My CrossFit Workout

I live by a CrossFit gym and see the members running, carrying, dragging heavy things, and it dawned on me, getting groceries is my CrossFit routine.

I have all kinds of crazy rules about food because I have no willpower impulse control with treats so I don’t keep treats in the apartment. The apartment is very small so there is no room to stockpile things. The only thing I stockpile is pop because it’s so heavy and difficult to bring into the apartment, so when it’s on sale, I buy a lot. There are no ramps here so one must wrestle a cart/trailer into the building.

front-entrance1

Because I don’t have a lot of room to stockpile, I tend to buy 3 weeks worth of groceries. That’s all that fits in the fridge/freezer, no I can’t buy a freezer, there is no room because my main living space is 189 square feet. So when the fridge is empty, it’s time to restock. There is no food waste and I admit it, I have tossed a few ingredients together in a pot to make one last meal and some concoctions have been delicious and some down right disgusting. I’m glad to report, the delicious outnumbers the disgusting.

I don’t like to eat out because I don’t care to re-gain all the weight I lost. If I want a treat, the rule is to get off my ass and go get it. Usually my lazy ass wins that battle and I don’t get the treat.

Hurrah for laziness!

I often roast and season a bunch vegetables and put them in the fridge and that’s what I munch on if I find myself participating in a little mindless eating. Or snack on a piece of fruit.

On Friday I buy my $2.99 veggie pizza and fancy chocolate bar as a special treat.

These are my rules and they work well for me.

When it’s nice out, I hook up the bike trailer and ride to the grocery store. Just like the CrossFit folks, this involves a lot of dragging and lifting of heavy things.

1. Bring trailer and bike downstairs. I have to do this in two trips because the elevator is too small to fit me, the bike and the trailer. It takes me about 10 minutes to bring everything downstairs and to hook up the trailer.

bring-downstairs

2. Ride to store (3.7 km), about 20 minutes. Thankfully it’s uphill on the way there! I will not lie, it totally sucks when the wind is strong!

3. Buy groceries. Load groceries into the cart.

4. Oh look, get some work on my arms when the bike topples over while I am loading the trailer.

tipped-over-bike

5. Ride home hauling about 90lbs of groceries in the trailer. Today was an extra special workout because I hit all kinds of red lights on the way home and got to stop and start many times while hauling the 90lbs of groceries. My legs will hurt tomorrow!

6. Lock bike in front of building.

7. Drag trailer to back of building and prop the door open with a rock. It’s much easier to unload down a few steps rather than up two sets of stairs and through two set of doors. 

backdoor

8. Unload some of the groceries because if I try to move the cart down the four steps with 90lbs of groceries in the trailer, I will either break the trailer or pop a tire. So unload a bit, move the trailer down the steps and reload the groceries.

9. Fit me, the trailer full of groceries into the small elevator and then roll it down the hall into the apartment. There is only about 2 cm clearance to get in and out of the elevator so I have to be careful or I can knock out the pin that secures the tire.

10. Unload the groceries and park the trailer in the corner of the apartment (it’s too cumbersome to move on an off the balcony and I just will smash various body parts and/or scratch the shit out of a limb). As you can see, the trailer has a fair amount of cargo space.

empty-trailer

11. Retrieve bike from downstairs.

This takes me about 90 minutes and I do this because despite all my whining about it being hard, I do get a good workout and since getting groceries is so physically demanding, I am very selective about what I buy. I am not going to waste space and overload the trailer with poor food choices.

Now if you excuse me, it’s time for my Friday treat! I have earned it!

choco-treat

Let Then Eat Cake!

cake1There is a reason the quote Marie Antoinette never said still exists.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about this subject for quite some time but held back because I worried about offending people. Then I realized the following things:

  1. People will not read the post and will not be offended.
  2. People will click Like on Facebook but will not read the post and will not be offended.
  3. People will read the post and will not be offended.
  4. People will read the post and will be offended.
  5. People will read the post and feel uncomfortable about the subject matter.
  6. A bunch of other scenarios that I can’t think of right now.

Wow, that’s a lot of realizing. Anyhoo, here goes.

This post is about resources. I thought about it a few weeks ago when the creepy old man who lives two doors down felt this need to grocery shame me when I unloaded my groceries. He offered unsolicited advice about my purchases without understanding the context or frankly, knowing anything about me. He probably thought he was doing me a service and felt perfectly justified in his comments. I felt like punching him in the face but he’s kind of creepy and he gives off a I might end up chopped up and shoved into his freezer vibe so I exercised self-control and gave him a dirty look instead.

There are people in this world with lots of resources and there are people in this world with fewer resources. Obviously there are millions of different levels of resources but this post is about my observations and I will try very hard not to turn it into a rage filled rant.

When you look and sound like the middle class but aren’t the middle class your days can be filled with ignoring or deflecting insensitive comments. How people end up with or without resources is complicated so let’s just say for whatever reason, some have more and some have less.

It’s hard to tell if people are just being clueless or assholes or a little bit of both. It’s also hard to resist telling them off.

Just because someone has fewer resources, it doesn’t mean they are dumb so stop treating them like they are simple-minded. What I mean is that giving them helpful advice like “get a better job ” or “move to a cheaper apartment ” isn’t very helpful. They know they have a job that isn’t the best or they are already living in a cheaper apartment. Just because someone has fewer resources, it doesn’t mean they don’t know how to Google.

I hate to tell you (not true, I sort of want to tell you this, you smug bastard) but you aren’t as brilliant as you think. The person with the shitty job isn’t going to say “Wow Sally, I am just so dumb. Why didn’t I think to get a better job? Oh Sally, you are so clever and I am lucky to have your around to enlighten me with your unlimited knowledge and wisdom.” Sally, this makes you look like a jerk. Nobody needs a smartypants to point out the obvious.

Helping someone out doesn’t mean offering what you think is help. All you are doing is saying is that you cannot be trusted to make sound financial decisions so I’ll just do it for you. What you may think is important might be item #493 on their list of things they need. You might pop over to Steve’s house and see that he has a pathetic 22″ television set and offer to buy him a proper manly sized 52″ TV so he can enjoy the big game. It sounds nice enough but now you’ve put Steve in an awkward position. Steve can accept the 52″ television set even though Steve hasn’t had TV services for years because he can’t afford it. What Steve really needs is to get a filling replaced and getting his tooth fixed would make a huge difference in his life. Don’t be an idiot and only offer help on your terms. Don’t force Steve to sell the TV so he can pay to get his tooth fixed and that’s why he never invites you over to watch the big game. Do Steve a favour and fix his tooth otherwise you are just punching Steve in the face which is kinda mean cause he’s got a sore tooth.

It might come as a surprise that people might resent you when flaunt your resources. People might find it, oh I don’t know, elitist when you drone on and on about all your expensive gadgets or how your cleaning lady raised her rates again. All you are doing is further isolating a person who already is socially isolated.

Two is greater than one. Two income earners, please stop offering financial tips to single income earners. That being said, if you don’t have a job and you mooch off others, then you don’t get to have an opinion. When I say mooch, I mean sit on your ass all day and do not contribute to the household in any way and gobble up resources rather than contribute to them. You are living off someone’s hard work. Yeah, I know, that person is letting you mooch but seriously, adults do not mooch. They get jobs and contribute and they certainly don’t whine about their cell phone plan or the injustice of a $17 hamburger.

Stop treating thrifty people as cheap. Nobody should be shamed for stretching a buck, especially when stretching a buck is the way they can afford to pay their rent every month. It’s not like it’s a kooky hobby.

Some people don’t have the money to solve a problem by spending. They have to use other resources to resolve the issue. You might not understand their challenges but please respect their budget.

I can’t tell you if everyone feels the same way as I do about resources, but what I have outlined is my experience. If there is anything, anything, you take away from this post is that you might want to recognize that it’s mentally exhausting trying to balance tact and just wanting to tell someone off. I just want you to think about this post and think about how you use and share your resources.

50 Things About Jo!

The Centennial Babies are Turning 50!!!

me-on-the-blue-chairWas born in Ottawa, on one of the coldest day of the year 1967. I think the low was around -15F (-26C). The pipes froze and my then 4ish year old brother Mike woke Dad at dawn to tell him the toilet would not flush.

Speak French very very badly and very rarely. I was mocked as a child for my crappy French so I have very little confidence speaking it in public. In the 8th grade, I was publicly humiliated by a French teacher and I never recovered. Fuck you Mme. Neville. I hope you are burning in hell.

Cannot sleep with the closet door open. When I was three I saw a doll (I called him Man, he looked suspiciously like GI Joe) walk out of my closet and just stand there and stare at me. Mom explained that this was a bad dream but to this day I am convinced that this really happened because neither of my brothers had a GI Joe doll.

Hate baked beans so much they make me sick. Just the smell brings on nausea.

Worked in the call centre industry for ten years and that ruined phones for me. I like phones about as much as I like baked beans.

B cup.

Incapable of being bored. If you ever uttered the sentence “I am bored” within earshot of my parents, well, you didn’t make that mistake twice.

Have ten titanium screws in my jaw. I had corrective surgery in 1990 for a jaw problem.

Favourite fruit is not very original. I am bananas about bananas.

Am an above average swimmer which is amazing because growing up I had to take every single level of class twice and usually I was passed out of pity the second time around. When I was 15, I stopped listening to adults and got better.

Like to write. Writing books is easy. Getting people to read them is very difficult.

Runs like a spaz.

Loves Diet Coke.

I love naps. Naps are wasted on children.

Belly button is an innie.

Love pumpkin pie. I could eat it three times a day, every day, until the pumpkin pie finally kills me.

Blue is my favourite colour.

Don’t believe in scales. I believe in the existence of scales but refuse to use one. I come from stocky Irish peasant folk so I weigh at least twenty pounds more than I look and that can be really demoralizing when you step on the scale. So one day back in 1998, after way too much obsessing, I gave away my scale and have not used one since.

Prefer to write in pencil. This subversive behavior annoyed a number of teachers. They got really really upset about this trivial matter. To this day, I have no idea why. I am sure my unwillingness to conform to the world of ink is listed somewhere on my Permanent Record.

Lay my clothes out the night before. Even if the next day is a day off. I cannot stop this habit.

Not much of a drinker anymore. One day I realized, even when my life is crappy, it’s still pretty good so there is no reason to get buzzed.

Do not like hot drinks. No coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Hot drinks makes me very thirsty.

WILL NOT CARRY A PURSE. My mom made me carry one on a trip to California back in 1978 and the thing weighed more than me and the strap rubbed my neck raw. NEVER AGAIN.

Wish I had better emotional intelligence. If I were to assign a grade, I’d give myself a C+ which is not great, but there has been significant improvement. All those calls helped develop that rather under developed muscle. Will work on improving over the next 50 years.

A firm believer in karma.

Pineapple on pizza is just wrong.

Was a terrible student. Not because I didn’t try, trust me, I really tried. Just a lack of resources and support from those who should have helped me with those resources and support. Because I grew up in an environment where a teacher was never wrong and a student was always wrong, I have a strong distrust of teachers. I wish I could stop seeing them as advisories but my brain is hardwired to see them as the enemy.

Terrible at memorizing things which is why I am a dedicated list maker.

Prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate.

Am right handed but hold a hockey stick, golf club and swing a baseball bat left handed. I hold rackets and throw a ball with my right hand. It’s like my two sides were arguing and then came to some sort of compromise.

Have a hate hate relationship with technology. If you spend most of your day exposed to broken technology, you are going to hate technology. In my case, technology does not improve my life, but makes it more expensive and aggravating.

Enjoy riding my bike around town because it makes me feel like a kid. I don’t really ride for fitness but as a way to get from point A to point B. Getting fit doing this is just a bonus.

Am afraid of snakes. I get the willies just looking at a picture of a snake.

My minimalism lifestyle is 50% living simply, 50% not making a lot of money.

Clutter makes me very anxious. That’s why I am a neat freak. I seethe in anger when other people’s clutter and disorganization wastes my time.

Took my driver’s test twice. I had a raging flu the first time and when I think about it, I had no business being behind the wheel of a car.

Never met anyone who I like enough to share my quirks. Insults, slights and systematic mean spiritedness has destroyed any confidence. Giving me a pep talk is not going to help. It’s my own private battle to sort out.

Read about a 100 books a year. For some reason people think this is too much. To that, I say it’s not enough. And fuck you.

Love dogs but love poodles the most!

My favorite movie is Plesantville.

Sleep commando unless it’s really cold out and my apartment is chilly.

Sleep on my side. With 4 pillows.

Start every day with a cryptogram (code breaking puzzle).

Once saw an elephant go for a swim at Dow’s Lake. I was riding home from a summer job back in 1990 (alas before the days of digital cameras and smart phones). The circus was in town for the Ex and it was very hot and humid so the handlers took the elephant to Dow’s Lake for a dip. I have no idea if the circus treated their animals well or not, but at that moment, I saw one really happy elephant.

Am sensitive to grapes. Ate a ton of them when I was five and threw up many times. Since then, never been much of a fan. Fermented grapes, as in wine, makes me very sick so I don’t drink wine.

Practically tone deaf. Had to take a hearing test to be eligible for band in junior high (more students than instruments) and I managed to fail it four times. After I failed the first test, I had no interest in taking the test again but forces beyond my control intervened and I am pretty sure I got progressively worse with each test. Not because I didn’t care. Okay, a little because I didn’t care, but the anxiety of the test made me an emotional wreck.

Had ballet lessons for six, six very long years. To turn me into a girlie girl. This particular project failed.

Have a profound sense of loss over the fact that I have not been able to establish a career. Just an adulthood filled with, low paying, unfulfilling, stressful jobs. Not from lack of trying but just a lack of resources and opportunities. If you live on a single income, there comes a time when you have to swallow your pride and take a crappy job so you have some source of income and then try and find something else while you are working at the crappy job.

Was a witness to an armed robbery. Back in 1981, I was at Merivale Mall and waiting for Dad to pick me up when two men ran into the Dominion store waving guns. I was about 30 feet away from the entrance and I slowly backed into another store and stood behind a rack of bags. The robbers were apprehended about 40 minutes later. They’d been out of Milhaven penitentiary for all of six weeks. You got to wonder if they were incompetent or just homesick.

Tapioca is my favourite pudding.

We’re Here Because We’re Here

regret

This weekend is very different in places like St. John’s, Bradford, Edinburgh, Belfast and other small and large towns all over the Colonies. July 1 2016, marks the centennial of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It was the worse day in the history of the British Army, 57,470 casualties in one day where 19,240 men were killed.

The Newfoundland Regiment sent 721 men over the top that day at Beaumont Hamel and by day’s end, 619 were listed as wounded, killed or missing in action. About 91 men trickled in over the next few days, many too wounded to rejoin the battle.

And there were 140 more days to go, but nobody knew that on July 1st 1916.

So while many of us in Canada and the US enjoy a long weekend of parades, sweet treats and fireworks, take a few moments to reflect on the extraordinary effort and sacrifices made on this day and more days to come.

Is Minimalism Different on a Lower Income?

cleaning3

I have been trying to figure out the answer to this question for weeks now and I keep going back and forth and then I told myself, dammit make a decision. I scanned the internet reading about other people’s minimalism journeys and I couldn’t fully relate to some of the articles and videos because their lifestyle is just so different from mine.

It’s hard to fit me into a specific demographic because statically I am not like people in my age group. My peers have homes, vehicles, cluttered garages, spouses, pets, children (and even grandchildren). I live alone, in a small apartment with few assets.

The Job
My job is confusing to many. I work as a cleaner and I like it. I have a routine, the days fly by, and I provide a valuable service and everyone is very friendly. I am pretty well paid thanks to our collective bargaining agreement. I went to school, learned a craft, but the job market tanked and my industry crashed and burned and never recovered. There are those who loathe that I do work that is perceived as beneath my white middle class upbringing but the very same people are very much out of touch of the realities of finding well paying meaningful employment in a global economy. It’s complicated, a little cut-throat and extremely demanding. The stress of my old job was going to shave years off my life but working as a cleaner probably has added years to my life because the job keeps me fit and is very low stress. As much as I like my job, I cannot ignore the fact that I don’t make as much money as other people and since I live alone, I don’t have the flexibility of a two-income household. I have no debt and some savings stashed away but this didn’t come easy. I have to work at it and living with less, certainly helped me achieve that goal.

There are, of course, many things about living a minimalistic life that are universal no matter how much or how little you earn. A life with less crap means less time and energy spent on physical and mental clutter. It helps you prioritizes your needs and wants and gives you the freedom to value experiences and people over material possessions.

Like everything in life, you can’t really ignore the subject of money. It’s just there. I can’t speak for everyone on a lower income, but this is how minimalism is for me.

Accumulation
I’ve never made a lot of money so that means I’ve never been able to accumulate things. There has never been an excess of clutter piling up in a house, garage, storage locker, because there’s no house, no garage, and certainly no extra money to store things at a storage facility. I won’t lie, it can be frustrating to someone who has to monitor their budget constantly to read about people who mindlessly shopped in the past and then have to sell items at a loss to gain control over their clutter. I want to say what the fuck where you thinking? You spent good money on [gadget/toy/novelty item] and used it for a week and then abandoned it to the back of the closet. Do you think money grows on trees?
Nevertheless, I imagine if you are more secure financially, you don’t think about it as much. A wasted $100 might not be a big deal to someone who has an income of $80,000 but a big deal for someone with an income of $30,000.

Fewer Choices, More Decisions
I have fewer options for things which helps me practice minimalism. Many things are unavailable due to my budget (i.e., cable TV, cell phone plan, gym membership, gadgets) so I don’t have to worry about them sucking away any mental energy. I have to say with fewer options, life is considerably less complicated. If you don’t have a cell phone bill, then you don’t have to fret about the cell phone bill every month. If you don’t have the gadget in the first place, you don’t worry about the gadget breaking, being stolen or becoming obsolete exactly 15 seconds after you walked out of the store. Having fewer spending choices result in the freedom from material possessions that minimalism preaches. I do find it maddening when people say “but for only $25 more…” Folks, there is no $25 more. That’s not true, there is the $25 but that would mean either going into to debt or not putting money toward my savings.

I don’t feel as if I am missing out, but I do have to be creative with my choices and decide how to prioritize things. Yes, I can go to the event but I can’t also go out for a meal after. It’s the event or the meal. Not both. I can do spending activity A this week but not participate in spending activity B next week because I know I have to get my haircut or visit the dentist or replace something that has worn out. I may have to cut a night short because I need to catch the bus rather than take a cab home. I still read the bestseller, I just have to wait for the book to come in at the library. I build stuff instead of buying stuff because it’s cheaper (it’s also fun).

So to answer my own question, minimalism is different on a lower income. That’s neither good or bad, just different. Minimalism is a lifestyle that encourages the benefits of less and each person has their own definition of what level of less makes them happy. My experiences are just a different slice of the minimalism pie. A smaller slice because pie doesn’t grow on trees you know.

Writing About Writing

writing-girlI made more than a few mistakes in the last 15 months when it came to my writing career.

I didn’t take my work very seriously and subsequently nobody else did. When asked about my books, I would get all shy about it and say the books are silly light fiction and ramble a bit about the plot and people would generally nod politely and change the subject.  I think I gave people the impression that this was a hobby or a passing fancy and not a job.

It is a job.

Now, if someone asks me of my weekend plans I say in my most confident voice, “when I’m not cleaning offices, I write books and sell them on Amazon.”   This gets people’s attention. All positive. People associate me more as a writer at work than a cleaner.  Fake it ‘til you make and all that.

The great thing about the advent of e-books is that anyone can write and format a book and put it online. The drawback to such an accomplishment is that people still associate self publish with amateur shit.   I wish I had a way to kill this misconception but I don’t.

In all my books the characters are always searching for insight (the characters in my book are much smarter than me and really have their shit together) but I fear I have no insight about my writing except that I produce an excellent product at a fair price.

That’s why I just keep typing away.

My Second and Third Week Without A Car

I sold my car this week and as an added bonus, I got a ca$h refund back on my apartment parking spot.

More Learnin’

vintage-me-bkingMore Biking!
I bike to work (15km round trip) then walk all day at work (2-4km), then bike home. Another extra 2-5km a day was manageable even though I was a wee bit grumpy by Friday night. The weather was unusually warm so that made things easier, but twice I had to pickup/return a car in heavy winds and when you are tired at the end of the day (I have a physically demanding job), the last thing you want to do is battle heavy winds while riding up a hill. Unfortunately not all the cars in my area are easily accessible by public transit (I know, irony) so I am biking to pickup/return the car. Once I buy a monthly bus pass, things will be a lot easier as far as getting to a car. There are three cars right on my bus route and that is a major route and the buses run frequently.

Better Planning!
I consider myself a good planner but I didn’t take into account some of the expansion going on (for the next three years) with the transit system and the trip to pick up the cheque for my car took hours. And, the battery in my phone ran dry so I could not read my ebook.  I had no book to read while on public transit. The horror.

Despite a grocery list, I forgot a few items and had to go back again on my bike. I forgot to buy eggs so I had to be extra careful when I biked home this afternoon. I also managed to forget to buy tortillas, not once, but twice. I’ll get them on the way home from work on Monday.

It takes me about 90 minutes to buy two weeks worth of groceries. I never can get them all at the same store. Luckily, the three stores I shop at the most are near each other. It takes me about 15 minutes to get all the groceries upstairs to my apartment. Someone abandoned a shopping cart last night in the loading bay of my building and that made things much easier.

Spent Less!
Since getting to a store required more planning and effort, I didn’t go to the store much which saved me money. This week, a pair of pajamas fell apart and I was going to replace them but then I decided just out of plain laziness just to see if I can manage with the ones I had. If I had a car, I’d probably would have zipped by the store and bought another pair without thinking too much about it.

Final Thoughts
I learned it’s much easier to sign up to give away your money, usually one step, but getting rid of a service, seems to require many steps to get a refund.

Like any process, there will be mistakes learning opportunities, but I think all of the difficult challenges are behind me. If anything, I will be fitter and richer.