|A photo of us at Wally’s wake, held at Sam Bond’s with barely enough room for all his friends.
The photo I’m holding still hangs in the bar.
One way to identify your own limiting beliefs is to ask yourself “If money wasn’t an issue or if you “won the lottery” today, what would your do with your life?”I’m sure that I had done this little self-growth exercise along my journey, but it wasn’t until my father passed away that I was able to answer it deeply.
- My (Our) father, Wally passed away suddenly three years ago. His passing was one of the most surreal and transformational experiences of my life. It was heartbreaking, but in a surprising way. Instead of feeling depressed or lonely, I felt like my capacity to love had been expanded tenfold. In the days and weeks after his death I felt a vibrancy and aliveness like never before. I also felt a deeper joy (even in the midst of sorrow) and a deep gratitude for everything in my life. Wally had soooo many friends, and the outpouring of love that came from our friends and family was truly amazing. It was also sensing the preciousness of each moment in life.
- Above all else, Wally was a friend to everyone. He lived life on his terms and defined his own success. He was a ski bum in his teens, then a college drop out hippie, but he didn’t feel the need to seek other people’s approval. He was unapologetically easy-going. Our Mom called him lazy growing up, but we enjoyed just hanging out playing cards and listening to him play his guitar. While his lack of money was embarrassing at times growing up, it wasn’t something we held against him as adults. Our relationship/friendship grew as we hit adolescence and deepened as we explored the world, with him always being so eager to learn from our travels. He always loved to listen and debate, and even when we disagreed with his perspective, it helped us think through our own position better.
- I remember lying in bed grieving, my mind racing with intense feelings and thoughts. I didn’t know the exact total, but I knew that I (we) would be getting a large inheritance, via our grandparents. So, I asked myself the question, “What would I do if money weren’t a concern?” I immediately realized that I wanted to have another child. I felt like, similar to my father, that my true legacy will be found in how I grow as a person through parenting and in turn through my children’s own legacy. I didn’t think of quitting my job, even though the thought of working half-time did appeal to me, versus the very hectic schedule with 9 hour days for two full-time working parents we had been managing.
- Receiving an inheritance also felt like a big values test. I didn’t want to blow the opportunity or make choices that my grandparents would have disapproved of (although they were veerrrry frugal, so I’m sure I’ve made a few splurges that they would have questioned). So, initially I made simple choices like paying off my student loans, and then buying our Toyota Sienna outright.
- We still kept to our exact vacation budget on our already planned trip to Denmark, and truly didn’t splurge in advance of our inheritance actually being deposited.
- Knowing that the money would be coming did shift my money mind frame in some ways though. I certainly wanted to be more generous now that I was “able.” About a month after Wally passed away a community member I had been working with to bring sculptures to Pittman Addition HydroPark sent me a link to her campaign where she was raising funds to do an art project with kids at an orphanage in Honduras. She’s one of the most bubbly and vivacious people I know, always ending conversations and emails with “Have a blessed day!” So I couldn’t help but want to fund her project, plus she was offering a unique “Destiny Map” session if you donated $100. So I did. But even though I felt great about my choice to sponsor her, Kevin completely wigged out when we reviewed our credit card bill during our “Money Honey” chat (which also included a thousand dollar vet visit that he was furious about). I realize now that I glossed over this part of our conversation, I guess mostly because $100 didn’t seem like much money in comparison. But the reason money issue is/was that I am intrinsically more generous than Kevin. We’ve always had this rub in our money relationship.
- Prior to getting an inheritance I was already donating small amounts regularly, but once I had more money I certainly felt the desire to tithe/donate more. I set up auto-donation through my employer for my top five favorite charities (Rotary International, International Medical Corps, Oregon Environmental Council, Friends of Trees and McKenzie River Trust). They each got $5 per paycheck, so it was a total of $50 a month, $600 a year in extra donations. We were already tithing a small amount to our church, Grace Memorial Episcopal, but we finally upped past a $100 donation. Altogether we weren’t donating nearly a true 10%, which is something I would like to do. At the time our childcare bill was so expensive that we figured out what we could afford after all our expenses.
- Another “donation” that I started was to lend out $1000 through Kiva in what I dubbed, The Kiva Experiment. So far that thousand dollars has been relent over 60 times, and made a $5k impact around the world to aspiring entrepreneurs who wouldn’t have a chance at a traditional loan.
- Upon returning from an amazing trip back to Denmark, I also decided to join the Portland Pearl Rotary Club. Joining the club was/is a big commitment in terms of both time and money. I volunteer regularly through the club and pay a monthly dues of $550 a year, plus an expectation to donate at least $100 to the Pearl Fund and $100 to Rotary International. We now donate a rental our beach cabins to the annual auction as well.
- While growing our family has been a long journey, I couldn’t be happier with my initial instinct to have a third child. Teagan brings us such joy every day. (We even had a new babysitter last night, and she agreed that she’s never met such a happy baby. She literally woke up and played with her for a full hour and half before she even started to wonder where we might be). Yes, she will cost us more, but any potential sacrifice would be worth it.
After Wally’s death, we (being my sister and his best-ex, Karen) came up with a way to reference things through Wally’s unique lens on life. We called it WWWW: What Would Wally Want?? We’ll talk about this in our next shared post.