Quitting Facebook

O dear Lord, I’m quitting Facebook. I never thought it would be possible and I’m still not entirely sure if it is, but I have to. I’m spending too much time on Facebook. It’s taking over my life. And yes, I know, that’s just pathetic … I’m addicted. Facebook is like a fridge to me: I keep opening it up every few minutes, hoping to find something new and exciting, but nothing ever changes.

So it’s time to say goodbye (am I the only one who suddenly feels the need to sing that song?).

Dear Facebook-friends,

First of all: I’m grateful for Facebook.

No other venue allowed me to reach so many people so easily, so quickly, with so little expense. Through Facebook, I reconnected with individuals from my past, classmates, old friends and family members.

And as a means of finding someone on this planet, Facebook has worked better than any other service, because it’s international. I can find someone who lives on the other side of the world in just a few seconds and catch up on their lives. Same story the other way around: over the past few years hundreds of people found me through Facebook.

Facebook allowed me to post messages on my friends walls to tell them I love them, it allowed me to chat with old classmates and family members and it made it possible to share things I found interesting.

And there is more. But I didn’t intend to write a eulogy for Facebook, so this will have to suffice.

So far, this side of the Facebook-coin has been bright and shiny. Admire this side of the coin as long as you want to. And when you are ready, turn the coin over.

I will deactivate Facebook primarily because I am addicted to it. Though I don’t play any games, though I don’t take quizzes, use apps, respond to requests, the incredible access to people brings me to Facebook too often. I have tried various methods to control this, efforts to keep the shiny side of the coin always up.

And if I really know you, and/or if I really see you once a year or so, and/or if I really am a friend of yours, email me after I deactivate Facebook. I want to keep in touch.

Take care, for you are all wonderful human beings.

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When you talk a lot but don’t say anything …

I saw this movie once, called “The Princess Diaries”. I like Anne Hathaway, I like romantic comedies and I like cats, so the movie was perfect for me. But I also like it when a movie makes me think about stuff. In this case it was this one line that got me thinking for years: And then I realized, how many stupid times a day I say the word “I”.

I say the word “I” numerous times a day (in the last few sentences I used the word 6, no wait, 7 times already). Why? Well, I guess it’s because when I don’t know what to add to a conversation, I tell about something that happened to me that can be linked to the subject. Afterwards I feel really bad and start wondering why people never tell me to shut up.

So what is it that makes people like to talk about themselves?

Why this subject all of a sudden? Today one of my best friends told me something about myself that made my cheeks turn red because of the shame I felt. It had to do with me talking about, well, me a lot of times sometimes. Research led by Diana Tamir shows that the same brain circuits that are triggered by money and food are also triggered by self-disclosure, even when it is something as insignificant as telling others whether you like Harry Potter or not.

So if you’re a bit like me, finding yourself going on about yourself sometimes, these tips might help you out:

Talk less. Add a small gap of silence between the end of the speaker’s thoughts and your response. It will minimize your tendency to interrupt and may encourage the speaker to open up more.

Be approachable & receptive. Genuinely want to listen. Authentic sincerity creates an atmosphere of trust. Be receptive to the speaker’s needs – he/she might just need you to listen, and not try to fix his problem (sometimes being listened to is enough). Listen with a non-judgmental attitude. Allow the speaker to fully explain his/her position, problem etc., before jumping in with your reply. Don’t interrupte, it will give the speaker a sense of importance and a potential self-esteem boost. Look at the speaker with interest, but not with a quizzical expression that may imply something is wrong.

Give the speaker your complete attention. Stop whatever you’re doing and completely focus on the discussion (eliminate distractions. Turn off your email, send all calls to voicemail, and close the door to limit outside distractions, if necessary). Face the speaker directly and make frequent eye contact to let him know that what he’s saying is important to you. Acknowledge key points with a nod, smile or brief comment  (like: “I see,” “I understand,” “right,” etc.) but be careful to not be too repetitive with your comments, as it can make you seem insincere.

Maintain appropriate body language. Make eye contact (but don’t stare) and lean slightly forward to show your interest. Face the speaker directly. Stand or sit close enough to the speaker to show your interest, but not so close as to make him/her uncomfortable. Gently nod your head to acknowledge a point and encourage the speaker to continue. Change your facial expression (a smile or a concerned look) to show you understand. Adjust your chair so you’re eye level with the speaker to avoid creating an atmosphere of superiority. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language. His/her tone or volume of voice, facial expressions, body movements and gestures may have a different meaning than his/her words (he.she says he/she’s excited about a project, but speaks in a flat tone while sitting back in his/her chair).

Sincerely work to understand the message. Listen with the genuine intent to understand what the speaker is communicating. Make a mental note of questions to ask when the speaker has finished sharing his/her thoughts, so you don’t interrupt (the speaker may clarify the issue hisself/herself by the time he/she’s done speaking). Focus on the message rather than the delivery or choice of words. The latter can distract you from the value of what’s being said. To eliminate any misunderstandings, check yourself by rephrasing what you heard (“So you’re saying…”).

Ask relevant, open-ended questions to clarify and learn more (“What do you mean by that?” or “When you say…”)

For anyone who’s interessted in more information, you might like to visit http://www.talklesslistenmore.com/pdf/ebookletsep.pdf from which I got most of the information myself.

Once-a-Month Grocery Shopping

Usually I go to the supermarket a few times a week. I always buy things I don’t need and, shame on me, most of the food gets thrown away because I didn’t used it. I’m not a big fan of spending lots of money on groceries, and I always try to set a budget for myself, but I usually fail. So I went online to search for some tips on how to spend less on grocery shopping and I found something I at first thought wasn’t possible: Only go once a month to the supermarket to do your groceries. Once a month?! I mean, once a week, OK. Once every two weeks, maybe. But ONCE A MONTH?! How?!

Well now, before I was about to have a panic attack, I did some more research. The trick is to eat all the fresh products in the first two weeks of the month. Because I also want to eat veggies and fruits in the second part of the month, I decided to go with veggies and fruits that have a bit of a longer lifespan when stored correctly.

Well, wonderful, only go grocery shopping once a month, but what about the budget? Please, I ask you to sit down (if you have severe heart problems, you might want to stop reading).

The budget for one month of groceries for two people:

€50,00 (that’s something like 63,00 USD and 40,00 GBP)

So, here’s my menu for the entire month and the grocery list I’ve made. Stuff I already have lying around in my cabinets are not on the grocery list of course. Also you can see (or can’t see actually) that there’s no cat food or litter on the list. I already have those at home and order them in bulk when I run out. My shopping list is divided into three categories: Albert Heijn (it’s a big Dutch supermarket), C1000 (another big Dutch supermarket) and at the bottom you see some products about which I wasn’t sure where to buy them, so I’ll just check in the stores to see if they have a good deal.

Of course, there are more than two kinds of supermarkets in the Netherlands, but these two are the closest to my house and after some research (yes, I even did some online research for every supermarket in the area to see if they had any sweet deals to offer) I came to the conclusion that going to another supermarket for only one or two products would cost me more on benzine, which harms the environment and my wallet.

Monthly menu:

Week 1

  • Monday: Rice with cucumber, peanut sauce and vega meatballs
  • Tuesday: Baked potatoes and green beans
  • Wednesday: Lasagna
  • Thursday: Endive stew with vega meatballs
  • Friday: Soup
  • Saturday: Wraps with avocado, lettuce, vega meat, pine nuts, tomato
  • Sunday: Rice with vega meat and scraps

Week 2

  • Monday: Potatoes with green beans and applesauce
  • Tuesday: Wraps with pineapple, paprika, beans and vega cheese
  • Wednesday: Rice with pineapple, green beans and vega meat
  • Thursday: Broccoli stew with pine nuts
  • Friday: Soup
  • Saturday: Kebab sandwich with lettuce, vega kebab and sauce
  • Sunday: Pasta with vega meat and tomato sauce

Week 3

  • Monday: Baked potatoes with lettuce, tomato and pine nuts
  • Tuesday: Wraps with tomato, cheese and vega kebab
  • Wednesday: Fried rice with peanut sauce
  • Thursday: Sauerkraut stew with mandarins
  • Friday: Soup
  • Saturday: Pancakes
  • Sunday: Pasta with scraps

Week 4

  • Monday: Potatoes with baked beans and applesauce
  • Tuesday: Bread
  • Wednesday: Wraps with paprika, vega meat, rice, apple
  • Thursday: French bean stew with cashew nuts
  • Friday: Soup
  • Saturday: Pancakes
  • Sunday: Leftovers

Grocery list:

Albert Heijn

  • Canned pineapple (AH Pineapple slices in heavy syrup for € 0.61)
  • Kebab rolls (Euro Shopper Shoarma Rolls 8 pcs € 0.58)
  • Canned mandarin (Euro Shopper Mandarins in light syrup for € 0.75)
  • Bread (AH 2 whole loaves for € 2.00)
  • 1 kg pack bread mix (Euro Shopper Breadmix multigrain 1 kilo to € 1,77)
  • Lemonade (AH Dubbelfris 1.5 liter 3 pieces for € 1,79)
  • Spreads (AH Peanut butter 600 grams for € 1.74)
  • Satay (peanut sauce microwave Remia AH 265 ml € 0.97)
  • Tomato sauce (pasta sauce Sugo AH herbs € 0.96)
  • Soup 4 meals (AH soup for € 0.66 and Unox soup for € 0.78)
  • Lasagna (AH Italian lasagna (2-3 persons) € 1.80)
  • Yogurt (AH yoghurt 1 liter € 0.68)
  • Custard (AH chocolate/vanilla 1 liter € 0.81)
  • Vega meatballs 2 meals (AH Vega balls for € 2.59)
  • Vega chopped 6 meals (AH pure & honest organic tofu meat for € 1.99)
  • Soy milk (Alpro AH Original for € 1.25)
  • Paprika (AH paprika red/green/yellow for € 1.49)
  • Brocoli (AH Broccoli for € 0.65)
  • Lettuce (AH Lettuce for € 0.59)
  • Avocado (Avocado AH for 1 piece € 0.99)
  • Sauerkraut (AH Sauerkraut natural for € 0.59)
  • Pancake mix 2x (AH pancake mix for € 0.54)
  • Carrots (AH Carrots for € 0.99)
  • Wraps (Tortilla Wraps AH 12 pieces for € 2.18)
  • Canned white beans in tomato sauce (AH beans, can € 0.59)
  • Green beans (AH Green beans for € 2.49)

Total: € 34.81

C1000

  • Endive (Endive C1000 400 grams € 1.00)
  • Tomato (250 gram C1000 for € 0.69)
  • Apples (C100 Braeburn apples, Granny Smith or Royal Gala, 1 kg for € 1.00)

Total: € 2.69

Remaining products:

  • Bag of potatoes
  • Jar of applesauce 2x
  • Vega kebab
  • String beans
  • Cashew nuts
  • Fruit on sale
  • Lemon
  • 4x a treat

Total: Max. € 12.50

 

Happiness is only real when shared

Money … I love it and I hate it. It’s a nice thing to have, but it sucks that you always want more of it and always feel like you don’t have enough (even if you do …). Of course, why should I complain about money? There are people living on the streets, parents who don’t have a dime in their pockets to feed their children, there are people starving because there’s no food of water, young ladies sell themselves because it’s the only way to survive, children are working 10 hours a day just to help out their parents. And these are just some of the few examples and then I haven’t even started to talk about all the animals that get beaten, left alone to die, that have to do the most embarrassing things to entertain humans etcetera.

So maybe instead of spending that money of yours (and mine) on stuff you do not actually need, you could use it to help others out. Of course, I’m not saying you should give it all away and there’s no need to suffer because you don’t have a penny left. You should think about yourself as well. Maybe you can write down how much money you have coming in every month, how much you need to spend on necessary things (like rent, insurance, clothing and food) and how much you would like to spend on non-necessities (like going to the movies and stuff). Then you might want to check if there’s still some money left to put aside for savings. And maybe, if you want to, you could use some of those savings, even when it’s only a dollar, to help someone else.

Here are some ways you can help someone out (if you don’t have money, maybe you have some time):

  • Buy groceries for someone you know who could use it (maybe because they don’t have money, are sick, broke a leg or maybe because someone is just going through some hard times)
  • Donate money to charity (yes, even if it’s just a dollar)
  • Take in an animal from a shelter (or if you can’t, maybe you can volunteer at a shelter)
  • Give some money to a homeless person
  • Volunteer helping out in a nursing home (you would be horrified if you knew how much elderly people are sitting there, lonely, waiting for life to end)
  • Smile at someone who looks sad (and if you want to, ask what’s going on and if you can help).
  • Just smile in generally to someone.
  • When your grocery store if offering a two for one deal, take your free item to a local shelter.
  • Give someone a compliment.
  • Host a movie night for charity. Invite as many people you like, provide the popcorn and drinks and ask them all to donate an x-amount of money and donate all that money to a charity you’ve all agreed on.
  • Babysit someone’s children for free.
  • When doing your groceries, pick up a large bag of cat or dog food and bring it to a local animal shelter.
  • If you have a well-raised dog, call your local nursing home and ask if it would be OK if you and your dog would come and visit. Most people’s spirits really get raised when a loving dog is coming along to get some cuddles.
  • Volunteer to take in young, abandoned animals who still need care but can’t get it from their mother anymore. Caring for such young animals is usually for a short amount of time.
  • Pick up the trash in your neighborhood (nature will appreciate your efforts)
  • Invite someone over for dinner (maybe someone who’s a bit lonely or is just going through some hard times)
  • Get some flowers and bring them to people in the hospital (yes, even when you don’t know them).
  • Maybe you have children who have a lot of toys. Go sit with them and sort out the toys in 3 piles: broken, keep, give away. Bring all the broken toys to an assigned place in your area. Take all the toys that can be given away to a hospital for other kids to play with them (explain to your children where their toys go, because most children aren’t to happy about giving away toys, even when they never play with them).
  • Hold the door for the people behind you.
  • Take care of a neighbors/friends/family members pet when they go away on a short holiday.
  • Donate blood.
  • When you see someone struggling with their bags, ask if you could help bringing them to their car.
  • Drive someone who could really use the ride to the doctors, church or whatever.
  • When sweeping your driveway, it really isn’t that much of an effort to sweep your neighbors driveway as well. Same for putting your trash bin at the curb. Do it for your neighbors as well.
  • Bring your old magazines to the hospital waiting room for others to read them.
  • Take a CPR class. Yes, it might not do something for someone right away, but you never know when you could be the one saving someone’s life.

And yes, I do think you still should do some fun stuff. But I also do think you can feel like a million bucks without spending a penny:

  • Drink out of a wineglass. I don’t drink alcohol, but o boy, do I feel like a lady when sitting on my cheap ass couch, drinking my cheap ass lemonade from my cheap ass Ikea wineglass.
  • Go hiking! Believe me, it’s fun. Go online, find some nice hiking trails near your house and just go. Look around you, there are wonderful things to see!
  • Watch a movie. You can borrow it from a friend or family member, at the library or find some other ways to watch a movie for free. You can even organize a movie night (maybe alone or with friends or family) if you like.
  • Watch a documentary that sparks your interest. You can find a lot of documentaries online or just watch the Discovery channel or something. You will feel smart and motivated after watching it. Or at least you most likely learned something new about the subject.
  • Check out your local agenda and see if there are some free concerts or other fun stuff.
  • Look at the stars. Stargazing can be very relaxing and the moon and stars are wonderful things to look at. And it’s free.
  • Look at the sunrise and the sunset. Yes, it sounds like a cliché, but really, it’s beautiful! Nature is holding such magical things to look at, really, just give it a try.
  • Swap your clothes with a friend. Feel like shopping? STOP! Just call a friend (or more than one) and suggest a clothing swap party. It’s free, it’s fun and you get to see your friends while you’re getting yourself a new wardrobe as well.
  • Read a book. Get a book from the library, borrow one from a friend of family member, get a free e-book online, whatever you like. And just read. Get yourself a nice cup of tea, relax and enjoy.
  • Host a potluck! It’s free, it’s fun and it’s a great way to get to know people.
  • Borrow a plant identification guide from the library and go on a search for some of the plants in the book. Take your camera with you so you can photograph your treasures (or if you like sketching, take your sketchbook and draw the plants you’ve found).
  • Write. Write a postcard, a letter, start a journal, start writing a book, write a poem, just write whatever you like.
  • Get active! Go running, biking or whatever kind of sport you like. Maybe you can try yoga, invite a friend for a nice walk, go apple picking, walk your neighbors dog, take your children (or someone elses children (ask the parents first of course!) to a park or playground, do some push ups, just do whatever you like to do.
  • Play a game. Maybe online or an actual board game. Invite some friends or family members over to play along.
  • Cuddle your pet (if they want to of course).

There are so many fun things you can do for free. Just be creative and think of some things you would like to do and if there’s a way to make them free.