Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Yesterday, I bought my daughter her very first journal (or diary, whichever you prefer). Her entire life she has watched me write in journal after journal, sometimes she'll ask about what I'm writing, other times it doesn't even phase her. Then one day she decided she wanted one of her own, and now that she's able to write simple sentences I thought it would be a great time to buy one.

I received my first journal when I was in grade one, too. Who knew it would become a lifelong habit? I keep it with me at all times, and anytime an idea strikes me, or I hear someone say something interesting, come across a website or artist I want to look into or maybe I just need to get my feelings out, I grab my book and pen and write it down.
There are many great reasons for keeping a journal, whether it's filled with writing, collages or drawings, and here's why:

1. Keep track of your goals:

I often write down all of my goals in my journal. It helps me decide what's most important. Also, you can keep track of them much easier when they're written down. You can read over your progress as you continue to work through your goals, and figure out what's working and what isn't.

2. Get your feelings out:

Sometimes we have emotions that can be difficult to deal with. Writing them down can help clarify what's going on. I noticed for myself, once I write down what's bothering me I realize that it's really not as big of a deal as I thought it was inside my head. Or maybe you don't have anyone you can talk to comfortably and so writing it down in a journal is a great way to do that.

3. Your autobiography:

Maybe your journal won't be quite like the one written by Anne Frank, but it's a great way to be able to look back at your life and read from your own thoughts. For example, I find a lot of humor in my journals from high school and when I was pregnant (which was really the same time...) If you're comfortable with it, it might be interesting for your children to read when they're older. Or, maybe you'll become famous and someone might want to publish it like Nikki Sixx's Heroine Diaries!

4. Jot Down Ideas:

A journal is a great place to quickly jot down ideas that pop in your head whether it's for a work presentation, a new painting you'd like to start or a story idea.
Well, those are my top reasons.

Do you keep a journal? When did you start? And why do you continue to write in a journal?


Monday, July 29, 2013

Gratitude List #2 - Walking Trails, Cupcakes & Family

Last week I wrote about The Power of Gratitude Lists and why I think they are so important.
I also wrote a list of ten things I am grateful for, something I try to do every day. Well, I thought it would be kind of nice to post a list every Monday to remind myself of the many things in my life I have to be grateful for throughout the week.
What I'm Grateful For This Week:
  1. Free health care in Canada!
  2. Blogging, and all of the new people I have met.
  3. My large balcony where I can enjoy being outside.
  4. That those 80+ puppies were rescued by the humane society and are getting the attention that they so need and deserve.
  5. Vanilla cupcakes that are easy to make and delicious to eat!
  6. All of the walking trails around my city.
  7. Having a place to live. One that I truly love being in!
  8. The support I have received from my Grandma and mom this past week.
  9. That the piece I need to fix my camera lens is only $10 and easy to do.
  10. My daughter, who is healthy and happy and brings me great joy :)
What are you grateful for this week? Feel free to share in the comments!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekly Wishes #2 - Organize My Room

Last week I set a goal for myself to get out and walk/jog every day for at least a half an hour. To be honest, I did get outside every day but I didn't quite do it for the exercise. I don't even own running shoes!
Hear me out though!
  • Monday was spent at the beach swimming. 
  • I walked to the library (which is a good 40 minutes there and back) on Tuesday.
  • I walked to the grocery store (definitely half an hour) on Wednesday.
  • Thursday we went to Soper Park and walked around where I took pictures of flowers, including the one here, and played in the stream. 
  • My mom took Sidney out on Friday and I caught up on reading and cleaning - but I didn't get outside much.
  • Yesterday, which was Saturday, I was out all day! My Grandma picked us up and we took Sidney plus my two nieces to an indoor playground because it was raining, so again I didn't get out to walk around.
  • I would like to think I made up for that today (Sunday) though. Nick, Sid and I went for a two hour long walk through the woods, came home for supper and then out to the park for half an hour. We had to leave early because it started to rain.
Maybe not my best effort, but I'm definitely going to continue to try and get out to walk more this next week.
Weekly Wishes #2: Organize My Bedroom!
I moved into my current apartment back in May of this year. I fell in love with it's century old charm and I couldn't wait to get settled in.
However, I still haven't really done anything with this place! My apartment is a big, unorganized mess and one of my goals for this summer is to get things organized before school starts.
Unfortunately what I lack is furniture and money to buy furniture. I've been thrift store shopping and yard sale hopping but I haven't found anything that I like enough to spend money on. I can't even find anything curbside worth picking up.
Since my living room is kind of small, my computer desk, books and hobby supplies have to fit in my bedroom. It's a big old junk fest in there right now. Well, for $30 I can pick up a bookshelf for my bedroom to help get my books and craft supplies organized. So that is my goal for the week!

I've been putting off this daunting task for three months! I'll be super proud of myself once it's completed. Seriously! I am a huge procrastinator which is why I was so eager to start linking up for these Weekly Wishes over at The Nectar Collective. Having to post my results is a huge motivator.
The Nectar Collective
I had a blast reading what other people wrote last week and can't wait to see how they did, and what their next Weekly Wish will be!
Do you have a weekly goal you would like to accomplish? What is it?

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Broke My Camera Lens!

WARNING: A bit of whining ahead. And a pretty flower.
I've been having a tough time financially. Our bills exceed our income, and we're falling behind.
It's been difficult to try and stay positive during this time in my life, but when you have a daughter to raise you have to stay strong. I can only fake a smile for so long though, before I break down and want to cry. This summer hasn't been a completely enjoyable one but we've been trying our best to give Sidney a great vacation before school starts up in September and she's off to grade 1.
Luckily, there are many free activities in Cambridge. Free swimming, movies downtown, events at the library and there's always the park. My Mom and Grandma have also been very kind and generous with their time and money. They've been here to take us out almost every day.
I was looking for a part-time job, but with just over a month left before college I don't see the point any more. No one wants to hire someone who will only be there for a very short length of time.
So we cut back on spending, we cut back so much there's nothing left to cut back on.
To make matters worse, a few weeks ago my laptop broke. I had to buy a new one because I will need it for school.
This morning my daughter knocked my camera off of the table, and the lens broke! Which I also need for school. I can't afford to replace it.
Right after I saw what happened I ran to my room, threw myself on my bed and cried. I just couldn't take any more financial stress. I cried for a good 10 minutes, hard, painful cries that I tried to muffle in my pillow. It felt kind of stupid to cry over a broken camera lens, but I was also crying for all the other things in my life that just haven't been working out for me.
After a while I made myself stop, because I realized that Sidney was hiding in her room feeling bad for having knocked it over. I don't want her to feel bad, I shouldn't have left it out - if only I had put it away right after transferring my pictures to the computer. We had a nice little chat and she didn't feel quite so bad afterwards.
Once I calmed the two of us down I did a bit of research. Turns out I can buy a replacement piece (which is apparently called a bayonet mount) for about $10 directly from Nikon. With the many YouTube tutorials and blog articles on how to fix it yourself I'm sure my mom and I can get it put back together again. I say my mom and I because I know I lack the patience required to fix things.
And truth be told, I'm scared to tell my boyfriend that I broke our camera. He bought it for me as a gift 5 years ago and I know he will be just as upset. It sucks when something you've worked hard for, were always so careful with, and truly loved gets broken.
No point in sitting around wallowing over it though, is there? It won't change anything, it won't fix my lens or make a new one magically appear. It will only make me feel bad, and I'm so tired of allowing myself to feel bad.
Now, if I can only find a quick and easy fix for the rest of my finances - or at least a realistic solution!
This is not a great start to my new college adventure.
Oh well!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Power of Gratitude Lists


Be Grateful For Everything:


Everything you own, everything you have and everything you are!

It's really easy to get stuck in a negative mindset. I was stuck in one for many years, and still often catch myself thinking negatively quite often. There's a lot to complain about if you think about it. But thinking about it won't do you any good. It's a horrible down spiral of negativity once you get started.
When I find myself slipping into those old, familiar thought patterns, I find the best way to get away from it is to begin listing things I am grateful for, whether it's just a list in my head or I write it down.
Now I try to write a list of ten things I am grateful for every night in my journal. It's a great habit to get in to. At the end of the day, I go through all of the wonderful things that have happened and jot them down. And if I have more than ten, that's great!


Benefits of Gratitude Lists:


You Notice More Things to Grateful For

Once I started doing this regularly, I started to notice that I not only think of things to be grateful for at bedtime, but during the day, too. As I go through my day and something awesome happens, like I win a free coffee or run into an old friend, I feel grateful right away and keep it in the back of my mind for my nightly list. My days go by a lot happier now.


You Begin to Love Yourself More

When keeping a gratitude list, you'll eventually start writing things down that have to do with yourself. It could be a new dress that compliments your figure, your excellent listening skills or the A you received on an exam. When you start thinking positively about yourself you will love yourself more.

It's Good For Your Health

Being grateful is apparently good for you health. Obviously, feeling optimistic is sure to ward off stress which can reduce many health risks on it's own such as high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, etc. Not to mention, apparently people who practice gratitude regularly sleep better, exercise more, eat healthier and just take better care of themselves in general.

Makes You a Happier Person

Keeping a gratitude list will make you a more optimistic, positive and happier person. You will likely be less angry and depressed if you constantly think of things to be grateful for. And when you're grateful, and happy, other grateful, happy people will be drawn to you. Which helps you make friends and network, which definitely makes me happier!


Will Motivate and Encourage You to Complete Goals

When you are grateful, you are happier and more likely to want to work on goals. You will have more energy, better brain power and optimism! All which will help you accomplish your goals faster!

You can be grateful for anything!

What I'm grateful for this week:
  1. Going to the drive-in with my family.
  2. Having my friend stop by for a few beers.
  3. Watching the bees pollinate my garden, knowing they're responsible for helping create all of our fruits and vegetables.
  4. Being able to afford hair dye.
  5. For having clean clothes to wear!
  6. My new summer dress that fits perfectly.
  7. The fans my Grandmother bought us during the heat wave.
  8. Having dinner out with Nick and Sidney Thursday night.
  9. For the thunderstorm that made the power go out and tree limbs fall off trees!
  10. A day trip to the beach today with Nick and Sidney :)
What are you grateful for this week? Can you think of any others benefits to keeping a gratitude list? Feel free to share in the comment section! :) 
P.S. - Check back every Monday! As I continue to write my weekly gratitude lists.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekly Wishes #1 - Walk/Jog Every Day

I was really excited when I discovered Weekly Wishes over at The Nectar Collective!
It's about working towards your goals, one small step at a time, by making weekly goals that are easy to stick to. It's somewhat similar to my post 5 Steps to Simplify Your Goals, which was about taking your huge goals and breaking them down into smaller, more achievable goals to start you off. However, by only committing to one goal for 7 full days instead of a lifetime, it's a little less intimidating and a lot easier to accomplish.
For my very first Weekly Wish: Walk/jog every day for at least half an hour.
The past couple of years have been stressful and with stress came laziness, binge eating and weight gain! Being overweight is fine by me, but being unhealthy and out of shape isn't. I feel sluggish, tired and to be honest - ugly. And this lifestyle isn't any good for anyone.
Knowing I can't just jump back in to my old workout routine, I have to take it slow. And forcing myself to get outside and walk/jog would be a great start!
I'm registered to begin college this September. I want to begin school feeling great physically, emotionally and spiritually (whatever that means). Incorporating a regular exercise routine into my daily life would be a great way to start!

The Nectar Collective

If you're interested in linking up a Weekly Wish, head on over to The Nectar Collective!
I will be keeping track of my Weekly Wishes every Sunday night from now on :)


Friday, July 19, 2013

5 Steps to Simplify Your Goals

There are many different opinions about having and working towards goals. Some people do best by keeping track of them regularly, while others just simply keep them in the back of their minds.

For me, I'm more a list person.

It's important to have goals, but sometimes they can be overwhelming.

You think about all the things you need to do to get there. The work involved, and the changes that have to be made and it can seriously give you an anxiety attack!

The best way that I have been able to deal with it is by doing these five steps:

1. Figure out what your goal is.

Obviously, the first step towards accomplishing a goal, is to have one! It can be anything from finding a part time job, losing weight or working towards your dream career. I know that I have many goals, but just to kind of give you an idea I'm going to use two different examples for each step.

example 1: I want to have a career in art, either as a gallery curator or art consultant.

example 2: I want to lose 30 pounds.

2. Think of what you need to do to get there.

Different goals require different actions. No matter what your goal is there is most likely a smaller action that needs to be taken first before you can accomplish anything big. By going over what needs to happen before you can accomplish your goal, you will be able to work towards it with ease and less stress.

ex. 1: I need an education in art.

ex. 2: I need to workout and eat healthier.

3. Consider all of your options.

No matter what your small action is, there are probably options. By taking the time to figure out which option is best suited for you and your current lifestyle you will save yourself a lot of time, possibly money and aggravation.

ex. 1: I need to look into different school programs and select the one that's best for me.
ex. 2: I need to look into different exercises programs, gym vs. workout DVDs and I need to look into healthy eating.

4. Consider things that could potentially hold you back.

Chances are, you may have some set-backs when working towards your goal. Sometimes, if you take the time to think of what your potential set-backs may be, you can tackle them before they become a problem.

ex. 1: I need to make money while I'm in school to support myself, I need to upgrade a few high school courses to better my chances of being accepted and I need to be able to pay for the program.
ex. 2: I need to fit exercising into my weekly schedule and I need to explore my bad relationship with food and why I eat the way I do.

5. Look into ways to get around the potential setbacks.

If you did come up with some potential set-backs that's a good thing. Now you can think of ways to get around them.

ex. 1: Check out correspondents and register in high school courses that will benefit my goal. Look for part time work, preferably something within the art community like a gallery, art supply store or an artist's assistant. Look into possible funding.

ex. 2: Look over schedule and put exercising in like any other important appointment. Keep a food diary and start making healthier choices.

Now you have some smaller goals to help you reach your larger goals without being so overwhelming.

ex. 1: You know you need to register for high school courses and find a part time job to help support you while you're in school. So all you have to worry about now is doing well at your school work and finding a part time job. You don't need to stress out about going to post-secondary and finding your dream job until closer to that time.

ex. 2: You have planned out your workout schedule and are keeping track of your eating. No need to stress about losing weight because you're working towards it now.

Now that your goals have been broken down into more manageable tasks, you can relax a little and focus on one thing at a time.

Sometimes, I break it down even further.

For example, if I were registering for a correspondence course I might write out a to do list to keep me on track.

1. Select a program from online catalogue.
2. Print out registration form and fill it out.
3. Mail it.

As I work towards my own goals, I can feel confident in achieving them when I know all I have to do is check off one simple step at a time. I've been using these steps for a while now without even realizing it. It was when my boyfriend was talking to me about wanting to go to University but not knowing where to start, and I explained to him how I went about doing things, like going to college for Journalism.

How do you keep track of your goals?


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Self Taught Photography: Shutter Speed and Aperture

How to Get Perfect Exposure:


Perfect exposure is the right aperture with the right shutter speed.

To a beginner photographer, such as myself, this can be very confusing. What is aperture and shutter speed? Why are these important? Surely automatic is just as good, right?

Actually, that’s inaccurate. If you want to advance in photography, to get the most out of your Digital SLR camera, and benefit from the creative possibilities, you must take the time to understand these two settings. After you read this and start practicing you will soon wonder why you were ever so intimidated by the manual mode.

Understanding Aperture and Shutter Speed is easier than you think.

Aperture is the hole that light has to pass through to form an image. It helps to control your depth of field and focus in your shot.

Shutter speed is how quickly your shutter closes or the amount of time the light is allowed to pass through the hole.

The faster it closes the sharper your picture will be, allowing you to capture images of fast moving objects. For examples; sports photography, children playing, shots of animals who won’t stay still, etc.

The slower it closes the more blurry it will be. This is because when your shutter is closing slower it gives your object a chance to move slightly in that time, making them appear blurry in your photograph. Perhaps you want an object or motion to appear blurry and so you will choose a slower shutter speed.

The two of them together.

Aperture and Shutter Speed are the two most important functions to learn when first learning photography. Once you have learned to control them, all other aspects of photography will become much easier to understand.

If you adjust either the aperture or shutter speed, you must adjust the other to compensate for the increase or decrease in light. If you don’t your picture may appear either underexposed (too dark), or overexposed (too light).

Here is a simple chart to help get you started:

Shutter Speed      Aperture

100                         F16
125                         F11
250                         F8
500                         F5.6
1000                       F4
2000                       F1.8

This chart is just a simple starting point. To get the right exposure you have to play around with your camera and figure it out yourself. When shooting in different lighting, you have to adjust your shutter speed and aperture to capture enough light.

The best way to learn anything is with practice! As I am currently doing myself!

What advice to you have for using shutter speed and aperture?


P.S. These are lessons that I was taught at D3 Artworks Inc.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unproductive in this Heat Wave


For the past three days we have been experiencing extremely high temperatures for this area. Today was 38 degrees Celsius. With humidity it was well into the mid 40's.

I live on the top floor of an old house with no air conditioning. The windows are large, but for some reason the breeze doesn't seem to make it's way inside. We have one fan, which stays in the living room during the day, and Sidney's bedroom at night.

Needless to say, we are hot!

With warnings in the newspapers to stay indoors and take it slow, I'm having an incredibly easy time just lounging around in front of our single fan with some ice cold water. Even if the housework doesn't get done.

And if I'm being perfectly honest with not only you, but to myself, even though it's so hot at night I toss and turn for hours, drenched in sweat and wishing even one little damn breeze would make it's way through my window, I'm actually glad for the excuse to lay around and do nothing. Nothing but read books, browse blogs and for the first time in months I played The Sims, with no guilt.

Do you ever feel that way?
Like you need an excuse to be lazy?
That without being ill, or even a heat wave, you are not allowed to be unproductive?

Most of the time I can't sit still. I feel bad if I watch television before 9:00 p.m. I can't read a novel during the day time either. Things need to be cleaned, food needs to get cooked and work has to be completed. Even if there is no work to do.

I'm always anxious to keep busy.
Except for today, and possibly tomorrow, I will relax and promise to clean up later.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What I Learned At D3 Artworks Inc.

 D3 Artworks Inc.

If you're wondering what D3 Artworks is, I'll tell you from my own perspective. 

It's a youth program here in my city to help young individuals gain the experience and skills they need to find employment. It's also an art studio lead by a group of amazing artists. They taught me way more than just how to draw, paint or take a decent photograph. Those were all great lessons, and I continue to apply them to my own hobbies, but the greatest lessons I learned were about myself. 

Through art I was able to build self-esteem, discover what it is I want in life and it gave me direction and goals to work towards.

My Experience There:

Before starting D3 I was extremely confused. I had no idea what I wanted in life and so I sunk into a pretty bad depression.

When I came across an advertisement for D3 I jumped at the opportunity to do something. I had no idea what to expect that first day, or the next. Every day we were learning something new. We did still life, sketched landscapes, learned to draw using a grid, Munsell colour theory, painting with acrylic, photography lessons with a real professional photographer and so much more! We went on field trips to  see past projects that they had done, which was quite amazing. And as part of the program we had to do workshops on resumes, interviews and careers. I actually enjoyed that part, too. The best part of all was that as a group we had to design and complete an art piece for the Grand River Film Festival.

It was quite the experience.

Since my time at D3 ended in September (2012) 

  • I've opened an Etsy shop, started blogging and applied for college. 
  • I continue to write for myself in my journals
  • I write short stories and attempt poetry
  • I continue to draw, paint and take pictures for fun.

Leading a creative life isn't just about the outcome of your project, it's about the experience you have making it and the lessons you learn on the way.

That is why I think art is so important for everyone.

Here are some pictures from my time at D3:

My work space at D3
Group art piece we did for Grand River Film Festival
Sarah (right) and I (left) 
at the opening gala for Grand River Film Festival

Munsell Colour Wheel:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What I Will Be Discussing On My Blog




For the past few years I really didn’t have much direction or any idea of what I wanted in life. The truth is, I’ve been absolutely terrified to do things that make me happy instead of doing what I felt was right.

I felt very confused.

For a long time I felt that I was too different to fit in with the rest of society and that something was very wrong with me. I couldn’t stand the idea of working most of my life to benefit someone else. All I wanted was freedom and hardly anyone I knew could relate to how I felt.

Eventually I discovered that there are a lot of people who feel this way. Mostly through blogs and websites, I came across a ton of people who were working on becoming their own boss and leading a life they made for themselves.

There was a problem though.

Most of these individuals were different than me.

They were either:
a) older 
b) had no children
c) had a spouse who made enough money to support them
d) single and independent

Well, I’m 23, I have a daughter, and my husband is in the same boat as me.

We have bills, debt, very little education, and a daughter to support.

I’m not saying that because of these differences I will have a harder time in building my own career and life. It’s difficult for anyone, no matter what their situation. All I’m saying is that I have yet to come across someone in the same situation as myself, who blogs about it.

After 5 years of trying to do things the “right” way and having it fail every time and being completely miserable, I finally said to myself and to my husband, “Okay, that’s it. No more! We’re going to do what we want to now.”

And here’s what I’m currently working on to make that happen:

1. College
I’ve been accepted into a journalism program at college. I’m working on getting funding, or at least a student loan. It took me a long time to figure out what sort of program to go for. I considered business, accounting, photography, fine arts, interior decorating, marketing, and a ton more.

2. Health
After gaining 60 lbs. through stress and depression I finally told myself that it was time to get back to being healthy. I’ve been walking a ton more, and eating a lot healthier. Eventually I will get back into Hatha Yoga and meditation. I’m seeing a counsellor and trying to be more optimistic to conquer this depression.

3. Money
Since I’m going to college I won’t be able to work. Hopefully I can make some money online again, or find some other form of income. My husband is working part-time right now but is looking for a different job. We’re also trying to find ways to save money, which is really hard because we already don’t spend any money as it is. Not to mention, I want to pay off my debt.

4. Photography
I’ve always enjoyed photography but never thought I was very good at it. I still don’t, but I’ve been slowly teaching myself photography in my spare time. Maybe I will even take a couple classes.

5. Writing
Well, after doing a bunch of work I hated I finally admitted to myself that I want to be a writer, hence why I’m going for Journalism. Writing a blog daily has been a lot of fun and a great help at getting better. I also read a lot, and I have been trying to increase my vocabulary as well as doing writing exercises.

I’m finding that there are a lot of people in similar situations as myself.

Going to college, supporting yourself financially, chasing dreams. It’s all very complicated and sometimes writing about it and reading other people’s experiences really helps.

If things work out for me, I will share how I made that possible. If things fail, I will let you know what happened so that maybe you can avoid making the same mistakes.

I’ll be sharing healthy recipes I enjoy, money saving tips I discover, photography advice that works for me, tips and tricks I learn about writing and personal life stories on family, school, friends and most importantly, self discovery.

As well as this being a creative outlet to help keep me sane, and possibly get positive feedback and encouragement I also hope I can inspire others to chase their dreams and live the life they’ve always wanted.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

And I'm Back Online!

Okay, it only took more than two months for me to finally get the internet at my new place. Partly because I'm lazy, but mostly because I wanted to make sure we were bringing in enough to be able to afford another bill.

But the good news is that I have the internet now and I can be happy about that. Except, I still don't have a new laptop and my current old desktop computer which I'm using right now is kind of slow which makes it super annoying. For example, I can't have more than one or two pages up at once or it might freeze. Usually, I will have at least 3 pages up and sometime even 10! Because my brain seems to work better when there's a lot going on.

I'm wishing for a new laptop, hoping one will just magically fall into my hands and then my life will seriously be complete!

But, in the real world I have to save up some money and be grateful for what I have.

So, I ask everyone - What is the best laptop to buy?! Something that runs great and is more on the cheap end of things, like under $500 (Canadian).

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