The best thing you can do for your relationship is talk about money

Picture it. You’ve settled the kids with a babysitter, put on some clean clothes and headed out with your spouse for a long overdue date night. You’re about to enjoy a bottle of wine, a nice meal, maybe even dessert. And best of all, a rare chance for uninterrupted, adult conversation.

You know what you should talk about?

Money.

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a sure-fire way to kill the mood.” Or “Great. Just what I want to do — start a fight.”

But the truth is having a heart-to-heart about your finances is one of the best things you can do to build a healthy, lasting relationship.

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Economy vs. environment: Five ways you can support both


Someone, somewhere, started a rumour that it’s impossible to have a strong economy and a healthy environment. Then they drew a line between the two and suggested we all choose a side.

Well don’t.

This is lazy thinking.

It underestimates people’s ability to adapt to change and solve complex problems. It ignores the incredible work that industries are already doing to improve environmental stewardship while fostering economic success. And, worse of all, it makes it seem like there’s nothing we can do as individuals to balance the interests of both, so why bother to try.

The truth is individuals can have a very big impact on both the economy and the environment just by the choices they make on how and where to spend their money.

Here’s a few things that we can all do to support both.

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How to talk about mental health

People everywhere are jumping on board the Bell Let’s Talk Day by sharing messages of support via social media and in person, and for very good reason. Mental health affects all of us, in so many ways.

When you look at the statistics, the numbers are staggering. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association:

  • One in five Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Suicide accounts for nearly a quarter of all deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds. It’s one of the leading causes, second only to accidents. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • About half of the people who feel they’ve suffered from depression or anxiety have never seen a doctor about it.
  • Only one in five Canadian children who need mental health services receive them.

When you break these numbers down to the individuals behind them, the stories will break your heart. Ten-year-old girls committing suicide. First responders struggling to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. New mothers taken by post-partum depression. Sometimes these stories make the news and are momentarily spotlighted. Too often they are ignored.

This is why we need the Bell Let’s Talk Day. We all have a responsibility to participate in the conversation. We all have a story to tell. Some big. Some small. Here’s mine.

Continue reading How to talk about mental health

Seven tips for setting and achieving personal goals

I love a fresh start. A clean page. A new beginning. The feeling that anything is possible, that opportunities are endless, that potential abounds.

Nothing says fresh start like a new year. It is the ultimate opportunity to let go of past mistakes and embark on a journey of self improvement. But the trouble with New Year’s resolutions is that, if you screw up, as most people inevitably do, the temptation to throw in the towel and try again next year becomes incredibly strong. So strong, in fact, that about two-thirds of people who make New Year’s resolutions give up before the end of January.

Not everyone sets New Year’s resolutions, but most people have a goal that they want to achieve. Maybe they want to be healthier. Maybe they want a new job. Or to develop a new skill. I can think of a hundred things that I’d love to change, be better at, or check off my bucket list.

So here are some tips I’ve found to help me (and you) set goals and achieve them.

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Four tips for managing holiday stress

This time of year brings out the best in people … and sometimes the worst. Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe it’s the grating holiday music. Or the molasses-like crowds.

Or the pressure of choosing the right gift.

Or the never-ending to-do list.

Or your Elf on the Shelf.

Or the financial and emotional stress.

Whatever the reason, you’re sure to come across someone who has just blown their last nerve and is hovering on the edge of their sanity.

Maybe that person is you.

At some point, I know, it’s probably going to be me.

So here are a few tips to help you keep your cool, at least until 2017.

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How to survive your Elf on the Shelf

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I love everything about the Christmas season — the decorations and lights, the cheesy movies, the food (and drinks), the good deeds, and the get-togethers with family and friends. The list goes on. But there is one thing about this time of year that I really hate.

Elf on the Shelf.

I remember back in 2005, when this phenomenon first hit the stores. “Did you get an Elf on the Shelf yet,” my sister asked.

“No, and I’m not going to,” I replied. Because I thought the idea of having a weird-looking doll spy on us in our home was a little too Chucky-esque.

But by the next year, my then four-year-old had noticed these elves popping up in other people’s houses. “When are we going to get our elf,” she asked, over and over.

And soon her younger brother joined forces. “Can we get an Elf on the Shelf mom?” they pleaded, every time we went anywhere for anything. “When are we getting our elf?”

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Eight tips for better holiday giving

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“We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give. ”
– Winston Churchill

The holiday season is upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not. I can tell the season is here because shoppers are fighting over this year’s most popular toys, Starbucks has released it’s red cups, and the Facebook debate about whether to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” is in full swing.

A number of charities have also started their seasonal campaigns. For most, this is the make it or break it season.  While the rest of us are jostling crowds and sipping eggnog lattes, or better yet — shopping online with a rum and eggnog in hand — these charities are counting on us to set enough money aside to see them and their clients through the upcoming year. So that they can provide others with things like food, clothing, shelter, care and support.

It provides a little perspective this time of year. And also makes me realize that my current level of generosity sucks. Continue reading Eight tips for better holiday giving

How to be more mindful of your money

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I’ve been reading a lot about mindfulness lately. The practice is everywhere. It’s the new catch phrase in the office. It’s being used to teach kids in school. It has even found its way into the delivery room.

But it makes sense that people are drawn to this idea because its the antithesis to the world we’ve created: where we wear multi-tasking as a badge of honour, double and triple book our time and smugly boast about how “busy” we are when asked how things are going.

We try to focus on a million things at once until we’re so physically and mentally exhausted that we can’t focus on anything at all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run around like a lunatic trying to get my shit out the door in the morning, only to arrive at work not remembering the drive in because my brain shut down the second my butt was in the car. It’s a vicious cycle of insanity and autopilot.

I’ve been on maternity leave for nearly nine months. I thought it would be a break from the rat race, but it isn’t. The race is still the same. It’s just different rats. I feel like the time is going by too fast, like I’m missing out on all the little moments that I should be making the most of because I’m still caught up in this need to always be getting shit done.

So I started reading about mindfulness. And the more I read, the more I realized that what I was learning could help in other areas of my life too — like my finances. Here’s how.

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How to stay current with technology

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You may have seen the video of the adorable elderly couple trying to take a picture on their computer. Or the episode of Modern Family where Jay couldn’t understand the difference between clicking twice and double clicking.

I’ve heard stories from my call centre friends about customers who’ve washed their computer monitor in the dishwasher or tried to use their mouse as a foot pedal.

Old people and technology. I used to laugh at these stories.

And now I’m one of them.

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How to change your kid’s behaviour

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One of the things that I looked forward to most about my maternity leave was the opportunity to spend more time with my older kids. To have some downtime with them between school and activities and the bazillion ‘to dos’ we fill our lives with. To connect with them, and get to know them better now that they were becoming their own little people with their own big personalities.

I had grand ideas of what life as a stay-at-home parent would be like: slow mornings and well-rested kids; pulling perfectly-timed cookies from the oven as they walk through the door after school; having actual discussions about their days, instead of the blunt Q&A of our current work-school routine.

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing”

But staying at home was not exactly as I’d expected. Instead of a calm, happy household, I found myself in a daily battle with two kids who wouldn’t listen to me and fought with each other all the time. Give it time, I told myself. We’d just brought a new baby into our house. We were all adjusting.

But time only seemed to make things worse, particularly with my son, who started struggling with his behaviour at school too. We started receiving notes from his Kindergarten teacher informing us when he had had a bad day, when he was being a distraction in class. What can I do to support him? she asked. But we didn’t know. If we could just make it to the end of the school year,  I thought, things will get better over the summer.

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They got worse. Sure, we had a great family vacation. We did a lot of fun things. But there were also a lot of days where it felt like every good moment was book-ended by bad ones. If I asked my son to do something, he ignored me. If I gave him a consequence, he ran away screaming and crying and saying “I hate you.” He harassed his sister. He mocked us. And no matter how angry we got, no matter how much we escalated the consequences, he rarely backed down.

When school started again, so did the notes from his new teacher. He wasn’t a mean kid, but he struggled with listening. Fortunately, we have had two great teachers who were committed to helping him focus and supporting his success at school. His new teacher started giving us daily updates on how he was doing. “Green” was a good day, “yellow” meant he’d struggled a bit and “red” was, well, not great. Please let him be green, I’d think as he walked in the door after school. Nope. Red again.

I didn’t want him to be “that kid.” I wanted him to feel good about school. I wanted him to be good at home. I didn’t know what to do to fix his behaviour. So one night, after a particularly bad day, I Googled, “Why is my kid acting like an asshole?” And this is the answer I got: Continue reading How to change your kid’s behaviour