Tag Archives: holidays

Love Story, Part I: Sittin’ In A Tree…

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I thought in honor of Valentine’s day, you might like to hear my love story. But take heed, ye faint of heart, this is no fairy tale or shiny Hollywood blockbuster. You’ll find no saucy scenes to get you hot under the collar, either. I present you with a REAL love story, one that ends with “To Be Continued…” not “And They Lived Happily Ever After;” in which love truly conquers all, sometimes in unexpected ways. Oops, I’ve gone and spoiled the ending for you. Oh well.

My husband and I have known each other literally all our lives. We became childhood sweet hearts, holding hands in the sandbox and squabbling over silly things as children do. Everybody smiled at our sweet innocence and said things like “Wouldn’t it be something if they grew up and got married.” Our parents got along well, as did our siblings. Seemed like a tiny match made in Heaven, right from the start. Feel free to gag at the sugary sweetness because it ends here.

Tragically, we attended different elementary schools and slowly grew apart. THE END. Just kidding! When I transferred schools in the seventh grade, this handsome guy shared several of my classes. His apparent sadness intrigued me. I wondered what made him so sad. I felt like I knew him from somewhere, I just couldn’t place him. As a painfully shy new kid just trying to blend in, I pondered over him from afar while trying to remember where our paths first crossed. One day, while looking through some old photo albums, one picture grabbed my attention. My jaw dropped. The mystery man (of course, in the seventh grade you see yourself as grown)! I’d like to say the memories came flooding back, but instead I had to go ask my mom about my old friend. He doesn’t really remember our childhood romance, and unfortunately I only have a couple of hazy memories tucked away. But we do have some old photographs, and naturally our parents have an abundance of cute stories they happily share.

I kept this news to myself for a while, trying to muster up the courage to approach him. One day, we ended up sitting next to each other in History class. Before the bell rang to bring the classroom to order, I smiled at him and said “Hi, I’m Grace.” “I know who you are,” he said, sadly staring at his desk, doodling absentmindedly. “Oh…” *awkward silence* And then the bell rang, and class began.

That was not the response I expected. I sat through History confused and distracted. I began to make some friends at my new school, and occasionally spoke to my old friend, when I could overcome my immense shyness. He always responded with short, impersonal dead-ends and never made eye contact. I couldn’t take it personally, he acted like that with everyone. I felt drawn to him because he openly expressed the cold numbness I tried to hide. I thought maybe we could help each other in some way, or at least understand each other. I longed for someone to know the pain inside me, to understand and validate me.

As the school year unfolded, his dark cloud seemed to shrink bit by bit, until Spring when I finally heard him laugh. He started to use real sentences when I spoke to him, make eye contact and oh, that smile. It made my heart flutter. But he didn’t seem attracted to me, or really anyone, just yet. I “dated” a couple of boys in middle school, to the extent that my parents allowed. The first one tricked me into thinking he genuinely liked me so he could humiliate me and gain status with his friends, leaving my already fragile self esteem shattered. The second was a high school boy I met at a party. My parents did not approve, which naturally made the romance even more appealing. But of course it ended quickly and tearfully, as that sort of thing typically does.

In high school, my old chum began to find himself and we started building a real friendship. I felt a strong physical attraction to him, but he could be kind of a jerk sometimes, so I “friend-zoned” him. Although his depression had improved over the years, he still suffered such low self-esteem he just couldn’t believe any girl would really want to date him. So he didn’t get into the dating scene, even though plenty of girls liked him and would have said yes if he’d just asked.

I didn’t date much in high school, either. I did meet a boy the summer between Sophomore and Junior year, who I dated for a few weeks. He gave me my first kiss, but then he pushed for more so I broke it off. Then Senior year, I went to a party with a live band. They played ridiculously well for a group of high schoolers. The guitarist in particular caught my eye. He could play like the wind; the melodies and harmonies virtually flew off the strings. He owned the stage, exuding confidence and that “it” factor you always hear about. I couldn’t tear myself away. When the band took a break, I introduced myself, and we hit it off.

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Merry Christmas

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We had a very merry Christmas indeed, and I hope you all did as well. This was our family’s best Christmas in many years, because we were able to spend it together. We have received abundant confirmations since the move that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing right now. Although most people would not want to be in our shoes and to the world outside things look pretty bleak, we are truly happy and all of our needs are met. This jobless time has brought our family closer together, and has presented SO many opportunities for God to show us how very big He is and how richly, extravagantly He loves us. We are getting to live Isaiah 61:3, and it is so much more beautiful than any of our own plans. Our future looks bright, but if it should fall, yet will I praise Him with my whole heart.

Now I See.

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

A part of God’s plan for our family became clear today. A tragedy struck an old friend last night. Soon, because of the eviction, we will live close by to help ease their suffering. Obviously I’d rather have a better reason than eviction, but I am glad and grateful that we can be there in time to bring some holiday cheer.

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

TheWeekendBrewButton Essential Fridays Linkup

Family Economics

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Mother had a stable but low-paying career working with children. Daddy worked at the family business, with a few short breaks. It was an extremely profitable but seasonal business. We maintained certain standards year-round: If we wanted a new toy or other luxury, we could either get it with our allowance or wait until Christmas/our birthday. We occasionally got a small amount of “allowance credit,” but were not taught anything about long-term planning. We didn’t go out to sit-down restaurants or order pizza very often (although we did eat a lot of fast food during the busy season.) We didn’t attend many movies, skating rinks, Chuck-E-Cheese, or other places that charged money for entertainment; except for special treats. And even during the brief time we were on food stamps, Mother always made sure to put a little something in the offering plate at church. My parents also maintained some luxuries whenever possible, even if that meant forgoing groceries or other necessities: Mom’s hair was always salon-dyed (as was mine once I reached the proper age), nails always painted, make-up always done. Mother forced me to have my hair dyed for years, but I could manage to avoid the nails and make-up if I really worked at it. She bullied me and sometimes withheld privileges if I failed to comply. We occasionally received hand-me-down clothing from our cousins, but we never purchased clothing or toys second-hand. Dad frequently traded his sports car or pickup truck for a newer model, owned the biggest TV on the market, and had a personal computer before anyone else on the block, in addition to the recreational drugs. We had a cleaning lady most of the time, but would occasionally cancel her services for a few weeks during the slower months. Even when the cleaning lady was on hiatus, we had very few chores.

During the busy months, Mom and Dad saved for the slower months, but it seemed they never put back enough. They kept a specific fund that could not be touched unless a dire emergency arose: the Christmas fund. Christmas was an elaborate celebration in our family. We wore brand-new matching outfits to the Christmas eve service at church. We opened our brand-new matching Christmas PJs Christmas eve, to wear to bed and then for pictures Christmas morning. Mother prepared a feast for our extended family on Christmas day. And the gifts, oh, the gifts. Each year we prepared a list of desired presents at Mother’s prompting. This list had to be long enough to share with the extended family and still leave enough to flood the house with gifts from Mother, Father, and Santa on Christmas morning. If the first list wasn’t long enough, we had to add to it. Gifts would be piled everywhere, under the tree, on the furniture, under the dining room table, around the hearth. Mother would choose the items from our lists that she found acceptable and would pass some of them on to extended family to purchase for us. The rest, if she deemed them acceptable she tried to find them at the best possible prices. If she could not glean enough gift ideas from our lists, she still felt compelled to drain the Christmas fund, so she purchased things seemingly at random, or things that fit her taste, things she wanted us to like.  As an example, once I reached the appropriate age, I usually received large amounts of make-up, especially kits, either from expensive department store brands or even occasionally drug store brands. Mother trained us not only to smile and say thank you, but to effuse over each gift and spend some time playing with it enthusiastically for the camera. Christmas meant more than just gifts, of course, but I will save the rest of the traditions and memories for another entry.

So even though an abundant Christmas fund sat in the bank, if the money ran out during the slow season Mother and Father would not touch it unless a true emergency arose. This meant that sometimes we ate nothing but pasta and hamburger for weeks at a time. Other times it meant we had three meager meals and no snacks, left with rumbling tummies for much of the day and night. Complaints about hunger elicited a number of responses, ranging from denial to charges of ungratefulness, belittling to annoyance. Meal and snack times and amounts were set and they had better be enough or we could “get over it.” Sometimes I would sneak food, even hiding boxes and wrappers in my room or in strategic places around the house. If I got caught I was reprimanded, and punished by missing the next snack or meal. As I got older, I would gorge myself in secret on grocery day so that at least for one day I wouldn’t go hungry.

We also had to wear worn-out and out-grown clothing and shoes until Christmas, and then whatever we got for Christmas had to last us until the busy season, growth spurts not being accounted for. This meant that some years we went without winter coats, appropriate shoes, and occasionally no socks and one fitting pair of underwear. If we got down to no underwear that fit, then mother would pick up a few pairs, but that was pretty much the only exception. Child Services got involved on a couple of occasions, but that would only fix the clothing situation for that year. The following winter we reverted to the old way of doing things.

During the busy season, we lived the high life. With Daddy’s first big paycheck or two, Mom and Dad would catch up on the mortgage and any other lapsed bills. Then, right before Spring Break, we’d go on a huge shopping spree for our Spring wardrobes. We shopped the sales racks first, but after exhausting those we paid full price for the remainder. We’d get new water shoes or flip flops, sandals (sometimes two or three pairs for the girls), hiking boots, sneakers, at least two pairs of dress shoes, at least two swim suits and a cover-up each, church clothes, school clothes, and of course, play clothes for the long summer. We’d also each get one especially fancy outfit just for Easter. After Easter, the special outfits might be worn to a Summer wedding, but we usually only wore them once or twice and then donated them. We always did something for Spring Break; sometimes just an inexpensive camping trip to the lake or a park, other years Disney World or the beach or a water park, depending on how the busy season started out that year. We would have another huge shopping trip at the end of the school year to replace any outgrown clothing and fill out our Summer wardrobes. During the Summer, we always made at least one trip to an exclusive beach resort or theme park. We stayed in luxury suites, condos, or even rented a townhouse. We attended lots of summer camps: some VBSes, some educational day camps, and some sleep-away camps. We did lots of what people now call “staycation” stuff, seeing local attractions and such. And some years, we took an educational trip, such as visiting Washington, D.C.; Colonial Williamsburg, VA; the Grand Canyon; Mt. Rushmore, to name a few. Some of these trips early in the season went on credit cards that my parents then ended up making payments on into the Winter, contributing to our economic difficulties in the lean months.

My parents saved for retirement, but a tragedy wiped out most of those savings in my teen years. More on that later. They did not, however, save for our college educations and even with an upper-class income between the two of them, they paid for a lot of things with credit for a long, long time.

My Junior year of college, Mother called me out of the blue one day to tell me that there was no more money. And that was that. I’d chosen an intense major and didn’t even have time to look for a job, let alone actually work one. It was too late in the semester to drop any classes without penalty to find work, so I did the only thing I knew how to do: I paid for everything with credit. Car insurance and gas, cell phone, prescription medication, and any incidentals that came up. That semester I flunked out, mainly for unrelated reasons but it would be naive to say that stress had no effect on my studies. I don’t know how my brother managed to get by. My sister managed to pick up more hours at her part-time job, and allowed her boyfriend to help her make ends meet. Mother has no recollection of this. She and Dad managed to get through that Winter somehow.