Makes Cents to Me!

by Tammy Trail

Our reality is we have no savings. We are rich in debt, and poor in cash flow. Can anyone else relate? My husband and I  struggle to save money. We have taken the Dave Ramsey course–Financial Peace University–our antelope has broken legs. Dave teaches that we should all have $1,000.00 emergency fund. Typically, when we can get a nice sum saved something happens. A car needs big repairs, an appliance goes on the fritz, or my husband’s commission check goes up in smoke.Our savings account may be bare, but we do manage to find ways to save money. It allows us to treat ourselves to a movie, or a nice meal in a restaurant.

I recall in my youth, our family would spend Sunday dinners seated around my Grandma Quigley’s big dining room table. My mother and I still marvel over how she fed all those family members with the meager salary my Grandpa brought home. Grandma sure knew how to make the food stretch, and I think she passed that gene onto me.

When my darling husband complains about spending too much at the grocery store I know it’s time to go back to my habit of making menus. It is a time-consuming task, but someone has to do it.

The family helps by giving meal suggestions. I take a blank calendar to give each day a meal. Then I pull out my box of recipes and begin making a list. I make columns for my list–one for meat, one for dairy, canned goods, produce, etc. Once I have my list done,   I make sure to have a quarter, and my own shopping bags for a visit to Aldi’s. The quarter is used to rent a shopping cart. You bag your own groceries. I usually buy all my produce, dairy, and canned goods here.

Next, is a stop at Sam’s Club. Here is where I purchase meats  in bulk, frozen vegetables, and frozen items the teenagers will eat for their lunches. After this trip, I spend a bit of time separating the meat to freeze. For instance, I buy a very large tube of ground beef and separate it into one pound zip lock bags for future use.

The plan is not to go back to the store for the month, unless it’s absolutely necessary. I will need to replenish paper goods, bread, and milk.  I try to restrain myself from buying anything else. Do I save money? Every time I go to the store without a plan, I spend $20.00 to $30.00 more. So, yes. I think I do save money.

I remember a time when we had no money for food, days away from a pay check. I took every leftover we had in the refrigerator and mixed it together, tossed cheese on top, and baked it. It was actually pretty good! My kids also know what happens when I tell them it’s the “end of the month slump”. That means beans and rice for a few days.

Click to tweet: Our savings may be bare, but we do find ways to save money.

Writing Prompt: Share your favorite money-saving trick when you go to the grocery store. Consider adding it to a story you’re working on.

Hope For the Heart of a Mother

By Tammy Trail

You know how you wish you could go back and do things over again? Yeah, me too! One regret I truly wish I had a “do over” with is mothering my daughter. If I knew then, what I know now kind of thing.

Amanda came into the world with her own idea of how her world should go. Any deviation from it and there was hell to pay. She is stubborn, extremely strong willed, and opinionated.

I used to pull my hair out every morning when it was time to go to work. My little darling would stomp her tiny foot and refuse to wear the outfit I had picked that day. I was late to work practically every day no matter how much I  planned ahead, or prepared myself to rebut a three-year old’s arguments. One December morning,  I envisioned myself tossing her bare naked into the snow.

By the time Amanda was eight years old, both our foreheads were sore from the constant head butts and collisions of life. Her second-grade teacher approached me and wondered if I had thought about counseling. That threw me for a loop! When I talked to my husband about it, he agreed. He was tired of playing referee. I asked around and was given the name of a therapist who I will be grateful to for eternity. Now we would get answers. Now we would find out how to fix my sweet girl.

Once a week, Amanda and I would go and talk to Sharon. After a few weeks, Sharon privately asked me about my background. Where I grew up, what kind of parents did I have, siblings, etc. Then she asked me a very odd question. She asked me why I hadn’t married an alcoholic, like my dad?

She told me I had not followed the statistics, I should have married an alcoholic too. I told her it was because I had determined at a young age, I would not live like that when I got married and had children. I would love my children and treat them well. Our sweet therapist then informed me, only a person with an extremely strong will could have made such a plan unfold and not follow the normal path.

Then it hit me! I made Amanda the way she is, it was in the DNA. She then explained to me that having a strong will is not necessarily a bad thing if directed in positive activities such as  academics, sports, or music. But once a negative influence gets in there, watch out!

I wish I could report all was fine and dandy after that revelation. Amanda’s teen years were awful. We had moved from our tiny community to a big city, with big city drama. My prayers increased as she made more defiant choices. Yes, God does answer prayers!

Amanda had taken classes to become a certified nurse’s assistant while still in high school. A year later, she completed a med-aide course in order to give medication to her nursing home residents. The responsibility of working, making her own money, and the choices it allowed helped her to blossom into a mature young lady.

After her marriage to Curtis in 2012, she was more determined to finish her schooling. In December of 2016, she graduated with honors as a registered nurse. So, the strong will in the right direction did pay off. Now, I don’t want to you to think that Amanda was a terrible child all the time. We were always delighted with her sharp wit, and her big, tender heart. She will always cheer for the underdog.

Her son, Kayden is just as strong-willed and stubborn as she ever was. Amanda understands it, and gives him grace; something I had to learn to do. Her father and I are so proud of her!

Click to tweet: Strong-willed children. The good and the not so good.

Writing prompt: Let’s talk about children. What parenting books would you recommend?

Will You Find Treasure This Year?

By Tammy Trail

Spring is the time for new beginnings. The birds are out tweeting. Barnyard animals frolic through the grass with younger versions of themselves in the warm sunshine. Humans tend to frolic out of doors also. Yard work calls us into labor. We’ll wear shorts in 60-degree weather because we long for the warmth of spring days.

Cleaning takes on a new meaning in the Spring. Have you noticed any ” Yard Sale”  signs out yet? Not to worry, they’re coming. You can be sure that folks will be going through those closets soon and setting gently used merchandise in the “for sale” pile.

Most likely, there is a community of people in your town or city who love to yard sale. They will either have a sale of their own, or wake up early on a Saturday mornings and drive to them. That old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is surely their motto.

Websites, blogs, and even Pinterest share lots of tips for setting up your own yard sale. Here are a few:

  1. Make your signs attractive and visible to the car passing by your yard. There are some cute ideas on Pinterest with catchy phrases and decorations.
  2. Prices should be easy to read. Putting them on the top of an item is better.
  3. Make sure you have enough cash to make change. Chances are everyone will want to pay with a $20 bill.
  4. Ask a friend or neighbor to help you. While you are distracted, someone could walk off with a potential sale. Another set of eyes can help discourage a thief.
  5. Selling cold beverages will add to your sales.

If you are an early riser on Saturday mornings and love to bargain, here are some tips for you as well.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You may need to park some distance away from the yard, or stand in line before taking your treasure home.
  2. Check the box before purchasing an item. There may be something entirely different inside when you get home.
  3. When buying something electrical, ask if you can plug it in to check it. If it takes batteries, make sure the battery compartment is not corroded.
  4. Never buy used car seats for babies or toddlers from a garage sale. Once they have been involved in an accident they are useless.
  5. Purchasing your items with smaller bills will make your seller smile. She or he won’t need to worry about making a lot of change.

My favorite garage/yard sale item was found by my parents. As a young girl, I had a portrait of Jesus hanging on my wall. I talked to him every night before I went to sleep. When I grew up and moved away, I left that picture behind. Through the years, I assumed my parents had gotten rid of it, or it was lost in a move from one house to another.

Last year, I went to visit my Mom to help her get ready for a yard sale. In a corner of her basement, behind a couple of boxes, I found my old friend. He is with me now in my home. One of these days, I will get my picture of Jesus re-framed and hung on the wall in my bedroom.

Click to tweet: Have you noticed any ” Yard Sale”  signs out yet?

Here’s a good prompt: Free puppies today.

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A Good Book is Worth More than A Thousand Words

By Tammy Trail

My favorite modern author? The topic this month is a hard one for me because I read a variety of genres and have several favorite authors. Narrowing it down to just one has been tough.

I thought about early influences that would make my choice easier. As a young student, I loved history. My brothers and I tended to gravitate toward television programs like Daniel Boone and Grizzly Adams. Frontiersmen who were larger than life; living extraordinary lives apart from the social norm. They lived in a time-period when American was young and untouched. They cut  new paths through untraveled countryside or made friends with bears.

My teen years were filled with more romance and dramatic taste in books and television. Who didn’t love watching Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder’s courtship on “Little House on the Prairie”? I was glued to the television one night each week with anticipation. Having read all the Little House books, I knew they eventually got married. Seeing it played out week after week by actors was a great treat for myself and other girls my age.

A few years ago, I found an author who mixes my love of the great unknown on the frontier with intriguing romance. I also follow her on Pinterest. Judging by the kinds of pins she saves, we share many similar interests. I just know we could be kindred spirits!

Laura Frantz is such a wonder with her pen. Her characters leap off the page with realistic conflict and personal growth. Courting Morrow Little is a great read. The title alone made me want to read the book. Who is this girl with such an unusual name? Why would we care about her courting activities? Unless, of course, there is more than one man waiting in line to court her.

Of course, there are two men. One man is a military officer who would be a safe, secure choice. The other man? Well … he would make tongues wag. Morrow’s judgment would be  questioned. 

The other book that I enjoyed reading very much is The Mistress of Tall Acre. Who isn’t intrigued by a marriage of convenience? I liked the heroine, Sophie Menzie. She’s a proud, strong woman with a heart of gold. And a secret crush. General Seamus Ogilvy is a likable hero who just can’t seem to catch a break. And when you think life for these two will be all sunshine and roses, a twist of fate comes into play. I won’t give it all away. You must read it for yourself.

A rainy day, a cup of hot tea, and one of Laura Frantz’ books. I can’t think of better way to spend time in the present.


Click to tweet: “A rainy day, a cup of hot tea, and one of Laura Frantz’ books.

Writing Prompt: Every Thursday afternoon you can find Sally Thomas sitting on a bench inside the bookmobile……

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Memories of a Dog

By Tammy Trail

My Dad thought it important for kids to grow up with a dog. After we left city life and lived in a rural community, we got a dog. We named him Duke. He was a little terrier, and he followed us kids wherever we went.

One memory that is special to me is that of myself, my youngest brother, Tom, and a brave little dog. The town post office was just a few blocks from our home. We used to walk there almost everyday.

While inside the post office, “Dukie”, would patiently wait outside on the stone porch. The Post Mistress liked to strike up a conversation, and my little brother was always good for a laugh. If someone approached the post office while we visited and retrieved our mail, our little dog went into protective mode. No one wanted to test his little stand-off at the entrance. After we left, Duke would back down and follow us home.

I don’t remember how long we had Duke. He got sick one day and my Dad took him to the vet. He finally came home, and his little tail never quit wagging. My brother Derrick made a fuss over Duke providing him with a comfortable bed on the back porch, a whole can of dog food, and fresh water. A few minutes later my brother began to wail as Duke died in his arms. I don’t remember what illness or accident may have taken our Duke from us, but to console us our Dad told us that Duke had held on until he got home. He wanted to see his kids one last time before he died. Who knows if it was true. Forty years later, I’d like to think so.

Later as teens, Sandy would be 16730897_10212091702318755_532903841_nthe dog who followed us around. She was a German Shepard/Golden Labrador mix, and human smart. She learned new tricks faster than any dog we ever had. Her job was to retrieve the newspaper from the drive way in the mornings. She would get a pillow off the bed and bring it to you, which made lying on the floor to watch T.V. much more comfortable.

Years later as we all grew up and moved away from home, Sandy stayed with Mom and Dad. While making wedding plans, my Mom asked me what I wanted as a gift. I told her I wanted Sandy. They brought her to me and she lived with me, my husband and my daughter until she was thirteen years old. She could hardly hear, her eyes were misted over with blindness, and her hips made her move slow. She died in her sleep in a quiet house. Tim found her when he came home from work for lunch. I cried buckets. We buried her in our back yard under a huge tree.dog-1194083__340

Sandy had the habit of laying her head on the bed to stare at me until I woke up. Then she would get excited and dance in circles. It was time to go outside.

After she passed one morning I woke up to feel the edge of the bed to see if it was warm I was certain she had been there.

Our pets can be annoying with the constant need for us to take care of them. The shedding hair and occasional accidents will drive one crazy. But there has never been a substitute for a more loving, constant companion than a dog.soldier-870399__340\\

Writing prompt: A busy day at the shelter……..

A New Year’s Resolution Failure

By Tammy Trail

To be honest, I was not planning on New Year’s resolutions this year. Failure is my best friend. I know … defeating and humiliating.

All my writing goals were eaten by the beast of procrastination. Reading the Bible in a year fell into the Land of Nod. Getting my bedroom redecorated became a testament to the lack of time and money.

Before you start feeling sorry for me, I am proud of a few of my accomplishments. After my yearly physical in August, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My doctor had warned multiple times that I needed to get my weight gain under control. Obviously I didn’t heed her warnings, but now I am serious about it. I told my doctor that my intention was to no longer need diabetic medicine. hands-1892965__340I am now eating better, taking my meds, and checking my sugar levels often. My husband took me shopping recently because my pants were getting too big. That made me very happy, and it was a great incentive to keep going. My success is determined by me.

 This summer I looked at my bedroom and realized it was a storage room with a bed. Paint would do wonders for it, but hubby and I cannot agree on a color. I went to the local home improvement store to buy tiny samples of paint. Now one wall is starting to look like a patchwork quilt. The lack of money interrupted my plans for a total makeover.

paint-933395__340Instead, I cleaned it from top to bottom. I took everything out of our walk-in closet, washed down the walls, and vacuumed the carpet. I also filled several boxes with clothing to take to our local mission. Then I cleaned the carpet in the bedroom, rearranged the furniture and bought a new quilt for the bed. It was not the plan I had in mind, but it turned out to be a very satisfying project.

I have also made new writing goals, but I find it so hard to focus after working all day. So, this year the word count is smaller. I am going to finish that book I started.

As for reading the Bible in a year. I bought a new devotional for 2017, and my goal is to stick with it to the end.

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No, I didn’t make resolutions for the New Year. But looking back over last year, I did get a lot done. Maybe this year I will get my bedroom walls painted. I found another shade of blue that I think my hubby will like.

Writing Prompt: Arlene’s new year started off with a definite bang. At three in the morning, the closet rod gave way. Her closet resembled something from that television show about hoarders. She collapsed in a heap on the floor and stared at the mess. What now?

 

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Where in the World Should I Celebrate Christmas?

By Tammy Trail

I had no idea where in the world I would land for this month’s post Christmas Around the World. I had googled “the coldest place in the world” and learned that Oymyaken, Russia earns that title, but my esteemed blog partner Jennifer had already written about Russia. My mother is visiting from New Mexico. I asked her to pick a place. I should have known her answer. Her father’s family migrated from Ireland to Canada, and later came to settle in Toledo, Ohio.

So, an Irish Christmas it is!

hollyvintageimagegraphicsfairy006bTraditionally, the season begins on December 8. This is when folks begin getting into the spirit of the season by decorating their homes. Evergreen trees are becoming more popular in recent years, but the use of holly and ivy remains the custom for most homes. The more berries on your holly, the better luck in the New Year. Large candles shine in the main window of a family home. This is to guide Mary and Joseph to a safe and friendly place before the Christ child is born.

Some communities host a singalong in middle of the town square. They sing all the traditional hymns and carols to usher in the Christmas season. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Ireland is a predominately Christian country, and attending midnight Mass begins the festivities that follow on Christmas morning.

dinner-table-1433494_1280Christmas dinner is much the same as our own. After dinner, they eat Christmas pudding or mince pies. You may even receive a “select box” which is filled with a selection of chocolate bars for dessert.

In the city of Dublin at Sandycove, hundreds of brave souls plunge into the cold winter sea for charity. I think we in the United States refer to this as the Polar Plunge. Not my cup of tea at all. I like dry land and warm clothes.

The day after Christmas in Ireland is St. Stephens Day, or Boxing day in Canada and the United Kingdom. It is often celebrated with a good meal, too.

Mary and JesusJanuary 6th is the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which some Irish towns call Nollaig na mBean. On a Woman’s Christmas, women of the town are given the day off from their household chores and meal preparation. They celebrate by spending the day with their female friends, visiting and drinking tea. I like this idea. I could use a day to spend with my friends with no demands on my time.

So, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from Ireland.

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