$how Me The Money.

Budgeting sucks. If only we could all live like multibillionaires and fling our money away on every desire and whim and never have to stress about making ends meet. If money only grew on trees as the saying goes. That would be the life. Sadly, most of us are not billionaires and money does not grow on trees. My fiddle fig leaf is just a regular tree, so I have to prioritize what I spend. This means a budget. If I choose not to budget and spend more than I make then it means: debt.

Debt is nearly synonymous with the “American Dream”. The mentality of “you can have it all”. Just open a credit card (or a few) and you can “afford” the dream car, dream house, dream gadgets, dream wardrobe, and also get yourself some Starbucks every single day. You can also take out $100,000 of school loans for a degree in dance and make it all back and more once you graduate…. or so it is portrayed. One does not even need to sign up to get credit card offers in the mail. They come pouring in like Harry’s Hogwarts letters at the Dursley’s (anything I can do to include a HP reference). It is so easy to go into debt and this is why we do. The media drowns us with ads screaming: “you deserve it!” and “treat yo self!” and it is hard not to listen.

Our friends and neighbors are able to have new cars, well-curated homes, wear the latest trends, go on vacation multiple times a year, and eat out every night so why can’t we? But, if we take a deeper look into people’s lives and budgets we may notice not all of them can actually afford their lifestyles. According to TheBalance.com, the average credit card debt in a United States household was $8,339 as of April 2019. That is just credit card debt, so no car payments, student loans, or mortgages included. I am incredibly lucky to have managed to pay off my school loans and to not have credit card debt, but Paul and I still have car payments, a mortgage, and other financial struggles. We are currently trying to pay for him to do post Bachelor classes so he can be accepted into a Physician Assistant program. This means he is working less and we are paying for courses therefore, we have less disposable income.

This is why we decided to come up with a budget. Each month we set aside money for the essentials: food, mortgage, bills, charity, etc. Then with the leftovers, we decide on how much “fun money” we are going to allow ourselves to have. The “fun money” is for us to do with what we want without the other having a say. This includes clothing, eating/drinking out, gadgets, movies, concerts, classes, etc. For us, we decided on $150 each. This amount may seem exorbitant to some and minuscule to others. It sounded doable to me at first until I realized my bad habits and just how much money I spend a month. Last month Paul and I started our budget and also went 30 days without buying unnecessary items and we ended up saving $800. EIGHT-HUNDRED DOLLARS! HOLY SHIT! That is an insane amount of money for this middle class lady. Think of all the things someone could do with that amount of money. Think of all the dogs I could adopt with that money…

Love him or hate him, the hair sniffing Joe Biden said it right when he stated “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” I cannot even name the amount of times I have tried to tell myself I want to go on a trip because travel is what I value, but then end up ordering junk off Amazon instead. This seems to be a common theme. I overhear coworkers complain about being “broke” and how they want to have money to do something and then watch them go get coffee every morning and then go out to lunch every work day afternoon. As a collective society we kind of suck at budgeting and living within our means. I am speaking from the middle class. I realize there are a lot of people who are lower income and/or people who do live within their means and still do not have enough. It feels we get swept up in the advertisements and competition with one another that we forget what we actually value and want for ourselves.

Like I said, budgeting sucks and I am not very good at it. I am learning and failing and then learning some more. All I can say is I am better today than I was before. The budget has been a tough adjustment, but my eyes are now finally open to the amount of money I waste and now I have learned to prioritize. The American money guru Dave Ramsey, says “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Instead of spending my money on things I do not need, I am now spending it on what I value like saving for an upcoming trip with my friend or experiences with people I love. Budgeting can sometimes feel like a punishment, but with it is reward. A reward of delayed gratification, future possibilities, and overall financial peace. It sucks in the meantime, but is worth it in the end.

Stop, drop, and don’t shop.

The last 30 days have been focused on appreciating what I already have by not buying anything unnecessary. This 30 day challenge has been the hardest for me so far. This past month I have been severely tempted but managed not to cave. It was as if making a sweeping declaration not to shop inspired God to test me with all his might (total exaggeration). I have mentioned in previous post my problem with shopping as well as my inability to stay away from a “good deal”.

Well this month all the “deals” came flooding in. I had one friend offer their “wholesale” discount for one of my favorite brands and stated I could buy anything for the website at a steep discount. Then Paul’s friend offered us his employee discount for the company he works for, which includes over 50% off one of my favorite outdoor brands that carries workout gear (including the best yoga leggings). Then my sister-in-law got a few new vendors for the boutique she owns and received multiple adorable items for the spring collection, not to mention she gives me a “family discount” on all merchandise. Those were just some of the deals that came my way last month.

In the middle of May, our friends got a puppy and we wanted to get them a gift, so where did we go for discounted dog toys? Marshalls and TJ Maxx. The holy mecca of deals. Going in there was torture. There were pillows, candles, plant pots, shoes, clothes, and piles of household items I did not need but desperately wanted. Buying just dog toys for someone else’s dog was difficult to say the least. Full disclosure, however, I did buy oven mitts, yes mitts, because mine have been misplaced or destroyed and I was tired of nearly burning my fingers off using a towel. Paul and I agreed ahead of time we needed those. Otherwise there was no shopping for the 30 days. The final straw was the day before our “no buy” was over I was at the Saturday market with a friend and saw intricate handmade earrings that a vendor made to raise money for her son with Type I Diabetes. If there are three things I love it is: supporting local vendors/businesses/causes, handmade items, and earrings. I had to nearly be dragged away from the booth by my friend.

The three main things I learned from not being able to shop for 30 days were:

  1. Most things I buy on impulse I do not actually want. I realized the things I thought I really wanted that I could not buy I no longer wanted after a few days. There were things I told myself I would go back and buy after the 30 days were up, but once they were I realized I no longer even liked them. Going forward I am going to pause and wait until the next day to buy items. If I decide I really want it the next day I can go back and if not then I have saved myself some $$$.
  2. Just because something is on sale does not mean it is a good deal. Thrifting was my hobby and every time I found something for a “good deal” I would get a rush and feeling of euphoria. It is an addicting feeling. The problem was is I would buy things that I did not need or really love just because it was “cheap” and then I would feel guilty for buying something unnecessary. It is not cheap when I spending money on things that I end getting rid of or not using. Not spending money on things I do not need is the best “deal”.
  3. When I stop spending money on things, I have more money to spend on experiences and people. The last 30 days I made a promise not to shop, but it was also the start of Paul and my budget. We each had $150 to spend on whatever we wanted for the month of May, including going out to eat (fast food included), coffee and alcohol beverages, outings with friends, etc. We decided the set amount and agreed that once our money was used up that is all we get. Nothing makes you realize how much money you spend/waste like being on a budget. I managed to make it through the month, using my last $5 on May 31st. It may seem like $150 is a lot of money, but it is not when you are me and love to buy clothes and shoes. One pair of leather shoes can cost $150 alone. Instead of spending money on clothes, I spent it on coffee and brunch dates with friends, a weekend getaway to the beach for a friend’s birthday, and goat yoga, which is literally yoga with goats climbing on your back (yes, it is a very Oregon thing). The money I could have spent on shoes I spent on quality time with the people I love.

When I think back to all the things I have bought and not used or liked it makes me feel a bit sick. I have been reckless with my money. Having a budget and not shopping for the last 30 days has really shown me just how reckless and impulsive I can be. When I did not have the option to shop I had to get creative by using what I already had or borrowing items from other people. The budget showed me how many things I could go without and taught me to prioritize what was important or what I could forgo. By not buying frivolous things I allow myself the opportunity to have funds for important things. Instead of looking at budgeting as a hardship, I now see it enhances gratitude, wellbeing, and highlights what is important. The delayed gratification and the work it takes to budget and to have self-control with spending is worth the effort when it means I can have a financially stable future.

Check On It.

Yes, the title of this post is a Beyoncé song and it was fitting for my post content, but not at all related to the song. A few days ago, I was lost down the “rabbit hole” of social media and decided to “check up on” some former friends to see the going-ons of their lives. I already knew it was not a good idea, but did it anyway because if there is one thing I lack it is self control. There is a quote I scrolled past while on social media urging “stop checking on people that are not checking on you”. It could very well have meant physically checking up on people but I took it as checking up on people via internet “stalking”. I should have heeded the advice. Instead, I leapt face first into my former friends’ social media lives and came up gasping for air and feeling like a complete failure. 

One of them had posts highlighting the fact they had their dream career after graduating from a Master’s program and were able to buy and renovate a house and buy a new car. The other one had posted about recently graduating with a doctoral degree in psychology while living their dream in Southern California. 

Instead of feeling happy for their success I felt horrible about my own perceived lack thereof. I sat there ticking off the list of things they had succeeded in that I had not. For me, my lack of education was a huge hit to my feelings of self worth. I am very well aware that there are very brilliant, successful people without advanced degrees and plenty of people with advanced degrees who are so stupid it makes me question how they were ever able to pass kindergarten let alone obtain an advanced degree. However, continuing education is a sore spot for me. I am currently working so my husband, Paul can go back to school for a career in the medical field, which means I currently do not have the means to go back to school myself to obtain a doctorate or master degree. This makes me feel really behind even though I am grateful to be able to put Paul through school . I know this season of life will pass but seeing other people who are more successful right now hits a particular nerve. 

I brought my feelings up to Paul and he replied “You do not know anything about these people anymore. They could have thousands of dollars of school debt or just be pretending to love their lives. They only post on social media what they want the world to see”.

Touché. People only post on social media what they want others to see. Let me repeat that for my own benefit: people only post on social media what they want others to see. People do not (usually) post their bad marriages, insecurities, failures, debt, or hatred for their jobs. I certainly do not post those things (except here, obviously). There may even be people who look at my accounts and think my life is anything but a clusterfuck, so maybe I need to listen to my own advice and stop posting just the highlights of life…..

I could go delete all my social media accounts to spare myself from comparison but there are people that I do find inspiring that do not make me feel as though I am not enough. I follow accounts that promote art, comedy, zero waste, puppies, minimalism, Golden Girls, intersectional feminism, and body positivity. All these accounts inspire me and therefore I want to go on social media to see them. Instead of purging all social media I have decided to purge all the accounts of people who spark feelings of failure or insecurity. I am going to Marie Kondo my social media and rid myself of accounts that do not “spark joy”. Does that mean I am ridding accounts of anyone successful? No. If someone posts they trained hard and put blood, sweat, and tears into running a marathon and finally did it then I want to see that success. If someone posts pictures of their perfect house, life, marriage, kids, career and claims they have it all because they are #blessed, then yes, I am blocking them. 

I am also going to block people I am no longer friends with, not to be a bitch, but because the chapter of my life is closed and I do not want to keep rereading those stories when I could be creating new ones.  They are allowed to be successful and post about it, but I am no longer going to allow myself to be subjected to it. I am going to be kind to myself and this means I am going to stop checking up on the past and focus on the present and the future. I am going to do what Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness does and not worry about what everyone else is doing and just keep focusing on my own thing (and keep dancing in my kitchen). 

30 Days of No Shopping.

Spoiler alert: I like to shop. Similar to a lot of people with shopping problems I like to find deals. As I have stated previously, I love the hunt, to dig through the racks of vintage or used clothes and find cheap treasures that otherwise would have cost me a small fortune. The irony is that I spend money on things I do not need or sometimes do not even particularly like because I think I am saving money….. The problem with shopping-especially thrifting-is that I wind up with a bunch of excess items because they were a “good deal” or I saw something cute and felt I might “regret it” later if I didn’t buy it. The photo above is a great example of a thrift find I purchased because I worried I would regret it if I did not buy a white sequined dress from the sixties, you know, a very reasonable closet must….

There are things that do not go together like toothpaste and orange juice or minimalism and a shopping problem. I recognize that in order to work towards a more minimal and meaningful life I have to give up some stuff, literally give it away and get rid of it. There are mental things that weigh me down but also a lot of physical things, like clothes. Clothes for me is the biggest issue, it always has been. I buy items to fit the person I want to be instead of the person I am. Fit is both literal and figurative. Clothes I buy can be for the size I wish I was as well as for the personality I wish I had. I will see some bohemian goddess wearing a floral jumpsuit and I go hunting for a floral jumpsuit because I want to be a bohemian even though I do not really like jumpsuits. It is almost as if I forget that just because I wear the outfit of a bohemian goddess does not make me one. Just like wearing a pantsuit does not make me Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or wearing crop tops with heels make me Jonathan Van Ness. My ultimate goal is to stop and figure out my style and only buy what fits my current body and what I actually like and need, but for now I just need to take a step back and just stop buying altogether.

These next 30 days I will not be buying any unnecessary items. These include:

  1. Clothes, obviously.
  2. Home Items: artwork, dishware, linens, knick-knacks, furniture, etc.
  3. Fast Food.
  4. Beauty products: Duplicate make-up, nail polish, face-masks, etc. (This does not including needs like shampoo, sunscreen, or toothpaste if they run out).
  5. Media: Books, movies, apps, etc.
  6. Misc: Soveniers, candles, or any other items I see at TJ Maxx and convince myself I need to have…

Things that I am allowed to buy are necessities like shampoo or the items mentioned above, groceries, or gas. Other things that are not included are experiences. Paul decided to join me for this 30 day challenge and we agreed to not exclude experiences as part of the 30 day no-buy. This includes going out to eat or drink (if with friends), concerts/live shows, movies in the theatre, surfing/snowboarding, and weekend getaways. We gave ourselves a pass because we have a friend’s birthday coming up that includes a weekend getaway and the whole purpose of this shopping ban is to stop buying frivolous things. I believe spending time with people you love and spending money on experiences over things is not frivolous, it’s valuable.

This 30 day ban is really going to test me. When I feel sad or stressed I go to thrifts shops and wander around, buy things and then it makes me feel better. This is the reason shopping can be an addiction. It gives you a pick-me-up, a feeling of euphoria until the second you get home and realize how much you spent. Then the guilt comes calling. The same is true for thrifting. Am I really saving money if I am buying things I don’t really need? If we are not testing and pushing ourselves then we don’t grow. So in the next 30 days I fully expect to grow like a redwood.

30 Days of Less Waste.

The last 30 days have been all about waste. I have made it a point to really focus on all the unnecessary waste I create while living as a middle class person in America. When I really paid attention I was disgusted with how much I, a single human, can create.

My goals for the last 30 days were to focus on five areas where I could reduce waste. They included: not buying new clothes, bringing my own reusable coffee cups to coffee shops, bringing my own bags to the grocery store, creating less food waste, and bringing my own containers for restaurant leftovers. 

Out of the fives things I did there were three things I did great at, one I did okay at, and one I failed miserably at. As much as I would like to give myself credit for the things I did well, there is always room for improvement.

I will review the things I did great first because I should be kinder to myself and highlight triumphs verses failures. As Lana Del Rey in her song Blue Jeans says “Whether you fail or fly, oh shit at least you tried”. Overall, I improved my carbon footprint and was more mindful of my choices and will continue to improve moving forward.

  1. Buying Clothes Used/Thrifted:

I love thrifting. I love the hunt and findings deals. I make a list of what I need and I go “digging”. When I find something I need for a deal it is like finding gold. With websites that sell used clothing and an abundance of thrift stores in my area, buying clothes used was something I succeeded at and enjoyed doing. For 30 days I did not buy a single clothing item new. This saved resources like water, fuel, fabric, other natural resources, which includes (all) costs of labor. It also kept the clothing out of a landfill and more money in my pocket. My next focus will be not to shop for clothing as I have a thrifting addiction…..

**Ps. My husband, Paul openly mocked me for taking photos of my thrifted clothes that I laid out on the floor for this photo.

2. Reusable Coffee Cup:

I went out for coffee/tea four times in the last 30 days. I usually make coffee at home to save money, but I traveled for work during two days-which meant it was easier to get coffee from a shop vs the Keurig (aka an environmental disgrace) in my hotel room. I also went out for coffee once with my husband as a treat, and one day I just really wanted a matcha latte with macadamia nut milk from a really good local coffee shop just because (and also because I am a millennial and love my fancy milk and fancy tea). Every time I got coffee I brought my reusable cup. I went to Starbucks one time and they used a plastic cup to make my drink and then poured it into my reusable cup and threw the plastic cup away. Therefore, I did not go to Starbucks after that. The other, local coffee vendors made my drink in a steel steamer cup and then poured it into my cup. All vendors gave me ten cents off my drink for bringing my own cup. I kept a clean reusable cup in my car so I would always have one ready for any impromptu coffee stop. Good for the environment and my wallet.

3. Reusable Grocery Bags.

During my 30 days of using reusable bags, my hometown banned single-use plastic bags in retail stores over 10,000 feet (3040 meters) in size. The ban went into effect nine days ago on April 1, 2019. For smaller businesses, the ban will go into effect September 1, 2019. This ban is a huge step towards a more sustainable environment! The past 30 days I have made sure to bring my reusable cloth bags every store I have made purchases, especially for groceries. Some grocery stores even gave me 10 cents off every reusable bag I brought in. In order to be successful, I kept the bags in the back of my car and the moment I got home after shopping I emptied the bags and put them right back in my car. I even got Paul to start using reusable bags before we even knew about the plastic bag ban. Getting him to bring reusable bags to the store I would say was my biggest accomplishment of the 30 days.

4. Less Food Waste.

Food waste was one thing I did okay at improving. I really tried to buy fresh foods that I would be eat before they rotted. I did really well in the beginning. When I noticed there were vegetables in the fridge starting to turn I added them to soups or cut them up and froze them for later. I stored food in airtight jars so it would stay fresh. I even tried to clear out the fridge to avoid missing food and it expiring in the back. One time I cooked a chicken in my Instant Pot and saved the broth leftover to use for another recipe. There were a few times I missed items like a red pepper in a container that was half chopped and got slimy, a moldy container of (unrecognizable) leftovers, a sweet potato that was wrinkly and growing extra sprouts, and a carrot that was hidden under a bag of apples that was shriveled up. Otherwise, I really focused on eating up leftover foods to avoid them going bad and was more mindful about not overbuying items that would not get eaten quick enough. There is room for improvement, but I am getting better at improving my waste. I even am going to purchase a compost bin for food scraps so I can turn it back into nutritious dirt for my garden.

5. Reusable Takeout Containers/Utensils:

I did terrible at remembering to bring reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers. I did not even do it once. I had a reusable container in my car ready to use and still did not manage to use it. I went out to dinner a few times in the last 30 days. One time I went to a restaurant that had a bunch of food trucks lined up, but we went in Paul’s car so I did not have the container. I saw everyone was using paper plates so I figured I would be fine, but unfortunately the food truck I chose had styrofoam containers (aka satan’s takeout containers) instead. Another time, I was out of town for work and ate most meals out. One of the times I ordered what I assumed was a light breakfast, but ended up being a feast. I did not want to waste the food, but I had forgotten to bring my container on the trip so I asked for one. It was (of course) styrofoam. Then a few days later I went to visit my friend who was sick and she had ordered us ramen to be delivered to the house before I got there. The food arrived in plastic containers with plastic utensils and in a plastic bag. The only time I ate out that did not require a container was when I had a friend eat the leftovers because I had been in Paul’s car and had forgotten my box (again) and did not want to waste takeout containers. Needless to say, I sucked at this one. The only perk was I kept a fork and spoon and reusable napkin in my tote bag so any time I needed one of those items I had them handy. When a coworker wanted help eating their takeout I pulled my own reusable spoon out to use. When I needed a napkin for my snacks at work, I used my own.

There were many things I improved upon in the past 30 days to decrease my impact on the environment and some that could use more work. While I chose to focus on these five, I incorporated other things like using reusable bags for my snacks instead of ziplocks, buying a shampoo bar and bar soap instead of ones in bottles, and even remembering to turn off the lights for every room I left in the house. These are small changes, but if every single person could make similar, small changes the world would see a big impact. I am motivated to experiment and consciously make more eco-friendly choices because as the philosopher Albus Dumbledore once said (and because I want to end on a Harry Potter quote) “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

Beach, Please.

My friend invited me and a few of his friends to go surfings three weekends ago on the Oregon Coast. Oregon is not known for its warm beaches and is not people’s first choice for surfing. While there definitely are surfers in Oregon, they are not like the kind featured in my favorite teen surfer movie Blue Crush- with board shorts and tribal tattoos. In fact, when Oregonians brave the waters they wear 3mm thick wetsuits, masks, hoods, booties, and gloves. That is because Oregon coast waters are polar and the beaches are rainy with winds blasting sand so hard in your face it feels like being stabbed with needles. I am not being overly dramatic, honestly.

The weekend turned out to be unseasonably warm- as if God purposely wanted a clear view to watch me drown as I attempted to surf. I pulled on my wetsuit (which smelled like old urine) and it squealed in protest as I tried to pull it up my thighs. We all made our way down the narrow steps to the beach and that is when I saw what I thought was piles of multicolored pebbles washed up on shore. As we got closer, I realized it was not pebbles, it was plastic. Little pieces of blue, red, black, yellow, and white plastic. There were chunks of styrofoam, shreds of bottles, and even plastic bands of watches littering the whole entire beach. The photo above is just a section of what the whole beach looked like.

Oregon is my home. Arguably, one of the most beautiful states in U.S. with mountains dusted with snow, evergreens sprinkling the whole state, and of course, the frigid but beautiful beaches. Almost everywhere you drive looks like a postcard. It is the perfect place to raise kids, or in my case, my 95 pound puppy. One can only imagine how it felt seeing my Oregon beaches resembling a dumpster.

I am one (fairly average and insignificant) person. I claim to “care” about the environment, but let’s be honest, I do do more harm than good. As a human I create waste; we all do it. By just being born we impact the environment. If you were born in a hospital just think of all the disposable medical equipment (gloves, for example) it took to deliver you safely (and hygienically) into this world.

As the wise Helen Keller once stated, ““I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everythingbut still I can do somethingand because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Here is what I can do: I can mindfully choose more environmentally friendly options when going about my life. There are people more dedicated to an environmental friendly lifestyle (looking at you people who use “washable toilet paper”. Yes it is real, you can buy it on Etsy or make your own……). I am not quite there as far as dedication. I am going the route of baby steps, per my usual M.O. I meet goals one wobbly step at a time. Once I meet one small one I titrate up to more. For the next 30 days, I am going to do five things to reduce my waste:

  1. Less disposable coffee cups. According to Earrthday.org 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. These are coated with plastic to laminate the inside of the cup and then there are the plastic lids on top, so they are non recyclable nor compostable. I have a great coffee Hydro Flask (not sponsored, I wish..) and I will be using that anytime I get coffee to go. A lot of coffee shops give a discount if you bring in your own cup. This includes Starbucks, which gives 10 cents off in America.
  2. Less plastic grocery bags. According to Earth Policy Institute,  a trillion (!!!!) single-use plastic bags are used each year, which is nearly 2 million each minute. Plastic bags are one of the top polluters of our oceans. I do not know about you, but I have reusable bags coming out my eyeballs from events and God-only-knows where, so I will be using those not just to grocery shop but for any type of in-store purchases. I even got a bag that folds up tiny and can fit in my purse for emergency shopping trips.
  3. Less Styrofoam. Styrofoam is basically “the devil” (as Bobby Boucher’s mom from The Waterboy would say….) There was tons of it on the Oregon coast and it definitely does not biodegrade. According to Green Dining Alliance, the world produces more than 14 million US tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) each year. It also notes that just Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year. The culprit for me is takeout containers. I love leftovers, but I notice that when I ask for a box I am usually brought a styrofoam one. For this, I intend to bring my own container for leftovers and leave one in my car and if need be, put it in my purse. This way I can say “boy, bye” to styrofoam hopefully forever.
  4. Less food waste. Guilty. The biggest thing for me to work on will be wasting less food. I have a habit of buying or making things and then forgetting about them in the black hole that is the back of my fridge and leaving them to rot. Just the other day I bought a yellow squash and forgot about it and then found it too late. According to the USDA, in the United States, food waste is estimated between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds of food and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. Fuuuuuck! There are people starving all over the world and here we are wasting 133 billion pounds of food. I am sure the number has only gone up since 2010….
  5. Less new clothes. According to PBS, Americans throw away 13 million tons of textiles — about 85 percent of their clothes — each year, accounting for 9 percent of total non-recycled waste. Not only do we throw away clothes which creates waste, but then our clothes come in non recyclable packaging. According to Sciencemag.org over half of the world’s plastic thrown out in 2015 was plastic packaging. That’s over 141 million metric tons! I know packaging also includes food and other packaging, but still. Let us also not get into the unfair labor and fossil fuels it takes to make our clothes…. With websites like Poshmark and Ebay where you can buy and sell gently used clothing online and of course, brick and mortar thrift stores, there is no need for me to buy new clothes for the next 30 days. Not to mention it is better for my budget to buy used than new.

I know there are way more ways to improve the planet and maybe even better ones, but these are the ones I believe I can attain for the next 30 days and then hopefully I can add more and work my way up to living in my own self-sustaining treehouse community. Still not going to do the “family roll” (the formal name for reusable toilet paper) thing, though. Sorry, not sorry.


30 Days of Yoga.

The goal for living a life with more meaning in 2019 is to complete different goals for 30 days at a time. The month of January was for yoga. My intention was to do yoga every single day for 30 days and to see if it added any value to my life. For the past 30 days I have stuck to that goal and practiced on my mat each day.

I did not go into January thinking that yoga would alter my life significantly. I had done it previously and knew it was a great way to unwind and a decent workout. I was not expecting the immense change that took place in just four weeks. What changed was gradual, sneaking up on me like a predator to its prey. There were days in this challenge when I REALLY did not want to do it. I had days when I had so many other things going on that it was hard to find time. Yet, I made the time. Even if it was 15 minutes instead of the 30 minutes I was planning. I promised myself that I would stick through something for 30 days and I kept it.

At the end of my 30 days, after completing one of my yoga videos, another video started playing (typical YouTube) and it was about the science of yoga. Almost instantly, I became enthralled in the video and watched it until it cut out and told me I needed to sign up on their website to get the rest of the video….(not very yogi in my opinion, but whatever). The 20 minute clip solidified what I felt had changed in my body, mind, and spirit. I felt lighter, happier, and (let’s be real) like less of a bitch. After the challenge was over, I had time to reflect on what things had changed:

  1. Less Anxiety. By the second week in, I noticed I was less anxious. My feelings of panic hit me like a freight train, usually at night, and it can keep me from being able to come back down. I start having shortness of breath, I lose focus, and terrible thoughts consume me. Throughout my yoga practice, I noticed I was having less panicky thoughts. I felt calm and able to relax both during the day and at night and took things as they came instead of instantly freaking out if something felt out of my control.
  2. Better Mood. Prior to yoga, I felt like it took very little to set me off. I could feel perfectly chill and then something inconsequential would happen and I would lash out in rage. I felt despondent; all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep. Little tasks or work was enough to send me to tears. While I did cry one time at work during the 30 days, I know that it would have been more frequent without yoga. At week three I could feel myself waking up happier, a sense of calm over me as I tackled the day. A sense of peace washed over me on my way to work that felt foreign and it has continued with me since.
  3. More Self-Esteem. I have not always felt good about my body or my abilities. There are times when I feel so fat or ugly that I want to stay home and times when I feel so incompetent and out of my element that I break down. I am very hard on myself. I still have those insecurities, but yoga helped lessen them. The more I practiced, the more I saw improvement in my strength and flexibility. I noticed my body could do things it was not able to previously and I felt a sense of strength. The more I spent time connecting my breath to my movement, the more I reflected on how lucky I am to have a body that can move the way mine could and I started looking in the mirror and seeing a strong body instead of a flawed one.
  4. Improved Flexibility and Strength. I sit on my butt for the majority of the day at work. This causes my legs and hips to be extremely tight. I have also been told I have the strength of a nine month old baby by my husband because I cannot open jars on my own. No joke. With each day I practiced, I felt my hamstrings, hips, and quads loosen up and I was able to touch my toes by the end of 30 days without pain. When I was young and did ballet, I could go into splits no problem. By the end of the 30 days I was back to being able to do it. I may still have trouble opening jars, but I noticed improvement in my arm strength (and legs) with the 30 days and started to even see definition in both.
  5. Improved Sleep. Not to be Garfield the cat or anything, but I hate mornings. I have never been an early riser and I could not remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed. It may have to do with my problem looking at memes on my phone all through the night, but also I felt burned out with work and life, which made getting up hard to do. Just 30 minutes of yoga a day improved the way I slept. I went to bed feeling relaxed, was able to fall asleep and stay asleep, and after week three I was waking up at 6:30 on the dot awake and ready. This did not mean I did not lounge in bed until after 6:30, but still, I felt awake.

Yoga is not the cure all for all of life’s problems. It was not the sole cure for really any of my problems. It is an outlet for me to connect my mind, body, and spirit; to nourish them. For me it is time set aside specifically to stay in the present, to connect with God, to strengthen my body, and to calm my breathing. These are all ingredients that in combination help improve my outlook and attitude and sticking with something for 30 days even when I did not feel like it made me stronger. If you are willing to give yoga a try, please ease into it and stick with it because the rewards are so worth it.