Category Archives: Self Care

Burnt Toast and a Crock Pot

Recently I was having a texting conversation with a friend of mine who lives in another state. We haven’t seen each other in years, but we manage to stay in touch, like many people, through email, texting, and social media. We’ve been talking a lot more lately with everything going on with COVID-19 in the country.  One of our conversations was on a day when we had both made a quick run to our grocery stores to stalk the pantry and the fridge. We joked back and forth about wiping off the plastic grocery bags with disinfectant wipes. And I laughed when she sent me a picture of her purchases because I had just shot of video of my shopping trip (for an upcoming post), and realized our grocery filled counters looked very similar (mine above; hers below) “right down to the carrot cake mix,” I told her.

After we’d chatted a bit, and I discovered that she shopped weekly in order to keep fresh produce in the house, I asked her how that was working out for her financially, since weeks earlier, she had unfortunately been laid off from her job like so many others resulting from the pandemic’s negative impact on the economy. When we spoke, she was still waiting on her first unemployment check, but we talked about how she’d made it a priority to eat healthy, even through these times when she also had to watch how she spent her money. As we talked more about not only her shopping habits, but cooking, I asked her if she would be open to sharing a little about her ventures to my followers.

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If you’re anything like me, when that lock down took effect, I got worried. I wasn’t too worried about the financial aspects because I knew unemployment would be coming my way. The worry was about eating! OK, I admit it, I’m a lousy cook. My mantra is “I never cook for people I love,” except my ex-husband! How do you think I got rid of him so easily?

I’ve always been a career focused woman without a direction in cooking. I had an awesome boyfriend after my divorce that would cook for me or take me out to dinner. When I lived at home, my mom and dad were the chefs! Dad was an expert on the grill. Mom would make us yummy Slovenian dishes and desserts. Her homemade bread? Well there’s no describing it. But me? I have to buy two loaves of bread just to get two edible pieces of toast because I’m constantly burning them. How do you set those toasters anyway? So complicated.

Being a vegetarian, I don’t have to worry about meats, poultry and fish. But I do get concerned about eating too many carbs. When a vegetarian goes out to dinner and lets the waitress know they are vegetarian, the first thing they do is bring a big plate of pasta with tomato sauce poured over it. Yuck! Even “I” can make that! I don’t like to eat heavy in the evenings so most of it would go to waste.

I guess the reality finally hit me by the middle of my first week in lockdown… I don’t have any food in the house! Thankfully I have a wonderful friend who just so happened to call me just as I was “also” down with the flu. Knowing I’m not a kitchen girl, Mary asked me where the crock pot was that she donated to me a few weeks earlier. My response was one of, “uh … well, um ….” Within an hour, she knocked on my door, slid her hand inside, which was holding a brown paper handle bag filled with goodies, AND instructions on how to use the crock pot! When I opened the bag I thought, “What! You mean I have to “put this stuff into the crock pot!” I was a mess.

Except for the just made warm loaf of challah bread, in the fridge the bag went. And there it sat.

Two days later I pulled out the goodies and my crock pot. I was actually quite impressed. She brought me carrots, celery, fresh parsley, and several little jars filled with measured spices, barley, vegetable stock, etc., And a “recipe”! All I needed to do was put everything in the crock pot with some filtered water, turn the dial to 4-hours, and I was golden! Wow! What a concept.

I took all of the recipes she so generously printed out, along with some recipes my sister brought back from Australia, and I made a list of the foods that I would like to eat and would be able to make in my crock pot.

During my trip to the grocery store, I bought fresh fruits, spring mix lettuce, baby spinach, mushrooms, fresh and frozen vegetables, almost ripe avocados, golden potatoes, high protein pastas, nuts and seeds, some cheeses, sour cream, eggs, vanilla yogurt (to protect my good bacteria), a greek olive mix of feta, kalamata and Spanish olives, ground spices, and a fresh loaf of my favorite Tuscan bread. Yes, two loaves.

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My kitchen was flourishing. For two weeks I made the most delicious foods that not only kept me healthy and filled up, but I lost weight! I was so proud of myself! I had a kitchen filled with beautiful fruits and veggies that I put on display, a new selection of fresh herbs and spices, and my two loaves of Tuscan bread. My freezer had some frozen fruits for smoothies, plus I treated myself to some pierogies. Yes, I did.

In my venture out, I opted to go to Aldi’s. They have great prices and a large selection of organic choices. The avocados were on sale so I stocked up as much as I could knowing they’re perishable. The bread was at Giant Eagle, so I made a trip across the street. Much to my surprise the prices at GE were LESS than Aldi’s! I was very surprised. The third stop I made was to Big Lots – they have some organic spices that really saved me a lot of money. With all this shopping, my bill was less than $70! Did it take extra time, yes, but it was a great day to start my new venture with my crock pot … my toaster, and my pots & pans. I need new ones, by the way. I should send a hint to Mary!

No matter your opinion is about the CV19 lockdown, the reality is we have to go on with our every day. We have to get up in the morning. We have to get dressed. We have to mentally prepare for our survival. AND! We have to eat! Do yourself a favor… make this fun. Find something new in your kitchen, your basement, your garage. Fill your day with happiness and new ventures.

Good luck!

Time to Move from Financial Denial to Reality Living

I made a Facebook post on my Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets page, bragging about how happy I was to find a large container of Folgers coffee on sale at Kroger. I was very happy about my find because I was in there picking up items for an event that was happening the next day, and coffee was among them.

Seeing that winter was refusing to leave, and the forecast called for a rainy and much cooler day, I knew that a fresh brewed pot of hot coffee would be a welcomed treat to our guests!

But within hours of me posting my 75% savings, and talking about having paid less than three dollars for a 23 ounce container that normally sold for over eleven dollars, one of the women who follow my page decided to mock my posting.

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“It is $3 for a reason,” she wrote. Adding the ever present “hahaha” whenever someone’s trying to be funny. I fired back; not because I was personally offended. To be honest, I don’t routinely buy Folgers coffee. I don’t drink enough of it on a regular basis to buy large containers of anyone’s coffee. So I tend to grab the smaller bags; usually when I have a coupon for the grocery store, or when a place like World Market runs them for a Buy One Get One free! And on the occasion I’m sitting and writing from one of my favorite cafes, I’ll usually buy a small cup there, if only to justify why I’m taking up a seat while working on grades or even this blog.

But I responded to her, not so much to set her straight — perhaps she really was trying to be funny — but more as a message to any of my other readers who thought the way her comment implied:

“Lots of people love Folgers. Actually, lots of people are drinking it and don’t even know it. Don’t you know that’s what most people are serving at conferences and church? Do you really think it’s the high premium ones being served?”

You see. I’m convinced that the reason so many people struggle financially for so long following a job loss, or downsizing, or an economic blow to their bank account, is because they’re not willing to adjust their lifestyle to their new life. They live and spend and go about their days in what I call “denial of the moment,” that catches up to them when the debt collectors come calling.

I know there are some who really don’t know how to make a major life shift, because luxury spending and not having a budget was always so much a part of their every day life, that adjusting is difficult. They don’t know where or how to start. However, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t learn.

But then there are others; several people who I know personally, who don’t because they won’t. They would rather be seen with the five dollar green logo cup of coffee in their hands, than the one dollar gas station version; or even something brewed from home. They would rather run up their credit cards at their old familiar boutique retail outlets, than to be seen coming out of a discount store, let alone, any type of consignment shop.

These are the women who buy cars for “show” and look down on generic or store-brand products, some of which have beaten the higher priced items in blind taste tests, or are even products made by the same name brand companies. But when you’re putting on a show, the illusion is what you’re trying to sell.

And that’s one of the things that can get people into financial trouble, or gets in the way of them getting out of it. For an illusion to be believable, it has to be sustained. People have to work at getting others to buy their lie.

Today in church, I sat next to a friend I’ve known for over 10 years. When service was over, another woman we both know commented on her outfit; complimenting the skirt and top she had on.

I got it from Goodwill,” my friend spoke up confidently. Their conversation after that was about which one of the Goodwills in town had the best finds, and which day of the week was the best time to go, etc. I had to smile, because I’d actually gone shopping with this friend at several Goodwill stores before. I’ve also spoken frequently with other women about giving it a try; especially if they said they were serious about watching their budgets.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned watching and personally walking through this past decade, it’s that you can’t make someone change their ways. You can only offer them assistance, show them another way, and encourage them to make life’s adjustments to their new normal. It’s up to them to face the reality of where they actually are, and stop with the illusion of where they once were, or hoped to be.

There should be nothing embarrassing about being wise with your money.

 

Self-Care is Self Survival

For the most part, I hate undoing things. Or should I say dealing with the aftermath of having done something. Just like most people, I prefer putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house for the holidays. But I dread the January time period of taking everything down and putting them away. I love planning and hosting parties, anytime a year, really, but loathe the clean up afterwards. And when it’s time to travel, whether I’m going 500 miles back home, or traveling 5,000 plus miles overseas, I am a terrible procrastinator when it comes to unpacking and putting things away after the trip.

If I could figure out a way to monetize a new business model, I would start a company where I would come plan your parties, pack your luggage, and decorate your house for whatever season, but only in return for people coming to my house to put all of my things away. Not sure how that would actually work, but that’s how much I hate doing it.

So I’m four days returning from my Christmas vacation, and my luggage still sits in the middle of the floor; an unopened one by the back door in the den, and the other one I’ve been picking through on an as-needed basis, in the bedroom. But I have made a little progress, in the form of sorting through my cards and gifts. Now I’m not saying I’ve made any progress with putting them away, or to use yet. But the fact that they’re out of their gift bags and on my bed — okay, stacked together next to my bed — is forward movement.

As I look at several of the little items gathered together, a theme seem to jump out at me. “Self-Care!”

Maybe I was looking for it without realizing it, but all of the thoughtful gifts were messages and reminders for me. And something that made starting 2018 more perfect.

Two of my friends bought me a bottle of doTERRA Frankincense essential oil that I’e already begun using. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but my friends didn’t just grab something off the shelf. They know me and knew about my health struggles I’ve dealt with over the years. And Frankincense is said to help relieve chronic stress and anxiety, and reduce pain and inflammation. I need help in all of those areas.

A week later a colleague gave me a placard for my office with the word “REJOICE” and the scripture Psalm 118:19-24 written on it. The phrase that stands out to me most, that I want to read each day I come to work, is the reminder to rejoice and be glad. Glad that I have a job to come to. Glad that I enjoy what I do (most days). Glad that I’m able to make a living at what I do. And glad that I’m making a difference in the lives of young people, even at times when I think I’m just talking in circles.

“…let us rejoice today and be glad.” Psalm 118:24b

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With the extreme drop in temperatures during the start of this year, I’ve been wearing the moisturizer and aloe-infused socks that one of my sisters gave me to bed each night since I got home. Today, I’m enjoying my second visit to Starbucks this week, compliments of a Starbucks gift card my other sister gave me. But I have to also admit, after popping four or five Truffles in my mouth in less than an hour, that sometimes denial is as important in the name of self-care! So I had to put the remaining box of that delicious treat in the freezer!

I appreciate all of my Christmas gifts from family and friends. There’s no one thing better than the next, because it’s always the thought; that someone even thought enough about me to want to share a gift this holiday season. But this year I’ve taken to heart those items that also point me in a direction I need to daily remember — to take care of myself.

There is a difference between self-care and self-obsession. While there are many people who spend way too much time and money on pampering and overindulging themselves, mostly at the exclusion to what may be going on with other people in the world around them, there are still many others who spend much of their time helping and giving to others; being there whenever someone calls; sacrificing their own needs for the needs of family, work or friends.

We have to remember to take care of ourselves if we are to survive. The overused airplane analogy is nonetheless a perfect picture of how we should approach life, in terms of how we give — emotionally, financially, physically, and relationally. And that is to remember to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others around you with theirs. No matter how tempting it is to reach for your children, or to assist your aging parent beside you, if you are not in a healthy state first, you will not be as effective to assist others. And quite possibly, you both may suffer as a result.

I’m looking forward to lighting one of my scented candles, slipping on a pair of those super soft socks, and enjoying a hot cup of tea in my large “HOPE” mug, while writing in my new journal. Yes, FAITH makes all things possible!

So as I kick off this new school year, and the pressures and workload of collegiate teaching in this environment grow, I’ll look to my gifts as subtle reminders of some of the things that should really be important.

REJOICE. HOPE. FAITH.

What great words to remember and to live by this new year!