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“I’m allergic to B’s…”

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“I’m allergic to B’s.”  I still remember my mom telling me that over the phone and it hurt.

I was in my first year of university and honestly, even though I was a straight-A student coming out of high school, I was still finding my subjects difficult.  To top it all off, I was unprepared for being away from home, having to make new friends, making sure I had enough money for tuition, rent, and food, and the list of responsibilities went on….

Essentially, I had to grow up.

To be honest, I totally understood where my mother was coming from.  As immigrants, my brother and I knew the value of hard work.  Coming to Canada meant that if we worked hard, we can help my mom make a better life for us here.  Not only that, our older sister, Sofy, had worked so hard to bring us over… so failure was not an option. We had no choice but to work hard.  At any rate, I did graduate with honors and passed the qualifying exam on my first try.

But still….to this day, Peter still talks about the first time he actually saw me cry.

Anyway, this week brought this memory back.  Olivia had decided to do the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and for those who are familiar with this program, it is a doozy.  Olivia had such a tough two weeks with all her evaluations and tests, along with her other extracurricular responsibilities.  The final straw was her math test this past Friday where she said that it was so hard that some students started crying during the test since they had no clue how to answer it.  Some students even said that they cannot tell their parents about this.  One of her teachers called it “mathematical treachery.”

At any rate, I definitely am not following in my mother’s footsteps….

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Peter is the tough one since he always wants to figure out what went wrong.

                    Did Olivia study enough?

       Did she have enough Omega 3s to improve her memory? 

 Did she get enough sleep?

And his checklist goes on….Meh, he means well. Truly.

As for me…..

 I know the power of a comforting hug and shoulder to cry on.

So, really, parents have different ways of trying to make things better for our kids but one thing is for sure, all parents want their kids to succeed.

But as parents, sometimes we forget that our kids are just that…KIDS.  Their brains are still under construction as I wrote in my blog How to Survive Middle School: My Mindfulness Guide  (see point #4) ).  We may resort to threatening them, saying that they are not doing enough, or that they border on being useless, but we take the risk of that backfiring…BADLY.  These kids are already under so much pressure that they don’t need additional grief from us.  Would you agree?

Anyway, here’s hoping that Olivia’s weeks get better…and “No, I’m NOT allergic to B’s…”

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

Debbie.

Noah, The Brave Little Bunny

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I finally did it.  I had the courage to publish my first-ever children’s book!

It is about a little bunny named Noah, who just wants to go on adventures–not a typical bunny, that’s for sure!  He goes on an epic journey and on the way, he learns to trust himself and makes a new friend.

For me personally, just being able to do something so different from the world of numbers and accounting theory is a journey of discovery!

Check out my ebook on Apple iBooks or Blurb.ca.  Check out the preview to see what it is all about!!

https://www.blurb.ca/ebooks/698460-noah-the-brave-little-bunny

(I discovered that if you are viewing it on your iPhone, landscape orientation is key! I know, I know– I live in a cave!)

If you want a printed copy, it is also available on Amazon.ca or contact me!

https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07V7K8LR9?pf_rd_p=46535598-d2e0-4bc4-8392-182d8c1e93fc&pf_rd_r=0NB4P124T72ZPXXHBMMN

Let me know what you think!  I would love to hear what you guys think!!!

I guess I can now legitimately call myself a children’s book author?!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

Yes, YOU are “Good Enough”

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Olivia recently attended a friend’s birthday party.  However, when I asked her how the party was, she did not mention whether the cake was vanilla or chocolate, whether or not her friend liked her presents, or whether she had fun during the sleepover or not.

Instead, she told me how she felt judged as not “Asian enough”.  Somehow being half Chinese/ half Filipino, not able to speak either Chinese or Filipino, and not been to China or the Philippines are black marks against her. “White-washed”, she called herself.  

She was measured and she came up short. 

I find this subject really tiresome since this feeling of not being “enough” is really based on other people’s prejudices and biases…but here we are.

But wait.  I know exactly where Olivia is coming from.  In my mind’s eye, I remember the crippling thoughts just because someone said something and I latched on to their biases…

“I am…

        not smart enough…

                  NOT pretty enough…

                             NOT worthy ENOUGH…

                                                  NOT ENOUGH.”

Just not enough.

Yet, I wanted to yell at her.

“You are smarter than this!  Why would it matter if you are half Chinese, half Filipino, whether you speak the language or not, or whether you’ve gone back to countries where we no longer have family ties?”

But before I could say a word, Olivia said,

“Nah, I’m good. Doesn’t matter what people say.  Totally irrelevant.”

That’s my girl.

So, my dear friends, when you start feeling insecure and doubts start creeping in, ask yourself, as Michelle Obama did at one point in her life,

“Am I good enough?  YES, I AM.”

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

 

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I went through my journals today and I came across this little gem…

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April 21, 2017, FRIDAY

I woke up angry today.

Maybe angry is not the right word…

Testy. Impatient. Bitchy.

I am not in a good mood.  I think I’m simply tired.  I need more sleep.

Peter came home late after a night of having a “quick beer” with the guys. It was a lot of “quick beers” and even though he took a shower, he still reeked.

I had just decided to ignore him and settle deeper under the covers when he started snoring. Not one of those normal snores but a gurgling kind of snore.

I froze.

It didn’t help that I was nursing a headache the whole day and it had not fully gone away.  It also did not help that he can just fall asleep within 5 minutes after his head hits the pillow. Ugh.

Gurgling snore.

I gave the bed a little jolt.  He grunted and then turned to his side.

Ahhhh…Peace at last.

Gurgling snore…this time, it’s somehow deeper and louder.  At this point, I was thinking he was doing it deliberately.

I coughed.

I caught a Snore midway…yah!  But, after a few restless minutes, the Snore is back.

I coughed louder and a jolt on the bed, for added effect.

Nothing. Definitely a lot of “quick beers”.

A myriad of thoughts race through my mind…do I give him a good nudge? Do I pinch his nose? Turn on the lights? Sprinkle him with cold water?  Lavender essential oil or maybe peppermint?

After a few minutes of mulling it over at 2 am, I gathered up my pillows and blanket and headed to the guest room.

…Ahhh.  Peace at last.

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And, that my friends, is the secret of being married to a gurgling snorer.  As a twist to a famous saying goes “If you don’t like where you are, LEAVE.  You are not a tree.”

Coincidentally, this week marks 22 years of being married to Peter….who may annoy me with his little quirks but will always be there when I need a hug.

Happy anniversary, Peter!

Debbie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation 101: Meditation for Beginners

images-3.jpgHave you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start?  If so, then you are certainly not alone.

Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain.  I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not.  There is no try” (Yoda).

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In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be.  In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness.  Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.

In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments.  I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..

The Basics:

1.  A quiet time and place

If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting.  It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.

Get real:  However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it.  I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work.  The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.

2.  Posture

Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Don’t lean back.  Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose.  Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs.  Let your eyes close, or if you prefer,  keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.

Get real: 
I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair.  I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?”  Nope.  Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation.  Go with what works for you.   If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok.  Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way to meditating.
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3.  Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.

Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.

Get real:  “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started.  It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down.  You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing.  Just notice……

Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?

4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!

At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath.  Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath.  No need to judge or belittle yourself.  Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.

Get real:  I congratulated myself a lot.  I still do.  I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter.  Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”.  Interestingly enough, this works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Remember….be kind to yourself.  No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander.  You can always begin again.
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5.  End your session

After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete!  Congratulations!

Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice.  However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable.  I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly.  Find one that resonates with you.

Congratulations, you just finished meditating!

In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”.  I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!

As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

A new year’s resolution: another look at Work-Life Balance….

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As another year draws to a close and a new year just around the corner, this is generally the time when everyone takes a deep breath and comes up with an impossibly unsustainable new years’ resolution…like going (back?) to the gym, eating out less, or spending more time with the family.  However, one resolution that tends to come up with most of my workaholic friends is striking the right “work-life balance”. 

I first heard of the phrase “work life balance” in the early part of my career as an accountant for one of the Big 4 accounting firms (it used to be the big 5).  The managers and senior managers were always talking about not having time for dinner with their families during the peak of audit season.  In fact, they had not seen their wives or husbands in daylight as they generally left for work before sunrise and when they came home, the whole house was already asleep.  They always said, “I have to get a job with more work life balance, man.”  

What exactly is “work-life balance”?  In a nutshell, it is the holy grail of the art of balancing work (i.e. career and ambition) with life (i.e. family, leisure, health).  This balancing act can be tricky and many of us have fallen into the trap of focusing on the work aspect….leading to the demise of the other.  Burnout and the compounding stress of a never ending workday in contrast with boredom and the compounding stress of always watching the purse strings are just some of the results of too much focus on either work or life.

In Nigel Marsh’s TEDtalk about work life balance, he brilliantly sums the paradox as “it is quite easy to balance work and life when you don’t have any work; not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.”

So where does this leave us?  Work life balance is different for everyone but these are some of my thoughts and tips that may help in find YOUR balance:

1.  It was never about Balance

Consider the three words again:  Work, Life, Balance. 

It was just recently that I realized that perhaps I was looking at this phrase all wrong.  Isn’t “work” really just part of “life”?  Why would “work” garner 50% of this equation? In fact, in thinking about this more deeply, MY life would likely be broken down into these components:  work, my family and friends, and my SELF.   All of these contribute to my overall happiness—but certainly not 50% of work!!!

Work is just part of life, such as my family and my health and wellbeing would also be.  Put another way, work is really just a piece of the Pie of Life; we should not give it more (or less) importance as the other parts of our lives. Alas, sometimes, this realization comes too late when our health fails us or when we suffer our first anxiety attack, for example. As far as I know, no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

So perhaps, a change in perspective is warranted since it was never about balance to begin with….it is really about integration of the work in the overall scheme of things.

2.  Beware the Golden Handcuffs

Maybe it was just me but I found that even though I made a good living, it seemed as if it was never enough.  So, I went for promotions that paid me more money which meant more responsibility and more stress; other times, I would change jobs just for the fact that it paid more.  You would think that if I had more money, I could save more and be happier.  Quite the opposite.  Ironically, I found that the more money I made, the more expenses I seemed to have!  So, when finally I realized my happiness was inexplicably connected to my work life imbalance, it was so much more difficult to just throw in the towel and say, ENOUGH! 

Faced with choice—would you quit a job that makes you sick or would you just suck it up?

So beware the golden handcuffs…

3.  Establish boundaries

Employers try to attract talent or keep employees by giving incentives like flexible work environments including work from home, the perks of having the newest smartphones in the market, dress down Fridays, or even a daycare in the premises.  If you come to think about this though, these incentives just make your work day even longer!  I am sure that these employers have good intentions but it is critical that boundaries are set early on or else work will definitely take over all of your hours of the day. 

“But wouldn’t that limit my career?” you are probably asking.  Well, that would be up to you.  I think that you would likely come out to be a more productive and happier employee since you actually have time to BREATHE.  Have you ever worked with someone who always seems to be on edge since they have too much on their plate and everyone is tiptoeing and walking on eggshells around them for fear of being yelled at?  I worked for someone like that—I remember I used to take the longer route to the washroom so I wouldn’t have to walk by his office. Yah, not nice.

So, there you have it, a few thoughts to ponder as a new year is once again upon us.

Do you have any work-life balance tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow me by email so you never miss another blog… sign up below!!!

As always, thank you so much for following and reading my blog and may 2018 be a year filled with smiles, love, much happiness and prosperity.

This is my heartfelt wish from me to you. Happy New Year, everyone!

Debbie.

Plastic detox: 5 easy ways to start

I stared at this picture for a long time. Trying to understand all the emotions that went through me…horror, disbelief, anger…and lastly, shame.

I use Q-tips all the time and once I am done with it, it goes into the garbage can, never to be spared a thought ever again…until I saw this picture.

There are so many more images in the internet about how plastic impacts the lives of so many animals and it brings to the fore the reality that we are all interconnected.   However, its not a fair exchange…animals pay a huge toll for our negligence and mindless actions.

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So, these past few months, Olivia and I have been mindfully paying attention to our buying habits and doing our part in reducing our plastic consumption.

These are 5 easy ways to start:

1. Bring your own travel mug

Did you know that those takeout coffee/tea cups are not recyclable?

Well, I didn’t.  All these years, I just thought…meh, it’s paper!

Wrong.  In order to hold hot liquids safely, these coffee cups are lined with 100% oil based polyethylene plastic which makes it impossible to recycle since it clogs the recycled paper mill’s machinery.

So, next time you stop by your favourite Starbucks for your caffeine fix, bring your own travel mug…you are protecting our environment…one coffee cup at a time.

2. No straw please…

I love bubble tea.  Who doesn’t?  I mean, it comes in so many flavours (taro is my favourite!), it’s colourful, and those tapioca pearls are a must have!

…..and it always comes with a straw–one of those big holed ones so that the tapioca can pass through.

Think about it for a minute, it is only used for a few minutes and then discarded.  Straws also pose a hazard to sea life like the picture above with the sea turtle…yes, folks, that is a straw being taken out of its nostrils. Imagine a straw being taken out of YOUR nose…yep, not a good picture, right?

So, while I am not going to ditch my bubble tea, I will ditch the straw.  There are actually glass straws that you can buy.  However, if you are a cheapskate like me,  I actually just reuse the bubble tea straws that I bought a long time ago when I didn’t know any better….

3. Buy in bulk and bring those glass containers

We have a Bulk Barn close to our house.  I really wasn’t paying it too much attention until one day I was following a recipe that required 1 tsp of allspice.  I went to the closest grocery store and lo and behold, I have to buy a huge container of allspice just so I can complete my apple crumble!  I actually thought that I should just skip this ingredient…but what if it is a key ingredient?

And as I was standing there, torn and undecided, an old lady who was passing by said …”If you just need a pinch, just go to the Bulk Barn across the street.”

True story.

The rest is history.  Now, Olivia and I frequent our neighbourhood Bulk Barn and to save on plastic bags, we bring our own glass jars.  They weigh the jar and put a sticker on the lid which shows the weight of the empty container.  We scoop what we need into it and when we pay, they deduct the weight of the jar.

So don’t throw those pasta sauce glass jars…they still come in handy!

4. No gum

Did you know that gum is made of plastic?  Enough said.

5. Bring your own reusable bag

With more and more grocery stores charging for plastic bags, bringing your own reusable grocery bags is a no brainer. Besides, reusable bags have become more fashionable, so why not?! Although, I must admit, if you are forgetful like me,  it is sometimes a pain to trudge back to the car as I always seem to remember it when I am already inside the grocery store.

So there you have it, little things that Olivia and I have done to reduce our plastic consumption.

How about you? What do YOU do to reduce your plastic footprint?

Have a good weekend, everyone…and remember to bring your own reusable bags for your Christmas shopping!

Debbie.