Friday, December 17, 2010


I haven't written about my workouts in quite a while, but I must say that they have been going well. For the most part I'm pleased with the progress that I have made. I mean, there's no doubt that I've still got a long way to go, but still, I'm sticking to the program and trying my best.

One of the things that has really helped me stay motivated has been surrounding myself with positive people who either have the same goals as I do or at least have a good idea of what I'm going through/will have to go through to achieve the goals I want to achieve. Some of the people that inspire me are not at my gym, or even in the same country, but yet, their stories of success and their positive attitudes have inspired me. There are a few people that have particularly made an impact on my life:

I think it all started with D. D may have started as my RPM trainer, but somehow he evolved into something more than that. He was around at a point of time in my life when I needed motivation the most, and he provided it before I even realized what I needed. He believed in me more than I believed in myself and was always positive, always encouraging. To this day, he always greets me with a smile and encourages me to do my best. He shows me that he's proud of what I've achieved and continues to believe in me. I can't even express how much that means to me.

KD is someone else that has been amazing. She's such a strong, positive, and cheerful woman. I admire her strength and stamina. As a trainer, I find her to be inspirational and always full of encouragement. Its her well-balanced attitude towards exercise that particularly moves me. She works hard and pushes you to work hard. At the same time, I believe that she promotes having a healthy balance in life. She loves teaching her fitness classes and it shows. You can't help but to smile (at least on the inside) with the sweat dripping off your body as you give your all into a street brawl move (my personal favorite), and you can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment as you perform kick after kick and punch after punch - exhausted to the bone ... and I know it's because she genuinely believes in each one of her students and gives her all to the class. She's made a massive difference in my life.

Although this person is not a trainer, I have to say that JH also played a huge part in inspiring me to work hard. I've seen him work hard. He really puts his all into whatever he does - whether it's running, lifting weights, swimming, or sweating it out in RPM class. Seeing him so dedicated and motivated has inspired me beyond belief. I mean, when you look at trainers, you know you're dealing with someone who has professionally trained and worked towards being where they are now ... it's very different from seeing someone who is actually in the process of doing the work of getting healthy and fit. Seeing JH work hard has truly been inspirational.

One more person that has really made a difference to my drive and focus in trying to get healthy has been KO. She lives in NYC and recently started doing triathalons. Before she attemped her first triathalon, she didn't even know how to swim -- but she deicded to learn, then went on to train, and finally started competing. I think one of the most inspiring and wonderful things about KO is the constant smile she has on her face as she's biking and running (and I'm assuming even while she's swimming!!). She makes it look enjoyable (and easy!). It's that confidence and enjoyment that I find to be a great motivation.

I think these four people have really made an impact in my life. There are, of course, others who have played a role. JR has been encouraging me and giving me advice for years. MC has also been a new addition to my life - I find her strength to be amazing. S, A, and H are other members of the gym who have been encouraging and supportive of my efforts.

They've all truly made a difference in my life.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

That time of year

It's that time of the semester again - y'know, that time when the students stop turning up to class, or the ones that do turn up to class end up tapping their fingers impatiently and keep staring at the clock - just itching to get out of there.

Part of me doesn't blame them. I know that they've got other subjects to worry about and things they find more important than English class ... plus the material this semester is just not that engaging, and there's only so much that I can do to make to 'exciting.' Still, it always frustrates me when I come in to a class of just 8 students (when there should be 25) and realize that they are not at all interested in being there. I know it's not personal, but that doesn't make it any less disheartening.

I wouldn't mind as much if I believed that the students were indeed prepared for their final tasks of the semester, but the truth is, the ones who seem to need the most help/guidance are the ones who don't seem to show up to class. Are they frustrated? Are they afraid of failing? Do they feel shy about admitting their struggle to do well? I don't know what it is, but I have found - semester after semester - that there are just some students who are difficult to reach.

Oh well, there are only a few weeks left. Winter break will be here soon.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


What is it about people who share their personal health information? I'm not talking about 'simple' health information like 'I've got a headache' or 'I haven't been feeling well for the past few days' or 'I've got a terrible stomach ache.'


I'm talking about a no-holds-barred account of the most intimate (gross) details about their health condition.

I don't get it. It's not like the person is my best friend who might give me a more detailed account about how s/he is feeling. No. It's usually somebody I know from a distance - a colleage at work, someone who goes to my gym, or a person who I haven't seen in a few months (even years)! Do these people not have a self-censor? Do they not realize that 1) the information they are sharing is very personal or 2) the information they are sharing is unbelievably gross and sickening?! Did they even think for a moment that this is something that I (or anyone) would not want to hear? How is that a boundary that becomes blurred?

Numerous examples of these encounters are going through my mind, but they're so disturbing that I can't bring myself to write them out explicitly. So I'll just leave you to wonder ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I hope you don't mind, but ...

As soon as someone starts with that phrase, I get a terrible feeling in my gut. That phrase can only be followed by something bad ... In my experience it's usually been:

- I hope you don't mind, but I told so-and-so *insert secret/personal information*
- I hope you don't mind, but I went ahead and did *insert task that the person and I were supposed to do together"

Very rarely has this phrase been followed by something positive - by something that indeed, I wouldn't mind. No - it's most often been the case that the person has said/done something that I do mind ... and it can't be taken back.

Three days ago I has having coffee with a group of people - two out of the crowd of six were people that I felt close and comfortable with - the others were just acquaintances. The topic of discussion shifted to stress/lack of sleep. Although that's something I am quite familiar with, I didn't really want to share too many personal details as questions related to stress are often followed by - what are you stressed about/what thoughts keep you up at night ... and these are personal questions that I didn't want to get into at this given time and place with these people. However, before you know it, one of my friends started with 'Well, it's funny you should say that but, Plumpetals, [then turns to me and says 'I hope you don't mind'] has experienced ... ... ...'

It happened so quickly. I didn't expect her to go into so much detail and talk with such ease about me, and things that were obviously personal. Perhaps that's where the misunderstanding lies - the boundary between what is personal and what is ok to share with friends is blurred. I mean, we all have friends that we talk to ... and sometimes we talk to them about other friends - things those other friends have done/have said/have gone through ... but I think there's a certain element of confidence that is assumed when you're talking to someone. Each statement does not/should not have to be prefaced with - Don't tell anyone this - but maybe it does. Anyway.

I just haven't figured out how to deal with this situation. I usually just stay quiet. I know that's not a good thing and that I should speak my mind, but to me it's pointless - They've said/done what they've wanted to and I've already minded.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


5:15 a.m.
Why am I waking up this early? I don't need to leave the house until 7:20.
6:40 a.m.
I turned off my alarm. How could I have overslept?
7:10 a.m.
Oh my God. Where's my other earring?
7:12 a.m.
My skirt is too long - these heels are not high enough - do I change my shoes, or do I change my skirt.
Change the shoes - changing the skirt means changing the whole outfit.
7:19 a.m.
Finally in my car. Shit. I left my phone upstairs.
7:20 a.m.
Running upstairs
7:22 a.m.
Back in my car. Trying to reverse but cars passing behind me.
One going left, two going right, another going left.
7:24 a.m.
Great. Now I can move. What the hell?Taxi standing right behind my car.
Angry look from my neighbor.I felt like flipping her off, but that would have been a waste of a few more seconds.
7:25 a.m.
Finally, reverse. Straight. Turn right. You've got to be kidding me. Road blocked by garbage truck. Of course - the truck has blocked the entrance to the side road as well. Tapping my finger on the steering wheel. Trying to hum to the song on the radio, but I don't even know what's playing.
7:29 a.m.
What's the point? Shouldn't I just reverse and go back to bed? Finally. I can get out of here.
7:34 a.m.
What is with this traffic? Why don't other people leave the house earlier to avoid this jam?
7:38 a.m.
I should just get out and walk, shouldn't I? How will I make my deadline? I have 12 minutes. Maybe if I call someone, they can meet me at the door and make the delivery - that will save me at least 2 minutes.
Phone call 1: 'I'm running late too.'
Phone call 2: 'I'm still in bed.'
Phone call 3: no answer
Phone call 4: no answer
7:41 a.m.
It's ok. I still have a few minutes. I'll just take a detour. I can make it.
7:44 a.m.
Still tapping my finger on the steering wheel.
7:46 a.m.
Oh my God. I can't stand this anymore.
I'm gonna make this illegal turn. I have no choice!
7:47 a.m.
'Get out of the way!! Didn't anybody teach you how to drive?!'
7:48 a.m.
Damn pedestrians!
7:49 a.m.
In front of the building.
Yellow and black lines. Who cares. I've got to park here.
7:50 a.m.
Running. [Taking quick tiny steps is more like it!]
Damn heels - too high.
Damn skirt - too tight.
7:51 a.m.
Here! Made it! Am I late?
7:53 a.m.
Sigh of relief. Delivered the documents just in time.
7:54 a.m.
Maybe today won't be so bad after all.
7:55 a.m.
Cop writing parking ticket.
7:56 a.m.
Running [if that's what you call it]
Damn heels - too high.
Damn skirt - too tight.
7:57 a.m.
Pleading with officer.
Thinking: Hmmm, he's cute.
7:58 a.m.
He smiles.
I smile.
7:59 a.m.
He gives me his phone number.
8:00 a.m.
He gives me a parking ticket.

Is the day over yet?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unasked Questions

"So, did you think about it?"
"Do you have an answer?"
Someone once told me that I shouldn't ask questions that I'm not prepared to hear the answers to ...At first it was difficult for me to accept that - I have a question and I want an answer!However, I soon realized that unlike my girlfriends, who know how to answer questions, guys just don't understand what answering questions properly means.So, to save myself from the frustration of having my question answered improperly (i.e. hearing the cold, hard truth) I have finally adopted the practice of not asking questions that I am not prepared to hear the answers to.Consequently I have several bite marks on my tongue ... and is it worth it?Well, I'm not sure. It actually seems like a lose-lose situation to me ... if I ask the question and get the 'wrong' answer, then I'll be upset. On the other hand, if I refrain from asking the question, I will have saved myself from that feeling -- I'll just be anxious instead as the question consumes me from inside ...I try and tell myself that I will get an answer when the time is right - I don't need to go about asking questions. It's not that easy.So in the meantime, I'll ask the questions ... but silently in my head.
[Reposted from one of my previous blogs]

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Patient but Pissed -- does that mean they cancel each other out?

You often hear people say - I ate a chocolate bar today, but I also exercised, so they cancel each other out ... or I got to work late today, but I ended up staying late too, so that cancels each other out ... What does that mean? When we do things that cancel each other out, where does that leave us? We're not moving forward - we're adding 1 and subtracting 1 ... ending up with a big, fat ZERO. Sometimes I wonder why I try and achieve balance when I really end up feeling completely unbalanced. Sometimes I feel like things become so mechanical that they lose meaning ... yet without that steady mechanical motion, I feel like I can’t move forward. It’s like trying to feel relaxed, but in order to relax I need to fix a strict schedule for me to adhere to … how relaxing can that be?So many things make me pause and think during the day … things I saw, things I read, things I thought about, things I said …Things that people said to me, things that people did …Do I take on too much? Do I try and control things that are really out of my hands?Have I become so focused on trying to make other people happy that I have forgotten what it is that makes me happy? Have I overcommitted myself to the point where I can’t keep any of my commitments?Why does it feel like I’m stuck in the middle of that big, fat ZERO?If I’m trying my best to be patient, but feeling really pissed inside, do the feelings cancel each other out?
[Reposted from one of my previous blogs]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ten Things I Love to Do Everyday

A friend of mine asked me to come up with a list of 10 things I love to do everyday ... This is what I came up with ...

1) Brush my teeth – love that minty fresh, clean feeling!
2) Drink water – especially my first bottle on an empty stomach. It wakes me up and makes me feel refreshed.
3) My morning prayers – Despite the many things that I feel anxious about, sad about, fearful about, there are also thousands of things I am thankful for. Most of my friends have given up on religion and God and that is what makes this routine of mine extra special. Before I’ve done anything else, before I’ve spoken to anyone else, I pray – I thank God for all I have, I ask for strength and guidance in all that I wish to do, I pray for the health and wellbeing of my family and friends, and I ask for mercy for all of humanity.
4) My morning yoga – I have chosen 5 simple yoga positions that I do on a daily basis. It doesn’t take long, and it’s not tough … but it gives me 10 minutes to center myself for the rest of the day. It’s amazing – even in these 5 simple moves, I notice improvement in my flexibility and balance.
5) Drink my morning cup of coffee. I know that I tried to give up caffeine, but then I thought – why? I only have one cup … sometimes two … it’s not that harmful. I love the taste of coffee, but what I really love about my morning cup of coffee is the atmosphere in which I drink it – silence, everyone asleep. Just pure, calm, relaxed ‘me’ time.
6) Put on a pair of high heels. Going to my shoe closet and choosing my heels for the day is something that I love to do. It sounds shallow, I know, but it’s true. I don’t always get to wear my favorite heels – especially when it comes to work, but whichever pair I wear, I love. They make me feel good … confident … and under the right circumstances, even sexy!
7) Jamming to my favorite tunes in my car. I love the fact that my car has an awesome sound system. I have a varied selection of CDs in my car as well as playlist after playlist on my iPod – I absolutely love cranking up the volume and singing away at the top of my lungs … it totally takes me to another world … and it helps me survive the crazy driving out on the roads.
8) Working out. I often can’t wait to get to the gym first thing in the morning. As I get stronger, I get more and more eager to go and workout. Although burning calories to lose weight is why I started working out, it’s the increase in my strength and stamina that makes me love going to the gym. I try not to think about the numbers as much and instead try and find the positives about the effort that I’ve been putting in – the hint of a bicep muscle, slightly more toned calf muscles, the bagginess of my jeans … I have a long way to go to reach my goal in terms of weight and fitness level, but it does not discourage me. This goal is something I want more than anything else in the world (the Harley Davidson is a close second) – it may take years, but I will succeed.
9) Enter my calorie count/food data into my body media program. This may seem to contradict what I just said about not thinking about the numbers, but the key phrase is ‘as much’ – after all, I know it’s still some sort of manifestation of my minor OCD tendencies! In the beginning, it was 100% about control. Entering every single thing I ate, calculating every single number – doing more complicated math than I ever thought I’d be able to do … but now, even though I enter my calorie intake every single day and monitor what I eat, it’s become a bit more about figuring out how to change/break a pattern. I eat when I’m hungry. While I do remember the last time I was full, I do not remember the last time I overate – and that’s not something I can say about my eating habits a year ago. I’m trying to learn how to balance my food and exercise. I’m not ready to do it on my own yet – without my body media program or without my nutritionist – but I hope to get there someday. For the time being, I’m monitoring my habits and learning how to listen to my body (and I frequently apologize to my body for letting it all get so out of control – I hope it forgives me).
10) Text my mom. I think my mother is the most amazing person in the world. I know that she has done the very best that she could do in the best way that she knew how for me. She is kind, honest, honorable, and loving. When I feel anything at all – happy, angry, sad, frustrated – I can text her (even if it’s about something unrelated) and she will somehow say the right thing, in the right way to make me feel better … my world is a better place because of her.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Signs of Stress

Okay. It’s started. Last night, my anxiety about my research and writing got so bad that I couldn’t get to sleep. I stayed up late and worked until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I don’t think I slept … it was more like I passed out from exhaustion and was jolted awake, not because I was all refreshed and ready to go, but because I started to see myself at my desk in my dreams … the sharp anxiety pain in my abdomen got me up and straight to my desk with just about 4 hours of sleep.

Anxiety and stomach cramps are the first sign of my pre-deadline stress.

The second sign, I whine. The first white that comes out of my mouth is, “I can’t do it. I’m going to fail.” This is followed by, “What have I gotten myself into? I’m not smart enough.” Then this is followed by random groans and moans … never a good sign when this happens.

The third sign, and this is when it gets really worrying, is when I start reciting the words of The Bangles’ song “If she knew what she wants.” Note that I said reciting and not singing. I (softly) recite the first two parts of the song in quadruple time! I have absolutely no idea why I do this, why this song, or how/when this happened. All I know is that when I start doing this, it’s a bad sign and all those in the nearby vicinity better make a run for it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing (in) Style

My deadline is approaching, which is of course why I’m sitting here posting this blog entry. I mean, I can’t spoil my reputation as an excellent procrastinator now, can I?

Well, I’ve actually been doing pretty well, though I could always be doing better. I’ve done a lot of research and now it’s time for me to get down to the writing – and before I can do that, I have to get myself in order … which involves a few things:

1) Fresh flowers. I’ve got to have fresh flowers on my desk when I’m writing. Perhaps it’s having a bit of nature in my room that I find refreshing or inspiring … whatever the reason, I need fresh, brightly colored flowers on my desk.

2) Post-its. Now I’m not talking about a single pad of post-its. I’m talking about different kinds of post-its, in different colors, shapes, and sizes all neatly stacked on my desk, ready to hold my mind-blowing ideas (or make a to-do list – though my to-do lists can be quite mind-blowing at times).

3) Yellow legal pads. For some reason, I write better on yellow legal pads. I don’t know why. I don’t even really like the color yellow, but there’s something about these legal pads that I find ... ummm … comforting? Inspiring? I don’t know. Regardless. I want them, so I get them.

4) Water. I drink a lot of water. Having to get up and go to the other room to get another bottle when I’m in the middle of writing is unbelievably irritating and distracting. So, I keep 4 bottles of water lined up on my desk – Gotta stay hydrated!

5) Navy blue track suit bottoms & turquoise tank top or black track suit bottoms & red tank top.These are my two ‘writing outfits.’ The only reason I have the black & red option is because I know that I can’t live in my navy blue/turquoise combo (though I have tried, not a pretty site after a while …) Plus, it’s not any navy blue track suit bottom or any red tank top. These are specific ones that I wear when I write. I know, slightly strange, but hey – I need to do whatever I can to get this writing done … it’s for my future!!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

IHR Syndrome

IHR Syndrome starts to spread about three weeks before Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, sets in. Just a bit of background information about Ramadan, for those of you who may not know … The thing I remember the most from learning about this month during my childhood is that we fast – abstain from food and water – from sunrise to sunset in order to feel how the poor/underprivileged feel. This explanation stuck was all I knew about Ramadan for a while, until I grew older and learned more. Ramadan is about abstaining from food and water, but it also about being patient, being charitable, being neighborly, abstaining from bad behavior, eating and drinking in moderation … y’know things we should be doing anyway, but sometimes forget. So basically, it’s a month in which we’re supposed to fast as well as practice being a bit more diligent about how we behave and treat others …

It doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I mean, ok, the idea of not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset can be a bit intimidating, but people have been fasting for Ramadan for hundreds of years and have survived, so it’s not impossible. I know that there are some arguments about the health risks of fasting – e.g. dehydration, but there are also some arguments for fasting – e.g. cleansing/purifying the body. It’s not a life-long practice; it’s not even a 24/7 practice for the entire month. Anyway. You fast if you can; if it’s something that affects your health, you don’t have to.

So what causes the IHR (short for ‘I hate Ramadan’) Syndrome? Well, first of all, I have to say that I’ve only ever noticed IHR Syndrome in people who live in the Middle East … not in the States or England. Doesn’t that seem strange? Why would a predominantly Muslim country have so many (Muslim & non-Muslim) sufferers of IHR Syndrome?

Having lived in both the States and the Middle East, and having fasted during Ramadan in both of these parts of the world, I can tell you why … In the States, you go about your day, participate in your normal activities, and don’t change much of your routine – pretty much just like everyone else around you. When you fast in a country that’s not predominantly Muslim, then the action truly is a form of worship. You are fasting for yourself; when others find out, you have an opportunity to tell them about fasting and what it means to you.

However, take a look at how Ramadan is ‘celebrated’ in a place like Kuwait, and you’ll get a very different picture. The biggest issue that I have with Ramadan in Kuwait is that nobody is allowed to eat or drink in public from sunrise to sunset. You are not allowed to take a sip of water, chew gum, smoke a cigarette or anything … the restaurants and coffee shops are closed. You are not even allowed to openly drink water in gyms or in your office. If you are not fasting and do want to eat, then you have to do it in the privacy of your home.

This law is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. Fasting is about control and restraint. What kind of fasting are you practicing when all temptation around you has been removed? Will the sight of somebody else drinking water really have that big of an effect on you that you won’t be able to control your urges? Plus, what kind of an impression does that give to non-Muslims who live in this country? Eating or drinking in public during this month is not only forbidden, but also punishable by law. Seriously? How has this type of policy become acceptable. Meanwhile the grocery stores are jam packed with people buying tons and tons of food that they can gorge on after sunset.

This brings me to my second problem with Ramadan in Kuwait. When I was younger, Ramadan used to be special. It was a time for the family to get together and eat. It was a time to visit close friends and share a meal – the focus of these gatherings was being together, not eating.

Now, however, it is completely different. From the moment the sun sets, the feasting begins. You would be amazed at how much weight people gain over Ramadan – it’s because they overeat. They sit there and they eat … they eat from sunset until sunrise. Restaurants are open until almost 4:00 in the morning to allow people to eat and eat and eat … what happened to moderation? What happened to self-control? This demonstration of gluttony is not part of Ramadan! Plus, remember what I mentioned earlier about remember how underprivileged/poor people feel? How much food do you think is wasted at these large gatherings? It’s a sin – an unforgiveable sin.

So, we’ve got the law forbidding anybody to eat or drink, we’ve got the overindulgence from sunset to sunrise … what else? Oh yes, the shortened working hours. Ok, so who wouldn’t be excited at having shorter working hours? It’s great. It’s a perk … but let’s shift our focus back to what the month should really be about – you’re supposed to incorporate fasting into your normal routine. Going to work for 4-5 hours a day, instead of your normal 8-9 hours, just so that you can go home and sleep (in order to avoid/ignore your hunger pangs) is NOT what Ramadan is all about. It seems that a lot of people only look forward to Ramadan because of the shorter working hours … think about that. Is that really right?

My final point is about behavior – remember what I had said about being patient and charitable etc.? Well, staying up all night overeating, and then abstaining from food and water during the day seems to make people unbelievably cranky. Driving is chaotic in Kuwait as it is – add sleep deprivation and hunger to the mix and you get a whole lot of insanely cranky people on the road and all around you. People are speeding, cutting others off left, right, and center … they’re pushing and shoving in the supermarkets, all fighting for a loaf of bread … it’s insane! Forget the month of Ramadan – is this the way civilized people behave?
So, it is with a heavy heart that I witness so many people suffering from IHR Syndrome. I wish I could say that they were wrong to feel this way, but the evidence is all around us. Yes, there are still many people who do observe the month for what it is truly supposed to represent, but unfortunately, it is the ones who are behaving badly and being rude to others that are more visible. So, once again, instead of taking Ramadan as an opportunity to demonstrate tolerance, to promote kindness and charity, to be giving and forgiving … the month seems to highlight some of the worst kinds of human behavior.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Driving Me Crazy

So I’m waiting at a traffic light this morning, strumming my fingers on my steering wheel in time to the music and somewhat singing along … the light turns green and I press on the accelerator. Just as I start to move forward, a car from the opposite side of the road zooms through his red light, missing me by just a hair … I shudder. Take a deep breath. Cautiously look around and continue.

How can it be that even after ten years of living in Kuwait, the one thing I just cannot get used to is the way people drive here? The crazy speeding is the least of my worries – in fact, I find it much easier to handle than the ones who are barely moving on the major highways. (Seriously! – doing 50 km/hr on a major highway – come on!)

Regardless, the speed issue is not my main concern. My biggest concern is related to what happened to me this morning – drivers crossing through red lights. I’m not talking crossing through a light just as its turning red. No. I’m talking about crossing through a red light after it’s been red for a while. Of course, even that is not as insane as when I’ve stopped at a red light and the car behind me actually swerves past me to go ahead and cross it. Do they not see that the light is red? Do they not know that it’s wrong? Do they not care? Where are they going in such a hurry? Why is it that they think it’s ok to do such a dangerous thing?

Then of course there’s the lack of signaling … and when someone does turn his indicator on, he either forgets and doesn’t move, or goes the wrong way.

What about those people who don’t even turn their lights on at night. Why wouldn’t they turn on their lights? Are they really that lazy? Did their car not come with lights? Do they not know that it actually helps other drivers spot their black car zooming down the road at night? Ya, they don’t care.

And what’s with the reversing on major highways just because you missed an exit? You’d think that the traffic cops would do something about it, but heaven forbid they have to move and actually get out of their car. It’s just an exit. Either pay attention and turn when you’re supposed to, or drive on until you can make the next exit … legally!

How about those drivers who are waiting to make a u-turn or turn onto a road and they’ve stuck the front of their car halfway into the lane of oncoming traffic … do they not care that they’re causing a disruption because now the oncoming car has to adjust the way he’s driving to accommodate this *astard.

And don’t even get me started on the people who just pull into the parking lot only to take up 3 spots instead of one. Do they care? No. I mean, why would they? They’re the only ones that exist in this world … and what happens when you roll down your window and say ‘Excuse me, but you’re taking up three spots.’ They usually glare, ignore you, shrug, or comment with a ‘Park somewhere else.’ *astards!

I know that the ban on using cell phones while driving wouldn’t last, but I have to say I am completely shocked at how many people do not wear their seatbelt. It’s a seatbelt. It’s right there. Put it on! Okay, so you don’t care if you get into an accident … but surely, if you’ve gone through all the trouble to bring a child into this world you’d put him in the back seat, oh, no, you don’t want to do that? Okay, at least have your child wear a seatbelt in the front seat … Hmmmm, that won’t fly either. Ah I see, you insist that your 6 month old sit on your lap in the driver seat as you drive like a maniac, without a seatbelt, while smoking a cigarette, and talking on your cell phone.
Are we really the most intellectually evolved species?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain

On September 3rd 1973, at 6:28pm and 32 seconds, a bluebottle fly capable of 14,670 wing beats a minute landed on Rue St Vincent, Montmartre. At the same moment, on a restaurant terrace nearby, the wind magically made two glasses dance unseen on a tablecloth. Meanwhile, in a 5th-floor flat, 28 Avenue Trudaine, Paris 9, returning from his best friend's funeral, Eugène Colère erased his name from his address book. At the same moment, a sperm with one X chromosome, belonging to Raphaël Poulain, made a dash for an egg in his wife Amandine. Nine months later, Amélie Poulain was born. [André Dussollier – Narrator]

What better way to start off my summer movies than by rewatching my favorite one – La Fabuleux Destin d’ Amélie Poulain?

There is something truly enchanting about this movie. Audrey Tautou, who plays Amélie, does a superb job of drawing you into her world in which you see her progress from living a sheltered, lonely life to being intimately involved in practically everyone’s life around her. I found my heartbeat quickening as hers did when her heartbeat was being checked by her father; I held my breath, just as she did, as she waited to see Bretodeau’s reaction to ‘stumbling upon’ a long-lost childhood treasure. I silently cheered for her as she sought revenge on behalf of Lucien. I was enamored by her relationship with Dufayel … and of course, I was completely wrapped up in her photo booth, photo album adventure to find Nino.

Whenever I watch this movie I am completely mesmerized – from the mischievous glimmer in Amélie’s eyes, to the voice of the narrator, to the music, to the beautiful cinematography – presenting a truly romantic and whimsical image of Paris.

Magical. Mesmerizing. My favorite movie for sure.

Ma petite Amélie, vous n'avez pas des os en verre. Vous pouvez vous cogner à la vraie vie. Si vous laissez passer cette chance, alors avec le temps, c'est votre coeur qui va devenir aussi sec et cassant que mon squelette. Alors, allez-y, nom d'un chien!" (l'homme de verre)

Loose translation of Raymond Dufayel’s words:
So, my little Amélie, you don't have bones of glass. You can take life's knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go get him, for Pete's sake!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inconsistencies. Quirks. Normalcy?

So I reach up with my left hand to grab something from the top shelf of my gym locker. After getting it down, I reached up to that same shelf with my right hand … of course there was nothing else for me to bring down, but I did the action anyway. My friend who was in the locker room with me noticed and had to ask – what did you do that for? And I replied – “To even myself out. I stretched up with my left hand, so I had to stretch with my right as well, otherwise I feel lopsided.”

Yes, yes, I know – she burst out laughing (as is the usual reaction I get when people hear about this) … but it’s just one of those things …

Or should I say one of those many things … apparently, as I’ve recently been told, I’ve got more ‘quirks’ than usual … I think the strangest one that has eluded many of my friends and family members for years is the issue I have with people smelling my food – or smelling food that’s being cooked or served. Now, I’m not talking about taking a whiff of the aroma that’s circling in the air and saying ‘Mmm that smells good.’ I don’t have a problem with that. I do, however, have an issue with someone putting their face close to the food and inhaling (or, as one of my friends does, puts his food up close to his face and deeply inhales!). And no, it’s not the boogers thing as people have speculated. I don’t know what it is, but there’s some psychological switch that once someone smells the food, I won’t be able to eat it … and it’s happened to me many times. It’s just one of those things.

Something else that’s kinda strange is that I can’t have any of my limbs hanging off the side of the bed. It gives me major anxiety … I feel like somebody (or something, like the monster under the bed) is going to pull my hand and drag me who knows where. I think this is because there were two occasions in which I had my hand on the escalator rail while going up and a man aggressively grabbed my hand from the escalator that was going down. It just really freaked me out – and I haven’t been able to shake that feeling. I never, ever hold the rail of an escalator on the side that’s near the one going in the opposite direction!

There are other habits I have which I’ve been told are weird, but honestly, I just see those actions as normal. I mean, doesn’t everyone alphabetize their DVDs by title or their books by author? Wouldn’t you also categorize your clothes by type (ok, I also do it by color, which may seem excessive, but it makes life easier!)?

I don’t know if my phobias should also be included as quirks. I mean, I guess my main phobia is that of dogs. My heart starts racing, I start hyperventilating, and often I just can’t controlled the panicked reaction with major screaming and tears streaming down my face, as a dog approaches me. However, I do have to say that a few months ago I decided that I would try and overcome this fear. I think I’ve done a good job so far. I mean, there have been a few instances where a dog has come near me and I have not reacted … now, actually approaching one and touching it is a different story … but who knows.

I guess my fear of sharks is understandable … though I guess the fact that I have to continuously repeat ‘there are no sharks in the water, there are no sharks in the water’ to myself as I swim … in the swimming pool … is a bit silly. But hey, whatever I need to do to get a few laps done, right?

The fear of birds, well, you can’t blame me for getting a bit freaked out when a bird flies overhead – anything that flies and poops at the same time should be feared!

Oh ... and I have issues about eating a banana in public.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer 2010 - Phase II

It seems weird to entitle a blog entry as Part II when I never really wrote a Phase I … but with my expert skills at procrastination I don’t think it’s really that big of a surprise.
Phase I of my summer basically involved me getting ready to present at a conference at Canterbury Christ Church University (on creativity and language learning) and meet with my PhD advisor about my research. I’m pleased to say it all went very well.

I ended my ‘part I’ with a few days in London, hanging out with some very good friends of mine. Lots of walking, talking, and laughing. It was the much needed break before returning home and starting on Phase II.

I’ve got four basic tasks that I want to get through during my second phase of summer.

The first one has to do with my PhD. I’ve got my 3rd annual review in September, and I’ve got to get a lot of writing done before then. The good thing is that I actually feel like I can see the finish line. The bad thing is that it’s pretty much an obstacle course that I need to get through in order to get from where I am to that finish line!

My second task is to continue my gym routine. I had hit a good stride and was making some progress before heading to London … now I’ve got to get back to my training. I just hope that my 2 week break from the gym hasn’t set me back too far.

The third task has to do with getting organized. I’ve got piles and piles of papers to get through. As a teacher and a student, the number of papers that I’ve accumulated over the past year is unbelievable. Add to that the papers from previous years that I never sifted through and I’ve got a major task on my hands! In addition to the papers, I’ve got a huge box of odds and ends that I’ve been meaning to sort through for over a year … I think it’s time I get it done and get rid of that box! Plus, of course, I’ve got to go through my wardrobe, my accessories, my computer files, and all the other bits and pieces around the house. The key thing is that I need to get it done without compromising the time that I need to spend doing tasks 1 & 2. Getting organized is important, but (believe it or not) I have kinda been known to use it as a way to procrastinate. Not this time. Now it’s about being more efficient. [So I hope.]

Finally – and this will seem like a strange task – but after all, I am on vacation … my fourth task is to make some headway into my movie collection. I’ve got a few hundred DVDs, and there are quite a few that I haven’t watched. By quite a few I mean around 150 (and I think that’s a conservative estimate). So, before I can justify buying anymore DVDs (though I did recently purchase a few more in London), I’ve really got to get through the ones I’ve got. At least it’ll be a more enjoyable ‘chore.’
That’s it! These are my four main tasks for the next 6 weeks of summer. I probably should have added prep time for next semester’s class, but I think I’ll wait to tackle that after I accomplish these.
It’ll be a busy summer for sure!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Smart Travel

I have always loved to travel. Every since I was young I’d get excited planning for the trip, figuring out what sites to go and see, packing for the journey – especially my carry on – and boarding that plane.

Over the years, that excitement still remains, though a few things have become a bit more tedious. First of all, it took me ages to figure out how to pack ‘light.’ It’s something that my father always told me to do, but something I never quite managed. My suitcases (2 @ 32 kg each) were always packed to capacity, and my carry on that truly tested my muscle strength. Over the years, I got better. As I started to travel more frequently and as many of my journeys involved hopping on and off (in and out of) planes, trains, and automobiles, I had to cut down on my luggage in order to cope without utterly exhausting myself. I’ve definitely improved (though I know there are some people who think I still have a long way to go before traveling lightly)!

Even if my suitcase is still on the heavy side, the one thing I have managed to improve on is my carry on. I used to carry a complete change of clothes, enough material to entertain me – books, puzzles, music (and in those days it would be various CDs and a discman), and more – for an endless journey. Plus of course there are the cosmetics and toiletries, a notebook and pencil case, a case of toiletries, and of course my camera, wallet, and travel documents. You’re easily looking at a 12-15 kg bag right there! Now, things are much simpler. I’ve got my laptop, iPod, a notebook and pen, flash drive, plus my camera, wallet, and travel documents.

My iPod has truly been a lifesaver. Not only does it have all my music, but it’s also got a few audiobooks in case I want to ‘read’ instead of listen to music and games – Sudoku, Scrabble, Tetris – to entertain me. Now if I had an iPhone I could even leave my camera out … but until then, it stays with me.

I must say that lightening up my carry on has made traveling so much easier. Aside from providing my shoulder with some much needed relief, it also helps when going through airport security.

Airport security can truly be a pain, but it’s something we’ve all got to go through, whether we like it or not. I understand that because of heightened security, further, more intensive checks have been implemented, and while this can be irritating and time-consuming, it’s inescapable.

What I don’t understand is how there are passengers that refuse (whether knowingly or unknowingly) to abide by the rules. By now, you should know the drill. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off, take off your belt, and for goodness sake, empty your pockets! I get infuriated at men who leave their keys, coins, and wallet in their pocket as they pass security. Hello?! Morons! Empty your bloody pockets. Moreover, these are the people who get exasperated with the security guards when they are told to empty their pockets. They scowl, they moan, they complain … when in fact they are the ones to blame. They are the ones who are causing the delays!

I was traveling out of Heathrow airport a few days ago. I didn’t think passing through security would take too long since there were only 10 people in front of me. However, when I saw the family of 5, I knew I had made a mistake. It’s like they had a plan to do whatever they could to cause a delay. Their belts were on, one of the kids was still in the stroller, they had several bottles of liquids on them, they were still wearing their jackets, their laptop was still in the bag … I mean seriously, you’re standing in line. Even if you can’t read English, you can watch the animated screens and get an idea as to what you’re supposed to do! Plus, I have to ask – did these people not travel anywhere in the past 2 years? Or for some reason, did they think that today, at this airport, at this time, security would make an exception and let them just go through? I mean, the ban to take liquids onto the plane (no matter how ridiculous it may seem) has been in effect for over 2 years now. It should be obvious that you can’t take that 600mL bottle of water/Coke/juice through security.

I know that it’s frustrating and irritating and some of the rules seem ridiculous (like what type of damaging material can you really get into the thin, rubber sole of a sandal?). But this moment in time, just before you are about to travel, is not the time to ‘test the system’ or engage in a conversation about how ridiculous the rules are. These are the rules. Follow them. You’d be amazed at how easy travel becomes when you’ve got your allocated 10 bottles of no more than 100mL of liquid already in a transparent zip lock bag, your laptop is out of its case, you’ve taken off your belt, and your pockets are empty … You sail through security, put everything back in your bag, and you’re off … see, it’s not so difficult! Travel Safe!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Progress or Regress?

I just finished my last workout before traveling. I actually felt a bit anxious leaving the gym. Will being away for 2 weeks negate all the work that I’ve put in over the past few months? How much muscle will I lose? How much fat will I gain? Will I be able to maintain my progress given the busy schedule I have ahead of me? I’m really tense.

I’ve been given different advice and have been reassured that the body needs rest and that two weeks away from the gym is not really that long. The thing that scares me is that I never seem to maintain a routine for ‘that long.’ It’s not that I don’t want to or that I’m not committed … it’s just that when it’s travel that takes you away from the routine, it becomes that more difficult. You don’t always get time to exercise. You’re eating out all the time since you won’t be cooking at ‘home.’ Plus your overall schedule becomes erratic … still, I think I’ve done more than just exercise and try to eat properly over the past few months. I think I’ve actually learned a bit more about how my body is responding to food and exercise … instead of my oh so intelligent behavior of starving myself. I’m not (as) afraid to eat anymore. I’m starting to finally accept what I’ve been told over and over again – you need to eat properly to lose weight. You need to exercise and balance it with rest. You need to stay hydrated otherwise your body will retain water … etc. etc.

Anyway. I’ve got to learn to trust myself and trust that I have changed my lifestyle. These two weeks will be a test to see how much I’ve progressed … I hope it’ll be a success.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Art of Procrastination

I'm so busy, it's unbelievable. I've got tons of laundry to do (followed by folding it and putting it all away, a London shopping list to create, DVDs to order, emails to catch up on, and of course this blog entry (which I started months ago) to complete ...

Of course, I'm trying to tackle all these chores when I've got a really big task - a conference paper related to my PhD due in a week. I know the task will get done, but I also know, as I'm spending time typing this out, I should be working on it now -- instead of ... who knows when!

I don't know what it is that makes me put things off until the last minute. I think, ironically enough, a lot of it is about control.
For example, I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to be writing about for my conference paper. In order to complete it, I've got to do a lot of research and sit down and really, really concentrate on the task. The vauge idea that I have about my topic is not enough to inspire confidence within me, so I shift my attention to things that I can control ... tasks in which the end result is easily achievable.
My favorite ways to procrastinate are:
1) Making to-do lists. Whenever I start a to-do list (which is quite often) I feel like I'm being organized. I'm writing down the tasks that I need to complete. It makes me feel productive, but I know I'm just putting off the inevitable.
2) Looking through online shopping sites, especially Amazon. I can't tell you how many times I've filled up my shopping basket with things I'd like to buy ... I rarely purchase them, but just browing through the different items (particularly shoes) makes me feel happy!
3) Checking my email/Facebook/other blogs. I think seeing that others are emailing, posting status updates, or writing blogs makes me feel like I'm not the only one spending (wasting?) my time in that manner.
4) Organizing almost anything. Turning something chaotic into order definitely makes me feel more in control and productive -- and hey, at least I'm getting something done!)
5) Going to the gym. I have mixed feelings about adding this on my list of ways I procrastinate. I mean, exercise is important. Exercising helps me clear my mind. Exercising invigorates me. Okay, so spending several hours at the gym might be unnecessary (though I disagree) ... I could scale it back a little and get more work done ... hmmmm ... perhaps. I'll give it some thought.
You know, when I look through this list I think - wow, I do a lot of stuff. Granted it's not the task I should be working on, but I am being productive, aren't I? Look at all that I've completed today ...
Laundry. Check.
Clothes folded and put away. Check.
London shopping list. Check.
DVD order. Check.
Emails written. Check.
Blog to post. Check.

Ok. I really need to get some work done.