Saturday, February 27, 2016

LIVING WITHIN MY MEANS ... PRECIOUS MEMORIES OF GROWING UP POOR

My mom and I were having a conversation last night about people who can not live within their means.  This conversation, of course, was spurned by my complaining about all of my hospital and physical therapy bills I am currently attempting, rather poorly, to pay off.

"How is it that these people can go and eat at amazing places and vacation at amazing locales, and I spend my Friday evening eating tater tots and my Spring Breaks cleaning out my closets?"

"Meg, some people don't know how to live within their means.  They feel like if they NEED to go out to eat, they do. They put it on the credit card and worry about it later."

"You and Dad never did that.  If we didn't have money for a treat, like ice cream for instance, you didn't go out and buy us ice cream at the ice cream parlor."

"No, I would make homemade cookies or something like that.  You always talk about the cookies I would make before we went on vacation."

And it's true! My mom would make a family favorite, California Rangers, a week or so ahead of our summer vacation to our grandparents' cottage in Northern Michigan.  These cookies made a TON of the cookies ... like 18 bajillion dozens, and we'd have cookies for the entire two-week vacation. My sister and I had no idea that we didn't have enough money to go into town and get a sweet treat at the local Dairy Queen, and later the fancy gourmet ice cream parlor.  We were perfectly happy eating those yummy cookies.

I never knew that in some parts of the United States macaroni and cheese was a side dish.  We ate it as a full meal, usually with steamed tomatoes or a salad.  Why?  Because macaroni was cheap as was a can of steamed tomatoes ... or the ones my mom canned fresh the August before.  She made that dinner taste like prime rib!  To this day, homemade macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dinners!

We ate out very minimally growing up.  McDonalds? That was a HUGE treat that happened only once in a great while.  And take out pizza/pizza delivery?  We couldn't afford that! My mom made THE BEST homemade pizza ever! To this day, we'd all rather have a homemade pizza/home town hole in the wall pizza place than any big-name, mass produced pizza.  We just didn't know what we were missing.

Fabulous vacations to Disney World or The Beach?  We didn't have them.  We went to my grandparents' cottage which was a little one bedroom fishing cottage on a lake 10 minutes south of Mackinaw City and the Straits of Mackinac. Until my grandfather retired, the only way to bathe was standing at the bathroom sink or in the lake. We just didn't know there was such a thing as a Magical Kingdom because those summer sunsets over Carp Lake held their own magic!

Our parents provided us with all sorts of fun experiences that cost no money whatsoever, and again, we never knew the difference because we had so much fun!

Some of my favorite memories are tied with the Whitehouse Nature Center in Albion. If we weren't hiking the trails in the summer or fall, we were skiing those trails in the winter on our cross country skis.  We took walks EVERYWHERE, and my mom made a trip to the public library (which we did A LOT growing up) seem like a religious experience.

We never had a lot of money.  I remember becoming aware of that at the beginning of one of my middle school years, when asked by a peer where I got my cute dress and I replied, "Kmart," the dress immediately became ugly, and I was teased mercilessly. That was a particularly lean year for my parents, and my mom had purchased our Back to School clothes off the clearance rack of Kmart.

I think that experience helped me not care one iota now about how I shop for my clothes ... which is usually off of the clearance rack or at consignment shops.  In fact, my sister got me a GORGEOUS blouse from a consignment shop for Christmas because I'd fallen in love with it in the fall but didn't feel like I could spend the money.  Some people would scoff at that.  I was thrilled!  I LOVE THAT BLOUSE and wear it all the time!

Yes, I get frustrated when I can't do what I'd like to my house.  I would love to gut my bathroom.  I have no funds in my budget for that. It doesn't matter.  I can make a scrumptious dinner out of nothing and find an evening of fun out of a walk in a nature preserve watching the sun set.

The memories I treasure the most are not the ones when we had a little bit more money.  The memories I treasure the most are during those times where we had very little.

Money isn't everything. I think if more people realized that, life might be a much more pleasant experience ...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WHAT I AM MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SPRING

I am part of two writing groups, and today, I went to one of them. 

We always have a writing prompt we write to before we share what we've been working on.  Today's prompt was I am most looking for to _________ in the spring because __________.

Here's what I wrote:

I am most looking forward to Spring Break in the spring, because, let’s be honest here, the wheels have completely fallen off my organizational bus.  I mean, fallen off, whizzed off the side of the road and off into the pucker brush never to be seen again. 

During Spring Break, when the rest of the world tied to school, is off enjoying exotic locales, I am home pawing through my closets and basement and garage and, okay, my living room, and embarrassing myself with the sheer amount of STUFF I have.  There is very little rhyme nor reason to the stuff I find that needs a home … a home away from my home.

During one such undertaking a few years back, I uncovered the commemorative mini-wine glass from my high school prom … from May 1990, complete with the dust that collected in it from that same year, I am relatively sure!  Among the other notables, were ET trading cards, all the playbooks from my high school drama years, and four id cards from various jobs and/or universities I’ve attended and/or worked. 

The really horrifying part of this tale is that I didn’t get rid of any of it!  Just posted their existences on Facebook and steeled myself for the jokes at my expense.  I think perhaps I heard back from other friends that they had similar treasures in their attics/basements/junk rooms, which, of course, assisted me in the hoarding of those artifacts.

I have thrown away Scrunchies, much too far past the date of Scrunchie-ing, numerous boxes of old cough medicine in various forms of pill or liquid (what didn’t evaporate), barrettes from the 80s, and not one but TWO hot roller sets.  I haven’t needed hot rollers since I don’t even know when!

I blame my northern upbringing for this!  We use our garages for our cars, which means we have these big, ole basements just waiting to hold all of our old treasures and junk … or just plain crap!  I also blame our town’s annual Garbage Weekend.  It was a weekend where everyone cleaned out their basements from the year before and threw all manner of crap on the pile.  I never wanted anyone to see the stuff I’d been hoarding. 


That desire still very much stands.

OOPS! I DID IT AGAIN!

Okay, so I did this to my hair today.




It's hard to see (and please excuse the mess in the kitchen), but I let the curls/waves do their thing while I did a whole spiky thing on the shorter pieces of hair.  I was all, "What the heck! It can't get any worse."

I had a couple of compliments from adults, so I figured, "Okay, this is a good change. I might consider this little thing I've been toying with for next stylist visit." It involves spiky things, in case you were wondering.

My outfit was relatively cute ... okay, it was passable ... fine!  It was within the decade, okay.  Yes!  THIS decade!

I was feeling okay today about my appearance.  I wasn't on point or on fleek or whatever it is the kids are using these days.  But, again, I was passable.

And so my day went merrily along.  I attempted to mold and shape minds.  They attempted to stage a coup.

As my homeroom was coming back into my room at the end of the day, and as I stood greeting them at my door with, "Clean your desks and get your agendas out," one of my little dears gives me one of those, "HOLY CRAP!" looks, and says, "Ummmm, Miss Murray? What happened to your hair?"

Not, Miss Murray, did you get a hair cut?

No, Miss Murray, are you doing something different?

Nope.  What happened to your hair?  And at the end of the day!  As if he hasn't laid eyes on me all day!

I swear. I am not sure why I try.  These fashion critics I am surrounded by each day are wearing down my ego to within an inch of the floor.

Oy vey! The Fashion Police have nothing on fourth graders.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

READ LIKE A ROCK STAR!

I set a goal, recently, of reading 24 books by the end of the year.  Then, our Superintendent got this brilliant idea to start a Reading Challenge at our school. Before it was all said and done, I was serving on the planning committee of READ LIKE A ROCK STAR.

The plan?  Read 25 books ... every kid, teacher, administrator, community, and if, by May 20th, we've met the goal of 10,000 books?  Well, our principal and assistant principal would camp on the roof of the school!

So, the bar has been raised!  I must now work really, really hard at not sleeping every evening and read some books! I might just get to my goal of 24 books by May 20th!  We shall see!

Wish me luck.  I fall asleep at the drop of a hat these days!

SOMEONE ELSE'S CRISIS

My schedule is RIDICULOUS. It's no wonder I can't keep up with things here at home.  I have physical therapy Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (and that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon).  Tuesdays are my only day wherein I have time to sit and plan and do a great deal of grading and really dig into stuff that needs to be done in my room.  Wednesdays and Thursdays, I have after school or Extended School time. Wednesdays are crazy as I've got to leave from ESS early to RUN to my PT appointment. Thursdays, I am able to do stuff like committee meetings and team meeting and lesson plan and all that stuff that doesn't get done during planning.  That leaves Saturdays and Sundays to try to catch up on things like laundry and house cleaning and organization and bill paying and perhaps, just perhaps, a little bit of social life ... a VERY teeny, tiny social life.

So I am always so very flummoxed when someone gets huffy because my schedule doesn't fit into their timeline. Poor planning (or a lack of understanding) on their part DOES NOT constitute an emergency on my part.  It just doesn't.

A meeting was recently called. I explained that my schedule was extremely tight right now, and I didn't have a lot of room to wiggle where a meeting was concerned. I threw out some possible dates, and here's where it gets laughable, my dates were declined because I couldn't meet when THEY WANTED ME TO.  Ummmm, okay.  Why bother to ask for availability then?

And don't you just hate when some one looks at you and says, "Oh! I get it!  My life is STUPID, busy as well," when they have no earthly clue how long it takes me to "get off the clock?"  These people leave at 5 p.m. and get to leave their work at work.  I, on the other hand, might leave before 5 p.m., but deal with my job until I go to bed at, hopefully, a decent time at night.  NO.  YOU DON'T GET IT.  STOP TELLING ME YOU DO!

I have been beyond blown away by the people in my life that truly understand the craziness that is my life.  I really have.  They have gone out of their way to excuse me from commitments, show understanding and compassion, and their willingness to work with the insanity.

This whole experience has taught me many things. Chiefly, we are all self-centered, and it's really hard to break that desire. However, after the wonderful examples I've had the opportunity to witness in recent weeks, I am willing to work hard to do just that in the future especially if I see another struggling to make it a day under crazy conditions.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

MY SPIRIT OF DISCONTENTMENT

I found myself this morning, like I do many mornings, going through the motions ... following the routines or habits of my life.  This morning, as I was putting the bathmat down and getting the water in the shower warmed up, I found myself thinking, "This is just like Groundhog Day! Is my life never going to be anything but getting up, going to work, coming home, going to bed, and starting all over again?"

I had to stop myself.

From an outside glance, my world is very small.  My life is not at all exciting.  Married people?  My single world is NOT at all exciting.  I have bills.  I have debt ... OH MY WORD! If I allowed myself to dwell on it for just a half second, it can be overwhelming how much debt I have.

But, in amidst all that, I have been blessed. I have had opportunities that not everyone has gotten.  I have had experiences that have shaped me.  I have a good life.

I forget that at times  ... the good life part.  I forget it when I am panicking about how I am going gut my bathroom ... or redo the pipes in my house ... or think for even a minute about what would happen if my old HVAC system went out ... or how I am going to insulate my crawl space ... or paint my living room ... or ... the list is long and panic-inducing.

While I was combing out my hair this morning, following the routine, I realized what it was driving the panic and the Groundhog Day thoughts ... my discontentment.

My discontentment can be an ugly monster that rears its gnarling face during those times when blind routine becomes the norm.

Here's the thing, though:  My God, the One that loves me, He never changes.  He is a constant.

Why must I have constant change and desire more and more and not find contentment right where He has placed me?

I don't know the answer to that question.  I wished I did, but, thankfully, He doesn't need me to know everything in order to work. Thankfully, He is able to work despite my days where my spirit of discontentment grows large within me.

Today, as I sip my coffee (because we all know I cannot person without it), I will determine to enjoy this life ... with all of its crazy dips and unexpected turns and daily routines.  Even in the boring, He blesses. So, I will attempt a spirit of expectancy!