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.

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Three hundred and thirty-seven

I made it through Life at the Poverty Line!

My almost empty fridge. Can you make a meal out of condiments?

Well, I almost made it.  I have the rest of the day, but I’m on the home stretch.  And thank gosh it is over! Am I allowed to say that?  I am so grateful that I earn enough income (and live in Canada and have a wonderful support system) to allow me to live comfortably, in a safe environment, with fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy food and the occasional treat.  It’s been a tough month.  A journey of discovery for me and what it means to be brought down by something that you can’t control.  It’s been a time of evaluating my priorities, and a lot of time to myself to do this in.

It was interesting seeing people’s reaction to the money topic.  I don’t think I realized what a touchy subject it would be until I started writing about it.  Everyone has a different experience and relationship with money and I thank all those who shared their personal story with us.  It was also interesting taking the big leap from my low-income line of $21.40 to my basic needs line of $4 per day.  Then thinking about the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 per day.

Recap of the month

I began by defining different options for the poverty line, and which one I chose to use.  I argued why I chose what I did.  I talked about giving up a trip to the strippers, and what my background and relationship is with money.  I was very clear that “this month does not trivialize the lives and concerns of those people who live at the low income line (and I have a few friends who do).  This month is an attempt to understand what it’s like to not have money always there.”

Unexpected expenses came up, I had to pay for transit to give blood,  I struggled with eating healthy on a budget.   I talked about the international extreme poverty line of US $1.25 per day, the cost of poverty in Canada and the emotional and physical struggles poverty can cause.  I was hit emotionally by a few comments about how my $21.40 is too much and reacted accordingly, changing my tactic for the month.  I wrote about a different ways of looking at poverty – the Ontario Deprivation Index, international poverty lines, why defining a strict poverty line isn’t always good.

I examined documenting poverty (photographs and videos) and the debate of whether this is appropriate (with a great comment from Nikki about taking photos from someone who works with communities who are poor), sugar daddies, earning extra income, choosing to live in poverty/with no money,  ways to eat and live for free, living with debt.  I shared some personal stories, here and here, from people living in poverty. I revisited extreme couponing and talked about poverty in war times and poverty and obesity.  I tried to learn a lot and share different perspectives.

What did I learn?

How do you really simulate life at the poverty line, when you know all along that it will end in a month?  You can’t.  This month has no more taught me what it’s really like to be poor as it has made poverty enjoyable.  It has, however, given me a glimpse into a world where money is a constant stress and worry and where food and emergencies are the only necessities you can spend on in order to keep yourself afloat (and even then, you’re likely to continue the downward spiral).

I also learned to spend only what I need to, to look at the cost of things, and the live on a strict budget – all skills that are really important.  I learned to be more humble and put myself in other people’s shoes.  I learned to look outside of my world to see what I say comes across to other people.  I learned that poverty can affect physical health, but also mental health, which causes a downward spiral.  Being poor takes a toll on you as a person, and it’s extremely hard once you’re in it to get out of it.

Where do I go from here with Life at the Poverty Line?

I am donating a chunk of the money I worked for, but didn’t use this month to local shelters and food banks.  Any help to get people off the streets and well fed is important.  And I would like to give locally to support my community.  I will let you know once I have done a little more research into which charities I’ll be giving to.

I will also be more frugal.  I understand the value of money a bit more and how to stretch each dollar.  I will continue setting a budget of money I can spend and saving the rest for emergencies or a large expense.

Tomorrow I start A Photograph a Day.  I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do with this topic!

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…

Two hundred and seventy-five

I made it through 30 Holiday Celebrations!

Going from being vegan, to eating a little fish and chicken, to being really sick, to recovering, my body has gone through quite the roller-coaster this month.  Consequently, so has my energy level, my mind and my emotions.  But I made it through in good health and feeling great.  Even during that rough period of not being able to leave my bed, I was still interested in all these different holiday celebrations – even if I couldn’t celebrate them myself.  That was the beauty of this month.  I could honour the holidays around the world by researching, understanding and writing about them.

Recap of the month

I covered many holidays, from international celebrations, to silly ‘marketing’ days, to local parties.  Here are some of my favourites: World Vegan Day; All Souls Day (Catholic); American National Sandwich Day; Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night (England)Eid al-Adha (Muslim); Journalist’s Day (China);  Iqbal Day (Pakistan); Remembrance Day; Chicken Soup for the Soul Day; World Kindness Day; World Diabetes Day; UN International Day of ToleranceStruggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (Czech Republic); Mickey Mouse’s Birthday; International Men’s Day; Mexican Revolution Day; World Hello Day; Start Your Own Country Day; Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day; American Thanksgiving; Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day; International Aura Awareness Day; Movember; Square Dance Day.

What did I learn?

“I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma.”
~Eartha Kitt

There were heaps of interesting things I learned this month.  I feel like a fountain of (sometimes useless) knowledge!  How else would I have known about how to start my own country and the Prince of Sealand putting his principality on the market? That Movember started in Australia?  Or all the complicated rules that go along with Square Dancing? I might not have spoken to the man from Egypt at the Occupy Toronto camp on Bonfire Night.  And I probably would never have celebrated Mickey Mouse’s birthday, or learned about all the different religious and national holidays that other people celebrate both around the world and in different religions here in Canada.

Unlike some of the other months, which had a lot of personal growth or change, this month was more about knowledge and research for me.  I did enjoy celebrating the holidays, but I was more interested in learning about all their details and about what it would be like to celebrate them in the context they are generally celebrated in.

Where do I go from here with Holiday Celebrations?

Hmmm… This is a tricky one.  I’m not sure I’ll really be celebrating every one of these holidays every year.  That would make November pretty busy!  Although I did really appreciate my time visiting my grandfather’s grave for All Souls’ Day, and learning about the weird and wonderful holidays celebrated throughout the world.  But I honestly will not be celebrating Hug A Bear Day or Banana Pudding Lovers Month.

I will go forward from this month with more of a respect and appreciation for other cultures’ celebrations.  Next time I see a random holiday on my calendar, I will spend a few minutes looking up what it is and how it is honoured.

Tomorrow I start Good Deed a Day month.  I’m looking forward to spending time helping people for the month.

Two hundred and forty-five

I made it through vegan month!

I started this month thinking that it would very difficult to get through and that most likely I would jump right back in to eating meat at the end of it (“drooling for that medium rare prime rib” is how I put it).  I knew that it would be annoying to have to look at every label, ask chefs what ingredients are in their cooking, to eat at the Irish pub where I work at.  It turned out not to be that hard.

After the first week of detox headaches and the research figuring out what I can eat and what I need to eat to stay healthy, it wasn’t difficult to stick to the vegan diet.  Sure, there were a few times when I felt like I was missing out (Thanksgiving, pizza at work, birthday cake), but generally I loved being in charge of what I was putting in my body and knowing every ingredient that I was consuming.

There were a few significant physical and emotional changes that happened to me this month.  I’ve lost weight, although I don’t have a scale, so will have to check the exact number when I go visit my folks this week.  I’ve been told my skin is radiant and glowing now.  Because of all the fiber, my “number two”s are great (I know, gross, but worth mentioning).  My period symptoms have been less – less pain, bloating.  My mood has mellowed out – I tend to be happier and can deal with upsets better.

I rarely have a craving for something unhealthy.  My need to eat dairy is non-existent and my desire to eat meat is very minimal.  I eat smaller portions.  I feel healthy and therefore, unlike every other month, I wasn’t counting down the days until the month was over.  I loved this month for what it taught me and how it changed me.

Recap of the month

Each day I tried to touch on a different topic about veganism and what that meant to me.  If you want to check back on a certain area, here are some of the big ideas I covered: history of veganism; detoxing (here and here); vegan recipes (here and here); the honey debatequinoareasons to become vegan; interviews with vegans (Amy and Sheri); small town veganism; beer, wine and spirits – are they vegan?; makeup and skin care (and here); celebrity vegans; animal rights; freeganism; vegan travel; vegan clothing; raw foodism; Skinny Bitch and other vegan books; is vegan right for everyone?.

What did I learn?

One of the reasons I loved this month is there was so much to write about.  I though I’d have a hard time thinking of an interesting blog post every day, but there was so much information I could easily do more research and write another month’s worth of posts.  The amount of facts, statistics, reports, blogs, websites, and interviews that I read this month is huge.  Everything I looked at had new information that changed the way I look at food (and beauty-care products), what I consume, and what kind of food is generally available at the local grocery store.  Some of it shocked and appalled me.  Some of it made me happy and inspired me.

I learned that eating healthy affects not only your physical body, but also your energy, mood, and emotions.

Where do I go from here with veganism?

I’m not that good at doing anything”black and white” – I’m a shades of grey kind of girl.  I believe there are exceptions to every rule.  I will definitely be taking what I learned this month and applying it to my eating habits.  I will eat more raw foods, have vegan meals, read labels for ingredients, choose organic produce, and generally be aware of what I’m putting in my body.  I will not be eating any dairy.

I won’t be as strict, though.  If there is chicken stock in something at a restaurant, I won’t make a fuss.  I will have the occasional egg and meat, as long as I know exactly where it is coming from – free range, local, organic, etc.  I will probably still wear leather and keep my warm wool socks.  If I’m at my nana’s house, I will eat what she cooked for me.

I recently became aware of ther term “flexitarian“.  This is someone who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meats.  I’m not much of a label person, but I suppose that is a good way of describing what I believe my diet has transformed into.

Tomorrow I start 30 Holiday Celebrations, starting with World Vegan Day!