"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sorry Foose

I'm a terrible dog parent.  I picked up Foose's prescription bottle this afternoon to call the vet for a refill and that's when I saw it... "Give 2 capsules every 24 hours".  Wait, what?  2?  As in TWO?  Crap.  How did I mess this up?  When we boarded him at the vet for our vacation in October, he ran out of pills and they refilled the bottle for us.  I don't know if the dosage changed or if I just blanked completely, but when we got home I went on auto pilot and every morning I gave him a pill.  One. Half the dosage he needed.  So the last couple of months when we've been feeling so frustrated with him, it was my fault.  Nervous, temperamental, edgy.  My fault.  Sorry Foose.  I had to explain to the tech what I had done and now it's been noted in his file for all of eternity.  I'm terrified that the vet will call me back and scold.  Chisel it in stone: Mandy is a terrible dog mom. 

We are so efficient that we finished our No Spend January in only 15 days!  Okay, fine.  We only lasted half the month.  We weren't perfect, but we did really well for a while.  We ate through tons of food in the kitchen and said no to lots of things we ordinarily would have done.  It was definitely a struggle in some ways.  Several things spurred the end of the challenge.  One, the extreme cold turned a small crack in Drew's windshield into a huge crack right through his line of sight.  That was a fairly big expense, but a necessary one.  Then the florescent light in our closet started flickering, going dim, and doing weird things.  The only thing I know about closet lights is that I like them to work.  The florescent fixture was so old that it wouldn't accommodate new LED bulbs, so we opted to replace the fixture.  Where do you even file that expense?  Not really an emergency, but not excessive spending.  Either way, we spent the money.  Those weren't even the final straws.  The final straw was when we had eaten through so much of our pantry that we wound up eating terrible homemade biscuits with canned gravy for dinner.  Canned sausage gravy.  Y'all, just don't.  I'm pretty sure that that can was a leftover from my Grandpa Whimpy, because I can't imagine that I would have ever purchased it on purpose.  Still, the date was good, so we ate it.  It was terrible and we laughed/gagged through the entire meal.  That was the final straw.  I spent the last of our $100 grocery budget at Walmart and that was that.
Aside from the fact that we didn't make it the entire month, here's what I learned:
  • How much money I spend at the grocery store is directly related to where I shop and if I have a specific list.  I spend less money at Aldi or Dollar General because the stores are small and I go with specific things on my list.  I spend more money at Harps (local grocery store) because it's bigger and has more options.  Example, I bought a 3 pound bag of frozen chicken that I didn't really need, just because it was on sale and sounded good.  I spend significantly more money at Walmart because there are so many things to get distracted by.  The store is huge, it takes longer to shop for what I came for, I buy things I didn't come for, and I wind up buying larger quantities that what I need.  (i.e. GIGANTIC tub of cheese balls in my pantry right now.) 
  • I am just as happy to refill ice trays and save the cash I would have spent on bagged ice.   
  • Nobody should ever have to eat canned sausage gravy.
  • I am able to say no to extra things when I set my mind to it.  Even if saying no isn't as much immediate fun as saying yes. 
  • Our budget changes pretty dramatically (for the positive) when we actively choose not to spend.  
  •  Not spending is hard.  
  • We are so fortunate to be in the position we are in. 
Misty's been doing some painting at their house and that put painting back on my radar.  Then when we were at Lowe's for the light fixture, I was lured back in by the home improvement bug.  Before we even closed on this house, I was obsessed with the trim.  SO MUCH honey oak trim.  It's fine and in good condition, but very dated to the 90's.  I obsessed over how I could paint it, but then we moved and did so many immediate updates and spent so much money and gradually that trim didn't bother me quite so much.  Then I quite suddenly decided that it had to go and that it would be a fantastic idea to start painting it all.  Y'all, I'm embarrassed to say that on Sunday night I actually lost sleep over the looming magnitude of this chore, but I still got up the next morning and took myself to the Lowe's paint counter.  That wasn't even the real commitment.  The real commitment came with that first swipe of primer on the crown molding.  There was no going back, only forward.  We started small by priming and painting the baseboards, trim, and crown molding in the entry way, then painting the walls and ceiling.  One tiny room down, one million to go.  I'm not yet convinced that we'll paint the cabinetry in the kitchen and laundry room.  We'll see about that.  I know it's doable, but it's a huge chore and one that I'm not sure I'm ready to take on.  The plantation shutters are what really scare me.  My initial plan is to prime and paint the molding around the windows and then we'll discuss the shutters.  To be done properly and remain fully functional, they will have to be removed, sprayed, and reinstalled.  That's such a huge job and one we can't do anyway when it's below freezing outside.  So we'll move through the house and do one room at a time until we're finished.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Repeat after me... one bite at a time.
Before: tan walls and honey oak trim
 After: Aesthetic White walls and Dovetail Gray trim

Other super reasonable things I'm stewing on.  The spring vegetable garden.  Where exactly it will be, whether it will be raised beds, and what & how much I'll grow.  What's more, I'm actually telling myself that I'm going to can and dehydrate said veggies and herbs.  And chickens.  Yes, chickens.  I've been heavily hint dropping to Drew about my desire for a chicken coop and a few laying hens, but I never thought he'd be on board.  We aren't chicken shopping at this moment, but we're surely entertaining the idea.  You know, super practical things.  (I'm rolling my eyes at myself, but I'm also having tons of fun.)  We've also reserved numerous weekends for camping this spring/early summer and I'm super pumped to get back out there.  Eleanor sat with us as we arranged dates and made reservations, and then she melted into a puddle of heartbroken toddler when we didn't immediately get the camper and leave.  So we pulled her little play tent out of the attic, set it up in the living room, turned off all the lights in the house, and gave her battery operated candles as a campfire.  We win at parenting. 
 She wanted us all in the tent.  It was tight, but we totally made that happen. 

Other winter chores... cleaning out Eleanor's closet to see what we have and what we will soon need.  (She's suddenly an inch taller and so her dresses are shorter and her shoes are more snug!)  Anyway, all that organizing and trying on of clothes led to Eleanor's very own choices for super awesome outfits. 
 I found the Ergo and got all sentimental about my baby wearing days.  She's still within the weight range, so we tried the back carry and she thought that was fun.  I'm hanging on to it for now, just in case there's a time when it would be handy again. 

 She tried to convince me that she could sleep in this little bassinet with her baby at nap time. 
"I sleep with my baby doll in here, okay?  You cover me up?  You shut the door, turn the light out, okay?  Goodnight. Bye." 

Speaking of Eleanor... this 5 week break from school has slowly ushered us back into too much television watching during the day.  It's just not something I like to do and I certainly don't like Eleanor to watch too much.  For one, it is consuming.  She zones out and then starts getting demanding about watching more and more.  Uncool and totally my fault for letting it happen.  Also, she picks up on things so quickly that we don't want her watching the wrong thing.  Since she got a Peppa Pig book for Christmas, she's fallen in love with the show.  I'm not sure that there's much value to it, but it's cute and age appropriate.  She did call Drew, "Daddy Pig" today, but she has not started speaking with a British accent.  So there's that.  I just have to ration the television time so it doesn't take over.  
We've also been reading tons of books.  So many.  If I have to read Five Little Monkeys again then I may actually lose my mind.  She loves The Little Engine That Could and we've read it on repeat.  A few days ago Drew asked her a question and she responded with, "Indeed not!"  Seriously.  In the book, the engines that refuse to help the little train say, "Indeed not".  Eleanor has picked this up and uses it whenever her answer is no.

Me: Do you want to come eat dinner?
Eleanor: Indeed not!

Me: I need you to wear these clothes since it's so cold today.
Eleanor: Indeed not!

Well, you get the idea.  Bless this child, life is anything but boring with her. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Authentic

I'm co-leading a small group for the Wednesday Morning Women's Bible Study this semester that starts next week and we will be reading the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.  I'm both pumped up and a little anxious about what is ahead for the next 8 weeks.  I've read through the book once on my own so that I would feel less overwhelmed and more prepared when facilitating my small group each week.  This is my kind of stuff... feelings and relationships, why God gave us all of those things, and how understanding them can lead us to a more authentic relationship with God and aid in our abilities to love others well. 
I think my word for this year is authentic.  It keeps coming up and so I'm taking note.  I consider myself a pretty authentic person already.  I'm genuine and honest, but I think that this word (and this study) is going to require my willingness to dig further and expand what authentic means.  Open up some stuff that may be easier to ignore.  Embrace the feelings that God has given me the ability to experience, even the icky ones.  Examine my relationships (both current and from my family of origin) and use those to help me understand why I am the way I am.  God help me.  (I'm being totally for real when I say that, but perhaps I'm saying it with a dramatic flair for effect.)  God help me, this could get sticky for me and for any of the women in my study who are brave enough to wade into their own feelings and relationships. 
Authentic.  I'm trying to keep an open mind when it comes to learning exactly what that word will mean for me this year.  I'll keep you posted.  
My current understanding of the word authentic is simply to be genuine and honest... so how's this for authentic?  I'm grumpy and feeling a bit out of sync.  It's been a weird week and I'm just feeling weird.  Eleanor has been out of school for 4 full weeks and that's a long time.  The  holidays were lovely and the first three weeks were quite enjoyable.  Drew is back to work now, but Eleanor doesn't start back to school until next Thursday.  So we are out of sorts, have no routine, and our options for distraction & entertainment are limited since we declared a No Spend January. (Please don't remind me that this was my idea and do not remind me that it's only January 11th.)  Oh, and it took me forever to realize that Eleanor is cutting her 2 year molars.  She's two, so some attitude can be attributed to developmental rites of passage, but she's been in rare form all week.  I feel bad that I didn't realize cutting teeth was contributing to her fussiness and I feel worse that I'm still irritated at her for throwing attitude around like hand grenades.  She's been generally disagreeable, but I am catching most of that attitude.  It's normal, I know.  I get the brunt of her moods because I'm the person she spends the most time with.  I'm her person right now and that means she takes it out on me.  Fair is fair.  When I'm frustrated or don't feel good Drew usually gets the brunt of it because he's my person.  As the thrower of attitude, I know that when I'm my most unlovable is usually when I need the most grace & love.  So obviously I should be able to remember that that also applies to Eleanor.  I'm finding it more challenging right now because she's asserting her independence in new ways.  She's being stingy with the hugs & kisses lately.  She doesn't want to sit in my lap to read, she wants to sit beside me.  She doesn't want to be held or snuggled when we say bedtime prayers.  It's just a new part of life, but I'm missing some of those baby things that she's letting go of.  She's becoming so confident & able that she doesn't need me for lots of things that she used to.  It's all totally normal and exactly the way God designed it, but it still hurts my momma heart a bit.  Ah, growing pains. 
Instead of being mature and understanding about my toddler's growing assertion of independence, I'm soothing my current lack of purpose and needeness (is that a word?) with a good dose of Cheap Trick's "I want you to want me."  If I was a beer drinker, there'd be tears in it right now.  It's all a very healthy way to deal with my emotion, I assure you.  



5 Year Journal: January 11, 2018
-What is my favorite accessory?
My diamond stud earrings.  I wear them all the time because they are simple, but sparkle so pretty.  I love them most because they were a special gift from Drew a few years ago, one that I wanted so much and that he took such pride in being able to give to me. 

P.S.  I should have said this a long time ago and I often assume that everyone knows the invitation is open, but that's a terrible thing for me to assume.  So please consider this your personal invitation.  If you are in Northwest Arkansas and would like to attend a Bible study, Fellowship has many to choose from.  You do not have to be a member or even an attender of the church.  The study I'm co-leading is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and it is on Wednesday mornings at the church.  The large group has about 100 women and we meet for an hour in the family center to listen to a guest speaker and then we break into small groups of 10-15 women (which are assigned, but you can request to be with someone specific if you'd like).  If you're interested in this study or any others (there are lots of studies on different days and in different locations around NWA) you can reach out to me and I'll help however I can, or THIS is the link to register.  I'm 100% uncomfortable stepping out of my bubble and doing anything unfamiliar with people I don't know, so I'm forever grateful to the friend who invited me to this study a year ago (who, by the way, I happened to only know because I stepped out of my bubble).  So, ya know, do your thing and be brave, but if you'd like to have a friend there while you do it, I'm your gal. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Outside

Foose is annoying.  Massively.  He's been on Prozac for several months to help with his anxiety.  It's always hard to tell what's actually working and what we are reading in to.  The Adaptil collar that we have for him (it involves relaxing pheromones and we replace about once a month) helps with immediate chill, but one way we can tell that the Prozac is helping is his licking.  He has a history of obsessive licking.  Like, licking until he has raw, gross, granulomas on his legs.  The other day I caught him licking and it dawned on me that I hadn't seen him do that in months.  Then I noticed that the granulomas were gone.  So, that's good.  But the barking is still an issue.  It doesn't matter if you're at my house twice a week, he will still lose his &%$# when you walk through the door.  That usually dies down once you're inside and he's adjusted, but lately he's been so edgy about who is coming and going.  I may be able to trace that back to the weekend that we went to KC and had a house sitter to stay with the dogs.  That tells me that it's still social/separation related, but let's not pretend that he was awesome before that.  He was annoying before and now he's doubly annoying.  He's recently (and briefly) growled at Kayla & Braeden and that's no beuno. I'm not having that.  I want to say that he's never actually hurt or snipped at anyone, but but I don't want to excuse his behavior.  His reactions to people coming and going is exaggerated lately, so I've started putting him outside when anyone is coming over. If he gets snippy with anyone then we'll have to, well, I don't know what.  But we'll have to do something.
All that said, he's NEVER been anything but awesome with our girls.  He's so patient and loving with Eleanor.  Needy, perhaps, but patient and gentle.  Proof...
 One other way we've been trying to help him is to exercise him more.  Fetch in the back yard seems to be a pretty efficient way to get him moving, give him some attention, and wear him out.
Other stuff...
I got to pick the kids up from school the other day and Eleanor was PUMPED about it. 
 Sometimes she looks like a child model.  Sometimes she looks like this. 
 If you ask Kyle & Misty how much Bentley weighs now...
(The answer is 34 pounds.  He is, in fact, growing faster than a weed.  He's so chill and gentle and cute.  Also, I'm taking great pleasure in wondering how long Kyle will be able to weigh the dog like this.)  
We're doing our best to spend some time outside each day that the weather will allow.  On Saturday we worked in the back yard for hours and got a few piddly things done that we'd been putting off.  Drew cleaned up the corner of the yard where the previous owners had left a heap of leftover bricks that were collecting leaves and debris.  In true Drew fashion, that corner is now neatly stacked with bricks and free from yard debris and mess.  We picked bag worms off of the trees (gag) and sprayed.  Death to the bag worms.  All of them.  I'm hoping that we've done a thorough enough job to save the trees.  We did those chores and a few others and made time for play, too.  Sunshine and some physical activity with my people, y'all.  It's the good stuff. 

 She's always been so careful and cautious, so not until recently has she been comfortable climbing up and sliding down the play set on her own.  She could do it, she just wasn't confident over it.  She's having such fun now and I don't have to do anything but watch.  (That's the thing, though, she wants me to sit and watch the entire time.)  Still, she's having such fun that Drew's dreaming up a big play set/swing set for the future. 

 Her hair.  It's gorgeous. 
 Watching airplanes fly over. 



Last month I bought this memo board.  I'd had my eye on it for the living room and I had a coupon burning a hole in my pocket.  I had visions of displaying inspirational quotes in my lovely living room.  On Sunday I pulled it down and asked Drew what it should say.  Eleanor quickly chimed in with, "Lay down and go to sleep!"
We laughed and then decided that we would let Eleanor be the boss of the board.  So that's what it says.  Our thought is to fill it with her little sayings throughout the year.  I'll take a picture each time we change it and the we can make a book or collage of it when the year is over.
My vision: Inspirational quotes on the memo board in my neat & stylish living room.
Reality: Random Eleanor quotes on the memo board in a living room littered with toys, books, tissues, and dog hair.

Reality is so much better!
Reading books with Daddy last night.  He's so much more fun than I am.  When Mommy reads we sit still and snuggle.  When Daddy reads we use him as a jungle gym. 
5 Year Journal

January 9, 2018
-Top 10 Places I'd like to visit.
  1. Hawaii (we've been to Oahu, but I'd really love to visit the other islands) 
  2. Alaska 
  3. Caribbean Islands (I don't even really have a specific list of which islands, because I just want to know more and explore) 
  4. Ireland
  5. Great Britain
  6. Israel
  7. The Rocky Mountains 
  8. Yellowstone 
  9. Mexico (Drew and I went to Playa del Carmen in 2014, but came home almost immediately when we learned my dad had died.  I'd love to go back to the region, relax on the beach, and explore some of the ruins) 
  10. Australia 
Wait, that's 10 already?  What a random list that is.  I have so many more!!! I want to visit all of these places and travel far from home.  I want to see things I've never seen and explore places I've never been.  I also want to take time to enjoy and soak in places that I've been to before and are possibly closer to home and possibly more familiar to me.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Favorite Friday

It's Friday, y'all.  And it's 48 degrees outside, so Eleanor and I spent a couple of hours in the backyard soaking up some January sunshine.  Let's just go ahead and make sunshine a standing favorite of mine.  Okay?  Let's do a favorite Friday.

1. Pajama pants.  They really are the best.  Days that you can wear them all day are a treat.  When you face the world in "real" pants all day and then come home to the stretchy comfort of your pajama pants... that's its own kind of heaven. My current ones are just cheapies from Old Navy, but whatever pair you prefer are the best kind.  Fleece, flannel, cotton... find your favorite pair and enjoy the heck out of them. 

2. The North Face.  We've recently become fans of the outdoor brand thanks to a well timed visit to The North Face outlet in Tennessee.  The coats and jackets that we got are awesome, but I'm currently most impressed with THESE toddler mittens.  They keep Eleanor's fingers nice & toasty and allow us to play outside even when it's quite cold. 

3. Book Club.  The last couple of months I've attended a book club with a few girlfriends and it's already something I look forward to each month.  We just had our second meeting last night and I really enjoyed it.  I think I like it for several reasons.  It's not something I HAVE to do, it's just for fun.  It encourages me to read things that I may not otherwise choose to read.  It gives us all an excuse to leave the kids at home with the dads once a month and have an adult dinner and intelligent conversation (there's also plenty of chit chat and laughing!). We take turns suggesting books to read and then just go down the list, reading one book a month.  We tried to get it going last fall and it was impossible to find a day that worked for everyone, so we finally decided to pick the first Thursday evening of every month and make it a standing date.  That's working well for us.  It merges something I love to do (reading) with something that's not always easy for me (socializing and wearing real pants).  Is there something that would serve that purpose for you? 

Okay, tell me what your favorites are this week!

5 year journal:

January 5, 2018
What was your last big accomplishment?
-How big are we talking here?  Like, life changing accomplishment?  Or something I got done even though I didn't really want to?  I mean, today I scooped dog poop in the back yard.  I accomplished that and it feels like a big win for the day.  Does that count? 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Two and a half years

She's two and a half years old today.  Y'all.  30 months.  What even?  Since she turned 2 I've allowed myself quarterly updates, so that means that today I get to gush about how awesome she is at this age.
  • Weighs 28 pounds 
  • Wears a 2T in clothing and is hovering between a size 6 & size 7  shoe.
  • Favorite foods: yogurt, cheese, nuts
  • Current favorite books: -Panda Bear, Panda Bear   -Just In Case You Ever Wonder   -We're Going on a Bear Hunt   -Peppa Pig (this is actually a book with numerous 5 minute stories, but we've read the entire thing straight through many times already.  She amazes me with her interest, involvement, and attention span for up to 40 minutes of reading in one sitting.)  She's gone from asking "You read this book to me?" to saying "We read this book together?"  That means that she doesn't want to be held and read to, she wants to sit beside me and participate in the reading.  She fills in words and lines when I pause.  Sometimes I just sit there and she will tell me an entire page of the story on her own.  This is of course thanks to repetition and memory, but she's started pointing to the words and asking "What that say?" 
  • Talks, talks, talks.  Her vocabulary continues to grow every day and, for the most part, we converse like it's no big deal.  There are few misunderstandings and not much communication frustration because she's able to tell us what she wants, needs, or means.  Uses up to 7 & 8 word sentences.   
  • Despite all these words, the kid can't say "Kiss" to save her life.  She says all kinds of other words with a K sound, but when it comes to kiss...
Eleanor: I give you a piss?
Us: Kiss?
Eleanor: Yeah, piss.
Us: Look at my mouth. Ka
Eleanor: Ka
Us: Kiss
Eleanor: Piss.
Us: Ka Ka Kiss.
Eleanor: Ka Ka Piss.  
  • My favorite thing she says right now: "Together".  Everything is about "together".  "We read the Panda book together, Mommy?"  "They drinking water together, Mommy!"  "We sit together, okay?"  "We eating dinner together with Daddy?"  "We sitting on the couch together, Mommy."   
  • Repeats everything and can often use words and phrases appropriately in new situations.  Example:
Eleanor: I need go potty.
Me: Okay, head that way.
Eleanor: (reaches bathroom before I do and goes into the dark)
Me: (turns light on to find Eleanor with a hand on each side of the toilet seat and leaning in for a better look at the toilet bowl) AHHH!
Eleanor: (looks up and says) You know better than that!

  •  Loves to steal her Daddy's seat in the evenings.  She waits patiently until he gets up for something and then she darts over, climbs into the recliner, and yells "That's Eleanor's seat!" while laughing. 
  • Walks up and down stairs without assistance.  Kicks and throws a ball quite well.  Is catching the ball some and eager to keep working on it.  Running is a bit more controlled with less flailing of limbs than just a few months ago. 
  • Loves to "work" with a pad of paper & pen.  Can draw pretty great circles.  
  • Likes to build block towers and can stack up to 12 blocks independently.  
  • Hates having her hair washed.  Like, super duper hates having her hair washed.  
  • Loves having her finger nails painted.  



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Pictures

 Just a few pictures for you.
Misty & Kyle brought Eleanor two shirts from their NYC Christmas trip.  We went over to their house one evening and Eleanor insisted on going in her fleece night gown and leggings.  The she wanted to wear her new shirts.  "I wear both of them."  She was quite insistent on wearing it all at the same time.  Fun fact: she slept like this that night because "I wear them to bed.  I wear all of them to bed." 
 I regularly turn around to find this super hero in my kitchen. 
 I found the trick to getting Eleanor's hair washed without a giant fit.  Let Kayla do it. 
 My dogs love Kayla.  They probably get more pets and love when she's here than any other time. 
 "Look mommy!  I do a hand stand like Kayla!" 
 We didn't have any plans for New Years Eve and were totally cool with that.  About 10pm Drew said, "If you'll make waffles then I'll make a pot of decaf."  Y'all, that's the best date I've had in a long time. 

Quick trip to Aldi for just a few things and I'm super proud to report that hot dog buns, bread, spinach, lettuce, apples, and bananas cost me $8.61.
I shouldn't need to go back to the store until we need milk & eggs again.  I have no grand plan or spread sheet that proves we can make it to the end of January with what we have, but I'm feeling pretty good about our chances.  I think that this may also be a good transition into eating more fresh foods and less processed stuff. 
Last January I started a thankful jar.  My goal was to write down one thing each day that I was thankful for, with the intention of cultivating a heart of thankfulness.  I enjoyed the process and found that stopping to write something down (even when I wasn't bubbling over with gratefulness) helped me to remember to give thanks in all things. 
Today I emptied that jar and read through each one.  I had 89 slips of paper, which means I only succeeded in writing something down every 3 or 4 days, but I'm so happy with the entire process that I'm doing it again this year.  I loved the act of stopping and giving thanks each time I deposited a slip into the jar, and I especially loved going through them today and giving thanks to God again for a year of family, adventure, and growth.  It was really fun to go through them and take note of the things that I was repeatedly grateful for.  These things were most reoccurring in my jar:
  • Drew.  For his patience & love.  For his presence and participation in our life.  For his handiness around the house and with our vehicles.  For the time we spent together as a couple and as a family.  
  • Eleanor.  For her good attitude at school, for her awesome sleep habits, and the fun that we had together.  
  • Outdoors.  Camping, hiking, adventures, playing at the park, back yard barbecues.  
  • God and our church.  Attending church as a family, for our community group, for the women in my Bible study small group, for the opportunity to be in the women's ministry leadership.  For the role that all of those things play in my relationship with Christ.  
  • The ability to pay bills and buy groceries for my family.  
  • Family and friends.  Some of the things I wrote down were specific, but most of them were simply names of loved ones that I'm grateful to love and do life with. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

No spend month

Drew was off this past week, perks of the company he works for, and we did a whole lot of nothing.  We did nothing huge, but a whole lot of exactly what we needed.  There was a little bit of working around the house and a few days when we didn’t even change out of our pajamas.  
I finished two books this week.   In case anyone actually takes my book reviews seriously...
The first was just because it interested me.  Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Micheal Finkel.  Just the title drew me in, because my introverted self is so intrigued by the idea of solitude.  Christopher Knight is the man who lived in the woods of Maine in complete isolation for 27 years, until he was captured while stealing food just a few years ago.  While I find this man and hermits in general to be fascinating, I have to say that I was disappointed in two things.  One: It is not a book truly about Christopher Knight.  It’s as much a study on hermits over time and place as it is about Mr. Knight.  The story of his life that is told in the book is seemingly pieced together from bits and pieces that Mr. Knight shared and a lot from what Finkel gathered from random sources.  Two: Christopher Knight was not really a willing participant in this book.  Even after his capture and subsequent incarceration, he very much wished for solitude.  He met with the author of this book 9 times while in jail and exchanged a few letters, but never told his full story or gave his permission for such a book to be written (with the exception of one time when he suggested that such a thing could be done after his death).  This didn’t become completey clear to me until the book was over and I realized that he never did give his blessing.  He is still alive and very much wishes for privacy and solitude.  Once I realized this, I felt like my reading of the book had been a violation of Mr. Knight’s privacy.  I haven’t done any more research about him for that very reason.  Let the man be. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend reading the book.  It felt like a violation for me to read a story that wasn’t Finkel’s to tell.   If I had known this in advance, I wouldn’t have supported this author by purchasing his book.
The second book was for my monthly book club.  Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore.  It’s a true story written by two very different men who become genuine friends.  It is a Christian book and each man’s testimony.  I found it to be an easy, enjoyable, and inspiring read.  
Other stuff... 
On Tuesday I went to Walmart for a few things and came home with $75 worth of something.  It was bothering me to acknowledge how often that very thing happens.  Then when I went to put groceries away, I didn’t know where to put anything because the pantry & fridge were such a mess.  So on Thursday I tackled the kitchen, finding things I had forgotten about, throwing out food & spices that had expired, and filling a box with unopened food that was perfectly good but that I knew we wouldn’t eat.  I will take that food to fill a Little Free Pantry tomorrow.  (Check www.littlefreepantry.org for one near you.  Chances are that there are even more in your area that aren’t registered on this site.  Ask around, it’s an awesome concept, like “take a penny, leave a penny” but with food. They are often found near parks and schools.) On Friday I sat down to pay bills, faced facts on the level of excess going on, and came out with a new challenge.  Drew and I have decided to make January a no spend month.  The point is twofold... 1) to be financially frugal & less wasteful  2) to remind ourselves that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.  You can google “no spend month” and get your own info and ideas, but here are the rules we’ve set up for ourselves.  

-We will not eat out this month.  No drive thru for drinks or snacks and no sitting down in a restaurant.  We did make two exceptions... 1) I will still meet my book club this week, but I will only have coffee and not a meal. 2) Drew will, of course, have to eat out when he travels for work later this month, but that is a company expense.  
-I have allowed $100 for food until the end of the month.  That should cover things like bread, milk, produce, and necessary incidentals.  Other than that, we eat what we have.  The pantry and freezer are full of food and it’s absurd to leave it sitting there.  Right now we’re eating good, but in a couple of weeks we may have to get creative!  On Saturday I made spaghetti.  The good news is that it’s provided us three meals now.  The bad news is that there’s still enough for one more meal!  
-No unnecessary spending.  No cruising the clearance aisle just to see what might be there.  No buying Eleanor a little toy or piece of clothing just because.  No one button Amazon Prime shopping (if Amazon goes broke this month, you’ll know why).  No going to the store for milk & bread and leaving with $100 of other stuff.  I think you get the idea.  Exception: We have accounted for birthday gifts for nephews later this month.  
-Things that have already been planned and paid for will go on, but any other date nights or activities need to be free.  

Of course all bills are paid and things like gasoline are necessary.  There was a time not so long ago that this wasn’t a challenge, it was a necessary part of life.  It’s just how it was.  Each pay day involved paying the bills that could be paid and carefully planning out how to survive until the next pay day.  Diapers, food, toilet paper, gasoline.  When I went to the store it was for exactly what was on my list and I knew exactly how much I was spending before I ever got to the checkout.  Going over budget wasn’t an option.  We have more resources now than we did then and we have inched in to taking that for granted.  So this no spend month is simply a challenge to hold ourselves accountable and grow contentment.  The difference now is that if something comes up between now and the end of January, we can deal with it.  If we actually run out of groceries before then (not just food we feel like eating), we won’t go hungry, we’ll go to the grocery store.  
This challenge can be done in different ways.  You can do a day, or a week, or a month, or longer.  The last time I spent freely was December 26th.  I spent $5.87 on Saturday for bread and ice trays (remember our ice maker went out a couple of months ago and we’ve been buying ice), and I took that out of our $100 January food budget.  I’ll be completely honest and tell you all that in just a few days I’ve become aware of a lot of things that I may have causally and thoughtlessly purchased if we weren’t challenging ourselves to spend nothing.  Ice, sweets, fast food... a photo book that I have a coupon to make (but would still cost $)... Dawn dish soap (when we still had generic stuff in the closet).  We haven’t bought any of those things and you know what? We’re fine.  Another thing I’ve become aware of is online ads.  I didn’t realize how much they tempt me until I completely took the possibility of buying them off the table.  So I’ve unsubscribed from quite a few email lists so as to remove that unnecessary temptation from now on.  Right now I’m feeling inspired, but I’m going to update you all on this throughout the month and share what we’re learning along the way.