Optimism for 2021

It’s hard to feel optimistic about 2021 because many of us might feel like we kind of got tricked by 2020. We remember this time last year, when we looked with such anticipation to 2020. We had many plans, hopes and dreams. Places we wanted to visit, people we wanted to see.

Then it all went sideways so fast and the challenges 2020 brought have dragged on for months, and months and months. Certainly longer than most of us could have expected. Back in March when Ontario entered its first lockdown it was hard to imagine that we’d still be talking about lockdown restrictions at Christmas.

So what now?

How do we recover? How do we recapture the optimism and hope we felt a year ago and bring that kind of light with us in to 2021?

The most obvious part is that it’s going to look very different from before. We have the advantage of knowing that 2021 will continue to bring us new and previously-unimagined experiences. So we already know that 2021 will be different from any year before it, and therefore so will our thoughts, resolutions and plans going in to it. Our ideas about what a successful 2021 will be are going to be shaped by what we experienced in 2020. Even though that seems like a let-down, here’s why I think it’s similar to any other year, and can have some serious silver linings.

Other years the way our current year has shaped our resolutions might have been more subtle, and more individual. We might have moved and therefore created a resolution to finish perfecting our new home with paint and renovations. We might have gained a little weight and so created the resolution to lose it. We may have created resolutions that were specific to our job, or our relationship, or our finances. We looked back on our year and figured out exactly what we wanted to do differently in the coming year. It was a personal reflection process that was unique for each of us.

It’s all different, but also so familiar

We will do those things again but we’ll relate to each other more closely than before because so much of our hopes and resolutions will come from what we experienced in 2020. For example, we might be focused on diversifying our income or creating a more robust savings due to the struggles we experienced this year – and anyone in that boat has to know they’re not alone. It’s been a record year for professional and financial instability.

We might create resolutions about building home offices and home gyms. A vast majority of us have found ourselves significantly increasing how much time we spend at home – and the way we spend our time in our homes has changed. It’s now the office, the gym, the yoga studio, the video studio, the music studio, the content creation hub and the table at which we have tea with our friends (albeit in front of a laptop).

We might resolve to embark on a journey of self-improvement. Read more books, take some online courses, and reflect on how we can grow, change and improve our skillsets to respond to our changing goals and challenges.

Then again, it’s also worth resolving to be good at and commit to self care. With so much change and instability you’re giving a lot of energy to keeping up with what’s going on around you. It’s more important than ever to find moments of joy and moments of peace. Bump up your skincare routine for a little built-in self-love daily. Perhaps finish your day with a gratitude journal or take a part of your lunch break to do some yoga or a work out (especially if you work at home and stay seated and still throughout the day, like me).

It’s also possible we’ll collectively resolve to be less materialistic, to shop small business when we need things, to use more sustainable products. Bonus points if you buy your sustainable products from small local businesses! In this perhaps we’re resolving simply to help each other. To support our community members, friends and neighbours.

We’re Going to be Alright

So, as we have in other years, we’ll all look at how 2020 went and develop goals that reflect what we can and want to do better. Our goals are personal and individual to us but they’re also likely to have similarities to those around us. After all, as isolating as the pandemic has been, it’s also been a collective experience. That means that the resolutions we’re setting are similar to other years – simply more reflections of changes we feel empowered to make – but it’s also more communal than previous years. This year we also have the major advantage of knowing a lot more about what the year will ask of us and being better prepared.

Exactly what it is that will shape and define 2021 may be unknown but we are better prepared for surprises than we were going in to 2020. We’ve developed new coping skills and found opportunity in chaos. Let’s keep doing that, keep getting better at it, and make 2021 unique, collaborative, and better than ever.

Let’s Stay Connected

Apple Watch versus Fitbit

I know a lot of us are spending way more time at home and fall somewhere in between eating everything in sight and frantically redeveloping our fitness routines. I thought it was about time I pull this piece out of drafts, blow off the dust and post it.

Anyone who knows me knows that saying I like Apple products is putting it mildly. I love the way my devices work together and that makes it easy to choose Apple whenever I need a new device.

So a while back I thought I’d upgrade from a Fitbit Alta and add an Apple Watch series 2 to my Apple family. For the first little while that watch and I got along wonderfully. Pairing it with my phone was easy. If you’ve ever had 2 apple products you know how well they’re designed to work together. My iPhone, iPad and MacBook have always encouraged a seamless transfer of information. It was no surprise that my watch worked with my phone exactly as advertised.

Still, I found with time I wore the watch less and less until finally I pulled my old fitbit out of the drawer and relaunched my fitbit account.

Now, thanks to my parents and Christmas I’ve even upgraded from that old Fitbit Alta that I bought in University to a Fitbit Charge 3. I love it so much.

Here’s a few points of comparison that are key for me. Read it all or skim through and find the points of comparison that matter to you.

Wearability

If you’re comparing the Apple Watches currently available to the Fitbit’s currently available one thing is clear from the very start: Fitbit offers a lot more choice.

Apple Watch is Apple Watch – that’s pretty much it. You might be able to pick up a model from another year with slightly different materials (aluminum versus stainless steel), and if you go back to series 2 you can maybe find a 38mm watch versus a 42mm watch. But realistically there’s only one style of Apple Watch with minor differences to warrant different price points.

Fitbit on the other hand offers slim and simplistic trackers that are a little more “dainty” alongside the larger screened model intended to compete with Apple Watch.

When I purchased my Apple Watch, series 2 was the current lineup. I chose a 38mm black stainless steel model. I loved the dark, shiny metallic look for this watch but damn was it heavy. It doesn’t help that it really does look best paired with a black stainless classic link band (a knock off of Apple’s $600 band that I picked up for $50 online). If I wore it with a sport band it would be way lighter but it would lack a certain shiny style pairing that stainless steal watch with a rubber band.

I denied it for as long as I could but honestly the thing was just too big for my wrist. It took up like my whole arm, it seemed. Visually it seemed even heavier because of it’s dark colour. The actual heaviness of it could be dealt with for daytime wear but I noticed that if I wore it continuously while sleeping (since sleep tracking is an advertised capability) my wrist would start to ache after only 2 or 3 days.

Fitbit on the other hand is much lighter – I haven’t experienced all fitbit models, of course. The fitbit alta and the fitbit charge 3 both are very light, and I honestly forget it’s there. It’s so light it never causes any aches or issues.

Plus the smaller profile on my wrist fits in to my style a lot better. I can add a bracelet or decorative hair tie and accessorize. With Apple Watch adding any bracelets or anything just made my wrist look even more cluttered. I was drawn back to fitbit in part for the ability to accessorize.

Information on your Wrist

One of the big draws for the Apple Watch is the claim that it can put basically all your information and notifications on your wrist.

It does deliver a lot of information. There’s no denying that.

But then again, so does Fitbit. Even though the Alta wasn’t the most up to date model of Fitbit it still picked up and displayed my text messages. Later models of Fitbit even allow you to reply while Alta only allows reading. Fitbit Charge 3 also allows reading only although the format is much better than Alta’s. The smartwatch version would allow some reply capability. Phone call notifications are delivered as well with a display of the caller ID and vibrations to alert me on both Alta and Charge 3.

The issue with Apple Watch here isn’t that it doesn’t deliver. It delivers the information but it’s not as useful as you might think. While yes, technically, there’s a lot of built in capability to do tasks such as replying to messages, viewing photos, or adding notes to your reminders app etc, in reality why would you do that on a 38mm-42mm screen when you could pull your phone out and use that screen?

By the time you put in the effort to navigate the tasks on your wrist, holding the watch at an odd angle and probably hitting the wrong tiny button once or twice, you might as well just get your phone out.

Battery Life

Well it is true that the Apple Watch delivers a little more information and has more customizable watch faces this takes a toll on its battery life. If I really used the capabilities of the watch – reading notifications, occasionally completing tasks, and relying on it day in and day out as advertised I’ll also be charging it day in and day out. Or at least every 2-3 days.

Meanwhile I have to ask myself when I last charged my fitbit because it lasts like a week at a time. Charging is a rare need, which is a surprise given that I do maximize my use of it by actively tracking my heart rate through workouts, checking the time and date a dozen times a day and tracking walking and running work outs.

Social Connection

I love that with both devices you can challenge friends to see who can get the most steps or crush their goals. The thing is… in both cases you can only really compete with someone who has the same device as you – or at least one in the same family. Let me tell you, there’s a lot more fitbit users out there. It’s a lot easier to find friends to compete with on fitbit.

It doesn’t hurt that one of those other fitbit users is my boyfriend so we can cheer each other on. Nothing gets me moving like the pride of reminding him over dinner that I kicked his butt in our step goals and move goals.

Motivation

That social competition feeds in to this piece too. Both companies advertise their devices as a tool to add motivation and push you to be your best self. They both do a good job with reminder notifications prompting you to move, drink water, etc. Realistically though that better version of yourself happens with or without the device. It’s all about you taking the actions and making the choices that need to happen.

Conclusion

So – all this to provide some thoughts on Apple Watches versus Fitbits for those of us wanting a piece of every day smart wearable technology that helps us out with fitness and then some.

Do you wear a smart watch or activity tracker? What do you use, what do you love and why?

Seashell & Mermaid

Just wanted to pop in with a plug for my cute little etsy shop Seashell & Mermaid =)

Here’s a few of my fave designs – but I also do custom work! Think that sweet t-shirt you’ve always wished you could find, or sets for bachelorette and besties groups! Just drop me a line and we can talk about styles, colours and everything else to make your vision a reality.

Find all my designs here:

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/SeashellandMermaid

2020 Is a Year for Goals

This time of year you’ll see almost everyone talking about their resolutions. Some will advertise what their resolutions are while others will be intentionally vague about what their resolving to change in 2020. Even more so, you’ll see the advertising bonanza making good use of everyone’s good intentions.

Did you watch anything about New Years Eve in NYC? Planet Fitness literally sponsored it so a good portion of the broadcast was yellow and purple with Planet Fitness written all over it. You couldn’t even celebrate midnight without marketing from a gym.

From gyms and weight loss products to money management and career improvement programs to fashion changes, skin care and everything in between advertisers will be looking for your biggest insecurity and vowing that, in exchange for your hard earned cash, they’ll wipe all those insecurities away.

That’s why I find goal setting more practical. Goals aren’t a commercial venture. Goals don’t have to be about the things you don’t like about yourself or the things you want to change. They are more likely to be tied to new projects or about measuring progress and milestones without discrediting what you already accomplished in past years. And it’s a lot harder to sell to someone’s goals than it is a classic resolution. Goals are about our own commitments and actions, not about what products we buy.

Even the simple or common resolutions sound better translated from resolution language to goal language. Try weight loss, for one. Instead of “my resolution is to lose weight or get down to this certain number on the scale”, say “My goal is to cook at home 5 nights a week and be at the gym 3-4 times a week.”

We all know that if you’re eating at home, you’re likely eating healthier than if you ate out and if you are also going to the gym there’s a good chance you’ll be losing weight. If not losing, per se, you’re definitely getting on track to a genuinely healthy lifestyle. Health is a better pursuit than weight loss for the sake of weight loss, anyway.

It’s also easy to scale and personalize goals so that they make sense for you and where your current challenges are. If you’re really good at eating at home every night but you struggle with gym motivation then maybe you’d modify the above goal to read “My goal is to cook healthy meals 5 nights a week and go to the gym 2-3 times in the next 6 months and 3-5 times a week in the 2nd half of the year.”

And oh – that’s my favourite part.

Even though this time of year we talk about how fast 2019 went by, how the previous year seemed to go by before we could even process what was happening, how we don’t know where it all went and feel like we can’t even remember what we did…. it still feels like a year is a big, huge, impossible timeline for a goal.

Simultaneously we’re feeling that 2019 was fleeting and impossible to hold while 2020 is massive and the end of it, along with our goals or resolutions, is entirely too far away to think about.

Funny how time plays these tricks on us.

So break it up! Don’t focus on “the year” as an oncoming storm. Focus on the first 3 months, the first 6 months, first. Think about what a quarter of the way, or half way to your goal will look like and correlate those milestones to next month, to March and to June. This gives you the most important things of all, a place to start and a path to follow.

All this, really, to say that it’s a great idea to embrace the good intentions behind resolutions and reflect on what you want to do differently in 2020 but if you’re doing so it’s also time to figure out how those resolutions, goals and plans become reality.

Here’s to avoiding any further New Years Eve’s where we feel like all of a sudden a whole year escaped us.

2019 In Review

Last year around this time I took some time to reflect on my first year of blogging. Back then this blog was called Oh My Mermaid – it launched in early 2018 and it was great to see how the first year went. Those stats and that review told me a lot about the response I had gotten and motivated me to keep showing up and putting myself out here.

Of course reflecting should be a habit we do annually, at least, if not more. So here I am reviewing 2019.

Curious thing about 2019’s stats. They demonstrate that there’s still a growing audience for this blog – and oh my god I’m so grateful for that revelation I could cry. More on that in a bit. What 2019’s stats reveal more so than 2018’s did, though, is my life offline.

See, 2018 showed great growth from launch onward. 2019 shows a slower, more steady growth but fewer blog posts, fewer words. A symptom of a complicated and changing life offline.

I wrote about that in my last post, titled It’s Time for a New Chapter – have a read if you want more on that.

In those changes and the battles that were going on I lost a part of myself and the blog suffered because of it. Now I’m back. I feel more like myself than I have in a long time and just as losing myself took away from the blog, finding myself has started me writing again.

I want to take a moment now and really tell you – from the bottom of my heart – thank you for reading. Even when I was distant and posts were few and far between. Even when I seemed so far away and you may of thought I’d forgotten and abandoned this blog all together… I hadn’t. And this little corner of the internet has been a source of motivation to get to a good and healthy place in life. Writing for this blog – even bits and pieces I never published – has helped me sort and understand my own feelings. Messages I’ve received after posting have reminded me how much I’m part of a community and never alone. I am so grateful to my readers and well, ’tis the season to let ya’ll know you truly mean so much to me.

So without further ado, a few stats from the previous year and a promise to post a 2020 sneak peak, just as I posted a 2019 sneak peak this time last year.

While I made 72 posts in total for 2018 I only made 18 posts in 2019… actually seeing that stat today was kind of a shock. I knew I had lost myself in what was going on offline but I didn’t totally realize how much of myself I’d lost.

Still, despite the scattered posts I had more views and more visitors this year – that… that fills me with gratitude and hope. I had 6713 views from 3362 visitors. As I said last year – not half bad, but with room to grow!

I grew from 103 followers to 160 here on wordpress.

I switched my facebook page to a new Tea With Carmen one – leaving the old Oh My Mermaid page – please come join if you haven’t yet.

I grew from 163 followers on twitter to 200 even and counting with every tweet – it’s a weird habit to get back in to!

On instagram I held even – not to shabby given long absences.

I have some new social strategies I want to try going in to 2020 and I’m excited to be coming back to the online projects I started with such passion.

As promised, stay tuned for a 2020 sneak peak shortly after Christmas and some new comment in January! Drop a comment with any requests so I can get to work bringing you content you’ll love =)

Change your Hair, Change your Life

Many of my readers will know I’m going through some massive life changes right now and what better way to celebrate all forms of change than to change my hair?

I’ve done a lot of colour changes from dark red to bright red, to purple, blue and even green. Of course putting all those colours in required bleaching my hair as they wouldn’t have shown nearly as well on my natural brown shade. Still, the last time I put blonde in my hair for any purpose other than making other colours show up was in high school. Back then I couldn’t handle the toning process – it irritated and burned my scalp. Therefore the toner came off too early and my blonde was always yellow. Yuck.

No wonder I decided blonde wasn’t for me and started only using bleach to support other colours, like purple.

Today however it seems the toning products are a bit gentler and I’m a bit tougher. I’m so happy these things are true because I’ve totally fallen in love with my blonde hair and plan to keep adding blonde and perfecting my shade.

Don’t worry, I still sneak a little pastel pink in to keep it fun.

The other change – and truly the more major change is the length. I had insanely long hair that people routinely thought was fake because they couldn’t imagine I’d actually grown it out.

It was proof of my patience. Like 8 years of patience. I cut it to a short bob before moving to University and I hadn’t cut it since. Until now.

I suppose I’ve less patience now for anything that holds me back.

And damn. It feels good.

Okay, y’all know I’m going to grow it right back out. That’s just what I do. But for so long I was seriously afraid to cut it. I cringed at the thought of a trim and flat out cried the day I actually cut it.

That poor hairdresser.

Still I am loving the freshness and having so much fun with it. Yes, it will grow long again but next time I won’t be so afraid of the change when it’s time for a cut.

Check out the before and after to see how big this change has been!

What’s been your biggest hair change? Did you love it? Hate it? I wanna hear all about it!

Let’s Talk About “The Weight Loss Resolution”

It’s that time of year again! Just days ago untold numbers of us pledged to ourselves – and perhaps our families, friends & followers – that we would change our habits with the intention of losing weight.

I kinda get it. I mean, for years and years I pledged along with the rest of them. I always used January 1st as the beginning of an imagined weight loss journey. Doing so came with a lot of negative side effects, like writing off the progress of the previous year and chastising myself for every goal I’d missed.

I can only speak for myself here, but these resolutions never really stuck. Or rather, the weight always stuck far better than the resolution.

So what’s with the mass desire to loose weight and why do so many of us keep failing?

I think the key is that most of the time these resolutions are reflecting the marketing of gyms, health food companies and sports clothing brands. We’re focused on looking a certain way and being able to make trendy statements about our lifestyle. We want to be in the club of super food eating, 0 calorie snack carrying, on-brand fitness gurus.

It’s not really about eating healthy for the actual health benefits, it’s not about how we’ll feel or the energy we’ll have. It all comes from superficial status symbols instead of a genuine care for our bodies.

I think that’s a big part of what has always been missing for me in my weight loss journey. I got the message to go to the gym and to eat a certain way but it always came from outside. It came from marketing, blog posts, health magazines and the like.

What if instead of simply saying we have a resolution to lose weight we had a resolution to nourish our bodies and paid attention to what our bodies actually wanted?

Not simply eating this “superfood” or that “negative calorie snack” because we were told that’s what we should do but instead exploring and experimenting to find what really feels good and gives us energy, strength and health?

I imagine this kind of mental shift is where the real change happens. Not in what we’re told to do but in what we feel good doing.

What about you? What are your resolutions and how are you planning to turn resolutions in to reality?