Several books over the past several years have talked about going back to “the simple life”. Several years ago, with a busy career in the banking world while trying to take care of my widowed Mother, my husband and a teenage son while commuting 2 hours a day found me dreaming of a simpler lifestyle.
A book that I happened to read, The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn was the catalyst for me to start making changes that would completely turn my life upside down. Amy’s book was a compilation of the newsletter she wrote of the same name. After a decade of debt in the 80’s, families were looking to get out of debt and leave the lifestyle of spending on things that didn’t matter and investing in the things that do matter. The things that mattered to me was having time to spend with my son, help my Mother, have time to grow spiritually and pursue hobbies and interests for which there was no time. Through strategies I learned to payoff debt and living a frugal lifestyle, I was able to leave that job even though at the time I contributed over half of our family income.
I eventually went back to work a couple of days a week at my old job when my son was getting ready to go to college. I had an opportunity to work from home as a Mortgage Broker. This seemed like a no brainer at the time since I would no longer be commuting. This was a high stress job with little time off over a 11 year period and once again I began dreaming about “the simple life”. Another book that led me to set a goal and accomplish early retirement is Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book led me to think out of the box from the standard retirement advice given by financial planners which is usually save at least a million before you can retire and wait until your 67 to collect your Social Security. Even though The Tightwad Gazette and Your Money or Your Life were written in the 90’s and some things are dated, the principles are eternal and still worth reading today.
If it’s not a simple life, then what is it? I say it’s a focused life. To achieve my goals, I had to focus on the goal, read everything I could find and put into practice those daily activities that would help me accomplish the long-term goals.
Last week John and I made a visit to Jamesport, Missouri. Jamesport is the home of a large Amish and old order Mennonite community. I’ve admired the Amish ever since my quest for the simple life began. It was wonderful to hear the clop, clop, clop of the horse and buggys and enjoy the hospitality of our Mennonite host Marie at the Arbor House Inn. It almost sounds like a Beverly Lewis novel. I felt I was in one of her Amish novels. John pointed out to me their beautiful weed-free gardens. I felt a little ashamed about my weedy vegetable garden at home. I decided I needed to devote more time to the garden. While weeding, that’s when it hit me; the Amish do not live a simple lifestyle, it’s a focused life. They focus on what’s important to them and they give it their very best effort. Their devotion to God and family are their top priorities. It’s not simple in the way we might imagine a simple lifestyle. It’s very hard work raising large families, farming, growing gardens and canning for the winter.
The Amish live by the Ordnung (church rules) which keeps them focused on what really counts. In the English world (what the Amish call us) we would not give up our freedom to live this life, but we can decide on what is truly important and make daily decisions that keep us from being distracted from the life we really want to live. Ok, I am talking to myself. I have lots of interests and get easily distracted. But my new goal is living a focused life (and having a weed-free garden).
Recently John started feeling quite ill, which is very unusual for him. He seems to have a natural immunity to colds, flu, etc. There’s been a nasty respiratory virus making the rounds and we thought he might even have the flu as he had aching muscles to go along with sinus pressure, headache, sore throat and just really feeling bad.
A trip to the Doctor and a flu test proved negative and was told to call if he wasn’t doing better in a few days. It didn’t get better so back we went and this time his throat symptoms were worse so he was tested for strep. That was it. A prescription for amoxicillin was given. I was a little concerned about my prospects since doing some research indicated it was highly contagious. It is usually contagious a couple of days before you have any symptoms so that little bug may be circulating as I type. My nose is starting to run. Ok, I think my imagination is beginning to run.
However, I would like to stop this thing before it takes hold. This time of year I have been on Sambucol Black Elderberry Syrup to boost immunity to help prevent flu and viruses along with extra doses of Vitamin C so I’m hoping that will help. Online research points to garlic as a natural killer of the Streptococcal virus. The Healthy Home Economist http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/how-to-kick-strep-throat-faster-and-better-without-antibiotics/ gives her recommendations for treating strep naturally without using antibiotics. It is compelling, but don’t know if I would avoid antibiotics once I had full onset of the strep virus. If garlic can stop it, I’m hoping it will prevent it. I’m trying to use Lysol around the house, but it’s pretty hard to spray the whole house!
Found a recipe on Livestrong.com http://www.livestrong.com/article/358169-how-to-use-garlic-for-strep-throat/ for a garlic tea to treat strep and I’m giving it a try.
1. Bring one cup of water to a boil.
2. Add 4 cloves of garlic and boil the cloves for one minute and reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let the water cool for five minutes. The steam can be inhaled as you are waiting for it to cool.
4. Strain or remove the cloves. My cloves were still in 4 cloves so I removed and saved.
5. Add one tsp. of raw honey, stir and drink.
I’m also drinking a mixture of 2 tablespoons raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of honey in a cup of hot water. It’s very good for you and tastes good too.
Not wanting to waste good garlic, I’m eating the boiled cloves for extra protection. The exposure time for strep is 2 to 5 days so I should know in a few days if I have dodged the bullet. I’ll give an update soon. In the interim, if strep has been making its way in your area, you might want to stock up on fresh garlic, raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar.
We awoke this morning with an unexpected blanket of snow on the ground. Once again Oklahoma and God has provided an unexpected weather change. Yes, it has been very cold the last couple of days (for Oklahoma) but the weather man predicted just a dusting.
When the ground is covered in snow, everything seems to come to a stall and there is a quiet reverance on the prairie. John says it’s God’s way of saying, “time to slow down”. Cows still have to be fed and ice on the ponds must be broke for watering. But, once that’s done life goes at a much slower pace. A hearty soup can be put in the crock pot and with a pot of steaming coffee one can relax with a good book or just enjoy the view.
In much anticipation I opened up the gift from my son and daughter-in-law. When I saw the title on the box, “Pet Sweep Animal-Powered Debris Removal System” I tried hard to hide my disappointment. Had my 7-year-old granddaughter, who watches too many product commercials on T.V., made this recommendation? We do have 3 dogs and living on a dirt road produces a large amount of dirt and hair. I just didn’t see how this was going to work out. As you can tell from the picture, Bailey our red Healer didn’t look very interested in earning her keep.
Fortunately, when I opened my package I found something more useful.
Recently my son called me up and asked if I’d come down to watch the children for an evening. It was my daughter-in-law’s birthday and he wanted to surprise her by taking her out to dinner for the evening. I only had a day’s notice and it’s an hour and a half drive one way but my lovely d-i-l rarely gets time away from the children. Not too many will take on 4 children ages 2,4,7 and 9. I was more than happy to do this for her.
Before I went home the next morning, I decided to go to the Aldi’s grocery store to shop. This was only a couple of miles from their home. The Aldi’s closest to me involves a round trip of 60 miles. However, the savings is well worth the trip and I usually combine it with other errands.
While moving down the aisle I began to hear Jingle Bells played on a harmonica. At first I looked around thinking a child with a harmonica might be playing in the next aisle. As I continued to shop, the harmonica music continued with all the familiar Christmas tunes. I realized Aldi’s must be playing Christmas music for the season.
When I came to the check-out line, I saw the source of the beautiful music. An elderly man was sitting on the bagging area happily playing on the harmonica. I heard someone ask the cashier about him and he said the man was usually here 2 or 3 times per week. When I started to bag my groceries, I thanked him for providing the lovely music. A woman came up to speak with him and said she remembered him playing in a nearby mall. He recalled that must have been over 20 years ago. I overheard his whispers to her that he was known as “The Harmonica Man” and had been featured on local radio and television stations.
We continued our conversation and something about him reminded me of my father who was a WWII veteran, so I asked him what year he was born (seems a little rude now). He answered that he was born in 1919. My father was born in 1916 and would have been 100 years old this month. I mentioned he was part of “The Greatest Generation”. He humbly replied that he wouldn’t know about that. He went on and asked me if I enjoyed love songs and he played a beautiful melody. He brought such joy to me and the other shoppers that day. As he left the store pushing an empty shopping cart, I noticed his walker was inside his cart, 97 years old and still bringing joy.
When I went home, I decided to do a little research on him since he said he had been featured on local stations as The Harmonica Man. What I discovered (and PLEASE listen to this interview: he is so much more than The Harmonica Man. He is one of The Greatest Generation!
Oklahoma is having unusually warm weather. The day before our annual Thanksgiving event, known as “Man Week” Man Week Has Arrived, a.k.a. Thanksgiving!, the weatherman reported we would have our first freeze of the season.
I’ve been a little behind with the garden (unmotivated) and I still had jalapeno peppers and green tomatoes growing in the garden. In a moment of guilt, not wanting to waste food, I immediately began to harvest the peppers and tomatoes. But how to preserve? It’s the day before Thanksgiving and I have things to do! John suggested stringing the peppers like his mother used to do. That sounded like a lot of work to me and I’m all about saving time. Checked out google for all the alternatives and it did seem like the easiest way to go.
I got out two large craft needles and John got out some green fishing line. He took one string and I took the other. It was actually very relaxing working together and it went quite fast. It also added some color to the kitchen for the Thanksgiving feast.
Next, what to do with the tomatoes? This year the size of the tomatoes were small but the taste was wonderful. Too good to waste! In the past I’ve canned, froze, dried, made tomato jam (very good) but I didn’t have time for that. I put them in a colander waiting for a magic idea. Gradually they began ripening and we began eating and enjoying the wonderful flavor of homegrown tomatoes. I’m so spoiled I don’t buy a store-bought tomato. There’s just no comparison!
In the middle of all this last-minute harvesting, I discovered a couple of surprises in the girl’s Garden Granddaughters’ Garden. This garden was long forgotten and the Bermuda had taken over. To my surprise, I found cilantro and lettuce growing. This year was my first attempt at growing cilantro. Even though I use cilantro to make hot sauce, what I didn’t realize is that cilantro does not like hot weather. We had a very hot June this year and it never grew. But the cooler temperatures in November brought it peeking out to greet me. I harvested what I could by cutting leaves and not pulling the roots and put the garden to bed with straw. Perhaps the cilantro and lettuce will come up next Spring.
When I met my husband I soon learned that Thanksgiving doesn’t revolve around the turkey, but the deer. It’s rifle season week in Oklahoma. Before we bought our home, we would make the trip to his sister’s home in the country so he could deer hunt. I was very happy when we bought our home in the country so I could have our Thanksgiving dinner at home.
For many years now, I have called the beginning of deer season, “Man Week”. This was due to the invasion of men at our home. Man Week has now become Man Season as duck hunting has become a popular past time as well. Deer season has 3 phases: bow, primitive arms and rifle. John does not bow hunt but we do have friends arriving who do.
A tradition on the first day of rifle season, which is tomorrow, is that John will get up way before day break and cook breakfast and have coffee ready for the men who will be hunting. This year man week will include our granddaughter who took her first deer last year and is very excited to go out again.
I am a little tired (exhausted) by the time Thanksgiving is over, but it’s a wonderful feeling to have a family and friends tradition that all look forward to coming back for the next year.
What traditions does your family enjoy around the holidays?