Monday, July 02, 2007

An Aimless Ramble About Life

Sainted Mother and Don C. were the type of people who pretty much just winged their way through life.

Sure they had certain things they wanted to do, goals to set and achieved; they wanted to be financially secure in retirement and all, but they also liked to buy something they wanted just because they wanted it, you know?

I was fortunate to have some great friends while growing up, and in contrast to my parents, one set of parents of some friends, several brothers, were of the old-school, hard working, northeast US, frugal, Yankee stock.

Being at their home was always a situation ripe with possibilities for misunderstanding and therefore (to me at least) humor.

And I have to admit now, and I'm sure I've probably mentioned this on this blog before, that I have always been "that person" who laughs at inappropriate times.

When I was a kid in school, 9.9 out of every 10 times I got into trouble, it was because someone who knew I was ALWAYS easy to make laugh, would make a face or whisper some funny remark then sit back straight-faced, while I struggled to keep quiet and, of course, lost that struggle and ended up giggling in class. All by myself. I'm sure my teachers all thought I was nuts.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I got called down for laughing aloud in class while those around me sat looking at me like nothing had happened, when it was they who got me laughing.

Don't get me started on Church. As of this writing, I'm 44 years old, and if the Pastor misspeaks or a speaker in church says something in an unintended funny way, I'll laugh. You can take it to the bank, baby, that ol' John's gonna laugh, and then when everybody else laughs I get the evil eye from the fuddy duddies who are simply better than me at keeping a straight face.

When the girls were growing up and I would have to get onto them about some transgression or another and they would launch into the tired old drama routines that were old when people still wore rock underwear, it would make me laugh. The girls would get furious at me, naturally assuming I'm laughing AT THEM, or making light of their concerns, when in truth, I smile or laugh in stressful situations because while I'm in stressful situations, I realize right then just how stupid and avoidable the whole situation was in the first place and this other train of thought always causes me to laugh, or at least smile. And naturally the person I'm dealing with thinks I'm laughing at them and they get all the more upset.

I just can't win.

So back to my teen friends.

They were the first people I knew who had HBO. And back when TV was not 24 hours a day like it is now, uncut movies, uninterrupted by commercials was an amazing thing to see.

I was invited over to my friend's house to watch movies from time to time with the family on HBO. Cool!

Here's the problem. Uncut movies have cussin' in them. (That's curse words to most people. But I'm from Louisiana, and it's called cussin' there.)

When you're sitting in a room full of teenage boys, with their parents, and someone cusses in the movie, all the boys look slyly at one another, trying not to laugh. All it takes is one jerky little motion of someone trying to stifle a laugh, and I'd cut loose. HaHaHa! And the worst part was, they would bust out laughing, and that would make me turn purple laughing even harder than before. It's like a dam breaks within me.

Naturally, since I was technically the first to laugh out loud, I was the one who was the recipient of the Shh! Shh! And the stern looks from the parents in the room.

If nothing else, I got the evil eye because this was before folks had VCRs to tape movies, before DVRs were even dreamt of, so they couldn't pause the movie, so I caused everyone to miss a couple of minutes of dialog or action because we couldn't concentrate on the movie again until after all of us were through laughing.

At my house, if we thought something was funny we laughed. If we missed two minutes of the movie because of it, then So What! ya know?

When my parents cooked, they made enough for an army. There were always leftovers. And everything they ever cooked was better than anything you ever got in a restaurant anyway, so the leftovers were like getting to eat out at my house.

When my friends were over, leftovers were fair game and as teenage boys tend to do, we ate a lot.

But at the HBO house, every meal was carefully considered. Meals were eaten at certain times, all portions controlled, and if the eaters were late, well then that was just tough toenails, pal, you don't get to eat.

You were given a certain amount to eat and that was it. All leftovers were carefully preserved for future meals.

At my house, the only meals that were time scheduled were so that we could tell grandparents or whoever that were coming from out of town a ball park figure so they'd know about when to arrive. And even that was just a basic guideline, not a hard and fast time schedule. No one missed a meal for "being late" to supper where I grew up. If I showed up at home and everyone else was already eating, I didn't get my panties in a wad, I grabbed a plate and joined in. No hard feelings to be had.

Around my house, we always laughed at the male chauvinists on TV who demanded their dinners on the table when they got home from work, or who freaked out because their wives were too busy to have a meal planned, much less cooked at a certain time. We thought that was just stuff that happened on TV and I was almost grown before I found out there were men that were really like that. I've worked with some men over the years who demanded everyone at home "snap to" when they arrived, but I'll be honest and say that those were men I didn't really like much. If they were that disrespectful to their wife, and probably kids too, I didn't want much to do with them, even at work. It takes a pretty stupid man not to realize that a homemaker's job is tougher than his work job, and a mean man to act otherwise.

I'm blessed to say that Sainted Mother is still with us, though Don C. passed away in 1994. They loved one another like crazy teenagers, literally until death parted them. I know for a fact that Mama is still crazy about him.

No one expects to die when they actually die. We mostly live our lives as if we won't die today, although we very well might.

My parents were always grateful to have been able to take vacations, buy certain things simply because they wanted that thing and it pleased them to buy and use that thing, and to stop and "smell the roses" along their life's road.

They probably didn't have nearly as much saved as your basic, penny pinching, frugal folks, but they sure as heck enjoyed life, and Sainted Mother still does. She has said many, many times since Don C.'s death that she was so glad they did all the things they did and bought some silly things over the years, because had they been real penny pincers, Don C. would have died anyway, and Sainted Mother's life since then would have been 12 years of regrets for not having done this or that.

We are all responsible for our lives. The choices we make on a daily basis determine the course of our lives. I think it is a totally honorable thing to save and be frugal and wise with your money, because, someday you will need it. Guaranteed.

But it's also important to sometimes have a second helping of chicken and dumplings instead of saving it to make another meal. Sometimes a second piece of chocolate cake makes your life a little more enjoyable instead of wrapping it up and freezing it for another day.

We need to all be diligent with all that we have been blessed enough to be stewards over, but we also have to loosen our grip on stuff too, so that we can enjoy things today. Otherwise we might die, or someone you love might die, and your remaining years could be filled with regrets.

Be wise and save diligently, but also let your hair down sometimes and diligently have fun and enjoy life and the time you have with your family.

I guess I'm thinking about stuff like this because Lovely Wife and I went and spent a scary amount of money on new furniture this past Saturday. It's starting to sink in.


Qtpies7 said...

I was wondering what triggered that.
And if you laugh that easily, its a good thing you wern't sitting at a table near me and my girls on Saturday, becuase our laughter would have sent you off. So would the comment at the table near us.
I grew up in a broken home, so I had it both ways growing up. I had my poor dad, whose house we didn't buy anything, but we always had food. I had my rich mom's, maid, toys galore, pool, lots of vacations and activities. As a teen, I actually chose to go live with my dad.
Donnie grew up in a home that should have been frugal, but wasn't. His mom bought whatever she felt like, and they went without power a lot. Running water, heat, all sorts of necessities came and went.

photowannabe said...

Amen and amen John. I don't think your's was an aimless ramble about life. The joy that was in your household molded and shaped you into the person you are today and the family you have created yourself.
If we waited until all the T's were crossed and the I's dotted, I think we would be full of regrets.
We have just purchased quite a few new items for our new digs. We have always bought the sale item or the second best which was perfectly fine and I was happy with it. But this time we bought the top of the line fridge and washer and dryer. I'm thrilled and we have wonderful servicable stuff.
Life is too short not to enjoy it and the family we have.
And of course Laugh a lot...

byoc said...

What a great post. I came from a very monetarily poor family - but we also were rich in laughter and our doors were always open.

Qtpies7 said...

My mom, byoc, was surprised that I said she was "rich", so I thought I better clarify. I don't know why she doesn't remember the "maid" it was her husband's sister, but she was paid to clean our house, MAID. hehe.
We weren't "rich" like a mansion, we just lived like we had plenty of money. Her second husband was a bit psycho, and liked to make everyone like him by throwing money around, money for jobs he was supposed to be doing. I don't know how they made ends meet. But I got most of what I wanted back then.
The reason I left was because my step-mom was less psycho than my step-dad. (certifiably mental, and outpatient when she married him)

Mert said...

I loved this post... it was all so profound and meaningful... and when you got to the end and said it was triggered by spending a grunt load of money on furniture, I Giggled!

I'm always the one laughing first too, especially if some one trips. Or passes gas.;)

Travis said...

Hey congrats on the new furniture.

I agree that being frugal most of the time is the best policy. It gives you a safety net, and we all know that retirement is creeping up on us faster than we'd like.

But it's also nice to have new stuff sometimes. Sort of like that second piece of CAKE.

Sharon Lynne said...

Thanks for these words of wisdom. My husband, who is self employed, just lost a job that we were counting on. Now our one week vacation in the mountains is in jeopardy.

Your post is telling me, we need to go!

JohnH985 said...

Very good post. I have to side with you, I'm the one that always laughs first. Sometimes I laugh at situations that maybe I shouldn't. I think laughing is a coping thing, it's better to laugh than cry.

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