Week 51: False Generosity

Week 51: False Generosity

When I think back on this week, really all that stands out is embarrassment at one incident where I didn’t act with personal integrity. Not that you could see it from the outside, but I knew it on the inside.

The story is this ( and it’s a short one): I was unloading my kids from the van in a shopping court parking lot. We were there to get some lunch since it had a been a packed morning and I hadn’t managed to pack a picnic. As I hauled my Littles, stepping up on the curb, a big Armenian-looking man walked straight up to us ( a little intimidating as he was tall and broad and very direct) and said “Hi, Do you have any money so I can get some lunch?” He looked a little rough around the edges, like his story could be legit, so I said, “let me see” and dug into my wallet all while balancing my littlest in one arm against my hip and keeping my eye on my three year old nearby. He attempted gruffly to ask how I was and I absently/guardedly said “good, thank you” and then paused not knowing how to ask that in return of someone obviously down on their luck. He didn’t meet my eyes anyway. I really needed to get my kids to lunch as they were already whining about hunger. I opened my wallet knowing I had some small bills…there were two ones and a five…a reasonable amount to give. At the last moment I skipped past those bills, pulled out a ten and handed it to him. Without a word, he turned and walked straight into the nearby Starbucks.

As I walked then, with my girls, to the fast food Chinese restaurant directly across from the Starbucks (where you can get a good sized bowl of food for under $10) I mused that I had just given away our lunch money to a man who chose lattes over real food, or (to give him the benefit of the doubt) real food at a steep price and small portions.

As I sat there with my kids I realized I was kinda pissed. And then I stopped myself. I know that, if you are going to give, you need to give without conditions and let go of the outcome. I managed to let it go…for all of a minute and then realized that I kept returning to irritation.

I was conflicted, would be the word.

Recently I had arrived at the conclusion that I want to be more generous. I feel, often that I am too self centered, selfish and hoarding of my stuff. I really believe that in order to experience abundance one must also let things go. I want to live by that standard, embody my beliefs. I find that I am better and better about being generous with friends, and I never regret that. However, with giving to a stranger, I realized that I have attachments. Part of me was peeved that he didn’t even say thank you. But while that is a nice thing to receive, gratitude, it shouldn’t be a requirement. To give without attachment is to expect nothing in return. By my reaction I realized how much my ego was involved. At the moment of choosing what to give, I gave more, not just because it felt right, but because on some level I wanted to see his surprise and gratitude. Talk about instant karmic lesson.

I am humbled.

And because I am in the process of trying to restrict spending, part of me felt that, because I had let that small portion of my money go, I should pair back what we then spent on our own lunch. And then I felt resentful. How crazy is the monkey mind.

The moral or conclusion of this story? Act with integrity or don’t do it.

I should feel fully empowered to say no, if I know that I will not be able to give without attachment. I want to be generous, but I can take baby steps where strangers are concerned.

My take away: the act of giving should hold no strings. If by my giving I will create a tangled ball of monkey-mind thoughts, I should take a pass on it and look to other ways to be generous. I can always return to that mode of giving, once I have mastered my inner world a bit more fully.

 

Week 21: The Cure

Week 21: The Cure

What is the ultimate cure for spending? Ummm…cleaning. More specifically, de-cluttering. This long weekend we had, as usual, made no plans in advance. This left us wide open to come up with some great spur of the moment activities. Being that we have had a rough week, the two of us, short on sleep and high on stress, we couldn’t think of much. Sometimes what is needed is simply time at home.

Unfortunately, time at home means looking at things more closely, aka: the mess. So, it launched us into de-clutter mode. I have been saying for months that the next de-cluttering frontier is the garage. Oh, the garage. The bane of my hubby’s existence. When I moved to California, permanently, from Ontario Canada, I brought a lot of stuff with me. Stuff that I could not get rid of, you know, the paraphernalia of personal history. Memories, in other words. I look at those unopened boxes gathering dust and I wonder why I couldn’t face de-cluttering all of those years ago when I had a chance; when each box and the amount it contained equaled a really sizable chunk of money, all sent through the mail. The cost of memories. I had a literal cost for being unable to let go.

I’ve always been a collector, but these days I am starting to change my perspective on things. I imagine us getting old, passing away and leaving this burden of earthly possessions to the kids. Who needs that? I know for a fact that I cannot bring anything physical with me when I die. What is this need to posses? What will happen to me if I don’t have all this stuff? And most importantly, if I do get rid of something meaningful, and I do, in the future have a pang of regret…what does that do to me? Really. And what will I gain in terms of mental emotional/clarity when I don’t have all of this stuff lingering around, cluttering my life?

Ultimately, that pang of regret is a transient feeling. It will not affect who I am nor the life I am living, nor the memories I carry with me. The pangs we have for physical things, the nostalgia, it’s just that: nostalgic feelings that can be felt, observed and let go of. 

I sound so confident and zen, don’t I?  In actuality, this is the ultimate challenge for me. I managed to empty quite a few boxes and send some things off either to the dump or the thrift store, but there are boxes I have designated my “search my heart” boxes. I will have to tackle each and every item in them and really honestly answer the questions: do I need this? Will I use this? Is this necessary? And, most importantly, is this an item of joy or a burden? If it’s a burden, I need to let it go, no matter what it is, no matter how personally historical.

One of the hardest thing for me is photographs. What to do with this precious documentation. To destroy it seems to be sacrilege. Yet, of all the things I possess it seems to be the biggest burden. The burden of a reluctant archivist. I do not possess the interest, time, or ability to organize and store all of it properly, so it weighs on my mind. I have to ask the questions: For whom are these photos? Will these photos be viewed? Will they be of value to anyone other than myself? Do I simply need one photo or the negatives too? The negatives are the DNA of the photo, yet they are inherently set to decompose, break down which, if I’m honest, is a source of anxiety for me too (this is proof of my existence, when we are all dust, there will be no record). Until such time as they are no longer viable, what will I do with them, can I let them go?! Would the regret of letting them go eat me up inside?

When I was younger, I actually thought that perhaps, one day, I might really make something of myself. Enough so that someone might be interested in my personal history. My ego-self envisioned that all the stuff I’d collected was like my personal museum, my biography, some day, long from now, someone would find my stuff and think it was gold, would gleefully delve into it all and glean something of my personality and life, a museum could be set up dedicated to my creative life. I am laughing so hard. And I am also so sad. The death of dreaming and the onset of reality and the likelihood of a lovely yet unremarkable, decidedly non celebrity life. Don’t get me wrong:

I love my life. I am just, probably, not the stuff of legend.

So there will be soul searching and brutal honesty in my future…when I get a chance. With kids, those chances seem to be few and far between. Ultimately that might help me be more swiftly decisive and brutal.

I turn to you, my lovely community: how do you deal with your personal artifacts? What can you let go of? What do you find you must keep and why?

 

Week 20: In Which We Celebrate my baby turning 3 years old

Week 20: In Which We Celebrate my baby turning 3 years old

Okay, so I am a day late on this post. I almost completely forgot about it. Kind of blissful actually, to not feel the weight of any particular “have to” for a brief period of time (though usually it’s a “want to”). I’m sort of in a post birthday prep haze. Today, my kiddo’s actual birthday, we just chose to lie low and take the day nice and slow.

What to report/reflect on this week? I did spend. Mostly on party related things, but in that regard I think it was all rather conservative and very successful. I did have a moment (the Asian part of me) when I panicked that maybe I wasn’t preparing enough food, but it turned out to be ample and everyone left with full bellies. It felt like party food on a budget, but maybe it was just the nature of the cuisine? I chose to do “Mexican” not because I know much about the cuisine, but because in thinking about what small children might actually choose to eat alongside their parents (that wasn’t pizza), I thought “why, beans…and rice…tasty rice…and salty meat always seems to do the trick”. From that I figured on some quesadillas, some corn tortillas, home made salsa made by my mum-in-law, guacamole made by my Aunt Barb. I didn’t try to be a hero, I got the re fried beans from a can and focused instead on the meat. Without tasty meat, you’ve got nothin’. So, I let the hubs choose a large cut of meat from our deep freeze (from our locally sourced and butchered 1/8 of a cow) and I started the thaw and marinate part about 48 hours out. Then, I slow cooked that puppy for 11 hours timed to be ready just one hour before show time; enough time to be cool enough to be broken up into delicious taco ready strips. I also made horchatta from scratch. Super simple and extremely delicious. I will be revisiting that one for sure. All that said, it really didn’t cost all that much and it was a feast. * A huge thank you to my salsa, guac and bday cake contributors! Not sure what I would have done without you, Cathy, Barb and Rebekah.

On other birthday stuff. Decorations…now that can get out of hand…if you go to a party supply store. I made that mistake with little M’s birth day last month. No, the place to go is the dollar store. They have an entire wall dedicated to plastic table cloths, utensils, napkins and plates, all in a spectrum of colours. My kid made the specific request to have “pink and purple…with a little bit of black” Hoh! Some sophistication added to the palette. Not bad for a 3 year old! I think I got all of the decor (balloons and streamers, table cloth, utensils etc.)  plus a few party gift bag toys ( a few items from Target’s dollar area) for under $30. So, not too shabby.

Also this week, I started to get a little bit excited about painting my girls’ bedroom. She is starting to transition into sleeping in there by herself at nap time. She still has daddy in there at night, but I foresee a change a comin’ and I am pretty excited about that. It will be nice to share the same bed with the hubs again. So… I sort of want to pretty up, and magical-up her room so that it becomes her little safe haven/wonderland. She, of course, requested pink (this is the baby I deliberately put in only gender neutral clothes for the first year of her life. Grrr.). I want to figure out a work around, a way to incorporate pink but also use some of my artistic skill….perhaps a bit of mural art. Her auntie got her one of those wall mounted lights from IKEA shaped like a flower, and those giant leaf canopies for over the bed. I can see a flower garden theme emerging. I also want a book nook. The hubs forbids me (being that he is a cabinet maker) from buying some cheap thrift store book shelf and spray painting it. I am loath to always give him the projects, but on this I think I can’t argue… plus it would be nice to have some shelving specifically designed for the space. So…I was sort of on the hunt for a cool area rug and some bedding for her twin sized day bed. I roped one of my gal pals into coming with me to a few thrift stores. Unfortunately, there were no gems. I did come away with one clothing item to help flesh out her dwindling wardrobe as she fully launches into her 3T size category. But that’s it. I didn’t needlessly spend on any nick knacks. I am proud of that.

I did not sell any other items on that facebook yard sale page this week. Though it feels great to get some stuff gone and a bit of cash in hand…it does take a lot of time in posting, follow up and coordinating pick up. I already feel like media takes up way too much of my attention at times. I really don’t want my kids growing up with images in their head of mommy staring at her phone like a zombie. So, because of that awareness, I just didn’t manage to find the time to post anything. I think what I will do is try to be smart about it, I will only post at peak times…aka Friday, Saturday, to try to move some stuff out while more people are looking and I also have the hubs to tag team; because it is still quite worthwhile and in line with my intent to rid our lives of unnecessary clutter. It’s always such a fine balance of priorities, isn’t it?

Alright, not sure that that is it, but it is going to have to be. Night. Until next week.

 

Day 99: Change the Language Change the Mindset?

Day 99: Change the  Language Change the Mindset?

I realize that though I am attempting to not spend money on things I don’t need, I have not changed how I speak about spending.

When I am chatting with family or friends, often the topic of items for purchase comes up, like ” I saw this great deal at..”, or “there’s a sale on…” or ” There’s this really cute…”. You get the idea. I happily launch into my old routine, talking about things as though I am going to be, or thinking about, buying them.

Is there anything wrong with that? I suppose not, so long as it remains firmly in fantasy land. But there are two concerns here: one, that in talking as though a purchase is a real consideration, I start to feel like it is and so it feeds my desire to purchase. And two, I continue to not inform my family and friends of my resolution by participating in those topics, thus I do not garner the kind of support I really need.

I also find myself hesitant to change my language because I don’t want to be a ‘Debbie Downer’. If I can’t join in on the talk about things we like, desire and want, do I have anything interesting to add to the conversation? Probably not. I would have to change the subject entirely. A hard one indeed, because I’m not trying to shame or curtail anyone’s spending but my own.

Also, it is just habit to talk about deals. Spending has been a big part of my adult life, and desiring neat things and enjoying the hunt for a deal is very set in my psyche.

All those reasons (excuses) given, I think that I will try to change how I speak about shopping and consuming in general. Not only do I need to stop talking about deals as though I am going to take part in them, but I also need to respect what I do have and stop referring to things I actually do need to purchase as “too expensive” or a “rip off” because that too has been a part of my language and mind-set. Respect for what I do need and have; respect for the value of what I need and have.

That all said, I walked into a Ross today in search of socks with sticky dots on the bottom in anticipation of taking my first Dailey Method class.

There was an astonishing array of socks, in every sport name brand you can imagine. I had to ask, more than once, is there a big enough spending population to support such a multitude of socks? Where do un-purchased socks go? Is this crazy excessive or what?20160716_101027.jpg

In the end I walked out empty handed as there was not a single ‘sticky dot’ sock to be had. I wandered all the aisles of clothing, considered a few items to see what my desire level for them was. I was aware that I needed work-out leggings as well, but decided that if I were to get a pair I wouldn’t settle for just any, they would have to be something I really liked so as to ensure I get a lot of good use out of them.

I ended up purchasing some leggings online with a small twinge of guilt as I questioned the validity of my “need”. I even stopped mid purchase to go into my bedroom and comb through my pants shelf. I considered sticking with the few I already possess, but then thought about how ill-fitting they are, how one of them actually pulls my underwear down as I wear them, how I look at them and don’t want to wear them, how I haven’t worn them. Also, for the specific use I require them for, they not only have to stay on my body, but also wick sweat and lots of it. So, I went ahead and purchased two leggings from Costco online, and then purged 5 pairs of pants/leggings that have wallowed in my drawers for a while now “in case” I needed them.

Part of this purge and sort process is to keep getting rid of things that do not “spark joy” as the KonMari method suggests I do. I really like this assessment method. And as I clear, I may or may not replace items on an as-needed basis. I’m hoping I will err more on the side of not replacing as I discover that I truly don’t “need” much.

Actually, getting rid of those unused pants felt really good. I think I’m going to go do a little bit more of that right now…

 

 

Days 96, 97& 98: The Costco Conundrum

Days 96, 97& 98: The Costco Conundrum

Man, the big box stores sure have it dialed in.

You might go in there for necessities, but the temptations abound. Things you never thought you needed or desired are there in heaping piles yelling “deal, deal, deal!”

Moreover, they usually contain the allure of being also a name brand. What IS it about the name-brand that gets me so lathered up.I’m definitely a sheep when it comes to that. I have been so conditioned to value the brand name…even though I KNOW it is not necessarily synonymous with quality. That in fact, some of those name brands are FOR SURE using cheap production and slave labor to further their brand. And yet…

Here was my temptation:

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The material was incredibly soft and flowy. Perfect for a momma who just wants to pull on some pants and forget about them. The fact that they were name brand added a little bit of hope (on my part) that they would be a little stylish too.

In the next aisle was underwear. Who doesn’t need underwear?

I don’t. Especially not the ones with a man’s name written all the way around the band: Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein.

If a man’s name has to be written on my underwear, it better be my husband’s.

Yet, still, two days later, I keep thinking about just nipping back into Costco to pick those pair of pants up. Luckily, there is no such thing as “nipping in” when you’ve got two under three.

Did I tell you that I used a loaner ukulele while I was visiting family in Canada?

Well, I did, and it was far superior to the one I own. Superior by far. I will never be the same. To know what quality sound the ukulele, if made well, can emit has changed my view and enjoyment of the instrument irrevocably. I now covet that ukulele, which was hand-made by a luthier in Hawaii. Even took a picture of my beloved on the eve of our separation:

And I’ve found myself compulsively looking at ukes for sale on Craigslist and googling “how to make a ukulele” as I realize more and more how expensive a good one can be.

Since I’ve been back I’ve been dreaming about just “stopping by” a music store to “try out” their ukes. Laughable thought with two kids in tow who are more likely to run about tearing instruments from displays than sitting quietly by my side, listening to me play excerpts from my favorite songs.

I must say, on the no spending front, I am feeling rather discouraged. I am having a really hard time not desiring things. Even as I look about my place in discontent, wanting to rid myself of excess, I still desire new things. Why? It seems so at odds with what I envision for my living space, my mental and spiritual space. So many times I catch myself thinking, ‘yeah, I can just buy that and not post about it. Who really cares if I break the rules. I’m being too strict.’

Who cares? I care. I care to know why I want to purchase things so compulsively. I want to know why I think some object will make my life better, make me more attractive, more together, more stylish, more interesting.

What is the hole I’m filling and why is that hole there?

So many questions. I guess that’s what all of this is for. So I keep on examining and blogging, as imperfect as this experiment is.

 

Days 93 &94

Days 93 &94

Lots of stuff going on in my brain.

As I try to resettle into life at home (being away for 5 weeks can really throw a girl off) I am trying to look with new eyes at all the stuff that I surround myself with. A lot of stuff is what I like, I’ve collected the “stuff” and it is what makes this plae homey. However, the rest is just extra.

So, because I did not do well in the ‘no spending’ arena during my vacation, I am renewing efforts to eliminate the excess in my life.

This weekend, I started. There is actually so much to tackle, that I almost got overwhelmed. I had to keep resetting my mind to just look at everything in small projects otherwise I would have wanted to quit right away. I decided that the kitchen would be a good place to start. Of course, where in the kitchen? The kitchen alone can be broken down into different areas. So, I just decided to tackle under the sink.

I realized immediately that I have been holding onto stuff compulsively, aka my collection of paper grocery bags. Could someone please tell me what I am going to do with all of these?20160710_093614.jpg

I decided to be brutal about getting rid of stuff that I even hesitate about when I ask “do I need this? Do I use this?” I got rid of two rubber sink basin liners that my mom had gotten for me in hopes of helping us not break so many dishes. Honestly, I could get behind their use, but my hubby hates them and quite frankly it’s not worth the struggle. I chose a happy marriage over arguing the merits of such a thing.

Once I removed the mountain of bags, I discovered an old mouse trap (ick!), and dirty water catching basin, an old ant trap and all manner of disgusting things. So I scrubbed it all up and turned it from this:20160710_093610.jpg

to this: 20160710_094704.jpg

in a relatively short period of time. Not bad for the satisfaction it brought me. Of course, once I was in the kitchen, things snowballed. I got up on a stool to see what I could get rid of in the cupboards above the fridge, then saw the grime build up and had to stop and scrub that…which let to scrubbing the top of the hood range…

I ended up changing the way I organize my herbs, spices, oils and vinegars. I’ve decided that I want my kitchen work space as clear as possibly for both the mental and spiritual contentment it will bring me. I will also then be able to clean all the surfaces more effectively which will bring me peace of mind. So I spent a good deal of time working on getting all my oils, salts etc off their permanent spots beside my stove and onto the shelves…which of course led to a lot of rearranging and purging.

I, of course, am not done. Even with my hubs running interference, I do have two little kiddos who demand attention. So, it’s a start but it is incomplete. I hope I can maintain this forward momentum.

 

Also, a confession. I found myself coveting a few items and daydreaming of purchasing them. First, a bag my Aunt Reggie has that is by Derek Alexander (sold at the Bay in Canada) and seemed the perfect small bag to use as a diaper bag while not actually being one. I will admit to looking on-line and trying to see if I can get it here in the US.

I will not be getting it, as, of course, I DON’T NEED IT. I have more than enough bags here at home that have served me well. I must just deep breathe and let it go. I hate how those things can just hang out there in the corner of the mind. Why is the need to buy something so persistent?!?

The other thing I want to purchase is a pair of Ray Bans. I had a great pair a few years back, but I lost them. It was a tragedy indeed. It fell out of my baby bag while out on an excursion. Since then, I’ve been using some sad knock offs that are just not the same…and yet, they DO function. And truly, that is all I really need. So, I need to LET IT GO!

If I examine the urge to buy both of those items, it is pure vanity that is driving the desire. Somehow, on some level I think I will look better, or even feel better about myself if I poses those items. Of course, that is completely false and bunkum and I know it. So, I shall hold the items I do possess in my hands and thank them for their excellent and continuing service and move on!

So much more going on, but I end here because it is late. The kiddos did not go easily into tonight’s “goodnight” and so I find myself rather exhausted.

 

 

Day 44: I’m Okay

Day 44: I’m Okay

Hey there *sheepish grin*,

I’m okay. I’m sorry to have frightened, discomfited or in any other way affected you.

Did I mention I am not one to hold back on the sharing? Thank you for those who read and offered advice and comfort. I am deeply comforted. There is a lot of wisdom in our collective hearts and brains!

I’m not all better by a long shot…but I do feel myself. What a few hours alone can do for the soul! Finding a moment to just be alone, dig deep and breathe goes a long way to soothe the agitation and stress that I know is helping the itching reach its highest amplitude.

A lot of you were concerned that I am staying the course in regards to a natural approach to healing out of stubbornness and a sense of pride. Yes, I will admit that I have some of that going on…but mostly it’s because I am finally listening completely to my intuition. This is something I have been working on for a long time, trusting my inner guidance. It’s strong, but I have too many times side-stepped it, either by ignoring it or giving into the opinion of others ( I am easily swayed). Too many times I’ve ignored my sense of where I should go and wandered down another path because of some outside influence, only to discover it is not what I want or what works, and I get annoyed that I wasted the time. I know I don’t need to explain, but I want to:

The reason I’m not going conventional is because I’ve been doing a lot of research, and from what I’ve learned the standard treatment for eczema is topical steroids. It does bring temporary relief but as soon as you stop using the cream it comes back with a vengeance, requiring a stronger cream and so on ( and becoming reliant on it). The result is that the eczema is not cured but temporarily masked. When you do finally decide to clear it via diet and healthy living, you then have to go through even worse outbreaks as you detox. On top of that, I am a nursing mother – I do not want my largest organ absorbing steroids into my system and passing it on to my kid. I do not subscribe to the belief that our bodies can be compartmentalized and that what we do to one part ie my hands, will have no effect  on the rest of me.

I am not against combining modalities. In the past, when I had a bad reaction to hair dye, I used Chinese medicine and Western medicine to resolve it. When I had a persistent foot fungus, I went nuclear using western medical anti fungal cream. This is different now. I know this is not a fungus, it is most likely not environmental (though I am taking steps to make sure that’s not the case), this is a long-term issue I’ve had that I am finally addressing through changes to my lifestyle – mainly through food and exercise. By all other accounts from people who have done this before me and succeeded, it can be a long road with many reoccurrences as the body works it out of the system.

I’m sorry if I frightened anyone with my apparent “break down” in my blog yesterday. I was definitely feeling low. In the spirit of this blog I am being entirely transparent. This ain’t no ‘Martha Steward perfect me let me motivate you through my perfection’ type of blog. Please know that whatever I do or say, I am always grounded in a deep knowing that I am complete and will perservere.

But if you need evidence that I am truly okay, check out this stack of laundry I’ve been doing! Yeah! Back at it baby!!20160523_160739.jpg