Two years!

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Last fall, Willy and I went to a couples retreat in Tremblant, QC hosted by Family Life (highly recommended by both Willy and I by the way). One of the exercises they had us do was to write a letter to each other. They gave some suggestions of what to write, which was helpful. I was surprised by how similar our letters were to each other in that they were the perfect inverse.

I told him that this one thing drove me crazy when we were first married.
This one thing, I was a little worried about.
This one thing, had even caused me to burst into tears in the middle of a conversation.
But this one thing was also the characteristic that challenged me in a good way. It made me think a little differently.
I grew as a person because of this one thing.

I smiled as I read his letter to me out loud because he said a lot of the same things. 

That one thing drove him crazy when we were first married.
That one thing about me worried him.
That one thing made him wonder if I would harm our relationship.
That one thing was the exact characteristic that I was re-evaluating, inching a little closer to his complete opposite, all the while he was inching a little closer to my complete opposite.
He was growing because of that one thing.

In just over a year of marriage we were already becoming more understanding, more gracious.

Thanks to Willy, I:

  • am learning that it’s not about the nail (we’re the opposite of this video!)
  • understand the power of words and am learning to choose them wisely in all circumstances
  • have more hope for humanity. He is more loving, generous, and committed than I thought even existed these days
  • am learning how to love my family more and be nicer

He pushes me to be better; there’s this sweet safe spot where I know I can trust him, even if it seems scary.

There’s no one I would rather be with on this Bucket List Journey. 

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Learn to be generous

Willy and I want to be generous people. It’s something we’ve learned a bit about already, but are still cultivating. Working for a charity, we live off the generosity of others. We know first hand how important it is. Even before we started working with this organization, we desired to be generous people. We have benefitted immensely in giving our money away, even when we felt like we really needed it.

How I learned to be more generous

I used to be a bit stingy. One summer as a student I had very little. My job search had been unfruitful up until that point. I had rashly invited people to supper, not realizing I was poor. I was going to have to share the very little I had. Providentially, I came across this verse in the book of Proverbs:

“Don’t eat with people who are stingy; don’t desire their delicacies. ‘Eat and drink,’ they say, but they don’t mean it. They are always thinking about how much it costs.” Proverbs 23:6-7

I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to be able to enjoy the people I was with, not resenting them for gobbling up my last pennies. So I went ahead with the meal and chose to be happy about giving what little I had. To this day, I don’t think they knew I was in such a bad position financially, and I’m happy they got to eat blissfuly unaware. We had a lot of fun that day.

Just like anything, you can practice generosity. It might hurt a lot at first. You might break out into sweats thinking about the $4 latté they ordered. You might want to bail on your idea of buying theirs once you realize they ordered a Venti latte with 7 pumps of chocolate. You thought they’d get a coffee like usual. Go ahead and buy it. Maybe that $9 latte is all you can afford in terms of extra spending that month. Try it.

Consider giving $50, $100, $200 to a cause you have always valued, but have yet to give; Or, consider giving monthly to something that deeply concerns you.

What you will gain

1. You will value what you have more. You will realize that you can manage while helping others out. It helps us to be thankful and also to identify with those who give in order to make our charity work.

2. It positions you to live more simply. Some people may really have to pinch pennies in order to give to causes they value. I’m learning that penny pinching isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes I feel stressed if there is little (or no) margin in our budget. The stress comes from forgetting that we have budgeted precisely in order to save, give, and enjoy. We are working towards all of our financial goals, including the goal of “Being generous.”

3. You will be the one in control (rather than it controlling you). Willy and I don’t want to be controlled by anything, especially money. So in order to control it, we give it away. We are learning to give it away especially when we feel like we can’t. This helps remind us that it wont rule our lives, we rule it. It helps us to remember that we have it good. We have things to be thankful for. We can always be generous.

Remember

  • It’s a lot easier to start when you’re young (and idealistic). If you build the habit before you have a mortgage and kids, you will grow used to giving money away rather than spending it on yourself!
  • Check your heart. There are different strategies to managing your money. I chose to give to charities while still paying off my student loan. Not everyone would do it that way. On the other hand, it’s easy to say “I’ll give to charities when I pay off my mortgage” which is (for some) the equivalent to “Never.” Check your heart! Are you avoiding it because you’re a grinch, or because you’re convinced you need to get your financial life in order first?
  • You can enjoy life (lattés! wine!) and still give. No one says that living like a pauper in order to give everything is morally better than enjoying life and giving. You can be a grinch in both situations. “God loves a cheerful giver!” (And if you don’t believe in God, put “everyone” in its place. Or something.)

Have you experienced the joy of giving, even when you didn’t have a lot? What are your fears related to being generous? What Next Actions can you take to opening up your heart and wallet?

For my mom, on her birthday.

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Today my mom turns 30 “with 20ish years experience” (as she always says). Like all moms, she was a huge influence in my life and in the way I do things now. It became even more apparent when I married Willy. I would hear her voice in my head chiding me for this or that. I thought I had been free from that voice, but the moment I started building my own home, her voice came back to haunt me. In a good way, mostly.

Here are some valuable life lessons I learned from my mom:

  1. You might really, really, really want to throw your newborn baby out the window. That’s somewhat normal. Don’t actually do it. (My mother-in-law has similarly passed on the advice: “It’s ok to want to throw your baby out the window, but it’s not ok to actually do it). I was SHOCKED when I first heard her make reference to this when I was 12. Now I realize that most moms experience this at least once in their mom-hood.
  2. Saying ‘no’ is OK. Unless you’re talking back to your parents (but I did that anyways).
  3. You can have a stubborn, fierce, mischievous child (who fakes her own death and says inappropriate things at church) and keep most of your sanity. (That child was me, in case you had any doubts).
  4. You can get 10%-15% off if you find broken things in a store and demand a discount. You can also argue with your phone company and refuse to pay charges  you didn’t incur. This is known in our family as the “Scary Lady Routine.” She used to do this all the time, especially with clothing items she could fix herself easily.
  5. When doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you (and don’t seem to care) it’s your mom who will do the Scary Lady Routine on your doctor, too, until you find some answers.
  6. Don’t ever compromise on what you believe. 
  7. It’s ok to be a little crazy. If you get too crazy, there are meds for that and that’s also OK. 
  8. Emotions are like the lights on your car’s dashboard: they help you understand what’s going on under the hood.
  9. If your kids are a little adventurous, rather than stifling it for fear of them getting hurt: teach them how to fall safely. One day she when I was 3 she found me on the top of the swing-set. After she made me get down, she enrolled me into gymnastics. ”

Mom, thanks for being a good mom-model and showing me how to be better at life! Happy Birthday!

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T

myersbriggs

I’ve always loved quizzes and personality typeology stuff. When I was a teenager my mom made me do the Myers-Briggs test, and I’ve done the Birkman and DIRT test at work. They can be down right creepy at times. A sheet of paper or a computer screen knows more about you than you do yourself. Sometimes you never really noticed you were like that until it tells you.

Last week I re-did my Myers-Briggs to see if anything had changed. I’m an ENFP; I was an ENFJ as a teenager. Let me show you what it said. I’m pretty sure you’ll see me in it.

ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things. Their enthusiasm lends them the ability to inspire and motivate others, more so than we see in other types. They can talk their way in or out of anything. They love life, seeing it as a special gift, and strive to make the most out of it.

ENFPs have an unusually broad range of skills and talents. They are good at most things which interest them. Project-oriented, they may go through several different careers during their lifetime. To onlookers, the ENFP may seem directionless and without purpose, but ENFPs are actually quite consistent, in that they have a strong sense of values which they live with throughout their lives. Everything that they do must be in line with their values. An ENFP needs to feel that they are living their lives as their true Self, walking in step with what they believe is right. They see meaning in everything, and are on a continuous quest to adapt their lives and values to achieve inner peace. They’re constantly aware and somewhat fearful of losing touch with themselves. Since emotional excitement is usually an important part of the ENFP’s life, and because they are focused on keeping “centered”, the ENFP is usually an intense individual, with highly evolved values.

This is why I found it particularly interesting this time around:

  • In the last 10 months since launching this blog, many of you have told me I inspire you. I sometimes think “Anyone can be inspiring. What does it mean that I am?” But it never occurred to me that I might have a personality type that is more inclined to inspire than some than other people.
  • This blog is about how I “love life, seeing it as a special gift, and strive to make the most out of it” and how I’m “on a continuous quest to adapt [my] life and values to achieve inner peace” (or whatever the protestant version of ‘inner peace’ is)

Focusing on strengths

We all have something to offer. We’re not all alike. There are things that you might be better at than I will. Why don’t you go do the test yourself and see what insight it offers. Are there things that stick out about your personality type that you capitalize on? I had never thought about this until I came across the Strengths Finder test. The big drive of this one is to know your strengths and do those things, rather than constantly trying to improve your weaknesses. This is super smart.

What are you good at? What do you love? If you do what you’re good at and what you love, you will likely naturally succeed at it. All the hours of work and dedication will seem like nothing.

Take the test and share in the comments 1) what your type is and 2) what it said about you that you realized is true.

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The Newsletter

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I’ve decided that as an extension of this blog I’m going to start a newsletter. I will send it out ever 4-6 weeks and it will contain content you wont get here in the blog. I’m doing this in attempt to keep the blog focused on its purpose. The feedback I got from the survey made it clear that a lot of people read my blog to keep up with my life and you want more of that. That kind of stuff doesn’t always fit with the theme.

I’m about to release the first newsletter so you better sign up if you haven’t yet. The newsletter is different than if you subscribe to these posts to your inbox. I don’t want to assume you want both. It would be spam to sign you up for something you didn’t ask for.

My promise to you: I want it to be useful and relevant. Therefore, I promise I wont be upset if you sign up and decide to unsubscribe later. Your inbox is precious and should only contain good things. I hate spam. I get a lot of it.

So go on over to to the sidebar and sign up for the newsletter (“Straight to your Inbox”) if you want to take a peek at the first one coming soon. Note: if you expressed interest in the newsletter on the feedback form, I have automatically added it to the list.

Watermelons and Birthdays

watermelonI used to hate watermelons. Every summer I would inevitably find myself in a situation where people were passing around the watermelon and I would let it go by. “You don’t want some?” someone would ask. “No thanks. I don’t really like watermelon.” Their eyes would widen and bulge a bit with a look of “What’s wrong with you?” I would shrug.

It tasted like water. Nothing special. Boring.

I also used to consume a lot of sugar. You may not think the two were linked, but they were.

We used to go out to eat a lot, too. In Montreal, eating out is the way to socialize. I used to eat out at least once a week (after church with friends), sometimes two, three or four times a week. Once we got married, we always went out after church with friends. Sometimes it was twice a week. We enjoyed being culinary tourists of our own city.

A year and a half ago I cut out sugar. About a year ago we decided it was best for Willy to start his Masters. You may not think those two things are linked, but they are.

Last month we celebrated my birthday. We drove to Kitchener, I got my free Starbucks drink, and we went out to Red Lobster for lunch. It was my favourite birthday ever. In some ways, it wasn’t anything special, yet it was.

It was special because I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve had Starbucks this summer. It was special because we rarely eat out these days as we had to make financial adjustments to help pay for Willy’s masters. It was special because we got to do the things that are somewhat normal for us back in Montreal: sit, drink coffee, read/write alone together and go for lunch! (I don’t know why I love eating out so much but I do! Yum.)

This week, as I found myself enjoying several slices of watermelon I realized how much more I’m enjoying life with less. Less sugar, less eating out, less shopping, less consistent indulgence in rich things. When I do get to have them, they’re so much better! I enjoy and appreciate them more.

Honestly, I’m surprised. I never imagined these two changes would impact my enjoyment of life so much. That was never really the intention. I never imagined overconsumption would lead to boredom. I thought I was just doing a lot of what I enjoyed!

Do you have a similar story? Or maybe the complete opposite experience? Have you ever done a lot of what you loved and found you loved it less?

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