The Real Cost of Pets

by Guest Author on October 29, 2012 · 3 comments

My half dog just turned two in September. She has certainly become a member of the family and even has her own category on my budget. But the reason she has her own category is because she does cost me money!


Since our dog is still relatively young and hasn't incurred massive vet bills, this is by far our biggest expense. At first I bought her food at a local discounter for a pretty good deal. It was about £15 for a 40 lb bag. Problem was, our dog would not go near the food. She flat out refused to eat cheap dog food. She was losing weight so I caved in and bought the stuff her vet recommended. Now I pay about £30 for a 30lb bag.


Most people assume they will just wing it and figure out a place where their dog can sleep and stay when you aren't at home. From my experience, this is where best of intentions go out the window. We bought a huge crate for about £50. Problem was when she was a puppy it was so big that she could do her business at one end and sleep at the other, thus prolonging potty training. That's why we now have two crates, one big and one small that are never slept in by our dog. She now prefers our king size bed.

Also, another thing we had to invest in was a fence outside. This is obviously a huge expense and will vary from home to home. But don't underestimate what you will need for your pet. I assumed I could just take the dog out on a leash everytime, thus avoiding the expense. Needless to say we were constructing a fence after about a month with the dog. Total Cost approx: £1,200


This is where your costs will vary widely depending on breed and age. I would look into pet insurance if you want consistent expenses. So far we have probably paid about £500 in vet bills. Luckily we can afford it, but I know some that have gone into debt with vet bills and now are working with Debt Free Direct.

"Life is art, and you are the artist." ~ Unknown

There are times when we have an opportunity to look at life as a blank canvas; it's a chance to start anew. At the end of each relationship, for example, we are able to place a bright, white canvas in front of us. We have the ability to move forward, painting the picture we want for our future.

But how do we achieve this?

How do we create something better than the one before?

Here are a few ways:

1) Examine our past. What did we create last time? Would we want to replicate some aspects of it? What could have been better? What did we like the least?

2) Make choices for our future. From taking time to examine our past, what decisions have we made for our future? What do we want it to look like this time?

3) Write a list. Once you know what you want, write it down as a reminder. This will keep you from shifting too much from what you have sketched out for your future.

4) Don't settle. As the canvas has brush strokes added, don't forget the plan you sketched out for the future. It isn't to say you can't deviate, but don't compromise so much that you lose happiness and fulfillment in the process.

5) Enjoy. Sometimes we focus so hard on our past and future, that we forget to enjoy the present. Fully embrace each new brush stroke, and every detail of the work of art you are creating with another.

6) Don't be afraid of a blank canvas. It's okay to recognize a relationship needs to end; it's not a sign of failure. Learn from the experience, and create something even more beautiful the next time.

Things happen in life that are beyond our control, but it is our decision how we choose to grow as an artist from each experience.

Life is what we make of it.

Make yours a masterpiece.

by Kelly Sajonia

The Great Flesh Poem

by Elisa Van Arnam on October 22, 2012 · 2 comments

"Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul – and you answer." ~ Terri Guillemets

There is a famous quote from Walt Whitman's Leave of Grass that says; "This is what you shall do…" he goes on to list all the lovely, Atticus Finch type things you could think of a human being doing; loving the earth, giving alms to the poor, devoting income and labor to others, having patience, going freely with "uneducated persons" with "the young" with "the mothers of families," reading poetry, re-examining what you've been told, dismissing anything that "insults your own soul" and as a result of all this luscious living, he writes, "…your very flesh shall be a great poem."

Since high school those magical words have caressed my soul…"your very flesh shall be a great poem." It's delicious. It's wild, it's adventurous, it's dangerous, it's earnest, it's magnificent!

And it makes perfect sense to a 17 year-old rebellious teenager who knew nothing of responsibilities, of taxes, of recessions, of heartbreak or broken dreams.

And yet…here I sit, as a 42 year-old wife and mother of two…and I can say with confidence and sometimes sorrow, that I understand and have experienced responsibilities, taxes, recessions, heartbreaks and have had my fair share of broken dreams… but if I am truly honest with myself…I know there is no other way to live, than to be the poem.

Oh…I said it.

Don't get me wrong…I pay homage to my type A, picket fence routines everyday. I love to have a clean house, I like getting up at a certain time, doing each one of the chores on my to-do list in a certain order and having things just so…I like to know what's going to happen next, I don't like uncertainty or surprises… and this can work, as a life…if, like a jazz musician, you can riff outside the lines of the piece of music you create with your daily routine.

But if you get stuck inside that piece of music and never veer off the page, never take a pause where there's supposed to be a note, or pay loud and hard where it says to be quiet, before you know it, YEARS will have gone by and you will have just maintained. And then your flesh will just be…more fleshy.

I don't think any of us signed up for ordinary. I think we get so distracted by our material world that we forget just how magical we are and how we came here with a purpose. We don't need to be artists or musicians, we don't even have to be particularly skilled with words or glue guns or bricks or flower arranging to live our lives as art. We just need to live our lives with a certain…abandon.

Yes…I said it.

Abandon. We did it when we were kids. We played with abandon, we sang with abandon, we laughed till milk came out our noses! We put our whole hearts and souls into whatever we were doing, fully focused, with passion and energy and vision and light. And as kids, our very flesh WAS the poem.

So what's stopping you now? Is it practicality? Rationality? Uncertainty? Fear?

I have never met someone who set an outrageous goal for themselves, achieved it, and then said, "That was a mistake."

In fact, it seems to me that the real art in life happens outside our comfort zones.

It wasn't until my dreams of domestic bliss were cracked and broken by our economy that I actually knew this. It MADE me pull my head out of the sand and become extraordinary. Yes…it was beyond awful and painful while it was happening, but at the same time…

I hugged longer. I loved deeper. I was more grateful for little things; like hot running water, food to pack lunches, gas in my car, a warm bed, a fire in our fireplace, a sweet smile, a good joke, the smell of rain and the words, "You are going to get through this."

And it occurred to me, as I was submerged in this crisis, clinging to small gratitudes, that those beautiful moments could become the building blocks for the great poem of my life. I picked myself up, I got down to business. I started a company. I drenched it in my soul. I live what I believe. Even when it's hard. And this is my poem.

When it's all said and done and your obituary is written…what will it say? Will it say that he or she punched the clock right on time, never missed an appointment and got a perfect score on the big test? Or will it say that you danced in the rain, loved BIG, went out of your way to help others, stood for something, wouldn't fall in line, made people laugh until milk came out their noses, and changed the world?

If you strive to make your "very flesh a great poem" what magnificence can you achieve?

by Elisa Van Arnam

What's a happy list, you ask? It's a list of things, people, activities-anything really-that make you happy. A happy list can be created on a scrap of paper or in a beautifully bound journal. It can be a list of five things or five hundred. How you create your list-and what you add to it-will be uniquely you, but the benefits you will gain from having a happy list are universal.

You see, we live in a society driven by want. We're supposed to want to have the newest fashions, to live in the nicest house, to have a loving relationship, to be surrounded by fun and friends. Advertising and media encourage us to keep wanting, to be forever unsatisfied by what we have now. But if we focus on the future, on what we want to have, we miss out on enjoying what we already have. The constant state of desire many of us experience only leads to unhappiness; it only perpetuates a feeling of never having enough.

In response to the constant wanting, years ago I decided to create a happy list. I started writing down all the things that make me happy. Every so often I sit down with my list and write down new things-and every time I do, I reap the rewards of having a happy list, which include:

1. A happy list makes you grateful. The more you document all the things that bring you happiness, the more grateful you'll feel for all you have in your life. Instead of dwelling on what you don't have (as so many of us do!), you'll be focusing on what you do have. The more you think about what you have, the more thankful you'll become.

2. A happy list gives you a boost of joy. Every time you pause and write down a few things that make you happy, you'll feel a burst of happiness. This little boost of joy can make a big difference if you're having a bad day. Just taking a few moments to think about what's good in life can transform your mood and uplift your spirit.

3. A happy list puts things in perspective. Too often we forget how lucky we are. We focus on all that's going wrong and rarely on what's going right. When you write down items on your happy list, you'll be reminded of how good things are-even when things seem pretty bad. A happy list has the ability to shift your perception in a positive direction.

4. A happy list inspires and motivates you. Just contemplating the things you love-the things that make you happy-can inspire you. It can also motivate you. When you're feeling down, make some notes on your happy list. Focusing on things that make you happy will bring your mood up-and an uplifted mood will open your mind up to all kinds of inspiration and motivation.

5. A happy list keeps you in the now. In this crazy world, it can be hard to stay present. Spending time writing down the things making you happy can bring you back to the moment by urging you to contemplate what is bringing you joy right now. If you're struggling to stay present, get out your happy list and start looking around you. You'll find lots to be happy about-and your mind will be focused on the now.

Creating a list of things that make you happy might sound silly (or even childish!), but the benefits I've received from taking the time to jot down the things I love far outweigh the nagging voice in my mind that tells me I'm wasting my time. In a society driven by the need to have-and be-more, it's refreshing to pause and realize that I really do have enough. I really am enough. A happy list is a reminder of all that's good in my life-and every time I pause, pen in hand, and note the things that are bringing me happiness, I feel more positive, more present, and more me.

Dani DiPirro launched in 2009 when she decided to turn her life around and start focusing on the positive while living in the present moment. Her personal development site touches lives around the world. Dani recently published her first book, Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present. Learn more at

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