Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I need some money

In spite of the recession and the complete closing of one of our major employers in town, as well as the temporary shut down of about 5 very large employers within 40 miles, there are several major fund raising efforts going on in my small community. One is nearly ready to get underway with the next phase: the building of a new community center, in the park, with a good kitchen. The community has really gotten behind this project and all the fund raising events. About $150,ooo has been raised so far, certainly enough to get the building started this summer. I just hope that the community can continue to support the maintenance of this building in the future, because lack of maintenance was just one problem at the current park building.

Part of our community, that is outside of the city limits, close as the crow flies, but not close by road, has somewhat poor coverage from fire departments, despite very high taxes. Private individuals have banded together to raise money and buy two fire rigs that will be closer to their homes. The costs are enormous and they have met their goals; the rigs are in place.

I've been involved an effort to keep our school swimming pool open. The school board has seriously considered closing the pool to save money. On paper, the cost to run the pool, water, heat, lights, pumps, chemicals, etc. is enormous. We question the figures, but there is no good way to measure the heat and lights because they aren't monitored separately from the building.
The school board has decided to keep the pool open if a community group is willing to do fund raising to pay half of the costs. Since I'm attending the meetings of the group, and the size of the interested parties has diminished, I now officially on the board of directors for the purposes of applying for tax exempt status. Whew.....like I need more to think about.

We have a lot of competition for extra money. It is easy to be pessimistic about all of this, given the recession, but we have to keep our focus on quality of life issues for the future. Small towns are somewhat fragil. When the school, churches, and businesses decrease, quality of life issues are evident, and people start thinking of moving away or not moving here in the first place. Even the tourists won't come here if the community diminishes. But we can only look to the near term in our fund raising and chose to be positive. Maybe we'll provide the community with some fun events in the process.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Too much stuff

When my husband and I were first married, quite poor, and unemployed, there was no "plastic" money. If the money wasn't in the wallet, it didn't get spent. We went to a couple of sales and found a few items to sit on or at for our little rental house. We had been given money for a bed and some linens for wedding presents, some kitchen items, so we were all set. The really nice thing was that we weren't burdened with a ton of stuff when we were able to move to a nicer rental place a year later.

Now we own too much stuff. I suppose many of us do. Will anybody else admit this? Raise your hand. We still own too much stuff after making some considerable effort to clean out, give and throw away stuff. My biggest motivator in this effort is my mom's old house, which my grandmother moved into in about 1916 and which my mother inherited in 1973. Neither woman nor their families ever threw out anything. Guess which generation now has to deal with this? Things that could have sentimental meaning, but were relegated to a drawer for years, just don't mean that much. I'm thinking of my father's baptismal dress. I'm not going to frame it and hang it in my house.

If you want to see the ultimate in TOO MUCH STUFF, you could come to the huge sale that will start tomorrow at our local school. The local branch of an international charitable organization puts on this annual sale, using the school facilities to display the goods. Each year more has been donated and now the goods have outgrown the space. The smaller items such as baskets, dishes, kitchen ware, decorations, more books than a used book store, and smaller tools fill the gym, wall to wall.

There are three outside tents and three hallways with lots of used furniture, appliances, wood stoves, and grills. Another tent covers a number of bicycles. There are enough Nordic Trak ski machines to allot one to every 100 people in town. They are priced at only about $2 - 10. And if you added in the rest of the exercise devices, there'd be one for every 30 people. There are boats. Not toy boats; real boats. True antiques are priced high, but everything else must go and the prices reflect this.

If I were starting out again, I might be able to furnish a place even cheaper than we did so many years ago. It is hard to imagine that the people in this small town could donate so many items, but I think it reflects the excesses we have these days and the desire for new things that our culture instills in us. That leaves plenty to give away. The money collected from this sale will probably be over $25,000, based on past experiences. Most of it will benefit local causes.

Too much Stuff? How is it that so many of us get so much stuff and still think we don't have enough to donate more money to our churches or save enough for retirement or give to other good causes? The one thing that I think has happened is that impulse buying is now the norm, using plastic, so we just are able to buy without thinking of money or space. I am reflecting on the contrast to what we saw in Uganda where the people own so little. They own so little that they lock their doors to prevent thievery if they are poor, and if they are rich, by contrast, they surround their little home with a concrete wall topped with sharp glass. It is pretty easy to take either a spiritual or political lesson from that!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I was walking around the yard yesterday, thinking: Why does the grass grow so well in the flower gardens, when there are bare spots in the lawn? And why do the weeds grow so well, no matter where they root? Then....hey, maybe there is a spiritual lesson in that somewhere.

And that made me think of one of the reasons I started blogging: to take simple, ordinary daily actions and thoughts and become aware of, and write about, spiritual lessons in them.

I've gotten away from that; I've gotten away from blogging. I have had a number of things in mind to blog about, but sometimes these are too big to pin down properly. Sometimes I'm aware that my thoughts and opinions really "need" to be supported by some concrete "facts" which means I need to figure out where I learned about the background of the subject. [I'm trying to avoid being either BO from Fox or MO, one of our state's representatives to Washington. Not that people on the other side of the aisle don't spout opinions without backing them up.]

So then I procrastinate or blog-o-vate. Plus, I do have a life. In the last couple of months I've been away to visit by elderly relatives, I've babysat my grandsons, and I attended my son's wedding. And I really need to be outside when it is warm. Plus, I've been plagued by a series of viruses which took down my energy level.

Back to the weeds: At least they are green, so my lawn mostly looks green, but weeds have the unfortunate characteristic of crowding out the plants and grass, that we think are desirable. There are many activities in life that can take over our thoughts and time and crowd out what we might state are our real priorities, such as our worship of God, our families, our health, for example. Small things grow and take over our lives if we don't occasionally step back and recognize that our actual priorities are known by how we spend out time, not what we say.

Various activities, not just "sins," can take us away from our intentions to love God with our whole hearts and love our families and neighbors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yes, dear, but....

Spinach Salad

We have fresh spinach in our garden, so this weekend, I looked for a spinach strawberry recipe. I thought I'd find one in almost every cookbook, but not so. This was in a Habitat for Humanity cookbook:

2 pounds spinach, trimmed, torn (supposedly makes 10 servings.)
16 oz fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced (I left it out)
1/2 C sliced green onions
1/2 C snipped fresh mint. (I didn't have this, so I sprinkled on some of the leaves from a mint (no black tea) tea bag.
1/2 C Poppy seed dressing. Add this and toss just before serving.

Poppy Seed dressing. I adjusted the original dressing recipe, as follows:

3/4 C olive oil (or salad oil)
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp salt

The real revelation was when I wanted a salad the next day, but I didn't want to go to the store just for strawberries. This was really refreshing.

To a big bowl of spinach leaves, along with some leaf lettuce, I added:
1/4 - 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 nectarine, sliced
Some of the poppy seed dressing.