The nature of my work keeps me extremely busy leading up to the holidays. It's a little like juggling, but twice as many balls/plates/torches than I'd been accustomed to before stepping foot in this office. I guess my stress level was palpable, as I recieved the following email from a friend with whom I have little regular contact.
Subject: Hi happyWould you be able to make yourself available for lunch any time soon to celebrate any, or all, of the following:1) Your up-coming 24th Birthday2) The Holiday season3) The fact that you know mePlease Advise
My friendship with shopping is fair-weather at best. Sometimes I dig it, but for the most part, my attitude is best described as disinterested. When the going gets tough, I jump ship. End of discussion. I do the majority of my shopping online and, there, as long as I find what I want, it isn't worth the hassle of comparing prices on other sites. Even shipping costs don't deter me provided they are within reason. In store, I want what I want and if what you're selling has it, I'm buying. Again, no comparison shopping. As far as I'm concerned, the less time I have to spend, the more I get my money's worth.
Of course, there are certain things that you just don't buy online. Most of them, I'm not picky about. My toiletries generally come right off the shelf of the local drugstore. For the most part, I don't spend a lot of dough on that kind of thing. The only exception I can think of is moisturizer and, thankfully, I never remember to use it enough to have to face the task of buying more than once or twice a year.
Back in September, I stayed at a friend's place. At some point during the visit, I noticed that she kept one of those big bags of skinny pink razors in her bathroom. You know the kind, totally stripped down with just a single blade, no moisturizing strips or soft grip handles to be found. Up until that point, I'd never questioned my decision to go for the more costly, yet far more aesthetically pleasing options out there on the market, this even after a discussion with another friend about the added expense. I guess I put my observation in the vault because a few weeks ago, when it came time to stock up on hair removal supplies, I thought of my friend who does it old school. As I stood before the mountain of options, I was torn. Ten bucks for a few of what I usually get or five for what about a hundred of what my friend, a woman I love and admire, uses. In a rare flash of fiscal responsibility, I decided that I didn't need pretty, I just needed functional. Sold.
Fast forward. I have now learned that, for me, razors are something that I will spend more on in the future. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be shopping for them again before 2011 rolls around. (And that is not a reference to how often I shave.)
This lesson got me to thinking about the things that I am willing to pay more for. Based on experience, I will not go cheap on:
Okay, so I decided to indulge in a little of my favourite holiday task tonight: writing cards. I love mail. Sending it, reading it, whatever. For that reason, this season is a dream for me. I overheard The LB on the phone to his dad the other day. "Yeah, I think she sends a card to everyone she knows." Guilty. And I will never ever stop the tradition of mailing Christmas cards, I don't care what the argument against them.
From the moment they start hitting the shelves, I'm shopping for them. And I never ever buy all the same ones for everyone. No, I usually end up with four or five (or six or seven) different boxes by the time December 1st hits. I start off addressing family, then move on to distant recipients. For each box or design, there is a different crowd. For instance, for my far away friends, this year I picked up some scenic Vancouver winter/snow prints.
Tonight, I broke into my favourite cards of all this year. I've been spreading out my own joy by doing only a small group of cards at a time. (More opportunities to go to the mailbox! I know... I'm a total geek.) I realized my present dilemma almost immediately: there are a limited number of people who can recieve this particular card from me. My solution was almost as quickly found: they need to go to my good friends. By good, I mean (obviously,) those who can appreciate them. We'll call them my cool friends. It was just as much of a shock to me to recognize that I would actually categorize people in my life this way, but you know what? I did.
I'm sure there are very few people out there who can sympathize with my affliction, but there you have it. And don't even get me started on holiday stamps. For me, they're an event of their own. Who on earth would send Christmas cards marked with regular, everyday postage?? Even if they were on sale...you know who you are. ;)
Even though I stayed with the same company, when I changed jobs, my health care plan changed. The one I have now is clearly better for me given that I don't see medical doctors other than times when it is absolutely necessary and I very rarely fill a prescription. Instead, I've spent years devoted to maintaining/improving my health under the close care of a naturopath. Back in my old plan, I was covered for only $200 per year. A lot of that time, my naturopath was still in school so I saw her at the clinic they held there, but even though the visit only cost me $25, it quickly added up when other expenses (homeopathics, injections, vitamins, supplements, etc.) were involved. I rarely walked out of there without spending at least $100 on top of the initial price tag. I was cool with that. Once she left school and started a practice of her own, her price went up, but it was always well worth it. I saw the value in her services without question.
My new plan is self-directed. I get to choose the amount of life insurance, disability insurance, dental and medical coverage and so on that I receive and I get to rebuild it every year. 2.5% of my salary is added to the base rate of coverage that everyone gets. Essentially, I start with a dollar figure from which each of my choices is deducted. At the end of the day, every dollar I don't use goes into a "health account" with which I can get whatever kind of care I choose within certain guidelines, of course. For someone who, as I mentioned, doesn't make use of mainstream care, this is fantastic. Every dollar not used in a calendar year is carried over through the one year following, but at that point, if left unused, it disappears.
Clearly, I have yet to get the hang of this new system. I went into HR today to look at next year's plan and was informed that I have a whole $1600 from last year to spend before it leaves my account in just over three weeks' time. Couple that with the $1700 I have to carry over until next year and I'm laughing. That is, if I want to live with my naturopath for the remainder of the year. I promptly made appointments with my optometrist and my dentist, but I just don't think that's going to cut it. Next up, researching massage therapists, chiropractors, perhaps a psychologist??
I'm not going to lie to you, I'm pretty happy with myself right now. I took the gloves off and gave it to our living room today. It might have taken about six trips to the garbage outside and the relocation of the desk that used to sit behind the couch, but it's been done and I feel all the better for it. Kemah's even finally come out from hiding, safe now from the reaches of the ever threatening vacuum.
The stuff over by the window is staged for the wrapping part of today's Christmas preparations and the tree stand is sitting idle until The LB and I can agree on the appropriate time to bring something home to fill it. Just a few more papers to rummage through and mostly discard... The four loads of laundry I did are all folded and put away and that smell? That's the beef stew I made. Thankfully, I'll never have to try it and The LB will never have the heart to tell me if it sucks. By my standards, it's been a pretty productive day.
I ask again, is 2:30 too early for a celebratory glass of wine?
So, for today, I have only one thing on my mind. It's only one task, but it's kind of a doozy. So far, I am totally on my Christmas game. I've started shopping, I've mailed most of my cards, I've done some decorating. This is how things usually start... slowly. When it comes to merrying up the place, I've hit one roadblock: it's pretty much a disaster within our four walls. I didn't want to get too far into decorating until I'd already committed myself to cleaning the junk out of here. I wouldn't call myself a full blown pack rat, but I do have a tendency to hang onto things longer than is sensible. And the value of a tidy place is so completely lost on me. The apartment isn't dirty, I just don't care about clutter and such the way others do. Well, today's the day. Today I'm going to get this place in order. Today I am going to get the junk out of here. Today I'll make room for the brand new tree stand we picked up the other day so it can wait until it is filled with a nice little Christmas tree. It's not often that I have the energy (or desire) to work on this kind of a goal so I need to capitalize while I do. For now, enjoy the before picture.
I've long been a believer that you can't give things away, not if you want anyone to care about them, that is. This theory was solidified back in the day when I was a doula.
You see, starting out, you have to bust your ass to earn your credentials and to make a name for yourself. In gaining the support of the local doula organization, you're required to take on a few clients for whom having professional support would be better filed under the category of need than desire. Read: low income, single mothers. As with anything, each comes with their own set of circumstances. Some couldn't afford to pay for the quarter they used to call from a pay phone to let me know they were in labour. Others managed to scrape together a small amount of money that measured more in appreciation than it did in financial gain. In fact, a lot of times, it cost me money to be at the early births I attended.
In hindsight, I approached it all wrong. I was new and I was itching to get into the game. I wanted the experience and I saw the opportunity to help and that felt good. When the topic of payment came up, I brushed it off and accepted every new client that came my way, often offering my services for free. Some women accepted that. Others insisted on paying me something, somehow, even if, at the time, they had no idea what. Here's what I learned: people only find value in things they have to pay for.
The women who felt they needed to repay me in some way or another, always appreciated what I was doing for them. They went out of their way to be courteous and thankful for my time and efforts. The women who got a free doula were often disinterested in their (my) preparations, uncommunicative and a couple of them never even phoned me to tell me that they'd already given birth until their babies were a couple of days old (after I'd devoted months to prenatal counselling and remained on call for them.) My work meant nothing to them because they didn't have to do anything themselves to get them. They had no value.
My point? I've come back to Typepad and I'm paying to do so. I wasn't digging the action over at Wordpress and Blogger is annoying, plain and simple. So, I'm back to my old haunts. By some miraculous turn of events, I wasn't even able to reclaim my old address. Here's hoping that the cost of this sweet space will add value to my possession of a new blog of my very own.
I commented a while back on my Facebook page that I was thinking about blogging again to which a friend responded "which blog, aren't there like 20 floating around out there?" To answer that, probably. What can I say? I get excited, I write, I lose interest. Then I decide to start all over again and, for some quirk in my personality, I always feel like I need a brand new canvas in order to do so, to do it right. I am completely able to ask myself the same thing you're thinking. What is this right business? A figment of my imagination and a stupid one at that. It's not like I'm new at this. I've done it before. I've shared my thoughts/ideas/opinions on a daily basis. I've made friends. Hell, I've even been published in a university textbook. So, why the drama? I guess it's the pressure to make an impression, to set the stage. But for what? Realistically, this thing is going to develop a mind of its own, start spinning out of control and hopefully, I'll stick around through all that. You too. I like the company.