Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Life Lessons 101

Since having to shop on a really tight budget, I've learned what we can live without and what becomes a necessity. I remember back in high school, in my Career Education class, they taught us how to create a resume and other life skills for the future and they touched briefly on finance. The teacher was saying something along the lines of figuring out what is a luxury and what is a necessity and then try to budget accordingly. I wish I listened better before I went and got myself in credit card debt and instead put more money into some sort of savings account. If I were to teach a class, I think I would be sure to stress the importance of saving for the future and investing wisely.

I also participated in "apartment lifestyles" for a semester in high school, where we would live in a dormitory where the rooms were more like studio apartments with bathrooms and kitchens. One semester was for boys and then the next was for girls. You needed to apply and if you got accepted into the program, you would have a roommate and every week you had to collaborate and come up with a menu and meal plan, then they would give you an allowance and bus us down to the food store to do our shopping. Once a week we had to invite one of the dorm staff to dinner and they would rate our meals, our living quarters and so forth. They also taught us about rent and paying the bills along with food. I loved living in the apartment and it was so nice to be able to cook our own meals instead of going to eat in the cafeteria.

The deaf school that I went to, I think was unique in that it had a lot of programs like the apartment-living and also with the career education classes. As much as I enjoyed my regular classes, I had more fun with the "shop" classes. I loved wood-working and metal-working, I excelled in sewing and home economics, made a final grade of 104 in cooking (that's from making 100 on tests plus answering all the bonus questions right, too!), and was so disappointed when the school budget dropped the ceramics class from the art department. When I went to art classes to learn charcoal drawing and oil painting, I would eye that pottery wheel and ask the art teacher if I could just please please please try it, and she would look at me and shake her head no. They had auto mechanic class, but they stopped with that program the year before I went in. I would have signed up if they still had it while I was there!

All this goes to say that I have always preferred to do things with my hands. I like to make and create with whatever medium I can get my hands on, whether it be food or fabric or wood. When I went to college, I went to Rochester Institute of Technology, where they had a deaf program there called National Technical Institute for the Deaf. I wasn't sure what I wanted to major in yet, but I knew it would be something hand-related. They gave us 2 weeks of trying out different departments and when I went into a jewelry-making class, I knew I found my niche! I let my financial sponsor know of my major choice and then started going to classes. I finished the first tri-mester and started on the 2nd, when I got a bill from the school and I was confused. Wait a minute, I thought this was paid for. I contacted my sponsor only to learn they didn't approve the major I picked because they felt it was not financially life-supporting. Instead of telling me so I could change majors, they just dropped my funding. I barely finished the 2nd trimester before I realized I would not have any money to pay the school and I dropped out.

I don't regret the choices I've made in life, though there are a few sour moments here and there. The good things wholly make up for those sour times and I've had some great times. I traveled to most of the states with my friends, I spent 2 summers at the beach, and I met some really great people along the way. All those experiences made me who I am today and if I had a different path, I would not have met my husband and had our beautiful girls. All those experiences have helped me deal with this frustrating budget I have to follow. Because we had a savings plan, we have been able to go this far without Hubby working. Because of that apartment program in school, I already knew the basics of budgeting for paying the rent (mortgage) and other various bills. Too bad they didn't have a magic class that taught us how to make money grow on trees, that would have really helped! Because of all those shop classes I took, I am able to make and create things to sell and earn money. Because of my Mom's love for thrift shops and yard sales, I learned to love going thrifting and that has helped in that we don't mind buying secondhand and it also helps me to earn money for our family by selling my finds on eBay.

I've learned in life that you have to take the bad things with the good. Things happen that will shape your future, and though you might not see it, though it really sucks at the time, in the long run, you'll be thankful for the experience and finally understand why it happened. I know there is a lesson in this moment that my family is going through right now, why it is so hard for my husband to find a job, and someday, I'll be able to look back and understand what we gained from it. I have also learned that an optimistic attitude goes a long way in making things bearable. The minute I start letting myself think negative, it will drag me and my whole family down into the pits. Everyday is a new day, another chance for someone to call my husband and tell him the words he has been waiting to hear: "You're hired!" Another chance to sell something on eBay that nets me more than I expected it to sell for. Another chance for my girls to try asparagus and say they like it instead of wrinkling their noses while chewing it down. Another day, another chance...


Wendy said...

I love visiting your blog. I can always count on a positive spin to not so positive circumstances.

I think it is very cool that you received the education you did, and I wish that regular schools emphasized those "life" skills as much as they do the "academics." The reality is that only 10% of high school students will go on to college, and yet, our schools spend four years prepping students for an advanced academic study with requirements like four years of English, three years of math and three years of science. It's too bad that courses like "household budgeting" or "thrifting" or "surviving on a living wage" aren't suitable replacements for algebra and "cooking for four" or "Container Gardening" or "Seed Saving" aren't suitable replacements for science. I think our graduates would be a lot better prepared for a future if they had a better idea of how to handle all of the possibilities. Some kids' parents don't teach those skills. I have great parents, but they didn't teach me those life skills, and I wasn't at all prepared for trying to support my family on minimum wage.

barefoot gardener said...

*tearing up a little*
That was an inspiring post, darlin'. I feel a little ashamed of myself for not being as optimistic as you are, and for allowing myself to just "coast". I think your family is incredibly lucky to have you.

Rosa said...

You sound like you did fine, you're happy, got a husband and kids, a place to live, a postive outlook and many interesting posts.

It really is a shame that they don't teach the highschoolers more things like balancing a checkbook, figuring out how health insurance and retirement plans work, like "life lessons". I can do the checkbook (as long as we have some $$ in it) but can't figure out the insurance and retirement things. We've got them, but it's boring to attempt to figure out how they work.

What is your Ebay name? I saw a Mountain Mommie (something like that) posting on the discussion boards and wondered if that's you. If not, you can email me your "handle". I'm not only a seller, but I'm a buyer, too. I can't promise I'll buy anything, but I'll at least browse. I'll go first, mine is natalie*rose*designs, just so you'll know it's me if I make a purchase. I am a little broke at the moment, but I still shop. See, I should have taken that class about luxury and necessity.

Sparx said...

Hey hon, things will get better, they really will. You have great coping skills and you're working really hard. Blessings to you and your family my dear - good things are coming.

Rob Clack said...

Good luck, Jenny. Your blog is an inspiration!

jenny said...

Wendy-- Thanks!! Always good to hear when someone likes my blog and the topics I pick.

I think you are absolutely right about some of the subjects that SHOULD be taught and qualify for science lessons and mathmatics.. This is why I choose to home school, so I CAN teach my kids those lessons on my own and they can be self-sufficient when they go out on their own.

Barefoot-- Aww, didn't mean to make you cry. *here's a tissue* I had a shameful moment a while back and then I got shaken into perspective and have since started looking on the bright side of things. We all have our weak moments and that's ok, as long as we don't continue to wallow in feeling sorry for ourselves!

jenny said...

Rosa-- My ebay name is Daisyblue73 I got several pyrex items listed right now with more being posted later today. I love my pyrex, but I really do have too much and no place to display them, so time to clear some out and hold on to my favorites. I'll keep an eye out for you on ebay! :o)

Sparx-- Aww, thanks hon! I think the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and there are good things coming our way soon. I'm looking forward to the future! :o)

Rob-- Aww *blush* Thanks!!