Posts filed under ‘thoughts’
There have been a few occasions when I have nearly given up hope. When I have cried more tears than I believed my body could produce. In those most desperate hours my aches, (both emotional and physical), have always managed to heal. This time will be no different.
A few thoughts…
- My son has been sick for the past week, which means my little boy who never watches television is sitting in front of it for hours on end. Just as he started to feel better he passed the bug on to me. I tried all sorts of quiet games this morning, but none seemed to keep him happy, so I’m afraid to say the TV is back on. I’m a little worried that we’ll need to break this habit once we all feel better.
- We wrote two very large checks to cover estimated taxes this week. It just so happens that the stock market also took a bite of our savings. Needless to say logging in to our bank account is not making me happy.
- My husband gave me an excellent idea for a book. I’ve always wanted to write one.
- According to the calculations in my handy-dandy spreadsheet our mortgage could be paid off in as little as five years or as many as eight. Eight years doesn’t seem like a lot, but for my husband’s sake, (he’s the one working), I’d really like to be finished in five. Well, honestly, I wish we were already done with it. My original plan was to be finished by thirty-five. Looks like I’ll be somewhere between forty-one and forty-four.
- My blog was inaccessible for a short time yesterday, (reason still unknown), and I went into a tizzy. I didn’t realize how attached I am to this site. I’ve been writing since March of 2006 and couldn’t bear the thought of losing it. Even if I never blogged again I’d like to know I could go back and read through everything I wrote. Luckily my husband assured me he is backing up my data.
- I feel like it’s been cold, rainy or snowy most of the last few weeks and I really need to spend more time outdoors. Bring out the sun!
In other news today is the last day to enter my Amazon $100 giveaway. If you haven’t left a comment already you’ll need to click over to that post before midnight EST.
Just before closing the book on 2013 I set a goal for the new year. I suppose I could call it a resolution, but I really prefer to think of it less as an end state and more as a new state of mind. It’s a remarkably simple idea: my goal is to smile more often.
Whenever I greet a cashier, UPS driver, mailman, librarian, random strangers on the street, an old man at the grocery store, etc. I think happy thoughts and then flash a smile.
For the record I told myself I did not have to smile if I was not in the mood. My goal is not to pretend to be happy, but rather to feel genuinely happy in moments when I otherwise would have felt grumpy or agitated.
Some days are easy. On those days I probably went to bed at a reasonable hour. I squeezed in five minutes of meditation before getting out of bed. I had enough time to take a ten minute shower rather than a five minute one and I actually remembered to apply deodorant before stepping out the door. The sun is shining, my son is in a particularly happy mood and our breakfast was both nutritious and delicious.
Other days are much more difficult. I didn’t manage to eat before leaving the house, which means I am starving, my son is tired and cannot be bribed with cheese crackers and peanut butter sandwiches, as I bag pears from the produce section they break through the bottom of the thin plastic and roll all over the grocery store floor, the line at the checkout lane appears to be taking forever, the toddler in line in front of me is screaming as if someone is trying to kill him, the people behind me keep jamming their shopping cart into my legs and somehow my plan to stop in for a gallon of milk turned into $100 worth of groceries.
Normally I would stand in line and shift my weight from side-to-side. I would feel agitated and angry that a five minute trip to the grocery store turned into a forty-five minute ordeal. I would think about all of the places I’d rather be and all of the things I’d rather be doing, but with the new goal in mind I pause and smile.
Rather than feeling grumpy I reflect on all of the happiness and good in my life. I am thankful that my body is capable of squatting on hands and knees to dig pears out of every nook and cranny they have rolled into. I am thankful that my toddler is not the one screaming at the top of his lungs. I am thankful that my hunger pains will soon be healed and that the people behind me switched lanes when they noticed how slow my line was moving. Lastly I am thankful that I have the money to pay for the groceries I am about to buy.
This thought process takes mere seconds and when I look up from the conveyor belt I happily greet the cashier. And yes I smile.
Since I started smiling more often I have found the world to be a much kinder and gentler place. The people I meet when I am out and about seem to sigh in relief when I reach the counter. I’ve heard “it’s such a pleasure to wait on people that are happy,” “if only all of my customers were as understanding and patient” and my favorite “I can tell by looking at you that you have a good outlook on life.”
I will not pretend that I am happy all of the time, but thinking about the positive aspects of life have certainly made me feel more grateful and joyful.
Oddly enough I do find it more difficult to be happy at home. Often it is when I am completely alone that I find myself dwelling on the negative. Maybe I should look at my reflection in the mirror and smile. Perhaps it is the very nature of smiling that makes me happy, knowing that someone will see my toothy grin and reflexively return the favor.
This week’s brain dump:
- A couple of friends are trying to convince me to sign my son up for Kindermusik. In theory a music class where kids dance, sing and interact with one another sounds splendid, but that $250 price tag., not so much. If you have an opinion on this topic PLEASE leave me a comment below.
- Three friends/family members are expecting babies in the spring. As a result I’ve spent more time in the mall over the last three days then I probably have in the last three to six months. I really want to blog about my incredible baby bargains, but I need to wait until all of the gifts have been handed out.
- The first two babies are receiving gifts just because I love their moms and dads. The gifts will be dropped off and mailed. The third set of gifts will be carried to a baby shower for a member of the family. I feel obligated to spend a specific dollar amount, (I know others will be keeping tabs of how much I spent), though to be honest I’m not sure just how much I should spend.
- I’ve taken over record keeping for my husband and now journal all three of our credit cards each month. It doesn’t take much time to write everything down, but I do NOT enjoy the task. Every time I pull out my credit card I find myself thinking, “ugh, this is another transaction I need to journal.” I wonder if this will help me spend less money over the long haul.
- I decided to upgrade our plane seats after all. I burned through a $100 Visa gift card in a matter of days this week. Granted I was buying a lot of gifts, but I was still shocked when the clerk told me the balance on my card was $0. If I can spend money so easily on other things I can certainly blow an extra $5 a seat on the hope of two extra inches of legroom and a seat at the front of the plane. I have enough aches and pains in my neck and back that the mere thought of extra legroom swayed me to make the decision.
- After spending $100 in a matter of days I considered going on an all cash adventure. It’s difficult to keep tabs of my spending with a credit card. Perhaps I should take $100 out of the ATM and see just how long I can make it last. I prefer to use plastic, which provides cash back rewards, but it would be an interesting experiment. Have you ever tried this?
Last night a good friend was telling a group of us about her life. She mentioned that every time she steps over one hurdle another hurdle begins. Then she asked when it would all balance out and be good again. When would all of the hurdles stand behind her, rather than in front of her. Her example involved problems with employment and custody battles, but I think on some level or another we all feel the same.
“It never does,” I told her. I suppose that was a harsh statement to make. Especially since she was hoping for some glimmer of light at the end of her tunnel, but the truth is that life is full of ups and downs. Every time you climb one mountain another one is standing right there in front of you.
The last nine years of my life have been a roller coaster of sorts. I faced an unexpected health crisis, struggled to conceive for a year (I realize this is a small hurdle compared to what other women face), got laid off from my job after twelve years, gave birth, witnessed my husband’s struggle with depression, watched friends and family members suffer from illnesses (some survived, some passed on) and worried about a whole host of financial, business and medical issues.
I live an amazing life, but it isn’t always picture perfect. It is not all about butterflies and rainbows. In fact, I don’t think a perfect, perpetually happy life exists. Money cannot buy you all the happiness in the world. One of the wealthiest women I know is constantly unhappy. Another person cannot bring you all the happiness in the world. Relationships take work, patience and understanding on a daily basis. Health obstacles often cannot be avoided and nothing in work or business is ever guaranteed.
I am fortunate to live my life, but reaching that place of utmost balance and happiness always seems just out of reach. Life is constantly getting in the way isn’t it, but isn’t that the beauty of life? Doesn’t it feel the same for everyone?
Last January I settled on a high deductible insurance plan, decided my frugality was making life unnecessarily difficult, considered the reality that time is more valuable than money, listed the top ten financial lessons I learned in my son’s first year and paid my good fortune forward with an impromptu baby shower.
In February I unsubscribed from bargain blogs, wrote about the end of my previous job, gave my credit the boot and listed the details for earning the most money when selling unwanted books.
In March I wrote about sharing finances equally between spouses and then went on a long tangent about unequal handouts from parents that involved five separate posts. Those included the topic of financial inequality, turning down a gift from your parents, buying your child a house, working in a job that doesn’t support your lifestyle and the bitterness you feel as a slighted sibling. These posts resulted in a plethora of spicy comments and emails, which also prompted me to reflect on the equality of two gifts.
In May I paid someone to clean out my fridge, bought a car below the invoice price, further contemplated the question of enough and created an incredibly long list of refinancing details. We refinanced nine times in twelve years!
In July I focused on spending less on my son’s wardrobe, wrote about one of the toughest part of being a stay-at-home parent, watched our net worth climb, bought a membership to the zoo, wrote about the joy of tossing the brown bag approach to lunch and focused on the positive.
In August my purse was stolen, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, bought a pool membership we never used, wondered if I was ripping off a local salad bar, contemplated my stay-at-home decision and considered giving coupons the boot.
In September I went on a tangent about women who wish for little girls, learned how to tame my cravings by purchasing expensive chocolates, found a few tricks for getting dinner to the table faster, was shocked by a $700 clothing bill and realized my husband is a very generous man.
Speaking of generous spirits in October my husband presented a waiter with a 50% tip. I removed clutter from the house a couple of times and bought a couple of new treasures. I lost my keys, reflected on the timing of things and recognized the preciousness of time and the value of learning things from everyday experiences including spending time with my son.
In November I continued purging and even got rid of things that were perfectly useful. I also reflected deeply after a good friend’s memorial service, realized I have an uncomfortable relationship with wealth and that a wad of money is not the end goal.
In December I contemplated creating a joy ledger for all of my expenses, lost out on a giveaway when I failed to answer the phone and asked the readers whether or not I should give away my baby stuff even though I want another child.
This was without a doubt one of the best years of my life and I hope that my happiness continues into the new year.
Wishing you all the best too!
Last year I made one and only one resolution. In essence I vowed to accept the things I cannot change.
I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, but I did set a goal for 2013. This year I want to focus on accepting the things in life that I cannot change. As I was walking my son through the neighborhood this afternoon I couldn’t get the following verse out of my head:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Some things in life simply don’t change. Take people as an example. You can hope they will mature or become selfless as they age, but the truth is most of us don’t radically alter our personality traits from year to year. If you don’t like to share as a child, odds are that you won’t want to share as an adult.
Of course, I want to see the good in people, but so many times it is the bad traits that cause us heartbreak and distress.
This year I don’t want to focus on the negative. I don’t want to think that people will change. Instead I want to accept people for who they are. I want to change my reactions to their behaviors. I want to avoid the topics and interactions that cause fights to erupt and emotions to soar. Some of that will be possible and some won’t, but overall I want to limit time spent dwelling on the negative.
So how did I do?
For one I carved out areas of space for myself. I made certain to avoid the conversations and events that involved people that seem to pour salt into my wounds. This helped immensely. When I could not avoid the people and places that irritate me I did my best to put myself into their shoes. I tried to see the world from their perspective and although I still became frustrated on more occasions than I can count it did give me a better peace of mind overall.
I spent much less time dwelling on the negative and much more time enjoying the day-to-day moments that bring happiness to my life. That is relatively easy to do with a smiling two year old toddler beside me. It’s easy to push aside negative feelings when you feel such love in the everyday moments that make up our life.
I also tried to spend less time worrying and more time proactively searching for solutions. When I worried about my son’s speech I called the infant and toddler program in our area for an evaluation and read every book on childhood speech I could lay my hands on. It turns out that he just didn’t learn to speak as quickly as all of his little friends who happen to be girls. I’d love to say that I kept my negativity and worry at bay until he started talking in five to six word sentences but that wasn’t the case. I did my best though to take action rather than worrying while sitting idle.
I am certainly not finished with this resolution. As with anything in life I am a work in progress and I still have a long way to go to accept the things I cannot change, but I do think I’m getting better at it.
- This year I was inundated with heartfelt stories of pain and grief. The little boy who died after fighting cancer for six years, the teenager who went into cardiac arrest, a good friend who passed away of a horrendous disease, a mom who died just days after giving birth to her third child. Through it all I’ve felt an overwhelming desire to provide financial assistance and considered writing a large check to help offset the cost of hospital bills or burial services more times than I can count. I feel very lucky in life and would love to anonymously provide assistance to a family in need.
- For some reason I feel particularly compelled to give away $1,000. I’m not sure why that specific dollar amount keeps popping into my head, but I can’t seem to set the thought aside.
- I plan to start another 29 day giveaway challenge. From time to time I feel drained by negative thoughts and know this is an easy way to release good energy into the universe.
- I’ve dreamt about money a lot lately. The dreams vary in their content, sometimes I win cash, sometimes I’m asked to pay for something unexpected and once or twice I’ve dreamt of providing a large gift to a friend I haven’t seen in over twenty years.
- I focused on the experiences of Christmas this year rather than the toys. I feel unbelievably blessed to have a child and love to experience the wonders of life alongside him. For many years I thought my husband and I would not bear children. I used to cry over the thought of not having a child of my own. I now cry because the love is more powerful than I ever could have imagined.
- As a stay-at-home mom I have more time to take the long way home. I have to remind myself of that every so often.
- I need to focus a few minutes on meditating each day. I forgot just how wonderful it makes me feel.
- I also need to write more often. This old post made me smile all over again.
Last month I published a brain dump of sorts. This month I am back it with a new set of random thoughts and ideas.
- This morning I attended an open house for a preschool just down the street from my house. I am considering sending my son there next fall for two days a week and I was shocked by just how emotional I became at the very thought of my little guy starting preschool. My emotions got the better of me as I pictured him another year older and navigating the world without me. Children change so much in these early years and I’m just not ready for time to pass so quickly. Right now I want to savor the snuggles, kisses and hugs. I want to go on adventures that involve nothing more than picking leaves and searching for houses with Christmas lights. I want to soak up the time we have together before he starts school.
- I’m not convinced I’ll send him to preschool but I do want to investigate my options. I plan to submit an application and pay the non-refundable $75 fee. Then I can sit on my hands and wait until late next summer to decide if I really want to send him.
- I loved reading all of the conflicting viewpoints about bargain shopping after Thanksgiving. Some personal finance bloggers were on board with diving for bargains while others pointed out that no one really needs more garbage from China. I love that we live in a country where we can spout our thoughts and I am thankful for the means to step back and reflect on my own beliefs this time of year.
- I did not shop at all on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
- I returned a pair of snow pants on Saturday. I received a hand-me-down pair from a former coworker, which saved me $18.
- I took a bunch of bags to the donation center on Friday. I felt a bit guilty at first for bagging up some toys my son no longer plays with, but when I saw less fortunate children walking around the store I knew I had done the right thing. My son still has more toys than he needs and if we are blessed with a second child we have the means to buy more. Do you have family members that never donate to others? I have a few who would rather store stuff for thirty years than give to those in need. When I told them I donated some things I could sense their utter disappointment in me.
- While I was at the thrift store I stopped in to look for another pair of snow pants. I’m afraid my son might outgrow the ones we received by January or early February. I paid a little over $2.00 for them, which seemed like a ridiculous bargain. Snow pants are the perfect thing to buy from the thrift store. They are barely worn and if it doesn’t snow I won’t feel guilty for shelling out money for them.
I’ve been writing about personal finance for the past seven years and in that time I have blogged a lot about saving money. In fact the topic has popped up so often on this blog that I created a separate category for it. While I certainly encourage others to save money I do not think that saving is the ultimate goal in life. Like everything else the desire to set aside money must be balanced with happiness, enjoyment and simple living. I know people who max out ten credit cards without batting an eyelash and others who almost never spend money to make their lives better. The trouble for most people appears to be finding that middle ground.
I don’t intend to hoard all of my money in a bank account and never let it see the light of day. When I see fit I spend money in a way that makes my day to day tasks easier or faster to complete.
The readers of this blog don’t always see eye to eye with me. I believe part of the problem lies in the name of this blog and I have considered renaming it on more occasions than I can count. I think the world “Frugal” has a negative, miserly connotation. That someone who claims to be One Frugal Girl, should not spend money on anything in life but the bare neccessities. A lot of people read my posts and comment on my lack of frugality. You bought new hangers, bowls and storage containers? How dare you?!! What a waste of money! I myself struggled with the decision to buy these items, so I’m not surprised by the reaction.
Would it have been financially wiser to keep the money in the bank instead of replacing old products that were still functioning properly? At first glance most definitely, but after further thought you may find that creating a more organized home actually saves you more money.
If I can see everything in my closet I won’t accidentally purchase something similar to what I already own. If my kitchen is neat and orderly I will enjoy spending time in there and will be more likely to cook at home. When I replaced my old pans and kitchen knives I began to enjoy preparing meals at home, because both preparation and cleanup times improved immensely.
Similarly if I accept bags of hand-me-down clothes but fail to organize them in a way that makes them easy to find then I might not ever use them. I can spend a little money buying containers and set aside everything in a neat and orderly fashion over the course of two hours or I can find myself digging through the same pile of clothes every time my son grows into the next size. Frustration might give me a reason to ignore the hand-me-downs in favor of a trip to the store where everything is neatly displayed.
I spend a lot of time at home. I don’t want to be frustrated by the need to move half of the items in my closet to see the other side. (A poorly designed 1950s storage area leads to this problem, not an overabundance of clothes.) Nor do I want to move things around in the cupboards just to reach the glass bowl I need to store leftovers.
The goal is not to hoard money away and live in misery. If I am frustrated by my surroundings I want to take small steps to make them better. And yes, that means spending money when and if necessary.
Unfortunately we don’t get the opportunity to live forever. We all have to learn to balance happiness, saving and spending. An organized life and home help me feel peaceful and grounded. I argue that in the end that saves me money, but whether it makes sense financially or not, sometimes decisions are about more than just the money. Also, isn’t peace of mind sometimes worth the money?
Photo Credit: jenni waterloo