Never Turn Down a Lesson

In 1975, when my father died at the age of fifty, I watched my 43 year old mother struggle with the mundane things we all take for granted.

On her behalf, I took Dad’s ┬ábig, gas guzzling, standard shift GMC Jimmy and traded it in for a small more manageable automatic car for her. I helped her fill out an application for her very first credit card with a limit of $500. She had worked outside the home over the years, but had no credit….nothing in her name.

The tipping point for me came when I heard she, yet again, had to call my brother-in-law to come and change a fuse for her. She knew where the fuse box was but not how to tell if one was burnt out, or how to change one. A simple feat, really, but one she had never been shown, nor had any interest in learning. (By the way, fuses were used prior to circuit breakers and were small screw in glass knob type things.)

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It was then I suppose, unconsciously, that I made up my mind that if I could learn to do something new …even something I might not need to know today…I would take the opportunity. I was 23, and the practical lessons I have learned astound me when I think of it.

The lessons weren’t always intentional, on my part, or my teacher’s. Some worked out better than others, and some were dismal failures. The worst that comes to mind was knitting. My neighbour and I both were expecting at the same time. I already had a baby, this was her first. ┬áJanet, who was younger than me, knit and made beautiful things. I decided to ask her to teach me. I picked out a beautiful coral coloured wool , certain I was having a girl, and a pattern for a baby sweater, bonnet and booties.

I was four months into my pregnancy when I had my first lesson and cast on those first stitches. My daughter was four and a half when she got that sweater and bonnet for her doll at Christmas. I never did make the booties!

Most of the lessons were more from helping, researching, and watching , than actually being taught.

Today I can build decks, small buildings, wallpaper, paint, do basic plumbing, shingle a roof, side a house, read a balance sheet, run a business successfully, make the best cheesecake this side of New York, give a decent haircut, hook-up a hundred pound propane tank, pull start a snow machine, drive a manual vehicle up to five tons, fire a shotgun with great accuracy, filet a fish, change a flat tire, train a dog, paddle a canoe, fly a small plane, start a fire with flint, give a manicure like a pro, make a spreadsheet program look easy, and change a diaper on a new born babe.

If you are afforded the opportunity to learn, jump at it. It may never come again.

It is my belief that no day is a day wasted, but a day where you can close your eyes knowing you have learned something new…even if it’s just a new word…is a treasure.

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Life’s lesson: Buy your own jewellery

Often, even without knowing when it happened, it dawns on me that somewhere along the path I learned a valuable lesson and didn’t even realize it. Some of the lessons are more socially responsible than others, some monumental and profound, others more obscure, until one day, there it is: that “AHA” moment as Oprah calls it; the light bulb goes on; you see the forest through the trees; you plant a face palm on yourself and think “How did I miss it all these years?”

Such was the case about eleven or twelve years ago. I had been eying this beautiful, quite large, amethyst ring in the window of our local jewellery store for some time. I thought about buying it, but decided instead to make that offering to my husband. He was always stumped when it came to buying me gifts, so I thought, with my birthday a few weeks away, this would let him off the hook.

I am not a big jewellery gal. Sure I like it, but other than the ten pack of earrings for $5.00, plus GST….I never wear much …. other than rings. I adore rings. I am fortunate that I have long fingers so I can wear any style and they look nice on my hands.

Now before I make a commitment to tell my love about how easy he’s about to have it in getting my birthday gift will be this year, I decide I’d better check the price to make sure it wasn’t outrageous.images-1

A few hundred dollars…okay, more than we’d normally spend on a birthday gift, but we could certainly afford it. I wait another week or so, and then one day as we are walking by the store, I decide today is the day. I will take him in, show him the ring, appropriately ‘ewwwww and ahhhhhh’ over it and mention the upcoming anniversary of my birth. This is going to be so easy! For both of us!

In we go; arm and arm. I am excited and happy! I am about to get what I want by making hubby’s life easy. I mentally pat myself on the back and congratulate myself as I wonder why I had never thought of doing this before. I am BRILLIANT!!!

We look at the ring, I try it on and it fits perfectly. OMG!! This is going better than I’d hoped!

My sweetheart …without prompting….asks if I’d like the ring for my birthday. I, of course, answer in the affirmative, thinking how well this is going; how easy it’s been. All we have to do now is leave and he’ll come back at a later time without me and get the ring.

W-R-O-N-G!!!!

Nope.

Instead, with me at his side, and a burst artery in his brain (ok, well that could be a technical error…I don’t know if we even have arteries in our brains, but there was definitely leakage on grey matter in that precise moment) he looks at the salesclerk and asks “Would you take $XXX?” A full TWO HUNDRED dollars less than the tagged price!!!

Oh my gawd!!!! I am mortified!!! I am being humiliated by the man I love and he is totally oblivious to it!

Is this a beach in Mexico??? An open air market in Bali where bartering is not only expected, but encouraged??? ARGH@#!%$#@!

I want the floor to open up and swallow me…or a heavy showcase to fall over and crush him before he can make this worse than it already is.

Just as I am dying a thousand deaths; well, ok, really it’s just my pride and my ego that are being bludgeoned to death; the owner walks over to ask how we are. I mumble something as I suggest, through gritted teeth, to my soon to be ex-husband, that we leave….we are late for a very, VERY important meeting. A lie, but she doesn’t know that.

With heart pounding, face flushing, and blood pressure about to turn me into a human volcano, we walk out of the store…still arm in arm but this time I have a death grip on his.

I can’t believe you did that with me standing there, I say, with a mouth full of venom a King Cobra would be proud of. Did what, he asks sincerely and totally innocent. Can he really be that stupid?! He just ruined my life! My reputation! He really doesn’t get it.

Back at work I can’t concentrate. I need to teach him a lesson. And I WANT that ring!

Off to the jewellery store I go; pull out my wallet; haul out my credit card and within five minutes, the ring is on my finger as I, shoulders back, strut proudly from the store.

I suppose this is where I should mention that when I went back to the store, the owner came right over and said she couldn’t take $200 off, but she’d take $100 off. OMG!!! I can’t believe my luck! I got the ring, AND I got a deal!!

That was the day I decided from now on, I’d buy my own jewellery. After I allowed my dear husband to barter down the price.