Friday, November 15, 2013

Broketober 2013: The Okay, the Bad, the Depressing


In case it's not clear, that was a raspberry. A big ol' fart noise to represent how Broketober went. Let's be clear: Broketober was not the rollicking, successful hayride I expected it to be. In fact, if Broktober was a hayride it would be one in the middle of the pouring rain, with no scary things jumping out at you, and the wagon would only have one wheel. And the hay would be made of fibreglass insulation. I know we're half-way through November, already, but this delay should tell you how much I like admitting to mistakes.

1. Taxis: 

Rating: Not bad

I thought I'd totally bombed this one but a quick trip through my records shows that I only paid for 15 cabs this month, which is only three over my goal. 8 of those were with debit or credit card and 7 were by cash. Still not great, but every time I thought about calling a cab, I weighed the necessity of it before getting in and I've continued that habit even though the month is over. I was sure I'd take a cab at least twice a week, since Tuesdays and Fridays I have a 2-hour Spanish class after working an 8-hour day, but on Fridays I pretty much skipped that and just bused my way home. Paying for 15 cabs in a month with 31 days isn't exactly something to be proud of, but when you have some late nights and you don't drive, it ain't bad.

2. Write it Down:

Rating: Terrible

I failed outright on this one for two reasons 1) the app I chose to track my spending wasn't recognizing my log-in and therefore, didn't work for me and 2) I accidentally left the notebook I use to track these things at my parents' house on October 20th and didn't get it back until the end of the month. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas, I know. But I get kind of obsessive about my planners and another one just. would not. do. I do want to get back into the swing of writing things down as it is useful (and embarrassing) to see the ways I spend my money (spoiler alert: in dribs and drabs)

3. Let's Cook

Rating: Not bad

I'm giving this a "meh" rating because while I succeeded on one front (trying four new recipes) I didn't do as well on the second part (only eat out 6 times). I think part of the reason it was so hard to stick to this one is that I really opened up the concept of eating out - a cookie at a coffee shop, Chinese take out, toast at the cafeteria at work: they all counted. With all of those taken into account we got take-out twice (pizza and sushi), ate out eight times (small taco place in the market for lunch, a sandwich and coffee with my sister, cafeteria at work once, farmer's market breakfast, waffle brunch and thai food with my pally who's moving to Saskatchewan, and twice TWICE to this. No regrets.), and (I can't believe I'm counting this) I bought and ate some beans at a charity meal thing. So that's 11. Twice as many as I wanted to, but I really did manage to eat at home more than I thought I would, and I curbed my coffee shop habit down to only two visits in a month - which is kind of amazing for me.

The four recipes I tried were:

Kale chips (surprisingly tasty and a new favourite for us)
Slow cooker southwestern beef stew (not bad, but needed a little more oomph for next time)
Easy apple dumplings (holy shit, these are a gift from the clouds themselves)
Cauliflower "mashed potatoes" (okay, Atkins, I hear ya, these were pretty good, but they ain't mashed potatoes)

Two were excellent, and two were only "okay" in my opinion. We've made a commitment to try new recipes throughout the next few months so I hope we'll only build on these. A good thing that came out of Broketober is our realization of how few different meals we actually make. We've got a couple of favourites (I make a mean lasagna) but reaching out of our comfort zone will be necessary if we're going to survive the winter. I've actually got two new recipes planned for this week and I'm hoping they turn out, if only because the institutional cafeteria food at work is as good as you think it is.

4. Pretty Frock Purchases


Oh man.. where to start. I was doing pretty well at the beginning. Bought a scarf I'd had my eye on when it went down to $10. Told myself that was okay. It was not okay. Accessories are a gateway drug, people. Bought a skirt for $20 that same day. Justified it being 50% off. Then I put in an online order. Okay, two of the three things I bought were Christmas presents; different category, we're still fine. But then this happened. Dear God.
But seriously- what was I supposed to do when faced with this?
The sale only happens two times a year and in the last 3 years I don't think I've missed one. So, let's just get this over with: I bought two, I love them, they're each probably 50 years old and they were over $100 each. I fail at not buying, I fail I fail I fail. But I look pretty swish while doing it.

Also I spent $75 at Michael's because I had to make my Halloween present and I'm secretly a crafting mom.

5. Use What I Have

Rating: Not bad, but-  Ah, who the hell even cares anymore?

I didn't excel at this either. Turns out, I didn't want to use my groupon for tapas, I wanted takeout pizza. I didn't want to get $5 off dishwasher detergent, I wanted to by a club pack of it at Costco so I wouldn't have to think about it anymore. And so on. I basically let this goal transform me into this guilt-ridden hedonist who did what I felt like instead of what I should and then felt terrible while doing it. Fun!

Actually, the guilt did help a bit. At the very end of the month, I got off my butt and submitted those medical claims for a nice cheque (which, they tell me, will arrive in the mail any day now...), and used a bunch of my coupons when we went grocery shopping the first week of November. I also put a gift card I'd been hoarding on my Starbucks account so I can use that to fulfill my almost insatiable need for peppermint mocha's from now until January. Guilt - it's not just to make you call your mother anymore!

So: what have we learned. Nothing. Okay, maybe that I might need a shopping intervention. But I'm still glad we tried Broketober. While it may not have been perfection, it did allow me to pay off my credit cards (now with a few hundred dollars on them as I begin that most wonderful time of year "online shopping-mas") and put some money against the line of credit. It made me realize that my transportation needs weren't what I thought they were, and therefore had me put less on my transit card in November rather than buy a monthly pass. I love/hate you, Broketober. At least there's lots of discount miniature chocolate bars at the end of you.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I'm an ugly crier. I'm a full-on sobber, face wet and shoulders shaking, words incomprehensible and face scrunched tight. I watch series finales with a blanket over my head whenever possible, and I like my sad movies 3-D so I can use the glasses to hide my swollen, puffy eyes. I try to keep my crying secret, not only out of a need for privacy, but out of a desire that no one see me fall apart in such a thoroughly unsettling way.

Considering all this, it's not surprising that I've never attended Remembrance Day ceremonies since high school.

And, frankly, it's a terrible reason.

I think we, as humans, try to avoid sadness wherever possible. I mean, real, true, sadness, not Nicholas Sparks, credits-roll-and-it's-over sadness.Sadness can be difficult- what do you say, when someone's hurting? How do you comfort when there's no real comfort to be found? Words seem inefficient, and even the word "hug" seems too plush and squishy for the occasion. We're conditioned to "buck up" to "get on with it", to "look to the bright side", as soon as possible. Not only to better ourselves, it seems, but also to make it less awkward for everyone else.

But what more appropriate occasion for sadness than today? I cannot believe what it must be like to have an entire population pick up and leave, knowing that many will not return, and that those who do will be forever changed, forever marked by things you will never fully understand. I cannot comprehend what it must be like to bury your child, to allow them to leave you for places unsure, craving and dreading phone calls and letters, jumping at every knock at the door. I cannot imagine what it feels like to watch the country you love, the neighbourhood you've lived in all your life, reduced to rubble and bloodstains in the blink of an eye. I cannot believe, comprehend, or imagine. But I can grieve. And I can offer my ugly, sobbing, sadness.

While our nation is far from perfect, I recognize that living where I do, how I do, in the time I do, has afforded me the kind of luxurious safety and freedom that others can only dream of. And I'm aware that that safety and freedom does not come easy, and it does not come cheap. It comes at the expense of young men and women in lands far from home, of social justice defenders and their desire for a better world, of children and families huddled together in fear. I'll keep my feelings on war and the politics therein separate from today, only say that there is space in your heart for the victims of war as well as its soldiers. Our capacity for empathy is infinite, we can mourn and celebrate one thousand things without breaking. Human hearts are like Tardises - they can always store more than it appears they can.

So if you're a fellow ugly crier, go ahead, let it out, today's a perfect day to have a heavy heart and a dripping nose. And I'll do my best to join you next year. Because for all the beauty and talent and laughter we can produce, humans are still capable of incomprehensible evil and today is a grave reminder of that. But also cry for all the good that we can do, because I truly believe the good outnumbers the bad, most days. I have to.