Why Do I Love to Shop?

Why Do I Love to Shop? Morethananexpat

Red,  white & blue sweatsuit. Phone books. Reward. Annual Shopping Trips. $100 Budget. Coupons.

I have been taking one question with me to the yoga mat for each of my Bikram yoga classes. It is the closest I get to meditation these days. My monkey mind focuses on one question. These are the words that rose to the surface in my mind’s eye.

Red,  white & blue sweatsuit. Phone books. Reward. Annual Shopping Trip. $100 Budget. Coupons.

Red, white & blue sweatsuit. I don’t know how old I was. It was before junior high so I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. It was a surely a boy’s sweatsuit. It has red, white and blue color block horizontal stripes across the sweatshirt. I probably thought it looked fancy because of the white collar with three buttons. It looked like one of those rugby shirts that were so popular in the 80’s. I had matching red sweatpants with pockets. Pockets made them fancy. Pockets made them day wear. My European husband will laugh out loud when he reads this.

“I looked like Alvin, from “Alvin & The Chipmunks”, with a perm.”

And I had essentially a mullet perm hairdo with pink tortoise-shell round glasses perched atop chubby cheeks and buck teeth. I looked like Alvin, from “Alvin & The Chipmunks”, with a perm.

I loved it. I wore it with turquoise high top Chuck Taylor Converse that flipped down at the top to reveal a yellow lining. I loved those shoes.

I know this was before junior high because I vividly remember the playground and four square. Recess was basically the only time we were allowed to socialize at school. I was so proud of that outfit. Oh, my classmates let me have it. Playing four square, I remember the other players and other standing around laughing at me and my outfit.

That perm, those thick horizontal stripes, baggy pockets, circular eyeglasses. They did not help my chubby little body one bit. Oh, I was comfortable wearing them, but after my classmates got done with me at recess, my skin felt like it was on fire. I’m sure I cried. Which is like gasoline on a fire for tween girls’ laughter. It is a wonder I made it out of those years.

Phone Books. My twin sister and I used to deliver phone books. This was before the term “Side Hustle”. I think we spent one or two weekends delivering phone books in the biggest town in our area. Thank God we were not doing this in our hometown. The shame could have consumed me. We delivered phone books to earn money to spend on school clothes. It taught us the value of money. What it also taught me was to hate phone books. There were stack after stack of these things shrink wrapped and sitting in our garage. That plastic smell. The ink turning my finger tips black. The paper cuts. The value of money.

My mother made it work. She found a means to an end. I associate those phone books with shame and with being too poor to just buy school clothes like everyone else, but she was actually the first entrepreneur in my life. I tell myself I don’t know how to be an entrepreneur, but the seeds are all right there. I have been telling myself the wrong stories.

Reward. I associate shopping with a reward. I see shopping as a reward. Small wonder. Delivering these phone books was rewarded with a trip to the Chicago suburbs to go shopping for next fall’s school clothes. It was a big deal. The Chicago suburbs might as well have been the runways of Paris or Milan compared to my small town options. There was no internet shopping. There was no internet period. Sears catalog. Phone books, people.

Now I know why I snuck out of the office all those times to go shopping. In London when I worked 14 hour days, in Amsterdam when everyone hated bankers, in Wisconsin when I felt alone, on business trips when I felt so stressed, I went shopping. Whether it was stopping into an outlet mall in Wisconsin or meandering through Liverpool Street Station or buying too many souvenirs at a market in Istanbul or nipping into Marks & Spencer’s. It was all a reward. And if there was a sale, oh, there was no stopping me.

Annual Shopping Trip. My mother turned Fall School Shopping into a destination vacation. We stayed in a mid-range hotel (which seemed very posh to me). We ate out for dinner (at a place with cloth napkins). Sometimes we got to bring a friend along. We went to shopping malls with a population probably as large as our town. It was a cultural event.

We went for clothes, but it was an entire experience. Maybe that is what I crave when I walk into a store. I crave that excitement and experience. Maybe I miss my mother and my sisters.

And how I felt so cool walking into school in clothes I knew no one else had. This back fired big time. See red, white and blue sweatsuit above. Yep, that was definitely before high school. Blending in was crucial to my high school experience. I think that is a question for another yoga class, though.

$100 Budget. For some reason, I think we each had a budget of $100. That seems like a lot of money back then. We came back with a pile of clothes and shoes. I remember meticulously tallying the receipts. Being even is crucial for twins. Down to the cent, we had to be even. We definitely knew how much each of our pieces of clothing cost. If not immediately, it definitely now instilled a value of taking care of my belongings. I know this because I find myself saying it to my daughters and husbands.

Coupons. What is it with the American culture and coupons? Dutch people ask me this especially now that TLC starting running “Extreme Couponing” in The Netherlands. Scarcity. Marketing 101. It is ingrained in the American culture. Get it while it is cheaper. If you wait, you will have to pay more. Full price is for suckers. That is why coupons have expiration dates.

These shopping trips taught me to never pay full price for anything. It is a great lesson on the surface. Somehow, being on sale made something more valuable. How backward is that? Why doesn’t ‘being on sale’ mean “It is ugly and no one wants it”?

Coupons should have taught me to game the system. They should have taught me a bigger lesson that there is a system and it can be gamed. It taught me to how to consume the most possible. It also eventually made me realize that there is a huge margin built into most sticker prices.

I still find myself compulsively confessing to people that I bought something on sale or second-hand. Why do I do that? Another question for another yoga session. So many questions…


Meditation Challenge Drop-out


I have a confession to make. I quit my meditation challenge. A week ago. I really do not know why except to say that, if I am avoiding meditation, it probably means I need to do more of it.

And the meditations led by Deepak and Oprah as part of their 21-Day Meditation Challenge were so nice to listen to. As a women that grew up just two hours south of Oprah’s studios in Chicago, I basically grew up with her (for better or worse). It is nice to hear her voice and her affirmations. Unfortunately, the meditations only stay posted online for five days.

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. I have done moving meditation. Mummy Flying Solo made me realize that long walks, yoga and to some extent baking and vacuuming are forms of meditation for me. They eacj relax me and still my mind in some respects more than typical meditation can. In preparation for a team event I hosted at work, for instance, I vacuumed a huge office space. It was quiet. I was alone. The lights were dimmed. All I thought about was lining up my next sweep with the last. Repeat. Repeat. It completely cleared my mind and was not a half bad workout, incidentally.

Mowing a lawn would probably do the same for me…if we had a lawn. I am not about to become a cleaning lady or a landscaper. A big part of the charm is these activities is that I do them rarely. Perhaps I am just kidding myself; trying to avoid the fact that I did not follow through on my meditation challenge.

Another challenge? Not for now. In six weeks I start taking Dutch language courses on Thursday evenings so I am going to relax until then.

Hanging In There

This will be a quick one today. I am still here, still hanging in there. I am so bloody tired.

My husband and daughter were both sick with something these past several days. They each had different varieties of symptoms that were not bad enough to be treatable with medication yet severe enough to render them both whining sacks of misery. Fun for me.

I am trying to keep up with meditating and tracking my calories in/calories out. The tracking of my calories and fitness with MyFitnessPal is, strangely, easier for me and far more interesting. My Fitbit has yet to arrive, though, darn it. I did lose just over a pound this week, though!

I started Oprah & Deepak’s Meditation Challenge yesterday. They email you a mantra to say each day while meditating. Today’s mantra is, “I am a radiant spiritual being.”

To start my meditation, I just kind of melted onto one of our rugs. I am pretty sure laying face down on a rug is not a suggested pose, but it felt good. At a certain point in repeating the mantra, I realized I was saying to myself, “I am a radio spirited dream.”

No deep insights today except that the pressure of my face on the rug and the scratchiness of the fibers was oddly soothing. I really need to go to bed. Slaap lekker.


note: it turns out that there is a website with guided meditation by Deepak and Oprah. Oops.

30 Day Meditation Challenge: Day 9


Method: Simply Being App

– Raining sound, 10 minutes, guided by app, laying down in a starfish position


I just finished today’s meditation. I found it relaxing, but in a completely different way than the other days. Today’s meditation felt like a processing session. I had two friends over for dinner last night. I had not seen these friends in some time. We were also all without our toddlers and husbands so we were really able to talk.

I mention this only because I spend the next day(s) replaying events like that in my head. Sometimes it is to replay advice or anecdotes they have said that made me laugh or re-assured me. Mostly, though, I am evaluating myself – what I said, how I reacted. “Did I talk too much? Did I respond well? What did I forget to ask? What did I wish I would not have said?”

Am I the only person that does this? When I really value a person’s opinion and our relationship, I tend to be hyper-analytical of myself after an interaction. I used to be that way during conversations and, if left unchecked, can still get caught up in that, but now I try to make a conscious effort to stay present. I try to focus on what is immediately in front of me – the words coming out of my friends’ mouths; the food I am eating; the drink I am drinking; the birds chirping outside; the green leaves of the plants in our sunroom where we ate dinner.

So…all of these thoughts were whirling around during my mediation. I finally just told myself, “Okay. This is the space and the time to process all these thoughts. Process it. Let it whirl. Then we are done. After this 10 minutes, we are moving on with our day.” Let’s see if it works.

Lastly, not digging the rain sound on this app. It sounds kinda like a crackling fire to me. Not relaxing for me.


30 Day Meditation Challenge: Day 5



10 minute guided meditation with Simply Being app – listened to flowing water


It is definitely getting easier. When the woman guiding my meditation said that my ten minutes was over, my first thought was, “Wow! Already?!”

I also like the running water sound over the ocean sound I tried last time. Go figure. Maybe I am less prone to think about the beach vacation I wish I were on if I listen to just plain old running water.

Other Stuff


This week I have also made an effort to swap out my morning grande iced Americano & milk with iced sun tea. It has saved me EUR 3.10 per day and made me far less jumpy in the morning. I really enjoy the kick start of the Americano (and it’s 3 shots of espresso), but, hours later when my heart was still racing and I had an unquenchable thirst, I did not feel so great. I also noticed that, mid-afternoon, when the Americano finally wore off, I’d have a huge energy dip. It seemed to make my energy high’s higher and the low’s lower.

I am LOVING my homemade zucchini bread this week. I have been making Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini bread the last several weeks. I alternate the zucchini with shredded carrots sometimes too. I have made some substitutions that really hit the spot.


  • Skip the vanilla extract
  • Substitute half of the oil for a little more than 1/4 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
  • Use 3 teaspoons cinnamon & 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • Use the biggest round springform pan I can fine.

Listening To

Cannot get enough of Brene Brown’s seminar, “The Power of Vulnerability“. I first heard about her 2010 TED Talk and then again recently Tracy from Shutterbean was raving about Brown’s latest book to Joy the Baker on their podcast. I went to Audible.com and downloaded the longest thing I could find that Audible was offering featuring Brown (gotta get the most bang for my buck, right?!)

All I can say is- Get it, Download it, Listen to it. Brown is a great presenter even if you are only listening to her recorded. She is motivating, insightful, funny, and most of all down-to-earth. For every pitfall she tells you how to avoid, she has at least one funny true story of her own struggles.

Favorite take-away so far: Treating shame like a Gremlin.

Do you remember that movie? When you would expose those evil little monsters to the light, they would dissolve. The same goes with shame. When you name what is shaming you (to a trusted empathizer) it immediately dissolves most of the shames power over you.

Meditation Challenge: Week #1


I decided to join another blogger, Mummy Flying Solo, in a 30-day Meditation Challenge. I am going to try to meditate for a total of at least 10 minutes per day and blog about it every now and then.


Do you ever feel like your thoughts get away from you? I feel like I am getting spacier and spacier mainly because I have a series of internal dialogues continuosly and simultaneously streaming through my mind. It is the “To Do” lists for the various aspects of my life; the taking in of media while trying to block out other things; my ego commentating on the last email I read or conversation I had; the translating between Dutch and English; the list goes on.

Mummy Flying Solo referenced a TED Talk by Andy Puddicombe about meditating. The one thing that stuck with me is using meditation to give your mind a break. I had never really thought about my mind needing a break. Sometimes I feel like I need a break from my mind. And I think of giving other parts of my body a break – my aching back, my tired eyes, sore muscles. But I never thought about my mind needing a little TLC.    


I started this challenge on Friday. For the most part, I have been meditating using guided meditation. I downloaded the app “Simply Being” that I saw mention in the the notes of one of Mummy Flying Solo’s blogs. I have tried that once so far for 5 minutes and it was really helpful. I think I am going to use that during the week and up the time of the guided meditation to 10 minute sessions. You can choose the duration of the meditation, what type of music to listen to and whether or not you want someone to speak and guide you through the meditation.

On Friday night and again today, I did guided meditations for about 10-20 minutes at the end of a yoga class with the instructor. On Saturday, I tried meditating in silence alone. I woke up about 30 minutes later. I prefer to lay down to meditate. Maybe that is part of the problem. But, for me, it helps to lay down and feel my body getting heavier as I relax. When I sit up, I tend to focus on the mechanics of my posture or direct my attention to a part of my body that is uncomfortable. 

How is it going?

To be honest, I am not sure how it is going so far. My thoughts slow down while I meditate and seem to decrease in volume. That is a start, I guess. I wrote down my thoughts about Friday and Saturday’s meditations, but I cannot find the notebook right now. I think I was trying to hide the notebook (and pen) from my one and a half year old daughter so she would stop scribbling in it and, as a result, hid it from myself as well.

All I can really remember thinking about during today’s meditation is that I needed to write a blog post today about the meditation session. I know there is no finish line per se with meditating,but I do have a long way to go. 

So far I have learned:

  • It easiest to quiet my mind after I have physically exerted myself – with yoga, an exercise class, or even a long walk.
  • I do not enjoy constant talking during a guided meditation.
  • Music or sounds are nice, but it is better for me if there are no words sung. It is just one more thing for my mind to get distracted by and fly off on a tangent.