Life

Unplugged

A week and a half ago, I caught a cup of coffee with a girlfriend to tear open my heart about something I knew only she would understand, and therefore, not stand in judgment.

During the course of our conversation, we began discussing social media and how it affects our day-to-day functioning. I told her if I had the guts, I would love to completely unplug for a whole year, go back to a flip phone and all. If you’ve followed my blog since the beginning, you know that this is something I contemplate at least once a year. The reality is, I have more important things to do with my time than look at my phone. To be at its beckon call. To impulsively reach for it at a red light or while I wait in a doctor’s office. To allow it to entertain me for fear of boredom.

When I got home that night, I sent my friend a text saying I wanted to unplug at least for the upcoming week. I needed to realign myself. She agreed to do it with me. We checked in with each other every day during the week. Of course, I had to log into Facebook to respond to queries about t-shirt orders I was taking, but while I was in, I didn’t allow myself to read the news feed, the thing that sucks you into a black hole filled with Langoliers ready to eat your face off. I did tweet once and post a picture on Instagram. But I only allowed myself to briefly interact with those two platforms.

But, the real freedom came yesterday in an unexpected dose of two hours. Notorious for neurotically checking to make sure I have all needed items before leaving the house, I somehow managed to take my daughter to gymnastics and left my phone at home. The amazing thing is, I didn’t even notice it wasn’t with me until I went to dial up my husband.

My immediate reaction was to wave my white flag and head home. I reasoned I could run errands another day, a day in which I was armed with my smartphone. But, that’s when I understood the dark controlling power our phones have over us. After thirty seconds of pros and cons, I decided to be rebellious and run my errands. So, off I went, and there was a strange freedom in driving around knowing no one could get a hold of me for as long as I was out. It was a blast back to the 1990s.

Of course, my first thought was that I should at least call Brent from a pay phone to let him know not to worry if I didn’t pick up my cell. But, apparently, the pay phone business died some years ago. So I went to three stores untied to the constraints of time. Every time someone else’s phone rang or sang a notification, I didn’t have the impulse to check my own phone. It was completely FREEING!

On my way home after a blissful two hours, I wondered if I would find Brent’s car in the driveway. He would be frantically searching with the police to find his lost wife. I would have a cell phone with 31 missed calls, and I was never going to hear the end of it.

Instead, I got home, checked my phone and noticed I had zero calls and zero text messages.

I smiled.

I love how convenient our phones make life. On a typical day, I would have been able to call my husband, check my bank account, and browse product reviews before purchasing an item. Those are definitely pros of the digital world. But, there’s always a tradeoff. When we make our phones an irreplaceable necessity, it has the ability to rule over us like a dictator. How crazy is it that some of us feel completely helpless without one?

I know, as with most things, moderation is the key, and our phones are only as important as we make them. But, man, do I long for the days when I was 20, running errands with my windows down and music up, not a care or distraction in the world.

I think more than anything, it’s important to be cognizant of when it’s time to step away and detox. Perhaps the real trouble lurks when we fail to notice it’s becoming a problem.

And, if you’re down for a smartphone free 2018, let me know. I might just be ready to jump in!

 

Finance

Shopping Strategies

I’m not a coupon queen or a penny pincher, but I love feeling like I get my money’s worth. The following is a list of EASY practices I use to save time, money, and frustration.

  1. Always operate within a budget. The one way to guarantee buyer’s remorse is to spend more money than you have. Just remember, being in style and having the latest and greatest isn’t a necessity. Shop Goodwill if you like or must. Also, when you limit yourself, it’s easier to say “no” to impulse buying. For added savings, use cash. People statistically spend less when they hand over paper as opposed to swiping plastic.
  2. Routinely clean out closets and drawers. Rather than waiting for spring-cleaning, if you take 20 minutes once a month to peruse and remove items you no longer use, even if it’s only a handful of things, it makes a big difference. An item you might not have been willing to let go of for several months in a row might be much easier to toss if you keep seeing its uselessness month after month. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a donation bin somewhere in your house or garage so you have both a reminder and easy access to toss things.

3.  Only shop a few times a year, and shop with a mission. If you routinely weed things out of your life, it’s easier to see what you actually need when you go shopping. Make a list of necessities and spend your budget in one fell swoop instead of piddling it away on meaningless shopping trips where you blindly look around for something to jump out at you. When you make a list and come home with exactly what you need, there is no guilt in spending a larger quantity of money (as long as you stayed in budget).

4. Shop for needs, not wants. It’s easy to get sidetracked by things you all of the sudden realize you “need,” yet strangely didn’t until you saw it. Walk away from those items. If it truly is a need, you can add it to the list for the next time you go shopping. I have rarely returned to get that thing I thought I needed. Also, make a practice of using up or wearing out what you already have before shopping for a replacement. This will help you readjust your financial priorities.

5. Buy quality instead of quantity. For the longest time, I purchased a new purse every year from Target or some boutique store. I never felt I could afford the price tag on a designer purse. What I realized is that if I had saved my money from the constant cycle of purchasing cheaper bags, I could actually afford a designer bag that I really wanted. So that’s what I did. I saved and bought the designer purse of my dreams seven years ago and I still use it today, and probably will for many, many, many more years to come. That corrected the constant revolving door of purse purchasing, which means I save money in the long run. I’d much rather have fewer quality items than a closet full of cheap stuff.

6. Don’t fall for sales gimmicks. A sale on a new $1,000 television will tell you that you’ll save $250. But, if you’re not in the market for a new TV, and you purchase it, you will not have saved $250. You will have SPENT $750. I also hate places that tell you the more you spend the more you save. The truth is, the more you spend, THE LESS MONEY YOU HAVE. It’s only a good deal if you’re actually in the market for that particular item.

7. Avoid quantity buying from particular stores. One of the best sales gimmicks has to be stores like Bath and Body Works who charge an astronomical amount for one bottle of lotion. But, if you buy 6 bottles, the price dramatically drops. To be honest, I don’t need that much fragrance in my life. I’m on their mailing list so I often receive a “free item” coupon in the mail every so often. I use that to get my lotion and consequently have not purchased any fragrance from them in the last six months (let’s not talk candles, though!). Of course, if you don’t have access to a free item, and you’re completely out of fragrance, I would say you’re safe to buy. However, don’t allow yourself to purchase again until you’re on the very last item of your stockpile.

8. Be patient for sales you know will come. This past April, I needed new shorts. I found a couple pair that I loved, but they weren’t on sale. I walked away and waited. Sure enough, within 5 days, the shorts were on sale for 40% off. I know people worry about places running out of their size, but, especially at boutique shops, they will order your size for you if they don’t have it in store and have it shipped to your home free of cost. In the end, I paid almost half of what I would have paid had I not waited less than a week for the sale.

9. Don’t take your tags off when you get home. Things sometimes look great in the fitting room, but when I pair them with items I have at home, reality does not match up with my vision. When I get home, I put on newly purchased items and pair them with what I thought they might go with. Also, take time to sit down, cross your legs, bend over, etc. in your item to make sure it doesn’t do anything funky that you will later find annoying. If I decide I’m keeping it, I place it back in the bag with tags still on and wait until it’s actually time to wear it. Just this past overhaul, I ended up taking 6 items back to the store because after 1-2 weeks, I realized I really didn’t need the item or I didn’t like it as much as I initially thought. So, I went and got my money back.

10. As you purchase new items, be willing to let go of old. When I purchased a new swimsuit this year, I got rid of an older one I didn’t wear very often. New pajama pants? That means it’s time for an old pair to go. Keep clutter at bay by making your purchasing and donating a revolving door. Plus, it makes getting dressed WAY EASIER when you have fewer items from which to choose.

11. Check for sales after you purchase full price items. Just a month ago, I had several Macy’s gift cards I wanted to use. After shopping their website, I purchased an item I liked. It was full price, but I didn’t mind too much since I wasn’t using my own money. Two days after my purchase, I happened to look back online to see that my item was not only on sale, it also boasted an extra 30% off. A quick call to Macy’s and they were more than willing to refund me the difference from what I paid, resulting in $61 back in my pocket. There are many places that will refund money if you price check with them within a certain amount of time.

At the end of the day, setting a budget and purchasing only the things you need and truly love is one of the simplest ways to save money. I like to use my money wisely, and that means not letting it jump out of my hands every time I walk into a store. Yes, easier said than done, but after a little practice, it becomes habit.

Life

Speak Life

We all know some variation of the well-meaning phrase, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never harm me.” In fact, most of us were taught to recite something like this in an attempt to protect ourselves from word grenades. What a dangerous lie. In my adult life, I’ve come to understand that sticks and stones can break some bones, but words can nearly kill you. I’ve had very hurtful things said to and about me over the course of my life. And though it’s painful to admit, I’ve said hurtful things as well. Just ask those closest to me. Most of the time, people blind themselves to the soul damaging power their gun-powdered words have.

But this post isn’t about word wounds.

Three weeks ago, I turned 35. And do you know what I did? I hung out at home all day taking care of a baby. No party. No cake. No gifts. Glamorous, I know. But it ranks up there with one of the best birthdays I’ve had. That’s a strange thing, indeed, considering my love language is gifts.

But guess what happens when bows, ribbons, and expensive dinners aren’t distracting you? You are able to fully see the gift of PEOPLE.

Even though I was terribly inconsistent with wishing others a happy birthday this past year, on my own birthday, the wishes kept pouring in. Some of them from people I hadn’t connected with since the year before. And I felt full of life, ALL.DAY.LONG. Responding to each message brought me such joy.

How many times have I wished others “Happy Birthday!” and haven’t thought much of it? Surely it’s been thousands upon thousands of times. In fact, most of us don’t pay much attention to the power of words except when we are on the receiving end of them. They’re just words, after all. But, our words have both the ability to produce life or death in the soil of someone’s heart. It’s an incredible responsibility to guard that which rolls so easily off our tongues.

The gift of kind words inspired me to intentionally seek out ways to encourage others around me, even if it’s just a simple “hello.” There are times I don’t speak up because I don’t think anyone else needs to hear what I have to say. But maybe, just maybe, they are in need of a fresh cistern of water to replenish the garden of their souls.

Yes, words can wound. But, words also have the power to generate life.

 

Life

What Depression taught me about Black Lives, Trump Voters, and the Homeless

Last week, I came across a Facebook sticker that claimed the following:

Food is the most abused anxiety drug.
Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.

I agree with the generality of this statement. There are people who abuse food as a coping mechanism, and exercise is proven to release endorphins. True and true.

But, I did what you’re not supposed to do: read the comments.

A lady who apparently has never suffered from chronic depression decided to impart her expertise about the issue. Bless her heart.

“Feed the homeless and hungry. Take a poor person to lunch. That is a great antidepressant…thinking of someone other than me me me.”

I wish it were that easy. Yes, her suggestion is a good one for people who are dealing with situational depression. But for those who, regardless of their circumstance, require medication to help keep them centered, doing things for others is not the remedy. Their problem is not that they are experiencing an egocentric pity party. Depression is a disorder. You can’t just random-acts-of-kindness it away.

She made a call based on her own perception of a plight she doesn’t understand. And, quite honestly, it made her look foolish.

But how often do we do that?

Consider the white person who argues that black people are not the victims of racism. That black people are the ones keeping it alive. That if they look like thugs, they deserve to be treated like thugs. That if they would just follow an officer’s orders, most of their problems would simply go away. It’s easy to look at someone else and say exactly what they should do to fix all their issues.

But, of course, I’m not black. I will never be black. I don’t know what it feels like to be fearful of my child leaving the house with a hoodie to keep warm in the cooler months, or to know there is a greater chance of prejudice against me and those I love, just because of my skin color. And because my skin is white, I will never understand what it feels like to be in a black person’s shoes, anymore than a man understands what it’s like to be in labor.

Or consider the person who labels every single Trump voter as a racist, misogynistic nationalist. They argue that if you voted for Trump, you give zero cares about social issues, and that you are, quite frankly, a piece of trash.

But what about the farmers who are living in poverty who don’t have the luxury to fight for social issues. They are barely surviving and able to care for their families. These men and women needed to take a chance on something politically different to see if it might sustain their families a bit longer. The current system wasn’t working for them. They are in survival mode.

I’ve never lived in poverty. I don’t know what it’s like to worry about feeding my family and supplying shoes for my kids. To keep my children home from school just to have the manpower to work the fields. Is it fair to call him a racist, misogynistic nationalist just because he took a chance on improving his family’s quality of life? I’ve never even spoken to him. I don’t understand his issues, his concerns. But too often I feel justified because he hasn’t taken up the cross I deem most important.

Or consider the homeless man on the street corner. He is labeled a no-good moocher who just needs to get a job. Anyone who gives him help is an enabler. And, if you give him money, you KNOW he’s going to spend it on drugs and alcohol.

But I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never experienced the soul-crushing humility it must take to ask for help. I’ve never stood on a street corner during a blazing hot summer day, cardboard sign in hand asking for a meal or bottle of water. I’ve never had a disability that might make it impossible for me to have a job, leaving begging as my only option.

And the list goes on and on.

Are we right in the assumptions we make? Sometimes. I’m sure there are black men who might still be alive if they had followed an officer’s orders. I’m sure there are followers of Trump who are racist. I’m sure there are beggars who are scammers.

However, it is foolish to tell someone with depression that they need to just stop thinking about themselves, or to ignore people of color’s plea to listen to their concerns of marginalization. Or to call every person I know who voted for Trump a misogynistic racist. Or to tell the homeless man on the street corner that he needs to quit asking for handouts and get a job.

The lady who threw every case of depression into the egocentric basket was a great reminder to me. The next time I am tempted to tell people what they are and how to fix all their problems, I need to take a moment to step back, to ask myself if I know what it’s like to be in that person’s shoes. Because if that’s never been my plight in life, sometimes the best action I can take is one of humility. To ask questions. To listen. To try to understand.

To not speak.

The only way we will understand is to engage. But too often we build walls around ourselves with our words. Usually words that make us look like the fools.

We mistake our passions and opinions for authority.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies is people who are unable or unwilling to see from any perspective other than their own.

I don’t want to pretend I know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. But if someone is willing to share with me, I want to listen.

Life

An Apology to my Subscribers

Dear Faithful Following,

When it comes to my blog, I feel like a 1982 kid trying to fly a 2118 rocket ship. Just recently, I’ve decided to streamline all four of my blogs into one. Originally, I had created a different blog for each style of writing. However, trying to juggle them all makes me incredibly inconsistent. For that reason, I’ve been working very hard over the last week to move old content from my other blogs over to this one. Everything in one place.

 

In trying to do so, I’ve accidentally shot out emails when I’ve published new pages or edited old ones. And every time I do that, the commander of this rocket feels like she’s dumping a bucket of ice water on all of her passengers. And for that, I deeply apologize. I’ve always tried to be careful not to bombard you with emails.

The site looks entirely new! So what can you expect from now on? I will continue to post at least once a week. In addition to my main “life” feed, I also have new columns on finance, poetry, education, and reviews/tutorials.

I know many of you didn’t sign up to read all my “extra” stuff, so please know that now that I have the email alerts under control, you will continue to only receive emails for the types of articles you are used to seeing from me. I’ll still post other things that will be catalogued in the main feed as well as the specialized content feed, but you’ll only see that if you’re looking for it.

For some time, I’ve considered starting a Facebook page for those who don’t want to miss ANY posting, but the jury is still out. I feel like such a spammer going that route.

As always, thanks for coming along with me on this journey I started a little over four years ago. It’s brought me much joy. If you ever have any questions or have an idea for me to address, please let me know. If there’s any feature you think my blog is missing, please let me know through the “contact” tab. I love interacting with you. Also, please let me know if you find a typo or misspelling. I painfully scour each post before publishing, but sometimes, I still miss something. Your brain tends to autocorrect when reading from a screen. I’m not too proud to be notified of a mistake.

I hope you enjoy the new look of the site as well as the additional features. You can now search for articles based on content or keywords and easily share articles you enjoy. Oh, and no more faceless comments! I figured out how to give you the ability to upload your own avatar.

Thanks for hanging in there. You each are a blessing to me.

-Beverly

Poetry

Contented Cacophony

He stepped left
And she swayed right
Completely out of tune
And a little uptight
Was he when dancing
All through the night.

He preferred the waltz
And she liked swing
But that wasn’t discovered
Until after the ring
But for years they danced
Without a fling

Many others would
Have said goodbye
Especially when you
Don’t dance eye to eye
But she was his girl
And he was her guy

So they each danced
To their own little beat
Bumping into
And stepping on feet
But no other love
Was as syrupy sweet.

 

Poetry

The Violent Arrow

We don’t fall in love gracefully.
Our hearts are intruded upon
By Cupid’s golden point.
Lodged,
It infects
Frustrating all reason
Making us damaged and erratic
Captive and taking commands
From a synthetic chemical.

But we can snatch the arrow from our chests
Yes, the barbs will rip the heart
And cause you to bleed out.
Maybe even die.
But sometimes, loving another
Is a fate far worse than death.

Poetry

Matter

What’s the matter with matter?
We’re all made of it.
Protons, neutrons, and electrons.
Teeny, tiny atoms.
Yet not so small when the atomic bomb was dropped.

Now they package them for baths.

Poetry

The Heart

The fake out happened when we were taught
The smooth curvatures
And piercing point of the heart
Perfectly symmetrical
Empty bubbles to be colored in
Pink and red.
It became sweet confections
That dissolved sticky on our tongues
And the emblem of forbidden notes.

But it wasn’t until
We slit the skin and cracked the ribs
To expose a heart.
The heart.
Knotted
Tubes sprawling in all directions
Veiny, crimson and gory,
And a beat hanging on for dear life,
That I understood why love is such a mess.

Poetry

Secret

I was tuning each breath to the tick of a clock
When the words tumbled out of your mouth
Each letter dripping with syrup
Sticky and sweet.
In my ears they flew
Whipping around the twisted curves of my brain
Until recognition forced them to whiplash.
The pulp that was created began dripping down
The column of my spine.
Slowly it infected my heart
And brewed with what I already knew.
The awakening forced air into my lungs
And what I heard yesterday
Desired liberation.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she had whispered.
So I choked the twisted letters back down
Forcing submission with each swallow
The crooks and edges scraping the back of my throat
All of the way down to the tomb of my stomach
Where they will dissolve
And slowly become a part of me.