Wednesday 18 February 2015

It All Came From A Box Of Cornflakes

Do you enter contests? Why not? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I was sorting through some keepsakes and came across a cereal box I had saved. It may seem a strange thing to keep, but it changed the direction of my life. ~

Let me set the scene for you. It is 1981. The recession I call The Great One (because that's the one that affected me the most)  is in full swing in Canada. Mortgage interest rates have risen to 20% and the mortgage on my new house in the city is up for renewal. We have to sell it and find something cheaper to live in.

We buy a crappy, little house in the country because the seller will hold a mortgage at the bargain basement price of 15%.  ~

The house is so small I have to give away a lot of my furniture. It is ugly, dark, cramped and spider infested.  The hydro service is so inadequate that I can't run the dryer and the oven at the same time.

Still, we are lucky that my husband's employment is secure. He works for childhood friends in an area that takes his unique expertise. We can afford to renovate and add on to the house.

Or so we thought. A month after we moved, the business went up for sale and we were officially unemployed in a market where there are no jobs of any kind available. Just feeding the kids is a daily struggle.

When you are that far down, you cling to any possible hope. I started filling out contest forms. Back in the day, that meant collecting UPC codes from products, filling out forms, addressing an envelope, stamping it and putting it in the mail. It's so much easier today with the click of a mouse and auto fill forms!

At the same time, I got the crazy notion that we should buy the business he had worked in and then he'd have a job again. All we needed was someone to loan us $500,000. I've had some crazy ideas in my life, but that one takes the cake!

So, I drew up a business plan, told my husband what to say and sent him out to get a loan. Of course the banks wouldn't touch us. We could only raise $5,000 in a second mortgage on the house. Hmmm - where to get the other $495,000?

Well, a friend of a friend knew a very rich and very kind man, who liked to help people get started in business. He would loan us the money if we could come up with $20,000 as a show of good faith. Remember, I can get $5,000 in a second mortgage. Coming up with the other $15,000 is a bit of a problem when you are out of work. It's two weeks from the closing date and we haven't found one penny of that money.

That's where the cereal box comes into the story. I had been given a stale box of Cornflakes and told they would be okay if I toasted them in the oven. They weren't, but I did send in the contest entry form. One box top, one entry. It won the grand prize, an Oldsmobile 98, a two week luxury cruise and $1,000 spending money! I picked up that car, drove it off the lot and went straight to the bank. They loaned me $15,000 with the car as collateral. I had my 20K and we were in business.

From the depths of financial despair to celebrating New Year's on a cruise ship is a long way for a box top to take you. ~

I took me from stale Cornflakes roasting in the oven to my very first taste of Dom Perignon champagne. ~

The very rich, very kind man told us to drop in for a visit when our ship got to Acapulco. He would be staying in his condo there. So, I stood on the balcony of the penthouse condo, that took up the entire top floor of the largest hotel in Acapulco and wondered at how it had all come to be. I was still wondering when a real contessa offered us a ride back from the condo to our ship and chattered away to us as if it was the most natural thing in the world for us to be there.

I rarely buy lottery tickets, don't bet on the ponies or gamble away my paycheck in a casino. But, I certainly do enter all the free contests I see.

I have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

ps - That crappy little house did get renovated and enlarged and I'm still in it today.

I'm sharing this with Alphabe-Thursay

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