Peasant life

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I read a column in the New York Times by Ann Patchett. If you have never read any of her, treat yourself and put one of her books on your reading list this year. When I read her columns, it’s like chatting with one of my pals. I thoroughly enjoy her style.

She wrote My Year of No Shopping in 2017. I read it then and revisited it over Christmas week 2018. She discusses how she outlined her year of no spending. No clothes, which seemed hard for her, she stopped various other spending but allowed books (although you can visit your local library) and discussed gift giving. She decided to only give books except for her editor who married and thought that a book wasn’t right for that situation. But if someone gave me a book for my wedding, they would be at the top of my list of favourite people. Can you imagine a collection of lovely books to start a library of your own as a newlywed? It sounds divine but that might just be me.

I gave no spending some serious thought in 2017. Then I met my friend. She sets aside several weeks throughout the year to live frugally. She calls it Peasant Week. The biggest change she makes is to not buy groceries for an extended period and uses up all the food in her freezer and pantry. I am guilty of having a well-stocked cupboard and replenish it often. She has a monthly allowance and does not spend over that limit – ever. She has a budget. $xxx for gifts comes off her paycheque monthly along with other items that come up unexpectedly throughout the year. All of this is because she has a goal of retiring at 55. Her house will be paid off and she has some tidy investments so she can live the life she desires. That isn’t saying she doesn’t love every moment of her life now. She is humble and grateful and refuses to do chores on the weekend because those are her play days. That is what she calls them, play days. She will only do what feels fun on those two days and does all her chores after work throughout the week. Her life is lovely.

I did that to some extent only with a different goal in mind. It wasn’t about saving money for me, only at first but that changed over time. I went through a financial crisis and curbed travel spending for three years. (But Tourist, you travelled a lot in the last three years! I did, but I will get to that.) My goal was to live a simple life not complicate it by financial obligations. I have to admit it was hard watching friends travel to Disney when I could not. I unfollowed most acquaintances on facebook because I needed to change my thought patterns of jealousy and envy to appreciation and gratitude. Hard to be grateful for what I have when I am longing for what I don’t have.

Simplify is what I call it. I simplified everything from facebook followers to items in my home.

The first thing I did was join a facebook group that gave things away, didn’t sell them. That was important to me. It wasn’t about the money. It was giving things to people who needed them far more than I did. It was about helping people who are starting out in life. I gave away a dumpster full of things. A side benefit, I don’t miss a thing. I have more to give this year. I want to come home to a minimalist house. I live with three other adults. two of them have a hard time parting with things because they don’t know what to do with it. We are also working on that, so this is a process. I have all the time in the world to remove things, there is no rush. I check the site daily to see if anyone is looking for something when I have it, I give it. Simple. Occasionally I see something I need. Like a crockpot. I never had one before and am grateful for one!

Before the tree comes down this year I am getting out four small boxes to sort. One for my son, he has a collection of Santas for his grown-up tree starter kit. One for my daughter, she has an angel grown-up tree starter kit. Decorations I want to keep for a small adult tree of my own and then a give-a-way pile. I do not need an entire storage room of Christmas decorations. clutter around the house stresses me now. Those will go to a new home or Good-will.

Last summer my daughter went to Disneyland. Her first adult trip without her mom. She had travelled with her school and for work, but this felt different. She stayed on Disney property and understood how much I wanted to do that. She knew how much I love the soaps and creams so she saved them daily and brought home a giant bag full of sample sizes. I have travelled a lot for work and was gifted trips when the hubs retired. I collected some of those fantastic smelling items and brought them home. I enjoy ‘free’ souvenirs. When she returned, I went through my cupboard and discovered several bags of these things. I consolidated all of them and decided I needed to use them up instead of buying any new product. Five months later I am one-third of the way through the bag of beauty products. I haven’t bought anything including toothpaste since August. Toothpaste will run out next month but the soap and shampoo will last me until summer.

I brought this lifestyle into my work-life. We had a Secret Santa exchange. There were three rules, one for each week:

  1. The first gift must be from the dollar store and cannot cost more than $3.
  2. The second gift must be something from your home that you no longer use and can be re-gifted.
  3. The third must be home-made.

Surprisingly, everyone participated. People received amazing things. Re-gifting was magical. It felt like we did more with less. This was a huge validation for me. I did the same thing with items in our warehouse. I used up what we had before we bought new. That is important to the bottom line, but more importantly to the environment.

As I think about 2019, I know I don’t need any new clothes. I would like new boots, but mine are fine and not worn out yet. I had a hole in my puffer jacket but taped it with black electrical tape and now its fine for at least another winter so it will take me through until 2020 and I will reassess then.

I have more sheets and towels than I know what to do with, so I will sort through those and put them in the give-away pile. I went through appliances and utensils and gave them to my nephew, but I think I can do better. My pantry is the real challenge for me. I will work my way through the freezer and see what I can do with those items. I want to start a standing garden so I can easily harvest my own food. I think that will be my project for this year. I will focus on food.

Back to the “but you travelled extensively Tourist, what gives? I thought you didn’t want to spend money on travel?” Truth and I didn’t spend money on travel – sort-of.

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My hubs was given a lovely retirement gift of travel. Boom, that was how I travelled. I have a new job that lets me travel across Alberta. Boom, I saw parts of the province I had never been to before. On my down time while away for work, I would explore the towns and areas. Alberta’s Coulees are gorgeous. Prairies are beautiful. I learned that appreciating your own backyard has significant benefits and is just as beautiful and wonderful as exploring towns and villages in Europe, Australia or the US. People travel far and wide to come here. I live three hours from a world-class destination. I am lucky. I get to see Northern Lights regularly – as in ALL THE DAMN TIME. Very few people will ever see those in their lifetime. Grandpa was right, Canada is awesome.

2018 taught me about appreciation. The more I appreciated what I had, the more I received. It was crazy but true. People gave me stuff for being kind. I won things like small lottery wins, books, dinner out and movie tickets.  I learned joy doesn’t come from things, it comes from experience. Help those who need it. Don’t put a price tag on things, just give it away because you can. You will receive more in ways you never thought possible.

Abundance is a gift.

Happy New Year, may 2019 be abundant for you.

I Figured Out How to Have The Best Day

I spent my day doing things I really like to do. More importantly, I have somehow changed and now allow myself to really enjoy things I do. This may sound weird to many of you. For some people it is just second nature to find fun things and enjoy them, looking forward to the next fun thing to do. I must have been like this at some point in my life. I can’t recall that feeling at the moment, but I am sure it existed. I know I get extreme pleasure from planning vacations. I cannot put all my eggs in a travel basket. I am not that girl who can afford vacations 3 times a year. Impossible. I need to feed, clothe and provide shelter for the offspring (unless they plan to run off and join the circus – clearly I just read Water for Elephants and Picky Niki). I cannot depend on planning travel to be my joy forever. I need to find other things that do it for me. Laughing with my best friend brings me joy as well. But we can’t spend every waking moment together, it’s just not possible. Nor is spending endless hours on the phone. I’d like to…but my BFF has a life, I need one too.

Way back in August 2010, you may recall (or not if you just recently started reading my Tourist Adventures) I was unhappy and was determined to change things. There is no point blaming others. There comes a point in everyone’s life where you have to pull up your boot straps and realize it is YOU to blame for the life you lead. Sure circumstance has not been kind, but it taught you a pile of stuff that will be useful, you just need to figure out where to put the useful stuff! Anyways… since that day (August 15, 2010) I have made a ton of changes to my life. Some things are fantastic (lifestyle change in terms of healthy eating and exercise) and some pretty terrible things I tried (reading Science Fiction – that genre is just NOT FOR ME). I am getting a pretty good sense of what brings me joy. Now here is the kicker…

I don’t let myself feel joy.

I know…crazy right? It’s not that I don’t think I deserve it, I think all souls deserve to feel happiness. It’s not that I can’t find things that bring me joy, I just need to look into my Offsprings eyes and I know it’s there. It goes deeper than that.

This is tied to my food addiction. Emotional eating 101. I have talked at length about this to my Sports Dietician. She suggested I read Wired for Joy by Laurel Mellin. So am I. It is very compelling because it absolutely applies to me. It talks about things that I have been trying to do on my own for the last year. I plan to talk about this at length over on my Mo blog, but lets just say, finding joy that is not related to stress is the key. I apparently don’t handle stress as well as I thought I did. It sucks me into a deep dark cavern that eradicates all joy from my life. The daily drudgery of routine becomes the focus to get through my life.

Hold the phone….

Routine has become the medium I use to get through my life. I don’t know about you, but the LAST THING I want to do is just get through my life. I don’t want to fast forward to the end. There was a time where I thought dead sounded relaxing. Are you kidding me? I need to find relaxing in my daily doings not at the point of dead.

So Edmonton Tourist, how are you going about this?

Well… it’s hard.

I want to be all things to all people. Ha… That just creates stress and causes all kinds of problems. I have decided I will pick a cause or two, and help where I can. Keep the mouth closed and let others figure out their journey. Sometimes it is appropriate to speak up and sometimes it is not. I am learning the difference between the two.

I want to make a meaningful difference in the world. No I am not that Barbie in the bathing suit with the Miss Canada sash saying things like “I want world peace and to end hunger.” Sure those are nice things. One person can’t do it on their own. I am all for cleaning up your own back yard before tackling the worlds problems. I choose to do that in my career, with the couple of charities I support both through time and money, and I tried to do that through friendship. Sometimes all 3 overlap and that is great. Often it is just two things that do or I focus on a single project. Yes this brings me joy. I even let myself feel it sometimes instead of focusing on the stressful part of it. My Dad says ‘Rob, you have to just let it go, you can’t save the world.” True, but Daaaaaaaaaad its so haaaaaaaaaard!

Another thing I do is exercise. Ha… a year a go it was a dirty word or cuss word even… I now love it, miss it when I am not doing it and plan activities and goals that are fitness related. I may not have the body of a fitness freak…but it is getting there! I participated in a Vata Dosha workshop today. A year ago yoga was hard a difficult. after a year of regular practice I felt joy in doing difficult poses. I felt invigorated by the strain my muscles felt, I felt peaceful during shavasana – corpse pose. This was a moment I was present for. I loved it. I felt joy.

I realized my intention – transformation of ego (worded differently in my head but you get the idea) was very different from an intention I used a year ago… Love Self. I have come a long way!

The other thing I am doing to alleviate stress and feel more joy is Be Open to new things. I always thought I was, but I was kidding myself. The greatest gift I have given me has been the gift of YES. I say yes way more than I say no. I went to this Vata Dosha (come to the next one, it was fabulous!) because I said yes. Part of the event was a dinner afterwards. It was a Malaysian Fusion Vegan (gluten free option too) let me just say….It was a delight to my senses! I loved it! The best part? No it wasn’t the Chocolate Gelato with Saigon Cinnamon, it was my dinner companion. I went alone. I met people because the world is an incestuous playground and I knew people who knew people. The man I sat beside captured my interest and we chatted all evening. We talked about fitness, weight-loss, culinary delights, renovations, childhood and trying new things. While others were engaged with TV conversation, who watched this or that, my dinner companion and I talked about living. Realizing this THRILLED ME! I have become a person who LIVES her life! If I am living my life, then I am not using routine as a means to get to the end of my life anymore! This news brings me JOY. Maybe now that I realize this, I can let myself feel joy and happiness much more frequently. I hope so because it is a tremendous feeling that I could easily become addicted to.

As I left, my new friend (who could EASILY be my grandson) asked me if I was coming to the next one… I said I was. I was rewarded with a big smile because he said it was excellent meeting me. It was excellent meeting him too.

Thank you Universe for showing me YES can lead to Joy and eating had nothing to do with it.