Tiny House Road Show- Pictures!

On July 23rd, my family attended the Tiny House Road Show at our local civic center. Not all tiny houses are built as equals. Some were just *presh/gorge*, while others were severely lacking…

Instead of making this an article, I’m going to just post all the pictures of us. Some of them contain *rando humanoids* who happened to photo-bomb us!

I will say this one thing: one day I hope to downsize to a tiny house by a body of water and live as Thoreau did, but of course with WiFi flowing through my devices and Kat Von D makeup on my face. I’ve got a long way to go on purging/paring down the bare necessities…I only buy what I absolutely have to now and donate the rest. With the exception of school textbooks (1,000+ pages), my “biggest” purchase items are DVD’s. Keepin’ it tiny…

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And to end on a note with a compostable toilet, from me to you, enjoy.

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Down the rabbit hole…

In the true spirit of a minimalist blog, I haven’t posted in a while. Therefore, the blog has had minimal maintenance.

I have not been camping in 3 months, nor have I had time to ponder the works of Thoreau. Frankly, I’ve been extremely busy since I started…LAW SCHOOL!

alice-4 (My Cheshire Cat husband talked me into to going to law school like he did years ago. He taught me how to write briefs and disappears when I don’t know how to do a proper bluebook citation…)

I wasn’t supposed to matriculate until January of 2017, but I had a freak encounter with the dean of the school who admitted me on the spot at a law school gala. I started classes the very next day, making me a #1L. I’ve been attending class since the first weekend of August, first with a 2 weekend Lawyering Fundamentals seminar put on by Barbri. Then my 3 nights a week classes commenced after I took a quick trip to the beach. So now I have Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night classes right after work.

The only thing I’ve been reading has been case law, Torts, Legal Writing/Research materials, Bluebook Citations, and Civil Procedure. As a matter of fact, my new mantra hails from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, whichever rule I’m supposed to memorize for the week.

When I went through Yoga Teacher Training in 2012, I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Yoga Wonderland! Here I am again, same old Alice, embarking on a new quest for knowledge via Legal Wonderland.

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I drank the potion and have molded my brain to start thinking like an attorney. (In fact, most Friday nights after class, I go out for a few drinks to a local pub with my lady friend classmates.)

On Wednesdays, I have Legal Writing with the Caterpillar (who smokes a lot from what I can see in his numerous YouTube videos as he spews vitriol regarding Hillary Clinton)

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I can’t understand him half the time because of the poor acoustics in the classroom. He sounds like a cross between Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs” and a very Southern Christopher Walken. He’s pretty tall and handsome, with tales of his recent law school experience to share.

I have truly come to loathe Bluebook Legal Citations as they seem like a convoluted form of math, a.k.a. geometry. Luckily, I’ve been doing technical legal writing since 2005 when I began my law enforcement career. I just have to tweek it for the civil side of legal writing.

Lately, I’ve been racing home after the Caterpillar’s class to watch my favorite show, “American Horror Story: My Roanaoke Nightmare.”

Then on Thursdays, I attend Civil Procedure with the lovely Mad Hatter. He taught my husband 10 years ago and I really appreciate him as an attorney. I’ve learned so much but his lectures don’t make any sense unless you have the 28 United States Code, Constitution, or Federal Rules of Civil Procedure right in front of you. And I enjoy playing back his lectures the next day. The Mad Hatter has pulled some fun out of an otherwise dry source of material. One week we talked about Rule 9(g), Special Damages like Loss of Consortium. I made the Monica Lewinsky-esque joke about if a woman hurts her neck during a car wreck…the whole class died laughing. He knew it was me, and I’m the only student whose name he calls on because of his friendship with my husband. I just cracked up all over again when I played back the lecture. The next week, he was talking about Domestic Relations and how he had a client filing for divorce bringing in a box of adult novelty toys and how his wife cheated on him with Ashley Madison. LOL!

Gotta love the Mad Hatter

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On blessed Friday nights when I’m supposed to be off work having a blast, I have to be stuck in class with the Queen of Hearts (who’s actually a guy from Tennessee who commutes to teach us). Our class had the Queen of Hearts for Lawyering Fundamentals seminar, and now we have him again. Every time he calls on you, he likes to get combative and embarrass you. It doesn’t feel like the Socratic Method, but more like “Off with your head!” Torts is by far the most entertaining subject matter in law school yet (I’m really looking forward to Criminal Law). But Torts can feel like a burden when you have to formulate your essays to meet the Barbri jacked up criteria…and all homework is posted on the Matrix. Pop quizzes are given as often as the Queen of Hearts plays croquet.

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Finally, I have changed so much in the past few months. I have let toxic friendships go by the wayside, but have kept up with cherished old friends. I made new friends at church and at school, with whom I am in constant communication.

Importantly, being away from home for a 10 hour working day followed by a 3 hour class has made me really appreciate down-time with my family. I make an effort to plan fun things with my husband and I cuddle with my son as much as possible. I keep on regularly practicing yoga, having not taught anyone at a gym since August. I also make time to go hiking and to attend church, to keep some semblance of a routine outside of class and work.

As far as finances go, I have to set my intention to live frugally by saving up for tuition and the mortgage payment. I pay the law school tuition 3 times each semester in cash. It’s very affordable legal education. Even if I don’t pass the bar exam, I’ll still have a juris doctor, which looks great on a résumé. The only splurge I made was on a basic $300 laptop on a tax-free weekend. I only do legal work on the laptop; I also bought $600 worth of text books to use next semester as well, and an LL Bean sturdy fuchsia book messenger bag.

Several of my friends with whom I began law school have already quit. But I say, let the pieces fall where they may and let the strongest survive. In 4 years, I’ll be ready to take the bar exam and move forward with my life. As for now, I’m planning a Halloween camping trip with my son and husband this weekend. Maybe I’ll have some new glamping, minimalism, tiny house, nature material for you.

Down the rabbit hole I go…

alice-6…following the White Rabbit (time/opportunity/ambition) has been the best choice I’ve made in years.

Next Stop, Greenwich Village!…In My Dreams

I’ve been mildly obsessed with Tiny Houses since December, but today during lunch I stumbled upon…TINY APARTMENTS in NY, NY!

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I was eating lunch and reading my guilty pleasure, The Daily Mail, when I clicked on a story about actress Parker Posey selling her Greenwich Village apartment for 1.45 million. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3608848/An-indie-dream-home-Parker-Posey-lists-Greenwich-Village-apartment-1-45million.html

I further researched the 30 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10011 property on Trulia.com, my best friend for real estate intel online. Of course it didn’t share exactly the square feet of the tiny apartment, but it did spark my interest in looking at similar availabilities in Greenwich Village, Upper East Side Manhattan, Brooklyn, and even Harlem.

Let me get this straight for you. I live in the Deep South and have no foreseeable future of myself and my family moving to the Big Apple, although I have spent a few days there and much prefer NY to CA any day of the week. I’m just incredibly nosy!

Do you know how much you can ascertain about how a class of people from a certain area live? Most of the real estate postings featured pictures of seller’s apartments, as they were. Not many had staged furniture and art décor. While surfing, you can see how the NY bunch lives. I must give them a hand….many of them survive in tiny spaces with highly organized lifestyles and utilitarian furniture.

Tim-Seggerman-NYC-Apartment_1Just playing pretend here, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my current furnishings and possessions from my 5 & 3 crammed into a chic NY apartment. Saying it would be a challenge is definitely an understatement. I would have to PURGE, PURGE, PURGE, to DOWNSIZE, DOWNSIZE, DOWNSIZE. A majority of suburbanite Americans from the middle class would share the difficulties in this feat. If we all packed up and moved to the city that never sleeps, a massive group of people would have to adopt a minimalist lifestyle to survive.

Most descriptions of these Tiny Apartments come with laundry, gym, terrace, basement storage (with a waiting list), and a bike room in each building structure. That means, adios to all of our cars! This is the land where he who owns a bike/a subway pass is king.

Just about any New Yorker you talk to would rather give up unnecessary clutter and space in exchange to live in their fair city in the Empire State. Opportunity trumps possessions. What if we lived like this no matter where we reside? Big city, or big farm, could Americans pare down their material objects enough to where they could pack up and move in small living quarters at any time?

The more I purge unwanted possessions at home (one in, two out rule), I begin to see myself packing it all up one day and downsizing. Most ladies (and some fellas) get their jollies from buying a bunch of new clothes and trendy cars. I like to buy organizational equipment to hang up on the walls, to declutter my closets with the KonMari Method, and to square off my drawers of trinkets. The less I have, the richer I feel. Frankly, this translates into the less junk you buy regularly, the more money you have in the bank. Frugaling and minimalism go hand in hand.

In this new day in age, I’m going to be more mindful of not being wasteful of my space. Wouldn’t it be neat if we all lived like these compact New Yorkers?! [Cue Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York, It’s been waiting for you…” playing in the background]

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Me in NYC 2014 (Midtown, Manhattan)_______________________________________________________________

“My dwelling was small, and I could hardly entertain an echo in it; but it seemed larger for being a single apartment and remote from neighbors.”–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

Dystopian Society Dictates No Clothing Changes, KonMari Method In Place

Two nights ago, I had this deeply lucid dream about living in a dystopian society where each person was only allowed to wear one outfit a day. Huh?

That’s right. Perhaps Hunger Games, The Giver, 1984, and similar literary works have gotten too much in our culture’s subconscious. When I start conversations with, “Big Brother is watching us…” my friends threaten me with a proverbial tin foil hat.

Back to the dream…imagine if laws were put in place about not changing clothes. If you were only allowed to wear one set of clothing all day long, no matter what, or there would be consequences to face. In my dream, I specifically remember attending a Christmas parade in the snow where there was a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in “Santa baby” type flirty winter wear. My thoughts were, “Oh, I guess she’s stuck being dressed like that all day long, despite the frigid weather.”

If this dream was activated in the waking world, nurses, cops, firemen, and all uniformed employees would be forced to wear work attire all day long. Even to sleep in. Maybe Freud would say my recent research into minimalism was the driving force behind such dream sequences. Enter Marie Kondo.

Who hasn’t heard of “Spark Joy” or the KonMari method at this point? Marie Kondo and her “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” have been all over the international news by now. Kondo has appeared on numerous talk shows with her translator at hand. I’m in the middle of reading her first book now, having accidentally read the sequel, “Spark Joy” first.

In my obsessive quest for perfection at age 33, I’ve recently spent a lot of time researching minimalism methods, zero waste lifestyles, living off the grid, tiny houses, etc. to lower my carbon footprint and to GET JUNK OUTTA MY LIFE!!!

I call it purging. If someone hasn’t been a good friend, ppppppppurge them out of your life! When you become aware of toxic people and their psychic vampire effects on your life, you tend to avoid them. The same can be said of clutter. Trash. Junk. I despise hoarding overall. It’s one thing always making sure I have an extra black eyeliner or chapstick in stock. It’s another to have 25 backups cluttering my space.

Don’t you know a hoarder who has accumulated years of crapola in his/her living space? My husband described someone he knew who had old newspapers piled to the sky in her living space…because she might want to reread an old article. Really? Ten bucks says she never did.

Obviously, the KonMari method has sunk in for me. Every time I buy a new LL Bean shirt, for example, I purge two older shirts from my closet. 1 in, 2 out. It’s a good method. A few special people have even gone so far as to create capsule wardrobes for themselves. I personally cannot do this because I have about three types of clothing styles I rotate when the personality that comes with it suits me.

Let’s go back to the dream I had. Pretend you can only wear one outfit a day without changing clothes or else you would get arrested or fined because Big Brother was constantly watching your small town, utilizing ubiquitous surveillance techniques. What would you wear all day long? I would eliminate jeans because they are constrictive. No more blazers like I’m wearing today at work. Most tight, short skirts could be eliminated. I guess our “uniform” would be utilitarian colors like black, white, and navy in cotton. Pants would be loose and breathable but easy to bend in like yoga pants. Tops would have to look dressy but still be comfortable to sleep in and do physical fitness activities in or just cut the grass while wearing.

Think about it. If you only had one type of outfit all day long encasing your body, you would want to be comfortable but easy to blend in at places of business (not looking like you rolled into Wal-Mart with pj’s on). What if you could pare down your wardrobe so much this actually became your way of life? Whenever I go camping, this is essentially what I do. I’ll wear a pair of loose but dressy leggings all day long and sleep in them to reduce luggage. Same with trips that involve flying.

If the day ever comes where some big eye in the sky dictates for whatever reason we need to incorporate the KonMari method of minimalism and purge all excess clothing, I will have my utilitarian wardrobe at ready-gun. This type of lifestyle has to been cheaper, too. My savings accounts would always be padded because I wouldn’t be doing excessive tog shopping. Here’s to the future!

It’s s’more like playing with Fire than cooking a delicacy

Who doesn’t like to play with fire?

Being a Taurus, nature has dictated that I’m an Earth sign, an Earth-mama if you will. But we need ALL of the elements in our lives! Obviously, I live for Water…such as boating, swimming, floating, and being by the lake. Whenever my honey and I take trips, we enjoy the Air element by flying…usually via Southwest; you get the picture. Anyone can attest that the Fire element is what keeps us, um…burning with a passion for life. Let me introduce to you the daughter of Fire and Sweets: her name is S’more.

S'mores a la carte

S’mores a la carte

Here we have the marriage of chocolate, graham crackers, fluffy marshmallows on their date with destiny, aka Fire.

Whenever I’m out in nature, I behold the firepit! We have one at home in our front yard and one at the RV resort. For my son’s fifth birthday party a few weeks ago, I built a firepit using a simple article on http://www.wikihow.com and some connected stones from Home Depot.

Check out the handsome camper in green, my son at our home firepit as he roasts wieners.

We made magic again this past weekend at the lakeside firepit beneath the country stars.

Bonfire

That goober lying on the ground is me. I like to be close to the Earth and Fire elements, obviously. My stepson, son, and husband are also around the fire.

There’s no simpler way to enjoy nature melding gastropleasures with the Fire element than by making s’mores. All that sugar makes a gal a bit crazy…

Bonfire yowza

Pinecones, rocks, logs, pine straw and a lighter are all you need to make memories around a campfire.

It all seems so simple. And it is. Not to mention cheap. Frugality meets ingenuity which begets s’mores.

And bears.

Bear rock firepit


“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of the wilderness–“-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Bookworms Trump Boobtubes

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I have a sneaky habit of not paying for books much.

I’m not saying I steal them; heavens, no! Using frugality as my friend, I have learned creative tricks into being able to read a looooooooot.

Just this very day, I removed the flat-screen TV and DVD player from my office. I only had it on my desk taking up space and collecting dust for no reason. Over Christmas holidays, it’s pretty dead around my office. The courts are closed and I have a propensity to bring some DVD’s with me to work to play as, er….background noise.

But that’s exactly what TV has become for my generation. Background noise. I’d rather listen to my iPod while working profusely at my work desk. This is one of those minimalism examples you’ve been hearing about. For me, it’s been cutting out TV a good bit. I’m not plagued by the constant barrage of advertisements making me feel guilty for not having said products.

On the other hand, I have nerdishly been hoarding books. The state’s biggest library is just 3 miles from my office. One of my clients frequents there among all the other urban hobos who like the clean facility and cool air condition in the Deep South. I’ll use the excuse that I’m looking for my client and duck out to the library.

Currently, my husband and I have been reading some of the Dave Ramsey saga, if you will. We started with Financial Peace and now we are on  Total Money Makeover. We sit at the dining room table at night with an adult refreshment while he reads aloud and I take notes. We stop and discuss each chapter, in the hopes that Ramsey’s wisdom sinks in. Next in that set for our family to read is the book Ramsey wrote with his daughter called Smart Money, Smart Kids. Since the library check out of that one was about to expire, I made copies of the bulk of it and put it in a binder. We are going to share the insight with my son and stepsons before it’s too late!!!

I feel like with Non-Fiction, I can read about 10 books at a time and not get them confused. This used to baffle my grandmother. Out of respect for her and her demented mind in the nursing home, I only ready one fiction book at a time. I just finished The Revenant and for a western (not my favorite genre) it was pretty good! It was also a library book in which I had my local branch place a hold.

Then, when I open up my Kindle, I have an Amazon Prime Member’s Lending Library free book checked out right now. The one I’m about to start is Leah Remini’s scathing anti-Scientology autobiography My Escape From Scientology. I’m rather obsessed on the subject, especially since I just finished reading Going Clear, which was made into an HBO film.

Also on my Kindle, I have an e-book checked out from my library which expires in 14 days. I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, the follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. I own my second copy of that book, having given my first copy to a divorcing sorority sister a few years ago. I have the movie too, but as the old adage goes, “The book is better than the movie.” Even Julia Roberts couldn’t completely redeem the written page. Liz also wrote Big Magic, which I bought and read during football season. My lucky ex-sister-in-law met Liz at a book signing in TN. #jealous

On my lunch break this week, I dropped off a bucket of hardback books and old movies to sell to 2nd & Charles. While I was waiting on my store credit to accumulate, I browsed all the books. I found a new author who intrigued me named Wilkie Collins. Instead of buying his book in the store, I searched iTunes Store on my smart phone and the Amazon e-book collection. Both had his works for free, so I downloaded The Moonstone and The Haunted House for gratis.

At any given moment, I’m on a list at my local library branch for whatever book that suits my fancy. Books typically don’t take up much space, especially if you use an e-reader. My Kindle Paperwhite fits nicely in my purse and I can read outside without eyestrain.

Basically, people come into my office and notice how sparsely decorated it is. That I have a tiny desk. That I have a Lilly Pulitzer for Target lounge chair. <—It’s for reading on breaks! But I always have at least two books with me. They are universally the best entertainment.

I can literally be working on a document while on the clock and as I wait for it to download, etc., I can steal glances at whatever book I’m reading that moment.

Here is my challenge for you, reader: substitute reading a book in lieu of your next boobtube opportunity. You may be delighted at the lack of mental distraction you face with an open book instead of incessant noise and rambling of the TV.

If you’re like me and you’re hungry for books, always go to the thrift store first for the best deals. Or have a book trading party. I did that once at my house and it was very successful.

Next, check out free downloads on Amazon Kindle, iTunes for iBooks, and Nook. Check with your local library branch about available e-books too.

Finally, go to your favorite physical bookstore with a hot beverage in hand. Carefully browse the sections that speak to you. Fantasy. Erotica. History. Young Adult. Health. New Age. Whatever… then, take pictures or type a list on your smartphone of books you want to read next.

Take that list with you to the library to request titles. Ask friends if they have those books to borrow. And always check if they’re free online. If they cost money, download a sample. Usually, you can get a taste of how the author is going to navigate said-book to see if it’s worth your while to buy. I have dozens of samples on my Kindle!! Sometimes the first chapter is ENOUGH.

Happy reading!


“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

 

Mortgage Minimalism: Leaving the Pyramids to the Pharaohs

“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.”- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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  • Have we been spending our lives building our own pyramid, in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, which was mostly allocated to mortgage payments?

I have been to banks a lot lately, spreading my cheer around several different branches of the bank where I have my two mortgages.

Around this time in 2010, my husband and I were newly-weds, looking to buy a house. We had been renting a condo from the mutual friends who set us up on a blind date in the first place. My car had just been broken into in the condo’s shady parking lot of the Southside neighborhood and I felt violated. The tenant in the condo underneath ours had just written a scathing complaint letter about how we needed rugs on the hardwoods because he could hear me stomping in my stilettos like an elephant. Gee, thanks, man! Plus the condominium’s site felt haunted to me, with a presence of an evil spirit that even holy water couldn’t wash away.

Dave and I met up at the bank where we have the mortgage and were approved for a loan. The first home we toured with a real estate agent fell through because someone more qualified scooped it up before we could get a contract. No worries, because we found a nice 3 BR/2 BA in a fairly quiet neighborhood a few weeks later.

If you were to look back at the US economy in 2008, the highlight (low point) of the year was the crash of the real estate market! The greedy dogs at the FDIC approved financial institutions threw loans out to anyone like free Moonpies at Mardi Gras. People could no longer afford their mortgage loans and thousands were foreclosed upon.

The negative impact of the 2008 economic crash was still in disarray in 2010, two years later. The interest rate I was able to get on that home loan was about 5.3%, even with a decently-sized down payment which cut into my life savings. Nevertheless, Dave and I were proud to be homeowners together in our new marriage. We closed on the house in the first week of May and moved in the very next day. Yet, this definitely put a damper on our friendship with the people from whom we were renting, and in anger, the couple decided to never see or speak to us again. Their loss.

Moving on, my monthly mortgage payments did not feel that bad. At the time, they were about a third of my monthly income, with Dave’s money as not even a factor in the picture. Three months later, we were set to expand our brood and I fell pregnant with my son right before we even started officially trying. Okay, we took a trip to Las Vegas and I didn’t actually expect to get pregnant so quickly. Sam was just ready to be hatched in this world, I suppose!

Even with a new mouth to feed, everything was financially stable. I sold my old house with my ex-husband and collected a small fortune which I applied to buy a used Mercedes Benz station-wagon. I had to haul around so much baby stuff that it made sense…and I felt superficially that I was moving up in the world. (Deep down, I knew the car was probably a hoop-tee. And yes, it did die three years later. But this article is mainly about mortgages, not car loans. See my future article for that.)

We enjoyed living in that 3&2 house in the quiet neighborhood very much. It was about 13 miles from my office downtown, and Sam was being dropped off at my mom’s house 10 miles away while Dave and I worked.

During my off-time, I would go walking around the neighborhood where some residents had horses and chickens. A pre-Civil War cemetery was just one street over, which made for an interesting hike. Not all parts of that small town were as sylvan as our neighborhood. The downtown area had a cinematically-famous restaurant, a quaint railroad-view shopping strip, and a cute library I used to visit every summer as a child for the reading programs.

My husband Dave would pack me and an infant Sam up on Tuesday nights for the City Council Meetings of the small town. We became very involved in the political scene and he was vetted to run for City Council in our district.  I became his campaign manager and we knocked door-to-door for a grassroots trail. The first question people would ask him during these face-to-face home visits was, “Where do you go to church?” Question 2 was, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” and 3 was regarding college football teams, if he made it that far.

Small towns in the South really want you to belong to the First Baptist, First Methodist, or First anything big and protestant. Political affiliation is totally insignificant in small towns where the candidate is running for city council. Big deal, right? WRONG. Dave lost by only a few dozen votes because voter turn out on that Tuesday night at my precious library was very minimal. It wasn’t a presidential or a gubernatorial race, so residents didn’t care that much. I slapped on my red dress and Jackie O sunglasses and pretended to not be a sore loser’s would-be first lady’s wife. At least Dave and I both gained a tremendous amount of experience with him running for office. We met a ton of lovely townsfolk and made lasting friendships with other candidates and their families. Even his opponent, the incumbent, has remained graceful and kind at the point of this writing.

The Wednesday after the lost election, Dave, Sam, and I went out to a hibachi Japanese grill to celebrate our efforts and to mourn our losses. After enough sake, I convinced Dave to drive us around to look at houses on a whim. We explored one town over from our current residence and really became interested in moving. Maybe it was the defeat talking. Or maybe I didn’t want Sam to go to Catholic school, which he would have done had we stayed in the small town where we had our 3&2. I was ready to move! This was in the early fall of 2012.

By October of that year, there I sat in an attorney’s office, closing on yet another house with the same bank who gave me the first mortgage loan. My mother tried to warn me by saying there’s no way in hell she would’ve owed a bank for two loans, totaling way more than I ever care to share in a blog. Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I headstronged my way into that deal anyway.

With the help of the internet, Dave had found us a 5 BR/ 3 BA in a great city with an amazing school system. The house was a deal because the current owner was in the military and on a “RELO” program where he had moved to Germany. He only wanted to make back what he owed on his loan, giving me a good $75,000 in equity in the house per tax value on signing day.

I did not have buyer’s remorse on our “mansion” but I certainly felt the impact of loss in my take-home paycheck. Now I had two mortgages with the same bank owing X amount of dollars, nearly 6 times my annual income!

Being “house poor” exists, ladies and gentlemen. Dave Ramsey refers to the situation where someone spends a majority of her income on a mortgage loan, with little left over. I wasn’t saving much money then. I had a toddler to finance AND I was keeping up with the Joneses. The new city was upper-middle class, and most denizens had a certain look, while keeping up the elite image.  I swore to my parents I would never get the “XYZ Haircut” and would not wear the same stupid shoes or carry the stupid purses the ladies of XYZ town wore.

To stimulate my rebellion, I went thrift store shopping a lot. Dave and I made it a habit to share a pitcher of beer and a meal at Logan’s Roadhouse with Sam, and then head over to the thrift store to shop. We had stuffitis (another Dave Ramsey coined term). I had to buy stuff to fill the McMansion with paintings for the walls, tchotchkes for the bookshelves, and clothes for my walk-in closets.

It makes me sick 4 years later to stroll into my basement and see all the wasted items I bought from thrift stores that I didn’t need in the first place. Wonky IKEA discards, ill-fitting clothes, uncomfortable second-hand shoes, crappy toys for Sam, wall art that’s always been ugly.

Since getting turned on to the minimalist way of life, I have purged hundreds of bags of items to the Salvation Army. I wasted thousands of dollars looking good for the Joneses in my McMansion with a bunch of crap.

I am a very careful thrift store shopper now. If I buy a used LL Bean shirt, I find two unliked shirts in my closet to purge for the needy. If I buy a thrift store book, I find two to donate to my grandma’s nursing home or I leave them at the RV Resort laundry room’s pile of community books. One in, two or more out.

I got with the Dave Ramsey program last summer and have snowballed all of my debt into non-existence except for the two mortgage loans.

I did not have to learn the hard way for very long on the 3&2 house because Dave eventually found a lovely renter who has contracted to rent our home since late 2013.

In light of the downsizing and Tiny House Movement, I have mentally planned to move back into the smaller home in the next 9-15 years or so, depending on Sam’s education. I can fit a tiny house easily in the backyard of the 3&2 or even my parents’ RV if they get sick of it at the Lake, a.k.a. Walden 2.0.

By moving back one day, I would have to purge the enormous amount of furniture/furnishings that simply will not fit if we downsize. In a little notebook, I jotted down all the furniture and wall art I actually want to keep. I can have an estate sale or sell the other crap on Craig’s List when the time comes. Also, donating items to family, friends, and the poor is the richest experience!

Basically, I’ve learned not to over-borrow ever again. Banks are only out to make money, not to be my personal charity. Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Live your own truth, despite the zip code. Strive for low interest rates if you have to borrow. Follow Dave Ramey’s Financial Peace and eschew debt once you’ve snowballed it away. Save money; plan for retirement. Live below your means. And NEVER EVER EVER make yourself house poor. Leave the pyramids and palaces to the pharoahs and kings.

Will I get a lower interest rate on that first loan? Probably not. Refinancing is going to be too retroactive to my financial picture at this time. Dave and I decided to grow our liquid assets as we simultaneously pay on the principal of the smallest loan first, staying true to the debt snowball theory.

If you have had a similar experience with home mortgages and being house greedy then poor, I truly feel for you. Calculate your debt and schedule principal payments. If I make an additional $500.00 on principal outside of my renter’s monthly dues, I can pay the 3&2 off in a little over 8 years.

Here’s ’til then!

 

 

Broken Piggybank With Dollar Notes

Does this image reflect your present financial situation?

Drop It Like It’s Toxic: A Journey About Ditching Membership in a Time-Consuming, Horrible Organization

Bye, Felicia!SaM“Others—as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders—serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God.”- Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

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-When one has been wronged by an organization, where are the gatekeepers?

-At what point is it the final straw to make a club member quit for good?

-Don’t confuse staying busy with being a socialite.

-Minimalism is walking away from a toxic organization that brings you pain, freeing up your time.

-Being frugal is quitting a bad club and counting the money you’ve saved.

 

Once upon a time while the economy was crumbling in 2008, I started a new job. I cannot tell you what I do or where I work specifically, but the occupation can be unionized. That same year I began my work, I joined an organization, a union with collective bargaining abilities. But more than anything, it was a social club. Henceforth, I shall refer to it as “the club” so I won’t blow the cover on the true organization for legal purposes.

The only truly active member from my office on the local level was our since-retired geriatric transgender coworker I’ll call for all intents and purposes Odin. I had been warned to turn down Odin’s advances on joining the club, yet I eventually succumbed to peer pressure with a group of others my age.

By 2009, Odin had talked me into attending the national convention of the club in Long Beach, California. The trip was planned for August, and I brought my new fiancé along with me to make it a working vacation. I would attend meetings and seminars by day; by evening, we could explore LBC and even L.A., a train ride away. That trip probably cost me a whopping $1,500.00; my fiancé, who is now my husband, was a fresh-out-the-gate lawyer without much income. We scraped together funds to have an amazing trip anyway! We even met a few celebrities, and SoCal proved to be exactly how we had imagined it.

Back to the grind, the club realized they had done right by making me a delegate for the convention, and in October, they voted me in as the 2nd Vice President for 2010. This meant I would attend the first Monday of the month meetings, pay attention, recruit new club members, attend community events by manning the club table, attend state conventions each spring, and attend national conventions on odd years.

Dave and I made it the first year of marriage with the club sneaking its way into our schedule and pocketbooks. Those hotel rooms for conventions didn’t come cheap, and the airplane tickets were out of pocket only, never reimbursed.

The drive to the club meetings wasn’t so bad at first, yet I still had to buy supper out first for both of us. The meetings started at 7 and rarely fed the clan. Also, club membership was about $50 a year, a price I paid, not Dave.

Fall of 2010 rolled around, and I became pregnant with our son Sam. This didn’t stop me! I attended every meeting except for the one in May of 2011 in which I gave birth. We even went to the state convention with me pregnant and uncomfortable. Dave played cards and drank while I did prenatal yoga in the hotel gym and dipped in the pool. By this time, I was our local club’s Vice President.

Once Sam was born, we still went to meetings, infant in tow! Dave became involved in the auxiliary faction of the club and had his own meetings next door on first Mondays. We became heavily entrenched in the team spirit and doctrine of the club. Sam came with us to the summer 2011 convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Everyone in the club statewide expected to see me with my two hunky sidekicks, husband and son.

In 2012, my family bought a newer, larger house and our budget became tighter; we still hadn’t sold the previous one. (Stupid, rookie mistake!!!!! I would downsize in a heartbeat if I could back into the smaller, cheaper house, but it has renters in it now. This topic is for a future article.) Yet, we still went to the spring state convention and almost never missed a monthly meeting. I had a panic attack when I went with my parents to the beach during the October election meeting. Someone dared run against me! She ended up losing by one vote. I stayed Vice President by the skin of my teeth.

None of my coworkers attended meetings anymore except for Odin. They all thought I was so weird to be travelling with such a social outcast across the country during my free time!

Not only did we upgrade our home in 2012, but I also became a yoga teacher. This new skill I had invested in gave me confidence and multi-dimensionality that I wasn’t getting from my day job or the club. And all the old heads of the club expressed that I was strange for taking such a liking to yoga!

To break it down, the club on a national level is not very diverse. It’s all old white men who are pretty much retired; there’s only one black man in an office in the national club level. Females are forbidden as a written rule. So are other minorities and gays.

In our local club level, I was the only true female with an office. All were white, as they had gotten rid of the only African American guy, much to my chagrin. They were all retired or over 50. I was in my 20’s, working, and female.

On a state level, to this day there exists no females on the board as officers and no minorities. All are retirement age or older. All are Republicans and Christians. I am not going into a religious or political diatribe, just showing the statistics.

During the state conventions, I found myself talking to the same people statewide, and mostly members’ wives. Dave had to be by my side or the male members would think I was flirting. We drank quite a bit and usually Sam would spend the night with one of his grandmothers, or he would be with us at the hotel, being watched by some of the older ladies. All of the parties were at the hotel’s conference rooms, which made it awfully convenient to party on the club’s dime.

But that’ s not why I joined. I wanted to belong. My sorority days ended in 2005 when I graduated from college. I felt the need for a club of like-minded individuals to accept me into their tribe.

Having a small child, a day job, a husband with a day job, and a yoga hobby, I found it suddenly unbearable to motivate myself to attend meetings. We still trucked on though, the three of us, eating out dinner and drinking beer before each first Monday meeting. The drive from my new house to the civic center where the club rented a monthly room was a 45 minute drive. And it was getting very late at night when we returned home! Poor Sam! Small children shouldn’t be just coming home at nine o’clock at night from the hustle and bustle of club meetings.

When 2013 rolled around the corner, the national convention was in Cincinnati, OH. The three of us had a grand time, especially at the zoo event where the club rented the whole zoo and had live music! But that trip was especially expensive. My purse strings were starting to feel the burn by then.

After the trip, I came back home and realized how dissatisfied I had become with the club on a local, state, and national level. Something just ate away at me, and it wasn’t purely the financial aspect.

Meetings were getting worse; one of the main officers in our local club was interrupting a lot. He was over 70 and getting senile; he could not control his outbursts during the meetings. Every. Single. Meeting. I began to completely loathe his existence. He had a cane and tried to hit Sam with it once. I told him if he ever touched my child, I would take his cane and shove it down his throat. You don’t mess with my baby.

My position as VP made me sit at the head table before the club members at each meeting, to the left of the President. He would never ask my opinion, never call me, never take me seriously. He and the other 3 members at the head table were all war vets over 60. He didn’t believe I belonged in my chosen profession in the first place, let alone in the club as VP!

He was absent a lot, touring junk shows with his wife in an RV, so I was left to run the meetings frequently. Having to initiate new members into the club after drinking a pitcher of beer at the pizza parlor before the meeting was SOOOO MUCH FUN! Beer was the only thing to numb my hatred towards the senile cane member, the president, and several others. I was not in their old boys’ club!!

Something had to be done. Over Christmas break, I penned a letter to my state’s ACLU chapter about the gross discrimination and conspicuous disparity in gender/age/color in the club. However, I NEVER mailed the letter. It was just to vent and to share with a few unaffiliated friends. I saved a copy though for fun and to serve as a reminder of how sick things had gotten on a local and state level.

To quote myself, “Throughout the week [at national conventions], one can stand at the front of the large auditoriums and count just a handful of blacks and females present at the meetings. And if any members are LGBT, they have to keep it on the hush….A transgender, Wiccan veteran member was nominated for member of the year at the state convention, but was blatantly voted against by the majority. She lost to a white male officer who had only been in the club for a year. The local lodge of which I am a member/executive officer is very obviously xenophobic…The President makes snide comments aloud during the meetings to target me, the only female on the executive board. He refuses to let me sign any formal document and never asks my opinions or updates during officers’ reports….”

I also referred to the senile cane-carrying member in my letter, outlining how he recounts awful pre-Civil Rights era stories without sensitivity to those different from him.

I ended the letter talking about how the club doesn’t take to change very well, locally, statewide, or nationally. I said I was afraid to report the sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic allegations of abuse because of the repercussions I would face. And that it felt like a bastardized branch of a Masonic Lodge, especially with Big Brother watching out for favorites and damning the diverse member of the body.

Then 2014 happened. I told my local club I either wanted out or to run for office on the state level. They put me up to it. I raised campaign funds, had t-shirts made with my name, pens made with my name, and other gimmicks to pass out before state convention meetings. I made signs, took publicity photos of myself, and even had Sam and Dave campaigning for me.

I lost by like, 10 votes out of 200. The incumbent who won cried. I made a grown man cry! He knew he could’ve lost to me. This campaign was a wakeup call to the officials in the club!

Instead of wanting to be more inclusive of different people, the good old boys club grew stronger and more powerful to beat. They banded together and we got excluded.

Simultaneously, in mid-2014, I started teaching yoga on Monday nights and could not break away much from first Monday local club meetings. I was making money instead of spending money on gas and expensive dinners before meetings.

I started dis-branding myself as a member, and held myself out more as a yoga teacher. Surprisingly, I was voted on as Member of the Year 2014 in the local club.

When I was presented as a candidate in 2015 at the state convention in March against 5 other people for the same spot statewide, I lost to a man. To several men, actually. I didn’t even get runner up or honorable mention!! No female did. No one of a diverse nature did. Just older white men.

I got pissed off too at the 2015 convention by the friction between those actually running against each other for offices. They played nasty and ran dirty campaigns. I also started noticing cliques emerging statewide and wondered, WHAT DO I HAVE IN COMMON WITH THIS PEOPLE?! Then one of the auxiliary cows (wife of a club member) asked if I was pregnant because I was wearing a sundress over leggings. She asked it very loudly while I was holding an obvious beer can. I was like, NO!! NEVER HAVING ANYMORE CHILDREN. MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN FIXED. DIDN’T YOUR MOTHER EVER TEACH YOU THAT’S RUDE TO ASK ANOTHER WOMAN?

I was livid. I was tired. I was quitting. Our local club treasurer was also trying to charge me extra for registration that he did not charge the male members from our club who had attended the state convention. Why me?

The final straw came by mail in October of 2015. I received a letter in the mail from the state president telling me I was kicked off my two state committees because I had not been attending local club meetings. Never mind the yoga. Never mind the small child. Never mind how hard work had gotten by day. Never mind my budget, or that my hubby had taken a corporate job over running his own law firm.

I was sick with anger. I remember lying in my front yard on a yoga mat while my husband was inside watching college football. I was on the phone with my mom. She told me it wasn’t that important. What was I trying to prove? Why was I trying to be so involved? I did enough. I had enough. Let it go. Move on. Minimalize my time.

Dave agreed. My best friend Beth agreed and told me straight up the club was toxic. “Cut out the toxic!” she said over and over like a mantra.

I did. And I never looked back. I unfriended hundreds of club members on Facebook, which was freeing!

I added up all the money I saved from membership dues, monthly meetings in gas/food, hotel rooms, plane tickets, and other expenses. Dave and I saved $5,000.00 by quitting when we did!

Being frugal is being a steward of your finances and cutting out unnecessary organizations.

Being a minimalist is letting go extra clutter that takes up space and time.

Being a yogi, I focused on teaching yoga every Monday night, LOVING my trade, and NEVER missing the first Monday meetings.

Being wise, I learned to let go of the toxic.

But I still wish there had been a watchdog to report the club to for justice…..Nah. I’m just going to forgive them and continue moving on.

I’m ‘Enlightened’ by a Fictitious Yoga Teacher

In case you were wondering, I’ve been practicing yoga since around age 15 in the late ’90’s. I went through the Yoga Teacher Training 200 hour program in 2012 ,and I’ve been teaching ashtanga/kundalini in the evenings at my local gym one night a week to supplement my day job.

Yoga is a big part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me or my religious beliefs. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Henry David Thoreau talks quite a bit about yoga in Walden; he alludes to The Bhagavad Gita, The Vedas, and a handful of Hindu pantheon of gods. Even the Walden Pond water was outsourced to parts of India in the winter time via ice blocks to resupply the holy Ganges River. Yep, that puritan would’ve been great at doing some Hot Yoga in his Tiny House when the Concord, Massachusetts, summer heated things up a bit. Thoreau could have admired his svelte, yoga-toned body in the looking glass if he were a modern-day yogi. It seems we “modern-day yogis” are encapsulated with the external rewards of yoga alone and not the spiritual or existential benefits from which it originally stemmed.

Having said that, I too am guilty of pimping out my yoga practice as just exercise, and being over 30, I’m starting to develop body-image issues as I age. All it takes is a glance at Yoga Journal‘s cover or a stop in lululemon’s store to make me feel like a fat failure. And I’m a teacher. Yes, kids, this is what you get. Yoga teachers have issues with their bodies too.

Last night, I stumbled upon an episode of HBO’s Enlightened on Amazon Prime called “Sandy,” guest-starring Robin Wright. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you would know RW from The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, and most recently Netflix’s House of Cards. enlightened sandy waving

On “Sandy,” RW was visiting the main character, Amy Jellicoe, who is played by the wonkily-lithe Laura Dern. Sandy flew into California for a yoga intensive seminar and she was staying at Amy’s house. The two ladies met in a Hawaiian rehab for people who had nervous breakdowns from stress. They reconnected on the episode and first off took to eat some organic vegan gelato while they shopped at a New Age holistic health food store, like all of us yogis do regularly. 🙂 Jk sorta…

2 friends walking.PNG thank you for the vegan gelato.PNG

2 friends shopping.PNG

Sandy’s character had been a government employee for over twenty years, but she suffered a mental breakdown from overpowering stress that comes with the job. She became a yoga teacher and masseuse as an alternative career change. I don’t blame her, but I would sure miss the government benefits!

Like all good yoga teachers do, Sandy gave a free class to Amy in her home. (Technically, it was Amy’s mother’s house because Amy’s character is broke from a divorce. Plus rehab put her $24,000 in debt. It sounds like our buddy Amy wasn’t too good at the whole frugaling and minimalism thing.)

In the episode, Sandy seems to be a minimalist, in dress, food, and deed. She lives her yoga teacher credo in all aspects of her life, living mindfully and consciously choosing to do right for her body. I wish I had that kind of discipline. She even makes delicious looking plant smoothies after lecturing Amy’s mom about eating too much processed food. Consequently, Sandy gets kicked out of Amy’s mom’s house for annoying her and being too hippy dippy.

making an organic smoothie.PNG

The whole episode struck a chord with me. I know that the episode is fiction but RW really carried off the character of Sandy as a yoga teacher. She embodied the “natural” yoga teacher look with little or no makeup and very simple clothes. She has very little accessories on, maybe a spiritual necklace and a rudraksha-beaded bracelet.

When she travelled via plane, Sandy only had one hippy-looking duffel bag in which she kept her purse and a yoga mat. How sparsely packed she was! A true minimalist can only hope to achieve this layer of ease when flying. Sandy’s only means of entertainment was a thick, leather journal, prescribed by rehab to keep up with her therapy. Dipstick Amy admitted she had not been journaling much since her re-entry into the normal, stressful world. She even attempts to sneak a peek at Sandy’s journal later on when she’s mad at her.

journaling

Spoiler: At the end of the episode, we find out that Sandy’s journal was filled with floral drawings and no heavy Dear-Diary entries.

Nevertheless, should we all strive to be more like Sandy when we travel? This fictitious yoga teacher didn’t get so jetlagged that she sprung for the airport hotdog or binged on local craft beers to help her sleep. Hell! she even tried to help Amy’s mom detox her own diet. Sandy wore the same jeans the whole episode with some airy, tunic tops or light yoga togs. I’ll bet Sandy didn’t even have a hefty makeup bag in her duffel bag, but rather some coconut oil and organic chapstick. A hairdryer? Forget about it. This yogi air-dried her tresses. Sandy truly embodied the “yoga teacher” look.

As for detachment? She nailed it. Departing from Amy didn’t make Sandy cry at all when she was dropped off at the airport, even though Amy wanted to text her and run after her like they were lovers or something. I guess it was a case of unrequited friendship.

Namaste, minimalist Sandy!

dropping off at the airport

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“It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.” -Yogi Bhajan

 

A Facet of Minimalism is Not Being a Rigid Planner

“Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.”-Henry David Thoreau , Walden

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I am the world’s worst foresight maven; I want to know everything about to happen in order to map out each detail. Itineraries, meal schedules, and accounted-for downtime bring me a sense of inner peace. I get this meticulous anal-retentiveness from my dad. We are both about as spontaneous as DMV workers, sigh.

Bringing me out of my comfort zone are whacky, free-spirited friends and family members I encounter on the daily, especially my 4 year old! Yesterday at the “Sea Witch” RV, my dad was playing a table-top game of pool with my son at the breakfast nook. My mom and I struck up a conversation about how we had never been at Lake Guntersville on a Tuesday morning.

Having been a favorite weekend spot of mine, LG’s weekday life teeming on the streets is a whirl of mystery to me. Instead of having planned a day for hiking/biking/yoga/meditation/running at the RV Park, my mom talked me into exploring LG’s town proper.

Since my husband is a Type 1 Diabetic, he has given me advice that one should try to eat meals around the same time every day as to protect blood sugar from drastically rising/falling by eating in a different hour. I’ve grown accustomed to 11 AM o’clock lunches and 3 PM afternoon snacks. My mom was trying to throw off my usual 11 AM rigidity by wanting to travel around the city.

She won. First, we drove along the LG bridge and took in the white caps on the lake and how there weren’t many boats out on the water. That’s not something I’m used to seeing at 11 AM on a work-day of mine! What a pleasant detour from Big City work grind! Spring Break should happen like, every other month 🙂

Next, she drove us around a new road we’ve never gone down called Sunset Drive, which was coincidentally next to the liquor store and Piggly Wiggly where we do our shopping. To take in the scenery, my mom parked and we put on our light jackets to counter the breezy March morning.

I exited her car with just my iPhone, and not my big bulky handbag; my shoulder needed a break. She and I started walking along the seashell-filled shoreline of LG. We found out that the “park” was open to the public and had a running track, biking paths, picnic tables, a tennis court, and a swing set. Not bad at all! Since I was in lacy espadrilles, I declined a cardio walk at that time.

My mother was interrupted by a phone call on her mobile from my son asking her where she had put his toy. I took the opportunity to snap a few scenic shots and even a selfie.

We planned to come back for picnics and bike rides in the near future with the rest of the family and bid our adieus to that faction of LG.

Driving back in the downtown area, I asked if she would stop at a store I’ve never been in before. At the sake of keeping our adventure going, she obliged me. It was called The Savvy Stuff and looked to have outdoor furniture and décor. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; I just wanted to see what awaited us inside.

The main surprise greeted us at the wrought iron fence, which roped off the outdoor pottery from the front door of the inside part of the store. The biggest dog I had ever seen in person sniffed me through the gate! I wish I had taken a picture of this Great Pyrenees. He was really sweet and belonged to the owner, whom we met inside. Monroe the dog immediately ran to me and I was a little bit shocked that a creature his size didn’t knock over anything or do any real damage to the antiques. The Savvy Stuff shop was chock full of hand-blown glassware, ornate furniture, and delicate trinkets which a Mastiff could easily trample. In the spirit of our whimsical journey, my mom and I spoke with the owner for half an hour about the town in general, since we were brand new quasi-residents after all.

Finally, we headed on to Arby’s and used my coupon for some free grub (that’s how we frugal people do!) to bring back to the RV. The only sour part of the unplanned morning was a depressing phone call from my grandma in the nursing home to my mom. She was confused about my great-grandmother who’s been dead since the 1980’s. While assuaging grandma’s dementia on her mobile, my mom nearly got us lost in a seedy part of LG. We calmed down grandma and found our way back to paradise.

The main lesson of the day is to just let go. Let the planning go. Be minimalistic in cognitive schemata by not trying to fit everything into a set schedule. It’s easier on the brain to just go-with-the-flow….me on lg