Looking back at October, looking forward to November

Well, happiness-wise, October was a bust.

Or wast it? I was happy during the month, mostly. It’s just the month got so busy work-wise (it’s by far the busiest month of Canada’s book world), that I didn’t have any time to focus on my commandments or work on my monthly goals. But that’s okay. I was extremely social (thanks, IFOA), lost some weight (not intentionally, though, it’s the IFOA diet), and was creative, both at work and at home (I made a pillow, it is beautiful). On the fitness front, I tried Piloxing for the first time ever and played squash for the first time since grad school. So even though I didn’t really accomplish any of my goals I’m deeming the month a success.

I also had a happiness epiphany. Gretchen is all about “thinking about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.” I haven’t felt the “Growth” part, especially at work, in a really long time. I love my job, but I’ve felt stunted and bored. But then I went and talked to a group of aspiring publishing students and told them they need to make their own opportunities, like I did once: I started a fancy Twitter account, co-founded a successful unconference, started a fun video series and it all led to a great job, where I was challenged and grew a lot in the first two years.


This is the pillow I made. How impressed are you right now?


If I want to reclaim that energy and positivity  I need to create my own opportunities for growth. I need to create my own challenges.

It seems simple, really. I loved my industry the most when I was hustling for opportunities. I love working, I’d rather be working than doing anything else. So I need to create my own opportunities for growth. I need to create my own challenges.

I’ve made several strides with that in October: I pitched a few ideas to senior managers; I applied (and didn’t get) a senior position; I joined a digital pitch committee — and plan to submit an idea to every single meeting. I’m working on a special summer project. I produced a recent reading series myself, instead of assigning it to someone with better radio skills.

And outside the 9-5, I’m developing projects again. I’m working on an event series and planning a mentorship program.

Fitness-wise, I signed up for my first marathon.

I’m making sure I’m creating my own opportunities for growth and creating my own challenges.

After two months, I’m not sure if the concrete goal thing is for me. I never truly accomplished any of them and found working on them and focusing on them took away from other things that made me happy. Which is not the point of this exercise. At all.

So for November, I plan to re-focus on my commandments. Simple, abstract. But I also plan to do things that fulfill these commandments. I need to up my base running in preparation for the marathon (Be Fit), I’m going to be hosting a vegan American Thanksgiving dinner party (Show Up, Be Thankful), I’ll continue to play squash (Be Fit), I’ll make another pillow (Make Good, Do Good, Feel Good). I want to focus on me, bettering myself and bettering the world around me. So, with that in mind, here are my November goals:

1) Host a kick-ass grown up dinner party.

Invites were sent. The meal is being planned. It’s going to be awesome.

2) Be active every day.

This includes biking to work. As long as my move my butt for 30 minutes each and every day, it will be a success. Obviously, the intent behind this goal is to do more running and more yoga than I did in October (because I didn’t do very much!). But the more abstract notion of this goal, as opposed to “do yoga X times per week” should lead to more success.

3) Give back.

I feel this is something lacking in my life, but the event series, publishing mentorship and Sandy relief donation (if you haven’t given yet, DO SO NOW. People are suffering. People lost their homes. People lost loved ones. Every bit counts.) are steps in the right direction.

4) Read more, write more & create more.

Pretty self explanatory, eh? I live in a weird paradox: the more book things I have happening in my life, the less I actually read. There’s only so much time I have left in the day, I know. But why aimlessly surf the internet when I can at least start that novel on my shelf?

I also want to start reading one book about betterment, whether it’s personal or social. And start building that into my happiness plans.

5) Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Or, at least, be more mindful of what I eat. I’m the kind of person who eats endlessly at book launches and can consume an entire bag of chips without thinking. That needs to end. I’m going to keep Michael Pollan’s 7 Rules for Eating front and centre this month.

We’ll see how this goes.



My October Happiness Check-In


So remember when I set goals at the beginning of the month? I barely remember them, let alone following my progress. October has been buuuuuusy and it’s taught me an important lesson.

Thinking about happiness and working on your happiness is a luxury. It’s hard to prioritize happiness when you’re stressed about money, family or work. And I live a pretty comfortable life. I’m lucky I get to worry about happiness.

With that in mind, let’s look at October’s goals and how I’m doing.


1) Do new fitness things once a week

It’s mid-month and I haven’t done anything new yet. But I am going to Piloxing this week, so it’s not too late to turn it around. And I hired a running coach for next year, so that counts, right? (I’m counting it.)

I have also figured out this month my prime happiness fitness threshold. I need to work out at least four times a week to feel like me and feel good about myself. So that’s not directly related to this goal, but I think it’s probably more important, in the long run, than trying some crazy fitness craze.


2) Have people over

This hasn’t happened yet, but not for lack of trying! Everyone is as busy as we are! It will happen. I have faith.


3) Buy a new piece of furniture

I look at the IKEA website every day. Get that coffee table in, IKEA, and I’ll be there!


4) Don’t complain about work or at work

I’m getting better at this, I really am. It’s a work in progress.


5) Do daily sit-ups

This is one I’m doing pretty good at. Daily isn’t happening, but 4-5 times a week is.


And, upon reflection, this month hasn’t been as bad as I thought, has it? I’m working on a lot of stuff, even without realizing it. I guess that’s what happiness is about: constant progress. And I haven’t forgotten September’s goals, either. I’ve worked on clutter (cleaning the backyard and the front bench), waking up early (I see 6:30am more often than I don’t), am doing yoga regularly (but not 3x a week) and have kept my weight down (not in the 170s yet, though, but it’ll happen. Soon.). So I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. That’s part of happiness too, right?



Reflecting on September and Thinking about October

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September is absolutely my favorite month of the year. Book season amps up (festivals, launches and awards, oh my!), the fall wardrobe comes out (I don’t feel complete without boots, a scarf and a cardigan). The weather is perfect, work is busy and I can be outside with freezing or sweating profusely.

However, it’s also a busy month, which means my happiness project and my goals for September quickly fell pretty low on the priority list. Let’s see how I did.


1) Eliminate Clutter

After attacking the living room with vigour, I also cleaned out the kitchen cupboards and did a major book cull. But you knew this from my last recap. Since then? Not much. However, I have gotten much better at cleaning the car litter regularly and have a large pile of stuff waiting for Jill’s yard sale. The second bedroom is next on the list and I hope to get to that sometime in October.


2) Lose 10 pounds

Again, a half-victory here. With book season in full season, I tend to stuff my face with free food and free wine at events. It gives me something to do and it means I don’t have to buy/make dinner when I head home. I’m consistently 6 or 7 pounds below where I was when I made this goal, so that’s a plus. But I’m okay with that. The weight will come off if I stay focused. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I don’t want to deprive myself simply for the sake of a number on a scale. I want to feel healthy and strong. And I do. If I hit that sub-180 mark, I’ll let you know. It’s in my reach.


3) Wake up earlier

This was the big success of September. I love waking up earlier. I’ve added daily sit-ups and push-ups to my routine. But, being the overachiever that I am, I may be trying to do too much with my extra bit of time. I need to scale back and be realistic. I can still do things after work, after all.


4) Do yoga 3x times a week

In four weeks, I (almost) accomplished this three times. As in, I went to yoga 2x a week. Yay me! I think 3x a week takes effort, but is not unreasonable. I want to maintain this going forward and as long as I can get one lunchtime class a week in, it’s totally doable. And there’s nothing wrong with twice a week yoga, anyway.


5) Make a skirt

This was a giant failure. But It did get me thinking about being creative and making more things during my free time. So if I’m more mindful about my creative projects and think about making time for them, that’s a win….right?

Overall, not a bad first month. Could I improve? Definitely. But that’s what life is about.


Now, on to my goals for October.

1) Do something new fitness-wise once a week

Now that my racing season is over, I have time to do things other than run. Jill and I were rockstars at the trying-something-new in the spring, and I want to get back into that. I have a squash date with JK planned and want to trying piloxing. The Regent Park Aquatic Centre is almost open, so I have a swim in mind there. I’ve swam and played squash before, but it’s been a long time since either was part of my everyday fitness routine. So let’s change that.


2) Have people over

All summer long, our house was sandwiched in a construction zone: our next-door neighbours did a top-to-bottom renovation and the condo behind out house is almost complete. As a result, our backyard was a disaster zone and having people over seemed strange. Now that we have it back (and it’s cool enough to have an indoor party), it’s time to get social again.  I have an epic dinner party planned for November (it’s still on the DL, details to come) but that’s too far away. Let’s be social now.


3) Buy a new piece of furniture

When we first moved it, we went crazy with the new home purchases. And we had to — we needed a new couch for upstairs and for downstairs. Then we bought some cheap patio furniture and a new futon to replace the cat-destroyed mattress in the second bedroom. Although Matt and I do a lot of looking, we haven’t made a big investment purchase since the futon almost a year ago. It doesn’t have to be expensive (I’ve had my eye on this coffee table for a month — c’mon IKEA and stock it in Canada already), but I want to to serve as a reminder that making a home is an on-going project.


4) Don’t complain at work or about work

I’m a big complainer and tend to use a lot of negative language. It’s not productive or helpful. And I love my job. I like working hard. Why muddy what is largely a positive experience by being grumbly or grumpy? My plan is to not complain needlessly and to frame any legitimate complaints in a constructive way. This will probably be harder than it looks, but I’m up for the challenge.


5) Do daily sit-ups

100 sit-ups takes about a minute. A minute. Maybe two. So why not make sure I do some every day? It’s an easy way to squeeze in some ab work and have a moment on fitness on even the busiest day.


How was your September?! What are your goals for October?


Want to wake up early? Here are a few tips!

My morning to-do lists. Simple, casual, easy.


With September almost over, my first month of my personal happiness project is almost complete. The biggest — and best — change I made this month was shifting my wake-up time up 45 minutes, from 7:15am to 6:30am, and then use my morning to be productive, whether it’s write a blog post, clean the house, or work out.

Now that it’s pitch black outside, waking up at 6:30 isn’t as much fun as it was in early September. I’m looking forward to daylight savings time! But, overall, it’s been not as difficult a transition as I thought it would be. So I thought I’d share my tips with you!


1) Go to bed early.

This one seems obvious, but it’s true. I used to go to bed at 11, and now I try to be in bed by 10. I also try to follow a “no screens after 9:30” rule and spend that last half hour reading a book or magazine or just taking my time with getting ready for bed. Figure out how much sleep you need, then work backwards. Gretchen Rubin, the happiness guru, says that if you’re too tired to do anything but watch TV or surf the internet, just go to bed and she’s right — it makes a world of difference.


2) Get a good alarm clock.

I use the SleepCycle app on my iPhone and it works great for me. I set the window to wake me up between 6:20 and 6:40 and I’m usually up and out of bed by 6:35. Your alarm clock shouldn’t be aggressive (unless you’re into that) because it’ll just anger you — and that’s not the way to start your day. Think of your alarm clock as your perky friend.


3) When your alarm clock goes off, get up.

Just get up. Don’t think about it. Don’t hit snooze. It doesn’t matter how not awake you are, as soon as you are stumbling around in the dark, you’ll wake up. 90% of life is just showing up, my basketball coach used to say, and that is 100% true in this case. (It’s also one of my happiness commandments. )Put your alarm across your room, turn on your lights immediately, it doesn’t matter. Just get up.


4) Find a morning radio show you love.

My mornings have gotten so much more pleasant when I remember to turn on Metro Morning right away. Not only does the sound perk you up, it’s a great way to get informed and wake up your brain as you go about your morning. Talk radio, music radio, choose something you like and turn it on.


5) Make all your big decisions before you go to sleep.

As in: know what you are going to wear, know what you are going to eat and know what you need to get done in the morning. You don’t have to lay your clothes out like an eager school kid, but eliminating decisions in the easy morning haze will make early wake-ups less stressful and more productive.


6) Invest is a time-set coffee maker.

If you love coffee, this is key. I set mine to start brewing at 6am. By 6:30, the smell of coffee is in the air and I can grab it as soon as I wake up. I love the ritual of coffee and it sets the tone for my day. Find a ritual that works for you. Maybe it’s tea or lemon water or doing 25 push-ups the moment you wake up. Having a ritual sets a positive tone for the morning.


7) Decide to make change.

Waking up earlier is like losing weight or working out. You need to want to make the change in your life. Once you’ve set this intention, stick with it. It’ll happen.


Waking up early isn’t for everyone. But it’s made me much happier. It’s made me more productive. Chores I hate aren’t as awful in the early morning. I can come home from work late or say yes to an unexpected social engagement because I’m done whatever I was putting off for after work. And I’m not perfect — I’ve slept in since making this change or I’ve not done anything on my list. But like life, it’s a process.


Do you have any tips on waking up early? Let us know’ we’d love to hear them!



September’s Goals: Monday Miles & Mid-Month Check-In

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To hold me accountable, I decided I should post check-ins on how my progress towards my monthly goals (and, ultimately, my personal happiness) is going. If you missed my September goals and the reasons behind them, you can check them out here.


1) Eliminate Clutter.

So far, so good here. I went through my book collection for the second time this year and eliminated A LOT. Although, the after picture looks a lot like the before picture, it’s nice to know this is a more curated collection and there aren’t books hiding behind books.

I also tackled the desk in the living room, going through the drawers and throwing out junk. I also gave each drawer a specific purpose (they now store office supplies, cables, and cat toys, three categories of “stuff” that never had a proper home) which is something I had never done before. I found a coffee table that fits our home decor aesthetic and fit our budget (now it just needs to get stocked at a nearby IKEA!). I cleaned the kitchen cupboards. Matt cleaned the freezer. And I decided to give up the fish tank. I’ve had a fish tank and fish since second year university, but it’s the one responsibility I kept failing on. I was a bad fish owner. I didn’t clean the tank as often as I should. And when we were in-between fish, it would sit there, empty, for months before I would go and clean it and re-load it again. So instead of letting the guilt get to me, I’m letting go. It’s one of my happiness resolutions, after all. And I’m at peace with this decision.

Next: I need to buy a mirror and finish my latest art project, find (or make) some curtains, and the living room is done. Then it’s on to the kitchen. Uh-oh.


2) Lose 10 pounds.

The easiest way to assess this is to talk numbers, so let’s talk numbers. Ever since university, I’ve weighed between 185-190 pounds, without too much thought or effort. When I took up running and yoga to the extent I do it today, that number stayed between 185-190 pounds. I didn’t decide to become fit to lose weight, but I was expecting it to be a nice side effect of half-marathon training. It wasn’t.

So, this month, I’ve focused on the other culprit: food. My carb intake is at about 10% of what it used to be. Sugar (except in coffee, and then it’s always raw) is almost non-existent. Alcohol, well that could be less. But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

So how is the weight doing? All this effort is paying off. Sort of. I’ve been doing this for about a month and I’m now consistently between 182-186. It’s been slow. It hasn’t always been fun. But I am moving forward.


3) Wake Up Earlier.

This was the biggest surprise of all my goals. Once I made the decision that 6:30 would be my new wake-up time, getting up was easy. And, of all these goals, has been the one to make the most direct impact on my life. As a result of that extra 45 minutes, my house is cleaner and I feel happier and more productive. I’ve cheated a few times (gotten out of bed, then snoozed on the couch until 7), but overall, this is a change I’m happy with and want to make more changes to make sure it’s a permanent one. To build on this goal, I plan to go to bed earlier and to build more morning work-outs into my schedule.


4) Do yoga 3x a week.

Well, the first week of September, I was slacking in the fit department and only did yoga twice each week. I think missing only one class isn’t enough to beat myself up over. I just need to acknowledge why it happened, how it made me feel to miss that class, and move forward. That, I can do.


5) Make a skirt.

Haven’t done this yet, But I did make my first-ever batch of hummus. It was too salty, but I was reminded how easy it is to make hummus! I will do it again and I hope to have better results.


Here’s my work-out rundown from last week:



Monday: FitStreets 5k

Tuesday: Hatha lunch time flow

Friday: Hot lunch time flow

Saturday: 10k on Martin Goodman Trail

Sunday: 7k to the Leslieville Farmers’ Market


I have noticed that without a race in mind (I had to scrap the Scotiabank half-marathon this fall because of a wedding) and with work picking up, my weekly workouts have dropped from 6-8 per week to 4 or 5. I’m going to spend the last two weeks in September concentrating on bringing that back up!