Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ten Tips For Decorating on A Budget

You all know, I've just finished 'refreshing' my home, giving it a little face lift for  spring and summer.  What you might not know is that I've been doing this exact same thing for years upon years.  My home is always evolving.  I do this on a strict budget.  There are no $100 room makeovers or big renovation projects or even new furniture purchases for us except once in a great while.  More of the pieces in my home were bought or given to me as second hand pieces than were ever bought new. 

In the early days after moving here, John and I bought three sofas.  Within two years, each of them was trashed.  Not because we were careless but they were so poor quality and inexpensive.  The only other pieces of furniture we've bought are our dining table (the chairs fell to pieces within 3 years but the table holds up), two chairs that are still in current use in our living room and an entertainment center that we bought on sale at Kmart 20 years ago that we altered and only recently moved out of the house.  We've bought mattresses for our bed.  All of those items were purchased new.  I don't think our spending in the new furnishings area really comes up to much more than one set of mattresses cost us!

I am not grousing over what we haven't spent.  The truth is that when you live on a single lower income there are myriad needs that arise that are far more important.  We live 30 miles from John's work and 35 miles from our grocery shopping and church area.  Cars are necessities.  Maintaining them is a necessity.  When the kids were at home, coats and shoes and clothing and medical care were a necessity.  Furnishings and decorating falls way down onto the "It would be nice, but we can do without" list.

Well obviously I have a house full of furniture so it must have come from somewhere.  Indeed it did.  My top tips for decorating on a budget follow:

#1 Gratefully accept gently used cast offs.  Over the years we've been given several pieces that served us well for a few seasons.  Everything from pots and pans to pictures to curtains and spreads.  No it wasn't always my taste, but I accepted it anyway.  Free is free!  And if something filled a need or purpose in our home, then I said "Thank you," and put it to use. 

I have an old chiffarobe that a family friend gave me during my first marriage to put in Amie's nursery that has moved with me from home to home.  It's heavy and solid wood and has good lines.  I expect when I die, it will move into another home and last through another lifetime, that's how solidly it's made.  It has served many incarnations in my home, from the wardrobe it was meant to be, to a coat closet to a china cabinet, to it's present role as craft supply storage. 

#2  Buy it used.  As time went on, I found some good bargains.  Our current dining room chairs were picked up at a yard sale by a friend we commissioned to look for something acceptable.  We'd given her permission to go as high as $100, an amount that we set aside from our tax refund.  What she found were four metal chairs that cost $7.  Even when we tipped her generously for taking the trouble to look for us, we came out far under that $100 budget.

I discovered that often, I could buy used items that were far better made than I could afford new.  I purchased two wing back chairs for $5 each.  One is still in my home.  One went with Katie and saw her through four years before it was retired.   

My chair has not only been in this household for nearly 10 years, it served three families before mine!  And it's still going strong.  In fact, I'm sitting in it as I type this post.  I've recovered it and then removed that and bought a slipcover for it a few years ago.

Our buffet in the dining area was a steal at the height of the French style buffet craze.  I got it at a flea market and paid $60 for it.  It's solid wood.  I could never have purchased that same style and quality anywhere else.  I'd priced similar pieces at Goodwill and other thrift stores for nearly $250.  When I asked the price on this piece I knew it was a bargain. It took a whole month of allowance to pay for it but I bought it!

I bought an old cedar lined wood trunk with 1920's details for $25 and a wooden dressing table with a lovely curved mirror for $30 at a yard sale.  I gave the vanity to my daughter-in-law to use in my granddaughter's room after I'd used it as a desk for years.  Both pieces were solid wood. Both pieces looked rough but the vanity was absolutely lovely when my son and daughter-in-law refinished it.  The old trunk has responded well to cleaning and polishing with Liquid Gold.

#3  Paint, dye, recover, re-purpose.  You can do a lot with a little when you choose to look past how something looks at the moment and you allow your imagination to look at it.  If you're not the sort to find inspiration on your own, then you're in luck.  There are plenty of others who do have vision for how something might look instead. 

I'm no expert at painting or upholstery but I figure if I'm out little or no money anyway for an item I can most certainly attempt to make it better.  One of those $5 chairs got reupholstered.  I didn't have a staple gun so I used nails and a hammer.  I didn't have upholstery fabric but I had two curtain panels that cost me $7.  I covered that chair and you know what?  The cover lasted well over five years before I tired of it, stripped it off and found a bargain priced slipcover that I'm still using on it today. 

I made a cover for an old desk chair.

Paint transforms many things.  The old chiffarobe was a nice piece but over the years I was bored with it.  It was an ivory color.  We'd painted it cream.  Blah.  At one point I painted it black and a soft gold.  It became a standout piece in our home.  I plan to repaint it this year.  I'm thinking blue.  I have one sample paint pot and I think two will just do it.    

A lamp John and I bought in the early days of our lives together was relegated to the shed, until we found we had need of a new lamp.  There was a lamp which could serve our purpose.  I just didn't care for the 1990's spray of flowers in gold and white on it. Well paint solved that problem.  John painted it Oil Rubbed Bronze.  I repainted it this year with a silver.    I've been asked several times, "Where did you get that new lamp?"  Everyone is shocked that it's the very same lamp.  I spent less than $3 for the small can of paint and had enough to paint two mirror frames and two picture frames, as well.

Paint and decoupage transformed a table that John bought before we met  which had seen hard use in our family.

I don't think people even talk about using dye anymore but I've done my share of dyeing over the years.  Not only to freshen the color of faded clothing but to transform towels, or sheets or curtains.  You can even use it on baskets and wooden pieces! 

And finally don't assume that just because something has always served just one purpose that's all it can be used for.  Katie used a dresser in her apartment as a bar top and a pantry.  That old chiffarobe of ours has been used in children's bedrooms as clothing storage, in an entry way as a coat closet, as linen and china storage in our breakfast area.  Now it's in the craft room and it's filled with fabric and craft supplies. 

 Katie re-purposed her old bar/pantry dresser as a coffee bar in her new home. 

A dresser from my childhood which has served me and my children for many years was re-purposed as storage for record albums and Cd's. (Hmmmm...I haven't taken a picture of it with the pretty blue bins I bought.) 

#4  If you like it and it's not expensive, buy it.  You'll find a use for it.  Picture frames come to mind with this one.  Ornate frames are often less than $5 at thrift stores and at yard sales can be had for even less.  It's funny how an ornate frame painted in a fresh color can bring an old picture to life.

I also can't help but think of two shelves I bought at Ross stores.  I paid $3 for one and $5 for the other one.  They've been repainted several times.  They've hung in the living room and in a bedroom and in the kitchen (where they are now).

I bought two lanterns at another store that were on clearance.  Those lanterns have been used indoors and out.

#5  Think out of the box.  Remember my upholstery job on the old wing back chair?  I used curtains that I'd purchased from a warehouse clearance sale.    I'd priced upholstery fabric and couldn't afford anything I'd liked. 

For years now I've used flat sheets as curtains, as material to make dust ruffles or valances or tablecloths and napkins.  You know what else makes nice curtains?  Cloth shower curtains.  Often these go on clearance at Target for under $5 each and with their extra width you can just about make do with one at a standard window.  Just split it down the middle and hem the sides.  Done.

I have used pretty place mats to make pillow covers for throw pillows. 

I re-purposed an old window frame to use as photo display after it had spent many years on the front porch. 

The bed springs from Mama's baby bed, hangs on the back porch as display for our house numbers.

#6  Use what you have.  It's nice to be able to buy something new to use in my home.  Sometimes, I just don't have the funds to buy new.  Sometimes what I have is a whole lot of nothing but a deep desire to transform a space. 

After we'd had our back porch for a few years it felt like it was past time to make it looked finished.  What it needed was a flower bed.  I had bags of mulch given to me as a Mother's Day gift (I tend to request things like that).  I had three old ladder back chairs that I bought at a dollar store 25 years ago.  I had three wire baskets, an old burlap coffee bean sack and two cans of half used paint.   I have a habit of collecting bricks and bigger rocks when I see them on the side of the road.  These were stacked on the front patio... Just see what I did with all those odds and ends!

7.  Reconsider how you've always placed an item.  I've had my tall bookcases for 26 years.  I've had them in this house for 22.  I have always had them placed on the wall as a single unit.  I never even considered placing them differently.  But John did.  Now the bookcases seem to make a bigger impression.  Who'd have thought it?!

Those chairs have always been faced in a straight line facing the wall with the mantel.  I like them far better angled...And now that I have a round table instead of the Queen Anne style one there, they look really cozy and conversational.

8.  Anything can become artwork.  I've framed an old lock plate and a variety of keys.  I've used an old window frame to display family photos.  I've framed greeting cards, magazine photos, children's art projects.  I've printed off things to frame.  I've even framed small booklets with pretty covers. 

I've seen lovely framed doilies and old pieces of jewelry and baby clothes.  Even old quilt squares, vintage patterns, game boards.  The world is just full of things you can hang on the wall and call artwork.

9.  Don't throw things away.   No I'm not promoting hoarding.  I am saying that if you've liked something but are tired of seeing it right now, keep it if you have the space.  John has generously provided me with a small shed to use as my own storage space for gardening items, furniture pieces I've found but haven't decided what to do with just yet, and a plethora of pictures, frames and decorative items.   If you can only afford space for one shelving unit then make that your designated place to store items. 

I say this, because what I don't use today, might well be exactly what I want in six months.  I've recycled more items in and out of this house!  When I know I'm truly done with something I give it away or donate it.

10.  Don't be afraid to pick things from roadsides or trash dumps.

As I said, I collect bricks and rocks.  We've picked up squares of sod that have blown off some of the trucks transporting sod to new builds in distant cities.  One of my favorite finds to date is this little bench that was sitting roadside next to some one's trash can.  I rescued it and have recovered it twice.

I've picked up several things over the years and had a few items get away that I simply couldn't load and haul away because they didn't fit in my car!  Like an antique walnut bed.  Gosh I still cringe that got away from me!

So if you ever wonder if you can decorate a home on a budget, you can.  It might take a little more effort and time than spending, but you can certainly make an attractive home on a low budget. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Coffee Chat: Spring Has Sprung

Come on in and let's talk a bit.  Choose your favorite cup from the cupboard, fill it up with coffee and settle here in this comfy chair.  I'm ready to chatter away.  Are you?

Spring has sprung
The grass has riz
Wonder where
The flowers is.

They are no where
to be found
Cause they're

Soon the heavy
Rains will pour
That will make
The flowers soar....

And from there memory dies. 

53 years ago, Mama stepped into a welder's shop in Ft. Valley and bought an old Tiger Striped oak upright piano.  It was her dream that I'd learn to play piano.  The huge old piano came to the house with a flat topped bench seat which had a compartment under the seat for music books.  Fortunately for me, some of those old music books lurked inside, all nice primers for beginners.  Daddy wrote the corresponding alphabet letter above each note on the pages, then wrote them in pencil on the ivory keys, and showed me where middle C was.  He explained that everything on the bottom line of notes was generally  down from middle C and everything on the top lines was usually up from middle C.  With that bit of teaching,  I began to play piano.  

The words to the above song was in one of those old primers.   I can't remember the second verse entirely, but I do remember that I always supposed I'd be 'sore' too if I was pounded with heavy rain in the cold days of spring.

I practiced on my own for about two years and then I was allowed to take music lessons at school.  I walked from the elementary school, across the driveway to the lovely old high school.   It was my sad regret that piano lessons were given on the ground floor and not up the wide old wooden staircase on that mysteriously wonderful second floor.

Miss Suzanna Newell worked in a small room there just off the snack room,  with an old upright piano as her full-time companion.  I expect, recalling the size of the room, that it was the original office when the school was an all grades inclusive building.  Miss Newell was an attractive woman, slender and prone to wearing black dresses (at least in my memory) which set off her black hair perfectly.  Being myself, I was forever curious about why she remained a Miss when she was obviously the age to be a Mrs., but fortunately, I was taught manners and actually used them and kept my questions to myself.   Miss Newell taught just about everyone who ever wanted to learn piano how to play.  I enjoyed my three years under her tutelage.  I never did learn why she remained a Miss.  I think I have more regret over not hearing her tragic (surely it must have been!) story than I did over having to leave off the music lessons.

I continued to play piano on my own and Granny supplied me with newer books which I plugged my way through.  Then Big Mama dug deep into an old closet and came out with her brother
John's old books of Beethevon and Bach.  Those were HARD to play but I tried just the same, and I am happy neither Beethoven nor Bach could hear me because I'm sure they'd never have known it was one of their compositions I was attempting.  I had no clue what it was meant to sound like, my timing was never correct, and my fingers fumbled repeatedly.  But I tried.

Still, the songs I enjoyed the best were the ones that Granny had bought and supplied me with: Cole Porter and Gershwin and Rogers and Hammerstein classics.  Those were the songs I played over and over again, reminiscing over an era I'd never known, brought alive on Saturday evenings on the Lawrence Welk show, which taught me the timing and tunes better than my own playing ever had.   I was never meant to be a virtuoso or even good.  But I whiled away many happy hours at that piano and have regretted only that it took me forty years to have a piano once again.

I suppose it was that adventure in music that led to my taking Mama's old albums.  I borrowed Xavier Cugat,  Ferrante and Teicher, and Andy Williams and took them to my room.  I adored those albums.  Curled upon my bed with that music playing and my favorite cookbook opened before me reading recipes and looking at the vintage illustrations on the page, I knew without a doubt, my time and era had come and gone without me in it.

I was not made to be a hippie, pot smoking, free love child of the 1970's.  I was meant to be born in an era when one went out to eat and danced slow on the dance floor after and wore corsages.  I was born for the age when women just assumed they'd marry and be at home and raise children and putter about the house humming happily.  I felt it in my bones. I felt uneasy in my life and era. 

 Alas, it was 1978 and boys didn't marry girls with the purpose of having them be at home, they expected them to go to work like a liberated woman ought and help support the household.  They most certainly didn't take girls out to eat at places with white tablecloths and flickering candles and a band on the dais up front ready to help soothe the passage of rich food with a slow dance about the floor, or hold car doors open for them.  I was meant for the era when you met for malteds and if you were a little more sophisticated you met for coffee at the diner.

The piano stayed at the family home where visits were rare.  I did manage to sneak the albums out of the house when I packed up to move and they are with me still.  A reminder that I am who I am, and always have been, though I did lose myself for a good long bit of time there.

I can smile this afternoon as we sit here, thinking of the young girl who felt lost in the world that was hers to live in.   I can feel heartache for her, too, as she struggled until she got her true heart's desires:  A home of her own.  A man who loved her truly, even though she was born in the wrong era.  A house full of children who at times nearly drove her mad but made her happy as sunshine in the morning.  A tenure as a homemaker.  And finally, a bit of a life as a writer.  The blessing of all blessings, of course, was to become a grandmother.  Isn't life sweet?

Even better, here in this century I've found small ways to sneak in my love of an era that wasn't mine to grow in.  I have books and magazines written in that era and I watch the movies that I might have watched had I lived then as well.   In that way, I find the balance I need to live in this century, in this now.  I've reconciled my longing for another time with my need to be just where God placed me.

John and I were talking the other day about true nature.  "He's very pragmatic..." he said of one fellow.  "I was always more of a romantic."  "What am I, John?  I'd like to say I'm a romantic but I think I'm too practical to be one."  "You....You are the eternal optimist, that's what you are.  If the sky is black, you are the very one who will see the silver lining."  I thought about it for a bit and decided I could live with that characteristic.  It felt true.  An optimist might well see the problems, but by jove she can see the possibilities of every solution  she can try as well!  If all fails at least she tried!  Yes, that is me.   I am an optimist.

I've been digging through old Penny Ann Poundwise posts and oh the things I found!  Ten years ago in two weeks from now,  my Amie left middle Georgia for North Dakota, taking my first two grandchildren with her. Ten years ago today, we went up to visit and I held Lily in my arms and John held Josie and someone at her school took a photo.  How long ago that was! 

And three days after that, I came home to find a package on my back door step that left me cold with fear, though it was just a box of china.  I called Mama and she told me that Amie was leaving without even saying goodbye.  Oh how my heart ached way back then, because I knew I might never see them again.  I lamented the loss of my grandchildren and wept more tears than I'll ever confess to outside of now and lay awake at night with a sore, sore heart longing for the dreams of all I'd hoped to be in those little girl's lives.   There's been a boy born and another girl since then.  Children I see in pictures on facebook, whose voices I've heard over the phone but who I've never had the privilege to hold, nor count the toes on their little feet, or snuffle deep into their baby necks.

Amie and I had our sorrows. Somehow we'd gotten out of sync and off track.  She felt judged in ways I'd never judged her.   It took years to get at the root of all her angst and when we discovered that I'd never felt the way she'd supposed, and nor had any knowledge of some of the things she was told; when I was honest with her about what I had felt; when she discovered how my heart had ached over the things we must let our children just go through because there's no way out to the other side unless they go through; then we could find our way back to being a mother and her much loved daughter once more.  To be honest, there's nothing quite like parenting to make you appreciate your own parents is there?  There's nothing quite like failing, to make you realize that just possibly, flawed as they were, you parents might just have been doing the very best they could at that moment in their lives.

I have to share what John remarked this afternoon during an actor tribute on TCM.  The host said,"It's just not that easy to express rage and anguish all at once."  John said "Yeah, it is.  Just try parenting."  When your grown children have experienced those emotions with their children, they can't help but find common ground with you once more!   

No I haven't been the grandmother I longed to be to Amie's children, but somehow, despite the distances and the spotty correspondences and the lack of phone calls, somehow they've understood that I love them truly and deeply and they love me.  It's not as good as what might have been.  It's not even a nice consolation prize, but it's something.

Well God gave me more grandchildren to love. I don't get to see them all the time, some I only see once in a great long while, but I have far more than the two I lost for a few years.  He multiplies our losses into blessings.  There is that to soothe us.

That all sounds a bit downhearted but it's not.  Heartaches come in one shape or form or another all through life.  It is a testament to us as people that we get up morning after morning and live, anyway.  We find joys make us smile, anyway.  We take hope captive and we move forward, anyway.  Aware always that God is there, watching, overshadowing.

Reading family history I find that it's not such a rare thing.  I'm not the first among grandparents in my family to have a family move away to a new place, a new land, a place far away.  I'm blessed that in this era there are cell phones and a reliable postal service and facebook.   As Amie said to me one day not long ago, "Let's just pretend it's pioneer days...It would have been like that for us back then."  Well she's right, except for the modern blessings we have to make it a little easier.

There's a family story of two brothers who went their separate ways back in their early days in this new country. One moved far west.  One stayed in the east.  One day great excitement set upon the household in the east as a letter arrived, with a return address in the upper corner and the name of the long lost brother.  The letter was carefully placed on the fireplace mantel, in a prominent spot, so that the father could see it when he arrived home.  He came in from a long days' work and as he opened the door, a great gust of wind blew the letter from the mantel into the fire.  He never read his brother's words.  He never received another letter.  No one could remember just where the letter was from.  The two brothers were lost to one another forever.  Their descendants gather now, thanks to the miracles of DNA and facebook and genealogy websites that connect people long lost, even generations ago.  I think that is beyond awesome.  Restoration always come eventually. 

Had Amie not moved, I don't know if Ben would have been led to take his family to church.  I don't know if it would have become his pressing desire to see her and his children saved.  I look back and see now that this might be that reunion one glad morning.  Amen.

Being mostly in the middle of my Spring cleaning and having been informed that John will be cutting grass soon, which pushes me to get out in the yard and pick up the many fallen twigs from winter storms, I've decided it's a bit much to expect me to do all my regular things and those added tasks and come up with six posts a week.  For all that I love to write, I have to deal with real life.  I remembered the requests to share some of the old Penny Ann posts of which there are many and that some of you've never seen.  I've been pulling a few forward to fill in slots here and there.  I hope that you will enjoy reading them.  And because that is what I determined was my task today, I'm caught in the mirey mess of memories good and bad.  So, no, I'm not melancholy so much as letting memories wash over me.

When John came in from work this morning, I was sharing with him things that took place in March pasts and we laughed over some things and got misty eyed over others.  "Time has passed so quickly," he said.  "It doesn't feel it should be so long ago that we spent that day in the city with Josie.  Or that it was that long ago that we sat two weeks vigil over the dog..."   Yes, it's true.   It doesn't feel it's been years but perhaps just last year, yet the evidence is there in dates, in photos of little girls who are a young woman and a budding young woman.  It's there in the added years we had Trudy girl before she died her peaceful death one New Year's Eve.  It does seem just last week I pulled into Granny's drive and she opened her front door, surrounded by warmth and light, laughing as I came up the steps for our morning coffee, giving me her version of the weather forecast (usually the accurate forecast!) and her peace and wisdom to carry me through the heavy days.  Time passes quickly.

Well dears, I should wind up here now.  It's time to remove the ice pack from my poor foot.  Nothing to worry over.  I dropped a 1 liter water bottle on it earlier this morning and the silly thing decided to bruise (hurt like dickens, too!).   I'll get up and work on that cleaning cupboard I mean to make.  I won't go as far as I'd intended with that project, not today, because I'll need to rest my foot and ice it again but hopefully taking care of it today will mean I can work the remainder of this week.

Talk to you later!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Posts From the Past: I Want a Divorce!

reposted from Penny Ann Poundwise, March 19, 2008

I Want A Divorce!

Oh horrors!  Those have to be the most awful words ever spoken in any relationship.  (John) and I promised we'd never use them during a fight and to this day we've both honored that vow.  But I have used them during this marriage.  I used those awful words one day when working on my budget during my ever increasing battle with personal finances.

You see,  I'd never really learned to handle money.  Money was the source of a great deal of worry, pain and fear. Would there be enough to cover bills?  If bills were paid would it stretch to cover groceries?  Clothing needs?  Would unexpected expenses arise?  Would I make a fatal error in the totting up of the checkbook?  Would I be forever robbing Peter to pay Paul?

I want to share with you how I came to the point of screaming "I want a divorce!" at money.  One of my first memories in life: men coming into our home to carry out our belongings, my bedroom furniture included.  My parents went through a bankruptcy in the early years of their marriage.  I was four.  My parents had a nice home, a new car, a house full of new furniture, three children and two jobs.  And they lost all but the three children and one of the jobs when the bankruptcy occurred.  In the early 1960's, a bankruptcy was taken very seriously.  It was a reflection of your character.  An employer put a lot of stock in character back then and bankruptcy was grounds for dismissal especially in certain fields.  My dad happened to work in one of those financial fields.

I watched my parents struggle with money throughout my childhood.  Though we lived an affluent life on the surface (nice clothing, new car every two to four years, a big house, new furniture) underneath we pretty much stewed in a huge financial mess.   Bills went unpaid. Collection agencies called the house daily, sometimes multiple times a day.  I was trained at a young age how to properly field those calls.  I learned quickly to never mention a need.  Not wants but NEEDS.  I wore tattered underthings and often had holes in my shoes.  What Mama couldn't manage on her own salary she put on credit cards.  It was not uncommon to discover our home up for sale for unpaid taxes.  That's how I grew up.  I always felt sick to my stomach over money!

My first husband and I never discussed money prior to our marriage.  I had no clue how much money he owed, what he made or where he spent it.  It was quite a shock to learn that despite two jobs we had barely enough money to buy groceries.  I got very familiar with the taste of the least expensive peanut butter.  That was my lunch day in and day out with the occasional splurge meal of tuna fish salad.  When I lost my job, I seriously wondered if we'd ever be able to afford tuna fish again.

 Money was such a taboo subject in my family's life that I seldom mentioned the word at all except in a whisper.  I learned a great deal over the thirteen years I was married to my first husband.  I learned how to squeeze a penny and get half a cents more value from it.  I learned how to do without, make do and get by.  Unfortunately some of the things I learned to live without were phone, gas for hot water and heat, and electricity for days at a time.  We didn't even manage very basic home repairs.  I learned how to stretch a pound of hamburger to make four meals for a family of four.  How to stuff a broken window with plastic bag first then a towel to help keep rain and wind from pouring in the broken panes. 

Unlike my childhood home, I didn't have even the surface trappings of an affluent life.  I owned two pairs of pants, two shirts, one bra and two pairs of panties for more years than I care to remember.  I wore only the cheapest shoes.  Flip flops all summer long and a pair of dollar store Chukka boots all winter.

My first husband had the ability to earn a good salary and he often did work jobs where the good salary was paid.  He was master of 'losing' part of his pay on his way home.  I was foolish with money myself.  I'm not laying all the blame on him.  There was always more money owed than money in our account however, though we had nothing to show for what was owed. 
When my first marriage ended I made a vow to myself and  my children.  We would never again live without the basic necessities.  And we didn't.  I managed very well in keeping a roof over our heads, the utilities running and food on the table, in part due to the incredible penny pinching efforts learned during my first marriage.  But I never had enough to manage any extra. One unpaid day of sick leave was enough to put me in financial straits. 

Two weeks of unpaid sick leave caused me to lose my car.  Yes, I lost my car.  I felt as though I were living a repeat of my parents' life.  I relied on a neighbor and coworker for a ride to work until someone took pity on me and gave me an old car. I was a slave to money and it's power.

When John and I decided to blend our lives into one life, one of the first things we discussed was finances and budgeting.  We sat down and worked out a budget on paper. I knew just what he made and what he owed, and he knew just what I made and how much I owed.  With five kids and two jobs, it took all we had to manage the basics budget but we pretty much stuck to it.  It was hard.  Goodness but it was hard!  Together, we barely made enough to cover all the necessary expenses, but somehow between my expertise in squeezing pennies and his expertise in stretching dollars we always had enough and just a little extra.  And eventually there was enough extra to allow me to be a stay at home mom.  But I had a lot of learning ahead of me yet. 

I've shared the story of my financial infidelity.  I fudged figures so John wouldn't fuss about an overage of this amount or that.  I didn't spend frivolously but I over spent.  Often.  One day we were at the bank and John asked the clerk to check the balance on our account.  He held himself in check, though I could see he was in a state of shock.  What came after that was not the horrible awful thing it might have been with another.  I offered to operate on a cash only basis, to never again touch the checkbook.  He refused.  "You'll learn how to handle money now, while someone can show you how to do it the right way! What kind of husband would I be to let you go on as you are?"  What kind of husband indeed! 

One day as I sat struggling with the budget sheet and checkbook before me, I had a sudden understanding of  my role in the struggle and saw just what John meant.  He recognized something I never had:  I didn't know a thing about how to handle money.  I only knew how to live without it.   I decided then and there that it was time  I divorced my old attitudes and fears and misunderstandings about money.  I wanted a new opportunity instead of the same old endless walk around the same old mountain.

The experts say the best way to learn anything is to do it 'hands on'.  Up to this point in my life, I'd never physically handled money.  I dealt with checks or credit cards which was money in an abstract form.  I'd never dealt with  cash.  In fact, I couldn't recall a day I'd ever had cash in my purse!  So I decided I'd not take the checkbook or credit cards with me any more when I left the house.  I turned them over to John.  On shopping day, I went to the bank with a check made out, cashed it and  used that cash for my household budget and allowance.

  Using cash only meant that if I went over my household budget, I had to use my allowance, or put items back.  It's funny how some of those little 'extras' lost value in my eyes when I had to dip into my money to cover them. 

I'll never forget the day I realized the cost of an item I was contemplating.   It was priced at exactly as much as Chance earned in an hour of work.  I thought of how tired he was at the end of the day.  I thought of how he went without so often in order for the rest of us to have not only necessities but some of our wants as well.  Putting that amount into the perspective of what it  cost to earn it changed every thing.  Suddenly that item didn't seem such a great bargain.  It was  one thing to say "Oh John makes '$X' an hour and another to stand in a store holding an hour's wage and knowing what it must cover! His time was worth far more to me than the value I'd get from the single use item in my hand.  I placed it back on the shelf and from that moment I looked at price and cost in a new way.

I no longer take my household budget out in cash.  After years of practice I have our budget so firmly in mind that I seldom deviate from it.  Some weeks I buy all we need for less than the budgeted amount.  Other weeks, I'll go over the budgeted amount for the pay period  but I'm well within the budget for the month.  I do continue to take my allowance out in cash.  It's important to have cash in my purse.  Handling  'real' money keeps me focused.

The lessons I learned are these: 

Money has no power in and of itself.  It is a gift and a tool, but at no point should we make the mistake of assigning any more importance to it than we do to the other tools that help us in daily life.  As with all gifts and tools, we have to be good stewards with our income.
Our bills are physical evidence of our promise to pay.  Bankruptcy may be more acceptable in our nation today, but it is important that we accept our responsibility, honor our word, and pay the bills in full when due.
The purchase price of an item and the cost of an item are two separate things.  The price is related to how much I will pay for an item.  The cost is related to how much use I will get from an item as well as how many hours of sacrifice it took to earn it.  So a pair of shoes for which I pay $50 may seem to be high priced, but if I wear them daily for two years the cost becomes about  $.07 a day.  The cost of the item is a good value.  A steak dinner priced at $50 will cost $50. It is a one time fee for a one time use.

I learned to stop feeling guilty about the occasional splurge here and there.  I work hard to save money and I work hard to stretch money, but I can get just as unbalanced all over again.  If I'm going to keep it in perspective I must learn to keep an equal balance.

I'm so glad I decided that it was time for a divorce!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

In My Home This Week: A New Season Awaits

In my home this week...'s Springtime at last.  No matter what the weather acts like (seasonal in our case) or what we feel like, the calendar assures us it is a new season.    We've passed our last frost date.  Now it is safe to plant for those who care to believe the weather will be true hearted.

We've had a busy week behind us, one that was both pleasurable and a little stressful. John worked extra hours and because he was at work more than usual, I was busier than usual in my home.  I did spring cleaning in our bedroom and bath and closet.   I turned out the small guest bath and freshened it up after.  I'd like artwork to go in that room but haven't a clue just yet what I'd like.  I cleared and cleaned up the guest room aka sewing/craft area at least three times this past week.  I think I can most assuredly call it spring cleaned, too, since we just dismantled it all the first week of February. 

I did the usual household things and bought groceries and did errands.  I might add I was rather glad of bedtime each night!

It appears there are schedule changes ahead at John's workplace.  If this proposition passes the new schedule will be demanding and seriously inhibit what time we spend with family.  At this point, with all the talk that's gone on about the job, we tend to look at one another and whisper "Just three more years...just three more years." 

We had a quick visit with Katie and her family.  Taylor is very much a toddler girl and not at all baby-ish.  She talked and talked and talked to me.  I've no clue what she said but she carried on a conversation.  She wasn't babbling either, because if Katie babbled at her, she mimicked and babbled right back.  Having seen how quickly Josh's speech advanced and knowing how rapidly Katie's did as an infant, I expect we'll be understanding most all of her conversations before this year is out.

I admired all of Katie's DIY projects (headboards for the master bedroom and Taylor's room, a huge string art piece for the master bedroom, new curtains for the kitchen.  I admired her super good bargains on sheets and comforters and even new mattresses and frames.   It all looked lovely.  These visits with my family are always far too short.

Well that was last week...Now it's time to plan this week.

....I plan my work:

A lot of work got accomplished though little from my list of things I'd meant to work on.  I count it all as work towards the same end and it really doesn't matter if I didn't work over much on the kitchen last week after all because other areas are completed and won't have to be faced in the coming days.  I got the fridge cleared and cleaned.  I bleached the countertops as planned.  But I did not clean out and freshen that cleaning cupboard.  That project is on my list this week for sure. 

I also planned to do freezer/pantry inventories but didn't.  Well that also is on my list once again.

I'd like to spend some serious time in my wardrobe determining what I might wear for spring.  I didn't do this last week and I've obligated myself financially so I can't buy anything else for a bit.  Best to sort out what I have and how I can make it work.  Fortunately I just got a delayed shipment from January in from Zulily and it contained three new tops that fit fine (and two that didn't but that's the way it goes).  I think I'll do all right with those three and what I have on had already.

I plan to paint the guest bath door.

The grass is growing.  There are many little branches and such down that must be picked up prior to mowing.  I don't worry over those further down in the yard but right up near the house, a flying stick can bust the siding (and has in the past).  I want to be sure to get those without firing distance of te house out of the way.

We bought ten new landscape blocks this week.  There's a spot where John has cut back a tree that died.  I said I'd work on making a flower bed where the stump is.  Now I have one idea.  Just from the way he laid out the block I can see he has another idea entirely.  I'll just change it to suit me.  After all, he just mows, I do the planning and prettying parts.

I'll be out with Mama one day this week.  I'm going to try to get all my little errands done at once so I can spend all of the other free day at home doing my routine and planned tasks.

...I plan meals:

Grilled Hamburgers and Hot Dogs, Broccoli Salad, Dill Pickles
I want to share this recipe Katie used to make that broccoli salad. It was good and a little different.  Her dad really raved about it on his way home.

Lasagna, Salad, Apple Pie

on my own  xs2

Chicken Fried Rice, Egg Rolls, Steamed Asparagus, Oranges
I think I have four more of the homemade egg rolls in the freezer. 

Lima Bean and Sausage Bake, Corn Bread, Green Salad

Roast Chicken, Cream Corn, Green Beans, Coleslaw, Apple Pie

...I plan my leisure:

I was better than you might think I would be last week about my leisure.  I didn't do a full spa treatment but I managed a manicure and some pedicure work.  I finished one book and plowed ahead with the other.  I fell into a rabbit trail of genealogy research.  Nicest of all though was John taking me out for a date to a favored place in the foothills an hour or so away.  It was a beautiful day, though it was bitterly cold. 

This week I've no idea just what I might do for leisure.  I have my book to continue reading. Now that it's middle of March I'd really like to pull out my vintage April magazines.  

I'd like to work on the genealogy notebooks more.  I'd like to discover what information I don't have so I can better focus instead of randomly gathering stuff that might or might not be needed.

I think I'd like to plan out my container plants for spring/summer.  That's a nice bit of quiet work.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring Fresh II

I wanted to share a few more photos of things about my home.  I used money earned from the blog to purchase new rugs for our bathroom and the kitchen.   I really like the kitchen rug.  I bought a matching rug to go under the desk and chair.  This room has taken on a feminine air of late.  I think it's because of the toile covered desk chair and plants. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Frugal Friday: Savings Spring Up

Saturday:  I don't know if any of you follow the blog SimpleIsGood4U or not.  She has a small following at present.  I found her via Prudent Homemaker's frugal savings comments (where a lot of good frugal folks and bloggers report their weekly savings).  This week one of her posts was this quote:

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way." ~ Napoleon Hill  I must say I think that's a mighty good quote and it fits right along side my own favorite quote of "Start where you are. Use what you have.  Do what you can."  I'll gather my inspiration where I can and this quote Mariana shared does it for me!

Food stayed simple today.  While I was tempted to take something else from the freezer there was plenty of that chicken in the fridge. I reheated the legs and wings and cooked green beans and potatoes.  We had a slice of cake to follow.  It was good.  It filled us up.

Noted that butter is awfully low in my food stock just now.  Well it ought to be.  I haven't purchased any in two months!  Fortunately I don't have a long list (it IS short paycheck week) for this pay period so I can stock up a little.   I wonder if we'll see any Easter baking sales this year?  It used to be that there were plenty near Easter (in April this year) but in the past few years all I see on sale are candies, cake mixes and pricey toys meant for bloated baskets from the Easter Bunny.  I'm not interested in giving children a second big gift giving experience to rival Christmas, but I would appreciate sales on butter and sugar and such.  In the meantime, I have started a 'need right now' grocery list and a 'watch for good sales' list.

We had to switch on the AC this evening only briefly.  So briefly it ran one cycle, but it was enough to push aside the heavy, too warm air in the house.  Air too full of pollen (it looks dusty outdoors!) to consider opening windows.

Made John's lunch items for tomorrow while I prepped supper sandwiches this evening. 

I used another portion of that chicken (gracious, I'm ready to cluck!) to make sandwiches tonight. 

As I restocked my pill boxes, I noted that I need to stock up once more on vitamins and supplements.  I'm going to do a thorough inventory of my stored stuff before I even think of  making any purchases though. Last time I didn't and ended up with still more of the very supplements which I  had in  good supply. 

Knowing we had the time change tonight, I went ahead and set all the clocks ahead by one hour.  This insures the coffee pot timer goes off at the right time in the morning, and that we aren't late rising for John's need to go to work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Today's Life Savors

Bluebirds flying across the yard.

A kitty cat purring happily.

Wisteria winding in the branches of a blooming red bud tree.

Winter cold air mixed with wood smoke and the scent of Wisteria.

Bunches of cut daffodils, looking like buckets of sunshine on this cloudy morning.

The long cut home.

Taking my time to just look in a store where I'm usually hurried.

A warm wool coat and scarf and feeling quite comfortable wearing them both.

Real peppermint tea.

Another area cleaned for spring.

Hot coffee on a chilly evening.

Be sure to read the comments...Others have shared their Life Savors too!