Running From What Will Save Me–A Homemaking Thing

For someone who loves home and family as much as do I, I certainly can get bent out of shape when my runaway plans go awry. This morning, after six days of shopping dates thwarted and nixed by various and sundry entities and events, I finally let it go. I finally said, “Maybe it’s best I stay home. Maybe I’ll make like a big girl Jesus-truster, and be still. Rest. Stop chomping at the bit, whining, fretting.”

I have quite a list (been adding to it for six days) of things I “need.” Is it possible that all those things I think and hear myself say that I “need” are just me justifying spending money that will be needed later for a better cause? “Patience, my dear. We know from experience where pressure gets us.”

Could it be that all I’ve said and re-said about home is true? That it is the most excellent place, the place for a creative grace to be had only at the hands of a truly attenrive home artiste? Might it be so that time and attention at home are always rewarded, as I’ve so often maintained, even as time and attention to shopping is often more regretted than rewarded?

I sit now in peace–the taker of my own advice: when at all possible stay home, and when you least want to do so, there’s likely a prize hiding behind that desire to flee, a treasure to be found and had by simply being still.

It could be the treasure of a new book idea, or finding and using what I have to recover those filthy bar stools, or thrilling my heart by trashing all my makeup unless I bought it in the last six months (nothing left except my almost-gone mascara). I might even fertilize my plants! I can even iron my linen shirts while listening to a French lesson or calling my sweet friend Pam. Snow’s coming–I’ll build a fire, fill the wood box, make a pot of soup. And back to the makeup idea–I can feel the thrill of putting it all in the trash even as I am writing this post!

Who knows what I’ll get up today? The brain is stirring up possibility.

Zero for Six Update

In case you didn’t know, Zero for Six is about doing zero of something(s) for six months. I’ve been experimenting with four areas in this adventure: spending, diet, words, and TV.

As usual, the TV isn’t really a thing. In weeks and weeks, the only thing I’ve watched, with and at her request, was Emma with my daughter. This the Romola Garai version and in two sittings. That’s it. I’m not counting watching excellent preachers and motivational/inspirational speakers such as Jennifer L. Scott, Creflo Dollar, Benjamin Hardy, and Terri Savelle. But even these, helpful and positive as they are, can become excessive escapism. How to know: Do I go and do what they’ve inspired me to do, or do I just go on to the next video?

What to do, what to do? Read, don’t watch! Read books by these people (Madame Chic books by Jennifer L. Scott should not be missed!). Write, don’t watch! Write your morning pages, your artist’s pages, your scribbles. Until those thoughts going through your brain–up, down, and all around and all the time–are put down on paper, you’ll struggle to sort them and make sense of them. And then speak–the solution, not the problem.

Words. I’m learning that less is more. Less problem speaking, opinon spewing, and “news” spreading makes for more victory. This is a battle I refuse to lose, and I’m willing to crucify pride in the pursuit of positive, life-filled, scripturally correct speaking. I’ve given my family not only permission, but a request to call me on it, when less than helpful words come out of my mouth. So, I’m not at zero negativity, but that’s the unchanging goal.

I’ve found that what I speak about diet, or as I’ve put it in past posts, not eating fatigue-inducing foods, is helpful. I’m not only speaking that it’s easy as pie to do intermittent fasting, but that I don’t really even like sugar. At all. I’m finding that speaking that I’m simply no longer interested in less-than-healthy and delicious foods makes that so. In talking about how high the cost and how low the benefit of eating out so often turns out to be, I am cooking with greater care and more satisfying outcomes.

A most satisfying outcome of eating at home is the money savings. I do consider eating out, in many cases, to be unnecessary spending. I’m making progress here. I’ve come to the place where I pay attention to my instincts, and where my stomach doesn’t rule me.

If I have a bit of doubt, I get out! While traveling in South Dakota, (80 mph speed limits on Interstate!!!) for instance, my daughter and I stopped at a steakhouse. We went inside and the decor didn’t wow me. Way too gray and minimalist, and an attempt at authenticity via a sawdust-covered floor that didn’t impress. We gave our names to a snarky hostess and I went to the rest room. In there two women were carrying on about their husbands, and it was evident they didn’t know about positive words. They were well versed in the various and creative ways to denigate their husbands with the F word, but past that their vocabularies were limited. And so their lives.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said to Hannah. We left town, ended up at a marvelous destination in the middle of the South Dakota prairie, where we had the best night’s sleep in two weeks–The Dakota Prairie Hunting Lodge. I’d made an excellent soup the day before and it came out of the ice chest and into the microwave. We then dined on the deck where we watched the sun set, listened to innumerable critters sing their evening songs, and enjoyed the breeze along with our delicious and satisfying meal.

The next day, after leaving Mount Rushmore (soooooooooooo marvelous) we had peanut butter and honey sandwiches in the car rather than stop and spend. We made it to Fort Collins, where John met us at the car rental place. I was so ready to go on home, and to not spend any more money, but when John said, “Are you hungry,” Hannah answered with a vigorous nod and “Yes!” Off we went for a delicous and delightful meal at 3 Margaritas. Was that unnecessary spending? Not at all.

Week One of my Zero For Six adventure is over, and here are some conclusions and confessions.

ON NON-ESSENTIAL SPENDING

I tried more than once to buy makeup and skin care, and finally settled for ordering the ingredients to make skincare at home (from Vitacost.com) and a tube of lipstick and some foundation, both Mineral Fusion. This after I trashed all my old (some 14 years old!) cosmetics and was completely out of skincare. I was using Vaseline.

When I say I tried more than once, I mean I filled my cart with some very impressive products on the Net, and then just couldn’t spend all that money, so gave it up. The next morning I drove to a department store to see if there was one of those cool specials where you spend $35 and get a promo package worth $150 of stuff you mostly want and will use. Nothing doing, plus they were blasting cruddy (non-relaxing, non-uplifting, non-melodious) music and I’m just so over going into stores where the customer is obviously not that important.

So, one of the morals of this story is that frugality can either be deprivation, or it can be an open door to creativity, often resulting in a better quality and healthier outcome. And of course, there’s that lovely smug feeling that comes of spending less and getting more. How smart are we? Pretty smart.

ON NON-FATIGUING FOODS

I dropped the ball here a little, both at The Sugar Mouse tea house on Thursday in Laramie, Wyoming, and then again Saturday night, when I made chocolate no-bake cookies (they had peanut butter, so that makes them real food, right?). But then this morning I read Honey, God’s Gift for Health and Beauty, which caused me to sweeten my blueberry muffins with honey rather than sugar, and to give my leftover no-bakes to my son, who has no belly fat and a great love for no-bakes.

From there I researched benefits of drinking vinegar and honey and went to town for organic (with the mother) apple cider vinegar. I already have raw honey, so upon finishing this post I’ll make this amazing elixir and partake!

As to coffee, I actually went to a coffee shop and ordered herbal blackberry tea, iced. Delicious! I didn’t have any coffee at all, all week long, until a very tiny cup (1/4 cup of coffee, 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream) today, telling myself that I will allow myself one cup per week. So, we’ll see how that goes.

ON WATCHING

I scored A++++++ on this one. There are so many other marvelous and fun and creative things that get done when the TV/laptop/phone is off. I love it. Yes, there were a couple of times when I wanted to watch something, but it was only when I was thinking of eating something fatiguing . . . As I’ve said before, these habits, for good or for not-so-good, go together.

It was helpful that I didn’t take a martyr’s stance, that I checked my thoughts before speaking them. I might have thought a few times that it would be nice to sit down and take a load off, watching something totally fun, such as Decoy Bride, or that it wouldn’t hurt to watch whatever John was watching. After all, it was Friday night . . . But I didn’t speak it, didn’t talk about it. Instead I settled in with a stack of books, my journal, pens, and highlighters, and read old favorites such as The Shape of a Year by Jean Hersey, and Candy Paull’s Abundance. I prayed as I read from the Psalms, and also had a couple of lovely phone conversations. Best of all, I did some some very in-depth listening to my beloveds as they shared their hearts. This simply doesn’t happen when you’re glued to the tube.

Determined not to be even a little bit tempted to watch an episode of Poirot tonight, I made a library visit and came home with Francine Rivers, Victoria Holt and of course, Agatha Christie. I was completely surprised by the ending of By the Pricking of My Thumbs, and I keep marveling at the mind of Agatha Christie, and wondering when my non-watching time will become writing time. Fiction, I mean–the writing that stretches me, calls me, eludes me, and won’t leave me alone. As my daugher Rebekah said when she was little and things didn’t go smoothly, “Oh, sigh.”

ON SPEAKING GOOD WORDS

I noticed and noted that I don’t need to worry about the negative words of others–I have plenty of my own. I read Lindsey Roberts’ free booklet, The Company You Keep and among so much rich and uplifting information, I focused on the idea of being good company to me. I really enjoy myself when nothing but faith, thanksgiving, and great expecations come out of my mouth.

And of course, what you fill your heart and mind is what comes out of your mouth, and then what becomes your life. So, maybe out of all four of my Zero For Six quests, this one of is most important of all.

No More Cashlessness via Carelessness–Zero For Six Plans and Procedures

Sometimes you just have to say, “Whoa there, Girlie.” When you find beauty products you don’t remember buying–they’re a few years out of date, so how could you? When you think it makes sense to gripe about food going bad in the fridge–“people” need to eat more salad, right? If your closet is stuffed with “deals” you never wear, and there are life-changing (the good doctor on the net promised and he wore a white coat) supplements galore in the back of somewhere . . . Most of all, if your beloveds think and maybe even dare to say, that you’re just a teeny bit out of balance . . . rein it in.

If you’re like me, and quite gifted at excuse-making and behavior justification, you can be your own worst enemy. You, the real and reasonable you, would rather she had the cash than all that stuff. And yet, girls will be girls, right? Wrong. Just as it goes all over me when mothers of brat sons simper, “Boys will be boys,” it goes all over me when I catch myself excusing and repeating bad behavior.

Yep. Disrespecting your cash with throwing it away on stuff, is bad behavior. And so. Here I go. I’m on vacation and thinking about those flowers . . . Those flowers I meant to buy for my balcony as soon as I returned to Colorado where surely to Goodness the snow would be over–they’ll keep. Those supplements I “always order” (as though that justifies it) I will do without, because after all, when I stop with the junk eating, they’ll be much less needed. Designer soaps (my guilty pleasure and we all must have those, right? Nope.) will still be there in six months.

When I decide that not only will I stop paying for “entertainment” that doesn’t cut it, it follows that I will return to the “real” and often cost-free entertainment I once enjoyed. I’ll take a thermos, quilt and good book to the woods and watch the sun set; hike nearby trails with whoever wants to come along, make my own mayo and bread for roast beef sandwiches (such a good feeling and outcome) for a riverside picnic, play cards and board games, re-read my watercolor book and do a little watercolor painting, get my French DVDs out again, sit on the balcony and listen to birds sing as I hold my darlin’s hand, read deep and delightful books, listen carefully and for as long as is desired, to my children and friends–undistracted by a plan to engage in substandard and dollar-devouring behaviors.

And so forth. I actually began the spending frost (a freeze means you don’t spend a single dime) in May. There was a conversation, a catalyst. I would say it opened my eyes, but actually it just royally ticked me off. But when I cooled off and thought about it, I knew, again, it was time to rein it in. (NOTE: It makes absolutely no difference what other people are spending–this is about the one in the mirror).

And it’s like magic. When I say, “It really is possible to have brunch without sparkling cider; I can cut my own bangs; no one will croak if we don’t have milk every day; we’ll have just to get creative with our cooking (such good meals happen!); and, not only am I not buying summer clothes, I’m getting rid of half of what I have,” it is nothing less than astounding what happens to the checking account.

John called me to look at the bank statement the other day. “Can this be right?” he asked. Oh, so smug am I. Nonchalantly I nodded. “Yes. That’s right.”

And so it is. Absolutely right that I, a beloved child of God, do not drive a team of runaway horses unto the disaster, despair and defeat (in countless cases, even divorce) of cashlessness via carelessness.

Thanks for allowing me to share with you, and please pass this Zero For Six adventure on to anyone who comes to mind. Anyone. You could save a marriage, actually.

Do Try This at Home

english-cottage

I don’t usually say much about money, because I don’t have the II Corinthians 9:8 “enough for all my needs and an abundance to give to every good work” bank balance.  So, I figure I’m not really qualified to give financial advice.

But then, I look at people who earn more money than we do in our single-income, many-membered home, and who live without many of the luxuries that for me definitely qualify as “needs.”  A fire in the fireplace in wintertime is a need and a luxury, and one I never intend to do without, so help me, God.  Making my own chemical-free skincare is a need (especially in the high and dry Rocky Mountains) and a luxury.  Having money to do a little traveling, and more importantly the time and presence of mind to enjoy it, is a need and luxury (N&L).

The list goes on:  green coffee beans for home roasting; homemade Dijon mustard and money to buy books such as The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook, wherein such recipes are found; and Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks. 

Melissa Gilbert’s My Prairie Cookbook was a gift, and having the time as well as the beautiful stamps and stationery at the ready to send a prompt and heartfelt thank-you note is, of course, both N&L.  And the time to peruse this book and suggest my daughter use it to bake sweet-tart apple muffins, to the delight of all participating parties, is the epitome of N&L.

clock

The time.  So often people say they don’t have time for such shenanigans as enjoying the making and partaking of muffins with their daughters.  They don’t have time for this or that.  For what are they working?

I’ve been there and done that – the endless, mindless, thankless grind, and the eating out and on the fly of non-food substances; the bounced checks and astronomical service charges because I didn’t have the presence of mind that “taking the time” gives us.

We all have the same 24 hours, and we can either use time as a tool, or it can be our enemy.  We deceive ourselves when we think we don’t have time to cook from scratch, to balance a checkbook, to write a friend a thank-you note.

mailboxes

Most people think the goal of time management is to get more done.  I say the goal of time management is freedom from enslavement to the clock.  Rather than getting more “things” done, how about getting more people loved and enjoyed?

And how does all this tie into money?  First of all, it leads to peace and satisfaction, something that we so often try to buy.  A great example is a breadmaker.  I used my breadmaker plenty until it went kaput, and now that I know the satisfaction of making the boule for artisan bread, now that I’ve tasted my child’s authentic French bread, I will never again clutter my kitchen counter with a breadmaker.

New tools are great for my husband’s shop (yes, I do have and love some kitchen tools, but there are limits).  My kitchen is a place where romance reigns, where money is saved and even made.  I am, in effect, making money, learning a new and fun skill, impressing other people (I’d like to say this isn’t important to me, but alas . . . ) and making an amazing treat when I make pear butter from the pears that have been too long in the window sill.  Said pear butter demands the making of super flaky biscuits for brunch, to which we invite the neighbors, adding eggs scrambled with cream cheese and a delicious homemade and homegrown turkey sausage (Christmas gift from same neighbors) and serving it all with a giant pot of delicious tea (giant and lovely teapot another gift which merited the sending of a thank-you note).

muffins

When I roast my own organic coffee beans nice and dark and aromatic, and convince my mostly non-coffee drinking family to share a small cup as we talk about what we’re writing, plotting, or planning, I am living in the rhythms of grace not often observed by today’s families.

coffee

I first heard of roasting green coffee beans at home from financial advice guru Mary Hunt, who convinced me there’s no comparison between brew-ready and home roasted coffees.  Mary Hunt also echoes wisdom I once received after praying about finances:  You can have anything you want if you stop eating out.

We are back to taking and making and managing time so that we can be creative and artisitic in the kitchen.  A functioning and active kitchen is at the top of the N&L list.  Let’s make a list, asking the question, “What do we gain when we cook and eat at home?”

  1.  Money!
  2. Skills
  3. Nutrition
  4. Joys of creativity
  5. Better tasting food (after a little learning in some cases)
  6. Family fun
  7. Self esteem
  8. Real mealtimes
  9. House that smells like a home
  10. __________________________________________ (your turn)

So here’s my money advice in a nutshell:  If at all possible, do it at home.  In many cases you will find what’s done in your kitchen is much more satisfactory than that made to exist on a shelf for six months, and often less expensive.

cash

But money management isn’t about what’s the least expensive, it’s about what satisfies the most, what’s really worth it, what is both N&L.  You may think chocolate covered peanuts are both N&L, but I say make them at home from quality ingredients (real butter for starters) and you’ll have more of your needs met (we NEED to create) with more luxury to boot.

Enjoy them over conversation with home roasted coffee, or perhaps while watching Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice.  At home, where all good things begin and end, anyway.

english-cottage

P.S.  For more inspiration and ideas, join me Fridays at 2:00 Mountain Time, on 1360 AM radio, The Lion, in Johnstown, CO.