Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 30. Turning the page to Phase Two.

I thought for a moment yesterday that there were 31 days in June, but this morning I recited that "30 Days has September, April, June and November," rhyme, which is arguably the worst piece of poetry ever.

It was then that I realized we've been doing this experiment for an entire month, as of today.

The last time I spent a measurable amount of money was May 31. And since then, there have been a few changes around here.

As you may recall, prior to May 31 I was spending, on average, $150 each week at the grocery store. I've done a bit of an unscientific poll, and my previous spending pattern fit right into the range that most people spend. Some folks with less people in their house spend more than $150, but most folks I asked spend just as much as me or more.

This past month, I've spent, on average, $50 per week buying groceries.

I'm no scientist, but that's a significant savings ($600/month vs. $200/month). And we've had lots of company.

In addition, we've had four Peasants Feasts. One would assume we'd have leftovers from those gatherings, but everyone's come hungry and left full. Which is a good thing.

As for gas, I used to burn around three tanks in a month, each tank costing $44. That's $132 per month.

After filling up the tank on May 31, I didn't fill up again until June 23. And I still have a bit less than a half a tank. So let's just say I've spent $65 on gas this past month. That's just about half of what I used to shell out.

As for all things discretionary, I used to spend my extra cash at whim, without really thinking. Ten bucks here, give the kid a $20, let's go out to dinner, I need a new fill-in-the-blank. It adds up. I was spending somewhere in the $150/week range on events, items, necessities for me and my kids before May 31.

Logan used to drink a crazy amount of Diet Coke. I did the math, and I was spending approximately $56 every month, just to keep him (and I confess, occasionally me) supplied with Coke.

He hasn't had a Diet Coke for three weeks. I have one very occasionally.

I've definitely cut way, way back. During the first three weeks of the project, I spent an average of $25/week on extras. This past week, what with treating myself to some brand new clothes and dishing out some money so my son could go out to lunch with a friend, the average has gone up a bit.

That's not a bad thing. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Sometimes it's nice to step out and do something special. Cutting back makes the splurgy times more meaningful.

What have we learned so far?

I know that I've learned to think twice before I buy something. That's a skill I definitely hadn't mastered. Now we use what we have, instead of using the excuse of needing an ingredient or an item as motivation for leaving here, for shopping, for buying much more than what was on the list, because we deserve it.

I have more appreciation for what we do have. I've become more aware of why I spend money.

In the past, I'd rarely spend my days off at home. I'd find some reason to roam around, chalking items off a very self-imposed To-Do list.

Now, I realize more clearly that no one does anything they don't sign up for. I'm not a victim to the errands, events, obligations that I willingly put on my list.

I have a new appreciation for silence, for quiet, for stopping.

So it's been a month, and it's been good.

But it's not over.

"What?" you say. "No more blogging every day, no more bouts of fiscal and personal self-exposure?"

I'll tap out our progress intermittently now, because we're headed into Phase Two.

After discussing it with my family, we're going to continue to spend as we have this past month. We're going to ease off the meat now that it's almost gone, and get creative with beans, rice, tofu, fresh stuff.

I intend to become a bit less cloistered after today, although I'm sure it will be gradual, because I've really enjoyed paying attention to the Right Now that doesn't include the self-imposed notion of happiness through acquisition.

So. Like the Kardashians, a bad rash or what remains of my relationship that's stowed in my garage, some things, like Cents and Sensibility, just seem to linger whether you want them to or not.

Long and short (and this entry is going a bit long), this project has become too financially and personally fruitful. New ways of thinking about things are becoming a habit.

And apparently they're a hard habit to break.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 29. Tying up loose ends.

It was a day of tying up loose ends.

I wanted to get cracking on the weedy garden this morning. But instead, I chose to sift through my house, gathering items that will hopefully be picked up soon by the one who got away.

It was cathartic. I worked up a sweat before it became swelteringly hot outside, bringing items to the garage. I very lovingly, quietly (it was early) put everything where it needs to be, well outside of my field of vision.


My car is relegated to the driveway until this last bit of closure is done. It's summer, I don't drive much lately, greatly due to this project, so the car is fine in the driveway for the time being.

I feel so much better today. Invigorated. Because I'm not taking it personally.

Next time, things will be different.

Next time, I'll become involved with someone who matches the level of my self-esteem.

And despite the sting of the past few days, my self-esteem has never been better.

That seems counterintuitive.

But it's true.

Because I'm confident that I'm not needy. I'm not defining myself by my ability to attract someone who will validate me.

I'm not insecure.

Today, I feel strong. Capable.

And like so many days that have become Cents and Sensibility, there was no gas burned, no money spent, with the exception of a bit of sweat equity.

And as for the project, I have two days to go before I'll be intermittently updating. I've decided my family has established a very strong core of discretion when it comes to spending money, spending time. But I'll go into that tomorrow, and the next day.

Then I'll take a well-deserved break.

From so many things.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 28. I went to a garden party.

And it was crowded.

Just a week or two ago, I spent a fruitful afternoon on my hands and knees, picking weeds in my garden. With each pluck, I hoped I wasn't pulling something I'd recently planted.

Because, with all my good intentions, I didn't do much thinking about where I planted stuff.

I pulled what looked like weeds, but not unlike other areas of my life, I didn't really do much thinking when it came to what got planted where. I just wanted to get it planted. Get it done. Then I'd sit back and watch the fruitful outcome of my good intentions.

I simply figured I'd just be able to tell the difference, once everything started growing.

Not so simple.

Tending to the garden has been a challenge, and it's by my design, due to my poor planning.

Because look at what I've got going on. Quite a weed party. Uninvited guests.

I think I know what I'll be doing early tomorrow morning, before the heat takes hold.

There are some redemptive elements to the garden, something that will provide quantifiable nourishment, if I can find my way past the weeds.

Just a few weeks ago, I planted zucchini. The plant looked like such a wallflower back then.

But time, sun, water and an inherent weed-like constitution has made this sorry little plant the life of the party.

I can almost taste the zucchini bread.

There are other key players that have decided to show up to this wildly disorganized garden party, despite the temporary early admission of a few unsavory types.

There's more arugula than I and everyone I know could possibly consume.

I've ritualistically plucked the flowering tops off of each plant almost every morning, which obviously has resulted in the spread of this tasty, peppery delight.

Same goes for the lettuce. As I mentioned earlier, I had a few uninvited by very welcome guests to this year's garden - most conspicuously, the lettuce. There's nothing like a salad made with fresh greens.

So to recap: I know I need to be the bouncer tomorrow morning, putting some muscle into playing the tough guy. Thinning the herd.

Some unsavory elements will just have to go.

It's the necessity of every decent garden party. Inviting the right combination of guests to create something healthy, something good.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 27. Pick a holiday and celebrate. Have a good time.

After the crapfest that was yesterday, I needed a Peasants Feast. Tonight couldn't have come at a better time.

Because the incredulity and sadness of yesterday slid into lassitude today. I wanted to be surrounded by familiar, jovial distractions today, made manifest in the form of people I love, eating food, laughing and catching up.

My mood started perking up when I snipped the tags off my FBR (full-blown retail) clothing that I bought yesterday. It became more elevated when I slapped a new coat of paint on my face, and got things set for this week's Feast.

The theme this week? Holiday food. We're skipping next week's Feast because of the holiday (July 4), and we'll most likely skip the next one, because both kids will be at UNC.

So I thought it would be fun for folks to bring items from their favorite holiday. Any holiday.

I encouraged people to get as creative as they wanted with their holiday food selections. From the traditional Christmas celebration to National Talk Like a Pirate Day, anything was all good.

And it was all good. The food and the company.

As for the food, we Feasted on a Thanksgiving turkey Logan brined for a few days and cooked today. The house still smells like home.

Stefan's choice to honor a northern Colorado holiday of celebrating Nothing was the most nihilistic offering of the evening. He proudly brought nothing.

My dad and his groove thing Vel brought Boxing Day Australian treats. Aussie bites and Australian coffee . Lois brought a sweet potato casserole that was everyone's favorite, hands down. Sue and James brought pasta salad,

Gigi brought a tasty potato salad. Susan Brown and John brought New Year's champagne. Christmas cookies. Halloween candy. Fourth of July pies. It was all on the table.



And there was a spate of time tonight when a contingent of the group headed to the back yard for some frisbee action.

I didn't get enough face-time with everyone, but I can say that my favorite conversations tonight were with Christine and Sue. Everyone was a willing chatterbox, though.

It was a truly lovely evening; one we won't attempt to replicate for a few weeks.

I feel the need for socialization, so I made a few plans with some people. I have no particular affinity to the fourth of July as a holiday, per se, but I do somehow feel an obligation to do something.

That seems to have been taken care of.

My zany friends have no idea how much they're appreciated.

As for the earlier part of the day, I worked from home, then did some prep, then some relaxing.

I felt a bit of an emancipation celebration tonight, because I know I'm stronger than I sometimes think I am. More capable.

More willing to let things go.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 26. Retail therapy sheds a ray of sunshine on a crappy day.

I had a feeling something was up.

My relationship had been hitting rocky skids for the past few months. But somewhere in my cerebellum I thought we'd be able to fix things up, eventually.

Both of us had said it was over at different times, and one or the other of us would wind up extending an olive branch.

I thought this was one of those times, because he said he'd fight for me.

Even last Saturday night when we got together, I had a teeny shred of hope.

I talked with him today, and he let me know that he'd 'committed to another relationship.'

When just three days ago he asked if I wanted to go out.

I usually don't do this much self exposure, but today completely and totally sucked.

So after some coaxing, I was convinced to do something very therapeutic on days like today; something completely counter to my project.

I went shopping.

I can't even remember the last time I paid retail for an article of clothing.

The last time I went shopping, I didn't buy anything. Because the size I squeezed into was a bit bigger than I chose to willingly put in my closet.

Today, thankfully (wouldn't it have completely added insult to injury if I'd have gone up a few sizes?), I actually headed down the sizing chart. Blame it on my recent interpersonal ennui. Maybe it can simply be attributed to summer heat and the season's profusion of fresh fruit.

Whatever the source, I bought three items today, and each was at least a size smaller than I tried on the last time I shopped. The completely cool item on the left is two sizes smaller than what I refused to buy last fall, the last time I went shopping.

So I had a redemptive afternoon, completing a very overdue Retail Therapy session. It was the one part of today that felt good. I slid easily into - and out of - a few things that will become very familiar.

It would be lovely if my relationships were so easy to change.

I guess it's easy for some people.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 25. Kind of blue.

Despite the fact that I have to work tomorrow at 8 am, I'm leaving soon to head downtown to El Chapultapec, to see my friends play some blues.

Shawn and her husband Chris were here for dinner tonight, and they left recently to set up.

I'm hoping a bunch of folks I know will be there when I get there.

Because I'm going by myself, to a neighborhood I wouldn't have gone to alone a couple of decades ago.

Back then, El Chapultapec was the place every hot blues and jazz musician played, and that legacy stands. Add a baseball field and a bunch of fancy bars, and the neighborhood's become a bit gentrified.

But El Chapultapec remains true to its roots. And it's even better when you know the band.

It's a great place to play, according to my friends. And it's a great place to hear live music.

I must go! I need to dig up $10 for parking. No cover.

A cheap night out. No doubt I'll be sleep deprived tomorrow.

A small price to pay to see my friends play some blues.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 24. Disconnecting.

After yesterday's spending spree (which is so much more pleasant than its counterparts crime- and shooting-), I brought myself back to the quiet, inexpensive world of Staying Home today.

I started with a walk to Ace Hardware. I wanted to get some ideas on what colors I should paint my kitchen and living room, and I had a Netflix movie to return.

I didn't walk alone today. I had my reliable friend iPhone with me, and I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts.

I was hooked in when I went way in the back of Ace to drop off the dvd at the post office. I was expecting the regular Friday postal person, so I didn't bother to disengage from my podcast. The regular Friday person is a stern, humorless sort who, despite my attempts at making a connection, and regardless of my very frequent visits, continues to ask for my driver's license when I use my debit card.

So imagine my glee when I saw Wanda behind the counter! As you might recall, I blogged about my cool friend Wanda a few months ago http://paradigmthrift.blogspot.com/2011/04/you-can-take-girl-out-of-manhattan-but.html.

I disengaged from my iPhone and quickly apologized for being so antisocial the minute I saw Wanda. We had a great catch-up chat. And part of our conversation included my admission that I've become very fond of the magical rectangular device that's my phone, radio, news source, camera, so much more.

I admitted to Wanda that I think I've become a bit too attached, actually. Wanda wasn't judgmental - she very simply said that once she gets home from work, she just likes to listen to the ambient sounds of what's around her. The birds, the neighborhood, the silence.

Taking a tip from Wanda, I did a bit of disconnecting today. Instead of deferring to my phone the minute I had a chunk of alone time, I opted for listening to what was going on in my noggin. I reverted back to the person I was a handful of years ago, when this disengagement wasn't quite so compelling and easy.

And this day became a double-bonus. I didn't spend any money, and I didn't fill my head with distractions.

Oh! Actually, today was a triple-bonus. I spent most of the day cleaning my house, moving furniture around, getting ready for company. I think I'm ready.

Is there such a thing as a quadruple-bonus? If there is, I got one today.

Because in addition to some silence, some productivity and some free time, I got to spend a bit of my morning with Wanda.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 23. I made dinner. Which proves that everything's better with sriracha.

I did the cooking tonight. Very uncharacteristic. Sometimes, despite my track record for creating bland, uninteresting dishes, I feel there might be hope.

I started by cooking egg noodles. I defrosted a melange of frozen vegetables. Once the noodles and the veggies were done, I heated up some leftover chicken marinara sauce Logan made last week.

In goes the veggies, plop goes the noodles.

Stir it all up, and voila! A fabulous experiment in relatively bland cooking.

But virtually everything's better with the spicy-hot goodness of a few squirts of sriracha.

Everyone's elsewhere tonight, so I ate my noodle veggie dish while watching Breaking Bad.

It's all good.

As for the earlier part of the day, I went to an estate sale, bought a Burger King cheeseburger phone a la Juno (a mere $5), finally, after 23 days, I bought gas to the tune of $41, I had lunch with a friend ($10), bought Logan some dance gear ($26), enjoyed tea at Tres Jolie in downtown Littleton ($13), bought two birthday cards at Details (one for Robin and one for Anne - 7.50. What's up with that? Two birthday cards for 7.50?). This was an expensive day, but it was worth every penny.

Because a bit more attention was paid today.

A scant few weeks ago, I'd have thought nothing about the level of spending I did today.

I think I'm gaining a bit of perspective.

And based on tonight's dinner, I defer to Logan whenever possible when it comes to cooking.

Thank god for sriracha.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 22. Taking stock as we head into Week Four.

Today marks the first day of the fourth week of this project, so I figure that this a good opportunity to recap what's happened so far.

Or hasn't happened.

Compared to what happened with money in my house before June 1, it's obvious that I haven't done as much shopping.

In three weeks and a day, I've spent 197.48. That boils down to 8.98 cents a day.

I'll probably have to fill up my gas tank tomorrow, for the first time since May 31.

Let's take a look back at what I used to spend. Back on June 11, I did a bit of math, and figured that I'd been spending, on average, 43.75 per day on discretionary items http://paradigmthrift.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-06-14T21%3A42%3A00-07%3A00&max-results=7 before this project began.

And apparently, based on a February 2011 Gallup poll, even my salad days weren't quite as bountiful as those of my peers. Because Gallup deduced that "self-reported daily U.S. consumer spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations and online averaged $58 per day in January 2011, down from the January averages of $62 in 2010 and $64 in 2009, and far below the $97 average of 2008." http://www.gallup.com/poll/146060/Consumers-Self-Reported-Spending-Down-January.aspx.

That's quite a disparity. I'm sure some folks are wondering if we're eating mac and cheese seasoned liberally with cat food while we're wandering around aimlessly, wondering what to do with ourselves.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

The majority of the 197.48 I've spent has supplemented the fresh items we've depleted.

Over the past three weeks, we've entertained - and we've been entertained by - a whole bunch of people, both at the Peasants Feasts and in smaller groups. I've been taken out to dinner a few times. And like last night, I've spent time with friends, either at their house or mine. And it's been lovely.

And we've eaten well, largely because of my son Logan's mad skills in the kitchen.

I took Logan out to lunch the other day, as a thank-you for buying into the project, and for making such amazing dishes over the past few weeks.

Most notably, he made breakfast pizza with homemade dough that was topped with cheese, potatoes, bacon and spices.

Decadent and delicious.

He whipped up some pizza muffin things that could easily be considered restaurant fare, served with a side of homemade marinara.

This morning, he made me an egg dish for breakfast that was yum-smack-licious. He makes every meal. And they've all been delicious.

And we have salad items that are as far away as our back yard. Nothing's as tasty as the spinach, lettuce and arugula salads we've been making lately.

Interestingly, when we were sitting at the Thai place we'd chosen for our lunch out, Logan mentioned that he appreciated going out to eat more than he used to.

It's good, I think, that he's noticing that moments become more special when the entitlement and frequency is taken away.

Both of my kids have been so accommodating to what I'm 'making them do' with this summer's project. They're both learning a few things. And the no that's implied by this experiment has gradually become willingly self-imposed. Because this has gradually become fun. Sometimes frustrating, but ultimately fun.

The project's not over, by any means. But it seemed significant today, to reflect on what we've learned so far.

This simple living really isn't the least bit constricting. And my bank balance is healthier than it's been for quite some time.

A very relaxed shift seems to be happening because I'm beginning to understand, very gradually, that if I stop twirling in my perceived need to procure, do, achieve, pre-emptively solve long enough to look up and notice, everything I need is right here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 21. Keeping it close to the vest.

Another day was passed at home, doing all the things I so actively avoided before this project began.

It was a lovely day - another day spent reacquainting myself to just being here, in my house, by myself. I could make a list of my accomplishments today, but I'm beginning to understand that's really not the point of this zany thing called Life.

Making a list of the stuff we get done. Highly overrated. Some things need to be kept to one's self.

I had plans tonight with my friend Pammy. Originally, she wanted to go out, but I requested that we meet either at her house or mine. Because of the project. I gratefully allocated the teeny bit of gas I still have in my tank to drive over to her house.

Ah, the sacrifices we make....

And what a sacrifice. Hanging out with my friend Pammy on a beautiful evening, in her bucolic back yard.

Pammy and I chat well.

So of course, that's what we did. Never enough Pammy time.

We talked about everything.

Like Fight Club, the first rule of a fruitful chat-fest with a good friend is to not talk about what you talked about.

Long story short: Pammy's the best. She's on my short list.

My evening proves that good times are free, and they're everywhere.

Some things are best when they're not shared.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 20. Everybody eats when they come to my house.

I had a very low-key approach to tonight's Peasants Feast. I didn't know who was coming, and I questioned our collective capacity to create a cogent meal with the somewhat odd theme of the week.

The theme was a song. Everybody Eats When They Come to My House, by Cab Calloway.

Here's the link. It's a jaunty, tasty number. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIy6pXmQtkc.

Everyone was requested to bring something that was mentioned in the song. Logan made latkes.

Around 5 pm, I wondered if people would bring items that would make our evening true to the title of the song. I felt I needed to supplement the delicious latkes, so I made a salad out of lettuce, spinach and arugula from the garden. I added tomatoes, just in case.

I wanted to make sure that everybody could eat when they come to my house.

Despite the threat of rain, we had quite a succulent turnout. And people were so creatively scatological with what they brought. Connor and Jenny brought bologna. There was banana and strawberry salad. There was cacciatore and rice that was way past fantastic. Bagels. Pancakes. Tomatoes. Cherries. Watermelon and kiwi beverage of some sort. Fruit pie. Brownies. So much more. It makes the head spin, the creativity.

The kids spent time around the dining room table, acting like grown-ups. The grown-ups spent time outside on the back porch, talking smart and acting like kids.

So many interesting conversations tonight.

And the laughter. So much of that.

I love this odd amalgam of randomness we've generated with the Feasts.

Unpredictable.

We all seem to leave these nights completely, contentedly full.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 19. Let's talk about gas.

As you may recall if you've been following the progress of my little experiment, I filled up my gas tank on May 31. I had about a quarter of a tank, kind of the amount I have now. It cost 3.59.9 (let's round that up a micro-percentage and call it 3.60, shall we?) a gallon, and I spent $33.

As of today, 19 days later, I've driven 318.8 miles. That's an average of 16.78 miles per day. And I still have a touch less than a quarter of a tank left.

I think I can go a few more days before I need to get gas. I work from home tomorrow, and there's the entertaining Peasants Feast tomorrow night for which we're making latkes with the potatoes we bought last week. No need to go to the store for anything.

I have Tuesday off, work from home Wednesday, and have Thursday and Friday off. So conceivably, if I stick close to home, I may not need to get gas until next Saturday. If that happens, I'll have gone 25 days without buying gas.

I understand that not everyone has the good fortune to work from home, and I know that most people operate like I did before May 31. I used to go wherever I wanted to go, whenever I felt like it.

So you might be wondering how I've kept the gauge away from the E for this long. Of course the telecommuting helps. Entertaining here at the house instead of going out has been so much fun. And I've been staying home more.

Actually, I've been staying home a lot. I'm not considering renaming my house Grey Gardens any time soon, but staying home has been more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Being a homebody is out of my ken. I like to ramble.

But instead, I've been walking more when I feel the need to get away. Walking instead of driving has helped the bottom line on more than one level, if you know what I mean. And when I do drive, I drive like a grandma. No offense to grandmas.

There are tons of tips to be found on how burn gas a bit more slowly. Here's one: http://gasbuddy.com/gb_tips.aspx.

The pain at the pump I got 19 days ago is barely a dull ache today.

We all complain about the wallet-gouging price of gas, but there seems to be a fairly easy way to fight back.

Just stop.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 18. Here's to good friends.

My friend Anne had two extra tickets to Ray Lamontagne at Red Rocks last night, and she asked me if I wanted to come along and bring a friend. 

I couldn't say yes fast enough!

Anne and I go way back. We met in high school, and by my calculations, we've been friends for 33 years. Way back in the Dark Ages, back in the '70s, when times were cheaper and our motivation was high, we went to our share of concerts. Anne and I went to Rush concerts together, whenever they were in town. She'd imagine herself as the female Geddy Lee.

My friend Erin joined us last night. Both Erin and I repeatedly asked if we could pay Anne back for the tickets, but she mentioned that she didn't want to mess up my project. That's just Anne. Generous, supportive, hilarious, wry, smart-as-a-whip Anne. She couched inviting us to the show by saying she was supporting the project, but I don't quite buy that. Anne's a giver, plain and simple.

What a great show. Brandi Carlile opened up, and her pal Shawn Colvin made an unexpected appearance.

I bought a beer during intermission. A $7 Coors in a plastic bottle. Times have changed.

As for Ray, he rocked it. He's not much of a talker. Other than an occasional "thank you very much" in between songs, the only other patter he provided was a random, "fucking Wikipedia. You guys know everything." Because his birthday is today, and a group of merry pranksters in the audience, way up front, sang him a birthday song.

He's kind of eccentric, with the look of a guy who might work at Tattered Cover.

I took some nice pictures of our time with Ray.

As for how the past meets the present, Anne and I have sepia snapshots of who we were then, all the crazy crap we did, tucked away nicely in our heads.

Here's to good, old friends. Let's both nod and smile knowingly about the past.

And here's to another few decades of friendship.

The past is good, but the present is so much better.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 17.

I'm going to Ray Lamontagne tonight, thanks to my friend Anne! I'll post an update with pictures tomorrow!

Woo Hoo!

Last time I saw him was 5 or 6 or 7 years ago, when he was a nobody. But he's somebody now, and he's playing at Red Rocks, the coolest place ever to see a show!

More tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Days 15 and 16. Making up for lost time.

I went to the store today, and I'm not really sure why I did. Let's see if we can figure it out.

After two days at home, I needed to get away from my predictable comfortable home place. We needed eggs for Monday's Peasants Feast, and we were almost out of dog food, I said to myself.

Long and short, I wanted to be elsewhere.

As I was trying to make sense of this need to shop today, I remembered an entry I wrote in November http://paradigmthrift.blogspot.com/2010/11/ill-take-it-few-words-on-why-we-shop.html about the why behind why we shop. After re-reading that entry, it became obvious that my trip to the store was less of a need than it was a diversion.

Like someone who's on a rigid diet who decides to have a piece of cake, I felt I owed it to myself. I thought I deserved getting out for a bit, based on how conscious we've all been about living with what we have.

Going to the grocery store ranks among the least glamorous, least indulgent rewards I can possibly think of.

But today I was making up for a bit of lost time, by getting lost for a while. Sometimes it's nice to go somewhere no one can find you. Even if where you choose to lose yourself is in an aisle at the grocery store.

I got out of the house for a bit, by myself. I even left my phone in the car.

After 16 days of sticking close to home, I forgot how much I enjoy diversions of the sort I allowed myself today.

It's interesting, how just a few weeks ago I wouldn't have thought twice about rambling all over the city, getting lost all day long.

Today it felt different.

Sometimes I think it might be better to ask 'why?', rather than 'why not?'.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 14. Two weeks. Can this be habit-forming?

Last night's Feast ran late, but I'm not complaining. I'd rather have a nice evening with friends than a good night's sleep.

I put that theory to the test today.

I got to bed about 1 am. The alarm went off at 4:30 am, and I was at my job at 7.

I'm no scientist, but I don't think that's enough sleep.

Logan requested a wake-up call for 9 am, and through my blurred vision this morning, I neglected to set the alarm correctly. But I didn't know that when I texted and called in an attempt to make sure he was up by 9, so that he could get to his class by 10.

I'm only one person.

So when Logan didn't answer his phone this morning, I assumed the worst. And the worst for Logan would have been to sleep in and miss his class.

Which is exactly what happened.

He didn't really miss it. He was late. But he inherited some whacked-out on-time-or-a-few-minutes-early gene from me. 

Highly scientific. Try to keep up.

I left work to come home and work remotely around 10:15, just around the time Logan woke up, blasphemed me for not setting his alarm correctly, and got himself to class.

So he was gone by the time I got home.

So was someone else.

Our dog Dutch was gone too. By the time I got home.

Yes, he did make it back home. He seems to like it here.

Not unlike myself, Dutch suffers from a dusting of wanderlust. Like me, he appreciates the idea of being home, even when he tries to escape.

Dutch and I have a lot in common.

We both escape whenever we get the chance.

That escape clause has been modified for me lately by the nature of this project, and I've become a bit more calm in the face of stasis.

But according to an article I read tonight, I have to log a bit more time before this way of life becomes a habit. Because according to this http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php, it takes 66 days for a habit to take firm root.

There are several caveats to this particular study. And apparently some of us are simply 'habit-resistant'.

But I've noticed changes, in my bank balance and in the way I think about spending.

It all seems to revolve around paying attention.

We started this project two weeks ago today. As I've noted in previous entries, we'd had just as many guests (a habit I refuse to break), we've spent substantially less money, and I still have somewhere between a fourth and a half of a tank of gas.

Can we keep this going for another 52 days? Highly doubtful.

We'll keep going as long as we can, because we're all seeing results. And like any seed change, results might easily be measured by growth. 

Growth in this project's case seems to have its root in the simple act of paying attention.

And speaking of habits, tonight I'm opting to recognize my habitual need for sleep. No matter how hard I try lately, it's a hard habit to break.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 13. Around the world in a day.

As you may have read last week, we have a weekly Peasants Feast over the summer. It gives the kids a chance to get together with their friends, and I get the opportunity to see mine, too. 


We pick a theme, and everyone brings a food item to fit the theme.

And I thought it was time for a vacation. Not a real one - this project's keeping me close to home. The next best thing? A culinary vacation!

So everyone brought items with a place in its name. Here's what we had for dinner tonight: Greek salad, Belgian waffles, Kentucky Fried Chicken, French toast casserole, an imaginative Douglas County curry, Swedish meatballs, French onion dip, Italian sausage, German chocolate cake...

And we washed all of this ooh-la-la-liciousness down with wines from across the globe. And Hawaiian Punch.



This week's Feast brought out the creativity in people.

And it was also nicely spiced with tasty conversation.

We had quite a turnout, with a swell balance of  'regulars', as well as some new Feast faces. A whole lot of kids were here, which was great.


We never know from week to week who's going to Feast with us, and that's the part I like the best.

Yes, it's great to put a spin on the idea of a pot luck, but the Feasts are so much more about the company than the food.

If a creative menu were a plane ticket, we'd have travelled across the globe tonight.


As was witnessed by the German chocolate cake.


And the Mountain Dew.


Our menu was diverse. Conversation was as abundant as the trans-continental items on the table.


And I'm thankful we were all right here.


One final word to punctuate to loveliness of Day 13 - no money spent, no gas burned.



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 12. Let's get fresh.

It's been almost two weeks since I darkened the door of Safeway, and even though our inventory could have gone a bit longer without a burst of freshness, I went to the grocery store after work this afternoon.

We were shy on fresh stuff, so it was time to spend just a splash of money.

This is what I bought today.

Let's pretend this is a garden variety version of a kindergarden class photo and go from left to right.

Back row: a dozen tomatoes, five pounds of wheat flour, two gallons of milk, eight gala apples, five bananas.

Middle row: ten pounds of potatoes, a completely indulgent Red Bull, green seedless grapes and a whole bunch of kiwi.

Front row: three cucumbers, raspberries and blueberries.

And what did I spend on this tabletop of tasty delights?

43.36.

That kicks up the amount I've spent on this project, just a scant notch. As I mentioned yesterday, I spent 365.87 before starting this project on June 1.

Now I've spent 409.23.

So instead of spending 12.20 per day owing for a 30-day month, we've now spent 13.64 per day, if indeed we don't spend anything else for another two weeks and some change.

That's still a pretty decent average.

And I still have a half a tank of gas, after 12 days.

Like dropping a clothing size without really trying too hard, I can't believe how easy it's been to keep my car in the garage, to not go anywhere I feel like at whim.

Yes, I spent a bit of money today. But we're still all in when it comes to this project. I've already been schooled - I thought the gas would be among the first things to disappear.

But it was fresh items. I was amazed at how many healthy items I bought, and how little it cost.

It was an instructional field trip, this outing to Safeway today. The volume of items I purchased pokes a tiny hole in the argument that folks can't make healthy choices on the cheap.

I bought enough stuff to last us quite a while, for less than it would cost to take my family out to dinner, once.

Refreshing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 11. Putting pencil to paper.

I did myself some math today.

I must say my brain kind of hurts. Especially considering the numbers I crunched as I scratched away.

I mentioned in an earlier entry that prior to June 1, I'd been spending, on average, a total of +/- 1,312.50 each month at the grocery store, at the gas station, and on various spontaneous, extraneous items (i.e., movies, school stuff, retail therapy, going out to dinner, etc.) for me and my younguns.

Based on a 30-day month, that's an average of 43.75 every day.

After I wiped the sweat off my brow that had accumulated after I'd digested this nugget of truth, I referenced a bit more data.

I revisited the total amount I'd spent in preparation for this project: 365.87.

Based again on a 30-day month, if we can last 30 days on what we have, we'll have spent 12.20 per day.

That's a savings of 31.55 a day.

So. Can we do it?

Let's take inventory.

At present, I have over a half a tank of gas in my car. We're out of milk. Logan's out of Diet Coke, but he doesn't seem to care. After having printed out volumes of information about how unhealthy Diet Coke can be when consumed in high volumes, he did the typical teenager thing and tuned me out. It wasn't until his dance teacher told him he shouldn't drink it that he stopped.

Information becomes valid to my teenager when someone else tells him the exact same information.

Shocking.

I'm not sure we'll be able to go an entire 30 days without getting a few things at the store. But we're not there quite yet.

Thus far we're not lacking anything essential.

It's interesting how simply stepping back - being creative with what we have, finding ways to navigate around boredom, having people over instead of going out, not driving, not spending - has been relatively effortless.

And today, putting pencil to paper, realizing just how much money I/we piss away on things we don't even notice that we don't really need, makes me more energized to keep this project going.

Every day makes me more convinced that I could live a much more simple, uncomplicated life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 10. Taking a break.

It's been a mercilessly long day, but I made a deal with myself that I'm going to blog every day, and according to the time as I type, I have 45 minutes.

I had my dad and his groove thing, Connor, Jenny and Logan under one roof for dinner. A pleasant, multigenerational gathering.

The evening took on a new shade when Logan gave Jenny a dye job, right in the middle of the kitchen. Her hair looks great; my kitchen is a mess.

And I work tomorrow.

So I'm keeping it short.

As for a brief update on the day, and the project: I had a lovely walk with my friend Cara this morning. We took a walking tour of my neighborhood's garage sales.

Uncharacteristically, I didn't spend a dollar.

Day 10 came and went with no money spent, no gas burned.

But obviously, we had a good time. Especially Jenny, who got Salon treatment from my lovely boys, right in the middle of my kitchen.

And I have 36 minutes until today is tomorrow.

Bedtime.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 9. The game of Life.

Ah, the game of Life.

It's such a money game.

Little bits of paper and metal come in, little bits of paper and metal are disbursed.

Life sounds so simple.

Would that the real game were as simple.

I spent some time doing the math today, moving my piece around my presently self-imposed game of Life that's come to be known as Cents and Sensibility.

As you may remember a few entries ago, before this project started, I spent approximately $600 a month at the grocery store.

At current prices, it takes about $45 to fill up my gas tank, and I did that, on average, two to three times a month. Sometimes more.

Then there's the money each month that's spent on what's considered value-added.

Let's say we go out to dinner once a week. There are clothes to buy. Birthdays to recognize. Movies to see. Kids to finance.

In an average month, before this project started, I'm estimating I spent $150-$200 a week on additional items for me and my kids. That average goes up once school starts. Some things you just can avoid: fees, supplies, clothes, haircuts, field trips....

Ah the game of Life.

And if your kid is the slightest bit interested in anything, parents like myself generally like to involve their children in classes, sports, pastimes.

Oh look! I just got the Go Back Three Spaces card!

Because those extras can be crushing.

A few months ago, my son Logan expressed an interest in taking ballet lessons. It turns out that he's extremely talented.

So he's going to dance class two days a week. He also takes private lessons twice a week. And next week starts intensives. In addition to the classes I mentioned, he'll be dancing from Monday through Thursday, from 10 am to 2 pm.

Ah! But look! I just got the go-ahead to move my piece ahead a few spaces!

Because Logan's instructor wants him there, despite what I can pay.

So I pay what I can, and Logan's getting amazing instruction. There are good people in the world who see talent; they recognize potential.

Sometimes I completely scratch my head at the serendipity of the past few months; the goodness I've witnessed. We're so lucky, not only because Logan decided he'd like to try ballet, but because his instructor sees past the bottom line.

But I digress.

The game of Life is freakishly complicated. If I were to add up what I've been typically spending each month once the bills are paid - if I just count groceries, gas and a smattering of extras, I total $1,312.50 (that's factoring in $600 on groceries, 2.5 tanks of gas at the current rate [112.50/month] and $600 on extra stuff, i.e., dinners out, movies, haircuts, clothes, school fees, etc.).

Every month.

That comes down to 328.13 a week that my family tends to spend, after bills are paid.

That's not including dance.

Some people might find my calculations extravagant. Other people are in a position to skip a turn.

But doing the math was sobering.

I really don't know how I've kept this boat floating, what with that leak I haven't really been paying much attention to...

This project has compelled me to pay a bit of attention to the bits of paper and metal I've been tossing around.

You can learn about life when you play the game of Life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 8. Short and sweet.

I'll try to keep it short today.

I got up early. Big surprise.

I took a monster-long walk before working from 8 to 2 from home.

I really looked at my neighborhood this morning, and like paging through an old photo album, I let myself notice all the comfortable, familiar things, and I opined about what's changed.

Wild bunnies weren't around when we moved here 19 years ago.

Another Mary Anderson used to live down the street, but she's moved away. She was so sweet.

I walked by our neighborhood pool, and thought about all the sweat equity I put into that summer venture a handful of years ago.

It's good to look up occasionally, just to take notice.

I downloaded the coolest Elvis song. Such a Night. It's a tasty slice of Mr. Presley's song stylings that I'd never heard before. There's a lot of bouncy early Elvis doo-waa singing in the background, but his talent is so raw and fresh in that song.

It was so nice to trip across Such a Night today http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p9Ko6sGS5E.

It compelled me to remember why people call him the King.

Then it was work time.

The kids went to their dad's for dinner shortly after I was done with work.

Then I weeded the garden. Arugula's going nuts. Bib's off the chain. Spinach is making a valiant effort.

As are the weeds.

I watched Jack Goes Boating on netflix. What a great movie, filled with sweet, wounded, tender, tentative characters.

No money spent, no gas burned again today.

Now it's time to relax. And like this day's been so far, I'm keeping it short and sweet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 7. A hot day of cool retrospection.

A week ago today, I'd purchased everything that I needed for this project. So now's a good time for a bit of a mini-retrospective.

I spent $197.23 at Costco last weekend. I spent a total of 135.64 at Safeway exactly a week ago. From that Safeway total, I distributed the walking-around cash for this project, as well as $30 in gift cards for two birthdays I knew were right around the corner. Pick apart that total further, and everything else in the cart was fresh stuff.

I filled up my car with $33 of gas. My tank contained enough gas to drive around for a hundred miles or so before I filled it up.

So what's happened in a week?

I thought the gas or Diet Coke would be the first to go. Not so.

I've driven a total of 85.9 miles in a week. I presently have more than 3/4 of a tank of gas.

Even after today. I drove to work today, and it was wicked-hot on my drive home. I turned on the air conditioning during rush hour, wondering all the while just how much gas I was sucking out of my tank by staying comfortable.

I did a bit of digging when I got home, and it didn't take very long to find this bit of information on slate.com about just how much gas I was consuming by staying cool http://www.slate.com/id/2194536/. Apparently saving gas by opening windows vs cranking up the AC is debatable. Who knew that trying to conserve energy could be such a drag?

As for the other stuff we still have, there are a few Diet Cokes left, but I don't think Logan knows about them.

But he's retained his $20 stake in this project. I have a feeling he'll spend part of his ching on a 12-pack.

And I have my money, too.

Then there's the garden.

Unfortunately, I don't have a mango tree or a crap-ton of assorted canned or frozen fruit on hand. Because we're running a bit low in the fruit department.

But we do have lettuce, spinach and arugula growing like weeds in the backyard.

Long and short, this week has been so good. I've learned some fiscal self-control, and it's been almost effortless.

Almost.

I was thinking about this project on my air-conditioned drive home from work today, wondering how far what we'll have will take us; which domino will be the first to fall.

At this point, regardless of the entertaining, the moments of silence, the frustration, we've gone a week without going without.

And I think we can go a few weeks longer. Maybe more.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 6. Tell me why I don't like Mondays?

Tonight was this summer's first Peasants Feast.

We started this weekly dinner idea last summer, and it quickly became a highlight.

So what's a Peasants Feast, you ask?

The Feasts take place over the summer. We come up with a theme, and whoever comes over for dinner brings a food item to fit the theme.

The kids invite their friends and I invite mine.

And tonight's summer Peasants Feast Kickoff theme: S is for Summer. Everyone brought a dish that started with the letter S.

Tonight we had several salads, sausage and sauerkraut, string beans, salsa and strawberry shortcake. We provided spicy chicken, which is a bit of a thematic stretch, but it was delicious.

Tonight's Peasants Feast was so fun, and it once again proved that everything's better when it's shared.

A Feast at home with friends also fits nicely with the project, as did this day. I worked from home until 4 pm, and the Feast began at 6 pm.

It started right on time, with Logan's friends. They had their time on the porch, they played a brisk game of lap tag. Connor and Jenny arrived. We chatted. They socialized.

Connor fixed the swamp cooler, which has been blowing nothing but hot air lately.

The grown-ups showed up a bit past 6. No rules to the Feast. Different people went on various walks in the dark to assorted places, and in the meantime, the conversation evolved in the shape of comfortable quadrangles.

A hot day gladly changed into a cool night. We flipped on the music and the twinkly lights.

Delicious foods and rich conversation were eagerly shared.

No gas burned, no money spent, again today.

Today was a welcomed, relaxing treat; a day and an evening of tasty combinations.

Last year, we had Peasants Feasts on Thursdays. This year, we decided to move the Feasts to Monday night.

I'm beginning to like Mondays a lot.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 5. Less is so much more.

This morning I got up, somewhat reluctantly, way later than I usually do; around 9ish. When I toddled into the kitchen, I was met by two of my favorite people, who were having coffee and chatting.

They'd spent the night, after having had a robust, interesting evening here, filled with dinner and conversation.

Susan Brown spent the night.

I address her as Susan Brown like many of my friends continue to call me Mary Anderson, as if it's one word.

Susan Brown's super-cool.

We chatted until morning almost became afternoon. Then she took off, and I mowed the lawn, worked in the yard.

I love to mow. For folks like me who appreciate the value of immediate cause and effect, the act of mowing the lawn is great. It's a time when I'm completely in my head, and no one would even think to interrupt me. And mowing the lawn provides immediate results. It's a solitary, functional accomplishment, the mowing.

No one but me was home today, until well into the afternoon.

What else did I do today? And what didn't I do?

I did spend most of the day outside.

I did something I don't do as much as I used to; I read a book and took a nap.

I have so many books I want to read, and you can see what's waiting for me on the table next to my bed.

I opted to re-read The Mists of Avalon. It's just as good as it was when I read it decades ago.

This new sense of actually living in my house is so refreshing. I'm not just spinning here, waiting for the next high-priority distraction.

Speaking of which, Connor and his girlfriend Jenny just arrived. And Logan just let me know he's making empanadas for dinner.

Let the wild rumpus start.


And what didn't I do today?

I didn't spend any money. I still have the 20 bucks I started with on Wednesday.

I didn't drive.

I didn't really feel like going anywhere.

Because here is good.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 4. Never a dull moment.

I could go on and on about how this day's been, but I don't have a lot of time. I'm having friends over for dinner, and they'll be here in about an hour.

So here's a recap.

Dinner with Gigi last night was great. We relaxed on her back porch and chatted over a tasty dinner of fish, rice and spinach. Of course the wine was white.

Then we watched 127 Hours. Nothing bad about watching James Franco for an hour and a half, even if he was in a bit of a pickle.

There are no kids here today. Both boys spent the night with their dad. I love my kids, but it's been so nice having the day to myself.

Before the day got too hot, I walked up to the post office. I bought 100 super-cool vintage bingo cards for 4.99 last week at the Bins, and they sold on ebay yesterday for $52. The buyer paid me right away, so I thought I'd return the favor and mail them right away.

This picture shows just 50 of the cards. I boxed up all 100 and thought long and hard about driving this box up to the post office.

But I decided today was not a driving day. I walked the 1/2 mile with a clumsy, heavy box, which weighed in at 16 pounds, 5 ounces.

The walk home was much more enjoyable.

I've spent the rest of the day here, trying to do a few things around the house that I usually actively avoid. I won't go into detail, but there was never a dull moment. Primarily, my tasks involved washing all manner of things. Clothes, floors, flat surfaces, etc.

Early this afternoon, I figured I needed a break.

I'd have liked to have treated myself to a movie in a cool theater after all the hard labor I put in around the house today. I wanted to see Hangover 2.

Go ahead. Judge me. Everyone has their guilty pleasures, and I happen to enjoy the occasional bromance.

But I didn't want to dip into my $20. And seeing a movie at a theater would have significantly cut into my funds.

So I watched the 1945 movie Mildred Pierce that I got from Netflix the other day.

I've never been a huge fan of Joan Crawford, but admittedly, I hadn't seen many of her movies. The most I knew about her was that she had a general aversion to wire hangers.

Mildred Pierce is such a relatable, stylized, fabulous nugget of noir. And Joan Crawford rocked it. The movie's over 60 years old, and was made at a time when women were portrayed in film as more of a silly accessory than a pillar of strength. It's a great movie on so many levels. If you watch it, I'm sure you'll notice all the cool shadows.

So it seems that watching movies is my outlet lately. Netflix sends them to me as fast as I can watch them, and I'm taking full advantage.

But no movies tonight. Tonight is dinner with friends, and I'm looking forward to it. Logan's not home, so I'll have to figure out how to make a London Broil.

That sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do today.

But I did keep the car in the garage. I actually made a few bucks. My house is cleaner than it was. I saw some great movies. I had a day of contented solitude.

I think I'm finally relaxing into this project.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 3. Give me a shot of People. Make it a double.

I feel less claustrophobic today. I felt less tied to the limits of this project. Today I saw the limits less like they're a punishment. Perhaps I've risen from the murky sea of yesterday's wave of dystopia.

Because I did a bit of driving.

I had to do it. I had to drive.

I cranked up my work computer at dawn's crack, and I got nothin'.

So I did the typical things; I rebooted, tried again, rebooted. I unplugged the router, replugged.

Eventually, I knew I had to go into my job instead of working remotely. So I changed from jeans and a t-shirt to business casual and got to work a bit before 8 am.

Once I was nicely tucked in, I chatted with my coworkers, one of whom had experienced the same problem I'd had earlier this morning. She suggested turning everything off at the source. The power source.

The one thing I didn't do was the one thing that fixed the problem.

But let's look on the bright side. Problem solved. So I headed home mid-day. I could have stayed at work until 5, but I figured I'd spend a lot less time and gas mid-day than I would during rush hour. So I drove home, crawled back into my jeans and worked remotely the rest of the day.

My car's gas gauge did move a bit to the left of F by the time I got home, though.

I drove 32 miles today, back and forth from work.

I'd put nine miles on my car between Tuesday night and this morning. After today's welcomed misadventures, I've driven 41 miles since this project began.

Which is not a bad thing.

Because today I needed a shot of People. It was so nice to see Lois, Lynn and Nicole at work. After yesterday, going to work was a welcomed diversion.

We haven't had anyone over for dinner this week, and I think I've been going through a bit of a withdrawal. Because of the uncharacteristic solitude, our cupboard and fridge haven't seen much of an impact from this project thus far.

Logan's spent his extra time making cookies, potato latkes and of course the tart that was yesterday's breakfast, none of which I even got to sample, other than a slice of tart.

I know we don't have enough fruit. I felt a bit guilty having a banana and and apple today.

Logan's racing through the Diet Coke. I'm convinced he hasn't tempered his consumption in the slightest. So his soda end game is coming soon.

Just as I predicted.

And I still have my $20 walking-around money, somewhere. I think it might be in the pocket of a pair of jeans.

I really haven't thought about spending money since we battened down the hatches on the spending Tuesday afternoon.

Tonight I'll drive nine more miles. I'm going to Gigi's for dinner and a walkies.

Sometimes, like earlier today and this evening, I think a shot of face time with people takes the edge off the dystopia.

But I'd hate to self-diagnose.

It's a too bit early for that.

Because I have the weekend off.

Typically, I spend my weekends off very lusciously going wherever want, untethered by obligation, unthinkingly burning through the decadent triad of gas, money and time.

I think I'll have more of the latter on my hands this weekend. And today, that's perfectly fine.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 2. Going through withdrawal.

Yesterday I was so calm, so convicted.

Today, I went through a bit of a withdrawal.

I assume I'll get used to this, but today, all I wanted to do was to go somewhere, because I didn't have any agenda.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not very good at staying in one place for very long.

And today seemed like a very very long day.

I looked at the time at one point, and I was shocked when I saw that it was only a touch after noon.

It's not as if I didn't do anything today. I woke up to the scent of baking apples. Logan had made a tasty apple tart.

It was delicious.

And the best part was the crunchy edge part.

I took a walk, first thing this morning. I did laundry. I cleaned out part of my garage. I made an inventory list of our stuff. I surveyed my garden, and plucked the blooms off the tops of the arugula. I touched up the flaking paint on my front door.

I watched the tail end of a Nurse Jackie DVD. I watched last night's Daily Show and Colbert Report.

I played a bit of Sally's Spa on my iPhone. That game is way too captivating.

Logan made mashed potatoes for my friend Gigi's girls, who both had their wisdom teeth pulled today. And after having poured $33 of gas into my car on May 31, I decided to burn a bit, and we delivered the tasty taters to Robin and Megan this afternoon.

I drove nine miles today. Very uncharacteristic. It's usually much more.

Like an addict who sweats and fumes through their recovery, I grappled with the idea of doing nothing. Of relaxing.

I don't think I do that enough. I'm not very good at it.

I think I need to look at my need to accomplish stuff. I need to take a closer peek at my attachment to achievement as it relates to getting things done, as opposed to the inherent value of down-time.

I'm not quite there.

I'm working from home tomorrow, from 8 to 5. I intend to take a walk before I'm tethered to my desk for nine hours.

After that, I've made plans with Gigi.

I'm seeing, very gradually (and I don't think I've really seen it yet, fully) that there's a value in not having a plan.

But until I really figure that out, I do feel like I'm going through a bit of a withdrawal. A withdrawal from the need to keep going going going as a measure of my achievement.

It's not easy at this stage of the game; to be conscious of what it means to take myself out of the game for a while.

I felt caged today. A woman with no agenda, who's very accustomed to a full agenda.

I've compelled myself to be conscious of what I take for granted.

Movement. Untethered mobility. Infinite resources.

This withdrawal, despite today's ugly down-sides, may have something hidden deep beneath its murky surface that I need to figure out.

There might be some value that comes of this. The withdrawal.

Today, I'm not completely convinced.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cents and Sensibility, Day 1. The Shock of the New.

It's time to start this project's travelogue. And today, the journey started with an early-morning walk to the post office.

As I was walking, I was thinking about the email I'd received yesterday, letting me know of a tasty-looking estate sale.

Moments later, I remembered I couldn't go. Because I've taken a vow to not spend any money. And it's almost impossible for me to find something at an estate sale that I don't have to have.

So what did I do today, the first day of the Cents and Sensibility project?

There were no bells and whistles to this day, other than the quiet shock of my imposed limitations. I worked for a few hours from home this afternoon, but between the early hour of my walk to when I cranked up my work computer this afternoon, I was on my own.

I'm not very good at staying home all day.

But I did, and it was shockingly relaxing.

I worked in my yard. I finished watching a documentary I started last night (Teenage Paparazzo. Highly recommended.). I watched last night's Daily Show and Colbert Report.

I got a call from my friend Gigi, suggesting we buy a gift for the mom who spearheaded Connor's DI journey. I had to tell her that I couldn't contribute to a gift, because I'd committed myself to this project. But there are other ways to give, and we're going to plan a bit of a party for Jenny. Because she's been amazing.

As for the remainder of the day, I should have gotten all right-brain crazy about providing a comprehensive inventory list of what we have on our shelves, because some people need facts to support an outcome. But I'll do that tomorrow.

Because tomorrow I have the day off from my regular job.

And tomorrow I don't have a whole lot on my docket, aside from creating an inventory list.

Maybe the time that's been created by this project will compel me to think about how I tend to distract myself.

As for today, a minor personal tectonic plate shift took place. I realized the value in not spinning my wheels, not go-go-go-ing whenever the mood strikes.

Kind of out of character.

I know it's early. It's the first day. And despite the fact that I had an abundance of time on my hands today, I didn't do everything I intended to accomplish.

Maybe tomorrow.

As for today, these restrictions don't feel very restrictive. I've imposed myself to simply stop.

I'm not very good at that.

And that realization comes as a shock.