The Adventure of Life: Update

I feel like the last few posts of mine have been very much produced by the self-reflective realm of my brain. I guess the past year and a bit has made me contemplate a lot.

But it’s been a while since I last wrote and, honestly, I don’t want to think too hard about anything right now. So, I figured a good ol’ fashioned update-on-life post was in order ;)

Well, after the fiasco with getting sick and having to bow out of the show I was supposed to sing in back in March, I decided to reach out to another venue. Luckily they said they’d be glad to have me perform there!

In the meantime though, I had great adventures to tackle — a solo trip to Peru …!

I tried out hostel living for the first time and met some seriously awesome travellers. I went on a walking tour and ended up making friends with our guides Arturo and Mario. It was great to hang out in Lima both with my hostel roomies as well as some locals.

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Arturo and I taste-tasting desserts at the Plaza de Armas in Lima’s historic center

Of course I needed my getaway in nature, so I took off from the busy streets of Lima to the remote Andes mountains. Tucked away at 3,200 metres in those grand ranges is a tiny village called San Pedro de Casta. From there, you can do a hike up to Marcahuasi which is known for its strange and sacred monolithic stone sculptures.

After trekking up to 4,000 metres elevation, I felt like I had run a marathon. Once reaching the top, my young guide Oswaldo and our faithful canine companion Chance had our lunch at this panoramic vista and all passed out for a nap.

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On the Marcahuasi plateau, trying to stay vertical for this photo

I was only in Peru for eight days, but felt like I had been gone forever thanks to the full experience I had while I was there.

When I got back to Toronto, it was time to buckle down and prepare for the show! I actually had a 2-hour slot, so lots of new songs had to be learned. Then, one day I received word that the venue I was going to perform at was closing down its doors. I couldn’t believe my luck (or complete lack thereof)!!

I debated giving up … or giving this performing thing one more shot. After a hopeful phone call to the most awesome Michael Burton at the Free Times Cafe, I had a date and time booked there for July!

In the meantime though, summer was in full swing. I was finally coming out of hibernation mode and June saw my birthday, which basically amounted to an eating spree over four days and change. I was honestly kind of dreading turning 34, but by the time the day came around, I had accepted my fate. Really, I have lived such a full 34 years and am so grateful for everything all of my life experiences have taught me thus far!

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Starting the birthday eating marathon (not pictured here: my lunchtime scotch)

After all the food and wine consumption, I needed to summon some restraint so I could get my voice into gear for the show. This was such a long time in the making, but all of the practicing and prepping was worth it. We had a full house and some of the most dearest people to me came out to support <3

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Special thanks to Roarshack Photography for capturing the memories :)

A cover of one of my fave love songs, “Ready For Love” by India Arie <3

After the show, my brain had to switch to camping mode fast. I had three weeks(!) in Killarney Provincial Park planned for August, but was way behind in being prepared for it!

In the meantime, I kick-started the camping season with a short trip to Bruce Peninsula, hiking the Lion’s Head trail. It was also my first time volunteering for Parkbus, the awesome service I took last year to do my solo camping trips.

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Enjoying solitude and dreamy clouds at McKay’s Harbour on the Lion’s Head hiking trail

Then, my epic three-week backcountry adventure in Killarney Provincial Park arrived. It was so unreal to be out there for so long — but at the same time, it felt completely right.

I went canoeing with my friends Dave and Steve, who had taken me on my very first backcountry trip ~15 years ago. We enjoyed the hot weather, lots of swimming, and the super addictive game Hanabi.

After they left, I was joined by my cousin Lilli, friend Lucy, and their dogs Smokey and Noodles for the first ~5 km of the La Cloche Silhouette hiking loop. We got the rainy part of the trip, but some sunshine for a day hike to The Crack and lots of food and laughs.

Then we parted ways and I took off for a ~12-day solo trek around the rest of the loop. Words just can’t do justice to the experience … at this time, it feels like a complete dream that I was standing on those beautiful ridges, looking out onto those awe-inspiring views.

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Proof it wasn’t all a dream …

After sadly rejoining civilization, reality hit big time. It was September (still is September), a really big month for me. It’s the ending of a couple of journeys, including my current job and the career path I’ve been walking down the last ~8 years.

I’ll also be saying good-bye to not only my apartment but to the city I’ve grown up and lived in all my life. It’s a sort of temporary farewell, but it marks a huge life change … I’m nervous, excited and ready to take the leap into The Great Unknown.

Over the past couple of years, I have come to realize without a doubt that living more of my life in nature is the right thing to do for myself. I love being in the outdoors, perhaps need to be out there. Every time I get back onto the trail, amongst the trees, that sense of comfort and happiness comes over me. And so, I’ve made the decision to do just that.

To start this new journey, I’ll be taking a vacation of sorts to Tuscany, Italy to volunteer on an organic vineyard (hey, someone’s gotta help make the vino). When I get back, I’ll be living the farm life and exploring a new career path that lets me live more in the outdoors and travel abroad. I’ll keep writing about my adventures, whether it’s here in my humble abode in the blogosophere or on a new website currently brewing in my mind :)

In the meantime, I hope you’ve all had a full and exciting past few months and that you never stop dreaming for the future.

Yours truly,
Janice (a.k.a. Cafe) <3

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Life’s Greatest Mysteries: The Cure for Insomnia

There’s a lot of things in life that I don’t understand, but climbing to the very peak of that list is how people can fall asleep, full out snoring, within sheer seconds of their head hitting the pillow. If you are one of these people, start explaining.

I’ve been an insomniac for quite some time now. These days, I’ve been hit particularly hard. I lie down in bed and my brain is wired. I’m up at odd hours of the night. Then I have to arise from my sorry excuse for a slumber at some godforsaken hour in the morning.

Every day, the question of prime importance has been whether I should engage in that second cup of delicious coffee or desist. Most days I surprise myself with the willpower to begrudgingly let it go. Other days, I crumble without shame.

Yesterday, someone suggested that I buy a bottle of melatonin and take some before bed to regulate my sleeping schedule. It wasn’t the first time this was suggested to me, but the idea of taking a sleep-inducing chemical to put an end to my misery at night has always given me the heeby-jeebies. What if that stuff is so damn good that I can’t get off it?

Not only that, I had been re-reading one of my favourite books, Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, and was at the part where the author Streatfeild describes how cocaine products, when first introduced into Western society, were sold in pharmacies and praised as the cure-alls to any ailment one may be presenting with. Toothache? Stomachache? Stuffy nose? Try cocaine. Next thing you knew, cocaine addicts were sprouting up everywhere.

Well, after passing out on the bus and missing my stop — which meant that I ended up taking a tour of the city for almost two hours — my fears of turning into a melatonin junkie were superseded by the realization that things were getting way out of hand. I needed to get my act together. Pronto.

So today I picked up a bottle of liquid melatonin and after having read another couple chapters of Cocaine, warily examined the bottle and decided, at 8:45 pm, that it was time to take the plunge. Ten minutes after having a few sips of my green tea-melatonin concoction, I started feeling funny.

Ah, it’s all psychological, I scoffed.

But no, it was really taking over my body. For fear that my face might end up implanting itself into the table in front of me, I retreated safely to my bedroom where I am now groggily writing these last two paragraphs. So here I am, at 9:15, ready to fade away into La La Land. Good…zzzzzzzzz…

– Cafe <3

“I Am a Half-Marathon Runner”

Okay, fine, I’m not. But I read somewhere that if I told myself that enough times, it would come true.

So for everyone who noticed my new Milestone Widget on the homepage, you’ve probably been twittering in anticipation of what I could possibly be scheming for next year. Or maybe you haven’t.

Well, the last time I said I was going to do something that I said I’d never do, I jumped out of a plane to ring in my 30th birthday. And after having done that, as well as a number of other things I once never dreamed of doing, I decided to quash one of the biggest I’ll-never-do-that’s in Janice history.

Run a half marathon.

Now, one of my favourite, yet most embarassing posts is buried deep within Your Daily Dose’s archives. It has a total of one like (this must change immediately). This post tells the painful story of how I, against all odds, became a 10k runner and how I would never become a half-marathon one.

But one day, a few weeks ago, I thought about that blasted half-marathon and I thought about how I said I’d never do it. And that just made me upset at myself. Why couldn’t I be a half-marathon runner like the KABILLION other half-marathon runners in the world? Did I also not have the drive? The physical capacity? The will of steel?

I sure as hell did … do.

And so, with new found excitement and direction, I declared last night that I would go for a run this morning. The training would begin PRONTO. Yes, the half-marathon was nine months away. Yes, I would need that long to prepare. Not a morning person? Pssht. Half-marathon runners shook the sleepiness from their eyes and braved the early morn alone, while everyone else was nestled in their blankets like cowards.

Well, the morning rolled around and … um … well, you know, I slept in a little later than expected. I had to get ready for work. I just didn’t have time. I’ll go running tomorrow …

I need help.

Questions! Questions!
To the kabillion half-marathon runners around the world: I would be most grateful for your advice, stories, and motivation on how to train well for my first half-marathon!

To those who have avoided the HM or FM like the plague: What would it take for you to gear up and just do it?

And to everyone!: If you were to raise money for a cause through your (hypothetical) run, what would be your cause?

– Cafe <3

Photo Credit: Runner at the finish line
This post was written on August 13, 2012
Um, and full disclosure: I did not run the half-marathon *hangs head in deep, deep shame*

Working the Night Shift

So for the past few days I’ve been back to my old routine of working the night shift. (Gotta pay the bills, ya know what I’m sayin’?)

Okay, okay, before the wheels in your over-imaginative minds start turning any faster, I’m simply talking about my part-time job. The task I’ve been assigned to work on recently is transcribing interviews for an evaluation study of a youth gang intervention/prevention program.

If you’ve never transcribed an interview before, let me give you a piece of advice that will greatly aid you in retaining your sanity: Don’t.

The last interview I transcribed had to be done in installments over a couple of days lest someone find me at home, rocking myself in the corner and mumbling: “You know what I’m saying?” (that’s what the interviewee said at the end of every sentence).

The look of traumatization from the question that’s not really a question: “You know what I’m saying?”

Anyways, two things have happened as a result of having to work my full-time job and part-time job as of late: Continue reading

Cafe, the Runner

The Story of How a Runner Was Born …
The first time I tried to take up running as my new sport of choice, I almost hyperventilated after sprinting down one block, broke out into a full-blown cold the next day, and declared myself a Non-Runner.

Yes, I concluded, there were specific individuals on this planet who were born physically incapable of moving at speeds greater than a brisk pace. I was one of the chosen few.

About ten years later, I forgot about this particular fact and decided that I was going to try running again. This time, I ran for 15 minutes before my lungs gave out. Then a couple of days later, I tried it again. By the following week, I was running for 30 minutes and still vertical at the end of it.

It was at that moment I knew. A runner was born …

The First Race
Awestruck at my new abilities (Non-Runners could clearly adapt under favourable conditions), I took the obvious next step: signing up for a 10k race!

Needing the encouragement and threat of public humiliation from others, I created a blog to track my progress, fight with Jake (whose time of 53:36 I had vowed to beat), and request that people kick me in the ass if I was slacking off.

A snapshot of my 10k run blog homepage!

Updating the interested public in my training progress and offering my fellow runners out there some invaluable secrets to success.

Exposing Jake’s plan to sabotage my training.

The big day finally arrived. I was ready to roll — I mean, run. It was an unexpectedly hot, sunny day and as I reached the 8k mark, my mental faculties were as sharp as a butter knife.

As per my caffeine addiction, I had made the rookie error of downing a cup of coffee in the morning. I was dehydrated. I had to pee. I couldn’t drink anything.

As I neared the end of the race, I was no longer running in a straight line. I was delirious and a Marshall was running after me to stop a fatality from occurring on his shift.

The aftermath.

My (very tall) hero!

Well, despite the events that transpired that fateful day, it wasn’t time for me to throw in the towel. Oh no. Quite the opposite, my friends …

5k in the Snow? Bring It.
Eager to continue furthering my running career, I decided to enroll myself in another race. This time it would be in Ottawa in the cold month of February. Factoring in the hostile conditions in which I would be running, I decided that doing the 5k race would be the correct strategic move to make.

My punishment from the 10k race had been decided. Despite finishing with a time of 55:22 and coming face to face with near death, I was to be subjected to the cruel tyranny of Coach Jake’s whims. I didn’t know what was worse: Jake as my sworn enemy or Jake as my coach.

Well, the run was freezingly fantastic. The coldest weather I’ve ever ran in, but it felt so good to finish strong and healthy at the end! Then I went to snowboard in Mont Tremblant the next day and got run over by a skiier …

Victorious for a day!

Some people now believe I am cursed. Run a race = Paramedics will be looming on the horizon. I should think that is hardly the attitude to take. I absolutely love running now. It’s not always pretty when it’s happening, but the sense of accomplishment you always have when you finish a run is priceless. This is hardly the end …

Future Career Plans
So how do I plan to further my running career? Is there a marathon that I see in the distant future? A half, even? Let’s get real, people. It ain’t happening. And I’m perfectly fine with the fact that I am a Runner, but a 10k-Max-Runner at that. There is a place for us in this world too.

So what are you waiting for? If a Non-Runner can overcome their predisposition to fail in life, so can you! Like the blog says … Just Do It ;)

– Cafe <3