Sunday, November 30, 2008
I just realized that I wrote about Hawaii in my last post, but I haven't said anything about it here! It doesn't exactly fit in with my Money Challenge this month, but oh well. I'm GOING TO HAWAII!!!
I'm going at the best time of the year (the first week of February) and I'm going with some of my favorite people (my two sisters and one of our best friends from Camp).
I seriously can't wait.
Oh yeah - we'll be staying at the WAILEA BEACH RESORT AND SPA. Apparently doctors prefer to hold their conferences at five-star resorts in tropical locations. Fine by me! So glad my sister is letting us tag along!
On January 30-February 8, 2009, I can be found at any one of the five pools between the hours of 10am-4pm (if I had to guess, I'd say that I'll be choosing this one). I'll probably take in a sunset or two from one of the oceanfront lawns, as well.
If you have any good ideas of what we should do while on Maui for nine days (OH YES MA'AM I CANNOT WAIT!!), please let me know!
Actually, I don't know that I technically "saved" a ton, BUT I spent a WHOLE LOT LESS than I did in October. And September, and August, and July.....
I've been keeping a detailed budget for years now, so when I saw how much less I spent in November compared to October, I thought that October maybe wasn't the best month to compare with, since I had so bought so many gifts and some new clothes (which I don't buy that often). So I took a look back the months before that as well. Turns out I have a chronic spending problem.
For my challenge I totaled up what I spent in the following categories: food, clothing, gifts, entertainment, home, toiletries, exercise, travel, and gas. Not counting the ticket I bought to Hawaii, my total in November came to $368. I was REALLY surprised it was that high, considering I was making so many efforts to save money. Well, it turns out this total was literally a drop in the bucket compared to previous months. In October, the total in those same categories was $1577! Like I mentioned, I thought that was unusually high, so I looked to the months before that. September was $1116; August $1015; July $1145. So it seems like these totals are more of a trend for me, but still - they are MUCH higher than $368!
I can hardly believe it. Just by thinking twice about purchases, staying away from Target, and eating at home a few more times than eating out, I really cut down on my spending. I absolutely needed to stop my crazy spending and I hope that I've set a new standard for myself. December will be interesting with Christmas, but I am very glad I put the time and effort into this Money Challenge during November.
Lesson learned. I like to spend money. But I don't need to. As much....
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I can't remember the last time I was in my hometown. I used to go there a lot when I worked "up north" - mostly because my parents still lived there. Now my parents have moved away, and any time I spend north, I spend at my cabin. I just realized right now that the last time I was there was for Mother's Day. That's a really long stretch for me. And it made this weekend all the more sweet to be "home".
I cried myself to sleep last night because I felt so loved. I was wondering where all my emotion was coming from when it dawned on me that I don't have people expressing their love for me so openly as I did this weekend on a regular basis. I think that's partly due to being single where I don't have a spouse to be deeply affectionate with (although I'm sure there are married people who also are in my same situation, but that is sad for other reasons). I do have friends in my life who I am very appreciative of, as I assume they are appreciative of me, but we don't always express that to each other regularly other than on birthdays and holidays - and sometimes not even then.
But it was impressed upon me this weekend how well I am loved, and I am so thankful for that reminder. Apparently I needed it more than I thought I did. So I cried because I am so happy to have this kind of love in my life (of which I am about to tell you), but so sad that I don't have it, or something like it, everyday.
I always tell people that I have four Moms. And not in the annoying, nagging way - in the really great, love you lots way. There's my Mom, of course, and then there are two of my aunts who treat me like a daughter in the way that they would do anything for me and they always buy me lots of stuff. And my Mom's best friend has always been, and will always be, a part of my life in a way that it feels like she's family.
And this weekend I was reminded of even more people in my life who love me unconditionally. I stopped over at my Mom's best friend's house while they (relatives and old college friends) were doing their cookie-making-marathon. We laughed and cried as we told stories and caught up. Throughout our conversations they were reminded of gifts they had bought for me over the last few months - "Oh that reminds me of these dishes that I got to match your kitchen...."; "Oh I made extra pecans for you because I know you like them so much..."; Oh I remembered how you are throwing so many showers lately, so why don't you just have my cupcake stand...". I love these women lots, and they love me lots. It was such a nice reminder. I left with a few gifts and more advice than I know what to do with.
Later today my aunt showed up with a sign I had mentioned I saw (but didn't buy because I am saving money) that would fit nicely at the cabin. I had only mentioned it in passing and never thought about it again, but she went and searched it out to buy for me because I am "so sweet". (Now you are all convinced that I have everyone in my hometown totally fooled...) She proceeded to insist that I also take some money from her because I helped her work some this weekend. I insisted that I was working for free, but I found a check in my purse tonight anyway.
I just loved catching up with so many people who have known me so well for 26 years, but are eager to see and hear how I have changed and grown since I saw them last. I am eager to hear about what is going on in their lives as well. And to make new memories with them. And to talk about old memories. I know they are thinking about and praying for me even when I haven't seen them for a long time. It is such a sweet reminder.
I know that leaving my hometown after this great weekend will make my life in the cities feel.....kinda.....empty, but I am motivated to show more people how much I care for them. I hope you are too. I think we probably don't know how much it means to someone when we do.
Friday, November 28, 2008
For Christmas one year, my former employer took us to see the show “How to Speak Minnesotan” at a local playhouse. Of course the play talked about “you betcha”, ending sentences with “then”, our passive-aggressive and indirect nature, and how things get “froze up”. They also mentioned “come here once”, “uff dah”, “ya, ya, ya”, and talking about the weather.
The phrase that I’ve run into the last week a lot is “that’s different”.
Now, “that’s different” can be a simple statement of fact. Something is, indeed, different. Like the way my new car can make call just by pushing a button and speaking through the rear-view mirror. Different. And AWESOME.
Also, “that’s different” can be a way to say you disapprove, or that you have an opinion - but aren’t willing to give it. I ran into “that’s different” a lot this week as I wore a new pair of glasses that I bought (for $10 – my one “fun purchase for me” of the month). I don’t technically wear glasses, so yes, they are fake. And I got some people who told me they loved them, some people who said they did not, and a lot of “that’s different”.
I’m not sure how to interpret all the “that’s different” – it could be just that the glasses actually are different (which they are), that they are interesting (not sure about that), or that someone disapproves. Whichever way it is, I especially like that the glasses give me an entirely new look, so they are keepers in my book. I’ll wear them less often than I don’t wear them, but they are a nice change of pace.
And I needed a change of pace.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
- Dad = cancer free! (The bone marrow test came back yesterday, and even that showed NO CANCER! Amazing!)
- My church. Hard to believe that I've only been a member for a year. I feel very "hemmed in" and cared for. It's great. Plus the teaching has really pushed me forward in my spiritual maturity.
- My family
- Good friends
- Extended (and not-actually-family-but-they-might-as-well-be) family
- Plenty of needs met above and beyond.....
And my last point brings me to this: I saw this video today and put it together that my sister met the guy who made this video on her way to Africa this fall. Please watch it! Especially if you are headed to the mall tomorrow...
It's astounding, isn't it? Especially since I have been trying to be more frugal, I've realized how much I spend unnecessarily. I usually don't like being convicted by videos about how I'm such a terrible consumer, but every once in awhile I need that reminder, especially heading into the next month. Plus, it's a pretty cool, well-done video. Their website is Advent Conspiracy.
And my final Thanksgiving thought. This card makes me laugh my head off every year. Not sure why, but I think it is absolutely hilarious!
So, Happy Thanksgiving! I am so enjoying the time with family, the food, and time away from work!
P.S. I figured out how to post videos from YouTube! Aren't you proud?!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Black Hills Gold from Grand Old Creamery.
It is vanilla with carmel, oreo chunks, and pecans.
My boss was with me this week, so I took full advantage of her buying me treats. I simply LOVE Caribou but I haven't had any this month with my money challenge (I usually only treat myself to it on Sundays anyway - I learned how expensive that habit can get long ago). So each morning she was riding with me, we met at Caribou and I got the biggest drink I could handle. Ugh, I just love it.
On our last day together she said she was craving ice cream, so we went to the Grand Old Creamery. I decided to try a new flavor and it was SO AMAZING. I even bought a pint of it with the little money I have left for food this month, it was that good.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There it is - a white 2009 Jeep Patriot.
I finally ordered a car that isn't red. I think I will like the white. When I picked it up it had 19 miles on it, and it has heated leather seats. I also love that I get free satellite radio for one year. The only thing that gets to me a bit is the new car smell. I've never had leather interior before, but I think it amplifies the smell and leaves me with a mild headache. But trust me, I can deal.
Especially since I did my detailed budget for my financial class, I am reminded how extremely thankful I am that my work gives me a car (a brand new one!) for free, and also pays the insurance, repairs, oil changes, etc. What a blessing! I only pay for gas on weekends. Awesome.
In other car news: This month marks THREE YEARS since I've gotten a speeding ticket (knock on wood)! That is HARD TO BELIEVE. There was a time in my life where I (completely legitimately) feared my license would be revoked and I would lose the awesome job that gives me (nearly) free transportation. But alas, my foot is not made of lead after all, and I've embraced the safety and freedom that comes with abiding by traffic laws (almost all of the time).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Take 4 minutes to watch this.
(Sorry, I don't know how to post YouTube videos yet. I shall try to learn by week's end.)
I once had a boss who said that his favorite thing about me was my "ability to get really excited about very ordinary things". I can see how that is true in some ways, but I hope to live up to that statement even more and be amazed by the many things that I take for granted.
And not just to learn to be more thankful and happy, but also more full of joy. And not just joy about "stuff" and "things", but real joy.
HT: Vitamin Z
Monday, November 17, 2008
Then last year I was put into a new role and had to get used to not being so busy. I went from working all the time and doing nothing else to working like a normal person and not having anything else to do. So I started looking for things to do. I got more involved at church and I found a basketball league. That was a good amount of things to do and it left time for spontaneous fun with friends.
Over this summer I found myself getting a little bored (church commitments go down and basketball was on break). So I prepared for fall by signing up for TOO MUCH! I looked forward to basketball, and decided to also sign up for tennis. I signed up for an intense Bible study. I looked forward to being on the Welcome Ministry at church, but was also still needed for Children’s Ministry (and just recently I’ve been asked to help at the youth meetings). Church also started a financial class. Add in small group meetings, a few extra work meetings here and there, babysitting now and then, and I am spent!
This past weekend I had only two plans: a movie with friends and the youth meeting at church on Saturday night. I had a chance to sleep in on Saturday, enjoy coffee and a magazine in bed, get my entire “urgent to do list” (along with some of my “non-urgent to do list”) done, clean the house, go to the grocery store, watch the Gophers, and head off to the meeting. It was a WONDERFUL day! When I slow down like that, I realize what being over committed does to me. It makes me….snippy. And cranky. It makes me rushed. The first thing to go is exercising. The next thing to go is devotional time. It’s not good.
I’m glad I had the weekend to assess things. I don’t think at this point that I need to drop anything I’m currently doing (though it will be amazing to have my Wednesdays back when the financial class is done), but I do need to prepare for the Holiday season. Hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving. Just like everyone else, my schedule gets busier this time of year. So I’ve committed to myself that I’m going to need to say “no” (GASP!) to some things this year, because I am at my max level of being busy.
The trouble is that I really WANT to do it all, and I really ENJOY doing it all! But strange as it seems to those who see me at all these activities, I am an introvert (GASP AGAIN)! It’s true. My family and most people who have lived with me for any amount of time can tell you this. I am a very OUTGOING introvert, but I definitely don’t get charged up by being around people – I get EXHAUSTED! I need time to myself to recharge my battery (my older sister has no idea what this is like – she is what we call an outgoing extrovert. If you think I am the life of the party – you should meet her!).
My mom and a good friend of hers used to say that the Devil just loves how busy we are. And I think there is truth to that. Even if you are only busy with ministry “things” – you are nonetheless busy and sin starts to creep in when you get tired, or you let your guard down at all, or you skip your quiet times. So we’ll see how the next six weeks go, but I’m glad I realized that I will need to use the “no” word more often before I got ahead of myself…..again.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
- I have spent more than I thought I would have at this point. Most of it is on food ($82 already this month!). But I know of many, many (many) times that I have spent less (or none at all) in situations where I wouldn't usually think it through. So if nothing else, this challenge is making me much more aware and causing me to at least pause.
- Even though I've spent $82 on food, I think I can stay under $100 for the month (most of that money was grocery shopping which I won't need to do again until December). $25 a week for food is reasonable for me when you throw in eating out here and there (which I had to do on our weekend up north).
- I wanted to stay away from buying things I don't need just because it seems like a really good deal, or because it creates some great coupon. For instance, there was a sale on Coke products at CVS where buying four 12 packs created a coupon for $4 (maybe $6). I could definitely use the coupon, and I do drink pop, but I think four 12 packs would last me until next summer! I don't have the room to keep something like that in my kitchen and I just don't need something like pop sitting around. There were other circumstances like this, but I think I've done a pretty good job of staying away from things I don't really need, just to save on something else.
- I didn't want to TOTALLY restrict myself and have absolutely no fun this month just because I was trying to save money. The nature of many of my friendships puts me in positions where I spend money - eating out mostly. So far this month I've been on a trip up north, gotten a massage at the Quilt Retreat, went to dinner and a movie on Saturday, and still only spent $50 on entertainment and gas combined. Pretty reasonable, considering the fact that I've been on the go. I've also made some less expensive entertainment choices (like watching movies online instead of renting) this month, which has helped.
- I've saved the most in toiletries. I've only spent $3 and I've forced myself to be creative with what I have when I've run out of hairspray, mousse, and face wash (although I did break out this weekend....time to go buy that face wash after all - so much for being frugal).
I think that's it for the halfway point. Two more weeks.....
Friday, November 14, 2008
We read about Pierre chasing the robber. We read about the sly fox who outsmarts the crow. We read about bunnies, and colors, and birds, and shapes.
But my favorite story was the one about Mister Mouse.
You see, Mister Mouse was lonely. Then one day he got a letter from Mistress Mouse. She was lonely too, and wanted him to come to her house. Even though he had no idea where Mistress Mouse lived, he set out to find her. Along the way he ran into Mister Cat, Mrs. Hen, and Mister Lion, but he eventually found Mistress Mouse. And they got married – on the spot! They went on picnics and car rides and were never lonely again!
What a great story. I just had no idea that is how it all worked.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter to write.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I finished the binding on this next quilt that I made for my sister who is a doctor. You can't see it well, but there are band-aids and stuff on it.
I also finished the binding on a quilt I made for my other sister who is a nurse. Again, it is hard to see, but the panels on this one are of sassy nurses.
The next quilt is my all-time-favorite-that-I've-ever-made. I started to work on the binding this weekend.
This last quilt I barely started last year, but really hadn't gotten that far. I did quite a bit on it this weekend, but I was being really sloppy. It still needs all the "b"s: borders, batting, backing, and binding.
You can't tell from the picture, but that is definitely what I call a "quilt with character". There are a ton of mistakes (it for sure would never win a ribbon at the Fair)! But I still think it looks pretty good from a distance, so I'm okay with it. I really got a lot done this weekend amidst all my chatting.
So.....would it be odd to write about quilting and football in the same post? Because I'm about to.
I have diverse interests, to say the least.
We finished off our weekend by going to the Vikings/Packers game at the dome. And the Vikes WON! In thrilling fashion, nonetheless. The Packers could have won the game with a field goal with less than 30 seconds left in the game, but they missed! The dome was SO LOUD! It was a very fun game to watch - you hardly ever see a safety in a game, and there were two yesterday. Crazy. We hadn't beaten the Packers in the last five meetings, so it was definitely time to do so. Mom, Dad, my sisters, my aunt and I all went, and we really had a great time.
I am exhausted, but the weekend was more than worth it!
Sunday, November 9, 2008
One of my favorite songs at this time of year is Real Good Storm by Peter Mayer.
The lyrics are so great. I LOVE winter days where you are stuck inside and forced to spend the whole day in your pajamas playing board games, reading books, watching DVDs, and then ending the day with a romp in the fresh snow followed with a hot cup of cocoa.
I say "Stir it up, Lord! Send us a real good storm!"
Here are the lyrics:
Friday, November 7, 2008
You'd be right if you said that not all of them are worth following, so I really only skim most of them. Don't worry, I really don't think I have an official "problem". I do try to limit my time and not become obsessive.
So anyway. If you also follow blogs, you probably use something like Bloglines or Google Reader. I wanted to tell you that I made the switch this week from Bloglines to Google Reader and I am LOVING it. Here are the top reasons I like Google Reader over Bloglines:
- Google Reader loads faster. Sometimes Bloglines wouldn't import new posts for a LONG time. Google Reader gets them there in minutes.
- In my opinion, the format of Google Reader is more aesthetically pleasing.
- You can see previews of all the new posts on your home page of Google Reader
- Not only can you keep posts that you have read as unread, you can star items and keep all your favorite posts in one place, no matter what site it was from.
- Overall I have found that Google Reader is more user friendly. I am not a computer whiz, so I know there is much more I can do with Google Reader, but I was able to pick up on basic (and very useful) features very easily.
If you have no idea what I am talking about and would like to know more, check out this informative post.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Dad called this morning to say that his PET scan results came back with great news – the intermediate level of his cancer is GONE!
Tearing up just thinking about it.
The last five months have dragged on and on. I can hardly believe that Dad has reached this point. I wondered when it would come and how it would feel.
Well, it feels AWESOME!
Cancer sends you on and emotional roller coaster, to say the least.
I’ll never forget the moment Dad called (Friday, May 30) to say that his doctor was fairly certain he had cancer. More tests were needed, but cancer was the only thing the doctor thought would turn up. I pulled off to the side of Highway 52 and screamed and cried.
The next few weeks were hard – a lot of waiting and praying and crying.
When you first find out about cancer, it feels overwhelming. It feels terminal – even if it isn’t. It feels like the world stops spinning. When it feels like the world didn’t stop spinning, you wished it would. You want things to do – anything – just to keep busy. You want nothing to do – nothing at all – just so you can lie in bed and cry. I knew in my mind that hope was there – hope in Christ – but my heart didn’t always feel that.
Today feels like an amazing relief. I was just telling a friend a few days ago that I had gotten to the point where thinking about Dad’s cancer doesn’t “dominate” me anymore. I still think about it daily and pray about it a lot, but it used to feel all consuming. I had moved past that point to a point where it felt more manageable. I didn’t feel like I was grieving anymore, like I had felt at the beginning. Now I feel like it is time to celebrate!
Of course, with cancer, there is a caveat. Dad has more tests next week for his bone marrow, where he had a low grade form of his cancer. He may need radiation, too, but those things are greatly overshadowed by the great news from the PET scan.
I’ve learned a lot in five months: about cancer, about myself, about my family, about my friends, and about my God. I can’t really put much of it into words because….it’s all….messy. So that means I’m still learning about all of it. And I always will be, I hope.
But if I could stop learning about cancer, that would be just fine with me!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Starbucks and Ben and Jerry's were giving out free coffee and free ice cream to voters today. There was a LONG line for ice cream, but I LOVE ICE CREAM, so I stood in line to get my Sweat Cream and Cookies. YUM.
Apparently I didn't actually have to vote to get the freebies, though. According to law, there can be no monetary incentive for someone to vote, including getting free food items. I guess it prevents partisan groups from bribing people to vote with food and other goodies. It doesn't really matter to me. I was going to vote either way, but the free ice cream was an added treat for the day.
So I hope you all went out and voted! And possibly enjoyed some treats as well. I think I will head over to watch the returns with the most politically active couple I know. Should be an interesting evening. Even if the Presidential election is decided early on, the Senate race in MN might go down to the wire.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
November is a good month to do the challenge, seeing as I won't need to buy any clothes due to the fact that I practically bought an entire new wardrobe in October (not really, but close. Oops). Also, I imagine that December will see me spending all kinds of money on gifts, so I am going to try to abstain from gift-buying this month (plus, most of my friends are done gestating, so I don't anticipate spending $200 on baby gifts like I did in October).
I haven't been to the grocery store in over three weeks, so I literally have no food in the cupboards. In other words, I will be spending a little money on food this week. To make up for stocking the shelves, I am going to avoid eating out as much as I can. I also am going to take advantage of my new CVS card where I can shop for some food items and other everyday "stuff". If you don't know about how to save money at CVS, read this very informative post that I discovered thanks to Becca.
I got myself a card and I've already started saving. I bought Vitamin D, which was the extra-special-coupon-creator-deal-of-the-month in October (and ironically, the exact vitamin that a doctor told me might help my sleeping problem). Then I got two boxes of my favorite cereal for buy one, get one free. Using the coupons I earned with those purchases, I got milk and coffee for a total of $3 (normally $7.50)!
Sorry to bore with my grocery list! I do have more to buy, but I need to go to an actual grocery store for the rest.
But you get the idea. Trying to be frugal this month. I really don't need a lot of what I think I need. Not that it will be easy. I only really decided to do this on Saturday and - sure enough - I saw a friend at church today with the CUTEST top from my FAVORITE store and she said it is on MAJOR SALE. Ugh. Normally I would run out and buy it, but I don't really need it. Really.
So, I'll keep you updated (not that anyone is all that interested...more for my own accountability, I suppose). BUT if you see me in a REALLY cute new denim top with short sleeves and buttons and snaps and buckles and total CUTENESS.....don't give me "the look".
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I dried them (easiest way: put them all in the microwave between two paper towels and nuke them for about a minute, or until nice and crispy) and made a little center piece for the dining room table. I love fall and the colors, and the season never seems to last long enough! I hadn't been on a walk in a long time, so I was glad to get out to enjoy the glorious day and wonderful colors!
Another way our neighborhood has gotten more colorful is through some new murals on a model train museum across the street. The museum used to have a white exterior which would be graffitied now and then, but now the neighborhood association came together to improve the building with some train murals. Residents were given sketches to paint and the finished projects were hung last week, after the building was painted an awesome green. Here is the mural my roommate painted:
Pretty awesome, huh!?!
Another pic of the workers hanging the murals:
The building looks really great. Just add it to the list of little things I love about where I live!