Tag Archives: about me

A Letter To My Younger Self

Not long ago, I read a post by Jamie Ridler on Roots Of She, about the kind of advice she would give to her younger self. I think I recall writing a bit about it during #reverb10 as well, but I never allowed myself to get too far into it, because I was scared of what might come out.

But the other day, Jess at So Uprightly Burning did a post on her letter to her 10-years-ago self, and it inspired me to finish mine.

So here it is:

A Letter To My Younger Self.

 

 

Me at around 14, and me today, 10 years later.

 

Dear beautiful Jen,

Well, you’re 14 years old. And I can tell you that this year is going to be the hardest year of your young life so far. And the next couple of years after won’t be much easier.

Your anxieties at school will get worse, you won’t feel safe in your own home, your self-esteem will be virtually non-existent, and people you love will die.

You will feel so ignored at school that when your favourite art teacher reaches out to you, you will be so surprised that you won’t know how to respond. Don’t assume she’s just doing her job; she really does care. I know this because even today, ten years later, she still remembers you.

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to know that, no matter how unbearable it all seems, and how lost you feel, you will get through it, you will find your way.

It’s all going to be okay.

The next few years will be dark, but there is so much light, so much good, waiting for you on the other side. Everything you are going through will be worth it, and everything these tough times teach you, about yourself, about others, and about life, will one day serve to make you very strong.

Just remember, everything happens for a reason, and things will get better, a lot better. I promise.

Please know that those people who hurt you, they do it because they, too, are suffering. It’s not your fault. They hurt others because they are hurting. You don’t have to put up with that in your life. Speak up.

It will take a long time for you to fully trust others, but someone will come along who will show how to love.

While you are running around chasing boys and looking for someone to love you, your soulmate will be right under your nose, and he will have already fallen for you before you even know his name.

It’s okay; you can trust this one. This boy won’t hurt you. So don’t get suspicious every time he gives you a compliment; he really does think you’re beautiful. He really does love you. And he really will marry you one day.

He will heal your closed heart, help you see how amazing you are, and show you what it’s like to have a real home, one where you feel safe, loved, and free to be who you really are. You can tell him your secrets, your fears and your dreams, and he will love you even more in return.

He will love you completely, every part of you, the good and the not-so-good. And you will feel the same about him. You will be a blessing to him just as much as he will be a blessing to you.

He makes everything you are going through now so, so worth it.

In regards to friends… well, don’t go the extra mile for anyone who wouldn’t do the same for you. And remember, anyone who gossips to you, will gossip about you. Even the ones who you think you can trust with your life.

Some friends you have now you will still have in ten years. Others will try to take advantage of you, and as soon as you are strong enough to stand up for yourself, you will realise you don’t want them, or their never-ending dramas, in your life anymore. It will be a hard choice to make, but I promise you won’t regret it.

In fact, by cutting them out, you will see just how much negativity they brought into your life in the first place, and you will have so much more room to grow into the positive woman you are meant to be.

Also, don’t get caught up in the aftermath of that ended friendship. The more drama they create about it, and the more lies they spread, the more they prove to you that you don’t need them in your life. Send them love and move on to the more awesome things that are coming your way.

Keep drawing, painting, creating, writing, and expressing yourself through art. You have no idea how much you need it to heal, grow, and be happy.

And never stop dreaming. That life-long dream you have of living overseas? You accomplish it at 23. I know, pretty awesome huh? You will also have your first art exhibit at age 22. And all those other things you dream of? You can do all of it. You really can.

Don’t avoid the things, places or people that make you anxious. You know those freak-outs you have before school, that you think are normal? Those are panic attacks. One day you will be so ruled by them that you never leave the house alone. Not even to get the mail.

Don’t worry; you need to live through that. That’s what causes you to do something drastic, like moving to China for a year. That will help you to overcome the anxiety pretty quickly. You will learn that your fears aren’t real, and that every time you face the things that scare you, the stronger and happier you become.

Then you will realise how brave you are, to do things that terrify you every single day.

Also, it’s okay to change your mind about what you want to do. Keep trying new things until you find what fits. A lot of those people who put you down for changing your mind will end up feeling stuck, doing jobs that they hate, and having no idea what they want to do with their lives. So don’t listen to their opinions.

Only listen to those people who are already living the kind of life you want to live – everyone else is just guessing.

I know right now you don’t know much about positive thinking, but you are always trying to see the bright side. Don’t listen to those people who call you unrealistic. What they don’t know is that it is optimism that will get you through the next few years, and start you on an amazing journey that will lead you to living such a happy and amazing life.

So, there will be a lot of tough moments in your life over the next ten years. But there will be even more amazing, happy and love-filled moments. So just keep going.

Most of all: Be kind to yourself. You are so worthy of love and respect, but it starts with you. Love yourself first, and everything else will fall into place. Make loving yourself your number one priority.

I Love You.

Jen ♥

Link Love Friday: About YOU!

Welcome to the first Link Love Friday on My Smiling Heart!

Today’s theme is ‘About YOU!’

Go to the My Smiling Heart facebook page, and share links to the ‘About’ page of your blog. If you don’t have a blog, that’s fine! Share a link to the ‘About’ page of your favourite blog instead.

I chose this as the theme for our first ever Link Love Friday because I think it’s a great way to get to know each other better, don’t you? 😀

First person to share their link gets a special mention and a link to their blog on Twitter, so start sharing the love!

 

I can’t wait to check out all of your blogs!

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Peace Wherever You Go ♥

Admiring the Summer Palace, Beijing

It’s amazing how much travelling can put personal growth and self-discovery into warp-speed mode.

Being in a new place, whether it’s around the corner from your home or on the other side of the world, heightens your senses and forces you to live in the moment, taking in everything you possibly can.

I learnt a lot about myself recently when Mike and I spent a week in Beijing. Even though we’ve been living in China for seven months, this was our first real back packing adventure with just the two of us, and something we had wanted to do for years.

Even though I had an amazing time there and will always look back on it as one of my best adventures yet, I wasn’t really looking forward to it beforehand.

We had organised to stay in a hostel, something I’d never done before, and even though we had booked a private room, I was a bit anxious about it. I’m a pretty shy and quiet person, an introvert, so being in a place that constantly has such a huge social atmosphere is a little overwhelming.

The overnight train rides to and from Beijing had also been making me a bit anxious, as it requires being in a cabin with total strangers for twelve hours, spending most of your time trying not to invade each others’ space while you attempt to navigate the bunks or move around the halls.

The fact that I had been worrying about these little things for the days leading up to our Beijing adventure obviously didn’t help anything either, so I eventually found myself losing all excitement for it.

But, as usual, I soon discovered that my worries were complete fiction, a waste of time, complete an utter bull.

I have learnt, during my years overcoming anxiety, the only way to stop being afraid of something, is to just do it.

The anxious mind is a trickster, a heckler, and a brilliant illusionist. And, as with any other form of unnecessary and unconstructive criticism, the best way to handle it is to not let it stop you from living the life you want to live, to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’

And that is just what I did.

The train rides were actually pretty fun, and not at all as bad as my mind had made me believe it would be. The hostel, well, that was just plain AWESOME. The people we so cool and friendly, the room was great, the food was freaking delicious, and we were encouraged to grab some textas and write on the walls. That is every artists’ dream!

The 365 Inn, where we stayed.

The message Mike wrote on wall

It ended up being one of the best weeks of my entire life, full of adventure, risk-taking, meeting new people, seeing amazing places, and coming home with a thousand awesome memories and a new sense of confidence, accomplishment and self-awareness.

In a traditional Chinese dress.

At the Summer Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I know I will never forget occurred on Chinese New Year, Mike and I were standing on the rooftop of the hostel, counting down to midnight, and being completely surrounded by fireworks. Explosions of sound, colour, and cheers erupted again and again for almost an hour as families and friends throughout Beijing celebrated the new year.

I felt so blessed to be there to witness it, and I knew in that moment that I had come so, so far… too far to ever go back to the person I used to be. I felt a wave of relief as I realised then that my fears would never get in the way of me living my life ever again.

I was reminded of that rooftop moment just the other night. I was walking through the snow on my way to meet Mike for dinner, when fireworks started exploding right in front of me, continuing the 15 day celebrations for Spring Festival.

Fireworks in Daqing

As I looked up at the amazing colours falling from the sky, and felt the sweet kisses of snowflakes as they touched my skin, I realised I was, in that moment, proving to myself that I can do anything.

You see, a year ago, I was too afraid to open my front door when the doorbell rang. Too anxious to walk down our short driveway just to check the mail. I even avoided going into the backyard alone, in case I was seen by a neighbour and forced into a potentially uncomfortable or awkward conversation.

I would never have admitted it then, in fact I wouldn’t have admitted it even six months ago, but I was so trapped by my own fears that I just avoided them altogether, until I couldn’t leave the house unless I was with someone.

So, imagine my pride when I suddenly realise that I am walking through the streets of a foreign city, in a foreign country, at night, completely alone, and with a freaking huge smile on my face! Thousands of miles away from my comfort zone, and not a single worry or fear on my mind.

That’s what travel can do for you.

Not long after that amazing moment on a rooftop in Beijing, but before that amazing moment in the snow, I was walking through some markets and found a stall that sold rings. I noticed one with four Chinese characters on it, and asked the woman working there what it meant.

“It mean… Peace… When you leave and when come back. Peace wherever you go.”

Peace wherever you go.

I wrote that on the wall of the 365 Inn, so that others can be inspired by it just as I was.

I’m wearing that ring now, as I write this. And I will always wear it, as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve overcome, in order to find my own peace, peace within myself, peace with my fears, and peace within the world.

Take some time now to look back and notice how far you have come, and what you have overcome in the process. Be proud of everything you have achieved, and how much you’ve grown! And be grateful for all the lessons you have learnt in between.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Written on the second floor staircase of the 365 Inn, Beijing.

* Are you on Facebook? So is My Smiling Heart! Come and join us for extra fun and daily doses of awesomeness!

Wise Words: Being Bold

This week’s Wise Words post is a bit different. Recently, I was interviewed by the lovely Tess Marshall from The Bold Life, & it has just been published!

For anyone unfamiliar with The Bold Life, it’s an amazingly inspirational self-development blog that always provides wise insights & encourages everyone to live boldly & speak their truth. I was absolutely thrilled to be interviewed for such an awesome blog & am so excited to share this great news with you all!

The questions I was asked for the interview were so challenging, they really made me think a lot more about who I am & how I could still live a much bolder life. If you are feeling particularly bold yourself today, I encourage you to take a look at some of the questions I was asked & take some time to think about what your own answers might be. You might be surprised!

So, head over to The Bold Life & check out ‘A Bold Artist With A Smiling Heart‘ 🙂

Feel free to comment on it after, I’d love to know what you think!

In other news, I’ve been working on a few little goodies for you guys, hopefully to be posted over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out! 😀

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Four Steps To Re-Awesomofication!

Hmmm… Do I use the word ‘awesome’ just a little too much? Oh well!

Hey, you! Yes, YOU!

You know you’re AWESOME, right?

What ever you’re doing right now, whether you are drinking your morning cup of coffee, stressing over your daily to-do-list, or sitting on the couch in your pajamas (10 points to anyone who is doing all three!), ask yourself this:

Am I feeling relaxed?

Notice your shoulders, your neck, jaw & anything else that feels tense.

Now do what ever you need to do to relax. Sit back in your chair for a second & just… sit. When was the last time you just sat? Not watching TV, not typing or Googling or stalking people on Facebook, just sitting with your head back & your arms relaxed by your side?

If you’re like me, you probably never do that. So stop whatever you’re doing & just sit, be still. Do it now. I’ll join you 🙂

…………………….

…………………….

……………………

Welcome back!

Now, take a moment to breathe. Right now.

Not a little, half-arsed breath. Put some effort into it. Stop whatever else you are doing – forget about the to-do-list for just a second – & slowly, take in a big, deep breath.

Breathe in.

Hold it.

And let it go. Slowly.

Do it again.

One last time. Breathe in. And out.

Feeling your awesomeness, yet?

If not, try it again. Really pay attention to your breath. Focusing on your breathing is a quick & easy way to bring yourself into the present moment, the only moment that matters – because all we really have is right now.

I lost touch of that today, & when I lose touch, I forget my own awesomeness. I was pushing myself too hard, stressing out & trying to accomplish a thousand & one things all at the same time. As always, that lead to me feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, & extremely tense.

Luckily, I know myself pretty well, especially lately, so once I become aware that I’m not feeling as awesome as I’d like to, I immediately begin the process of re-awesomofying myself.

My Four Steps To Re-Awesomofication:

1. Breathe.

The deep breathing & centering exercise that I just described is usually my first step. Breathe in…. Aaand out 🙂

2. Dance.

Put on your favourite playlist of songs. Songs that are positive, upbeat & just so fantastic that your awesome levels have no choice but to rise. It’s just like the slime from Ghostbusters 2 that (spoiler alert!) dances & comes alive to the music – only without that creepy Viggo guy from the painting (Random Fact: My number 1 fear? Viggo. *shudder*).

3. Vent.

Talk it out. Hearing yourself talk about the things that you’re freaking out about internally will always make you realise that you are okay, that it’s not as bad as you thought it was, & that you can totally handle it.

Most of the time I talk to Mike or my Mum or Dad, but if there’s no-one to talk to I’ll write about what’s worrying me, which is just as good.

4. Laugh.

Lastly, invest some time in something that will make you laugh. It can be a TV show or a classic funny movie, otherwise there’s always Youtube, or talk to people who always make you laugh – for me it’s Mike or my brother 🙂

By the end of all this, your awesomeness will be back to a healthy level & you’ll be ready to handle anything that comes your way!

But, of course, I do have a back-up plan for those rare occassions when all this doesn’t get me the results I want; sleep. If these 4 steps to re-awesofication don’t lead me back to my usual awesome self, then chances are I’m just exhausted & need to get some rest!

What do you do to re-awesomofy yourself & your life?

Do you have any kickass steps that need to be added to this list? I’d love to hear them! 🙂

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Hey, #reverb10! You rock! Last one :)

December 31 – Core Story What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Author: Molly O’Neill)

I think the story that is so central to who I am is my constant quest to find my own truth, see the positive in everything, live a life of happiness & purpose, & show others how AWESOME they really are.

I share my journey with the world on Twitter, Facebook, & Tumblr, as well as here on this blog, which has become so important to me.

Offline, I share all of this with my friends, family & the world by just being true to myself as much as possible.

I have to admit, though, I always found it a little difficult to talk about my feelings with people face to face, & sometimes I still do, especially when it comes to things I am truly passionate about – like positivity & empowerment.

People seem to think I’m being ‘unrealistic’ or that I have my ‘head in the clouds’ when I talk about the kinds of things I write about on here; like how we have the power to create our lives. They look at me like I’m insane; I remember a few years ago I was talking to a friend about how I was taking a course on Life Coaching, & she thought I had joined a cult.

It’s only recently that I’ve found more successful avenues for expressing my true self; painting, writing, & most importantly; living a life that aligns with my values & beliefs – deeds not words (which is also one of my personal commandments!).

And, it’s amazing how people, who once laughed at your optimism, will start to take you seriously when they see what you can achieve with a positive attitude & your ‘head in the clouds.’

I’ve found that, whilst talking to friends at a bar about positivity, self-development & empowerment makes you ‘insane’, communicating those same messages through art, writing, & the way you live your life, instantly transforms you into ‘eccentric’ or an ‘artist’.

And now, after everything I’ve achieved this year, I don’t care if people think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am! It doesn’t matter.

The only thing that does matter, is that I’m being myself, & living a life that I have created 🙂

Speaking of things I have created, thank you all so much for all the love I have received on this blog. I especially LOVE how many people are using the 2011 Virtual Vision Wall to make this year their best yet! 😀 And an even bigger thank you to everyone who has been sharing it with their friends & loved ones, you rock! So awesome!

I’m planning on making 2011 an extremely amazing year for all of us, so if there’s anything I can do to support you the way you have all been supporting me, please let me know! Feel free to add me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, or email me at jenartist@live.com.au.

And, as usual; Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011! :D

“Cheers to a new year and another chance

for us to get it right.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

At the beginning of 2010, I had two major goals; sell one of my paintings; & travel overseas.

In April, I achieved & my first goal. In fact, not only did I sell a painting, ten of my original pieces were featured in my first ever art exhibit.

That whole experience was so much fun, from creating a theme that promoted women empowerment & self-love, & spending the first few months of the year doing nothing but painting every day, to sending out the invites & the excitement of opening day.

It was AWESOME & it felt so right that I know I will be doing it again in the future.

At my first art exhibit

Next to one of my paintings

Three months later, I achieved my second goal of 2010, when I moved overseas for a year. This goal wasn’t just a 2010 goal; it was a goal I had dreamt of achieving for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I’ve actually done it!

On our way to China!

Arriving at Beijing Airport

Exploring Daqing

Outside of a Buddhist temple in Hailar, Inner Mongolia

I’ve crossed off a few other things from my life goals list this year too; getting engaged; using my artistic skills to help raise money for charity; & experiencing a white Christmas.

Just after Mike proposed ♥

Nonprofit campaign promo I designed

My first 'snowing' experience!

White Christmas!

Then there’s just the bonus experiences & moments that were completely unplanned but will always be great achievements in themselves. Things like white water rafting in the mountains of far north China, walking through the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where I also explored underground Japanese tunnels from before WWII, & most recently, starting this blog & being published on Tiny Buddha.

Rafting

Inner Mongolian Grasslands

Underground Japanese tunnels

My Tiny Buddha Guest Post!

I am so grateful for everything I have accomplished, experienced, seen & learned this year. I know I have come a long way, & traveled on a path with many highs & lows & even some u-turns, but I couldn’t be happier with where it has all lead me.

So, I wave goodbye to 2010, with a big, cheesy smile & a heart full gratitude for everything it brought me.

Now, it’s time to say ‘Hello!’ to 2011, I welcome this new year with open arms & another big, cheesy smile.

My major goals for 2011 are:

  • Walk along the Great Wall of China
  • Go to the Hong Kong Disneyland
  • Return home to Melbourne
  • Marry the love of my life

Mike & I at the Melbourne Botanical Gardens

♥ Mikey & Me ♥

I have a few other goals that I’m already working on, such as finding more ways to use my blog & art to inspire others, collaborate with amazing women to make something awesome, & learn Mandarin.

Another goal of mine is to post to this blog at least once a week in 2011, so I signed up to do the WordPress Post Challenge. Part of signing up means I have to mention it in a blog, so:

‘I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.’

Most of all, I just want to take a lot of action in 2011. I’ve been trying to decide whether ACTION should be my word for 2011 (I mentioned this to someone who commented here recently), it’s either going to be ACTION or INSPIRE. Then there’s always the option of combining them to make INSPIRED ACTION. Yes, I think that’s it.

2011 is my year to take inspired action.

By the end of 2011, I want to be a better version of myself. I want to be stronger, wiser, much more confident & independent, & I want to have achieved a lot & have really made a positive impact on the world.

So, my goals are set, my hopes are high & I’m ready for the AWESOMENESS of 2011! 😀

As you say goodbye to 2010 & welcome 2011, think of how far you’ve come over the past twelve months.

Remember the good times & how much happiness you felt, & consider the not-so-good-times & the lessons they brought you.

Think of all those special moments that you will always treasure, & take note of all the things & people you are grateful for from 2010.

Now, imagine how amazing 2011 is going to be. Think of all those positive things & people that made 2010 so great, & imagine all of that & more being a part of 2011.

Last week I wrote a post about how we have the power to choose the kind of day we have; imagine the possibilities if we apply that knowledge & power to an entire year! As long as we remember to enjoy the great times & learn from the challenges we face, there’s no stopping us!

Let’s make this our best year yet!

Here’s to 2011! 😀

Jen ♥

Goals & Gifts – #reverb10 :)

December 28 – Achieve What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Mohr)

Today, when I looked at all my goals, hopes & dreams for the next year, I noticed a pattern begin to form. They all involve personal growth, inspiring others, & experiencing all that life & the world has to offer.

As I connected them even further, I realized that my most desired goal for 2011 is to end it with even more love, happiness, health, & purpose than I am ending 2010 with.

If, a year from now, I can look back on 2011 feeling like the best version of myself I have ever been & knowing that I gave it 100%, I will be satisfied & proud.

I’ve decided to go with the ‘10 thoughts’ option in order to experience those feelings of confidence, accomplishment, joy, love, purpose, satisfaction & pride today, because what you think about, you bring about.

(While these aren’t really ‘new’ thoughts, they are definitely ones I could think more often!)

1. Take action.

“When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot. Another good quote for this thought is: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~ Will Rogers

2. Yes, I can.

“My motto is; If a person can do it, I can do it.” ~ Geena Davis

3. Live with purpose.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

4. Anything is possible.

“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

~ Napoleon Hill

5. Stay focused.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  ~ Henry Ford

6. Dream big.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” ~ Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) in ‘Back to the Future’.

Another good quote for this thought is: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

7. Be wild.

“Why sit in the bleachers, timid & afraid? When you could be the whole parade!” ~ Hairspray – Big, Blonde, & Beautiful

8. Think, do, be, positive.

“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’

9. Share the love.

“Freedom lies at the heart of my willingness to love everything.” ~ Alanis Morissette

10. Follow your bliss.

“If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.” ~ Joseph Campbell

December 29 – Defining Moment Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

The defining moment for me this year would have to be the moment we decided to move to China.

As I described in my Tiny Buddha guest post, there have been so many ups & downs & lessons learned through a whole series of events that all lead back to that one decisive moment.

I am so grateful for that moment & everything I have experienced since, & I am 100% certain that I would not be who I am today without it.

December 30 – Gift Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

The two most memorable gifts I have received this year, aren’t special to me because of their monetary value, one of them didn’t even cost a thing. These gifts are special to me because of their meaning, & what they symbolize in my life.

The first, I received back in April; an engagement ring from my soulmate. And while I do think it’s totally romantic & awesome that it boasts diamonds, my birth stone, & was designed by Mike especially for me, I get the most joy out of what it symbolizes.

It’s not just a ring, it’s a symbol of Mike’s love for me, & his commitment & desire to spend the rest of his life with me. It represents our friendship, our love, our past & our wonderful future together.

The second gift I received only last week; a link to a YouTube video from my brother.

It may not seem like much, but it is one of the sweetest, most meaningful & comforting gifts I have ever received.

The video is of British comedian Tim Minchin, singing a song he wrote about Christmas called ‘White Wine in the Sun.’

For most of it, I just thought it was really cool that this guy had summed up all my feelings about Christmas in a song, from consumerism to family.

In fact, the chorus could be about my family at Christmas:

“I’ll be seeing my dad

My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum

They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun

I’ll be seeing my dad

My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum

They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun”

Towards the end of the song, he sings to his daughter:

“And if, my baby girl

When you’re twenty-one or thirty-one

And Christmas comes around

And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home

You’ll know what ever comes

Your brother and sisters and me and your Mum

Will be waiting for you in the sun

Whenever you come

Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles

Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun

Darling, when Christmas comes

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun

Waiting for you in the sun

Waiting for you…

Waiting…”

This is when I started to cry like a baby.

This is when I realized that my brother wasn’t just sending me a video about Christmas, he was sending me a message. He was letting me know that he misses me.

He was letting me know that, even though I’m ‘nine thousand miles from home’, my family – Mum, Dad, him, my other brother & sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins & my Nana, were spending their Australian Christmas in the sun, & missing me, thinking of me, & waiting for me.

It makes me tear up even writing about it. But I love it so much, & it means more to me than almost any other gift I’ve ever received. I’ll never forget it.

(More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tim_minchin/#share)

Stay tuned for a couple more posts over the next day or so, one of which I made especially for all of you! 🙂

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

#reverb10 – Playing Catch-Up :)

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

The only thing I can think of is speaking up more, in situations where I was being bullied or mistreated. I didn’t stand up for myself because I was too scared, but it has taught me how to be assertive & how important it is to speak my mind, especially if someone is mistreating me.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

So, I’m imagining future Jen writing to past Jen, but past Jen is, in fact, the future Jen to me; the present Jen? Easy.

Dear 2011 Jen,

The next year is going to be extremely AWESOME. You are going to have so many amazing experiences that you will never forget, & you are going to achieve some things that you never thought possible.

My advice to you is this; just enjoy it. Give everything 100%, be as present as you possibly can, & soak up all the awesomeness. Forget about the petty things that don’t matter in the long run, just focus on the important stuff – love, purpose, family & friends. Make this quote your mantra:

“Do what makes you happy,

Be with who makes you smile,

Laugh as much as you breathe,

Love as long as you live.”

Keep Smiling!

Love, future Jen.

To my younger self, from 10 years ago, I would say:

You’re right, it will get better. I promise.

I wouldn’t say much more than that to my past selves, because if ‘Back To The Future’ has taught me anything, it’s that knowing too much about your future can dramatically affect the space-time continuum & even destroy the Universe itself. Great Scott!

December 22 – Travel How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)

This year I really kicked ass in the travel category of my goals list. Living overseas has always been something I’ve wanted to do, & I am very proud & happy to have achieved that this year.

Next year, I want to visit Beijing & walk on the Great Wall of China. I would also love to visit Shanghai & Hong Kong (especially Hong Kong Disneyland!) before we leave.

As for other places around the world, we are still deciding on where to go for our honeymoon – at this stage it might be Ubud, Bali. Also, we are going to Fiji two weeks after our wedding for Mike’s brothers wedding. So traveling is absolutely going to be a major focus of 2011, which makes my heart smile.

December 23 – New Name Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)

I love my name. It’s perfect for me, & I would never change it, not even for a day. I’m Jen, it’s who I am 🙂

December 24 Prompt – Everything’s OK What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

After my guest post was published on Tiny Buddha, I re-read it. Reading it again, I realized just how much I had been through & how much I really have grown & learned from it. Seeing it published, & reading all the comments from people who could relate & who were inspired by my experience… that’s when I knew it was all going to be alright, because I can handle anything.

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you. (Author: Tracey Clark)

This photo was taken, by Mike, as we were walking through a small patch of forest about a block away from our apartment complex. I love this forest, especially in the snow, we walk through it every time we go out.

I chose this photo because I look really, truly happy… because I am 🙂

I’m in the beautiful snow, surrounded by my wise friends; the trees, & you can tell by my loving smile that I’m more focused on Mike than the camera. I’m full of love, light & joy. This is how I always want to be.

December 26 – Soul Food What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

There’s a few meals that come to mind; the vegan quesadilla that Mike used to make back home is so good, & I can’t wait to have it again when we go home; pizza always makes me smile; & the food at both the vegetarian restaurants (& only vegetarian restaurants!) here in Daqing is both delicious & healthy. One of them makes mashed sweet potato balls that are so good! Yum 😀

December 27 – Ordinary Joy Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

I love this question! I just had one of these moments on Christmas Eve. It was our first Christmas away from home, so I was trying to make it as special & as jolly as possible; I put our three presents under out little tree, lit some candles & had Christmas carols playing.

When Mike came home with our Christmas Eve pizza, he took me by the hand & started dancing with me in the lounge room. It was so perfect. I was completely in the moment, dancing with my love to John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas’, & admiring the candles as we waltzed around the room. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Get ready for another Wise Words Wednesday post very soon!

Keep Smiling 🙂

Jen ♥

More #reverb10 Catch-Up!

 

December 14 – Appreciate What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

Living in a developing country has taught me how blessed I am to be able to call Australia my home. To think that just by being born in Australia, I immediately have so many more opportunities & luxuries that others won’t ever have is such an eye-opening realization.

A lot of people here in Daqing have never even left the city, & overseas travel is so expensive that only the very wealthy can afford it. The Chinese teachers that work with Mike have to be at the school all day, 6 days a week, & a lot of them live together in small apartments. All they do is work & sleep. Keep in mind, this is one of the better jobs to have, I’ve seen old women out in -20°C sweeping the busy roads with a brooms made out of sticks, & guys selling corn out of a cart pulled by a donkey.

Being a communist country, conformity is pretty popular here. Everyone does what they’re told, no questions asked – even if it’s ridiculous; when girls reach a certain age at school, they all have to get the same short, bobbed haircut. If they don’t, they are given lower grades. I’ve never been more grateful for the opportunity to explore & create my own style, & the encouragement to be an individual.

The health services here also leave much to be desired. The cure for anything is hot water & an IV. A friend of ours even went to the hospital with a ruptured eardrum, that was causing her ear to bleed, & the doctor told her it was because she ate too much spicey food. Oh, & shaving your armpits causes cancer.

Another thing I have come to appreciate about Australia is the general values of the people, especially when it comes to equality & animal cruelty. Women don’t get treated with much respect here, I started to realise that whenever our boss would shake Mike’s hand & ignore me, even when he was firing me he was talking to Mike instead of me. Animals have it much worse, though.

At the theme park here, there’s a ring toss ‘game’ that uses caged puppies & kittens as prizes – if you can land a ring around the cage, you get to keep the animal inside. Those poor things are so drugged up they don’t even move. And since winter started, all the fur coats are coming out; I’ve never seen so much fur in my life.

In Harbin, there’s a tiger park that allows you to throw a live chicken into a tiger pen. I recently watched a video of this that was filmed by a friend here, the chicken is tied to a stick, which is then poked through the cage & the people laugh as the tigers jump up & eat the poor chicken. I’ve heard that, if you pay enough money, they will push a live cow in there to be devoured for your entertainment. It’s disgusting & horrible. I just don’t understand how people can think any of this is okay, there’s absolutely no excuse for any of it.

To sum up, I’ve never been more appreciative & grateful to be Australian. When I go home, I will be appreciative of everything, from decent plumbing & drinkable tap water to the values of the people.

December 15 – 5 Minutes Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

There are three things from 2010 that I will always remember; my first art exhibit; the night Mike proposed to me; & coming to China & everything I’ve learned since being here.

December 16 – Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

One of my best friends in the whole world, Pip, has really inspired me this year. She has overcome a hell of a lot this year & has completely turned her life around for the better.

Even though she is on the other side of the world, she was there for me during my hardest moments this year, & the strength & positvity she has shown in facing her own troubles really inspired me to do the same.

Knowing that she was there to support me & love me no matter what gave me the extra strength I needed to get through my darkest moments & turn my life into something positive. This year, Pip was more than just a friend to me, she is my teacher, my role model, & my sister.

Watching her transform her life proved to me that it was possible to turn ruins into rainbows.

December 17 – Lesson Learned What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

The best thing I have learned about myself this year is that I really can handle anything that comes my way. I am much stronger than I ever thought possible, & I don’t need to be afraid of challenges because I will always be able to overcome them.

I’ve also learnt that most people will accept me for who I am, not despite my flaws & mistakes, but because of them. Being authentic & imperfectly me is what I do best, & people can relate to & feel comfortable with someone who doesn’t pretend to be perfect.

Perfection is boring. Authenticity is AWESOME.

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

I think I tried everything I wanted to this year, with no regrets. In 2011, I want to try to live in the moment more, but at the same time be more outgoing & express myself more.

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

Ruin healed me this year. It was extremely sudden, but I still haven’t stopped growing from it. Ruin forced me to re-evaluate every aspect of my life, from who I am to what I eat, & helped me to heal the parts of myself that weren’t serving me, & start developing new parts of myself that will lead me to live a better life.

In 2011, I think this healing process will continue, & there will be more experiences in my life that will cause even more healing. I think traveling will be a very healing experience, as will going home for the first time in a year, & getting married to the love of my life.

See you again tomorrow for more reverbs!

Keep Smiling 🙂

Jen ♥