Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Plugging Into My Life

Today started slowly. Really slowly. Or I should say that I started slowly within the day because I had to go on a 12 hour fast in preparation for my life insurance medical examination, which included having to go without my much beloved, and obviously addictive morning coffee. We have one of those programmable coffee makers that is set the night before, by my husband, with freshly ground coffee, by my husband and that allows me to stumble toward the coffee urn, pour my cup full and start my day. Not today.
Today, my kids woke up and kept out of my way, whispering “don’t forget, Mama can’t have any coffee this morning.” My beloved husband offered to go without his morning coffee, in a lovely gesture of support, and I snapped, literally snapped, at him saying that he had to have his coffee because one of us had to be functional.

The life insurance medical examiner arrived at 9:30. The coffee was already made, ready for me to glug down immediately following my blood being drawn. The nurse’s name was Kimberly, a single mother of three grown children, who also ran her own electrician’s business. I wondered, as she walked me through the paperwork and had me initial and sign my policy, if she was a relative of either Gary or Zump of our weatherization week. She shared the same kindness and ease of conversation that made me feel as if we’d known each other our entire lives. Must just be a Longmont kind of thing. 

We discussed our kids and got on the subject of a past post – financial education. Kimberly raised her kids on her own and told me she sat her three down on a regular basis and gave them full transparency to their household budget. She showed them their heating bills and challenged them to get creative about ways to cut it down, and when they did, even by $10 a month, they’d put the money in a household “mad money” fund. When the time came for them to buy a new computer, they did it in cash with their “mad money” house fund. Nice.

Next she told me about when her kids got to middle school, she allotted each a defined amount and put them in complete charge of buying their schools supplies, clothes, shoes and backpack and whatever they bought, it had to last until the winter break. When her son plunked down $90 for a pair of sneakers and then trashed them within two months, he had to make do with them until the end of the year and he never made that choice again, either to buy shoes out of his budget, or to treat them carelessly. Her daughters began to seek out the bargains and compare shop. Kimberly insisted they show her the receipts and would also have them show them their school money on a regular basis, to make sure that what they hadn’t spent on school items wasn’t being loaned or spent on other non-school things.

She said they were hard lessons for her kids to learn, but they are ones that have stayed with them well into their young adulthood. She spoke with pride about her youngest daughter, now in his first year of college, who manages the household budget for she and her two roommates, who have free spending reign from their parents, no job and who never have any money and who are obsessed with dating and eventually marrying men with money because they have no other way to continue the lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to, but have no idea as to how to create for themselves.  Her daughter tells her roommates what a shame to just focus on money as a reason to get married, that if they’d only take responsibility for themselves financially, then they could experience and choose a life partner based on love.

All of this while two vials of blood are drawn, an EKG test and more papers being signed.

As the mother of three daughters, raising financially intelligent women is of great importance to me. And I know I’d feel the same way if I was raising boys. But for girls, to learn that they can make their own way, make their own informed financial decisions is critical. I was inspired by the common-sense and real life way Kimberly raised her kids, and especially her daughters, to be financially aware and figured it was just part of the larger symmetrical picture that she would be the medical examiner to arrive on my doorstep this morning. Her presence and her generosity in sharing her mothering experience is so appreciated and very timely.

I’ve resisted getting life insurance because I’ve seen it as an extra cost we can’t presently afford. But in the midst of this current financial crisis, my husband was researching lower cost car insurance options and while he was doing so, he handed the phone and insisted I talk with the agent about life insurance. It was on the top of his priority list for me, even if I hadn’t put in on my own.

I came across a stunning piece in today’s Denver Post in which the contributor was responding to being quoted by the paper as an eye witness to a recent small plane crash that took the lives of three local men. He writes with sparkling clarity about the everyday fear many of us live with toward the daily separations that take us away from our loved ones and how those small separations are often imagined as real deaths. He writes of lying in the cold winter night and imagining his life without his loved ones. He experienced this very human thought process while on a winter camping trip with his high school class. And in one of the strange twists of fate and timing, he and his class returned to their school just as the plane crash did occur, and very close to his home and waiting family. 

I thought of his fears as my blood was being drawn and Kimberly guided me mentally to go to my favorite quiet place. I imagined the writer sleeping in his snow cave and the quiet, bright winter night, thinking of his family and considering his and their mortality, as I lay on my den couch and listened to the humming of the EKG machine.

The morning passed with more than just my life insurance being processed, which I know is important and which I’m grateful to Jack for putting into motion. It was also about understanding that insuring my life is not just about a piece of paper or a policy, but a way we live and the way we raise our kids, with attention to the parts of our life we can help guide and which can help guide us through easy and hard times. 

After the exam was all done, Kimberly and I exchanged business cards and anytime I need my electrical system worked on, she’ll be the first I’ll call. If she has the same touch on wires and circuitry as she had with me, the house will be in good shape.  I know I am.

I did finally have that cup of coffee. It was hot, sweet and strong. And worth the wait. 


Gail said...

Lisa, I related to the points about learning to budget money at an early age. I grew up in a housing project, and my mother did a great job of teaching me to budget with my small allowance. There's a great satisfaction in knowing you can take care of yourself no matter what.

Demian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lisa Trank-Greene said...

Gail and Demian, these are great comments - especially about financial freedom and what that means - a good thing to chew on for a bit.