Mary Beth Writes

A friend (Thanks, Carol) tweeted this.  

“The term “must-haves” is profoundly unsettling to me.”

For those of us trying to live both frugally and thoughtfully – Yup!

I looked into the website she was responding to; it was coupons for:

  • A white noise machine,
  • Therapy Dough – Honest to God, you can buy ½ cup pots of playdough in really lovely colors – usually $25 a pot but on sale for $12.50. Oh yeah.
  • Essential oil personal diffusers
  • A bunch of make-up
  • Weirdly shiny yoga pants reminiscent of Naugahyde. Did that girl want pants made out of a rumpus room davenport? (Remember when sofas and couches were davenports?)

As a teenager I read those teen magazine articles about the “must-haves” we were supposed to obtain. This kind of skirt, that kind of mascara, this kind of hair-fixing device, etc. As we got older this turned into “a little black dress”, and “black pumps” and I can’t think of what else.  Everything was clothing and make-up-related; i.e. the “equipment” we needed to get boyfriends and husbands.  It was as sexist as hell and part of our indoctrination into thinking “feminine” was defined by how attractive we were to the white males who were the editors of those magazines. Damn them.

Len was attracted to me because I had a figure one could see from the outside of my home-made dress (it had a white Peter Pan collar - sexiest look ever, right?), longish hair, and four minutes later we were talking about books and he liked my mind and I liked his.  No “must-haves” involved.  Just young humans being nervous, chatty young humans.

It was one of the adventures and privileges of my life to be on the board of  MayaWorks.   http://www.mayaworks.org/   

Sometimes board meetings were held in Guatemala. Twice I made arrangements to stay with a weaving family for a long weekend; this was as close as I would ever get to living in the serious poverty most people on earth live in most of the time. 

At the end of the second weekend Vicenta asked if I like tamales. 

Who doesn’t love tamales???

The next morning, 7AM, she was already kneeling on the cement floor of the main room of the family’s tiny compound - hand-patting masa into corn husks. All the corn in this process had grown on their milpa (a cornfield about the size of a basketball court). Vicenta snugly tucked the tamales into a very old, seriously dinged-up tin pot. She sprinkled water over the tamales from the plastic water filtration jugs at the other side of the room, covered the pot with a lid that didn’t fit the pot, put a weight on that. She set the pot on the brick stove that the family fueled with corn cobs and sticks.

The tamales steamed six hours.

They were extraordinary; I’ve never tasted anything like them since. Simple cornmeal mush inside corn husks – yet it was biting into the very essence of mild, rich, redolent, creamy earth. 

Vicenta had no working surface; she kneeled on her floor and worked from plates. She had no sharp knives, if she needed one she had to borrow a machete from her husband. The plates we ate on were unmatched, generally chipped or plastic or chipped plastic.

What am I trying to say? That the earth is jam-packed with humans who have no “must-haves”, yet they create families, food, drinks, and lives that are rich with flavor, oomph, and love.  Seriously, the kids in that family were radiant; they moved with grace on tiny bare feet; the teenage son worked hours every day on the farm, then put on his school uniform and rode hours to and from a technical high school in a town far away. Hollywood would fall over to see that kid’s dark bangs falling across his dark eyes lit with life, hope, and the high jinx of a confident teenager. 

No little black dress ever got close to the gorgeousness of a Maya woman’s huipils (kinda pronounced wee-peals). These beautiful women lived their rich, difficult, hard lives in clothes more beautiful than we get married in.

It’s too easy to compare clueless materialism against motivated women and men in deep poverty. The poor people, if they have any sense of hope at all, will always capture our respect – and then we go back to our own lives not knowing what to do about economic injustice and third world deprivation and our own sad lethargy of spirit. Yadda, yadda.

So when I read and hear the phrase “must-have” I think I want to say this.

What we “must-have” is a deep respect for others – and also for our own mission here in our lives.

We need to know what we can do, and then do it. Some people create art so amazing it makes us weep. Others can organize an event; feed a family on enough or not enough money. Paint a chair, sing a song, invent a story, code a website, tell a joke, cuddle a puppy or cat or child. Feed the birds; listen so well the teller can’t stop talking. Fill out a 3-page form without having a panic attack. Teach, build, critique truly and gently. Bake cookies. Cook a gorgeous vegan soup (my roasted squash and carrot soup tastes like salted melted vitamins). Clarify, embellish, embroider, lead, or follow.

Each of us need our own “must-haves” – tools and ingredients we need to do whatever it is we are here to do. It is our job to know what those things are, get them as we can, and then use them.

We are not paper weights. We are not here to collect or impress or to cover our sadness with layers of stuff.

We are here to give, share, accomplish, and create. Everything else is background.

Comments

"What is your 'Must Have'?" "Shoes" "Bless You"

My "Must Have" is Love with a generous side of music to go with it along with a song for dessert. I loved this writing. It puts "stuff" in perspective

Thanks. And I guess to be honest, I'd need to have coffee, the illusion that I'm only going to eat healthy stuff, a warm-enough house, and stories. Stories to read, stories to remember of people who made my life fun and better - such as yourself, stories to make-up and write down, and the stories that motivate me.

Those 12 pairs of shoes above certainly are not my must haves! Love hearing about ur adventures. Must haves —— hmmmmm, need to think about that. Although, lately I have been thinking I must have an instapot.

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Health Insurance when you are laid off

Pals, I was reading letters at a website I look at often. A woman wrote that her 62-year old husband had been unexpectedly laid-off from his job. She said she didn't know where to begin to think about health insurance (and a lot more).  I talked to Len.  Man, we have been here.
This is what Len wrote. This answer is too long to post on someone else's website so we are sharing it here. 
...
Says Len:
You are in a difficult situation.

Mindful Chickens - Frugal Stuff 1/11/2018

1. We bought a car!! We bought our (former) 2006 Mercury Milan and 2004 Ford Ranger around 2006-2007.  Len is a very good vehicle dad – they lasted this long. The truck is still reliably chugging along; we sold it to a neighbor. However it became apparent a few weeks ago that the Milan could no longer take care of itself. Sigh. 

We talked about what kind of car we wanted in the past few weeks. Len did on-line research, finding cars we might like to try.  We decided we would spend part of two days test-driving these several makes of cars.

Mindful Chickens 12/27/2017

1. Update: Only giving and receiving food items with our (adult) kids on Christmas was as fun as anything.  (http://www.marybethdanielson.com/content/not-buying-presents-christmas-what-fresh-hell) Receiving MY OWN PERSONAL BUTTERSCOTCH PIE was astounding!  In order to enjoy my whole pie without dying of Adult Onset Gluttony, I have made a pie chart (hah) which is on the counter next to the fridge. I am enjoying one piece of pie per day, which means I should be done next Monday.

The Chicken is Thinking 12/11/2017

1. We either squandered $60 this year or saved $30 today – depends on how you look at it. (Ahhh, the prism of life metaphor…)

Len’s lost his job last spring but soon enough he found his next job (he’s a serial worker); he now works mostly from home.

Guess who should have called the insurance company two days after he lost that job? Argh. We’ve been paying car insurance on the basis of a daily 40-mile round-trip commute he doesn’t make.

How to Save Hundreds on Fresh Herbs!

This probably never happens to you. You buy fresh cilantro (or parsley or basil or whatever herb you think you need) at the grocery store. You come home and stick it in the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator.

Two weeks later you throw away the plastic bag of green slime.

It occurred to me several months ago to ask the Internet how one ought to store fresh herbs. 

Is eBay worth it?

The nuts and bolts paragraph of this whole article:

“This is my formula, which is not at all precise. EBay notifies you that your item sold. Soon that selling amount PLUS the amount the buyer has to pay for shipping – comes to your PayPal account. Take that total amount; subtract 10% (a good estimate) of that total price, which eBay will keep for their fee. Subtract the postage. Subtract the original amount you paid. There’s your profit.”

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