June 24, 2011

A Bike and A Lesson in Living Now

Is there such thing as being too frugal? You'd have had a hard time convincing me of it a few months ago. My mother and her mother before her were practiced at sacrificing and saving for their families' financial welfare. My Grandma Verna survived what we call the "Great Depression" so she had money saving tips that boggle the mind, including washing and reusing bread bags and reusing paper napkins for at least two meals. My mom wasn't far behind her in practicing frugality and early on I saw the wisdom of their habits. Neither had debt, both paid off their homes and saved for the future.

As a mom, I often find myself giving up something special that I want for the sake of my family's needs or perceived needs. I prioritize bills against other things we need and push those things further down the list. As we provide (on a single income) for our small children, who eat an astonishing amount of food, I find myself giving up things I need for myself, like attractive clothing, dinners out with friends and even makeup. There have been bigger ones too - like the birthday money I received toward a "real" camera that I had to spend on an unexpected bill. That was three years ago and I still don't have the camera.

I am circumspect about these choices and recognize them as a necessary part of my decision to trade a more comfortable income with the chance to stay home and enjoy every minute of my children's preschool experience. And, I can honestly say, I am content.

But, since a rather life changing experience in February when I spent some time in critical condition due to a severe miscarriage hemorrhage, my outlook has changed. For those of you who have read my blog for a while, I don't want to harp on this excessively, but quite frankly, feeling my life almost seep out between my legs drastically affected my perspective. I emerged with a profound gratitude to be alive and a fierce determination to wring every drop from this intoxicating drink called life. I find myself saying, "Yes!" a lot more and taking every opportunity to connect with people, long time friends and strangers. And, I'm doing things for me that I had previously put off to "someday".

Before my mom died, she gave me money for a birthday and I told her I couldn't decided whether to buy a beautiful quilt I loved or get a jump on some other financial obligation.

Mom surprised me by saying, "Sweetie, you know I believe in being frugal. I have spent a lot of my life giving up things I want to support our family and I've never regretted it. But, I hope you'll get that quilt because you need to have a little fun along with the responsibility."

Like a typical daughter, I listened but I still did what I thought was right. I didn't get the quilt.

This year, I feel differently. When we had a little extra income a month ago, I did something extravagant. I spent money on ME and bought a bike. A brand new, sparkly, lavender bike. My husband threatened to pick it himself when I teetered on the edge of "No". I've been riding around like a little kid ever since and am relishing the freedom, alone time and exercise it's brought to me.

Friends, I am not advocating being unwise or thoughtless with your finances. I still believe in saving, making smart choices and shopping at thrift stores (it's like a treasure hunt!). My purchase didn't require a credit card or compromising my ability to buy groceries.

But, I discovered that I believe in one pass at this life and I want to find a way to feel it all. I want the beauty along with the ugly, the hope along with the pain. And, in this case, the bike along with helmet (even though that's a double positive). Taking hold of life does not necessarily require spending more money - but it does require our taking advantage of the moment we're in and being the fullest version of ourselves.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and that you are enjoying every bit of the life you're leading. If you're looking for me, I will be riding my bike!

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