I Drank The Self-Improvement Kool-Aid

Over the past two years, I read both of the Marie Kondo books, I listened to hours of The Dave Ramsey Show, and I followed every spoken/written word of The Minimalists. I even went to a Tiny House show at my local convention center.

The Minimalists

I found myself overwhelmed with “stuff” in 2014 when one of my grandmothers died and the other one left her house permanently to move into a nursing home.

After one garage sale and dozens of trips to the thrift store/Salvation Army to donate my “stuff”, I felt like I had more control over my household. My husband had already been a minimalist and his way had rubbed off on me. But I came from a hoarder mother, a lovely woman who is a packrat to the umpth degree.

I have been dissatisified with my career and place of work since 2014, and no amount of Dave Ramsey books read along with my husband or purging of my closet Kondo-style could spark the joy within me. Hell, even weekly weekend trips to the lake to camp in my parents’ RV was just a Band-Aid to the hurt within. While bawling at an Applebee’s one night into my merlot, my husband suggested I go back to school. I nearly cussed him out until he clarified what kind of school, law school.

I enrolled and was accepted in August of 2016 into my 1L year of law school. Three classes a week at night after work has become quite the balancing act. Lest we forget I have a kindergartener, two stepkids, and a household to run (I take care of all the pets, all the time).

But somehow, I’m surviving! It’s all about time management; carving out time for study, compartmentalizing time with friends & family too. I made the Dean’s List my first semester and was inducted into the law school’s Honor Society. All of my professors have told me they believe I have what it takes to pass the bar exam on the first try.

What law school has really taught me, so far, isn’t just torts, civil procedure, and legal writing. I’ve also learned how to improve my mind and my outlook on life. I’ve been a yogi since 1999, and I gave up teaching nighttime yoga classes at the local gym to start law school.

While I’ve been sitting on my ass studying, it makes me long for the rubbery smell of the yoga mat and the heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of a run on the track. I have not neglected these close friends because time management allows me to schedule it in using the appropriate discipline.

Exercise aside, the self-improvement aspect that law school has manifested within me is the ability to talk to people, to listen better, to have more confidence, and to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I will not always be doomed to walk down the halls of an asbestos-filled (I’m assuming) rickety government building to a career that has betrayed me while I’ve outgrown it.

Aside from studying daily for law school courses, I’ve also taken up reading again for pleasure, which was something I did not have time to do my first semester. I’ve gone through a bunch of John Grisham paperbacks and other books that have been collecting dust in my house. Since I’m a reformed hoarder myself (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), I have looked at the myriad of books I’ve amassed from the thrift store and asked myself the qualifying question: “Does this book add value to my life?”-The Minimalists. Sometimes I ask it the Marie Kondo question: “Does this spark joy?”

I have purged so many books by leaving them at the RV Park’s revolving library and by trying to resell them at 2nd & Charles. There are some books I just ain’t gonna read. Mostly, I have a lot of reference books and nonfiction too, especially yoga-related ones. I have purged a third of my yoga books, kept my favorites on my nightstand, and the other 3rd are upstairs on the bookshelf still.

I did the unthinkable by befriending a law professor. We got to know each other so well in fact, that he gifted me all of his bar-prep books (a HUGE stack of them) and a bar-prep board game as well. I also inherited all of my husband’s old law books (he’s an attorney too), some of which are very outdated but how much does the law really change? I have just accepted the fact that my house will be overflowing with legal books and bar-prep manuals for the next 4 years. Le sigh!

Despite purging books, I have also accepted the fact that I am a DVD junkie. Heck, ya gotta collect something! We have a closet of DVDs, and we actually still watch 95% of them on rotation. They are not collecting dust or wasting space; my family loves movies. If I ever get a tiny house, I will have a storage shed just for movies (and some of my CDs too). And no, I don’t want to put them in the cloud. My son and I like to read the boxes and prioritize them in the order we are going to watch them. Plus I loan out movies to my family and friends.

Marie Kondo

Next, I have pared down my closet so much in the past two years, it’s like I am finally starting to get a capsule wardrobe. I stick with classic pieces in black, gray, navy, white, and occasionally red. I am loyal to brands that fit well and last for decades like LL Bean, Lululemon (more on them later), and Lilly Pullitzer. My law school classmates and I once discussed how we have culled a “uniform” to one day wear once we practice law. I’m trying to evolve my uniform now to wear to the job that I’m hanging onto as sort of a paid internship (it sounds better in my head). If something is ugly, I purge it. If it’s too boob-tight, it gets tossed too. My household has a rotating purge box designated for charity donation.

My mom has gotten better lately and is no longer a hoarder; I’d like to think some of my minimalism has rubbed off on her. My dad has never struck me as a pack-rat, which raises the question, Are men just natural-born minimalists? My son deviates from that mold because his room is a constant wreck, overflowing with plastic toys, books, mismatched socks, and costumes. But I learned from The Minimalists that you cannot convert someone to the lifestyle, nor can you purge his/her possessions because that is just plain immoral.

I am praying my dream comes true soon, which is that my husband gets a better paying attorney job that would enable me to quit my day job. Then I can focus on running my household into minimalist shape while being the mom I want to be, and picking up an extra law class. I realize that I cannot will this dream to happen, but the hope of it is keeping my motivation running. I no longer want to be another faceless cog in the wheel of a machine that has destroyed the very kefi (Greek word for joy) of my soul. I long for a simpler life, a life focused on family, academia, and friends.

LULU-Logo-1

Along my intellectual journey,I heard about one of my favorite brands, Lululemon, and what they do to their employees. My first experience with Lululemon was being in Yoga Teacher Training in 2012 wondering why all the rich students were wearing nice clothes and using pretty yoga mats with the Omega Ω symbol on them. By the time I could actually afford to shop there, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the staff was and that I got a Yoga-Teacher discount! Even on clearance! Years later, I’m still using their invincible mats and wearing the same pieces of clothing I bought on day 1. My husband last week read me a Facebook article about Lululemon, which explained how the staff is encouraged to “clear” out negative emotions (much like Scientologists are audited). Lululemoners are required to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” for the pseudo-libertarian philosophies therein on self-improvement. They have sweat-dates where they get to attend workout classes with their coworkers, and their ambitions are fostered, not shut down (like when you work for the government—me).

Last week alone, two of my good friends moved away; one got a job at a prestigious law firm two hours south, and the other was a coworker who was promoted across the state. This left a hole which I soon healed with detachment. I have moved on using the Lululemon method: I talked about my feelings, I worked out, and I started reading “Atlas Shrugged.” Seriously, I bought it yesterday.

So in tying this article together, the point is that I am constantly in a state of self-improvement. I drank the Kool-Aid and am invested in myself. My dreams aren’t met yet, but I’m working on them as a work in progress. My social life is pretty great, hanging out with like-minded law students/people in the legal profession. I still get to see my sorority sisters from college, and I have a cool role in my church. I’m the greeter at the door, but it feels like I’m a bouncer so it’s fun.

If you need anything from me, I will be memorizing laws, reading Randian philosophies and working on my Warrior 2 out in the woods of the RV park. Who is John Galt?

Ayn Rand lululemon bag

__________________________________________________________________The Minimalists

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time…A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.”—Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”

 

Catch me on Instagram @yogalawgothygram and Tweet me @marissamacabre

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Minimalism, Snow & DC Villains (Gotham Yoga)

Happy New Year! I’m trapped with my family for days due to a snow storm with icy roads. But that’s ok. I seriously doubt Henry David Thoreau had this much fun when he was snowed in his tiny house on Walden Pond!

Part of minimalism is paring down things you don’t like anymore in your life and focus on what tickles your fancy at the present. I donated 50% of my belongings in the past year, to clear the way for new favorites, such as DVDs at Christmas (they don’t take up much space, like in my future tiny house). In short, we’ve been watching Suicide Squad a whole bunch!

Since I started law school classes at night from August onward, I had to quit teaching yoga at the gym. I miss it a little bit, so I decided to start blogging some yoga videos…[brace yourselves] in character as Harley Quinn! My son and I call the videos Gotham Yoga and we do short little how-to snippets. Sam is playing Diablo from the Suicide Squad.

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What makes you happy? Obviously, no matter how much law I study, I still go back to my yoga practice. I’ll never throw out my yoga books or beloved mat. Don’t purge it if it still serves you well. Some fads come and go, but true hobbies last a lifetime. I’ve been a yogi since 1999 and a ham since 1983. Snow on!!

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.

alice-5

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)

alice 2.jpg

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

alice-1

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.

alice-3

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.

Streamline Your Thoughts and Actions so Direct Karma Doesn’t Kick You in the Balls

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just witnessed direct karma. I’m going to back up and state for the record that I am a Christian who belongs to an Episcopal Church in a small town. I’m not preachy but technically, Christians aren’t supposed to believe in karma.

The dictionary gives the following definition:

kar·ma
ˈkärmə/
noun
noun: karma
  1. (in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
    • informal
      destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.

The informal definition is the one I’m addressing here. During my Yoga Teacher Training, I studied Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and some Taoism. The Eastern philosophy of karma is by no means Christian. Yahweh doesn’t say in the Old or New Testament, “What goes around comes around.”

Oh. Wait. Yes. He. Does. “You reap what you sow.” I’m paraphrasing but isn’t that in the Bible?

A few weeks ago, I went to dinner after a tumultuous day at work. I became irritated when the bartender didn’t honor a happy hour drink special and even charged my table for a drink we didn’t order. I noticed that the purple-haired barkeep  took out her contact lenses on top of clean plates while serving food and drinks. She didn’t wash her hands and she squirted extra contact solution into a plastic ramekin which stayed on the bar. Not only was this nasty, but she could have potentially intentionally poured the solution into drinks of customers she didn’t like to get them sick. I’ve heard several bartenders talk about dosing annoying customers with Visine so many times.

parish oyster house bar

You can clearly see the bottle of contact solution and the plastic ramekin on top of the clean plates. I watched the bartender pour the solution into the ramekin and take out her contacts without washing her hands and then handling food/drinks.

 

After further investigation, I learned that the bartender was the owner’s wife. And since I’m friends with the restaurant’s owner on Facebook, I very well couldn’t report his wife to him, now could I? I waited until the following Monday morning and I called the Health Department of our county. I launched a formal complaint against the restaurant and the bartender; a few hours later, I was punished by the universe as a direct result of my report. https://mythoroughlythoreauexperience.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/when-emergency-strikes-dont-have-a-lot-of-baggage/ I should’ve let sleeping dogs lie. My work car flooded in a freak accident from a flash flood on my way home.

Last Sunday night, I was all alone in my creepy house because my husband was in Texas on business and my son was at the lake with my parents. I freaked out because it was a dark, stormy night and I began to hear a twisted shrieking sound, like an alarm going off in my house. Summers in Alabama have the background noise of cicadas shrilling, and one was stuck in my house. I watched a few YouTube videos to make sure that was the correct sound. To me, the insect is quite creepy.

At work this morning, the IT guy and I were chatting in another coworker’s office. When he left the office and went into the hallway, the other coworker saw a cicada on the IT guy’s back. It was like that moment in Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold had a squirrel on his back and the whole house freaked out. I had the same reaction. My colleague was able to knock off the cicada and the IT guy squashed it.

I returned to my office with my heart still racing from excitement. The IT guy and my colleague came into my office. The IT guy said he wanted to collect the bug and put it in one of our coworker’s trashcans. I said, “There’s my tissue box; use one of those to pick up the dead bug,” and I pointed to the bottom shelf of my bookcase.

Just when the IT guy bent down to get a Kleenex, he put his weight on a rickety shelf and half of the bookcase fell on him! He was laid out on the ground of my office. Several other coworkers heard the commotion and stormed in to help the IT guy.

My colleague said that it was direct karma! The IT guy was going to do something not-so-nice and he immediately had an accident. There was a direct correlation to his actions. Cause and effect. Karma. The universe expands and contracts. Right now, there is so much violence going on especially in the United States. Maybe God or the universe is giving us a wake up call that it’s time to be nicer to each other.

Your thoughts can manifest into reality. If our minds are flooded with negativity about each other and ourselves, those thoughts eventually become a reality. Especially if we cause actions to occur that are harmful to others. The yoga Vedic belief of nonviolence is called ahimsa and it’s one of the Yamas to observe as a yogi. That’s why so many yogis don’t eat meat. Self-harming also falls under this category, and just thinking about how fat I am or how dumb I am is creating a rift in my consciousness. How many of us do this? I know I’m personally on a diet where I should lose 20-25 pounds and I can’t help but fat-shame myself. But I should practice ahimsa and only think positive thoughts about my mind and body. Next time you are about to be mean to yourself, change your thought structure. Set your intention for peace. The IT guy set his intention for unkindness (even as a practical joke) and it created a rift in the universe.

I’m going to think twice about putting out ugly energy in an already wounded world. Forget the afterlife…right now, we are being adjudicated by our punishments directly after we sin. Let’s turn that around and sow kindness instead. I would love to plant positive seeds in the world and see the fruits of love blossom.

Streamline your thoughts. Set your intentions. Have some good karma come your way!

_________________________________________________________________

“And when you bring what is within  you out into the world, miracles happen.”-Henry David Thoreau

Ease On Down the Road…with Detachment and Tranquility

To say I’ve been stressed out lately is an understatement. I know that everyone stresses out some, whether in traffic, or over money, or in social situations. Mine has been work and hobby-related as of late.

This week in particular, I’ve been suffering with anxiety, trying to cope holistically without anything to numb the neuroses. I’ve been implementing yoga, deep breathing, meditation, long walks outside, and adult coloring with markers. It seems we are all faced with demanding minutiae each day that pull at our beings like annoyances, but how we react to the external stimuli determines how much stress we swallow down when it’s all said and done.

I took a break from working this morning to leave my desk. As I let my iPod go on shuffle mode, a long time song popped up to play. It was one I learned in summer theatre camp half my life ago. The song was “Ease On Down The Road” by Michael Jackson and Diana Ross from The Wiz.

ease on down the road

There’s nothing like a little MJ to soothe this very own MJ (my initials too).

I started listening to the lyrics while shaking my booty and it hit me! The song is about detachment from materialism and focusing on mindfulness. It may have been great disco years ago, but there’s a deeper level of advice given by the Prince of Pop and the Queen of Disco.

“Ease on down the road, don’t you carry nothing that might be a load…

Let’s keep moving on the road that you choose don’t you lose no ground…

‘Cause there may be times when you think you’ve lost your mind and the steps you’re taking might be 3 or 4 steps behind but the road you’re walking might be long sometimes. You just keep on stepping and you’ll be just fine…

There may be times when you wish you wasn’t born and you wake one morning just to find that you’re alone. You know that feeling only lasts a while. You just stick with us and we’ll show you how to smile.”

Do we feel entitled to a better life? Being raised in the US, I feel like the American Dream is something we all strive for, like better living, more belongings, fame, fortune, beauty and popularity. But this is all a societal illusion, propagated by the man, big greedy corporations, the media, puppet-masters, and probably the Illuminati. JK

I just realized that I’m not getting any thinner or younger. I recently had a mental meltdown about failures in my career such as the crippling feeling of the glass ceiling. I will never get promoted, never get transferred to a different office, never get a better work vehicle, and never get a better job. Is the grass always greener? I think what the song is telling us is that Dorothy is trying to make her way to Emerald City (greener grass) but she is not focusing on having fun along the journey down the Yellow Brick Road.

The Yellow Brick Road for me has been bumpy these past few years. If I follow the advice of the song, I will implement mindfulness, simplicity, minimalism, and non-hoarding. Does each yellow brick I step on Spark Joy? Am I finding relaxation along the way with the poppy fields of life?

Maybe “Ease On Down The Road” should be my new mantra. It might cure my stress-related IBS-D and help me to lose weight. A laissez faire attitude, a.k.a. sprezzatura helps insulate the anxious ones among us from sweating the small things.

I’ve been a Madonna fan since early childhood. The old brood isn’t making wonderful new tunes all the time these days, but every once in a while, she will pop out a gem.

madonna superbowl

The 2012 song “I Don’t Give A” featuring Nicki Minaj has become one of my other shake-it-off type angry cheers.

I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u

Wake up ex-wife
This is your life
Children on your own
Turning on the telephone
Messengers, manager
No time for a manicure
Working out, shake my ass
I know how to multi-task
Connecting to the Wi-Fi
Went from nerd to superb
Have you seen the new guy
I forgot the password
Gotta call the babysitter
Tweetin’ on the elevator
I could take a helicopter
I don’t even feel the pressure

I’m gonna be OK
I don’t care what the people say
I’m gonna be alright
Gonna live fast and I’m gonna live right

I’m moving fast, can you follow my track
I’m moving fast and I like it like that
I do ten things all at once
And if you have a problem
I don’t give a

You were so mad at me
Who’s got custody
Lawyers suck it up
Didn’t have a pre-nup
Make a film, write a song
Gotta get my stockings on
Meet the press, buy the dress
All of this to impress
Ride my horse, break some bones
Take it down a semitone
I forgot to say my prayers
Baby Jesus on the stairs
Gotta sign a contract
Gotta get my money back
All the biters have to go
Standing in the front row

I’m gonna be OK
I don’t care what the people say
I’m gonna be alright
Gonna live fast and I’m gonna live right

I’m moving fast, can you follow my track
I’m moving fast and I like it like that
I do ten things all at once
And if you have a problem
I don’t give a

I tried to be a good girl
I tried to be your wife
Diminished myself
And I swallowed my light
I tried to become all
That you expect of me
And if it was a failure
I don’t give a

I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u

Shots fire
Anything you hear Nicki on: that’s fire
You don’t hear them bums on nothing, that’s fire
Tell ’em catch buyer
In the Bugatti, 10 grand, one tire
Ayo Madonna (Yes, Nicki), maybe I say you original, don dada
In that, yeah Gabbana, and the, yeah Prada
We Material Girls, ain’t nobody hotter
Pops collar!
See I really can’t relate to your Volvo
And you can’t get these shoes at the Aldo
When I let a dude go, that’s his loss
I was cutting them checks, I was his boss!
Yo, I don’t give a f-u
Curse nor bless you, never let them stress you
Yo, I ain’t a businesswoman, I’m a business, woman!
And I’m known for giving bitches the business, woman

I’m gonna be OK
I don’t care what the people say
I’m gonna be alright
Gonna live fast and I’m gonna live right

I’m moving fast, can you follow my track
I’m moving fast and I like it like that
I do ten things all at once
And if you have a problem
I don’t give a

There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna
Bitch!

I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u”

I apologize for profanity but I love the song! I reiterate it to myself when I get snagged on a pesky problem at work or in other areas of my life without an immediate fix. It forces me to live in the present and not to give a f*ck about worries I can’t control.

So let’s take a page out of Madonna and Michael Jackson’s lyric books and practice detachment, tranquility, contentment, mindfulness, sparking joy, and whatever other New Age concept you want to throw at the wall and hope it sticks like al dente spaghetti.

MJ and Madonna

__________________________________________________________________________

“In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.”- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Simplify Your Life With These 3 Internet Hacks

Are you stranded inside the house for a while? Do you have a hard time finding transportation to and from places in your town? Try these three internet hacks to simplify your life. The easier we make things, the quicker we become minimalists.

 

HACK NUMBER ONE

1. Check out books from libraries online to sync to your e-readers.

Last summer, I renewed my library card for the first time in about a decade. Having an incredible addiction to words, I found it cheaper to check out library books than to buy them. The only exception to this rule is finding the coveted book at a thrift store or yard sale….or borrowing it from a friend.

With my library card in tow, I have been checking out hundreds of books…and DVD’s. Just last night, I discovered how to actually download an e-book onto my Kindle from my local public library. Most libraries in this modern age of technology have adopted a co-op of online e-books. You can place holds on books if someone else has already “checked out” the books you want.

pljclogo72

A typical shopping venture for me would be to drive to Books-A-Million or Barnes & Noble. I would peruse the best seller or new hot books lining the shelves. Then, I would take out my smart phone and type the names of the books that interested me in a list. Later, I would swing by my local library and share this list with the librarian who reserves books. If they were in stock, I would check them out. If not, I would be placed on the waiting list. (I’m still on the waiting list for Go Set a Watchman and I’ve been waiting since it was released.)

Other than the checking out ten DVD’s at a time for my family, it doesn’t make sense to have to go back and forth listlessly to the library. Unless you just love paper books.

 

HACK NUMBER TWO

2. Do online banking and bill paying to save gasoline and time.

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I have been spending a lot of time at banks lately. The best way to do it is to align your debit card/checking account with the online bill pay. Get direct deposit from work into your account if you can.

Skeptical older people (non-Millennials) tend to distrust online banking or sharing pertinent pecuniary information online. This day in age, modern security systems have made this all safer for us to use, on reputable sites.

Being old-fashioned, I felt that a paper check in a paper envelope with a sticker stamp put in my physical mail box was the only way to pay that mortgage every month, coupon and check neatly printed. However, I “got with the program” and have set up my checking account from Bank A into my mortgage online site at Bank B. I haven’t had any problems yet. Actually, I find myself making more frequent principal payments when I crunch those numbers at my fingertips whenever I pull it up on my smartphone. There’s no excuse not to allocate extra money into that principal, that savings account, that money market, etc.

 

HACK NUMBER THREE

3. Get some of your grocery shopping for staple items done online.

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For cashing in reward points with my bank, I received some Amazon gift cards. I thought, I’m a minimalist. I don’t need any new junk around the house at this time. Oh! But we all need to eat.

Being a member of Amazon Prime, I decided to experiment with Prime Pantry. This is not a sales pitch for Amazon; I’m merely using it as an example. If you search the web, you can find many grocery type online stores for your convenience.

However, at Amazon I paid $6 in one flat shipping rate to stuff a very large box full of groceries. They have other items listed that qualify in the Pantry like toiletries, office goods, home goods, pet supplies, and medical goods. And every item you add to your literal box, Amazon tells you what percentage it occupies. I couldn’t even fill mine up all the way.

For the frugal person inside all of us, coupons are available online through the Pantry and you end up getting some things further reduced. I felt that being tax free, $6 was a lot cheaper than whatever huge grocery bill tariff I would have amassed in the physical storefront (it’s 10% where I live).

I bought Starbucks espresso, coconut water, Rice Krispy Treats, cat food, Thai noodles, coconut curry sauce, Amy’s canned soups, a giant carton of Goldfish crackers, macaroni & cheese boxes, and other pantry staples. Yes, you still need to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market for fresh fruits and veggies. Meats and dairy items will be bought in-store as well. But for everything else, online grocery shopping is easy-peasy. I used my gift cards to feed the whole family.

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“Moreover, if you are restricted in  your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

 

Glamping on Easter Sunday

imageIt’s misting on our tiny RV in the woods this cool Easter morning. Although we have wifi, I haven’t watched any videos or surfed the web past just checking my email. One could say I’ve been partially off-the-grid.

The toilet in Camp David is very small with the sink right by the knees of the person sitting on the potty. It reminds me of an airplane, minus the warnings about banning smoking in flight and and 1,000 mile high clubs. Just kidding about that last part.

Unfortunately, a main road is right through the woods and I can hear big trucks some of the time. My husband and I sat outside late last night after putting our Sam down to sleep with the promises of the Easter Bunny finding this humble abode. The EB made good and filled up Sam’s basket with candy but no plastic toys. Lord knows we don’t need anymore. Toys aren’t the point of Easter. Not to get heavy, but the notion behind Easter is the rising of Christ from the grave. After 12 years of Catholic school, I can simply viddy the stations of the cross in my head about the crucifixion and resurrection. I think Thoreau promoted simple living in the woods for the sake of religious piety and pure spiritual growth.

But it would be fun to see a bunny scamper through these woods to make true on the spring bunny stories I tell my son! He did get a chocolate Peter Rabbit bunny afterall.

With this cool day ahead, we are expecting my parents to arrive at Camp David after lunch. The Easter lunch I will share with my husband and child is a Frito meat pie I baked yesterday before we left civilization. At least the refrigeration works well here! I was hoping to take a hike through the woods at our RV park if it slacks off with the crisp rain. Maybe we will see some critters stirring in the woodline of the forest.

Finally, I really enjoyed the pitch black environment of the country last night. The only light came from the LED of the awning on Camp David….which glowed like Las Vegas! My sleep was thick as I played a stowaway on the top bunk, which claustrophobics like myself shouldn’t do. I woke up once with an asthma attack and took a hit of my emergency inhaler. Then I had the oddest dreams about a giant bull chasing me through my old college campus. Maybe it’s because my son and I are both bull-headed Tauruses? JK

Now it’s time to try out the camper’s tiny airplane-like shower. I’m sure with lack of anything else to do, I will blog again this holiday.

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“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

How I stumbled into a Modern-day Walden in AL

“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.”-Henry David Thoreau from Walden Chapter One- The Economy

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The first week of December 2015, I had already been shopping for Christmas presents since October and was planning an anniversary trip with my husband to Chicago. Money was being spent left and right, and the discord from the holiday season was getting on everyone’s nerves, especially mine.

I clocked out for lunch and browsed dailymail.uk.org where I discovered an article on The Rogue Ginger. Check her out at http://www.therogueginger.com. Her zero-waste blog got the hamster wheels in my head spinning about the grossly consumeristic, wasteful life I was leading!

Onward, my quest for knowledge and research pointed me from zero-waste, to recycling, to minimalism, to the Tiny House Movement. How intriguing! I could downsize by purging all of my family’s items that didn’t “spark joy” a la the Marie Kondo method.

Getting on the right track, my husband Dave and son Sam helped me to apply this lifestyle to our comfortable middle-class existence in The Deep South. Some techniques worked, some made us sick, and others were too extreme.

Then, I caught strep throat the first week of March (and so did my son). Our doctors banned us from returning to work and school for a week until we rid our crud. The penicillin knocked out my strep and sinus infection rather quickly, so I was stuck bored at home getting cabin fever. The word “rest” is not in my vocabulary. I didn’t want to go hiking, biking, or running because I didn’t want my illness to exacerbate, so I stayed in to recover. I cleaned as many closets and drawers as I could, purging items. My son and I did some restorative yoga and binged on Netflix.

When he was napping, I dusted off a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience and took to it with my highlighter. I could not believe how on point HDT’s writing is to modern times! I read CD first, and laughed at how the scandalous political season America is faced with now via the Election of 2016 parallels to it.

Walden definitely struck a cord in my soul. I found a never-used journal in my craft closet and copied all of my favorite quotes by hand to really let them sink in. I remembered how much I loved studying Walden in 1999 when I was a sophomore in high school. My teacher in American Lit taught me intriguing buzzwords such as “existentialism,” “environmentalism,” and “minimalism.” HDT was hard-core.

Taking breaks from recopying “Walden,” I watched “Tiny House Giant Dreams” on YouTube.com and really became excited about downsizing one day!

My parents went to Lake Guntersville, AL, one weekend for R&R, and they did something amazing. On a lark, they went to an RV sales lot and found one to buy! Then they scouted an RV park to forever hook the large RV up to so we can visit it several times a month. (I guess all of my gushing about tiny houses finally sunk in for them.)

Finally! An opportunity for me to retreat into the woods near a lake pretending it’s a modern-day Walden Pond has landed in my lap. Easter day (3/27/16) will be our inaugural stay at Camp David, so named after my dad, husband, and eldest stepson. (For the record, my mom wants to call the camper The Sea Witch. Oh, well!)

So yes, it’s a daily challenge to apply minimalism to our lives. We consistently find objects to donate to the Salvation Army, who have been making home pickups for me. My husband and I recycle as much as we can. We take reusable cloth bags when we go grocery shopping. I bought bamboo utensils for travel and we have long eschewed plastic straws. (Plastic can be the devil! Look up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch if you don’t believe me.)

Not everything zero-waste has been good for my family. I made my own toothpaste for two months and used cloth napkins with my meals. Somehow, my germs lingered too much and I was sick for a month with bronchitis and pneumonia. My husband had pneumonia too, and luckily recovered. We have since bought toothpaste and used disposable napkins for our food.

We still have miles to go in the lifestyle, and we get to have our first Walden experience this weekend. I’m stoked!!!

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My profile here:

My name is Marissa and I live in Alabama with my husband and child; we are trying to assimilate into the minimalist lifestyle, as this blog marks our journey. I work at an office by day, and teach yoga classes at night. But I have always been a writer, keeping my words with me like a warm, fuzzy blanket.

I re-read “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience” recently, having not studied the works of Henry David Thoreau since 1999, my sophomore year of high school. I was blown away by how relevant HDT is today in America, with our society’s problems of crushing personal debt, a broken economy, circus-like politics on every level, over-consumption of materialism, global warming, and a growing disconnect from nature.

After months of researching minimalism, recycling, zero-waste, and the Tiny House Movement, I talked my parents into buying a camper on Lake Guntersville, AL. It mirrors a quaint cabin in the woods near a lake (like Walden Pond) where my thoroughly Thoreau experience is occurring with a modern-day twist!