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Archive for September, 2009

1805Experts in human behaviour theorize that when you’re depressed or your life is “out of sorts,” you become more accident prone. I’m beginning to think that they’re right.

After finally getting our house on the market, I looked forward to writing about our “fall from financial grace” under the category “A HOLE IN OUR PARACHUTE.” Then on Thursday night, after a busy, stress-filled day, guilt set in. I realized that while my husband had taken Cadeau out twice a day for washroom breaks, I hadn’t actually walked our little shih tzu in three or four days. Despite being well past dusk, I took him outside. At the end of our driveway, I looked left then right, deciding which way to go. I chose left, not my usual direction on our country road. It was the wrong decision. On my return, with the sky now black and no streetlights to show the way, my left foot caught a rut in the ground’s surface. I twisted my ankle, stumbled forward and fell over onto my right knee, right hand, and the right side of my face.

I knew it was bad – my teeth smashed together and I was sure one had broken (I was wrong). I was also certain I’d broken my cheekbone and my left foot. Two cars went by and didn’t stop to help me. Finally, I got myself up and limped home, crying all the way – not with the pain of it as much as the fear of what I’d done.

Bottom line: bruising and swelling of my foot and right knee, a black eye; cracked ribs high on my right side, a swollen, bruised cheekbone…and to top it all off, a broken right wrist that may still require surgery.

Needless to say, I’m pretty miserable. I’m not used to relying on someone else at the best of times, but asking hubby to blow-dry my hair so I don’t look like Janis Joplin, and dealing with the fact that even finished, I’m still Janis Joplin with a slight hair relaxer is, well….driving me nuts. I feel like a spoiled baby, but sometimes, after dealing with all kinds of serious drama in your life, it’s the silly last thing that happens that puts you over the edge (hence the straw and camel’s back expression).

Anyway, readers, this has put a serious dent in my typing abilities, so for a week or so, I’ll need to stay away from the keyboard. It’s too much to hunt and peck with my left hand, when it’s also still recovering from a break back in December.

And yes, a bone density test is on my to-do list for this week. *wink*

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weddingRight from the start, my husband and I realized we shared a similar philosophy towards money: it couldn’t buy happiness, but it was definitely meant to be enjoyed. Now, that doesn’t sound too unusual, until you consider the fact that together, we put a higher value on enjoying our money than we did on saving it. Until recently, I didn’t really consider the reasons for that shared view. To be honest, I was too busy just trying to make everything “work.” But in going through a situation like the one we’re in, you inevitably come to a point where you can no longer blame only circumstances. You begin to blame yourself. Self-recrimination is all part of the “mourning” process, but it can only go on so long, and once it was over, I had a lingering need to understand “why” we’d made some of our choices over the years. After all, we weren’t stupid. We weren’t extravagant. And to be honest, we weren’t terribly materialistic. So how did we get to this point in our lives, when we’re nearing sixty?

My perspective was clearer when I considered my husband’s beginnings.
His family had emigrated to Canada in 1957, in search of a better life than the one they’d left behind in East End London. Nothing came as easily as they’d anticipated, and my husband, just seven on his arrival here, learned quickly that it wasn’t fun to be one of the “have nots.” As soon as they were old enough, he and his siblings had to take on part-time jobs to help support the family, and much to the frustration of his parents, he usually spent his paper route money (on candy or cookies) the minute it was earned, sometimes even before he got home!

Those free-spending ways stayed with him through adulthood, the only difference being that with a wife and sons, there were three more people in his life to spoil.

Understanding my own situation took some serious soul-searching. I was the oldest of seven children, and my parents had to be frugal to feed and clothe so many. We were taught that wanting more was being greedy, and sometimes I found myself resenting the restrictions they lived by. Later, their financial situation improved, but to me, they didn’t reap the benefits of that as much as they could have. They didn’t ever seem to have “fun,” and it frustrated me because I could think of hundreds of things they could afford to do that would bring them pleasure: travel, dinners out, and entertainment, to name a few. I knew I wanted my life to be different. If I was going to work hard, I was also going to play hard. In many ways, the freedom to spend my own money as I wanted, to savour my share of the pleasurable experiences in this world, was a subconscious form of rebellion. And eventually, it led me to take too many financial risks.

The bad habits did not happen right away, possibly because credit cards were not yet a reality. The budget for my engagement ring was modest and would be not one penny more than the $225 my husband received when he sold his guitar amplifier. Our wedding, in July of 1971, was nice, but not extravagant. To save money, we spent the night in our apartment rather than a hotel. Our honeymoon flight was a present from his parents; our spending money, gifts from wedding guests. My going-away outfit, a wool-blend suit bought off-season and discounted by 50%, was a disaster. I sweated buckets and squirmed uncomfortably for the entire six-hour flight to England. I certainly didn’t feel like a big spender when we arrived at Gatwick and boarded the bus for another three-hour trip to our destination!

Actually, it wasn’t until we’d been married for nearly two years and decided to buy a home that we started to take financial risks. It came from a sense of our own “power” – just how much we could actually afford if we put our minds to it, just how “tight” we could live in order to get the things we wanted. Within three months of borrowing $2000 to buy a 1970 Mach I Mustang (gorgeous, by the way), we’d found the house of our dreams, borrowed $500 as a down payment on the house, paid off our car loan, and arranged a “hidden second” mortgage with the builder.

Two years into our marriage, at the ages of just twenty-two and twenty-three, we didn’t have a cent in the bank, but we had a house, and we felt invincible.

Next installment: Sometimes, we succeed despite ourselves.

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