Dance like no one’s watching…

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My very good friend Holly left me a voicemail today.

“Just wanted to make sure you feel great and have that 30 minutes of fitness in your day.  I miss you hugely!”

She’s a personal trainer and she is checking up on me.  I know, right? She’s awesome.

I must admit, working from home due to COVID has brought out the workaholic in me and while I have been trying to get a workout in during the day, it’s been a hit and miss.

Anyway, I was doing the dishes tonight while my hubby was glued to CNN and the depressing news of the day.  I really didn’t want to hear any more disturbing news about how some people are skipping quarantine and still going out.  Come on, people!!!!  Ugh.

So, I grabbed my headphones and the first song that came up was Maroon 5 “Moves Like Jagger.”  If you haven’t heard it, check it out on YouTube.  At any rate, I never thought cleaning up after dinner would be so enjoyable.

Before I knew it, Taylor Swift’s “I Forgot That You Existed” came next and I found myself all alone in my living room…

I closed my eyes….

…and just like that, I was awkwardly dancing to Ed Sheeran’s new song “Put It All On Me”!  Three and a half minutes of pure and unadulterated happiness!  If you have the time to check out the video, you would understand!

Hey, no one’s here.  Even if I dance like Elaine Benes in Seinfeld, who cares! No judging.

Post Malone –“Wow”…I found that it had a good beat for squats…and calf raises.

Ed Sheeran…”Beautiful People”…I caught the words…” surrounded but still alone.”  I made a mental note to think more deeply about this… it resonated.

Billie Eilish, more Taylor Swift, more Ed Sheeran…(check out his new song “I Don’t Want Your Money”).

The last song on my playlist was Lizzo’s “Good as Hell”.  I love that song!

At any rate, I somehow managed to squeeze in 30 minutes of fitness tonight.  It wasn’t that difficult! Maybe tomorrow I will try to catch one of Holly’s virtual fitness classes on Instagram (@hgoldsmithjones). Check her out…she does so much in 30 minutes!

If not, I could always dance like no one was watching!

Let me know if you have any songs I should add to my playlist! (Most of my songs on my playlist are from Olivia 🙂

Stay safe and have a great rest of the week, everyone!

Love always.

Debbie

 

“Running on Ramen” in Tokyo…

When Olivia told me their team name “Running on Ramen”, I actually chuckled. She is part of this team of high schoolers who decided to enter a TechUnder20 competition with an idea of developing a health app for teens.

I’m not quite sure if they really knew what they were doing but hey, these kids are fearless.  They pitched their app to a cranky old judge and although they did not win the $15,000 price, they walked away thinking they gave it all they’ve got along with some fond memories of coming in at 6th place… and of course, coming up with such a catchy cheesy name.

I remember picking up Olivia after the results came and as she recounted how they did, I marvelled at how these kids shift gears and take risks and have no fear trying something new.

In my mind’s eye, I saw this to be their team’s greatest achievement–do something different, take a risk, and see where it goes–aka “Running on Ramen” motto.

When I think of ramen, I immediately think of those fat traditional Japanese noodles in chicken stock and topped with vegetables and pork slices. Coincidentally, I am in Tokyo this week for Spring break!

Tokyo is definitely not for the faint-hearted…Best place to try “Running on Ramen”!

My ROR journey has been the following so far:

1. Carry-on only:

I have always been in awe of people who just have a carry on for when they travel. My brother Jonah does it all the time and he told me just pack the necessities… so I guess my favourite shampoo and conditioner stay at home. I made sure to book a hotel that provides these little luxuries 😂.

At any rate, my Osprey carryon backpack seemed smaller than when I bought it😢.

2. Onsen:

As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do what the Romans do…”

An onsen is a Japanese hot spring…and it is a must try when you visit Japan.

We went to one onsen/spa in Enoshima (about an hour away from downtown Tokyo) which allowed for swimsuits…

It was so nice, peaceful and relaxing ….until we realized the last train back to Tokyo was at 8pm and we had to go on full sprint back to the train station…

Oh well, so much for peaceful and relaxing!

We plan to go to another one in Hakone ( about 3 hours away from Tokyo). This time, I’m allowing 3 hours to make sure I get my f*^%~ peace and relaxation! 🤯

3. Instagram worthy:

I really have to be more understanding about the importance of the perfect “Instagram pic”.

Olivia also did the minimalist carryon route and so did not pack a lot of clothes as she lamented to her best friend Shayla 😂.

Enough said. We still have a few more days in Tokyo so I’m sure Olivia will get at least one Instagram worthy pic…and I just might cave and let her buy one cheap shirt…

I must admit I’m not that good of a photographer either, like Shayla’s grandma!

Well, that is it for now. If you have ever had an ROR experience leave me a comment!

Signing off from Tokyo!

Have a good rest of the week, 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.

 

 

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.

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…

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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!!

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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”…

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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

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

The 5 ways I practice SELF-CARE….

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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.

 

 

 

 

Leaving early….

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My best friend at work resigned today. After months and months of “should I or shouldn’t I?”, she finally said “I’m done here.”  She has lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. While she has not had a flare-up in months, she realized that her health was more important and that she would rather focus on her art full time.   So, good-bye stress and office politics!

I have known her for almost 15 years and I knew that this decision to leave did not come easy.  Lots of sleepless nights and doubts about whether she can finally make the leap to the art world full time.  There were good days and not-so-good days but lately, it may have been more of the not-so-good days.

When I did ask her what finally pushed her to make the decision, it was not that she had shrewdly played the stock market and she was financially secure in her decision to quit, but more of avoiding the stress of quarter-ends (which always made her lupus flare up) and that she was at her happiest when she was making art (encaustic paintings). “Life is too short.  Do something that makes you happy”, she said.

Retire at 45, what a grand concept!

Like a good accountant, she had crunched the numbers and did her risk analysis, quantitatively and qualitatively, leaving no thought unturned between her left brain and right brain.

If I were in her brain, I think this conversation would have happened:

Left brain:   “Am I nuts?  No steady flow of income? What if I live to be a hundred–am I going to have enough money? What about the social interaction–won’t I  be missing that?  I will miss the office and friends–networking will be more difficult”.

Right brain:  “Right on!  Now I can be the best that I can be! If necessary, I can just live off dreams of apple blossoms and rays of sunshine…that would look pretty, yes?”

Left Brain:  “Apple blossoms and daydreams? If it has a dollar sign in front of it, sure!”

Right Brain:  “Art makes me happy….now I can do more…and sell more.”

Left Brain:  “How about day to day expenses?  Medical insurance? Dental care? Trust fund for Sunny?  He is only 11 years old but he may want to go to university? It will be expensive.”

Right brain:   “That is taken care of–took that into consideration when you crunched the numbers, remember?”

Left Brain: “What if….?”

Right brain:  “So ‘what if’…?”

Left Brain:  “I’M SCARED.”

Right brain:   “It will be alright.  If we don’t do this now, we will regret it forever…”

At some point, the left and right would have finally agreed and taken the right course of action:  to be happy.

I must admit, I am a little envious of my best friend having the courage to walk away from a well-paying job and step into a world of uncertainty.  I wish her all the best and knowing her, I am absolutely sure she will do well in her new adventure.

As for those of us left behind, the ripple of her leaving is already being felt in all parts of the team.  She will be sorely missed.  However, most of the topics of conversations around the water cooler were ” Retirement at 45 is possible?! Really?” and  “What makes me happy?  I should really plan for it..and plan well.”

So, the question that you should ask yourself “If I were on my death bed, would I wish that I had spent more time in the office….or more time dreaming about apple blossoms and rays of sunshine?”

Hmmmm….No regrets.

Debbie.