1. In late Spring, plant marigolds. In early Fall, plant pansies. With minimal care, they thrive and make a color show.
2. Set up a freshwater aquarium, and keep only guppies in it. Feed them with several different varieties of flake and dry food. Plant
luxuriant plastic plants so that fry may hide in them. If you choose the 12 for a dollar 'feeder' guppies, you can save their lives and create generation after generation of motley-wonderful color in your tank.
3. Keep cactus. You can buy them for a dollar each at almost any plant store. If you water them periodically and give them enough light, they'll bloom beautifully.
4. Check out library books and buy used paperbacks. It turns out the words on the pages are exactly the same, but it's the bindings and the newness that costs most of the money.
5. A good place to find discount classic CDs is in a truck stop. Truckers turn out to have pretty good musical taste, and the truck stops market CDs to them for roughly half of what you pay in the stores.
6. eBay can be a resource in which you save money, or in which you spend your entire paycheck. Get into the habit of using the "advanced search" function, and then searching only for things less than x dollars. Make lowball bids on an item you want, even if you lose that item four or five times. In the long run, you often find yourself surprised to get an item for a fraction of what you thought you'd have to pay. Never buy anything sight unseen, though, that you actually care much about.
7. Seek out independent music in your area or over the internet.
There's something to be said for being able to e mail an artist about a song you like. In addition, many artists now make material available inexpensively or free, which is a kindness indeed.
8. Hiking and walking are nearly unbeatable hobbies, for those whose health permits them to do so. All you need are durable walking shoes. The health folks all seem to agree it's good for you if done in moderation. In virtually any area, there are overlooked state parks or city trails, filled with great things to see, in which one can find a little solitude. Never underestimate the power of a bit of solitude, which, paradoxically, is a cure of sorts for loneliness.
9. Don't worry if you're completely unmusical, and if years of piano did not take. Sing. Play the kazoo. The kazoo is actually a pretty cool instrument for improvisation, and costs less than ten dollars for the best kind. Anyone can play the autoharp, and you can get an old one (the best kind) used for not much money. Lately, I'm learning the dulcimer, which is almost as easy to play as the autoharp. I think that next I'll tackle the jaws harp.
10. Sometimes you can divert yourself by plunging into a hobby world
filled with terms and theories alien to your everyday life. Buy a small telescope (the used ones are much cheaper and absolutely fine) and join a stargazing group. Buy 10 x 50 binoculars cheap on eBay and join the birdwatching folks (turns out they are everywhere, but nobody realizes they're there). Buy a chess set and a clock and learn the intricacies of the endgame. Go and divert yourself and do. Incidentally, you might meet some interesting people along the way.
11. Remember the old saw derived from Charles Dickens..."twenty pounds of income, twenty one pounds of expenses, equals domestic misery. Twenty pounds of income, nineteen pounds of expenses, equals domestic bliss". The difference between happiness and misery on such matters is often, in essence, roughly two pounds.
12. Trust yourself to express yourself. A lot of people who do creative things work under the theory that there is an elite class whose talent is so great that it makes creative work by others irrelevant or useless. Don't fall into this thinking. That's not to say there aren't others with more talent or more grace. There are.
But the act of creating material, even if flawed, has a restorative power. Don't worry that your initial stuff is trite and banal.
In fact, revel in that, a bit, because you can only begin the process of weeding out the trite and banal by recogizing that it's in your stuff, and then refining it. Learn an interesting lesson--what you think is "non-trite" when you are 19 is frequently seems more trite to you at 40 than what you thought at 19 was trite.
No matter what you write, or paint, or sing, or sculpt, you can rest assured you can find someone to tell you it's absolutely awful.
If you live in the perpetual fear of other peoples' criticism, you can easly find that other people do criticize. But it's all about exchanges of communications. Your goal is not to be Da Vinci. Your goal is to share.
13. It's just simpler to act with integrity towards folks, even if that means you must hurt their feelings or your own. It's also simpler to act with integrity towards folks, because the alternatives are all just too complicated.
14. When you understand why someone else does something, it doesn't make it all better, but it does make it all a bit easier to take.
15. The times I said the most insensitive things were times I was the most sensitive and self-conscious about myself.
16. With a two dollar kite and two dollars' worth of string, you can turn a blustery day into a miracle.
17. Think of the life of anyone you admire. Then google up their biography. Much more often than not, you'll find that much of the life you read was beset by banality, self-questioning, illness physical and mental, domestic difficulty, career uncertainty, and absurd challenges. The inspiration in great lives is not only in what they do, but that their own circumstances are just as ridiculous as one's own. That takes away a bit of the "excuse oneself" aspect of doing the right thing.
18. Positive thinking may not change the physical world, but it can change one's own way of experiencing things.
19. Reading books about bonsai trees is more fun than trying to grow one.
20. Sometimes a little kindness can make a difference.