Saving and Good Luck

During these restricted times that all of us are being subjected to I make it my practice to call one long-term friend each day. Remembering that she had become a widow a year ago this month, I called a friend from university days. Yes, that is a long time ago.

Our husbands had been friends in their rural high school. After working for a few years to earn money they both chose to enroll in the same faculty at UBC. They became roommates. During that first year my friend met her husband-to-be and I met her at their class parties.

She was pleased to hear from me – we had not spoken since her husband’s memorial – and we talked easily about our lives. University education is always expensive and their situation was no different than most. My friend had had a good job and they married while he was still in school.

Five years later we married and our income as a married couple was similar to theirs. Our conversation fell into reminiscing how we made the dollars stretch. She spoke of making curtains from dyed sheets, I remembered making ours from patterned fabric found in the discontinued, discounted fabric piles.

We laughed together about our furniture, all parental gifts or hand-me downs. We had received our frig from my parents, his folks had given us our bedroom set. Both were wedding presents. Anything else was purchased second hand. A classic structure in the home of any new couple of the time was the board and brick bookcases. We agreed we had them for many years in any home we rented.

Board and Brick Bookshelves

Part of my story for her was telling of the sofa and large stuffed chair cleared from the fellow’s class common room that my husband had hauled home. It was a good opportunity for me to incorporate furniture refinishing into my senior home management class. We had that same reupholstered set in our home for at least ten years.

My friend’s similar story was of having a sofa with broken springs that would not welcome a body sitting in the center, only one person on each end was allowed.

Our conversation continued with laughter over how we made the dollars stretch. The guys had learned to make sake, a rice wine, while they were in university. During the first year of our marriage we made a very acceptable dandelion wine. Our rented house had a large yard where we grew tomatoes and other vegetables.

Financial Planning

She and I agreed that before entering into this arrangement called marriage each couple had made a plan. In our case, most important was our policies around money, which certainly seems a long way from that of most couples today. As far as possible, once we paid minimal school loans, we avoided owing money, and when credit card use became unavoidable our practice, and it still is, to pay off the balance monthly.

As both of our parents had taught, we were determined to go without until we could afford something we wanted. Our agreement was that while I worked for at least the first five years, we would live on his salary only, and mine would become our “nest egg.” That meant we could make a solid down payment on our first property.

There is one more feature to the ritual practice of saving for potential opportunities. It is luck, and I have a good deal of it to be thankful for.

Lessons From my Father

My father was of the old school philosophy, “save money for what you want, never go into debt.” He lived his life the way his Norwegian-born parents had. Personal trust and a shake of the hand represented a promise – a deal.

Even later in life he was suspicious of credit cards and when we first introduced him to a cash card to supply his needs while in the care home, he practiced using it. Went to the bank across the street, lined up to the teller’s booth and took out $5 or $10 at a time. And did that daily to be reassured the magical card still worked!

             The only time that I remember Dad and I having a serious difference of opinion was when I asked him to sign for a loan for me to travel to Europe that summer. Following my university graduation, I would return in the fall for teacher training to get my teacher certification. After that I would be employed and not free for extended travel. He understood my reasons, but they did not sway him. In desperation, I turned to his brother for a loan signature where I held an account at the local Credit Union. Uncle Ingolf had traveled a bit in Europe and knew its benefits. He complied.

Mortgage and Credit Cards

So it was that with the exception of a home mortgage and two credit cards, paid in full monthly, I’ve tried to live by my father’s rule. The happiest day of our married life was when we ceremoniously ‘burned the mortgage’ in our back yard. The economists and professional financial advisers that up to early January, I had followed, suggested that we could be entering an uncertain period of decline, not unlike 2008. The world has since turned upside down and will be that way for more months than we want to anticipate. Presently none of us knows what we are facing health-wise, never mind financially.

Borrowing and Bankruptcy

People are being laid off, some are going bankrupt, businesses are closing, homeless people in tents appear wherever there’s a grassy spot. We have rules to follow to keep healthy. Thankfully our governments have stepped in to help, but I do wish those same governments had spent less of the surplus during the good times.

The benefits that are being given away, with borrowed funds from taxes, will mean we have debt that’s impossible to repay. It will be a drain on this country for many years, especially if interest rates rise, which they eventually will.

By now Dad would have been apoplectic!  

Today I am Very Thankful

When my eyes glanced away from a television ad last evening they were met with a glorious sunset. I took a photograph to share with you, and challenged myself to explain the reasons why I am so thankful for this life I enjoy.

            My story begins with finding this beautiful location. It is 1.8 acres of waterfront with views of Patricia Bay, Mill Bay and farther out to Satellite Channel. After a full year of looking at properties in the Victoria area, with one realtor, and in the Richmond area, with another realtor, we fell in love with this, on one September evening, during our first sunset viewing. Yes, I am indeed fortunate to live where I do.

The View

I live alone here now, in the home we built together, but I am not lonely. Because of the 45 years in love and partnership we spent together, nearly 30 years of them here, evidence of him is all around me. There are memories in pictures to enjoy, a home built to suit our specifications and a garden created together in cooperation. The shrubs and hedges are mature, their nests produce baby birds. I can watch a bald eagle perched on a waterfront tree, as he looks for his dinner. Occasionally I see a peregrine falcon, often I hear the call of a sassy blue jay or raven, and always crows and sea gulls who seem to enjoy my new roof.

            The ocean before me is filled with activity every day. Occasionally porpoises frolic through the bay, always there are seals and river otter to watch. On calm days there are paddle boarders, some with a dog or babe in life jacket along for the ride. Frequently I watch kayakers who appear to appreciate the water as I do. On warm summer days I can, and I do, swim on the incoming tide.


I have so much more to be thankful for. It includes three adult children, each established in their own satisfying career. In these difficult times of staying at home, they are each living on a sizable piece of land they own. There is plenty of worthwhile work to be done without having to leave the property.

            I am most grateful for having three delightfully different grandchildren, whose parents teach and encourage each of them in fields of endeavour and interests they seek. School is at home for now, and that means in addition to the usual daily farm chores at 7:30 AM, each one takes some responsibility for part of the household jobs in order to be ready by 9:00 AM for school to start in their rooms. With a short recess break and a snack and some physical activity, lesson time is usually finished by noon.

            I have every reason to be grateful, with only one current exception. At this time in our ‘unhinged’ world – that’s how it sometimes feels – I cannot travel to be able to hug these young ones. But I do now have their email address and have begun to use it.

What are You Doing With Your Grandchildren?

A renewed website seems the right time to blog about the things that are important to me. I hope you will find them of relevance in your life and decide to follow along the path where these irregular posts may lead.

White Nano

My first question, “What do you do with your grandchildren?” brings to mind the gifts my grandparents offered me. Most significant is the life skills I learned from my Norwegian grandmother, Dad’s mother. She showed me how to knit, to crochet, to embroidery, to make and serve coffee. Then when I was old enough, she taught how to sew a simple seam. I learned to manage using my left hand to guide the fabric, and my right hand turning the handle of her hand-cranked sewing machine.

We had no electricity there on the float, no refrigeration or roads to the outside world. We were essentially locked in by water and our escape was by water. With her quiet assured manner Grandma Gunhild, who I called White Nano for her silver white hair, made everyday life lessons interesting. Until I was nine years old, she was a daily influence on me. (My determined granddaughter requested a sewing machine for Christmas when she was nine, and then took lessons to learn to use it. Sadly, I was not in Alberta to teach her.)

Little Nano

My mother’s mother, Little Nano, was as different from White Nano as she could have been. I spent time with her during summer visits to their Jackson Bay farm. Short and solid with a wide range of farm and gardening knowledge, Nano taught me the difference between the weeds and the cultivated plants as we moved together along the rows. She showed me how to thin beets, turnips and carrots, then called upon me to pick the peas and beans. During my summers at the farm it became my job to feed the chickens and collect the eggs. Occasionally I was allowed to turn the handle of the milk separator and watch it pour out cream for our breakfast porrige. These were all life skills in her world but never as significant in mine. Both of my grandfathers made their own contribution to my knowledge of life, but that story is for another time.

Dead now for thirty years, I’ve had some time to think about what my own parents gave to my three children. They came to visit us regularly and were present at every Christmas and family celebration, taking a serious interest in what each of them was interested in and what they were doing. I think the important thing is they were present in their young lives and made a positive impression on it. Despite our distance challenges I have tried to follow their example.