Champagne Taste and a Beer Wallet

His smile gave it all away, he was beaming with joy. “Throw it all in the dumpster,” the manager had ordered when the company he worked for delivered new cubicles and panel systems, and that’s when my husband spoke up and had asked if he could take them instead. Before the day was over, he had written permission, stating he could take all the cabinets and worksurfaces.

Five almost brand new burgundy-colored double cabinets with doors, and enough work surfaces and legs to make all my dreams come true.

Our bonus room became officially my workroom. On one end, we set up my sewing station. Twelve feet of worksurfaces on beautiful metal legs on one side, two corner pieces at the end, wide enough for an office chair to be placed in between, and a return. (The below picture I found on Google comes very close -just with white laminated work surfaces and I have no cabinets on the wall or floor, but the same beautiful metal legs.)

Now I had enough space for all my sewing supplies, my sewing machine, and my tools. We would have never bought anything like it new -or used- and we wouldn’t have dared to dream of something like it either. I felt like I had won the lottery.

On the other end of the room, four cabinets were positioned on the floor in rows of two, with space in between them, after the work surfaces were attached to it, it all became a very large area to work on.

I am still using the worksurface in my workroom to this day, now the top is a bit banged up.

On Friday afternoon we decided to paint our living room, the key-lime green had to go. We went to the local hardware store, hoped to find a decent paint color on the OOPS-RACK -the place where they offer paints and stains for a fraction of the original price because the product either didn’t work out for the customer or had been mixed wrong.

We got lucky. On Saturday our living room had two smoky-blue walls and two white walls on the opposite sides. Within a year, every room had a new coat of paint that somehow matched the rest of the house. Most came from the “Oops-rack” only one color, a wheat-gold (seen in the above picture) was paid for in full, the hue of my workroom because it looked friendly, and it made me think of the sun.

We had only three more weeks until the license for our truck would expire, and we decided to use the time wisely. We went to garage sales and estate sales on all the remaining weekends, tried to accomplish everything we needed a vehicle for.

There was one particular estate sale we both will never forget. The sale, and how we responded, would set the ‘tone’ of how we would continue to live from this moment on. We were dirt poor, lived from paycheck to paycheck, had pawned our jewelry to pay the deposits for utility and cable/internet, yet in our mind, we weren’t poor.

Our tastes and wishes had not adjusted to the fact that we couldn’t afford anything, and that we were in no position to waste money on luxury items. We couldn’t eat out at a restaurant, and most of what we had now had been either given to us, or we had bought it dirt-cheap at a garage sale, yet we still dreamed big.

As so often, we separated at the estate sale and looked at different things. My husband went into the garage and the basement in search of tools, and I went through the house, hoping to find some things that make a place a home.

One tapestry in the living room caught my eye. A beautiful replica of a very famous tapestry series I had once read about. The original, very luxuriously woven in fine wool and silk with silver and gilded threads,Β the replica, while not as stunning, was still very impressive. A series of tapestries from the 14th century if I am not mistaken. The one I admired was called “The Unicorn rests in the garden” which, later on, was often changed into “The unicorn in captivity.”

I loved the wall hanging and looked at it for a very long time, but unfortunately, the $165 they asked for, was way out of our league. Someone would buy it and I hoped they would like it as much as I did.

I bought an electric knife instead and paid $5, which turned out to be a great investment because I use it to this day in my workroom whenever I have to cut foam. My husband found a few tools every handyman needs but never uses, and we met at the register and paid for our bargains.

“Did you see the tapestry?” He wanted to know and I nodded. “It’s beautiful.”

We both went back into the house and showed each other what we had seen. Back in the living room, hanging over a door frame, we both admired the tapestry one last time. I don’t know who’s to blame but one of us must have said Let’s buy it because that’s what we did.

We still had a champagne taste, but sadly only a beer wallet, which didn’t stop us from spending $165, our entire grocery budget for two weeks, on a tapestry. Who does that?

I don’t know why we did it, or why neither one of us stopped the other. We both were fully aware of our circumstances, we knew we couldn’t afford it, but we bought it anyway.

It is still in our living room and I look at it often. Besides all the other artwork we accumulated over the years, this one will always have a special place in my heart.

Perhaps it did set the tone for our future life. Poverty is something that starts in your head and in our minds we were only temporarily broke. We never fully accepted the fact that we had been houseless or the fact that we couldn’t afford to live the life we were once used to.

If you believe you are poor, you most likely are. If you believe you only have a temporary financial misfortune, then life will adjust itself. The mind is powerful. If you think you are beautiful, you will act on it and soon others will notice your glow, if you believe you are ugly, you will act like it as well.

Our attitude was set on success. We would make it -there was not a doubt in our mind. Stuff was given to us, we gave back, and it came back to us like a boomerang. Perhaps it has always been that way, we just never noticed.

On Monday, we finally got internet and TV. We had to postpone the installation twice because we didn’t have all the cables for the TV and the laptop. The Comcast guy arrived on time first thing in the morning.

He was a very nice young man, who wanted to cover his shoes with plastic before he came in. I laughed and told him there was no need. With three big dogs in the house, our floors sparkled with dog glitter.

We wanted the cable in the living room, and it took him a while to get it all set up, after that he run the internet to the little desk area in my brand-new workroom.

I watched him work all the time, and when it got warmer outside, I asked him if he wanted water. He nodded, sweat was running down his face and so I went into the kitchen and brought him a glass of water. Three hours later, everything was set up and he explained the DVR box and the remote to me.

After he left I went online and deleted our internet password. I had borrowed the internet from a neighbor called “Julie” for two months, now our internet would be easily accessible for everybody else around me as well. I installed a free firewall for our protection, and we were all set.*

That night we watched TV and it felt like a very special treat. Nothing was ordinary anymore, everything we accomplished or regained, had now meaning and was highly appreciated. Jobs were not just jobs, they now put a new spin on the phrase “make a living.”

Two days later, when I went to bed my head started spinning again and this time it did not go away. I laid down and the room started turning. I sat back up and it stopped. I panicked, went to the other room where my husband slept, and woke him. “I think I am dying,” I told him. One hand pressed against my chest, with the other hanging onto the door frame.

He jumped out of bed, “Let’s go to the ER.” He grabbed his work pants and a short while later I followed him to the truck. We drove to the nearest hospital, where I changed my mind. During the short drive I had calmed down, the world had stopped spinning and now all I could think of was the money it would cost to be treated in the emergency room. My husband, not pleased at all, tried to convince me otherwise, but then agreed and drove back to the house, where we both went back to bed.

A few days later the same thing happened. I woke him again, and this time he wasn’t thrilled. I couldn’t breathe, the dizziness and spinning were the same. A few minutes later we were on the highway, on our way to the ER. When I walked in I felt relief. I knew we couldn’t afford it, but we couldn’t afford me dying either.

When you mention chest pain they take it very seriously. The nurse had me sit down right beside her when she started to take my pulse and blood pressure, she put me on an EKG. She asked questions and when I turned my head to look at her, the world around me started spinning again.

“You have Vertigo,” she said and pointed to my eyes. You have nystagmus. Until then ‘Vertigo’ was a Hitchcock thriller with Kim Novak and James Stewart, and I had never heard of nystagmus.

“You are having a panic attack,” and with her help and her instructions, my breathing went back to normal and the chest pain I had felt went away.

“Do I need to be here?” I asked her and when she didn’t answer right away I told her that we didn’t have the money to pay for the emergency visit. “If I don’t have a brain tumor or a heart attack, then I rather go home.”

“I cannot tell you what to do, or advise you what not to do, but you do have the eye movement that comes with Vertigo spells and you don’t have a heart attack.” She looked at the empty papers in front of her, gave me time to think.

“How much do I have to pay so far for the EKG and your time?” I wanted to know and apologized to her for wasting her time.

“Just go,” she said, and that’s what we did. We left, there was no bill to be paid.

I finally knew what to search for.

34 thoughts on “Champagne Taste and a Beer Wallet

  1. I can imagine how frightened you must have been! And what good fortune to have experienced a healthcare professional willing to work with you, thus not adding more to your stress. And I think the purchase of the tapestry was probably impulsive, but sometimes we need to break even our own rules, maybe testing our limits. I somehow think you really did deserve a treat!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s crazy what some companies or individuals throw in the dumpster. A great score for you! Also a great score in a free diagnosis. Still no fun, but I suppose knowing what explains why you feel a certain way makes the event less scary…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great story, the gifts you and your husband received and how you made your house a home, then that nurse…how sweet she was. Really loved reading this, thank you. I like that tapestry too. I would have eaten beans and rice for a whole month to have that on my wall, very pretty.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Another interesting chapter! So, my burning question is – did you even try to bargain on the $165 tapestry? In these parts, bargaining is expected. πŸ™‚ And I like the discussion of the mindset. It’s also important to note, I think, that this was a one time extravagance – not a regular occurrence. Glad you found out what the medical issue was.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was one of these guarded estate sales you find so often in the South, security in every room, fixed prices, no negotiations. However, Saturday in the afternoon, they start to give you 25% off, Sunday until noon the same after after lunch on Sunday everything they want to get rid of is 50% off, the rest is packed and they offered again at the next estate sale.

      We did not even try.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another engrossing chapter. I love your observation of the difference between believing one is poor and having a temporary financial misfortune. During the years we lived in poverty in Brazil, I did not think myself as poor and knew that the way out of our predicament was to get a better paying job and to work towards making that happen. Unlike you and your husband, I could not risk splurging on a household accessory. Now I know what nystagmus is.


    • The mind and our mindset often dictate if we succeed or fail. I believe we can keep ourselves small and little if we believe we are. It’s interesting how many things were all of a sudden out of reach for us. We accepted some things, but not all. As I mentioned before, we were not too smart sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

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