A Race, Some Beer, and a New Challenge

The Color Run!

I just completed the first race of my yearly goal. The goal was to do at least two 5Ks this year – one for fun and one for speed. The Color Run definitely isn’t about speed since it’s not even timed. It’s more about community and supporting friends who enjoy running. Exciting! A couple friends from work and me made a team and ran the whole thing together (except for Jen, who sprained her foot the week before but still walked the whole thing in a boot!)

I didn’t train a whole lot for it, but I’ve been running to the library and the park pushing both boys in the jogger a couple times a week. This has resulted in some minor knee pain, but I wasn’t too worried about it. (Long-term I’m excited about the possibilities biking holds, especially since it’s easier on my knees!)

Josh was awesome and wrangled both kiddos while I ran. We had so much fun that we decided to do another 5K – the Sparrow’s Nest Rush 5K!! This one will be flat and less crowded so we’ll be able to focus more on speed. IMG_8031.JPGIMG_8062.jpg

That Time I Quit a Challenge….

Confession time! I basically gave up on my second goal: to not buy alcohol this year. It was dropped intentionally, and with Josh’s support. He was actually the one who suggested I go back on this one! With the stress of small kids, especially one who doesn’t sleep through the night, I was feeling rather depleted. One night and Josh mentioned “Well you’ve given up a lot! Maybe you should allow yourself to at least buy beer if that helps!”

That’s all I needed. A little permission and support. I haven’t gone crazy or anything, but I have decided that now’s not a good time to completely deprive myself. We already don’t eat out or buy material things we don’t need, and I haven’t bought clothes for myself or the boys in a year. Maybe a couple seasonally-brewed beers here and there is actually okay!

Do I feel like a failure for giving up? No, but I’m owning up because I believe in accountability and honesty. I’m not perfect. I’m human and I don’t accomplish every goal I set for myself. That’s okay! I know I could have met my goal if I had really set my mind to it. But the opinion that matters most to me is Josh’s – and if he says I can ease off a little then I take him seriously and reevaluate. (I’m still on track for the clothes-shopping ban, by the way! There’s a big update coming when I finish in June!)

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Failure never tasted so good!

Monthly Challenge Time!

Lastly, it’s time for another Monthly Challenge, believe it or not! This one is both frugal and environmentally-friendly (the two often go together) – Dry Clothes Outside Month!

The concept is simple: we’re going to do our best to take the time to haul the laundry outside and dry it in the sun rather than just stick it in the electric dryer. This includes cloth diapers, though I may need to air fluff them afterward. We’ll see what Shiloh thinks about that…. It’s getting to be the time of year that drying things outside is faster and easier than in the winter and spring. It will also be fun to see if this consistent practice will make a noticeable dent in our electric bill. We’ll keep you updated! As always, let me know if you’d like to join the challenge! It really helps to be accountable to someone.

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How are you doing on your yearly resolutions, if you made any? Any goals for the summer months? Any other runs I should sign up for?

Family Men are Manly Men

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He’s not “Mr Mom.” He’s a father!
It irks me when people assume that motherhood is more important to me as a woman than fatherhood is to Josh as a man. I don’t call myself a feminist, but I do get discouraged at the thought that women are just “baby-makers” and men are just “providers.” There’s a lot more to both of us than that.

When I returned to work after having Malachi, I faced a large amount of guilt. Not from myself, but imposed from other people. Mostly strangers. “Don’t you miss him?” “Don’t you wish you were home right now?”

Nope and nope. I thrive in a busy work environment. I love having Josh and my mother pitch in so I can do something productive with my hands other than hold a baby. I only work part-time, so I don’t get much of a chance to miss my kiddos other than the good kind of missing that makes me happy to see them.

Why did so many people expect me to quit my job when I had my first child? Was I a bad mother because I didn’t want to quit my job? Should I want to be a stay-at-home mom? What’s wrong with me?

Another thing people who don’t really know us ask: “How does your husband feel about being home with the kids right now?”

Um, he feels the same way I feel when I’m home with the kids and he’s at work. Why should he feel different? Why is this a question? Do people ask this to him at his job? “How does your wife feel about being home with two kids right now?”

I didn’t come up with this phrase, but I like it a lot. “It’s not called babysitting if it’s your family.” A father isn’t babysitting while his wife is out. He’s fathering. When I’m with them I’m mothering. We’re both parenting. We’re a team. No, we’re not the same. We relate to the kids differently and we each have our own parenting style. Josh wakes up early and takes them for walks in the mornings. I’m the one they come upstairs and snuggle in bed. I take more pictures. Josh reads more books. But we’re on the same page, we’re on the same team, and neither of us is “babysitting.”

It makes me sad whenever anyone is stereotyped. Josh is sensitive and soft-spoken, but he’s wise, strong, and I trust him more than anyone else on the planet. I like cooking, cleaning, and baking but I also get a thrill out of home repairs and power tools. You really can’t put either of us in a box.

When a baby first enters a family, it’s easy for the husband to feel a little like an outsider. The mother just grew the child, and is probably the main source of food for a while. It’s new and intimidating for some men. Josh and I went through this phase briefly with Malachi when he took care of me so I could take care of the baby. That was mostly the extent of his involvement, but it was important nonetheless.

But something happens as the baby grows and starts to disconnect slightly from the mother. Maybe when the bottle is introduced. Maybe when the mother returns to work. Maybe when the child becomes more curious about the outside world. The father has a chance to step in and get involved. Some fathers are still intimidated. Others embrace the change with open arms. Confidence comes from experience and before long a capable and hands-on father is born. He isn’t acting as “Mr. Mom.” He brings his own unique skills and abilities to the duty.

Side-note to mothers at this point: It is very, very, very, very, very, very, very important that we don’t become over-critical and over-analytical when our husbands step in to help with our children. No matter the age of the child – unless their safety and wellbeing is at stake, do not criticize your husband when he helps with the kids. If you do, he will get burnt out and resent helping. Not because he’s an unwilling, unhelpful father but because you made it impossible for him. If you don’t like the outfit he picked out, don’t say anything. Just relax and get over it. Don’t demean him as a man and as a father because small things he does aren’t your exact preference. You can’t beat him down with your words and then complain that he never wants to help. Over time you can slowly and gently give him pointers. But choose your battles, and don’t nag him or you’ll miss out on working as a team and he’ll miss out on feeling trusted and empowered.

Some women aren’t like me. Some women really feel called to have a bunch of babies and stay home full-time. I think that’s wonderful! It’s probably the hardest job on the planet, and I admire those who do it and enjoy doing it! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling the call to stay home and raise a family. The things that bother me are:

1) The assumption that all women are called to be mothers

2) The assumption that all mothers want to stay home full-time

3) The assumption that parenthood is a one-person job

Some might say: “What about Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3? Isn’t the husband supposed to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church?!” We might not all agree on this, but I personally agree that in the context of marriage my husband is my spiritual head. However, if he’s the head does that mean he’s somehow released from the responsibilities of rearing our children? I think not! I think raising our children not as a secondary responsibility but as a primary responsibility worthy of the attention of both parents, especially the spiritual leader of the household! Ephesians 6:4 specifically instructs fathers to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.

It makes me so very happy to see more and more fathers in our generation taking a leading rather than supporting role in raising their kids. My heart smiles every time I see a baby-wearing dad, a father pushing a stroller down the street, or a guy carrying a diaper bag. I love it when my son imitates us by taking care of his stuffed animals like babies. The same things that annoy me when done wrong – like when the Men’s Room doesn’t have a diaper changing table – are thrilling when done right! Way to go, dads!

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Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Home

Happy Earth Day everyone! I don’t know what you do to commemorate this holiday, but I think there’s no better time to reevaluate our habits and see what we can change for better sustainability.

We definitely aren’t zero-waste at our house, but we’ve taken lots of bitty steps that help us throw away less every week. We recently stopped using a full-size trashcan (so we wouldn’t have to buy kitchen trash bags) and use only little ones lined with free plastic shopping bags – which are on their second or third life since I accept them used from people. Just simply having a smaller trashcan makes us think more critically about what we throw away. (And seriously, why buy trash bags?!)

How We Reduced Our Household Waste:

Compost

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can compost leaves and organic materials to reduce waste and cost of pickup. You can give your finished compost to friends or put it around the bases of trees to enrich your soil. We built a very simple bin out of old pallets that came with our house. It cost us nothing to build, and it helps us keep our yard tidy and our trashcan empty. You can compost a lot more than you think: cardboard, teabags, waxy wrappers from butter, dust from sweeping and vacuuming, coffee grounds, and dryer lint.

Our free DIY compost bin!
Don’t buy things

Packaging is a huge amount of what families throw away every week. Boxes, wrappers, zip ties, and receipts really add up! We’re in the middle of a Buy Nothing Month, so the only packaging entering our home is currently food packaging. Buying used at thrift stores, Craigslist, and yard sales reduces packaging greatly when you must purchase something!

Carry bags or skip them

It takes practice to get in the habit, but this is easy once you start doing it regularly. Find a way to make it part of your routine and always bring a bag when you go shopping. If you forget to bring one, ask for no bag. The added work of no bag will help you remember next time! If you forget them in the car, ask for the cashier to just leave your items in the cart and bag them when you get to the car. Use strong bags, preferably ones you can throw in the wash occasionally. Reusable bags are not only greener, they’re better at doing the job than plastic or paper bags! You won’t want to go back.

Cook your own food

Fast food and prepared foods have so much paper and trash! When we pick up litter in our neighborhood, it’s almost all food wrappers! Making your own food is a win / win / win: healthier, cheaper, and greener too! We buy items we use the most like rice and beans in large packages and store them in airtight glass jars to keep them fresh. Cooking everything from scratch is definitely a balance and won’t happen overnight. But taking a step in that direction will make a difference – in your health and your trashcan. Fast food is probably the worst, since everything is packaged and disposable. Maybe consider a Monthly Challenge of no fast food for starters, or if you must eat out, choose a place that uses real dishes.

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Fast food – everything is disposable.
Reduce disposables

We use cut up t-shirts instead of paper towels. We also have cloth napkins and real silverware. My friend Lisa had the great idea of carrying a real silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin when out and about so she never had to take plastic when out and about. Here’s a tip if you decide to do that: buy cheap silverware at the thrift store with no packaging! When entertaining Josh and I rely on a large collection of used bowls, dishes, and plates. It’s much cheaper and it feels nicer than using paper goods. Goodwill Outlet is the cheapest place for dishes if there’s one near you. Glassware is sold for just cents a pound!

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My thrift store plates don’t all match, but they allow me to host without disposables!
Reusable water bottles

Do whatever it takes to avoid bottled water in your home – whether it be installing a filter, or refilling glass jars. We drink our tap water at home without any problems. At my work we have a water filtration system and employees are encouraged to bring their own bottles rather than buy plastic water bottles everyday.

Mason jars

I can almost always be seen with a mason jar in hand. I could go on and on about their awesomeness, but I’ll try to keep it short. These have many uses: water bottle, coffee cup, leftovers, smoothies. They are much cheaper than buying glass water bottles and glass food storage containers. Not only that, they are airtight and leak-proof! I’ve never even used them to can things with hot water, but I have frozen them successfully with a little space left in the top for water expansion. If you want a free option, just save old jelly jars and pasta sauce jars! The only thing you can’t do is pour boiling water in glass jars…but I don’t recommend you do this with most containers! You can even use them to shop at the bulk store if you have bulk bins in your area. I have a whole cupboard full of jars of various sizes and we’re always using them. Minimalist? Maybe not…but I love them!

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Mason jars – the possibilities are endless!
Cloth diapers

These are not at all as intimidating as people think. A little optimism goes a long way – if you tell yourself you can do it then you can! We use store-bought wipes and a disposable diaper for overnight, so we still fill one small shopping-bag-lined trashcan a week. We save a lot of money by cloth diapering, which is my main (albeit selfish) motivation in doing it! Here’s the ones we use and the pail liner. We wash about 2 loads a week. We have a high efficiency washer and we dry them outside in the summer, which helps with cleaning costs. My frugal friend Kalie from Pretend to be Poor shares some cloth diaper tips and cost / savings analysis here. She estimates that cloth diapers save parents approximately $700-$800 for the first two years, and more if you’re able to re-use them for subsequent children! (It’s also kind of nice to never have to run to the store just to buy diapers!)

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The first stash of cloth diapers. There was no going back!
Diva cup

If you’re female, feminine trash is a thing. A thing that can be eliminated with a Diva cup. I realize they don’t work for everyone, but mine does the trick for me. You buy it once, and reuse again and again. No worrying about having enough “supplies” when you’re out, no yucky trash, no risk of toxic shock syndrome, and it’s cheaper and greener than tampons. Worth looking into, ladies!

Refuse

The greenest part of minimalism isn’t getting rid of things – it’s preventing things from entering your home to begin with. When someone offers you a trinket at a party or something you don’t need with a company logo on it, you can simply say no. These little things will add up and either clutter your house or end up in the garbage pile. It’s better to just say no thank you from the get-go. Maybe it will still end up in someone else’s trash, but you did send a message to whoever was handing out the promotional material or paraphernalia. If it happens enough, maybe these companies will try a different marketing strategy.

Coffee

There’s more than one way to green up your morning coffee. Worst scenario: K-Cups or takeout with a paper cup and little individual packets of sugar and cream. These are pretty high on the waste spectrum! Better scenarios: French press at home and compost grounds, filter at home and compost filter, or bring your own mug or mason jar if going out.

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Something beautiful about waste-free coffee!
I hope these tips inspire you! There are so many little things we can all do to make a big impact in our footprint on this planet. If you’re interested in more ideas, I recommend the book Zero Waste Home. I’m still a work in progress, but I aspire to tread lightly on the planet and save money while doing it. A few new habits can make all the difference!

 

Confessions From the Mommy Club

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You’ve probably seen us at the park on a play-date.

We’re the “stroller brigade” walking at the mall, taking up the whole aisle.

We meet up at the zoo, pack tons of snacks, take lots of breaks, and go home before nap time.

We go to Ikea and drink all the coffee and consider walking around the store wearing a baby great exercise.

We go to farms and pick apples and pet goats.

We nurse in public.

We change diapers anywhere and everywhere.

Maybe you don’t have kids and you think we’re a little awkward.

Maybe you’re a little grossed out by our kids’ messy faces and grimy hands.

Maybe we’re living up to our mommy stereotypes, whatever those are.

Maybe you don’t have kids and you feel judged or rejected by us.

Maybe you feel like we’re a club or a clique where you must have a baby on your hip for entrance.

Maybe you’re a little hurt because you can’t have kids or aren’t called to have kids.

Can I be honest with you?

That’s never our intention. 

While I can’t speak for everyone everywhere, my version of the Mommy Club is an outcome of loneliness.

I definitely don’t want to pigeonhole all mommies into categories, but I want to share my personal thoughts on the matter.

We’re not trying to be exclusive.

We’re simply overcoming the main problem of being a stay-at-home (or mostly stay-at-home) parent: the need to connect with other adults.

The main reason we gravitate toward other moms is because few others are home during the day!

That’s it.

It’s not personal.

Daytime is playtime. Nights are hard because kids go to bed early, and weekends are special and fill up very fast.

Other reasons we gravitate toward other moms:

We get it. Kids are awesome but they’re distracting. We’re not scatterbrained, but we’re trying to listen and kid-wrangle at the same time. Other moms are used to this and won’t take it as being disengaged.

We’re flexible and give each other grace. We rarely set times to be most places. It’s usually a “text when you’re on your way” kind of thing because life with littles is unpredictable.

We know that just getting out of the house and dressed can be a huge accomplishment.

We’re going through the same life phases.

We can relate to the sleep-deprivation, meal planning, and home managing.

We can bounce ideas off each other and give suggestions without sounding judgmental because we’re all in the same boat.

We all know it’s rough at times and rewarding at others.

We have similar needs.

We’re mostly early risers (not necessarily by choice!) who can’t go out in the afternoon due to nap times.

We share a love of caffeine and discussions about things other than parenting.

We love doing things for cheap or for free so we know all the kid-related things to do for free in the city.

We go to each other’s homes regularly because it’s cheaper and easier than meeting at a coffee shop and expecting the babies to sit there quietly like little angels.

We thrive on social interaction and will talk your ear off when we do get together.

We love to see our kids form friendships and become lifelong buddies.

We’d love for those without kids to join us, but we don’t know how to extend an invite.

Some days I would love to go somewhere with a kid-less friend or single gal because it’s a little less complicated and I’d have a hand with my kiddos…but everyone I can think of is working or lives an hour away!

It’s not personal.

If we don’t reach out to you, it might just be that we’re struggling with just living our day-to-day chores and activities.

Most of us would love it if you reached out to us! Invite yourself over, in the morning if possible. Offer to hold the baby so we can eat and shower uninterrupted. Then we can share our hearts while folding laundry and drinking tea. You’re more than welcome. It’s just a different world sometimes.

I’m lucky enough to have good friends with and without kids, so I’ve heard both sides at different times.

The only rule for being my close friend isn’t whether or not you have kiddos, but that you accept my identity as a mother. I’m not my kids, but they do come with me often. They’re part of who I am now. They’ve changed me a lot. I’m not going to apologize for that.

My non-parent friends are like aunts and uncles! They are a valuable part of my kiddos’ lives.

To moms who are in the Mommy Club:

I ask that you at least be aware that this is how we come across.

Do your best to break the stereotype.

Go out of your way to invite single folks into your home and life. Just because they don’t have kids doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk about kids and learn from those that do. (And just because we have kids doesn’t mean we aren’t sometimes dying to talk about other things!)

I’m honored to be the one that many single friends -men as well as women- ask about pregnancy and childbirth. Being able to shed a little light on this mysterious and marvelous process is so special to me!

I also appreciate hearing the points of view my single and non-parent friends have on issues. They perceive things differently because their stage of life is different. There’s so much value in having friends who aren’t just like us!

I’d like to personally apologize if you’ve ever felt excluded or left out because you weren’t a mother. I believe there’s a lot we can learn from each other and I think we should make an effort to overcome this invisible boundary.

I hope this helps shed a little light on the matter. I’d love to hear feedback from both parents and non-parents about how we can better understand and appreciate one another!

A Little Film Test

Anchor from Emily Hedlund on Vimeo.

Still expanding my horizons over here! This week I was inspired to create a little HD test video with my Canon T3i. I don’t know how many of you know about cameras, but this little guy is vying to replace my trusty old Panasonic DVX 100b with his portability, superior resolution, and interchangeable lenses! It’s like getting a new film camera for free basically since I already had the Canon for still photos. You can’t tell in this test, but the Canon is compatible with my Sennheiser lapel mic, which opens up the possibility for good quality audio on board. It was very easy to import into Final Cut Pro 7 and throw together this edit. All I will need to purchase in order for this to effectively replace my Panasonic is a larger storage chip – and they run about $20-$40! Not bad for a whole new setup option!

I’m excited about the possibilities. Dreaming about getting back into the film scene, not as a freelancer, but as an artist and a documentarian. Telling stories visually is so important to me! As someone with a lot to say and not enough ways to get it out, it’s sometimes frustrating when I’m unable to express myself fully.

I fell out of love with film a few years ago after studying it and doing it professionally for too long. The long hours, stress, and business side of it was not worth it. I simply didn’t like charging people for something that was always meant to be a passion, not a job. I took a long break when Malachi was born and have done nothing but a few weddings here and there. The thought of filmmaking out of love rather than as a source of income is completely thrilling to me.

Stay tuned for more film updates in the future!

Music by Beautiful Eulogy with guest Josh Garrels. Both will be at Audiofeed this year!

Tips for a Successful Shopping Ban

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Not gonna lie, shopping can be fun!

Truth is, shopping can be fun. It’s a way to pass the time, get out of the house, and pick up some nice new duds.

It’s also a good way to waste hard-earned money and fill your home with clutter.

It’s a fine line and making decisions on the fly is hard. The more serious I get about consuming less, the more important (and stressful) buying decisions can be!

I don’t want to waste money that could be spent better places.

I want to re-use rather than replace things.

I want to support good companies when something must be replaced.

I don’t want to fill my home with clutter we don’t actually need.

Some people know how to spot a great deal and not give into buying things they regret later. However, I’ve found that an all-or-nothing approach works best for me. That’s why I’m not buying clothes this year. I’m also in the middle of Buy Nothing Month. It’s easier when I don’t have to make a decision in the moment.

You might benefit from a shopping ban if…

You’re shopping to get the rush and happy feelings. 

This is a sign that you might be on the verge of a shopping addiction. I know because I’ve been there myself. Buying stuff is kind of like sugar or caffeine. It gives you a rush at first, but if you keep doing it, you start to require more and more to get the same feeling. You can go through spending withdrawals just like any other drug. So it’s a good idea to reclaim control over this area.

You’re shopping out of boredom.

I’m guilty of this too. Especially before I had kids to keep me busy, I’d go to the store everyday. I’d go to Goodwill just to browse and see what new things they’d gotten in. The hunt can be thrilling. But shopping out of boredom signals that maybe you should explore filling your free time with more productive things. Shopping is deceiving because it feels productive. But how productive is it really spending several hours a week in a store and coming away with a cheap toaster or a cute top to add to your abundant collection of cute tops? If most of your shopping is out of boredom, I’d encourage you to find a new hobby. Maybe take a class and learn a new skill. Maybe volunteer at an organization that means a lot to you. Maybe exercise instead. Maybe write or create a work of art. Read books that are on your book list. What’s currently sitting on the back burner because you can’t find the the time to do it? I know I personally gained quite a bit of free time when I stopped shopping recreationally.

You’re shopping to fit in.

I no longer care what most people think of me. I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t need to wear designer shoes or sunglasses to be respected. It helps that I gravitate toward friends who largely aren’t interested in those kinds of things. But even in the “real world” people should respect you because you are human, not because of the car you drive or the technology you flaunt. Dr. Suess put it well when he said “Those who care don’t matter and those who matter don’t care.”

You have consumer debt you need to pay off.

This signals that you don’t just have a shopping problem, but a spending emergency. If you’re faced with consumer debt you haven’t paid, I wouldn’t consider a ban optional – I’d consider it a requirement. You really can’t afford those things you’re buying. Take this as a wake-up call. Make some serious changes now. Don’t act like your debt doesn’t exist. Cut your spending now and start making those payments instead.

Here’s some specifics to consider if you’d like to start your own ban:

Decide the Rules

Give up something that will be challenging for you, yet attainable. If you “give up” something you rarely do, the money you save won’t be that noticeable. If it’s something you do often, but can live without, you’ll notice a huge change in your life and extra money in the bank account.

Maybe you eat out a lot, so that needs to go. Maybe take-out coffee needs the boot. Maybe, like me, clothes are an issue. Deciding ahead of time what my response will be helps me resist impulse spending in my areas of weakness.

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Yes, I used to buy these! Now all I see is Sugar, Plastic, and Wasted Money.

Set a Timeframe

Either make it a personal monthly challenge or aim for 6 months to a year if you’re ambitious. You could start small and see where it leads. Even just trying it for a week will teach you discipline and save some dough.

Be Specific

Know exactly what items qualify in your ban. Clarify any gray areas. Leave no room for loopholes. Maybe socks don’t count in your clothes shopping ban, but decide ahead of time. Maybe you’re allowed to replace items that break or wear out. Maybe you’re allowed to purchase things as long as you delay the decision for 30 days. I’ll be honest, most things I think I want are forgotten about by the time 30 days is up. There’s flexibility here. After all, the idea is to change your lifestyle even after the ban is over.

Avoid the Store

The only weak moments I’ve had have been when I allow myself to browse. If I stay out of the store (online stores count too!) then I don’t know what I’m missing.

Everybody loves a bargain. It’s easy to justify “this is a one-of-a-kind!” “It will never be this price again!” Cut yourself off from temptation whenever possible. Don’t torture yourself by looking at things you can’t have. Just act like the world stopped selling XYZ and focus on other things. A great sale is not a reason to abandon your shopping ban. Great sales come around more often than you think. And you’re not actually saving money if you don’t need the item.

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But…it’s on SALE!

Avoid Ads

Unsubscribe from all product emails. Unfollow your favorite companies on Facebook and Instagram. Become hyper-aware of ads: billboards, commercials, pop-ups, newsletters, Pinterest, and storefronts. We often don’t even realize how many times a day companies are vying for our dollars. Avoid what you can. What you can’t avoid, acknowledge as ridiculous.

Tell People

Don’t do this alone. Get other people involved who want to do the ban with you, or at least tell your friends and family. Have them hold you accountable. Shout it from the rooftops. Make it public. Post it on Facebook. You don’t want the embarrassment of telling everyone you failed, right? If people don’t support you and they say you’ll never do it, prove them wrong! A couple of naysayers can be all the motivation it takes sometimes.

Make Reminders

There were a few times early on when I honestly forgot about my shopping ban. I’d pick something out, almost buy it, and then remember at the last minute. Write a reminder and put it in your wallet or tape it to your credit card. It will serve as your last line of defense.

Keep Track

When you successfully resist an item that you would normally purchase, either write it down or take a photo of it. Keep a “resist list” and reward yourself for each victory! Add up all the savings at the end of the ban. I personally have done my best to avoid stores during my ban, but I wrote down several items I wanted to purchase online and didn’t. Maybe I’ll share this list at the end of my clothes buying ban. I can add up the cost of those items and enjoy the money I didn’t spend!

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I took a picture of this instead of buying it!

Commit

Don’t delay. Don’t put it off another month. Don’t wait for the New Year. If you’re excited about a shopping ban now, nail down the details and start now. The sooner you commit to something like this, the sooner you’ll get to reap the benefits.

Whatever you chose to give up and whatever timeframe you chose, I wish you luck on your frugal endeavors! If you need accountability, contact me and I’d be happy to help you out!

Our Phone Challenge Results

We’re probably all a bit guilty of this. We do something awesome – we play with our kids, go for a run, or cook a delicious dinner from scratch. Rather than just be content with that, we feel the urge to post about it on social media.

Wait…why is that?

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What We Learned This Month

Josh and I just finished a month-long break from (mostly) using our phones around our children. Here’s the details and inspiration for the challenge. We still texted some and checked important things once they went to bed, but there wasn’t a whole lot of time for social media browsing. I learned a lot this month, but it wasn’t at all what I expected.

I expected to be bored and I expected to really miss my phone. I expected long periods of introspection interspersed with quality playtime with my kids.

What’s interesting is that I wasn’t bored. Not using my phone turned out to be way less boring than using it. We went more places and did more things. When I was home with the kids, I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling, I was more engaged. And as a bonus, my eyes didn’t hurt from looking at screens too long.

There were downsides of course. It was harder to talk to my friends who weren’t there in person. It was very hard to read and write blogs. I was a little disconnected from the personal side of social media….but a temporary disconnection is okay.

I did get some time to sit and think, but the funny thing is it was often after the kids went to bed. So even when I was “allowed” to use my phone, I opted not to…reading a book, talking to Josh, or drinking some tea won out more often than not.

I really did observe more of the world around me. I enjoyed some lovely warm and breezy days. I sat and watched the clouds at sunset for the first time in years. I watched lightening as a storm rolled in one evening. Observing these everyday natural wonders is seriously so much better than browsing my phone!

I learned how to have better conversations with my almost-three-year-old Malachi. I fought the urge to pull out my phone and take a picture, write down what he said, or take a video. I just listened and laughed a lot. I was indeed more present.

I know I had a slight problem because right before the challenge Malachi was pretending to breast-feed his baby monkey and he asked for me to hand him his phone. It hit me that I probably do this exact thing at least five times a day. So putting the phone away might mean I forget to document some of his antics, but isn’t forgetting a little bit better than having my phone in front of me constantly? 

It wasn’t planned, but we shattered our tablet screen this month, which is strangely ironic! We mostly used it for games for Malachi, so he’s had less screen time as well! Fortunately, he hasn’t acted the least bit deprived. I highly doubt we’ll repair or replace the tablet…Malachi hasn’t asked for it once. Instead he has asked to be read a lot of books. We’ve been going to the library 1-2 times a week! It’s a little more work to read aloud than it is to just give him the tablet – part of me misses the convenience of it – but I think the result is clearly worthwhile.

In spite of becoming more aware of how I appear to my son, I learned a lot about how much of my value comes from social media.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

Before Facebook and Instagram, much of our daily satisfaction and value was intrinsic value. Other words for intrinsic are innate, inborn, natural, built-in, deep-rooted, basic, and essential. This value is born in us. We naturally feel good when we have a good day or accomplish a goal. We don’t rely on anyone else for this kind of satisfaction…until recently.

The world of social media seems to have created a new and rather needy desire not just for our own satisfaction, but for the approval of the masses. This is extrinsic value – it comes from outside ourselves. We rely on others in order to get it. Nowadays it often comes in the form of “likes,” “comments,” “views,” and “reactions.”

“Had a great workout!”

“Baked cookies!”

“Enjoying the sunset with the bestest guy ever!”

Our Satisfaction Process goes something like this:

  1. Accomplish
  2. Post
  3. Receive positive feedback
  4. Feel satisfaction

Whereas before social media our Satisfaction Process was:

  1. Accomplish
  2. Feel satisfaction

What if we could get back to simply enjoying the workout, the cookies, the sunset, and the bestest guy ever without telling anyone?

Is that even possible anymore? Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not making fun of anyone who posts these things. I’ll be honest and admit I type those statuses all the time! And even when I don’t sometimes I’m composing them and fighting the urge to share.

“Today, everything exists to end in a photograph” Susan Sontag, 1979
“Today does everything exist to end online?” Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation.

The Power of Positivity

Positive responses from others feel good, and they always have. The phenomenon is that social media makes it easier than ever to elicit those feel-good positive responses. We can easily bask in 100 “likes” when we do something great, and “hide” or “unfollow” those who don’t give us what we want. It’s just not that simple in real life.

I’m currently really enjoying the book Reclaiming Conversation. Author Sherry Turkle writes that employers in all fields nowadays are facing two huge hurdles: employees that don’t know how to verbally relate to one another, and employees who need constant positive feedback in order to be productive. Hmm…. Is it possible that we’re slowly losing the ability to empathize and be productive even on the job because sites like Facebook conditioned us that way? Do we rely so heavily on the praise of others that it causes frustration and neediness in real life?

Decisions, Decisions

Another thing I’ve noticed that social media makes simple is crowd-sourcing. We no longer need to ask our parents and grandparents for advice about life. The answers are just a click away. But sometimes all this information can fog our own judgement and instincts. It’s so easy to research and make “fully informed” decisions that we’re now satisfied with nothing less. We must weigh all our options and ask all our “followers” before making simple choices like which hairstyle to go with.

Before cell phones we didn’t have the ability to call our spouses every 10 seconds while grocery shopping. We relied on our own judgement to make those decisions we weren’t sure about.

Must Share Now

This doesn’t just apply to things we do, it applies to our thoughts as well. Both me and Josh are guilty of this: we hear a quote so good, so wise, and so relevant the first thing we want to do is post it. Forget what it means to us in that moment. Forget about personal meditation and application. We just “share” it and we’ve done our part. Our intention is to enlighten others with our snippets of genius. But these good intentions might be a slight bit self-serving if they make us look smart….and has anyone actually changed the world yet with a status or a tweet?

Josh and I have had the realization – and it’s a challenge for all of us – that maybe some thoughts aren’t meant to be instantly shared…in spite of the fact that technology caters to that. Maybe some thoughts are meant to be mulled upon, chewed up, saved for later, and repeated later in real-life conversations when applicable. In person, the listeners can give real feedback and bounce their own thoughts on the matter around. We could all come away challenged and inspired by the discussion. Maybe, just maybe those conversations are the kind of thing that will actually change the world…

…And yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’m posting this thought for the world to see…

The Power of Posting

If we’re completely, completely honest with ourselves, how many things do we do just so that we can post them later?

I’m speaking to myself here too! I love photos and memories. I love sharing them and reminiscing. But there is a line.

When you order a latte at the hippest coffee bar in the city and position it so the sun is hitting it just right, and by the time you’ve shared the photo the coffee is getting cold… I think that’s a sign of a trouble.

Maybe part of living genuinely is just saying no to that game. Just doing your own thing and maybe taking a picture…maybe not…

Now that my little phone challenge is at an end, my challenge to you and me is to just relax. Just enjoy. 

Enjoy that latte.

Enjoy that sunset.

Enjoy that baby giggle.

Enjoy it for what it means to you, and not the “reactions” it will inspire.

An Imperfect Success

I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that some days I didn’t do a very good job sticking with the challenge. Some days I was still on my phone in front of the kiddos, in spite of the fact that I was avoiding most social media. Just checking notifications and putting things on the calendar cut into our day sometimes.

But the wonderful thing about a challenge like this is that even when not executed perfectly, it changes how you view things. I became more aware of my phone usage. I plan to continue to limit my social media consumption in spite of this challenge coming to an official end. Even an imperfect challenge is a success if it opens our eyes.

Highlights from Reclaiming Conversation

This book was the perfect read during our month-long hiatus. Here are some suggestions that stood out to me:

  • Remember the power of your phone. Slow down.
  • Create sacred spaces for conversation.
  • Take intentional breaks and know when to take them. When a child needs your full attention. When a friend says “can we talk?”
  • Don’t feel that you must reply to everything right away. It’s okay to say “let me think about it.” Or respond later.
  • “Unitastking” is the next big thing. Better to do one thing at a time than multiple things poorly.
  • Talk to people with whom you disagree – people use the Internet to limit interactions to those with whom they agree.
  • Give each conversation at least 7 minutes to take off before turning to your phone instead.
  • Don’t view the world and people as apps – expendable, controllable, there to affirm you and fix your problems.
  • Choose the right tool for each job. Some situations are appropriate for email and chat and video. Other situations must be handled in real life.
  • Be self aware. Know when you have crossed the line with technology around your family, with your friends, etc.
  • Don’t avoid difficult conversations.

In closing, I encourage you to watch this performance “Be Present” by hip hop artist Propaganda. It’s definitely worth watching and sharing: