Monday, November 18, 2013

Part 111 - Gratitude Carries you Through the Worst Storms of Life-

Previously published in The News Tribune - November 19, 2012

It was Thanksgiving 1983 when we learned the true meaning of gratitude.

Only two years earlier we were living our dream, having just bought our first home, a newly constructed, modest three-bedroom ranch with a large yard for our expanding family. My hard-working young husband had just been promoted to assistant manager of our local grocery store. We had just bought our first new family car. 

Life was simple, but good. 

But our new home was constructed at the beginning of the savings and loan crisis of the early 1980's. Due to congressional deregulation, savings and loan companies were allowed to make high-risk loans to developers. Unknowingly, we had purchased our home from one such developer who sold to buyers on contract. Within one year, we were to roll over the mortgage to a lender. 

But the recession intervened in our plans. Our contract was signed at a low interest rate, but within the year, banks and savings and loans were failing at a rate even higher than in the Great Depression.

Unemployment shot up to a national high of 10.8 percent with some areas as high as 20 percent. Inflation had reached a startling 13.5 percent. The prime interest rate, which was about 11 percent in 1979, rose to 20 percent by June 1981. By June 1982, it had reached 21.5 percent. 

We did not qualify at these rates, nor could we afford the payments. We were about to lose our home and our good credit, but we refused to give up our dreams. With three little ones, we had few options. 

Determined and full of idealism, we sold everything we owned, bought this land and a 32-foot 1962 Nomad Travel Trailer - a beauty by today's vintage standards, with blond cabinetry and pink full-sized appliances - to live in while building. 

Sited for maximum views

Setting the 12 inch rafters over the living room

Toddler Jennie and I visit Daddy at the construction site

The second story nearly complete

Roof Trusses nearly completed - son Gabriel looks out window
Our home, built paycheck to paycheck, was only partly finished when our idealism turned to despair. My husband received a layoff notice, and we were unable to afford our nearly paid-off car. It was repossessed after we missed just two payments. We were left with our equally vintage International Scout, but grateful for it just the same. 

Daughter Heather rides her toy horse in front of International Scout

I look out window during roof construction
As Thanksgiving 1983 approached, we were experiencing very stormy weather. We had just started the roofing when my husband was laid off, and giant tarps covered the rafters. But as the storms increased in fury, the tarps blew off in the wind. 

We bravely climbed onto the roof in gale-force winds to secure them, but it was to no avail. Torrential rain flooded the hand-milled floors, forcing us to drill holes to release the standing water. We huddled inside our cozy trailer as the wind rocked it back and forth. 

The Thanksgiving Day storm of 1983 was one for the record books. The gusts were recorded at 62 mph at Sea-Tac Airport, but here in the foothills, the wind was even stronger. Thousands were without electricity with Thanksgiving Day turkeys half-cooked in the oven. But because we were living self-sufficiently in our little trailer with propane fuel, we were able to enjoy the meal we splurged on with the last of our savings. 

As we ate our humble meal in our humble little trailer, we were grateful for so many things despite our hardships. We had a roof over our heads, we had this wonderful meal, and we had each other and our health. After the storm cleared, we realized how truly fortunate we were. During the night, a 100-foot tree fell, missing our little trailer by mere feet. 

We had much to be grateful for. And we still have the holes in our floors to remind us. 


Next time - After the Storm


  1. oh, karen. such an amazing story of perseverance.

  2. I am enjoying your story it is similar to my own but your view is fantastic. We were caught in the 1980's thing and I remember how hard that was. Oh your children must be so proud of their very wise determined parents. Looking forward to next chapter. Hug B

  3. My dear Karen, your story truly touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. You went through so much, yet you still has much to be thankful for. Your attitude and thankful spirit is a tremendous blessing to read about and an encouragement to me. Thank you, friend, for this sweet reminder to be thankful for even the hardships in life. I look forward to reading the next part of the story :) Hugs to you!

  4. Oh I well remember that storm... we drove from Seattle to Marysville to Port Susan and spent the day in our vintage 1954 New Moon Trailier, and we DID have cooked turkey because of the blessing of propane and light by kerosene. It is one of my fave Thanksgiving memories, even though we wondered if we'd ever get there with all the fallen trees, stopping helping with chains saws to clear roads and having trees falling around our vehicle, yikes! Wonderful post and memories...

  5. Yes, I remember those crazy high interest rates. Enjoying your story!

  6. I remember those interest rates - we had three teenagers and had just bought a huge house - but fortunately back then you could assume the seller's loan (they don't do that any more) and our interest was "only" 12.5%,

    You've really weathered the "storm" - and such adventures you had.

  7. I so believe this is so fact I just did a little post about the same thing...having a thankful heart. Thank you for sharing your was quiet an adventure. xoxo

  8. What an amazing story! Please, more:)

  9. Quite an amazing story my friend. Have you done any other reader columns before??

    1. Thank you, Keith, I actually wrote for the newspaper for a year - every 6 weeks I published a new story. I will republish them here as the dates become relevant. Thanks for asking. :) xo

  10. It is great that you were able to have your story published in the paper. It is a great story. I bet looking through your old photos brings back so many memories.

  11. Goodness!!!! That is an amazing story!!!! I can just picture you all in your trailer and the feeling of warmth and happiness!!! And I lost my breath when you said that a tree fell close to your scary is that. Somebody was watching over your sweet family. Hard work...there is something to be said about working hard. Unfortunately I think some of that has been lost in our society these days. I Could just see folks giving up in your situation...but you didn't..Many could learn so much from your story!!! I love this Karen!!

  12. Dearest Karen,
    Well, you all certainly do know the full meaning of Thanksgiving! What a shame that your hand-milled floors needed to be opened up by drilling holes in them to drain the water... But so glad that you all persevered and are able to share the story with the home completed and filled with memories and lovely things.

  13. This chapter brought tears to my eyes. I think it touched me more because when my husband and I first married we were both still in school and leaving in a little two room trailer but happy as could be.
    Loving your story and your willingness to share it.
    Somebody back a post or two mentioned a book - you really should consider it. :)

  14. Great story Karen. Wishing you and your a good thanksgivings day :) Hugs ♥

  15. We bought our home in 1990 and the interest rates were18% they never reached 21% here but came close.
    It was a tough time all round the world but we fared a bit better than your country but their were job loses and hard times for a lot of people but as long as you have good friends and each other it is always possible to pull together and survive.

  16. I love reading these stories about your home and your early travails. These are the things in our lives... co difficult at the time, that make us the strong and gratitude filled people that we are. Hope these stories give someone hope to persevere. This is a story of one step at a time! and seeing the blessings of the moment! Beautiful post!

  17. Your story is amazing Karen! If we have family, friends, food on the table, and a roof over our heads we are truly blessed. Looking forward to seeing more of your story.

  18. Wonderful story Karen....Love, hard work & respect anything can be achieved as you both have proved... you need to write a are so gifted with the written word.....Hugs May x x x

  19. this is fantastic. I am loving reading....can't wait to hear about after the storm

  20. Wow, what a beautiful story, I'm so glad you shared it with us. You were all definitely challenged and made stronger because of it. Love the part about the holes in the floor.

  21. Woah, this is amazing. I am truly speechless! Such a great story of perseverance. And congrats on getting it published in the paper last year!

  22. Karen, I'm glad conhcer your story, thank you for such species richness! I'll be back tomorrow to tell me how thrilled and power comenetar details. Kisses and see you tomorrow!
    Congratulations friend for this beautiful family!

  23. You are an amazing woman ! I'm convinced that not only you deserve happiness but you can create it and feel it in your own way. Looking forward to learn more...

  24. Your article in the news paper -- thrill for you to publish your stories - keep them coming! I can just feel the rocking of your trailer back then -- I can totally relate -- And indeed what a miracle, that the tree did not do any serious damage - like fall on you - awe to close.. Your the best..


  25. This is a lovely story and so wonderful you were able to find gratitude in your heart while experiencing some hardships. You and your husband are stronger people today for all you made it through in the past.

  26. beautiful story and very touching. Thank you for the beautiful heart of you that you shared for us here. and I belive your published writing has touched so many people's heart just like mine.
    Blessing to you and your family.


Thank you for stopping by! Your comments are important to me and are very much appreciated. xx Karen

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...