Sunday, August 26, 2012

For the Love of Money

Ironically, as I was on the subject of "money can't buy happiness" last week, I happened to read the next chapter of my book "The Happiness Project" whose topic was Buy Some Happiness.  The author, Gretchen Rubin, is on a yearlong quest to find what makes her happier and she says, "Money satisfies basic material needs.  It's a means and an end.  It's a way to keep score, win security, exercise generosity, and earn recognition...It buys time - which can be spent on aimless drifting or purposeful action. It often stands for the things that we feel are lacking: if only we had the money, we’d be adventurous or thin or cultured or respected or generous.”
I agree with her that money alone can’t buy happiness, but it can help buy happiness.  The author says “Money, spent wisely, can support happiness goals of strengthening relationships, promoting health…having fun.”  To me, money does indeed buy things that make me happier – a gift that I can send to a friend for their birthday, a plane ticket home to spend time with my family, covering transportation costs of extensive travel, buying food that gives me so much joy and pleasure.
The author also mentions that, “When money or health is a problem, you think of little else; when it’s not a problem, you don’t think much about it.  Both money and health contribute to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of them brings much more unhappiness than possessing them brings happiness.”  Preach!  Whenever I feel like I have a sufficient amount of Benjamins stashed away I feel free, more giving, more open to opportunities or adventures that arise, and generally less worried.  When my bank account starts depleting and I see more withdrawals than deposits, I feel anxiety, uncertainty, risk-averse, and quite frankly more like a hermit.
I’m thankful that I was raised in a family where I was taught the value of a dollar, and taught about hard work and dedication.  But as I’ve aged (just a bit), it’s been harder for me to manage the balance between working and playing.  Yesterday, as I lied on the beach soaking up a “play now” break, I was reminded of the beauty of working hard to achieve your goals.  And the satisfaction and happiness that comes from knowing how much effort you’ve put in to receive something you truly cherish.

Enjoying the Tel Aviv beaches
A young boy (maybe 9 years old), approached us on the beach with a backpack slung over his arms, resting on his stomach.  Beads of sweat trickled down from under his bucket hat as he asked my boyfriend if we’d like to buy some lemonade from him.  As I dug around for the equivalent of 75 cents for a small cup of lemonade, the boy shared with my boyfriend that he’s saving up money to go to Brazil for his Bar Mitzvah.  My heart melted and I wanted to buy the whole thermos.  He trotted off looking for his next prospective customers, targeting the women in the area – smart kid. 
As he walked away, marching in the heavy sand under the hot Israeli summer sun, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of happiness.  If this was my son, I would be so proud of his efforts, dedication, and hard work.  I’m sure by the time he’s 13 he’ll have enough money for that trip to Brazil – and can you imagine how proud and happy he will be? 

Cutest kid ever.
This young boy was a needed inspiration for me to remember that creativity and hard work can launch you towards achieving your goals a lot quicker than sitting around and thinking about them.  It’s very few and far between that somebody stumbles upon the luck to become wealthy, successful or accomplished without shedding some blood, sweat and tears.
Today is a reminder for you that not all things come easily, and not all things should come easily.  Buckle down, go to work, and focus on accomplishing your goals.  Don’t let the fear of hard work stand in the way of your achievements.
On a totally unrelated note (although I could stretch it by saying I used money to buy the ingredients), I made Pita Pizzas again the other night.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of using pitas (abundantly accessible here) for pizzas instead of trying to labor over my own dough, but now that a friend suggested it – I can’t stop making them!!


Pita Pizzas

A Middle Eastern twist on a fan favorite!  This recipe is once again an estimate - from the quantities to the temperatures (I don't think the dials on our mini oven actually work because it's either cold, or hot).  But this is extremely simple to make, and since it's pizza you can be creative with your toppings!

To start, I sliced a few pitas in half and opened them like sandwiches.  I love thin crust pizza so this is perfect for me - without the work of making dough.  I spread a thin layer of red sauce (recipe below) on each side and then drizzled a bit of olive oil on top.  Then I added a thin layer of shredded cheese - I think it was Monterey Jack cheese but I couldn't exactly tell.  I added the toppings, and threw them in the oven.  My best guess is to put it on a 'broil' setting - I just did it long enough to heat the toppings and make the pita crispy. 


Pizza #1 - chopped spicy salami, sliced mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Pizza #2 - sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, and right before the pizza was done cooking I pulled it out and added fresh basil before letting it cook for a minute longer

Red Sauce
1 part tomato paste
1 part finely chopped tomatoes (and all the juice and seeds)
fresh, finely chopped basil
a dash of garlic powder
-- Mix all ingredients together.  If it looks too thick, add more fresh chopped tomatoes. --

I love pizza, and now that I have an easy way of making it, this is going to be a dinner regular!  Plus since they're small, you can have make a few with different toppings.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Boodle Boxes

I know that money isn’t supposed to buy happiness….but I can’t contend the fact that I was OVERJOYED when I received a pile of goodies that my mom sent me with a friend of mine who travelled to Seattle recently.  I’ve spent the last week noshing on honey roasted cashews, Mentos, sour Jelly Bellys and cinnamon gum, while savoring my Sour Patch Kids and Mint LifeSavers till the bitter end.  However, I keep reminding myself of my childhood Halloween habit where I’d save my best candies for last…and then they’d go bad after a full year of looking forward to the sweet chocolate outside and that smooth peanut butter filling of my beloved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

My new goodies from home!
Along with my munchies, Mama Bird packed a new t-shirt (thank goodness – I think I’ve sweat through all of mine here), a Platypus water bottle, deodorant (see aforementioned sweating), tea tree oil, my beloved Target chapstick balls, and other fun things.  The original intention for this “boodle box”, as we refer to it in our household (a term adopted when my brother started at West Point – families are encouraged to send new cadets little goodies and treats to keep their spirits up), was to exchange my broken Kindle.  However, when I found out there was going to be a “transport of goods”, I figured I would throw in a few other requests of things I’m hard pressed to find in Israel.

My new t-shirt and my goodies!  So excited!

After spending a week enjoying my new goodies and playing with my new toys, I’ve realized that although this is an indulgence for my materialistic side, I believe boodle boxes also bring joy for another reason.  It’s the same kind of joy you get when you give or receive a gift.  For me, it’s not JUST the fact that I have a fancy new water bottle which fits so nicely in my purse, but it’s that my mom spent the time and energy to find something that she knew I’d like.

A while ago I read the book “The Five Love Languages”, which came highly recommended to me by multiple people.  The author talks about the different ways that people intend and perceive love.  Giving gifts is one of the five ways people express love, as a sign of their thoughtfulness and care for somebody else.  It doesn’t have to be a big, fancy gift like a car or a TV, it can be something small and meaningful like a hand written card, a person’s favorite candy (mine is Sour Patch Kids!), or flowers.  It’s not the size or the cost of the gift that matters, it’s about the thought and care you put into it.
Today I challenge you to find a small, inexpensive, yet meaningful gift to give to someone you love and care for.  After all, it’s the little moments in life and the small gestures that bring great joys and memories. 
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