Friday, March 21, 2008

Recession Ponderings #5 -- when challenges bring a better lifestyle

When I was sorting through my files not too long ago... to finally give up the old to make new space (there were too many articles I'd never use!), it brought a smile to my face when I would come across many articles written in the late 1970s or early 1980s about living a simpler lifestyle, getting back to the country, taking up an "old" skill like quilting or knitting, growing an old fashioned WWII type Victory Garden (the PBS show was born at this time), and fixing up old homes (again... This Old House was also created during this period of time).

We seriously considered living such a lifestyle. My husband had gone on for a Master's in Wood Science because he loved working with wood so much (friends threw sawdust at our wedding). Our original intent was to use his furniture engineering specialty and move to North Carolina. We even honeymooned there, staying in Asheville before attending a Walnut Convention in Hickory (I couldn't make that up).

However, the door that opened was in Michigan with the furniture companies in that area. Instead of staying home, keeping a garden, quilting, and doing those domestic duties I had intended... I began working full time (due to inflation) and then began to prosper in the corporate world. Once in awhile, I would think of the North Carolina mountains and what might have been. :)

I am not surprised that the recession and inflation of that period led some people to leave the consumer rat race and return to making a living off the land. We began to get serious about the food we ate (although we returned to junk food during prosperous but crazy busy times). Real food, for the most part, is not expensive. The basics... flour, beans, rice, potatoes, carrots, home grown veggies and herbs... they increased in price a little but were still culinary bargains.

I did eventually return home, working part time after Stephanie was in school. Then staying at home full time after Christopher was born for awhile and then permanently when we began homeschooling him in second grade. Circumstances would be quite difficult at times but I found a new outlet for my creativity. Instead of gourmet cooking as a hobby, I began to get very interested in healthy and cheap cooking for our family (I even became the president of a health food co-op while in Iowa).

Once I was not working outside the home, I could no longer afford such luxuries as beautiful quilts so... I bought a sewing machine and learned to make them myself. I also made many of the decorative items in our home (well, as much as I could given a hyperactive little boy at my feet). Stephanie and I would put Christopher in his car seat and head out on garage sale days to seek "treasure". We still enjoy doing that when she visits today, only it is her little ones and she is driving the van!

Eventually... as I became older... my life came full circle. We do now live in the country where in warm weather, I can read on the front porch. Until the trees are full of leaves on their branches, I can look from my front yard and see the barn of a neighboring farm across the county road. I can pretend I'm farming a few acres as I view the scene, when in reality I live on a little less than one acre and I have next door neighbors. It is no less the country... and no less beautiful.

Illness has brought further simplicity to my life. Limited energy creates equally as limited options for each day. But it hasn't been all that bad for it gives me permission to slow down, to keep my "To Do" list streamlined and simple whenever possible. I now must take time throughout the day for reading or watching the birds out my kitchen window... to appreciate the beauty of fresh vegetables I'm cutting for dinner or to thank God for a sale on the meat I'm preparing that evening.

I don't think of "what if"... for the past is impossible to change so why fret about it? I pray about the future and ask God for His provision as He has promised. But today... hard times have forced me to appreciate each day as a gift. Being a rather visual type person, I have learned to look... really look... at my surroundings whether it is a beautiful art print, vintage kitchen accessories, the flowers I have on my windowsill right now, the pretty sage green pillows I found at Goodwill for my family room sofa, Sasha as she is snoozing (and at the same time, thanking God that our Storm Girl was with us for sixteen years)... really taking time to appreciate what He has given my family.

The older I get, the more I realize our life is made up of the choices we make. Our lifestyle depends on what we choose to make it. Yes, there are things out of our hands (like recessions, corporate layoffs, some illnesses, etc.) but so much of what we go through is made up of our own choices.

Do I want simplicity... time to spend with the people I love without worrying about money... or do I choose to put another item on the credit card? Do I choose to have money in my pocket and drive an older car, or must I work overtime to pay for the latest model? Do I learn to garden or will I spend extra time at the Mall?

Do I spend discretionary income building a home library or an expensive wine cellar? Will I spend $30.00 on a great steak dinner (sigh...) or getting that overdue oil change to keep my car running longer? Do I hop in the car and run to the grocery store for one item or have I thoughtfully built up a pantry at home with extras of essential foods... cleaning products... and especially... toilet paper. :)

So, what is your point? When money becomes very tight then we are forced to look at our lifestyle and you know what? Sometimes the forced changes are actually good for us... our own Year of Jubilee! Not easy... not fun at first... but they can be good in the long run. Sometimes it takes a good Recession to shake people out of their materialistic rut and make them see... life is not about accumulating more stuff!

I hope my recession ponderings have made sense. I didn't take the time to go over them with a fine tooth comb but... I quickly typed out what is on my heart about the possible economic challenges ahead. As always... God is in control.

Have a very blessed Easter as we celebrate His Resurrection. I'll be back on Monday... God willing and the creek don't rise.

Photo: Victorian Spring,


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I love the reminders that "God is in Control."

Have a blessed Easter weekend!

Karen Deborah said...

Yes, everything you say is true. My materialistic heart loves pretty things but if we are patient (not) God blesses us with little goodies. I have trouble waiting for anything, but I'm not dea yet there's still hope. We actually are in business to help epople get out of debt and pay for their homes quicker. Have a wonderufl Resurrection sunday.

marye said...

I see that we have been pondering the same things this week!

Cheryl (Copper's Wife) said...

This has been a wonderful series, Brenda.

Senkyoshi said...

Thank you for the posts on recession. I am a missionary on a limited budget. The dollar exchange recently has made that budget even more limited. I wish I had stocked up on essentials so I could avoid some shopping now. I plan to do this in the future. This post was a great reminder of what I should have been doing all along.

Quinne said...

HI Brenda :) I have enjoyed this series of posts! Thank you for taking the time to share your heart on this topic.

A most blessed Easter to you, too! Love, Q

Mindy said...

Wonderful post...your series has much wisdom and practical advice. We are tightening our belts here, just using some wisdom in our spending and paying down debt!
Wishing you and yours a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Sharon said...

What an excellent post!Have a blessed Resurrection Day!Blessings~Sharon

Carrot Top said...

I hope it's not considered too late to leave a post. Your recession ponderings have really struck home! When we moved last June we bought a large home that would fit us all, but there were some things we didn't take into account...a higher cost of living, that promised raises would not be given, that we were going to be salary and not hourly so there would be no overtime to pay for things... Thanks for helping me learn to economize!

I thought of you this weekend when I saw that butter went on sale $1.66 for a pound. I bought 20 pounds and put it in the freezer thinking that was saving a bunch of money in the long run since it usually runs about $2.25-2.50 a pound.

Thanks for teaching us "younger" women! (NOT that you're old or that I'm young!)
Carrot Top

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Anonymous said...

I enjoyed what you said in this post very much. I won't break it down item by item to comment on, but let me just say that there are a lot of people who need attitude adjustments about what's important in life.

I'll use housing as an example. I'll bet when you were a young married you worked your way up through an apartment and then to a house and then probably to a better house. Until the nationwide housing slowdown occurred, we had a tremendous surge in new housing and corresponding rise in real estate prices in my community. Young couples were buying large, gorgeous homes with high ceilings and big rooms on tiny lots and they spent every last dollar to get them. Some couldn't even afford to furnish them after the closing.

Now many of these people are losing them to foreclosures when they wouldn't be having this problem if they'd purchased a more modest home that was more within their means.

Too many people just gotta have it all NOW, right now, without waiting for the proper time. I'm glad you were involved in homeschooling because the schools just don't seem to be teaching the right attitudes and values any more.

I am enjoying doing some of the simpler things again -- knitting, crocheting, learning to spin, reading. When I get my knee replaced later this year perhaps I'll once again enjoy spending time in the kitchen making things. There's a lot to be said for the simpler things and returning to some of the old ways.

Cathy said...

Hello Brenda

I have enjoyed reading your 5 posts and advice on changing times (recssion ponderings).

As in your country life is changing here where I live and a lot of what you wrote about rings true to me but even tho my/our needs as a family are not as great as others I can still glean some information from your writings

Take care

Anonymous said...

I love these posts---so relevant and so true. Please bring us more of your wisdom, insights, and experiences. I guess you and I are in similar stages of life (based on what I've read) and you have confirmed/questioned/commented on many of the same things I've been thinking about. I'm so glad I found your blog. Thank you for the time you take to share with us.

T.Lyn said...

Your post is very well written and thoughtful. Made me think... I'm currently getting out of debt. One year and a half to go out of five. It's made me rethink a lot too. No with the economy more thinking. What is truly important... counting blessings, friends and family and health. I so agree.

nancyr said...

I just found your blog, today, via "Like Merchant Ships" and have been reading older posts.
I am enjoying your blog, and it has been like meeting a kindred spirit!
I quit a very high stress, demanding job six years ago, and have been living on much less money, but having much more fun, being frugal, Goodwill shopping, cooking mostly with loss leader purchases, and amazingly saving more than I ever did with a relatively high paying career!
You are doing a great job!