Category: Family & Friends

From spouses to spit-up

The Recipe for A Life Goal

I asked my friend what she wants for 2016 and she said, “Less problems.” I asked another and he said, “More fun.” When they asked me back (because they have manners, God love ‘em) I said, “I’m not sure yet. I’m listening to see if I want someone else’s goal, first.”

Don’t we all do that now and then? We decide we want to be a police officer or firefighter or doctor because we see one on television or in person or in a book and we take their goal as something we want for ourselves. It’s copy and paste goal setting.

I’m not putting it down. It’s a very effective form of goal setting because it is very difficult to have a goal you can’t comprehend.

So when I was a child and my goal was to have a good life, well, I’m still not sure what that looks like sometimes.

It’s like having a recipe but without the measurements of anything. So I have a shopping list for a good life.

  • Money
  • Love
  • Security
  • Hope

In what amounts or proportions, though?

I was winging it when I chose to add both husband and children to the mix when I was measuring out the love portion. I also added in family and a sprinkling of in-person friends and cups and cups of online friends I could love.

As for money, it’s even more difficult. Am I happy where I am? Is my recipe bitter because it only has one car, a hand-me-down winter coat, and no vacations? When I taste the recipe does it feel like it’s missing something?

Safety is the umami of the recipe. Some people love it, some people claim it gives them a headache because it’s MSG, and I just need a dash. Okay, maybe a few dashes! I do like a little more than a little security.

Hope is tough. If you have a little it goes a long way. If you don’t? Well…it becomes your saffron. The most expensive of all the spices. It is also the most difficult to find if it’s lost. I’ve had more than a few situations where I faked being hopeful about the future because when I can’t muster something I need I pretend I have it and act like a person who has the thing.

I question my own happiness regularly because I’m not sure if I’ve settled or if I’m really just in the middle of a five-year plan or if this is as good as it gets. It’s pretty good.. That critical point in the middle. It’s like being sick for a long time. I had a horrible internal infection in my chest and then various cold and flu symptoms for a total of over three months. I didn’t feel like myself. It turned into forgetting I wasn’t feeling myself and claiming my sick self WAS the real and true version of myself. I got lost and forgot there was a way back.

I wonder if my life here in this little town in the midwest is another version of forgetting myself. Am I obligated to be more and do more only because it’s possible? Is it giving up to enjoy life and not strive for more and more all the time?

How much is enough? Will I know when I’ve gotten there?

When did you know you had enough and everything beyond that moment was just a bonus for your life?

I’m still learning the recipe for my life goal. Even if I’m not entirely sure what else I’m going to add to the mix, I do know I’m going to tend what I have so it doesn’t scald. I think that there are certain delicate things like family relationships and marriages that you can’t fix if you leave them alone too long and let them burn even a little.

What does your recipe for a goal life consist of? Money? Love? Security? Or something else entirely?

A Financial Conversation With Middle Sister

My middle child is a math whiz. I’ve always been more afraid of her than the others when it comes to handing out the raw numbers of our budget because I don’t want her to worry. (She’s a worrier.) Lately, I have noticed she has been asking more and more questions about money and I think she wants to figure out where we are and what things cost and …. I think she’s planning her adulthood in advance.

Yesterday Middle Sister asked how much her father was going to make this week.

Me: “A little over $800.”

Her: “But a couple weeks ago it was a thousand?!”

Me: “He had overtime that week.”

Her: “How much does daddy make?”

Me: “An hour?”

Her: “No, like in a year.”

Me: “Well it’s different every year, I don’t know how much he’s going to make this year.”

Her: “Do you know how much he made last year?”

Me: “Yes”

Her: “Can you tell me?”

Me: “He made a little over $20,000 last year.”

Her: “Is that a lot?”

Me: “It depends on who you compare it with.”

Her: “Well we have shoes and food and do fun things, so it’s enough. That’s what matters, right mommy?”

Me: “Yep, that’s what matters.”

I’m torn. It makes me happy she has good priorities, but makes me sad she even has to think about what really matters at nine years old. They are starting to make connections and while I think we all know that one day they will realize $20,000 for a family of five was not quite what most people would call “enough” they will be amazed (the way all poor children grow up to be amazed) at what their parents could do for them with so little to work with.

Later That Day….

Her: “Mom, remember when my glasses broke the first time and we had to wait almost two months to get them replaced?”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “This time you ordered new ones and paid for them the same day they broke.”

Me: “Yes….?”

Her: “We make more money now, don’t we?”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “I think I’m getting the hang of it.”

Me: “You most certainly are.”

I’m not worried about Middle Sister because her plan for life is to work as a bricklayer during the summer and teach elementary school during the rest of the year. It’s actually a genius plan because she will make a lot of money as a summer-only bricklayer that would allow her to boost that schoolteacher salary to something liveable.

What? All the things a teacher has to buy for the classroom every year? I fully intend on paying for every. single. one. She wants cutouts? I’ll buy them. She wants an extra bulletin board? Okay, no problem.

They have been the best kids a poor parent could ask for. Not greedy, not demanding, and so full of love and understanding. When we have money? I will be happy to give them whatever makes them happy. (As long as my retirement is funded first. I’m loving, not dumb.)

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Budget Birthday … Incoming!

Every time birthdays come up I am SO torn.

I want to rent a place and invite the class and have a huge party that my kids will remember forever and cherish.

Then I price those things and my heart nearly stops!

The next (kid) birthday in the family rotation is my youngest. We priced this option and that option and all of them are hundreds of dollars. The housepartment is a good size for us, but it doesn’t really accommodate a bunch of kids. It especially doesn’t accommodate a bunch of kindergarten kids. So I felt a bit trapped.

I realized I needed to talk to Little Sister and find out what she wanted instead of making grand assumptions. So I just asked, “I have an amount of money for your birthday. Do you want me to spend it on the party, or the present?” She said, “How about both?” I said, “Absolutely, but I can get you a bigger present if we just go out and have fun as a family – or – I can get you a smaller present and we can invite your classmates.”

“But I don’t know them mama.” She said.

“That’s true.” I said.

“I would rather just have us so we can go out and have fun together because we never get to go out and have fun together and that would be cool. Also, I want six things for my birthday so that’s going to cost a lot.”

I’m thinking I’m sunk. What six things does she want?? I ask her. Turns out she wants the light and dark expansion packs for the Skylanders game we got them at Christmas. Both sets are a grand total of $60.

Bless the innocent children. Bless them so hard. I seriously thought she was going to ask for a tablet. Bullet dodged.

So now I can do this whole shebang for right around $100 and it’s the birthday she asked for. That’s a pretty big deal for LIttle Sister. She wants what she wants and usually has to compromise.

Kids just don’t require as much as we think they do to be blissful, do they? Some presents, some cake, and some dedicated attention is all she needs to make her happy. Here I am getting all stressed and whipped into a frenzy over presents and guests and her whole classroom and, “Oh no, but these kids will be her friends for life! I can’t mess up the first round of birthdays!” which has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.

I have that $100 set to come out of the budget on the 3rd Friday of this month. I know her birthday is in September but I’m so nervous about this job ending because what happens if there isn’t another job after this one? Yes, Mr. Brickie getting a higher pay rate hints at jobs beyond this one, but a hint isn’t a paycheck. So I’m going to try and pay September’s car payment by the end of August as well.

As for my daughter and her birthday wish…she is human and she needs to be loved…just like everybody else does. My only job – an easy one, at that – is to ask her what will make her feel loved, then do my best to provide whatever that is in whatever way I can.

Yep, I paraphrased The Smiths up there. Doesn’t everyone listen to The Smiths when they can’t fall asleep when their husband leaves for work at 4:30am? No? Just me? *sigh* I want to be asleep right now.

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Budget – WiFi Abuse – Soylent Update

Mr. Brickie says I’m spending less time looking at and talking about the budget.

I told him I take a vacation from worrying about the budget every summer when he works overtime. It’s the only time I’m able to pay the bills without thinking. I sink down into the feeling like a comfortable chair and take a few minutes to really enjoy the experience of paying bills and saving money. It’s a special feeling. It isn’t excited but it isn’t entirely calm, either. It’s like the fulfillment of anticipation. A kitten in a sunbeam kind of feeling.

A feeling I look forward to having on the regular as Mr. Brickie progresses through this apprenticeship program. The pay raise from his current employer has already done a world of good in making over a hundred dollars more per paycheck a reality, which means it is pretty solid that we are going to pay off the Capital One card before the end of the month.

Oh! The training letter came in the mail! Quick refresher: The training is a M-Th 7am-5pm once a quarter. It is a requirement to get promotions through your apprenticeship. Instead of a regular paycheck you get a stipend based on what year of training you are in. Since Mr. Brickie is in his second year (Y2Q4 to be exact) he will receive – instead of a paycheck – a $250 stipend. It’s a sacrifice and it plays havoc with our budget because, well, it’s not a lot of money. It’s part of the program, though, so he doesn’t complain and he doesn’t skip it and he takes it very seriously.

We are very lucky that he has already taken the Y3Q4 training for his OSHA30 due to a worksite he was on during his first year of the apprenticeship. That means he only has three more trainings after this. I don’t mind the ones in winter so much because he wasn’t working anyway, the summer trainings, however are a tough row to hoe.

I had pegged that last week of the month’s paycheck toward Christmas, which means I’m going to be sad and not even start to fund Christmas until September. Mostly, it means I’m going to have to shift a lot of things around because I also was going to pre-pay the iPass out of that last paycheck.

Well as soon as I know what I’m doing with it, you will too.

At least I’ll be doing it with only one credit card balance. That has to make things easier.

Story Time!

My upstairs neighbor has a couple kids. I think they’re 19 and 20 or maybe 17 and 21 … I’ve had the daughter watch my kids twice (I pay right around $10/hr.) and she did a fine job both times. The son has borrowed a can opener, random things like that. Both very polite.

Once the son asked if he could use my wifi for a school project. I had a router and created a guest network and gave him the username and password. When my Internet started crawling, I shut it off. Then I get a text asking if I can turn it back on because someone has to do something for school. I turn it back on.

Sunday night I’m streaming The Wire from Amazon Prime (season 3 – no spoilers! lol) with my husband because that’s what we do and I’m buffering. There is NO WAY I should be buffering with all the kids in bed and all their Kindles and the XBox with them. I check the wireless router and there are NINE devices hooked up to my router that aren’t mine. I pitch a mini-fit (to myself, in my living room) and turn it off again, because STFU with nine – currently connected – devices.

I receive a text at 10:22pm that (some guy’s name that isn’t my neighbor but I assume is her boyfriend) needs the Internet for a school test and she can’t find the name of my Internet on her list.

Since I am a wonderful person, I texted back to tell her my wireless router broke.

I have never even heard the name of the guy she texted me with but damn. Your dating a guy who can’t afford Internet and has to come to your crib to hang with you and your “from the neighbor” Internet?

Nine devices, y’all. Nine. My family of five with an xBox and three kindles (including my pre-backlight reader) is rocking 8 connections max.

If they were legit using it for a school test it wouldn’t have bogged my happy streaming ass down now, would it?

She texted back Ohhhhhh okay (happy face emoticon) and then she or rando guy’s name spent the next half hour stomping up and down the stairs, slamming the front door of the building right outside my front door and leaving the gate to the backyard unlatched which made for some awesome banging during the storm that night.

Which solved the problem of, “How long can we say the wireless is broken?” Because after that immature display by whoever? The answer is, “Forever.”

I think this is the first in a long line of, “Why can’t you share? Your husband has a good job and you have extra money so why not spread the wealth?” problems in our future. I get it’s not important to you to have Internet, but it’s important to me. It saved my life on one occasion and saved me from homelessness on another. It’s okay our priorities are different, I don’t judge anyone for not having Internet, but it’s also not my responsibility to provide you with something I have because you think it’s, “No big deal.”

I also have more in savings right now than most people would. That’s not extra money and it doesn’t make me feel any richer or more well-off. It makes me feel like I’ll have money for auto insurance and rent when they’re due. Just because a bill is paid to a savings account in my name rather than a company or landlord doesn’t make it any less spent.

I look forward to being in a position where I can budget for donating money to good causes and people who have fallen on hard times. It is something very dear to my heart (it was before I needed a fundraiser, too) and knowing how life-changing a few thousand dollars can be to a family in my position means that I know how much every $5/$10/$20 donation means to the family receiving that money.

That is a whole lot different than someone trying to score my Internet when there is a library three blocks away with Internet and probably access to a computer lab if they are in a local school.

I still feel like a jerk. I’m not sure why.

The Soylent Experiment

I only eat dinner now.

Some article came out that compared Soylent to “Slim Fast for bros” and I was infuriated. If Slim Fast had any nutritional value I would have already been consuming it. A reporter that can’t read a nutrition label, well, isn’t a reporter.

I drink 2 12oz. servings a day. That’s a whopping 750kCal before dinner. My TDEE is around 2,400 so that leaves me a lot of wiggle room. I messed up the MyFitnessPal numbers so even though I’ve lost about 7lbs. in the last two weeks, MFP shows I’ve lost .2 – oh well. I feel better and it’s nice to not have to think about food. I would be on this 100% (minus occasional social meals and a nighttime bowl of popcorn here or there) if I didn’t think it would risk giving my daughters a complex about food.

I’m not hungry until dinnertime, either. This stuff works to make you not hungry. The brain recognizes it as food.

Soylent is not for people who love food. It’s not for people who get a rush from crunchy or gooey or lovely textures. It’s for people who feel hungry and think, “I do not even want to deal with that.” Who have no specific food cravings and just want to not be hungry anymore.

I’ve gotten far more good-natured ribbing for this than I ever did when I told people I wanted to be debt-free. I’m amazed that when I tell people about this they take it personally. Like I care what anyone else eats? I don’t. I’m just doing a thing. No biggie.

It’s weird.

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Quick Note: July 17th, 2015

I’m never really sure if the decisions I’ve made with the budget are the right ones.

But it’s almost 9pm, the kids are asleep, it’s finally quiet. There is a storm outside and the falling rain on the window-unit air conditioners is loud but calming and we finally caught the downstairs neighbor at home to tell him to take the battery out of his beeping smoke detector. Well, we asked him to change the battery but let’s be honest it’s probably not getting changed right away. As long as I don’t have to spend another night with a distant *beep* reminder every minute I don’t have much of a preference.

Maybe it’s the rain, maybe it’s the quiet of the kids being in bed but really…I think everything is going to be okay.

More rare a thought, however, is that I think it’s going to be really okay sooner than I originally thought. Overtime means hours and hours mean he moves up the ranks faster which means a raise faster which means breathing room faster.

I’m also looking forward to going to bed because the rain is my favorite thing to fall asleep to.

Pleasant dreams.

Outside Focus – A Birthday Story

When I’m really stressed out, I try to ignore my feelings.

Sure, I’ll tell you what’s wrong if something specific is going on but you will, inevitably, have to listen immediately to my plan for solving that specific problem. I am a problem-solver of the highest order. Years of practice and execution of plans has made me efficient and confident. There are very few times I get thrown a curveball I can’t hit. It might not be a home run, but it will get me on a base, at the very least.

I’ve spent much of my married life … well … probably much of my life-life but have you ever noticed how it feels like when you get married there’s a kind of starting over that happens? Like, I’m this person now instead of that one (with a new name and everything) and maybe I started judging that as my new and improved starting point to erase the mistakes that happened before. As if this new woman with a new name had a whole different way of dealing with problems and wasn’t just the same person with a different driver’s license photo.

So back to married life and me spending most of it anxious out of my mind. A husband that went from being a pizza guy to a painter to a coffee slinger to a barista to a financial advisor. It didn’t start that way. It started with me working in insurance and him finishing his degree. I was actually that wife that worked while her husband finished school. I had heard about them but never actually realized how that whole thing would look like while it was happening. It looked a lot like anger if you were me. Especially if I came home and Roller Coaster Tycoon was on the computer monitor. I was neither kind nor forgiving early on. Mostly because I was scared out of my mind about the house and the bills and the money and this husband-interloper who felt it was his money too! How dare he! (I’m mocking myself, here, I know I was awful.)

Then he had a degree and we were so happy until it turned out – surprise! – to be totally not helpful at all in getting him a job. So he ended up with a string of jobs he wasn’t too fond of. I was fired from Allstate for being atrocious at customer service and started working from home. Next is the “famous among family and friends” story of the two hours I lasted at the Disney Store in the mall. The only thing I am worse at than customer service is customer service in a crowd.

In retrospect, I should have seen the failure coming a mile away but you would be amazed at what I can convince myself I can do if I just don’t wuss out. If I power through my anxiety and confusion and just do the damn thing, I am sure I’ll be great and of course I’ll get used to the physically debilitating symptoms of overwhelming fear I feel in situations where I have to deal with strangers in a crowded, loud setting. I can do anything! Except then I can’t and I walk out and have a panic attack and I’m sitting on the floor in a bathroom stall in the mall on my phone crying and begging my fiancee to let me quit. The fiancee that may have warned me against taking the job in the first place who was rather confused I needed his permission because we totally do not have that kind of relationship but I just needed to know it was okay, you know? That he would still love me even when I was failing so spectacularly.

Really, I’m so bad at timelines. I thought the Disney Store debacle happened after the Allstate debacle but for some reason I know we weren’t married when I was at the Disney Store so they can’t be related.

This is why I can never write a memoir. I can’t keep track of time.

A journal? Of course I have journals from before we were married…from before we even dated….sure the information is probably in there. But then I would have to read them and there is about a zero chance in hell I’m going to do that in the near future. I’ll let my kids read it when I’m dead and they can marvel at how unhinged their mother really was.

Look, kids! Look at all the coping skills your mother didn’t have when she was young!

It will blow their minds.

I’m trying to get to the good story about the budget. I don’t have a good transition. This will have to do.

I will always remember the day I wrote down our bills on a piece of paper. Then I wrote down our income. (I didn’t even know this was a budget at the time!) The number in the bills column was bigger than the number for income. This is why I’m so understanding of friends I know and readers who have never set up a budget. I remember wondering why I had never thought to do that before.

I mean, I had even read Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey (that I received as a gift from a Christian radio station when I donated $10 to give orphans in Africa a well for fresh water, I kid you not) and I still have that book and I remember reading it and thinking, “This is for people who already HAVE money.”

Figuring out how people made money became an obsession. I wanted to know what everyone did for a living and I spent more hours on the BLS than I care to admit – even to myself. There are so many jobs that people have that no one tells you about. It’s like a secret system where people randomly find jobs they end up at. It felt like a lottery until we found the unions and, eventually, bricklaying. As he went through training I had this feeling that things were going to get really difficult but they would be so much better after the bad part. On the heels of this moment of clarity was when I toldl Mr. Brickie, “I don’t want to work. I want to take care of the kids and, beyond that, do whatever I want with my days. I want to find a job for you that will take care of all of us and I’ll make sure our lifestyle doesn’t surpass that salary. We’re going to find a happy medium. Oh, and by the way? We’re totally going to lose the house in the process. Let’s talk again after you have a few days to be okay with losing the house because I know it’s important to your whole man-pride image.” (We had some conversations about feeling like a failure and what real failure was and taking steps backward and forward in the interim but we were back to focusing on HIM so I was all good with that. HIM is outside of ME so it was a fine thing to focus on.)

Some of you have probably heard me say, “I don’t have a passion.” That’s because I couldn’t afford to have one. All my neurons and synapses were dedicated to not being homeless. They were all dedicated to keeping my family safe. They were all dedicated to things OUT THERE instead of my inner world. How can I decide what I want when I have to figure out how to feed my kids?

So now it seems I’m starting to be able to take little peeks inward instead of feeling like I have to focus on everything else around me and balancing it all so it doesn’t come crashing down like so many spinning plates. I feel calm in a way I didn’t think was possible.

Which is funny because I was told recently (in writing, my reactions were at my screen not in person) that I was going through a transition and I took a mental step backward and said to myself, “Who? Me? You’re talking to me?” Here I am, safe and calm and feeling totally chill and someone is telling me I’m in a transition period? It amazes me how sometimes people with the most book learning are the most unknowledgeable when presented with a real-life case study of someone in a stable place. Also I know this whole paragraph sounds like something I made up. You can just disregard it because it was a long story that ended that way but I assure you none of it was about me transitioning to anything but a deeper state of contentment.

One of these new and fun peeks into myself (sounds dirty but it’s not) let me see that my decision to start actively writing when my kids are all in school for a few hours a day is absolutely the right decision. I don’t have a genre in mind, I’m going to just write for anthologies and submit and see what sticks. I’ll edit and revise before sending, I don’t mean I’m going to throw a first draft at anyone. That would be gross and mean. But I’m going to see where my talent and interests intersect. For example, I know after writing sexy stories professionally for marketing purposes. So I may be very good at that kind of writing, but I do not enjoy writing those stories, so you won’t see my name in the erotica section anytime soon. I’m on the fence about horror because sometimes I don’t sleep well after I write those stories. I look forward to seeing all the different genres I can try to write for and seeing how well I can do.

Even if nothing comes of it just doing it and trying and being free to write what I want and have fun with it means the world to me. It will be like giving my mind and my heart wings and letting them soar free without worrying.

That freedom comes from years of learning how to budget, learning how to make things happen automatically, and having a plan. Also, I’ve learned to be patient. Things don’t get amazing overnight, they take time and effort and hard work. I won’t write something amazing on August 20th at 7am when my kids get on that school bus. I will be able to look back on that date and know that is when I started down the path but that path will start with research, not writing. Also, I have been writing stories in fits and starts for years, so I’m not really starting from scratch, I’m just choosing to be dedicated to it like I’m dedicated to budgeting and finance now. It’s like I’m giving myself a first-day-of-work start date.

Instead of constantly seeing everything in terms of opportunity cost, cause/effect, and problems/solutions, I feel the bonds of my brain cracking, see the dust fall from squeaky, unused hinges as the door to my imagination finally begins to open again. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to focus on, say, the shades of brown on my desk or pay attention to how the light hits my blinds. Daydreams have been my enemy for far too long and I look forward to letting my mind play.

I should probably put this entry aside and edit it later to make sure I don’t sound silly or completely off my rocker. If I do put it in mothballs I know I’ll probably never share it and it will live forever in my Google Docs Drafts folder. So you can have me the way I am. Slightly edited, proofed for spelling (I hope) and mostly raw but free of Salmonella.

Thank you. To those of you who have shared birthday wishes online, directly, and otherwise. I have to tell you….40 is so much better than 30 was. This might actually be the best birthday I’ve ever had. Not because it’s so amazing, but because it so does not need to be amazing. A bakery cake and my family is all I need today. I can look inside my heart and the emotions are not fear and anger and panic. Today my heart is filled with love and contentment and joy. I have fought for these feelings and they feel like a gift to myself.

What I have is enough.

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One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward (Finance & Fitness)

I finally got another date night! We got a sitter and Mr. Brickie and I went to a local fest and hung out in the beer tent and watched a couple bands. We ran into people we knew and it was a great night. Seriously, we had so much fun and it reminded me I’m not getting out of the house enough.

Between you and me, I know I’m not going to get out of the house until August when the kids are in school again. It’s okay, there are only (Google prefills the date when I type in “how many” because Google knows I want to know how many days until school starts. Google knows…) FIFTY ONE days left until all my girls are in school.

This day has been a long time coming.

My oldest has sleepaway camp next week, so I have to shop and pack her for that this week. I’m nervous and have watched probably a hundred hours of “What I Packed for Camp!” videos on YouTube. Go do a quick search and you will understand my brain is basically liquified now. Especially the “Here are my four boxes of makeup” campers. Like, no. Just…no. It’s all very cringeworthy, but it’s also helpful, so I keep chugging through them.

There is a lot going on outside and in the lives of people I know and people I love, but I just have this little bubble of drama-free calm here at home. All roads point toward having time to write and take care of myself and the family this fall. We have all worked so hard to have this level of stability for our family. Even the kids did their part and accepted the move with grace (not perfect grace, there was an adjustment, for sure!)  and use email to talk to their old friends and use different means to talk to their new friends.

I’ve been off social media now since the 14th or 15th of June. I should probably check my Facebook profile because I put up a message letting people know (the one time I just deactivated my account people thought I had unfriended them) and, I can tell you that after two weeks? It was a really smart decision and it has been really relaxing. I check in VERY briefly every few days to make sure I don’t miss any huge news or invitations to events. There was a home party I was invited to that I couldn’t attend yesterday because my oldest was SO SO sick and asked me to stay home, so I did. She’s all ten and trying to be grown up 99% of the time so if she wants to cuddle with her mommy because she feels gross? I’m all over it.

I feel so calm these days.

There was a part of me that wondered if I would miss the drama and the stress and the last-minute nature of how our finances were during the transition. I worried I had been scared and planning for the worst for so long I wouldn’t be able to just go with the groove and enjoy it when the easy part came.

Lucky for me I discovered something amazing.

When I’m not stressed about budgeting and finance I CAN turn that focus to something else. I’m eating a low fat diet now to keep my gallbladder stabilized as much as possible. I am finding it pretty easy to stay within my calorie goals for the day and I don’t stress eat. So I’m just using MyFitnessPal to track and I’m trying to get up out of my chair every chance I get. I feel good. I know it’s not sexy or dramatic but I’m okay with that.

It’s so much easier to say no to the “fun foods” when you are in a position where you really and truly know you can have them anytime you want. I didn’t even have funnel cake on our date night to the fair because there will be other fairs. That is truly a mind-blowing statement for me to make. It’s my food thing. I love them, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I’m honestly shocked even writing it. Those are the kinds of changes not being quite so poor has brought on. It’s amazing because I used to think it was a weakness/failing of character/willpower thing, but now I realize that it really was rare we would go to a fair or carnival so damn right I would get the funnel cake. It’s not just the five bucks for the funnel cake, either. It’s the price of getting in or rides or games or whatever else a day at the fair entails. Last night for my birthday date we spent a hundred bucks. Admission to the show, beer, his elephant ear (don’t get me started – there are funnel cake people and bad people and my husband sometimes forgets) and paying the sitter all add up.

Knowing things are just going to keep getting better? That allows me to relax and make better food choices without them feeling like a punishment. It’s also made me a lot less tolerant to people who bitch about the food choices of the poor, but hey, I think that’s been happening for a while.

Mr. Brickie got rained out of his job this morning so he’s driving over to a sidework project he has in the works and is going to work on that today instead. He’s also off on Friday for Independence Day so he’ll work there on Friday too. Any other day he might get rained out he’s going back to it as well. It’s nice to have the cushion of a backup job.

Two more days of softball and then the season is over. Middle Sister’s team came in third in her division. Big Sister’s team came in second in her division. Little Sister’s division doesn’t do tournaments. Middle Sister’s favorite game was against the special needs team because it was all teamwork and having fun with no competition. The games on Monday and Tuesday are just make up games and have no bearing on the season at all. They all had a blast but being out in the heat that much has them on the fence about doing it again next summer. We’ll see. I’m fine either way as long as there is something they are involved in. The more kids they are around in different situations the stronger their skills will be as adults. Mostly I’m just trying to raise kids that don’t want to cry when they find out they have to do a team project in school like I did. Maybe if I just nurture them enough we can bury nature under a pile of kid rubble.

That analogy sounds unnecessarily violent. It’s probably just latent stress from the memory montage summoned up by my brain as punishment for mentioning team projects. *shudder*

This month has flown by. (Not being able to remember a week or so because of that gallbladder thing probably helped. sad-LOL) I wonder if July is going to fly by as quickly?

I hope your summer has been great so far!

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How Money Makes Life Easier

I know you know this but I wanted to share a few ways money is making my life easier. Not loads of money, just a little bit of money, makes a big difference. I will say that my community makes a lot of these things possible as well. If we didn’t have inexpensive camps or an awesome school supply place money wouldn’t matter.

  1. School Supplies. Our local school supply place? You pay them and they do the shopping for you. Not, “Pick the seventeen things you need out of a catalog” or “Grab a buggy and go aisle by aisle in our store” but where you call or email and say, “Hello, I have a 4th grader starting in August and I’d love supplies.” They grab the list, fill the order, and you go pick it up. It’s already all packed together for you. It’s not one-cent crayon boxes but all the lists say Crayola and you know you’re not supposed to bring Rose Art crayons anyway.
  2. Summer Camps. The volleyball camp is $40. For five days, an hour and a half of solid practice. Also, a t-shirt. Also, lunch afterward.  That’s $5.33 an hour … PLUS LUNCH. The basketball camp? $20 for the first kid and $15 for additional kids. I can’t even with the overabundance of feelings. That’s $8/hr. FOR ALL THREE KIDS.
  3. Writing checks. Sure, it’s annoying when you wait six weeks for someone to actually cash a check. Absolutely. But being able to keep the money in the checking account for six weeks? That felt good.
  4. Guilt free lunch. There’s a food truck that feeds all the kids in my town lunch. I could probably feed my kids lunch without too much problem this summer but why would I do that when they can have free lunch? It’s a smart choice, now, instead of a necessity. The same damn lunch makes me feel good about myself instead of making me feel inadequate. Messed up, right?
  5. Only worrying about the schedule. I don’t have to worry about the MOST important or MOST helpful camp. I can do both camps. If I can find an art camp that fits the bill? I can add that on, too. As much as I want to be nose to the grindstone about money if I don’t spend some of it on my kids, what is the point of even having it? I’m not buying new stuff for me but I’ll flip you off if you try and tell me I could have spent that $50 more wisely than basketball camp.
  6. Bonus: Doctor Appointments. I generally don’t worry about a copay. If there is one, someone will tell me and I’ll pay it. No big deal.
  7. Extra Bonus: Not pining over stuff I didn’t really want that bad. There is a pair of glasses at Costco I really like. They’re going to be stylish in a minute and I could hop on that trend early and they’re really nice. They’re also a hundred bucks because Costco is out of my network. My glasses? I may not like them but they work and they’re the right prescription. So I’ll get the new glasses when I’m a little flush and not because I feel I need them. If they’re gone by then? There will be other glasses. Before? I would have been freaking out thinking about how I would get them if only I could afford them. It’s a big perspective change. I’m allowed to just not want something because I don’t want it that bad instead of constantly being convinced I was just talking myself out of stuff because I couldn’t afford it anyway.

The weird part? It doesn’t take thousands of dollars to make all that possible. Three hundred extra in the bank. Now, that’s a LOT LOT LOT of money for me, I’m not trying to throw around “a few hundred” like I’ve suddenly become landed gentry or anything, but I know in the grand scheme of things it’s a less than half a month’s rent, too.

Fortunes are fickle like the weather, so I know I could go back to food pantryland any minute, but we’re doing our best to keep that from happening. In the meantime I’m talking about the financial positives I’m finally experiencing.

It feels strange but kind of nice. It’s less stressful, for sure.

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So Much Work for a Lateral Move!

My friend Carla is a very smart woman.

But you know what? The Next Level? It doesn’t mean anything at all.

Taking something to the next level is a concept that can mean whatever you want it to be. It’s a new-fangled way of telling people not to stray off the path if they want to get to a goal.

Paths, levels, blah blah blah it’s all the same smoke and mirrors.

I spend time working on my budget every single day. I don’t honestly know why the budget is the thing that stuck but it happened the way every single, “I finally decided enough was enough and I lost a bunch of weight” story starts.

Sometimes we don’t know exactly why we start doing a thing but once it’s our thing? It’s what we focus on more than other things.

Now that my budget is going more auto-pilot, I keep thinking there has to be a way to move that daily dedication to physical activity.

The thing is, it took me years and years to become the person who checks the budget and works on financial stuff for at least a half hour up to hours a day. I think it was easier because I wasn’t surrounded by people doing their own budgets and telling people how this thing or that thing would work for them or how to take their budgets to the next level.

So what I’m trying to do is shimmy sideways and use the same, unidentified THING I have for my budget and for doing financial projections and calculating future income and making plans and all that madness and….move it to another arena in my life.

I’ve never seen a TED talk on this, I’ve never heard of someone else taking a well formed, lovely habit and trying to stick that on a different behavior.

I’m not even sure it’s possible.

A simple, lateral move. Not farther down the path, not on the next level…just a jump to the left (yes, that was intentional)  and it’s going to take more effort and work than I have ever remotely experienced before.

Because I think you only get one obsession in this life and so far, mine has been personal finance.


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Bricklayer Competition Part Two

Last year Mr. B participated in a bricklaying competition. He came in second place because he started his pattern a row off and had to tear down two courses and start over.

Tomorrow he participates again and is determined not to make the same mistake.

Since Mr. B has been a bricklayer and I hear him tell stories about solving problems or getting things done, it’s really helped me understand him on a more basic level. The problem solving skills he brings to work are the same ones he uses at home when we have a disagreement. This understanding has allowed me to see when he’s trying to solve a problem rather than get caught up in the same old arguments of the past.

The longer he lays brick, the less we argue.

He still makes financial mistakes sometimes (he’s the guy that uses the “wrong” card because he wasn’t thinking and used the debit instead of the credit or vice versa) but they aren’t life-changing anymore. It’s still frustrating when he brings home the wrong thing because he didn’t read the package (Did you know King’s Hawaiian Rolls come in a Honey Wheat flavor? Gross.) but it’s not something that makes a huge difference.

So, today the whole family is going to the Training Center an hour and a half (ish) away from home to watch our brickie compete. If he wins he will go to Maryland. Don’t even ask me how I feel about that because I’ll just cry. I’ve tried to think of some way we could all go but it’s in Bowie, MD and as much as I want to stand in the middle of Bowie and sing WE COULD BE HEROES….JUST FOR ONE DAYYYYYY it doesn’t seem feasible at all. I just looked the town up and it’s home to the Belair Mansion which I would prefer not to go to because I don’t support plantations (obvi) but to stand in front of it and sing the Fresh Prince theme song? I’d show up.

He’s probably going to qualify.

Then he’ll go to Maryland. Without us. Sometime in September so the kids will be in school.

I will be so bummed proud of him.

I’ll let you know how he does.

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