Toward An Elegant Sufficiency

IMG_3521Well, it’s been almost a year since I visited this page – a year in which I reorganized my little household. A year of tightening purse strings, having lost 60% of my income when my mom died. (And now our food stamps are coming to an end.) Rereading last year’s post this morning I realized how far I’ve come from the panic mode I was in at the beginning of 2015. I was just a bit deer-in-the-headlights for quite some time. Yet I survived an entire year with less than half the funds I’d become accustomed to since retirement. And not only just survived – have done well. The bills got paid. The mortgage is in good shape. There is no bailiff at the door. And there is no shortage of food in the pantry.

Throughout this year-long journey I’ve kept in mind something my great-grandfather Peter Tierney was reputed to have said after each meal: “Thank you, my dear, for an elegant sufficiency.” Peter had survived the Irish Potato Famine of the mid-19th century. He came to America on a coffin ship – though not willingly. Apparently his actions against Ireland’s British overlords almost cost him his life. He never shared the details of how he came to be transported rather than executed – perhaps he had friends in high places. We do know he was shackled so long he was permanently disabled. Yet he triumphed, establishing a profitable dry goods and general store business in Cincinnati Ohio. He married twice, producing four children by his first marriage, two by his second wife, Sarah McHugh (She was known as Sallie. I am her namesake). Peter’s youngest child was my mom’s mother.


Peter came out of horrific adversity and privation, building a fulfilling life for himself by maintaining a keen appreciation of what he had, however humble the fare – an elegant sufficiency indeed. On this day – St Bridget’s Day – I’m reminded that it isn’t enough to merely survive and make do. That is poverty mentality. True wealth and health is achieved by VALUING what you have. My grandmother used to say, “We may not have money but we have never been poor – and never will be.” I believe she first heard that from her Grandpa Peter. It sounds like something he would have said. There is no shame in not having money; the shame is in considering yourself poor. Yes, it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty. What is important is knowing you have a glass – and there’s something in it.

Have a lovely St Bridget’s Day! I’m dehydrating banana and mushrooms this morning – and simmering a pot of stock made with bones from yesterday’s chicken. An elegant sufficiency!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s