Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pass the EERIOS, Please!

I took a course on investing during the summer of 2009. One evening the instructor asked an interesting question—do you buy the same brand names that your parents bought when you were growing up? My answer was yes, of course.

My mother has always been VERY frugal, but she ALWAYS bought brand name items that were on sale and had corresponding coupons in the L.A. Times to go along with them. She bought in bulk, so rarely did we run out of things. Many years later (and regardless of whether I had a coupon or not), I bought the exact same products that I had been accustomed to using in my mother’s home. Regardless of how much the name brand item cost and no matter whether the store brand promised the same quality as the name brand item, I wouldn’t touch the product if it didn’t say Johnson & Johnson’s, Del Monte, Glad, Ziploc, Tropicana, Hunt’s, etc.

My eyes were opened to a whole new world approximately 5 years ago. I started paying attention to how much farther $10 could go for friends who shopped at the 99 Cent Store as opposed to me. They would have 9 items at the end of the day, and I would only have 2…and I can’t stand for people to out-save me. I refused to embrace this new world, reasoning that a can of Hormel Chili from the 99 Cent Store isn’t the same as the Hormel Chili from Vons, but that just wasn’t the truth. It took me 4 years to fully step into this world, but I’m glad I did. It is a world where I will still spend a pretty penny on those things that are important and/or “worth it” to me but for things that aren’t as important—things that I HATE buying anyway—I am open to spending less for the store brand as long as the taste and quality aren’t compromised.

I am actually comfortable using Equate lotion as opposed to Aveeno. Equate saves me at least $2 a bottle. Up also makes great baby powder…I can save at least $1 on that one. I will buy the Up brand of Q-Tips because they work just as well as the Q-Tip brand and they are at least $1.50 cheaper. I will buy pork chops at Fresh & Easy as opposed to Ralph’s because the price and quality are just right at Fresh & Easy.

Again, I will pay more for the things that are worth it to me. Filet mignon from Trader Joe’s is worth it to me. Charmin Extra Soft toilet tissue is worth it to me. Don Francisco Coffee is worth it to me. Other things are NOT—and now that I’m asking myself the point of spending an extra $4 on Glad trash bags when the UP brand works just as well, I’m not wasting as much money, and it feels good.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

With Open Arms

David Ruggles once said, “A man is sometimes lost in the dust of his own raising.” Sometimes we create the drama we are in. Sometimes we are the sole cause of our own mental agony and duress. Sometimes we need to let go of some things and forgive ourselves so that we can move on and live the good life.

When I was in college I kept quite a few journals. I wrote about EVERYTHING I was dealing with at the time. Some of the thoughts that I thought were plain twisted. Some of the people I hung with should NOT have been in my inner circle. Some of the things I did were the antithesis of the things Christians are called to do. I made excuses for everyone and everything. I was a hypocrite—I loved God but I flirted with the ways of the world.

Ever so often I would look back at those journals to remind myself of all I had been through. I tried to convince myself that revisiting what was in the journals would allow me to relate to other young ladies who are going though similar things. I reasoned that the journals would help me to see how much I had grown, but the opposite thing happened whenever I opened them up. Instead of focusing on growth, I would feel guilt. I would beat myself up for making such poor choices. I would cry and feel as emotionally distraught as I had all those years ago. I would take myself right back to those times and I would stay stuck there for a while as I worried about my daughters and prayed to God that they will be wiser than I was.

Year after year the thought of those journals haunted me. I kept them bed-side for reasons that don’t make an ounce of sense. It finally occurred to me that I had to get rid of them. I had to free myself of my past. My life as the prodigal daughter is over. The most important and meaningful part of my journey is occurring right now. 10 years later the journals have finally been shredded. I have forgiven myself. I have released myself of the guilt, the worry, the embarrassment, and the shame. A huge weight was IMMEDIATELY lifted. There’s no need to look for me in the past. I’m no longer that person and you won’t find me there. I am free!

Steven Biko said it well—“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” I refuse to allow my past to replay itself in my mind and hold my present captive. It doesn’t matter that I asked for my inheritance, blew it, and ate with swine. What matters is that I made my way back to my Father and that He was there all along, waiting with open arms.