Category Archives: Family

Why I’m Buying Experiences Instead Of Stuff

This was previously posted on another website. Since that site is no longer active, I’m reposting it here.

Trust me, the early marriage/career/kid portion of my life was super tight moneywise. Electricity was shut off for nonpayment, the mailbox was full of “reminder” notices, and every day was stressful. Payday would come . . . and the money would all go. It felt like I was working ridiculously hard with no personal benefit!

But then careers flourished, businesses started doing well, and the kids grew up and moved out. Money! We could go out to dinner if we felt like it. We could go on vacation and enjoy it! I could (and have!) travel the world.

My husband is very concerned about retirement. I am not planning to retire and seem to be doing my damnest to spend it all now. Yes, I realize that’s really dumb and I’m trying to be better.

One thing that we are enjoying doing and are doing well is gifting our money away. Want to know how and why it’s making my life better? Here are some of the things we do:

  • When my children were little we had a tradition of having “child’s name” Day. On that day, I would take the day off work, take them out of school (not every year, but sometimes), and spend the entire day doing whatever they wanted to do. For my son, it was Spring Training games with the Chicago Cubs! For my daughter, it was movies and shopping. I do the “days” with my local grandchildren now, but on weekends. They like to go to Dave and Buster’s and have lunch and play games for amazing (insert sarcasm here) prizes.
  • As the grandchildren have turned 13, I started the tradition of taking a pair of them (opposite families are close in age) to Disneyland for a few days. The oldest two kind of got screwed because I learned a lot about getting the most out of Disneyland after their trip, but it is an experience they all will remember for a long time even after I’m gone.
  • This year saw a new tradition as my oldest granddaughter graduated from high school. She was offered a piece of jewelry or a trip. She chose a trip to Sedona and we had a great time together. Selfish? Yep, but how else do you have several days of quality time with an adult grandchild?
  • For our son’s 40th birthday this year, we sent him and his wife on a bucket list trip to Wrigley Field and to see two Cubs games there. My son had a quadruple bypass at 32, so 40 is kind of a big deal around here. Of course, now we’ll have to do the same for his sister when she turns 40. My daughter-in-law posted this picture on Facebook during that trip:

Brent

Immediately when I saw the picture with eyes tearing, my comment on Facebook was “I see an 8-year-old boy in a 40-year-old man’s body looking over a baseball field that he has been waiting to touch since spring training games introduced him to a baseball team that became part of his heart (even the rebuilt one!)” This one moment was so worth it!

So what do I get out of spending the money I work so hard for in a manner that some people would say is “frivolous”? I get joy, satisfaction, the opportunity to show my love with experiences, memories, encouragement, and all the feels. All of that instead of more “stuff” that could be bought with that money filling an already full house and leaving the sorting of all the “stuff” to our kids when we’re gone.

Experiences are always preferable to the things on the Amazon wish list. And, of course, you will enjoy it even more if the experience includes you! Extra memories! Amazon wish lists are easy. Experiences are harder but worth so much more. If you ask one of my grandkids what they got for Christmas the year they turned 13, I guarantee they won’t remember. But if you ask them what they did when they turned 12/13, I do know what they will say . . . DISNEYLAND!

And experiences aren’t always costly. Experiences include traditions. Traditions like holiday dinners, “Santa footprints,” Christmas Eve pajamas, Christmas in July with $20 limit on gifts to exchange, just getting together with people you love to celebrate holidays, birthdays, or just life.

Honestly, I may regret it when I get old and have spent all of my money, but I’ll have great memories and I’m pretty sure one of my kids or grandkids will take me in. You can’t take it with you. While I’m trying hard not to be dumb and spend every penny (trying REALLY hard), I am going to spend as much as I can as long as I can making great memories for me and my family.

Surgery, Cancer, Love, and Life

My dad recently spent several days in the hospital after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon and connect it back to his intestine. My dad is 83. He has had back surgeries, a quadruple bypass, and other medical issues throughout his life. He admits that he didn’t expect to live so long and his lifestyle didn’t do anything to change that expectation at all. But he is living this long and he is reasonably healthy for being on this earth for 83 years.

The surgery worried me because he was expected to get notes from his cardiologist and his pulmonologist allowing the surgery. I saw the note from his cardiologist and it said he “would be high risk for a major cardiovascular event” associated with this surgery. In my mind, I was sure they wouldn’t do the surgery. But the option was letting the cancer spread. Not a good option. All of his doctors said he was a strong guy and they knew he would do OK. I translate that to say that he’s a tough old bastard. And that he is.

We waited in the waiting room for something like three hours (it’s easy to lose track when you’re sitting for hours). Doing our part for the family and obviously signaling the surgeon that it was time to come talk to everyone, my sister and I went down to get coffee for everyone and the doctor came in so we missed him. The surgery had gone well and Dad was in recovery. He was there for another few hours until they moved him to ICU and we got to see him. He was so thirsty and eventually got some ice chips and made some crude (and hysterical) comments to my mom, so I knew for sure he had made it through and was on the way to recovery. He has had some other issues at the hospital (mostly from a lack of communication by hospital staff), but each time muscles through and keeps going.

The biggest lessons from this entire experience were:

  • My dry sense of humor is all compliments of my dad.
  • I love spending time with my siblings. We were probably laughing inappropriately for a hospital waiting room and ICU, but we are damn funny people.
  • My sister (the retired one I’ve complained about, I mean, mentioned before) is absolutely an amazing human being. She has pretty much single-handedly handled both staying with and advocating for my dad as much as she could in the hospital and taking care of my mom who is suffering from dementia. That task scares the crap out of me and she handles it like a pro. My other sister, brother, and I (the employed ones) have helped as we could, but she has carried the lion’s share of the load. I have no idea what my family would do without her.
  • I need to take care of myself. Family medical histories suck.  I have many health issues–most of which are caused by my excess weight (and some genetics). But I’m not doing anything right now to fix that. And that’s pretty much signing my own death warrant. I know better, I need to do better. And I will. I have too many things to do and too many grandbabies to watch grow into their own lives to screw this up.
  • Hospitals are not fun places. They tell you to rest and then come in every couple of hours to check vitals, give meds, draw blood, etc. But sometimes that’s where you need to be to get the help you need. A whole lot of the experience depends on the people working there. And it is the same in life. Just be nice! You could make a huge difference in someone’s life just by smiling at them, opening a door for them, or paying for their Starbucks in the drive thru lane. Be nice!
  • Love deeply and often and then tell people. In the blink of an eye, we could have lost my dad on the operating table, but we did not. I do not spend nearly enough time with my family and I want to remedy that. We often think that people know we love them and they do, but everyone likes to hear it. Unless you’re a creepy stalker, then don’t do that.
  • Life is indeed a blessing. Make the most of it–every day!