Saturday, January 16, 2010

Recession Ponderings #5 - When challenges bring a better lifestyle

Originally posted March, 2008... the final of five ponderings about the economy at the time.

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.

Picture: Housewife and mother;


Jan said...

Although we have basically lived a simple lifestyle it does take energy.
In the last 10 1/2 months I have lost most of my energy to breathing problems with no answers. The struggle I am having is making the choices about what I can actually do each day.

Vee said...

Thank you for always ending with "God is in control."

I enjoyed a chuckle or two reading this...the "Walnut Convention in Hickory" and the tossing of sawdust at your wedding. Too fun!

A thoughtful pantry...I like that concept. The necessities are simply that...necessary and bless the family.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Instead of shopping and driving here and there, I spent my afternoon pruning my fruit trees yesterday.

We ate a wonderful meal from our food storage: turkey from the many I had in the freezer), potatoes (bought in bulk last November) and swiss chard from our garden.

Today I'll work in the garden more and make my daughter a nightgown from 2 old pillowcases.

Simple, and still fulfilling the needs that our famly has.

Nocona said...

Thank you! I needed to hear that. We are actually fasting from eating out. We realized we were "eating" all of our money and not getting out of debt as fast. I love your blog.

Maries Cottage said...

This was so encouraging and uplifting, very enjoyable to read.....thank you for posting!

matty said...

You could still come to NC--- I need a tea neighbor! :)

Jan Hatchett said...

I have read all 5 parts of your ponderings and wanted to tell you how timely and necessary they are for our current economic times (which I am sure you already know).

Our family faces some dilemmas as we face our future with an autistic son, and aging parents that need our help. I work at a private, Christian school so that my kids can attend there (they have a program for my autistic son). I doubt that my job is really secure in this economy.

Looking back, I wish I had been wiser in my youth and less materialistic. It sure would have helped out now.

But, God is good and our needs are always met, even if not in ways that we could have thought of.

Thanks again for your blog and articles. They are always uplifting!

Terra said...

Yes, God is in control.
What you wrote here is delightful and profound. Slowing down and really looking at and enjoying moments is very wise.
I am happy to meet you.
"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." 3 John 2

Julian said...

yes, as a mom of 6, living on my husbands income, this year my goal is to make better choices, and really make the sacrifice for the better.
Thanks for all these posts that make us think.

Rebecca said...

Your recession ponderings make TOTAL sense to me! One of the blessings of blogging has been finding those who share similar lifestyles and encouraging each other, getting ideas, and realizing I'm not alone.

Write on!

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries™ said...

You are a wonderful writer Brenda...and absolutely spot on.

Mama Squirrel said...

Very nice post! Thank you for giving me much to think about... I've linked.

Brenda Leyland said...

I enjoyed your posting... some good fodder for pondering. Turns out some of your ponderings have been my own over recent times. I've worked at simplifying my life and lifestyle for decades, and have found that there is a beauty and richness in it.

Funny you should 'sigh' over the steak dinner. Just last evening my husband and I were part of a family gathering of cousins (we'd been at a memorial service earlier), and it happened to be a steak house. So I ordered a small steak and accompanying side dishes of baked/stuffed potato, highly dressed salad and sauteed vegetables. Truth be told, as tasty as it was, I realized that my taste for our simpler, less adorned foods that we eat at home because of lifestyle changes, has switched places. Going out is still a treat, but the far richer (and fattier) plate I ate last night was not any more enjoyable our simpler, smaller, less adorned meals at home. My taste buds have changed! For the better!

Anyways, thanks for sharing and allowing us to see into your world today.

Blessings, Brenda

Cathy said...

Thank you so much for your recession ponderings. You are so inspirational and I do enjoy reading your "experience" I too am so grateful for so so many things. My parents lived through the depression and I was raised by my dear parents with an "attitude of gratitude" Thought to appreciate the simple as much as the grand. It has served me well and I hope I have passed that on to my children and grandchildren. There is so much to be thankful for. You are correct that we can choose the life we want to live and that we choose it each day. Cathy