Friday, July 17, 2009

The thing about this economy...

Dear Brooke,
Here is my dilemma:

My husband and I own a lake house and love to have weekend guests to share it with. I have no problem providing the accommodations (beds; bath, etc); the issue is more about food and gas for water toys.

The lake house is in a small town with one grocery store which is extremely over-priced. With that said – I do most of my grocery shopping in the larger towns nearby (45 – 60 minutes away) to save money as well as buying better quality foods. We also do not have many restaurants nearby. Since I buy most if not all the food – having people over gets costly in this economy. I end up preparing and buying all the meals. It gets awkward to ask people to bring food or meals, as does asking them to chip in on gas for the “toys”.

I am not sure the best way to handle this without alienating friends and family but affording all this is getting to be an issue. I hate the idea of waiting for company to arrive and then making a trip to the local store since the selection is limited and the quality not great.
Any suggestions or advice?

Not Lady Jane

Dear Not Lady Jane,

Wow, lucky you!! You have a lake house to escape to! And lucky your friends and family that get to come and relax also…on your dime! HELLO! The thing about this economy is that… we’re all in it. Together. If alienating your friends and family would be the result of being a realistic human being who doesn’t happen to have a money tree growing in the back yard, well then, I’m not sure what to say about that. My guess is, your friends and family are perplexed as to how you have even been affording these getaways, food, toys, etc… so it’s time to let them in on your little secret, and get realistic.

So many people are under the false impression that they need money to make and keep friends. They need things to buy people’s respect. Well, you are too fabulous to worry about impressing people either with your stuff or with your ability to provide everything for everyone. You are too fabulous to be friends with people who love you conditionally. I hereby release you of being an over the top superhuman. So, gather your understanding and cool normal human friends and here’s what you do…

This economy calls for some major creativity and community. My proposal is this: Move away from the “NLJ 4 star Hotel” model and towards the “Participate, pitch in, and don’t be a mooch” model. Here’s what I mean…

People like to feel included, involved, and like they matter…

Step 1. Go to a website like and get help creating a menu for the weekend away. A site like this has recipes that are cheap and easy, but creative and fun to make. Write down the menu with all of the ingredients, prep time, and leave a space for “head chef”

Step 2: Send the menu to your friends coming to stay. Either in email form or drop it off at their place. Attach a cute letter saying something along the lines of… “We are so eager for this weekend! We know it’s going to be so much fun. So, please check out the menu below, ‘cause we’re trying something new! Each family/couple will pick a meal to manage. For that meal you will bring the ingredients and any sides you want to add and the rest of the group will be your cooking staff!! The Not Lady Jane’s will provide the kitchen of course, appetizers, and beverages. We are so excited to cook good food with good company. YUM! See you Friday!”

A project like this will challenge you to release some control and count on others. But it will also build your creativity and ability to be realistic and inclusive. Not only will you be the hostess with the mostess, but you will have shown that you are human and not just a friend with money...leading to tons of respect from everyone around you. Who knows, maybe your friends will even feel more comfortable confiding in you about their money challenges!

And as far as asking for gas for the water toys... Just ask. Really, just ask. Make a cute little “gas for toys” container and ask everyone to contribute. If they leave in a huff because they were asked to respectfully add to the pot… let them leave. And don’t ask them back. They’re not cool enough for you. Period.

I can only hope that the upside of these challenging economic times is more creativity, more respect for material things and more appreciation for the people in our hearts, rather than the stuff in our space. Hopefully this is the start…and when that money tree again begins to sprout in your backyard, I hope you continue to leave your super human cape at home.




  1. I think that was an appropriate and honest suggestion. Certainly words of warmth and wisdom!
    Can't wait to read more soapboxtherapy.

    family back at home

  2. When I was growing up all we ever did was have potlucks: every family brought stuff to chip in and we all rotated. I loved it as a kid cuz I got to try all these foods that my parents never made at home! Potlucks are fun!