Sunday, November 30, 2014

Independence Day

This post is special because it marks Barbados' 48th year of Independence from Britain and it is also my final NaBloPoMo post.

First, let me say, Happy Independence Day Barbados! I love and adore every inch of your 166 square miles. You are indeed the gem of the Caribbean Sea.

I feel honoured and blessed to call this island state home. Although we are a developing nation, I have benefited from free education, free health care and a very high standard of living. I have never lacked for the basic necessities in life, and through my schooling in various subjects I have diverse knowledge and a honed power of reasoning.

I don't question what whimsy of the soul directed my body to live out my lifetime here; I have seen a little bit of the rest of the world and though it is beautiful in its own way, my heart is happiest at home.

Economic growth in the Barbadian economy is stagnant at best and the prognosis is not getting any better. Many of the services provided by the Government are being shifted to paid services, most notably tertiary education, and the Government recently retrenched hundreds of Public Services workers.

Even in the midst of this, I am still able to count my blessings. Barbadians remain a people capable of great vision and industry. Though we are all different and may hold different views, I believe strongly that by setting aside ego we can pull together for the greater good.

The wealth of a nation cannot only be measured by its current success, it must also be measured by the treasures which it can hold in store for the future generations to come.

I inherited a Barbados that is a fully functioning social democracy. It is not perfect, but I had vastly improved facilities at my disposal and more opportunities than my Father had, and he in turn had far more than his Father had.

I wish to leave future generations with the ability to say the same. I want them to be able to be grateful for the treasures that was kept in store for them.

I cannot give an economic prescription that can fix the woes of our country. What I will say though is that should our Government move forward with honest intention for positive change, good will follow.

In closing, I reflect on what strikes me most at the end of NaBloPoMo and in keeping with the theme of independence.

When Errol Walton Barrow petitioned the Queen for independence, he went not merely on behalf of his cabinet. He took before Her Majesty, the petition of each individual Barbarian citizen that was alive then, and of all not yet born.

In his act, he gave me my own personal independence. My ability to sit here and voice my opinions is a direct result of his impetus to move each one of us forward. We all can make an impact on the future of the country, not just on election day, but every single day, through our thoughts, words and deeds.

I wish to never take that freedom for granted. There is no reason not to live up to my full potential. I owe it to my ancestors who were slaves, and to my parents for whom my current level of education was never attainable, because they would have had to pay for it.

I wish all of you, regardless of nationality, a Happy Independence Day and I urge you to make the most of the rights and privileges that are your own.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My struggle with Body Image

Weight Issues

I was too skinny 
Until I put on some weight
Then I was too fat

As I was too fat
I decided to lose weight
Now I'm too skinny

I was very slim for most of my life, but when in the midst of a stressful relationship and job, I started to put on more weight. I had always been teased for my size, so at first it felt nice to move pass being the 'bag of bones'.

"They called me Olive Oly."
In response to this weight gain my peers were telling me that I was putting on too much weight. I was confused at first because I was not overweight for my height, according to the BMI calculator. Out of this confusion came the old uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong with me.

After thinking on it for a while, I surmised that people will have different opinions, but the only person's opinion that mattered was my own. The problem with this is that I had never had anything positive to say about myself.

I had not learned how to love myself regardless of what number was on the scale. I didn't think I was beautiful, and that in itself was the real root of my problem.

People always say that beauty comes from the inside, but at the same time we all want to be at our best. I some point I had lost sight of what was my best.

My body was simply an expression of what I did to it:  What I ate and how much I ate, how little I moved my body and the level of self-care that I practised resulted in how my body would look.

I had never paid much attention to any of those things and my physique mirrored this lack of intention. I knew then that I needed to actively decide how I wanted my body to look, and take steps to bring that into being.

After soul-searching, I decided that while no one else seemed to like me when I was skinnier,  that I liked myself just fine that way. It felt more authentic and natural.

So I increased my level of exercise and I changed my diet. I also launched a self-love campaign during which I made a concerted effort to fall in love with myself and be in awe of my body.

The result of these changes is that while I am not as skinny as I was when I was twenty-one, I am a lot happier with my body. My peers are telling me that I am getting too small, but I silently and happily disagree.

I love myself, as I am, and I have never felt more confident. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Bajan Minimalist Part 1

What is minimalist?

A minimalist, practices minimalism.

Okay, so what is minimalism?

Minimalism in modern day usage speaks to a movement to move away from materialism and own as few items as possible. Minimalists only keep items that they need, cutting out anything extra. 

Part One: The Great Purge

Over the last six months I cut the number items that I own in half, with more items scheduled to go. As a result of this process, my mind felt less cluttered and cleaning was easier, which helped with my dust allergies.

I got started with this paring down, when a woman on the YNAB forums mentioned a challenge where you try to get rid of at least 496 items in one month.
I had a room shock full of yarn, unused clothing and books, this challenge seemed like the kick start I needed to get down to work.

I poked around the blog where she got the idea, but their style of extreme minimalism seemed to be too much for me. I just wanted my storage room to be clean and clutter-free.

As I went through the process, a fire was lit inside of me, and I powered through the Minimalist game finishing well ahead of schedule. I extended the de-cluttering to my shared bedroom since time was still left in the month.

I was able to re purpose the storage room as a bedroom for myself, and gifting myself my own pace has been on the best things to come out of this challenge.

In the end I threw away, donated or gifted 527 items.

I am in the process of de-cluttering but  this final round is proving to be the most difficult because any items that remain at this point had survived the previous cuts.

I am finding that I have several different types of attachments to these items:

  • I had spent quite a bit of money on the item and giving it away or throwing it away felt like I was condemning my past purchases.
  • In other cases, the item had been gifted to me by a friend or family member and I felt guilty giving it to someone else.
  • And lastly, the item was connected to a memory that I did not what to let go of even though it was no longer serving me.

Getting rid of any items that fall in the above categories takes a lot mental fortitude but I am determined to finish this journey. I hope to make a lasting change in my relationship with my possessions.

In the past I would go into frenzy of cleaning and organizing but in the end things never seemed to be any different. This time I recognized what was missing by exploring the concept of minimalism more thoroughly.

It wasn't enough just to get rid of my old things, I had to stop buying new things as well. That in it self was a whole 'nother matter.

Stayed tuned in part two were I expound more on my evolution into a minimalist. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Transformation is not a Part Time Job

When I decided that I was stuck in a rut, I started to look for ways to affect a positive change in my life. I went at it from all angles and with the aid of a life coach, started to regularly envision and document the life that I wanted to lead in the future.

This daily work laid the foundation for incredible transformation inside of me. As I look back now I am in awe of the strides I have made, and I am grateful that I took the time to put self-growth on the top of my priority list.

What I gradually realised is that transformation is a constant process and that there will never come a time when my journey will be complete.

That realisation frightened me. The changes I had been making at a gazelle pace seemed to much to keep up with on a long term basis. There was only so much that I wanted to tackle all at once, but yet the more I worked on myself, the more of myself needed work.

I felt like a shackled-out patch-work doll.

Events from my past that I didn't want to deal with kept coming to the fore and so withdrew from the process of active change altogether.

When I finally started back on my self-work, I went in knowing that it couldn't be half-assed; I could not take on this work part-time, I needed to devote myself to the process whole-heartedly.

I implemented new habits that would support my change gradually. Doing this allowed the changes to happen at a more sedate pace, but when they did happen, they stuck.

No longer was my success fleeting, it was meaningful and lasting.

If you want to make progress in your life goals, know that you have to go all in. A Full Monty life requires your complete dedication, know also however that you don't have to rush either.

My advice is to start small, start now and be consistent.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Learning to Embrace My Flightiness

I know what I want
Or maybe perhaps I don't
When will I decide?

The more I plan, the more I change my plans and this seems to be true no what what decisions I am trying to make. I don't know if it is apparent to anyone else, but it always feels like I coming up with the next great scheme.
However wonderful I proposed this new approach to be, it only feels relevant for about three weeks before I overhaul it completely and do something else.

This shows up a lot in my budgeting. I am constantly changing my categories, rearranging the allocations and coming up with new strategies. I often wonder if I am actually moving forward or simply stuck in mud, spinning my wheels in a spectacular fashion and making a really big mess of everything.

I started out 2014 with lots of big plans. I thought I would be making more money by now and have more benefits as well but I was merely counting my eggs before they were hatched.


When it became clear that no raise was forthcoming, I redid my plans and came up with a new set of goals that should have been attainable. I was very satisfied with the plan in the moment, but as my life took unexpected turns my priorities shifted.
I suddenly had new expenses that I never even dreamed of that had to be factored in.

While for some it is enough to adapt and keep the original as true to form as possible, I restart completely.It is a demolition of the old and then a rebuilding of the new out of the rubble.

I was ashamed of this for a while, and wondered if I was really budgeting at all if I was being so very flexible. Then, I had a reality check. My new plans were always more realistic and they always worked better for me.

 I wasn't spinning in circles, I was upgrading and evovling and for me that is a rapid process.


I finally embraced my air-sign nature. I am like the wind; when I get a new idea, I put all of my passion and force behind it and most of the times I leave the previous incarnation in my dust.

Embracing this allowed me to come up with ways to naturally find balance. I determined that I would save a set amount of money ensuring that those dollars were safe from the winds of change that sweep through the rest of my budget. This gave me a foundation for my financial house and ensured that even while I was constantly adapting, I was still steadily moving forward.

I can now harness that power of maximum flexibility to bend like a reed in the force life's winds, which are a lot more unpredictable than my own inner storm.

Have you made peace with your quirks and made an effort to see the benefit in them?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Meal Planning Saved My Bacon

It has been little while since you have been to the supermarket and all of the obvious things are gone, or too low to make a meal on their own. Now you find yourself opening your fridge and every cupboard in the kitchen over and over again trying to come up with what to cook.

You may have resorted to making sandwiches or even buying takeaway because by the time you did think of something you were too hungry to go through the process.

I have been there countless times since I landed in the role of having to feed myself everyday. It made me reminisce about my younger years when food was provided for me without me having any input. I used to grumble when the meal wasn't exactly what I wanted; how misguided I was then, I had no idea how good I had it!

Now I find myself periodically throwing away food that had spoiled, especially fresh vegetables because I never got around to cooking them in a timely manner. Sometimes I just forgot that something was in the fridge, especially if it was hidden behind another item.

I used to have a vague idea of what I was planning to cook floating around in my brain, but when I was stressed or tired, I couldn't recalling this grand plan.

This bore itself out at the supermarket too, and because my grocery list did not go hand in hand with a concrete cooking plan, I would end up buying convenience foods or too much or too little of an ingredient.

I was wasting money three ways:  I was throwing away food, purchasing extra meals and making unplanned trips back to the grocery store to pick up missing ingredients.

I knew I needed to make a change and when I stumbled across the concept of meal planning I instantly leapt into action. No longer was I going to operate with just a vague plan in my head, I would have a written plan covering at least a week's worth of meals.

I started out using Plan To Eat but since then I have switched to doing it the old fashion way with pen and paper. I am still in awe of how much the simple act of meal planning has changed my relationship with grocery shopping and with food in general.

Why didn't anyone tell me about this before?

Meal planning enables me to shop smarter and not to worry about what to cook. For me, I don't mind eating the same meals often, so I simply shuffle the menu but keep the basic components of the meals the same.

When I plan to try something new, I make sure that I had planned a big meal the day before with ample leftovers just in case it didn't go so well and I also try to factor in what shift I will be working when I make my plan, so that I have enough time on the day in question to pull the meal together.

If you have never tried meal planning, give it a go. There are plenty of free pdf templates available for download that you can print out and fill in, or you can use my method and make a list in a notebook. Even if it seems a bit hard to come up with meals at first, stick with it because it becomes very easy as you go along.

Meal planning may just save your bacon as well. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Peculiar Case of Writer's Block

The Client:

Ash is a young woman who for many years found herself with a severe bout of writer's block. Now that she is writing again she asked the detective to help her pinpoint what was the cause so that it could be avoided in the future.

The Case:

It started about eight years ago in a small wooden house, atop a small hill in Fox Club Road. The clouds were hanging heavy in the sky, so low that they seemed to brush the tops of the mango trees. The wind disturbed the leaves and caused them to brush against each other, this sound was the only noise in the otherwise current neighbourhood.

In the house, one light was on the front house where a girl sat before her desktop computer and started at  a blank word document. Try as she might, the words would not come. It was so bad that she could not even finish one sentence.

This was great departure from her teen years during which she was a prolific poet, often reading her poems in class and before the school assemblies. In more recent times she would write upwards of three thousand words a day when working on one of her romance novel projects.

Now though, the blank whiteness of the page expanded before her eyes until she felt imprisoned in a room with white walls. The glare of the screen mimicked a bright light hanging down from the ceiling and in this prison, she let phrases and ideas rattle around in her brain but yet nothing spilled forth.

In this white room, there was no comfort for a soul that was silenced. Outside of this room the world continued on, unmoved by the plight of a young woman who had lost her voice.

In her despair she even believed that she was now void of talent; that whatever magic that had brought words spilling from her fingertips not too long ago, had deserted her; it had dried up, turned to dust and blown away.

What other's called writer's block was a death sentence her life long dream of completing a book. Shame replaced despair eventually, and she shied away from the task of writing for long periods of time.  For weeks at a time she would not even open a journal or the word processor for fear that she would be mocked by the blankness of the page.

Sometimes she would manage a paragraph or two but before the words themselves attacked her. They were hollow and did not feel real. The writing was mechanical and forced.
The pleasure of knowing that she was releasing her inner magic was gone and she she withdrew from the art of writing all together and lay her dreams of being an author to rest.

Fast forward to 2014, which for her was a year of transformation the included hiring a life coach, starting a business, learning to surf and exploring a cave. Eventually the young woman decided to attempt to write articles about personal finance, it was a vast departure from her previous attempts at writing but she was hoping to cultivate a habit.

This worked like a charm;  soon she was once again writing prose and was started a new blog producing content rich with her experiences and personality.

The Detective's Say:

I cannot say when the writer block fully melted but  but I can tell you what had been missing. This young woman was running from her past, hiding from her mistakes and living life half-way.

The inspiration that had driven her writing before had always been stripped from her surroundings, in closing her eyes to the beauty and yes, the pain of this wonderful world, she lost the fuel for the fire.

When she came out of her shell and embraced the world, gathering experience after experience and taking risks, the words returned.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

10 Positive Money Affirmations

Money is pervasive in our lives and winds its way through all of our thoughts. More often than not, these thoughts are negative and induce a state of panic or worry. 

The stories we tell ourselves directly impact the future that we create and so it is important to make sure that these stories are full of hope.

If you find yourself in a spiral, delete negative thoughts and input these positives affirmations instead; you may also tailor them to your specific situations. They can be recited out loud, repeated in your mind or written down in journal.

10 Positive Money Affirmations
  1. I have more than enough money.
  2. I handle any challenges that comes my way.
  3. I provide for all my needs and the needs of my family.
  4. Money is energy, I attract more any-time I need it.
  5. I am endlessly abundant.
  6. I am in control of my finances.
  7. The Universe/God/Spirit provides for me.
  8. My debt is not a milestone around my neck, I am its Master.
  9. I am financially free.
  10. I am good with money.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Money is Energy

I first noticed that money is more energy than something simply material when I paid closer attention to how it made me feel. On any given day money can make me worry, feel hopeful or depressed; I can go from feeling well placed and in control to the illusion that I am tumbling head over heels and catching at straws.

In all of this, the currency itself never changes. What changes though is its effect on me and by extension its effects on other around me. When it is generally perceived that money is tight or hard to come by in a peer group, the very mention of it can cause a ripple of muted despair to spread through the room.

People often have lots of money woes and will speak of them with a little nudging. Money is the thing that we are love to hate. We gripe about how much of it we have or don't have as the case maybe.

I have witnessed people who make 5 times as much as I do, worry and fret over money.

When you pay for an item, you are exchanging the physical representation of someone's time and effort.

When you hand over money, you automatically have less money, but the total amount of money in the world has not changed. What this means to me is that they will always be more money.

It flows like a cycle, in and out of your hands and if you mismanage it, the money may feel to not to coming in as fast as it is going out. One thing is for sure though, worrying about money does not make this cycle move any faster.

Given that money is energy, you can attract more of it by opening yourself up to its particular frequency. One easy way to spend more time at your main job. Another way is to look for additional streams of income by getting additional work or starting a side business.

You can also use investing to attract more money into your wallet, by putting money itself to work.

However choose to you do it manually, the number one tool you can use to attract money into your life is your attitude. If you are in a mindset of lack and constant need, your flow of money will mimic that.

If you teach yourself to have a mindset of abundance, your energy will naturally attract more of the same.

It may seem all too spectacular for you, but if you think about it, you will realise that worrying about a thing, never made it better. Taking positive action and moving forward in faith does.

Seeing money as energy, allowed me to demystify it. I tackle my worry from the root, and I take a positive stance to all of my challenges. I am now in the driver's seat and my abundance train is chugging along.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Real Cost of Overtime

Many people are called upon to work above and beyond their hours in service of their companies. They are typically compensated at an increased rate for this time and this extra income is used to pad the budget.

It is quite common for people to take on overtime to cover specific yearly bills like car insurance or to buy a new cell phone. If you can work overtime on a regular enough basis, you can effectively raise our monthly wage.

I myself have often seen overtime as welcome and additional income that allows me to reach my goals faster. As a budgeter, I have never relied on income to meet my basic needs, but more money doesn't hurt.

What I realised was hurting though, was the loss of my personal time. While overtime was providing roughly an extra Grantley Adams (100 dollars for non-bajans), I was losing five to six hours that could have been spent working on my own pursuits.

As the CEO of my life, I had decided it prudent to bill a good portion of my hours out to Civil Aviation. It was work that I enjoyed, the hours were good and I was always mentally engaged and there was ample opportunities for personal growth and development. I knew I was not meant to be a paper pusher; pushing tin was a lot more palatable.

However, the rest of my hours that could have been spent in service to my own goals, were worth more than what I was being paid to continue to push tin instead of say writing, or reading.

Spending hours reading a personal finance forum may never make me any money, but the currency of happiness can never be equated on an equal footing with paper bills.

Are you working more overtime hours than are in service to your life? Take a look at your bigger picture and see each of your hours as precious beyond what money can buy. Ask yourself if that new cell phone that you are pushing yourself to buy is really worth not hanging out with your family or working on your book.

I speak even to people who run small businesses. Often you need to put in many, many hours because you are the chief cook, bottle washer, waiter and the maid. However, do not forget to set boundaries and provide ample time for vacation, recreation and pursuing other passions.

Since becoming cognisant of this, I haven't worked any-more overtime. This is not to say that I wouldn't in the future, but as long as my hours have more value in-service to me, I pass on it, despite the dangled carrot of pieces of silver.

If you have unrealised dreams and plans, projects in the garage catching dust or a widening gap in a personal relationship, it may be time to add up the real cost of your overtime habit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fashionverse: The Twilight Zone

Every since secondary school I have noticed that girls have a strange obsession with fashion. I never paid much attention back then, mostly hanging out with a group of boys during my breaks and playing hearts and dominoes.

My mother never much encouraged this descent into the closet either. We never had any conversations about buying or wearing make-up, nail polish or lipstick. Clothing was purchased on a need basis and not on 'I want' terms.

The first time I ever wore make-up, I was about twenty-one and about to model in a fashion show for Betty West.
After my brief stint of modelling, I retreated back into my world were once my clothing covered me and was clean, I couldn't care less about what was in fashion.

As I aged and became a working professional with money to spend. I bought lots of clothing and accessories but for the most part hardly wore any of them. And to be truthful, they were all the same style: plain and functional. I experimented with make-up one or two times but inevitably, them and any nail polish I bought would just catch dust on my shelves.

With that background then you will understand my bewilderment when I found myself in the middle of a discussion on high heels. I listened with fascination as my two female co-workers happily discussed different pairs of 'hot, sexy shoes' that one of them had been planning to buy.

There was even a collective sigh of shared commiseration at one particular pair that was oh so desirable, but the store had been out of stock in the right size.

My brow furrowed as they moved on to snakeskin shoes, I had never head the like before. As the shoe was described it brought to my mind the image of a blue, purple and pink snake winding its way slowly up a leg and settling there, looking quite comfortable. Thank goodness that they weren't into alligator skin.

My trip into the fashoinverse would not be complete without talk of dresses, particularly ones for church Christmas morning. It was right about then that I realised that all the girls from school had grown up, and quite possibly they were all still babbling about clothing and shoes, every chance they got.

I was quietly horrified but listened with half-an ear as I took advantage of a lull in activity to journal about my day.

Then it happened: The universe cracked and I was sucked into a warp-hole where I saw my nightmare come to being.

Shifting gears, they began to vividly and effusively fantasize about how much clothing, shoes and accessories they would buy if money was not an object. Hundreds of different colours and styles, so much so that they would never have to wear the same outfit twice.
One woman declared in the height of her fantasy that she would need a whole house to fit in all of her clothing, which would be organized by season of course.
They described a world of endless fashion unleaded by the absence of the need for frugality. No capsule wardrobes for them, not at all; just everything and all, more and more.

My eyes widened in terror and my heart beat quickened in my chest and I waited for them to say that they were joking. That even if they had all the money in the world, they would keep their closet to a respectable level. No such, was forth coming.

As a minimalist whose goal for the year was to end up owning less than 300 items, the thought of a houseful of stuff was sending me into a mild panic attack. The amount of money and resources they were planning to squander was incredible to me.

I pulled my mind back to the present by reminding myself that at least for now, they didn't have enough money to do that, so I would never hear about them having been buried in a mountain of dresses.

I wondered if their wish had been granted if life would really improve as exponentially as they assumed; more stuff had never brought me any happiness, but who was I to judge?

I reminded myself to stick in my lane. I wished them well and hoped that one day they would have an unlimited income and a gargantuan closet stuffed to the gills; I hoped fervently however, that I would never have to hear them talk about it...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sticking to My Lane

Life a journey that sometimes passes in a second, and at other times drags on for eternity; it is an experience that for each of us is skewed into uniqueness by our perception.

Depending on your peer group, you may find that everyone has a different take on that. I have known many people who judge themselves and each other so strictly and harshly, that they make life into a contest. You are to achieve this set of goals, in this span of time, or you are considered to be failure.

I have never kept stride with rules. I have always in my own eyes and in the eyes of others, lagged behind the blueprint that is generally accepted for life.

If we consider that life is race, and the finish line is our demise, one would wonder then, why so many people seem to be rushing to get there.

Indeed, although we are all headed to the same end, each of our tracks are different sizes, lengths and wind over different terrain, so how can we truly judge who is farther ahead?

The yardstick by which you measure the relative success of one person, could be completely inadequate for another.

I have pulled my self down and looked back at my lane, wondering what did I do so wrong that I was not at same relative distance as my friends and family.

Each of our races are filled with mini-stages when we reach a plateau of happiness, fulfilment or success; Degrees, marriages, children, a successful business or career etc.

I finally stopped being miserable when I asked myself the question that was lacking from the beginning. Did I want to have these same successes or was my race going to made up of different challenges and thus different rewards?

Doing this taught me to be able to gaze at the successes of others without jealousy or self-hate, and to celebrate their victories with them. To see the evidence of their work and respect the road they had travelled and to support them from the heart.

I learned to only aspire to the same successes if they fit into my plan.

This can be directly tied into budgeting and money. The rich have, and I have less. But my less is more than I need. My less can provide a life is rich with experiences, support my growth and furnish my whims.

By focusing inward and not outward, I can be grateful for what abundance is mine, but celebrate with others when their abundance overflows.

I now see clearly for the first time, that although society as whole has decided what should be considered success, the onus is upon me as the individual, to rewrite those rules and reconfigure those goals.

Now, I run my own race and I stick to my lane.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finding My Purpose

When I realised that I needed some help actually living life instead of just ageing, I turned to self-help books. Everyone of them claimed to be different but in the end they all conjectured that when you knew your life's purpose, everything would fall into place.

Most of them were very vague about exactly how one was suppose to stumble across this knowledge and gave no help on how to find it. The authors proclaimed that when you did, you would 'just know'.
A couple attempted to provide exercises to assist with the discovery, but answering a few random questions seemed to do little to help me to find, what I now believed to be some mystical secret.

I have a self-professed passion for personal finance and so for a while, I went along with that and put all of my energy behind it as best I could.
While I was doing all the right things, and getting some positive energy from successes in this area, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
I still lacked confidence and motivation. I felt as if I had one foot in the door and the other still out.

Surely one's life purpose was not supposed to leave one feeling so uncertain?

Finally I stumbled across 'Escaping Career Prison: Three Keys To Breaking Free And Finding Work You Love' by Amy Van Court. To this date I have yet to finish the book, but the exercise called, The Success Map, was able to lead me directly to the doorway that held my purpose.

In Van Court's words: "All your life the universe has been dropping breadcrumbs disguised as experiences"

To put it simply you write down every memory of success you had in your life; any time you felt confident, happy and fulfilled, and group it into life stages. I did 1-10, 10-20, 20-27.
When you have completed that you highlight key phrases, and then look for any patterns that emerge.

I was sceptical about this exercise but I did it and the patterns were obvious even before I highlighted anything: 80% of my successes were instances were I had written poetry, an essay or a speech and had been recognized by others for my work. The other 20% were academic achievements, where again I was receiving accolades for my outstanding work.

Honestly, this wasn't anything that was a secret to me. I had always wanted to be a writer but my past pains and disappointments had lead abandon that idea. I was now so far removed from the art of the written word that even forum posts or journal entry a were a struggle. I despaired that my writing had lost all of its flavour; my words were devoid of style, passion and authenticity.

When I penned my purpose statement guided by the highlighted phrases, I was faced in black and white with the truth I had been running from for nearly a decade. I yearned to write and I wanted my work to be seen and acknowledged by others.

I instantly felt as if I could step fully through this door and leave being the lukewarm feeling that trying to make purely finance my passion had caused.

I didn't act on this immediately however, as with most truth seeking missions, I was less elated and more sullen than anything else. I withdrew from the process and entered into a state of limbo.

This stage was broken by my bout of viral illness, I was struck down for two weeks, and my vacation to Philadelphia had to be cancelled. Instead of that vacation however I decided I would start writing articles for my personal finance business at the rate of one article every-other day. I also started writing some prose and picked back up writing for my other blog Sadodosah.

This was my in; this habit was the impetus for accepting that writing was my purpose and that writing about finance was secondary to that purpose.

I wish to encourage anyone that has wrestled with the feeling that their life has no meaning to simply be honest with themselves. I made the mistake of trying to hide my true desires from myself. That was a fool's errand and I paid the price by suffering a nearly a decade of emptiness and depression.

However, when I look back, I see what good has come from those dark years; in them I can find endless inspiration for my writing. For what is a writer without a story to tell?

Thank you for being part of my journey and by your act of reading my words, closing the circle and fulfilling my life's purpose.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Learned from Yoga on the Beach

Yoga had always been an interest of mine, but it was only this year that I started to go to a yoga class. The things that I learned through yoga have enhanced my life.

I learned about balance and accepting myself as I was in the moment. I grew more familiar with my body, its challenges and strengths, and the beauty that was inside of me and how it could shine through to the outside.

Yoga teaches you to breathe through the discomfort, smile despite the awkwardness and to do the best you can. All of these valuable lessons are reinforced whenever I go to another yoga class.

Yoga had transitioned from just an interest to a passion.

Thus upon waking up Sunday morning, yoga instantly took the place of the last wisps of my dreams. I hadn't been to a class in almost a month and my body was reminding me with its various aches and pains, that I was in need of a session.

I gathered myself up and started to prepare for the eight o'clock outdoor class in the park, only to hear that it had been cancelled due to the unfriendly weather.

I felt as gloomy as the sky; with my schedule it is very difficult to get to the weekly classes as I often have to work on weekends.

All was not lost though, because Taitu, my wonderful teacher suggested a class on the beach. I was instantly on board with that idea and we only needed the clouds to get with the program and cease their incessant weeping.

Finally there was a break in the rain and I set out. Taitu and I meet in Holetown and made our way to the beach.

The sand was wet and the sky was dreary but despite that, the ocean stretched out across the endless horizon more inviting and majestic than any man-made swimming pool could ever hope to be.

We we reached a spot that seemed flat enough to suit our purpose, we set down our towels and began the class. It was not destined to be business as usual however, for one important reason, the sand.

The sand became an additional element to the class. It clung to our bodies, the towels and as it is wont to do, shifted and moved constantly. In order to stand firm I had to dig my feet deep within its cool dampness, and become rooted like a tree.

Inspiration for finding centre abounded. The ocean in front of us and the sound of its crashing waves provided a stunning backdrop for our elegant dance like movements.

We had an audience that not only consisted of the numerous flies; other beach-goers stared at our movements and contortions with interest. I took a moment to see the scene as if viewing it from their eyes: Two beautiful bajan queens, moving meditatively as if paying homage to the sea, not concerned with the modern world but only intent on connecting to nature and with our inner spirits.

The thought made me smile. I acknowledged that if this same scene had played out months ago, I would have been very self-concious and distracted with wondering at the content of the thoughts or opinions of the audience. Now I easily let them fade into the background and returned my focus to my breath.

"Breathe in deeply and feel the energy of the earth filling you," Taitu said, "Reach high above you - sorry, I can't lift my hands any higher, no way I am getting sand in my hair."

There laughter at that point as we modified the pose to keep sand out of Taitu's dreads and my short hair. Despite our mirth, or maybe aided by it, I found myself sinking deeper into a trance as I inhaled the scent of lotus flowers wafting from the incense stick that was burning slowly away in the sand behind us.

I found a challenge in the Warrior Pose but I pushed past my discomfort seeking the relief of deep, energizing breaths.

"All the poses are metaphors," was one of Taitu's favourite saying. Courage and self confidence had always been  my weakness, so it no surprise that I struggled with the pose that personified inner strength. Because of that I knew it was all the more important to persevere.

We seemed trapped in a pocket of time as we transitioned from movement to stillness; eternity was at our command as we settled into meditation, focusing inward to the rhythmic crash of the waves. In this silence of the mind, I found peace.

Later, we retreated to the sea to cool down our bodies and in my case let my sore muscles be gently massaged by the waves. I was filled to the brim with gratitude and blissfully content. In Taitu's words, this was a slice of heaven.

Thinking back on that experience, I came upon the lesson in our outing:  One should be rooted even as the world shifts around you. Adjust your position until you find balance and take as much time as you need to relax into the moment.

Too often change comes up upon us like a wave and we find ourselves tumbling helpless in the surf. Instead we need to flow with the tide, while still being firm in our values. Only then can we find peace.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

How To Make and Use a Basic Budget

Today I am going to share you with you the most basic way to budget. Everyone at any income level can benefit from having a spending plan tailored to their situation.

For this exercise you will need a calculator, a pen, a ruler and a sheet of ruled A4 Paper. You can use a plan sheet of paper as well, but the lines make it easier.
Alternately you can duplicate the template digitally with a table in Microsoft Word.

Joe was feeling bad about dropping my package, and so he agreed to let me share his budget so you all can refer to it as I go on in my explanation. Thanks Joe!

Clumsy Joe's Budget

Step 1: Determine what categories you need by thinking of what you spend money on in a month, and grouping them under the headings I provided. Joe may have some categories here that you don't want or have left out some.

Joe is still living at home, so he doesn't pay rent. He like most young men, bought a car as soon as he had his first real job and so has a car loan. He seems to be responsible because he is paying some of the household bills.Way to go Joe!

Step 2: Draw the table as  shown above, modifying it for your categories. You may have to add in more lines, or remove some.

Step 3: Now you calculate how much money you will budget with. If you are a salaried worker, you are going to use the amount of money you are paid after taxes and other deductions. If you have a variable income I recommend using an average in your calculation.

Long term savings are deducted from this net income figure; this includes any life insurance, investments or retirement.

In Joe's budget, he is savings 100 dollars for Retirement and 100 in a mutual fund. He deducts that from his net salary and is left with 1800 as his monthly budget amount.

You may not be able to save for long term needs right now,  so you will use your entire net income figure.

Step 4: Using past bills or your best guess fill in the budget column, using pencil at first as you may need to change some of the amounts. Each section's total is tallied at the top of the category box, and the entire total is noted at the bottom.

The total in the budget column should equal the amount you have to available income. If not, go back through and adjust where you can.

Step 5: Once you are happy with your totals, you are now ready to use your budget. To use the budget you need to keep track of the money that you spend and write it in at the end of the month inside the Actual column.

Step 6: You then calculate the difference between the two and make a note of it in the Difference column.

Step 7: At that point you will have a financial record of what happened in your month. If you estimated correctly, your Actual column will be the same or less than your Budget column.

It is normal if you find yourself to be over in a particular category or to have overshot the budget all together. Honestly evaluate what happened to determine:

a) If you under-budgeted a category or were too generous in others

b) If you had an unexpected emergency that completely derailed your budget

c)You went crazy with your spending.

d) You are in a situation were you cannot sustain your current lifestyle.

Step 8: Decide what you will do with this information; make a plan and a new budget.

It makes no sense to continually roll over the same budget if it isn't serving you.

If you need to adjust your spending habits or downgrade one part of your life style, so you can live richly in another, let this be reflected in your budget.

Also if your priorities change, you budget should also change.

Remember to be flexible and expect challenges or mistakes. Budgeting is a habit and it takes time to build it. The rewards of it though are endless.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below. Additionally if would like help with your personal finances, contact me. I am available for consultations at a reasonable rate or on a skill exchange/barter basis. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Bajan Transporter: Part 3

This the final piece of the story and I hope that you have enjoyed following along. Package collecting can be a very hazardous job, but someone has to do it.

I did a quick scan of the street and seeing no sign of Grape-Jelly I slipped into the post office and took my place in the line. There were about 3 people in front of me and five more being served at the counter.

Two girls stood were at the front of the line with clothing in a clear packaging. I knew that they would be unable to post them like that and wondered how could they have reached their teen-aged years and not know that you needed to secure your parcels in a box/envelope before shipping. The man behind them looked to a be a fairly distinguished gentleman, but he seemed preoccupied.

The five customers at the counter consisted of: one woman in her thirties, an Indian woman with her son and an elderly man with his son. I admit that I extrapolated familial relationships, but I didn't have a lot to go on.

There was still no sign of Agent Grape-Jelly but I didn't relax too much. Anyone of these people here could well be his accomplice.

The Indian duo had no less than 6 huge boxes packed up and ready to ship out to ..yes, you guessed it India. I cringed a bit inside because the packages already looked as if they had been through a war. They were covered in duct tape as if to seal their mouth shut from speaking of the horrors they had seen.

I took a moment to feel compassion for them and also, ever the budgeter, to have compassion for the duo's budget as they were no doubt about to pay at least six hundred dollars in postage fees.

I noticed that there was a skinny male lurking in the back of the post office. He seemed restless and idle which was never a good combination.

After a few moments he moved to lift one of the boxes from the floor to the counter for the Indian duo. I deduced that he had come with them specifically to do the hard labour and so he ceased to be of interest.

The woman in her thirties, had about 5 packages that she was receiving. I watched her as she slit them open and pulled out the contents for the perusal of the stern, middled-aged post-woman.

Her packages were filled with everything from snacks, to jackets and rubber-soled shoes. I dismissed them both and looked to see what the elder man and his son had come to collect. It appeared to be a computer tower. That in itself was a rare sight as most people used laptops these days; it even came with a keyboard, how novel.

What was most interesting however was that the young post-woman serving them was wearing a purple shirt. Was that mere coincidence or a blatant show of force? My heart quickened and I stood up straighter, I was making ready for the unexpected.

My gaze was glued to Post-Woman Purple, as she dispatched the two men with the computer to the pay window, then dismissed the two girls to buy proper packaging and then directed the man in front of me to another department.

I stepped up to the counter when she motioned for me and handed her my blue notice and my ID card. Mannerly words were exchanged on both sides as I was sizing her up.
She seemed sturdy though small, and her expression was neutral. I surmised that a fight between the two of us would be hard to call.
On top of that, she had plenty of co-workers in the room behind her, so there would be no jumping over the counter and snatching my package, if we came to high words.

I would have to play it cool and calm to collect.

She disappeared into the storeroom and returned with my package. I had imagined that it would be bent out of shape, stained and down-trodden but in contrast it looked normal. There was not a scuff mark in sight (well done Mr. Martin!).

The only thing out of place was that the tape that sealed it was clearly marked, Barbados Postal Service instead of the usual badge-coloured packaging tape. I deduced that my package had been opened here in Barbados and resealed. I could only guess at why; had it be received with the original seal already broken or had something more sinister occurred?

It seemed a bit silly when she handed me a box cutter and told me to open the package. Clearly someone in her department had done that already and gotten themselves a good look at my loot.

I  did as she bid with a sense of expectation rising in my spirit. Finally I would get to see what was the cause of this mission. I opened the flaps and peered inside.

Disappointment flooded through me when I realized that the package contained only stationary. On any other day that would have been excitement enough, but I had been hoping to find a gold coin or data-stick with state secrets.

There was still some hope for intrigue however as there was a letter tucked into a corner of the box and as I expected, Post-Woman Purple asked me to open it.

Time slowed to crawl as I carefully slid the box cutter under the flap of the envelope and sliced it deftly open. Her cold, brown eyes were upon me like lasers as I retrieved the note card and I flicked it open with a flourish, still hoping that something unusual would slip from between the fold.

Alas, it was not to be. Mr. Martin had already collected whatever secrets had been left in my package, risked life and limb to keep them safe and delivered them to the client.


I pictured Mr. Martin in the Bahamas drinking coconut water and rum, while the agents had flown to Barbados and tailed me in vain. The mission was over, and I felt relief replace the disappointment.

Post-Woman Purple instructed me to pay customs for my items and that brought my back to the present moment. I packed away my goodies and waited for my change.

As I was leaving I was almost sure that I saw Agent Grape-Jelly enter the post office. I smirked to myself and hastened into the bus terminal knowing that he would probably be quite angry when Post-Woman Purple gave him the bad news, and I did not want to be anywhere in the area when that happened.

Mission accomplished.

The End.

You can find part one and two here and here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Bajan Transporter: Part 2

If you were reading along, you would know that I was faced with the task of picking up my package from the post office. Things seemed to be going well, save a misplaced attempt at flirting, when suddenly everything was turned on a head.

I was not going to tuck my tail between my legs and slink back to Fox Club Road empty handed however, I was going to go all out. It was about to get turned up.

I finished up my transaction with the young joker, and quickly made tracks to the next scene of the story: the bus-stop.

As I stood there, I noticed a rather shady looking character. He was your typical skinny mid-twenties male, with a purposefully (I hoped) slightly unkempt locs. He could be mistaken for the proverbial 'boy on the block' but my keen senses tipped me off that he might have been put in my path to intercept my package.

I didn't panic though. I calmly scanned the road while giving him a critical side-eye. It was the grape-purple tee shirt that gave him away, I decided. No one really likes grape jelly no matter how much they try to push it as an alternative to strawberry jam. And then there was the matter of his baggy 3/4 jeans. While I don't much like the idea of the baggy trend, it gets even more absurd when you are wearing a 3/4 pants.

Instead of looking cool, you end up seeming like you hadn't enough cloth to finish the top or bottom of your jeans, so you just wear it in the middle and hope no one notices. He had never had a chance of blending in. I dubbed him Agent Grape-Jelly for obvious reasons.


I could teach him a trick or two. My striped tank was every shade of pink known to man; everyone knows that the girls love pink and that transporters only wear black and white. In that alone I guaranteed that my true nature would never be unearthed.

I had decided before had to stick to my old method of transportation, so when a minibus rounded the bend. I stopped it, hopped on confidently and took a seat. Unsurprisingly, Agent Grape-Jelly was right behind me and even had the nerve to sit next to me even though they were plenty of seats available.

I plugged in my earphones, but of course I didn't put on any music. I just wanted him to think that I occupied, lest he decided to start up a conversation. This would also allow me to be aware of other conversations in the van, just in case he had back-up.

I made a show of relaxing into the seat and noted that he didn't even have the decency to put on a nice smelling cologne. I debated briefly though, that no scent was better than a bad scent.

The ride to town went by swiftly. I had a strict time-line for success after which I was sure that I would be too hungry and thirsty to be coherent. Thankfully we came upon no traffic jams, explosions or gunmen, so we were soon entering the hub of Bridgetown.

Agent Grape-Jelly disembarked when we reached the Main Guard but I stayed on as my destination was further down. I had fun picturing him running through the back alleys to catch back up with the van.

The joke was on me though because the van driver decided to only go part of the way and I ended up having to walk farther than I had planned. I made my trek as swift as I could, surmising that Grape-Jelly had bribed the driver to turn back early, so he could catch up with me more quickly.

I saw some people handing out flyers and I was about to breeze past them when I noted they were also handing out pens. This Bajan Gal never missed out on something free and useful.

The leaflet it turned out was from Axcel Finance and they were offering all sorts of 'tempting' loans. These sorts of things always make the budgeter in me cackle with glee; No matter what they offered the only thing would happen is that their ads would end up in my garbage.

I knew that Grape-Jelly was still on my tail so I zigzagged in and out of the crowd to aid my cause and made a beeline for the Post Office.

Stay tuned for the final instalment...

Missed the first one? Find it here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Bajan Transporter: Part 1

Today the post-woman came to my door bringing the usual boring white envelopes and a mission. 

That mission came in the form of a bright blue notice informing me that a package from one on my friends had winged its way through the skies, over stormy seas, through vales and ravines to the sunny shores of my island home.  

My mission, should I be inclined to accept it, was to collect this package and end
its transcontinental journey.  

I took a moment to think of the dusty corners and rusted truck floors it must have seen. How many hands had thrown it, placed it and dropped it? And which of those hands was responsible for it being received damaged? 

Maybe it was an disgruntled worker in Texas or perhaps it was a fresh-faced trainee (let's call him Joe) that dropped it, during his first week on the job, in a huge warehouse in Florida. Joe to his credit, hastily scooped my package up and hoped his supervisor was too busy chatting up Mildred to notice. It is okay Joe, I forgive you.

Or was it a suave secret agent who mistook my package for one of Frank Martin's, the original transporter, and in his haste to make a big bust broke the cardinal rule.... Don't open the package. Then found himself trying to re-seal it after having discovered not drugs but stationary.  

What I believe happened though, was that Mr. Martin handled my a package on the treacherous leg through the hills and vales and after being distracted by a sexy female, narrowly saved it and her from tumbling off a cliff. 

 After his valiant action, I certainly was not going to chicken out on my part. No, not I. I was willing and ready to complete the chain and bring my traumatized package safely home.

To be as efficient as possible I decided to pack up a box of goodies that were destined for one of my friends in NY and get that sent off at the same time. 

Once that was done, I jumped in the bath and donned my transporter uniform for the day. Since my tux was not back from the dry cleaners and it hotter than Hades in Barbados these days, I settled on a tank top, a Capri and a pair of slippers.  

I made sure to choose my vehicle carefully, finally settling on a blue and yellow minibus. They'd never see me coming. 

Before long I was easing into the post office. I was the only one there so I was immediately ushered to the window. To my dismay, the young male worker not only opened the box I had carefully packed for my friend, but he threatened to charge me ten dollars per piece of tape used to secure the box for shipment.

Joking with the Bajan Transporter about over-inflated costs, is not the way to get into my good graces. Neither I, nor my budget, were the slightest bit amused. 

He then took the wind out of my sails by informing me that my package was not in Holetown. It had been kept in the General Post Office in Bridgetown, presumably because it had been abused and they had a better counselling program...

My attempt at efficiency was completely foiled and due to my carelessness when reading my mission statement, I had arrived on time and all dressed up, but the at the wrong destination.

Making matters even more desperate, I didn't even have a bottle of water or an apple and I was beginning to feel thirsty. Stopping to buy either would invite bad things, as was wont to happen when you deviate from the script. 

Could I complete my mission, though I was dehydrated and slightly hungry?  Stay tuned for part two, in which all is revealed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What I Learned When I Almost Lost My Job

I was reminded recently that my job is supposed to be hush hush; I am not going to go out on a limb, but I will speak of my experiences being mindful of the above.

I have never felt secure in my job, so the possibility of losing it, was not a surprise. What was a surprise was the reactions of people around me and my own inability to stand up for myself.

The latter is something that has plagued me for a long time; when I was being sexually abused, I just let it happen, as if I couldn't do anything about it. There was an unspoken rule of silence and I towed the line. I had thought, that over the years I had improved.

The situation surrounding my job hanging in the balance felt eerily the same. I was backed into a corner, but there was little I could do. Helplessness covered me like a cloud and I was barely keeping my ship from sinking into depression.

I found out quickly who was interested in my success and who wasn't. Outside encouragement from others however, is not a balm to the soul, when you can't outrun yourself.

I accepted that I was not a victim, I had played a role in the event and I was cognisant of my responsibility. I had completed my part months before and now I waited for a verdict. I was like a leaf on the wind; would I soar higher or would I fall to the wayside and be washed down the drain?

I used music to soothe my inner turmoil and soldiered on, after all, an air traffic control is supposed to perform well under pressure. I had my own expectations of myself, to live up to, not to mention my responsibilities at home.

That being said, when the ball was played into my court, I honed all of my power, energy and skill into hitting back across the net. No room for error.

I won that match in a straight set victory, but it felt hollow. There was nothing to be won, I had already lost everything. The biggest causality was my passion for my job.

I went on to complete my training. I did well, but I was dead on the inside. I looked at things differently. Being with my co-workers who would only have been memory, had things gone the other way, was surreal.

It took me seven months to come back to the land of living and it is only when I cracked my first real smile that I was able to see that I had been faking everything before that. It took even longer to be able to look back and see the good of being in such an ugly situation.

I learned that I was generous and protective; I was timid and introspective. I could regurgitate a textbook on command and wear a strong face even when I had no strength left.

I learned that pass the despair and the helplessness, there is a woman of honour, intelligence and heart. And that even when all else failed me, even if I had lost my job, that I would always have one thing that would set me apart from the crowd: My pride.

Pride is some times cried down and with good reason; but my proud spirit refused to bend even when everything else in me had all but given up.

It stood against my own inner self-doubt and castigation and forged ahead. It disdained talk of what I deserved, and months later it refused to care why, or how it all came to be. This pride allowed me to seize the ray of hope and drag a sun-flare of new beginnings into the darkness.

The light in the tunnel was not at the end; it was inside of me and had always been.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grocery Round-Up

I hustled into my local Supermarket around 1:45pm, hoping to get through with my shopping well before the Secondary School in the area released its charges.

I had a set budget in mind, a short and detailed list and a hope the trip would be swift and easy. I picked up a cart and headed down past the bread aisle, looking wistfully at the over-priced gluten-free wraps and taking a deep lungful of the scent of fresh-made bread before heading to the fresh produce aisle.

This was the area where I expected to spend most of my 39 dollar budget. I whizzed past the grapes and picked up the most handsome bag of apples I could find, before hemming and hawing over which oranges were not too big, but not too small. I finally bagged four and continued on.

Carrots and potatoes were next to be successfully plundered. I was adding the total as I went along on the calculator on my phone, ensuring that I would not get over-zealous and be defeated at the register.

I spent several long minutes by the broccoli picking through the mountain of green trees to find ones that looked fresh. As I did so, I recalled an episode of Extreme Cheapskates where a woman broke off the stem of the broccoli, so she did not pay the weight for something she wouldn't eat. It seemed capital idea in theory but I didn't feel brave enough to try it.
I had a inner debate about the ethics versus the savings but was freed from making the decision when I spied a tray of broccoli that had been pre-packaged, and was a lovely forest green. Luckily the price was just right and the stem had been cut off. Double bonus!

With my morality intact, I  surveyed the tomatoes and had a sticker shock: six tomatoes for 11 dollars, their loveliness could not justify the price. I was disappointed because I hadn't managed to get any tomatoes last week either. I soldiered on, looking for Kale next and finding only wilted baby bok-choy.
Two strikes now and I was determined to go home with something dark-green and leafy so I picked through the large bok choy until I found one that passed muster.

My spirits were lifted when I discovered local,reasonably priced tomatoes and yard-long beans. Both were added to cart and I took a moment to recheck my list  to be sure I had gotten everything before going in search of paprika, white pepper and a pack of kidney beans.

It took not but a few seconds to secure the spices as they were the next aisle over and in under a minute I was adding the kidney beans to my cart as well.

List completed, I rolled over to the cashiers making sure to pick the one with the shortest line.
As I waited, I was tested by the treats on either side of the checkout, trying to bribe their way into my cart. I almost gave in to the Oh Henry chocolates on special, but I resisted in the end as they would have put me over budget and also make me fail the No-Buy November challenge.

I began placing my groceries on the belt, feeling quite self-congratulatory. No canned or processed goods in this lot; Nope, not one.

When I got to the Chinese cabbage, I felt a nudge to check it again and I noticed that the leaves were turning black around the edges. It was swiftly returned to the basket.

The monitor that faced the customer was out, so I had to wait for the cashier to tell me the total.

Moment later I pressed the prompt on the card reading machine with a flourish. Is your total of $36.48 correct? Indeed it was and to make this victory even more profound, the time on the bill was 1:59pm. Mission accomplished and in less than 15 minutes.

Victory is sweet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Big Spender

I would love to say that I was always frugal but that is not the case. I have a knack for spending large sums of money in the heat of the moment, simply because it is there.

Having a budget has helped, but the tendency is laying dormant inside of me still. I  explored how I came to this place and what provoked it in my money journal and narrowed it down to my childhood.

Though I did not grow up in poverty, I had a sense of lack. There were things that I wanted that I couldn't have and the impact of that followed me into my adult years. I know logically that my parents couldn't give me everything I wanted, but it is human nature to hold on to the negative things.

When I was the one to decide if I could buy something or not, I never told myself no. In my opinion, I had been told enough of those in the past to last a life time.

This view point lead me to having a shipping barrel of yarn, bags of clothing that were never worn and more craft paraphernalia than anyone could need.

I was motivated by a challenge to not buy yarn for a year and that aided me in reducing my purchases. I was not free of the habit however, my wild spending switched to restaurants. I either picked up the tab for everyone or ordered more food than I could eat in one sitting.

Finally, I stopped trying to treat the symptoms and tackled the disease. I was out of control and it had to stop.

It was difficult to decline an invitation to eat out, or to not buy that pair of shoes; but gradually saving money for the long term became more important than short term gains.

My breakthrough came when I got interested in minimalism. I took on a challenge to de-clutter my home only keeping items that I used.

I went through the boxes of books, bags of clothing and stores of craft supplies and donated, trashed or gave away over 400 items in all. This exercise showed me that I had plenty and that the feeling of lack I had been nurturing from my teen years was out of place.

Not only did I have more than enough things in my life already, I only needed a few possessions to be contented.

The new house rules are that I only by new things after a long period of evaluation or when something that I currently have needs to be replaced.

I have struck a bargain with the big spender in my nature; when I have saved up for vacations, shoes and new electronics, I will let that side of me do the spending. That way, I am saying no to the little things now, so I can say yes to the big things later on.

What about you? Are you a Big Spender? ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Suddenly Gluten-Intolerant

In my teenage years my favourite food was pasta and tomato sauce and I strongly identified with Jughead Jones, from the Archie comics because I shared his obsession for hamburgers. I continued this way into my late twenties, adding the joys of home-made bread, wraps and pastries to the menu.

photo credit

In January of this year, I started to have severe sinus problems stemming from an upper-respiratory track infection I had suffered in Dec.

I began to notice that when I ate hamburgers, my sinuses went crazy. I was unsure about it at first because even the ENT said he had never encountered a case where wheat flour activated sinusitis.

I self-tested to confirm my suspicions and discovered an undeniable connection between the two and so I embarked on a campaign to cut gluten out of my diet.

I was unprepared for how difficult it was. Wheat flour was in everything: For breakfast I preferred chicken chunks and fish-cakes. Lunch or dinner was a sandwich or a pasta dish and I had gotten into the habit of snacking on jam-filled pastries. Most takeaway meals were also out of the question, because everything from fried-chicken to rotis, all contained wheat.

I could not simply switch to the gluten-free alternatives because those products were very expensive. One loaf of gluten-free bread was twenty dollars versus four dollars for the regular kind. Multiplying my grocery costs by five times was not sustainable.

This lead to a complete overhaul of my diet and I had to start cooking three times as much as I had before. It was a challenge to keep myself motivated.

I wavered at times, and ate flour anyway and then suffered the consequences of sneezing fits and sinus headaches. It took six months to get into a routine that worked for me, and one of the biggest hurdles was finding recipes that I could use.

I am also dairy and egg-free, and I don't cook a lot of meat-dishes. The amount of recipes that you can use when you screen them for more than one dietary restriction plummets from 200 to around 20. And that makes it very difficult to fill up a meal plan without constantly repeating the same dishes.

I stuck it out, and eventually came to a list of recipes that I didn't mind eating over and over again. Learning how to use spices to make my vegetables taste spectacular was also a huge turning point in the journey.

Even when I had mastered my meal-planning I found that in social situations it was difficult for me to stick to my diet when everyone else was eating pizza or hamburgers. I felt like I was missing out, even though my choices were the best for my body.

Giving in every now and then and eating a bite of pastry or a piece of pizza seemed okay until I woke up one morning with a rash. Sh*t had officially hit the fan.

My motivation spiked and I redoubled my efforts to make sure that I had enough healthy food and snack alternatives so that I was not tempted.

I came to the realization that I was sulking and feeling sorry for myself and when I stopped acting like my sudden allergy was a curse, I was able to feel proactive instead of backed into a corner.

I detached food as much as I could from emotions, and I focused on nutrition. Truthfully, the diet I had before was not balanced or very healthy. I naturally lost a lot of weight and started to have more energy when I overhauled my diet.

My experience this last year of having to deal with my allergy, has improved my health and showed me that I have a lot more will power than I thought. I would be lying however, if I said that I didn't wish I could have learned those lessons in some other way.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Money Journal

I began keeping a money journal last year and it has transformed my life. It started out to be just a record of my spending plans and day to day purchases, but soon I was expressing my feelings about how money was affecting all aspects of my life.

photo credit
Money is a concept, an object and a symbol. Our economies have been designed so that our necessities must be purchased (except air... for now) and we have been raised to put a dollar value on everything, even time.
It is tied self-esteem if you are in the role of being the breadwinner or amongst a certain group of peers.

We build up our individual ideas about money; we give it a personality and motives. I have often heard things like: 'Rich people are selfish or evil', 'I'm broke and I will always be poor', or  'Trouble always comes when you have some money that you want to save'.

"For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

1 Timothy 6:10

Everyone has a money history that is unique because of their experiences in life. Some grow up in lack and some grow up in excess, while others fall in the shades of grey in between the two.
Over a lifetime or even in course of month, we can go from one end of the spectrum to the other and ironically, the amount of money we have may not changed.

This is why a homeless man can feel rich with 10 dollars but for someone else it is a pittance at best.

I poured my heart out in my journal and discovered my own money history. I found that I watched my parents and started building a money mantra based on how they handled money. When I got older, I added in the opinions of my friends, my teachers and concepts I found in romance novels. By the time I got my first job, I had view point on money and how it should be saved and spent, who had a lot and who a little, and where I fell in the mix of things.

Keeping a money journal made me question my long standing beliefs. By re-reading my entries every few weeks, I was able come up with new ideas, and different approaches to problems.

My relationship with money has improved ten-fold in this last year and almost all of the cornerstones of my current success were laid in the jumble of thoughts in my journal.

In short, my money journal supercharged my money evolution.

Consider starting your own money journal

If you find yourself worrying about money a lot and having negative thoughts running through your head at odd hours, a money journal may be your ticket to peace of mind.

Direct these thoughts outward into your journal. You don't have to be eloquent or even make any sense. Just let everything you are ruminating on and feeling pour out of you and fill up the black space on the page.

You can use a traditional journal, start a blog, post on a forum post or use an app on your cell phone. Do whatever works for you.

It may feel silly, uncomfortable or awkward at first, but keep at it. Writing out your thoughts will give you clarity and spring clean your mind. You will be able to notice patterns of thinking or behaviours and take steps to alter them if they don't serve you any longer.

If you give it a whirl, let me know how it is going.