Lessons Learned from My Father - Eva Varga

October 13, 20144

As the mother of two children, I find myself in the position to which many of you can relate. I want to create a close-knit, fun-loving family and raise children with upstanding character.  My father recently sat down to write his will and he shared it with me and my brothers. I have thereby been giving a lot of thought to the gifts my parents have given me.

My parents have given me more than could have ever dreamed. They taught me life lessons. These next couple of weeks, I want to highlight some of the lessons my parents taught me that I believe made me who I am today. Today I begin with the lessons learned from my father.

“He didn’t tell me how to live;
he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~Clarence Budington Kelland



I learned not to depend on a traditional job as the only means of securing the future.

It might be difficult to say this to your kids if this is what you’ve been doing all your life, but times are changing and it’s becoming increasingly clear that we must learn to adapt and find multiple streams of income, and even embrace entrepreneurship. The traditional “one job till retirement” model is not working anymore, so get out of denial fast and let your kids learn about entrepreneurship.

Growing up, my father worked as a saw filer in a local lumber mill. He made good money but to help make ends meet, he did a number of other things as well – he hunted to put food on the table, he operated a small sawmill of his own (which he built himself – as pictured here in this post) and did small jobs for people or trade good with other skilled workers (we had farm fresh raw mild for several years in exchange for firewood).

My dad was frugal. He would repair broken machinery himself and sometimes engineer his own parts for the mill or our vehicles. His ingenuity was remarkable. He even holds a patent for a breakaway top guide for a circle saw. He is indeed a Renaissance Man.

I learned how to live within my means.

Stop buying things you don’t need and accumulating stuff. Kids learn by osmosis. In other words, they will copy what they see us doing. As parents, we need to show them what smart buying is all about.

My dad had a budget and always stayed within it. There was little wiggle room. Your budget can include calculated indulgences, of course, but the point here is you can’t teach good personal finance if you don’t at least try to practice it yourself.

I learned the process of earning and losing money.

Growing up, there were periods when my dad was unemployed.  The mill would shut down due to environmental pressure. We didn’t earn an allowance. Instead, my dad encouraged us to work for money.  He also hired us kids to do tasks around the house and mill – painting signs, digging post holes, shoveling sawdust, etc.

I also learned that making money is not always associated with exchanging time for money but associated with creativity. We learned to leverage our skills to create something of value. Instead of the usual lemonade stand, my brothers and I sold crafts on the roadside.

My youngest brother was really into things with engines.  When he was about 8 years old, he saved up his chore money and purchased a used go cart.  He made repairs and improvements and later traded that go cart for a 3-wheeled ATV. This trend continues to this day and he is now a successful small business owner of an auto restoration business in Eugene that specializes in classic cars.

my father

Connection Traditions

Traditions offer numerous benefits: they strengthen your family’s bonds, enrich the life you share together, contribute to your children’s well-being, and create lasting memories.  Connection Traditions are the small things you do every day, monthly, or even annually to reinforce family identity and values.

I learned the importance of a bedtime story.

Children who have parents that read to them regularly typically do better in school and have larger vocabularies than children who don’t. Reading with your child will not only make them smarter, but it’s a great way to bond. There’s something really comforting about hearing your dad read aloud to you.

More often than not, however, my dad would share stories of his youth. “Tell us about when you were a kid, Dad!” is to this day a common request. My dad is an incredible story teller. He keeps us enraptured with his tales of boyhood adventure – even the tales we’ve heard time and again.

I learned the importance of a special Saturday/Sunday morning breakfast.

Lots of families have special Saturday/Sunday morning breakfast traditions. For some it’s pancakes or cinnamon rolls, for others it’s a giant breakfast casserole. Dads and breakfasts just go together, so work on coming up with your own specialty. Breakfast need not be a solely in-home tradition, however.

I still lived at home when I was in junior college but my dad was working in Eastern Oregon. He was thereby home only on the weekends and he thereby got to taking my brothers and I out for breakfast each Sunday. When I later transferred to Oregon State University, I wasn’t able to come home as often. He then started meeting me for lunch in the Quad each Monday.  I have such fond memories of those meals.

I learned the joy of the annual camping trip.

We went camping every year in Central Oregon. It was where my dad had grown up and he thereby had many fond memories of the open Ponderosa Pine woodlands and the river running through town.  One summer, we even drove to Yellowstone National Park – a trip that I will never forget.

Inspire a love of the great outdoors in your kids by taking them camping at least once a year. If you find a campsite you love, return to it again and again as you build special memories around that place.

~     ~     ~

Are there family traditions that you cherish? What skills or values did your father impart? Share in the comments and join me next week when I share the lessons I have learned from my mother.


  • Doris Wetjen

    October 13, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Your dad is the BEST story teller. I look forward each year to his personal, hand-written Christmas letter where he relates ordinary events as stories!. My mother and your dad’s father were first cousins, so your dad and I are second cousins, or cousins once removed – I’m not sure of the correct term. I hope you can capture some of his stories on tape or video. Your dad comes from a long line of story tellers – his father, Louie and Great Uncle Hans were GREAT story tellers.

    • Eva Varga

      October 13, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Thank you so much, Doris! I have started to begin recording some but also lost some when my phone crashed (Uff da!!). I hope to put them together in an anthology someday. 🙂

  • Paola Collazo

    October 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    What a treasure, Eva! Thanks for sharing your Papa with us.

  • Steve Callan

    October 13, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories, Eva. We look forward to reading more!

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