The Compromise

On Friday, I let everyone in on the stressful situation that is going on in my life right now. And there was this huge flood of amazing support and words of advice and encouragement. Thank you to the Grumpies, by the way, for steering so much of it this way. You two are my Cheerleaders but totally awesome feminist ones.

I have been reading, and responding, to your comments all weekend. You are a very wise bunch. And what I decided was to compromise.

This trip does mean a lot to me. It’s not as simple as Take Kids to Theme Park. It’s more layered than that. And one of the things it means to me is keeping promises. I hate broken promises, I really do. Probably because I’ve been the victim of so many in my own life.

So I thought about it and vented on Stallion in a big, big, big way. I pretty much threw my tantrum with the tears and the boogers and the, “It’s not fair!” Very classy. And after he hugged me and told me it’ll be ok I calmed down and made a decision.

We are not going to Disney, but we are going to Universal. The tickets for Universal are free, they are for both parks, and their confirmation number was sent to me last week. They are there waiting for me. And it is scheduled for the 12th of August, Eldest’s birthday. As I had mentioned, the kids received money for the trip, and my grandmother and mother have told me they will be giving me Eldest’s trip money as well. With that money, I have the cost of the hotel covered, the gas, and I think even the food. The only big ticket item that is not yet covered is the one ticket for Stallion’s daughter which is her birthday present as well. Her mother is giving her money for food so that should be perfect.

As for Disney, it is not cancelled, but it is postponed. I am going to work my little tookus off and see if I can manage to put together enough to fund a trip to Disney in December when it’s all decorated for Christmas. We’ve never seen the park that time of year, the weather will be nicer, and the two littlest ones will get their birthday wishes filled then. That will be the new goal– survive and Disney in December.

Like I told Stallion, the reason this has been so hard for me to let go of is because how long I’ve been working at it– and how close I was. I have been diligently saving and saving and saving. Over half the child support payments have been going to saving up for things like the school’s $2700 registration fee (private school, my parents pay the tuition if I pay the registration) which I paid in full at the beginning of the year. When my tax refund came in, I did the math and put a portion of it into my emergency fund, a portion into my big ticket savings like the summer camp, the trip, and Christmas, and sent a huge chunk to my credit cards. You know, the responsible thing.

And it was working!

When my car broke down in March I had enough money to pay for the repair. When school let out, I had the $3000 to put them in summer camp. When I woke up one morning to find my cat had been vomiting everywhere and had a fever, I had the $450 to cover the vet bill. I think I might rename my cat and call her Disney.

The big thing now is what I am going to tell the children. My kids are pretty young. The youngest just turned 4 and 6 in June and the oldest turns 9 this Sunday. Money is really hard to explain to the youngest ones and unfortunately, they are the ones who wanted Disney. Eldest is the one who wanted Universal as he is obsessed with Harry Potter.

I’m thinking of going about it this way.

First things first: Be (vaguely) Honest. I’m going to explain that I had to make changes to the trip this weekend and that one of the parks is going to be postponed. I’m going to explain I am not making as much money every month as I used to. I might use coins to explain this. Show them four coins and explain that’s how much I was making, take away two coins and explain that’s how much I’m making now. I am extremely wary resistant to the idea of explaining their father’s role, or lack thereof, in all of this because of how young they are, how sensitive a topic it is, and how complicated it may get to explain. Eldest can probably handle it and maybe he and I will have a separate conversation later, if he wants one. I think I’m just going to explain that there were two ways I was making money and because the economy is bad, one of them isn’t making money right now. It might start making money again one day, but I’m not sure when, etc. etc. etc.

I am then going to explain we are going to Universal Studios only because the tickets were free. I did not choose which park we went to. I asked around my group of friends and the connection that came through was for Universal. I want this to be clear because I don’t want them to think I was choosing favorites or anything and besides it’s completely true. If the tickets to Universal weren’t free, we wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I’ll then lay out my plan to try and make more money so that we can go in December to Disney to see the park at Christmas time. And then I’ll ask them to please look at the Universal website with me and try and get them fired up about what we’re going to do and see there.

The bad part is, it’s the youngest kids’ trip whose getting postponed. The good part is, they are distracted easier.

I feel a lot better about this weekend now that I’ve made this decision. One of the things that struck me after reading your comments and throwing my tantrum was the reason I’m so frustrated and angry about postponing part of the trip is exactly the reason I need to postpone part of the trip.

I have been doing things the right way for so long, why blow it? If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s far easier to create problems than to fix them. The right way worked. It did what it was supposed to do– I just hadn’t been able to fund it long enough to cover me more than it already has.

The wrong way, I’ve already done that before. I know where that goes and what it does to a person. So thank you for helping me get to this place I am in right now. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a bit down at the mouth and I would really like to practice some sort of physical violence, but I am trying very hard to pull up and out and I just wanted to thank you all for the boost.


A great quote from How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

When I first read this, it deeply resonated with me– so much so, I wrote it in a little notebook I carry and often re-read it when I come across it. It also reminded me of everyone I read in the blogosphere that is struggling.

The women who have been betrayed by their husbands. The women whose husbands have them in limbo. The ones that have lost loved ones. The ones that have been hurt so deeply they can’t imagine they’ll ever be themselves again. The ones fighting tooth and nail because they have lost a job. It reminded me of everyone who questions whether things will ever be ok again. The ones who are bent over with pain. The ones who are limping along right now.

Hurt is universal. It touches us all, but in an endless myriad of ways. Some times, it ensnares us top to bottom, utterly and completely. Some times it surges and recedes only to surge once more. Some times it’s quick and abrupt. No experience of pain, or loss, or suffering, or struggle, or grieving is the same.

Here, when the narrator speaks of “him,” he is referring to his father who got in a time machine one day and vanished without a trace. But the “him” is replaceable with anything, anyone. It can be “him”– a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a husband, a friend. It can be “her”– a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grandmother, a wife, a best friend. It can be “them”– a group of close friends, a pair of siblings, a pair of children, classmates, band members, co-workers. It can be “it”– a pet, a job, a school, a feeling, an experience, a lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what has hurt you because the truth about time and its relation to pain the author talks about here is universally inevitable.

“I don’t miss him anymore. Most of the time, anyway. I want to. I wish I could but, unfortunately, it’s true: time does heal. It will do so whether you like it or not, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. If you’re not careful, time will take away everything that ever hurt you, everything you have ever lost, and replace it with knowledge. Time is a machine: it will convert your pain into experience.”

-Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel


Three Simple Ways to Feel Better During Divorce & Separation

So you wake up one morning and the person you had kids with is gone. Maybe they vanished into thin air, or maybe they’ve found themselves a quaint place on the other side of town, or maybe they’ve made themselves comfy at their new partner’s  house, or maybe you’ve just put the last of their things on the front yard (with or without the gasoline and match) and have just turned your brand new lock. The family life you were living has changed.

And so begins the Emotional Onslaught. It doesn’t matter who left who. It doesn’t matter why someone left. The torrent of emotions happens to everyone. Oh, they’re all over the place aren’t they? Anger. Freedom. Guilt. Joy. Terror. Confidence. Doubt. Love. Hate. Contentment. Sadness. Clarity. Confusion. Pride. Insecurity.

Yup, they all slam into you. There’s no order, no sense. There’s no predicting what comes next. There’s no knowing you’ve definitely moved past one to another. You’re up, you’re down, and you’re turned around and around.

What the hell do you do?

Here are three very simple, very immediate things you can do to feel even the tiniest bit better one way or another.

Pull ups
“Pull Ups” by Mechtrose on Flickr

1. Pick a small physical goal and work at achieving it.

First of all, forget Couch to 5K. Forget half marathons. Forget losing a gazillion pounds. Forget dropping ten sizes. Forget some sort of crazy deadline.

Simplify: Think about something you can’t do right now and work at doing it.

For instance, during my separation, P90X was all the rage. Relax, I’m not suggesting you do P90X. The only reason P90X is relevant is because it involves a lot of pull-ups. I couldn’t do ONE pull-up. I tried. I couldn’t. So that was my goal: Mutant does a pull-up. I didn’t say by when or aim for ten. I just wanted to do ONE pull-up.

Oh it took me forever (no, seriously, like a few months) and one day, I did a pull up.

So, try to do a pull-up. Or a push-up. Or a sit-up. Or walk one mile. Or jog one mile. Or bike one mile. Do a freaking handstand. Just pick something physical you can’t do right this very minute but you KNOW you’ll be able to do at some point if you just keep trying and then do it.

And then when you do it, double it and make that your next goal.

This is a really great way to get a boost. There’s something about making yourself physically strong in some tiny way that brings reassurance. Forget the way you look, just prove to yourself you’re not a weakling. And trust me, you’re not.

“Restricted” by Dim.Gkatz on Flickr

2. Create the “List of Past Compromises”

“A compromise is an agreement whereby both parties get what neither of them wanted.” – Anonymous Genius

In a relationship there is a lot of compromise. You’re not in an active relationship anymore so you don’t have to compromise. Do yourself a favor and write down all of the things you compromised when you were with your partner.

How easy this task is depends a lot on your current emotional state which we know is insanely unpredictable. If you’re in that place where you’re grateful for your Ex because they’re a good parent and love your kids and wasn’t really too horrible with you, you might struggle at first. If you’re really bitter, your list will probably be never-ending so please don’t let me stop you.

For the strugglers, yes you could wait until that happy feeling passes in a few minutes OR you can start with something totally stupid and “irrelevant”. Think of the “easy” compromises and don’t be surprised when you start realizing just how many of those you made and how many really shouldn’t have been so “easy”.

Did your partner insist meat be served at every meal? Was there a food they couldn’t tolerate that you salivated for? Was there a color you liked but your partner hated? Do you have a love for throw pillows your partner barely tolerated? Did your partner hate the way you looked in jeans? Was there a smell that made them sneeze? Was there a place that intrigued you but never could get them to go? Did you buy that underwear because they swooned? How many movies haven’t you watched you really wanted to? What’s the one song you had to play when they weren’t around?

Got your list? Good. Now, pick one thing and let go of the compromise.

Make a vegetarian meal. Treat yourself to a favorite dish or full meal. Buy something, or paint something, in that color. Throw pillows everywhere. Wear your jeans every day for a week. Hell, buy new jeans if you can afford it (or even new to you jeans) and ditch whatever it was you wore “as a compromise.” Get that smell everywhere and in every form—candles, air freshener, shower gel, detergent, perfume, plug-ins, etc. Go to the places—the garden, the museum, the country store, the ballet, the opera, the friend’s house (you know, the one they hardly stomached), the restaurant where people dance on tables, the park, the marina, the wherever. Wear the panties that make you swoon (with comfort or sexiness or freaking polka dots). Use and abuse Netflix. Make a No More Compromise Playlist and blast it.

In other words, be naughty. Seek and destroy. You will find this to be very silly and therefore very fun. It’s also the type of thing that easily breeds. You do one thing and then you remember another. Believe it or not, people change during a relationship—substantially. Oh we say we won’t, but we do. And you’re going to love remembering Old You. No more we, no more us. It could be sad, but in this case, you’re going to make it fun.

“Journal” by MemoryofDon on Flickr

3. Keep a journal.

Get a notebook and write in it. If you can, write in it every day even If all you can muster is one three word sentence (there are lots of those to choose from).

Single parents can feel very neglected and alone. Sometimes, you really feel like no one cares, or everyone’s scared to death of you (because divorce is contagious, didn’t you know?), or everyone might mean well but you just can’t explain or relate right now.

Thankfully, journals aren’t full of human ears, they’re full of pieces of paper. And, there isn’t a set of eyes other than your own who will be perusing.

In a journal, you can get as ugly, whiny, pathetic, resentful, bitter, happy, joyful, jealous, panicked, crazy as you want to get. No one’s judging, because no one’s reading.

If you go back and read what you wrote and find yourself filled to the brim with nausea? Guess what? It’s paper. Shred it. Burn it. Soak it. Ruin it however you see fit.

You know how you keep bursting into tears at your desk?  Or how you keep hauling ass as away from the kids so you can sob? You’re corked. You need to let something out. It’s better to let it out in little daily ways like writing in your journal than letting it just explode out of your poor abused heart.

I’m not saying the outbursts are going to magically disappear, but I think you’ll find they slow down, are shorter and easier to manage. Now when it starts you can tell yourself, “Not now. This is for the journal.”

Grief isn’t simple and it isn’t brief. When a family changes dramatically, grief is inevitable. These three small things aren’t the absolute ticket to happiness.

I encourage you to seek therapy (no, seriously, you need it). Get a lawyer to handle the yucky stuff (try and get a flat fee one and hope you don’t need to go to trial). I am telling you to give yourself a lot of time—at least two years. Read about it. Find others. Talk about it.

But, becoming a single parent doesn’t have to be a total nightmare either. We’re always reading about how horrible it is aren’t we? The thing about these three things is they all have an immediate effect and they all bring you in touch with YOU. Some will feel better than others. Some will feel awesome one day and only ok on another day. Some will have a lasting positive impression, and others will be just the briefest sense of positivity. But that’s their beauty.

Simple and effective—unlike pretty much everything else in your life right now.

Something new

I have been so very quiet, haven’t I? I actually intended a post yesterday but left my camera at home… somewhere…

I’ve also been working on something I’ve wanted to do for ages and it’s finally up. I have been hard at work collecting my favorite resources for other single moms. I have been so encouraged by the response from readers here that I think other single moms would also benefit from having a place to go to where single moms can feel a lot of love and meet a lot of kindred souls.

I’ve created a page of my favorite single mom posts from this blog which owes a lot to the readers and the comments.

I also created a listing of other single mom blogs. I’d love to expand this and keep it going so if you’re a single mom with a blog or you know a single mom with a blog, please contact me to let me know and I can include them.

Finally, and this is the only one that needs more work, I’m amassing a collection of more typical resources: articles, books, and music that have helped me one way or another.

So, now you know what I’ve been up to this week. It’s going to be hectic so I don’t know that I’ll be back before Monday but I sure hope so!!

Words of Gratitude

It’s Friday, and before I get to the usual Friday blog stuff I do, I want to say something very important—Thank You. When I first started this blog, it was because I felt single moms were very under-represented absolutely everywhere. Maybe it’s because we’re really busy or don’t usually have much money to burn or maybe we’re pretty intimidating as we manage entire households without the help of a man. Either way, we’re not a demographic that gets much attention yet when we do, it’s rarely of the positive variety.

Another reason I started writing was sheer loneliness. Not really knowing anyone personally that had been through what I experienced made me feel a strong urge to reach out and say, “Hello? Anyone out there?” Lo and behold, there are indeed signs of life—vibrant, intelligent, strong, creative, compassionate life forms at that.

Most of the time, when I sit to write, I don’t really have a goal, objective, or even a topic. Sometimes, I just write because I absolutely have to but I’m not even sure where I’m going to start, much less end up. I never expect a response either but, admittedly, often desire one.

So, that’s where you all and the thanks come in. Over the past few months, so many of you have felt inclined to respond to my words. E-mails and comments have come my way in so many shapes, sizes, and styles. You have shown me so much support and encouragement—more than I imagined and in ways I couldn’t have fathomed.

I am so very grateful. I know my blog’s a bit scattered breaking that supposed blogging golden rule to streamline and stick to one overall topic. I talk a lot about money but I wouldn’t dream of pegging myself a Personal Finance blog. Crochet? Ditto. Books? Ditto? Mommyness? Ditto. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, I have commitment issues and that invariably extends to the topics my blog touches upon. I do find it quite remarkable then, to have such a diverse group of readers who remain interested and involved.

Needless to say, what you bring to this blog is very much appreciated. I really love meeting each of you who venture from the reader shadowlands. Even those of you who stay silent observers mean so much to me simply because you come and read my equivalent of therapy sessions—and you return for more!

Giving me a moment of your time, a word of kindness, or even a little link love gives me a lot of strength and confidence. Every time you share a similarity, I’m pleased to know I’m really not alone. Those of you with advice open my eyes to another view. Any small praise builds me up a little bit more. And every vote of confidence you place in me is a reassuring pat on the back.

Life is not a smooth, straight path. It’s not the type of thing you really want to go at alone. And even though it’s quite small, I’m so grateful to all of you who make up this little community. So thank you, thank you, thank you. For those of you who come here to find someone who can possibly encourage you and help you through your personal challenge, know that I really hope I can give you even just a tiny bit of the support I’ve received here.

Even though I’ve done a lot of gushing, I’ve not forgotten what day it is—Friday. Nor have I forgotten that Fridays are for showing off. So today, I present to you my first little Panda bear made from Milky Robot’s pattern. He was great fun to make and I’m happily working on two more projects from her patterns that I will hopefully unveil next week. I think you will find her patterns very simple and clear and with lots of room to play with and make your creation your own. I’m working on finessing my sewing abilities but that’s a comment on my ability instead of the pattern’s. No matter how good her instructions are, it’s still up to me to piece the little guy properly. Enjoy the little guy and did anyone find my special hidden message?

Free-Range Ramblings

“The Bird Who Escaped His Cage” from the dangerously drool-worthy Etsy shop of Penny Masquerade

My brain is a bit silent today, not in a bad or good way just pretty quiet. Maybe it’s the rainy weather. Maybe it’s the amigurumi I’ve been working on. Maybe it’s just that peaceful satisfaction that tends to bless me now and then. That gentle sense of, “Life’s good enough.” It can be better, and surely it can be worse. So, when I’m sort of in this lazy brain mode I tend to think in fragments—and write that way too. I apologize if this sort of thing drives you nuts.

In one week, I’ll be divorced. I’m past the phase I went through last week where I’d break out into a little impromptu dance when this would occur and am now in the happy sigh followed by many mental mutterings of “Thank you, thank you, thank you” phase. A lot has changed in the two years since Ex moved out. And when I say that, I’m talking about me, myself, and I because who am I to judge another especially when I hardly have any dealings with anymore? I know I have doubts and those come often, but I do move through life more confidently, more comfortably. My decisions are made with me and the children in my mind’s eye—and no one else. And this is fine. This is ok. This works for me. I actually like this. I breathe easy in this. A therapist once said to me as I contemplated what I wanted to do about my marriage—“You were happy before him and you’ll be happy after him.” It’s hard to understand what those words mean, much less to accept them, but they’re true. I was and I am. A husband isn’t a need, it’s a want and in my case, it’s a want I’ll do perfectly fine without.

I’ve linked to a store on Etsy in the picture above. It’s beautiful and the sort of shop that has not one, not two, but many things I find painfully beautiful and exquisite. For someone who was robbed of all of their jewelry a couple of years ago, this sort of shop gives me double heart pangs. I think I’ll have to spread word around to the family and friends for future gift-giving occasions. I’m pretty sure just about anything from here would make me giddy. Wants, of course, every one. But beautiful to look at just the same.

I’ve been reading Outlander in between crochet sessions. I had to slow it down because it was affecting my inner monologue. The book is written in accent if that makes sense. I’m sure there’s a better, more proper, way to say that but I’m seriously fading fast right now and I can’t for the life of me grasp it. The point is, I’ve been reading so much Scottish accented stuff my inner voice is driving me crazy by doing its own imitation of a Scottish accent whenever possible. Phrases like “wee” and “bonny” and “lass” and “ye” and “dinna” and “ken” and “aye” and “verra” keeping dashing around my brain wreaking havoc on my inner monologue. So, I had to stop reading it so constantly because I got irritated with myself. I’m 2/3 the way in, maybe more. It’s a fun book. Extremely silly and the type of thing you’d expect in a romantic adventure set in eighteenth century Scotland with lots of strong red-haired blue eyed kilted warriors running amok and extremely clever and witty ladies with much colorful personality. There’s lots of DANGER and RESCUE (main character has been almost raped and killed at least three times I think) and all that sort of thing. There’s lots of bared body parts and kissing and rubbing and clawing and talking dirty in a Scottish accent. I haven’t read a book like this in ages and it’s been loads of fun and exactly the sort of thing I needed.

Speaking of books, I won a copy of Kiss & Tell on Goodreads and it got plopped on my doorstep yesterday. I opened it up and flipped through it and gasped. It’s gorgeous. I can’t wait to read it. I really needed to put it on my bookcase and force myself to go back to Outlander and crocheting pandas because I really wanted to dive into that book right now this moment. But, I hate reading more than one book at a time. As it is right now, I have three library books at home that need reading, not to mention one more waiting for me, and no I’m not going to tell you about the really long queue I have lined up on top of all of that. And also, I have Soulless and PostSecret patiently watching me from their spots on my shelves which are currently quite undignified and in need of straightening.

So far, money-wise I’m doing excellently. I have $380 left for the twenty remaining days of the year. This is seriously excellent. I’m very encouraged by this as it means this month I will break even if Ex doesn’t pay me a single dime. I do not need a loan from my folks. What it further means is that if Ex does pay me a dime, it’s all going into my Mini-Emergency fund and Debt Repayment Plan. Granted, my debt has increased a bit because of my parents having to step in and cover him for not one but two months in a row as well as helping to cover the school’s registration fees. But, it’s ok. I have a lot of faith it’s going to be cut down quite effectively this year. I just need to keep barging ahead, keep my head clear, and my eyes focused. As a matter of fact, I played with some numbers and if I choose to maintain this level of expenses and Ex’s stream of income comes back to life, I’ll be debt free in the summer of 2012. And if I remain diligent and put most of that money that’s going to be going to debt to my emergency fund, a six month emergency fund will be fully funded in less than two years after I’m free.

People I talk to are freaked out it’s already March. I’m excited. I know we need to enjoy the present, and I make an effort to enjoy the moments as they unfold but I’m absolutely dying for 2011 to just be over and done with because I just know 2012 is going to be a lot better for me in many ways. The money thing is probably one of the largest reasons I feel that way. There’s a lot of talk everywhere these days about how trendy frugality is and whether or not it’s going to last and whether or not we’ve really gotten over the pull of credit cards and living beyond our means. I don’t know about the rest of the country, and I don’t particularly care, but I know for me it’s here to stay. I’ve been craving a simpler, freer life for years already.

I can’t really explain it any better than this: it’s much easier to have few perceived needs and LOTS of perceived wants than for the reverse. And that has been the big learning experience for me. It is more fulfilling, for me, to contemplate my wants, which ones I’m going to fulfill, and just how I’m going to do so. Before I started really consciously managing my money and my spending, this didn’t happen. Something I really wanted passed too easily into the Needs department and my money quickly left me to fulfill it because it’s a need you see and therefore justifiable. But in that mindset, the needs just kept piling one on top of another like some insanely precarious tower of blocks put together by a two year old. Because it is very childish, that mindset. I breathe easier with every so-called need I release back to the want pile. I don’t have a choice on my needs, but I have a choice on my wants. And I think that’s where I see differences appear in the writings of the many people battling it out with their finances.

Look for the instances of want and need in their words, or listen to it when your friends and family speak, and definitely pay attention to it in your own usage. I have a feeling the best way to gauge whether or not a person has made a real change is by gauging the use of the words “want” vs. “need”. When I sit here and start to consider what to plan for as far as spending goes in a given month, it is an examination of this very thing. When you step back and analyze how you’re going to spend your designated amount of money in a given month, even if just loosely, it’s much easier with every “need” you convert to a “want”. 

Can I tell you one more thing? I think a real factor in helping me get this is the environment around my job. I work on a medical campus in a downtown area. Homeless people and beggars are everywhere. Just the other day on my way to take the train home, I passed a scene outside the station. A young man I often see with a sign that says “Hungry” was sitting on the floor against a wall. His face was turned to the side facing me and looked as if he was crying as two older women hunched over him. My heart was broken for this man. I passed someone yesterday rooting through a garbage can quickly before someone saw him but obviously something had caught his eye and he was trying to root it out as quickly as possible. There is an alcove outside the station that is frequently used as a sleeping corner for one homeless person or another. Benches and ledges too. Even on the train, I’m often confronted with the sights(and smells) of extreme poverty if not downright homelessness. I see these things constantly but am not the type of person that can just shove it into the background and let it bounce off me without it affecting me. I wish I was, but I’m not. Right now, I can’t afford to help these people. But if I’m diligent and responsible and effectively sort my needs and my wants, I’ll be able to do just that in no time at all.

Me voy porque cada vez que vengo aquí me vuelvo loca

On Wednesday night my grandmother exclaimed she was in a hurry to leave my house because every time she came to my house, it drove her crazy how messy it was. Her exact words were, “Me voy porque cada vez que vengo aquí me vuelvo loca.” Thanks, Abuela.

The next afternoon, my mother (Abuela’s daughter) dropped off the older kids. Daughter noticed the work I’m doing on the home office corner including bringing in a bookshelf. She was excited. “Abi,” she said excitedly. “Come here I want to show you something!” My mother looked up at the direction Daughter was pulling her in and said, “What do you want to show me? The disaster your mother is making?” Thanks, Mom.

Like mother, like daughter? And if that’s the case, what does this mean for me? And for my Daughter? Is it really such a surprise that I have such a hard time maintaining positive outlooks when I come from a line of women who are specially trained Fault-Finders? They walk into the most glorious room and zoom in on the one tiny thing that might be not right. In my house, they have to zoom in on the one thing that might be right and that requires effort, dedication, and purpose. These little admonitions drive me batty, of course. It does sting after working at something every extra minute you have available, to have your effort reduced to a disaster or a trigger for insanity in mere seconds.

But, I take a deep breath because I know how much work I am putting into this new endeavor on top of maintaining the other things I have going right. Things like the Glorious Kitchen (including dishes and pots/pans), lunch boxes prepared the night before, putting things back when I’m finished, finishing what I start, and almost daily laundry.  When I started Endeavor: Kitchen Organization, I wasn’t up to date on any part of my house and related chores. Even being able to focus solely on the kitchen, and the kitchen being a hundred times more organized and de-cluttered than the hall closet/home office, it took me a few days to get it in tip-top shape. And, it takes a conscious daily effort to keep it where it’s at. Besides, I’m really encouraged with these projects because I’m able to see something important.

Boy, have I changed. This has actually been sort of fermenting in my brain for a while now but they’ve been mere whisperings. Going through the hall closet is a walk in time. It’s not a smooth stroll, but quite jolty and jumpy from one year to another to back another two. I can only wonder what my financial life would’ve been back in the day had I been even just tracking everything the way I am now. But there’s no sense in really dwelling much on what’s happened before is there? I guess it really is important to just think about now. What’s going on now? I’m letting go of so many things and I’m feeling completely alright about it. I’m thinking much clearer about possessions than I used to and there is little to no guilt attached.

Last night I was thinking about the kids’ ideas on material things and so this morning I asked my son what he thought a good number of toys a kid should have would be. His response? Between 80 and 70. My jaw dropped. This is not what I’m trying to work for is it? So I asked him a few more questions. Does he know exactly which toys he owns, every single one? No. Does he know where each toy is? No. Does he play with all of his toys? No.  We talked a bit more about how hard it is to keep the toys clean and to keep track of them and I think, when they get back from their Dad’s house on Monday, we might work out a system. I’m thinking some sort of limit of 20 toys each kid, but each would have certain subdivisions. Like Lego’s for instance, would count as one item if he can keep them confined to the bins under the block table. If he needs to use other bins, they become additional items. I’m thinking I’ll likely keep reducing this number as we keep working on it. And I’m pretty sure this project will most likely really go into effect next month at the latest. Endeavor: Playroom can only commence once I complete Endeavor: Hall Closet/Home Office. I feel like I’m playing a video game and going on quests. I should make myself digital trophies to track my progress or some sort of medal collection. Hmm…

Another hmmm, it seems I’m setting myself up for Monthly Challenges like one half of Grumpy Rumblings.

I, of course, think of myself and all of the things I own. How much of what I own do I actually use? There’s definitely lots of room to clear out. A few things are on Craigslist after all, since a friend volunteered to help me sell them. And I listed a few books on Amazon as well. I am still amassing a big donation for the VVA (which reminds me I have to schedule a pick-up). And the trash can is filling, and emptying, at a brisk pace. Going through my stuff I can’t help but smile at the things I’ve kept over the years like an entire set of the chocolate dinosaur lollipops I made for Eldest’s first birthday party. You should know, I was actually quite talented and the chocolate lollipops were in color and even had details painted in different colors. I was impressed with myself. But then I threw them away. I got rid of tons of cards given to the kids and me over the years that had nothing but vague signatures splashed across the bottoms. I kept most of the ones where people actually bothered to leave a meaningful message, and all three of the super cute handmade ones my cousin made for Eldest.

I think a lot these days about “enough” and the myriad of studies out on it and other things like fulfillment and satisfaction. I think, like apparently so many other Americans, Ex and I flew right past the Enough peak without even noticing and fell headfirst into a “too much is never enough” downward spiral. I know the role retail therapy used to play in my life. I make a conscious effort to resist it and yet, I can do better. Next week, I’m not ordering the dinner delivery service. I just can’t afford that sort of luxury right now, and that’s what it is no matter how I want to call it. I have a freezer full of chicken breasts, drumsticks, and ground, shrimp, grouper, and pork shoulder ribs. I have two slow cooker cookbooks at home. I definitely think I can take a week and abuse the slow cooker while emptying my freezer. Obviously, I value convenience. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a dinner delivery service. But, I can strike a compromise and get most of the convenience offered by the delivery with a bit of elbow grease. I might have to spring a bit to get some missing ingredients but it won’t come near what the dinner service costs. And I’m still chipping away at my hall closet and the clutter.

So far, my No-Spend month has gone rather well. I paid $81.99 for this week’s dinner service, $4.91 for power steering fluid, and paid/scheduled most of my bills. The only thing that has not gone well is the income. Ex shorted me again on child support. To date, he owes me $2,000 and that doesn’t include extras like uninsured medical costs and extracurriculars or whatnot for the kids. So, I’m pretty sure instead of my initially budgeted $670 for expenses outside of monthly bills, I have to go down to $500 to make ends meet which means I have $413.10 to go. This, of course, is in combination with me not paying anything on top of minimum payments to my creditors and it also includes my not refilling my mini emergency fund. I might be getting a $400 FSA refund this month but it looks like that has to go to an emergency car repair as my car is leaking power steering fluid viciously.

But, it’s fine. I’m going to be ok. We have more than enough when you really get right down to it. I have to remember that. I may continue finding small unexpected sources of income in my home as I go through the de-cluttering process. The jar of spare change is very heavy and full. I have a well-enough stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry that should get me through next week and maybe even the week after that. I’ll know for sure once I’ve sat and done my meal planning. I am much more confident we can get through all of this and without feeling any sort of deprivation. It works out well that I’m tackling the messiest and most cluttered part of my home during this time because I have so much more to remind me of how much abundance there is in my life.

Meanwhile, my condolences to those of you living in most of the United States dealing with that cold white stuff you all call snow. I really do live in paradise.