Category: Family & Friends

From spouses to spit-up

Notes From The Other Side of Darkness

Know where you’re going before you start.

Great advice, but most of us are already well past starting. We are in the middle of our journeys trying to pay bills or save for a vacation or trying to get our kids through school or thinking about shopping for a baby shower or graduation we’ve been invited to.

Not only are we in the middle of our journeys, we are in the middle of a whole bunch of little things that make our journeys really distracting all the time.

If I could have everyone do one thing – like, force them to do something – I would mind control everyone I know to take a breath and forget all the distractions and forget the journey and forget where you’ve been and forget who you are and forget what you should want and decide what kind of life you want to live.

When I did this (and then mind controlled Mr. Brickie to do it) we realized our priorities weren’t stuff-based.

I have friends who have priorities that are stuff-based and you know what, that’s FINE. There is no better or worse life for a person. Really.

This is what confuses me about life. The value judgements where we all have to do what’s best or better or good or bad or worst or … why does everything need to have a value judgement? Video games over hiking? Or letting kids watch television vs. playing sports.

Does anyone know what they LIKE anymore? I mean outside of a value system more complex than a google algorithm. Hemingway didn’t worry about running a 5k, did he? YES I picked the worst example on purpose because it doesn’t matter what your values are if you’re suffering from untreated mental illness now, does it? Ha! See what I did there? Bait and switch! So smart!

Trying so hard, right?

I mean people who are working on computers all day are feeling superior to fast food workers. I wish I had that Tumblr response to how fucking pointless Excel spreadsheets were a minute ago but serving food is eternal in some way. It was deep, man.

I guess I just think we’ve all allowed someone, somewhere to tell us what we should want and how we should want it. Sure we all swerve from the script in some way or another whether it’s in the bedroom or on an online forum. I mean, this isn’t an easy thing. Not everyone can do it.

But from over here I just want to tell you, if you can be honest with yourself and you determine what you really want based on what you like and what you find important? It’s worth it. I don’t feel bad about living in an apartment. I don’t feel bad about how much money my husband makes. I don’t feel bad about WRITING anymore.

I want that for you, too.

If you already have it let me just give you all the virtual high fives in the world because man, there’s nothing better. We grilled mini meatloaf meatballs and mushrooms and chunks of colored peppers and ate them at a kitchen table in my living room while talking about video games before my kids went on their bikes and scooters to go play at the park while I write this.

Maybe I’m not saying this the way I really want to because I get a bit emotional when I think about it really hard.

Knowing what you don’t give a shit about is the most important thing in the world. It opens your choices like when you try to open a yogurt and even though you’re being really careful it just spits yo-goo-rt all over you. You have a spray of goo choices when you just…let go of the things that don’t matter to you.

So you start with your list of NO MORE THIS and then you take your list of YES PLEASE THIS and by the time you’re done, you have a picture of exactly what you want.

Then you just have to be willing to lose everything to get the life you really want. You might not have to go through a foreclosure and online beg-fest to get to your happy place. Or you might have to go through something far worse. Your mileage may vary like WOAH.

Isn’t the rest of your life worth a few awful years?

I think so, but I’m talking from the very edge of the other side. The first steps into sunlight after years in the dark and cold loneliness of failure and fear like a prison of regret and self-hatred. Those steps with your feet in the grass of hope and you look up and realize the reason you hated the sunlight for so many years was because you felt the brightness of the sun was mocking your mistakes and you preferred the rain because it was soothing.

The place where I can finally enjoy the sunny days (in theory, don’t get crazy now, I’m blue eyed and hella pale, the real sun is my mortal enemy) in addition to the rain and the overcast days.

Sure, things will still come up. Emergencies will happen. Our emergency fund will get used and need to be replenished. Winter will come and Mr. Brickie will be out of work again. We will have to balance side jobs and sports and game clubs and other after school activities.

But this summer there are camps and friends and bikes and parks and freedom.

It only takes a moment to start. It’s worth writing down what you don’t care about so you can open the portal to the place where things you really enjoy can exist. It’s like a houseplant no one can kill, no matter how not-green your hope thumb is.

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Finding Joy in Nothing

We have been BUSY lately. In addition to regular work and  Mr. Brickie working on side projects we have had softball every weekend since it began a million years ago. I love the girls being in softball but man, we haven’t had a weekend that was just a weekend to relax and do whatever since Mr. Brickie has been back to work. When we realized the three day weekend was coming up I asked Mr. Brickie if he wanted to get in contact with someone about doing a side project and he just looked at me and for a moment I could see how exhausted he was right down to his bones and he said, “I would really like to do nothing this weekend.”

I gave him a hug and said, “I think it’s a fantastic idea for you to recharge your batteries!”

He smiled that smile that gets me right in that low spot of my heart (I like to think it’s the part that belongs only to him, so cheesy, I know) and I hugged him again, a little tighter this time, because that poor man would work himself to death if I asked him to.

So now we are all home and it’s abnormally quiet for a Saturday afternoon. Big Sister is sitting at the table drawing. I think she said she’s making a coloring book. Earlier she was teaching Little Sister to spell some sight words.

This is the first day I can remember where I slept in (till 12:30!!!) and did not wake up feeling guilty and awful about wasting the day. It is the first day I can remember just being in the moment and not feeling a pull toward working on something for the future.

I am in the moment and at peace.

It’s a great feeling.

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A Potential Future

Mr. Brickie called me from the car sounding out of breath and a little manic. “I have a story to tell you. Don’t let me forget.” I laughed and we said our goodbyes and hung up.

This is what being married is like for me. He knows he will forget good stories if he doesn’t tell me but he wants to be home so he won’t tell me before he leaves work. There is something about the drive home that lulls the stories and happenings of the day right out of him. I write, “Tell your wife a fun story.” on a pink mini post-it and stick it to the bottle of Sam Adams Summer Ale in the fridge I know he’ll grab first.

After I close the fridge I, too, forget there is a story coming later. I’m distracted by the time and the list of things I need to do and the knowledge that the girls are about to get off the bus and I’m going to have to go through their folders and sign their student journals and look at grades and praise the day and ask for their stories. All those thoughts wipe clean the anticipation of a story from the Mister when he gets to the house.

Snacks and homework doled out. Papers signed and praised. Husband comes in, says hello to everyone, gets in the shower immediately and changes into something more comfortable. He passes me on the way to the kitchen for a snack and a beer and as I walk toward the table I hear laughter behind me. His laughter. I wonder what is so funny in the kitchen and hope if it’s something he’s found online he’ll show it to me.

He comes out with the bottle of beer held out toward me, post it note still stuck on the front. “You are a genius.” he says. I smile and say, “Thank you.” but really I don’t feel like a genius. I feel like a person who didn’t want to miss out on a story. I tell him if he puts the post it down we’re both going to forget so he better tell me the story before he finishes the beer.

Luckily this is a day I remembered to put something in the crock pot at 10:30am. A pot roast I took out of the freezer at 7am is perched sort of sideways – still over half frozen – on a stick and twig bed of carrots and water. Seasoned and on low, it turns into a lovely meal by the time we are all ready for dinner. I threw some cut up potatoes in there at 1pm so it was a whole thing.

We sit down to dinner and the post it note is not only still stuck to the bottle of beer it has almost become part of the bottle of beer. The condensation and pressure from his hand holding the bottle has the note soaked and plastered on the bottle as if it were part of the label. It dawns on me beer/soda notes (post its specifically made to stick to glass or aluminum in the cold of the fridge) would probably be a great idea.

When everyone has food on their plate and no more passing of bowls or plates is going to happen for a bit I turn to Mr. Brickie and say, “Tell me a story, honey.” He breaks into a grin and says, “Gladly!” Here is the paraphrased version of what he told me at the dinner table that night.

The Story

Mr. Brickie was sitting at lunch with his coworkers including the foreman and the BA (a BA is like a regional manager but completely different but they have regions so it’s the easiest way to explain) and they’re all eating and the foreman and the BA are talking about Mr. Brickie (in that way people talk where they’re by you and they know you can hear but they’re not including you in the conversation).

The foreman said, “He’s really good. He’s smart and thinks ahead. He’s not going to be on the wall long because he’ll be a foreman or doing estimating or something that you need to think for.”

The BA said, “Fuck that. The minute Mr. Brickie goes journeyman I’m making him a BA so you better start kissing his ass now or you’re gonna have a bad time.”

….and they laughed and laughed (no, really, they did)

Mr. Brickie and I were just talking last week and I asked him what his ultimate goal would be … like what kind of career path he saw for himself eventually. He mentioned the training center because he loves to teach but ultimately his, “I’m going to look a little embarrassed right now because I’m telling you what I really want and it makes me feel a little exposed.” was to be a BA.

So it really kind of felt like kismet and Mr. Brickie was SO excited when he told me this story. I asked him, “What about being a BA is so great? Tell me why it would be a cool job.”

He said, “The guaranteed full time work is a great start. You don’t have to worry about the weather and you get paid vacation. You get a company car and a company gas card. Sure, you’re on call but not the kind of on call where you have to go somewhere at 2am.”

Me, “Oh, well, wow. Do you make scale?”

“I know it’s salaried but don’t know if it’s more than scale.”

Huh. Well, to be honest I don’t care if it is more than scale.

When Mr. Brickie gets his raise in June of 2017 after he becomes a journeyman his pay will just barely clear six figures in terms of a full time salary. We wouldn’t ever actually SEE six figures if Mr. Brickie stays on the the wall because of winter and rain days and such. So 40-hours a week regardless of weather is a very, very big deal.

The Potential Downside

“There is…..one thing.” Mr. Brickie says to me in that tone where you know this is going to be close to a dealbreaker but since nothing is really a dealbreaker in terms of this job you realize that the tone is more of a “Climb Every Mountain” kind of jam instead of a “These Boots Are Made For Walking” jam.

“Yes?” I say, totally cool and not gritting my teeth AT ALL.

“We might have to live in the same region the BA covers.”

A silence falls at the table like even the kids somehow know that is some nuclear level information that just got dropped. “Will we have to move?” asks Middle Sister. “Daddy says he doesn’t know if he’s going to get it for sure so they can’t know that.” says Big Sister. “Will I still be able to go to school this year?” asks always practical Little Sister.

I’m just staring at Mr. Brickie with my mouth hung open like a fish. Moving in two years. Back to Illinois. But, you know, only  maybe.

So hey, this is all conjecture based on a conversation that happened at lunch so I’m not looking for houses to rent and planning to hire the movers! I’m getting much better at letting things unfold naturally and this is one of those times where the news was a nice bit of information and even if nothing comes of it, hearing two guys Mr. Brickie respects talking good stuff about him right in front of him felt good!

I do have to say, though, I swear I did a lot of math before Mr. Brickie started this job and I never remember any of the outcomes having a six figure result. Maybe I tried to add in for three months of unemployment each year … even though this year there was only one month of unemployment due to weather. Ah well, maybe I was trying not to count my chickens before they were hatched.

So that’s the story that might have a lovely happy ending. I’ll find out more soon.

Takeaways

  • Paid vacation and no unpredictable breaks? That would be wonderful!
  • That would certainly help with the pension amount at retirement.
  • What do you mean we might have to move in two years? Fuuuuuuuuuudge.

Follow Up

Mr. Brickie is going to see the BA at the next union meeting and get some clarification on the whole conversation. See about the residency requirement that may or may not be a thing. See if he was even serious. Mr. Brickie is amazing at talking to people and keeping it low key so I’m sure he’ll be able to get some information without seeming overbearing or weird. Thank goodness.

I’ll keep you posted.

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I’m Feeling A Little Lost

It’s been a bumpy friend road these last few weeks.

I’m confused and kind of sad and so I am choosing to just be in limbo for a minute because it feels like there is too much stuff in my brain to make sense of it all. I’m overwhelmed.

By now, I figure you know I’m not normal. My biggest accomplishment of the past ten years happened this week. I went shopping alone with the 5yo. I haven’t gone shopping like the normals in ten years. I did have a panic attack in the store but ignored it while saying to myself over and over, “If it is a heart attack at least I’m not going to die at home.” It was not a heart attack (which I knew already in the back of my mind) and I got home safely.

The other thing I have is a shitton of empathy. I’m the person someone calls if they’re in a bad place because I’ll let them talk it out. I’m the person someone calls if they have an unexpected windfall because I can enjoy their success without wondering what it means for me in my life.

I’m straightforward, have great boundaries, and won’t do things I’m not comfortable with. Trust me, this is great because the flip side is someone you ask a favor and they do it but then they kind of hang it over your head or bring it up as a big deal or even just feel resentful. I’ve spent a lot of time making sure I’m not that friend.

When I was discussing this new phase of the blog (I call it the “not poor” phase) she said I needed to be careful or I would be seen as a “Mark” and first I was like “10 points for awesome slang use” but I’ve been thinking about it a bit more and feel a bit odd that anyone would see me as a mark.

That being said, doesn’t it seem weird that I’m totally fine sharing about food pantry hauls and looking for a new place before I become homeless or an Internet fundraiser but I can’t find the words to talk about the raise Mr. Brickie’s getting June 1st? I can’t find the words to tell you the story about his possible post-apprentice career path.

The good things sound like bragging.

I don’t mind being schadenfreude fodder but I don’t know if I can handle being a success story.

Which makes me wonder if I ever thought this plan was going to work or if I was just convincing myself to keep moving forward so I didn’t just give up.

I’m in a really murky place. It’s not dark, I’m not sad…It’s just hard to see what’s what. I am so confused.

Maybe I’m just turning into a butterfly and this is the part where I have to squeeze out of the cocoon of poverty and damn if it isn’t a painful transition.

I really thought this blog would get easier to write as I had good things to shout from the rooftops.

Maybe I’m just a jerk and want to keep my good things a secret! LOL

For now I’m still blogging and you know what? I went through hell – I get to blog about heaven, too.

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Teachers

A few weeks ago I left my 4th grade daughter’s teacher a phone message. I was nervous, still, and hoped she would not think I was a bother. “Hello, Mrs. Teacher. While we do have a doctor appointment scheduled, I found out today my daughter was only eating Pop Tarts in the morning and I’m going to start making breakfast with a protein at home in the mornings. You don’t have to call back but if you could let me know in a couple weeks how that’s going? That would be great.”

A nudge under a month later? I haven’t heard anything and don’t know if things are improving. Sure, I’m disappointed. I thought doing everything I was supposed to as a parent would matter, I guess.

I wish my immediate reaction to being out of eggs this morning wasn’t, “Oh well, it’s not like it matters.”

I am so tired.

My husband is forgetful and it’s my responsibility to make sure he eats and makes his own lists and gets things around our home done. Finances and homekeeping is my responsibility and I make my own lists and shopping lists and meal plans. I sprinkle some parenting fairy dust and make the children giddy with delight when I ask them for snack requests.

Making everyone feel special and taken care of is just another item on the to-do list.

Summer is just a few weeks away.

It can’t come soon enough. I am so tired and need to recuperate from moving and starting a new school. I want a do-over where all the children in the class are new and the teacher doesn’t know my daughter.

The woman who teaches my child is an absolutely lovely person. She is gentle and kind and has actual love for the children in her care.

As a mother? It is just another “be careful what you wish for” lesson. Kindness does not automatically pay close attention. Love does not have to be supportive.

I wish all the teachers she has ever had understood how much she wants to be a joy in the classroom. How much she wants to be a student that excels.

Every new year at school is like a nine-month-long relationship. I’m the watchful mother-in-law, making sure my daughter is being treated well by this new person she’s spending all her time with. Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m angry about it, mostly I spend my year trying to get through it.

Maybe that day will come someday where she is understood and appreciated and is a joy to a teacher’s life and classroom. Until that time? She will always have her most important teachers giving her a hug and reminding her that she really is a joy.

Teachers are people. It’s both a blessing and a curse for us parents, who don’t know if a complaint comes on the heels of a bad day or a pet peeve from childhood. Remembering that teachers are people, however, and not expecting more? It helps me sleep at night.

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The I in Team

I poke my arm out from the comforter, reach behind me, and tap-and-feel the top of the nightstand until I feel the familiar shape of my phone. My fingers curl around the familiar rectangle and I bring it close to my face, squinting, and tap the little part of the screen that quiets the alarm for a few sweet, silent minutes. I should know it by feel but I don’t want to accidentally turn the alarm off so every morning starts with me squinting into a screen.

All set for a few more minutes of solid rest, I snuggle a little deeper under into my comforter. My eyes fly open when I hear a phone ringing like the one from my childhood (or any episode of Mad Men) and scan the room for what caused the noise. It’s not my phone’s ringtone, which means Mr. Brickie is getting a call at 7am. I make a mental note I know I will forget to have him stop changing the rintone because unidentified noises freak me out…especially first thing in the morning.

My eyes find him – a blur pulling on a shirt – and I croak through half-awake lips, “Just answer.” I rub my eyes and make a first-thing-in-the-morning effort to quash the hate I feel toward his habit of trying to figure out who is calling before answering the phone. It’s not a bill collector. Those calls are years in our past but he still acts like the ringing phone holds something awful. He answers in time (thank goodness) and it is work. He starts again tomorrow (Tue. April 28th) at 7am.

Tomorrow is Tuesday and that’s fantastic. The day after is Wednesday, which is my daughter’s doctor appointment he really wanted to be at. We have waited over a month for this appointment and I want him to be there, too. I want the doctor to see the adult version of my daughter. I feel it would inform her decision. Of course I don’t know that for sure because I am not a doctor.

Work means he can’t be there with me. I will have to go alone with my daughter and be her rock with no rock of my own. I am disappointed, sure, but understand this is just the way things are and I am going to have to go through this by myself. It’s okay. He will be there after work to tell what happened. That will have to be enough.

It doesn’t stop my mind feeling tight as a tourniquet.

Everything is going to be alright, sacrifice along the way was always part of the bargain. He doesn’t have a job he can “call off” from. We do not see that as a negative because he gets a giant chunk of winter off to be with us. When the kids have snow days, they spend the day with the whole family.

These are the memories I hold on to when I have to do Very Important Things™ alone.

The big picture is worth it but the fear of the unknown with my daughter is something that scares me deeply. I feel like the teammate making the free throw shot. Sure, I have a team and they have my back but this shot I have to take and make by myself.

Let’s hope it’s nothing but net.

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What if all this work I’ve been doing can be applied to other things?

Do you worry like I do?

I thought when I was young worry was a feeling. Like, “I feel worried” and I was either worried about something happening or not happening or just worried in general. I thought the way to deal with the worry was planning. If I had a plan for every possible outcome then I don’t have to worry because I have a plan.

As a kid, that was pretty helpful because kid sized problems have limited numbers of solutions and I went to sleep at night knowing I was covered.

Now? I have plans upon plans upon plans. I’m like an evil genius with all these post it notes strewn about my desk, on my monitor, stuck to my computer tower, and even on the walls. (I use a tiny piece of tape to keep them on the wall because my walls are slightly textured.) It feels like I’m constantly scribbling something on a post it so I don’t forget.

It’s a rare thing for me to forget. The system might be a bit loony and it might be weird and it might look like a post it factory threw up on my desk area but it WORKS.

The feeling didn’t go away, though. I still worry there is something I haven’t thought of. A scenario I’m not prepared for. I scan my post it notes and make sure all the scenarios are covered. I mean, I allow myself the luxury of not planning for natural disasters. I mean, you can’t plan for every-everything now, can  you? Just all the things up to (but not including) acts of God. If it’s good enough for my insurance policy, it’s good enough for me.

Also, if you ever find yourself saying that you may need to rethink your priorities. Insurance is not a good way to gauge anything you’re doing with your life.

I meandered again, didn’t I? I could seriously talk about my post it notes all day long because I love them and they comfort me like a kid with a teddy bear. No lie. Okay, so I was worrying about a lot of stuff all the time and making decisions for things that hadn’t even happened yet and decision fatigue would set in right around the time I would think of introducing a caloric deficit (however small) or increasing activity (however little) and those would just get swept under the rug of “not now” choices I was not prepared to deal with because I knew they weren’t one-shot deal decisions but choices I would have to be consistent about. So I maintained.

Fast forward to this year and for the last five weeks I’ve been taking a weight lifting/cardio class. I made it to 3 of the 5 classes at my local Y. I missed one because I had to take the kids to softball practice and I missed the other one because I had to take my youngest to her kindergarten kick-off. I felt great every time I *did* go, though, and it didn’t feel overwhelming or scary or like the world was going to fall apart while I was away from home. I learned that I really enjoy lifting weights and doing cardio before and after weights was a great way to warm up and cool down.

I felt absolutely over the moon victorious finishing a five week class.

That first weight class? It was like the first time I just wrote down all my bills. It was pretty good, I missed a couple things, but it was a start. I felt good afterward. Three out of five classes was a good start. I looked over the problem areas (missing classes) and realized that the misses had nothing to do with my desire to go but other obligations.

The fix? Classes that didn’t conflict with kid stuff. More classes in case I have to miss one due to a kid issue. One class a week means if you miss a class you miss the week. That’s not good.

This is exactly how I think through my finances.

What worked? Keep it! What didn’t work? Fix it. Less judgement and more improvement.

Judgement is the killer of improvement because judgement says, “To hell with all of it I’ll never be good enough so why bother. Improvement says, “How about two days a week since one didn’t feel overwhelming?”

I think this pattern of micro- improvements™ is so ingrained from applying it to finances all these years applying it to fitness has a decent chance of working. If it doesn’t, we’ll fix what doesn’t work.

One thing at a time or everything falls apart is my fitness motto.

April 20th – May 23

  • Monday: 5:30pm Cardio Kickboxing
  • Tuesday: 9:30am Cardio Mix
  • Wednesday: 9:30am Total Toning
  • Thursday: 9:30am Cardio Mix & 5:30pm Total Toning
  • Friday: 10:30am Women on Weights

Since I’m a member of the Y (Thank goodness for the reduced-fee membership!!!) these classes are included in my membership (except the weights class – that was $5). Childcare is available from 9-Noon and is free. There is no reason not to get an hour of activity a day in.

I tend to do better with the structure of classes and having a specific time to be at a place with a teacher and other people. Maybe, eventually, I will be able to just “go to the gym” like people do but I’m not there yet. I’m fine with not being there yet. I’m tired of throwing a dart at a mental dartboard and choosing a place where I “should” be or what I “should” be doing.

It’s self-care. Something just for me that will make me feel good.

 

If it turns out that I can actually apply all this consistency with the budget to OTHER THINGS? You guys. You guys…for real you guys….I don’t know exactly what that means but it feels like a secret to the universe or something. If it works. Let’s not get cocky now. (*whispers* I’m totally being a little cocky but only to myself in a really quiet way…)

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Decision Fatigue and the Sundress

There’s a thing called decision fatigue (pdf download of an interesting journal article on self-control and decision making). Basically, after you make a bunch of decisions, the quality of your decisions decreases until, eventually, you’re making full-on stupid decisions.

Decision fatigue is one of the things that keeps poor people poor. You’re under this pile of bricks and each one has something written on it. This one over here says, “food” and this one over here says, “feed the kids” and this one says, “Gas bill” and this one over here says, “do something to maintain your marriage” and that one over there says, “save money” and there’s one right next to my face that says, “buy a sundress for your friend’s graduation party” or “just get fast food for dinner” or “spend time with the kids” or “check the homework and sign the homework planner” and “go to the gym” and “make a salad” and it’s like all the decisions forever are all etched into these bricks and it’s YOUR responsibility to lift every one and put it in order. Sure, the first bricks are easy to put where they need to be. “Get the kids to school” and “feed them a healthy breakfast” make the cut. “Do the dishes” happens but it’s a little tougher and by the time  you’ve gotten to “make a healthy dinner for the family” your  muscles are downright shaky any you’re starting to question if you can, in fact, keep this wall from toppling down on you. No matter how you feel the bricks – and the choices – keep piling up.

Decision fatigue changes that from, “stack all the bricks in order of what is most important and do it every day and don’t veer from it” to, “oh look a sundress wouldn’t it be nice to have something cute for a change”

Moving the bricks is drudgery. It’s the same thing, every day. Check the bank account. Make sure there are no surprises. (move the brick, move the brick) and it’s true that forming habits of checking the accounts and making sure things are paid and knowing my bills by heart is all helpful with not using so much thought on these things but it’s not a perfect system.

I dream of having enough money to just let everything auto-draft right out of my checking account. To just know there’s enough in there and we can cover it all. It would be like having a magical brick machine that moved the bricks off of me and put them … somewhere else where I don’t see them and only have to check in once a month to make sure everything has happened as planned.

I’ve spent so many years with “No” as my default answer. years NOT spending money and NOT shopping and NOT getting nice things for myself, my husband, and my children. Sometimes I berate myself for it because how silly to be tired from NOT doing things. Instead of the store I can hang out at home. Instead of the movies we can just play a game at the kitchen table. Instead of a museum you guys can just go to the park. How can I complain when I have all thse other alternate choices, I should consider myself lucky!

When they are things you really want to do (or normal things only you and the other poors can’t do) they wear down your decision fatigue. Not doing something is as much a decision as doing something when it’s an active choice.

Let’s be honest with one another. I’m totally buying a sundress. Decision fatigue is like an old volcano and it needs a sacrifice in order to stay quiet. I’ll do my best to not completely kill the budget by amiing for an at/under pricepoint of $35.00 so, obviously, it’s not going to be a fancy, designer sundress but if I seriously have to go to the thrift store one more time? Just…no. (I don’t know what your thrift store looks like but the plus section in my thrift store is like the eighth circle of hell.) I consider it a compromise even as part of my brain will – I’m sure – consider it a failure and lack of willpower.

So this is how it is. I stack the bricks and I move the bricks and I keep track of them as I build a wall every month and make sure the whole thing doesn’t topple on me and crush me and, every once in a while, I say fuck it and buy a sundress.

When was the last time  you gave in to decision fatigue and just bought something that wasn’t in your budget?

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Bikes and Buddies and Community and Thankfulness

Charity: Giving something to someone. No expectation of a return.

Community: Giving something to someone. May be paid in beer or soda. No expectation of a return. Knowledge that if you need a hand that person is there for you like you were there for them.

We watched our daughter riding her friend’s bike and knew something had to be done. Not because my daughters asked for bikes or complained they did not have them. They never complained about anything, really, except the turn-taking-game-choosing unfairness of life that plagues all children with siblings. As parents, we watch them and want things for them. The want is the small, dark, and forever gnawing at the bright parts of your heart. It feeds on your love and your happiness to whisper in the middle of the night, “You’re not good enough. This time it really mattered and you botched it.”

I’ve had a little bike-monster gnawing at me for a long time now. My girls have scooters and have been able to (mostly) keep up with the neighborhood kids. They haven’t seemed particularly sad or depressed or angry they don’t have bikes. I wasn’t even sure they wanted them in any kind of active way until I saw MIddle Sister on her friend’s bike riding like she had been forever. I was both thrilled for her and felt the little monster take on new strength, telling me how awful I was for not doing the right thing and providing my kids better transportation options.

Logic kept asking, “Where will they go on the bikes?” “You know only one can ride a bike so far, yes?” “Won’t you worry more if she has the ability to go farther away?”

The little monster ignored the cries of Logic and kept on gnawing. Every bite piercing with not-good-enough pain. The message taking little chunks of the light with every bite. Chewing away my fear along with my happiness.

This is a town where people will help out a friend for a case of beer if you can swing it and the company if you can’t. It might be our pre-existing relationships helping us along but, even without those, his skills are valued and so he trades them – and beer –  for car repairs and help moving things. Friendships are the kind I only dreamed about growing up where a community of people help one another and everyone feels they have someone to turn to in a time of need. Friendships based on mutual respect.

So this is how we ended up with two bmx bikes and a 22” bike one of the girls can grow into that need a little bit of work and (even without a little bit of work) are rideable.

These are the moments that quiet the little monster.

The moments that make you feel like you belong.

Times where, for just a moment, you feel optimism and hope and even forget how rare those feelings are.

I’ve spent so many years on the outside looking in. Looking in on social circles I didn’t know how to join. Looking in on parties I didn’t know how to attend. Looking and wanting and wishing and feeling so lonely while being so grateful for the few true, close friends I do have because without them I would have been truly adrift.

But now we have community. That means things like bikes made to take a beating because that’s what’s going to happen to them. If one of the kids forgets to use the kickstand and drops the bike on the ground to excitedly join her friends? I won’t cry for the paint job or the frame or the cost of that bike that just hit gravel without a second thought. There will be time to teach her to treat her bike with care and respect but this summer she will just get to enjoy the trip and have fun when she gets to her destination.

I just happen to be raising girls who happen to prefer trees and skinned knees and sliding into first base. If they loved tea parties I would have different opinions on what they need because all loves are good loves for children to have. I think it’s my job as a mother to help them have what they need to enjoy the things they love.

Bikes and trees and softball-skinned knees, that’s what little girls are made of.

For now.

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How We Spent It! (4/15/15)

how-we-spent-it-unemployment

I’m so excited Mr. Brickie is back at work. It’s day two and we heard that he is going to be working another day or two and then they’ll be off until the stone gets in. It’s been ordered but, well, shit happens.

I have this tagged with the unemployment graphic because he’s only been at work one day (not including today) so he’s technically not working even though…well…you’ll see in a minute. Next week I’ll use the regular graphic again. (Like you care. This is a classic case of overexplaining. Don’t do that.)

Here’s a weird thing about being a union bricklayer. When they tell him he’s off and they’ll call him when the stone is in we are not sure if he is supposed to take another job if they call. We are still waiting on the call from the foreman from last season who wrote a recommendation letter for Mr. Brickie and wants him on his job. When this job called Mr. Brickie hesitated for a split second but he knows that the goal is to get working and keep working so he (almost) immediately said yes to this job. There is no waiting for the other company.

But…if they call during the time that he is off….I’m not sure what protocol is. I’ll let you know when we find out. Maybe that’s only curious and interesting to me. If it is, my apologies.

The last two weeks instead of unemployment Mr. Brickie was working on a side job. So we actually have a grip of cash to spend on this fabulous How We Spent It Wednesday!

$1,612.42 Total In The Bank Account
– $495.12 Car Payment (total owed $5,907)
– $100.00 Capital One CC
– $440.00 Geico (6 month auto payment)
– $117.30 Amazon Visa
– $200.00 Living Expenses
– $260.00 Rent Savings Account
————
= $0.00 ←- boom! zero based budget success!

If there is money left from the $200 by next week (sometimes there is) I just put it toward a bill and then leave $200 for the next week. If he only works two or three days this week he won’t make but a few hundred dollars next Wednesday when he gets the check. I may put that back into the emergency fund instead of paying more things down. It depends.

At this point it feels like it doesn’t matter how the money is allocated, as long as our focus does not falter and things get paid off. Once he starts working on the regular, however, I think this is all going to get cleaned up so fast and then I can dump money into savings for back-to-school and Christmas and Birthdays and Car Insurance and Renters Insurance and *gasp* maybe even a Vacation Fund (get the fainting chair!)

But mostly a good emergency fund. That’s always the first priority. Well, mostly. I probably should have done more replenishing of the emergency fund today because, as you can see, I replenished zero of the emergency fund.

He still has about another week of work left on the side job (I know, since I’m doing budget/finance blogging I’m supposed to call it a “hustle” but hustle is what gets you a gig, it’s not the gig itself so it kind of drives me nuts in a “words mean things” way.) so when he’s off waiting for the stone to come in for the next part of the job he will have something to do to keep generating income. Since he is union and an apprentice his side gigs are not bricklaying gigs. Just general labor.

Things are looking pretty stable. I hope it continues in this vein. (I almost said vain just to mess with people right after saying “words mean things” like I’m totally pedantic.)

Scentsy MLM Update (longer than usual – you have been warned)

I’m breaking even! It’s all I really wanted so I’m happy. I even achieved some kind of award level. It’s the lowest one possible because believe-you-me I’m not talking incessantly about this on facebook and I’m not hitting people up in the grocery store. NOPE^100

Super Winning MLM Moment: This week, I told someone, “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to take care of your Scentsy needs anymore. I hope you have a great week!” I’m not nearly desperate enough to put up with people’s mess. My not-messy people know who they are because they get good samples and no pressure. <3

I’m not trying to grow this into anything other than a self-sustaining habit. Also, my house smells freaking amazing. I tossed a scent pak in each of our cars and they smell good now, too. (My kids picked Paradise Punch for their room and it smells exactly like tropical punch kool aid and they love it. I just stuffed the scent pak in the back of a stuffed animal with a zipper. I’m not going to have liquid wax in a kid’s room. Sure it’s non-toxic, but who wants to clean that if it spills??)

If you have questions about scents or warmers or whatever you know you can always ask me. If you don’t? Let’s pretend this part of the post never happened. As usual.

Want to make your house smell awesome? Yeah. That’s a link. Don’t get mad, there was a whole header warning you this was about to happen.

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