So much for Thrift for Thrift’s Sake

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“With these Hands — Love” a child loves her daddy while he sleeps.

Some people are more thrifty than others. As a spouse, with a family, you learn to pinch pennies, clip coupons and sometimes go without. But when thrift becomes the dominant force that drives your focus, and people’s feelings become less important than the “all mighty dollar,” you have a problem.

My daughter was married to such a man who suggested that she fashion her own sanitary products in order to save money. They also fed their dog old bakery scraps they received for free. In the end, the dog’s diet made him fat and unhealthy and their marriage started on the road to ruin.

These thrifty types will crop a dog’s ears and toenails without proper medical skill or tools. They find any means to get ahead even if it means “fudging” a little here or there, or even lying if necessary.

"Bella Bellissimo" acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

“Bella Bellissimo” acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

I also endured years of lectures about how much shampoo I should use (a dime-size dab); how many squares of toilet tissue was appropriate, and how much I was allowed to cut off the top of a strawberry. If I told you all of the other rules that surrounded my day, your head would spin, so I won’t.

“Waste not, want not” was not only a saying, it was a way of life. Our parents and grandparents went through the Great Depression. They lived in fear that there may not be money for the next meal. The Salvation Army and other charities kept many people alive until they could get on their feet.

For those lucky enough to have the space, a garden and a few chickens provided the sustenance to feed a family and perhaps sell the extra produce for money.

On a well-traveled road not far from where I live sits a small stand with a canvas top for protection from the rain. A brother and sister “man the fort” on weekends selling Georgia peaches, home-grown tomatoes and sweet Vidalia onions.

In our present economy there are signs everywhere of poverty and continuing unemployment. When the Stock Market plunged to new lows, I wondered if our country would slide even further into hard times.

“Money is the root of all evil,” the Bible says. But it is the obsession of money that is evil. The kicker is that thrifty people sometimes obsess over finances and subordinate other people’s needs in their miserly attempts to save money and to get more.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel in Bristol; matted and ready to frame.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel in Bristol; matted and ready to frame.

We’ve all read stories of millionaires and billionaires who died in poverty without ever spending a nickel for the simplest of pleasures. They didn’t take it with them. They never shared their abundance with a loved one or a neighbor. They went tight-fisted to the grave, but their grasp, their hearts were empty.

Money hard-earned should be saved, invested, and wisely spent. Being thrifty is prudent and smart when you have little of it and your needs include retirement, a home, and your children’s education. A couple need to work on this together and in consultation with each other so they have mutual goals. It is lack of communication that is the downfall of many.

Being thrifty is a good thing in hard times. Obsessing or pinching pennies and allowing money to become your focus, your God is when it becomes a destructive force which may lead to evil actions and failure.

Why Do You Do What You Do Each Day?

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Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” acrylic on canvas

What makes you get up in the morning? Is it a loved one? Is it your children or a mad desire to plan and organize? Is it a purposeful job that gets your creative juices going?

Why do you do what you do? Are your efforts passion driven for the sake of enjoyment and fulfillment or do you dread every moment and wish you were doing something else?

A paycheck drives most of us. Without it none of our dreams can come true. But in spite of that, if you’re born to create, nothing, not money, road blocks, handicaps or problems can keep you from doing what you were born to do.

Some people keep plodding along for the “fringe benefits:” a company car, health care supplements and bonuses.  Entrepreneurs build businesses so they may have more freedom to pursue their personal vision of success. Fringe benefits come through tax breaks, incentives and the “cost of doing business.”

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“Moonlight Magic” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Human behavior is usually based on “what’s in it for me.” In negotiations, the buyer and seller must agree on what’s mutually beneficial to both. When someone does something nice for us, we feel like reciprocating; it’s a two-way street.

On a more personal level, when someone is kind to us, we are more likely to be kind to someone else. Every action has a reaction. Give a negative remark or a physical rebuff in a moment of impatience and watch the domino affect disperse outward to everyone else; cause and effect.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Don’t confuse loud, obnoxious behavior with strength. There is great power in self-containment. A person who can face the world unafraid without having to dominate every situation is strong and in control. Self-confidence is built on clear, concise choices that build bridges not walls.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

There is a Biblical phrase that says: “Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back to you.” We get what we give. If you are always out to “get people” before they get you that’s what you will receive in the end. Life has a way of dealing honestly with us. Even our faces at the end of life can betray what kind of a life we have lived and how much love we have given away.

Note that I didn’t say “how much love we have received.” I made a point of saying “how much love we have given away.” Like the bread (action) that is scattered on the water, our deeds will come back to us in greater measure. The more we shed light and love upon others, the greater the portion that comes back to us.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

“A Joyful Heart,” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Some people wallow in self pity thinking that they never get enough of life’s goodness and pleasure. They hold on so tightly to what they have that they smother any chances for expansion or growth. In order to receive, we must first be an influence for good. If you don’t believe it, see what happens when you smile at someone in a long line of people.

Some will shy or turn away, after all, you’re a stranger. But don’t give up. Keep a positive attitude. Continue to smile. If someone bumps into you and apologizes, accept their apology. Don’t always be on the defensive. Not everyone is out to get you. Do some apologizing of your own. Thank people for their courtesy.

Now imagine every smile, every positive action radiating outward and repeated by others who pass your goodwill on to someone else. Like waves on the ocean, the tide shifts outward and inward. The ripple effect comes back to you with more positive vibes than you sent out in the first place.

How NOT to get Snookered — are your Vulnerabilities Showing?

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“An Open Book” 16×20 mixed media on canvas (SOLD) PRINTS AVAILABLE

Young couples typically want what’s best for their children. As far as reasonably possible, parents will fork over the cash to provide their children with the best. I must admit I’ve done the same thing over the years and learned the hard way that not every salesman is honest, nor is every purchase a smart one.

After going through several “duds,” I finally told my children they could ask for anything at Christmas time except those nasty toys they saw on T.V. Why? Because I’d learned that most did not deliver what they promised. A few items were not only unsafe, but downright scary.

Unfortunately, I have a soft spot for learning. If there’s a toy or a tool out there that promises to help my child tell time, tie his own shoelaces or eat his peas, I’m there. Convince me you have something to shorten the time it takes to potty train, and I’ll shell out the necessary bucks. Even promises to “equip my child for the future” may widen my eyes and indicate that I’m ripe for the kill.

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“With these Hands — Love” oil on acrylic under painting

I had on that sappy face the day an encyclopedia salesman rang my doorbell and greeted me with his eager enthusiasm. At the time, I had a one year old and a two year old. He drew them in and praised me for wanting the best for them. He showed me my children’s future turning page after shiny hope-filled page of his illustrious, illustrated leather-bound set.

I pulled my husband into the decision making, and he, too, crumbled like a cookie. We both swallowed the Rep’s spiel hook, line, and stinker. Too late we realized that by the time our children were old enough to use them, the books would be outdated.

With the advent of the internet, the whole encyclopedia business was a washout. I had to smile when a recent T.V. commercial showed an encyclopedia CEO telling his staff: “We’re back” while the camera cuts to a toddler punching a chubby finger on the “Buy” button of his parent’s smart phone over and over again. The camera then zooms out and pans the encyclopedia company workers boxing and shipping hundreds and thousands of books.

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“Through her Eyes” original sketch of live model

Most women are insecure in their own worth and beauty. Constantly on a diet, or trying out different kinds of makeup and skin care products is the norm. I myself fell into the hypnotizing web of Dr. Oz and ordered a “free sample” of one of his recommended products. In order to get the “free” sample, I had to give them my credit card information. Before I knew it, I was being shipped the product, without asking for it, at $100 a pop!

Although I was told when I complained: “There are many satisfied users;” their endorsement in no way made me smile. I had broken out in a red rash and pimples while using their product for only a few days. I’m still working to stop the shipments and block payments, even though I never ordered a single product. Again, I was told that “somewhere in the fine print” was a time limit for complaints. Sneaky!

Weight loss is another gimmick for selling products that don’t work or that may actually do more harm than good. Many products interfere with medications you may be taking. Herbal products often interfere with your metabolism and neutralize thyroid or heart medicines prescribed by your doctor. Be wary of all promises. You may end up like I did with an expensive bottle of weight loss meds that I couldn’t take.

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Art and Collectibles Display at show

I once was a salesperson myself, showing Avon products door to door in a time when it was much safer to pound the streets. Young and naïve, I thought that most people were pretty much the same. I learned that you never know “what’s behind closed doors.” What I saw, heard, and witnessed made me realize how different we all are in the way we choose to live our lives.

Selling is challenging, difficult, and disparaging work. Every time a sale’s “pitch” is made the seller’s reputation is on the line. This is the main reason I chose not to make this my full-time occupation. I simply could not sell what I did not believe in or trust myself.

“Buyer Beware” is not only sound cautionary advice, the reverse is also true: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Sibling Rivalry – the Bratty Brawls between Brothers and Sisters

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My husband’s son and his family.

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My sister’s son and his family.

My oldest sister who passed from this earth over a year ago was my inspiration; but only in later years when, with maturity and age, we became friends.

As children, we shared a double bed in a tiny room with one dormer window. We had no closet, but hung our clothes on the back of the bedroom door and on the door of the hallway that led to our room. Also in the hall was a chest. We each had a drawer; the other three contained towels for the small bathroom a step away.

The bathroom had one small window which you could only see out of when you sat on the throne. If you stood up in the tub, you would likely hit your head on the sloping ceilings. This awkward bathroom served our family of four, and then eventually five until my parents were able to afford a bigger place.

My sister had strict rules on how we shared our space. She was almost five years older than me; and, of course, taller, so I listened out of fear. She once drew an imaginary line down the middle of the bed and threatened to tickle me if I crossed it.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas.

Her tickling torments lasted an eternity, or so it felt. She sat astride me and tickled my stomach, my neck and pits until I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die! If the sessions hadn’t been stopped by an angry relative, I may have.

She and my older cousins ganged up on the younger ones by chasing us with angleworms and eventually throwing them at us. I had angleworm nightmares for nights afterward. They told us ghost stories that haunted our dreams and sent us running in fright to our parents. We were gullible and they used this knowledge to keep us in line.

Granted, my sister had reason to be peeved. I was her little shadow and followed her everywhere. Sometimes she was required to babysit me and take me with her wherever she went. I was a constant drag on her social life.

Once she convinced me that she had picked a miniature cherry that held magical powers because it was eaten by fairies. The tiny red ball sat atop her finger and I wanted the prize. I stood on tiptoe and begged her to let me taste it. With regal authority she allowed me to lick her fingertip. I tasted nothing. When she began to laugh, I knew she had tricked me.

“You ate my blood,” she boasted. “You licked my finger and ate my blood!” She was doubled over with laughter. She told everyone we knew.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel, matted and ready to frame.

I was crestfallen. She had pricked her finger and then made a fool out of me. I felt small and stupid. She had also broken the bond of trust between us. I would never be fooled again.

I got even later when I was a teen and she worked a part time job and had more clothes than I did. After she left in the morning, I’d help myself to one of her outfits and go off to school. By the time she returned, I was already home and changed. My mother didn’t approve, but she never intervened. This was a battle between me and my sister.

My daring behavior lasted for weeks until an unfortunate accident revealed my secret. The explosion was more than I’d expected. As I saw it, she had many clothes, and I had few. Plus most of my clothes were her hand-me-downs, anyway. It wasn’t fair!

After her discovery, we became bitter enemies. I was jealous of her and she resented me. We barely spoke until she married and had her first child. Then childish rivalry faded away and we developed a solid relationship based on respect and family ties.

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My oldest son and third daughter sharing some fun.

My own children squabbled over minor things and fought for the attention of their parents. When you share a mom and dad between three brothers and three sisters there is bound to be jealousy and envy. When my oldest was finally old enough to watch her younger brothers and sisters, I was elated.

Pam was always more mature than her young years and I trusted her judgment. When I returned to the sounds of wails and anger, my high hopes plummeted. She and her brother, only 14 months younger, came wailing to the door with their sad tales.

“She’s not the boss of me,” Chris complained.

“He wouldn’t do what I told him,” Pam responded. “He broke my Barbie doll,” she cried as she showed me the headless beauty.

“She hit me over the head,” Chris bawled. “She broke my guitar,” his volume increased as he showed me the broken strings and the chipped wood. The guitar had been a gift; a cheap handmade guitar that had served its purpose many years ago.

After that incident, I made a decision to put Chris in charge half of the time because of the closeness in their ages. This seemed to work out well, and they were able to respect the one who had the ruling hand at least for an hour or two.

Brothers often roll on the floor and beat each other to a pulp to resolve their differences. Sisters usually cry, scream and destroy the property of their rival. By the time we all grow up, the anger fades and the memories become the threads that bind our common history together. Sibling rivalry is inevitable, but the rewards far outweigh the struggle and help to prepare us for the brutal world beyond the comforts of home.

Living in the Present and Letting Go of the Past

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Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Today is all you have. If you’re future focused, you may miss out on the blessings right under your nose. If you dwell on the past, you may end up with a heart full of regrets and sadness. No matter how much you would like to go back, the past is out of your control. You can’t change it. Ever!

Tomorrow is not yours, either. Predictions are foolish. Wishes are senseless, unless they’re backed up with action. Concentrate on today’s duties and obligations. There may be pain. There is often unhappiness; but if you’re honest, there are also priceless moments of joy: sunlight coming through the window and landing on a sparkling glass; the smell of peanut butter; birdsong in the quiet of afternoon; drawing a warm bath; a church bell in the distance, slipping tired feet into fuzzy slippers. You just have to watch for these mini-miracles. Savor the few and let the rest go.

Sea Breeze

“Sea Breeze” acrylic on 30×24 canvas

My mother used to say “If you want to retain your sense of humor – read the funny papers!” She was right. Even online jokes and funny stories can change your day. I received one that gave me a huge belly laugh when I finished reading it. What if I’d skipped that email, thinking I was too busy and had no time to waste? I’d have stayed down in the dumps and perhaps been impossible to live with for the remainder of the day. Don’t miss out on a chance to laugh!

Turn up the music and dance. Never wait until you’re in the mood. Do it now! It’s good exercise. If you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you may end up casting those bad feelings aside in a whirl or a jiggle. It’s hard to keep frowning when you’re jiving to the rhythm or swaying with a child in your arms. Go on – gyrate! Get those feet tapping to the music.

Connect with someone. Loneliness hurts! Pick up the phone. If nothing else, turn on the T.V. and listen to other people’s complaints. Hold your pet. Hug someone! Get out of the house and do something. The more you nurse your aloneness, the more alone you’ll feel. Stay connected until you feel better. People need people. You may still feel alone unless you share your grief with someone else. Sharing makes others feel better, too.

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“Sea Nymph” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Go for a walk. Yes, I know, you don’t feel like it; but do it anyway!  I walked ten miles one day and still didn’t feel any better than when I started, but I managed to sleep well that night. If that’s all you get out of your walk, at least you may feel better in the morning. Walking gets your blood moving. Sometimes depression may be as simple as lack of adequate blood flow to the brain. A sedentary person ages faster because the muscles and bones are starving for the life blood that stimulates and feeds them. On your walk, count the number of people you pass. Try to remember their faces. The next time you see them, greet them with a smile and a friendly hello.

If you earnestly try to do the above and you still feel like you’re stuck in a deep dark pit, get help! After my divorce, I was confused, lost and completely alone. My former friends had disappeared. My neighbors turned their heads when I passed. New friends were mostly users who took advantage of my vulnerability. I sought out help. A psychologist prescribed Prozac and I began to feel like a new person. I could think clearly, gauge my surroundings more realistically, and I regained my usual optimistic personality. Never try to go it alone. Give yourself every opportunity to get well!

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on 11×14 Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Concentrate on your own needs for a change. You’re having trouble helping yourself. This isn’t the time to change the world. Focus on you. Don’t worry about the past. Quit fretting about the future. Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Get help from a professional, and by all means, follow your doctor’s advice. If he or she says “Don’t drink” that’s what they mean (alcohol and medications don’t mix). If they say you should stay away from negative friends who pull you downward, follow their advice.

Whether you sink or swim, the job of wellness is yours. If you continue to thumb your nose at those who offer help and disregard sound advice, you will be playing the “poor me” game for the rest of your life.

Yes, you can do it! You were made for joy and happiness. Quit comparing yourself to others and start noticing your own progress. Rejoice in simple achievements. Don’t allow others to take you back to that dark place. If that means leaving certain people behind, do it! You are on a journey of health and wellness. You have a right to be happy. You are “divinely and beautifully made.” Reach for what your own heart cries out and yearns for. Don’t look back!

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“First Daffodil” mixed media on canvas

A Person’s Life should be a Living Song

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"Tickles from God" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

“Tickles from God” 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

My mother’s joyful heart was evident in our home, in her well cared for garden, and in her twinkling blue eyes. She whistled bird song while she worked, and she sang to us from morning to night. I in turn sang to my children as I cradled them in my arms and rocked them to sleep. When they were older I tucked them into bed with a song. Sometimes I made up my own words and music using silly rhymes that made them laugh.

We are born to music. Our lives follow the rhythms of nature. Our blood flows through our veins like a silent river keeping us alive with every heartbeat. Our attitudes and choices build a bridge to the powers of the universe. Eternal wisdom passes between heaven and earth and whispers in our ears if we stay in tune with its melodic harmony. It is within our grasp to be happy. Sadly, some of us leave this earth without ever having sung the songs we were meant to sing.

"Mother and Child" 11 x 14 brush drawing

“Mother and Child” 11 x 14 brush drawing

Joan Baez was a gifted singer and writer of amazing songs during the 60s. Some found her words too truthful and abrasive, but I wasn’t one of them. Her velvet voice allowed her to say things that others couldn’t say. She cut to the core of truth and wrapped it in savory chords of melody that we sang for days and weeks after we heard them for the first time. Her ballad “Honest Lullaby” came to me as I remembered my own lullabies to my children.

HONEST LULLABY
(Words and Music by Joan Baez)

Early early in the game
I taught myself to sing and play
And use a little trickery
On kids who never favored me
Those were years of crinoline slips
And cotton skirts and swinging hips
And dangerously painted lips
And stars of stage and screen
Pedal pushers, ankle socks
Padded bras and campus jocks
Who hid their vernal equinox
In pairs of faded jeans
And slept at home resentfully
Coveting their dreams

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

Yellow, brown, and black and white
Our Father bless us all tonight
I bowed my head at the football games
And closed the prayer in Jesus’ name
Lusting after football heroes
tough Pachuco, little Neroes
Forfeiting my A’s for zeroes
Futures unforeseen

Spending all my energy
In keeping my virginity
And living in a fantasy
In love with Jimmy Dean
If you will be my king, Jimmy, Jimmy,
I will be your queen

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

I travelled all around the world
And knew more than the other girls
Of foreign languages and schools
Paris, Rome and Istanbul
But those things never worked for me
The town was much too small you see
And people have a way of being
Even smaller yet

But all the same though life is hard
And no one promised me a garden
Of roses, so I did okay
I took what I could get
And did the things that I might do
For those less fortunate

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

Now look at you, you must be growing
A quarter of an inch a day
You’ve already lived near half the years
You’ll be when you go away
With your teddy bears and alligators
Enterprise communicators
All the tiny aviators head into the sky

And while the others play with you
I hope to find a way with you
And sometimes spend a day with you
I’ll catch you as you fly
Or if I’m worth a mother’s salt
I’ll wave as you go by

And if you should ever wonder
How the years and you’ll survive
Honey, you’ve got a mother who sings to you
Dances on the strings for you
Opens her heart and brings to you
An honest lullaby
© 1977, 1979 Gabriel Earl Music (ASCAP)

What can’t you Buy on the Internet?

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"Lady Luck" 11 x 14 in box frame

“Lady Luck” 11 x 14 in box frame

You can find almost anything on Amazon.com from their mainstay books to clothing and furniture items. If you want it, you can find it on the Internet. E-Bay still holds sway for many who want cut-rate prices and a chance to bid on rare or longed-for items. Bargains are what it’s all about.

I sell on Etsy and find that buyers are comparing prices to find the quality they want at the lowest cost. I get several inquiries before an order lands. Sometimes I offer free shipping in order to beat the competition, but then the profit margin is slim.

Popeye trinket dish

Popeye trinket dish

Mainstream book stores such as Borders, Barnes and Noble and Best Buy have been added to a long list of closings that have either happened in some locations or are about too. There is an alphabet soup of sad failures affected not only by the economy, but by internet buying habits.

Here are a few more: Aldi, Big Lots, Blockbuster, Bloomingdales, Best Buy, Bath and Body Works, Coldwater Creek, Dillard’s, Hallmark, the Gap, Kirkland’s, J.C. Penney, J. Crew, Hooters, JoAnn Fabrics and this only takes us to the letter “F.” There are many more companies going broke from A-Z.

What is behind this phenomenon? For one thing, people have less time. A friend of mine needed a small light bulb for an overhead projector. He went to several Office Supply stores and hardware stores in the area to find this size specific light. When he came back empty handed after having spent two hours and a sizable amount of gas, he searched online. Voila! He ordered three bulbs at $5 each and then paid an additional $18 in shipping just to get them here before his scheduled event. In today’s world, time is money.

As an artist, I’ve had difficulty getting the brands of acrylic and oil paints I want from the usual hobby stores here in town. I always find what I want online and with more colors and choices. My order arrives within a week, and the cost is either the same as locally or cheaper.

Olive Oyl hand puppet

Olive Oyl hand puppet

When I shop, I have a clear image in mind of what I want and need. I dislike store hopping which may consume large chunks of time I don’t have. I can go online and search for exactly what I want and find it in a matter of minutes.

The rate of book store closings is alarming. Again, I can download a book to my Kindle without leaving home. I can even do it from work. How easy is that? Even Libraries have learned how to adapt to the changing market. Their big draw is that their items are FREE. The drawback is you still have to return most of what you borrow and they still charge overdue fees.

While dining at a restaurant, I admired the pearl tie that our waitress was wearing. “Where’d you get that lovely necklace,” I asked?

“On the internet,” she replied with a smirk, “for only $7.99, plus shipping.”

There’s the catch! Sometimes the shipping may cost more than the item you purchase. The profit has to be built in somewhere, and shipping and “handling,” is one way. Handling includes the cost of the packaging, gas to take it where it can be mailed, and any other costs the manufacturer wants to attach to it. We are willing to pay for it because the item is cheap, and we want our purchase in a hurry.

The internet has opened up a new world of things to choose from. We no longer have to settle for what’s on sale or the usual end-of-season junk. We can click on “Search” and find exactly what we want at a price we can afford.

Popeye - Olive Oyl salt 'n pepper shakers

Popeye – Olive Oyl salt ‘n pepper shakers

What will happen to retail stores that must stock a huge inventory in order to compete? They will either find a way to adjust to the new market or go under. Most stores have online sites where customers may browse and purchase what they are familiar with. A sizable portion of sales comes from this source, especially during the holidays.

There’s a lesson to be learned for all of us. In a changing world, we need to adapt to the fluid market if we’re going to stay in business. In our personal lives, we also need to go with the flow of changing rhythms and trends if we’re to stay afloat. Otherwise, we may end up on that alphabetized list of failing businesses and fractured families.