Thursday, February 20, 2014
Coffee Chat - Oh Fickle February!
Do come in! Don't be put off by the look of formality today. This is my way of fighting the February doldrums. The weather is so unpredictable and fickle. Sunny and warm, rainy and cold, snow, ice, cloudy and muggy. A girl has to keep her spirits up this time of year when it does seem winter is just never ending. By the groundhog's calculations we've a few weeks to go yet and frankly my dears, I find early Spring is almost as fickle. Mud and damp and cold do not make for a happy homemaker. So let's put on something pretty and pull out the company china and have a bit of fun. It's at this point that I really do play house.
I'm all ready to rearrange accessories, switch curtains from one room to another, change out the quilts and comforters, even move pictures about but it's all done a little bit at the time. It's a major 'shop at home' (or in the shed) experience. Sometimes it leads to a few new purchases, but mostly it's a use what you have thing. It's nice to combine what you already own and find you've got a whole new look...something I did with my wardrobe this winter.
I have plenty of things on hand to brighten, lighten, and change the look of our home. But my wardrobe?
I didn't purchase a single new item to wear this winter. Too many of my pieces are a little more than well worn and need to go to the house clothes drawer. I shopped two stores Sunday afternoon and netted four tops; two of those are going to be strictly winter/early Spring items for sure. The other two are going to be added to the summer wardrobe. I don't plan to buy anymore summer things though until I test where I stand with those. I think I actually have a gracious plenty. It wasn't hard to show restraint in shopping those two stores. I bought two items at each. One has decreased their women's line from four racks to two while increasing their average sizes by about 20 racks. Seriously. The other store just didn't have the sorts of things I really want to wear despite it being one of my favorite places (Cato).
I'd meant, the days of all the cold and rain when I was alone, to go out to visit two antique stores that have opened in a nearby town. It was to be my fun day, but I find nothing at all fun about getting in and out of my car in inclement weather. Besides, I find many of the antique stores these days are just crowded enough I feel I must be cautious with my purse in hand; forget having a purse, an umbrella and a raincoat to adjust and move about in a tight spot! Faced with the idea of no fun, I decided to make the day count for something and spent the morning doing housework and tasks I'd put on my weekly to do list. That made me feel I could have a different sort of fun, so I sat down to work on my family tree work, adding in several pages of notes I'd made and not even noticing the passage of time until gloom was so thick outside the windows it began to insinuate itself inside.
I've been re-reading Little Women of late. It is so filled with good life lessons, nearly every single chapter. I've enjoyed most the chapter related to the girls having free time for the summer. They spent one week doing just as they pleased and by the end of it were thoroughly fed up with leisure and resorted instead to a steady diet of balanced work, learning new tasks, and a bit of play per Marmee's wise instruction. Not unlike Granny's good advice to take all things in moderation and she meant work and play, too. It is a method I've used for many years, to work hard at my tasks but fit in a bit of pleasure into every single day. Some days are more full of what I consider pleasurable things than hard work but they balance those days when I work hard and take only a short time for play.
I decided one day to go through my desk and organize it nicely once again. Then I moved to the bedside table where I've stored many notebooks I've used as journals over the last few years. I chuckled as I handled them remembering my 12-year old self with her first journal, so convinced I'd one day be well known and that journal would have some real value. Well, at 55 I know that the likelihood I'll be famous is very slim and I'm okay with that, there's little in any journal that I own at present that's going to enlighten anyone about who I was unless they glean something from a recipe, a menu, a shopping list, or a recounting of a normal day of housework and family activities. The truth is that my personal journals evolved into a receptacle to clear my mind and allow me room to think to write otherwise.
I got rid of loads of my personal journals a long time ago and plan to sort this lot out now. I also have journals where I kept record of things I was grateful for on a daily basis for nearly five years. Oh those journals were so necessary at the time! I couldn't have made it through those financially tight days when we had children at home, a full debt load, and we struggled to manage on one income yet again (my third time was the blessed attempt that hasn't ended yet). I don't even remember some of the simple things I wrote down each day, not after all these years. They were just ordinary things in an ordinary day for the most part but it helped me to refocus my mind and heart and changed my point of view at a time when I desperately needed to see the good things.
Then there are many years worth of study/prayer journals where I jotted notes during church services and Bible studies and conferences I attended. I look forward to reading back through those...and yes, I do plan to read each of these journals, at least to skim through them. I knew when I picked up the first one and read of my deep woe at my financial infidelity and how pained I was to find myself in that horrid place that I had to read them if only to remind myself that this is where I came from to arrive at this place in my life.
One journal was enlightening to me. I kept it in the early days of writing and I was astonished at something I'd quite forgotten: the many e-zines, websites, and small publications that published my early work. Most of those sites and such are now defunct but it reaffirmed my belief in my ability to write well. Now what I'm about to share is just between us, okay?
It is hard to be a stay at home wife in today's world. I loathe the standard response to "What do you do?" when I say I am a homemaker or stay at home wife. "Oh....." and the questioner immediately begins to look for an escape route. Some will give a pass to the stay at home mom, but there are many who don't allow even that as a worthy occupation for any woman. "It must be nice to stay home and do nothing all day long," nearly all will say. I never do respond well to this. In fact, it became such a point of contention for me that I stopped replying... So I started adding, in a guilty tone, "I write," because if I leave it at just the homemaker thing, I get that panicked look that represents the idea I am somehow obsessive about cleaning and organization.
However, when it's discovered I haven't published a thing but a blog for years upon now, and not being a blogger with a huge following, I get this sad look that clearly says it's a passing phase. But what really wounds me is later, that same person may stop to speak to me at some point in the future and says "So...how's it going? and then after a bit of a pause, "Oh are you still blogging?" in a dismissive way that suggests I am on the verge of giving it up and admitting I'm bored to tears being at home and a half arsed writer at the very best. It's lowered my esteem in my writing and to read this particular journal and be reminded that I once upon a time garnered notice in the internet and small publication world gave me a sort of jolt. It reminded me that I was a success in my own way, not famous, but doing a quality of work that was worthy of publishing and sought after by several publications that celebrated just the sorts of things I wrote about: home, finances, family, etc.
This revelation came just as a number of new to me readers came to the blog and poured out praise for what they've read here and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it! Just as I enjoy those times when my husband tells me that he deeply values what I do to save money, make home attractive, give him comfort, or when one of my children tells me sincerely that I made a difference being here when I was needed, I need to be reminded that what I have to share in my writing is of import to others. So thank you dears, all of you, old and new readers alike, who have taken time to say "Good job!"
Of course, in the past week or two I've come across several articles on how much happier a working mom (and good heavens aren't we all working?) truly is. You know, my mom worked outside the home and she was happy with her career, it was what she wanted to do with her life, but it was stressful too, to do all she did to stretch the family dollars and keep house and work. For her it was the right way to go, but me? I was a nervous wreck. I did a good job in every position I ever held outside my home. I know this sincerely. I was dedicated and worked hard and did my utmost to do the best job I could do, but I wanted to pour that same dedication into my home life and I didn't have enough hours nor energy to do it all. We compromised a lot.
When my mom worked during my youth? So did I. I carried a good portion of the home load, not just childlike chores of making my own bed and putting away my toys and feeding the cat. Mama started me out washing the breakfast dishes and heating the supper she'd started before going in to do her shift when I was 7. At 8, I did those things and added in sweeping the house daily. I was responsible for watching myself and the boys and making some portion of dinner by age 9. Around age 10, I was ironing all the family clothes and in those days it was wool and cotton and a change of clothes six days a week so there was plenty of ironing! At 11, I started baby sitting on top of my other duties. By 12, I was cooking and planning all our meals after school and in summer and working a part time job. At age 13, I cooked and I cleaned, worked in the garden and canned, froze or preserved our foodstuffs, in addition to my other tasks. I was no slave mind you, though I daresay if you'd asked me way back then I would have suggested I was sorely used, but I will tell you honestly that during the school year there was no such thing as leisure time except for vacations. The boys at least got a break from yard work since it was seasonal but housework, as we all know, doesn't know seasons. It's a daily thing, period.
So I was well trained in my younger years for work and specifically for the work of a family home and despite doing well in the outside work environment, I felt most comfortable and most fulfilled when I could focus solely upon home and family. John knew when I became a stay at home mom that I wasn't giving myself a free pass. In fact, he often called throughout his work day to urge me to stop and rest! It was then he coined the phrase that makes us both chuckle, "So have you got your feet up, eating bonbons?" he'd ask. He did this because he'd witnessed those slights from other women who thought I had the easy life being at home. He liked to rankle them a bit when he'd call me in their hearing. Now and then when I've had a long hard day I might text him, "I need more bonbons." We appreciate the humor of that little code word of ours but others don't get it, lol.
Think this is just my personal pet peeve? Not at all, not at all. Without a shared word between us, Dee wrote something similar on her blog this week.
Speaking of making home...I was up very early one morning as John was going off to work. He had the TV on and we didn't turn it off when he got up to leave. I went outdoors and came back in a little later to find "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" was on. I love this musical. What appeals to me isn't the romance of it or the awesome songs or the wonderful dance routines. No, it's watching as Milly transforms that dirty dusty log cabin into an attractive home. She didn't have fine things but she added a bit of milk paint to a bench, put up homespun curtains between rooms, put pretty transferware plates on an old hutch, mended and patched curtains for the windows, or used a bit of an old quilt or tablecloth in a new skirt, etc. It's fun to me to see how a woman will change a home using just what she has to hand...And that sort of brings us back full circle on that end doesn't it? As an aside, I so love the score to this movie that John bought me the album on eBay several years ago.
John was watching another show before he left for work: the 1939 Academy Awards. Award Programs back then were certainly a different sort of thing. The site was the Tropicana club and there was no big production really, just announcements and acceptances and that was it. It was kind of neat to watch. I was familiar with most of the films they awarded and the faces were familiar to me, too...I guess in many ways I live in another era where my tastes are concerned. John and I often look at one another when people are lauded as wonderful, marvelous, talented and say "WHO?" Like Bruno Mars. Never heard of him at all until Super Bowl Sunday and while I thought him talented I also thought he sounded a great deal like some of the groups we listened to growing up. It's unfortunate that the few modern day names we do recognize is usually because there is so much negative publicity about them! I am by no means saying that the stars of yesteryear were without scandal. They weren't. They were about as human as the next lot and I know that, but I don't see or read their negative publicity. I just enjoy their work on screen.
There was a full moon out as I saw John off that morning. The frost was thickly white on the lawn and the car windshields. The carport had been so very mucky/muddy and wet that we couldn't park under it. I'm not sorry that we stood about in the cold that morning, with the moon surrounded by a hazy ring and stars shining so bright and even in the darkness the lawn and deck glistening with frost and sparkling away. It was so peaceful and quiet, so beautiful. I contrasted it with Shabat morning. We weren't up as early then but the wind had blown hard and gusty all night and morning. It sent clouds scurrying across the sky to the horizon where the sun lined them all with silver and coral. It was noisy, but beautiful in it's own way.
We did not go to synagogue over the weekend. John played worship for The Seed and Feed program on Friday. The pastor of that church gave a rousing sermon that was pretty awesome to hear. We agreed we'd had a filling up that would last us through the weekend and John decided to have a proper Shabat prior to going to work. It was nice to be 'at home' and to truly relax and rest.
A quick recanting of the week will show you that it's been pretty much a normal week. Saturday we relaxed and took it easy, as I said. The sun shone, the weather was fair and we had open windows for a portion of the day. We had an easy meal that required little work. Sunday, John was off to work and I did my usual Sunday kitchen cleaning, a bit of housework and called it quits about 1pm and went shopping for the afternoon. I didn't get a lot accomplished but I had plenty of thinking time.
Monday morning, John came in from work. After we'd had lunch we drove down to his workplace and picked up the paycheck. We had our Harvest that afternoon. This new schedule is nice in many ways but this month had a 'short' pay period, where just 1 day landed on a week. It was a bit of a shock to have that check but we saw the bright side right away. Not having to make that loan payment amount made the difference between tight and impossible to close the gap. There's nothing extra for any fun or unexpected expenses this pay period but that's okay. We'll survive it. I am just deeply grateful we were able to pay off that loan early this month. Once more, I see that God's timing in all things is the right time.
Tuesday John's friend and partner came to help him trim trees. We have a Sweet Gum at the back corner and the Faith tree at the front porch that have gotten so big they shade us very nicely. As the trees have grown some of the branches have been rubbing the house siding and we wanted those removed before a storm caused unnecessary damage. They went about the yard and trimmed up some of the other trees that had low branches, were prickly and cut John when he was mowing, etc.
While they worked, I went off to do the banking and stopped by the Dollar General. I noted that candy was NOT marked down by much from Valentine's, just 25% off on Tuesday. I didn't want more candy anyway, since John brought home a big box of chocolates Monday morning. I went in for a couple of sales items. What I added to the buggy was three Star Gazer lily bulbs, the very last ones in the store. I hurried home because I'd gotten a call that morning from my girl V who was in Georgia visiting family and friends. She and that baby boy were coming to visit us and I couldn't wait to see them!
It was a lovely visit. Now I have to share something that didn't even hit me until I was in prayer that evening. D just did not want to lie down in a strange house and sleep, not even in a nice little pack n play. He cried and cried for fifteen minutes. I offered, if V was willing, to rock him to sleep.
I shared a long time ago that I have a love/hate relationship with my rocking chair. It was the chair I rocked Katie to sleep in and something Granny bought for me and so I've kept it. I dreamed of rocking grandbabies to sleep in that chair, but for multiple reasons, I never so much as had anything beyond a dream of it with Amie's or Jd's babies. I've wanted to remove that chair from the house, put in on the porch, move it to the shed, but John said no, it was too nice a piece to expose to the elements. I've moved the chair here and there and finally settled it in the breakfast area which was empty of furnishings since Katie moved into her apartment last June. I'd become reconciled to the chair there, as it was a lovely spot to rest when I needed to be in the kitchen, or to do Bible study.
So I picked up D and took him to the rocking chair and sat down to rock him. He wasn't happy but he soon succumbed to the quiet rhythm of old hymns and a gentle rocking motion and went to sleep.
It was, as I said a lovely visit. When D was up and running around he teased me constantly by running up to make a kissy face at me and then grinning and running away when I got near enough to actually get his kiss. I enjoyed visiting with V. We talk often via texts but face to face time is best, and hugs are better when you actually get to touch, lol.
We had windows open all day long Tuesday. I noted as I went to open my bedroom window that two daffodils were blooming. Of the forty bulbs Samuel planted for me three years ago, I have TWO this year. Usually daffodils multiply but mine don't seem to have done so. I'll just buy more this next Fall to plant. I like daffodils. It's one of many flowers that makes me happy and I will have them.
We went grocery shopping yesterday. I seem to have found a 'set point' for spending at Aldi...I noted that we've spent about the same amount the past four pay periods. Each time we go in, I buy what I need for the pay period, and a few items to stock up pantry/freezer with as well. This week, being a tighter check, I was grateful to have my usual grocery money but I did some thinking on the way home. What if I'd bought only what I needed right away for the two weeks? What would I have spent? And what if I went in and forgot pantry and freezer and actually purchased every item I'd need to provide two weeks worth of meals? Would I come in higher or lower? What of the items purchased today should I have left off entirely? It was a very good thinking session. We've whittled down our spending over the past year but I could take it a bit further down. I do feel a need to replenish my pantry at present with items we most commonly want/use and that is foremost on my mind...but I'm thinking as well it's time to bring down the spending limit a little more once again.
For one thing, we're having a little waste each week. Waste means that I am buying or making too much of items. I brought out grapes to eat last night that John normally would forgo eating. He has this idea that grapes that have fallen off the stem are no longer any good. I figure even if slightly wrinkled (and I do mean slightly) I would still eat them...So tonight I put the grapes on the table and suggested we finish them off. "It's a waste of your time to toss them," I told John and he looked at me quizzically. "Your time that you took to earn the money that bought them..." I explained. He looked at me as though that thought hadn't occurred to him. He does realize that his time has value when he's working. He's applied that thought many times to large purchases, but I think it was the first time he was aware I applied that same line of thinking to the purchases I make no matter how small they are. And again this is why John and I make a good team, he sees the bigger picture, I see the small details.
So we have a little waste. I am aware each shopping day that we're purchasing a bit for the pantry and a bit for the pay period ahead and then a few items that we choose because it appeals to us, or we realize we could use it to make several meals. For instance today John pointed out a package of frozen boneless breast pieces that were literally pieces. They were the right size for nuggets, stir fry, etc. John and I compared the cost of that to already breaded pieces of chicken. We agreed that the idea of having real meat pieces without fillers appealed to us. He suggested two or three meals he'd like me to make which these pieces would be perfect for. I bought the idea and the bag of product.
Now honestly I could have gotten whole breast pieces for about the same cost and had some to cut into those stir fry sized pieces and some to use as whole breasts for other meals. I didn't think hard enough about it. I broke my own promise to pay no more than $1 a pound for breast meat, though. Ditto for the purchase for frozen loose hash brown potatoes to make a couple of recipes. The convenience factor is what I bought and yet I have time to put at my disposal to create my own convenience. If I felt I could 'afford' this for convenience and utterly ignore my own lowered spending point, I probably have a little too much money going into the grocery area.
I am actually pleased to find that I have a bit much. It means I can refocus by either trimming hard with minimal purchases for pantry, or trimming a little and continuing to stock the pantry hard so that it works as well for me as possible. It is something I will think about long and hard over the next two weeks.
Today I was out with Mama for a bit. It's quite warm and humid outdoors and sunny and bright and the birds are screeching to the high heavens over the possibilities of new nests. It's something to hear, let me tell you! It makes me want to tell them to pipe down a bit, lol. I've resorted to turning on the Air conditioner. There's just enough something in the air out there to give me a stuffy head and runny nose. The allergen season begins.
John said yesterday it seemed like it was taking longer than usual for the blooms to start and he's right. The cold is still settled in the ground despite the warmth of the sun this week. Daffodils and Japanese Magnolia (or Tulip Tree, if you like) are just starting to bloom. We've always said here that when the Japanese Magnolia blooms we're due another stretch of freezing weather. I won't be putting the winter coats away just yet.
We went to Walmart to pick up a few items I wasn't able to buy yesterday at Aldi. I got what I meant to pick up and that was pretty much it. We then headed to a restaurant that is tucked away and hard to get to for some reason though it's less than a block from the main road. It's a chain restaurant and I expected the same quality food we get in the bigger military town 15 minutes to the north of Perry. Boy was I wrong. The restaurant is smaller and cozier than the one in Warner Robins and the food is about 100% better. Awesome. The menus are the same but the cooks at this place apparently take real pride in serving good food perfectly prepared. Our habit is to get an ice cream after we have dinner. We go to Dairy Queen and order the smallest ice cream we can (a small sundae). Today I opted for a banana sundae. I've never asked for one before but my expectation was that I'd get something with a bananas foster type sauce. What I got was a really good perfectly ripe banana chopped over my vanilla ice cream. Fresh banana and good vanilla ice cream is practically a gourmet thing in it's simplicity. It was soooo good! I could happily do that sundae again another day.
Went by the flea market booth after I got Mama's things unloaded and into the house. I put out some new items, noted at least one item was sold (maybe more, I don't know for sure), noted a couple more things I will bring home next month if they don't sell this month. I didn't spend a lot of time in the store, perhaps ten minutes. I want to revamp that space for Spring, I think but will decide what I'll do over the next couple of weeks. Have you noticed how much 'thinking' time I've set myself to do? Our grocery budget, home brightening, booth sprucing, lists for things we need to fix/purchase for the house, wardrobe checks...Gracious I just need to spend a whole day with a pad of paper, a pen and sort my head out!
It was fun to take time out for a coffee chat but I think it's time I got myself to work. I have so many things I want to do indoors and out and I really should get busy...Come again soon!