Fortune cookie wisdom #42

Stop searching forever. Happiness is just next to you.

Ah, the elusive happiness. To tell you the truth, I think happiness is overrated. I just want you to be happy. I don’t care what my kids do as long as they are happy. If you’re not happy with _______, find another ______. We hear it all the time, don’t we? The pressure to be happy all the time is making us all quite miserable.

Recently I was thinking about the happiest days of my life. Big spoiler, my happiest days were not in high school. I find it seriously pathetic when people who are close to 50 years old say the best years of their lives were in high school. Haven’t you done anything with your life since then?? Maybe I’m just jealous because my high school years sucked.

Back in the day I was voted most likely to be a supermodel on the cover of Vogue by my high school senior class. Better than most likely to be barefoot and pregnant (won by a girl with 12 siblings who only had 1 kid) or most likely to never leave this small (sucky) town (won by my best friend who still lives there as far as I know). True story.

At 17, when I was in my prime for looks, my classmates thought I was the most beautiful girl in the class. That should’ve made me happy, right? At 17, I was going through a really hard time at home. I was really struggling with depression and coming to terms with the trauma I was experiencing. Some people seemed annoyed with me for not being happy. I was shamed for it. There were girls who got mad at me if their boyfriends checked me out. I was blamed for it. Don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways it was wonderful but it didn’t make me happy. If you really saw what I was going through on the inside, you wouldn’t want to be me on the outside.

This past summer an acquaintance told me she thinks I have the perfect life, the perfect family. (She obviously doesn’t read this blog). I do portray myself as having the dream life because like most of us I am really good at hiding. My husband started a company he built from nothing. After 20 years (10 years of me working with him) we sold the company to private equity. Now I live in my dream house complete with 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, an indoor pool and hot tub, 3 fireplaces, and an indoor grill. My detached garage is twice the size of my old house complete with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchenette. I probably never have to work again if I don’t want to.

I should be happy. I should have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life. But with everything that happened with my dad and my daughter’s serious mental health issues, I again fell into a deep depression that has been hanging on for the past two years. Not to mention COVID. There were many a days I sat in my mansion dreaming of ending it all. How messed up is that?? None of the things that were supposed to bring happiness to my life did.

The happiest years of my life were when my kids were young. I was happiest when they were sitting on my lap and I was reading them a good book, Toad and Frog. Story times at the library. I was happy when we danced around in the living room to silly songs. The early childhood years when I stayed at home with the kids. When I drove a 10 year old minivan and lived in a small house. Back when we didn’t have any money, the poorest I’ve ever been in my life living on one income with 3 kids right after my husband started a business. Back when I had the extra baby weight to lose. After the sleepless nights of having little babies and before the sleepless nights of having teenagers. Those were the best years of my life so far and I didn’t even know it.

I feel like I am finally starting to pull myself out of this depression. Maybe the best years are ahead, maybe not. Regardless, looking back to the time of my life when I was the happiest made me recognize something very important. I wasn’t the happiest when I had the most money, was young, looked my best, achieved the most, or really had anything the world deemed as highly valuable. Quite the opposite in fact.

It’s a trap if you are searching for happiness in the wrong things. I will be happy when I lose some weight or have more money. I will be happier when I have what my neighbor has. I will be happy when I have a thousand more followers. I will be happy when I get that promotion or go on that vacation. I will be happy when I earn the diploma or get that medal.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know what happiness is not.

Fortune cookie wisdom #35

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

A wise guy once told me that you don’t have to know everything you just need to find the person who does. Actually that is some sound advice given to me by my husband. He is a wise man but that doesn’t mean I’d want him to fix our furnace. Thankfully as of yesterday we have heat in our house again. Let’s just say I have a new appreciation of our ancestors who had to live through Wisconsin winters without heat.

Yesterday we also made the yearly trek to a nearby small town to talk to our financial advisor about our financial plans and goals, retirement, and all that fun stuff. I am pretty much there to nod my head to whatever my husband and the advisor says we should do. I probably shared before my husband has a Master’s degree in business administration. He loves finance and spends countless hours at his current job doing high level financial analysis. The three of us were joking yesterday if he buys another sailboat he should consider naming it spreadsheets.

Needless to say, my husband is very meticulous with our home finances. We live with a budget, our credit card offers cash back where my husband goes over each line on the statement to categorize every expense. Last week he mentioned he was thinking about becoming an accountant just for fun. He has helped other people and companies come up with a budget. So naturally when it comes to finance I defer all of the decisions to my husband and our financial advisor.

After the meeting with our advisor, we were happy to find out the nearby Chinese buffet is once again open. The fortune above is the one my husband received. We had a good discussion about his fortune. There is a lot of validity to this fortune. I haven’t seen wise people all of a sudden become stupid or vice versa.

I think my husband is a wise person. He successfully ran a start up business until we sold it a couple years back. He has earned the respect of others when it comes to finance. Not only that but I noticed others value what he has to say. People trust wise people. Look at the ads with doctors promoting medications or dentists for toothpaste. I can trust someone’s judgment if I think they are smarter than me. Of course that doesn’t mean I will because I am not the most agreeable person.

My husband notoriously worries about money. It’s the only thing he actually does consistently worry about. It’s funny at times because if I ask him if we can afford something he will say we can’t afford anything. It’s hard to know if it’s him or the fear talking. Every day he makes it sound like we are going to lose our house.

I understand where he is coming from. Paul was raised by a single parent. His childhood was food stamps, low income housing, and ill fitting clothes. He had the fear that the bills might not be paid and he might not have a roof over his head.

As an adult he argued with his mom about money. His mom said that a credit card was money and found herself in credit card debt. My MIL also was addicted to gambling. One time she called very upset. She said the bank called her saying they thought she might be the victim of identity theft because someone took a large sum of money out of her account at a casino. Paul asked her if she took a large sum of money out of her account at the casino and she said she did. He had to explain to her that no one stole her identity, it was her.

My MIL never graduated from high school. She tried to get a GED but couldn’t understand basic math. It’s actually quite sad. I never could understand how my husband excelled at math, money, and finance with no one to teach him any of those things. The sad part is that my husband is a good teacher but his mother was never able to learn.

Sometimes in our early years together Paul would slip his mom some money when we were leaving. I found it strange because in my family it was the other way around. Thankfully in her later years Martha married a tightwad. I think he was able to keep them afloat. It troubles me quite a bit that some of our kids are more like Martha than Paul when it comes to money. Money in the hand is money spent is not an easy way to live. I’m not sure if that will change but I think it can be improved.

This fortune is rather harsh but true. I’ve yet to see a stupid person become wise no matter how much knowledge you throw their way. I have to be careful myself I don’t fall into a pattern of unwise thinking. What about those of us who fit somewhere in the middle?? Perhaps the best course of action is to discerningly seek wisdom from those who know. But I wouldn’t want my husband to fix our furnace. Everyone is valuable in some way, we just need to find the way.

Fortune cookie wisdom #34

A friend asks only for your time not your money.

I’m grateful to have a few really close friends who truly care about me and not my money. They have hearts of gold. There is great wisdom and value to this fortune. Be careful about friends who take more than they give. This could also apply to family, someone you are dating, but definitely not kids. They somehow have a way of making you want to give them everything you have and then some.

I want to buy my kids tons of Christmas gifts. I want my daughter Angel to have the best wedding. I want my daughter Arabella to have the best mental health treatment. I want to be able to help them with college. I want to take them on trips. Hopefully there is a fortune cookie somewhere for that because at some point they need to take care of themselves for their own good. For the most part they do since they are all adults now.

But I still want to give them everything I have (and didn’t have) even if I don’t. Friends not so much..

Gratitude week 71

  1. On Mother’s Day, I’m grateful to have a wonderful mom.
  2. I’m grateful for my children. Mother’s Day is different this year. I transitioned out of celebrating the day with younger kids to being more of an empty nest mom. It’s no longer a day of dressing my girls up in fancy cute dresses and homemade gifts and cards on pink colored paper. I’ve come to expect that things have changed. My youngest daughter is still in residential and my oldest daughter has to work. My son will be over later for supper. Maybe we can play some games or something. I do miss the times when they were little and cute but I don’t miss all the work it was.
  3. I found my mom a really awesome gift that we have been trying to find for many years. It’s nice that we can spend the day together.
  4. My daughter Arabella will be coming home this week after staying at a residential mental health facility for the last couple of months.
  5. Arabella will also be 18 this week, so……all my children will be adults as this new week ends. It’s hard to believe that my years of active parenting are now done.
  6. It’s still been very cool here. One day it even hailed. But it does look like it will finally warm up by the end of this week.
  7. My mom has finally been sleeping better. I’m grateful for her healing process.
  8. I’m grateful that Paul was able to help my mom out with Matt’s finances so she didn’t have to hire an accountant at tax time. My mom took us out to eat to thank him for his help.
  9. I’m grateful to have a husband who is gifted in finance because that is one less thing I have to worry about. We have very similar spending habits and thoughts about money.
  10. I’m grateful that I won a $25 gift card at church today just for being a mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the great moms out there!

Gratitude week 51

  1. Paul started working for a small family business. They had their office party at a hibachi grill this past week. It really was a nice time. Afterwards, Paul and I drove around to look at the Christmas lights.
  2. I finished reading a book on boundaries. I found out I have a lot of work to do. I find that I feel guilty setting boundaries with certain people (like my mom). Even blogging at times makes me feel guilty. Guilt is a feeling I need to work through to set boundaries and write about my life, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve done something wrong. I never realized that before.
  3. This is a big one. My mom apologized to me this week. Last Sunday she came by my house, even though we can’t have Christmas and she doesn’t ‘visit’ because of COVID, and asked me why I didn’t answer when she tried to call me. She has a tendency to call at the worst times like when I am in the middle of making supper. She said she was having a hard time and thank God her sister Jan was around to help her through it unlike me. If she left a message saying she needed to talk to someone, I would call her back. This time she came over and angrily asked me what I was doing that was so important I couldn’t take her call. Her visit left me angry and upset for several days until she apologized.
  4. Christmas lights! I love them so much I might leave some up year round.
  5. Baking Christmas cookies. Yesterday I made roll out Christmas cookies with icing. Today I made Amish sugar cookies. I found some of my grandma’s old recipes that I will also try out in the next couple days. We are getting together with Cindy’s family on Christmas Eve and I am planning on bringing a lot of the food.
  6. It’s only 5 days until Christmas and I am pretty much ready for it. Now we just need some snow!!
  7. Our investment from selling our business finally came through!!! The dividend check should get us through for awhile! I’m grateful to not have to worry so much about money. Arabella just got on the waiting list for residential mental health treatment. Unfortunately it looks like our insurance will not be covering it and it is very, very expensive. It will be worth it if she gets the help she needs and her quality of life improves. It helps to have options available for financing it if we need to. I was really stressing out about it.
  8. We went out to eat this week to celebrate the investment. We had a really nice family time with our two oldest kids. Of course my mom tried calling while we were out to eat and I didn’t answer. Can’t win them all I guess.
  9. I’m grateful that I now have over 900 followers. I never thought I would get to this point when I first started. I read a book a couple years back from a blog of a lady that was training to run her first marathon. I thought, wow, I want to try blogging and running a marathon. Now here I am writing about personal things I never thought I would be writing about. And here you are right with me!
  10. I never thought I would be saying this but I’ve reached the point in my life that yoga and meditation sounds better than pounding my body by doing marathons. While I still want to run, I have no desire to race anymore. What is one more medal anyway? I no longer want to be on stage. I’ve had my lead roles. I no longer want to sing in front of people. I no longer long for high stress hobbies. My body is tired and wants rest. My mind is ready to embrace a slower pace. It’s time to try something new. I’m grateful to be ready to accept the aging me.

Gratitude week 13

I’m not the superstitious type, but week 13 pretty such says it all for me right now. I’m having a hard time feeling grateful. Whose stupid idea was it to do this gratitude crap anyway? Oh well!

Right now I’m supposed to be touring New Orleans for the first time with our foreign exchange students and family. Instead we got the news today that Clara’s parents want her to go back home to Germany. We are so sad it has to be this way. We also decided not to have our daughter be a foreign exchange student.

This week the last thing I put in pen on my calendar is gone. We will not be visiting my brother and his family for Easter.

The Europe trip open to students and their family that got cancelled is not refunding us all of our money. They are keeping almost 1/3 of the travel expenses. Parents are angry and a petition is being sent around to try to get everything but our security deposit back. It’s a huge mess.

My husband and I have been fighting like crazy.

Everything keeps breaking. Now my son is having problems with his car.

Need I mention the economy.

So…it might be hard to find ten things this week.. Here goes..

  1. We are all healthy.
  2. We have enough food to eat.
  3. I only left the house once this week. That being said, the only compliment on my hair was from my husband. Just for the record, the last time I colored my hair was in September. I started doing this before it became cool (the hair salon’s closed).
  4.  I spent some time working on our new business today and it felt good to be productive.
  5.  In some ways I kind of like not being so busy.
  6.  The weather is going to be nice this week, sunny and temps around 50. It is so hard to exercise outside when I am freezing so this will be nice.
  7.  We named our indoor pool Florida. We can go to Florida now.
  8.  I think I am doing pretty well holding things together.
  9.  We will only have 3 teenagers in the house, although I am very sad Clara is leaving early since we get along so well. But it isn’t good bye forever and she will be reunited with her family.
  10.  I had a couple nights this week that I slept fairly good.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

Being weeded

The end of the week was just as strange as the beginning of the week. I don’t think I want anymore signs.

I’ve been struggling this week searching for purpose and meaning. I’ve been depressed and clinging dearly to life by a small cobweb string. There have been fights and arguments. There was one where I pried off my wedding ring just to chuck it at my husband. Maybe we should separate. Maybe we should divorce.

Most of our friends have already been divorced. Some live with another and never remarry. Some are on their second or third marriages. They seem so happy. Sometimes it seems so much easier to throw everything you have away and start all over again.

This week we will be married 22 years and lately it has been more difficult than it has been before. We let our children become the center of our lives and have to learn to live with each other again. We don’t know what we are doing. We had a newborn on our first anniversary.

This week our baby got her driver’s license, first try. I honestly didn’t think she would pass. While she was taking the test, I was already thinking about when she could retake it.

My husband got his hours cut at the business we sold. He is only going to be paid for 12 hours a week. That has been very stressful. We should be okay with the money we saved up. Tomorrow morning, however, Paul is planning on signing papers to become a franchise owner of a new business. He wants us to work together again. Most of the arguments were about me not working. Although I am almost done with my book, I had to set it down for awhile because I promised myself if I got really depressed that I would set it aside.

We decided to keep working on our marriage and to go after our dreams. If it doesn’t work out we could always do something else. We have to trust that things will fall into place.

Paul and I had a good day together yesterday, but things gradually fell apart. Arabella had a friend over, went to drive her home, and had the windows fog up but didn’t know how to defrost the windshield. I kept my ringer on just in case she needed more help. Most nights I turn my ringer off before I go to bed. I’m a light sleeper and figure my adult children can take care of themselves.

I was tired, but left my phone on and stayed up late. I received a call from Alex saying that his car broke down and needed towing. We just had it at the garage the day before, but they said what he needed fixing is very expensive. The body of the car dropped to the ground and he can’t drive it unless it is fixed. He was distraught that he now has two cars that don’t run.

He asked what the meaning of life was if it only brought suffering and pain to himself and the people he cares about. I told him he has a purpose and his job in life is to find that purpose. Don’t listen to the thoughts in your head that tell you that you are worthless. Don’t be discouraged, yet at times I am.

Now we are waiting to see if the car is worth fixing or if it is beyond repair. We got home late last night, around 1 AM. We were ready for bed when my phone rang again. My daughter Angel was calling. Her friends took her out for her 21st birthday. She was rather intoxicated and called to tell me she loved me. I talked to her for awhile, but she wasn’t making much sense. At the end of the call, her boyfriend Dan came on the phone and assured me not to worry that he would get my daughter back home safe.

I knew she was going out. I did worry especially since I wasn’t sure if Dan was going because he had a funeral to attend on the other side of the state earlier in the day. His uncle died in a freak accident trying to clean up after the storm that hit.

As I was ready to finally go to bed around 1:30, my mom texted and said she got safely to her vacation destination out of the country. She wanted me to call my dad because he doesn’t text and it was expensive to call. I called my dad today. At the end of the conversation, he told me he loved me for the second time in my entire life.

I went in the house to eat lunch with Paul and a song was on I never heard that said you’re being weeded.

Although I’ve been having a faith crisis, I’ve been still going to church because I am able to find some serenity there. Last week there was a sermon about how the weeds are planted alongside the good seeds. But if you pluck the weeds too soon, the plant will also be uprooted and die. But at the right time, the weeds will be pulled out and the plant can flourish and grow like never before.

I think I’m being weeded.

Fortune cookie wisdom #15

Sometimes…money costs too much.

Money…along with sex, religion, and politics are the topics I was taught not to talk about.

Money…how can it cost too much??

I think greed costs too much. If you spend your life chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of having close relationships with others, in my opinion the price is too steep.

But wait, aren’t all rich people greedy?? Absolutely not! Greed can take the hearts of the rich and poor alike. There are a lot of rich people that do wonderful things with their money. If you don’t have money, you could be generous with your time.

But, doesn’t money buy happiness? It certainly can make your misery a lot more comfortable. My husband always said that the only ones he hears say that money doesn’t buy happiness are poor. It’s unusual because he has lived his life at both ends of the money spectrum. It gives a different perspective.

Paul is the type of guy that if we go on vacation, he spends a lot of time talking to the servers or staff. He can relate to almost everyone. Neither one of us feels comfortable being served. We like to clean our own house, mow our own lawn, and pull our own weeds.

I think we all tend to get used to our mode of living. If our fortune changes in either direction, it can be rather shocking.

For us, there is always the ‘can’t afford’ warning bell going off in our heads. It’s strange to live in a big house. Our electric bill this last month cost more than our mortgage on our old house. The more you have, the more everything costs.

I grew up middle class. I had a rich uncle that paid for my college tuition. My aunt told me to never tell anyone that he was paying for my college. There seemed to be a certain hush hush involved in having money. Like it’s some big shame to work hard and be successful.

In fact if people talk about how much money they are earning or how rich they are, I mistrust them. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But how come we don’t feel that way when someone tells us how broke they are?

I admit, though, I am jealous of a few rich friends that don’t have to work. It must be really nice to be able to devote all of your time to your hobbies. Maybe it would get old, boring, or be unfulfilling. I tell myself that often while I am at work on a beautiful summer day.

Although I’ve lived in my dream house almost two months now, I posted zero pictures on Facebook. I’ve told only the people that I’ve had to. I live a very secretive life and I like it that way. Money makes me feel very uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit. It’s a huge adjustment from the way we grew up and how we have been living up to the point of selling our business.

It has always been us and them. Now we are not us anymore, we are them. How would you act? I don’t want people that liked me to love or hate me. I don’t want to be treated differently. I just want things to stay the same, but they’re not. So I tend not to talk about it even though it is part of my story now. I’m afraid to be honest with you about money because it has been so ingrained in me that it is taboo. But who really cares?? There are people out there smarter, richer, and better looking than me. That is okay, I guess.

I think most people know where other people are at even if we don’t talk about it. Even if you never posted about money, I could guess where you are at just by the things you post about.

But, isn’t money the root of all evil? It depends on how you use it. There is a lot of weight on the little piece of paper that doesn’t grow on trees. And sometimes it costs too much…

 

Like a cactus in the sea

I’m not 100% unpacked yet, but I want to start getting back into the swing of things. I’ve made a lot of progress.

I am going to try to get back on a regular blogging schedule.

I even went for a run today for the first time in over 2 weeks!

So what if the house is not finished yet? I have a lifetime to unpack because I am never moving again!

I have so many things to tell you and they are piling up higher in my mind than the boxes in my garage. I never finished my whole fortune cookie thing and I’ve had some moral dilemmas that I wanted to run by you.

Moving has been a big adjustment…literally!

Our new house is 4 times the size of our old house.

The garage itself is 3 times the size of our old house.

You don’t know how many times I’ve set down my phone only to have to search a half an hour to find it. Over the weekend, I set down my beer and by the time I found it, it was warm. I won’t even tell you how long it takes to find my husband and kids. By the time I find them, I forgot why I was looking for them in the first place. There are still several things that are lost, but at least my son found his wallet.

My kids think that all of their friends should move in. I’ve had more people stay overnight in my house the one week that I’ve lived here then I’ve had for several years in the old house. Plus they leave things behind like clothing and broken phone cases. Maybe I should set up a lost and found box next to the pool. Oh, and they all left behind their swimming suits. But they used every single towel I have in the house.

My kids get upset that I don’t want to have people over every single day and night. Apparently that makes me a selfish person to want the house to myself (or just my family) every once in awhile.

My house has become like Hotel California. Once they come in, they never seem to be able to leave. We had friends over Sunday night. They had so much fun that they stayed until almost midnight on a work night. I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

Even the movers loved my house. They said it was the most beautiful house they have ever seen. They took pictures to show their significant others. They said they hope they win the lottery someday so they can afford a house like mine.

It makes me feel uncomfortable and guilty in a way which is probably why I didn’t tell a lot of people that I was moving. I feel bad being excited or talking about the new house in front of others. It makes me feel like I am talking on and on about how wonderful it is having 3 children when the person I’m talking to has been dealing with infertility for decades.

I wish I had what you have.

But they didn’t see the years, decades of struggling…the perseverance that we didn’t know if it would pay off…putting every penny and pouring everything we had into this business. They don’t know me. They don’t know that the first half of my life was a living hell.

They don’t see my husband as the boy that started out in the inner city of Chicago without a dad, born to a poor single teenage high school drop out. The boy that had a dream of starting a business…The boy from the projects that is now living in a mansion like some sort of celebrity rapper. How many others do you know with a similar story? I really don’t know of anyone else personally. But I do know it is possible.

So I watch as people I know and don’t know take pictures of my house to share with strangers.

Maybe you would like to see some pictures too. Sorry I didn’t ask. You could post the pictures on social media…show the kids, your neighbors, maybe even your cat.

Or maybe you don’t like me now. Maybe you view me as a greedy selfish rich bitch with a foo foo dog in my purse type.

Will it change me?

Maybe I’ll get used to it. I’m not sure how to respond or act.

Right now I feel like a cactus that has been thrown into the sea.