Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy ways to save money

Easy ways to save money at home

At the moment, a lot of us are suffering financially due to the struggling economy. Many people find that they can only just scrape together enough money to pay the bills and that debts are piling up fast. However, with just some simple adjustments to your lifestyle, you can save significant amounts of money.

For instance, you could consider installing a water meter at home. If you have a big house with few occupants, you could save a surprising amount of cash. You could also slice your phone bill in half by switching to cheaper alternatives than your current cable company.

Do you enjoy a bit of DIY every now and again? Turn it into a skill by taking a DIY course at your local institution and train yourself to tackle the most common household repairs. By fixing any problems yourself instead of calling out a handyman, you could save hundreds of pounds.

If you need to purchase or replace an expensive item, find companies that offer ‘buy now pay later’ schemes. With buy now pay later laptops, customers can make an instant purchase and then pay for it via weekly or monthly payment plans in small, manageable amounts. There are even some companies that won’t charge you a penny for up to 12 months. Just remember to check that you’re not being charged interest and only pay back the exact original amount.

Easy ways to save money out and about

Supermarkets are very skilled at getting you to buy more than you‘d originally planned. Have you ever noticed that when you first walk into a store, you’re often funnelled through a narrow corridor of seasonal merchandise? Or the strategically placed bakery goods?

Outsmart your supermarket by planning your meals and making a list – that way you only buy exactly what you need. You could also consider buying own-brand goods, after all, who can argue with a 20p loaf of bread? Or avoid the supermarket altogether and head for the local market stall to pick up cheap, quality meat, fruit and veg. If you do decide on the supermarket, make sure to use coupons (which you can get online or from the newspaper), as they can have a pronounced impact on your grocery bills.

Likewise, coupons are available online for a wide range of restaurants as well as theme parks and theatre shows. Spending just five minutes searching for vouchers online could bag you some impressive deals – and make a potentially significant difference to your current financial situation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts on childlessness

A few weeks ago, my husband and I met up with friends, a couple we've been friends with since college. The topic of being childless came up, as neither of us have children, which sparked an interesting conversation. As couples in our late 20's/early 30's, friends and people in our lives who do not have children are becoming scarce.

I have thought a lot about that conversation since then--what it means to be childless and how it has affected my life.

And I quickly realized that it really doesn't affect me all that much anymore. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have told you that living without children was devastating; it was the toughest burden I had to bear. Things have changed since then, though.

The more I live my life, the easier it is for me to truly understand that there are some things in your life that cannot be chosen and there are things you can choose. Mostly, you get to choose how to react to the things you can't choose. I chose to seek acceptance and peace--and I have finally found it.

It's difficult, I think, for people to understand this. Mostly, people who have children themselves--those who understand what being a parent is like firsthand--struggle to make sense those who choose to live a life without children.

Our path is a rare one because we didn't choose to live without children from the start. We wanted kids back then. The thought of choosing a life without children never crossed our minds. After all was said and done, however, we realized we were happy with things exactly as they are right now---without children. Our choice is one part not our choice and one part completely of our own making.

This complicates things, I know. My life often feels as though it is comprised of people who are waiting for me to do or say something to change, well, anything. It sounds crazy to say, but I don't have a desire to change anything right now; I am truly and completely happy with things exactly as they are right in this moment.

So, to be clear:

We very much love children. We adore the living daylights out of our nieces and nephews and sincerely enjoy their presence in our lives.

My biological clock is not ticking. At all. Or, it might be broken. I should probably look into that.

We are completely at peace with our inability to reproduce. We do not envy or dislike people who have children or those who have even the most remote ability to control their child making abilities. If you can have children, then you should have as many as you want.

It's possible we will someday change our minds and choose to pursue adoption. If my life has taught me anything, it is this: nothing in your life can be predicted.

Mostly, I approach this situation in a very simple and straightforward manner. I tell everyone the same thing: the truth.

The truth goes something like this:

Infertility was terrible; it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Likewise, it was the most defining moment of my life. I have never learned more, grown more as a person, or understood more about life, spirituality, and happiness than I have from that experience. It has changed me for the better--I have more clarity, less tolerance for petty concerns, and a better handle on who I am and who I want to be.

I chose to work on myself and accept the reality of infertility; this is a choice I still make every day. It wasn't easy. It didn't happen overnight. But it's our reality and I believe it happened for a very specific purpose. Happiness and acceptance of terrible situations always involve choice---and you always have the power to choose.

I chose to move on, and that's exactly what I did. I am in a place today where I am happy--and I don't feel a gaping hole where a child should be. Life is entirely too short to dwell on the things you cannot have. It has always felt like a big giant waste of time to me, so I don't do it.

The end result? We are really happy. Completely fulfilled. At peace. And if you ask me, that's what life is all about.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crying Uncle

To be honest, training for this marathon has been a trying experience. There is something to be said for the work, time, and spirit required to fully prepare yourself for such a major feat. I had no idea what would be required of me when I signed up to run my first full marathon back in January.

It has not been easy. There were times when I wanted to quit. Exhaustion has become a familiar friend. Some runs were painful. Others took more from me than I had to give. I have questioned my choice to run 26.2 miles over and over again. I have begun to understand what people mean when they say running a marathon is training and preparation--but mostly, it's about your mental toughness.

For me, the experience tugs at a strange place for one important reason: I have never been an athlete. I played softball, volleyball, and soccer in junior high but I would never go so far as to say I was athletic. My mother says all my athletic pursuits were based around my social life, not my interest or talent in athletics.

I starting running my freshman year of college after a girl living in my dorm came up to me after an orientation event and said I "looked like a runner." She and I became close friends since then, but I will always give her credit for lighting a spark in me that has burned brightly ever since. For some reason, all it took was the power of suggestion to make me realize I could be an athlete.

That was well over ten years ago, but I have never forgotten the experience. The mental part of running is sometimes much bigger than anyone realizes; it has the potential to empower or destroy everything you're doing. Add in the exhaustion you feel from running 35+ miles a week and it's enough to break you entirely. Fortunately, I am training with a friend who has been there every step of the way who knows exactly how this feels.

We have been closely following a training plan since June, rarely veering off course from our assigned mileage. The problem is, training for a marathon has to be thrown into the mix with working demanding full-time jobs, raising three children (for her), and just simply living life. It's a lot to take sometimes---and it requires a willingness to tell yourself it's actually OK to take a break.

That's exactly what we did last week. Instead of heading out on an 18 mile long run on Saturday, we rested instead. I came down with a brutal head cold and I knew running would make things worse, so I made the call: we were going to skip our long run. It was a painful decision mentally, but the break proved to be a great idea.

A lot of times, we get wrapped up in the idea that we have to do things "the right way" and we ignore the call to give ourselves permission to cry uncle. I sincerely believe our physical and mental health is closely tied together--and an exhausted body often leads to a jumbled brain.

Running and training for a marathon has been an exhausting experience, if not a rewarding one. Like everything else, something that requires a lot of you also gives back to you along the way. I am stronger and more capable than I ever imagined. I understand my body and give it the courtesy of listening closely when it complains.

More than anything, it is an experience to push yourself past anything you've ever done before to achieve an important goal--even if everyone else thinks it makes you crazy.

But really? Paying for the opportunity to run 26.2 miles might require just a bit of insanity.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Tragedy

Have you ever experienced tragedy? What about heartbreak? Intense loss? Devastating pain?

If you walk this earth long enough, you will--if you haven't already. Most of the time, these are feelings and experiences we would rather avoid. Or, they blindside us in the middle of an otherwise peaceful existence. We seemingly spend our lives trying NOT to experience the terrible feelings associated with tragedy.

But really? I think the the true tragedy is never knowing what tragedy actually feels like. Those negative feelings, as awful as they may be, actually have a way of stripping us down to the core of who we are. Think about it: surviving and finding your way through an awful experience calls upon a part of yourself that normally lies dormant. If you don't use your survival skills, they tend to grow idle.

Tragedy is tragedy, no matter the form. It rocks you to the core. It chews you up and spits you out. It brings you to your knees. It leaves lingering questions. Or, it causes you to question everything you have ever believed about your life.

It's not pleasant. You wouldn't wish for it. You wouldn't want anyone else to know it like you have. But like any other profound experience in your life, it has some magical way of putting everything else in focus. It helps you to notice how fortunate you are; makes you realize that life really is beautiful, fleeting, and sometimes very short.

Perspective is the name we give to this feeling; and sometimes we cannot have it until after we have survived something terrible. Tragedy has a way of haunting us, breaking us, and then allowing us the opportunity to try to rebuild ourselves again.

That's not to say we forget what happened or are able to pretend it never happened. Rather, I think it's a chance to walk alongside what happened---feeling those feelings and knowing that pain when it comes without being weighed down by misery.

I like to think there's a lesson in there somewhere, buried beneath the heartache and pain. Sometimes it just takes us years to find it.

"No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone." -Haruki Murakami



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