My Monthly Budget Pep Talk

Rainbow Moe

We have enough. We don’t make as much money as we would like to; and I often have to remind myself that this is a conscious decision we have made for our family. But– why did we do this to ourselves?

Our priorities have nothing to do with money and everything to do with our daily happiness. Because isn’t that what the bulk of existence is—thousands of days that roll out into a lifetime? There are goals we make, and maybe we could reach them faster with a little more pain right now. But these minutes and hours are everything. And we would rather be poor on our own terms than financially comfortable on someone else’s.

Of course, we learned this through trial and error.

It isn’t the same for everyone. Some people have passions which appear in the form of time-consuming careers outside the home, while a large percentage of our happiness can be realized from the comfort of our living room. The fact that this applies to both me and my husband is both a blessing and a curse, I suppose.

We live in a culture which narrowly defines success and happiness, and it takes time and experience to figure out that one size does not fit all. There is no right or wrong, just a limited amount of time to get the most out of what we’re given.  Continue reading

Making Something Every Day

GobletsThe summer before my younger sister was born I was eight years old. My parents bought a house that summer, not far from the one we had rented since the time I was born. This new house was surrounded by woods and water. On one side of us was a popular apple orchard, which brought in plenty of traffic during the autumn months; and down the street was a cross-country skiing spot.

In the summer months I spent a lot of time roaming those ski trails.

The Actons were our new neighbors who owned the skiing business, and they invited our family to their Halloween party that first year. It was 1984. The party was held in the main lodge area; kind of a big cozy barn atmosphere with plenty of room and a bar that was serving hot drinks and snacks. Skis lined the wall behind the counter, and there were stoves circled with seating where one could warm their hands after a long day in the snow.

Although it was kid friendly, this was the first party I went to that felt like a grown up party. I don’t know if my parents knew anyone or had any fun, but me and my older sister spent most of the evening up in the loft drinking hot chocolate by a stove. We dreamed of what we would do with a loft like that, and it felt like we were on vacation. Continue reading

In the Beginning….We Had Everything

....and my parents paid the photographer.

….and my parents paid the photographer.

I don’t remember being all that worried when my car broke down for good along I-94 in the spring of 1996. We were coming back from our appointment with the wedding photographer. A nice couple had picked us up and took us to the Helmer Road exit in Battle Creek, where I called my dad for a ride.

It was a 1979 Plymouth Horizon, previously owned by my Great-Grandma Hill. From the time I was born I had gone to her house every Sunday, and sometime around the age of sixteen I had stayed with her while she recovered from surgery. During this week she must have decided I needed a vehicle, and so it was that the little red hatchback came into my possession.

We had our battles. That car taught me early on how to be nervous at every little engine sound, and how to stop at lights and stop signs without completely stopping (if I ever wanted her to go again); but that final year she gave me a lot of miles. I think it was the wedding we attended in Kansas the previous month that finally took her life.

One last road trip.

It was a half hour drive to my job as a Meijer’s shoe clerk, so the loss of my vehicle meant I would have to quit. I was a month away from my 20th birthday, and two months away from my own wedding day. I should have been panicked, but my young mind thought the time off would be convenient. Who needs money? Obviously we had no money for a car. I was engaged to a man with epilepsy who didn’t even know how to drive. This, combined with the fact that my car had broken down so much I was used to being without a vehicle made us believe we didn’t need to have transportation, either. Continue reading

Even Jesus Likes a Good Scavenger Hunt

 

There are days when you feel good about the things that are going right in your life, and there are days when you feel like maybe you are a complete failure. Things aren’t really black and white. Sometimes we sacrifice in one area so that we can benefit in another. So maybe I am guilty of spending time thinking about the sacrifices- but I am great at talking myself out of it. Usually.

I have made sacrifices in my career and income that benefit Teghan. She attends a good school and has extended family around her because of those sacrifices. Those sacrifices allowed me to spend time with my sister before she died. These things are obvious priorities. But it’s hard to go backwards. It’s easy to do a job that you know well, but not so easy to know that you passed this point in your career a long time ago. Life is full of give and take, right? That’s helpful.

But do you know what else helps? Thinking about how far you have really come. I was reminiscing about the jobs I had when I was young and didn’t know enough to stay out of the retail business. Or worse- that brief job I held at a pizza place when I was fifteen (across from my high school). That pizza place was where I first discovered that I was clearly not cut out for food service. That, and the four days I once spent working at a doughnut shop drive-thru.  Continue reading

Veterans Day

 

Usually on Veterans Day I put together a short family history project to share with friends and family on Facebook. I post old letters, photos, and histories of various relatives and their roles in past wars. I haven’t been all that motivated this time. I have quite a few letters and photos of my mother’s parents who were both veterans of WWII. As I was looking back through old projects, I was struck by how much I didn’t know them.

I mean, we all have very different phases in our lives. If I make a timeline of my life, plotting every five years where I was, who I spent time with, what my daily activities were…it’s an eye opener to the way life changes. I have already lived many lives, in many places, and with many different people.

When I knew my grandparents they were in their retirement years, and I was a kid. We couldn’t possibly have known each other that well. My grandpa wasn’t exactly a kid’s best friend. He wasn’t mean, and when I watch old home movies I can see that he was always quite kind to me. There just wasn’t a lot of interaction. I am sure we would connect much better as adults, but he died when I was thirteen years old. There is so much I would like to ask him now.  Continue reading

A Moment of Clarity

 

Sometimes I have actual moments of clarity. Times when, just briefly, I understand what it means to be luckier than most people who have ever lived life on this planet.

Other times I just say I understand it.

And still other times I let myself become concerned with how much luckier people may be in the future. I mean, will they have a life expectancy of 150? Then I get led to other topics of science fiction and apocalypse….evil future government plots.

But right now I am seeing clearly, and I know that I am self-centered.

I was thinking about last Thanksgiving. As we drove home from dinner, we passed a man on the road with a sign that read “Homeless and Hungry.” We had a lot of extra food with us, but we did not stop. We did, however, seriously discuss stopping.  Continue reading