When 650 Equals 450

Closets and boxes and crap... oh my!

Closets and boxes and crap… oh my! (Old apartment flashbacks)

I have learned a schwack of lessons during our recent move. (Yes, a whole SCHWACK!) I am still processing the adjustment of everything on an energetic level (which partly explains my dire absence from the interwebs lately). However, while my delicate chakras continue to digest everything that’s happened to us in the past month, allow me to shine a light on a very particular lesson that I must have learned simply so you don’t have to. Read on and learn, dear friends– read. and. learn.

Two years ago, when we left our beloved winter cottage on the lake and came back into the city to rent something “basic and cheap” for Harbour season, we stumbled upon our ghetto apartment in the heart of Victoria. It met our sole criteria– “basic” and “cheap”– so we signed our names on the lease and thus ushered in an era of Pain and Suffering for ourselves. (That was Lesson #1, by the way: “In the future, craft a more extensive/less pathetic list of criteria for winning apartments”. CHECK.)

Anyway. Right after* (*yes, not right before) we had signed our souls away for the low, low price of $650 per month, I asked our landlord what the square footage of our glorious new residence was. I needed this information for tax purposes, and our landlord didn’t skip a beat when she answered “640 square feet”.

Okay– 640 square feet. Small. But manageable.

Since I am a mathematical genius and have a keen attention to detail, I proceeded to take the measurements of Marty’s studio space manually. I needed to know the percentage of Marty’s work space to our whole apartment (yay for home office deductions!), so I wielded the Measuring Tape, divided the size of Marty’s studio by 640 square feet and voila! I had a number I could plug in to the tax forms come tax time.

Welcome to our bike room slash art studio slash plant storage space! Yeesh...

Aaahhh… Welcome to our bike room slash art studio slash plant storage space slash recycling depot! Yeesh!

During the next two years, we did nothing but complain about our 640 square foot apartment:

Yes, we have a lot of stuff in here, but gee– it feels so cramped in here!

It would sure be nice to live somewhere with 2 million square feet! At least! Then we could fit all of the art supplies, bike stuff, books, etc.

By golly, 640 square feet sure feels small!

(This wasn’t even factoring in our other complaints, like having elephants for upstairs neighbours and that time when the building leaked, flooded our apartment, and ROTTED OUR MATTRESS!! But I digress.)

For nearly two whole years, our apartment felt supremely tiny. We were horrified at the thought of having visitors there, so nobody was allowed to enter unless it was 100% essential. (My mom never actually saw our place, despite coming to Victoria several times during our lease. Cough. And when we needed to have a friend water our plants while we were away on holidays last year, I probably spent about three hours blathering about my supreme embarrassment before permitting her to even cross the threshold of the apartment.)

And then I needed to e-mail her helpful photos from afar, so she could locate specific items that could technically be ANYWHERE

And then I proceeded to e-mail her helpful photos like this from Arizona, so she could locate specific items that could technically be ANYWHERE on our jam-packed shelves.

Needless to say, when I saw a listing for a much, much larger suite on the top floor of a heritage house, I lunged at the opportunity to jump from our microscopic ship. So we packed. We cleaned. We unpacked. We cleaned some more. And just before we had our final walk through in the old, tiny apartment, I decided to measure the whole place, just for kicks. (Yes, I am a nerd.)

I whipped out Ye Olde Measuring Tape for the last time there, calculated some lengths and checked them twice. A few days later, I plugged the numbers into my trusty adding machine and was stunned to discover that they yielded 445 square feet total, not even close to 640. Thinking I must have made an error in the basic length x width formula, I calculated all the areas again. And then again, when I arrived at the same number and thought to myself that I must have missed a decimal place or something.

Nope. 445 square feet. No wonder it felt so small!

For two years, Marty and I crammed an art studio, a fully-stocked inventory of art reproductions and supplies, a virtual Tour de France of bicycles, and normal things like a bed, couch, and dressers into a teensy-assed 445 square foot apartment! If somebody had asked us out of the blue, “Hey! Do you want to live in a 445 square foot apartment?”, we would have answered an emphatic HELLS NO! If we were methodically checking out places to rent, a 445 square foot place wouldn’t have even made it onto our radar. By a long stretch! And yet we lived in one, quite miserably, for nearly two years of our lives.

LESSON LEARNED: Use a measuring tape and figure it out for yourself.

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED: If it feels small and cramped… it probably is.

So there you have it! Now you never have to live in a 445 square foot apartment unless you’ve made an informed, conscious choice to do so! Aren’t you glad that I learn these embarrassingly simple lessons so you don’t have to? You’re welcome! ūüôā

Are You The Artist?

“Are you the artist?”

I get asked this question approximately twenty times per day each summer, and even more so on weekends and holidays. I can understand why people ask it– after all, I’m standing behind a table full of artwork and have a cheery, “Ask me Anything!” expression on my face. However, the question always makes me laugh. Why? Because, sitting less than a foot behind me– on a concrete pedestal, no less– is The Artist Himself, paintbrush in hand, easel and canvas on full display. He might as well be wearing a beret (though a straw fedora lends itself nicely to the artist stereotype as well).

Marty at the Harbour. He is literally right behind me, i.e. I spun around and took this photo of him painting.

Marty at the Harbour. He is literally right behind me, i.e. I spun around and took this photo of him painting.

(It’s also funny because we have numerous “Acrylic Paintings by Martin Machacek” signs plastered everywhere, some of them giant ones. A few of these signs even feature larger-than-life-sized photos of a bearded, blond man on them. With a paintbrush in his hand. I don’t know how much more direct we need to be with our messaging, but it appears the most crucial bit of information– the Not-So-Secret-Identity of the Artist– is still getting lost in translation.)

An actual sign at our harbour booth. This one is about 4 feet tall. (Shakes head in disbelief.)

An actual sign at our harbour booth. This one is about 4 feet tall. But are you the artist, miss? (Shakes head in disbelief.)

Anyway. Sometimes, in response to the “Are you the artist?” question, I’ll state the obvious: “Actually, my husband is the painter”, while subtly tilting my head back in Marty’s general direction. Other times, I’ll let my sweeping Vanna White motions do the talking for me. [In exaggerated pantomime] Wow, right behind me is…. A NEW CAR! THE ARTIST HIMSELF! Would you look at that! [Imaginary clapping and fanfare]

The truth is, I am an artist, just not the capital-A Artist that people are referring to when they ask me The Question. I do lots of creative things, both business-related and in my spare time, but Marty is The Painter and understandably gets the spotlight when we are down at the Harbour. (It would be creepy and disturbing otherwise, no?)

Me being artsy. (Not to mention orange.)

Me being artsy. (Not to mention orange.)

Over the past few months, Marty and I hatched a way to blend¬†his¬†creative energy with¬†my artistic awesome-sauce. After much deliberation and several bad ideas, we came up with videos. Time lapse videos, to be more specific. We figured, “Hey! You [Marty] make super cool paintings, and I [Dana] know nothing about making videos whatsoever! We don’t even own a camcorder (or whatever the hi-tech term is for those newfangled machines that record moving pictures)! Therefore, we MUST make videos of you [Marty] painting! THEY WILL BE AMAZING!”

Ha. This is how I suddenly became great friends with Google. After doing some preliminary research, I determined that:

  1. This would be so much easier to do with a camcorder! But what fun is ‘easy’ when you can make things way more complicated than they need to be?
  2. In the absence of a camcorder, I still didn’t own– or want to purchase– an “intervalometer” to help me time the photo taking remotely on my camera¬†
  3. I definitely didn’t own– or want to purchase– a graphing calculator to help me time the photo taking remotely on my camera (because, hello— the lack of graphing calculators is the main reason why I majored in Communications in the first place)
  4. I didn’t even want to borrow a graphing calculator from somebody else, because that would mean I’d have to program it to take time lapse photos, and even I’m not that big of a dork
  5. I might want to borrow a camcorder from somebody else, but meh– I was too lazy for that and would rather spend hours on Google trying to figure out camcorder alternatives instead
  6. Time lapse video making was still possible with our older camera. I’d have to rig up a tripod, many random cords, a camera, my laptop, and free software… in our kitchen… but making a time lapse video was still possible. Perfect.

And so (drumroll please), we did it! Marty hunkered down in his painting cubby (you can’t even call it a “studio”), I worked some serious nerd magic on the laptop, and our camera magically started taking photographs every five seconds. It took Marty a while to adjust to having his picture taken by the kitchen paparazzi every few seconds, but eventually, he settled into a rhythm and created his masterpiece. When he finished, I spent some more time poring over DIY video-making threads online and finally figured out how to stitch everything together into a bonafide time lapse video! Behold– my masterpiece:

Hey??? Are you super impressed or super DUPER impressed? Haha! I had caught the time lapse video-making bug– a rare but apparently potent condition. Ahem. So I made another time lapse video of Marty painting, this time taking my nerdiness to the next level and individually screening each and every photo (over 10,000 of them!) before stitching them together in a moving picture. So it could be crisp and perfect, obviously. (And don’t even start: I already know how deep I am into those dork-o-rama waters.) Anyway. I can’t even tell you how proud I am of this particular video (below), because doing so would reveal all sorts of geeked-out layers in my psyche, and I’m not prepared to do that just yet. We’re still at the “taking it slow” phase, right? But check this out:

I know. I KNOW!! I love this video because I can honestly say, “I made that!” at the end. Am I the artist?¬†Hell, yes! Did I figure out a convoluted but effective way to create time lapse videos, without a camcorder or a closet full of geek equipment?¬†Double hell, yes! Now all I need is a beret. And Vanna White. And then I’m set!¬† ¬†

Gold Star Moments

I have a very particular skill set.

Can I knit? Yes.

Can I crochet? No.

Can I cook? Yes.

Can I grill? Nope.

Can I walk, run, cycle, snowshoe, do aerobics, and fake karate chop an invisible enemy? Yes and yes!

Can I ski, skateboard, rollerblade, swim, play any team sport known to man, or real karate chop an actual enemy? God save me if I even have to try!

I can even make *homemade dog biscuits*. Don't think I can't see you quaking in your boots!

Re: cooking– I can even make *homemade dog biscuits*. Don’t think I can’t see you quaking in your boots! (Just don’t ask me to grill anything.)

The good news is that– while particular and totally random– my skill set isn’t static. Thank Baby Jesus. I haven’t always known how to knit, for example, and I’m sure one of these days I’ll finally become a Crochet Wizard… just like I’ve always dreamed! (I have taken three Learn to Crochet courses so far but have yet to carry my mad, granny square-making skillz outside of the watchful/patient eye of my instructors. Keyword: yet.)

Anyway. I was thinking about what I’m really good at today, and I guess you can say that all of my non-skills at the moment are really just a matter of choice. After all, technically, I can learn how to do just about anything. Not only that, but I freaking LOVE learning and will hunker down and absorb knowledge just for the sake of it. Hooray for learning! Huzzah to knowing things!

Do you want to be a kayaking pro like me? Let's make it happen!

Do you want to be a kayaking pro like me (or at least look like one in photos… like me)? Let’s make it happen!

Case in point: Back in my Office Job days, I was promoted to Accounting Associate without any working knowledge of spreadsheets, debits, credits, auditing, or essentially anything to do with numbers and finances besides counting. (Even crazier than the promotion itself was the fact that I took the¬†job. I might as well have agreed to become the star ballerina in Swan Lake or a heart surgeon off the street. “Yeah, that sounds interesting. I’ll do it!”)

What's that? You want to promote me to orange toga-wearing Spartan? Sure, sounds interesting! I'll do it!

What’s that? You want to promote me to orange toga-wearing gladiator? Sure, sounds interesting! I’ll do it!

I had to be briefed before my “interview” so that I could answer questions about accrual accounting with something more convincing than giant question marks in my eyes. (And by “something more convincing”, you know I mean saying, “Wow, that’s a great question… [extended silence]… Yep. A really thought-provoking question!… [painful, awkward silence]… Accrual accounting, hey?” THE END.) I felt like I was in a bizarre dream for the interview itself– showing up for a big exam without having studied¬†or remembering to wear clothes– and I’m sure the other person on the interview panel was thinking, “Nice try, Dana” the whole time. Anyway.¬†My boss clearly saw something “accountant-y” in me that was all but invisible to my self-reflective eyes at the time. And suddenly, I was Accounting Associate and fielding phone calls about receivables, invoices, and– worst of all– quarterly payouts to charitable organizations. Eep!

Save for a traumatizing stint as a lingerie department cashier/clerk, I had nothing even tangentially related to accounting on my resum√©, and boy, did I know it! So, to avoid outright humiliation and to at least minimize my frequent “deer in headlights” looks at staff meetings, I enrolled in a basic Excel class. This class covered the lowest common denominators of spreadsheet making– the auto sum formula, data sorting, cell formatting, etc.– but all of it was 100% new to me and I really, really needed wanted to impress my boss. (Call me crazy, but I didn’t want to give her any proof that she had made a GIGANTIC MISTAKE by promoting me.) Heh. Long story short: within 3 weeks, I went from having zero accounting skillz to making bar graphs, spreadsheets, and pie charts¬†for fun. (Not joking.) And if I can go from “what means deductions?” to a Spreadsheet Ninja in less than a month, imagine what else I’m capable of! And just think of the skills we can all master, much to our own amazement and horror delight!

OK. I’ve shared my Gold Star Moment with MS Excel. Here’s what I wonder: what skills have you learned or picked up recently? How have you surprised and delighted yourself? I’m a sucker for stuff like this, so please don’t be shy. ūüôā¬† ¬†

I made you a pie chart. Because I love you.

I made you a pie chart. Because I love you.

The Year of Ease

Although I’ve always identified more as “book smart” than “street wise”– by a long shot– periodically, I rise to the occasion and learn important life lessons through doing. Most of what I know is largely theoretical in nature (bless you, Communication Studies degrees), but 2013 definitely proved to be the Year of Doing Things… The Hard Way.

This might as well have been the Official Logo of 2013, too.

This might as well have been the Official Logo of 2013, too. Dinosaur mauling seems about right.

I invested most of my energy into “making things happen”, “figuring things out”, bumping against self-imposed rules and limitations, striving, straining, reaching, yearning, and basically mastering the art of swimming upstream in 2013. Midway through the year, I was completely and utterly exhausted– which, when you think about it, is pretty remarkable, considering I had been on holidays for three full months to ring in 2013. Way to excel at pain and suffering on the fast track, Dana! Kudos to you for being the star student in the ‘Making Things More Complicated Than They Need To Be’ Class! (Once on the Honor Roll, always on the Honor Roll, right?)

By August, I had already made resolutions for the new year. (Like I say, I’m way ahead of you guys!) These weren’t ordinary resolutions, though– no. These were solemn promises sworn to myself, borne out of necessity and sheer fatigue.

I promised myself that the new year would be different– that I wouldn’t neglect myself to the point of bottomed-out depletion, that I wouldn’t covet an empty energetic cup like I might a shiny trophy, that I’d turn down the competition dial on my behaviour radio (a whole lot), and that I’d try to max out the present moment, rather than always chasing something in the indeterminate future. Tall order, much? Maybe, but in a flash of genius, I also resolved to open myself up to teachers who could show me a different, more ease-filled path to abundance and prosperity. No more “finding the answers all by myself” or “getting a virtual Ph.D. by reading the entire self-help section of the library” for me! (Brilliant, really.)

Being receptive to something different.

Being receptive to something different.

The first Way-Shower* to cross my path was Leonie Dawson. I had heard Leonie’s name for a few years prior but hadn’t really resonated with (what I assumed was) her goddess-heavy, mama-slanted philosophy. I figured that since I was neither a mother nor a sandal-clad, patchouli-scented goddess, Leonie would have nothing of value to offer me. For the record: I was wrong. Super, duper incorrect. She is a true delight to behold! Something** nudged me to sign up for her newsletter late this summer, and when I did, I made the astounding discovery that¬†Life Did Not Have To Be Hard! I had always– mostly subconsciously– equated capital-S ‘Success’ with boatloads of hard work and a great deal of toiling for good measure, but here was Leonie, frolicking on her gorgeous property with her family, making art, and raking in mega-abundance like it was falling naturally from the trees. Leonie taught me, right quick, that not only was my pipe dream of doing things differently¬†possible, but it was also¬†probable– if not absolutely, 100% essential!

And if Leonie can frolic in a field, I can sure as heck frolic in fog-covered Seattle. (IN A PENTHOUSE, AT THAT!)

And if Leonie can frolic, all carefree in a field, I can sure as heck frolic in fog-covered Seattle, right? (IN A PENTHOUSE SUITE, AT THAT!)

Then came Bren√© Brown. Again, this was a name that I was familiar with– I had even watched her TED Talk on vulnerability back in the day– but I didn’t really know her like any A-student worth her salt should. That all changed when I read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and felt like it was written as a personal text book for my life. She even had an entire chapter with the subtitle, “Let Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth”. Ah-mazing! [And cue the Twilight Zone soundtrack, right?] Bren√©’s book gave me (personal, explicit) permission to stop chasing my own life on a never-ending treadmill of achievements and accomplishments. After reading her book, I felt emboldened to be… less productive. (In a good, non-slacker way– I promise!) Specifically,¬†Bren√© taught me that we are all so much more than what we do. Sure, it’s great to have goals and to make contributions to the world, but it’s also important to make space for being. (It’s like Ovarian Cyst-er wisdom, all over again!)

Praying Mantis says "Less Doing and More Being Is The Secret To Life!"

Praying Mantis says “Less Doing and More Being Is The Secret To All of Life’s Mysteries!” Seriously. Would I lie to you?

Finally, in waltzed Danielle LaPorte. God, I love Danielle! Danielle is an electric, laser-focused, live-life-the-way-you-really-want-to pioneer. I devoured her¬†Fire Starter Sessions¬†book and promptly chowed down on¬†The Desire Map right afterward. It was a full-on, Danielle LaPorte feast. (And by god, I was a piglet!) Danielle set the goal-setting process straight for me, and by that, I mean she stood it right on its head. No messing around! After reading¬†The Desire Map, I morphed from setting traditional (lame) goals like “I will lose 10lbs!” or “I will buy a house!” to pointing my north star towards what she calls Core Desired Feelings. So now, instead of starting with “goals”, I start with my feelings. What can I do that will help me feel ___________? (In my case: what can I do that will help me feel Radiant, Centered, Magical, Abundant and Free?) I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty revolutionary to me. Life-changing. Soul-Altering. Way-Showing, indeed!

My Core Desired Feelings

My Core Desired Feelings

So. Finally. After a year of energetic toil and spirit-depleting strife, I’ve set a new, one-word intention for 2014: Ease. (Doesn’t that sound enchanting? Ease. Lovely!) I want to feel radiant, yes– but I don’t want to ‘earn’ radiance by laboring up a mountain of discipline and suffering. I want to feel¬†abundant, of course– but if that means shackling myself to a back-breaking work schedule or neglecting my family, friends, or ‘real’ life, then I’m not interested. Ease into The Year of Ease! My life doesn’t have to be¬†easy¬†(at least not all the time), but I will welcome¬†ease with open arms. Enough with imitating the salmon run in my own life– I’m ready to float like a leaf on the river towards my biggest dreams and highest potential. You in?

***

If you want to get concrete about your own Core Desired Feelings, I really recommend reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. This book used to be offered as an audio-visual program through Danielle’s website but it will be released as a regular book on Amazon (and in bookstores everywhere) as of January 1st. I’ve also loved completing Leonie Dawson’s 2014 Create Your Amazing Year Workbook & Planner (Life Edition) for the first time this December. 100% converted to Leonie-ism now! It was through this particular workbook that I set the word Ease as my North Star for the upcoming year, and I can’t wait to see what other dreams of mine manifest and unfold as 2014 progresses. The workbook can either be purchased as an e-book here (less than 10 bucks!***) or bought in hard copy (under $30) via Amazon (.com– not available to us Canucks via amazon.ca, unfortunately). Two words, though: Worth It.

***

*The term “way-shower” was introduced to me by Barbara Stanny in her book, “Secrets of Six Figure Women”.

**And by “something”, I mean it was the knowledge that she runs a $750K business per year working 15 hours a week from her isolated, rainforest home in the middle of nowhere.¬†That¬†got my attention!

*** E-book link is an affiliate link. Like Google Ads… only not at all. I’ve actually used this workbook and actually, personally, cross-my-heart endorse it. ¬† ¬†