Author Archives: Annie

Grumpy Gus

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“Watch out,” my trainer whispered into my ear during my first day on the job. “The guy who just got in line is really mean. He’s made cashiers cry before.”

I glanced up to see an older man with graying hair and a decidedly sour disposition, tapping his foot impatiently as he waited his turn. He loudly remarked that if I couldn’t do my job properly that they should fire me and get someone in who could.

“You’re new,” he snorted when he approached my register. “I can tell. You’re slow.”

“It’s her first day,” my trainer defended me before I could respond. “She’s doing really good.”

“Hmph!”

I was out of training when I saw him again. A customer turned the bag carousel too fast and caused a two-liter to fall. Sensing their embarrassment I claimed full responsibility for the mishap. “It’s my fault; I should have handed it to you directly,” I apologized.

Just then, Grumpy Gus walked past my register. He glanced at me as he huffed. “Is she new?” he called to the manager on duty.

“She’s been here for a couple of weeks and she does really well,” my manager responded. He snorted skeptically as he began to shop.

A few minutes later he brought his purchases to my register. “So you’re the new girl.” He eyed me up and down like he’d just found me molding in his refrigerator.

“Yes, sir!” I responded cheerfully as I began scanning his order.

“And you’re the one who drops bottles for the customers,” he tried again.

“Yes sir, I sure am,” I looked up at him calmly, refusing to be intimidated.

His eyes widened. “Hmph!” He paid for his order and left.

Two more weeks went by, during which the man pointedly refused to come through my line. I watched him wait for service at the other registers while my line stood empty and he glared at me balefully.

I decided to up my game. Every time I saw him enter the store I waved and greeted him cheerfully. He was taken aback at first but then started responding with his trademark snorty huff.

“How are you doing today?” I asked when he was finally forced to go through my line again.

“Obviously not as good as you,” he grumped. He proceeded to complain about missing a sale. I apologized for his inconvenience and confessed that I’d missed it too. “They just don’t last long enough, do they? I didn’t get paid in time to take advantage of it either.”

“As much money as you’re sittin’ on I don’t see why you couldn’t,” he replied.

“Bills,” I told him with a shrug.

He nodded, paid for his order, and left. In the next few weeks he seemed determined to throw me off my game. I fielded him every time.

Just because he’s unhappy doesn’t mean that he has the right to right to disturb me. I allow every single insult and complaint to roll off my back because I know it isn’t personal.

He just likes to have something to complain about.

Inevitably the time came when he caught me on a bad day. I punched the numbers into the register so fast that the machine failed to acknowledge one of them. I called out my mistake and begged him to cancel the transaction on his side so that I could fix it before he ran his card.

I apologized profusely. Of all the customers, it just had to be him.

To my surprise he comforted me. “We all have bad days,” he announced. “At least you caught it before my card went through.”

I had to catch my jaw before it bounced on the floor. “Yes sir, we do. I’m so sorry it happened to you, though. I know you’re too busy to deal with my carelessness.”

He snorted. “I’ve got time,” he replied.

We came to an odd sort of truce that day. While he still likes to complain, his attitude has shifted somewhat. He now glances toward my regular register when he walks in and nods in response to my greeting.

He even fusses at me now when he sees me out after work. “I just can’t get away from you,” he grumped one evening when we encountered one another at a nearby gas station.

“I’m stalking you,” I gave him a mock evil look. He actually laughed at that one!

I love my Grumpy Gus.

Spinster

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Spinster

Valentine’s Day means that all of the lovely people around me will be focused on romance. As a cashier and a single mother, this means that the volume of questions will increase. My regulars have gotten so close to me that they feel completely comfortable asking questions that many would consider rude.

“Are you married?” No.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” No.

“Do you want one?” Meh.

I had one gentleman come through my line with his adult daughter the other day. When he started tickling my taste buds by describing the meal he was preparing to cook his daughter loudly announced “My dad needs a new girlfriend so he can cook for her. Do you know anyone?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheepish expression on the gentleman’s face. Either Daughter saw my lack of a wedding band or they were one of the many who have inquired about my relationship status over the months.

It has gotten to the point where I jokingly refer to some of my male customers as my harem. It’s hard not to think of them that way when so many like to sneak up and surprise me with friendly hugs! A shift does not go by where I don’t receive at least one.

I have been given phone numbers on everything imaginable. A few have included little declarations about just why I should call (and assuring me that they were serious).

While I never call the numbers, I keep every single one of those notes. When I stumble upon my little collection I smile.

The hardest part of being single is fielding one particular question: “Why?”

How do you tell someone that you’re content with your singleness when the whole world seems obsessed with romance? That you’ve not seriously looked for a relationship in years because you’re happy to go home to an empty house?

I usually just shrug and say “I don’t know.” It’s the truth, in a way. I honestly don’t know what to tell them.

While normally it doesn’t bug me, Valentine’s Day is the worst. Upon the day of romance I am usually looked upon by my beloved customers with well-meaning pity.

That’s okay. Their concern just tells me they care.

For now I need to get dressed, head to work, and deal with a stream of customers focused on love and relationships. My boss will doubtless have something silly for me to wear (she’s discovered that I’m the only one aside from her willing to dress up on holidays) while my customers invariably try to hook me up.

Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to it.

How do you handle being single in a coupled world? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Minimizing Relationship Stress

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on Minimizing Relationship Stress

It’s painful to watch friends self-destruct, to watch them slide down the slippery slope of insanity. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You’re unable to turn away. You reach out your hand, only to have it slapped away time and again. Either they realize they are slipping and don’t care, or they’re enjoying the ride. Regardless, you try to help.

Eventually you realize that this person is causing you misery. You dread your encounters. Instead of offering them another hand up, give them your foot–to shove them out the door of your life.

There is no shame in this. It is not beneficial to keep people in your life simply because they are friends or family when all they do is give you pain. Loyalty is stupid when the person in question bites the hands that feed them.

Minimalism is about so much more than stuff. It is about curating all aspects of your life to bring peace and tranquility. While you cannot eliminate all of life’s storms, you can reduce the day-to-day strain on your emotions.

Today I urge you to look at your relationships. Determine that one person you would be better off without.

Then let them go.

It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

In this disposable age most of us don’t think about the value in using items until they are completely worn out. Rather than keep the old, they buy new even when the item they already own still works.

It makes financial sense to keep things, however. The longer you use something the less it actually costs to own it. Here are a few examples from my personal life.

I purchased a small window air conditioner in 2010. I paid $105.99 for it ($99.99 plus tax). I’ve now used that little air conditioner to cool my home for eight seasons. When I averaged the cost over the eight summers I’ve used it I realized that I’ve only spent $13.25 a year to own an air conditioner. If I had upgraded to a newer, larger, fancier one, my costs would have went up exponentially but this one still works (it’s a bit noisy these days) so I plan to continue using it for as long as possible to reduce my cost of ownership even further.

I purchased a van in 2007 for $500. It needed a new transmission but I was able to get it on the road for $2,000 (that includes the purchase price). I sold that van to a young man in 2014 so that I could write my book The Car Free Experiment. Not including annual taxes and insurance, that means it cost me $200 a year ($16.67 a month) to own that van. To calculate the cost I subtracted the amount I sold it for from the initial purchase expense and then divided by the years owned.

I purchased an iPad mini in January 2013. It cost $344.50 after tax. I’ve had it 60 months, or 5 years. So far it has cost me $68.88 a year, or $5.74 a month to own. It is still going strong so the longer I keep it the less it will cost me.

This is the reason why businesses try to keep their equipment working for many years before they replace it. They know that the longer they keep an item, the lower the costs of ownership.

I want you to think about that. Every time you replace an item that still works you increase your cost of ownership. For folks like myself, who used to replace items like computers every year or so, that money can add up but the longer that you keep an item, the inverse is true.

You can save a lot of money just by keeping your stuff.

Have you ever calculated the cost of owing the items in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below

Laundry Day

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Laundry Day

Laundry day is always an adventure in this house. Once we decide that it is time to visit the laundromat we wander through the house to locate any stray items that have managed to avoid being placed in our laundry bin. We bag everything up and stick the whole load into our shopping cart along with our washing supplies.

After gathering everything together for a recent trip I looked down to discover that I was wearing one of my favorite shirts. I needed to wash it as well so that I would be able to wear it before my next laundry day. I tugged it off and tossed it into the bag as well.

“Hmm. I should probably wash my bra too,” I told myself. Off came the bra. Since I was already topless I decided that I might as well change my panties and jeans while I was at it. That way all of my dirty laundry would be taken care of.

Standing buck naked in my kitchen I realized that I needed to wear something. I couldn’t go to the laundromat naked! I padded over to my makeshift closet and dug through the remaining items in search of an outfit that I wouldn’t miss wearing until I did laundry again.

Being a minimalist I didn’t have a lot to choose from. I finally selected an outfit, added some panties to the pile, and decided to go braless for the trip. I was just going up the street; if anyone had a problem with my saggy boobs they could kiss my butt–I wanted all of my bras to be clean!

So there I sat at the laundromat wearing a ragged set of sweats, complete with saggy braless boobs just minding my own business when an absolutely gorgeous guy comes in to dry his laundry. He checked me out and to my surprise started flirting with me.

A friend who decided to meet me at the laundromat leaned close. “This’ll teach you not to dress your best,” she teased in a whisper.

I laughed. “That guy would have kittens if he realized that I wandered around buck naked for ten minutes just to choose this outfit!” I retorted out loud. I wanted to see his reaction to that little comment.

Sure enough, his head whipped around. “What?” he chimed in, eyes wide.

“I wandered around my house naked for ten minutes trying to figure out what I could live without until the next laundry day,” I replied. “Don’t tell me you’ve never done it.”

“Your boyfriend must have enjoyed that,” he grinned.

“Don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Oh.” I could see his eyes sparkle with possibilities.

Of course, my friend decided that this was the perfect time to add her own brand of humor to the encounter.

“She always waits till I’m not home to walk around naked!” she huffed with feigned upset.

I watched Mr. Cutie promptly toss me into a box named ‘lesbian’ and dismiss me from his mind.

“Gee, thanks!” I snarked at my friend after he left.

“You’re welcome,” she replied smugly. “The moment he opened his mouth I knew he wasn’t your type anyway.”

I shook my head. Leave it to your friends to tell it like it is.

Still, he was kinda cute.

Do you have a funny story to tell? Please share it in the comments below.

Wake Up Early

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Wake Up Early

No matter how early I am scheduled to arrive at work I make sure to set my alarm clock a few hours early. This can be a challenge sometimes. I have never been a morning person and frequently stay up until the wee hours of the morning but the results are worth the extra effort.

I wake up, stumble through the house for some coffee, then plop into my computer chair. Once I wake up I write something, anything that I believe has the potential to become a blog post or a book section.

This allows me to walk to work with the knowledge that I have already made a little bit of progress towards my long-term goals. My steps are lighter and my day easier. No matter what happens at work I know that I’ve managed to accomplish something worthwhile.

Even better, I don’t have to worry about the day getting away from me. Even if I am exhausted at the end of my work shift I can rest easy with the knowledge that I haven’t let the day slip by without working at least a little bit towards my passion of writing and helping others.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of living day to day. You get up, go to work, and are so tired by the time you arrive home that you simply don’t have the energy left to work towards your goals.

This is my solution.

Have you ever thought about waking up a bit early to work towards your personal goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Notes to your Future Self

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Notes to your Future Self

Katie and I started a little tradition when we defrosted our refrigerator for the first time several years ago. We didn’t know how long it had been since we had defrosted it so sensing an opportunity we each wrote little notes to our future selves (Katie even left herself a gift) and stuck them in the back of the freezer for the next round.

My last note was dated April 16, 2016. In laborious chicken scratch, I told myself that “life sucks but it will get better.”

It definitely has!

So now the time as come to write myself another note. I think I’ll write more in this next one. In the meantime I have a nice, clean, defrosted refrigerator to enjoy.

 

Have you ever written a note for your future self to discover later? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Monitoring Energy Usage

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Monitoring Energy Usage

Every month my electric company sends me a letter concerning my energy usage. They keep track of your usage over a 12-month period. This letter covers details about how you compare to similar homes in your area, how your usage changes from month to month, and even how your usage compares to that of the previous year.

I must confess that I’ve not paid too much attention to all the information that the letter contains; I usually look at it to ensure that my usage is similar or lower than similar homes (it’s usually a bit lower) for the month and leave it at that.

This month I actually took the time to read more than the little comparison chart on the first page. I discovered that I’ve used 9% less electricity over the past 12 months than I did the previous year!

I had thought that we were actually using more. It seems as if the bills have been a bit higher, at any rate.

As a result of this I plan to start keeping copies of my electric bills so that I can take the time to review them periodically. I would like to see just how much electricity we use over a period of years in this house, and my electric company only keeps records for the previous 12 months. Since I plan to remain in this home for the long haul, that information would show me if I am slowly lowering my energy usage over time or if last year’s energy savings was a fluke.

Do you keep track of your energy use from month to month and year to year? Has the information benefited you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Microsoft Cortana is Evil

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Microsoft Cortana is Evil

Last night I stayed up until two in the morning. I was wired for sound over some Family Business. Normally I don’t get upset over things that don’t directly concern me but I’m very protective of my blood family.

Even with the drama I wanted to wake up bright and early this morning to get some writing done before I had to go to work at my public job. Since I am really hard to wake up after late nights I set several 8am alarms on several devices in hopes that *one* of them would wake me up by 9am to get started.

One of those devices was my new (to me) computer, who has Microsoft Cortana. I told her to wake me up at 8am as an afterthought before I went to bed.

She woke me up all right! I fell off the couch, half peeing my pants and landed on the dog. I had NO IDEA what was going on! When I finally figured out that it was the computer I started screaming at it to shut up.

I had to crawl on my hands and knees over to the stupid machine to turn off the darned alarm. By that point I was WIDE AWAKE and cussing like a sailor.

Best. Alarm clock. Ever. Scared the living daylights out of me but by golly it woke me up.

Since I’ve finally calmed down enough to laugh over it I thought I would share.

Have a nice day!

The Art of Delayed Gratification

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on The Art of Delayed Gratification

There comes a time when even the biggest cheapskate decides that it is time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I needed a new writing computer whether I liked it or not.

It isn’t easy to wait for something you need while you save up money for the purchase. Every time you see a sale pass you by it burns. I am not immune to that.

I’ve learned to cope by developing a ritual for the process. Every single payday when I set some money aside for my goal I write it down and take a moment to give myself a mental pat on the back. I remind myself that I’m a bit closer than I was the previous week.

When it seems like I’ll never make it I look at the money I have already saved along with a picture of the item in question. I close my eyes and imagine how wonderful it will be to see the item in my home and to use it for the very first time. I look back at the photos of previous purchases to remind myself that I felt the exact same way as I saved up for them as well. While it always feels like I’ll never make it, those photos are proof that I have in the past and will do it again.

When the moment arrives where I have saved up enough money I take a few moments to savor the sensation. Sometimes I will deliberately delay the purchase even longer to enjoy the fact that I actually have the money to purchase the item in question. By the time I sit down to place the order I feel truly rich.

Then I sit down at the computer, look at the item one last time, and ask myself the following questions:

* Do I really want to buy this?
* Will this item meet my needs?
* Have I shopped around enough to get the best deal that I can?

If the answers are yes then I complete the purchase. I schedule the delivery to arrive when someone will be home to sign for it when it comes. When that is done, I prepare a place in my tiny home for it while I wait. I make sure the area is spotless as I mentally plan the unboxing and initial setup.

I deliberately psyche myself up to a feverish pitch before every major purchase. I know that I won’t buy anything large for quite a while so I make the most of the experience. After it arrives I take a moment to just admire it in its packaging. I snap a few photos, take a deep breath, and slowly begin to upwrap it.

This is what I purchased this time: a refurbished desktop computer running Windows 10 with a set of specs that will more than meet my needs. Even better, the system can be upgraded at a reasonable price so that I can keep it in service even longer.

My total price was $325, including shipping. Not bad for a quad-core computer that has 16 GB of RAM. It even has a 2 TB hard drive.

How do you deal with delayed gratification? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Is Your Life in the Black?

Published / by Annie / 15 Comments on Is Your Life in the Black?

I ran into an old friend the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for several years so we took a few moments to catch up. My friend announced proudly that he had recently purchased a house, showed me his car, and bragged about his high-paying job. He was a little worried about making the new house payment but his wife had just started her own business selling cosmetics for a popular company. Could I attend her party in a couple of weeks?

I must confess that the conversation left me feeling somewhat small. While he regaled me with the size of his paycheck, the square footage of his new home, and other things, all I had to share was that I had written a few books, lived in a small rented home, and earned minimum wage at a grocery store. The little trips I take to help animals achieve a better life couldn’t hold a candle to his latest vacation overseas so I didn’t even bother to mention them.

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. Over the past few months even my daughter had told me that she looked down on my simple life; while she was thankful that I had sacrificed higher paying jobs in order to spend more time with her as she grew up she bluntly announced that she might have been better off if I had ignored her wishes and spent more time making money. She would have had fancier things that way.

Was I really such a failure that my own child looked down her nose at my simple lifestyle? The look on my friend’s face when he discovered that I didn’t even own a car spoke volumes.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching since that fateful encounter. I’ve examined my life thoroughly as I asked myself did I make the right decisions? If not, should I start making changes? Should I apply for a job at a local factory where a friend of mine earns almost a thousand dollars a week with overtime? I wouldn’t have the time to write anymore but I would make a lot more money. I could buy a car, save up for a house, buy some nicer clothes….

I was still tormented by these thoughts when the first of the month rolled around. As I calculated my monthly budget and paid my bills I realized something: I could pay all of my bills before they came due. I didn’t have to struggle. I don’t toss and turn at night wondering where the money is going to come from to pay my electric bill. I don’t have to hide a car to avoid repossession until I could make the payment. I’m not driving around on expired tags because I can’t afford to put insurance on my vehicle as some of my friends are doing. I don’t cringe when the phone rings and I’m certainly not in danger of losing my home because I failed to pay the back taxes.

I’m operating in the black. Each and every year my writing business pays to support itself. It has done this from the beginning. For a few years there it also brought in enough money to support my simple lifestyle without the need for a public job. While it may not be able to support me currently it is still earning a small profit.

While far from rich I have enough in the bank to pay my bills without struggle every month. I can afford the things that I need without having to rob Peter to pay Paul. I’m able to splurge on some extras and save up for more expensive items. I even have a small savings account that I contribute to.

And unlike my friend who looked at me askance when he discovered what neighborhood I called home, it doesn’t take multiple jobs to support my lifestyle. I am able to live on minimum wage at my part-time job, which allows me time to pursue my passion of writing. I have even been able to take time off from working entirely over the years and savor the experience of being a stay-at-home single mom without having to sacrifice my morals to do so.

Even better, my simple lifestyle granted me the ability to recover from an injury that would have bankrupted many that I know. It enabled me to quickly regain my financial footing when I was able to start working again.

I may not have a fancy car or a luxurious house. I may not be able to take fancy trips or turn my friends green with envy but the truth is I have something far more valuable.

I have peace of mind. I can go to bed at night without worrying over unpaid bills. I can take time off work to help save the lives of unwanted animals. I have the time to make the world a better place by sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

I can afford to pursue my passions.

Do you live in the black? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Wisdom of Experience

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I can always tell when Daughter’s payday arrives. She rolls into the house, arms filled with purchases as she hands me her share of the bill money.

I resist the urge to ask her if she opened up a savings account. While I know from experience how unpredictable the world can be I still remember what it was like to be a fresh adult of 18. You are excited with legal freedom, brimming with the confidence of youth. You are so excited to have money of your own that it burns a hole in your pocket as you hurry to spend it.

“I’ll do that next week,” I know she’ll say if I ask.

In the meantime she announces, “Right now XX is having a big sale. Look at my new stuff!”

I stifle a sigh as I examine her purchases, nodding my head as she tells me I should splurge on a new pair of shoes or a couple of bras while they’re on sale.

“Maybe next time,” I put her off. “Right now I’m saving up for a writing computer. My old laptop won’t last forever.”

“You’re just waiting for me to get bored with my new clothes and give them to you,” she counters with a huff.

I glance down at the brand new pair of Converse sitting beneath my desk. In her rush to order them she selected a size too big. Rather than exchange them she had passed them down to me.

I am content with oversized shoes.

“You got me,” I laugh.

The time will come when she realizes that money doesn’t buy happiness. She will look back in amazement at all of the money she spent on passing fancies. She will count her change and wonder how to survive until payday.

Eventually she will look at mom wearing her handmedowns and realize that, while far from rich, that Mother has the bills all paid, money in the bank, and the contentment that comes with having enough.

I just have to wait.

The Longevity Factor

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We don’t consider the longevity of purchases much in this disposeable age. For the most part we buy the best we can afford without a thought about how we intend to use the item.

Once upon a time as a snot-nosed kid I stumbled upon an elderly couple quarreling about this in a grocery store. Wide-eyed, I watched the man snatch a package of super-soft bathroom tissue out of their cart and exchange it for the cheaper brand.

“There ain’t no sense in spending a fortune on something we’re gonna wipe our asses on and throw away,” he grumped at his wife’s protests.

Just the other day my daughter and I found ourselves facing that situation.

“Look, mom! This facial tissue has lotion in it!” Katie exclaimed as she handed me the box in question.

“Why the hell would I want to pay more for something we blow our noses on and throw away?” I grumped as I handed it back. “Toilet paper not good enough for you now that you’re working?”

“It scratches my nose,” she complained.

“Then use a bandanna like I do. It’s softer and you can reuse them.”

Katie snorted as she placed the box in the section of the cart reserved for her personal purchases.

“I’ll get it for myself then,” she huffed.

The old man smiled from the halls of my memory.

A Sunny Solution

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Necessity is the mother of invention. It is an act of pure genius when one can use the things they already have available to solve a problem.

One of the major problems I currently face is my inability to tolerate backlit screens for very long periods of time. Even when I dim the screen as low as it can go looking at it becomes painful after a short while. Rather than cry and say that “I can’t” I started looking around for a solution.

I found it in a pair of dark sunglasses. I keep them at my computer and put them on whenever I go to work. It makes it really hard to see my keyboard in dim light, but a carefully positioned lamp takes care of that issue.

I have received a few chuckles from my daughter and friends when they see me working but I don’t care. It works and that is all that matters.

What workarounds do you use in your daily life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Magic of Decision

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I’ve lived in this little house for close to seven years. In that time I’ve never gotten around to making the little touches that turn a house into a home. I didn’t see the point since I didn’t know how long I was going to live here. Was I going to upgrade to another house, move into an RV, or thin down to almost nothing and travel once the kid was gone?

I honestly didn’t know. Something deep inside of me was restless so rather than waste time, money, and effort getting comfortable here I just made do in several areas. I would probably relocate after the kid left for college anyway, I reasoned.

I spent the first few days in shock after the kid turned 18. The knowledge that I was legally free of the responsibilities of parenthood and could do what I wanted did not compute. What would I do? While I still had a year before she left for college, I needed to get cracking!

But then I realized something: I am happy here. I like the house, I like the area, I even like the simple job that allows me to pay my bills while pursuing my simple passions.

I didn’t have to move. I didn’t have to travel. I didn’t have to go out in search of answers or happiness or even adventure.

I had enough right here, right now. I could settle down and stay right here.

As a result of finally making a decision I’ve finally started to settle in. I purchased a set of curtains to begin the adventure of making this little house a home. Once I accomplish the goal of getting my window treatments sorted I’ll move on to another.

Many people fail to realize how liberating it can be to make a decision. It frees you from considering other possibilities and allows you to focus on a single path instead of worrying about all of the other paths you could or should be taking.

For me personally, making the decision to remain here even after the kid moves out eliminated a stress that I didn’t even know I was carrying. It allowed me to admit that I didn’t need to travel. I didn’t need to move, change my circumstances, chase some dream or fulfil some magical bucket list.

I am happy right where I’m at.

What decisions have you held off making? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Take Advantage of Downtime

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Take Advantage of Downtime

Many years ago I was waiting somewhere for something. A lady came in after me. Once she found out that there was going to be a delay she settled down, pulled out some yarn, and started crocheting. While the rest of us shifted and grumbled, she contentedly tinkered on an afghan she was creating.

Curious and bored, I started a conversation with her. How could she just sit there crocheting? Wasn’t she upset that she was being forced to lose her valuable time because so-and-so was running behind?

She smiled at me patiently as she began to switch colors on her creation. She was pleased at the delay, she confessed calmly. It would allow her to get a bit more done on her afghan.

She proceeded to explain to me that downtime was a blessing to her. She spent so much of her day running errands and taking care of business that she rarely had the opportunity to work on her crocheting projects. While at first she resented the delays she eventually realized that she could take advantage of them so she started keeping her current project in a bag that she could carry with her. Whenever she had to wait somewhere she would reach into her bag, pull out her yarn, and start crocheting.

She completed a lot more projects as a result she informed me happily.

Her words stuck with me after we parted ways. At the time I worked multiple jobs, trying to keep food on the table for my children while also taking an online class in computer repair. Time was something I rarely had enough of. Could I do something similar?

I started taking my computer repair books to work with me. I would read them while waiting to clock in and during my break at work. I read them anytime I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for appointments and at night when I had trouble going to sleep.

I finished my computer course a lot sooner than anticipated as a result so I kept up the habit, reading more advanced texts on computer repair and eventually branched out to read books on business management, success, and other topics. I raised a lot of eyebrows when I would pull out my weighty tomes at work or in waiting rooms. Like the woman who inspired me, I patiently answered their questions and moved on.

I still do that now. I keep my Kindle in my purse, ready to take advantage of those snatches of time whenever I encounter them. Instead of vegging out in front of a movie or a television show, I pull out the device and start reading.

Not only does this help to eliminate stress by giving you something to look forward to while you are waiting, it allows you to accomplish something in those little pieces of time that would otherwise be wasted.

I use the time for learning. Currently I’m reading books on philosophy and religion, spiced with books on success and the occasional novel. I’m currently working on Bobby Knight’s book The Power of Negative Thinking after catching it on sale for 99 cents before I dive into the works of Emerson.

The next time you find yourself waiting try to devise a productive way to use those little snatches of time. Can you jot down some notes for a school project, touch up your manicure, clean out your wallet, work on a craft project, or read a book?

Make a quick phone call to an elderly relative. Update your task list. Send a text to your kid and tell them you love them. Make an appointment to get your car serviced. Plan out your budget or meals for the next week. Anything is better than just sitting there mindlessly checking your Facebook as the minutes tick away.

And at the end of the day, instead of plopping down on the couch to commune with your television or play a video game, think about the other things you could do instead that would improve your life. Even if you only take a few extra minutes of your time before returning to your regular routine, those minutes will add up to hours that you have gained instead of wasted.

What can you do with your downtime? Please share your stories in the comments below.

How I am Teaching Responsibility to my Young Adult

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on How I am Teaching Responsibility to my Young Adult

As my daughter Katie neared her 18th birthday the inevitable challenge arose:

“I’m almost 18!” she huffed at me one day. “You need to start treating me like an adult!”

“I’ll treat you like an adult when you start acting like one,” I retorted firmly.

This led to a conversation about what it takes to be considered an adult. I explained to her that able-bodied adults pay their own way in the world. They don’t rely on Mommy and Daddy to support them. While they may not be rich, they have bills that they have to pay and they do.

“What if I start paying rent then?” Katie suggested. “If I pay half of the bills, would you start treating me like an adult?”

After I recovered from my surprise, Katie offered to begin paying half of the household expenses. Since I live very cheaply, that’s not as much as it seems. Two hundred dollars a month during the summer months, with more added to cover the extra heating expense when winter comes ended up being the amount we settled upon. We are both responsible for any personal expenses and we split the expense of buying food and supplies (like bathroom tissue) that we both use.

To be honest, I agreed to this with the belief that she would keep up the payments for a month or so and then start coming up with excuses. However, over six months have elapsed and she has paid her share of the expenses cheerfully. As a result, I now treat her like the adult that she wants to be treated as.

This not only solves the issue of dealing with a young lady on the cusp of adulthood, it teaches her how to budget in a safe environment. I keep the whole amount for the bills on hand in the event that something happens that prevents her from paying just in case. Instead of my daughter moving out to live with friends who may or may not be fiscally responsible with their share of the expenses, she gets to live with someone (mom) who knows how to make sure the bills are paid regardless.

It has also made life as a single parent easier. Instead of having to pay all of the bills, they are now halved. As a result, I actually have money to save or to use on those little extras I’ve sacrificed over the years (I’ll write more on that later).

How have you decided to teach fiscal responsibility to the young adults in your care? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Ten Things to Do When You’re Bored

Published / by Annie

“I’m bored.”

Those two little words can strike fear into the heart of any parent. Whenever a kid is bored, trouble is not far behind so we strive to find something interesting to keep the kids occupied.

Boredom is something that affects adults as well. While periods of boredom can be good for you, we often end up turning on the television, checking social media, playing video games, or mindlessly texting a friend as we try to find something to occupy our mind.

While I am no stranger to boredom I find that it helps to have something productive to do when boredom strikes. That way, at the end of the day you can tell yourself that you made a tiny step towards something better.

If you’re like me, however, you can find it difficult to figure out exactly what to do when in the midst of those moments. To help, I’ve created a small list of ideas to get you started.

  1. Read. Reading is the one thing that even the poorest person can do to improve themselves. How-tos, self-improvement, even certain novels can open your mind and teach you something new. With the ubiquitousness of smartphones these days, it is a simple matter to download a free reading app (like the Kindle app) to read free or low-priced books wherever you happen to be when boredom strikes. While you can carry a physical book with you, books can be bulky but since most of us carry a smartphone already, opening an app on the device would not be an issue when the opportunity arises. I carry my Kindle everywhere I go for this purpose.
  2. Make Lists. Open an app on your phone or carry a small notebook with you. When you feel boredom about to strike, brainstorm. Write down the things you want/need to do in the near future, ideas for new and current projects, hopes and plans for the future. This not only occupies your mind, it allows you to do something productive with your time instead of just wasting it on social media or fretting.
  3. Clean Your House. Everyone’s home has something small that needs to be done. Even if you just cleaned the place, there will be some small thing that needs doing. Look through the list you created (create one if you haven’t already) for some small thing you can accomplish. If you’re not big on lists have a few simple tasks that you always perform when boredom strikes. We always have clean dishes to put away, the litterbox to scoop out, a trash can that needs emptied, and a kitchen table that always needs a bit of tidying so when boredom threatens to strike I start there.
  4. Throw Something Away. Instead of being bored, go through your mental inventory of possessions in search of one or two things that you can safely discard. If you are away from home, make a list of these items so that you can eliminate them later. If you are at home, why not go ahead and get rid of them? You will have something to do, and be simplifying your life as a result.
  5. Take a Walk. Walks don’t have to be long to benefit you. Take a turn around your apartment building, go around the block, or even farther if time and energy allows. Look around you and see the interesting things you can notice, or just think about whatever crosses your mind. I find that walking is one of the best ways to relieve stress. When I feel myself getting frustrated or bored, I grab my jacket and take a turn around the neighborhood. I get some strange looks when I do this late at night but since I live in a very safe area I am able to wander unmolested. Find a safe place and try this for yourself. Not only will walking relieve your boredom, it will help to improve your health as well.
  6. Call/Visit a friend or Family Member. We all have that friend or relative that doesn’t receive much company. Why not call or stop by just to tell them that you love them and are thinking of them?
  7. Learn Something New. Read books or take a class on something that you would like to learn about. You can learn a craft such as crocheting, sew simple projects by hand or machine (if you have a machine available), even how to repair your home or the items in it. If you want a promotion at work, read or take a class on business management to improve your chances? It can’t hurt, and will give you an advantage over your competition.
  8. Write. Start a small journal by either writing down your personal thoughts using a writing app on your phone or by jotting them down in a small notebook that you carry with you. This not only gives you something to do, it will help free your mind of cluttering thoughts that can distract you. I find that writing my thoughts down helps me clarify my feelings on certain matters, which reduces stress. It gives you a nonjudgmental sounding board, a place where you can safely reveal your innermost thoughts. the experience can be liberating.
  9. Take a Nap. We all need more rest. Get some. Instead of vegging out in front of the television, turn it off and catch some Zzzs. Set an alarm if you need to wake up for something. Many people find that they are so exhausted due to their busy lives that they sleep for far more than they expected to.
  10. Do Nothing. Find a quiet spot, sit or lie down, and just relax. If you find yourself thinking about something, just allow the thoughts to flutter through your head. Eventually something may strike you that needs to be done. When that happens you can make a note or get started. I find that I get my best writing ideas this way.

What do you do when boredom strikes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Having a List Can Increase Productivity

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on Having a List Can Increase Productivity

A cherished part of my childhood was spending part of each summer vacation with my Auntie. Not only did I get to play with her kids, she lived a totally different life from my parents. I’ll never forget the day when I saw her sit down with a piece of paper and start writing.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m writing down the stuff I need to do today,” Auntie replied.

“Why?”

“Well, it helps me figure out what I need to accomplish. At the end of the day, it shows me what all I managed to get done, so I can go to bed feeling satisfied.”

Younger Me didn’t understand that. What was the point in writing down silly things like “make the beds?” It seemed like a waste of time. Instead of writing a stupid list, why not just do the stuff and get it over with?

Many years later she showed me. When my father died Mom and I were lost. I followed Uncle’s instructions to drive over to their house instead of heading home. That night was spent grieving, but the next day? The next day we had stuff to do.

Auntie sat down and helped us create a list.

  • Get Annie’s glasses fixed (Mom had slapped them off of me in her grief and broken them).
  • Take Dad’s suit to the funeral home.
  • Switch the bank account into Mom’s name only.
  • Select our outfits for the funeral.
  • Call A, B, and C to inform them of Dad’s death.

It wasn’t a very long list but it included simple things like “grab a bite to eat” and “go to bed early and rest.” Because my Auntie had created it, I helped my Mom follow it to the letter.

I realized at the end of the day that it had felt good to mark the things off that little piece of paper as we accomplished them. When I went to bed that night, it was with the realization that we had accomplished everything that needed to be done that day.

Almost thirty years later I still make lists.

Pythagoras taught that everything in nature could be divided into three parts. He believed that no one could become truly wise if they didn’t understand that every problem they face was diagrammatically triangular. He was famous for saying, “Establish the triangle and the problem is two-thirds solved.”

My lists contain a bit more than three things but his reasoning (as demonstrated by my Auntie) holds true. Simply organizing your thoughts by making a physical list eliminates the heavy lifting in your day to day life. Instead of stopping to think of what you’ve already accomplished as you work out what else you need to do, it’s already there in front of you. Just pick something else from your list and get to work. At the end of the day you have physical proof that you accomplished something.

Lists don’t have to be fancy to be effective. You can jot them down on the back of an envelope, make a list in your daily journal, or use an app designed for that purpose.

I’ve personally learned that simpler is better. I keep a cheap notebook on my kitchen table for mine. When I sit down for my first cup of coffee, I turn to a fresh page and start writing. If I accomplish something that I didn’t think to put on the list, I write it down and mark it off. If I think of something that I need to accomplish at some point in the future, I jot it down on the side as a reminder.

When I complete something I like to take a moment, sit down, and relish the fact that I got one more thing accomplished that day. It sounds silly but that little moment of reflection means a lot. It reminds me that, instead of wasting my time, that I’ve actually managed to accomplish something. It makes a bad day better when you can go to bed knowing that you accomplished something. Here is a video that explains it better than I can.

Do you make lists? If not, why not give it a try? If you find that it helps you, please consider sharing this post with your friends. Thank you. Thank you