Three hundred and sixty-six

Three hundred and sixty six days

I made it through it all.  All 366 days of it!

Normally I do a recap of the month, but as this month was a bit of a recap of the year, I’m going to skip that and just do a final post of the year.

Recap of the year

Where do I even begin?  So much has happened over the past year.  I’ve decided the best way is to share my favourite posts, divided by the months.  Although I have lots of ones I am proud of, these in particular resonate with me for some reason or another. (If you want a short description of what I got up to each month, click on the monthly topic below and it will take you to my recap posts for that month.)

MARCH 2011 – Extreme Couponing

APRIL 2011 – 30 Days of Art

MAY 2011 – 31 Days, 31 Dates (there’s a tie with this one – I also really enjoyed my dating advice at the end of my final post for that month)

  • The speed-dating date – I have always wanted to go speed dating and it was quite the experience.  It was one of the worst ‘dates’ of the month, but also one of the most memorable.
  • The social experiment date – A confusing date that forever changed my life, the way I feel about myself, and my future plans (we had a short, passionate affair that ended badly, then I drove across Canada with him during First Kiss Interviews month, we hated each other, then became sort of friends, he made me doubt all the great things about me, and now we don’t really talk – advice to all the ladies out there: listen to your instincts and don’t get blinded by a pretty face).

JUNE 2011 – Cooking 30 Countries (funnily my two favourite posts this month were meals I shared with the man who taught me stop motion animation and the one who confused me)

  • Italian with the Italian – a wonderful evening with a wonderful man, and lots of practical information about Italian cooking.
  • Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi – Kangaroo and Tim Tams.  It reminds me of living in Melbourne, and some very interesting facts about kangaroo meat included.

JULY 2011 – Only Online Purchases

AUGUST 2011 – Out of My Comfort Zone (there were so many great posts this month, but here are a few of my favourites)

SEPTEMBER 2011 – 31 First Kiss Interviews

OCTOBER 2011 – Vegan for the Month

  • Freeganism – I find this world of living without money fascinating, and although extreme, I think we can learn from them.
  • Raw Vegan Food Diet – Another extreme way of eating, taken from a lecture I went to at the University of Toronto.  Lots of great information.
  • Makeup and Skin Care – Interview with Kait Gray from Arbonne.  This changed the way I look at the cosmetics industry.

NOVEMBER 2011 – 30 Holiday Celebrations

  • Guy Fawkes Day – A fascinating discussion with some of the Occupy Toronto camp.
  • Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day – I was a model for the Toronto Star and did an online video for them!
  • Happy Movember – I love this holiday.  Men with moustaches for a month – very sexy in a Tom Selleck sort of way.

DECEMBER 2011 – Good Deed a Day

  • Extremely good and bad people in one day – A shocking negative event followed by an equally shocking positive one.  It brought tears to my eyes.
  • Hitting the bottom mid-month – including a very personal (yet very public because it was on the blog in the comments for all to read) debate between a friend of mine and I which almost cost us our friendship.  The debate crossed several posts, with this being the finale.  It really opened my eyes to my own views, but also how others perceive what I write.
  • The science of good deeds – How good deeds affect us mentally and physically.

JANUARY 2012 – Life at the Poverty Line

FEBRUARY 2012 – A Photograph A Day (month suggested by and voted on by the readers)

What I learned

In each of the month recaps (click on monthly topic above to read them), I talked about what I learned as an initial reaction.  As a year-long learning experience, I have no idea where to start.  I have learned so much from skills to knowledge to personal growth.

I am a different person than when I started March 1st, 2011.  Besides physical changes of losing weight through being vegan (and keeping it off through keeping up the no dairy and yoga), there have been many emotional and psychological changes.  The knowledge I gained about the different topics has given me a wider perspective on the world.  I feel like I have a purpose – like I’m fulfilling a need in myself and sharing it with others.  I am now part of a community of bloggers who are as supportive as they are talented.  I am happy and calmer, but also a bit more jaded with the world (damn porn cinema!).

I gained skills like extreme couponing (the auto correct on my computer kept wanting me to write extreme “coupling” – when you’re tired like I have been on numerous occasions this year and am right now, you find this very amusing) and cooking.  I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to do this and I have such amazing people in my life who support and encourage me.

I wrote this on Day 100 and it still rings true:

There have been days when I’ve hated that I’m doing this – that I’d love a ‘normal’ life where I don’t have to blog and make Taboulleh at 1:30am.  But most days I love it.  I love that I’m learning something new and writing every day.  I love talking about my project – still.  I love sharing my experiences with other people, whether by the blog or by them being a part of whatever adventure I have planned for the day.  I love that I’ve created this for myself (with the help of so many great people) and I feel so fortunate every day that I can do this.  Whether this turns into a million-copy selling book becomes less and less the point (although that would be fantastic).  It’s about the experience, the knowledge and the growth.  And the chance to share that with you.

Where do I go from here

The plan is to write the book about my experiences.  I will also be blogging at least once a week.  Every Wednesday I will post a recap of how things are going with me.  Sometimes it will be a comment on a topic or research on a subject that I’ve discovered about one of the ideas from the year.  And sometimes it will be just about how I’m feeling.  A bit like the daily blog posts I’ve been doing, but on a bigger scale.  I will also be posting occasionally during the week if there is something that inspires me to write or a very interesting or timely topic I want to discuss.  So keep reading for all that.  I will also be updating you all on how the book is coming along and my search for an agent and publisher.  This could be interesting to those of you out there trying to get your own work published.

I’m also going to stick with some of the things I learned this year.  I’m still trying to buy all natural cosmetics, and not eat dairy or pork.  I am determined to pick up my guitar again, paint, make pottery, sew more and do all the other projects I started during art month and never finished.  I still use my online and coupon shopping skills.  I’m still pushing myself to  do things out of my comfort zone on a weekly basis, and I’m a fountain of dating knowledge for my single friends out there.  I’m working on arranging some more volunteer experiences for me to help out more in the community.  I’m donating money regularly to help those less fortunate.  All of these habits I learned through experiences in the past year and I am grateful that I can stick with them.

Thank you again everyone for following along through three hundred sixty six days of posts!  Check back next Wednesday to hear how much I miss my blogging routine, how the book is coming along, and hopefully some other fun information.

Three hundred and twenty-six

The results for February!

After months of suggestions and two weeks of voting, the results are in!  It was really close between three of the topics: A Month of Living Without, 29 Days of Travel and Discovery, and A Photograph a Day.  One of the topics beat the others by 3 votes and 1 vote.  I have to go with the numbers, though, so for the month of February I will be doing…

Maybe I should prolong this some more?  Keep you on your toes, desperately wanting to know what shenanigans I’ll be completing my year with.  I could tell you what I did and didn’t like about each topic.  I could tell you what the challenges I would face with each would be.  I could just keep prolonging the inevitable revealing.  But I wouldn’t be that annoying.  So… the results are…

#4 A photograph a day!

I can’t remember who verbally suggested this to me. The idea is to take one photograph a day, post it, and write about the story behind it.  The photos will represent the journey I went on throughout the year, telling the story of where I started to where I am now.  It would be a nice wrap-up to the year.

I did love all the other suggestions, so I’m going to try and incorporate them into this photograph a day concept.  I will be telling the stories of my year through visual images.  As I did cover a bit of “living without” during my “out of my comfort zone” month, that will be in there.  I also did travel across Canada during “First Kiss Interviews” month, so the travel and discovery will be there.  Ok, these are just my first rambling thoughts.  I need to really think about what I’m going to do with this idea and get back to you…

And a quick Good Deeds message about bringing things abroad

Here’s an interesting blog post on Sarahs in Haiti about what you should and should not bring or send abroad to help those less fortunate.

Three hundred and twenty-four

Other income

Have you ever seen that television show Til Debt Do Us Part?  I’ve watched a few episodes when I’ve been flicking through channels at my parents’ house.  A financial expert helps a married couple deal with their money problems.  From what I’ve seen, the financial expert always advises that the couple find some way to gain additional income to help themselves out.

I wrote yesterday about a couple ways to make extra money when you need it.  There’s getting an extra job or panhandling.  And of course getting a sugar daddy.  But there are less extremes ways to earn some extra cash.  You can sell old stuff, for example sports equipment to Play It Again Sports, or have a garage sale.  If you’re crafty, you can make trinkets to sell at craft sales.  You can also return bottles to The Beer Store to get the bottle deposit back.

A bunch of us are going to my friend’s house for dinner on Saturday night.  We are all bringing something to add to the meal and I said I’d bring a salad.  On $4 a day, it is hard to find enough money to feed myself and have enough leftover to pay for the large salad to bring.  But I also know that, from my research, a lot of the depression that comes from poverty comes from social exclusion.  The worst thing you can do is sit at home and avoid your friends and family.  As Suzanne said in her comment the other day, when you don’t have money, you both appreciate and need to spend time with your support system to get through it.  You can find joy in just a simple walk in the park with them, or playing cards, or just talking.

I know my friends would understand if I say I can’t bring anything, but I want to contribute.  I wouldn’t want to show up empty handed and therefore might not have gone.  I needed to make some extra money to afford the salad so I could go.

My brother and I had a huge stack of bottles (wine, beer and liquor) that had accumulated over the past six months or so.  I lugged all of the bottles down two big flights of stairs in the rain (six trips), drove them to The Beer Store, then carried them inside, sorted them and got the money for the return.  It took about an hour from start to finish.  But I ended up with $21.60!  Plenty of extra money to pay for the salad.

How good deeds go wrong…

A little flashback to Good Deed month.  I talked a lot last month about how people don’t accept good deeds, or in the extreme, react angrily or violently towards them.  I started my day today with proof of this.

I live in a large house with six apartments in it.  Last night I got home from work at 2am and the recycling hadn’t been taken to the curb.  I know it is one of the people in the house’s job is to take the garbage out every week.  It was late though and they hadn’t been taken out, so I thought I’d be nice and put them to the curb.  This morning there was a three page note, written in thick black marker, covering the main door to our house.  The note said basically in capital letters “WHOEVER TOOK THE BINS OUT DO NOT.  DO NOT TAKE THE GARBAGE OUT.  THIS IS MY JOB.  DO NOT TOUCH THE GARBAGE. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS, CALL ME  etc etc”  for three pages!

I was absolutely shocked.  I was trying to do something nice on a cold winter’s day and instead I get a nasty THREE PAGE letter telling me not to help.  I’m a little confused as to why she cares that much.  She doesn’t know it’s me, and I was going to call her and  try to make her feel bad by being super sweet, but it’s not worth my time.  I guess I won’t be taking out the recycling anymore.  That’s what I get for doing a good deed – a bad way to start my day.

Three hundred and six

Before I go into my end of month post, it’s your last chance to suggest something for my last month!  Either go on the Suggest My Last Month page and comment a suggestion, or message me personally an idea.  On Friday I will be posting the top five ideas (both interesting to do and interesting to write about every day for a month) which you can then vote for to see what I will be doing in February.

I made it through Good Deed month!

Yesterday I was working and serving a very nice couple.  I decided to pay for one round of their drinks when the bill came.  I really wanted it to be a random act of kindness, so when I brought them their bill I told them an anonymous table of people bought them their drinks, as a nice gesture.  However, the gesture only works if they don’t know who bought the drinks for them.  The couple was a little confused at first, but then were touched.  They told me to thank the strangers after they left and to let them know that they would pay it forward.

If this month represents anything to me, it’s the hope that all of the good deeds I’ve done will inspire people to also do good deeds.  And for every good deed they do, hopefully those people will pay it forward too.  (There’s a whole Pay It Forward movement, based on the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  There is also a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.)  Hopefully this ripple effect will stay in the minds of those who it’s touched and next time they are on the subway and a man with crutches walks by, they will offer their seat up.  We might not be able to change the world, but this month has taught me we can all make a difference in one person’s life by doing very simple things.  Sometimes it’s the little things that count.

Recap of the month

There have been some majors ups and downs this month, including a few very personal posts (and comments) that my one friend described as: “I felt awkward, but I couldn’t stop reading.  It was like I was reading your personal journal or the thoughts the world is not supposed to hear”.  But I definitely came out on top of it all.  Here are a few of the things I did and a few of the things I learned:

What did I learn?

I went through a few learning curves this month.  I’d like to describe myself as a kind, generous person, a good friend and someone who would give up her seat on the streetcar to a pregnant lady.  And I am all of those things.  But I also saw how much more I could be doing.  Although difficult to find at times, every opportunity for me to help other people made me feel amazing.  It inspired me to do more.  It made me aware of every chance I had to make another’s life a little easier.  It opened my eyes to the people in need I don’t see that are right in front of me.

I had a hard time writing about doing good deeds because at times I thought it might take away the value of them – that somehow they weren’t as nice if I said them out loud.  I understand why people say that and might think that, but I disagree.  If you do something nice for someone, it is just as nice if it is a secret as if you tell other people what you’ve done.  I’d even go so far as to say that if you do a good deed you should tell everyone you can.  Hopefully it will inspire them to go out and do something nice for someone else.

Finally, I learned that although donating money is amazing and needed badly by many charitable organizations, being on the front lines (volunteering, etc) is where you really feel connected to the project and will affect you the most personally.  If you’re wanting to do good deeds to make yourself feel good (and I absolutely do not see anything wrong with that, as long as you are genuinely doing good), do something that requires you to “get your hands dirty” and be involved.  Good deeds give you a high like no other and a place and belonging in your community – you feel physically great helping other people (or animals, or the environment).

Where do I go from here with Good Deeds?

I am so excited to start a regular volunteer project in the new year.  It’s in the works (very early stages of planning), but a friend of mine and I are going to start volunteering regularly together as a New Years Resolution for him and a continuation of this month for me.  I will also be making an effort this year to keep doing at least one good deed a day – some days simple things and some days more complex.  I am inspired.

Tomorrow starts Life at the Poverty Line.  Hopefully I still remember how to use my extreme couponing skills…

Three hundred and five

I’m still working on the random good deeds for strangers, but I wanted to share a story from my friend Sarah, for those of you who don’t read comments on the blog:

“I was on my way to work on the Subway in Toronto and there was some electrical problem and all the subway cars had to stop until it was resolved. I’m pregnant and look it. I was standing with my laptop bag and bagged lunched. As we waited I started to overheat as pregnant women tend to do. So, I took off my coat and scarf…so there was no debating I was pregnant not just wearing a bulking coat. We were waiting 20 minutes and not one person got up to give me their seat. Now, I just moved back to TO from Shanghai. Their subway system is a lot more busy then ours and as soon as I walked on the subway someone would get up and give their seat, without hesitation, within seconds. In their society it’s expected to give seats to mothers with small children, elderly, handicapped and pregnant women. I don’t think it’s even considered a good deed, just expected. I was fine and didn’t really care, but seeing the contrast was an interesting observation for me. I shared my experience with my husband and he told me that he gave his seat to a man with crutches on the street car and the man thanked him and then told him he was the first person that had done that since he got crutches.
The measure of civilization/society is how they treat their weakest members.
– H.E. Javier Perez de Cuellar.
I wonder how Torontonians would measure up?”

That is absolutely horrible!  I can’t even believe this.  For all you as_holes out there not giving up your seat for pregnant women and injured people, I am absolutely disgusted.  I really am.  I’m surprised too.  I knew Torontonians were selfish at times as a whole, but that is just too much.  Who are these people?!

If you need a little hope that some people are kind and generous after reading this, check out this website:  It’s a place where people can share their good deeds with the world and you can read about good deeds of other people.  Their vision is “to initiate and encourage an ongoing snowball effect of good deeds.”  If you need a pick me up and renewed faith in humanity, spend a few minutes on this site.  And it might inspire you to do more good deeds yourself!