Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Linger in the Space of Celebration

The end of the year is upon us and this is a great time for planning ahead for the New Year. I have been doing that myself making a yearly budget and taking time out make intentions for 2015. I found that I was caught up with making plans for 2015 that I when I was thinking or writing about the next year, I caught myself in the habit of penning 2016. I was that into it.

While I was happy to be so engaged in my future I realised that I was endanger of not fully embracing and celebrating my recent past. The last quarter of 2014 was one of the defining times of my life.

Every single day of October through December, was a building block that lead me to the plateau of well-being and self empowerment on which I now stand.

When I sat with this and really let it marinate in my mind, I realised that I was not alone in my rush to move forward. We as humans often follow up a triumph with the question 'What next?" and let in all of the possibilities of the future and sometimes a good bit of worry as to where we are going.

When we fall into this trap, we cheat ourselves of harnessing all of the positive energy of our celebrations. We may raise a glass or treat ourselves to a meal to commemorate the moment, but I do not think that this is enough.

The ringing in of a New Year lends itself to being a point of high emotion as it is easy to be joyful that new things are on the horizon. What I propose is that as we end 2014, we take some time to linger in our triumphs. Instead of merely reflecting on the year, we take it a step further and celebrate our year anew.

I believe it is only when we live in the triumph of the past and allow those highs to sink into the marrow of ourselves, that we can move fully and purposefully forward into a new phase of life.

For me, this meant that  I allowed myself the luxury of looking back and cheering myself on as if the goals I had achieved were new. I patted myself on the back for my good ideas and washed my spirit in gratitude for old events with the same intensity as the first time.

Another effect of this is that you solidify good memories. It is all too easy to remember the bad, and often it can override the good that happened. By mindfully focusing on the high points, we cultivate an attitude of positivity.

We also can determine what are the key events or habits that we picked up along the way that lead us to the point of triumph. This allows us to make sure that we pack these tools in our toolbox as we forge ahead to new adventurers.

I wish all of my readers, friends and family, a Happy New Year. May 2015 be full of abundance and love; go forward confidently as you achieve your goals and see your dreams come to life.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Benefits of a Yearly Budget

We're on the count down to 2015 and I have been preparing my goals for the New Year, both financial and personal. One of the tools I used to prepare my 2015 financial goals was a yearly budget.

What is a yearly budget?

A yearly budget is a method of forecasting your income and expenditures over the next year.
First estimate what will be your net income and once you have that figure, write down every expense that you will incur over the next year.
In this case instead of tallying your bills on a monthly basis, you take a mean number for each and multiply it by twelve.
Include any vacations, or major purchases, repairs or upgrades you plan to do over the next year.
It is also a good time to check-up on any debt that you have, seeing if any will be paid off in the upcoming year, and where those funds can be put to use.

The Benefits of a Yearly Budget

1) It is a Reality Check

Often we dismiss how much our lifestyle costs us when we think of it on a monthly basis. After all it is just 80 dollars a month for cable. When you have to face that you are paying 960 a year to the cable company, that number may illicit a different reaction from you.

2)It Puts Things into Perspective

Being able to compare expenses in their totality allows you to clearly see where most of your money is going. If you spend close to 2000 dollars a year on eating-out but struggle to find money for travel, doing a yearly budget will bring that disparity into sharp focus.

3)It Protects you From Sticker Shock

Your yearly budget will include bills that come only once a year such as car insurance, road tax, home owner's insurance etc. If you wait until the bill is nearly due to try to put together funds for it, you will feel the strain of trying to squeeze water out of a stone. Planning for the payment ahead of time, will give you an advantage and save you from that crunch time stress.

4)It Allows You to Save Ahead

If you know you do your medical check-ups in the middle of the year, and as stated above have a yearly insurance bill coming due in November, a yearly budget will help you to save ahead for these events. This also goes for vacations and any major purchases.

Do the opposite of what you did with the monthly bills, and divide these payments where possible into twelve instalments, or the amount of months you have remaining. Ideally, when you pay these bills, you should immediately start saving for the next year so you can split that cost neatly into twelve parts.

5)It Gives You Focus

A yearly budget will give you a sense of direction. If you followed my advice in this post on life's pleasures, your yearly plan will include doing what makes you happy and brings you value. When we pick a destination, we can fully prepare for that journey and put all of our energy into getting there.

6)You Get to Play with a Calculator

I don't know about you, but there is nothing I like more than pulling out my calculator and a blank piece of paper and filling it with numbers. Hm? Oh this is only me? Okay carry on...

7)It Puts You in the Driver's Seat

Big businesses devote entire departments of their organisations to preparing budgets for the upcoming year. My philosophy has always been that anything good enough for big business, can have some merit in the managing of my own money.

Life changes rapidly, and you may do a budget and then have to change it throughout the year as things crop up. The benefit of putting in the work to look ahead is that you can use that information to make quick decisions on what to delay, cut out or set aside to deal with the challenges that you are currently facing.

Without this valuable information, you  may make a rushed decision and let something slide that will cause you greater problems in the future.

My Yearly Budget

Without boring you to tears with too many numbers, I will briefly explain a few major conclusions I drew from my own yearly budget.

  • I wanted to go on a retreat in March, but the deadline for payment was Jan 31st. In order to meet this deadline, I would have to float the expense for at least a month and then 'pay myself back' over the upcoming months. I still haven't decided if I will do this, but I am aware of what will be needed.
  • Similarly, I was able to work out how much money I would need to save over the upcoming month to fund my vacation to Philadelphia later in the year and in order to meet my savings goals for my Retirement Plan.
  • I was able to work out that for this season of my life, my basic living expenses inclusive of out of pocket medical costs, come up to rough 12000 dollars per year. This information helps me to be realistic when planning other expenses in my life.
  • I know how much to set aside upfront each month and I set this amount aside even if all isn't used, as this allows me to handle unexpected larger expenses, such as needing a medical test or having to buy staples for my pantry in bulk.

I hope that you consider doing up a yearly budget if you find you normally get surprised or off track in the middle of the year. It can significantly reduce your stress and give you a sense of being in control of your finances.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Life's Simple Pleasures

One of the best ways to be contented while you operate under a tight budget is to make sure that you leave money for things that make you really happy. Life's simple pleasures vary from person to person although some are considered universal, like chocolate. Taking some time out to pinpoint the things you purchase that add real value to your life will pay dividends in the future.

My own struggles

I struggled a lot with my love of food. It felt like I would never get a handle on my eating-out budget no matter how I tried, and I was constantly raising and lowering the budgeted amount, making grand plans but getting nowhere. This same pattern repeated it self with my grocery budget.

Finally I let myself spend as much as I wanted one month to see how bad it would really be. Giving myself that permission was difficult but I stuck with it.

At the end of that month I was able to pick out the things that I had purchased that had really satiated me at mealtime. Then using that information I was able to make sure that no matter what, I could always have those things to build my meals around or in the case of takeaway, that I only bought meals that I always enjoyed.

Discover Your Simple Pleasures

When you have about fifteen minutes to spare, sit down with a sheet of paper in a quiet corner. Start to write down everything in your life that brings you positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, laughter, contentment and calm. Inevitably not all of these things will be items that you purchase, but all are valuable to this exercise.

Once you have your list, ask yourself how often you do these things and if you are satisfied with it. Also check the balance of purchased items vs. 'free' experiences such as spending time with family or engaging a hobby that you already own all the material and tools for.

Another good thing to note is how many of the things fall into the same category. If most of what brings you joy is food, this could signal either an over-reliance on food to prop up your moods or it may nudge you to making food a larger part of your life by cooking more often, or writing a food blog critiquing restaurants.

There is no hard and fast way to interpret this information. Go with your gut instincts.

When you have a good idea of what truly adds to your life, and how often you ideally would like to do it add it into your budget and plan ahead for it:

  • Schedule a fixed date with your husband to go see a movie, or call up your friends and plan a beach picnic. Try to be very specific about what you are doing so that it is not a nebulous idea in your mind, but a concrete plan.
  • You may decided to block off time in your schedule to work on your novel, or add special ingredients to your grocery budget to try your hand at making your favourite restaurant dessert.
  • Perhaps you will head out to a concert, take a long walk in nature or start saving for your next vacation.

In addition, it is equally important at this stage to evaluate if there are areas in your life that you are spending too much time and money on, but not getting anything positive back in return. When you have identified these things, make a plan to cut them out and replace them with items from your list that do add value to your life.

  • Perhaps you buy too many snack items but conversely struggle with your weight. Identify what healthy snacks you do enjoy and buy them instead. Or make a plan to have a tasting session of healthy snacks to identify ones you do like.
  • If you find you grab take-always lot but often feel dissatisfied with the food or how it makes you feel after. Narrow down your take-away to only the restaurants whose food you always enjoy. Then think of what home-made meals you like and cook them more often. You can also try to cook some of your favourite take away meals at home as well, once they are not too complicated.
  • If you find you buy a lot of books but don't get around to reading them. Use the library instead, at least then when you find you don't like a book you can simply return it. 

The Benefit

The beauty in taking time to make your pleasure a priority in your budget is that it removes the guilt you feel when you try to make a more 'responsible' budget and end up using your money on these things anyway.

It is a key step in realistic and healthy budgeting, which  enabled you stay the course for the long term.

Even more importantly, if you spend your resources and time doing what make you happy, you will by default be happier in general. Cutting down on  doing other things that don't inspire you, leaves lots of room to become enamoured with life.

Life in and of itself is a pleasure. Practising gratitude and spending time in nature are great ways to reconnect to the simplest of joys. I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season and are ready for the New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What I Learned about Forgiveness

Guilt, pain, shame and distress weigh heavily on a soul. With each passing year old memories laden with those emotions get heavier and heavier even as the event itself gets hazier in the mind's eyes. Often you can't say with certainty when it occurred, but you know that it did and you remember vividly how awful you felt.

Without realising it these emotions stagnant and fester, becoming an infection that spreads through your entire being. Left unattended they drown out the good memories and leave you with a history that is full of despair.

From this wretched history looking forward, the future looks bleak and hopeless. The only escape from this prison is to free yourself from the memories by forgiving the persons who were the cause of your pain.

Forgiveness in itself, is an act of self love. It does not absolve the other party of their moral responsibility. Its chief power is to free you from your own self-inflicted disease. Without forgiveness you will unable to move forward with all of your power.

Let me explain.

If you enter into a new situation but you perceive it based on your twisted past, you lose the ability to gain new and fresh treasure. Learning from your past mistakes should not leave you jaded and cold. You should open , but be wise and ready to deal promptly with any hitches that crop up.

One of the greatest hurdles in forgiveness, is to forgive yourself for the role that you played in your trauma. As you are carrying around a chip on your shoulder against the person that inflicted the hurt, you often also carry around an even bigger chip towards yourself for having allowed the situation to happen.

This self-blame is even more profound if it was a situation that persisted over an extended period of time. In such a case we hold ourself accountable for allowing it to continue when we knew better. The disease of self-hatred, coupled with holding onto despising the person who caused the injury, results in you being unable to see the world with positive optimism.

The truth is that when you harshly judge another, you are often disturbed mostly by the reflection of your own shortcomings that you see in theirs. Your intolerance or inability to fully embrace new things without cynicism, comes entirely from the fact that you have yet to move past your pain.

I'll admit, holding onto pain became an addictive habit for me. It was a ready excuse for my failings and mistakes as I progressed though life, and it allowed me 'good reason' to never step out of my comfort zone.

There came a point for me however, when I came to realise that the only one who was hurting me now, was myself. The events of my past which I held within me, like a poison dagger ready to stab in my own feet to impede my progress, was now fuelled only by my continued insistence on not letting go.

To forgive myself, and anyone else who I perceived had wronged me required me to let go, and even more difficult and terrifying, to move forward. I had face the fact that I was terrified of progress, even though I claimed to be dissatisfied with my present position.

Also, in forgiving myself I accepted that the things that happened to me, while they had been monumental at that time, were now simply stepping stones on a long road. They were a chapter in a huge book and it was time to do a synopsis and fully turn the page.

Forgiveness was hard for me to wrap my mind around at first. But I was helped by a pod-cast on forgiveness by Amber Agha which stressed that I was not in so much absolving the person of responsibility but seeing them as just as human as I am. and thus capable of making a mistake.
She said to detach ego from the situation and realise that it wasn't anything about me that caused the problem, per-say. I didn't deserve to be treated badly.

My journey of forgiveness, started when I wrote all of the things I wanted to let go on a paper in red ink. The red ink signified all the pain that I had continually regurgitated for all the years. I wrote and I wrote until the paper was full.

Then I burnt it in a small fire, mixed with the incense of frankincense and myrrh. I mindfully realeased all of the hangups and hurt feelings as the paper burned and I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders as I did so.

It was end of me carrying the load, but it is still next to me. Each day I will work on unpack that bag and setting each and every emotion completely free. Forgiveness is not anyone act, because life will always offer up more lessons of a painful kind.

Forgiveness is a continual release of baggage before it can fester.

I leave you this.

I forgive myself for letting me down. I forgive myself for being scared. I forgive myself for lying and for hiding behind a mask of happiness when inside I was mess. I love myself for my softness and my vulnerability. I am embrace my inherent sensitivity and I welcome all new experiences with open arms.

I urge you to give yourself the same freedom.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tis the Season

Tis the Season


We are staring down the barrel of Christmas Day, and scores of shoppers take to the streets or to the virtual shopping centres filling their baskets with goodies. Tens of thousands of dollars are being spent as I type on all manner of goods and products, some destined for home renovations and the majority will be swaddled in gift wrap and stuck under a tree. Others will be mailed off to all part of the world and even more still will be handed over as part of a gift exchange.


Others are warming up their voices and going to dress rehearsals for the church Christmas Program. Mishaps with lighting and sound checks will abound and there will be stifled but merry laughter when Mary drops baby Jesus in the middle of a touching scene. There will be a collective 'Awwww.' as the littlest member of the church stumbles through their recital and the reverent silent appreciation as the best singer in the choir completely nails their solo.

Meanwhile the Scrooges and the Grinches unite in anti-Christmas rants. They slam their hands over their ears at the sound of yet another overly warm and happy Christmas carol and grumble out loud to anyone who would listen about how much they detest this time of the year. They hold tight unto their purse strings and scoff with disdain at the sales; they turn red with anger at the price of the hams in the supermarket, and stick to buying trays red herring.



While the 'Bah Humbugs' are being spat from between pursed lips, the minimalists stick fast to their rules and don't purchase anything new unless it is to replace something. If they do buy a new item, an old item leaves their home to keep things in balance. Although they are festive their homes will not have many decorations or lights flashing on the tree, instead they find the simplest way to represent this holiday . The focus of their Christmas is to fill their days with experiences and family.

Then there others who follow the older ways and celebrate the Winter Solstice. They are equally disenchanted with the materialism of the season, and turn instead to the bounty of nature. When the Moon is New they will dance in its light and commemorate the end of the year and the beginning of the new one. Through the season they will light candles and set intentions boosted with the incense of Frankincense and Myrrh.

A Season of Reflection and Gratitude

I see pieces of my own-self reflected in all of these approaches to the commemoration of the season. As I aged I passed through periods of enthralment and disinterest in this time of year. I took time to feel out what really made me feel happy and contented out of every tradition that was offered and I am ready to create my own without needing to pull down those of others.

Christmas and really the month of December is a time of reflection and gratitude for me. I may choose to show my gratitude for others in the form of gifts or I may not. I feel no great pressure or obligation towards adopting that tradition.

I enjoyed sending out Christmas greeting to my friends and family 'over and away', which is a practice that I will definitely do that again next year.

I also set my intentions of the New Year on the Day of the Winter Solstice and put energy into deciding what will be my path forward in 2015. I am mindful of the twisted road that was 2014, and plan to roll forward all of the lessons I have learned and leave behind any baggage.

Whatever you plan to do this Christmas season, or to celebrate the ringing in of the New Year, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season. Stay out of the rush and bustle as much as you can, and enjoy many hearty meals. Wishing you love, prosperity and endless abundance for the New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Is Eating Healthy Really More Expensive?

The Issue: Is Eating Healthy Really More Expensive?


Often when people are told that they need to change their diet, they often try to justify their poor choices by saying that eating healthy is more expensive. In this they are implying that they simply cannot afford to eat healthy food, and therefore their health will always suffer.

There is no denying that food is expensive. It often tends to be one of the largest allocations on a family's budget; It also is something that is necessary to maintain our bodies and this too is often used as an excuse for how much money is spent in groceries.

I also am not trying to deny that certain fruits and vegetables can be very expensive, and that most of the items in the supermarket which are proposed to be a healthy alternative are often priced higher. However, there is a vast difference between eating a healthy diet and eating a 'healthier' diet.

A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet as far as I see it consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, wholesome grains, legumes, nuts and if you are so inclined meat and dairy. The key thing is that all of these are as fresh as possible and processed foods are eliminated altogether where possible and otherwise kept to a minimum.

A 'Healthier' Diet

A 'healthier' diet may contain fruits and vegetables but it also features a vast number of processed foods and snack items. While it may seem that by picking the low sodium or organic version of a canned item that you are improving your diet, the improvement may well be very minimal because of all the other things added in during the processing of the food.

In short, the more ingredients listed on the package of goods you are picking up, the less healthy it is likely to be. Also these processed foods tend to be more expensive than fresh or dried goods.

The Benefits of Eating Healthy

One of the first benefits of eating healthy is that you get control of your weight and are able to sure that your body is getting all of the nutrients that it needs. Often, when people sacrifice their health to continue to eat poorly, they end up paying for it with increased doctor bills.

From my own personal experience, I have found that eating healthier has improved my energy levels drastically. My body is in balance and my weight has shifted to a natural median.

There is also the green aspect of healthy living. You take less out of the world when the majority of your food comes direct from farmers and not from a factory.

I also have found that when you eat fresh food, it simply tastes better than packaged food. It took a while to be able to taste the subtle differences in flavours after bombarding my taste-buds with salt-laden junk for so many years, but now I can pick up the subtle flavours of foods and truly enjoy them.

Tips for Keeping Your Grocery Budget in Check

1) Stop Being Lazy

I have found that whenever I question someone closely on their large grocery tab, it is often accompanied with a large eating-out tab as well. Both of these stem from the same problem.You have gotten too used to someone else doing most of the work to feed you when you are hungry.

In order to save money you must be willing to do most of the work in ensuring that you are feed, watered and placated with the occasional snack. In so much, it is imperative that you get into the habit of preparing your own meals, well in advance. This also includes doing some prep work. It may be easier to buy pre-chopped vegetables or pre-seasoned meat, but you do pay for that privilege and it all adds up over-time.

Now, I am not suggesting that you make your own ketchup from scratch but that you simply stop cutting corners and put in the work.

2) Meal Planning

This leads on naturally from above. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. This is true in exams and it is also true of trying to reduce unnecessary food spending. Having a good idea of what you plan to eat for the coming week will allow you to prepare anything you need to do in advance. You can take down meat, pre-chop vegetables or even pre-cook components of a more complex recipe. The key in Meal planning is to keep it simple and make sure that you include easy meals on days when you will have a lot on your schedule.

3)Check What You Have and Then Buy What You Need

In other words make a list based both on your meal plan and what you already have in your pantry before heading out to the Supermarket. Also make sure that the things that are going to spoil soon are on the Meal Plan. And if you are not planning on using them this week...

4) Make Sure Food is Stored Properly

If you get a great deal on vegetables and you buy a good few pounds, make sure that you have adequate space to store them. Further, make sure that you have a plan for storing them in the long term, for example canning or freezing them, if the quantity is too much to use within a week.

There is nothing more annoying that having to throw out food, because you forgot that it was there or simply couldn't use all of it in time.

5)Shop in Bulk But Only if You'll Use It

Bulk shopping to take advantage of sales and wholesale prices can be a great way to save money over the long term.
However make sure that what you are buying is something that you will actual use often and that you have adequate storage for. Do not be swayed into buying something  just because it is a really good deal, it is only a good deal if you benefit from it fully.

6)Buy Direct and Buy In Season

Wherever possible try to get your fresh vegetables, meats, dairy and fruits directly from the farmers. This not only supports the local economy but it also allows you to have some control over the quality of ingredients that go into your food. Overall, shopping direct also tends to be cheaper as you get to take advantage of low prices on produce that are in season.

Keep an eye out for Farmer's Markets and Co-ops and research if there are any Farm Share programs in your area. Always the produce in season, as this will stretch your dollars farther.

7)Grow Your Own

Even if you live in an apartment you can at least get some small planters and grow your own herbs. If you are blessed with more space, try wherever possible to research what plants grow best in your area and start with plants that are not temperamental if you are a beginner.
Be on the look out for cheap plants that give a good yield and start small; you could quickly lose any gains if you put too much money in to unnecessary equipment or buy the wrong plants for your area.

If you are successfully however you can at the very least, add lots of flavour to yur dishes and get the satisfaction of having grown it yourself.

8)Keep It Simple

As you get better at cooking you will naturally also get more adventurous. Recipes will often call for items that normally would not be in your grocery budget, some of which are speciality items and quite expensive. Limit trying new recipes to one or two a month, and stick to a core staple diet that is balanced nutritionally with enough variety to keep you from feeling bored.

Also, limit items that you enjoy but that are very expensive, especially if they have little nutritional value. Try also to limit the portions you use of the item, so that it lasts you a longer time.

For those who are now starting out cooking at home, build your pantry slowly, there is no need to rush out and buy everything at once. Be systematic but consistent and remember whenever you are trying something new, only buy a small amount just in case you find it is not to your liking.

Final Word

Grocery shopping within a budget is like anything else something that takes time and skill. Given too that the prices of goods varies from place to place, only with practice and care will be able to hone your ideal budget.

I personally believe that if you skim off the grocery budget you will pay for it at the doctor and I have decided to make healthy eating a priority and I urge everyone else to consider doing the same.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Growth Disparity

I was having a conversation at home the other day and my step-mom commented that children grow up very quickly. It isn't the first time that I have heard this phrase but this time it struck a cord in me. It is easier to see the passage of time in a child, but when you are older time passes you by without you really noticing that you are ageing.

This has happened to me before when I realised that my little sisters are on the cusp of being in their twenties. There was this sensation of waking up one day and feeling like I was far older than I had noticed.

This moment of clarity can happen whether you are twenty-seven or fifty and then you find yourself sitting still for a moment, staring off into space, seeing your life pass by in your mind's eye and asking yourself where have the years gone.


Being awake to the fact that time is always passing by at the same rate, despite how your perception of it shifts, can have a profound affect on how we interact with our world.

For me hearing my step-mom say that caused a ricochet through my being. While my growth is now slowed to the point where it can be hard to notice, none the less it is happening; My rapid rush through toddler stages and onward into the full bloom of puberty, is now a casual walk through my first decade of adulthood.

When I look back on my past I do so with a feeling of nostalgia which can dip to the depths of depression depending on which memories I chose to focus on. There are moments of mirth like when I think of my bother hanging me by clothes pins on the line as a small child or a feeling of fond remembrance at my evening walks from my secondary school in Waterford Bottom, to my home in Welches Terrace, with my mind full of adventure.

It strikes me that time has trickled through my fingers like water in a sieve but has moulded me in the same way that water relentlessly carves rock into caves.

When I look forward to gauge what the nebulousness of growth and time may hold for me, I realise how fruitless it is to try to plan for anything. Speculating is not much better than assuming and we all know the story of that.

I settled into a kind of grim realisation that even as I focus fully and wholly on achieving my goals, the end of each day comes like clockwork and another day is added to my tally. The passage of time in and of itself promises nothing, it is only one's action in the present moment that truly affects the future, and to be fair, the future that it affects can be as far as a decade or as short as a day

Many have touted theories on time and growth and also on death, the natural and sometime  'unnatural conclusion' of the inevitable march to the grave. I have often said that we aren't really growing older, we are simply dying a little bit more with every year that passes.

I have have sense come to realise how depressing that thought can be, and I have chosen to instead to treasure each moment of the past, present and future; to hold on to the seconds that I have full control of and to release myself gracefully into the arms of time.

And more directly that that I will make a point of being aware of the passage of time, I never want to feel like I have no idea where my life has gone. I always want to be able to say, "Aha, yes. It has been what, five years now and what a wonderful five years those had been..."

Monday, December 15, 2014

So I Hired a Life Coach

When hitting a milestone in my ATC career did little to fill me with joy or passion I knew that I had a problem. Much to my dismay, the career that I had worked diligently at for the last five years left me feeling empty and cold.

In my search for another way of  being, I was lead to the page of Ayesha Nura, owner of 'My Empowerment My Way'. Although the concept on life coaching was new to me I felt myself attracted to it, however I was full of misgivings.

I solicited opinions from other peers and their responses varied wildly, I realised quickly that if I wanted to do this, I would have to come to that decision all on my own. I put my toe in the water by signing up for a workshop that Ayesha was scheduled to hold in March and we set up a meeting to talk.

As fate would have it our wires got crossed a bit and we ended up meeting in the middle of a long road, in the hot blazing sun. When I saw a bronzed goddess wearing a wrap skirt come running towards me, I knew this had to be she.

We embraced and headed into the cool, my heart was racing in my chest and I was full of misgivings, but I followed my gut and we launched right into our first session then and there. It was hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made in life.

In that session Ayesha guided me to unleash my dreams and simply allow myself to imagine an alternate reality in which I had already achieved everything that my heart desired. This was very difficult for me because I had beat down my imagination so much that I struggled to allow it to bloom.

Though I didn't have much to go on, we were able to start from there and build a foundation and in the months that have followed, I have gained the ability to stand on that foundation and start raising the walls. My refuge is by no means completed but I have stepped into my power, and taken control of the reigns of my destiny.

How did this transformation from emptiness to active co-creation happen?

Ayesha issued me the challenge of making myself my most sacred project. She asked the hard questions that I would keep dodging in my own mind  the most important of which was the key: "Why not start building that reality you dream of right now?"

Ayesha guided me from the space of being merely a dreamer to a builder by supplying me with a toolbox of tried and tested techniques which allowed me to weave those wisps of imagination into my reality.

Every session provided a sounding board and a mirror for my current progress and the inevitable new ideas that would be unearthed by my work. Ayesha proved to be a source of undying enthusiasm for my success and even when it felt like I had no faith in myself, her excitement in the progress I had already made, gave me a push to keep on trying.

One of Ayesha's greatest gifts is seeing through the haze of self-doubt that you cast around your own feelings and desires and challenging you to stop bullshitting yourself.

My experience is that life coaching gives you back as much as you put into it. It isn't a magic pill that you take which makes everything better. The process involves putting in 110 percent effort to push on. You must be ready to fight for your dreams, even if the adversaries are your family, friends or even yourself.

I can say without reservation that hiring Ayesha has given me the edge that I needed to stop wallowing in the mud and instead slog through it at my own pace, slowly but surely always moving forward.

Through working with Ayesha I have gained a fresh perspective on life. I now look back on my past with eyes looking for lessons, view my present with the gaze of contentment and self-acceptance and see my future through the looking glass of endless possibilities.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Teaching Myself How and When to Pull The Trigger

Saving and frugality is an exercise which naturally lends itself to a period of evaluation before you purchase any object. Weighing the pros and the cons of the item is then followed by shopping around for the best quality and the best price. Finally, any responsible budgeter takes time to check over their spending plan to see when would be the best time to action the purchase.

I call this knowing when to pull the trigger. Timing is everything, especially in finances. You have bills due and income coming in at different periods in the month and it is usually a balancing act to make sure that you stretch your income to last until the next wave of money is scheduled to hit your shores.

The more you plan, the easier it gets to handle the timing of the outflows in your budget. You know how much you can spend and still meet all of your obligations and perhaps cover a few unknowns as well.

Knowing your money situation is a superpower that can lead to guilt-free purchases and no stress over debt. Or that is the theory anyway...

I have found that for me the more I refine my budgeting skills, the harder it gets to pull the trigger even if I know that it will hardly affect my long term financial picture. I was quickly becoming a miser, hoarding bullets just for the heck of it.

Saving as I mentioned before can be quite addictive but one needs to strike a balance to ensure that you are not needlessly punishing yourself. This was were I was falling down.

I had been so discouraged and ashamed by the previous spending habits that were thrown into light by my minimalism journey that I was having a had time distinguishing when I was buying something that would genuinely add value to my life and when I was simply feeding the old spending beast.

My No-Buy November journey showed me that I am capable of exercising extremes but finding the balance in the middle was going to be a real struggle.

My current strategy for dealing with this is that I wrote up a Master List of everything I want to buy in the next year. I was surprised that it wasn't as many things as I thought, and a good few of them have been knocking around in my brain for years now.

My next step was to figure out which of these was most important to me right now. When I did that I was to research the items and if I could budget for it, to do so and to purchase them immediately.

Having done so I am feeling like I stuck my hand in the cookie jar. I am doubting if I am making excuses or if I am after taking positive control of my spending. Your guess is as good as mine, so I plan to simply stay the course and see how it pans out.

I will update my findings in this experiment as it goes along in the hopes that my honesty may help someone else who shares this same problem.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Coldness in Me


In a crystal palace on a high mountain range
I sit on a throne and view the world through a looking glass
Through this looking glass
Everything seems distant and foreign.
Emotions bounce off the walls of my palace and dissipate like a mist,
Leaving me feeing unmoved.

Words of others are like echoes
Wafting through the haunting halls,
Fading before leaving a lasting affect on me

I wonder vaguely when the cold front came
I look at the ice covering my heart
How long has it been there?
Did I build this palace?

This coldness in me
It comes like a season
Thaws with a spring
But eventually
The leaves of enthusiasm and care
Drop from my life like leaves in Autumn

I try to a remember a time when I lived in summer
When I was always vibrant and feeling
I can think of no such time
I was always retreating to my palace
To this place of frozen rivers
And haughty judgements

In this Kingdom of oneness
Settled in to the solace of solitude
I wonder at the briefness of life
And the fickleness of emotion
That depths of love, hurt and pain
Can plummet like a waterfall
To a hundred foot depth
Of silent, calm disdain.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Struggle with my Womb

Disclaimer: If you are offended by talk about a woman's ovaries and all that comes along with that feel free to stop reading. :)

I have always had a very haphazard relationship with my womb and more directly with my ovaries. I can't remember exactly when my menstrual cycle started but I remember that around the age of fifteen or so, it started to disappear for long periods before reappearing suddenly with a vengeance.

The pain and discomfort paired with heavy bleeding made me very glad when it did not come and I couldn't wait to see it disappear again. I was wishing for menopause at the age of 18.

This continued into my adulthood and I finally tested and found out that I had poly-cystic ovaries and all of the symptoms I have always complained of were tied directly into to this.

Now I had something to blame for my suffering, but no real answers on how to fix it. I dislike taking birth control pills because they always made me feel unbalanced and sick.

A series of seemingly unrelated events lead me to a where I am today. My periods are short and the pain I feel is little to none. Of of this I am starting to have a good relationship with my cycle.

The first change I made was switching from the sanitary napkins to using cloth pads. I then moved from cloth pads to a menstrual cup.

I also started to exercise more and eat healthier food. I noticed that exercise caused my period to come on a more regular basis, especially if it was very strenuous exercise and when it did come it only lasted three days when in the past my period lasted six days or more.

It was only in the last two months however that I added in the final step. I started to meditate and focus on healing the pain of my body and bringing myself into balance. In this act of mindful intention, I changed my view of my period and by extension my womb as the enemy and instead started to feel in control of the situation and was able to affect it powerfully and meaningfully.

Through this I realized that my general perception of any medical illness I experienced was that I was being afflicted and that my body was causing me suffering. This mental disconnect from the obvious fact that all of my body, no matter if it was 'malfunctioning' or not, was an extension of my being and worthy of my care and loving thoughts, was casting a haze of negativity.

Lifting that haze allows  me to work with the pain in my body and find solutions to improve any situation. I work together with my womb to make my menstrual cycle an enjoyable experience. It is a time of great intuition and creativity for me now that I am taking the time to tune into my inner spirit instead of being caught up in feeling sorry for myself.

Committing to viewing my health in a holistic way has affected all areas on my life, most notably my finances. I chose this year to budget to allow myself to tackle my health issues head on and after the conventional methods failed, I keep looking and I am finding more natural ways to keep my body in balance.

The journey is by no means over, but my ship is sailing with a strong wind in her sails.

Friday, December 5, 2014

What I Learned from No-Buy November

When November 30th rolled around it also marked the end of my month of spending austerity, No-Buy November.


To celebrate this accomplishment I have decided to compile a list of all the things I learned about myself during the month.

  • I have a weakness for french fries and hot chocolate mocha.
  • When you start paying attention to the little things you usually waste money on, you automatically start to question everything you spend money on, even the essential things, like bills.
  • Saving money is addictive.
  • If you give a want enough time to sit in your thoughts before you run out and satiate it, you often come up with a better solution or realize that you prefer something else.
  • You can't put a dollar value on peace of mind.
  • If you replace one thing you crave with something else, the craving will grow and seem to get larger. If you stick it out though, you can defeat that feeling.
  • Self control is tough work.
  • Laziness coupled with convenience is the most popular money sink.
  • Home cooked meals are usually twice as satisfying as take-away.
  • I get very motivated by challenges.
  • If I take a snack to work with me I am less likely to buy anything extra.
  • Meal planning and cooking in advance are essential to maintaining a healthy diet.
  • When you buy only the freshest components for your meals, your grocery bills comes down. Canned/packaged food is typically more expensive.

I am looking forward to carrying out this exercise again in 2015, but even before then I will be using what I learned from this one, to improve my spending habits over the coming year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Learned about Habits

After my bout of chikungunya, I had two weeks of vacation which became my period of convalescence. I felt that this fortnight was a chance for a fresh start.

To aid in this reset, I chose specific habits that I hoped would serve as a building block for greater successes in the future.

I downloaded several productivity apps on to my Iphone so I could compare them and see which I liked best. I set up my habits on each interface and started to make time in my day for them, which was easy because I was on vacation.

The real test would come when I returned to work but to my delight, I managed to keep these habits going even when I went back on shift. Encouraged by this, I started to add more habits to my list as my confidence grew with success in the others.

My current list of daily habits are:

  • Brushing my teeth at night
  • Flossing
  • Journaling
  • Yoga/Stretching
  • Visualization & Affirmation
  • Blogging
  • Meditation
  • Knitting
  • Writing a To-do list before bedtime

Habit Chef - Helps me to perfect my Habit Recipe

During this process I stumbled across the podcast Habit Chef, by Kendra Kinnison. She offers simple, practical but very effective changes to make your habit recipe more effective.

She coined the phrase habit recipe, to denote choosing habits that are tailored to helping you to 'cook up' the life you want to create and using tools and techniques that help you implement these habits successfully.

I love this way of thinking because we are all different and each of us will have a different set of habits that will assist us in reaching our goals. We also will have different challenges that hinder us from sticking with a habit.

From her I learned that it is best to start your habits very small, ridiculously small actually. For instance if you want to floss your teeth every night, just commit to flossing one tooth. Doing this will make the habit less difficult to do, by reducing your natural resistance to how hard the task may seem.

Another tip I found particularly powerful was to be very specific in the goals you want to achieve. Knowing why you were trying to put a habit into place, would give you the motivation needed to stick with it.

Kendra also suggested that you tack a new habit on to an old habit that you have already. I used this to start flossing once I had cemented my habit of brushing my teeth and I was pleasantly surprised at the good results I got.

Mind you, I am still only flossing a couple of teeth every night, but each time I do it, I get more comfortable with the process.

Kendra also introduced me to the Lift app for tracking habits. It is the app that I have stuck with out of all the others I have tried, Balanced was a close second.

Lift beat out the competition because it is completely free, you can track as many habits as you like, you can join a habit with a group to have accountability, and you can get props from other members to help you stay motivated.

The Unexpected Side Effect

What caught me off-guard is that putting these new habits in place made me question my existing habits. I noticed that I spent hours playing games on my Iphone or just puttering around in an online loop from Facebook, to the Ravelry forums, then to the YNAB forums - rinse, lather repeat.

At first I accepted these habits as a natural part of my daily routine but as I continued to identify more beneficial habits that would improve my life in ways that are more important to me, I  had to admit that even an hour spent in that on-line loop was severely impacting my ability to make my dream life come into being.

I have to be honest about why I was initially so resistant to admitting that those habits were draining my energy and productivity - If I wasn't doing those things, I wouldn't have any excuses not to tackle my fears and get on with the task of living the life I kept saying that I wanted.

Simply put, I was using that loop as a distraction and hiding from my to-do list. Although I do get some value from those activities, I have to strictly limit the time I spent on them.

This is the next frontier for me in my habit journey, controlling my time online and putting my energy where it is most needed.

The most useful habit I have picked up so far, turns out to be the habit of frequently and honestly accessing my life and making changes to what is no longer serving my higher purpose.

Also taking time to define my purpose gave me with the drive I need to push through with a habit even on days where I feel lackluster.

And a good woman too.

Final Words on Habits

What they say about adding new habits to your life is very true. If you stick with it, it does start to become second nature. Now whenever I think of going to bed, my next thought is that I need to brush my teeth.

In the past I would remember when I was already between the sheets, and the resistance to getting up and doing it was much greater. I lost that battle more times than I care to admit.

I have learned that by intentionally creating habits that will lead me to where I want to go, I can slowly, but surely, create my ideal future.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Bajan Minimalist: Part Two

Part Two: The Purchase Embargo

After taking time to reflect on my past habits I recalled periods of great purges but also periods of great purchases. Often the two were happening in tandem, which meant that I always ended right back where I started, neck deep in clutter.

I knew that in order to maintain a clutter free life, I needed to balance the two processes to maintain my perfect level of item ownership.

Budgeting slowed down my purchases but they had not stopped entirely. Instead of buying things in a lump sum, I was buying things in a trickle, but eventually it still added up.

The point of my minimalist journey was to only have objects in my life that were necessary and added value; I was not going to hold on to anything that did not fit those descriptions.

What I had to do to achieve my final goal was to stop purchasing unnecessary items entirely and so I resolved to only replace objects that wore out or stopped working.

That seemed easy enough until I realized that my habits did not bear that out. It took conscious effort not to be drawn in by sales. My old spendthrift reared its head, seemingly threatened by the idea of not buying anything new and my stubbornness simply gave it more voice.

I had to take my own advice, unsubscribing from the few remaining retail sites that had survived the first cut.

I also used my purging to silence it: It was my way of saying 'See how much things we have that we are now trying to get rid of? Why would you want to add more to that?"

Eventually I was able to calmly ignore sales but the struggle was eye opening. It highlighted that I still believed that the acquisition of things could add emotional value to my life, although logically I knew better.

It remains an uncomfortable realization and I am still in the process of self-exploration. I am however grateful that it has been uncovered at a time when I am willing and equipped to handle the honesty that is necessary to come to terms with it.

The positives of the purchase embargo are that as I continue to challenge myself to identify what is necessary and what are meaningless extras, I continually refine my personal style and leave lots of room for myself to grow.