Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category


Judgments Based on First Impressions

November 20, 2009

It’s really funny to see people’s reactions when you change from this:

…to this:

Oh my goodness is that a brunette?!

Reactions have ranged from the complimentary “That’s a nice change, you look better as a brunette” to “oh, that’s… different…” (said in a high-pitched tone which really means “oh my God what have you done that was a terrible idea!”). I’m getting a good laugh out of it.

Being super blonde was too high maintenance. So earlier this week I asked my hair stylist to dye my hair the same colour as my roots. Apparently, this is my natural hair colour. I had no idea. I thought I was in the blondeish-light brown category. Nope!

Although the main reason for the colour change was to go back to my “natural” colour, I’m also seeing this as a great social experiment. I’m curious as to whether I’m taken more seriously as a brunette than a blonde. We can’t help but make assumptions about people based on their looks, and I know that there have been times I wasn’t taken seriously partially because I was blonde. So this will be fun to see if there are any changes in people’s attitudes.

Why am I talking about hair colour here? Who really cares? Well, apparently a lot of people do: according to a 2006 study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, resume applicants were “rated more capable and were assigned a higher salary when depicted with brunette hair color”. It’s easy to make assumptions based upon stereotypes, and even if we’re aware of the stereotypes and aware that there isn’t any factual evidence to support the stereotypes (for example, the “dumb blonde” stereotype), we still have difficulty in viewing blondes on the same caliber as brunettes.

Furthermore, when it comes to judgment and appearance:

– 83% of consumers believe that personal appearance is key to professional success, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

– The Social Issues Research Centre found that 55% of people’s initial impression of you is based on your appearance and body language

– The current media height/weight ideal is achievable by less than 5% of the female population

– 81% of 10-year-old girls in America have already dieted at least once and at least 80% of women over the age of 18 are unhappy with what they see in the mirror.

This is saddening. Can we break out of this? I think we should try. The big issue is: how?

I was blonde for such a long time because I felt like a blonde. It felt right. I was comfortable with it. But just recently I decided it was time to go back to my roots (quite literally), and this too feels right. That is what we should be doing: asking ourselves what feels right and why it feels right, and then enacting that right-ness. And doing our best, as always, to be aware when we find ourselves making judgments based upon stereotypes so that we can try to adopt a more objective point of view.

What do you think?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for POM juice– you have THREE chances to win!


Life Lessons: Happy Monday?

November 16, 2009

Yesterday evening, all of the lights and the Internet in my apartment abruptly cut out. I had a post all written up for today on LiveWriter, yet somehow it got lost. My computer battery died, I shattered a glass on the ground, and all of the work that I needed to do required the Internet. When I called the caretaker, she said that she couldn’t do anything about it until this morning. I called her at 9am today, only to find that she had forgotten to get someone to fix the issue.

Now my lights are back, my Internet is working, but the stove and oven, for some strange reason, are failing to work. And I cannot find the post I’d written on LiveWriter. I’m also behind on the chores that I need to do today before I go to school for the entire afternoon/evening.

Luckily, last night our heating did not cut out, and neither did the plug-in for the fridge. So I did not freeze last night nor did our food go bad. Thank goodness for that. In the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t such a big deal that we lost lights/Internet for all of an evening and part of the morning- it’s just rather frustrating when you realize how much you depend upon those kinds of things!

Today I am very, very grateful for electricity.

Your homework for today: leave me a comment telling me one situation which you have been in recently where things weren’t looking so good, but there was still some form of silver lining in it. Also, what are you especially grateful for? We have to start the week off on a good foot!


POM Blogger Harvest Tour: Day One!

October 20, 2009

This morning I left my apartment at 6am to make it to the airport on time. A couple of airplanes later, with a quick stopover in Denver between them, I arrived in Fresno, California!

The POM company gave each blogger (there are 15 of us in total) a temporary credit card to pay for the taxi to the hotel, and I arrived at the hotel without a hitch about four hours before we were all planning on meeting together for dinner. A lovely little POM care package was waiting for me upon my arrival: it included a big environmentally-friendly tote bag full of goodies! Inside the bag was a folder full of the Harvest Tour information as well as a POM notebook, POM pen, POM usb device (with POM info and press releases on it, as I learned after I plugged it into my laptop), a bunch of beautifully designed cards with recipes for using POM on them, and a very large diagram of “how to open a pomegranate” (clearly it takes a lot of skill. Without step-by-step instructions I’m sure I could make as much of a mess with a pomegranate as anything else in my kitchen ;)). There was also a smaller box and inside it were a POM t-shirt (my size, yay!), POM Iced Coffee, and Spiced POM Cider. And a water bottle too, which was very much appreciated after the flight.


I decided that I should spend the next few hours exploring some of Fresno before meeting everyone, so I asked at the front desk if there was anything interesting in the area. When she mentioned a Trader Joe’s nearby I’m sure I nearly shrieked with excitement! I went for a little walk to discover Trader Joe’s and it was heaven. I ended up buying a loaf of vegan sprouted bread, Better ‘n Peanut Butter, and a Clif Z bar. I haven’t ever seen any of those items in Canada before and I always hear bloggers raving about the latter two, so I just had to try them. I ate the Clif Z bar as a pre-dinner snack and the honey graham flavour was very tasty. I’m excited to take the bread and peanut butter back home with me. Some people get excited about seeing tourist sites when they go traveling; I get excited about places like Trader Joe’s.

After my expedition to Trader Joe’s, I went out walking in the other direction and discovered that the area that of Fresno that we’re in right now consists of large box stores and even larger parking lots. But that also means that there’s a gigantic mall only about 20 minutes walking distance away. I found a lovely pair of boots and am somehow going to fit that gorgeous purchase in my bag along with my Trader Joe’s treasures to take home to Winnipeg.

Then it was time for the dinner! We went to BJ’s Brewery and because there were so many of us it was difficult to get around to talking to everyone. I spent most of the evening talking with Kristy of The Wicked Noodle and Eric of Eric Rivera’s Cooking Blog. I think I spent far more of my time laughing than eating, which is always a good sign. They are both hilarious and it was wonderful to meet with other food and health bloggers! It’s also good to be able to finally put a face to bloggers that I see all over the blogosphere, such as Heather of Heather Eats Almond Butter, Tina of Carrots ‘n Cake, and Roni of Green Lite Bites– and to meet bloggers whom I’d never know about before this occasion. And of course, as soon as the meals arrived, everyone whipped out their cameras and started snapping photos. How I do dearly love bloggers! It’s just the beginnings, I’m sure, of an immense amount of fun.

I had a lettuce wrap with Thai shrimp and some calamari to begin, followed by a massive salad with heaps of Cajun shrimp, artichoke hearts, and fire-roasted red peppers, and then finished it all off with a taste of apple crumble and a few bites of cookies with ice cream on top. Delicious! But I’m especially looking forward to tomorrow night’s dinner, which will be a specially-prepared POM affair.


It’s time for this health blogger to crawl into bed before a busy day tomorrow of touring the orchards! I love being a part of this experience.


Vegan Challenge Recap

September 30, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– 1/2 banana with almond butter and small handful fresh raspberries

– Bowl of steel cut oats with a half scoop calcium/magnesium powder, 1 tsp chocolate protein powder, 2 tsp PB2, 1/2 banana, cinnamon, and a splash of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze. I had never had steel cut oats before. Now I know why everyone raves about them!

– A few sunflower seeds and a sandwich with 2 slices multigrain bread, mustard, hummus, 3 Tofurky slices, green pepper, broccoli sprouts, and delicious tomatoes from Westwood’s garden

– 1 apple, carrot sticks, 1 tbsp almonds and a couple beanballs

– Shiritaki noodles with black bean salsa (I used the recipe in Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet for the Family as a guideline and discovered that I really do enjoy black beans when they are mixed in with other flavourful ingredients), and 1/2 banana plus 1 fig with almond butter for dessert

– Bowl of air-popped popcorn (a real single-portion-sized amount! Victory once again).

The Vegan Challenge comes to a close

Today is the last day of the vegan challenge. The very last day! I’m not sure quite how I feel about that.

Let’s recap what we set out intending to learn back at the beginning of the month, shall we?

1. Spreading awareness about animal products

From lip balm to toothpaste to alcohol to condiments to pasta, animal ingredients seem to lurk everywhere. Some restaurants were nearly impossible to eat at; the people who worked at Cafe 22 couldn’t even promise that their salad dressing was vegan. Consequently, I was unable to have anything other than an Alexander Keith’s beer and a “salad” (aka romaine lettuce with tomato chunks) for dinner that particular evening.

But the interesting thing is that even though there are animal ingredients in so many of our products, there are also many products which do not *have* to have animal ingredients in them. I found vegan versions of lip balm, toothpaste, alcohol, condiments (well those I like to make myself at home), and pasta. Sometimes it required extra effort on my part to really hunt down these products, but they’re out there. This leads me to wonder why it’s so necessary for us to use animal products at all. If animal ingredients aren’t necessary to make toothpaste, why don’t we stop using them and use plant-based ingredients instead? Or is this even an issue that needs to be brought up? You tell me. Does it bother you at all that there are animal ingredients lingering in nearly everything we put in our mouths? Is it a bad thing or does it not really matter?

2. Decrease my carbon footprint

As I noted earlier in the month, I eat plenty of foods which make my carbon footprint the size of a small country, I’m sure. Fresh fruit and PB2 are the big ones, I think. Eating “meat replacers” such as Tofurky defeats the purpose a little bit because it’s still contributing to a larger carbon footprint, what with all of the manufacturing and packaging that goes on behind the scenes. Even so, eating a meat-free (and egg-free, and dairy-free…) diet this past month has, I think, likely cut down on what my footprint might otherwise have been.

3. Increase my knowledge and understanding of different diets and lifestyles

My words a month ago: “I don’t ‘get’ veganism. I’m skeptical about how nutritious it is.”

I also said this: “I don’t want to knock it if I haven’t even given it a shot… There are all kinds of controversies over how healthy veganism is and I’m on a mission to find out from personal experience.”

I have certainly learned amazing amounts over the past month. Veganism can be a very healthy way to eat- just the same as nearly any other diet. It is dependent on what’s right for your body and it’s also dependent on how much variety you get and how much attention you pay to consuming the right amounts of all the nutrients. Balance is essential.

My body reacted very well to veganism. I had very few real difficulties with cravings and my energy levels didn’t change. My weight stayed the same and my mood didn’t fluctuate either (as a result of the veganism, I mean. I might have gotten a wee bit stressed out a few times over the past week or two from the heavy work and school load, but I attribute that to taking on too much at once. And that has been rectified).

Tomorrow I will post my eats for my final day of this challenge. On Friday I’ll recap the reality of what my personal struggles were this month. And this question will also be addressed on Friday: Are you going to continue eating vegan after the challenge?

Have you learned many new things this month (vegan-related or not)? What are your thoughts about the vast amount of products that contain animal ingredients? What are some things that you do in your daily life to decrease your carbon footprint by a notch or two?

Don’t forget to please give me more suggestions for the 21 Foods List! I’ll make some choices of what to add over the next week before finalizing the list.


Life Lessons: Replacement

September 18, 2009

Yesterday, on Day 17 of the Vegan Challenge, I ate:

– Small bowl of strawberries and grapes, plus two little clementines

– Veggie medley parfait: layers of cucumber slices, carrots sticks, strips of asparagus, and chopped cauliflower. I think vegetables taste better when they are arranged nicely. I had these in a big clear plastic container and thinking of it as a “parfait” made me smile as I munched.

– 2 pieces Yves deli “turkey” smeared with mustard and wrapped around a couple stalks of asparagus, and a handful of grapes

– 1 big carrot, a couple of mushrooms, another handful of grapes, and a chocolate milkshake made with 1 frozen banana, 1 cup unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze, kale, and a sprinkle each of flaxseed/wheat germ/cinnamon. The kale made it turn a very disgusting brown-green colour but it was really delicious. I guess I can eat the bunch of kale in milkshake form if all else fails for my enjoyment of that particular leafy green!

– 1 calzone with cheezy sauce, a couple beanballs, and a few more grapes/strawberries

How do the terms we use act as lenses for our perspectives?

I was feeling a little under the weather yesterday with a cold. Grapes are my go-to whenever I’m sick. They’re the perfect snack when I’m feeling poorly. I also decided yesterday to do a little experiment of not eating any kind of nut butter for the entire day. As healthy as nut butters are, throughout this whole vegan challenge I’ve really been eating them to excess. You can tell that from every time I don’t specify the exact portion size in my record of what I ate the day before. I figure that by not mentioning the amount that I eat, no one will be the wiser 😉

As I learned when I turned orange from eating too many carrots, no matter how healthy a food is, you can definitely have too much of it. So I went the entire day yesterday without nuts or nut butters. And I survived. For my next couple weeks of veganism, I’m going to make a real effort to replace some of the nuts and nut butters that I’ve been eating with beans and legumes.

Above all, I really feel that that is key to eating healthy. And I think that’s also why many people are wary of “healthy” foods and are reluctant to eat healthier as opposed to “tasty” junk food. But that’s because we’re looking at it all wrong. Rather than telling ourselves, “I can’t eat this or that; those are bad foods so now I have to deprive myself of them”, we should be telling ourselves, “that food isn’t so healthy, so I’m going to replace it with this other equally tasty and far healthier food”.

It’s not a process of elimination. It’s a process of replacement.

While I’m eating vegan for the month, I’m not going hungry because I am simply replacing what I would normally eat- eggs and other animal products- with other food that does not contain animal ingredients. It is equally nutritious, it’s just different. If, rather than replacing my normal eats with plant-based foods, I simply eliminated the eggs and cheese and such, I’m sure that at this point I’d be wasting away. We’re exchanging one thing for another here. I’m happy to take this opportunity to discover all kinds of new and tasty foods, too.

What have you been replacing- not eliminating!- in your life lately? Do you find that having the perspective of replacement not elimination is a more effective way to succeed in the changes you are making?

There is always some way that we can improve, so if there is something you would like to change but haven’t yet, then that’s something you can work on this weekend! What will you replace?

Some of my own quick (and hopefully helpful!) reading material

– Looking at anti-smoking commercials and controversial PETA advertisements to understand how they are a reflection of what we care about.

– If you are interested in blogging but don’t know quite how to get started, or if you are planning a blogging information workshop, check out this outline that I drew up for a blogging workshop that I conducted for the staff at The Uniter.

– I have compiled a list of tips for note-taking that students might find very useful. Be sure to add your suggestions if I’ve missed something!

Here’s some ideas for motivating yourself when the weekend rolls around (or any time that you’re slacking!)

What exactly does “good for you” really mean?


Life Lessons: Running Challenge comes to a close

July 17, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the FitNutz powdered peanut butter giveaway is… Charlotte! Email me your mailing address and I’ll get your FitNutz sent straight to you. We’re all interested in this PB popcorn that you spoke of so you know that now we’ll all be expecting you to test it out and tell us how it is 😉

Run A Race This Summer Challenge

The challenge is still on for those of you who want to participate but haven’t yet taken part in a race. As of tomorrow morning, I will have completed this challenge! I’m incredibly excited to run my first ever race (we’re not counting elementary school. I used to run track “way back in the day” but my memories of running those races are hazy at best). I’m especially excited because a few days ago one of my best friends offered to run the race with me, so it will be fun to have someone else there to celebrate this achievement.

I didn’t exactly follow a training schedule (even though there are many fit bloggers out there that seem to be involved in the Couch 2 5k and it sounds like a really great program), but instead ran a couple times each week for about two months now, 30-45 minutes at a time. I can keep up a very steady pace that entire time so I know that my endurance has increased considerably.

A couple weeks ago Caroline and I went for a run. I set the pace because she’s a marathon runner and has far more experience with running and races than I do. But by the end of our run, she said that the pace that we had gone at was the same pace that she usually runs at! That was a real compliment. It’s good to know that I might be faster than I thought I was.

She also told me that she usually runs on the road rather than the sidewalk because the surface is gentler on the joints. I hadn’t thought about that before, but now that I’ve started running on the road I’ve realized that there really is a difference. The ground almost feels springier. It’s such a simple thing but it really delighted me to learn that about running. Starting a new activity can be intimidating because you don’t know anything about it or have any idea what you’re getting yourself into… but that’s also what makes it interesting and so much fun! That might be why I want to try many different kinds of activities.

From this challenge, I have discovered that running in the rain is invigorating. That doing an extra loop around the block can put a smile on your face for the rest of the day. That you can move fast and become powerful in brief spurts of sprinting. That arriving home out of breath and with a slight stitch in your side is the blissful feeling of accomplishment. That walking is still my favorite activity, but running is no longer my enemy. That I sometimes kind of sort of might enjoy running.

What have you learned from this fitness challenge?


Life Lessons: The motivation to run begins with a smile

June 22, 2009

How is the Run A Race This Summer Challenge going for all of you challengers out there? Yesterday was the Manitoba Marathon. Many people that I know were running in the half marathon, the same race that I was planning on running with my father dear a year ago. He is now in Cambodia and I am now training for a little 5km race, so the times they do certainly change!

Right now I’m going out for runs a couple times a week. I can now run for just over 3 miles straight (about 5km), which takes me a little bit over half an hour. The route that I take is a very pretty one and I think that I will start working on improving my speed now that I can go that distance. I still haven’t decided which race I will run this summer or when I will run it, so I’d better start looking into that in the near future. Just remember- when you’re out there running, make sure you stay hydrated!

Something that running has taught me is how supportive everyone within the running community is. This is perhaps one of the biggest differences between running and walking. People walking down the street don’t often share the same sense of having a connection. I walk down the same streets every day on my way to work, and some of the people that I pass on a daily basis do not smile or make any sign of recognition. Their eyes just move right pass, not wanting to make eye contact with another person. In this way, I rather like the privacy of walking, but at the same time it’s too bad that most walkers don’t seem at all inclined to greet others.

The running community is much different. When crossing paths with other runners, we’ll smile and greet each other, sometimes even make a comment on the weather within that incredibly short time period. On days when I plan to go running in the morning, and I wake up and I’m not much in the mood to go out for a run, when I think about the people that I know I’ll be seeing I’m encouraged to get out there. My motivation to run right now isn’t because I want to conquer my old demon of running, and it isn’t because I want to do really well in a race, and it’s not even because I want to get a lot stronger. It’s for the smiles and the connection that is made with others when I’m out on the road running that I want to get out there.

Starting my day with smiling at strangers and having them smile at me perks up my mood for the entire day. They aren’t even strangers: for the briefest of moments when we pass each other on the street, we’re friends. I like to see them there and to know that I’m not running alone. There’s a silent, underlying mutual acknowledgment made between all runners: “Oh, hello! You’re out here too? It’s good to see you having fun and doing something good for your body! I’m sure I’ll see you again, and if I don’t- the next person you pass? That’s me, too.”

What do you like about running? What keeps you motivated to run? If you’re having difficulties with the motivational aspect, Fitness Magazine recently emailed me requesting that I let you know about their Love Your Summer Workout: 10 Motivation Tips, so check it out for extra ideas.

Edited to add that at Living Rhetorically in the Real World, I have a motivational post about how you can turn your life around with just one small change. Be sure to check it out!


Life Lessons: Sometimes we need the meds

May 5, 2009

I had a post all lined up for yesterday, but sometimes, an upset tummy and a visit to the hospital just get in the way!


My dad and I spent the weekend in Siem Reap to visit the temples. It was a gorgeous trip and the temples were spectacular! So much to see and do. But then our stomachs started cramping uncomfortably. This lasted a couple days, on and off, until on Monday it got really really awful. We managed to spend a couple hours at the temples early in the morning but were back at the hotel to lie down in pain by 10am. We had made dinner plans with a friend from my cooking class, so I finally forced myself to get up and call her around 4pm. When she realized just how ill we were, she insisted on taking us to the hospital herself. We weren’t in much of a state, by this point, to argue!

The doctors and nurses were lovely and the service was so efficient. They took blood samples and checked our temperature and gave us injections; the whole shebang. It turns out that we had some kind of bacterial infection. I also had a fever and they said that my blood pressure is very low- unfortunately I don’t know what my blood pressure is like normally, so perhaps for me that is the norm. Something to check out when I get back to Canada, though; its really important to know what the norm is in situations like this.

They gave us medication and strict instructions to drink plenty of water with electrolyte powder, and then they let us go back to the hotel after staying in the hospital for only a couple hours. We managed to sleep soundly throughout the night and felt much better upon waking this morning.


When I had been making our dinner plans with my friend, Carol, the day earlier, she had offered us some medication that she had with her when we mentioned that we weren’t feeling 100%. But I don’t really like drugs or meds of any kind, so I politely refused. It was funny because on the way to the hospital she told us about how when she had been in a similarly very ill state, her sister had tried to ply her with vitamins because they were natural and she was convinced that they would be enough to help her. Carol shook her head in disbelief. Sometimes, you just need the medication.


Being that sick felt really terrible, and I’m sure that if we hadn’t gone to the hospital and accepted their injections and meds, we’d still be feeling just as awful. There are times when we just have to give in and accept that sometimes, we can’t heal ourselves naturally- we need a little bit of help.


It feels good to be back home in Phnom Penh. Even if we don’t feel completely back to normal, it sure is a lot better from how we were feeling! And I’m glad that we got to see a few temples and enjoy the sites before the illness took over (and am very grateful for health insurance. Don’t skimp out on that traveling cost!).


This one’s for MizFit: they have jerky here! It’s all dried fish rather than beef, though, in this picture:



Life Lessons: On Being (Too) Nice

April 15, 2009

It’s one of the most well-known stereotypes of Canadians: we’re polite. We apologize. We’re doormats. What can I say? There is, to some extent, a ring of truth to the stereotype.

At aikido last night, sensei was telling me about the issues that the older students had when they first began practicing. He referred to one student affectionately as being rather like a black hole when she first began; another one needs to learn to be less aggressive and more relaxed; someone else has had to deal with their length and extension. I thought I could guess pretty well what my biggest weakness is, but I really wanted to hear it from a teacher’s perspective and to get his insight, so I asked him. My biggest issue? I’m too timid, too tentative. “I think you’re afraid you’ll hurt someone,” one of the other students offered when sensei asked the other students for their input.

How true it is. While the concept seems ridiculous (how could anyone as little as me possibly inflict damage on someone else?) I think that my biggest barrier is simply learning to let go and realize that people can take it. Considering that it doesn’t matter your age, size, or gender when it comes to aikido, it is surprising just how much damage I could potentially do to a person. Just by pressing the right spot on a person’s hand, I can bring someone to the floor (theoretically. Sometimes I have to keep on pressing a couple dozen times until I hit exactly the right spot. Eventually it works!). With just the right momentum and rhythm, I can use another person’s force to pull them off balance. If you know your technique, you suddenly become a very powerful and dangerous person.

I’m not so afraid to be aggressive with the men that I practice with, maybe because they’re all about twice as big as me. But the women are nearer to my size and although I know that they have been practicing much longer than I have and clearly they know exactly what to do even if I did manage to hurt them, I’m still afraid to be too aggressive.

I don’t think that this is a healthy attitude to take in any situation in life, especially because it drives me crazy when other people treat me this way. I get impatient because I know that I’m stronger than that. I want to learn and make mistakes and the only way that I can do that is if they come at me full force.

Canadians are known for being passive, but does this sometimes hinder progress? How many people stay in relationships long after the love has died out just because they’re unwilling to hurt the other person by admitting the truth? How often do we tell white lies to protect people so that they won’t get upset- about anything?

Growing up, I remember that it was always the kids who had been “tied to their mother’s apron strings”, so to speak, that had the worst allergies. They got sick a lot because their immune systems weren’t strong; they hadn’t been built up because there was too much bubbled padding around them. They hadn’t been exposed to viruses or bacteria. Their parent’s fear for their safety hindered the children later in life so that they wound up getting sick more often than they would have if they’d been exposed to a little mud.

If we can get over our fear of hurting other people, we will both come out stronger for it. Both parties can learn from the mistakes once they’ve been addressed. We can only correct the issues once we’re made aware of them, and sometimes the only way that we can be made aware of them is to make the mistakes. It’s healthy to strike out with confidence and to know that people are strong and resilient. We can handle the blows. It helps us to grow.

Do you have difficulties with this? Are you sometimes a little bit too nice, too gentle? Can you dish out constructive criticism? And can you handle that criticism? I firmly believe that we really need constructive criticism from others to make progress, because sometimes we can’t see the issues ourselves. We can all benefit from a little introspection.


Life Lessons: Learning how to cook

April 6, 2009

When put in a position where you are forced to do one thing or another, it’s amazing how quickly we realize what we are capable of.

I’ve never been much of a cook. One of my best friend’s will never let me live down the time that I forgot to turn the oven on while baking cookies, and on the rare occasion that the smoke alarm didn’t go off in my ex-boyfriend’s apartment when I was in his kitchen, we’d all speculate if perhaps the batteries were dead. The ongoing joke among my family and friends has been that if I cooked something, it was best to just steer clear of the dish.

But all of that has been changing, and changing very recently. Sure, sometimes I still drop whole pumpkins on the floor when I’m trying to roast them, and boiling over a pot of soup on the stove isn’t exactly unheard of, but all the practice I’m getting from cooking for myself is starting to pay off. Or rather, the practice I’m getting from cooking for other people.

I love having people over at my apartment. Social gatherings of any kind are always welcome, and social gatherings generally imply some sort of food. Considering that a lot of my friends are truly fantastic cooks (my crackers are rivaled by whole turkey Christmas dinners or whipping up batches of granola bars), it makes me really want to present a decent spread so that everyone can enjoy my cooking and not run away from it. And to be honest, cooking for one person can be a downer. It’s not that exciting when other people aren’t there to appreciate it.

Sometimes we learn best by being put in situations beyond our control. We just have to go ahead and do it, because there isn’t anyone else to do it for us, and because we want other people to have a good time so that they’ll keep coming back! We’re inspired to do well when other people are watching us. Even if we think we don’t enjoy a task, if we absolutely must do it or if we are doing it for someone else, we can learn to really begin to love it. It’s hard to believe that years ago, I hated cooking (probably, looking back on it, it was because I was so bad at it). But with practice, with experience, we can learn to love it.

I think we are forced into things a lot more than we think. A few of the classes I have taken in university were mandatory for my degree and which I was not interested in the least, or they were courses chosen on a whim because they seemed vaguely interesting and fit my schedule, but after taking them, it occurred to me that what I was learning in those particular classes was exactly what I love best. Taking a Professional Style and Editing class led me to want to go into editing; taking Nutrition for Health and Wellness really opened the doors for me health-wise.

All of these little choices we make in life can alter our path considerably. Just because we’re being forced into doing something doesn’t make it such a bad thing- if we want to, we can take a look at it from a new angle, see it as a challenge, and learn something new about ourselves. What have you been forced into doing that you wound up enjoying a considerable amount?