Monday, December 1, 2014

The Lean Years and an In Blue Giveaway

--Drawing Over--
Thanks this week to Michelle. You may know her as FacingWest. Thank you for making it possible, Michelle. 
One of the reasons that I'm scared to have children is because I can't give them everything my parents gave me. I was raised in the roaring 90s and things were different. I call this time now 'the lean years.' It has a Steinbeck-esque feel to it, which I like. It also carries with it a touch of nostalgia, which makes it feel as though these days won't last forever. Which they probably won't, but it's nice to be reminded of that.  

It's not that my kids won't eat or have a nice place to sleep. It's just that it feels irresponsible to even consider having another little person around to pay for when my finances are uncertain. There- that's a good word for it. Uncertain. The other day I got out a calculator and a piece of paper and I pushed a bunch of numbers, and I figured out that I will be perfectly 'financially ready' for my kids to arrive by the year of 2021.

I didn't like that number. So I flipped over the paper and I drew a line through the middle of it. On one side I wrote a list of things that I grew up with that my kid probably won't, like 'country house.' On the other I made a list of all the things my parents gave me that I could do right this very minute. For example, my mom read to us every single night. I could afford to do that. We played outside all the time. We saw our cousins constantly.

I was sincerely surprised to find that most of my memories from childhood, which are all good and I'd like to replicate them all for my kid, were not the product of money, but just the product of having really good parents.

Now, if you think that what I'm trying to get at is that kids are free, money is meaningless and life is easy, hush, because that's not what I mean and you know it.

Since coming to that somewhat startling realization, I have been paying attention to the good moments in my life that cost very little or nothing at all. Like playing card games with our friends, radio shows, taking the dog on long walks or spending all day on the river in a borrowed canoe. Like being all alone and getting naked and lying in bed with your favorite book. Or cooking a nice dinner that didn't cost much, but you've finally figured out how to use spices so it still tastes good.

I have a lot of those free moments, free days even, because when it comes to being thrifty and innovative, my boyfriend is Superior, capitol S intentional.

You could argue that everything has a cost, the gas in the car to get here or there, the cards on the table and the tea in the glass, but that's okay. A little money is okay. A little money doesn't scare me.

There are a lot of pleasant blogs, books and websites out there that have photos of very beautiful, soothing scenes of mountain cabins and great, white swathes of living room with big fire places and ocean views. And big wooden tables of sparkling glass wear and artesian salt and crushed velvet blankets and Kitchen-aid appliances and I could go on! Because I, like a lot of people, have spent time, and continue to spend time, just gazing at those pictures. They're really quite nice.

But what if I could find a way to document the things we do that don't cost as much, those things that we are guaranteed to be able to give to our kids? To recognize those moments, to seek them out more often then not, and present them so they look just as appealing as they truly are- I think I'm up for the task.

Alright, it's Monday. And it's the first of December, not technically but for all intents and purposes the beginning of winter, so we ought to start it out with a giveaway.
I'm thrilled to introduce to you one of my very favorite makers. In Blue Handmade is a small, local business from right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The bags, wallets, leather bound journals and flasks are gorgeously soft and handmade. And to really bring it home, they can be custom printed just for you.

I love my In Blue sketch book. Here is where I record the random post ideas that walk through my head, keep track of the assorted blog mail that comes in and out, and straight up write letters of encouragement to myself. If I die tomorrow I'd like this to be firmly sealed shut, then bronzed.
I chose to wait until the holidays to introduce In Blue Handmade, because you'll find some unique and affordable gifts on this site. The pieces are pretty and functional and design-y and if you're like me, you'll fall head over heals for the flasks in particular.  
But this week's giveaway is not entirely for you- it's for you to give to someone else.
photo credit: in blue handmade
In the comment section, tell me about a friend who deserves some recognition. Someone who sets the clock an hour early, goes to bed after everyone is asleep, scribbles down ideas in the checkout line or waits tables to support their woodwork or their husband's paintings. Someone who works a twelve hour shift and then comes home and makes dinner, or has played every open mic in town even when there is nobody to hear it, or who opened their own business even with absolutely no guarantee of success, because there never is.

Tell me about someone who raises their kid and then stays awake at the kitchen table with coffee and a calculator, stretching every single cent that comes in. Tell me about that person especially, because that's going to be me one day.

It does not have to be a creative endeavor, although everything that's difficult is kind of a creative endeavor. It doesn't have to be anything in particular. Just tell me about a friend who works hard, who could use a little honor, and a beautiful leather-bound journal full of blank space that they don't have to share. (Who couldn't use a little space?)

As always, I will randomly select a winner from the comments. If you're chosen, your friend will receive this leather bicycle journal in the mail, from you and In Blue Handmade. I will inscribe the front page with the words you wrote about them in your comment.
photo credit: in blue handmade
I can't win the giveaway, but I still want to play. I would nominate my sister, Anna Coogan. Anna has given her entire life to music. She's hauntingly talented in a brutal industry, and I have never seen anyone work harder. Holy shit, I don't know how you do it.


Kim said...

My parents had me when they were my age (24) and my brother when they were 25. I've always know that they hustled and did a lot with a little but it wasn't until this year that it really dawned on me how hard it must have been and how much they gave up. But they were great parents! They also read to us and took us to free concerts in the park and on long bike rides. We'd rent movies and books from the library every weekend. So even as a kid when I started to notice that we didn't go out to eat like my friends did and that we lived in an apartment while most of my friends were in houses I also knew that I was the lucky one. Because my folks were and remain great and dedicated parents.

Which brings me to the giveaway! My mother is the hardest working person I know. She has worked in the NICU as a nurse for over 20 years and now, as a woman in her late forties, is pursuing her bachelors in Nursing (she has a two-year/diploma degree). It is taking her a while to finish (although she is getting really close!) but I so, so value having gone to school at the same time as she did. It is really hard to feel overwhelmed when you know that back home your own ma is working her usual 3-11pm shift AND writing papers AND doing other general adult things you haven't even yet had to fathom (helping her own aging parents, helping me her daughter away at school). She is the bomb. A total inspiration.

P.S. Thank you for the card!

Anonymous said...

12 years ago my husband chose to leave his country and come to Canada to make a life with me. He sacrificed and gave up more than I will ever know. There are times when I know his heart and mind are somewhere else but he never once complained. 2 beautiful children later, 2 full time jobs and lots of daily stressors and he works so hard everyday to make a life for our family. I am so grateful to him for everything we share together.

Momma Bee said...

Ok, so an entire community of people are in my mind for this, but I suppose I'll give the story of 3 and choose one.

My cousin Kevin just received a new kidney, donated to him by his own brother, Steve. After a ridiculous battle with insurance, it was determined that Kevin and his wife Mindy would have to raise $65,000 in order for the transplant to happen. With the help of family, friends, and their church happened. In one month. ONE MONTH is all it took to raise that money for one of the most deserving families.

But Kevin's wife, Mindy, is the one who deserves this gift.

Mindy was the pillar of strength and determination through their journey. She taught at her school, raised their two daughters and kept them as unfrightened as possible with all of Kevin's medical issues, and supported Kevin for every one of his needs. She is outstanding, loving, giving, and kind. A true child of God and the definition of what a wife and mother should be. She is so deserving!

Anonymous said...

Just the fact that you are carefully considering these things in advance means you are going to be a great mama and provider. And remember that babies don't need fancy salt to be happy! (And if they do, there's always Dave's sister's thoughtful gifts.)

What a wonderful prompt! I'd like to nominate my best friend Sarah. Sarah had her two babes before the rest of us, stayed at home with them till they went to school, then went right back to school herself for her masters in social work. She never once paused for a once needed break. She works in a very difficult, emotionally demanding environment and still has time to listen to my longwinded talks and complaints!

Alice said...

I have to say my mom. She raised three daughters; my youngest sister is living in Japan with their only grandchild, my middle sister has Aspergers, bipolar, and ADHD, and then there myself who's just a mess in every way possible. She's been our mom, our friend, and our free therapist through everything and never waivered or given up. She deserves more than any of us will ever be able to give.

Valerie W. said...

I nominate my sister, Natalie. She has three littles, all under 5. She works 40+ hours a week. And has to be at work by 6:30 am. She goes to sleep at 11 sometimes 12 and is up at 5:00 am. She packs her husbands lunch everyday before work. She's always putting someone other than herself first. She doesn't have free time. Her private moments are usually spent in the bathroom and that's only if she remembers to lock the door. After a 10 hour work day, she comes home and makes a dinner. I'd probably make hot dogs or mac and cheese, not Natalie. She's going to make a dinner that would put Martha Stewart to shame. Her babies require her constant attention. "Mamamamamamamama" is her name. She listens, she hugs, she kisses, she reads, she cooks, she loves.

Stephanie Abdon said...

Since it's a bicycle journal, it would have to be my friend George. He travels the world via bicycle, even following the Tour de France and attending the Cannes Film Festival. His blog is great, but this would be a lovely way to record his journeys.

KeelyO said...

My partner, Sean, teaches science in one of the lowest performing schools in Arkansas. He works his butt off every day and every night to empower those kids with the skills and knowledge of science. When he gets home from school, he takes off the tie and pursues his passion for cooking and charcuterie. He gardens in the dark and the frost and raises, slaughters and butchers his own animals so that he can lay a plate on the table and say "I made that and it didn't hurt anyone or anything. Taste it"
After dinner he grades papers and plans lessons for the next day. Every choice he makes makes the world a better place.

Mandy Weston said...

I would like to nominate my amazing sister, Heather. At the tender age of 17, she decided to pursue a degree that will allow her to educate special needs children. Not only does she go to school full time, but she also works as a home aid for a pre-teen-aged girl with brain damage, she works in her school's book store, she volunteers with various university groups on the weekends, AND she somehow still manages to run half-marathons every few months. It's really incredible to watch my (now 20-year-old) sister become a motivated and selfless person.

Tonya Taylor said...

My best friend and husband, Jason, deserves this. Every day he does things that change my world. He makes me laugh, keeps me centered, and is my safe place. He loves me and our daughter hard and it shows in every decision he makes. Jason is the unsung hero of our family. I couldn't love or appreciate him any more if I tried.

Unknown said...

My sweet friend Amy had her first baby just before she turned 40, after a 56 hour labor! She comes to work every day in a good mood, her smile causing happiness in everybody, and still takes great care of her beautiful little girl after a sometimes arduous day. Amy truly brings light and goofiness into this world.

adventurekate said...

I love this perspective. It's gratitude and simplicity wrapped into a tight little bundle.
I'm nominating my friend Kelly for the works-her-toosh-off-and-keeps-smiling award. She is the friend that reminds me that keeping my nose to the grindstone is so worth it when you're working for something you really care about. Anytime we're together, our days are filled with cribbage games, pie making mania, and walks in the woods. With Kelly, I'm always reminded that the best things in life aren't things.

Aimee said...

I would send it to my 'bis sis' Sarah. Because one day, when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

Emily said...

My Husband moved out of his house when he was 18 and a senior in high school. He paid bills and made appointments with the gas office before he came to school. I ate my waffles in my bedroom floor and went over vocab words one last time before school. Now, he heads up our growing family of 5 like a boss, goes to work at a job that demands so much of him, and brings me Coke Icees when I don't fell well. He lets our oldest son be the Nerf gun sniper, puts our daughter's barely-there hair in pony tails because he likes to, and gets an extra straw for our baby to chew on when we go out to eat. He's THAT awesome.

Lis said...

I want to give a nod to my sister. She has been working as a paralegal, a job she hates, for many years. Recently she worked up the courage to go part-time at her firm and spend the rest of her time studying to become a personal trainer. This girl epitomizes the saying "though she be but little, she is fierce." I'm so proud of her for taking the leap,
for devoting the hours, and for making
Her dreams a reality.

khamzi said...

My sister. She has three wonderful children, one adopted from Ethiopia with terminal health problems. Not only is she a wonderful mother who cooks delicious meals, has learned to use a lot from her land(raises chickens, a turkey for this thanksgiving, using rose hips to make lotion). But home schools her children cause she thought their public school education was not efficient enough and left little time for play. Did I mention that she is a hospice nurse on the weekends, meaning she literally has not one day for herself.

Susan said...

My friend Shelly's life has been difficult. She lost her three month old baby nine years ago in a crib accident. Then, while on a babymoon vacation with her husband, Josh, a dive into the ocean waves ended with Josh nearly dying and becoming a quadriplegic. A few months after that, Shelly discovered that her husband had been having an affair. Shelly epitomizes to me, beauty from the ashes. Together with her husband, and their steadfast faith, they rebuilt their lives. They struggle but they are joyful. I would love her to have something special from this wonderful shop!

Bekah said...

I want to say my momma, because all of the stuff you just said about raising kids, she did it. I never (ever!) knew we were poor until kids in middle school told me we were...personally I think they got it wrong, but I guess by the numbers we were. I loved my childhood, and I try hard to raise my boys the same way. We have been up and down financially in the five years that I have been a momma, down as low as literally living in an unfinished basement with a five month old baby. And you know what - I wouldn't change a damn thing about when I had my babies. We done some pretty amazing things with the boys, and I will tell you right now that as much as they liked disneyworld (which was a gift - because holy shit tickets are absurd) they still mostly talk about our fun times hiking nearby or throwing rocks at the river. I don't know where my comment is going, and I'm not trying to preach, all I'm trying to say is you can do it. And it can be amazing.

DeNae said...

My husband and I have four kids. On paper we can't afford them. Yet we are ridiculously, decadently rich in all the ways that matter most. We just moved across the country for the chance to ski new mountains and hike new trails. We've found that our unexpected adventures make for the best stories and the most memorable moments. Money buys food and gas, but not happiness. But I know you know that.

As for a friend. I have a friend who works tirelessly and is ridiculously good at pretty much everything she tries. It'd be really annoying if she weren't so incredible. She and her husband are the best team I've ever seen. They are artists and teachers, musicians and community builders. I'd love to surprise her with a beautiful gift to write down all of her beautiful ideas.

Sri said...

Maybe I need to start thinking about these things, because both your last prompt and this one has left me stumped.

Liz Stout said...

My brother. He left this little West Virginia town in the mountains in pursuit of an acting career in NYC. His first year there hasn't been easy, but he's stayed on his feet and pursued. He's found gigs in indie films and commercials amongst the many auditions he's pursued. He's worked up to 3 jobs at 3 different restaurants that took up nearly every waking hour of every day every week to make ends meet. He's been in three different apartments in less than a year's time as he struggled to find a good fit for both his home/personal life, his finances, and his working world. He definitely chose the road less traveled for most folks from this small town, but he's determined and he's plowing on through to make it work! He's now working one really great job at a restaurant, has found an incredible girl who cooks fabulous meals at home, and has time to make nearly every audition he deems worthy - or at least that his agent (!!!) thinks is worth his time. I'm so proud of him.

Jill said...

There are so many people in my life I am awed by: my sister, my best friends, my husband. But for this giveaway, I want to honor my Mom. She was and is one of those moms who loves her kids fiercely and always puts them first. She encourages us, gave us opportunities, and always lets us know we're loved. She also works so hard. She was a single mom for a few years and she's always had to work to support us. Yet we always seemed to have enough and she made sure she stretched those dollars she earned. She teaches second grade and she's a phenomenal teacher- one of those that kids remember years afterwards. She has dedicated her life to kids- her own and others. She's getting a little burned out at work- teaching is pretty overwhelming. I can't wait until the day she gets the break she deserves. Plain and simple, my mom inspires me. I hope I'm as good of a mother someday as she has been to my sister and I.

Karen said...

My aunt is the youngest of 8: my dad's little sister.
She raised her boys without much money. They are now kind, conscientious, hard working men. She has known the pain of addiction, the loss of a brother, a husband and her mother. Despite the profound loss in her life, she remains a fun, thoughtful and creative person. She really listens when others are speaking. She plays. She chops her own firewood. She makes the most beautiful art. If you could see the wreaths she has made out of pinecones this fall they would take your breath away. She finds beauty and carries on and I'm so happy I had the chance to tell you about her.

Anonymous said...

I have a two year old daughter. She wants for nothing. She is spoiled rotten and has more toys than you can imagine. Sometimes it feels empty to me though. My husband and I work so hard to keep it all together with difficult commutes and long hours. I sometimes fantasize about just living a simpler life. I wish I had more energy to devote to her. I'm learning more and more that stuff and money do not equal happiness. Trust me when I say also that you are never ready to have kids, but the beauty of parenthood is you grow into being a parent just as they grow.

I have no one to nominate. I feel so many others here are more deserving. On a side note, I sent you a little gift to the gmail account associated with your paypal account. I am little worried that it was lost into a junk folder. Let me know if you don't get it. I can resend.

Melina said...

Are you Jamie?!

Anonymous said...

I am indeed! So I am guessing that you got it! I am so glad. Enjoy!

Melina said...

I actually 'searched' for you on IG! I didn't have any contact info for you, but if you send me your address to I'd love send you a note thanking you for the lovely surprise.

Kristy Arey said...

I absolutely love your blog. I was in West Asheville for Thanksgiving and was telling my girls and my mom (who doesn't even know what a blog is) about you and how cool it would be to run in to you while we were there. What I love about your blog and what I perceive to be your life is your honesty, your intentionality (is that a word) and your courage to write and live out loud. I'm SO much older than you and enjoy living your your adventures vicariously through you.

Anyway, I really LOVE this idea. And I'd like to nominate my boyfriend (there needs to be another word for people in their 40s/50s who are dating, right?) Jim. He came into our lives about a year and a half ago and has put my broken heart back together. He went through his own messy divorce and basically had to start over financially and otherwise and he's done that with so much grace. His children are both wonderful people who have chosen careers that help people. His daughter just started medical school. He works a full time job, often 60+ hours a week volunteers in the community, coaches basketball to 1st and 2nd grade boys and still finds time to be with my girls and I. Picking them up afterwork so I can teach water aerobics, coaching my girls soccer team even when he knows NOTHING about it, helping with hw, helping rake the leaves at MY house even tho he has his own to do, and SO much more. He is patient, and kind and funny and we are so grateful to him. He could be with anyone and he has chosen us, even tho that means starting over almost with raising kids, dealing with my crazy ex, and finally me who never seems to have it all together financially or otherwise...He would love this book as he uses something similar at work, but since he also loves to ride his bike he would esp love this one.

I know that was a lot, but THANK YOU. Regardless of whether he wins, it's reminded me why I love him and that I prob need to tell/show him just how much more often! Happy Christmas to you and Yours.

kelsey hoekstra said...

My parents divorced when I was in kindergarden. My dad left because he wasn't ready to be a parent, leaving my mom in charge of two boys and a sass queen (me). Somehow, she thrived. She has sacrificed so much for my brothers and me, and when i was little I was so unaware. Now that I'm older, she is one of my best friends, and she tells me things that maybe a daughter shouldn't know but have really enlightened me. Like how my brother's learning disabilities have been hard for her to understand, or how finances are going to be tight (again) in part because I wanted to go to an "elite" school. She ran a marathon the sunday before thanksgiving, with sub 10 minute miles. She's the kindest person I have ever encountered and she deserves the world and more. I could talk for hours about how marvelous she is.

Nell said...

Well. Hopefully I don't win this because the person I am going to nominate passed away a few years ago.

My grandma was seriously one of the coolest and most inspiring people I know. When I was younger, I always said that I wanted to be exactly like her when I was old. Now I realize that I just wanted to be exactly like her at any age.

She worked in a cipher office in Brisbane during World War II. Had wonderful dalliances with US Naval officers, that she would recount to us when we got a bit older (we were scandalized. It's hard thinking of one's grandmother as anything other than a grandmother). After the war, she became a social worker and worked with some of the poorest communities in Sydney. She also married and put up with my grandfather, an opinionated and passionate political scientist and raised 5 children who turned out to become a mathematician, a music critic, a theatre critic, a judge and a doctor.
She was also one of the most gentle and loving people. Her motto, while maybe a little Polyanna-ish, seems apt for this generation (as does her ability to raise 5 kids in a tiny house): "things always turn out for the best".
I hope that I can be half the woman my grandmother was. She is truly missed.

Also, on the off-chance I do win, I nominate my mother-in-law, who is currently undergoing chemo, but somehow still finds time to make sure that she has provided for her entire family.

Whitney said...

Melina, you're spot on that kids don't need the fancy stuff. We have the big house, the rooms full of toys, the fancy groceries....(I yearn to downsize and simplify....but that's a different story). Anyway....our best days and best memories? The parks, the hikes, the ham sandwich picnics, the Christmas stories by the fire, the endless games of Crazy 8s. These are the things they love and that they actually get excited about.

shannon said...

My sister Paige is an incredibly hard worker and super special person and my best friend, after my husband of course. She has worked 3 jobs to support her ex, currently down to 2. She has helped me with my kids, extra support, babysitter, listener for me and my kids. She has been incredible since I was diagnosised with lung cancer 6 months ago; Paige has sat with me thru chemo, doctor appts, and testing. I love her to the moon and back!

Jessica said...

My sister. Oh, my beautiful and amazing sister. Emily had my niece (Emberlynn) when she was a teen, dropped out of high school and fought like hell to stay afloat. I have never met someone so strong and determined. She never grows tired.

She started as a single, teen mother without a car, minimum paying jobs, scraping by without a cent from Emberlynn's father. Even then, she lived on her own, desperate to do this for herself and for Emberlynn and not wanting hand outs from anyone.

She got a bus pass, applied for a grant and took herself to college. She rode the bus to drop my niece off at daycare and then a trax line, an hour away, to her school. She certified as a dental assistant, found an awesome job, got herself into a car and get this- just BOUGHT A HOUSE. My baby sister just bought a house.

Through so much pain, struggle, frustration and just plain NOT FAIRS, she has been resilient and smiling. I can't wait to see what she does next.

Amy said...

Finally catching up on the last few posts!

Like many of these lovely people, I can think of many, many individuals I'd like to nominate, which just shows how lucky I am. Lina, you're also on that list, but I guess that you're not eligible, so I can cross one name off. :)

But in the end, I pick my youngest sister, Marie. As the youngest, we all think she was spoiled, but she works so hard, getting an economy degree from one of the fancier economy schools in the country (which was tough to get into in the first place), but then using it to do good by getting a master's in environmental policy. She wants to positively impact the world, just moved to snowy Minnesota to start her first job and found her first tiny apartment, now has to start paying back those student loans, and loves to write things in notebooks.

Melina said...

Wishing you strength, Shannon. Thinking of you.

Melina said...

That's ok- they're supposed to be a little challenging. But all you need to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment :)

Anonymous said...

What fun! I'm loving these giveaways. Certainly makes Monday a little more fun. I save your posts for the three o'clock slump. I get up from my desk, get some coffee and read the latest posts!

I'd like to nominate my daughter Jamie. Jamie has been putting herself through art school. We help out when we can but she's doing the lion's share by herself. Jamie, if you read this (hopefully on a journal!) you are amazing and so strong and talented and I love you very much!! She would love a beautiful place to write down her thoughts and sketches.

Jessica said...

I agree with Amy- I'd like to nominate you! But I'd also like to nominate my brother Andrew. He is a wonderful husband and dad and talented furniture maker. He's had to put his talents on hold for the time being so he can support his family, but he still finds the time to make his daughter homemade wooden toys and furniture for my parents and I for special occasions. I have no doubt he'll be able to do that full time one day soon.

Lori Delgado said...

I rather like this "living lean." I really rather like the nights spent at home reading to our little, or cooking with my friends and family surrounding me. Growing up, I definitely had some extras, but was well aware I didn't have quite as many extras as my peers did. I resented that for a while in middle school and high school when material things were of utmost importance. Now that I am raising my daughter, I am also aware (at times painfully) that I can't afford some of the nicer things her peers get. It's even worse when she notices. But you know what? You get past that. When you have hiked up to waterfalls in Sequoia Nat'l Park, have watched your daughter rappel from a 5.9 (top rope- so she hiked up the back), and have a duagher who calls you outside to watch the sunset, you get past that she doesn't have 8 Barbies with missing heads and cut hair, and a pool in her back yard. You really do.

Now for the giveaway. I have so many people who are hard workers, who I look up to, who would be excellent nominees.

A co-worker friend, okay, she's more like a best friend, Pam would be my number one nominee. She is an outstanding mom, grandma, aunt, teacher, and friend- and at times, more like an extra mom to me. Pam is at work extra hours to make sure our students have the support they need, and she is always there for us, the teachers and staff too. Recently, Pam has been given a medical diagnosis that I know must be scary, and will keep her from work for some time. She is amazingly strong, and I can't do enough to help her out, partly because she always has a plan, and back up plans. Her spirit is inspiring, and has touched the lives of many. I am so lucky to have her in my life. She is amazing. I nominate Pam for her amazingness.

Ariel said...

My mother, my mother, my mother.

She's such an honest, strong, adventurous soul.

When I was little, dad was gone half the year working on commercial fishing boats in Alaska (home was near Seattle). Mom grew a garden, made ends meet, and made popcorn for dinner on Sunday nights.

After they divorced, she worked part-time, 90 minutes from home, two days a week, and then supported us with a farmers' market dried flower and home-made herb vinegars craft booth.

We had a wood stove for heat, and I remember eating mac-n-cheese and top ramen on a regular basis (cheap!). Yet, despite that, I never felt like I lacked for anything. We got outside, went on great adventures, I went to a great Montessori school, I took riding lessons, ballet - all the things. Maybe I didn't have all the newest gadgets and gizmos, but she always made life grand.

When I have the same worries as you wrote about - not wanting to pull the trigger on a baby, because I'm not sure we can afford it - I think about how great my childhood was and about how little we had to make it that way.

I think love and a great sense of adventure are key - and I can tell you have those in spades!

Rachel said...

So much of your writing resonates with me and these giveaways, whoa, do they make me think and feel all kinds of emotions. You're getting at something here, Melina, and I really like the space you've created through your writing. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

Now, onto the nomination. I pick my little brother, Jonathan. I'd pick him any day for anything, but this is especially fitting. Here's what I'd inscribe:

Deep in his bones, Jonathan is an artist. He is wicked smart and has the quickest wit of anyone I've encountered. There has been too much grief and the deepest sort of pain that has knocked the boy around, shattering his heart, body, and spirit into a million little pieces... over and over again. But my brother? He's the strongest and bravest of all and he faces those trials and demons with a quiet strength that I both envy and admire. This book is for him: the fighter with the soul of a poet.

Melina said...

Thank you for those words Rachel, they fuel me more than you may know.

And your brother- dang. What powerful things you said about him. I'd like to meet this fighter poet.

Christy said...

My friend Stacey could be making a lot of money right now. She's a brilliant lawyer- the type of person who breezed through law school and loved it. But instead of going to work for the six figure salary, she chose to work at a local agency that provides free services to clients who are losing the roof over their heads. Many of her clients are mentally ill. Even though she is working with them and for them, she is yelled at and berated on a daily basis. Stacey has the most remarkable attitude. I was recently at a party and someone asked her how long she could 'keep this up.' His attitude suggested that it was cute to get such a job right after law school, but when was she going to take her place at a big money firm? She looked him dead in the eye and said, "When nobody (at her agency) needs me." We all know that that means- never!

sam09 said...

I have been following you since my 2 year old daughter was a tiny baby. During all these long and quiet night feedings, I needed some company and something interesting so not to fall asleep - 2am is a really tough time to be awakened if you were up at midnight. And I got excited each time I could read another blog entry. I went backwards and was sad once I reached the end (beginning of your blog).
I once lived in Italy for one year and arrived there with two suitcases, as I was too cheap to pay for shipping any extra stuff. I loved loved loved this stripped down version of my life (apart from living in Italy, duh), since my life was so simple. I had very few things and enjoyed my life so much. It took so little time to manage the household and no thought or worries about all that stuff that we usually surround ourselves with and accumulate. I am still trying to get to that point again. My husband laughs all the time when he finds me dragging yet another box of things to goodwill. It is my favorite store! I don't need to buy, but can drop stuff off that magically seems to appear in my house all the time! Life does not need things as much as it needs fun times, good friends, and a few essentials.
I have been thinking who I could nominate for your lovely giveaway! There are just so many people that come to mind. In the end I realized I want to nominate you, Melina! I love your words and how you string them together and make them run smoothly down my frontal lobes (or whatever part of my brain), where it starts to form into a story a movie. Take this little book and string together more words, so I can benefit from it too! See, a win-win situation here :-)

Melina said...

Oh my gosh, Sam, I love this. I really appreciate your kindness. And thank you for the reminder about essentials. Your 'stripped down' life in Italy sounds lovely...I can just picture it!

Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

These giveaways are so fun! I have to think a little about this prompt. Hmm.....I'll try and make it back here before the drawing ;)

Sara, Plain and Tall said...

I seriously cannot tell you how much I am loving this Monday series.

The lean years are just now taking a turn for the better, and I'm actually finding myself a little more embarrassed about finally having a little financial freedom after three years of pinching pennies and laying awake at night worrying. Somehow I fit better in the more modest category...

I'd like to nominate my very best friend, Tera. She LOVES notebooks, stationary and really all paper products/school supplies. We met when we were forced into a cramped barracks room together in Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 2009. Brand new 2LTs who relied heavily on each other to make it through our training. In 2011, her husband lost both of his legs in an IED incident in Afghanistan. She is my hero. She has since had two babies and been the most amazing, resilient, courageous woman and mother I have ever known. She is the sister of my soul, and she deserves to win everything and she asks for nothing. Seriously. Most people don't even know her situation. The road has been long and hard, and I would love for her to have this journal to pen her thoughts and maybe one day tell her incredible story--the one the world needs to hear.

Anonymous said...

That leather bag! swoon!

Anonymous said...

Melina ~ I ordered items from inblue as Christmas gifts... they arrived & I'm loving them. So glad I read about them here. Thanks for sharing!

~ shari