Saturday, November 9, 2013

One of Those Simple Good Days

Today I give thanks for simple pleasures and Fridays. (note- I started this yesterday, Friday)

Friday is the day that Hubby has "off" from work. Not really- he's teaching a boat load of classes and working late into each night and on the weekends. But he has Fridays to work from home.

Today we just celebrated the day. After the boy got on the bus, we got ready and headed to the local lab to give blood samples. His employer sponsors a complimentary screen for all sorts of issues, so you give a sample and wait for the whole profile of results. Various times through the day, I have to admit I have had pause. It's been such a nice day- a day where I have stopped often and given thanks- and then I have that impending doom feeling, like life is about to change radically.

I'm trying to keep that crazy-making voice quiet. I hope it's just that silly part of my psyche that gets too scared to be fully happy, so invents things to worry about instead. And not premonition. Either way, I'm turning my head away and not letting it steal my joy.

************** And that's where I stopped, because I got busy making dinner and doing all those family things. And had a bunch more to say, to reflect on the simple things that I am thankful. I got an email last night that someone in my family is having surgery next month. I don't know why or what the problem is- it's shrouded in mystery and I have to wait to hear from that person directly. Which makes it ever so much worse. Then my little boy got sick today, and has had temperatures hovering at 103, freaking me out. I thought that I was being silly with my premonitions. I'm still trying to feel that way, but it gave me a bit of pause, for sure. So I'm just going to post this and maybe the boogie man will go away. **************************

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just Stop

I was just in the middle of writing a long post that is part bio and part diatribe about education.

I took a Facebook break, and while I was there I checked in on a family I mentioned a few posts ago. I don't know them- I just got directed to their page by a third-party. But their struggle to save their son has absolutely put chains on my heart and I find myself praying for them many times each day. It seemed as though things were looking up, but their latest post is devastating and I found myself in tears for them.

So, I'm taking a break from writing just now and going to pray for this family and take my baby for a walk.

If you want to pray for them to, here is their page:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Need Verses Want

I've never kept us with the Joneses.
It's been a long time since I wanted to.
I've always hated the thought on principle. It reeks to me of being manipulated by commercialism, of being a lemming. I feel like I know myself and know what I like. I don't need society telling me what to want.

I am aware of culture, though. It's not that I block out trends. I just choose not to follow them blindly. Sometimes I like what is offered up and will adapt it to my own life, but generally I like to keep things more universal.

With the possible exception of glitter, my kryptonite. I so love a tasteful glitter. But I digress.

Not "keeping up" also does not imply a lack of material desire. For me, it means not being a slave to the desires of others.

I love to read about our human tendencies on this matter, swaying towards nonfiction works that examine these things through the lenses of history, psychology and business. When I get some time to myself, you can usually find me at the library usually pouring over the latest edition of "Inc" or flipping through a Malcolm Gladwell book.

One amazing benefit of the internet is that you can reach out to groups with who share some counter-culture views. Heck, just having the internet gives a platform to expanded media to cover these trends in the first place. One such group for me is with the "tiny house movement" and the idea of going off-grid and being more sustainable. I'm still comfortable in my 1,500 square foot house and need to seriously downsize, but it's a process. It's been great following people who are on this journey and sharing our dreams at workshops and in forums. Again, it's not a trend that I follow blindly (I spoke about this a lot at the workshop I took last year), but I want to take elements from it and make it work for my family. I am internalizing it and making it my own.

I still struggle with being incensed at the excess expressed in in flashy cars, handbags, jewelry. I love good design and a quality-made items and I can see the value of investing in something of quality, verses my old "buy it cheap" mentality. But I hate the celebrity mentality and the insipid magazines and websites that cater to it. Logo mentality disgusts me and what it can all too often represent, which is a pretentious and often unconscionable person with values counter to mine slapping a logo on an ugly piece that was made in substandard conditions in a third-world factory and then charging obscene amounts of money for the junk and having a lemming following doing anything to carry the junk. My objections are to what the object represents, which is thoughtlessness and exploitation.

But a sanctimonious tangent is not my intention here, and part of maturing into mindfulness is also accepting the paths of others. Did I mention it's a process? And for me and for authentic growth in this area, it will take time. At the same time, it's okay to have values, to stand up for what matters. It's a balance.

That is not to say that I don't see the fun of money. I loved having it to finance experiences. Standing under the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Having an amazing meal. Purchasing awesome gifts for my family, or even small, thoughtful ones for friends. Being able to help someone out. And I can certainly see the benefits of having enough money to buy your way into a safer neighborhood, a better school. I can still do good with limited resources, but yes, money makes life easier.

We are in an exceptionally tight spot financially. It's been hard to wrestle with, since I was always so proud of my responsible finances.
We are not austere, but have certainly had a long run of generic beans and rice and my dependence on credit card debt is remarkably uncomfortable for me since I used to be part of the Ramsey camp and didn't even have cards.

I remember my first apartment with my hubby. We were 20 and I was in college. It was an old building in a beat-up part of a river town, but it's what we could afford. His old car always broke down and he was working as a waiter because he couldn't afford college yet. We had sheets for curtains and ate a lot ramen. We couldn't afford a microwave and it was a big deal when we purchased a toaster oven. We were always just a few dollars away from the breaking point. I remember a friend was having a baby and her family was hosting a baby shower. I was responsible for bringing some element for it, and I carefully purchased it in advance. When I got to the party, it was sprung on me that I was also expected to pay for part of the cake. It seems like a small thing now, but I wrote that $35 check and then felt sick the rest of the party as I wondered how I was going to get the money in my account that would make sure that check didn't bounce. That was the first time that I sold some of my jewelry to make ends meet.

There is want. But I know that this time is precious and beautiful.

Our blessings are plentiful. My children have less than many here, but so, so much more than so many who suffer. They are safe, healthy, comfortable and have books, toys, and entertainment. We have to be creative sometimes, and I have to say no to a lot of extras, but in the end I believe it will help build character and help keep them from being spoiled. But they are clean, well-dressed, and well-fed most of the time (at least in public. Most of the time, lol.) Most importantly, they are loved and protected and they are our focus. They are seen and known and cherished, which is an element that has absolutely nothing to do with money.

And guess what? Having a stellar credit score is not nearly as rewarding as just living life. I'm on the cusp of working through some of these issues, but there is a definitive shift in me. I'll still trying to define it and figure out what it all means, and by the time I do, I will likely shift again. I write this with a smile on my face. For me, there is peace in accepting the flowing variable to her I am/was/always becoming.

Did I already write about the kindness of strangers a few weeks ago? Of a man in the grocery who gave me baby food coupons and a neighbor who gave me outgrown clothes from her baby? Both acts were small to the givers, but a huge emotional boost on the eve of my surgery that set us back thousands of dollars. The priceless aspects of these acts- reminding of good, reminding me of the angels acting in my life- was manna for my soul and I stop to keep nibbling on it, rolling the flavor of it over and over.

It's funny. I started this post thinking that I would compare a few recent needs and wants, but as usual, this is more my free-flow journal where I try to put a few parameters on my thoughts. For me, this blog is about the journey through my mind and there are no absolute stopping points. No points to be made, no definitive stands. Just reflections on the living while in the midst of it, typing while feeding bananas and cheerios to my baby.

And soon I'll gratefully slip on my beat up gym shoes and take a walk with my girl and be exquisitely thankful for all of it.

I'll Not Be Pondering the Great Mysteries of Life in This Post

Today, I am thankful for quiet, loving kitties.

They are such a contrast to the intense screaming of the last few hours.
Yes. Hours.

A certain baby, who shall remain nameless, has a frequent sleep problem. Every single remedy has been tried over the last year. Books read. Web researched. Earnest prayers. Consultations. Medications. It's not every night these days, but tonight was a rough one.

Before the concert of screams that makes Carmina Burana seem like a lullaby, I grabbed the boy and we did a quick run to Target. I needed few things, so I hit up a couponing website and wanted to hone in on the deals. It was a fun mommy and me activity as we slipped through the store, examining items and discussing trends. It's fun for me to hear the things that he is picking up naturally from these trips and it's such as great training ground for "real life."

As we put our small gathering of items on the belt, we engaged in our ritual of trying to estimate the total (that's right, Common Core- I've got your predicting and estimation right here, baby!). LM guessed $9 and I guessed $11. The best part came as the associate finished ringing the items... which totaled $34.
LM piped up as she rang the last item and said, "So, Mommy, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE CLOSER TO, $9 OR $11?"
The clerk looked sympathetic and said, "Aw, well hon, it's already much higher than that." She thought my boy a fool, but soon she discovered our secret weapon...

El Coupon Diablo! Ole! *insert evil cackle here*

The final total was $14, and I received a $5 gift card, so LM won the game since the net charge was $9. The clerk looked dazed as she congratulated us. It was great.

So what did the $9.00 purchase?

3 bottles of creamer (say what you will, but it's the only way I can drink coffee at home)
1 small pack of coffee (did you read the part about not sleeping?)
1 huge bottle of shampoo (rawr! Wash ALLLLLL the hairs!!!)
1 gourmet chocolate (free/ hoarding for a future teacher gift)
1 toothbrush (also free)
1 pack of diapers
3 deodorants for the hubby(this stuff is expensive. When not on sale, it's $4.50. Ack! I remember when he ran out and just went out and bought a stick for $3.75. "It was on sale" he said as I had a mini-hissy fit. So now I stock up when I can so that he has some to fall back on. In fact, this deal worked out so well that I may have to do it again before the week is through!)

I am well pleased with the bounty. I don't got to Target very much these days. I have dramatically reduced "pleasure shopping" in my life and I don't like to tempt myself in the land of baubles and glitter. Sooooo much glitterrrrrr (drools). However, I have much greater discipline than I used to, both in terms of reducing clutter and reducing costs. And, when you combine Target's Cartwheel program with the fact that you can stack Target and Manufacturer coupons, it's a really great place to score a well-executed deal.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday, Monday

It's overcast and cool this morning, and we all got up a little earlier (despite the fact that I stayed up waaayyyyy too late. Again. It's a thing.)

This morning I am thankful for:

Garbage service. Seriously. I am so giddy each week to get rid of all that is nasty.

Recycling. I'm not always the best at it, but have been getting increasingly better. One element that I am good about is "upcycling" which is turning used items into something new. Of course, it tends to look a bit more like hoarding, but let's jut take one vice at a time, hehe.

Why else do I like recycling? Because Monday morning is our pick-up day and so after I got LittleMan on the bus, I took the baby for a little jaunt in her stroller. The voyeur in me can't help it- I like to see what lives in those green boxes while I get a little exercise. Since I have been walking this tiny neighborhood many times a week for over a year, it's always fun to have something new to see. It's a fascinating glimpse into the lives of others, those boxes. And when I get lucky, some folks will throw their Sunday coupons out on the top of their paper boxes. I just swipe and go and end up with a lot more diaper coupons.

Ah yes, I am thankful for being easily amused. Truly. I have said it for years, but it is the gift that keep giving. Some folks need a lot to make them happy. Give me a few free coupons, and I am all giddy.

So I've had my first mile walk of the day, and a wee bit of coffee.

With any luck, I might be able to get the baby down for a nap and take a shower before noon. And even though I struggle with my evolving identity sometimes, I am truly grateful that I have been able to stay home with my little girl this year. I am looking forward to finding something meaningful and challenging and stimulating to do to pay the bills and get us both out of the house to make friends, but I am thankful for this time. As we come up on her birthday, I am reminded just how fast the year flies by, even when the days felt slow.

To the joy.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday: Come the Sun

The sun came back today, and it kissed my face.
It was cool and beautiful as we drove downtown to go to a fall festival.
I am thankful for the money for gas, for parking.
I am thankful for the painkillers that let me have some relief.
I am thankful for the gym shoes that make it ever so much easier to enjoy movement.
I am thankful for the dollar store, where we stopped on the way home for some essentials.
I am thankful for the rice and peas that made up our simple dinner.
I am thankful for my safe neighborhood, where I walked an easy mile tonight.
I am thankful for the open back door and the cool, non-humid air pouring through it.

I am thankful for my husband who is taking out the trash.
I am thankful that I get to see the look of joyful adoration on my little girl's face as she reaches for her big brother.

And hot chocolate. And creativity. And inspiration.

And the peace of the night.

Saturday: Come The Rain

Saturday brought the rain.

I am thankful for the rain.
To grow. To thrive. To appreciate the sunlight.

When the boys were glued to football, I slunk off to the library and then got lost in a silly book.

I am thankful for books.
All my life, my most constant and variable friend. My portal to other places, other realities.