Opportunity Seeking

Triggered by Hawklady’s comment to my journal entry on Accounting Happiness, I’ve been musing about finding opportunities and making the most of them. I’ve been thinking alot about a character in the Lloyd Alexander book Taran Wanderer. I can’t remember the character’s name but he labeled himself as “lucky”. He and his family lived by a river. They set out nets in the river to catch anything which might float by. The character claimed that any time they had a problem the solution would come floating down the river and get caught in their nets. The title character, Taran, noted that what was really happening was that whatever the man happend to catch was put to good use.

I feel like that lately. I’m keeping a constant inventory of things we could use and a constant eye out for free solutions to problems. It is amazing what is available for little or no cost. My local branch of Freecycle.com has been wonderful for this. But I’m also looking a the resources I have here in new ways. Suddenly I’m discovering ways to repair clothing which had seemed too full of holes to be worth anything. I’m discovering the value of preventative maintinence. I’m stretching my creativity Making Do.

Most of all, I’m really enjoying this. I sometimes miss being able to walk into a store and buy brand new shiny things. But I’m discovering that I find joy in taking slightly shabby things and making them new again. I’m enjoying the challenge of fishing in the stream for things I can use. I suppose it is possible that this joy is the result of novelty, but it doesn’t feel that way. It is more the joy of finding that skills I’ve been neglecting are actually really useful. I have the joy of making things that will be useful once they are finished. (As opposed to most handicrafts where you spend bundles of money to buy the materials, hours of time to make the thing, and then have no where to put it or no one to give it to.) True handicraft is to make something you can use from items you have on hand.

Now it is time for me to get back to work. I’ve got clothes to make new.

Bad Dreams

This morning I came awake in the pre-dawn hours with the very grateful awareness that “It was only a dream.”  I really hate dreams that require me to get out of bed and check on the well being of the children.  I hate the way they stick in my head all the next day haunting me as if they had actually happened.  Feelings linger regardless of the unreality of their source.

I intended this morning to take extra time to just love my children.  I wanted to savor the fact that I have them and that they are all healthy.  I wanted to enjoy their unique irreplaceable personalities.  What a joy and a miracle it is that I have them.  Instead we were all caught up in the pre-school hustle complete with Patches-damage to Kiki-beloved items and an infuriating broken zipper.  I was steaming mad when we drove away from the house.  I’d calmed down enough by the time we arrived at school that I apologized for yelling and wished Kiki and Link a good day.  It wasn’t until I drove away from the school, leaving them behind, that I remembered how I wanted this morning to go. Then I cried.

I know that I’ll see them after school.  After school I’ll get the chance to hug them and love them and enjoy being with them.  But my dream looms in my brain with a shadowy persistent “What if”.  So many chances of happiness are lost because I allow small things to interfere.  Tragedy may never occur, but that doesn’t change the fact that this morning’s chance for happiness is gone.

Accounting happiness

Today was accounting day. Every Monday I gather all the reciepts and bills for the last week, then I sit down and enter all the information into Quicken and make sure all the numbers match up. This has become even more critical since Howard left Novell and we can’t afford to have money go MIA.

Today I made our first non-benefit health insurance payment. Ouch. I also had to pay off a credit card with a Barcelona hotel stay on it. Novell had already reimbursed us for this, but it was long enough ago that I’d forgotten that the money was only borrowed. With those two and assorted other bills I watched more than $3500 disappear from our accounts. The amounts left over were rather discouraging to me. I looked at the numbers trying to figure out how I was going to make the money last long enough. Finally I just got up an went upstairs where I could get away from them.

It is a good thing I did, because Howard was upstairs in the kitchen. And we ended up having a conversation which reminded me that there will be actual income arriving from commercial cartooning he is scheduled to do. In fact there is enough work currently lined up that Howard is going to have trouble doing it all. I was prepared to get stressed about that, when Howard reminded me this is a GOOD thing. People are willing to pay Howard to cartoon. They are willing to pay enough that rather than watching the money drain away over the next couple of months we will be able to at least hold steady maybe even grow the accounts.

I feel so blessed and I am incredibly grateful that having Howard home cartooning is even possible. How did we get so lucky?

Harvest Time

This afternoon was filled with the joyful glee of harvest time. It began with an innocent mention of the fact of many ripe tomatos on the vines. Kiki snatched this bit of information and went a-harvesting. Patches, Gleek, Link, and a neighbor boy all went with her.

I was downstairs deep in concentration on a sewing project when I became aware of the sound of children very close to my window well. They had discovered that tomatos shoved through the window well grate made a satisfying splat sound upon landing. At first it was only rotten tomatos, but by the time I ran upstairs to call the game to a halt every tomato their hands touched was being declared “rotten”. Even the green ones.

I chased the swarm of children away from the nigh barren tomato plants, but true to the nature of most swarms, it didn’t disband, just settled in a new location. This time the focus was the Walnut tree.

For those who may not know, Walnuts form slowly over the course of the summer as green balls on the tree. These green balls are half again as large as you’d expect because there is a thick green outershell to protect the walnut shell which in turn protects the nut itself. Apparently nature herself has learned the art of over packaging. This green outershell has the ability to stain fingers and clothing black. If boiled it would probably make an excellent dye because it doesn’t wash off. Late in the summer some of these green shells turn black, soft, and squishy because small maggots have moved in to eat the outershell. Gleek calls them “cute little worms!” everyone else in the whole world calls them “EEEEEEW!”

Fortunately our walnuts are past the wormy stage. The outershells have dried and curled back and the walnuts have begun falling from the tree. Kiki discovered that shaking the tree would bring down a rain of walnuts. (Don’t get hit. They hurt!) Then the swarm would gather the walnuts and hand them to Kiki through our back window. I don’t know why the window. The door was right there. In fact they developed an assmebly line. Neighbor Boy would peel off any remaining outershell, Patches would deliver the nut to Kiki, Kiki would sit inside and place the nut into a bucket. Link and Gleek had wandered off to play something else.

I like this kind of game. Now I have a bucket full of walnuts that need to be shelled and dried so that we can use them.


I used to have largish blocks of contemplative time. Time in which I was taking care of children, but my brain could wander whithersoever it wished. I haven’t had that lately. Instead my hands and my brain are much busied with projects. Some of this is the result of the influx of yard work which was imposed by the arrival of flower bulbs in the mail. (They’re all planted now. Yay!) Some of it is the natural consequence of needing to trade some of my time in order to save money. I’m doing lots more dishes these days because I’m actually using dishes to cook stuff instead of buying convenience food. Some of it has disappeared into organization projects. I need to be organized so I know what my resources are. We have lots of useful stuff in storage, but if I don’t know where it is when we need it, we’ll have to spend money to solve problems.

Hopefully I’ll soon be through the glut of business and I’ll have more contemplative time.

Arnon the Shroomplanter

Gleek has informed me that there is a bad guy named Arnon. He is the one who sneaks into our yard at night and plants mushrooms. He is also the one who puts the “ooogies” in her nose.

Just thought I’d share.

Just another tired Monday

Howard came home at 11:30 pm yesterday. He and I were up until 1:30 am talking about stuff and doing some unpacking. It was fun, but I paid for it today.

I did accomplish the necessary bookkeeping, balanced all the accounts, created reports for Howard’s perusal, did budget and debt analysis, and paid bills. I’m supposed to do this every Monday so that nothing has the chance to spiral out of control. The weekly bookeeping is even more critical now that the budget has less wiggle room.

It got done and I’m beginning to see how “tight budget” is going to work for the long term.

The afternoon and evening disappeared somewhere. If anyone finds it wandering around let me know.

Early to bed tonight.

Yard Projects

I stopped writing daily updates on my bulb planting project, but that doesn’t mean I stopped working on it.  Unfortunately it also doesn’t mean I finished it.

It began with a box of tulip bulbs which arrived in the mail. I ordered them last June knowing that if I waited until Fall to go buy bulbs I would intend to buy them all the way until it was too late (That’s what happened the last two years running), but if they showed up on my doorstep I’d have to actually plant them.  I opened the box and saw the beautiful round tuilip bulbs and a few giant looking daffodil bulbs.  Then I walked out front and looked at the front flower bed where I intended to plant them.  I couldn’t find it.  The entire bed was grown over with grass and bindweed and assorted other weeds. So I got out my shovel.

Two days of work had the bed most of the way cleared.  In the process I dug up over 300 small bulbs which I set aside to replant.  Then I took a critcal look at the bed again and realized two rosebushes had to come out.  They were planted in front of a window and the hose faucet.  I spent a laborious 2 hours digging and wrestling the thorny things out of the ground and into a box so I could take them to my neighbor who wanted them. 

Nearly a week after the bulbs arrived at my door and I was finally ready to put them into the ground.  Since the ground was already thoroughly turned over this was easy.  Shovel, place bulbs, dump dirt.  5 minutes per hole or less.  Then I decided that I wanted to try planting daylilies on top of the daffodils the way that books recommend.  This meant I had to go dig up a clump of my daylilies and move them.  Fortunately this wasn’t too hard either.  Pleased with myself  I stood back to look at the flowerbed.  I looked at the bed and the number of bulbs and realized two things.  I had a third rosebush which needed to be removed (There were 20 rosebushes here when we moved in, now we have about 12, it’s plenty.), and I was going to run out of flowerbed long before I ran out of bulbs.  Discouraged I went inside for awhile.  Then the doorbell rang and the postman handed me another box of bulbs.  I stared in dismay at the box which contained mostly daffodils (with some tulips and hyacinths for variety) and remembered that, yes indeed, I had ordered these flowers too.

Yesterday I gathered energy and wrangled that third rosebush out of the ground.  This one I freecycled (Thanks for the idea cymrullewes).  Exhausted and scratched I wandered into my back yard trying to figure out where else I was going to put bulbs.  Back there I saw a dozen Fall projects that need doing.  Plants that need moved, weeds that need pulled, vines to chop back.

Today I tackled some of it.   In all I spent 2-3 hours out there working today.  I’ve still got over 100 bulbs to plant.  Had I kept up with the yard work all summer long I wouldn’t  be under so much pressure to get it done so I could plant bulbs before they die.  On the other hand had I not ordered bulbs last spring it is unlikely this yard work would have gotten done at all.  Next spring I’m going to be so glad for all of those bulbs.


I guess I’ve already gotten used to having Howard here at home. Since he left yesterday morning zero housework has gotten done because he isn’t there to wander through and keep me company while I’m doing it. Or to do it for me. Or to admire work that has been done.

Tonight I’ve got to get the dishes done and mentally prepare myself for tomorrow morning. Tomorrow is Saturday. With it comes “Saturday Work” each child is responsible for cleaning their room and one other room in the house. I’m responsible for making sure they actually get the work done. Usually the work is done by noon, frequently by 10. Saturday afternoons are full of clean house and relaxation.

The long walk home

Walking the kids home from school was a bad idea. It seemed like a fun idea early this morning when the weather was cool. Kiki and Link were enthusiastic and left the car happy to know that today was a walking day.

Halfway through the morning I remembered that I’d promised to watch a neighbor’s children at 4 pm. I did some mental math. Bell rings at 3:30. Kids take 10 minutes to gather stuff and find me by the playground. The walk takes 15 minutes. It was tight but do-able.

Things I forgot to account for:
Gleek needing to go potty
The school bookfair with candy for sale
Kiki and Link walking slow because they were eating candy
Kiki and Link both tripping and skinning their knees

I got to watch the neighbor drive away from my house while I still had a block to go. She didn’t see me. I rushed the rest of the way home, dumped all the kids into the car and drove to the church building where the neighbor was setting up for the activity she was in charge of, apologized, and took her two boys home with me.

Now I’m hot, sweaty, tired, smelly, I have a headache, and I need to appologize to my own children for venting stress in their direction. On Monday I’m DRIVING.