Possum Living: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.

Needs:

  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.

Wants:

  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!

 

How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

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A Brave New Year

Everybody makes resolutions. Some people are even all clever and make resolutions NOT to make resolutions, thus proving we can’t get away from this tradition/trend. I’m no exception. This year, I’m going in big. Go big or go home, right? Actually, it’s cold outside. Going home sounds not-so-bad at the moment… Just kidding.

2016 was a dumpster fire. I said there was no possible way that 2017 could be worse than that, which 2017 took as a personal challenge. It was not a good year overall. But you know what? That’s partly my fault. I am not going to spend this brand, spanky new year sitting passively in the passenger’s seat. 2018 is my year of being brave.

This year, 2018, I am going to:

  • Learn to knit. I don’t know a whole lot of people in person who knit, so I am REALLY going to have to go to the interwebs for this one. I have never learned anything from Youtube before, except to pee BEFORE watching an episode of Bad Lip Reading, so this will be an adventure. And for some reason, it makes me a little nervous. But if I practice knitting for a year, I’ll get decent, right?

  • Breed my dart frogs. I have a bunch of them at work. Three different species. And none of them have bred. I have done everything recommended, and I have gotten to the point of getting them in condition and getting them to call, but so far, no luck. If you have bred them before, hit me up. I gotta know what I need to do differently.

Why you little dudes take a vow of chastity?

  • I am going to put my interest in plants to use. I am going to grow some things to sell at the local Farmer’s Market this summer. I can’t stop myself from growing plants. It brings me joy and energy. If I am stressed, I can soothe my spirit by checking up on a cinnamon tree or a root peeking out of a fig cutting. And since I have no self-control where it comes to growing stuff, I can maybe share my joy with others. And make a little cash. To buy more plants…
  • I am going to learn how to make saagwala at home. I love Indian food. I have attempted curry, and I’m good at the recipes I have. Now it’s time to learn saag.
  • I am going to vote in any election that pops up. It’s my civic responsibility, and I’m going to take it seriously.
  • Call my representatives when there are issues I am concerned about. Which is, like always.
  • Add ALL my reps’ numbers to speed dial so I can leave them messages in all of their offices. I currently only have one number each in my phone.
  • Produce 2 pieces, either short story or essay,  to submit somewhere for publication. This means re-learning how to write a short story. Eek! But it’s time to start building my wall of rejections. Or acceptance, but it’s the rejections that make us stronger, right? I am gonna be STRONG!
  • Actually submit these pieces. This is me closing some loopholes.

And here’s the big one. The one that is the biggest change in my life. Are you ready? Am I ready?

  • I am going to go the entire year without buying anything I don’t need. I read a book by Dolly Freed called “Possum  Living.” It’s a non-fiction book by an 18-year-old. She and her dad spent 3 years living like possums (not eating them!). They ate what was around them – raised chickens in the cellar for meat, raised gardens, saved money however they could. They spent about $1500 a year. Even in 1978, that was chump change. And her motto when it came to buying things was “Not now, maybe later.” That’s my mantra for 2018. I’ll unpack this whole goal in a separate blog post, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress throughout the year. A surprising amount of planning goes into inaction, really. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this. It’s just a few minutes long and worth a watch!

How do you plan to make 2018 your lap dog? Inspire me!

Attention Impulse Shoppers (and kids!), Amazon Wants YOU!

If you received a Kindle Fire that was purchased for the holidays, you may have until January 31 to return it. If you know someone who purchased one, especially if it was for a child, be sure to share this information with them, as there is a new policy that may be a deal breaker. I posted about my frustration about Amazon’s credit-card only policy. It stinks. But this one is scarier.

Now that lots of people have brought home that awesome Kindle Fire for the holidays, a brand new policy has been implemented. Downloading free apps now requires that users enter some form of payment. Of course, your account won’t be charge for the free stuff.  And it can even be a gift card, so long as it has a balance of at least $.01. But here’s the problem. This new policy means that users who would like to download free apps must activate 1-click payment.

What this means for parents is that the device you put in your kid’s hands would now be connected directly to a payment method without the added step of password protection. They click it, they buy it. And it bothers me.

The timing of this policy is interesting, I think. It wasn’t on their site three weeks ago when I was first considering returning my Fire. But with only two weeks left for holiday shoppers to return the goods, it has made its magical appearance. And I’m not okay with it. Yes, you can usually return the things that were bought on impulse or by accident, but dealing with customer service can sometimes take hours. And it can take several days for the money to be credited to your account again.

One of the concerns I initially had with the Fire was the 1-click payment. If you check reviews, some users experienced what amounted to identity theft when their device fell into the wrong hands and someone simply changed the shipping address and had a nice spree. Amazon did respond and create a way to disable 1-click. But now users will have to reactivate it if they would like to take advantage of free apps.

The important thing is for users to decide if this new policy is a deal-breaker. There are workarounds.  If you choose to keep the device, you can:

Purchase an Amazon gift card to connect to the account. I contacted Customer Service because the smallest increment I could find was $50. You can purchase cards for as little as $1, but you may have to contact customer service in order to do it. I couldn’t find a way through the normal links.

Disable 1-Click after you download the free apps you want.  This may be a hassle. You’ll have to reactivate it each time you find new apps you want to download.

But there’s not a lot of time to decide. There are only a couple of weeks left for holiday returns. Good luck.

Dear Telemarketer

Call me?

Call me?

Hi, there!

It has been so great talking to you. Four times. In the two days. I am sorry I haven’t been able to chat when you called. I was getting ready to take my son to school/eat dinner/use the toilet/go to bed at those times. But please do call again!

I definitely can’t wait to hear the list of services that you can bundle to save us money. And it’s obvious that you have done your research on my family. I bet your offer on cable really would be a bargain for us. If we had cable in the first place. Or call waiting. Or long distance.

We’re not phone people, but you probably already know that since you have our billing history for the last 10 years. We don’t need the call waiting because we don’t enjoy talking on the phone to even one person at a time, much less two. And we had long-distance disconnected because we never used it. We do have people that we love who live outside of our calling range. And they might like to hear from us more often. But we do email. And send happy thoughts into the ethos at least twice a day. And we have a calling card that we use on birthdays and anniversaries.

Phone conversations are not fun for us. You see, we have three children, and it is a given fact that kids have a Pavlovian response to telephones. The phone rings, and they turn into actual dogs. Giant attention-hounds. The house can be dead silent, the kids quietly occupied in their rooms. When the phone rings, all heck breaks loose. Daughter needs emergency help with her algebra, middle son commences a frantic pantomime to indicate he either desperately needs to go to the bathroom or the snake is loose in his room, and Squish feels the need to climb into the cabinet and sort out the vitamins. No thank you.

I know when you look at our bill, you think we’re seeing another phone company on the side. Trust me. We are not. Most days, I’m not even sure why I have a phone in the first place. The only one who has called in the last week is you. Yours was the single adult voice I heard during the day. The solitary tidbit of grown-up conversation. Please call me back! Soon! I’ll be waiting!

Every Single Time

Every time, I promise myself this time will be different. I will be strong. I will not forget who I am.I will not give in to the anger or swear under my breath. I will not dissolve into a puddle of hatred and self-recrimination.  And every time, I am wrong. Wal-mart just has that effect on me.

Yes. I shop at Wal-mart. Don’t judge. No, go ahead. I judge myself all the time. But my choices at this point are to get a real job and put Squish in daycare or shop where my current budget allows. Rock, meet Hard Place. But I digress. We do buy our milk, eggs, and most of our soy products from a store where we can buy organic. We do what we can, right? RIGHT?

I hate going grocery shopping so much that I only go every two weeks. Planning out my menus for two weeks is a bit of a pain, but it limits the pummeling on my poor psyche gets to twice a month. I dread the trip. I should say I go no more than every two weeks. I will put it off for as long as possible, until we are eating pancakes and black beans every night (not together. That would be gross.). When it gets to the point where sweet husband is asking what I’m serving for dinner with trepidation in his voice, I know I can’t avoid it any longer. And yesterday, it was time.

I decided shopping would be less painful if it didn’t take an important part of my day (i.e. nap time). The plan was to make out the list at breakfast and go straight after dumping kids at school. Determined not to let the prospect of shopping ruin the morning, I plastered a sunny (psychotic?) smile on my face and asked the family what kind of things they’d like to see on the menu for the next two weeks. If I include them in the process, they are less likely to complain about what I am serving, right? RIGHT? Whatever. I might as well have asked them what kind of tires to put on the dishwasher for all the interest they showed. Sweet husband dutifully took pen in hand while I walked the 9 year old to school and made a few additions. A very few. He suggested that we have pancakes two nights. I give up.

But I was not going to let this trip turn me into a dried up, bitter shrew. That’s what having teenagers is for. This trip was for sustenance. Nothing more. So I packed up Squish, and we went. I cheerfully headed to the general merchandise section for the non-foods on my list. I found soap quickly enough, though the aisle was so narrow I had to leave my cart where it was. No problem. Next on the list? Deodorant. Piece of cake. I found it with no trouble. Except there was not a single brand for me. Not one. Do other people’s husbands not stink after their morning 5 mile run? My husband is secure in his masculinity, but I am pretty sure that if I brought home something that made him smell like flowers, he’d have something to say about it. No problem. I picked one that is unscented. What’s that, pumpkin? No. Mommy is only talking to herself. She is being so silly! No, those aren’t words Mommy wants you to use. This is FUN!

I managed to find my knitting needles in the proper size with little trouble, and I found the sandwich containers on sale (score!). Selling my soul for 25 cents off is what it is all about. Then I needed to find doorknob covers to keep Squish out of trouble at home. I located the baby section pretty easily. But the aisles are no longer marked. Nor do they make any sense. You may find diapers and bottles in pretty much the same spot. I certainly didn’t mind walking up, down and sideways through every aisle. Twice. It was actually fun! It was! So fun!

How I managed to contain my excitement and get over to the grocery side, I will never know. We had a fantastic time looking for our pretzels. I know those silly managers stock them in four different places just to make our trip exciting. Like a treasure hunt! X marks the spot. Where I lost my mind. Something snapped, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I began loudly talking to “myself” about the morons who created this ever-lovin’ floor plan, about the aisles that are so narrow that two people can’t pass, about the fact that the store has only carried the light variety of string cheese for MONTHS! If I want to be fat, I will jolly well be fat! Fat and jolly!

I shoved my cart to the check out and did my best to maintain pleasant small-talk with the cashier.  It wasn’t his fault. I grabbed up my groceries and headed to the car. And it was raining. Perfect. And once I got home, I was going to have to unload the stupid things on my own. Awesome. But I bought a lot of stuff. Plenty, really. I bet I can stretch these groceries out for at least three weeks. I think I’ll make some beans.

 

 

Back to School Blues

This photo has nothing to do with the blog except that padlopers make me happy. And I need that.

The beginning of the school year is hard for me. It’s not the forced adherence to an arbitrary schedule. It’s not having to say goodbye to the kids I’ve had such fun with. It’s not the sudden inability to pack up the troops and head off on some fun adventure. Sure, there’s some of that. But here’s my secret. I despise the end of summer because I have to shop for school supplies.

When I was a kid, I loved shopping for my school supplies. I’d run home from school on the first day proudly brandishing my list. I couldn’t wait until dinner was over so we could dash out to the store. Each item on the list represented an opportunity to buy something new. All for me. The possibilities were so exciting. Would there be enough money in the budget for me to have the Garfield folders instead of the plain ones? Would my mom spring for those weird triangular pencil grips that were all the rage, even though I had nibbled through every one she had ever bought me? And if there was something really unique on the list like a watercolor set, so much the better And I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day and compare my new treasures with those of my friends.

Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and the shine has definitely worn off a bit. I dread the arrival of “the list,” and I am in a snit from the moment it arrives. I don’t mind outfitting my kids for a school year. What bugs me is that I am forced to go to Wal-mart.

I know that there are other stores that sell school supplies. Office supply places spam my inbox every day with their “unbeatable” deals. But school supply lists rarely contain only school supplies anymore. As much as I hate shopping at Wal-mart, it’s worse when I have to visit multiple stores. So off to the mart we go.

I don’t know about your area, but our big, soul-sucking box stores have a little cardboard kiosk where befuddled parents can pick up supply lists starting in early July. A simple courtesy or shameless marketing? And here’s the catch. They only carry the lists for nearby schools. In my town, there are a LOT of schools, and the Wal-mart that is most convenient for us is apparently out of our area.

There’s something a little demoralizing about being zoned for a Wal-mart. We’ve all seen People of Wal-mart . I’m sorry I can’t live up to those standards . And you can forget about visiting the one that is officially “in our area.” Yes, it is brand new, but the floor-plan was designed by a schizophrenic. The make-up and produce are in the same area, the whole building has a ceiling that consists of bare pipes. Except for the bakery, which has an 8 foot ceiling and such low lighting that it’s like buying your baked goods at a garage sale. Yummy.

The aisles themselves also also drive me nuts with their inconsistency, as though the whole thing was thrown together in a hurry. Nothing says “quality control” like having so much space in Baking that you can fit 5 carts abreast but making Storage Containers so narrow that two carts can barely pass one another. And there’s no way to get from the front of the store to the back without going to the path in the center of the store because the sections are now a perpendicular maze. I get so frustrated that I end up channeling the spirit of the floor plan designer, talking to myself and swearing under my breath.

So this year, the kids and I stopped by a Wal-mart while we were running errands in a different part of town. I was determined that this year would be different. I would not end the trip in a horrible mood. I would not complain. I would enjoy this time of excited anticipation with my children. Whatever.

The smell hit me the moment we entered the (well-hidden) school supply section. I sniffed the baby. I sniffed the older children. We collectively checked the bottom of our shoes. Apparently, we didn’t bring this delightful aroma with us. It was already here. It smelled as though someone had taken a dump in the floor. A big one. Having once reported to my register 15 minutes late because I was trying to prevent shoppers from slipping in a puddle of urine, I am well aware of the probability of that little scenario. Yes, I once worked at Wal-mart. And I have seen things.

And that little trip never got any better. We were unable to locate most of the items on the list, and we were forced across the street to Target. Don’t get me started. Target is just as soul-less, minus the poop, and I wasn’t any happier when I left their store.

But if you would please excuse me. My daughter just brought home her list. I need to run to Wal-mart.

And You Can Take It To The Bank

I try to avoid the news whenever possible. We don’t have cable television, so that is usually not an issue. But I do listen to the radio, and recently there has been an air of gloom and economic doom. It’s enough to make us all want to stockpile canned goods and hide our money under our mattresses. Or at least turn off the radio. But there is hope on the horizon. In these harrowing economic times, it’s very important to get sound advice regarding your investments. And that’s where I come in.

I have a fantastic financial adviser, and she also happens to be my best friend. Not only can she pick my stocks, she also keeps my feet warm. That’s right, I’m talking about my dog, Phoebe.

She’s a genius, this dog. When we’re looking to purchase single stocks, she lets us know if we’re on the right track. All we have to do is read the name aloud to her, and we can tell by a tail wag if it’s a keeper. Our portfolio tends to be a bit heavy on companies with the word “cookie” in them, and we’re a little light on anything with “vet” or “crate” (sorry, Crate and Barrel), but she knows what she likes. And I’m here to share her thoughts with you free of charge.

When choosing where to put your money, forget gold. It’s a lousy investment. In a true crisis, gold is pretty much worthless. Do you think post-apocalyptic society will be all that concerned with their bling? Um, no. Gold might regain its value a generation or two later, when we’ve re-established a feudal system and the princesses want to feel pretty again. But for your immediate needs when the big one hits, Phoebe recommends investing in Alpo. In the can. You might be crawling out of a pit with the cockroaches, but you’ll want to know your best pal is taken care of, and in a pinch it makes a decent meatloaf.

Phoebe also says that economists are taking the wrong approach to the stock market and its current volatility. All we hear is that the market is “bad.” Take it from Phoebe. Those analysts are hurting the market’s feelings. If I tell Phoebe she is bad, where does that fuzzy little economic indicator known as her tail go? DOWN. And when I say “Good dog!” where do you think that tail goes? If we ever want the market to fetch our slippers again, we need to tell the market that it’s good. Very, very good. And the occasional belly-rub isn’t a bad idea, either.

And finally, there is this whole issue of debt. Phoebe says debt is bad. Debt means that that bone we’re chewing on doesn’t really belong to us at all, and someone could just come up and take it. The very notion makes my financial adviser growl and bury said bone in the yard. It is important to only buy those chew toys you can actually pay for, lest some slobbery St Bernard come and swipe it. Let what is yours stay yours. Stay. Stay. Good.

That’s it in a nutshell. Sage advice from one of the finest minds of our time. Now, who wants a cookie?