Saturday, January 28, 2012

My First Box of Flowers

I do not have a bucket list. I really am not sure what I would list if I did. One thing is for sure, if I made a list of all the things I have yet to do or experience, there is one, I could not list as that happened yesterday.

Growing up we didn't make a big to do out of birthdays. I did have a couple of parties as a little girl and one when I turned 13. No, not the rent out the community center and have a girl boy dance party the way some of my friends parents did for them, but a group of girls from school over for cake one cold, rainy Saturday morning. I still remember it fondly as my Mom even bought a store bought cake, my first and only outside our wedding cake.

I did not plan to make a big deal out of this birthday either, but it turned out to be big on many levels. All of my brothers called, that's a record. My oldest son found time to come home and take his little brother John out on Friday night so I could have dinner alone with my husband. A first in a very, very long time. The biggest surprise of all, was a box brought to the house by UPS.

I glanced the familiar big brown delivery truck backing into my driveway Friday morning. My first thought was what now, I didn't buy anything, who ordered something and didn't tell me. I opened the door as soon as Mike the driver rang the door bell. Mike was smiling, and he nodded to the box he had just placed on the bench outside the door. FLOWERS! It was a huge green and white box from Pro Flowers! I snatched the box up and dashed back inside. I stood very still for a minute staring at the box I placed on the kitchen table. For a minute visions of movie scenes danced in my head. I saw myself as Marlyn Monroe spinning in a circle holding an open box of flowers in her arms. Visions of Dorothy getting flowers from George on the television show Hazel crossed my mind. I was one of them, one of the special people in this life that get flowers in a box!

Now don't get me wrong, I have had flowers before. I got a few rose buds in my day in high school and college. I am Southern, flowers are something your raise like tomatoes, you plant seeds, water and fret over them, weed them, and cut flowers to share with others right out of your garden. I have always loved raising my zinnias and daisies, cutting them to bring inside or use to decorate the church for showers and weddings. Winter always leaves a empty space in my home, a longing for fresh cut bright beautiful flowers to make the dark winter days seem brighter. I have stopped at Kroger and run my hand over the blooms thinking how wonderful it would be to buy a bouquet and bring them home. I never do, I just think about it.  Now here I was about to open a box with real fresh cut flowers inside.

I held my breath. First of all, who sent them? Not my husband. Not that he wouldn't but to spend money on such would only make me worry about the things we needed to pay off instead. I have always told him no when he saw that look of longing in my eyes as I lingered over flowers in the grocery. No, it was not him. I slowly started to open the box, stopped and ran to the pantry to get a vase. I chose the larger one I use in the summer for zinnias. I filled it with cool water and ran back to the box. NOW I told myself, now you are ready to open the box. I pulled on the zip tab, took a deep breath, reached into the box and pulled out the flowers.

I couldn't breath as I held them close. The card, I needed to see who sent them, but I didn't want to put them down long enough to open it. Slowly I placed the flowers down and took the card in my hand. As I did, my hand brushed a new, shiny glass vase! WOW! I got a new vase even. Getting flowers in a box, I quickly learned, come with all kind of extras. I transferred the water to the new vase, took the flowers over to the kitchen sink, snipped off the ends, and put them in the vase. Now, to unravel who the gift giver was.

Sometimes your heart just stops or skips a beat because a moment in your life is so special. The giver was a family I know only from that amazing circle of friendship that grows on the internet. A best friend I have never had the privileged of sitting down with in person and yet, feel like I do whenever we speak on the web. She has two adorable little boys who are kind enough to keep my refrigerator covered with art work. Now after years of long distant letters and short internet chats, I felt this friendship had come full circle. I knew that I was important in her life the way she is important in mine.

I sat down and looked at my flowers while choosing a chocolate that came in the box as well. If I had a bucket list I thought to myself, I could cross off got flowers delivered to the door, and I could cross off, made a best friend via the internet. I could also cross of being adopted as a long distant aunt by two wonderful little boys.

This morning the flowers were in full bloom. My family has all commented if they had known just how much they would mean to me, they would have bought some as well. They are missing the point, yes the flowers do mean oh so much to me, but the true meaning is in the fact that I know my life as value to another person. You cannot put a price on such a gift. You cannot box it up and ship it across country. You can however, enjoy the feeling, and that, will last long after the flower blooms have faded. Thank you sweet friend for the gift of value, the best gift I got this year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Green Cleaning is Dollar Green Savings!

I grew up in a very clean home. I also grew up in a toxic waste dump. My Mother was a clean freak the way some people hoard. As children our first walker was the vacuum cleaner. Yes, we were well trained in the school of germ and dirt free living from birth on. What I did not know until I left home, was why I grew up with chronic health issues and odd rashes. I learned that the cleaners my Mom so loved, were actually killing me. The toxic fumes, the constant contact with Lysol in every form, Purex and more, left me ill.

It was very freeing for me to be away from the toxic cleaners. This did not mean I went the other direction and stopped cleaning, but rather I learned how to clean without killing myself. I researched how my great grandmom made her own supplies and I made some life changes. In the mid 80's I learned from library books how to "green clean" without toxins. In a nut shell, I was green before green was popular.

I always knew green cleaning was less expensive, but I really didn't see how much until last week. I did my Mom's shopping for her, and bought the supplies on her list. I was shocked at the price of washing powder, and her long list of toxic cleaning supplies. I realized all this time I had actually cut out a big expense without even realizing it. In the honor of saving both money and the environment, I am posting a few tips.

Washing Powder:
1 cup of Borax, sold on the detergent isle.
1 cup of WASHING soda ( do not confuse with baking soda)
2 cups ground soap   Zote or Fels_Naptha are made for clothing.
Most body bars are not pure soap and should not be used. However little known fact, Lux was used for years for washing clothing.
essential oils if you wish to add a smell like lavender, which I admit, I love. 10 -15 drops will usually do. Mix well and store in air tight container. I use about one heaping tablespoon for most loads.
I  have bought an off brand powdered oxy product at Dollar tree and added into this mix, about half a cup.
Also if you want a disinfecting form of powder, add a few drops of tea tree oil and shake well. Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant and is the key in the Melaleuca brand of cleaners.

Fabric softener is not necessary if you line dry. An inexpensive alternative to fabric softener is baking soda. Just add 1/2 a cup during the rinse cycle.

I line dry. This drives my Mother crazy. The cost of a dryer when the sun is free drives me nuts. The one thing I love the most is the smell of line dried clothing. That smell drifts through my clean house on laundry day and nothing, nothing bottled can come close. It is to my family, the smell of home, and I am thankful my husband appreciates that fresh line dried smell.

What else do I use in my home? I keep a gallon of white vinegar on hand for cleaning and germ killing. Yes it stinks, but the smells goes when it dries. It shines counters, mirrors, stainless steel very well. Can be added to wash to kill germs, wipe down furniture, doors and floors when sickness is in the house.

That brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide, I keep several on hand, in the laundry, the bath and so on. This will clean and disinfect without a smell and cost only pennies. Great on blood stains too. Do be careful about spilling on color fast surfaces, it can bleach. This makes it idea to add to a load of whites, a cup at a time for extra cleaning. I keep some in a spray bottle and spray little tight area I cannot reach to bubble out dirt. Does a good job on the toilet!

Need scouring power? Use baking soda on a wet sponge. Mix up a paste of baking soda and washing soda and borax for sinks, stoves, ect.

I know, you use sprays to make the house smell clean. Try boiling some cinnamon on the stove for a nice welcome home smell. White vinegar on a rag and swing it in the air will remove smoke, pet odor and other unpleasant smells. Use baking soda on the carpet to remove smells, vacuum after about 30 minutes. This is a double help, the baking soda in the vacuum helps keep the cleaner smelling clean.

Do you know how to make your own cleaning supplies? If so share some of your tips. What do you like and can't live without?  How to you save money on things you cannot live without.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saving Myself into Debt

Yes, you read that correctly, saving myself into debt. Wanna know a bit more about what that means. Follow my day.

It's been a dark and stormy January day and I took the day to clean off my desk and clean out my email. I realized at the end of the day, my logic may have caused me more harm than savings. It started with a stack of mail on my desk. Letters and offers that I had put aside thinking I would take time to study them later. Today was later, so I first opened an offer from Southern Living magazine. You know the ones, last chance, we want you back so bad we will make this almost free with a savings of 86 percent. Makes you wonder how print stays in business with such deals.

I had decided not to spend any money on magazines until I was debt free. Sadly our local library closed down the magazine and newspaper area this year, so I can no longer go read for free. I caved. Just one magazine subscription will not break the bank. I wrote a check for two years, the max I could buy at the super discounted price.

My next letter, from a clothing store I frequent, had a nice 20 percent off all I purchased, ending, oh joy, today. No time to think about it, I knew there was a 80 percent off rack in the store, so really at 80 percent off already and another 20 percent with my letter, isn't that FREE? I made a mad dash to check out the mark down rack. Funny how nothing on the 80 percent off was anything anyone I knew needed or could wear, but that other rack, that 60 percent off one, was loaded. I ask my son John to hold shirts as I looked for all the shirts in his size. Okay, let's understand this, John has grown up in second hand clothing, and now that he is grown and stays the same size, I have been getting him new and better quality clothing. I did buy a bag of clothing for a low price, but it was only as I was hanging the new shirts in his closet that it hit me, I had not planned to spend any money until after I paid the taxes....I had not even written the check for the property tax yet....

I went back to my desk and opened my emails. I told myself I would simply delete every offer that popped up. Well who knew, my Avon lady is no longer selling Avon so I got a new representative. With that came a 10 dollar discount and free shipping if I spent 30 dollars. Hello, savings time again. This time I had it figured out. I had used swag bucks to buy pay pal dollars, and I could use them to pay Avon. FREE stuff! Well, not quite, I was short 4.76 in pay pal so that came out of the checking account, but hey, that was stuff I would have bought anyway. No, not really. Because many of the products I purchase were highly discounted, it took me buying things I did not need, or know if I would even like to make the full 30 dollar request. I realized that after I closed the sale.

I sat at my desk and noticed one more letter. A notice from Kroger that if I took out a credit card, and used it in the store, I could get points that I could use to save on gas or turn into cash. I though about it, in fact, I even wrote my name on the application before sanity hit. Wait, we don't use credit cards anymore. But if I did take it out and if I did pay it off as soon as I got back home, it would balance, right? Looking at my morning track record so far, I would say, no, it would only help me save my way into debt. Why? because I had already bought things just to score savings. If I had that card in my hand, how wild would I become in shopping to save up points to turn into cash. In doing so, odds are I would over spend and try and justify my actions.

Late afternoon mail brought me a great offer from Discover Cards. Yes, I still have it tucked away for safe keeping, though I don't use the card anymore. I guess they really, really want me back, they offered me 75 dollars each month that I charged 500 for the next 6 months. I shredded the offer before I could sign up to participate. Some days you just know when you are headed for deep water, and today was one of those days.

I am proud to be a penny pincher. What I really need to make sure I am, is a wise penny pincher. I need to remember that stores study our shopping habits and entice us spend more even in the name of savings. So here is to new shirts for John, lipstick for me and two years worth of Southern Living magazines...and yes..I did sit down and write out the property here it to broke for the rest of the month!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Judge Not, Someone is Watching You Too

Last week a friend of mine on facebook posted photos she had taken last summer of her little daughter. Nothing unusual about the photos, until you read her caption of "a home we will miss." The home was not her's but was in her neighborhood. It was a place where her daughter played and learned to ride her bike. It was bulldozed down as had been the houses on either side of it. I still did not catch on until I read a few of the post below the photos talking about how some of the neighbors were sad to see it go and how they did not know what would replace it. Sound like some property that was swept up in residential gone commercial or maybe an owner who was foreclosed on? Nope the house belonged to Elin Nordegren, also known as Tiger Woods ex-wife. Now you are thinking...what a waste of 12 million dollars!

I read a link to Yahoo about the home that someone posted so we could all learn about the house. The news story only told of when she bought it, well I knew that from my friends post and it told it had been bulldozed down. What I really enjoyed reading were the comments posted below. Nobody understood how she could do something so wasteful. Some thought she should have given it to St. Jude to auction off. Others thought she could have turned it into a home for the homeless. Ideas abound with what she should have done with her home. Even I sat there and wondered if it had been stripped and recycled. The copper wiring alone was worth a fortune. If you too are sitting here fuming about the waste of a home, stop it.

Everything is relative. It is easy for us to look at a person who bulldozed down a multimillion dollar home and call her crazy. It is easy to say what we would do with the same amount of cash. It is so easy to look at the wealth of others and just know if we had what they have, we would have it made. Truth is, someone is looking at you too.
In the last year I have heard more than once, "If we had your income, we wouldn't have a worry." Trust me, we are not rolling in dough. In fact, we are lower, lower middle class people. Yet for friends who had suffered extreme cut backs and job loss, our little life style has looked impressive. Did you ever think that no matter how low your income may be, someone has less than you? Did you know that often these people look at what you have, and do with what you have, and horror of horror's judge what they would do if they had your life.

Not all cases are the ones watching you thinking if I had what you have. Sometimes they are in a position to help you with a better work position or other life style advancement. They are watching how you handle what you have already. Case in point a life lesson from the last Sam Walton.

The name Walton today makes people think of the world wide mega retail store Walmart. Sam Walton was the founder. My husband was at one time a Walmart store manager. Yes, a long, long time ago when Walmart had less than 400 stores and Mr. Sam was a lowly newly minted millionaire. Back then stores had end of the year meetings. Management met in a resort, but things like catered dinners and endless streaming food buffets did not exist. Rather you got up, went over to McDonalds or another fast food place, and got your breakfast.

My husband and about 10 other men were in McDonalds ordering breakfast. Mr. Sam was right in the middle. He got up to the counter and ordered simply an egg mcmuffin and glass of water. One of the other managers who had just ordered a large breakfast platter and coffee ask him, "Is that all you want to eat?" Mr. Sam looked at the man, looked at the high price food he bought and said, "This is all I need, it's filling and affordable. If you can't watch how you spend your money, how can I trust you with my money?" What a big lesson, Mr.Sam knew how you respected what you already have, will effect how well you respect the things you gain. In this case Mr. Sam was trusting his money to others to manage. Judging from the way Walmart took off, I say he had a very good eye and carefully judged people on how they managed what was given to them.

Next time you are tempted to judge what you would do if you had the riches of another, stop, and think what you need to do with the riches you all ready have. As for Elin Nordegren, that house she bulldozed down, was so infected with termites she was advised to cut her losses and just rebuild rather than try to repair. And now you know, even millionaires make bad deals and have bad days.....