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Monday, July 7, 2014

You are sooo lucky!

I've heard that a lot this past year. "You are sooo lucky that your house is paid for and no matter what, you won't lose it!" "You are soooo lucky to have fruit trees in your yard!" "You are soooo lucky that your kids all got scholarships to college!"

I don't like to use the word "luck". Our culture has a completely different meaning for that word than I do. Our culture seems to think that "luck" has a large component of randomness. Luck just happens to some folks and not to others, or so it is implied in western culture.

The definition of luck, that I appreciate, is this. "Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity".

You can't have a house paid for if you don't put in the effort to make payments. We knew we wanted to have our house free and clear as soon as possible. We saved a little longer than many people thought we should (8 years), and put down almost half of the purchase price to get a lower mortgage. We began making extra principle payments with the very first scheduled payment, and were able to pay off our home in 14 years. It was hard work and discipline, not luck, that got that house ours, free and clear.

You can't have a yard full of fruit tress if you don't plant those trees, or at least buy or rent a house with existing fruit trees. Our very first rented house had an apricot tree and spot for a garden. I'd never planted a garden before in my life, but did so that summer. I was hooked. Our next apartment didn't have room for trees, but we grew tomato plants in pots on the deck. When we moved to Washington, we looked for a rental with space for a garden and existing fruit trees. We hit the mother lode, 2 apple trees, 1 crab apple tree, 2 plum trees, 1 pear tree and 1 cherry tree. My husband was unemployed when we moved into that rental. That fruit accounted for a good chunk of our diet that first summer. And when we bought our current house, we set out to plant it with all kinds of fruit trees, plants and bushes. It's not luck that we have enough fruit to last us over 6 months of each year.

Universities just don't hand out merit scholarships to anyone who applies. My kids worked very hard all through high school to earn those scholarships. I'm a mom, I'm supposed to say that I have the most brilliant kids around. But the truth is, as their mom, I can see their academic weaknesses. These kids have worked their tails off in school. Two of them did a summer of tutoring, to bring their math skills up. When one of my daughters was having a hard time in her History class this past year, she upped her efforts in a hurry. She didn't finish at the top of her class, but got her grade up high enough to maintain her academic scholarship for the next year. If you ask her, she'll be quick to point out that that was not luck. That was a boatload of hard work.

So I'm not lucky, but I am fortunate beyond measure. I've been provided for providentially, and someone, somewhere along the line has put in the work for me to have my fortunes. Sometimes, we put in that hard work ourselves, but sometimes someone else has laid the foundation for us, as when a parent or grandparent leaves a generous gift to their heirs. Some of us are simply more blessed in this area than others. But all of us have been given gifts by our Creator, to use to make our way in this world (that's the providence part). Some of us recognize our gifts early on in life, while others of us don't "discover" our gifts until later. But those gifts are present, nonetheless.

What about the lottery? "Oh, I wish I could be so lucky as to win the lottery." There is some randomness in the actual winning of the lottery. But even someone who wins the lottery had to buy that lottery ticket.  I am guaranteed to never win the lottery, as I won't buy lottery tickets.

Some preparedness has to be expended, if one is to be available to seize that golden opportunity.

You can study hard and you may not receive a scholarship. Or you can plant fruit trees and you still may not harvest much fruit. But if you never work hard in high school, you likely will not receive any scholarships. And if you don't plant fruit trees, then it's certain that you won't harvest any fruit. If we had skipped payments and defaulted on our mortgage, then it is certain that our house would not be ours free and clear, today.

So, with the next giveaway that I host here, I may say, "good luck" to you all. But really, you have zero chance of winning the drawing if you don't enter. You know, I think I prefer to say, "best wishes to you." That doesn't sound at all like randomness to me.


  1. During the past few years, I've had several people tell me how "lucky" I am to have such a flexible work schedule in which I can spend a lot of time NOT at work and, instead, with my family. Truthfully, it irks me a little, and for the very same reasons you listed in your post. You are right--so many aspects of my being able to work a flexible schedule are blessings beyond my control. I have parents who valued a college education and went without so that I could have one (I paid for 1/2 of my schooling myself through working hard and saving) ... I found the right niche early on in life and was able to have a career which makes a decent living in a field which I enjoy. I got married and had a family later in life, at which point I did have some money saved up ... however, even in my single years I was financially responsible and more of a saver than a spender. I have tried to make good decisions with my spending and my husband and I have opted for a modest lifestyle (a house we could afford on one salary, Tracfones, etc.) which allow us to get by on a lower income. Our only debt is our house, which we are diligently working to pay off. The other thing I did was to see an opportunity and take it--when I had my first baby, I switched from full-time to on-call status which allowed me to work Saturdays (when hubby was home for child care) and keep my foot in the door so that when my kids were in school full-time, I could pick up more hours at work. I realize not everyone has that opportunity--but I get a lot of comments from co-workers who "wish they could do what I do". I tell them that they can work toward my lifestyle by seeing a financial advisor, lowering their debt, and learning to live on one income. I mostly get blank stares. I think what it boils down to is that people want what they perceive to be the benefits of a lifestyle with less income without paying the price (eating out less, few or no tech toys, saving more and spending less ...). And yes, I know that for some, it is necessary financially for both spouses to work--please don't misunderstand me--but I'm surrounded by people who really could make it work on less income but choose a lifestyle that requires more money.

    Sorry, didn't mean to go on a diatribe! I agree with you, we make a lot of our own "luck".

    1. Hi Kris,
      You've done an excellent job in making your life how you want it! And in the process, you've modeled to your children how they can do the same, when they're adults. That's a valuable gift. And you're very right when you say that people want the benefits of a lifestyle like yours, but without putting in the work. That's it exactly!

  2. I can so relate to what you are saying. So many people don't want to "walk the walk" to achieve what you have. I am a strong believer that God provides us with all the blessings we need in this life.....but along with those blessings we may need to add elbow grease to bring them to fruition. The things you have achieved you worked very hard for and sacrificed to have them. So often, people don't want to see the hard work that it takes to have what you have. We have became a very instant gratification society. Kind of like the phrase "No pain, no gain". I admire you and your family and your accomplishments a lot....but know that your successes weren't free.....that you put lots of hard work and determination and sacrifices into achieving them. And last of all.....lots of things in life take doing without some of the extras to have "the mores" later on. Great post!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Yes, that's it -- we are given our gifts by God, but it's like "batteries not included". We still have to put in the work with those gifts, to use them to their best advantage.
      The other "truth" in your comment -- "God provides us with all the blessings we NEED in this life". I so believe that God provides for ALL of our needs, and just SOME of our wants. I think this is because He knows that this is how we are happiest and can live in harmony with Him best.
      I appreciate your comments! They bring other points into focus for me.

  3. Well said! I have heard some of the same types of comments. The same people have told me I should be going out to eat instead of putting my money aside to stock up on food, even as I just finished telling them that by stocking up on food, we were able to go a year without buying any when we didn't have any income. Going out to eat would not have been wise.

    Likewise, you can't complain that others are harvesting from their gardens and say, "Well, not everyone can do that" and complain that you don't have the same blessing of food from your garden, when you're not willing to do the work. Skip the meal out and buy a fruit tree instead!

    One of my readers just mentioned how she gleaned 135 pounds of fruit last week. Gleaning is hard work, too--she had to drop everything to go get the fruit, to pick it, to wash it, to prepare it, and to can it. More people could glean if they were willing to do the work, but many are not willing. If you want the blessing of gleaned fruit, you have to seek it out and put in the work to get it and preserve it.

    It's all about hard work and sacrifice.

    1. Hi Brandy,
      Don't you find those kind of comments, that you should go out to eat, instead of lay by some food, so peculiar? I think they must be projecting their value of a desirable meal out onto your choices. What you did, to prepare for any future downturn in your family's economy, literally saved your lives -- you had enough in store to feed your family for an entire year, and that's something! Now I bet those same folks who thought you should eat out, probably also thought "you were soooo lucky" to have all that food in store!

      Your reader who gleaned all of that fruit made a smart choice of work. Sometimes we do have to sacrifice something more pleasurable right now (or something in our day's plans), for our future comfort.

      I know that you put in a lot of hard work each and every day, so that your family can eat well on a modest budget. You do an amazing job!

  4. So true! I hear this a lot, particularly in relation to my being a SAHM. Whereas the same person may be shocked that I don't have an unlimited cell phone plan (or at times have had no cell phone). They don't think about the fact that my vehicle is 12 years old, most clothing is thrifted, and we don't buy the newest technogadgets. Kids are not on sports teams that cost a lot or involve travel. We eat a lot of seasonal produce instead of what we "want". Along with that we sometimes eat foods that aren't our favorites (beans, legumes, sometimes oatmeal). Not luck there, either. The kids were taught from day one to eat what is made for them. There are meals each of us don't care for and have to eat now and then. It all comes down to each family's priorities and choices. Different choices do not equal luck.

    1. HI Cat,
      Oh I have heard that one, too, about how lucky I am to be a SAHM. I know that I sometimes have a puzzled look on my face when I hear that. As I know my choice to stay at home involves so much work -- but it's the type of work that I enjoy doing :) I think some women just have no idea how much work is involved in being a SAHM. It doesn't help that media portrays the stay at home as spending her hours at Starbucks, at the nail and hair salon, shopping at the mall and getting take-out for family meals.

      I get that being a working mom also involves a lot of hard work. I don't want to diminish the workload of those women. Both lifestyles involve a lot of work. For many of us, it is a matter of choice -- which path of work do we want to pursue.

      Your family's choices demonstrate the work and sometimes sacrifice involved in having your chosen life style. And as I said to Kris, above, you are giving your kids a gift in modeling how to make their chosen lifestyle work. That's invaluable! Well done!

    2. Now that my kids are older and are truly more of a help in doing chores, mostly-being-at-home has gotten easier, but being a SAHM with babies/toddlers is WORK and it's 24/7. One of the biggest things I noticed when my kids were tiny was that there was a lot more cleaning-up to do for me than there was for kids who were in day care because my kids made their messes at home, not at a day care center. The longer term benefit, though, has been that I have been able to have more hands-on teaching time for my kids (although I can still fall into the trap of doing everything myself and not enlisting help! I'm trying to get better at that!). I identify with Cat's comments and I have a sneaking suspicion that her kids are really enjoyable to be around because of the values that they, as a family, live.

    3. Cat, I agree completely! People are shocked to hear that we have one vehicle ("I couldn't stand to be STUCK at home!" they say), that I don't have a cell phone, that we don't take our family out to eat, and that we often eat meatless meals and things like beans, lentils, and oatmeal. I'm happy to be at home, pursuing so many things that I love, while being there for my children. Some people think it's selfish, but it's a lot of work!

    4. Cat, something I meant to add, about eating seasonal produce. Not only does it save money, but it tastes better! Corn on the cob was advertised this past week for 5/$1, which is a great price for us. But it was trucked-in corn from California, and had been likely sitting for days in supermarket bins. We all know that corn picked fresh, cooked and eaten on the same day is THE BEST corn in the world. So, I told my husband that we'd buy corn when it was in season in our area, instead, and really enjoy it's sweetness and flavor. Same thing with tomatoes eaten in late summer vs. eaten in the middle of winter. The summer ones are just so flavorful and much cheaper than those ones trucked in in winter.

  5. I agree whole-heartedly. It is not luck to pay off a mortgage. It takes hard work and sometimes, it means cutting back on other things so you can have financial freedom. People always want the easy path - trying to pay off your debt faster than the bank says is not the easy way.

    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      Definitely! And you know that as well as I do -- you and your hubby have made choices and sacrifices to get your current lifestyle. A lot of people would say that "you are sooo lucky" to have the island life that you do. You've done a fabulous job in finding your dream life, and making it happen!
      Financial freedom is one of those seemingly elusive ideals that nearly everyone professes to want, but few are willing to put in the work to get it.

  6. Amen and amen! We are in a similar boat -- with no debt. Nothing is fancy in our lives but it is all paid for. Our son treats his college as a full time job and was able to get scholarships for grad school. Both of these "achievements" took too much work to just be luck and to the amusement of some (said tongue in cheek) we did this with me being a stay at home "Good things come to those who work while they wait." should be the saying.

    1. Hi Shara,
      I really like your modification of the well-known saying, "good things happen to those who work while they wait"!
      Your son has done well and will reap the benefits of his hard work for his entire career! His hard work goes against the media-portrayed, common university experience of partying and playing your way through college. Kudos to him for scholarships for grad school!


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