Share Your World 2014 – Week 30

share your world

This is the Share Your World Challenge. If you missed the last couple of weeks, more information can be found at Cee’s Photography. Essentially, four questions are asked every week and you have to answer them. Simple and fun! (Thanks Cee!)


List 2 things you have to be happy about.

1. I’m on vacation!! It is a much needed vacation and a big relief. I’m not as happy as I should be though…I have so much work to do, I feel guilty to be taking vacation. I might end up doing some work while I am off.

2. I just finished a sketchbook for the first time ever! Usually they get lost, destroyed or I lose interest in drawing for a few years and feel the need to start over. I think having the blog has really helped me keep up with it.

finished sketchbook

List at least 2 things in nature you find most beautiful.

Just two?! That’s hard!!

1. The Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen the Atlantic many times, but this past winter was the first time I saw the Pacific. I was hiking along a trail on the California coast outside San Fransisco. Wow! It was impressive. The waves were huge! It was the perfect display of how powerful  Mother Nature can be. The colour of the water was gorgeous too, such a unique shade of turquoise. I’m sure this doesn’t have much of a wow-factor if you live near the Pacific, but to someone who is used to the dark waters of the Atlantic, it is definitely a wow! Even this photo (from Google Images) doesn’t do it justice.

pacific ocean

2. Sharks. Some of you are probably thinking “What?!”. Yes, they can be scary and I wouldn’t want to meet one face to face, but it depends on your definition of “beautiful”. I define it as anything that pleases you senses or mind. Sharks please my mind. The idea of a species surviving from a time before the dinosaurs and with evolving so little is truly amazing. Check out the photo (Google images) below. You can’t tell me it’s not kind of cute. The Shark is even smiling!

shark smile

Note: later found out photo was taken by Andrew Fox and Google had cropped off the watermark.

Most of you would still probably prefer this though….

shark costume

Show us a 2 of your favorite photographs. Explain why they are your favorite. If you are not a photographer (serious or otherwise), think of a two favorite scenes in your life and tell us about them.

This is a tough one. Not only am I not a photographer, but most of my favourite pictures have me in them. My absolute favourite photo is one of my close family (minus one person, my aunt) on Christmas Eve about ten years ago. I have the photo in my scrapbook. I’m not sure if I want to post it. I’m kind of nervous about posting pictures that I am in. I guess it’s kind of blurry, so you can’t really see me, whatever, here it is.

Xmas family photo

Anyway, we are at my cousin’s place for Christmas Eve and we are all seated around the sofa smiling and laughing. I’m wearing a Santa Claus hat. My mom and sister are looking at each other and laughing about something. My Dad and I are doing the same and my Gran is on the end of the couch kissing my cousin’s golden retriever, Teddy. The photo just exudes happiness. It is one of the last photos I have of all of us together. It reminds me of happier, simpler times…before we lost Gran and before I was diagnosed.

The second photograph is a scene I have A LOT of pictures of. It’s a sunset over the lake at a resort my family used to go to every summer. The best sunsets I’ve ever seen were at that resort. Seeing this photo reminds me of childhood, old friends and happy family memories. It’s the kind of photo that gives you that prickly feeling behind your eyes and nose whenever you see it.

Balsam sunset

List 2 of your best personality traits.

1. Generosity. I think it’s important to be considerate of others, to help others and pay it forward. It’s also a lot of fun to give/make presents!

2. Hard worker. I think (I hope) this makes me valuable to other people. No matter what it is, work, hobbies, relationships…I give it my all. I may get tired, but I keep trying.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last Week: I lost weight. I haven’t been weighing myself or measuring, but I’ve noticed my clothes are looser and I feel better. Yay Insanity Workouts!!

This week: Vacation.

Self-esteem Challenge: Day 16

This blog challenge was developed by If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

self esteem challenge day 16

Day 16:
The last thing you did that made you smile.
Do you have make up, clothing or an accessory that makes you feel positive about yourself? If so what is it and why?

The last thing that made me smile was so silly. It was getting out of bed the other day. I couldn’t help but smile because it hurt so much! My muscles are so sore from doing this Insanity workout!! After lying down and not moving all night, my muscles are at their sorest and getting upright is difficult. It’s still a good worked-out kind of sore, but watching me trying to hobble around first thing in the morning is kind of funny. I think my calves are the worst. It’s like the muscle has contracted from exercising and now it’s too short. I keep thinking the muscles are actually going to rip in half when I walk. Even rolling over to hang my feet off the side of the bed was hard. My core muscles are pretty sore as well. I’m making it sound worse than it is. Really, it’s just funny.

I have a shirt that makes me feel pretty decent. I actually ended up buying three of them in different patterns, haha! The patterns are great because they distract from any flaws. The top has a V-neck which makes me look taller and it wraps around the waist which makes my waist look smaller. I don’t feel like I need to wear a big sweater over it to hide under.

jacob shirtP.S. not me in the picture.

Self-esteem Challenge: Day 9

This blog challenge was developed by If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 9:
Something that you yourself do that makes you smile. Why?
Do you have genuine respect for yourself and who you are as an individual? and if not, how can you change that?

I work with older adults. It’s primarily because they are losing their sight, but when I meet with them, it’s not all about eye tests and my research. We have conversations. I answer all their questions and ask them about themselves. I hear about their past, their families, what they are up to and what they worry about. Most of them enjoy their appointment with me and even the ones that start out grumpy leave content. They usually thank me profusely. I’ve had a few dinner invitations and lunch break offers, lol. Maybe I make them feel important because they get to talk about themselves. Or maybe it’s just having someone to talk to that makes them happy. A lot of them live alone or their family lives far away. Anyway, knowing that they are happy, makes me smile. I think it’s time well spent.

Looking up the definition of self-respect gives me this: “pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.” I have some self-respect. I try to conduct myself with dignity and honour, but as for being proud and confident in myself? Nope and nope. My last session with psych was all about my self-worth and how I let it be determined by other people’s opinion of me. I am also guilty of making myself feel inadequate by comparing myself to everyone else. Apparently, I can get better respect for myself by getting to know myself better. Psych asked me to figure out what was most important to me. The answer came right away, I want everyone to think highly of me. I knew right away that was a bad answer. I need to figure out what is important to me independent of other people. I need to come to terms with not being able to do everything and do it all perfectly. I can’t be the best writer, the best presenter, well read, the best researcher, a good mentor, an organized lab manager, the perfect housewife, the best friend, an efficient academic, a size zero with great muscle tone, a good volunteer, a healthy cook, a good cat-mom and have a spotless home. Am I right to think that expecting all of this is unreasonable or am I just not working hard enough? If this is unreasonable, how do I learn to be ok with being less? As you can see, this is a work in progress.

self-respect is power quote

Easy Ways to Increase Happiness

I found an article circulating on Facebook that lists “easy” things to make you happier. Normally I’d skip it, thinking it’s a bunch of hooey, but it claimed this list was backed by science (plus I have no better post ideas). Being an uninspired scientist, I liked the sound of this. So here is a summary, if you want more details on the studies in the article, the original can be found here.

  1. Exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard it before and hate having people tell you, I do too. What I didn’t know is that you could do it in 7 minutes. It’s a tough workout, but it’s over in only 7 minutes. Check it out here.
  2. Sleep. Apparently not sleeping enough makes you more prone to negative emotions and memories. Positive and negative memories are processed by different parts of the brain. The amygdala processes negative memories while the hippocampus processes the positive ones. Lack of sleep affects the hippocampus more than the amygdala making it more difficult for you to recall positive memories than negative ones.
  3. Live close to work. I don’t know about you but it can take me up to two hours to come home from work depending on the traffic. It’s pretty miserable, so I was glad to see someone actually did a study on it. Unlike other unpleasant tasks, one doesn’t acclimate to the commute. The commute is always different; volume of traffic, idiots on the road, accidents, etc.
  4. Stay in touch. Not staying in touch with friends or family is one of the top five regrets people have on their death bed. The longevity project found that those who have generous relationships live longer and happier.
  5. Go outside. Did you know happiness is maximized at 13.9 degrees centigrade? Really? I think I’d be happier at 20 degrees.
  6. Help others. Studies recommend spending 100 hours every year (or 2 hours per week) helping people. If you want more information, read my post on giving.
  7. Smile. Make yourself smile by remembering funny moments or thinking positive thoughts. Smiling can alleviate pain, improve attention and help us perform cognitive tasks. Don’t bother faking it. One study showed that those faking their smile through their work day had worse moods as the day progressed while those whose smiles were reinforced with positive thoughts had a better day.
  8. Plan a trip and don’t take it. Studies have show that people are happiest during the planning stage of a trip rather than during or after. I’m assuming the anticipation of vacation helps them feel happier. This actually works! I planned my 30th birthday trip to a snorkeling resort in Jamaica. I had a lot of fun and was generally in better mood while planning, despite knowing that we wont be able to do a 30th birthday trip. 😦
  9. Meditate. I had a feeling this would be on the list. I’m rubbish at it. Neuroimaging studies have shown that brain activity is actually calmed after meditation. Regular meditation can even alter brain structure.
  10. Practice gratitude. Being thankful, even for just three little things a day can improve happiness and life satisfaction.

The article ended by saying that people get happier as they get older. Apparently, past middle age we grow happier naturally. I’m skeptical, but at least it takes the edge off getting older.

Since today was a bit of a fluffy post, here’s a fluffy drawing to go with 🙂

stardust girl


Sugaring Off

In Canada, you know spring has arrived when you see smoke rising from the maple wood forests. No, we aren’t burning the trees down. We’re collecting sap and boiling it to make maple syrup. It’s sugaring off season! Have you ever had real maple syrup? I don’t mean corn syrup or Aunt Jemima. I mean the real stuff… straight out of a maple tree and boiled to perfection. Once you’ve had it, there’s no going back.

Sugaring off entails going to one of the maple syrup making establishments. They aren’t factories. They are little wooden shacks in the middle of the woods. A horse and wagon ride is usually required to get you into the woods. You get a demonstration on how the sap is collected and made into syrup and the associated maple products (taffy, maple sugar, maple butter, fudge etc.) There is usually a bonfire, some folk entertainment and activities for the kids. Of course there’s lunch too….Canadian specialties accompanied by maple syrup and sugar pie for dessert. Sugar pie is basically maple fudge on a pie crust, except the fudge is the same consistency as the goo in pecan pie.You can only get sugar pie in Quebec. I’ve lived in Ontario, it’s just not the same.

This past weekend was my first sugaring off experience in a really long time. I was feeling fine when I agreed to go, but as the date approached, I began my descent into doom and gloom. I was dreading the sugaring off experience for all the usual reasons depressed people dread outings, but on top of that, an extra worry. I was going with the in-laws.

I’m very lucky. I get along quite well with my in-laws. They don’t know about my depression and anxiety problems though. My husband told me one time that his mother didn’t believe in mental illnesses like depression, so I thought it best to keep the in-laws in the dark. This can be a bit of a burden sometimes. When you are feeling this low, the last thing you want to do is put energy into hiding it. I was relieved when I awoke on the day of to find a blizzard. Maybe it would be cancelled and I could stay home. I don’t know why I thought that. This is Quebec, we don’t call in the army when it snows. We shrug and start digging!

So as I put on my blizzard gear, I went through my acting check list to make sure I was ready. I like lists, can you tell? Here’s my strategy for faking it when I need to.

  1. I smile. I hide behind a smile when I don’t want people to know how I am really feeling. I usually don’t feel like smiling. I try to have a joke or something in my head that I can’t help but smile a little. Lately I’ve been singing the Lego Movie song, it works well for me. “Everything is awesome…” I didn’t have to sing in the end, I was so bundled up that you couldn’t tell if I was smiling or not! Score!
  2. I redirect the conversation. If someone asks how I am, I say fine and then switch the conversation to something about them. Something more than how are you. I ask about their work or their kids for example. People like to talk about themselves. They never notice that I’ve redirected the conversation.
  3. I try to look healthy. I slap on a little tinted moisturizer and some foundation to cover the darkness under my eyes and I’m good to go. There is nothing like a pale face or bags under your eyes to make people ask questions. I imagine doing this would be easier for women. For guys, or at least the ones that don’t wear make-up, there is a little more preparation involved. I would make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before and stay hydrated. This keeps you looking fresh.
  4. I like to have support. I told my husband how I was feeling. Having someone know was a relief on its own. Throughout the day he would send me little smiles and put his arm around me. It made it easier knowing he was there to back me up.
  5. I don’t give details. I say I’m just not feeling right if someone asks why I am quieter than usual or something. Giving details leads to thinking, which usually leads to tears. Never a good thing when you are trying to hide it.
  6. I give myself a break. It’s okay not to be the life of the party or hide it perfectly. I’m participating, I didn’t flake despite really wanting to. I have to give myself a little pat on the back for that.

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