All By Myself

When I was in Intermediate School, we went on a school camping trip to Okains Bay. I think it was only for two or three nights but as things do when you are quite young, it seemed like it was for a lot longer.  It was my first time ever sleeping in a tent and it was pretty exciting.  The sleeping arrangements were two or three to a tent and we were responsible for cooking our own meals on little camping gas cookers as part of our teams as well, something that we had planned ahead for in the weeks leading up to the trip.  I remember being quite annoyed at a teacher telling me I had the gas up too high for the sausages I was cooking on the first night, when the gas was barely on!  Oh the troubles of a twelve year old.

The entire trip was full of character building activities and also a lot of research assignments, as Okains Bay has quite a rich history.  Despite the fact that the wee settlement only has a handful of people living there, it is a popular tourist spot for camping and holidays and even has a museum.  But it was the character building activities that our teachers placed the most importance on.  The trip was done every year with the same activities.  Pitching our own tents and planning for and preparing our own meals being just the beginning.

The activity that sticks out for me the most, was the one simply called ‘Isolation.’  A teacher took us for a walk along the beach and amongst the rocks and dropped us off individually at points a few meters apart.  We were able to see each other, but the noise of the sea drowned out any potential conversations we might have tried to yell at each other.  After fifteen minutes we were all safely collected and returned to camp, everyone complaining about how alone and terrified they felt as if they would never have human contact again.

A lot of my classmates were freaking out about the isolation.  No one wanted to do it, but I was secretly looking forward to it.  As a child I spent a lot of time alone, reading and writing, in my own little world, away from my siblings and classmates.  I was actually quite disappointed that we were placed so close together and that it was only for fifteen minutes.  From where I was sitting on the rocks I could see at least four of my classmates and a lot of them were waving and signalling to each other, laughing, not being alone at all.  In the weeks after the camp there were a lot of assignments related to the character building activities, including writing a diary style entry on our experience of the isolation.  I regret what I wrote for my report.  Based on everyone else’s reactions, I lied and said that I didn’t enjoy it and that I felt like I was never going to see people again.  Pretty much what everyone else wrote, just to fit in.   I still wish I had written how I really felt though, how nice it was to be perched atop the rocks by myself, looking out to sea, breathing in the salty air and just enjoying the moment.

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As I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that I possibly wasn’t the only person who botched the assignment by just writing what I thought everyone else would.  There are people, especially younger people who can’t handle being alone.  They need to constantly be surrounded by people for entertainment or even just to feel validated.  I had a friend a while ago who was like this, they used to pick me up from work all the time, just so that they didn’t have to be alone for at least those fifteen minutes, even though all they was doing was getting me home to my alone time faster.  I often told them that I didn’t need a ride, because I felt like I was using them, but it was insisted upon.  Occasionally I would have them over to hang out afterwards, but it was often quite awkward as it was apparent that I needed to be providing entertainment for them, they just needed to not be alone.

However there are also plenty of people, like me who thrive on being alone.  I love my alone time.  One of my favourite things ever is when I have the house to myself.  It doesn’t matter what I do during that time.  I might do some yoga, or watch some TV, read a book, do some writing, or turn up the music that ‘only I like’ loud and dance around to it.  The only thing I try to avoid when I have the house to myself is cleaning.  Cleaning is not my friend and I don’t want to ruin the little solitude time I get by filling it with an activity I don’t enjoy.  That’s just counter productive.

Alone time is important for me, if I don’t get enough of it, it shows in my temperament.  I get grumpy easier and also anxious.  Alone time helps keep me sane.  I like that time where nothing else matters, but me.  I can do whatever I want at my own pace without any restrictions.  I often find that if I have ‘scheduled’ alone time that gets cancelled or cut short, I get really angry and then a little desperate to replace the lost solitude.  It’s one of the reasons I love going for walks by myself so much, especially after dinner or early in the morning when there is less activity in the world.  It’s an enjoyable time where I can reflect on my own thoughts, process them and get rid of any of the negative ones.  Reset myself if you will.

I wasn’t going to write this post today.  I hadn’t decided at all what to write about for my regular Sunday post, until this morning, when I had the house to myself for a few hours and I stumbled across this post Solitude Is Like A Power Ballad from one of my favourite bloggers.  As I was reading the eloquently written post, it reminded me in specific of that afternoon at Okains bay and how to this day, I still love to be alone, be it at home, out for a walk, or enjoying nature.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

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The Day The Earth Shook, Part Two

Continued from The Day The Earth Shook, Part One.

The days following the September earthquake were a mixed bag for everyone involved.  For some, it was clean up time.  Roads and houses were damaged with cracks, silt and fallen debris and belongings, others could continue on with life as normal, the constant aftershocks the only reminder that anything out of the ordinary had been experienced.  Some people had to wait a few days before the power or water came back on, others never lost these facilities.  

Reactions to the aftershocks were also mixed.  A lot of people would pause while they were happening, then continue on as if nothing had happened.  Other reactions included panic and anxiety, crying, frustration and annoyance.  After the larger aftershocks Facebook could be relied upon to be full of status updates remarking on the aftershock; ‘That was a biggie’, ‘Yep… Mother Nature is awake’ and ‘I am so over these aftershocks!’ were common status updates in the months following.  My personal favourite was from my brother after a particularly violent aftershock, ‘insert generic earthquake status here’.  Part of the reason I liked this one so much was because on that particular day, it was the only earthquake related status I saw!

The apartment I was living in was not affected much.  Almost nothing fell over, we didn’t lose power or water and the houses around us were the same.  I personally was more worried about my job.  I had only worked there for a week as a temp and I knew that the area of town that it was in had been hit pretty hard.  One of the first things I did after the initial earthquake (at a reasonable hour of course), was get in touch with my boss to offer any assistance that might be needed.  I had no idea what the situation was, all I knew is that if possible, I wanted to keep my job working in the office of a distribution warehouse.

Luckily for me, I was able to.  My boss got in contact with me a few hours later to let me know what was going on.  Unfortunately, all of the racking and stock on one side of the warehouse had fallen over.  He explained to me that a clean up plan was being put in place and that in the interim I would not be needed, but that they would pay me for any days I ended up having off.  I was relieved and incredibly grateful and as it turned out, they needed me on the third day.

I got to work on the third morning, unsure what to expect and was promptly handed a hard hat as a safety precaution.  I was shown the damage briefly before being set to work helping out and it was extensive.  Everything that had fallen over was alcohol.  You could smell it halfway up the road, a pungent mixture of beer and wine.  After the first day I woke up with a hangover from the fumes alone and I wasn’t the only one.  I started wearing a mask after that until all the stock had been cleared by diggers driving in and out of the warehouse.

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After a couple of weeks my workplace was back up and running and so were a lot of others.  Some roads in the city were blocked off due to buildings that were damaged with the potential to crumble further with each shake, some were blocked off with damage to the roads themselves.  Traffic was heavier than usual for a few weeks as people got used to taking new routes to work, but for the majority of the city, life went back to normal pretty quickly considering.

The only real difference to pre earthquake life was that you couldn’t really have a conversation without the subject of September 4th coming up.  Everyone had a story and most people wanted to share it.  There were a lot of interesting coincidence stories also, for me, the fact that it was the first Friday night/Saturday morning that I wasn’t out drinking in a really long time and that I was actually at home, where I was ‘safe’; my mother had purchased new batteries for her torch the day before, something she had been meaning to do for months and a good thing to as their power was out for a while; and an old flatmate of mine who had cleaned out her garage the day before which was lucky as the entire floor got flooded moments after the quake are some of the coincidences I remember hearing about amonst many many others. Of course there were plenty of people who got sick of talking about the earthquake after a while but with large aftershocks shutting the city down again on Boxing Day, it was little wonder that it was a hot topic for months on end, even after all the excitement had seemed to die down.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Excitement Rising

It’s only a couple of weeks in, but I already know that 2016 is going to be my most exciting – and most challenging year yet and so far I haven’t even set my goals!  The reason I know this, is because this year two big things are going to happen.  One of them, probably the most important thing I will ever do in my life and the other, is something just for me that has the potential to change my life for the better even more.

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I’ll start with the ‘smaller’ of the two.  In the later half of last year I attended a couple of free writing workshops for people with mental illnesses.  After starting my blog, my passion for writing came back and when I heard about the workshops I jumped at the chance.  They were brilliant.  I learned heaps, got even more amped about writing and also found out about a one year course that a local college offers part time for adults.

They only accept 20 students per year which is broken down into two classes of 10.  You get intensive training about all forms of writing, lessons on getting published, participate in critique with classmates, create a portfolio, attend all sorts of different writing events and also get assigned a published mentor.  I immediately decided that I was going to do the course and after a nervous few weeks of writing and editing my submission pieces and completing an interview (always scary) I got the phone call to say I had been accepted.  I start mid February and I can’t wait!  If I knuckle down and do the work this may help me reach my dream of completing a novel and who knows what else.

And now for the most exciting news, the exciting yet absolutely terrifying news that is going to ensure that my life will never be the same again.

Zombie and I are going to be parents.

We decided the time was right a while back and much quicker than we expected, I fell pregnant.  I am due early July and already I can’t wait.  I’m petrified and ecstatic all at the same time.  I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, but I am ready and I have never been more impatient for something to happen in my life.

Zombie made a wee picture to announce our news to our friends on Facebook.  He’s quite the gamer so of course it was game related.  I like it too, even if it is a little obscure.

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So all in all, an interesting year ahead of me, but I can’t wait to experience every minute of it.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

The Little Things

Yesterday I woke up at 6am. On a Saturday! I was annoyed. Not only was it stupid o’clock, but it was also one of the few sleep ins I have left before reality kicks in again on Tuesday when I go back to work. I kind of feel like my year hasn’t officially started yet, what with being on holiday for so long and you know what? I could get used to it. But I digress.

So I was annoyed. I literally scowled at the clock when I saw the time, in my head surely it must be the clocks fault that I was awake so early. I’m certainly not capable of waking up that early of my own accord when I have to. I lay awake for a few minutes, feeling ripped off and trying to find a silver lining. There were plenty of things that needed doing, maybe getting a head start wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Considering I had only just woken up I was surprisingly alert. Another difference from mornings when I actually have to be awake at this time.

It was during my pondering that I realized it was raining outside. I absolutely love the sound of rain when I’m lying in bed. I don’t think there’s a lot that can top it really. Knowing that outside is wet, miserable and possibly cold (it may be summer but that’s never stopped New Zealand from putting on a cold day), while I’m tucked up in bed, toasty warm and just listening to the water tumbling down from the sky.

I don’t have a tin roof, but it’s still a distinguishable sound, the rain on my roof, plus the sound of it falling on the patio outside my window and when you couple it with early morning Saturday when there is very little traffic going past, it’s incredibly comforting.

I immediately stopped all my thinking and just listened, lying in bed, my eyes closed, enjoying the sound of Mother Nature. I even got my sleep in wish as it wasn’t very long before I fell back to sleep for a while, although not before I’d gotten a decent listen to the rain.

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When I did wake up later I was much more content. The rain had stopped and I could hear a lot of traffic, but I was no longer in a rushed annoyed state about everything that needed doing and missing out on the privilege of a sleep in. It was at that moment that I realised one of my goals for this year. A simple goal, that’s not going to cost me a thing, will not take too much effort and will give me the benefits of slowing down and enjoying myself.

Enjoy the little moments.

Rain on the roof, the smell of flowers when out walking, a beautiful sunset, a cool breeze on a hot day… There are thousands of little moments that get lost in my busy lifestyle but when I do notice them, they have the ability to calm me, slow me down and help me relax even if it is only a few moments out of my day. So this year, I am going to keep a better eye out for them.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Calories In, Calories Out

It’s possibly because of the new year and all the weight loss resolutions that go with it, but I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that the number of weight loss and nutrition articles on Stuff.co.nz, the main New Zealand news site, seems to have increased quite a bit.

I read a lot of them.  I like to keep up to date with the latest research but I also find it really interesting how each article seems to contradict the previous and next one.  There are sometimes a few common themes, but generally, you’ll get conflicting information from each one.  Personally, I think the reason for this is because the simple fact is, despite all the advances in modern technology and research, they just don’t know what we should be eating.  And it’s probably always changing anyway, due to environment, availability, genetic factors… I just don’t think there is a one size fits all when it comes to nutrition.

One thing I have noticed, is that none of these articles mention the calories in, calories out argument anymore.  I think research is finally moving away from this theory, that for a huge portion of people, doesn’t work anyway.  It’s going to take a lot longer than that to make the general public realise this however, based on the myriad comments that follow these articles from people who clearly know more than science when they arrogantly state that the only way to lose weight is to restrict calories and to exercise more.

I shouldn’t read the comments.  It always makes me angry, people can be so opinionated and small minded on matters that often they don’t even have any experience with.  It reminds me of a time I was having a few drinks with friends, a couple of them guys who were the ‘eat anything they want and never gain weight type.’  For some reason the topic of weight loss came up and both these men, in very smarmy tones I might add, started talking about the only way to lose weight was calories in, calories out.  You could eat whatever you wanted, as long as you restricted the calories and you would lose weight.  As someone who had been counting calories for years, with no results other than constant hunger, I was understandably annoyed by this.  I didn’t say anything, I knew these men were the type who’s opinion couldn’t be swayed, but as one of them had seen my daily struggle and just how much calorie restricting I did without any weight loss results, I was also hurt.

I know plenty of people, who are absolute stick figures, both men and women, who eat whatever and whenever they want.  I also know plenty of people who don’t eat much at all and yet seem to put on more and more weight every time I see them.  It is my opinion, based on my own personal experiences, that calories in, calories out is a complete waste of time.

Take That Sugar Film for example.  In 60 days, Damon gained 8.5kgs after going from a sugar free diet of approximately 2300 calories a day, to a sugar laden diet of 2300 calories a day.  He maintained his exercise throughout the experiment, the only difference was the type of food he was eating.  The most interesting part about the food he was eating was that it was still relatively ‘healthy’ by the standards we are given these days by health authorities.  Low fat foods, packaged cereals, muesli bars and the like, all things we are encouraged to eat.  He didn’t spend his experiment gorging on junk food and soft drinks, kept his calorie count the same and yet he gained a huge amount of weight in a short space of time.  Not to mention the health issues he encountered.  When he went back to his sugar free (low carb high fat) diet, it didn’t take him very long to lose the weight again and with it, his health improved.

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I wrote a post My Thoughts On Calorie Counting last year after a discovery period for myself that calorie counting was never going to work for me.  It was during my Elimination Diet that I really realised this.  When I started the diet, I was keeping track of everything I ate in the MyFitnessPal app, which is essentially a calorie counter, but also a food diary.  The first few days, despite all my planning, I was eating less than 800 calories.  Not good as we do need calories, it’s how we survive.  I was also hungry all the time, obviously, so I made a concious effort to up my calories.  After a bit of trial and error, I got myself up to about 1800-2000 calories a day, a lot more than the 1200 I had been eating using the app for the three months leading up to starting the diet.  I wasn’t hungry all the time anymore and the best part?  I was losing weight, fast.  I was eating more than I had eaten in a long time and the weight was falling off.  The only difference?  I was eating whole foods, unprocessed, just real food.  No sugar, no preservatives, just natural goodness.  Plus my health, both physical and mental was improving.

In my opinion, calories in, calories out is outdated and for me personally, doesn’t work.  I know I’m not alone in this opinion.  There are plenty of success stories, such as people on Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, of people effectively using plans that when broken down are essentially calorie counting but there are also plenty of people who these programmes haven’t worked for, who have found success in other ways, by cutting out sugar, or gluten, or trying FODMAP or any of the other ‘Fad’ diets out there, once again bringing us back to the simple fact that we are all different and when it comes to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight, that there is no one size fits all solution.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

 

In Your Own Backyard

I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks and absolutely loving it. For the first few days, I didn’t do a lot. I went to a BBQ with friends, spent some time with my mother and Godmother and did a lot of relaxing. I quickly got into holiday mode and it was just what I needed.

This weekend we’ve had some Zombie relatives over from Aussie, which is the part of my time off I was looking forward to the most. Partly because we don’t get to see them very often and also because it meant getting out of town for a bit. Zombie Dad lives near a small town about an hour out of Christchurch so a holiday home was rented near there, which means goodbye busy city for a few days. Yay!

It’s times like these that I’m reminded just how lucky I am to live in New Zealand. I’m not far from home, yet I’m in a completely different world from my day to day life. It’s peaceful, which is a nice change from living on a busy street, the air is fresh and the smells are wonderful too. A mixture of different trees, flowers and farmland smells, it’s a sensory explosion that’s a welcome change from the exhaust fumes that I’m used to.

We’ve taken full advantage of the holiday, getting out and about to see all the sights this great country has to offer.

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First stop, the Springfield donut for a bit of clowning around.

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A small creek next to the visitors center at Arthur’s Pass.

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Why did the Kea cross the road?

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On a bridge, facing east, on The Devils Punchbowl walk.

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The same bridge, the same time, this time facing west. I found the contrast in the weather incredible. We were situated where the two patterns met, a battle against strong winds carrying mist with them, whilst in the bright hot sunshine. It was almost as if the two patterns were fighting each other, one minute I was cold and damp, the next I was too hot and almost instantly dried out. Not something I’ve experienced before.

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Snow on the mountains even though summer is well and truly here.

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One of the many flights up to reach the waterfall on The Devils Punchbowl walk.

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I didn’t make it up, my asthma was playing up, I still got some amazing views though!

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I also explored the neighborhood I was staying in. A sleepy little town, no shops at all, just houses and paddocks.

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Lots of small groups of sheep in peoples front yards were interested in this stranger walking past.

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Plenty of interesting wooden art to see scattered about the place.

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Treehouse or fireman’s pole?

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I made friends with this guy.

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All the while, surrounded by hills and farmland.

I love my country, I’ve only been overseas once and while I would live to travel more again, I especially enjoying exploring my own country and enjoying the amazing sights and experiences it has to offer.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

New Year, New Me?

We’re three days into 2016 and I can personally say so far, it has been much the same as last year for me.  A good start.  I’ve caught up with friends and family, done some relaxing, had a few too many naps and in true Katie style, I’ve stressed over something unnecessary too.  Pretty much standard as far as my life goes, except that I entered this year with a much more positive attitude than previous years.

Pretty much every new year of my life, has started out hungover and full of good intentions.  I didn’t so much make New Years Resolutions (although for about 10 years there was always the ‘I’m going to quit smoking on January 1st’ decision that usually lasted a day or two), but I always entered each year thinking, this year I’m going to do better, I’m going to lose weight, exercise more, blah blah blah and of course each year, nothing ever really came of it.

Last year, I entered the New Year with a single plan, to find out the root cause of my eczema through diet.  It was something I’d been planning for a while, but I purposely didn’t start it on New Years day because I didn’t want to fail.  Something in my mind associates New Years Resolutions with failure and if you look at the statistics, there is a lot of evidence to support this.  Just before I started the Elimination Diet I did something I’d never done before:  I set goals for the year.

Goals and resolutions are two different things.  Resolutions are almost a negative thing.  They are a way of looking at who we are, our behaviour and what we don’t like about ourselves.  We might not like our weight, so we will decide that it’s time to lose it.  We might not like how much we spend on trivial things, so we will decide to become more thrifty.  Sure, at face value these don’t seem like horrible negative things that we have put out into the world, but in order to come to these conclusions, we have had to take a look at ourselves in a critical way.  I’m all for self improvement, but there must be a better way to do it.

Resolutions are either thought up on a whim, just before the new year, sometimes even while we are out celebrating it and are therefore terribly unplanned.  Or they can be decided in advance, sometimes months in advance but again are often left unplanned.  It’s more of a fobbing off technique we can use to trick ourselves into thinking that one day we will magically achieve everything we want to.  There’s almost an October mentality of ‘well the festive season is coming, there will be parties and food galore, no point in starting a diet now.’  The problem I see with this way of thinking, a way of thinking that was my standard for years, is that it’s basically making excuses for why we can’t ‘fix the problem’ sooner.  If one excuse can be made so easily, another will once that excuse expires and another, until it’s October again and excuses can be recycled.

Goals are entirely different.  Goals can be made for the short term, or the long term, any period of time.  They don’t start with ‘this year I am going to…’ Goals aren’t born from ‘I want to be better than I was.’ Goals are a way of setting ourselves a target, a way of achieving it and with an achievable or loosely set time frame.  Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to lose weight and exercise more this year,’ which is a resolution with no thought or planning, a goal is an aim to achieve.  ‘I am going to exercise three times a week in January,’ or, ‘I’m only going to buy lunch once a week for the next five weeks.’  Already there is a difference, the goal has extracted what the person wants to achieve, and offered a solution on how to achieve it and most of all, it is realistic.  Sure, it doesn’t mean that it won’t fail, but it sure is better than jumping into something blind, realising you have no idea how to follow through and ultimately failing.  The best part is, if the goal is achieved, its a lot easier to continue on with it too.

I didn’t achieve all my goals last year.  As I mentioned above, it was the first time I’d set goals so unsurprisingly I bit off more than I could chew.  I haven’t set my goals for this year yet, but I can already tell you that I am not going to have 10 year long ones again, that was unrealistic.  I’m going focus more on the short term than the entire year.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to have a couple a month, or make them longer term than that too, maybe even set them without a ‘strict’ time frame, but what I do know, is that I like having targets to reach and I especially like reaching them.  Having goals is a great source of motivation for me, especially because when I set them I always include a plan with them.

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I have learned for myself that having too many goals, too many deadlines or even having them too vague is setting myself up for failure.  This usually makes me feel bad, so I’m not going down that road again.  I’m not looking to be a better person this year.  That suggests that I’m a bad person, which I’m not.  I’m just looking to make some things happen in my life that I want and to feel good about them.  I will be making SMART goals.  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, although I may be a bit loose on the timely to ensure achieveability.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie