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Get Your Head Out of the Sand

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ostrichWhen things are rough in your life there is a great temptation to stick your head in the sand practicing big-time denial.

I caution you not to do that because a very vulnerable part of your body is exposed, inviting even more hardship.  If you take your head out of the sand, you’ll not only get air and be able to breathe, but you will be able to see solutions as they appear.

I speak from experience.

When I returned to graduate school to take advantage of a grant I was required to go to school full time. That meant leaving my full-time junior high teaching job. (I had just gotten a raise too.)  I applied for a leave but the school district was unwilling to approve it, so I retired.

At the time we had two daughters, 5 and 2 in private school. My husband’s salary would become our full support. We knew we were taking a risk going from two salaries to one. In spite of a pile of bills we decided I couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity to earn my Ph.D. from the largess of grant. So, I enrolled at USC and began my studies.

The grant paid my tuition, gave a generous monthly book allowance and provided a starting monthly stipend of $250. We kept our girls in a private Montessori school to the tune of $100 each per month and spent the remaining $50 on gas for one of our two cars.

During the four years it took me to finish school, I had a third child, my son (on purpose,) and experienced many financial ups and downs. Every time it seemed that we had made it through another month, something seemed to break down.

First, was the second car, so we had to share a car. In Los Angeles that was doable when my husband’s job was nearby. I could drop him at work and the girls at school on my way to classes. But when his job transferred him to Long Beach, the opposite direction from where the rest of us were going everyday, somebody would have to take the bus.

No more carpooling. We decided he would drop the girls off and drive to work then pick them up afterwards. We were blessed to have a babysitter who came to my house to keep our young son. By now the granting institution had increased my monthly stipend to $450. Now I could pay the babysitter.

I would catch the bus to and from school.

The second major break down occurred when we had exactly $115 left in our checking account after paying all our bills. This was in the mid-70’s so I was pretty happy with this balance.

It almost seemed on cue that the water heater went from a leak to a flood. The cost to replace it: $115.

I had to laugh at this even then and moreso now.

I felt like Job in the Bible.

One thing that kept us going was the realization that we were making this sacrifice for a very important goal: completing my doctorate.

Another thing that sustained us was our strong faith in God. During this time our spiritual muscles strengthened as we dealt with other tough challenges while taking good care of our kids.

We discovered that facing our problems head on enabled us to see solutions, not always perfect ones, but perfectly good for the time.

In our once overflowing refrigerator, freezer and kitchen cabinets, we had just the basics. My mother and babysitter feared that we were starving, but we weren’t. My oldest daughter jokes to this day that I made every recipe on the Biscuit box. She was right. With a little syrup or margarine or ground beef and cheese we could have a meal. Nobody went hungry. Nothing was wasted.

We became so frugal that after I finished my degree and took a university position, my kids didn’t believe me during a trip to the grocery store when I told them they could choose a name brand cereal.

Many people are either facing tough times or anticipating tough times. Keeping your head in the sand will not change the problems. As a matter of fact, delay usually just makes things worst.

Coming up for air will give you clarity and enable you to see solutions.

So, if you’re guilty of hiding your head during hard times and exposing your rear, get your head out of the sand now. Better times await you.

(originally posted 3-31-09)


  1. This is great post, you certainly did a wonderful job in overcoming your struggles for a better life.

    I totally agree with what you said about burying ones head in the sand making things worse. A few years ago I was in terrible dept and I just could not see any way out of it so my solution was to act like it was not there. When the threatening phone calls came I acted like they had the wrong number and tore up bills and threw them away without looking at them. The result, one fine sunny day all of the dept collectors turned up at once and took away just about everything. My parents were there to witness it all.

    Thankfully my father bailed me out and got everything back for me, he was so upset that I had not come to him for help.

    The moral of the story, If I had of held my head up, faced the situation and asked my family for help I would never of had to experience one of the most humiliating of situations.

    • Hi Carol,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. As humiliating as these experiences are, they are also helpful. Sometimes I think if our upset and hurt is not big enough we don’t get it. In that case we are doomed to repeat it.

      I’m happy that your story had a happy ending. I know you have used what you learned to steer clear of similar situations.

      You’ve just given me an idea for another post–asking for help. I struggle with that too.

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