Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ok. So I hope no one is panicking over all the talk about our being in a recession.

As for me, instead of panicking, I am brushing up on my saving money skills... and having fun! The pioneer woman inside me jumps out and takes over at rough times like these.

I like her. She looks at high prices and dire predictions as challenges, not as doom and gloom problems. She's tough. She's no cry baby. No, she's a warrior and she's determined to make tons of lemonade with any lemons she is given.

So in this post I'll be gathering websites with lots of helpful hints to encourage the pioneer inside you to leap to the forefront and make herself/himself known.

And what is the number one helpful hint as I see it? Never stop giving to others--and usually holding back is the first temptation in rough times. We will reap what we sow... so sow lots and lots and lots of good seeds and you'll keep reaping no matter what else is happening.

(Check back here later, too, because I'll be adding to this list throughout the day.)

Household Tips and Other Good Ideas

Saving Around The Home

32 Ways to Save When Grocery Shopping
"Give and it shall be given unto you..."
"Whatever a man sows, that also will he reap..."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

So I hiked the half-mile (or so) to our supermarket this morning, even had to wear my black wool winter coat because we have returned to freezing temps (boo). 

Standing with my cart near the potatoes, a former neighbor from my old neighborhood (she moved away two years ago and lives very near the supermarket where I chat with her at times), greeted me with her sweet, elderly smile.

And then she asked if I'd heard that Nancy, our next-door neighbor of 15 years, passed away last week. I said, no, I'd not heard, but I'd known she was ill and staying with her daughter's family.

Sigh. Nancy was 82. I wrote about her here in my blog months ago (you may recall), when we chatted outside her house and my back began to ache but Nancy, ever the trooper and incredible woman, seemed fine.

You come across some people in your life who you are so grateful that you met. Nancy is one of those people. 

I would call Nancy a character--not the wild and crazy kind--but the unique, hardly-make-them-like-that-anymore kind. She was the first to bring people soup if they were ill and she'd run errands for anyone who asked. She was on all sorts of church committees, the kind where people actually help others, not just discuss it. She was known for aiding and comforting hundreds in our community.

When we first moved in, Nancy said to be sure to use her clothesline anytime I wished--she'd get a tad miffed, I noticed later, if I didn't use it very often (she knew I didn't have a dryer by choice). "Haven't seen you hang clothes on the line lately?" she'd say.

Nancy was very different than me--about a million times more outgoing, vocal and self-sacrificing. I learned much from her,things like loosening-up and not fearing being who I really am. She spoke to all our neighbors and kept track of their comings and goings and could recite the neighborhood's history from the last 40 years.

But I think the greatest lesson I learned from Nancy is that you don't have to be perfect in order to be loved and respected by everyone. Nancy had her faults and we differed greatly in our Christian beliefs, but I still always felt that she was one of the most amazing, fun-to-be-with people I've ever met. Or ever will meet.

Nancy taught me to step outside my comfortable box where everyone believes and acts just as I do--and instead, seek out those who are different. Learning and compassion happen outside that (fear-based) box!

I'll always be grateful that Nancy taught me that.


"Love seeks not her own..." ... from I Corinthians 13


Sunday, April 27, 2008

So yesterday was Tom's birthday. Fifty-one years old! I keep teasing him about receiving all the AARP magazines and mail.

I'd better stop, for next year is my year. Sigh.

Anyway, our day was marvelous. Gorgeous weather and green trees, even, and we went to a few yard sales then drove the country route to the next-town-over and had lunch at a buffet place. We did some window shopping afterward then drove over to our favorite whisk-you-back-to-the-1940's movie theater, where (as their motto says) every seat is only $3.50.

And well, some of you will think this odd, but we watched separate movies. I know, I know... but Tom has hankered for months to see 10,000 B.C. and I've told him for months I'd rather chew-glass-while-watching-paint-dry-and-couldn't-he-watch-something-else-which-wouldn't-give-me-nightmares? But no, he still wanted B.C. so that's what he saw while I watched Vantage Point, a movie I'd wanted to see for months.

Tom was sitting in the lobby when I came out of my movie and I bubbled all over about how heart-pumping Vantage Point was and didn't he want to see it at the next showing? He smiled and said he'd consider it, but first, how about if we drove to the SPCA and looked at their dogs, you know, for future reference for the someday dog we will have on our tiny farm.

I agreed that would be fun so that's what we did... drove along the country road all gorgeous in the middle of its greening and stopped at the SPCA where they even had contented white roosters and ducks wandering outside. But inside they had just two dogs for adoption, which surprised us. We patted them through the cage doors (well, you couldn't get me near the huge black horse-like thing with a bark which shook the room, but Tom touched him). The other dog was a curly little guy named Buddy who jumped and whirled around like they'd poured coffee in his dish.

Then we hopped back in the car and back to the theater where we saw (again, for me) Vantage Point, which Tom loved as I knew he would and I enjoyed it for the second time. We both remarked how quickly the movie zoomed by--it seemed to last less than an hour, so fast-paced and interesting, it was.

We chatted about it on the way home and the rest of the evening was sweet, as well. One of those nights where I stayed up late and snuggled into the couch to fall asleep so to make the whole day last longer.

We have been married nearly 30 years and still I am amazed at the fun Tom and I have together. And not just on special days, either. I had that same thought this week when he came home from work and I carried his dinner to the living room, hurrying because we were window-shopping online for something for our new house. I can't even recall what it was, I only remember feeling so happy with this man sitting beside me.

And isn't that what matters most?
"The greatest of these is love..." ... from I Corinthians 13

Thursday, April 24, 2008

For many years this is what I've thought, "For us homemakers, in some future year, our day will come. Something will happen which will make people seek our advice about how we can afford to stay home, without real jobs, and save money."

I think That Day just may be here.

You know, with the price of gas and groceries zooming ever upward, each day now I see money-saving advice from 'experts' on tv, online and magazines. Everyone, everywhere, is moaning about the high price of gas and food and how they must cut back in other areas in order to afford to drive and even, to eat.

Actually, as I see it? Cutting back can be an amazingly good thing. It reminds us of what truly matters and what we actually need.

Do we really need the high priced cable tv package? Or the house which, technically, could accommodate 12 people?  The gym membership, the trips to fast food places (or restaurants), the designer clothes, designer shoes, designer purses?

Well, do we? :)

I'll let you answer that for yourself. But as for me and my hubby, we will ask ourselves questions before we buy things. Questions like, "Could this wait until we can pay cash? Could we buy it used, instead? Do we already have something around the house we could use? Could we make/create/build one, ourselves?" Etc.

Well, you get the idea. Tom and I have gotten rid of much of the "fluff" of our lives, the extra stuff. I would say we've tossed the "luxury items", but you know? I believe the real luxury is living within our means and being wonderfully creative with our necessities.
Discovering how little it takes to live comfortably (as opposed to how much).

As they say, "Necessity is the mother of all invention." And to me, that is one awesome invitation to a fun, imaginative life.


"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." ... Proverbs 31:20,25


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So I watched Oprah today as usual (I know that unnerves some of you. Deal with it...:) and I loved the whole "What would you do?" thing. Only the past few years have I been fascinated by watching human nature. Why only recently? Because earlier I'd get all hot and bothered if people didn't act as I thought they should. You know, if they didn't act like I would.

Oh brother.

Anyway, as I said, I enjoyed the whole Oprah episode today except for one part which shook me up and made me cry. It was the scene where the guy behind the pastry counter (an actor) refused to serve the young Indian/Muslim woman (also an actor) because of her heritage and 'not being and dressing like an American...' ... and how some customers actually agreed that this was acceptable behavior.

Oh. My. Goodness. We all have at least one pet peeve which sets us off, makes us irate and shakes us up more than any other. And well, bigotry and prejudice is (are) mine. Whenever I watch film of people treating others unfairly and unjustly based upon their race (especially), it's as though suddenly an egg beater whirs somewhere inside my head and heart, making me actually tremble and weep.

I am not an overly-emotional person. Honest, I'm not. But oh my, prejudice makes me irate and turns me into a shaken, teary mess... and thoughtful for hours.

I watched the reactions of people in all of the 'experiments' and I liked to think that, in the same situations, I'd have spoken up in defence of those being mistreated. The old Debra would probably have been too shy. The new Debra? Well, she can go either way... and that's what irks me as I said in my last post. You know, with those occasional vestiges of leftover shyness. But after seeing the program today you can bet I'll be more watchful... and more prayerful that I'll be ready--in season and out-- to defend those who are being mistreated.

For they're out there, everywhere, I know. And I want always to live ready to speak up for the mistreated whenever they cross my path in everyday Life.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Speaking of changes in my life--

I guess it started when we'd drive by certain 'Mom and Pop' shops and diners one day, then the following week, the place would be empty. We'd peek in front windows and see only trash, a depressing kind of emptiness and the occasional Out of Business sign upon the door.

I don't know about where you live, but here, that happens a lot. 

And after beholding these sad collapses of people's dreams and livelihoods, we felt strong conviction to do something. And so, instead of always driving straight to the cheapest (being recovering penny-pinchers), fastest place to eat, we began seeking out the few remaining Mom and Pop diners. You know, to do our share in the great cause of keeping these old-fashioned places in business for just one more day.

And that has made all the difference.

Because of this, we've discovered the quaintest eateries and shops, places whisking us back 70 years. We've been given opportunities to experience, first-hand, how it must have felt to eat at diners in the 1930's or 40's or 50's, something akin to walking inside our dusty, worn books written about such times and events.

People say time travel is impossible, but Tom and I discovered a loophole. 

Just yesterday we visited our favorite 1950's drive-in and at our outdoor table overlooking a tucked-away river I immediately relaxed beyond belief--and felt such joy. Tom had dropped me off the two previous hours at a supermarket and a Target store and after weaving through noisy masses of humanity (on a Saturday afternoon. What was I thinking?), I felt frazzled and knew I am so not a city girl. But that 1950's style diner reminded me of who I really am (an incurable old-time quiet soul).

And it was through our adventure of searching out--and rescuing-- the quaint, privately-owned places that we found this favorite outdoor diner. We wanted to bless others and others have blessed us with old-fashioned-ness.

God arranges things like that. He is so good. 


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Still here! Just doing what I tell all of you not to do.

I've been so unbalanced with this buying a farmhouse thing. The whole place is decorated inside my head and our yearly project list is detailed till the year 2018. heh.

Can you believe how quickly time races by? How odd that age 17 still feels as close as last week inside my mind and I can hear, feel and see all the details of my hundreds of walks to school. 

What a dream world I strolled around in. With my textbooks in the crook of my arm I'd hum favorite show tunes from musicals like Carousel, Cinderella (remember the Leslie Ann Warren one?) and The Sound of Music. I was headed down sidewalks to school, but I may as well been dancing on a green hillside, for all the dreams coating my brain.

And now on my birthday next year I will turn half a century. Fifty! Good grief.

Yet during these empty nest years? I've felt like a teenager again, only in a better, wiser, more confident way. Gone is the extreme insecurity (what will everyone else think?), the angst, and the moodiness (well, sometimes the premenopausal stuff surges, but usually not for long, especially if I eat right). I awake with a song in my head each morning, though I don't find myself humming during my walks. Well, not yet, but who knows?

And now June may find me feeling more like a teenager than ever. Why? Because ever since I was 14 (or so) I've wanted to live inside an 1800's farmhouse on a few acres. And already I'm anticipating the freedom I will know out there. Finally, in the mornings I can step outside in my robe if I wish without neighbors only feet away peering at me from their windows (or without me imagining they are).

A whole new sense of grace awaits me out there. A new life, even now at this half century mark. Wow.


"There is no growth without change." ... copied

Sunday, April 13, 2008

There is such grace on this whole farmhouse thing.

We met with the inspector yesterday (and the current owner) and at the end of the inspection he said it was a good, solid house, one which would be standing long after all of us were gone. Oh, there were tiny problems here and there, but overall Our House (as we've begun calling it) passed all its important tests. Whew.

After those two hours, Tom and I drove around our tiny new town then stopped for lunch at the niftiest place called ____ 's Malt Shoppe. Oh my goodness. Inside an old 1800's building, the wooden floors were ancient, the decor was in red and white and 1950's music played the whole time. Could this farming town in the middle of nowhere be more perfect? I don't think so.

Your eyes would pop at the many 1800's farm houses scattered all around the quiet farmland surrounding the town. Gorgeous, huge places standing alone or within groves of trees. I'm beyond grateful that we missed this corner of the countryside these 15 years during our drives--the discovery of it all feels so new, fresh and unexplored--

--and as though we have years of adventures before us. In fact, if I choose to write my autobiography, this portion of the book would be titled, The Middle Years. The Country Years.

Has a pleasant ring to it, I think.

Tom and I will not only be living in a different house, but living a whole other way. We want to become more self-sufficient--the huge garden space appears ready to be seeded (the owner said it does so well, and the loam is so deep and rockless, that she has a hard time keeping-up). And I'm hoping to freeze and can what I grow. We may get a dog, we're considering a couple goats. We want to accommodate guests easily and --

Oh my! This life change can't come soon enough and I do hope June will arrive faster this year than she ever has before.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hooray! Tom is home from his Dallas trip. And although we've been married nearly thirty years, when he walked toward me at the airport my heart did a flip.

And guess where we get to go this morning? Out to the (hopefully) soon-to-be-ours farmhouse. I can't wait! Before the inspector arrives, we'll cruise the tiny town to see if we missed anything, like perhaps, a real supermarket. heh. All we've so far seen is an old, small general store type of thing which was incredibly old-fashioned inside, but had limited groceries. But hey--if that's all this middle-of-nowhere country town has, then I will deal with it and be thankful. (And become more organized with my trips to town.)

Oh, and this week I looked-up that town's online library catalog and --get this-- they had no Miss Read books! And guess who gave away half of her Miss Read collection when she moved because she assumed Miss Read would grace any library on Earth?

Debra, never assume anything. Sheesh.

Oh well, I'm not going to complain. Why? Because complainers get on my nerves. They make me insane--their caustic, hopeless attitudes make me want to race away. And so, of course, I cannot run from myself--I would still find myself wherever I went.  ツ

My favorite people are those who could legitimately complain about their hardships, but they choose not to. They find solutions and ways around their problems, instead. They create new, amazing ways to live and be and do. And they move ahead--in gladness.

And well, of course, I could request Miss Read books through the inter-library loan system--and I probably will. But I'm also considering buying some of the books for the tiny library in our new town so that others can discover Fairacre and Thrush Green. To me, that sounds more constructive, more inspired, than just complaining about the present lack.

Of course, I'll probably have to purchase the books in large type. These poor old eyes just aren't what they once were. But rather than complain about it, I'll just grab my cheapo reading glasses from Dollar Tree, attach them to my face--and be happy.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

I was thinking last week how I avoid my controversial side in this blog. And believe me, I've got some ultra-controversial thoughts inside me. Sometimes I think, "Shouldn't I share that side of me in my blog,too?" Other times I already know what could happen--half of you could shake your head with pity then click away, never to return.

I know how Christians can be. I've been one for 37 years. And well, like I said, I know how we all can be.

But today I will be bold and tell you a controversial thing which will lead up to a very simple story which will ruffle no feathers. So don't click away too early, all right?

Back when I was 22, Tom and I were attending a charismatic church, one very different than the kind I'd grown up in. And at 22, I was a mother of a baby, a happy wife and all excited about God and Life. And in the midst of all that, one day it was as though I heard God clearly say (but not out loud), "Debra, always stay ready to raise the dead."

Really. I truly think that's what He told me in that special non-verbal, just-in-your-gut way. And I've never forgotten it. In fact (now this is where you might just run away, screaming), sometimes when I hear on the news that someone young has passed away, my first thought will be, "Well, why didn't someone just raise her from the dead?" Then I think, "Oh yeah. Probably nobody thought about it."

Just sometimes I think that, ok? Not all the time. Hey...

Anyway....... Here's the simple story part. Today the two young boys who live in the apartment behind us came home from school to discover their mom not home. I could hear them trying to open their door and after awhile, they knocked at our door. One boy asked if he could use our phone and I said sure, then invited him in and handed the phone to him. He called his mom and right away asked her, "Mom, where are you?"

Basically, that tore my heart out. He didn't sound scared, exactly, but rather tired and sad about being forgotten.

I've said a lot of prayers for that family. I know it's incredibly hard to be a single mom, but when she yells horrid things at her three kids, things I would rather die than say to a child, well, I pray harder and keep my eyes open to ways to ease her stress.

But I'm so not good at that. It comes so easily to some people, but I'm just rather hopeless in that 'helps area' unless God gives me a specific idea (usually with a little shove, too, what with the occasional leftover Curse of Shyness I lived under for years).

So the young boy (he's around 11) left and I just felt sad and tried not to think unkind thoughts about his mom, since unkind thoughts help no one. And then I thought oh! I wish I had some cookies or cake to offer those boys. But as usual there were none because I have no will power, especially when I'm alone as I have been this week, so I don't keep them in the cupboards as a temptation (because I always give-in).

But I glanced around and saw that I had two oranges in the fruit bowl and so--after pushing aside some shyness and ridiculous reasoning, I grabbed the oranges and a bag and took the oranges and gave them to the boys, saying they could eat them while they wait for their mom and that I wished I had cookies or cake to offer them.

They thanked me then I came inside and all these 27 years later, this is what I heard God say, "Debra, always stay ready to help the neighbor children."

And I smiled and thought, "Yes, I can do that. But only with Your help, because it will require a miracle for me to keep desserts in the cupboard. :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

So I've been hearing that I'm not the only person on the planet who's been having trouble sleeping.

Sheesh. I'm hoping sleeplessness is just a premenopausal thing and that someday soon it will all go away. (Pul-ease?)

But in the meantime I'll tell you the list of what I must do/not do in order to sleep well, many ideas which I've read here and there. Not that I consistently do all of these! Some days I just say, "Oh phooey. Who needs sleep anyway?," and then go and act like I'm 20 again and eat and do what I feel like. And pay for it. sigh.

But to get a good night's sleep, my list is still growing and if it helps any of you to sleep better, well, I'll be content (and perhaps sleep a bit better, myself):

Here's what I attempt for a good night's sleep:

1. Avoid chocolate, desserts and caffeine after 11 (or so) in the morning. (I know. Like anyone can do that?)
2. Avoid eating a meal within 4 hours of bedtime.
3. Take a calcium, magnesium and zinc pill before bedtime. Also a melatonin pill, smallest dosage. A krill oil pill, also. I call these my sleeping pills.
4. Avoid exercising a few hours before sleeping. But exercise and work hard enough--earlier--to make yourself tired.
5. Avoid eating most fruits before retiring for the night.
6. Eat a tiny amount of protein before bed, such as, a bit of peanut butter.
7. Drink a quarter cup of grape juice (or eat a few grapes or bites of banana) a half-hour, or so, before bed. Try to avoid drinking other liquids a couple hours before sleeping.
8. Wear comfortable, cool (or warm) clothing.
9. Leave a window partially open in the bedroom for air for humidity.
10. Make sure the room is completely dark.
11. Run a small fan to block outside noise.
12. Don't go to bed too early. Don't go to bed too late.

Sigh. This is what I mean by becoming more high-maintenance the older I get. And this is just in one area! I have other lists, trust me. ツ


Monday, April 07, 2008

So Tom is away on a short, rare business trip and I'm here at home with unaccustomed weekday use of our car and Tom's company's laptop computer, even.

It's always quite nice at first, this being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. 

You know, getting out of bed in the mornings only when I choose, no nagging alarm blaring. Leaving as I wish, either in the car or walking until my stamina, not my schedule, calls me back . Choosing to eat homemade blueberry ice cream solely for lunch or having spaghetti delivered for dinner (or skipping it altogether and ignoring the dishes in the sink). Reading library books all afternoon then falling asleep at night in Tom's recliner with the t.v. remote (mine! all mine!) in my hot , tiny hand.

But that kind of living--for me, anyway--always becomes old, fast. Getting whatever we want, living for one's self? For most of us, it eventually loses flavor sooner than we fantasized. Our way. There's a deceptiveness about always getting one's way--it never leads quite to the Wonderland you imagined.

I prefer to wait for God to give me things. 

His gifts never make me sick of stuff or to my stomach. His presents are sweet and always come on time--His. He knows my desires and how many of them I can handle at once (and won't tire of 2 weeks from now).

Well, you know.

So I'll rest a little, then give something to others. Relax a bit, then work. I'll respect that ebb and flow, keep sowing good seeds and end each day with a happy tiredness and hands wide open for those special gifts from Heaven. The best ones, the ones which flutter down, always on the perfect day.


An overdose of peace and quiet might just lead to a loneliness with loud echoes.


So guess who arose at 4 o'clock this morning to take her hubby to the airport for a business trip? Yawn. Yes, Debra. What a lovely drive home, though, (the long, non-thruway way, of course). Classical music adding mystery to the dark streets--and almost no traffic out there at 5:30!

I love knowing I can find my way home from most areas of Buffalo and all areas of Niagara Falls. For this rather chicken driver, that's HUGE.

And though I've done my share of complaining about our weather, well, there's just something about surviving another Buffalo winter--a sort of pioneer kind of pride about it. I remember one winter in Nevada when we had almost no snow and scant freezing weather and well--for the year's remainder--my world slanted on its axis. Inside of me, something felt all wrong because we'd experienced no winter harshness.

You never worry about that happening when you live in Buffalo. ツ

April! I always breathe easier and more deeply when April arrives and snow storms are less likely. All this week we're due for sunny 50, even 60 degree days. Yessss!  I shall glimpse robins soon and the trees will someday turn green again. How marvelous, the promise of Spring.

If I had nothing else to celebrate, April would be enough. 

But I thank God that I--and all the rest of us--have so much more to sing, laugh and skip around about.


Oh! I appreciate all your congrats so much. Thank-you!


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Eeks! Absent from Blogland again. Good ol' Debra, instead, has been flaking off and well, drum roll........... she's been buying a farmhouse!

Yes, Tom and I have decided to 'go for it.' 

To seek to buy the farmhouse I told you about, and the owners have accepted our offer. I don't know if it's kosher to say for how much, but since it's my blog I'll tell you-- the settled price is $84,500. For a house, a barn, fruit trees, a garden and 3.8 beautiful country acres. What a blessing from God to find this--and that's why I'm sharing it with you.

We contacted our real estate agent, Cher, who sold our last house for us. It would be impossible for there to be a more reliable, trustworthy agent on Earth. (I mentioned similar words to her while Tom and I signed piles of papers and by the emotion in her voice, I saw she felt blessed. I love touching people with sincere words.) 

Our offer is contingent upon the results of the inspection so we won't know for absolute certain about all this for ten days, or so. But everything looks and feels, well, amazing.

In fact, within my head, I'm already living inside that farmhouse. I've painted every wall soft Easter shades of blue or green and nearly all the furniture and knick-knacks are variances of white. I take my walks outside and see countryside, not suburbs.
(Insert Twilight Zone music here.)

Anyway, so now you know what I've been up to. That, and making all sorts of lists with Tom about stuff we'll need to buy or do before this next winter--rather complicated, it appears, to live a simple country life! And I remind him (the family worry-wart) that if this truly is God's idea, then He will work out all the myriad details. All that remains is for us to cooperate with Him each slow step--and not to run ahead in impatience or cower in corners of worry.

And may I remember that in the days ahead, as well.


I loved all your comments to my last post, appreciated your own stories so much!