I grew up poor and I appreciate it now.

I have a different perspective on life than some. For those of you that have met me in the last few years, you might have seen material possessions and made certain assumptions about my “financial” life. Chris and I are minimalists, and we select each and every purchase we make with care. We want to love each item, we want it to have a purpose, and it be something that inspires us (whether from its beauty, or how it fits together with everything else).

I did not always have the option to be so selective… or selective at all. Chris and I have worked very hard for each thing we have brought into our lives, whether it meant saving for something for years or just deciding to not have something until we could afford what we really wanted. I can remember when we first moved to Portland we did not have the money to buy furniture. Chris was looking for a job and the work I was doing was just paying our rent. We could have gone to Goodwill, or looked for something used on Craigslist, instead we purchased inflatable chairs (yes, you read that right). We used them until a family visiting us in the winter got them to close to our heat vent and bye-bye went the chairs. We finally decided to purchase a couch, but even then it was the one we felt was the most “us” and within the means we had at the time.

How did we become so frugal and so aware of our choices? I grew up poor. I watched my parents struggle to have enough cash to put food on the table. It was before credit cards (and even when they did exist my parents did not have the credit to have their own credit cards). What did you do to survive without credit cards? You had to be able to have enough liquid cash in the bank, or put things on layaway. My mom started Christmas shopping for the few items we did receive (which got smaller and smaller as we got older) in July. She would purchase the items and put them on layaway until they were paid off. The hard part? You cannot purchase food on a layaway plan. You cannot pay the electric or water bills via layaway.

Growing up poor taught me to focus on what matters and what is important and once that is handled you can then think about the perks and pleasures. Until then, we should not be splurging and spending when we do not have the means to handle the necessities. I often wonder what individuals would do these days with out access to credit cards. Imagine living for one year paying with what you have in the bank — no plastic. Everything is paid off each month, or paid up front with cash. What percentage of our country could do it?

Overall, being poor taught me to appreciate everything I have, to remember what it takes to keep it, and how easy it is to make bad choices and live way beyond our means. The funny thing is, even though we have been so selective and love everything we have, if it all disappeared today we’d be just fine without it. We’d just start over tomorrow. Together.

I don’t know…

“I don’t know.” My nephew used to always say this. I would ask him a question and his response would be: “I don’t know.” On Monday, Labor Day, a part of our three-day weekend I asked Chris what he wanted to do. His response: “I don’t know. Just stay in bed. Have breakfast.” That’s all I got from him. So, what did we end up doing? A plethora of randomness. Yes, just like this blog: random olio. That is what we did on our Labor Day. We still stayed in bed. Of course we had breakfast too. But, without any clarity over any other ideas, we ended up doing…

A random hodgepodge of things:

  • posted a bunch of items on ebay
  • purged old paperwork and files
  • posted a bookshelf on Craigslist
  • caught up on emails… lots of emails
  • caught up on a stack of articles that I have wanted to read
  • ran 8 miles
  • our breakfast was yummy
  • got back on track with catching up on “Breaking Bad” (can you believe we are still on season 1?)

I think that Chris will think differently when I ask him what he wants to do, and no longer say: “I don’t know.” Smirk. Smirk. Now he just might have an answer for me. I would like to x, y, and z. I would not like to do anything having to do with Craigslist or ebay, or emails, or the Internet. I would like to not have to do anything productive. I would like to watch movies all day, or be outside and explore. Or, he could say: “I would like to do whatever you would like to do.” Ha. Often that is what happens, and we then end up in some project that somehow is a puking of a closet, or in the garage, that always takes longer than you think.

What did you do over the long weekend?

Have you had a cronut?

I am intrigued. A colleague at work told me the other day about cronuts. They are a cross between croissants and doughnuts, or more specifically croissant dough fried like a doughnut. I do not have a sweet tooth. If there is such a thing as a salt tooth, that would be me. However, the cronut interests me. I would at least like to see if the craze is worth all the hype.

On different blogs and news sites, I found that they are selling for $5 a piece and Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City is limiting the amount they can sell per customer. Another site says that Craigslist is selling them on the black market for 8 times the value – can you believe it? $40 a cronut. Dominique Ansel is now on the map as a bakery. I am sure they cannot keep up with the business they have acquired through their new invention. They will be what Magnolia Bakery was to cupcakes.

I even found that this blogger has come up with a recipe that takes Trader Joe’s croissants or chocolate croissants and turns them into a cronut at home concoction. While Dominique Ansel has only been selling them since May 10, if you do an Internet search you will see there is quite a bit of excitement in just the few weeks since they launched. There is even a website dedicated to cronuts.

I do not have plans to go to New York City anytime soon (although I would love to) so if anyone is going that way and then immediately coming back to Portland bring some back for me. Yum!

We are data whores…

I am not yet a data whore, but will I be soon? I just found this article from Fast Company that made my day. Since the article is about floppy disks and data storage, you might think: “Seriously, Tami?” but have patience with me. Chris and I found a few diskettes from college and a few zip drives from the first few years of our working careers. He would rather throw them away, but I have been looking for a while to find a way to retrieve the data on these disks.

(c) Tami ConklinWe have looked all over town to see if there is a place, like a Kinkos, where you can go in and use their disk and zip drives that will read both Mac and PC disks. Nil, Nothing, Zippo, Nada. We thought about buying a drive on eBay or Craigslist and then trying to resell after we got the data off the disks, but thought that most likely our Macs will not even connect to the drives themselves. What do folks do when they clean out a closet or garage and find disks they can no longer retrieve the data on? Do they just keep in a box for their children, like old relics? Is it like keeping your Barbies or GI Joes for your kids?

I am partly sentimental. A few years ago, our laptop died and we found out only Chris’ profile had been backed up. I lost quite a few emails from my business and all the emails from the days when Chris and I were dating. That is why there is a small (okay more than small) part of me that is curious if I saved any other writing or emails on those diskettes that would reveal a part of my past I had forgotten. It might be just boring papers about books I hated to read, or projects from my first job that I might cringe when I see my right out of college work. Yet, still I am curious.

I think I might be nostalgic enough to send my stack away to floppydisk.com (see above article) to see what they can do for me. They probably have a wall of laughs where they print out all the random lost files of dead diskettes and zip disks (or soon to be once the last breath is taken from them). They state that they charge you whether they are able to pull content off each disk. It is definitely worth it as I can only imagine how slow the computer is that they must use to open these disks.

I can still see that bar going back and forth across the screen as the computer read your disk, while making odd noises, that sometimes met the threat of doom. Yes, those of you that are old enough to remember, randomly and usually when you needed it most, the computer would decide whether it wanted to read your disk that day and open your files. Or, when you finally finished the file with seconds to go and hit save on your hundred page file, it would take the computer minutes to hours to save and close your file. You could not eject or remove that disk and run like hell because you were late. The threat: if you pulled the disk out too soon, you may never see that file again.

Do not even get me started about what data might need to be saved from a Facebook profile, Twitter feed, or a blog. I am sure downloading and accessing that information is a feat in and of itself. I have pretended that my content lives in its own cell in a data center with no visitation rights.