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New Year’s Resolutions

Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear the most.

~ Fyodor Dostoyevski ~

I am treating July 1st as the start of my New Year.

As a teacher, this seems like the perfect time to actually pause and reflect on the blessings of the year and to ponder what needs to change. The rest of the year is too crazy-paced for such musings (perhaps I should resolve to slow down)!

So, I am making resolutions.  The first one is to blog (check).  The second is to address the self-discipline thing that seems to be plaguing my life, specifically in the areas of physical and financial health.  And maybe flossing.  I’ll keep you posted.

Freedom List

As a measure of financial integrity, I am trying to get my spending under control this summer.

Most of my money is spent without thinking which, of course, is a significant problem.

I have come to see my spending as a series of trade offs:  where can I save so that I can have money to spend on the things that really matter?  An example of this would be my recent conversion to the cult of price matchers.  I now see that it is worth checking for the best price in flyers (though it is time consuming and it does require organization and shopping without kids) because the money I save buys me a babysitter for date night!

A few of my colleagues (and friends) were excited about the challenge of a “summer of freedom” and we were (and are) sharing ideas about how to enjoy life on a very tight budget.

I guess we are all out to prove that the best things in life are, in fact, free.

This is my mission, should I choose to accept it:  find a way to have a fantastic quality of life for myself and my family without the hefty price tag.

I started this list in an attempt to respond to the question: what can I do without spending money or how can I do this without spending money?

The list is in no particular order and my compulsion to organize wants me to categorize everything for easy access but that will have to be a project for another day.

Here is my “freedom list” so far.

  1. Start your own blog 😉
  2. Visit  for all kinds of free deals!
  3. Scavenge at “large item pick up” times.
  4. Watch TV online.  Visit for excellent  (and free) kids programming or check your local networks for your favourite shows.
  5. Download free music, books, and podcasts for      entertainment.
  6. Organize a walking or book club.
  7. Backyard water play:  kiddie pool with tub toys, water      balloons, bubbles, sprinkler and the like.
  8. Learn origami or fold paper airplanes using YouTube      videos.
  9. Start a journal.
  10. Prepare for holidays (Christmas letter, organize wrapping, make lists etc.) in advance.
  11. Write some letters or emails or do some creative writing.
  12. Go coupon scavenging.
  13. Attend a free community class.
  14. Attend a church service or gathering.
  15. Try yoga, or Pilates, or Zumba  – borrow a DVD from a friend or attend a free community class.
  16. Exchange massages with your partner or foot rubs with your kids.
  17. Take a long bath.
  18. Volunteer somewhere in your neighbourhood.
  19. Build a cardboard castle from an old box.
  20. Star (or moon) gaze.
  21. Borrow books from the library or audio books from
  22. Go for a drive with a travel mug of coffee or tea from home.
  23. Listen to CDs that you haven’t heard in a while  – make mixed CDs for various artists, moods and occasions from your existing collection.
  24. Take in free local programming – like story times (Thursdays at 10:00 at Elmvale Public Library), movies (2:30 Tuesdays at Elmvale Public Library) or reading/craft programs (Lego mania Thursdays at 10:00 Elmvale Public Library).
  25. Have a movie marathon at home.  Invite some friends and potluck the junk food.  (This year:  the “Earnest” movies, Muppets and Mr. Bean are on the roster for a rainy day.)
  26. Pack some food and some toys and some sunscreen      and head to the beach.
  27. Keep a Rubbermaid bin in your vehicle with a ball, a Frisbee, and a few other items that could make stopping at a park for a play a simple thing.
  28. Free Samples?  Visit
  29. Colour, draw, paint or “craft” with supplies you already have.
  30. Revamp beaded jewellery by repurposing the beads into new items.
  31. If you have a Kindle or a Kobo reader, download      some of the classics for free!
  32. Bake.
  33. Surf YouTube for interesting videos or new music.
  34. Look for free iPhone apps
  35. Have  a home spa day.
  36. Organize a “Santa Swap” – Several parents gather with their gently used items, for each item donated they get a token or a button to trade in for another item that would work for under the tree!
  37. Clean your vehicle.
  38. Take in free fireworks, music and art festivals.
  39. Swim at a neighbour’s pool.
  40. Plant a veggie garden and share/swap seeds with a neighbour.
  41. Have a bonfire in the backyard.
  42. Print colouring, craft and activity sheets from the internet for the kids. is only one of MANY sites that have great stuff for kids!
  43. If you are into paper crafting this website has some fabulous freebies and ideas:
  44. Invite visitors for coffee and dessert or a potluck dinner party or BBQ.
  45. Review books and get them for free at
  46. Host a garage sale and put that “found” money      towards an outing.
  47. Shop with gift cards (as long as you did not purchase them!)
  48. Visit for practical or fun stuff or to get rid of some clutter.
  49. Go out to eat on a “kids eat free” night.  Check out  for options and links.
  50. Do your school supply shopping from home first as a scavenger hunt.  Make a list and see what items can be complied without spending a cent.
  51. Play board or card games.
  52. Host birthday/theme parties with items that you      already have in your house.  One example we have used is a Puppy Party – collect all books, stuffed animals, etc. with that theme to decorate. Have kids draw posters with puppies, create your own scavenger hunt with hand drawn paw print clues, draw paw prints on the cupcakes in multicoloured icing, print puppy pages      from the internet for a home made take home colouring book, watch Blue’s  Clues, Beethoven, or any number of dog-themed movies etc.
  53. Make homemade gifts, cards or “acts of service”      coupons.  Even re-gift gently used      or new items to willing recipients. (Consider a re-gift birthday party.)
  54. Send kids for sleepovers with grandparents!
  55. Gardening: many seeds and plants can be sprouted from a neighbour’s bounty without spending a cent.       Rearranging and transplanting (and, of course, weeding) are also free.
  56. Home organization, purging and cleaning are time consuming but very low cost with lovely results. My mottos: If you don’t know that it is useful or believe that it is beautiful – let it go! and Everything has a place and everything in its place.
  57. Be active: hike, walk, bicycle, swim, play soccer etc.  – very little apparatus needed (could also be borrowed, if not already owned).
  58. Explore nature in your area:  lots of parks, trails, forests etc. do not require a parking pass to visit.
  59. Do a clothing/accessory swap with friends.
  60. Breathe deeply.

Please be sure to add your best ideas in the comments section and we’ll keep the list going!

Sarah Unplugged

I have wanted to blog consistently for some time.  Many of my friends have encouraged me to do so but I have always argued that I do not have the time.  Now, I am making the time.  This is something that is important to me and I am determined to make it a priority.

This blog is about me sorting out my life and my thoughts, not about having it all figured out.  So please read with that in mind.  I’m attempting to answer the questions that plague me, to process day-to-day observations, to pay attention and to reflect on what I notice, and to chronicle ongoing struggles and successes.

Primarily, I am looking to be honest with myself.  I hope that my example might encourage others to evaluate their lives and to live authentically as well.  There will be no censorship or ear-tickling, I’m just putting my journey out there.  If that is of interest to you, please read on.  If not, I will not take your lack of readership personally (being a follower, often isn’t a good idea anyway).

These words are me.  Take me or leave me.  I’m not trying to impress or offend (so if I impress or offend you, it is purely coincidental).  I’m just trying to be real.

My life is demanding.  Lots of people want a piece of me: my husband, my four kids, my family, my friends, my students and the list goes on.  I need to blog for me as a way of clawing back a bit of myself amidst the demands of daily living.  I have learned that I need to practice self-care first in order to care for others and, for me, blogging is a way to do that.

I have always had the compulsion to put pen to paper, so to speak, and I have come to realize that is a necessary thing for my life.  I believe in the therapeutic and clarifying power of the written word and I have taught many classes and workshops that promote this belief.  Despite my own understanding of its importance, I have not practiced what I preach.  I want to change that.

I believe journaling (blogging) can be a type of spiritual discipline:  a way to record and remember your journey and to reflect on your personal growth. And since, the palest ink is stronger than the most miraculous memory (Chinese Proverb),  I will write my life as a way of remembering. (Lord knows if I can’t remember the names of my own children, I will need a little help!)

With that said, I will try desperately to write a blog and not a polished article.  Yes, Lori, I am taking your advice:  blogs are not meant to be fine-tuned.  In light of the conversational tone and my tendency to perseverate on the small details, I ask you to keep the English teacher jokes to yourself.  I can hardly type a Facebook status update without scrutinizing every word because of my professional life!  This is not an assignment that I am handing in for your review.  Please be forgiving and I will try to extend the same courtesy to myself.

The other day my husband texted: Just blog it.  It is good for the soul.  Ultimately, that sums up my purpose in starting down this path.  I will write because it is a spiritual need.

And, if my transparency and pondering can encourage or inspire one of you, I guess it is worth going public.