Categories
Finances self-improvement

Operation: Katie

Yesterday morning I was awakened at 8am by the phone. Katie had finished the train part of her journey and wanted to call while she awaited her first bus.

She shared with me how she’d decided not to spend the money on a taxi in Chicago; she had gotten turned around and had to ask for help to reach the train station as a result.

Of all times for that child to develop my cheapskate tendencies, it just had to be while she was wandering around Chicago on a fractured leg!

Anxious about her arrival, I puttered around the house, keeping busy. I ordered Katie a pair of crutches (doctor’s orders), did laundry, cleaned on my house, and even made the stock purchase I’d planned to make this week.

I was so distracted at the thought of Katie coming home it barely registered. I didn’t realize until much later that I hadn’t even stopped to savor that tiny step taken towards my financial freedom.

My friend Kes came over in the afternoon and we spent an hour or so painting a large Welcome Home sign. Once that was completed, she went back to her house around the corner to finish preparing for the trip while I took a brief nap.

At 6pm Katie called from the bus station in Louisville, Ky. When I asked what time her bus left for Lexington she looked at her ticket and reported that the bus was scheduled to leave at 5:50pm.

I frowned, then realized that there was most likely a time zone difference between us. “Just in case, will you check and see with the clerk what time your bus leaves?” I requested.

Five minutes later she called me back. “I missed my bus,” she reported sadly. “It was pulling out just as my bus was arriving since mine was a bit late. Can you pick me up from here?”

My friend and I dropped everything and headed out.

We were 54 minutes away from the bus station when traffic on I64 came to a complete halt. An accident ahead of us had completely stopped traffic.

This mom transformed into a basket case after I called the bus station numerous times and could NOT get anyone there to pick up the phone so that I could get a message to her. I even tried to call the payphone back that she’d called me from with no success.

“My baby is alone in Louisville, stuck at a bus station with a broken leg!” I wailed numerous times. “She doesn’t have her phone, and I have no way of letting her know what’s going on! She’s scared, I know she’s scared. They may have closed the bus station for the night and kicked her out in the cold on the streets where there’s criminals and everything!”

I was more than a bit annoying during that hour or so we were stuck in traffic but my mother’s instincts were in full swing. I would have gotten out of that truck and started walking if I’d thought it would get me there any faster.

My friend’s old Ford was running on fumes by the time they cleared the traffic jam. We rushed to a gas station, topped it off (it only takes about $10 worth of gas at a time due to an issue with the fuel tank), and took off again.

We arrived at the bus station around 11:00 pm.

“Katie!” I raced into that bus station, holding the little sign I’d printed up as my friend waited in the truck. Considering the neighborhood she was afraid to leave it alone.

Katie stood up and began limping to meet me part-way. We fell into each other’s arms sobbing as I explained what had happened.

We had to do a round of “thank-yous” to the wonderful travelers who had kept my baby company while she had waited for me to arrive.

One gentleman in particular, a man who was traveling cross-country to see what he could do to help his own daughter out of a bit of trouble stands out in my mind. That poor man took time away from his own problems to comfort my Katie, enough so that she spoke with him for several moments in gratitude before we left.

I didn’t catch your name, but your face will be forever engraved in my mind. Thank you so much for looking out for my little girl.

We stopped for food and fuel at the Hurstbourne Parkway exit. We saw a Steak and Shake and pulled in.

Leo the waiter greeted us with open arms. He seated us, took our orders, and was incredibly nice and helpful.

Shortly after our food arrived I looked out the window to see patrons tugging at the door. It had been locked. Had we committed the Cardinal Sin of visiting a restaurant only minutes before close?  I sweated.

I nervously stood up and approached Leo.

“Oh honey, you’re fine!” he reassured us. “The dining room closes at midnight but I’ve still got my cleaning to do so you take your time; I can tell you’re exhausted!”

We watched him hum and sing as he did his work; his cheerfulness helped ease the stress of the evening. I made sure we left him a generous tip to thank him for his kindness along with a brief note to let him know just how much his treatment of us meant before we drove away.

If you are ever around the Steak and Shake on 2717 Hurstbourne Parkway in Louisville, KY, I highly recommend you stop in for a bite.

And please say hi to Leo for me.

We arrived home around 2:40am completely exhausted. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow!

I cannot thank my best friend enough for having my back last night, so here’s a shout-out:

You are awesome, Kes!

A Tale of Gratitude

I have no idea how much money I spent last night. To my immense gratitude, I had more than enough.

This is why I’m doing this. This is why I am busting my ass, scrimping and saving as I invest my pennies. Just a few short years ago this adventure would have ruined my finances. Just a few short years ago I would have been nervously counting every penny, praying that I had enough to make the trip.

But I don’t have to do that now.

While I can’t afford to do this often, the fact that I was able to spend freely during the chaos of last night is proof positive that I am heading in the right direction.

It is proof that living cheaply has its limits; there is absolutely no benefit to cutting your expenses unless you actually keep the money that you saved. Until you learn how to make your money work for you frugality is pointless because all you will end up doing is lingering at the bottom of the Food Chain.

Unless you learn to invest the money that you saved you will never be able to achieve true peace of mind.

I am so very thankful that I finally figured it out. I am so grateful that I decided to leave my comfort zone of poverty and start heading in the opposite direction.

And this should be a lesson to you. If an old woman with a high-school education who brings in less than $700 a month can not only manage to invest over $2,000 in under a year and build up her emergency fund to the point where she can safely afford to spend her way through a crisis, you can too.

Don’t ever let them tell you that you can’t.

Categories
Empty Nest Housing

Broken Bones

I received a letter from Katie yesterday. As I was reading it the phone rang.

It was the kid.

She’d suffered multiple stress fractures in her right leg during a PT test in addition to injuring her knee. As a result, the Navy was sending her home.

To say that she was disappointed would be an understatement. Even with a fractured leg she was only 14 seconds shy of achieving her time on her PT test that day.

Well, shit.

I kinda liked this empty nest thing but I can’t fault the kid for getting hurt. I know from experience just how easy it is to be injured in the military. I’m just grateful it was caught before her leg shattered.

She’ll be shipped home in about two weeks. After that comes the process of helping the kid heal and building her up for her next adventure. Only time will tell what it will be.

In the meantime there is a bright spot. She’ll continue to share the bills once she gets back on her feet. She’s already gotten two job offers locally now that the news is emerging. That will give her time to recuperate and figure out her next step while making life a bit easier on me once she recovers.

Life is still good. It’s completely chaotic at the moment, but it’s still good.

So what’s been going on in your world? Please share your stories in the comments below.


Categories
Life Personal

New Beginnings

This is it.

Last night I said my final farewell to the kid. The very last call was scripted, just letting me know that she had arrived safely and that she would be out of contact for the next couple of weeks.

I am now officially free of the full burden of motherhood.

It started a few days ago. We had a farewell party for the kid. Here are a few photos to mark the occasion:

With my grandson, her nephew.

Once the party was over (I didn’t show photos of others to protect their privacy), Katie made one final trip to say goodbye to her best friend who died. She left here on the 2 year anniversary of Emery’s death:

After her farewells, we kept it normal until the recruiter drove up to carry her away. She gifted me with some earrings to wear while she was gone in order to keep her close. I donned those to watch her pull away.

With her Recruiter.
Driving away.

I had quietly arranged to take the next day off, to see her one last time at MEPS. It was going to be a surprise but her uncle spoiled it when he saw us walk in. Darnit!

.I would include a photo of her uncle but he’s a rather high-ranked member of the military so I’m unsure of the wisdom. I will take the cautious route and not. I hope you understand.

Waiting at MEPS for Katie with her sister.
Katie’s final, official swear-in. She is now an official member of the US Navy.
One last meal together before we part ways.

I thought Katie was going to cry when we gave each other our final farewells but we all stayed strong. I’ve spent the past few days with tears streaming down my face so for now I believe I’m cried out.

Her last call was late last night. It was scripted. “I’m here. I’m okay. You will get a package in the mail soon. You will hear from me in approximately 2-3 weeks. I love you. Bye.”

So it is over. The 29 years I spent as a parent with kids at home have come to an end.

I intend to take the next few days to decompress. I want to get in the proper headspace before I move forward.

It is time to take a deep breath, relax, and to move on.

That is all any of us can do when we reach a turning point in our lives. We just need to breathe, realize that it is not the end of the world, and figure out what we want to do next.

I’ve already gotten the bones of that path started so I doubt much will change aside from my living circumstances. Just in case, however, I don’t intend to make any sudden moves until I know I am okay. While I’m a bit more okay than I was the day I watched her drive away, I know I’m not there yet.

We will all be okay at the end of the story. We can survive more than we realize.

I’ll write more when I can.

Categories
Personal

The Changing Winds of Life

It has been one helluva week here in this tiny little home.

Katie decided that she had placed her life on hold for long enough. She’d sacrificed several scholarships and opportunities for a relationship that went bust, so she decided to correct that.

On Monday she decided that she would join the Navy. The Army was out, despite our family’s history of it, since she didn’t want to even remotely follow in her ex-fiancée’s footsteps or chance running across him again.

Tuesday she contacted the local Navy recruiter.

Wednesday he arrived at the house and we spent the whole day doing paperwork. I ended up emailing documents back and forth until late in the evening.

Thursday morning she left for MEPS.

Friday evening she returned home after signing a 4-year contract.

She leaves February 19.

I’ve known this time was coming since the day she was born. That knowledge doesn’t ease the shock I feel at this moment. To give such a huge portion of your life to another person, only to have them grow up and move on is a sacrifice all parents make.

That doesn’t make it easier.

I am going to be fine. I have my public job to keep me socialized so I will have people to talk to face to face. I have my writing career. I have my 20-year goal of financial freedom to focus on…

…and I have you to keep me sane.

Your comments and messages have kept me sane for years now. They keep me moving forward. They give me a reason to sit down at this computer every morning and keep trying.

I cannot express how thankful I am to have you in my life.

Thank you for being there.

Categories
Personal

Update on Katie

It has been a challenging week or so around this tiny house. The kid had a major dust-up with her fiancée so the wedding is off. She spent a week at a friend’s house mourning the change but came back home the other evening.

Now she’s exploring her own path to the future.

We have a Navy recruiter coming to the house this morning. I know nothing about the Navy so this should be interesting.

Despite it being my day off I woke up early to don my warpaint and prepare for the encounter. I feel more secure when I’m wearing my warpaint, silly as it sounds. I’ve brewed a big pot of coffee as I sit here mentally preparing for the encounter.

I honestly believe that the military will help instill the grit she needs to navigate our challenging world. That said, if I tell her that or actively encourage her…well, she’s reached the point in her life where Mom is always wrong, so I don’t want to inadvertently encourage her to run the other way.

I want the decision to be hers so for this, aside from any questions, I need to keep my big mouth shut.

Wish me luck. Keeping quiet has never been my strong point.

What’s been going on with you lately? Please share your updates in the comments below.