Wednesday, September 23, 2009

G is for Giving

I've read that the best way to get your mind off your troubles is to focus on someone else's. I know that's true, and it's played out many times in my life. But during this recent crisis, I've had precious little time to devote to others. We've circled the wagons and are tending our own meager fires right now. Is this selfish? Self centered? How about you? How do you care for others when you're facing your own challenges?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Me? An inspiration?

My neighbor Mark has written a great book, and he tells me I was the inspiration!

A few months ago, he and I were commiserating about this rotten economy and sharing ideas for making a dollar stretch further than ever before. A few weeks ago, he knocked on the door and showed me his new book!! Here's the funny part - when he sought a local graphic artist to design the cover the woman said "you should check out this local woman's blog THE ENDURANCE DIVA - it's along these same lines." She shared my name and my neighbor Mark exclaims "That's my neighbor! The one who inspired me to write this book!".

Anyway, this little bound magazine size book is a gem. Full of great advice and tips that will save money AND be kinder to our environment. He includes worksheets to help with budgeting. He also supplies websites to search for more information on a wide variety of subjects.

Mark is marketing this tome to nonprofits and churches, encouraging them to buy in bulk then supply them to members, customers, or parishioners. You can order a single book as well. They are $19.95 each plus shipping and handling. For $29.95 he'll also throw in a CD with hyperlinks and documents. He can be reached at or through snail mail at Money and Earth Savings Book, 2026 Sibley View Court, Northfield, MN 55057, or by phone at 507-403-1144.

Be sure to mention The Endurance Diva sent you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

F. the big one, Foreclosure

Let's talk foreclosure.
Did you ever think you'd hear that word so often? You know it's a problem when you search Google images with the word, and get over a million hits.

I just plain don't have the answer, but here is what I have learned.

Yes, you can call your lender and best of luck with that. Here's what we heard:

Us: "We've just had a major job loss, can you help us out?"

Them: "No, we can't, you're good customers and you're current on your payments."

Us: "Yes, we know, but that may change since we've AGAIN just had a major job loss"

Them: "Well, until you've missed some payments, we just can't help you."

6 months pass, and we start to miss payments . . .

Us: "Well, we've missed some payments now. Can you help us out?"

Them: "Nope. Not until you bring the payments current and show proof of steady income"

Us: "But we told you we had a major job loss, with no new employment showing up despite Herculean efforts. You told us you had a hardship program that we could qualify for if we missed a few payments"

Them: "Yes, you could qualify for that program when you bring your mortgage current and show proof of adequate steady income"

Us: "We could pay you $800 a month until we find employment, will that hold things?"

Them: "Nope. Absolute full payment, after you bring it current".

Another 3 months pass . . . .

Them: "OK, we'll drop your mortgage down to $1500 per month if you bring it all current and show proof of steady income".

So again I say, good luck talking to your lender.
The Obama housing plan would save us, and many others. But, according to my one Senator's office, that plan is still in committee and won't become law anytime soon. They've got to save all the millionaires first.

Another option would be to find a good co-signer, apply for a mortgage, and try to buy back your house through a short sale or through the sheriff's auction. But be mindful that you may end up paying all the fees, taxes, etc. Short sales aren't the blessing they are cracked up to be.

Another option is to have some wealthier friend or relative buy your home and rent it to you. Our lender said that was fraud, but our banker said it's perfectly legit.

My best advice to you concerning foreclosure is to muster all your pride and self-confidence, keep your chin up, and just endure. Walk away, find a rental, and sleep well knowing you did your best.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

F is for Failing to Keep up my Blog!

Sorry folks. I've been neglecting The Endurance Diva and that just WON'T be happening!!
I've been busy enduring, what else?
Updates soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

E is for Endurance, what else?

Sometimes that's just all you have left. You stand up to the crisis at hand and you just plain endure. You get dressed, you put on your make up, and you just keep going. You make it through one more day alive, intact, and whole. You endure the bills, the bankruptcy, the divorce, the sickness, the natural disaster. Whatever it is, you just endure and live to fight another day. And By God, keep your sense of humor!!!

The lyrics below are to what I consider my theme song, I'm Still Here by John Hartford. I first learned of the magical musician in the late 70's and he's become one of my heroes. If you click through the link, you'll see him in action with his fiddle and his dancing feet. When I first heard this song at the tender age of 18, I had no idea how much it would mean to me in the coming years.

I'm Still Here, by John Hartford

Now trains are runnin' towards each other
Shotguns are pointed at my head
Tornado clouds are formin' at the crossroads
H-Bombs are fallin' towards my bed

But I'm still here
I'm still here, and how 'bout that?
My city may be fallen, but I'm still here.

Assassination squad has got their orders
Repossession man is on his way
Landlady's givin' me her notice
I'll be pitched out with trash now any day

But I'm still here
I'm still here, and how 'bout that?
I may have lost my lunch box, but I'm still here.

"When you're going through Hell . . . keep going" Winston Churchill

Friday, March 6, 2009

D is for Desiderata

My good friend Mama in Wonderland reminded me of this piece. So lovely. So wise. And so perfect for endurance.


by Max Ehrmann, ca. 1927

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

C is for Coupons

Coupons, we all use them. I'm not going to insult your intelligence. But did you know that manufacturer's websites often carry coupons online? Sister Cheesecake Maven brings us this idea. I usually buy store brands, which are often less expensive than a name-brand with a coupon. However, if you have a favorite product search their website! Here a few brands that we found:

Procter & Gamble

Does anyone out there have an experience with websites touting printable coupons, good or bad? I'd love to hear from you. Email me at

B is for Biscuits

But we already covered that. See below.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A is for ALDI

Now that I've joined the ranks of the impoverished I have discovered the poor man's mecca, and it is ALDI. If you've never shopped there, here's a primer.
First, bring your own bags and boxes.
Second, have a quarter handy. You put your quarter in the slot on the grocery cart outside, and it unlocks from a chain. At the end of your ALDI adventure, you put the chain back in your cart and your quarter pops out! Keeps the carts coming back, and they don't have to pay extra folks to bring them all in every hour. Then again, if I'd walked away fast, I would have a fabulous cart for a quarter and I'd be ready for my life as a homeless person.
Third, lower all your expectations for organic, locally produced, high-end, artisan food. ALDI sells staples dirt cheap - perfect for families in survival mode like mine. We came out of there with 3 large packing boxes full of potatoes, onions, canola oil, cereals, brown sugar, frozen pizzas, chocolate chips, bananas, pasta, graham crackers, and plenty more. I KNOW this load at my usual store would have cost over $140. We paid $85!!! We ventured across the street to a normal grocery store for a few "extras" like hamburger and store-brand pop. We left there with 2 weenie little grocery bags full and a bill for $118!

However, there are just some things I can't bring myself to buy there, like meat, milk, and eggs. I still have SOME standards.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Get some girlfriends

Or boyfriends, whatever works, but GET SOME! Nothing will carry you through a crisis like girlfriends. Good girlfriends are better than money in the bank, because they give about 257% interest and they hardly ever fold on you. Good girlfriends won't care that you don't have two nickels to rub together, or that your hair has all fallen out. They will bring you comfort food, or drive your kids to the park. They will give you some cash, or tell you your ex is a jerk.

All my examples are white girlfriends, but they come in every luscious color. And throw in a gay man too! Crisis endurance needs all kinds of folks and many different perspectives! Our non-white and gay friends know a thing or two about endurance.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Humor works too

Keep your sense of humor going, sometimes it's the only thing you've got left!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Comfort Food on the cheap: biscuits

Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits, who doesn't love 'em? Well my husband to start with but he's not writing this blog. If you can whip up a batch of biscuits and open a can of soup, you are well fed on pennies! Even my kids can make these.

Why is it that cheap food is often not very healthy? Don't ask me. I'm only here for the BISCUITS!

Preheat your oven to 350 and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, place 2 cups of flour.
Now here I guess you could add some whole wheat flour, but only maybe 1/2 cup or you're making door stops, not biscuits.
To that add 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 Tablespoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Remember baking powder, not baking soda!
Stir all that dry stuff together.
Now cut a stick of butter into 8 equal pieces. There are lines right on the wrapper for your convenience. If you can't follow those, well I can't help you. I'm considering trying these with 3/4 of a stick next time, just to see if I can cut the fat, but then again maybe I'll add more!
Place those butter pieces evenly over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles course meal. Now, please for the sake of all humanity get yourself a pastry cutter. Pampered Chef makes a dandy one and you'll be making biscuits so often you'll be glad you invested a few dollars in this tool. You could try the criss-cross knife thing but I can tell you now, you'll be cursing my name and have tendinitis by the end of it. Get the pastry blender. Also, most Americans probably wouldn't recognize "course meal" if it showed up on the door step delivering for Publisher's Clearninghouse sweepstakes. Course meal means all the butter is in little tiny dry pieces now, and none of those pieces is bigger than a green pea. If you don't know what a green pea is, again I can't help you.
Make a well in the center of this mixture, and pour in there 3/4 cup milk. Any milk will do.
Work this mixture around some with a wooden spoon, then get your CLEAN hands in there and work it some more - just until it holds together.
Plop that dough out on just a bit of flour spread on a cutting board and work the dough a just little more, and I mean JUST A LITTLE bit more. You may need something under your cutting board to hold it in place. We don't need any unfortunate kitchen/biscuit accidents.
Put some flour on your rolling pin and roll that dough out until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Don't skip the flour on your rolling pin part, trust me on this.
Using anything that's round and about 2 inches across, cut circles from your dough. We use a water glass. Works fine. Nothing special to see here folks, go back to your homes and places of business.
Put those circles on your sheet, spaced apart like cookies. Roll out any leftover dough and do it again. That last little lump? Just shape it in the form of a biscuit - it won't disappoint!
Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Watch them! Your oven may be hotter than mine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First piece of actual advice

Here is my first installment on the advice front.
When faced with a crisis:


This is so very important. Don't take on the "what ifs" and "what'll we do's". Just take each day's problems and do your best. When the worries about the future set in, think "is there anything I can do about this situation right now?" If it's the middle of the night, chances are the answer is no. So let it go. If it's the middle of the day, and the answer is "yes" then go ahead and do it.

Don't worry about what might happen if this crisis continues, don't worry about how you'll handle it if it gets worse, don't worry about things you can't control.

And example: when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, my children were quite young. I worried myself sick about how we would keep this family running while I was down & out with the side effects of chemotherapy. Who will drive them to school? How will they handle Mommy going bald? How will I keep them adequately fed while I'm puking? Well guess what - I didn't even HAVE chemotherapy!! Mastectomy then straight to Tamoxifen. All that worry for nothing.

Now notice, I'm not saying don't PLAN for the future. Go ahead and sign up for classes, or assistance, or counseling, or anything that will make the path smoother. But just don't WORRY about anything that isn't actually happening.

Thank you and good night

Monday, February 16, 2009

Broke-Ass Soup

My first installment of endurance is this lovely recipe. Feeds a family on very little money.

Here's my recipe for Broke-Ass Soup:

2 cups any variety dried beans - I buy a mix of peas and beans
1-2 lbs beef stew meat
Heaping spoonful soup base, like "better than bouillon" or just use beef bouillon
1/2 cup flour seasoned with any combo of: salt, pepper, onion powder, seasoned salt, garlic powder
Veg oil
2 (15ozs) cans diced tomatoes - if one of them is chili-ready, all the better! WITH juice.
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, choppped
1/2 poblano pepper, chopped - or any other pepper, could even used canned green chilies.
Seasonings: seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, whatever sounds good to you! Don't be shy with the seasoning.
Herbs de Provence

The day before: rinse and drain the beans. Cover with water and let sit over night.

Assemble the soup:
Drain and rerinse the beans, drain again, set aside.
Put the seasoned flour in a bowl or ziploc bag. Add the stew meat. Toss and coat the meat.
Put enough veg oil in your soup pot to just cover the bottom. Heat on medium high, until you see ripples in the oil. Add the stew meat, with flour, and barely brown.
Add 2.5 qts water and a heaping spoonful of soup base.
Add the drained beans and canned tomatoes, juice and all.
Bring that to a boil, then add onion, peppers, and seasonings to taste. I think the herbs de provence really added something special.

Slow simmer this on your stove for over 3 hours. Seriously.

You could use any meat with this: ham hock, sausage, or just go vegetarian!

Welcome to The Endurance Diva!

Welcome! I am the Endurance Diva and I'm here to help you through this financial crisis, or any other crisis for that matter.

In recent years I have achieved a virtual Ph.D in crisis endurance. Notice I didn't say crisis management, or crisis counseling, or crisis prevention. I'm here to spread the gospel of endurance. Hanging on when you have one thread left. Finding hope when the situation seems hopeless. In other words, thrive while you survive.

Life is still good when the wolf is at the door. At my house he's not only at the door, he's howling, waking the neighbors, scratching the paint off the door, and pooping all over the doormat. So let's get to work!