Thursday, February 14, 2013

Richness: Because I Can’t Afford a Nicer Present


          In the midst of some pretty expensive baby tries, Danielle and I have run into a few "Oh shit!" moments when it comes to money.  In late November, we had a plumber come to our house to make some minor repairs.  This experience ended with him informing us that our pipes are, in his words, "on borrowed time".  Oh shit.  Then there are the maintenance jobs our aging cars require.  Danielle's car was in the shop for a semi-expensive repair when they called to tell her that there is a hole in her exhaust pipe.  Since her particular car is no longer being manufactured, replacing the pipe is more expensive than the already pricey work that had brought her car to the shop in the first place.  Oh shit.

          Other issues have been so pitiful they're almost- okay, they ARE- funny.  Concerned about our vehicle situation, Danielle's well-intentioned father called to say that he had found a used Ford Taurus on sale at auction for $3,000.  $3, 000 for a car with 70, 000 miles on it is indeed a budget-friendly deal.  Many sensible people would jump at the chance to get a reliable car at such a low price.  And yet, all I could think was, "A Taurus?  Ugh."  I don't expect to be driving anything remotely new or high-end, but I'd like to sport at least a modicum of style or personality when I get behind the wheel.  Hemming and hawing about my superficial reasons for avoiding Taurus ownership was, in the end, a totally pointless task, however. Even at a rock-bottom price, we don't have $3, 000 to fork over for the car.  I'm pretty sure that's a new low: We can't afford a used Taurus.  Being auctioned.  Oh shit, shit, and shit.

          Last night, we were looking on Facebook and saw people's postings about what they were giving up for Lent.  We realized that- oh shit- we hardly have a thing left to give up.  We have already cut way back on eating out, almost eliminated wine consumption (sniff, pout, pout), and have whittled down our grocery bill considerably.  I even created my own answer to a "Get Rich Quick” scheme by making a "Get Poor Slower" list.  List items include going on free dates to the library or getting plain coffees at the coffee shop instead of fancy lattes.  When I say we are scrimping and saving, I am not just being cute.  We are kicking it so old-school frugal, it's like Dust Bowl days in our house.  So giving something up for Lent? Look.  We don't have cable, we're already eating dried beans, and my car is almost old enough to be legal.  Right now, "Lent" is called "my life".

          This hasn’t been the easiest of seasons in our house; yet, I still approach most days with such a feeling of fullness.  Sure, the threadbare stuff will get threadbarer.  Any shopping we do will be preceded by the word “window”.  But my life is rich.  Luxuriously, decadently, delightfully rich.  My Valentine makes it so.

          Here are a few reasons why:
1.      Dear Valentine,
We are rich because we both know how to cook.  In our home, even eating the staples tastes good.  Simple frozen veggies taste much more decadent when we add embellishments like toasted nuts or caramelized onions.  To stay within our budget, we also have tested many bean soup recipes.  They have made the house smell wonderful as they simmered, and they provided cozy comfort food.  Most dishes gracing our table were prepared with creativity, adventure, and love.  Absolutely delicious ingredients, if I may say so myself.

2.      We are rich because we prioritize our time together.  We treat it like our highest commodity, which- come to think of it- it probably is.  I never feel displaced by your work, even though you have taken on a great workload to support our needs.  I know that when you have free time, you will want to share it with me.  I know this because I want to scrape together every spare moment I have to spend it by your side.  Even if we’ve had a long weekend filled with nothing but hanging out together, I hate to leave you when the work week begins.  I love that we both feel this way after almost nine years together. 

3.      We are rich because we have the cutest-ever-in-the-whole-world-not-that-I’m-biased dog.  Who needs cable when we can watch her roll around on the floor until her ears are turned practically inside-out and her beard is sticking out in every possible direction?  And when she swats at her face with her paws?  I could watch that channel for hours.

4.      We are rich because we have hope.  We have faced grief after grief this past year, but we remain determined to become parents.  Not to toot our own horn or anything, but it takes a lot of strength to make oneself vulnerable to potential pain over and over again.  I love that we haven’t forgotten that this risk and vulnerability is also the only path toward the great joy we seek.  I continue to believe this journey will be worth it, and I’m grateful you have the courage to take this road with me.

5.      We are rich because we can laugh at ourselves.  I love how we both found it hysterical that we could not afford an auctioned-off Taurus and how you laughed when I wrapped up a library book to give you as part of your Christmas present.  I’m sure some wife somewhere complained to her husband that the diamond he bought her for Christmas wasn’t big enough or should have come from Tiffany’s.  I am so rich because my wife thought the borrowed book was fabulous.  

6.      We are rich because we are crafty and resourceful.  You can take napkins you find on sale and turn them into beautiful pillows for the living room, and I can dig plants out of the garden and from overgrown pots to create the terrarium I’ve been wanting.  We have painted every room in our home, stained the deck and porch, sewn curtains, and even put up backsplash.  Truly, truly, we have made this home our own and have done it on a budget to boot.  I have such pride in what we’ve accomplished, and no one can take that from us.

7.      We are rich because this struggle is just temporary.  We are not impoverished.  We find ourselves overwhelmed with several big expenses happening at once, but we have not doubted for a moment that we will get back on our feet.  Some people will never know the feeling of seeing a light at the end of the financial tunnel.  In that respect, we are so, so fortunate.    

8.      We are rich because we have one another.  We are not in this thing alone, not for a moment.  I take such comfort in knowing that you’ll be there to hold me when I cry and be proud of me when I succeed.  I hate getting out of my pajamas on work days, but it’s almost worth it to hear you tell me I look pretty.  I love how you savor my cooking.  (Well, except that time I ruined some tilapia.  That shit was gross.  And even then, you rescued the meal the next day when you made me leftovers.)  No one else could take such good care of me or make me laugh till I cry.  No one else would be romantic enough to order water instead of soda when eating out because you knew I was worrying about money.  No one else could encourage me, challenge me, and love me in so many, many little ways throughout each of my days.  Sometimes you say I love you by washing the dishes.  Other times, you say it by drawing a bath for me.  Sometimes you make love to me.  Sometimes you say I love you by graciously holding your tongue.  But you always, always say I love you.  And that, my love, makes me an exceedingly rich woman.

Thank you for this abundance.  I love you, and I love us.  Happy Valentine’s Day.