#5TF: Family Week

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 6 – July 29 – August 4, 2017

Big Hug!

Angie said that the theme for this week should be “family”. I’m pretty sure Sunday was the only day this week that we didn’t spend with one or more members of our family, either in person, online, or on the phone. We visited with my mom on Saturday, had my niece over for dinner on Tuesday, spent the day with little Ticky on Wednesday, and worked in my mom’s yard yesterday. I also talked to my sister several times and Angie connected with her aunt and grandma to arrange a dinner meet-up during our trip to Niagara Falls in October. She also talked to her mom and swapped old photos with her aunt via Facebook. So yes…I suppose this was Family Week.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was having my niece and the baby over for dinner on Tuesday. It’s been a while since she’s been here. In fact, I think February was probably the last time we shared a meal together. The evening was quite unplanned. They had been swimming all day at the new City water park and their ride back home never showed up so as usual, we were the default backup plan. Instead of being upset by the interruption, we took the opportunity to make sure they had a good meal (with lots of veggies and fruits) before sending them back home. We even took a few minutes to walk to the park after dinner, where Ticky entertained us for a good while going up and down the slides. These impromptu moments of lighthearted conversation and laughter are always a welcome in my book.

Going for a ride-along with the neighbor boys. Looks like Ticky is calling for back-up!

I am grateful that Angie and I were both raised to be confident in my own ability to do things. DIY skills come in very handy when you are trying to be frugal. Last year, my mom spent more than $200 fixing an $800 lawnmower. This year, we decided that was nonsense and we would deal with maintenance and repairs on our own (when possible). While mowing last week, we noticed the cut was uneven. One side was barely topping the grass while the other was scalping it. I fixed it temporarily by adjusting the tire pressure but decided to try realigning the deck for a permanent solution. Thank goodness my mom keeps every manual for everything she ever buys. The adjustment was not too difficult and it made a huge difference in mowing this week. Plus it made me feel good to know that I’d done it on my own. [We’re also grateful for the free Panera bagels again this month.]

I need to let go of measuring our day by the clock. Every day I seem to get stuck at 5 PM. It’s like this position on the clock somehow represents the finish line for the day and I think everything – both necessary and fun – has to be accomplished by that time. For some reason, I think work/play should end by 5 PM and dinner prep should begin, followed by the wind down to bedtime. The only problem with this scenario is that we don’t go to bed until 11 PM so that’s 6 hours of our day in wind down mode. Relaxing is definitely necessary but perhaps it wouldn’t be so necessary if we didn’t try to cram everything we want or need to do into banker’s hours. It’s okay to go to the grocery store at night. It’s okay to take a walk at sunset. It’s okay to take a nap during the day and write in the evening instead. The clock is arbitrary (she says, mostly to remind herself) and it’s okay to simply ignore it from time to time.

The new freezer is almost full!

We made progress on our winter food stash, adding 2 quarts of tomatoes, 4 ears of corn, 4 pints of okra, and 2 quart bags of bell peppers and snack peppers to our freezer. We also took a short 2 mile hike on Sunday and spent the rest of the day scheming up ways to cheapen our fall vacation. So far we’ve decided to camp for the first week and use the free bus passes provided by the campground to get around to all of the attractions in Niagara Falls. The following week, we’re catching a cruise out of NY so if anyone has suggestions on cheap parking in or near the Manhattan cruise port, we’re all ears.

Enjoying her “stolen” ice cream bar.

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky stole Angie’s ice cream bar. Up until that time, we had no idea she even liked ice cream. On the other occasions where we’ve tried to share some with her, she’s turned her head or said no. This time, Angie tried to give her a bite and she took off with the whole bar. She wouldn’t even let go of it to go down the slide! Poor Angie lost her snack. On the upside, Ticky didn’t waste a bit of ice cream. She ate the whole thing with little mess, while somehow managing to simultaneously slide and avoid Nanny’s attempts to chase her around the yard with a wet washcloth.

 

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Minimalism Gives Us Options

Yesterday, I read a great post by Frugalwoods called 19 Reasons Why Frugality Is The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened To Me. I realized as I was reading that everywhere the word frugality was used, I could easily insert minimalism instead. Which is only fitting, since to me, minimalism and frugality go hand in hand. The last reason on Mrs. Frugalwood’s list was that frugality gives you options and freedom. That’s the truth if I ever heard it! And it got me thinking about how minimalism (and frugality) have given us some pretty good options of our own.

First, a little background…

Two years ago we moved to Tennessee to help care for my mom. At the time, she was having problems breathing and had repeatedly coughed so hard that she fractured 7 vertebrae in her spine. During one of her many trips to various doctors, they found a spot on her left lung that they thought might be cancerous. To add insult to injury, through the cancer screenings she found out that she also had a genetic blood disorder that would require monthly phlebotomy. When we arrived in June 2015, we had no idea what to expect but we felt certain that the prognosis was not going to be good.

Fast forward to present day…

While still not the picture of health, my mom has much improved. The spot on her lung was not cancerous, though it is still something that will need to be monitored every 6 months. Her spine has healed and after a horrible experience with osteoporosis medication, she is eating better and taking only a calcium supplement for better bone health. She will always need to monitor her hemochromatosis (iron overload) but the phlebotomy procedures have slowed from monthly to every 12 weeks. She’s back to working 2 days a week (mostly for social interaction and spending money) and she is running a lot of her own errands these days. A few weeks ago, she even wanted to go camping with us. And we all had a blast!

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Last year, I cut my work schedule down to just 4 days per week so that I would always be available to take my mom to her doctor’s appointments on Wednesdays. For most of this year, Wednesday has been a true day off – no appointments, no errands, no obligations of any sort – and it has been really nice. We’ve hiked. We’ve picnicked. We’ve gone letterboxing. We’ve gardened. We even spent a few Wednesdays just doing nothing. It’s been great!

When I spoke about this to an acquaintance the other day, she asked, “Now that your mom is doing better, are you considering going back to work full-time?” Without missing a beat, I answered with a resounding no. A puzzled look crossed her face and I could see the wheels turning. It was the same puzzled look I received from my boss last fall when I tried to quit my job completely and I knew even before she said anything what the next question was going to be.

“How are you going to manage long term on one part-time income? Don’t you want things for yourself? Like a house someday? I thought you loved to travel? What about retirement???” 

I couldn’t help but smile at her barrage of questions. I have to admit, I love confounding people. I love watching their expression as they try to figure out how we do all that we do while only one of us works part-time (and for a non-profit organization, no less!). I especially love it when Facebook friends post comments insinuating that we must have won the lottery or retired early. It makes me feel pretty proud of us.

The truth is – we do pretty darn well living on 80% of my old income. In fact, we barely noticed a change in our lifestyle at all. We still live in our same apartment. We still eat what we want. We still go places. We still have hobbies. Heck, we even bought and paid for a newer car this year and are on track to kill two more student loans. As for wanting things for ourselves – well, the things we really want, just can’t be bought anyway. And we owe all that to minimalism.

Minimalism made it easy for us to pack up our belongings and move to Tennessee in 2015. We didn’t have a house to sell or jobs that tied us to one location. We had money saved. But most of all, we had freedom – the kind of freedom that can only come by owning your own time.

Minimalism doesn’t mean that every day is going to be a walk in the park. If you’ve followed us for a while, you probably know that coming home hasn’t been all that easy for me. There are days I still wish we were back in Florida, looking for sea turtles and sand dollars, while walking along our favorite beaches. I know that we will go back one day. But for now, our goal is to be happy where we are. Keeping our Wednesdays work-free goes a long way toward that goal. Living minimally (or frugally, if you prefer) has given us the option to work less and enjoy more time together and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in this world.

What options/freedoms has minimalism or frugality afforded you?