Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

Ocean

 

I’ve always had a fascination with water and I love living by the ocean. Watching how the waves crash on the shore is completely mesmerizing.  I especially love it in the morning when it’s the start of a new day and there are so many possibilities. Standing at the edge of the ocean and seeing its vastness signifies how many opportunities in life there are for growth. It’s just a matter of being brave enough to dive into those opportunities when you have the chance. Scary diving in, but not so bad once you get used it (although, you will need a wet-suit in the Pacific 😉

You cannot possibly achieve growth without some sort of movement and the ocean with its constant flow t is the perfect definition of growth to me.  You have to move with the tides to see growth. I took this photo one afternoon at my happy place on Vancouver Island. I am no photographer by any means, but it is one of my favourite photos of 2017.  Here’s to  the ever changing tides of the Pacific North West. Happy New Year.

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Strength is Never a Weakness

I usually have my reflection of the previous year already done before the New Year comes around, but my holiday was not a restful one. As is for most people, it was spent running around and being on a timeline. Now I can relax and reflect on the year. Well “relax” is a relative term; relaxation for me means working out, puttering and cleaning the house and cooking. But anyway, here we are, I can finally write this down.

 No “New Year, New Me” for myself, however I have set some goals for myself. I am not one for “New Year’s Resolutions,” as I think actual goal setting is more effective (that is, if you set goals the SMART way) and are more likely to be attained over “Resolutions”. Anyway, I have a few leftover from last year that I am still working on. Having settled into our spot on Vancouver Island, and just moving into our new home, 2017 was a mostly amazing year. The beginning was rocky as I started a job that I really did not enjoy, and it gave me serious anxiety on a daily basis. It’s crazy how much a job can spill over into the rest of your life and wreck havoc, if you really don’t like it. Realizing this early, I soon left and moved on to the place I am currently at. It is a slower pace but I am enjoying it more. There is less stress and it’s given me perspective on what I really want to be doing career wise. This leads me to goal number one of 2018, and that is starting up my own small Personal Training business! If you’ve read my older posts, you’ll know that I was a Personal Trainer previously, but various circumstances left me frustrated and to be entirely honest, cash poor (as is the struggle within the fitness industry). However, I’ve grown and gotten more experience since then, both in my personal and career lives, that I believe will allow me to be more successful than my first attempt. I plan to challenge the CPT exam this year as well, and will have that under my belt as another education piece. Admittedly, I am a little nervous but I am also really excited about this! My objective is to teach people the foundation of exercise without any frills in the Sidney, BC community. Follow me along on my journey https://www.instagram.com/mel_nowak/  to see what I get up to and how I am going to go about this new business idea of mine.

At the beginning of last year, I was coming off an ankle injury but had mostly healed. Having that injury was such a debilitating experience, that as soon as I could walk again I just wanted to move (and those that know me, know that I cannot sit still, and having the injury crushed my soul). Naturally, being a run before I can walk sort of person, I thought I wanted to try for a sprint marathon. I soon realized that I really am just not an efficient endurance athlete. I enjoy running and biking and swimming, but not exactly in succession of one another. I truly am a power athlete at heart (give me sprints, heavy 1’s & 2’s and call it a day 😉 Alas, I switched gears and moved to Olympic lifting for a little while, (which I may go back to), but I was not consistent with because the class and equipment was not convenient enough for me and my heart was not fully in it. Finally, I zeroed in on something very specific and decided to go back to one of my strengths, which is strength itself. I am now training for a power lifting meet in February (five weeks away!) through BCPA. I am also aiming to do another later in the year, either in Vancouver or Vancouver Island. I am very excited to compete in an event again because it gives me something tangible to strive for. For me, having an aesthetic body goal just isn’t enough for me. I need to have a performance driven goal because it pushes me harder. My ultimate goal, would be to qualify for nationals and see where that takes me. Fingers crossed!

My third goal of 2018, is to write something on my blog once a week (twice would be a bonus but probably unrealistic). I know I’ve said this before but I’m really going to try to make it a priority! I love writing as I find it therapeutic and it allows me to gather my jumbled thoughts. And if it means waking up thirty minutes earlier at 5:30am, then that’s when I will fit it in. I actually do prefer writing in the morning anyway, I find I am still in that unconscious state where my mind is fresh and mostly blank (and before I start thinking about my to do lists). Hence, with my power lifting and business journeys, I’m hoping I have stories and insights to share. Thanks for reading and Happy 2018!

Ogden Point View

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

The Island Bookworm

I started a book club with a few of my friends on Vancouver Island and we get together once a month (ish) and vote on a book we all would like to read. We try to set aside at least an hour to discuss the book and we do pretty well with discussion questions. Admittedly, it does turn into a gossip session but it’s great to get together regardless and get everyone’s perspective on a book. Not all of these were read by my book club as I have stacks of books that I collect and read on my own, as I cannot seem to help myself when I go into a bookstore and not walk out with something (I just bought a copy of Wuthering Heights, as if I needed it 🙂 but I had to share my favourites from 2017:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik. This was by far my favourite! I enjoy fantasy novels and this one did not disappoint.
  2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It was hilarious and heartbreaking.
  3. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. It had such a good twist!
  4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Michael. A post-apocalyptic novel that was so well written, and not at all cliche.
  5. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. A real thriller, action novel.
  6. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. I read this one over the month of October and it was perfect for the fall season.
  7. The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen. I could not put these books down! I absolutely loved the main female character and the world that Johansen created.
  8. Bold by Irvin Finau. A little book about social etiquette and little tips on how to act in various social, business and personal situations.

If you have any recommendations, please share! I am always looking for a good read and for an excuse to visit a bookstore.

For Better or Worse: One Year and One Month Later

Where We Were Made:

     We had been on the go for seven days until we even got to Europe. We left Victoria on Wednesday night (Sept 13th), and got to our hometown in Hamilton at 6am. Bleary eyed and disoriented with time change no.1, we visited our family and close friends. The following day we started the next part of our journey to Kingston, Ontario for John’s sister’s wedding and got slightly derailed. As we were pulling into an en route in the middle of bum- nowhere, a van reversed directly into us. It happened in slow motion, as these things tend to, and there was nothing we could do to protect the beautiful Infiniti rental car from getting smacked on the passenger side. So much for being able to use those car doors for the weekend. That resulted in us having to file a police report in Napanee, apparently where no police officer works in that designated area. What an efficient use of our time. Instead of getting to Kingston for 1:30 as we had planned, we didn’t get there until 4pm. The day continued, we went to the wedding rehearsal and eventually got to our designated sleeping spots. This was the second longest day of my life.

     And then it was wedding day! The morning was spent doing the usual primping and priming for the ladies, while indulging in a delicious breakfast and watching Friends (the one where Monica and Chandler get married of course!). I really have no idea what men do during this time period, but I assume they were keeping busy in some way. Eventually we were at the Kingston Waterfront waiting for the ceremony to begin. As if this car couldn’t be cursed anymore, doesn’t water spill all over my dress from the flowers five minutes before we have to walk down the aisle. I definitely gave the ladies sitting at the waterfront a show as I fervently attempted to dry my dress by blasting the AC with my bottom on display of the car dashboard. Despite that, what a lovely day! I could not be happier for Nick and Christina. They are absolutely perfect together and I wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.

     After dancing and indulging in a few drinks, I decided it was time to retire from the festivities, since we needed to be at the Toronto airport for 4:30am. So, again, off we went at an ungodly hour to get to our next destination. We dropped off the banged up vehicle with no trouble and did the security check in procedure and we were off to London, England!

London: Loos, Beadles, and Books

     Hello time change no. 2. We arrived in London at 10:30pm and got taken to our hotel, The Connaught, in a not banged up Mercedes something or other. Oh my goodness, I’ve never been anywhere so fancy. I felt like a true country mouse. We stayed in the “Contemporary” part that had the fancy toilets. What a luxury to not have to touch the toilet seat and sit down to a warm seat (this did not help in preparing me for what I was going to encounter in Italy). Needless to say, my butt was quite happy. Okay enough loo talk. We wolfed down burgers and fries at midnight (how elegant) that were way too expensive, and then passed out.

I woke to the dull gray that is London, and prettied myself up for breakfast, attempting not to be the country bumpkin that I felt like. Apparently athletic leisurewear is non-existent in London and Lulu’s are unacceptable outside of the comfort of your own home. And of course it was fashion week. Despite feeling slightly out of place, I tried not to slink past the models in the hallways and pretend like they had nothing on me. And really they are just people in fancy clothes anyway. Trying to look glamourous all the time is exhausting. I was over it by the time we left. Also, they all kept calling me Mrs. Nowak, to which, my initial reaction was a blank stare and then realization they were referring to yours truly. I’m still getting used to my married name apparently. I strolled around the Mayfair area of London, walking down Carnaby street and Burlington Arcade, wandering into Fortnam and Mason, which has the Royal Crest on the outside indicating that the Queen shops here, specifically for her tea. I was really hoping to find a proper hairdryer with a diffuser for my unruly hair, which I was successful in finding. A little historical fact: The Burlington Arcade has a history of prostitution and to this day you are not allowed to whistle or sing down the alleyway as it was a warning signal that police or Beadles were approaching.

One slightly annoying part of this entire trip was that everyone thought I was American. And I replied slightly indignantly that I was in fact Canadian which was well received. Everyone loves Canada! Keep it up Canadians, we are the best kind of people (according to a good ol’ chap I met in a scarf shop).

The next few days went by in a flash. We toured through London and walked the Thames River, saw the Eye, Big Ben and got a ride to Harrod’s from a proper English bloke (as they say). I could only understand about every fourth word but it was the most entertaining taxi ride I’ve ever had. Harrod’s was overwhelming but truly the store of all department stores. We mosied into Hatchards, a bookstore that’s been around since 1797! I was in my perfect paradise; there were books galore and I really could have spent days in there. I really would have loved to spend more time in London but we were soon packing up our suitcases and heading off to Italy.

London M&J.JPG

 

Italy: Wine, Canoli’s and Selfie Sticks

     Time change no. 3. I hate airplanes, I really do. And airports for that matter. The entire process of security and luggage is very inefficient outside of Canada. We boarded the next germ filled tube stuffed with mouth breathing strangers and eventually arrived in Rome. We were picked up by a gentleman who didn’t speak English, but kindly brought us to our sleeping quarters downtown. In hindsight, it was a little sketchy because we had no idea where we were going and who this man was. Thank goodness we didn’t end up in someone’s freezer. We dumped our bags and quickly sought out food. Pasta dish numero uno! Full disclosure: I ate countless amounts of pasta, cannoli, gelati and vino. It was a foodcation and I loved it! Our apartment was minutes away from the Spanish Steps, which was a very cool hangout spot at nighttime. We made our way to the Coliseum the next day, stopping for gelati and waiting in an hour-long line to see the ruin. It was completely worth the wait.  Like, that thing was built in 80 AD and we were standing in it! Talk about ancient.

Gelati Mel.JPG

If going to Rome, be prepared for the following things: lots of walking, lots of people, rude customer service (Romans, you are not nice), cheap wine, expensive water, (bring a water bottle with you and find a fountain, the tap water is safe to drink), crazy drivers, horrible plumbing (it’s nice if a public toilet actually has a seat) small narrow streets, lots of cobblestone, no elevators, women in heels, men in slacks, cigarettes everywhere and a very distinct buzz that is Roma. Sitting in an alleyway in the afternoon, having a glass of wine, wedged between old stucco buildings with laundry hanging out the balconies, you realize it is truly a unique place like no other. One night, we went to a little jazz bar and met a couple that had lived across the street from us in Toronto. They had decided to explore something new and spend a year living in Rome. We listened to their experiences and they confessed to having some difficulties, specifically with the language barrier and that nothing is soft in Italy. They had wished for soft pillows from Costco, a thing we apparently take for granted living in Canada. And I can vouch for the lack of softness because our bed in the Roma apartment was like a board and the floor had the roughest carpeting I’ve ever experienced.

On a side note, I am going to rant about a little modern day invention called the selfie-stick (I’m sorry in advance if you are an avid user, but I do not approve) There is a time and place to take pictures, and when you are in a holy place, such as the Vatican put it away! Enjoy the experience. I do admit to taking a few photos but I would like to say that I was a little more dignified and subtle with my photo taking, as I was not posing in front of a holy priests’ tombstone with my tongue sticking out. End rant.

Our final destination was Sorrento. In initially planning our trip, we did not fully think of the logistics of getting from Rome to Sorrento, which was about three hours away from each other, down the “dreaded” Almaflie coast. To be honest, the road itself isn’t that bad, it’s the drivers. I would say that the road to Tofino BC gives the Amalfie coast a good run for its money. Anyway, we decided to rent a car and drive there. Well John drove and I diligently provided directions. Kudos to John for driving because bloody hell, Italians drive like mad; they may as well be throwing bananas out of their windows. Although, I do respect their aggressive driving, especially living in a tourist city like Victoria, where the speed-limit is like 40 kms. My motto now when I’m driving, is “Drive like an Italian,” while reaching over John to honk the horn, much to his disapproval.

Sorrento was the relaxing part of our trip once we got to our hotel. We were able to sit poolside, read and have a few afternoon drinks, whilst enjoying the beautiful view of Mount Vesuvius. Eventually the conversation lulled between us, as we had been together for a solid one-week period, and sought out conversation with a lovely English couple. They had a hell of a time on the bus excursion down the Amalfi coast and recommended doing the private tour if we were planning to go.

We went into the town of Sorrento one day, where there are various shoe-makers, obscene amounts of limoncello, and many stray dogs. Not a bad place to be a stray dog if you ask me, lots of tourists and yummy pizza crusts to mooch. We stopped in various shops, one of them being a wine store, looking for some vino to have that evening. Well wouldn’t you know that Italians really believe in using Windex, because damn if I didn’t see that glass door I walked straight into. Oh the shame. John lovingly covered my burning face with a bear hug and we quickly made our exit, much to the scowling looks of the owners. I can only imagine the fiasco if I had broken the door.

Sorrento also has a buzz but not quite like Roma or London, it’s busy but more relaxed and I would even say tired. You see more of the day-to -day, blue-collar grind here. We passed by a woman on the side of the road in Sorrento with no nose, holding her baby. I do not know her story, and I can only speculate the things she’s been through. I wanted to give her everything I had on me, and looking back, why didn’t I? It’s just stuff, I had more of it. I woke up to seeing her face in my dreams that evening and I will likely never forget that.

We said goodbye to the Sorrento sunsets and olive trees and eventually retraced our steps back to the Rome airport, starting off with me having to give the little rental car a push to get us out the steep driveway. This was the start of our twenty-four hour travel day, and by far, the longest day of my life. We hopped from Rome to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver, Vancouver to Victoria and by the end of it, I felt like we had travelled through ten galaxies and found myself asking “what year is it?!”. With all the travelling though, it truly felt good to be back in Canada, where the toilets work and Tim Horton’s is king.

Everyone keeps asking me what my favourite part was, and I honestly think that I was just happy to have explored these places with my hubs. Neither of us had ever visited the UK or Europe before, and it was really amazing to experience all of it together. After a year of being married, we’ve learned a few things (at least I have), including how to travel together and not kill each other. But marriage truly is a sea-saw and yes it’s tricky, because it’s a constant give and take. It’s about knowing when to push and when to let up. Standing by through the good and bad, and knowing that there are going to be as many tears as there are smiles. And really, compromise has the ultimate say. Of course there is still some room for improvement… For myself, learning to let the little things go and John maybe not leaving so many little things on the floor. Exactly one month ago we were standing in the Coliseum together and one year before that, we got married. Here’s to many more years of travelling with my ever so patient and loving husband. Happy one-year anniversary.

John and Mel's Wedding 891.jpg

MN

Goodbye 2016

You Don’t Know Me

I recently moved across Canada to Victoria, British Columbia. For various reasons, I decided to drive across Canada with a very good friend of mine, who I met through my previous job. Our common appreciation for sarcasm and swearing drove us to becoming good friends.

I have always found it interesting how people interact with one another. I love how quickly you can build a relationship with a person,  and it’s definitely an interesting thing to witness how they act upon their first meeting. You do the small talk chit chatter and you either instantly click with someone, or you write them off for whatever reason (too skinny, too tall, don’t like her hair) and really it’s very elementary of us and quite comical. We squirm around trying to size each other person up, by making false assumptions of what that person is actually like, before we even know anything about them. We may as well be dogs sniffing each other’s asses for all it’s worth.  I think she was more surprised by our friendship than I was, seeing as how she didn’t want to like me at first because I was “pretty.” And a year and a half later we drove across the country together. She was the last familiar face I would see for a while. The last familiar thing, asides from the furniture I had sent to travel across the country, to greet me when I got there (along with my fiancé of course). It’s a tough concept, to know no one and be known by no one. Yet it’s a beautiful thing at the same time. You have a clean slate to work from, no reputation and no prejudices against you for the things in your “past” life or previous chapters.

Now I am in a position where I am meeting new people and attempting to click with them, without judging them. Because really, who am I to judge anyone? So my challenge: upon meeting someone for the first time, don’t judge them immediately. Push those thoughts aside about whatever you think that person is ( or isn’t), and actually listen to their conversation, their story, because they might just prove your false pretenses wrong.

Jackie and Mel

#selfieswhiledriving 😉

 

The Power of a Picture

I was recently going through old photos with my sister and we came across some really great pictures. A lot of them were of her and I when we were young; specifically when we had bad hair and braces. But it is really cool to see yourself grow up and see the people that were constantly there. If you ever get a spare moment in your crazy schedule, go through some old photos. Facebook makes this really easy but if you can find some old albums, look through them. There is something about actually holding a picture that transports you to a different time. It is kind of a bittersweet feeling to see pictures of yourself in places you once visited and with people that maybe aren’t in your life anymore, but they meant something to you in that moment. A picture freezes that moment that you probably will not get back again and that’s such a powerful thing. In our world where everything moves so fast, we barely remember what we ate for lunch (well I do), yet pictures actually have staying power. John always yells at me for taking stupid pictures (and yes admittedly, sometimes they are silly selfies) but I am glad I captured some of those moments because it was something significant for that one second. Anyway, take a photo today and date it and maybe you’ll find it in a few years and truly appreciate it. Here’s mine, it was taken at Easter with my beautiful cousin, who is growing up so fast!

Mel & Mags II

Just my thoughts for today!

Mel

2015 Must Reads

This is to make up for my lack of blogging lately. It has been a crazy time for me, as I am sure it is for many people. I have been meaning to share some wonderful novels I have read throughout this year. See below for my 2015 list:

  1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This novel is probably my favourite one that I have read this year. It is a deeply emotional and true story of how Cheryl lost her mother and goes on a journey of healing with nothing but a backpack and sheer will. It is a remarkable story of how you can find healing in the most unexpected situations.
  2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: I could not put this book down. It is a teenage love story that is written so beautifully and brings back those memories of adolescent awkwardness and your first love.
  3. Man by Kim Thuy: I had the pleasure of meeting this very talented author and the novel is just as brilliant as she is. Man tells the story of her life, coming from Vietnam to Montreal in little snippets that are rich in descriptions of food, family and love. This novel made me want to eat my entire kitchen.
  4. Celia’s Song by Lee Maracle: This novel is a more somber story of a First Nations family that has experienced various hardships and are attempting to restore some form of balance in their lives. It is told through the eyes of Mink (a shapeshifter) and Celia (a Seer), together they narrate a horrific story of an abused child and the lengths a family will go to save loved ones.
  5. The Rosie Project: This is a great easy read for anyone looking for a cozy book to settle down with on a Sunday afternoon. The main character Don, goes on a hunt to find the perfect mate, and soon discovers that finding the “perfect woman” is not all that logical.

Being You Before Being We

I have been doing some reflecting on relationships and how people grow together or apart. And if you speak to different people they will say various things about their relationships and their spouses. Some will say “he/she is my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them” or on the other spectrum (what I hear a lot of at work is), “my wife drives me nuts.” However, I think regardless of what stage you are at in your relationship, it’s important to have time to yourself and be okay with just being with you. Because ultimately how can you be a couple (“we”), without knowing who you are as an individual. I am not saying you have to go on a path to discover your sole purpose on earth but I think it is important to know what your values and objectives are before making commitments to your significant other. My heart breaks for those marriages that are falling apart and I am not going to pretend to be an expert in the marriage department, however I have to wonder, with more than fifty percent of marriages failing, when/where/how does it all go wrong? What happens that leads strong relationships and households to fall apart? I’ve heard a lot of “we rushed into it” and/or “it was all about the wedding” or “you stopped listening.” My main point being, before rushing into getting married or making a big commitment with someone, I think it’s really important to ask yourself what you really want as an individual. Is getting married going to satisfy your life goals? Is having kids going to complete you as a person? None of these things are necessarily negative, however I think we tend to get caught up in our fast paced society, where we can get everything at the tip of our fingers, and we compare ourselves to other moms, wives, husbands, etc. We don’t spend enough time taking a step back and focusing on what is best for ourselves. There’s no need to rush all the time. Be you and be okay with that. Thanks for reading.

Mel

A Debt Sentence

In recent conversations with some of my colleagues and family, there has been some discussion around careers and professional objectives. This has got me thinking specifically about my generation. Before I begin, I want to specify that I am not against achieving post secondary education, I am merely observing and commenting on the circumstances of some of my peers.

Starting as early as high school, myself, along with the rest of my classmates, were approached by guidance counsellors and teachers asking what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.  At the young age of sixteen, how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do for the next 40 years?! (I am pretty sure at one point I wanted to be a pilot; I can barely drive stick, never mind a plane). Anyway, feeling pressured to figure out my career path, I followed my peers to the next chapter, which was either college or university. As much as we were encouraged to reach for the stars and chase our dreams, unfortunately this also meant (for the majority of us), chasing down a whopping amount of student loans. If you are one of the lucky ones that did not have to take out a student loan, remember how privileged you actually are. Having to take out these loans is a huge set back for my generation. Rarely do most of us come out of school and find the ultimate dream job, that allows us to pay back our debt in just a few years. In fact, some even pursue a second diploma and/or certificate to get a decent paying job. Until that ideal career is discovered, most of us are stuck. Stuck in a minimum wage paying job, trying to pay off loans from that higher education, which was supposed to offer a plethora of opportunities in the first place.

I am not being a Debbie Downer, this is just reality. And I think most of us have accepted this. However, I do not think that some of the older generations i.e. our parents and/or grand parents, understand these struggles. There were different social conventions that took place back in the 60’s and 70’s. The norm was not for females to go to university after high school, it was to have babies and be house wives. This has changed drastically today. The national average is three women to every two men on campus (go ladies!). However, instead of having just one spouse going to post secondary, now both genders potentially have student debt.  We are behind our parents’ generation because of the post secondary emphasis placed on us early in life. Getting married, having kids, and buying a house, are all delayed because we are paying for our education. (So don’t hold your breath for that marriage proposal :-P)

For those of you who are struggling with the student debt crisis, you are not alone. Therefore, continue on in your studies, have a career plan, and pay your debts in due time.  Set your own life goals and timelines for what works best for you.

Thanks for reading,

Mel