Long Weekend

A three day weekend is like hitting a lottery that gives you extra free time. I like to use long weekends for adventuring but this wasn’t the case for this weekend celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m mostly staying home this No Spend Month. Plus, thanks to Covid, there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do once you get there.

Consequently, I spent Friday night and yesterday fussing that I was wasting time. After all, when you work all week, free days feel like a luxury that shouldn’t be squandered.

Yesterday, I walked at a local park and made an effort to look for different things to photograph. Like this.

And this.

So far this weekend I have made some really good vegan mac and cheese and watched the movie Jo Jo Rabbit, the wonderful documentary Streetlight Harmonies and a few episodes of I Love Lucy. I played with the cat, read some, wrote a letter on nice stationary, got a little rest and did some organizing.

Friends, my fridge is both clean and organized.

It was a nice balance of fun and work, active and lazy. When I think about it that way- it all seems like a good use of my time. Enjoy this day, friends.

The Lost Art Of Listening And Comprehension

Every job description requires effective communication skills with a focus on how you communicate to others. You know what they don’t specifically request?

Good listening and comprehension skills. This is odd to me as communication has no use without someone able to receive and understand the information.

Ours is a nation of people who know all too well how to express an opinion but fail miserably at listening to others. Analytical and comprehension skills are not valued at all. Facts are minor details that get in the way of how we feel.

Listening and understanding has truly become a lost art.

My degree is in English and I had enough history credits to amount to a minor. My entire college career centered on core skills – research, reading, analysis and writing.

Reading and regurgitation was not an option. Comprehension was key. No one cared how I felt.

One professor liked to give us a research problem and dump us at the library to solve it in two hours or less. This was in the early days of the internet in colleges but computers were off limits in this class and there were no smart phones. We had to figure it out with books and microfilm and our own wit.

I recall one assignment involving the above painting. Now I know that it’s Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.

The professor handed us an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper with this image on it and said “figure out what this is, where it came from, what it means and why I want you to know about it. By the end of class.”

I really hated that class but it gave me mad research skills.

My short years working for a newspaper taught me other skills. I learned that listening isn’t just about hearing what someone says. It’s just as important to notice what they don’t say.

It’s also important to realize that the person in front of you has a side of the story. But so does the person next to them and the person next to them. We like to say there are two sides to every story but few situations in this world are so cut and dry.

The true test is if you are willing to seek out and listen to those different sides or if you’re only interested in the one that supports your own notions.

If you fail at this test, you’re more likely to be dismissive of people who do not support your own world view.

Watching news unfold in the age of the internet is both fascinating and frustrating, especially when the news is so complex as it has been lately.

For example, the events at the Capitol building on January 6 didn’t look so horrific when the footage was captured from a safe distance outside. I’m guessing a lot of people thought it didn’t look so bad from that perspective as it was reported on live tv that afternoon.

The footage from inside the building, captured by the media and criminals alike, shows a completely different event. Take a 10,000 foot view of the days surrounding that event and it is framed in a completely different way than originally reported because new and terrifying information becomes available each day.

The ability to keep up with unfolding news and to fit different perspectives in with the original narrative is a skill we all need but few seem to possess.

I sometimes struggle to form quick opinions about complex situations because I want as much accurate information as possible. Yet I have witnessed people form complete opinions based on a headline or the first few lines of a single story.

This clearly is not a world where I fit in or belong. Nor do I wish to.

What’s the answer? I do not know but suspect it’s far more complex that any of us would expect. I’ll have to research it and get back with you.

No Spend Month Update

When you decide to do a No Spend Challenge, the first thing you’ll notice is that everyone is trying to sell you something.

There’s traditional advertising like tv, mail, Facebook and email. Then there’s the person you haven’t seen since high school trying to guilt you into buying bags and soap and plastic containers from multi billion dollar companies.

It’s kind of discouraging the first time you realize your value to the world is as a consumer and nothing more.

When I check email each day, I try to unsubscribe to as much as I can but there are some marketing emails that I find useful when I am spending and don’t want to part with in the future. I just delete these without reading them so I’m not tempted today but can still get the coupons later.

The next thing you’ll notice is how much marketing is designed to make you unhappy with your life. Women’s magazines are enemy number one. They are filled with stories that are glorified advertising telling you about the cream that will lift your eyes, the jacket that will make you look taller and thinner, and the new furniture line that will make your home feel like a spa.

How’s your relationship? Shouldn’t you lose weight? Here’s a complicated recipe to make you feel completely inadequate in the kitchen. Better yet, let’s talk about expensive meal subscription boxes to cater to your gluten free, vegan, paleo or fruititarian lifestyle!

For most, the goal of a no spend month is to save money. That’s a great reason to start. In fact, that’s why I started doing this a few years ago. However, I quickly realized that there is a greater purpose to the exercise.

As the days turn into weeks, I find myself growing more satisfied with what I have and even a little skeptical of most purchases.

THIS is why I do the no spend challenge now. The saved money is nice but the deep sense of satisfaction is the true reward. With satisfaction comes gratitude and a sense of peace that there’s not much you can buy that will make you happier than you are right now.

After all, will that expensive cream really make you look younger?

It’s ok to want things. I like my home to be cozy, neat and comfortable. I want it to look pretty. There are things that I would like to have but few things that will elevate my feelings of happiness beyond where I am now.

When I have a large chunk of time at home, I tend to put down my phone more and gravitate toward projects – cleaning out a drawer or closet can’t be done while reading news. You’re less apt to kill time on Facebook when you’re engaged with something that keeps your hands and mind busy.

I tend to cook more and to use up those odds and ends that somehow accumulate in the freezer and pantry. The creation above is basically my favorite meal of all time – a baked potato topped with scrambled eggs and leftover vegetables that are lightly sautéed. Hey! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It’s tasty and it uses up odds and ends.

But I digress. The point is that these changes in habits make an enormous difference and help you to appreciate that it is not just about the money.

In case you are wondering, it’s day thirteen and I have paid bills but have bought nothing else. I do need a new phone case but that is a necessity to protect my very expensive iPhone from – well, from me because I am clumsy. That needs to happen soon as this one is no longer water proof.

Are you doing a no spend month? Give me an update!

The New Chair

A comfy reading chair has been on my wish list for some time. I have looked at many in stores and online, unable to find exactly what I wanted for well over a year.

There was one in an antique store, too big to fit in the Nerd Mobile. Then there was a wingback chair I tried on for size at IKEA in Centennial, Colorado. That one was SO comfy, in my budget and in stock at their location near Cincinnati but I wasn’t sure it would fit in the car either. Their shipping fees were cost prohibitive.

Most stores around here cater to the recliner crowd and that’s not what I wanted so I turned my eye to the endless parade of comfy chairs available online.

I had studied reviews, prices and chair designs so much that my social media feed advertising consisted almost exclusively of chair ads. Plus, deciphering online reviews is a true art. Spoiler alert – they’re next to useless.

Long story short. I was starting to feel like the loss of my sanity was on the horizon.

Ironic, isn’t it? The thing that I was obsessing over was the thing I needed to help me relax.

That’s why it came as a surprise that I made a quick Christmas Day decision to use a monetary gift from my parents to order a chair right then and there.

I spent the next several days obsessing over whether or not I would like the thing, tracking its progress from a warehouse in Georgia to Ohio where Fed Ex seemed to play some weird game of hot potato, passing it back and forth between the same two facilities here.

By the time the Fed Ex guy deposited it on my porch Monday I was certain that it would either be damaged or that I would hate the darn thing.

But all’s well that ends well. It’s pristine, pretty and comfortable.

There are few purchases these days that I believe will truly enhance my life. This is one of them as the vegan leather is soft as silk, providing a comfy spot to sit and read or watch tv. It’s also pretty and makes me smile.

As much time as I spend at home these days, that alone makes this chair worth its weight in gold.

While we are on the subject of deliveries, I just want to note what a tough job our delivery people have these days. They’re not just carrying letters and small parcels anymore. These folks are lugging around furniture and a mountain of packages from across the globe. I’m grateful to them all for keeping our stuff moving.

One Nation

Photo Courtesy Smithsonian Magazine

I have a lot on my mind today. None of it am I prepared to organize and share.

Instead, I encourage you all to be kind to one another, to set aside your differences, to embrace what is right, and to move forward as part of the solution.

Enough is enough. Our country badly needs to heal as one nation.

Words matter. So I leave you with these 31 words.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

And to the Republic for which it stands

One nation, under God

Indivisible with Liberty and justice for all.

Certified Package Inspector

Nothing goes on in this house without passing under his watchful eye.

Wrapping gifts was no exception as he considers it his duty to inspect every package at least once.

He absconded with the tape and has fiddled with the packages every chance he gets. He also loves to remove ornaments from the tree so I can experience the joy of trimming the tree multiple times every day.

Santa would be lucky to have such a helper!!