Sea of Change

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

It’s been a while since I actually posted something other than a mandala here. Things have been changing in my life and it’s been hard to keep up with everything. Maybe that’s my own fault for trying to change too much at once, but I needed to make some changes and I had to ‘seize the day’ as they say!

I still plan to keep on drawing mandalas, so the Monday Mandalas will still be happening. However, the YouTube mandala channel isn’t working, for a variety of reasons, so I’m dropping it for now. I won’t be taking anything down, but I won’t be posting much, if anything, either.

I keep meaning to finish up the last sets of minis I have, but I just don’t have the motivation to paint right now. I am going to try and complete them this summer, once school is finally out and I have some breathing room again. That will finish up all my minis, and I haven’t bought any more, so my paints may get shuttered again after that.

I’ve written before about trying Noom, and I’m still doing it. I’m two months in and down 20 lbs. So I can definitely see progress, even if logging every single thing I eat is incredibly annoying. I tried jumping in whole hog and doing all the things at the beginning, but honestly, for the last 10 lbs, I haven’t really been exercising. Just watching my calories and staying in my calorie budget. I’m hoping to add in more exercise once school is out and I have extra time. (No idea if I will actually achieve that – all this extra time I won’t be working is being spent in about 20 different ways, so who knows?!) 😛

My focus right now, besides work, has been my new diamond painting obsession. I have just absolutely fallen in love with this hobby and that’s how I’ve been spending most of my free time lately. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, so I’ve had to cut back the time I spend doing other things to make room. Hence the decision to hit pause on the Mandala YouTube for now.

I need to make a decision about my Etsy shop as well. It hasn’t really gone anywhere, and that’s my own fault, so I need to decide whether I’m going to just let it sit (like it’s been doing), close it, or take it in a different direction. I’m seriously considering going a different route and opening an online shop via Shopify, but I haven’t made a final decision yet.

On the financial front, our journey towards being debt-free continues. We made a good dent in our last remaining debt – my husband’s car loan. Now it will be a matter of balancing paying off that last debt and putting money in our emergency fund. Looking back, I can’t believe how far we’ve come in such a short time. It seems like just a few months ago our calendar was full of bill due dates, and now it isn’t. There’s room to breathe and to dream!

Now that we are in a better financial position, we have been talking about our dreams and what we want our future to look like. We are hoping to make some pretty big changes at the end of this year, but we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my oldest graduating college this year – another milestone!

Profits Over People

Do you remember a few months ago hearing about the bitter cold snap and all the people in Texas who got screwed by natural gas companies and received bills in the thousands of dollars?

Do you remember feeling sorry for those people and thanking your lucky stars you didn’t live in Texas?

Me, too.

Turns out, though, I’m one of them. :/

A little background:

I live in a small city and our only option for heat is to buy natural gas from the city (as well as water, sewer, and trash). They all come bundled together in my city ‘utility’ bill. Our typical monthly bill for those utilities generally ranges from $150-$215 month, depending mostly on our water usage. In January we used 83 units of natural gas, for which we were charged $58.60.

I live in the Midwest and we experienced the same cold snap back in February that most of the US did. We knew the cold was coming and we watched our consumption, choosing to throw on extra clothes rather than turn up the heat. Our area had rolling blackouts because electricity usage was higher than normal.

I expected our February gas bill to be a bit higher than usual, since we probably had used a bit more than normal for heat. And indeed, in looking at my February bill, we used 94 units, more than the 83 the previous month.

So, if you do some rudimentary math, you would expect my bill to be somewhere around $67 or so for gas.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my bill for gas was instead $961.34.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Yes, stock photo lady, I too was enraged. Upon calling city hall to inquire why my total bill (again normally between $150-$215) was suddenly $1100.00, I was testily informed that the city had to pay outrageous prices themselves, and they of course had to pass on this cost to consumers.

When I inquired further about exactly what prices were charged and why I wasn’t notified, I was treated to a heavy sigh and the statement that the city had posted the information on their Fakebook page. When I then inquired how people like me (who don’t have Fakebook) were given this information, I was told that newsletters were mailed out.

Now, I never received a newsletter. I was then testily told that it was posted on the city webpage. (Shocker, it wasn’t.) And, as a special kicker, the reason I didn’t receive the newsletter in the mail is because I receive an e-bill from the city (you know, to save the environment and not waste trees). Customers with e-bills received nothing because ‘their e-bill system doesn’t allow for the city to add attachments to the emails.’

Interestingly, my email from the city comes WITH MY BILL AS AN ATTACHMENT.

After recovering from the shock, I did some digging and found out that we were actually lucky. There are some customers in town who received bills ranging from $3,000 to $5,000! It’s completely insane.

Now, I get that the city didn’t want to have customer’s heat shut off during a bitter cold snap and they felt they had to pay the going rate. However, I’m fairly certain if they had asked any of their customers if they wanted to pay 100x the usual rate for natural gas, the answer from everyone would have been a resounding NO.

I saw a great analogy from another resident: If you drive up to the gas pump on Tuesday and gas is $2.50 per gallon, you fill up your car and go on your way. If you pull up on Wednesday needing gas, and the price is suddenly $250.00 per gallon, you find different solutions.

It’s not that we as consumers mind companies making a profit. However, price gouging in the middle of an emergency is just disgusting. My state does have a law that prohibits companies raising prices more than 25% during a state of emergency (which we were in at the time).

The kicker? Even if they take the gas companies to court and prove the companies broke the law, the law contains NO PROVISIONS FOR PENALTIES. So what do the companies have to lose? There are towns smaller than mine that may very well go bankrupt and disappear because of this situation.

And the gas companies? Well, I’m sure they’ve now got money to burn for the next emergency.

Still Obsessed

I’ve posted before about my newfound obsession with diamond painting.

After 6-7 months, I feel like I’ve settled into the hobby and, at the same time, still feel in many ways like a complete newbie. As with every hobby, especially a crafting one, there are tons of groups to join, companies to try, and hordes of accessories that every ‘serious’ diamond painter needs. 😛

I started off slow, promising myself that I wouldn’t jump in with both feet until I was sure it was something I liked.

I’m sure. 😀

I’ve completed over 16 projects, and I’m still just as enamored with it now as I was when I started. Of course, I now have added all kinds of accessories, including this beauty:

After hogging the dining room table for months, I finally decided to break down and get a drafting table. It’s so much easier on my back and neck, with the added bonus of not having to worry about dragging projects around or putting them away every night.

Now, whatever I’m working on can live on the drafting table until it’s done. Some of my projects are still going to be too large for the surface, but that’s okay. I now have a dedicated space for them. 🙂

I’ve even done several projects for others, including this wacky giraffe:

One of the most fun things I’ve discovered while doing this hobby is mystery diamond paintings. You get a kit with the canvas and diamonds, but there is no picture or colors printed on it, just the symbols in black and white. So you don’t know what the picture is of until you complete it. I’ve done two already and have a third waiting to be completed. The most recent mystery one I did was claimed by my oldest after she saw it finished:

I love how it turned out and it is now framed and waiting for her to decide where to hang it. 😀

Someday I’ll get around to finally painting some of those D&D minis I’ve got laying around, but right now I’d rather be diamond painting – just like these awesome stickers my husband made me say:

Have you picked up any new hobbies due to the pandemic?