Thursday, February 19, 2009

"I seem to like certain 'types'...."

so states my daughter the 8-year-old who is reaching that introspective stage that seems to occur every couple of months at this point. I'm thankful that she was not yet discussing her preferences in the opposite sex but rather people in general. It's a fun comment, though for her it was a bit confounding to realize that she may have already reached a point in life where playing in a group is fine but inevitably someone in that group is going to rub her the wrong way. Her list was fun, so I share it....when she's a teenager I will no longer share such things (or will do so anonymously).

  1. I like people who smile.

  2. I don't like people who talk too much.

  3. I like girls who don't always wear pink.

  4. I like boys who still play with girls.

  5. I don't like people who talk about how much they hurt. (NOTE: she was speaking here of physical injury...she's not deep enough to discuss emotional/spiritual hurt.)

  6. I like people who like God.

  7. I like people who go to church.

  8. I like girls who will still play with cars.

  9. I like moms who look like moms.

  10. I like people who don't hug me all the time. (yes, I know....sigh....)

It seems Madeline & I may share more than just thick, dark hair. Her list is fairly accurate for me as well though I hope mine would have more adjectives and emphatic pauses built in for extra interest.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The stuff of earth....being dusted off

"The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things."

Sometimes when I clean closets and shelves and baskets & all the other really 'necessary' organization containers that were going to keep me more organized than Martha Stewart herself (sans her staff), I stumble upon things that had such meaning somewhere along the line in my life that I shudder a bit. The shudder comes from the memory of just why this item was important, or of the event surrounding it, or of some drastic life change that occurred during its use.

I'm not talking about an old prom dress or some napkin saved from an important dinner or some wedding souvenir. All items which perhaps some would argue had great significance, I'm thinking instead of an old journal, a truly worthwhile book with pencil marks and notes in the margin, or maybe even a piece of music.

This week has me finishing up, for at least the third time, Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. A piece of fiction to be sure, but fairly significant allegory even more surely. In speaking of the book with a dear friend this weekend we marvelled at how many people who attempt this book don't like it. It is written off very quickly with a swift movement of language - a verbal hand dusting of a table - with comments about not liking myth, confusion over characters, lack of seeing anything but a fictional story. My dear friend and I mused that perhaps, just perhaps, some things are meant to speak to certain people at certain times who have been through certain experiences. A form of "for such a time as this" applied to externals. She and I share a sister bond that includes rather substantial human loss and so this book is beautiful to us as readers. We understand the longing, the loss, & we (sort of) understand people who just won't "get it". Sort of....

This morning had me going through my CDs - yes, I still have CDs...I have not moved on to an iPod for various reasons not the least of which is economics as well as a dislike of 'ear buds' in my ears. Should you see me fast walking outside I'll be the old fashioned chick with the Walkman (play cassettes even!) with the old fashioned earphones. Anyway, one of these dusted off CDs made me sit and wonder 'what could have been' had Rich Mullins been given length of days. To read the liners (lyrics) from my favorite Winds of Heaven...Stuff of Earth I am reminded what Christian 'Contemporary' music could have been - perhaps what it was becoming - before this loss. This self-effacing man spoke clearly using only scripture to convey his love and reverence for a truly awesome God. Sure, he's not a Wesley brother or a Fannie Crosby or a Martin Luther, but for a girl in college whose faith walk was strengthening in ways that seemed very palpable, Rich Mullins spoke clearly. Not many artists of this generation can sing words such as this and keep them melodic:

I can taste you in the bread and in the wine (I Cor. 11:23-26)

There you spread your feast of JOY before me (Ps. 23:5-6)

And like a man who had fallen on Elisha's bones (2 Kings 13:20-21)

I'm alive again

Monday, February 16, 2009

Felicitous Frugality

Falling in love with the F.R.U.G.A.L. (no - sorry - not a dating service for the frugally inclined)

  • GIRLS DRESSES become really cute tunic tops thanks to the continuing tunic-like style that many can pull off (read - people not my shape) Maddie ended up in an empire-waist dress over her jeans - the dress had long since grown too short but with the jeans it was a whole new outfit.
  • FREE RECYCLING is a favorite benefit of living in Kentwood....yes, there are still benefits to living here. The recycling center is just a hop-skip-jump from our home and we get to reduce our trash bill, still teach stewardship to the kids, & do it all for the cost of space & a very minuscule amount of fuel.
  • FREE PASSES to assorted locations can be checked out at the GR Public Library...did you know this? There's a pretty good chance you didn't know this. Meijer Gardens, VanAndel check out the pass with your library card. Loving it!
  • RECIPES that fellow moms pass around - good things happen thanks to the technological age - perhaps even one good thing to negate each bad. One good thing is connections with people you never before connected with - not in the random sense, but in a sort of formerly connected but with no shared experience. Now we make one another's food for, with this mom, a recipe is personal - a glimpse into someone's family life. So here's a freebie for today, a recipe which I've typed out today and figured one more Cut N Paste is blog worthy:

Bread Machine Pizza Dough #1

Machine at dough setting & place ingredients in order listed.

1 1/2 c warm water

2 T olive oil (or whatever you use)

4 c white flour

1 T Italian Seasoning (packet or combine Oregano/Basil/Garlic Powder)

1/3 c Parmesan cheese (I use the shaker kind - nothing fancy)

1 t salt (or garlic salt)

2 1/2 t yeast

Recipe says it makes 1-16" round. Bake 450; 15-20 min. I actually make more of a personal size & get 4-5 of those per recipe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Counting On Fathers

It's not anywhere near Father's Day, yet each year in our young girls' group at church we try to focus on fathers during Valentine's Day. For it seems that each year the world pushes a bit more at the family gate, telling even very young girls that their value is tied to the attention they receive from boys. Even within their (often) Christian schools, these little girls are already dressing for boys, behaving for boys, and sometimes performing for boys. Girls that, way back in my dark ages, would have still been playing with baby dolls and quite unaware of clothing choices that make one popular.

So I find myself thinking a lot of fathers lately. The layers of thinking are sort of onion-like, peeled back revealing more and often, in the course of peeling, causing some tears.

Some of my girls who celebrated the love of their earthly father years ago, have recently been disappointed by this fallen example of fatherhood. He has disappointed not only them, but fallen far short in his love for his wife. He has foregone the model of loving as Christ loved His church, but instead taken to the world's view of getting all he can from as many different places, forgetting that these young ladies who were entrusted to his care learn how a husband is to treat a wife in part from watching the relationship of their own mother & father. This layer brings a lot of tears to my eyes.

My own little girl spent this evening crying for her father. I found her in pajamas, sitting on the floor in the laundry room, just plain crying. It breaks my heart. I can't tell her to stop - I can't tell her she has no good reason to cry. No, instead I understand her and do my best not to join her. She is too young to completely understand anything deep and meaningful I may share, so instead we do a lot of hugging. But as we do, I cry a little less at this layer for the joy and thankfulness in knowing that she DOES have a father who loves her properly and cares for her mother in the way he is called to do so. He can be a model for her - fallen, yes, but still a model for what she should look for when the time comes to consider her future relationships.

Most importantly, I am drawn to the love a Father who so often calls us by name. These same girls who are learning in our girls group, have been learning about the names of their heavenly Father - well, today we turned the table and looked at times when God calls us by name. Sometimes it's quietly in youth....."Samuel...Samuel..." and such children are blessed to grow in His grace & truth from a young age on. Sometimes it's with bright light and, I can only imagine, with a more firm tone when His voice calls down "SAUL! SAUL! Why do you persecute...." Such people are blessed to have such an awesome and amazing (grace) conversion that their calling is immediate, sure, shoulder-shaking. Either way, He calls by name. This Father. This sure, infallible Father who can be counted on to no fail, to be the perfect example, to walk in the midst of relationships for both the young, and the called later in life.

During Valentine's Day perhaps sometimes it's best for all of us to focus instead on our Fathers rather than an earthly relationship? I don't know that this is true, but each year for this group of little girls, Valentine's Day is about fathers. And about their Father.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Of Freebies & Furnaces

I have never been a 'tight wad' but I've also never been a crazy spender. Yet because of the nature of Mike's business (or lack thereof) I have had to become a whole lot closer to 'tight wad' on the economic continuum. The downside of self-employment includes wee little inconveniences like:

  • no unemployment coverage...if there are no paying jobs we don't get paid

  • customers with their own issues...can mean the work doesn't actual lend itself to payment (that's a nice way of saying that we 'get stiffed'...a lot lately)

  • no COBRA...if there are no jobs or no payments we also don't get COBRA health insurance - we're still buying the little high-deductible policy we can afford

Sometimes the term "lay off" sounds a heck of a lot better to us than whatever our current situation may be. It sounds nutso I know, but having any form of steady income looks really good to the chronically self-employed.

But not all of this is meant as one big anti-anti-depressant. I have simply observed little details in my life that I have either always done, or begun doing and perhaps somewhere along the line they'll help someone else. For this week:

  • FURNACES are running over time lately, and usually that means we are burning wood outside. One of the single best investments we made in our home was installing an exterior wood burner to avoid high gas bills. When we do utilize our interior furnace we keep the house in the mid to upper 60s at all times & figure that's why sweatshirts were invented.

  • ELECTRICITY is a funny little thing - constantly in motion even when we don't realize it's aerobic workout. Even when you keep an item plugged in but in an 'off' position a little bit of electricity is coming out to that item. In our house we don't leave empty phone chargers in plugs, we keep computers & printers on power strips, the toaster is not always plugged in & neither is the coffee pot. We could do better in this department...reducing our electric bill is kind of my pet project for the month.

  • SCRUBBERS! Did you know you can take the plastic bag oranges come in, fasten it together a bit and it becomes a scouring pad? Okay - so this is more about recycling than anything else, but it's the best scrubber I've used in a long time!

  • GROCERY TIP....If I had a dollar for every grocery obsession I have....well, perhaps then I wouldn't have to be so grocery obsessed. Did you know that the most expensive items are usually at eye level? I buy Crest & Colgate toothpaste when it's really on sale with a coupon, otherwise I make the effort to bend at the knees & buy Aim or Pepsodent for about .99/tube all the time.

  • a wonderful habit to get children into, let alone consumption-crazed adults. I refuse, however, to pay to recycle. Here in Kentwood we have a free recycling area which both contributes to reducing some waste & could potentially save on the trash bill. If you already pay to recycle - stop & find a free center. If you have the option of switching your trash service to paying by the bag you'll be amazed at how much of a reduction in trash will occur in your family.

Of freebies & furnaces...of cabbages & is my responsibility to be a good steward(ess) of the resources my King determines to share with my family. (Oh - and the cabbage? It gets composted of course!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pennies Do Count

In a continuing effort to maintain a sense of frugality, it seems the rest of the country is finally hopping the on the penny pinching, fuel efficient bandwagon of saving money. Even our local press covered the smart grocery shopping techniques a stalwart few have utilized for years. Namely, shopping based on cheap - not based on needs.

In your new (or perhaps just improved) frugal grocery shopping, the goal is to create a pantry filled with what you use based upon sales, rather than filling shelves - temporarily - based on needs. For example, if you regularly use salsa (and don't can your own...another future frugal tip), it makes more sense to buy in quantity when your salsa is on sale than buy by the jar as needed. In the Guis household that means we currently have four jars sitting on the shelves.

Your old grocery shopping 'technique' may have at least involved sale papers - the new technique should involve sales - but only the best sales - & coupons used in conjunction with those sales.

Your old grocery shopping 'technique' may have had you buying a box or two of cereal on sale. Your new technique may involve 5-10 boxes of really cheap cereal to store in a pantry so that there are no last minute cereal buys when you're completely out.

Some ideas:

- again, try one is free as opposed to and will give you virtually the same results and savings without the upfront cost

- make the effort to keep track of the cheapest price that you find certain our case, I know that Chi-Chi's salsa has a cheapest price of .99 each - when I have a coupon it makes the salsa close to .49 truly commando types will do this for everything, I tend to do it for very high used items in our house

- maintain a coupon file and do all your coupon work in one sitting - cut, file, match to the sales - all at once if possible...remember that saving money is like earning an hourly wage

- use a file that works for you. I know some women who use 3 ring binders outfitted with pouches similar to those used to organize business cards. Some use an index card box with alphabetic dividers. I personally use an accordion-style portable file just slightly larger than a wallet.

- consider starting (or joining) a coupon train.....members send a envelope filled with coupons to one member - each person takes out what they can use and replaces the taken coupons with other goes round and round

- use your freezer! (For one thing, your freezer will run more efficiently if filled.) If you have but one freezer with your fridge your space may be limited. If you have a larger version consider that, yes, even milk will freeze if you first take a small amount out of the plastic gallon container.
Today's Cheap Meal (for my family of 5)
1lb box of pasta - .49 sale at Meijer ( in fact I believe the sale is repeated this week)
1 jar Ragu - .99 sale + coupon - final cost was .74/jar
1/2 loaf Meijer bread - .50 ($1 sale for full loaf)
turned bread into garlic bread with negligible amount of butter & garlic salt - .25 est.
1 bag frozen green beans - .69 sale
TOTAL COST: $2.67!
Pennies do count - and when a manufacturer is offering you money for buying their product, why not take them up on it?