Having come up with a plan and implemented it, we discovered that we could do more than we had originally hoped for. We were also learning a hard, yet needed, lesson. The simple fact of the matter was, we had a great deal of abundance right after we were married, and we squandered it. We were poor stewards of what God had given us. Had we lived as wisely and frugally then as we were forced to do so now, we likely could have gone 6 months before even having to start worrying. As it is, we were being made to rely on God. And God provided.
We went to KC for Thanksgiving, and stopped and visited my parents on the way up and back. It was an excellent trip, and one we desperately needed to make, if for no other reason than to just get out of town for awhile. When we made it back, Sam did his two gigs--neither of which he was paid for. Both were through OCU, and the bureaucracy there to get paid is atrocious. Once again we were faced with a situation where money we had counted on in our budgeting suddenly wasn't there. However, Sam also picked up a job playing for Hanging of the Green at our alma mater, and it was going to be a hefty paycheck, so we weren't overly worried. My parents came down, and all of us went back to Shawnee to see the performance and just enjoy Christmas cheer.
After the show, we went back to meet up with Sam, only to find out that the check that he would normally have had waiting for him on his music stand wasn't there—we wouldn’t receive it until after Christmas. So, yet again, the rug was pulled out from under our feet. Thankfully, God provided for us through both sets of parents. They really came through for us, and I hope to one day be able to do the same for our children.
Time and time again, God showed us that if we relied on Him, He'd always come through. Thanks to such kindnesses, we were able to get through December. Another plus about December was Sam going on Winter Break. We finally got to have our honeymoon--three weeks of just basically the two of us in our apartment.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we continued to do the two-week menus and shopping. I revised my schedule, so that instead of doing particular duties each day such as sweeping or dusting, I assigned a particular room to a day. I also decided that I'd do what I called my "Daily clean," wherein right after breakfast I'd always do a certain list of chores: empty the dishwasher, wipe down the counters and stove, wipe the table, pick up general clutter, clean the litter box, make the bed, pick up clothes, wipe down the sink/counter in the bathroom, and check to see if the trash needed taken out. It sounds like a lot to do, but the thing is that after a couple of days, I had it to where I could get it all done in about 20 minutes. And that 20 minutes makes a HUGE difference.
After that I'd do my thorough cleaning of a given room--vacuum/mop, dust, disinfect, etc. All in all, it would take a grand total of about an hour to do my daily and room cleaning together. Then came the job hunting activities. In the afternoons, when not working on Christmas, I’d organize some part of the house—closets, drawers, cabinets, etc.
I was very happy making our apartment into a home, but I also continued to look for a job. I got an interview with a temp agency, which wanted to place me into another call center situation. However, the tests they wanted me to take, and the regulations for the business (very strict regs), discomforted me, and Sam was weirded out by the whole situation as well. So we decided that I wouldn't do it.
About this time we took another hard look at how we were living. The simple fact of the matter was that while we were tight on money, we were the happiest we'd ever been. I began to slow down in my job hunting. I did fill out a few more applications, the last of which was Wal-mart. In all of the time I'd been doing this, the call backs I'd gotten were all from smaller businesses or adverts I'd seen on Craig's List. Not one of the big retailers/companies had gotten back to me. I kind of figured that if anyone would hire me, it would be Wal-mart, so I submitted an application to them.
To this day, I have not heard back from them.
Fast forward past the Christmas blizzard of '09 (a separate post for another day) and the trip to Wellington to the beginning of the New Year. I sat down and built a menu for the whole month, and we went and did all of our shopping in one fell swoop, aside from things like milk and eggs, which wouldn't necessarily last a month. So far we've managed to stay in our budget of $200 for the month (or $50 a week) for both groceries and household supplies, such as toiletries, paper products, light bulbs, etc.
Sam and I also sat down and discussed the changes in our lifestyle. We found that, frankly, we both liked and enjoyed having me home and not working. As Sam put it to me, "It's not like you sit at home and just surf the internet all day. One look at our apartment shows that." In many ways, I feel like I've become, instead of a Stage Manager, a Family Manager. I keep the house clean, I provide meals, I plan the grocery trips, I track receipts and purchases, I balance the checkbook, I keep track of bills... and by doing so, Sam is free to concentrate on finishing his Masters degree and worry about getting gigs and providing for us. Sam told me just this afternoon: "Frankly, I think I have the easy part."
But it's not like its drudgery, or I'm his servant. I genuinely enjoy and have found a peace taking care of our home that I've never had in anything else I've ever done--and that includes theatre, which I greatly love. I find it fun to figure out how to make our budget work, how to take care of household dilemmas, and re-organizing everything so that we have an efficient household.
This is the biggest change of all, for me. Never in a thousand years would I have thought of myself as a homemaker. I was taught my entire life that I had a responsibility to go out into the workforce and earn my respect and honor that way. Staying at home, taking care of a house--those are things that either "lazy," "unqualified," or "dumb" people do. No one explicitly told me this, but it was very apparent in the way people talked about it, in the expectations teachers, friends, family, and society have of me. Never in a million years would I be "Suzy Homemaker."
But you know what? I'm working harder now than I ever did at AT&T. The aches I have at the end of the day from hauling laundry back and forth between the apartment and our laundry mat, or from scrubbing the bath tub, or moving furniture to vacuum, prove that. I am working on accounting our family budget. Every day I have to wrack my brain to figure out how to fix and improve things with nothing more than what I have on hand.
Also, because I have the time to devote to making our meals and planning out what we eat and need to make said meals, we are eating better and healthier than we ever did when I was working. We have tasty, homemade meals every day. And because it's from scratch, we're not eating nearly as many chemicals and preservatives as we used to--nor do we intake nearly as much sugar, even with my baking treats for us every week. As a result, between the time I was weighed when we had H1N1 and when I weighed myself at Christmas, I've lost over 15 lbs.
It amazes me. I'm still myself, but I've grown and learned so many things in the past three months, that in many ways I feel like a completely new person. Every day God is teaching me something new about myself, my relationship with Sam, my relationship with the world, and my relationship with Him.
That's it. That's what I have to share with you, my dear friends. I wanted to expound somewhere the changes I've discovered within myself, and I wanted to trace for my own benefit where each of the changes occurred. Do I suddenly think that every woman should be a stay at home wife? Absolutely not. Do I think our lifestyle is the only one that works? Again, absolutely not. But I'm happy with it, and content with what God is doing in Sam and I's lives. And I hope, as time goes on, to share little tips and tricks I have learned. Maybe. If I have the time. :-)
"The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."