New year…resolutions???

This year I have a very long list of…well…I guess you’d call them resolutions. Maybe I am biting off more than I can chew but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t dream big! This year, it’s about a total lifestyle shift for me. We finally have the house we want, the get-away camp, the toys – everything! No more distractions via the business of living – now it’s time to get “how” I live in order.

I put together this long list of goals, ideas, and objectives to help me define where I want to create change. Although the 2010 weight loss boot camp was a total bust, in the spirit of not letting past indiscretions get me down, I am going to push forward and do my best to focus on success. I know I can do it and I feel like this is the year. Here we go.

Healthy Lifestyle (drop 30 pounds in 12 months)

  • Meal plan on Sundays for the entire week
  • 15 minutes stretching every day
  • Pilates every other day
  • Stairs at work every day
  • Walk 30/minutes a day
  • Eating out restricted to four times a month
  • Watch 50% less TV
  • Meditate 20 minutes a day (start by meditating 10 minutes/day for the first month)

Home

  • Finalize office space (desk, book shelves, shelving, wall accents)
  • Paint Deck

Writing – Blog                                                            

  • Finalize and implement new blog design (January 1)
  • Post in a more “dear diary” style and post with less self-censorship
  • Post every other day – Monday, Wednesday, Friday type

Writing – Book (rough draft in 12 months)

  • Finish reading Weekend Novelist and complete exercises
  • Finalize outline and character developments
  • Write at least one hour a day

Professional (attain CCC level in 12 months – advanced bilingual)

  • Talk in French 30 minutes a day – at work
  • Read in French 15 minutes a day – at work
  • Listen to radio in French 15 minutes a day – at work
  • Complete 30 minutes of French grammar work a day – at work

So there you have it – the 2011 list of resolution. It’s a lifestyle over haul and I think we are ready and prime for the picking! Wish me luck…

What are your New Year resolutions? How do you ensure success?

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A year in review: 2010

2010 was a year of change and activity. In a sense, it felt like we crammed in a couple of years of action into one year as we moved at warp speed getting our ducks in a row.

January – our offer on the new home was accepted and we sold our mini home, all with coordinating closing dates so most of the month was spent packing and purging.

February – we packed up our mini home life and moved into our new house.  The court case for Mamma K began with plea entry, trial, etc and over the course of the year; we were in court 10 times.

March – I celebrated turning 35 as we settled into our new home. And Scott and I also celebrated bachelor and bachelorette parties with friends and family.

April – we spent two weeks in the beautiful Dominican Republic. For the first week, we were there with 25 friends and family with whom we celebrated and shared our Caribbean wedding. The second week, we enjoyed our relaxing, once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon.

May – we had an incredibly early spring in New Brunswick and we got out golfing for most of May. Scott got a ride-on lawn mower and Tess got shaved for the summer weather. We also planted a flowering crab tree in our backyard in memory of Mamma K.

June – we hosted our wedding reception at our new home. Scott graduated from a year-long course he had been taking through work that was at a university level. We spent a lot of the month at the camp and updated the bathroom. We spent some time at the beach, golfed, and did some canoeing and fishing.

July – we purchased a Rhino 450 and we spent most of the month at the camp driving the Rhino and gettin’ dirty!

August – marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Mamma K and we commemorated the day with a beautiful memorial. We started some major camp renovations by redoing the kitchen. And, I started this blog.

September – we continued with camp renovations. We traded in our SUV for a 4X4 Dodge RAM, which is much more appropriate to our lifestyle. My brother, his wife, and three kids (who live about 1500 kilometers away) came for a visit.

October – we finished the camp kitchen renos. We celebrated Thanksgiving weekend with friends and family at the camp. We attended an annual family pumpkin carving day with Scott’s family.

Kitchen before

Kitchen after

November – we spent nearly every weekend at the camp relaxing and enjoying the hard work from our late summer renovations. We did a lot of Rhino travels.

December – the second Christmas without Mamma K was tough and it was our first Christmas in our new home.

All in all, it felt like a jam-packed year with tons of change, hard work, fun, tough times, sadness, mourning, growth, and celebration. Looking back over the list, it doesn’t seem to sum up the feelings inside that I have when I think about the past year and everything we accomplished and overcame but there it lies.

For 2011, I am hoping that things calm down a little bit with more time spent on consciously creating the lifestyle that we want – the balance between work, play, and creativity.

A feeling of disconnection at Christmas

Christmas 2010 had it’s share of ups and downs.

On the side of good, Christmas shopping was a breeze even if we did bust the budget a little. Everyone seemed to want bigger ticket items this year so it made for minimal trips to the mall. Coupled with the fact that we’ve primarily adopted a gift card mentality for the majority of the children in our life (we buy for nearly 15 kids), shopping was a breeze. The outside lights turned out beautifully and the interior with a perfect real tree was stunning. Christmas Eve was a delight with dinner with my mother, step-Dad, and step-sister. Christmas morning was peaceful with a late start to gift opening, a beautiful ham meal, and a night at the movies. Boxing Day, we had our traditional Christmas gathering with as many of my step-Dad’s children and their families as is available – the big Xmas gift opening and turkey dinner. We had tons of time with friends and family with good food and laughter.

On the side of the not-so-good, we were still very much missing Mamma K and dealing with the grief and the sadness. Scott was still in the midst of fighting off pneumonia and I started battling the cold so we both had sore throats and coughs. As well, we had a few tradition changes. Our usual Xmas Eve gift opening/turkey dinner celebration moved to Boxing Day. And for some reason, there seemed to be a slight break-down in communication between one side of the family and me. Scott and I ended up missing out on key information about the reasons behind the changes to the Christmas traditions that would have A) left us feeling more informed and understanding and B) would have allowed us to make a few different choices that would have improved our Christmas planning. These mix ups in some senses left Scott and I feeling slightly out of the loop. We both felt that although the Boxing Day celebration was wonderful, in a way it was like we were watching a Christmas celebration through a window wishing we could be a part of that family. It was odd. I mean, for all intense purposes, it was an overall good Christmas but there was this lingering sense of “not belonging” to some parts of it.

And as I pondered how to “fix” this feeling of disconnection, I had a light bulb moment where instead of just reacting and going into problem solving mode, I started asking myself pertinent questions. For example, am I willing to do what I think it would take to feel like I belong at that deeper level? Do I want to roll around on the floor with the kids, playing dollies and Tonka, so that when I come into a room they scream “Auntie Natalie” with joy and excitement like they do my step-sister? Do I want to cancel weekends at the camp and switch adult oriented evenings to fit in more family friendly gatherings so that I “fit” in more and create a stronger “bond” with everyone?

What do I want? How important is it to be me to feel a sense of belonging beyond what I already have with my extended family? Do I think it’s possible? Do I think my step-siblings will ever truly see me as a sister? There seems to have been so many instances and indicators throughout 2010 that lead me to believe that I don’t belong at that deep, founding level. Do they love me? Absolutely! Do they consider me “family” in the largest, extended sense of the word? I believe so. But am I a sister in the deepest, connected sense? I don’t know. And if they do not, honestly, what is wrong with that? What’s wrong with what we share as is?

And maybe I am being cynical. Maybe I was over sensitive. Maybe familial relations grow and flounder, up and down, bob and weave and next year, I’ll feel differently. It’s hard to say.

Either way, it is very interesting to take the time to ponder and consider more consciously what I want in my life for 2011 and beyond. What’s most important, what do I value, and what am I willing and not willing to do to get it instead of just “reacting” on blind emotion and instinct. 2010 was a year of activity and change that was healthy in its own right. We accomplished and overcame more in a year then I imagined possible (stay tuned for my year-in-review post). I would like 2011 to be more thought out with a higher degree of conscious living with greater focus on what I want to create for my life (stay tuned for my year ahead post).

Maybe 2011 will involve more effort in the family arena, maybe not. Time will tell.

How were your holiday seasons?

Getting through the holiday season

I haven’t had a chance to post as often as I would have liked to in the last few weeks. It’s a crazy time of year trying to tie up loose ends at work and get all the Christmas shopping and visiting done. Add to that, we had our fiasco day in court, Scott came down with pneumonia and has been in bed sick for nine days now, I fought a five-day migraine, and one of my best friend’s grandfather died. It’s been a lot to muddle through.

Add to that, the holiday season for us, isn’t what it used to be. Mamma K always came up and spent this time of year with us so as far as year two without her goes, it’s as depressing as year one. Mind you, we have decorated this year and shopped a little bit but the overall joy and excitement that came with Christmas is simply gone. As sad as that might sound, honestly, I am okay with it because I think we are doing remarkably well.

Having lost my Dad at 16, I know that the special Christmas spirit can take a long time to come back and infuse itself. It’s normal, it’s understandable. For now, the season is more something to get through; to find the bits of joy and pleasure in it that you can but otherwise, just put the head down and get through it. I am good with that.

For me, I’m trying to focus on other things. Since my work office closes Dec 24 through to Jan 4 (thank the lord for small miracles), I want to use the time off to reconnect with friends and family and also myself.

I want to start 2011 off on the right foot and to do so, I need to take some time and do some careful planning. What is it that I want to accomplish in 2011? 2010 was most certainly a year of change and movement with selling a home, buying a new home, moving into a home, planning a Domincan wedding and two week vacation, organizing an “at home” wedding reception, camp renovations etc. So for 2011, I want to quiet things down a little bit and look a little more inward at what’s going to fulfill my creative side; at creating a healthy lifestyle; at manifesting some dreams come true.

And what better time to do some planning and preparation than Christmas time.

I also think I’ll start 2011 off with a new blog design. Yes – it’ll still be a WordPress.com template but I am playing around to try to find one that suits me a bit better than the pink so…stay tuned!

Happy holidays and all the best to you and yours throughout the season. May 2011 bring you peace, love and much happiness. Please don’t drink and drive.

Impaired driving causing death case: yet again, another update

Yesterday was torturous for the family. We had been under the impression that the medical blood evidence was admissible – since it was being presented in court! And we were told that we’d have a guilty/not guilty verdict yesterday. But in a turn of events, we didn’t get either. The medical blood admissibility is still up for debate and we adjourned for another six weeks yet again.

The first witness to testify was the attending nurse who spoke about the process when a patient comes into the hospital, why blood was drawn, what tests were ordered by her and why, and how the blood was processed once it was drawn.

The second witness was the manager of records management who spoke about the integrity and security of people’s medical records.

Essentially these witnesses were laying the ground work, I would assume, for the admissibility of the blood – so that the Defence couldn’t claim that the blood or the medical records were tampered with.

These two experts were apparently so thrilling that the perpetrator fell ASLEEP. Yes, you read me correct – this drunk driver was sitting there, fighting an impaired driving causing death charge, and he fell asleep during pertinent testimony. I know the family could feel his “remorse” from where they sat (NOT)! It was a disgusting demonstration of total lack of respect and I thought Scott or myself were going to launch ourselves over the three benches that separated us and literally tear that man’s eyeballs out with our bare hands!

I digress.

The third and last witness to testify, via video conference, was the blood analysis expert. And she was amazing. Now, she did not have the actual blood to work with – she was only given the number of the blood alcohol level from the hospital’s test. Doing a number of conversions, assuming the driver did not have a drink within 30 minutes prior to the accident, and taking into account dissipation of the alcohol from the time of the accident to the time the blood was taken, she concluded that, in her expert opinion, his blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was between 103 and 142 (80 is the legal limit).

She also stated that 103 was a very conservative estimation and that it was highly unlikely that his level could have been any lower. To the contrary, it could have actually been higher than 142. And, based on her expert knowledge, in this range, the driver would have “definitely” been impaired and that the impairment would have played a contributing factor in the accident.

Under cross-examination, the Defence tried to trip her up a number of ways but I felt her point still got across.

Afterwards, we recessed and when we returned, the Crown, Defence and judge had a long discussion about issuing briefs etc and then we were adjourned until Feb 2, 2011. The entire family sat stunned and confused.

The Crown explained to us that five years ago, medical blood evidence such as it was being presented in this case wouldn’t have even been considered. However, in the last few years, more judges are allowing medical blood as evidence in cases that warrant it (circumstances and severity of the case) even though it could be seen as a possible charter of rights and freedoms violation.

What happens now is the Crown will write a brief to support his arguments to let the blood evidence in. He’ll submit that to the Defence Jan 17. The Defence then has five days to write his own brief, arguing why it should be excluded. Both briefs will be submitted to the judge on Jan 28. The judge will have a few days to read and consider both. On Feb 2, he’ll render a decision, which will essentially resolve the court case because if the blood evidence is in, it’s a guilty verdict. If the blood is out, it’s a not guilty verdict.

In our favor, there is case-law supporting it’s admissibility! In the driver’s favor, this judge has never issued a decision on evidence of this nature before and he’s got a slippery lawyer who specializes in getting people off of drunk driving charges (how he sleeps at night is beyond me).

So…it’s hard to say or to anticipate the results. Part of me wants to hope for the best and put that positive energy out into the universe. Part of me feels a sinking sensation and wants to prepare for the worse (but who can ever really prepare for devastating news!?!??!) So…I am going to do my best to focus on the results I want and pray to the Gods every night.

And in the meantime…more waiting…

Here you can read the details of the case up to now:

Impaired driving causing death case: it’s off to court we go

Well tomorrow is the big day. We return to court for hopefully one of the last times. We are scheduled to hear the blood expert give testimony as to the blood alcohol level of the medical blood which was attained via a search warrant. We should also hear from a few other witnesses – nurses from the hospital I believe. The Crown has indicated that the judge set an entire day aside to hear the final bits of this case with the intention of rendering a guilty/not guilty at the end of the day.

I pray for it. Our family needs this to be done and over with. We need closure. We need to heal and move on. We’ve been going to court since Feb 2010 and this case has been long, drawn, and painful.

And we need a win!

If found guilty, the court will likely adjourn for 4-6 weeks to have a pre-sentencing report put together and family and friends would be welcome to write and submit victim impact statements. From what we are seeing in news reports etc, he’ll likely get sentenced to three years in prison, suspended license (not sure how long) and a fine of some sort.

If found not guilty, he’ll walk away a free man where he’ll continue driving the streets and living his life as if nothing ever happened…as he has the lat year and half since the accident.

I can’t even begin to imagine the devastation and the crushing blow this would be to my family. I am not sure how we’d ever recover. At this point, I can’t even let myself go there. I am counting on our justice system to come through and even though it’s seemed “sketchy” throughout the process, I pray that in this, they don’t fail us.

To get up to speed on the whole story, see :

Please…keep your fingers crossed!

Another drunk driving video that packs a punch

As I sit here, having watched the drunk driving video below, the tears have welled up in my eyes, my throat is burning and choked up, my head is spinning and my heart is pounding. I am overwhelmed with emotions. It’s like it just happened. I remember hearing the words from Scott’s mouth “Mom and Jordan were in a car accident…Mom’s dead!” I remember instinctually reaching for him, running after him…I remember the devastation crushing me, the feeling of intense pain slamming down on my lungs, my heart feeling like it was about to implode. I remember screaming “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

And then…I remember finding out they were hit by a drunk driver. I still feel the anger, the pain, the intense, overwhelming feeling of “whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy….” Senseless, needless, pointless loss of precious life. The taking of another’s life through ignorance – such disregard for others.

I ask him…how would you feel if I got drunk and ran down your mother? How would you feel if I got behind the wheel of my car smashed and killed your son? How would you feel if I got tipsy and mowed down your girlfriend? And TOOK them from you…forever! In a blink of an eye….gone. Never to hold, to hug, to hear from them again.

Would you forgive? Would you accept? Or would you wish I burned in hell for an eternity of time?

Here is an Australian video which is part of a drunk driving awareness campaign that helps make it real for everyone.

Warning – This video contains some very graphic material.

Please…don’t drink and drive…ever!

A marriage of walls and windows

A few months ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert‘s sequel to Eat Pray Love called Committed. Told in her poignant, often humorous voice, it’s a memoir-style book where she explores the ins and outs of marriage as she prepares with great trepidation to marry for the second time. As with Eat Pray Love, I adored this book because I related to her experience and to her growth on nearly every level.

One chapter in particular stuck with me because it was the first time I had seen a concept that Scott and I have always embraced in our relationship sort of “defined.” And here I thought we were original.

Elizabeth wrote about researcher Dr. Shirley P. Glass, a psychologist, author, and one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity. Dr. Glass got started in the field when she was driven to answer the question “how did it happen” to the hundreds of couples each year who wind up in situations of infidelity crying “it just happened! I don’t understand…”

In many cases, Dr. Glass hypothesized, if people dug deeper, they could see a very clear path of choices that led to the unthinkable infidelity. And she coined this one specific theory “walls and windows.” An analogy I totally love!

Her theory is that there is nothing wrong with a person in a committed, monogamous relationship having friends of the opposite sex, as long as the walls and windows of the relationship remain in place. Every healthy marriage/committed relationship is composed of walls and windows. The windows are the aspects of your life that are open to the world, you tell your friends and family about them, you share them in your blog – whatever! They are open. The walls are the barriers of trust behind which you guard and keep safe the most intimate aspect of your marriage – those things that are kept between just you and your significant other.

What can happen however is that within your harmless, opposite sex, best friends forever (BFF) relationship, you can begin sharing intimacies with your BFF that belong behind a wall – protected within the sanctity of your marriage. Maybe it’s secrets about yourself, maybe it’s frustrations you are having with your partner. Whatever it is, you expose yourself and it feels good because it’s been pent-up.

You’ve now just thrown open a window where a wall should exist. And it typically doesn’t stop there. Now that the window exists, you soon find yourself having heart to hearts with this BFF. Maybe you feel a twinge of guilt, maybe you don’t, either way you don’t want to get your spouse all wound up over nothing, so you keep these now “intimate” details of this friendship to yourself. In not being completely transparent with your spouse, you’ve now just thrown up a wall where there should be a huge picture window!

The entire architecture of your matrimonial intimacy has therefore been rearranged. Every old wall is now a giant picture window; every old window is now boarded up like a crack house. You have just established the perfect blueprint for infidelity without even noticing. (Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert)”

Anyone who has been through this type of situation knows exactly what I am talking about and how easy it can happen without ever having had the intention of sliding down the slippery rabbit hole.

Girl has boyfriend. Girl also has boy best friend. Boyfriend, trusting the commitment they share, has no issue with boy best friend. Everything is fine. Girl starts to incidentally share intimate details of boyfriend relationship with boy best friend. Perhaps about a fight, frustrations, issues in the relationship. Afterwards, girl feels guilty about sharing such details with boy best friend but chalks it up to friendship and says nothing to boyfriend. Things continue on. At some point, girl has crisis – she turns to boy best friend and they lean on each other in support – and next thing they know, they are locked in a passionate kiss neither intended nor planned. Girl realizes she’s torn between two men.

It’s not like having a best friend of the opposite sex will inevitably lead to an affair. And, it’s not like this is the only way infidelity happens but it’s definitely a trap I’ve fallen into a time or two (in my first marriage and earlier relationships). Looking back, I can see all too clearly where it all went wrong and how the writing was on the wall long before the incident took place. How could I have been so clueless?

I made a decision long before I met Scott that I would never be “clueless” again. Conscious living and 100% honesty and transparency were what I was looking for and what I wanted to give. And when we got together, he felt the same so it was a very easy and natural decision from the very start. Neither of us was engaged in a BFF relationship with someone from the opposite sex and we decided not to do so going forward.

Does this give me a false sense of security that we are safe from infidelity and other sorted types of betrayal? Absolutely not – we are human and within humanity, anything can happen – good and bad. But it does offer me a small sense of security that both of us are trying our best to be aware of pitfalls we’ve encountered and experienced in the past and avoid them. Not to say we won’t find new ones to make.

What techniques do you employ in your committed relationships to keep things safe?

The science of social media

Yesterday morning I attended a presentation on the power of social media (SM). The presentation covered everything from hugely successful social media campaigns such as Pepsi’s Refresh Project to some of the bigger blunders. Even though I was there representing my work, brainstorming for ideas on how we could implement a SM strategy, it got me thinking about it on a personal level as well.

The more I get out there blogging and surfing around, the more I see people are interconnecting themselves between their Facebook, twitter, blogs etc. And at yesterday’s presentation, the speaker talked about companies maximizing and playing off of this interconnectivity so that you have a comprehensive social media presence all feeding off each other – Facebook, blog, twitter, and YouTube accounts all connected and driving content on your website homepage for example. Wow!

On a personal level, obviously I have a blog. The only other social media platforms I really tap into are Facebook and twitter.

I would say I am pretty prolific on Facebook. I am near the 300 mark on friends. I post status updates fairly regularly (although not hourly), use Facebook to plan events, and I post a lot of photos etc. For me, it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. I like to see what old junior high and high school friends are up to by visiting their profiles from time to time, seeing the “goings on” of family located around the world running through my news feed – it’s fantastic. And I like that the relationships are not time or investment intensive. The people I am close to, I have more personal conversations, emails, and face-to-face time with. But Facebook allows me to stay connected to them, as well as those more distant acquaintances, with the click of a button when, where, and how often I want.

Twitter on the other hand, has me a bit lost. I don’t understand the point. I’ve been login on more often to try to get a sense of what people tweet about – how would I use it – how can I leverage it but I am still lost and don’t really see the point yet. 140 characters – do people really want to hear what I am doing right now, where I am at, what I am working on? I don’t think so. I get the news tweets – those make sense. And some of the tweets from our local leaders are interesting. But I still feel like I am missing the point of twitter for personal use.

Although, the SM presentation did highlight how now that I am blogging, I could use both Facebook and twitter to drive traffic and feed off one another – and drive content. Interesting and it’s pretty clear how effective and easy it would be and how those mediums would really enable me to gain readership.

The catch: I haven’t yet “come out” as a blogger to all of my friends and family. I don’t advertise my latest posts on Facebook or twitter, and I know this means I am missing out on an untapped readership. So why haven’t I yet? As of now, I write with a certain level of freedom that comes with anonymity and I am not sure if I want to sacrifice that in the name of blog stats. Or maybe (and more likely) I am just scared of being judged by those who know me? Perhaps a crisis of confidence.

Either way, when I am ready to go “viral”, I can certainly see how tapping into social media platforms will enable me to make the leap!

How do you use social media professionally or personally? Do you capitalize on different platforms to enhance your blog readership?

What is a calorie?

Given yesterday’s post on my weight loss boot camp failure, I thought this email I received quite timely. I laughed out loud and just had to share…

What is a calorie?

Calories are the little bastards that get into your wardrobe at night and sew your clothes tighter. 

MY CLOSET IS INFESTED WITH THE LITTLE SHITS!

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