“I’m not proud. I’m willing to go in on my hands and knees if I have to.” ( Luke Appling, asked whether he resented entering the Hall of Fame on the second ballot)
Yep, that’s pretty much how my unexpected life is for me. Not proud, willing to do what must be done. It has provided some memorable, head shaking moments for me; not head shaking in a bad way, more like a “I NEVER expected to do THIS or have this be my life” sort of way!
“Hall of Fame” moments of The Unexpected Life (in no particular order):
1. Not being able to give my children even $1 for new school clothes. Last year, we made due with ALL of the old. (Quite an unexpected change from every previous year’s shopping trips to Nordstrom or Abercrombie! I never imagined not being able to purchase ANY school clothes for my children prior to entering my unexpected life.) But this is the good part: My kids have learned to shop thrift stores first when they need something and have scored some deals—like the time my daughter found a brand new J. Crew blouse with the tags still attached…for $6!
2. Encouraging my middle son to wear shoes with holes. I never imagined I’d do it, or have to do it, but it’s an attempt to make them last longer and to give us extra time to save up money for a new pair. I like to think of them as “stylishly tattered” (like the hole-y jeans everyone wears) and frankly, we’re just thankful he has SHOES! Period. March 18, 2009, we weren’t so sure we’d even have shoes, so we’re thankful for what we’ve got. Besides, someday when he’s grown and a father himself and needs a good story for his children, he’ll be able to tell them how he had to wear shoes with holes in the winter when he was in 5th grade.
3. Driving a used car, in the middle of winter, with a broken window. As mentioned in a previous blog, driving in the freezing winter air, heater blasting, buried under blankets in an attempt to stay warm is definitely a memory I never expected to make! What a sight I must have been! In my 40s, driving a car without a window, in the winter. Welcome to my unexpected life! (Endless thanks to a good neighbor who fixed the broken window for us, and every time I drive I’m so grateful for all of the windows in the car.)
4. Driving my car’s gas tank past empty, well beyond the moment the “empty” light turns on, EVERY time it runs low. I’m just trying to go as long as I can between payments to the pump. (In my old life, my former husband didn’t like me to let the gas gauge get below half-full. But things are very different for the Merrimans now!)
5. Living with a giant pot under my kitchen sink for 4 months, emptying the pot 3-4 times a day (and sometimes cleaning up a flood when my kids ran water in the sink and forgot to check the water level accumulating in the pot underneath) when I got a leak, tried to fix it, probably made it worse, had my Eagle Scout son try to fix it, he couldn’t, and we couldn’t afford a plumber so we lived with a pot under the sink while we tried to save up money for a plumber. However, when you’re short every month, savings never really materializes. We’ll never forget our friend who flew over from Denver, Colorado, and fixed our leak for us one Saturday. His service to our family will NEVER be forgotten!
6. Handwashing dishes. Our dishwasher broke several months ago, so we hand-washed our dishes for financial reasons–it was just impossible for me to justify going into debt for the purchase of a new dishwasher (even the “cheap” ones are expensive in my world!) when we had plenty of dish soap, dish rags and hands that could do the job just as well for a lot less money. Besides, I didn’t think I could qualify for credit to purchase a new one, anyway! (And I wasn’t up for an additional embarrassing financial situation, I’ve had a few of those already in my unexpected life.) And then just last week, a new dishwasher was purchased, delivered and installed for me, courtesy of #5. Thanks, Mr. Awesome! (I don’t think any of my children will ever complain again about having to unload a dishwasher! We’re just so thankful to have one and to not have to hand wash dishes anymore.)
6. Not eating out but making a memorable attempt at breaking that status at Red Robin. I decided to splurge on a family meal “out” during the holidays because we hadn’t all gone out to eat together since our unexpected life began almost two years ago. I calculated that we could afford Red Robin if we ordered 3 of their $5 burgers and split them. We drove to Red Robin, sat down, picked up our menus, and I couldn’t find those $5 burgers anywhere on the menu. The waitress informed me they’d been removed from the menu one week earlier and weren’t available anymore, “But our burgers are only $8 each, that’s still a good deal and they’re really delicious!” There was only one thing I could say to that: ”NOT for a single mother with 4 kids. Thanks, anyway.” And we got up and left! We had to. There’s a big difference between $15 and $24 in my unexpected life. As we were walking out without ordering or eating anything, my youngest started throwing a temper tantrum and had to be carried out as he screamed. I’m sure we appeared to be the trashiest customers to grace Red Robin that day. I NEVER imagined I’d choose to exit a restaurant because I was unwilling to go into debt for a burger, but that’s what I did. (I’m laughing about it now, I hope Red Robin can, someday, too!)
7. Doing anything for free groceries. (I never imagined the lengths I’d go to to save money in my unexpected life.) My daughter had her wisdom teeth removed, three prescriptions were needed, I took them to Rite Aid to be filled, drove away and then found a coupon for Smith’s grocery store’s pharmacy that offered $25 in free groceries for each new prescription filled, good for up to 3 prescriptions. That was $75 of free groceries–and all it cost was the humiliation of returning to the original pharmacy and asking for my prescriptions back! I hurried back to Rite Aid and asked for the written prescriptions back before they were filled. At some point in my life I might have been embarrassed to do something like that, but after living through REALLY humiliating experiences (like being married to a man who perpetrated a Ponzi scheme without my knowledge, having the whole thing unfold in national media, having my divorce reported in the media, having my neighbors offer commentary on my life and living situation to the media, and a few other things) I’m not easily embarrassed anymore. And the next time when we needed food, and my entire purchase at Smith’s was free, I wasn’t embarrassed at all, I was grateful! Grateful I hadn’t been too proud to save some money.
8. Attempting to save money and make the old tire on my car last longer before I bought a new one, and ending up, instead, with a flat tire in the desert in July and had to pay a tow truck $100 to help us when we couldn’t get the flat tire off to put the spare tire on! Yes, that one didn’t turn out QUITE like I expected it to. Worst of all, it didn’t save me any money! Lesson learned. ”Fame and riches are fleeting. Stupidity is eternal.” (Don Williams, Jr.)
10. Returning to work full-time and putting one of my children in daycare. I know many people do it, and I’m used to it now–it’s our life–but it was a momentous (not in a good way) experience for me.
11. Taking my children to two new movies, in an actual theater, this past holiday season. (Our thanks and gratitude to a very generous Denver man who sent us a gift card to Cinemark! We LOVED it!) It was the first time we’d been able to go to a current movie, as a family, in our unexpected life.
12. Returning my violin to its original owner–the same week my former possessions went to new ones.
13. Taking my kids out to eat at a restaurant for only the 3rd time in almost two years, my treat, thanks to the violin money. And although I faced quit an inner debate about doing something “frivolous” like that when there are talents to be developed, when my 17-year-old furnace broke the very next week and all of the violin money had to go to paying for a replacement furnace, I was glad we’d done something fun, like dinner! Note to self: need new plan for talent development. (Still awaiting inspiration on that one!)
There you have it. The Unexpected Life “Hall of Fame.
Interestingly, ”Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember.” (Seneca)
I mean that.