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!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Can't Buy Me Love

I've been seeing Christmas commercials on television for a couple of weeks now, and Christmas advertising everywhere.  Come on, people, can't you let us get through Hallowe'en first?  Isn't life hectic enough, doesn't time already go by fast enough?

When our daughters were children, we had a yearly ritual.  During the last week of November we'd make up a big calendar covering the first 24 days of December.  We'd plan one getting-ready-for-Christmas thing to do together every day.  Shopping trips, wrapping sessions, sending cards, baking, decorating one room at a time ... twenty-four days of fun, togetherness, and anticipation.  The to-do for Christmas Eve was always "hang stockings, make cocoa, and watch 'White Christmas' " .

But now ... they're all adults, with jobs and lives of their own.  The pre-Christmas calendar has become a list in my notebook, the decorating and baking are what I do in the evenings after work, the cards get done on my lunch hour at work.  Shopping is done in one marathon trip through Metrotown, made only slightly bearable by the close proximity of my Mom's place; I shop till I can't stand another minute of crowds and noise, go up to her place to deposit bags and swill coffee, and get my second wind before heading back to the mall for round two.

For the record  -  I'm not shopping just for gifts.  Most of my gift accumulating actually happens throughout the year, when I finish making someone's gift, or see something I can afford that I know someone would really enjoy.  This trip is also when I pick up all the baking supplies, cards and stamps, extra groceries for the family get-together and Christmas dinner, whatever craft/knitting/sewing supplies I need, last-minute stocking-stuffers and thank-you gifts, and whatever else is on the regular shopping list for the next two or three weeks.  It happens either the last weekend in November or the first weekend in December, and its ultimate purpose is to make sure I don't have to shop for anything else (except milk and fresh produce) until after Boxing Day.  (It's also the first time I will buy mandarin oranges; to me, they're Christmas oranges, and I refuse to eat them before December.  I'm just odd that way.)

And it's not just Christmas.  It's Easter, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, Secretaries' Day, Bosses' Day ... I'm sure I've left some out.  It's all the artificially created, overinflated "holidays" whose only real purpose these days is to be used by retailers to encourage / persuade / guilt-trip us into spending money on things.  To convince us that overspending is the only way to show someone we appreciate them.  To make us all believe that true love can be measured only by how many dollars we lay out.

What's the best present you ever received?  I'd bet anything it wasn't the most expensive present you ever got, but the one that warmed your heart with how much love went into something that was truly, uniquely you  -  the one that made you realize how much the giver cared for you and thought about you.

So here's something to think about ... when you're shopping for Christmas gifts this year, are you thinking about how much to spend on each person?  Or about how best to show them you love them, you listen to them, you pay attention to what they like or don't like?  Do you want them to measure your love in dollars and cents, or in time and thought and caring?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Three Weeks On A Roller Coaster

I've been struggling to get this post done for about three weeks now, and I'm still not sure exactly why.   True, I've had a lot going on in the real world, but I've been tired before and still managed (mostly) to post as scheduled.  It's been three weeks of inner and outer ups and downs ... at work, at home, and with both my physical health and my moods / emotions.  But I've blogged through those before, too.  So what's different this time?

The weekend after my last post was our office move.  Not a bad thing in itself  -  the space we were in was far too big for just the six of us, and the new office not only fits our needs better but is in a much nicer building, with a gorgeous view of Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.  True, it means getting a bus to and from the downtown Skytrain in bad weather  -  it's a lovely walk on a nice day, though!  -  but that only adds about ten minutes each way to my commute, and the views alone are worth it.  But the moving process itself was fraught with frustrations.  On the Friday, we had no phones  -  that was the day our phone service was shifted to the new office.  And naturally, in spite of spending two weeks warning everyone (and adding a warning to our e-mail signatures) that we'd have no phones on Friday but would still be in the office and reachable via e-mail, we were deluged with offended e-mails complaining that we weren't answering the phones ... sigh.  Then on Monday, we had phones but for most of the day we had no internet.  Now, literally everything we do, every program we use, is internet-based.  So we could take calls, but that was pretty much the only thing we could do.  And within an hour of finally getting the internet working, our booking system went down for the rest of the day ...

The weather has been cold, wet, and gloomy.  One or two nice days, but overall not pleasant at all.  I did manage to salvage enough apples for a dozen quarts of applesauce, but the tomatoes are pretty much a write-off, and nothing else even tried to grow  -  except the ubiquitous chives!  I don't think they can be killed!

Right after the move I caught a nasty cold, probably from one of the all-too-numerous people on the Skytrain who think it's okay to cough in other passengers' faces.  Nothing too serious, but by the time I got home every evening I was feeling pretty washed-out and used-up.  I kept my germs to myself, and didn't give the cold to anyone else, which pleased me.

As I expected, nothing more happened in the basement until literally the night before the installers were coming to replace the furnace.  I'd already moved everything I could handle without help, and having Big Guy lose his temper with me because he actually had to shift his big heavy things himself ... let's just say his running commentary was not well received.  However, during the whole process I did get four more big bags of donations weeded out, and I'm still working on adding to them.

If I'd been told when they started that the furnace guys wouldn't be finished the same day, I think I might very well have packed a bag and spent the weekend at my Mom's place.  Ditto if I'd known that Big Guy had not, after all, lined up a gas fitter to reconnect the gas lines after the installation was done.  Yeah ... two days with no heat, no hot water, no stove, and all the microwaveable meals we'd bulk-cooked and frozen were inaccessible because, apparently, the best place to pile all the toolboxes, spare furnace & duct parts, etc was on top of the chest freezer.  I suppose it could have been worse  -  I still had my coffeemaker.  Still, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for lunch and dinner two days in a row didn't do a lot for my mood or my digestion.  He finally did find a gas guy willing to come out on a Sunday afternoon, so at last we have heat, hot water, and a working stove again.  The best part?  I'll get to watch our winter heating bill come in at not quite half of last year's, since the new furnace is more than twice as efficient as the old one.  And it's so quiet you can't tell it's on unless you stand on a heat vent!

Righteous indignation being a great motivator, I got a lot of cleaning and clearing-out done in my workroom over those two days ... the family refers to my bouts of anger-based activity as "working furiously".  I'm not quite ready to post the "after" pictures yet, though (you can see the "before" pics here).

My birthday had its ups and downs, too.  Mom got me the lecture series on geology, tectonics and climate interrelationships I'd been  jonesing for, and daughter J gave me beautiful flowers and a gift card to Chapters  -  she knows what I love!  Big Guy brought home three birthday desserts  -  he said he couldn't remember what I like and wanted to cover all the bases, so there were cheesecake, Nanaimo bars, and a coffee-almond torte.  Seriously?  Almost thirty years and you don't know what I like for dessert??  So I was torn between being charmed by his thoughtfulness and resentful of his lack of attention.  And then I felt guilty about the mixed feelings.  And later I felt more resentment, and more guilt ... he'd bought me not the one fall hoodie I wanted, but two  -  black and super-dark brown, just like I wanted   -  but he didn't bother unfolding them or looking at the tags, so they are both about three sizes too small.  And he promised we'd go exchange them today, only now he's suddenly "too busy".  Busy with what?  Reading a cookbook.  Yes.  He's decided he wants to deep-fry our Thanksgiving turkey.  Should be ... interesting. 

I've decided to scale back a bit on Hallowe'en this year.  We'll still put up some creepy fun stuff around the front door and hand out treats, but I just don't feel up for our usual all-out over-the-top decorating.  Partly because this year everyone will be at work all day except me, and I want to use the quiet time for more appropriate Samhain reflection.  And partly because Big Guy's job has lasted months longer than it was originally supposed to and we don't know when the axe will fall and want to spend as little as possible on non-essentials as we prepare for his layoff.  Oh, and of course we'll do several pumpkins  -  which will get cut up, cooked, and frozen the next day, as usual.  I've never cared for pumpkin pie, but I make a pumpkin-cinnamon-raisin loaf that's very popular with family and friends.  I might even give some frozen pumpkin puree to sister S for her pies, if she asks nicely!

Next weekend the guinea pigs will come inside until spring; the indoor cage sits in front of the living room window, so they still get fresh air and what little sunshine there is.  Now that we have three of them (female-free-to-good-home, we couldn't resist!), the old indoor cage is far too small.  Luckily, the vet clinic daughters P and J work at was tossing a perfectly good indoor cage big enough for all three, so she called, Big Guy drove to Kits, and the pigs have a nice roomy safe space until they go back to the outdoor hutch next spring.  And the price was right  -  free.

Yes, even though J is back to cooking full-time, she's decided to hang on part-time at the clinic for as long as she can stand to; she wants to get those student loans paid off quickly, and more power to her!  Like me  -  and unlike Big Guy  -  J sees debt not as just a to-be-expected part of life, but as something to be dealt with and eliminated as soon as possible.

I got a letter from Visa last week, telling me that they had doubled my credit limit.  Since I never ever carry a balance, it really doesn't matter; whenever I use the card, I go online as soon as I get home and transfer the same amount from my chequing account, so my statement balance is always zero.  And I only take the card shopping when I know in advance what I'm going to buy and how much I'll be spending.  I suppose I'm fortunate in that I've never been tempted to be a buy-now-pay-later shopper ... I just don't like to carry large amounts of cash.  It's good to know, though, that if a true emergency arises I have enough credit (I hope) to take care of whatever it is.

Right now, though, I have to go deal with three loads of laundry and a grungy kitchen floor.