A changed – but familiar – world

I was thinking today about how much the world has changed in such a short span of time. There haven’t been many generation defining events in this country – the death of President Kennedy, 9/11 – but this is one. This virus will be remembered. My children will likely remember it as the year they got an unexpected vacation and didn’t have to take standardized tests. I will remember it as much more than that.

This self-imposed isolation, for many of us, hearkens back to the Depression and the World War 2 sacrifices that those on the home front experienced. IN a very small way, we are being called on to band together (in our separate homes) and do what is right for hte good of the nation and the world. Now, like then, there are shortages of needed supplies – food, masks, and especially toilet paper (which is inexplicable because it’s a respiratory illness, not a gastric one) – and ordinary citizens are being asked to pitch in and help make masks and sacrifice some of their comfort for the sake of the most vulnerable among us.

I am a student of the WW II home front. Now, as then, we need to start using up, wearing out, making do, or doing without. We can’t go grocery shopping like we used to. Even if we could, grocery shelves are bare more often than not. People are hoarding and trying to profit from misfortune, and it has ever been thus. But those of us who are trying to do our best to be mindful of others are finding ourselves without normalcy. Without access to our usual brands, to our usual pastimes, to our usual routines. This can be difficult to navigate.

As an introvert, I have a mountain of books and craft supplies to keep me occupied as well as movies and family to talk to. There are many who are’t so lucky. There are those who still have to go to work to make the country function, putting their own health on the line for those of us at risk. Doctors, grocery store employees, nurses, restaurant staff. Many of these people get paid the least and don’t have the professional protection that the rest of us do to stay home when they are sick or to care for those who are. Let’s try to be a little kinder to them than normal because they are what stand between us and a true dystopia.

Now is the time to figure out a DIY skill. Now is the time to use the good craft supplies. Now is the time to reach into the back of the closet, dust off your sewing machine and learn to make things. Create. Learn a new skill or language or dish to cook. Use this time to improve yourself in some way that will last beyond the self-imposed quarantine. If you are someone who has to work during this uncertain time, know that we are pulling together to help you. To make things easier on you and yours as much as we can, and to protect the vulnerable so that this ends sooner rather than later and much worse.

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My little garden

According to my husband I should be able to plant this weekend. He started building my little garden last weekend but fizzled out of momentum. I am excited, I have probably a dozen kinds of seeds – I got excited looking through the seed catalog and ordered everything I wanted to plant ever. That’s OK though, my little garden is not actually going to be that little so it will accommodate many of the varieties I want to plant. The plan is to build me an 8′ X 3′ raised garden bed. Not that small. My husband was going to build it 8′ X 4′ but remembered that I am short, with short arms, and he didn’t want me to have to bend and stretch to reach the plants in the middle of the bed. Isn’t he the best?

Most of the plants I have are salad greens and add-ins. I have tomatoes, not for salads because I don’t like raw tomatoes, but for pasta sauces and pizza sauce to can later in the year. I have micro greens, which I have never grown before. I wonder if I need to plant them later so they mature along with the lettuces and not before. I will figure that out pretty quickly I guess. I’ll plant a little test patch. I have lettuces galore and broccoli that can be grown until the frosts come. I have watermelon and peas to snack on right off the plant. (I never knew that peas were little balls of sweetness until I tried one right out of the pod a few years ago. Much better than the mush that comes out of a can!)

I am so excited to get things in the ground. I want to sit on the back porch and watch them grow. I want to weed and get my hands dirty. To feel the rich soil between my fingers and know that I am growing food for the family that is free from waxes and pesticides and harsh fertilizers. Truly organic gardening. I know that doesn’t make it any more nutritious than things I buy at the store, but it sure tastes better when I pick it out of the garden, bring it inside, and use it for dinner.

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Spring plans among the plague days

So, with the current world situation – corona virus running rampant – it makes sense to stay in. That’s good for your pocketbook and bad for your sense of adventure. I am an introvert, so I’ve been training for this my whole life. I have books and food and family and cats to keep me company.

With that comes a renewed desire to clean all the things. Just in case. It’s Spring; Spring cleaning time has come with renewed purpose this year. So, remember to use vinegar and baking soda instead of harsh, expensive cleaning products. I will be making my own laundry detergent and dishwasher tabs, cleaning my tub with a paste of baking soda and Dawn dish soap, and boiling herbs and spices to make my house smell good.

This Spring I have plans. I will hang laundry when possible (time is at a premium right now with school, work, job search, and family), garden every day, make soap when I can, and definitely can my own jam and any other thing I have a surplus of, if I can figure out how to do it. My mother bought me a pressure canner a couple of years ago and it hasn’t been out of the box yet. I am really looking forward to trying it out. Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, jam, tomato soup, carrots, anything and everything I can can, I will. That’s a lot of tomatoes in my list, isn’t it? I hope I get a bumper crop this year.

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Back to it – in a limited way

Here’s the deal…I’ve been out of the game for the past 4 years. I’m unused to writing for an audience and I’m unused to being green and thrifty anymore. I fell off the wagon hard. I was raised as a conspicuous consumer in the 1980s and it stuck. So, here I am back again, starting over.


I have a composter out in back of the house. I have stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs. My husband is building me a garden box (a big one) so that I can have fresh produce. I bought bamboo toothbrushes (love them!), and reusable produce bags for the market. I am starting where I am and doing what I can. I am also working full time and going to school nights and weekends to be an English teacher. Not a ton of time to make and craft and all of that. I did buy the ingredients for homemade laundry detergent and dishwasher tabs. Once we run out of the store bought, I’ll whip those up. They only take a minute and they work.


Things that aren’t working right now include hanging the laundry. I just don’t have the time. My son is doing some laundry for me and getting him to hang it is an exercise in futility. Also, we tend to do several loads one right after another on the weekend. I only have two racks. Only one load can get hung up at a time. So, dryer it is. We do recycle because there is curbside pickup. If we had to take it to the center, I don’t know that we would. My husband isn’t as onboard with all of this as I am and he would be the one to have to take it. It probably wouldn’t get done.


So, yeah, let’s talk about that. My husband is onboard only so far as it doesn’t inconvenience him too much. He pats me on the head and sends me on my way when it comes to environmentalism. He has agreed to at least try to eat whatever I put in front of him (he’s a naturally adventurous eater), but if he has to go out of his way to do something for the environment or if saving money impacts his ability to do things that he wants, he’s not for it. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just not interested. I know, it’s everyone’s business, but try convincing him of that. My kids are game for whatever as long as they don’t have to eat what I do. So, I do what I can within the confines of what’s acceptable to the family. It’s not as good as if they were all on board, but I am doing what I can.


That’s all any of us can do.

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Hello again

So, I’ve been out of the game for a good long while. I went right back to my spendthrift ways. But, just because I fell off the wagon (for 4 years) doesn’t meant he journey is over. I am back at it and this time I have some idea of what is worth my time and what is too much for the time and abilities I have.


Where have I been? Well, the job that I started 3 years ago gave way to another job in government a year ago. I am now in school to switch careers and become an English teacher while still working full time. My boys are 11 and 14 now and wonderfully weird. I managed to raise readers, which delights me to no end, and they are funny and kind and all the wonderful things that mothers believe about their sons. (except mine are all true) My husband is still rolling his eyes at my schemes to be green and thrifty while still enjoying shopping and eating out. I have to admit, sometimes I am eye-roll-worthy.


I have little to no time these days between school, work, and family (and some me time thrown in), but I am trying to do small things that don’t take much time or effort. For example, I got bamboo handled biodegradable toothbrushes. We needed to replace our brushes and these are actually cheaper than traditional plastic toothbrushes. And, we are using a little less plastic. Baby steps. I started composting again, too. Easy things that don’t take a lot of energy or time.


That’s my world right now. Lots of baby steps. Lots of incremental changes to take care of myself, my family, and the world around me. I look forward to writing more to keep me on track and going forward.

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Hello, hello!

I’ve been working and the housework has been slipping. We are letting it pile up until the weekends and it’s getting out of hand. Papers are piling up from the week, laundry is piling up (meaning that it’s getting dried instead of hung), and meal planning is gone. I have been sticking to our usual budget though, and we’re (slowly) getting a little saved. We are going to need quite a bit more in a short amount of time if we want to get the house ready to sell soon, but I’m working on it. That’s the other thing, it’s about time to start getting the house ready to sell. That means we can’t leave housework for the weekends as we are going to have to spend weekends packing and painting and finishing. Ugh!


Things are about to get very stressful.


Work is going well, I finished the first bit of school and did well. I’m off to the next bit soon, and then it’s a sprint to the finish for 6 months. Yikes! And the move will be right in the middle of that. It’s going to be rough. But, our family motto is (or should be), “We Shall Persevere!” And we shall.


Being green has been average. We are not doing as much as we used to, but we are still doing about as much as the average family. Lights off, recycling, setting the thermostat appropriately, that sort of thing. Not the greatest, but it’s nice to know that my efforts have paid off in the habits that I acquired.


Thrifty. Well, thrifty is a little harder. Like I said, I’ve been sticking to our regular budget, but I should be reducing it to get to the totals we need to put new carpet in the house and still have money to pay the kids’ tuition. This is the last year that they’re going to private school, so that’s nice at least. We are moving to a better school district so that they can go to public school. It’s going to be a big change for them, but they’ll adjust. Anyway, I have been online window shopping for the new house. So far, replacing every stick of furniture in the house with my dream stuff is only going to cost $22,000!  A bargain! The problem is, wish listing a $3,500 bedroom set makes it a lot easier to spend $30 on something stupid in real life. We haven’t been doing too poorly, but I do need to step up our saving efforts. Shopping from lists and meal planning is going to be key going forward. Planned left overs will be another thing that needs to happen. That way we can bring good, filling food for lunches the next day. We have both been going out to lunch more often than is good for our wallets or our waistlines.


Overall, we aren’t doing too badly. The biggest challenge is housework right now. So, I’m off to do laundry, bye!

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Beautiful chaos

I’ve been working for two months now and it’s been actually pretty great. I’m learning new things and meeting new people. This feels like a place I can stay for a good, long while (provided I pass the school!). It is, as is always the case with a new job, a bit intimidating sometimes but, overall, it’s good.


We have picked out the cabinets, carpets, tile, audio/visual hookups, and hardwood floors for the new house. It’s super exciting and I am so very happy with how it’s all going to look. Since it’s a new construction and we aren’t looking to close until March, they won’t break ground for another couple of months. Right now we’re saving money for new carpets for the house we’re in now, and starting to look around with an eye to how we’re going to stage the place. We’re going to put it up for sale in February, hopefully. I just can’t even begin to tell you how anxious I am that we can’t really get started doing that stuff yet. I can start packing a few boxes here and there, but the actual staging and carpet and all won’t come for at least another couple of months.


Our kitten is growing into a beautiful, super soft, little girl. She’s about 6 months old now. She isn’t much for being pet, but she likes to be around us. She has taken to a fuzzy blanket that I tend to wrap myself in while I’m on the couch, and kneads at it for comfort. The old man of the house (our older cat, Dasher), has taken to Hubby these days. I think he feels that I’ve betrayed him. Hubby has taken to him too though, and they’ve formed something of a testosterone alliance over on the other couch. And, miracles do happen! We discovered the wonders of a self-cleaning litter box! Somewhat expensive, but worth every penny. We love the thing. We got one that allows us to use our own litter, so the cats took to it right away. Soooo much easier!


Older Boy just turned 11. It’s not every day your young man turns 11. He wanted a party at the roller skating rink for just a very few close friends, thereby thwarting my grand plans for a Harry Potter party. Ah, well. There’s always the other one, right?




So many things are a work in progress right now. The house, my weight, adjusting to being a working mother, learning how to not buy all the things when I finally do go grocery shopping on the weekends. Being green, and being thrifty. That’s evolving, too. I don’t have time to do some of the things I used to, and others I was never very good at to begin with. I’m working on redefining those terms to fit into the life I’m starting now.


And, to top it all off, I just started eating meat again. It’s very strange, and I’m not used to it yet. I realized that vegetarian was turning into all carbohydrates, all the time for me. There just aren’t that many veggies that I like. Not enough to make meals out of. Also, my body, I think, has started feeding on itself to get the protein that it needs to function. Not only wasn’t I eating veggies, I wasn’t getting enough protein. It’s actually pretty easy to get enough, most Americans eat way more than is necessary, but I recorded it for a while and I wasn’t getting enough. I can’t eat beans at every meal, and I can’t stand the taste of soy. I am still minimizing the amount that I eat, but I’m adding in eggs and dairy again in a more significant way, and eating chicken about once a week.


My life is a work in progress right now, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a really long time.

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We found it

I am super anxious about the new job. I start on Monday and I’m positively worked up into a frenzy about it. It’s a huge change for me since I haven’t had a chance at a career in over 15 years. To alleviate that stress, I’ve been obsessing about a few things. One of which was the new construction houses that we were going to look at. I have been running numbers (my favorite stress reliever) like crazy for a week and a half. I have been looking at houses for a few months and seeing what was out there. The idea for new construction was a new one, but I immediately started poring over floor plans in an effort to see what was out there, and what kind of things we wanted or were deal breakers. My real estate agent sent me a list of the places she wanted to take us to visit and I immediately started scrutinizing the plans for those developments.


We found one. We saw several houses that I had specifically picked out as having everything we wanted. The last house was the one. It is in a spectacular location, we will not be the most expensive house in the area (by a long shot), the lot is a good size – there will be room for the kids to play – and it literally has everything we’ve ever dreamed of in a home. We sat down with the guy from the builders and looked at what upgrades we might want and what that would do to the price of the home. We got an idea of what we would qualify for, and what lot we wanted. Basically we went through most of the process with him, and we can afford it. There will be a couple of lean months while the kids are still in school, but Hubby is going to work overtime in the next several months to give us the savings we need to get through it. I ran more numbers this morning, the most pessimistic I could be (interest rates go up half a point, we add another $75 a month to the mortgage payment on top of that), and we can do it.


I called Sandy Stokes (ERA realty, Hampton Roads), our incredible real estate agent, and set the wheels in motion. We slept on it and we both adore the home, the area, and the lot that we’ve chosen. Even my skeptical Hubby is convinced. I am freaking out a tad right now because we are about to sign papers to have our dream home built just for us. It’s surreal. It’s so much money! But, we won’t close on the place until next April or so, and the first payment won’t be due until May. That leaves two months until the kids get out of school. Even assuming the house that we’re in now doesn’t sell by then, we could still afford the mortgage once my income isn’t going towards tuition anymore.


It drives my husband nuts that I am always telling him we are broke. Generally we have a ton of money going towards savings or debt, so we don’t have huge amounts to just throw around. When we get down to about $200 in checking for the next week, I start telling him we are broke. Running the numbers for this house has shown him just how not broke we are. It was eye opening for him. He hasn’t done the finances in a decade and really has no idea where the money goes or how much we have. All he knows is that I keep telling him we’re broke every pay period. Lol! Now he’s wondering why he doesn’t get to spend more money! Poor man. But, for the foreseeable future, we are going to be tight, with everything going towards savings again. He’ll catch a break eventually, but it won’t be for another seven months or so.


We already know that we are going to be living in a half-furnished house for a while. We’re not going to rush out and buy all new everything (except a refrigerator, we’re going to need one of those), so we’re going to have to get by without furnishing a couple of rooms. We’re not immediately going to get a dining set for the dining room. One of the bedrooms won’t have anything in it. That’s OK though. As time goes on it will be fun picking out the perfect pieces to go in each room and know that we aren’t going into any more debt to do it.


I am super excited. I’m sorry this was such a long one!

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Feeling better having gotten that off my chest yesterday. It has been weighing on me. But, at 40 years old, it’s time to embrace who you are. I am not a green and thrifty girl except when I need to be. I will always be interested in personal finance and thrift though. I am a thrift store kind of gal after all, I just like to buy a lot when I’m there. Here lately, and for the foreseeable future, I will be a thrifty girl so that I can save for the house. Then so that we can get the debt paid off. We’ll get the car and the house paid off early, never fear, I just won’t kill us to do it.


I have deleted the Amazon app from my tablet. That should help with the lazy shopping. No more books unless I buy with a credit that I’ve gotten from trading. I won’t be following that meal plan anymore, I’ll be making up my own. That shopping trip was insane and I don’t ever want to repeat it. (I mean, I knew I had a lot, but it was over $400!!!! Never again!) I am trying to keep my grocery trips to once a week, and less than $100. Meat is expensive, but I am usually pretty close. No more junk food. The boys are going to buy their own if they want it. They’ve been bringing a dollar from their allowance to summer camp so they can get treats from the vending machine. I’m cool with that. We have some treats at the house, but chips and such are going to be rare. Whole foods prepared at home is what we’re getting from now on.


I won’t have time for much more than basic meal planning and quick dinners starting next week. That’s when I start work. The upside of that is #1: I’ll have a job!!!! and #2: there won’t be time for me to shop for sport, so we should save money. I’m going to pack my lunches every day, and so does Hubby already. I think it’ll be good for me to get out of my own head finally. I’ve been out of the workforce for 15 years now and, for the last several, have been going quietly more and more nutso. It’ll be nice to have something to focus on besides my own belly button during the day while the kids are at school. And, it’s a complex job, so it’ll be interesting.


Life is going to get different now and I think it’s going to be a good different. I think we’ll be able to save money in a big way, and I think we’ll all be happier once things shake down.

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In what feels like a betrayal of everything I’ve tried to be the last couple of years, I realized the other night that I truly am a child of the 80’s. I want the big house with the nice car. I want what I want, when I want it. Looking at houses in nice neighborhoods in good school districts made me realize that we are going to have to spend a good deal of money to get into those schools. Looking at the houses and figuring out how much we can afford has reawakened the greedy in me. I want the kind of house I grew up in in the 80’s; a big house in a nice neighborhood. I want it without all the other debt in our lives though.


We have the minivan with its loan. We are going to have a huge mortgage no matter what we do, for the neighborhoods that we want (the ones that feed into good schools). We are going to have debt. But, we are also going to be able to pay off that debt. I know I said we were going to do that right now but, if we are going the new construction route and buying in six or seven months, all of the money that was going to go to the debt is going to get thrown into savings for closing costs.


Really though, I am just realizing that, despite my best efforts, I am plenty materialistic. I said as much to Hubby and he said, “Yeah. I’ve known that for years.” Well, heck. I hoard books. (although, it’s not hoarding if it’s books – it’s a library!) I buy things all the time. I’ve gotten better about not shopping as a sport, but I still overspend on things all the time, groceries is just the most recent example. I like shopping. I like buying things.


I feel like I’ve betrayed you all. While I’ve tried to be green and thrifty, really I’ve just been failing all over the place. I am neither green, nor thrifty most of the time. I shall keep trying, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever be anything but materialistic at heart. We are going to buy the big house, we already have the nice car, we have two kids, two cats, and a dog. We have the traditional American Dream. While I don’t really care what the Joneses have, I want what I had, for my kids. They’ll grow up in a neighborhood where we can let them play out front with the dog to look after them, without having to worry so much about them. They’ll have kids their own age to play with (they don’t here), and they’ll go to school with them. Right now their friends are scattered all over the city because they don’t go to a neighborhood school.


Really, don’t we all want that? A nice house, a good school, a reliable car, and a safe neighborhood? Hubby and I had talked about a smaller house in a place with more land, but then I saw this one and we both fell in love. The location of this neighborhood is right where we want as well. It’s not out in the country, away from everything, it’s actually right in the middle between his parent’s house and his sister’s.


Listen to me trying to justify my materialism. I’m Madonna in the 80’s. There’s no getting around it, I have been trying for at least the past couple of years. I will keep trying, too. I want to save up enough to move in six months. We will be employing our best thrifty moves for the next little while. It’s hard for me to see it as anything but temporary though. Just until we move. Just until the credit card is paid off. Just until whatever. Then I get to go back to spending whatever I want (as long as it doesn’t get us back in debt).


I’m 40 years old and I have no willpower. Is there any hope for me to ever truly conquer this? And do I even want to? UGH!

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