Archive for the ‘happiness through adversity’ Category

Global Warming?

I completely understand why older people move to southern states when they retire. Winters are COLD!  My fingers get chilled just thinking about it.

I do not enjoy the winters as I used to.  I remember pre-children when my husband and I would go skiing.  One day it was 10 degrees below zero. We were all excited it was so cold because that meant that the ski slopes would not be as crowded and we would not have to wait in line for the chairlift.  We bundled up with layer upon layer of warm clothing and we skied all day.  At one point, we stopped at the top of the mountain and we could see all around the surrounding area.  With the sun blazing down on the shiny snow, we saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, little villages, frozen lakes and the ant specks that were cars, and I was overcome with awe for God and nature.  It’s a good thing this memory is still crisp in my mind because these days, you’d never get me on top of a cold, frigid mountain again!

The children, of course, have always loved winter.  My oldest son, Francis, still skies with his father from time to time, plus he skies with friends in the mountains of California.  Although he is legally blind, he is a ” black diamond slope” skier.  The only problem with that is he needs a “black diamond slope” guide!  My heart was always in my throat when he skied because I was petrified he’d hit a tree.  (This was during the time when Sonny Bono and one the Kennedy boys died after hitting a tree when skiing.)  While away at college in England, he regularly skied in the French Alps.  Knowing how frightened I am, he sent a picture of him at the top of the mountain.  “You’d love this, mom” he wrote, “No trees.”  I pictured him happily skiing down the bare mountain not a tree in sight to run into.  It wasn’t until much later that someone broke my happy bubble by informing me that he could be buried by an AVALANCHE!  Boy, this being a mom is tough!

My husband received an old snowmobile as a “gift” from a friend.  One day, he was riding it in our large backyard with my son Steven sitting in the front of him and he decided to let him drive.  Excitedly, Steven turned the handlebars to give it gas.  The snowmobile took off in a lurch and my husband was thrown from the back of it in an amazing double somersault.  Steven and the snowmobile were headed right for the shed.  His life flashed before my eyes and I thought “This is what it feels like to see your child die.”   Fortunately, unbeknownst to me, if you let up on the handlebars, the machine stops, and this is exactly what Steven did.  He turned around and noticed his father was missing and he let go of the handlebars.  He stopped within a foot of the shed. It took a while for my heart to start beating again. My husband did the only smart thing a father could do…he sold that snowmobile and he bought 2 news ones so we could go snowmobiling as a family!  I had to go along as a driver in order for the whole family to participate. If you have not ridden a snowmobile, I can only describe it as riding a motorcycle on skis.  I had never ridden a motorcycle and I was very nervous. I would creep along at 5-10 miles per hour, much to my husband’s dismay.  To make matters worse, my husband did not choose the nice, empty, safe fields to ride in.  NOOOOOO!  He chose the skinny, trees whipping by your head, narrow snowmobile paths with TRAFFIC COMING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!  That one day of snowmobiling was the scariest in my life.  There was no turning back and I had to drive.  My hands were shaking, my body was sweating even though it was freezing out, and my imagination had my head being whipped off by a tree branch.  That was the first and last time for me!  My son Angel was riding with me, and he and I decided we liked to go shopping much more than snowmobiling and everyone was happier with this decision.

About 16 years ago, when it became obvious that Steven had some type of Autism and could not tolerate vacations in hotels, we bought a little house in New Hampshire for vacations.  The children always loved playing outside in the snow.  At the end of our driveway was an 8 foot tall pile of snow made by the snowplow which the kids had fun sliding down.  At one point, Steven climbed to the top of the pile and all of a sudden he disappeared!  He had fallen deep into the snow pile! Another heart stopping moment for me.  Fortunately, we managed to pull the snow from around the top of the pile until he could climb out.  He was laughing because it was so much fun and he wanted to do it again.

At home, we live on a lake.  My 13 year old daughter who is deaf loves playing outside in the cold.  She loves to go ice fishing, building snowmen, and, most of all, playing hockey.  She dresses warmly from head to toe…black snow pants, black jacket, a hat which covers most of her face, several pairs of gloves topped with hockey gloves, and boys hockey skates.  She takes her hockey stick and skates around the lake to the various hockey games trying to get an invitation to play.  From looking at her all bundled up, you cannot tell if she is a girl or a boy.  She is not verbal, so they cannot tell from her voice.  (She points to her ears for them to know she is deaf.)  She would normally use sign language but with hockey gloves this is next to impossible.  She is a good player and that is all that matters, and she invariably plays for hours. If one group stops playing, she will skate around and find another group.  She reminds me of a female Batman for hockey…slinking into games, her identity unknown…showing up out of the blue when a team needs a player!

Winter is alive and well with my kiddos, who enjoy it as I did when I was a child, but now I am old and get chilled easily..  If they want me, I’ll be sitting by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate and watching tv, often a show with a discussion about global warming.

Who Cares What I Look Like…I Saved Money…

Okay, I am officially “crazy”.  I know that is not a politically correct term, but yesterday I did something so obsessive that I realized for the first time in my life that something is seriously wrong with me…I bought make-up that did not match my skin color BECAUSE IT WAS ON SALE!!!!!!

I have always been a “frugal” person, coming from a long line of “frugal” relatives.  (Alright, actually only one, my dad, but he goes way back to my childhood so it is considered a long line to me.) My father was so “frugal” that is retrospect I realize he obviously had obsessive compulsive disorder.  Although we were a middle class family, we NEVER went out to eat.  (Well, there was that ONE TIME we did go out to an ice cream restaurant on their 25th anniversary, but other than that we did not eat at restaurants.)  He did not want to spend money on heat, so we used a wood stove. (We live in NEW ENGLANG!)  He did allow us to have electric blankets, but we could only turn it on to warm the bed, shutting it off when we went to bed.  So, I’d fall asleep all warm and cozy with happy dreams and wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of Antarctica. He also did not want to spend money on hot water, so he devised a type of solar hot water heater by threading water pipes on the roof and then into an unplugged water heater.  If it was a very sunny day, we could have a warm bath at night, but only once a week because he didn’t want to waste water.  We were fortunately to live on a lake so I did a lot of swimming to get clean.

We ate only what was inexpensive and on sale:  lots of rice, pasta, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables.  Not so much fresh vegetables, fruit or meat.  My father was not a vegetarian because of moral concerns, but because of the cost of meat.

For the beginning of school in September, I would be able to choose 2 outfits at the nearest discount store.  I would wear them alternate days during the week…all year! If I happened to grow during the year, (as of course often happened,) they would get a little tight.  Fortunately, my mother planned for this by buying them extra big at the beginning of the school year! She loved buying her and my father’s clothes and shoes at the Salvation Army.  In fact, everyone got a good laugh at my wedding when my mom came up and knelt down for communion and there was $1.99 written in black marker on the bottom of her shoe.  (You’ve GOT to laugh at stuff like that…)

My mother would cut my hair, usually crooked. When I became a teenager,  I tried to let it grown. I put it up in a “bun” like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, but it was so thin and uncontrollable that I usually ended up looking like Pebbles from the Flintstones!

We did go to the drive-in every Friday, and I was allowed the 25 cents to get popcorn, which was a huge treat for me.  During those days, you had to pay per person for the drive-in.  My father had me scrunch down low in the back seat so they would think I was under 12.  One day, when I was about 15, the person in the admission booth questioned my father about my age.  Because he would never LIE, he told them I was 15 but that he would not pay for me, and what difference did it make if he paid for 2 or 3 because they would still get some money.  The man in the admission booth dug in his heels…and so did my father.  To my huge embarrassment, my father made the long line of cars behind him waiting to pay BACK UP so that he could leave.  That was the last time we went to the drive-in.

Of all of the effects of economic frugality, the biggest one was that I never got a real Barbie doll.  I yearned for a Barbie doll!  I asked for one for birthdays and Christmas, but I always got the cheap plastic imitation Barbie dolls.  When I went to play with friends, they would take pity on me and let me play with their Midge doll, (Barbie’s “friend”,) but it was never the same as playing with my own real live Barbie. I think it is ironic that this is the one memory that has caused permanent harm to my psyche!

In retrospect, except for the doll, I did not know anything different.  I did not feel cheated or poor or economically deprived.  I learned to live with what I had and be happy. From an early age, probably because I had a brother who was severely disabled, I was empathetic with people with disabilities.  Although I did not see many children with physical disabilities in those days, there were many developmentally delayed students in the schools.  I would go out of my way to be friendly and helpful.  I had little tolerance for ignorant people who would fun of these valuable human beings, and I was known for my protective nature. I was fortunate to have had many friends in school.  They were not necessarily the most popular or the most fashionably dressed friends, but they were down to earth, friendly, and they appreciated their friendship with me. I was confident with myself, and I thought nothing of going up to a bully and telling them to stop picking on someone. Just like that, I’d have a new friend!  Sometimes I’d even make friends with the bully! I had a great time in school! My values were vastly different than other teenagers. This difference actually led into what I think is my best quality, the unwavering caring and acceptance of others.  Without this trait, I would not have become a social worker, and I certainly would not have adopted 4 children with disabilities!

Although one would expect I would rebel in the other direction, the one thing that could not help but rub off on me is frugality.  I started working at the age of 14 and paid 1/2 of my pay to my parents as room and board, (of COURSE.)  I finally had some disposable income and you would have thought I would spend it on clothes, haircuts and such.  NO.  I was a compulsive saver.  I saved to buy my own car at the age of 16 and I saved enough to pay for college at the age of 18. I am definitely not as frugal as my father, (who, by the way, died and left my mother with several hundred thousand dollars with which she happily used for the next ten years to travel to exotic locales.)  I do, however, get a big thrill buying things on sale with deep discounts!  I’m the type who would go to JC Penny’s or Macy’s and buy the seasonal items on sale at 80% off with an additional 20% off coupon.  Who can resist shirts for $3 or pants for $5?  I clothe my 5 children in this manner, always buying the year before for clothes they would need the next year.  Once, when a local department store went out of business, they were selling children’s clothing for 50 cents each. Who could turn THAT down?????  I bought 4 RACKS of clothing!  Fortunately, I was in the process of adopting our daughter from Guatemala, so my mother and I stuffed all of the clothing in 8 large suitcases which we took with us to Guatemala.  We each put our own clothes into backpacks which we carried.  The orphanage which had so tenderly cared for my daughter was thrilled to get such an assortment of new clothes.  The director actually cried because she said all they ever got were dirty and ripped hand me downs.

I no longer do the grocery shopping in my house because, like my father, I would only by items which were deeply on sale.  My husband is not a canned vegetable kind of guy.  In fact, I was lucky enough to marry a cook, so he does all of his own shopping, regularly visiting the local farm for fresh produce or the local meat market for fresh meat or fish.  My cupboards and refrigerator are always full of great food and I never have to worry about how much it cost!

Which brings me back to my drugstore sojourn yesterday when, browsing the aisles, I noticed that some of the make-up items were 75% off.  (PLUS I had a $5 off coupon for the store!  What could be better?)  I picked out the marked-down items and proudly brought them to the register.  I was happy!  I was frugal!  I was an idiot!  When I got the items home and tried to use them, I was horrified to learn I had bought powdered make-up such an ugly color that when I put it on I looked like I had pancake make-up on my face. (I’m not talking about pancake make-up they were in the movies, I’m talking about make-up that actually looked like I was wearing pancake flour on my face!)  I tried the blush and it was so red that my cheeks looked like a clown.  The lipstick was brown.  (UGH!)  The mascara was not waterproof, (something I HATE because by night time I being to look like a raccoon.)  And WHY hadn’t I noticed that the nail polish was green???  For the first time in my life I looked at my white powdered, red cheeked, brown lipped self in the mirror and I thought “I am officially crazy!”  Oh, well, its a good thing that I think I am pretty on the INSIDE!

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