Archive for the ‘values’ Category

The Gift of Red

This blog is primarily about frugal living. That being said, the ability to spend less than we make is a many tentacled wonder. Some of my worst spending decisions come when I am tired, stressed and depressed. Most of the year I can glide by with canning, crafting, thrift shopping and humour. At this time of year the days are shorter, the seasonal affective shut down code is punched, and I feel the need to make it “the most wonderful time of the year”. (I will now have that ear worm playing in my head all day). I start to droop. I hit the drive thru or buy the packaged food. I sleep more, indulge more and spend more.  My ability to make wise financial decisions in compromised.
My emotional well being hits my bottom line.  
I realize that most of us intuitively know this but how does this help?  Knowing and dealing are very different. I will share one positive perspective that does help. There is a verse in the bible that says, “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”. No matter what your beliefs there is truth  here.  Gratitude.  It is a key to taking control of your perspective.
You know the things that weigh you down but what about the things that buoy you up?
I was recently invited to take part in the 100 days of gratitude challenge. What if you kept a gratitude journal? Write down 5 things for which you are grateful. During the day think of different things to write. This will keep your mind on your blessings. Share these with chosen friends and family. Blog them or Facebook them or another outlet of your choosing. You need to dwell on them, express them and share them. It will shift your focus and give you a fighting chance.
I have a great deal for which I am grateful so I will start with the colour red. All my life I believed I could never wear red. I was told it did not suit me. A few years ago I met a man who saw me differently. As we walked through a local market he picked up a red scarf and said it would be beautiful on me. I started to object but he put it on me and said it was perfect and bought it for me. There were no mirrors except for his eyes. I felt timid at first but I wore the scarf every day. Eventually I started adding the colour into my wardrobe and felt joyous. He had given me the gift of the colour red and I am grateful.
I wish you all a season clad in the garments of praise.

redcoat

Going back into the Closet, the Honest Truth

Fashion trends make my eye twitch.  How can you trust people who repeatedly tell you that the only way you dare leave the house is if you wear neon plaid and then a few months later tell you that you don’t dare leave the house if you wear neon plaid.  These people are unstable, undependable and are in the business of making us continually neurotic about our appearance.

I know this because as an artist I do check on the colour trends that are forecast for upcoming seasons to see if my jewelry designs work with the random insanity.  I then go and work on whatever appeals to me, generally metallics, textures, pieces of metal, sculptural elements  and pieces with a story.  I don’t go to shopping malls, read fashion magazines or have any respect for people that pay the price of a car for a purse. Whether it is $20 or $2000 a pen exploding inside of it will still ruin the lining and a moist cough drop will still sent it to the back of the closet.

OK.  So what has that got to do with anything?  We are talking about saving money. Here is my weakness.  I love to travel.  It is what I save my money for and when I am very careful I spend less traveling than living at home (almost, well sort of.)  I find really good deals on flights, accomodations and food.  So far so good but right now I am packing for a wonderful trip with my mom.  We will spend a week in Istanbul, I’ll be using airmiles Best Western cards for accomodations. Great.  We will then be doing a one week cruise from Istanbul to Athens that included free airfare and the whole thing came out cheaper than airfare (I will be so unimpressed if I find out we are really galley help on a Greek fishing boat). Double great.  I will get a chance to introduce my mom to one of the most important people in my life and many other friends, triple great, and they have all seen all of my clothes before. Oh. Ha!  I don’t care.  I’m sure they don’t remember what I wore, even though they are the same outfits I wore in several of the photos I took on my last few trips.  Yup, that one sparkly camisole, certainly made the rounds (in a nice girl way of course).  Yes I have worn these boots there three times. This coat is starting to look like Indiana Jones’ after the fight scenes.  I’m sure they won’t notice.  People in large European cities aren’t too aware of fashion right?  I don’t care about that sort of thing right?  Why is my suitcase inching away from my choices?  Why is my suitcase looking like it was on the Titanic?

All right this is petty but part of my spending before a trip involved a military campaign of getting the hair cut and coloured, feet done, makeup bought fresh, a few new tops, maybe a dress (or two if it was summer) and a bathing suit.  The bathing suit is always problematic because when I buy them I see myself rising from the waves like a spandex clad Venus on a half shell in glistening splendor.  When the photos get downloaded  I see a German opera singer squished into a salami wrapper.  There is no going back and pretending once the photos see the light of day (which they rarely do).  This year, at this time of reckoning it is time to stop avoiding the closet. As Dorothy learned in Oz, everything I really need is right in my own (closet) backyard.  Part of the fun of a trip is buying new things in the hope of being a brand new me, but until I am completely at ease with the me that didn’t suddenly lose 20 lbs. before the trip, then I’m not decluttering the most cluttered room I have, my own closet of anxieties.  Yes marketing and media have had a hand in that but intentional living gives me the freedom to wear brown if “the” trend is lilac.  I have to face my own ego and fantasy cravings and find satisfaction by returning to the closet. Now where is that neon plaid bathing suit? (Don’t visualize.)

Sept.21rst Christmas Tacos

I’ll admit it.  I tend to overthink things.  When I decide on something I want to get started now and work until it is finished.  “Hhm. To get in shape I need to be active for at least an hour a day.  That is 7 hours a week, 28 hours in a month, so if I work out for 12 days in a row I’ll be good for the year.”  OK I exaggerate a bit but not much.  I have learned to beware the zeal with which I approach new projects in favour of creating plans that have a bit more staying power.

With trying to do the “Eat Your Pantry” challenge from the Year Of Less blog I quickly spread out from saving money to making sure I hand made everything.  That came with a huge amount of left overs, as there are only two of us, many hours searching for recipes that used what I had,  and massive amounts of pots and pans to wash.   I quickly learned that not every night could be new culinary creations.  One night as I looked over a table brimming with hand pickled veggies, crockpot chicken, and a specialty salad with fresh made dressing I asked Josh what his favourite part was.  Without looking up he said, “The rice.”  The rice.  The stuff I measured out into a steamer. The plain white rice.  The counter was littered with every measuring cup and spoon, pots, bowls, knives and cutting boards I owned.  I’d be washing up an hour at least and he liked the rice. I got the message.

To be honest I should have got the message many years ago, almost eight years ago to be exact.  It was six days before Christmas that the three of us were moving into our new house.  There was little time to put up a tree, unload and get ready for the holidays.  In the middle of appliances that were not working and a phone line that didn’t get hooked up I realized it was Christmas eve and there was no way I was going to be able to put on a proper traditional Christmas dinner.  I reached into one of the bins and came up with a package of taco fixings.  I decided to chop up a red and green pepper and presented them to our son.  “Here we go sweetie. Christmas tacos!”  He was six and munched happily as I felt like a complete con artist.  I promised myself that the next year would make up for it.

The next year I did thing up in style with an actual table cloth, candles, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, corn and of course the turkey.  We sat down at the table and my son looked at everything and hung his head.  “Josh, what’s wrong?”.  He looked up at me, his eyes filling, “Mom, where are the Christmas Tacos?  I’ve been looking forward to them all day,  It’s just not Christmas without them.”  I quickly promised we’d have some the next day and he perked up and we had a good dinner.  I had no idea that he’s remembered that and that making a memory didn’t need all the crazy making activity. Since then it has become one of our traditions.   The times that I’m the most stressed are a direct reflection on my expectations.  It is not just the work that causes the stress but the expectation I have of what I must create in order to for me to call it a success. Sometimes I am a royal pain in my own backside.

Sometimes simple is enough.  Sometimes simple is just better.  This thanksgiving I will be alone for the first time.  I thought about trying to create a big traditional dinner. Maybe I’ll just invite some people over for Thanksgiving tacos. Red and orange peppers make it perfect for Thanksgiving right?

May you all be richly blessed this thanksgiving and dwell on all that makes you truly grateful.

When “to be” is the Only Option

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve canned  corn relish and made blackberry jam from hand picked blackberries.  I’ve created balanced homemade meals and avoided fast food (pretty much), started to organize my closets (You didn’t seriously think I got that done yet did you?), started to reduce my pantry and freezer stock, cancelled online daily deal subscriptions, avoided flyers and searching for airmiles deals, as well as sifting through paperwork, art supplies and filling donation boxes.  As I finished up washing yet another stack of handwashed pots and pans generated from apples studel made with apples from my own tree I was struck with the strength of my feelings.  I’m tired!!!!  There was a reason I ate out, ignored the filing and did not hand make my own shampoo and deodorant (and trust me folks, crystals do nothing to reduce the stink even if you think your aura is cleaner.  I’m just saying.)

Today my joints are swollen, my face is puffy and I can’t follow the plot line of America’s Next Top Model.  In other words it is time to rest, and let the world take care of itself.  Today I will ignore the dog toys, eat ifits (if it is in the fridge you can have it) and just enjoy my home.  We work so hard to create an environment for everyone but ourselves.  It is hard to realize that I have limitations but there is wisdom in knowing yourself, testing the boundaries and accepting when you have gone as far as you can.  Today is the day to let my home look after me rather than the other way around. Today I will enjoy snippets of summer that still exist in my garden. Today I will just be and be content.

Sept.18th A Potential Problem

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a new show on called “Collection Intervention”.  It is a spin off of “Hoarders”.  To be honest I find all of these shows uncomfortable because you are mostly dealing with people with mental illnesses.  They have intermingled their identities with their possessions.  For some these items not only represent their memories but are seen as their only access to feelings of happiness.  When we look at the piles of garbage we gag and wonder how they live in the filth.  For many of them the do not see or smell the rubbish. They see potential.  Often when the organizer picks up some item the owner quickly snatches it back saying something like, “Leave that!  I’m going to use that! I can make something with that.  I have plans for that if only someone would make a space for me to work.  I know what I’m doing so leave my stuff alone.”  It is so sad to see them in this trap.  The allure of the pile is that each item in their mind has potential.  Each piece of rusted metal, patterned paper, old drapes, glossy magazine, arts calendar and storage can be made into something wonderful.

I have to admit that though my home is not a labyrinth of decaying boxes I can be just as trapped in my efforts to declutter because of an item’s potential.  I enjoy designing and creating rugs. Wool is the queen of materials, old Pendleton skirts and suits that will felt up when washed in hot water, are the best materials. However, there is nothing like an old worn out t-shirt for creating strips of bright colour. Having as many colours as possible gives limitless possibilities. Short of 100% cotton, I use most everything.  No old clothing needs to hit the garbage.  Therein lies the problem.  There is no way I can hook quick enough or give the time needed to create with all this fabric.  Bit by bit bins and bags overflow. But the potential.  Finally you have to do the math.  If you think of the square footage in your house and the amount of space dedicated to these “potential” materials you can calculate the portion of your mortgage you pay each month to store these items.

Unfortunately for me it doesn’t stop at textiles.  There are claying and jewelry materials that take up three storage towers and two drawers in my kitchen.  I started with the kitchen as this would keep all of my supplies out of site.  Things have expanded over an entire folding table as well.  Four shelves of books and magazines take up my study and three bins store dyeing supplies.

The task:  Catalogue what I have and decide what potential can realistically be realized within a reasonable time frame, what needs a moratorium of purchases and what needs immediate eviction.  This will take time and even the inventory will need a schedule and a deadline.

The reward: I will not get a surprise camera crew to the house with sobbing friends and family begging me to get help.  I will no longer have the negative energy of an unwritten and unfulfilled “to do” list.  I will have more space and a clearer focus as to what I want to do and what I enjoy doing.

I still won’t say no to a wonderful wool skirt but my potential pile has one month to be “realized” or released.

If you imagine it you can make it BUT potential is not your personal obligation.  Simply put, love it and live it or lose it.

May you all make peace with the demands of potential, Deb

Sept.10th Treasure Hunting

My uncle and aunt in Winnipeg are grand masters in saving and using everything.  My uncle used to be the treasurer for the Mennonite Central Committee and he was the best man for the job.  Though he will dispute 3 cents on a bill and not waste one pasta noodle I would never say he is cheap.  My uncle is a generous man who has helped fund many important projects and given openly to people in need. My aunt, a nurse, has worked tirelessly for others and her door is always opened in hospitality.

This morning just as I was chiding myself for overspending yesterday I had a call.  It was a friend wanting to meet for coffee.  I accepted right away. No it didn’t work into the plan of saving every penny but it did work into the plan of creating the life I want to live.  My friend has cancer and tomorrow, 9/11 she will have a difficult surgery.  Don’t get me wrong. This is a strong and wonderful woman and we would not be embracing and weeping and melodramatic. She is not her disease.  I knew with her we’d be laughing, sharing and living.  We went to a wonderful arts cafe, the Watershed in Walnut Grove and enjoyed our scones and coffees (mine was a hot cocoa with hazelnut, yum).  We talked for over two hours and hugged.  The money spent enriched my life far more than the few dollars could have ever done. his challenge is about more than just saving money. The point is destressing, decluttering, self discipline and organizing priorities.

When I was a social worker at a care home I led a caregiver support group.  All of them had a lot of stress but some held up remarkably well while others crumbled.  One of the exercises we did was to have people write down their top five priorities.  I then had them write down their top five usages of time.  For the people whose lists were very close, they had the best handle on the stress.  For the ones with almost no crossover they were depressed and scattered.  They felt incredibly frustrated.  What are your priorities? What and who do you treasure?

For many people the token list looks something like: 1. God 2. spouse 3. children 4. friends 5. recreation.   Often time usage is  1. work 2. TV 3. video games/e-mails/facebook etc. 3. shopping 4. cell phone 5. family.

Investing your time in your priorities is essential to balancing your life.  If you say you have a best friend you haven’t seen in a couple of years you need to get them on your calendar now.  As a Canadian I am here to tell you that you can’t vote on American Idol so your favourite will not be sent home if you miss this week’s episode, but your friendship may fade to nothingness if you don’t act fast.  Marriages need constant upgrading.  Even a palace will look like a dump if it isn’t maintained.  Go have fun with your spouse. Enjoy your kids rather than just letting them get caught up in the frustration of your out of control life.  It doesn’t matter if I create a cool rug if my son is feeling more and more detatched each day because his achievements go unnoticed and uncelebrated.  In a lot of ways we make our lives more complicated than we need to.

So today I took my friend for coffee and I feel completely on track with my goals.  Next time I will entertain at home.  I will strive to live my priorities.

Money spent today $10.78, avoided fast food on the way home and have dinner bubbling in the pot.  I gathered 4 cups of blackberries and now have enough for jam. Hooray!

And mom?  I love you.