I was feeling happy or sad about leaving. I always kept my head held high and answered, A little of both. Truthfully, I was looking forward to taking a couple days off for myself to get caught up on some work at home. Some much needed “me” time.

But when Monday came this week, I woke up feeling like something was missing. I missed interacting with my fellow staff. I missed being greeted by my students when the bell rang. I missed the excitement of when my students learned something new. I missed the little letters my kids would leave for me. I was feeling emotional. I know this isn’t the end for me, but this is the last “first” teaching experience I’ll get.

missprost1

So as I sit here, I can’t help but think, I hope my students remember me. I hope they know how special they are and how much of an impact they had on my life. And, if I could tell them one last thing, it would be from my favourite children’s book:

“You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

– Dr. Seuss

Sometimes, good things come to an end, so better things can begin. On to the next teaching adventure…

firstday1.png

teachers have ‘first day of school’ pictures too.

 

travel more. worry less.

Traveling has changed me.

As a child I was fortunate enough to go on frequent family vacations. I am forever thankful to my parents for providing me with those opportunities. Together we created memories that will last a life time. Something to look back on and reminisce about.

family1             family2

Although these trips have been special, I believe traveling as a young adult is different. It strengthens you. It allows you to grow and get cultured. It makes you appreciate the little things. And it ultimately defines the rest of your life.

As you know, over the past year and a half I’ve done a bit of traveling to Europe (Finding the Inspiration) to visit my boyfriend. I’ve always been a nervous flyer. I don’t enjoy being on a plane, especially when I’m by myself, surrounded by complete strangers. What am I supposed to do for 7 hours? Who can I talk to? Where do I go when I get off the plane? Will I have enough money? What if I get lost? These thoughts floated around in my head incessantly. Until I decided to let go. I chose to let these worries escape me and learned how to go with the flow (a skill that is difficult to master). It ultimately opened my eyes and changed my attitude into a more care-free, positive, enriched attitude.

travel

I’ve discovered new things about myself that will stay with me throughout my life. Lessons that I’ll be able to hopefully one day share with my children. Ideas and thoughts that I would like to share with you now.

5 things traveling has taught me:

  1. Experiences over Material things. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to shop. But, I’ve learned to recognize my needs vs. my wants. Happiness isn’t about getting those pair of shoes you’ll probably never wear, or that new handbag that is similar to another one you already have in your closet. Happiness is about making memories and embracing new experiences. My travels have taught me to buy experiences, not things.
  2. Taking a break from social media is okay. We have become so dependent on our phones and computers, that we often forget how to live our life free of them. I’ll admit, I’m still learning to master this. But, traveling has taught me to break free from social media and take time to enjoy what I’m doing, in the moment, rather than spending my time showing everyone else what I’m doing.
  3. The best restaurants are hidden away from tourist attractions. If you’re looking for delicious food at an affordable price, avoid the high traffic tourist areas. Yes, it might be nice to sit under the Eiffel Tower for dinner, but you’ll pay the price for it and it probably won’t be the greatest food. In my opinion, I got more joy out of stumbling upon a small, quaint restaurant down a cobblestone alley than going to a fancy, extravagant lounge.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone. Meet new people. Try different foods. Speak the language. Be adventurous. Say yes. In our lives, we often get scared of trying new things. But, I’ve come to learn that the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. This March, Justin and I are traveling around Switzerland and we decided to go paragliding during our time in Interlaken. I’m terrified. But I know it’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
  5. Appreciate the beauty. Breathe in the culture and nature while you’re visiting a new place. Sometimes you have to put your camera down and just enjoy where you are, who you’re with and what you’re looking at. Let it sink in and envelop you. Because that is what you’ll carry with you forever.

I’m sure as a take flight and explore new destinations, I’ll add more lessons to this list. I look forward to exploring and experiencing life the best way I know possible.

finding the inspiration

It isn’t always easy to find meaningful topics to blog about. Not to mention the fact that life gets in the way, and frequently, you don’t get the opportunity to just take a moment and appreciate all the amazing things you got going on. It’s been about 8 months since my last entry and I feel like so many spectacular things have happened to me.

At the airport with Justin

At the airport with Justin

I’ll start with the month of December. For me, this was an exciting month. For obvious reasons it meant that Christmas was fast approaching, but more importantly, my boyfriend, Justin, would be coming home from Ireland for the holidays. At this point, we had been apart for 4 months, so it was really nice to spend some quality time with each other and our families.

Another special moment, was when my brother and sister-in-law told the family at Christmas that they are expecting a baby in summer 2015. After an extremely tough 6 months, with the loss of my niece, Isla (A Journey of Grief), it was a bittersweet moment of joy to find out that we would be welcoming another little one into this world. With it now being just over a year, my family has had time to heal and we couldn’t be happier for them. I’m so looking forward to meeting my little nephew at the end of the month!

This brings me to the month of March. My first trip on a plane by myself. First stop, Ireland.

Justin picked me up at the airport and I spent a few days with him in Limerick. While Justin had classes, I was able to explore the downtown city centre. There’s something so exhilarating about being in a place, by yourself, navigating through unknown territory. The city lies on the River Shannon and has a vast variety of old architecture, lush pastures, unique shops and local pubs. Definitely worth traveling to.

IMG_4910     IMG_4890     IMG_6541(1)

After seeing Justin’s home away from home, we were on our way to our next travel destination. Paris! For anyone who doesn’t knows me, I have been dying to go to Paris for years. So when Justin and I decided to book the trip and go, I was ecstatic. We rented a quaint little apartment through Airbnb, which was located in the 3rd arrondissement. Once we arrived, it was beginning to get dark, so as soon as we got settled in, we decided to head over to the Champ de Mars. I will never forget the feeling I had when I got off the metro and finally, after months of anticipation, walked the streets of Paris. My face hurt from smiling so much. We turned the corner, and there she was. The most magnificent, breath-taking piece of architecture I have ever seen. The Eiffel Tower.

During our stay, it was impossible to see everything Paris has to offer. But, we were able to see the iconic architecture, taste the delicious food, explore the chic boutiques, and experience Parisian culture. Here are some of my favourite pictures from the trip.

                       IMG_5431     IMG_5205

Eiffel Tower (Day and Night)

                       IMG_5653     IMG_5354

Garden Shop (near Notre Dame) and Pont des Arts (love lock bridge)

                       IMG_5276     IMG_5297

Sacré-Cœur and Moulin Rouge (Montmarte)

                       IMG_5236     IMG_5428

Arc de Triomphe and Candles at Notre Dame Cathedral

IMG_0767      IMG_0721

Musée d’Orsay and The Catacombs of Paris

IMG_0819      IMG_0970

Palace of Versaille (Inside) and Jardin du Luxembourg

     IMG_5418     IMG_5572

Notre Dame Cathedral and Palace of Versailles

     IMG_5218     IMG_5355

The Louvre and Our love lock on Pont des Art

After our time in Paris, we flew back to the Emerald Isle and landed ourselves in Dublin! I had traveled to Dublin once before as a child, but let me tell you, it is much better as an adult. During the day we walked around the city and in the evening we enjoyed a few pints at The Temple Bar. Again, here are a few photos I took along the way.

     IMG_0989     IMG_1010

St. Stephen’s Green and Flowers at Dublin Castle

     IMG_1015     IMG_1022

Entrance way to the garden at Dublin Castle

                             IMG_1031      IMG_5688

Christ Church Cathedral and The Temple Bar

On to the next adventure…

do not disturb, please

Have you ever had one of those days where the mere thought of interacting with other people is just too overwhelming? Some days, I just want to be left alone. I’m not saying I’m completely anti-social and hate talking to people. But there are definitely days where I would rather stay in my room, curl up in bed with a book and not deal with human beings. Today is one of those days for me.

The weather was absolutely miserable. Work was exhausting. And I was running on little sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job. But every so often, I’ll supply in a classroom where the kids can be a handful. And you guessed it, today was that day. It just seemed as if every other second, I had a student coming up to me to tattle-tail on their friend for taking their eraser without asking. Really?! “Is that a big problem or a little problem? …Is that a problem you can solve by yourself?” I’d ask them. The answer to those questions are obviously, without a doubt, “no it’s not a big problem and yes, I can solve it on my own.” However, to a grade 2 – that’s the biggest problem they’ll face all week. Needless to say, it was a frustrating day trying to teach the class that tattling is the act of TRYING to get someone into trouble, when really the issue could be solved in under 5 seconds without all the drama. But I managed, and I have to admit that there were some really great moments with the kids too.

When I finally got home after my long day, I didn’t want to speak to a single soul. I immediately dragged myself up to my room.

Comfy clothes on. Check.
Left over halloween candy. Check.
Gilmore Girls on netflix. Check.
New book from Indigo. Check.

Now all I need is a do not disturb sign and I’m set. Don’t take offense to it. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It just means, I’m tired and moody and don’t feel like having an adult conversation. This is probably because I’ve been having conversations with 7 year olds all day and I’ve got nothing left in me to give. Over and out, friends.

a journey of grief

I wish I could sit here and say that it was a grey and miserable day. But, it wasn’t. It was sunny and beautiful outside. The beginning of what I thought would be the best summer of my life. Instead, it was the day that would change me, forever.

I decided it was the perfect morning to go for a run along the beach. My boyfriend and I were up at his cottage, three hours from home. Out we went, iPhone’s in hand, music playing softly through our earphones. We were about halfway through our 5 kilometer run. As I quickly changed to the next song, I realized that my music was being interrupted by an unfamiliar jingle that was my ringer. I looked down to see that my Mum was trying to reach me. I answered the phone call, a little out of breath, explaining to my Mum that we were just out for a run. She told me the news.

My sister, who was 34 weeks pregnant, had an episode during the night and was rushed to hospital in the morning. There was no fetal heartbeat. As my Mum told me the news, it was as if everyone surrounding me was moving in super speed and I was stuck, in this slow motion nightmare that was consuming me. I talked to my sister briefly on the phone. As she sobbed, I sobbed. Both of us were completely and utterly heartbroken. We later found out that my sister was having a baby girl. Isla Alexandra Claire. My first and only niece.

Nearly 3 months since the loss of Isla, my family and I still grieve. It comes in waves. Some days, I feel better than others. But then it hits me. I won’t get to be the kind of aunt that I was so looking forward to being. Many keep telling me that I’m still an aunt. But it just doesn’t feel the same.

She’s gone.

I never saw the colour of her eyes. I never saw her smile or heard her laugh.

My emotions vary. I feel numb, frustrated, angry, sad, and empty. I try to stay strong, because I know I need to be strong for my family, especially my sister. But some days, I’m tired of pretending to be brave. I’m tired of seeing all the great things going on in other people’s lives around me. Because, for me…My heart now has an Isla-shaped hole that will never be filled. A missing puzzle piece.

So as I mourn for her, I can only hope that Isla is in a safer place, looking over me and my family.

photo

Isla Alexandra Claire – June 1, 2014

it’s time to live your life

Starting a new year is a funny thing. We all vow to change ourselves for the better. Claim that this is the year we’re going to try something new and exciting – take risks. Maybe we try and be kinder to those around us. Or aspire to live a healthier, active lifestyle. I say it’s funny because every new year that approaches we become obsessed with it all (myself included). But do we ever really stick to our resolutions for those 12 months?

You may not want to hear this, but no, many of us don’t. We fall off the wagon and lose inspiration to stay on track. Discouraging, I know. Personally, I can count on all 10 fingers and toes how many times I haven’t stuck to a resolution. Reality of it is, life gets in the way. We become busy and tired and it’s much easier to lose that motivation rather than feed it.

So what’s different about 2014? Nothing really haha. However, I’ve decided to take on the challenge of sticking to my resolutions. Not too sure what I was thinking when I decided to make multiple resolutions, seeing as I usually can’t keep up with one. I guess I just felt like I needed a positive change and this was the first step to accomplishing that.

411bded171c5553f3c9e6d66d2b2690dI thought my blog would be the perfect opportunity to update you all on my progress so far, in hopes to pass on a little inspiration to those who are feeling defeated. And, to kill two birds with one stone, by sharing with you all, it helps me stay accountable!

Resolution #1: Try a new physical activity (long-term goal: to lose some weight and be healthier). I decided to try hot yoga. I had heard many great things about it so I said, why not? The week after new years eve, I dragged my boyfriend to a hot yoga class at Moksha Yoga in Milton and signed up for an intro month. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked ever since. Not only is it relaxing, but it strengthens and tones muscles I didn’t even know existed. If you’re looking for something new to try, I definitely recommend this. It may be a bit difficult at first, but it becomes easier over time (I promise).

Along with hot yoga, I’ve been using a (free) app called My Fitness Pal to record what I’m eating on a daily basis. It just helps me monitor the things I’m having and keeps me motivated when I add in cardiovascular/strength activities. Here are some screen shots of what it looks like – As you can see, I’ve been good and have logged on for 18 consecutive days!

image-12 image-13

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean and tidy. I know what you’re thinking…Shouldn’t a 25 year old always keep their room clean and tidy? I’ll go ahead and answer for you….yes. However, being a working girl who likes to socialize from time to time, it’s difficult to always maintain that cleanliness. I’m not saying I’m a slob, but when I’m deciding what to wear, clothes usually end up everywhere (bed, ottoman, floor). By the time I actually figure out the perfect outfit, I don’t have time to make my bed because I’m in too much of a rush out the door. It’s a vicious cycle. But, that was the old me! The new me has been very diligent about keeping things in a neat, organized manner. Don’t you think?

SAM_2400 SAM_2403

Resolution #3: Floss my teeth at least once a day, every day (my dentist will love me for this one). I obviously brush my teeth, but I’ve never been big on flossing. I had braces, so trying to get that silly threader underneath my bracket is always a tedious task. It was laziness really. So, I decided this was the year I was going to make a conscious effort to floss once a day, every day. So far I’ve been really good about it. And I’ll have you all know, my dentist applauded me on finally listening to him after all these years! Hopefully I can keep it up.

There you have it. New year. New me. (And new blog theme).

This too, is your year to stick to it. Another chance for us to get it right. What are your resolutions?