Saturday, April 29, 2017

I Can't Afford That!

How many times have we heard that come out of our mouths?  And how many times have we heard it from others?  I don't say it anymore, and not because I can afford everything I want, but because I've learned it's often about choice.  I tired of hearing the same sentiments from acquaintances over the years, especially the words, "You're so lucky!  I wish I could afford to stay home with my kids," or the age-old "I wish we could afford to adopt."  It's a rare family that has money laying around to adopt.  It usually takes creativity and sacrifice.

We're a lot more comfortable now, but I also know what it's like to be scrounging for loose change on the floor of the car to buy a gallon of milk.  I remember the worry of living in Georgia, with nothing in savings, living in a cockroach infested apartment, and wondering how we would make rent (we found a couple to move in with us). When we lived in snowy Munich, I had no boots.  And we couldn't afford to use the air conditioning in our apartment when we lived in sweltering Washington DC. In Arizona it was a big deal to eat out, usually only for a birthday.  My Bigs still joke that they didn't even know what a Happy Meal was when they were little--it was the Family Meal of 20 piece McNuggets, 1 large fry, and 5 cups of water!  And our first adoption was funded by selling a car, doing daycare, and getting most of the kids' Christmas presents from garage sales.

And you know what?  It was hard.  But in the end it was fine!  

I do remember one particularly drastic day when James and Joe were little  I was driving home from playgroup in Maryland.  Oh, how many wonderful playgroups we've had over the years. LOVE!

Don't be jealous of those overalls!  Anyhoo, I was driving and Joe started crying in the backseat.  I thought he was just hot, even though I had the windows down as far as they would go.  James was trying to tell me something, but I could only figure out it had something to do with a shoe.  Well, before long I discovered Joe was crying because he had accidentally dropped his brand new shoe out the window!  Brand New I tell you!  And shoes were something we saved up for.  It was a BIG DEAL when the kids got shoes.  I took the next exit and drove back up the freeway, then back the same way, desperately searching for a red leather shoe.  Until that day, I never noticed how many red things are on the side of the road.  But no shoe.  Oh man!  I cried.

You will be happy to know that I do still have the remaining red, size 7 Weebok. Memories.

Yes, times were tight.  And I'm sure I often said that I wished I could afford something or other.  But we learned to find what was free, like the zoo in Washington DC.  And we relished the chance to go to special events at the White House. I especially remember the Christmas party and when Gorbachev visited.

Trust me, I wore the same dress to every event.  But you know what I know now?  It was okay!  And it was ultimately our choice to live on a small budget.  I could have worked. We both could have worked a second job.  We could have robbed a bank (wait, bad idea).  But we could have rented out a room or lived without a car. Actually, come to think of it, we didn't have a car for two years.  BUT, guess what?  Even though it was hard, it was okay!  We survived!  And again, it was about choice, and I will forever be grateful to have a car now.  And I will forever be grateful to have a washing machine after all the years of laundry mats!

We made choices.  And I fully recognize that not everyone who is struggling has choices.  But we did.  We chose to have a bunch of kids with a stay-at-home mom, on a shoestring budget.  At first we were poor college students, and then a low-income military family.  We didn't have a lot of things, but I have no regrets.   We chose to adopt a bunch more kids, even when we didn't know where the money would come from.  We pinched and squeezed and made it work.

I made my dress and Lizzy is wearing the baptismal gown I made for James when he was born.  Unfortunately, I used cheap fabric for the gown.  Trust me.  Spend the money for good fabric when sewing something to be treasured! 

Now, life is a lot easier, at least economically. We both work.  And you know my part-time social work position is bringing in the big bucks.  Ha!  But Hubby's hard work has given him a solid management position.  And our kids are growing up and becoming independent adults.  Of course, having a houseful of teenagers isn't cheap, and there are still things I would like to buy, or have, or do, but instead of saying, "I can't afford that," I try to say, "I am choosing to spend my money in a different way."  Because really, that's the truth.

1 comment:

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

So true! I remember a friend of mine being jealous that we were sending one of our kids to private school. "Must be nice" she said. But they had far fewer children than us, and both parents worked! I didn't understand until they announced their next vacation to Hawaii coming up soon (didn't they just get back from Disneyland?). We had different priorities. They chose to travel; we chose to send one of the kids to Christian school. Neither was wrong, they were just different.