Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I must confess, I’ve spent the earlier part of this last week crying over David Bowie songs and daydreaming about my life after winning the Powerball Jackpot. Luckily I’ve managed to drag myself back to Earth.

So, I spent a couple days last weekend feverishly writing an introduction to my new blog, and then a few days fretting over the fact that I’m actually going to write a blog. What is my scope? What’s my hook? I need a format! Just exactly how honest am I willing to get? The following is a bit nebulous, but I think I’ll hit a good rhythm the more I ease into a routine.

I think I’ve had a really successful week!

I’ll start with a bit of background. I have a rigid system for grocery shopping. I spend a bunch of time researching recipes for the week, adding their ingredients to my web-based list and then link the recipes in a table. Just look!:

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I go through and match my coupons to the things I need – without adding items I don’t need just because I have a coupon for it. I don’t particularly think couponing is a good way to shop – you just end up with a bunch of processed crap if you base your shopping off of what coupons you have. Also, sometimes other brands are still cheaper than the brand you have a coupon for, so stay alert! Because of this I don’t use that many coupons when I shop – maybe four or five.

I’ve started pulling up my market’s weekly deals online, to find what is on sale this week. I find this tactic is best for finding things like meat on the cheap. We don’t eat a ton of meat around here (I was a vegetarian for twenty years before I started eating a bit of meat again, so I’m most comfortable eating and cooking vegetarian), so this also helps to keep costs down.

So, since I’ve last updated, I’ve made two grocery shopping trips: one last Sunday, and one today. And guess what?!?!

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$90.72!

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$68.13!

I did it! And with room to spare, even. And both these trips included some pricier items: cat food, coffee, a ridiculously expensive bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap. I’ve been trying to keep in mind things I already have lying around – that leftover bit of feta cheese, frozen turkey from Thanksgiving – and writing a menu around that. Less wasted food, less wasted money!

I made some new dishwasher detergent this week. I copied off this recipe for Awesomesauce. I added lemon essential oil so it smells nice like lemon-peppermint and it seems to be doing a good job of cleaning the dishes, although I think adding the lemon caused some difference in the texture – it’s kind of chunky. It was fairly easy to  make (though not as simple as the laundry detergent). I made a quart of it for, I figure, $1.50 or so. The savings and craftiness is such a high! I MUST DO MORE!

In fact, I’ve really become a little crazy about making stuff and saving money in just this short amount of time. I keep thinking of prices for stuff, and wondering where I can get things cheaper. I’ve been thinking about where I can get dried staples for the biggest bargain. Surely, I must be able to get them cheaper than the bulk bins at my local grocery store. And sure enough, I found that at Cash & Carry (a local restaurant supply store) I can get such deals as Twenty-five Pounds of Dried Black Beans for $16! and Twenty-five Pounds of Long Grain Brown Rice for $12! Now, I haven’t completely lost my mind. I realize that I don’t have any reasonable need for twenty-five pounds of any sort of dried beans. But – a coworker wanted to go in on a haul with me. I got sixty pounds of dried rice and beans for $40, split with a coworker I only spent $20 to get thirty pounds of food. It’s like I’ve started my own illicit co-op out of the back of my Subaru. Beans and rice – so cheap!

I’ve also drifted such less reasonable ideas as, Oh look – I’m nearly out of tampons. I bet I could find a tutorial online to make my own!

Making my own tampons is quite possibly the worst idea I’ve entertained in this process, but I did begin researching reusable menstrual cups and ended up purchasing a SckoonCup. Sadly, I’ll have to wait a month to get to use it 😦 But I won’t have to buy tampons any more, or contribute to all the waste they create.

I’ve only been to the gym once this week. However! I did go on one great hike with the husband yesterday in Forest Park, and today I walked with some friends, so that counts as three exercise sessions for the week and is technically still on goal.

I’ve been reading pretty steadily. I finished Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson. He’s currently one of my favorite authors: I haven’t read anything of his I didn’t find thoroughly fascinating. He’s an investigative journalist and digs up the most interesting, weird, obscure stories. I then finished You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memior by Felicia Day. It inspired me to finally watch her web series The Guild which has been fun. I’ll be starting Carrie Brownstein’s memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in the next day or two. Can you tell I like memoirs? I’ve also created a Reading List page for you guys, if you want to keep up-to-date on what I’m reading.

I’ve gone out a couple times with girlfriends this week, which is much more often than I typically go out. But! Hanging out one-on-one and in small groups is one of my goals, even though the going out process gives me mom and wife guilt. I’ve found it immensely rewarding to be able to talk things through with other people and find out I’m not alone in this or that, or that someone’s already lived through whatever experience is currently crippling me emotionally. Because it seems like there’s always something.

Last night the husband and I went out with another couple. (Couples dates: on goal!) We went to dinner and for a relax in a soaking pool. I got to wear the bikini I bought almost a year ago and haven’t worn yet (well, I did wear the bottoms during the World Naked Bike Ride). This was fun and I felt totally sexy and awesome because I am. Then I got sleepy and went home at like 10:00pm because I’m also a senior citizen now.

So, how did I fail this week?

Over the course of the last year or two, as I’ve grown into what’s become this full-on identity crisis, I’ve allowed all sorts of obsessive and pervasive thoughts to really tear me down. This is something I really, really want to minimize in my life. But even the smallest thing can go wrong, or I think I’ve said the wrong thing, and BAM! I’ll spend the next… minutes, hours, days, months*?… obsessing about how much I’ve just fucked up my life. That’s got to be the last straw – this person is really going to hate me now. Now everyone will know what an imposter I am! Why am I such a god awful mess? Wow I’ve really fucked this up and it’s the end of the goddamn world now.

Cool and Fine

Wil Wheaton posted this on Facebook earlier this week. I found it apropos of my whole general struggle. I guess Wil Wheaton and I are identity crisis besties!

I’ve been able to mitigate this thought cycle a lot recently, mostly by trying to remind myself that I’m cool and fine, but there were a couple times this week that it really got to me. It’s a work in progress.

And that brings us to right now – feeling pretty great about how the week went. I aim to update once per week (I know, I know… this week was late), so stay tuned!

*Seriously, I’ve spent months obsessing over things I’ve done, sure that I’ve ruined everything, figuratively killing myself over every detail of how I fucked up. My last therapist helped me figure out that I’m an obsessive personality-type (well, duh) and that in general my obsessive/compulsive behaviors are super helpful to me. However, the pervasive thought cycle that accompanies it is when obsessive/compulsive behavior starts being not-so-great.

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It’s Business Time

Let’s get down to business. What do each of my goals mean, to me?

Drink less beer
This one comes straight from Wil Wheaton. I’ve already linked to his blog post three times, so you’ll come to see that the next few goals come directly from him. Okay, let’s consider the rest sufficiently cited.

I live in Portland. Beer is everywhere, and good beer. And good cider. And good mead. And good craft cocktails. Really, we don’t do anything here without having a happy hour before and a couple pints after. Or maybe that’s just me and that’s the problem.

I love beer. I love the way it tastes, I love the way it’s made, I love discussing it with other people, I love visiting new breweries (I even plan trips around how to visit each locale’s craft brew scene). As I write this I am enjoying an Alpha Centauri by Hop Valley Brewing from Eugene, Oregon. Coincidentally, the next brewery-centric trip I’m planning is to Eugene. I love beer, okay?

But, it also does these other things. Fat and hungover would be the top two complaints. Also, constantly questioning just exactly what kind of awkward mess I am.

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June 2009. Skinny! Young! Hot!

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December 2015. I can’t really blame beer for this entirely, but it certainly isn’t helping.

So, I want to drink less of the stuff. Less often, and less quantity. But not less quality. NEVER LESS QUALITY.

Read More
I don’t really read enough. And this is odd, because the majority of my social circle is made up of Class A Nerds who do all sorts of reading. I’m a nerd too, just not a book nerd.

So, I set this arbitrary goal of reading a book a week. I had read a statement from a librarian at my local library about how they’d do a book a week, and they were already ahead of schedule for the year, and here were their recommendations. I didn’t really care for their taste in books, but I felt drawn to that simple goal – a book a week. And books are good for your brain! They exercise your thinking and fill your noggin with all sorts of great information!

In all honesty, a book a week is likely too lofty a goal, especially now that I’m apparently blogging. But maybe two a month? Even that would be a marked improvement. Before I was probably reading two a year.

So far since beginning this process two months ago I’ve read about five books. That feels good.

But I still need to get my shows in.

Write more
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a writer nor do I care about writing. And yet here we all are. Life is weird.

Watch more movies
This one, like Write More, isn’t a huge thing to me. I probably watch too much TV, but I tend to think the TV I watch is pretty well scripted and produced, so I don’t feel too bad. I mean, I do partake in some really trashy reality TV when my husband’s away, but we all have our guilty pleasures.

Get better sleep
This one would be huge for me. I just stay up too late, but still have to get up early. I need to figure out how to make this one work. Tips?

Eat better food
This one is tricky. I feel like I do eat pretty well. I cook probably more than anyone else whose private life I’m privy to. I prefer eating from whole ingredients, made from scratch. I don’t buy many processed foods, I make my own seasoning mixes, I buy low-sodium as often as possible. But on the same note, I tend to eat really rich foods too. As it turns out, even if your meal is made from great ingredients, and even if the cheese you add is craft and $30 per pound and came at the suggestion of a cheese monger, it’s still cheese and cheese isn’t good for you. Nor is all the locally-baked artisanal bread I so relish. And any sauce is made so much better by the addition of a little cream straight to my hips.

There’s got to be some secret to what all the skinny people are doing. Are they just eating fucking kale all the time? It’s got to be the kale. Note: Kale is fucking garbage.

I’ll try something other than kale.

Exercise more
This one I struggle with. I’ve never been athletic. See: being a nerd.

I was in orchestra, theater, and newspaper in high school. I hated the jocks because they were the enemy and anyways, intellectualism was always a more valiant pursuit. As it turns out, however, the human body does require a certain amount of activity to keep from complete atrophy.

The older I get, the more I notice this atrophy.

I’ve made several attempts in my life to be more active, to exercise until it kills me, and to give up when I fail to perform at 100%.

So, I’m trying at this. I have a new gym buddy. We’re going slow, and I’m learning to be okay with Whatever I Can Do Today.  My goal is to be at the gym three days per week. Even if my workout isn’t enough to kill me, it’s still something.

Cook more
This one is unclear to me. I’m not sure what I really meant here, as I honestly cook a lot. Five or six nights a week I cook dinner (from scratch) and I pre-cook a big pot of soup for our lunches for the week too.

Mainly I think I mean I want to try and avoid as many processed foods as possible. To try and make even the few processed things I buy, from scratch. Still don’t know exactly how this will manifest, as I do really buy very little junk food. But I’ll try.

Learn to sew properly
A couple years ago, my dearest purchased a used sewing machine for my birthday. I’d been asking for one, because I’m jealous of all those cool costumes and things my friends are able to whip up for themselves.

It took me a year before I even touched the thing. In fact, it was my husband who used it first to tailor a couple of his shirts. After that, I took it up to make us a few costumes. One for my husband’s band, then I hemmed some curtains, and then I made our entire family’s Halloween costumes.

But, all the things I made I made without any actual training. In grade school my parents put me into sewing 4-H, which is apparently a thing. At that point (around eleven or twelve) I learned how to sew properly and from patterns, but I’ve since lost all of that knowledge. I’ve been asking my husband for a sewing class for months, and for Christmas this year he gave me a gift certificate to take a series of classes. So, as soon as I schedule those, that’s in the bag.

I’d like to get to the point where I’m able to do some of our tailoring (money saver!) and make some cute things for the kids and me. Also, I learned about thrift store re-fashioning, and this seems really, really cool.

Go on hikes more often
I live in Portland. There are a thousand hikes within an hour’s drive from here. And, if I do say so myself, our region is pretty damn picturesque. So why am I not seeing it?

In the last couple months I’ve gone on a couple hikes. They were nice, and challenging, and when I was done I felt accomplished and exposed to nature. And afterwards you get to drink that pint you earned.

So, more of that.

Spend no more than $100 per week on groceries
This is something that, I hope, will allow me to spend less money while also fulfilling my goal of eating better. Raw produce and bulk dried goods are just cheaper than buying anything else. All it takes is more time, which I’m fortunate enough to have. And it seems like a fun challenge!

Make some of our household supplies
This one is not only cheaper and helps me towards my goal of spending $100 per week on groceries, but it also is fun for me. I’ve already made five gallons of laundry soap (for like $5!!), and I’ve got recipes in the bag for the household cleaners I’m next to run out of. Dishwasher detergent? Gonna make that shit. Fabric softener? Gonna make that shit too.

I’m gonna make all the shit.

Homestead more in general
Really, I mean the looser ‘urban homesteading’. You know, make my own cheese, can and pickle everything. Yes, Portland is just one long Portlandia episode. It’s exactly how you’d expect.

But I make all this soup, see, and then all week we eat the same soup for lunch. But what, dear reader, if I were to make many kinds of soup, can them, and then be able to choose what soup I feel like that day? What then? Freedom, that’s what! Do you know how to can? Do you want to come over in spring/summer and teach me how to can and hang out and maybe get some green beans out of the deal? Let’s do the thing!

And although I enjoy the idea of doing even homesteadier things like keeping goats or chickens or emus or whatever, that’s just really not my style. I’d be over it in a week and be like, Now what do I do with all these emus?

I also suck at keeping a garden.

Focus on more one-on-one interactions with friends
As it stands now, I get a pretty rotten case of social anxiety. But I’ll back up.

I’ve got these kids, which limit the amount of time I’m able to go out sans-children. And there’s always this party or that party to go to. And I tend to go to those because whoever’s birthday or whoever’s housewarming seems important enough to spend my limited free time on.

So I go to these parties and I don’t get much quality time with whatever friend I came to see, and then the social anxiety of hanging out with strangers sets in, and then I drink too much. You see how all these goals are really this complicated jumbled ball of string?

And in the end, I’m hungover and I really haven’t nurtured any deeper relationship with the people I like.

So I want to do more small groups. Couples dates or game nights. Something with more substance.

Run a 5K
This one’s also a bit arbitrarily chosen. When I say I’m not athletic, even then the last fucking thing I’d ever want to do is run. Running is the kale of exercise.

But folks are always doing these fun runs. And they’ve posted their pictures on Facebook covered in colored powders or foam or whatever happens to be the theme, and they’re happy, outside, and have done something productive with their day before I’ve even had a chance to nurse last night’s hangover.

So, I want to be the person who’s posting pictures of the 5K they did. And that’s primarily the reason I’d like to do it, too, which isn’t such a bad reason when the result is that I’ve done something healthier and more interesting with my morning.

Find the joy of missing out
A bit of a disclosure here. There is already a book titled The Joy of Missing Out by Christina Crook. The Oatmeal also did a comic on the subject. And I ripped the idea off a coworker whose friend uses the term, because it really resonated with me and encapsulated what I’ve been trying to do.

I haven’t read the book, which appears to focus more heavily on minimizing technology in your life – this isn’t my goal, to unplug. But I did order the book on Amazon, because it seemed like something I ought to read given the circumstances, and reading more is one of my goals. Twosies!

In my mind, if I focus on all my goals, I will find it. It’ll be what’s left over when I focus more on myself and worthwhile activities.

That, to me, is the joy of missing out.

When in doubt, try again

I’ve never written a blog. Never even really considered it. I’m not a writer, nor do I have whatever that drive is that causes other people to want to write.

But, I’m shaking things up.

A couple years ago I started having what would become the second identity crisis of my life. The first occurred in my mid-twenties after breaking up with my first long-term relationship. I started going to therapy and after a couple years I felt much better. I was, you know, going to do the thing. The life thing.

That worked for a while! I met a real adult-type guy, got married, became friends with adult-type people and began shifting comfortably into a middle-class life. I could do anything I wanted to do. It was great.

But after a while I started feeling like I just wasn’t that interesting. I got socially awkward, drank too much, put on a bunch of weight, hated my job and generally didn’t do the kinds of things that are supposedly fulfilling to your average adult human. And this is where we reach my second identity crisis.

This blog isn’t about the past. It’s about right now, and the future, and all the things I’m going to do to become happier.

One of the things that initially prompted me to want to do things differently was Wil Wheaton’s blog post Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life. Lemme paraphrase (warning – spoilers):

  1. Drink less beer
  2. Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading)
  3. Write more
  4. Watch more movies
  5. Get better sleep
  6. Eat better food
  7. Exercise more

Well, shit! Those are things, those are easy things. And they’re very common sense things, but something about how simple he made it seemed super inspiring and obtainable.

They all really made sense to me. Well, all except #3 as I’m not a writer. The irony isn’t lost on me.

So, my list is loosely based off of his. I’ve added some of my own, such as:

  1. Cook more
  2. Learn to sew properly
  3. Go on hikes more often
  4. Spend no more than $100 per week on groceries
  5. Make some of our household supplies
  6. Homestead more in general
  7. Focus on more one-on-one interactions with friends
  8. Run a 5K
  9. Find the joy of missing out

And I’m going to write about these things! Not because I like writing or have ever aspired to write, but because I just seems like one more thing I can do that will be uncomfortable and new.

Hello? Is it me I’m looking for?