Mary Beth Writes

I started this a month ago. Time flies…

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 values and values.

 “When I first started in the garbage business back in 1990 with my Dad, our first new truck we bought cost $88,000 … Today we took delivery of a new front loader. The same kind we bought back in 1990. But today that same truck cost $295,000!”

It’s Monday morning and the garbage trucks are growling past.  Welcome to Life in the West - where most of our communities have fleets of $300,000 trucks while our schools can’t afford extra teaching assistants or to give raises to their teachers or to help them pay down their school loans.  But … By Gum, we’ve got garbage trucks to haul away all that plastic that will never decompose.

It's crazy what we get used to thinking of as a normal way to live, says the frog in the getting-hotter pot. Maybe the uncomfortable frog is waiting for Jesus to come back and pull him out

Here’s a Mindful Chickens list of things we/I do or don’t do to spend less while living as well as we want to live.

1. We don’t buy much that is new. This is easy when it comes to clothing and household goods, most of our stuff is thrifted. You know what happened at St. Vinnie’s yesterday? I was chatting with the cashier; she volunteered that she knows she could work elsewhere and make more money, but in her two years there her supervisors and co-workers have never been rude or difficult.  She thinks liking one’s job is worth a lot so she stays. I want to support THAT business.

2. You know what is HARD to buy second-hand? Presents for my kids and grandkids. Each of our kids knows the rationale and techniques for thrifting.  Each kid sometimes buys thrifted things, but they do it in their own ways and I’m not here to have opinions on how they consume. (I really like the multi-thousand-dollar dining room set one bought for a couple hundred and the Craigslist midcentury dressers another one scored.)

Anyways, in case others wonder about this, these are our thoughts about buying gifts. I rarely buy new plastic. There is too much (toxic, ocean destroying) plastic in the world already and many (adorable) plastic toys in our grandkids’ lives. From us the grandkids get books, or handmade toys (not many), or money towards things they need.

For our children and friends, we give homemade or specialty foods, chocolate, and/or booze when it’s appropriate.  I have women friends who DO like things I find at a Goodwill. God bless them for giving me a reason to buy pretty vases, dishes, scarves, and books.

We send cash in birthday cards to the adult kids. Not enough to change anyone’s life, just enough to require that kid (sigh, they ARE all adults, but I can still call them the kids, right?)  to think about what they would like which IMHO is what an adult birthday should be.  A day to slow down and remember what they are about and like to do.

I know and appreciate the approach that gift giving should be about sharing experiences – but our kids live hours away and are super busy people. We do things with them, but on their timing.

3. I did a whole lot of eBaying a week ago. Listed 25 things in two days, it was a slog-fest to list that much. So far I have sold four of the items. This is more about getting rid of treasures that have become clutter.  I also sent some family things to family who wanted the items.  (No money involved except postage.)

4. My mother passed away in 1992. She was not a materialistic person but she was careful to take care of things others gave or left to her. Her small house had two large china hutches filled with pretty stuff. Others took things but, of course, a lot came to me.  And like my mom, I never felt like I could just box it up to donate. These were the remains of the generous lives of the women who came before me.  Sigh. So I guess I have been doing Swedish Death Cleaning slowly, and in spurts, since 1992. 

4 ½. The BEST gift I am giving my kids is that they will not have 400 antique bibbly-bobs to get rid of …

5. THE STOCK MARKET! HOLY COW!  Len and I have lost more in the last few days than I used to make in a year. How’s that for fun?  However, we live on our hard-earned social security benefits and can get along without infusions from our investments if we want/need to. 

Which means those of us securely retired are in a unique place.  Those of us with homes, a car, steady and reliable income – we need to be awake, observant, thoughtful, and creative about ways to share our security in the looming future. I don’t know what that means, but I think we better pay attention.

As folks who have sometimes been poor, strapped, and hard-pressed know – the fastest way to feel more secure is to be generous. If you are feeling scared today, donate to your community’s food pantry or some other helping organization.

That’s all I’ve got right now.


PS: I am scared and sorry for people who are facing insecure futures. But I have to say, one of my fav parts of a bad stock market day are those photos of white men with stricken, terrified faces.  You sort of want to say – “See, this is what it feels like for the rest of us when we do everything right and you screw up our jobs anyway…”


One of my “forever” friends, living in Oakland, CA, mentioned to me that for the 40 days of Lent every day she (and/or hubby) were boxing one item to donate. I decided to follow my fellow Dane’s example. Letting go is a challenge for me; maybe because of all the losses I have had? I have been faithful in my quest and one box filled so far...
Mary Beth's picture

I find that giving things away gets easier the more one does it. In many instances, de-cluttering is very much related in me (and others, I bet) to anger and power. I don't want to take care of old memories anymore. I want to make new ones. Cleared spaces create places where new thoughts will fit.

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Quarantine Diary #645 - Granola

Two recent tweets : Someone named Kate Harding tweeted; “What haunts me is that I am not just smart enough for so many people to be this much stupider than me.”

And from Di, Obstinate Hoper; “I’m starting to think of pandemic caution like labor: buckle down during peaks, relax a little between them. Hang in there, folks. It’s a damn long labor.”

Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

Mindful Chickens - Plastic & Hunger 12/20/2020

I went for a walk on Wednesday and saw this mitten on a sidewalk. When I was at the same spot on Friday, it was still there, so I brought it home because it is a hand-knitted kid mitten, ya know? Any knitters out there interested in making it a mate, so that we could give it to a kid in my community or your? It's 7" from top to ribbed bottom. 


The point of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money while being mindful of the environment and our human values. We can try, right?

Holy Mackerel! Mindful Chickens 12/12/2020

Yamiche and Weijia licking out the mackerel bowl this morning.


I said I would write “mindful things” we did this week. The agenda of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money plus be mindful of the environment and our other values at the same time. Sometimes, one of those purposes wins over the other, but we can think before we spend, right?

1. I cut my hair. This is not a particular skill of mine, but I can do it well enough to not look like the Pittsburgh Paint Dutch boy.

Who Let the Chickens Out?

Mindful Chickens i.e., being frugal and living by our values instead of by blithering consumerism is how this blog started. Yet I seldom post lists anymore about choices Len and I make that hit that marker because I can tell from who follows me that this is not why most of you are here.

But today I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. Preparing the Light Posts takes me a long time so I am not going to do one – I do plan to be back at it Monday.

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