Monday, August 31, 2015

The Thing About Wisdom and Voices Lost Through Censorship

It's actually Tuesday today. August 25, but something has been going on on my Facebook for the past two days that is bothering me so much that I decided to write about it. At the same time, I am not giving the person behind it the influence required to make me change my posting schedule in order to publish this and this is why this post is only going live today.

The truth is that I am furious, but I am trying to keep myself from ranting, because there's really no point. In fact, it would go exactly against the point I am trying to make. I am, however human, so if I come across as sharp in some way... Sorry. Kind of.

Yesterday, I got a status update on my Facebook that goes along the lines of the following:

"It scares me when people younger than the age of 30 gives lifecoaching and advice about living. And it's even worse because they try to be wise and then they're wiser-than-thou too. You only really know what life is about at 40, so before you try to give some advice, try living a little longer."

To which I responded, in short, that I am 26 and posting to this blog (and yes, I do give life dvice on it) and I think that it's wrong (specifically stereotyping) to assume that all people under (or over, for that matter) a certain age gives bad (or good) advice because of that.

The response:

"Blog or not, I won't fucking believe that anyone that hasn't lived 40+ years has enough life experience to advise anyone else on life. Once people reach that sort of age, they hang their head in shame for what they said in youth, because young people live in a bubble and believe it to be the whole world, and then they are arrogant and cocky too." 

I typed a long response to this, but ended up deleting most of it, because I knew that in the end, it would only waste my time to engage further than I have. And my long comment most certainly would have resulted in a longer and longer argument with someone who doesn't even respect my opinion. The point is, though, that this kind of thinking needs to be talked about. And it goes beyond age. It goes to any possible form of otherness that we can think of. (Color. Sexual Orientation. Where you're born. How you speak. What language is spoken. Beliefs.)

For simplicity (and because it was the discrimination I have just been exposed to), age will be my focus.

I am aware of the fact that as discrimination goes, 
I got it easy.

Although I wrote a short comment to close out my part of that discussion and left it at there, I feel that this needs to be part of a larger discussion. The gist of my comment was this: 

I don't care what you think. 
I will speak out. 
I will share advice. 
I will share my (much larger than people would think) life experience with other people.
Because if doing so helps one person,
my goals in writing this blog has been achieved.

More importantly: 

Dismissing people's voices/advice
simply because of some otherness
creates a situation where all you ever hear
reinforces your own possibly narrow-minded world view. 

And this is how wisdom is lost.

I might be 26. I might not know everything about life, but I am wise enough to know that I never will until the day I die. And I am open-minded enough to learn from people around me. Be they my age, younger, older, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, straight, trans, gay, Christian like me, Christian not like me, or any other faith. Or of no faith whatsoever. Or any number of other othernesses that I'm not naming because to name them all would take a book. 

Because being different from me
DOES NOT make your voice
have less value than mine.

Be it physically, or through ridicule,
or through trying to convince you
that somehow, 

Our opinions might be wrong,
but we deserve to have those opinions weighed by merit
instead of having them discounted simply because we're different.

And call me an idealist, but I expect similar treatment. Respect is a two-way road. Always. ALWAYS. 

The world would be a much better place if a lot of people

And sadly, that's not an age thing. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Week 1

Last Friday, I decided to get serious about my weight, which means today's a good time to measure my progress.

As a reminder, last week I looked like this:

This is me a week later:

Wow, looking at these two pictures together, you can already see a huge difference. How huge?

I weighed 96kg (211lb) and lost 4.6kg (10lb) this week. Current weight is 91.5kg (201lb).

Which means that at the rate I'm going, I'll be hitting the overweight range by next Friday (although I'm not counting on it). If you're worried that I'm crash dieting, I'm not.

What I have done is this:

1) I've started drinking a glass of water before and after every meal.
2) I temporarily cut out most dairy and fruit, but still eat things like sweet potato, carrots etc in controlled amounts.
3) Speaking of controlled amounts: I'm dishing up less food for myself, and then paying attention to how I feel if I'm done. If I'm still hungry, I'll get myself a smaller second portion. Most of the time, though, I'm not.

Next Week:

1) I want to continue with the way I'm eating and drinking water until Friday. After that, I'm slowly going to start introducing fruit and dairy into my diet again. It's just not sustainable to eat the way I have been, but it definitely gave my diet a good kick-start.
2) I want to try and get some exercise. This week, I (and my mother) have been feeling flu-ey, so I just haven't been able to do much. Hopefully, this will change next week. (Don't worry, if I exercise more, I'll eat a bit more because I'll be hungrier.)

Most of the weight I budged is probably water weight, so I'm thinking I'll lose a bit less next week. But that's okay as long as the weight keeps coming down.

Anyone else working on losing some weight? How's it going? 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A to Z of Things I Learned in 2014: Understanding

I've been trying to find a nice, upbeat everything-is-possible way of saying this, but I can't, so this post is short. (This post will be themed around Christianity, so feel free to not read on if you don't want to.)

Sometimes, things happen that we don't understand. Sometimes, those things change our lives. Sometimes they make our lives horrible. Sometimes they make us so happy and come so suddenly that we can't understand what the heck is going on.

Even if we see God in the equation, things are still so confusing. Is what I'm going through God's will? Really? If it is, why? 


Our human characteristics make that we always want neat answers and to put everything, even our lives into a box. In doing so, we often want to submit God to the same treatment.

And it just doesn't work that way. God is infinite and all-knowing, and often the things He does defies our understanding. Even an explanation won't help, because our perspectives are so limited that even if He explained everything step by step, He'd lose us along the way.

So if we can't understand, what then?

Then we pray. Then we have faith. Then we trust. 

Goodness. It's so hard even to write. Because even now, things are going on in my life that I don't understand and can't control, and those three things aren't easy for me to do. Okay no praying is easy. The trust bit? Not so much.

Our faith falters and as I mentioned in last week's post, we often forget to trust. So it's a fortunate thing that God loves us anyway, and won't desert us. And no matter what, He'll give us a way to get through and/or over our difficulties.

But often the first step is to stop trying to understand and start having faith.

Are you struggling with anything at the moment? You don't have to specify what that thing is. Just let me know and I'll pray for you. In return, I hope you'll pray for me and my family too, because the spectre of 2014 just doesn't seem to want to stay dead and I'm so, so very tired of fighting its many forms.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Life Lesson From Painting

As you might know, I've recently decided to start a painting. A huge one. It's about half the size of a big wardrobe. (I know this before I have a big wardrobe standing right next to it at the moment.)

This is the sketch I did to make sure everything fit in.
On Saturday, I decided to start painting. Nothing too detailed. Just to block in some color so that I can get more of an outline. Since I'm not exactly sure (yet) where the sky ends, and some things have holes in them that reveal more sky, I decided to start blocking that in first. My further idea is that if something shines through when I'm doing the clouds etc, it won't look like blank canvas.

But here's the thing. When I took the picture I'm painting this from, it was a gray day. And although I tried to find a clear day, I couldn't find the right angle. Besides that, I decided it's better to paint it as it was, since it's supposed to remind me of my trip to Paris. (It was spring, but it was cloudy and cold the whole time.) And I like how the fact that it was cloudy yet bright made things look just a bit more vivid.

All excellent reasons to stick to gray skies. But it took me FOUR HOURS to mix the right shade of gray. White and Black wouldn't cut it. I made my gray with red. Long, very technical story on how that works, and since I doubt anyone cares about my pedantic mission to create the right color...

I got the color and painted for about an hour. When I was done, the light was no longer good enough for me to move on to the next block. That would have taken creating a new color and... oh... I doubt you'll care about that anyway.

I actually like the gray block I've put in. It's subtle and airy. (So much so that the guide lines I drew are still visible.) But I know because I put it there. If I take a picture of it?

Nothing. it looks almost exactly like the picture above. The only difference being that in the building, where I used a slightly darker shade and stopped without coloring the whole thing, the canvas looks like it has one or two brush strokes.

Which means I spent five hours on something that looks like I didn't do anything at all. And then I woke up on Sunday to cloudy skies, which meant that I still couldn't add something to make the painting look like I actually worked on it.

Today I thought I'd steal a few hours to create something worth reporting and... you guessed it. Cloudy skies.

It got me thinking, though. Sometimes, we set ourselves big goals. (This painting is definitely the most ambitious one I've ever started.)  And sometimes, achieving those goals means taking such little steps that it looks like we haven't moved forward at all.

We get frustrated when we're not moving forward fast enough. And when life clouds things so we're stuck on the last little step we took. Which means that we're tempted to push and make too big strides when we are able to move forward. Except that's not always the right thing to do.

Sometimes, those small, seemingly invisible steps are important, because they form the foundation of what we're doing. (Like blocking out the picture before starting on more detail.)

So remember:

Even a little progress is progress. 
And those little things that no one else sees, 
Are the foundation of what you will achieve in time. 
No one sees a foundation and says: "Oh look! Such a beautiful structure." 
They only see and admire what you build upon it. 
But that's no reason to skip laying the foundation altogether. 
Or you wouldn't be able to build much.

Thoughts? Who else here is busy working on something requiring great patience? 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Battle of the Bulge Starts Today

Sigh. There's no way for me to ease into this today, so I'm just going to fall in through the door and spill. 

Remember where I said that I wanted to continue with my healthy eating habits? Well... It's had some mixed results. 

Yes, overall, I can say that I've been eating better on the whole than before I started cutting out refined carbs. So technically, I can say that goal is generally speaking, achieved. 

However, when things were going rough in the beginning of the year, I fell off the water wagon. Spectacularly. I ate much worse and much more than before I started cutting carbs. If you want to understand craving and addiction, go cold turkey for a year and then be told you have to consume (but in limited amounts) the thing you're addicted to.

My addiction is sugar and refined carbs. And once I started consuming them, the hunger did not end (literally) until the day I cut back drastically. 

Here's the problem. I picked up ALL of the weight that I'd lost in the year before. 

Here's the bigger problem: When I cut back in May, I didn't cut back to the portions I should have. And also, I threw myself into work and writing to the extent that calling my lifestyle sedentary would be the understatement of the century. 

Here's the result: The weight, while not going up, isn't budging either, and it's simply not a healthy weight to be at.

Which means that when it comes to my health goals, I'm going to have to be a bit more specific.


Goal one: Lose between 20kg (44lb) and 30kg (66lb)
Goal two: Regain control over what and how much I'm eating. AND drinking more water.
Goal three: Excercise.

My Reasoning? 

I'm 1.7m tall. From experience I know that 66kg (145lb) is a good weight for me. (Although it looks a bit too skinny for my taste.) It's well within the healthy BMI range, though, so I arbitrarily picked it as my "Ideal" weight. However, I'm not going to be very unhappy if I settle somewhere around 75kg, (165lb) since it actually looks better on me, which is my highest goal weight. I'm aiming for somewhere in that ballpark. 

Yes. You're reading the chart right. At the moment, I'm weighing 96kg (211lb). Which puts me solidly in the Obese range. I am NOT thrilled to return here. So I'm getting out as fast as I healthily can. 

How fast? 

I'm not going to crash diet, but I will systematically cut my portions. The diet I'm on is very filling, which means that if I do it right, I don't need to eat as much. And I don't get hungry. I don't get all that many cravings. 

But I've been messing with those principles, which means that even now, when I've cut back, I'm not eating completely right, and as such I'm also eating as much as four times more than I need for my lifestyle. 

I'm figuring that the weight will come down steadily once I'm back into last year's routine, and should stay off because 1) I don't need/crave more food and 2) I'll be more active. 

I'm hoping that I'll be in the "overweight" section by the end of the year, which means I'll be somewhere in my goal range by early next year. 

I don't want to put too much of a time limit on my progress, because I don't want to lose too fast. I want to lose at a rate that's natural to my body, eating and exercising in a way that fits my life-style in a sustainable way. Because if at all possible, I really don't want to be back at this weight again.

And this time, although I'm not a fan of the scale, (I'm a believer of healthy living for the sake of it.) I will be weighing in for as long as I'm seriously pursuing this goal. 

Who's with me? I'll be updating on Fridays. 

Oh one more thing: I'll be taking a picture every week in this exact same outfit every Friday. No Make-up. No fuss. No Photoshop. No Frowns. (Not going to be all melodramatic and sad-looking about my weight. My weight isn't depressing me. I want to shake it because it's unhealthy. And I'm smiling because I know that I am going to win this battle of the bulge.) 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The A to Z of Things I Learned Last Year: Trust

It's back. For those of you wondering what the heck this is: I didn't finish the A to Z Challenge back in April, but I thought that the series would be of some use to me and people reading them, so I've been courageously working my way through the alphabet.

I hit a bit of a snag when I had to publish two books, but now I'm back, which means we get to pick up where we left off. 

The theme is about the things I've learned in some very rough times in 2014 and part of 2015. Today's post will definitely be touching on God and Christianity, so if it isn't your cup of tea, please feel free to not read on. 

Maybe you'd like to see the new painting I'm working on? (It's a sketch, so squint your eyes and imagine awesomeness, please.) If so, all you need to do is click here

*Waits for those who want to leave to leave.*

Those of you who quickly snuck out to see the sketch might have seen this picture in the same post. I hung it on my bed because it looks pretty there, but there's a bit more to the story.

See I made this necklace, and the whole time I was working on it, I was talking to God about the state of my life at the time. I was in my third year of university and... well things were going badly. I didn't have a name for it at the time, but eventually I'd learn the name and it works. 

At the time I was making this necklace, I was smack bang in the middle of an existential crisis. You can see it unfolding in my first years of blogging, but I'm not going to go into too much detail here. Short version is that I no longer knew who I was, because the things I'd been taught to believe myself to be were all lies.

It's not a feeling I can easily describe, but I guess the best way to put it is to say that I was present, but internally there was nothing left. Terrifying. And not something I'd wish on my worst enemy. I turned to art at the time, which is what actually drove me to finish the books I published this year. Part of that was making this necklace. 

As I worked on it, God spoke to me and gave me a beautiful message: "I will always be here."

It was wonderful to hear. It didn't matter who I was. He'd be there for me anyway. It didn't matter what I was going through. He'd be there to either make it better or help me through it.

But to be aware of this, I needed to trust Him. To trust that He'd never desert me, that He'd help and guide me if I let Him.

I find, though, that I forget. No, I don't forget the great things He's done for me in the past. Or the fact that He gave me (and all of his children) this promise. No, I forget to make the choice to trust Him. Because yes, it is a choice. It's a centering of our thoughts on Him and His deep, unending love when so much is going on to distract us from it.

This little stone cross and its few stone beads are a visual reminder of this. So now it's hanging on my bed. That way, I remember to trust when I go to sleep and to trust as soon as I wake up. 

I just want to close this post with a quick prayer.

God, thank You that You're always there,
That You continue to love us no matter what we do,
Or what is done to us. 
Thank You that in the hardest times, You're still there to guide us through, 
And that You're there to celebrate with us when things take a turn for the better. 
I pray, Lord, that You bless us all, 
And that You make yourself felt, seen or heard by everyone who know that You're supposed to be there,
But who just can't be sure. 
I ask that You remind those of us who forget to trust in Your promise. 
I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back at last.

Hi all!

Sorry for my prolonged absence. Things went a bit nuts with my two books coming out, and then my blog tour.

I'm slowly getting back into the groove now, which means I'll be getting back to more regular posts here too.

Wednesday I'll get back to my A to Z posting, and then I also want to start painting AND I'll do another update on my crocheting progress.

So... how are you doing?