Friday, November 28, 2008

3 Books

Just finished reading a few books this week. All of them very useful in their own way.

America's Cheapest Family Gets you Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides

I like this book. The title I think gives the impression that you are going to read about a family that goes to extreme lengths of deprivation but that is not true. Extremely readable, well organized, currently relevant and makes a lot of sense. I learned from it and would recommend it.

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker

This is my second read. I read it the first time probably a year ago and didn't remember getting much from it but I must have changed because this time I found it to be very enlightening. The first part deals with the "imprinting" we have about money from when we were young. Money on My Mind wrote a great article of her "Financial Baggage" this week.

The second half deals with how to let what doesn't serve us go, replacing it with beliefs and thoughts that millionaires have--those thoughts are not about vacation--but stems from hard work! I am going to re-read this book again soon.

At Home in France Tales of an American and Her Home Abroad by Ann Barry

I got this tip from Saving4Later. I love this book. I am also biased because I seem to take to the French way of life fairly naturally. I was sad to find out that the author passed on in 1996 after owning in France for a dozen years or so. I could so relate to her need to get away, to a place that is privately hers. (made me want to find that solo place in France too...) She never married and only spent 2 -3 weeks there a year (what a luxury!) but her descriptions of her home and country life are full of passion and joy. Written only like a woman in love could.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mid-Life Celebration?

One of my hopes in life is to avoid the so call "mid-life crisis".

From what I understand, it is a state where people suddenly stop and take note of where they are, where they have come from and whether the scene they see matches what they had imagined for themselves years ago. Sometimes this is precipitated by something traumatic.

A lot of stories I've read over the years do not shed such a great light on this event. It seems like either the stereotypical "buy the red sports car, get much younger boyfriend/girlfriend" happens or a major life shift occurs only when the person or someone close faces a immanent death challenge.

Either way, the change seems to be precipitated by realizing the "picture inside the head" doesn't match what "is" and the realization that "x" numbers of years has gone by and all the hard work hasn't amounted to a whole lot of joy. All the trappings of success may be there but the feeling inside is not full.

I do a awful lot of soul searching--probably too much--and I've decided that I will aim for something fun at "mid-life", whatever that place or time shall be. A celebration instead of a crisis! Something to strive for rather than some wall to hit. A motivator to help make the scene you will see be the one you want to see!

Now comes the fun part. How will I going to reward myself with for getting there?! People who enter into a full blown crisis ought not to be the only ones who get a makeover, the new car, (I'll pass on the younger boyfriend!) etc. etc...

I'm giddy with possibilities. How are you going to reward yourself for a job well done, a life well lived?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Other Side

After my post on everyday frugality, it is only fitting that I list all the non frugal things we indulge on.
  • French antiques consisting of a sideboard, wardrobe and bibliotheque ($5500)
  • a Mont Blanc fountain pen, a Lancel purse, Hermes scarf & Gucci sunglasses ($2300)
  • a 2880 sq ft principle residence for 2 people ($285000--about $142000 owing)
  • a 700 sq ft cottage 3 hrs away by car ($83000--$0 owing)
  • a 279 sq ft ski condo 3 hrs away by plane ($78500--about $51000 owing)
  • a 1 1/2 week trip to Europe (usually France) each year ($4500 total including spending)
  • 2 flights out west to ski each year ($2600)
  • driving to the cottage about 2 times a month (cost of gas--round trip half tank)
  • ski lessons ($245 per yr)
  • tennis lessons ($25 per class)
  • attending 3 -4 plays a yr ($200)
  • a trip by myself each year (2009 Alaska--$2618, 2010 South America--$3400 approx)
  • a world phone ($149 US for phone plus time used)
  • yearly membership at local sportsman's club ($220)
  • seasons tickets to local junior A hockey league (husband's--$300)
  • season ski passes ($1354)

Well, there it is. Everything on the list is either budgeted for or has been paid fully on time.

Our goal is to create and enjoy "retirement life" now, while we are both working in order to test things out, see if it works, how much it costs, fine tune if necessary; so that when we do retire, the transition will hopefully be seamless.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I've Been Tagged! 6 Random Things About Me!

I've been tagged by Money on My Mind and Living My Rich Life! Thanks Ladies!

I found this difficult as I was trying not to repeat anything I've mentioned before in posts or on my sidebar... Here goes...

  • I gave up an opportunity to audition for the National Ballet of Canada to take private art classes.
  • My husband is the 3rd man of the Same Name I've ever been involved with. It gets weirder. The first "D" is German. The second "D" is Scottish. My "D" is half German, half Scottish.
  • I worked as a Junior Architectural Technologist on The Skydome (Toronto).
  • I was once engaged to a man 2 times older than me. (He was a prof of mine but ironically, I never went to his classes)
  • I took up archery a couple of years ago at a local Sportsman's Club.
  • I am more of a hermit than I let on.
That was fun! I am tagging:

Daphne @Joyful Days
Andrea @ILoveFrance
Poppy Fields

Monday, November 24, 2008

180th Carnival of Personal Finance

If you are looking for an wealth of information about Personal Finance, look no further than this week's Carnival hosted by Living Almost Large.

She has done an incredibly thorough job highlighting the different categories of personal finance and adds her own unique spin on the topics/articles chosen.

It is evident just how much time she spent on sorting, organizing and reflecting on the submissions. One of the most comprehensive summaries I've read to date.

I'm also happy to report that my "Wedding Bells" article was included in the mix! That means a lot when you consider the caliber of the other posts!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Everyday Frugality

I spend a lot of time thinking about my daily routine. How to make it more efficient, what to cut out, what to improve, where can I save?

Frugality was a way of life growing up, long before I knew that there was a name for it. I moved away from that lifestyle as a young adult (more later) but have come full circle back to what I know. What I know for sure is each seemingly small step snowballs into a life that can allow for some real choice.

My frugal lifestyle includes:
  • bringing a thermos of green tea to work
  • walking to work
  • walking to shop
  • buying used cars and driving them until they are done
  • eating lunch and dinner at home
  • no lights on at home during the day
  • setting the thermostat to 58 degrees Fahrenheit when out (winter)
  • using the air conditioning sparingly in the summer
  • cooking enough for leftover lunches the next day
  • eating what we have
  • buying in bulk
  • buying used
  • not buying at all most weeks
  • using cash
  • using credit cards for gasoline and travel related expenses only
  • shopping around for the best price
  • buying local and in season
  • fix things before replacing
  • dinner parties at home
  • disassociate "a job well done" from a "thing" reward
  • thinking "big picture"
  • having a stocked pantry
  • reading flyers and making notes on sale items
  • keeping a price book
  • banking online and fee free
  • using the library for books, movies and magazines
  • seeing movies out with a 2 for 1 coupon
  • looking for better ways to get things done
  • weatherstripping
  • hanging laundry to dry
  • changing over all the light bulbs
  • minimally watering the lawn and garden
  • seeing if a 1 degree decrease in heating temperature this winter can work
  • using a wood burning fireplace
  • using an insulating blanket on the hot water heater
  • shutting off the hot water heater when away
  • filling up cars with lowest price of gas
  • reduce food shopping days to 2 times per month
  • not spending money during the week
  • having a $80/month allowance to spend as I wish
  • having a $250/month food and household budget
  • splitting a "year end bonus" if we have money left after all expenses and savings
  • shutting off all utilities on our recreational properties when we leave
  • using answering machine
  • using a small local ISP
  • having just a phone line
  • using Skype for long distance
  • using Pay as You Go cell phones for emergencies only
  • replacing clothes and footwear as they wear out
  • not having cable or satellite
  • not spending more than $16 for a haircut
  • reading newspapers online
  • using less chemical cleaners
  • having a vegetable and herb garden
  • composting
  • producing a half bag of garbage a week
  • recycling
  • paying down debt aggressively
  • saving as much as possible without deprivation
  • buy quality goods
  • doing work ourselves
  • having a 24 hr grace period before buying anything "wanted"
  • not going shopping as recreation
  • volunteering
  • being a mentor
  • learning for free
  • donating to worthy charities
  • reading and listening to inspiring people who are changing the world

I credit my upbringing for instilling these values in me. My husband came from a different background so it has taken a few years for him to understand and integrate to the ideas and lifestyle.

His perennial argument is that we can afford it whereas my perennial argument is because we can afford it we have an even bigger responsibility to make a conscious choice, not the commonly seen default one.

I'm happy to report that the above list is our new "normal"... for now. I'm sure that we will continue to strive for better.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The $78500 Wedding that Didn't Happen

My post yesterday talked about not choosing to put on a wedding but instead fulfilling a lifestyle goal that was congruent to what we would like to have in place for now and during retirement. It makes sense to us to do this while we are both working, getting to enjoy it now vs. saving all the money and doing it later. That's the essence of middle way.

We call it our $78500 wedding (and honeymoon) that is really a Ski Condo! In reality, it is a hotel room with a kitchen. We didn't spend enough to get what people envision as a "ski condo" but we spent enough to get into the game.

Yup, we bought it this spring, shortly after we were married and this Christmas and next spring will be the first seasons it will be integrated into our lifestyle. We will be spending enough time there to justify seasons passes. One of our goals is to teach skiing as a dream/fun job when we are retired and living as ski bums out west during the season.

To integrate an out of town/province property into our lives involves a lot of budgeting. There are flights and transfers to consider. Additional condo fees and property taxes to pay. Plus extra gear so that you don't have to lug large equipment back and forth through the airport.

I can only speak for my own experience but the condo we bought happened to be fully furnished in colours and style of furniture we like. We went out back in the spring to buy extra things ie. new sheets, comforter, some more kitchen utensils, non perishable foods/pantry items etc. The previous owners used it as their second home and never put it into the rental pool. The personal touches and the care they took was palpable.

This was a property that wasn't listed on the mls and we didn't realize it was available until we showed up. It ended up being the first place we saw and I took to it immediately. I place a lot of weight on how a place feels--a gut feeling. There were 2 others that I had thought would be perfect, judging from the pictures and amenities but the feel was totally wrong--cold and chaotic. That goes to show that one cannot judge without being physically in the space.

The price was higher than we had originally had in mind. (I would not have spent $78500 on a wedding!) We were hoping to be in the $65000 range (ok, I would not spend that either...) but the spot we chose was worth recalculating and budgeting.

Using the same mental philosophy as with the cottage, we asked ourselves similar questions.

How much is this place going to be used? How much will it cost to run? Are there any special assessments coming up that will cost thousands? Is this something that is going to be a real estate investment? What is the outlook of the area? How long will it be before you will need to upgrade/renovate the place?

I plan to ski 3 - 4 weeks a year, over 2 visits. My husband will likely spend more time as he has the ability to work remote. (jealous person here typing...) We plan to use it in the summer to but it would be in the form of a road trip. The condo fees include heat, electricity and water. For us that means $137/month. Property taxes are $420/yr.

The condo has an attached commercial unit that brings in significant income each season so that it helps pay for special assessments like the one currently tabled whereby the wood siding is being replaced at a cost of $200000. We are not buying it to flip. We are hopefully going to be in good enough health to be skiing into our 90's.

The area and resort is growing. Their strategic plan is fairly aggressive and broad in scope considering it is not in the the same league as Intrawest. We didn't want to be in that type of resort because for us, it is too commercial. We are there to ski, not to be seen. Finally, I cannot see needing to paint or redecorate for a very long time, at least 10 years.

One other important point for us is the aspect of getting to and from the condo. We did not want it to involve a car rental nor a crazy long transfer. A lot of resorts in British Columbia are hours away from an airport. That is something you should think about seriously if you are considering a purchase.

In the winter time, roads can be treacherous within mountain ranges and I personally do not feel experienced enough to drive 4 hrs on those roads especially after a 4 hr or so flight. Our spot is about 45 mins away from the airport and we pay $75 per person return to take a van shuttle service that knows when you arrive and a person is there to meet you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wedding Bells

OK. I am going to tackle a controversial topic today. The cost of weddings.

Dreaming of being a bride, becoming a bride, bridal showers, finding the dress, deciding on the menu...this can be very emotional stuff. These are the dreams that many young girls have embedded in their psyches as they see older sisters, cousins, girlfriends go through the bridal process.

I'm going to come right out and say it. We got married this spring--secretly at a historical city hall chamber in a favorite town of ours. There were no ring exchanges (I didn't know it was possible, but it is!), no dress, no reception, no party. Our families were extremely happy for us as they know we march to a different enough beat that they never expected us to get married.

The officiants and the provided witnesses, I think, were doing their best to figure out what our story was. We still chuckle about it. I guess it would seem odd that 2 professional looking, happy people ages 36 and 40 would get married on a Monday morning at 10:30am with no witnesses or obvious pregnancy? I remember thinking how fast the process was. Barely 15 minutes! The most important part of the wedding day (in my opinion) compared to the year or so average time it takes to plan a wedding. The irony didn't pass us by.

I know that I am in the minority here. Having been to my share of weddings and showers, I had decided long ago that the bridal process or "best practices" wasn't going to jive with my goals. Being married has never been a destination nor do I equate it with status or "completeness". I believe that a couple is "married" long before they make it to the alter. And for us, it is the commitment to love, honour and build a life together that are the most important aspects of marriage.

Even though divorce rates are so high, the average cost of a wedding has gone up. I've been to weddings that have cost $21000 and to ones that cost near a million. It is quite an industry and big business. When we decided that we'd rather spend our money fulfilling a lifestyle goal (more about it later) instead, it was as if a light went on. Here was something that was congruent with our life. It fit our overall financial direction and we gained peace from the decision. That's how we knew we made the right decision for us.

Don't get me wrong. I can get as excited about a Vera Wang gown or with designing the cake and flower arrangements as the next girl. Who wouldn't be able to appreciate the beauty of great design? Plus I love the fairy tale aspect of weddings. I guess I just didn't desire it enough to make the effort to become a bride for a day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Close to End of Year Roundup

Each year around this time, it is customary of me to start reflecting on how the year has shaped up and to start thinking about what would be carried over to the next.

A big step up for us lifestyle wise this year has been cooking. We are barely buying any convenience foods anymore and when we do buy some, it is to try something new and if we like it, then the recipe search starts to match and beat it. The same philosophy applies to eating out. Thus our dining out bills have plummeted. This was one area I thought I would have a lot of trouble changing because I love to eat out and I love the restaurant atmosphere. I still eat out--mostly for lunch where I feel I get more value and can enjoy things I cannot cook/find to cook easily like duck.

For some reason, I had some mental block that said that I could not, cannot, would not cook until I have the rest of my life in order. That's crazy and I know it now. Our weekend cooking time, where we make a large batch of something is something I look forward to. The time it saves over the course of the week is amazing. We aim to free at least half so after a few weekends, we have an assortment of meals we can draw from. Not that the cooler weather is upon us, we have been baking bread, making stew, chili etc.

Setting up a number of "working" bank accounts for household repairs, car, travel, etc. was this year's project. I haven't had enough time to decide if it will be as beneficial as my mind tells me but my goal is to eventually have $5000 in each account so that if I need to buy paint for example, I'll just draw from that account, thus not using up current cash to pay for it. At the end of the year, I'll know how much I've spent say on household repairs and top it up accordingly.

We are in negotiations about getting rid of one our cell phones. We are on the lowest amount of "pay as you go" plan but now that I walk to work, it doesn't make sense to keep it. On the expenditure front, we did buy a world phone this year. It comes with 100 free non expiring minutes and has no monthly plan. The reason for it was that we had some hassle with an apartment rental in France last year and the experience of looking for payphone and tabacs that sell the phone cards took a lot away from our vacation. North American phones are on a different bandwidth so they don't work in Europe. As we are committed to going to Europe each year, we felt it made sense for our situation. It worked great on our recent trip.

Eating less meat is something I will also bring along into the new year. By doing so, it helps me achieve a couple of goals--spend less on groceries and make it much easier to decrease my caloric intake by 100 calories a day.

I started using an excel spreadsheet this year to track cash flow. My husband works in a salary position but I am self employed. My income can fluctuate significantly so I am the variable in the equation. Before the spreadsheet came along (this is after much coaxing from my husband), I didn't budget or anticipate with much high accuracy. I didn't owe money on credit cards or anything because of my mishaps but I would spend when I could and didn't when I couldn't. Savings was always a priority.

Now, I feel like some kind of wonder spreadsheet wizard. I use it to plan for potentially tough times. After 10 yrs of self employment, I know how low it can go and that's where I set my projections for the next 4 years. With the economy being what it is right now, I've set my income lower to see if we can still meet all of our yearly goals that involve money. If I cannot, then I can then figure out what has to go or where do I draw from to make it work. It is a great exercise and I spend a good amount of time tweaking it.

Household Tidbits

We recently started our 15 min - 30 mins/day cleaning blitzes. I had heard a variation of this idea from a professional de-clutterer a while back. His idea was pretty hard core--to fill 1 black garbage a bag a day for 7 days each month by spending 30 mins each night for a week getting rid of junk.

Our version of the concept was adapted to household jobs. It is amazing how much you can get done when you know that there is a time limit. And you don't dread the jobs (as much!) Now the weekend full out clean doesn't need to happen and it has brought more fun and spontaneity instead. If everyone in the household participates, it has the potential to create fun (we set a timer and make it like a game) and transforms tasks that isn't fun for most people to something much more tolerable.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Room to Grow

I have to admit it. I seem to require a minimum amount to living space in order for me to "function" properly. By properly I mean feeling like I have enough room to hear myself think, to be able to breath fully, to hide out and to feel like being creative.

It may sound crazy and spoiled but having moved a year or so ago, I've definitely notice a change come over me. In order to facilitate things, my spouse sold his property first and moved into my home. We were literally walking into each other. Did the living arrangement and space satisfy the basic need for a shelter? Yes it did. Could we have made it work? Yes we could have. But we chose not to.

Part of what I am trying to say in my blog is this. My goals in life is to be able to integrate and enjoy a certain level of luxury. For me, space is a luxury. In the end, we found a home that is about the size of both of our small places combined. A huge bonus for the artist in me, is that it is a very old house (1854). The last 2 owners were skilled builders who combined, spent the last 17 yrs restoring and updating pertinent architectural and utility features. For us, living here is like being surrounding by art.

The house cost less than the value of the houses we sold to buy it but it was still more than what I had ever planned to spend on a house. From a living perspective, it has given me many times more value than it's cost on paper.

Monday, November 17, 2008


This is one topic I've struggled with for a while. Only recently have I made peace with it. My career brings with it many benefits ie. self employment, freedom of schedule etc. but a hidden cost I did not bargain for relates to identity.

To be professional for me means "it is not about me". Does that make sense? When you go see someone professionally for advice, would you be thrilled to be hearing all about that person or are you there to get something done for yourself? I would think the latter.

In my business, I have seen dismal examples of professionalism, and examples where not being professional has garnered grave results. I tend to steer very close to the conservative side of the road where I do not speak about my life outside of the everyday polite conservations of how are you doing?

By practicing very professionally, I have noticed discomfort with my identity at work in that it takes an enormous amount of energy to behave in a way that only shows a 2 dimensional me. That has been a price of having my career. It has only been recently that I've accepted and am really enjoying my role at work. I no longer allow it to waste my time emotionally and mentally.

Creating this blog has served a vital role for my other identities. Of course those close to me know the "real" me. But my 2 dimensioned life at work had started to bleed into what I consider to be my "real" life sapping my energy at home. I was beginning to lose the excited me and the explorer me and the artist me. I realize that I can never be all of me at work--it isn't appropriate there. The boundary is set. So in the rest of my life, I will endeavor to be as wholly me as I can be!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas Cheer?

We had a nice snowfall today. I was out in it and wanted to get a breath of fresh air as well as some seasonal cheer. It was pretty obvious by the amount of traffic and the energy afoot that the Christmas rush has begun. People were carrying lots of packages and there was lots of hurrying about. What I also noticed was that I had a hard time finding someone who seemed happy.

I love the colours and sounds of Christmas time. Even though I do not have many people to buy for, I can appreciate the bright festive displays and decorations. Thus I tend to linger to take it all in. Though Christmas time was not something I was born into culturally, I have embraced the spirit of giving and time with loved ones.

When I see hurried people trying to get things done not looking like they are enjoying themselves or are happy about it, it makes me wonder why? One can blame all sort of things like businesses, family traditions and the commercials etc. But in the end, the choice to engage is a choice. If you cannot do something optional with joy, then why do it?

Friday, November 14, 2008

My First Major Luxury

I bought my cottage 4 years ago, shortly after meeting my future husband. I was at a point in my career where I was burning out and afraid to take vacations. How crazy is that? Nonetheless, I was one of those people. Eventually my actions began to have a negative impact on my mental, emotional and physical health. I stopped working out. I ate more convenience and expensive restaurant foods as a treat for working so hard. I started dreading going to work. Not a pretty place to be in.

One of my life and retirement dreams was to live by water, a beach. After meeting my future parents in law one weekend (who live lakeside), the old buried idea sprung right out in my face. After a couple of months searching and viewing I found it. It was the very last property. The timing wasn't ideal in that I would have preferred to be mortgage free but I was driven by something deeper. It was a yearning back to nature, more often than the occasional invite up north. It was going to be a lifestyle and it was sized and priced proportional to how much it was going to be used.

I view money as a form of energy. When I spend, it needs to make sense within the whole picture of my life. The cottage cost about half of my home at the time. I didn't want it to be the end all and be all of my life because I have many other facets I wish to explore and develop. Why it is a luxury to me is because I can to use it when I want to without having to make a reservation . If I don't feel like going, no problem, no guilt. It is a true cottage, built 64 years ago, very small and cosy. It allows me to live differently and by doing so, helps ground me and makes finding peace and joy really easy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How I Managed a Career Threatening Injury

About 3 years ago, I had gotten to a place in my life where I felt I was ready to take on more "risk". For 7 years I plunged headfirst into my career (which can be quite physically demanding) and put some ambitions aside. One morning I decided I had enough of that and subsequently went searching for something to learn. I decided upon figure skating. I love watching it, especially ice dancing and I wanted to give it a go.

The first year I skated, I did really well considering I had never learned to skate before and only suffered 1 fall. That one fall resulted in a few fractured ribs. It certainly wasn't easy to do my job. I had never experienced such pain in my life but I persevered and remember only one really bad day. I didn't miss any work nor any skating classes.

The year after, I went back for another season of learning and excelled. I decided to push myself further and move my skating to the outdoors. I was told that my figure skates (the blade) would be ruined if I used them outside so to purchase a pair of recreational skates instead. Being a neophyte in such matters, I purchase the best pair I could find and took them out. Needless to say, I had a huge surprise. I didn't realize how much of a difference they would feel and how much of a difference a shorter and more curved blade would make. My balance was off and I fell just after I thought I was doing well! I broke my wrist in 3 places.

Fast forward 4 months and 4 casts later, I was finally giving a clean bill of health and a script to start rehab to start a month after (due to the nature of the healing process of the small bones of the hand). Being that I am who I am, I had long started rehab while I was still casted. Having studied piano for 11 years and taught for 7 1/2, I had a good idea what my hands and wrists were supposed to be capable of. By the time I was assessed by a physiotherapist, she told me that she would not have known I had broken my wrist if she hadn't read it on the intake form. I felt pretty proud of myself.

During the time I was in a cast, it was impossible to do my full duties at work. The breaks were on my dominant side and the way the cast was formed, my thumb was completely hidden and the rest of my fingers only showed the tips. Luckily I have a decent sense of humour. I knew that the hours I spent as a kid practicing to be ambidextrous would come in handy someday! And it did. I wrote my notes with my left hand and realized quickly that I could do a lot with my left hand. Other than the first few days off (for shock), once I was comfortable driving, I returned to work part time for the 5 months and entered back full time for the remainder of the year.

As I am self employed, I do not get income if I don't work. Once I realized the potential disability of my injury, I immediately went to work with the calculator. Back 3 years ago, I was living in my condo and it was very very close to being paid for. I also owned a recreational property that could be sold if need be. If I were to have cashed in all of my investments and savings, I would have 5 years of expenses worth. My disability plan was not useful as I was going to recover before the requisite wait period. Because I work 3 days a week, it would take many, many weeks until I would reach my 90 working days minimum. So I figured that I would be fine in the short term and long term because I was able to work 2 days a weeks and by doing so, cover my portion of household and life expenses.

Ironically, this injury didn't have near the pain associated with it compared to the rib fractures from the year before. It allowed me to test the foundation of my security. Honestly, I enjoyed having the time off and that is where my goal of going back to 2 days a week comes from. I felt I weathered the challenge well. The following year I got back on the ice and I look forward to this season.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Artist's Date

I recently finished "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. Personally I found it to be phenomenally inspiring. If you are looking to recapture your creativity again, I would recommend you give this book a look.

One of the many "to do" action items include an artist date. Once a week you do something fun, for a couple of hours by yourself as inspiration and on a broader note, as an integration into weekly life. Until I read the "assignment", it hadn't occurred to me that I had designated activities like this for vacation time. Why not part of everyday living?! It made so much sense that I had to laugh out loud.

I just came home from my 3rd artist date. Today's was an art exhibit of impressionist-like paintings of rural landscape done in oils--just beautiful. Not only do I come back with fireworks going off in my head because I am so inspired but it motivates me to pick up a brush and do something just for the sake of it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Letting Go

It's amazing how much "stuff" we carry along with us.

I'm talking about mental/emotional/physical/hidden stuff. Stuff relating to past and present experiences. The not so nice experiences are what needs to be identified and expelled or else all this unseen "weight" can show up as disease, weariness, lack of direction or zest for life.

Who needs this when I and most people I know are already too busy juggling everything else?

When I feel emotionally "heavy", it is sign that I've absorbed a bit too much. Instead of eating (substitute any other habit) to sooth myself, I frequently just take deep breaths, drink some water, lie down and work on identifying where the heaviness is.

Once it is located, I try to identify the quality of it and gently tell myself to let it go. Allow it to evaporate into space. People who have the ability to empathize deeply with others will know how easily it can be to absorb other peoples' energies while merely "just talking".

Our bodies can then respond by isolating such foreign energy into a "holding cell". I make it a point of actively searching for such foreign cells as they are not my "stuff" in order to let it go. This has become part of what I do to keep myself healthy.

As a health care practitioner, I can be around a number a people a day who are in pain. People who are in a stressful state commonly give off an aggressive energy (knowingly or unknowingly)as they are desperately seeking a solution.

Over the years I've had to learn how to protect myself from harbouring such energies so that I can continue to be effective in my role. Once I've done my best purging the more superficial layers, I then delve deeper into my own past. That's where the "fun" stuff lies.

I do this work because I believe (for better or for worse) that unless I do so, I cannot truly live a "free" and present life whereby I am my own master artist.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembrance Day

I have been following this series of published letters of a soldier and his sweetheart during world war II with interest and sadness.

I highly recommend it. The letters speak for themselves.

I am able to live my life the way I want because others before me have sacrificed theirs to fight for freedom.

Remember to take some silent time tomorrow to honour those who have fallen and those who are still fighting.


Why do I find having choices most times exhilarating and at other times very difficult?

For me there is a fine line that when crossed my mind starts just going around in circles, where I micromanage my decisions to the point of doom. Something that starts off as fun morph into drudgery. Many a dream has perished this way. I see it as a form of self sabotage but where does it come from?

I didn't have much growing up. I had what I needed--clean clothes, shelter, great food and a tight knit family. I didn't have allowance, summer vacations away or camp. How far I get in life was going to be determined by my own two hands.

My parents were very wise in that they believed in attaining skills. In lieu of an allowance, my brother and I were given opportunities to learn something. Some classes were mandatory ie. swimming and others were up to us to discover. The only stipulation was that it cannot disrupt family time or my parents' work schedules. So I grew up problem solving and multitasking.

As an adult I find it fairly easy to mentally work out multiple solutions to most situations--to the point where I immobilize myself because of so many possibilities. Crazy but true, especially when it comes to decisions that are not work related. I act like I've just been let out of jail and am overwhelmed with freedom possibilities.

Easier said than done, I am slowly realizing that I must start with something--even if that something isn't the "ultimate" scenario for fun. It is still one step further taken than right now. I need to leap away from the mental calculus and algebra and back into the arena of living the life I have painstakingly built for myself.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


It's great to come home even after an absolutely fabulous trip. When I travel, I do my best to immerse myself into the local culture. It is my way of putting on a different pair of shoes for a while and seeing if I can walk in them. By doing so, I bring home new ways of thinking about life.

My life is composed of facets of different cultures and beliefs that make sense to me. Often, day to day life can blur into months and years with occasional punctuation but it is easy to follow the routine. It works and it is familiar.

As I find differences in people and cultures fascinating, I do not assume that my routine is representative of "best" practices. And because I live in a first world country where we are blessed with a myriad of choices, I consider it a duty to do so in a respectful and healthy way.