Setting (and kicking) Goals

This past week I read a great book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project. It’s a fun little read about how focusing on small changes in your daily life can bring you more fulfillment.

The book allowed me to indulge in a little self-examination, and I rediscovered that I am quite a happy person. In fact, when the Pixar movie Inside Out was first released, my colleagues at the time came to the quick conclusion that in my brain, Joy would be the one calling the shots. This was humbling and lovely to hear – that not only am I a joyful person on the inside, but it radiates to those around me.

While I would love to dedicate myself to my own Happiness Project, with my due date only 11 days away it looms a little too large for me. Instead I thought up a list of some great goals I’d like to set for myself in both the long and short term.

There will be others, but I think these are a great start for me going forward. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I’m most looking forward to postpartum is the opportunity to reclaim my default setting as a highly goal-oriented woman.

In no particular order, here are some of my focuses for the near and distant future.

  •  Continue flossing daily – This may sound like a small thing, but I’ve been flossing everyday since my last dental appointment in January. I’ve NEVER been able to maintain this habit for more than a week or so, and it feels great to have finally mastered it. Here’s hoping I can keep it up!
  • Exercise six days per week – I understand the importance of a rest day, so six days a week seems more manageable than seven. I accept that postpartum this will be very gentle to start, but eventually I can’t wait to get back into running and Pilates, and I’m even obsessed by the idea of taking up climbing.
  • Keep a food log/cut down the sweets to once a day – Pregnancy has amped up my sweet tooth to a whole new level. I’d rather indulge in something small once a day than keep up the bottomless pit type sugar habit I’ve got going now. I’m not pressuring myself to achieve this goal too quickly, but I know keeping a food log will help.
  • Teach Pilates regularly – Even if it’s just filling in at a studio once a month, I want to get to a point where I’m teaching often, not just sporadically like I am now.
  • Donate blood – I’ll have to wait the standard 9 months after giving birth, but this is my favorite charitable activity. I am a blood type that is in high demand and I would like to become a regular donor, rather than waiting for them to call me when there is a shortage.
  • Run a 10km, half-marathon and marathon again – These fall in the longterm category for sure. I used to love racing before I was knocked back with injury in early 2015. I’m going to take it incredibly slow after giving birth, but in the next couple of years I want to become a regular racer again. Half-marathon is my favorite distance, but I’d like to challenge myself to do another full (though hopefully on a course that’s less hilly this time).
  • Monthly purge of clutter – This won’t be hard as I absolutely LOVE purging our house of clutter. Making it a monthly activity will give me a great buzz and keep our home feeling tranquil.
  • Read for pleasure everyday – I do this anyway for the most part, but with a baby on the way I know it will be a challenge to prioritize “me time.”
  • Take on a sports trainer role for a local sports club – As a physiotherapy student it’s crucial I start getting some real world experience. I’m not putting a deadline on this, especially as I adjust to motherhood, but I want to keep it front of mind as a goal to achieve sometime in the next year.
  • Meditate weekly – I have tried and failed many times to adopt meditation as a regular practice. I do like it and recognize the benefits, but it is hard for me to commit. By making it a weekly rather than daily activity, I hope it’ll be an easier habit to keep.
  • Listen to music everyday – I tried and failed to listen to an album a day for a month last year. It was a great goal, and I would like to continue devoting time to entire albums rather than just songs or playlists, but a good start is just making music a part of my daily routine, whether as an activity on its own, or while cooking or working out. It makes me so happy and in our current world, which is so saturated in stimulation, something as simple as listening to music can get lost in all of our other distractions. When I was a teenager I had music playing in my room at all times. I miss that!

General immeasurable goals I’d like to keep in mind include – maintaining a positive attitude, avoiding complaining, gossip and nagging, keeping up with friends and family, making time for creativity such as writing and knitting and minimizing the time I spend on social media. I want to focus on being present in my own life.

I’m sure there are more goals I’ll be adding to this list, but for now I’m excited to have something concrete and in writing to keep me accountable moving forward.

If you’ve got some goals you’re working on I’d love to hear about them!


Silence Broken

Hello blogosphere!

After a very, very, VERY long hiatus, I’ve decided to come back to 13 Hours Later and re-vamp it a bit for the next stage of my life.

Since my last post in May of 2013, (yikes, 4 years ago!) quite a bit has happened to me. Here are some of the major highlights and updates:

August 2013 – I ran my first marathon with my mom by my side.

First Marathon
City to Surf Marathon 2013

May 2014 – I changed careers from journalism (thanks to redundancy) to travel, where I have remained until I began my maternity leave this week.

August 2014 – My youngest sister Nora came to live with us for 4 months and many MANY fun times were had. We still talk all the time about how much we miss having her around.

October 2014 – I got married to the love of my life and the man who brought me to his homeland of Australia.

Matt and Emma's Wedding
October 2014 Wedding

November 2016 – Nora and I went to New Zealand’s south island for a week long vacation through an Aussie youth travel company called Topdeck. We had unforgettable adventures, met cool people, and even got to bungy jump for what I can only assume will be just the first time.

New Zealand Trip
New Zealand 2014 with Nora

February 2015 – Our mini-honeymoon in Phuket

Thailand 2015
Phi Phi Island 2015

May 2015 – Matt and I bought our first house.

September 2015 – I went on a work trip to Mauritius. The fact that it counted as “work” still baffles me, it was an amazing trip!


February 2016 – I went back to school (I am studying Physiotherapy – the Aussie equivalent to Physical Therapy).

March 2016 – I celebrated my 30th birthday with an awesome murder mystery party with my closest friends. It was easily the most fun I’ve had at my own birthday since I was a child.

April 2016 – My family lost my beloved maternal Grandmother, a major influence and primary cheerleader in my life.

Grandma and Me
Grandma and me at my high school graduation

July 2016 – Dad and I went on a trip to Alberta, Canada where we mostly hiked and ate amazing meals. With motherhood approaching I’m so glad we took the opportunity to do something like that while we still could.

Dad in Banff

September 2016 – Found out I was pregnant with my first child.

36 weeks
36+ weeks (taken in April 2017)

October 2016 – I completed my STOTT Pilates certification and am now qualified to teach matwork. (Will hopefully add Barre and Reformer Instruction to my repertoire in the coming year once bub is born.)

Matwork Course
Now qualified to teach Pilates

With my son’s birth now only 2 or so weeks away (you never know for sure), I’ve been contemplating how to best capture his life in a lasting and meaningful way that both he and I can look back on in the years to come. Originally I’d considered keeping a journal, but being one of many slaves to the Marie Kondo revolution, I am loathe to add physical clutter to my life at this point in time.

I’ve also been obsessed by goal-setting since around the start of my second trimester. I can’t wait for everything I’ll be able to theoretically do again when I “get my body back.” While my expectations are glaringly unrealistic, I can’t help but crave accountability as reclaim my cherished athleticism.

So the new plan is to use this blog as part “adventures in motherhood,” part “finding myself postpartum.” I am prepared to expect the unexpected, and I can’t wait to lay out my plans over the next few days. Stay tuned!

The Kindness of Strangers

Today I witnessed something extraordinary.

As I stood idly waiting for the Red Cat bus on Outram Street in West Perth, I watched a man attempt to turn his car around in the middle of the road. It was quiet. I’d left work early for Matt’s birthday tea, and at three in the afternoon, there was hardly a soul about.

The elderly man seem to struggle under the pressure, with cars creeping up slowly from either direction. I saw it seconds before it happened.

As he accelerated backward into an innocently parked car, the collective drop of jaws on impact was almost palpable. I made a mental note of the license plate number as he clumsily pulled over to the side of the road.

The owner of the struck vehicle came ambling out of the physio clinic across the street. He stared straight at me and mouthed and pointed. With a curt nod and tight lips I indicated that it was indeed the old man who had hit his car.

Rather than lose his cool, this victim approached the culprit with an even temper. He opened the driver’s side door and said, “Mate, are you all right?”

The tense feeling lingered in the air, but the gentleman remained calm, and helped the older man to his feet. As the Cat approached to carry me on my way, I missed what followed.

I found the gesture very touching, and sympathized with both parties. What stayed with me the whole way home was the sense of prophesy. I had seen what was about to happen. The bizarre occurrence left me simultaneously queasy, and grateful for the overwhelming kindness of strangers.

The Road to Marathon

A few weeks ago, I made the big decision to pursue Perth’s City to Surf marathon as my fitness goal of the year.  I quit soccer and other sporting commitments so this can have my total focus.  I’ve been in pre-training for the last few weeks, and I’ll be starting the official Hal Higdon novice program in a couple more.

What I have learned so far is that running a marathon isn’t a decision you make just once; it’s one you make again and again.  You have to recommit every time you set your alarm for 5:15am and again when that buzzer goes off and you’re tired and all you want to do is sleep.  When you wake up ten minutes early, you start to bargain with yourself, trying to rationalize an excuse to put off the run until evening.  You have to strategically set out your clothes the night before, and charge your ipod.

This week, I am also starting to add some light cross and strength training to focus on my weaker muscles.  Even the specific rest days are all part of the bigger picture.  I think about this goal all the time and what more (or less) I could be doing to help myself achieve it.

This past weekend I ran a free 5k race in East Perth.  The Claisebrook Cove parkrun takes place every Saturday morning at 8 with the help of very enthusiastic volunteers.  Some of my friends have been doing it for weeks now, but this was my first one.

The last bend before the uphill finish. Dying of heat!
The last bend before the uphill finish. Dying of heat!

I’ve been reading books about running to pump myself up and learn what I need to know.  For now I’m taking a break from that and letting my body be my guide.  I’ve also got a training schedule and motivational post-its taped to the wall next to our bed.  Matt is being incredibly supportive.

Last Sunday was my 27th birthday.  I got up early in the morning to go down to the beach to support my good friend Thuy in her first triathlon.  I am so proud of how she did.  Teri and I took heaps of photos to capture the moment for our tri friends.

Post race photo with our little champ!
Post race photo with our little champ!

I’m keen to start doing triathlons in the next few years, but this year is all about the marathon.  I don’t even own a bicycle…yet.

Today I got new running shoes and they are gorgeous and I am bursting with excitement.  Maria is coming over later to help me break them in through a nice social walk.  I also looked at bikes and am in love with a purple beauty.  Need to save a few pennies before I can go back for her.  Sigh.

New Year, New Goals

Hello 2013!

I know it’s been ages since I last graced the internet with my thoughts and opinions (though perhaps only to the sound of crickets), but now I’m back with a new set of goals and hopefully a better outlook on life.

It’s a big year for Matt and I as we are now ENGAGED!  We have so much to plan and so much to save this year, that I’ve decided my focuses for 2013 are saving heaps and (not-so-surprisingly) devoting myself to fitness.

Exercise is basically my obsession, so that shouldn’t be too hard, but saving is a huge struggle for me.  Matt is trying to help me get started since he is an excellent saver.  I have condensed my two thoughts into easy sentences, which I will be posting to the bathroom mirror:

Sweat Once a Day                  Only If It’s Free

Lululemon, which is one of my favorite companies, encourages people to “sweat once a day” and I am adopting this as my mantra.  Even on recovery days, I will try to go for walks or do yoga or pilates, just to keep up with a new routine of fitness everyday, no excuses.

Only if it’s free applies to time I spend with my friends.  Apart from the occasional event requiring me to dole out a bit of cash, I’m trying to keep my catch-ups to taking walks, going for runs, having tea at home or other general activities where I can spend time with loved ones without breaking the bank.

I encourage others to join me in “Sweat Once a Day” and see how long it takes you to feel better and have more energy in your daily life.  #sweatonceaday for those on Twitter.  Let’s see how this goes…

Luck Be (with) a Lady

Sadly I forgot the handy little cord that links my camera to my computer, so no trip photos until I reach my parents’ home in 2 days.  I pray my sisters will have something I can use to bring my images to the public.

There are so many things I could say about our trip so far.  Matt has already written a couple of great posts using images from his iphone camera.  But I don’t want to go into much detail without the photos to illustrate, so I will just touch on one small aspect.

As an avid globetrotter, I have had the chance to see so many amazing places.  Cathedrals, monuments, memorials, my repertoire is chock full of ’em.  But what often gets me most excited are art museums and exhibits.

I prefer to explore art exhibits alone if I’m being honest.  I enjoy taking it at my own leisurely pace and soaking up everything around me.  I wouldn’t say I am any kind of connoisseur, but I certainly know what I like.

Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

Matt and I were lucky enough to see Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective the other day in D.C.  I have seen some of his work here and there in various locations, but this was as comprehensive a collection as I have never seen before.  I was so impressed by the work and by the sheer number of pieces they had collected.  I found this poster on a site advertising the exhibit at the Tate in London.  Evidently that will be its next stop.  How wonderful to see such amazing American art for free! National Gallery of Art

The last time I visited the National Gallery, I just happened to see an Henri Rousseau exhibit.  It was completely brilliant, and also included an impressive amount of his work.  To be able to see these sorts of things for free is such a gift. Henri Rousseau: The Complete Works

My best memory of happening upon a wonderful exhibit was on my birthday in 2009.  This was days after I’d first met Matt, and my friend and I were stopping in Milan for one day before returning to France.  We’d been on a two week holiday, and were tired, cold and anxious about our overnight train to Dijon.

I noticed, in the main square, posters announcing a Rene Magritte exhibit nearby.  In the National Gallery I caught one of his paintings out of the corner of my eye and dragged Matt over to see it.  Most museums showing modern or surrealist art have at least one Magritte.  I get to see them here and there all over the world.  To come across an entire exhibit of his (my favorite painter) on my birthday was incredible!

I wandered around at my leisure, Courtney opting not to come along.  It was breathtaking.  I never wanted to leave.  Good art is something to be savored, and though you can find it on the internet, nothing beats seeing it in person.

My recommendation to the unseasoned traveler is to keep your eyes open for cool exhibits.  There are some fantastic FREE museums around the world, and it’s always a shame to miss great art when it’s right at our fingertips (figuratively, of course).  Even pricey exhibits are almost always worth it.  I have paid willingly to see Magritte, Van Gogh, Juan Gris, Picasso, Alphonse Mucha and many others.  See what you’re lucky enough to come across in a foreign city and check it out!

5 Ways You Only Think You’re Being Healthy

5 ways is meant to be a way to convey helpful advice to my friends and anyone else who happens upon this blog. Mostly my aim is to make this a positive endeavor, though every once in a while, I need to crack skulls. It’s time to cut the crap and get down to the truth about ways people only think they’re being healthy.

1. The Diet Product Dilemma: This is one most of us seem to know, so how is it that there are still so many companies peddling these products to a suspecting public? I won’t go into the fact that these food items are loaded with chemicals and other nasties, because EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS THAT. Seriously, if you are really that concerned about something being low-fat, then just skip it entirely. That’s the obvious way to avoid the fat.  (And by the way, low-fat often means higher sugar content. How else is it still meant to actually “taste good?”) Rather than loading the pantry with sweeteners, low-fat cookies and other diet food traps, keep a bag of Reeses cups in the fridge and just have one as a small indulgence when you need a sugar hit. Sounds crazy, but it works!

2. Milk Myths: Okay people, let’s rap. According to my boss, who has been working in cafés his entire life (yes, literally), drinking a full-cream milk coffee everyday versus a skim coffee everyday only means you could gain 1-2kg in a year. A YEAR. Not a week, not a month, but a YEAR. I understand that we all get bloated tummies from time to time and I happen to be a skim drinker myself under normal circumstances. But when it comes to my coffee I indulge because it tastes amazing.

Now I’m not saying switch back to full-cream milk. There are benefits and drawbacks no matter your preference.  My beef isn’t really with skim milk anyway (unless you call it “skinny” in which case my eyes are shooting lasers at you now), my real issue is with soy.

People seem to think that soy milk is the “healthiest.” Did you know that soy milk has about the same amount of fat as full-cream milk? In fact its general nutritional facts are almost interchangeable from normal whole milk. At the café we only run out of soy milk every once in a while, but when we do, it’s shocking to see that only 10% or so of people out there ordering soy actually need it for dietary reasons. Most people will sigh and get their 60-cent-less-expensive normal coffee on these occasions.

*Sidenote: If you’re drinking soy with a chai latte, then bravo. It’s the best taste combination ever, so I applaud you. But chai lattes are never the healthiest option regardless of milk choice. (Who really cares? SCLs are delicious.)*

Milk is tricky and affects everyone’s bodies differently. I am not trying to promote one thing over another. If you are trying to make the healthiest choice for yourself then ask your doctor to make the call. Otherwise go with what tastes good.  Remember there is no one milk “to rule them all.” It all depends on your own nutritional needs. In cases where the ultimate goal is weight loss, probably go with skim. (But never “skinny,” remember lasers.)

3. Gluten-Free is Not For Me: Let me ask you something; do you have a gluten allergy? No? Cool, then eat bread like a normal person. I have served entire tables of 10+ people where everyone present ordered gluten-free toast as their breakfast. Maybe it was a Coeliac support group, but I’ve seen this pretty often, so I’m guessing these people were mistakenly thinking that being Gluten-Free is some sort of diet.  Actually it’s a way for people to keep from DYING. I’ve had many a patron lecture me on the severity of this affliction, and I’m happy they have. I take this issue very seriously and so should everyone. (There are varying degrees of gluten allergies of course, but all are a significant lifestyle change for the person affected.)

So before you reach for the gluten-free muffin, remember that gluten-free does not mean carb-free.

4. Everyday I’m Shuffling: This is one piece of advice I find really hard to follow.  Exercising 7 days a week is a no-no. Even professional athletes will include some level of rest and recuperation into their regimen. It’s important to give yourself days of rest or at least of low-level activity. Maybe alternate between cardio and strength days to allow every part of your body to regain its energies at some point during the week. Add some yoga or mediation to your routine, allowing for a mind and body experience to relax or to regain your focus.

Marathoners especially praise the benefits of the rest days. When training for something so physically demanding, overdoing it will lead either to illness or injuries.  In my case it’s usually injuries. Respect your body and give it a break.

5. Let Off Steam: This one is deceptive. Everyone needs to release stress and anxiety in order to function. I am extremely guilty when it comes to venting when I’m frustrated.  While a little bit may be necessary, too much sends out negative energy into your atmosphere, infecting the people around you. Focusing on the negative thoughts and feelings isn’t good for your mental and emotional health. Don’t walk around with a storm cloud above your head, get it out swiftly and be done with it. (Journaling and exercise can also be great ways to force out pent-up frustration.)

The rule I’d like to start living by is to share my anger with one or two other people and then let it go. It’s important not to whine to everyone you know about the same problem. This makes you seem negative, and it makes people less inclined to spend time with you. Be the kind of person who infects others with positive energy!

That concludes this edition of 5 ways. I hope I’ve ended on a positive note. I don’t mean to be critical or even hypocritical. I know there are many ways in which I fail to live healthy. It’s important to identify the ways we’re struggling and to work to get past them. Remember it’s almost time for those New Years resolutions. Aim high and like Bupa says: “Find a healthier you!”

Final note: It’s not a skinny cap when you’re adding four sugars. Okay it’s finally off my chest, I promise!