Picking up the Pieces…
My marriage, motherhood and life has not always been the fairy-tale, I as little girls believe it would be. It was all a work in progress that kept me just trying to find a way to stay ahead of the game most of the time. With 4 kids and a husband that was no longer in the military, money was always an issue for us. I had come from a family where I never really had to think about money because my parents were comfortable. No we were not “rich” but thanks to my mothers great skills and my fathers hard work if they were facing any money issues it was never something we kids were aware of. Now that is not to say that I got everything I asked for, but I did have a good life that afforded me the ability to be selfish, something I am ashamed to admit. So when I got married I just figured that kind of life style would continue since he was military and said he was planning on making it a career.
Imagine my surprise when after just a year into this marriage, with a 3-year-old and one on the way, he got out of the Navy and we found ourselves having to make it work in the civilian world. In the blink of an eye we went from a steady paycheck to wondering if we would have a paycheck at all. When he did find a job it was not enough to cover just the basic living expenses so I had to swallow my pride and go to my parents for help. They of course did everything they could and for that I will always be thankful. We stuck it out for 6 years close to my parents scraping to get by. This was a new lifestyle for me and not one I liked. I had to count pennies, literally sometimes just to make sure the kids had food or diapers. I had to teach myself how to budget and how to say no to the things I might have needed in favor of what he or the kids needed. I resented the hell out of it too but I kept quiet and just made due. By the time we had the 4th child it was clear that we were getting no where fast. Yes, I am sure that many of you are thinking, well why the hell did you have 4 kids? A valid question that I have no answer for even to this day. What I can say is that I have never regretted having them so I hope that’s enough.
Just before mother’s day in may of 1989 we packed up everything we owned and headed to North Carolina for a new start. The husband and I had been there in April for our 5th anniversary and fell in love with the place. He started checking around for work opportunities and landed a job that was very promising. The cost of living was much lower and we felt that the small town environment would be great for raising our girls.
We started out on this new life just fine. Work was steady, the income enabled us to live a “normal” life for a change and we actually enjoyed the slower pace. The girls blossomed and seemed to thrive. This was nothing close to what I had grown up with but it brought with it a new appreciation for the simple things and we all learned together what was important and what wasn’t. When I think back on it now I am still amazed that we were able to do it on less than fifteen thousand a year, but then by that time I had become a pro at making due and saying no.
The first 5 years went great and we even looked at buying a home for the first time, but as “life” would have it things took a turn for the worst and we found ourselves struggling again. Work had stopped and in an effort to make it the husband struck out on his own and opened his own construction business. This was after all where his heart and training lay, so he put both to work. It took some time and a lot of long hours but we started to make some headway and that eventually lead us to working with a friend who wanted to dabble in construction, but things remained very tight.
I found myself feeling very guilty because the girls were the ones I felt who were having to pay for us not having the funds we needed. They didn’t have the chance to do a lot of what they wanted as far as sports or other such things and that really began to eat away at me. I tried to temper this disappointment by scrimping and saving so that each summer time I could rent a car and take them back to my parents in Virginia where they could spend the summer playing and swimming and building a relationship with their grandparents. I figured that if I couldn’t give them everything they wanted then the least I could do is help them build great memories of their childhoods. Of course this meant that those summer while they were being kids, the husband and I were cutting everything out that we could just to save money for christmas but it was worth it.
Nine years into living in North Carolina we finally had saved enough to take a long over-due family vacation to Disney World. It was our “big splurge” and the one thing I think I was even more excited about than any of the girls. Of course it really was only possible thanks to my parents who gave us a week in their “time-share” that we were able to pull this off, but we packed up the kids, the car and what seemed like our lives and headed south. We spent a week exploring Disney, Universal and Sea World and in the midst of that vacation the husband and I started talking about the possibility of making a permanent move to Florida. There was work here and that was something we really needed, so he made some inquires and low and behold a week after we got back home he got a phone call with a job offer that was too good to pass up.
One more time we packed up the house, said our good bye’s and headed for what we were sure was going to be the best move we had ever made. We had rented a house that would give us enough room to be comfortable yet not so expensive that if something were to happen we would be out on the streets. Al went to work and within a year had the opportunity to take over the contract he had been working and start-up his own company again.
We jumped at the chance and for the first time in years we were actually starting to make the money that would allow us to do some of the things we always dreamed of. But like every moment in my life this one too had a dark side. My relationship with my oldest daughter was rocky at best and while she was in college the distance between us grew by leaps and bounds. It would turn out to be yet another “defining moment” in my life that would leave me devastated.
After 5 years of working hard we finally were in a position to buy our very first house. With great doubt from the husband that I could make it happen but I was determined because for all of my life I believed that owning your own home was the security that I needed. It took some doing and long hours of running around but we found a home we loved and signed the papers to have it built. It would mean one more move but it was going to be our final move.
I made the trip almost daily during the building process and with each new addition my excitement grew. The day we finally signed off on the mortgage and were handed the keys felt like the beginning of a normal life for us finally and when we opened the door for the first time I understood what the phrase “welcome home” really meant. This was the result of the one “defining moment” when I made the choice to believe it would happen and it did. No more picking up the pieces of failure or making due. We were HOME at last and it felt GREAT!!