This article (and especially the visuals) are pretty jarring – it’s all about how much time we really have left to do the things we love and spend time with the people we care about. Scary but strangely helpful.
Books that make you less of a horrible person! The two books on this list that I’ve read were incredible, so I’ll definitely be reading his other suggestions.
I love the idea of asking yourself “Is this a good time?”, especially in this context of checking your phone (or email).
How great is the idea of writing a list of 100 things that made your year? I’m going to have to try this, it seems so fun and a great way of memory-keeping as well.
The first week of 2017 is already almost over! Only 51 weeks to go. Since reading that Wait But Why piece (linked above), I feel way more conscious of the passage of time, which is both terrifying and empowering. How has the first week been for you? For me it’s been both busy and quiet, I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things at work and start up my healthy routines again! This weekend I am excited to have the first meeting of my book club (we read Homegoing) and try to do my first unplugging day of the year. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too! xo.
One of the ways that I try to bring more magic into my life is to choose a word or theme for each new year. It’s an idea I picked up from Elise Cripe via Ali Edwards, and 2017 will be my fifth time choosing a word. So far I’ve had reach in 2013, abundance in 2014, grace in 2015, and light in 2016. It makes me so happy to look back on each of them and think about the ways they did (or didn’t) come up for me throughout each of their respective years. I find this exercise so fun and interesting because there’s really no downside. Worst case: you forget you have a word (cough, 2015), and best case: you get a kick out of noticing your word everywhere you look and potentially have a new lens through which to see the world or help you to make decisions.
Like I said in my year in review post, light was my favourite word so far, right up there with abundance for me. It was fun that light is an actual physical phenomenon, so I could literally look for it out in the world, but I also noticed it in quotes, songs, and situations.
This year, my word is embrace. Let me tell you what it means to me, and what I hope I’ll do more of this year:
Embrace others: As in, hug. As in, spend lots of time with the people that I love and cherish so much. Prioritize people! Say yes to quality time, and any chance to see my people. Hug them when I see them! Love them. I want to cultivate a sense of community this year in ways big and small, and spend my time and energy deepening my dearest connections.
Embrace the situation: Even in the few short weeks since choosing this word, I’ve been shocked at how many of my thoughts in any given situation are some iteration of “things would be better right now if they were like this…” or “I wish that person would be a little more like this…” or “maybe we should do this thing right now”. Basically, wishing things were different from how they actually are. I don’t think that striving to accept people or situations means becoming complacent, I think it means valuing acceptance over criticism; honouring people as they are over how I wish they might be acting; and sitting with it instead of forcing things to look, be, or play out a certain way. Just let it be the way it’s meant to be.
Embrace my everyday: Ooh this one makes me feel calmer and happier just saying it out loud. Because to embrace my everyday means I want to celebrate it, document it, love it exactly as it is. It means not devaluing my everyday just because it looks less pretty than someone’s Instagram account. It probably means checking other people’s Instagram accounts way less often. It means taking more photos and practicing gratitude for what I have. And most of all it means working to make my everyday as lovely, happy, cozy and special as I possibly can.
Embrace the season: I mean this one both literally and figuratively, as I am not much for winter. But I’m also talking about the season of life that I’m in: I’m single, in a new city, trying to make friends and make a life and make a career all at the same time. It’s a lot! It’s easy to want to skip ahead to some mythical time when “things will be more settled” and “things are more figured out” (spoiler alert: that time is never), so for me, embracing the season means being okay with the weird, awkward parts and the incredibly awesome parts all at the same time. I want to remember to get out there and find my tribe, settle into my community, and make the most out of this season because before I know it, it will be over. I mean this literally: when I lived in Korea and then Ecuador, I always felt like that season would last forever, but of course it didn’t, and now those times are behind me. You only get one shot to make it amazing! I want to make it amazing.
Embrace myself: I want to do the things that I really love and that make me happiest. I want to stop trying to be different or “better” than I am. Acceptance. I want to trust my gut (I’m sorry for all the times I haven’t listened to you, gut!) and let awesome things flow to me.
I think it’s going to be a pretty amazing year. My new hashtag, if you want to follow along, is going to be #embracethedayproject.
Doing a year-end review always brings me so much joy and reminds me of that old saying: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I have a tendency to feel like I’m not “doing enough” as the weeks and months go by, but taking the time to look back over the year as a whole always reminds me of how lucky I am and how much I’ve experienced. This year was a big one for me, and it’s pretty surreal to remember all that’s happened in the past 12 months. Here are my highlights from each month of 2016:
My boyfriend (at the time) and I took a trip to the coast of Ecuador, to a place called Canoa Beach. We spent a few days enjoying the heat, the food, and the sheer novelty of being on a beach mid-January! Throw in some outdoor yoga classes, stunning sunsets, and beers with my toes in the sand and I was a pretty happy camper. I also tried paragliding for the first time, and despite a rough crash landing with the instructor, it was a lot of fun. Canoa, like so much of the coast, was unfortunately affected when the earthquake hit in April, so it turned out to be extra special to be able to visit when we did.
The highlight of February was my friend Katie coming to visit me in Quito! We spent a week running around the city, exploring the old town, heading up El Panecillo, soaking in the baths (and hanging out with the llamas) at Papallacta, watching movies on my couch, and eating as much awesome food as we could manage. We also went to a local soccer game, checked out the drive-in movie theatre, risked our lives climbing the tower at the basilica, and took the TelefériQo up to the top of Pichincha for amazing views of the city. It was so great to show her around and to get to know Quito a bit more myself.
I spent most of March getting more involved in life in Quito. I joined a book club full of awesome people, found cute coffee shops near my apartment, started teaching private yoga classes, went to a few trivia pub nights with new friends, started volunteering for a local organization, and helped run yoga in the park every Saturday. I also went to another live South American soccer game! What an experience that was, especially since it was a FIFA 2020 qualifying game, and Ecuador won.
At the very end of March and the beginning of April, I went on a press trip to the Amazon rainforest and stayed at Sacha Lodge. The experience had me pinching myself the entire time – I saw monkeys and caiman, climbed up to the top of a 600 year old tree, walked a 40m high sky canopy, went on a night walk through the jungle (very loud, very amazing), and stayed in my own private cabin complete with a hammock on the porch and a lullaby of frogs outside. It was incredible. You can read more about the adventure here.
After kicking off my birthday month with a trip to the jungle, I went on to have a fabulous time back in Quito. On my birthday, my boyfriend’s family surprised me with a four-piece mariachi band that marched into the living room and played for hours while we all danced. I cried, because it was so hilarious and thoughtful – and even though I no longer live in Ecuador, the people I met there will always hold a very special place in my heart.
In April I also started an intermediate Spanish course at the local university, which was a ton of fun. My professor was a real character, a born-and-bred Quiteña with tons of personality, and it was so great to start to get a better grasp of the language.
This was a busy month! I finished up my Spanish course and wrote my final exams. I picked up a couple new freelance jobs. We went to a beautiful wedding and danced the night away. Toward the end of the month, I flew home for the summer, and a couple days later, we had a big beautiful party in my mom’s backyard for my Grandma’s 88th birthday!
This was my first time home (besides 2 weeks at Christmas) in a very long time, so June was spent reconnecting with as many friends and family members as possible. My sisters and I took my dad out for a lovely Father’s Day dinner on the waterfront. I started sewing my very first quilt! I went to see the Making a Murderer Conversation on Justice with my friends (#fangirl #TeamStrang). On a whim, Katie booked a trip to Toronto (we are in the best LDR ever) and we spent the week exploring yet another city together: we had beers on the waterfront, saw a Jays game (which was inadvertently a Korea reunion), went for hikes, ate great food, had a campfire, and really kicked off summer.
My favourite month of 2016! July was packed full of things I love. One weekend, I was invited up to my friend Mike’s cottage with Laura and a group of friends, and we spent the whole time eating delicious vegan food, playing board games, stand-up paddle boarding and swimming. Another highlight was a day spent filming videos and doing photoshoots with the Red Tent Sisters at a beautiful home in Toronto.
Best of all, in July I took my now-annual (!) trip to New York City to hang out with Katie and Nancy Sue! We spent the whole time eating amazing food (special shoutouts to Benny Tudinos and Goa Taco: you have my heart now and forever), hit up The Strand and Nature Republic as much as possible, rode bikes through Central Park, played Pokemon Go in taxis, went to a Gaelic football game (and a Gaelic football afterparty), toured The Tenement Museum and did a hundred other amazing things together. Katie & I also went to Vermont with her family for gorgeous, highly strenuous hikes, gin & tonics, outdoor showers and star-gazing. Then we topped it all off with a Rob Thomas and Counting Crows concert, for the win.
Without a doubt, the best part of August was bringing home Bodhi, my mom’s Golden Retriever puppy. He is the best, and really helped to make 2016 so special for our family.
August was also important for another reason: I ended my long-term relationship with my boyfriend and simultaneously decided to move to Toronto.
The first words that come to mind are: busy and messy. There was a sudden death in our family, which meant a very emotional time and a bittersweet memorial service.
All at the same time, things very quickly fell into place with my new living situation, so I spent most of the month running around getting things out of storage and buying new kitchen stuff. Also, my friend Adrienne came to Toronto and we had a sleepover to celebrate our first time seeing each other in more than 2 years.
Yay! I moved into my first Toronto apartment and instantly fell in love with my new neighbourhood. I hung things on walls, put things on shelves and settled into my space. I celebrated my move to Toronto by spending lots of time with my friends and exploring: tons of walks on the Sunnyside boardwalk, friend dates at adorable coffee shops, a walk down Leslie Street Spit, lots of time meandering through High Park, and leaf peeping. I also did some dogsitting with hearts in my eyes.
November was a bit bumpy as I worked on finding my rhythm and building my new life. I read a lot of great library books, suffered after the election results, watched the Gilmore Girls revival, started knitting a sweater, and kept up my weekly coffee dates with Laura. My sisters and I went home to celebrate my mom’s birthday with tons of sushi and cuddles with the puppy. November was also when I had my most profitable freelance month ever!
I always love December for the lead-up to the holidays, but it was even more fun this year because I was finally close to home! My whole family visited my apartment at different times, which helped to make it feel even more like home. I went to my friend Laura’s yoga jam class where her brother Ian played acoustic guitar the whole time…it was amazing. Other super-fun events included an aromatherapy workshop, hanging out my high school friends for the first time in 3 years, having a surprise lunch with my mom and Grandma, and of course, every moment of the holidays.
And so here we are, at the end of another year. When I look back like this, I feel grateful. I feel blessed. I feel excited about what hidden, wonderful opportunities 2017 might hold that I don’t know about yet.
One Second Everyday
This was my first year doing the one second everyday project and I’m so happy I did it! I definitely missed more than a few days – basically all of August, in fact – but it really doesn’t matter. Having this little record of what each day looked like is so special to me. It is also so interesting to see just how much my life has changed over the past 12 months.
Firsts of 2016
My friend Laura inspired me to think about the “firsts” I experienced this year (you can see her list here), so here are some of mine:
I donate monthly to Pencils of Promise through their Passport program. I also began giving to the Ian Anderson House, a local hospice, made some one-off donations to UNHCR, and supported both my sisters’ fundraising efforts for runs they were each doing.
6. Daily goals:
Plan my day: I’d say this happened this year about 75% of the time. I also realized that I’m ready to drop this as a ‘goal’, because I do it when I need to and soften it when I don’t.
Wake up by 7AM: I didn’t count, but I’d say this only happened about 25% of the time. I’m more of an 8AM kind of gal, even if I wish I were more of a morning person.
Do something creative: This wasn’t really specific enough! I am creative every day, but not always “for fun” – often it’s for work, which I usually find fun anyways. I’d give this one a score of 80%.
My Word of the Year: Light
This was easily my favourite word out of all of the words I’ve chosen over the years. I kept up an Instagram hashtag all year to collect the photos that made me feel happy, were inspired by something positive, or that helped me find perspective during a weird or sad time. My word was catchy enough that it stayed in mind as the months went by, and broad enough that it popped up for me in so many different ways and at different times. Although this was an amazing year, it contained quite a bit of dark (as most years do). I was grateful to have this word as a reminder when things got hard.
If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here:
I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.
Yay! I met my 2016 reading goal and then some, and we still have a couple days left to go before the new year. That makes four years running that I’ve hit my goal, and this year I actually read more books than ever before, which is very exciting. For 2017, I’m setting the same goal of reading 75 books and here’s hoping I’ll surpass it again.
People often seem baffled at how I can read so much, but for me it’s not so hard. 75 books is about a book and a half each week, which, when I’m reading good stuff, is not hard for me to do – it doesn’t take tremendous willpower or require major sacrifices in my life whatsoever. When I’m reading something amazing, I’ll gladly tote a book around with me wherever I go, and read at every chance I get. Whenever I don’t feel like reading or my progress through a book is slow, I can tell that I don’t really love what I’m reading and that I should probably get my hands on something I’m really excited about.
Here are my favourite books from the last couple months of this year. Fun side note: it was really hard to narrow it down to just four, which is always a great sign. Fun side note #2: how cool is it that these covers complement each other?!
For me, this one brings together all the best ideas in personal development and delivers them in a tidy and extremely inspiring package. If you want to talk about limiting beliefs, manifesting, how to make more money, motivation, mindfulness, and more, this is the book for you. Plus it’s surprisingly practical and down-to-earth, all while encouraging you to take charge of your life in a big way. I loved it and got a lot out of it, and can’t wait for her new book which is being published in April.
The title alone is so evocative, and the story is so powerful. Just like Homegoing, The Book of Unknown Americans does what good fiction should: make big, looming, difficult, painful topics human, relatable, accessible and real to the reader. It’s the story of several Latin American families who wind up living in the same little apartment complex in Delaware (of all places). It’s about their struggles, their love stories, their traditions, their language, their challenges and their heartbreak. It was fun for me to read because of all the Spanish sprinkled throughout, and because I could learn more about the culture of Mexico and many other South American countries.
Having never really read the Ask Polly column, I was in for a real treat when I finally got this one from the library. It’s amazing! I love her! I wouldn’t stop talking about her and the advice she gives for days! Yes, I am super late to the party, but I am so happy to be here at all. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m borderline obsessed with the Dear Sugar column and all things Cheryl Strayed. And now, having read Ask Polly, it’s as if I’ve added a new member to my wise, wonderful inner board of directors that I can consult as needed. Everything Havrilesky writes feels true and honest, and best of all: it is helpful.
Gyazi manages to distill hundreds of years of life – both its humanity and its horrors – into just 300 pages. It’s about the lineage of two parallel families, the descendants of two sisters born in Ghana. One sister is kidnapped and sent to America as a slave, while the other marries a British commander and her family remains in Ghana. Each chapter is the story of the son or daughter of the character before, a little snapshot of each of their lives, loves and struggles. I usually find it hard to learn about history because it seems so flat and far away, but bringing each generation to life in this way makes the whole story personal and far more powerful.
You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations!