Sunday, July 27, 2014

All the money in the world

I just finished a great book by Laura Vanderkam called All the Money in the World:  What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending.  Near the end of the book, she asks this question:

"If one CAN purchase many of the good or experiences that consumer culture dictates one should want, how does one continue to find pleasure in little things?" and then on a related note, "We want things we cannot have, and once we can have them we no longer want them."

It made me think of things I have longed for and coveted and finally purchased for myself.  I've often felt let down.  I've enjoyed the new thing for a week or two and then it has just become part of the life I expect.  I forget how much I wanted and loved it.  It was almost better when I was wishing and hoping for it...imagining how much more awesome my life was going to be once I owned it.

I've started shopping differently and even noticing other people's stuff differently.  I can see something I love and NOT buy it.  I can appreciate and admire it, then walk away.  I don't have to own something to gain pleasure from it.  I look at it almost like I'm walking through an art gallery.  My husband and I have attended gallery strolls downtown in the past.  We meander through a few galleries full of art we have no intention of purchasing, and then go home feeling enriched somehow, even without forking out any money.

I've been following a blog by Courtney Carver and she recently posted a simple sentiment that expresses my feelings exactly.

Back to the book, Sonja Lyubomirsky is quoted saying, "When something is sitting on your shelf, you get used to it very fast.  It doesn't give you the same thrill anymore."  Vanderkam encourages buying experiences rather than things because we all get used to a couch or table or shirt pretty quickly, but planning for, anticipating, experiencing, and then re-living a vacation brings much more joy...and longer lasting joy.

What I loved most about this book is that the author isn't saying we should stop spending our money or give it all away or live as hermits in the desert.  She talks about making better decisions regarding the money we DO have.  Whether you are a millionaire or living in the lower middle class, you have the ability to assess what brings you the most joy and happiness and then cut out all the excess crap society says you MUST own to be happy or "normal".  "Conspicuous consumption is human nature," she says.  But we don't have to do it.

"I don't want to be the Jonses.  There's no point trying to keep up when you're thrilled with what you've got."

It's a good one.  You should read it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I've had a couple people ask me for beet recipes.  Here are some of my favorite ways to eat them:

I got this one HERE

Honey Balsamic Ginger Beets

6 medium beets
2 T butter
2 T peeled and chopped (or grated) ginger
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey

Boil beets until tender, remove skins, and cut into cubes.  Put beets and all other ingredients in a skillet and stir until beets are hot and glazed.

I don't have exact recipes for the other two, but they're super easy.  Cook your beets (I always boil them, but I've seen recipes that tell you to roast them in the oven), stick em in a skillet and either add butter and salt OR a bit of cumin, cilantro, and lime juice.  Yum.

Monday, July 21, 2014


As you know, I've been reading some books about minimalism/making do with less/finding what really brings me joy and focusing my time, money, and energy on that.

Well, it goes without saying that I've had just a tiny urge to go through all the STUFF in my house and ask a few questions of that stuff...

Do you deserve a place in my home?
What value do you add to my household?
Do you make my life easier?
Do I have a place to put you?

I got these questions from a book I just read called The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.  In her book, Jay quotes William Morris who said, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

I have a long way to go, but over the last month or so, I have taken quite a few trips to my local thrift shop with a car at least somewhat full of items I decided weren't useful or beautiful to me.  At first it was really hard.  I'm pretty sentimental, and I have a tendency to keep things just in case.  But after two or three years of thinking I'm going to wear a sweater and then not actually ever wearing it, it's time to say goodbye.

The first de-junking my husband and I attempted together was only somewhat successful, but since we started, I find something almost every day that belongs in my DI pile.  It is getting soooo much easier to let go of THINGS that I'm not using and don't value.  The freedom that comes with all this has surprised me.  Less stuff means less to clean and keep track of and take care of.  Plus, I find joy thinking that my junk is going to become someone else's treasure.  I know I've had plenty of those treasure moments at the DI....

Those questions I've been asking of my stuff also work great when I'm out shopping and find something I want to buy.  Do I really need all this stuff?  Why buy more stuff when I'm in the process of getting rid of so much right now?  And no, this doesn't mean I'm never going to buy anything ever again.  I just bought a car last week.  But I'm much more deliberate in my purchasing choices.

Here are a few more inspiring quotes from the book:

"When we're old and gray, we won't wax poetic on the things we had - but rather on what we did in the spaces between them."

"He who knows he has enough is rich."  - Loa Tzu

"So what do we have to do to become minsumers?  Not much, actually.  We don't have to protest, boycott, or block the doors to megastores; in fact, we don't even have to lift a finger, leave the house, or spend an extra moment of our precious time.  It's simply a matter of not buying.  Whenever we ignore television commercials, breeze by impulse items without a glance, borrow books from the library, mend our clothes instead of replacing them, or resist purchasing the latest electronic gadget, we're committing our own little acts of 'consumer disobedience.'  By simply not buying, we accomplish a world of good:  we avoid supporting exploitative labor practices, and we reclaim the resources of our planet - delivering them from the hands of corporations into those of our children.  It's one of the easiest and most effective ways to heal the Earth and improve the life of its inhabitants."

I'm all about making life better for this dude and his whole generation...

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I've been thinking a LOT about expectations lately.  And for the past few years really.  I have come to the conclusion that my personal expectations are probably my greatest barrier to happiness.  I get in my head how something is supposed to go, what it's going to look like, what I'm going to look like in a certain role or situation, what life is supposed to give to me...and then I'm devastated when it doesn't work out that way.  It has happened over and over for me.  And it always feels huge and all consuming when it's happening.

While eating lunch with family a few months ago, this topic came up and my brother said something like, "You just have to learn to have low expectations!"  We all laughed...and then I went home and thought about it, because I can't ever turn my brain off.  Learning to live with low expectations just doesn't sit well with me.  So I came up with this - have high hopes and low expectations.  Yeah, that seems a bit better.  It might buffer some of those dreaded moments of disappointment.  But it's still not quite there.  I hate getting my hopes up.  And how do I manage to have low expectations and protect my heart when my hopes are high?  Isn't it just a paradox?

Ok, then another thought as I was sitting in church (bored....oops, did I just admit that?)  This came into my head - work hard and give in.  Work hard for what you want.  And know what it is you want.  Live a very deliberate life full of hard work and conscious choices.  And then, if and when things don't work out how you envisioned, just give in.  Give in to what is.  And find the beauty in it.  Find what developed because something else fell apart.

But, in a world full of "DO YOUR BEST" and "NEVER GIVE UP," I realize this might sound a bit passive or less than motivational.

Let me give a very personal example from my life.  One that is still fresh and raw, but also one that I think I'm ready to share.  Ten years ago in July (just a few days away, if my memory serves), I came home early from my LDS mission.  I was severely depressed.  What I felt it my heart while it was happening cannot be described.  I've all but erased the memories of my last few months in Argentina.  It was a very dark and desperate place.  Coming home was my worst case scenario.  And it happened.  I had envisioned the exact opposite of everything about my mission.  Everything.  My expectations were sky high.  I was going to do everything right, I was going to be successful, I was going to return with honor, and tell stories about "the best 18 months of my life" for the rest of my life.  Just like I was supposed to.

I came home cynical, wounded, angry, lonely, and full of self hatred.  Self hatred to last a lifetime.  And then some.  My life was a shame.  I was a failure.  I would never live it down.  It was the biggest blow I had ever faced.

Instead of giving in and finding the beauty, I fought it and hated myself for it...for a long time.  Then, one day after I was married, my husband said to me, "Maybe you came home for me."  That one sentence opened up a whole new mindset for me.  I looked at what I had as a result of coming home early.  And I found beauty.  Lots of it.  A kind of beauty I don't think I could have had if I'd served the perfect mission and come home the way I expected to.  My loss of perfect expectations gave me empathy and courage and perspective I'm not sure I would have had otherwise.  I feel fortunate to see it that way.  Although every time I attend a homecoming, don't look at me or talk to me....  Like I said.  It's still raw.  I still have a problem with expectations.

Michael Wilcox wrote a book called 10 Great Souls I Want to Meet in Heaven.  One of the people he writes about is Sir Ernest Shackleton, who failed more than once in his many conquests as an explorer.  In one expedition, his ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice pack and was crushed before he reached his destination.  Wilcox writes this:

"So often in our lives, the dreams, goals, and aspirations that mean so much to us may seem like the shattered wreckage of the Endurance...  It is easy to sit on the ice and mourn the loss, to constantly churn the 'what ifs" in our minds.  When these moments come to me, and they have, I think of those oh-so-powerful words of Sir Ernest.  We must shape ourselves to a new mark - and we must do so 'directly.'  There is not room for continuous depressing reflection on the past - what we wanted, what we lost, what we should have done better.  Too much is at stake.  Living requires our 'energies...mental power...and experience.'  We find the new mark, shape ourselves to it, and move forward."