About Me

Life is learning. Life is change. Life is good. Life doesn't have to cost a lot. I want to make my life greener, healthier, and thriftier. And I want to enjoy doing it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Joining The "Not Buying It" Crowd

I really didn't accomplish much this week besides going to work, doing my job, and coming home to collapse.  I've had a horrendous cold since early in the week.  On Tuesday I was just sneezing and a little sniffly, which prompted me to wonder if I was finally developing the hay fever that the rest of the family suffers with every spring.  But no ... Wednesday at work I went through one boxes of tissue in eight hours, Thursday's count was two boxes, and by Friday afternoon I'd lost count.  Friday night I started to cough, and I spent Saturday on the couch hacking, wheezing, and going through a couple more boxes of tissues. (good thing I got them in bulk, on sale, with a coupon!)  It's tapering off now, but I'm still exhausted enough that today I did the dishes in several installments, because after ten minutes standing in front of the sink I just had to go sit down for a while.

Big Guy did what he always does  -  he made a big pot of from-scratch chicken soup and kept bringing me bowls of it  -  lovely stuff, full of bite-sized chicken chunks, onions, celery, carrots, lots of garlic and ginger, and egg noodles.  It makes me feel better, at least for a little while ... in fact, I'll be taking a thermos of soup to work for lunch tomorrow.

I spent a lot of the weekend browsing a variety of blogs, following links from one to another, and I was surprised at how many bloggers are on the "Not Buying It" bandwagon.  Not because it's a novel idea  -  I've pretty much lived that way for most of my life  -  but because so many people use that particular label.  Is it easier to be frugal as part of a group?  Does not spending money feel more comfortable if you can see how many others aren't spending money either?  I'm not putting them down for it  -  in fact, I can't help wondering if I'd do better at the whole saving/not spending/paying down debt thing if I followed their example.

So ... as of today, I'm going to actually track every cent I spend, and post the details  -  starting with the generic cold capsules I hauled my poor aching, wheezing self out to get this morning.  Maybe someone can suggest areas where I could spend less, or even items I could eliminate entirely.  I don't pretend to be an expert, and I'm always open to new ideas.  Oh, and just so the tracking will make more sense  -  Big Guy and I have an arrangement.  Since he does almost all the cooking, he pays for the groceries, and I pay the household bills  -  hydro, gas, phone/cable/internet.  So those categories won't show in the sidebar, and neither will our mortgage payments.  What I'll be tracking is just my own personal spending, not the household budget.  The goal is to make myself more aware of what I'm spending on "extras"; we're already pretty darn careful about what we lay out for necessities.  For instance, the coffee we buy as part of the regular groceries won't be listed, but if I treat myself to a pound of a specialty blend I will show it.  I'm still debating whether to show what I spend on my monthly transit pass  -  it's expensive, but it's necessary.  Driving to work (especially with the cost of parking downtown) would cost at least three times as much ... so I don't think the pass can really be called an "extra".  What do you think?

I'm also making a list in the back of my current all-purpose notebook of all the things I have enough of that I don't need to buy more no matter how good the sale price is.  Thanks to my long-standing habit of stocking up when the price is right,  it should be at least two years before I'll be buying office supplies, shower gel, deodorant, hair ties, shampoo, sewing notions, underwear, garbage bags, greeting cards ... the actual list is far more detailed, but you get the idea.

I will have to bite the bullet very soon and buy a new pair of running shoes.  Actually, skateboard shoes, which are far more comfortable (they're wider, and I have square feet and a ridiculously high arch) and don't have the big ugly clunky soles that almost all women's "running" shoes seem to have these days.  I pretty much live in those shoes, unless there's snow  -  our neighbourhood doesn't have sidewalks except on the main streets, and I'm not about to ruin my good/dress/office shoes by commuting daily through mud, gravel, and roadside dirt in them.  A pair of the brand I like best will run me about $75.00 on sale, but once every two years or so turns that from an extravagance into a practical budget item.  Especially since it allows me to make a nice pair of dress shoes last up to ten years.  Yes, seriously.  Shoes I like, that fit properly and don't hurt to walk in, are hard to find; when I do find a pair, I make them last as long as possible.  I don't care about fashion  -  and some of the recent and current styles are downright ugly  -  my "good" shoes are plain, comfortable classics that will always look suitable for whatever I wear them with.

Apart from the shoes, there won't be any clothing in the list.  This goes back to my New Year's "resolutions"  -  to work with what I already have.  As each new garment is started, it will be added to the "Current Projects" section of the sidebar, and I'll try to post a picture of each one when I finish them.  The sweater is almost finished, so (touch wood) next post will include a picture.  I'll also be adding a "Finished Projects" section  -  sometimes I feel like Alice, "the faster I run the behinder I get", and it will be nice to look at that list and reflect on what I have accomplished.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Silver Linings

In retrospect, my last post ended up being more negative than otherwise.  It happens ... and I'm not going to apologize for it.  This is the one place where I can say exactly what I think and how I feel without being told how /why / to what degree I'm wrong.  That's not to say I feel negative toward my family very often, but when I do, I really don't appreciate having my feelings discounted or pooh-poohed with responses that translate to I'm either crazy, delusional, stupid, or a liar.

And now that I've got that off my chest ...

Last week was super-hairy-crazy-busy-overloaded stressful at work.  To the point where my IBS flared up so badly that by Friday I was spending half the day in the washroom and eating ibuprofen and loperamide like jelly beans.  Well, I knew that this week wouldn't be any better, but I was determined not to let it aggravate my system again.  So today, whenever I felt myself starting to react I just turned my chair around to face away from the desk, took three slow, deep breaths, and told myself not to take it personally.  And it worked!  I felt fine all day, and I still do.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  So tonight seems like a good time to think about the positives in my life instead of the negatives.

Cloud:  super-hairy-crazy-busy-overloaded days at work.
Silver lining:  a job I love and that I'm really good at (and that incidentally pays pretty well too!).  And every now and them, a client actually expresses appreciation.  It means a lot, folks.  If someone has done a good job for you  -  tell them so!  You'll make their day, I guarantee it.

Cloud:   man and daughters who think they are and will always be my number-one priority.
Silver lining:  man and daughters who are and always will be my number-one priority.

Cloud:  elderly cats who yarf up dead bugs in the living room.
Silver lining:  elderly cats who are still healthy, active, and interested enough to chase and catch the aforementioned bugs.

Cloud:  house that never seems to get clean no matter how much I clean it.
Silver lining:  it's home, and it's mine, and what doesn't get done today will get done another day.  (Besides, cleaning a house with a man living in it is like shoveling the walk while it's still snowing.  And he cooks.)

Cloud:  never enough time or working space to do all the things I want to do.
Silver lining:  I am never bored.  I really mean that. Never.

I may not have achieved as much as some people in worldly or material ways, but I have everything I need, most of what I want, and the freedom to enjoy it.  I have more, in most areas, than ninety-nine per cent of the people on this planet. I have education, security, personal safety and freedoms, health and health care.  I have a roof over my head, suitable clothing for the climate, enough to eat, clean water, reliable transportation, and work that pays a wage I can live on.  What I don't have (except when the IBS is really bad) is any good reason to feel sorry for myself.  Compared to most of the world  -  and any number of people I know  -  I am fortunate.  And, most of the time, grateful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Maybe I'll Procrastinate Later ...

That's always been one of my biggest faults  -  putting things off.

Waiting for things to change on their own, waiting for the "right" time to say/do something, waiting to see if someone else will do it, waiting for the weekend, waiting for the weather to change, waiting until I've lost weight, waiting until I've quit smoking, waiting until I make more money, waiting for all the kids to leave home, waiting until spring/summer/fall/winter, waiting for more time ...

Waiting instead of doing

No more.  I'm finally tired of waiting.  Instead of wasting time, it's time to start making time.

Instead of wasting my lunch hour piddling around the internet, I'm going to take the sweater with me tomorrow and work on it.  After that's finished, there are always small, portable mending projects lying around that could get done in that time.  Craft projects.  Garden planning.  Bill-paying.  Writing projects.  Damn, even if I just spend the time doing my nails I'd be getting something done!

When I get home from work tomorrow, instead of flopping on the couch and just spending the evening vegetating I'm going to read, or sew, or knit, or watch my anthropology lecture series and really pay attention to it.  I'm going to pick one room to tidy up, or one floor to clean, or put in one load of laundry.

How did I get into this routine, this habit of always "later", always "after", never "now"?

For a very long time, I felt as though no matter how hard I worked, I never had anything to show for it.  I tidied and dusted and swept and mopped and scrubbed but the house never seemed to get any cleaner, and all that ever got noticed was what I didn't get done.  I darned and patched and hemmed and mended and replaced buttons and zippers and pockets but the pile never got any smaller, and nobody ever thanked me.  I went to work and paid the mortgage on time and paid all the bills on time and kept the pantry and the fridge and the freezer stocked, and all I heard were complaints about what I didn't buy, or didn't cook, or didn't fork over money for.

I got discouraged.  I got tired.  Most of all I got tired of being unthanked, unappreciated, unnoticed.

I got tired of never having the time, or the space, or the resources, to do any of the things I really wanted to do.

For a while I tried to turn it around by setting an example of sorts.  When anyone else did anything, I made a point of noticing, of thanking them, of expressing appreciation.  Well, some ideas are keepers, and some aren't ... it got so that they expected to be thanked and praised for things like taking their own dirty dishes to the sink, putting their own laundry in the hamper, hanging up their own coats.  So much for setting an example!

So I tried a different approach.  I stopped doing any of it, except for myself.  I did just my own laundry and mending, I washed just my own dirty dishes, I picked up just my own clutter.  And nobody cared.  Nobody noticed.  The house turned into a complete sty except for my own little corner of it, and nobody cared.  And eventually, my attitude soured to "if they don't care, why should I?"  And it was all downhill from there.  I felt like all the life was being sucked out of me little by little.

Well, I'm tired of being tired.  I'm fed up with being fed up.  I don't appreciate being unappreciated.  I'm not grateful for ingratitude.

I'm going to do whatever it takes to make my home a place I enjoy again.

I'm going to do whatever it takes to make my life a place I enjoy again.

And I'm not going to let anyone spoil either one for me any more.  No matter how much I love them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One Step Forward, How Many Back?

It's been a difficult and disappointing week here at Chez Chaos ...

J catered a big party last weekend.  Apparently the party itself was a great success, her food was a huge hit with the crowd, and the word-of-mouth advertising will certainly pay off in the long term.  However ... the friend who was helping her with setup and cleanup wasn't really paying attention, or something.  Whatever her reason, all the clean kitchen utensils got wrapped in dirty, damp towels before going into the bins for transport back here, and some containers of food that should have been in the cooler were down in the bottom of the "clean stuff" bin as well.  Now, due to a hectic work schedule, J didn't get to unpacking what should have been a bin full of clean, dry things until Friday.  Result:  mildewed towels, moldy food, and two sinkfuls of dishes and utensils to be scrubbed free of mold and disinfected.  Between all of that and a massive post-birthday-celebration hangover, J is not a happy chef this weekend.
My workplace was seriously understaffed all week, due to one vacation and one nasty case of flu.  Between working through lunch and staying late every night, by the time I got home in the evenings I didn't have the energy for anything other than wolfing down a sandwich and collapsing into bed.  So nothing got done here on ongoing projects, and nothing by way of housework other than the absolutely unavoidable minimum of animal care, dishes and laundry.  To make the week even more hectic, our highest-volume ocean terminal lost all their computer systems for three days, which meant I was deluged with phone calls from truckers who couldn't get what they needed because "the terminal has no record of it".  Every one of those calls meant I had to print out what was originally booked, call the terminal, and read it to someone who would them write it down and send someone to the main gate with it.  Every three minutes. For three days.  On top of a doubled-plus workload.  Fortunately, the usual IBS reaction to stress held off until Saturday  -  which was a blessing at the office but has kept me from accomplishing much of anything at home this weekend.  Even the sweater that I'd hoped to have finished by now is still in pieces in my knitting bag. 

One of our downstairs tenants is having a really hard time finding work, and for the last two months they've only paid half the rent.  I'm sympathetic, but at the same time the money shortage is more stress we really don't need right now.  I'm going to sit back and let Big Guy deal with them about it; I already have more than enough stress to keep my innards in an uproar.  But if we don't see some more money from them this week, I may resort to cutting off the cable television and internet to the suite  -  after all, both are included in the rent, and so (in my view) have not been paid for.  "Need" internet access to look for a job?  It's free at the public library, which is within walking distance.

I've also come to the unhappy realization that no matter how much organizing and purging I do, there will never be enough space in my workroom to do what I'd like to be doing in here; the room is just too small.  The only way to create enough space would be to move everything I work with to another part of the house, and that's just not an option.  Somehow, I just can't see myself climbing the ladder to the attic to go through boxes every time I need a reference book or a spool of thread ...

We're not sure if this spring is really colder and wetter than usual, or if we're perceiving it that way because every time we finally have a little time to work on the garden, it rains.  In either case, it's frustrating ... we'll go outside and get started on something, and within ten or fifteen minutes the weather changes and drives us back under cover.  Eventually it will all get done; it's just hard to maintain any enthusiasm for it when progress is measured in slow, damp inches.

There were a few bright spots in all the gloom, though ... 

J was very happy with her birthday gifts; I gave her a gift card to her favourite frilly-girly-girl lingerie store and a month's supply of transit tickets, and Big Guy is taking her shopping for three new pairs of jeans.

The ornamental trees downtown are all bursting into bloom, and tomorrow is supposed to be fairly nice weather-wise, so I've already tucked my camera in my bag.  Every year I tell myself I'm going to get pictures when the trees blossom, and every year I either forget the camera, or it rains, or both.  This year, I'm ready!

Sister S and I get together at Mom's on Wednesday evening instead of the usual Friday, and it was a really nice evening.  I had to leave pretty early, but Mom had some good news for a change ... although the changes are small and slow, her health is gradually improving.  She may never get all the way back to where she was two years ago, but the improvement is noticeable now, and gives hope for more.  We're all very happy for her, and looking forward to doing more with her in the future.  Maybe another road trip ...

Friends D and J came over Saturday night as usual, and we had a very pleasant, relaxing time with several episodes of "The Mentalist".  When we run out of episodes we might move right on to "Stargate SG-1", or possibly take some time out for a few board game nights.  Either way, fun evenings with good friends, and without spending money  -  it's all good.  Next week it's my turn to provide the snacks, so there will either be homemade cookies or coffee cake, or maybe a big tub of popcorn and a plate of homemade fudge.  Good times on the cheap!