Archive for the ‘smart shopping’ Category

How can I ever Thank You?

Am I the only person who thinks a gesture deserves thanks? What about a full-fledged gift? What about the time to shop for the gift, the money to purchase the gift, wrap the gift, package the gift, and ship the gift? Does that deserve something in the line of ‘thanks’ or am I being too old-fashioned and stodgy?
People I dearly love are aggravating me. They do not know they should take the time to write me a note, acknowledging my time, my money (I am on social security), and my love.
I feel hurt. I feel dismissed. Are they taking advantage of me? Yet I am the one hoping that someone appreciates the gift that I shopped for, selected, wrapped and shipped. So, am I nuts?
My peers raised the kids in question. People just like my parents raised them. People just like me raised them. Except they do not thank you. “Thank you for taking time out of your life to shop for me, to spend money on me, to spend your valuable time on me, to go to the post office for me, to wrap gifts for me”. Nope. Absolutely nothing.
I sent 6 gifts last year. One cost over $100 to ship. Nothing. I sent a gift card to a youngster. $45.00. Nothing. I wrote. I sent toys. Nothing. One of my favorite relatives said she had been too busy to thank me. This, after I inquired if the huge box had been received. It had been 3 weeks. Yet, nothing more. Still no note.
Another said she had been busy and was ‘behind on thank you notes’. Uh huh. That set of gifts cost me about $65. That was Christmas. It’s April. I am now due another gift for the birthday. I am really rethinking all of this. For some reason, as I slash my personal budget and see my ‘gift’ budget consistently too high, I am questioning the logic of sending things to people who don’t feel a need to thank me for my time, my trouble, my money, my love and caring.
What in the world is happening?
When I discuss this with my friends, they say, “cut them off”. I understand that thinking. I have thought that so many times. My issue is that the kids are paying a price because my peer group, my relatives, did not bother to insist on the kids learning this important lesson.
Please. Thank You. Remember that? It is as old as “Dick and Jane”.
My step-mom called them ‘bread and butter notes’. You owed them within 3 days. Even ‘within a month’ would thrill me these days. My mom taught us that we did not use the item until we thanked the sender.
I know generation after generation complains about those following us. We think they are spoiled. We think they are entitled. I think we are right. What do YOU think? What do you do?

take only if needed

People watch me in the grocery store. Decades ago I was watched because I was attractive. Now, it is a different situation: I am on food stamps.

Women watch what I place on the belt to checkout. I have no shame. I am so grateful for the financial help right now. I get food stamps. Thank YOU.

I have had no income for almost 2 years. I felt guilty to ask for help. A social worker suggested it and I am grateful. I get food stamps!

So many people have misconceptions about government help. My dad once said that anyone homeless just did not want to work. As a single woman, I knew better. I was part of the huge group. Missing one or two paychecks would mean I could not pay my bills. I was a flight attendant. To some people I earned great money. The thing is, when you travel for a living, you also spend more. The cutbacks at our airline were legend. We began flying more and earning much less. I knew I was on the precipice. My dad simply did not understand. It was black or white. More importantly, having never been in such a situation, it meant that nobody honest could. He was mistaken.

When my airline job crumbled, I began working in earnest, to pay my mortgage. Amazingly, the phone company, the utility company, and many others worked with me. They saw my huge credit history and knew I was not a bum. They put bills on hold while I reconnoitered. The mortgage company sent me a letter. If my payment was late, they would foreclose. Just like that.

I took every job I could. I did landscape work, I sold sandwiches from my trunk, I cleaned gutters and downspouts, weeded flowerbeds every evening, walked dogs early every morning, watered gardens while owners were away. On the weekends, I washed and waxed cars. It was hard. 7 jobs every week. I earned enough to pay my mortgage. I got food at the local food bank. It was humiliating. The woman handing out the choices gave me peanut butter. I cannot eat that. When I suggested she save it for a woman with children, she told me that I must not be very hungry. Humiliating.

The difference between then and now is that I was only 38. I had my entire life ahead of me and was strong smart and industrious. Now I am 61. I am not so good physically or mentally. I get food stamps.

I see women in the store, using their stamps, and look at their choices. I am not being critical; I am trying to learn. So many things are not included but you have to buy them to exist. No cleaning supplies. No light bulbs. Light bulbs in my home are a huge expense. Moreover, they are expensive. I try to buy CFL’s but now it is prohibitive. No pet food or cat litter. No personal hygiene products. No laundry detergent or softener sheets or bleach. Just FOOD. I am beyond grateful. I get food stamps.

I do not smoke but I certainly see the huge cost. People addicted to cigarettes have to feed that addiction. They have no choice. You do not stop smoking because you have run out of money. It is as powerful an addiction as heroin or meth. Your body makes you continue. You have no choice. Stopping is so difficult and society already hates smokers so the added shame of the addiction feeds the problem.

Medications. I take a ton of them. Between my brain injury, my blood sugar, my Cholesterol, my general stress of life circumstances, bills and an impending divorce, I take a ton of meds. They are not food. They are not covered.

I buy wine. Yep. I buy wine. I do not buy it nearly as often. I do not buy the 35-dollar bottles I used to get. I buy 6-dollar wine, on sale. Right now, it makes me almost feel normal. A few days a month, I can have wine with dinner again. Like things used to be. Before I got food stamps, before my life turned upside down.

You get a certain amount per month. Nothing more. It is up to you to decide how to parcel that money. I cannot pay for gas for my car, cannot pay for my utility bill, and cannot pay to see my doctor or light, cool or heat my home. No cosmetics or bath products. I can buy certain foods.

Next time you are shopping, look at your cart as you check out. Bear in mind that many people will not feel you have the right to certain things in your basket. They might judge. If you are on food stamps.

I am on food stamps. It is a huge relief.

it isn’t the cost of the item; it’s usually the memory you buy

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about things we treasure and things we need to keep and want to buy.

My husband spied a small milk jug one day in a bargain store. It was just a quart milk pitcher, worn and scuffed from years of use, glass, with a handle. It was just a small pitcher. He had to have it. He said it would be to keep our milk in, in the fridge. Women all over the world know why that open pitcher to keep milk in is not a great idea. Additionally, the only time he used milk was if he had cereal in the mornings. I was the one who drank milk.

We got the pitcher. Once I had washed it, he dutifully poured our milk out of the milk carton and into the old glass pitcher. There! The trace of a smile went across his mouth. All was well in his world. Mine was less well.

I once picked up a ‘hostess set’ that was 8 glasses in a heavy chrome basket. The glasses all matched. The chrome basket was ageless to me. I had to own it and the price was great. I use it for water glasses and iced tea glasses when my guests come for dinner.

A good friend of mine has a ‘sprinkler bottle’ to sprinkle her clothes before she irons them. Most of us remember those. Our mom’s and our grandmother’s all used them. once in a while you’ll find that little bottle top, cork intact, with holes all over the opening. We know immediately what it is for but our kids don’t understand.

The odd thing to me is that we are picking up nostalgia. Not JUST nostalgia, but nostalgia from our childhood, and usually from our mothers.

His memory of the milk pitcher was the one always in the fridge when he came home from school. My memory was of my mother hosting her bridge parties, white gloves, nice card table, coffee service nearby and the glasses with ice, for lemonade or iced tea, in their carrier.

My friend remembers her mother ironing and teaching her to iron her fathers’ hankies. Her parents both passed away too young and I can understand her holding onto things like this.

Interestingly, after the first use of the milk pitcher, it was relegated to the shelf, by my husband. I use the hostess glasses and carrier sometimes but not as often. My girlfriend never irons. Not anything.

No one wants to let go of those silly items. It would almost be letting go of our parents or our childhood again. My mom has passed. I want anything to remind me of her presence. My husbands’ mother is still with us but he doesn’t want the pitcher discarded, he just doesn’t want to use it after all. When he began packing, I offered it to him. It still sits on the shelf. My girlfriend has the stopper to the water bottle in her china cabinet, with her other treasures. close but not in use.

Until very recently I had a pair of my mothers and my step dad’s tennis shoes. They used to come visit me at least once a year and we all three loved to garden. Instead of carrying the shoes back and forth, dirty with soil and mud, they each left a pair. I was unable to let my mother’s sneakers go, after she passed. I needed that reminder. I needed to see them and realize she might be attached to them in some way, therefore to me.

Watching a show on TV one day I heard someone remind me of what we all know: they are not in ‘the things’. They are all in our hearts. They live within us. We don’t need the sneakers, the pitchers, the sprinkler tops. we just need our open loving hearts. I think we all have that, don’t you? That doesn’t mean that anyone should rush another to discard something precious in their own minds. We’ll manage that in our own way eventually. But my mothers’ tennis shoes and her husbands both went to a soup kitchen not long ago. They both volunteered all of their lives and so have I. When I walked in with them, a man and woman immediately asked if they were for someone special. Of course they were. A man and a woman who needed better shoes. Worn, but still able to serve as footwear.

I know my parents smiled. I smiled. The man and woman smiled. We all felt just a little better. And, just as I had expected, it didn’t make me lose my mom or dad all over again. It made them go even further in my lifetime.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep my hostess set. I do recognize that I’m keeping it because it makes me smile. the shoes somehow made me sad. Now absent, they make me feel good.

I found myself looking at some old cookie cutters recently at a thrift store.  my mom had them all. We baked cookies together. My stepdaughter and I did likewise a few times. Now, I make cookies occasionally but oh those cookie cutters were calling me. As I stood there, handling the few that I have somehow lost, knowing I could again have all of the ones my mom used to have I glanced out the store window. There was a family standing across the alley at a restaurant back door, near the dumpster. A man, woman and 2 children. The man and the little girl wore shoes I could easily recognize. I smiled again, tears popped into my eyes as I put the cookie cutters down. Walking to my car I swelled with the love of my family and again felt that smile.

The next day I made cookies. I made every shape possible. I spent hours baking. Then, I took 5 dozen cookies to the soup kitchen, with 4 more pairs of sneakers I had stopped wearing years earlier and ‘saved’. Everything made sense. The cookie cutters didn’t know they were missing some of their counterparts. I didn’t notice that I was missing old sneakers. I just noticed the warm feeling I had inside, all the way down to my toes when I sat down, drinking milk out of my hostess glass and eating leftover cookies.

Sometimes all you really need is love.

hide your nuts

A friend of mine and I have started a food share project. it’s working wonderfully. once a week, one of us goes to the other’s home, with a home-made ‘something’. last time I had made chicken. since I was making it, I made quite a bit. I also made a great, fresh fruit salad. lots. so, on that day, I took 4 large, stuffed chicken breasts and a big container of fruit salad.

she had made some wonderful bread and a casserole, mexican inspired dish. she gave me bread and half of the casserole. we both got 2 meals from each offering, plus what we had already made. our week of dining was so easy. just zap a side dish, if needed. I enjoyed my fresh fruit salad. I have been making 2 of them each month. just enough that it always tastes great and I don’t get tired of it. but, if I’m gonna  wash and cut up that fruit, I might as well make ‘extra’. since she felt like making bread, she made extra loves. the bread was just great. the casserole was something I normally don’t put together so it was a neat change for me. she absolutely went nuts over the chicken and although I had enough for 2 meals on my own, this kept it from getting boring.

the next week we planned our exchange. I made a pork roast. just about 4 pounds. not big, not teensy. I had some fresh tomatoes so used them in a mozzarella and basil (also fresh) salad. I took the oil in a container. I had bought a watermelon so cut it in half. when I got to her place, she had made potatoes au gratin. neat! goes perfectly with pork. she had also made home-made black-eyed peas. again, perfect.

I gave her half of the roast. I got a huge batch of potatoes, she got a fresh salad, I got some yummy peas and she had made a pie. I took 2 large slices.

this is working for us. it’s working very well. we get more variety in our food, we have much less waste and we are both getting a break from cooking every night. if you make something, making extra is simple. we have learned to e-mail and be certain of allergies, hated food items and the like. so far, it has been a great experience and a huge help with meal planning.

she has recently moved into a new home. she asked me one day how I attract so many birds and squirrels. to those of us who do this, the squirrels are easiest to get and hardest to deter but she wanted squirrels because she enjoyed watching them raid my birdfeeders. she loves the little chipmunks too. I told her which seed attracts the types she wants and she is having good luck.

another neighbor told her not to put so many nuts out for the squirrels. now, my friend takes a handful out each day. she says the squirrels hear the door open and come running. if she overfeeds them, they take the nuts to bury. again, if you have been through this you already know that a squirrel will rarely, if ever, find the peanut it so judiciously buried. I actually thought I was growing peanuts at one house because I kept finding them in my flowerbed. it took me a while to catch on that they were not growing, they were hiding.

if the squirrels have more food than they want at the moment, they will probably put it away. sometimes they get it back, sometimes they don’t.

I think that happens at my house. if I wrap something to eat later, sometimes I end up wasting it. probably because I have already eaten it and now it has lost it’s allure. but, something new and different, just enough for a meal right now, maybe a snack later, is perfect.

I don’t waste as many nuts.

how do YOU feel about hunting?

My brother and father used to take off for a week or two every year, around October, to go hunting. It worried me. I love cute animals. I always think in terms of a mom or dad or kid being shot (animal family). After a few years, I realized I was fretting in vain. They rarely hit anything. Their hunting trips turned into mini vacations for my step mom and me. We would shop, eat TV dinners, and watch girl movies. It was a win-win.

I grew up disliking hunting but accepting hunting. I have lived in so many states, knowing families who hunt for their food. It happens. Nevertheless, I feel bad for the deer, the beer, the wolf, and the large birds. I just do.

Last night I could not sleep. I went upstairs looking for something to eat (I said, “I couldn’t sleep”), and noticed all the bugs and insects swirling around my deck light outside. There was so much activity. I always have lights on at night, outside of the house. I feel safer that way and I like seeing what is happening outside.

As I moved into the kitchen, something caught my attention back at the window. I returned to see a tiny green frog on the window, suction feet holding it securely. It was about the size of a quarter. As I looked at it, I saw 2 others, in different locations on my window.

I pulled up a chair. I had to. I sat there for about an hour. It was 1 in the morning; I had nothing else to do. During that hour, I saw one teensy frog snag an insect in an instant. That insect had flown all over that little frog. It finally landed on the frog and began working its way forward for some dumb reason. The frog barely moved, and the insect was in its mouth. I realized I was watching hunting and patience in an artistic mode. The little frogs had all night too. They were in prime hunting territory, under and next to the porch light. They sat so still that evidently the insects either did not recognize the threat or just forgot they were there.

I got an ice cream sandwich from the freezer and came back to my chair. As I settled, another frog snagged another light-seeking meal. I thought about how much happens during the night while most of us sleep.

I have a bat house. I have bats. I love them. I read once that bats each consume 600 insects an hour. That sounds great to me. Sometimes when I cannot sleep, I lie in bed, looking out our large window. The bats are very easy to spot. You think you see a bird but it is a different motion. Moving in zigzag and start-stop movements, diving and swooping. You realize that as the bats have dinner, you get rid of your mosquitoes. I love the show.

The longer I live here, the more hunting I see. I saw a coyote amble across my yard last year, large cat in its mouth. It broke my heart. I knew that cat. It spent lots of time in my yard, uninvited, hunting the birds I feed. I hated that too. The owners were new to our area and so many people think cats are fine running free. I disagree. Indoor cats have a life span 3 times that of outdoor cats. People out here learn that cats do not last so long in the country. Too many hunters. It was a big cat. Bigger coyote. I understood both sides of the issue but am still haunted by the sight of a cat that spent too much time at my house, sometimes having the nerve to sleep on my deck furniture, driving my indoor cats crazy. I wondered what the owners thought when their cat did not return. I wanted to yell at them about the stupidity and selfishness of letting their pet run amok in everyone’s yard, rather than clean a cat litter box. I kept my thoughts to myself. Surely, they hated losing their pet. Punishment enough. I hope they do not let their next cat run loose.

Since I stayed up until mid-morning, I decided to run my sprinkler system. it was not working properly so I let it run manually at 4 this morning, giving it 2 hours to complete, just in time for the morning sun to dry leaves and keep my landscape healthy.

Getting up this morning was not easy but its Saturday and garage sales and estate sales are at a peak right now in my area. I had promised to meet a friend for coffee and then hit the sales. I made myself get up after only 3 hours in bed, to head out the door for bargains.

I guess we all hunt: we just have different prey.