A Love Letter

A Love Letter

Dear Me,

(Oh yes, dear me) I know you are sitting here, right now, trying to figure out what and how to write to yourself, but it’s something you need to do. You need to put into words some of the thoughts that run through your head on a continual basis, to make them concrete and visible so that you can start to assess their value. (Like an exercise in KonMari-ing, you gotta get rid of the things that do not spark joy.)

I know that every day you wake up a little bit tired. Today you woke up having not slept through the middle section of the night, not because your kids woke you, but because your husband needed you- he had something in his eye that he needed you to look at. And you love him for seeking your help, gosh knows your connection these days is so thin what with the kids and their needs, it felt good to be needed, it felt good to nurture him. But then of course, when the aid was given, you could no longer sleep, and in fact lost sleep worrying that he was in pain and/or that he would need to go to the hospital in the morning… rendering your one work day alone without kids unworkable. But that was a selfish thought, so you put that right out of your head, read a book until sleep took you at 5 am. And thankfully, in the morning, to his surprise your castor oil eye remedy had worked and he was off to work taking the kids to Nana’s. You sighed a huge sigh of relief.

Now you sit here trying to accomplish all the things on the to-do list, but there really isn’t enough time. You’re panicking. Stop and breathe.

And you’re pissed because you received yet another piece of camera equipment (you so looked forward to it’s arrival- again) that failed to be the right thing and so you spent too long working on the returning and the re-purchasing with additional research time. All of that was not in the plans. You are thinking you wasted an entire hour. Put that out of your mind. It needed to be taken care of, and you did. I said, put it out of your mind.

And there is a stack of laundry you need to do, the hubs is down to his emergency underwear, and you haven’t laid hands on one of those full-to-the-brim hampers yet. You’ll get to it, let it go.

But first, there’s the website work you need to do, the updates to social media, your business accounting (yay, you had business to account for!!), this is what you LOVE, this is what this day is for, DO IT.

I know that at the same time you are aware that you have no plans for dinner and they need to be made…maybe a trip to the store is in order. Or maybe left overs will suffice!

But you still can’t stop thinking, because on the way to helping a friend by watching her kid for an hour or so ( you are overjoyed to be able to help her, by the way, another mama who had the courage to ask for the help she needs. YES!), you need to quickly stop by UPS to return that dang item you mis-ordered. It’s a simple thing, it will be done, LET IT GO.

You’ve already forgotten what was on your list of things to buy if you go to the grocery store….but you don’t have the energy to try to retrieve it from the recesses of your brain, so you are going to hope it comes back to you when you walk through those Safeway doors (though you know, in all reality, it won’t, and instead you will wander aimlessly through the aisles. You know you should make a list, but you won’t. THAT’S OK.).

I want to say to you, Me, that you are not alone. That’s number one, and I know you know it. Many mamas at this very moment are dealing with the same mental burden, are feeling just as insane and garbled and tired. It doesn’t change your reality to know you are not alone, but it feels really good to be part of a tribe. You know the value of other mamas’ work, therefore, your work has value too, AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

Number two, is that your life is blessed. Despite the frustrations and the exhaustion, you’ve got this, and you’ve got the most amazing little people who, even in your worst state, delight you. On a daily basis you stare at them in wonder and want to gobble them up/laugh with joy/squeeze them/ tease them/listen to them/ reprimand them/teach them. You do not want a life without them. Accept it and embrace it. This is an incredible chapter in your life- LIVE EVERY MOMENT! ( but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t).

Number three, STOP STRESSING OUT ABOUT EVERYTHING! You cannot feed your family perfect, pure foods all the time. You cannot come up with the best most stimulating activities every day. You will make wrong decisions about life things, and everyone will still be okay. You may lose your sh*& now and then, but that will not scar them for life (or even for half an hour). You cannot fully engage with them 24/7. You are HUMAN.

You recently started a challenge to turn down media in favor of engagement with real life. You are in the second week of failing miserably at it. Good for you. Let me repeat: you are HUMAN. You are tired, and sometimes depressed, and tired…did I say that already? Sometimes you need to give in to temptation/zoning out, and that is okay. The time will come when motivation again kicks you into high gear.

Good on you for playing your ukulele, getting out there to see friends and chat with strangers. You are wonderful. Now shut the F up monkey mind and let you, Me, do whatever the heck you want to do today, sans stress.

Amen.

Sincerely,

S

PS. Ask for help when you need it. Knowing when you need help is half the battle: You need help, trust me.

 

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Successes and Failures

Successes and Failures

So how has it been going, this lessening of media usage?

Well…

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:20170719_111526

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.)20170726_085534I 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.

Cheers.

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 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 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.

 

Cheers.

 

 

Week 31: In Which I Discover My Main Shopping Trigger

Week 31: In Which I Discover My Main Shopping Trigger

So, as it turns out, the fear/anxiety/shock combo inspires a sort of fatalism in me that overrides any sense of self control/self preservation.

I suspect this might be something I am not alone in.

This week sent shock waves through the population. I am not going to go into it because that might just open a flood gate( If you are reading this post years into the future, I’ll give you a hint: US Election 2016).

This post is not about politics, it’s about discovering my main shopping trigger which is extreme negative emotion. The fatalism that comes with that is what leads me to want to abandon any self regulation I might be constraining myself with. Luckily I have no alcoholic tendencies, no interest in drugs, little to no time for television and no interest in video games or god forbid, extreme exercise.

So what was left for me, aside from hiding from the world, was shopping. By god, it felt like the end of the world was neigh so what the F, who gives a orange shit turd, let’s shop. Unlike my usual approach these days, which is to try and not even open my computer when the urge hits, I immediately started pulling up screens on items I wanted, reading the reviews and toying with putting them in my cart to see what it would total. Would the shipping be free?

Only, I also discovered something else about myself. That I care more about this effort to curb my spending through self reflection. I could see what this compulsion was, and instead of hitting “buy” I just took a deep breath and closed my computer. I had screens open on new ukuleles, used ukuleles, music, clothes. I shut it down. Yes, I opened it again, but then again, I chose to shut it down.

What I did buy was groceries. I breathed through my anger and powered past the extras and just bought groceries and even avoided the junk “comfort” food.

Okay, I did get two things online: dried elderberries ( I plan on making my own elderberry syrup for cold/flu season this year) and…a book of ukulele music (which I agonized over long before this week…but which became a necessity after this week, because music can transform bad moods into good! I’ve been playing my uke a lot this week).

What I wasn’t able to curb, was my compulsive reading of news on my smartphone. That’s a problem. I am seriously thinking about a media ban in my future. But for now, since the media is what I use to: keep this busy mama informed, and most importantly, keep this mama writing about and sharing her no spending challenge, I will be keeping the media for the immediate future.

And that’s it folks…oh yeah. I bought vinyl. You can read about that here and tell me if it was a necessity or not.