Monthly Archives: September 2011

Saving Money On The Web

I think I stumbled across something incredible. Have you ever hear of Brad’s Deal? It’s this guy who built the site to show his friends and family how and where he saves money, but now, years later, the Wall Street Journal and even Oprah recommend his site for saving deals. Well, anyway, there’s this one deal on there for 90% off of gift certificates at Restaurant.com, so I go the, put in Minneapolis (because it’s still habit), and there’s a deal where you can get a gift certificate for The Ugly Mug where for $45 you get $100. I’m pretty sure this means if you simply put in the code WOW you get $100 worth of food and drinks for $4.50! Uh, someone get on that!

Let me share with you some of my favorite money-saving sites. You will find it is devoid of any coupon-cutter sites, because after spending hours at work trying to refine my websites, seeing these jumbled messes makes my chest tighten and my eyes try to revert back into the sockets. If you really want a suggestion, go to Retail Me Not which seems to have its pixels in order at least. These are nice though:

My ultimate favorite one is complements of my friend Stephen, Mint.com. I love this. I just put in all my accounts (USBank, PNC, student loan and car loan) and it just organizes them all in a user-friendly way. I like that I can see a pie graph of where all my money is going, and a bar graph of my net-income for whatever months, but, my favorite part is that I can creat budgets for things like going out to the bars, and it sends me an email telling me when I’ve gone over budget. Note: this is really nice to receive when you’re hung-over. Just a friendly reminder that you drank too much this month!

My other favorite money-saving website is called BillShrink.com.  They have some stuff for finding your cheapest credit card, savings/CD accounts, etc. but I just use it to find cheap gas. I just have my home address and my work address in there, and it sends my email alerts to where is cheapest on that route to get gas. So far, Pilot has been the ultimate winner.

People keep asking me where I get my flights (since I travel a lot these days). This tip was from my friend Graham, Matrix Airfare Search. Don’t know when is the best time to visit me for cheap flights? Put in your airport (or several close ones) and my airports (MLB, PBI, MCO), how long you want to stay (3 days to forever) and it will tell you what flight to get within a month. If you know the exact days you want to go, this will tell you what flight to take.

Then, of course, Groupon. I’m trying to remember that it isn’t really a deal if I wasn’t going to get it in the first place… especially since I haven’t even gone on that balloon ride yet.

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Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Quinoa Salad

For dinner I was desperately craving Chipotle, but since I treated myself to tacos yesterday when I forgot a lunch, I figured I better be true to my plan to save money. Thus, Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Quinoa-Salad was invented. What goes into that you may ask? For me it was: spinach, pepperoni, broccoli, a slice and a half of sharp cheddar cheese, some other green leafy stuff I think we put on fajitas last week, parmesan cheese and water chestnuts (which weren’t going to go bad for a while, but I like the texture), all mixed with quinoa and italian dressing:

I thought I was going to have to some big money on Monday when I came out to my car during lunch and there were 3 guys/hooligans standing around my car. They announced to me that my tire was flat, and in a much better scenario than I pictured when I saw them, helped me get to Firestone. There I waited for 45 minutes trying to keep myself from stressing out by reading Spin. When it came to pay the bill, the guy said it was “no biggie” and actually gave me a free tire gauge! Karma?

Total–

Negative: $7.64 for lunch yesterday at Es Tas

Positive: Tire Gauge


Generosity Wrap Up

I’m wrapping up my generosity project, but I wish I wasn’t. Going from living around my friends and family and working at PBS Kids on a show I felt really made a difference in the community, to living in Florida, has left me feeling a little lost. Trying to really contribute to the world in a positive way has made me stop moving through it like limbo, biding my time.

An amazing part of really paying attention to how I treat people, is that I pay more attention to the people that do this really well: the person at the deli who always remembers peoples’ names, orders, kids, etc.; the woman in the office who sends the elevator back to the first floor in the morning, so others don’t need to wait for it; my dad who made a big batch of gluten-free waffles so I could have the stereotypical waffles and ice cream breakfast; the people who come over and help clean up before they leave; my mom getting me pretty cut-out mason jar toppers (i use mason jars as votive holders obsessively); etc.

On the other hand, I notice people that aren’t very kind. I’m not saying I did a great job of being generous. It’s especially hard to not be sarcastic at work, reclusive in the mornings and at night and un-selfish when I’m with my close friends and family. I have this awful Napoleon complex I developed in middle school when I was a lot shorter than everyone. It’s like this character that talks over people, but I can’t stop it until it’s too late. Even if people laugh at my jokes, I still feel bad. If you’re really concentrating on it, it feels like negative and self-involved people suck the air from around you, even when it’s you.

Next on the agenda is money management. Probably not going to be the most interesting project, but I need to watch what I spend in order to accomplish other things I want to do (like go to Norway next summer). There’s too many things I allow myself to spend too much money on, like: flying somewhere about once a month, getting massages and my nails done, oh, and a dozen other little obsessions, like my devotion to creating the perfect bed. Whereas most people my age are content with a set from Target, I have 4 sets of sheets (including nice egyptian cotton ones for queen and king size beds), a cloud like duvet cover with special hypo-allergenic filling, 2 duvet covers, and my new addition, a $200 quilt.

I’m sick. I need help.

Carried over from other projects:

  • Gluten-free diet.
  • More fresh veggies and fruits.
  • More hobbies and activities, less TV.
  • Avoid things that insult my soul
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Be more charitable and generous
  • Make my friends/family know they’re important to me

Featured: Anne Heun

Anne and I met the first day in college. Her room was next to mine, and within a month, I was sleeping in her room more than my own. The next year we lived together again, and then later we moved into the stereotypical, (slightly) shady, post-college neighborhood in Minneapolis. What amazed me about her, is that she’s always keeping others in mind. The perfect ying, to my over-bearing yang. In college she dealt with my home-sickness, gave blood at every drive, remembered every birthday and volunteered for the local woman’s abuse organization. Luckily, she’s as smart as she is generous, because now she’s going to grad school to provide support to families coping with the possibility of genetic disorders in their babies.

EF: Is generosity a nature or nurture trait?

AH: Both.  I would say that it is mostly cultural.  Going to other parts of the country than the Midwest, I feel that growing up it always mattered to be nice and friendly, whereas in other parts of the country keeping to yourself is a matter of safety.  I think that generosity stems from the safety of the Midwest and our corresponding belief system – that everyone deserves respect and kindness.

EF: What are the downfalls of being considerate to others?

AH: Consideration is not always returned, and generosity can be abused.  But, I don’t know that there truly is a downfall to being considerate. I absolutely hate laying awake at night and knowing that I treated someone badly.  My biggest regrets in life come from being inconsiderate of the feelings and mindset of others.

EF: The most frustrated I’ve ever seen you was after continuously trying to donate, but being denied because you’re iron was too low. Why is it so important to give blood?

AH: Part of that was pride – I hate failing.  I also feel that it’s my duty to give blood because it’s something I can give freely that may actually make a difference.

EF: Do you have someone you look to for inspiration?

AH: When I think about my friends, and I’m sure it’s the same for you, you know how angry you get when they are mistreated.  I think that’s an inspiration.  Everyone is loved by or loves someone.  I also think of my grandma.  She is the sweetest, most selfless person that I know, and she really does make the world a better place and always puts others first.

EF: What is the place of compassion in your philosophical ideals?
AH: At the forefront.  I can’t believe how fortunate I am, and who my parents are and who I was allowed to become.  I seriously feel that something crappy has to be coming along because of how lucky I have been in my life.  Why isn’t everyone as lucky?  Why do some people lose everyone they love, have horrible diseases, or become physically disabled?  People get dealt a lot of crap, and compassion is central to my notion of humanity.

EF: If you had extra money for charity, how would you donate?

AH: To EVERYTHING!  It would be hard to choose.  The animal cruelty commericals with the sad Sarah McLaughlan song playing make me want to rip my eyeballs out.  A lot of money would go there.  I also feel like as a country we need to treat our elders far better.  They deserve to live their final years in peace, comfort, and love, and should have as much independence as possible.  I would want to build places where age is celebrated and people could live out their final years happily, instead of horrible nursing homes (although there are nice ones, too).  Losing my grandpa was hard because I saw what hospice was like, and it can be awful.  It needs to change.
EF: My family dealt with that this year too, and I saw how it took a toll on everyone. The hospice was like a breathe of fresh air compared to the nursing homes down here.
What are some things we can do on a daily basis to live a compassionate life?
AH: Small things.  When someone smiles at me in a hallway, I feel better.  When a door is held for me, I smile.  People just need to cut the crap and act decently to each other.  If you see someone who needs a hand, give it.  I saw a man on the sidewalk today who asked me a question, and I didn’t realize that he was asking for money until I was down the street.  It would be easier if we didn’t care what people think, and I wish I would have been brave enough to have gone back and given him a couple bucks.

EF: What is the biggest injustice you’ve ever seen?

AH: I see tons of injustice because it’s the nature of our world.  I hate it.  I think of my grandma.  She took care of my grandpa for the last 5 years of her life and sacrificed herself and her loves for him.  It’s not that she didn’t love him with her whole heart and didn’t want to help him – it’s just that she lost a piece of herself.  After he died, she was able to reclaim her life…until her cancer returned.  She had been diagnosed about two months before he died, but they surgically removed it and told her that it was all gone.  Then, she wasn’t feeling well, and it turns out the cancer had spread throughout her abdomen and lungs.  She wants so badly to live, and now she knows that her time left is pretty limited.  I absolutely can’t bear the thought of losing anyone I love, and it kills me.  I’m angry at the doctors, but mostly I’m angry for her.  She’s been through enough.
EF: You seem to have a knack for being there for your friends, most especially for me when I was going to go to my uncle’s funeral and you surprised me with a care package of all my favorite foods. Perfect, since I had barely eaten all week. What are other ways you’re mindful of your friends and their needs?

AH: I try to remember that everyone has deep feelings, hopes, and dreams, and I try to attend to those.  I think small things matter.  Listening is powerful.

EF: What activity makes you most happy?

AH: Spending time with my family and friends.  I miss everyone all the time.

EF: Who do you admire most in the area of music?

AH:Dave Grohl!

EF: Who do you admire the most in the area of design?

AH: EVERYONE.  I can’t design worth a crap, and anyone who makes the world a more beautiful place is truly appreciated.

EF: Where do you want to be right now?

AH: In Ames, as a 17 year old girl.

EF: If you could give someone advice, what would it be?

AH: Be kind.


Love Mob

I started today in a full-blown argument at 6am. Despite escalating and then recovering in less than a half hour, not a good start to the day.

I’ve been trying to be good at loving my neighbor as myself. Not literally, because both of my actually neighbors are “snow-birds” and have not yet landed after their summer vacations. This does include my office neighbor, though.  Our cubicles are connected by a 3 foot wall, and sometimes it feels like he’s constantly looking over my shoulder and talking down to me. Yesterday I said something sarcastic (my go-to gut reaction when I feel threatened) and he said something joking, that I found to be tacky and mean. I did rant and rave for a little bit, but then I took a walk, and came back and offered him a gift–a t-shirt I got for (trying) to donate blood.

I’m not the best at calling people, but this week I’ve been really making sure to write notes of affection, and call up/answer the phone for the people I miss. I’ve also made new friends this week by opening my doors (literally and mentally). Brent, a 23-year-old guy who quit his job and decided to travel by bike for a year, stayed at my house Friday night through Couch-surfers. Then, people came over to the house on Saturday for a friend’s birthday to go out on the boat. I had so much fun doing that, I invited Logan’s work friend and his girlfriend over for dinner “anytime”. Logan decided that we should redeem that offer on Tuesday, so we cooked up some fajitas (she’s gluten-free too). What was great about inviting these people into my home, was really listening to everyone’s stories and jokes. It’s a lot easier to appreciate people and stay in the moment when you’re not always trying to put in your 2 cents.

Charity. I tried giving blood, but after sticking me repeatedly in both arms, the two very large men declared me “too much of a dainty flower”. They sent me on my way with a t-shirt, some apple juice and a “better luck next time”. I was trying to figure out what I’d like to be a part of. I’ve been trying to get involved in an “anti-bullying” charity, but no one will respond to my emails/call. Then I thought about it, and decided Big Brothers Big Sisters might be the place for me. I have my “very thorough” meeting on Monday. They said they might have me going in to schools and reading/hanging out with kids, which would be cool. I’ll let you know if they like me.

Did anyone do anything for International Day of Peace yesterday? All over the world they had “flash mediation mobs”, including about 150 people in Austin, who then did a “sound bath” or the refraining of one word/chant. That would be pretty cool to have seen. You can check out more information about it here.


Little Flower

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their virtues.”–St Thérèse de Lisieux

I have not been doing very good with my generosity since the weekend ended. My cat (MauMau) started crying by my bed 10 minutes before my alarm went off yesterday and today, and instead of waking up ready and willing to start my day, I carried the situation out for 20 more minutes, then exploded at the cat making him run out of the room. Not very considerate to both the cat and Logan trying to sleep. After half-haphazardly getting ready, I start my 45 minute drive to work on a single lane highway. Yesterday me and about 15 other cars were stuck behind a slow-moving old woman driving a Buick, so my commute suddenly turned into an hour and 15 minutes long. Then came chain of events that were clearly a results of the irritated and exhausted mood the morning put me in.

I know everyone has irritations, so I wont document all of mine, but I will say that today I let my selfishness be my downfall. When an old man got lost in our building, I barely mustered the energy to help him. Even then, all I did was put a forced smile on my face and direct him to the right floor. The constant aimlessness of the senior citizens in Florida is starting to make me jaded.  I need to remember the good-will I felt coming down here to help my grandparents, and my morals to respect my elders. Instead, I’m usually left only remembering the times I got stuck behind a senior-citizen going 20 mph under the speed limit, who probably shouldn’t have their license anymore; or I remember the times I was next in line after an elderly couple at lunch, who couldn’t seem to remember what they like.

This reminded me of St Thérèse de Lisieux (or Little Flower) who was famous for killing with kindness. The story goes that there was one nun at Thérèse’s convent that she didn’t like, describing her in a memoir as, “a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character.” Instead of getting outwardly angry with her, she treated her as if she “loved her best of all”. She managed to do this so well that when Thérèse died, the nun that displeased her so much said, “At least I can say this much for myself: during her life I made [Thérèse] really happy.” It wasn’t until 30 years later that someone admitted to her that she was the “disagreeable Sister” from Thérèse’s book Story of the Soul.

In another story she describes how irritated she was with one of her Sisters for playing with her rosary noisily during prayers. Once again, instead of snapping at her she said, “I set myself to listen as though it had been some delightful music, and my meditation, which was not the ‘prayer of quiet,’ passed in offering this music to our Lord.”

I need to channel St Thérèse de Lisieux this week.


Paddle-Board Yoga

I’ve been wanting to go do paddle-board yoga since I learned there was such a thing, and yesterday I got my chance. I met my new friend Jennie on the inlet in Port Solerno and we started our journey. We detoured off the big river to a small, one person at a time path through the man-groves. We got through and she said,”I didn’t want to scare you, but sometimes we see a bobcat through that path.”

We ended up on a slow-moving, secluded river, where we did some vinyasa yoga. If you ever did yoga before, imagine doing it with an unstable grounding, a board that kept ending up over at the side of the river, oh, and slippery legs. I think it was really great though because she stressed how you just have to give up the idea of “perfect”. Also, the flow of the river was a constant reminder of allowing myself to let go.

At the end of the river we ended up at a beach reserve. We dropped off our boards and did a small barefoot hike (making sure not to step on the little crabs) to the beach. The cool thing about this beach is that you can’t get to it by car, you have to go by paddle-board/kayak/canoe, and I don’t think a lot of people know about it bc it was empty despite being a beautiful Saturday.

There we meditated. I’m horrible at meditation because I’m constantly planning things. I kept reminding myself to concentrate on the sound of the seagulls and the ocean crashing, but I kept sneaking peaks at her to see if it was over. With relief I finally saw her get up. I went into the water to some of the sand off me. When I got back she said, “I didn’t want to scare you, but all those birds means that there’s a lot of fish, which means there’s probably sharks right there.”

Then we paddled for little while longer and I really focused on listening to her story and found her to be a really remarkable person. She’s had every job from bank clerk to actor, but got into yoga as a way of healing herself from the pull of depression. She now owns a studio in Jensen Beach and spends her Fridays teaching a class to at risk girls.

As we started through the next small mangrove path (about 5 feet across), I saw what I thought (or hoped) were inch in diameter, black crabs crawling in the trees. At one point my board deceived me and I crashed into the thick of it, and I realized with horror, that they were spiders. It got worse. We came up to a part of the path where there were 2 HUGE webs 4 feet over the water across the path. In each web were the biggest spiders I had ever seen. First I got as low as possible on the board and sputtered a bunch of hysterical “ahhh, um uhhhs” as I attempted to stop my board from moving forward. Then I started crying. Then as I started going under, the bigger of the 2 started moving! That’s when I started screaming and crying. I made it through the rest of the path shaking, and she congratulated me on my bravery. Then she said, “I didn’t want to scare you, but we think those spiders are maybe poisonous.”

3.5 hours later we ended up back to our cars. I was so proud of my body for not failing me on the journey, and my ability to preserver through my fears. I felt empowered by her story and the real connection, my inner peace and ability to let go. I knew exactly what she meant when she said yoga is her church, gym and therapist.