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How Doing a Photo-365 Changed Me.

I’d ask the question, “Who else is bidding ‘Good Riddance!’ to 2015?” but I know the general answer. It was a very difficult year for almost everyone I know, with a few exceptions (thankfully, or maybe we’d all have given up).

2015 was one of the most difficult years of my life. It was a year full of intense stress, sadness, pain, illness, loss, and a lot of me allowing other to treat me very poorly. (It also had some amazing and wonderful moments, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a writer building some context for my readers, here.) At more than one point in the year, my closest friends were like, “Good God, woman – what else could happen right now?” Definitely had that lovely snowball effect. You know the one.

The beautiful thing about terrible years, of course, is that they make you grow beyond your wildest imagined capabilities. I feel like I’ve shed my skin three of four times in the last twelve months. Like I’ve come out of it not new, but newly armoured. Not with walls around my heart or body, but with great understanding, self-love, and strength I didn’t know I had.

2015 was the kind of year that left me saying, “Wow, I didn’t know I could go through so much and feel so down, but still love myself and be happy on the inside, with who I am and what I’m doing.”

So I guess in the end, I’m eternally grateful for 2015.

Funny how that works. (I see what you’re doing, Universe. I see it. I get it. And I commend you for it. You tough motherfucker.)

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I can honestly say that I’ve never been one to struggle with gratitude. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve gone through a lot in my life. Maybe it was the constant bullying I went through starting when I was around five. Maybe it was the chronic pain I faced from the time I was 10 until I was in my early 20s. Maybe it was the depression and suicidal thoughts I had as a teen. Maybe it was all of that. (Spoiler alert: it was definitely all of that.) I’ve always been able to see the good in the bad, and I’ve always been able to appreciate it, wholeheartedly. Does that mean I’m never sad or angry or depressed? Heck no. It just means I can always find a smile in the saddest day, and that I can usually keep my sights set on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I bet at this point, you’re wondering what the hell I’m going on about because I told you on social media (and through the title of this post) that this was about a Photo-365 and for some reason I’m talking about being bullied and calling the Universe a “motherfucker.”

Right. Okay.

In 2015, I successfully completed a Photo-365. I’ve wanted to do one for years. I’ve watched friends and ex-boyfriends start (and sometimes finish) them. I’ve always found them to be such an interesting way of telling your story for a year. So when 2015 kicked off, I decided to go for it.

(We all know how much I love year-long projects. You are, after all, reading this on the blog I’ve used for both a 365-day blogging project and a 52-week ukulele project. Hmm, maybe I should talk to my therapist about this weird obsession…nah, I think I’m fine.)

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I thought it would be fun. I thought it might stress me out having to take and post a photo each day, but I thought it would be fun nonetheless. (For the record, it actually didn’t stress me out a single time.) I knew it would get my creative juices flowing, and that it would force me to look at each day a little differently than someone normally would. What I didn’t realize was just how much it would change my outlook, and just how much it would change my life for a year.

Here’s what happened when I did a Photo-365:

I got creative.

Not every single day can be an exciting adventure of a day. We’re not all Alice in Wonderland. (Which is sad because I’d love to be Alice in Wonderland.) Some days, you’re stuck going from your day job to a meeting or a class and then home to frantically find something to eat and get some quality time with your dogs or some freelance work done before you pass the fuck out in bed.

I had a lot of days like this. But the task of posting a photo a day got me looking at the details of my life a lot more closely than I typically would. The perfect lip print left by my lip gloss on a drinking glass at work. The artwork that hung in my office’s halls. The beautiful, only-makes-sense-to-me mess that is my Zumba choreography notes. All of it is interesting. Capturing these minute details in photos made me appreciate them even more.

I got inspired.

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Just like the saying, “If you want to be a writer, write every day,” I found my photography eye getting more and more inspired as the year went on. There were lots of days that I ended up taking photos of five or six things that could have been my photo of the day, and had to choose which would best represent the day itself. (And then I’d just post the rest on Instagram anyway. You’re welcome, world!)

I also took a lot more photos of a lot more things than I typically would have. I stopped and smelled the metaphorical (and sometimes literal) roses, if you will. Maybe it means a lot more of my iPhone storage vanished in 2015. At least I have a lot more cool options for my background and lock screen now.

I got adventurous.

It might seem a bit odd, but doing a Photo-365 got me trying a lot of new things. I mean, I’ve always been an adventure-lover, but I found myself at a lot more events and on a lot more adventures than ever before. “That would make for a great photo” would sometimes be my only impetus for wanting to go to something, but it would never, ever be all I left with.

In 2015, I got into a canoe twice – oh, and performed a water rescue in a canoe one of those times (crazy, I know) – I learned how to shoot a gun (adding that to my resume, thankyouverymuch), I took my personal training certification, and I started learning to skate. That’s just a few off the top of my head.

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Would I have done all of those things anyway? Absolutely.

Would I have done all of them in a year? I don’t know. Maybe I was extra eager to experience the moment and add it to the story of my  year. There’s no way to be sure.

I got (even more) grateful.

“Was 2015 really one of *the* worst years for you?” my best friend Carson asked me the other day.

“Yeah. Definitely. Why?”

“I’m forming a baseline. That’s good to know.”

“A baseline for what?”

“I thought you were positive and delightful all year, so it’s a good sign of the years to come.”

This was good affirmation of my gratitude and positivity in life. And like I said, I’ve never really questioned or struggled with being grateful for what I have, but I have to say, my Photo-365 brought my gratitude to a new level.

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In 2015, I went through a breakup, got ghosted by one of my (now former) best friends and then by a guy I was falling hard for (he was so wrong for me, you guys – obviously), I had a brutal viral infection for five weeks, I worked 80-100 hours a week for about six months, one of my dogs almost died in my arms after going into anaphylactic shock after her annual vaccines, and my other dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That’s just a best-of list, folks. That’s not even half of it.

I started to recognize and find appreciation – huge, heart-exploding, OH THANK GOD appreciation – for the little things. A long, hot bath at the end of a brutal day. Being able to take 15 minutes out of an insane day to snuggle the shit out of my dogs. Taking a 10-minute meditation break when the stress got to be too much. Hell, even just learning to meditate, period. Bad movies with good friends. Sitting with one of my best friends in total silence, just knowing they’ve got my back, on a devastatingly sad day. A random sign or image or coffee mug that made me laugh out loud. I recognized it. I captured it. I appreciated it. I soaked it up into my heart.

I got present.

I could probably go on and on (I’m a writer, I love words), but WordPress is telling me this post is already well over 1,000 words long, so I should probably wrap this up, but I’ll just say one more thing.

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Doing a Photo-365 made me aware of every day of my life. You could have asked me on any day what my day was like, or what I did, and I would have never said, “Nothing,” or, “Same old.” This project almost forced me to be present – something I can struggle with, especially when I am, as my loved ones put it, impossibly busy and not sleeping. Basically, a crazy person.

I feel like I really enjoyed each and every day of 2015. And it was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had.

 

How weird and wonderful is that?

xA

P.S. Oh, and if you’re curious, yes, I started another Photo-365 for 2016. You can follow along on my Instagram. And you could join me. I guess technically, you’d start a day late, but 2016’s also a leap year, so you could post 365 photos all the same. What’s stopping you?

P.P.S. Don’t say time is stopping you. It takes approximately five seconds to snap a photo, and approximately one minute to post it to like, all of your social media platforms. If you don’t have two minutes a day, you’re lying. You’re so lying.

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Three Hundred Sixty Six.

I know what you’re thinking.

Nope. I still don’t have any answers. And I still don’t feel like a grown up. Maybe slightly closer, but I still don’t even want to have to take care of a houseplant.

SIDENOTE: Somehow I manage to keep my dogs alive and happy. I don’t know how that works. Life Math is weird.

…Maybe I’m just not a green thumb.

Anyway.

My BFF Jo texted me yesterday and said, “It’s your last day as a 26 year old.”

At first I kind of panicked. Holy shitballs. 26. It’s over. I feel like it just started. I know it sounds like a super cliche, but in some ways, it really was like the blink of an eye.

I started this blog a year ago as a challenge to myself as a writer. Early in 2012, I kind of lost faith in myself. I hit a major rough patch and thought wow, maybe I’m actually a terrible writer. Maybe I have no idea what I’m doing. Maybe I don’t want to ever write again. Of course, I eventually came around and realized that writing is the thing I love the most. And in the same vein, I knew that if I wanted to be a writer, I’d have to write.

But I was kind of scared.

So I promised myself I would write something every day.

I wasn’t really expecting that forcing myself to write a blog post every day – a story that somehow led to me learning a life lesson, no matter how small – would help me be happy. I saw it as much more of an exercise than anything else. And an opportunity to maybe be funny. But I have to say, writing this blog has given me a completely different outlook on my entire life. It’s helped me understand how my past has made me who I am. It’s helped me work through a lot of difficult times and put a positive spin on things I would have never otherwise laughed at. It’s helped me approach life in a much more open, accepting way.

Like, happen to me, life: I’m ready to learn from you.

That was a disaster. Oh well, next time will be better!

I can’t believe that just happened. I am mortified. Also, that was hilarious. I can’t wait to tell people.

I did it! Someone pat me on the fucking back!

I hate everything right now. Surely someone will understand.

I am hurting. I need to know it’s going to be okay.

This is weird. Does everyone feel this way?

Did that just happen? SRSLY?!

At the same time, I had come to a bit of a crossroads with myself. I had hit a self-love low. I was feeling depressed, defeated, discouraged, you name it. I decided enough was enough: it was time to make the active decision to be happy.

I also discovered that Jayne Mansfield had stretchmarks. And my world was turned upside down. In a good way.

To quote myself (is that totally pretentious? I’m trying to recap, shut up.):

Jayne Mansfield, the American actress, singer, Playboy playmate, and all around drop-dead gorgeous bombshell, was flawed in a way that has been the root of much of my self-consciousness for all of my teenage and adult life.

So…all of that got me here.

SIDENOTE: It’s really hard writing the last post of a 365-day blog.

It’s going to be difficult to let this blog go. I know I’m going to wake up tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and my first thought is going to be, “What can I write about today?” or, “Oh shit! I still have to blog today!”

But I’m looking forward to channelling my creative energy into a number of other projects that I’ve already either started or am about to. So I guess what I’m saying is I’m not going anywhere. Maybe there will be another blog. Maybe not. But I promise there will be something.

I was trying to think of a fun way to commemorate the end of this blog.

Here’s what I came up with.

Jayne Mansfield had stretchmarks.

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And so do I.

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xA

P.S. It’s hilariously ironic that in the majority of the pin-up photos I took, my stretchmarks aren’t that visible. Because they’re everywhere.

But I guess there’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?

I’m probably the only one who really notices them.

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P.P.S. Things I meant to write but forgot: Happy Birthday to me! Also, here’s to 27! I’m crazy excited for it!

Three Hundred Sixty Five.

I know this is a 365-day blog, but this is technically the penultimate post, because it’s a birthday to birthday thing. And tomorrow’s my birthday!

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SIDENOTE: Have you bought me a birthday present yet? We can’t be friends if you didn’t because all I care about is material possessions.

Anyway, I thought what better way to spend the second-last day of my crazy year-long blog than looking back on some of its best moments?

SIDENOTE: Maybe that should say best/”best”…

Think of this, if you will, as a flashback episode of your favourite TV sitcom. With the help of a couple friends, I’ve compiled some categories I think you’ll enjoy.

Without further ado…

Top 5 Stupid Kid Moments

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Oh boy. Where to even start with this one?! Well, okay…

1. Pressing buttons was (OKAY, STILL IS) a thing I loved doing. See examples A and B.

2. Of course, there was the time I electrocuted myself

3. The day I put scissors through my finger

4. Setting fire to things is never a good idea.

5. Neither is writing a hate letter to your childhood friend.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

I have to give honourable mention to the day I learned that “bastard” is a bad word. Oh, and also to the combination of shaving off my eyebrows and getting hair extensions.

And guess what?! It’s your lucky day. I found a photo of teenage Andrea with hair extensions and no eyebrows. And apparently I have no shame because I’m gonna post it on the Internet.

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Boy oh boy oh boy.

Moving on!

Top 5 Most Awkward Moments

If you haven’t deduced by now, I am the QUEEN OF AWKWARD. This is quite the random assortment, but I feel it encompasses who I am pretty well…

1. The day a goat ate my t-shirt. (Enough said.) (Stupid goats.) (Seriously, why would she do that to me?!) (Ugh.) (I fucking loved that t-shirt.) (SOB.)

2. The day I learned about orgasms in sex ed. (Is anyone else craving cake?!)

3. Barrel-chested. That is all.

4. The day the National Poet of Scotland called me stupid. Which I really should add to my resume.

5. My elementary school “boobies” moment.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

There are so, so many, but I feel like my Pilates FAIL and my Zumba BARF moments were pretty grand.

Top 5 “SRSLY?!” Moments

You know those moments. The ones that make you go, “what the fucking?!”

1. People and my tattoos. Why are people so weird about my tattoos?

2. That time a guy threw a book at my face. No big deal.

3. NO I DON’T WANT TO TAN.

4. Nothing says “what the fuck?” like getting pepper sprayed!

5. Also charming: when people tell you how to pronounce your own name

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

I have to give myself a shout out for fucking up my neck by making fun of someone on a Zumba DVD. Because who the fuck does that? This girl, right here.

But the greatest honourable mention in this category goes to Glasgow, Scotland, where I experienced so many WTF things, including…

Finding a tooth in an ATM.

Finding a used tampon on a bus.

And buses in general.

Among so many others. I fucking love you, Glasgow. I really do.

Top 5 Workplace Blunders

It’s a wonder I still have my job. It really is. It’s also a wonder I still have any self-confidence after all of the stupid humbling things that have happened to me at work…

1. My friends still bring up the day I parked on the sidewalk.

2. Also charming: locking yourself in a stairwell on your first day of work.

3. Or, you know, getting caught dancing in the bathroom.

4. Similarly, walking in on your coworkers in the bathroom.

5. Or traumatizing them with your hair colour.

BONUS PHOTO:

Getting caught taking a selfie at work.

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At least I know my office mate loves me and doesn’t judge me.

Top 5 Relationship/Sex Fails

Look. I’d prefer we don’t dwell on how much I suck at relationships, okay? OKAY?!

1. I have been known to throw myself at guys I like.

2. I’ve learned the hard way that spin the bottle will only break your heart.

3. So will going after guys who don’t care that you exist. (But you can keep trying to shout “LOVE ME! LOOOOOVE MEEEE!” at them. Trust me. Guys SUPER love that.)

4. I’m good at ending up in awkward sex situations.

5. And awkward kissing situations, sometimes.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND A BONUS PHOTO:

Okay, well, first of all, heartbreak, right?

I think I also screwed it up with this guy, because he was clearly paying me a compliment.

Let’s not forget all of my failed marriages. Sigh.

And the time a MONSTER RASH ruined my potential Scottish boyfriend.

And hey, since I’ve already shown you how great I looked with hair extensions as an eyebrowless wonder, here’s a photo of me in the midst of the MONSTER RASH attack. This was after I managed to get my eyes open, because they were swollen shut.

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Good lord…

Top 5 Accomplishments

I didn’t screw up everything, though. I’ve done some stuff. Yeah. I do things! I TCB every once in a while!

1. I’ve gotten over a lot of fear to become a Zumba instructor.

2. Then I stuck with it for a year and changed my life.

3. I grew back my eyebrows, guys. I fucking did it!

4. I got over some serious “I can’t!” bullshit and also tried wall climbing.

5. Oh, hey, I also learned how to embrace myself sometimes. I think that’s pretty huge.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

I BLOGGED EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR 365 FUCKING DAYS.

A year, guys. A YEAR.

I’m excited to celebrate my birthday with you all tomorrow.

xA

P.S. I know what you’re thinking. There totally should have been some sort of crazy travel category. But I just couldn’t narrow that shit down. So you’ll just have to re-read my entire blog to enjoy.

Three Hundred Fifty Six.

Hey, guess what? I’m on a computer again!

SIDENOTE: I hope the Internet doesn’t crash before I can post this. It’s been a ridiculous two days of fighting with Shaw. (You’re ruining my life, Shaw!).

SIDENOTE TO THE SIDENOTE: It totally did, but I think (!?) it’s back again…

One of my friends approached me the other day about helping her out with a photo shoot for a model search contest. She wanted my help with makeup and styling, but in the end, the friend she had planned on taking the photos themselves fell through, so she asked if I’d be up for that as well.

I said, “of course!” and then I tried to remember the last time I pulled out my camera.

Being that this is the future, I could look on my camera and figure it out.

A YEAR.

More than a year.

How insane is that?

This from the girl who used to go out and take photos like, every day while she was living abroad.

What happened to me?

For like, three days leading up to the shoot, I also panicked that I’d do it wrong. What if I was a horrible photographer? What if she hated every shot I took? What if I couldn’t remember how to use my camera? Why did I agree to take photos when I’m not what I’d call a pro at it?

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Then I got behind the camera and forgot what I was worried about.

I really love taking photos. I find it calming. It makes you stop and think about what you’re looking at, how you’re seeing it, how you feel about it, and how you want the world to see it later. It makes you think about all the stories people will see and feel when they look at the photos after the fact. I don’t know. I just love it.

SIDENOTE: It helped that I had a gorgeous, talkative, hilarious model to work with for the afternoon, I guess. (Hi, Rachel. <3)

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Anyway, I decided enough is enough – I have to make a point of taking photos more often again.

So I guess the lesson I learned is that it’s really important to feed all your passions. They’re all connected, anyway. Getting the little (or big) flicker of inspiration in your soul from one just pushes you to move forward with all the others.

It’s really important – even when your life is a fucking gong show (not that mine is*) – to take moments, however small, to do the things you love.

Maybe that’s a better way of putting it.

Look at this sass:

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xA

*IT IS.

Three Hundred Fifty.

Speaking of crazy shit that happens while you’re in a vehicle and there’s someone crazy outside of it, let’s talk more about the buses in Glasgow.

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SIDENOTE: That’s the bus I used to take almost every day! The good ‘ol 62. Partick represent!

SIDENOTE TO THE SIDENOTE: God, I’m a nerd.

What, you don’t remember my Glasgow bus adventures?

Like, the day I walked across Glasgow?

Or the day a woman on the Glasgow bus followed me off  the Glasgow bus and then tried to kiss me?

Or maybe that day I found a – OMG WTF. Yeah, that.

So one day, I was on the bus in Glasgow heading back to the west end from city centre. It was the middle of the afternoon, when you don’t really expect weird things to happen. (Well, I guess I sort of do at this point. Especially after living in Glasgow. But also this.) The bus stopped at…well, at a stop, and no one got on. But a few seconds after it stopped, a guy ran up to the bus and took a jumping karate kick at it. He slammed into the side of  the bus, and despite the intense impact, he seemed unshaken.

The bus driver, on the other hand, was not impressed.

“What the – get tae fuck!” he started yelling out his open window.

But the guy outside of the bus – just a regular looking 20-something – did it again. He jump-kicked the bus.

What followed was a yelling conversation that had a lot of “FUCK” in it, and then the bus started to drive away.

And then the 20-something proceeded to chase after the bus, all the while running, jumping, and slamming into it.

Eventually the bus picked up enough speed that he gave up.

So that was interesting.

On another night, I was actually on the same bus – well, the same bus route – but this time, it was late at night because I was leaving a play I had just been to see. Once again, the bus stopped.

Wait a second.

It was actually at the same stop.

Maybe there’s something wrong with that stop in particular…

Anyway, we were at the stop, and there was also a red light, so we had nowhere to go. And then a guy walked up to the side of the bus, and he started making out with it.

“He whaaaaaaaat!?”

YES THAT’S RIGHT.

He smushed his face into one of the bus’ windows, and he started straight up French kissing it.

I feel like maybe he had just said goodbye to his girlfriend, who had gotten onto the bus, and so he was actually kissing “her” goodbye through the window? But also, I may have made that up to explain the sheer fucked up-ed-ness of the situation.

I think my BFF Mags was with me. Perhaps she can confirm or deny the above statement. But I promise you the makeout happened and I promise you it was as slimy, disturbing, and gruesome and it sounds.

For the rest of the ride home, I couldn’t stop staring at the wet patch left behind.

Of course, there were numerous times that I was on the bus and people would spit on it, but I don’t have any good enough specific stories about that.

Then there was the day I was on the bus in Glasgow going through city centre and we drove past Robert Carlyle standing on a street corner waiting to cross the street.

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ROBERT CARLYLE!

That was crazy in a good way.

No, I didn’t wave. But I really wanted to.

Lesson learned: There are a lot of crazy people out there. Specifically riding and/or waiting for the Glasgow transit system.

And also, never lick the side of a bus. You have no idea where it’s been.

xA

 

Three Hundred Forty One.

“But is it going to be like, OVER over? Like, completely over?!”

The number of times I have heard this in the last week has been both shocking and overwhelming (in a good way).

People read my blog.

I mean, I knew that people were reading my blog, because I’ve even blogged about it (whoa meta!), but the fact that people are reading my blog on a regular basis kind of blows me away.

Like, to everyone who reads my blog daily? I am in awe of you. I don’t know that I would read my blog every day if not for the fact that I have to write it every day. I am humbled and honoured to be included in your day. Even if you’re not reading every single day, I sincerely thank you for taking the time.

…But please don’t take me so seriously.

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It’s fascinating how once you put something down into words, some people will take it as the be all, end all, the absolute truth about you. It’s been pretty interesting to be able to actually see and hear people’s reactions to my blog, and how they vary depending on how well they know me. My friends who read my blog laugh off a lot of my dryness and sarcasm (and craziness), while others take it a little more to heart, I think.

Let’s just say that none of my closest friends have called me to say, “Don’t worry about your forehead wrinkles! They’re barely even there!” They’ve either been like, “Yeah, that’s shitty, hey? I have them, too.” or they’ve read the post, laughed at me, and moved on.

A lot happens in a year. A LOT. A lot happens in a week. Your feelings toward something may change daily. I love bananas, but that doesn’t mean I want to eat them all day every day. I had to do that while I was starving in Ireland and then I hated bananas and thought I didn’t want to eat them ever again. If I had been writing this blog at the time, there would be a post about how I hate bananas and never want to eat them again.

SIDENOTE: I wrote that very thing in my travel blog at the time, I am certain. Cashews, too. And just look at me now. I had a banana with my breakfast about 15 minutes ago.

ANOTHER SIDENOTE: Right now, I’m on a break from beets. Because….well…that was just too much for me.

Just a small selection of other “things”:

– I actually don’t have a mega-crush on Adam Levine. Like, sure, he’s attractive, of course, but if you asked me to name five celebrity crushes (I don’t know why you would do that, since you’re not the latest issue of Tiger Beat, but you never know), he would not come up.

– I don’t actually hate cats. I love cats. I needed something to write about that day, and I was shocked by a cat bite story. I have bonded with many a cat, despite my allergies. (Shout outs to Nala, Fred, and Flora (RIP), just to name a few of my fave felines.) Sometimes you just think of a joke/story and run with it.

– I’m not panicking about my breasts. I was perplexed by them shrinking for about a week. Then I got used to it. Then I realized I love it. So to everyone who has been either making fun of me for it (yes, that happened), or trying to reassure me that it’s gonna be okay, my boobs and I are doing just fine.

– I would get into the ocean or a swimming pool. In fact, I’m trying to find a day to go try out Aqua Zumba. Yes, I’m terrified of the water. But what would life be if you never challenged yourself? Also, while I don’t swim, I LOVE being near the ocean. It’s peaceful and beautiful and wonderful.

– I don’t ALWAYS sing in my car. It’s a mood thing. So I apologize if you drove by me and I wasn’t wailing at the top of my lungs. I know I’m a huge disappointment. I apologize.

SIDENOTE: There’s some typical Andrea sarcasm.

Now, all of that being said, if you’ve ever read my blog and expressed concern for me, I think you are wonderful. (If you’ve made fun of me, you are less wonderful.) And I mean that genuinely and seriously. I so appreciate your concern. It feels really warm and fuzzy to know that you’ve read something here and it’s moved you – no matter in what direction – to want to say something. I think that’s super cool. In fact, sometimes your concern makes me feel like an asshole because I think, “Over exaggerated again, Beça.” But also, a lot of what I write is serious and it feels pretty incredible to know that other people feel the same way, share the same fears, love the same things, etc. I have lost count of the number of relationships that have either started or grown closer because of this blog. And that is pretty fucking cool.

Here’s another thing about me: sometimes I think I know where a blog post is going, and then I start to write it and it grows and grows until I feel like I am completely unable to properly encapsulate how I feel about something.

This is one of those moments.

What have I learned from this particular thing?

Um…

(A) I am humbled by everyone who reads this blog.

(B) Being a writer is a hilarious thing because everything you write is a little piece of you, but when you write that crazy-ass twisted disturbing horror story or a play about siblings who are in love, it’s awkward because everyone thinks you need therapy.

(C) I thought I had a “C,” but I got distracted and forgot it.

xA

P.S. Yes, this 365-day blog will be over on October 17. But I’ve got other projects in the works. You won’t get rid of me that easily.

Three Hundred Thirty Nine.

Ah, family outings.

When I was growing up, our family outings were modest. We weren’t going off to Disneyland or anything, but we had fun times. (Remember when I barked at those dogs? Good stuff.)

This particular trip was to a place called Half Moon Lake. I was probably seven or eight years old, maybe younger.

Here’s a photo I found of Half Moon Lake via Google image search (as usual…)

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Not breathtaking, but nice enough.

I have to admit, I’m biased. I mean, our whole day at Half Moon Lake was a bit…doomed. First of all, we got ice cream from this cute little ice cream stand/cabin thing, which was super exciting, but then my brother Bryan dropped his strawberry cone into the sand and the day was effectively ruined. Like, he was so upset that not even a new ice cream cone could soften the blow.

Then it got worse.

We – that is, my mom, dad, brother, and I – were all playing in the sand. I think I was working on the tower to a sand castle, which just means I was packing somewhat wet sand into a small plastic bucket. It was warm and sunny. I’m pretty sure I was even wearing a bathing suit. (Probably one of the last times I ever wore one.) It was almost like being on what my mom would call “a real beach.”*

Then it happened.

A little girl screaming.

I looked up, scanning the sandy area around me, trying to place where the desperate screams were coming from.

Then I realized that the little girl screaming was standing about waist deep in the water.

Oh, shit.

Look, at this point, I was already not a fan of water. And now I was watching in horror as a girl who was basically my age was SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER while standing in the water.

I was certain it was a shark and we were all going to die. Yes, even those of us who were not actually in the water.

Sharks have their ways.

The girl’s dad or mom or whoever ran to her rescue. As it turned out, it was not a shark

It was a leech.

Sucking_leechNow, at the time, I had no idea what leeches were. I just saw a black thing on her leg and as far as I was concerned, it was some sort of tiny sea monster that was somehow killing her slowly.

As an adult, I say LOOK AT IT. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT IS.

So, we didn’t go into the water at Half Moon Lake that day. And now that I think of it, we never went back to Half Moon Lake, either.

Lesson learned: Sharks aren’t the only reason to be scared of the water. Leeches are also a valid concern.

xA

*What qualifies as a “real beach,” you say? I don’t know. You have to ask my mom. She’s from Mozambique. She knows her shit.

Three Hundred Twenty Five.

When I was in Dublin in 2006, I would say I went on what was a bit of a book shopping binge. You see, a lot of my favourite writers are from Ireland and Scotland, and their books aren’t readily available in Canada, so when I started wandering the streets of Dublin and finding all sorts of amazing books at cute little used bookstores for WAY cheap, I nergasmed. And bought many.

On one particular day, I had just found a very cool first edition of Trainspotting, as well as a copy of an Enda Walsh play I hadn’t read before. I was stoked. So excited. I decided the obvious best thing to do would be start reading Trainspotting immediately. While I was walking back toward my guesthouse.

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Now, it was a summer afternoon in Dublin, and I was staying pretty close to O’Connell Street just north of the Liffey (A.K.A. right in the thick of things), so the side street I was walking down was FULL OF PEOPLE. And it was daylight. Sunny. Beautiful. Not the time you’d expect anything weird and/or scary to just happen.

But shit happens when you least expect it, I suppose.

I was weaving my way in and out of people when all of a sudden, I saw a man getting pushed to the ground just across the street from where I was. In fact, being that it was a pedestrian-only street, I think it’s impossible that anyone didn’t see him getting pushed to the ground. But nobody stopped walking.

I froze where I was, trying to figure out what was going on. The man on the ground, whose hands were both bandaged up as if he had been tossed a hot iron as a cruel prank (so let’s called him Bandages), started screaming and holding onto his head, sheltering himself from the man who had pushed him down, who was now kicking the shit out of him with giant combat boots (so let’s call him The Kicker).

“Hey!” I yelled – or “yelled” (because I was terrified).

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I had no idea what to do. No one around me seemed to care about what was going on. Tourists took note and sped up their pace, turning a blind eye. I was flabbergasted.

When The Kicker started stomping his boot down on Bandages’ face, I pulled out my cell phone and started trying to figure out if I had to dial a country code in order to dial 999 for the police.

STOMP.

“Arrrgh!” Bandages screamed.

STOMP.

I panicked.

Just as my concern shifted from “this guy’s getting hurt” to “this guy might get his skull smashed open on the pavement,” I heard it.

“Hey! Hey! Hey! Knock if off, you fuck!”

Two young women had inserted themselves smack dab into the middle of the confrontation.

Not only were they young women – maybe 25 or so – but they were each pushing a baby in a pram, and the one doing the yelling – a super cute, tiny blonde – was also holding hands with a tiny (maybe four-year-old) boy.

“Stop it! What’s wrong with you?! Get out of here, you!”

And The Kicker listened! He spat on Bandages and then ran away, quickly disappearing into the crowds of people.

The women let go of their prams and helped Bandages into a sitting position on the curb he had just been getting stomped against.

“You all right? Up you come.”

He looked like he had no idea where he was (and I can’t blame him), but he was still alive and in one piece (an accomplishment, given what I had just seen).

And just as quickly as they had intervened in Bandages potentially being killed in the middle of a beautiful summer afternoon in Dublin, the two women gathered their children and went on with their day. I looked up and down the street for The Kicker, but he was nowhere to be seen, so I decided to move on with my day, too. But not before looking at Bandages one last time to make sure he was awake.

He was wavering a bit, sitting on the curb and adjusting the bandages on his hands, but he was alert. I hoped he was figuring out the next step he had to take to never see The Kicker again. In reality, he was probably trying to process what had just happened, and he probably couldn’t even hear never mind think after all of the impact his skull had just suffered.

After a silent well wish for Bandages, I kept walking.

That was the day I learned that Irish mothers are not to be messed with.

And also that the scariest things in life often happen in the blink of an eye.

xA

Three Hundred Twenty One.

I’m reading a book called The Demonologist, which is about the career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. They’re the couple who inspired the film The Conjuring, and they’re also the couple who were called in to help the family who inspired The Amityville Horror.

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All of this reading and talking about the paranormal with friends has me remembering some of the crazy experiences I’ve had. I know I told you all about one of my weird moments down in the Edinburgh Vaults, but now I’m going to tell you about something that happened in Ireland.

When my mom came to visit me in Scotland, we took a trip together to Ireland. I know I’ve mentioned this before. When we were in Killarney, we went on a ghost tour that was probably one of the best I’ve ever been on. It was fun and campy, but it was also rooted in a lot of fact. Yes, we did horror movie trivia on the bus, but we also learned a lot about the city and its (sometimes very dark) history.

The last stop on our tour was Muckross Abbey. Here’s a short Wikipedia blurb:

Muckross Abbey is one of the major ecclesiastical sites found in the Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland. It was founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary for the Observantine Franciscans by Donal McCarthy Mor.

It has had a violent history and has been damaged and reconstructed many times. The friars were often subjected to raids by marauding groups and were persecuted by Cromwellian forces under Lord Ludlow.Today the abbey is largely roofless although, apart from this, is generally quite well preserved. Its most striking feature is a central courtyard, which contains a large yew tree and is surrounded by a vaulted cloister.

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In order to get to the abbey, we had to park on a street and walk through quite a bit of forest. As we made the trek over, the sun was starting to set. By the time we got into the abbey, it was pitch black – the only light we had was one flashlight, held by one of our guides.

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At first, I was a bit annoyed. The only other people on this tour with us were a group of teenage girls and their mom or aunt or whoever. So they were squealing at everything and being generally SUPER annoying. They were so loud and obnoxious that our guides had to ask them multiple times to calm down.

It was totally ruining the mood. While the building was really beautiful and certainly eerie in the darkness, we were mostly just trying to stay away from the teens to save our ear drums. I tried to focus on ignoring them and snapping photos – the flash from my camera was one of the only ways to see the actual building.

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And it was a super cool building.

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SIDENOTE: If you’re a believer in light orbs, my god, I caught so many on camera, it’s not even funny.

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So, while I was having a fascinating time in Muckross Abbey, I wouldn’t say I was having a creepy ghost tour time. Until we got into this one room.

“All right, everyone. This the the room in which we conduct an experiment.” our guide was getting down to business.

I assessed the surroundings. We were in a long, narrow room, somewhat like a hallway. One wall was solid stone, the other was an outside wall, with numerous slit-windows cut into the stone. It was so dark inside that the darkness of the yard outside seemed brighter, so the windows were very visible.

“In a moment, I’m going to turn off the torch [translation: flashlight]. I want you all to line up against that wall. Spread out so you can’t grab each other or scare each other, because this isn’t that kind of ghost tour. Once you’re ready, we’re going to turn out the lights and just take a moment to feel the room. All right?”

After much squealing from the teenagers, we got lined up. I looked at my mom and rolled my eyes. I wished they would just shut up.

And then our guide turned out the lights.

I stood there, staring out the slitted windows, wondering if this actually was one of those ghost tours and a guy in a gorilla mask was about to run in screaming at us (I went on a tour like that in Edinburgh – what a load of shit).

But then I saw something. And it wasn’t outside.

The light coming in from the slitted windows started to be blocked out, as if someone was walking by them. Then it happened again. And again. A row of shadows walked by me.

And then the row of shadows stopped.

Here’s the part where if you don’t already, you may think I’m totally nuts.

Although I didn’t see any faces turn and look at me – what I saw was shadows – I felt one of the men standing in front of me turn and look at me. And what I felt was a sense of judgement – a sort of shame on you – so strong that without even being to process it, I burst into tears. It was as though my heart was being squished by an iron weight. I couldn’t help myself. The sadness and shame and fear took over my entire body and my body panicked in response.

“Turn the lights on.” I started to say, “I need someone to turn the lights one. Turn the lights on!”

How did I get to be the one freaking out?

The guide complied and I promptly grabbed hold of my mom and told her what I saw and felt. She agreed about the shadows blocking out the windows. She had seen them, too.

After that, I couldn’t wait to get out of Muckross Abbey. It was unfortunate that we had to walk back through forest in total darkness (and in the rain) in order to get back to the bus with only one small flashlight for our whole group, because I spent that entire walk fearing that I was going to be attacked by whatever had been so angry at me in that room.

Oh, and if you were wondering, that room we were in was the room in which the Franciscan monks were imprisoned and led to their death. Often chained together.

Comforting.

That was one day (of a few I’ve had in my life) during which I learned that the history of a place is often 100% palpable, no matter how much time has passed.

It also solidified my belief in ghosts, or the paranormal, or whatever you want to call it.

xA

P.S. Tell me your ghost stories.

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