Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cardinal Rule Broken

When I started this blog I told my Friend Jenny, this was a hide out, a nothing about raising a special needs individuals blog. I am breaking that rule. It has come to my attention, that a part of all I do and all I am is because of my son John.

I spend money on and for my son. I shop for my son, I think for my son. And I am proud of my son John. I am very proud of who he is and what he means to our family. While I hope to keep the post about life from a different point of view few and far between, forgive me, I cannot write a blog and leave him out.

I hope, that we can help you see life in a very positive place even when the situations of life are hard. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. For tonight on the edge of New Years eve, I want to introduce my family to you and I hope in the next year, I'll learn a bit more about yours as well.

My oldest son Aaron. Now 26 and currently in training to be a flight attendant. He has been hired by an airline and will soon know where he will live. He is funny, does stand up comedy, and has a host of friends. Until one week ago he had sworn off marriage and children. After lighten struck him (kidding it didn't really) he has changed his mind and thinks someday he might want a child. He has a long way to go.

My younger son John is 19. He was born normal in a natural childbirth. He was above average for a time, then regressed greatly. Say what you will and swear off reading my blog if this offends you, but John was vaccine damaged from two vaccines, the DPT and MMR, which left him with late onset cerebral palsy and regressive full blown extreme autism and a seizure disorder. Our world turned upside down in 1994 and we have been rocking it from there on. Today John still has CP but not autism, and that folks is a huge, HUGE event. He is non-verbal with motor control issues. He as full understanding of everything and has a great sense of self. In a nut shell, he is down right vain.

My husband is a truck driver and gone 4 days a week. Years ago the stress of our life with a disabled child, mounting bills, and pure confusion forced us into a separation.He went off to truck driving school and I took over the boys. While we remained a solid unit raising the boys, I did not see him for months at a time. We did talk on the phone. We did still love each other. Somewhere in the last two years we had rekindled that love and were remarried, kinda, in a quite non-public way. Today we are more like honeymooners and it's fun. I am thankful we manged to pull it back together. Marriage is hard, it takes work, and sometimes we have to stand back and look at why we fell in love in the first place to get back to who we were. I'll share how we met one my story tops yours!

I also have a dog named Cindy. She is a rescue from an breeder mill. A saddle back beagle I call her my little girl, even though she is really middle aged. We have two cats, Gray and Kelso. They come to us when they need something or want to show us something, other than that, we are their pets, they are not ours.

I live in a small house on the side of a busy road. My dream home is a Texas Tiny House, if you don't know what that is, look them up. I doubt I'll ever have one, but a girl can dream. I am simple, plain and love life...and I need to go...John is running bath water...I can never sit and just write when duty calls.

Be blessed and have a wonderful new year~

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Making Silky Soft Liquid Soap

I see red when I see someone wasting resources. No, I am not the greenest person out there, wish I was, but I do like to live by the mantra "Use is it up, wear it out. Make do, do without." It was one of the things my spouse learned about me in that first month of marriage. He adjusted to some of my rules, agreeing to cloth napkins, we did get a nice supply as gifts anyway. He didn't fully understand reusing aluminum foil, but he got over it and learned that it is possible. One place we differed, was on soap.

My new husband loved bar soap. The problem was, he loved new bars, not old ones. He had a thing for using only about half of the soap before he opened a new bar. I couldn't use up the rest of his soap due to an allergy to the soap he chose. I got creative and tried to reglue three bars together to make a new bar. I would soak them and make them soft, then squish them into one new bar. Nope, he didn't like that idea either. To stop me from trying to save the used bars of soap, he would flush them quickly before I knew they were gone. This broke me to tears. That did it, we had to come to an agreement. We did, he agreed to place the used soap into a bucket in the bathroom, and I was allowed to do whatever I wanted with it, as long as I didn't try to remake it into a bar of soap for him.

What I learned to do, was make liquid soap! Now we have an endless supply of liquid soap for all kinds of uses. While I do not recommend using body soap in soap making for laundry, it can be used for other kinds of cleaning. One of my main uses when my children were small, was using the soap to wash their toys. I have been known to use liquid soap in a bucket of water to wash outside areas like sidewalks or the window screens.

Making a supply of soap is easy. Save your scraps or use up that stash of hotel soap most all of us are guilty of holding on to. I also like to buy soap at the dollar store, in scents that I like, just for me. I can take one bar of lavender soap and make eight cups of liquid soap! Sure stretches my budget.

Make sure the soap is hard. If you save soap scraps, let the dry for several weeks to be dry and firm. Using a fine grater, a cheese grater is idea, grate the soap into a container. Make sure you store any unused grated soap in an air tight container in a cool dry place. When you are ready to make soap, take four cups of hot water and place in a container. Sprinkle two cups of the shredded soap over the hot water. Soap will start to sink. Let it set for a few minutes before you stir in the soap. Liquid soap can be made as thick or thin as you wish. This recipe is the thickness I like. For thicker, just add soap in half a cup until you get the consistency you like. For thinner, add small amounts of hot water and stir well. Place the ready to use soap in pump containers. It's a good idea to just recycle ones you already have, or purchase new pump style bottles at dollar stores or thrift stores.

Keep in mind that different soaps have different ingredients. Deodorant soaps may be an issue for some people. If that is the case in your home, you might consider making only deodorant liquid soap and placing in a container for body wash. Yes, my husband was willing to give this a try and you know what, he loved it.

Do you have a favorite use for bar soap? If so, share your tips!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cutting the Fat

If you read the first blog, you know seeing red refers to debt and green is well, that cash we often can't seem to have enough of. Today Fat is a double meaning both body and the excess spending. I encourage you to post tips for others, on ways to cut both. Many thanks and happy reading~

My favorite consignment shop ran the last of the summer clothing on sale for two dollars and less this weekend. I was there soon after the doors opened Saturday morning. I went right to the dress rack. I am for the most part a jeans girl, but when summer comes, I love dresses. Not skirts and shirts, dresses. I quickly began to scan the rack, not looking at sizes, but pulling off name brands. I have always shopped sales this way, grab all the name brands I like, and then take them aside and look at the sizes. After I cleared the rack of my finds, I stood at the end pulling out any size I thought might work. I know brands and sizes, like Jessica Howard, hand me a size 6 and yes, it will fit. Another lady stood by me asking for all size 10's in my hand. We had fun together, two strangers bonded over a sale rack of used clothing.

In the dressing room I hung my find, a total of 6 dresses. My heart beat fast holding up a beautiful handmade size unknown knit dress in lime green with yellow swirls. Someone had taken great care to make that dress and I wanted to give it a new home. But it was not to be. Size unknown did not fit me anywhere. I moved on to dress number two. A hot pink number that fit like a glove, a glove that was a size too tight. What's going on I wondered, as I slipped on my reading glasses to double check the size. HUM. No the size was rights. I took down a red linen dress by Ann Taylor. It was very me. Straight, simple, with a side pleat and simple nautical detailing at the top of the pleat. I wanted that dress so bad. I slipped it on. The top half looked perfect on me, now to zip it. I struggled to zip the dress, sucked in my breath and closed my eyes as the zipper slid up that last little few inches.

Yes, the top half was perfect. The neck line was beautiful, the cut of this sleeveless shift, perfect, and then, I looked at the bottom half. What was going on? It pulled and puckered in a very unflattering way. I stood there wanting that dress to fit perfectly. I sucked in my breath hard, yes, do that and it fit. Breath, and no it did not. I laughed at myself wanting this dress so much. How many red dresses does a woman need anyway I asked myself as I counted off the red dresses I already owned. Still, this was a classic, a pretty number made to wear at a nice summer party or just to make me feel better after a bad week. I slipped the dress off and moved on to a denim jumper I knew would fit.

At the register I thought about the red dress in my hands. It did not fit as of right now. I was spending two dollars on the hope I would shape up a bit between now and summer and wear it. What if I don't? I spend two dollars for nothing.

The more I though about the dress, the more I though about fat. Not just body fat, but spending fat. When money is tight, a budget is strained, two dollars can make a big difference. I thought about the cost of a coke and candy bar, about two dollars as well. There ya go, I told myself, where to cut the fat. By walking past the temptation of buying a coke and candy bar, I save not only two dollars but a few hundred calories! I can take that two dollars I save, put it toward debt, and the calories I don't eat, well, I can put that toward wearing that new Ann Taylor linen dress without all the bumps and lumps it was struggling to cover.

Yes, I did buy the dress, and several things for my family as well. Later that afternoon I was walking down town with my family. My husband stopped at a local hamburger stand and ask if I wanted a burger and some fries. I fingered the five dollar bill in my pocket, thought about all the things I could do with five dollars. I then though about the calories of a simple burger and fries. "No thank you, I'll pass." I told him as I walked on.
"Hey me neither, I don't need it at all, let's just get John something and save our money and the calories we would just have to walk off."

Summer red dress, I hope you are the only red I see this summer.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Yes, There is a Reason for the Rain

I whined a bit over the week about the cold rain. On Monday the house was so dark, if I did not have a light turned on, I couldn't see very well. The corners, nooks and crannies were dark. Dust and toys hid there. I am not a person who likes dark days. Rather than dwell on the dark, I thought of a very light sensitive friend of mine who lives for dark rainy days. I sent him a quick note that I was thinking of him hoped his day was dark and gloomy. I heard back that it was and he and his wife were able to take a walk and enjoy the dark. Thinking about the joy such days bring to his family, the way bright days do to me, helped me cope.

Yesterday the sun came out full and bright. I took John and our dog Cindy for a walk, the ground wet with standing puddles. As John and I dodged the puddles I though about the nourishing rain that had fallen in our area for days, and how blessed we were to have a nice supply of water. John and I stood on the bridge near our home and watched water flow in the full ravine. I was thankful for the rain. In all honesty I was even more thankful for the sun.

Just after midnight last night, I was awakened by bright lights and firetrucks. Outside my door I watched as flames shot high into the black sky. The woods, the place were John and I walk each day, was in danger of burning. I stood in the dark cold field across from my home trying to see exactly what was burning. A police office stopped, rolled down his window and said, "Where is John, is he sleeping?" I am never seen without John.
"No, but he didn't want to come out in the cold, he is looking out the window, how is it down there?"
"It's okay, nobody hurt, it's the house that was being gutted and worked on. Nobody living in it yet, and thanks to the rain, the fire did not have time to jump to the woods. Had this been last know...I can't say we would have been as blessed." He spoke in little puffs of breath as he looked back at the woods. "You go back in, you are safe, the rain saved us."
I walked back home and John met me at the door. I hung up my coat and told him we could go back to bed. the fire would soon be out.

This morning I got up and walked down to look at the burned out house. Amazingly little had been destroyed. The house sits way back off the road and in the middle of a group of tall trees. Pine trees burst into flames very easy in dry weather. I had been in the area only a few weeks ago picking up pine cones and gathering pine straw for my flower beds. The morning sun was bright and golden, making the cold morning seem not so cold.

I though about how dry our summer had been and how we had a burn band in place way into the fall. Had it not rained so much lately, the ground and trees would not have been soaking wet, this morning may have been so different if that were the case.

When negative times come into our lives, it's hard to see how they are a part of a bigger and better plan. When we seem to be wandering in the dark cold of bad news, setbacks and disappointments, there is a reason. The job you did not get, perhaps that is so when a better job comes along, you will be in a position to take the better job. One of the hardest things we do as humans, is understand disappointments. Yet if everything in life was positive, how would we be able to be thankful for the things we have.

I didn't like the rain that fell all week. This morning, I was so thankful for the dripping wet trees and soaked wet ground. Next time a set back comes my way or your way, remember, without the rain and dark, we couldn't appreciate the warmth of the sun as fully as we do.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What I Learned from Leo Lionni

When my oldest son was a tot, he loved books. On my day off we would go to the library for story and craft time and to collect a new stack of books to read. Somewhere in his early years he developed a list of authors he was drawn to. One, was Leo Lionni.

If you have not seen his books they are unique animal stories told in a soft voice with simple thoughts to discuss. I found a copy of Frederick at a book sale and we bought to read over and over. Frederick is the story of  mice, gathering supplies for the long cold winter. All the mice worked very hard, except one, Frederick. When the other mice called to him he said he was busy gathering the suns rays and other thoughts for the long winter months.

Now, you can look at Frederick one of two ways. For me, I cannot stand winter. I do not like wet, cold days without sunlight. Recently, we have had our share. The first frost has hit my area and with it came rain and dark endless night like days. You will find me mid July stretched out in the lake telling my younger son John to be like Frederick and save up some sun for the winter. Honestly, remembering the hot, sweltering dog days of summer, keeps me going in the winter. For me, I need to save up the summer sun and stories of summer for dark days.

My older son though, had a different perspective on smart Frederick. "Momma, really look at what Frederick is saying. He says be lazy, let your friends do the work, sit around and get half baked and when your friends are starving for lack of food, trick them with pretty stories. They are so hungry they will believe anything." Sad when the childhood eyes become adult.

Yet, there is something to what he said. Work and leisure need a balance.  We do need to be productive mice and work for today as well as save for tomorrow. We also need to stop and smell the roses, feel the sun on our face and spend time in fellowship with others. It is when we loose that balance that we start to view life from the wrong perspective. Working too little makes us, lazy. Working too much keeps us from enjoying the life we work so hard to enjoy. What is the answer? When you feel off balance, stop and look, ask your family if you are absent or hovering too much. Listen to them and adjust.

Remember, work is not just the time we spend at a job that makes an income. Often we work more hours at home than on the job, even if you have a 40 hour a week employment situation. When the kids say, "You never have time for me!" or your spouse says, "Just sit down for a minute and enjoy some quite time." you know you are overworking. At the same token, when nothing has been done for weeks, you might be a bit like Frederick, just laying around drinking up a bit too much sun.

How to you balance it all? What do you let slide when you plate is too full, especially during holiday times? As for me, I make a list of to do, and divide it into MUST do and WANT to do. I get the must out of the way as quickly as I can, then take time to focus on the want. I try to take my time and enjoy the want list with John and share time with him. What never gets done, I try not to think to much about. A wise pastor once said, "You cannot be all things to all people so stop tying. Find one person or one group and just center on being there for them. It is better to do one thing well, than to do a dozen things poorly." Can I get an....Amen!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Let's Pretend Shall We?

For today, let's play a little game. Let's pretend today is January the 3rd. What just happened to the last few months? Last thing I clearly recall was getting ready for Halloween and now, it's a new year. I don't know about you, but that minute I realize it's now a new year, the holidays are behind us, is not exciting for me. Reality sinks in. My property taxes are due. Those nice little "extras" we slipped in for Christmas, you know, I am just charging them and will pay them off in January, suddenly don't seem so little or nice. My jeans don't button and my check book can't balance. Oh dear, welcome to a new year.

But wait, this year, we have a head start, we can make some different plans. We can say NO to the extra batch of fudge and not have to loose the weight later. In the same fashion, we can set in motion a new plan for Christmas, at least, for next year.

For many of us, this year is set in stone. Toys are in the lay-a-way, the gift list has been made and  you are in mid swing of trying to make this a perfect year for family and friends. Now it the time to sit down and think about making some changes. Money changes yes, but peace of mind changes as well. If your family is large and all the children get gifts from you, you might be like I was when our crew was small, stressed and broke. I would truly want to buy each niece, nephew, cousin or other extra children in the family that year a gift. Problem was, I really didn't have the funds to compete with some of my relatives. I felt bad when my son was given clothing from Talbot's when the best I could do was a gift from K-Mart. Sometime I felt, well, out of balance. Oh how I longed to be in one of the families where you got each child a little happy, something under five dollars and all was even.

So I spoke up. I asked that we draw names and rather than have to get each child a gift, let the children draw names between them. You would think I had grown a third eye and could spin my head completely around. I had one child, ONE, and yet I was out shopping for 15. It was not only stressful on me personally, but financially. I didn't know how the others did it. Years later, I would find out, credit cards.

After my family shunned me, and got smart about the stress and money issues. I choose to make each child a gift. I can sew and I can sew very well. I started early in the year, bought cute but out of season fabric on sale and went to work. I made a point of  writing a note with each gift and telling the child what they meant to me and why I wanted to make them something special.  Years later a nephew told me just how much it meant to him to have his own tailor made shirt complete with Jurassic Park logo that nobody else had. He said it was one of the best gifts he ever got. This from a child who had anything and everything. Success and yet, not. The year after I made each gift, gift giving was cut down to drawing names. Apparently, I insulted the parents. No matter, I finally got what I needed, Christmas under control.

I was never sorry I spoke up. If buying for everyone is hurting your budget, speak up. It is no shame to say so. Each family is unique. We all have our own needs and desires. If you want to buy for everyone you know and you can pay cash, go for it. But don't let the fact that it is Christmas or Chanukah make you feel like you have to go in debt to please others. If you are trying to please people, little tip here, you never will. It's not your job to make people happy with your choices. I have one family member that I could never, ever do enough for. It's not my problem that she has a huge need for things and stuff and for certain names attached to these things and stuff. Once I understood that, I stopped trying to make her happy.

Once you make a 'how we will handle the holiday' plan, you will start to feel better. As for my own little family of four, we stopped gifts a long, long time ago. Rather we have some needs we all enjoy replenishing at Christmas time. We all get new socks, nice socks, and other things we need. Most our money goes for a nice family dinner that we plan and shop for, then cook together. Yes, we do for others. Every year we open our home to feed people who are alone or needy during the month of December. We make loaves of bread and take to people who touch our lives. I take batches of cookies to the local grocery store, library and post office where we spend our time all year and give back to the people who are so kind to us. We try to give back to our community to let others know, hey we see what you do, and we appreciate you. This is a double plus, I get to cook all the sweets I love, but I don't eat them, I pass them on!

Today, think how you want to feel when the new year rolls around. Do you want to be down and wondering how you will make it all work, or at peace, knowing you let go of the need to over spend and over eat.  Why not post how you make the season special for you and yours, lets share some ideas and tips to get the new year attitude going.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today is the day after Thanksgiving. Known in America as Black Friday. The now famous holiday shopping mad dash day that brings out the nasty in people as good will takes a back seat. As I took my son John and dog Cindy for a walk today, I got to thinking about my own personal Black Friday. Will I ever have one?

Black Friday got it's name as it is the sale day that helps retail stores make up for slow sale, ie, going from red or debt to in the black or out of debt. I think we all need to stride for our own personal "black Friday." A day we balance our check books and see we are in the black, not in the red with no hope for the green to cover it.

No, I am not a money whiz. I am, however a tightwad and proud of it. This last year has been trying for our family as we started off 2011 like so many of you, dealing with income cuts. Ours, a whopping $600.00 a month hurt. I am used to adjusting. Add to it, our oldest son was jobless most of this year and lived with us. He did come to us with a saving account and no debt, but this year took a toll on him as well. Our younger son will never have a job. He is disabled and fully dependent on us for care. In March of this year after a nasty seizure, he lost the ability to control his bladder. That means we buy him Depends or as we like to call it, disposable underwear. They aren't cheap. They took yet another big bite out of our income.

Still, I am not whining. This has been a great year for us. Anything you can fix with money is not major in my book. It is the things money cannot buy that hurts. Health, happiness, joy, and peace of mind, just to name a few. What are some that you can think of?

I am starting this blog to focus on two things. How to live on less and have more and how to be happy with the situation you are in. If we can all do that, we will all succeed. My goal is to help you find life tips, both money saving and soul searching. This is your place to have a say, so post away.

Thank you for stopping by and lets see just how much we can grow together in the year to come.