Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Shoestring Made of Magic - Christmas and the year 2016

We live in a very Norwegian little town. Every year, our little town of Poulsbo throws a strange sort of party. Every year, a clan of vikings kidnaps a maiden (St. Lucia) and lights a big ass bonfire right on the waterfront in the middle of downtown. The shin-dig starts off with lighting the Christmas tree, and dancing around it in big circles (no skill required kind of dancing... okay, so it's more like an organized shuffle, but it's entertaining to witness and be a part of).
Beanie Girl Does Julefest 2016

It was a crazy day for us, but it was also a fun tradition to begin with Beanie Girl.

And best of all, it was free.

It's been no secret. This has probably been the hardest year on our pocket books ever. It started last year, when little got sick right around the time I got back from Maternity leave, causing me to take even more time off work to see her gentle soul through some trying times. While Beanie Girl was busy building the best immune system ever, Trainer Girl (me) was frantically rescheduling and losing sessions here and there - sessions we can't afford to lose since we were making financial decisions in the blur of new-parenthood. As most people operating off very little sleep, we made some unwise financial decisions in the heat of the moment (you know, like putting groceries and gas on credit cards...) and have spent this year working hard to get our heads back above water. Like many, we don't make enough to get help, but also don't make enough to stay current on everything all the time, so it's an uphill battle.

While we've made some head way on our debts this year, in the spring (you know, about when Beanie Girl got pnuemonia, after me being out of work to sit with her during a bad cold the week before which I think was her 3rd virus since her August birthday - a tough start for a lightweight kid),  Our resources were completely tapped out financially and something I never thought would happen was happening.

We were starting to get hungry. Literally. The pantry was empty, and the bank account was too. I was constantly searching for ways to increase my pay, but to do so w/o needing child care services was grasping at straws. (Let's face it, Sunshine Rewards doesn't pay that well.)

So My Sailor reached out to his family and I reached out to local, more immediate resources -  a community that had helped us with so much before - our local Buy Nothing project. They helped us fill the gaps by cleaning out their pantries and freezers and offering us what they didn't have any use for anymore. For the price of gas, we got frozen turkey from the Thanksgiving before, home jarred Salsas, baking mixes (more than a few meeting our Gluten free needs), protein shakes and more. It filled the gap and until the next paycheck.

We learned to be resourceful. (And that says something, since I've always been pretty damn resourceful to begin with.) With the thanksgiving left overs gifted to us, we made huge pots of soup and stews that got us through those lean weeks. (My mom had given us the gift of Cloth Diaper Service, so that was one think we didn't have to worry about.)

And we've learned a lot.

Most of our clothes this year are second hand - either hand me downs (which we've continued to hand down to others), or Goodwill finds, with the odd pair of pants here or underwear there that's new. And There Is Nothing Wrong With That. 'New' doesn't always mean 'better'.

We have let go of the things we don't need.  I've sold some musical instruments I no longer play and Disney art peices that I wasn't particularly attached to, and My Sailor as sold one of his guns - because in the end, they are just 'stuff' anyway.

We made some hard decisions. My Sailor reupped for the military, and we're looking toward the future as things continue to upswing.

Through it all, we've caught up. Slowly but surely, the small decisions are adding up and we're making progress.

And we're still together. We're still a family. Nothing changed. And Maybe We've Just Learned the Greatest Lesson of All this Year....

Santa taking photos on stage
Today, Beanie Girl went to a military Kids and Family Holiday party. It was a free event that My Sailor had signed us up for. I knew she'd get her picture taken with the jolly old elf himself, and that she would get a present. I was expecting something generic (like a candy cane). Instead, Santa knew she liked Rapunzel and her age - and she was given 2 toys! One was a doll of Rapunzel that she was enchanted by, and the other was a developmental ball toy I'd been wanting for her, but had yet to see a quality one cross the Buy Nothing or Goodwill 'shelves'. It was like Santa knew...

Our foam, family made frame
There were 2 bounce houses she was a bit too small for, and a few other games, including a cookie decorating station (which we didn't do because a) no 16 month old needs THAT much sugar, and b) they didn't have any gluten free ones anyway and we opted not to brave the allergic reaction for a cookie...), a frame making station (which we did as a family) and a few other grab bag goodies. She came home with a coloring book as well.
Doing a Scratch Art ornament and gazing at her new doll
I looked around at all the different families... some dressed up for Santa. Some just rolled out of bed. Some looked as though they wanted for nothing, while others looked as though they barely had clothes for the weather.

And I sat there fighting back tears more than once...

I've had more than enough in my life and had more than enough need as well.

But when the need has arisen, I've always been looked after. Even this year...

Despite making progress, we're on a complete shoestring. Our 'gift' to our local friends was throwing a Murder Mystery pot luck dinner party at our house last night - and it was an amazing night (that I managed not to take one... single... solitary... photo of... ).  We'll have enough food left over not to need to go grocery shopping again until 2017... We didn't expect that!

But I sat there during the party, fighting back tears, reminded of all of the generosity that seems always to come my way when I need it the most - when I'm short on cheer or necessities.

One small example, Beanie Girl recently grew out of her hand-me down winter coat... and the weather has rarely gotten above 35. So we layer up as much as we can, and don't spend much time outside. Still, she needed a good coat. I heard of a store with a huge sale and asked a friend I needed to spend some time with to come with me to the mall and browse and catch up.  The coat we found was slightly out of my price range - but it just so happened my friend was looking for a Christmas gift for Beanie Girl. Not just any gift - but a useful one.

See that little pink coat with the silver stars in the photo above with Beanie Girl's bag?

She loves it.

Needless to say, it's useful.

We can't repay our friends, family, and Buy Nothing in kind, necessarily, but this year they have all served as fantastic reminders for me -

There is no 'giving season' anymore than there is a 'needy season'.

Speaking a need isn't 'shameful'. 
It gives people who the chance to do good, to give, to be part of the solution to someone else's story.

This year may have been a skinny one, but we've made magic on a shoestring - and those who helped us make it are the threads.


  1. J, you radiate what you speak, enriching every one of us around you. That is your gift to each of us! LIfe and learning experiences will always challenge us. How we face each obstacle and the heart with which it is battled is the measure of the Spirit of the Warrior. Beanie Girl is so blessed to have you both as her parents. There are no mistakes. That miracle in the pink jacket with the silver stars needed Warriors with enormous Hearts to carry her through all the Battles and Struggles she and you have faced! That is why you both we're chosen for her.

    Love you all with my whole heart!

  2. This is so beautiful and touching in so many facets. Thank you for your friendship via BNP ❤

  3. Such a sweet tribute to the kindness of strangers. Gives you faith in your fellow women and men. Thank you for posting.