Saturday, February 26, 2011

Financial Peace and Thriving

When I was married -as fraught as that was- I didn't see how absolutely relentless this being a grownup thing is. There was always someone to pick up at least a little of the slack. I don't miss him. That's over. I don't even miss that life. I wouldn't take it even if it were offered. But sometimes I'm tired. I have to (or get to, depending on my frame of mind) think about all the pieces that make up the big picture all the time, and it gets wearing sometimes. Figuring out a way out of that muddle is part of the reason I have reactivated my blog. Is there a way to work more efficiently or even gracefully to get where I want to go?

One of the questions on the table is what does financial security mean now. I'm fine. Don't worry. I'm just musing. In this new world -mine and the fragile economy in which we all must now live- what should I even dare to hope for? What CAN a person such as myself hope for?

This is ME. You know that I have short-term goals, medium-term goals, and long-term goals (although those long-term goals look a little improbable sometimes). Once again I'm seeking balance, I suppose. If my calculations are correct, I might even be BETTER off than I was while I was married -in about 6 years. But there are a lot of days between here and there, and a lot of keeping it together. And what divorce will teach you if it teaches you nothing else is that life is more precarious than you think. Always.

So, where's the line between ensuring my security and just being craven? What is realistic -even responsible- extravagance, and what's just stupid? What's enough wealth to hope for and what's just greedy (not that I'm in danger of having so much that it turns my head.) I know there is no official line. I'm just figuring out where I want to draw it for myself.

And here's a thing. Why is it so hard to say out loud that I want enough money to enjoy modest comforts? What is that about?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"As Good as Store Bought"

As with so much in my life, I'm learning again from my knitting. Well-meaning people sometimes say, in admiration of a hand-knit garment, "It looks as good as store-bought." Certainly, all knitters appreciate the intention of the compliment. And we all know to what they are referring -the hand-knit garment we all fear. Check this out: You Knit WHAT?

However, accomplished knitters aim for so much more than "as good as store bought," and our sly little secret is that it's not all that hard to achieve. The techniques aren't difficult, and we're assisted by the sad truth that most ready to wear garments are very poorly made. However, no one knits all his or her clothes. There has to be a limit, right?

I'm aiming for some unknown balance between hand-crafted and wonderful, on the one hand, and store-bought and convenient, on the other hand. A corresponding balance between frugal (a word I hate) and extravagance would be nice, too. In the (to me) clearly out-of-the-question department, we have people who only flush the toilet when, ummm, it's essential. Seriously? No. And there are people who want to use those disposable cleaning wipes, but find them to be too expensive for comfort. So there are websites offering recipes for making your own -recipes that require an electric knife and chemicals and heaven knows what else. Ummm???? A mop and a few cleaning rags?

I tried to make my own dishwasher soap. The story is, equal parts of Borax and baking soda will do it. But no, even though the formula is quite green, it didn't get the dishes clean. That's a no, in my world. On the other hand, I tried the comparatively expensive, convenient, and green laundry soap made by Ecover. When the laundry didn't get clean, I tried a simple stain test; plain water worked better. Another no.

When we clean our homes, of course we want effective. I also want green, not needlessly expensive, and I'm prepared to make my own if it makes sense. In the end, we're going for at least as good as store bought. How do you clean your house with these constraints? Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How, then, shall we live?

I have work to do, and I need help. The small group of thoughtful committed citizens has helped me to figure out social justice issues and later helped me understand how to rebuild a life when my brain would not -could not-wrap itself around that question. But now it's time to figure out how those two go together.

I have learned SO much -and simultaneously been exhausted by the "stunt bloggers" who have become so popular. From the Julie-Julia project, to a year of living without plastic, to a new hand made dress every day, to using your crockpot every day... it's a wonder I get anything done, just from reading blogs ;) And ket's be clear, there is a lot of merit to trying something really hard for a year. We learn more about what's possible, if nothing else.

It occurred to me the other night, though, with some annoyance actually, that it's comparatively easy to focus on one thing at a time. It's HARD to live a life that is integrated and authentic. The picture is a (simplified, truth be told) image of my google calendar. I make lists of how I want my life to go. I make lists of hopes and dreams, which I know may never come to fruition, but somehow they merit a page in my journal. I think about living a more green life, about working with refugees, about how to fix my house, and how to inhabit my kitchen and actually use it, and more... And it all adds up to too much to do, and a not-so-vague worry that my planning and dreaming is all an exercise in over-control.

Moreover, it's easy to get lost in that tangle of trying to balance confusing and conflicting principles. If I buy fair trade coffee but forget to ensure that it's organic, am I going to hell? If I purchase the tennis shoes I need to go running, have I doomed small children to abusive employment? On and on...

It is becoming clear that no one has the answer I'm seeking. I have to become the expert on how to do this for my own life. Perhaps in the course of figuring that out, the principles of how to do it will become clear.

Come, let us reason together.