Sunday, July 29, 2012

How Much is Enough?


What makes us want more, more, more? What do I want more of? What do you want more of?
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Why?
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“More” can encompass many areas of life; more love, better health, more friends, more knowledge, more quality time with family, and so on.
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But let’s think about tangible things. Taking a guess, based on five decades of life, I’d say that money is number one on the list of wants because it can buy the things on the rest of the list – the list that contains things that, supposedly, make us more comfortable and happier.
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Oh yes… the never ending search for the elusive happiness; the emotion that gets written about in books, magazines, blogs, and all the other social media; discussed on TV and radio talk shows, sold via motivational speakers, prayed for in churches and places of faith, meditated on in Yoga classes, and ultimately, pursued with money.
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We buy larger houses; or smaller, chic houses in the “right” neighborhood. We buy club memberships, collectibles, vehicles, time shares. We get cosmetic surgery. We dine at restaurants that are the best we can afford. Jewelry, clothes, golf clubs, computers, furniture, cookware:  all continual “step-ups.”
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There is an article in the 7/7/12 New York Times Sunday Review titled, “Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.”  In it, the benefit of having money is acknowledged, generally speaking, saying that people with money tend to be happier than those with less. (No surprise there.) More specific, it said that once you reach $75,000, you’re sort of “there,” happiness-wise, and that any more than that doesn’t increase it.
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I’m sure a lot of people beg to differ. Do I? Hmmm…
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I was raised on the equivalent of much less than $75,000. Sure, I wanted an occasional new toy and more clothes as a teen, but I wasn’t miserable when I was denied; oh, except when I was denied the 1969 motorized mini-bike when I was 11. I begged mercilessly for it until Mom said, “Don’t bother me about it ANY MORE.”
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Before my career ended in 1994, I made “good money;” more than my parents, more than a seasoned teacher. Thankfully, I had been taught to save which resulted in my good money not "burning my hands,” as they say; and was able to buy the house, the car, blah, blah, blah.  Like most people, though, I wanted a higher salary (or a winning lottery ticket). Wasn’t that what I was supposed to want; to compete for promotions and more money?
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Nowadays, when the enormous salary of a celebrity (especially an athlete) is reported, my husband is sure to express his opinion. “That’s nice,” I say. What am I supposed to say? Guess I’ve grown to believe that a person’s life isn’t better than mine because he or she has more money.
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For me, more money means security. It means not having to borrow beyond the house and car, having enough for needs and a few wants, charity, and some to save. I know that money can be here today and gone tomorrow, but I seldom worry about it. While my husband is concerned about the cost of college and weddings for our three daughters, I’m not (yet). Perhaps I’m na├»ve. If we can’t afford it; we just can’t afford it.  Worrying isn’t going to make money fall from the sky. Planning isn’t either, however, that works better for me.
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And stuff… Things…
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When I think about my day, the comforts granted by material things, I realize that I have enough. If you are young, you probably don’t think that yet. And if you are older and still want more – well… good luck.
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I have a friend who reminds me of the burden of stuff.  “We could have more: bigger house, fancier cars, nicer clothes,” she says, “but have always felt that there are diminishing returns on each new thing and that having less means greater financial (and even physical) freedom.  A bigger house means more to heat, cool, maintain, furnish.  More stuff means more places to put/store it, dust it, maintain it.  More consumption means more direct and indirect pollution... and so it goes.”
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I agree with her. However, I’m probably not the best example. While I am content in my already-spacious home and with my new Mommy Van, I can’t say what the future will be. I don’t want a bigger house, but decorating a few rooms “in” the house is on my list of things to do that will cost more money. Getting rid of the so-called stain resistant Berber carpet in my den/office for hardwood ain’t cheap. And, it will be time consuming and possibly, stressful. Where do you draw the line? How much is enough?
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Did you see the news reports of the tiny New York apartments that are the size of two parking spaces? Obviously, some people are turning to simplification and the minimalist lifestyle; or are they just desperate to live in New York City by any means necessary?
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I had another thought on this topic while in the car on the way to Myrtle Beach. One of my daughters (Girl #3) complained about not being able to get comfortable. She had the whole back seat of the van (3 seats), but because she had to find a comfortable position for her head, she whined. (Not for long, though. She was told to “be quiet.”)
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Four hours into the trip, Girl #2 asked one of those standard traveling questions, “How far do we have to go?” She was told and then she let out a whining complaint. “My butt hurts,” to which I responded, “We bought this van so that you all can have more space when we travel. Girl #3, you especially wanted it, and were excited about having the back seat to yourself, and you all are still complaining!”  Then I pulled from the NY Times article by saying, “Goes to show that we give you more and you’re still not satisfied.” Girl #1 then said with a smirk, “IIIIII’m not complaining.” I think the other two got it and ceased the whining.
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What are your thoughts?
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Image is from Microsoft Office clip art.
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Thanks Judy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blog Friends

Blog Friends
My first blog post received one comment. It was from Judy, my friend who told me how easy it is to set up a blog. She was my go-to person for those first questions.

 A few months later, I met Hilary at a party and discovered that she is also a blogger. She explained to me how to put Sitemeter on my blog (a counter of visitors) and a few other things.

I read their blogs (and I still do), studied what they did, then bravely branched out in search of other interesting blogs using Google blog search, entering key words and phrases like “stay-at-home mom” and “midlife.” I’d also click on an interest that I’d listed in my profile, which connected me to others who’d listed the same interest in their blog profile. I found Menopausal New Mom, who was also new at it. She was my first blog bestie; exchanging comments with me as we wrote about our lives. A few months later, Abby Normal and I discovered we had things in common. Both of us are stay-at-home moms after having been an engineer (her) and a computer programmer (me), and we each have three kids; hence, another blog friend.

The relationships grew as I clicked on avatars, the followers of other people’s blogs.

Relationships?  you may ask; especially if you’re not a blogger. How does one have a real relationship with someone they’ve never seen or whose voice they’ve never personally heard?
Remember pen pals?

As a self-affirmed blogaholic since 2009, I’ve “met” people from all over the world, and find that everyone’s life has an element of interest.  I’ve learned that the degree to which bloggers discuss their personal lives is quite varied, and that I am susceptible to laughter, joy, fascination, gratitude, knowledge, concern, worry, and grief when reading their blogs. Of the hundreds I’ve visited, there are standouts that keep me going back; like watching a particular TV show, reading a certain newspaper column, or the books of a favorite author.

In doing so, I’ve followed pregnancies to birth, listened to struggles caused by debt, been inspired to cook by recipes and pictures of food, been awed by great writing, admired the best photography and art, learned more than I’ll ever retain about plant species and gardening, gotten personal accounts of snow storms, earthquakes, and raging fires, read book/movie reviews and recommendations, listened to the opinions of intellects, appreciated the wit of the clever ones, etc.

I’ve also prayed for blog friends who have cancer and other health issues, and cried when two blog friends passed away.

Relationships? – yes.
Sometimes I bravely mention you – my “blog” friends – to my “real life” friends.

“Whooo?” they say. “Oh.”
 or

“You what? Blog? Ohhh… Uhuh.”
Hard to explain to people who work at computer screens all day and can’t stand the sight of one when they come home.

Hard to explain to people who don’t write or like to read.
Hard to explain to people who are not “people persons.”

Hard to explain to people who don’t like to talk.
Hard to explain to people who are not overly curious.

And that’s all okay.

In 2009, I received a blog award from another blogger, and turned it into a post titled, “Why I Blog.” Then, the impetus was having a forum to write and publish, which resulted in immediate gratification.  My precious three year old manuscript was shelved; put on the back burner in favor of this new-to-me medium that required no approval; no wait for the expertise of an editor or agent.
I also mentioned my appreciation of “other bloggers” in the post, describing them as “interesting people.”

Today, writing is still my purpose for maintaining a blog; however, the purpose is twofold, as I have grown to see my “blog” friends as “real life” friends.
Words and images are powerful and convey much; even when expressed personally in a blog.

How have your feelings about blogging changed since you started? Have you met any of your blog friends?