Plan A $100 Wedding

$100 wedding, most frugal wedding, marry cheap, cheap wedding,

For a frugal wedding, just add friends.

The most memorable wedding I ever attended was by far the cheapest. The bride and groom were moving from a small apartment to a three acre homestead they could barely afford. They wanted to start their life on the land without another cent of debt. So they invited everyone they knew to celebrate with them at a Wedding Potluck & MusicFest.

They reserved space for free at a park pavilion in an out-of-the-way nature preserve. Everything they purchased could be reused on their homestead. Tables were made from sawhorses and planks using wood scavenged from her father’s workshop, covered with thrift shop fabric they intended to make into curtains. The centerpieces were daisies in thrift store mason jars while jelly jars were used as eco-friendly drinking glasses (they planned to use all the jars for years to come in home canning). More daisies were strung together into daisy chain garlands worn in the bride’s hair.

The couple requested no gifts. They simply asked that friends make the celebration possible by bringing food, drink, and music to share. The bounty was overwhelming. Tables were heaped with a wonderful array of dishes. Drinks were kept cold in galvanized stock tanks (planned for the couple’s eventual livestock) filled with ice.

After the ceremony itself, performed under fragrant flowering locust trees, guests enjoyed a banquet with a greater variety than any pricey caterer could have provided. The wedding cake (made by the bride’s aunt) made an entrance in a new bright red wheelbarrow.

Then the evening’s entertainment began. Guests who chose to participate offered all sorts of music. There were saxophone and guitar jazz pieces, clever skits, lively bluegrass numbers, humorous duets, and impromptu sing-alongs. By the end of the evening everyone was playing an instrument, singing, or dancing.

I’ve never been to a wedding filled with so much laughter and love. Such happiness is a wonderful way to inaugurate a new life together.

And it was cheap.

The average wedding today costs $28,000. For creatively inexpensive wedding ideas check out:

Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides and companion site OffBeat Bride

The Broke-Ass Bride

18 Tips For a Frugal Wedding

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration and companion site A Practical Wedding.

The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget and companion site Green Bride Guide

The DIY Wedding: Celebrate Your Day Your Way

Do It For Less! Weddings: How to Create Your Dream Wedding Without Breaking the Bank  (mostly ideas for self-catering) 

38 Unexpected Ways To Revel In Snail Mail

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The Force is strong with snail mail. (Image: CC by 2.0 Wikimedia Kev pittsburgh,pa)

Most of us don’t get anything interesting in the mail. Opening a personal letter seems like a pleasure from another era, irrelevant as a starched collar. Lets reclaim that experience. (The letter, not the collar.)

But first a rant. Here in the U.S. our postal service is often described as inefficient and unprofitable. I beg to differ. When I mail a letter in Ohio, it’s often delivered in Boston or Denver the next afternoon. I’ve mailed plenty of letters to distant countries. They show up in a week, tops. A few ounces of paper arrives in the one place in the world I want it to go, all for less than a buck. That’s pretty impressive. And the post office lets me mail unwrapped shovels too (more on that later).

Unprofitable? That’s not the real issue, unless you count the postal system having to pre-fund it’s retirement system 70-some years in advance. Name a company that can do that and stay in business.

I’m all about going postal. Sending and receiving mail helps us slow down, savoring time in a way that’s often missed in our terabyte-speed lives. Here are some ways you can make snail mail a pleasure.

Mail something unwrapped.

1. Try mailing a full-sized paintbrush, a basketball, a flip flop. All you need is a legible address and the correct postage. You might feel a little silly standing in line at the post office with an address-adorned plastic dinosaur, but it’ll be worth the look on your recipient’s face. I’ve mailed all sorts of silly things to a friend, mostly in response to oddities she mails to me. The strangest thing I’ve sent was a two foot metal shovel with a wooden handle. I used a permanent marker to write a note to her on the handle and the address on the metal part. It got there just fine.

2. For more ideas on what you can send through the mail, check out happy mail ideas at Giver’s Log or the Pinterest board 13 ounces or less. Check USPS regulations on what cannot be sent by mail.

Investigate the peculiar history of unwrapped mail.

3. In 1914, five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff was sent via U.S. mail as a package to visit her grandparents. It was the only way her parents could afford the trip. My kids and I learned about her journey from the picture book, Mailing May, by Michael O. Tunnell. She’s not the only person to be sent as cargo.

4. The most inspiring example is Henry Box Brown, who in 1849 was a slave in Virginia. Using his savings to pay for the clandestine delivery, he had himself mailed to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. The trip took 27 hours, much of it upside down despite “this side up” instructions on the box.

5. The quirkiest unwrapped mail history I’ve run across involves W. Reginald Bray. In 1898 this British accountant began to send all sorts of unwrapped objects via mail. That included, but wasn’t limited to, a rabbit skull, a bowler hat, a turnip, his Irish terrier, and a bicycle punk. He also mailed himself, twice. He liked to test the logic of postal employees by mailing cards with addresses written as puzzles or clues. You can find out more about Bray in, The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects by John Tingey.

Get back in the habit of writing letters.

6. Send a letter to your great aunt or a former neighbor.

7. Write letters to deployed service members.

8. A mailed letter has a greater impact on your elected officials than calls or emails, so if an issue is troubling you take the time to write out your concerns. Only a tiny fraction of the country’s citizens have ever done this.

9. Write to an author (his or her publishing house will forward your letter).

10. Write to a business. My son once wrote to a pen company to settle a bet he had with me. He said my habit of leaving pens uncapped  would dry them out. He not only got a response confirming that he was correct, but the pen company’s PR person sent eight different pens for him to enjoy as well as an admonition to keep after his pen-wrecking mother. For other ways to inspire kids (or the kid in you) to write letters, check out any of Letters from a Nut books by Ted Nancy.

11. Groups of kids (classes, scouts, homeschool groups) can participate in letter exchanges with Peace Corps volunteers through the Coverdell World Wise correspondence program and with long distance truckers via Trucker Buddy.

12. Find a snail mail correspondent through The Letter Exchange.

13. Join the Letter Writers Alliance.

Make your own envelope out of something unexpected.

14. Use a leftover scrap of wrapping paper, a torn out magazine page, a file folder scribbled with equations, an old map, whatever you’d like.The simplest way is to pull apart an envelope to use as a template, sealing your new envelope with a glue stick once you’ve popped a letter inside. For more detailed instructions, head over to Instructables.

15. If you don’t want to seal your one-of-a-kind envelope with ordinary tape or glue, make your own flavored envelope glue.

Let your stamp make a statement.

16. There are amazing USPS stamps out there reflecting practically every interest, but they don’t stick around (stick, hah) very long. Every time I go to the post office I check to see what they’ve got available. No flag stamps for me. When they had Buckminster Fuller stamps, I stocked up. This year’s stamps include O. Henry (the author, not the candy bar) and Rosa Parks.

17. Or make your own customized postage. Our cows’ faces could be stamps, the smiling cactus your kid drew could be stamps. USPS authorized vendors include stamps.compictureitpostage.com, and zazzle.com.

Send postcards, get postcards.

18. Register with Postcrossing. When you send a postcard you’ll receive a postcard back from another participant anywhere in the world. So far, 16 million Postcrossing postcards have been exchanged. Check out their Flickr postcard photopool.

19. To set up a specific postcard exchange (or other snail mail swaps) put up a request on Swap-Bot.

20. When you’re out, even on a day trip, encourage young children to mail postcards to themselves or their siblings. Just a quick sentence helps establish the day as memorable (and reinforces literacy skills). It’s also fun when that postcard arrives at your home in a day or two.

Get involved with or instigate a mail exchange.

21. I love art exchanges. I’ve participated in them on and off over the years, writing and decorating a page in a journal before sending it along to the next person or contributing to themed art challenges. My favorite was a Barbie art challenge. I glued a Barbie’s long hair into stiff twisting strands, gave her some theatening-looking facial features, and mounted her disembodied head into a tiny cardboard replica of a TV set with a “Medusa” remote. Find mail art calls through the International Union of Mail-Artists as well as Mail Art Projects.

22. Propose a mail exchange on a forum, blog, or other group. Make it themed, for example followers of a food blog send each other local foodstuff. Fans of a particular musician send each other her lyrics re-imagined as comics or movie scenes.

23. All sorts of parenting lists host exchanges for kids who want a postcard from each state, a letter answering the same 10 questions from 100 participants, or favorite jokes. Suggest an exchange your kids would like.

Write to kids.

24. Chances are you know children who would adore getting mail addressed to them, either your own kids or kids in your extended family. Try for at least a once-a-year tradition like a note on the child’s birthday. Or more memorably, on a quirky day. How about a letter every year on Waffle Day (March 25) or Go Barefoot Day (June 1)?

25. Consider writing letters as if from an imaginary creature telling a series of tales, perhaps the adventures of a rollerblading squirrel and her sidekick, a jogging possum. No less than J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and illustrated a holiday letter for his children every year, arriving as if from the North Pole. See his drawings and text in Letters From Father Christmas

26. Write about your experiences when you were the child’s age.

27. Encourage return communication when you write to kids. At the very least, send them pre-addressed envelopes with stamps. You might write with a challenge. (Okay, a better one than the following example!) How about enclosing a length of string and the question: How many ways can you use this string?  Maybe offer a prize if they write back with more than a dozen ideas.  Or send response letters you’ve made with fill-in blanks to answer questions like:  This week I was surprised when ________. If I could go anywhere tomorrow I’d like to go _________. If I ran the country, the first thing I’d do is __________. Most people don’t know that ______.

28. Write to toddlers well before they can read. Print a simple sentence or two, replacing some nouns and verbs with rebus pictures. (If you’re not familiar with this, it means drawing a cat face instead of writing the word “cat.”) Add something to the envelope that the child might find interesting, like stickers.

Mail a simple thank you note.

29. Even a few lines of thanks come across differently when they’re written on paper and sent by mail. They seem more earnest and carry more meaning than the same few lines in a text or email. John Kralik discovered this when he was at the lowest point in his life and vowed to mail one thank you note every day for a year. Somehow, the effort of thanking others  brought unexpected returns to his life including business success, weight loss, and richer friendships. Read his story in A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life.

30. Send a thank you to a favorite teacher, a former mentor, the local bookstore owner whose business you appreciate, someone who did you a kindness that you haven’t forgotten.

31. Consider writing a letter to someone you see everyday. Your child, your spouse, your co-worker. Tell them something you cherish about them or how they enrich your life.

When the situation calls for it, tell your truth with an un-thank you note.

32. Of course it’s best to handle negative situations immediately, but I’ve gotten some dire predictions from professionals that proved false over time. This surgery is absolutely necessary. You’ll have a maladjusted child if you homeschool. Ritalin is the only solution for that behavior.  It’s my contention that sending a respectful letter updating a doctor, teacher, or other expert is a kindness to the people they will advise in the future. There are ways to write a useful unthank you note. Chances are you won’t get a response but you’ll feel lighter.

33. If you want to tell the world the truth anonymously, mail a postcard to PostSecret. Keep up with these powerful, often artfully shared secrets via Facebook and check out the TED talk by founder Frank Warren.

  Use handwritten notes to advance professionally.

34. It seems counterintuitive when there are faster ways to communicate, but that’s the point. A letter to a business contact makes a lasting impression and does so at just the right speed.

35. The go-to guide for this is Business Notes: Writing Personal Notes That Build Professional Relationships by Florence Isaacs.

 

Inspire yourself to write letters by reading epistolary novels.

36. The Color Purple is told through letters and if you haven’t read it, this book isn’t to be missed. The Historian centers on a medieval book that opens clues to Dracula’s existence. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society reveals memorable characters living on the island of Guernsey during the Nazi occupation. Any of the Griffin & Sabine books have intriguing tiny envelopes inside, giving the reader the sense of peeking at private correspondence.

37. For teens: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, about two cousins drawn up in a alternative universe complete with romance, wit, and magical chocolate. Or for more romance plus intrigue at Australian high schools, two very popular books by the same author, Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments

38. For young children: Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems as well as any of the many books starring the ever-clever letter-writing dog Ike LaRue.

For more motivation, spend time with those who exult in snail mail.

365 Letters

Mail Me Art

Letter Matters

Letters of Note

Always First Class: The Pleasure of Personal Letters

Changing The World One Choice At A Time

 

small steps big change, history is small decisions, change world through love, daily choices change world,

ArtbyJude CC by 3.0

 

When I was growing up I was told I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard enough. The examples I was given at school and church were daunting. Heroes who did no wrong and martyrs who suffered for a cause without wavering. The media showed me examples too. People who were celebrities because of their talent for acting or playing games or for their appearance alone. All these people seemed larger than life.

I didn’t want fame but I did want to accomplish important things. I wanted to find the source of sorrow, injustice, and suffering so that it could be alleviated. The urge to do this was constantly with me and often overpowering. When I was very small I wanted to bring peace to every caged puppy or crying baby I encountered. I couldn’t, although I did absorb the misery I perceived, turning it into questions that the adults around me couldn’t answer. As I approached my teen years I searched for my own answers. I learned all I could about the world’s wrongs, hoping to find out why greed and cruelty happened. I committed myself to do something important. An ordinary life that did nothing to turn the world around seemed unthinkable. Whatever I did, it had to be big. My time on earth had to make a difference.

My quest to understand all that was wrong turned me in the opposite direction from hope. It showed me the worst of humanity. Slowly I came to realize that building on what’s positive brings greater possibilities into being. My days as an adult have proceeded without accomplishing anything Big. But I’ve come to think it’s the countless small actions, even thoughts, that truly have significance. We’re faced with these choices every day.

  • Do I wave to my neighbor, the one who condemns me?
  • Do I give the cash in my pocket to a street person or do I look away?
  • Will I cook tonight’s dinner from scratch, perhaps making enough to bring some to a friend recovering from an illness?
  • Do I turn from what I’m doing to truly look and listen when someone talks to me?
  • Should I go to yet another activist meeting, surrounded by often despairing people? Would it be better to write an article about the issue or simply to focus my energy on new possibilities that make the issue obsolete?
  • Do I fritter away time on tasks that feel like “shoulds” even though time seems to be slipping away like escalator stairs?
  • Do I read too much, blotting out my own experiences, or is it fine to indulge this obsession of mine?
  • Do I believe that humanity is becoming more aware, more kindly, more open?
  • And because my answer is yes, do I live that yes?

None of these are major challenges, but how I answer such questions is how I live my life. They have to do with how I conduct myself and how I see the world around me. The questions aren’t clear-cut, so it’s not always easy to discern where on the scale my answer falls. Leaning toward loving attention or apathy? Joy or bitterness? Eagerness or weary resignation? Considering larger implications or thinking only of my whims?

I’m undisciplined and prone to stubbornness, so I make plenty of choices that wouldn’t pass an ethical stink test. Still, each one matters.

We’ve been taught that only Big people with “real” influence make a difference. That makes us feel powerless. Chances are, that’s what Big money and those who control it want us to think. If we feel powerless we give up before we try. After all, the advertisements surrounding us insist our major choices have to do with what we wear, the cell phones we use, the cars we drive, the vacations we take. Oh and having teeth so white they shine like LED lights each time we smile. Larger social, environmental, and political concerns may keep us in a state of anxiety but are nothing we have any control over. Or so we’re told. Hush about unemployment and income disparity. Hush about erosion of Constitutional rights, climate change, drone strikes. Just stimulate the economy like a nice shopper. As soon as the Big experts are done distracting us with their divisiveness they’ll handle it.

That’s true only if we agree with the idea that Big matters. Because all around us is the present, which appears little and inconsequential, but isn’t. Acting in the present may mean choosing to slow down, to meet our neighbors, to take a deep breath and be grateful, to speak up against a wrong, to step outside and look at the sky, to turn off all devices and spend time with someone, to eat while savoring each bite, to do something difficult with no assured outcome. It doesn’t mean ignoring injustice or wastefulness.

A response in the present is corrective. Even fixing the largest problems requires small steps. Incremental progress, both in attitude and action, is behind great social and environmental change.  In fact, the idea that only Big change can fix problems is part of the problem. When bureaucrats or corporations institute top-down changes they often make situations worse. Real progress happens when the same people who are affected by a problem take power over the choices and act on that power. This rises from small choices, values elevated to action.

We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in the rainforest, as a consequence weeks later there are tornadoes in Texas instead of clear skies. The effect, coined by mathematician Edward Lorenz, basically says that small change in one place can result in large differences later. It’s a fascinating look at chaos theory, but it also means nothing we or anyone (even a butterfly) does is without consequence. Just as a butterfly in Brazil has no way of knowing it may affect weather patterns a continent away, we often can’t predict the consequences of our choices let alone understand the long term impact. Our choices are those butterfly wings. Who I am today might be a disappointment to the determined child I once was, but I know now that worthwhile doesn’t have to mean big. How I fill a day is how I fill a life.

Respecting A Child’s Urge To Discover

theory of loose parts, kid innovators, creativity, learning is discovery, self-motivation,

misspenthopesxx.deviantart.com

The kids had a bunch of boards, some old nails, a hand saw, and a few hammers. They also had the two most important ingredients, the desire to make something and the freedom to do so.

They spent an afternoon planning their tree fort, enthusiastically arguing over whose plan was best. Their first few attempts failed spectacularly. They were undaunted, even bragged a little bit about the noise the boards made falling down. Several of them asked family members for advice. A few others paged through books and watched YouTube videos as they tried to figure out basic construction techniques. They started again, measuring more carefully as they built a frame. The process took much longer than they’d expected but they stuck with it. When they ran out of materials they scavenged tree lawns on garbage pickup day, dragging back pieces of wood. They got a few cuts and bruises. They were proud of those too. As they worked they talked about how they’d use their clubhouse. It didn’t occur to them how much they were learning.

Conventional thinking tells us that children benefit from the newest educational toys and electronics, lessons, coached sports, and other adult-designed, adult-led endeavors. Well-intentioned parents work hard to provide their children with these advantages. They do this because they believe that learning flows from instruction. By that logic the more avenues of adult-directed learning, the more their children will benefit.

But learning has much more to do with curiosity, exploration, problem solving, and innovation. For example, if baby encounters a toy she’s never seen before, she will investigate to figure out the best way or a number of different ways to use it. That is, unless an adult demonstrates how to use it. Then all those other potential avenues tend to close. Studies show that “helpful” adults providing direct instruction actually impede a child’s innate drive to creatively solve problems. This experience is repeated thousands of times a year in a child’s life, teaching her to look to authorities for solutions, and is known to shape more linear, less creative thinking That’s true of a baby as well as older children and teens.

Young people are also cued to ignore information that is too simple or too complex. Research indicates that people are drawn to learn from situations that are “just right” for them.  They may make plenty of mistakes along the way, just as babies fall when learning to walk, but facing those challenges and making those mistakes are pivotal steps in maturity.

It’s also well-known that a child’s natural motivation tends to diminish in adult-led activities. Unless they’ve been raised on a steady diet of ready-made entertainment, children are naturally drawn to free play. They pretend, make up games, daydream, wonder, and launch their own projects. They are discovering not only the world around them but a rich inner life as well.

Of course adults are vital to young people’s lives. They provide safety, guidance, love, and much more. Kids know they can ask trusted adults for help or advice. They do so more eagerly when they recognize these adults won’t overwhelm them with information, quiz them on what they are learning, or take over. Adult responses simply need to stay in proportion to a young person’s request.

For an example of how powerful the drive to discover can be, let’s take a brief detour to two Ethiopian villages. These places may be rich in intangibles like family and tradition, but they are poor in every other way. The illiteracy rate is practically 100 percent. There aren’t even written words around for children to see: no books, no labels on packaged foods, no street signs. That’s where the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project dropped off 1,000 tablet PCs with solar chargers. They weren’t handed out in a school, but to kids. The devices were pre-loaded with English-language operating systems and software that tracked how the tablets were used. The boxes were taped shut, with no instruction given at all.

In less than five minutes, one child (who’d never seen an on/off switch) powered up a system. The kids collaborated as they learned. Within a few days they were using 47 apps per child, within five months they were taking pictures. That took a while since the kids had to teach themselves to hack Android because the tablet cameras were mistakenly deactivated. The OLPC project is finding, all over the world, that kids are learning to read and speak in multiple languages. They easily search, program, and connect using inexpensive tablets. These kids are also teaching adults in their villages to read and use computers. They’re doing it without adult instruction.

So how did our fort-builders do? They had three sides framed and were working on the fourth when one boy’s father stepped in to help. His help may have been welcomed if they’d asked or if he simply contributed to the team effort, but this very well-meaning man decided the kids weren’t doing a good job. He took over, telling the kids to re-do some of their work and to build the rest of it according to his instructions. They did, but without much gusto. The resulting fort was more sturdily built yet they only used it a few times.

A year or so later they scavenged some boards from it to make a go-cart, and then another go-cart. This time they welcomed the help of another child’s grandfather who worked alongside them, learning together as the project unfolded. Their enthusiasm had returned.