Is a bigger house better?

When my husband and I bought our first and only home almost 25 years ago it was our “starter” home.  We didn’t have kids (wouldn’t have them for another six years) and figured we would eventually trade up for a bigger house as our needs grew and so did our incomes.  But somehow we never got around to upgrading, which turned out to be a good thing because once the kids came we worked part time for eight years until my husband got laid off.  In hindsight, we didn’t really need a bigger house so it was a blessing our incomes dropped before we could make any kind of move.

I heard on the radio the other day the average size of a new house in 2013 was 2598 square feet.  After hearing that, it’s hard to believe people can live in an 84 square foot house like this woman or this man in a 300 square foot micro apartment.  I’ve consciously decided not to carry a large purse like many women because I know it means carrying around a lot of stuff I don’t need.  I think the size of a house works the same way.  The bigger the house the more belongings you’ll accumulate that you probably don’t need.  I don’t want to end up like my parents, moving lots of stuff I probably don’t need.

Free and cheaper 2014 WNY Concerts

I was excited to see that Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was coming to the Rochester International Jazz Festival this month and even happier to find out it was one of the free concerts.  This got me working on my annual list of free and almost free summer concerts.  It took me a while to get it all together. Some venues are no longer around (Lockport Canal Concert series) but there are new ones to replace it.  Another trend is the slowly rising cost of these events, not surprising given the improvement in the economy.  The 8 page compilation is evenly split between Buffalo-Niagara area and Rochester.  Enjoy and let me know of any events I’m missing.

2014 WNY Concerts v4.0

Note: the version posted here matches the file referenced elsewhere in this blog.



Downsize and free yourself

My siblings and I banded together to help my 78 and 83 year old parents downsize to a smaller 2150 square foot ranch (bigger than my house) a few weeks ago.  One of the main purposes in moving from a house they loved, but which they knew they couldn’t stay in long term, was so they’d be forced to purge some of their possessions.  Mom and Dad have their own set of “crap” and neither wanted to deal with the other persons stuff so the thought was they’d be forced to get rid of a lot of it in the process of moving.

Things didn’t go according to plan.  The house sold 4 days after being put on the market (they receivied four offers, two over their asking price).   The details of the deal were finalized as they left for their annual month-long trip to Florida.  They returned to their Amherst home to start frantically packing and ended up closing and moving less than a month later.  Needless to say, they didn’t have time to sort their belongings and instead packed and moved most of them.  As my siblings, husband, brother-in-law and I hauled boxes out one door and into another we all vowed to purge our own belongings long before we got to my parents’ age.

I recently came across this great online article entitled: Organizing is Turning You Into a Hoarder and it really hit home with me.  In the past, my husband’s solution to having too much stuff was to go out and buy more totes and shelving units to store it.  I’d hit my limit a while back and decided maybe we should get rid of some items, but he hadn’t hit his. I’m hoping the experience of moving my parent’s “useless” stuff will hit a chord with him and make him rethink his strategy.

Why I’m OK with turning into my mother

When I was a kid, my three sisters and I would vow to never turn out like our mother.  Mom could be a kind of ditz about things, but at the time I don’t think we had a true appreciation for all she did.

In the velvet outfits Mom made for Christmas that year

1969 in the velvet outfits Mom made for the four of us for Christmas

When I was growing up, my dad had a job that took him all over the world, which left my mom home alone to deal with us kids on her own for long periods of time.  My mom quit working once I was born so she could stay home with her growing family.  Before long there were five kids.  Mom made our clothes and cut our hair and made ends meet.  Mom always had kids to shuttle to piano lessons and girl scout meetings and baseball games.

As we got older mom chose to fill her time with volunteering.  When we were kids mom tried to get us to help, but being the selfish kids we were, we weren’t all that interested.  She donated blood.  She pushed us to try out for the marching band (my sister and I played the glockenspiel).  All the awkward things that teenagers hate to do.  We opened our home to exchange students our age and from the local university. My parents did lots of entertaining, business and personal.  My siblings and I vowed not to do the same things to our own kids.

slides3 (95)

Mom cutting my hair

Somewhere along the way, as my own two kids started to get older, I found myself making some of the same choices my mom did.  When I lose track of things and my kids complain I’ve got a memory problem,  I better appreciate how well my mom did with five children.  I enjoy volunteering now and understand how fulfilling it can be.  I do appreciate the love for food and cooking my mom passed onto me.  I’m not afraid to dress colorfully, or a bit flamboyantly, another trait from Mom.

While I used to dread the possibility of turning into my mother, I am starting to really embrace it because, despite her faults, Mom really is an incredible woman. And she’s still growing strong at 78.

A smile makes a difference

My current job responsibilities include ensuring data quality for our Microsoft Project Server 2010 application.  This means I get to bug and pester people to enter their data and enter it correctly.  My co-workers jokingly call me the “Enforcer” and I get a kick out of giving some people a bit of a hard time when they don’t get their information in the system on time, consistent with our standard procedures.

My role puts me in a tough position sometimes because I have to continuously push on people I know are busy and who have other, more important responsibilities.  People understand that I’m doing my job and I’m hounding them for a good reason.

Most of the people I deal with work in other locations in NY or Pennsylvania so I very rarely get to talk to people in person. I usually start with an email outlining what I need and if I don’t get a response I’ll use Microsoft Lync to instant message people and “hound” them.

smiley-face-mdIf I was communicating face to face with people I would be doing it with a smile on my face. To take the edge off my electronic communications, I am always sure to include a smile with my message.  Lync has a number of emoticons I can pick from but my favorites are the smiley and winking faces.  My job could make me into a bad guy, but I’m hoping my communications style keeps me from being a nag.smiley_outline_wink

Do smiles (icons or real ones) figure in your daily communications?

Busk a move

I’m a huge fan of the City newspaper, and try to pick a copy up whenever I’m out and about.  You can find them in many of the grocery stores, coffee shops and other local venues. You can also get an email notification when a new version is posted online, but I prefer to browse the paper in hardcopy format.

I like to read in City about upcoming events and also enjoy reading the restaurant reviews.  Once in a while I’ll come across an event I’m interested in. The trick is getting a hold of a copy of the paper and finding out about an event in time for me to gather some friends to go see an act or concert.  Last year I saw ads  for the City sponsored 4th annual Best Busker Contest. It was the first time I’d heard of it and when trying to recruit people to go with me I had to describe what a busker is: a street performer.  I managed to get a bunch of people to go and we had a blast.

The Best Busker Contest involves listening to various performers along the East End (most of them are on East Ave.) and voting for your favorites with the guitar picks you can pick up at the City tent. There are also special deals being offered  by various merchants in the area.  Last year we had awesome Mac and Cheese Cups ($1) and sliders ($3) at Ludwig’s Center Stage Cafe (they’re offering the same deal this year). We also stopped for a drink at The Old Toad.

If you’re going to go this year, I recommend getting there early to get something to eat.  The food and merchant specials run 5-9pm, but the performances only run 6-8pm.  Last year we got there at six and were a little pressed to listen to all the acts and fit in time to eat and drink.  There were a variety of instruments being played: guitars, fiddle, banjos, accordian, piano.  It was great to get outside, listen to some local performers and explore the East End. Make plans now to bring your friends downtown on May 1.

Here are some pics from last year’s contest…

P1000171 P1000174P1000163P1000161  P1000158