Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jumping for joy is good exercise.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
~Abraham Lincoln
About ten years ago, I found myself swimming in what I can only describe as the blues. I decided to conquer my depression by starting a Happy journal and search for the little things in life that made me happy and for which I was thankful. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I feel I want to share some of those things that brighten my life:

1. Word games
2. The Internet
3. The guarantee of a 60-second massage every Tuesday at Salt Lake Choral Artists rehearsal
4. Clouds
5. Rodgers & Hammerstein
6. Josh Groban's ability to bring me sweet memories of winter in Lithuania
7. The ability to use chopsticks with ease
8. Receiving genuine compliments
9. Prayer
10. Friends who are on my side
11. Touch - playful, soothing, and healing (both giving and receiving)
12. Lotion (didn't know I would be so thankful for lotion until I moved to Utah)
13. Having a car that runs and doesn't have a monthly payment
14. Getting paid
15. Having a unique first name
16. Falling leaves
17. Being debt-free
18. Drive-thru ATMs
19. Torrential downpours
20. Cake with frosting
21. Flowers
22. Calculators
23. Spider Solitaire
24. Being a native San Franciscan
25. Dancing
26. The scriptures
27. Lithuania
28. Alias
29. Veronica Mars
30. Having faith and then having the courage to truly exercise it
31. Green stoplights all the way to my destination
32. Using coupons
33. Writing
34. Earrings
35. Pictures to provide good memories
36. Measuring tapes
37. Thermometers
38. The moon
39. Lone trees
40. Knowing what time it is
41. Laughter
42. A great pair of jeans
43. Holding hands
44. Snow-capped mountains
45. Cool maps
46. Google
47. Quiet time just spent remembering past experiences
48. Food storage
49. Kisses on the cheek
50. Any opportunity to share, listen, and be with people I care about

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wanderlust has taken hold and will never let go.

Wanderlust has taken hold of me and will never let go... So I like to travel. Doesn't everybody? My perfect day would involve a passport, a book, a hammock, a view of the ocean, and some sort of dairy product. I got that perfect day in January 2008 in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. That was, by far, the most relaxing trip I've been on. (Thanks Dad and Nancy!) I hope to have many more repeat perfect days all over the world for the rest of my life!

Lately, I've been lamenting my lack of travel the past six months or so. I realized the other day that I haven't been on an airplane in seven or eight months. That may sound funny to some, but it's very unusual for me. And as my plans are right now, I will not be traveling anywhere for the next couple of months. The beginning of 2008 went like this:

January - Los Angeles and on to Nicaragua
February - Orange County, California
March - Michigan
April - nowhere? (I don't believe that.)
May - nowhere? (I can't believe it.) I was going to go to Virginia and Pennsylvania, then had to cancel.
June - two trips: Las Vegas and Orange County, California (flew in and out of Long Beach)
July to November - nowhere. Not even any further north than Ogden, and no further south than Springville.

As you likely know, I'm a list person. So this post is more for me than for any of you and is not meant to be a bragging list or anything. I just like to keep track of my life on lists. So there you have it.

States I've been to (at least two feet on the ground):
1. California
2. Nevada
3. Utah
4. Arizona
5. Idaho
6. Washington
7. Montana
8. Colorado
9. Kansas
10. Texas (one night at a hotel in Dallas after a delayed flight)
11. Missouri
12. Iowa (drove through Keokuk with Grandpa, got out and did a little tap dance, so I could say I'd been there)
13. Illinois
14. Wisconsin
15. Michigan
16. Indiana (Indianapolis airport only, I believe)
17. Ohio
18. Pennsylvania
19. Virginia
20. Maryland
21. Delaware
22. New Jersey
23. New York
24. Massachusetts
25. Connecticut
26. Georgia (Atlanta airport only)

So you may notice that this West Coast native hasn't included Oregon on her list. Nor does she have Wyoming, a state with which she currently shares a border. Yeah, who knows how I skipped Oregon altogether. I'll get there. Hopefully on a trip up the coast. And Wyoming, well that's just a matter of planning a trip to AnnMarie's. :)

Countries I've been to:
1. United States
2. Mexico (Tijuana only, so I'm not really sure if that counts)
3. England (including British territory Gibraltar)
4. Lithuania
5. Latvia
6. Spain
7. Czech Republic
8. Poland
9. Sweden (Stockholm airport only, so no passport stamp)
10. El Salvador (San Salvador airport only, so no passport stamp)
11. Nicaragua

No, I haven't been to Canada. Surprisingly, Estonia isn't on there either. I just never made the long bus trip up there. And sadly, I haven't been to Russia or Morocco, though I've seen both. Just didn't cross the border. Someday...

Friday, November 07, 2008

That our children might fly.

I read this today:

"Rosa Parks sat in 1955. Martin Luther King walked in 1963. Barack Obama ran in 2008. That our children might fly."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lessons from the Great Depression.

Since, I've gone back to school, most of you know that I'm only working part-time now. (Read: I've been earning half my salary since September.) This means, I've been extra money-concious and am always trying to find ways to cut expenses and save money. Why spend, when I could save, right? So I found this article listing the top ten lessons we can learn from the Great Depression and I thought I'd reprint it here.

10 Money Lessons From the Great Depression
By Jeffrey Strain

The U.S. may not technically be in a recession. After all, the U.S. Commerce Department says the economy grew at a 0.6% pace in the first quarter.

But most people look at things more like legendary investor Warren Buffett, who defined a recession as when "people are doing less well than they were three months, six months or eight months earlier."

For most economists it is no longer whether there is going to be a recession, but what type of recession it is going to be: short recessions like the one from 1990 to 1991 and the one from March to November 2001, or something like the Great Depression.

No matter which it ends up being, one of the best places to look for sound advice is from those people who have survived the worst of economic times - namely your grandparents.

Here are 10 ideas you may want to take from them:

1. Frugality Is Not a Bad Word
There was a time when a person who was frugal was looked upon with esteem rather than someone without the means to buy more. Many people seem to equate frugality with "cheapness," but that couldn't be further from the truth. Being frugal is simply getting the most out of what you have and purchase, and not purchasing things that you really don't need. While your grandparents learned frugality during the hard times, many of them continued to practice it even when times got better, which helped them build wealth. Learning to be frugal could help a lot of people who haven't learned to live within their means.

2. Use What You Have
In a consumer society, whatever problem you may have can always be solved by buying something else. If something breaks, go out and buy a new one. If something isn't exactly right, go buy something that is. In your grandparents' time, when something broke, they first took a look to see if it could be fixed. If it couldn't be fixed, before it ended up in the trash can, they would consider whether it could still be useful for something else. There is no reason to go out and spend money on something new if you can get the same thing accomplished with the things that you already have.

3. Doing It Yourself Is the Way to Go
When it comes to fixing things, the first people that your grandparents looked at were themselves. Instead of calling someone to fix something that broke, they fixed it on their own most of the time. In a society where we now hire people to do most basic repair and maintenance, it's important to remember that most repairs aren't nearly as difficult as they may appear and that you can do much of it on your own with a how-to book and patience.

4. Things Have More Than One Use
People tend to buy stuff with a specific purpose in mind and use it exclusively for that intended purpose. What your grandparents knew is that most things can have multiple uses throughout their useful life. That T-shirt can become a night shirt when the collar gets worn and can't be worn outside, and then a painting shirt when it starts to get holes and eventually rags when the holes get too big.

5. Debt Is to Be Avoided
In the age of credit cards, where spending what you don't have now is encouraged left and right, it's hard to believe there was a time when people actually believed that debt was to be avoided, but those are the words that your grandparents lived by. If they didn't have the money, then they would simply need to figure out a different plan on how to get what they needed. It might be borrowing it from a friend, saving up money or finding something that could be used instead. Going into debt to get it accomplished was not an option.

6. Save for Rainy Days
As many people are finding out, rainy days eventually come. Your grandparents were well aware of this and specifically put aside money for these rainy days. It's now what is commonly referred to as an emergency fund and something that comes in quite handy when your financial plans don't go exactly as you imagined they would.

7. Used Can Be Just as Good as New
This concept isn't completely foreign even to today's generation. The notion that buying a quality two- to three-year-old car has become basic mainstream financial advice when it comes to car ownership. Your grandparents knew that just because something happened to be pre-owned doesn't make it something to be dismissed as unworthy. They also know that this concept doesn't stop with cars and can be expanded to almost any other area where a second-hand market is available.

8. Functional Trumps Fashion:
When it comes to making purchases, your grandparents knew that it wasn't what the device looked like, but what it could do that mattered. It was much more important to buy something that did what needed to be done regardless of what it actually looked like. That Rolex may look great, but it doesn't tell time any better than a standard watch bought at the local discount store. Learning to buy for function rather than looks is a great way to save money.

9. Bargains Are to Be Sought-After
When it was time to purchase something, your grandparents didn't just go out an get it that day. They took the time to look for a bargain. That meant doing research and waiting until the price was right rather than pulling out a credit card and buying it even when they didn't have the money. Bargains take planning and time to find, but when they are found, you know you have gotten a great deal.

10. Homemade Cookies Are Delicious
In a society where everything is pre-made and sold for convenience, it may be hard to remember the last time you had a meal made from scratch. What your grandparents knew was that not only is it less expensive to cook this way, the resulting meal is also a lot more delicious. Think of it this way; would you ever consider trading in a plate of your grandmother's homemade cookies for any store bought brand?

While the way that your grandparents handled money may seem unsophisticated with all the financial tools that are available today, the basics of living below their means, saving for a rainy day, getting an education and investing in their future are values that a lot of people could financially benefit from today.

What ideas are you implementing in your homes?