It takes a village…a look back at 2019.

IMG_0776 2

As the year comes to a close, I realize that 2019 has been a year of contradictions….full of ups and downs, a few tears from broken hearts but quickly replaced by an inner strength, and old friends lost but replaced by newfound friends.

However, through it all, I realize that it takes a village to get us through difficult times as well as share the laughter and good tidings during good times.

One recent example was when Olivia’s heart was broken one December day.  As she stood on our driveway, numb, dazed, blindsided, and not knowing what to do next, our neighbor from across our house came to the rescue. Peter and I were out shopping when we got a text from Oliva that “Aunt Mo” came and she made her soup, gave lots of hugs and stories about teenage boys not mature enough, and told her that she should not take high school boyfriends so seriously; the world is her oyster–there are so many more adventures waiting for her! Aunt Mo and Uncle Ray have been our neighbors for as long as I can remember and they might as well be family.  Broken heart restored and moving on…

Another recent example is when Olivia had a panic attack at school and her best friend Carol, Olivia’s math teacher Mrs. I  and her guidance counselor Mrs. D. took charge and made sure that Olivia felt safe and grounded during such a scary incident.  To this day, Olivia’s teachers check up on Olivia…I know because I am included in the check-in emails they send her. I also know that her friends like Kathryn and Khalid keep her focused and constantly remind her to keep it real…

As for me, I recently went back to my hometown in the Philippines.  I have not been back for almost 35 years and it was just because of Olivia wanting to “find our Filipino roots” that we went.  I left the Philippines when I was in my teens and I really never expected to come back since there are so many more other places in the world to visit!!  However, I was glad I came back as I got to meet up with my former classmates who still lived there and I was regaled with stories about how my nose was always buried in a book and somehow missed all the shenanigans they got into! My long lost friends were so warm and kind and actually took the time to meet with me and point out our old haunts…I had forgotten how warm and kind my Filipino culture is!  I will be back for another visit, I’m sure.

I’ve always tried to do everything on my own.  In honest truth, I like doing things on my own; I like being in control and not have to rely on anyone.  However, this year taught me that being part of a village is what makes life so much more interesting and more fulfilling.

As I read my 2018 post Happy New Year!, I realize that 2019 was even more wondrous as it made me realize that I am blessed to be part of an incredible group of people who has my back and look out for me even when I least expect it.  Thank you to everyone who made my 2019 the most awesome year ever (you know who you are)!

I hope you had a wonderful 2019 as well and looking forward to 2020!

Happy new year, everyone!

Love always.

Debbie.

Leave.

145082

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

———————————-

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.

—————————————————-

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

S.T.O.P. –A refresher…

 

o-STOP-SIGN-facebook

I had a little argument with Olivia on our way to school this morning.

I didn’t have time to make her lunch and I was a feeling a little vulnerable since I knew I have not been a model parent these past few days. I was on a training course and we were off our usual routine.  Although I get home earlier than usual, I do not seem to have enough time to do laundry, put away the dishes, or go for a run.

Although…I seem to have time for two glasses of wine and cheese, check the Raptors game, do some Amazon surfing for some retail therapy, sleep later than usual, etc…

At any rate, some consequences have certainly been felt the mornings after….I’ve been oversleeping, Olivia scrambling for clean jeans, no time to sit down and have breakfast (or even packing lunch), and both of us grumpy and testy in the morning.

I knew she was going through a rough patch too…she was worried she didn’t study enough for her Spanish test, she has a history project to work on, a finance test for DECA Ontario (an extracurricular finance club for young and upcoming junior executives), a math test to study for  (trigonometry, as I recall) and she was having some trouble prioritizing which one to deal with first….

Anyway, she said, “I’m hungry.”

For some reason, I took this negatively.  I immediately responded that we should really do better at planning our mornings or even consider laying out our clothes the night before and she should give me some ideas on what she would want for breakfast or lunch instead of relying on me to read her mind…and how late did she stay up last night that maybe she should be waking up earlier in the morning?

…all in my “pissed off” and “accusing” tone.

Silence on the passenger side.

Then I realized that with all the mindfulness practice and mantras I have in my arsenal, there are still times when I fall off the wagon and I revert back to old habits of mindlessness.

Anyway, I dropped her off and said, “Have a good day, honey”.  At this point, I was hoping that she had forgiven me for my outburst.  As I was waiting for the train heading downtown, I remembered one of the simplest techniques in my arsenal that I should have done:

S.T.O.P.

S–stop and take a time out; pause

T–take a slow breath in and out. Take another one, for good measure.

O-observe what is happening inside you. Were you holding your breath? How about your shoulders–were they tense and up? Just notice. No judging.

P-proceed; having checked into what is happening, continue with whatever you were doing.  Maybe, just maybe…you are feeling calmer and clearer to deal with the present situation.

Anyway, as I write this blog on the train on the way home (the course finished early! yay!), I remind myself that there will be times when I will fall off the wagon, but it is okay.

I can always begin again.

Next time, I hope that I remember to STOP… before I blow things out of proportion.

Hopefully, you will too….

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

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

Additions to my bucket list…

031317bucks-carl-sketch-master768

I spent Canada Day with my sister-in-law and over a cold beer and some sour and not-nearly-so-ripe cherries from their cherry tree, I told her that one of my pipe dreams is to rent a villa in Tuscany, complete with a pool and a housekeeper who will come once or twice a week to make me an authentic Italian dinner and who won’t laugh when I practice my Italian.

It made me think that I should add this Tuscan dream to my growing bucket list….

To date, my bucket list looks like this:

1.  Learn to tread water

person-treading-in-water-clipart-13I can swim…well, okay, maybe I should put a caveat on that one.  I can swim for 2 minutes and then I get tired and I stand up.  So, I’d better be able to touch the bottom and stand or else I’m in trouble!

My daughter, Olivia, swims like a fish.  I think it’s because of the fact that I am not a swimmer that I put her in private swimming lessons the minute she turned 2!  She can tread water like it is no big deal.

Well, I think it is a big deal….

So, now that I think of it, perhaps I should take proper swimming lessons and work myself up to treading water…?

2.  Go on a week long silent retreat

Imagine not speaking for a week.

Enough said.

3.  Go to Fiji or Tahiti 6f97f9d2b3a8028c3e1a8f6ed2e2ff13

I’ve always loved to be around water.

Dang.  I really need to get going on those swimming lessons ….

I wonder how many years it would take to say “That’s me in the picture”….?

4.  Learn Tai Chi

Actually, I was so close to signing up for tai chi lessons a few years back….then work got in the way.

If you haven’t heard of Tai Chi, it can be best described as a moving form of yoga and meditation. It is actually quite fascinating, especially for someone like me who tends to rush around…Tai Chi forces you to slow your movements down.

I should start looking at this again….maybe I can strike this off my list sooner rather than later!

5.  Go on a road trip

images  I once asked Olivia if someday she would want to drive across Canada with me and along the way, stop and learn what our wonderful country is all about…from Halifax to Vancouver Island and perhaps see the Northern Lights in the Yukon.

She said NO.  “It costs a lot of gas and is bad for the environment”. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to convince her if we get an electric car…?

Be that as it may, I will keep this on my bucket list…

What is on your bucket list?

Have a good weekend, everyone!

musiciansfriend.com blue yeti microphone

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.

 

 

 

 

“Don’t push me…please.”

dont-mistake-my-kindness-for-weakness-350x320

Those who knew that I was on this mindfulness journey were actually afraid for me…”That’s it.  Debbie is going to be a doormat once the word gets out that she is actually nice….”

BEFORE that fateful spring day in April 2012, I was the “Yes, I can handle this” type of person.  There was nothing I couldn’t juggle:

  • a stressful career and since I just got promoted, my “proving mode” was on overdrive
  • a busy family life (swimming lessons, piano lessons, Olivia’s homework, renovating the basement, laundry, grocery shopping…you get the picture)
  • running regime (trying to break sub-2 hours in a half marathon and not throw up at the finish line),
  • learning Spanish for work (fail…although, I can order a bottle of wine and ask where the bathroom is)
  • writing a children’s book (still not finished)

While I thought I was a pretty good juggler, I admit I was not the nicest person to be around.  I was more impatient, more crabby, more mean…just “more”.

I remember telling my husband that his 102-year old grandmother will die a very bitter old woman and she deserves it. Ummm, yah. Not nice.

In the office, I had just gotten a promotion and so I was so engrossed in proving myself…if someone disagreed with me, I spent the day poring over accounting rules to prove them wrong.   “I am right and you are wrong.” Ummm, yah.  Not nice.

THEN, while on a conference call that fateful spring day in April 2012, my brain and lungs decided that juggling was no longer fun. I could not catch my breath and everyone in the office thought I was having a heart attack.  They called 911.

Not a heart attack, but an anxiety attack…equally as life changing.  It took months of doctor’s visits, hours of therapy, rigorous regime of mindfulness practice and meditation to realize that it is OK to be…imperfect, vulnerable, not be in control.

FAST FORWARD TO TODAY ….

I am more centered, more mindful, more present…just “more”.

My daughter loves that fact that I am patient, calmer, and actually listens…

Work is also more enjoyable–both for me and for my colleagues.  I try to inject humor and an all-around-positive-attitude during meetings, I try to actually listen with a “beginner’s mind” even though I may have seen the issue in the past (hey, I might learn something new), and I am more patient in explaining myself (if the other person does not get it the first time, it is OK…I can try to explain again).

So, getting back to the “doormat” issue.  I must admit that I too was worried that people would take advantage of my “niceness”….and you know what?  Yes, people have tried to take advantage.  I don’t fool myself into believing that just because I am on this mindfulness journey that everyone is also on the same journey. However, as Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“You cannot change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change the way you react to it.”

So, when someone pushes me, I generally pause, assess (the person may be having a tough day!), and say with kindness and compassion…”Don’t push me…please.”

So far, this reaction has worked for me.

However, I wonder if they had kept pushing me…I think I might have eventually taken a page from the book of one of my very passionate Latina friends…..”You keep pushing me….and I BITE YOU!!”

At that point, I would have taken away the WELCOME mat….

Oh well.

Debbie