Monday, January 30, 2012

Scratch That

Those two words have so many different meanings. To start with, I wrote a blog with the same title and hated it. In my mind I said, scratch that! Delete. Believe me it wasn't my finest work. Way too random and well, just ridiculous. And then there is the scratch that when you have an itch. This is the one I really want to address.

So I'd like to think that I'm superwoman. Yep, I can be a daughter, sister, wife, mom and friend. I can pull it all together. Especially in busy times or times of crisis. Really. I can make a dinner happen on a moments notice. People will have fun and so will I. I am a bit of a last minute person, but things still seem to always work out. I've been lucky. Or maybe I should say blessed.

About a month ago, in the midst of us finding out about Scott's cancer and the surgery, I started to itch. Well, I wasn't flush on time and I was taking short cuts. It's winter and cold and I usually have sensitive skin anyway. But time was short and I would forget to lotion up sometimes. Then I bought laundry detergent that I hadn't purchased before and thought that might be the reason. The itching got worse. I started taking Benadryl at night to alleviate the symptoms. I tried every lotion and potion sold over the counter. Nothing helped.

I will tell you this. I'm pretty sure that the sensation of itching could actuallly drive a person insane. It's torture. I was getting inventive with things to help me scratch my itch. I have a back scratcher. Somtimes a pen or pencil would work. I was whisking gravy one evening and thought to myself, hmmm, this whisk? My itches were on my arms, legs, back, chest---ugh!

Then it dawned on me. It wasn't any food I had eaten. It wasn't the lotions, potions or laundry soaps. I was at this moment allergic to the stress in my life. In desperation I went to urgent care and was diagnosed witth hives. Stress related hives. The doctor was so kind and said I can give you medicine for the hives. I wish there was something I could give you for the stress. I thanked her profusely and said if I could get a handle on the itching, I could take it from there. And I did. After a couple of days of no sleep, because that's one of the nasty side effects of the meds, I started to return to normal.

My hives are basically gone. The itching has almost completely left my system. So what did I learn? I am not superwoman. I can't do it all. I need to sleep. I need to eat. I need to breathe and read books. I need to destress. And if I do all of this I can scratch hive outbreaks off my list. Ahhh.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Challenge You

Ok. This is when some feel I get a little extreme. Please know that I shop. Who doesn't? But come January and February I try to challenge myself to NOT shop. Maybe it's winter boredom. Perhaps I like to see how far I can make things stretch. Who knows? What matters is I find this entertaining and always a money saving adventure. So what is it that I do, you ask? I spend as little money as possible. Let me count the ways for you.

1. I send e-cards to relatives and friends for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

2. I mass cook. I do grocery shop. In massive amounts. And then I cook up a storm. Soups, stews, roasts, meatloaf, casseroles. I freeze it all and can eat for a month at a time. No more after work wondering about what to fix. Always plenty of food for the family. Even when we have unexpected company. And the leftovers are great for lunch. Veggies are always aplenty at my house for snacks.

3. I decorate my house with the most natural and colorful things. What could make you smile more than a bowl full of lemons or apples. And these things are edible. For Valentine's day I might find a twig after a nature walk. I place the twig in a vase/mason jar and fill it up with stones. I'll hang small red hearts with love notes on them for my family. Make clovers and eggs to decorate for St. Patrick's Day or Easter.

4. Go to the library and read, read, read. Check out movies. Free fun for the family.

5. Dust off the games on the shelf. PLAY them. With your friends and family.

6. Get together with friends and family. Don't stress about food. Everybody bring something. Enjoy the time together.

So at the end of one month, maybe two, check your bank account. I'll bet there is more money in those accounts than the year before. And did you have any less fun? Were you kinder to the environment? Were you kinder to your waistline? I'm guessing at least a few of your answers will be yes. Let me know if you're up to the challenge. I'm ready. To have a healthier body and secondly a healthier bank account. And you know it's not all about the money. It's about spending time doing healthy things with people you love. The financial gain is simply a bonus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Towel?

Sort of a weird title, huh? I know. I was looking for something with a little more zip. Just couldn't find the right words. And then it came to me. Why make the title spectacular. The definition I am about to give does that all on its own. Do you have flour sack towels? They are the best invention EVER.

My first recollection of these towels was when I was a kid. They were in my mom's kitchen and they were in my grandma's kitchen. Of course the towels were used to dry dishes. That's obvious. But they were used for so much more. The flour sack towel could be used as a baby bib. I've tied more than one towel together to help secure a baby on a regular chair. Wha-la. Makeshift high chair!

I have used these towels to clean mirrors and windows. They leave no lint behind. What about a salad spinner? Who needs one? I have a flour sack towel. Works just as well and takes up a whole lot less cupboard space. I use my towels as aprons and pot holders. These towels are great for attaching ice packs to a wounded knee or ankle.

These towels are white and you can bleach them. They always look fresh and clean. I have wiped up cranberry juice and been able to return these towels to their original luster. So my rule of only gifting consumables does have an exception. Flour sack towels. They go with everything. They have so many purposes. They are ALL purpose flour sacks. Get it? Sorry. Just had to say it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Envelope System

About ten years ago Scott and I set a lofty goal for ourselves. We were determined to pay off our house. Early. Like twelve years early. What possessed us to do such a thing you ask? Well, we were simplifying like crazy. I was able to research all sorts of savings. We made things from scratch. We made bountiful quantities and froze them. We lowered the heat. We used the air conditioning sparingly. The clothes line was always in use. And do you know what? We had a bunch of money left over at the end of the month.

Now some may say spend it! Upgrade in house, car or vacation. It was tempting for sure. But when we got down to what we really wanted to do it was simple. We wanted to live a debt free life. We were so close we could almost touch it. So we came up with a plan. On pay day we would pay all of our bills. We had divised a budget. Scott is a whiz at budgets. So with our combined talents we came up with a cash only envelope system. We didn't invent the envelope system, but we refined it to our needs. After paying our bills, we deposited money into three envelopes. The categories were, groceries, auto and entertainment. We used cash only for these purchases. If I went to the store, I took the envelope with me. Upon returning home I would record my purchase on the outside of the envelope and subtract the amount from the total. As a back up I would place the receipt in the envelope. You get the idea.

In the meantime we had been paying much more down on our mortgage payments. We used all rebates, tax refunds, money from selling things (garage sales, etc.) to also pay down our mortgage. We also put money into savings regularly. And here comes the extra benefit of the envelopes. We always had money left over in our envelopes at the end of the pay period. Guess where that money went? Yep, the mortgage.

We never felt lke we were deprived of anything. We ate well. We had people over for dinner. I would make the main course and when our
guests offered to bring something we would take them up on it. Our dinners became potlucks. Our friends did the same. We always had plenty of clothes. In fact we prefer to buy quality over quantity. Our clothes last, so fewer purchases. Bulk cooking was mentioned before,
but it also became our favorite gift to give. We found Scott was actually the better shopper. He would comparison shop and save us on
average ten to twenty dollars per grocery shopping trip compared to me.

This is an attainable goal. You may feel pinched in these economic times, but there always seems to be a way to save a little. And we are
proof that saving a little adds up to a lot. The mortgage was completely paid off when we were thirty-five and thirty-eight. That's a goal worth reaching. And it all started with three simple envelopes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Purge Time, Folks!

So the tree is down. The other holiday decorations are tucked away snug in their storage containers. What to do with all of the new things we received as gifts? Well, assuming that they fit and are wanted items, we need to find space for them. This is definitely a challenge. Here come a lot of my rules that I have written about in the past. Let's start with the one thing in, one thing out rule. This is as simple as it gets. Did you get a new sweater? Let go of one. A new game? Give up one that your family has played to death and is bored with. Not rocket science.

Next, let's do some reycling. We all have too many magazines, newspapers, general paper clutter. The season forces us to stay inside more. Baby it's cold outside! Read the articles you have been wanting to. If the article is super great and worthy of sharing, scan it and email to friends and family. Paper be gone. Do you really need all of those boxes in the basement? Ok, keep the t.v. box and the boxes for small appliances that have warranties. Beyond that, no need. But what if I need to ship a gift to someone? Please read on.

Make a radical change in your gift giving. Gift consumables only. This may seem harder than it really is. Did you know that it is possible the purchase a virtual gift card that the receiver is emailed? Amazing stuff! My other favorites are coffee, yummy smelling candles, lotions and potions and of course food. Almost always the containers that these items come in are recyclable. Leave as small of a footprint on the earth as possible.

Your momentum has been jump started. Keep going. No need to hoard. Get wild and give up more than you receive. It feels good. It's cathartic. And in the mean time, let me be the little voice in your head that says, do you need it? Do you love it? Use this to head off future accumulation of stuff that you will eventually need to get rid of. And with the money that you save you can do wonders. That will be the topic of next week's blog. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's How You Look At It

When someone lets you know that they are thinking of you it's a good day. Over the past few weeks a lot of folks have let us know that they are thinking of us. Scott has received so many calls and cards. The emails are abundant. Facebook has been a terrific way to communicate. Sometimes I have mixed feelings about social media. But over the past few weeks, I have appreciated it more than ever. When I am exhausted and need to reach many who care, a post on Facebook can be wonderful. Within minutes people are replying and my heart is full.

I could see Scott's face light up when I brought him mail in the hospital. One day I delivered a card that came from the Appleton Police Department. The card was signed by at least twenty-five or more people. He read each message with such anticipation. His heart was swelling with all of their thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement. He came upon a name he didn't recognize. Scott commented that how kind it was that a new officer, a person he hadn't even worked with, had taken the time to sign his card. Oh really? I replied. What is the officer's name. It looks like his name is Cha Lee. I got up from my chair to have a little look see. As I read the card, a giggle started out small. Then it turned in to a downright hoot and holler kind of laugh. I couldn't even talk. What? Scott asked. Seriously. I was laughing so hard I was crying. I said this new officer, Cha Lee, is someone you worked with for eleven years. It's Charlie! I grabbed a pillow and told Scott to hold on tight, considering his surgery was abdominal. He grabbed the pillow and applied pressure to his belly just in time. We laughed so hard we attracted the attention of some nurses passing by. They stopped. Everthing ok? We replied more than ok. Funny as all get out.

Of course we need to share this story with Charlie some day. We have gotten lots of mileage out of reliving this story. It just goes to show you that laughter is the best medicine.