Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Sticking with my MK

This post is going to sound like a sales set-up.

Not my intention.

It is no secret that I'm an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

It is a business. Not a hobby. Anyone in direct sales knows they won't be in business for very long if they:
  1. Treat it like a hobby, and
  2. Keep it a secret
I've been using Mary Kay skin care for just about 10 years. I've been selling Mary Kay skin care for just over a year and a half, and began using their color cosmetics at the time that I became a consultant. I like using the product and I like making money selling the product. It's a win-win.

I will continue to both use and sell the product upon moving to Beaver.

"Ok, Joline, we get it. You dig the pink biz. But why is this post making it into Thrifty Thursday?"

Because with Mary Kay I am thriftier with my spending on beauty products.

My family can attest that I have ALWAYS been into cosmetics and skin care. I used night cream when I was in 7th grade. I love jars, and colors, and yummy whipped creams, and tubes, and brushes, and scrubs. Perhaps having been in professional theater beginning in 6th grade, and thus needing to clean burnt cork, or pancake, or really red lipstick off my face night after night had something to do with my early interest in beauty products.

My fabulous Aunt fed my enthusiasm. Every Christmas I could be sure that she would give me some sort of glamorous makeup kit or set. I remember fondly one brand of shadows, blushes, and cream lip colors by Calvin Kline that sat in stackable trays. I felt like a hot shot. I never knew where she found these! It was like a hidden treasure that only the cool Aunt could find and bestow upon you.

My favorite store used to be the now defunct Cosmetic Center, followed by Ulta 3, and when I was still doing on-camera work, the M.A.C store on East Oak downtown, where I received a SAG discount. I could spend hours in these stories. And cash. Hours and cash.

Regardless of what store, I spent a ton of money on both skin care and cosmetics. I had enough to fill a tackle box or two. Now, in my defense, I was performing regularly in theater, and thus needed product. Not so for commercials where they handled my face for me. Boy, was that nice.

Once I "retired", (a term I use loosely), from performing, I was left with a big box of colors and products that I just couldn't use daily. The colors weren't right for "every day", especially the lip colors. Many eye products got chucked, as I'm a stickler for keeping my cosmetics clean from bacteria - especially eye products - and thus, I just pitched everything that was over two years old.

I would then restock with items that I thought worked for me. Never actually finishing an entire product. My box was refilled with useless, unfinished items. I still had my Mary Kay skin care (Classic Basic), but I would also purchase extra, non-Mary Kay products, for no reason other than that I liked to shop for them. I didn't need them. And so they sat. And sat.

Enter Mary Kay. I now spend less on myself than I did in the past. I get my products half-price, and I make 50% on everything I sell. I don't ever need to run out to the store to peruse the aisles wondering if a color will work for me, or if a product will jive with my skin. I get to try everything in my home before purchasing an item for myself, and after using it for a bit, if I don't like it, I can return it - even if I've used it. The company has been in business for 45 years. They are a debt free company. They enrich the lives of women, like myself, who just need to bring in a bit of extra income. They don't engage in animal testing. They are in 38 world markets. The have an awesome research/development/and medical team that I can personally contact on behalf of myself and my customers. They have staying power.

Even NPR had a recent story about direct sales cosmetic companies and how they are providing a bit more support for women during this economic recession. For in economic times, most women are not willing to give up the products which make them feel good.

I'm one of them. Only, I get them even cheaper!

I have less makeup than I did before becoming a consultant. I have less skincare than I did before becoming a consultant. I spend less money on these items than I did before becoming a consultant.

But, here's where we may differ. See, I really like skin care and cosmetics. So this works for me. Give me some Microdermabrasion and Oil Free Hydrating Gel and I can feel happy for hours. Even in this economy, I will continue to "splurge" on myself. Only now, a splurge means an eye color and cleanser and moisturizer and lip color at wholesale prices. No gas. No parking. No wandering the aisles. No closet full of half-used bottles or tubes of lipsticks that have been used twice only to be handed over to Harper for play make-up. As if she even plays with make-up. Not.

I should add that shopping drives me insane. Upon having children I lost my ability to browse. So, perhaps, this is another reason that I enjoy my business: the perk of not having to shop in an actual store.

Does Mary Kay = Thrifty? Well, it does for me. I'm not going to give up purchasing and using personal care products. So, I may as well get them for a better price and make money at the same time. Mary Kay works for me while I work for Mary Kay. Sounds like a thrifty opportunity to me!

Have you been able to turn a personal interest into a thrifty opportunity during this economic conundrum? (Isn't that a great word?)

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship. ~Benjamin Franklin

Monday, January 26, 2009

Their Appetites are Bountiful


Fruit and vegetables delivered last Friday.

It is now Monday and we have 1 more orange, 3 more apples, 3 pears, and banana's.

My family goes through fruit like I go through coffee. This could prove problematic.

Although the solution may be found in supplementing with one more bag of apples.

The amount of vegetables seems about right. We popped an onion and green bell pepper into a fantastic chili yesterday. I've chopped up all the lettuce for salads, and tonight, those brussels sprouts will adorn our dinner plates. We still have a head of cauliflower and tomatoes for my salads.

But the fruit?

Quickly disappearing like a pot of joe on a Monday morning when Mommy is taking a personal day to chill from yesterday's stress and to straighten our soon-to-be-up-for-sale-house.

Nearly empty.

HEY YOU TWO! Keep it up . . .

My kids get along.

Ok, it's not like life is all "la, la, la" hunky-dory, all the time.

And yet.

My kids get along.

Sunday was a particularly difficult day for me beginning with a flat tire, and followed by my computer going on the fritz (again) after several days of mini repairs. Three hours on a party line chat with Michael and Amar from Microsoft, and Rachel and Sam from Earthlink, didn't fix the problem.

Don't be so quick to say, "Maybe God wanted you to unplug today!"

That would be fine if writing wasn't how I actually "unplug".

By 4:00, I was numb.

I felt flattened by a flat tire on what I now call my "Linda Blair car", as I truly believe it is possessed. Any moment now it will spit up pea soup all over me. We need a miracle for it to hold on until June without any more "Christine" moments. That's enough of the horror film references. I'm done now.

I felt flattened by my computer's most recent unexplainable flat line. George tried to soften the moment, the three hour long moment which involved my making 4 new friends in India, by surprising me with salt and vinegar potato chips and a diet coke. He even made a Mary Kay delivery for me.

The kids pitched in by . . . playing. With each other. Nicely. Creatively. They played Bendaroo's, Wii, a new fabulous board game that Harper got at her party yesterday, an invented board game written on a few sheets of computer paper, and "parachute", which involved piling every loose blanket and all the pillows into a pile on the floor and then leaping - without a parachute. It was all good. And no one got hurt.

My kids play together. They enjoy each other. Spies. Star Wars. Even board games. And . . . they . . . hug (gasp)!

George and I don't tolerate disrespect towards family members. If we witness an unkind word, shove, or bite, we confront it immediately. Of course there are moments that slip by us. I'm no dope. But we must be doing something right for Harper to have agreed to allow her brother to join her and her VERY LOUD pals around the table for her birthday the other night. She included him. She didn't speak to him. But she included him. He even got to adopt a puppy and take the puppy oath with all the girls.

Sunday evening, we snuggled down in my bed, as we do often, while Harper read book after book after book to Zane. It ended with all 5 of us (gotta include Scout) curled up in one big family ball. They prayed that I would have a better day tomorrow.

They love each other. They like each other.

And thankfully, Andrew Bernstein came to the rescue, again, fixing my computer glitch in 20 minutes or so, enabling me to document that my kids actually enjoy each other's company.

There are days that aren't so nice. Everyone has these days.

But a mother can pray and hope and foster a bond between her children.

So, "DON'T MAKE ME COME IN THERE!", as I don't want to interrupt you as you explore, and experiment, and discover, and invent, and laugh, and negotiate, and collaborate, and, well, play.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Harvest is Bountiful

Oh. My. Word.

Today I received my first order of vegetables and fruit from Timber Creek Farms. Having made a deal with my girlfriend to split the Farmer's Market Box every week, I was excited to meet up with her to divvy up the goods.

Oh. My. Word.

Let me try and list the inventory of fresh, organic, vegetables and fruits now sitting in my kitchen. Keep in mind that these items are organic, and that the total cost for these items came to $25.00.

Bananas (5)
Apples (6)
Pears (3)
Oranges. HUGE. Oranges (10)
Full head of romaine
Full head of green leaf lettuce
Brussels Sprouts (before you hurl, I have an incredible recipe coming my way for these)
Celery (Zane loved this with peanut butter and nutella today)
Head of cauliflower
Tomatoes (2)

I can see needing more apples, as Harper is an apple fanatic. And she also loves cuties - so I'll have to sell her on oranges. I may have to pick up some baby carrots also, although Zane loved the celery today. Time to try new things, right?

Compare the above to what I purchased last week for $25.70.

Grapes (2.67 lb. Half of which went sour because we didn't eat them fast enough)
Red Bell Pepper (2)
Box of Cuties
Baby Carrots (2 lb bag)
Granny Smith apples, organic (one bag)

Quite interesting . . .

And it's not even Thrifty Thursday!

Frugal Friday?

Silence is Golden . . . and results in clean pants

At the risk of blowing the whole deal, I hear by announce that Zane is potty trained.

(Knocking on press board desk, basement paneling, and nearby shelf).

No, really, ye of little faith, my son has finally grasped the concept that sitting it wet pants, or hauling around other fragrant loads, is not actually very fun.

If you recall, because I'm vain enough to believe that you have been keeping up with our saga, I vowed to "Shut-up" on the entire topic of potty training on December 9th. Less than a week later I realized that my strategy was actually working and embraced the idea of firing myself from training Zane. No, I didn't hire someone else to do it . . . I simply let go and told Zane he was a big boy.

Over and over and over I told him. I rewarded attempts. I ignored mistakes. I continued to tell him how much I loved having a big boy.

On January 10th, his 4th birthday, Zane announced that he was now "big" and stopped messing in his pants. Since then, we've had the typical "I don't want to stop playing so I'll have an accident" accident, of which he ends up changing his clothes himself.

So, December 9th to January 10th . . . who knew?

If I were to write a book on potty training it would begin and end like this: "Just shut-up and get out of your child's way. Let them bask in the reward that THEY experienced personal success, rather than having it forced on them." The end. I'm not thinking anyone is going to give me a book deal.

Just yesterday:

"Mommy, I am so proud of myself. I am such a big boy."
"Yes, you are Zane. I always knew you were a big boy."
"Mommy, I am so proud of you too, because you use the potty. I am proud of both of us. I'm just proud of everyone!"

There is something to be said for Zane making his own decision to use the bathroom - he experienced personal success. His confidence shot up, not because of me and my constant compliments, but because he learned that he is indeed big and capable of conquering tough, scary stuff. He knows that HE DID IT.

So, aside from the occasional accident, which will happen from time to time, and aside from bedtime, which we're not even touching, we're done.

He did it. I did nothing to further the process other than:
  • Positive rewards
  • Shutting up
Thank you Lord for zipping my big mouth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: A Bold Move

Want to make a radical step towards becoming more thrifty?

Move to a less expensive city.

I know, that sounds a bit flip coming from me. For, in fact, our family is planning a move from the Chicagoland area to Beaver, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, come June.

And yet, the idea of downsizing, whether that be a car, a house, or a city, has got me thinking.

We strive for bigger and better in America, although even this ideal has become the topic of many a conversation and prayer as we watch our nation tread the tumultuous waters of our nation's economic crisis.

And while the economic climate was the not the catalyst for my husband's desire to begin looking for a new position in ministry, it was on the list of "things to ponder". Upon visiting Beaver, we realized that relocating would not only be a wonderful professional move for George, but would also give us a bit more breathing room in the pocket book.

More to give. More to save. More to pay off debt.

Upon this realization, cost of living was bumped closer to the top of the list. We feel called to minister at this new church. The cost of living, however, is a nice perk.

My friend Angie, over at Missional Family, wrote an interesting post about making tough financial choices, one of which being to think about downsizing one's home. She and her husband have actually put their current home on the market and are planning to buy a smaller place. Who thinks this way? Seriously?

Well, Angie does. And she's cool.

I tend to think about moving "up". Apartment. Check. Condo. Check. Starter house. Check. Larger house. Ch-

Um, "Check, please."

I've changed my mind.

While we are moving to a city where the cost of living is considerably less than Evanston, IL, we sense caution as we look at homes in what is to be our new neighborhood. Sure, we could opt for the new construction home with the enormous great room, master suite, all new appliances, and a comparable or slightly less mortgage then we have now, but we have decided to go a different route on our road to thriftiness.


To lessen the overall financial strain and pressure that I think about everyday. Everyday. Did I mention that I think about our finances every day?

So, rather than the larger new home in the brand new subdivision, or the older home (that is still larger than our current home) in the area surrounding our new church, We have chosen to go with . . .

Location, location, location.

We are praying that God would lead us to an affordable home in the borough of Beaver, rather than in the neighboring townships, where, yes, we could get more house, for extremely reasonable prices. So, what gives?

What doesn't it give? Affordable housing + the ability to walk to a coffee shop, to the library, to the farmer's market, to the post office, to the - well, you get it.

Living in Highwood for 8 years and then Evanston for 10 has turned me into a walker. When we lived in our apartment and following that, our condo, we would walk to the lake for a jog, walk to shops, walk to the park, and walk to the drug store that was up the street at that time.

The location of our current home doesn't really give us that option, other than a quick jaunt to the 7-11 (for a V-8 Fusion fix), TJ Maxx (for a "please let me shop for clothing by myself" fix), and the bank (boring fix). We still make it work, somewhat, by driving to the church, parking, and then setting out on foot to run errands around town.

We simply like walking to town. And since this area of PA has things a bit more spread out, thus making two cars a necessity, we would like to retain a bit of our Highwood/Evanston flavors upon relocating. We are glad that doing so is actually an option!

For us, this means living in the borough. This also means we will most likely have an older home. A smaller home. We will either be downsizing or maintaining our current size of a home. Yes, I would LOVE a master bathroom. Perhaps, if we find something that is priced so very reasonably that we still have money left over, we can put one in. Master baths and good closet space are not typical for the homes we are viewing.

But for us, bigger isn't necessarily better.

I'd prefer a home with an emotional breathing room.

If moving to Beaver means that we can buy a less expensive home, pay off debt (and work towards living debt-free - for this is our goal), and make a fresh financial start with how we both view and use our finances, then I'll take a bold step and walk into that town.

With my children, my husband, and my dog.

Ever thought about it?

Have you prayed about a bold move?

Thrift was never more necessary in the world's history than it is today. ~Francis H. Sisson

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Timber Creek Farms

It's something that I've wanted to do for some time now, but could never get my act together to put into motion. The idea of it jumped from one "To Do" list to another "To Do" list. Never making it off the list.

Thankfully, a girlfriend of mine investigated and jumped on the band wagon asking me to come along.

A year ago, we abolished purchasing and consuming the majority of pre-packaged snack foods (cookies, chips, gummy "fruit" snacks, etc.) in order to create a healthier kitchen and save money. Thus, our kitchen is now stocked with fruits and vegetables and the kids know that they never need to ask permission before grabbing a piece of fruit for a snack. And yes, Zane, you can dunk your apple in Nutella, as I'm down with hazelnut goodness if it means getting an apple into you.

So, now as we continue along the path to thriftiness, I find myself having to restock the fruits and vegetables weekly because we run out so quickly. And if we don't get the chance to restock, which does happen on occassion, we find ourselves having nothing, nada, zip, in the produce department of our kitchen. It's either this scenario or the opposite: pitching produce that has gone bad due to overbuying. This is wasteful on so many different levels: throwing away food, throwing away money, and throwing away time. I also tend to purchase the exact same varieties of fruits and vegetables every week. Boring.

Enter Timber Creek Farms: delivering tasty and organic foods to your home! The Farmer's Market Box costs $49.14 a week. We have agreed to split a box of produce with our friends. Thus, for $24.57 we will be receiving half of the following every week: (this is an example)

3# Bag of Red Delicious Apples
3# Bag Pears
3# Bananas
12 Tangerines
½ Gallon Apple Cider
2 Pie Pumpkins
1# Okra
1# Green Beans
1# Brussels Sprouts
5# Bag Red Potatoes
1 Bunch Celery
½# Parsnips
1 Head Romaine
1 Bunch Broccoli
2 Cucumbers
1 Bunch Carrots
½# Mushrooms
1 Bunch Collards
1 Bunch Beets

Timber Creek also provides recipes for the items in your box. So, you needn't be worried about what to do with that bunch of collards.

This setup will help our family by:
  1. Insuring that we have produce in the house every week.
  2. Decreasing waste from overbuying produce and chucking it when we fail to use it!
  3. Encouraging our family to try new produce and recipes.
Think about it. $100 a month towards produce is a pretty good deal for a family of 4. Organic, no less. Usually, I can not afford organic, locally grown produce from Whole Foods, (although I splurge for organic apples), so this is the next best step. I'll track our total grocery bill in February and see if this helps to decrease the overall monthly bill.

Tip of the week:
  • Do a Google search to see if you have any local farms in your area who offer a similar program for produce and other grocery needs.
  • Then, if you need to save on costs, go "co-op" with another family.

By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest. ~Agesilaus

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rhyme Time

Zane likes to rhyme.

"Bug rhymes with rug."

"Money rhymes with honey."

"House rhymes with mouse."

"Despereaux rhymes with rescureaux." Well? Ok.

And the kicker? The one that stops my heart?

"Mommy rhymes with love."


Thrifty Thursday: Debut Post

Yes, you can save money in unique ways. Welcome to Thrifty Thursday!

My Moms R Us group had a spontaneous "Swap-o-rama" this week. This brilliant idea by my co-empress, April Hedman, proved to be an incredible opportunity for the mom's in my Monday morning bible study to rid their homes of items they no longer needed, (a nice post-Christmas purge), and to take any items from someone else that they found useful. It was Freecycle without the computer, or stipulation that you must offer an item in order to take another. We just set everything up like a garage sale and had everyone take what they wanted. I brought a huge box of stuff to give away and was told, gently, by my husband, to bring it home empty. Oops.

One friend even ended up with a pair of barely worn Dansko's. That is a serious find, my friends, as you can't get those shoes for under $100.

Yes, anything left over had to be carted away by the owner, but it was worth every penny not spent.

Zane ended up with:
  • A Lands End spring coat
  • A pair of size 13 rain boots (he's an 11-12 right now)
  • 2 pairs of 4T shorts
  • Small transformers which became potty training prizes
  • A pirate ship and pirate action figures to be wrapped up for his birthday this weekend
I paid nothing. And had a great time with my girlfriends.

Unique Thrift Store
I am completely inept at blow drying my bangs straight. I know, I have curly hair, why am I wasting my time attempting to straighten my bangs? Well, hey, we're not discussing that issue.

I have wanted a straightening iron for awhile, but wasn't willing to spend $30 on it. So, while dropping off the remainder of my stuff from the Swap-O-Rama at Unique Thrift Store, I stumbled upon a straightening iron for $2.99. We plugged it in at the store to make sure it worked. Voila. Straight bangs. Did I mention it was $2.99? I was in CVS today to pick up some sale items, and found the same brand of my straightening iron priced at $29.99. I think I got a deal.

Zane's Star Wars Birthday Party
Birthdays are hard. You want to indulge your child and his or her friends. Zane is having 5 little buddies over on Saturday night for pizza - not takeout - but rather, frozen Target brand pizza. The boys are 3 and 4. They so don't need Gigio's or La Rosa's. Pizza: $4.00.

George is making the cake based off of a picture I found on Google. The cake mix was $1.00. The frosting was $1.29. Darth Vader will be made with frosting and a bag of chocolate chips. The entire cake will cost us $6.00.

The table will have a black tablecloth with silver shred sprinkled on it. I also got plates and napkins. All from the $1.00 store. We have cups and forks. $4.00 total.

Goodie Bags. I am using some blue gift bags that were given to me as a gift. So, no money spent there. Ok, I splurged and got each kid an inflatable light saber to use in battling the bubble asteroids at $5.00 a piece ($30). But, the remainder of their bag includes: A sheet of stickers. I stumbled on a pack of 700 (yes, 700) Star Wars stickers for $3.00 at Target (bent box), a jar of bubbles (6 jars for $1.00), and a glow stick so that they can see while out in the galaxy (12 for $2.00). Total for goody bags: $36.00 (divided among 6 kids).

So let's add this up . . . free pirate ship, $4.00 for pizza, $6.00 cake, $4.00 for tableware, $36.00 spent on goodie bag items (so $6.00 a kid).

Total spent for Zane's party: $50

I couldn't stomach purchasing Star Wars plates, and cups, and tableware that would just get thrown away. Zane will have a great time eating pizza and cake, battling the asteroids, and trying to blow up the Death Star (our version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey).

So, I would say it was a wonderful thrifty week.

I've saved the best for last! Here's my BEST OF THE BEST for the week:

Paperback Swap
And this, my friends, is the best site I've found in a long while. Paperback Swap has enabled me to get 7 new, (to me), books by only spending the cost of media mail to ship a book to someone else.

Gather up all those paperback (and hard cover) books that you have finished reading and really don't need to hang on to. Are you really going to read that James Patterson or John Grisham book again? Doubt it. Go to Paperback Swap, create an account, and list those books on your "bookshelf". After putting 10 books on your shelf, you automatically earn 2 credits. Go shopping! Redeem those credits for books that you would like sent to you from the bookshelves of other members! Books "cost" 1 credit, unless otherwise specified.

I have spent roughly $12.00 shipping my own books to members of Paperback Swap. I earned 2 free credits for signing up. I redeemed those quickly, and got my 2 books. And since that time I have also had requests for books on my shelf to be "purchased", with credits, by other members. When the member receives the book, I get another credit. Of which, currently, I have 5!

Do the math. Once I choose my next selections I will have received a total of 7 books for $1.70 each. I can't "buy" books quickly enough! I pay more than this in library fines, so Paperback Swap is a great deal for me. Plus, when I am done reading, I'll re-list the book and wait for someone else to request it, thus insuring me another book. That is, unless I want to keep it. No returning it to the owner.

It's book recycling at it's best. Try it!

  • Swap goods with your friends.
  • Hit the thrift stores. They can be overwhelming, so for your first go, perhaps make a list of treasures you would like to find. Like that straightening iron.
  • Get creative with your child's birthday party. 3 and 4 year old boys do not need a full spread.
He who does not economize will have to agonize. ~Confucius

Aesop Got It Right

"It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow."

Oh, Aesop, you are so very wise.

And with this quote I offer up to you my first weekly installment of "Thrifty Thursdays".

In order to insure that I post at least once a week, and as a means of communicating to those of you who are amazed at how I am able to find, what our family calls "treasures", at various resale and consignment shops (and sometimes getting things absolutely FREE), and wonder how I find the deals I do (I rarely, rarely pay full price for anything), I have decided to begin posting "Thrifty Thursdays."

Thrifty? What does that mean? It seems to connote second hand, right? Well, not exactly.
Read the definition of thrifty for yourself:
  1. Practicing or marked by the practice of thrift; wisely economical.
  2. Industrious and thriving; prosperous.
  3. Growing vigorously; thriving, as a plant.
I have always looked at thrifty as being, well, cheap, because one had no other choice. Constantly struggling to make ends meet, and yet having to be content with living paycheck to paycheck. Just getting by. Always scrounging. Accepting one's situation for what it is and settling for shopping at Family Dollar.

I was wrong.

The definition describes thrifty in a very active way. Words such as "industrious" and "prosperous" and "vigorous" are not normally used to describe someone who feels stuck in their circumstances, and thus gives up. No, this definition opened my eyes to thrifty being a verb. It reveals thriftiness as being a means to propel one forward to a more sound (wise) and even healthier (thriving) state. I've never contemplated that being thrifty could also be equated with being industrious and prosperous, or that it could provide vigorous growth and a ticket out of the monthly crunch or the paralytic state of "I guess this is all there is."

I just thought I was saving a buck here and there.

When, in actuality, saving a buck is small potatoes compared to what thriftiness actually offers. Merely saving a buck doesn't make me feel industrious or prosperous. I'm missing something.

I must be setting my goals too low. Rather than just saving a dime or two, I would rather experience the industrious, prosperous, and vigorous growth that being thrifty can afford me. No, I don't expect to strike it rich. I just expect to lessen the financial straps that are binding me. One, by making new choices with our money. And two, by feeling released from the mental and emotional pressure because I am following number one. The result? A more relaxed environment in our home where money isn't the key to all things good. For it isn't. And by being industrious in making a few tweaks to the family budget, I am certain we will find a healthier prosperity (which involves so much more than just cash), and experience vigorous growth in so many ways. We waste a ton of money. We aren't frivolous spenders, and yet, by making new choices (on where we shop, how we shop, and deciding when and if we actually need to shop) I bet we will see that we actually have more than we thought. More to give. More to save. More for emergencies. I just think we can be smarter spenders.

So, each Thursday, I'll share my journey. I'll share my treasure hunts, money-saving ideas, websites that have inspired me and will hopefully will spur you on to make new choices with your finances. I'll share brainstorms, ideas, and specifics about where I shop, and where I find the best deals.

It's Thrifty Thursdays. And Mondays, and Tuesdays, and, well, you get it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blissfully Domestic Giveaway

I read Blissfully Domestic every honkin' day. I totally enjoy it and and will, hopefully, submit an article of value to their site some time this year.

In the meantime . . . they give away stuff!!!!!!!! Seriously. Good. Stuff. Run over there and look at this great stuff, comment about it and get into the drawing.

Who couldn't use the Skinny Tank? Not you? Girlfriend, can we talk straight? Yes, you DO need it. That is something only a friend will tell you. Then, there's the Queen Bee tee, a delicious purse, and some rain boots that would see a lot of pavement time if I owned them.

I don't know about you, but it's worth checking out the link and commenting.

You could be a winner.

A winner who's looking all svelte and tucked in with that Skinny Tank . . .

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Much thanks and super duper props go out to the Butcher's for loaning us their Saturn for an indefinite amount of time.

I was very flattered to receive messages from a few friends this morning, who, having read my recent posts, offered up loaner vehicles. We could have gone from zero to three cars within a day. Impressive.

Props to my very green neighbor, Jane Holt, who came upon George walking to pick up the Butcher's car, and even though he looks so menacing, took a risk, picked him up, and saved him a mile walk. Considering he walked to and from church today, I'd say he's had his share of exercise for a Sunday.

And props also go out to Myron Crockett, who whisked George off last night on a highly important mission to pick up inflatable light sabers, on hold for one day only. Zane, and his buddies, will be forever grateful when they wield these at his 4th birthday next week as they destroy the bubble asteroids that will be floating around our galactic living room.

It's nice to feel covered and cared for by peeps.

Yes, I said peeps.

Oh yeah, I went there.

The Atkins Fight Back

We are fighting the dark side.

The car.


But it's not the actual situations that fatigue me. Things break down all the time. There are always bills to pay. I'm not one to expect smooth sailing. And while I'm not altogether stressed about the actual situations themselves, as I believe that ultimately they will be repaired, I must be honest and say that I awoke feeling low this morning over the prospect of the time it takes to remedy situations such as these.

I'm straight-up done putting any more energy into the car and Humana.

See, what is wearing me down is the time I've already given and will have to continue to give to these issues.

Waiting an hour for a tow. Getting the car home. Getting the car towed back to our mechanic on Monday morning. Reworking Harper's ride for school on Monday. Figuring out how I am to get to work, and Zane to school, on Monday since George needs to be on a train at 7:00 AM to head downtown for his ordination class. Finding a replacement vehicle (although, props to Angie, who has offered me a car). It's the mental gymnastics that I have come to abhor. The mental gymnastics that I must endure due to someone else's mistake . . . yeah, I know, that sounds really self-centered. But, it's true.

The car was not repaired correctly back in July. That was 6 months ago. Humana has been jacking me around since February. February. You do the math.

It's the phone calls to Humana (that average 45 minutes a call) in the middle of the day - at least once a week, each time receiving different and contradictory reasons as to why my claims are denied every time I call. No wonder we mothers also give birth to the ability to multitask when we deliver children into the world. Do you really think we wear those telephone headsets around the house to look cool or because we secretly harbor the desire to look like Madonna in concert? No, we wear them so that we can actually prep dinner, put laundry away, and straighten a bathroom, all while staying on hold with Humana.

It's hard when you feel that your time is being taken from you . . . sure, I understand that we all waste time. I am a huge time-waster. But, with these situations I feel as if my time is being taken from me and I have no choice but to continue fighting back. And I'm tired of fighting back. I just want to move on.

We're home bound today and the kids are doing marvelously. Thankfully. They spent the morning playing Star Wars - not on Wii - no, they actually played Star Wars. Harper was Darth Vader. Zane, Bobafett. A snip-it of the dialogue went something like this:

"Bring me Obi One and the young Luke Skywalker. I want them brought back here alive!"

"What about-"

"Don't interrupt me! Find the droids and kill them, but bring me the jet pack (?). Also, Jabba. I want him brought here alive."

Zane did as he was told and I found him in the family room attempting to lift an imaginary Jabba to bring back to Lord Vader. He was grunting. Jabba is quite large. And slimy.

They also played Peter Pan.

They are being rewarded with The Empire Strikes Back.

I did a Peapod Order. If I'm able to get a car today then I can always cancel it and run to the store. However, it is nice to think about someone delivering my groceries to me before 8:00 am tomorrow morning, even with the added expense. An expense we don't have. No, it's not the cheapest choice. But it is a time saver to be sure.

And right now, I want my time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Desperate Plea

At the risk of having my 1999 Subaru Forester morphed into some suped up speed machine, I am putting the call out to these guys, and gal, from Overhaulin', to save my car.

My car, whose transmission blew this afternoon.

The transmission which was previously replaced in July. And then repaired again in September.

If you are a faithful reader I don't even need to link you back to the events of this summer. For you, this is like a bad film sequel: Transmission III: Stranded at Walgreen's.

I am numb.

And now I'm really not sure how to get the grocery shopping done that still hasn't happened since my run in at Aldi's.

So, I'm boldly putting out the call to the Next Food Network Star and Overhaulin'. I could use some meals for the freezer along with that transmission.

Thanks. I'll just wait here, trapped in my house. I'm the one sitting in the front window learning how to play my pink electric so that I can drown out my troubles with very loud songs.

Oh, and did I fail to mention that I got a few more bills from Humana today, denying some claims for Harper? Is there a show called,

We'll Fight Your Insurance Company For You, So Just Sit Back, Relax, and Let Us Take it From Here, Because You've Spent Way Too Much Time Attempting to Reach Someone Who Can Give You a Straight Answer As To Why They Won't Pay?

No? There should be. Time to pitch that one to the network. Though the title probably needs a little more work.

Cue primal scream.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I Resolve?

I struggle with the idea of making Resolutions, and specifically New Year's Resolutions, as I tend to make and reassess my personal goals throughout the year.

I also struggle with New Year's Resolutions because I never actually succeed in completing them.

Which is funny, because I am a huge goal-maker.

I'm running circles.

Maybe I just have a problem with the actual word.


I was once up for a role in "She Loves Me", (a role I should have gotten - seriously, this is not merely a Joline brag-fest. The role was terribly miscast) whose character sings the belted tune, "I Resolve".

I could take a tip from the opening lines of that song.

I resolve not to be so stupid.
I resolve not to be so dumb.

I awoke this morning with a lot on my mind. The most pressing thought being that I'd prefer not to make stupid and dumb choices with regards to my Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Financial health. And, of course, as January 1 brings this out in people, I'd love to see these changes, or rather, adjustments implemented in 2009. Thankfully, God's grace quickly rushed into my pity-fest and He reminded me of what HAD been accomplished in 2008. So, as an exercise in documenting God's goodness and how He can override our stupidity, I'll start there:

  • God gave our family the stamina to fight for, and get answers to that which had been ailing Harper since Kindergarten. It was the first time that I had to truly advocate for my child. I watched God restore her to the confident and joyful girl that we have always known her to be.
  • God put the desire on my heart to step up as a Co-leader for Moms R Us at church. Monday mornings have thus become a place of rejuvenation, fellowship, challenge, and delight for my heart.
  • I began to write. Alot.
  • I continued building my personal Mary Kay business as a means of covering the lost income of closing my private coaching business - a risky financial decision, and yet a smart emotional decision.
  • I retained two of my most precious coaching clients to the tune of watching one open on tour for Corbin Bleu (of HS Musical fame), and the other, just recently, clinch the lead in the musical at New Trier - as a Junior.
  • We read aloud more as a family this year.
  • We began the process of figuring out how we do family devotions and were fairly consistent with practicing a family devotional time.
  • We, and many others, helped a good friend, Fred Bryant, see his dream of owning a guitar by pitching in to pay for the building of his one of a kind instrument.
  • We learned to live on one car.
  • I'm sure there is so much more . . .
So, where do we go from here? I would love to see God work through me in the following areas in 2009. And since the word Resolve just doesn't cut it, I'll call these New Year Responsibilities - for the word connotes a more active participation in the process.

Financial Responsibility
We are taking a hard look at this for 2009. Drastic changes are in the mix to restore this area for our family. Drastic changes. Like, as in, hold on to your hats, drastic.
  • Writing needs to be a part of this drastic change. Prayerfully.
  • Mary Kay will continue.
  • I am needing to follow Gods lead and keep my eyes open for new opportunities.

Physical Responsibility.

I dropped 7 pounds on the detox program. And while I've not put it all back on, I've also failed to stick to all the commitments I yearned to keep after finishing the program (grace unto me . . . I finished the purge on Thanksgiving Day . . . so I entered the holiday season immediately following).

  • Lose 10 lbs and be back to my original pre-pregnancy weight. I'm so close.
  • Return to running (I have already begun this).
  • Return to weight-training - women's bones need it.
  • Diet, Vitamins, Exercise.
  • Exercise for FREE. I've got all the tools I need.
Spiritual Responsibility.
  • Biblical word study on "worship".
  • Read The Jesus Creed with Moms R Us.
  • George had the brilliant idea of reciting "The Jesus Creed" with the children every morning. He even gave me a beautiful wall plaque for our home which bears these life changing words: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • We will also be reading a Proverb a week with the children and working on memorizing them.
Emotional Responsibility.
I am at my best emotional strength when I am involved in activities that further the emotional strength of other people. Simply put, learning to live life as if it doesn't revolve around me. It's about getting off my rump and being available for other people, and challenging others, who are wallowing on their rumps, to do the same. That's the tricky part.

While God has wired me in such a way that I am compelled to encourage others to make the best choices for themselves, this is not always well received. I am a straight shooter. Just as I have to make wise emotional decisions for myself, I will always challenge other women to do the same.

I think everyone needs a little "iron sharpens iron" in life. I have found that iron-sharpening woman certainly make for the deepest friendships. My spiritual gifts are Administration (which I have ignored for YEARS), and Discernment. Non-use of these gifts has dulled my sharpening instincts. In 2008 I was blessed to use both of these gifts with Moms R Us, and by doing so, I have been sharpened emotionally. Thus, I will continue to make sharpening choices for both myself and will encourage those I love to do the same.

Ok, now I'm just fatiguing myself. But I'm not overwhelmed. Just, well, excited. I'm full of positive anticipation and as I begin to look at Resolutions as actual Responsibilities, I am flooded with purpose, rather than a "to do" list.

Happy New Year.

Be fiscally responsible.
Be spiritually responsible.
Be physically responsible.
Be emotionally responsible.

I don't merely want to DO these things.

I want to BE these things.

This is an entirely new way of looking at New Year Responsibilities. It's not about a list.

It's about life.

No Soup For You!

The film did NOT meet my expectations.

It should have been renamed, The Tale of Roscuro, for Despereaux, while mentioned at the beginning by the Narrator (phoned in by Sigourney Weaver, who's placid voice did not carry the "umph" needed by a Narrator in order to drive a story), didn't even enter the plot for like 20 minutes.

I did like the animation.

The story, however, was flat. Void of the incredible imagery of light and dark and revenge vs. forgiveness. It was humorless (with a few small crumbs that succeeded in making me chuckle), and slow. Painfully slow.

The individual journeys of each character were very sloppily mixed together. I was shocked Kate DiCamillo would sign off on the screenplay.

Now, I did bump into two other families at the theater who have not read the book, and they found the movie "beautiful". This is where I begin to feel like a snob with my, "Oh! You just HAVE to read the book!"

But you do. You just do.

The best part of the movie? Watching Zane light up and giggle with pure glee when Despereaux meets the Princess Pea. The kind-hearted Princess Pea, who's careless treatment of Miggery Sow (which never happens in the book) is an additional story line which infuriated me, as it actually insinuated that she was partially to blame for triggering Miggery's desire for revenge.

There is just so much I took issue with. The beauty of the true story was chopped, with all the yummy ingredients being thrown together into a big pot and left to mingle and mesh with each for too long. Everything was overcooked. The result being a tasteless mush. The film sacrificed the unique flavors of the details. I would actually love to see someone else redo the film, as I do think it would make an incredible visual story.

Zane still found the little mouse and his love for a beautiful princess quite intriguing. I took delight in watching his eyes light up throughout the film. In fact, he awoke this morning saying, "I still want to be the good mouse, Despereaux." Zane was able to see goodness, and bravery, and love.

Harper? Well, she bumped into a friend at the theater and sat with their family. This also brought me much joy, as I glance back to last year, where she would shrink at the prospect of doing something so . . . bold.

Afterwards, it took a Vanilla Shake from McDonald's to calm down the film critic in me.

It was great.

Not so, the Tale of Despereaux.