The brain fog lifted briefly this morning and I realized that what I am going through right now is exactly what every one of us, male and female, struggled through at around age 12, give or take a year or two. Think back and recall the way your body suddenly took on a mind of it’s own and all you could do is hang on for the ride. One day your clothes fit and the next they were too tight or maybe too short. If you were truly unfortunate you may have become quite chubby even though you felt like you were starving to death. Another day you woke up with zits all over your face and greasy hair. Then you started having emotional mood swings from hell that made you hate your beloved parents and siblings and also cry over the dumbest things. You may have developed a crush on someone new or stopped being friends with a long time friend, but relationships in general became difficult because you lost your ability to communicate your thoughts and feelings easily. No one understood you at all! You wanted to sleep all day and eat everything in the house and got mad when someone said you couldn’t. Life seemed hopeless one minute and exciting the next! Thankfully your friends were going through the same hormone journey with you and you consoled each other. You hated on the kids who seemed to not have any troubles, not realizing that they really did. You helped each other get through the really dark days. What a wild roller-coaster ride it was and is. All thanks to our good old changing hormones. Can’t wait to get control of my body again some day. But for now I will try to sit back and enjoy the ride.
This time of year things can get very stressful for those of us who live paycheck to paycheck or with very little discretionary income. All year we manage to squeak by each month by with lots of prayers and various thrifty methods, but then along comes the expensive months. Higher electric bills, sick kids, winter clothes, unexpected repairs and lots of things can make it very difficult to buy Christmas gifts and pay for the many related costs of celebrating the holiday season. Some years may be better or worse, but for some of us, being poor is just the way it is. We don’t usually complain about it, we accept it, and we make it work, but this time of year can cause guilt, shame, embarrassment and depression for those who wish they could provide more for their families. More than one person has committed suicide for this very reason, feeling like a failure during the holidays, which is a terrible, terrible thing! So many are working so hard to provide for their families and yet inflation and taxes and stagnant wages and other uncontrollable factors keep them from improving the bottom line. Let’s get to the tips. Here’s some music to listen to while you read.
1.) For the married couples. In most couples, one person is a spender and one is thrifty, even if they are on a very tight budget. It is of utmost importance at this time of year that the couple come together and communicate. Is there any money AT ALL that is not budgeted for bills and living expenses? If so, how much? Then, being careful not to cast blame for the situation, discuss where the money could be spent so that everyone can be happy. This means you may have to be willing to compromise! Remember that at THANKSGIVING, we are to be thankful. And at Christmas, we celebrate Jesus, not presents or fancy decorations or fancy meals. If you really love your spouse, you will not burden them with guilt in these thankful, joyous occasions. You can also put your heads together and get creative with ways to celebrate and have fun. If you are Christians, this is a great time to PRAY together.
2.) Avoid using credit. Trust me on this one. You will regret it later. Better to save credit cards for real emergencies. I understand the temptation. Payday loans, title loans, high interest credit cards are a TRAP. If you don’t have the money now, how will you have it later to make these payments? Something else will probably eat up that money you think you might get later. Then you will be in worse condition than before. Pay day loans are the worst and should be illegal. Instead, consider selling things you don’t need or things you make to sell, or maybe get a second or third job. I think that’s way easier said than done for most of us. But first see the next tip.
3.) Don’t buy it. This is my number one tip. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. I should probably put it first in the list! How can you achieve this? Turn off the TV and radio and throw away all advertisements and catalogs! Stay far away from the mall or department store or craft fair (unless you’re selling and making money) or other places that call ‘Buy me! Buy me!”. Don’t even walk down those special aisles in Walmart! In a few weeks, all that stuff will be on sale, if you REALLY need it, or it will be dropped off at Goodwill by people who didn’t like their gifts or got newer models. That’s part two of this one, wait until after the holidays and then go buy a few carefully selected items if you have the money. But don’t buy stuff just because it’s on clearance!
4.)Do not equate your self worth or showing love with giving the perfect gift. We all know that person who is so good at choosing, or even making, gifts that light up the face of the person receiving them. We want to do that, too! Those are the creative, crafty, and usually, more spendy, type of people. Good for them! They are important. But so are you. You have other good qualities! Share your sense of humor, your handiness, your listening ear, your musical talent, your cooking expertise, or just your friendly personality with those around you. Everyone appreciates a fun person, a good storyteller, a helpful person, a good cook, someone who makes them laugh. Some of my favorite people live very simply.
5.)If you do have a little money to spend, consider the following non-traditional places to shop. Goodwill or other thrift stores. Garage sales. Ebay and other online auctions. Craft shows. Facebook marketplace. Just be careful to check the price and make sure you are getting a good deal, including shipping. Dollar General and Family Dollar often have some low priced gift items if you don’t mind a lesser quality. The modern tradition and belief that we must give store-bought , new items was created by people that sell those items! Be independent. Give whatever you want to give. It can be fruit from your trees or flowers from your garden or pecans from the trees in the park (I would love that!).
6.) If you have NO money and are barely making the rent and having gas to get to work, consider checking with some local charities or churches for toys for the little kids. Or, maybe barter with someone whose kids have extra toys. Wrap it up, they don’t need to know it’s used. For adults, most of us are fine without getting anything and especially do not want anyone to spend their bill money buying us things. I know I’d rather hang out and eat a festive meal with my family than anything else! Another idea is to look around and see if there might be something in your own house that you would like to pass on to someone, in other words, re-gifting. It’s okay! In fact, some things are really nice to give, like books, movies, CDs, household goods, nice clothes.
7.) You don’t need to spend a lot, but it’s more festive to at least have a wreath or tree and a few lights or some candles. Thrift shops always have holiday decorations. Garage sales are great for that, too, but it might be too late in the year for that if you are reading this in November. If you have school aged kids, ask them to draw some pictures and hang them up. Or maybe they will bring home some artwork they made in school that you can display. Pick up some pine cones and coat them in glitter glue. Make paper snowflakes. One year we made a snowman out of bags of plastic bags! Another time we made long chains of construction paper rings.
8.) You have to eat anyway, so take advantage of the annual buy a ham and get a free turkey deal or whatever your store offers . One of our stores offers a bunch of free items with the ham. It’s worth the price of the ham. Buy two if you can and freeze one. Now is the time to do some pie and cookie baking and other treats and consider that part of your holiday celebration by letting the family in on the fun, even if they do make a mess! Rice krispy cereal treats are cheap and you can add red and green sprinkles or use the colored cereal if they have it. Be careful not to overspend on recipes that have expensive ingredients. Sometimes you can substitute cheaper ingredients or just leave things out. Home cooking is USUALLY cheaper but not always , so count the costs. But if the cooking is the entertainment, it might be worth spending a few bucks more than the bakery pie.
9.) Don’t buy gifts. Just get together with friends or family as much as possible during this time of year. Enjoy food, music, whatever you like to do. It is enough. Be thankful. Count your blessings! Love your family! Some will not be alive the next holiday season. Do not sit at home because you can’t bring gifts to the party! Go to church and community events, like parades and Santa visits. Choirs and nativities. Look on Facebook or in your local newspaper to see what is happening and just do it, even if you have to go alone.
10.)Remember the reason for the season. Jesus! https://www.crosswalk.com/special-coverage/christmas-and-advent/what-is-christmas-understanding-the-history-and-origin.html
Some of you probably have better suggestions than these. I did some internet searches before writing and I felt like many of the articles suggested spending a lot rather than saving a lot. My goal was to encourage those who might be feeling paralyzed with anxiety or depressed over not having a lot of spending money. It’s easy to assume that everyone else is spending more than you, but remember there are millions of us barely making ends meet. In fact, many of us on tight budgets are actually doing way better than a lot of people. Let’s encourage each other, take away the pressure to exchange gifts at family gatherings and be thankful for our many blessings.
I went for a run today at the state park closest to me. I kinda wanted to go to a different one but I got a late start and I didn’t really feel like using that much gas, so I settled for one near me that is not my favorite because 1)the trails are flat, 2) the trails are short, and 3) this park is not usually much of an adventure. But I ended up being blessed! Below are some photos I’ve taken on past visits.
It was cold and raining when I woke up but as I drove to the park, the outside temperature was literally rising before my eyes on the car thermometer. It was 50 degrees when I got to the park and I was very surprised to see a bunch of cars in the parking lot at the park entrance. I have a park pass which means I get in free, but I had to wait in line with the campers paying their fees. This park doesn’t have a lot to offer , in my opinion, as far as state parks go, other than nature walks in the forest, deer and other wildlife and pure camping experiences, no lake, no fishing, no climbing, no mountain views, no boating or swimming. What it does have is trails that tend to be flooded by the adjacent Brazos River or extremely humid conditions and mosquitoes. The whole park was under water twice in the past three years and I really thought they might just give up and close it but they didn’t. But city folks and RVers like it.
So anyway, I don’t come here that often but today I just wanted to get out of the house, and not into the gym, and go for a run in the forest. I had no real plan but as I was driving I remembered that I told myself that I wanted to run for two hours on one of my weekend days, so that became my vague plan. I wasn’t sure what to wear, remember it was 85 degrees here this week, so I was wearing a short sleeve tech shirt under a long sleeve tech shirt , Nike running tights, and gloves and a hat. I decided to shed the hat before I even started and the gloves went into my vest pocket after a few miles.
The first few minutes felt stiff and awkward, but I know the first mile is a liar so I tried not to let it freak me out. I forgot to mention that my back has been hurting this week and the last time I ran was Tuesday which means that I missed three days! By a half mile in I was feeling warmed up and then I started to see PEOPLE on my trail. A lot them. I say ‘my trail’ because I live so close ( around 20 miles away) and have run here many times, usually weekday mornings . There is hardly ever anyone here, but since I got started so late, around 11:00 AM, and it’s Saturday, the campers and hikers were stirring like ants. These people were walking on my trail, in fact they were standing on my trail talking, a group of hikers with a guide. The guide is a friend of mine and he told them to “Say Hi to Paula”, which I found very amusing! I politely said a few words to them and kept going knowing that I would see them again very soon because this trail was a dead end at the river overlook.
My run started feeling pretty good. I don’t usually listen to music on the trail and today was no different. I do a lot of thinking and praying and trying to stay focused on not tripping. I kept going, said hi to the hiking group again, and also passed a group of what looked like people from another country, maybe Chile or Brazil, some South American country , Spanish speakers, and they all had nice puffy jackets and their kids were walking pretty dogs on leashes. It was a big group and I had to get past them several times on my run. They were friendly and I tried to get past without bothering them. I heard one say something about ‘cansado’ which means tired. Not sure if they meant me or them.
The trail is a loop around the park and there are also some other trails called the lower trails that are currently closed due to flooded areas. It has been raining and raining and raining here in Texas. I went down a trail that leads to one of the closed trails and I just had to go past that little “Trail Closed” chain to see how the trail looked on the other side. Sorry, don’t yell at me, I know this park well. Happily, the trail was in really good shape except for that one little problem of the creek being over the trail in one spot. Running along through the tall trees on the quiet, leaf covered trail, I came upon some nice trail work that had been done on that section, two new boardwalks. I haven’t been in this part of the park in a few years due to the aforementioned flooding and it made me really happy to see some of my favorite giant trees. This park and I have a lot of history and it means a lot to me to see that the state has not given up on it. That history includes many runs with friends that I no longer run with, my first night run, volunteering for races, and watching people literally wade through waist and neck deep water in one famous race . I’ve learned to love and support all Texas State Parks because of this one.
So back to the run, I decided to keep run the loop and that out and back section, racking up as many miles as possible and then turn around and retrace my path back to my vehicle and then repeat, doing the math all along and figuring out how to get 10 miles in this tiny park. As I was running back I met up with two little boys, maybe 8-9 years old, walking on the trail alone. There were quite a few groups with kids out there that day, but these two were alone. Both of them looked right at me and started to talk so I stopped running and listened. They had seen me go by earlier and were interested in the fact that I was still running. I told them I was coming back around. Then they proceeded to give me instructions on where to go on the trail so I could be sure not to miss seeing the river. Thanking them with a smile I kept going, with new joy in my heart. What an uplifting moment! These two little boys gave me a real gift. It made me so happy that they were enjoying their hike so much and wanted to share it with a random stranger! This is what life is all about . God bless those boys and their parents! I got my 10 miles in, but these kids were the high point. Happy Running!
As suggested by https://bottomlesscoffee007.com/ I am asking YOU , the reader, what you would like me to write about. 007 was a good sport and answered my questions about who he is and I am going to play along. I will try to write something interesting if I can, doesn’t have to be about me, especially since I write about myself most of the time. Submit your requests and if you see a request you like, just LIKE it and I’ll count that as a vote for that topic. Then I’ll post it next Friday. Thank you for reading my blog!
Also, Happy Birthday to my oldest son! He doesn’t read this blog, but I can brag on him a little. I have wanted children since I was a little girl. I finally got one 27 years ago. This boy is special! Well, he’s a man now, but you know, still my boy. He was homeschooled all his life and I am glad for that because his personality is way too big to be controlled by classroom management techniques. In other words, he’s like me. When I was in school, the teachers were willing to work with my tendency to question or ignore silly rules and not sit still and talk a lot and pretty much do whatever I thought I should do. They gave me little jobs to do, like mimeograph papers and bring them coffee. They also didn’t complain too much when I didn’t go to class as often as other kids. I had a lot of stomach aches and I liked to sleep late. This kid of mine has always been a night owl. There is no way he’d have functioned in public school schedules! He has learned to be more flexible now that he’s a working adult. But school is like prison nowadays. Comply and show up and don’t be late and sit down and shut up and answer the math question ONLY LIKE THIS and do NOT question us! When my son was just a little kid he sometimes got in trouble with other adults who didn’t know him, but the ones who knew him liked or loved him and saw his good qualities. He started playing guitar with the youth group choir as a young teen and then he played with the adult choir. My husband taught him the basics of guitar and then he pretty much ran with it. He can play most instruments now and is also a music producer for (groan) rap musicians. He was very involved in church for quite some time and attended adult Bible classes with mentors. His sense of humor and logic has always been above average for his age. From a young age he would get interested in a particular TV show, musician, or actor and learn all he could about them. The only time I saw this kid struggle was when he went through a breakup after a long relationship. But I’m happy to say that he is past that and cruising along again. I love all my children, but the first one is always special, just like the last one, and all the ones in between if you’re an overachiever like me. Happy birthday, son!
My kids do not enjoy writing, to put it mildly, but I thought this little story was pretty funny. Hope you like it, too! I left the formatting and punctuation errors in, but he will be doing some editing tomorrow. The assignment was to write a story from the perspective of any other person or animal.
Operation Bird bomb by Eli Adams
I’m a pigeon who likes to crap on peoples cars. People don’t really appreciate us pigeons, I don’t get
It, I mean do they even know how hard it is to aim your poop while flying? Like one day I was
Swooping down low for a bombing run on this one car when a kid started shooting at me with his bb gun
I mean like come on! When I came around for the second run I dove straight at him and he
Got scared and started running so I decided to bomb him instead of the car, after I crapped on
His jacket I ended up going back for the car too but it was gone so I did my usual rounds in
The neighborhood pooping on all my favorite cars and bench’s and sidewalks when suddenly
I spotted the car that was missing, so I headed straight for it, when I saw a few other
Birds heading for it too, it was now a race to see who could poop on the car first.
I was in the lead when one of them passed me, then I knew I had failed so I went back
Looking at these photos what comes to your mind? Do you wonder why people run? Or why they’d pay to show up and run in the rain like this? Or why would they try to stay dry under a tent when they’re about to run in the rain? Or did you notice the couple with the stroller under the umbrella? The lady had a small baby. Or maybe you saw the portable toilets and thought , yuck, I’d never use those.
Or maybe you’re a runner and thought, let’s go, it’s just a little rain! Or you were checking out the starting line and other features of the race course.
I woke up at 4 am, checked my weather app because I knew the forecast, and saw a huge storm headed to where the race was being held, about 40 miles to the east of my house. Got ready to go and was about to get in the van when the sky opened up. Had a few second thoughts , but then I thought , well maybe it will move north. I took off down the highway and eventually drove out of the heavy rain into sprinkles. When I go to the race venue it started raining moderately. Oh well, I thought, I’m here, I’ll put on my rain jacket. I had to walk about a 1/4 mile to the packet pickup area from the parking lot, or at least it seemed like it. In line with the other die hard runners, I started to feel good about showing up. One of them, an older man and amazing runner that I know from trail running, had driven 1.5 hours in heavy rain, hydroplaning on the highway. I thought , if he can do this, I can! Then another lady mentioned that she might just go home. I was thinking, then why are you here? She didn’t leave , though.
We had to wait awhile after picking up our bibs and during that time it rained off and on. It started raining a bit harder right before 7AM so they held off a few minutes. Finally, we saluted the flag during the national anthem in the rain and headed to the starting line. I decided to keep my rain jacket on even though I knew eventually I’d get hot and have to take it off, which is what happened later.
I had registered for this race during a “super low price ,early bird” registration period , read ‘impulse buy’. I could have skipped it since I had run 22 miles the day before, but I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could do.
The title of this blog is really about what goes on in the mind of a runner, and probable other athletes and people who like to push themselves in whatever pursuit they enjoy.
In the car on the way there: Dear God , please get me there safely. Please help me run my race. Please watch over and bless my family while I’m gone from home. (Then I listened to Christian music and the end of an inspiring message from Ravi Zacharias on the radio.) Oh crap, watch the road. Do not look at your GPS while driving! Why are these people in such a hurry at this hour on a Saturday?
Arriving at the venue: Oh no! I thought this was where I am supposed to go but evidently not. I will follow those cars. I hope I’m not late! Whew, I guess this is the place. Well, here comes the rain. Hmm, I don’t want to walk back to the car with my t-shirt, so I will wear my pack under my jacket and bring everything I need . I can just stuff my shirt in my pack, or maybe the pocket of this jacket. I bet the shirt will be too small for me. I guess these people sitting in their cars went to packet pickup yesterday. The sky is lightening up, the sun is coming up soon. I should hide my wallet. I wonder if anyone breaks into cars in the rain. Okay, off I go into the rain with the other nuts.
Waiting to start, while standing under a tent: I hope I can run. I hope my legs and body can do this. Oh, that’s nice that this family is running together and look how enthusiastic and positive their kids are! What is wrong with my kids? I wish my family would run races . I’m cold. Uh-oh , it’s raining harder. Will there be lightning? Will the race go on? Oh no, people are getting bit by ants. I hate ants. ( I have a short chat with the man next to me about ants. We compare scars that we both have on our wrists from ant bites. We talk about the craziness of what we are about to do and how we like it.) Oh, yay, they are starting pre-race stuff. Almost time! Remember to take it nice and easy, don’t go out too fast.
First loop of two 5 mile loops: Well this isn’t so bad. I feel pretty good! I’m not hot and I have energy and I’m passing a lot of people since I stared off in the middle-back section. Oh, she went out too fast, now she’s slowing down. Why is that man breathing so hard? He’s running too fast for his fitness level. I hope he’s okay. Wow, already 3 miles done! That went by fast. Look at all these awesome cops and volunteers standing in the rain for us! I love these volunteers! Wow, they have a lot of orange cones. Careful, don’t slip on the painted lines. Man, I feel so good. I can’t believe it. I wonder if that will change soon. I’ll just go with it and if I have to walk some I will. Oh wow, almost to the turnaround already! 5 miles done. Halfway. Oh , what?! There is the winner coming in! He has run 10 miles already! How do they do it???
Miles 6-10: Hmm, that lady keeps running by me and then walking. I am going to just try to maintain this steady pace as long as I can. Well, I am passing her again. We are yo-yoing. She can’t hold that pace. Why doesn’t she slow down? Maybe she likes the run/walk. She can run well, but she can’t hold it, she’s out of breath. I am slower , but we are averaging the same pace. This is interesting. I will just keep going. Where is she? Oh, I caught her again. I think I might be able to run the whole thing without walking. That is my new goal. So much for my plan to run/walk. Hmm, should I eat a Gu (gel)? I can’t believe I’ve run this far on just water! In the summer I need so much fuel! Mile 7 already! This is flying by! I think I will go ahead and eat a GU just to help me stay strong . But I’m not going to walk. How can I do this with this jacket in my hand? I’ll put it under my arm. Okay, here we go! Last mile, push it. I wish I could run faster . I wonder what my pace has been? (I forgot my watch and was using an app and had not looked at it during the race.) Oh, here I am catching up to that yo-yo lady, I will encourage her. “Almost there! You have a great pace! Go for it!” ( We finished within seconds of each other, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to her after the race, unfortunately.) Push it! Finish line ahead, go hard! I did it! I think I PRd this course! (no, but almost) Wow, that was awesome! Crap, my app won’t stop! My phone is too wet and my hands are cold and wet. (somehow I stopped it but it had a little extra time on it.) Oh, I like this medal.
After the race: I’m cold. I’m hungry. I want dry clothes. I want food. But I have to wait around so I can get the results. Did I place in my age group? Breakfast tacos ! I will eat the insides, no tortillas for me. (I’m gluten free.) Oh, soda, yes, I want one. What is going on ? Oh they are already giving out awards and the cash drawing. I hope I win $100! ( This race gives away 8 $100 bills and 5 $50 bills. ) Well that was pretty tasty, I love potatoes and eggs. I need to sit down and I need a paper towel. My hands are so cold! Oops that area is only for VIPs. Oh, there are some chairs. They are wet, but so am I. Oh it feels good to sit down! I can barely hear the announcer. I better pay close attention. He is calling the winning numbers with little warning. Oh bummer, one number off. Hey I see a lady I know, I want to say hi. She won Masters Female ! And her mom won her age group. Hey there is another trail friend. Good to see and chat with her . I’m so cold. Should I just leave? I will put on my wet jacket. That is actually warming me up. Well, I didn’t win any money or place in my age group. I can finally go get warm!
On the way home: Thank you, God! Thank for you making this a good day. Please get me home safely. Amen. Why are these people driving 80 in a construction zone? Idiots. Okay, out of that death zone. No, I’m not moving over. I’m doing 80. Sorry. Pass me if you want to. Go back to Austin.
So now you know a little bit of what is going on in my seemingly quiet little head.