We have to keep her safe….

IMG_1258 2

 

This was my mom yesterday when I dropped off food and groceries for her for the week.  It’s not a very clear picture since she had to stay behind the glass window.  She’s 88 years old.  Olivia was with me and so she is all smiles.  Olivia calls her “Lola” which means Grandmother in Filipino. I have not hugged or given her a kiss in weeks.  Her birthday is coming up next month but I don’t think we can celebrate until this nightmare is over. 

I miss her….but we need to keep her safe.

I purposely waited for a few weeks to write about how I am doing.  I struggled to find the exact word to describe how I was feeling these past weeks with COVID lurking just outside my doorstep.

Fear?

Anger?

Perhaps.

I feel fear the most when Peter goes out and gets groceries and when he comes home, we have to keep the groceries outside by the door for a few hours in case he brought the virus back home with the broccoli.  That goes for any Amazon packages and the rare times when we order dinner through Uber Eats.  We live in a bubble and I’m cool with that, for now.

I taste the bitter tang of anger….or more appropriately, BLINDING RAGE, when I hear the news about people who are woefully ignorant and indifferent by not self-isolating, not practicing physical distancing or those who think that this virus is a hoax or it will mysteriously disappear or would rather play golf when people are dying. Not going to lie–these types of people will only look out for themselves and to hell with everyone one else.  These people should not be holding any position of power as they would be the first one to throw their loved ones under the bus.

Indifference?  Definitely not indifference.  COVID is supposedly Mother Nature’s best revenge and we are all paying for all the price for our shameless treatment of all her gifts.  I am talking about dolphins in the clear Venice waters, blue skies over Beijing devoid of pollution, wild boars in the streets of Barcelona.  Whoa!  COVID pressed the “Pause” button and in the process highlighted the delicate balance between man’s seemingly limitless wants and nature’s finite resources.  When we come out of this, we should all rethink about how we live.  There is too much at stake.  There is no Planet B. 

However, not all is lost.  I have found lots of positive things that have come out of this whole COVID experience.  For instance,  working from home, I am getting more sleep, spending more time with Olivia and Peter, saving loads of money from not taking the train to work, spending less time figuring out what clothes to wear to work, getting laundry done and put away, and the house is always tidy.  I will truly miss all these when we finally are allowed out of hibernation.

So, what word best describes how I feel right now?

Uneasy.

Yes, I think that sums it up perfectly.  I feel that at any moment of letting my guard down or one little slip, I (or anyone close to me) could catch COVID-19 and my whole world turns upside down.  This is why I cannot comprehend how some people can protest that their rights are being infringed upon and “liberate” them from stay-at-home protocols.  Let’s see if they are still asking about their rights when they are gasping for air and asking for a ventilator.  They need to be taught a lesson.  I know, I know….COVID is really testing my mindfulness practice. 

Anyway, as Olivia and I drove away yesterday, I looked back at my mom, still staring out her window.  So close yet so far.

I miss her…..but we have to keep her safe.

I hope you and your loved ones are also staying safe and healthy.

Love always.

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.

IMG_3542

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.

It started with an offer of Kleenex…

I caught a really nasty cold this past week…it may have been the flu but nonetheless, it devastated my whole entire week.

I even missed celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving. I am not a big turkey fan but hey, I didn’t get to enjoy the long weekend it came with.

I think I caught it from the person who sat beside me on the train on my way to work.  It started with me offering her a Kleenex. In fact, I even texted my good old friend Joya the dilemma I was going through…

 

Joya suggested that I should move…

img_3378

I should have, now that I think about it…

Would you have taken a Kleenex from a total stranger?

I mean, I look like a perfectly respectable person, I take a shower every morning so I’m sure I smelled alright, and I had the obligatory Starbucks mug…and I was offering a brand new Klennex packet!  Brand new!!

img_3379
The “Debbie smile” as my dear friend alluded to has been known to create confusion. My former boss had once asked… “why is Debbie smiling that weird smile…there is so much to do!…and she’s smiling??!”. Needless to say, she hated it when I smiled my lunatic smile…as if I’m going to lose my marbles…

Anyway, at this point, I was clucking like a lunatic after Joya reminded me about “the smile”…

img_3380

Well…I caught the cold..img_3382

So there you have it, folks!  It all started with an offer of a Kleenex to a complete stranger who was in grave need of one…

So what have I learned from all this?

You probably think that the moral of this blog is never offer a Kleenex since it will just be rejected and forget about being all martyr-like and sticking by your window seat since you are comfy and you got there first…

Nope.

The moral of my story that I got from this is…

I am grateful to have very good and dear friends like Joya who would stick by me even when we have inane and silly text conversations like how an offer of a perfectly good tissue morphed into the flu…and actually remember to check up on me.

She is who I am thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Happy belated thanksgiving, everyone!

Debbie

Yes, I Remember….

I remember when my family was still living in the Philippines, I used to run and dance in the rain…with not a care in the world. The kids in our street always came out and played tag when it was pouring out. Running around with squishy shoes added just the right balance of chuckles and moans of disgust! I also remember when I used to just stand outside under one of the banana trees that my father planted around our house and listen to the raindrops as it hit the leaves and fell to the ground.

Nowadays, my days are so filled with hurrying around, catching the train, getting in and out of cars, sitting behind glass walls…that I haven’t really thought about how it feels to be outside in the rain. I think the last time I was outside in the rain was when I was training for a marathon and I got caught in the rain during a Sunday long run. That was 10 years ago. I remember thinking “I hope it doesn’t stop raining…”

Yes, I remember that I used to be just like that girl in the picture…and yes, she is still somewhere inside…

Let it rain.

 

Debbie.

The 5 ways I practice SELF-CARE….

c253fc4485017948bdf3e02bbb12fd74

I remember literally cringing when my therapist first told me that I have to practice “self -care”.  For one thing, I have never heard of that term and it didn’t sound like a medical term to me.  Somehow it didn’t have the same razzle-dazzle as other medical terms I had recently come across like “cognitive behavior therapy”.

“What is self care, anyway” I remember asking.

“It is really just taking the time out to take care of yourself.  Debbie, give yourself permission to relax, to play, to watch grass grow….whatever you want.”

Well, fast forward to present day…I must admit it is the best prescription I have ever received.  In fact, I will share my 5 favourite ways I practice self-care.

 1. Wear comfortable clothes

Gone are my days of high heels and tight shirts/skirts for work, as well as those skinny bootie jeans that always made me rethink whenever I want to sit down.  Of course, this required a cold and heartless examination of my wardrobe.  Items that I know I haven’t worn in the past year (ok, 2 years–I’m not exactly made of money) or those that makes me itch after 5 minutes go on the donation pile.  I am also ruthless when deciding on new clothes.  I have to very honest with myself that I will be comfortable in them and that I am going to end up wearing it for a long time.  A classic and elegant look never goes out of style.

Try it.  You’d be surprised how good you feel afterwards–both mentally and physically!

2. Outsource

Not all of us are made of money, but sometimes, just sometimes, it is nice to actually have someone else do the cleaning.  I’m talking about having a cleaning person come once in a while to actually clean your house from top to bottom.  I still have to do most of the cleaning but once a month or once every two months is just enough for me to have a break and it doesn’t break the bank.

The feeling of walking into a clean house after the cleaners have left is ….indescribable.

3.  Take a “mental health” day off

Most companies nowadays offer personal days off as part of their compensation package–two or three days to deal with personal obligations, dentist appointments, or waiting for that errant cable guy to finally come.  I know that I used to just take them when I needed to do something during normal business hours like taking my car in for an appointment or renewing my passport. Then, forget about using the remaining days.

No longer.

I have learned that taking a day off for no apparent reason other than for “just chillin” (as my daughter always says), really helps me refocus and rebalance…again, both mentally and physically!  Don’t let those personal obligation days go to waste!

4.  Buy something small and inexpensive.

Remember when I said that I was going to learn how to play the ukulele ? (see my previous post here A New Year’s Resolution…?).  Well, I got past “You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine” and now I am learning “Riptide” by Vince Joy.  I bring this up since I’ve been mulling that perhaps something like a guitar pick could help improve my strumming abilities ( check it out! ).  I am by no means ready for “Canada’s Got Talent” (in fact, I don’t think I can call myself a musician anytime soon!) but my point is, if you have something you are interested in, buying yourself something small and inexpensive (and hopefully, useful!) to help in your quest for greatness, may be just the ticket to bringing that little smile to your face.

5. Play tourist

Did you know that I have lived in Toronto, Canada for almost all of my life but have never gone up the CN Tower?  I pass the CN Tower almost everyday while riding on the train to Union Station, but have never gone up it.

There was once a time when my family decided to have a “staycation” and we played tourist in Toronto.  We stayed overnight at a downtown hotel and did the normal touristy route (ok, except for the CN Tower!).  It was so much fun!  I decided then and there that I would do it again. So, to that end,  I have visited the Royal Ontario Museum,  the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Ontario Science Centre…all on my own and at my own pace.  I do relish the fact that I can stand in front of a painting for 5 minutes and not care….

So, there you have it, some of my favourite ways of taking care of myself.  How about you?  Do you have any other tips for practicing self-care?

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

 

 

4 Money Saving Tips That Blows My Mind…Every time!

IMG_1990

I must have read “The Automatic Millionaire” by David Bach at least two times. He has some pretty good money saving tips like foregoing that “Grande, Non-fat Cinnamon Latte with Soy Milk and a Caramel Drizzle” from Starbucks or having an automatic withdrawal from your bank account directly to your retirement savings plan so you pay yourself first. If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy.  It is worth your while to read it.

Once my family started on the road of saving money, it was hard to stop.  We became mindful of our spending habits and it made us realize that we can save money and in some circumstances, help in our global fight to save the environment.

Here are just 4 money saving tips that just blows me away.

1.  My “Latte” Factor

I love reading.  That is my “latte” factor….books made with real pages, made with real paper that makes a sound when you turn the page, and pages you can write on or highlight with a pen when you come across a “eureka moment”.

Unfortunately, brand new books are expensive.  So, to save money, I got myself a library card.  It’s FREE.  I am lucky that my local library carries books from a whole array of disciplines and new books are ordered regularly.

Unfortunately, you cannot write on the pages.  So, to further save money, I go to the local goodwill store.  In Canada, we have a local non-for profit thrift store called “Value Village”.  They accept donations including gently used clothing, furniture, electronics and previously enjoyed books.  A portion of the sales is donated to a local charity.

A book that is $30 brand new at the bookstore only generally costs me $7.  That is almost 75% off the cover price and it is almost always in mint condition! It also helps that these books are diverted from the landfill and helps our local charity.  Win-win, don’t you agree?

2.  My love affair with credit

Wait, what?  Yeah, you read right.  If you use credit the right way, it actually pays off for you…and not for the bank.

I got my first credit card when I was in university. That was almost 20 years ago. I was given $500 as my spending limit and I thought that was a lot!  Of course, I did not know how to use it properly (perhaps a Credit Card 101 course would have helped). I blew the limit almost immediately and incurred hefty interest charges. For an accounting student, very disappointing indeed. But, on the other hand, having a credit card also allowed me to rent my very own place close to campus.  Fast forward to today–you really cannot live without some form of credit in this day and age but you have to be mindful of what and how you use it.

First of all, make sure you pay the FULL balance on your credit card.  If you miss the payment date even for one day, you have to pay interest for the whole month.  Banks love it when people just pay the minimum $10 and carry the balance forward…you pay more interest which translates to more profits for them.  Feeling cheated, yet?

If you don’t have the money to pay off your credit card , use a line of credit to pay it off. Generally, lines of credit (whether secured or unsecured) would have interest way below the average 20-25% interest rate that credit card companies charge.

It does bring a good question to mind “ARE YOU SPENDING MONEY YOU DO NOT HAVE?”. I’ll give you a moment to think about that.

Another way of using credit to your advantage is if you have a mortgage (which is a good type of credit!) that has an interest rate that is higher than your line of credit rate.  Talk to your banker for options and perhaps you can save a little bit of interest by prepaying your mortgage through your credit line.  While you’re at it, ask your banker to waive any credit card fees, you might get lucky and save $100 annually.

Last but not least, always ask yourself before you whip out your credit card to make that next purchase–“do I have the money to buy this right now?” If not, I would return that pretty little top back in the rack and come back when you can actually afford it.

Yeah, tough love.

3.  Grocery shopping–there’s an app for that!

It is a well known fact that when going to the grocery store, always shop in the outside aisles which are the produce, meat, eggs and dairy sections. Wholesome food, as my husband calls it.  There will always be sales going on for those perishable items.  But of course, sometimes, you do have to venture into the middle aisles for items that are not so perishable.  For example, we have to have detergent, toilet paper, or shampoo.

Most of the grocery stores I go to have a “price match” policy and this is where an app called “Flipp” is awesome at saving money.  Search for what you are looking for, say, Pampers diapers, and it will check all the big stores that have Pampers diapers that are on sale. From there you can compare prices and save! No more clipping coupons–I just show my phone.  It is as simple as that.  As an added bonus, you also help the environment since you wouldn’t need to jump in your car to go to the other store!

4.  My love affair with wine

I must admit, I love winding down with a good glass of wine at the end of the day.  In Canada, a good bottle of wine is not cheap.  A good bottle of Italian wine, say an Amarone, a lovely Italian red wine, would fetch about an average of $40-$50 per bottle.  That is a pretty steep price to pay for something that will be gone in an hour if paired with a good friend and a bowlful of chips on a Friday night.

So, this tip is going to be a shocker.  You can get a good bottle of Amarone wine for $8.  The drawback is that you have to buy a batch (30 bottles–although, it makes for great Christmas presents!) and you have to wait to age it.  It’s called “craft winemaking”.  I found a great winemaking place close to my house and is run by two ladies who definitely know their wine.  So, with a little patience, I am supporting a local business while enjoying inexpensive but very good wine. I also get to reuse old wine bottles when bottling! Win-win!

Oh, and for an Amarone, I would suggest you age it for six months at the very least before you pop it open…

Do you have other tips that save you money and good for the environment?  If so, let me know!

Debbie.

 

 

 

 

Making a difference…

My daughter came home from dinner over at a friend’s house and the first thing she said was “We had moose steak for dinner.”

Oh…quite exotic, I must say.

Then she said that Julia (the middle child of the family) created quite a discussion over dinner by saying “Dad, you had kill a moose for dinner.. how could you?”.

“Dad” hunts deer, moose, and goes fishing in the northern most parts of Canada once or twice a year…takes the kill to the butcher who magically transforms it to steaks, ground meat, filets, etc. to be consumed throughout the year.

…Julia’s dad, being the smart aleck we knew him to be…said “Well, we spared a cow’s life  by eating this moose.”

Julia is only 11 but my daughter says Julia has decided to go vegetarian when she is older. She says “animal lives matter”…

But, right now, she has to eat moose steak for dinner.

My daughter concludes “Julia is passionate about animals but I believe we have to think bigger…we have to take care of the planet we live in. What good is saving animals if we kill Planet Earth?”

Fighting words indeed.

My daughter then went on a rant of her own about how Man has completely destroyed the environment and showed me a Youtube video of a rapper named Prince EA. In his Youtube Video “Man vs Earth” he shows us what we have done to Mother Nature including global warming and deforestation of the Amazon.  Check it out…it is quite compelling.

My daughter has resolved that minimizing our carbon footprint is a good way to start. So, in the coming weeks, we are making sure recyclable items are recycled in the blue bin, compostable items go into the compost heap in the backyard or in the green bin, minimize the use of plastics including bringing our own bags when grocery shopping,  and maybe plant a tree in the backyard.

I am so proud and extremely happy to see her passionately support a worthy cause. Actually, it is a similar feeling when I see in the news about our future generation supporting causes to end poverty, women’s rights, access to clean water, etc.

“You are going be quite an activist when you are older…” I said smiling.

“I would need lots of money to make a difference though…” she said sadly.

“…no, no, NO!!”, I silently screamed.

Has this world really gone to hell that money is necessary for things to happen? To make a difference?

That is actually quite distressing if you really think about it….that only the rich can make a difference? Could you imagine a world full of Donald Trumps who turns a blind eye to global warming or thinks climate change is a myth?

…by the way, I never really understood why Donald Trump is considered a “billionaire” when he has declared “corporate bankruptcy” four times (the fact that The Donald deliberately distinguishes that from “personal bankruptcy” is really ridiculous….it is eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s infamous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky..”)……Right.

Anyway, I digress.

At any rate, I refuse to believe that to make a difference in this world that we really NEED money. It would be helpful, but it’s not necessary, or is it??

I think that if all of us reduce our own carbon footprint (for even just a little), it will make a big difference over time.  Recycling more, using less plastic, and mindfully thinking about our impact to our community are all…..FREE.

I think we just need a little jumpstart of the “hidden activists” within all of us.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Debbie.