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Time to get moving January 31, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Fitness, Goals.

I’ve never been the athletic type. I clearly remember the trauma and shame of being the last, or near to the last one picked for teams. I wasn’t particularly skillful. I also remember the freedom of riding my bike with the wind blowing in my face. Riding not to end up at a destination but simply because riding was fun. And I remember running — not very fast, but I could run far. In college I jogged for fun, just because.

Then I became an adult, got married, had babies and became an overweight sloth.


It’s time for me to re-learn the joy of physical activity.


Gratefulness January 29, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Gratefulness, Thankfulness, thoughts.
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I belong to a study group that meets periodically and earlier this month we were given an assignment. At the end of every day we are to reflect over the day and note what it is that we are the most grateful for and what we are the least grateful for. It might be an event, big or small, that made an impact or perhaps it’s considering how I made an impact on others. I started doing this a week or so ago and it occurred to me, that I don’t really know what “grateful” means. Is it simply a synonym for “thankful” or is there a real difference between the two?

Dictionary.com to the rescue!



Warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received;
I am grateful to you for your help.
Expressing or actuated by gratitude:
a grateful letter.
Pleasing to the mind or senses;
agreeable or welcome;
a grateful breeze.

There are definitely some clues here. What are some of the words that jump out at me?


Kindness or benefits received


Pleasing to the senses

Even though “thankful” is up there as part of definition one, I think I’m beginning to see how gratefulness is different. I love the third definition… agreeable or welcome… a grateful breeze. It seems to allude to peacefulness.

Looking a little deeper on the definition page I find this contrast:

Thankful describes an appreciative attitude for what one has received.

Grateful indicates a warm or deep appreciation of personal kindness as shown to one.

Thankfulness seems to be a response to getting or having stuff. I’m thankful for a warm, dry place to sleep, for plenty of healthy food to eat, for good music to keep me company and for delicious coffee to drink.

Gratefulness, on the other hand, seems to be a response to the thoughtful actions of another person. I’m grateful for the note left on my desk, for the thoughtfulness and caring behind the perfect gift, for a meal prepared with love, or for a door that’s opened while I’m fumbling for my keys.

The meanings of thankful and grateful definitely overlap and in many cases could be used as synonyms, but I’m beginning to see a difference between the two.

Right now, in this moment, what are you most grateful for?

No Spendy Week 4 January 28, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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This week brought some unexpected expenses. The weather was exceptionally cold and I was able to work from home Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn’t venture outside from Monday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon when I planned to pop over to the library and pick up a book on hold. The key phrase here is “planned to” as my car wouldn’t start. I posted an urgent plea on Facebook to see if anyone could stop by and give me a jump and a friend’s son came to the rescue. Unfortunately, the battery wouldn’t hold a charge and I ended up buying a new battery on Friday. Since I had the car at the shop, I asked them to take a look at one of my tires. The past few months I’ve been in denial that the tire needed attention. Every three weeks or so I needed to add air to the tire and then pretended that was normal tire behavior. I have a lot of experience with denial.

My financial Achilles Heel (one of them at least) is my children. They don’t ask for money except for true emergencies (and it’s been so long since the last one I can’t even tell you when that might have been) and I don’t think they expect me to get them things. The main problem is my own expectations. I want to be generous and helpful in ways I think parents should — buying groceries, meals out, picking up things they might need or small surprises. My youngest is in his Senior year of High School and unexpected expenses come with the territory. This week there was a registration fee for music school. It’s a great music school, well worth the money, with an added benefit of no monthly fees, but I wasn’t expecting to put out the money this week.

Rent is due out of this paycheck and I paid some bills and that’s pretty much it until next payday. Emergencies and unexpected expenses are simply not allowed for the next few weeks.

I came this close to ordering a stack of books from Amazon, decided I should sleep on it before ordering and came to my senses before clicking the Pay button. I know that moving the books to the “save for later” section is the right thing to do and that buying them does not fit in my no spending plan, but I am very tempted to order them anyway.

January ends this week and I’ve done great with my no groceries challenge. I’m still working through the produce I bought about ten days ago. The only groceries I’ve purchased in January has been that produce (oranges, grapefruit, apples, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots) and a couple of gallons of milk (that were mostly made into yogurt). I’ve started making a list of things I need and will go shopping sometime after February first. I still have a long way to go before having an empty freezer and pantry so after that one shopping trip, I may extend this challenge through February.

Blessings by Anna Quindlen January 27, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Books, reading.

Some books are meant to be gulped whole, consumed quickly so one can move on to the next one in the stack. Other books are meant to be savored, digested slowly. They bring a feeling of fullness so that it’s difficult to begin a new story– although the book is closed, the pages have all been read, the story lingers. Who wants to think about eating again when you’ve just finished a feast? Blessings by Anna Quindlen falls into that second category for me. I’m not sure when I acquired the book or how it made its way onto the stack of books by my bed. It must have caught my eye at some used book sale at some point but for the life of me I cannot remember picking it up. I don’t think I’ve read anything else by this author, fiction or non-fiction (although I’ll definitely be looking for them now). Whatever the means, I’m glad it found its way into my apartment and my life.

I love books that have at their heart a good story. Formulaic books like mysteries or romance are great when I’m in the mood, but what draws me in is the story. (I should clarify, mysteries and romance and the like can have a great story as well, it’s just that sometimes the formulaic part gets in the way for me.) As the story in Blessings unwinds, I became more and more attached to the characters and also more protective. I didn’t want anything to happen that might hurt them.

The novel begins late at night, when a teenage couple leaves a box at the estate of Lydia Blessing. In the morning her caretaker, Skip, finds  the box, looks inside, discovers a baby and decides he wants to keep her. The story is about secrets, new and ancient, and learning that what you think you know about a person is often not the truth. I can’t tell you much more without giving things away — you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what happens with the baby.

I’m glad Blessings made its way into my life and I’ll be looking for more novels by Anne Quindlen.

Do you hear what I hear? January 25, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Centering, Listen, randomness, thoughts, Uncategorized.
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I was having one of Those days today: Car issues — the cold this week hastened the demise of my car battery and since it’s going to the shop for that, I may as well ask them to fix that slow leak in my tire. I only need to add air to the tire every three weeks or so, but that’s about three weeks too often. Computer issues — couldn’t stay connected to work and had to reboot three times. I’m losing badly in one of my Words With Friends games (somehow that doesn’t seem to balance that I’m winning another game by a huge margin). Too much to do for work and too much distracting me at home. Would I make it to the library in time to pick up my reserved books or would they send them back before I got there? Do I need to pick them up today or by tomorrow? Is snow expected tomorrow when I need to drive to Chicago? Will the shop fit me in and get the battery switched out today or will I have to wait until tomorrow? Just how much is it all going to cost me anyway? It wasn’t a bad day so much as just an unsettled one. I just couldn’t get my mind to slow down enough so I could focus on any one thing.

I’ve learned a little bit lately about slowing down, centering, being mindful, meditating…. Call it what you wish, I call it sanity. I’ve been trying lately to live in the moment. Yeah, I know that sounds like some New Agey, Hippie, Wacko talk, at least if you come from my Fundamentalist background. Meditation was seen as a bad thing, something those other religions practiced. People who meditated were somehow giving up control of their minds and opening themselves up to demons. Sometimes it’s hard to shake the things we’re taught when we’re young. Not that I ever really believed that about meditating, but those early tapes can be darned difficult to erase or record over. I’m no expert, goodness, I’m barely a beginner. I’m a pre-school meditator or maybe, if I stretch it a bit, a K-4. I know just enough to pull myself back from the edge of crazy once in awhile and to add a slice of peace into a hectic day. I want to learn more and I will, but this is where I am right now.

When my mind was jumping from one topic to another and I couldn’t focus enough to decide what to address first, I remembered to listen. It can help calm my mind if I take a deep breath, close my eyes (or not) and simply listen…

The hum of the computer… yes I hear that… that’s louder than it probably should be… I know we switched out the fan a few months ago and that helped but it still seems too loud… I wonder if I should have someone look at that… or I suppose it would be have someone listen to it… oh yeah… I’m supposed to be listening…. oh sigh… good, that’s another deep breath…..

The drip, drip, drip of the yogurt as it’s draining… man I’m glad I started making yogurt again and doubly glad I discovered Greek yogurt. It’s silly that I waited so long to try it, thinking it was just some trendy fad that I wasn’t going to buy into. Not me! I’ll take my yogurt thin, thank you very much… it’s kinda comforting listening to it drip… I wonder what I can do with the whey that drains off… maybe put some in my soup tomorrow?… I really hope I don’t burn the soup like I did last time… did I remember to take some sausage out of the freezer?… Hey! Brain! You stopped listening and started wandering again! You knock that stuff off!

I seem to be sighing quite a bit today… is it my frustration with the day in general? Sighs are deep breaths… maybe my body is telling me something… telling me what? I’m not sure, let me listen…

I’m cold… cold is not a sound, you’re supposed to be paying attention to sound. Well, it’s difficult to feel centered and mindful of the moment and listen when one is cold! Ok then, pay some attention to the cold… where are you cold? hmmm…. body scan…. my heels. My heels are cold. Seriously? Have you never heard of socks?

And so the day progressed. Every time I tried to slow my mind, it went off in another direction. I did learn a couple things… if I put some music on, I don’t hear the hum of the computer fan (Songs of Water, how I love you), and that there is a lot going on around me that I rarely even notice. Probably because it’s fighting for attention with all the noise in my brain.

Today is the day January 23, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Comfort Zone, life, thoughts.

Today is the day.

Today is the day I stop playing games with myself, thinking I can pretend I don’t know what I’m doing. If I say my goal is to eat healthier so I can lose weight and BE healthier, then I need to reach for that goal. Eating cookies for breakfast is not a healthy choice. Cookies are a treat, a once-in-a-while, special occasion treat. They aren’t breakfast food (and they weren’t that exciting either).

Today is the day I clip on the pedometer and notice how much I’m moving, even if I happen to be working from home and only moving from my chair to the coffee pot and back. If at 2:00 the pedometer tells me I walked only 344 steps, then I need to face the truth that I walked only 344 steps. Pretending I’m somehow being more active does not help me on my journey. I need to be honest about how much I’m moving or not moving today because then maybe I will see the need to change.

Today is the day I begin to learn to do only one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is well and good when it means the dishwasher is running while I’m working because I loaded it when I took a break. Multi-tasking is the enemy of peace when it means I cannot focus on any one thing because I’m trying to do too many things. I cannot participate on a call, format a report and respond to e-mail at the same time and do any of them well.  I need to be in this moment, giving myself fully to whatever I am doing now. When I attempt to do too many things at once everything is shortchanged.

Today is the day.

A day late but no dollars short January 22, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Finances, Monthly Challenge, Spending Diet.
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According to the schedule, I’m supposed to post a weekly update every Monday. I was out of town this weekend and took Monday off as well so it felt like it was still the weekend. Today felt like a Monday except that I worked from home like every other Tuesday. Work wise it was all catch-up so in that respect it felt like the day after a mini-vacation. Too bad work doesn’t take a vacation along with me. It would be nice to log back into work and not find fifty gajillion e-mails waiting for me. Ah well, I (mostly) like my job and it pays the bills so I will try not to complain.

This week was uneventful in the money department. I’ve taken my breakfast and lunch to work every day that I’ve gone into the office this month but I did buy a bit of supplementary cheese to add to my chili one day last week. Eighty-four cents worth of grated cheddar to liven up my leftover chili topped cauliflower.

I spent money this week but it was all planned. Tuesday I went in for a very overdue haircut and color. My bangs were so overgrown she cut off about two inches. I was surprised that no one commented on the change later in the week. I’m not sure if that was because the cut wasn’t as much of a change as I thought it was or if it didn’t look good and people were being polite. I’m going with it wasn’t that big of a change.

One of the big reasons I started this challenge was so I could get away from living paycheck to paycheck. It’s still early in the year, but already I’m starting to build a little bit of a cushion. It’s a good feeling to check my bank balance without inciting a panic, wondering if the little bit there will last until my next direct deposit paycheck.

My January Monthly Challenge has been to eat what I have on hand, only buying fresh produce or milk when needed. This week I didn’t buy any groceries at all. I definitely see the dent in my freezer and cupboards but there is still quite a bit there to test my creativity.

No Spendy Week Two January 14, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, Finances, Groceries, Uncategorized.

I checked the calendar and this past week only had seven days, just like normal, but boy howdy, did it feel longer. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me there were a couple extra days crammed in there somehow. I think it felt so long because I was ambushed by a sinus infection. I wonder if my Adventures with Wheat compromised my sinuses enough to make me vulnerable to the abundant germs floating around this time of year. Thursday and Friday I was miserable and slept as much as possible. My days of soldiering through an illness and simply waiting to get well are long gone and I went to Urgent Care on Friday for antibiotics. I’m still dragging but I no longer wonder if I’m going to survive.

I have quite a bit to report about my money adventures this week…

Tuesday I made a great pot of Sausage Lentil Soup*, maybe my best ever. This soup is generally successful and this batch was better than most. After dinner I turned a burner on to heat water for tea. Or so I thought. What I really did was turn the burner under the soup on high instead of the one under the tea kettle. I didn’t realize my mistake until the soup was burnt long past saving. That will teach me to pay better attention!

Storage containers always seem to go on sale in January and I’ve been planning for months to buy some. My Christmas storage boxes are starting to fall apart, plus I want to better organize my yarn and fabric stash. When I went to Target to buy the containers, I found some on clearance! I paid $3.84 for the “Christmas” storage containers instead of $6.99 for the regular sale ones. The only thing really Christmassy about the ones I bought were the red lids on the clear tubs. Finding a bargain makes planned spending less painful.

I’m still working my way through my freezer and cupboards but I did buy some produce this week. I loaded up on oranges and grapefruit along with some cauliflower and broccoli. I wish I would have remembered to buy some jalapenos because I want to make some spicy black beans. Looks like I’ll have to find something spicy in my spice cabinet instead because I’m not going back to the store for at least a week.

Monday I picked up Downton Abbey Season 2 from the library. Downton Abbey is a great thing to watch when sick. I’ll admit, I’m tempted to buy the DVDs, but it would definitely fall under the Wants column. It is a much better decision financially to borrow the DVDs from the library… as long as I remember to return them on time to avoid the fine!

*Sausage Lentil Soup

Crumble some Italian Sausage in your soup pot and cook it up (I used a little over a half pound). When it’s done, scoop it out and set aside. Throw in some chopped onions, carrots and celery and let them ‘sweat’ a bit. You don’t need to really cook them through, just brown a little to let the flavor develop. If your sausage was very lean and your vegetables are sticking, add a little olive oil. (I used one large onion, 5 carrots and 4 stalks celery.) Add the sausage back to the pot, water (or broth) to cover generously (I used 6 cups water and 3 Knorr chicken bullion cubes) and a cup or so of dried lentils. Bring to a simmer, cover and turn the heat to low. Let it go until the lentils are soft, maybe 30 minutes, minimum. Taste to see if it needs any additional seasoning. Maybe salt and pepper. That’s it! Enjoy your soup!

My Day January 13, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Kids, Knitting, life, teens.
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Today this happened

PadKeeMaoTofu Pad Kee Mao at Siam Cafe. Every time I go there I think I should try something new but when I do, I always wish I got Pad Kee Mao instead. So I stuck with what I know I love. Of course we had our favorite Sticky Rice with Ginger Garlic Sauce as an appetizer. Lucky me! I have leftovers in the fridge!

And this happened

ShoppingBagNew shoes from Target. (“What? You want to take a picture of my shopping bag? Why would you want to do that? OK. Whatever…”)

My companion for the day


Claims that we weren’t really here

TheVoiceAudition“Um, mom, why are you taking that picture. You aren’t going to put that on Facebook are you?”

Nope, not Facebook…

But if we weren’t there, waiting for hours and hours and hours, where did I find all the time to do this?

MittenWhen I started the day it was just sticks and string and now look, it’s almost a mitten… or a glove… or maybe both. (I really need to learn to take better pictures of my knitting.)

I think we had a great day.


A Successful First Week January 7, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Finances, Spending Diet.

I made it through the first week of my Spending Diet successfully. The week has been pretty uneventful —  I’ve been working my way through the food in the refrigerator and haven’t even been tempted to go grocery shopping. I’m getting low on milk and will need to make yogurt by the end of the week so will plan to go shopping Thursday evening or Friday.  I still have some vegetables in the fridge and freezer so it might be the only item I need to buy is milk. If it turns out I also need fresh produce, I’ll head to Garden Fresh Market as they have a great selection at a good price.

I’ve cooked more than normal this past week and came up with a great mushroom soup and a turkey shepherds pie. I work from home tomorrow and will make a pot of sausage lentil soup with lots of carrots and celery. That will taste great and help warm the apartment.

I did spend some of my “free” money this week. I returned something at Barnes and Noble and looked through their half-price calendars. I was hoping to find a Non Sequitur page-a-day calendar but those were all gone. Instead I found a lovely page-a-day from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The calendar definitely wasn’t a need, but since I used my “free” money the purchase was allowed.

I will need to venture into the stores by the end of the week. I’ll share how I’m preparing for my shopping trip later this week.