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New Things, A.K.A. 2016: Activate!

Well, it’s 2016 – those of you who follow along with my life may already be tired of hearing me talk about how I’m re-launching my YouTube channel and be thinking, “Just DO it already!”

I’m doing it! Life’s been more than slightly challenging, so I’m doing it on a three week(ish) delay, but I’m doing it!

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I think in general, people just make themselves false, unrealistic promises, and then they get mad or depressed (or both) when they’re not perfectly on track by January 31st. Why not just set yourself realistic goals at any point in the year and stick to them?

It sounds like I’m giving advice now.

Wait a second.

You know what I think we definitely all need at the beginning of a year – or any time? ADVICE.

(That was an awkward segue, but I tried.)

And I think that I am the perfect person to give it to you.

(Why, I have no idea. Because I say so? Yeah! Because I say so!)

Without further ado, I give to you, the video to kick off 2016 – which, by the way, will be a monthly feature on www.contessabessa.com – Andrea Offers You Advice Dressed as a…

Bet you weren’t expecting me to be a banana.

HOW COULD YOU NOT.

Big thanks to everyone who got involved on social media and asked me questions! I’ll be doing advice videos monthly, so leave a question in the YouTube comments or keep an eye on my social media for an opportunity to ask.

I want to give a huge shoutout to Brother Octopus for letting me use their music in my videos. Visit their website ^, where you should promptly buy all of their albums and listen to them on a constant loop like I do.

I also want to give a big shoutout to Sally for lending me this banana like, a million years ago, and then letting me keep it just a bit longer in order to shoot this video.

So, what else can you look forward to from me in 2016?

Videos with names like Two Minute Trivia and The BFF Game…oh, and more ukulele, too.

I’m excited. I’ll see you all again soon.

xA

 

Photo-365 on CTV

My photo-365 – and the blog post I wrote about the experience – has received such an overwhelmingly positive response. Thank you to everyone who read through that whole damn post and reached out. It really means a lot to me.

I am so moved by everyone who has started a photo-365 this year and named me as an inspiration. We’re in it together now, and I hope that the experience is as positive for you as it was/is for me!

It seems my project made enough of a splash to catch the media’s eye. I want to extend a big thank you to Dez Melenka and CTV Edmonton for their interest in my project! I hope it might get others thinking about they ways they can appreciate each and every day of their lives, good or bad, eventful or “boring.”

Watch the CTV Edmonton segment by clicking on the photo:

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A new photo-365 isn’t the only thing I’m working on this year. I’ll be back soon with some fun new content for you all…!

xA

 

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.

Week 53 – Farewell, a Q&A, and In The Sun (Version 2.0)

THIS IS IT.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say.*

Thank you so much for watching. And keep an eye out for more.

xA

*In like an hour, I’ll think of some super meaningful things to say and I’ll be sooo mad at myself for this…

Week 52 – Dirty Old Town

LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN.

It’s Adam! My pal and co-worker! He’s the best!

Okay, so I approached Adam about doing another duet, and his first choice was “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues, which is a super fun song, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that it’s a Christmas song. I know, I know, who cares, but I DO. I had a hard enough time doing a single Christmas song at Christmas time. I couldn’t wrap my head around Christmas in August! So…I sort of forced Dirty Old Town upon Adam. I thought he knew the song better than he did. He told me at the time of filming that he had heard it like, twice. Oops. And I hadn’t heard it in ages. Double oops.

WELL I THINK WE ROCKED IT.

Also, can we talk about my multi-instrument multi-tasking here?! What am I, a WIZARD?!

Now, Adam and I get on our friend-chat tangents, so while we were shooting, I totally forgot to force him to talk about The Expats, his amazing new podcast. Go to http://www.expatspodcast.ca/ and listen to it. Like, right now. (Okay, not RIGHT NOW. After you watch our duet. It’s fascinating and entertaining and I just love Adam as an interviewer. I’m so proud of how well it’s already doing just a month in!

I cannot believe this is the penultimate week. ONE MORE TO GO. Wow wow wow wow wow.

xA

Week 51 – Try

GUYS I AM SO TIRED.

Pulling some serious 15-16 hour days during this lovely Edmonton Fringe. (Opening night was 19 hours long for me, but who’s counting?)

So I let Devin do most of the singing because just listen to him and also the chords for this song were hard so I was focused and also I was so exhausted I could barely emote and then after we filmed I fell asleep on Devin’s couch for a while and then I hauled my ass to my venue.

But don’t let that fool you – Fringe is going swimmingly! Check out all the shows you can see at http://www.fringetheatre.ca. Get out there and support the artists. It is HARD WORK.

I’M GONNA SLEEP SO HARD NEXT WEEK.*

*Not actually because I never do.

xA

Week 50 – Dammit Janet

NATHAN! You made it, buddy!

Nathan was one of the first peeps to ask me to do a duet when I started this project almost a year ago. And since then, we’ve rescheduled about 82,479 times. But WE MADE IT!

This journey started when he proposed we do the theme song from “Portal” (a video game, nerds), but those chords moved way too fast for me (fucking synthesizers…) so we changed our mind and he suggested a song from Little Shop of Horrors, but I honestly didn’t know the song and couldn’t get much of a grip on it. You see, I hate musicals…except for a very select few. AND THIS IS ONE OF THEM.

You may recognize Nathan from Friends Without Benefits, and you should also watch his stand-up comedy here, because he’s great: https://youtu.be/8QiW5JWK6Kg.

This was such a blast. And the video could have been 45 minutes long with all the fuckery we got up to. So you’re welcome!

Now I wanna do every song from Rocky Horror. Not enough weeks. Dammit!

xA

Week 49 – It Ain’t Me Babe

Talk about serendipity! This week’s duet just goes to show, everything happens for a reason.

My pal Brittany was available spur of the moment, she had a fantastic song in mind, it was easy for me to learn because I already know and love it, and quite frankly, when we got together to sing it, it sort of felt like magic happened. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous and – I say this in a totally non-arrogant way – our harmonies give me goosebumps.

So, thank you, Brittany, for your energy and enthusiasm and amazing pipes, and also can we please start a band and name it something about our eyebrows? Because DAYUM, right?

Without further ado, I give you It Ain’t Me Babe, originally written by Bob Dylan, in the key performed by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon singing the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash version of the song. Whew!

Oh, also, this shirt is officially my June Carter Cash shirt. Love it.

This week – like many/most others – brought me a ton of joy. I hope it brings a smile to your face, too!

xA

Week 48 – Delilah

It’s not every day you get together with a pal and sing about murder.

And we didn’t even know that’s what we were gonna do!

I’m happy to bring you Week 48 STILL ON TIME! This almost – ALMOST – got pushed back because of The Plague®. That’s right, my illness-that-I-was-told-was-strep-and-was-actually-a-viral-infection-and-has-been-haunting-me-for-4.5-weeks is still lurking and I didn’t have a voice most of this week. Luckily, it’s on its way out of my system and I could mostly sing by yesterday (Friday), so we could make this happen!

Carson’s so funny. He was nervous about singing and hot damn, he’s a great singer! We had a ton of fun with this one, especially after discovering that sweet, sweet Delilah is actually a “murder ballad.” Not creepy at all!

Shout out to my duet with Kandice: http://youtu.be/YD2MXYfvUCo

And shout out to Apocalype Kow for the kazoos! Go to their website at http://www.apocalypsekow.com or watch my duet with Devin: http://youtu.be/cwYIWBGCV9k

OKAY BYE!

xA

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