100 posts later…

Ever embark on something not having any idea what you’re doing? Or how it was going to turn out? Ever dove into a project feeling like a fish out of water but dove in any way?

Nearly one year ago, that was blogging for me.

Today’s post marks my one hundredth post (bells and whistles please) and in less than three weeks, this blog will celebrate its first birthday; the first of many I hope. And although I am certainly no blogging expert (yet), I will say I feel way more confident.

I started out with little to no knowledge or experience. I got interested when I started reading fantastic blogs and I felt compelled to join this amazing blogosphere. I started out by taking a 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workshop lead by one of my favorite bloggers, Walker Jones Thornton, who writes two blogs Beyond Words and A Woman’s Page. We were a small group of about a dozen women all starting out and the workshop helped us get our feet wet and set off into the wonderful world of blogging.

A year in review, I can see that my topics have been sort of all over the place. My blogging schedule unpredictable, I’ve tried to post a couple of times a week but it’s been hit and miss (and there was that unplanned April 2011 hiatus).

I thought that over time I’d get a stronger sense of my blogging voice…naturally??? On its own??? I thought it would sort of magically appear and my sense of when and what to post would…just happen? Hmmm…weird how that hasn’t really happened?!?! I mean, I’m definitely improving and becoming more and more comfortable but I am not exactly where I had hoped to be.

Where I’m at now…

So…it’s kind of timely that I find myself, a year later, taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop with a group of more than 40 people. I think it’s a big step towards making my blog come alive with my passion and personality (and consistency).

For the past month, although I’ve only been posting Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve actually been working like a mad woman in the background planning, researching, and designing. In mid-August, to celebrate my blog’s birthday, I will put everything I am learning in Kristen’s class into practice launching a new look, an added log-line, blog themes and a new blogging schedule.

I know it’ll still take me some time to get my new “groove” up and running smoothly but I hope in the end, this will give you, my faithful and loyal readers, a structure and flow that you can count on and enjoy immensely!

What I have learned over this last year is that blogging is a passion for me. I love it. I have a blast writing and connecting with people. It’s been awesome to focus my time and energy in Kristen’s workshop learning new skills and techniques to improve and build on my passion. I am super pumped and excited for the changes and the renewed vigor and inspiration.

I don’t know where this path will lead. I don’t know if my blog will ever have a huge following (where I’ll make a gazillion bucks off advertisements) and you know what, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Finding something I love to do and am passionate about is a gift and right now, that’s enough!

How have you discovered your passion? Stumbled upon it? Called to it by a higher power?

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Body language…is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Ever meet someone who gives you a weird vibe or perception right off the bat just from the way they shake your hand or from the manner in which they stand? Maybe they instantly put you off and give you the sense that they are weak or arrogant? Or lying? Or are uber fabulous?

This weekend, a friend of mine was telling me about an encounter with a guy she’s had a crush on for years. A fireman…he’s hot, sexy, tall, sculpted, delicious and a great guy to boot. He’s also married. She said that while they were catching up, he was continuously twirling his wedding ring and that caught her attention. To her, his body language was sending signals that she read as “I might be married but I am available and interested.”

That got me thinking, what messages does my body language give off? Do I play with my wedding rings when talking to people? If I do, do people think this means I am unhappily married? Because nothing could be further from the truth.

Wikipedia defines body language as a form of non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements and we send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously. A variety of research estimates that anywhere between 60 to 93 percent of all meaning is derived from our body language.

Yikes. That’s pretty steep. It makes me more self-conscious as to what kind of subtle messages I might be unintentionally putting out to the world without even really realizing it. According to About.com, my two most comfortable ways of standing are likely giving off the wrong impression:

  • Crossed arms might indicate that a person is feeling defensive, self-protective or closed-off.
  • Standing with hands placed on the hips can be an indication that a person is ready and in control, or it can also possibly be a sign of aggressiveness.

For me, typically it’s a matter of comfort or warmth. In situations like networking or meeting new people, I feel awkward standing with my arms dangling at my side (and I am almost always cold) so crossing them or putting them on my hips is most comfortable. Honestly, I didn’t think there was anything else to it but it sounds like people may perceive me to be defensive, closed-off, and even aggressive – oops. Not great impressions to make when networking.

And then there is the handshake. This one probably sets up our first impression and a weak or overtly strong handshake can make or break it. I have always prided myself on having a great handshake. My hand held vertical and neutral, with a firm yet not “break your hand” squeeze, and I always follow through with lots of sincere eye contact. When someone reciprocates with a tea-cup or a bone crusher, I just want to scream, sit them down, and teach them how to do it right. Major pet peeve. It totally gives a terrible impression of them either being weak and passive or arrogant and controlling.

Check out this video on the ten types of handshakes out there with instructions on how to get it just right:

On wedding ring twirling, I found out my friend may have actually interpreted him correctly. Patti Wood, a body language expert, wrote on her blog that if a person twists their wedding ring as they are talking to you it typically means they are attracted to you and they are aware of the bond they are under and have a desire to ignore that bond.

Interesting. Here on out, I will certainly make sure I am not twirling mine inadvertently.

I do think there is some truth to body language and non-verbal cues. I can see how a basic understanding of do’s and don’ts would be useful to ensure that my non-verbal cues match my verbal ones and my intentions; especially in professional or networking situations where I may not have the opportunity to fully impart my “winning” personality! I want to ensure that people are left with the right impression.

How aware are you of what your body language is saying? Ever been misconceived by your body language?

How do you stay true to you?

I am taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop and it’s been a great learning experience thus far. We are a little more than half way through and we’ve been soaking up Kristen’s expertise and advice on branding, log-lines, and how to write posts that have a broad, relatable concept and are emotionally charged. At the end of the course we should all have a better sense of how to use our blogs to connect with readers, create a community, and develop ourselves (our name) as a brand.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the workshop has been meeting so many fellow bloggers and writers and creating a community of support. One such blogger Diana Murdock, took all of our lessons thus far and packaged them into a fantastic blog post today: When I Found Myself; I Found My Muse that I just had to share.

In her post, she wrote about how she lost herself for years in the business of life and the needs of others and how she’s rediscovering herself and putting herself first…and writing like mad.

Although I don’t have children of my own, the story resonated with me because like Diana, I struggle with making time for my personal priorities and dreams. I often get overly wrapped up in the busyness of my life whether it is work, friends and family responsibilities, household stuff etc and I put working on my dreams last. Even the pressure to get out and have as much fun as possible during our precious and limited summer days can take over my “dream” time.

It always comes back to the same thing: balance and prioritizing!

For me, blogging helps me stay true to me…Maybe I am not quite ready to sit down and start writing my book but I know deep inside that writing regularly is a priority for me. I love it and it feeds my soul. Blogging gives me that venue to write, to tap into my creativity, to reach out, to express myself and to enjoy the passion and pleasure I get from writing. In this way, blogging helps me stay focused on making time for my dream and keeping it a priority in my life.

How do you stay true to you? How do you find the balance between your life and your passions?

Negative thinking: is it just a bad habit?

When you face a life struggle such as a divorce or a job loss, how do you interpret it? Do you see it as just another kick in the face, typical bad luck; a “what’s meant to be will be” situation; or do seek the “opportunity” in everything?

Are you a naturally positive or negative person? Do you think this is something you can control, or is it something that happens to you by chance? Do you think it affects your overall happiness level?

Recently, I read in a magazine that experts say that being an overall negative or positive person is a habit and the more you practice one or the other, the more it perpetuates. Bad things happen; we all experience tough times and how we choose to view a situation can play a key role in our overall level of happiness in our life.

My experience

For about 10 years, the traumatizing effects of the accidental death of my father at 16 years old played a detrimental role in how I viewed life and impacted my overall happiness factor. For years, I had no faith or trust in life and I was convinced everyone I loved was going to die. I was emotionally crippled by a fear of abandonment. I lived life waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting for the next loved one to be ripped away from me. These deep seeded negative beliefs drove me to angry, destructive behaviors and choices and framed my overall view of life. It wasn’t surprising that I was immensely unhappy and unfulfilled.

As I moved into my 30s, I started evaluating my life choices as a whole and saw the patterns of how some of my core beliefs were driving me to behaviors that made me unhappy. But could a person radically alter an ingrained belief system? Was that within my control?

I started by evaluating my beliefs, breaking each one down, replacing negative and unhealthy beliefs with new, healthy, realistic beliefs. This restructuring was all about habit. I used positive affirmations to build anew. For months, I reminded myself over and over again that I was strong and able to deal with anything life brought my way, that I had gotten through losing my father, and that I could restore my trust in life.

Slowly but surely, my faith in life returned, my capacity to love opened up, and my life changed and happiness started to fill my spirit. As I consciously altered my inner world, my outer world began to change; quite dramatically.

How has positive or negative thinking affected your life? Do you think being a primarily positive or negative person is something within your control?

Dear blog…Cirque du Soleil rocked my world

This is the third time I’ve had the privilege to see Cirque du Soleil and honestly, I can’t get enough. I hope that someday in my life, I actually get to see them on a full stage; maybe a Vegas show. One can dream. The show that was touring near us was called Quidam. It was the story of a young girl’s escape into a world of imagination. The show had everything. Be prepared for a bunch of YouTube links; this was one I had to share!  

German Wheel: This was INCREDIBLE!!! I have never seen anything like this. It looked like he was going to go right off the edge of the stage. And tell me this, how does someone realize they have this talent of rolling around inside a jacked up hula hoop?

Aerial Acts: This show had a lot of aerial acts. From hula hoops, to rope work, to ribbon work; it had everything you could imagine in the air! Above the stage was half-moon metal staging that all the aerial acts came out of it. It was the most amazing piece of machinery I’ve ever seen. The different acts would just fly out, do their thing, would be raised and lowered height-wise, and then when they finished they would just disappear back off the stage. Ahhmazing!

Hand Balancing: Always one of my favorites! Not only does she balance on tiny wooden platforms about 2 to 3 feet in the air, she does a fair amount of contortion. Oh and did I mention…periodically the entire large platform she’s on starts turning. How she held her balance was beyond me but the spinning platform gave everyone in the audience a great view of the act. And how was that for a retreat; really showcasing the amazing set they brought.

Strength Act: The strength act between the woman and man was spectacular. But it wasn’t just the moves but how the act came together. It was like they were born out of the group of four white dudes. It was so neat. And then they did their entire act in a simulated slow motion that made it all the more intense. I’ve never seen a show of strength like this.

Acrobatic Carousel: The final act is one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever seen. The acrobatics and choreographic technique are spectacular. The timing is out of the world. These people are by far some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen!

Any Cirque du Soleil is one not to be missed. I highly recommend seeing any of their shows. Check them out to see if they are coming to a city near you:
http://www.cirquedusoleil.com

Major uberlicious factor!

What shows have you seen that knocked your socks off?

Uber fantastic impaired driving initiative gets two thumbs up

Research says that the single biggest reason people decide to drink and drive is the low risk of getting caught. And that’s no joke; by the time they’ve been arrested, impaired drivers have likely driven impaired anywhere between 80 and 2,000 times. Unbelievable!

So how do we change that?

One program making strides towards change is MADD Canada’s “Campaign 911.” It’s a Canada-wide campaign to encourage and empower the Canadian public to report suspected impaired driving by calling 911.

But calls alone aren’t enough. The problem with the current system is that a higher volume of suspected impaired driver calls does not necessarily generate a higher number of files or arrests. Case in point, in Saint John, NB, while calls for suspected impaired drivers have increased by 55% since 2004, the number of “gone-on-arrivals” has quadrupled.

Well, this past Canada Day, the Saint John Police Force implemented a new initiative to take MADD Canada’s 911 program one step further and it should have a big impact on lowering impaired driving rates. It has me sitting up and taking notice; major uberlicious factor.

The repeat target vehicle program is a novel way to track people who repeatedly drink and drive, but don’t necessarily get caught. The program uses licence plate information from people who call in suspected impaired drivers. The repeat vehicles are then plotted on a map, along with data from police systems, to identify if the vehicles have been involved in other criminal activity or driving infractions. Police officers can then track the vehicles and use the information to help determine if a vehicle should be stopped and if a driver should take a breathalyzer etc. Love it!

The repeat target vehicles program will work well because drivers are typically at a higher risk of driving impaired again within 30 days of the first incident, giving police an opportunity to track the vehicles and make an arrest. Or as I like to say “nail the bastard!”

People who own vehicles identified as risks will also be sent registered letters, personally delivered by a uniformed officer. Eeeeekeee…major uberlicious!!! Here’s hoping this will have a preventative effect, which is just as important as arresting impaired drivers.

The repeat target vehicle program targets vehicles, not necessarily people, avoiding legal issues with profiling.

Impaired drivers take note, your number is up and you have reason to worry because your vehicles can now be flagged and tracked. Groovy!

Check out the article: New Initiative gets kudos from MADD Canada (PDF).

NB judge sends a strong message to impaired drivers

Last week in New Brunswick, a Hampton Judge sent a clear message to drunk drivers; after July 1, first-time offenders will face jail time (Judge to jail impaired drivers). This is after he already doubled the fine from $1000 to $2000 months ago. Judge Henrik Tonning said he was sick of impaired driving cases taking up 50% of his court’s precious time.

I applaud the judge for taken a bold step in the right direction. Maybe if impaired drivers get the message the first time around, they will learn their ways before killing someone. One can only hope.

I did however find it interesting that the judge doesn’t state how much jail time. In other New Brunswick courts, judges have started imposing jail time, along with the usual one-year driving suspension and $1000 fine, on cases with aggravating circumstances such as someone being grossly over the legal limit, others injured etc. The jail term varied from two to ten days.

So I wonder what the jail term will be from Judge Henrik Tonning? Is ten days enough to send a message home; to wake someone up; to get their attention enough to change their ways? According to MADD Canada, a person would have to drive impaired, on average once a week, every week, for more than three years before being charged with an impaired driving offence, and for over six years before ever being convicted.

By the time they’ve been arrested, the research shows they’ve driven impaired anywhere between 80 and 2,000 times.

Makes you kind of wonder what we are up against, doesn’t it? By the time someone gets caught for impaired driving, haven’t they likely gotten away with it for so long they think themselves invisible? Will ten days in jail really change anything? And if not, then what?

This Hampton Judge says that impaired driving cases now take up 50% of his cases. MADD Canada says that every single day four people die while 190 are injured due to an impaired driver.

Will any amount of jail time really get this thing under control or are we beyond that? What will make the difference?

Dear blog…my dog is going to have surgery today…

Mid-June, I told you about my dog, Tess, getting injured. Well…it was confirmed; she needs reconstructive surgery on her knee. She ruptured the ligament (ACL in humans) and it means her knee is no longer stable or supported in the leg. Without surgery, she will remain a three-legged dog; the ligament will never heal.

In surgery, they will essentially enable her to grow a new ligament. They will put sutures in her leg that over four to six weeks will grow new fibers and tissues around the knee, which will stabilize it again. Eventually, the sutures will let go but the new fibers and tissues will be strong enough to replace the ruptured ligament and keep the knee stable for the rest of her life. With physio and rehabilitation, she will grow stronger and should return back to normal in about three months.

Albeit, she does has a 50% chance of having the same thing happen to the other leg given the stress it’s going to be under for…well…about four and a half months. I am praying this doesn’t happen since I’ve agreed that this is it for big-ticket expenses for Tess. I have every reason to be hopeful. We’ve never seen her have any issue with the other leg so…I am keeping my fingers crossed.

This surgery, including follow-ups and supplies etc, will run about $1800 with taxes etc. It was a tough pill to swallow. In the midst of our summer of fun, fun fun, that’ll pretty much tap out all of our play money. Not to mention the two months of recovery; the vet warned me that the first two weeks are pretty “time intensive” so you can pretty much see how my summer is shaping up.

A coworker of mine told me flat-out that a 10-year-old dog was not a good investment; she’d put her down. Said I was likely signing the dog and my pocket-book up for years of misery with follow-up issues like arthritis etc.

I’ll be honest, it definitely gave me pause and food for thought. Scott and I talked about it at length and honestly, we just kept going in circles. In the end, neither of us feels like we could put her down at this point. We both feel like she’s got a few good years left in her and the vet feels confident that this surgery will be a success (as long as we do our part with physio). Neither of us is keen or happy about the time commitment or shelling out $1800 right now but I think we’d regret not given her the opportunity.  

I have accepted that at some point, I’ll likely have to put Tess down. She’s not likely to die of old age. I assume she’ll get to a point with her knees or hips have a serious negative impact on her quality of life and I’ll have to make a tough decision. So I’ve accepted that – I am ok with it – I know when the time comes, I’ll be able to do it (as insanely hard as it will be). But I did not expect or prepare for that time to be this now, let alone THIS YEAR! I am not ready….I think that would put me over the edge….

So….we dropped her off this morning and at some point today, Tess will undergo surgery to become: Tess…Bionic Dog. We will build her stronger!

Send some prayers her way for a speedy recovery! And a few my way…that I maintain my sanity through physio!

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