Friday, February 4, 2011

TV or Not TV

I am not the home theater industry's biggest asset. I buy a new television when - and only when - the old one dies. The television in my living room is probably almost 20 years old, and while some of the buttons don't work (that's why they make remotes, right?), the picture is still great. Likewise, the little one in my bedroom is going strong. But, untrue to form, I'm getting ready to retire them both; here's why....

Now that I'm the sole consumer of cable television in my house, I contacted Verizon to downgrade my package. I don't really watch television all that much. More importantly, I don't have a high definition television, and I don't use the 800+ channels we currently receive. What I learned is that Verizon doesn't offer a plan below hi-def with a zillion channels. I'm forced to pay a hefty monthly bill for services I will never come even close to maximizing. Apparently they think they have me over a coax barrel. I don't think so.

I'm doing my research and it seems that I can get two new flat screen televisions with digital tuners, each at a very reasonable price - especially in a few weeks when the new models come out and the current ones are reduced. With an additional $20-30 antenna I can get the local channels and pbs without cable. Ok, I'll miss the weather channel every morning but it's a small sacrifice to make. And I already stream a lot of television on my laptop anyway, since I'm rarely able to watch the shows I like at the time they air. I'll be saving money every month, simplifying my life, and making a statement while I'm at it. I realize I'll be a drop in the ocean, my statement a mere whisper in the wind, but it doesn't matter - I'll know I made it. And that makes me happy.

Take that, Verizon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Big Reorg

So Rob (my son) has officially moved out, and I am flinging myself headlong into the sorting out and getting rid of. Over the next few months I expect to keep the trash, recycling and donation centers very busy. I started with the kitchen - the pantry got a good going over, and the kitchen cabinets are almost done. Now I'm moving around the house as the spirit takes me. The linen closet is done, and I'm starting on the closet in the spare bedroom. I'm finding things I didn't even remember I had, keeping what I still like, and donating what I know I will no longer use. It feels great to see how much stuff is leaving the house.

My new partner in crime is Dylan, a long-haired, gray tuxedo kitten. As with any baby, life and the world are exciting adventures for him, and almost every new discovery an opportunity! His joy at an afternoon or evening of open cabinets and stuff littering every possible surface is exceeded only by his endless curiosity. When he has exhausted himself (and me) he curls up on my chest and under my chin, purring loudly until he falls into a contented sleep. I had really been missing our cat Sapphire who passed away last June, so Dylan came into my life at just the right time.

I'm also sorting out and reorganizing finances. It hasn't been easy, and there have been some crises along the way, but I've started a conversation with my mortgage company about my short term objectives as well as my long range plans. The President's Making Home Affordable Act will reduce my monthly mortgage payment as well as my interest rate. I'm cutting out and/or paring down utilities and services where appropriate now that I'm the only one using them. It will take a few months to arrive at a steady state I suppose, but that's ok.

One of the next steps will be to get back to the tiny house research. I've collected more information since my last post on that topic and intend to share it via this blog in the next few weeks. Right now I can't see how I can make the jump from my current house to a tiny house without some kind of a transitional phase, so I'm trying to figure that one out too. I'm even thinking about living in an RV for a year or two, and in February will take in the Maryland RV show. How bad could it be? This IS about being daring after all!

That's the progress report at this point. It's been a trying couple of weeks, so it's good to sit back and review the progress. It helps me maintain a positive outlook when I'm having a hard time being happy.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Butterfly Eggs

It's T-minus 2 days until Christmas and butterfly eggs are not at the top of my list at the moment. But I've been mulling them over for a while now, so here they are....

Increasingly, I want my time and energy to be spent on things that matter to me. I want to have time to develop artistic and creative impulses. I want time to hone my spiritual practice and I want to live in closer harmony with the earth and its cycles. I feel a calling to help others find peace and healing through artistic and creative pursuits. This egg is already pretty clear, but it leads to.........

Personal Financial Health
No small part of the equation. After 20+ years in education, and more recently the third consecutive year of a furloughed salary, the coffers aren't exactly brimming over. In fact, the coffers are coughing - I'd go so far as to say they're gasping for breath. But hope springs eternal. There are things I can do, and my son is flying the nest even as I type, so I will begin to get a clearer picture of how much it costs me...just live. One big step in the right direction would be.............

Tiny House
It's rare that I catch on to a wave way before it crests, but it would appear that's the case with this whole tiny house thing. Is the movement gathering more momentum lately, or is it just that now I'm more attuned to it? I don't know. Either way, I'm seeing more and more about it in mainstream forums. And it's surprising how much the idea seems to resonate with others I talk to - that, I didn't anticipate. So the incubation of this egg involves further research into house plans, locations and architects/builders.

The next eggs have to do with Establishing a Business of my own. My son keeps urging me to think about a business plan that doesn't involve a bricks and mortar location. At first I didn't see how that would be possible, but I'm starting to catch on and I think he might be right. I'm fully aware that something like this takes time to get off the ground, and additional part-time employment might always be necessary, but the good news is that I can get started on this part of the program while I'm still employed full-time. So far the knitting business eggs include:

Shows and Festivals

Knitting Instruction

Knitting parties, excursions, etc.

Knitting as meditation

Knitting for charities

Creating a web page

Starting a business related blog

Knitted products

So there it is - the framework. Now I'll spend the winter fleshing out all these ideas, and that will make me happy.

Everyone have a Happy and Blessed Holiday - whichever one you celebrate!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Butterflies Are Free

A few months ago I went to the monthly meeting of a local women's group. The theme for the evening - fittingly enough - was Native American, The Butterfly Moon. Each of us was asked to liken ourselves to a butterfly in some way. I said that I thought my activities of late could be compared to the purposeful meandering of a butterfly; that what, at first glance, seemed to be the fanciful but erratic flight of a butterfly actually had an underlying intent. That right now in my life I'm trying to lay the foundation for a metamorphosis (another butterfly analogy), so I'm sampling. I'm flitting from here to there, a little of this, a little of that, a nip or two across the way. It's not wholly undirected, and each stop provides me with a little more information, a bit more nourishment.

The past couple of months I've been doing quite a lot of that. In late September I went on a four day spiritual retreat in the Pocono Mountains, along with 45 other like-minded souls. In early October, assisted by my friend Kelly, I took my first stab at setting up a knitting booth at the Chesapeake Celtic Festival on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Somewhere in there I embarked upon a course offered by the Craft Yarn Council that will certify me as a knitting instructor. I've been thinking a lot about what seems to be missing in people's lives and about what I can contribute. I've stayed on the trail of the tiny house. I've been reading, researching, networking, and jotting down ideas. So... good. Nice work. I've been a busy little butterfly. Now what?

Now the days are growing shorter and colder, and I'm tired and feeling disorganized. How do I make order out of all the bits and pieces accumulated over the past weeks? That's where I think the butterfly analogy continues to serve me. Let's say that each of those areas I've sampled becomes a perfect little butterfly egg. I will lay them all down and over the dark months they will continue to incubate (and yes, I know that's not really quite how the butterfly gestation thing works, just stay with me) as I flesh them out more in my mind. Some may not make it through the winter. In the spring some caterpillars will hatch and a few might get picked off, but the strongest will hopefully have survived. And then it will be time for those butterfly caterpillars to get busy again!

So what, you might ask, is the caption underneath each of those little butterfly eggs? Determining that will be my task for the next post. I'm happy to be back!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy......

It's been a bit since I've posted. From the middle of September to about the second week in November is always a busy time. Between work and personal interests/events I'm on the go most of that time, and this year is no exception. Lots happening, and I'll have plenty of thoughts to sort out via the blog once November rolls around. In the meantime, I'm posting this wonderful work by artist Larry MacDougall, entitled "Moving Day." It seemed to fit the spirit of this blog perfectly, and I thank Shane Odom for sharing it.

Have a good October, and I'll post again in the Celtic New Year!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Only One Wish

I've had a bad week. Health problems, car problems, my son in a bad place, frustration in the workplace. I've been feeling angry and bitter.

So this morning it's time to stop and take stock of where the good bits have been over the past few days. The weather yesterday and today has been absolutely gorgeous. The time I've missed at work because of the transportation issue has enabled me to make some progress on the sort out at home. And yesterday the universe once again handed me a gift in the form of a lead on a local architect who specializes in inexpensive sustainable homes.

It's also time to remember why I'm going down this "daring to be happy" road. I made a friend this summer who's from Serbia. He's been here for the summer on a work visa, leaving his wife and family back home. He goes back in a few days, and while we exchanged contact information so that his family and mine can stay in touch, we got talking about things. I told him all I want is a quiet simple life. He said it's the same for him, and how the civil war in his country has made him appreciate the importance - the good luck really - of being whole and healthy. He said that "If you are healthy you have lots of wishes. If you are sick, you have only one wish." Clearly adversity has made him wise.

That's the whole point of all this for me too. I want to be healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally, financially, environmentally.

When times are rough I need to remember to have only one wish.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Really BIG Thing to Know About

It seems to me that Goodwill Industries has gotten a mite picky lately. I'd heard it from others, but experienced it myself for the first time this weekend when I took a couple of boxes to our local 'superstore.' The boxes contained, among other things, some books - some good books. The first box was thrust back at me with the rather surly comment, "We don't take these, we only take novels." Then a second later, "Oh, these are cookbooks. Okay, yeah, we'll take cookbooks." Second pile..."No, we don't take reference books. No reference books." ...Really? Where's the goodwill?

Since it goes completely against the grain for me to toss out a book, no matter how much I don't need it, I turned next to the local public library. The librarian cheerfully took my donation, but also told me about a wonderful local initiative - Books for International Goodwill, or BIG.

Started 15 years ago by the Parole Rotary Club of Annapolis, BIG has shipped almost 4 million books to poor communities overseas and in this country to Indian Reservations and communities recovering from natural disasters. They have sent books to Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and to US Service Personnel, Peace Corps volunteers and other mission-sponsored schools. BIG "believe(s) that the route to world peace and prosperity is through giving people the tools to learn how to feed their minds....."

BIG is an all volunteer organization, they have two drop-off points in the Annapolis area, and they will take anything - even reference books.

Now there's goodwill. It makes me happy.

BIG is having a book sale at their new warehouse on Saturday, September 18th. For more information go to