Saturday, December 24, 2016

How to Feel All Christmasy on an "I Quit My Job" Budget

There are pros and cons when it comes to quitting your job in the hopes of carving out a different kind of life for yourself. Until you've got your new career nicely settled, the holiday season, with the expectations it can bring of spending, splurging and indulging in special treats, can definitely accentuate the cons. I have had to find new ways to enjoy the festive mood of the holidays even though I'm not rolling in the dough.

To help others who might be in my same or a similar position, I've compiled a short list of short-on-cash methods for stretching those Christmasy feelings.

1. Have an annoying cat. 

Nothing says "It's Christmas time" like decorating the tree. You can relive that moment again and again when you have an annoying cat in the house. In fact, you can relive that moment sixteen times a day, every time you stoop down to replace the tree skirt that has been dragged across the floor and left in a wadded, wrinkled heap in the hallway or every time you detach your cat and her clinging razor claws from the top wire branches of your fake tree. Just be sure to leave your Nat King Cole Christmas cd playing on a constant loop to drown out your wicked thoughts of dropping the cat off at a local shelter.

2. Refuse to turn on the heat.

I live in the desert. This time of year, I can still soften the butter by leaving it out on the counter, even without the use of central heating. Yeah, yeah, we've got some beautiful winter weather here in Phoenix but it's not very festive nor reminiscent of my beloved, snowy childhood Christmases in Indiana. For now, an airline ticket to snow country is out of the question. That is why each day I look forward to evening when the sun will go down and take those beautiful temperatures with it! At night, it gets chilly enough to at least pretend that there's a risk the water pipes might freeze overnight or on the morrow a voice on the radio might issue a stern warning against driving to work. For a few brief hours it's not too hot to wear a pair of socks. I can even break out my long-sleeved pajamas. 

Now, there are certain people residing in my home who might prefer that I turn the heat on at night and, yes, I can afford to do so. However, sleeping in long-sleeved pajamas and turning on the heat would mean that covering up with a simple bedsheet would be sufficient. In December? That's ludicrous! I deserve to snuggle up under a cozy quilt and pretend that I live in a snow-drifted wood one lousy month out of the year!

In addition, I relish the thought of next month's air-conditioner and heater free electric bill.

Whenever someone in my house comments, "It's cold in here," I walk by shivering, draped in a blanket, and say, "I know! And I love it!"

**Extra tip - If you have hardwood floors or tile, you can further immerse yourself in the "snowed in" fantasy. Just remove any rugs from beside your bed. Force yourself, first thing in the morning, to walk barefooted across the chilled floor and imagine you're Christmasing at a Swiss ski chalet.

3. Listen to the audiobook version of Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native read by Alan Rickman.

I'm barely on the fourth cd of thirteen, so no spoilers from me. I will say, though, that I have already learned the hard way of Hardy's cruel penchant for torturing readers with heartrending conclusions to his novels. However -- trust me on this one -- it matters not.

If there existed a Youtube channel that 
featured him reading tax documents...
I would subscribe to such a channel.
Even when Hardy rambles on for paragraphs about the topography of the English heath with long, confusing sentences filled with antiquated vocabulary until I feel I must have the comprehension of a two-year-old --
it matters not.

It's read by Alan Rickman, for Pete's sake! Rickman's voice IS a blazing yule fire! Warm, compelling, dangerous -- basically, hot stuff.

Uttered in his British pronunciation, words leap like surprising, bright sparks -- issue becomes issyoo, figure becomes figga -- from the already spellbinding flames of his seductive tones.

And it's free at the Scottsdale library! 

If Rickman isn't your cup of steamy Earl Grey, see your doctor immediately. Then try this Christmasy alternative: a fake fireplace.

Andrea's Two-Step Method For Creating a Yuletide Blaze  

4. Watch Facebook videos on how to spoil your cats.

You may not have the money to spoil yourself or your human loved ones but all it takes to spoil your cats are a couple of crummy old packing boxes from the garage. Add last year's wrapping paper scraps, apply some strategic planning and you will have a fun, exciting Christmas project for yourself that's entertaining enough to risk being late for your new job. Once it's put together, you'll have hours of enjoyment thinking about how much the cats would've loved crawling up in there if they weren't overfed and, thus, too fat for the little holes you made.

Apparently, this little stinker, Rey, is the only one who fits.

5. Read Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift.

Right now, all I gotta' do is read the news to realize I'm living like a member of some sort of aristocracy. But feeling rich isn't the same as knowing I'm loved. Ann Voskamp's book, The Greatest Gift, reminds us of how much we're loved by God in a way that makes me feel like it's a cozy, gift-filled Christmas Day every day of the year. 

In her gentle, poetic style, she encourages us to be like the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, saying, 

     Though the fig tree does not bud

          and there are no grapes on the vines,
     though the olive crop fails
         and the fields produce no food,
     though there are no sheep in the pen
         and no cattle in the stalls,
18      yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
         I will be joyful in God my Savior.
                      (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

This is a bible verse I sometimes repeat to myself, paraphrased just a little and often through clenched teeth.

     Though the gas tank is on empty

       and there ain't nothing good in the pantry,
     though the wine cellar is...
       well, heck, there ain't no wine cellar!

That kind of thing, usually. But Ann reminds us that we don't need to make anything, do anything, have any material Christmas thing to be dazzled by the ever-present gift of God's love. I definitely could use that reminder when I'm trying for the eighteenth time with mounting fury to wrench a frenzied feline from the branches of my artificial Christmas tree. This book takes my focus off the eye-candy of a yummy Pinterest Christmas and puts it on the more satisfying Prince of Peace. 

I hope these tips will serve you well as you enjoy your holidays with friends and family. I am being called away to attend to a reported Christmas tree calamity. My adult children are saying the lower branches look broken. I wonder why.  

   Here's wishing you all a 
  cozy Christmas filled with 
         love and peace!