Love, Annie Jo
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Empty Riches

Empty Riches


I was thrilled about my first solo-shopping experience in junior high. After returning home to proudly show off my carefully spent purchase, my parents wanted me to return the bathrobe back to the ritzy department store and buy one that was not on sale. “Come on, get in the car, I am taking you back to the mall,” insisted my stepfather.

To this day, I still remember my parents scolding me for buying an item that was on clearance.

My stepfather was a medical doctor. One Christmas, back when I was in high school, my adoptive mother surprised him with a brand-spanking-new Mercedes as a present. Yes, it didn’t quite fit under our tree. For them, everything had to be nothing but the best, with all the bells and whistles. Sitting in our driveway for a period of time until one of the vehicles sold were then three showy Mercedes. I was of driving age. However, it was clearly spelled out that I would not ever be putting my foot to the gas pedal in any of their expensive cars. But the honest truth is I wasn’t even interested.

While growing up, mom made sure I had a beautiful wardrobe, but there was always something missing. I loved being a girl and wearing pretty clothes, but I felt like Cinderella running away from the ball. The glass slippers just didn’t fit.

I am sure my parent’s lust for material possessions has made me the way I am. Ever since I was a little girl I have always tried to give away practically everything and spend as little as possible on clothes and gifts for myself. I have never had a pair of designer jeans and my favorite store to shop is Goodwill. My parents would cringe if they had ever known that I like second-hand clothes that have to be washed first.

I certainly don’t think anyone would label me now as once being a spoiled, little rich girl. But sadly that’s where I came from. To me, it seemed tragic that in the end, my parents both went to their graves with nothing. Some have said I must be crazy to have walked away from their million-dollar-inheritance. The emptiness I have felt from living in glass houses has taught me there has to be much more to life than flaunting our wealth. I never heard the words “less fortunate” or “giving back to society” until I was out on my own, but I am determined to make a difference in this world, with God’s help, to continue being a caring, unselfish human being.

16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:16 (NKJ)

This week’s theme for Blog Carnival is Lust.  Please go to Bridget Chumbley’s site to read other blog entries and/or to join.

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  • Tammy says:

    What a great post. It’s funny, but I’ve brought my girls up shopping the clearance racks. They’ve learned that there are great deals to be had, even though it may take some digging. I think this is a GOOD lesson that I’ve taught them. Somehow, I bet your daughters are the same. 🙂

  • Bridget says:

    Great post, JoAnne. Isn’t it nice to know that you’re not motivated by greed? Not many can say that and it speaks volumes about who you are!

  • Don says:

    Great write up. I enjoy your posts, because they are such a window into your past, and a portal into your future! Greed is a sad vice.

  • Mary DeMuth says:

    Beautiful post. A great, gentle reminder to be thankful for what we have.

  • Wow, JoAnne. I can see why you prefer Goodwill over glam stores. Your folks turned money into an idol. Thanks for sharing.

  • JoAnne says:

    Tammy, I still don’t understand why anybody would be ashamed to shop the clearance racks. Life is not about about a price tag. I am so glad you and I met, my friend always.

    Bridget, One day I will write volumes who I am because I was silenced for too long. Thank you for always taking the time to respond to my posts, I appreciate your caring words and encouragement…my friend just across the river.

    My son-in-law Don, Sometimes I wonder how my beginnings and childhood got so crazy and then I start putting my heart into words and see that it has just made me value more what’s important in life. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    Mary, See your thought-provoking post gave me the courage to get brave and tell it like it is. Thank you for your kind words.

    Lucy, I don’t know what I would do if I was forbidden to shop at Goodwill now or somebody gave me a lot of money with stipulations that I could only spend it on an expensive, fancy wardrobe. I would try to find a way to still give it to a homeless person :). Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  • Glynn says:

    Powerful story. It’s a lesson for all parents — what you do with your children matters and has profound effects. Good post.

  • joyce says:

    Parents hold a lot of power. Thanks for sharing this story.

  • Thank you for the perspective. I, like some of the others here, grew up on the other side. Everything was clearance. I love hearing from your perspective, though, looking in. Thank you for writing and submitting to the carnival.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • David B says:

    My wife brings home such great things from GW. like my twig trees to hang my stainedglass suncatchers on. Good job Jo

  • kali says:

    You are only as good as your last bargain :~p

  • Mimi says:

    Such a poignant story, Joanne. I doubt that anyone has been lying on their death bed saying “I wish I had more full price stuff.” I especially like the metaphor of the glass slippers not fitting your feet. Thank God for that.

    Nice work, Joanne.

    Dayton and Carver’s working mom

  • Helen says:

    Wow. Good for you. It must have been difficult to walk away from wealth, but if the choice is between idolizing it and walking away, you are better off walking away.

  • lorrie says:

    Love it when folks share from their personal experiences.. great post!

  • Heather says:

    Jo Anne,

    Your true art in your writing is that you pull the truth out of each moment, and this allows the reader to identify with your words. I love to read what you write and it always evokes such imagery. Thanks for reminding me why each day has something to offer! Keep up the great stories!!!!!

  • JoAnne says:

    Joyce, Yes, I believe it would be hard for some to fathom, how much “power” parents can have over their children in such negative ways. Thanks for stopping by :)!

    Marshall, I would imagine it would be hard from your perspective to see those who grew up with the silver spoon whining about having too much money :). My parent’s flaunting their material wealth made me feel uncomfortable. It taught me to be more sensitive and caring of others. My heart tells me that you grew up appreciating the little things in life, which to me represents “wealth” that can’t be bought with money.

    My hubby, David, Your sweet-looking little twig trees that still had their expensive original tags attached. Oh, how I love treasures that tell a story.

  • JoAnne says:

    Kali, My adoptive mother sent a lot of mixed messages. When it came to buying the extravagant gifts such as Mercedes and a Baby Grand for my stepfather, my mother would brag about how she managed to get such a great bargain. Perhaps that’s why the heiress, Casey Johnson being able to adopt a child bothers me so much. Money talks especially if it’s fresh, crisp thousand dollar bills :(.

    Thanks Mimi for the compliments about my story. Coming from you as a therapist, I feel like I am making progress here by telling it like it was. I know my friend, Cathy is smiling from heaven and saying, “I am proud of you for keeping it real.”

    Hi Helen, thanks for stopping by. For me, the hard part of walking away was my parent’s equated money with love.

  • JoAnne says:

    Lorrie, I hope that by getting brave and sharing from my personal experiences that someone will be helped and encouraged in their own life struggles. I appreciated your compliment. Thanks for stopping by :).

    Heather, I really miss getting a chance to talk with you more often. I love your infectious, bubbly personality that always has something positive and encouraging to say. One of these years, I hope I get the honor of watching a special little tiny bundle of joy that has your sweet smile. Love always

  • Louise says:

    One of the many blessings of Blog Carnival is meeting new faces! Thank you for dropping by. I’m so glad I followed the link to you and am now immersed in reading and being lifted by your words.

  • JoAnne says:

    oh, thank you Louise, nice meeting you too. My husband and I both read a couple of your great posts. When I grow-up I want to write like you :). Looking forward to dropping by again.

  • Lynn Mosher says:

    Hey, sweetie! I always love reading your posts and learning more about you. And I especially loved learning this side of you. You are a precious soul! Love you!

  • Liberty says:

    What a lesson in contradictions. We love you.

  • JoAnne says:

    I am so glad the two of us met Lynn. I feel like we’ve always been friends and I love reading your posts as well.

  • JoAnne says:

    Liberty, thank you; I do feel your family’s love. All week I’ve been thinking about your use of the word, “contradictions.” It’s so true, but I’ve never realized before how many contradictions there were in my family. It’s amazing that I challenged myself to become an even better person with all the inconsistencies.

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  1. Well written! Thanks for sharing I really connected with this one. Peace and Love!
  2. So sad, what a terrible experience. and I know it was only one of many for you. Love you friend!!!
  3. This fills me with sadness: “No child should have to continually try to make a parent love them.” What a tragedy that your mother was not able to accept love from you. My guess is that deep down, she didn’t feel lovable, and she had to cover that shameful fact up with a bunch of br…
  4. It’s insane that these findings were made but nothing was done about it. All these years later, you are still waiting for the wrongs to be righted.
  5. I love you❤