Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week was celebrated earlier this year. Thirty-five years ago, my husband and I started our family. From the moment we laid eyes on our little baby girl, we made a decision — we would do whatever it took for me to be a stay-at-home parent. Four years and two babies later (and another baby two years after that), another crucial decision was made — we’d send our children to Catholic schools, regardless of the cost.

From a completely objective view, my husband and I were probably the last people who should have been sending our children to private schools. After a downturn in the machining industry, John had taken a job with a start-up company and was barely making more than minimum wage when we started our family. It was hard enough making ends meet without adding in the cost of schooling for four children.

To be honest, John probably would have been fine sending our kids to a public school. He had attended public schools since he was in second grade and had turned out just fine. I had a few more years under my belt, having attended a Catholic school from first through eighth grade, but that experience was so impactful that I wanted our children to have that same experience as well.

I’m not sure how many couples would live the austere lifestyle that John and I did so I could continue to be a stay at home mom and we could send our kids to Catholic schools. It wasn’t always easy, but those were joyful days. I’d go back and live them all over again in an instant if I could.

My career was put on hold for 15 years until our youngest child started second grade. While John always worked full time days, I did various jobs around his work schedule so we didn’t have to hire babysitters — everything from being a Tupperware sales rep to selling plasma.

As far as money goes, we had a budget and we stuck to it. We were married eight years before we even had our first credit card and once we did get one, we paid it off every month religiously. Working with a Christian financial planner, we felt comfortable splitting our 10 per cent tithe between our church and the tuition bill.

We were thrifty, that’s for sure. We took one vacation each summer, staying with my brother and his family in Minneapolis and spending a day at the Mall of America. I invested in a hair clipper set so I could cut our son’s hair, the girls wore their hair long so very few haircuts for them. We had take-out food once a week, either from J.D.’s Drive-In where you could get six double cheeseburgers and a box of fries for under $10 or from Little Caesar’s where a large one-topping pizza was only $5. Most of the kids’ clothes were hand-me-downs purchased from friends who had older children, from the uniform sale at school, the occasional rummage sale or the neighborhood thrift store.

There were many a day that the featured meal for breakfast was oatmeal cooked on the stove and mac and cheese for lunch. That was back in the day when I was cooking three meals a day, all from scratch and usually with a homemade dessert as well.

It might be hard for couples now to imagine life with no cable TV, using cloth diapers, hanging clothes out on the line to conserve electricity, no date nights for mom and dad, and taking your kids to only one movie a year, usually the newest Christmas movie where we split one large popcorn and one large soda between the six of us. Once every two or three years, John and I got a weekend getaway which I earned by raising money for the Bowl for Life.

We taught our kids to live within their means as well. Each child got a stipend on payday twice a month (started at $15 and eventually went up to $20) and with that money they paid for their school supplies, clothing, entertainment with their friends, and gifts.

Thankfully, we qualified for tuition assistance, even if it meant mounds of paperwork to fill out to get it. One year we were even blessed by an anonymous person or couple in our parish who paid a year of tuition for our oldest daughter who was in middle school at the time.

For us, all the sacrifice has paid off. We have four wonderful young adult children, all in solid relationships and our married children each have three children of their own now. Our children are highly educated (Catholic undergrad and grad school — The Univeristy of Notre Dame, University of St. Thomas, St. Louis University, Marquette University), are working in their chosen fields, and, most importantly to us, they are still members of the Church. Can we say for sure that those decisions we made all those years ago brought about those positive outcomes? It’s hard to say, but I’d certainly like to think so. Our children have told us they appreciate the Catholic education they received. This beautiful cycle continues — all of our school-aged grandchildren are enrolled in Catholic schools now as well. The blessings keep coming and coming!

Jill of All Trades

Jack of all trades, master of none? More like Jill of all trades, master of some.

 

There’s no doubt about it, I’m juggling a lot of things lately. No two days are ever the same around here. But being busy and being challenged are two of my favorite things so it’s all good.

 

Case in point, on June 1 I woke up and realized our family trip to Japan to celebrate Enagic’s 40th anniversary was just a few short weeks away. That thought put the fear of God into me — so much to do, so little time.  I’m a fan of list making — there’s nothing more satisfying than checking off something you’ve completed on your to-do list — so I got on the computer and put together a list of the top 166 things I wanted to accomplish before we left. (Actually it started closer to 180 but unless there was some way to squeeze 40 hours into a 24-day, there was no way in heck I’d ever complete them all and in the whole scheme of life, not everything was that important anyhow.)

 

I’ve made more lists than I can count through the years but I did something with this list that made it the most effective one yet. I prioritized it so the most important things were at the top of the list. Every time I started a project on the list, it was highlighted in yellow, when the project was completed, the highlight color was changed to lime green.

 

The results? Pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Seventeen days into this, 133 items are done, 19 are in progress and 13 haven’t been attempted yet. If I wrapped this up today and didn’t complete one more thing, I’d still say it was a success.

 

Here’s some of the things that made it to the finished list… write four stories for The Business News, do five Kangen water demos, write two stories for The Compass, take several photos to go along with my stories, create four ads/flyers, contact, connect and follow up with dozens of people, add new contacts to my e-mail list, set up interviews for July, invite folks to my upcoming water demos, do four exit interviews with the students from Burundi who are attending school in the U.S. and heading home for the summer, do a home visit with a family who will be hosting a student from Burundi this fall (part of my work on the board of The Burundi Education Fund), send in seven orders for Enagic water ionizers, buy yen for the trip, update our budget on Microsoft Money, type notes from the three books I recently finished, update the computer, go through my daughter’s things from college and donate items to charity and bring things to the resale shop, pick up trash in the neighborhood, run two outdoor 5Ks to prepare for our next race on July 4, put in five afternoons of work in the research and development department a local paper product company, and proofread a 329-page course manual for a private college in my area.

 

Now that I finished writing this post, I can check that off my list. I may spend the 14-hour plane ride from LAX to Japan sleeping. Either that or starting my list of things to do in the month of July…