Broken Bones

I received a letter from Katie yesterday. As I was reading it the phone rang.

It was the kid.

She’d suffered multiple stress fractures in her right leg during a PT test in addition to injuring her knee. As a result, the Navy was sending her home.

To say that she was disappointed would be an understatement. Even with a fractured leg she was only 14 seconds shy of achieving her time on her PT test that day.

Well, shit.

I kinda liked this empty nest thing but I can’t fault the kid for getting hurt. I know from experience just how easy it is to be injured in the military. I’m just grateful it was caught before her leg shattered.

She’ll be shipped home in about two weeks. After that comes the process of helping the kid heal and building her up for her next adventure. Only time will tell what it will be.

In the meantime there is a bright spot. She’ll continue to share the bills once she gets back on her feet. She’s already gotten two job offers locally now that the news is emerging. That will give her time to recuperate and figure out her next step while making life a bit easier on me once she recovers.

Life is still good. It’s completely chaotic at the moment, but it’s still good.

So what’s been going on in your world? Please share your stories in the comments below.


First Month Without Katie

I just finished paying the first round of bills without the kid sharing half of the expenses.

I made it. I even had a bit to spare.

I must confess that I was worried so I clamped down drastically on my spending. I’m not quite sure why I was worried (this isn’t my first rodeo, after all), but that old demon Fear loves to play games with me.

In order to reposition myself for the future, I’ve decided to actively use up some of the stockpiles I’ve acquired over the past few years. Cleaning supplies, cosmetics, paper products, food–all this and more are going to be used before I purchase more. This will allow me to not only safely stretch my finances while I adapt, it will provide the opportunity to use up some of the things around here while I learn just how much I use when it’s just me as well as free up physical space in this little home.

This girl has got to go back to the basics, build her foundation, in order to move forward. Who am I? What do I want out of my life? These questions have been running through my mind since the tearful day I said farewell to my daughter.

There is life after parenthood. I’m going to embrace it. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been really, truly free to discover who I am. My dad died when I was just getting started; before I recovered from that I found myself pregnant. Even when you count my childhood years I’ve spent the majority of my life caring for others.

Now it’s time to take care of me.

Have you ever noticed that, for females, life seems to be focused so much on caring for others that it almost ends when all you’ve got to focus on is yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Miracle of Water

It was close to midnight. I padded into the kitchen to quench my thirst and picked up the water pitcher.

I blinked at the heft. Huh? I raised it up to examine the water level. It was full.

My water pitcher is never full. The only way I can ever get a drink of water out of it is to fill it up, let it drip through the filter and then immediately pour a glass. This has gone on for so long that I’d become convinced that the Household Gods were determined that I die of dehydration.

“Hmph!” I filled my glass, topped off the pitcher, and returned to bed. It had to be a fluke.

The next morning I headed to the coffeepot. I paused, staring in shock.

The water pitcher was still full.

“Hokay, that’s strange,” I mumbled as I poured myself a cuppa Joe. Twice in a row? My Household Gods must be on vacation!

Before I left for work I filled a water bottle, topped off the pitcher once more, and headed out.

It was full when I got home!

Maybe, just maybe, the Household Gods that always seemed to drink my water or mess up my house, maybe they went on more than a simple vacation.

Maybe they went off to the Navy.

Hmmm.

I can have some fun with this!

The Process of Recharging

Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.


Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie

I sleep in when I can. I rest instead of endlessly working. Bit by bit, I can tell a difference.

Instead of scolding the dogs for their excitement in the mornings when they wake me to go potty, I gather my coat and take them out without a word.

Instead of sighing in frustration when my co-workers page me for help at work I cry “help is on the way!” and race to the front with a laugh.

Instead of internally bitching when someone wants a few minutes of my time on the phone or in-person I give it to them. I limit it, as I’m still drained, but I’ve regained enough energy that I can safely give something back.

When I have a small spurt of energy I get up and do something that needs to be done. Last night as I visited with a friend I noticed that my dog’s collars needed washing so I pulled them off and scrubbed them while we chatted.

Five minutes later I was one task closer to catching up on my backlog.

The fridge is slowly getting emptied of the detritus the kid left behind. Her little Katie-piles are being dealt with as I stumble across them.

I’ve brainstormed one thing I can do now to improve my quality of living and I’ve taken steps to make it happen. I’ll cover that in a future post when it is more than just a plan.

I’ve even went back to tinkering on my plan to reduce my smoking. I’d started on a plan before things blew up around Thanksgiving but let it go due to the chaos that surrounded me. Now that things are calming down, I’ve gotten back to work on my goal of being a nonsmoker.

Last but not least, I’m processing my emotions with my journal. I fill several pages a day with random thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I find my thoughts repeating. I dutifully jot them down regardless. The very fact that I’m noticing the repetition is a good sign.

I suspect that my internal battery had been operating in the red zone for quite some time though life had been a bit too chaotic for me to notice it. I’ve been pushing myself quite hard for a couple of years now in order to make up for time lost back when I was injured, and even harder once I’d decided to teach myself about investing while focusing more on this website. Between that and everything else I suspect I’ve been heading for this physical and emotional crash for quite some time.

And that’s okay. It’s okay because I’m taking steps now to correct the issue, and I’m aware of the fact that I need to slow down, which makes me a wiser person.

I’ve got something I want to do. I’m not letting go of that, but I’ve realized that in order to accomplish that goal I’ve got to take care of myself now in a way that I’ve never really been able to do before.

So I am still here, and I am still fighting. I will do whatever it takes to achieve financial freedom, and I still intend to take you on that journey with me.

This is part of the process.

Are you still working towards your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Practicing Selfishness

It has been six days since I watched Katie leave with the recruiter. Five days since I saw her last, on the day she shipped out to BASIC. Four days since I’ve had any contact with her.

And I’m doing perfectly fine.

I’ve not had a day off work since last Tuesday, the last day I saw my little girl. One of the kids quit at work, so my schedule was adjusted to take up the slack. The change was exhausting on top of everything else (I’m still recovering from the Crud) but I’m not complaining.

I’m actually thankful for the busyness.

That said, I’ve still got a lot on my plate right now. Not only am I adjusting emotionally, I’m recovering physically from illness (101F temp at its worst). I’m also dealing with family and friends who are more than a bit concerned that I will go batshit crazy now that the kid is gone.

Among the well-meaning suggestions I’ve received:

  • You need to get a car so you can get a better job now.
  • You need to relocate to another part of the state so you will have better access to jobs/opportunities/housing.
  • You need to relocate to (wherever) so I can help you recover and so you won’t be alone.
  • You need to find a good man to take care of you.

There have been more but those are the highlights.

It’s been more than a bit annoying. They mean well, so I accept their suggestions with a polite nod and continue on.

Instead of heeding their suggestions, I’ve been politely distancing myself from them.

My first priority is to take care of myself, so I have been selfishly doing just that.

I allow myself to sleep in every morning. I need as much rest as I can get between my work shifts in order to recover physically.

I’ve paused all reading and research. I’m still thinking, but at the moment I’m no longer actively collecting knowledge concerning my goals. I want to be rested both mentally and physically before I continue.

I’ve limited my housework, as well as my writing. I do the basics in order to keep from falling behind but I’m not going to worry about the other stuff at the moment. I’ll get to it when I feel a bit better and my schedule eases.

I’ve readily accepted rides to and from work. I need to conserve my energy so I’ve shoved my pride into my pocket and allowed myself to take advantage of every single offer. I’ve even asked for rides a couple of times. While I don’t intend to make bumming rides a habit, I am wise enough to understand that the less energy I expend, the faster I will heal. I compensate my friends for their help, of course.

In short, I am being selfish. I am taking care of me. I am refusing offers to go out after work for shopping, meals, or a drink at the local watering hole. I work, come home, and rest.

And I patently refuse any attempts to persuade me to do otherwise. I don’t care how well-meaning the offers may be, I know what I need right now, and I’m going to get it. Period.

Sometimes you have to be selfish. Sometimes you have to ignore the well-meaning offers and suggestions on how to better your life. More times than not, you know what you need better than anyone else. In that case, you have to stand your ground.

You have to take care of you.

How are you taking care of yourself lately? Are you practicing selfishness in order to get the rest you need? Please share your stories in the comments below.

New Beginnings

This is it.

Last night I said my final farewell to the kid. The very last call was scripted, just letting me know that she had arrived safely and that she would be out of contact for the next couple of weeks.

I am now officially free of the full burden of motherhood.

It started a few days ago. We had a farewell party for the kid. Here are a few photos to mark the occasion:

With my grandson, her nephew.

Once the party was over (I didn’t show photos of others to protect their privacy), Katie made one final trip to say goodbye to her best friend who died. She left here on the 2 year anniversary of Emery’s death:

After her farewells, we kept it normal until the recruiter drove up to carry her away. She gifted me with some earrings to wear while she was gone in order to keep her close. I donned those to watch her pull away.

With her Recruiter.
Driving away.

I had quietly arranged to take the next day off, to see her one last time at MEPS. It was going to be a surprise but her uncle spoiled it when he saw us walk in. Darnit!

.I would include a photo of her uncle but he’s a rather high-ranked member of the military so I’m unsure of the wisdom. I will take the cautious route and not. I hope you understand.

Waiting at MEPS for Katie with her sister.
Katie’s final, official swear-in. She is now an official member of the US Navy.
One last meal together before we part ways.

I thought Katie was going to cry when we gave each other our final farewells but we all stayed strong. I’ve spent the past few days with tears streaming down my face so for now I believe I’m cried out.

Her last call was late last night. It was scripted. “I’m here. I’m okay. You will get a package in the mail soon. You will hear from me in approximately 2-3 weeks. I love you. Bye.”

So it is over. The 29 years I spent as a parent with kids at home have come to an end.

I intend to take the next few days to decompress. I want to get in the proper headspace before I move forward.

It is time to take a deep breath, relax, and to move on.

That is all any of us can do when we reach a turning point in our lives. We just need to breathe, realize that it is not the end of the world, and figure out what we want to do next.

I’ve already gotten the bones of that path started so I doubt much will change aside from my living circumstances. Just in case, however, I don’t intend to make any sudden moves until I know I am okay. While I’m a bit more okay than I was the day I watched her drive away, I know I’m not there yet.

We will all be okay at the end of the story. We can survive more than we realize.

I’ll write more when I can.

I Don’t NEED Anything

Yesterday.

Walking to work.

I was crossing the street after checking the free stack at the local library.

That was when it hit me:

I don’t NEED anything!

I really, really don’t.

I have a roof over my head that I can easily afford even if Katie moved out tomorrow.

I have clothes on my back. A surplus, actually, that I will use up before I actively acquire more.

I have money in the bank.

I have a job that pays my bills.

I have a way to indulge my passion for writing, a way that allows me to potentially help others in some small way.

I have a quiet, peaceful life.

I am okay.

I am really, truly okay.

It feels good to know that I don’t need anything. Oh sure, I have things that I want.

But there is nothing that I really, truly need.

I am so thankful for this blessing.

What are you thankful for today? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Changing Winds of Life

It has been one helluva week here in this tiny little home.

Katie decided that she had placed her life on hold for long enough. She’d sacrificed several scholarships and opportunities for a relationship that went bust, so she decided to correct that.

On Monday she decided that she would join the Navy. The Army was out, despite our family’s history of it, since she didn’t want to even remotely follow in her ex-fiancée’s footsteps or chance running across him again.

Tuesday she contacted the local Navy recruiter.

Wednesday he arrived at the house and we spent the whole day doing paperwork. I ended up emailing documents back and forth until late in the evening.

Thursday morning she left for MEPS.

Friday evening she returned home after signing a 4-year contract.

She leaves February 19.

I’ve known this time was coming since the day she was born. That knowledge doesn’t ease the shock I feel at this moment. To give such a huge portion of your life to another person, only to have them grow up and move on is a sacrifice all parents make.

That doesn’t make it easier.

I am going to be fine. I have my public job to keep me socialized so I will have people to talk to face to face. I have my writing career. I have my 20-year goal of financial freedom to focus on…

…and I have you to keep me sane.

Your comments and messages have kept me sane for years now. They keep me moving forward. They give me a reason to sit down at this computer every morning and keep trying.

I cannot express how thankful I am to have you in my life.

Thank you for being there.

Update on Katie

It has been a challenging week or so around this tiny house. The kid had a major dust-up with her fiancée so the wedding is off. She spent a week at a friend’s house mourning the change but came back home the other evening.

Now she’s exploring her own path to the future.

We have a Navy recruiter coming to the house this morning. I know nothing about the Navy so this should be interesting.

Despite it being my day off I woke up early to don my warpaint and prepare for the encounter. I feel more secure when I’m wearing my warpaint, silly as it sounds. I’ve brewed a big pot of coffee as I sit here mentally preparing for the encounter.

I honestly believe that the military will help instill the grit she needs to navigate our challenging world. That said, if I tell her that or actively encourage her…well, she’s reached the point in her life where Mom is always wrong, so I don’t want to inadvertently encourage her to run the other way.

I want the decision to be hers so for this, aside from any questions, I need to keep my big mouth shut.

Wish me luck. Keeping quiet has never been my strong point.

What’s been going on with you lately? Please share your updates in the comments below.

Family Tradition

Once upon a time when Katie was small money was really tight. I’d spent most of my cash on Black Friday in order to afford to give my baby the best Christmas I could afford.

Katie wanted Christmas candy that year. In order to keep her happy I promised her that on the day after Christmas, once candy went on clearance, we would stock up and eat until we couldn’t.

True to my word we went out the next day. We not only bought several boxes of clearance Christmas candy; I also stumbled upon a discounted copy of the movie Forrest Gump.

I had just enough to buy it.

When we got back home Katie suggested that we eat our candy as we watched our new movie. I agreed. I had heard about the dorm scene so I made sure to distract my baby girl when it came up that evening.

The very next Christmas we went out after the holiday to stock up on candy; at Katie’s request we watched Forrest Gump once again.

And again.

After we moved into this tiny little house our after-Christmas routine fell to the wayside. I didn’t think much of it until the other day when Katie asked if we could follow our tradition once again.

I didn’t even realize that I had started a tradition.

I dug through my collection of DVDs, searching for the copy I’d purchased so long ago. To our immense disappointment, the movie had disappeared. We couldn’t locate a copy locally so Katie sprung for a digital copy in order to enjoy our tradition one last time.

We snuggled in her bed with the cat. The lights went down, the movie went on…

…And I cried.

Tears streamed unchecked down my face for the entire film. I cried for the purity of Forrest Gump, the sweetness of Bubba, and the pain of Jenny. I cried over the mother’s love for her son. I sniffled over the trials of Lieutenant Dan, the magic of their friendship, and smiled when he walked to Forrest’s wedding.

I cried for so many things but mostly I cried over the end of an era. I cried because this is the last time I’ll be able to share such a simple thing with my beloved daughter and I cried over the fact that I’d inadvertently created a tradition during her childhood that she had grown to cherish.

The tears of this mother are still falling as I type.

***

Do you have any traditions? Please share your stories in the comments below.

When Life Takes A Left Turn

My life has taken a really strange turn since Thanksgiving. Not only has my ex-husband passed away but certain aspects of my personal life that concern the situation have also gotten very, very strange.

The worst part of the whole situation is that I can’t share what’s going on yet. Things are still in motion; I might jeopardize the outcome if I say too much online. I’m writing it all down in my journal because I want to share the story with you when all of this is over. Truth is much stranger than fiction in this situation.

Even with the chaos, I’ve got to regain my focus. I have something I want to achieve and I’m not going to do that if I allow my mind to keep thinking about a situation that is mostly out of my control.

With that in mind I’ve made myself start reading again. I’m not reading much, but every little bit of knowledge I glean will take me a step closer. I just need to focus on what I can do right now, with what I have, and let the rest fall into place as it can.

I initiated a transfer from my savings account today, emptying it for the next round of investments. That account only collects a portion of my royalties but it’s enough at current stock prices to increase my holdings a tad. That will allow me to make some more progress while I get through the holidays. Once those are over I’ll analyze my finances and invest a bit more.

I’ve also discussed having a will drawn up by a local attorney. I have a price now; I’ll work that money into my budget next year. I want to make sure that anything I leave behind goes where I want it to go, especially in light of what I’m witnessing since my ex-husband has passed. I may not have much right now but I’m no longer in the mood to take any chances.

Since 2018 is now waning I’m in the process of making a list of things I want to accomplish next year. The end of this year may be traumatic but it will pass. I see no point in allowing my current situation to derail me. I’ve waited far too long, had far too many false starts on a goal I’ve had in my head since I was a child to allow anything to stop me now that the fog is slowly lifting from my path.

I have a sneaking sensation that 2019 will be even more eventful than this year has been. I’ve grown so much this past year; I’ve experimented, made adjustments, and learned more about myself than I ever have in times past. I intend to continue that progress.

I will write more as time allows.

 

The Perfect Man

After a year of silence it is time to come clean. I’ve met someone and we’re now committed to a long-term relationship.

I didn’t think it would work out at first. His territorial ways and destructive tendencies had me ready to throw in the towel more than once, but one look into his deep brown eyes would net him complete forgiveness. He’s completely won my heart so it is time to make the relationship official. Meet Pete.

I met Pete in December of 2017. We were busy in the store that evening. I was scanning full-tilt to take care of the crowd when my manager’s voice called to me from across the registers:

“Annie, say yes!” she cried.

“What am I saying ‘yes’ to?” I demanded to know as we both continued to work.

“Just trust me; you’ll love it!” she shouted back.

We bantered back and forth between our registers. I demanded to know what was going on while she laughingly refused to tell me. Finally I gave in. I could always back out if it was horrible, but I had to know what she was raving about.

Once the crowd had dispersed my manager revealed what the fuss was about. A regular was overwhelmed with family obligations so her little boyfriend had to go.

Oh geez. I was ready to back out until she showed me a photo of the guy. He was so tiny, yet he was full-grown! It dawned on me that the pint-sized pup would make a good playmate for my aging Chihuahua Angel. She loves to play but hates playing with larger dogs.

I agreed to pick him up after work that evening. I knew that I had lost my mind but it wasn’t like he would eat much. As soon as I got him home the little monster decided to hike his leg and christen everything.

My daughter decided to call him ‘Pete the Pisser’ for that stunt.

Since he obviously wasn’t housebroken we wrestled a pet crate out of the attic to contain his urinary tendencies since I had to work the next day. I returned home the next evening to discover that my daughter hadn’t taken him out at all since she had arrived home from school.

“I tried to take him out but he growled at me,” Katie complained. “That pissy dog is a piranha!”

Pete the Pisser then became Pete the Pissy Piranha. This dog would develop a serious complex if he ever learned English, I realized as I debated giving him back.

Half the size of my cats, he stuck to me like glue whenever I was home. Bit by bit he hesitantly started to use the bathroom outside. As he grew more comfortable, Pete the Pissy Piranha morphed into Pete the Pissy PITA.

“I hate your dog,” Katie declares every time she scoops him into her arms. “He’s ugly, he’s annoying, and he pisses everywhere.” She then kisses him and croons “yes you do! You piss everywhere, don’t you?”

Pete just grins and wags his tail.

He’s rather dictatorial, too. Ten o’clock at night, every night, he demands to be let out so he can get ready for bed. I’d better be ready because he will nag me non-stop until I go to bed with him. He doesn’t care if I read, fortunately, so I crack open a book to study for a while before I turn out the lights.

The other day at work I decided to make it official. I was approached by a persistent customer and asked out once again.

“I can’t,” I informed him as I pried my hand out of his sweaty palm. “Pete would get jealous.”

“Who’s Pete?” the guy demanded.

“This guy I’ve been seeing for a while. We’ve decided to get serious.”

He sighed, released my hand, and finally wandered off.

Pete must have sensed the change in relationship. When a suitor showed up at my home unannounced, Pete hiked his leg and pissed on the toe of his boot. I forced myself to maintain a straight face as I escorted the oblivious man to the door.

“Sorry but I have to get back to work,” I announced firmly. “Pete’s gonna want his walk soon.”

“You care more about that dog than you do for me!” he complained.

“Yup. Bye!”

I locked the door in his face.

Truth be told I have neither the time nor the desire to pursue a normal relationship. Pete may cost me a fortune in puppy pads but at least he accepts my busy schedule.

Even better, any time I am feeling overwhelmed after a hectic day he’s always ready for a snuggle.

If I’m not careful I’ll end up as one of those crazy ladies with their houses full of pets. Fortunately, Katie plans to take the cats and the cockroach with her when she moves out. When that happens I’ll be down to just the three dogs for company.

I can deal with three dogs but I’ve realized that “crazy animal hoarder” is not a moniker that I intend to wear in my future. As a result, I’ve placed a moratorium on any further pets. Hopefully, I’ll be able to hold myself to it.

Wish me luck.

Do you have any pets in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

End of an Era

My ex-husband died tonight. I was in bed when his brother showed up, banging on the door.

“Get dressed!” he ordered.

Katie was running through the house, frantic, so there was nowhere to change. I had the man turn his back so I could throw on some pants. I finally realized that the bathroom was empty so I darted inside to toss on a bra and a sweatshirt before we ran out the door and raced to Middle Daughter’s side.

When I got to the hospital it was to see my middle daughter holding his hand as she cried.

I knew this was coming. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. Even so, when he’d rallied all summer, blossoming in the care of Middle Daughter it seemed like he would outlive me.

There was so much blood. He’d aspirated and had been rushed to the Emergency Room. Middle Daughter hadn’t wanted the nurses to clean him up. She wanted to stay with him so she’d told them she wanted to do it.

I couldn’t leave him like that. Couldn’t let the kids see him that way so I grabbed a towel from a stack the nurses had set aside, lathered it up, and started scrubbing.

I couldn’t get it all off. I tried, I really did. It was the last thing I could do, you know? I had his brother’s wife take the kids out of the room so his brother could lift him and we could remove the bloody shirt, and I scrubbed and scrubbed. I scrubbed as hard as I dared because, illogical as it was, I didn’t want to hurt him.

Once the kids left the room the nurse came in and removed the thing in his mouth they’d used to try to revive him. I think it was a thing that helps them put tubes down their throat or something. I thanked her and washed his face again the best that I could but he had a beard so it was really hard.

And now I can’t go to sleep because every time I close my eyes I see him laying there, his hands growing cold as I try to get them clean.

We had our issues but I’d set them aside the best that I could for the sake of everyone concerned.

And now he’s gone.

At some point tomorrow (today, since it’s after four in the morning now) I may have to go help my kids make the arrangements. After that, I have no idea what will happen. I’ve got to be strong for my kids because I know what it’s like to lose your parents when you’re young, so I need to get a grip on my personal emotions before dawn arrives.

Please say a prayer for my daughters and my ex-husband’s family. This is going to be hard on them.

As for me…I’ve got a few posts already scheduled, so you will have that to enjoy while I recover. If there is a pause once they run out, I hope you will understand.

 

Counting Down the Days

It is finally starting to hit my daughter that she will be moving soon. This morning she wandered around the house a bit before asking when I had to leave for work. As soon as she discovered that I work the evening shift she offered to treat me to my new favorite place, the Main Cup coffee shop.

We settled down in our corner spot to enjoy our drinks and relax for the remainder of the morning. Katie immediately whipped out her phone and started snapping photos.

“Why are you so picture crazy these days?” I asked, intrigued by the fact that here lately she’s been snapping photos of me constantly.

“I want to have something to remember this time,” she replied. “This way we will both have something to remind us of these last few days.”

It is comforting to know that I’m not the only one facing the emotional upheaval of our eventual separation. While I am thankful that she is moving out to start her own life, we’ve spent almost 20 years together. That’s her whole life and a good portion of mine as well. This is going to be difficult on both of us, I’m afraid.

While she did her thing I pulled out my journal and started writing. It felt so luxuriously wonderful to hang out in a coffee shop sipping an espresso while I journaled. It has been years since I’ve had the opportunity. Memories of writing my very first books and articles in the coffee shops of Paducah danced through my head as I poured my soul upon the pages until Katie captured my attention. She turned her iPad around to show me what she had been tinkering on.

It was this photo.

I’m going to really miss her when she’s gone.

It is Time to Press Pause

I’ve suffered from a bit of an existential crisis these past few days. My beloved daughter informed me that she plans to officially marry in November.

By some time in December she should be gone.

It’s all hitting me. This stage of my life is officially over.

I started blogging as a form of cheap therapy. I needed to get my thoughts out of my head so that I could focus on my goal of being the best single mother I could be.

In hindsight, I believe that I focused on minimalism and frugality because, in a life that seemed so out of control, money and possessions were the two things that I could control. As one of my friends pointed out so many years ago, I tend to slip into “survival mode” when facing emotional issues.

In other words, when faced with something I cannot control, I shift my focus to shaving as much off of my budget as I can instead of dealing with what is truly bugging me.

And I’ve become quite good at that. As I announced in an earlier post, I doubt that there is anyone blogging online who lives quite as cheaply as I do.

That said, I’ve reached a critical juncture in my life. My youngest daughter, my sole reason for fighting the fight for almost 20 years, is leaving.

If I am not very, very careful, instead of dealing with this head-on I will bury my pain deep inside and obsessively focus upon my finances.

I can already see the signs. When I start seriously conserving money by washing my clothes in a bathtub despite the fact that I can afford a laundromat and debating the financial implications of a purchase, I know that I’ve slipped into survival mode. I can preach different reasons all I want but I know myself, and I have finally realized exactly what I am doing and why.

I am trying desperately to avoid the pain of loss that is eating me up inside.

It is high time I stopped doing that. While saving money is a good thing, my continuing obsession with money is unhealthy.

While I still want to achieve financial freedom, I have decided that I need to shift my focus inward for a time. I need to face the fact of my changing circumstances. For once in my life I need to face my pain instead of burying it deep.

I need to press pause, step back, and seriously evaluate my life.

I have not made this decision lightly. Behind the scenes of this website I have been madly writing about my finances. I even penned some painful posts about things that have happened in the past, posts that really need to stay buried, at least while some of the people involved still live.

I’ve written so much these past few days that despite increasing my posting schedule to a daily format I had things scheduled into next year as I’ve tried to come to grips with what is happening to me. Upon a critical review of my words late last night I saw myself for what I am: a woman in the midst of a major life change.

Some of the ravings didn’t even make sense as I flip-flopped between obsessively focusing on my finances and ranting against the cold, hard reality of what I am facing.

This stops now.

I pulled every single one of those posts. In fact, I’ve pulled every single post that I had scheduled from this day forward as an added precaution. I intend to review them over the next few weeks. I want to sift the good and helpful from the drivel and craft them into something that may benefit you before I give them to the world.

It is time for me to sit back, take a deep breath, and figure out exactly what I want to do next. I know I need to grow up. I know I need to own the fact that I am changing. I need to accept the reality of what I have become, decide who I want to be, and start making positive steps in that direction.

I will return in a few days, I promise. I simply need to work out a basic idea of where I want to go next without advertising the worst of my internal crisis to the world at large. You don’t need to witness that.

That said, my focus on extreme frugality is over. I have traveled as far as I can safely go down this path.

I’ll write more later.

 

 

The Story of a Failure

Back when I was in fourth grade we lived within walking distance to my grandparent’s house. Every time I would see one of my uncles or aunts arrive for a visit I would race there in excitement.

I loved visiting with my relatives. One of those visits is indelibly imprinted on my brain. I can’t recall the exact details; I believe I was in school when they initially arrived. I just recall hearing part of an ongoing conversation as I hopped on the porch to knock on the door.

My grandmother was discussing my parents with my aunt. I paused, hand raised. I didn’t want to interrupt them. Being a nosey child I wanted to hear what they had to say so instead of announcing myself I stepped back and listened.

My parents were described as drunks; failures that could no longer support themselves. It didn’t matter that my dad had been in an accident that caused him to lose his leg; they were drunken failures nonetheless.

According to my aunt it was a shame that my parents had created me. I was a waste of humanity because, due to my environment, I would never amount to anything.

I took those words to heart but not in the way that she expected. Deep down I told myself that she was wrong. I would amount to something. I didn’t know what but I would figure it out.

But she was right. I am a failure.

I barely scraped through high school. I ended up pregnant at 19.

I failed college twice. I failed, not only in my selection of a life-mate, but in my attempts to keep the marriage going. I failed my first attempts at being a writer.

I even failed my attempt at suicide.

I failed the Army. I failed my first attempts at starting a business. I failed to sell Avon. I failed to sell Tupperware. I failed to sell phone service. I even failed with Amway.

Failure after failure piled up behind me. My husband would laugh and tell me that I would never survive without him because I was unable to accomplish a single thing. I was lucky that he had rescued me, had saved the local slut after she’d F***ed up and gotten herself pregnant.

I would never amount to anything.

After each successive failure I would have a good cry, dust myself off, and try again.

I became a successful dog breeder after being given two registered animals in a WalMart parking lot. I used the money to purchase a mobile home with the eventual goal of escaping my husband. It took years to work up my nerve and arrange things but I did it. After years of misery I achieved a divorce.

I graduated computer repair school and started my first successful business. I’ll never forget the shock I felt when I earned $1,000 profit my very first month.

I succeeded in juggling four jobs plus the workload of being a single mother. I worked full-time in fast food during the day and divided my evenings and days off between computer repair, working for a cleaning business, and doing the books for another company.

I succeeded in raising my kids without the financial support of a man. I had to get help sometimes but I did it.

Finally, after decades of failure, I achieved financial freedom after I started this website and taught myself how to write and publish books. I rested on those laurels for several years.

But I failed again. I failed to take my own advice about multiple streams of income. I had preached for years to family and friends about the risk of depending on a single source of income. I knew better. I knew from experience just how hard it could be when you lost your only job for whatever reason. But I was cocky. I’d made it. I was free.

I learned that lesson the hard way once more as I watched the changing world of the Internet pick away at my royalties. I even failed to acknowledge the change at first.

I achieved financial freedom but I failed to keep it.

So I did what I do best: I had a good cry, dusted myself off, and moved on. What’s one more failure when you have so many already? I went back to work in a public job as I analyzed my mistakes.

I may have failed but I am not defeated. I will fail as many times as it takes in order to achieve success.

How many times have you failed? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

 

I Hear Banjos!

A while back I had an older gentleman in my line. He was unkempt; his hair looked like it had seen neither brush nor a washing in some time. I waited patiently as he sat down in front of my register and whipped out a discolored sandwich baggie to sift through the stack of money in search of a twenty to pay for his order.

I gave him a smile as I handed him his change, telling him to have a great day before I turned my attention to my next customer.

He returned a few minutes later, saying that he’d forgotten to buy some bread. As he went through my line again, he discovered the fact that I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He informed me that he’d been looking for a “good woman” to take care of him, that I was absolutely perfect for the position, and that I’d never have to work again since he had plenty of money to take care of me with.

I humored him, informed him that he was being a bit forward as he revealed to me his entire financial status, and sent him on his way as he declared that he would return to court me properly.

Yeah, right.

Guess what? He did. My spidey sense alerted me that someone was standing behind me a few weeks later. I turned and got smacked in the face by a single rose, held by the man I’ve now nicknamed “Deliverance.”

Eyes bright as Manson’s, he apologized for taking “three weeks and X days” to return and explained the delay. He’d been working to repair his transport. Failing that, he’d been out all day shopping for another vehicle. When he bought it, would I go home with him?

“I’m not in the habit of going home with complete strangers,” I snapped, creeped out by the odd gleam in his eyes.

He informed the customers in my line that I was “the perfect housewife,” he just knew it, and that he was going to convince me that he was serious about taking care of me. I noticed that some of my male customers started shifting to defensive positions. He had this look in his eyes that made me wonder if he was thinking about tossing me over his shoulder and carrying me to the hills, so I was more than a bit nervous.

After some back and forth I had to assert that no, I wasn’t going to give him my phone number and I definitely wasn’t going to go home with him or tell him where I lived no matter how much he badgered me.

“But I need to see you!” he protested.

“Sorry.” I wasn’t sorry at all. I just wanted him gone since by that time I was shaking. I eventually had to tell him that he needed to go because I had to get back to work before firmly ignoring him to deal with my customers.

He thankfully took the hint. Promising once again to return he finally left me alone to deal with the line of concerned customers that had grown since his arrival.

I really hope he doesn’t come back again but if he does I’ll be ready. A friend of mine gave me a taser and I’ve bought some mace just in case he ever decides to make good on the threat I could see in his eyes. I’ve also alerted management and set up an emergency code just in case he reappears at the store.

I’m not going to take any chances.

What I Really Want

I’ve done a lot of thinking as my Katie’s graduation approached and even more now that I know she will leave the nest in a few short months. What next? What do I want to do now that I know I’ll be on my own?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I want to remain here, relocate, or do something entirely different. I mull over the possibilities and I come up blank.

I do know one thing, however. I don’t want to ever struggle financially again. While I enjoy my simple, frugal lifestyle, I want to build up a larger margin of safety than I’ve had in the past. I want to know that I’ll be okay whether I work a public job in the future or not.

I could do this by marketing my books more aggressively but to do so would compromise my morals. How can I in good conscience market to a group of people who are already struggling financially? I started writing to help people, not rob them blind!

The answer is I can’t. Not if I want to sleep at night.

So I’m going to have to do some research. I want to build up another source of passive income that is unrelated to this website or my book sales. I want to build it to the point where it can not only support this website in the event my book sales completely tank, but to the point where it can support me whether I work a public job or not.

Now, there are a lot of scams out there that promise to do that. I want to avoid them, so instead of following the crowd I’m instead going to study those who have managed to do what I want to do. Since the Average Joe doesn’t get much press, I’m going to research wealthy people, those who started with very little and ended up rich enough that someone wrote a book about them.

Hopefully I can figure out how to apply what I learn to my own life and develop a system that will allow me to not only build a better nest egg for myself but to give you an idea of something you can do to improve your own financial picture.

To start, I know that Chris Gardner was homeless and somehow managed to get a job in the stock market to build his wealth. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others started their own businesses. Robert Kiyosaki made his fortune in real estate as did many of the people who were featured in the “Millionaire Next Door” books written by Thomas Stanley. At the moment I don’t have the resources to even consider real estate as an option so I’ll have to read, and keep reading, until I figure out something that I can start from where I currently stand.

Any suggestions you have concerning research would be extremely welcome. Thank you.

A Storm Is Coming

Thanks to my beloved Katie’s upcoming wedding we’ve got people re-entering our lives that we haven’t associated much with for ages. This is fine. It’s more than fine, since some of them want to help out with the wedding plans and whatnot.

What is not fine is the fact that certain ones have decided to start in on how I choose to live my life. When Katie moves out I “need” to relocate cause I “can’t” make enough money around here. Now, mind you, we’ve got several factories in the area that I could go to should I choose to do so but my current part time schedule is enough to pay my bills while I figure out what I want to do next.

Not only that, I should move despite the fact that it would cost me twice as much in rent and I would probably be forced to give up my pets. And I’m supposed to do all of this without either vehicle or driver’s license.

I…I kinda told them where they could kiss.

I’ve spent my whole life getting talked down to. First it was because my parents were considered less than ideal, then once I reached adulthood it was due to the choices I ended up making. While I try for the most part to ignore the haters, it does bother me at times. Right now I’m so upset at one person’s superior attitude that I’m ready to spit bullets.

And that’s okay. I own that upset because I understand that while others have a right to voice their opinions I have a right to tell them what they can do with them. It’s also motivating me to figure out my next major life goal now that Kate’s an adult.

It’s a good thing to become angry, to stand up for yourself and force people to back off. It’s definitely preferable to allowing jerks to push you around!

When was the last time you told someone to take a flying leap? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Katie’s Graduation

The big day finally arrived. My youngest, the reason I worked so hard to live on less, finally graduated high school.

It was a bittersweet day. I spent close to 20 years striving to work less so that I could spend as much time with her as possible. I swam against the current as a single mom but this day marked the moment where the journey was finally over.

My baby is now an adult even more so than she was when she turned 18.

A friend of mine drove over four hours to celebrate with us. The first thing we did that day was surprise her with flowers.

The next thing we did was take her and her boyfriend out to Olive Garden. We wanted to make this a day she would never forget.

We gifted the kids with a round of gag gifts. Her boyfriend C really got a kick out of one of them!

As we told him, we figured that since he was going into the Army he could use the guy for practice! Oh how he laughed! His real gift was a journal in which we inscribed “to keep track of your future adventures with Katie.” He was touched.

We also got him a set of crowns so he could remind Katie of who was the “king” – complete with spares for when she knocks them off his head! She got a tiara, of course – she is my princess!

After digging out some other gifts Katie finally got around to her big one from my friend. I’d given her my gift earlier because I didn’t want to detract from the moment. Here’s the expression on her face when she realized that my friend had gifted her with a pair of diamond earrings.

Once the dust had settled C had another surprise for my daughter. I was the only one aside from him who knew his plan. He smiled at her and announced. “I’ve got something to go with those earrings.”

That was when he proposed.

After all of that we still weren’t done. We drove them around and took lots of photos of them to mark the big day.

Once we dropped them off so they could do their thing prior to graduation my friend and I went out for a good stiff drink to mark the end of an era. We both needed it by then. My friend had known her since she was a baby and I needed liquid strength to get through the graduation ceremony. Not only was my youngest daughter graduating, I was lost. I’d spent so many years trying to be the best mom I could be, trying to spend as much time with her as I could. It didn’t help that, like my daughter, my dad had been dying of terminal cancer as well when I had graduated from that very same high school. I was filled with bittersweet memories, all of which came to the surface as I sipped on my Jack and Coke.

Thus prepared, we headed to the stadium for the graduation ceremony. We looked around, relieved to see that her dad, my ex-husband, actually managed to attend. He’d had Hospice take him. Once the ceremony finished we met up with the kids and took some more photos. I’m the one with the red shirt and big boobs.

So this is it, folks. The end of an era. My goal of raising my daughter is complete. Katie has not only graduated high school, but she’s engaged as well.

I’m both proud and sad.