Day 364 of 365: One…

A year ago tonight, I sat in a restaurant with my husband and shared with him my goals for 2013.

“2013 was the year I…”

  • Settled back in Canada
  • Challenged myself to be active for 365 days
  • Got in touch with my feelings and truly identified what I want in life.

A year ago, we were on a work assignment in Poznan, Poland.  This assignment had us spending the majority of our time there.  As much as our time in Poland was simply amazing (my views on life and culture have been greatly broadened), it was isolating too.  Not being able to fluently speak the language has major draw backs.  It’s limiting when attending parties or even considering joining a social group.  People were so kind and helpful but once the encounter of working through the language barrier was over, I both sides were happy to go along our merry ways.

Being isolated and feeling bored was no way to live.  And I was also feeling like I was on a treadmill, going nowhere.  I needed to get focused on something, anything (other than work) to help avoid wilting away.  The building our apartment was in had a good gym and pool.  We lived in a neighbourhood near three large parks.  Being active seemed like a great option.  I could challenge myself to try different activities and it gave me something to focus on each day.  At the same time, I also wanted to be back home.  We had not lived in Canada since 2005 and when we finished up in the USA, we went right to Poland.  An exciting adventure far away from where I wanted to be.  Exciting and boring all at the same time.  2013 had to be the year that I took my life back.

Setting these goals didn’t happen overnight.  In 2008, I came up with the idea of 365 days of straight activity while reading Julie & Julia.  The idea came and went because the timing wasn’t right mostly due to a lack of real motivation.  Getting settled back in Canada was something my husband and I had been focused on since 2010.  We knew our assignment in Poland would not last through 2013 so this was the time to seize the opportunity.  Personally, I’ve been struggling with being in touch with my feelings for some years now.  (Coming out of the other side of 2013, I believe this is natural for most humans.)  Overall, it took me about a month (December 2012) or so to get pen to paper and narrow in on three huge goals.

It paid off.

Getting settled back in Canada.  My husband and I finished up our overseas work assignment at the very end of August.  We were back in Canada for Labour Day weekend.  Part of settling back in Canada included stable employment, buying a home, reconnecting with friends, and getting engaged with the community.  Our employer was very happy with the work accomplished in Poland (and with the Dutch office) along with our dedication and flexibility in working in three major manufacturing facilities.  He has now assigned us to corporate global projects and allows us to be based in Toronto, Canada.  Prior to coming back to Canada, we were searching for a condo to buy.  In October, we made an offer and it was accepted.  We are almost homeowners being that we do not close until May 2014.  Until then, we live with my husband’s parents.  (It’s everything you could possibly imagine and more.)  We see our friends all of the time and we have begun to establish ourselves in our “temporary” community and in our “upcoming” community (which also happens to be the neighbourhood we lived in prior to moving to the USA in 2005).

Challenged myself to be active for 365 days.  If you are a follower, “THANK YOU!!!!”  There are 176 of you (and over 3800 hits!) and that is something I never expected.  Being active for 365 days was something else.  The first ten days were horrible.  Actually, one, two and three were not bad.  It was really four through ten but I’ll get more into that in tomorrow’s blog post.  Blogging as part of this challenge has been a great outlet.  Isolated in Poland, this blog allowed me to share with others in a free-flowing manner.  Daily blogging was also a chore.  I had two major times this year where 1) I had to take a break for a few days and 2) I just didn’t do it regularly.  I moved past both of those phases and I’m finishing the challenge strong.

Got in touch with my feelings and truly identified what I want in life.  As I mentioned above, I think most everyone goes through a phase when they feel like they are on an emotional treadmill.  Sometimes you need to be there to get through.  Treadmills are boring but if you use them correctly, you are a better, stronger person when you get off them.  This past year I’ve let go of some hurt and I realized what it is that I want and why I couldn’t see that I was actually moving in the right direction even when it felt like I was going nowhere.  Being on the back-end of this goal, I thought I would be in a different place right now but I’m not and I’m okay with that because where I thought I needed to go ended not being where I needed to be.  Emotions, feelings, desires…they are all tricky but as you peel away layers the fog slowly clears out and the view gets better and better.

With 2013 about to come to a close, I’m getting ready for a big 2014.  Most of my goals this year will be broken down into multiple projects, big and small.  In writing my goals and using the statement, “2013 was the year I…” I create a mini vision and/or feeling of what it’s like when the goal is achieve.  I start to create something to move towards.  Here’s what I’ve got for 2014.  Again, it’s all going to breakdown into a bunch of big and small projects this year.

“2014 was the year I…”

  • Became a homeowner in a neighbourhood and condo that I love.
  • Took control of my weight and moved my BMI to the lower quarter of overweight.
  • Helped my family move towards where they need to be. (Yep, this one has a ton of personal content.)
  • [I haven’t filled in this blank just yet.]

Today I went to the gym in the morning and spent 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer.


Day 319 of 365: I Have Plenty

  • Day 315 – 48 Minute walk, distance not tracked
  • Day 316 – 75 Minutes elliptical trainer, intervals
  • Day 317 – 25 Minutes yoga and stretching
  • Day 318 – 65 Minutes elliptical trainer, hills
  • Day 319 – 26 Minute walk, 2.5 KM (heavy rain)

Since we’ve been back from Europe, we have definitely noticed some differences in everyday life.  Very simply, people drink more coffee in Europe and less sugary beverages with shots of espresso.  People love to walk and easily do as opposed to driving around for everything.  (Sometimes I even question if my vehicle will be towed if I “cross the line” to the next property to pick up something even though I did shop there already.)  One colleague I saw in Miami, who I also saw in Poznan, said to me, “I just want to walk somewhere.”

So quality of life is quite different.  Attitudes and perspectives on how to live and what’s important are similar but have very different approaches. 

One of the most significant changes I’ve noticed is how different advertising is and the message that is consistently sent in most ads.  Before reveling this, please let me assure you different colleague in Pittsburgh who spent approximately a year in Europe noticed the same thing. 

Advertisements in North America constantly sends you a message that you are “without” or “lacking”.  This could be anything from simple retail purchases (clothing, etc.), to vehicles, to food. 

So the question I’ve received from other is, “What is European advertising like?”  Well, I have a hard time telling you about television advertising because I did not watch a lot of television in Europe (another major difference).  What I can say is that most advertisements were for banking, at home hair colouring, and over the counter medication.  The advertisements I noticed the most were billboards.  Their focus was movies (at the theatre), travel, and grocery stores.

The other major difference between Poland and North America is that most people in Poland live in flats/apartments/condos.  This means they do not have yards and as a results, there were many beautiful parts in and around Poznan.  These parks gave people the ability to spend quality time outside.  Parks have great playgrounds for kids, gym equipment structures for adults, open spaces for very young kids to learn to kick a ball, and lots of park benches for people to sit on.  This point ties back to two above; one, I was rarely at home seeing television commercials and two, people are not being told they are without even when they have less than the average person in North America who is constantly being told they are without.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve probably had 2-3 major shopping expeditions.  I believed I was without adequate fall and winter clothing.  To a certain extent I was.  After living in Miami for 18 months and making do with what I had in Poland last year, I needed a few things.  However, as I see so many advertisements (even while watching television on the elliptical trainer) telling me I do not have enough, that is simply just not true.

When I stop to take stock of what I have, I know that my vehicle is three years old with less than 20,000 miles and is soon to be considered outdated according to what I see on television, however I also know that I’m without car payments and my vehicle is more than large enough for my husband and I who share this one vehicle. 

When I look in my closet, I have more than enough clothes.  So many apparel companies now a days do short or small runs to make you believe you have to buy fast in order to get this “limited edition/limited run” item.  However, how many exercise tops do I really need?

When I stop and think about it, I’m not really hungry all the time.  Commercials constantly “tell” me I have not eaten enough and that I should be eating something more right now but I just had a great roast chicken dinner.

It’s crazy when you really stop and think about what you are without.  I have shelter and clothes and food and transportation.  I have plenty. 

Unfortunately, there are many out there that are not as fortunate as me however does buying a fast food sandwich, a limited shirt or a new vehicle really get people a true fix to their situation or does it provide immediate gratification that will quickly pass?

One of the other “things” advertisements are telling me is that I’m not “included” if I do not have whatever is being advertised at that moment.  So again, I’m without and not included.  These advertisements are playing preying on insecurities and truly not providing a solution when we cave to their advertisements.

There are so many differences in what I’ve seen between Europe and North America and what I’ve taken away is that it’s more important that ever to be confident in myself.

Day 253 of 365: Up Since 4 AM

Our flight this morning was at 6:10 AM. Thankfully my parents live relatively close to the airport so getting up at 4:00 AM allowed us enough time to shower, eat some cereal, exchange many hugs with my parents and get to the airport. Also, Thunder Bay’s airport is small so rental car drop off was a breeze.

As much as we “slept” on the flight to Toronto, we didn’t really get much rest. It was a quiet flight but for those who fly, you know it’s not always possible to fall asleep.

By 11:00 AM we were hungry for lunch. A 4:30 breakfast will do that to you. The afternoon consisted of picking up a few necessities and then unpacking. Unpacking is weird. The weather today was 43c with the humidity however it should be more like 25c since we are already in September. So unpacking my summer clothes doesn’t seem right but walking around in jeans and layers isn’t right either.

My unpacking is 70% done and tomorrow I’ll finish just in time to pack again.

Tonight, after almost falling asleep on the couch, I did the same yoga for runners routine that I followed yesterday. Thirty minutes of stretching hamstrings, lower back and hips feels good. This routine has now made me even more ready for bed. Good night.

Day 243 of 365: Greetings from Canada

We’re back and it feels great!  Yesterday, I completely forgot to post so this long post below will recap our travels, yesterday’s activity and today’s!  Here it goes…

So the flight on the Dreamliner was not a dream.  The plane was fine.  Not a single issue.  The only non-issue with the plane is that the seats were not comfortable.  It was impossible to fall asleep.

The service and experience on Lot Polish Airlines was horrible.  First you need to “upgrade” to watch any advertised movies.  The entertainment selection was horrible.  One good movie, one episode of Friends and Modern Family each.  One episode of three different dramas that I’ve never watched.  Not nearly enough to last the entire long haul trip.  Is this that horrible?  Well, it’s not as bad as the next two examples…

  1. The guys beside me spilled their drinks.  It was an accident and they wanted to clean it up so not to leave the seat so wet.  The call button is pressed for the attendant and 15 minutes later, they still never came by.  I eventually had to stop them in the aisle to let them know we needed some napkins AND…
  2. …Let them know that the girl on the other side of the aisle spilled her entire glass of tomato juice and that it needed to be cleaned up.  For whatever reason, the attendant brought napkins for us and nothing for the tomato juice.  Five minutes later, they gave her mother a stack of napkins and walked away.
  3. And one other thing too was that they only once offered water mid-flight on an 8+ hour flight.  Typically other airlines will walk through the cabin every 90 minutes offering water.  It’s so dry that it’s impossible to pass up.  So no response to attendant call button and no signs of the attendants.

I’ll never fly Lot Polish Airlines again.  A truly horrible experience for the third time.  (I’m not going to go into previous experiences.  I do want you to make it to the end of this post.)

In the end, we arrived safe and sound at our final destination.  My parents are so happy to be spending time with us and we are happy to be spending time with them.

Yesterday (Friday), I woke up at 7:00 AM after being up for 20+ hours the day before.  Immediately I went out for a run.  3.2 KM in 22 minutes.  It was a very fast run for me.  It felt good after spending so much time on airplanes the day before.  We also took a day trip to Grand Marais, MN after doing some work in the morning.  As it turns out, I’ll be heading back to Poland in 12 days for a short 10 day trip to support/complete a project that I’ve been part of for the past few months.

Today (Saturday), had a delayed start.  My phone did not reset to the correct time zone and when my husband set the alarm for us to get up this morning, he didn’t notice.  We woke up late and missed a lot of good things at the farmer’s market this morning.  That sucked!  Aside from that, the rest of today was picking up groceries, grabbing lunch with Mom and Dad, unpacking a little bit and spending time with my brother, sister-in-law and niece.  It was an easy going day, for the most part.

After my brother and sister-in-law left, my niece and I did some yoga together.  I put on my 30 minute yoga for runner’s video and she wanted to do it too.  She did great and it was fun having another person doing yoga with me.

Tomorrow I will complete a 16 KM long slow distance run.  It should take around two hours.  Hopefully I will not sleep in but who knows.  I suspect that if I ask before bed, my mom will make me blueberry pancakes for breakfast once I’m done my run.  I’ve got to go…MOM!!!

Day 241 of 365: Leaving On A Jet Plane

Actually, it’s a Dreamliner. Yep, we have decided to fly one of the newest and largest planes out there. Many colleagues have wished us luck. I’m sure it will become an experience to talk about for at least a couple of weeks.

Last night I fell asleep around 11PM and did not wake up until 9AM. I crashed hard. I did not get up even once.

This morning I ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes at a pretty quick pace. It felt good and my body feels like it was worked hard. There was no distance calculation on the treadmill but that’s okay.

So you may be expecting a list of what we’ll miss from being here but I’m not ready to compile that list just yet. For one, I’m so focused on getting home that I couldn’t possibly make that list today. And two, I need to give myself time to naturally experience what I’ll miss.

Our flight leaves Warsaw in a couple if hours and 14 hours later we’ll be back in Thunder Bay spending some well needed quality time with my parents.

Farewell to Poland. Even thought our assignment here is over, I have no doubt that we’ll end up back here for some future projects.

Day 218 of 365: My Last…

…day in my favourite gym, or at least for now.

This morning I was up at 5:30 AM and standing outside the gym door at 5:48 AM.  Unfortunately that door was not going to unlock for another 12 minutes as the gym does not open until 6:00 AM.  In all the times I’ve walked through that door, I never noticed that sign and obviously I’ve never been in the gym before 6:00 AM.  Oh well…At least I had a few minutes to check emails and read the news.  (I did consider doing some body resistance moves but my self consciousness quickly reminded me that I was on camera.)

In the gym, I got right onto the elliptical trainer and went hard.  Real hard.  46 minutes, performance hills, 7 KMs and 503 calories later I was huffing and puffing and dripping.  (I also ended up with a couple mosquito bites since the last people in there left the windows open all night.  You have no idea how ridiculous someone can look while trying to swat mosquitos and maintain pace on an elliptical machine.)

So to elaborate on the dripping and sweating that occurred during this 46 minutes…well…let’s just say that seven hours later my headband, made of performance material, is still wet.  When I made my husband feel how wet it was, he wiped his hands on his pants and said it was gross.  I see it as a badge of hard work.  I actually have it hanging in my office hoping it will dry before I board our flight back to Poland.  It’s hanging beside an umbrella.  That just make sense.

When I left the gym with my Grannie Smith apple and glass of water, I was sad.  My small ray of hope comes from my colleagues saying that they believe we will be back for some more projects at some time in the future.  They really have no idea how happy that would make me.

Still huffing and puffing even after being done for a few minutes already.

Still huffing and puffing even after being done for a few minutes already.


Day 206 of 365: Jet Lag

Last night we fell asleep around 9:30 PM.  I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  At 1:00 AM I woke up and then stayed wide, wide awake.  During this time I took care of some work, watched a little TV, and just trying to fall asleep.  This took 3.5 hours.  As the sky was starting to get lighter, I finally fell back asleep at 4:30 AM.

It was nearly impossible to wake up this morning when I was supposed however we eventually did.  Until 3 PM, my energy level was really will and then all of a sudden I felt normal.  Alert…awake…normal.  As it’s closer to 10 PM, I am starting to feel this energy begin to dwindle however I’m still not tired.  Hopefully some sprays of lavender water on my pillows and sheets will help me sleep through the night.

Earlier tonight I did a 22 minute yoga of leg strength video.