“Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans”

by | Apr 1, 2005 | Weekly Column

This post is by my co-author on Conscious Finance and colleague, Kathleen Fox:

My three sisters and I grew up in Tripp County, South Dakota, on the same farm where my mother’s family had lived since the 1930’s.  My parents still live there, though they retired from farming a few years ago.  I’ve lived in South Dakota all my life—in Burke, Hot Springs, Sioux Falls, and in Rapid City since 1986.

I have two grown children from my first marriage, which ended in divorce.  My second marriage added three stepchildren and eventually four grandchildren. My son Orrin spent six years in the Navy and is now a law student in Seattle. My two stepdaughters, Nichol and Lisa, live in Lincoln, Nebraska. The oldest and her husband manage to juggle their family of four small children, careers and college. The younger one is newly engaged, working her way through college, and quite proud that at age 21 she owns a house that she rents to other students. She’s considering a career in property management and told me one day, “I might be the next Rick Kahler.” My daughter Ingrid is a massage therapist in Rapid City who loves her work as well as her involvement in community theatre. My stepson Tom recently moved to Denver, where he is enjoying a job as groundskeeper at a private school, learning to cook, and finding out that he can take care of himself out in the world.

In 2002 my husband, Wayne Christopherson, was killed in a plane crash at age 49. At that time in our lives, he had built a successful construction business, the kids were nearly grown up, and we were beginning to think about enjoying some of the success and financial security that his hard work had achieved.  Instead, he was suddenly gone. My life and the lives of the kids were ripped apart and turned upside-down. We suddenly understood the reality that life truly is not fair.

That experience has shaped me into a different person than I was before.  I have more compassion and understanding, I am more aware of the need to live my life fully, and I have a sense of urgency about using my talents and accomplishing the things I care about.

Writing is my greatest passion, and I love being able to get up in the mornings and settle into the comfortable recliner in my home office with a notebook and a pen. I also get excited about researching random topics that interest me; there are so many fascinating things in the world that I’d like to know about. As a result, my brain contains a marvelous collection of random information that may be largely irrelevant and useless, except for crossword puzzles or Trivial Pursuit.

I read, hike, travel, play the piano with outstanding mediocrity, and above all enjoy spending time with friends and family.
I enjoy watching my kids make their way as young adults, and I have been fortunate enough to begin a new relationship with a man whose presence enriches my life.

My philosophy on life is that it works best when I choose not to waste energy trying to control circumstances or other people. I have learned that a great many things are not worth worrying about or fighting over, but that it’s important to speak up about the things that do matter.

With regards to money, I’ve learned that living free from debt creates great peace of mind. Spending less than you earn is a valuable habit to develop.  I also like the following quote from Frank Lloyd Wright:  “Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions.” It’s fine to enjoy and appreciate your possessions, but it’s also important to understand that they’re only “stuff” and have little to do with who you are or what really matters.

Above all, remember that all those sayings about only living life once and enjoying the present moment are true.  Recently my daughter and I stopped by my parents’ house and had supper with them and my youngest sister and her two children. We sat around the table, telling stories, talking and laughing about nothing particularly important. Although this was not a particularly memorable occasion, I saw it as a vivid demonstration of the word “family.” I suddenly realized how precious such times are.  It’s small moments like these that give life its value. I’m grateful that there are many such occasions in my life.

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