Signs of the times

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are you stressed by what's happening to America's economy? I am, and it has affected me more adversely than I thought it could, especially considering there isn't a single thing I can do about it. When I start worrying, I start wanting to eat. I never thought of myself as an emotional eater, but I find that I really am.

I am a teacher/librarian who will be looking at retirement in a few years. I haven't had a raise in eight (yes, eight) years. I've seen my money buy less and less every year. There are only two people in my household, and the grocery bills are astronomical for us. I wonder how people with growing children feed their families.

Now, with the fall of investment houses, I am worried about my little nest egg. I don't know how much of it I have lost just in the last week. I feel so powerless, and I find that I'm angry about how things are working out.

I thought I was doing all of the right things, and I find out that the people I trusted most with my money didn't respect that trust. Now it seems that I have to pay even more, through taxes, to make sure they can stay in business.

I want to eat, to try to fill that empty feeling in my stomach and in my life. I really love my job, and I am so grateful that I have it. That's what I'm trying to focus on most. When I see the news, though, it's hard not to want to run out and buy a bag of chips to calm the gnawing concern.
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    I've really struggled with this. I only get $37 a week more than I did 30 years ago. I can assure you it doesn't go near so far as it did then.

    I think the real problem is that we have lived in a bubble. This period of growth, safety, and opportunity is really the exception, not the rule. Only we grew up thinking unlimited growth was normal. In centuries past, people had no such illusions. Imagine the Dark Ages, when people had secret panels to hide food and such from marauders. In colonial times, people included clothing in their wills, as it was valuable.

    Ever wonder why old houses, ones from the early 1800's, have no closets? Or closets that are super shallow, and only have a few hooks? That's because the average person then had 2 sets of clothes, the everyday set and the good set. Children were quite old before they got their first set of clothes bought for them, and not cut down hand me downs.

    I remember reading in the stories of the Little House on the Prairie author's grandmother, how on laundry day all the children had to spend the day under the covers, because their only set of clothes was washed. Yes, there have always been wealthy people with rooms full of fancy silk gowns. But this was the life of the regular person. Read how many times in the Little House stories they lost everything, and had to start over.

    I have bemoaned the loss of my freedom here as a caregiver, and the loss of my buying power. But I decided that my care is NOT in the hands of the government, or the economy. I can look at this like a terrible curse, where I will not be able to retire in the style of my in-laws. They fixed their house up, travelled, enjoyed life.

    Or, I can look at this like an adventure. My family went through the great depression. Funny thing is, if you ask them about it, they will tell you about swimming and hiking and family fun and games. Yes, they worked for $11 a week. But as Mom always said, "we never went hungry." They worked together, made their own fun, and followed the "use it up, wear it out, make it do" rule.

    I did that growing up. On a part-time minimum wage job, we never felt deprived. Mom was creative, and we never did without. When I needed a coat, mom cut down one of Gram's old garments, lined it with an old blanket, trimmed it with fur she had saved from some other garment, quilted it all. It was warm and wonderful, and everyone complimented me on my coat. Deprived? With "custom" clothes? Patches were fancy appliqu├ęs. We played word games in the yard, went for hikes, went fossil hunting. All the children played in our yard, 'cuz mom would sit with them and play with them and teach them. Think she taught the whole town to count and learn their letters!

    See the difference? Instead of bemoaning what we lost, and what we couldn't do, she made life an adventure. It's all in the attitude. That's what I'm doing now with the budget. I'm canning again, and drying wild fruits. Free for the time. Buying whole grains and beans in bulk. Cooking from scratch. A picnic in the park can be just as fun as a movie.

    I've been thinking about the South after the Civil War. When plantation owner's daughters, whose lives revolved around the social circle, became scrub maids to get by. Their life was never the same. But they got by, they made new lives. And generations lived and grew upon those foundations.

    We can do this. It's an adventure. I have an extra help. Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

    Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

    Our real trust is in him, not in our finances. I have seen Him do mighty miracles. The advantage of not having much, is in seeing what He can do with it! I have lived in a custom built house that I designed. And I have lived in a car. I have travelled to most of the states in this country, and not had enough money to fix the car. Yet in all things, I have been cared for. Like it says in Psalm 37:25
    "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread."

    So, this is an ADVENTURE!!! Not the one we would have chosen, but our parents did this, and we can do this. Our ancestors survived, and so will we. The goal is to keep our eyes on the positive. There will always be negatives. And surveys say the rich aren't really very happy. This may not be fun, but it should be interesting!

    4613 days ago
    I'll be right behind you in line for the chips, lol.
    I live in a part of the country that has been especially hard hit, between the auto industry and housing problems. I was downsized in June from my job of 35 years. Most of my family have been downsized, too. The one thing I've learned is that we will survive.
    4618 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/24/2008 6:03:52 PM
    Renee it is very scary what we are hearing in the news about the economy. We planned and hoped we would all be in a good place when our retirement rolled around.

    Everyone is cutting corners. Money does not go as far as it used to, and I am convinced it will get worse. Be thankful that you still have a job and an income. There are others in worse shape and we have to keep that in mind. As bad as we think it is, there is someone worse off.....take a moment to count your blessings.

    The stress hormone craves the things we know are not a cure, but emotionally make us feel better. Comfort food. I know where you are at - you will make better choices once you can get passed the stress. Hang in there.....Cat =^..^=
    4619 days ago
    chips wont help. i tried that so save your money, focus on the positive, i love my moms stories about the depression from when she was a kid,. never had much but she said we always had each other............... emoticon
    stay strong my friend, and add a nother can of water to the soup
    4621 days ago
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