2016, February 5

The power of small steps

Last January, during my year of following the 52/52 e-guide‘s assignments every week, I wrote a Life List. Even though I started out with the list looking more like a to-do list in the beginning, I quickly switched to dream-mode and thought of the things I’d really really want to do in this lifetime.

Now, my boyfriend is very realistic. He doesn’t like to make plans too far ahead, if at all. And it sometimes drives me nuts because I believe that the things that we focus on are the things that will surround us.
If we only focus on today, then weekend plans might fail because we’re not making an effort to think about them and make time for some things. Or if we only focus on having bills to pay and not having enough money, then that will be our reality. And we won’t be able to shift that reality until we start looking beyond our present, and start believing that things will get better. (I am quite bad at this one, after years of being in debt!) Then, we need to decide what it is we want, and take small steps toward those things.
For this reason, the other day I wrote a list of things we need to fix in the apartment, or stuff we need to buy. I’m hoping that being on a list will keep them more in focus as opposed to just in the back of our mind and never getting around to even think of them.

There are quite a few things on the Life List that I still need to start taking steps toward. Like turning my year of photo challenges into an e-book – I still need to sit down and work on it. Little by little, even if it doesn’t have to be done in one day, I ended up avoiding this item. Not sure why. But I fully intend to finally sit down and start assembling the e-book.

However, as I read it the other day, I realized that I actually achieved several things off my Life List. Also, I achieved quite a few things off the My purpose for money list that I wrote four years ago, when I had a total of four jobs at the same time by the end of 2012. It’s interesting to me how many similar items there are on both lists.
I traveled more in Romania and saw places I’ve never been to, alone and with loved ones. I re-visited places I loved (both in my country and across the border), and wrote a few travel articles. I visited friends from Great Britain and tried a lot of new kinds of food while traveling. I made a couple of my home-decor ideas reality decorating our small apartment, learned a bit how to drive, and saw the fireworks in Budapest, Hungary this New Year.

My most important item on the Life List and also on the My purpose for money list was by far to “Earn a living being a full-time writer/Turn writing into a priority and a steady income”. And you know what? I made that come true!

With a lot of support from my boyfriend, and learning more, I am now a technical author and love love love it! It leaves me creative enough to write on my blog, too, and is still about writing, and editing and re-writing, etc. which I love doing as a full-time job. It gives me the chance to sometimes take the afternoon for reading, research and learning even more about the field.
It also gave me the opportunity to travel to London. Twice.
It pays better than any job I ever had before and now I can actually set money aside for travel and vacationing even if it takes a couple of months to save up. But I am finally out of debt.

Sure Life still gets in the way of things many times, but it doesn’t bother me quite as much as before. Because I am doing something I love and it made everything else much easier. I am definitely happier and more enthusiastic.

So if you ever stop and think about something you’d like to do as it being “unattainable”, please don’t. Try to break it down to small, achievable steps. Take one small step after the other, and it will all work itself out.

2016, January 29

Six Reasons to Smile in January

I think that we all need a little bit more positivity in our lives.

It dawned on me (again) the other day that we are in charge of the way we feel, so I decided to actively look for reasons to smile and mindfully notice the reasons why I’m smiling. To add to that my love of photography which I haven’t pursued nearly as much as I’d like in the past couple of years, I’ll go ahead and capture on camera said reasons.

Near the end of each month this year, I’ll post a collage of six pictures here on my blog as part of this year-long “Six Reasons to Smile” series I’m trying out in 2016. Who knows? I might like it so much I’ll continue the practice into 2017, too!

Here are the reasons I smiled in January:

Six reasons to smile in January

Did you smile a lot this month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

2016, January 22

My 2014 & 2015 in books

I honestly forgot to do a blog post like this with my 2014 in books, so I decided to write one today. I’ll quickly brush on 2014 saying that although I originally challenged myself to read 40 books. I was happy for the tiny win of reading a book more than the 20 I downgraded my reading challenge to and made it to 21.
Looking back, I notice that half the books I read are from the “Pretty Little Liars” book series, which I honestly didn’t like that much (this is one of those very few times where the TV show is far better than the books, I think). I probably should’ve just stopped reading them, but it doesn’t matter now.
I also read quite a few cooking/baking related books, even though I didn’t have too much time for experimenting in the kitchen. Reading such short reads does fit in well with how much time (or rather how little, given a lot of over time at work) I had on my hand for simply reading.
The total of pages read in 2014 goes up to 5442, of which the longest book I read was Harlequin Holiday Collection: Four Classic Seasonal Novellas, by Debra Webb at 485 pages.

My two very favorite reads of 2014 are:

  • Paris Letters, by Janice Macleod – I started reading this book in September, but put it aside to read when I had more time, so ended up really reading it in December. It has just the right amount of humor, romance, and adventure. Paris Letters made me feel happiness and hope, it gave me inspiration, encouragement and advice. Reading this book when I did helped me immensely in the sense that I liked my job as quality assurance tester, but was already thinking of leaving the firm I was with and finding a better-paying job. Janice’s story, and my boyfriend’s nudging, really inspired me to go beyond wanting this and actually taking steps toward it, starting to learn a bit more and build my CV towards a better job.
    It also “worked” – I am now technical author, which to me translates to “I get paid to write and do some traveling, too”. Nothing short of a dream come true!
  • Let it snow, by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – An anthology of three short stories, all tied together by a thread, that are sure to make you smile and will warm your heart during the holiday season. The three narrations fit so seamlessly together without losing their individual flavor. I loved every one of the stories in there! It is one of those reads that just makes you want to snuggle up on your couch, a hot cocoa or tea in hand and wish you had a fireplace to read by!

Below is a print screen of all the titles I’ve read in 2014.

2014 in books

 

In 2015, I started out way too optimistic again, on the just-for-fun reading train. I challenged myself to read 20 books, and ended up downgrading/finishing only 10. I kept putting off reading for fun, and ended up stressing out about finishing my 2015 reading challenge.
On the other hand, I’ve read more than 50 training manuals which I also edited/re-branded for work, and which I cannot add to my reading challenge since they’re used in-house by the client.
I finished a few books that I started reading a long time ago, and which I kept putting off reading. I am really happy to get these off my TBR list! It was also nice to read while I traveled to/from London for work, I’d definitely rather read since I can’t sleep while on a plane.
The total page count only comes to 1819, with the longest book being Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain at 352 pages.

My three top favorite reads of 2015 are:

  • Pies & Peril, by Janel Gradowski – I found the plot easy to follow, and it kept me guessing about who the killer was. The timing for me to re-read this book was perfect as my boyfriend and I have been watching an old murder mystery series last year.
  • Buckingham Palace: Official Souvenir Guide, by Royal Collection Publications – Purchased this when I visited Buckingham Palace in August 2015, and it provided the best “tour” when I read it at home and talked about the Palace to my friends and family. I love it!
  • E-guide: 52 Weeks, 52 Ways to Love Your (Wild) Self, by Judy Clement Wall – This surely doesn’t come as a surprise, as I went through the exercises in the 52-52 guide this past year and shared with you my thoughts about them every week of 2015! I love love love this e-guide! Even though I try to be mindful of what I need, I put everyone else first far too many times. So this is such a beautiful reminder that I need to be better about loving myself, first.

Below is a print screen of all the titles I’ve read last year. Take a look, and check out the list itself on Goodreads. Who knows, you might see something you’d also like to read.

2015 in books

My friend Trisha shared a link last week about a reading challenge she’s trying since she also wants to read more, and not just work/study stuff. I’ll share The 2016 Reading Challenge here in case anyone else is interested. I really liked the idea, especially the fact that it gives one a lot of room to tailor it to their own taste. As Anne, from Modern Mrs. Darcy phrased it, “read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months. It’s simple and doable, but it provides the structure you need to approach your reading list with intention in 2016.”

Now, please let me know in the comments below how many books you’ve read this past year? And what are your favorite reads for 2015 (or previous years)?

Since I haven’t read nearly as much for fun as I would’ve liked last year, I decided to challenge myself to read 20 books in 2016. And I totally plan to update this with higher numbers over the course of the year! So, don’t hold back, I always love a good book recommendation!

Here’s to a great 2016, filled with lots of reading!

2016, January 15

My Happiness Jar of 2015

In her first blog post of 2015, my friend Judy Clement Wall stated how much she loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar idea, and that she’ll be doing it throughout the year. I read up on the idea, and here’s what Elizabeth wrote about it on Facebook:

What is a Happiness Jar? The simplest thing in the world. You get yourself a jar (or a box, or a vessel of any kind) and every day, at the end of the day, you grab a slip of paper and write down on it the happiest moment of the day.
Even on lousy days, you do this. Because even on lousy days, there is one best moment (or at least, one least-worst moment.
You stick that little piece of paper in the jar.

Over the years, you have a record of your happiness…

Over the years, my Happiness Jar has taught me much. What continually amazes me is what ends up on the slip of paper every day. Not awesome events, not huge achievements — usually just a small and tiny thing, a moment of awareness…that moment when you step outside and between the house and the car you get hit on the top of the head with a beam of sunlight, and suddenly feel awash with gratitude simply for being alive, and you think, “Yes. This is it.”

It’s usually something that small — and something that grand.

Don’t you just love that? In every day there must be at least one little glimmer of hope, love and happiness which lights you up inside.

Not wanting to put all of this into an actual jar and use up space in our already small apartment, I kept this online by saving a draft here on WordPress of this very blog post. And on some nights before bed this past year, I’ve been scribbling down something to add to my virtual Happiness Jar.

Here it is:

My Happiness Jar of 2015

  • An outing with friends is wonderful after a failed (for the day) sewing project.
  • Marshmallow Lattes.
  • Looking at pretty houses while walking to buy honey.
  • One nice word from a colleague trumps any bad-mood-causing remark.
  • A full inspiration board.
  • Toffee topping, my morning coffee’s new best friend.
  • Ponytails with a twist, I love easy to do hair ideas.
  • Looking up at my furry alarm clock, Pixel on the nightstand, after waking up.
  • The way the BF looked at me before I got out of the car to head for work.
  • Walking fifteen minutes off my usual route to get the lunch sandwich I’ve been craving for a week.
  • Watching the BF play with Pixel, laughing all the way.
  • Girls’ night out.
  • Getting a new friend’s phone number.
  • Cooking lunch with the BF.
  • Quiet time at home with Pixel, and doing a little bit of writing, too.
  • Laughing for ten minutes after reading a “Dog Rules” list.
  • Visited with my ever-so-crafty friends and had an awesome time catching up. Their home was truly in the Christmas spirit.
  • Dinner with mom.
  • Watermelon Lemonade.
  • Homemade salsa.
  • Picking up my fixed boots.
  • Pockets on my knitted scarf.
  • Became friends with lovely people.
  • Getting Pixel neutered.
  • Fresh orange and grapefruit juice.
  • A colleague greeting me with a Happy New Years hug upon arriving to work.
  • Laughing all evening with the BF.
  • The BF having my back.
  • Three beautiful earrings, a Christmas present from a very dear friend.
  • Quiet day in, cuddled in bed with the BF and Pixel.
  • Visited Sighisoara Citadel, and even though the guys weren’t interested, they waited while I took a tour of the Evangelical church there.
  • Had a Tiramisu and a Gingerbread Latte at Bibliotheque Pub.
  • Took sunset pics of Bran Castle.
  • Got a nicer phone.
  • Night-time, relaxing massages.
  • A surprise package in the mail, with the most beautiful angel inside it.
  • A new tea favorite, Lemon Macaroon.
  • Snowdrops blooming.
  • Although tired, the boyfriend helped me prep for the job interview.
  • Really thought of and believe I could have a career as Technical Author.
  • All the Christmas decoration fit back into the existing boxes.
  • Had an awful cold, but the boyfriend took care of me all day long.
  • Found/bought coconut milk.
  • Pixel slept on my tummy while I read.
  • I am now a Technical Author.
  • Took two trips to London (for work, and some fun on the side).
  • Followed the 52-52 Guide’s suggestions every week in 2015.
  • Read 10 books for my Goodreads challenge.
  • Read more than 50 training manuals which I also edited/re-branded for work.
  • Saw the Queen of England!
  • Visited Buckingham Palace – and got all teary.
  • Had a wonderful afternoon walk in Mamaia, on the Romanian seaside.
  • We got a new car.
  • Took several lovely road trips.
  • Visited places I’ve never been to before.
  • Had some great trainings.
  • Came in second in class at the end of the SQL 2012 training.
  • I won a prize at work, which no one in the Cluj-Napoca office has won before.
  • Got a raise and glowing performance reviews.
  • Tried a ton of new recipes and international dishes.
  • Found my mother a job.
  • Went on a short trip to Hungary for New Years.
  • Achieved several things on my Life List.

Did you make a Happiness Jar, either virtual or an actual one? Or did you keep a journal noting the good things that happened to you? What would go into your Happiness Jar today?

2016, January 12

The Flos

I’ve admired Judy Clement Wall’s ability to doodle for as long as she’s been at it. Her art is beautiful, and ever since I saw her first creation, I wanted to try doodling.
Yet somehow, I almost always put it off. Sometimes I doodled, but not nearly as often as I would’ve liked to. And when I did, I was never happy with the output. My self-portrait from last week for example, looks nothing like me…

Last week, I saw an e-book on Amazon that looked interesting, so I added it to my shelf and started reading immediately. It’s called “DOODLE ART HANDBOOK: The Non-Artist’s Guide in Creative Drawing”, and even though I’m only 20% done with it, I like it.
I like that it inspired me to print out some coloring pages, and color again. (Like when I first printed out and colored some of j’s coloring pages.) I also printed out some doodle-art pocket calendars to color.
And I like that this book inspired me to actually start doodling myself.

It’s hard for me to let go and just doodle. I think that is because I like structure, rules and on any given day I am stressed (usually for time).
But after I washed my hair this week and while waiting for it to dry, I turned off my laptop, made a cup of tea, put my phone on silent, opened the book to read the instructions and started doodling. I tried to quiet my conscious mind. I doodled. And I did so in a really pretty notebook my friend Janel sent me like 5 or so years ago and which I kept putting off using in the hopes of someday getting into drawing.

doodling notebook

The first doodle I tried is the Flos, and find that it’s a simple creation which looks really wonderful when complete. It was fun following the pattern that I started, and had a rush of creativity as the blank page slowly filled in.
Halfway through the page, I switched to larger lines of the same pattern. It felt bold!
Once I finished the doodle, I went over it again and added further details which now make it look so much more complicated than it truly was to draw.
Below is my doodle, in case you were wondering. Next up? Petals! ;)

the flos

I am happy with my doodle, and less stressed. It’s as close as I could get to meditating. I like it.

2016, January 6

No Auditioning & Drawing a self-portrait

The assignments for the last two weeks in the year of loving ourselves fearlessly were to not audition for love, and to draw a self-portrait (or seven).

I have a natural tendency toward putting myself last and people-pleasing, so during the week of no auditioning it was quite hard to actually follow up on the assignment. It would’ve been so much easier to just go where I was told, do what was expected of me no questions asked and caring for everyone around me first before “getting” to myself.

Truth is, I know I have the choice of saying “No” to things, that I should act on my own priorities and values.
So I aksed myself “what are the most important things to me?” question and took it from there. I stalled when I could, and said I needed to think about things/favors when that was the case. I thought about how stressful it would be for me to undertake said favor, how much pressure I would feel. I considered if it was worth it, and if I actually had the time to do it or what I would need to give up in order to free time for that specific thing.
I also tried something new to me and gave myself a kind of time limit, like “I’m only free for this during 9 am to 11 am.” for example, I said “No” with conviction, and also did my best to not give excuses – which is always a temptation for me as I want people to understand my reasoning (but it usually backfires because it gives people wiggle room to try and help me find time, resources, etc. for what they ask of me).
I’m convinced I’m a good path, and will do my best to continue doing these things instead of auditioning for love.

As for the self-portrait? Well, I drew it this morning since I took last week off from my blog without any notice – we went on a short trip with the BF and I wanted to focus on just the two of us and sight-seeing.

draw a self-portrait

How was your holiday season? Did you manage not auditioning for love? How tough was it? Are you a natural people-pleaser, too? Did you draw a self-portrait? I’d love to see it, if so!

PS: If you’re interested in giving this a go in 2016, you can buy the 52-52 guide in the shop.

2015, December 23

Love the one you’re with

In the year of loving ourselves fearlessly, last week we were to love the one we’re with. j mentions this in the 52-52 guide thinking of encounters with people who choose to get their real-life discussions interrupted and pay more attention to their phone rather than the person they’re with. I dislike that, too. The Huffington Post has some great articles on the subject of technology overload.

So last week, I paid even more attention to not checking my phone (e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) when I was with people.
On the one hand, it wasn’t too hard – at work I had a lot to do and didn’t go out to lunch, and by the time I finished work I was already exhausted. Even more so by the time we got home, past 10 pm every night so I didn’t really get the chance to think about wanting to do anything but love the one I was with.

On the other hand though it dawned on me that it’s not necessarily only when people check their phones while with someone that they don’t pay true attention to that person in their real, physical world. You could be e-mailing your friend who doesn’t reply. Or trying to share your good news over a Skype chat with someone who’s upset and can only focus on that instead of your good news. Or you could be trying to have a conversation with someone who is not listening to you only wanting to talk about themselves.
I think the latter hurts more than one simply checking their phone during your date.

 

The assignment for Week 51 is No Auditioning. In j’s words, “There are things you should do for love, like: be fearless, trust, get vulnerable, forgive […] but you should never have to audition for love, this week… or ever.”

The assignment for Week 52 is to Draw a Self-Portrait. “Don’t worry, this isn’t an artistic thing (necessarily), it’s more of a “what do you want to capture about you and your life RIGHT NOW” thing. It doesn’t matter if the portrait looks like you, or even if it looks like a person. Here’s what I wish for you.
1) That you are able to let go of any notion of good or bad, or right or wrong here; that, instead, you are able to dance with yourself, capture the you that maybe only you know.
2) That you draw yourself lovingly. Even if your picture is about what scares or frustrates you, draw it as a friend would – with compassion, with tenderness.”

How was your week? Did you love the one you were with? Do you think people around you are distracted by their phones? Or are they just plain uninterested?

PS: If you’re interested in joining us, you don’t have to have the e-guide to play, but if you’d like it, you can buy it in the shop.

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