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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.

Run your own race…

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The first time I heard this was when I was training for my first half marathon.

Makes perfect sense, right?

However, try sticking to that in the middle of the race when everyone is speeding past you and you are trying to keep up.

I realized then that it is not really just “run your own race”…it should also be “RUN AT YOUR OWN PACE!”

Needless to say, I did finish my very first half marathon at a half-decent time (no pun intended!) and went on to run many more races after that.

However, lately, it seems that I have to keep reminding myself (and others) that I am “running my own race and at my own pace.” when it comes to my own career.

“You could make more money somewhere else…”

“You are so smart; you should ask for more money.”

“You are already doing more anyway, why not get paid for it…”

Money, Money, Money.

In a fit of impatience, I had blurted out “I don’t want more money!”

In my previous experience, more money, meant more work, more expectations, more stress.

No thanks.  Been there, done that.

The best decision I have ever made was to leave my high-stress job, take a step down the proverbial corporate ladder, and take a significant pay cut.

“But you still get stressed in this lower-paying job, so why not get a promotion and get more money?”

But somehow, the stress is different.  I leave it all behind at 5:30 pm and I look forward to spending more quality at home…

Walking through my garden and seeing if the squirrels left me some strawberries…

Having a beer in the front patio and count the number of white cars that go by…

Getting the mail from the mailbox and actually sorting and reading the flyers that came with the bills…

Work should not be just about money.

But for some people, it is about the money…. which is unfortunate. I guess for them, their race is to amass as much money as possible, as soon as possible.

Wrong race for me…

I think next time, I will not feel the need to justify that my race is to find what makes ME happy and it may take me a while to figure it all out. My happiness is worth more than a million dollars in the bank.

So, when you feel that someone is pushing you to do something that you know is not for you, tell them:

“I’m good.  I am running my own race at my own pace.  Thanks though.”

Have a good week, 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.

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

2018 was such an awesome year for me!!!!

I realized that I take myself too seriously and learned to laugh at myself.  Olivia taught me this.

I learned that some people are very good at giving you the ultimate guilt trip or the silent treatment for even the smallest of things but I realize that I cannot control other people but can only control how I react to it.  So, I have learned to shrug it off and know that it is not the end of the world.  Who cares what other people think when the only thing that matters is what YOU think.  Easier said than done, I know but it’s worth it, I promise.

I learned that if you really want to do something, you go for it.  Don’t let other people discourage you from doing it (this is for my mother-in-law who said I shouldn’t write a cookbook since I can’t cook…yah, she’s a tough one).  Watch 2019 for a cookbook for those who can’t cook!!!

I have learned to forgive all the people who have thrown me under the bus (this is for my old boss who taught me that difficult people are learning opportunities to practice patience as per the Buddhist tradition!)

I learned to always watch my thoughts since sometimes, I always seem to veer towards the negative….

I learned that worrying is a waste of time.  If there is something you can do about it, then do it.  If it is out of your control, then worrying is a waste of time.  Let it go.

Finally, I learned to …. DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING!!!!  Close your eyes and let it all go!!!!!

Here’s to a new year and may 2019 bring us joy and new adventures!!!!

Happy New Year everyone!!!!!

Love always…

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.

Birthday wishes

It was my birthday a few days ago.

Another year older.

One year closer to retirement.

I didn’t get a lot of birthday well wishes and even my mother forgot. She’s 86 so I couldn’t really blame her.

My sister almost forgot and she admitted it on a text at 8:30 that night while I was getting ready for bed. She asked me what I did for my birthday and I replied, “Nothing. Just went to work. Had dinner at home. Cheaper.” I had a smiley face somewhere in those sentences for added effect.

My brother forgot and tried to cover it up by sending me a text the next afternoon asking nonchalantly “What did you do for your birthday?”

My reply was the same.

Then we talked about one year closer to retirement and what I need to do to make it a reality. We are both accountants after all and investment strategies are infinitely more important than whether I had a birthday cake and whether it was chocolate or vanilla…

If I sound a little disappointed that my birthday was really nothing special, not really. It’s just that I seem to have come to a point in my life where birthdays have become just another mundane day of the week. I don’t expect any special treatment or presents or even a day off….

Is that sad?

Actually, I don’t think so. I quite enjoyed not having to dress up and think about where to go or even consider what to eat since a birthday dinner must somehow be more special than any other meal.

Too much effort.

Have I become lazy in my old age?

Actually, I don’t think so either. I think I have just realized how much more I enjoy a glass of wine at home than going out to a bar and having decide whether one glass of wine is enough or should I get the bottle instead…and who will be the designated driver.

Too much effort.

At any rate, I quite enjoyed my birthday–I had a quiet dinner at home with two glasses of my favourite wine and had combination of chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake with little icing flowers.

I got a hugs and a kisses from my daughter and hubby…and that is the greatest birthday gifts I could have!

So, for all September birthday celebrants out there…happy birthday!

Hope you had a fabulous birthday too!

Debbie