Friday, April 26, 2013

Let Go of Your Expectations

Sometimes our expectations are rigid. Then things don't turn out as planned, and we freak.

Take my crochet baggie holder. It's a good example. Really.

This is what it was supposed to look like, in theory. Isn't it cute? Doesn't it look easy?

It's a simple pattern--rows of single crochets. The pattern is even listed as easy. You'd think I could handle that, but I somehow increased each row and wound up with something resembling a bowl.

As first I thought I could start decreasing and make a crochet baggie holder ball. But when I took what I had so far to my crochet group, the idea didn't sound so good. My crochet ball looked stupid. Ridiculous.

And I was just about to tear the whole thing apart when one lady, a genius really, said:

"Why don't you make a hat?"

I was dumbfounded. You mean this whopping mistake could become something useful and beautiful? I hadn't wasted X amount of time just to have to start over?  (I'm not going to tell you how long it took, because it's kind of pathetic.)

I added four rows of white and some tassels at the top. Isn't it cute?


What's more, I'm donating it to a homeless shelter for use by a child or a woman with a very small head.

And the moral of the story?

Let go of your expectations. We want things to turn out the way we intend, forgetting that there is a God who has plans for us. BIG plans. If we'd only let go, we could see what those plans are.

His plans are always for good, maybe even our good. He can turn a disaster (like, say, a crochet baggie holder ball) into a gift (a hat for the homeless). Doesn't that make the unexpected exciting?

What are some plans and projects of yours that haven't turned out as expected, but even better?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Am I Too Wimpy to Coupon?

I, like many, am more budget conscious than ever now. Deep in my brain, there is an assumption that I would be an even better household manager if I could just learn the art of getting good deals.  I know people who are extremely successful at this.

One friend accepts those free vacations and listens to the timeshare spiel. She gives them exactly the amount of time they require and then walks away without an iota of guilt. An aunt wins free stuff all the time on the radio. She knows exactly when to push the redial button to get through and be the 15th caller.

Neither of these options work for me. As one who has worked in sales, I refuse to waste someone's time, and I don't have the patience to stand with my finger poised over the button all day. It looked as if coupons were my only hope.  But which route would save me the most money?

Extreme Couponing 

Extreme stands for insane. Don't get me wrong. I admire these women for doing what they have to to cut their bills. But I will never, NEVER, go through a line six times so I can use the cash register coupon generated by the previous order to get my products for a steal.

Not to mention the stockpiling. Stockpiling is for bomb shelters. Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I believe a good deal will come around again, and maybe even before I'm through with my previously purchase toilet paper.

Newspaper Print Coupons

I refuse to purchase the paper, and that's the price you have to pay for paper coupons, but since I don't use most of the products they include anyway, it's not such a loss.

Grocery Store Web Sites

I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by a Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons. That's Safeway, Jewel, and Dominic's for those in other parts of the country. I have customer reward cards to all of them, and with the promise of special deals, I checked each one of them out. Note that you need a sign in to get onto the sites. Here are my results:

All three sites have the ability to load your coupons onto your savings card. This means you don't have to carry a coupon sorter around, and if you forget your card, you can give the cashier your phone number and still get the deals.


They couldn't locate my store. Apparently they need this information to give you the deals. The site wanted me to live in San Diego, which I would love to do, so I agreed. I didn't find an option to sort by category  and I didn't feel like going through all the coupons. Though my Albertsons occasionally has good deals, it's is usually pricey, so no big loss.  I found the whole site kind of annoying.


Here you can sort by Popularity, Expiration Date, Most Recent, Value, and Category. So many choices! I like choosing  categories, because I don't need baby items etc. and I can skip over what I don't want.


I saved the best for last.

Vons has this very cool feature called Just for U. This means they track your shopping habits (do I care who knows I like Scooby Snacks?) and then offer you those items at a cheaper price than the member price!

So if Scooby Snacks are on sale for members at 1.99, I might get them for 1.89.

And I like that Vons shows you what the Wal-mart price is on items. I know I often wonder if it would be cheaper to go to the superstore, even without coupons.

I load the coupons onto my card, even if there's only the remotest chance that I'll buy it, since I don't have to sort and carry paper coupons.

One cool thing that Vons offers (I found out when I was at the store) is a computer terminal in the store. If you spot a savings that you forgot to load on your card, you can login on their computer and add it on!


Ralphs and Vons also have gas deals.  Once you earn 100 or 200 points (accrued based on your spending) then you will get 10 or 20 cents off per gallon of gas. Ralphs is affiliated with Shell. 10 cents off at Shell is the normal price everywhere else around here, so not a great deal for me. Vons is affiliated with Chevron, which is a pretty good deal. If Albertsons starts a program with Mobil, I'll be in business.

Whichever site you use, I recommend printing off the savings list once and a while. It's a good reference.

I'm not organized enough to track my savings.  I know they tell you how much you saved "this trip" on the bottom of your receipt, but I'd love a summary.

I may not win my family a free vacation, but I do feel that I'm contributing to the household in my small, electronic way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

True Devotion to Mary Leads to One Result

There are many devotions to Mary, from the Rosary to Novenas to Scapulars. Marian apparitions include those recognized by the Church, such as Fatima, and those recognized by newspapers, such as the Virgin Mother's face in a bagel.  (I sincerely hope you don't put faith in the latter.)

A devotion is not worship. Worship is reserved for God alone. Mary is one of His creatures, though she tops even the angels in importance. She was the vessel who, through the Holy Spirit, carried Christ into the world. Devotion to Mary is best defined as love, loyalty and enthusiasm for a person. We are her devoted servants, because she is the Mother of God; the new Arc of the Covenant. We honor her for her incredible Fiat  to the Father.

How do we know if a Marian devotion is right?  We can tell by the fruits. All true devotions, whether Marian or to a particular saint, lead us to Jesus.  That's it. If it leads anywhere else, you're on the wrong track.

Mary's role in the Bible was always the same. She pointed us to her Son.

When she went to visit Elizabeth, John the Baptist jumped for joy in the older woman's womb--not because of Mary, but because she carried the Savior, Jesus Christ. And Mary's response wasn't to preen and say "Aren't I special? Look who got picked for this mission."  She immediately glorified the Lord. She demonstrated that we should give thanks to God for all things, and remain humble.

Then there is the Wedding at Cana. Did Mary spout off all sorts of advice on how to handle the major embarrassment of running out of wine? Did she become the Biblical Martha Stewart or Miss Manners? How to save face in front of your guests. No. She said, "Do what He tells you."  She pointed to her Son.

When Jesus the child remained behind in the temple without telling his mother, her entire effort to find him was a search for Christ that we all should imitate. And at the foot of the cross, her eyes were fixed firmly on the Savior, showing us again where our attention should be, even--or especially--in moments of great distress.

We honor Mary for showing us how to live in perfect conformity with God's will, and we try to imitate her ways.  The Mysteries of the Rosary focus on the events in Jesus' life. The Annunciation. The Nativity. Finding Jesus in the Temple. The Institution of the Eucharist. and The Ascension, to name a few.  We pray the Rosary, focusing on each event and how God speaks to us through that event, even today.

A Catholic is not required to believe in private revelations, even if they are approved by the Church.  I do think it's a good idea to look at the associated message.

Just remember that the only purpose should be to point us toward a relationship with Christ, because that is the Marian way.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Cleaning is an Act of Charity

I can't be certain, but I have the idea that Martha, Mary and Lazarus didn't have a lot of stuff.  I picture them in a humble but comfortable home that had the amenities they needed. Okay. They probably had a vase, because I can imagine Mary out picking  bellflowers and crocus for the purpose of adding color to the table setting.

I, on the other hand, have stuff.  Having lived in the same home for 12 years, I've hoarded goodies like a squirrel preparing for the Ice Age. Under the bathroom sink, I discovered four different heating pads. They each serve a purpose. One simply heats. One produces moist heat. One heats and  vibrates. I'm not sure what extra talents the fourth one has, but I wouldn't have purchased it unless it did something special.

Do the math. One back + four heating pads = excessive attempts to mend achy muscles.

Is there someone out there on a limited budget who would love to find a heating pad at Goodwill? I'm hopeful there are three such people, because I only need one heating pad.

I'm embarrassed to mention the serving trays. Always a wanna-be hostess, in reality, I don't give a lot of parties.  Santa Clarita is out of the way for most friends. We have odd schedules that prohibit us from having social lives.   Maybe there is someone who needs a little color in their lives; who, if they served their meal on a pretty tray would experience a little joy.

I came up with two bags of clothing. You know the shirts and pants I'm talking about. The ones that haven't seen daylight in three years. The ones that "might fit" someday. Well, there is someone who could use a new outfit right now but can't afford a shopping trip to a department store. They're in luck.

I give my clothing and goods to Goodwill, because I like that they employ people who might not otherwise have a job. Jobs give us a paycheck, but they give us dignity as well.

In our CVS parking lot, I've noticed a collection box for clothes and shoes. I'm not exactly Imelda Marcos, but I do have several pairs that I don't wear often. Off they go.

Clutter makes me crazy. Many studies support the theory that reduced clutter means reduced stress, so I'm doing something for myself as well. Acts of charity work the same way. They make us feel good. They take us out of selfish mode and put us in touch with our authentic human nature. We weren't made for selfishness; we were made for worship, and what better way to worship God than to take care of His people?

Father Robert Barron suggests that, when you shop for a large purchase, find what you like and buy the next model down in price. Give the price difference to the poor.  He also reminds us of Luke:3 11. "John replied, "If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry."

Martin Luther King said, "A hand up, not a hand out." That's because King knew the value of human dignity. It's not just the receiver who must be allowed to retain their dignity. We must take personal care of our neighbor's welfare. It's the heart of being Christian. (I can't speak for other religions, though I do know that during Eid al-Adha, Muslims are required to give to charities and feed the poor.)

Taking care of the poor isn't just a duty. It's the right of every human being. When we dismiss the poor as a faceless group that the government will take care of, we reduce them from being dignified human beings who have a direct connection to us to being someone else's problem. They become a deduction from our paycheck, something we no longer notice.

I may never see the face of the person who benefits from my charity, because unless I hand out shoes and lunches directly to the people on skid row (and I know a woman who does exactly that) there will always be an intermediary, such as the Red Cross workers or the Knights of Columbus members who collect my donation. But by putting effort into getting useful items into the hands of someone who needs them, I'm making a personal sacrifice, no matter how small. I'm stepping forward and saying I will personally help you, because I care about what happens to you.

That's powerful stuff. The clean house is just an added bonus.

Find your local charity:

St. Vincent de Paul
Just Give   (Note: This sounds good, but I don't personally know anything about them.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

When Selflessness is Mistaken for Selfishness

Yesterday, I read an article written by a woman who wished she had never had children. She said that, even though she has two grown children whom she loves, life would have been happier without them. Actually, she referred to them as parasites who never gave back, which sounds like an Onion parody, but she's serious. So why did she have children?"

Her husband wanted children before marriage, and she felt it would be selfish to deprive him of a family. She didn't bond with her son at birth, but she breastfed him because it was good for him. She stayed home to raise her boy and girl because it was better for the children to be raised by a mother than shuffled off to daycare.

The comments by readers were pretty harsh. What a selfish woman, they said, to not want her own children. To be able to say that she wished they hadn't been born, even now when they are old enough to understand.

I think they got it wrong.

We live in a society that values feelings. Don't tell that guy you have an STD, because it would feel good to sleep with him right now, and if he knew that one night in bed could cause him years of pain, you might not get to feel good right now. That's selfish. Ruin that girl's life by posting pictures of her drunk on the internet, because you feel like a good laugh. Selfish.

This woman acknowledged her feelings, but they didn't control her.  She rose above them to do what was right.

Conversely, I read an article called A Single Woman Faces the Biggest Decision of Her Life.  Here you have a single woman who says lots of lovely things about babies, but she's already pricing "over full-time day care" for the child. She feels like having a child, and even if every legitimate study done shows that children raised in traditional two-parent (mom and dad) families fare better in life, it's her feelings that are going to send this baby into a world of daycare mommies and no father. She will be a full-time worker and a part-time mother, and if the experiences of my friends and family are anything to go by, the child will cry when she picks it up and takes it away from "mommy". That would be the woman raising it full-time.

People can say anything. I can say I hope that Obama is eaten by a gigantic groundhog then next time he golfs, but unless I supply the groundhog and make it happen, it's only words. Maybe this woman needed the money and wrote a shocking article for the bucks. Maybe she has a disassociative disorder that hasn't been treated. Maybe she's just self-centered, wondering why her children weren't giving back, but her actions tell the story.

Her actions were selfless, and that's what counts.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter Vigil is Not for Wimps (But You Should Go Anyway!)

I can't believe I've never been to an Easter Vigil Mass before.  This is not just a Saturday Mass, which isn't a vigil regardless of what your parish bulletin says. The Easter Vigil Mass is a beautiful journey through salvation history, and at three hours long, it's not for wimps.  So far, I had been a wimp, but this year, the hubby and I committed to going.

It began with a darkened church, lit only by candlelight. For almost an hour, we took a journey  with Abraham, Moses, and Isiah and more, with readings and the singing of psalms which laid out the road that led to the coming of the Messiah.  Then the lights went up with startling brightness as we sung  the Gloria with joy, and we celebrated the Light of the World, Jesus, our risen Savior. The transition from darkness to light emphasized with brilliant clarity the difference in a world with and without Christ.

Then it was time to welcome new Christians into the Church--those who needed to be baptized. The rest would enter in a week or two.

Our baptismal font is huge, and it never occurred to me there might be a reason for this other than it was pretty and we have a lot of parishioners who use the water to cross themselves as a sign of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In preparation for the baptisms of new Catholics, Father Dave removed his vestments down to his alb, but I couldn't see why he was fussing with his feet. All became clear when he sat on the edge of the font, swung his bare feet over, and stood in the water. Full...immersion...baptism.  Unbelievably cool.  The snark in me had been wondering why the candidates were dressed somewhat casually. Because they were going to kneel in the water and get doused, that's why!  One by one, they entered the water. Their godparents received them with towels and led them to change into dry clothes and white robes.

The entire congregation rejoiced as the Church gained seven new Soldiers for Christ. Seven new faces that would reflect His light into a world darkened with sin. Hurrah!

Then we moved on to the part of the Mass that every Catholic would recognize. The Mass lasted from 7:30 - 10:30, and by the time we left, we had that Easter morning glow. It was odd, feeling this way before Easter morning. Odd and wonderful.

Even the hubby said, "I could do this again next year." And we will.