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.

Moving on, part 1

Last time I shared how my feet swept the ocean floor. It was pretty raw, but not at all pretty. Today the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction.

Both the deepest lows and the highest highs are hard to talk about. People just don’t do it, unless they are writing a novel about the life of someone else. It somehow seems too personal.

But to talk of everyday life is boring. It is like a flat line on a bell curve. Today I did a load of laundry, ran the dishwasher, and went to work…blah, blah, blah…Nobody wants to be flat lining!

I learned a long time ago not to care what others thought of me. Having a severely mentally ill brother and an obese father that is known to walk out to get the mail in his underwear would do that to you.

Seriously, I would’ve been soooo screwed if I was sensitive enough to care what people thought of me. Instead, I do what I want whether people like it or not.

This thinking opened the door to new adventures. Literally!

In two months, I will be moving into my dream house.

Who could’ve guessed that the business my husband started and I helped him build would be such a success? We struggled to make ends meet for so many of our early years. We almost bit the dust with the recession. Then we slowly earned enough money to start remodeling our modest little house. And now after selling the business (but still working there) we are starting our life over.

He is having an identity crisis now, my husband. What happens when you accomplish more than you set out to achieve? Should he start another business? Would we, as workaholics, end up destroying ourselves when there is nothing left to build? Should we retire early? How could we sit still and do nothing? Should we start new careers?

My husband always thought of himself as the underdog, scraping and scrapping to get by. Who is he now??

People are stopping by our new house just out of curiosity and showing pictures to all of their friends. Remember that boy who didn’t have a dad that we thought wouldn’t amount to much?? People are talking. Rumors are spreading like wildfire. People are asking…How much are the taxes?…Are you going to clean your own house?…Why would you want such a big house when your kids are ready to leave??…They swarm around us with a buzz of questions like busy bees.

I’ve always wanted a swimming pool. When I left home, my parents bought an outdoor swimming pool for Matt’s therapy. What??!? When I begged them for one, they always said ‘no’. I could swim in the lake up north. It always made me feel a little hurt. But in our climate, we can only use an outdoor pool for about 2 to 3 months of the year. It doesn’t seem worth it. My parents haven’t even used their pool in years.

My dream house has an indoor pool in a room that is probably the size of my current house. It is an older house, but full of character and charm. It has hardwood floors, wood burning fireplaces, and a big yard for my dog to run around in. My kids will each have their own bedrooms.

At least people cannot say that I married my husband for his money. He didn’t even have the proverbial pot to piss in when I met him.

I married a boy that spent his earliest year growing up in the projects in the inner city of Chicago. When I met him, he didn’t own a house. He didn’t have any money in the bank. He owned a rusty old Chevrolet. That’s about it. He had a mediocre dead end job. He wasn’t going to have an inheritance. He didn’t have a father and had no clue how to be one. He didn’t have any siblings. He didn’t know how a husband should act. His mother wasn’t the type to offer help.

He had nothing and knew nothing about family life. But he had this dream to start a business. It was a big risk, but it paid off.

I am really excited to start this new adventure.

I’m ready to move on…

 

 

 

 

Paul’s journey, part 10

I’m going to conclude Paul’s journey today.

Wow, that came across as a little harsh. Almost like I will be waiting at the door for him with an arsenic cocktail.

What I meant to say is that I will finish telling the story today. The story isn’t over, in fact some might say it is just beginning..

I just wanted to get the point across that Paul grew up poor starting his life in the inner city of Chicago without a father born to a teenage mother that dropped out of high school.

He had a dream of starting a business. After working very hard for almost 2 decades he saw his hard work come to fruition.

The American dream is alive and well. If Paul can do it, anyone can. The odds were against him. He is a self-made man.

It has been a huge adjustment. I don’t think the fear of not being able to make ends meet will ever go away for Paul. Being poor is so ingrained into who he is. It is a bit of an identity crisis.

I wrote a couple of series on this blog before. This was by far the hardest. If I wanted to do an adequate job of it, it would probably take me at least 6 months of writing his story everyday. I’m not going to do that here. I get bored of hearing broken records (if that is a thing anymore). I like changing things up.

So I will share with you my life. The joys, the heartaches, the journey. All of it..

I want to write a book someday about Paul’s life. It is very inspirational and remarkable story. I may just write it to leave behind for future generations. I would have to get a lot more detailed information. I told Paul that I would be writing a series about him. One day I grilled him for information while we went cross country skiing. He asked me if I would stop asking him questions about the dark days that past and we could focus on the beauty of nature on the trail instead.

Paul doesn’t spend as much time in the past like I do. He focuses more on the future.

I also found it challenging because the story isn’t over yet. I wrote a series previously about eccentric family members that passed away. I found it easier because that story is over now. There are certain things that I can grab onto and remember, but there will never be any more stories.

I have been with Paul over 20 years now. A lot has happened since we met. There was a lot that happened before we met that I couldn’t share from personal experience. I worried that my information might not be accurate enough for my liking. Also, how do you narrow down 23 years together into 10 series? To do an adequate job I would have to do a lot of thinking, note writing, and question asking. I would need an outline of sorts. Sounds like a lot of work for a hobby and I’m a marathon runner.

Plus another thing I wasn’t expecting was how my feelings got in the way. For example, if I was planning on writing a post that was positive and encouraging about Paul but we just got into a fight…how do I brush that aside?? It seems fake. He is the best thing that ever happened to me…but I want to conclude his story right now with arsenic just doesn’t give the right feel. Seriously, all is well.

All I can say was that it’s been a wild ride. I wasn’t really expecting that.

Paul’s journey, part 9

The earliest years of building the business were rough.

Whatever little money he made, he invested back into the business.

He felt like he couldn’t get away. But the business was new and exciting in those days. It was later that we started to feel burnt out. There is so much stress and pressure from the responsibility of owning a business. I don’t even know where to begin. But all of the hard work paid off over the long haul.

Paul went into work on the day our last baby was born. He dragged himself into work with strep. He drove in during major snowstorms. He even went to work after major surgery.

He had a cancer scare. He was having a lot of back pain. He went to the doctor for an x-ray. We didn’t have great insurance, so he didn’t want to spend the extra money on expensive tests. The x-ray showed a mass. They were simply going to drain and remove the mass, but the ultrasound was showing something scary. They thought it could be cancerous. They didn’t want to puncture this mass and have it spread to all of the nearby organs.

Instead they scheduled a major surgery that included the removal of several ribs. Paul spent a week in the hospital. I remember the evening of the surgery well. I sat alone in the waiting area watching the snow fall. I felt empty. This is going to sound funny, but I didn’t feel worried. You all know I am a big time worrier. Maybe I was in denial, I don’t know. He was so young then, too young to have cancer I told myself.

To tell you the truth, I am terrified that he is going to get cancer now. Last year his mother passed away from cancer. She had 3 different types of cancer and battled it twice. The year before last, his uncle died from cancer. His grandma had cancer. Currently, he has an uncle in the last stages of cancer. If I wasn’t worried before, I certainly am now.

They removed a benign cyst that was the size of a football from Paul’s adrenal gland. After surgery, he lost a lot of weight. He was pale and gaunt. I’ve never seen him so thin before or since. He was supposed to take a couple of weeks off of work. This was before the time that working out of the house was remotely possible. He was also taking a 4 credit accounting class for his MBA.

I drove Paul into the office after surgery. I helped him walk down the steps to his office wincing in pain. I left him there and picked him up at the end of the day.

Things got easier as the business grew and with technology. I joined him after a couple years. We have been able to get away. We have staff that can help keep an eye on things now. But there is always a strong sense of responsibility that comes with having your name on the door. There are times that we have to drop everything to respond to work issues. Going on vacation always meant checking emails and working.

I am excited that for the first time now, we will be able to take a vacation without working. I wonder how we will respond without the constant pressure.

 

Paul’s journey, part 8

When you decide to take the first step, you never know where it will lead you.

Paul had a dream. He was at a dead end job. He used up his vacation time to cut back his hours at his job so he could start a business on the side. He worked after work. He rented a small office nearby so he could work over his lunch hour.

Eventually Paul ran out of vacation days. They gave him an ultimatum. Either you come back full time or you leave. Sink or swim Paul.

For awhile, he stood at the edge of the precipice. What am I going to do? Should I start climbing even though I can’t see anything at the top? What if I fall? What if I fall further than I am right now? What if I fail? How will I provide for my family?

“Should I climb?”, he asked. Climb, I said.

Taking that first step on his own was the scariest. It was risky. There was a mortgage to pay and little mouths to feed. We were already living on one income.

Paul immersed himself into building a start up business. He was working towards a Master’s degree in his field of study. He took a couple of sales training classes. He knocked on many doors.

Over the years, he attained every accreditation, certification, license, and joined every industry association that he could. He started working on his MBA one class at a time while running his business. He oftentimes would start his day at 5AM doing homework before work. Then he worked until the work was done. He earned his MBA. He still grabbed at every opportunity to learn more. He worked hard and became an expert in our state.

It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took decades and years of climbing not knowing what was at the top. When the recession hit, he thought he was going to lose his footing. He managed to hang on.

Over time, Paul got used to and became very good at climbing. He is always looking ahead, always striving for that next goal. Sometimes I wish he would take a glimpse back to see how far he climbed.

All it took was being brave enough to take that first step.