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.