workin’ on my fid-ness

Alright. I’m putting it out there – I hate fat shaming. In India, aunties will flat out ask you how much you weigh or comment on the fact that you’ve gained weight / lost weight and it just isn’t considered impolite. So I’ve always had a very matter-of-fact approach to the subject, for better or worse.

Well, here’s the reality check from me, the year before my wedding I was really good about my fitness i.e. I had a personal trainer and met with her 2-3 times per week.  I wouldn’t quite say I was practising the art of “clean eating” but that’s just because I’ve never really been a bad-eater. I prefer to eat Indian home cooked meals (aka rice/roti, a meat side and one or two veggie sides) and would only eat processed food/fast food socially.  In the three weeks leading up to my wedding I actually paid attention to what my trainer was barking at me re: no sugar and no rice (this is like death for an Asian FYI) and it definitely did make a difference – I’ll admit it! But c’mon people, it is no way to live.

Anyways – I want some scientific genius out there to do a study on this. Every single time in my life where I join a program/change my regular fitness routine for something more intense…and then STOP… I immediately turn to mush and thereafter weigh more than I ever did previously.  The year after my wedding (last year of law school) I think I went to the gym once. Or was it that I thought about going to the gym once… not sure. Anyways, it was totally abysmal. But, miraculously, it did take the year to unravel my muscle tone from the pre-wedding year…I was happily married and in a who-cares reality…and the slow muscle tone loss and weight gain went unnoticed by various academic stresses that last year. Well the last exam period especially took its toll on me. Mostly because I was writing an AWFUL paper and the only thing that kept me up late into the night clacking away at my keyboard was the promise of Jalapeno & Cheddar Dorito chips.  Yup.  I was a Pavlovian dog.  Yes I would walk to the 24 hour grocery store at awful hours of the night thinking that fresh air and some more Doritos would finish the next few paragraphs before I slept.  I am not proud to admit it but it’s the truth.

I also lived in my sweats for about two months during this period and so never realized my thighs and hips had outgrown my jeans.  By the end of that year, I was 15 pounds heavier than I’d ever been before (insert sad face and a self-slap).  During my articling year, I essentially fluctuated from losing 5 pounds to gaining a further 5 pounds. And now, lucky me, I am 20 pounds heavier than that pre-wedding number. WHAT? And yes that’s between age 24 and 27… totally uncool self, totally uncool.

My articling year weight gain probably has to do with the fact that I (again) barely visited the gym (in my building…no excuses but watch me come up with 100), moved to downtown Toronto and became a self-proclaimed foodie scarfing down all the food the city had to offer, while clinking glasses of wine with my husband and our friends.

So 2014… I have decided it’s gotta change. Again, I’m not eating terribly and still prefer home cooked meals… but sometimes, with this busy lawyer life, it’s hard to always be organized and plan.  I chose a word for the year: BALANCE. In every aspect of my life (i.e. my JOB, my exercise routine, my meal planning, my marriage, my friendship and my faith).

I’ve also realized that I need to stop living like a university student and figure out the habits and routines I’m going to have as an adult-woman… figuring out who I am and what my body likes/dislikes.  And also understand my husband’s digestive preferences too.  My family mocks the way my sister and I approach food at times. Here’s a story: my family makes amazing Indian beef cutlets… as soon as the main cutlet plate is placed on the dinner table, my sister and I immediately take all the cutlets we are going to eat and put them onto our respective plates . One day my BIL exasperatedly asked why the heck we did that… why did we not just take one from the main plate, move it to onto our own plate, eat it and then go for the next one…yanno, like NORMAL people do. I think I had a lightbulb moment… of a childhood growing up with foodies with big appetites…a childhood where I was an athlete (practically) and could eat whatever the heck I wanted and however much I wanted without gaining a single kilo… a childhood where you took what you wanted to eat for your meal, as if you tried to go back for more later, someone would be snickering at you as the prized item would fo-sho be gone.

They say that understanding is the first step for change. I have tried to approach my meals with less “anxious glee” (yes I’ve trademarked this term).  At a party with amazing samosas, my new inner dialogue says: just eat one… you are going to eat SO MANY SAMOSAS over the course of your lifetime so calm your shiz dowwwwn. Just one. Enjoy it!!

To help me on this journey, I’ve also downloaded a few apps (my fitness plan & C25K).  I don’t think that calorie counting is the only way to go, but for someone who loves her to-do lists and the little details, it keeps me accountable and plus, they have pie charts, bar graphs AND linear graphs (so even if the chart just says: wow, you’ve been a total pig this week, i feel like i accomplished something (failure can be an accomplishment, shush it)).  I’ve also really been enjoying C25K…when I first started this new year by self-yelling: “ONE HOUR, FIVE DAYS A WEEK at the gym – NO EXCUSES” (then blowing an imaginary shrill whistle) I found I would come home, get into my pjs, sit my ass down on the couch and watch endless hours of TV until it was just-too-late to go physically exert myself. With the C25K program, they only ask for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Tots doable!

While I eventually want to add 2 days of strength training in there (the one thing I took away from my personal trainer)… I’ve learnt the key to climbing this mountain is gonna be baby steps. One foot, then the other and stop staring at the bloody peak in utter dismay.  Maybe one day my exercise routine will return to my old 1 hour workouts but for now… 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem impossible. Even on those days when I have to work late, I find I can muster up the energy to run at 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. So it works.

Also, I am going to be seeing those Indian aunties this June. So when I feel like crying during those last few minutes of running… I picture their lovely faces smiling down at me and their hands reaching out, thumbs and pointer fingers coming together, squeezing my flabby bits tight… it is so motivating!! :D But this whole communal-living-in-India and how it’s good for ones physical and mental health is a post for another day.

What I really have been trying to say is: Nothing should ever trump your health (and mental sanity) and hopefully that is something I’ll achieve in 2014.

(To all those who have amazing 10 point new year resolution lists, suck it. This is my only resolution. Mainly because I know it’ll make me feel better physically, mentally, fit into jeans again and make me happier when I go shopping and I dream about the day where I am fit enough to eat cake or chips whenever-I-want-to and not think twice about it.)

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church-ing

A and I have been meaning to find a church since we officially made downtown Toronto our permanent address… in May of 2012. Yes, it’s been over a year without having a regular church to visit and it feels odd…  I did a google search of downtown churches and we checked out a few… but came away not quite feeling connected. We found one that we plugged into a little bit, but with A’s unpredictable schedule it soon became obvious that the time required by the church just wouldn’t fit with us. And I didn’t want to plug into the church alone… there’s something about now being a “we” that changes the ‘finding a church’ game.  Sometime in the first few months of Toronto church-hunting, a forgotten gnawing feeling returned inside of me….

I grew up as an expat child and the church of my childhood was really what dreams were made of. I don’t mean that it was perfect or that we all got along all the time… but we were a family, literally. We were all from other countries but living, working or going to school in Alexandria, Egypt. All of our relatives were far, far away. So, we literally were each other’s families. We didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve and then spend Christmas with our families. We went to church on Christmas morning and then spent Christmas with each other.  It built a sort of community that I know I will never ever experience again in a church…

So I walked into the first church and youth group in Toronto with an open heart… ready to accept a new church as it presented itself… but to be honest, I was shocked at what I felt… a popularity contest.

And I wish I could say it was only that church. But almost every church or Christian group I’ve walked into in Toronto has had an obvious “cheerleader” group – a group of girls that everyone knows and that everyone wants to be / or be associated with (i’m strictly speaking from a female perspective) or, as I’ve grown older, the cheerleader group is now more a generic “popular” group… filled with couples and singles who go way back… they may be nice enough to bring you over and ask a few questions, but soon they launch into inside jokes or some funny story… and now and then someone will interrupt to explain a bit of context to you… but then jokes are less funny when you have to do that… so you end up excusing yourself so they can go on with the merriment that you’re obviously impeding. oddly as well, i’ve felt like the odd one out… so many Toronto Christians are attractive, fit, active, very in-the-know of cool music/art or underground stuff, parents who were wealthy / reasonably well-off… and i’ve often felt just not good enough or too different…

Before the recent move to Toronto, I got to be in Kingston for 3 years…We had a small law school Christian group… filled with individuals who were once again far away from home, from family, from comfort zones…. and by God’s grace, a local lawyer opened up his home to us, cooked us a dinner on Wednesday nights and led us in some intense bible studies. Intense in that he was a wealth of knowledge and could spend an hour long study on five words in one verse… after which, you’d leave with a fully belly and mind blown. it was awesome. and something about those dinners made me remember the family-Christian-group-feeling that I had so missed.

and then we moved back to Toronto, and that all familiar church-ing dread returned…. and with that, a significant area of sadness in my life with respect to not having many christian friends, in particular, girlfriends. and couple friends for A and I. it has been a part of my regular prayers… i felt like many christian girlfriends i know already had their groups and their bonds…and once again, i’d be the outsider looking in, hoping someone would invite me to play… or could bear the discomfort of a new person joining their well-established clique. an inconvenience who wasn’t good enough or just didn’t share the same memories, childhood, whatever it is… that makes me feel so different…

all this to say… today there was a glimmer of hope. a new church visited. a small tiny church filled with people our age and with jobs (a post on why that’s important to me to be saved for another day!) and of various shapes, sizes, economical backgrounds, colours… most importantly, people who, despite obviously having friends in the congregation, weaved over to A and I to chat. A and I later mused at how it wasn’t just a ‘hi i’m so and so, welcome to our church’ and small talk. they actually talked to us for a good 15-20 mins at a time, such that an hour went by of us meeting and having solid conversations with people. it made me really happy. i realize this was a first impression and that time may go by and i’ll feel not good enough again or too different… but there was definitely something different. definitely something that gave me a glimmer of hope. that God heard my prayers and is maybe slowly creaking a door open.

ache

i swore up and down that this blog wouldn’t become an adult version of my teenage diary a.k.a. filled with some super-happy entries and mostly super-sad (read: teenage angst) entries. the truth is, i still haven’t figured out what i plan to do with this blog, but one thing’s for sure – i still process pain by writing. and life isn’t just about happiness, so this blog will have some ache-y posts and somehow it’ll all balance out. writing is just my way of processing. and this blog has to be for me before it is for anyone else. 

don’t worry, this post is not about teenage angst.

i walk home from work.

the last leg of my walk home takes me straight through the go bus station in downtown toronto. i walk in the section where the parked go buses sit i.e. it’s dark and there are only a few people around. so, i almost missed him.

a black man, wearing an olive coloured suit, maybe in his mid 30s or early 40s. and, he was disabled. i have no idea how to label various disabilities, so the only way i can describe it is, he had crutches and whatever condition it is that gives you the legs-splayed-out look as you try to walk. well, when i first saw him, he was bent over (one crutch on the ground) and trying *so* hard to pick up a big file folder that he had obviously dropped.

he had just managed to pick it up and then twist his hand around his crutch and also pick it up, when my brain registered that he might need help.  but he didn’t look defeated, he looked determined. he then stuck the file under his armpit and awkwardly, his crutch, too, and took one brave step forward. and then another. and another. slowly.

and my heart just broke.

i could tell that picking up the file had taken a lot of strain, energy, pain… and that with every slow step, he was praying he wouldn’t drop it again. .. i didn’t want to stare, but i also couldn’t peel my eyes away.

It was 9:30 p.m., from the way he was dressed it seemed like he had maybe gone for an interview. Did it go well? Why isn’t wheel trans taking you around? Oh gosh, I hope you get that job. I wanted to run over and tell him to have a seat on a bench and that I’d come back with a zipcar and drive him home. Why, why, why do some people have it oh so hard? It just breaks my heart. i could just imagine the moment he dropped his folder. in the dark, with nobody around. nobody to ask for help and no way to move forward without it. what it must have drained from him mentally and physically. 

i still haven’t gotten the image of him out of my head. i kept turning around to check on him, until i couldn’t see him. he slowly crossed the median… the median took him a good 20 seconds to climb onto and then climb off of. it was 9:30 p.m. nine thirty. and cold. i still have so many questions… but mostly my heart still aches. why is it so difficult for some? and what can i do to help? 

poppies

I frequently think long and hard about how to describe me & him.
We are not a perfect couple.
People often look at us and say that we look so good together and,
I biasedly agree, our individual positive features seem to balance out our individual imperfect features – ha!
But we don’t fit perfectly together.
We aren’t one of those couples that are in sync like a beautiful melody
but we are okay with that.
Because we believe love is a choice and a choice that is damn worth fighting for.
And in those moments we’re not okay with it, we remind ourselves of of this truth.
So how would I describe me & him?
Well, a moment on an empty road between two towns in Provence,
in the south of France,
this summer,
comes to mind….
him driving a manual car (which I have no desire to ever learn to do, he loves it)
and me gazing out the window in silence and rapture (as I always do on road trips, which he’d never do)
suddenly I saw one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life:
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the trees and vineyards gave way to open country
perhaps abandoned…
and, scattered in abundance over the green grass
were the largest bunch of wild red poppies I’ve ever seen in my life
all set against a sunset sky
and waving happily in the wind
It lasted for all of 3 seconds and then I let out a squeal (as I am known to do)
He kept zooming down the road and asked what happened
“Oh! I just saw the most beautiful thing, did you see it? I wish I could have photographed it”
The car screeches to a halt
A three-point turn on this empty provencal road
And he returns me to the dancing poppies
Lets me jump out of the car barefoot and run across the road
And he agrees, that the dancing poppies against the sunset are one of the most beautiful things…
And as I danced along in the wind with the poppies,
I knew one thing for sure,
this unforgettable evening would have never entered either of our lives without each other.
Without his ability to work hard and manage our money,
We wouldn’t be able to afford incredible vacations
while still fulfilling our goal of building real estate equity in our 20s.
Without my ability to organize, plan and execute,
he wouldn’t be on this incredible vacation.
Without his ability to drive a manual car,
we wouldn’t have been able to rent a car at Aix-en-Provence.
Without my ability to speak French,
we wouldn’t have discovered this gem of a road in Provence.
So that’s the kind of couple we are. We may seem like a clashing gong at some times, but in those moments we are in sync, the melody is so beautiful that every piece of my heart seems to fly apart like a thousand butterflies in my chest.
We bring moments into each others’ lives that neither of us knew we needed.

Adorable illustrations

The interwebs led me to Phillippa Rice’s illustrated depictions of life with her boyfriend – have a look, it is super cute : http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/illustrator-philippa-rice

To me, it puts together all those little things in a relationship that makes it so sweet. Every pose they strike on the couch has been attempted by my husband and I…in fact that dance of figuring out the best weird puzzle piece position for our bodies to fit together (and eventually fall asleep together) on the couch, while watching a movie or show, is one of my favourite things about my marriage. He is the best snuggler, hands down!

It makes me want to have the talent to illustrate all the cute moments too. Since my only talent (somewhat ha!) are my words, I’ll jot down a little list for now:

- When husband is really tired and sleeps in on the weekends: I get up earlier than him, close the bedroom door and get around to making myself some tea and having me-time in our living room. Every. single. time. that I go check in on him an hour or two later, his head has mysteriously migrated to *my* pillow while his body remains on his side of the bead. And he is always positioned lying belly down, with his arms wrapped around my pillow. So cute! And when he’s sick, he always sleeps on my pillow saying “it’s the pillow that makes him feel better.” Melts my heart.

- Husband is my favourite person to eat food with. Granted we both think there are large areas we could be healthier eaters in, I love the mischievous looks we share when we are deciding what to order in. We actually giggle and make peanut-gallery comments/sounds as we suggest options: “how about that amazing pizzaiolo pizza you ordered last time!” *snicker snicker* “oooo or what about garlic shrimp from sukhothai??” “yummmm!” *eyes crossed* I have no idea how this tradition started but I’m pretty glad it exists :)

- On the days we work from home, whenever husband wants tea he will ask if he should make me a cup as well, tea + love equals double love

- I have really dry skin and since the mysteries of moisturising one’s back are beyond me, I get really itchy on my back as soon as I’m in bed… maybe it’s because I’m rolling around in sheets with my back right against the mattress. Husband senses when I’m getting fidgety and starts scratching my entire back – I throw in some goofy sound effects and funny dog-leg shakes when he’s at a good spot (he grew up with a dog who does this so he finds it hilarious) and I’m so thankful he will spend 5 minutes itching all my dry spots so that I can fall asleep more comfortable.

I’ll have to keep adding more to this post as I remember them!

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Two on August 20th

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This August 20th marks two years of marriage.  I’ve neglected this blog to a ridiculous extent (and almost thought of shutting it down) but one of the main reasons I (re)started blogging was to 1) write and to 2) record my memories of my marriage…. especially the good memories. Mainly because when I look at all my diaries from my childhood and teenage years, they are filled with records of my no-good-crappy-days. Now and then there is an entry from an AWESOME-DAY or entries from my vacation days. Needless to say, I realize now that I use writing as a way to process things. Being an extrovert, I spent the normal days and good days bubbling around people. It was only the bad days that would push me to lock myself alone in my room and fish my diary out and spill my feelings and thoughts onto its pages.

And with marriage…. I wanted to record the good memories on this blog. Because I knew, going in, that marriage could be some tough business. But I also knew the good moments would outweigh the difficult ones. And I wanted to read about those good moments when I was working through a difficult one.

The failure of recording the good moments aside, this marriage really has been the best things that’s happened to me. I’m pretty sure I wake up every morning wanting to pinch myself looking around at the life my husband and I have created and are working hard to create.

My marriage is made of two people who are opposites in many of their strengths. My husband is incredible at numbers, managing his money, responsibility, being a provider, staying focused and working his butt off. While I do like to think of myself as a hard worker, I know my skills are in analysis, language and logic. When we get into a fight or conflict, these strengths can shoot ourselves in the foot. But the truth is, we both know how badly we need each other. And I love that we have learnt how to fight. We have developed a dance for our fights now. Stages that we go through, familiar steps and rhythms, knowing resolution is around the corner…and that’s because of the strengths that we have in common: compassion, respect for each other, trust in each other and fighting hard for this marriage that we both believe in and work HARD for. Together, we are committed to making each other’s dreams come true and following God’s guidance in our lives.  Without each other, we would not have been as successful at building both of our professional and demanding careers. When I felt God guiding me to him, I also felt God telling me that much would be expected of our generosity – without him, I wouldn’t be able to give as generously to charities and other people God directs us to.

As our careers grow, we accompany each other to work parties, dinners with our bosses, charity galas, cocktail receptions. I love watching him move, working the room, especially when it is an event I’ve had to drag him to. And most especially when someone comes up to me and says, “So your husband was telling me that you…”

All the fancy dinners and glitz aside…. my favourite moments of marriage have been the simplest ones. First and foremost, how he is the cutest goofball I’ve met. And that he thinks the same of me. That my crazy doesn’t scare him away, in fact, he thinks life would be so dull without it. How when we get into bed we automatically pull each other close, point our toes so that the tops of our feet rub against each other and press our foreheads together. How those moments before sleep are usually filled with kisses on the nose, neck nuzzles or silly stories, goofy sounds or animated voices, and laughter. A lot of laughter. Or the time recently, when I was down with the flu. It must have been 3 a.m. when a coughing fit hit me. I didn’t really wake up. I was vaguely aware that the fit made me sit up in bed and then fall back into my pillow with a burning chest. And that my husband said my name. Next thing I know, I’m being pulled up and a spoon of cough syrup is in my mouth, followed by a second that mostly dribbles out of my mouth. Which he cleans up. Then he pulls me onto his arm and pulls the covers over us. And then it was morning. And the first night since being sick that I felt so rested.

I am thankful for a marriage that is filled with such moments. Which brings me such comfort and rest. And makes me feel so loved. And for the man who chose me and believes in working hard to build this marriage.