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Has it really been 40 years? August 8, 2014

Posted by phoenixhopes in Grief, Uncategorized.
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Earlier this summer I heard 2014 was the 40 year anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation and was surprised to realize that I don’t remember it happening. Oh, I definitely remember that it happened, I do pay some attention to events going on around me, but I can’t remember the coverage. The resignation of a President is the kind of event that the TV coverage or newspaper headlines become imprinted on one’s subconscious. “Where were you when you heard the news?” My family always watched the news and I was a teenager at the time—I really should remember this. I Googled the date in an attempt to figure out what was happening in my life.

August 9, 1974.

Oh.

Now I understand.

August 9, 1974 was the worst day of my life. It was the day my mother died.

I was 15 and it was the summer between 10th and 11th grade. The summer of my first kiss and my first broken heart (Kevin Hunter, wherever you are, I hope you’re happy). I rode my bike everywhere, often with no destination in mind. I read stacks of books far into the night, waking up bleary-eyed. I was more a child than an adult and if it would have occurred to me to think about it, I would have told you my life was perfect. I loved being a kid.

Two memories stick with me from that summer. First, on a whim, I had flowers delivered for my mom’s birthday. She cried because she’d never had flowers delivered to her before. It was an arrangement in a little fishbowl shaped vase, the only thing in the shop that I could afford. The other memory is making Swedish Limpa bread, flavored with orange juice, from a recipe from Sunset Magazine. I’m not really a fan of rye bread, even a light rye like Limpa. This was the first time I’d ever tried baking with rye flour but the recipe was Swedish and my mother was Swedish and so I gave it a go. I think I remember that it was good and I definitely remember that my mother loved it.

And then she got sick.

For years afterward I unfairly blamed myself for her death (when I wasn’t busy blaming my father, equally unfairly). I believed the logical fallacy that Correlation Equals Causation. Mama ate the bread. Mama got sick. It must have been my fault. I never again made Swedish Limpa bread and very rarely have I eaten it.

My mother had been a semi-invalid for years and rarely left the house. A form of muscular dystrophy runs in our family and that limited her physically. From my perspective as an adult I wonder sometimes if she also suffered from agoraphobia or something similar and if that limited her emotionally/mentally. All I can say for sure is that for years my mother very rarely left the house so when she first got sick it wasn’t obvious, at least not to me.

In my childish mind she went from normal (which usually meant sleeping at least half the day) to extremely sick overnight. I’m pretty sure my dad wanted to call the doctor for days, maybe even weeks but my mom said no. By the time he called she was at the point where he could no longer help her to the bathroom. She was hospitalized immediately and within a day or two moved to the ICU. For the next week I sat by her side or in the hospital lobby.

And then, we got the phone call she was gone and my life was never the same.

So no, I don’t remember the details of Nixon’s resignation or anything else important that might have happened in 1974. I was stuck in a grief deeper than any I had known before or since. Some days I still feel cheated because I never got to know my mother as an adult, to hear her parenting advice and to share favorite books. I didn’t think to ask her much about her life before being my mother—I was still young enough that it didn’t occur to me that she was a person outside of being my mother. I wonder what she would think of the person I’ve become and if she would be proud of her grandkids. When I miscarried I thought of her rocking that grandbaby in heaven.

I can’t quite believe it’s been 40 years since she died. Honestly, I don’t think of her every day and sometimes I can’t quite remember what she looked like. I do, however, remember her love and I will always miss her presence in my life.

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Stepping it Up a Notch March 28, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Birthdays, Fitness, Goals, Uncategorized.
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Six months from yesterday I will hit a milestone birthday — Double Nickels. Generally, I’m not much of a birthday person. I don’t need, or even want, a lot of hoopla. I’m ok with baking my own cake, or cooking up some other decadent and expensive food. Although I certainly won’t turn down presents, I don’t expect them, even from my kids. I do look forward to special calls from my kids (although one son has to ask almost every year if my birthday is on the 27th or 28th — it’s the 27th).

I’m not sure why but this year feels different. For some unknown reason, it seems more important. I know it’s still six months away, but I’m starting to think about how I should mark the day. I’ve thought quite a bit about goals to meet before the big day and I finally settled on one: I want to walk one million steps in the six months before turning 55.

A million steps sounds like a marathon, but that would actually only get me about 58,000. Not bad at all, but not a million. When I did the math, it seemed like destiny:

1,000,000 ÷ 180 = 5,555.55556….

Did you catch that? The number of steps required daily is fifty-five, fifty-five. I think it is destiny. Or more likely just coincidence. Whatever, I like it.

This is my pedometer reading from yesterday. Not a bad beginning, eh? Let me share a little story.

PedometerI worked from home yesterday and I must say I was quite surprised when I checked the pedometer about noon and saw there were about 3500 steps captured. Actually I was more than surprised, I was shocked. Usually on my work from home days I’m lucky to break a thousand steps unless I purpose to get outside and move.  I had been a bit more active than normal because this happened…

Coffee Mess

Silly me got distracted and forgot to put the carafe in the coffee maker and had to clean the counter and mop the floor. I was moving more than normal, but certainly not 3,000 steps more. To give some perspective, a mile at my stride is about 2,250 steps. Maybe there are homes with lots of acreage where one could rack up a mile and a half mopping the kitchen floor, but those homes are not my apartment.

I thought my pedometer was broken and clipped it back on my hip. I checked it a couple of hours later and darned if it wasn’t showing 4,200 some steps. Huh, that is really weird. So I tested the thing. I got up and walked back and forth to the window, counting 100 steps. For the record, it is 11 steps from my table to the window. I did NOT feel silly walking back and forth, not at all. I was testing a theory. I checked the pedometer and there were exactly 100 more steps. Again, I clipped it back on my hip, sat back down and went back to work. A couple more hours and a few more pedometer checks and the steps kept racking up. How could I possibly be adding steps when my behind wasn’t even leaving the chair. I held the thing and rested my hand on my thigh, perplexed. And then I figured it out!

I am a knee jiggler. You know, one of those people who simply cannot sit still and constantly bounce their knee? That person who really annoys you when they’re sitting on the same pew at church, bouncing away? Yeah, that’s me. I’ve always been a jiggler but lately it’s been out of control. One of the side effects of a medicine I’m taking is restlessness and this is how my body has been letting that restlessness free. (Another side effect is uncontrollable yawning — I had that one for awhile, too. I didn’t yawn all the time, but if I was the slightest bit tired and yawned even a little bit, I would end up yawning repeatedly and hugely, totally out of control. Luckily that didn’t last very long.) Unless I consciously think about NOT bouncing my knee, it has a mind of its own and keeps moving. The pedometer was counting every one of those knee-jiggles as a step. I could leave it on my right hip, rack up the points and meet my goal early but I’ve moved it to the other side. Now it is really counting my steps, not my knee bounces.

The true total steps from yesterday is probably closer to 1,500 than 6,320 but, just this once, I’m going to let the knee bounces count towards the total. This is a bit of a stretch goal, but not an impossible one. Now that Spring is finally starting to show itself, I can get out and walk. Winter lasted too long this year and I was starting to turn into a couch potato. Time to step it up.

The fog is lifting February 21, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Depression, life, thoughts, Uncategorized.
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I’ve been a bit distracted the past week or so and my writing has suffered. . As my last post indicates, I spent much of the week in a fit of depression. I’m not often hit by those crawl-under-the-covers-and-call-in-sick-to-life spells. There have only been a small handful of times when I just couldn’t face the world. Those episodes usually hit the day after a particularly emotionally grueling issue with my ex or kids. On the other hand, I have for years struggled with a constant, vague unease and even called myself a “high functioning depressive.” I recently found out this actually has a name — Dysthymia.

According to Web MD, the symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those of major depression but not as intense:

  • sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
  • loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
  • major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
  • insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
  • physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
  • problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt

One of the main symptoms is this is a chronic condition, lasting for years. I once read a line from Dustin Hoffman where he said “”It’s not that I’m really depressed, I’m just a little bit sad all the time.” (I’m sure he said that much more eloquently–I’m going on memory here and I can’t remember where I read it. I can’t go back and verify and I’m not finding the quote easily online. I did however find this statement that I totally identify with:  “It’s tactile, a green knot in my stomach”. That doesn’t really fit in what I’m writing here but I  couldn’t leave it out entirely. It captures perfectly how I felt for years, so here you go. Now, back to the subject at hand…) I’ve lived with that vague sense of sadness far too long, telling myself that what I felt was normal, or that it would get better soon. Meanwhile the reality was that I trudged through life as though I was wading through hip deep mud.

Last year I decided I’d had enough and talked to my doctor. We worked out a plan to address the depression and it has been working well. At least it was working well until a couple of weeks ago when it was as though someone flipped a switch that knocked all the wind out of my sails. There it was, staring me in the face again. I called my doctor, we adjusted the plan, and here I am, making my way out of the fog.

In the midst of the fog, life has continued marching on. Valentine’s Day, possibly my least favorite holiday, came and went. In my opinion, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is the half-priced chocolate on February 15. Half Price Chocolate Day is a holiday I look forward to eagerly. I confess–some of that chocolate made its way home with me.

I’ll post an update soon on my grocery adventures and the relative success of my no spending money year. Soon, but not tonight as it’s past my bedtime and that darned alarm goes off way too early. Sweet Dreams my friends.

Depression is a hard taskmaster February 14, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Depression, thoughts, Uncategorized.
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Depression feels like skimming the surface of my life, knowing there is depth but unable to engage. Able to begin things but unable to complete them because I lose interest or am dissatisfied with the result. It brings my biggest faults to the forefront and hides my best traits. It keeps me off-balance all the time, as if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Bad news seems imminent. Those who say “happiness is a choice” cut me to the core. Do you think I choose to feel this way? Yet I wonder… what have I done to bring it on? Is it something I’m eating? Not enough sleep? Do I need supplements? Is this a spiritual problem? Intellectually I know it is not true, but Depression tells me I am a failure. I’m sure I’m about to be fired for not meeting the mark. I want to hide and sleep is ever appealing because I can literally pull the covers over my head. Sometimes even in sleep there is no rest. My dreams are full of anxiety, of being chased and trying to hide. My day is spent putting up a good front, hoping no one suspects and I go home exhausted from the effort*.

Depression is a hard taskmaster.

*This one is partly depression, partly introversion. I’m not shy and like being with people (most of the time) but, as an introvert, it’s also draining.

I need to remember this February 12, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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Twenty years from now

you will be more disappointed

by the things that you didn’t do

than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore.

Dream.

Discover.

 

Mark Twain

Dashing through the snow February 7, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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Today we had our worst storm of the winter and I had do drive to Chicago. This trip normally takes about an hour twenty, maybe thirty minutes tops. Today it took almost three hours because of this…

image

Luckily people were driving sanely and I saw only one accident – a car in a ditch near my home. The snow was pretty wet and slushy. A few times a passing truck hit a slush puddle that splashed up totally covering my windshield.  Good thing I’ve got good wiper blades.

The drive wasn’t really scary – I have a good car and took my time – but it was, without a doubt,one of the most stressful drives ever. I hope the snow slacks off so our drive downstate tomorrow OS an easy one.

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.

No Spendy Week Two January 14, 2013

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

Ten Rules/Goals for my Spending Diet December 31, 2012

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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What’s a diet without rules? Or goals? OK, I’m sure I could think of something else to call it rather than a diet and forget about those things. If I did that, I seriously doubt I’d be very successful. It would last about as long as most diets do… until a bit of temptation showed it’s ugly head.

1. Spending money on needs can and should be done guilt free. (Observation the first… I’m way too good at guilt. I often feel guilty about things outside of my control or responsibility. I’m working on that one. Observation the second… Thinking about Wants vs Needs in December, the most commercial, consumption driven month of the year was darned inconvenient. A very good exercise, but inconvenient. Most definitely my Christmas shopping was influenced by that mental exercise.)

So what are those guilt-free needs?

  • Housing costs (rent, utilities, renters insurance, etc)
  • Car expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc)
  • Commuting (train and bus ticket)
  • Food
  • Planned purchases
  • Charity/giving
  • Medical expenses (c0-pays, prescriptions, vitamins, etc)
  • Planned trips (church related retreats, visits to kids, etc)

I may add additional items to this list,  but this is it for now.

2. Only buy good coffee. This means freshly roasted, fair-trade coffee. If I can find it locally, great (I haven’t been successful so far but I haven’t looked as hard as I maybe could either… if anyone local has suggestions, I’m open.) Since I haven’t found it locally, I generally order from Deans Beans. My preference is his Mexican Chiapas and I often order five pounds at a time. Hey, I like coffee and go through it fairly quickly. Now that I’m an empty nester and there isn’t anyone here regularly to share my coffee, I may order smaller quantities. Going forward I would rather drink no coffee at all (perish the thought!) than poor quality coffee.

3. No new clothing. OK, my first caveat… if it’s purchased using my “Free Spending Money” and it’s a really good deal (super clearanced) and I have an honest need for that item of clothing and I have already made or repurposed at least three items of clothing since the last new purchase. I’ll expand on this rule in a later post.

4. Work gifts and work-related charity donations have a $10 limit. In 2012 there were three babies born to my Team members and one wedding. Plus there are often fund raisers for different charities (bake sales and/or 50/50 raffles). While I am not obligated to put anything towards anything, I generally do pitch in towards group gifts. I can do so guilt free while on this Spending Diet.

5. Spend as little as possible on groceries while maintaining healthy eating habits. I have a tendency to over buy food. Some of that comes from having a household of six plus frequent guests for meals and some from learning to shop sales and loss leaders. With only one person to feed most of the time now, I need to re-learn how to shop. I can still shop the sales and loss leaders but maybe I only need to buy 3 or 4 of an item to stock up rather than 10 or 15. The healthy eating habits is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the spend as little as possible part. Sometimes the cheapest food isn’t the best for the bulk of the diet. Rice and pasta is great, but as a side dish, not the main one. I need to make sure I’m also eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. All alcohol purchases come out of my Free Spending Money rather than the grocery or household budget. At the risk of sounding like a real lush to those who don’t know me well, I really don’t drink all that much. Especially now that I’m living alone, I am very aware of the dangers of over consumption and bad habits. But I do enjoy a drink now and then. Maybe a glass of wine a couple times a week, or a splash of homemade coffee liquor in my cocoa or coffee. I do realize however, that this is definitely not a Need but a Want and as such, I must treat it that way. I will also admit to stocking up a little during December. I bought a few bottles of my favorite Moscato (three bottles for $10) and made a batch of homemade coffee liquor to get me started. I’m thinking this should get me through the first half of the year.

7. I’ve mentioned the Free Spending Money. I’m setting aside $50 out of each paycheck for “free” money (every other Friday if you’re wondering). This will need to include any food at work (incentive to take my lunch), personal treats, new clothing, thrifting, music, etc.

8. Figure out how to lower what I’m paying for those things considered necessities. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ll be cutting out  cable (or at the minimum going to a less expensive plan). I’d also like to see how much I can cut my electric bill. I wonder how long I can make a tank of gas last in my car.

9. No eating out alone. I won’t say no eating out at all because this is the only way I am able to connect with some friends. We don’t see each other often and when we do we meet for a meal. I’m ok with spending money on that. I’m not ok with going out to eat simply because I don’t want to cook. Or because “I deserve this.” Ugh, that may be my least favorite phrase. It’s too easy to stop and pick something up on the way home rather than fixing something when I get home. No more.

10. No new yarn, fabric or crafting supplies. I have an extensive stash of all of those items, more than a reasonable person could use up in a year. Or five. And yet too often I succumb to sales or impulse shopping. The only exception (and I throw it out there just in case it happens because I don’t want to feel guilty about it) is if I am making something commissioned (and I don’t do that often because “have to” knitting or crafting takes some of the joy out of it) and need something specific to finish the job. I honestly don’t expect this to happen because as I noted, I do have quite an extensive stash of supplies. I also should note that that extensive supply isn’t very organized (as in, not at all) so a side goal is to organize said stash, culling out items I’m likely to never use.

This is definitely not a complete list but it’s enough to get me started. Some of these will get their own post in weeks to come. Anything major you think I might have missed?

Wants vs Needs December 27, 2012

Posted by phoenixhopes in Finances, Spending Diet, Uncategorized.
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In a few days I’m starting a Spending Diet as explained on the blog AndThenWeSaved.com. I’m both excited with anticipation and nervous that I’ll fall flat on my face. Excited because I know I can do this and because I know I need to do this. Nervous because, well… I don’t have such a good track record when it comes to money. I feel a bit transparent about putting too much personal detail out in the impersonal internets. I don’t think it’s important to tell the world how much debt I have or the size of my paycheck. Suffice to say I have more debt that I want to have (I’d like to have none) and my paycheck generally lasts until the next one (sometimes barely lasts). My bills are paid but I’m not getting ahead. I’d like to get off the paycheck to paycheck cycle, build some savings and feel more secure about my finances in general.

The first exercise when starting a Spending Diet is to make a list of WANTS and NEEDS. Too often those two get intertwined and we (and by “we” I really mean “I”) can’t tell the difference. I WANT chocolate and so I think I NEED chocolate. The logical part of my brain knows I don’t really NEED it, but man, it sure feels that way sometimes. It was a challenge to draw the line between the two and commit my list to paper.

First there are the absolute essentials, without which I literally might not be able to survive.

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Healthcare

It is not necessary to have the biggest house, gourmet food or the latest fashion, but some sort of food, shelter, clothing and healthcare is necessary to live.

Next come those things that are not essential in the sense that I would literally die without them, but are essential in that they add meaning to my life. I need an artistic outlet of some sort. At times that has been writing, knitting, sewing, quilting, singing and various other crafts. I need meaningful relationships with others in my life. I need to give — to my church and other charities, gifts to my friends and family. I need to be stretched mentally, learning new skills, reading, challenging my opinions and philosophy of life. And last but not least, I need to feed my spiritual side. These needs require time and thought but, for the most part, do not require a financial commitment.

There are some things that could be considered wants or luxuries, but in this society fall more in the “essential” category. I may be able to think of ways to cut these expenses, but I don’t see that they can be eliminated from my spending plan.

  • Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Transportation (Car and related expenses)
  • Insurance

The tricky part are those expenses that could be considered luxuries but do add enjoyment to my life:

  • Cable TV
  • Netflix
  • Eating out (including lunch at work)
  • Sewing/Knitting/Crafting supplies
  • Books

I’ve decided I’m turning off cable and keeping Netflix. I watch Netflix much more than cable and it is so much cheaper. This will probably mean the internet part of my bill will go up a bit as it is currently bundled with cable, but the overall bill will be less. I have other plans for ways to cut expenses on the last three on the list and will share those in my next post.

To keep myself accountable, I’ll post something about my journey each Monday. My first post will be Ten Rules for this new journey.

Anyone want to join me?