The Year Of Caryn: 2012 – Progress Check

If you remember, I didn’t do my New Years Resolutions on time this year because of it didn’t quite start how I had expected. If I did, this list would be completely different. Instead, in February after some dust settled, I deemed 2012 – The Year Of Caryn and this list was born. And oh, The Year of Caryn it has been! Here is my progress check on accomplishing my goals thus far.

Goals For The Year Of Caryn:

  1. Focus on me. Discover who Caryn is as an individual. Do some soul-searching – figure out what makes me happy and what makes me tick. – CHECK (but still in progress & evolving)
  2. Put my needs first. Don’t do something just to please others. If it is something that I don’t want to do or that doesn’t make me happy, DON’T do it.  (This is liberating!) Also note: It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. CHECK – Despite family trying to get me to come back early from Tanzania, I am actually standing my ground and not giving up on my dreams. I am not trying to please them, I am putting myself first for once. Also, saying no to plans because it isn’t something I want to do – SO FREEING.
  3. Make time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but made excuses for, never thought I would have time to do or never thought the time was right. CHECK – volunteer in Tanzania in 19 days!
  4. Follow my dreams. CHECK I started Tweetup For Change, volunteering in Tanzania AND I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro, baby!
  5. Get in shape  – this includes running more, attending yoga and core fusion more often and completing a month of Jillian’s 30 day shred. CHECK, completed several Jillian DVD’s, got a personal trainer and started Couch to 5K
  6. Find space between digital world and real world.  Disconnect from constantly being connected. Turn off  the cell phone and computer once in a while. Still need to do this, but will have limited access while in Tanzania
  7. Take a photography class & learn to use a DSLR camera. CHECK Took a 90 min free photography class, but want to learn more
  8. Buy that DSLR camera  Can’t afford this right now. STILL TO DO
  9. Be more proactive about reaching out to those I love.  So many wonderful people have come into my life recently, don’t take them for granted. Continuous & in progress but not sure worthy of a check.
  10. Surround myself with those who make me happy. If someone doesn’t make me feel happy/smart/cool/pretty/nice/thin/safe to be my true self/smart enough – then take a step back and re-evaluate the friendship. I want to surround myself with people who make me feel happy and alive and appreciate me. CHECK but still evolving. Amazing how much better you feel when you’re around positive energy. Realized even if bad things happen, you can choose to be happy.

Blog Goals:

  1. Stay on top of my ideas for blog content and post in a timely fashion. I have 63 drafts just waiting to be finished and published. I’ve got to work on this. I have more drafts now and haven’t been posting as often as I would like. I’ve been too busy off making shit happen!
  2. Personal posts are okay but add more inspiring content too. The intent of the blog is not to be a diary. CHECK. Also started Saturn Return segment
  3. Don’t feel pressured to post if it has been a while.  It is my blog and I should only post when I have content I want to share. Guess this contradicts #1 but CHECK
  4. Create a new blog name. Please feel free to submit suggestions. Seriously. CHECK. new blog TBA later.
  5. Buy my own domain with said new blog name. STILL TO DO
  6. Hold more contests, interviews, giveaways etc. Be a more active blogger but still adhere to Goal 3. STILL TO DO – but I do have a guest post series coming up and have been selected for UbiChamps…
  7. Embrace all that blogging has brought into my world and continue to grow with it. CHECK! BiSC #2, winning a free trip for BiSC 2013 and Kindle Fire, Tweetups, new friends, social media events, etc.
  8. Learn CSS and improve technical skills STILL TO DO

I still have a bit to do in the Year of Caryn, but I am really proud of all that I have accomplished.  I feel like a totally different person than I was and so much has changed and evolved in these 9 months. It seems like forever ago when I first set these goals. I have made improvements in my life and focused on the big, personal, soul-searching things, the things to make me happy and allow me to grow. I have realized a lot about myself and about life in general and while I know this process is far from over, I know I am finally discovering who I really am at my hearts center and what I want to get out of this life. It really is the material things that I have left to check off this list. And it is only September!

What were your goals for 2012? How are you doing on accomplishing the goals you set out to do this year?

Advertisements

The one where I kindly ask you to help me make my dreams of volunteering in Africa a reality. Please.

Dearest Readers,

Jambo! (Swahili for Hello!) As you may remember, I have deemed this year The Year of Caryn and I am doing everything I can to follow through with the goals I set for myself.  I can accomplish goals #3,4 & 6 but need your help to make my dreams come true. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to volunteer somewhere in Africa. I have always felt that it was a calling of mine to give back, to make a difference, to do something bigger than myself, to volunteer abroad. While I always envisioned myself volunteering somewhere in Africa, I didn’t think it was a dream that I could actually make into a reality. It wasn’t until recent life changes that I began to do some serious soul-searching. I realized that even though there will always be excuses and doubters, there is no better time than now to listen to and follow my heart.

Thanks to Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), I am able to make my volunteering dream come true this coming September. CCS is a 501(c)3 non-profit international volunteer organization with no religious or political affiliations, whose mission is to operate volunteer programs around the world in partnership with sustainable community initiatives, bringing people together to work side-by-side while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding.

I have selected CCS’s program in Kilimanjaro- Tanzania where I will teach children for four (4) weeks. Stationed near the town of Moshi, I’ll be joined by 25 other volunteers. I will be living in shared rooms with bunk beds at the CCS provided home-base where hot water and electricity will be very sparse. We will have to go to Internet cafes in town to get Internet (technology detox, yes!).

Despite the fact that many people do not have a lot of belongings and live in poverty, I’ve heard they are some of the happiest and most grateful people you will ever meet. My plan, while I’m there, is to get off the tourist path, immerse myself into the culture, connect with the people, and of course, to help educate and make a difference. I am now attempting to teach myself Swahili so that I am better prepared for this experience. I want to fully embrace this opportunity. I know this will be a very difficult, eye-opening experience, and one of the biggest life challenges I will ever face.

You are probably asking yourself, why does she have to pay to be in a volunteer program? Well, the only free program is the Peace Corp. and I honestly cannot commit to 27 months away from my family, friends & life. I am not asking for your help to go on a leisurely vacation, rather I am asking for you to sponsor me so I can mentor children and to give them the opportunity to be educated and literate. Did you know that Africa lacks quality teachers? In fact, according to the International Development Research Centre, even though literacy rates have greatly improved in Africa over the last few decades, approximately 40% of Africans over the age of 15, and 50% of women above the age of 25 remain illiterate. Education is important for many reasons, some of which are child health, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability.

Everyone deserves an education and this is why I need your help. I am kindly asking you to not only help me educate and improve a child’s life, to help make my dream a reality, but to also help raise awareness. You can click here to make your tax-deductible donation. Any donation is immensely appreciated. It would mean so much to me if you would consider sponsoring me and making a donation on my behalf. To do so, please click here to access my fundraising page: (My username is Carynlevy should you need it to login.) If you do not want to make an online donation, but still wish to sponsor me, please contact me for alternatives. Please note that any donation that is not submitted through the website is not tax-deductible.

You, my readers, have given me so much love and support and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I would not be here, on the path to making my dreams a reality if it weren’t for you. I can’t thank you enough for changing my life. I only hope that I can have that kind of impact on the children of Kilimanjaro.

I have decided that if I reach my goal, I will conquer a trapeze class  as suggested by the lovely Amber. Being as I am a blogger and all, I will video the experience and blog about it for all my readers and supporters to laugh at my lack of grace and skills.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, in advance, for your generosity and support.

All my love,

Caryn

Kilimanjaro-Tanzania

Volunteer Abroad Sep 22, 2012

Where in the world is Caryn going?

Where In The World is Caryn?

The one where I stop making excuses and decide to make shit happen.

“If you could do or be anything you want, what would do?” For as long as I can remember, my answer has always been the same.  I want to give back and help others. I want to start my own charity and volunteer in a less developed country. Ultimately, I want to make a difference in someone’s life.

Then reality struck. I got a job, settled down and prepared for my life as it seemed to be going. My dreams of volunteering and making a difference took a back seat to the hustle bustle of everyday life. I brushed it off as “just a dream” because it just didn’t seem practical or good timing. Then in January, everything I knew got turned upside down and I began to reevaluate my life, who I am (or am not) doing and I declared 2012 The Year Of Caryn.  

Some of my goals for The Year Of Caryn include actually making time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but managed to make excuses for as well as focusing on me. Those excuses stopped the second I put up that post. I realized if I really wanted something to change or to do something different, I had to do something about it. No more just sitting on the couch waiting for change. I had to go out and make that shit happen.

So I am done dreaming, done waiting for things to happen to me, done making excuses. I am on a positive path of self improvement and I am making my dreams a reality. So, in September, I am going to Africa! That’s right, I am spending 4 weeks  (FOUR!!!) volunteering in Tanzania! There are three volunteer programs to choose from: Caregiving (caring for kids in orphanages and daycares), Teaching English, (schools are overcrowded and there is a shortage of teachers and resources), or Community Development (women empowerment or helping AIDS patients). Because I have always felt that I was meant to do something big in this world, to give back, to make a difference in someone’s life, I want to be a role model and help educate the children. I want to immerse myself in the culture and make an impact on their lives. I am going with an international volunteer organization called Cross Cultural Solutions.  I am shaking with excitement, I cannot wait!

People ask why Africa? Because it just feels right. Ever since I was little, I have always envisioned myself volunteering in Africa so I want to follow that gut feeling. There is something to be said about following your intuition. Plus, one of my biggest Life List goals is to go on an African Safari. So why not kill two birds with one stone?

I originally planned to go in April but as April is almost over, you can deduce that it didn’t work out. As it turns out, it is rainy season now and it just didn’t give me enough time to prepare. My program runs 9/22 – 10/20 and I’m hoping to catch the return of the Serengeti migration and avoid the second rainy season. The best part? I don’t have to quit my job! I am extremely lucky that my company is supportive of my volunteer dreams and is letting me take this 4 week sabbatical. I have been itching to share this but had to go through proper HR protocol first. I am so excited I want to scream it from the rooftops!

Currently, I am trying to figure out the best flight path to get there that is the most cost efficient/shortest possible route. Looks like it will be 18-24 hours of traveling with a stop in Europe. If I can have my pit stop in Rome, and get to visit Africa and Italy in one trip, I might just be the happiest person on earth. But first, in order to be allowed into the country, I need to apply for a work permit and visa as well as clear all medical requirements. It is a good thing I am not scared of shots because I have a laundry list of shots I need to have done before I leave.

It isn’t required to have the Hep A/B shot series 100% completed before you leave, but because I am a planner like that and am aware of my travel plans so far in advance, I’d rather have everything completed before I leave. There is a lot to be done and anxieties to be calmed which could mean a lot of room for making excuses. But I won’t let happen. This dream will be checked off my list.

Shots I cleared 6 months out: My doctor did a blood test to check for evidence of previous childhood vaccinations. I am all about saving money and not repeating tests. They found remnants of Hep B, mumps, and Rubella in my blood.

Yellow Fever * (March 13) Yellow fever is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not transferable by direct contact. I asked my Dr. of all the shots “I need, which will be the worst?” And the Dr. smiled and said “This one!” as she stabbed the back of my arm with the vaccine. It felt like she was holding the needle in place in my arm even after it had long been removed. It didn’t hurt though, just stung/burned/tingled for about 30 seconds. It has a reputation of being one of the worst shots and often gets people sick with flu-like symptoms and/or swelling at the site of the injection. I luckily didn’t get sick. In fact, I had such a mild reaction, if it weren’t for the stinging, I would have wondered if I actually received the correct shot. It only made my jaw and joints feel stiff that afternoon. I woke up the next day with a pretty bad hangover-like-headache without having had any alcohol the night before. If that was the worst shot, bring on Africa!

Polio (March 13) – done, check!

Hep A(March 27) 2 shot series if not combined with Hep B – 3 shot series if it is. One shot down – one to go! Easy enough, just your average shot.

Hep B booster – (March 27) I had already  have remnants in my blood from when I was child, so the Dr. said a one time shot of Hep B would suffice.

In July I return for the Meningitis, Typhoid and Measles shots and then the week before I leave I finish my Hep A series and pick up my Malaria pills.  These pills supposedly can make you hallucinate, so we’ll see how that goes.

*my mom keeps saying “she got yellow fever” and this cracks me up. I got the yellow fever shot, not the disease, thanks! Oh, semantics.

 

I know there are risks to going to Africa. If I don’t go now, when will I?  I’ve always believed actions speak louder than words. I am putting my words to action and making my dreams come true. I AM GOING TO AFRICA!! NBD. JK. OMG! BFD!

What dreams can you make a reality?

** UPDATE: as of 7/27 all shots complete. I can’t believe how time has gone so quickly.

Typhoid – no big deal. Just your average shot. You have a choice of taking a one time shot that requires a booster dose every two years for those who remain at risk or taking live vaccine pills. I chose the shot as it’s easy. One shot and your done. You just need to get it at least two weeks before travel to allow the vaccine time to work. The other option, taking oral pills, is more complicated. You need to take four doses which are given two days apart for each dose. The last dose needs to be taken at least one week before traveling. The bonus to the pills is that the booster dose is needed every five years for people who continue to travel. I prefer one and done.

MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) or Meningitis – I don’t know which was which but NO WONDER KIDS CRY when they get shots. I am a pro at shots. They rarely phase me. But this one sucked. It was worse than the Yellow Fever vaccine for sure. I was advised to take advil or that it might swell, neither of which applied to me but it was a beast of a shot.

 

 

The Year Of Caryn: 2012 Goals

I realize I’m a little late on the goals-for-the-new-year bandwagon.  Had I written this list on January 1st my list would be entirely different.  A lot has happened since and I finally got around to thinking about the year ahead. I have deemed 2012 – The Year Of Caryn and I have a whole new set of goals that I hope to accomplish this year.

Goals For The Year Of Caryn:

  1. Focus on me. Discover who Caryn is as an individual. Do some soul-searching – figure out what makes me happy and what makes me tick.
  2. Put my needs first. Don’t do something just to please others. If it is something that I don’t want to do or that doesn’t make me happy, DON’T do it.  (This is liberating!) Also note: It’s okay to be selfish sometimes.
  3. Make time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but made excuses for, never thought I would have time to do or never thought the time was right.
  4. Follow my dreams.
  5. Get in shape  – this includes running more, attending yoga and core fusion more often and completing a month of Jillian’s 30 day shred.
  6. Find space between digital world and real world.  Disconnect from constantly being connected. Turn off  the cell phone and computer once in a while.
  7. Take a photography class & learn to use a DSLR camera.
  8. Buy that DSLR camera.
  9. Be more proactive about reaching out to those I love.  So many wonderful people have come into my life recently, don’t take them for granted.
  10. Surround myself with those who make me happy. If someone doesn’t make me feel happy/smart/cool/pretty/nice/thin/safe to be my true self/smart enough – then take a step back and re-evaluate the friendship. I want to surround myself with people who make me feel happy and alive and appreciate me.

Blog Goals:

  1. Stay on top of my ideas for blog content and post in a timely fashion. I have 63 drafts just waiting to be finished and published.
  2. Personal posts are okay but add more inspiring content too. The intent of the blog is not to be a diary.
  3. Don’t feel pressured to post if it has been a while.  It is my blog and I should only post when I have content I want to share.
  4. Create a new blog name. Please feel free to submit suggestions. Seriously.
  5. Buy my own domain with said new blog name.
  6. Hold more contests, interviews, giveaways etc. Be a more active blogger but still adhere to Goal 3.
  7. Embrace all that blogging has brought into my world and continue to grow with it.
  8. Learn CSS and improve technical skills

What are your goals for 2012? 

Giving up (red) meat and pop: the results -kind of like rejecting that gorgeous guy in a Porche.

We survived the 30 days.  In case you don’t remember, Mr. Boyfriend and I decided to give up all pop and red meat for the month of June.  I am happy to report, mission accomplished! We did it!

It has been a full month since we last had any kind of red meat and pop. Thanks to all of you who sent words of encouragement!  It definitely helped reinforce that this was a good idea and that it was worth doing.

Giving up red Meat:

A little side note – I am very picky about my chicken. I don’t like the texture and I think almost all chicken is dry, even if it’s dunked in sauce.  Unless it’s fried, because then it is Delicious, with a capital D.  So right off the bat, I faced a challenge of getting enough protein because I was left with really only 3 options: deli or ground turkey, fish and quinoa. Mr. Boyfriend had a bigger challenge ahead as he is a meat-and-potatoes guy.  He is from Texas so giving up red meat is virtually unheard of.  At first we debated what we could or couldn’t eat. Bacon? Pork?   Mr. Boyfriend’s theory was that if pork is considered “the other white meat,” and both bacon and pork come from a pig, then bacon is not red meat. But I disagreed.  I don’t consider ham or ribs to be white meat either.  The meat is literally red, and isn’t chicken or turkey, and is not good for you, so I consider bacon to be red meat. I know my reasoning might be faulty, but I’m sticking to it.  We even Googled bacon. We got mixed answers but most said it was indeed red meat, so I said bacon was on our hit list.  Would you eat pork and/or bacon if you gave up red meat?

This challenge was really good for us to realize just how often we ate it.  You know how pork is “the other white meat”?  Well, I have concluded that red meat is “the convenient meat.”  I didn’t realize just how easy it is to order, until now. It is the fall back option, the “oh, I don’t want chicken, might as well have red meat” option. And it’s everywhere! I think my biggest challenge was pepperoni pizza.

Some situations/places we were faced with challenges:

  • Arlington Race Track: Because of my dislike of chicken, I would normally automatically  have gotten a (Vienna) Hotdog. However, this time I opted for a pulled chicken sandwich and fries. It was surprisingly tasty (probably because it was slathered with sauce) and definitely the healthier option.
  • Mr. Boyfriends birthday dinner: My parents wanted to take him to dinner, and we usually go to this delicious steak house called Wildfire, but this time we opted for cuban. Last time we were here we got amazing steak, so this time we opted for the pork.
  • Summer Festivals: There are so many festivals with delicious food.  We had to remind ourselves of our June goal.  One specific summer fest is RibFest.  We have wanted to go for the past few years, but really, what would be the point to go this year? That would be pure torture.
  • Each Wednesday, dinner is provided at work for Mr. Boyfriend while he attends his masters class.  Unfortunately, the only legit option is usually meat. Italian beef, hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. are convenient and easy to order/serve to a group of people. There were nights he would come home and have to make dinner for himself.
  • When Lauren came to town for a business trip, I of course had to take her to get Chicago style pizza.  I always get low-fat cheese pepperoni pizza when I go to Lou Malnati’s (arguably the best deep dish in Chicago) but this time I actually had to read the menu! My vegetarian pizza was delicious, but it was no pepperoni!
  • One night, Mr. Boyfriend and I didn’t feel like cooking and we craved a pepperoni pizza.  I am proud to say, we went with a veggie pizza with spinach and mushrooms. Even though we missed our pepperoni, the pizza hit the spot and we were proud of ourselves for ordering a healthier meat-free option.
  • We had a lot of struggles with pizza apparently.  The best thin pizza is at a place called Barnaby’s in the northern suburbs.  My parents wanted to take us there one Sunday night but we had to force ourselves to tell them no. I was tempted to throw in the towel and say, “F’ It!” but I stood strong.
  • My cousin graduated from high school and the ceremony was held at Northwestern University.  If you are familiar with the area, there is a local hot dog stand in the parking lot across from the stadium.  We knew we had to eat beforehand, otherwise we wouldn’t eat until very late.  I walked in and instantly heard, Caryn, you know you want to eat me! I’m delicious! and don’t take a lot of time to prepare! You don’t want to be late to the ceremony! Eat Me! The Vienna hotdog was calling my name, but I resisted and went with a turkey burger.

Giving up pop:

I don’t drink pop that often to begin with, so this wasn’t all that difficult for me. I don’t need it for the caffeine and usually only drink it when I have a sweet tooth. Mr. Boyfriend, however, needs his caffeine and sugar fix more often than me.

  • When I order Subway, I almost always get chips and a drink with it. The sugary pop is a sweet compliment to the sandwich. It completes the meal. I usually mix half Diet Coke (they don’t have Pepsi) and half Cherry Coke. I only opted for water this month, and split the occasional cookie. What? Who doesn’t want something sweet after a sub sandwich?
  • The most challenging part of giving up pop was at bars on the weekends.  When I’m not ordering beer, I usually order a mixed drink of some kind, a Vodka Sprite or Whiskey Sprite or something similar. I chose to stick with beer all month. What drink do you order at bars?
  • Not often, but occasionally at work, I get a sweet tooth in the afternoon.  Instead of going to the vending machine for candy to get my sugar fix, I get a Pepsi. This month, I reached for gum when I needed to get my fix.

Result:

I don’t know if it is psychological or physical, but I feel better after doing this detox. This challenge was harder for Mr. Boyfriend than it was for me and we got different results.  On a scale of 1 -10  (10 being I can’t survive without it) I would rate this experience as a 3-4 but he rated it a 6.  I feel healthier, cleaner and definitely not as heavy.  While it might be a case of wanting what you can’t have, he said he now craves a pepperoni pizza but does admit that he is more aware of the fact that he needs to cut back on his intake of both products.  We both realized we consumed both products more often than we thought.  While  red meat is a good source of iron and protein, it does made you feel sluggish and heavy.  It is almost as if the salad is the angel on one shoulder and the filet mignon is the devil on the other.  I am convinced that red meat is the easy, convenient but dangerous choice. It is temptress of all meats. It is that man meat with rock solid abs, defined muscles and perfect dimpled smile that makes you want to be bad for just this once.  

I thought about having a pop yesterday, but stopped myself.   If I went this long without it, do I really need it now? This process made me realize  there is a difference in what we want and what we need.   We just need to use our self-control. Pop contributes to gingivitis, tooth decay, increases risk of obesity and decreases calcium in the body. The fact that pop rusts when placed in vinegar, totally creeps me out.  It makes me question, what exactly are we putting in our bodies?

While we won’t give either up forever, we will now make it a point to eat and drink them less frequently. Our bodies will thank us when we get older.  I want to live a long and healthy life, and I know that starts now.