Posted in Family, PostaDay

Living Richly

“Half the world knows not how the other half lives.”  ~George Herbert

[Oct.16]  Rats, I was doing so well with “PostaDay,” till today. (Which will be “yesterday” by the time this is available to read.)  The good news: my Miss isn’t due to lack of writing. Here I am writing. The Other-news: our internet is shut off, which is why I’m writing but won’t be posting today.  It’s okay–my husband will pick up his paycheck tomorrow, we’ll pay the overdue internet, overdue phone, overdue electricity, and overdue car insurance.  Woohoo!  A payment for a freelance writing job just paid the overdue second-half of our October rent, and the gas gauge is still a hair’s-breadth above “E.”  Woohoo again. (Last payday our poor car literally lurched and coughed that last stretch to the gas-pump.  We’d already gathered up all the loose change we could find, and emptied the lawn mower’s gas-can into the car, just to make it till then.)

[No, the title above is not intended as sarcasm.  Read on.]

My freelance writing brings in some money here and there, but of course we can’t count on a regular amount.  My husband’s job (almost) covers the fixed bills: rent on our trailer, phone bill for our shared cell, car insurance, electricity, internet (maybe our one “luxury” item–though I do all my freelance work online, so we consider the $35 well-spent), and child support.  (Our two youngest spend a greater percentage of time with their dad than with us, so I owe. The payment, which adds less than 5% to dad’s monthly income, is a full quarter of ours. I try to remind myself that this is supposed to be about the kids.) Oh, and gas. Our car belonged to my grandpa (no payments, yay!)–it’s 20 years old and solidly built and gets hungry often, especially since we live 40 minutes from hubby’s job.  He’s keeping his eyes open for something nearer, especially since they’ve been cutting everyone’s hours for “slow season” at his current workplace.  But the economy being what it is, and with our combined total of 28 months of job-hunting-experience in the last three years, we’re tickled that he HAS a job.

Dining IN: the Chef & his apprentice

That’s it, folks, the sum total of our expenses, and those take up the entirety of our whopping $1100/month regular income.  A lot of people we know have less.  We have friends without phone or car, living in shelters.  We also interact with some people for whom it seems impossible to grasp the concept of not having financial resources available.  When we were unemployed, both of us, for months on end, my ex-husband kept trying to “shake the tree” for money to cover extra expenses he incurred on activities for the kids.  In one phone conversation–after I had pointed out that we were on Month Seven with zero income, had no credit cards or savings or assets, house in foreclosure, etc.–he came back with: “I don’t understand why you don’t just pay me.”  Seriously?  It’s just not within his realm of comprehension that a person might not be able to “put it on a card” if they don’t have cash ready to hand.

There was a bit of a learning curve for the younger kids–who are accustomed, with their dad, to eat out a lot, go to the movies or arcade, and successfully wheedle for toys and video games…  But (unlike their dad) they get it that circumstances are different at our house.  And guess what?  They don’t have complaints–even the 7-year-old, who doesn’t yet have that “social filter” and says aloud everything she thinks.  They don’t miss TV (in fact, they complain that it’s never turned off at Dad’s house).  They love my husband’s cooking.  My son says they “eat too much at Applebee’s,” and my daughter (apprentice cook) gets out her apron and step-stool to help with every meal.  The whole family cuddles up on our big bed to watch a movie together on a rainy afternoon.  We read aloud.  We play board games.  We take fishing-poles and picnics to the lake by our house.  They understand that there isn’t any extra money–not even for that cheesy little toy at WalMart, or a stop at McDonald’s.  My son commented that “Dad’s house is the video-game-house and Mom’s house is the reading-house,” and I’m well content with my part of that.  In fact, we hear a repeated chorus of: “We wish we could spend more time with you.”

"Mom's house is the reading-house." ~Christian

Our kids aren’t “in need”–even our older son, who doesn’t have a richer house to retreat to.  That’s not to say he wouldn’t like to have more sometimes, but he’s fed, and insured, and clothed (his winter coat can take the blame for our current internet outage), and LOVED–and he holds down a weekend-job that keeps him in cash for gas and dates and the athletic shoes that we just rolled our eyes at. (“Honey, I love you, but I wouldn’t buy those for you if we DID have the funds. We’ll admire them appropriately if you decide it’s how you want to spend YOUR money.”  Post-script: he bought them and then didn’t like them. Ah, Wicked Stepma wasn’t off-target on that one, was she?)

We used to have more stuff.  Just a few years ago–before we met–my husband and I each made over 70K a year.  Big houses, nice cars, lots of bills…  And each of us was trying to drink our way out of the life that went with it.  We were trying to drink our way out of LIFE.  All that money, but I didn’t laugh anymore.  I didn’t write anymore.

My Life now?  Well, I get to wake every morning in our cozy little trailer and find myself in God’s hands and my husband’s arms (with a cat purring on my feet).  I get to share a cup of coffee and a morning prayer and the A.A. “daily reflections” and a lot of laughs with my favorite friend.  I get to write.

My mother once gave me a decorative plate that said, “When in doubt, look Up.”  What DO I see when I look up?  The poverty line?  Sure, it’s somewhere up there above our heads.  But no–I get to look up to see the Big Smile of the Big Guy who’s got our backs.  We live richly.

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Author:

I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

31 thoughts on “Living Richly

  1. Simply beautiful, Kana. Sadly, those “with” often can’t comprehend what you have written, unless they have been “without.” Paradoxically, those without are so much richer, as you pointed out. Woohoo for you and your family! Savor these days of financial simplicity and your wealth in what God has blessed you with. The crumbs under the table taste so much better than the gluttonous feast going on above. You are so blessed…and so loved.

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    1. SIMPLICITY–perfect word. I actually don’t miss the things we don’t have. Yeah, I’d be happy if the regular paychecks actually covered those six fixed expenses, if we didn’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel (gas tank?) quite so often… But no, I don’t want MORE. Simplicity comes with its own Blessings. :)

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  2. This was wonderful. I find it interesting how quickly we can adjust to our new (more wealthy) circumstances as we progress through careers and spend more accordingly. I suspect that few of us would be as good at paring it back down.

    Living richly is a fantastic way to put it. I wish I were as good at recognizing my blessings regularly.

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  3. This article was well worth reading. Seriously. It amazes me to find people still appreciating what they have. When they do, they realize they possess what’s most valuable. I been through similar circumstances so there were areas in this article I could relate too. Isn’t it ironic that an abundance of income could also cause an abundance of hardships? But the beauty of it is, because of hardships, it creates reflection and realization. Without either, we’ll never know that a moment of pain could bring a lifetime of happiness.

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  4. The glimpse into your life somehow reminded me of what Father Damien must have experienced and felt when he was faced with the big challenge of caring for all the lepers exiled on Molokai, Hawaii. Thank you for the share and the reminder to let God do HIS work…… :)

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    1. Father D has always had my deepest (amazement-tinged) respect. Makes my 36 hours without internet look like the luxury “problem” it is. ;)

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  5. I loved this post so much! I imagine that it would be less stressful to have more money left at the end of the month than the other way around, but I agree with you on those things that are taken for granted and are so unimportant! We recently moved from the US to Australia and had no cable TV for the first time… ever at the place we were staying. We spent evenings on the deck instead, and found when we sat there in the late afternoon with a book that we could see whales playing out in the ocean. Something we would never have seen if we had the TV, because NO WAY would any of us had been sitting out on the deck. Life’s like that. We are so busy and stimulated that we miss the simple, pure and deliciously wondrous things that abound, right in front of our eyes. I wish you all well and commend you for your great parenting!

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  6. Wow. This is a complicated issue. Of course I agree that having money doesn’t make you a better person or mean that you have a better life. However, in my experience, neither does NOT having money make you a better person. Sometimes it is easier to see and appreciate what we have when money doesn’t get in the way, but there is no inherent virtue in not having money. It is a blessing for all of you that you are a close, loving family in spite of “coming up short at the end of the month.” However, I have seen many families in poverty who live in misery. The lack of money is a constant source of anger, tension and stress that tears many families apart instead of bringing them together. If your children are unhappy with their dad, I suspect it has less to do with the fact that he has money and more to do with a lot of other issues. I believe that when a person connects an emotional state to having or not having money, the implication is the same — that money is the controlling factor in how someone experiences their life.

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    1. You’re right, of course–there’s no inherent virtue in our poverty (or in US, for being dirt-poor). It HAS (in our life) led to a very clear-cut assessment of what IS important, and the knowledge that the important stuff we have isn’t BOUGHT. And you’re right, too, about the kids’ experiences of the different households–I heard similar comments even when I did have money… I’d like to think we’ll be just as joyful if/when our finances become more stable. In the meantime, though, I’m grateful that we can find joy with things as they are. ;)

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  7. This is beautiful. I always believed that there is glory in having less. My friend Alvin wrote a blog about having less in life is enriching. I wrote a blog similar to this but yours is wonderful. Please visit my site if you are interested, it is entitled” Why God used a small plant”.

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  8. Beautifully written. Though money can help it does NOT make us happy! The decisions and lessons we learn today will reflect in our future. This economy has forced many to learn to live with less but it is us strong ones that have learned love and family must always come before money. We are so blessed to have you in our lives. Love always, Your daughter from another mother ;)

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  9. Hi Kana, thanks for stopping by my little corner! Yes, poverty and money are not really related. I know rich people who are desperately poor, and poor people who are immensely rich. It’s all in what you do, with what you have.

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  10. Thanks for subscribing to my blog (pozforme.wordpress.com), I feel truly honoured that you enjoyed my blog enough to do so. Reading this post makes me reflect on the last 6 years of our (my husband and I) marriage. We have dealt with inconsistent jobs, health problems, moves that break our bank during which i have been pregnant and had a child through each time and the lesson of truly finding out what we NEED instead of keeping up with jones’. But through all of it we have found ourselves happy, full of faith and strengthening our relationship as friends and loving life. Keeping it simple is definitely a mantra more then a motto for me. I look forward to reading more of your posts. :)

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  11. Money can’t buy you love…or a whole lot of other essentials of emotional wealth. It’s too easy to romaniticize poverty and ignore the reality of the stress it creates. However, many allow money to divide their families rather than support them. I love the photo of your family cooking. Those experiences are priceless. Keep your head up. :)

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  12. “We used to have more stuff. Just a few years ago–before we met–my husband and I each made over 70K a year. Big houses, nice cars, lots of bills… And each of us was trying to drink our way out of the life that went with it. We were trying to drink our way out of LIFE. All that money, but I didn’t laugh anymore. I didn’t write anymore.”

    You nailed it. I can relate. The thing is, one feels that to let go is to die since the only real crime in America is being poor. Fascinating perspectives – I’m really enjoying reading your blog. And thanks for subscribing to my blog.

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  13. God is indeed an amazing provider. * Hugs * hang in there. I can relate as we’ve been through hard times too. And don’t hold back on teaching your kids about it too, it will help them understand the things that are really important in life too. If things do turn around though, don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned. I’ve seen to many people who, once they have money again, start throwing it away to things that don’t really matter.

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  14. What a great reminder for those of us living so very near the poverty line. My husband and I are choosing to live on one income right now so I can be at home with baby. Every month is a balance of squeezing out that last penny. It’s not fun, but we still find ourselves feeling so blessed in our family life. God truly pulls miracles every month for all of us to “make it.” :)

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