Being Frugal

I have been planning a somewhat major purchase this month, but the price has increased beyond what had been set aside for it so I’ll just make do with the small appliance I already own. There have been a few of these postponement decisions this year, so waiting longer for a new vacuum cleaner isn’t a big deal. This will give me longer to evaluate different makes of cleaners.

I have also been setting aside a few bucks for an outdoor maintenance tool. The old “Weed Eater” grass trimmer has been acting up, but still works. While thrifting yesterday at Goodwill, I noticed a brand new, in the box lawn trimmer for sale. At $29, the Black & Decker Lithium powered trimmer fit the bill exactly. Such tools rarely show up at our local Goodwill Store, so I purchased it. After assembling the tool and charging the battery, I tried it out on some overgrowth on the neighboring vacant lot. The machine does a much better job than the old “Weed Eater”. I also appreciate the cordless feature–no more dragging out extension cords during yard maintenance.

What has happened in these instances, demonstrates three aspects of frugality: budgeting, careful postponment of spending, and taking advantage of favorable prices. When a person cultivates frugality, not only is debt avoided, but peace of mind is enhanced. These are especially important during these days of global economic inflation.

It’s important to differentiate between being a cheapskate and being frugal. Being cheap generally means extreme aversion to spending; then when forced to buy something, the cheapest–often flimsiest option is settled for. Being frugal also entails aversion to spending. However, frugality engages discernment–not necessarily settling for the cheapest, flimsiest option. Often times, frugality enables the buyer to purchase the most quality-filled item. Value for dollar, beats cheap for the sake of cheapness nearly every time.

One other important aspect of mindful spending is the avoidance or minimalization of debt. During routine shopping trips, I leave my credit card alone and try to refrain from using the debit card, too. While thrifting, I try to only use cash. Paying with cash makes me more conscious of money outflow. When considering a purchase, I’m less eager to part with currency than if I just whip out a card. This is one reason I’m against the trend towards a cashless economy.

“Unite liberality with a just frugality; always reserve something for the hand of charity; and never let your door be closed to the voice of suffering humanity.–Patrick Henry

Grandma J exercised frugality in a humane manner. As a survivor of the Great Depression, she understood the importance of budgeting, saving, and careful spending. She balanced careful spending with mindful generosity. Grandma J often quietly slipped a ten or twenty dollar bill to some of my cousins who needed help. She never made a big fuss when doing this even though grandma was not wealthy herself. For their part, the cousins were careful with their spending habits, too.

All things considered, one does not need to resort to cheapness to save money. Planned frugality enables a more enjoyable and satisfactory lifestyle.

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 18th century English critic, essayist, moralist, playwright, and poet, Samuel Johnson. “Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor.”

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Carried Away

“No tempest or conflagration, however great, is harder to quell than mob carried away by the novelty of power.”–Marcus Tullius Cicero

In some figurative sense, human beings can behave like grasshoppers. When we’re alone or with a small group of other people, we’re mostly rational creatures who are typically civil and respect boundaries. However, when we gather in large crowds such as in sports venues, or political protest demonstrations, we have the potential to behave en masse like locusts. We can easily lose our individual sensibilities and behave as if the crowd is under the spell of a single will.

In other words, certain species of grasshoppers change into locusts during their swarming phase. It seems as if humans have a behavioral swarming phase as well. Both locusts and humans in swarms are capable of destructiveness and violence. There’s something about the sight and smell of large groups of grasshoppers and people that can be transformative in a destructive way. After a certain point, it becomes difficult or impossible to effectively control the groups.

Humans being the clever species we are, have figured out how to manipulate large crowds. Leaders and other popular individuals understand the immense power that can be wielded by turning a peaceful gathering into a fiery mob. It’s the old “torches and pitchforks” behavior we see depicted in movies about the Dark Ages or the angry mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021. A large group hears a pep-talk and becomes transformed into an emotion-driven mob that focuses on one destructive, deadly goal.

“If somebody’d said before the flight, ‘Are you going to get carried away looking at the Earth from the Moon?’ I would have say, ‘No, no way.’ But yet when I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.”–astronaut, Alan Shepard

One does not need to be part of a crowd in order to become emotionally carried away. It can manifest as something benign or even positive. The reader can easily get carried away into the plot of a well-written book. Our emotions soar when we become absorbed in a beautiful landscape. Reason and rationality wane when we become infatuated and fall in love with another person. Sometimes, while we’re engaged in work or while creating something we are carried away in the production of our tasks.

One night, several years ago, on a lunch break during my solo work shift at the radio station, something memorable happened. The overnight programming was automated so I could enjoy the lunch break with minimal interruptions. A favorite disco song began playing–I think it was “I Love the Nightlife” or something similar. I couldn’t restrain myself from dancing. I became caught up in the rhythm and the words as I boogied around the empty office. On and on I danced, then I glanced at the large window at the front of the building. A few people (maybe a family) were watching my performance without my prior knowledge. I felt my face flush red and I stopped in my tracks. I smiled and waved at the people; then returned to the break room to finish eating lunch. I’ll probably never forget that embarrassing incident.

It’s wise to remember that it is very easy to get emotionally carried away and that we should be mindful of situations when it is likely to turn into something uncontrollable. We are smart not to become involved in crowd scenarios that can devolve into destructiveness. On a smaller scale, one must be careful about getting too wrapped up in the spirit of the moment that we commit to taking on too many responsibilities (people pleasing). It’s good to be careful not to become so fatigued that we lose sight of our accomplishments. One must also be careful not to become so happy in the moment that we agree to something we may regret later. It’s good to be mindful about when it is harmful to get carried away and when it is beneficial to allow it to happen.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor, author, commentator, and stand-up comedianne, Paula Poundstone. “My parents got carried away with the letter P when they were naming the kids in our family. There’s me, Paula, my sisters Peggy and Patty, and my brother Pjimmy, spelled with a silent P.”

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Thrift Store Day

I’ve been packing boxes with “gently used” stuff that has been accumlating around the house. I’ll place them in the car and bring them to a couple of thrift stores. I divide them between an independent and Goodwill. The independent store caters to female shoppers–they will get some items that will likely sell there. Goodwill caters to everybody, so I’ll bring my resellable clothing and accessories to that store.

Some of the boxes have already been stacked near the door, waiting to be loaded into the trunk of the ol’ Camry. There’s a fair amount of continuity to the process. Much of the stuff was purchased second-hand and it will be loaded into a car that was purchased second-hand. All of the items and the car have been useful in some manner and have largely served their purpose. The time has come to let go of the smaller items in the hope that someone else will find value in them. As for the car, it continues to serve its purpose and I plan to keep it for as long as practically possible.

Thrift shopping is an extension of a time when I was severely down on my luck. It was a way to obtain necessary items for daily use. Any garments I chose were selected to help make a good impression on prospective employers. Even after finding gainful employment, the thrifting remained as a personal extension because of the endless possibilities of finding things I enjoy.

At one point in time, I began purchasing items that would likely be attractive to eBay shoppers. I had an eBay store set up to do what I hoped would be a booming business. Actual sales were poor and the profit margin was in the negative figures. Also, my heart really is not into retail selling at all. I pulled the plug on that experiment with a sense of relief. Meantime, the merchandise, mostly antique and vintage vases, remains stored in a corner of the basement. Many of those vases find use on Floral Friday posts on this blog.

Long ago, I crossed the line where I stopped shopping at regular retail stores except for essentials that must be purchased new. I cannot reasonably justify paying full price for most of the items I regularly use. Also, I’m at the age when people couldn’t care less what clothing and accessories I wear. That said, I’m very choosy about wardrobe choices.

Today’s outfit is a good example of mindful thrift shopping. The blue jeans are $6.95 Levis that still had the hangtags on them. (MSRP was $99.95.) The burgundy Columbia tee-shirt was barely used before it was donated by someone else. I paid less than $5 for it. On my wrist, is a nice, vintage Timex automatic mechanical dress watch that cost less than $3. The only items purchased new are undergarments, socks, and shoes. I have a stringent rule, never purchase second hand shoes–ever. If you buy used shoes, you’re also buying the previous owner’s foot-health problems.

There are only a few more items left to pack before I load the boxes into the car for today’s thrift store run. Hopefully, my gently used things will become other people’s treasures.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes rapper and singer, Macklemore. “Thrift shopping is all about going into the thrift shop and having no expectation of what you might find.”

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Personal Transformation

If we are tuned into our intuition, we may have an inkling that something major is about to occur. We have a sense that we need to make plans to minimize the damage that will likely happen. Even if our hunches do not indicate some catastrophe, we might admit that we are resisting change or in denial about changes already in progress. We may be clinging to outmoded belief systems regardless of whether or not they are healthy or relevant to us.

Although we feel resistant to change, we understand that it is necessary to take care of business and learn from difficulty and remedy our shortcomings so as to make progress in life. We intuit that if we continue to deny the inevitable, it will find a way to be present in more insidious ways. No level of denial or hiding will make it disappear. The problem will likely become more severe the longer we procrastinate. If the problem is neglected altogether, the result might be surprisingly severe.

For instance, let’s just say that I am going through a significant spell of personal upheaval that entails both external circumstances and internal attitudes. The scenario feels forced upon me so remedial measures must be taken. The scenario forces me to call into question some fundamental beliefs, meanings, purpose, and values. This may cause a major paradigm shift which, in turn, might change my opinions about major topics. In a more profound sense, this upheaval may trigger an existential crisis, whereby I question my life’s purpose. While this could be an unsettling time, I place trust in the process and mindfully monitor my responses through contemplation and journaling. Throughout the stream of events, I accept and allow transformation hopefully into an evolved version of who I am.

Although I am not going through such a period right now, such pain and turmoil has happened in the past. Such things happen to most of us human beings. We are thrown into serious circumstances and given wake-up calls to heed our inner guidance. We may even be able to foresee further serious problems and take preventative measures before worse problems spring up. In other words, these crises are our opportunities to break free from old thinking that has held us back. Further evaluation enables us to seriously consider fresh outlooks.

Fortunately, we don’t always have to wait for dire circumstances to force us awake. If we are already living a mindful lifestyle, we are more likely to receive early warnings, then take steps to avoid or minimize future damage. Change will occur without traumatic shock.

As we allow the old ways self-destruct it is time to re-focus on the new reality. We can see that change is not necessarily happening to us but life is just happening. With this attitude change, we are better able to ride the wave of change to our best advantage. With an aware state of mind we realize new perspectives we previously did not understand or knew even existed. The anxiety and pain will eventually subside. Acceptance will reveal positive opportunities and options. We can then choose how to use these to further our inner growth and further evolve into the best versions of ourselves.

Namaste


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author and licensed therapist, Nedra Glover Tawwab. “Permit yourself to change your mind when something is no longer working for you.”

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Determined

“Amongst the qualities a hero should have, I would include determination, loyalty, courage, perseverance, patience, focus, intrepidity and selflessness.”–popular actor and singer, Ricky Martin

The Carlo Wostry painting of Ludwig van Beethoven is my favorite depiction of a classical music composer. Wostry’s painting is more than a static portrait; it’s an illustration of Beethoven’s life-force. Whenever I carefully study the painting, I see something different and profound in it. For instance, yesterday, while taking in the entire illustration, I saw Beethoven’s determination.

Wostry painted Beethoven as a younger composer before his works had earned international fame and renown. Beethoven appears to be walking fast and his face shows him focused on a goal of some sort. There is a woman’s head facing the opposite direction which seems to indicate that she was indifferent to the man who had yet to attain fame.

In the creation of the painting, Wostry showed his determination to get the Beethoven’s depiction right. The painter hired a model to wear actual garments that had belonged to Beethoven. The model was posed in front of a house that once belonged to the composer in Hetzendorf, Austria. It is this attention to detail that makes Beethoven come alive in the mind’s eye. I see the image of Beethoven as a man who is not merely a dreamer, but a man of action who is unafraid of sweat and hard work–fueled by determination.

Beethoven was a determined man. He was not only highly talented, but was persistant and somewhat perfectionistic in applying his genius. This powerful combination almost made the composer omnipotent. At the very least, determination shaped Beethoven into becoming the greatest musical composer of all time (in my opinion).

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the world-renowned motorsport racing driver, Mario Andretti. “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal–a commitment to excellence–that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”

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August Still-Life Practice …Floral Friday

This week’s trio of arrangements came about by wanting to pair a few knick-knacks with a few special floral containers. I wanted every aspect to reflect simplicity. The three projects had to include a small amount of whimsy.

The terra cota leopard head pot contains a planting of poppies. The vintage tuxedo cat figurine was a no-brainer accompaniment.

Mature roses and blossoms form a traditional arrangement with the medium tall ceramic vase. The vintage institutional savings bank’s shapes and patinaed brass work well with the project.

A noteworthy, special vase is indicated by the inclusion of the blue jay figurine. The vertically striped Murano blown vase is a favorite. A few blossoms stems are the only necessary floral elements.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century comedian of Laurel and Hardy fame, Oliver Hardy. “A knick-knack is a thing that sits on top of a whatnot.”

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‘Tis Arrrgust, It Is

“In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this {piracy}, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power.”–Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts

Shiver me timbers! I finally got around to noticing it’s Arrrgust. The month we backhandedly poke fun at pirates. In lore, pirates of the past were an equinaminous bunch of skalawags–there’s a certain honor among thieves. During Arrrgust we turn a blind eye to the brutal truth of piracy. It’s all about dress up and fantasy that takes place upon the Seven Seas.

One wonders why pirates, Vikings, and other outlaws are romanticized. Why do we glorify swashbuckling days, and robbers from olden days? Perhaps it is the fog of time that obscures the brutality and high criminality that took place during the golden age of pirates. The fact is, that the modern day Somali pirates have more in common with terrorists than they do with the likes of the fictional Jack Sparrow.

The fun we have with pirates in contemporary entertainment has little to do with old fashioned terrorism and more about our fantasies of freedom and leaving the rat race of modern life. We imagine sailing away on a sailing ship to the Carribean with our treasure maps in hand to find our buried chest full of gold and jewels. In our mind’s eye, nobody gets hurt and everybody can do whatever brings us pleasure.

Then there are the movies and television shows that help to popularize pirates. “Pirates of the Carribean” and similar films recognize some danger and underhandedness, but do so in a humorous manner. Jack Sparrow is not a terrorist; he’s just an impish fellow with sticky fingers. Sparrow is an anti-hero who is easy to love. That movie pirates are somehow cool is rooted in the fact that societies glorify violence. We see this played out in depictions of the “James Gang”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, or gangsters such as Al Capone. These anti-heroes speak to our darker nature–the sides of us we try to keep hidden. There is also that not so hidden part of us that wants free stuff. If we cannot win the lotto, we can cheer for the Jack Sparrow types.

Fiction aside, there is something about pirates and contemporary small time criminals that tugs at our collective conscience. For example, the Somali pirates began as local fishermen whose livelihood was ruined by illegal corporate fishing and the dumping of toxic waste in their fishing waters. Out of desperation, the fishermen discovered that hijacking commercial ships and taking hostages is more lucrative than trying to fish in depleted, poisoned waters. The victimized corporations and nations labled them as terrorists and pirates. Like many terrorists, they were “created” by their victims. This is not to say that pirates were morally justified–pirates arose out of frustration and lack of other options.

There have been conquerers like Alexander the Great and the bands of Vikings who roamed the globe in search of territories and riches. The Vikings sailed in artistically carved boats, used intricate swords, and wore great helmets and clothes. Pirates were the unglamorous opposite of the Vikings. They were opportunists in search of a quick buck. They sailed in stolen, decrepit ships, their clothing was ragtag. They really did not have hidden treasure chests.

There were certain old time pirates who were romanticized in their own days–the British pirates who raided Spanish vessels as sailors of fortune for the British Crown. They victimized the Spanish, but they were seen as dark heroes in Great Britain. The hero pirates included Francis Drake who was promoted and knighted. This fact adds some legitimacy to our current romanticization of pirates.

Although we have fun with pirates, we cannot overlook the dangers from modern day pirates. The new breed hacks victims’ computers to empty bank accounts and steal identies for nefarious purposes. Modern pirates not only sail the Seven Seas, they do so in speedboats armed with AK-47 rifles and black market rocket-grenades. Modern pirates seize vessels and hold crews for ransom or kill them outright.

Anyhow, it’s OK to have a little bit of fun and to humor our dark side for awhile. However, we must not forget the intrinsic outlaw nature of the pirates of lore.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes abolitionist, essayist, lecturer, and transcendentalist philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “In politics and in trade, bruisers and pirates are of better promise than talkers and clerks.”

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