Tag Archives: tips

Enjoying the Holidays without Overcharging the Senses

When I wrote the blog post “How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper”, I suggested that the reason why I felt more inclined to shop earlier and avoid the mayhem of malls in December, was perhaps a question of becoming more sensitive.

One year later, after a series of discussions with a therapist, I realize it may not be a question of “becoming” more sensitive. In all likelihood, I always was.

Even though I stand right on the line between introvert and extrovert, with one foot well into extrovert territory, it is still easy for me to get overwhelmed. There is no shortage of events in the month of December to overcharge one’s senses:

– Faster pace: The office often gets busier with a surge of activity in trying to tie up loose ends on projects and produce the last status reports of the year, before everyone takes vacation time.

– More activity: The social calendar tends to fill with holiday parties and lunches with family, friends and co-workers.

– Sensory stimulation: Shopping malls with lights and decorations hanging from every nook and cranny, with the aroma of hundreds of perfumes hanging in the air, as music blares from shops like they are nightclubs, while kids scream from being hungry, too warm, too tired or all of the above.

– And on an empathetic level, as much as people romanticize it as being “the most wonderful time of the year”, there is no shortage of negative energy in the air to soak up through people’s rushing, their impatience, their aggressive driving and their temper tantrums in stores.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize and count my blessings in being so fortunate with a great job, great family, friends and co-workers, and the privilege of being able to shop for the people I care for. It’s just that if I am not careful in pacing myself, the sights, sounds and rush of activity in the month of December can lead to sensory overload for me.

When that happens, I can get tired, cranky and my energy starts fading as my body tells me to moderate or retreat. If I am not careful, my cocktail party small talk will reflect that. To be a welcomed addition to parties and not a Debbie Downer, it is up to me to find solutions to make December manageable for my own level of sensitivity.

If that means moving the shopping to October or November, when stores are less busy and parking lots are not like Thunderdome, then gift ideas will need to be presented to me before the Halloween candy has disappeared.

If it means doing smaller grocery runs earlier in the week, to be able to use Express lanes and to be in and out of grocery stores within minutes, I will make the adjustment.

If it means postponing some lunches with friends until January when my calendar isn’t overflowing, I think the friends will understand.

If it means deliberately scheduling time to relax to keep my batteries recharged throughout the busy month, then that’s something I need to do.

I remember years when I didn’t manage my time and my commitments properly and I sometimes felt like I would have preferred to be at home. That’s not me and that was totally my mistake. Even though I was having fun at social gatherings and getting energized along the way, it wasn’t enough to compensate for my fatigue.

December’s frantic pace will not go away. I accept that. I just need to be mindful in adjusting my calendar ahead of time and reschedule the activities that are really within my power to do so (like shopping, wrapping, decorating, and one-on-one lunches). I now understand that I need to moderate my intake and exposure to the sights, sounds, smells and negative emotions that can potentially sap my energy.

As I sit here on December 9th writing this, with only one more gift to purchase, I reassure myself that I did the right thing in taking better control of my schedule this year. Instead of stressing out and lining up to get into a shopping mall today, I can savour the moments of baking, blogging and Christmas card writing, at a very relaxed and enjoyable pace.

In doing so, I know my batteries can recharge for the social commitments ahead, allowing me to truly feel present, in the moment and enjoying the traditions of the season to their fullest.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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My Top 10 Worries Before Becoming a Cat Owner

Now that Miss Ivy has been with me a couple of years, I am amused when I think back to the things I worried about before I got her.
Becoming a first time pet owner was not a decision I took lightly, nor should it be taken lightly. Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility and I wanted to be absolutely certain I was doing the right thing, for her and for me.

As much as I worried (and obsessed) about it, I don’t think I could have imagined just exactly how much I would be getting out of this wonderful experience and how much joy she brought.

I would like to thank the friends and co-workers who took the time to walk me through their pet raising experiences to convince me that taking in a rescue cat was the right thing to do.

Here they are the top 10 things I worried about before I got the cat:

10- Objects not remaining where I left them
When hearing that cats can be pretty good at hiding things, especially items they may consider their favourite toys, I was worried about my belongings moving around the house. Fortunately Ivy lacks the dexterity or strength to move anything, but from time to time, I do see her own toys showing up unexpectedly in other rooms in the house.

A moving pile of laundry (notably a pile of towels) is a pretty common occurrence now. If I didn’t have a cat or a dog in the house, you better believe I would have jumped three feet off the floor at the sight of a pile of laundry walking away from the laundry centre.

9- Missing the litter box
When I moved into this house, the carpeting had a few nasty pet urine stains. On hot humid days, even with the air conditioning going full blast, it was as if those stains came back to life despite several professional cleanings.

Over the years, after spending several thousand dollars replacing the flooring and finally getting rid of that odour, I was very fearful of bringing in a pet. Miss Ivy put my fears to rest. With her litter box scooped every day or two, she always seems pretty content with her restroom facilities. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour, Top 10

What Surprises Me Most After Four Years as a Blogger

Last year, I posted a blog entitled “The Ups and Downs of Blogging Statistics” in which I admitted to checking out my blog statistics and keeping an eye on trends, but not obsessing about them, given that this was “rehearsal” time for me.

Blogging was a building block for me to refine my writing creative skills in preparation for my aspirations as a creative writer. My blogging was for the fun of it, and you were more than welcome to join me along the way.

But four years into the blogging journey, there is one aspect that often surprises me: the posts that keep getting viewed weeks, months or even years after I have originally posted them, and getting fairly consistent views over the long term.

As a blogger, I don’t sit down and think to myself, “This post will get a thousand views”, it doesn’t work that way. And even after posting the link on Google, Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard and sometimes Pinterest, we are sometimes at the mercy of the algorithms for how much prominence (and page views) a post might get.

I have read a good number of articles on blog promotion, and I have definitely taken experts’ advice to try to maximize clicks whether through a well-chosen title, a sharp picture to accompany it, adherence to a consistent posting schedule, as well as seeking lessons learned by the most viewed posts. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Cats, Humour, Inspiring, Running, Writing

How Index Cards Became My New Writing Tool

Throughout life, I have often considered myself a late bloomer, but never more so than now in discovering the joy of index cards. Yes, index cards!

With the little writer’s voice in my head constantly pitching ideas to me, the challenge has always been to find the means to capture those ideas IMMEDIATELY.

I can usually juggle a handful of random ideas for about half an hour until I can get to a screen or a piece of paper to jot them down. But beyond that, I run the same risk as the cartoon dog from the movie “Up!” because the moment I’m distracted by a “Squirrel!” the idea could be gone forever.

Sometimes an idea might just fizzle out on its own, or sometimes it might grow into a mighty oak in the form of a blog post, a screenplay or even a novel, but the key is to capture that idea in order to see what comes of it.

To do that, I do my best to capture them all. Figuring out the best vehicle to capture the ideas has been the tricky part. Continue reading

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Filed under How to, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

My New Blogging Strategy: Banking Blog Posts

In 2015, I wrote about a weird phenomenon that was happening within my blogging processes. No sooner than I would start outlining and building a blog post, the little writer’s voice within would pitch another idea at me, and I would start working on that one.

Having a run of good ideas is certainly not a bad problem to have. I definitely counted my blessings in that regard. But in its wake, I was being left with a series of incomplete posts, a phenomenon I called The Graveyard of Blog Posts.

As summer began, I was itching to get to work on another creative writing project and wondered how I could keep the blog going for a couple of months while giving my writer’s voice a fresh challenge.

As I was browsing through my drafts folder, the list of posts that were waiting to be finalized had recently grown some more and was looking pretty impressive. I knew that some of them were just waiting for a final conclusion to nail the point I was trying to make or some “icing on the cake” wording to make it pretty.

The point is, I had several that were almost ready to be posted and patiently waiting in the wings.

Maybe that was my answer!

I made it my goal to try to finalize 8 or 9 posts over two weeks, which should give me enough completed weekly posts to put the blog on autopilot with fresh content until Labour Day, and a couple of months to let my mind wander in another creative direction. Continue reading

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Filed under Inspiring, Misc blogs, Writing

Fashionably Fifty

mens-clothingI certainly would not consider myself a fashionista or an authority on the topic of fashion, but let’s just say that I genuinely believe that cultivating a personal sense of style does have its merits.

Throughout my professional career, dressing appropriately was something I took seriously, to demonstrate to my colleagues and my superiors that I was interested, engaged and committed to my work and to my career.

By offering attention to detail in my professional wardrobe, I believed it was a sign that my work would also reflect the same attention to detail. To me, it helped project credibility. Also, by dressing appropriately for the office, I never really had to worry about being called to last-minute meetings, as I was always suitably attired.

I would like to think that at this stage of my life, my skills, my track record and my professional reputation speak for themselves. But still, I have no interest in showing up for work while wearing the same thing I would be wearing if I was at home, binge watching Netflix.

Throughout my life, I have turned to men’s fashion magazines for tips and hints for cultivating the right look for me, for my age, and for my body type. After building and refining what I consider to be a classic wardrobe, combining durable investment pieces and a few colourful statement pieces, even if I don’t need to buy anything new, the magazines help me validate that the pieces I am wearing are still contemporary. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, How to, Humour, Inspiring, Misc blogs

The Ups and Downs of Blogging Statistics

statsIn posting articles to my blog once or twice per week, I cannot help but peek at my WordPress statistics from time to time. And I will even admit that every once in a while, I check them out a little obsessively, even though I know I shouldn’t. But when I do, I think to myself that I shouldn’t worry too much about the stats because I am blogging for the fun of it.

On the other hand, I cannot deny that paying attention to the stats and the multiple ways that they can be sliced and diced does provide valuable information with respect to social media and my target audience.

The reality is that watching blog stats is a little like watching the stock market. Once a blog post is in the public domain and its links are posted on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Flipboard, you never really know what will be a hit or when.

As I suggested in previous posts, there are some blogs I threw together in an hour that surpass my previous “personal bests” in page views, likes, comments or retweets. And then there are other posts for which I toiled by the sweat of my brow for days or weeks that barely register a blip.

But I am very proud of all of my posts, whether anyone saw them or not. I love them all equally!… OK, that’s not quite right. I admit, I have favourites too! Continue reading

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Filed under How to, Inspiring, Misc blogs, Writing