REST

Isn't this just the image of an ideal resting spot? © Brent Mclennon

It is a fact that we often mistake for a baseless opinion and shelve behind the important things we need to do.  Like run a company, write a book, meet so-and-so for drinks so she can cry on your shoulder about her recent breakup, classes that we Single Women like to fill our time with on the premise of “self-improvement”.

There is no good excuse for running oneself into the ground.  Yet we find them and invent them and sell them as though they would gain us commission.  Why?

I’m sure the answer for every Single Woman is different in the details but it usually boils down to fear.  The fear of losing momentum, the fear of missing something, the fear of silence, of aloneness.  Pick one or mix them up, but fear wraps its frozen claws around us subtly at the thought of what our thoughts will say if we gave them the silence in which to speak.

SINGLE WOMAN LOVE THYSELF!

Your SELF is your own precious Ferrari, given to you and designed by God.  Let your thoughts speak.  Trust the good at the core of your gift to temper your quiet conversation.  Take a day, a few afternoons a week, and sit in your own company at rest with your Self.  It is a very important relationship to maintain, this relationship with ones Self.  It will determine how you live, how fulfilled you will be and the direction in which you will go.  How can you have your dreams come true if you can’t take the time to actually find out what they are?

In Eat. Pray. Love., Liz describes the first time she actually meditated.  It excited her beyond her expectations and she has made meditation a daily practice in her life.  Sure, her New Age beliefs are not for everyone but the concept remains the same.  Spend some time letting the quietest of your thoughts do the talking and perhaps you too will discover profound truths within yourself.

It is no secret that regular and quality rest can add years to your life.  Sleep studies and stress tests are increasingly coming upon new information on the benefits of rest and the damage that the lack of it can do to your health.  Many of today’s most common diseases are stress triggered and avoidable.  Certainly we aren’t aiming for a quick race to the grave, are we ladies!

But what is rest?  The opposite of labour is the idea given by Jesus (“Come unto me all ye that labour and I will give thee rest”).

rest

noun

1.  the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep: a good night’s rest.
2.  refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor: to allow an hour for rest
3.  relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.
4.  a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity: to go away for a rest.
5.  mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity.
In all of these there is a quieting of the mind and a gentle run of thought akin to the flipping of magazine pages and looking at the pictures (contrary to closely examining the text of a volume of the US tax code).  Eight hours of sleep is not your only option.  I find rest in many places like the chaise side of my sofa with a blanket over my legs, a cup of tea on the table, and a sleeping dog on either side.  I find rest in the hammock on my back porch with a good book.  In yoga, in meditation, in a boat ride, tanning by the pool, walking the dogs.  I find rest in long drives and beach walks.
Today I invite you to think about what rest looks like to you.  And embrace it!
Advertisements

NaNoWriMo

So yes, I have thought about writing a novel.  And I have virtually completed a book of some kind in this blog of mine over the past 3 months.  But what about the world of serious writing?

Writing class did some very important things for me – it made me realize that I love this stuff!  I’m still not sure if I’m good at it but that’s only marginally important.  If I love it I should do it no?

Enter NaNoWriMo.  A competition to write 50,000 words before the end of November, National Novel Writing Month.  All I’d have to do to be a winner is write.  And I’d have to start today.

But then doubt sets in – I’m exhausted.  I have a week’s vacation, should I be busting myself over this?  My computer needs to be replaced before I can expect to do much more than social network on it.  There’s a full plate of obligations set before me and I have no idea how I’m going to meet it.

So NaNoWriMo… I will think on you for one more day.  By tomorrow I’ll know if I’m crazy enough to try it or not.

Mind you… it’s only 1,666 a day… 1,724 if I start tomorrow…

What do you think?

A Financial Plan

There is no other opinion that you have to consider in deciding where you put your money or how you spend it.  Yes, this is an incredible freedom.  But with great freedom comes great responsibility.  And the Single Woman is responsible for the care and control of something priceless – her Self.

It is the vehicle that she received in the womb, the character that she has shaped and nurtured, the soul that will sweeten as she grows into her old age.  Her Self.  And this Self has needs.  Emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, and financial needs.

As you search your life for opportunities to serve (#4), take a visit to your local retirement home.  You will see the stark realities that face old ladies who have not prepared for their financial needs of the future.  There are unprepared widows, mothers abandoned by their children, the divorced and destitute on the one hand, and there are those who have prepared as best as they could for a self-reliant and comfortable golden age.  The unprepared find themselves 100% dependent on others – family members who take an interest, charity groups, government institutions.  They have very little say and very few choices in how they live their day-to-day life because they do not out of their own resources pay the bills.  Their present is very bleak and their future is hard to see.

Single Woman, this could be you.  The lesson?  Do not be frivolous with your money in your youth.  We have always been told to not spend wastefully and to save what we can, but that is the most basic of financial plans.  And we, by virtue of living in singleness and having no one to depend on but ourselves to do this planning for us, should be thinking a little beyond the basic.

While we are part of the earning population we should be taking confident steps toward a bright financial future every day.

Step 1. Research.  Read a book.  Look in the financial section of the book store.  Start simple – even the silliest get-rich-or-die-trying fad books have something to teach you.  Look for practical books and research the authors – is this a person whose advice I can trust?  A recommendation from the Singlestream is Rich Woman of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series.  Rich Dad Poor Dad is also an enlightening read.  Books by Jim Cramer of Mad Money are also never a waste of time.  Cramer’s shows are also useful as are his constant twitter updates.  Get to know what’s out there.

Step 2.  Seek support.  An accountant girlfriend can give you some interesting insight and engage you in debate as to what is best for you.  Girlfriends are free and they enrich your lives in one way while you enrich their lives in others.  And if your girlfriends are real friends they will be happy to help.  If you aren’t in the social circle of an accountant, call up your bank and arrange a meeting to seek advice.  Or hire an accountant.

Step 3. Budget.  Put Microsoft Excel to good use.  And leave nothing out.  Put everything into a spreadsheet from your salon visits to your dry cleaning.  Use the functions.  Make the sheet add it up and keep track for you.  Check your sheet once a month without fail.  An example of a Single Woman’s budget is soon to make its appearance on the Singlestream so keep a look out for that.

Step 4. Spend carefully and Save.  We all know where we can cut back – take lunch to work, make our own coffee, not need to add a 100th shoe to the closet.  But once you have budgeted and budgeted your savings and obligations in first, your spending should be limited to what is left.  As to your savings – cut a portion of your salary out.  10% is a nice round number.  Send it straight to an account with high interest that you will forget about.  Let it add up and add up.  Set up an automatic transfer so that you never actually see that money.  Don’t give yourself an escape route from your savings plan.  It is from this fund that the deposit for your home will come, your investment ideas will be funded, and your grocery money will come out of here when you’re 85.   Don’t save so much that you always feel the need to dip into the fund.  Also, contribute over the limit on your pension fund.  You do have a pension don’t you?  Discipline yourself to save.

Step 5. Get debt free.  Quickly.  Sure, you have a student loan, you have a car loan, you have a mortgage.  All the things you have to do to do you.  But keep a responsible head on.  Debts are a scary thing!  For example, if you purchase a house with a mortgage for $200,000, by the end of the 30 year term you are very likely to have paid out that amount twice – repaying the principal and interest.  Don’t just make your monthly mortgage payment – it is the minimum and it must be met.  But make the effort to pay it off quickly.  Save yourself some of that interest money for your old age.  Credit card debt is the worst – that interest is incredibly high compared to most other debts and that card is so very easy just to swipe when you need something.  Practice self-discipline.  Or leave the card home.  It’s not your money after all – you’re borrowing from a loan shark every time you swipe.

Step 6. Insure against catastrophe.  Health Insurance has been a very hot topic in recent years.  And it is one very close to my heart.  If you think about it, an accident victim in the United States can run up bills in excess of US$500,000 in six months.  Even if you have been saving all your life there’s a strong chance you won’t have that kind of money hanging around in your bank account when you need it.  Medical bills have been found to be one of the greatest causes behind bankruptcy filings.  Insure against it.  Life Insurance is also an important product.  Sure, your family will need it in order to settle your affairs upon your death and if you’re a Single Woman this may or may not matter to you.  But what will be important to you is that you will at some point in your life want a mortgage.  In order to get your mortgage you will need to have life insurance at least for the amount that you have borrowed in the mortgage.  Neither of these insurances are to be taken for granted.

One thing you probably won’t know is that the older you get the harder it is to get health insurance or life insurance.  When you apply to be joined to one of these insurance plans your lifestyle and the state of your health is assessed to determine whether you are a risk that the insurance company can take on.  This process is called underwriting.  Depending on what your health looks like when you apply, you may be given exclusions on your coverage, limitations on your cover, or only qualify for a basic level of cover.  This is why it is important to do these things when you are young and immortal.  Not only will you be able to qualify for a million dollar life insurance policy, but you will be healthy enough to have no exclusions so that later in life when you do develop an illness you aren’t left in the lurch.

These are the basics my Single Ladies.  But if you take nothing else from this, please take this one thing.  Do your research.  Protect your financial future.  And start today.

Useless Idle Chat

 “Only the spoon knows what is in the pot.”

This morning it is a very delicate thing that weighs on my mind.  I owe a friend an apology and she doesn’t even know it.  And if I do apologize it will open her up to a hurt she does not need to feel right now.  I will blog about it in the abstract and maybe one day, when the betrayals all come to light, I will be there to help her.

We are not very long acquainted and not yet close.  Yet I have wronged her.  I have wronged her by listening to idle gossip.

There is the argument we absorb growing up and growing wise that gossip is harmful, hurtful and should be avoided.  We understand in theory the importance of honesty and minding ones own business.  But driving to a social event with friends and having them say “Oh Bushlings you are going to meet my friend X.  Be careful with her and don’t believe a word she says” or to each other “I saw her yesterday you know, with another man.  Do you think Y knows?” or worse yet “Poor Y, have no idea what he’s doing with that X”.  It can even be as indirect as saying “Boy oh boy that X, she is something else.”  The tones are advisory, disapproving, warning, and downright self-righteous.  But it leaves the most discerning listener questioning is this a fair warning?  Are they doing me a favour?

No.  It is gossip.  It is taking a bucket of proverbial red paint and throwing it all over someone’s first impression not yet made.  They don’t stand a chance.

In this case I met the victim and was wary.  Her honest overtures of friendship were dissected and examined before I took the step of opening my heart.  When I did it was after a long reprimanding conversation with myself and a long exploratory one with her.  I learned a few of the untruths of the stories for myself but got to the question of “why is it any of my business anyway?”  Only the spoon knows what is in the pot.

It made me mindful of the dangers of influence and the responsibility we have to think for ourselves.  She may have needed a friend in the time it took me to flush the gossip out of my system and I would have been distant and inaccessible by my judgments.  I would never have known, so caught up was I in the manufactured poor impression maliciously made.  Only when I made the conscious decision to be gracious and allow the friend the chance to make her own way into my impression did I learn what a giving, open, caring, honest and lonely person she was.  Isolated more still by malicious gossip.

It made me wonder how many others had heard the snide comments, loose-lipped remarks.  It made me question how many of these remarks have been made about me?  Has there been a preamble to every introduction these ‘friends’ have made?  Who gives them the right to decide how the world should see me?  Her?  Anyone?

Rather than send myself crazy and dwell on the gossipers I have decided to examine myself.  Should I tell her?  Do I reach out enough?  Do I keep my mind open enough?  How should I be dealing with the conversations like these that happen around me?  How do I not only protect myself from their influence but stop them from happening – at least in my presence -in the first place?

Do you have stories about gossip?  How do you recognize it?  How do you deal with it?  What would you do in my position?

A Hurricane Veteran’s advice to a Newby: 10 things you should do to prepare

Caveat: I am not FEMA.
Truth: I am much better. I am the survivor of one of nature’s terrors. The Category 5 hurricane. Heed my words and I will save you from discomforts FEMA would blush to discuss.

How to prepare for a hurricane is a skill perfected by veterans and an art refined by the veterans in the Caribbean – particularly Cayman which is statistically the land mass most frequently visited by the Atlantic hurricane.

1. When to prepare:
June 1 comes along. Every year it comes, not like February 29th. It is the start of crazy-time. It should be in your calendar on your phone with a repeat every year. It is the green-light-GO for hurricane preparedness for hurricane survivors or those of you who want to become hurricane survivors (much better than the alternative, right?).

2. Clear the debt:
We hear money people back and forth on debt and its pros and cons. On June 1 you want a free and clear credit card. And you want to KEEP it free and clear for the season. Why? When you want to get the hell outta Dodge and the ATMs are all either flooded or buried under rubble you will feel love for clear plastic. Also, right before the storm, get yourself some cash. Lots of it. Keep it safe with birth certificates and passports in ziplock waterproof bags. Easy to grab at last minute if you need to run/swim to safety.

3. Stock up:
Big one. Last minute shopping limits your choices. And in the aftermath of a storm while you are waiting for running water (we waited 1 month) or electricity (we waited 3 months) and supermarkets or banks to open, you need to have prepared your choices. There is only so much tuna fish you can eat without growing gills and it takes far less corned beef to make you “moo” in one direction or another.

During the season veterans will pick up four of five items on each supermarket trip and pick up batteries and flashlights when they are on sale.

4. Food choices:
Already touched on this in point #3. When stocking up think in food groups. Think things that won’t spoil.
A. Meat – canned, dried, long life stuff.
B. Beans and legume – very convenient in cans and don’t require cooking. Warm and serve.
C. Starches – easiest one. Snacks, crackers, breads, cereals, but pastas and rice will cut into your water supply and need to cook so look out for that.
D. Sweets – very stressful time. Calories not important *wink*
E. Easily stored drinks – powdered, canned, boxed. Anything to keep you from the doldrums of a diminishing water supply.
F. Fruit and veg – this part is the most important and is often forgotten or disregarded. I cannot over-stress this point – fruit and veg are crucial in the aftermath of a storm. From my personal experience I will demonstrate and beg your forgiveness for being gross. But you’d never get this from FEMA.

So Ivan came and, as usual, hurricanes make people hungry. We ate oreos, snacked on pretzels, drank juices while they were cold before power went out and took the fridge. All hell broke loose, two thirds of the country was under water, lives were destroyed and homes lost and we woke up two days later in a disaster zone. Constipated. NOT FUN. Imagine having no running water to bathe or flush toilets and having to struggle with THAT demon too!

So canned fruit, onions and carrots that won’t go off quickly, dried stuff, metamucil. All necessary.

Be creative. Mix the food up. Remember this could be what life looks like for months.

5. Practical goods:
There are hurricane lists all over the internet. I will not attempt to replace any of them and when I get to a computer and off my smart phone I’ll stick a few links up. In the meanwhile, think DESERT ISLAND and what you would need. Northerners, think SNOWED IN with no electricity and no running water and you’ll get the idea.

6. Water storage:
One thing I have to correct the pros on is water storage. If you can help it, please do NOT fill up your tub. Buy two of those massive outdoor barrel-sized garbage cans and put one in your bathroom and one in your kitchen. That way you have the use of your tub to rinse off in or wash things in AND you won’t be using bathroom water in your kitchen. This is especially useful when the bathroom drainage stops working. So keep your bins and clean them and fill them in the hours before the storm.

7. Candle? Or flashlight?

Both! Candles give off light. But they also give off heat. The aftermath of a storm can be the hottest, stickiest time of the year. Battery operated lamps and lights are best for indoors and are bright enough to give you all the light you are accustomed to. They are less hazardous as well.

Outdoors is a different story. I am convinced that hurricanes carry with them some steroid for mosquitoes. After a storm they are huge and relentless. Light attracts mozzies but citronella candles can repel them. So stock up liberally and buy some repellant as well.

8. Two MUST HAVES:
A camp stove with lots of fuel. And a battery operated fan. Not on most lists because it seems like a luxury to the powers-that-be. But you will thank me later!

9. Personal hygiene:
Shop with the inability to shower for ten days of sweltering hot weather in mind. Think baby wipes and hand sanitizer. Women think Summer’s Eve and feminine products too.

10. Entertainment:
When you hunker down you will be there a few hours. Don’t twiddle your thumbs or drive yourself into a psychotic break. Make sure you have card games, board games, books, toys for kids and animals, bones for dogs. And your sense of humour. This may be needed not only during the storm but for days after as you are stuck on the 79th floor with no TV or electricity. Do some bonding. Laugh a lot. Force it if you have too.

Pray. Rest well. Be safe. Good luck!