The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day. ~ St. Gianna
I’ve been on this earth for quite a while. I’ve lived through a lot of ups and downs and have grown to be thankful for many things.
My husband and I grew up in middle class families in Washington, we didn’t have a lot, but we had enough. Our two mothers grew up with even less, and from their childhood I’m sure they were starkly aware of what was enough to maintain a family since they both had lived through the Great Depression.
My mother was one of eleven children and had to help the family. I know she had picked cotton and had helped raise a brother. She’d say, God will provide, and in retrospect, I believe she probably had seen it in action a few times.
My mother-in-law was a great example of showing gratitude for what she had. When she expressed thankfulness, you could see genuineness in her face and tone of voice. She had seven siblings and four of them died young. Her own mother became a widow at fifty and had to take over the farm and family.
My husband and I were both raised in church, values that were inbred in our parents and they did their best to point us in the right direction. They knew that the ultimate thing to be thankful for was the sacrifice of Christ. No matter how hard I try, I can never be thankful enough for what He has done.
At our childhood homes, we had enough to eat, but not many leftovers. Our mothers split one chicken between a whole family of five or six people, so we rarely got the drumstick. Of course, there were side dishes included. Neither of us regularly ate candy, chips or drank soda. They were for special treats or occasions only (or if we got ahold of some change). People of the United States were generally thinner back in the sixties and didn’t frequent fast food establishments like many do now.
In my twenties I was a stay-at-home mom with two babies. I remember being on a budget and having fifty-five dollars in savings. I kept it there for months. To do this I washed the kids’ diapers instead of buying disposables. Chose fun but inexpensive presents for birthdays and Christmas. I made a menu and bought groceries for two weeks at a time, because I didn’t have a standalone freezer or the money to fill it. That’s how strict I had to be, but I’m extremely grateful I was able to be home with the kids.
My father told us that the only way he really prospered was when he bought real estate. I had not forgotten that bit of advice and in our forties my husband and I bought property; and it indeed has helped us prosper over the years.
Today, I get the drumstick and sometimes the thigh piece, too. When I cook, there are lots of days I have leftovers. I can find just about anything I want at the store and can even order it online and pick it up. Correction, the store clerk loads the groceries in my car. After my chicken dinner, I have a Lindor chocolate and a couple of miniature candy bars. I have a Lindor every day as a matter of fact. I am royalty compared to what I knew when I was a child. I am thankful for those early years because I (we) learned that our fathers always provided and how our mothers used the money to successfully feed and care for us. Most important, I’m thankful we learned what enough is.
Now, we have savings that we couldn’t imagine having earlier in life. When you’ve lived a long time, you have time to build up a little money and pay off your house (if you are consistent with payments). We presently have a full standalone freezer, so we eventually got off that budget – but it took years.
I am thankful for those early years because I learned it’s rewarding to learn to be able to make ends meet, especially as a young person. I’m thankful that if I lose it all tomorrow, I can draw from my early life to help make ends meet again.
Being thankful is crucial to our happiness, no matter the measure.
Back in 1997, my husband and I found that northeast Oregon was a good place to purchase inexpensive waterfront property. In the early 1860s, after gold was found southwest of Baker City, towns grew to support the miners and then folded when the miners moved on.
We spent summer vacations looking for mining ghost towns and those escapades became some of our best memories. On one of those expeditions, we located the town of Bourne, Oregon. It has a Main Street with cabins along it, nothing dating back to the 1860s but some older ones, nonetheless. We bought two small lots on Main Street along the roaring Cracker Creek. Later we added a cabin.
After fifteen years of enjoyment, we put the property up for sale and got a call from a cast member of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush. The former United States Army Green Beret contacted us about renting our cabin, for three to four months, to four disabled veterans and gold miners in the show. Later, he told me that several veterans have trouble transitioning from the military back to civilian life. Many times they are alone in the process of trying to find themselves, learning where they want to work or how to start a new business venture. They also must learn to bond with others in their new life. Many have to face all these things while dealing with their disabilities as well.
What is interesting for me is that, before I met the Green Beret recipient and some of the veterans, I had already planned to write a contemporary story about a disabled veteran. So, I listened carefully as I heard about the wooden flagpole they built and put up on the property with the US flag waving. (pictures to the right) Or, how they sat around a campfire and shared their day and lives together. The men also expressed joy at being out in the wilderness with their buddies. I wish they would have found more gold for all their efforts.
My husband is also a veteran. My father never talked about his tour of duty in the South Pacific during WWII, nor did my father-in-law who served in the Battle of the Bulge in France. They both managed to move on and live fulfilling lives, but my father-in-law must have carried some disturbing residue from such an awful experience, especially in that he pushed a machine gun around in a baby carriage.
In my story, my hero has already taken the journey to find himself after serving in the military. He knows what his new career will be. However, he struggles with his injured body and self-worth and that makes bonding with others a challenge. When he meets a woman he gets to know and cares about, his insecurities about his injuries get in the way. He believes she can choose better. Save Yourself will be the title.
I know that by the time I finish researching and writing this story, I will have followed my character’s mental and physical journey. Even though I will never fully know what being a wounded veteran goes through before, during, and after war, I hope to present a reasonable idea of what it entails.