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Imagine my surprise when I realized that all the big and little savings tip sand tricks I’ve been implementing since the beginning of the year are actually starting to “pay off”. Here are a few:

• Borrowing books from friends and the library- huge huge savings. Humongous. If local bookstores notice a dip in sales they can definitely blame it on me.

• Cutting back on eating out. Way way back. Again- huge savings. On both money and calories.

• Going to game night in the neighborhood. Bring a dish and byob and it’s a fun, cheap, night out.

• Instead of meeting friends for a movie and/or lunch we meet at someone’s house, bring a DVD and a dish to share and voila, another cheap, fun day.

•Buying groceries at one store, buying generic, and going every ten days instead of once a week.

• Reading magazines that I don’t subscribe to at the library. Saves money and it’s green.

• Using a washable mop instead of disposable ones.

What savings tips work for you? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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Adventures in Frugality

This didn’t start out as a new year’s resolution but it became one after we started experiencing some cash flow issues and couldn’t figure out why. So we sat down and went over our expenses from January to January and boy was it eye-opening. We found the leaks. Well, more like huge gaping waterfalls where some of our money was going.

It wasn’t too surprising. Books (of course) and dining out were the two biggies. But in a way it was kind of surprising because we had identified these last year and here we are a year later and still they are causing problems. I finally figured out why. When I identified them last year, I was so horrified by the amounts that I just said, “That’s it. No more books or restaurants. Period.” Well. That’s not realistic. It’s like a really strict diet. You can force yourself to adhere to it for  a short while but then you are bound to rebel. What’s one lunch? One dinner? One happy hour? One book? Or one more? It all adds up to a lot of money going out the window each month. So this time I set a budget for books and restaurants. This way we aren’t denied but we have boundaries. And I am getting to know my library again.

While we are at the low end for most of our basic necessities each month our groceries are at the high end so I’ve been thinking of ways to trim that monthly expense without using coupons. I hate coupons. And they are never for things I would normally buy if I didn’t have a coupon so what’s the point? I came up with two solutions. The first is to extend my time between shopping by three to four days. That will cut out an entire week of groceries each month. To do that means I am scavenging through the freezer and cupboards but the meals are healthy and delicious and food is being used up. Second, eliminate trips to the grocery store to just pick up a couple of things in between shops. It’s never just a couple of things. Ever. And it always adds up to  at least twenty to fifty bucks a pop. If we don’t have it on  hand I’ll make something else.

This week, because we were running low on snacks I rummaged around the baking cupboard and found some Hersey’s cocoa. I ended up making a homemade chocolate cake and frosting from the recipe on the back on the canister. And I used up all the cocoa which had been up there for awhile. My family deems it the best cake ever. And it was a cake for no special occasion which made it even more special.

Stay tuned for more adventures in frugality throughout the year. I am anxious to see how these changes add up… literally.

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Vegan-ish

So it’s been about six weeks since I stopped eating meat and pretty much eliminated dairy from my diet. It’s an experiment that is showing some impressive results so far:

•  lost two inches off my waist

• I can go four to five hours without being hungry, compared to grazing every two to three before

• No PMS this last month

• Sleeping better, deeper, longer

• A perpetual earache is gone and I no longer wake up with sinus pain or mucus

• I feel lighter, have more energy

• No cravings for sugar

• No need to consider the calorie or fat content of every morsel I put in my mouth. I eat healthy whole foods until I am full.

• Satisfaction knowing that I am helping the environment and animals

I am still not comfortable declaring myself a Vegan with a capital “V”. I prefer how my sister puts it. I am vegan-ish. The vegan lifestyle seems to me to be dictated more about saving animals and the planet as opposed to my main (selfish?) goal which is saving myself. Being as healthy as I can be to avoid taking medications for diseases that can usually be prevented through diet changes. Don’t get me wrong. I try to do my part for the planet by turning off lights, reusing paper before recycling it, bringing canvas bags to the grocery store, bringing my own mug to Starbucks, bringing my own stainless steel water bottle with me when I leave the house. And I enjoy animals. Every pet we’ve had, we have saved from the pound or rescued from the street. We have two adorable cats now. But I am not one of those animal rights people. My donations go to charities that help people, not animals. That being said, I have skimmed ( I can’t bring myself to read it in depth yet) the literature detailing the treatment of the animals we consume and it’s not pretty. I can’t un-know what I know and that does affect my decision to not eat meat. So while I am not declaring my vegan(ish)ism to the world, I am day by day and meal by meal making a conscious choice. If I say anything I say I am trying to avoid eating meat and dairy. If asked why I say because I feel better. And I do.

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New Blog

So I’ve started a new blog devoted solely to writing and reading. Not sure if I’ll be maintaining both blogs or if I will slowly let this one go. In the meantime, you can visit me here.

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Incivility as Entertainment

There’s been much made by some recent high profile incidents of incivility. First, Joe Wilson screamed “You lie!” at President Obama during his Address to the Joint Session of Congress. Second, Kanye West took the microphone away from Taylor Swift as she was accepting her first ever VMA award, pointing out that he felt it should’ve gone to Beyoncé. Last, Serena Williams lost a game after being called on a foot fault and proceeded to berate the line judge responsible for the call.

We all act like we are shocked and outraged by such behavior but I think we are less shocked and more titillated. Forget “mere” incivility. Being outright crude, lewd and insulting has become a national pasttime. It’s our entertainment.

It is Wednesday night and all the major networks are offering are reality TV shows. Reality TV courts incivility, and worse. In fact, it insists on it. They deliberately cast at least one loose emotional cannon to guarantee drama. If there’s not drama, there’s no reason to tune in each week. If you visit online message boards you’ll see that rudeness has become a measurement of how clever and passionate you are. Talk radio regularly litters the airwaves with accusations, name-calling trying to stir up moral outrage on a regular basis. TV pundits do the same thing. I sometimes find it hard to even watch liberals like Keith Olbermann because many of his valid points are lost in his passionate diatribes designed to entertain us.

Are we entertained? I’d say so. Otherwise these shows would not be on the air. What’s the answer? Is there an answer that doesn’t totally demolish our freedom of speech? I don’t know. I do know that it is ludicrous to rant against “incivility” (which is a benign term to use in many cases) while it permeates every aspect of our culture from religion (recall the minister in Arizona who announced that he prays for our President’s death?), to sports, TV, radio, music and politics.

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Word by Word

“You must always keep changing your process!” Maria Irene Fornes says. “Because there are two of you, one who wants to write and one who doesn’t. The one who wants to write has to keep fooling the one who doesn’t!”

This is from Heather Seller’s blog, Word by Word, which you must check out if you haven’t already. I’ve read all her books on writing plus I have her textbook, which I love, as well as her collection of stories “Georgia Under Water.” I’m thrilled to see that she has two new books coming out next year. Her memoir on living with face blindness is due out in the fall. “The Nighttime Novelist” will be published in the spring.

Sellers writes, “I worry too many writers write too fast. They master the basics of plot and character…they do everything “right” and still the book doesn’t get finished, or, worse, the book is finished but it doesn’t sell. No one wants to read it. My goal in this new craft book is to help new writers create a book that is beautiful and important and masterful and wild and real. Break the rules. Be weirder than you are right now. Write the book only you can write. It’s a slow and difficult process, but also the most rewarding work I’ve ever engaged in, writing a novel. I have a plan for tackling this work that allows more room for the unconscious mind and all its detours, a plan that involves focusing on how artist’s play, I’m eager to see what readers think!”

And I am eager to read it. I don’t buy many writing books anymore. I’ve discovered that the only real way to learn to write is to write. A lot. And read. A lot. But sometimes you need someone to shine a flashlight into the murky swamp of the creative process. Heather Sellers holds that light. She acknowledges that yeah, it’s messy and dark and hard but look here, she’s done it and it can be fun and wonderful and weird too. In one of her books she recommends that you select several writing guides in the form of books that you can return to again and again for motivation and inspiration. She is always one of the guides that I turn to as I navigate my way into and through a writing life.

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I’ve been thinking of updating this blog for awhile now but wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take it. Finally, I realized it’s not one blog, but two. Soon I will link you to my writing only blog. That blog will be the start of my “writing platform.” I’ll whine less about the lack of writing and focus more on the process of creating a writing life that will include the process of publishing at some point.

This blog is now all about the process of living a creative, rich, fully engaged life moment by moment. I spoke with my dad a few months ago about this. He was refinishing some furniture. Maybe upholstering it. As he described how he was going about this particular task, I commented that it sounded tedious. He agreed that it was, which was why it was so important to enjoy the process of doing it, otherwise, what was the point? Indeed.

If I had been a cartoon, a bright lightbulb would’ve glowed above my head. As a  kid I was able to live in the moment more frequently and enjoy the process of building a tent or fort, or reading a book that carried me away, or creating a fair for the neighborhood kids. It was less about the product and more about the process. Most adults reverse that and that’s where I’ve found myself, thus this new focus. Some processes you’ll read about in the future are: the process of meditation, yoga, exercise, letting go, parenting, reading, creating art, working through depression, growing up/older but mostly the process of living life each day with passion and awareness.

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