You’ve not heard from me because I had nothing to tell. I had plenty to admit, though.
I am an addict. I am addicted to media. I know full well how awful it is to stare at my phone instead of interacting. I know that there is research out there to suggest that the electromagnetic fields around such devices and wifi etc. could be detrimental…especially to the kids, but I cannot stop its use.
Fundamentally, this challenge to lessen my usage significantly was flawed: I took on this challenge at the exact time I was launching more fully into my photography business, relying on social media as my main promotional inroad.
I have not been able to figure out how to do this well. There are nights when I do not bring my phone into my room, I set my analogue clock’s alarm and read myself to sleep. More often than not, that phone sneaks in, though. I binge watch a program late into the night knowing full well the regret I will feel in the morning as I drag my sorry exhausted ass out of bed. Or I read news feed after news feed until my mood is so low I infect those around me with the dark stank of depressed thought and outlook; the opposite of my stated intent to put good vibes out into the world.
I’m not ready for this challenge, and so I need to abort it. It doesn’t mean that I am giving up, I still intend to set that dang phone down and look at my children, spend more time living and less time living through posts and likes. I just don’t think I am in a good position to be sharing any of this, right now, via blog form. We can all take some mess, but this is just too messy, too incoherent.
I’ll let you know, when inspiration strikes, when I figure out how to approach this more fully and with better intent.
So how has it been going, this lessening of media usage?
Okay, maybe let’s start with the successes: The cell phone is no longer in my room (or, mostly not). I use my alarm clock to wake me on the mornings I want to be up to go to my Dailey Method Studio class. I don’t charge my cell in the room, and I do not scroll through facebook feeds to fall asleep. No, I read a book. Far more effective. I’ve been getting more sleep as a result- yay for me!!
What am I reading, oh…just something light:
Animal Farm was short and sweet and to the point: no matter our best intentions to set up a democratic, fair society that let’s everyone live their best lives, we always fall victim to those who seek power (in this case, the pigs). The characters were all analogous representations of political groups/figures at the time of its writing (yes, some of that went over my head, I’ve never been very good with remembering history lessons).
Now, 1984 is simply terrifying. I’m at this bit where the ruling party is essentially re-writing history over and over so as to control the masses and keep history in-line with their current agenda:
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” p162
The parallels to current affairs here in the States what with “fake news” and the rabid denials of truths and the shutting down of basic human rights by the White House…is terrifying.
But this is not a post about politics…let’s not get me started. Please don’t.
What else…successes…well, I was so good at not checking in with media that I missed writing in this blog last week. Yay?
Joking aside, just stepping out of the stream of constant fb news has lightened my spirits.
The failures are numerous. There have been times that I have said “F it!” and started scrolling my feed. ( Especially since recently my skin, just past the anniversary of having spontaneously resolved itself last year, has rashes all over it again , mainly my neck and fingers…the itching makes me lose self control in multiples ways.)I regret giving in to checking my media almost instantly as the payoff is nothing but many wasted minutes and a much more agitated mind. I’m learning.
Another kink has been that last week saw demand for my photographic skills go gang-busters, so I was on the computer for long stretches of time, editing, sending out contracts, communicating about locations and times etc. This is not a bad thing, but it does show the challenge I face: I want to be successful with my photography business, and as a result I need to be responsive through media, posting on media and also using my computer for a bulk of my photographic work.
I’ve discovered that having a work day, sans kids, is immensely helpful. I can do most of my work and online networking on this day, including blogging and personal facebook updates for family, so that when my kids are with me I can set the phone aside. This is not perfect, however, as stuff comes up that I need to deal with most days. My only hope is that I am lessening the time spent looking at my screen in their presence. I do, however, at the end of my work day, wish I had about 2 more of them. There’s always more to do. And with the school year starting up again soon, I will lose my precious work day and be back at square one. I need to start thinking strategically and figure out what my next step is in that regard. When one can’t afford childcare…what does one do?
What I know: I’m addicted to media. I’m also addicted to coffee. Both of those things I can hopefully ween myself of…which one first? Lol. Perhaps with all the sleep I’m gaining from reading in bed instead of facebooking, I will be able to lose the coffee. The media might be a longer road.
Last week I wrote about my struggle to resist yet another mind-concocted temptation. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to shake. It never is.
First I just stopped looking. That’s step one. Hard when media and Google is at your finger tips. And you know how those ads, the ones targeted specifically to you, tend to show you what you were last looking at? I was seeing Blundstone boots along the border of my Facebook page for days. I averted my eyes.
The next step was to try to get it out of my system via distraction. Maybe, I thought, I just need to shop; window shopping could do the trick. Often, I discover that when I am at the store I lose all interest…the physical reality of things instead of it’s shiny perfect-in-picture-only existence, is sometimes enough to snap me out of it.
One of my favorite places to shop is the thrift store. Because of this year long challenge, though, I’ve been staying away as best I can. Going to thrift stores is a sure way of accumulating unnecessary items. And though they may sell way below retail, a lot of money can go towards impulse bought thrift items too.
That said, I scored a couple of solo hours while my mum-in-law watched the kids, and I headed out for the cure at my local Salvation Army.
My intention was to buy nothing.
I decided to walk aimlessly through the aisles and just see what there was. True to my usual pattern, as soon as I was there, going through the racks of clothes, my desire for clothing vanished. All the fashions seem…boring. All of it has been done, or I keep getting drawn to the same old thing. Each item always has something about it I don’t like. So, it was all working out splendidly: no temptation=no need to decide whether or not to spend. Perhaps this would be the cure I was looking for, a nice dose of reality.
Just as I was about to call it a success and walk out, I overheard a conversation between two middle aged ladies who had just met in the aisle. One was a former model and fashion consultant, the other a woman just trying to get some new-to-her clothes. Well, what happened was just awesome. The former model and fashion consultant started pulling clothes out for her, describing why it worked for her body type and telling her to put away the choices she’d already made and to think outside the box. “You don’t need Macy’s” she said, ” all you need is right here”. The other woman would exclaim “wow! I looked at that but didn’t think I could pull it off” etc. etc. Long story short, that former model was a fashion whiz. She’d take all of two seconds to find exactly what she was looking for for this other gal. She took her to the changing room and had her try it all on and put the outfits together. In under 20 minutes the woman had a new wardrobe and all her choices except one were exactly right. The lady for whom all this was given was just gushing “Oh my! You are amazing! This is amazing! Wow! Oh my gosh!” When I left their vicinity, the fashion whiz was taking her to the other part of the store where she’d help her accessorize.
Somehow, that woman’s positive shopping mojo spread to me. I took a second look at a jacket I had passed and realized it was worth a try on. I scanned the racks and found a dress that had all the right elements with nothing to disqualify it. I even scanned the shoes thinking of my Blundstones…and found a pair of Clark’s boots, barely used.
In the changing room I thought, this is where I can find something wrong and I won’t have to buy these. But all three items fit perfectly.
So folks, it was a cure, but it did cost a bit. I got a barely used made in England Barbour waxed cotton rain jacket (retails for $399) for $9.99, an Olive&Oak dress for $11.48, and Clark’s suede leather boots for $7.
Getting a few items for me felt good and I was, for lack of a better word, sated.
And now, for a pearl of wisdom that I accidentally gave myself:
My two girls were fighting over the same *insert toy of any kind here* again. I stopped them and said, “girls, it is silly to fight over the same toy. In a minute, when one of you tires of that toy, the other can have it, but I bet, when your sister loses interest you will too. We always want what we don’t have. The trick is to learn how to make what we do have special, and in that way we will never be dissatisfied. Until we learn to make what we do have special, we will always want what the other has instead.”
I realized immediately, that I need to follow that exact advice. Words to live by.
Feelin’ kinda thrifty at this moment. Or, at least, like I’m playing the game a little better this week.
Some weeks, it seems like no matter how much I try, I end up having to spend. No matter that they are necessities, sometimes it just feels bad when large chunks of cash are going out and not the other way around.
Whether because of my own sloth or not, I managed to skip the weekly grocery shopping and just pull from my pantry and back of my fridge. It’s a bit challenging what with the kids needing constant snacks (those are the first things needing replenishing, always) but somehow we managed. Today we are down to the bare minimum, and a shopping trip is definitely required, but it was nice to empty out the pantry a bit and know that there is nothing moldering in the back corners.
And then, and then…I went online to shop for a new car seat. My littlest is finally about to outgrow her bucket seat (alas!) and it’s time for the next iteration. I have been mulling it over for quite a while because I want to be smart about it, I don’t want any unnecessary mid-step that will have to then be replaced again to the tune of several more hundreds of dollars. So, I did some calculating and realized that I can put my one year old into the seat my three year old currently uses, because it does have the rear-facing ability even though we aren’t using that for our eldest anymore. So…I can switcheroo her to a new car seat that will be a 3 in 1, ( it converts from a harnessed forward facing, to a booster with head support, to just a booster- the last car seat we’ll need to purchase for her essentially). Ta da! And it will also solve the problem of my eldest feeling jealous if she sees her baby sister get a new seat, we get to skip that drama all together- yay! And would you know what? Amazon prompted me to use my rewards points on a Discover card I haven’t use in a long time. I remembered suddenly that we probably did have a bunch of points because we’d done a lot of house reno purchases on that card, thinking we could redeem for flights to Canada…which turned out to not be so because Air Canada and thus it’s US affiliates don’t accept Discover ( long story). So those had been useless points to us.
So…I got the whole car seat with just our points and with some to spare! Score!
So yeah, I’m feelin’ pretty good about that.
It also helps that I have extremely generous family. This week my mum-in-law paid for another round of music classes for the girls. No small chunk of change that is.
And then my sister-in-law went ahead and got some dance classes for my eldest.
I’m feeling really blessed right now.
Thursday, Mid-to Late Week Update:
I am so past my posting date that this is turning into a twofer. I’m not sure why, as it nears the end of this challenging, getting my posts up in time seems to get harder and harder…
So, after all that thriftiness I wrote about up there… well, I went to Ikea with my Aunt and the girls and did a small splurge. Some was necessary: art supplies we were running low on. At this stage, the girls just sort of make a mess with paint, and use too much, and wast the stuff, so Ikea’s paint and brushes are amazing for low budget supplies.
But then there was the splurge stuff, like the cloud shaped light I wanted for C’s room to complete the look. And a twin sized duvet with cover that matches the room. Not a necessity but a heart/completing-the-vision sort of need.
I won’t go into all the details. Suffice it to say that, there is still some “ping back” from being thrifty. When I do a good job of resisting, often I then unconsciously want to reward myself, and thus a small spending spree. I don’t know what to say about that. I feel like those ping backs are getting smaller; and I can recognize them for what they are.
I’ve also (if we’re here confessing) been obsessing over Blundstone boots. For some reason I have gotten it in my head that these would be the perfect boots for me as a mom: I like the golden brown ankle boot look, they are super long-lasting and durable, all weather for this climate and they pull on. I’ve gone browsing for them more than once. Luckily nothing has been in my size if they have the style I like, or vice verce. I’ve even gone as far as fantasizing that I’d eliminate 5 pairs of shoes if I got those. I’ve then sat staring at all the shoes I already possess in order to talk myself down. This is the first purchasing obsession I’ve had in a while. I will let you know how it all works out…so far I’m winning…I think…
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?
What shall I report this week? That I am confused? That I don’t know if this little experiment in cutting out needless spending is working out at all?
I was both thrifty and spendy this week in almost equal measure.
On the spendy: I will be brief about this, but let me just say that sometimes as a mom, it is more expedient to go somewhere close and easily accessible but more pricey, than somewhere farther away but more cost effective.
This was me as I walked into Whole Foods on my way home from a play date, my kids on the verge of breakdown pre-nap. I had to get food and I had to get it fast. I think I left with maybe enough food for several meals, a measly pile yet a strikingly high bill. As I left the store I thought, dang, I better make this the best salt chicken I have ever made in my life!
As a result of that spendiness, I ended up vowing to not return to the grocery store this week, no matter how dire; I would make due with what was in my cupboards, garden and pantry. For the most part, I think I did great. I did have to go out for some spices to make curry from scratch, and pick up some naan, but all else was scrounged from the dim back corners of my cupboards. As of this writing, my cupboards are rather bare. I eked out a pear (instead of banana) bread with the last bar of butter, last cup and a half of rye flour, last bit of sugar…and the only two eggs (freshly laid by our lovely hens) left in the house.
Tomorrow is grocery day, I basically need everything. I hope to get to a grocery store where I can spend the same but get a lot more bang for my buck.
I spent on other things. Namely a gift for my soon to be 3 year old, and a toy that, in my husband’s estimation helps to expose her to pursuits more in-line with what daddy finds fun and interesting: A tool box.
I also couldn’t help thrift shopping with my aunt ( our favourite activity to do together ) in search of items to furnish this kitchen remodel my hubs is launching into. We hit up the local ReStore and I found us a great stainless steel sink, $40 with some wear and tear. We investigated it’s original cost: $700! So I came away feeling pretty darn good about that one. Considering the many temptations before my eyes (being a trinket collector at heart) I did really well, coming away with the sink and 3 sets of dresses for my tot who is obsessed with dresses and dirt in equal measure…and at $2 per dress, I felt it was a wise investment…both for her joy and my ease of mind ( if it gets spoiled, no big deal!)
On the thrifty: I started selling stuff on that local yard sale facebook page I discovered.
It took some time. I had 4 items posted for a week with no real takers. I also had a few flakers. But ultimately, I sold almost all of the items I posted and posted some more items that sold quickly. It felt good to open my mailbox to find some cash in it rather than bills! And it’s kind of addictive. I keep casting around looking to see what else I can sell off. This is an excellent way to rid our house of clutter in a far more targeted way than the laborious business of a yard sale.
I also became a sort of homesteader (as one of my mom friends calls it when she cans) this weekend making preserves! Yeah, I made pear jam from pears I’d picked up on a random, unplanned detour; I was drawn to turn down a road by beautifully hand painted signs saying “pears for sale”. I followed the well placed painted pears and arrows to a driveway with a tent erected over a table with single pears, small flats of pears and large flats of pears, for 75cents, 4 bucks or 7 bucks respectively. I placed the 14 dollars in the honour system jar and gleefully hauled away two massive flats of Bartlett pears, grinning like a maniac while quickly trying to figure out what one could DO with so many wonderful pears. I was certain I would think of something.
A week later, they were all gorgeously ripe and far too soft for my juicer. It was pear jam or nothing. Like a Tyrannosaurus attempting to tie his shoelaces with his tiny, tiny hands, I entered my kitchen equipped only with a few googled recipes, my mother-in-laws canning equipment and my almost overripe pears to begin the preserving process. Yeah, it was a little comical. To begin with, I had no jars. My hubs had kindly bought me three lemons and one small packet of pectin on my behest earlier in the day (far too little, as it turned out that two flats of pears makes an enormous amount of jam). Mid way through the jam making the hubs again went out and bought me some canning jars (again, far too few, I could have done with triple the number). What ended up coming of all that was actually, some decently delicious pear jam with a hint of ginger and cardamom…of which a portion was properly canned…and the remainder (over half) hastily poured into whatever vessels of varying sizes were available to contain it.
It was a sticky mess. I’d like to say that I learned a bit about canning and preparedness. I think maybe I did. Whatever it was that happened in there….it was exciting if not perfect. I am already looking ahead to perhaps begging some gorgeous peaches from a mama friend of mine so that I might attempt this whole canning adventure once again. I may be hooked! As to it’s thriftiness. It felt darn thrifty (maybe because it was so laborious). The fruits themselves were a steal. The additional cost of lemons, pectin and cans threw off the margins of “dead cheap” to “moderately cheap”. In the future, provided not all the cans are given away, I will only have to replace the lids, and if I were to continue this canning craziness, the thriftiness factor might start to rise.
I’ve been thinking about this whole blog and what it is I am trying to achieve. I feel like I’ve waffled a lot and sent my few readers on a bit of a journey of confusion.
Essentially, it is confusing. It’s confusing that spending is such a big part of life. Trying to discern what spending is of the utmost necessity and what is not, is even more confusing. It really comes down to goals. Is my goal to save up money and not spend at all? Or is my goal to live comfortably, surrounding myself with things that matter, not depriving myself of things but choosing carefully what it is I bring in? Over arcing it all is my relationship to things and money. Do I feel guilt when I spend? When and why? Do I feel pleasure when I spend? Is it lasting? Are the things I have appreciated?
I’m still getting to the bottom of all this. So, in that regard, this is not a futile effort, as confusing and meandering as it may seem.
I do, in many ways, feel accountable to you, my invisible readers. I sure hope you are out there. I like to think that you are, because you help me assess my progress week by week. Please feel free to comment here on my blog page and offer ideas, thoughts and support. Thank you for taking your valuable time to read this. Much gratitude.
I should rename this blog. Something more fitting like…Spending Better, or…An Exercise in Futility.
Naw. Just kidding.
But, I did not escape expense this week. Actually, I am really kicking myself over a major expense that shouldn’t have happened. My hubs encouraged me to go to the dentist since we pay for insurance monthly, so I did. Long story short, the insurance company makes it so gosh darn confusing that I ended up going to the wrong dentist and so had to foot the bill. The fact that the dental office didn’t catch this (I gave them my insurance group number a week in advance) and my insurance has an almost incoherent website with misleading and obscure titles, is a source of frustration. I consider myself a fairly educated and decently smart individual. It took a lot of work to find the right information and realize my mistake… far too late, though. So, I feel like a dolt on one hand and I also feel cheated because it shouldn’t have happened; and if I find the system too confusing, I suspect many others do too. But I chose the high (and perhaps easier) road and just paid it and let it go. Sometimes it’s not worth the anxiety and anger that’s tied up in pursuing a complaint.
The purchase last week of a 1950’s Wedgewood stove sparked off a whole other thing…namely my husband launching into remodel mode. So, this weekend he cleared a huge corner of our garage and began the job of moving a door so that we can gain a bit more room in the kitchen. Some expense came of that (though, if I hadn’t blown $260 on a dental cleaning, we’d still have about $110 not spent this weekend). Grrrr.
The last purchase I made was a juicer off of that facebook page that connects buyers and sellers. I got it for $15. Again, there was a mental pause. But, I realized that I need to try this. I have been putting off the idea of a juicer for various reasons, the most convincing one being that I would probably not use it. However, recently my 3 year old has been requesting juice (the questionable stuff the hubs picks up for his own consumption)…and other sweet things and refusing the veggies I lovingly cook for her. She even doesn’t want the smoothies I’ve been making. So, in an attempt to get some micro nutrient goodness into her, I thought juicing might do the trick. Right now is the season for fruit. I’ve been socking away ripe melon in the freezer for future smoothies and, in the neighborhoods around here, people are selling pears from their backyards, so inundated are they with their harvest (picked up two huge flats of Bartlett pears for 7 bucks a flat!). So many great ingredients for fresh juices. The very same day that I bought the juicer, I cleaned that puppy right up and juiced two carrots, two apples, a bunch of kale from our garden and a peach. The next day, same idea but with the pears. My kiddo thought it was delicious. How could she not, it was SO sweet…even though there was SO much kale in there!
So, if I can keep that up, alternating between juices and smoothies, hopefully I can get the good stuff into my girls. I’m also hoping that the hubs will fall in line as well on occasion…he is the worst of us all, Mr. No Veg for Me.
Today while burning time waiting for some friends to meet us, me and my girls walked around several stores. As if by magic, as I walked the aisles, items I had been thinking about this week (like that doohickey that cuts zucchinis into noodles, and hedge clippers) all appeared one by one in row after row. This never happens. Usually, when I want something, that’s when there is a conspicuous absence of that item everywhere I go. But no, each aisle held something I’d been contemplating, not only that, but many of them were on sale or great prices. I, however, purchased none of those things. I figured, I’ve survived without thus far, so I don’t really need them. Good on me. I feel pretty good about that.
Last thing: some of you might have wondered what happened to my hand eczema. I’ve not talked about it in my recent blogs. That’s because it is mostly a non issue at the moment. Somehow, when I came back from Canada, it had cleared up. By all accounts, there was not one thing I could attribute to this miraculous recovery. I had tried an elimination diet, but had only done it for 30 days before leaving on our month long trip. During the trip I went back to eating whatever, I did nurse my hands a bit more by putting gloves on, as well as green clay packs and colloidal silver hand rinses. But those things in and of themselves did not miraculously cure it. Maybe all in combination? I considered that perhaps an environmental allergen that had been present in the month of May when the flair ups began, was no longer there?
I finally put my wedding rings back on a few days ago…but had to take them off that same evening because I was starting to feel itchy. Wetness trapped against the skin is a real trigger for this whole eczema thing.
I still feel a little itchy at times, but no intense spreading itch or swelling or oozing. I know how lucky I am. I will keep you updated if anything reoccurs or if the cure becomes apparent.
Right now, I need to hit the hay. I am hoping to catch the early class at the Dailey Method studio. Yes, the Groupon I purchased to try out this gym has not gone to waste. I love the work out and get there at minimum three times a week. I can already feel the difference in my body. Yay for finding something that works for me right now.