Real Life. Real People.
Red's Life Lessons

What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired!
From Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice

Now three months into her crisis (her word, not Black's) Red looks back and begins to realize the impact of the lessons she was forced to learn.

I'm surprised to find you online again.
Why? Typical Saturday night. Done with dinner and no one to talk to once I get home. Only tonight home is a hoteland there is no one snoring on the couch.
No reason to be. Everything will work out. One way or another.
That's what you old me when Nick was fired. In fact, you went so far as to say you thought it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Did you really mean that, or were you trying to make me feel better?
Maybe not THE very best, but it was definitely a good thing. What is that cliche' about when life hands you lemons ... make a lemon drop martini?
Gee, and I always thought you were supposed to make lemonade! But are you saying that because you're trying to find a positive side or because you genuinely believe it?
Both. It does not cost anything to look on the positive side of things, but focusing on the negative can definitely have a steep price. Think about where you might be if you had chosen to wallow in your misery rather than taking a proactive approach. Think about where you are today and your outlook for the future. If Nick had not gotten fired, what would have made you look at your priorities? Not to mention your spending habits and all the other lessons you have learned. Do you think you would be in the same place? Doubtful. So yes, I genuinely believe it was for the best.
You're very philosophical tonight. So you really believe things happen for a reason?
Absolutely, although at the time we may not understand the reason. One day we may be able to look back and understand why things happened. Or we may never understand. Regardless, life goes on. And you need to make the most of each and every day.
OK, Miss Eternal Optimist, that's all fine and good. But what do you do on the days when you can't see the bright side? Then what?
Then imagine how things could be worse and be thankful for the fact they are not. Like I tell Mom when she is looking for sympathy and starts whining about problems or ailments ... "look on the bright side, at least you are not dead."

I doubt our mom appreciates that sentiment, but it's a pretty memorable statement and it did make me think. It was a matter of whether you choose to focus on what you think is missing from your life or what positive things actually exist. A very simple perspective to understand, but not always so easy to remember. Or apply.

Financial Lessons: Understand The Basics

There are times I wonder if I tackled the financial issues in the most logical order, but the truth is I didn't have many options. I felt like I was fire-fighting — dealing with the biggest financial fires first and then moving on to the smaller ones — until everything was under control. In many ways, though I definitely didn't see it that way at the time, I had the luxury of having my priorities set and was forced to take specific actions one right after another. I didn't have to ask myself, "Where do I start?" or "What next?" Plus, because I started out financially naïve, it meant I was working from a clean slate; I didn't have any preconceived notions on how to do things nor did I have a "know it all" arrogance.

I can't begin to list everything I learned about finance and financial decision-making, nor can I attempt to explain the best way to learn since there are so many different ways: ranging from family and friends to magazines and books to classes to financial advisors. I was incredibly lucky to have Black. Early on, Black had told me that the good news was my financial learning curve was steep. Of course, I initially panicked because I thought that meant it was going to be difficult to learn, thinking steep mountains are the most difficult to climb. Then she explained it meant I'd learn a lot in a very short time because I'd learn the basics quickly. More advanced topics would take more time. I didn't believe her at first, but once I understood the basic concepts and gained experience and confidence, new financial concepts did seem more straight-forward and logical. It also helped that I didn't have to deal with all of them on a regular basis. However, understanding the underlying fundamentals made most of the routine financial decisions so much easier.

I certainly don't pretend to be a financial expert now, but I'm no longer a financial ostrich. And the most important lesson I could ever teach anyone else is to learn the basics. And preferably before you're in a crisis mode. I can't begin to say how many times I have uttered or thought the words, "if I had only known …" Although there's nothing I can do about the past, I can try to make the future better, based on the financial knowledge I have today. And, perhaps most importantly, I can definitely make sure that Natasha and Sawyer are better prepared than I was to face their financial future.

Life Lessons: Understand What Is Important

The financial lessons were numerous and significant, but pale in comparison to the life lessons I learned. Losing a job is never a good thing (I know Black would probably argue with this statement), but it forced me to focus on my personal values and priorities. It made me realize what was truly important. Eventually it became obvious that it was the personal things that should drive the financial decisions, not the other way around. Which is the way we had been living our lives. It was a major change, but one that made sense and ultimately felt good. But it's also one of the hardest things to do on a daily basis. It's so easy to get sidetracked by the demands of daily life and not focus enough attention on values and priorities.

My girls have always been the most important thing in my life. Sometimes I think Nick gets short-changed, or may feel like he is a second-class citizen, but he puts up with it admirably because of his love for the girls. The crisis made me focus on Natasha and Sawyer even more, because I didn't want them to feel neglected or confused while we were making changes in our daily life. Along the way I tried to explain the changes to them in such a way as to also teach them values and what was truly important — by both my words and actions.

It also made me understand that the family needed to be working together — all of us as a team, as well as Nick and me as a partnership. During the years Nick was building his corporate career, and especially after the girls were born, it was easy to put our relationship on the back burner. But now the key to our success would be our ability to communicate and to make sure our priorities were still compatible. And I knew if we could work together through the bad times, we'd be better positioned to enjoy the good times.