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Archive for July, 2011

Today is the last day of the seventh month of my Happiness Project for 2011.   

To recap, I chose to focus on Doing What Ought to Be Done. My resolutions for the month were to:  

  • Donate blood
  • Register to become an organ donor
  • Donate money to a cause
  • Sponsor a donkey
  • Replace my incandescent light bulbs with CFL’s
  • Buy a collapsible reusable bag to keep in my purse
  • Go vegetarian for one day each week
  • Program my thermostat
  • Get rid of all my excess stuff…responsibly
  • Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
  • Create an emergency kit 

This month proved to be a lot more work than I had initially thought. It sure does take a lot of time and effort to do the ‘right thing’.

Donate blood

It makes me very sad to report that I was unable to donate blood this month. As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I have been battling some sort of cold/flu/crappiness for this entire month. Since I am not allowed to donate while feeling sick and/or tired, I haven’t been able to book an appointment yet. This resolution is very important to me though and I will definitely be donating blood as soon as I feel 100%. 

Register to become an organ donor

This I was able to do and doing it made me feel soooo happy! Although it didn’t take any effort at all, and technically I haven’t really done much (as I haven’t actually saved a life or anything) it was still a huge mood booster! I highly recommend that everyone does this; not only could you save up to 8 lives but you get a fantastic “pat on the back” feeling for doing the right thing.

Donate money to a cause

I took awhile to get to this goal as I couldn’t decide what to do with my money. Do I donate x amount of dollars to one charity or do I divide it between a number of charities? Which charities do I want to support? Obviously they are all worthy causes but what really speaks to me personally? 

Since I already donate to the local humane society on a monthly basis and I gave money to the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (see below) I felt that I needed to broaden my charities to one that wasn’t necessarily saving animals. After spending hours searching for charities online, I chose to give my donation to Canadian Tire Jumpstart

Jumpstart provides funds for disadvantaged kids to participate in organized sports and recreational activities. What I really liked most about this program is that parents can’t just sign up for it (thus eliminating the possibility of people taking advantage of the program). The kids that get funded are ones that are found through volunteers working through local chapters (ie: Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Canada, YMCA etc). These community leaders discreetly identify financially disadvantaged children that might benefit from the program. Once identified, Jumpstart will grant up to $300 per child per season for whatever activity/sport they want.

I chose this charity over all the other equally worthy causes because of my husbands’ poor upbringing. As a child he had always wanted to play ice hockey but his parents could never afford it. Now at 31 years old, he has finally started playing and is happy as a clam! Because of this I felt that this Jumpstart charity was the perfect cause to support. 

Sponsor a donkey

I am very happy to report that I finally stepped up and made the call to sponsor my sweet little donkey…well, actually, she isn’t technically a donkey, she is a beautiful little mule named Ginger. On Friday I received my official sponsor certificate as well as an adorable picture of Ginger that is now proudly hanging on my fridge. 🙂 

Replace my incandescent light bulbs with CFL’s

As I mentioned in my update, my husband and I replaced 20 of our incandescent bulbs with CFL’s. Although some of them don’t produce as good a quality of light as the old bulbs (we purchased a few “white” lights instead of the “yellow” lights as they were cheaper), I’m still very happy that we will start to save money on electricity and we can carry on with our day knowing that we took one small step to make this world a better place.

Buy a collapsible reusable bag to keep in my purse

I was lucky enough to find an adorable little black polka-dot bag at the Scenic Caves gift shop, of all places. I didn’t even notice them at first but since my observant mom was with me, and reads my blog, she knew that I had been looking for one and pointed it out to me. Now it is living a nice life in the bottom of my purse just waiting for the day it can unroll and spring to life to carry my newly purchased belongings.

Go vegetarian for one day each week

I have been sticking to this for the whole month (even sometimes going vegetarian for two days out of the week). Although my meals still aren’t all that creative (egg salad sandwiches or toast with peanut butter for lunches and pesto pasta, grilled cheese or vegetable fajitas for dinner) I’m making a point to include a vegetarian option when buying groceries each week. I can’t say that I’m feeling any healthier but I do feel that I’m making a conscious effort to take a step in the right direction.

Program my thermostat

Hmmm, well I can honestly say that although this was a good idea, I really shouldn’t have resolved to do this. I knew at the time I didn’t feel like looking for and reading an instruction manual but I believed that setting it as a goal would make me do it. I was wrong. I’m so not a manual girl, I don’t like reading technical stuff nor do I want to learn how to program a thermostat. So for now, until my husband (hopefully) does it for me, I will just keep the temperature set high and suffer in the heat in an effort to save some electricity.

Get rid of all my excess stuff…responsibly

I still have a bit more stuff to physically get rid of but I have made a lot of progress on this goal. Between friends, co-workers and strangers on Kijiji, I have been able to give away a lot of “stuff” (PS2 games, DVD’s, CD’s, a lamp, a teddy bear, scrapbook magazines etc). I have also donated 5 pairs of old glasses and sunglasses to One Sight, a big box of “construction” stuff to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and a bunch of old dishes to Goodwill. I also recycled some old electronics responsibly by dropping them off at an official e-waste recycler. I still have more stuff to get rid off but I’m currently just waiting and watching the Wanted section of Kijiji hoping to find someone in need of what I have.

Get a Rescue Alert Sticker

I looked everywhere for one of these darn stickers. I couldn’t find any online that would ship to Canada, our local humane society didn’t carry them and I had no luck at the first two pet stores I tried. However, the third pet store did carry a Rescue magnet. It’s not as good or as big as the Rescue Alert sticker I wanted, plus I had to add “x2 and a cat” in black marker after “Please rescue my dog” but it will do the trick.  

Create an emergency kit

I don’t know if any of you out there have created an emergency kit for yourselves but it’s a LOT of work! I can’t believe how much stuff you’re supposed to keep available. Just for my husband, our pets and I, we are supposed to have over 24 liters of water (plus an additional 12 liters for cooking/cleaning). Add that to the 3 days worth of canned food, can opener, flashlight, batteries, candles, matches. radio, blanket, keys, cash….plus all the pet supplies, it makes for a very, very large kit. I don’t have the kit fully constructed yet but I do have the basics ready to go if an emergency did occur. We’ll be happy little campers eating our cold Zoodles and Beefaroni for the next 72 hours. 😛

Although this month was aimed more at getting certain tasks done instead of creating new behaviours, I still felt that these goals gave me a big boost of happiness. Most of these definitely took work and time but the good you feel from doing the right thing is definitely worth the effort.

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Quote of the Week

“The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do.” ~ Author Unknown

*This is my mom, completely terrified…but doing it anyway! Way to go mom!!!*

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This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass” has become my motto lately as I fight through this ridiculous “evil virus/bacteria/monster infection” or whatever I have right now. I have been feeling completely whipped for the last month. I am exhausted every day, even if I get a great night’s sleep. I’m feeling weak and achy, my nose is stuffy and my head is pounding. Mostly though, I’m bitter. I’m angry that my body has let me down.  I’m angry that I can’t enjoy my regular activities because I’m worn out. I’m angry that this “cold” has lasted so damn long because my crappy immune system sucks! Mostly though, I’m angry that I’m letting this get the better of me. 

I spent that last number of years feeling like crap. My symptoms eventually got so bad that I could no longer wash my hair without my arms getting fatigued. I had to lay down for a nap after even the mildest exertion. I spun along a very dangerous downward spiral and often played with depression on my bad days. I had quit all my activities and had surrendered to a life of sedentary existence.

Until one day, a co-worker of mine suggested I go for live blood analysis. With one quick appointment I had my diagnosis and was on my way to a naturopath for treatment. Ten months later (last month) I was on top of the world! I had never felt so good in my life (or at least as long as I can remember). I started running (I even made it 7km in one run). I begin new projects and hobbies. I was full of energy and I kicked depression’s butt out the door. I was unstoppable…until this damn cold. 

With all these old symptoms appearing once again, I feel hopeless. I feel discouraged. I feel like my old crappy depressed self and it makes me so angry! I worked so hard and so long to get better! Why is this happening again? What did I ever do to deserve this?

And then I stop.

As I feel the anxiety rising in my chest, as my heart rate increases and the discouraging feelings begin again, I take a deep cleansing breath and count to five. 

Inhale…1…2…3…4…5. Exhale….5…4…3…2…1 

I clear my mind of the woe-is-me-I’ll-never-be-healthy-again thoughts and remind myself that this too shall pass. 

If I could recover from my string of poor health before than I can surely beat this little “cold”. 

After all, I am unstoppable.

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“As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily.  The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.” ~ Terri Guillemets

This week I am grateful for…

  • awesome free stuff from the region. We were lucky enough to receive a free reusable bag filled with “green bin” compost bags plus three coupons for $1 off our next purchases of compost bags. I love free stuff!

  • the most adorable, creepy, realistic cat knick knack I found at the zip line gift shop. So weird and yet too cute! It even has a little button on the bottom that emits an annoying, hilarious meowing noise when you press it.

  • local corn on the cob. Yum Yum!

  • my new doctor. My old doctor retired last year and we were sent to this new doctor chick who just sucked. She laughed at me, refused to listen to me or believe anything I said and actually made me cry once. A couple of months ago, my mom, siblings and I were able to transfer to another doctor and I had my very first appointment with her yesterday. I am very happy to report that she is just fabulous. The whole staff there is awesome.

  • rain. The last few weeks have been extremely hot, humid and sunny which I love but unfortunately the grass and flowers don’t. Today it rained for the first time in what seems like forever and all the plants got a much needed shower and drink of water. **If you love hearing the rain as much as I do, click here

What are you thankful for?

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If someone asked you for just one simple piece of advice to live a happy life, what would you say?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and besides the obvious like find a job you love, follow your passions etc, I think I would tell someone to Prioritize Your Happiness. By that I mean make time for the things that matter and stop wasting your time on the things that don’t. 

I was recently telling a workaholic friend of mine about my zip line adventures. He was really interested in the whole Eco tour and said numerous times that he would love to do something like that. I told him to go ahead and do it, because, really, why not? If you want to do it, just do it! His response was “maybe someday…”

The next day I jokingly asked him if he had booked it yet and he once again put it off saying that he wishes he could do it but it’s just not an option right now. I said “with that attitude you’re going to be on your deathbed still wishing” and all he did was shrug his shoulders and gave in to the fact that this was the way his life was and he had no control over it. 

Hold that thought! Let me tell you, you most certainly DO have control over the path your life follows. YOU, and you alone make the choices. You choose what job to work and if you work overtime each and every day. You choose to spend your little free time vegging in front of the TV or constantly checking your Blackberry. You choose to put work before your family, friends and your own personal needs and wants. It is all you, and you alone. 

The good news is that your life doesn’t have to be this way any more. 

Because you get to make all the choices around here, you can choose to follow your dreams. To do all the things you love to do. To spend time with friends and family. Or maybe, finally, book that zip line tour. The choice is yours. 

So stop making excuses. Stop trying to blame your miserable life on other people or poor circumstances. Stop putting off your happiness and start living your life! Sure, I know you need to pay the bills, so yes, you may need to put a good 40+ hours a week toward a job you may not prefer but that doesn’t mean you have to allow that misery to consume your entire world. You can always look for a new job. And in the meantime, while you’re waiting for the dream job to appear, make time for the things that are important on your off hours. You have vacation days. You have holidays and weekends. And you have evenings that are all for you! So start enjoying them!

If you are choosing to put work first because you truly love it and you’re happy with that decision, that’s great, but if you are waking up each day miserable, wishing you were someone else, than you are not prioritizing your happiness. Put yourself first for once. Put happiness first and go do the things you love. 

We only get one chance to live this life, why are you wasting it?

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Being Kind

Below is a beautiful, powerful post on being kind by linnaea bohn (found on tinybuddha.com). Her story about the woman and the dog is especially heart-warming.

Being Kind When It’s Seen as a Weakness

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson

When I worked in the corporate world, I didn’t focus on a race to the top. I enjoyed the day-to-day work of running a product line, finding opportunities for new markets, and helping managers in other countries launch similar lines tailored to their markets.

My approach was to be ethical in all aspects of the work, to have concern for the people I was working with to achieve results, and to share the credit appropriately. This was not the latest “management style,” nor was it proven.

The most senior managers saw the bottom line increase and gave me more responsibility and a promotion, while immediate supervisors discredited me since I was not like them.

A transfer to Asia fortunately took me out of the quagmire of home office politics. I felt the freedom to continue managing in a way that was natural to me: to encourage my teams with kindness, cooperation, and credit while we increased market share and the bottom line.

My staff felt safe and enjoyed their work. The division prospered.

However, my immediate superior didn’t value my approach. He viewed it as a sign of weakness that I was caring and thoughtful, and that I cooperated and shared with each colleague. 

Even though I had added millions to the bottom line, I lost my job, my career.

When I’d started an MBA years before, I’d dreamed of changing the world in some significant way by helping others. There was no major in that, so I did an independent major: marketing for not-for-profits. 

It was hard to find a job after graduation, since arts organizations in the mid 1970s didn’t see the need to hire an MBA. I realized that if I wanted to share knowledge and skills to change the world in some way, and do it while being kind, I had to go solo.

I went on a solo trek to the Himalayas to clear my mind and spent a month meditating at a small monastery near Kathmandu. I then journeyed to India for a healing purification retreat.

Months later at a Buddhist initiation, I heard the Boddhisattva vows. They were about putting others before self, being kind, keeping’s one’s word, and more. I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt like I’d come home. 

I wanted to put those vows into practice in a practical way. At first I thought I would return to Hong Kong as an entrepreneur and send my earnings to Tibetans to start refugee schools. I learned, however, that it would be more beneficial to help refugees create opportunities for work. So I did.

I made the Himalayas my home, and volunteered to help Tibetan refugees develop small enterprises based on their skills and suited to their temperament and culture. This way they could become economically self-sufficient, eliminating the need for charitable donations.

My neighbors in the village where I lived were Punjabi widows—refugees themselves, without any income. Yet they could knit well. I helped them turn their lives around by teaching them designs, colors, and sizes that were in style. I also showed them how to sell these sweaters locally on their own.

It felt so natural to be kind and help others there. Kindness was a way of life for many. 

A story that comes to mind involves a woman and a dog. 

Dogs that are not used as shepherds in the Himalayas are feral. They look for scraps and fight a lot. People are terrified of the packs.

One day I heard a puppy whimpering. Village children, who had taken it as a temporary toy, helped me retrace their path to place the pup near a sibling. The mother dog came out of hiding to wash and feed the pup. Her bony body somehow produced milk for five puppies. 

From that day I cooked brown rice and eggs for her, concerned that she herself would starve from feeding them. I would leave the food near the home she’d dug for her family under a log in a small wooded area. 

One day that spring there was a long, slow snowstorm that prevented me from feeding her. 

At daybreak the next day I placed some food near her shelter, but she didn’t come out. I waited and then slowly approached the hole. There was a snow-covered burlap sac covering the mouth of the shelter, but not one dog. Someone had been kind to protect the family from the storm, but the dogs were gone. 

As I walked though the small woods looking for them, I noticed a house. A woman came to the door. Using hand signs and imitating the whimpering sounds of pups, I asked if she had seen the dogs.

She took me by the hand to a tiny abode. On the veranda of this one room structure was a woman cooking a small copper pot of rice on a stick fire. Around the fire were the mom and pups, lying comfortably and soaking in the warmth. The woman’s own children and husband were inside under a blanket on the single rope cot. 

This frail bodied woman from Rajastan, in her thin cotton sari and shawl, shared her family’s only pot of rice with the dog family.

She and her husband were day laborers, carrying boulders on their heads as roads were being excavated through the mountains. 

They earned less than a dollar a day for their combined work. In a bare room with a doorway as the only opening, they lived with clothes suited for the 120 degree heat of the desert, eating one meal a day. 

This woman unflinchingly shared her food with this female dog and her puppies. She didn’t have much to give, but that didn’t stop her from giving what she could. 

I had come to India to help others, with a vision to change the world in some small but significant way. Yet without intent, education, or desire, this woman changed my life in a very significant way. Her instinctive kindness that received no appreciation, let alone results or rewards, softened my heart. 

I see that being a kind human has value in any walk of life. This is what I took with me into future work. Even though I many not be the manager other people want me to be, I am valuable in any organization because I am kind.

I care about the people who work around me. I care about each individual client, customer, and colleague. This may not be a prerequisite for a successful career, but it’s my prerequisite for a successful life.

Each kindness changes the world. Being kind is what makes my world significant. 

Whatever values you hold dear—whether it’s kindness, gentleness, calmness, or honesty—live it. Be it, even if the people around you don’t seem to value the same things; especially if the people around you don’t seem to value those things. That might be the very reason you came into their lives

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37. Participate in a ‘Get Out of Your Comfort Zone” adventure day each month for an entire year (2/12)

Adventure host: me

Adventure activity: Scenic Caves Eco Adventure Tour

Adventure location: Collingwood, Ontario

Adventure date: July 24, 2011

Adventure time: 8:30am

Additional info: wear running shoes or hiking boots

On Sunday, my mom and I completed our second adventure day for my “Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone” project. Since my mom hosted the last adventure, horseback riding, it was my turn to come up with our exciting activity. I chose  the Scenic Caves Eco Adventure.

We started our day by waking at 5am. A 2 hour drive, a bathroom break and a Tim Horton’s stop later we arrived at the Scenic Caves in Collingwood, Ontario. We began our adventure by signing our lives away on their heavy duty waiver. We then got fitted with a fancy harness with ropes and carabineers, a totally nerdy helmet and got the big weigh-in before heading out to our “intro meeting”.

Our 3 hour Eco tour started with a walk across a 410 foot suspension bridge overlooking a 10,000 square kilometer view of Collingwood and Georgian Bay. The bridge was completely unsteady, swaying back and forth as you walked along it (with the added help of our tour guide throwing his full body weight into it to get it moving really far).

The view was simply spectacular though and the fear of constantly losing your balance was a nice introduction to what was awaiting us at the next stop…

We hopped on a little tractor and wagon ride for a trip up through the forest to the starting point of the treetop walk. High among the 200 year old oak trees, up to 60 feet above the ground, were sixteen10-inch wide bridges (aka wood planks) suspended up in the treetops travelling 600 meters across the forest.

Not only were we dealing with a very small platform to walk on, the obvious height apprehension, but to top it all off, these “bridges” were only held up by suspended cables so they swayed all over the place causing us to constantly readjust our balance and hope for the best.

The first bridge was only about 15 feet off the ground but as we went from bridge to bridge, the angle continued to rise so by the end we were up 60 feet in the air, balancing on the little swaying planks.

After the sixteenth bridge we arrive at a small platform where we got to enjoy a ride on a 330 foot zip line through the trees. The instuctor hooked us up to the cable above, told us to climb down the ridiculously steep stairs and then told us to simply step off the stair into thin air. Seriously?!? I honestly didn’t think I would be able to jump off by myself. Doesn’t that go against human nature? Who does that?!?

Well I did it and I loved every second of it! It was so much fun!!! After that first step (or in my case, the big “push-off”), we were thrown through the air at such a fast pace that we were at the end before we even knew what happened. All we could say was “Awesome, can I go again?!?”

After everyone else in the group had their turn on the wicked-sweet zip line, we all loaded up in the tractor wagon again and were taken to the Scenic Caves Lookout Point where you can see forever! The view was simply amazing!

After that we headed down into the caverns and crevasses below where we could see trees and rare ferns growing right out of the rocks!

All that was pretty nifty but I was ready to move onto the very scary, very awesome big finale! The 1000 foot long zip line from the top of the Niagara Escarpment was just calling my name! As if the looming drop wasn’t enough to scare the pants off of you, they had to place this sign next to the jump point, just for some added hilarity!

My mom almost chickened out on this jump but I made sure to pester her enough to get her to go. And go she did…

Next, it was my turn and I was soooo ready! On the count of three…3…2…1 JUMP! And there I am sailing safely to the ground after one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life! Best. Day. Ever!

Overall, this was a FANTASTIC adventure. I thought I would be really scared as I am afraid of heights, I’m afraid of free falling and unsteady 10” wide planks are certainly not on my list of “fun activities” but I had a frickin’ blast!!!!!!!! I am most definitely going to do this again…hopefully sometime soon! 😀

Adventure day #2 = Success!

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