May 2008 – Slowing my social life

Image courtesy of ankillen

This month I am giving up going out to places that require me to spend money. I consider myself a pretty social person and recently I’ve felt like my social outings, while fun, are eating up all my free time and money. So due to the fact that I’m continuing to prepare for craft fairs while also getting ready to move at the end of the month, I figured this would be a good time to give up going out. 

Honestly I really didn’t give much thought to how much my giving up would affect others, except maybe my boyfriend. Yet again, though, many of my friends have inquired as to why I have chosen to give up going out this month. Once I explain my reasoning, most everyone accepts why I’ve chosen to do this in May instead of a winter month. While I believe everyone supports me, its still kind of surprising to me when friends and relatives ask questions about my choice for the month. At this point I’ve become so used to sacrificing something new every month that I guess I assume that they will have grown used to it too. Maybe I’m not alone in experiencing an odd mix of joy and anxiety when the 1st of the month rolls around…

So far this month’s choice hasn’t really impacted me too terribly much. My boyfriend and I were still able to have dinner and play the Wii over at our friends’ place on Saturday. I knew I would absolutely go crazy if I didn’t have any social contact outside work for an entire month and that doing so wouldn’t really help me in any way. The majority of my social activities involve me spending money, usually on food and drink and usually without much thought as to what I’m spending. This is why I decided to allow myself to do things that are free. Hopefully this month my choice will actually prove to be beneficial to others as well, since I also tend to be the one who organizes a lot of the eating/drinking/shopping outings amongst my friends. 

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April 2008 – Bye, Bye WWW

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image courtesy of CruisAir

Initially I did not want to give up the internet at home until after I was finished standing in as Interim Manager at my job, but my addiction to being online reached a highpoint last month and I felt I needed a break now. Plus I have two craft fairs coming up and it will help me discipline myself into getting some fun crafting done, instead of spending all of that time mindlessly surfing online. So in April I will be forgoing all use of the internet at home and at friends’ houses. The only time I am allowing myself to access the internet is here at work.

Of course this has already presented me with numerous obstacles. On Tuesday I really wanted to look online for Michael’s store hours, but instead I had to use the phone book. Yeah I know, boo freakin’ hoo, but it really is just an odd feeling to revert back to using the phone for things I have become so accustomed to accessing online. And within the past two or three days I have received a sudden flurry of emails from a bunch of random people which require lengthy responses that I no longer have much time to write during my lunch break. Finally last night I had brought a little work home with me and really could have benefited from being able to access my work email, but alas I refrained from getting online and waited until this morning to finish it at work.

Nothing terribly problematic has come up yet and I am letting everyone know that I won’t be checking my email so if they need me they’re going to have to call or text. Its definitely going to be tough, I’m sure, but I’m actually really looking forward to all the free time I will have to do stuff that I need to do.

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American giving

132678210_77ea5c7462.jpgimage courtesy of Rob Maguire

I usually love gift giving. Oftentimes its more fun for me to shop for other people than it is to shop for myself. This month, however, this wasn’t the case. Although I have been frustrated all month when shopping for myself, I just wanted to sit down and cry the other day when I was shopping for a friend’s birthday. I actually avoided going out to shop because I was dreading not finding what I wanted. For a shopaholic like myself, this is obviously a horrible feeling.

Eventually I forced myself out. All I really wanted to find was a pair of tights for Jennifer to go with the dress I bought her on Etsy. I really wanted to find a yellow pair, but considering the stores are packed with swimsuits at this point in the year, I knew the tights selection would be slim anywhere I went. So I remained flexible. Two hours and eight stores later, I finally left with a pair of grey tights that practically blended into the dress. But they were made in the USA and I had my shopper’s soul sucked out of me 20 minutes into the trip, so I settled on them and bolted to my car.Up until this point I was trying not to “settle” on purchases because I could technically do without them until next month. But since this was a gift, I didn’t have a choice. I cannot imagine how people who truly enjoy shopping could possibly attempt to shop USA for more than 6 months. I guess it comes down to what is more important to you – supporting the dwindling American manufacturing industry or recreational buying. And unfortunately it appears as if the shopper inside me is going to win out here. 

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Going barefoot

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image courtesy of Daveybot

While I was home for Easter last weekend visiting my family, I completely forgot to pack my tennis shoes. And since my one pair is a little worn, I figured I could use another pair. So I did some preliminary research online to see if there were any companies that manufacture tennis shoes in the USA. The only one that I found was New Balance. Not my first choice, but hey considering what I’d read from others who have attempted the buy American concept I felt lucky to find even one company that still does business here.

So we went off in search of some New Balance shoes that I actually liked. Much to my surprise virtually every pair we encountered in the dozen or so stores we went to were all “Made in China”. By the end of yet another incredibly frustrating shopping excursion, I had only managed to find three pairs of New Balance sneakers that were actually Made in the USA. And they were all too athletic looking for my tastes. Needless to say I was really deflated and angered when I wasn’t able to buy any new tennis shoes. My mom shopped very patiently with me, at one point asking me if I received the shoes as a gift could they come from another country? A very generous gesture that I refused but which made me smile anyway. Without her presence I doubt I would have persisted looking as long as I did.

This trend wasn’t exclusive to tennis shoes either. I couldn’t help but pick up a fair share of other cute pairs of shoes, knowing full well that they wouldn’t bare the “Made in USA” tag. I guess if you were to only buy American you would end up either wearing really ugly neon green and navy blue athletic tennis shoes or you’d learn to like walking around barefoot.

Oh and as it turns out, I simply didn’t browse New Balance’s web site closely enough. They have a very small selection of shoes that are Made in the USA as a menu option. And they are all pretty plain and ugly, in my opinion.

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China – 9, USA – 1

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As I already mentioned most of what I (and probably you too) buy apparently comes from China. Its amazing really. And, of course, depressing once you sit down and think about it. Its particularly upsetting when brands bare an American flag on their boxes and/or offer some sort of “American Pride” kind of disclaimer and then you flip the box over to see the “Made in China” stamp. This occurs more often you might think and I find it infuriating. Clearly these brand names are attempting to trick people into thinking they are getting an American product. And before this month I would’ve probably been a consumer fooled by this tactic. But I’ve taken to checking every label now until I find the “Made in ___” before I buy it.

Not only is buying American boring for a recreational shopper like myself, but it is aggravating and sometimes impossible when you’re shopping for essentials. I had some friends over for dinner this month and I attempted to look for a 4 quart casserole dish to no avail. I went to Linens and Things, Bed Bath and Beyond and Target and came up empty handed. Okay so I did find one set of assorted glass baking dishes at Target that were made in America, but since I didn’t need the other five pieces in the box I decided against it.

The next day I took a cooking class at Chopping Block and wanted to pick up some steak knives afterwards because they were offering a sale on their knives. I didn’t have very high hopes for finding any since most of the good knife manaufacturers seem to be foreign anyway. I was almost amused when I found the familiar “Made in China” sticker on the bottom of the box for expensive Japanese chef’s knife. Almost, but not quite. Much to my heart’s delight I was elated when I discovered that the only set of steak knives that Chopping Block carries is this Rada set, which is made in the USA. I spent the rest of the day in a haze of happy disbelief that I had actually found something I needed that was not made in China. I almost want to write to Rada and thank them for their American craftsmanship.

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March – Buy American

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image courtesy of Buffalo ReUse 

So, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve become really horrible about blogging about my experience.  This is partially due to the fact that I have returned to spending too much time on Etsy. And so I have decided that I am going to forego shopping on Etsy for the rest of the year, except when I need to buy someone a gift or I need something specific. Clearly one month was not enough time to gain perspective on that little bad habit. Coffee, on the other hand, I found that I really do need on certain days in order to stay awake. So I’ve taken that back up.

Which brings me to this month’s challenge – buying only items made in America. And when I say challenge, I do mean a challenge. I have learned so much already about what I buy and I still have over a week to go. I am currently debating over whether I will continue buying American beyond this month. More on this later on.

The first week of March I went to Target. First of all you need to understand when I shop at Target, I need to sweep the entire store. We’re talking a couple hours. The Jovovich-Hawk collection had just been unveiled and I was simultaneously really excited and really worried because Jennifer warned me that, although Jovovich-Hawk design in Los Angeles, they don’t seem to manufacture there. And she was right. It seems that virtually everything sold at Target comes from some Eastern continent. Occasionally I found a “Made in Uganda” or “Made in Argentina” tag, but Chinese citizens appear to be making the majority of what I buy. After reading that “Made in China” stamp for the 100th time, my shopping spirit was sucked dry and I took the only American made item that I found, a pair of blue tights, and sadly went grocery shopping.

Over the next couple weeks I would come to find that every retail store held a similar experience. Old Navy. The Gap. Anne Taylor Loft. My shopping trips quickly dwindled to 5-10 minutes per store, as I grew discouraged going through rack after rack of foreign made clothes. My Etsy shopping time increased though, because I can easily find stuff on Etsy that is American made. GO ETSY! However I think I’ve been overcompensating for the fact that I can’t spend a leisurely afternoon shopping in stores by spending my evenings on Etsy. I’ve almost been window shopping more on Etsy than I normally do in stores. Hence my giving it up for the year.

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My clock winds down

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image courtesy of crooked_parabola

So my infatuation with being a tea drinker was short-lived. Or I should say I am still infatuated with tea drinkers, but I shall never become one. Although I have enjoyed Todd and Holland’s amazingly aromatic Purple Rain (which will be great for summer iced tea) and Yogi’s Mayan Cocoa Spice, I’m quickly tiring of tea drinking. Not only is tea not as delicious to me as coffee, it definitely isn’t providing me with the pick-me-up that coffee does either. My after lunch and/or late afternoon slumps continue to remain slumps, even after a nice cup of tea.

More annoying are my Tuesday evenings, when I work late. I used to follow every Tuesday dinner with an evening latte that would help to keep me going after work at home. Without my espresso desserts I power out pretty soon after I get home.

All of this is compounded by the fact that I am narcoleptic. Many people asked me how I was going to give up coffee, as if its my only means of staying awake. I take medication to keep me awake during the day, so I knew that I could sacrifice coffee and still function. However I have actually had doctors advise me to drink coffee when I need to and now I understand how much it does help me stay awake. It really does carry me through the slumps at work when I am tired and it isn’t time to take my medication. The Tuesday evenings are another story. I really cannot say I’ve ever had a physician advise me to drink coffee in the evening, since evening caffeine throws off the regular sleep routines that are important for everyone’s general health, especially narcoleptics. On Tuesdays I know I use coffee to keep me peppy when I know I really don’t need to be. I know I don’t have to come home and complete half a dozen tasks before bed, I just feel like I do. Hopefully by the end of this month I can begin to change this attitude.

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