with all this time

In less than two months, I’ve learned a few things about having all this extra time now that both of my daughters are in school five days a week:

  • Everyone I talk to thinks about how much time they have, don’t have, how they could use it better, how best to manage it;
  • Because I allow myself time for tasks that previously fell much lower down on my priorities list, I’m more busy than before both girls were in school;
  • My too-busy is stressful, but it’s at a more mindful pace than when I had at least one kiddo with me most of the time;
  • The chronic health issues I’ve dealt with over the years might have been expressions of the physical and emotional stress that came with trying to make a living while single parenting non-school-age children (tbd);
  • Having time available to contemplate how to best manage my time is a significant improvement in my life;
  • I think about—I’m an introvert in the extreme, so I don’t act on this much—having a personal life beyond the survival level;
  • Self-care is rising on my priorities list.

Anxiety over finances has me considering a new no groceries challenge. With 3-5 school lunches x2 each week it would be a much more significant challenge. Perhaps a modified version…

(Just a “checking in” blog post to stop the darned spammers from thinking this site is inactive!)

lost in the possibilities, or, when my daughters went to school

My older daughter is 11; my younger is 5. For the last 11 years I have, for the most part, been at home with one or both of them. This summer, both girls went to two weeks of full day camp. It was the first time in 11 years that I had such an expansive amount of childcare. I was giddy and elated and I painted furniture and went to Goodwill a lot. It was summer. Most of my clients were quiet and there were very few pressing deadlines. I played a bit, though I never lost the sensation of being in a huge hurry — the kiddos will be back any minute! gotta get this done!

Today, they both went to full-day school. As I drove away after dropping them off, I laughed and I cried.

I laughed because I was filled with joy. The school aligns with our values in some of the most vital ways. It will challenge them. And, it’s safe. They feel at home.

I cried because, as the girls’ father said, “It’s a big deal moment. Out of the first nest.”

I also cried with relief. It’s been a difficult journey over the last several years. Their father provides substantial support, far above the legal requirements. But, it’s still been difficult and part of that is because being at home with our daughters has been a priority for us. Time is always scarce; I always feel in a hurry. With so much to do and so little time, I have to go-go-go or I might collapse.

Today, I am caught between collapsing—something I do a bit of each time the girls go to their father’s house—and getting things done. I’m in shock, truly in disbelief, at the amount of time I now have available to me. Not only will I be able to grow my business, but I will be able to… fold the laundry, cook meals, pay bills, complete paperwork, make and keep appointments, go for walks, grocery shop, sleep, and be emotionally and physically available to my daughters when they get home from school.

As my business grows, of course, I will have less personal time. Everything’s relative, though. Going from just two mornings and a day each week to five days a week is the lottery of time, and I’ve won it. For now, I need to learn how to breathe and believe it’s really true.

privilege = having options.

In the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy examining my own role in racism, classism, and genderism. What I’ve learned is both disgusting and not surprising. I did much of the “work” on racism in the 90s. But then, I stopped.

I get to “stop” if I want to.

As I’ve re-focused my attention (again on racism, more recently on socio-economic class, just touching on genderism), I’ve found myself utterly and completely exhausted by the whole thing. Right now, I feel like retreating into my own little privilege bubble where everything is easy.

I have a choice.

In the 90s, I felt “white guilt” because I didn’t want to be racist. I was out of touch with the actual issues because it was all about me and my experience.

These days, the bell still can’t be unrung. I know that when I retreat into the easy ways, it’s a choice I get to make without many direct consequences. Many, many people don’t have the choice. They have to live with racism, classism, and genderism every day and it’s inescapable.

I’m not sure what I’ll do on a daily basis. I see now that the only way I can really make change is to: 1) listen to people who experience it without the option to take a break *without interjecting my own experiences/perspectives*, and, 2) uncover ways I can help make systemic, institutional level changes and do those things.

But, my god, it’s not easy. I literally can’t imagine how “not easy” it would be if I could never escape the fight.

no groceries challenge 3.1 (update)

As I dumped out my tea because it was too bitter without milk, I thought about going to the market. Eggs, milk, and some fresh vegetables (maybe fruit, though I have a few apples and a grapefruit left). I have to decide how firmly committed I am to my current no groceries challenge. It’s only been 10 days. But, it’s been 10 days.

My younger daughter was vomiting last week and I got an “oral electrolyte solution,” oyster crackers, and ginger ale. It was cheating on the challenge, and I knew it. I valued my ability to make that choice. I thought of people who would find themselves unable to buy things for their sick children. Maybe they don’t have the money, maybe they don’t have a co-parent to help with transportation, or maybe their own health issues meant they needed to stay home. I felt grateful.

I’ve reached the point in this challenge where I have been looking at my pantry with more interest. While the girls are with their father, what meals can I prepare ahead and freeze? What treats for lunch boxes or after school snacks can I make now for later in the week?IMG_0101

On Friday, I picked up the final share in my “meat share,” from Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred. I paid for it over the year last year, thanks in great part to my SNAP benefits, back when I received more than $14/month. This means I’ve got more meat than I feel I know what to do with. Thank goodness for my deep freezer. Again, I feel grateful.

I have pantry space, freezer space, and I know how to use food strategically. Flinching feelings of “deprivation” or frustration only make me more aware of how much I really do have.

Limiting it to milk, eggs, and fresh produce, (and maybe some chocolate), I will go to the market today. I get to do that without serious consequences. I’m very lucky.

no groceries challenge 3.0

Last May, I wasn’t sure I had enough money to pay my bills. I needed to make some relatively radical changes to get things back on track. I gave myself a “no groceries challenge”. I told myself I would go as long as I could without going to the grocery store. I learned a great deal from the experience. Foremost among the lessons was that allowing myself the illusion that my “deprivation” was in some ways a choice made a big difference in my emotional comfort.

In August, I entered into a second “no groceries challenge.” I wasn’t in a financial crisis this time. I simply missed the way I addressed food and grocery shopping back when I had been in the first “challenge” and in the month or so after. During the challenge and soon after, I valued food more, I didn’t succumb to as much impulse buying, and I wasted a lot less food. Plus, it saved me money.

The second challenge, however, was different. I didn’t take it as seriously. I made exceptions almost right away. There was a different level of commitment and I think it was less valuable in many respects.

This month, my tax refund arrived. I’ve received payments from clients old and new. My alimony/child support came in. My bank accounts make it look like I’m on stable financial footing (relative to where I’ve been).

Someone online (can’t find the link) pointed out that a typical way to use personal hygiene items like razors or toothpaste is to use them liberally at the start (change out the razor when it seems like it might possibly, but not definitely, need it) and then with trepidation as the items are almost depleted (I’ll use this last razor until it has zero sharpness left before I buy new ones!). I think I have a similar relationship with money. When I have a “lot,” I’m more likely to spend it liberally—even when I know intellectually the “lot” of money is quite temporary come bill-pay time. When I have very little, my decisions about spending money are more in line with what I actually have.

This relationship with money makes sense, of course. If you have it, it’s more okay to spend it than if you don’t have it. But, as I build a foundation in my path toward financial stability I want to practice acting as if I still have almost nothing. As I said, in many respects I do still have very little. My improved situation will only get stronger if I try to live as if I have almost nothing.

As a part of this, I’m beginning a new “no groceries challenge.” I need to buy cat food, but other than that, I believe I’m ready to see how long I can go without going to the grocery store. I’ll use my pantry’s bulk goods that have been in their jars for so long; I’ll freeze the mangos if they start going too ripe before we have a chance to eat them; I’ll use leftovers with more zeal. I’ll also likely post about it here in an effort to keep myself on track. As it was with the first challenge, I feel energized and empowered. It feels like I’m already putting money in the bank.

My "regular" shopping complete, I went to Whole Foods for fancy things like prepared snacks for school and bulk organic grains.

My “regular” shopping complete, I went to Whole Foods for fancy things like prepared snacks for school lunch bags and bulk organic grains.

(If you’d like to read about my earlier “no groceries” challenges, you can click on the “no groceries” category, or click here.)