It's Been Fun

On November 3, 2009, I wrote my first blog post. It was short, sweet, and to the point. It explained why I was here, back online again after writing a blog (now long gone) when the Hubs and I were childless, globe-trotting missionaries. 

Over the years I have written about books, finances, recipes, kids, marriage, being an INTJ, spiritual growth, anxiety (that's the post that started to kill blogging for me), and, of course, my love of all things pumpkin. When I had nothing better to do, I blogged five days a week. I was consistent, and even beginning to build up a tiny little following of friends - both the online and real-life kind. 

But seven years ago, our life was turned right side up, and blogging took a backseat. I still enjoyed writing, but even though I would start out strong in January, I always seemed to run out of steam around April. Last year I almost made my goal of writing one post a month, and then over-achieved at the end of the year to make up for the months I missed. 

When I began this venture, blogging was still relatively new. All the "big-time" bloggers weren't that big yet, but compared to my little dot in the online world, it felt HUGE when women like Jessica or Crystal or Anne took notice of me. While they've all gone on to be Life as Mom, Money Saving Mom, and Modern Mrs. Darcy...I failed to find an audience, a following, or a niche that was uniquely me. I joined photo challenges, participated in blog hops, and embraced the William Morris Project

And even though I didn't become a big-name blogger who was invited to speak at events or offered a book deal, I did meet some wonderful people along the way. Through a blog hop, I met Molly (who introduced me to the woman I've now worked with for the last 11 years). I met Elizabeth, who became a dear "real-life" (we've only ever met in person three times!) friend and prayer partner. Because of the blog, I became online friends (or Facebook friends) with other women who were kind enough to leave comments over the years, women that I never would have met had I not been bored that November day, 14 years ago...and #iamthankful.

These days my life is anything but boring. Seven years ago we adopted five children from Costa Rica. Three years ago I started homeschooling after COVID shut everything, including their schools, down, which we have continued to do, year-round. Last year the Hubs quit his "safe" office job as an electrical engineer working in the aviation industry in order to become self-employed, working on small engines and automobiles of all sizes, out of the workshop in our backyard. I continue to do freelance proofreading at night, after everyone's in bed. Add to all of that that a need to help aging parents, provide guidance for an adult child, fulfill a desire to practice regular hospitality, and try to find time to catch up with each other, read a book, or do anything else, and the blog just doesn't fit this season.

I've felt guilty about this, and disappointed in myself, but last week I was walking before the events of the day began, and was listening to a podcast by Jon Acuff. He was talking about how we have as much time as we have, but not enough time for everything, and learning how to prioritize it. Honestly, most of what he said wasn't rocket science, but it made me think about the blog again, and I realized...this is something I can say "no" to doing. It's not that I've really been doing it anyway, but officially saying farewell to the idea of it. And that thought, in and of itself, was freeing.

I don't know if anyone will even see this. I don't know if anyone will care. But if anyone is out there...thanks. Thanks for reading, for the occasional comments, and for the support over the years. I still love writing, when the mood hits, but this no longer feels like the outlet for me. I'm not closing it down, just leaving this post as a note, for anyone who stumbles upon it, to know that I have been here, I have tried, and now life is taking me in a different direction. Thanks for stopping by...now go and live life in the real world. Simply, in community, and with purpose.


("Ta Ta For Now" - Tigger)


The Hardest Word

Can you guess what it is? It's just two letters. In fact, they're even next to each other in the alphabet. That's right, it's NO. Just a small little thing, but it has the power to change things if we would be willing to use it. 

This week I had to pull it out of mothballs when a project I really wanted to be a part of just didn't fit my current season of life. I'd been putting off pulling the plug on it because I just knew that if I rearranged this and moved that around, I could find the time to make it happen. I could shoehorn it into my life. But the more I tried to do it, the more I thought about it, and the longer it hung over my head, the more I knew what I had to do. 

And so I wrote the email and as soon as it was sent, I felt a weight lift. I'd known all along that I didn't have time to do it, but I so wanted it to work out, that I was willing to go on and on, trying to make it happen. But here's a lesson I've learned...don't force things. If it's meant to be, then it's going to fall into place without the aid of a hammer and chisel.

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

No. It's such a simple word, that wields so much power. What if more parents said it to their kids? I wonder if I would look around and sigh quite as much as I do now, or shake my head over the state of the world. What if we said it more often when advertising agencies told us what gimmick would make our life easier? What if we used it when tempted by all the things that we think will make us happier, but never do? What if we said it to toxic situations/people or to unhealthy habits? 

Or what if we said it, as I did this week, to opportunities that look good. In fact, really seem like something we'd enjoy doing, but the timing is all wrong, and they end up adding more stress instead of being enjoyable? I didn't want to write and send that email, but the (almost immediate) response I receive confirmed that I had, in fact, made the right call to use my little word. And all week, ever since I said it, I've felt freedom. The freedom to say NO to good things can be as freeing, sometimes more so, than saying it to things that we know are bad for us. It feels like freedom and power and progress.

I can say no to good things if they are good things but bad timing. What about you? What was the last thing that you said "no" to and felt good about once it was done? Don't be afraid to use this tiny powerhouse. 


Inches, Pounds, and Ahas!

After 31 days of no sugar, no fake sweeteners, and low starches, I stepped on the scale and saw that I was down 7 lbs. from where I started on January 1st. Each week I measured my chest, waist, hips, and thighs, and after a month of cutting out sweets and curbing the snack attacks, the loss of a few inches and half inches were making themselves felt in the fit of my clothes. And while it's nice to see those kinds of results, other, unexpected lessons crept up during the month that made the most significant impact. 

Lessons like...

  • Realizing that I was addicted to sugar and didn't see it.
  • Recognizing that I turned to sugary coffee drinks for comfort on bad days.
  • I used food as a reward for hard days or other "sacrifices" I had made.
  • When I felt frustrated with life, I replaced going to God with going to Starbucks.
  • For someone who prides herself on being very self-aware, I snacked mindlessly.
  • Since I was trying to buy less stuff...I made up for it by buying more food.
  • Worst of all, I taught my kids that "treats" should be a regular occurrence.
Bottom line: food, specifically sugar, had become an idol. I worshipped the temporary "high" that a stop at Starbucks would give me. I bowed at the altar of donuts.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

With the revelations of January fresh before me, I made the conscious decision to extend the lifestyle changes another month, and potentially longer. Not only was I seeing the physical benefits of the choices I was making in what and when I ate, but I also felt better than I had in months, if not years. The unexpected discoveries of the hold that sugar had on me just added to my desire to continue down this path and see where it led. 

Although at first, I missed my Starbucks stops and late-night binge snacking, I found that I much preferred the feeling of being satisfied with less. It was equally, if not more addicting than the temporary sugar rush that accompanied eating a doughnut the size of my face or downing a large Diet Coke. I became aware of the number of times I unconsciously associated going somewhere with picking up a treat. Drop the kids off at taekwondo, stop and get a coffee. Run errands on Saturday morning and bring home a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit for the Hubs and me.

Treat, when used as a noun, is defined as: an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure. But when the event or item is no longer out of the ordinary, can it still be called a treat? When a doughnut truck came every week to a local parking lot, and I started stopping more and more often...was it still a treat? Or had my kids (and I) come to expect it? 

Several years ago, when the Hubs and I were laser-focused on paying off our first mortgage, we only allowed ourselves to go out to eat once a month. After money was less of an issue for us, going out stopped being a treat and became routine. "Do you feel like cooking tonight? No? Me neither. Let's go out." 

Last month I was reminded of that austere time in our lives as I once again began to deny myself the "treats" that had become expected and regular. In fact, I found that it became easier to tell myself "no" the longer I did it. Why? Because I wanted the rush of actual treats. Something that truly was out of the ordinary. Something that was unexpected, rather than something that was commonplace. 

I've told myself that I can now have one treat from Starbucks every month, using the gift cards I received for Christmas and my birthday. But instead of rushing towards the drive-thru on February 1st, I discovered there is even more joy in waiting. In fact, as I type this, with the end of the month rushing towards me, I have yet to go. 

The surprise "Aha!" of the last two months has been that the discipline of being more mindful of what I eat, what I spend my money on, and how I prioritize my time has made me want more
  • More of the feeling of accomplishment when my waistband isn't digging into my stomach. 
  • More of the sense of freedom that comes from paying cash at the grocery store and sticking to the budget. 
  • More guilt-free time to spend reading for pleasure because my work isn't hanging over my head, and dinner is in the Crock-Pot. 
  • More of Jesus, less of me. 
Idols don't always take the form we might think...sometimes they are shaped like bite-sized sugar bombs and time-sucking YouTube videos. Sneaky little things... So I'll close this with a question for you to ponder: What idols are ensconced in your life? If you take time to think about this and be honest, you might find yourself to be just surprised as I was. 


Hold That Impulse!

I recently found myself on a website of a store that I hadn't visited in some time. In fact, it had been several years since I had been a regular customer of theirs. But after a conversation with someone triggered an idea for a future gift, I typed their URL in my browser and was immediately sucked into the "Additional Discount Sales Vortex." You know the one? When something that had originally been $50 is marked down, with an additional discount "added in cart," to just $15. I not only purchased the originally intended gift, but I threw in four more items for good measure. The whole thing, including shipping and tax, still fell under $100, but these days, that's more than I have in disposable income. I know I'm not alone in this.

Photo by Xiaolong Wong on Unsplash

With the cost of groceries ever skyrocketing and getting excited when Kroger has their 18-count eggs on sale, 2/$7, I really don't have money to throw around on items I don't need...and didn't know I wanted until I saw the sale price. When it costs over $100 to fill up the Hub's work vehicle, and self-employment taxes are looming over our heads, it really doesn't matter how cute the item is or what kind of deal it appears to be...bills before thrills

January is always the hardest month for me. My ancestral Scotch-Irish frugality comes out of hiding as soon as I see perfectly good items - things that I would want to buy anyway as future gifts - now flaunting themselves before me with clearance stickers and preening around under giant "Semi-Annual Sale" banners. If I stick to my list of people and gifts, then I can definitely stretch a dollar and get more for them than if I was paying full price, but the problem is...I see those discounts and suddenly things that I never needed before (like cute winter-themed car air fresheners) end up in my cart as well. If you're curious how I know this...I'm staring at one on my desk as I type this. 

So how can we avoid those impulse purchases? Is there anything besides good, old-fashioned self-control? I've got a few little ideas to toss out there...do with them what you will.

  • Sleep on it. I'm sure you've heard this one before, but if you're tempted to click, "Buy Now" - stop. If it's a sale item, it's possible that your desired size and color may not be there tomorrow. But then again, by tomorrow you may have forgotten all about it.
  • Carry cash. If you know it's sale season (as it is every January with certain body-care and lingerie stores), give yourself a budget. In cash. And then go to the store, guilt-free. If you find things, you have the cash. If you don't find things, you get to take the cash home. And if you find more than you have cash for...you have to make some hard in-store choices and walk away from the rest. 
  • Regret fixes nothing. You're going to flub up every once in a while. We're all human, we all do it. You're going to click "buy now" on Amazon without following rule #1. You're going to come home with something not on your list from the Aldi Finds aisle. You will be swayed by the "additional 40% off" pop-up on the website. So when those things happen, don't beat yourself up about it. If you regret the purchase, pull out the receipt and head back to the store or pack it up to go back to Amazon. Regret fixes nothing, but returns do. 

Remember those items I purchased on impulse? The ones that started with a gift idea and ended up being mostly for me? I knew I didn't need them, but I sure could use a couple of cartons of eggs and a gallon of milk. So after thinking about it for a few days, I returned two of them to a local branch of the store. I walked out with $42 back in my bank account, and a smile on my face. Don't let a momentary impulse throw off your financial groove. Pick yourself back up, return your mistakes, and move on. Tomorrow is a new day. 



One question. Three words. Two of them just one syllable. 

When the Aldi Finds post comes up on Instagram, and the first thing that comes to mind is, "Oohhh...I need to stop by there!" follow that thought up by asking yourself, "Is it necessary?" 

When the sale flyer lands in your inbox and you see your favorite store is taking an additional 40% off the clearance price, instead of clicking on the link, ask yourself, "Is it necessary?" 

This simple question goes along very nicely with others, such as...

  • Do I really need it?
  • Will my life be better if I have this?
  • Could I use something I already own?
  • What could I use the money for instead?

And my personal favorite...
Why did I not need it before I knew it existed? 

Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

I'm currently reading How To Break Up With Fast Fashion: A guilt-free guide to changing the way you shop – for good, a book written by Lauren Bravo and published in January 2020. While much has changed in the world since its publication, including COVID, lockdowns, supply-chain issues, recessions, and $5 cartons of eggs, the idea of mindless buying or overbuying, has not. In fact, if anything, the 2020 pandemic made the problem worse, when we were all stuck inside, but Amazon was still delivering. And now that the financial status of the U.S., among other countries, is on the verge of insanity, it often feels that our only option for clothing our kids and ourselves are the cheaply made t-shirts and one-season pants offered by "fast fashion" vendors like Old Navy and Walmart. 

I get it. I have five kids. Although the eldest is out on her own and hasn't wanted me to buy her clothes in a few years due to a difference in style taste {ahem}, the other four are all still in their growth spurts and it feels like a never-ending cycle of buying fast fashion, because it's what we can afford, only to have it fall apart, wear out, or simply give up months, and sometimes weeks, after purchase.  

In 2020, I read Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter, which I found both fascinating and thought-provoking. After spending four years living and working in several developing nations (or, a little less P.C. - third-world countries), I wasn't entirely unaware of the situations described by Minter and Bravo in their respective books. When we lived in a small country in southern Africa, we commuted almost daily past a local garment factory where GAP and Levis jeans were made. In one Southeast Asian country, down a bumpy dirt road, I found beautiful pottery bowls in a store, stamped with the official emblem of Williams & Sonoma, and was told they were made in a factory not far away. And yet in each case, a new pair of GAP jeans or a set of mixing bowls would cost more to buy than the worker who made them would make in a month? Two months? Six months? It was, and is, sobering. 

And so, I ask again, is it necessary? Or do I, in fact, have enough? These are the questions I'm pondering and have been for quite some time. And of the things I have, how much do I donate (and thus contribute even more to the "global garage sale") and how much do I keep in the hopes that I can repurpose it? I'm not an environmentalist, and I don't think we can save the planet (I mean, Revelation is a bit of a spoiler alert on that idea), but I do believe that God has entrusted us with this creation of His, and we are to be good caretakers and stewards of the resources He gives us. And beyond that, and even more importantly, we are to love the people in this world, as He does. Am I loving them well by sending them my junk or supporting the working environments I've both observed and read about, by buying fast fashion? I don't think I am. 

This is not the end of the conversation, but it is the beginning. I'm still pondering, still reading, still learning. January 2023 was a month of changing habits and beginning a journey of becoming a better steward of many things, including my body (what I eat and how I treat it), my time (what I spend it on), my money and resources, and now, apparently, my closet. I don't know where this will end, but I suspect that ENOUGH just became my word of the year. 


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