Week 42: Wow

Week 42: Wow

Where to even start?

First off my heart goes out to my mama friend who is in the thick of the worst thing imaginable: her husband has just received a very bad diagnosis. I can’t and won’t go into details, because it is not for me to tell. But WUMP does reality set in when something like that happens. So much runs through my own head about mortality, I cannot even begin to fathom what they are feeling as they begin to process this and formulate a plan of action. I don’t know what to do in this circumstance, I feel impotent. Does my compassion matter? What can I say or do? What I won’t do is disappear for lack of knowing what to do, or for feeling awkward. I want to make myself available to them in whatever way I can.

So with that as a preface, take everything else I write as interesting…but maybe, in the scheme of things, not that important. Some things in life have a way of giving us instant perspective.

What I had been thinking about this week was, well…why does it all happen at once? Both my car died and my cell phone in a span of less than 24 hours. While I have a tendency to bitch and moan, I already had my girlfriends news spinning around in my head, so I had my instant reality check and I decided that these small matters could be taken in stride.

So yes, the phone was irritating…since it had been a new phone purchased via ebay less than a year ago. At the time I thought I was really smart, that though it was cash down all at once, I ultimately saved a hundred bucks. More fool me. Apparently these things can’t even last a year. If I had just gone with my provider and paid for their phone via monthly installments…yes ultimately it would cost more…but there would have also been recourse if the thing just up and failed as it did.

Thus my attempted thriftiness was actually a loss. That’s $500 I will not see again. I can’t even believe I am writing that much money…how did cell phones get this expensive? ( I know, I know, they’re mini computers…but I don’t need all of that).

And now I have a new phone that I am paying for monthly…and I am paying for insurance on it at $11 a month because now the fear of implosion is instilled in me, so I don’t want to take any chances. Also, I do believe that while there, and very distracted by my two young ‘uns, the guy upgraded my plan…so I really feel kinda ripped off. Not sure how much more I will now be charged monthly. But it seems, any time I interact with cell phone providers, I always leave feeling I’ve been played. The plans and add-ons and small print are so frickin’ confusing on a good day, without kids. I dunno what to say about all that.

Luckily, the car turned out to be a minor fix that my hubs managed to do. So for the moment, no major expense (though he had purchased $200 worth of parts expecting to have to replace the ignition, but those can be returned).

I did get a strong sense of dejection eminating from the hubs on the morning after all of this hit the fan. I know his heart was with my friend and her husband. I know too he was worrying about all the additional unexpected expenses.

Which then got me thinking about how I might do better with reigning back spending. Because although I am doing this 365 shopping detox, it still seems like at best we are just hangin’ in there. I was just reading an article about the tenuous state of the middle class, how most of us, faced with a job loss, have only enough socked away to stay above water for 3 weeks. I gave that a thinky thunk, and I think that could be pretty true for us. Since I no longer work, we rely soley on my hubs’ income and while that is awesome that we can do that and stay afloat…afloat is all we are.

We have never, as a couple been good about laying out a realistic budget and sticking to it. Mostly because of me, I suppose. I have always just kept an idea of what we have, gone with gut feeling about what we can afford.

That’s probably not good enough right now.

There are so many little sucks, so many small leeches. Not only these days do we need to pay attention to what goes out via physical bills, but we need to pay attention to what goes out on automatic payments, what pre-approved bill via Paypal, etc. All of these things are there for our convenience, but it’s also dang confusing and easy to lose track of. I have Skype that draws a fee if and when I use up minutes, I have web addresses that have auto charges when their annual fee comes up, monthly Cloud storage fees (to back up all those photos I take on my smart phone. Grr.).

If I had been really brave, I would have said “screw it” to another smart phone. I would have gotten a basic cell for incoming texts and calls and that’s it ( if they even make those any more?!?) But no, I am well and truly in it. My privilege is showing: I want me my Instagram and Facebook, I want to take pictures and share them instantly with my family. I am no Buddhist monk, able to walk away from all of the clutter and wants of life. I have to accept where I am at. I do feel somewhat ashamed.

I thought of one way I could help. I could cancel my monthly membership to the Daily Method. I have been loving it. It keeps me strong and healthy, but it is also an expense. Is it a necessity? Can I not now take what I learned and try to do a home practice? If I were truly serious about saving and being efficient with money, I would. It remains to be seen, but I think I will have to do this. I can do this.(I know, some of you might say, but Sharolyn, you deserve something for you. And you are right. But if I really look at it, I have so much: I wanted a laptop, I got one, I wanted a ukulele, I got one (gifted), I wanted a website, I got one, I need shades, I got them (gifted). See where this is going? I have. So, if I can just use discipline, I too can have a home practice that takes care of my need for exercise, without spending $125 a month, and in doing so, will be taking care of my hubs as well, who has always seen this as too big an expense).

Of course, that might save monthly, but because of the current political climate I also feel compelled to now support agencies, groups etc. that will help us resist what is happening in this country. If I do not, I will be merely a talking head doing nothing. I can’t be that. I won’t be that. Where to begin though? Free press, the ACLU, National Parks…all the amazing people now working on overdrive.

So, the other thing is that I need to rally. I want to have an income again. The conundrum, of course, is what can one do while being a full time mother? If I were to return to the work force in a 9 to 5 the pressure would be on to find something that would pay enough to actually take something home once childcare costs have been covered. I don’t want to work just to work; I love raising my kids. I don’t think I have qualifications to be gainfully employed in that way.

Then what? My plan is to use my photography skills. I got my site up and running: SharolynTownsendPhotography . Yes, it cost. Of course it did. I can only hope that (this time) it is an investment towards future success in earnings. I am terrified. I fear failure. But I also admire those who DO. And so I want to become one of those DOers, and here is my chance.



Week 41: Here We Go

Week 41: Here We Go

Wow. What a week. I spent my Friday studiously avoiding all media. I am thankful to a dear friend for providing the space and time to get together to watch our kids wreak havoc and to chat amidst the chaos, temporarily forgetting what was going on in the outside world.

I also took my kids on a small spree of sorts at the Goodwill…we bought a stack of books. I could think of no better way to sate my desire to ’emotion spend’, then to spend it on books ( I was not in the mood to resist spending). I also had my eldest select a book she thought was great (and might want for herself), to give to her friend. I want to start to instill in my kids a sense of generosity…though how effective such lessons truly are at this stage of their life when everything is only about them remains to be seen.

And then, the next day, I marched.

I woke up Saturday feeling out of sorts. I had this feeling that once again I would be all talk and no action, that I would let this march pass me by. I have never been to a march. But I have also never felt so galvanized to participate. I also felt frozen with trepidation about whether or not such an event would be safe for my family, would there be irrationally angry people threatening the safety of all? This is America land of the free and the gun toting, would we be gunned down (these are the extreme fears I now have as a mom)? I will forever be grateful to my sister-in-law for calling me up and saying “hey, wanna go to the march?” Her calm and confidence that this was obviously something we could consider doing was freeing. Suddenly it felt possible. Suddenly I didn’t feel frozen. And so I ran the idea past my toddler to see if she was interested and she was…so we went about the business of digging out as much pink clothing as we could find…which wasn’t too hard for her given her recent interest in that color…but a little tougher for me.

I didn’t forget about the vigilance I would have to have, the spidey senses I would need to engage. I tagged my toddler lest she got lost. We started on the periphery and never got to deeply into the crowd. However, pretty soon, I began to feel at ease. It was amazing. It was what all such gatherings should be: positive, full of love and acceptance, and safe. The police were smiling and fully supportive. It was the best possible experience.

I don’t know what my three year old thought of the whole thing. On the walk there she slept in my pack. For the gathering and march she alternated between my carrier and shoulders. She had a scowl on her face…the expression she wears when she is taking things in and processing it. I don’t know how much she will have understood from it, but it felt good that we were there together, participating in something historical and significant and meaningful. My first step out of petrified stasis. I have yet to figure out how I will stay engaged, but I will. I must.

As for spending, well, the small book splurge was valid I think.

And as for future spending, I want to actually put my dollars into some organizations that will be essential to us in the next four years. I just need to do a bit more research.

And that’s all folks.

Love and hope.

A woman with her own kid walked by and offered to take a picture with this awesome frame she had made. Of course we said “yes!”

Week 40: A Reminder

Week 40: A Reminder

I just need, for this moment, to acknowledge something important: The only reason I can actually do a challenge like this one, in this format, is because I come from a privileged position.

For many on this planet, the idea of trying to limit what I spend would be…well, frankly preposterous. Not because they have unlimited funds (no, that is the 1%) but because many would not even have the option to spend if they wanted to. Yeah, that’s the difference. The fact that I can, if I want to, spend money I may or may not have, rack up credit card debt or what-not, that is a distinctly first world problem.

I just needed to acknowledge that.

And that’s not to diminish what I am doing or my standing in this world. We all have our challenges. We can’t be too apologetic for the life we lead. I am blessed, I truly am. That does not negate my life and the current struggles either in the physical or emotional realm.

That said:

I spent this week. I went online and I bought some clothes for the girls. At first it was an exploratory thing. I went online to see if I could track down some uber cheap blank shirts that we could decorate for ourselves, and then the bi-product would be the also much needed long sleeve shirts for my 3 year old. Much better, I thought, than just buying the cookie cutter shirts from Old Navy and the like.

But I got side tracked somehow. I got onto this site called Zulilly that I have perused in the past but never bought from. Well, there were sales by a brand that draws its inspiration from the styles in Japan, and they had some really neat designs…the price was right…The site is designed to PRESSURE you. They have limited stock and as you shop you get warnings like “only 5 left! Hurry!”. Up until you actually hit “pay” the items are subject to being selected out from under you by other shoppers while they are in your cart. They have it DIALED in. I tried to stay cool and calm….but I found these cute harem pants that were only $7 and they had them in sizes for both my girls. As I was browsing the warning came- “only 1 left!”. Well that did it. All my calm consideration fled and I went straight to check-out.

I felt like I had cheated or something. I felt a little dirty.

I think ultimately, I got some great deals, and I only bought what we would use and needed. But, I have learned. I will not be returning to that site in the near future. I know myself. I cannot make good decisions under time pressure. Knowing that, I can tell with absolute certainty that I should not use that site. But good on them for coming up with a model that generates sales. A lot of shopaholics are pretty hooked I’m guessing.

On an “I didn’t spend” note…I didn’t buy a ukulele strap though I have been wanting one. No…I made one instead. “WHAT?!” You say (if you know me, because that would mean I actually sewed something, and I don’t like sewing). It is also something I had no idea about; I’ve never had a strap for a uke or for any other instrument for that matter. I’d only seen uke straps online. So after scrutinizing them from the few photos provided on retail sites, I gave it a go. The end product is by no means a quality product. My sewing with the machine SUCKS; but it is functional. The results here:20170115_195721.jpg

Also, the book nook is a success. Even my hubs, who only “yes dear”ed me the whole time I was conceiving of it, gathering items and then executing it (with help too, as he made the shelves), has declared that he thinks it is great. Phew. The results here:20170115_154933.jpg

The whole idea was that she would be able to occupy herself in her room while I put my youngest down for a nap. The unintended side  effect of giving her that freedom is that she often tucks herself into bed after “reading” a few books, or, as pictured, falls asleep right where she is (that rug is COMFY).

Okay, no deep insights this week. I just am all about trying to get these posts out…very challenging as all my will is sucked from me once I struggle for an hour to put my kids to sleep. By the time they are still, I can’t get myself back out of bed. I was so determined yesterday (Sunday) that I would get my post finished…but as you can see, it is now Monday. I am going to hit “publish” forth with!





Week 39: The Urge is Strong in this One

One always hopes, when one takes on a challenge such as this, that one will be somehow miraculously changed by it.

39 weeks in, with…um, quick math…13 more weeks to go, and I can honestly say that I do not see huge changes in my desire for “things”. Perhaps it is because it is a long game that I am playing, this isn’t some 30 day challenge, this is a year with small changes, set-backs and minor improvements.

I didn’t start out as some spending junky with a credit card debt I was trying to get out from under. No, I have always been what one might consider a moderate spender (though, to my husband, who considers any purchase unnecessary, he might have begged to differ…though he never has complained nor commented out loud).

What, then was I hoping to achieve? Well, really, I was hoping to dig deep. To find the source of my Needs and Wants. What motivates me to want to spend? Why do I feel remorse or worse, apathy towards the items I do acquire?

So yes, if I look at that, I can see clear positive results. I rarely purchase something I regret these days. Most items have been carefully considered, evaluated for the “love” factor, and approved if they actually do make it into our home.

What troubles me, though, is that through all of this, I still continue to have the urge to buy things. I still Want things though I am pretty quick to narrow down whether I need it.

Oddly, euphoria and joy are still connected to the immediate desire to get something new. This is something I observed many months back, and the other day, was surprised to discover that the case is no different now.

I think I was feeling content over observing my girls at play. I was just feeling pure joy at their presence and the joy of feeling Present with them. And then, I caught myself thinking that my eldest really did need a few long sleeve shirts, and wouldn’t it be nice if my littlest had a few leggings that were new and not hand-me-downs. What cute patterns might be on sale? I suddenly felt excited that I might get to buy something for them.

And then I caught these thoughts and analysed them and really just couldn’t believe that they had entered my head. It went like this… “wait…really? REALLY Sharolyn?! You are so happy with your girls you want to BUY them clothes? For whom is this for? Look at them. Look at them rolling on the floor giggling. Did you even notice what they are wearing? Does it have any connection to the happiness you are feeling right now? Do they look like they want clothes? You know they are probably, in the next 30 minutes or so, going to find some excuse to completely take off all the clothes they are currently wearing despite how cold it is in this house. And you want to buy them clothes? For what? Why? Why. Just breath woman. Find reason again.”

So, I was able to ride that one out.

The good news is, that with two in tow, one rarely if ever can actually follow through with an urge like that. Yes, I could have gone on-line, but good on me, it never occurred. Instead, I just breathed through it and let it go. For now.

I suppose that is all we can ever do.

I am disappointed that I still have these urges, but I guess, ultimately it is what you do with them that counts. In this case, what I didn’t do.





Week 37 & 38: For Better or Worse a New Year is Launched.

Week 37 & 38: For Better or Worse a New Year is Launched.

I have been struggling with what to post for the past two weeks…going on three.

There are a myriad lines of thought going through my head, none I’ve been able to make coherent enough to write down.

I guess I will attempt it now. I hope it is not too jumbled, so bear with me, please.

I have not given up on this challenge. There are 52.143 weeks in a year, I’m more than half way done. I continue to consider each item I bring into my home. Admittedly, my home is no less cluttered, despite the curbed spending on non-necessities and the purging of extra or wallowing items via donations and selling through my facebook sellers pages. It’s clear there is more work to be done, but I am also recognizing that as a household with two kids, this house will never look clutter free. And I accept that, because it is definitely more homey to be surrounded by the evidence of their fun and imaginative play than imposing some austere, limited environment on them. Of course, there are also limits, kids don’t need to drown in toys either…so I keep that in mind. So long as all of it can return to it’s “home” in a basket or on a shelf, then we are A-Ok.

Because of this, the requirement that all things have a home, I have felt the need to work on a side project whereby I create a book nook for my girls in their future shared bedroom. The one thing I don’t limit is books, we love books. The girls have two dedicated shelves just for them on my one book case in our living room. So, as it is overflowing into baskets in my eldest’s room, I thought, why not give her her own bookshelf. And then it morphed into, ‘why not a book nook where she can cozy up and “read” her books (she’s 3, she doesn’t actually read, but she does look at books alone for upwards of an hour at a time!)?’ It has taken months and months. I wanted to gather the necessary items on the cheap. Namely a cozy rug, shelving, and to paint her nook in some magical way. Well, the paint was easy…Home Depot does samples for $3 each, so I got the primaries and filled in the rest with my own existing acrylics. I scoured, like an addict, my facebook sell pages, until I got an amazing deal on a thick cotton rug for a mere $20 and in exactly the motif I had hoped for. My aunt thoughtfully gifted the Ikea light and giant leaf I had had my eye on as I was planning the project. We are not done, pillows need to be made…but I am kinda hoping that my mom will want to take on that project the next time she visits!20161231_143922.jpg

20161231_143840.jpgBut now here comes the thing I have been wrestling with: What happens after my 52.143 weeks? I don’t believe that much will change. I don’t think I will be going on a buying binge. I feel like this exercise has changed me for sure, has made me aware of my own source of desires, helped slow me down enough to question. But on that other level, what happens to this blog? As with all my past internet based endeavours, will it just lie fallow? What happens to this digital detritus? Am I just adding to the digital junk pile? How much of it is out there? How many failed blogs, dead Myspace profiles…

It really got me going down this thought path about why is it that I feel the need to put myself out there? What is the payoff?

There is a video currently going around the internet about Millennials and social media and our addiction to it. I am not a Millennial…I’m about a decade too old apparently…but it still rings true for me. In examining myself, I can see that while my blogs are definitely a creative outlet that is on one hand of great benefit to me…there is also another aspect of it that is the ego stuff, the “likes” junkie, always hoping for a response or feedback, a conversation starter…the pipe dream of one day going viral.

And then what? Really, for what?

So, I can see addictive egoic behaviour is involved in this. I have also really started to feel uneasy with this whole “look at me” kind of culture. I think it started when I tried to enter the world of Twitter. Bite sized updates by individuals ranging from the boring to the outrageous, but always or mostly about themselves…or desperate attempts at drawing attention to themselves or to somehow draw out a response from a celebrity  ( I could feel the palpable desperation of the fans trying to get their idol to acknowledge them ). Yet another medium for rejection. It all seemed so desperate. I started to feel desperate. And yes, I am well aware of its power for good, that revolutions have been started via this medium…as with all things, if we can use it as a “tool” we can get some good from it. Unfortunately, the majority of us are just using it to tune out while “tuning in” to a virtual world ( often while in the presence of real people in the physical world who might be interacted with if we’d only look up.) with the potential, we think for adulation or recognition…our one chance to get noticed on a large scale if only we can crack the code of what it is that makes something go viral. Only there is SO much out there. So many voices clamoring to be heard …so many giving advice and how-tos ( when they probably shouldn’t and probably have no real authority on a subject), so many  showing only their best selves ( a false narrative that only serves to one-up and cause envy). As media consumers, how much can we possibly put our attention to? What should we put our attention to? For all the thousands of stories or memes that do get major attention how much junk is out there. How many of us content creators are just shouting into the wind? Adding to the negative rather than the positive? There is an aspect of despair and discouragement in all of this if we truly are in it just hoping to be recognized. I have definitely felt that longing to be seen, that hope that I will, that disappointment when I am not. But am I making a valuable contribution? What is my true intention…not the surface reason, but the underlying one?

Thus, recently I started a semi media ban…namely not clicking on links related to politics for a while…nor those rubber necky types of posts about the misfortunes of others. If it uplifts, I am all for it. The reason for this selective media ban is mostly because I was losing all hope as the whole presidential election fall-out started generating a frenzy of content that, while informative, was also overwhelming and affecting my mood deeply. I definitely feel fear and despair and I know I am not the only one. But I needed a break ( I have literally had dreams of fleeing with my family via a mountain range a la VonTrap family). My family needed a break from being the secondary recipients of all that bad mojo.

I could go on. But the basics are this, I am still using all my media outlets (but not Twitter!) (at this point in time I cannot give up posting family events on facebook, nor abandon this blog) but I am going to try to re-frame them for myself to clarify their purpose. I am not to lose sleep over them nor become a shitty parent and spouse as a result of them.

For one, I am going to take that advice from that video about Millennials and charge my cell phone outside of the bedroom, and yes, buy an analogue alarm clock so that I don’t use that as the excuse to have my phone there. When I post on facebook I will continually realign myself mentally with the purpose of it, which is to provide my family in Canada with a window into our life and the growth of our girls, nothing more. This is especially hard, because there is a pride that goes into being  a mom, I am completely obsessed with my kids and think they are the bomb. The key is to not expect others to think so and thus comment about that. The comments and the likes are not the point, Sharolyn!

My blogs. I need to get real. I am not destined to be a respected writer via some kind of sudden interest by the global  internet community in what I have to say. Mostly I am just writing a personal journal, a cathartic exercise and creative outlet for me. I deeply appreciate those who do read what I write because gosh knows, there’s so much out there that to even be read by one person is a small miracle. So thank you. But for me, I need to keep that straight in my head. This is not about being “discovered”. If I want a career in writing, well then I should work towards that with true effort and intent.

And I need to do more real life stuff that uplifts me. That mostly means just being more present with my kids. I have slipped into glancing at my phone in my kids’presence, which is something I had vowed not to do right from the start with my first born. I started to justify it by comparing it to how in the past parents might read a book or a newspaper in front of their kids and it only demonstrated literacy at work…only it doesn’t. What it demonstrates is addiction, because a phone is more than a digital book, it’s a computer…and while computers can be excellent tools, they can also be a time sucker, an addiction conduit. I knew I was in a downward slide when my kids started reaching for my phone and pressing it’s buttons…what was on this thing that demands mommy’s attention? By that same token, even this laptop, as I write on it and stare at the screen.

So, if I want to demonstrate literacy, I will read a book in front of my kids. If I want to space out and gorge on media…I am going to have to do it on my own time (and debate the merits of binging vs getting sleep). The key is to be honest with myself and not try to rationalize it or spin it. I have a minor media addiction and I need to moderate it, step back from it and engage the real world.

I also have been inspired by this book:20161222_162412.jpg

I picked it up over the holidays just as I was instituting my selective media ban, because I was at a real low. This is such a good book! It really does show us a path to joy, but it is clear that it must be cultivated, and a piece of that is compassion.

And I realized that the things that were helping lift my mood was trying to see other view points and feel compassion. Over and over I kept slipping back into disbelief, anger and frustration…but to then remind myself that other viewpoints exist, it is a fact and not something I can control. So the only way through that, without anger or fear, is to feel compassion. From that, hopefully springs love, and ultimately joy. Life is tough folks. There will always be injustice, grief, struggle. It’s how we face it, frame it, use it. I hope that I have the strength to face whatever life has in store for me. I know that there is so much potential for fear, especially now, but will that do for me?

So I am choosing, at every moment at present, to try to be more generous and loving with those around me, choose to not judge as much, choose to re-frame how I look at others’ differences and to try to practice the art of compassion.

And finally, I need to acknowledge how blessed I am. This Christmas was a time of abundance, in food and in gifts. I live a charmed, beautiful life. So much so that sometimes I find myself falling into fear that something will happen to change it. But, to enact what I am trying to learn, it is inevitable that life, real life will happen, whatever that is, and it is upon me to frame it in a way that allows for joy.

I am so grateful for the love I receive on a daily basis, via my kids, via my family far and near. From friends. I struggle sometimes to feel worthy of all I receive and hope that I, in turn, am giving enough.

Love to all.

I received this unexpected gift from a friend. It blew my mind, the generosity,thoughtfulness and love expressed through this gift. I struggle even now to accept it, though my heart is full of joy every time I pick it up.