Friday, March 20, 2015

Tax Season, Dark Nights of the Soul and Quilt Making

I was listening to some pre-election speeches and heard a conservative presidential candidate voice his concern that resonated with my own. He spoke about how many are losing the dream that was the hallmark of America: to work hard at what you most love and to see your inspiration, passion and efforts turn into financial success.

My youngest daughter had come to visit me while my oldest daughter and husband were at a trade show this weekend.  In conversing with her, her eyes welled with tears that she struggled to hold back. She graduated from college with honors and is currently cleaning houses for a living. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with any honest work, though this isn't what she had in mind when she completed her degree.

She thought working for herself was a better option than working for minimum wages at a part-time job. At least she could schedule herself and continue to seek more customers and book herself as full as she could. Good job opportunities in our rural state aren't exactly plentiful, and her education wasn't exactly a shoe-in to a great career, but some lessons must be learned the hard way, and dreams have a way of dying hard!

House-cleaning is a luxury not afforded by as many as she had thought and building a reputation takes time and her college debts loom heavy, despite her many grants and scholarships as well as working all the way through school and choosing a less costly college located near home. It could be worse, though it doesn't feel that way to her right now.

Another presidential hopeful spoke about our present culture changing so rapidly as to be like an industrial revolution happening every five years. Technical changes are coming quicker than ever before. Even in my day, it wasn't enough to have one career, I had several and of the most stable sort: nursing, teaching and even home-industry, when my husband and I tied fishing leaders in the evenings to supplement our duel professional incomes as we raised our girls. We had made the choice to put city life behind us to live in a beautiful rural environment and had to work harder than ever to do so. We are pleased that our children, like us, have grown into well educated, hard-working adults. We are not new to financial challenges, nor are they.

Being an optimistic Pollyanna, I did what I could to encourage my daughter to stay positive and continue to explore other work options. I reminded her of someone that we know in our community who continued to try one creative venture after another until she began catering and baking and suddenly developed her own cracker company in her own kitchen.  Perhaps some of you have tried Whitney's Castleton Crackers, from Castleton, Vermont?  We knew her when she was designing scratch-and-sniff souvenir cards.  "Whitney deserved to succeed", I told my daughter, "as she never gave up trying!"

Although I have heard it said that if the only problems you have are financial ones, you really don't have any problems at all, financial concerns can be "taxing" (pun intended). I laid awake all night thinking about my daughter and what options she might consider. My attempt to assuage my worry didn't work though at least it produced a few pages of thoughts that might be helpful to her, no matter that it wasn't likely worth depleting my energy for the following day. That is always the price I pay when I entertain worries.

As I was growing up, I heard my parents talk about The Great Depression, and they forever lived in fear of inflation and I think my dad saved every penny he could.  I didn't know that their fears would become my own and that fear itself would become such a frequent visitor. I have learned that if I hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I can put my fears to bed, sleep peacefully, keep calm and carry on.

Knowledge obtained from an in-service I had in my younger years has provided me with insight into my own thinking and work style. Our special education team was given individual tests that helped us analyze ourselves and there it was, my style described to a tee: try harder doing the same thing rather than to consider tackling the problem differently. This can indeed be an exercise in futility, though habits are not easily changed. Working hard, but not smart, I have heard some call it. It was my father's way, and I learned it well.  "You don't have to be smart," he would say. "You just have to work hard!" This implied that our gene pool wasn't blessed with much in the way of brain power, but with sheer determination, added energy and perseverance we would succeed.

I must confess that my father didn't let worry rob him from any sleep however. He had been orphaned at an early age and seemed to have pulled his boot-straps up to his ears.  He was self-reliant and confident almost to the point of arrogant. I am not and it seems my boots are often ill-fitted, impossible to pull on and I seem to excel in choosing paths that are anything but smooth!

It remained a dark and sleepless night and my mind jumped to an article in our local paper about a civic organization addressing the needs of the homeless in our area! Really? Homeless in Vermont, in the winter cold that penetrates deep enough into the ground to make huge frost heaves? Surely they must be housed somewhere for how else could they survive? My thinking plunged into deeper and darker places!  I imagined the worst: my girls moving back in with their significant others, and their rambunctious families and/or pets. My house and brain were getting more crowded by the minute! My Depression Day thinking, I realized resembles my mother's; move the children in and everyone together will pool their incomes to live and eat. I will make Stone Soup and cat food casseroles. Thank goodness I have many recipes! Wait!!...While it is a reality for some today is not for us, not yet or potentially ever, though I love my adult children dearly!

My concerns regarding our futures aren't new, but they do hit me in a new ways. Banning together to eek out a living.... all to pay for taxes that are higher than we expected and hardships that my children must live and grow through, just like we did? Yes, the fear mongering news networks have finally pushed me over the edge and my rational thinking has jumped off the cliff, being frightened of an obviously bleak and dangerous future! Clearly the government is coming for any monies we have left over to redistribute our wealth?... What wealth?

Thank goodness, morning has finally arrived when I can at last fall asleep and dream dreams that are full of light and vision.  The world isn't really so awful, and I have many new ideas for my daughter to try, and my children and their boyfriends with their children haven't all moved in, and as soon and I get my rest, I think I will resume my wonderful retirement work of sewing on quilts and enjoying a program or two on TV.

This time I think I will watch "Say Yes to the Dress"....which will be full of big decisions of which beautiful, expensive wedding dress, dripping with lace, satin, and brocade will be chosen for the bride's special day and then I will turn to the food network and sample a few mouth-watering recipes. I will avoid the news and the weather channels...and climb back into what I do--making the world a more beautiful place by sewing on quilts and crafts...after all you never know when the power grid may fail us and we will at least be warmly wrapped in comforting quilts, wear warm fleece socks and be cheered by our home brightly decorated with felted tomatoes and potted plant pincushions!