Archive for ‘Parenting’

August 4, 2011

3 Bucks For Retirement

It’s one latte or 0.000005% of my retirement savings.

Today, doing some casual work I was able to earn $30 cold hard Canadian cash. I know that’s probably what you spent on lunch today but such is my life, for today, and I accept that. Yesterday I made a commitment to you all that I would begin to “pay myself first” by taking ten percent off the top off all of my earnings for savings. In my example, I used $50 with my savings being $5.  The universe decided to see how serious I was with my commitment today by starting me off with an even smaller example. Ah universe, always a card.

It’s Party Time

I am here to say that my whopping $3 has been transferred to the ashtray in my car (Do new cars even have ashtrays?) to ensure that it is not spent inadvertently. I was kind of hoping for balloons and confetti and party hats in my head when I started my savings plan, but I guess that’s always been part of the problem. I shouldn’t need a pat on the back and a great job to take care of myself like a mature adult.

So, the $3 is gone. Out of site out of mind. So as to avoid looks of confusion and perhaps endless giggling, I will wait until I have saved up at least $100 before I open some sort of savings or investment account.

One baby step, one less latte, one day at a time. I can do this.

Peace,

Leslie

August 3, 2011

Piggy-er Bank

I recently posted about how I am going to start taking aggressive action to address financial MEbucket of my life. I thought it was important to take some immediate action, even though I am not working yet, and cash flow is virtually non-existent. There is something to be said for having the framework in place before you start and it is in this spirit that I take step one.

Many years back, likely around the time of its first printing around 1989, I read the book The Wealthy Barber and like most that read it, was immediately inspired. I connected in this book in a very real way, but like many other things in life my approach was that I would start taking the books recommended actions “tomorrow.” Well this is tomorrow.

The biggest thing that sticks out in my head from when I read David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber is “pay yourself first.” This is something that immediately resonated with me, especially because I had seen it in action in my own life. For a time, I was paying into an RRSP that I paid to before I paid any other items; before bills, before entertainment, and before life’s other necessities. Like “Roy” says in the book, you adjust your life to this not being a part of your cash flow and for all intents and purposes it disappears. The great part of course is that it doesn’t disappear, in reality you are saving, making money off interest and growing your financial independence.

Starting today, I am paying myself first. Ten percent right off the top. This is pretty hard to do when you are taking in virtually no income, but I can do it. For now, if I make $50 bucks, $5 is going into my virtual piggy bank for now. Once it’s in my “MEbank” it’s no longer available for ongoing expenses and can only be used for my retirement. Once I have a few bucks there, I will open an RRSP and keep the savings going that way.

As a guy with black and white thinking, this is something that I would definitely struggle with in the past. What’s the point?? If I can’t save something substantial, why bother. Why not wait until my income improves? That logic has brought me where I am today and it’s time for a little more colourful thinking. For now, I will do what I can, when I can do more, I will do more.

Novel concept.

Peace,

Leslie

July 18, 2011

Just Get There

Monday Morning Blah’s

Monday mornings have never been great for me. I have never let them hold me back but I certainly need to give myself an extra kick in the butt to get going. This morning was worse than I have seen in some time in that respect. I just did not want to drag my sorry behind out of bed this morning. Fortunately there were two things that helped get me up and make it happen.

The first was a commitment I had made to take my daughter out to the house I swim at to go horseback riding. The remarkable family there has been making an effort to get my daughter on the horses to learn how to ride and take care of them.  Their 15 year old daughter had offered to give her a lesson this AM and there was no way that I or she was going to let me miss that opportunity. So that would have at least got me to the house.

2-4-6-8 Who Do we Appreciate!

Knowing that it was possible that I would get to there and choose not to swim, I had to take some specific action to ensure I got my much needed exercise. I reached out to get some support, something that I have been poor at in the past. With an attitude of “I can do it myself” or “I don’t need anyone’s help”, I have often seen my good intentions and will power fade, along with my exercise regimen.  As I am convinced that this time will be different, I needed to take some different action.

I texted a friend and was honest with her about my lack of motivation to do my laps.  Wisely she suggested that I not worry about the laps and just commit to getting to the pool and into the water, that’s it.  She also gave me a little bit of cheerleading! In the end, this was the little nudge I needed to get myself out there and into the pool. A little bit of accountability goes a long way too as I knew she was going to ask me how it went.

I got there, and I got myself into the water to warm up, still not certain that I would begin my laps. I told myself just to do two warm-up laps and see how I felt. As soon as the cool water started to move around me and I started to breathe deeply, I was hooked. It really is such an enjoyable experience to be in the water. By the time 60 minutes came around on my timer, I had to make myself stop I was enjoying it so much.

Short Memory

As I sit here five hours later, I am totally free from pain and completely energized. Why is it so hard to remember that the next day when it’s time to get myself back there? If I could take a picture of how I feel right now, I would never need help getting my butt to the pool, sadly I can’t so I will have to continue to take all the help I can get!

June 29, 2011

Me You and the World

Get Out There!

The coolest things that have come my way as a result of my effort to swim are the changes that I see in some of my current relationships as well as the gift of some new relationships. Putting myself “out there” has fostered a real sense of community in me. I have talked to absolute strangers who have seen my picture on the CBC website and are excited for me and just want to show their support.

I have now had two interviews with Hallie Cotnam and she is not just a great broadcaster and journalist but a really cool person that I have met and feel like I have a connection with. Spending time discussing my story, both the challenges and rewards, makes me feel a bit more understood, a lot more heard, and certainly more connected to the community at large.

Getting emails, blog comments, voice messages, text messages, status update feedback and messages of support and encouragement from across the nation has further connected me to the world around me in a way that is indescribable.  There is a level of honestly and sincerity present that is not typical with people I find. I have opened up, and put information about me out there that I had previously kept mostly to myself; the result is that many people have related to that, and to what I am going through. With the exception of a few jokesters out there, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have noticed that some of my most important relationships have shifted slightly as well. This experience has opened up lines of dialogue with friends and family that haven’t been open in a while due to my depression. Let me be clear, these are lines that I myself closed off, in many ways out of necessity, but slowly I can see them opening nonetheless.

The most important relationship I have, the one with my twelve year old daughter, is perhaps the one that I am most excited about. On the surface there haven’t been a lot of differences, but there is a level of confidence and pride on my part that has been eluding me as of late. I am proud of what I am doing. I feel like I am a good example to her in all of this. I am hopeful that she sees that she can ask for help when she needs it too. One journalist I was recently speaking with used the expression “grabbing the bull by the horns” to describe my effort to put my health first. As a proud vegan, I would never grab a bull that didn’t grab me first, but I get her point!  This is something else that I hope my daughter can glean from this situation.

As is the case with the physical changes I have witnessed, it is a miracle to me to be able to observe the depth of change that has taken place in such a short period of time. Tomorrow I will look at some of the more subtle changes that are taking place in my life, those in the area of my mental health. Until then, I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

PS. Today was a significant milestone in my swimming. I swam for a total of 60 minutes!  This is a good 12 minutes longer than any other time I have swam but it is also important because it is the goal I set for myself when I first got into the water, and the amount of time I will settle at moving forward. This week I have let go of counting laps, and will just focus on the 60 minutes. Moving forward, my goal will be to maximize the number of laps I can do in an hour, pushing myself to better my lap time gradually. Wish me luck!

Peace,

Leslie

June 28, 2011

30 Days Later – Part 1

How We Doin’

As a former business owner and manager it comes instinctively to me to stop frequently through any project and at various milestones to determine what’s working and what’s not working. It’s a perfect time to remove any roadblocks that might hinder continued success.

It has been one month since I first jumped into the pool to start the MElaps portion of my MEfurbishment. I thought it would be as good a time as any to have my first look back to assess how far I’ve come in the first 30 days.

The first thing I did was contemplate the different areas that have been impacted by my starting to swim. There is of course the obvious one, health but upon reflecting on the situation I can see that it goes beyond that. I have seen changes in my physical health as well as my mental health. There are positive things to look at around community, friendships and parenting as well.

Over the next few days I will look at each of these and think about where I have come from and where I am going. Today we will start with the one that most people are most interested in when I bump into them or receive emails, physical health. Here is a quick snapshot of what’s changed in the month.

Physical Health

Improvements

The most obvious change has been in my physical health. It is amazing to me what one month can do for changing your health. I have dropped 11 pounds so far but I know that I have lost more than that in fat. My clothes are fitting much differently and I am reminded each day when I buckle up my pants that there is more going on here than weight loss. I have already moved over four notch holes on the belt in just 30 days! I notice a considerable difference in the muscle mass in my arms, shoulders.

When walking, my steps have started to even out and my limp has reduced slightly. This tells me that my left leg, the one with worst knee is beginning to strengthen as well.  Something as simple as pushing off the wall of the pool at the end of each lap feels different as a result of this exercise too. There is, without a doubt, a much more evenly balanced power in my legs.  It would be great to be able to test my cardio in some way because I can feel a substantial difference in my breathing. The Wii Active 2 does have a fitness test that measures heart rate and recovery, but the test is hard on my knees. With a little more strength in my leg, I may be able to consider doing this test again to be able to measure my cardio improvement.

I know you are wondering how this has impacted things in the bedroom. Well, I haven’t had one leg cramp at night since starting to swim, a common problem before. In addition, my sleeps have been much better when I have slept. Get your mind out of the gutter!

Roadblocks

Swimsuit

Looking back there have been two things that have hindered my improvement this month. My notes from each day show the most consistent hindrance was my bathing suit. Yes, I said my bathing suit, sorry for the visual. While I don’t want to go to the extreme of using a brief style Speedo bathing suit, my current suit is now way too big and actually restricts my movement considerably in the water. Big size bathing suits aren’t cheap so I might try to hem and take in the current one if possible to allow for a little more freedom of movement and allow me to get through the next couple of months before buying a new one.

Counting

My obsession for knowing how many laps I have completed has actually slowed me down in the pool. For the first week or two, I was stopping after each lap to hit the lap timer on my cell phone, I progressed to using a waterproof watch but still found this a distraction. In weeks three and four I stopped timing each lap and just timed my entire swim and counted my laps out loud while swimming. This was definitely an improvement but I still find it to be a disruption. I find my time in the pool doing laps to be quite meditative and I really want to be able to let go of counting and timing altogether but still hold myself accountable.  I decided that this week I will move up to swimming for 60 minutes and just start a countdown timer so I can let go of time altogether. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to be able to come up with a better system for mindlessly counting my laps so I can let go of that too. I even thought of jimmying up a piece of string with close-pins or something that I can just slide at the end of each lap. My inner MacGyver is up to the challenge.

All in all I must say that I am thrilled about how things have gone. I have managed to keep myself from trying to add on 20 laps per day in an attempt to improve beyond what is reasonable and healthy. This is a big step for me, someone who is always looking for instantaneous gratification and results.

In the next post I will look at how my relationships and sense of community have changed since hitting the water. The changes here are perhaps the most rewarding of all and certainly the biggest surprise. Stop by tomorrow and have a read.

Peace,

Leslie

June 22, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

What Is The Question?

Hamlet the pig was even excited about the buzz from yesterday with my second interview on CBC Radio One; even he was cheering me on today when I swam 80 laps!

Once again, I am truly overwhelmed with the response I am receiving to my interview and story with CBC’s Hallie Cotnam. The comments on the CBC follow-up article have been overwhelmingly positive. I have received numerous emails, friend requests, and continue to even get replies to my original article.

I am keeping today’s post brief because sometimes less is more.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support.

Peace,

Leslie

June 21, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

In One Ear

We’ve all heard it before, how important it is to have an attitude of gratitude. It’s one of many slogans and quotations that tend to resonate with us for the moment, and then dissipate quickly.  For me this has a lot to do with practicality. When we hear things like this they usually make us feel a certain way but they do not necessarily produce action of any kind.

How can we take a concept like this that we want to embrace and take steps to incorporate the ideals into our daily reality? There is no easy answer to this question except to say that with each, we need to stop for a moment or two of reflection and determine a practical course of action.  Being grateful for what I have in my life has been something that has eluded me in the past. Not because I am not grateful for these things but because I tend to put more focus, more effort and more resources into what I don’t have.

Gratitude List

The idea here is to just give the things that we have to be grateful for room to sit with us, an equal share of real estate in our brains or in our day. To that end, a tool that I try to use as frequently as possible is to create a gratitude list. While this may seem trivial or silly, those of us who have subscribed to the idea can say without a doubt that it makes a considerable difference in our happiness and ability to live in the moment.

This morning as I was listening to a follow-up interview that I did with Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio One I was overcome with gratitude for the situation that I find myself in. I needed help, I asked for it, I received it in overwhelming quantity and I am now reaping the rewards of putting myself out there. So it goes without saying that when I was writing gratitude list this morning, all those who continue to offer love and support we featured prominently including Amy and Erik, the down to earth couple who have opened their home and their pool to me.

Thank you Amy and Erik!

If you would like to hear the follow-up interview, you can click on the play button below. The original post and initial full interview can be found in my recent post called The Universe Came Through.

Take a few minutes before bed tonight or when you rise in the morning to think about how much you have to be grateful for. I am sure you will surprise yourself, no matter how bad you think things are in your daily grind, as you write you may even notice a little smile or a lower heart rate. Its well worth the five minutes that it takes, trust me.

Peace,

Leslie

June 6, 2011

Weekend For The Soul

What a great weekend!

Friday was a PD day for the school kids in Ottawa so that meant a day off and in essence, a long weekend spent with my daughter. Awesome! The owner of the home where I swim suggested my 12 year old was welcome to join me at the house swimming and even cooler, invited us to come out later in the weekend to show her the horses as well. I gladly took her up on both of these offers.

Play Like A Kid

After some much needed rest and a lazy morning sleeping in, we headed out to the pool and hit the water. I had explained to my daughter that I needed to do my laps first and then we could frolic about after that. While it was a slight distraction to have someone in the pool while I was doing my laps it paled in comparison to the fun that we had when I had finished the “exercise” portion of the swim. Once I was done we grabbed a foam football and started to toss it back and forth to each other making dramatic dives for the catch. We invented our own little game had a best 2 out of 3 series. What a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We laughed hard and made fools of ourselves for about an hour, but it felt like only minutes has passed. The focus was not on the exercise but we were getting some nonetheless. It was a great start to the weekend.

Just Say I Do

Friday evening I had the pleasure of witnessing some dear friends of mine “tie the knot.” It was a great wedding and the entire evening was filled with more laughter, moments of intimacy, and a real sense of what is important in life. Family, friends and time spent connecting and celebrating with those that are important to us. While the numbers fell as the evening progressed there were several of us who kept the party going. We were further rewarded when we were able to be a part of some even more special moments during the after party at a local pub, and the late-late night or early-early morning breakfast at a local diner. Highlights included the father of the bride showing up at the pub unannounced to fanfare, and who will ever forget the spontaneous applause in the jam packed diner when the bride arrived in her stunning dress. Unforgettable!

Horse-Play

Sunday brought moments of joy that any parent can relate too. As my daughter and I drove out to the ranch to meet the horses and the awesome family who lives there, I could sense her anxiety. Understandably, meeting new people at the best of times is can be awkward and stressful. Throw in the circumstances by which our two families have met (my swimming pool ad), and finally the apprehension about perhaps sitting on or riding a horse for the first time and you have a potpourri of emotions tugging in all directions.

Our hostess did a fantastic job of easing my daughter into the process. She started with introducing the horse, explaining a little bit of his history, then moved into the grooming of “Spider”. Together they cleaned the coat, the hooves, and saddled the horse with a focus on safety, both for the horse and the rider. Next, sitting on the horse, feeling Spider’s movements and tendencies, being lead on the horse with myself and another on either side of the horse, and then finally actually riding, steering, starting stopping and instructing the horse on her own. I was completely amazed in the transition. What I witnessed was a microcosm of how gaining confidence works. Her demeanour from beginning to end was truly night and day to see as an outsider. By the time she was done, she was beaming, sitting tall with confidence and looking each of us in the eye just a little bit more.

Leave it to a twelve year old to reiterate to me what continues to need being reiterated. When we come upon a challenge in life we have two choices, the safe easy way or the challenging, sometimes stressful path that is inevitably more rewarding. She reminded me that I have been doing that myself! When I say to her “you must be so proud of yourself for putting yourself out there,” it reminds me that I too should be proud. I am proud. I can only hope that along the way I will try to continue to take the next step in putting myself out there. With that, there will continue to be substantial rewards and endless learning.

Last night our weekend wound down surrounded by family and extended family enjoying a meal together. A fitting end to a weekend for the soul. A glass of wine, a cold beer, some great conversation and the sound of kids giggling in the background.

It really doesn’t get much better as far as weekends go. I need to remember that it didn’t take a flight, a reservation, or a new gadget to bring the contented feeling that this weekend brought. There is no reason why I can’t do it again next weekend.

Actually, there is no reason that I can’t find a way to do it today, right now.

Peace,

Leslie

June 4, 2011

The Ride of Your Life

Article first published as The Ride of Your Life on Technorati.

This Too Shall Pass

We’ve all been there. One minute things are chugging along like a well-oiled machine and the next, it seems like we’re spinning our wheels in mud. This is part of life and it always will be, just part of the natural order of things. Many of us are cursed with a short memory when it comes to self-awareness. When we are in a high, we forget that a low is just around the corner and the same is true in reverse. We can just as easily be stuck in the mud and forget that we will eventually find our way out. We may have to try again and again, we may need to ask for help, but “this too shall pass” as the saying goes.

Our good friend Forrest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get.” While I would never dare to counter Mr. Gump, I would add that there are times occasionally that you have a pretty good idea what’s coming next. When things are a struggle, there will inevitably be a shift, even if only in perception or acceptance and then for a time, things will be better. The opposite is true as well. You can be sure that if you are kicking butt and taking names, there is mostly certainly a challenge of some sort just around the corner.
Roller Coaster Climb
Let’s use the much used analogy of a roller coaster. When we are working our way up the incline at the beginning, taking steady steps in our daily lives we can see progress. We are working towards our goals and dreams and have a clear destination in mind. Once we reach the top, the view is absolutely amazing; it feels like we are floating for a time, gratification and joy are in abundance as the car slides through a few little exciting dips and turns. What you can’t see at that point is that there is a dramatic drop ahead. One in which you will lose all sense of yourself, and around you there will be noise, emotion and confusion. During this fall, things seem unbearable for an instant that seems like an eternity -a seemingly endless plunge. Finally, eventually you reach the bottom and are thrust back upwards in relief. It’s quite a ride isn’t it?

Hold On Tight

The thing is, once we have been on this ride a few times we do start to become familiar with it. You’ve seen the caution signs though; you need to stay seated even during the uncomfortable parts. It’s not advisable to try and get off the ride. In fact it could mean disaster! We can prepare ourselves though for some of the turbulence that we are not looking forward to. Just taking a pause to be aware and in the moment can mean all of the difference. Not being caught off guard seems to help keep things more manageable. When we’re in the midst of our fear and the wheels seem to be falling off our carts, we can take a moment to remember that this feeling always happens and invariably it is followed up by some reprieve.

Chill Out!

We need to chill out and enjoy the ride for what it is. We can’t control it. The ride will go where the ride will go. We convince ourselves that we have it under control with our Day-Timer’s and iPad’s and Blackberry’s but what we are really doing is making a best guess. We can only control our own attitudes. We can do our best to anticipate then have fun with the unexpected, or we can convince ourselves of a fantasy and be disappointed at every turn.These are the only choices we have.
 
What will you choose?
 
Peace,
Leslie
May 19, 2011

Enough Wise Ideas

The Execut(ion)er

I’m a great starter. It’s always been one of my strengths to come up with big ideas. I do great research, I plan well, I create custom forms of tracking and accountability and then I get at it. Occasionally this gets me into trouble.  After the high of all the strategy and planning wears off, I am left with delivery. Execution. Monotony.

It is clear to me today that this is a short sited view when I quickly forget why I had the big idea to begin with. There was something I wanted to manifest in my life, some goal I wanted to reach, or some problem I want to solve. Without the execution of the plan true MEfurbishment will never happen. This is the insight I had when I was meditation this morning.

Happy Life

I have had lots of ideas and lots of plans lately and I want to make sure I take stock of my progress but also remember where I am heading with all of this. I want to MEfurbish my life. My buckets are clear and my plans are made. That is not to say that this are rigid or unchangeable but rather that I must not allow myself to become distracted. I am aiming for good health, good relationships, and a happy life.

All this is to say that the tone of is moving out of an ideas phase and into an action phase and this is what I will continue to share with you in the weeks ahead. To that end I have added a new widget to my sidebar that shows my weight loss to since I started tracking my food and exercise on myfitnesspal.com

I have a lot to do to move the needle in this and my other buckets before I get back to ideas.

Wish me luck!

Peace,

Leslie