June 2012 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
Welcome to Dollar Stretcher Community Sign in | Join | Help
in Search

Live Like a Mensch

June 2012 - Posts

  • Running Update #12: Well Isn't That Pathetic Edition


    "I'll just catch my breath, for a month or two..."


    Despite my grand schemes and lofty dream, I am unfortunately rather short of my goal of 250 miles by the end of June.  A lot short.  42 miles short, to be exact.  (Which, by the way, was the original number of miles I planned to run each month.)


    It's almost embarrassing to break down the mileage of the second half of the month, but I've set a precedent here, so I will stick to my (embarrassingly wimpy) guns.  I've run 7 miles since my last update, which breaks down thusly:

    Week of June 19-26: 7 miles, with one three mile run and one four mile run.

    This week: Zip, nada, zilch, zero, cheerio, rien, negatory.

    Sadly, when push comes to shove on busy weeks, it's the exercise that gets cut first.

    The good news, however, is that I can still easily make my 500 mile goal by the end of the year.  I have 292 miles still left to run and six months in which to run them.  That means I will have to run approximately 49 miles each month in order to meet my goal.  This month's pitiful mileage (and April's, too) notwithstanding, I know that 49 miles per month is certainly within my abilities. I will be signing up for a half marathon in the fall, which will certainly help me up my mileage.  I plan on taking quick 1- or 2-mile maintenance runs while I'm in Seattle.  (And now that I've told you I'm doing this, you'll have to keep me to it.)  And that crappy charity is always the ultimate motivator for me.  I do not want them to see my money.

    So, I'm a little sad to be ending June with only 25 miles to my name, but I know I can catch up with myself. 

    I just wish I knew why this wheel I'm running in never seems to get me anywhere...

  • How I Began My Life of Crime


    Photo of the awesomest decoration ever sculpted into the facade of a bank courtesy of Wetman.


    My recent crime spree began in a place of overwhelming despair, as I imagine many crimes often do.

    You see, I had gone to WalMart to make some quick purchases, pick up some medications from the pharmacy, and have our DVDs digitized so that we would have some entertainment ready for the young man during our long day of traveling to Seattle.  While the medications and sundries were necessary parts of this trip, the main reason I was heading there was for those digitized movies (aka, a parent's sanity during six hours of travel).

    After choosing the fruits, dairy, frozen food, and birthday card that were all on my shopping list, I wended my way to the photo counter.  (I actually wended my way there first thing upon arriving, thinking that the digitizing process might take some time, only to find the photo guy was on lunch).  Photo guy had returned from lunch when I returned, but there was a line.  After quite the wait, photo guy took my DVDs, called over another employee for moral support, futzed around for about 15 minutes, and then told me he didn't know how to do the digitizing.

    I of course handled this disappointment with the calmness and finesse for which I am world-renowned.  (I'll allow the people who know me personally to take a moment to wipe the tears of laughter from their eyes.)

    Long story short, I was not a happy camper by the time I got in line to check out.  And I, of course, chose the wrong line.  (Did I mention that I also happened to be in a hurry?)

    So I was barely containing my hurryhurryhurryhurry tendencies and my overwhelming disappointment at a trip wasted.  All of my energy was focused on not taking my annoyance out on innocent bystanders, which means I didn't realize that I had neglected to pay for the birthday card I'd picked out until I found it on the bottom of the cart while I was loading up the car.

    I stood at a crossroads.  I am an aspiring mensch.  I knew the menschly thing to do was go back in, explain the situation, and pay for the card.  I also knew that wading back into a WalMart that has already annoyed me at the peak of shopping hours was just about the last thing I wanted to do, behind cleaning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a toothbrush, and licking the entirety of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    So, I placed my ill-gotten birthday card in my purse and drove off in a cloud of bad ethics.

    I thought that was the end of it.  I've done my bad deed for the decade.  I feel truly bad about it, and if I could figure out a way to make it right after I've already written a note in the card and mailed it off, I would.  Basically, I'm willing to take the ethical hit of this one bad deed.  Unfortunately, there's a reason why they warn you that your first crime can be a gateway for other, more serious crimes.

    Yesterday, I stole an hour of the YMCA daycare's time.

    I dropped LO off at 9 am.  On the sign-in sheet, a parent, who also happens to teach at the Y, had written in her sign-in time as 9:40, because that would be when she finished teaching her class.  Sans coffee and badly in need of a nap, I looked at the 9:40 sign-in, knew that it was about five minutes after the hour, and wrote down 10 am because clearly that was the hour closest to 9:40.

    Four hours later, I picked LO up, scratched my head for a second because I thought LO had been in daycare for four hours, and filled in his time sheet as 10-1.  I then went to the front desk and paid for three hours.  It wasn't until I reached home that I realized my inadvertant theft.

    I made good today, paying for yesterday's undocumented hour along with today's four hour stint.  Everyone was quite nice about it, considering the fact that they had a career criminal in their midsts.

    As for me, I plan to turn over a new leaf.  No more thefts; petty, inadvertant, grand, intentional, or otherwise. 

    I frankly can't deal with the crippling guilt.

  • Guest Post: Homestead Savings

    Unbelievably gorgeous photo courtesy of Rachel Tayse Baillieul


    Our guest mensch today is Rachel Tayse Baillieul, urban homesteader extraordinaire.  Read more about Rachel at the end of the post.


    My family calls ourselves urban homesteaders. What we mean is that we try to grow and make all that we can in our home on a tiny lot in Columbus Ohio.

    We grind sausage, brew beer, grow an organic garden, mix cleaning supplies, raise backyard chickens, and make jam by hand because we enjoy the pastime. We like knowing and trusting the sources of our food. Our stocked garden and pantry make us feel secure.

    However, only some of these activities save us money. When the tools and raw materials are accounted for, making sausage at home is just not worth it though we do it anyway because it is fun. Growing root vegetables and keeping chickens for eggs only break even with what we might pay for similar quality goods.

    Which Homesteading Activities Are Mensch-Worthy?

    1) Creating cleaning supplies - We make our own window, sink, floor, and counter spray from bulk white vinegar, water, and tea tree essential oil. A 16 ounce bottle costs $0.50 in a reused spray bottle. Beat that, Windex!

    2) Making jam - High quality jam made from local fruit costs $5 for an 8 ounce jar at the farmers' market. I can make jam from fruit seconds for as low as $2 per jar, including the cost of the jar.

    3) Growing tomatoes - Organic tomatoes at the farmers' market can cost up to $3 per pound for fancy heirloom varieties whereas a single $3 seedling can produce up to ten pounds of fruit. True penny pinchers can plant open pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties, save the seeds, and grow next year's seedlings for the cost of some seed starting mix.

    4) Canning pickles - Pickled beets, cucumbers, onions, and more are a cinch to make. When you compare to store products of a similar artisnal quality, home-made pickles save 50% or more.

    5) Brewing beer - We brew beer from $35 of grain in five gallon batches. It's not the finest beer in the world but certainly matches standard microbrew quality. Generously accounting for the equipment, our beer clocks in at $1.10 a pint or $6.60/six pack. Homebrewing seems to come with an increased consumption of rare and unusual (also expensive!) beers from around the world which might drink up potential savings. Obviously, not drinking beer at all would save tons of cash but a cold one is necessary after chasing chickens, children, and dogs around my 'stead most days!

    6) Home hair cuts – Myself and my daughter trim our long hair with stylist scissors while my husband shaves his bald head and trims his beard with razor electric beard trimmer. We haven't paid to go to a salon in over a year.

    7) Raising herbs - Fresh herbs at the farmers' market and grocery store are wickedly expensive. Growing them at home takes very little space (most are happy in a container) and only the cost of some seeds or a seedling. Some herbs like oregano, mint, thyme, parsley, and rosemary are perennial, meaning after you plant them once they will come back year after year. When you can step outside and harvest fresh herbs, you enjoy better meals and a fatter wallet.

    The list can go on, of course. What do you make at home that saves you money?

  • Guest Post: Gold Stars

    (Pictured: Proof that gold stars are a life-and-death issue!)

    Our guest mensch today is Erika Plank Hagan, who, like me, knows the incredible motivating power of stickers.  Read more about Erika at the end of this post.


    I am a 32-year old mother of two, a small (very small) business owner, a person who shows up promptly for committee meetings at my church and coordinates all the paperwork and administrative tasks for my special-needs son’s myriad therapies, doctor appointments, and medications.

    By anyone’s definition, I am a grown up.  I have gray hairs and everything.

    And yet – I cannot function without gold stars.  I’m sure some people make their beds in the morning because that’s the kind of upright citizens they are.  But, me?  I make my bed because then I get a point on my chore calendar that I can turn in for pizza at the end of the month.

    Who do I turn these points into?  Well, myself.  As a grown-up, couldn’t I order pizza whenever I want?  Well, sure.  But then I’d never make my bed, so I hold out and play the game.

    It can get a little complicated.   Different chores have different color stickers, and if I want my delicious decaf Chai treat after the kids are in bed I better have shined my sink already (…and FlyLady followers around the world perk up their ears as I out myself…), and I can’t possibly check my e-mail without first setting a timer so I can try to get through my whole inbox in under 20 minutes and…

    …I think the gold stars have shifted from being helpful tools to being the whole purpose.  I think I’m side-stepping living my life by filling it with these games and tracking systems.  Even if they are the most-funnest, most-organized, most-awesome games and systems ever invented, surely the point is to ultimately do my work and chores, enjoy my clean house, be with my family, heck just be.

    So this week I’ve been trying something different.  Instead of jumping into the games, I’ve been saying, “okay, Erika.  What do you want to do?”  No sticker.  No points.  No pizza party at the end of the month.  What am I excited to do, what would make me happy, where are my motivations at this specific moment in time?  My only rule was this: I could do anything, but I had to do something.

    Today I read some Parenting magazines I’d been wanting to get to, which sparked ideas for a Summer Camp At Home I want to do for my kids in August.  I did a sales report, even though it wasn’t due for two more days, and realized it was done early and I would be relishing that sense of doneness for the next 48 hours.  

    I even made my bed, but because I wanted to see it made, to walk into my room and have that clean, crisp, white bedspread all lined up at 90 degree angles, not for the red sticker on my chore chart.

    I’m sure gold stars will still be a part of my life and its routines.  At the very least, I need something to stop me from making every day a pizza party.  But, and I’m aware this sounds a little nuts, I’m going to be sure to schedule time every day to do something not-scheduled, to ask myself what I feel like doing, to follow my energies rather than direct them.  Games make tasks more fun, but wanting to do the task in the first place and then completing it is more satisfying than I ever imagined.

    • Erika Plank Hagan is a stay-at-home mom to two sons, a Jazzercise Franchisee and Instructor, and gave herself 5 gold stars for writing this guest post.  You can read more about her and her family at the aptly named Erika’s Blog at www.hagan-net.net/erika.
  • Guest Post: On Having It All


    Gorgeous image that sums up our lives courtesy of Adi Holzer

    Our guest mensch today is Jenn Book Haselswerdt.  Jenn struggles, as many of us do, to balance work and family and find a way to have it all.  Read more about Jenn at the end of this post.


    In recent months, there’s been a lot of talk around my office about time- and priority-management.  None of us, apparently, are Doing It Right.  We’re working too much; we’re not saying “no” when we should; we’re not prioritizing the right things.  We’re workaholics.


    I work in an industry that prides itself on overwork, on staying long hours, on putting a lot on my plate and solving problems.  Am I in finance?  Law?  Medicine?  Nope.


    I’m a theatre person.


    I’m one of those very lucky people who has two degrees in theatre and uses them for my full-time, paying job.  And my freelance job.  Okay, it’s not totally luck; I worked hard to get where I am.  And it’s really hard not to be a workaholic when you absolutely love what you do.  I get to play.  I get to tell stories with children.  I get to read scripts and talk about them.  It kind of amazes me all of the time.


    Here’s the thing, though: it’s not just me in my life any more.   As of five years ago, I’m also a wife.  And as of a little over a year ago, I’m also a mother.  And it’s so hard to reconcile wanting to be at home with the people I love, with wanting to be at work with the intangible thing I love.  My freelance career has been growing in the last couple of years, and in the theatre world, that means lots of evenings away from home.


    How do I do it?  Man, I’m still learning, myself.


    I’m very fortunate to work full-time in education for a family-friendly theatre.  My work days are flexible—though of course I have to work full time hours—and so this year, I was able to change up my days off if I needed to.  During the semester, I was off on Fridays, which let me have a weekday with The Kid, and get a lot of work done on Sundays when the office was a little quieter.


    Now that I work Monday through Friday for the summer, it feels like a luxury to have two days off in a row.  It’s a tough time right now, with the lead-up to summer camps, but once we’re in the swing of things, I’ll be working 8-4, giving me more time at home during peak playtime hours.  Plus, since my husband’s summer hours are even more flexible than mine (to a point—he’s a graduate student), he and The Kid will come to eat lunch with me on Fridays.


    It’s the freelancing that can take me away from home at times I feel like I should be there: late evenings and weekends.  But the company I work with most frequently works with me to find a schedule that works.  We’ve had rehearsals close to my apartment, we have meetings via conference call and through Google Hangout, and since a lot of the job involves reading scripts and emailing with playwrights, I get to do that from the comfort of my couch during naptimes and after bedtime.  My husband and I do work on the couch together sometimes, so we can hang out even if we’re not having a “date.”


    It’s hard, the time- and priority-management thing.  My family is my number-one, but I also find a lot of fulfillment in my work.  I’m getting better and better at self-advocating: there’s an event at work this week, and I’ve made it abundantly clear that I have to leave by 7 at the latest.  But I don’t think I’m ever going to hear the little bell in my head that signals I’ve hit the jackpot and figured out The Secret.  The Ding, ding, ding!  JBH, you’ve found the perfect 50-50 priority balance!  From now on, all of your time will be seamlessly managed!


    So, I guess without the bell, I’ll keep on trying to figure it out: to get as many hugs as I can, to enjoy my weekends and bedtime routine, to be creatively and intellectually fulfilled.


    It could be worse.


    • Jenn Book Haselswerdt is a dramaturg, writer, and theatre education professional in the Washington, DC area.  She is the Education Program Manager for Imagination Stage, and a Parnter-in-Ink and Advising Dramaturg with The Inkwell.  Jenn lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband Jake, their son Mickey, and their cat Iggy.  She blogs at Mamaturg.


  • Why I Need a Vacation Before My Vacation

    Photo courtesy of Nova77

    I may have mentioned once or twice (or many, many times) that I have something of a delusional sense of time.  This is why I seem to believe I will be able to get the following done prior leaving by 12:30 p.m. on Friday for a nine day trip to Seattle:

    1.  Write 9 articles.  (Okay, I know that's unlikely.  But I'm sure I can get 7 of them done).

    2.  Pack everything necessary for the Mensch clan for a 9 day trip.

    3.  Pack everything necessary for Obie the greyhound to stay with our dog-loving friends for 9 days.

    4.  Pack everything necessary for Bonanza the cat to stay at the vet's kennel for 9 days.  Normally we'd have our neighbors watch her, but I have a morbid fear that something might happen to the old girl on someone else's watch, and I can't do that to someone.

    5.  Find a neighbor to look after Charlie the cat here at the house, where I imagine he will dance around in his underwear and sunglasses to commemorate the unexpected pleasure of a house all to himself.  (I should note, however, that I also have a morbid fear that Bonanza will be just fine at the vet's, and that something will happen to Charlie on our neighbor's watch, because irony always strikes when you least expect it!)

    6.  Sit down with the Fodor's guide and figure out what the heck we want to do while we're in Seattle.

    7.  Stop by the house of the nice lady from my mothers' group who is lending me her Ergo baby carrier so that we can take LO hiking.

    8.  Run another few miles, so I'm not dreadfully behind in my mileage when we hit July.  (Alternatively, I forgot what 8 was for.)

    9.  Mail off the quilt I finished for a friend's baby who will be turning 2 next week, so that I can truthfully claim that I do get some baby quilts done prior to the child's acceptance into college.

    10.  Go to the bank to deposit the cash I've received from cleaning out the office and withdraw some cash for the trip.  (One might think that I could simply use the office cash for the trip, but my mind doesn't work that way.  The office cash is all but labeled in my head.  The trip cash is from another account.  I can't treat one like the other.  Yes, I realize that this is crazy talk...Also, I'm withdrawing more cash than I'm depositing, so it's not like I could save myself a trip.)

    11. Make certain that I have all the print-outs for the plane, rental car, and airbnb lodging.  Then make triply certain that I actually bring them with us.

    12. Get another duplicate key of the front door made, to give to the neighbor who will be looking after the cat who will be dancing around in his underwear and sunglasses.

    13.  Try, very gently, to ease LO's nap back a few hours so that he's not napping at 7 in the morning and going to bed at 3 pm when we first get to Seattle.

    14.  Find the missing cell phone that is somewhere in the house.

    15.  Finish all the fruit we just bought so the house doesn't smell when we get back.

    16.  Get a Master's Degree.

    17.  Learn Italian.

    I can get all this done, right?  No problem!

    (And when I'm running around like a crazy woman on Friday morning, please refrain from telling me "I told you so.")

  • The Edge of My Technological Expertise

    Photo courtesy of Mtcv

    When I was about 15, I went with my family to visit my grandmother at her retirement home.  We waited for Grandma in the television lounge, which was also occupied by an adorable elderly lady who was complaing about the television being set to the wrong channel.  My stepfather picked up the remote control--one of those ones with enormous buttons for the nearsighted/non-spring-chickeny--and offered it to the lady.  She recoiled in horror from the remote and asked my stepfather to please change the channel for her.

    For the first time, I realized that technology could be intimidating.  I was just pleased to know that such an outsize reaction to technology would never happen to me.

    (Note to any 15-year-olds reading this: pretty much anything you think is going to turn out to be incorrect.  But you won't believe me when I say this, which is part of being 15.  So, enjoy being right about everything.  It feels great and it doesn't last very long.)

    I have recently realized that I am well on my way to becoming the remote-averse old lady in the nursing home. 

    For example, I don't get Twitter.

    Now, I have never understood Twitter.  As a naturally verbose individual who would never say something in two words when 67 will do just as well, the idea of communicating in 140 characters seemed, well, stupid to me.

    Then I went to the 2011 Financial Blogger Conference, where it became clear to me that a blogger who is not on Twitter is like an English teacher who doesn't read.  Yes, you can get the job done, but no one would claim that it was done well.

    So, I signed up for Twitter, and waded into the world of tweeting.

    I waded right back out again not long after.  I'm just far too easily distracted to be able to effectively twitter/tweet.  I'd be posting some thoughts when someone's link would catch my eye.  Before I had a chance to read through the link, I'd see something else that needed my immediate attention.  Then another.  Then I'd wonder if I ought to respond to something that vaguely related to something I'd thought about once.  The next thing I'd know, I'd have a raging headache and nearly 7 hours would have passed.  Basically, being on Twitter felt like someone turned up the knob on my ADD, and I don't have ADD.  I just can't handle it.

    What's frustrating is that I can hear the 15-year-old version of my son rolling his eyes at me.  (No, I don't believe that's a mixed metaphor, despite the inconsistencies in the time/space continuum and the fact that only very squeaky eyeballs make any noise when rolling.  So I stand by the metaphor).  I know that in a few years, LO will be incredulous that I don't have the attention span for Twitter.  He'll have grown up with this technology, and my reluctance will seem like fear of a remote control to him.

    I realized that I have reached the edge of my technological expertise, and it's an uncomfortable sensation.

    Other technological innovations that will eventually lead to my shrinking in horror:

    --Those bar codes you can scan for more information about any number of things, from plane tickets to department store sales.  Considering the fact that I'm unwilling to buy a smart phone, these are going to just keep on trucking without me.

    --Being able to hear a song, whip out your ipod/iphone/smart phone, and just that quickly purchase the song.  I listen to music the way nature intended: with no real idea what I'm listening to at any moment in time and only vaguely being aware of the lyrics, title of the song, or the name of the band and so therefore never being able to buy any music made more recently than my adolescence.

    --Watching television on any screen other than a television (or desktop computer).  I remember the days when missing the Thursday night lineup meant you had to wait around for reruns or syndication to get caught up.  While I certainly embrace the ability to binge on television in one fell swoop (DVDs are will within my technological expertise), being able to do so when traveling outside of my home just seems unnatural.  Television is something you watch in one of two rooms in your house.

    My hope is that my son will be able to restrain the majority of his sarcasm while he patiently explains to me how to do this stuff.  Because there are only so many times I can tell him "Don't forget who used to wipe your behind!"

  • Do It Right vs. Just Get It Done

    (Pictured: the home renovation project that cured me of Doing It Right)

    There are two theories of project completion:

    Do It Right!


    Just Get It Done!

    Do It Righters tend to believe that any project worth undertaking is worth putting all of your blood, sweat, tears, free time, superfluous money that might otherwise go to the mortgage, and major relationships into.  J is a definite DIRer.  I've mentioned before that he once spent an entire weekend restoring the original hose faucet on the side of our 1921 Bungalow in Columbus.  Despite the fact that he invested more time into restoring this faucet than he would spend using the faucet, he still could not have been more pleased with the outcome.  The house retained its originality, hose-faucet wise.  G-d was in his heaven, and all was right with home-owning.

    Just Get It Doners, on the other hand, look at any particular project and calculate the amount of time they would save by doing the absolute minimum necessary to qualify the job as done.  JGIDers are the ones who take everything they've purged from their decluttering efforts to Goodwill rather than hold a yard sale, since the potential profit could never outweigh the time lost.  These individuals are eminently practical.

    Unfortunately, DIRers tend to marry JGIDers, which just makes for fun times for the whole family.  

    The philosophical differences between these (often married) individuals are never more clear than when major restoration of an old house is at hand.  Both a DIRer and a JGIDer can look at the same home improvement project, and end up by regarding each other with stark, uncontrollable horror. 

    Let's take some necessary window work, for example.  Often times, old houses need their original windows reglazed, stripped, painted, and insulated.  A DIRer will look at those facts and will start canceling everything in his social calendar for the coming year, as he knows that Project Save Those Windows will be eating up a great deal of his time.  A JGIDer will take those same facts, and immediately call her friendly neighborhood contractor to talk about installing some no-maintenance vinyl windows.  The DIRer in the relationship will not be able to understand how the JGIDer could have so little respect for history and originality.  And of course, the JGIDer will wonder why anyone would want to spend every waking moment that is not taken up with working/maintaining life and health in order to do something to windows that will look and work only slightly better than they did before.

    Obviously, marital strife sometimes ensues.

    J and I have solved this problem through a clear division of labor.  I, as the resident JGIDer, will do whatever work is necessary to Just Get It Done.  This includes, but is not limited to, keeping track of finances so that I can repeatedly say "You know, we have enough money in our Home Improvement account to hire a contractor for this."  J, as the DIRer, will express awe at the exemplary construction of whatever it is that we are fixing, and makes grand schemes about fixing it all ourselves.  He rushes into projects where angels fear to tread--angels are particularly concerned about asbestos and lead paint.  True story.  Between us, we manage to do quite a bit ourselves (and do it right), and still help out the local economy by contracting things out.

    Even though we often end up sighing at each other's views of projects, we also have rubbed off on each other somewhat.  Sometimes, the project J is working on will seem interesting to me, and I'll find myself being a DIRer.  Sometimes, J gets sick and tired of a project and hire someone else to JGID.

    I'd be risking the future of my marriage if I ever suggested we get vinyl windows, however. 

  • Spring(ish--Okay, Summer) Cleaning Can Be Lucrative

     I have finally completed my guest room/office cleanout!  Not only have I taken the room from this:

    to this:

    to this (plus less stuff on the desk):


    but J and I have also picked up a nice chunk of change from cleaning.  Just today, we received the check in exchange for our gift card, bringing our grand total to nearly $300, which breaks down thusly:

    Gift Card: $192.60

    Dresser: $20

    (I probably sold this for too little, since I had people snarling and tripping each other in their attempts to be the purchaser.  But, the important thing is that it's gone).

    Duplicate toy: $5

    Unreasonable number of books, both in terms of it being ridiculous that I have carted them around for so long and in terms of how little money I was offered for them by our local used book store: $15

    Bookcase:  $50

    (This, too, I probably could have gotten more money for.  I was able to sell it in less than 5 hours.  I still classify it as a win, since I was attempting to sell it the day before our guests arrived.  And, my ad on Craig's List specified that the buyer was to provide his/her own muscle, so I didn't even need to do any heavy lifting.  Totally worth whatever I lost in profit).

    Ridiculously awesome three-sided pencil case that I really no longer have a use for since I'm not teaching anymore: $7

    Build-a-Bear Rabbit that I purchased/made in a moment of ill-thought-out whimsy: $5

    Total: $294.60

    I still have a little to go before I can consider my guest room auction house to be closed.  I have a desk I'm trying to sell, and I still have a few assorted odds and ends up on the local buy-sell-trade website.  The odds and ends may just have to be donated, since as of yet, no one is biting.  The desk may end up being a trade at the local consignment shop, since we need a new filing cabinet and J would like something Mad Men-ish and awesome, which we could only afford if we use up all this great cash we're suddenly fielding.

    All in all, I must say that I wish cleaning were always so lucrative.  Maybe I'd be more inclined to do it.

  • The Grand Unified Theory of Moving


    Photo courtesy of  Steve Ryan from Groveland, CA, USA


    I truly believe that you can learn more about a person by witnessing them go through a move than you can by becoming their biographer.  A person's true philosophy of life shines through when he moves.

    Case in point: When I was 14 years old, my mother, stepfather, sister and I moved into the house that my parents still live in.  My mother, who was self-employed, took four days off to get the house completely unpacked--every box emptied and broken down, every item re-homed, every piece of artwork hung, everything in place.  For her, it was worth it to work like a Whirling Dervish for the better part of a week so that we could get on with things as if we'd never moved.

    My stepfather, on the other hand, is of the school of thought that since you plan to live in this house indefinitely, there's no hurry to unpack everything.  If he had his druthers, he would have unpacked a box, taken some time to recover--anywhere from a week to a month--and then started on the next.

    Since Mom, my sister, and I are all of the same "let's just get through this!" mindset, my stepfather was outvoted.  It took more than four days, but less than several years, to get completely unpacked.

    I have lived by that philosophy through much of my life, to the point where I have regarded individuals who have taken years to unpack from a move (or who have moved boxes multiple times without ever having re-acquainted themselves with their contents) with a kind of self-righteousness bordering on insufferable smugness.  "Who takes three years to unpack?" I wondered, blissfully unaware of life's tendency to smack you upside the head for ever looking down on others.

    When we moved to Lafayette in June of 2010, I was seven months pregnant, and we were in contract on a house that ultimately fell through.  Our first "home" in town was a terrible sublet apartment that we took sight-unseen from Columbus.  Since we could only stay in the place for six weeks before the end of the lease, we were in a terrible rush to find our house once the first one fell through.  (I know that each of these decisions made sense at the time, but I can only look back on myself and wonder what the heck we were thinking.)

    We did, indeed, find a wonderful house that had only been on the market a few weeks.  We were able to rush closing, and the previous owners (who at the closing described themselves as "not really doers") moved out the day before we took possession.

    I tell you all this to explain why we ended up moving into a house that still needed major deep cleaning as well as some minor renovation work just over a month ahead of LO's due date.  The majority of our stuff was still in storage, which made said deep cleaning and minor renovation easier, but it was a little tough on a hugely-pregnant mensch who just wanted a couch to flop down onto in the midst of a pretty hot summer.

    In any case, we finally got all of our stuff delivered on August 16.  I remember the date, because LO was born on August 31.

    Guess who still hasn't completely unpacked two years later?

    I was thinking of this recently as my father was lamenting his and my stepmother's recent downsizing/move from Iowa to Maryland.  They have been preparing for this move for quite some time, and done as much as possible to make it easier on themselves.  (About 20 years ago, Dad told me that he would never move himself--or, by implication, me or my sister or his friends, etc--again.  As far as he could tell, G-d invented money so you don't have to haul your own stuff.)  And yet, even with movers, it's still been pretty stressful.

    That's because even with others taking care of the heavy lifting, moving stinks.  Our move in 2010 was entirely paid for by J's company.  They sent movers to our house in Columbus who packed everything up and hauled it to Indiana.  They held it in storage for us as we house hunted.  And after we got all of the boxes and furniture and assorted detritus of our life delivered, they even sent a couple of women to unpack the boxes for us.  (Note: this may sound awesome, but it's really not.  They can't put stuff away for you, so instead of being surrounded by a sea of boxes, you instead have every flat surface covered with random stuff that you own and have no idea where you're going to put.  It's enough to make even the most chill mover hyperventilate.)

    While we were in the midst of our big move, I felt like such a successful adult.  No longer did I have to beg friends and pickup truck owners for moving help.  It was simply taken care of.  And yet...

    As my father was telling me about his long weekend of unpacking, I realized that there is no level of success that will ever get you out of unpacking from a move.  When money is no object, there is still no sub-contracting out the decision-making process of where your cookbooks and vase collection and Meissen figurines will go. Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett probably have to do their own unpacking.  They could probably hire someone to floss their teeth for them, but unpacking after a major move is still all them.

    I don't know about you, but that realization is pretty darn depressing to me.

More Posts Next page »

The Dollar Stretcher has a new community! Click here to check it out and create your new account.

Share this Post

This Blog


About Us    Privacy Policy    Writers' Guidelines     Sponsorship     Media    Contact Us

Powered by Community Server (Commercial Edition), by Telligent Systems