Uncategorized

There Is Life After Facebook


Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Thinking about leaving Facebook? I considered it and even made a few brief “Fexits” before I finally made the leap around the end of 2018. I suppose each person has his or her own reason for bailing, and mine varied from time to time: it was too time-consuming, there were too many ads, I had privacy concerns. What it came down to for me is that not only did I find that I was losing respect for my family and friends, I was losing respect for myself. Without getting too deep into the weeds, suffice it to say that my sociopolitical views are quite different from most of those around me, and while I can live with that, I can’t respect people who insist on their own facts or are willing to compromise their core values for political expediency. And I don’t seem to have the ability to
just
scroll
on
by.

The main things holding me back were that 1) I needed to be able to manage by business’s Facebook page, and 2) I had used the Login with Facebook option on so many sites. I also really enjoyed a few quilting, crochet, and blogging groups, and wasn’t sure I wanted to give those up. At the end of 2018 I closed by business, and I decided I could do without the special interest groups and anything that requires a Facebook login. My sanity and self-respect depended on it.

I think the final straw was this guy.

The most abused emoticon on the Internet.

I assume that most of you are nicer than I am and don’t get into regular fights with your friends and family, not to mention people you don’t even know and whose good opinion you don’t value. Whatever your reasons, leaving Facebook (or Twitter or Linked in or even Pinterest) it will b a lot easier if you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish and why social media is holding you back.

I entered 2019 with a rather hazy vision, but a vision nonetheless, of where I want my life to go. Debt-free, clutter-free, low stress, creative, present and productive. Leaving Facebook was for me an important step in that direction.

I deactivated my Facebook account 2 months ago. According to an article on Marketplace.org, millions of Americans are leaving Facebook, with an estimated net loss of about 15 million in 2018. Fifteen million more Americans chose to opt out of Facebook than joined. Let that sink in. I don’t know how many Americans joined Facebook last year, but with 5 new users joining each second worldwide, I thinks it’s safe to say that the actual number that left is huge.

So how’s it going? Pretty well, actually.

Pros:

  1. I’ve reclaimed an hour or more per day, and that’s just the time spent on Facebook. It doesn’t count the time I spent stewing and fuming over the fact that my Facebook ‘friends’ either have no concept on information literacy or are intentionally sharing misleading articles for their own presumably nefarious purposes. (This paragraph illustrates beautifully why I had to leave Facebook. It reflects poorly on me and on most of my Facebook contacts.)
  2. I’ve begun to reclaim my information. I don’t have to worry about what Facebook is doing with my information. If I’m not on Facebook, my profile is of little to value to them. What value it does have is getting more stale by the day. There are any number of companies mining an compiling data for exploitation on the Internet, but Facebook is a high profile bad actor, and I like to think I’ve sent a message regardless of whether it was received.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m not bombarded with invitations and requests from people who only thought of me because I showed up in their friends list.
  4. I’m happier, and I feel that wee bit more dignified each day I don’t participate in the circus that Facebook has become.

Cons:

  1. The urge to ‘share’ lingers. When my mom died, it was years before I quit reaching for my phone to call her whenever I had something to tell her. My urge to share an interesting article to Facebook is similar, the difference being that many of my Facebook shares ended in disappointing interactions. I find that I can satisfy this urge by sharing to Pinterest where it will be seen by people who are more likely to be interested, and there are no comments. I also share via SMS message to whichever of my friends or family I think might enjoy it.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind. There’s nothing like taking yourself out of the news feed to make you realize how forgettable you are.
  3. Some of my best photos are in my Facebook albums... and nowhere else. I didn’t take the time to download my albums before my Fexit. In a couple of months I’m going to log in long enough to download my albums, then I will delete my account permanently.

All the best!

.

Clean Start, Fresh Start

Christmas Lessons, Part 2: Using a Planner (or Old Dog, New Trick)

I mentioned previously that I am not a fan of planners (the objects, not the people). Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my daughter had already purchased by birthday gift when that post was published. It’s a lovely, flowery thing with inspirational quotes throughout; not too big, not too small… just right. She included a set of comfortable, smooth writing pens and an add-on for the planner, pages of moveable lists with the phrase ‘listers gonna list‘ at the top, just to add a welcome splash of hip hop to my day.

My girl is that rare creature, an organized creative. She started using a planner in college to keep track of work, classes, homework, etc. Over the years as her life has evolved, so has her planner. It now includes work, social engagements, general budgeting, and doctor and grooming appointments for herself and her pack of hounds. Her planner is a work of art and a wondrous combination of planner and diary.

I enthusiastically accepted her gift and the promise of coaching. On Christmas morning, we spent about an hour setting up a very basic planning routine. She emphasized to me that the planner is a tool to alleviate stress, not a master or a source of guilt, and that it’s OK if I make mistakes, don’t follow it exactly, or forget to use it for a week. (She knows that perfectionism is one of the hurdles I’m trying to overcome.) That gift, along with her pep talk, have already made a huge difference in my life.

If you are struggling with disorganization, stress, or both, maybe you could try a planner. Here are some tips for getting started.

  1. If you don’t have a planner, get one. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. In fact, there are all sorts of free options available online. The Handmade Home has some beautiful free printables, including some stylish covers.
  2. Write out some short- and long-term goals, and whatever steps you can identify to achieve those goals over the next days, weeks, and months. Mine included setting up a thank you card system (cards, pens and stamps in box), exercising regularly, drinking more water, blogging twice a week, and organizing my sewing room.
  3. Go through and plug in annual events like birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions. You can also put in one-time events that you already know about like upcoming graduations, weddings, or vacations.
  4. Next, add monthly events like meetings and standing appointments for the next three months, or whatever horizon seems useful to you. I only did one month because my primary job right now is homemaker and carer for my elderly stepfather, and my schedule is largely dictated by his ever-changing needs. At the end of January, I have a note to remind me to fill in February’s schedule. Don’t forget your goals! This is also a good place to plug in bills you pay and payments you receive on a regular basis.
  5. What weekly and daily things do you want to schedule? Probably your work or class schedule, especially if it varies from day to day or week to week. Again, don’t forget your goals. I placed a legend at the top reminding me to exercise, drink water, and organize my sewing room for a few minutes each day. In theory, I should place an asterisk or a check on the days I complete these tasks, but mainly I just use them as a reminder.
  6. Good start! As you go along, put in new appointments or events, or reminders to make phone calls and follow-up calls if necessary. Whatever will help you accomplish what you want to, but also free up space in your head. If something is stressing you out, think about how your planner can help. For example, I sort my dad’s pills into a pill organizer once a week, but it was always running out on Saturday evening. Every Sunday morning when I really just wanted a cup of coffee and twenty minutes to myself, I would have Dad wanting his coffee, pills, and breakfast, and the dogs wanting walks, attention, and breakfast. It was not the best time to be sorting pills, and I was cranky. I put ‘fill pill organizers’ on my schedule for Friday evening, and now my Sunday mornings are a little less hectic, and I’m quite a bit less resentful.

My daughter recommended that I leave my planner open in a place I would see it several times a day and not carry it with me. I sit down with it in the morning to review the day and the week ahead, and in the evening to add new appointments or make changes. I keep my monthly to-do list under ‘Notes’ on the margin, and use the ‘listers gonna list’ pages for daily and weekly to-do lists and shopping lists.

My stress level has plummeted over the past two weeks or so, and I know a lot of it is that I no longer have to try to keep so much stuff in my head. I’m sleeping better, and I’m seeing results.

Using a tip from an episode of the Clutterbug podcast, I set up a Google calendar. It’s nice because you can access it from just about any device, and you can sync it with Alexa, which I find very helpful to my ADD brain.

Clean Start

How Big Is Your Elephant?

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

When the going gets tough, the tough get real. Or something like that. I’m not all that tough, but I feel like I’m up to my elbows in alligators and I’m not ready to give up yet.  My previous post was an emotional purge, an apology for supposing I might have anything useful to say, and perhaps a sample of a low mark on a bipolar roller coaster. (My husband says that sometimes I’m hard to be around; I tell him sometimes I’m hard to be. For better or worse, Mister.) 

So, I’ve been “dealing with” this problem of how to get my life back on track for some time now. 

I have been listening to books and podcasts like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and The Clutterbug Podcast (which I love!), and motivational books like Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (also great), and anything else that might be helpful. 

I’ve been trying out different planners: apps, binders with cute stickers, printables. (Ugh, by the way.)

I’ve been researching alternative points of sale, running numbers to evaluate sales channels, researching suppliers, and looking for other ways to make the business work. 

In other words, I’ve throwing a lot of darts. In most cases, I’m working backwards, finding a shiny a solution and trying to make it fit one of my problems… 

Sometimes my brains just fizzes and I accomplish nothing, not because I’m not doing anything, but because I’m doing too many things. Well, starting too many things. I don’t finish much. (I told you, I’m hard to be.)

Then, I read a blog post today by Allie from HeyMom,NowWhat that I found really helpful. Of course I’d heard it before, but it was a good reminder. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Allie was concerned about getting prepared for Christmas. I could only wish for such a palatable pachyderm, so tiny, tasty, and tender. Alas, that one is Allie’s (and I wish her well!) But the principle applies, and I decided to put it to use. The first bite was a big one, and it took me a full day of contemplation. You might say I had to chew it over a bit. Here is what I came up with.

PROBLEMS

  • Too much stuff
    • can’t find things,
    • can’t enjoy home
  • Too much debt
  • Business 
    • too much time managing inventory
    • too unfocused
    • too many competitors
    • not really enjoying it
  • Prefer to work from home

SOLUTIONS

  • Sell some stuff to:
    • pay some debt
    • have a less cluttered home.
  • Business
    • Immediately reduce number of sales channels by 2 or 3
    • Discount/auction non-core products for quick sale
    • Re-evaluate finances, environment, and happiness in June.

How big is your elephant? Do you need to write a term paper or plan a wedding? Start a business? Buy a house? Get the dishes done? Get dressed? (I get it. Some days are hard like that.) Remember, you can always ask for help. ❤

 

Clean Start

“Metaphormorphosis”

I’m dying. I am dying and I do not want to leave a house full of bric-a-brac and a bunch of paperwork for my family. I do not want to leave three rooms full of fabric and yarn and beads for them to try to make sense of.  Or a bunch of albums and tubs and boxes full of unmarked photographs and truckload of family-flavored guilt. I want them to say good-bye, bury me, and get on with life without dragging me and all my stuff along with them for the next 30 years.  

Since I know some of my readers know and care about me, let me assure you I have no specific information that I should expect to die soon. But I lost my biological father and my aunt when I was six, and my mom passed at 47. I have an unhealthy obsession with early death and have been expecting it any day for some time now.

I walked into my sewing room with my husband one day last week and he made a sound of… something. Shock, maybe. I couldn’t look at him I was so ashamed.

“I know.  This room is a metaphor for my life.”
“No kidding,” he said, backing out carefully. We haven’t spoken of it since.

 And this blog is the “metaphormorphosis” of my life. The symbol and means of navigating a life transformation. I made that up, of course, and it’s likely flawed but I’m going with it.

Back to the sewing room. The space is unusable. Things are piled all over the place, it would take me a full day to clear off the work spaces if I wanted to sew in there, and another day to organize any projects. Totes stacked upon totes in front of book cases and on a chair. You can’t see the top of the ironing board.

As I said, it looks a lot like my life. I don’t think I have enough time left on this earth to get it all sorted out, and sometimes I get a little panicky, afraid I’m going to leave a big old mess for someone else to clean up.


Photo by Ye Fung Tchen on Unsplash

Not that panicking is the answer. Anxiety and depression are probably about 40% of the reason my life is such a shambles right now, and the resulting indecision is the biggest obstacle to me doing anything about it. They rob me of energy and focus and resolve and memory and drive. And self respect. 

So, back to this mess of mine, my so-called life. It’s a disaster. I tagged this blog as a lifestyle blog, but really as kind of a joke. It should be a lifestyle-less blog. I am 49 years old and overweight and I hurt all over. I dress like a homeless person, eat like a college student, drive a car most teenagers would be ashamed of, and my credit is in the toilet. My business is failing and I will probably be bankrupt soon. I love my husband dearly, and I think he likes me well enough, but we understand each other about as well as two people on their third date rather than an old couple who’ve raised three kids and will celebrate 30 years of marriage soon.

I am the way am because personal and business choices I have made, and because of some things that were beyond my control. I accept that. 

As I looked at that room and at my life, something occurred to me. Now, when I am at my lowest and really have nothing to lose, I can reinvent myself.  Not thinner and sleeker and richer. But simpler, more helpful, more present, with less stuff. More time to read, a sewing room in which I can sew, projects that are finished, gifts that are delivered. A reasonable work week.

I’m going to spend the next several months transforming my retail business, if not totally winding it down. I will make that decision in the coming months. I’m definitely going to scale it back. It doesn’t make me happy, I’m not good at it, and it doesn’t fit in with my role a caregiver right now. 

Metaphormorphosis. Having reached a point of ultimate vulnerability and paradoxically ultimate potential, I am going to see what I can make of myself. I will share my journey as much as I am able, and invite you to read along and join in if you wish. 

Don’t mind the tears.

Uncategorized

Your New Year’s Resolution Is Not A Nose! Pick It Carefully and Don’t Blow It

close up photo of rodent and person
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(Also, Don’t Worry About It, There’s Always Tomorrow)

My son Deej is pretty good at resolutions and has been since he was about 12 years old and decided he didn’t want to be dead last on every heat of the training exercises in basketball practice. He stayed late and did extra sprints, he quit drinking soda, and he put his plate in the sink after one helping of dinner. He was determined to make a difference and knew he had only a few months to accomplish his goals.

photo of four assorted color beverages
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That is the only time I remember him making more than one adjustment at a time, though. He has at various times quit drinking soda, eating candy, using tobacco or alcohol, started exercising, quit taking a second helping at dinner, and any number of habits he wanted to start or stop. As someone who has struggled with overeating, gambling, drinking, prescription drugs, not to mention procrastination and general inability to finish anything, I marveled at his success.

ham burger with vegetables
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

I mentioned this to him one day, about six weeks into his latest no-soda phase (now about a year old). And he said, “Mom, you always try to change everything at once. You quit drinking, go on a diet, start an exercise plan, and launch a new business all at once…”

The kid knows me. But that’s a topic for another post.

Let face it, a lot of us view that magical moment when December 31 becomes January 1 as some point where all things are made new and all things are possible.  If you’re like me, you’re a blank slate sort of person, and you want to 2019 be your fresh start. My message for you is two-fold.

First, as I learned from Deej, choose one area on which to focus. Whether you want to start something or quit something, make one change at a time and do it because you want to.

As someone who will not be celebrating her 49th birthday later this month, but will nevertheless have one, I have never regretted learning something new, and that is a resolution that is much easier to keep.  Instead of going on a diet, try taking up a new hobby or taking a class at the community education center or library.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you can start over any time. Not just at midnight, not just January 1.

If you blow your diet at breakfast, eat better for the rest of the day. If you don’t get all of your steps in on Tuesday, do it Wednesday. You don’t have to wait until Monday.

If you quit drinking and then go out after two weeks and get hammered, keep trying, and ask for help if you need it.

If you swear off cursing and drop the ‘F’ bomb in some highly inappropriate place (aren’t they all, really?), apologize and set aside 15 minutes every morning to work on your vocabulary.

You can and should keep trying to be a better you. I can and should keep trying to be a better me.

 

 

For information about an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting near you, click here, or check your local yellow pages.

 

Mary Kunst lives in Forsyth, Montana with her husband, uncle, dad, two sons, her dog, and her dad’s dog. She is an expert on nothing, but has made a lot of mistakes and at almost 49, is starting to figure some stuff out.

 

 

Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com
Uncategorized

Bah! Humbug: Bringing Joy to the Season By Making It Your Own

candle celebration christmas christmas decoration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s December, and the air is filled with the scent of mulberry candles, evergreen boughs, fresh baked gingerbread… and the pungent odor of stress-induced sweat oozing from the pores of everyone of us who has bought into the lie that if we aren’t skiing, skating, jingling, caroling, wassailing, dancing, shopping, baking, wrapping, trimming, or feasting our way from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day, we’re failing life.

There are the parties: office parties, classroom parties, house parties, group and club parties, community parties, school concerts, church concerts, community concerts.

There are the gifts for friends, coworkers or boss, teachers, family, and if television and Pinterest are to be believed, everybody you meet on the Twelve Days of Christmas.

photo of red boxes
Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

You must also clean and decorate your house to Martha Stewart perfection, pile thoughtful and beautifully wrapped gifts around your tree, and park his and hers Lincolns in the driveway.

On the big day, you must prepare a juicy, golden brown turkey ringed with cranberries and rosemary sprigs, a green bean casserole, and an 18″ pumpkin pie with a single dollop of whipped cream in the center.

Now, to be fair, some people absolutely love the shopping and decorating and socializing, and if you are one of those people, that’s totally cool. You don’t need me to validate your feelings; the whole world does it for you!

There are many reasons for holiday ambivalence: financial stress, introversion, too little down time, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and painful associations. Whatever reasons you may have for dreading the hustle and bustle of the season, the added stress of unrealistic expectations won’t make it more enjoyable.

Usually, our home is Holiday Central for extended family: my twin brothers and their families, my cousins and their families, and our grown children. We clean and decorate, plan, shop, and cook. All while doing our regular work, but admittedly not many parties or concerts.

A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law had a health scare in November so my husband wanted to visit over Christmas. I couldn’t go, so he took my uncle (who lives with us) and went to visit for the week. Our daughter had just started a new job and couldn’t come home, and neither could my cousins or my brothers. It was just me and our two boys. The three of us stocked up on snacks and pizzas and drinks, and spent two days in our pajamas. On Christmas morning, we read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. They played video games, I read a book, and we watched movies. No tree. No gifts. No stress. No guilt. We all went back to work a couple of days later feeling rested and refreshed and happy.

That might be a little too simple for you, and it’s not how we usually do things. But that year, at that time in our lives, we needed rest more than we needed feasting or tradition. And that’s OK.

This year we have put up a tree and outside lights. We will host a small potlock party for my book club, and about half of my family will be here for Christmas dinner. We will each put a small gift the others’ stockings, and the children will have gifts to open, and I think we’re going to have pizza and snacks because we just had a big Thanksgiving feast. That way we’ll have more time for games and puzzles and pajamas.

What will you do? I encourage you to say ‘Yes’ to those things you want to do or that are important to you and your loved ones, graciously pass on the things that aren’t, or that overextend you. If you can’t afford to or don’t want to participate in gift exchanges, let people know. Respond to unexpected gifts with a prompt, handwritten thank you rather than the hasty, guilt-prompted reciprocal gift that will make you both feel awkward.

Be kind to yourself, true to your beliefs, and forever grateful.

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

 

Mary Kunst lives in Forsyth, Montana with her husband, uncle, dad, two sons, her dog, and her dad’s dog. She is an expert on nothing, but has made a lot of mistakes and at almost 49, is starting to figure some stuff out.

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Pros & Cons of Nosy Neighbors

As I mentioned in my first post, my brother’s recent retirement and subsequent settling in Montana got me to thinking about why, or why not, a person might choose to live in a small Montana community. My sister-in-law wasn’t sure she could live in a small town, 100 miles from everything.
And she’s not the only one. Small towns across Montana are drying up as our young people grow up and make tracks for greener pastures: better jobs, social and cultural opportunities, the chance to marry someone who is not a cousin…, and privacy.

It is a well-known fact of small-town life: You know your neighbors and they know you (or they soon will). And they know your business.

This is not for everyone.

I remember a few years ago I was working as a cashier at the local grocery store. A young man I didn’t recognize kept showing up, and after the third or fourth day I asked him if he was new in town, where he was from, and what had brought him to Forsyth. After the third question, I noticed that he was becoming very uncomfortable, so I welcomed him to town and wished him a good evening. After that, he avoided my lane for a long time…  I started making up stories in my head about him being in the Witness Protection Program or on the lam; Heaven only knows what he thought.

To me, it was just normal friendly banter, to him it was very awkward and intrusive. He is still around and has presumably realized by now that I am no crazier than the next small-town person, and I have heard him chat with customers in a very friendly and familiar way. I still don’t know what brought him to Forsyth, and that’s OK.My inquisitiveness only goes so far as someone is willing to share, and I think that’s true of most Montanans. Maybe his is on the lam, and if someone came to me looking for him, I would probably offer to give him a message rather than tell them where he works.

Nosy neighbors are inconvenient, but they help to keep us honest.

I think anyone who was ever a kid in a very small town at some time harbored an abiding wish to ‘get out of here’. When I was about 13, a convenience store owner called the cops on me for attempted shoplifting. I had tried to lift a bottle of wine and thought better of it (I chickened out), but he called the cops and I got my first ride in the back of a police cruiser. Since I hadn’t actually taken anything, no charges were pressed and they didn’t call my parents. I just got a scare and long lecture.

A couple of weeks later, some helpful neighbor told my mom about my ride of shame, but Mom didn’t believe it because a) she still thought I was a pretty good kid, and b) I was safely at home with her on the night in question. The neighbor had gotten the date wrong.

As a young teen, I could see only that our neighbor was being nosy and gossipy and trying to ‘get me into trouble’. It wasn’t until much later that I began to see this interference for what it was: the original social safety net. If I had gotten into a little more trouble then, I might never have had another ride in a cop car.

There is a reason that small town America doesn’t have huge gang problem. Our neighbors would tell on us and we’d get grounded.

What really makes this truth a Pro is that we know and care about our neighbors, even the ones we don’t really like. We bring meals to the sick and grieving, offer rides, drop by to chat. We will notice if something is wrong and will help if we can.
Furthermore, while grudges and feuds are not unknown, but they are very impractical in tiny communities. So we tend to apologize when we’re wrong, compromise when we must. If we want to be happy, we learn to accept the good with the bad.