Home Economics: If the Shoes Fit Wear Them Out

Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

It is funny where lessons in economic can be found.  My daughter has discovered and I have rediscovered Beverly Cleary books–most especially those involving Ramona and Beezus.   For my daughter she understands the angst of Ramona’s everyday mishaps, and for me I am transported back home to Portland, Oregon where I spent my childhood.  As a girl I glided over the struggles of the Quimby’s and their continuous plight to make ends-meet.  Sometimes there’s was a similar plight in my own childhood home, and so as a girl I just thought that is how things are.  As an adult I recognize international  economic systems, national economics, education, taxes, a person’s background and insights, as well as a plethora of little events and details determine whether a family will be able to make ends-meet.  This is not the only economic lesson I have rediscovered with Ramona and her big sister Beezus.  It is the recollection of shoes and my own childhood that truly made me think.  In several books Ramona discusses shoes and her distaste for hand-me-downs, her acquisition of  new ones, and her desire for the loveliest ones.  She acquires shoes only when necessary–when they are outgrown.  She visits a shoe store where a knowledgeable shoe salesman aides her and her mother in their selection.  Her mother buys only when necessary and makes due with what they have–when they can.  My own daughter has several pairs of shoes.  Only two of them are absolutely necessary–her everyday shoes (athletic shoes) and seasonal shoes (boots or flip-flops depending).  I did not visit a shoe salesman to purchase these items–I bought them off the rack.  The other pairs were acquired in the same manner.  The quality of her shoes are poorly made, imports from China (most likely produced by a youth not much older than my own child)–I purchased them knowing they would not last very long (the built in obsolescence is how our ever growing consumption is created).  When I was a child I had a pair of leather sandals in the summer and a pair of leather oxfords or Mary Janes during colder months–these were purchased at a shoe store with a salesman.  I remember the salesman measuring my foot in the metal Brannock Device (I felt special having so much attention paid to me).  Then things changed–my mom began shopping at big retailers where shoes could be purchased off the rack for much less than the previous shoes I wore.  Rainy days were no longer spent inside cozy shoe stores smelling the clean pungency of leather and polish–no longer was their a happy salesman faking astonishment at how much my feet had grown–how sad.

Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

While the Quimby’s struggled often with their finances, it was not a result of squandering their money–though they did spend money on special treats they “made do or did without” often.  However, the economics of the day required good decent shoes from a shoe store–one pair to get you through.  It is not the economics of our day to day lives currently–we move beyond what is necessary and our children have six pairs of shoes in their closets (or more).  At what cost is this excess to our planet, to others working to produce these articles, to our homes with limited space, to ourselves spending the time and resources to constantly buy up more?  By the time I was a teenager I boasted over owning over 25 pairs of cheaply made shoes (not much to boast about)–now they all lay in a landfill.  As an adult I want to return to the economic of the Quimby’s–to buy one good pair of shoes for my daughter (when they are needed) and make due when we can.  This simplification of priorities and choosing need over wants (with an occasional treat here and there) is what made the Quimby’s a happy  family–I hope it makes yours one too.

Spring Cleaning Life

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

The blog-sphere is an interesting place—in a blog one often puts only the best foot forward–pulling out the finest China, flipping the rugs to the clean side, shutting the door on those messes of unmentionable human imperfection.  In my short time in this sphere as a contributor of the written word and in a longer duration as a reader, I am aware that eventually The Great and Powerful Oz will be exposed behind the curtain because alas, we are imperfect humans and nobody can keep up the horse and pony show with enough exactitude and finesse to hide the imperfect in their writing and life.  (As a reader I don’t want the horse and pony show; I want the voice of a true and fallible human.)  I am human, fallible, imperfect, and in the process of a good spring cleaning—the curtain is tied back–exposed.

Happiness, clutter, parenting, slowing down—these are all things I desire to improve—they are my dust bunnies and I write about them not because I have perfected them. I write to improve myself, and if I do learn something along the way, I want to share.  My life contains dust bunnies and spider webs in many places.  However, life is work; a good work–a work toward learning and improving—so the dust bunnies are just a part of the process in living.  This blog is my learning process; a life unfolding in the written word.  I’ve been learning a lot lately, and things are a bit untidy (literally and figuratively).  A season in my life is coming to a close, and I am joyous in this busy time of transition—I ask that you stay with me in this time of transition as readers and friends—and I apologize for my silence…I am learning and cleaning things up a bit (literally and figuratively).

Have a beautiful weekend.

Simple Saturdays

Image

Simple Saturdays + 3…4…5…

The Polar Vortex has had some dismal effects this season…delaying spring for starters.  However, with every lemon life gives you it is best to make lemonade–or perhaps in this case lemon snow cones!

With so many school snow days the Saturdays have actually seemed to string themselves into never ending weekends, which in many cases would be a blessing; however, these blessed moments can become exhausting when cooped up indoors for days at a time with young children.  This winter has tested our creativity as a family.  “I’m bored,” has been uttered a fair amount of times, yet we have persevered through this “long winter” and entertained ourselves on a shoestring budget.

Image

Ways to Spend a Simple Saturday (or Simple Snow Day…Simple Ice Day…Simple Sleet Day…Simple Rain Day…)

Puppet Theater

Do you have a coat closet?  If you do, you have a puppet theater.  Empty out a closet.  (You’ve got time–look at the weather outside–you’ve got plenty of time.)  Using old curtains or sheets you can fasten these items to hangers or the wooden rod in the closet. (I looped the tab tops of the curtains over the tops of hangers and hung the hangers on the wooden rod, so the kids could easily slide them to open and close the theater curtains.)  Stuffed animals, character slippers, dolls, socks, or even band aids can become hand and finger puppets.  Are the kids struggling to come up with a play for their new theater?  Not to worry–read a few short stories aloud that can be acted out.  Soon imagination will take over, and you will have a mini Globe Theater in your coat closet.

Image

Cooking

My children love to cook, but on more evenings than I’d like I’m in a hurry to get dinner on the table–I can’t always wait for my little chefs to catch up with measuring and mixing.  Recently, I have had more hours at home and my little chefs have assisted in making “healthier” muffins and other “treats.”  Not only do we have quality time during our cooking or baking–I often can throw a math lesson in to boot!

Image

Head to Your Digital Library (or Your Home Library)

No need to head out of doors if the weather is making travel unsafe–most libraries have audio and digital books that can be downloaded from home–these offering include children’s book.  Don’t forget your own home library.   Our family visits the library regularly, and we sometimes let those books on our own shelves spend too much time up there–these long days are a great time to revisit old favorites.

Play in the Snow (Indoors or Outdoors)

We may think the snow will always be here. (Spring will come–I saw my daffodils poking out from beneath the ground–I whooped for joy.)  Take advantage of the last of winters offerings and play in the snow.  Last week we enjoyed a simple Saturday/Tuesday making snow people, snow villages, a snow volcano with bubbling lava (food coloring, baking soda, and vinegar), and a snow Stonehenge.  If it is too cold outside, bring the snow inside.  Grab a bowl of snow and add food coloring for a beautiful effect or make miniature snow people (cookie trays work best for this messy project).  If you don’t want to bring the snow in take a lesson from your local preschool teacher–“fake snow” (otherwise known as shaving cream) on a cookie tray or vinyl table cloth will keep kids occupied for ages.

Cuddle, Rest, Take a Nap

How many days on this earth do you just get to sit or rest while holding the ones you love–take this simple day to do just that!

What do you like to do on a simple Saturday (or snow day)?

Simply Living: On Our Own Way

Image

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Right now, in this season, my work pants are old and less than fashionable, our breakfasts, lunches and dinners are homemade, our entertainment comes most often from the public library, and we’ve driven our car for nearly a decade (200,000 miles).  Right now, I can look into my living room and see scaffolding standing erect and pointing to unfinished walls.  When we walk on the first floor of our house, we tread not on hardwood or carpet but sub floors–and on most days I’m okay with this scenario.  This scenario speaks of freedom and choice.

Do we make these choices because we are in debt?  We owe a small amount on our house, and so these choice no longer are a result of debt.  These are intentional choices that allow us to save and not be tied to a career or to be ready for financial storms when they come (and they do).

These choices have allowed me to stay home when our children were infants. Later, these choices supported us through a recession where we found out we were pregnant and laid off on the same day. These choices have allowed for career changes and new dreams in midlife.  In the future we hope these choices will allow our family to give more to others.

Simplicity right now is financial–streamlining our finances to be there when we need it.

Simplicity in whatever form is often a difficult choice.  This is a world where there is a constant hum to become better, own more, and fill our lives with busyness.  I still hear the hum and ignore it often (but not always).

Is my life simple?  Our we saints for living this way?  No.  Life is complicated.  Even striving for simplicity at times can be complicated. It is our hope that this current complicated will lead us to future simplicity in our careers and home life.

My husband and I both work, raise our young children, and remodel on our days off.  That is busy.  In this season it is what we believe to be necessary.  Our simplicity plan right now is hard.  It is an ever changing journey.  However even when it is hard, we keep walking our path and we look out upon the landscape of this journey with an end in mind.  We plan to move soon–to make different life choices–to start a new season.  Our hope is to finish this house towards spring and be ready for that next opportunity that awaits us.  In the meantime, we will keep walking this walk holding firmly to each other’s hands and our children’s.  Our pants may not be fashionable, but our hearts are fashioned to our dreams of less so we can have more.

Check out The Art of Simple Blue Bike Blog Tour

Seven Ways to Turn the Winter Blahs Into the Winter Ahhhs…

wintersky
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

January and February often become what I call the blah months. This past Jan/Feb week has been especially hard. Everyday is a gift and whether the weather is miserable or pleasant, I know I should feel blessed for this time on Earth…but I’m human and my mind has a hard time conveying this blessed feeling to body and soul during the coldest months of winter. So again this year when faced with the physical, spiritual and even career challenges in bleak February I have succumbed to the blahs! Stubborn however is my mind (and heart) and so I’ve begun the fight back…

Seven Ways to Turn the Winter Blahs Into the Winter Ahhhs…

Sleep, Water, and Food – Have you slept, drank, or ate whole nourishing foods? No matter the season if the answer to any of those is “no” then your tank is running low and it is hard to be happy when your basic needs are not met. Take care of the basics that are essential to feeling joy.

Vitamins – Are you taking a good multivitamin? Having the nutrients you need can change body and mind. Find a good multi and help banish those blues.

Find the Sunshine Where You Can – I know it may be a little difficult to get outdoors this winter, but take a cue from indoor cats. Felines will find a sliver of sunshine to bask in it on the dullest of days. I’ve been known to gather the rays inside as well and really this little of bit of sun helps! On days when it is possible to head out of doors–GO! Twenty minutes a day of fresh air can change your day and season. Additionally, there are special light bulbs to help Seasonal Affective Disorder…but nothing beats the real thing.

You’ve Got to Move It! – Feel bad? Dance, run, walk… When the blahs really start to grab me I head to the tread or I crank it up and dance with my kids. Not only do I feel warm when exercising ( that is enough for me in cold winter), but I feel relaxed and if I get into the zone–the endorphins kick in and it is beautiful!

Smile at the Rain – I have a small picture in your house that I bought at a favorite outdoor market. It simply states, “Smile At The Rain.” So go ahead right now perk up and smile. It is indicated that an authentic smile will improve your mood. If you can’t authentically smile find some laughing babies on Youtube or watch a favorite comedy.

Look Forward to Something – Make big plans for the future…summer may feel like ages away but sometimes planning those spring or summer activities can shed some light on a cold, dark day. This afternoon my daughter and I planned a potluck picnic for her summer birthday. In just a few moments of imagining, we were both sunny with anticipation.

Find Beauty in This Season – As a child in the Pacific Northwest trees had always been the beautiful backdrop of my childhood and I could find beauty in them everyday regardless the season (winter rainy, spring rainy, summer slightly rainy, fall rainy…as the seasons go out there). As an adult I get so wrapped up in the busyness of life I fail to stop and appreciate the beauty that comes with each season. Again, spend some time either at a window or better yet out of doors and find the majestic in the natural world. Even the spindly limbs of a winter oak can make the heart light.

Spring will come eventually, but until then I’ll be outside, on the tread, or taking a multivitamin…while smiling at the rain…

How do you banish the blahs?

5 Things to Do in 5 Minutes__to Prevent YOU from Shopping

Image

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Twelve years ago I began to question my consumeristic lifestyle–I began to wonder how it affected my life, the planet, and my dreams.  I recognized that if I ran the race as I was I would have piles of stuff, have taken several vacations (I would be paying for on credit), be a caretaker for a home that I owned less than five-percent of, have loads of worry and very little true wealth and happiness.  So I dropped out (in a sense).  I stopped buying stuff!  I needed a break from the constant stream of things that I was bringing into my life.  I needed to have some room to really recognize what my true needs and wants were.  This not so astonishing thought process began when I realized I had more debt than I could afford.  I needed to climb out of the dark well of indebtedness I had fallen deeply into. So I cut up the credit cards, walked away from the ped-mall, and got to work…but, like in any modern day fairy tale the dark nemesis was always lurking behind every corner…in this case he came clothed as a L.L. Bean catalog…but that is another story.  

Opportunities to buy are everywhere.  Well-meaning friends, family members, and coworkers often offer opportunities to spend.  Commercials, popup ads, magazines, and billboards throw desire at you constantly, and when you’ve been in the habit of spending at whim it is hard to break this spell.  The first thing I did was always try to recognize what the advertisement was trying to sell me and how the marketer was trying to play on my emotions to make the sell.  If I had to think like a marketer, their advertisements became less seductive.  Additionally, I made visual charts that showed my debt–how many dollars I had to earn to climb out of it and how many life hours that would take. At times this charting was depressing–but it worked to keep me focused–as the debt on the chart grew smaller my motivation grew bigger.  Lastly, I limited my exposure to ads.  I watched less television, read fewer magazines, etc.  But sometimes…I wanted to shop and so I had to take action…here is a sampling of some of my action steps.

Five Things to do in five minutes to prevent you from shopping–

1. Rearrange furniture – Sometimes we shop because we desire to change our lives and so the simple act of moving a chair, potted plant, or a picture can trick our brains into the mindset that something substantial has changed for us.  It works–try it!

2. Shake the cobwebs off an old article of clothing – Pull out a clothing article you never or rarely wear and create an assemble using this piece.  When we shop we often desire something new (different).  Make an old piece a new piece and wear it that day or the next!  

3. Use the “good” dishes – Find an item that rarely gets used because it is designated for special days, and pull it out.  A good set of dishes, jewelry, a spectacular pair of shoes can be used more than once a year, and they can often make a less than great day into a fabulous one.  Often we shop when we are blue and this may relieve your blues.  For me it was a special set of antique candlesticks–these candlesticks added elegance and sparkle to my evening and made me feel better about sticking to my goals.

4. “Buy” free resources – Grabbing an electronic book from the library, Amazon.com (yes Amazon has loads of free electronic books) or listening to a free book on librivox.org is a great way to feel as though your are “shopping” without pulling out your wallet.  Even more, a good book will draw your mind elsewhere while you’re learning to live happily with less.

5. Give a gift to someone else – Write a letter, find something you no longer need that a friend will treasure, drop a treat (picked flowers, a cookie, an orange, a special quote that inspires you) on your neighbor’s door.  Consumerism drives our society into often “selfish” thinking.  We may find ourselves thinking of only our own wants.  Pushing wants aside and thinking of others can become the best medicine for forgetting yourself and your desire to buy.  Plus, you just might make somebody’s day.  

The complexities of why we shop are too much for this blog to handle (at least for today).  The desire to pull back no spending is often a valiant one.  It takes time and patience to create this new thinking and new habit when consuming, but it is possible!  Be extremely patient with yourself. Slowly you will see that you can walk away from the intoxication of buying more of what you don’t need and that is beautiful freedom.