Back To Reality

Vacation is over and I’m headed back to work today. Luckily, I like my job and enjoy earning my own way in the world. All the same, I will miss the leisure time and having the opportunity to get stuff done during the week.

Scout has enjoyed it too. Here he is luxuriating with his favorite blanket and my book. If he looks irked, it’s because I woke him up taking his picture. I hate to tell him that we won’t get to relax with a book and a blanket today!

Happy New Year and Happy Monday. Here’s to new beginnings.

Here We Go Again

Call me cynical and jaded but all I can think to say today is “here we go again.”

Perhaps this isn’t the degree of enthusiasm one should feel on the first day of a new year but I’m keeping my expectations in check and my hopes for 2021 tamped down a bit more than normal.

After all, the last day of 2021 brought news that Betty White has died. She has been a cultural icon and animal rights activist for so long I was kind of counting on her to outlive me. Unreasonable, I know, but still.

I spent yesterday running some errands and spending time with my folks and with a friend who is visiting from out of town. It was quiet and anticlimactic but I’m fine with that.

So here’s my attempt at optimism. May 2022 bring peace, health, and prosperity for us all. At the very least, may it be a quiet year. Happy New Year!

No Spend January

Illustration by Lore Pemberton.

January is a different kind of month for me and I have come to look forward to it. You see, I do what I call a No Spend Challenge.

It’s a simple concept. Bills are paid and necessities are purchased. So I put gas in the tank and buy groceries but try not to eat out or buy a lot of extra stuff I don’t need.

If the heel breaks on my good work shoes, I dig through my closet for a suitable back up. If I feel like it’s necessary to replace them, then I do so but the rule is I can only buy the shoes I need and not something I just want.

If there’s something I think I want (or need that’s not an emergency), I usually write it down. Often times, by the end of the month, I no longer care about the thing. In other words, there’s not a mad dash to the store to buy all the stuff I missed shopping for in the previous weeks.

This isn’t an outlandish concept. After all, many people live within these boundaries every day by choice or necessity.

I’m reasonably frugal and a smart shopper but have a weakness for buying sale groceries, books, and small items at the cash register like Tic Tacs.

These things add up.

January is a great time to do this as there’s no where to be and it gets dark so early that I’m pleased to stay home where it’s cozy and warm.

Focus is placed on using what I have and taking care of my home. I tend to tidy the kitchen cabinets, clean out the closet and purge a few things. I cook more, making extras for the freezer. Activities like reading, puzzles, movie nights and bubble baths take the place of browsing antique stores and running around. In 2020, I wasn’t out shopping in stores so much but did a fair amount of online shopping and driving around looking at stuff.

This month is a method of realigning habits and priorities while killing the urge to shop. Plus I save money.

Last year, I was so pleased with my no spend month that it ran over into February.

In preparation, I spent some time last week listing all the things I can do to entertain myself for free. Hiking, reading and painting made the top of the list that runs seventy items strong. This particular exercise is an amazing way to remember how much there is to do that’s fun or at least useful and that costs zero dollars.

I was practicing the Norwegian concept of Hygge long before it was cool or even before I knew the term for it. Nothing makes me happier than warm pjs, soft blankets, and delicious aromas emanating from a pot on the stove. I’m so excited to be home more and doing this right now.

January is the perfect time to start or to polish these cozy ways.

The image above is a fun illustration from artist Lore Pemberton. I found her on Instagram this year and immediately was entranced by her vision and artistry. I ordered a couple of small pieces from her for Christmas when she had a sale.

This particular image is a depiction of how I think of my life in January.

Home. Warm. Cozy. Reading.

If you have the time, take a look at her work on her website or follow her on Instagram.

Does a No Spend Month sound like something you would enjoy? Comment! I’ll be happy to chat about it.

The Eve Of A New Year

Here we are. It’s the eve of a new year, the turning of the calendar, a proverbial clean slate.

This year certainly was one for the record books and one we will talk about for the rest of our lives.

The truth is, 2020 wasn’t a terrible year for me personally as I kept my job and income, maintained good health, and even had more time for rest and relaxation.

My introverted self is perfectly happy staying home and six feet away from others. I do terribly miss traveling but understand this is for now, not forever.

This was the year I learned to truly find joy in the small things like a bird at the window, a quiet walk in the woods, and the first bite of a juicy orange.

It was actually a good year in my small place in the universe.

Setting aside my own experience, it is hard to watch people suffer and struggle. From the logistics of childcare, to lost income, illness and isolation, people are struggling. I worry for small businesses and for the families that depend on them for work. I worry for kids who aren’t in school where we know they are safe and fed and learning something. Child abuse and neglect are among the tragedies not being well explored as we are too busy with triage in other areas.

So far, our country has lost about 330,000 souls to this pandemic.

To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of Cincinnati with its approximate 306,000 people.

Imagine one of Ohio’s three biggest cities wiped off the map. That’s how many of our fellow Americans have been lost.

And we aren’t through the woods yet as experts tell us that January will be a dark month for many.

Still, I am hopeful that life will be better one year from today.

The vintage photo above was labeled “New Years” and offers some much needed levity to this discussion. To be a fly on the wall just before she took this drink!

I won’t be staying up late tonight and I won’t be drinking to dull the effects of the year. Instead, I plan to go to bed early tonight, to read until I fall asleep, and then wake up refreshed in the morning.

2020 can see itself to the door.

I’ll be ready to greet the new year with fresh, rested eyes first thing tomorrow.

Do You Believe In Resolutions?

What’s your stance on New Year’s Resolutions?

Studies show that about sixty percent of us make resolutions but only about eight percent of us follow through on them.

I’m a planner and a goal setter so I usually have two or three of varying size.

One of my 2020 resolutions was to read 100 books. Check!

Another was to travel as much as possible with a couple of big trips in mind along with some weekend getaways. That clearly didn’t work out.

And there were some smaller ones that fell to the wayside but others came to light as the year progressed. For example, I log the miles that I hike and intentionally walk every day and am very close to reaching 500 miles.

Planning is in my nature and one of my stronger skills. I’m good at breaking down a large project into small pieces that can be completed in phases. Sadly, 2020 sort of beat the desire to plan right out of me.

And yet, here I am, contemplating goals for the new year. It isn’t productive to wait for the flip of a calendar page to start but a new year feels like a fresh start and an irresistible opportunity to take a run at planning again.

The picture above is from a Denver sidewalk. Most of us will never make it to the moon. But what’s the phrase? Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Reading, walking and traveling may not get me to the moon or the stars but these things will give me opportunity to improve myself and that’s pretty good too.