On Frugal Living

Shared on a Facebook frugal living page, originally, but it’s long and it got good response, so I’m also posting it here. Because it is, after all, my own original content:

Reading conversations in this page over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of disparity in how people view frugality. Some seem to see it as looking for the cheapest way to get whatever you want, while others have a more wholistic view on the subject. 

I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. My mother’s family didn’t suffer so much because of my grandfather’s town business (he owned a gas station and was a mechanic) and their farming background.  Mom was a bit of a spendthrift, in fact.  She liked brand labels and shopping in nice department stores and having her hair done every week at the salon.  If there was something she wanted, she bought it, if it fit within certain categories (clothes, groceries, books, etc.)  Of course, she also saved everything — when my sister came along when I was ten, she wore my old socks. I kid you not.

However, my dad’s family had it considerably rougher; my grandfather died a year before the Crash, and the family lore is that Grandma had a dime in her purse — just a dime! — when she got word that the local bank had failed. They had the farm, several miles from the nearest town, but Granddaddy’s estate was in probate and . . . things were a mess for them.   The rule in Dad’s family was that you took the cheapest route possible, within reason: if you were buying a couch and a really lovely one was $25 more than a plain brown, uncomfortable one, you bought the cheaper one and put aside that $25 — even if you hated looking at that sofa every day for the rest of your life.  

So I grew up between two different mindsets, and I’ve been torn by the inner conflicts all my adult life. All this to give you some sense of where I’m coming from in this reflection. 

Frugality isn’t on a continuum, somewhere  between avarice and parsimony. It’s about developing a set of values that influence how we use all our resources, including money. Yes, living within our means is part of that. Not so long ago, society was scandalized by anyone who got into avoidable debt. Then homes had to be built by professional builders to meet ever-tightening code (some of which are not really necessary), leading to debt, and cars were marketed as a necessity, leading to debt, and credit was established first to cover emergencies or to simplify bookkeeping, but then luxuries were marketed as necessities. . . leading to more debt. And things snowballed. 

The old saying “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without” is unheard of by a younger generation that’s being stuck with a truckload of debt and no savings. And too often no skills. Back in the day, money was HARD to come by. Farming tobacco is exhausting, dirty labor. — if that’s how you earn your main income, farming with mules instead of a tractor (with milk and egg money and maybe the sale of a bit of produce rounding out the corners), you have a lot more respect for that money than what we — okay, I confess:  I — have earned while sitting comfortably beside my piano in air conditioned and centrally heated comfort, teaching piano, or even teaching school or working in an office.  You used what you had rather than buying a new convenience or “Bigger and Better” “New and Improved” because you based your spending on need rather than want or convenience because the money for those things was bitterly hard to come by, so much of the time.  And, back then, you took great care of your possessions, because although repairing an item was a lot cheaper than replacing it, it was still an avoidable expense. So that’s what responsible people did. 

Now, Madison Avenue is telling us that we’re not attractive or socially acceptable if we don’t possess certain THINGS. Obsolescence is built into our appliances, cars, even our clothes. It costs more to repair a broken toaster than to throw it out and buy a new one at Wally World, even if overflowing landfills are a moral quandary that challenges our conscience when we toss items out so carelessly. The talking heads tell us that we are being environmentally irresponsible not to drive an electric car, even though those cars are outrageously expensive, the lithium for the batteries is mined by child slave labor in environmentally disastrous conditions, and the cost of replacing the battery compares with the cost of a brand new car. 

Who do we believe? What values do we embrace? 

 I remember Gramma Lottie for her feisty temper, her habit of trotting rather than walking everywhere she went around the farm, and her whistling, more than from that ugly brown sofa. And she had the sweetest face and twinkling blue eyes, even if her clothes sometimes hung on her like a sack. And I remember Mama more from watching her make and decorate beautiful cakes, and her sewing, knitting, and tatting, and letting me “help out” in the church nursery, not from the beautiful china she served Christmas dinner on. And I thought she was a handsome woman, even if her only cosmetic was Jergins lotion, religiously applied to hands and forearms and elbows immediately before bed, each night. 

If I cherish the memory of my grandmothers for these things, rather than their possessions, I am challenged in what I base my own life on. How do I want to be remembered by my own children, grandchildren, friends? Frugality has to begin with a deep self-assessment, what we value, and why, and where have we let our values and spending habits be dictated by artificial and frivolous standards (there’s a reason I mentioned Mama’s Jergins lotion; I have a weakness for makeup, as well as for books and music and flowers and. . . .)  

When we start with trying to save pennies on frivolous expenditures, without having consciously evaluated what is important to us, and what is reasonable and responsible, then we’re getting the cart before the horse (or mule, for my family) and we’re just going to be frustrated by recurring failure.  Pennies here and there can’t compensate for absence of a clear vision of the authentic people we are, and the life we want to live. 

People are more important than things. A 1-year old baby doesn’t care about how many different refreshments or decorations you have at her party; she just wants to get her hands in that CAKE!!!  YUMYUMYUM.  And the adult guests aren’t going to remember those things, either; rather, they’ll remember the laughter and the conversation and how much you all love one another.  So don’t waste money on disposables and trying to impress anyone; We aren’t trying to out-Martha Martha Stewart, here! Make a regular cake for everyone to have a clean slice, but a special small one for Baby to get her eager little hands and face in (ad have a couple of wet washcloths close by for an easier clean-up!).  And get some store brand ice cream to go along with it.  Maybe some nuts or mints. And serve it in your real bowls, even if washing them will take five extra minutes, instead of using disposables, because the people you love are worthy of your “good dishes” even for a baby’s first birthday.

Or you’re worried about keeping costs down on a wedding, but the standard you’re trying to meet apparently comes out of Bride’s Magazine — more marketing influences telling us what we “need.” When my cousins got married, they started a couple weeks ahead of time, making and freezing sandwiches, the cake, special cookies and so on.  Nothing was hired out. Even the flowers, they picked at home, and they were gorgeous.  And it was so very personal!  A generation ago, a “nice” reception included cake, mints, nuts, maybe cookies . . . and a punch.  No one had a full catered affair!  You don’t have to impress anyone — what really matters for your wedding is that you and your Beloved are publicly declaring your intention of being and making a family together; everything else is nonessential, no matter how much fun it is, so you can make do and have a lovely, homey reception without breaking your budget — you can create your own memories liberated from the artificial Brides Magazine standard.  One of the most fun weddings I’ve been at, the reception had live music by three friends of the couple, and we all enjoyed New England Contra dancing.  Guests who’d never heard of this old folk form picked it up quickly and were dancing away and laughing  at themselves and having a wonderful time right off the bat.  

The point is that we don’t have to out-Martha Martha Stewart (I liked that so much I’m saying it twice!) in order to create an environment of love and warmth and hospitality and joy, or to make memories that will make people smile for decades ever after. 

It’s the attitude that comes first. God bless y’all. 

Acadiana Diary

I’m now in my third year living in Acadiana, the “Cajun” region of southern Louisiana. The move was an enormous step for me, involving not just a relocation but even more cutting the cord to the safety net of the family and family property in North Carolina. Some people would probably think my decision was rash and ill-considered. Some think making such a huge change when most people are settling into a more comfortable retirement zone was exciting and heroic.

A major move like this required a lot of decisions. I was moving for the sole purpose of creating a new and more authentic life for myself, to get away from the more toxic elements of my old home and its multitude of unhappy memories and to start again, building a new life, exploring different aspects of my character. . .

There were decisions about where I was going to move. That wasn’t so hard; I’d fallen in love with Louisiana when I was here, albeit in a different part of the state, twenty years ago, and now I had friends in the area who would provide an immediate emotional safety net and, as needed, practical help (can you recommend a solid mechanic? where do you find your vegetable starts in the early spring? etc.). I could come to a completely new part of the country but not be utterly alone, and that was important.

I had to decide what to bring and what to leave behind. I had very limited space for moving, so I decided that I would only bring what I absolutely love (my antique bed frame, a particular chair) or needed (all my kitchenware). This would allow me to furnish a new home and new life without the residue of the old clinging to me.

I had to look HARD at what I was leaving behind (the constant reminders of unhappiness) and recognize that some of that, I would be bringing with me internally, in my mind. I had to make peace with my pain and acknowledge that some of it would continue to accompany me, no matter where I went. So would my personal flaws and faults. But I also couldn’t shake off the confidence that much of the past’s power over me would be greatly reduced without the constant reminders and associations.

I had high expectations, and I’m grateful to say I’ve not been disappointed; in fact, the goodness of my life here has exceeded what I’d anticipated it would be.

A move like this is an enormous risk, but it’s an even bigger opportunity. New work, through the Church Militant Resistance program, has shown me skills and gifts I didn’t know I possessed. A treasured friendship has grown and given me a lot of room to grow and deepen. My world and my range of interests and passions has grown immensely in the past two years.

I’m happy.

Home as Sanctuary, Refuge

Rumors are flying on both sides of the political spectrum, as America heads toward the anticipated inauguration of Joe Biden next Wednesday. It’s a difficult time, and not a little alarming, as Trump supporters and other Conservatives are threatened with retaliation by those on the Left.

A few years ago, Rod Dreher wrote a book called The Benedict Option, in which he urges people to consider following the example of the venerable Father Benedict of Nursia, who abandoned Rome and headed to the hills to dwell in caves before he was persuaded to take leadership of a monastic community. From that community he wrote a Rule which has become the standard of many successive Orders’* Rules over the centuries, and is still read and aspired to by Benedictines, today. Dreher recommends abandoning society and retreating to a more isolated life away from the controversies and difficulties of modern society.

Of course, Benedict left the depravities of Rome, not its collapse. And he didn’t have the technologies to complicate his life that we do, today.

Fact is, a full withdrawal from the world is extremely difficult in the 21st century. We have families, jobs, obligations of varied descriptions that make a full retreat impossible.

However, there is something to be considered in the Rule and life of St. Benedict that is useful for us all: the mandate to consider every dimension of our lives as belonging to God. He required his communities to set aside very particular times of the day to pray (the Mass and the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), to study, to labor. In addition, his counsel calls his communities, and us, to remember that every dimension and aspect of life is God’s. The tools of life did not belong to the monk, nor even to the monastery; they were God’s, and were expected to be treated respectfully in consequence of that reality.

Likewise, our lives and our homes belong to God. And in a world where so much stress and uncertainty are at the fore (Will more shutdowns cost me work, and income? Will political and theological convictions jeopardize my employment?) the only place where we really have influence and some degree of control is in our homes.

The control should, must! be used to make our homes places of refuge from the world — for our families, certainly, but also for our neighbors and friends who are drawn to us to share concerns, burdens, prayer, need in an uncertain and frightening time. Reduce/eliminate clutter. Establish a place for everything and put items in their proper place (a great personal challenge). Cultivate a standard of hospitality, not entertainment, for welcoming friends to your home. Plain simple food with warmth and affection in the atmosphere is far more soul-nurturing than an impressive meal with stress and irritation.

In the coming days we will be called upon to comfort and encourage others, in and out of our family circle. Let’s be careful not to look on this challenge as a burden, but as our calling as home-makers. Let’s establish as our objective that all who enter our homes might sense God’s holy and healing presence there.

  • An Order, for my nonCatholic readers, is a community founded upon the particular gifts and insights of its founder — i.e., the Franciscans (St Francis of Assissi), the Domincans (St. Dominic), the Benedictines (St. Benedict), et al. Each Community and its daughter houses adhere to a Rule which outlines the particulars for that community, that Order, to live out its special gifts and calling.

A North Carolina Tar Heel in the Heart of Acadiana

I’m not accustomed to having windows open and to be wondering whether I ought to just go ahead and turn on the a/c on New Year’s Eve. Welcome to Southern Louisiana! Evidently this isn’t at all unheard of, around here. We’re also under a tornado watch, as a cold front is coming through overnight, dropping our temps from (low) 60 to 47 and (high) 76 to 59 for New Year’s Day. That’s still on the mild side, isn’t it? Uh, yes, it is.

I haven’t done as much exploring of my region as I’d like. I live in a lovely town, one which date from about the same period as my home area in the Sandhills of North Carolina. That makes it one of the newer towns down here; there are towns like St. Martinville and New Iberia that date from the mid-1700s (and had European settlers in the area at what were simple trading outposts, much earlier, late 1600s-early 1700s). This area is also pretty “English,” in contrast to “Cajun,” although there’s a large Cajun population here. We are very much in the heart of Acadiana.

I grew up in town in NC but I have farming roots on both sides of my family. so the agricultural makeup of this area fascinates me. Now, I know what a tobacco field looks like, and peach orchards, and soybeans, and a variety of other crops grown in quantity up in The Old North State. But I’m not so sure what I’m looking at, yet, down here. I assume the recently-flooded fields that were so cleanly plowed and disked, just a couple weeks ago, are rice fields, as I live near the nation’s Rice Capitol, but that assumption is based entirely on my reading of the novels of Pearl S. Buck. They could be crawfish fields, too, but I’m more inclined to think the fields that had some water and a lot of plant growth even after being drained last year are the crawfish farms. I don’t know who can clear that up for me, yet, but I keep looking. Sugar cane, on the other hand, is pretty easy to recognize, and there’s a lot of that here and south toward the “coast –”

— if you can call it the coast. The Louisiana coastline is primarily swamp that becomes the Gulf oF Mexico, unlike the Carolinas’ flat and distinct sandy coastline.

Another big difference is that, although the Coastal Plain of NC is flat as flat can be, there are miles upon miles of woodlands. Here almost all land is under cultivation. The only place I’ve seen real forests are actually down along the Atchafalaya Swamp. Everywhere else, there are hedge rows and trees in people’s yards, but not acres and miles of woodland. That is peculiar, but it also gives one a vista that is out of this world — miles and miles of open land to the horizon, allowing you to see the moon coming up over the horizon and the water tower of the town maybe 12 miles away.

This is also a big beef area. I get a kick out of seeing pastures with cows and small lots with cows all around here. There are some breeds I know, like the Hereford, Brahma, Angus, and Charolais, and a couple of breeds I’m not sure of at all. They all help me feel at home, as cows are also a staple of the NC agricultural scene. More and more, this area, which has felt like home since my first visit nearly two years ago, is getting into my bones, and i absolutely love it.

The Life I Want: TOOLS: Planners

It’s one thing to want to have a better life tomorrow than we had yesterday, or even today, in some vague sense. It’s another thing altogether to want a better life and to see it in our mind’s eye and to be able to move toward that life volitionally (a word I prefer to “intention,” which has become all New Age-y).

Last year I wrote about discovering Lara Casey’s PowerSheets. This values and goal planner has been of greater importance than I could imagine, when I wrote that post just over one calendar year ago. It has helped me find the courage to move, to be able to articulate WHY I was moving, and what I intend to achieve by making this choice — and HOW to actually go about making those achievements a reality. I’ve ordered again for 2021 and am at work on the first, preliminary section of the book, and this week I’m mapping out my January goals and mini-goals.

This is a goal planner. It operates by helping us identify the dimensions of our lives (family relationships, the spiritual life, work, money, etc.) and inviting us to evaluate our current experience in each, to consider what we can do to strengthen the most important, and to brainstorm how that can be achieved. There are monthly and quarterly evaluations and re-sets, indicators for accomplishments, and other prompts that help us to define what is truly important and to realistically care for each. Lara also has additional supplies like a spiritual journal, sticker books (not my big thing but very adult and usable), washi tape, notepads . . . whatever you might need in order to enjoy the process, make it attractive and usable for you.

My other major tool is Jenny Penton’s Planner Perfect. I love this because it’s NOT your standard planner. Jenny warns against reducing a planner to a mere To-Do list, and I’m glad because that’s my guarantee of failure. Instead, this is a planner that one can design to use according to one’s needs and values. She offers not only a choice of size and cover art but also of interior layout and paper type (unlined, lined, dot grid). You can use it for the old To-Do list, or a spiritual journal, your own art, or a goals tracker, or (here’s what I love) ALL OF THE ABOVE, for a more personalized use. There are a lot of YouTube videos of planner setups that show a wide range of uses for this system. I can see myself creating a more specific blog post to do the same thing; for me, it’s an excellent accompaniment to keep track of appointments, lessons, ideas, mini-goals, and whatever I happen to need to keep track of at any given time. I started with the 1-year planner, decided I need more room per day and am currently trying out her monthly planner subscription. It’s a bit more than I need, including stickers, washi, and tip-in cards, but it’s material I can use or resell through the Planner Perfect Facebook page (I haven’t yet but it is an option).

These are my two planner go-to sources for my new life.

#CultivateYourLife. #WriteABetterStory

The Life I Want – Transition Part 1

Lara Casey challenges us to look ahead to when we’re 85, and to envision what sort of life we want to look back on; the move was about building a new life for myself, for making the rest of my life something to be glad of and grateful for. I decided I wanted to start from scratch; if I didn’t absolutely need it (kitchen ware) or love it (my antique bedframe), or have a strong investment in it (35+ boxes of books and music) it would not come with me. I sold, donated, or trashed far more than I brought.

My first morning in town, I went to buy appliances. I’d intended to wait a few days before looking for a piano, but there was that tiny interior nudge, and I Googled Pianos . . . and found a piano dealer not ten minutes from the appliance shop. Well, it would be a total waste of time and energy to make a separate trip, right? So I drove over . . . just to look, you understand. A Steinway concert grand stood in front of the showroom, a splendid instrument but far too rich for my budget. I introduced myself to the owner of the shop (since become a victim of the Covid shutdown — will we ever know the extent of the damage caused by the political response to this virus?) and told him I wanted a nice used studio piano. He had a couple, but as he led me to them, I was distracted by the sight of yellowed keys on a dark instrument at the very back of the showroom.

“Oooh! What’s this?” “This” was a petite grand piano, long neglected, now in process of being refurbished . . . a full tone flat, he warned me, but in tune with itself. Well, I don’t anticipate working with other instrumentalists, and when I do I have access to another instrument at my new church job, so . . . I sat down and touched the keys. . . and fell in love. A prior owner had stripped all the lovely protective varnish and with it the nomenclature plate — the tuner couldn’t even find one inside the guts where one is usually attached, so I have no idea who manufactured this lovely instrument. But I was in love, and I bought her on the spot.

A piano, one easy chair, a lawn chair and wicker settee did not meet the needs of a furnished home, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to remedy that situation. In the meantime the covid shutdowns were announced.

On Facebook I found word of an upcoming estate sale. This sounded interesting — and I drove an hour SE to the home of a retired, downsizing teacher. . . where I found several art works I simply loved, and a couple of kitchen items. . . and a Queen Anne chair . . . and two new friends, the sisters who operate the estate sale business. Through them I furnished the new house — except for some bookshelves and a desk ordered through Ikea. I now have a home I dearly love and enjoy and am glad to have people come visit.

It’s not complete, yet. I still have to shift things around a bit and add the really personal “grace notes.” But every time I walk in the door and see “Fannie Mendelssohn” (the piano), and the rich red brocaded settee, and the room in its fullness, I feel a surge of joy.

I wasn’t able to work right away, which has been a hardship. This is a part of the country that even before the shutdown was in an economic depression due to state and federal regulations of the energy industry. With the shutdown, even those with disposable income were being very cautious, in case that money was needed for essentials. I went five months without a paycheck, and that paycheck is for the part-time church work. But gradually things are picking up with teaching piano (Fannie Mendelssohn is a wonderful piano to teach from!) and some supplemental playing at other places (funerals). I feel the tide has turned on that score and I’m going to be okay. I have to be very cautious for a couple more months, but I’m not worried.

New Life Well Begun

I wonder whether this might not be a good time to revive this blog. The past year has seen a lot of changes in my life, including a major move to another part of the country, and I once again have new material to write about. I’ve not posted in months and months. I ran out of steam; living in depression is exhausting. But my new home is full of unfamiliar and interesting things to write about, and evoke reflections that might be of interest or benefit to someone, somewhere, so I believe I shall try again.

The shift began a year ago, early fall, when several things converged in my mind to make me aware that I very much wanted and needed a major life change, specifically, a move. One of the big issues influencing my decision was the arrival of my 62 birthday. My mother was 62 (and 5 months, 6 days) when she died of cancer, in 1991. To me, she had always been old. Poor health, most notably in the frequent recurrence of debilitating migraines, had robbed her of a lot of energy and ambition. Being “too old” was always her excuse not to make needed changes in her life; the fact was, I think, my poor mother’s spirit was too badly wounded and she simply hadn’t the confidence to do a thing about her unhappy life.

I did not want to be like my mother. Not in that respect, anyway (I have many much more interesting and worthwhile things in common with her). I wanted to live while I could, not to be confined to others’ expectations and demands, or their limited vision of my capabilities, or the constant reminders that, for years, for others, no matter how hard I had tried I could never be good enough to warrant their approval, or their love.

The only way that seemed open to me was a move, and the desire for a move was revealing itself in subtle ways, once realized begging action, even though physical and financial limitations made a move appear impossible.

I began to pray, “Father, may I?” not really believing that I could, only knowing that I wanted to, with no reservations left in mind.

Things began to happen with amazing speed, and in February, my NC home sold, I travelled to my chosen region on what I thought would be my first “recon mission.” I arrived on Thursday night. Friday I met with a realtor and found a charming house to rent in a pleasant neighborhood at a rental price within my budget and far less than comparable properties rent for in my former area. As the realtor, a lovely, vivacious Christian woman, and I sat on the front steps, talking, she suddenly burst out, “Laura! You need to get in touch with the pastor at First Church! They just lost their organist! She’d been there more than fifty years . . . ”

I sat on the job lead, unsure the timing would work out. But Sunday I got a message from the pastor, could I come and meet with him Monday afternoon? My realtor had given my number to her friend, who’d passed it on to the pastor. I left that meeting with a new job.

One more day in town to visit with friends, then back to NC to pack, and even there God had His hand in the matter. Instead of having to pay several thousand for professional movers to help me out, friends offered to use their church’s mission trailer and move me themselves, for the cost of their expenses. Other friends came and helped me pack and sort . . . I found a taker for my older mobile home (which had not gone with the sale of the real property) who also helped me with the clean-up.

In less than two weeks, I was back on the road for good.

What I Wish I’d Heard At Mass (WIWIH) — May 2-3, 2020

For years I’ve thought of doing this series, week after week of dealing with insipid sermons, uninspiring sermons, sermons that wasted glorious opportunities, sermons that had nothing to do with the Readings . . .  “I could have done a better job at that!” I’ve thought more times than I can count.  Well, let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

It was Good Shepherd weekend: the Readings centered around “The Lord is my shepherd,” and “I am the Good Shepherd.”  Sheep are funny animals. Until fairly recent history, their wool was an economic staple throughout Europe and probably the New World as well, so they were an investment in their owners’ livelihoods.  But they aren’t particularly smart animals, not at all like dogs or horses or even cows.  I visited friends who had sheep, one weekend several years ago, and the dumb creatures entertained me no end:  if one got spooked and leapt up in the air over some invisible spookiness, every single one of them would leap into the air, after her. Nothing there — just that one jumped over something, so we all have to jump over . . . where was it? Doesn’t matter, just JUMP!

There are two parts to this scenario that I want to point out as edifying. No, three  —

1. The Good shepherd lays down his life for his friends.  A hireling, on the other hand, is looking out for #1, and so long as he’s safe and comfortable, the fate of the sheep doesn’t bother him so much. In fact, he’ll abandon the sheep to their brutal fate rather than be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable — much less endangered.

During the covid-19 shutdown, some very good priests have been frustrated at the shutdown of the Mass and the prohibition of visits to shut-ins, hospital and nursing home patients.  They are aware that their vocation mandates that they serve the flock, even if it costs them their lives — as it did Christ. To be thwarted in the celebration of Sacraments and the service of the Faithful is painful to them. They are concerned for our spiritual well-being, even more than of our physical health, and they are willing to do whatever it costs them to see us draw closer to The Shepherd, and to get to heaven.

2. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice.  That means we listen attentively, and obey promptly so as to hear His voice more clearly, in future.

3. Sheep follow one another, which means we have a duty as well as a privilege to follow close to the Master’s feet, so those who are watching US will be faithfully led.



Planning for a better 2020 — in which I take a step back on Planners

I said planners and gadgets don’t work. Not for me.

Well, I found one that I had to try, and I’m loving it.

Lara Casey’s PowerSheets www.cultivatewhatmatters.com — I kept seeing all sorts of YouTube videos touting them, and with all the detail provided, the idea entered my mind that this might just possibly be a truly useful tool. So I took a very deep breath and ordered the Powersheets Starter Bundle ($100, roughly) . . . and prayed I wasn’t throwing that $100 down the drain.

My box arrived yesterday, Wednesday, after I ordered late Saturday. Not bad at all.

Let me say this up front: This is NOT a “Planner” in the traditional sense of the word. The Powersheets Goal Planner is a guided evaluation of your present and past life, and a chance to consciously plan where you want to go from here — what you want to be able to look back on when you’re an 80 (or 90, or 100) year old Geezerette. There are monthly sections for short-term goals and evaluation, but this is a tool to work in conjunction with your regular calendar/planner.

And this not the usual trite and frivolous planner. Casey and her development team invite us to go deep, to look at our fears and insecurities, to transform the way we see them, and to consciously create lives for ourselves — based on what we value, not on what some external authority tells us is supposed to be important. Somewhere I saw that Casey comes at this from a faith-based perspective, but there’s nothing cloying about PowerSheets; I am comfortable with them as a Catholic, and I think a person without any faith value would be just as delighted at using them as I am. WE get to determine what we value and want to accomplish.

There are a multitude of YouTube videos introducing the Powersheets — my favorites are Elyssa Nalani and Ashlyn Writes — but you can just put Powersheets in the search bar and have at it.

I’ve made a start with the preliminary evaluations, but I’ll be revisiting these early pages often in the next two and a half weeks, leading up to Christmas, developing my thoughts, going deeper inside myself to see not only what’s important (that’s kind of obvious?) but past the generalities into a more specific vision.


Planner mania

It’s the season for planner mania — all the planners and organizers marketed for 2020 are being pushed everywhere, not least on YouTube. I found one from a gal who actually uses a lot of the accessories for planners (stickers, washi tape and so on) who did a video saying, basically, “you don’t NEED all the Things.”  Gotta love someone with the guts to say it, when everyone else seems to be saying, “Oh, you NEED the Things!”

Confession: for years I was one of those who bought the Things thinking they would somehow elevate me to being the sort of person I imagined the promoter to be: savvy, sophisticated, ducks in a row, etc. etc.  In a word: lovable.

NEWS FLASH:  they don’t work.

I don’t have the time, nor the inclination, nor the artistic bent to mess with all the Things. I want a planner that will allow me NOT to forget my schedule (when little Tommy’s make-up piano lesson was scheduled, this week?) and will give me an opportunity at the end of the day to say, “Ahhh, good, I did these things on my list. It’s been a good day.” or, sometimes, “Eh, need to tighten up on . . . “whatever got neglected or overlooked.

With that in mind — and because I do need beauty around me (topic for another blog post, soon) I have invested in a Franklin Covey BLOOMS, 2 pages per day, planner, which I will be using for recording me ToDOs, writing word counts, music lists. . . whatever.  I’ll be hybridizing it with a dot grid “bujo” style paper to keep track of various projects and misc. lists that have to be dealt with. I love the soft pink and green background on this planner so I will enjoy looking at it as I use it, and I’ll use it several times a day.

I have a basket of washi tape that I bought on impulse and may or may not ever use . . . and a couple of pens, mostly black, but also the ever-reliable Pilot Precise V-5 in assorted colors.  I had bought a few sets of color pens, including “brush” pens, in hopes of pushing myself into the Artsy realm. . . but that was a flop and I gave the pens to a teacher friend to use in her classroom.  She and her students will get far better use out of them than I would have done.  There really isn’t any point in spending money in other Things — because I’m not going to use them. I like keeping things streamlined with a fine-point black pen. <shrug>

The point is, a planner doesn’t have to be elaborately decorated in order to be useful. What do you need to record? Dietary and exercise achievements? Word count on a writing project or time/pages of editing and revision?  Appointments? Household routines and tasks? Music practice? Stickers might be a bribe to do more for some people, but I’m not one of those people. Just let me get on with the task and not waste time trying to figure out whether the sticker needs to be in the right-hand upper corner or  somewhere else.

I DO, however, practice using a nicer handwriting in my journal. I am teaching myself Spencerian script, and I’ve been using a French 5-line paper to practice. But that’s because I love pretty lettering and calligraphy, and I feel it reflects my sense of self-respect. When I’m hurried . . . my handwriting isn’t so nice.

Do what you need to do in order to accomplish your goals. You can always ADD embellishments as they reveal themselves to be relevant. Easier than diving in over your head and becoming discouraged because you didn’t do it “perfectly.”  The only PERFECT planner is one that helps you to be a better you. And it doesn’t have to cost buckets of cash.  So relax and just do it.

And God bless you!