Category: Family & Friends

From spouses to spit-up

My Husband. My Love. My Bricklayer.

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Let me warn you right off the bat, this one gets sappy.

The main point I’m trying to get across is that if someone does not feel fulfilled (male or female, it just happens to be my husband in this post) thinking outside the box can mean many things. Some people are wonderful entrepreneurs, but when you have people telling you the only way to be fulfilled is to become an entrepreneur….they’re lying. There is no “ONE TRUE WAY” to happiness. I’ll be the first one to tell you most everything bright and beautiful in my life came from tragedy and luck. Enough of my esoteric messages….

On To Our Post!

The soundtrack for today’s post.

I am pretty sure about a million couples feel this way. So do we. I’m not trying to have the most original marriage, I just never want it to end. (If you’re reading this and you had a marriage end, I’m not judging you. What I say about what I want doesn’t mean I think anyone else in the world should want the same thing. This is just where I am at. Everyone else’s mileage will surely vary.) 

Mr. Brickie is at training today. It’s his last day of Year 1 training and I’m really happy for him. Every step is one step closer to journeyman and he’s gotten some very positive feedback from the trainers about how he’s been doing in the field and they agree he should not go looking for other pastures to graze in because if his company is working, he will be working. The new estimated job start date is 2-3 weeks.

In the meantime he has a painting side job he is very excited about. I love when he gets to paint because he’s really good at it and he loves the big reveal of a painted room that looks like it just magically changed color because you can’t tell someone painted the damn thing. He’s good.

New/Old iPhones Are A Go!!

He called last night and got our phones changed over. Unfortunately, they closed before we could call back and port the phone numbers over, so that’s happening tonight.

By morning, we will have iPhones again!! Carrying around two phones has been inconvenient and embarrassing. Oh this phone? This is the one I call people on. It’s unreliable and eats calls and texts on the regular. It also holds three apps because I don’t know why. This iPhone? Oh, I tether the Internet from the bad phone to this so I can actually use the Internet at a speed faster than “should have just walked to the library and looked it up.”

$85/mo. for both phones. Unlimited text/talk/data (Up to 2.5g data before throttling sets in but have not heard of anyone actually being throttled yet. It’s more of a “we reserve the right” thing at this point.) The best part? It uses AT&T towers!! AT&T worked great where I live. I’m so happy to be on their towers for a QUARTER of the price!! I heart Net10 so much!! (Not sponsored. LOL)

EDITED BECAUSE OMG PROBLEMS! The Net10 rep should not have billed our card last night. You have to activate with an activation card from a store if you want to port numbers. So you buy the SIM cards, make sure the phones are unlocked, buy a card for what you want (we bought a $90 two-phone card and it had two PIN numbers on the back for activation) put the SIM cards into the phones and THEN call and get your numbers ported over while they activate the phones on the family plan.

They should be ported in the next couple of hours. Tomorrow I’ll be using one phone. Finally.

The Other Reason I Love Mr. Brickie Training

It’s great that Mr. Brickie is learning about grout. It’s wonderful he gets to hang out at the Laborer’s Union Hall and help them learn how to be a great laborer for a bricklayer. I love that he goes in and knows laborers already (Don’t let the name fool you, it’s more difficult to get into the Laborer’s Union than it is any other union. I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere but here you have to be sponsored by a company AND brought into the Union by someone already in the Union. It’s some secret squirrel stuff, man.) These are the things that happen at training. Building walls, taking classes, and going to the Laborer’s Hall.

The secret benefit to him going to training has become crazy-obvious when he gets home. He has the same amazing attitude that he has when he’s working on the regular. I always love my husband, don’t get me wrong, but when he’s working he beams with fulfilled potential for awesomeness. He feels worthy of the devotion and love his family give him. His solid self-worth manifests in so many ways.

He is not defensive at all. If he makes a mistake he just fixes it. He reaches out and wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me in to hug him when I’m walking by. He takes charge in a million little ways.

It’s like if I squint I can see the 1950’s.

Except he helps with dishes. Helps with dinner. Helps the girls set the table. He talks to his daughters about video games (or whatever they want to talk about).

He winks at me from across the room.

He is everything I love about him and nothing I don’t. His pessimism is gone because he feels fulfilled. His mopey defensiveness is replaced by an air of authority that demands respect. Not some macho bullshit, either. Just a quiet power that everyone responds to in a loving, positive way.

He makes me feel safe. Protected. Cared for. Adored.

I have referred to this job as our Second Honeymoon. He just laughs and pulls me down on his lap to tell me some cheesy line about the first one having never ended. (I know, I told you he’s bold when he feels happy. I’m always worried I’m going to snap his thin little legs right in half but know better than to argue. He has eyes and knows how big I am!)  

Why This Is Important

We are THE SAME COUPLE who participated in The Taco Incident less than a month ago. I shrieked like a harpy on fire and he showed me his belly like a submissive dog. It was not good. I felt out of control and unsafe. He felt unsure if he could really provide. We were our not-best selves that day. We have been our not-best selves many days when I felt scared and he felt powerless. I wrote the article last month with an eye to my problems and what I did wrong because this is my blog and it’s not really my place to muse on another human being no matter how close to me they are. Also, I’m generally not into trash-talking my husband because when does that ever end well?

The only thing different from me having to give him the benefit of the doubt and so many extra hugs because he’s going to act all mopey that I yelled at him is WORKING. That’s the only difference. (Training consists of building walls and doin’ stuff so it’s the same as working. He also gets a small stipend at the end of the week so he’s being paid for the work.) Having a job fulfills him in some special secret way I do not personally understand but it is so obvious that’s the change I’d be an idiot not to see it.

Which is why I’m more likely to blame myself when we argue, because I know he’s only being the way he is because of not working. I’m the big picture person in the relationship so it’s my responsibility to know the annoying parts of my husband are going to disappear as soon as he gets a hard hat on his head.

It’s taken me kind of a long time to figure all this out about us being the same couple when everything changes and becomes like a friggin’ fairy tale around here. Want to know why?

  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he owned his own business.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he worked as a marketer.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he managed the coffee shop.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled when he was a financial advisor.
  • He wasn’t secure and fulfilled with any other job he’s had since I’ve known him.

So I’m willing to forgive myself for not connecting him being all old-school manly but modern-day awesome with becoming a bricklayer.

How could I have ever guessed my gentle husband that loves to talk and laugh and watch romantic comedies needed to be a tradesman to feel fulfilled? That he would excel at every task he was given? That he would be made for this journey?

How could I have known?

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Happy Week Ahead Even If I Hate Sunday Night

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I’m starting out a little mopey tonight. If you don’t want to hear about it just skip to the next heading. I won’t be offended. 

Sunday nights have always been weird for me.

Not every Sunday night. I’m not nearly that predictable. It’s a feeling that, whenever it happens, always happens on Sunday evening. I don’t feel depressed, exactly. I don’t feel sad, exactly.

It’s a hollow feeling. Like fear if you take away all the energy and are left with an effortless lack of all safe and good feelings. Mediocre and begin feelings persist. It’s not all negative, it’s just the complete lack of positive.

I haven’t felt like this in a long time and it’s bothering me. I never figured out what causes it or what it means and so there’s also a sense of failure in the feeling. A reminder that it’s here and I’ve never understood it and, sometimes, that leads to feeling like I’ll never understand anything.

Like most bad feelings I’ll let it stick around and just kind of hang out with it until it has passed.

Work Update!

On to happier news. This week is Mr. Brickie’s final 1st year training week of his apprenticeship program. *wild applause* I’m really proud of him. Sometimes it feels like the training is another example of the Marshmallow Experiment. Most of the guys from Mr. Brickie’s class who are working don’t want to take the four days off to go to training. You get a stipend, but it is much less than working four full days.

However, you cannot advance in your apprenticeship level if you don’t have the required training. So staying at work will hold you back in the long-term. I really don’t understand why anyone would choose not to take the training, but I understand it happens so often there has to be a reason that is fairly commonly understood.

So he will be gone from the crack of dawn until dinnertime Monday through Thursday. It will be a nice change and I look forward to him coming home with that attitude he has when he’s worked. He is more present and with us when he comes home after work. Even though training isn’t technically work, it still makes him feel great doing something for the benefit of his long-term success.

It makes me happy, too, because I feel so grateful for him after a day of work in a different sort of way than I feel grateful in the middle of a Tuesday for no reason. I never take him for granted but seriously he needs to get out of my house before I go crazy.

We cruised the town his next job is going to be in, but couldn’t find the job site. We were hoping to find it so we could tell when the foundation is poured. It would give us a decent timeline for when he will be back to work. This week will give us a break from worrying and wondering because he can’t work when he’s in training.

Maybe the weather/foundation gods will smile down upon us and he can start work this Friday. Stranger things have happened but you won’t see me holding my breath over it.

It will happen when it happens and it’s out of my hands.

Stuff You Gotta See

Have you seen any of the videos from Regular Ordinary Swedish Mealtime? You should. It’s funny and I’m not sure if you actually learn how to cook anything but it’s awesome. So far, the Sidepork Pandemonium episode is my favorite.

Want to cook like you’re in the depression? The Great Depression Meals by Clara channel is a great place to start. We made the Poorman’s Meal tonight (with ground beef instead of hot dogs, you use what you have, right?) and I am going to use her Italian Ice recipe this summer. Her Depression Bread recipe is insane. A whole bag of flour, yeast, and water makes a lot of bread, man.

Poor as Folk keeps the hits coming with a linked up share to a series of blog posts on How to Eat for 40 Cents a Day. I haven’t gotten through the posts yet but it’s on my, “To read” list, for sure.

 

I Am A Thrift Store Savant

lorde-thrift-shoppingI can say savant, right? That’s not an insult? I’m never sure. There are so many groups lobbying for so many things. I know the obvious things NOT to say but some are more subtle. So if it’s offensive, let me know, it’s not intentional. 

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows I hate thrift stores. I hate the smell of them, the feel of them, the lighting and the dust. They smell like a mixture of Febreeze, sadness, and something else I can never quite put my finger on but that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my anxiety flare like burning-hot hives.

It is not good times.

Unfortunately, one of the things you do when you’re frugal is suck it up and take your kids to the thrift store to buy more jeans because they refuse to stop growing. (I know, buckle in, I’m talking about the kids. Madness!) While their shirts are a mix of thrift store and not-thrift-store their jeans are almost 100% thrifted because they’re JEANS. I know how to tell a good pair of distressed flares from the straight leg light denim that has been on the rack since 1993. I’ve made it a point to keep up with kid style enough that my kids aren’t going to school in things that will make them look like idiots.

It’s almost like I spent my childhood getting made fun of for my bad fashion choices (among several thousand other things) and am making sure my children don’t fall into that trap. Of course, if I had an income that allowed me to shop at Justice it’s not like I would be happy because have you SEEN the things they sell there? I’m not putting my kids in neon unless God comes down from heaven to tell me it’s really okay. Unless it’s a swimsuit. I could be okay with a neon swimsuit. (Mostly because I’d be able to easily pick them out when we go to the beach in summer. Safety first, for sure.)

Tonight was a rare occasion where Mr. Brickie and I took the kids with us. Tomorrow is pajama day for one of the kids’ spirit days and she wanted a new pair and I was like, “If they have it at the thrift store, that’s cool.” She found the most obnoxious black satin with neon (I know, it’s everywhere) leopard spots pajama top and some kind of weird purple polyester harem pants with embroidery that sort of match in that “don’t match on purpose” way. It looked kind of awful apart but when she got it home and tried it on it looked pretty cute. The best part is she found the pants herself. I would like for them to all be experienced thrifters when they grow up because you can get great stuff there.

Back to my expertise. Even though I’ve avoided thrift stores, my eye for fashion (I’m not even kidding. I actually am good at this stuff. I don’t know why.) lets me get through the entire jeans rack in about five minutes. I’ll buy every pair of jeans that meet the three required criteria:

  1. The right size. One of my girls is a 6x or a 7 depending on the jeans. The other one is a 7 or an 8 depending on the jeans. I will buy everything that’s a 6x/7 or 7 or 7/8 or 8. I do not make the kids try them on because it’s a thrift store and they’re $2 a pair.
  2. The right style. My kids like bootcut and flare jeans. I don’t slip skinny jeans or straight legs into the pile. They won’t wear them. Only regular denim through indigo are acceptable. No black jeans and no light jeans. I don’t like them. (Your needs may vary, I don’t know if black denim is cool in a different town/state/county I’m just doing what’s right for me. I’m not judging anyone else’s jeans choices.) Embellishments are okay if they are hearts or peace signs. Flowers need to be double-checked with the kids because they have a really complicated system for deciding if flowers are cool or awful. I haven’t cracked it and by the time I do I’m sure all flowers will be horribly uncool.
  3. The right condition. I’m checking waist, button, zipper, knees, and the butt-seam for signs of wear, overuse, or staining. They have to look like they’re in like-new or “meant to look a little distressed” condition.

I will break the rules for a couple things. My 9yo has this THING for camo. She will go around chanting “Army Strong!” whenever she even sees camo. Don’t ask me, because I don’t have an answer for it. I picked up a pair of camo cargo pants for her tonight and she was delighted. I also picked up a pair of black pants that were kind of like cargo pants but a little softer. It was like yoga pants and cargo pants had a baby or something. The kids loved them.

While I am taking the jeans chore seriously the girls go pick out some shirts for me to go through. My 9yo – who really is developing a strong personal style – picked out this t-shirt :

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She just thought it was the funniest thing.

I had to agree. Mostly I was impressed she got the joke so fast. It took Mr. Brickie a hot minute and he’s no slouch in the brain department. Maybe it’s a sense of humor thing rather than a “fast thinking” thing. Who knows.

The 4yo is running around like a total jerk because she’s going through a phase (I call it the, “This is why parents use leashes” phase) and we kept making sure she stayed by us but it was exhausting and annoying and we were finally done picking things out and she looked at me and said, “We can’t go. I need three things before we go. It has to be three because I want them.”

I debated selling her but then thought about it and figured the other girls had gotten stuff so why not her? It’s a thrift store, right? Why be overly picky. Also, I was tired and didn’t feel like arguing. So I told her, “You can have two things.” She was okay with that and picked out two really cute tshirts.

Then she said, “Now we need my two pants.”

I looked at her and said, “None pants.” (It’s an inside joke with a friend. Normally I speak to the kids in full sentences that are at least mostly grammatically correct.) She started to quiver her bottom lip and I said, “None pants and none crying or none shirts.” Because the older girls don’t run around wild and they would stay by Mr. Brickie and if she started a meltdown because she didn’t get pants at 4yo you can be sure I would just take her to the car to scream because man, you have to be kidding me. That little girl has about 50 pairs of pants. There was no way I was getting her any more. Plus, the whole, “Wherever we go, you’re getting me something” thing has run its course and I’m over it. It’s one thing to haggle me for shirts, fine, I can accept that and even be proud she started with three to get happily to two. But pants you don’t need? Oh no. Not even at the thrift store.

She reconsidered her quivering lip and flipped right back into being fine and asking to take her shirts to the cashier. I was not surprised.

We managed to get out spending $35. At the thrift store. There were about 8 pairs of pants/jeans, 8 t-shirts, and pajama bottoms and a top. So even though I don’t like dropping more than $20 at a second-hand store, when the per-piece average comes out to $2.50 I can’t complain. Especially since everything was in great condition.

It’s all in the washing machine now so we can get the smell off. I really can’t stand thrift store smell. Even nice vintage shops have it. I don’t know what it is. I could sit in an attic full of books for the rest of my life inhaling that scent but clothing? Gross.

The last step is to let them try everything on tomorrow after school so they can divide up the pants by who they fit better. The pants that fit both of them they just know to share. The shirts are communal property except for a few that are “special” to each kid. I’m all about everyone sharing but I also think it’s important to let each kid have things that they don’t have to share because, well, I don’t know exactly but I feel like it’s the right thing to do for them to be adults that can both give and not give when appropriate.

Sometimes I think it’s weird that I love hand-me downs from friends but I hate second-hand shops. Maybe when I know where the clothing came from it’s less weird or maybe it’s just the general fluorescent-lights and dusty-shelves malaise of the thrift shop that make me sad and anxious. If I didn’t keep finding such cute stuff at these places I would happily leave them behind, but I’m just too frugal and would rather be skeeved out for a half hour and get great deals on awesome clothes than spend 10x as much for the same shirt at the mall.

Thank goodness my kids “get” that vintage is cool. Thank goodness they aren’t old enough or their school doesn’t care enough for them to get made fun of for wearing second-hand clothing. Or maybe just thank-goodness I know how to pick things that are cute and good quality and don’t get them things from the thrift-store that LOOK like they came from a thrift-store. Whatever it is, let me tell you, I am thankful all day long even if it rains.

I’ll also keep doing it as long as we find cute stuff no matter how much money we make. I might hate it but it’s just too practical to say no to.

A couple days ago I got almost a full set of dishes at a different thrift store with a friend for less than ten dollars. That includes the four cup teapot that we actually need because my kids are super-into tea right now. (Lipton with a splash of milk because you know I wish I was British.) Tonight at dinner my daughter looked up from her teacup and said,

“You know mommy…I think tea is really my jam right now.”
“Honey,” I said,”Tea is a lifelong jam. It never has to go away.”
She smiled, sighed, and said, “Oh good. I want it to be one of my forever jams.”

Whatever you say, sweetheart.

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How and Why One Mom Started Vaping (an e-cigarette love story)

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After re-reading this post for typos and grammar, I feel it sounds like an advertisement or “sponsored” post for vaping or a vape company. It is not. This is an unpaidfor piece based on my experience for the purpose of helping someone who might be int he same position I am right now and wondering if the change is possible and how difficult it might be. I purchased (and was not reimbursed for) the products I talk about owning in this post.

I have been trying to quit smoking for years.

Even during this horrible winter, I’ve stood in front of my house or right at my back door in flip flops and a coat shivering while I puff my way down another dumb cigarette in a couple square feet of shoveled out clear space. I’ve hated myself, I’ve sworn I’ll never do it again, and I’ve tried to keep it as secret as possible. People tell me awful, private stories of their dead loved ones as I wonder how to get out of the conversation without being completely insulting because it seems like I’m the only one in the conversation that knows I’m not going to become a born-again non-smoker from detailed stories of cancer deaths. I mean, seriously, if horrible stories and pictures were going to get me to quit, they would have already.

Then I talked to a super-amazing Facebook friend about Chantix. I talked to her about the side effects and how they affected her and the people she knew who had used it to quit. She felt – even when she got the prescription – no hope it was going to work. She had accepted she would never quit. As we talked about it, she shared she was over 40 days smoke-free and doing fine.

I decided this was the solution. I became absolutely ecstatic about it and convinced Mr. Brickie to join me on this amazing journey to clear lungs and a non-smokey life. He was really supportive and almost immediately joined me in my hopeful feelings about quitting smoking with this wonder-drug. We made doctor appointments and looked forward to getting our new prescriptions and starting our new lives.

The day of our family appointment (we took the kids in for flu shots and immunizations in addition to the magical non-smoking solution) the weather was insane. It took us almost two hours to get to the appointment that should have been about 25 minutes away. We drove past cars in snow banks and a half-turned-over mini bus (all receiving aid already) on what I was thinking of as an Epic Journey to Stop Smoking (I was like Odysseus of the Chicago Suburbs) and when we got there everyone felt like we had just gone though this harrowing journey. The girls talked about how difficult it was to see through the windows for the snow and we held hands on our way into the office and the warmth and salvation that would be inside.

“What?” the doctor asked when I told him I wanted a prescription for Chantix. His immediate reaction was a puzzled, “What?” and when I went to repeat myself he interrupted me mid-sentence to say, “I heard you, I just…why would you want that?” I told him I couldn’t quit and I was just so done and I needed to stop. He told me there was a black box warning on Chantix and that it made someone schizophrenic and that even if he was still handing out prescriptions for Chantix (which he was most certainly not) he wouldn’t give them to me because I would probably kill my family.

“Uh….I wouldn’t kill my family.” I said.
“Like a mama hamster.” He said.

hamster-bebehs-delicious

I got a little sniffly because I’m sure he didn’t realize he was dashing my very important dreams. Like telling a 12 year old she won’t ever meet, much less marry, Justin Beiber. I totally interrupted him in the middle of his whole “people with anxiety absolutely cannot take that medication even when it didn’t have a black box warning” to whine like a frustrated child when I said, “Then what am I going to do?”

“Get an e-Cig. They have the same quit rate as the Chantix anyway and they won’t make you kill everyone you love.” (My doctor is hilarious and a totally decent human being and even kept me from losing my children and getting arrested that one time. I know I’m making him sound like a jerk but he was laughing when he said the stuff about killing everyone. He didn’t (mostly) really think I’d kill my whole family.)

I was all, “You mean like a blu?” and he was like, “Yeah or whatever, just get the nicotine in without the other crap and even if you can’t quit doing that it’s a hell of a lot better than regular cigarettes.”

I had tried an e-cig years ago when they first got all popular and they looked like cigarettes. It was heavy as all get out, you couldn’t hold it between your fingers, and you had to sort of unscrew the two pieces to be able to take a drag that was remotely near the way it works with my regular smokes. I blew out atomizers (the little heating elements that turn the nicotine liquid to vapor) and it became an unsatisfying, expensive hassle really fast.

I did some research and found that the new e-cigs (or e-cigarettes) have a little hole at the tip to allow for the airflow so you didn’t have to partially unscrew them and you wouldn’t blow out the atomizers as fast. They were a little lighter and with some finagling I could hold one between my fingers.

This is When the Whole Thing Gets Interesting

I was searching for tips and tricks (like I do with any new product) and found out people were replacing the absorbent material in the little cartridge with Lipton tea bags so they would hold flavors not offered by blu. I was curious so I did some YouTube searches on this e-Juice he was talking about in that video.

It was like being dropped into the middle of some Alice in Wonderland scenario where people are puffing clouds like the caterpillar and talking about flavors like Afternoon Tea (flavor: black tea, cream, and sugar) and Unicorn Blood (flavor: strawberry & milk) with the option of having multiple levels of nicotine.

People are smoking out of things that look like mini-hookahs. It’s crazy. The colors and the styles and the YouTube videos of people making their own coils and modifying these things like Xzibit on that show where they put Xbox consoles and big screen TVs in Honda Accords.

Here is one of the beginner videos I saw that made me feel like I might be able to do this thing:

I gotta tell you, there is a ton of lingo and learning it all is tough. But the cig-alike is what a blu is and he shows a lot of different styles and there are a lot of links in the comments so it might help if you’re looking for that kind of thing. Also, you can search YouTube for vape, vaping, vaporizers, and then just put “review” or “beginner” and you can find information that’s helpful.

Back to the multiple levels of nicotine. I think it’s important because when we tried this a few years ago we got the “High” level of nicotine and it gave us headaches (and him a stomachache) almost immediately. It was really a rousing non-success. They even come with no nicotine at all in order to be able to wean yourself off of the drug. I think they came with no nicotine back then, too, but it wouldn’t have mattered because you have to get the vapor in order for your brain to stop bugging you to smoke a cigarette. The smoke, for me, is more important than the nicotine.

One of the most prevalent arguments I’ve run into is that with the fruity, candy flavors they are targeting kids. You know, the way being able to buy whipped cream and birthday cake flavored vodka…oh, wait….that’s right, they aren’t. Also, while I’m not going to tell you that when they’re 18 I want my kids to start vaping (I don’t want them to put anything unnatural in their bodies) but if it’s a choice between tobacco and it’s thousand grody ingredients and vaping there really isn’t a choice.

I was talking to my cousin last night and asked her to visit a vape shop with me (A vapor lounge, it’s called…so chic…lol) so I could check out the flavor bar and try some new flavors. She was a bit hesitant because she kind of got the vibe like I was trying to get her to quit smoking (I wasn’t) but I had a thought and said, “No one likes the taste of tobacco. It’s comforting, it’s what we’re used to, but man, if I could snap my fingers and make my analog cigarettes grape flavored, who wouldn’t do that?”

So she’s at least willing to go with me, so that’s cool. I just don’t like to do new things alone. Mama hamster anxiety levels make it pretty much impossible.

We started with a kit that included a complete little setup and Mr. Brickie and I chose a grape flavor to start our journey with. Try it out without telling anyone so if we hated it we wouldn’t be seen as failing at quitting yet again.

This is the video I’m going to be looking into next if we decide to move on from the eGo-T we are currently using. We have three tanks running right now.

  • The iClear 16 tank has an 18mg nicotine grape flavor in it.
  • The Kanger Pro Tank has a 6mg nicotine level cherry in it.
  • The Kanger Mini Protank II (v2) has a 0mg nicotine-free watermelon flavor in it.

The only one I can smoke as long as an analog cigarette is the 0mg watermelon. The others would give me a headache far too quickly. We got the three levels so we can switch as necessary to make it through the cravings we are anticipating (but may not happen) more easily. The key to success is being prepared, right?

As for Mr. Brickie’s tummyaches, they are gone now. It might be due to how the eJuice is made now or it might be because it has a higher Vegetable Glycerin (VG) content to Propylene Glycol (PG) content. (Video on PG vs. VG | Good description I found on a Website)

So You’ve Been Poor and Smoking? You Awful Person!

I know that being poor and smoking makes people mad.

Many people have done their best to tell me what’s what about how much I spend. I even have a couple apps for that, even though it’s in my budget and I already know the amount.

First, my habit costs Mr. Brickie and I less than a dollar a day … combined. I have been rolling my own for years. For us, quitting means spending more money than smoking. Either in munchie food, soda pop, a nicotine alternative, or whatever other thing we do. Unless I was perfect and amazing and just quit and nothing else changed, even temporarily.

Yeah, if that were possible I would have done it already. Trust me, I tried.

For me, for my husband, we started young and there’s this thing called “addiction” that is so easy to ignore if it hasn’t been personally experienced. Some people can quit and be a little bugged and persevere and suddenly think everyone else can, too, because they did.

But now that’s changing. We feel really good about this. When we took our first few puffs of the grape flavor we didn’t touch a regular analog smoke for over an hour. It was a revelation. We were satisfied without smoking. From here out we will probably only buy the 0mg nicotine because we only have the two with nicotine for the occasional craving to just get past it. We have this all planned out for maximum potential success.

That being said I can’t wait to order the juices that taste like Swedish fish and Starburst. You don’t have to be a kid to love candy, just ask anyone who looks at a martini menu!

Other Resources

If you are considering vaping, try to find a local shop by searching Yelp for Vaporizer (You are going to run into a lot of head shops, y’all…just roll with it. Nice people, even if you look like the a minivan driving mom like I do.) and I cannot recommend the E -cigarette Forum highly enough. I’ve learned so much in a short time with them and they are so nice. Seriously. Great people.

The YouTube channels of IndoorSmokers, GrimmGreen, and pbusardo have been so helpful. I’m sure there are others I just haven’t found yet.

On Twitter? Look for #vape #vaping or #ecig #e-cig to find some more information.

Last But Not Least

There are a lot of vaping stores online. Some are good, some are bad, some sell legit stuff, some sell clones or knockoffs. Make sure you know what you’re looking for or do a search for the store name and “review” to make sure you are ordering form somewhere legit that will ship before the turn of the next century. These searches are how I originally found the e-cigarette Forum in the first place. Lots of reviews, lots of people helping people.

There are a few published studies I also read before making this leap. I do not plan on listening to any voices who make their money from tobacco, because I have no use for that kind of bias in opinion. (Of course, if someone from the ACA, the AHA, or the ALA published the results from a scientific study I would totally read it and listen.)

If you would like to check out an extensive list of the studies that have been published on vaping and e-cigarettes, you can visit that site which has links to all of them. If you would like to read up on current policies, legislation, and myths you can find that kind of thing over at CASAA.org.

I don’t plan on taking this thing into stores or restaurants. There is too much controversy and not enough knowledge for me to take that kind of risk. When I go somewhere, I will just leave it in the car and have it outside the car if that’s necessary. I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be necessary for very long at all.

I really think this is going to work. I am so happy and relieved.

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Just Another Sappy Date Night Story

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In case you haven’t picked it up from the title up there, this is kind of a sappy story. It is also a perfect representation of how random things happen in our lives. Not just in bad ways that lead to disappointment. This is the positive side of how things work out for us in ways I can never predict.

We Had A Date Night!

Here is how date nights happen in the Brickie household.

We find out a friend is having a birthday party. We both want to go. After sacrificing a small animal to a pagan god (KIDDING) we make phone calls and pray someone will watch the kids. Thanks to the not-really-sacrificed animal my in-laws are free and able to watch the girls for a solid five hours on the night in question! We are going to a birthday party!

We find out Thursday the party has been cancelled for reasons beyond the birthday girl’s control. Boo, hiss.

We have a sitter and five hours on a Saturday Night… DATE NIGHT!

Now we panic because instead of the cost of a bottle of tasty vodka we have to figure out if we have it in the budget for both of us to eat food. We have a TGIFriday’s coupon but we really want to kick it up a notch. We decide we just aren’t in a place where we can kick it up a notch and are resigned to going to a chain and really we aren’t resigned we are happy because we haven’t been out together without the kids since New Year’s Eve.

Saturday morning we are happy and getting excited about being grownups out together being in love. We get two emails and manage to sell two pretty large things on Craigslist Saturday afternoon and take it as a sign we are supposed to go someplace a notch above a regular chain restaurant we had been perfectly happy with and almost convinced ourselves we really wanted.

I let Mr. Brickie pick the restaurant because I normally pick and I was feeling all nice so I was like, “Where you want to go, boo?” and he was all, “Mmmmm beer.” So we went to Rock Bottom Brewery. We shared a beer flight (shown in that pic above) and shared one big beer and he had shrimp and lobster enchiladas and I had fish and chips and we laughed and talked and had the best time just reconnecting and being two people remembering how awesome the other one is. The whole time not worrying because those two things we sold on Craigslist that paid for dinner were things we thought would never sell, so we celebrated that stuff being out of our house as much as we were celebrating each other.

Really, it was bliss.

Moments like that, the ones that happen so randomly, are the ones that keep us fueled for the day after day worry and disappointment. The nights where we smile and laugh and remember what an amazing team we are? Those are the ones I remember when I’m frustrated and tired and don’t want to do one more article/survey/story. He keeps me going with our inside jokes and overdone footsie-playing under the table ending in both of us laughing so hard our sides hurt.

He picked up the kids on time and they were happy and the 4yo ended up falling asleep on the couch while fighting not to leave because she wanted to play, “Just one more game…” He came home and told me everything that happened and how happy they were and what a great time they had. Icing on the date night cake, right?

My mom used to say, “It’s just as easy to love a rich man as a poor man.”

Mr. Brickie is still worth the “richer and poorer” I promised eleven years ago. I have no idea how that’s possible, but there it is.

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How We Deal With Recurring Financial Disappointment

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My financial disappointment (I call it cash-whiplash) is exactly as confusing as it sounds when I share it with you.

This week could have started on a more positive note. We found out Mr. Brickie is not working this week, no matter how beautiful the weather is. Seems that other job that was wrapping up is all wrapped up and they used a couple guys instead of bringing on the full crew for just a couple days. It makes sense from a business standpoint, but that doesn’t take the sting out of it personally. We monitored the weather like we had a duty to the National Weather Service or something. We were diligent.

I made the mistake of making plans. My hope swam past the buoys and into unsafe territory. Nothing that involved spending money, but things that were less tangible. Like doing the dishes and just being in that head-space where it would be just me and the 4yo at home during the day. I made plans for taking walks with her around the neighborhood to get fresh air. I made plans for what I would make for dinner so it was timed to be ready when he gets home. I basked in the 50’s housewife feel it gave me.

Let’s be honest. It would give me the freedom to write consistently.

Mr. Brickie has a sixth sense that tells him when I’m writing. He can hear the typing – I think – from anywhere in the house and it calls to him like a siren song to come sit by me and stare. His cure for, “Tell me a cool story.” Or, as he likes to call it, “Conversation.”

When I look at him and say, “I’m writing.” (with the universal hand motion indicating the laptop in front of me) he nods and says, “That’s great.” and stays there. Smiling, because he’s a really good dude and feels he is being supportive.

It makes writing difficult.

Okay, scratch that, it makes writing impossible. I can’t tell a smiling, supportive guy who loves me to go away. He’s just as disappointed as I am that he is not working and he wants to be by me to feel supported. I can’t deny that.

This feeling of disappointment is one I am familiar with but really dislike. I don’t want it to affect my overall mood, but putting on a happy face only works for so long and the disappointment takes longer than that to subside. I do not doubt the path we have chosen and I know it will all be for the best eventually, but the closer we get to Spring and work the more difficult it is to stay upbeat and hopeful.

I feel brittle and coarse.

I second-guess a decision I know is right.

Then, because I am a glutton for punishment, I immediately feel silly for second-guessing the decision and berate myself for not trusting the system that has worked so well for so many.

That means the way I thought things were going to go with a few days here, a few days there and some fits and starts before being back to work proper? Totally wrong.

Now we are waiting for enough warm days in a row a foundation for a building can be poured. Once that foundation is all poured and set, then his team will get to work. It is the only thing I knew for sure and I probably could have avoided choking and gasping like a half-drowned person on the disappointment was to keep it reigned in. I should not have let my hope swim past the buoys into the dark water where I spent time planning how to save during the Spring/Summer/Fall in order to be much more secure next Winter.

The new-if-not-improved plan is to figure out approximately how much of a Winter savings account we will need. Then take that number and divide by the number of weekly paychecks that will most likely happen and viola, how much needs to come out of each paycheck is determined.

In case you haven’t guessed it, I find making plans comforting.

For example, if Mr. Brickie gets 30 weekly paychecks and we want $3k in the bank for next winter, that’s $100/paycheck that needs to go into savings.

I don’t know if that’s how it will work, it’s certainly not a perfect calculation, but we will do our best, for sure.

How I Deal With the Disappointment

I give in. I feel the financial disappointment from my toes to my nose. I cry a little if I need to.

Next, I put on some music or put on the Dave Ramsey show on iHeartRadio and listen to other people’s problems and feel less alone in my feelings.

Finally, I look at the plans I have already made and update them. Updated plans keep me feeling grounded and less nervous.

If I don’t feel better after I’ve done these things, I repeat as necessary. Sometimes I’ll take a nap and just let my brain figure things out while I’m sleeping. Brains are good at that kind of thing.

How Mr. Brickie Deals with the Disappointment

Mr. Brickie watches some wrestling or takes out the trash or writes or puts things on craigslist. Staying busy keeps him from letting the feelings become overwhelming.

I can tell how bad he’s feeling on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how far away from the rest of the family he chooses to take on tasks. If he is in the sunroom, shut off in the back of the house behind a closed door organizing shelves and breaking down boxes … I know it’s not good and do my best to pick up the mood of the house and keep things on an even keel.

Our Common Goal

Like me, his main goal is to not take anything out on the kids. They need to see a secure, united front and we are going to give that to them. We both know when we are feeling unhappy that it is difficult to follow the “no snapping or yelling” belief. We have this thing we do where if we are in a bad mood we make sure to take a deep breath the minute one of the kids starts asking a question. That tone of voice that lets you know with the first syllable of the first word there is something about to be asked of you is the cue to just inhale deeply and slowly.

By the time they get to the question mark – my kids are wordy, which makes this easier, I think – we have taken at least one deep breath but more likely we have taken about three deep, calming breaths and can answer in a normal tone of voice even if we have just been thinking about something unhappy or awful.

The Bottom Line

I thought I knew when things were going to go on the upswing. I was wrong. Now we are back to waiting, but in a much better way than we were when we were waiting for Mr. Brickie to find a company to work for in the first place. It’s difficult, but easier than it was last time. I’ve experienced financial disappointment worse than this. Not tons worse, but worse. So it’s not as bad as it could be by a long shot. I am sorry…I’m sure it is as bouncy and confusing and back-and-forth to read this as it actually feels. I’m sorry I’m not being more clear.

I guess that isn’t all bad as long as you can put a check in the “Keeps Getting Better” column.

Sometimes, I am jealous of people who can just have feelings and opinions and believe them and never question themselves. I’m never sure if my feelings are valid. I don’t know if I’m doing better or worse than anyone else. It’s all very confusing sometimes.

Also, the dump of snow that happened last night certainly didn’t help my mood. I’m not crabby, but I just feel a little dejected. I hope your day is going loads better and I’m sorry if I am being a bit of a downer today. It’s not my intent. I just don’t want to only write when the ending is upbeat or what is the point?

If I’m not being honest, why am I here?

Tell me something wonderful. Even if it’s tiny or small or you think it’s no big deal. No matter how mopey I am, a great story from someone else always warms my heart a little.

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Chat It Up Saturday (The “Is Craigslist Money Taxable Income?” Edition)

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We ended last month and started this month worried.

Very worried.

Now, thanks to a partial client payment that we thought would never come (He’s made four payments over the last year. We keep thinking about cutting bait but haven’t yet.), another blogging gig, and selling a glass desk on Craigslist things are looking noticeably more rosy and it’s only the 8th!

I had a couple comments about people who under-report income. I’m wondering if the money we got from selling the desk is income. We bought it for more than it was just sold for. If a business did the same thing they would be able to report a loss and have that not count toward their taxes. But since I’m an individual, I’m not sure what my responsibility is with that.

Let’s Google It!

The H&R Block Blog talks about Garage Sales, “When determining if a sale must be reported as income it isn’t the dollar amount that matters or how it was sold, but whether the item was sold for more than it was originally purchased. “ So it looks like Capital Gains works the same way for individuals and businesses in this case. Cool. It also has some other situations. It was a good read.

The NOLO.com website (a free law resource website) says the same thing. They even refer to Craigslist as the online version of a garage sale. I can totally see it.

In fact, the only place that says it is taxable is Answers.com and with no source or backup other than a big Yes. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking the tax website and the law website answers are far more reliable. Has anyone ever gotten a reliable answer from Answers.com? I don’t know. Yahoo! Answers used to be crap but I’ve found amazing and detailed answers with sources cited more times than not these days and actually don’t cringe when I see it in the list of websites Google returns as potential places to visit for an answer to whatever question I have that day.

Also, I think it’s completely obvious but just in case someone thinks I should mention it…If selling things for a profit on Craigslist or eBay is your business, the answer is different. I was just looking into this because I wasn’t sure if I should be claiming it as income.

We already claim blogging income and the marketing work income and the other writing income, not just because one of my biggest financial fears is an audit, but also because it’s better for us financially. The more we make this year the higher our EIC (earned income credit) will be. You can’t get tax credits without owing taxes, my darlings. As for the government benefits I help pay for with my taxes, the taxes out of Mr. Brickie’s paycheck when he has one, and the taxes out of his unemployment…SNAP reduction isn’t dollar-for-dollar reduction. So even though I claim more income, depending on the amount, it might make no difference in my benefits, so, personally, it’s better for me to claim every penny. It’s just better for me – and my sanity – to be up front and let the calculations handle themselves.

As much as I would love to boost the income numbers for this year, claiming income (like the Craigslist sales) when you aren’t supposed to can be as problematic on your taxes as not claiming income you don’t have. I think. Don’t take my word for it because I’m not a tax expert. So as much as I would like to claim that as income, I don’t.

Bottom line: We have kicked one more large item out of the house! *happy Snoopy dance* Every time something leaves I feel physically lighter. All this stuff was weighing me down. In my life I have moved more than the average person (but less than a military family) and I can tell you that even if this is my “forever home” I still feel more comfortable if I can move everything I own in 24 hours or less. You just never know, and I like to be prepared.  (Sounds paranoid when you put it in black and white like that. Yeesh.)

How Fast Things Change

We went from having $100+ dollars to make it through the month (which had me really worried because next week looks like it could be a work week and right now it’s a 2hr. round trip commute and a few dollars in tolls every day) but with other sources coming in we are looking at closer to $480 in the plus column for the month. I moved $100 into savings immediately and we are trying to live out of the “cash” envelope we have set up that we keep in a hidey hole like cartoon trolls. It’s cash from selling things on Craigslist. So we might be able to put even more in the envelope at the end of this month. It depends on how much he works and how much he needs to spend on gas and tolls and how much of that cash we need for food.

Now I’m super glad I do that monthly budget post because in retrospect everything makes more sense! 

A lot of what we are going through is less about numbers and more about perspective. Sure, it’s about numbers because that’s where the feelings come from, but worrying about about the next month’s or even next year’s money is something a little (teeny weeny) bit more in our control.

I don’t know. I worry a lot. I don’t want to be a worrier, but it’s so difficult.

Also, here’s a teaser for a post that will happen next month. I think I’m going to re-think how Easter baskets happen this year to try and get more bang for my buck, too. One nice thing and a little basket of candy is what I’m thinking. I’m sorry, I’m totally just thinking out loud here. I saw this cool box of 24 pastels for $10 (including shipping!) and that plus some art paper would be so much more appreciated, I think. Not for all the kids, just for the one who wants to be an artist.

Really, I need to have things for these kids to do that do not involve an electronic screen. They already read, play with ponies and matchbox cars and use their imaginations and play outside. They’re not attached 24/7, but every one-more-thing that’s not electronic gives another option.

Maybe I can look up some YouTube art tutorial videos. Since, as we all know, YouTube is the sum total of all human knowledge. At least, I think it is. YouTube has helped us replace windows, choose paint colors, make cute hairstyles, cut my own hair, and about a hundred other things. It’s magic, I tell you, MAGIC!

Basically, if I have ten dollars to spend I’d rather spend it on art supplies than even more candy. But that’s just me being a Scrooge, I guess.

One of the Secret Benefits to Planning with Money

Okay, I’m putting this at the end because I don’t want everyone to know I just figured this out recently. I’ve done a monthly budget for years on the last day-ish of the previous month. This means a holiday was as much a financial surprise to us as it was to people who don’t budget at all.

Now that I’m trying to forecast finances into the future (With the power of my mind. Seriously, there has to be a better way.) I’m thinking about Easter NOW (over a month in advance – craziness) which means I can set aside enough for gift baskets for the other kids that we usually see at Family Easter. As long as we keep our cash close to our hidey hole and don’t spend crazy cash (and trust me, we have become experts in not spending money) it will be no problem to sock that extra money into the savings account and be able to orchestrate an Easter based on value and not cost and time and  panic.

With a crazy, irregular, fluctuating income you just can’t do that whole, “I’ll put X amount of dollars a week into a savings account automatically!” thing that someone else’s bank might let them do. I would love to do that. I enjoy automating finances like you wouldn’t believe. Both because I’m lazy and because I remember when I worked for Allstate and we would look up accounts and the bills were paid by a service if the person was a celebrity most of the time and I thought, “Wow. You pay someone to pay your bills for you. That is a wealthy person.”

I will never hire someone to pay my bills for me but having them paid automatically says something about the level of financial security you feel that you CAN do that. Like, how cool would it be to have your bills auto-pay to your credit card every month and you just log in and pay the credit card bill once a month. That would be amazing.

It would be more amazing to do that with your debit card, but I get a little shaky and anxious even thinking of it because even though I know there will come a day when I have enough in my checking account I can pay bills automatically (I would love to use You Need A Budget for this. Someday, friends, someday I will use YNAB and it will be SO good.) that time is not now and the thought of anything coming out of my checking account I’m not prepared for gives me the chills.

No Offense

I know that some of my readers are very religious and I completely respect that Easter is a very symbolic and important holiday. As an agnostic, I come at it from more of an Easter Bunny “doin’ it for the children” perspective, but I do not think my way is better than a religious way.

My thoughts about Easter are completely financial for my family but I completely respect a family dynamic that incorporates a “There is more to Easter than chocolate” belief system. If you wrote a post on your blog or just want to share what Easter means to you, feel free to share your thoughts or your link it in the comments.

I’d like to think of this as an interfaith blog. All faiths and even no faith are welcome. We all get out hope and inspiration in different ways from different places.

Have a wonderful day! Tomorrow I am hoping it’s warm enough and not-wet enough to take the kids to the park. Here’s hoping!

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I Am Not Going to Starve or Be Homeless

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I feel like I can’t really say this enough.

There are people who are homeless, and who are going through other terrible, horrible things right now.

I am in a position right now where we do not have extra money for anything and because of winter we do not know if we will be able to pay next month’s bills. We budget tightly and go to food banks for food.  We are also on a path toward a much higher level of financial security.

On a scale of 1 – 10 where 10 is homeless, I’m like a 4, tops.

As much as it would be an inconvenience, I have friends I could live with if I really needed to. I have a family member I could go live with temporarily. No matter how abrasive I might be there are a lot of people who don’t want to see us homeless. I’m very, very lucky. But I’m not even planning on those outcomes because I’ve been working out the most likely probabilities in my head for months.

Here are the most common possible outcomes in the order of probability.

  1. The most probable outcome is we remain where we are. As Mr. Brickie moves up the bricklayer ranks on his way to being a journeyman his pay will increase. Along with that journeyman title and living wage he’ll get in a couple years there is also insurance (we benefit from this already), two pensions, and other nifty benefits. We are sacrificing now so we can win later.
  2. The second most probable outcome is that we will move. Whether or not we get foreclosed on is mainly a matter of timing. How fast court proceedings and things go vs. when he gets raises as he moves up the apprentice scale. It’s something I just can’t know. If we do move, we already know where we are moving to and have checked out both houses to rent and apartments in the area. Researching my Plan B extensively makes me more comfortable with the uncertainty.
  3. The most unlikely outcome is moving in with friends or relatives. This only happens if things happen faster than we are prepared for or some other unforeseen event comes up. This is the rarest of the possibilities.

I have been preparing and worrying about this since before Mr. Brickie became a bricklayer. then I worried while he went through training. I kept worrying as he looked for a company to take him on as their apprentice. I am now worrying our way through his first winter where weather keeps him from being able to work.

As the sun streams through my window and I feel a hint of spring in the air, I feel hopeful. With Tom Skilling (weatherman supreme) saying the current prediction is an El Niño in six months I feel even more hopeful because that will mean next winter is mild and a mild winter will mean more work and faster raises.

If it doesn’t happen that way, I’ll readjust the plan. That’s something that everyone does regardless of where they are on the income ladder, right? I mean, the point of this blog is not to show how sad and pathetic I am. Far from it! I want to show that I’m just a person living my life with my family like everyone else and I’m not anything special. So that others can know that they are not alone or if they are doing great maybe they won’t assume everyone else is just because they are.

I am just another person who used credit cards to fund my children’s Christmas. I then used my tax return to pay them off. I know I’m not the only person in America who did that. I know I’m not the only person in America who wants this past Christmas to be the last time they use credit cards to buy things for their children!

Honestly, I cannot overstate how lucky we are. Even without food security or knowing for sure where we will be living a year from now, none of my children have medical conditions that require doctor care beyond annual physicals. None of my children have behavioral issues outside the norm for their ages. Both of my children are in enrichment classes in elementary school. I have a husband who is dedicated, affectionate, and loving. I have all the OTHER things besides money that people want. I am beyond thankful for all those things every day of my life. The everything else I have is what allows me to write this blog from a place of strength and love instead of sounding like every day is another panic attack.

If that makes me less inspirational, so be it. I am here to be honest, not try and blow smoke up everyone’s butt and try and show myself to be some kind of impoverished saint. No way. I am just a person who is currently poor and thinks they won’t be forever who is kind of just trying to take everyone who wants to come on the journey.

My readers are the best people. I am lucky to know most of you. But you know … you KNOW I wouldn’t trade places with any of you. No matter how wonderful the life you might have right now, I love my family and I am a junkie for a great comeback story. I like to think that’s what I’m in the middle of right now. A comeback story.

I hope to have you with me once this part of the journey is passed and I refer to things like The Taco Incident as examples of how fear of not having enough shows up in the strangest places instead of being a story of something that just happened. When I have my kids in activities and we are taking vacations and you will all know how hard I worked to get those things.

Who knows, maybe it will help someone else put their own life into perspective and cut themselves some slack and remember how hard they worked to get the things they have. (Wow, that was a really clunky sentence!) Maybe it’s you who thinks you could always be doing more but have already done enough and are running yourself into the ground. Maybe it’s someone you know.

I will always feel the perspective this part of my life has given me is the true gift. I am a much, much less judgmental person now than I was a few years ago. I have more understanding in my heart for the situations of other people. I don’t look at stories online anymore with an immediate eye to pick them apart or be an armchair quarterback for a life I have not lived.

I’m not going to start handing out cash willy-nilly without some facts, though. I mean, I’m not going to go full stupid or anything, but I can give any human the respect of reading or listening to their story with an open mind, regardless of what I choose to do with that information after reading or listening.

How are you doing? Are you feeling overworked today? Or do you feel you still have some pep in your step to get things done?

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The Taco Incident

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We can chalk up this title for being one that does nothing for search engines. I’m not trying to be vague, I just really don’t know what else to call it. It’s what we call it in our house and it was something that happened just this week. It has been referenced a lot, most recently to get me to do the dishes, because we have been known to play a little down and dirty in this house when it comes to convincing the other one to do household chores.

The Backstory

If your read my post about how our SNAP benefits have been delayed and reduced then you know things are a little tense in the house. It’s not tense because we are going to go hungry, it’s tense because budgeting is always my job and as such it makes me a little weird when I have to recalculate something to the penny. Especially since we have a history of Mr. Brickie going shopping and buying something extra “just because” and me trying not to claw his face off because that is not how things work.

Except that is exactly how things work because how things work is a social construct agreed to by the parties involved and obviously even if he agrees to the social construct once he’s in the Magic Land of Buying Stuff™ things just get a little out of control sometimes. I have no way to put this into the budget. So it makes me tense.

The Shopping Trip

We were totally out of SNAP funds but needed a few things from the store. Orange juice, half & half, and toilet paper. I’m not sure if that’s the exact list but the real list was probably almost exactly that. It was a short list and he was just running out really quick and I figured nothing was amiss.

You have probably already guessed what happened but stick with me.

More Backstory

I had said the night before, “I’d like to have tacos soon. We haven’t done that in a while.” <– this will turn out to be my critical misstep in The Incident.

The Big Reveal

He walks in and I see a bag with more in it than an orange juice concentrate container and a quart of half & half. I get nervous. “What did you buy?” I say in my very best, “I’m not mad at you and please tell me it’s a puppy you found on the side of the road because oh my gosh if you bought off the list I will kill you but not yet there is hope I’m remaining calm” voice.

“I bought stuff for tacos!” He says with this huge, awesome, proud-of-himself-for-remembering smile.

I proceed to turn into a screeching harpie (I was going to put a picture in here but every time I do a Google Image search for screeching harpie there are pictures of Nancy Grace and Suze Orman and I die laughing and then feel guilty for laughing because Womyn Power and close the window so I’m not going to post a picture. It’s not a good thing. It’s a loud thing.

His defense? He wanted to surprise me with something nice.

My anger? Is not assuaged by getting me something nice that is not on the list. I feel the gift I have been given is stress.

He is totally not getting it and thinks I’m totally overreacting for ten dollars.

Oh yeah, did I mention the taco dinner stuff cost ten bucks? I went half screaming crazy for ten bucks worth of food.

Let’s be clear. I’m not proud of this. I’m not happy about this. I remember when Jenn posted her story on the Poor as Folk blog she mentioned snapping at her kid for asking for seconds. She got bagged on so hard in the comments by some jerk calling her abusive. I just wanted to just give her such a high five of solidarity because oh my gosh I screamed at my husband for ten dollars of food we would totally eat because everyone in the family loves tacos.

Because you know it wasn’t about the ten dollars and it wasn’t about food and it wasn’t about tacos. It was about fear. 

What I’m Going to Do About It

I did this challenge a year ago called The Orange Rhino and it changed my life. It’s free, it’s a blog and Facebook group and it’s all about not yelling anymore. Even though I really don’t yell at my kids anymore at all I still snap at them now and then when I’m distracted and they do something that needs to not be happening (trying to do cartwheels in the kitchen, for example) and I’ll just bark a quick order.

I think it’s time for an Orange Rhino refresher course! I’m going to go back through her blog and remind myself how much happier I am when I don’t yell or snap. (The kids did it with me and they yell SO MUCH LESS now. It’s really pretty magic, even though it’s really crazy simple.) I want to do more than remember how good being calm feels. I want to exist in that place every day again.

I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that snapping at my kids is like the buzzed driving of parenting. It’s not as bad as full out yelling but it’s still dangerous to their little growing brains. My kids are awesome at handling adversity, but why give them any more than they absolutely have to deal with? I mean they’re already going to have enough to make them “not soft” or whatever it is you have when you grow up with stories of being poor or whatever. They don’t need enough to write a tell-all about their childhood.

For real. If one of them writes an autobiography you will be able to hear me screeching from wherever you are in the WORLD. The same I would expect my mother to if I wrote one.

As for marriage repair after screaming, I’ve done extra dishes and given extra [redacted] and hugs to Mr. Brickie so he feels loved and is not completely determined never to do anything nice for me again. It’s a start. Mostly it was a big wake up call for both of us. He realizes shopping off the list is a big deal for me (yes, I did tell him a hundred times already, how did you know?) and I learned I really need to chill the heck out about ten bucks.

As long as it doesn’t become a regular thing. Of course.

Have you ever freaked out at a spouse’s purchase and realized later you were so totally in the wrong in the grand scheme of the universe? Tell me about it so I feel less alone!

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Giving Instead of Giving Up for Lent

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I grew up Catholic.

In a very nice Church with very nice people that I saw on Sundays and holidays.

I received my First Communion at 10 (I was the oldest one and oh, so gangly and nervous) and never went through to Catechism because I found out you couldn’t pick Dusty as your “bonus name” because it had to be the name of a saint. This led to the revelation that my first name (Jennifer) isn’t the name of a saint, either, and at that point I was just done because I thought the whole naming thing made no sense.

We still went to Church.

I spent years wearing this little cross necklace around my neck and wanting SO badly to feel what I assumed other people felt. It was small and gold with a smaller white enamel cross on top with a painting of ivy and roses. It was so pretty and I would hold on to it. I felt it identified me and that eventually I would feel what I was suppoesd to feel and understand what I was supposed to understand.

It never happened.

One day, the little white enamel piece fell off. I realized it had only been held on there with a tiny dot of glue. I cried a lot that day because I felt like the only hope I had of being connected to some big, divine thing was gone. Really, it feels a lot like the acting class scene from “A Chorus Line” (if you haven’t heard it, it’s worth a listen. It’s posted below because I’m  musical today and love this song). If you are very religious you might not get the similarity, if that’s the case it’s still a pretty good song to enjoy. It has a cuss word in it though, so don’t blast it in front of the kids if you think they’ll go around singing that part!

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to explain any part of a religious experience with Broadway Musicals but hey, I also put more faith into a dollar store necklace than I did into an entire religious organization.

Since we’ve moved to the town we are in I have convinced Mr. Brickie to take the family to church four times. Once was for some of our daughters (the ones we had at the time) to get baptized. The second time was for a pregnancy blessing at the local Catholic church where they had a guest pastor that talked about abortion the whole time. TO A ROOM FULL OF PREGNANT WOMEN. So, obviously, we didn’t go back because I was beyond offended that my husband didn’t let me cause the huge scene I wanted to cause because I was there for a blessing and I got…well….bait and switched.

Same thing happened at the other church which was more of an evangelical church. I was like THESE PEOPLE FEEL THE WIND RUSH (you’ll get that if you heard the song up there) and we went twice and considered membership because I was like, “I could make friends here. These people are spirit of the bible people.” So we went to the first membership meeting.

When they used the term HIVE MIND I spit coffee and then had to fake a coughing fit. I thought, “I had to have heard that wrong because seriously.” Then I realized after the fourth, fifth time that it was a term he meant to use with NO irony and NO humor and my heart broke. Again.

Now Mr. Brickie refuses to try other churches. He thought – logically – that being married meant I wouldn’t have to feel heartbreak anymore. I wouldn’t feel rejected anymore. Me too, Mr. Brickie, me too.

I did go to one with a really wonderful woman I went to college with. I enjoyed it a lot. Then the flag troupe came out and I was just, like, I don’t understand anything anymore. One thing I can thank one of the churches for (I think it was the one that had a horse on stage that one time – I’m not lying, there really was a church horse) was the difference between jealousy and envy. That was a life changing idea. Especially for me being poor.

Jealousy is when you want what someone else has. Envy is when you want what someone else has and if you can’t have it you want them to not have it either. It was a great lesson for me, personally.

This Is Where I Stop Being Mopey

For the readers who were like, “I do not want to read all that moping.” I wanted to give them a headline to let them know I’m all done. That was all leading up to why I’m agnostic and celebrate Lent. I like Lent. I like remembering sacrifice and giving something up. Ever since I found 40 Bags In 40 Days last year I feel giving of myself and giving my things to others who are even less fortunate than I is a wonderful way to spend 40 days. (There is even a closed Facebook group. I really can’t recommend it enough.)

Also, I think I have Mr. Brickie convinced to buy fish for Fridays for the next 40 days. Not because of anything but our whole family loves fish and it seems like a fine time to enjoy some love from the sea, right?

Even if we don’t have organized religion we can still give, right? I want to feel like a valuable member of society and be able to help others no matter how we are doing financially right this second. I want to declutter and at the end of 40 days know that if we have to move we will need a couple less boxes to make it happen. I want to feel just a little more freedom in my life.  

What do you give up for Lent? (I predict a whole bunch of people who weren’t raised with Lent to do the, “I’m giving up giving up things.” because that joke is new to them. I forgive you in advance.) Do you give without reminders? I know I like to have a certain time of year where I’m reminded to be awesome. You might not need that kind of prompting. If that’s the case, what are some ways you give?

I’m always looking for new takes on this very, very old theme.

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