Sacrifice, Secondhand Shoes and a Simpler Life

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You are so lucky to be able to do this!

It was not uncommon for my mom to wake me up on Saturday mornings by yelling, “The early bird catches the worm!”  Typically, those magic words meant we were in for a morning of competitive garage sale hunting.  “Do you smell that?  Nothing like the smell of bargains in the morning!” she would exclaim as I dragged myself out of bed.

As far as I knew growing up, mom and dad always had plenty.  I always felt that way because they made sure us kids (me and two brothers) always had plenty.  I wore lots of secondhand clothes, captured with pride alongside my mom at rummage sales, and my prom and homecoming dresses were picked off of clearance racks or made by hand by my mom.  These are things I look back on with a sort of nostalgic pride.

My mom recently told me she felt guilty that we hadn’t had many extravagent vacations as kids.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I remembered them taking us to D.C. and to Disneyworld.  She said, “Yes, but, that’s it.”

I didn’t agree.  We drove to South Dakota for one of my all-time favorite family trips.  We took weekend treks to Kansas to visit family.  I never for one second felt I was missing out on anything.  In fact, I feel they crammed my childhood full of what my dad, channeling Clark W. Griswold, called “quests for fun”!

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Our trips were special because, in a pre-screen era, I was crammed between my two brothers in the backseat of our family car while my dad played classic rock and offered a quarter to whoever could name the band.  (If all else failed, Molly Hatchet or Cream were good guesses).

Eighteen months ago, when God decided our family wasn’t yet complete, I never would have imagined I’d be giving up my career to look for part-time work that would allow me to spend more time at home.  I never would’ve imagined it, because I never would’ve dreamt we could afford it.

After Babe #3 made landing, I couldn’t find my footing in life.  At work, I was stressed and felt guilty.  At home, I was exhausted and distracted by work.  We looked at our budget.  Nope.  Gotta keep working.

A month later, I was struggling even more.  We looked at our budget.  We cut a few things.  Nope.  Gotta keep working.

A few weeks after that, I hit a wall, hard.  If I’d been hoping for God to show me the correct path, he was pointing me toward home.

We looked at our budget again and we started cutting.

What I had considered necessities were no longer as necessary to me as they had been before.

I took the leap.  Our household income plummeted by more than 1/3.

So many people have said to me, “You’re so lucky to be able to work part-time!”

We are lucky.  We’re lucky I was able to find part-time work.  We’re lucky my husband has a good job with benefits.  In our case, though, luck also looks a lot like a canceled family vacation in July that turned into a homegrown “quest for fun” staycation.  It looks a lot like no “back to school” shopping spree and shoes, shirts and baby items purchased second hand.  It looks like more ramen noodles and hot dogs at home and a lot less of our favorite mexican restaurant.

I can only hope that some day my kids will look back on this time in our lives and not think about canceled trips or secondhand shoes.  They won’t know about mom and dad huddled around the computer working on the budget and paying bills after they’ve gone to bed.

I hope they will just remember that they always had things to do, clothes to wear, food to eat and two parents who loved them more than anything.

When the time came to plan my wedding, true to form, my mom and I hit up a bridal boutique and made a beeline to the clearance rack in the back.  Within an hour, we’d found the perfect gown for me to wear.  It cost $150.  I never look back on my wedding gown with regret that we didn’t spend more.  I only remember hunting it down with my mom.

I remain so grateful that she and my dad showed me the way to build a life based on love and not things.

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