Mary Beth Writes

Mindful Chickens are (for people who don’t know why I call them this) about:

ONE: Being Cheap (cheep, cheep).

TWO: Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

THREE: Did you know you can enter “flying chickens” as an actual searchable topic in YouTube? Did you know you can lose an hour (or more) of your life this way? It’s been quite a week over here, doing many needful and not-so-needful things – including watching chickens fly.

Retirement is like this. I wake up in the morning and don’t know what I am doing that day because nearly every day has some an appointment, obligation, meet-up, or deadline in it. I can’t remember what’s going on until I check my calendar to see what’s going on. Plus I have things I need to write that loom over my head like helium balloons at a first grader’s birthday party. I don’t necessarily have to write “whatever” thing today, but I do have to do it, and those wafting-around balloons are also part of my daily non-routine.

I wonder if the reason older people worry about losing their mental sharpness is not because they are – but because retired people do so many different things in a day and in a week. 

Are you retired? I dare you to tell me what’s in your schedule for next week. I have church and choir, Len’s sister and her family coming here for some hours (not enough hours, she’s fun to have around!), donating blood, tutor at the local elementary school, a meeting for which I should have completed a big project I have not yet started, getting a crown replaced in my mouth (durn), a discussion group for which I should read stuff I have not yet started to read, and getting ready for (is our tent still in one piece? what else should we bring? what should we cook?) and then meeting some of our kids to camp next weekend.

The days of get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, do chores, fall into bed and then do it all over again - those days have flown like flying chickens.

This week Wisconsin has been BEAUTIFUL. Jack Stubbs (pastor at our United Methodist church in Racine) used to start Sunday services during weather like this, “Welcome to the Suncoast of Wisconsin! Aren’t you glad you aren’t on vacation this week? It would be a waste of money!”

This is how I was a “cheap, cheep, mindful” chicken this week:

1. The house painter finally finished painting our house! It only took him 3 ½ months! All summer we had this extra adult somewhere outside plus there were minor things we had to do to accommodate him. He didn’t come on rainy or threatening-to-rain days. He has some other enterprises; sometimes he did those things instead of paint. He went on vacation with his wife.

We asked him to do several extra side-jobs which he did beautifully – all this and our cost was still under the estimates of the professional companies to paint the exterior walls only.

So we were patient and respectful at our end, he did a careful and beautiful job. Win-win?

I don’t know if there is a frugal lesson in here. I mostly think we were just A. lucky and B. patient.  

Only clue is this. Last summer on a walk I noticed a house being painted and it looked nice. I asked the painter for a business card and that is how we found Brian. He likes to work by himself and he doesn’t advertise.  Maybe if you have a pricy project in your future, start asking around now?

2. So the weather was great and the painting is done. I chose to revel in the breezy sunshine and lack of a Brian-on-a-ladder by finally working in my yard.

A. I planted perennials in the small patch in front of the house in the two years we’ve lived here. I like the flowers in the summer but after they fade there’s nothing the other half of the year.  When Brian needed access to that area, I dug out the plants and moved them to our side yard. I didn’t do much more than get the roots buried so they wouldn’t die.

B. This week I used my Mother’s Day gardening center gift certificate from my kids. Boy, things are really on sale in September! I bought three hydrangea bushes - $40/each in the spring – for $8.75 each, plus many other plants. Everything was 40-75% off.

C. Dug a new flower bed and moved the perennials into it. (And had to get out of bed at 2AM that night to take more ibuprofen…)

D. Got free compost at the city recycling center. We (and everyone else in our city) take yard waste there. They compost it and leave hills of that good stuff for citizens. There are rules to prevent landscaping services from stealing it, but folks like me are welcome.  I got lots and plan to get more.

3. There were bags of dinged-up peppers on an endcap at the grocery store. I bought 10 peppers, various kinds and colors, for $2. I will chop them and add to the bag of chopped green peppers in the freezer. Handy all year.

4. Franc handed me his thrifted copy of “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. What does one call the second person to read a secondhand book? This was a really good book explaining with humor and biting insight what it is like to grow up in a profoundly racist society – and it will inform my thinking for a long time.

5. We went out for a ride after sunset one evening this week. Len thought the moon was going to rise skinny and low, but we never found the moon at all. Instead we parked by the boardwalk that crosses the slough behind Target, and we walked on in the dark. I guess this wasn’t the same as hiking in Arizona (like my pix), but the air was cool, we heard things rustling in the reeds, and we saw planets and stars.

The whole world is out there.









The fabric of our lives ——-

Add new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Mindful Chickens – The “It’s been a while...” edition 1/18/2019

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”.

I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

The Choosing Season

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.”  (

The Arrows of Yore

I have a weird dark closet in the back of my soul. In it are critical things people have said to me in my life. I rarely consciously think about those old cuts and criticisms, but they are tucked in back there and sometimes I remember them uneasily.

Here are some of my particular arrows of yore:

“Can’t you do anything with her hair, Dorothy?” Dorothy was my mom. My dad liked his daughters’ hair to be curly and orderly, mine was straight and flyaway. I think I was in my 40’s before I realized OMG I do not have “problem hair”… whatever the hell that is.

Make Persimmon Cookies; Don’t make a Persimmon Life.

We are new subscribers to “Imperfect Produce” which is a service that delivers imperfect (duh) but safe and flavorful veggies and fruit to your house. This helps to keep “imperfect” produce from being wasted. (  I don’t get kickbacks from them.)

We are open-minded about trying new things to eat so when they included a pomegranate – cool. I enjoyed pomegranate, raisin, and walnut oatmeal I invented for myself.

Buy Angry

Frugality is a tool and a weapon. You can use it to be powerful.


Frugality and Privacy

 “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”

When one of our kids was 8-years old, Len thought it would be fun to let that kid drive his car. I swear - though I doubt you will believe me - no drinking was involved. Len just really believes in our kids and sometimes this turns into bigger adventures than one would expect.

Did I mention the car was in the garage so it needed to be backed out? Also, the child in question was too short to adequately reach the pedals.

Ad Promotion