Swimming In Debt Is Cool If You Just Pretend Everything Is Fine

 

I have known so many people with that philosophy. They don’t have very good lives in the end – they foreclose on their homes, lose their cars, die of heart attacks at 40… but in the moment that they live it, where they swim in debt while pretending everything is fine, they really are happy.

And how couldn’t you be? Exotic vacations you can’t afford. Boats. RVs. Long weekends. Hair and nail appointments every week. All the while completely oblivious to the fact that sometime, at some point, you will actually – yes, this is real – have to pay all that shit off.

I, personally, can’t live like that. I am excessively frugal, to a point of absurdity. I think I learned it from my grandmother, who was most known for going to buy Diet Coke when it was on sale in her red pick up truck. She would pull up in her driveway, and open the back of the truck for us to see an entire truck bed lined with 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke that she had bought on sale. We’d all have to help her load it into the garage, and she would be set until the next time it went on sale.

So now, taking after my grandmother, when our groceries are delivered, and we get 75 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese, or 200 cups of applesauce, my husband always thinks I’m insane.

I also find myself envious of local family and friends, who get Botox while my crow’s feet under my eyes grow deeper and deeper. Or who get their eyelashes and nails done every two weeks, while my toe nails typically look something along the lines of what you would find on an elderly gargoyle. I wear make up maybe once a week, because there’s no need to waste the money on it if I’m not going anywhere; and my hair…well…let’s not go there.

Typically, we don’t take exotic vacations either. We don’t do trips to Cozumel or Europe; and sure, we have our family weekend trips out of the area, or occasional vacations to places like the Grand Canyon or to use our Disneyland passes. But it’s always carried with a sense of frugality, including always finding places we can stay where I can cook our meals to save money on eating out.

My kids and husband get haircuts by yours truly, and absolutely every single one of my purses was purchased at Target.

I think you all are getting the point: we live on a tight budget, and we don’t go for all the extra unnecessary things. This is all done so that I can stay home with the kids, and so that my husband can work in his industry of choice (film, a volatile and sometimes poorly paid industry to work).

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You can imagine, then, my frustration when we start getting socked with bills, and they just keep coming and coming and coming, and in spite of all the cuts and the tightening of the belts they just get worse. It seems wholly unfair. As if I have not sacrificed enough, suddenly our insurance doesn’t cover something they always used to cover and we have a $410 bill with a due date 10 days from now (and a hospital absolutely refusing to negotiate). I get a bladder infection, and the urgent care – who is legally required to notify us if they are sending out the “sample” does not – and they send it to a lab out of our network, and we get socked with another medical bill that is beyond reasonable, with everyone saying “tough shit, that’s life.”

Then our water softener alarm starts going off, and we find out the filters need to be changed even though we literally had no idea there were filters in the thing. Then one of our kids gets sick and – big surprise – the medicine she needs isn’t covered, and beyond that I have to spend a whole tank of gas driving all over the place looking for a pharmacy that has it. Then a short in our garage refrigerator triggers a chain reaction of all the things in the garage going out of power, which we don’t catch for over 48 hours and literally thousands of dollars of food being stored out there (between the fridge and the deep freezer – see previous notes about buying things on bulk when they are cheap) ARE RUINED.

It just never stops. You think everything is fine, you are in a good place and everything is working out and then a domino effect begins of one costly thing happening after another, until you finally get to a point where you just want to do what everyone else does and pretend like everything is fine.

Sure, we just lost thousands of dollars in food and I have no idea what we are going to do to replace it…but I’m going to go get my nails and hair did anyway.

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I mean yeah, tons of medical bills are piling up and we have probably $1500 in unpaid bills that suddenly found their way to our doorstep this week, alone…but I need a vacation, so let’s go on a little weekend getaway.

My current purse just ripped a huge hole in it, one that could arguably allow money to fall out…so rather than worry about the food and the medical bills and the electricity issue in the garage…I think I’mma just go get me a Coach purse because – honestly – every time I see someone carry one, I tuck my Target variety bag under my arm in shame.

Because this is California and your handbag is about as important as your position in life will ever get [sarcastic eye roll].

No matter how much I joke, though, the reasonable me just can’t do it. Instead, I sit here hours on end worrying about where the fuck all this money is going to come from, as my husband gets sent home from work earlier and earlier every night because it’s the slow season for movie trailers (and he is hourly, so an early night means…you got it, less pay). I contemplate going back to work every three or four days, but then spend an entire day working out the expenses that would be involved in doing that (daycare for the kids, extra commuting cost for me, and so on), and THAT doesn’t make any sense, so then I go back to worrying and trying to find any fucking sale price ground beef and ham steaks I can buy in bulk and freeze just to make myself feel like our finances are getting back on track, once and for all.

This is where I’m at right now. Swimming in debt is NOT cool, but I wish it were.

 

 

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I Need A Babysitter Who Will Work For Free and Not Be a Bad Influence

We used to have a mother’s helper. She came over two times a week, for three hours each time. She’d help with picking up around the house, dishes, lunch, homeschooling, and so on.

For the three months she worked for us, it was great. Sort of. I got to leave the house to run errands alone if I needed to. The extra help around the house meant I had more time to write. Twice I was even able to go get my nails done, alone and in peace.

There were a lot of problems, though, too. Like the fact that she lived about 15 miles away from us, and did not drive (meaning I always had to pick her up and drop her off). And there was the dress code issue – suddenly I was having to answer why I wouldn’t allow ass-cheek-showing shorts and half shirts when the mother’s helper wore them all the time. It also cost us $13 an hour, which was $39 a day, $78 a week, $312 a month…plus the extra gas money picking her up and dropping her off. …and of course there was that one time that she and her boyfriend came over around Halloween to my in-laws (she is actually a family friend, making it even more complex) and she basically “sat” on his lap the entire time…

What I’m saying is that it became not worth it pretty quickly.

So since then, I’ve had absolutely no help at all. Except from my husband, and occasionally my father – both of whom are often flakey, enforce very little rule, and have sometimes questionable understandings of what it means to properly care for a child (example: my husband thinks children can just learn to like exotic meals whether their little stomachs can tolerate them or not, and by contrast my father believes that Spaghetti-O’s count as a serving of vegetables).

So the other day we were at my in-law’s to have dinner (like we always do on Sundays) and to watch the Oscars. Those of you that have been around for a while know how much I just love the film industry (that’s sarcasm, actually…90% of the film industry makes me want to stab myself repeatedly in the eyeball with a No. 2 pencil). But in spite of the utter contempt I have for this industry of greed and workaholism, of course we always sit and watch the Oscars religiously while my film industry husband and his film industry-loving mother fantasize about him one day winning an Oscar for whatever run-of-the-mill reality TV program or McDonald’s commercial his company happens to get their hands on.

1891132_10152113348251704_2055584696_nI’m sure it goes without saying that we really only saw one movie nominated, and only because it was age appropriate for children.

As we were watching the Oscars the other night, I was standing in the kitchen pouring myself a drink and shoveling queso dip and tortilla chips down my throat at unprecedented speeds, when suddenly I heard my husband’s grandmother – literally – yelling at him. I walked closer to hear just what in the hell was going on. Apparently, she had asked him what movies that were nominated for awards he had seen, and he said “none.” She didn’t understand why this blasphemy could be the case, though – which is where the yelling came in. She yelled and yelled and yelled: “why don’t you guys ever go to the movies?” … “how are you two never going out?” … “you work in the film industry, why don’t you and Heather go see some of these?!”

Two words: no babysitter.

Even when we had the scantily-dressed mother’s helper coming over twice a week, she came during the day and my husband was always at work. Our family close by have their own lives and priorities; and even when they don’t, it’s hard for those babysitters to expect to babysit at their own homes when kids need to be in their own beds early (this has been a real difficult thing to get our families to understand). And finally, there is the stark reality that non-family babysitters can be pricey. $13 an hour is actually a lot of money when you live on one income.

All of that being said: everyone needs a break now and then from the hustle and bustle of motherhood, or parenthood. It can – at times – be overwhelming and isolating; and especially when you are a homeschooling mother, who has at least one child literally under foot every minute, of every day… well, it can be a little crazy-making.

And you all know how crazy I am already.

1939718_727765833934576_1210475743_oBut now I’m starting to realize just how much more crazy I’m becoming. And I don’t think it’s in a good way; more in a if-mom-doesn’t-get-a-break-she’s-going-to-flip-her-shit-and-be-taken-to-the-mental-ward-in-a-paddy-wagon kind of way.

We’ve been here before, and the signs are always the same. My hair looks more disheveled. I’m waking up more and more, and more, in the middle of the night with a flurry of things that need to be done going through my head. Worse: the nails on my toes look like something that belong on a gargoyle; and I haven’t shaved my legs in so long that I have no idea what shade of color the skin beneath them truly is anymore. And more than any of it all – more than the nails and hair and the visible signs that I need a little time to myself, I cannot remember the last time I did something with other adults. Like go to a movie, attend a book club meeting, or just have a drink with my husband outside of the house.

So I’m looking for a babysitter. One that will work for free, preferably. And one that won’t look like a whore in daisy dukes that her vagina hangs out of, and a bathing suit top – because that is totally what you wear on a cold day with no sun or nearby swimming pool. I thought about putting together a Mary Poppins-esque list to post on Craigslist, but then I realized that anyone who would respond to a Craigslist ad to babysit for free is probably not someone I want to babysit.

But were I to … it would go something like this (feel free to read it to the tune of the Perfect Nanny song from Mary Poppins).

Wanted:

an occasional babysitter who will work for free

and not dress like a slut

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Especially ones of the genital sort

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet but not too pretty
Work for free, bake us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Crack the whip but don’t be cruel
Turn my cooking into other than gruel
Love us as your family
And never say you’re charging me

If you sit around and text your boyfriend
Free or not, this arrangement will end
We won’t hide your spectacles
So you can’t see
But bitch I catch you in my bed
You’ll need to flee
Hurry, occasional babysitter who will work for free and not dress like a slut!
Many thanks.

Sincerely,

The crazy lady who can’t keep her mouth shut.

What, Exactly, Are Big Girl Panties?

Sometimes when I’m out to lunch with my dad, he’ll say something along the lines of: “yeez, Heather … you should probably stop woofing down those french fries like there’s no tomorrow, or you’ll have to upgrade to big girl panties.” The oddity that is our father-daughter repertoire aside, I always think of this when I hear someone say “time to put on your big girl panties.”

Of course when people say that, they don’t mean you’re getting a little hefty around the backside. Well maybe they do, but for all intents and purposes we’ll assume that what they really mean is: it’s time to act like a big kid. They mean that it’s time for you to grow up. For you to make a decision you don’t want to make. Follow through with an action you don’t want to do. It means that you need to make a sacrifice, be an adult, and act your age.

And it means the big R. Responsibility.

I can think of  a few examples in recent memory that I wore my big girl panties.

Yesterday,

in the grocery store parking lot

Yesterday, in the grocery store parking lot, a skirmish unfolded and I was confronted with the need to hitch up my big girl panties and move along quietly. A woman parked next to us as we were getting out to walk into the store, and she therefore was walking in about the same general area as us from car-to-grocery. As we all crossed the lot to the store, a car pulled up very quickly and started honking, the driver yelling “hurry up!!” Rude, I know, but having the Pookies in tow meant I needed to keep it down to set a good example.

“Some people are in such a hurry,” I said calmly as we finished walking into the store, but then the woman that had parked next to us turned around and started screaming at the car. “Bite me you son of a bitch!” she screamed, causing everyone in the parking lot to turn and look. Inside she was my personal hero; outside she really needed to pull up her big girl panties and move on.

Last Friday, over text message with my Trailer Trash Mom

I invited my mother over for dinner over the weekend and she accepted. I know what you all are thinking: I was being too kind. I was, but then I really wanted to get more dirt on what is going on with her Hillbilly Husband/New Mexico trailer-drama. What can I say, I like a good story. So she told me she’d let me know which day worked better with my grandparents’ schedule and then I didn’t hear from her for a few days.

Friday I texted her and said: “Hey, I just went and got all the food for dinner. Do you know whether Saturday or Sunday will work best yet?” and she responded that they were invited to a family tailgate party for the UCLA-Nebraska game, and had decided to (a) extend it into a whole-weekend-family-affair, that I was (b) excluded from on account of the fact that I don’t like either team. This is how that family usually rolls, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really like my mom, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was still rude that she handled it like that, though, and if I were to let it get to me I probably would have said something nasty. But did I get upset, and scream and cry about it? No. I pulled up my big girl panties and put the extra food in the freezer for us to eat later next week; then waited to smile when Nebraska got creamed.

But what if you don’t want to put on your big girl panties?

This morning when I woke up, I was immediately smacked in the face with my very real “big girl panties” problem: our rent is being increased significantly. The problem is very complex. We’re trying to move to the Midwest – something I have been waiting to do for about 12 years now. Signing a 10 or 12 month lease (the two options we were given besides month-to-month) will lock us in here for another full year. A lot can happen in a year, and as I said I have been patiently waiting and working towards this for 12 years. It will also increase our rent even at that. Another option is that we pay the month-to-month rate and starve to death. There’s also the fact that this place isn’t even worth what we pay now – we had an attempted break-in a few months ago, my outdoor vase was stolen just last week, and a child of one of the neighbors was kidnapped on the 4th of July. But moving to another place while we buy some more time to figure out the whole Midwest move thing will cost a lot of money and lock us into another lease.

Ugh, I know.

You can see why I don’t want to pull up my big girl panties on this one. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and in the end the only one that will really be suffering, acting like a big girl, and sacrificing for it is me. I’ll have to stretch the budget to make it work. I’ll have to go another year waiting. It’s very frustrating, to say the least.

So while I do believe that there are a lot of instances when we need to let ourselves upgrade to big girl panties, figuratively speaking of course; I also believe that there may be a time to say “enough is enough.” Is there ever a time when we shouldn’t have to put on our big girl panties? What, exactly, are big girl panties, anyway? I always thought they meant adulthood. Sacrifice. Responsibility. Stuff you do but don’t want to.

But is always sacrificing, never taking risks, and settling for less really living?