Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Manna from Heaven

The front yard had a big shade tree.  Every summer I would take my lawn chair and sit beneath it to read, relax, and catch the breeze.  It was covered with green things at certain times of the year that I didn't think too much about assuming they were horse chestnuts or some other strange and poisonous thing.  The blue jays also loved the tree and I loved watching the blue jays from the kitchen window.  This picture is much like the tree that was in my own yard. 

A number of years passed and I mowed around the tree without giving it a second thought.

I don't know what happened, it must have been the weather conditions or just a day for me to have a special treat.

I walked out and all the green outer shells had burst and as I walked under the tree much to my surprise and delight the entire ground was covered with WALNUTS!  I was so taken aback that at first I wondered how they got there and who would have scattered walnuts in my yard.  Some days I am not as bright as others to be sure but I guess having lived there already for a number of years and not been aware that I lived with a walnut tree it caught me off guard.  You see, the blue jays had caught on to a secret and not yet told me.

It was so exciting!  Imagine going out in the morning and finding a yard full of nuts.  It was like Easter eggs.  I went and grabbed a bucket and started gathering them all up.  First I filled a pan, and then another, and then went and got a 5 gallon bucket and filled that too!

Although I have always loved plants, animals, and trees until that moment I don't think I really realized just how magical they really are.  Maybe the better word is miraculous.  The experience filled me with childhood wonder.  Of course it sounds silly.  I was almost 50 and had picked apples off the trees since I was a child and still have the scar on my foot from falling out of the tree that dad sent me up.  But walnuts!  Now that was just something else again. 

Since that time I have a new goal on my list.  I want to plant a nut orchard on my acreage back home.  It may not be this year but the time will come.  And, not only walnuts but also filberts and any other nut tree I can get my hands on.  I'm not sure that I have tasted a Filbert but I like the name, it sounds like a cartoon character and is fun to say.

At this point I could go into the varieties of nut trees available, the growing conditions, the protein they contribute to the diet and other health benefits and at some point I probably will.  But for today let me just say that if it looks like this:

It may be a Walnut tree.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


There has been a revival of the extended family for living situations and along with it a growing number who find that roommate opportunities can provide an economically less stressful way to have a roof over one's head.

A quick look at craigs list provided the following ads:

$550 Room in great house, great neighborhood

Private room in large house with large yard in great neighborhood. Full house privileges. Includes all utilities, pool and jacuzzi, satellite TV with movie channels, pool table, horseshoes, garage parking. Smokers and pets welcome. Positive people preferred. 
$250 Furnished Room for Student/Intern *Utilities Included*

Room is spacious and furnished
Closet and drawers for easy organization
Large windows open to a wide green and gorgeous view of Central Park
Utilities included
Central Park is right across the street, good to relax, go for a run
Safe, residential neighborhood at all hours

$500 / 4400ft² - Spacious Downstairs Room For Rent w/Private Bath ALL FURNISHED
We are a quiet American Asian family with 2 college girls looking to find a quiet, responsible room mate to fill in our 1 downstairs bedroom in our house. As you can tell from the pictures below, we live in a spacious 4000+ square feet home at Mountains Edge. Your rent will include brand new furniture, a private bathroom, internet, laundry and kitchen privileges. We also conveniently live right next to the explorer's peak park. Due to the household being mostly girls, we do prefer a female room mate. Smoking is ok outside, dogs are ok if they are potty trained (we have a small doggy door) Please SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY.
image 0image 1
image 2image 3

Yes, the last one is nice!!

What makes a GOOD roommate?  Some of the things that pop to mind are:
  • Clean and one who picks up after themselves
  • Financially responsible once the rent is agreed upon it should be paid as top priority
  • Verbally positive, considerate, and keeping noise levels at a level that does not disrupt others.
  • Considerate of the personal boundaries of others and their possessions

In contrast, What makes someone a BAD roommate?
  • Messy, does not keep their space or community spaces picked up.  Leaves dishes in the sink and laundry on the floor
  • Financially irresponsible and pays their share of the expenses inconsistently
  • Verbally rude, grouchy, cusses, yells, loud when people are sleeping, foul language
  • Inconsiderate of the space and possessions of others
  • Sexually parading partners throughout the home or lewd personal habits such as pornography
  • Drug or alcohol use and any associated behaviors and risks.  Who really wants to get busted for someone else's pot habit?
As I thought about it I concluded that much of it all boils down to good habits, good character, and common courtesy.  How simple is that?

As I reflected even further I wondered how many families can say that all members treat each other with the same respect that we would hope and expect from strangers?  How many divorces or relationship breakups are caused by any of the above?  How many children are mercilessly yelled at?  How may spouses have to put up with drunkenness, pornography, or have to go around picking up after another?  How many teenagers blast the music or have rooms that look like a tornado has hit?  Or, the newest social phenomenon highlighted by the media of hoarding? Those are some of the biggies but what about the little things like leaving the toilet seat lid up?

We are born into families but how many enter friendships or relationships with others where not even these basic minimal courtesies are extended?  It's often easy to spot them even on the street - the one who leaves garbage at the bus stop or doesn't take back their own shopping cart.  At work we see the growing tendency to not hold doors or take the last of the coffee without making more. 

Words for the day:

We need to not only expect it from others, train our children, but above all tolerate nothing less from ourselves in whatever living arrangements we are in.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In The Trenches - Fashion

Remember the old Lady Clairol commercials that always ended with "Only her hairdresser knows for sure"? That's the way I am about the prices of my clothing. When someone comments that they like something I'm wearing I smile and say "Thank you" and usually leave it at that.

Recently at work I was told that I had the cutest wardrobe in our office. Of course it was just one person's opinion but I was happy to hear it.  Again, I just smiled, for three reasons:
1) I'm over 50. If you are over 50 you know that each compliment on our appearance is even more appreciated than when we were 25 :)
2) Having lived in the country for over 20 years the idea of dressing up for most is a clean pair of jeans. For me they were far to constricting so I much preferred sweats.
3) The items of clothing I get the most compliments on are the ones I have purchased at garage sales and thrift stores!

So, because you are my readers I decided to give you a preview of some of the items and the secret of what I paid for them. Hopefully this will give your own morale a boost and encourage you to not only shop wisely but also to donate your no longer needed items so that someone else may enjoy and benefit from them. I'm very camera shy so modeling is not part of the deal.

A favorite at $6
Look at the beading, sequins, and  buttons.

One of my most expensive purchases at about $12.
  It looks great with black slacks.
New for $5

50 Cent blouses.  I love the asymmetrical one.

Red leather $15, Black leather $2!
This is one of the most complimented items.
The pants and long jacket was $5 (brand new when purchased) and the blouse is the 50 Cent item picture earlier.

More 50 Cent Blouses

I'm saving this for Mothers Day
See the $12.99 Savers tag? but I got it 50% off
The original packaging lines are still on the dress.  Yes, silk.

And, my official In The Trenches outfit.
(I also have some Capri pants)
Blouse 50 cents, Skirt $3
Picking, choosing, and finding ones style is part of the fun.  Kim at Uniquely Savvy specializes in doing just that.  Find her at facebook - her tips, ideas, enthusiasm, and beautiful smile as she works with her clients is a fun motivator for us all.  Or, get her book, Incredible Life.  I just started reading it and Kim's story is uplifting and encouraging. 

Can't wait to start looking for the new spring colors!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

American Food Crisis - The Emperor's New Clothes

My uncle George was a meat and potatoes man.  Every night on the dinner table was basically the same.  It was almost a joke to the family because any variation to the theme was met with a reminder of what an appropriate dinner was. 

Each day at the England house there was a piece of steak, potatoes, a vegetable, and bread with honey.  The bread was not the standard Wonderbread but was usually homemade brown bread.  The honey was in a little bear dispenser.   Desert was rare in the household.

This meal seemed odd to me because at our home casseroles reigned but in retrospect the same principles applied. We referred to it as the four basic food groups. I understood this not because the adults in my life explained it but because the schools showed a chart.

Michelle Obama has taken steps to remind us of the importance of healthy eating.  For this she has received both praise and criticism.  I for one am happy that she is using the platform she has to promote such a basic and yet neglected topic. 

Bad eating habits like anything else do not happen overnight - they happen one meal at a time. I have to continually remind myself that carrots are better than cookies when I grab a snack. I continually have to make a conscious effort to not have that extra cup of coffee that I love so much.  More importantly than my own personal choices is the children and the parents who are responsible for providing and building habits that will last a lifetime.

Rumors abound and are becoming reality regarding the possibility of rising costs of food and even possibilities of scarcity in America.  The recent Texas drought has indeed had a major impact on our food supply.  If we believe we can live a healthy life on potato chips and pop we are delusional.  Recently my own health has required me to cut back on salt.  What?  I don't even use a salt shaker so where is it coming from?

As we rush through our busy schedules we tend to just grab what is easily available and put it in our mouths and keep going.  Or, many now who are more conscientious have taken the opposite direction of believing that radical diets or vegetarianism is the answer.  As we continue to move in either of these extremes we are missing the basic, healthy lifestyle available to all of us.

There are many things I don't like about getting older.  But there is one thing I am wholly beginning to appreciate:  the longer I live, the more I see that the media and social waves are a bunch of b.s.  Coming from my farming experience I can use this phrase and know that the literal definition really does fit the situation.  It's just a mess that needs to be shoveled up and disposed of.

The idea of a food crisis in America, if one should occur, is a subject that increasingly strikes me as utterly ridiculous, contrived, and diabolical.  Why?  Do I think it could not happen?  Yes, I do think it could happen.  BUT,  an American food crisis would be like a man starving with a cupboard full of food that he will not eat.  I struggle to know the words of how to present this in such a way to make the point that to me is so obvious yet never mentioned.  It is almost like the story of the emperor's new clothes in the old folk tale.  If you are not familiar with the story here is a cute little 3 minute video.

To illustrate what I'm referring to let's look at the history of American Agriculture for a minute:

The following is excerpted from About.com
A History of American Agriculture 1776-1990
Total population: 23,191,786
Farm population: 11,680,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 64% of labor force
Number of farms: 1,449,000
Average acres: 203
Successful farming on the prairies began
With the California gold rush, the frontier bypassed the Great Plains and the Rockies and moved to the Pacific coast
Free land was a vital rural issue
Graduation Act reduced price of unsold public lands
The miners' frontier moved eastward from California toward the westward-moving farmers' and ranchers frontier
Total population: 31,443,321
Farm population: 15,141,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 58% of labor force
Number of farms: 2,044,000
Average acres: 199
Homestead Act granted 160 acres to settlers who had worked the land 5 years
The sharecropping system in the South replaced the old slave plantation system
Influx of Scandinavian immigrants
Cattle boom accelerated settlement of Great Plains; range wars developed between farmers and ranchers
Total population: 38,558,371
Farm population: 18,373,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 53% of labor force
Number of farms: 2,660,000
Average acres: 153
Total population: 50,155,783
Farm population: 22,981,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 49% of labor force
Number of farms: 4,009,000
Average acres: 134
Heavy agricultural settlement on the Great Plains began
Most humid land already settled
Most immigrants were from southeastern Europe
Drought reduced settlement on the Great Plains
Total population: 62,941,714
Farm population: 29,414,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 43% of labor force
Number of farms: 4,565,000
Average acres: 136
Increases in land under cultivation and number of immigrants becoming farmers caused great rise in agricultural output
Census showed that the frontier settlement era was over
Total population: 75,994,266
Farm population: 29,414,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 38% of labor force
Number of farms: 5,740,000
Average acres: 147
Continued agricultural settlement on the Great Plains
Reclamation Act
Policy of reserving timberlands inaugurated on a large scale
Total population: 91,972,266
Farm population: 32,077,00 (estimated)
Farmers made up 31% of labor force
Number of farms: 6,366,000
Average acres: 138
Dryland farming boom on the Great Plains
Immigration of agricultural workers from Mexico
Stock Raising Homestead Act
Total population: 105,710,620
Farm population: 31,614,269 (estimated)
Farmers made up 27% of labor force
Number of farms: 6,454,000
Average acres: 148
Immigration Act greatly reduced number of new immigrants
Total population: 122,775,046
Farm population: 30,455,350 (estimated)
Farmers made up 21% of labor force
Number of farms: 6,295,000
Average acres: 157
Irrigated acres: 14,633,252
Drought and dust-bowl conditions developed
Executive orders withdrew public lands from settlement, location, sale, or entry
Taylor Grazing Act
Total population: 131,820.000
Farm population: 30,840,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 18% of labor force
Number of farms: 6,102,000
Average acres: 175
Irrigated acres: 17,942,968
Many former southern sharecroppers migrated to war-related jobs in cities
Total population: 151,132,000
Farm population: 25,058,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 12.2% of labor force
Number of farms: 5,388,000
Average acres: 216
Irrigated acres: 25,634,869
Legislation passed providing for Great Plains Conservation Program
Total population: 180,007,000
Farm population: 15,635,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 8.3% of labor force
Number of farms: 3,711,000
Average acres: 303
Irrigated acres: 33,829,000
State legislation increased to keep land in farming
Wilderness Act
Farmers made up 6.4% of labor force
Total population: 204,335,000
Farm population: 9,712,000 (estimated)
Farmers made up 4.6% of labor force
Number of farms: 2,780,000
Average acres: 390
1980-901980, 1990
Total population: 227,020,000 and 246,081,000
Farm population: 6,051,00 and 4,591,000
Farmers made up 3.4% and 2.6% of labor force
Number of farms: 2,439,510 and 2,143,150
Average acres: 426 and 461
Irrigated acres: 50,350,000 (1978) and 46,386,000 (1987)

If you don't look at anything else check out the first and last blocks and compare the percentage of the population compared to the farm population. In 1850 64% of the American laborforce was in the agricultural business or farmers.  In 1990 the percentage was 3%.  The population for the same periods went from 23,191,786 to 246,081,000. 

The question immediately jumps to my mind: Where is our food coming from?

With the growing population, logic would seem to indicate that there would be more involved in the production of our milk, vegetables, grains, and meat that sustain our lives but instead there is less. We know that much of this comes from the highly industrialized processes now employed for which there are benefits and disadvantages.  The ultimate reason we may have rising prices in food is not that we do not have the capability to have more food but rather we do not have enough farmers.

As I continued to explore this I found two interesting topics to google:  Agricultural Land In U.S and Government Owned Land in the U.S. When you click on the images button the actual maps are shown.  The results may surprise and shock you.  I may address this in a later post but not today.  While it is true that we are using more of our agricultural land than in 1850 this and the maps do not take into consideration just how much food Americans can grow in their own back yards if they choose to do so. 

Most surburban homes have space in the backyard for a few fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and some berries.  While your family may not be able to use an entire tree full of apples if all your neighbors planted also neighborhood trades or farmers markets could be made allowing an exchange and adding to the variety.   Sure we would still need to rely on our country neighbors to supply meat and dairy or those unemployed may consider this a good time to head to the hills.  That was how my own rural lifestyle began years ago.

Just as an experiment ask a 5 year old and a 15 year old "Where does our food come from?"  If their answer is "the grocery store"  then they too are already admiring The Emperor's New Clothes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Another morning in the city.  I was running early and decided to stop at McDonalds to see what was on the $1 menu for breakfast before catching my connecting bus.  I noticed the lady in front of me in line.  Nice clean blond hair, bright red shirt, 40ish, and an energetic step.  She was smiley and seemed like a morning person, not like I who drag myself along for the first couple of hours.  What caught my attention is that someone asked her for 50 cents and she said she didn't have it but would give them what she did have. 

While I was waiting I also noticed that McDonalds had a help wanted sign.  Full or part time, all shifts.  Momentary I contemplated applying (if you have read my book you know I am a big fan of the corporation for many reasons).  I quickly decided my days were too long already and I just don't have the energy to work two jobs like I used to.  I has happy that in this economy that the available job would get someone back to working and bringing some money home.

We both got our food and parted ways, I to my bus stop and she to cross at the corner.  Then she crossed the other corner.  Then the light changed and she started to cross the next corner.  I was immediately puzzled because why would she cross three streets instead of just crossing the one? 

What she did next answered my question and surprised me.  She pulled out a sign and started between the cars waiting for the light to change and was panhandling.  It dawned on me that just as I was going to my job she was going to hers.  I could not help but wonder who of us would make the most money that day.

Months have past since I first wrote the encounter above and saved it as a draft.  Since that time the woman mentioned has showed up everyday for "work" as a panhandler.  She appears clean and healthy.  Often she meets a friend who is in a wheelchair who had a cast on her leg. They share the corner and I assume the proceeds.  I noticed last week that the cast is gone but she is still in the wheelchair.

When did it become okay to make it a lifestyle of depending on others for things we should be doing ourselves?  When did it become acceptable to take from others instead of putting forth the effort to better our own situation?  As I watch the panhandler I wonder how she came to this decision. I wonder what would have been different for her if she had applied her energies gaining new skills or searching for a job. Did she one day wake up and in desperation start this and found it worked and just kept at it? Yes, I can just go out and ask her and sometime I probably will. For now I watch and wonder.

According to the Gallup poll the countries current unemployment rate  is 8.9%.  Those classified as under employed is 18.8%.  4% consider themselves suffering and 43% consider themselves struggling.  And this is an improvement from what we have been in the past.  So, is the glass half full or is it half empty?  When posed with this question we think we have to choose one or the other but the answer is BOTH.  If we choose half full we are considered optimists, half empty we are pessimists, BOTH we are realists.  Whichever group you are in right now there is probably room for improvement.

We know that unemployment and the job search can be frustrating, tiring, and discouraging.   This is especially true if the bills are piling up and the stress of the situation is mounting.  For those who have conquered this hurdle congratulations!  For those still searching or maybe even have given up searching I wanted to share an excerpt from the book that has always helped me during those times:

Get a job
As an apartment manager, which I do in addition to a full time job, running a ranch, and keeping up the house, I am increasingly concerned about the number of able bodied adults who would rather get behind on their bills than to look for a job.
Yes, the job market is tough. But, if you get up at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., don’t bother to shower or shave why would anyone ever want to hire you? Lazy. An old fashioned word that is very unpopular these days. Yes, I’ve heard about all the hard luck stories and how tough it is and how you just need a little help this month to get you by but it amazes me how a person can have too much pride to work a minimum wage job but not too proud to ask for an extension when the rent is due. I guess the only ones they are kidding is themselves and then get bitter because the help and patience of others runs out.
One thing I see: a hard worker will work and find something to do whether they get paid for it or not. A lazy person will find all the reasons why he just can’t do it today.
But why would you want to do any of these things for free? Here are some of the reasons:
1.     You will get all those projects and tasks done that you don’t have time to do while you are working. Many projects can be done for free or at minimal cost so you don’t have to break the bank and your family will love you for getting the house, cars, and yard maintained.
2.     You will meet new people in the community. Someone may hire you or refer you to someone who can.
3.     Some will repay your work with what they have even if it is not cash. This is especially prevalent in farming communities where you could get a freezer full of meat or corn for a few days work.
4.     You will be making a valuable contribution to individuals and organizations in your community.
5.     You will be known to all as a roll up your sleeves and get in there kind of person. Employers look for this.
6.     You will sleep better at night knowing that you have accomplished more than just watching Jerry Springer.
7.     Did I say that others will see what a hard worker you are and may want to hire you?
Most of all, your dignity and self-respect will remain intact and it will show as you go look for jobs.
Right now, I have fences to paint, pens to build, and a room to get sheet-rocked. I have no cash. BUT, I have a freezer full of steak, hamburger, and roasts. I also have enough wood to heat a house for the winter. Bartering tools. The hard workers I know are too busy to take on anymore. And the others I wouldn’t hire. And, it must be that no one else will either because they are still unemployed.
The moral to the story is clear. There is lots of work to be done. We need more hard workers to do it.
Oh, and of course, there are those who do a great job the first time and then you hire them back again and they start padding their hours, getting sloppy with their work, or not showing up when they say they will. Guess what? It only will happen once or twice and I will tell others who ask. Good and bad reputations do get passed around.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Opportunity Knocks

Can you remember a time when in reflection of a conversation or event you long after the fact you realize that you missed an opportunity?  It might have just been a comment or a smile but you later slap yourself on the leg and know that you missed it. 

That is the funny thing about opportunity.  We want it to say OPPORTUNITY but often it is opportunity. It does not bulldoze it's way in it simply knocks.  If we are not paying attention we can easily miss the sound. 

Advertising on the other hand comes in bold, big, bright, flashing letters.  We grab at it often only to realize later that we are roped into situations that also cause us to knock ourselves in the head wondering how we could have been taken in.

The story below is not a new one but caught my attention and is reprinted from Amnesia blog:

He Played the Violin in the Subway

An intriguing social experiment.
A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold, December morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100 each.
Imagine...the opportunity to hear one of the worlds greatest violinists but in the hussle and bustle of daily life it was missed.  What I found intriguing is that the children could recognize what the adults did not.  Here is the event captured by YouTube and it is interesting to watch all the people walking by and ignoring the man as if he was a panhandler. 
Isn't that just like Opportunity.  It does not yell, it simply knocks.  It is up to us to answer the door.  It often shows up in unexpected ways and through unexpected people.  We brush it off and only later realized what we have done. 

"Thinking outside the box" was a big expression of the 90's.  The point was to push us out of our comfort zones and preconceived ideas and challenge us to look at new avenues, directions, and solutions.  In the 80's we called it brainstorming.  Before that we referred to it as a "blessing in disguise".  Apparently it is one of those things that we need to be reminded of again and again in every new situation in which we find ourselves.  We derive much comfort from our stability and control.  It is part of our lives in every area from driving the same route home from work, having a morning, afternoon, and evening routine, and turning our noses up if someone puts something new on our plates.  It is almost instinctive for I remember my one year old son upset if he was given a different blanket.  Routine is a good thing but it can blind us to seeing and hearing that knock at the door of Opportunity when it comes.

For more on the violinist please see the entire story on the Washington Post.

If you are feeling that nothing is changing, nothing good is happening:  Stop, listen...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In The Trenches - Eating

Lately I have been having a severe craving for homemade pot roast so I knew it was time to do a post on food.  When you think about your childhood how many of those memories involve food?  When I was growing up everything was homemade.  The smell of chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies would fill the air.  Mom's busyness for holiday meals with all the many pans, burners, serving bowls, and flour were a reminder that it was a big important day.  Even our dinner conversations and reminders to "don't use a spoon to eat that", "your napkin goes in your lap", and "sit up straight" were all part of our training each day.

Restaurant meals were a rare treat.  We were expected to remember all that we had learned during our daily meals at home and one glare from my mom would cause us to stop, think, and correct our actions before anyone else could notice the infraction.  At the time McDonalds was just becoming popular but A&W made the best root beer and the Dairy Queen dilly bar was something to get excited about.  Does anyone know what I'm talking about?  School lunches were something that we planned for as a treat once a week and most days we took a bologna sandwich and a piece of fruit.

What was once a treat has now become daily fare.  Probably this is largely due to women working outside the home.  Instead of  home cooked meals the emphasis is on workouts at the gym.Now everything is low-fat, low-carb, and energy drinks. Blah!  Instead of working it off by taking a walk or mowing the lawn people hire a landscaper and jump on the treadmill.

I loved my real butter.  Mom would indulge me.  She and my brother didn't mind margarine but I would go without eating before I would touch it.  So I had my own butter tray and they would have theirs.  Have you seen the commercials where they ridicule us butter eaters?  They show people eating an ear of corn with a cube of butter.  They are just downright mean!

Another thing she tried was to shave the cost of a glass of milk by adding powdered milk.  Although I don't remember she told me that even when she tried to sneak in one cup to a gallon I would immediately begin to gag.  She gave up in that area and cut pennies in other ways.

The fact is that food is one of the top areas where we can modify and control our expenses.  The benefits are not only in the pocketbook but also in our health, family environment, and the memories we create.  It doesn't need to be overnight but can be one step at a time moving in a new direction. If you are one that left home not knowing how to cook  you can learn and get your kids involved at the same time creating a time for you to talk about their day and learn these skills together. 

When we are In The Trenches everything needs to change and the sooner we are able to EMBRACE THE CHANGE, the sooner we can get back on our feet.  Here are some of my families favorite In The Trenches meals that we still enjoy whether times are lean or bountiful :
  • Spaghetti
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Chili and Cornbread
  • Breakfast for dinner (one of my favorites)
  • Stews and homemade soups
  • Tater tot casserole
Add these to your menu once or twice a week and your costs will go down. Already eat like this? Me too. Some of my favorites. Eating economically does not have to be miserable.

And, when was the last time you had a PP&J sandwich or oatmeal for breakfast?  Recently I took a jar of peanut butter to work and everybody looked and me and laughed but the look of envy in their eyes was unmistakable.

What does this have to do with financial management? Everything. Our goal is to provide for our family while we are tightening the belt. Our quality of life not need to be diminished, just our spending.

For the bloggers:  Have you ever spent long at writing your post and go to save it and it is completely and utterly gone?  That's what happened with this one so this is the second rewrite.  Whether better or worse I cannot say.  grrr....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Caught in the undertow

This post may have relevance to only one of the readers but it has been on my mind all week so I decided it best and necessary to write it.  For those who it doesn't apply to please bear with me.

I was 17 and a newlywed.  For our honeymoon we decided to go to California and enjoy the road trip, introduce me to relatives in San Francisco, and have our premier experience at Disneyland.  Guess that is the joy of marrying young: one can be married and still love the roller coaster all in the same week. 

We decided to stop at an ocean beach.  The day was beautiful and it was quite unlike the Washington beaches.  This one was warm and inviting compared to previous experience where it was always cold and windy even in the middle of summer.

My husband joined in on a game of frisbee so I wandered to the beach.  I wasn't a good swimmer so wanted to stay close to the shore and enjoy wading in the water and feeling the warmth of the sunshine.

I was almost to my waist and a wave came in and knocked me off my feet.  Before I could get my footing the wave went back out and me with it.  I struggled and thrashed but I could feel myself being thrown in and out with each wave.  Each time I was further from shore with the outgoing tide.   The experience seemed to be in slow motion yet at the same time so fast I could not react.  I became terrified.  I knew that I was about to be washed into the sea and no one would find me. 

In my desperation I cried out (I don't know if it was my mouth or my heart but the words were clear) "SAVE ME, JESUS!"  After one more trip out I was practically thrown to the shore.  I stumbled to the shore barely able to sustain my own weight.  My husband took one look at me and asked what had happened as he didn't even know that I was gone.  He consoled me with his own fright and we walked up the embankment and left.

It was one of those brief experiences in life that one never forgets.  I had heard of the undertow but never imagined it's power.  And, I had never imagined my own powerlessness to such a degree.

There is a vast difference in the prayer "Help me, Jesus" compared to "Save me, Jesus".  The first implies that the person praying will somehow be involved in the process.  The second recognises that there is absolutely nothing they can do and without a rescue they will perish.

Maybe there is someone out there who has tried all the "help me" prayers and is weak, weary, and terrified.  It could be about money, relationships, addictions, or other unbearable situations.  It doesn't matter that you may have been the one to walk into that ocean of your own accord but you know that the undertow has caught you and there is no longer anything else you can do.  Cry out "SAVE ME, JESUS".  He will hear you.  He may tell you never to go into that ocean again once He does but that's okay.