bread heels & frugal living

ewwwwww.

Today, for breakfast, I finished off a loaf of bread. Only this time, I ate the heel.

I never do this: I’ve always preferred the soft inside pieces of bread and thrown away the heel or left it for someone else to eat. But today, the only thing we had for breakfast was bread, so instead of going out to buy more groceries (we’re out of grocery money for the month, and bread is EXPENSIVE here) I ate the heel.

Small things like this are the adjustments that we’re having to make living on one paycheck. Nate does this quite gracefully; I, on the other hand, am learning that I like a much higher standard of living than I like to admit. It’s difficult for me not to just go out and get what I want when I can justify the purchase. It’s difficult for me to try for a Christmas shopping budget of $100. It’s difficult for me to not buy new rain boots when I find a huge hole in my old ones.

I’m trying, though, to have grace for myself and to celebrate small victories, like eating toasted bread heel. Changing my whole perspective on money and lifestyle wasn’t going to happen overnight when we moved… it’s a process that I have to allow time for. I have to keep reminding myself that we’re just fine. We have a roof over our heads, three square meals a day and clothes to keep us warm. I have a loving family and wonderful friends and a marriage that blesses me each and every day. When it gets tempting to feel sorry for myself, I need to think about the millions of people in the world who live on less than I make in a day for the whole year, or the ones who live life utterly alone. We have been richly blessed.

And, you know, that toasty heel wasn’t too bad.

(photo via apartmenttherapy.com)

the great balancing act

Three months ago, I wrote a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. I really like the list I came up with, and I was feeling very optimistic about my prospects of meeting these goals, but optimism alone isn’t enough to get me there. Item number one, ‘run a half marathon’, is imminent at this point; but it’s taken a LOT of work to get there. A lot of work, plus some organization, plus some accountability. It seems to me that if I’m to succeed at the rest of my list, I need to take some cues from how this whole running thing has worked for me.

It’s easy in this life to lose our balance somewhere between the day-to-day activities and what we really want to be doing. Saturday morning rolls around, and the laundry, errands, or leftover work squeak squeak their way toward the front of the line, and the practicing, working out, writing or calls to friends get put off again. I’ve been letting things slide for far too long and not regularly acting on any of the things I say are the priorities in my life. Laundry is definitely NOT a priority!

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m picking three items from my list. They will be different enough to keep the spice of life abundant, attainable enough to keep me from giving up, and interesting enough to not bore you to tears. Then, I’m going to give myself a specific deadline for each, and make a plan. Finally (this is where you come in) I will be writing about my progress, struggles and victories right here. Accountability is key! And what’s more public than my very own bloggy blog?

Here I go to choose 3 things from my list! Anyone have ideas? Expect my plan by Saturday! Oh, and on Sunday, I WILL check off the first item! Wooohoooo!!! Wish me luck!

Does anyone want to join me on my goal-getting challenge? Let’s do this!

can’t buy me love

Last night, we wanted to watch a movie, but didn’t feel like braving the streets of Vancouver to pick one up. Since we’re the last human beings on the planet without Netflix, we watched one from my collection: a lovely little movie from the 80’s (the outfits give it away) called It Could Happen to You. I love everything about this film except the fashion. A good-hearted policeman wins the lottery, insists on splitting it with a waitress because he promised her half his earnings as a tip, and spends the rest of the story defending his decision and generously and creatively giving his earnings away. His wife, meanwhile, spends extravagantly and becomes obsessed with wealth.

This message of generosity and contentment comes at the perfect time for me. We are having to learn how to live on one paycheck, and my life-long definition of the word “need” is being called into question on a daily basis. I’m doing my best not to become frustrated or indulge in self-pity, which would be so easy; we chose this road, and the consequences are going to refine us into better people. People, I hope, more poised and ready to live out God’s Kingdom in our city.

This is all so easy to say, though, and much harder to do. If I were to put a hole in my favorite jeans today, normally I would go out and buy some replacements. Wouldn’t you? Instead, I need to look at our other needs, my wardrobe, and decide how important the pants really are. The easy thing would be to just go jeans shopping (well, sometimes it’s not so easy…). Marriage adds another element entirely: what if Nate needs pants too?

I’ve been dwelling lately on Jesus’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 6. The picture here is so poignant: if I believe that God is big, and loving, enough to feed birds and clothe flowers, why don’t I trust him to take care of my needs? When I worry about whether I can afford my favorite lunchmeat in this expensive city, or wonder when I will ever be able to go shopping again, I’m taking matters into my own hands and there’s really nothing I can do about it aside from act out of my own lack of trust. This is and adventure, though, and I truly desire to learn how to live simply (in a real, tangible way) and trust the Lord, Jehovah Jirah, to provide for His child. From this trust, I hope to develop a generosity that doesn’t look back, that causes me to find pure joy in providing for the needs of others, no matter how small.

Besides, the Beatles were right, weren’t they: money can’t buy me love. And love I’ve got.

september in a nutshell

I’ve been meaning to write all this time, I really have. But somewhere between diving headfirst into multiple jobs, figuring out a transit system, and finding soy ice cream that fits my standards it’s been hard to find the time to distill our experiences the past four weeks into a little bottle of blog.

So I’ll give you the run-down: Our neighborhood is adorable, and our little basement suite is so cozy that I hardly wanted to leave it our first week here. It’s a perfect little getaway from the chaos of a new city and it already feels like home.

My jobs are great: bosses who treat me with respect and care about my well-being, not to mention financial security and emotional health.

I finally have a phone, debit card, social insurance number, driver’s license and our health cards are on their way. Looking back, I really wish we had given ourselves about a week to get all those details taken care of; it made for a very stressful couple of weeks trying to get all that done before, after and during work and school. But I can really say, we’re about as Canadian as we’ll get in the eyes of the government!

We’ve begun to really explore Vancouver now. We finally made it to Stanley park last weekend, and in the rain no less, making for a truly Vancouverite trip. I’ve been taking runs all through our area and finding the parks and some really cute houses (I finally signed up for a half marathon, by the way– more to come!). We even found a corner with a checkerboard the size of our bedroom paved into the ground!

It’s been hard to feel alone, because we’ve made friends at Regent already. There are some really wonderful couples I’m excited to get to know more. So far, it seems like a phenomenal place with phenomenal people; some who are a lot like us, but many who are quite different. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by accents and worldviews that aren’t exactly like everyones’ that I’ve ever known.

It turns out when I take a month off from blogging, many things crop up which I will need to cover shortly, so look forward to:

the amazing multi-cultural maze of Vancouver mass transit

my first running injury… while training for my first 1/2 marathon

beautiful, beautiful Horseshoe Bay where I nanny

the adventure of living on a student budget in an expensive city

photos to come too! toodles!

marital musings

I found out last night that a woman I respect deeply is in the process of becoming divorced. This was hard to hear, especially from her; they’ve been married for many years, built a life together, had children, and from the outside, it’s looked like perfection. After hearing her tell me that it’s been far from perfect, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a marriage solid and what I can never take for granted. Just because right now I can’t envision that happening to us doesn’t mean we aren’t immune to the innumerable things that can tear a relationship apart. The statistics alone are enough to instill some healthy anxiety (is there such a thing?) in me, even while in newlywed blissful dreamland.

I told this friend last night that I feel so lucky to be married to someone who truly makes me want to be a better person. The way he does this most is by drawing me deeper into my relationship with God. I believe that keeping God at the center of our marriage will strengthen us for the difficult times (which I know will come), but the “how” of this is pretty complicated. We pray together sometimes and worship side by side frequently (when he’s not playing guitar up front). On so many levels, though, we experience God so differently that it’s hard to do together. I expect it to become more difficult still when he starts seminary in three weeks and is immersed in an intense, academic view of theology, scripture and deity.

This friend encouraged us to keep a date night tradition, and to take picnics, even especially when life gets busy and everything seems to be getting in the way. I think this is some of the best advice out there, but so hard to implement on a regular basis.

You married folk: how do you do it? What have you done tangibly to strengthen your marriage and put your spouse first? Or if you’re single, what have you seen in marriages you admire?

poor-man’s sustainable eating

“Sustainable” is the catch-word of the year, at least in the Northwest. Everyone, from individuals to businesses (even McDonalds!) is jumping on the local, free-range, organic bandwagon. The idea has appealed to me for a long time, but without the financial ability to shop solely at PCC or Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck), I had basically abandoned the concept of going totally local or organic.

I read a few articles last month, though, that renewed my desires to make this a priority. Each of them waxed eloquent about the benefits, for body and earth, of eating and shopping sustainably, and one even outlined 50 “easy” steps (see the July/ August issue of Whole Living). Some of the tips were really helpful; others, a few steps too far down the hippie-lifestyle road (which I’m not sure I’m willing to travel, yet). I’ve decided I’ll try baby-steps. Jumping into the pool may be the most efficient way of entry, but the water is cold (and expensive) and I’ll ease into this one, thank you very much. At least I have my suit on!

Here are the simple things I’m committing to do, whenever possible, in hopes that I will increase my efforts over time:

1. aiming for local produce. It may be more expensive in some cases, but if there’s any truth to what people say about the nutrition value decreasing the further a veggie has to travel to get to my mouth, I’m willing to sacrifice a few cents per item.

2. visiting farmer’s markets as often as possible. There’s one in Madrona on Fridays on my way home from work, or several to choose from on the weekends. Markets are so much more fun than Albertsons and I’m much more likely to buy all kinds of beautiful fruits and veggies, which helps my health goals, too. I love to think I’m supporting local farms in the process. I don’t want to think about what I’m going to do come winter.

3. meal planning a week in advance. This should have been number one because it enables me to do the rest easily, and  I’m proud to say I have a three-week streak going! If I know what we’re eating for the next 7 days, I don’t have to make speed trips to the supermarket, where the local and organic options are so limited. I have also gotten pretty good at planning how to use up the produce I buy before it goes the way of the yard waste bin, using the same ingredient in multiple recipes so I waste less. Not to mention, when I know I’m going shopping, I have no problem remembering about:

4. bringing my bags. So obvious, and in vogue these days, but great to do.

5. eating in season. A little more difficult, depending on what I’m craving (or Nate, for that matter). But in terms of availability and price, in season produce is always going to be the best bet. The book Simply in Season, a wedding gift from dear Oregonian friends, has given me lots of ideas of ways to use ingredients in their prime. I may experiment with canning or freezing summer fruit, berries, and tomatoes soon. I’ll let you know how to goes.

6. buying items in bulk. Not only does this save some serious cash-ola depending on where you go, but if you get really serious, you can bring your old plastic bags and be an earth-saving over-achiever.

Of course, all my habits are bound to be re-set come September when I have to search for new markets and grocery stores in BC. But once these become second-nature, I’m excited to experiment with taking this lifestyle further. If this is one thing I can do to be a good steward of the earth God has given us, and keep my little family healthier in the process, I’m in.

What do you you, or hope to do, to eat sustainably?

public announcement

What I’m about to do and make public has seemed like a very scary act for many years of my life. Since my early adolescence, I have been less than thrilled about my physical appearance (okay, okay, show me a girl who hasn’t…). Competitive rhythmic gymnastics and a stint as a cheerleader certainly didn’t help my self-confidence, either, nor did the 20 or so pounds I put on after I quit gymnastics.

a rhythmic gymnast. hardcore, I know.

It’s always been a bit confusing for me, though: to this day I’m pretty darn active. I run, I climb mountains, I even finished a triathlon. And I’ve always paid attention to eating healthy food, having grown up in a health-conscious home and having been through the weight watchers rigmarole once or twice. So why have I always had a few extra pounds clinging on? Why do my friends have such an easy time losing weight when they want to?

at the finish of the Kirkland Sprint Triathlon, yipeeeeee!!!

The strangest thing about all this is the effect my insecurity has had on my desire to lose weight. Although for a long time I’ve tried to wish away my extra mass, the idea of admitting my dissatisfaction with my body was enough to deter me from making my endeavors public. I wouldn’t want to turn down dessert at a friends’ house, for instance, if the reason was that I was on a diet. Such silly reasoning! and yet, it has kept me in a vice for this long.

No longer. Since getting married last year, and knowing that at least this one person loves me for exactly who I am (and he’s seen it all! he good, bad, and the ugly) I have new-found confidence to do this one thing I’ve been wanting to for so long. I know if I fail, he’ll still love me, and somehow, this cushion of forgiveness has given me the audacity to go forward.

Now, on to the how:

Two months ago, I heard about an iPhone app called Lose It! which helps users track the foods they eat and how much they exercise. I decided to give it a try, so I downloaded it late one night and started the next day. I found it very similar to my Weight Watcher’s experience; the simple act of keeping track of my food intake keeps me accountable to not eating the next slice, or drinking that high-calorie drink.  It also motivates me to exercise and earn back calories I can eat later on. What I didn’t expect, though, was how well this program would stick with me, and how motivating it would be. I’ve been tracking for 8 weeks, and losing a bit of weight here and there, but mostly feeling really great about my eating. I finally feel like I’m in the driver’s seat as opposed to my appetite. Not that I was ever a binge eater, but we all have the times we put stuff in our mouth without really paying attention. Lose it! has given me the power of attention.

I hit a bump a couple weeks ago and went a few days without tracking right before our vacation. Maybe it’s over, I thought. But when we returned from vacation, I stepped on the scale absentmindedly and was astounded to see that I was closer to my high school weight than I have been since, well, high school! Not only this, but I realized that my goal/dream of losing one pound a week was actually happening! Like that first whiff of sea air on the way to the ocean, I knew I wanted to continue on this path, and this week I find myself at a weight I haven’t been in my adult life, and halfway to my goal! HOORAY!! And, much more importantly, I feel so good. I’ve been running a lot this week and I feel a huge difference in my body and the way I  move. If eight pounds feels this good, I can’t wait!!!!!! for sixteen.

While I feel kind of goofy that my iPhone is the tool that’s gotten me this far, really, I am so thankful for something so easy and motivating. I have it on me all. the. time. thanks to my 21st century tech addiction, and therefore, I am accountable all. the. time. So thanks, Lose it! and thanks, apple.

I want to keep this journey public from now on, so expect a few posts on the matter. I hope my endeavors will be motivating to you, my readers, whoever you are, but mostly, I think the further accountability of bringing the whole world wide web into my little secret will keep me that much more motivated. If you’re on a journey toward health, or some sort of physical goal, I want to hear!

Also: I have started a simultaneous journey of making over the way we eat and the groceries we buy, aimed at a more sustainable and healthy way of living for us and the earth. More to come.

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