Mello Re-Hash — A Political Post

Warning: This is a post about an Omaha political race. It has nothing to do with my regular frugal projects. If you don’t care about Omaha politics, or this issue, I won’t be offended if you ignore the post.

Way back in April 2011, I wrote this post about two misguided Nebraska lawmakers and their attempt to prove that “it’s too difficult to eat well” on a SNAP program.

Well, I’ve learned a lot since then, and I hope Heath Mello has, too. He has announced he is running for mayor of Omaha this fall.  Let’s recap what happened in 2011….

The Omaha World-Herald ran an article (the link no longer works) about two Nebraska state senators attempting to eat for a month on a food stamp budget “in order to draw attention to the lack of healthy food available to low-income families” in Omaha. After buying a loaf of wheat bread, a half-gallon of skim milk, peanut butter, jelly and Frosted Mini-Wheats for “less than $16.85” and eating only that all week, then-senator Mello declared that it was “too difficult to eat well” on the budget provided by SNAP. My article suggested fresh produce and other changes would cost less and provide nutrition on that budget.

I was really taken aback by the comments made by our elected senators, and the fact that they really weren’t trying to learn how to resolve the education component of the SNAP program.  I offered to walk with Mello to his neighborhood store, make smart, nutritious choices, and show him how the program is designed to work.  He was not interested.  He told me he did this to “learn as a lawmaker.” I told him he could learn how to improve information programs for assistance recipients, and that would be a great use of state resources.  He still declined the opportunity to learn more as a lawmaker.

Five years later, I have worked even more in the area of feeding and educating the hungry in our community. I work with a food pantry that provides groceries to qualifying low income families. I work with another organization that teaches nutrition, food budgeting and basic cooking skills to low income families.  I have worked grocery store educational events in the poorest communities. I have learned more about how SNAP is intended to be a temporary stop-gap, not a permanent lifestyle. I have learned what it does and does not cover. Even though I no longer journal my family’s dinner menus (which can still be found in the archives here), I can still put together a week’s worth of meal planning for about $50/week for three of us. It IS possible, and there are educational resources available. I believe our elected officials should know how to make that information available to those that need the programs.

I never heard back from Mello, even when the Unicameral was considering issues affecting low income families. His steadfast refusal to consider a different aspect of SNAP, resources available to low income families, and the educational component of temporary assistance, is troubling to me.

The man wants to be mayor of Omaha. His political ambitions are clear. But if he doesn’t want to provide real assistance, if he isn’t interested in learning about solutions, if he only wants to be elected, then he cannot effectively be a leader that will make a positive impact in this city, or in the community that needs leadership in this area of hunger.

I believe Omaha needs better. We need to come together (which is happening in North O and Florence!), to build up the citizenry. We do not need to claim that survival is not possible, when there are so many opportunities for families to learn and thrive. We do not need to provide permanent assistance for everyone/anyone who is simply uneducated — we need to educate them.

And as long as I have the soapbox, I’ll say it again: The Unicameral, and the FedGov, need to attach to SNAP and any other state program, a requirement of an educational component if recipients request long-term assistance. Existing programs are already available in our area, and meet federal funding requirements.

I’m done now. Thanks for reading, and for allowing me a brief detour from my frugal journey.




* If you are in need of temporary assistance, or would like additional information, here are some local resources:

Project Hope Omaha

Cooking Matters Omaha


Let There Be Lights!

The house exterior saga continues.

When last we left our heroine (the house), she was in the process of a cosmetic makeover. Paint. Which is still happening, but should be done today!  And why go through all that paint job just to put back rusty, nasty, ineffective lights?  Here is what mine looked like.

Isn't she lovely....NOT.
Isn’t she lovely….NOT.

That is one of four matching lights on the front of the house. It is the least corroded, least bug-infested, least troublesome. It illuminates my front porch and greets visitors. Not a good first impression anymore.  I wanted BIG. I wanted DOWNlights whose bulbs could be changed easily, and that would not accumulate bugs. I wanted less brass.

Plus, I needed to replace the horrible, ugly, “functional” security lights on the side and in the back. We had an attempted break-in some years back, and immediately put up motion-sensor security lights (the only ones I could find at the time).


Why, I ask, do they not put UV coating on the finish of exterior lights? Why do they not put ANY coating, other than paint? And, of course, ugly.  So not what I ever wanted on my patio.  We rarely turned it on out of courtesy; behind neighbors moved in a few years ago and do not have curtains on their windows (that’s another story).  Definitely time for a change.

How overwhelming is it to shop for exterior lights!?  Sensors, not sensors. Big, small. Finishes! And, OMIGOSH, the prices!

Functional, yes. Ugly, YEEEEESSSSSS!


Better......sort of.
Better……sort of.


THIS is what I’ve been looking for.

At $45 per light, that was not going to fit under my $100 budget.

Two words: Habitat ReStore!  Love this place at 108th/West Maple. I have donated, I have purchased, I have dreamed there. It’s basically a thrift store for household and building items, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity. (I have also worked two Habitat projects, and I support the organization.) I found three that would suit my purpose!

The Three Amigos.

The two on the left have motion sensors, which I am choosing to not use. The one on the right is just a little different, and I thought it would be just right for the front porch. They were $7.50 each! That total fit my budget nicely. That meant that I only had to buy one new light. Menard’s had another 11% rebate week, so after the rebate, the new light cost about $40.

But what to do about the ugliness, and the copper on the new light?

“Let me introduce you to my little friend!”

My weapon of choice.

I like to use spray paint because I can apply light coats an not deal with brush marks. Plus, at less than $7 for one can to do more than all my lights, this is a very frugal choice.

I took apart the lights just enough to make it easier to paint. I scrubbed, and sanded a little. I taped off the glass with blue painter’s tape, which I have in excess. I got to painting, on a drop cloth, with all vehicles moved out of the garage, and with the doors open about six inches each. Several very light coats meant that the finish should last longer. I did not want to topcoat because that would change the satin finish, and my experience is that it changes color, as well. I made sure to paint the older nuts, as well, and to turn the lights to get all the angles. The new light was almost an exact match, so I just taped on a shopping bag, and spritzed the copper areas.

I’m pretty pleased with these. The mis-matched mounting nuts are being replaced with ones from the lights I’m taking down.

All dressed up and ready to hang.

This is the light I got with the Three Amigos at Habitat ReStore for $4, to hang on the patio wall. It was already a dark brown, so it got a light coating. It doesn’t have to “match” because it’s alone back there.

Much, much better!

For the side of the garage, I painted the light that had been at the front door, after cleaning and sanding extensively. No photo for that one, sorry. You’ll see it in the wrap-up post. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s not an eyesore. The bulb won’t need to be changed hardly ever, and I don’t have to look at it every day.

The painters said that since they had to take down two lights to paint, anyway, they would put up whatever lights I wanted installed.  That takes care of those. Since I put up the other ones myself, I know I can take them down and install the others. That’s not an urgent project, since the current fixtures actually work, but I am looking forward to finishing the whole project.

Light project: under $80.