Rocks blocking our path

This post is some thoughts on paths and obstacles.

I never thought about writing a blog before a friend suggested it to me and even sent me a link to WordPress as a blogging site that looked very easy to use, back in 2012. Initially, I thought I’d write about politics and culture war, hot topics in the news, type stuff.

After years of doing that, I’m thoroughly sick of all the political games on both sides in America and truthfully, I’m weary of all the culture war battles too. The craziness of 2020 coupled with the dramatic change in my life, with my husband getting critically ill in January with a respiratory infection, that was unidentified, then being sent home on hospice care completely changed how I view many things. The thing is I felt alarmed enough to make some major changes in my life – some by choice, but many due to events beyond my control.

I had a jaded view of “preppers” as doomsday crazies or alarmists, yet there we were in 2020 facing shortages in grocery stores in America. I believed America was the land of plenty and never in my wildest imaginings did I believe there would be widespread shortage situations here.

Here’s a true story from when I worked at Walmart years ago. We had an elderly man, who was a people greeter, and he usually was at the patio gate in lawn and garden. He was caught shoplifting camping type merchandise from sporting goods and lost his job. After that incident, a young lawn and garden associate told me how bad she felt for that people greeter. She told me he really believed the Mayan Apocalypse was going to happen and he stole that stuff to prepare. Of course, I have a very dim view of shoplifters, so I just believed he was a thief and had probably been stealing stuff a long time. This old people greeter was how I viewed “preppers.” I don’t really think of myself as a “prepper” and generally think I’m just becoming a cranky older lady.

With my own personal crisis, I had to start thinking about all sorts of things I didn’t want to think about, if my husband died. Even though I knew there wasn’t any hope he would recover and have anything remotely resembling “quality of life,” a small part of me kept refusing to give up hope completely. Along with all of this I began to make some major changes in my thinking and how I handled important aspects of my life.

Instead, of thinking a Dave Ramsey no-debt type lifestyle sounded wonderful, but not attainable, I started working on that and by working on that, I mean it required totally changing my spending habits. I did not follow his plan exactly and I still have things to work on with my personal finances. With the shortage situation, I was concerned about augmenting supplies needed for my husband’s daily care, by purchasing extra supplies on amazon and also stocking up on groceries and basic supplies around the house.

I began to work on changing my rather careless way of sticking food in the pantry, cupboards and freezer and both organizing things and rotating the older food to use first. I watched all sorts of food storage and prepping/homesteading videos to learn more. I paid more attention to how I spent money and made changes. I started thinking a lot about needs vs. wants.

There are still plenty more changes I can make. However, I don’t regret stocking up food, water and basic supplies and I certainly don’t regret working to become debt-free and paying off my mortgage. As you pay off debt, it frees up more of your money to use for other things, like build up emergency savings or stock up on food and basics. I see all sorts of frugal-living ideas and advice online and in books. Some I find useful and others isn’t how I choose to live. How I live isn’t how lots of other people will choose to live. What I’ve gained is a feeling that while things are bad and likely to get worse, I’ll do my best to find more creative solutions and look for some positive things each day and things I am grateful for.

Of course, the pandemic craziness waned and shopping seemed “somewhat” normal, but nothing ever really returned to pre-pandemic days and now the situation is deteriorating rapidly with our nation’s financial stuff and with food shortage and other shortage and inflation issues all across the country.

What a whole lot of people did as gas prices soared and inflation rose on all sorts of things was they did exactly what our government does – they racked up astronomical amounts of credit card and consumer debt. If you think only Washington’s got an out-of-control spending problem, just look at how most Americans handle personal finance. Here’s a December 2022 news article, Credit card debt growing; average household has $8,900 and a quote from that :

“Americans started 2022 with more than $1 trillion in outstanding credit card balances. As the Federal Reserve has continued to raise the prime lending rate during the year, people in Oklahoma and across the country have taken on more credit card debt – to the tune of an estimated $110 billion.

The average U.S. household has over $8,900 in credit card debt, up 4.5% from the previous year.”

With both aspects of my life – personal finances and stocking up on food and basic supplies, I’ve readjusted my thinking and approach, as I’ve gone along, trying to find ways that work better for me. I’m taking the same approach with the gardening effort.

I’ve also had family make comments about my “crazy prepping” and other decisions. I’ve tried to talk to various family members and a close friend about why I think it’s important to stock up food, water and basic supplies and get out of debt. My friend told me her pastor has been telling them to stock up too, but she hasn’t taken any action yet. Most people haven’t taken any action to be prepared for much of anything. Recently, my friend mentioned the high egg prices and how expensive everything is getting. The sticker shock at the grocery store is starting to impact everyone and while the point of this post isn’t to say, “I told you so,” I think it’s going to get much harder for many people to keep up with debt payments and keep food on the table, let alone pay off debt.. The government does stuff like print more money and raise the debt ceiling to cope with their runaway spending, but ordinary people are just going to suffer.

The solution isn’t to charge up more stuff or get more credit cards and it’s not to just keep spending like you have been. For most people they’re going to need to seriously look at wants vs. needs and make some hard decisions. I’ve also noticed a lot of people prefer to rant about the government’s reckless fiscal policies, while refusing to do a single thing about their own reckless personal financial management. It’s hard to do much about how the government wastes money, since both political parties spend like drunken sailors, but everyone can take control of their own finances, if they choose to. Even now, it may be much harder to pay off debt and make ends meet, but almost anyone can find a few frivolous expenses to cut, to free up a little bit of money in their budget. Sometimes much harder decisions are required to get your spending under control and pay off debt.

I expect life to get a lot more difficult for all of us and simple things we took for granted, like getting a prescription filled might take a lot more effort and a runaround, finding certain items at the grocery store might become a wild goose chase. I check prices online at my three major grocery stores before running around looking for stuff.

Finding ways to stretch food dollars might require doing more searching for new recipes, ways to utilize the food we do buy and even develop new eating habits. I mention this, because even with my little fall container gardening effort, I grew broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. As I was reading more about those plants, I realized that the leaves on all three can be eaten as greens, so that’s another part of those plants I could use. I use radish leaves as greens too. I grew kale and spinach, but the collards I planted didn’t produce much. Even with store bought foods, I’ve been learning more about ways to use scraps and bones, etc. when I used to just toss those. I did start a compost bin again too.

These were small things that I could do by myself and none of them required a great deal of time or effort. I took some sad looking pieces of ginger root from the grocery store that had been sitting in my fridge and stuck them in a pot with potting soil last summer. I harvested quite a bit of new ginger root late in the fall. I peeled it. Some I grated and some I sliced, then I dehydrated it, so I probably have enough ginger to use in stir- fry dishes and cooking for a year. I used some of the grated ginger root last week in a stir-fry and it’s easy to rehydrate. Ginger root in my local grocery store is around $3.50 a lb. right now.

Dave Ramsey calls his financial plan 7 baby steps, but the truth is every little change we make “baby step” can help change our life, but most of all it changes the direction of our thinking. If your first response to new ideas or suggestions is to make excuses for why you can’t do that or look for other people or events to blame for why things aren’t working well in your life, then nothing will change. The economy isn’t likely to improve any time soon, if we’re to believe just about every financial expert, including right-wing ones, left-wing ones, and even the global elite ones meeting at the World Economic Forum. We can’t change any of that, but each of us can make small changes (and big ones if we really need to) to find ways to get through coming storms.

Believing we can take charge and change is hard and I’ve failed miserably at many things – many times, but as I’ve gone through the past few years, where there were terrible things happening in my life beyond my control, along with the pandemic craziness, it led me to doing a whole lot of soul-searching. I used to spend too much time whining and complaining and most all – making excuses. I realized I could do a lot more than I thought I could. I believe all of us can do more than we think we can too and that’s the new way of thinking that’s been leading me toward making changes and adjusting to many changes that were beyond my control in the past few years.

Some things are scary or disturbing or very upsetting, but I’m trying to take an assessment, like thinking “Boy, this really sucks!” when faced with new problems or obstacles, then I start thinking of various ways I can move that obstacle out of my way, climb over it or go around it and even ways to pound it into pebbles that just pave my path. Every day, I remain grateful for life, for my loved ones, and the multitude of blessings in my life.

Each day is a new opportunity.

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