Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: A family downsizes to grow closer, build better lives

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 7/11/2014

Kay Klebba’s family had it all. Nice cars, extravagant vacations and a beautiful house in a neighborhood Kay referred to as “Stepford,” a planned community with all the amenities. But, as Kay wrote in her story “Lifestyle Versus Life,” published in our book about counting our blessings, the one thing that was missing was a complete family life.

“Scott” — her husband — “worked 60 to 90 hours a week. That’s not a typo,” Kay wrote. And he’d been working on that schedule for 15 years. One day he came home “utterly depressed and burned out.” He’d reached his breaking point, which led to some serious conversations about how the family was living.

Kay Klebba’s family had it all. Nice cars, extravagant vacations and a beautiful house in a neighborhood Kay referred to as “Stepford,” a planned community with all the amenities. But, as Kay wrote in her story “Lifestyle Versus Life,” published in our book about counting our blessings, the one thing that was missing was a complete family life.

“Scott” — her husband — “worked 60 to 90 hours a week. That’s not a typo,” Kay wrote. And he’d been working on that schedule for 15 years. One day he came home “utterly depressed and burned out.” He’d reached his breaking point, which led to some serious conversations about how the family was living.

Over the years, Scott had missed birthday parties and holidays for his career, and Kay had wound up practically raising their four kids alone. She was burned out, too, and felt she wasn’t the mother she could have been. “In reality, our family didn’t make a very pretty picture even thought it was wrapped up in a beautiful package,” Kay wrote.

The question Kay and her husband had to ask themselves was whether the impact on their family was worth the money Scott was making. The answer, when they put it to themselves that way, was clearly “no.” So, they decided to act. Scott would quit his job, and they would sell their house and move in with Scott’s mother while they planned their new life. They estimated this would take six months.

In fact, it took two years, and it was a trying time. Kay was bitter at first that they’d left their luxurious lifestyle behind, but she soon adjusted. It helped that she clearly saw the benefits of the change. “Our family has never been closer,” she wrote.

One day, in the car, she tried to explain to her 14-year-old son why they now had less “stuff.” But her son cut her off and said: “You know what, Mom? I think I saw Dad more in the first year we lived here than in the previous 12 years of my life.”

That comment alone, Kay wrote, assured her that it had all been worth it.

•••

When John P. Buentello and his brother were entering adolescence, they both developed the same dream: to be professional writers. They were serious about it. They handwrote stories and mailed them to their favorite mystery, fantasy and science-fiction magazines, as John wrote in his story “Believing in the Writer in Me,” published in our book about gratitude for our mothers.

After they mailed their stories, they’d stake out the mailbox waiting for responses, hoping for a letter from an editor. “We dreamed of becoming overnight successes,” John wrote. Instead, they got rejection letters, most of which were just standard forms that provided no feedback. The only personalized suggestions they ever got were the ones that suggested they type their submissions if they wanted to be taken seriously.

A typewriter was definitely out of reach. Their mother struggled just to make ends meet. The boys thought they’d have to put their pursuit aside. “There’d be time to dream about being writers some other day,” John wrote. But their mother believed in them fully. “She had watched us writing week after week. She had sat and listened to our stories.”

One day she came home with something that looked like a little metal suitcase. She put it on the table, snapped it open and inside, John and his brother saw a small, portable typewriter. They were astounded; there was no way their mother could have afforded to buy it. It turned out they were right. She had rented it for $10 per month, to stop her sons from giving up their writing. When John first hit a key and it “thwacked” against the roller, he thought it “was the most beautiful sound” he’d ever heard.

That typewriter helped John and his brother stay the course and, eventually, after many rejections, they both made it as writers. As is the case for many successful people, they needed that first person — their mother — to believe in and support them to set them on their way. I’m glad she did, too, because we’ve published many of John’s stories.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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