Week 53: The Cure

Week 53: The Cure

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.

 

S

Week 52: The Struggle

Week 52: The Struggle

What will it take to rise above temptation? Honestly, I’m exhausted. What has this year taught me?: That we are so brain washed by consumerism that it is almost part of our DNA.

Literally, before opening this tab to write ( a tactic to shift gears out of temptation), I was, once again, looking at Blundstone boots. I WANT a pair of Blundstone boots. I don’t know what sparked this want, I don’t know , I don’t know…but I do. I am having such a hard time shaking it.

I can definitely create reasons for wanting a pair: they are well made and will last a long time (though from reading a few reviews I’ve seen that their quality standards may have slipped). They are great for the winter and spring weather here and can go from work ( I want something to slog in when I go on photo shoots. Read: my old cracked rain boots aren’t good enough though they actually do the job…I just don’t like how they look) to a night out, to hiking. And they pull on! What else could a busy mom ask for?

They are also: totally inappropriate for the upcoming hot weather(if I were to buy them now, I’d only get to wear them a short time before the season changes). They are expensive. I already have a pair of similar boots that are a bit dressier and have heels, but essentially a similar look. No one sells them at a physical store, so they must be ordered on-line which will be a little bit of a rigmarole if I don’t get the fit just right ( Aussie sizing is a bit different).

How much? $175 on average.

If it’s gonna last years, it could be considered reasonable. But then, consider my already full shoe closet. Yes, I KonMaried that closet quite well not too long ago, but it is still far from minimalist. I have shoes for most every occasion, and not many occasions to use many of those shoes.

I have gone through all sorts of mental contortions, from ‘just turn off the computer and stop looking…stop looking!’ to ‘ Well, if I earn them by booking two one hour photography sessions…and/or sell a few items on that Facebook sell page…”

The thing that stops me from pushing that ‘Buy’ button is when I think about how much work it would take me to earn that $175. Or how much in groceries that $175 would get for the family.

Today, with everything being so high cost, $100 is nothing. You spend more in one grocery run, half of that filling a tank of gas. That on a few items of clothing.

But for this mama who only really spends on necessities ie food and gas, who buys clothing rarely and then usually at a thrift store, and who doesn’t earn money regularly if at all…$100 is a lot. Yes that $100 will definitely and unavoidably be spent, but on what? There are so many true needs.

In the long run, are boots and the temporary satisfaction of that new/pretty item more important than my family’s nutritional intake? No. Are they more important than being able to power our car? No. More important than our  gas or electricity bill? No.

I could survive bare foot if I had to. I can survive being un-stylish if that’s the fear.

Heck, it would even be more worthwhile to set that money aside to save for my future “better” camera when I’ve earned my stripes as a legit professional photographer (when my earnings exceed my investment in equipment) and am ready to upgrade.

And yet the Consumer mind is strong. I have no doubt I will be doing some late night drooling over a glowing screen staring at reviews for Blundstones on Zappos...”Free shipping…order in the next 4 hours and 48 minutes to receive them by April 12!! “…Finger hovering over the “Buy” button, fighting the good fight.

S

 

 

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 49 & 50: Taking Care of Business

Week 49 & 50: Taking Care of Business

Again, this is a two-weeker update.

One thing that always irks me is that it is so hard to keep to a grocery budget. My ideal is to spend no more than $150 a week, but inevitably, even if one week I miraculously scrape by on something like…$140, the next week it’s more like $175 or $200. I must say that I do not keep tight track of all the expenditures on food in a week. Sometimes I go to the grocery store once, sometimes twice because the first time I forgot a few key ingredients. Then there’s also the extras, like eating out on a Friday, or a cappuccino with a friend. And I’m not sure that there is much of a solution to be had; that is just what it costs to feed my family of four, and keep my sanity ( more on that last part, in a moment).

California is the font of amazing foods, but it is also EX…PEN…SIVE. I’d sort of never realized how expensive because I came straight from South Korea where money was entirely different and not entirely comparable, so it didn’t compute. Before that, I was at art school and my idea of cuisine was perogies and the occasional head of broccoli. I only realized how pricey the cost of food was here when I had family visiting from Canada who pay attention to these things (and who made the Canada to US calculation) and informed me, that yeah, it’s uber pricey here in NorCal. The price we pay for AMAZING fresh produce, novelty foods and health foods. I’d say I am a conservative shopper: I load up the cart with fresh produce first (only going organic on the “dirty dozen” items and any sale organics) then a few packaged foods like bread, and yogurt, skipping most of the middle aisles. And yet, still…

I can cut out the cappuccinos…but then who wants to kill joy? Honestly, I don’t spend very much on myself, so the occasional fancy coffee…or a lunch here and there with friends is my sanity keeper.

Last week I was just so focused on this business building thing that I really wasn’t thinking about how not to spend. I am firmly in the realm of trying to build my photography business, starting with my website: www.SharolynTownsendPhotogpraphy.com and my facebook page by the same name. Where I can tie this new focus to this challenge is that I am making sure to not spend on equipment or much of anything until I actually start making money and can justify the expense. The motto, right now is “make-do”. And there is fun to that challenge in and of itself. I need to prove to myself that you don’t have to have all the right gear to do an amazing job.

What I did spend on was a couple hundred basic business cards via Vista Print. The trick there, I learned through luck, is to only order 100 and then after the purchase wait for their 10 minute deals where you can add another 150 cards for only $9.

The cards are a stop gap measure while I figure out my logo and design my own personal cards, but they are certainly handy. It’s nice to have something to hand to someone when you are talking about what you do.I have been putting myself out of my comfort zone and finding ways to tell people what it is I do and directing them to check out my website. I really felt I was on a roll this past week, networking and finding potential clients. The goal, as I mentioned before, is to not get discouraged. This is pertinent to keep at the forefront of my thinking as there is often a lot of interest but not a whole lot of follow through. I found myself holding a lot of mental space for the people who told me “they’d for sure be in contact”. I realized that I can’t just wait around for that and try to stay available. I am available until I am not, and until then I just keep putting myself out there. Still, from the little I’ve been doing, I feel like I have some forward momentum, and I hope that soon I will have a few more clients lined up.

I am finding it hard to split my head between creative work (photography) and being mommy. When these two worlds collide, often, if I am not careful, I become frustrated. That’s not the vibe I want to be giving off with my kids. Luckily, today my hubs was very supportive of me seeking mental space, and he watched the kids while I went out for a few hours.

The thing I chose to do? Thrift shopping.

I had a few things in mind that I want to find, props for a shoot essentially. But mostly…I like thrift shopping. I’ve been so good. I have not gone in such a long time, and when I have it has been just for books for the kids and kids clothes. Today, I looked for me.

Now, I must say, that thrifting is a little too trendy these days. Know how I know this? Because it’s getting bloody expensive, that’s why. Goodwill is one of the worst. The standard price for shirts is $6.99. Now, I know, that’s not a huge number. But this is USED clothes; donated clothes. Half of the shirts there are Massimo (Target brand), Old Navy, or H&M. You can get those brands, new, on the sale rack at their stores for less than that. I say for shame, Goodwill. I was actually about to leave in a huff at the ludicrous prices, but since this was more for mental sanity than anything, I just browsed to see what there was. It was depressing to discover, once again, that though I think I want new/different clothes in my wardrobe, there’s not much that peaks my interest.

Then I discovered that this being Sunday, any clothes with a blue tag were 99 cents. So I targeted just those racks and found a couple of dresses. Getting those helped ease my dis-ease with the fact that I have nothing nice to wear when the rare “date night” comes up. I also picked up a nice faux leather jacket for the full price of $8.99 which was a deal for me, to ease that desire I’ve had since art school days, to posses a really cool leather jacket. This desire surfaces now and then, but I have never actually sprung for one. This one fit the bill, and hopefully will put that demon to rest for a while. So, you see, it’s all about balance. Complete austerity doesn’t work, I just feel deprived. It felt good to get a few things for me, for, all told…$11 for two dresses and a jacket. Hopefully I will feel sated, both for new (to me) clothing…and time away from the kids. A new week begins anew tomorrow!

And that’s it folks. I’m all business these days, most of my free time is spent figuring out how to entice new clients out of the woodwork. Wish me luck!

S

Week 48: Home Stretch

Week 48: Home Stretch

The shine of this challenge has worn off.

And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, if it still felt new, it would mean that I was making no progress. It would seem that slowing my consumption of useless products has become the norm. That is not to say that I don’t still have my moments, but I have not had any major splurges followed by deep regret. ( I say that as I currently fight my almost obsession with Blundstone boots. Gosh darn, once you do an internet search for a product, it keeps showing up in my feeds and on the border of webpages. They really track you! Not easy for the resistance!) Splurges now are, on the rare occasion, going ahead and buying that cheapo toy for my kid as we make our way through the dollar store. Or getting a fancy coffee and a steamed milk for the kids as a self motivator or reward for having done the groceries. Sometimes a used book for each kiddo at the thrift store.

I still look around me at my home and see excess. I think it is just the nature of how my family and most of the people I know, live. We are so lucky. We are not suffering. Even though I and my friends and acquaintances talk of struggle at times to: pay the rent, find work, afford a new car, etc etc, we all have roofs over our heads, food in our bellies, and lots and lots of stuff. I know not one gal pal who does not have an over-flowing wardrobe ( okay, my sister-in-law is pretty good at the minimalist life style). I who don’t even like to shop for clothes, still have clothes and lots of it. None of us are without cell phones or computers. I think I currently have 4 different types of strollers for different scenarios with the kids (used, but still!) I could go on, but you get the idea.

I’m deep into trying to start up a photography business right now, so my attention has been pulled elsewhere. Yet I am still applying what I have learned from this challenge. In the past, when I came up with a scheme to start a business (yes, I’ve done it before: pet portrait artist, art card designer/seller) I’ve launched into it with the wrong focus: I needed all the stuff before I could be a legit business. That meant that I bought the display infrastructure, the packaging, the tent, the book-keeping ledger,the what-have-you, thinking that I needed it all to be professional.

This time, I’m approaching it differently. The motto is “fake it til you make it”. I refuse to exceed my earnings with start-up costs. With photography, it would be extremely easy to go out and buy equipment. There is always new and better stuff. But since my income is close to nil, close to nil is what I plan to spend. Luckily I already have the camera, I have the photo program, I have my skills. So far, what I’ve invested in is the website, and today some business cards (now that I’ve started to network I have been asked several times for my info). I will try to go as far as I can with this to test the waters before I invest more fully.

That isn’t to say that I am not serious about making this a successful business. Au contraire. This time I intend to apply some stick-to-it-ness. I have too often given up before starting, or given only a half-hearted attempt, so afraid of failure that I don’t try hard enough and give up too early. I want to be like so many people who have inspired me with their gumption, their fortitude and willingness to keep working hard at something.

Just saying all of this out-loud terrifies me. I am afraid of failure. But this time, I’m not going to let that be an obstacle.

S

Week 47: Winning

Week 47: Winning

Saturday:

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.

Until now.

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…

 

S

Week 46: Scaredy Pussy

Week 46: Scaredy Pussy

I am not a revolutionary. I’m have not even been an activist or even political for the most part. But now I am…or I’m getting to be.

I honestly don’t know how you can afford not to be in this climate, this crazy, critical, chaotic time.

I recently came to the realization that the most radical thing I could do right now, is get my citizenship…even though, at this point in time, it seems like the thing I want the least. But, think, with that simple shift in status, my view is more valid, I have a voting voice, I can sign all the petitions I want and call all my representatives and be able to state that I am a citizen and I demand…such and such.

And then I got scared. Do I want to open myself up to the scrutiny I once again will face by Homeland Security…only this time under a new dict…I mean…whiner….I mean leader?

Even writing this kinda scares me (‘then why do you do it?’ you ask. Because I am compelled to. I do not wish to be complicit in my silence).

So, I got as far as printing out the paperwork…but there it sits. I haven’t even written down my name…not even gone to look for a black ink pen as required.

Cost of citizenship, about $725.

Crazy but we even have to consider if that is feasible budget-wise. At least, enough to give pause and consider in what month we might be able to swing that. Makes me think of all the lower in come families than ourselves, who might not be able to afford citizenship at any time.

Anyway, I don’t really know what I want to say in this blog. Just, I guess, that more has been on my mind than trying not to buy things. I’m actually quite pleased that my go-to-stress relief is not to shop at all, it’s not even on my radar. So, I suppose that is progress.

I leave you with a pic of me, my one woman parade. A friend of mine had invited me to a small Women’s March, and I gamely showed up with my girls and mum-in-law, all in purple with as-close-to-a-pussy hat I could find,(the purple was in solidarity with Indivisible Sonoma that helped organize a mass attendance at a town hall meeting that I had gone to that morning)…to discover I had been given the wrong date. So, in a way I was super radical…I walked the entire down town with my signs held up, drawing looks from all the locals and tourists alike, even getting a “Good for you mama!” as a one woman protester. Far more exhibitionist than I’d normally go for. A big thank you to my mum-in-law for gamely coming along as she is most definitely NOT an exhibitionist. I apologize for drawing so much attention.

So here it is

Love over Fear…and I Don’t Have a Big Enough Sign.wp-1488242927317.jpg