A Year of Thoughtful Living – Part IV – The Notebook

The Notebook

The Notebook

If you’ve been with me since the beginning of this series, you may remember that among my goals for my financial health was to see if I could get what had become a worrisome power bill under control. Along with releasing the financial boon of splitting expenses as my roommate of several years moved out, I was also hoping that releasing the bad habits that were part of the package would net me some measurable improvement once lights were not left blazing, the refrigerator door not held open while a potential meal was decided upon, and a second refrigerator moved out and to the new kitchen across town.

Now, depending upon where you live and how your house is constructed, $120 may not sound like a large bill to power a 2700 sq ft home; but after the extra expense I had gone to for thicker walls (and hence higher R value insulation) and high-quality windows, I didn’t like the look of it, and I set my lip in a firm line, determined to do better. First up, along with letting the cats eat in a laundry room lit by a 60-Watt pinup lamp (rather than six 75-Watt overhead recessed lights) was allowing an extra five minutes each morning, going around closing insulated curtains and lowering matchstick blinds on the sides of the house where the sun would be shining while I was at work.

When I got home, the shades on three windows and a glass door facing northwest would be closed as the sun crept around and slid down, and the others could be open to let in a bit of breeze. I think I may have closed everything up and turned on the central A.C. a total of three times the entire month of August because the low-E windows and window coverings did such an effective job; and on nights when I had work to do on the computer, the light in that room was the only one lit, saving the rest of the house the extra heat that more lights would have generated. When September finally arrived, the practice of following the sun around had become an ingrained habit, and on days off, I welcomed the cooling breeze throughout the house, aided by ceiling fans.

Journal Entry October 4th, 2008

Got the bill from Delmarva Electric Co-op today for September. Less than $68 and the lowest bill, according to their bar charts, of the past two summers! I’ve cracked the code. Now to reverse some of the processes once it gets cool (and get out the window quilts!) to make use of the heat gain during the Winter.

The subject of feeling good about how well this worked and how gratified I am by it brings me to the title of this part of the saga – to wit, The Notebook. If you saw the movie of that title, you know it was about true, lasting love even in the face of adversity. That’s what my notebook is about too, and I’ll explain.

Several years ago, I started doing a lot of reading about things like positive thinking – the idea that at the base of it, thoughts can either create an upward spiral that feels like we’re on a roll, or a downward one that I’m sure needs no explanation for anyone over the age of twelve. A number of authors have posted that we can decide for ourselves what we’re going to think about, and deliberately choose how we end up feeling rather than just react. I liked that idea, and in the spirit of experimentation, took one of their suggestions and started creating a “feel good” book. It’s nothing special or fancy – just a small spiral bound little notebook that fits in my purse that I can carry around with me, and I put things in it that are…well…positive!

For instance, I found an ad in a pet store flyer that had a picture of a puppy that looked just like Barney did when he was little, so I cut that out and glued it into my book. Further along, I’ve also stuck printed words or quotations I found that were anything from uplifting to just plain silly — if it makes me smile, it goes in the notebook. Sometimes on weekend days, I’ll put the date at the top of a new page and leave the notebook out on the kitchen table. I find that as soon as I start to recognize good things that happen and write them down, large or small, they actually seem to start happening faster and with a synchronicity I cannot ignore.

This past Saturday was one of those days, and of course, the electric bill appeared about half way down the page. By that time, I had already written:

  • Found spare 35mm camera batteries in bottom of bag.
  • Sold Barney’s unused collapsible crate to neighbor less than 1 hr after cleaning & measuring it to put an ad in the paper!
  • Discovered that two Lithium batteries I was going to put in recycling are enough to power the little cassette player.
  • Found $1 in one pocket, missing earrings in another while sorting laundry to wash.
  • Saw Monarch butterflies in the milkweed.

…and on it went, the “gifts” often things I had thought briefly about wanting or had spoken of recently.

Case in point: I’d told a friend that since my TV is strictly a monitor to watch occasional videos on, the only regular TV I still do miss is NFL football. On Sunday morning, I came across an odd rabbit-ears-plus-miniature-dish thing that hadn’t seen the light of day since I lived in Dover. I cleaned it, pushed a loose connector onto the lead at the back of the TV and plugged in the transformer at the nearest outlet. A few adjustments later, leaning one of the metallic rabbit’s “ears” against the fireplace mantle, and I was able to get an only slightly snowy picture, with perfect color and sound, of the Bengals playing the Cowboys. And yes, that absolutely went into my notebook too.

Apart from enjoying all the times I get to say a fervent “thank you,” I always know that if I’m cut off in traffic on the way to work, spend time sympathizing with a friend who’s gotten bad news, or start letting the media inundate me with everything wrong with the world, I can get out my notebook; and while the casual observer thinks I’m checking a to-do list, I’m getting an infusion of saved up good feelings. OK, I admit it – this practice probably sounds like a cross between Pollyanna and a Norman Rockwell poster; but I’ve decided that it’s important, for me at least, to balance weighty things like responsibility, scrutiny of assumptions and building kitchen cabinets, with letting the One who provides it all know I’m noticing, and that I appreciate the good stuff. All of it. Wellll…maybe not the part about Dallas beating Cincinnati….

About SherryEllesson

Sherry Ellesson is a freelance writer and part-time homebuilder who lives and works in central Delaware. Originally from New England, she credits having been raised by hearty, self-sufficient people for her willingness to stay the course on the journey back to homesteading.

One thought on “A Year of Thoughtful Living – Part IV – The Notebook

  1. A wonderful concept! I thank God daily for the small things that so many take for granted, lights at the flip of a switch, clean water at the turn of a faucet, freedom to express ourselves! Thanks for this article.