Let’s Redefine “Normal”

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I have a mission for the summer of 2014. I want to help people redefine “normal.”

I’m 50 years old. During my growing up years my parents were teachers and we lived a very all-American middle-class lifestyle. Like most young girls, I had posters of Donny Osmond and Davy Jones hanging in my room, knowing I would eventually marry one of them. I loved Donny fiercely but was partial to Davy’s British accent. I mean, what country girl didn’t want to marry a British pop star and have children with a British accent? Some things never change.

But a lot of things have changed since that era. Growing up, I didn’t know one person who had ever been on a cruise. Not one. Cruises were for movie stars and I didn’t know any movie stars. When “The Love Boat” came on TV, we gathered around to observe the lives of the rich and famous. I never remember feeling cheated because we couldn’t sail the open seas.

I didn’t know one woman who had ever had a professional manicure. We didn’t even know what the word pedicure meant. I would have assumed it had to do with cross breeding hunting dogs.

I knew we were rich because we went to the dentist once a year. Most kids didn’t. I knew very few kids who had braces. If you did have braces it meant your parents had so much money that they could afford to care about your teeth being perfectly straight.

A huge house was one that had two bathrooms. One bathroom was considered normal. Eating out was for special occasions. I remember hearing my granny say, “Nowadays, people go into town and eat. They pay a lot of money for it too. Why in the world would they do that?” She figured they must have more money than sense.

Let me be clear, friend. I have no objection to a cruise or a mani/pedi. Eating out is wonderful and I suggest you support all our fine local eating establishments. But do yourself a favor. Don’t go in debt to do it. And let’s not pretend these extreme blessings are “normal.” They’re not.

Oh, and here’s the thing that will probably get me in the most trouble of all. Braces? If your kids’ teeth are horribly crooked or bucked to the point of being a distraction or health concern, absolutely. But do all loving parents have to plunge thousands of dollars into debt because perfectly straight teeth are the new “normal” in America? No. Feel free to buck the system (pardon the pun).

Marketers have even created terminology to support our inflated sense of “normal.” I mean, when did we start calling perfectly fine houses “starter homes?” When did we start convincing newlyweds that their modest home is fine as long as they don’t finish there? Guess what? My grandparents actually finished life in their “starter home.” They never even realized they should have been miserable.

I love the readers of this column enough to tell the truth. Don’t spend money you don’t have trying to be “normal.” Create your own “normal.” Be more like my grandparents. Live free.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. upwordscg
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 17:40:37

    Great advice! Dave Ramsey would be proud of you!


  2. Connie johnson
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 19:45:27

    I’m still in my starter home. Comfortably so. If I moved, I would have to clean out a lot of “stuff”, and I’m not getting rid if my stuff. Your treatise makes a lot of sense.


  3. jeanae jensen
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 21:08:53

    I totally agree!!! We are setting our children up for disappointment and failure. My goal is to down size. Down size our belongings, downsize our spending, downsize our home, and downsize our needs so that we can live more abundantly and give more abundantly.


  4. trdub60
    Aug 24, 2014 @ 10:02:26

    Agree! When I was growing up (same era as you, Lisa!) we would go out to eat on my Daddy’s payday and it was McDonald’s or White Castle!
    Weddings are another story! A couple of weeks ago I went to a lovely “old school” wedding. It was held in the family’s back yard (not an overpriced venue). Pie, tea and lemonade were served (not a $60. a plate dinner). It was beautiful, meaningful and simple. And I don’t think anyone went into debt!
    Lisa- thanks for sharing your wisdom and humor! Looking forward to your next book!


  5. Joy DeKok (@JoyEDeKok)
    Aug 25, 2014 @ 08:59:24

    Love this post – will share it. We grew up much the same. Thankful for the good old days that taught me how to enjoy my good now days.


  6. Daryl Byford
    Oct 01, 2014 @ 23:59:12

    Love this article. My new normal is my current condition. I’m proud my growing years weren’t much different than yours.


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