Friday, December 19, 2008

For the holiday season

I'm going to keep this link up as long as I can - because I believe we should donate all year round and not just at the holiday season. If you'd like to donate a dollar or two, please do and let me know in the comments so I can thank you - if you want.

Doctors Without Borders is my favourite charity to donate to. I feel the work they do is priceless and so needed. I believe in taking care of people first. Once we have that covered, we can in turn help the environment and the animals we share our planet with.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remember What Is Precious Amongst All Your Stuff

Most of us have treasured material possessions. In fact, many of us simply have too many! But out of all those things, I'm not going to ask you what you can't live without (you can live without any possessions!) but what would make you very sad if they were lost. What 5 things would upset you the most to lose?

Think hard....

Perhaps a locket that was your great-great grandmother's?
Childhood photographs?
Your iPod?
A particular book?
A celebrity's autograph?
The hat your father wore?

Keep thinking....

Are they things that can be replaced?
Are they tangible or intangible, like memories?

It doesn't really matter. I'm not going to argue one type is better than the other. Nor will I try to convince you that you should give up all your possessions and live in a cave. What I want you to do is become conscious of the value you place on certain things and really evaluate what matters and what you can really live without.

We tend to become very possessive very quickly. If we claim a seat on the bus or subway, we start to become very protective of that space, which actually doesn't belong to us at all! It becomes "my" chair - something I have that others don't. We pause when we have to "give it up" to someone else, though it was never ours to begin with. We do the same thing with material possessions and the longer we own them, the more attached we become. Habits develop and we proclaim that we simply cannot live without them!

While I don't wish this upon anyone, if there was a fire and your house burnt down - your family and pets are fine but nothing physical is left - what would upset you most to lose? Even more importantly - why?

I think, if you sit down and really think about it, you'll realize it isn't hard to see what is really important and that you really can live with a lot less than you think.

When I was a teenager, my school sent us away from home to a ski camp. During that time, we met some other teens, most notably a group of Equadorians. Us girls snuck into their cabin to talk to them. After some stilted conversation, I mentioned I was upset I did not bring my camera with me to remember this moment and one of the young men said it didn't matter, the best camera is the mind.
OK, maybe it was a cheesy line, but honestly, your memories are yours, not to be stolen by anyone. You can't lose them one day while walking to the bank. Even if you are afflicted with Alzheimer's, you still have *some* memories.
Of course, photographs and physical objects help those memories surface and make them more tangible, but they are not 100% necessary.

This whole exercise is just to help you keep things in perspective and become conscious of your possessiveness. If we don't get too attached to things, obviously it won't hurt so much when we lose them, but since we often do get attached, just try to keep in perspective what their loss would mean. Do your best to keep those things safe, but if you do lose them, remember you always have your memories. It's that simple.


Monday, June 16, 2008

The Gift of Time

The first gift we give to others when starting a new friendship/relationship is time. You take time out of your day/week/routine to be with this person, in order to get to know them and nurture the relationship. Time is the most precious gift we can give someone else because it's finite and it passes so quickly. We can't stop it, buy it or take it back, so we make decisions all the time about how we will spend it.

You will often hear people make the excuse, "I don't have time for a relationship, I'm too busy". That may very well be true, but notice them change the minute they meet someone they click with and suddenly, they've found a way to fit the other person into their busy schedule.

The more new a relationship is, the more time it needs. Not that older friendships don't need time, but they can go for longer without requiring tons of investment. Many of us have an old friend we only speak to or see once a month or even once a year, but when we see each other, it's like old times and we pick up where we left off. That's because of all the time invested. A lot of people have friends like this who are from childhood because back then, we had no other distractions to take away from forging strong friendships. As we become adults, we have to deal with adult responsibilities and it becomes harder to spend a significant amount of time making new friendships. It becomes difficult also when we move away from our place of birth.

There is a solution if you are missing that connection (and true friendship is a valuable connection). The aim is to make a conscious effort into putting 100% of yourself into the time you do have with others. This advice goes for everyone, whether you're starting a new relationship or hanging out with an old friend, give of yourself freely and without distractions for whatever short time you have.

This means not taking time for granted. If you are on the phone with a friend, turn off the TV! Turn off the radio. Don't sit in front of the computer. Don't wash dishes. Don't start dusting the shelves. Just sit and talk on the phone and enjoy the conversation. (I know this is difficult if you have small children at home, but try your best and maybe call when they are sleeping.)
Give your full attention (and full time) to the conversation at that moment. I guarantee your friends with notice the attention, even if they can't place what is different.

Same thing if you're having a quick coffee with someone. Make eye contact with the person you are with. Don't distractedly look out the window, or at the newspaper or at the pretty waitress. I know it's hard, but try to be in the moment.

The important thing to remember is that time is precious and most of the other things that distract us from giving our full attention to the people that matter are replaceable.

I stopped at my dad's house this weekend for Father's Day. I had just done my groceries beforehand and had not anticipated staying long. I had milk and ice cream in my car and it was a hot day. Turns out Dad was also hot and wanted his air conditioner installed. Well, it took a bit more time than I thought it would and at some point I thought to myself, "oh dear, my ice cream must be melting in the car!" but I had to stop and think, "well, I can always buy more ice cream. How much time do I have left with my Dad?"

You can't buy another Dad, another friend or another good inside joke. You can't buy those deep belly laughs you have when you talk to your best friend. But you can always buy another container of milk, another newspaper, or another shirt.

Time is short. Spend it doing what matters, with the people who matter to you. Give it all you've got for the short time you've got.
It's that simple :)


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Marriage Advice: Don't Forget to Stop for Gas!

This is the speech I gave at my best friend's wedding, January 27th, 2007:

Katie was born exactly one week before me and for some reason she has done most big things in life before me - except for get married. I did that first, so I wanted to give her some advice.

I once heard a minister say that being married is like driving a car. If you want it to run smoothly, you have to stop every once and a while and put gas in it so it keeps going. You have to do regular maintenance. Well, I wanted to take that a step further - being married is like driving across Canada.

So you start out in the Atlantic provinces. The economy isn't great, the people might not have tons, but they're really friendly. So it's like when you first move in - you might not have everything you need, but you're happy and you make do.

Then you get into QC - there are some big exciting cities, it's fun, but people argue over silly little things like language - so it's like being newly married. You learn about each other's quirks, but you're still having a good time.

Then you get to Ontario. Ontario is huge! It takes two days to drive across it and everything starts to look the same...and the boredom starts to set in. It's all routine by now....

But the Prairies, oh no! So boring. You begin to wonder if you took a wrong turn. Maybe one of you wants to dip into the States to see if there's something more interesting down there. You wonder why you're still driving this way...maybe you should turn back, or maybe even just stop and give up.

But if you stay the course and keep driving, you end up in Alberta. Lots of oil, money...not really excitement, but there's a sense of stability there and you think, whew! we made it....until you get to the border with BC.

Suddenly you're in the Rockies, twisting and turning up and down hills. You can't see the edge of the cliff and you can't see what's coming up next and it's really scary. But in the end, if you take it slowly and have patience you'll get there.

Over the course of your marriage, you will symbolically drive across Canada over and over again. You'll have periods of big city excitement and really boring Prairies, but what will keep you going is always remembering to put gas in the car and having faith in each other; that you're navigating this together and you won't get lost.

You might not always end up on the path you expected, but as long as you love each other, it will be the right one.

Enjoy the ride because it's like no other. And don't forget to stop for gas.


Expressing Gratitude

One thing that can drastically change a gloomy mood is being thankful. People often forget to be thankful. We're all busy people and after we've gotten what we wanted, it's easy to forget how we got it.

The point to being truly thankful is to do it daily and to thank even when things didn't quite go the way you wanted them to. This is hard - I often forget to do this myself, but it's a valuable habit that needs to become more of a habit for more people.

Being thankful is just another way to give and it goes along with receiving. It doesn't have to be elaborate, it just needs to be sincere.

My general rule is: when someone does something for you, whether you asked them to or not, but especially if you asked them, say "thank you". This goes for the waiter who just filled your water glass, even though he is "just doing his job" and it took him 15 minutes to notice your glass was empty. Same goes for your housemate for taking out the garbage each week (and so often we forget to thank our lovers/partners for the little things!).

Another rule I have is: even if you have said thank you in the past to a particular person, you may need to say it again. One reason for this is people often don't hear compliments or thank yous the first time. They might not even hear it the second time. It depends on the person. One might respond better to you saying it in person. If you know the person doesn't take compliments very well, try writing them a card.
I'm not saying you need to bend over backwards trying to use every method possible to express your gratitude, but I am advocating putting at least a little effort in and by all means, not being forgetful or lazy about it.
A hand written card/letter is always lovely. Hand picked flowers are even nicer than store bought. Home baked cookies better than store bought - because it's about the time and effort you put into it. It's the thought that counts!

Never assume that the person "just knows" you are thankful. Let's say you ask to borrow your neighbour's lawn mower every weekend. You've said thanks the first few times and maybe you've invited him/her over for a bar-b-q, you feel, as an exchange. This does not mean you're even and get to stop being grateful. After all, you still haven't bought your own lawn mower. As long as someone is being helpful, you need to keep being grateful.

Here's a little exercise to help you practice gratitude in your daily life:

Stand in front of a mirror: you have a lot to be thankful for. Can't think of anything? Start small. Afterall, you're standing (or maybe sitting, but that's just as good. You have a seat!). You have a mirror! You can see yourself and/or hear yourself. You're breathing!
You are engaging in the act of trying to be thankful and that's a start.
Once you've come up with a few things, say thank you out loud. Thank your hands for all the things they do for you. If your hands don't work so well anymore, thank them for the things they once did. You don't have hands? Thank the next best thing to them! You get the idea.
Once you start there, you can move on to bigger things. Say thanks for your family, health, love, money, sunrises and sunsets, music, absolutely anything. Soon you'll find you won't be able to stop coming up with things to be thankful for.
Just make it a part of your life and I guarantee you'll feel happier. It's just that simple :)


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Ok to Take

Not only do we have to give, we also have to receive, graciously. A lot of people are very humble and this is good, but a lot of people also don't have the self-esteem to receive. This becomes a vicious cycle, because when you never take anything of worth in, you can never improve your outlook on yourself.

Sometimes people just don't know how to receive or feel bad for taking.

It's OK to take. We need balance in the world and our lives and this means that sometimes we need to take. We should not feel guilty about that. It's just part of the ebb and flow of life.

Most people don't have a hard time taking food and drink at a party but have the hardest time taking a compliment or a blessing.

Compliments are precious gifts. When given with sincerity, they give love, acceptance, and respect. Many people's first reaction in response to a compliment is "oh, no no! It was nothing!" They negate it, let it blow over them, instead of absorbing it. I believe words have power. I believe they can fill you with different vibrations. Negative words give you a negative energy and you'll stew and fume for a bit. Positive words give you a positive energy. People will see you glowing and it breeds more positive energy. When you accept and take in positive energy, you will have more to give. Accept only negative energy and that's what you'll give to others and no one likes that.

Make a promise to yourself that the next time someone gives you a compliment, you will take it in. You will pause before saying anything. Maybe make your immediate response non-verbal, like a hug or a smile. Really, we don't *need* to say anything back. Let go of that. You do not need to compliment in return if it is not sincere. You don't need to quickly come up with anything to say. If you say nothing else, you can say "thank you". If that's hard for you to say, practice saying it in front of a mirror and smiling while you do it. You might feel silly, but you may also find that you have a lot to say thank you for.
Really, you don't need to say or do anything. You just need to take it in and let the positive vibes fill you. Let it put a hop in your step and a goofy smile on your face for the rest of the day. It's that simple :)


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You Only Get What You Give

I believe in the loose definition of karma (I'm not going to go into all the religious ideas). I believe you reap what you sow to a great extent; "what goes around, comes around", and all that jazz.
So the best way to get what you want in life is to give it. If it sounds too easy, it is. Let me explain.

Often people will complain their boyfriend doesn't buy them flowers and they really want flowers. Now there are a number of things you can do. 1) You can buy them for yourself (you look special walking home with them, they look exactly the same once in the vase and you get exactly the type you want). 2) You can ask for them (very simple and effective!). Or 3) you can give them to someone first. Ok, I admit it sounds odd, but it's a nice thing to do.

First off, I should mention that I believe the spirit is giving is about not expecting anything back. That's a true gift. You give it because you wanted to and expect ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in return. But sometimes, you can throw gifts to the universe just to see what happens. Why not? It can't hurt.

So instead of sulking and saying, "I want, I want, I want! I NEVER get!", why not go out and give? For those in heterosexual partnerships, you're probably saying, "what? Buy my MAN flowers??!! No way!". Honestly though, forget all that. I've given many men flowers and they all appreciated them because they all thought the gesture was nice. I know of at least one occasion where a blue rose ended up dead, dry and on the floor, but he kept it. Maybe he only kept it to make me happy, but even that is still a great and kind gesture.

You will feel better giving than receiving. I promise. You'll probably also notice a lot of other nice things start coming your way. When you spend your time giving, you'll have a lot less time to sit and ruminate about how much you're missing and not getting. So if nothing else, give because it takes your mind to a better place.

Now you're probably thinking, "but I want a new car! How can I give a new car so I can get one? This is ridiculous!". Hang on!
I admit, you probably can't physically give a new car in order to get one. Yes, that is a ridiculous idea. But what can you give instead that can eventually lead you to be able to buy a new car?
Can you give a few extra hours at work? (It's not quite giving because you'd be getting paid, but you're giving your time up, which is one of the most valuable things you can give anyone)
Can you give up smoking/drinking? How about giving up that daily expensive large non-fat mocca expresso with Splenda® drink? Or the gym membership you're not using? Yes it takes time and patience, but eventually you'll have given enough that you'll get what you want.

If you really "want, want, want!" so bad, then you can focus and give, give, give until you get.
It's that simple :)


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Just Ask For What You Want

I drove a truck tonight. Well, just the cabin part, not with a trailer hookup. But still. It was cool.
It was something I've always wanted to do.

You know how I got to do that? I just asked.

This seems to be a little known secret and I was reminded it's a secret by reading The Last Lecture (good book, made me bawl like a baby at the end, but great book). People don't ask for what they want enough.

How do you think I got "Mr. Felix and Mr. Norton" to be my business mentor? I asked. (I asked him because I love his cookies and because Peter McAuslan never replied to me, so I had to ask a second person. Third in line was the owner of Dagwoods)

How do you think I got myself on tv? I asked.

Got into the newspaper? I asked nicely.

The secret is to ask sincerely and don't expect too much. Also, don't worry about the answer. Sometimes you'll get a "no" but it doesn't mean you shouldn't ask. Maybe you just need to ask someone else. Or ask again. Most of the time, you'll get a "yes". Especially if you give them a reason for why you want whatever you're asking for. The biggest secret I'm sharing? If you tell them it's something you've always wanted to do or that it would make you happy, you have a better chance of a positive result. Why? Because people want to make other people happy. They want to feel like they played a part in fulfilling a dream. Sometimes, they even need you to ask - it was exactly what *they* needed (especially in the case of tv and print, they always need material). So everyone wins!

Also, I have a rule where I don't ask the same person the same favour more than twice. Often people who don't want to do something will say they are busy or forgot. If they forgot twice, they never wanted to do it in the first place and are trying to be "nice". I'd much rather a straight no, but whatever.

People who *want* to help you but can't will point you in the direction of someone who can. And often they'll be nice enough to talk to that person for you.

I'm also kinda against asking celebrities for anything because they are so often bothered. If they're at an autograph session, it's ok. If they're wandering around looking for a place to eat in a food court (like Scott Thompson was when I was working at Quiznos), I leave them alone...reluctantly. *sigh*

This also does not mean that you sit on your ass and don't work for what you want. Sometimes you have to work to show you deserve it. There was a joke I heard of a man, who each night prayed to God, asking to win the lottery. Finally, one night God answered exasperated, "then please buy a ticket!".

Anyways, it sounds like I'm lecturing now, but people are always asking me how I do things and saying I'm "lucky" or I must "know people" to get what I want. I consider myself lucky after I've gotten what I wanted and I know the right people after I've introduced myself. It's that simple. Really.