#29: The Lent Project

Today marks the start of one of the most important items on my 30-before-30 list is #29: Giving up something for Lent.

I’m not a religious person. I haven’t attended church in years. But I have always been intrigued by the Lent tradition – the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence in the Christian calendar.

Unfortunately, I nearly forgot all about Lent this year until I suddenly remembered yesterday morning that it was Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Tuesday) and that I had just a few hours to come up with something to give up for Lent.

There wasn’t time for pancakes, so I guiltily slunk through the McDonalds drive-thru and inhaled some salty fries while I pondered what sacrifice to make for Lent.

Here’s what I came up with: I’ve decided to give up sugar and diet drinks for Lent.

It will be difficult. I’m a bit of a sugar addict. I love chocolate, candy, beer and wine (all of them verboten if you’re cutting out sugar.)

And I’ve also become quite dependent on diet pop, too. I have one almost every day. I’ve been justifying it to myself by saying that it doesn’t have any calories, but diet drinks contain a lot of harmful chemicals. I worry about what they are doing to my body, and I think Lent is a good time to try cutting them out entirely.

Goodbye, my love.

Goodbye, my love.

I’ll try and keep up regular posts on my progress too. I’m excited! So far, on my 30-before-30 journey, I’ve succeeded in accomplishing some daunting challenges (the 30-Day Yoga Challenge, the Polar Bear Plunge.) But this will be a little different, it will require a lot of self-discipline and willpower and I welcome the challenge!

Are you giving anything up for Lent?

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In 2014, I resolve to…

The older I get, the more cynical I feel about setting New Year’s resolutions. Each January 1st, we’re encouraged to resolve to do better than the year before, and each year, we mostly fail.

And yet, each year, I’m sucked into this doomed ritual — lured by the idea of a fresh start. The fact is, I’ve come around to the idea that making resolutions is good for you, even if they don’t stick.

We should examine our lives from time to time. We should occasionally be asking ourselves,  is this the kind of life I want? What kind of person do I want to be? And, what am I doing right now to move myself in that direction?

Wise words from Chris Hadfield and Zen Pencils. http://zenpencils.com/comic/106-chris-hadfield-an-astronauts-advice/

Wise words from Chris Hadfield and Zen Pencils. http://zenpencils.com/comic/106-chris-hadfield-an-astronauts-advice/

 

This year, since my 30-before-30 list is already taking up a lot of my energy, I’ve tried to simplify my resolutions.

So without further ado, here they are:  my New Year’s resolutions for 2014.

1. Less complaining. Complaining changes nothing. This is an incredibly tall order for a cynical journalist working in what some consider to be a failing industry. Leave the bitching and moaning to other people and use that energy to SOLVE PROBLEMS.

2. Write in my day planner each day. I’m trying to do two things with this: Build a habit, and keep a better record of things.

3. Watch less television. This one is hard. We really have been enjoying a golden age of television. It’s an embarrassment of riches, with more quality TV shows, ever more readily available to us. You can WASTE hours and hours on Netflix, discovering one great series after another (I particularly enjoy watching British shows that never aired in Canada – Life on Mars! Misfits! Being Human!) But that isn’t any way to live. The best stories never start with ‘hey, remember that time we were watching that show…?’  So,  for the sake of my health, and productivity, I resolve to watch less television in 2014.

I think those three resolutions are plenty to tackle this year. Really, the theme of all three is PRODUCTIVITY: I want to accomplish a lot this year and that means using my time more efficiently, and not wasting time doing things that don’t bring my goals any closer.

Have you noticed a theme in your resolutions? Are you a resolution hater?

– Elle

 

 

 

 

 

 

#13: Do the polar bear plunge – CHECK!

I'm in the bottom right frame, obscured by a sizeable splash of frozen pond water.

I’m in the bottom right frame, obscured by a sizeable splash of frozen pond water.

I was mildly hungover this morning when I saw the frozen pond for the first time and thought, this is literally the worst idea I’ve ever had.

My BF reminded me that there was no turning back: I’d already raised money to jump for charity and we were standing at the shore, swimming trunks on, Irish coffees in hand.

Hitting the water felt like a full-body slap.

I lurched out of the pond in a state of frigid, euphoric shock. I felt alive. It felt good.

Happy New Year friends.

 

Classic movie #2: The Great Escape

mcquen 3

I’d like to begin this post with a declaration: I miss Blockbuster.

I miss the the corner video store. I miss perusing the isles for long forgotten flicks and holding the physical case in my hand.

Part of my frustration is that Netflix Canada selection is atrociously awful (Yes. I know there are workarounds). But I fear that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your hands on classic films.

I love binging on the latest HBO series as much as the next cat, but sometimes, I just want to rent BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI.  Or the Poseidon Adventure. Or an early Coen brothers movie. And it can be REALLY hard to find them.

Anyway. On to the task at hand. My classic film for December: The Great Escape. (Luckily, my fiance already owns this one.)

John Sturges’ film based on the true story of group of Allied POWs who escape a German camp during World War II is a part harrowing war film, part action thriller.

It’s a classic film with some truly iconic scenes — most iconic of all, Steve McQueen astride a motorcycle, ripping up the rolling hills of pastoral Deutschland.

And it’s impossible not to admire the bravery, ingenuity and tenacity of the soldiers involved in the events depicted in the film.

McQueen might have been the star, but it was supporting characters like British officer Roger Bartlett, American ‘scrounger’ Robert Hendley and ‘tunnel king’ Danny Valinski that stole the show.

Charles Bronson as Flt. Lt. Danny Velinski.

Flt. Lt. Danny Velinski.

For me, Valinski, played by Charles Bronson, was a special favourite. His character was based on Canadian RCAF pilot Wally Floody, the real ‘tunnel king’ who was one of the architects of the escape. I was proud to learn that many Canadians were instrumental in the events of the film and disappointed that Sturges’ script didn’t acknowledge that. That’s Hollywood, I suppose.

Still, McQueen’s resilient, cocksure American officer — the ‘cooler king’ who endures stint after stint in solitary with indomitable spirit — is an apt central figure.

The airmen POWs imprisoned in these camps were remarkable men and The Great Escape is a worthy tribute.

Plus, it really doesn’t hurt that McQueen is a total babe. AMIRIGHT.

McQueen

Yep.

Classic book challenge: The Great Gatsby

Orange

I chose The Great Gatsby to be the first novel in my 12 Classics in 12 Months challenge.

I thought it an auspicious choice. Especially since the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, turns 30 during the course of the novel.

I’ll start with some general impressions.

While I finished the book with a great appreciation of Fitzgerald’s talent as a writer, I never quite fell under the spell of the story. I was always a safe distance from the characters — appreciative of the writing and the language — but never quite fully invested.

Part of this, to put it bluntly, is because there aren’t a lot of likeable characters. That being said, a story like this one doesn’t need a lot of winning personalities to communicate something profound.

And Fitzgerald’s themes are certainly profound: The decline of the American dream, the amoral superficiality of the wealthy, and the delirium of the 1920s as America teetered on the precipice of The Great Depression.

Fitzgerald offers us a relatable entry point into the wealthy environs of NYC and Long Island in the person of Nick Carraway, our mid-western born narrator who finds himself attracted to the East Coast after the  First World War.

There are parts of this book that really resonate, though it’s difficult for a girl raised in a blue-collar Alberta town, to inhabit a world of East Coast privilege comfortably — even in a work of fiction.

There’s a line towards the end of the book, after Carraway witnesses his friend Jay Gatsby’s ruin, that speaks to the geographic motif of the novel:

I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

That struck me like a tonne of bricks. I remember yearning my entire childhood to move east, a place I regarded as sophisticated, liberal and exciting — so different than the rough bush and rough people of northern Alberta.

But once I did begin to travel, and especially when I finally moved east for grad school and work in Ottawa and Toronto, I was surprised that it didn’t feel like the homecoming I had expected. Something inside me chaffed against those  low eastern skies.

And while I deeply love travel, and I’ve loved living and working abroad, I’ve never felt more like a westerner than when I’m in the East.

I’m pretty sure a lot of people feel this way who have grown up conflicted about their hometown.

Though, unlike Carraway, I doubt I’d ever leave NYC for Minnesota 😉

Have you read Gatsby? What classic books have made your reading list? 

– Elle 

 

29 lessons learned in 29 years

We’re in the REAL countdown now friends.

Last week was my 29th birthday! I’ve got just 12 months to finish my LIST!

My birthday dinner with my fiance was terrific. I had a delicious lamb dish and tried veal tongue for the first time at a terrific restaurant called the Chef’s Table at Kensington Inn. Apparently, it’s a Relais & Châteaux member! Fancy!

The New Yorker cover was a gift from the year I was born!

The New Yorker cover was actually a gift from the year I was born. The other two photos are from Kensington Inn.

And now because I’ve reached the ripe old age of 29, and because I’m sadly obsessed iwth lists, I thought I’d share my 29 lessons learned by 29 list.

Here’s 29 lessons I’ve learned by 29:

1. Don’t worry too much about what others think.

2. Learn how to drive. Even if you prefer walking or taking public transit, it’s an essential skill.

3. Let go of envy and jealousy: Celebrate the successes of others — better yet, be inspired by them. Jealousy is corrosive to the soul.

4. You won’t always like who your friends date or marry. But try to get along, for the sake of your friendship.

5. Don’t wear makeup to bed. Wash your face. Moisturize.

6. Not every rule is right. Not every rule should be followed.

7. Know where you come from — the best way to do this is to learn, at the very least, the correct spelling of your grandparents’ names, their birth dates and the cities they were born in. This will help you begin to map your family tree. Sites like Ancestry.com are a good place to start.

8. Build wealth. Strive to be financially self-sufficient.

9. Don’t become addicted to expensive beauty routines. You shouldn’t need to spend a lot of money to feel beautiful or comfortable in your skin (Sadly, I learned this the hard way by overdoing shellac/gel nail polish).

10. Refine your tastes. Nobody wants to have dinner with someone whose favourite meal is still chicken fingers and fries.

11. Deeds, not words.

12. Guard your autonomy. Try to avoid falling into the trap of becoming a “we” when you find yourself in a committed partnership. It doesn’t mean you love them any less.

13. Be kind to your parents. They’ve sacrificed and suffered for your sake.

14. Watch your cash flow. Know how much you spend on bank fees. Know what the interest rate is on your credit cards.

15. Learn to drink like an adult: Adult drinks do not have umbrellas. Adult drinks are rarely “fruity.”

16. Travel once in a while. It’s easy and comfortable to go on vacation. Travel is harder and more rewarding.

17. Flip flops are not an acceptable form of footwear for work unless you’re a lifeguard.

18. Find someone that you can be ridiculous with.

19. Once you find a partner, don’t abandon your friends. Friendships are essential.

20. Avoid checking Facebook constantly. Too much Facebook encourages feelings of dissatisfaction and envy.

21. Read books. Reading keeps you interested and interesting.

22. Run, hike, row, swim or practice yoga — choose something and do it. Testing your physical limits if part of knowing yourself.

23. Devote part of your life to something outside of your partner or your family. Having something that is all your own is a big part of having self-worth.

24. Eat meat. You’re really missing out if you don’t.

25. Long walks are restorative.

26. Comfort is overrated. Challenge yourself.

27. Learn how to change a tire. Learn about your computer/phone. Knowing the basics of the vehicles and devices you use every day prevents you from becoming helpless.

28. Be productive. Don’t let the days go by without anything to show for it.

29. Be brave. Courage and dignity are too rare these days and cultivating those qualities will set you apart from your peers.

What life lessons would you put on your list?

– Elle