Friday, March 30, 2012

What Would You Do?

This morning I read a post about money. The author posed this question to her readers - What would you change about your life if money was no object?

I love hypothetical questions and this one really resonated with me, especially with the $640 million dollar lottery winner being picked tonight!

Immediately I began to make a list in my head of all the things I would do if I didn't have to worry about money:

1. Take a drawing class. I've been searching for a while now to try and find an art class that would fit with my work schedule. So far the only classes I've found are $40 and $60 per class, which seems a little ridiculous to me - but as long as money is no object, maybe I'll sign up for two!

2. Switch to working part-time. I don't know that I would want to quit my job completely, but going from 5 9hr days a week to 2 4hr days sounds really lovely. It's enough working time to make me appreciate the time that I'm not at work, but not so much working time that I start counting down the minutes until the weekend. Plus, in this alternate reality, I would still qualify for healthcare, right?

3. Get a dog. I love, love, love little furry dogs. If I didn't have to leave the little guy home alone all day, I would totally have a dog already - a little Pomeranian named Harry Potter who would sleep on my bed and dance on his hind legs when he was excited, and love riding in the car. Also, I would get a job that allowed me to bring my dog to work...and allow me to telecommute...and take months off for travel...hmm, this job situation might not work out after all...

4. Hire a chef/housekeeper. Deciding what to make for dinner and then having to shop for the food and cook it is not my idea of fun. So I would hire a chef to come make delicious, soy-free, vegan dinners that my meat-eating husband will love. The chef would also be a fabulous housekeeper who sweeps the floors and cleans bathrooms - my two least favorite chores.

5. TRAVEL!!! I just started reading Life of Pi and the author's description of the habits of the three-toed sloths in Brazil sounded really interesting! So I would take a trip (first class of course) over to Brazil for a few months, hang with the sloths, learn some Portuguese, check out the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio (I've been wanting to visit that statue since I saw it in the 1996 remake of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio!), and then move on Belize for a while, then maybe Italy, France, Sweden, Alaska, all the Hawaii islands, all the Caribbean islands...I could go on and on.  

I did a similar exercise in college when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My list was short and sweet:

1. Learn to drive a manual transmission, then buy an old purple VW bug and name it Lola. 

2. Decorate my apt with plants. 

3. Speak Spanish.
According to that list, my ideal job would be plant delivery driver in South America. Actually, that sounds fantastic! I should look into that.
I think it's interesting to note that in college I was making $80 a week tutoring middle schoolers and my list of desires were all relatively cheap. Now that I'm making more money, my desires have become more expensive (I can only imagine what my desires will be after I win the $640 million lotto tonight. Designer dresses dipped in gold and rubies most likely...). It makes me wonder - Does having more money automatically raise the bar on desires?  
When gossip magazines publish stories about celebrities who have spent all of their money and are forced to claim bankruptcy, I always think - HOW? 
How is it possible to spend MILLIONS of dollars so quickly? I'd like to think that once I become a millionaire, I will still continue with my simplified lifestyle. Sure, I could spend a few tens of thousands traveling the world, but that would still leave me with $539.9 million to live on! 

I suppose I would have to hire an accountant to manage all of my riches and do my taxes. Plus an assistant to deal with all of the donation inquires from charities and whoever else contacts rich people for money. And of course a publicist to manage all the press generated from interest in our fabulous simple living blog! 
It makes me exhausted just thinking about it! So of course I would then need to hire a relaxation team consisting of a masseuse, acupuncturist, reiki master, craniosacral therapist, naturopathic doctor, and therapist to follow me around and make sure I remained calm and zen-like at all times. A dog sitter for Harry Potter, a few nannies for my ever expanding brood of adopted and biological children, teachers to home-school the family and teach us local customs and languages. A team of lawyers in case someone tries to sue me for my millions, a business manager to manage all of my charitable enterprises, a secretary to type up my autobiography notes, a publisher, a tour manager, an image consultant...

OK, I've changed my mind. No winning lotto numbers for me. My desire to live a simple life outweighs my desire to be a millionaire.
To quote Notorious B.I.G. - "Mo money, mo problems"

Amen, Biggie!
Now that you've read my list, tell me, readers - what would YOU do if money were no object? Email us: this_joyful_life at yahoo dot com 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Losing Control

Have you heard this phrase? "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

So true. Things never work out exactly as planned. And the more detailed the plan is - the more things won't go that way.  

(By the way, did you know that that quote was taken from a song that John Lennon wrote for his son, Sean called "Beautiful Boy"? I had no idea until I Googled it.) 

For an OCD planner like me, this truth really bugs me. How can I plan and therefore control my life if there are unseen forces working against me!?!

Take my wedding for example. I created a detailed, 15 page packet for each person in the wedding party containing checklists, floor maps, photos of how the decorations and tables should look (Drawn in excel, by me, including multiple strands of twinkly lights. I drew every single light bulb!), contact lists, even a wedding party task schedule broken down in half hour increments. I planned every last minute of that wedding, and did it turn out perfectly? Of course not.

I remember my coworker telling me a few days before my big day, not to worry because something always goes wrong at weddings. This did wonders for my stress level, let me tell you. Instead of relaxing and enjoying getting ready on the morning of the wedding, I was paralyzed with fear that something was going to happen to ruin my day. 

In reality, the list of things that went wrong were minor and not worth the added stress: The company hired to deliver and set up the chairs at the ceremony was late, the limo taking me and my bridal party to the ceremony had a broken trunk that wouldn't shut, the DJ set up his turntables in the dining area instead of on the dance floor, one of the keg pumps broke, and a few guests were no-shows. So no major disasters occurred, but I can still remember my barely controlled rage when Lily had to inform me that the DJ had set up in the wrong place and it was too late to switch it around so they were going to move some speakers outside instead. Obviously the DJ had not bothered to read his wedding packet. I managed to let it go though, and we all had a great time. (Though I can't imagine how much BETTER a time everyone would have had if the DJ had followed my instructions...but I'm trying not to dwell on it too much...I'll be married two years in October...I should be over it by my golden anniversary)

It has recently become apparent to me that no matter how much effort I've put into it, I just don't have the power to control the universe as it relates to my life. I'm still trying, but I'm definitely noticing more and more the futility in my attempts. 

So where does this leave me? A little shell-shocked, slightly pissed off, but more importantly - hopeful. 

I'm hopeful because if I don't have the power to control every detail of my life, if I don't have the power to predict or control the future, and if I don't have the power to change the past - then I can let it all go! 

Let those unforeseen forces have at it! I'm taking a well-deserved vacation! Let those chips fall wherever they damned well may...

Serious though, how do I let go? It sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice? How do I not plan things?

My friend told me recently about a yoga class she had taken. At the end of the class the teacher had the students all lie on the floor in shavasina (dead man's pose). She instructed them to let go of their stresses and the thoughts running through their minds, and just concentrate on being in the moment.

I think I'll start with this moment right now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Recap: Frugal February

Well, February has come and gone. All in all, the no spend challenge went pretty well. I did give in half way through the month and buy a scale, but since I was barely able to zip up my pants anymore, it was either buy a scale to motivate myself to get in shape, or buy a new wardrobe. I chose the least expensive option.

During the no-spend month, I discovered a bunch of things that I wanted to buy. I am always looking for the quickest, easiest solution to my problems, which sometimes leads to impulse decisions that don't always pan out so well. Let's take a look:

1. I didn't get a good night's sleep one night.
Impulse Decision: Buy a king sized mattress ($2000).
Actual Decision: Get over it ($0). 

2. I got invited to a cowboy themed wedding.
Impulse Decision: Buy new boots, new jeans, cowboy-type shirt ($250-400).
Actual Decision: I was going to borrow a pair of Lily's boots and one of my husband's flannel shirts. Unfortunately my feet were too big for the boots, and hubby's shirt was too big for me. So I ended up buying boots. And I'll probably buy some jeans...and a shirt...but I actually found a cute pair of boots that I wanted in February for $80 and held off buying them until March. Unfortunately they were no longer available, but THEN I found an even cuter pair for $59.95! So I saved $20.05! ($229.95-379.95)

3. My pants stopped fitting.
Impulse Decision: Buy new pants ($200).
Actual Decision: Buy a scale, count my calories, go running ($10.95)

Total savings: $2031

I even managed to declutter 4 books and a nail file during the challenge.

So what will this month's challenge be?

Fitting back into my pants! Wish me luck :D