Vacation is over for sure. Reality smacked me in the face this past week as I tried to pay bills and found myself scraping the bottom of the piggy bank after a week or two of NO income. (A week for Tom, thanks to Freescale's mandatory "one week a quarter off without pay" ordinance, and yes we're grateful he at least has a job, and two weeks for me because I'm an hourly employee - don't show up, don't get paid.)
The good news is the bills are paid and our pantry is stocked. For now, anyway. I wasn't really worried, though. Except for a year or two in the very beginning of "us,"when we both had really good jobs, nice cars and no kids, we've been skimming close to the edge of broke. But God has always provided us a way to get by - it's times like these that I get a vivid image of the Sermon on the Mount; well, specifically, how everyone got fed on just a few loaves and fish. It's a great lesson in faith. Somehow we always have enough.
Over the years, we've learned to be frugal...or at least cheaply indulgent. I used to take care of my shopping addiction by hitting the garage sales with the kids every Friday morning. Like Walmart, only cheaper! Garage sales have evolved into e-bay and Craig's List...Tom just found us a "new" television to replace the one that just died for a fraction of what a new one would cost. We would NEVER have been able to afford this television brand new.
When the kids were little, we planned all of our summer outings on "free admittance" days - the museums, the zoo, the movies. Tuesdays we hit story time at the library. Thursday afternoons found us at the Museum of Natural History - not quite free, but much, much cheaper than the usual admission price. We hit the Children's Museum on family day and even the Art Museum every once in a while. We had a swimming pool in the backyard (our house was a foreclosure - Tom had to clean the pool out with muriatic acid and he found a slide in the want-ads for $75!) Books, dress-up clothes, arts and crafts supplies filled the house and, of course, summer meant lots of trips to the beach in Galveston.
We've never been extravagant - we only buy used cars and our vacations center around visiting family (still plenty of fun, though - think "Yellowstone National Park"...Arizona deserts in springtime and the Grand Canyon...Ocean City, Maryland and Washington D.C...and of course, Florida beaches!) But college loans are piling up, the economy has jacked the cost of everything way up and our income is spreading thinner and thinner. (I will never complain about the college loans - just to see each of my children get a diploma will be worth every penny. But every time I make a monthly payment, I kick myself HARD for wasting my own scholarship.)
It's time to get creative again, though. Find cheap ways of entertainment, look harder for bargains, only buy what we need, not what we want. Even perhaps...(gulp) sell stuff. It's hard for me to part with anything (as my friends will testify.)
We'll be spending the next few weeks close to home - Lord knows there are plenty of things we need to work on and clean up...so many projects we've just put off. And in between, we can watch movies on our "new" television, take hikes around our property, exercise on the equipment Tom found free or cheap on Craig's List, laugh at Frankie, and play ping-pong on our "new" ping-pong table...the one we got for free from our neighbors. I LOVE ping-pong!
Throughout it all, I'm confident we'll be fine. We'll manage to pay the bills and save enough for food and taxes and dog care and emergencies.
How can I be so sure? Yesterday's responsorial during Mass was a great reminder...I think it will be my new daily mantra...
"The Lord is my shepherd...I shall not want."