Monthly Archives: September 2015

Birthday Party. . . for $10 total

“Thank you for planning a wonderful birthday party for our gal, Nana. . . “

I smiled at the text from my son-in-law.  Yesterday, Frank, my two grandsons and I had celebrated my daughter’s birthday, in grand and excited style – for less than ten dollars.  I would have spent much more, but that was what I had.  I was grateful God provided a way to take good care of my darling daughter, just as He has done for more than three decades now.

Our secret?  The same tactics He taught me throughout all her pre-teen years, those sweet, sweet years of innocence.  I used lots of prayer for help, inexpensive items and then made a big celebration out of it.  With two grandsons, gifts were easy.  The boys (two and three and a half) gave Momma the gifts to unwrap but promptly claimed them as their own, according to my plan, and delighting everyone, Momma most of all.

The most expensive thing was a bedtime book.  The other gifts were from the Dollar Store – two tiny yellow shopping bags, two small memo books, two sprigs of plastic flowers, and two paint brush boxes.  Wrapped separately in white tissue paper (which cost one dollar), with festively generous curling ribbon, that made eight gifts for Momma to receive, open and watch her toddlers happily claim as their own.  Ta da!  No jealousy issues (at least for a few minutes.)

As for decorations, I hung one half of a “Happy Birthday” penant string from lights at the side of the room and the other over the room divider, then dangled long, curled strands of ribbon from the edges.  With bright “Happy Birthday” plates as the centerpiece, I covered the table with two dozen “curly cues” strips of the curling ribbon.  The oldest grandson kept asking me again “What did you call these, Nana?” as he tossed them in the air and uncurled them so he could watch them spring into curls again.

Our traditional birthday cake is a box mix cheesecake Sharon has enjoyed  since she was eight and everyone, except the two-year-old,  loved it.   We lit  candles, blew them out and repeated it all until the smoke–and laughter– overwhelmed us all.

I looked at my daughter and saw her down through the years, when it had been just her and me, with the same type of celebration:  numerous small gifts, carefully wrapped, decorations everywhere in our tiny apartment, and much prayer that she would feel as cherished as she was.

Thank You, dear dear Father, so very much for showing me how to give her good birthdays all these years.   What a gift it always is to me, from You, to see her smile.  And now, to see her do the same with her own children.  How loving You are and how faithful! 


My “Priceless” Antiques

Most everything in my apartment is a second-generation antique – and truly priceless.

I remember seeing Daddy empty out his pockets into a wood tray on the top of the maple chest of drawers that now holds my clothes.  I see my infant daughter, frog-like little belly and long tiny legs, smiling up at me from its padded surface as I changed her diapers.  For the seven years we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment, I saw Sharon’s  collection of model horses on it and, later, her first jewelry box, which I have “inherited” and have used as my own for twenty years or so.

I used a small white bookcase to old the books and novels that shaped my teenage dreams of being a writer.  Within a few short years, Sharon used it as her vertical toy chest, too.  She adorned both sides and two shelves with her first Crayola mural, which will be there when she inherits my priceless antiques one day.

Today, my grandson’s plastic monster trucks, coloring books, and the Nana’s house branch of their personal library fill the by-now wobbly shelves.

A focal point in my front room is a three-generation antique.  My Mom told me she and Daddy purchased the wooden toy chest on lay-away when my older brother and I were both small.  I saw that toy chest in my childhood home my entire life, long after my brother, younger by six years, outgrew it.   I understand why Mom kept it as an integral part of the furnishings.  It keeps memories of your children as toddlers warm and close to your heart.

Because my Sharon was the first grandchild, she got to put her xylophone, Fisher Price telephone, and stuffed giraffe in it. And, I, too, kept it as part of the furnishings until it had to go into storage for two years when I relocated.

The hinged lid style was declared unsafe many years ago by the wonderful folks who check the safety of toys.  So, it now holds cherished mementos of I have of my Dad – his old hunting cap, one of the many baseball trophies he and my two brothers accumulated, a notepad and sunglass case that resided in his shirt pocket, and one shotgun shell.

I have it turned around and the lid safely secured so my grandsons cannot open it. They gleefully use it as their table when they visit Nana.

The mere presence of that little toy chest fills me with the warmth and security and love that my Dad radiated as he sat in his recliner, and we three kids lay on the floor around his feet, watching Westerns on TV.  Yes, my antiques are truly, truly beyond price.

Starting the blog is. . . scarey!

Being unspeakably excited dilutes the fear – a bit.  Thirty 30 years ago, when I first began seriously writing, cocky confidence sustained me.  Now, after decades of delay, I step into this new world of writing, knowing I must create my own audience.  No more futile hopes of advances big enough to live on, hopes spun from frail threads of a couple of amateurish book proposals.

Though I am a subject matter expert (as we say in research) on functional poverty, still. . . doing this challenges my faith.  “Functional poverty” is a term I coined in 1988 for my second failed book proposal.   At that time, it had been 11 years since the divorce, and for those 11 years my daughter and I had lived with nary a nickle to spare.   I called the book “The Happy Have-Not” because I had learned contentment in the midst of deprivation, at least deprivation by United States standards.

More than ten years later, I completed the manuscript for “Unjealous Heart”, a more mature version of the same material and sold a summary of it as an article.  Then, I went to grade school full-time, and life took a non-authorial turn for a few more years.

As I am, this week, planning my website and blog, I am still living close to the bone.  I have a 325 square foot apartment, a small pension and two part-time jobs.  This “Unjealous Living” blog is the sequel for “Unjealous Heart.”  That book is about raising a child in single parent poverty.  This blog is about me, a single adult, living above the federal poverty threshold, albeit, still in functional poverty.

The book and the blog are both true, except for fictitious names for my family. During all the years I wrote late at night and early in the morning, I kept praying for God to let me “write right out of my life.”

He has been so very faithful to do that, and I so look forward to sharing that story with you!

Unjealous Living

I have been living, UNjealously, since my late 20s.  Before, envy and resentment twisted my thinking.   Though afraid of failing with this blog, I have important information to share with you. If you are poor, I can show you how to keep yourself and your child from feeling poor, even if you are.

For most of my adult life, I have lived in functional poverty. I define that term as being so poor you could not feed, shelter, and clothe yourself and your family without constant and extreme deprivations. Your clothes, and nearly every thing you own, are from thrift shops; you never ever eat out—ever; you wash and reuse plastic water bottles and carry them so you never buy anything while you are out to drink; you look first at the clearance shelf at the grocery; you treat your kids at the Dollar Store; you cook as healthy as you can, but never prepare expensive food; you often eat saltines as a snack; you rent the smallest apartment you can squeeze everyone into; your family has not been to a movie theater in ten years; you cover cardboard boxes with pillowcases from the thriftstore to make end tables; you don’t make your kids eat them but you eat a lot of sardines and liver.

I will share photos of my 375 foot square apartment as we go along so you can see God in action as things tidy up. I’ve been here three months, exerting genuine effort (in spare moments) to make space for everything so I could work on the real writing. As you can see, it is cluttered and seems totally disorganized. Well, it is and it isn’t.

I can find most things I need, but could not find my completed manuscript of “Unjealous Heart.” You see, today I had determined to take a step of faith and just start taking daily time to write, for God, and trust Him for enough time to do the writing job, and other things in my life. Funny thing, though. I found out my home is nowhere near organized enough to start. Clutter is stressful and causes confusion of the mind, heart, and spirit – and I cannot do creative writing in the midst of clutter.

So, I begin today to get organized so I can do the real writing, which is this blog entitled My Unjealous Life. This blog will be about how I am still, after many years, living in functional poverty, as I defined that yesterday (link). AND I AM JOYOUSLY HAPPY!!!!!! I am so excited about both my part-time jobs and the real writing that I often wake at 4 a.m. and write before going to work. I love my life with God, in the midst of being poor – because I do not feel poor. I feel so very rich, spiritually as well as materially.

I got the idea to write a blog about my personal life as a writer/blogger while I am learning to blog my book Unjealous Heart and creating my writing website Words of Hope and I mean it to be encouraging to you that I can truthfully say I have never had much money my entire adult life and still do not and that I am happy – and you can be, too, regardless of circumstances.
I learned that about 30 years ago when my daughter and I were immersed in single parent poverty. The same principles I learned then I have used for all these 30 years and am using them now, to dig myself out of this situation, and make it better and turn it into a blessing for God and His people.

So, my dear new friend, come along for the ride! It is going to be exciting, I promise, for two reasons:

(1) I have seen our God do miracle after miracle in my one ordinary life for 34 years now. And He is the same yesterday, today, and forever,and
(2) there are no favorites with God. I am nothing special, and what He did for me, He will do for you if you follow Him with all your might.