Day 40 of Project Happiness – Happy Birthday Mum!

Status (Yesterday)

  • Meditate for 2 Minutes – No
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – No
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week  – 4/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 3/3
  • Unnecessary items bought – 1
  • Total car miles saved – 70

Can’t believe I have been doing this for  40 days!

Didn’t get to write yesterday as I had a really busy day travelling down to visit my brother and his girlfriend in their new house, and also my Mum whose birthday it is today who came to stay also.  Fantastic.  I don’t get to see any of them as much as I’d like so this is a real treat.

Journey down was not bad, I took the train and it gave me plenty of time to read, doze and catch up on a bit of work.  I’ve just thought I could have done my blog post offline, and then posted it when I got here, but never mind.  Brother’s new house is in a lovely Cornish village, they can see the sea from their window, and it’s a half hour stroll down to the beach.  Absolutely blissful, and I’m so happy for the both of them, as they’ve worked very hard to get there.

IMG_5145

**Non happy portion alert**

However, the laid back lifestyle, and fantastic surroundings, did make me think again about our situation at home.  We moved slightly north some years ago due to personal circumstances, but unfortunately the rest of my family have moved south, and I do feel quite isolated at times.  I also am increasingly questioning the point of what I do on a day to day basis.  I work 40 hours a week (which is a vast improvement on my last job where I worked at least 60 a week), and struggle to fit everything else in, but for what?  Other than my wage?  The work which I do is for a company which provides services for the oil and gas industry, which I don’t believe in.  And for what?  Whatever money we earn, we spend.  Right from the beginning it’s always been the same, and it seems that financial advisers do make that assumption; income = expenditure.  We have changed this, and now are in a position to start saving more (we have no savings to speak of currently), and whilst my goal is to pay off the mortgage asap, realistically it’s going to take 10 years best case scenario.  And then we’ll need to work for another 10 years probably in order to get enough savings to be able to live off the interest.  That’s 20 of the best years of my life that I have left.  Do I want to spend them this way?  Working 48 weeks of the year, to  earn enough for a 2 week holiday somewhere, buying ‘stuff’ for the house, and running round like a headless chicken to keep everything running smoothly.  I sometimes feel like I never stop.

  • I don’t spend as much time as I’d like with the kids.
  • I don’t spend as much time as I’d like with my husband.
  • I’m often stressed, which isn’t good for my health.
  • I don’t have enough time to do the stuff I want to do.  I.e. following my obsession with healthy eating, climate change, sustainable living, gardening etc.

I’ve been reading lots of things, and I have come up with a solution, but I am 99% sure Mr EN won’t be willing to go for it.  My current proposed plan of action is to sell the house and with the proceeds buy a canal boat and move in.  We’d have no mortgage, and although I have yet to do all of the sums, I reckon if Mr EN and I continued working for 5 years, with the reduced expenses, we’d never have to work again after that.  If I wanted though I could do a 3 month contract every now and again to get enough for any extras.  We have a marina near us which is very affordable, but what a life style change that would be!  But for me all the changes seem positive ones.  My main current concerns are around the kids.  Would they be ok with such a radical life style change?  How would things at school be for them?  Would 5 of us cope with the reduced space?  Especially 3 teenage girls(!)  We don’t have enough space currently, but for sure we have  far more ‘stuff’ than we need!

I feel super excited about such a possibility, but at the same time rather low because I know the rest of my family will think I’ve lost my marbles, and it’ll be too radical to contemplate  sensibly.

Lots to think about.  Maybe I’ve just been working too hard, and I’ll look back on this in a few days/weeks/months and wonder what on earth I was warbling on about, but currently it sounds wonderful!!

Plant based diet has gone out of the window this weekend, staying with family who offered me bacon for breakfast 🙂  Done the best I could, but hunger prevailed a couple of times, and my brother’s girlfriend went to a lot of trouble to make a veggie lasagne complete with white sauce, so I wasn’t about to refuse to eat it.

EN

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Day 36 of Project Happiness – Storms and stuff

Status (Yesterday)

  • Meditate for 2 Minutes – Yes
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – Yes
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week  – 1/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 1/3
  • Unnecessary items bought – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 70

Wow!  Just wow.  Our world is such an awesome place to live.  After a very muggy day yesterday we had just the most amazing storm.  Crazy crazy rain like a monsoon, and thunder and lightening that was indeed “very very frightening”, or so mini EN thought anyway.  Eldest EN sproglet and myself were at the yard so she could have a riding lesson with my trainer, and the thunder was so loud the walls were vibrating with it.  Fortunately pony was very well behaved, and just his ears showed that he was a little apprehensive at times. When we went to put the horses back out in the field, there was a lightening bolt which forked across the whole sky.  It made both of us ‘Wow!’ out loud (WOL?) and made sproglet muse where thunder comes from.  What a silly question!  It’s storm giants of course!!

Today, the weather has been calmer, as has work.  I’m actually feeling on top of the world currently.  Lots of positive things happening at work which has really turned things round for me, still as busy as ever, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel now.  I’ve started doing some of my meetings as walking meetings to make the most of the sunshine which I’ve been really enjoying. sun1 At home, I have so much to look forwards to, visiting friends and family, a training course next week which involves boats 🙂 , and I’m taking the kids pony out to an event to hopefully prove that he is a good boy and can do it, so next time they can do it on him.  Fingers crossed.  Also, all the rain from the storm has really perked some of my plants up, and they seem to have grown twice the size in just a couple of days 🙂

Tried some more of the quinoa chips from Eat Real today, this time the sun dried tomato and roasted garlic flavour.  Delicious.  So much so that I went and left a positive review on their website.  Random act of kindness – check! 🙂  Much better than the packet Ainsley Harriet cous cous which I took in a panic as I hadn’t prepared anything in time.  Very meh.

I’ve also been a bit concerned with some of the studies on vegan diets which I’ve been reading, and the lack of certain vitamins (B12) and iodine in the common diet.  On reading the natural ways of putting them back in your diet, I’ve decided that iodine I’m going to struggle with full stop, and the other vits will be hit and miss, so I’ve started taking a multi vitamin supplement from Healthspan, which is specifically for Vegetarians and Vegans.  One of the claims it makes is that B12 can help with :

the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and the production of energy-yielding metabolism.

Sounds mighty fine to me 🙂  I’ll report back if I notice a difference.

tired

I’ve also found this Early Retirement Extreme blog, which looks fascinating.  I’m really really keen to become FIRE, but Mr EN isn’t as motivated as me.  I’m hoping this blog and forum will help us on our way.  It’s tricky as without the ponies we could do things so much quicker, but the kids just get so much from them, and it gets them away from the computer and out into the real world, that I’m just not willing to give that up.

Today’s plant based diet has gone well, however, I have a small dilemma as every now and again I like a couple of squares of chocolate with a cuppa in the evening.  I have some very low fructose chocolate but the milk obviously does have milk in it.  I need a low sugar, dairy free milk chocolate – any suggestions?

Today :

  • Breakfast – Bagel with cream cheese – how long does the violife cream cheese last?  This is our second week now(!)
  • Snack – Eat real quinoa chips and an apple
  • Lunch – Half a baguette and some packet cous cous.  Not the most nutritious!
  • Snack – Carrot cake
  • Dinner – Fajitas with peppers, mushrooms, onions, black beans, spices, salad and rice. Yum!

Day 13 of Project Happiness – Ikigai

Status

  • Meditate for 2 minutes – 
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – 
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week – 2/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 0/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 20

Very interesting day today.  Fortunately after a night  of trying various inventive ways to get Mr EN to stop snoring, I did get a bit of a lie in.  Then it was straight down the yard to wash and polish the pony so he looked beautiful for his visitors.  The little girl with cancer was a bit too scared of him  (he is very big in comparison to a poorly 4 year old!) so didn’t ride on him, but a family member with cerebral palsy also came along, and she was very pleased to be able to have a ride on him 🙂

I also took eldest EN sprog for a driving lesson.  I have to stay with her during the lesson, so took the opportunity to read some more of The Happiness Equation.  That was definitely time well spent.  It had some really interesting observations on why it is a good idea to keep working, and why retirement is bad.  One quote which particularly resonated with me was as follows :

Never retire.  Your brain needs exercise or it will atrophy”

James Watson. Nobel laureate.

It states that retirement is a relatively new concept, invented by the Germans, and 65 was just an arbitrary age, picked because it was very close to the expected age of death.  It has however persisted though the ages, and been adopted throughout the world.  It makes some interesting points re the cost of supporting people to do nothing for the last what can now be 16 years if you take the average UK age of death which is 81, as opposed to the 2 or 3 anticipated when the plan was originally put in place.  With the populations rate increasing consistently the cost burden of this must be weighty.

In October I will be visiting Japan for a couple of weeks to study karate,  Japanese Sword, and do some sight seeing.  I will also be visiting Okinawa for some extra karate study, so I was particularly interested in the book’s mention of this country, and the fact that they don’t have a concept of retirement, so much so that  they don’t even have a word for it.    It is a well known fact that the Okinawa people are long lived, according to the author Neil Pasricha, they live 7 years longer than Americans, and “have the longest disability free life expectancy on Earth.”   Some put this down to their diet (Purple Sweet Potatos!) but Pasricha suggests that it is more their outlook on life, and how they live their life which is the cause.

One thing which he picks up on is the Ikigai (pronounced Icky Guy).  He explains that it means “the reason you wake up in the morning”, “the thing that drives you the most”.  He goes on to explain that he has adopted this mantra for himself and his wife, having an “Ikigai card” which they keep on their bedside table.  This seems like a pretty cool idea to me, so I thought I’d do one also.   I will post it later once I’ve refined it.

The other theme which stood out to me, was the concept of enough, which again is spoken about a lot in “Your money or your life”.  A quote which Pasricha used is from Alice’s Adventure is Wonderland which I love!

Alice

I love how he illustrates how lucky we are to be where we are today; on the only planet which is capable of sustaining life, in a multitude of galaxy’s, each of which contains hundreds of thousands of stars.  And if you’re reading this,  then you are probably one of the wealthiest people in the world.  An excerpt from the book;

The average world income is five thousand dollars.  Are you higher than that?  Then you’re in the top 50%.  And if you’re higher than fifty thousand dollars you’re in the top 0.5%.  Do you need more than 99.5% of people alive?  You either have the money to buy this book or you have the time to read it.  Either way, you have it good!

You already have more than almost everybody on the planet.

On your very worst days, you have to push your negative thoughts.  You have to take a step back. You have to remember the lottery.

Because you’ve already won.

-Neil Pasricha, The Happiness Equation

Now if that’s not a positive thought for the day I don’t know what is.  It certainly clarifies a lot for me.

I’m now off to get ready for bed so I’m ready for my day of work tomorrow.  It’s not work that I plan to be doing for the rest of my life.  But it is interesting, stimulating,  fits round my current family priorities, and helps me with my current goals.  I still have my plan to pay off my mortgage and become financially independent.  But I have no plan to retire.  Instead I have dreams of all of the things I want to do when I have the time.  I will be able  to choose my work, and do it on my terms.  Which ties in nicely with the observations regarding work fulfilment in “Your money or your life”.

EN

 

Day 5 of Project Happiness – Kata

Status :

  • Meditate for 2 minutes –  
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – 
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week – 2/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 3/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0

A really fantastic day today; it’s not at all difficult to find good things to write about.  Started off with a lay in as the ponies are now in the field 24/7 so I don’t need to go up early to turn them out.  Result!  Then off to karate for a couple of hours.  I haven’t been as much recently due to my rotator cuff injury and time  constraints, and today’s session made me regret my time off – it was fantastic.  Started off with lots of paired sparring work which opened the pipes up nicely, and means I am now sporting some interesting forearm blocking bruises.

Finished the session doing kata practice with Jason,  a black belt who is excellent on the detailed finishing touches  you need for  a really good quality kata.  The session included the two Mr EN and I need for our next grading to 1st Kyu, and I’m now really happy with Pinan Godan, and feel comfortable with the sequence  of the other one (Naihanchi), just need to get the power into  it now, and the finishing touches on it.

Next up was watching mini EN do her basket ball tournament, then down the yard with medium EN to take her for a ride round the field.  My mare is lame atm so I went round on foot which meant I’ve easily done my 3rd brisk walk of the week, with quite a lot spent in ‘trot’, although I did concede defeat when we moved  on to canter 🙂

Mr EN has prepared dinner,  not wholly in line with my current nutrition plans, but I can’t deny I’m looking forwards to it, and mini EN has prepared chocolate brownies (very low fructose content and gluten free) for dessert, recipe here.  We substituted the caster sugar for dextrose, and used less coffee in the hot chocolate sauce.  It was *heavenly* last time so I can’t wait.  We missed the Masterchef final,  so will be watching that over dinner, what  a fabalicious way to spend an evening 🙂

Smoothie today was to use up the leftover fruit in the fridge :

  • 1 x Cup of baby kale
  • last of the strawberries
  • 2 x kiwis
  • 1 x banana
  • mint leaves
  • coconut  milk and a little bit  of rice milk to top up as I  was low on coconut milk.

Off to enjoy dinner  now 🙂

Edited : Forgot to say,  I’ve been reading Your Money or Your Life,  and I have loved the part about when you are working, you are using up precious life energy.  That has really made me think about how I spend my time, and what it’s worth to me.  The book points out that when you are aged 40 (which I will be very soon) you have on average  349,763 hours of life energy left before you die.  If you take into account what it calls ‘necessary body maintenance’, i.e. sleeping, eating,  eliminating,  washing and exercising, takes up about half your life, that means 174,882 hours for other things, including work.

This has been rumbling around my conciousness for some time now, as it puts a very important emphasis on work, given the HUGE role it plays in our life, and in particular how much of our vital life energy it consumes.  I can see a lot of negatives, some of which are ;

  1. I work for an oil and gas company, which is not in line with my core life values.
  2. I spend 40 hours a week away from family doing this work.
  3. In my opinion, my work is not providing any value to the world.

However, there are a lot of benefits ;

  1. It pays me.
  2. It pays me enough that I can support ‘extra’ things which I feel are important to our family, namely horses.
  3. It pays me enough that  I can (or will soon be able to) put extra money into my mortgage,  which supports my goal of FI.
  4. It allows me to work hours which minimises the impact of  point 2 above.
  5. I like the people there.
  6. I do not have to work overtime.
  7. It is not high stress.

I have been worrying a lot about the balance of this, and whether I should be doing something more in line with my ethics and values, but realising that this would  not fit in with my goal of FI.  The part of the book which I read today finally laid that to rest.  This chapter *defines* work.  It states that despite the facts that there are lots of factors which you can benefit from by working, such as new skills, feeling of power, achievement of recognition, feeling of contentment, self expression etc. etc.  Actually, all of these can be obtained doing other, non-paid activities.  The only thing which actually defines work as work is that you are paid for it.  And that if you are going to expend your life energy doing work which doesn’t necessarily fit all of your life ideals, that is fine, so long as you have a good reason for it.  And I think mine is very good.  I want to be FI before I am 50 so I can put my post FI years to good use doing things which are in alignment with my values.  So for me, the important factors in the list above are 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7.  The lack of high levels of stress is, I think important, due to the health implications of stress on the body and mind.

So, I am content that what I am doing is right for the time being, and I have a short term, mid term, and long term goal which I’m happy with.

Short Term :

Be a good mum and wife, make a happy and healthy home which is as ecologically friendly as possible, for myself and my family, and put as much as possible into paying off the mortgage.

Mid Term Goal : 

Become Financially Independent, increase my household’s self sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint.

Long Term Goal :

Work less, and develop projects which are in line with my core values and utilise my skills to help others.  A few ideas which I feel strongly about :

  • Help children become more financially savvy.
  • Work to reduce the media pressure on children to become sexual objects.
  • Help to educate the younger generation to becoming self sufficient, and bring back the core family values, and recognition of the importance of ‘work’ within the home.

Right, enough musings, off to bed now.

Day 3 of Project Happiness – Sunshine!

Status :

  • Meditate for 2 mintes – 
  • Write something positive for 20 minutes – 
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week – 2/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 2/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0

Today is definitely all about the weather.  How amazing is it how much better everyone  feels as soon as the sun truly puts his hat on and comes fully out of hibernation.  One of my colleagues in Australia has been laughing at me for a while as we regularly exchange updates on our respective weather systems.  I am exultantly rejoicing about how good the weather is, as the sun is out,  and the temperature has reached the heady heights of 12 deg,  and he is sadly saying that for him it’s  autumn and getting quite cold, being around 25 deg!!  Sometimes I am convinced I am living in the wrong country.  However, today can in any country, be declared as having had lovely weather.  The sun was smiling down on us,  the birds were a tweeting,  and the heat was such that I saw several people  in shorts :O  I spent most of the day rebuilding my desk, pc and shifting various equipment into my new/old Test Lab, which now is lined with funky work benches so I can be more organised.  Wandering around with the doors open and a gentle breeze wafting around felt relaxing and quite indulgent.

I have taken a decision to have a check box to chart my happiness goal progress, and have it at the top each post.  I also want to add one for my spending status.  Whilst reading “Your money or your life” I was introduced to the idea of enough, loved it, and made a  pledge that I wouldn’t buy anything new this year.  I feel I haven’t done very well on this as everyone gave me money for my birthday,  and I have spent all of it on a variety of things.  Some  were in line with values, like several interesting second hand books, but some not so much.  In particular a new smoothie maker, fake go-pro (for recording the kids riding) and a food processor.  I can conjure up good reasons for all of these (and may go into them later),  but it’s still “new stuff”.  I also caved in and bought all 3 daughters a good luck charm the day before yesterday, as they are all sitting exams  in the next few weeks.  However,  the Happiness Equation book also talks about enough, and has prodded my conscience.  A check box for  what I have spent is one thing, but I’m wondering if I shouldn’t do more than that.  Maybe take 10% of anything I lapse on, and donate it to an eco charity for example.  I quite like the thought of that.

I have done a random act of kindness today.  The (awesome) lady who keeps her horse next to our pony fosters two lovely children who both have varying degrees of special needs.   They come down the yard and enjoy chatting with my youngest, always very keen to help out, and obviously dote on our pony.  Her horse is too big and too young for them to ride, so I have offered them some rides on our pony, along with the loan of a suitable riding hat etc.  He’s used for the Riding for the Disabled Association, so is a good boy and should  look after them.  Here is a picture of him checking whether there were any more treats for him the other morning 🙂

ponykiss

Today’s smoothie was simple but delicious :

  • Baby Curly Kale (1 cup)
  • Handful of fresh strawberries
  • Banana
  • Coconut milk to cover.

Time to  meditate.  Bye for now.

EN