“Don’t Try to Force It”

This is not in reference to gardening or couponing as I can attest that both can be forced as I have done it many times. I have gone out and pulled weeds or shoveled dirt at 6am on days when all I wanted to do was sleep in after working in the yard until 9pm the night before. I have cut out coupons in the 30 minutes between arriving home from work and leaving for church on Wednesday nights when I really wanted to just sit and kick up my feet. “Don’t try to force it”, rather, refers to something of a completely different nature.

I heard my choir directors throughout the years say this many times. In chorus I was always a Soprano (the higher notes) and not just a Soprano, but a First Soprano (the highest notes). If there was a descant part (even higher than highest notes) I was all over it. I could proudly sing a High C (two lines above the top of the staff!) without breaking a sweat. However, it wasn’t always so easy. In middle school when I was learning to sing those notes so effortlessly I would often stumble and fall, or in the music world, I would squeak out a note or two below the intended note. The first time I would hit a new high note I would feel so proud of myself and the first words out of the director’s mouth were, “Don’t try to force it.” While I had finally hit the note I had not done it with ease and in such the force behind my efforts was audible in the note that I produced. Eventually with enough practice I would get to the point where I would sing the high notes in a song without needing to anticipate them because they came out that naturally.

So why I am I writing about singing? Well, I had forgotten all about these chorus experiences until this past Sunday at choir practice after church. It was my first time being able to attend choir practice. I, of course, joined the Soprano section of the choir and was excited to finally be back in a choir and singing again for the first time in about a year. We only practiced one song, a piece that we will be performing during church in two weeks. On the first run-through I immediately noticed something: a stumble and fall. There is one line in the hymn that has a few “high” notes in a row (never above an E). Because I was taught to sing as a First Soprano I didn’t think of these notes as being high at all, however I quickly realized that some of the other women were afraid of these notes as they are higher than what the choir typically sings. After we rehearsed the song a few times, each time with the same one lady squeaking out a note below the one written, I remembered the words of my choir director in school… “Don’t try to force it.” I quickly explained that you can’t be afraid of the note, you just have to go for it. By the end of the rehearsal she was hitting the note and we all sounded great.

It was only after I got home from church that I realized the application of this lesson to my current life situation. I have not written on my blog in over a month now. I really desire to keep up with it and write regularly, however some times I feel like I just don’t have anything worth sharing with other people. When I first started the blog I had put it off for many months already so I didn’t want to fall out of the routine of writing as quickly as I had tried to get into it. So on my last post I forced myself write the post, and even though I was not at all satisfied with it, I posted it to the blog. I have not been satisfied with it ever since. I just wanted to write so that I could say I had done it, not because I had anything to say. This is where the words of my choir director come in… don’t try to force it! I was forcing myself to write just for the sake of writing. I have felt guilty for not writing on my blog over the past month however this epiphany has allowed me to realize that it’s ok not to write at specific intervals. I don’t know why I hadn’t made the connection before as I do the same thing with my journal writing (yes, I am a 23-year-old who still writes in a journal). I do not write every day. I used to make myself write in my journal every day and some days I would spend an hour writing and then, at the end, realize that I had not written anything of meaning or importance, simply a timeline of the happenings of my day. Now I only write in my journal when I feel impressed that I have something I need to write about, whether it is to clarify my own thoughts, to have to refer back to later, or to be able to pass on to my posterity in the future. I will now apply this same principle to my blog; I will only write when I feel I have something that I want/need to share with others.

Amusingly, since having this revelation on Sunday (only three days ago) I have been inspired of five new blog posts that I am anxious to write (not including this one)! Much of my inspiration has come from this blog that I stumbled upon on Pinterest and have been addicted to for the past three days reading it every spare second I get. It makes me want to do better about writing but has also given me so many new ideas. There is a lot more coming so be on the lookout for all my new posts in the very near future!

All it Takes is a “Little” Hard Work

Let me start this blog post with a quote from my sister-in-law, Catherine: “I am jealous of all your free Craigslist plants, but I am just too lazy to dig them all up myself.”

The main lesson that I have learned from both couponing as well as gardening on a budget is that in order to save money you have to be willing to do a lot more work! A regular trip to the grocery store involves making a grocery list, going to the store(s) and buying the items you need. The most time-consuming activity involved would be standing in the line to check out. With couponing, however, there is a lot more involved in order to reap in the savings. There is the time to cut out coupons every week and keep them organized, keeping up with the sales at multiple grocery stores, and then pairing the sales together with the coupons and then comparing the different stores to find the best deal for each product. Once at the grocery store each item much be matched up with the coordinating coupon and time taken to make sure the maximum number of coupons is not exceeded at the store. A coupon trip to the grocery can easily take three times as long at the store plus all the prep time and work involved. There will be more details to come on this process in the first couponing post.

The same goes for gardening on a budget. However, when dealing with the gardens the work is often more physically straining than mentally stimulating. Many of the tasks that we would prefer be carried out by a paid professional we have done ourselves in order to cut spending. We look for any opportunity to get supplies for free and barter for things we already have and no longer need. We search clearance racks repeatedly to try not to spend full price on the things we want. It’s hard to give general examples of this for gardening so you will have to wait until I start posting about our garden transformations and all about the specific examples of the hard work it takes to get it all done. However, here is one example just to show the hard work that we have poured and continue to pour into making our gardens a beautiful place for us to escape to from our busy lives.

This is our Tree Stump Garden: one of our 9 (and ever-increasing) gardens. This Pine Tree was one of the trees that the tornadoes last April ripped out of our back yard. The stump is still there and quite the eyesore so I have decided to turn it into one of our gardens. Spencer had the idea to dig out the base of the stump and expose all the roots to give the garden a more unique look. But what to do with all that dirt???

This is our Carport Garden which we have now decided is going to be our one-and-only fruit and vegetable garden for the year. The soil that was here was mostly sand and rocks and not suitable for growing our plants. So we needed good soil to mix into it. With money we would just go out and buy some compost to replace this poor quality dirt, however when trying to save money we have to get a little more creative in our approach. So we took that good organic dirt from the top few inches around the Tree Stump Garden (which was years of decomposed pine needles and leaves) and added it to the Carport Garden. That posed a new problem…what to do with the extra dirt from this garden? Not wanting the garden to be elevated in relation to the ground around it, some dirt needed a new home.

This is our Back Garden. Here we are building a tiered garden bed with 5 separate tiers. However we are lacking in the amount of dirt necessary to do so. Thus the extra dirt from the vegetable garden (that is keeping us from adding the good soil from the Tree Stump Garden in there) had to be moved to this garden bed before the vegetable garden could be prepped for planting. Also the lower levels of dirt (aka good ole North Carolina red clay) from the Tree Stump Garden is being added to this garden to help build it up to construct the tiers. What this means is Spencer and I spent 2 whole days (8+ hours each day) moving wheelbarrow loads of dirt from Point A to Point B, Point B to Point C, Point A to Point C and so on. And we’re still not done!

All in all, what you need to know is that if you want to save money in any aspect of your life you have to be willing to put forth a little (really, a lot!) more effort than everyone else!

Going Green!

I have wanted to start this blog for quite a few months now and finally have both the time and the motivation to begin. So here goes my first attempt at writing a blog post for recreation instead of for a school assignment.

I have gone green! In my case “green” does not refer to the usual environmental interpretation of trying to save the environment. I have already gone down that road. We throw almost nothing away at our house. We recycle all the glass and plastic containers. Paper, paperboard, and cardboard are either recycled or burned and the ashes are added to the compost. Our food scraps all go to one of 3 places: our chickens, our dogs, or the compost. Meat items are fed to the dogs, bread and produce go to the chickens, and the real scraps are put in the compost. Our compost is then used to fertilize our garden and help grow our own fruits and vegetables. We empty our trash once a week and all the trashes together never even fill a 13 gallon bag. We filter our sink water instead of buying bottled water. We open the windows to let the natural breeze cool off our house instead of running the A/C units most of the time. We try to do our part to help lessen the negative impact we have on the planet. Well, that’s enough about the “green” that this blog is not about.

Rather the “green” that I refer to is that of an economical sense. “Growing a green thumb” has many interpretations. First and foremost it means learning how to be more economically responsible with the resources that you have. Of course “green” refers to the money that is being saved and “green thumb” to my love for gardening. My blog posts will fall into 2 main categories: first, couponing and second, gardening… on a budget of course.

So the only thing left to cover is: Are you ready to go green too?