New blog home: join me over at frugalurban.ca

fiery-sky-with-words

fiery-sky-with-words

I’ve started a new blog! It’s really the same blog, but just over at a hosted WordPress.org site. Please check out my new digs at frugalurban.ca! I’m slowly moving over stuff from here to there, but making it *better* and *more organized*😉

Today I’m blogging about my discernment process.

Yesterday I blogged about Fierce Hope.

The day before that I posted a big Debt Repayment Roundup, describing 20 great links all on paying down debt.

And before that I posted my Green Smoothie Recipe.

Also, please, if you want to see my posts & find out what’s going on in my life, please join my Facebook page where I will post everything all in one tidy spot!

Monday Mindfulness: One Moment Meditation App

meditation-by-spirit-fire

I have heard over and over again that our inability to sit with discomfort is at the root of most dissatisfaction and anxiety. It causes addictions, ruins relationships, and leads to a lot of instability. How many of your decisions are made based on a desire to avoid pain, rejection, boredom, desperation or other discomfort? How would your life be different if you made decisions based on your values, or on the impact they would have on the earth, or on your loved ones?

I know my life would be vastly different. And these questions aren’t meant to judge you, because we ALL seek pleasure and avoid pain. We aren’t robots or monks (I’m assuming? I can’t imagine robots or monks would be interested in reading my blog!); pain, boredom and conflict will eventually *get* to us, and we will try to shift away.

What I hope for, in my life, and in my kids’ lives, is the ability in the millisecond before making that shift, to be able to make a choice. There isn’t a lot of room there, between the burn and the flinch, between the perceived insult and the angry yell.

With meditation, we get to create a space

meditation-by-spirit-fire
meditation” by Spirit-Fire, 2011

We can either choose to yell or maybe to take a deep breath instead and take a break, walk away, have a drink of water or look at a tree for a few minutes before coming back to the conversation. The space we create can allow us to choose our values.

When we meditate, we see all sorts of things pass by on the screen of our mind. They seem very important, until we say “Hmm” and let go and return to our breath. Letting go, over and over and over again, shows us that we CAN let go. And so, over time, we create a space where we can choose to let go.

Studies have shown that meditating actually causes changes in our brains, de-escalating emotions, and actually reducing pain. How remarkable! We can actually reduce our pain by learning to sit with pain. It turns out that what really increases our pain is the feeling, the belief, that we can’t handle it. When we bring compassion to our pain, it reduces the hurt. And all this can come from just sitting and breathing.

A simple practice

I’ve had an on-again-off-again meditation practice for over a decade, and what I love about meditating–most of which I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh–is its simplicity: Get comfortable. Set a timer. Breathe. Focus on your breathing. When your thoughts wander, let those thoughts go, and return your focus to your breathing. That’s it. No special position, just get comfortable. No special words; no words at all. So simple you can do it anywhere.

one-moment-meditationI have tried a few different meditation apps over the past year, but I hadn’t found one I liked until I tried One MomentMeditation. Many of them had music, guiding text or swirling colours. OMM has nothing fancy: just a timer for one minute, plus an optional warm-up and cool-down.

What I love about it is that it is almost impossible NOT to meditate with this app. Just one minute? How can you say no? And yet, even one minute seems like a deliciously long break in the middle of a stressful work day.

Even in one single minute we can learn how to bring compassion to our discomfort, boredom and pain. Even one minute a day can help reduce our pain, our anger and our sadness.

Even one minute can create space for us to choose our values.


I have no affiliation with One Moment Meditation. This is an honest review for which I have not received, nor do I anticipate receiving any compensation. I did include a couple of Amazon Affiliate links; however, I encourage you to look for the linked books in your local library.

I LOVE my Bullet! NutriBullet by Magic Bullet Product Review

vintage-blender-love

Two years ago I got a part-time job at an educational toy store to help out our single-income living. It was a great! I got a good discount on toys for both my kids and my nieces, and some extra cash to spend on others on my Christmas list. I really enjoyed the job, but I found myself getting really hungry while I was at work. I think this was because I was so accustomed to grazing all day (ah, the life of the homeschooling mom!).

I wasn’t sure what to do about this until another friend who worked in retail told me about making smoothies for herself, and then sipping on them through the day. Brilliant! I was an instant convert. The smoothies were quick, delicious and healthy, and kept the hunger pangs at bay. I even bought a “new” (second-hand) blender off Kijiji for $10 to replace my old broken one.

I started making a smoothie before my shift, and keeping it within reach so I could “graze” without having to wipe crumbs off my face or risk chewing in a customer’s ear.

This worked really well, until the day my “new” blender started smoking from the effort of chewing up some particularly lovely local kale. I was devastated! How could I get my smoothie fix with a broken blender?!

My panic did not last long, as I resolved to replace my second-hand blender with a new model that would be faster, more powerful, and much more expensive. Good thing I had my little job!

img_1699I started researching my options. I quickly realized that I could go really high-end with a Vitamix or a Blendtec, spending a boat-load of money, but getting the absolute Cadillac of blenders. Unfortunately I didn’t have a boat-load of money, especially not to spend on a blender.

On the other end of the spectrum I saw personal blenders for as low as $20 for some models. I have had bad experiences with extremely low-priced small appliances like this, so these ones didn’t even make it to the discussion.

Somewhere in the middle was the NutriBullet.

vintage-blender-loveI knew my Mother-in-Law had bought a NutriBullet about a year ago, so I called her for her impression.

I asked her the key question everyone should ask before buying a new gadget: (i.e. there are reasons why there are ALWAYS ice cream makers, bread machines and, ahem, George Foreman grills at the second-hand store . . . and some of them may have been mine)

“Do you actually still use this thing?”

After a year, her answer was still YES! She told me she was still making smoothies on a near-daily basis.

This boded well (I think I used my bread maker, ice cream maker and grill steady for maybe three months before they started languishing in the cupboard. Well, except the ice cream maker . . . which I used once . . . )

Once I had her thumbs-up, I felt even more confident about the mostly 5-star ratings on Amazon.ca and CanadianTire.ca. There were a few reviewers who had concerns about the unit leaking, so I asked my Mother-In-Law about that as well. She told me it had leaked once or twice, but once she had started keeping the liquid level below the “Max” line, it had not leaked again.

This agreed with advice I read online, so I determined that the leaking issue was in fact a non-issue for me.

nutribulletBy this time, I had done a lot of research. I was getting thirsty for a smoothie. I had decided to buy a Nutribullet. And, because it’s me, I wanted it *right away*. I also wanted to make sure I would have no problems returning it just in case the leaking non-issue turned out to actually BE an issue after all.

So I headed out to Canadian Tire (Canadian Tire money safe in its dedicated pocket in my wallet), and I bought the Nutribullet 900.

My review of the Nutribullet 900

kaleSo, if you read the title of the review, you already know the answer: I LOVE MY NUTRIBULLET!

I love having green smoothies every day. They help me stay full until lunch . . . well, at least elevenses.

I love knowing that whatever else I consume throughout the day, I have already had at least 3-4 servings of fruit & veggies to start the day off.

I love having a way to consume kefir without gagging.

I love unlocking healthy fats from chia and flax seeds, and using coconut oil to release fat-soluble minerals from the blended up veggies.

If you catch me on a really *good* day I might try to convince you that green smoothies will save the world.

I got mine at least 6 months ago, and I still use it every day. It’s not hard to keep the fridge & freezer stocked with smoothie ingredients like bananas, strawberries, kale, chia, flax and kefir, and if I run out, there are innumerable delicious recipes out there (including in this local Sudbury-written cookbook, Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel). In fact, I even grew a mini smoothie-garden this summer, featuring kale and strawberries!

I will confess that mine HAS leaked a couple of times. But each time it has been because I overfilled it. Luckily, clean-up is not hard: there is a drainage hole that leads down to the base, which I have made sure to gently flush out so it won’t get clogged with smoothie gunk.

If I had one complaint, it would be the bulky packaging and the unnecessary redundant advertising “recipe books”. TWO hard-bound books trying to convince me of the health benefits, in French and English? Really? When I’ve *already* bought the thing? PLUS two soft-cover books that seem to be just shorter versions of the hard-covers? A simple slim pamphlet would have sufficed.

But I can forgive them, because, as I already said, I LOVE my Bullet!


I’ve included my Amazon.ca affiliate links in this post, so please, if YOU have a boat-load of money to spend on a blender, please do so through my link! I would be eternally grateful😀

Five tricks for painless debt pay-off

5-tips-for-painless-debt-pay-off
5-tips-for-painless-debt-pay-off
Coins” by Randen Pederson, copyright 2007

Paying off debt can be really hard! You visualize what your life will be like when you’re finally debt-free, but that day seems like it will never come. Over here it feels like we have been paying down this one last student loan for EVER! In fact, it has been close to 20 years.

We all need some tricks up our sleeve to lighten our load and make that day come just a little sooner. Here are my top five tricks to pay off your debt a little quicker, for very little pain or effort. Let me know how they work for you!

1.Save all your change. Roll and deposit it, and put it towards your debt.

This can actually be kinda fun if you make it special. When my daughter was born, I devoted a pretty bowl to saving for her education. I did a little ritual where I “promised” all it contained would be devoted to her education. The ritual helped me to never touch what accumulated there, and I eventually deposited a little extra into her RESP.

I’ve got a really nice hand-made pottery bowl in my cupboard which I am going to take out tonight, put in a special place, and pledge its contents to our debt freedom!

2. Set up a “Simply Save” bank account, and deposit the accumulated savings into your debt account.

At my bank, we have the ability to forward a set amount to another account every time we use our debit card. We have set up a savings account into which the bank automatically deposits 50¢ each time we make a payment with our debit card. The deposit is made at the end of each day, which supplies a little slush fund for gifts and travel.

Transferring this to our loan account will speed up our debt repayment by 20-30%, saving us hundreds in extra interest payments. And the best is, we won’t feel it at all!

3. Whenever you decide not to make a purchase, immediately take that amount and put it towards the debt.

Okay, I’ll admit: this one might be a *little* painful. A recent example in my life was deciding not to order pizza. Which meant that I had to make supper. Which I didn’t want to. But I adulted hard, and made something much cheaper, and much healthier. I then logged into my online banking and made an extra payment to the loan, of the amount that we would have spent on pizza.

While it does require a bit of will-power to resist spending on extras, this technique likewise keeps your goal at the front of your mind, and may increase motivation knowing you are getting closer to your goal.

It might just be me, but this kinda feels like a little game. Forego that fancy soap? Transfer that $5 to your debt instead! It can actually reward the “pleasure centres” in your brain–replacing the “hit” you might get from a treat with something even better: progress towards your debt-free life!

4. Say it out loud

I have had so many experiences of simply stating out loud a goal or intention, and then having the universe jump on board with surprising immediacy and effectiveness. I’m sure there are some more mundane explanations for this (probably relating to mental focus and frame of reference), but I choose to think of it as a big burst of energy that partners with my own, that comes on board as soon as I say what I want out loud. Not to imply that this always happens, and certainly there are limitations, but still, I say, Why not? Why not put some faith in yourself, and some faith in the world, name your goal, and see what happens?

If you share with your family your vision of a debt-free life, it could help get them on-side. At the very least, they’ll now understand when you make home-made pizza instead of getting take-out, and then go to your computer and say “cha-ching!”

5. Blog about it.

The other day I told you about my husband saying to me, “You know the expression, ‘You’ve never had a problem that x wouldn’t fix’? Well, for you, x is a new blog.”

Here’s why I believe that’s true: Like saying something out loud, writing about something also sets your focus and names your goal. Writing about something regularly keeps it at the front of your mind. Making that writing public ups the commitment to reaching that goal. After all, you’ve just told all these people what you want to achieve. And you know what? They’re rooting for you!

We all like a good redemption story.

So, start that debt pay-off blog! Research other bloggers’ tips, and then make your own list. Soon you’ll be reading success stories–of people who’ve been where you are now, who made the journey you’re just starting out on. It’s a huge motivation to know that others have made it–and with focus, determination and vision, you will too!

So, that’s my list. If you have any painless debt pay-off tips to share, put them in the comments section!

Shooting star or seedling: What to do with all the great ideas?

shooting-star

 

seedling
Seedling” copyright Drew McLellan, 2007

I’m an idea person. I get a lot of them, though they are more like shooting stars than, say, seedlings. They burn bright and fade quickly instead of growing. That is, instead of me nurturing them, feeding them, watering them–believing in them.

It should not be surprising to hear, given the “itchy sweater” feeling I currently have about my life, that I have not recently nurtured any great ideas to full ripeness. I’ve been stumbling along, with only vague ideas of what I want to do, what I want to leave as my legacy.

 

It was a post somewhere on Penelope Trunk’s blog (which I’ve lost along the tangled path of her fascinating site) that made me realize that drifting along is basically ensuring my unhappiness. She claims that people who see a clear relationship between their actions (or lack thereof) and their situations, are much more likely to achieve happiness.

Let me rephrase that:

The way to happiness is realizing that you can make decisions to bring you happiness.

The decisions we make, the actions we take, those have consequences: they can lead us to a better life. If we abdicate the responsibility to choose, leaving it up to fate, we will continue to drift along, never getting what we want.

I’ve been drifting for too long–letting the path choose me instead of deciding where I want to go.

Part of that is because of the big changes that have occurred in our life over the last year and a half. The big decisions we made were to stay put in Sudbury instead of trying to make homeschooling work in another city, and to prioritize financial stability over homeschooling. (I personally know at least four families who persisted in homeschooling through a job loss, so I know that is possible–but that was way too terrifying for me!)

up-the-lane

I’ve really felt lost over this time. I hadn’t realized it at first, but losing the identity of “homeschooling mom” put me in a place of not really knowing who I was, or where to go next. I think I had to come to terms with that loss before I could move forward to something new.

I think I’m finally done mourning. I’m ready for the next steps.

I’m done drifting.

Now that I’m ready to move ahead, I realize I’ve been doing the prep work all along.

Over the last few months, I have really been trying to figure out my path, my meaning, how I can best contribute to the world. I’ll write more about my process later, but essentially I’ve done some work articulating my values, analyzing what brings me joy, considering my personality, and ultimately coming up with an action statement of what I want to achieve in this one life.

What I’ve come up with is this:

I want to bring people together to do cool stuff.

I want to create community. I want to help people feel good together, and help them feel good about being together. New people, lots of people, people you’ve never met before. I want to surprise you with the awesomeness of your neighbours.

 

So, lucky me: I got an idea a couple of nights ago. I think I maybe dreamed it? Or maybe it bubbled up at 4:30 am as I was lying awake. It’s a pretty good idea, maybe even great. It has even withstood the 24-hour stress test (I didn’t get stressed out about it after 24 hours!).

Following this idea could bring people together to do something cool. In sort of a metaphorical way. It has the potential to create community, surprise people about their neighbours, and spread some good vibes.

I’m making the decision to move this idea forward one step. And then, I hope, another. Who knows what it will lead to, but at least I know that wherever it leads, it was a result of my decision to take care of this little seedling of an idea, and hopefully watch it grow.

It is truly amazing how the universe jumps on board as soon as we make that decision to go somewhere good.

Goals and dreams

sky-and-trees

Last night my husband said to me, “You know the expression, ‘You’ve never had a problem that x wouldn’t fix’? Well, for you, x is a new blog.”

Predictably, I started another new blog, this one with the goal of working towards a new career as a freelancer. Two days ago, that seemed like a completely realistic and marvelously perfect solution to my life. Yesterday–less than 24 hours later–I was already having doubts.

The truth is: I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

My instinct tells me this is one of the biggest myths of adulthood: that we’ve got it in the bag. From where I sit, I just don’t think we’ve got “it” at all, and we can’t seem to find the bag anyway.

Back in 2009 when I started this blog, I used it as a tool to work towards staying home with my kids. I planned my meals and cloth diapered and nursed two kids and made my own bread and laundry detergent, and lots and lots and lots more.

And we made it work. Somehow, between my domestic machinations and my husband’s career growth, we went from two incomes, to one income plus maternity leave pay, to one income plus a half-time income, minus childcare costs, to one plus a half-time maternity leave pay, to–finally–one income living.

On that one income, we went from car-free urban apartment renters with two little wee kids, to car-owning home-owners in a much smaller town, with two bigger kids. Until some big changes happened, bringing us to today: two incomes (though we both work less than 40 hours/week), and two kids in school. We are so fortunate that we made it through the transition of job loss so smoothly: our blessings are many!

Goals and Dreams

I guess you could say we’ve hit a bit of a stride by now, a year and a half after the big changes hit. I have been at my job now for over a year, and with experience, it gets easier. My husband is in a job that uses many of his skills. And the kids are happy every day when they burst out of the school doors into our waiting arms–and yes, we can *both* be at pick-up, almost every day. Plus, we get to walk to school and work, often all together as a family.

There are so many blessings. I mean, I have SO MUCH! A house, car, a beautiful family, both immediate and extended, a garden, and a cat. I walk to work, have enough healthy food to eat & feed my family, and I am healthy and able. I have kind friends and a wonderful church, and my freedom. Running water–both kinds! Safety and democracy! Shouldn’t I be happy?

But I am going to whisper my sinful, shameful secret:

still ache to be at home more, to do more of *my own* thing, and less of *someone else’s* thing.

Maybe it’s an INFP thing, or maybe it comes from a shameful lack of gratitude. In any case, there’s something about my life that itches like an ill-fitting sweater.

All I know is that in order to move forward, I need to have options. In order to increase our options:

We need to pay off our debts.

So, as of today I am re-harnessing the power of my blog! Not a new blog, but this good old blog that’s been with me through so many changes and challenges, losses and triumphs. This old blog that already has wonderful loyal followers, interesting SEO, and a lot of content that’ll be good for me to revisit!

Anyway, since 2009, I’ve never had a problem that *this blog* couldn’t fix!