Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Storm's A-Brewin'...

Have you ever just had one of those days where nothing seems to go right? It's as if the very first thing you do in the morning just sets the standard for the rest of the day, like a domino effect. So far, I'm having one of those days, unfortunately.

Last night, I was up pretty late studying (my first exam is tomorrow...AHH!), so when my alarm went off at 7 am this morning, I did what most people who don't need to be at work until noon would do - I hit snooze. Little did I know I really turned my alarm off. The next thing I know I wake up, and it's 11:38. Shit.

I threw my clothes on, knocked over my earring stand on my way out of my room (and believe me, that's a lot worse than it sounds. I have a lot of earrings.), skipped breakfast, skipped putting contacts in, skipped makeup, and ran out the door. Needless to say, I was not in that state of mind, nor did I have the time to check the weather before I ran in a panic out the door.

I knew I'd be fine, it only takes me ten minutes to walk to work, and I had gotten out the door by around 11:42. But I just never like feeling rushed, and I like to get there early so I can sit down, have a drink, and collect myself before being thrown onto the floor. So, unfortunately, after having to skip breakfast, I didn't have the time to get anything to eat/drink at work once I got there either.

I have also come to find that I work much better with a couple shots of espresso in me. I just feel much more alert and chipper, which are both things that you need to be where I work. Unfortunately, again, because I didn't have the time to get a drink before I started, I was neither of those things. I was making pretty stupid mistakes for the first hour or so, and I felt bad because I felt like I was annoying my co-workers, which was probably just in my head, but I don't like being the source of frustration or burden in any case. Once I had my break, I was feeling much better (I was able to get some food and some coffee, so all looked much more positive after that). The store wasn't too busy, so I was actually sent home early, which is really a blessing since I didn't get up early like I wanted to to fit in some study time before work. At least I was given about an hour or extra time.

As I left the store, feeling a little useless since I'd only been in for a few hours (but who was I to complain?), the sky absolutely just opened up. It was thundering like crazy - at one point it was so loud and aggressive, a little part of me was actually a little paranoid that that would be the day I'd finally be struck by lightening (one of my greatest childhood fears).

There I was - no makeup, glasses, hair thrown up, walking home in the pouring rain. Attractive. And when I say pouring, I mean I was swimming home. I looked in the mirror when I got home and it looked like I had decided to take a dip in a pool with my clothes on. And, just to top it all off, as soon as I get to my house, the rain subsides. It's like mother nature just gave my a big middle finger.

I say all of this with a sense of humor - it wasn't all that bad after all. I wasn't late for work, I got to leave early, and it gave me an excuse to talk to you fine people. I guess I just needed to vent a bit. Oh well. When things like this happen, you just need to laugh it off, and realize that life goes on. So that is exactly what I will do.

Off to hit the books...

Photo: Nate Kay - photographyblogger.net

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A Little Inspiration, and A Little Announcement

Pure class...
Hello everyone! I hope this weekend has been wonderful for you all! Did anyone in Toronto go to the Beaches Jazz Festival? I would have loved to have gone, but I've had to work all weekend unfortunately. Oh well - there's always next year!

I just wanted to give you guys a heads up that I won't be writing new posts for maybe a week or two. I have my exams this week that I'm studying for, and then after those are finished I'm going up to cottage country for a few days (which I'm extremely excited for!). I'll try to get one in next weekend before I leave, but just in case I don't get a chance to, I hope you have a great next couple weeks!

Now that I'm here, I'd might as well write a bit more.

So, after that very enlightened entry last week about getting fit, etc., I'm proud to report that I'm down seven pounds already! It usually comes off pretty quickly in the beginning, but then it gets slower as you progress, which is fine and totally normal. I'm so happy that I've made this change for myself. I'm just taking things one day at a time, one piece of food at a time. It's the easiest, and healthiest way to go about doing this! Let me know if you're on the track for a healthier lifestyle too - I'd love to hear how you're doing and how you're feeling about things!

On another subject, yesterday I had a wonderful voice lesson - I'm working on a new aria that I am SO EXCITED ABOUT. It's Depuis le Jour from Charpentier's Louise. Ugh, I love it so much. I feel such a swell of positive emotion whenever I sing it. My voice teacher also showed me this book he had just found, simply called "Opera People", with a wonderful picture of Domingo as Othello on the cover. And it's just that, that was so amazing about it - the pictures. It has biographical information on a whole slew of singers, conductors, etc., and the most incredibly beautiful, big pictures of them on the pages opposite of their bios. These are pictures that I don't think you would be able to find very easily outside this book. They just oozed elegance, class, and poise (like the one above of Jessye Norman - although this wasn't in the book). And my voice teacher was saying how opera today has lost a lot of that. It was amazing how inspiring these pictures were to look at. I hope that one day I'll be able to bring a level of class like that to the opera stage, like the greats before me.

I think I'll end on that note. May you also find inspiration in a piece of music, art, or whatever moves you...

Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders - www.greenfield-sanders.com

Friday, 20 July 2012

Dr. Strangefood or: How I Stopped Gaining and Learned to Love the Exercise

Hello everyone! I'm so terribly sorry for the lack of activity on this blog over the past couple weeks. I've been pretty busy with various things (including school and work), but I promise to make stronger effort to update this more often!

Well, not too much has happened since I last posted. I'm getting pretty comfortable at work, and like I said before, the people I work with are great. They make it really easy for me to be comfortable in the new environment.

I guess that's not totally true: a couple things have change since I last posted. Telling you this involves me confessing some deep personal feelings - but then again when have I been the type of person to be shy about those things?

I'd like to talk about physical health today. I am a person, like many, many, many people, who has struggled with my weight my entire life. I come from a family who are not slim by nature, and we are all big "foodies" as well (hense why my brother became a chef). Now, I'd like to emphasize that I am completely and 100% proud of these facts. I grew up with parents who exposed me and my brothers to many different types of foods. Because of that, I'm very open to exploring different cuisines, and I'd pretty much try anything once. However, there's the obvious fact that this makes maintaining a healthy weight difficult. My weight story is that basically, after a life of being on the heavier side, I lost a healthy amount of weight in high school, but then over the course of university, I gained it all back and then some. So now, I am stuck with the task of losing it again.

One thing I have learned over the course of my life so far, is that if you want to lose weight, you need to really want it. It can't just be something that you say "I know it's probably the right thing to do" or "I really should lose some weight" about. It needs to hit you like a ton of bricks one day that this is going to be a lifestyle change, and it will affect you in an extremely positive way for the rest of your life, if you are disciplined and determined. You need to truly realize, completely independently, that this is something you need as well as want. Last week, I finally had this epiphany.

I could give all the excuses in the book for why I gained weight over university (the "freshman 15" phenomenon - although in my case I would have gladly only taken 15 lbs - I was so focused on studying and school that I neglected exercise, I went through a depression, I was in denial, etc.), but in the end, I just had to accept it, and make the positive changes in my life that I needed to in order to be at a healthy weight again. Once I realized that it was time for me to start taking care of myself again, everything else became clear.

I've begun Weight Watchers again (how I lost the weight the first time around until I stopped following the program!), and I'm extremely motivated and excited for this new journey. I'm moving forward and I'm not looking back. Of course having my family's support is a huge bonus, as they've been living very healthily now for quite some time. This is not a diet - diets deprive you, then end, and inevitably welcome old habits again. This is a complete lifestyle change. I'm teaching myself portion control again, and it feels great to be aware and in control of what I'm eating.

A perfect example of this is that last night we had salmon steaks for dinner. So, I looked up the points for the salmon steak, and it's 9 points for a 6 oz steak. I weighed the salmon, and it ended up being 12 oz! I'd been eating 18 points worth of salmon for years without even realizing it! So I hesitantly cut it in half, hoping I wouldn't be hungry after and resort to eating the whole thing anyway. To my pleasant surprise, it ended up being exactly the amount I needed to feel satisfied. So often do we just mindlessly put food on our plate and eat all of it because it's there (at least that's what I used to do). When you actually take the time to see what you're putting into your body, it makes a huge difference, and you realize you didn't really need all that food after all.

I've also started going to the gym again with my parents. I'm pretty lucky because I can go with them for free since they have guest privileges, but for those of you who don't have that benefit, or who can't afford a gym membership, there are tons of things you can do for free or cheap to fit in a workout at home or in your neighbourhood. There's the obvious: running, biking, swimming (if you have a pool, or you could go to a public pool), not to mention hiking, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post. But there are also lots of workout videos out there that combine cardio, weight training and stretching into a half hour workout. Those are very efficient and effective - not to mention they leave you EXHAUSTED and feeling great! That's what I use when I can't go with my parents when they go to the gym. You could also invest in a pair of free weights, or one of those chin up bars that you put in a doorway, or even a bike - the possibilities are endless! And I think a useful piece of advice for those of you who dread the thought of exercise (don't worry, I hear you), is to choose something that you can have fun with. I hate running, but love biking, so that's what I choose for cardio when I go to the gym. It's also a great idea to find a friend who you can do it with. That way you don't have to do it alone, and you can keep each other motivated on those days you just can't bear the thought of doing a workout.

All of this being said, I never think it's a good idea to deny yourself of things that you want. This will just make you want it more, and won't allow you to enjoy yourself. Of course, you should have discipline, but if you are really craving ice cream, go for it. In my case, if I know I'm going to want something a little higher in points one day, I'll compensate that by having lower-point options throughout the day. You can also make healthier choices of your favorite treats. For example, last night, I was really craving ice cream, but I know frozen yogurt is a better choice. So my brother and I went up to Menchie's and got some delicious froyo for dessert (only 3 points for a 1/2 cup of most of their nonfat flavors!).

I guess my point is that it's important to lead a healthy lifestyle in general, and if you're like me, and you have certain weight goals, you need to learn the importance of discipline and self-control. However, this doesn't mean that you can't enjoy your life at the same time. Set short term, attainable goals for yourself, and work towards those one day at a time, rather than focusing completely on your final goal. Afterall, the decision to lead a healthy lifestyle will in turn make you not only a healthier, more energetic person, but a happier person. Trust me: there's no better feeling than stepping on that scale and seeing that number you've yearned to see for so long. I look forward so much to finally seeing that number. But, in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the journey!

Photo: woodlandsinn.org

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Time for 8-Bit of Fun...

Oooo sorry for that title.

Hello friends. Yesterday I completed my first full shift at work, and I have to say, time went by surprisingly quickly, and I really enjoyed every part of it. I know the initial novelty of a new job will eventually wear off, but I'm really happy with the people I'm working with, and there have been a lot of smiles and laughs so far in just the few days I've been there, so I am happy!

Last night, my brother (who lives at home with me) and I went for sushi for dinner. Parents out of town + house full of groceries + money left for food = sushi night. I haven't had sushi in a WHILE. Many noms were had. Yum.

Today I want to talk about what you guys do for fun. I've been talking a lot about work, and getting work, and how to cope when you can't find work, and how important work is, etc. But with all of that we must always leave time for fun! For the past year or so, I've been re-introducing myself to the wonderful world of video games. I don't mean World of Warcraft. I mean awesome reliving-your-days-of-glory-as-a-90s-kid/young person-so-I'm-going-to-go-play-Ocarina-of-Time-or-007-Goldeneye-for-Nintendo-64 video games. NOSTALGIA! It just makes me so happy to play those old games. When was the last time you guys picked up a Nintendo 64 controller? Or Super Nintendo? Or original NES? I challenge you to that for an afternoon, and let me know how you feel. And just on a side note, if you have a Wii, and you haven't played Super Mario Galaxy (1 or 2 or both), you should go do that. Now. The physics and concepts in those games are astonishing. Nerd moment over.

If you're ever at a loss as to what to do on a beautiful day, and you're on a tight budget, I really have to recommend hiking. This is a great activity that I've really recently found a love for. It wasn't until pretty recently that I realized just how many scenic hiking trails there are in and around Toronto. A few weeks ago, I went hiking with a friend of mine, and not only was it great exercise, and not only was it a great way to get outside and get some fresh air and enjoy nature, but it was a great way for us to chat and catch up! If you're like me, and you like forms of exercise where you can distract yourself with other things so it doesn't really feel like you're "exercising"even though you really are (sort of like if you go to the gym and you go on the treadmill or exercise bike and watch TV while you do your workout), hiking is great for that, especially if you have a friend to go with. I think it's impossible to do without just beaming afterwards. And as a particularly lovely customer said to me yesterday, "there aren't enough smiles in the world".

On a more musical note (no pun intended), I haven't been practicing as much as I would have liked recently, but I think it's due to the awkward inconsistent lifestyle I've had for the past couple months since I've come home. I know that once I have a more consistent daily schedule now that I'm working, practicing will be much easier to schedule into my day and I'll be more motivated to do so as well. This blog has been very helpful for me, actually, because it gives me something to be accountable for. I'm thinking that keeping this up will transfer over into keeping other good habits in my life as well like practicing, and staying healthy. I have some pretty exciting rep that I'm working on at the moment, so hopefully a recital will be in the works for the relatively near future! I will definitely make that known once things are more certain.

I think that will do for today. If you feel like you're stretching yourself thin, or that you haven't had a good laugh in far too long, go do something you haven't done in a while. Play a nostalgic video game. Go for a hike with a friend. Go berry picking (it's the perfect time for strawberries in Ontario!). Take some time for yourself and have a bubble bath; read your favorite book; make some sangria and lay in the sun. These are the little things that make life so pleasant, yet so many of us move so fast that we forget to do them. They don't cost very much either - in fact most of them don't cost a penny. Try them this weekend, and savour those moments. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you for it!

Photo: zazzle.com

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Proud to be Canadian, Proud to be Me, and Proud to be Working!

Happy Tuesday everyone! My apologies for being away for the past week, I've had some course work to catch up on, and this weekend was petty busy too, as I'm sure it was for most of you as well.

This weekend was GREAT, I'm happy to say. Here's a summary:

- Friday: Went to see Seth MacFarlane's new movie Ted. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. If you are even the slightest bit of a fan of Family Guy/American Dad/The Cleveland Show, it is definitely a must see.

- Saturday: Went shopping with the parents for a gift for a wedding I'm going to later this month, and a dress for it as well. I haven't gotten a new item of clothing - let alone a new dress - in a while, so it was a really nice treat to be able to do that. That night, my boyfriend came over, and all of us, along with my brother, watched The Fellowship of the Ring (LOTR) with the insane, movie theatre quality speakers that are in our living room. Needless to say, it was pretty epic.

- Sunday: My boyfriend and I went to the Pride Parade downtown! I had never been before, and it was honestly one of the greatest experiences I've had. There was so much love and unconditional acceptance filling the air, it was impossible not to smile and be happy to be a part of everything. It was so beautiful to see so many people marching; people from all different cultures, religions, and political views who had come together to celebrate who they are, and to support others, regardless of their age, sex, race, creed, or (of course) sexual orientation. I wish every one of you could experience what I experienced on Sunday at least once. It's moments like these that remind us that no matter who may discourage us or give us grief, there are still millions of people out there who will love and accept you for who you are.

Sunday was also, of course, Canada Day! It was an added bonus to be able to celebrate Pride on Canada's birthday. I feel so lucky to be able to live in such a wonderful country, and I can honestly say, I don't think I could be happier living anywhere else. I am truly proud to be a Canadian.

So, as the weekend came to a close, I was getting ready for another landmark - my first day of work! That's right. Yesterday, I began my new routine. I'm already loving the people I work with, and I already feel at home there. There was a lot of information thrown my way, and there was a lot to take in, but I expected as much, and I think I did pretty well considering it was my first day. I'm really looking forward to seeing how things will go from here.

I'd like to mention one more thing before I wrap things up. For those of you who don't know, I have two older brothers: one who lives with me at my parents' place who is a biologist, and one lives in a different city a few hours away. The one who lives out of town is a very talented cook - he has had a passion for cooking since I can remember, and as singing is my calling, the culinary arts is his. Since finishing his degree, he's been working in a successful Italian restaurant as a cook. What I wanted to mention, is that as of today, he has been promoted to sous chef of the restaurant. I just feel so proud of what he has accomplished. He's worked really hard and gone through a lot to be where he is now, and I wanted to recognize this amazing accomplishment by sharing it with all of you fine folks. Congratulations, David!!!

Now that I have shamelessly bragged about my family, I think I'll take this moment to finish things up. I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend with friends and family, celebrating Canada, Pride, Spain winning the Euro Cup (if you've been following it), and just enjoying life.

Remember: there's no one in the world like you, and you're the best thing you've got. Be proud to be who you are, no matter what others may think, know that you are loved, and live your life for you.

Photo: vikkicansickle.wordpress.com

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Secret to a Happy Life...Not so Secret

Goooood morning everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, as I most certainly did!

So I have a little nugget of news...I NOW HAVE A SECOND JOB. Yes. I kid you not. This is actually pretty funny since when I started this blog all I had were somewhat vague leads on possible positions, and now, four posts in, I have acquired not one but TWO jobs! And I don't mean to rub this in anyone's face who is still out there pounding the pavement unsuccessfully. I'm just genuinely relieved and excited at this sudden turn of events.

So again, I won't get into details, but I'll be working for a certain beverage company that has known to provide the public with a certain vehicle for caffeine...I won't say anymore. Anyway, I know lots of people who are employed by the same company and they're very happy with them, so I'm really excited to begin my training!

Speaking of which, that reminds me of a conversation I had with someone recently, who made the point that I could just as easily have gotten these types of jobs without a degree. This was obviously somewhat upsetting. Although for anyone else thinking the same thing, or anyone who is concerned about "settling" for these kinds of positions, consider the following:

1) We don't know that my degree didn't affect me getting these positions. In this incredibly competitive  job market, if you're down to a final group of people up for consideration of one position, and you're the only one who holds a degree, chances are that will give you a leg up on the others. Never regret the time and money you put in your education - what's better to invest in than yourself and your future?

2) This is a means to an end. This isn't and will not be my career for the rest of my life. I'm not starting these jobs thinking "well this is what it's going to be from now on" because I have goals and a focus, and I don't intend on sacrificing those for anything. If working these jobs means I'll be able to move forward in order to achieve my goals, then I think it's a pretty smart move.

3) Doing this sort of low-commitment work (and by that I mean once you finish work, you've finished working for the day, there's nothing you need to take home with you to take up your own time) will allow me to continue working on my voice on my own time. I realize I'll be tired, and working will take a lot out of me, but this is bigger than all that. I know what I need to continue to do in order to achieve my goals, and like I said, nothing is going to get in the way of that.

4) One day when I look back at this time in my life I'll be able to say to all those people who had their doubts: "Sure, I worked a crap job for a few years before I was able to actually go anywhere with singing, but look where I am now. I do what I love and brings me true happiness everyday for a living -  can you say that much about yourself?"

My fellow artists: never give up on your dream. It's the most precious thing you have that no one can ever take from you, no matter how jaded they are and no matter what they tell you. Everyone who has ever succeeded as an artist never gave up, and none of it came easy to them either. But those people did succeed and so can you or I, as long as we hold on to our dreams, work hard, and never give up.

People really give "starving artists" a bad rap. That whole term is full of negative connotations which is why I hesitate to use it at all. As my boyfriend, who is also a singer (a baritone!), said "there are tons of people out there who truly want to achieve careers as artists, have a goal, and they work their asses off for it. But it's those other people who wake up one morning, decide they can play/sing every once in a while, while sitting on their parents couch the rest of the time, not even trying to work for it, and use the excuse that they're a 'starving artist', that give the rest of us who are actually trying a bad name." And I find it so funny because there are so many people out there who are well off, and financially "successful" and think they have it all figured out, because they have money, when their job sucks the life out of them, and they feel no passion in life whatsoever. To me, that is a poor life decision.

We're only here for a short time; a blink of an eye in the scheme of things. It seems like common knowledge to me that we should be living our lives to the fullest, filling it with things that make us happy, and make those around us happy. I know that money is important (hense why I am about to start working two jobs for who knows how long), but there comes a point when you have to ask yourself "am I truly happy with my life? If I died today would I be satisfied with what I've done and accomplished?" Even though I'm only 21, I would die happy. I've spent my life thus far working towards a dream and passion I've felt my whole life. It has filled my world with joy, and lead me to people without whom I don't know where I would be. If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing, because I feel true happiness. To me, if that's not in your life, there's something wrong. The person who has all the money but feels nothing? That's the person who's missing out.

Alright. That's enough intensity for one day.

To all you dreamers out there, keep on truckin'. You won't regret it.

Photo: qthomasbower - flickr

Friday, 22 June 2012


Today has been a great day so far, and it's not even noon! I have found myself a job, and I feel great about it! I won't disclose details, but it's a new specialty food store opening soon. I AM SO HAPPY AND EXCITED! I won't be starting until the end of next month, so I'm going to keep looking for some  possible supplemental things, but at least it's there waiting for me. So. freaking. happy.

Just goes to show that hard work does pay off in the end. Once I start, I am going to work so hard, and stay so positive, because I really want to love this time of my life. The time when I really don't have too many commitments to hold me back, but I definitely have my share of responsibility to focus on. I have this ideal image in my mind of the kind of routine that I hope to have in the coming weeks: get up nice and early and have the whole day ahead of me; head off to work listening to some great music; spend the day at work, working hard but having fun with it at the same time, talking to customers and co-workers, possibly making some new friends; come home, tired but satisfied knowing that I've contributed a little something to other peoples' days; practice a bit, maybe listen to some new repertoire I'd like to look at; and end off having a relaxing evening, watching a movie with the boyfriend.

Of course, it can't all be blue skies all the time. I know that. But I really think that with a positive outlook on life and hard work, one can accomplish almost anything. I know and always have known that I'm here to share my love of music and singing with the world, and I'll do whatever it takes to make that a reality. This is just another stepping stone that's going to help me get across to my goal. 

Enough of this philosophical mumbo jumbo for now. How are you doing? Are any of you in a similar situation? I'd love hear from you guys! I've heard from a couple of you and it's nice to know I'm not alone in all of this. Is it sad that I'm ecstatic at the fact that I've had over 100 hits since I started this thing? Not really, I guess, considering that that's over 100 people reading what's going on in my life at the moment. It's a pretty cool feeling, I have to say.

I don't really want to force anything out, so I think that'll be enough for today. I'm looking forward to a great weekend with my family. My brother is coming in from out of town, so I'm really looking forward to seeing him! We're also having a family get together, so I'm hoping the rain will hold out until afterwards. Regardless, those parties are always fun. 

TGIF and stay positive!

Photo: free.clipartof.com