Four hundred and one


I sent off my Extreme Couponing section of the book to my agent today and am working on the edits she suggested for the prologue.  As I’m writing about how this journey got started right now and my first couple of months, I’m analyzing more and more what happiness is and why I am so much happier now than the beginning of last year.  It’s very fitting then, that the first ever World Happiness Report was released yesterday in time for the UN’s Conference on Happiness.  The report is a fascinating read and if you have time I would recommend taking a look.  Here are a few excerpts:

We live in an age of stark contradictions. The world enjoys technologies of unimaginable sophistication; yet has at least one billion people without enough to eat each day. The world economy is propelled to soaring new heights of productivity through ongoing technological and organizational advance; yet is relentlessly destroying the natural environment in the process. Countries achieve great progress in economic development as conventionally measured; yet along the way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, and other ills of modern life…

…happiness differs systematically across societies and over time, for reasons that are identifiable, and even alterable through the ways in which public policies are designed and delivered. It makes sense, in other words, to pursue policies to raise the public’s happiness as much as it does to raise the public’s national income….

A household’s income counts for life satisfaction, but only in a limited way. Other things matter more: community trust, mental and physical health, and the quality of governance and rule of law. Raising incomes can raise happiness, especially in poor societies, but fostering cooperation and community can do even more, especially in rich societies that have a low marginal utility of income. It is no accident that the happiest countries in the world tend to be high-income countries that also have a high degree of social equality, trust, and quality of governance. In recent years, Denmark has been topping the list. And it’s no accident that the U.S. has experienced no rise of life satisfaction for half a century, a period in which inequality has soared, social trust has declined, and the public has lost faith in its government….

The report recommends Sustainable Development Goals with four pillars: to end extreme poverty by 2030; environmental sustainability; social inclusion; good governance.  The top ten happiest countries the report found are (in order): Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland.  United States is eleventh.

The report found happiness is determined by “external” factors such as: income; work; community and governance; and values and religion, and “personal” factors such as: mental health; physical health; family experience; education; and gender and age.  It’s no wonder I’m happier, having changed many of these factors in my life, including my values, physical and mental health, and my community.

The ramifications of TLC’s Extreme Couponing

Speaking of happiness, there are some not-so-happy couponers out there because of TLC’s Extreme Couponing show.  I was checking sources and statistics for my book and came across a lot of articles and comments saying how that television show has made it harder for them to save money now. “Spaving” Gone Wild: The Hidden Costs of Extreme Couponing is just one example, but take a look at the comments on the article.  One lady comments: “BECAUSE OF THIS STUPID SHOW many grocery stores have changed their coupon policies! This makes it hard for those us that just want to save a few bucks on a shopping order.”  Another says: “it’s those type of customers that clean store shelves for the thrill of it and leave the rest of us driving all over town for the item we DO want/need/will use!  I HATE EC on TLC with a passion!”  Another: “I’ve noticed stores that used to stack coupons have changed their policies and have started to discourage usage. Items are often missing. It seems like an innocent way to save money for a family has turned into something more…not innocent.”  There’s lots more.

It’s interesting because when I did my extreme couponing experiment it was before the whole season of TLC’s Extreme Couponing came out (they had only run one special I believe at the time).  I wonder if Canadian couponing was affected.  I haven’t noticed it, but I don’t use coupons nearly as much as I did during that month.

Three hundred and nineteen

Trying to write about different poverty lines around the world in a short blog format is harder than I thought.  Just like Canada has a few ways of looking at poverty (absolute, relative, deprivation index, etc), so too do most other countries.  To write about every one of those ways, even for a few countries, would be too much for one post and would probably become very dry to read.  Therefore, I’ve decided to add a few ways of defining poverty below.  This is by no means a complete list, but only a rough idea of how the poverty line is viewed by some people in different parts of the world.

  • A general way of defining poverty in the UK and some parts of Europe is to consider those whose household income is below 60% of the median income to be poor.  (Poverty in the United Kingdom)
  • The United States tends to use an absolute poverty measure (as opposed to relative to income made across the country), the poverty threshold “below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.” (Wikipedia)
  • The United Nations Development Programme (with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative) have developed the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which complements money-based measures by considering multiple dimensions of deprivation (similar to the Ontario Deprivation Index I talked about yesterday).  The MPI uses three dimensions of Health, Education and Living Standards, with ten indicators of Nutrition, Child Mortality, Years of Schooling, Children Enrolled, Cooking Fuel, Toilet, Water, Electricity, Floor and Assets.  People suffering deprivations in 33% of weighted indicators are considered poor by this measure.
  • The World Bank calculated an international poverty line of US$1.25 per day “by reference to the national poverty lines in 10-20 of the world’s poorest countries. These figures are converted into US dollars, not by standard currency exchange rates, but by purchasing power parity (PPP) rates. ” (
  • Each country has its own poverty line, with developing countries having lower poverty lines than those of developed countries.

If you are a visual person, here is a (very simplified) presentation by the World Bank on how poverty is measured:

Two hundred and sixty-four

International Men’s Day

A day to celebrate MAN in all his glory.  And I love men.  I’m a daddy’s girl (although I also love my mom dearly too).  I have a lot of male friends.  In all honesty, I often feel more comfortable around guys than girls – it’s less complicated and what they say is usually what they mean (some girls are very good at playing games, but then, as I’ve learned recently, some boys are as well).  The girls that I do connect with are often like me in this way.  I also love men because my clinic doctor is a man and I’ve had an amazing man nursing me back to health over the past couple of days, and I’m feeling a lot better (not perfect, a little slow and always sore, but on the upward).  That makes me love men even more!  So Happy International Men’s Day!

International Men’s Day began in Trinidad and Tobago on November 19th, 1999.  It was supported by the United Nations and men’s groups around the world.  According to the IMD global website the “objectives of International Men’s Day include a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models.”  As well as celebrating men’s positive contributions, highlighting discrimination against males, to “reduce the polarization between the men’s movement and the women’s movement” highlighting the common bonds of humanity, and a yearly theme with 2011 focusing on boy’s health and well being.  It is now celebrated in over 60 countries, with Canada joining in 2009.

Remember all the contributions those kind, hard-working, good men in your life have made and thank them today.  And for all those feminists out there: I am definitely a feminist, but remember it isn’t “us” versus “them” and let’s work together towards a common goal.

Other holidays today

It is also Have a Bad Day Day, created by the writers at to get store clerks to say “have a bad day” instead of “have a nice day”; the paper-wrapped pencil was patented in 1895; the Sultan’s birthday in Oman and a public holiday; the discovery of Puerto Rico by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and a national holiday; National Adoption Day; and the birthday of my sister from another mother, who I’ve known since I visited her when she was born and I was five and a half months old and is in the Galapagos right now biking with giant turtles or something like that (not quite a national holiday, but I’m sure she’d love it to be!).

Two hundred and sixty-one

Two quick holidays today:

UN International Day for Tolerance

First practiced in 1996, International Day for Tolerance is a day showing “the commitment of Heads of State and Government to advance human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encourage tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples.” (

From the Secretary-General’s Message for 2011:

We all have a responsibility to protect those vulnerable to discrimination, whether based on race, religion, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation or other factors.

As I’m stuck at home, but finally feeling a little better to be able to find distractions for myself, I watched Anderson Cooper’s show on transgendered children and teens.  Although this show was not about bullying, the topic has been all around the news lately.   Let’s not stop fighting against bullying because of sexuality, race, religion, or any other reason.  Teach tolerance to your childrean and we will all live in a better world.

National Educational Support Professionals Day

A day to say thank you to all those school employees who help students have the tools they need to succeed.  I’m sure we can all tell a story when the clerical assistants helped you when you had to leave early from school, or the school nurse when you got your period (sorry boys), the food service workers for providing you lunch or the bus driver to get you there.  If you know an educational support professional thank them today for all their hard work.

Recap on Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

Yesterday was a bit of a blur.  I was in so much pain I vaguely recall writing the blog.  I now know what migraine sufferers go through.  The infection created a bad fever that caused a severe headache.  I’m on antibiotics and am having an ultrasound to make sure things aren’t spreading.  I’m still in pain and feverish, but I’m feeling a bit better today.

On that note, I could hardly get out of bed, let alone clean my refrigerator yesterday.  Although I did take a look inside to see all the things that I need to throw out.  There are definitely a few items that are ready to go!  On my ‘must do’ list when I feel better.