Everyone says that if you make what you’re passionate about your work, you’ll never work a day in your life. What does it say about me that I’ve never found that passion? I’m 45 years old. I love English, reading, political science and philosophy, regular philosophy, watching my plants grow, writing journals and, now, this blog, and raising my kids. None of which screams out moneymaker to me. Am I doomed to spend my life doing jobs I don’t like? Spending the majority of my day drudging around, wishing I were somewhere else? Is that what most people do?

I love planning things but I have no formal project planning experience. My crafts all get to the making a plan to finish it and getting all of the supplies but not actually doing it stage. It feels as though I’m done and have gotten what I needed from it when I have the supplies ready and have done a little corner of something to prove that I can do it. Maybe event planning or wedding planing? Neither really speaks to me but who knows? All I know so far is that I had a job I liked and couldn’t stay in and then had jobs that I stunk at and didn’t really like.

I was lucky in that I got to spend my 30’s home with the kids. I am lucky to be doing it again this year to homeschool them. I am passionate about raising them to be good people and that seems to be going well enough. A bit sarcastc and sweary, but good people. But, that means that I don’t have experience in the workplace. I have plenty of experience in school. It has been my safe place and the place I retreat to to learn new skills and switch industries (or try to).

Passions are tricky things. Some people know theirs from the time they are very young children and others never find them. I want to find mine. I am searching dilligently. Nada so far. But I am interested in the subject. What are your passions? Are any of them fit for actual work? Do you do them that way or do you use them as hobbies and work a day job to afford your passion?

I will keep looking for mine and try new things as I can. I’m not giving up.

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Rewards Card

I decided last year to bite the bullet and start using a credit card for all of our purchases. I did a ton of research and decided to use a travel credit card since we want to start taking more vacations but never seem to have the money set by for that. So, I ordered up the travel credit card with the best balance of initial bonus and bonus points for things that I will always have need of. We went with Bank of America, but it would be the one that works for you. The cash reward cards didn’t seem a good bet because the points required for rewards were too high. I can get reimbursed for travel expensess at a higher rate than I could have gotten cash back.

The secret to doing this is to NEVER carry a balance. I pay it off once a week. That’s what actually convinced me to do it this way was seeing someone say they paid theirs off every other day. I needed that reminder that you are not restricted to paying it once a month, you can pay it every day if you want. We have since paid for a long weekend to Washington D.C. and I’m saving up to help pay off a cruise that we have booked for next year (assuming the plague is under control by then).

We pay for everything with it. Gasoline, groceries, Amazon purchases, some of our streaming subscriptions, our automatically refilling toll road account, all kinds of things. I don’t pay bills on it generally (utilities and mortgage). No good reason except some of them don’t accept credit cards for payment, they require bank information or debit cards. So those come out of the bank acount. Everything else? Credit card. The credits built up quicker than I thought they would. I’m looking forward to paying off $1000 or more of the cruise next year just using points.

You do need to keep control of your spending to make sure that you never carry a balance and you need to make sure to pay it off regularly so that you don’t incur charges. But it can be a really nice feeling to pay things off with rewards points. The points will take a couple of days to post to your account, but it’s nice to see that credit. It is free money after all. Silly to leave it on the table if you are able to be disciplined enough to claim it without going into debt for it.

If you aren’t that disciplined or are already in credit card debt, this wouldn’t be my plan of choice for you. Get out of that debt first, then consider trying this only if you can swear to yourself that you will pay it off ever day or every other day. Rewards cards have higher interest rates than regular cards so, if you do go into debt, it will cost more to get out of it than it would with a regular card. It’s no good trying to get rewards if you are paying interest on the money you spent. It’s not free money then. You are paying through the nose for those rewards at that point.

It is working for us because I stay on top of it. That is the takeaway I guess. Only if you can stay on top of it and never carry a balance.

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Things that work and things that don’t

Quarantine and semi-quarantine have changed the way we live. I am high risk so I barely leave the house these days. We have our groceries delivered. We tip more generously than we used to. We get food delivered more than we used to. All wasteful things but things that are helping the economy and helping keep people somewhat employed we hope.

Ordering groceries online has helped lower my grocery bill significantly though. I am spending as much as $100 less per trip than I used to when I wandered the aisles. Given that, I can afford to have groceries delivered and tip generously. Getting food delivered has calmed down some now that I am more organized with my shopping trips, but we still do it. It’s the Covid equivalent to eating out. We used to do that a lot. We order in less often than we used to go out.

We don’t hang laundry anymore because the older child does laundry as his chore. After 6 months I have finally gotten him to sort it out and deliver it to rooms. Not fold it, but sort and deliver piles of clothing. He’d never hang it and I’d get annoyed at how he did it wrong if he did. Younger boy does dishes. The free labor is a great benefit of having kids!

Amazon has been a thing during the time away from regular life. Dearest husband discovered it. Yikes! And Older Boy has discovered combat light sabers. He asked for money from everyone for his birthday so he could get more light sabers. We currently have 4 running around the house because Husband likes them too. <sigh> That’s going to end except for Christmas and birthdays though. They aren’t cheap. So, I’m going to have to regulate Amazon shopping from here on out a little more vigorously. 2 incomes was a little different. We are living just fine on one, but we can’t keep spending like we have two.

Homemade soaps have never bothered anyone except maybe not wanting to smell “like a girl”. Homemade laundry detergent won’t be a huge thing with Older Boy, it’s just going to mean leaving a measuring device in the tub with the mix. I haven’t tried making my own dish detergent yet, mainly because sugar free lemon drink mix is hard to find around here. I remember that was the thing that stopped me last time.

I bought a turning compost bin but the family didn’t follow my directions about which side to put things in and now both sides are out of balance with brown and green and it’s just gross. So much so that my husband banned it. He has moved it away from the door and refuses to allow the mini bin in the kitchen. It was sitting too long and getting gross because we weren’t filling it fast enough to keep things from deteriorating in the bag. Yet another failed experiment. I might get husband to allow it if I start cooking again seriously.

I didn’t keep many of the green and thrifty behavious when I went back to work. It’s difficult to do and I didn’t do it. So, I will be researching and looking for new behaviours and old ones that worked that I can implement. Online grocery shopping is the one that I can wholeheartedly recommend though. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t tried it yet, it can save so much over just wandering. Try it this week and see!

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I keep coming back

Life gets in the way. I fail and backslide into my spendy ways but I always come back to this. This blog and this way of life. Since I am a homeschooling Mom right now and not working outside the home, I have some time to address this again. I worked for the government for three years and it was difficult to work 9 or 10 hour days and then come home and do all the things that needed to be done to keep us on track. I understanad that it is doable by other people, but I wasn’t one of them. I would succumb to the lure of the quick and easy.

I understand how important greena nd thrify are. Really I do. I also understand that not everyone is in a position to do it all the way. Making soap and cleaning green and hanging laundry all take time. Precious time. Sometimes these things lose out to spending time with the family. I get it. But, I’m bacck with some time on my hands, so I am going to give it a try. Again.

So, I started by wanting a garden this past Spring. My dear husband built me a raised bed garden. And by raised I mean 3 1/2 feet off the ground so I wouldn’t have to bend over. 8 feet by 3 feet because, “you have short arms and I didn’t want you to have to reach too far.” Is he a sweetie or what? So, I grew my little gardena and it failed. Caterpillars got all of my broccoli, it got too hot too fast and killed most of my plants. My squash never really took off and my peas withered. But, I am hopeful for next year. It’s already too late to plant for the fall. I lost track of time in trying to prep homeschool lessons. Oops.

I found a stash of soap I made last year. So, we have wonderful smelling soap for the next several months. Or, because of the scents, I might have soap for the next year. That’s cool. I like the way it smells. I have the boxes of borax and washing soda to make laundry detergent when we run out of the spendy stuff. If I can find the recipe again. I’ll have to search my archives for the one I used before.

I have some reading to do. I need to refresh myelf on some of the strategies I’ve used int he past to make this work. Now that we are back to one income, I need to start being more aware of how we spend and how I keep track of it. I have the time and the books. Not a problem. This time I have some knowledge of what works for our family and what doesn’t and I am out for new ideas as well. This should be fun.

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It’s been a while

I am having a bit of a crisis. I have acheived one of my dearest dreams. I am a mom. I remember being 10 years old and wanting to be a mom. I have a 15 year old and an 11 year old. They are amazing kids and I adore them. they arae past the truly needy point an into the needing guidance but not minute to minute attention. So now I am trying to figure out what’s next. I have been unsuccessful at a couple of jobs so far. One was just not a good fit wth the boss – we thought in very different ways – and the other was a sales position and I’m just not cut out for that apparently. So, it’s time to regroup and figure out what’s next. My husband suggested I find a hobby and see if that can make me happy.

He has a point actually. I haven’t had a hobby in years. I tend to start things and then, once I have all the supplies and have figured out the plan on how to do it, I am done with it. So crafts are not really for me. I need something that can be done in a day, maybe two. I was thinking about photography maybe. I can take pictures whenever and then process them later. Digitally process, not actual film, that would be too much right now. Anyone have any ideas of other quick and fun hobbbies I might try?

In other news, I am homeschooling the kids because of the plague this year. I have one who is fine with it and the other is being a butt. Every day. It’s wearing me out. I know how lucky I am to be able to do this. I appreciate just how Marie Antoinette my problems may be. My family life is amazing and we are priviliged enought to allow me to not work during this time and not feel the pinch of the Cornavirus. We are luckier than so many and my problems are definitely first world problems, but they are what I have and no less real for all of that.

I know so many other people have been where I am. You have achieved a dream and now are at a loss as to what to do next. What is the next dream? What is the next step? For me, it’s to find something that I can be passionate about. So, the search begins.

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I have sprouts!

It’s been a few days now and my little garden has tiny green sprouts all over. I am so excited. I don’t have pictures yet, but I will. We are sheltering in place and this is the most exciting thing to happen in 2 weeks. Although, I actually put on a real shirt instead of pajamas – still wearing pajama pants – for a web meeting I had today. That was exciting.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and stay inside!

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Hello world (from behind the curtains)

We are still indoors. You are still indoors. My garden has not sprouted yet – it’s only been about 4 or 5 days, so it will be a few more before I start seeing green. Not much is going on in the old homestead here. I am teleworking and have school most days so not much time to craft or bake or whatnot. I did help my son bake our anniversary cake. But, he wants two tiers, so my husband is going to have to help him with the rest. That ought to be entertaining. He doesn’t like cooking and NEVER bakes.

Even in the free time I’ve had I end up just scrolling through my phone or watching TV. I have not been in the mood to start a craft that I can only do once every few days. I don’t have many small, finish in an hour kinds of crafts around the house, either. This was never going to be my most productive time, with school 2-3 evenings and most weekends. Maybe if I had more time I would start a project. But every few days for a few hours is not enough to motivate me to start something. Not even a book! I have a thousand books and none of them are appealing right now. Literally a thousand. That’s how bad this has gotten. Ah, well. Sometimes life is like that.

How are you coping with being indoors? Any new projects? Share! It may motivate me to start something. Stay safe and healthy. And wash your hands!

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Our 19th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few days. It will be a strange one. No going out to dinner. No partying with friends or family. We will be home. With the kids. I think I’ll put the kids in charge of making a cake for us. They like to bake and we need something happy to distract us from the day to day horrors that we keep hearing about. And what a cake it’s likely to be. Every single bit of sprinkles and sanding sugar in the pantry is likely to be on it. Sweet enough to put me in a diabetic coma, I’m sure. But it will be amazing because it will definitely be made with love.

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Stir crazy

I haven’t been farther afield than my front porch in 9 days. I’m starting to get a little crazy. I am studying to be a teacher at the moment but, with schools closed for the rest of the school year, it’s looking like I’m not going to be able to finish my in-classroom observations until next school year. That means I won’t get my license until after the school year has started. Not sure how likely it is that I’ll get a job part-way through the year. So, I’m looking at what I can do if teaching falls through. (told you I’m getting a little crazy) I started out looking at a communications degree. Reasonable. Lots of social media manager type jobs out in the world. I looked at economics, too statistics heavy though. Then I thought to my stir crazy self, “Oh! I could be a doctor!” I stated looking into medical school. Yeah. No doubt I could do it, it’s just not in my comfort zone and only about $120,000 in student loan debt. So, there’s that.

I need a project. I am teleworking during the day, so I only have evenings. And not every evening as I am still in school to be a teacher. That’s 2 evenings a week and most weekends. I have cross-stitch kits, and knitting needles and a little yarn, and a sewing machine with yards and yards of muslin. The problem is, I’m not feeling the fabric crafts right now. I could be writing a book, but I haven’t been writing much lately except journaling and this blog more regularly. There are tons of things I could do, I’m just so bored that I don’t want to do any of them. I’m not even reading as much as I could be! Am I the only one? The rest of my family is off school and work so they are all staying up until 1 or 2 AM and then sleeping until noon. I am up at 6:45 AM to wander downstairs and start work at 7. With a very big mug of coffee. Almost a thermos, really.

I keep thinking to myself that I’ll never take a walk around Walmart for granted again. That’s not true. I will. We all will. Things will get back to normal and we’ll all start taking the outdoors for granted again. Sad, but true. We all thought the world would never be the same after 9/11 and we were right, but not in the ways we thought then. We thought the wave of brotherly feeling would sweep the nation and we would all be kinder to each other after that. Nope. Laws changed but people didn’t. We rarely do. Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything. There is some comfort in the idea that we will all go back to normal after this. It is a generationally defining moment but not a changing one.

To get back to the point, I am bored. How are you all coping with not leaving the house? I am trying to putter around and keep a little busy but mostly I am just flipping through Facebook on my phone (I know, what can I say? I’m old). The boys are playing video games and my husband has taken to building things. The trips to Home Depot are getting ridiculous. He can still go out because he’s not in a vulnerable population like I am. He’s taking precautions but he’s the one who deals with the public for the family. He’s almost totally transformed the garage at this point with his builds – shelving units and hanging shelves and rearranging things over and over. He’s having fun and keeping busy though, so I won’t complain. I hope you all are having fun adn keeping busy as well. To those who are working through this time, thank you. You are helping keep the country going and keeping those of us at home from starving or falling ill ourselves. You deserve every good thing. Thank you.

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WW2 sense and sensibilities

In this time of scarcity, it is important to remember that we, as a country, have been through worse than this and come out swinging. World War 2 was a time of rationing and scarcity such as this country had rarely seen. The Depression just a few years before had taught people how to live with less. The war years made that knowledge a virtue.

Victory gardens, canning, mending, making do, or doing without became a national war effort. Every scrap of material you saved and used was another piece of material saved for uniforms or parachutes for our boys overseas. Every bit of food that you grew or canned was more food for the war effort – to feed soldiers or those saved from camps. With this kind of propaganda, many Americans felt it their patriotic duty to save everything they could, ration food and clothing and furniture and everything else possible, and learn new skills to make things at home instead of buying them.

We are not in a war. We are in the midst of a virulent pandemic. We are self-isolating. We are protecting those most vulnerable among us. It is hard to feel connected to people out in the world these days with the news focusing on deaths and infections. But remember, every day that you stay inside is another day that the infection curve lowers. It’s another day that you aren’t a carrier to others.

Hang out on your front porch. Take a walk around the neighborhood and wave to people out in their own yards. Play with your kids in your yard. Go on a hike in the woods. Turn out all the lights in the living room and pop some popcorn and watch a movie like you’re in the theater. Remember that we are, actually, all in this together. Buy only what you need at stores. Call to check on elderly neighbors or parents and grandparents. Wash your hands regularly and properly.

There is no propaganda this time. But it is a good idea to remember that those values and skills held by our grand (and great grand) parents are worth remembering for the hard times. And the not so hard times. Gardening, canning, sewing/mending, are basic homestead-type skills that are useful to know and can save money. The Ball Canning Book tells you how to can pretty much everything and Walmart sells canning supplies near the reusable food storage aisle. I am not affiliated with Ball canning, I just found their book really helpful when I was starting out canning and it is still a go to resource when I’m unsure of how long to boil or how much pectin to use.

The one thing that all of these skills take is time. That is usually a very precious resource, but a lot of us are home right now either teleworking or just home, and we have time o our hands to learn new skills and practice these things. Goodness knows we all have ratty towels we can practice our mending on; all it takes is a needle and thread. Gardening requires a longer investment but not much time. Just long enough to keep the weeds at bay and water it until you have a bounty of delicious food for your table. Seeds are cheap and last for a couple of years usually. All you need is a pot and some dirt and seeds. And finally, canning. Or freezing.Canning requires a full day at some point but the yield in terms of food is worth it. I can can a year’s worth of jam in an afternoon that tastes better than Welch’s.

It’s worth resurrecting those old skills to save money and keep from having to buy new things at every turn. My husband has taught himself how to build tables and raised gardens for me. We are not actually crafty people, but we are learning DIY skills. Organic food does not cost nearly as much if you raise it from seed. And you can know that it is truly organic because you are the one who chose the dirt, the fertilizer (if any) and the growing conditions. Seeing jars of food lined up that you grew and caned yourself is one of life’s pleasures. And wearing a favorite pair of pants or shirt longer because you learned how to mend it is an amazing feeling. I even learned how to darn socks! While mending, canning and gardening are what I’ve focused on here, there are so many other skills that can help you save money and provide entertainment during these long days at home. Learn to knit or crochet. Learn to bake or cook French food. Learn something that will serve you during this time of crisis and you will never be sorry.

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