Giving Up

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Each month I have an archaic method of “saving receipts”.  I have toyed with buying a Neat Receipt small scanner or transferring each purchase by hand into a notebook or even shredding EVERYTHING, assuming I don’t need to remember what I purchased now that life is so digitalized.   I created a full-proof method using tools available to most….manila folders, staples and a pen to make monthly folders of categorized receipts.  Mint.com is a great online resource that completes a similar task and offers visual graphs and comparisons of spending in addition to reminders about bills due to be paid.  We use Mint.com in “theory”, but I have many things to update (passwords, account numbers, new savings accounts, etc), and am just too lazy to do so.  {I know my step-mother-in-law is currently taking deep, calming breaths from her desk at Wells Fargo while reading these last few sentences….}  Anyhow, my realization is that NONE of these methods are too useful when time is not allotted for looking at the data.

When teaching, I spent the first 1/2 of my “career” giving many assessments, but rarely tracked the information in a useful way or ever had time/made time to look at what the numbers were “saying”.  I always had a strong “sense” of students’ abilities, but rarely could back it up with cold, hard facts {or warm, sappy “hooray” moments either!}.  I hear-by apologize to students and families from my 1998-2003 teaching years.  Those report cards might be a little unfounded….

During the first few days of our spending fast, I realized that the same syndrome was happening.  I was “feeling” good about saying “no” to things, but wasn’t sure of the true numbers.  Today, I finally, 12 days later, made January’s “folder of receipts”, an adult craft project, if you will.  That HUGE stack of receipts you see above??? —the “eating out” category.  It is almost as tall as our grocery stack.  January is a special month for us as we celebrate our anniversary and also had a few weekends of single parenting (typically leading to the other parent, home with the children, splurging on lots of special/bonding time/eating out fun).  This often coincides with the OTHER parent spending simultaneously while out of town.  Case in point, I was at a bridal shower weekend.  We cooked the entire weekend, except splurged at Kendall Jackson Winery and a lunch out with a friend on the way to the weekend.  Husband took boys to the mall {I would NEVER attempt that one—he is a SAINT} for eldest to spend his LEGO store gift card.  And obviously they had lunch too and ice cream.  It all adds up.  I won’t say the amount here in print of what was spent in January on eating out, but it was shocking.

Giving things up isn’t quite as bad as I expected.  It can be inconvenient, it requires more creativity and frankly, I’m worried I will gain 10 pounds due to all the cooking and baking I’m doing instead.  But, it’s not impossible.

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Today marks Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday….you name it, there’s many labels to say, “PARTY, FOLKS!  ‘Cause tomorrow we cut WAY back.”  Traditionally, as Lent begins many decide to give things up to in preparation for Holy Week.  On the Tuesday prior everyone traditionally goes a bit overboard, kind of like we did the last few days of January—In and Out!  Coffee at Peets!  Buy Valentines early!  Today we are celebrating by having pancakes for dinner, a chance to have one last night of some “rich”, fattening foods before lent (and here’s a great post if you want a recipe!), but in all this rule – setting, boundary laying and giving up, the bigger picture can get lost.

What can be found in these moments of less?  What emotions are hiding under our consumption?  I am seeing a time of forcing creativity, pushing through “boredom” some days and realizing that saying “no” is actually ok.  Not always FUN, but ok.  And as my husband has been overtaken by a nasty bug this week, I have seen him have to say no.  No to going to work.  No to playing as much with the kids.  Yes to sleeping.  Yes to rest.  I have cancelled plans {Bachelor watching party—sigh} and playdates to keep others away from sick germs, but in giving up, you realize what it most important.  Slowing down, restoring health and valuing your family first and foremost.  The experiment continues….

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