Dusting Off “Frugality” and Making It Work For Us

Dear Reader:

Because it’s commonly misconstrued to mean cheap, “frugality” is thought of as a bad word. But in reality, there is a big difference between being frugal and being cheap.

Several years ago, while talking to a friend at my bank….he suggested (since interest rates were almost non-existent at the time) to open up two checking accounts instead of retaining the usual one checking account and one savings account. One account should be used to “live” on….pay the monthly bills (food, clothing, and shelter) while using the other as a ‘means to an end‘ for long-term goals and dreams. He called it “practicing conscious spending.”

It is the best advice I ever got. For some psychological reason…I found myself more willing to dip into my former savings account but less so with my second checking account. In fact, today, my second checking account is always, considerably, larger than my everyday account and continues to increase the gap, as witnessed on my banking pie chart.

Adverbs like ….to be frugal, or to be prudent or thrifty….are considered obsolete in today’s huge advertising campaigns pushing instant gratification. It goes back to one of our popular themes… and that is simplifying our lives. For every extra penny I can transfer from my primary account to my secondary account, monthly, is a victory for me.

It works better some months than others…life is always going to dish out the unexpected…but we just have to deal with it…and keep putting the other “cents” in the second account. (It really does just make “sense.”)

When I came across this true story from Guidepost on the wisdom of putting money away….in this case literally away…it fell right into today’s thoughts.

“A Miracle in an Old Coffee Can”   (Roberta Messner)

Where was I going to live? How could I afford to start over at my age? I drove to my friend’s place, still shaking with fear. Mark, my husband of 25 years, had thrown me out of the house in a rage. I only had time to grab a few belongings before I ran out the door. I glanced at my bag. I didn’t have enough to make it on my own. Not nearly enough. Then I remembered.

Mom’s coffee can. I had to go back for it.

Mark and I had been happy, once. But he changed. He’d disappear for days with no explanation. When he was home, he’d explode at me. The worst was tonight. I told him I was thinking about taking a leave of absence from my nursing job. I’d been having health issues of my own. “You don’t want to work? Then get out!” he shouted. “I’m keeping the house.” I was afraid what he’d do if I stayed.

Had Mom seen this coming? Five years earlier, she visited after I’d ended up in the emergency room with food poisoning. She noticed Mark was nowhere to be found. “Get a coffee can,” Mom told me. “Hide your money. Bury it in the backyard.”

She just had this feeling, she said. Mom’s funny feelings tended to be right. I found an old coffee can—one of those extra-wide Blue Plate ones from the 1940’s in her attic—and buried it under a bush in the backyard. Mark controlled most of our finances, but I worked as a stylist on the side. Every week, I added that money to the can.

The weekend after Mark kicked me out, I parked a little distance from the house and sneaked into the backyard. Quietly, I dug up the can. Thank you Mom, I thought. I just hope it’s enough.

A few days later, I found the place to start anew—an historic log cabin. With some fixing up, it could be the stuff of my dreams. The seller wasn’t asking much, but the buyer would have to produce cash for the down payment.

It cost exactly what I’d squirreled away in Mom’s coffee can. Down to my last dollar.


So until tomorrow…”If we want to change the world, achieve goals, and leave a legacy…maybe we need to understand that sometimes doing without means ending up being able to do more. Let’s all strive to be more frugal, prudent, and thrifty.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Jo, in her usual witty self, shared this comment from yesterday’s blog with me….in case you didn’t see it…here is an excerpt. (Remember it was about missing our own typo’s when writing)

“…I do agree with you that it is so much easier to spot errors in someone else’s writing, and yet, it is after it is sent that we can find ours. To show you how the teacher never leaves us: once when Joe had had some throat surgery, I gave him one of the girl’s little pads that you could write on, lift the clear top sheet and the words would disappear.

When he wrote to me, I found myself correcting the spelling, and then writing back. He just sighed and said, “Jo, I’m just trying to give you a quick message, and really, I can’t talk, but I can hear.”



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The “Blinders” in Life

Dear Reader:

“Blindness” comes in so many different forms…but there is one, as a writer now, that I face every single day while working on my blog posts…the blindness of typo’s. This particular blindness never fails to astound me.

I can read, re-read, and even re-re-read what I have just completed for the next day’s post and never see those sneaky “typo’s” hidden within the passages. How can that be? My eyes still work (after all the cataract surgeries they should)…so how could I have missed this or that spelling or grammatical error(s)?

I remember my friend and fellow breast cancer buddy, Theresa Winders, used to be my spell-checker. I miss Theresa’s extra pair of eyes and I always marveled how she found the errors so quickly… while I had been oblivious to them.

It is a strange twist in life that provides this quite common dilemma in which we can spot everyone else’s typo’s but our own. (As a former teacher this is quite  irksome and even downright embarrassing.)

I believe this visual gap exists because we know exactly what we mean and are trying to say, within our content, so our writings read perfectly to us. If we pass it on, however, to a fresh pair of eyes, we get a whole new perspective. Others can see what we have missed.

It becomes quite easy to stagnate and become the “unteachable teacher”.

I remember I used to hold my breath each year when teaching assignments were given out…praying  I wouldn’t have to teach another subject, or a different grade level, along with my usual eighth grade social studies curriculum. When it did happen occasionally, I would be upset and complain (to anyone who cared to listen) that I felt my “expertise” wasn’t being applied wisely to the students assigned to me.

In other words I didn’t want to have to learn a new subject to teach when I was so comfortable in my old one….years of lesson plans and projects ready to be dusted off and re-played. Unknowingly I was evolving into the ‘unteachable teacher.’

Isn’t this true in life? When God shakes up our ‘little too comfortable’ lives… it is for a reason. He wants us to take the blinders off, look around, and start a new adventure. Life is too short not to do this…

So until tomorrow…Let’s stop, vigorously shake our own personal snow globe existence…and, then, watch the fun fall.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

While searching out “typo’s” I found some funny ones on-line. Here are a few:

Perhaps “Preface” would have worked better here.

*Hum….speaking of “typo’s”… did anyone catch a rather glaring one yesterday. I did… (about 4:00) in the afternoon. I was talking about pulling on Tigger’s leash…but I spelled it “lease.” The only plausible explanation (I can reason) for this misspelling is the ‘southerner in me’ whose dialect fails to attach consonants to the end of words.

Thankfully…there isn’t a spelling test (hopefully) at the Pearly Gates because I would be sitting down pretty quickly. *Or perhaps God takes into consideration where we were raised and realizes that misspellings were the “lease” of our problems! 🙂

*Ding-Dong….the Dingle girls (Doodle and Lassie) were here yesterday and ‘oh what fun’ they brought! Orange and purple Clemson-colored flowers and bright yellows to mix. The best part was catching up, however….so great to see them!

  • Don’t worry anyone… “Little Red” will be returning soon to reclaim his rightful throne. He is still at Tommy and Kaitlyn’s house growing into his new role as “King of the Porch.” We will make the switch Saturday at Jakie’s birthday party and he will return home with me Sunday! I have missed my “Little Red” but so appreciative of Tommy and Kaitlyn taking him in during the storm.

It is ironic that Doodle and Lassie stopped by yesterday since Lassie’s birthday is before mine…actually…TODAY!

Happy Birthday Lassie! We are always so glad to be “fall gals”….because fall flowers are the queens and princesses of the most perfect season of all!

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The Beautiful Journey of Becoming

Dear Reader:

I was delightfully surprised yesterday to discover the HOPE cloth letters were still hanging from my back deck rails…being held up by little pin tacks (left over from teaching days!) Way to go HOPE I thought to myself!

Upon closer scrutiny, however, I realized the letter “O” had taken a beating and was now tattered and torn…but still waving in the merry breeze. (I had a “deja vous” moment that this is how Francis Scott Key must have felt seeing the American flag (the Stars and Stripes) tattered and torn, still flying over the remains of the bombardment of Fort McHenry!)

The more I thought about it, the clearer the metaphor crystallized in my mind….it was only the letter “O” that was torn and isn’t this true of us humans when we begin to lose hope in our own individual problems throughout life? We lose hope when we lose faith….the “Oh me…this is never going to work”  “Oh my goodness, there is no way out…all hope is gone or “Oh no…there is no solution to my problem.”

How quickly we forget that we mere mortals can not solve the problem but there is absolutely no problem, no matter how mammoth it is in our own psyches, that God can’t handle. It is when we lose sight of this most important fact that our “Oh, I am doomed” mentality takes over and brings us down. We never gave God a chance to help because He wouldn’t compromise His own time-line for our personal solution. He knows the answers to the where, what, when, and why questions that plague us.

Like in the popular old sitcom…“Father Knows Best.” He really does!

In order to see God’s plan unveiling we have to become human “beings” again….not human “doings.

I have noticed that every time we walk Tigger when I am staying over at John and Mandy’s… whoever has his lease is constantly pulling on it (or calling out to him to hurry along, or keep up) to make Tigger stop sniffing leaves, trash, or whatever else he finds along the path. He is in the moment…blissfully unaware of anyone else’s schedule…just loving life with each sniff and leg up calling card.

Tigger has little memory of the past and none of the future…which makes him the happiest member of the family…taking everything in stride at the moment it happens, then completely forgetting about it and moving on.

I sometimes think that man paid a high price for having three time zones built into our psyches… a past, present, and future. All other animal creations on earth have no concerns outside the present…thus they are never bogged down with past and future worries.

Tigger has his daily rituals (which include a lot of naps) and his bedtime playtime with Tiger, his favorite stuffed animal that Joan and W.T. gave him as a puppy. Life is simple, life is good for Tigger.

Isn’t it a shame that we humans can’t lock up our pasts and futures each evening in a secret “attic” of our mind so we always sleep peacefully and dream only of the moment?

So until tomorrow…We must remember that there is real joy in slowing down and ‘smelling the roses.’ If we eat more slowly we savor the tastes of the meal, if we breathe more slowly we allow oxygen to circulate more effectively throughout our bodies, and if we walk more slowly…we arrive back home feeling a lot less flustered and we certainly had more fun getting there.  (So did your dog!:)

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh







*I let Jane Powell, owner of Random Arts know I was putting a ‘shout-out’ to her and her amazing shop in yesterday’s blog. Look at this sweet response of gratitude I received.

It reminded me how important it is to slow down and write or send those notes, emails, or texts that we know will mean a lot to the recipient. We here at Chapel of Hope Stories wish you and your store all the best life has to offer Jane! Until we see each other again…

Hi Becky,

You are so sweet to have sent me the link to your blog and I thoroughly

enjoyed reading all about your Saluda adventures.

Thank you for mentioning Random Arts and thank you for spending time

here in our shop. It’s moments and times like this and your visit that

remind me of why owning this shop is so important to me. It is an emotional

and financial challenge sometimes and after 24 years of doing this I continually

reflect on times like this with you and your friends and realize again

that this is why I do this.

Thank you so much and thanks to Honey too.





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Rocking Through Rocky Weather…From the Mountains, to the Midlands, to the Coast

Dear Reader:

What is it about a rocking chair? I love them…I think it is just the rhythm and aimless motion that soothes us as adults like it did when we were babies and toddlers.

The first thing the Ya’s love to do when we get to the Saluda cabin is throw everything inside and run to the porch…to settle in….because like worshipers at church whatever chair or sofa you first settle in is where you will be the rest of the time…that will be your place. So I got a chair that slowly rocked back and forth.

Little did any of us know, upon first arrival, that the time to rock would be quite limited but a God’s Wink would keep rocking throughout the retreat.

Saluda is so cute….you just want to wrap it up and put a bow on top. It has been awhile since we came directly to the cabin and not Honey’s home first…so I was amazed at how much Saluda had grown with boutiques, diners, bakeries, floral stores, clothing stores and lots and lots of fun antique shops! We only got a few hours one morning to see a couple of shops but it was so much fun. Even coming in…the signs for Saluda were bright and inviting.

Unfortunately for the International Tryon Equestrian Show…Hurricane Florence was threatening to put a “damper” on festivities though the plans for the show were still going on…Saluda had put up their horse art decor, along with the other small towns, to show their support.

No matter where we shopped or went we always agreed on where we wanted to pick up breakfast or lunch….Ward’s Grill! (Adjoined to Thompson’s grocery store…the oldest grocery store in North Carolina.) Both places take us back to our childhoods and youth growing up.

Honey told Brooke about a cute, fun shop called Random Arts….run by Jane Powell. We had so much fun in there and Jane made us feel like part of the town family immediately. In fact everyone in Saluda is so outgoing and friendly you just end up leaving every place with a smile on your face. This shop has a little of everything you can ever imagine wanting and then some…(it is located 1 mile off I-26 coming into Saluda!)

Brooke, Jackson and their new friend….and Jane Powell, the owner!

There were more places to see…unfortunately we only got to visit a couple of them…but these Saluda shops have the most unique items for sale…things that you or a recipient would never see again. And the flower baskets take your breath away they are so pretty. The western mountains have gotten a lot of rain this summer and you can tell it in their drop-dead gorgeous flowers.

On the way down from the cabin into  town…we kept passing such beautiful home gardens and even a community garden which is such a wonderful idea!

Lunch was at Ward’s Grill...what is it about a grilled cheese sandwich fixed in a diner that is the best comfort food in the world? And we would need it (comfort)…because right after that  Hurricane “Flo” made a western turn more towards the middle of the state and then on up towards the upcountry.

So we packed up but not before Honey came racing down the mountains to bring gifts… a fast birthday gathering. Honey had planned to have us all up for supper so she brought the food down for us take along with gifts galore. We had all gotten Honey something too…one of which was a artsy fun necklace from Random Arts. It might have been quick but thank you all, everyone, for my early birthday remembrance!!!

Honey…we ate all the ‘fixin’s in Columbia and Walterboro…those tomato pies were eaten at each meal…starting with breakfast…along with the squash casserole and the banana pudding!!!!

I will always associate this storm with this particular birthday… just like I associate Hugo with a much earlier one (benchmark 40)….hurricanes seem to time their appearance around my birthdays (spoiler alert)…but maybe God is telling me that it might be stormy but hey I’m still here through storms and all. The best gift of all…life.

I told Brooke I forgot to put on my Clemson necklace the Ya’s got me for the game Saturday (maybe why they seemed a little off)…besides giving me way too many other things….but love you girls…and Honey thanks for my  Clemson Rabbit!!!!! He, too, needed to watch the game! I will plan better next Saturday while I light my candle….that should do it!

One good thing about not getting around to several places on my wish list…is that they will be there next time we go….places like the Saluda Depot & Museum, lots and lots of cute shops, and Pearson Falls…a beautiful walking, bird sanctuary, and wildflower display area around the falls between Tryon and Saluda.

Our adventure now extended into Columbia… getting two of the Ya’s home and a fun spend-the-night with Jackson before we took the back roads home to Walterboro where I stayed until after the storm (which thankfully was not as bad as some thunderstorms we have had this summer.) But it did give us time to have our own little Hurricane Florence party…Ted makes a mean marguerita!

*As we came into Columbia…Brooke and I looked up to see a rainbow right in front of us…staying put all the way to Jackson’s home…a good omen.

A museum I want to take the grandchildren to…is another railroad museum  in Branchville…I think they would love it! It was so relaxing (we were about the only people on the road) to go through small towns with beautiful old houses and perfectly manicured lawns.

Since Hurricane Florence seemed intent on taking her sweet time to arrive…Brooke took me to the nature park with their HUGE logo rocking chair smack dab in the middle before the nature trails start.

Yep….we rocked in Saluda and we rocked in Walterboro…We had come full circle- from the mountains to the lowcountry!

So until tomorrow…One day (of all the birthdays that will stand out in my memory)…the “Hugo” and “Florence” birthdays will definitely stand alone….one left me with a lot of repairs, the other left me alone… thanks for my present Hurricane Florence.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

The couple God Wink? Meet Betty and Vick Murdaugh…actually Dr. Vick Murdaugh. We  met them three times randomly on our trip…

*The first time was at a very popular diner off the Winnsboro/Newberry Exit  from I-26…a place called Bill & Fran’s. It was so packed in this diner (we traditionally stop there) that all of us could hardly get in the door. This nice couple started talking with Brooke and they agreed to help each other look for someone leaving a table and grab it for each other. So nice and friendly…they made a lasting impression immediately!

*Then when Brooke, Jackson, and I went to Ward’s Grill for lunch Tuesday…lo and behold there they were with friends from Saluda who Brooke knew! We couldn’t believe we had ended up together again in the same mountain town… it was crowded at Ward’s lunch seating too. *(It felt like we had a part in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ and we just kept repeating the same crowded lunch scene over and over.)

Then Wednesday all four of us went back to Ward’s for lunch and (you guessed it) there sat Betty and Vick. This time, however, our booths were next to each other and we discovered that Betty had once lived in Charleston, they both now lived in Columbia, and everyone of us had a connection to them through mutual neighbors or friends or family…  we even shared health issues that Dr. Murdaugh once specialized in.

It wasn’t six degrees of separation…it was closer than that…maybe two. It got me thinking…that every time we go somewhere…a movie, a restaurant, a social event…we probably don’t realize that people we are talking to socially are somehow related to us or to someone we mutually know. Once again, it brings home the universal truth that we are all connected…citizens of the world!

We couldn’t end our time together without an eating photo…it is what we do best and enjoy the most…life is too short not to! Vick took this last picture of us together at Ward’s Grill.

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When Hurricanes Turn into “Whangdoodles”

Dear Reader:

What is that old Robert Burns quote again…“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This quote pretty well sums up our mountain retreat because (Hurricane Florence) “Slow Flo” decided to go with the old adage “It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.” And change it she did…every few hours.

This unstable atmosphere did topple plans but opened up opportunities for other plans. Since I am later getting home than expected…it will be tomorrow before I will be able to pull pictures and recreate some of the fun places we did visit in our beloved Saluda.

Just let me say that we had some unusual experiences like running into one couple in different places around our state…a God Wink extraordinaire, gorgeous mountain flowers, and friendly mountain people who we returned (again and again) to talk and laugh with…

Because of all the recent ‘message in a bottle’ blog posts I found a bottle I was going to present to all the Ya’s (at the end of the retreat) and discuss with them possibilities of sending out a Ya “hello” message in it…telling a potential finder a synopsis of our unusual friendship of great longevity.

The next time we have a beach retreat we will definitely have to come up with a great Ya story… including pictures and information on how to find us, put it in the bottle and let her go. Where and when it ends up…nobody knows.

Brooke’s husband, Ted, gave me a book by a friend of his, Clark Thompson, who grew up in Saluda… it had me completely enthralled for hours. The author’s old home place  still exists right off the road where the “Ya mountain retreat” is located.

Isn’t it interesting how every region of our country creates their own imaginary monsters…told  children around campfires and sleep-overs. For Clark…this person was Ed, a friend of the family, who “in his mischievous way, loved to create fear in our young minds by telling stories about monstrous “whangdoodles” who lured victims into a barn and then snatched the little kids.”  

*(Clark and all his siblings were so scared, they got to crossing the street in front of the barn to get to their house next door.)

Hurricanes are adult “whangdoodles” …we fear, not only their  (potentially very real)  physical destructive power, but their psychological destructive power too… on our feelings. Especially if we have lived through such an event.

Just let me say that all the Ya’s are safe and sound with our humble abodes intact. We know how lucky we are…yet these feelings of gratitude are also accompanied by a sense of guilt for those who are not as fortunate.

When I saw pictures of my birthplace and childhood neighborhood in Fayetteville, North Carolina I felt like weeping. I still have some family and friends there. There is no doubt they must feel like the worst “whangdoodle” of a storm took their homes and security away from them in one flash flood accompanied by powerful winds.

As I thought about humankind and our reactions to destruction compared to everything else in nature it reminded me of this story.

So until tomorrow…

A young woman awoke one morning to see where a spider’s web had gone up overnight stretching from the door to the wall. She realized in a moment she would get up, open the door to begin a new day and by doing so destroy the “webby masterpiece.”

What a terrible set-back for the spider yet there wouldn’t be a negative reaction…she wouldn’t shake her spindly legs in fury, fall into a depression, curse the gods of chance, or seek comfort food…instead she would wander over to another corner of the room and start again.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh



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The Final Message in a Bottle…7

Dear Reader:

We should know that the last (7th) message in a bottle is simply and beautifully about love. A question that has been debated for a long time about love is answered. A short but powerful last message. Enjoy!

The message in this bottle was a question: “Is it better to love or be loved?” Australian teacher Anne O’Sullivan was travelling on a cruise ship past the central Indonesian island of Komodo when she tossed the bottle overboard. “We’re sitting in our balcony pondering. Is it better to love or be loved?” the message read.“Your answer will be appreciated. Call us or write to us.” 

Anne soon forgot about the bottle. Fifteen months later, though, she received a phone call. It was from a woman in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa named Fiona Marlton. She’d discovered the bottle while strolling along the Mozambican shoreline. And she had an answer for Anne.  “It’s better to be loved,” Fiona said. “But to be loved you must love.” 


So until tomorrow….Life is all about love, God is love, and we are loved.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

* Tomorrow….stories from the mountains and anything else that popped up along the way!


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Message in a Bottle -6

Dear Reader:

When the famous, unsinkable Titantic went down….so many passengers were lost at sea with families never knowing their story or thoughts in those last minutes. But what if one message came home from the depths of the sea…a chance to say good-bye?

April 11, 1912. That was the day 19-year-old Jeremiah Burke boarded the RMS Titanic in Queenstown, Ireland, bound for America. The third-class Irish passenger—a native of Glamire, in County Cork—planned on joining his older sister in Boston. But four nights into its journey to New York City, the “unsinkable” Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. Jeremiah went down with the ship, lost in the North Atlantic. 

Fast-forward thirteen months later. That’s when a man stumbled upon a little bottle while walking his dog on the beach in Dunkettle—just miles from Jere-miah’s home in County Cork. He took his find to the police station. Jere-miah’s family was notified. They recognized the bottle at once. 

It was the vial of holy water that Jeremiah’s mother had given him before he set sail. The bottle contained a note in pencil, the holy water gone. Apparently, Jeremiah had used his own bootlace to fasten it. “From Titanic. Good Bye all,” it said. “Burke of Glanmire, Co. Queenstown.” A message that traveled more than a thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean to find its way home.


So until tomorrow thank you Father for good-byes to loved ones…such an important gesture from a loved one to their family. A last gift…peace of mind.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh


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