New Fitness and Pushing the Comfort Zone

I do not remember learning what “comfort zone” means. It has been a part of my generation’s upbringing, and a phrase that was naturally ingratiated into our vocabulary at young ages. Rather than being a one-trick toddlers and teen, I have always been pushed to get out of that zone of complacency and comfort.

As an adult, I had to realize what my comfort zone actually was. Though I was taught to always push myself and try new things, I was also keen to accept praise whenever the endeavour was successful and even more eager to avoid complete failure. I am 25 years old, and I realized that I generally reject what I am not good at. My comfort zone is built on feeling accomplished, and failure is perhaps the most scary thing to me.

This mind set has been detrimental to my fitness. I realize that now. I have avoided gym memberships and classes, marathon training, going solo to a yoga studio, etc. because I do not want to be a failure in front of others. I don’t want to display my physical weakness, the fact I can’t touch my toes, or the way I sweat like a giant man. The thought of it is NOT COMFORTABLE.

Enter Rock Climbing.

I have always been a “finesse” fitness person. I have done yoga, tennis, ballet, and generally avoided the high impact sports (especially with teams). I have considered myself weak and incapable of things like rock climbing… even though I have always wanted to try it. My chance came this February, when my husband was invited to go by his school’s departmental secretary (who is the nicest person you will ever meet). I wanted to go and see what it was like, but I was so nervous to be an amateur in a room of experienced climbers. My hands were sweaty from the moment we left our apartment to the moment I stood in front of the wall ready to climb. I was shaking and scared that I had made a mistake. Negative thoughts ran through my head faster than I could process them. Then I started to climb.

I was not very good. I had a hard time positioning my legs on the wall and using my fingers to grip the rocks. I forgot I had muscles anywhere else but my arms, and I awkwardly made it to the top of the wall in about 5 minutes. When I got to the top though, I did not feel like a failure in comparison to others. I felt a high of accomplishment. THIS is what getting out of your comfort zone feels like. It was not a perfect climb, nor was it my ideal way exercise, but getting to the top of that wall was a feeling of triumph. For that moment, I did not care what others thought.

We have continued to go to the same facility to climb nearly every week. I started at the lowest level of climb, and I have managed to go up one level since then. I’m still the worst climber out there, but I can’t get enough of that feeling of pushing myself further. It has also inspired me to try other things that I usually avoid because of the fear that I will not be comfortable (like going solo to a yoga class).

What has pushed you out of your comfort zone as an adult? What piece of your fitness routine drives you the most? What have you learned about yourself through trying new things? These are all questions that I hope to answer POSITIVELY by the end of 2018.


A Young Female PhD Student – My first encounter with “innocent” misogyny

I started my Ph.D. in the Humanities in the Fall of 2015. Riding out the energy from finishing my Master’s degree the previous term, I was ready to begin the long winded process of receiving the title of “doctor”.

Every Ph.D. student in my program receives a Teaching Assistantship (TAship). The TA’s assist in grading and examinations for full time courses, and they are also given designated tutorials to help students learn how to work with the material in their given class. Being a TA was a dream come true – I love grading and it was like an apprenticeship before I actually got to direct my own course one day.

Every year there are workshops at the beginning of the year for new TA’s to attend in order to learn the ins and outs of the classroom. During the first session (which had about 60 other keen Ph.D. students from several different departments), I was approached by an administrator. He was tall and thin with white hair and glasses. He asked for a private conversation, and then began whispering to me at a level where the rest of my peers in the immediate area could hear exactly what he said: “You are so young. Students tend to not respect younger women, so are you prepared to deal with the consequences of that?” My jaw dropped. My beet red face was throbbing with anxiety and anger. I was singled out. I was not scared of his warning, but more concerned with the reason why he would feel he needed to approach me before I had even entered a classroom.

When this administrator approached me, he set a very dangerous equation before me: (age)+(gender)+(authority) = disrespect from students. What was left unsaid? This could possibly lead to an ineffective classroom model for both me and my students. This is a bold assumption. This is “innocent” misogyny that seems to come from a place of care… but it doesn’t.

Fast forward to today.

My first year as a TA in the classroom wasn’t easy; the second year was better; and this year is the best so far. I teach full courses in the summer as an adjunct professor at another university. And you know what? I have never been disrespected by a student. My students are awesome. I have excellent attendance from my students. I have excellent evaluations. I feel good about my overall experience.

Further, I have witnessed that students who are held accountable to a mutual respectful relationship rise to that task. I am sure there are the outliers and that some professors (both women and men) have been disrespected in more ways than one in the classroom; however, it seems toxic to expect disrespect before class even starts.

That first conversation with the male administrator illuminated a problem that continues to be confirmed for me: male authority figures at my university judge me by my age and gender and not on my merit. While I may be expected to succeed, it is not surprising if I fail. I have been belittled by that one administrator, my program director (indirect), and the first professor who I worked for (who thought I was too young and unexperienced, and therefore useless. Might I point out that he read his lecture straight from the powerpoint….).

I am not really sure how to end this post. I think this ugly symptom of graduate school is problematic, but definitely not the end-all-be-all of my career or the very capable women around me. I am disappointed every time I have faced a male authority figure who sees my age and gender as a liability, but part of me just loves proving them wrong.

Let’s go ladies.

*PS: I also should add that the university that I teach at in the summer is amazing and gives me hope for equitable relationships in the academic workplace.

Fall Must Haves and Must Do’s

Is there anyone who can resist the warm and cozy calling of the Autumnal season? The world becomes a sea of burnt orange and crimson hues, over run with pumpkin spice, and covered in flannel.

I love fall because it always makes me feel extra productive. I start school, I do a lot of cleaning, I go on fall themed excursions, and I always have a great “changing of the wardrobe” (when I switch my closet over to a more winter based system).

This post is acting like a fall shopping list, bucket list, and also fall favorites that I personally never shut up about between September and November. Let’s go.

1. Mules


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These are the fall version of your favorite summer slides. There are so many styles to choose from and also a variety of price range for these trendy shoes – however, since they are a trend I like to find the best bang for my buck. I found a few different styles of mules for under $30 at Urban Planet. I can’t wait to style the black leather pair with some denim and a classy top. Find them here.

2. Davids Tea

David’s has one of the best tea selections for seasonal blends. Their fall selection is slowly being released and I was so excited to see an old favorite: Blueberry Muffin. Don’t knock it til you try it, and keep your eyes peeled for their pumpkin teas because they are equally delicious. My tea trick: mix and match blends!

3. Dad hats

While I love a good wide brimmed hat for fall and winter, I love the dad hats of summer. Why can’t they be a fall item too? Some of my favourite hat shops are on Etsy, and they have some many quirky and fun designs that I just can’t say no to. I currently have my eye on this little number from 999spyglass:

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I also love the patch trend that’s happening right now and I found some patched hats that are super cute from WildFlower and Co on Etsy. Look at how many options there are!

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4. Pumpkin Pancakes

One of the best parts of fall is trying new recipes. I’ve been scouring pinterest for yummy breakfast ideas and I came across this masterpiece: APPLE PIE PANCAKES WITH VANILLA SYRUP 

Averie Cooks is the genius behind these, and I have a feeling I’ll be thanking her for blessing me with this glorious combination of flavours.

I can’t wait for the first crisp morning of fall and to treat myself with these delicious looking pancakes.

5. Fall Wreath

Is there anything more welcoming than a wreath with a pumpkin on it? I think not. I’ve never made a wreath before, but I’m looking forward to trying it out and personalizing it to my own taste. Here are my inspiration pieces so far.


6. Vegan Stew (the perfect fall recipe)

Last year I discovered the “Oh She Glows” blog and cookbook. While I am not vegan nor vegetarian, I love trying new recipes and adding more vegetables into my diet. My husband and I fell HARD for this Stew the first time we tried it. First off, it incorporates sweet potatoes and squash (the perfect fall ingredients); then it is combined with a  cozy blend of spices; and finally it is topped off with red lentils to make you feel nice and full. We eat this recipe without the rice and we add a little bit of lime to it for a punch of citrus.

All of Angela’s (the woman behind the blog) recipes are easy to work with, even if you are not vegan. I often sub the vegan oils for ones that I already have and tweak wherever is necessary so I can use what I already have on hand. In any case, I have never tried a recipe from Oh She Glows with the result of disappointment. So far they have all been tasty and delicious!

7. Dark Lips

They day is coming when the dark lip can be an every day lip. I’m mainly looking forward to wearing a plummy lipstick because of Veronica Lodge from Riverdale. If you haven’t watched Riverdale, you are missing out. It’s a cool blend of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars with a little dash of Cole Sprouse.

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Anyways, Veronica’s bold lip is simply inspirational. Since the show is sponsored by Covergirl, it was very easy for viewers to guess Veronica’s go-to colour: Marroon Meow by Katy Perry for Covergirl. Once I found the shade, I bought it within 24 hours. Now, I can’t wait to channel my inner River Vixen.

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8. Apple picking

Something that I have NEVER done in the fall is go to a legit orchard. While I like apples, it has always been more of a tradition for me to go to a pumpkin patch. Then I saw Carly’s post from last fall and I have made a solemn vow to forget the pumpkins and finally make my way to the orchard for a fun fall day.

Grad School Chapter One: Preparing

grad school I have recently been accepted into graduate school and wanted to  map out what it took to get me to where I am now. I have been a good student for most of my time throughout college (freshman year was rough, but the next three years provided enough recovery time), and I had great professors that were available to advise me in the right directions. However, I wanted to write my own short blog (in “chapters” or installments) that show the steps that I took, where I went right, where I went wrong, ect. So this first post is about preparation. I spent a long time prepping for grad school but most of that prep time was mainly going into my worry fuel tank and aimlessly surfing the web for programs that suited my dreams. So like I said, here are tips that include what I did and didn’t do during this prep time: 1. Study: its amazing how time flies during the year before applying to grad school and there is a sneaky little thing called the GRE that is required for most schools in America (since my school is in Canada, it didn’t require it BUT all my other schools to which I applied did need scores.. and really high scores). I bought a GRE study kit that had a nice set of vocab flash cards and two study books for the math and english sections. I studied about four hours a week, which was actually tougher than what I thought. I should have studied more but I was also working at the same time (three different jobs!) so four hours was the max I could handle. I will post a more detailed section about the GRE soon! 2. Talk to your profs: My professors were very helpful with assisting my navigation on the road to grad school. They suggested several schools and also gave me tips on how to look up schools. Talk to your profs! They have been through the whole process and everyone’s story is different. The amount of experience that each of them have was gained in different ways and every single bit of advice was helpful whether it was applicable to my course of study or not. 3. Visit: I was unable to visit any schools. I wish it would have been possible because (to me) the atmosphere of a campus is what helped me to decide which undergraduate school that I should attend. Most of my schools were 12-18 hours away from where I lived so visitation was out. If I could go back and do it again, I would do whatever possible to visit schools AND meet professors at the other schools. 4. Friends and Peers: At the time of my application submission, it was just me and my future husband against the world. My program at my undergrad was passively competitive; which means that I did not want any of my peers to judge me based on what I was submitting. Now, I wish I had just woman-ed up and asked them to review my personal statement and my academic paper. Don’t get me wrong, I had my super smart husband look over them (and I his) as well as a professor, but peer editing can be such a great tool and I hope that it is something others can utilize. I believe it would make the process feel like a team endeavor and less lonely. 5. Keep an agenda: I love my planner and it was my holy grail during the application process. Nearly every application needed a different log in/ password combo, had different dead lines, needed different documents, and different payment amounts. I made a chart in my planner (at the very front) that let me see all the information from each and every school. Then I wrote down everything on the specific days within my planner and put in reminders a week beforehand too so I wasn’t caught off guard by any deadlines. Whether you do it in a paper planner or in your iPhone, it will be necessary.

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This is my little chart, I know its fuzzy. But it was super helpful!

6. Have Realistic Dreams: I feel like most people would call this an oxymoron; but I will go ahead and use the phrase anyway. I think having a realistic dream is the absolute best way to think about grad school. After you do your research and pick schools, its best to think about paying for the schools, being accepted, and being rejected. I almost did not apply to my back up school because I was told that I was a “shoo in” for another program. Guess what, I was rejected from every school besides by back up. My back up is a great program, but I was dreaming of being in the absolute best program possible and wanted to ignore the acceptance ratio. It is best to choose back up schools and to want them. And it is best to go for the best programs possible. That’s it for now. More to come soon 🙂

Valentines Day: Love, Surprises, and Gossip Girl

I absolutely LOVE valentines day, and I was raised to love it.

I was taught by this special lady (My grandmother, aka: Momo) why February 14th is not a day to throw a pity party, but to celebrate all the different types of Love. In fact, one of my favorite gifts ever was from her.

My wonderful Momo who loved Valentines Day!

My wonderful Momo who loved Valentines Day!

She lived thousands of miles away from me at one point in time, and she sent me a special Valentines Day card. When I opened the card (which was already super special since it was like getting my own mail at 7 years old), there was tons and tons of gold and pink glitter in it that cascaded out onto the pristine white carpet in my parents’ bedroom. Little sparkly hearts were everywhere and my poor mother spent probably a good 3 months trying to vacuum up the glitzy aftermath. But I was absolutely thrilled with the perfect shimmery mess (especially since my first grade crush had not given me a lick of attention on that celebrated day of love).This card was wonderfully unexpected and everything I loved in life: sparkles and surprises.

So yes, I am saying that my first real Valentine was my grandmother. She celebrated loving me, and I was so very thankful for it. Valentines Day can be as simple as this: being thankful for the loved ones in your life. Once she came to live with us, she always celebrated my sister and I on Valentines Day. She always reminded us on how much love we had in our lives without “special friends” (which is the title she even gave to my current husband until we got married.. )

Recently, my Momo passed away. I have been so upset about the approaching Valentine’s Day because I miss her and it makes me sad that she is not here to celebrate. But my husband and I have been reminiscing on the happy memories we have with our grandmothers to put a positive spin on things. So I wanted to write my Valentine’s Day activities that I am SO excited about and share the simple wisdom of celebrating Valentine’s day that Momo passed on to me. I really am so happy to share this outlook with people, and please, do not discredit what I say because I am married. I have definitely found the love of my life, but I have so much more love in my life given to me by family and friends and so much love to share! Here are some ways that I am celebrating ALL the love in my life and I hope it helps you to celebrate too.

One thing that I have latched onto when concerning Valentine’s Day is  the wonderful celebration developed by the one and only Leslie Knope. For all you Parks and Recreation fans, you already know where I am going with this: Galentines Day.

I mean, how genius is this! Celebrating the girls in your life that you care about. I love this because it focuses on the love found in friendship. It is a love that SHOULD be celebrated often, and especially on Valentines Day!

Below is my Galentine’s Day gift for my friends!It’s currently a blizzard in the valley, so I made a simple dessert (Rice Krispy Treats!) this year and I love the color! I have such a gimpy camera though. So imagine they look 12 times more awesome and delectable.

Photo on 2014-02-12 at 19.56 #2(I licked the spatula, and know for a fact that this picture does not give justice to the pink sugary goodness that is awaiting my best girl friends!)

Secondly, I love my family. For my new family (the in-laws), Jared and I are sending a surprise care package!

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It has been so cold here and snowing  like crazy, so we bought a few warm items for our niece and nephew and hot chocolate for his sister and brother in law. How cute are those Hello Kitty slippers!

We just want to spread the love (and the warmth) and let them know that we are thinking about them! I love surprises, so this care package is super fun for me! In addition to that, my family is going out of town for Valentines Day (my mom and dad) and for them I am going to watch their house and leave a few goodies for them too!


My dog is also there, and he is going to get a Valentines Day bath and be rewarded with his favorite food: cheese. I seriously can’t wait.

And of course, I mustn’t forget my husband (but seriously, how could I forget!). He is working ALL weekend and it is SUPER gross outside.  Therefore, I am going to make some great grub, give some great massages, and be the best wife I can be. We have plans to go out and see the Lego movie too, even if we have to wait til he is off from work. We have been looking forward to it, and don’t mind that it is not the way that couple’s usually picture their first Valentine’s Day together. We celebrate love everyday because love is special, and if we cannot fit in a fancy dinner and afford schmancy gifts for one another on Valentine’s day, there will be no harm done to our love. Okay, I will clean up the sap now, just kidding I LOVE HIM SO MUCH!

Anyway, I absolutely love celebrating love. It brings me JOY. It is a beautiful thing, and is more than a day for roses and chocolates. It is a day for friends and family and even pets. I wish everyone a happy day full of love and surprises!

XOXO, Mrs. Silver Linings (<—- this was gossip girl moment is perfect for this post, and I could not pass up the chance to do it at least once.)

P.S. Blair’s and Chuck’s wedding is a great Valentine’s Day episode to watch with your girl-friends. What a moment.