Category Archives: survival skills

The Most Important Woman in the World

It’s Women’s History Month; a time when we celebrate the progress, influence, and contributions women have made and continue to make in society. It’s kinda funny to me that we have to set a month aside each year in order to pause and recognize what women do and what they have done in history, rather than celebrating those accomplishments every day. I mean, just look around and it’s amazing all of the incredible things women are able to do, to share, to teach, and to create.

But I never realized just how much I learned from the most important woman in my life — my mom. And how much she did, how much she shared, how much she taught me growing up…until she was gone; and I couldn’t tell her.

People talk about hearing their mother’s voice in the words they find themselves repeating. Funny phrases. Directives to their kids. A discussion with their spouse. They laugh upon realizing that some of their vocal tone, actions, body language, and even reactions are things they saw or heard from their mother, and that they swore they would never say or do. There are so many things I find myself doing, and at times, stop and realize I’m doing them a certain way because it was the way my mama taught me. Or it was something I observed her doing.

Being one of six kids, I often shake my head in amazement that mom had the time, the energy, and the mental stability to raise all of us; and to do a pretty good job of it, I must say. Of course she had challenges, and I’m sure if she was still here she would talk about the things she might have said or done differently. But as I look back at the woman who married young, had two kids more than she and my dad had intended, and was twice forced to become a single parent for a year while my dad served two tours of duty in Vietnam, it is a wonder how she managed to keep it all together; to keep us all together.

One of the things that impressed me about my mom was how she was able to take care of her family on the low pay soldier’s salary my dad made. Even today, there’s much that can be said about the low salaries of our military, but back in the 1960s and 70s, it was even worst; especially for enlisted members. So retirement wasn’t much better. But in spite of that, we never went to bed hungry; never spent a night on the streets; and when it came down to it, we never went without the things we needed.

We shopped at Sears and other discount stores; always had shoes on her feet; wore clothes that were handed down; and while we may not have been the most fashionable bunch, mom often found a way to splurge on us for special events, like attending a concert or the middle and junior high school dance.

She had a way with making money work for her.

Growing up, I didn’t just watch my mom clip coupons. She made us cut them from all of the coupon fliers in the Sunday newspaper each week, and the numerous Army base magazines she picked up from the Commissary. I may have been too young to fully understand the value of a dollar back then, but I will never forget the value of the savings and her ability to stretch the dollars in order to regularly provide for our family. It’s a practice that I have replicated to keep me afloat during some financially challenging times.

Having been raised to live within my means; to not be embarrassed to shop at discount stores; and not worry about not making fashion statements; or to let pride keep me from making wise decisions about purchases and savings, it was an easier transition for me to re-adjust my lifestyle in my adult years, when after years of upward financial mobility, I was dealt an unexpected change in my job and financial stability. It was the lessons I learned from my mother that helped me to get through that time in my life.

My mom had such wisdom about her, even in her younger years. The youngest in her own family, with sisters who were much older, it is a wonder how she picked up on so much. I used to ask her about things, like where she learned about keeping a budget. She would say, “some things you’re just forced into learning how to do.” I guess that’s part of what made her generation so much different than ours. They worked hard for the things they needed; and put off many of the things they wanted, if it didn’t fit into the budget. We, on the other hand, work hard to surround ourselves with things we just want, seldom allowing patience and planning to direct our steps towards having them; even if it means going into debt.

So when I think about the purpose of celebrating women’s history month, and as I’m thinking about the woman who had the biggest influence on my life, I can say without hesitation that it was definitely my mom.

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What’s in a Cupcake?

I first heard about Gigi Butler when I was a music agent at a talent agency located on Nashville’s infamous Music Row.  Someone brought her cupcakes to the office one day. A couple of months; maybe it was only weeks later someone else brought some in for a meeting. After that, I began to hear even more people talking about them. I can’t say that I “loved” her cupcakes. I actually prefer a little less icing with mine so that I can better enjoy the cupcake itself. But after several months, I did know that there was a growing “buzz” about her new shop, Gigi’s Cupcakes.

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I switched jobs less than a year after she launched her company, and was no longer working at the same location, so as I continued to hear more about these cupcakes in other places, I realized it was no longer just another Music Row bakery shop.

Fast forward seven years to 2015, with several articles read about her company’s growth, and biographical information I’d come across, I was one of many who tuned in to the Undercover Boss TV show she was featured in to see how she would handle her own employees and franchisees’ feedback about the cupcakes, and the company as a whole. I found the episode very interesting, because she actually seemed more surprised by what she learned than many of other company CEOs and executives who I have seen on the show.

So when I learned she would be coming to the university where I teach, I made it a point of inviting myself to join the Business School students who were present during last year’s Entrepreneurship Week. I must say that I expected there would be more students in attendance. It still blows my mind that there are so many free opportunities for students to learn from people who are doing what they say they want to do; who they would never get a private meeting with, and yet so few, proportionately speaking, ever attend. I thought this was just an issue in my department. But that’s another story.

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As I sat in that auditorium listening to Gigi tell her story, I was taking mental notes, keying in on things that probably went right past others listening. I wasn’t interested in starting my own cupcake company, but I was interested in hearing about her entrepreneurial journey. And while I had read about much of it online and in various articles, I wanted to hear her tell the story of how as a teenager she started a small business to raise enough money to come to Nashville to pursue a music career. I wanted to hear from her how she built that first company into a success, made the move to Nashville, but struggled to make it in the music industry.

I listened intently about how she struggled financially, not making enough money playing the shows she was able to get (which is not that unusual for those seeking stardom in the music city), but still wanting to continue her pursuit of becoming an artist. And then she said it…

She talked about how she took on other jobs, and then decided to start up her former business again — a cleaning service. Gigi cleaned houses during the day, waited tables at night, and performed when she could.

Why did that interest me so much? Because I’m impressed with people who don’t allow their circumstances to consume them, but rather, will do what they can, what they need to do to keep moving forward. Gigi’s dream was to become a music artist. Her reality was that the years were passing by, and she had monthly bills to pay in order to survive.

She had to adjust her life to her new normal.

Too often we allow pride to get in the way of making the necessary adjustments in our lives when things aren’t going the we planned or things happen that we didn’t expect. Sometimes when our plans get altered, we get so bogged down in what we want to do, that we lose sight of what we need to do.

Of course, the rest of her story is obviously the bigger story that everyone focuses on. While coming to the realization that her original dreams were fading, she gave something else a try; something she had never anticipated being a part of her life, but it was the one thing that brought her the fame that perhaps she was seeking, and certainly more money than she could have imagined. Instead of building a singing career, she went on to build a cupcake empire.

If you’re curious for more information about Gigi Butler and Gigi’s Cupcakes, visit her website at: https://gigiscupcakesusa.com/about/gigis-story/

For now, I leave you with Gigi’s closing comments from that site, because they line up with words I would have shared with you as well.

“If I can convey just one idea to someone reading my story, it would be to believe in yourself, walk with integrity, work hard and trust in God. And maybe your life won’t turn out exactly how you were expecting or hoping it to be; but maybe, just maybe, it will be so much better than you could have ever imagined!

With God, all things are possible!

Blessings,

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Catching Raindrops in Water Barrels

I love hearing from people who have made changes in their lives because of something I’ve shared here, and on our Facebook page, or challenges I’ve made to encourage others on ways to take control over their own financial future. It’s not always possibly for someone to take on a second job; or even in some cases, working outside the home at all. But there are lots of ways we can all make changes to help save and stretch the use of the money that IS coming in to the home. So I was really excited to hear from a friend of mine who had not only done just that…but utilized one avenue quite literally, by catching raindrops in her water (buckets) barrels!

Meet Erica Manly, a stay at home mom, who previously worked full-time outside the home. Much has changed in Erica’s life over the past five years, including marriage, quitting her day job, having a baby, and moving three hours away from her family for her husband’s job. Erica’s life changed…so Erica had to learn how to adjust her lifestyle to her new normal. Let me let her tell you more about that.

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My name is Erica and I’m a wife and stay at home mom to the cutest and busiest little three year old you’ve ever seen. In order to make it possible to stay with her full-time and to save for our future (and hers), I am always looking for ways for our family to save wherever we can. We became even more serious about saving last year after reviewing exactly how much money was going out every month. I started serious couponing first, because most of our budget was going to the grocery store. I wouldn’t call what I do “extreme couponing”, but we are definitely saving about $400 per month in comparison to two years ago between the grocery and other big box store spending. And as a bonus, our cupboards and closets are full of food and toiletries!

I also took up gardening last year with one raised bed garden of vegetables. Whenever I decide to start a project like this, I’m sure my husband cringes as this means work for him. He built a nice raised bed for me and filled it with a truck load of dirt. Our friend had started extra tomato plants and had other extra seeds, so we actually spent absolutely nothing on our plants!

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As a new gardener, I noticed how much more everything grew when it rained in comparison to my usual watering from the hose. Our friend calls it “magic water”.

Partly inspired by our Catching Raindrops friend, Gloria, I told my husband that I needed a rain barrel. The way I remember it, he rolled his eyes and sighed. A couple days later, my man was researching rain barrels and told me he found some 55 gallon drums for sale nearby and had found a way to tie them into our downspout under the back porch. Within a week, the project was complete – three 55 gallon drums filled with water after one good rain.

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I can’t break down exactly how much money it is saving us, but I was watering our new landscaping on the front of the house and/or the veggie garden almost everyday. Since installing the rain collection system, I have only pulled the garden hose back out a few times. I am looking forward to expanding my garden this spring to two raised beds of vegetables and using my good and bad experiences from last year to improve. My husband will also add another rain barrel or two to be sure we never run out of rain water.

While my ways may be extreme to some, and my reasons to save money may be different from yours, there are almost always ways to spend less and save more for a rainy (or even not rainy) day!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go follow my child around while turning off lights and try to explain (again) that just because you can flip all the light switches now doesn’t mean you need to turn all the lights on!

Why You Should Make a Plan to Get Prepared this Year

Last month I started seeing commercials from a popular grocery store chain advertising several  non-perishable items. It wasn’t a standard store advertisement about the latest promotion, sale, or couponing opportunity. To paraphrase the tagline for this campaign, it was about stocking up the pantry with essential items (canned goods, bottled water, etc.) to remain prepared. I think one of the line was “Winter’s coming. Be prepared.”  It caught my attention because it’s the same thing I’ve been saying for years. Last year’s unexpected winter ice storm that hit the South, definitely caught many of my college students off guard and unprepared. Some people, however, feel that if they don’t live in tornado alley, along a hurricane coastline, have a house at the lake, or live in the upper Midwest during the winter months, then they don’t have to worry about weather related issues. The truth is that a natural disaster can strike at any time, almost anywhere. But it still surprises me how many people don’t take that reality very seriously; some just refusing to take the time to plan ahead.

So as I’ve been watching the news coverage of the flooding in Missouri over the Christmas holidays, I was reminded of the Nashville floods of 2010, and watching the creeks around my neighborhood flowing over and covering streets and highways. And hearing of people trapped in their homes; some calling out for help because they had children in the home, but no groceries in the house. Who knew that just five years later, I’d be watching the same thing happening to my hometown of Columbia, SC, including my college alma mater (University of SC). Two days into the flooding they were on a boil water advisory due to contamination of their water supply. After checking up on several friends, I learned some were without both water and electricity.

My sister woke up to discover her house completely surrounded by water, with both streets into the neighborhood flooded over. She and her boys were trapped for a few days. But because of our upbringing, she was prepared, having gone shopping the day before after hearing of the possibility of excessive rainfall and flash flooding. She was fortunate to have only lost power for a couple of hours, and not a couple of days, as some did. I wasn’t surprised at her level of readiness.

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I contacted a high school friend of mine after the worst part of the flooding event was over, and asked her to share with me her family’s story of how she prepared for that October event.

I’m typing this on my tablet as I sit under the hair dryer at my beautician, which is where I was when I really started paying attention to the weather reports.

My husband and I had talked earlier in the day and he told me he would go to the grocery store and pick up some things. When I got home late that evening, I found he had picked up a few things, but not enough to be stuck inside for a couple of days. So by the time we went back to the store that Saturday morning, the only bread left were a few packs of hamburger buns. The checkout lines were down the aisles; but we got what we needed.

Since our water supply comes from a well and not the city we made sure we had enough bottled water, because we knew if the power went out, the pump wouldn’t be able to pump water for us. So I also filled up one of the bathtubs, along with some jugs with water to be able to flush toilets. You gotta be able to use the bathroom, right?

While I was never a girl scout, my daughter was, and her troop leader had taught them a lot of survival skills. Having to prepare for this weather was kind of like preparing to go camping; primitive camping. You have a checklist of things you need: sleeping bags, tent, snacks, flashlight, lanterns (the wind up, battery-operated kind) oil, and a Coleman. 

By Sunday morning, when I heard church services were cancelled, I realized how bad it was in some places. Although we were blocked in due to streams and creeks flowing over the bridges we needed to cross to get out, our area of town was basically ok. We experienced no loss of power, had safe water supply, and our house did not flood.  The only ting we need was some roof work.

We were truly blessed. We had everything we needed. My philosophy is that it is always best to be prepared even if the predictions don’t come to pass. I know there were many people who weren’t, and unfortunately, suffered as a result of it.

My New Year’s wish for everyone reading this is that you make a resolution to make a plan for your life this year. That plan should include things to do to remain prepared in life; prepare for those things which we can do, since there’s certainly many other things that happen that we can not control. Increase your chance to truly have a Happy New Year!

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin