Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Free Week

by Elizabeth

A few weeks ago, everything was free. Well, I still had to pay my bills, and when I stopped at the grocery store, lights didn't flash nor bells ring announcing the contents of my cart were gratis--but a lot of stuff was.

My kids went to a drama camp, two hours a day, no charge. (Thank you City of Dallas!) Each day after dropping them off at the rec center, I walked the quarter mile path to the library where the reading is free, not to mention the workspace. (And the A/C! Free week boasted 100+ degree temperatures. No thank you, City of Dallas.)

One afternoon, a taxi pulled beside me as I strolled and the driver asked where I was headed. "Just to the library." I pointed, puzzled. "I was going to offer you a free ride," he said. That day, a bank visited the library offering a financial seminar, and when they announced there would be a drawing at the end for a ten dollar gift card, I couldn't resist. Guess who won? Free week, I'm telling you!

So it continued. A friend and I took our kids to Heritage Farmstead in Plano, and after we begged for a peek into a locked storage cellar, the guide invited us into the (ahem, air conditioned) Victorian house for a tour, no admission today, ladies.

Another night St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Plano hosted writer Jane Green--no charge, not even for the chilled bottle of water or home-baked goodies. The book I bought for Jane to sign was not free, but I was happy to fork over my credit card as I munched another cookie. Afterward, my friend and I headed to Pacuigo for some ice cream and, though I decided to pass (did I mention the shortbread?), I could have indulged and maintained my record since I had a buy one/get one coupon floating somewhere in my car.

The next day was Dress Like a Cow Day at Chick-Fil-A. I'd show you a photo but the Internet is forever. I would like to assure our readers that, unlike my kids and their friends, I did not sport either a tail or udders. (Though if it had been required to get that grilled southwest chicken salad, I would have. That sucker was tasty.) That night my family curled up on the sofa to watch a borrowed DVD.

Friday was free Slurpee Day at 7-11. No costume required.

Saturday capped the week. I figured I'd count the complimentary performance of the city's drama camps the freebie of the day until the family of one of the kids I'd toted to camp presented me with a Barnes and Noble gift card, and the other family treated me to lunch. Free! Whipped cream all over the place, baby.

But really the very best part of free week were those free hours--free from responsibility for my kids, free from my laundry room, free from the regular surroundings that can both comfort and stifle me--at the library, to write, where I cranked out a good 10K words. For free. I guess you could argue that the ink and notepads cost something, but not much. (Besides, on the Chick-Fil-A day, I forgot my tablet and the rec center donated some paper, and I'd scored a pen from the basket off the book table the night before.)

And writing is always free. All it costs us, really, is time and effort, both of which most of us have in greater abundance than we claim. Sure we have time, no matter how busy we are. We just find other ways to waste--I mean--spend it. Television, Internet, Twitter, name your diversion. And effort--funny how somtimes the toughest thing a writer does all day is plant her heiny in a chair and keep it there. So yes, it requires diligence, patience, tenacity--but I've yet to see any of those being peddled at Target. Free, to anyone, just for the effort. Like the Chick-Fil-A meals--I spent some time, did a little work with scissors, paint and glue--but got five free meals in return.

Better still, like with writing, it gave me a story to tell. And any writer will tell you: you can't put a price on that.


  1. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot more free offerings for parents to take their children to this summer. I wondered if the downturned economy played a part in that. You really took advantage of all the opportunities--good for you! And I agree with you about's the cheapest activity out there.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. And here I was, excited about my cheap, Green-day I had this summer: Scored clothes for me at Goodwill, clothes for daughter at Once Upon a Child, and books at the library (donated ones I bought for a dollar each). Not quite free but neither did I have to dress like a farm animal. :) Buying pre-owned stuff to me feels like I'm doing something earth-conscious. Or maybe like you, I'm just thrifty!

  3. What a fun story. I'm still laughing over picturing you dressed as a cow. Love how you tied in all your freebies with writing. Well done! Really enjoyed meeting and talking with you. Looking forward to reading more of your work and hope to see you again soon.


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