My mother, who died on 02/08/18, was the youngest of nine children who grew up on a farm in Shively, Kentucky, that was eventually purchased by Mother’s Cookies Company LLC and absorbed into the city of Louisville, where I grew up. Her eldest sister lived nearby with her husband and raised seven boys on their farm. While conducting genealogy research, my mother and I had many laughs about the “two-seater” outhouse and “bath night” at her sister’s house, which did not have the luxury of the indoor plumbing that my grandmother’s home had. Remembering the origins of “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”, Mother often said, “I hope I was first!” Then, she would acknowledge that she was probably as dirty as her nephews. She might have worn a dress, but she worked and played in the fields as much as they did. She climbed trees, too, and even tried once to hang by her toes (without success, of course).
After my parents divorced, my mother’s Depression-era frugality and farm life simplicity got us through many difficult times. I am still amazed how she held the family, household, and herself together on $70.00 per week. Her siblings, neighbors, local churches, and government programs supplemented her income at times, but she stretched a dollar like no one else I’ve known. It wasn’t until I was 12 years old that I knew we were poor. We lived simply in terms of material goods, but I had what I needed: three meals per day, snacks, a bed I shared with my sister, and enough clothes to get through one week, as long as we did laundry twice. Occasionally, we got surprises, like toys for birthdays, Christmas, and special occasions, but gifts were often very practical: toothpaste, razors, socks, underwear, sweaters, and mittens.
Of course, there were always other things I wanted. My cousin had a Barbie corvette that I hoped she would hand down, instead of her clothes. She didn’t, and I survived. I am not damaged because I didn’t get a new car when I turned 16, like some of the people I went to school with did. In fact, I probably developed work ethic and budgeting skills earlier than some of them. Yet I fell (and still sometimes fall) into the habit of wanting and buying what I am told I “should”. I have chased many “shiny balls” in the forms of careers, certifications, clients, degrees, knowledge, lovers, perceived opportunities, skills, technology, and more.
As I wrote my mother’s obituary, I was reminded of how much she saw in her 88 years: the Great Depression; Women’s Suffrage; World War II and rationing of goods; prejudice against her German ancestry, as well as her Irish, Asian, and African-American neighbors or friends; the Civil Rights Movement; the Equal Rights Movement; and daily use of the telephone, automobiles, television, color television, prescription drugs, cable television, laser surgery, cordless telephones, personal computers, the Internet, and cellular phones. She was a modern woman who fought for women’s rights and the well-being of her loved ones (which encompassed nearly everyone). Yet she reminded me often that humans lived well without all the addictive gadgets for thousands of years. My challenge was (and still is) to create the balance I needed.
Likewise, when I started The Law Studio in 2003, I had a desktop computer, telephone, fax machine, not-so-smart cell phone, and some office supplies. I have been both the early adopter of technology and the healthy skeptic. I have followed others’ blueprints for success, built my own from the ground up, and scrapped them both for some sort of hybrid. What I’ve learned is that my business constantly evolves, just as I do, and just as the world does, regardless of whether I invite the change that comes. I didn’t always build time in my days for the unexpected. I packed every hour with activity, often forgetting to schedule time for sufficient sleep, calls to my loved ones, social outings, workouts, and healthy meals. One unexpected request could throw me off completely and turn me into a person I was sometimes embarrassed to be.
Today, I acknowledge myself for simplifying my life so that my calendar includes a better balance of business, financial security, self-care, and relationship-building activities. I also acknowledge myself for simplifying my business products and services to align with my life vision, mission, and core values—just in time to share my mother’s final years at levels deeper and more meaningful than I ever imagined.
Life is short. Acknowledge yourself in the Comments section below. What are you doing to simplify your life or your business?