Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How Santa is Saving Me 50% Plus When I Go Shopping

By Sariah S. Wilson

Kerry wrote a wonderful post last week about her love of Santa. I read it, loved it, tried reading it aloud to my husband and couldn’t because I got choked up. (No need to worry, Kerry routinely renders me unable to speak.)

I have a special love for Santa myself – one of my favorite Christmas books is “Santa and the Christ Child.” I’ve always thought that Santa does what he does because of his love for Christ.

When I was a little girl my family went to Knott’s Berry Farm to see Santa Claus. I don’t remember why we went there – that was not the typical sort of place that my very large family would go to (I’m assuming it was probably free to see him or something).

We waited in line for what felt like hours until it was finally our turn to see him. I don’t remember talking to Santa or telling him what I wanted. What I remember most from that meeting was when Santa Claus turned to my parents and asked where my sister was.

Please take into account that there were five other young children there. Most people would not look at a family with five small children and automatically assume that one was missing (in fact quite the opposite was typically true – “Are they all yours?” was more what we were used to hearing). But Santa was right – my sister Rachel had not come with us. Rachel was mentally handicapped and didn’t do well in crowds or in having her routine disrupted, and had respite care that day.

I remember everyone being so shocked that it took an actual minute or two before somebody responded that she wasn’t with us. Santa instructed us to give her his love. I always wondered how he knew, and although I had considered myself far too old to believe in such things, a Santa spark landed in my heart that has never since been extinguished.

That spark turned into a roaring flame this season. As our usual readers will know, just before Thanksgiving I blogged about our family’s reversal of fortune. I didn’t mean for anything to come of it. That’s just sort of how I am – writing things down when I’m miserable seems to help me work through the process (I think I get this from my mom who would only write in her journal in the depths of her pregnancy woes.).

So you can imagine my surprise when a fellow writer contacted me asking for my address. She said she had been given a book she’d already read and thought I might like and could she send it to me? I am not one to ever say no to books, so I said sure. (Who says no to free books?) Then she sneakily paired up with some other authors to send me gift cards and more books for my family. To say I was stunned when I opened the card from her would be too mild a word. It was so totally unexpected that I cried in gratitude. I tear up now thinking about it. It was so wonderful and so helpful.

Another fellow writer contacted me shortly after that and said that a few other LDS authors who had been in the same position as me at one time or another wanted to send us some help.

I cried again. (I blame pregnancy hormones for this. Despite what it may sound like in this blog, I truly almost never cry.) I was so touched.

But my gut response was to say no, we’re fine, thank you for thinking of us. It’s just how I was raised. We were taught to be fiercely independent, to provide for ourselves. We’re supposed to be the ones helping others. In fact, the only time I can really ever remember asking for help was to raise funds to get my son the ABA training he needed to help him battle his autism. And even that was so difficult for me (particularly considering one nasty letter we got in response). But I was willing to do it for him to make him better. And the Lord made certain that we got exactly what we needed for his training; and as I’ve mentioned in the past the doctors took away his autism diagnosis and say he never had it in the first place because what happened to my son just doesn’t happen (kids aren’t supposed to recover from autism). So the doctors decided they obviously must have been mistaken in the first place (despite the fact that he registered autistic on every test and met every required diagnostic).

So I didn’t say no. For my kids, I could do this. It probably helped some that I had recently heard a Sacrament talk on letting others provide service for you. I thought, I need to let them. I need to give others the chance to do service.

Then the gifts and money arrived. It was so much money that I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I couldn’t accept it. Surely there were other families more needing, more deserving than ours. Surely there were other people in more desperate and dire circumstances. How could I take it? I can’t tell how the guilt and gratitude battled within me. I felt such profound appreciation and overwhelming humility at this outpouring of love from so many different places, but I felt that I didn’t deserve it.

Literally the very next day, my fridge blew up. (Some capacitor got overloaded or something.) It stopped cooling/freezing things. Which is never good.

We called the repairman in the phone book who could come right away and had coupons that I could use. We had to replace the part and with the coupon, the bill ended up being almost precisely the amount that I had been sent. I cried again when I realized this (which fairly alarmed the repairman). How could such a coincidence occur? The Lord knew this was coming and He provided the means for the situation to be quickly resolved.

The Lord could only make certain of taking care of us in this instance through His reliance on those who follow him. Those people who had the love of Christ in their hearts, and the spirit of Santa in their actions.

So to all of you who have taken such good care of us from so many miles away, I say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (I’m crying again.) I wish there were words that would express how grateful I feel to you. There should be words – I’m supposed to be a writer. But there are none other than these - thank you and I love you all.

This has also led to a profound change in my life. Among my friends and family, I’m typically the one who looks for deals and uses coupons while shopping. I’m definitely not a spendthrift, but sometimes when it comes to my groceries it seems like money is escaping from me somehow. I keep trying to get a better handle on it, and with this current situation it made me realize that I need to be a better steward of our finances.

With that resolution in mind, I went to a local blogger affiliated with our Cincinnati newspaper (she’s based out of Kentucky) who lists deals but has never done me much good because I don’t, you know, live in Kentucky. But this time, she provided a link to a site called Money Saving Mom. I started scrolling through her posts and reading her background, FAQ and how-to tutorials. I felt incredibly stupid. How could all this have been going on without me knowing about it?

I mean, I know about websites like the Grocery Game. I did the initial free trial, but never really took advantage of it. Here I had found links to sites that were like the Grocery Game, but without the monthly cost. Money-Saving Mom has a $40 a week grocery bill for a family of four. In the past I’ve never really believed claims like that or thought it was by buying stuff my family would never eat (sensory/oral issues leave us with a lot of difficulty in feeding our kids). She’s not like that. She posts pictures of what she buys and how much she spent. It was food that my family would love!

I was EXCITED. I had a hard time sleeping that night. I followed links to other blogs and found sites like Southern Savers and Cincinnati Cents that had listings on stores that I typically shop at. When I read the tricks to CVS and Walgreens (stores that I had NEVER shopped at because of their high costs), I decided to put it to the test. I would try it.

It takes a lot of time – but I thought this would be worth it. I’m making some mistakes and learning the ropes, but at every store I’ve gone to I have saved 55% to 60%. Can you imagine cutting your grocery bill in half? These are foods my family normally eats. I got free toilet paper. Pillsbury crescent rolls for 25 cents a can. Free shampoo, free deodorant, cereal for less than $1.00 a box, and so many items where the stores were paying me to take it off their hands (i.e., Progresso soup marked down to 99 cents a can, and I had coupons for $1.10 off each one). It was amazing. And I hope to get even better and faster at it to save more money and time.

So thank you again my Santas, for the much-needed and so appreciated help, and for helping me to make such a drastic and profound change in my life.

God bless you all, and Merry Christmas.


At 12/21/2008 1:33 AM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

What wonderful friends you have. Thank you for sharing this. I've also experienced a Christmas or two like this and I can say without doubt that Santa does exist. Merry Christmas!

At 12/21/2008 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anna said...

Last year our ward gave us a Christmas card with some money in it. We were a little stunned, because we weren't struggling at all. Our ward is more on the well-to-do side. And we joked that we probably are the poorest people in our ward. We have a small home, and drive old used cars.

We held on the money not sure what to do with it. We had made about 10K more money that year from the year before. We felt rather rich.

Anyway, 4 days after Christmas, our fireplace didn't work right and ended up burning up the outer wall. We had to stay at my parents and couldn't go in to get our stuff. So I took the money we got and went to the store and bought PJ's, a change of clothes, and essentials for a couple days until we could get our stuff out.

If no one would ever accept service, then no one would ever be able to give it. So we each have our turn at needing to accept what is given us.

At 12/21/2008 11:21 PM, Blogger Marcia Mickelson said...

I was crying right with you. This post made me cry. What wonderful friends. It's hard to accept service, but you are serving them by letting them serve you.

At 12/21/2008 11:50 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

Consider this, Sariah. From Mosiah 2:17 - When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God These wonderful people were not only serving your family. They were also serving our loving Heavenly Father. Keep your faith strong.

Charlie Moore

At 12/22/2008 11:14 PM, Blogger Janet said...

Thanks for sharing Sariah. We are in the same situation this year, my husband just got laid off and there are people in our ward wanting to help. We do have some money saved up in the bank so I don't feel totally destitute (yet). However I've been struggling with accepting what they are offering. But the other night a huge box of food was dropped off on our doorstep andI said to my husband "oh, I don't want this, we don't need this" and my 12 year old daughter looked at me and sweetly said, "Mom you're being a hypocrite. When you were RS President you used to complain that no one would let you help them."
That was a huge wake up call for me and I realized like you did that I need to let other people serve us. It's much easier to be on the giving side of service, I don't think any one really enjoys being the one who needs help. But I'm learning a lot of empathy for those I have helped in the past.
Have a great Christmas!

At 12/26/2008 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Temple President.

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