The Art of Rebuilding

Yesterday, I turned 31. 

I woke up before anybody else did that morning to get gas and go to the grocery store, since there were pretty slim pickings at the house. I wanted to have fruit and veggies in the house on my birthday.

I ended up run/waddling into the restroom at Safeway, since I had apparently left the house “too soon.” Oops!

I was very disappointed to not find a “birthday award” in my Starbucks account. I was looking forward to a free drink, as I had scored one last year on my birthday. Anyone know what the deal is these days or am I missing something?

When I came back home, the baby was already awake. As soon as she saw me, she started making those little sounds of desperation that babies do when they’re hungry and know food is near.

My husband and I had bagels and cream cheese for breakfast together. Then he left for work.

I spent the morning with my 10-year-old cooking and cleaning in preparation for the Noonday Luncheon I had planned for that day. I thought it would be nice way to celebrate – invite others to support jewelry artisans around the world in developing countries. No one came, due to sickness and schedules and other reasons they remained silent about. Well, except for the Noonday ambassador and my mom. It was a small little party. Lots of jewelry to try on! My 10-year-old enjoyed that.

Our pressing financial needs are ever before me, so I was still working from my phone all day, though, in retrospect, I could have been working “smarter.” There’s still so much to learn.

My baby joined us all at the dinner table in her highchair and ate banana for the first time.

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My dad spent hours making me the richest, 3-layer chocolate cake known to man, with buttercream filling and a layer of FUDGE for the frosting! We were all barely able to finish our one piece.

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My husband and daughter found a creative way to put “31” on the cake, so I was able to blow out a birthday candle.

After all the eating, we played Scrabble. It’s one of my favorite word games.

The point of this whole thing is to paint a picture. An incomplete picture. A picture of a life that is being rebuilt.

When I was in Taiwan, there were times I felt I had reached the peak of my existence. I didn’t need more friends. I didn’t need more adventures or stamps in my passport. I felt so alive and full. I had purpose. I had a community. Life was SO GOOD.

But if I am to let the past be a school that teaches me how to move forward, I would have to say that’s it when you reach the peak of anything, it’s only a matter of time until you have to descend. And this all for the purpose of scaling the next peak. 

I’m a sucker for analogies, so here you go:

There are mountain climbers who like to bag peaks in a matter of days. One such trek involved Mount St. Helen, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood – two climbers went up all three peaks over Memorial Day weekend last year. (Read their story here.)

Accomplishing that doesn’t mean they were just hanging out on mountain tops all weekend, hopping from peak to peak. They had to get to the top. Then they had to climb down to get to the top again.

I’ve realized, after 3 decades of life on Planet Earth, this is what life is like. Taiwan was the peak of just one mountain. And when I think about it, there were other smaller mountains I had already scaled before then:

  • Winning a Father’s Day essay contest
  • Winning the 5th grade spelling bee
  • Getting to perform a speech in front of 3 different audiences before I was even 14
  • Taking 3rd place in a speech contest
  • Employing myself as a piano teacher when I was only in high school
  • The colorful, exciting, and successful college years

Unexpectedly returning from Taiwan and not getting back on the plane almost three years ago, I found myself at the base of a brand new mountain.

And it took me a while to start climbing. Honestly, I really just wanted to turn around and climb the same mountain again. I missed what it felt like at the top.

But the reality is, the weather on a mountain, even the land and the snow conditions, is always changing. Even I did climb back up to the top, it wouldn’t have been the same. 

So here I am. Not even close to the halfway point of scaling another one of life’s mountains. This time, my husband and two daughters are climbing with me. 

And I always thought I would only need to build one life for myself.

 

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why i don’t want your $$$

My husband and I have been feeling pretty out of control lately. He said this out loud to me the other day. It’s a big deal. 

It’s a big deal when you don’t feel like there’s enough for you and your family. It’s a big deal when you don’t even get a cent of your paycheck in your own wallet for that occasional coffee or beer. It’s a big deal when you feel a sense of relief when one of your kids is out of town because there are no groceries in the house, and the thought of not being able to adequately feed her is awful.

We’re not homeless. We’re not helpless. We have beds to sleep in and clothes to wear, and SO MUCH for which to be grateful.

We’re simply weighed down by our not so stellar financial histories and a slough of debt.

It’s a big deal when all the bills still can’t be paid and you have debt staring you in the face.

We’re doing what we can. My husband drives for Lyft. I’ve started my own business with It Works, probably one of the most risk-free ways to go into business for yourself. We’ve tried selling stuff, only to discover that what we have really isn’t worth waiting for someone to pay a garage sale price for when our primary goal is simply to minimize our possessions.

This summer is a big deal for us. This summer, we make or break the bank by how hard we work, by how consistent we are, by our own diligence and discipline. After this summer, my husband’s job changes to a new and exciting position with a commission-based pay structure.

It’s a big deal for us, with a 10-year-old and infant at home, trying to make ends meet.

I never thought I would be here, in this place of financial panic and insecurity as a wife and mom. As a single female, it was terrible enough to be huddled in my apartment broke, trying to figure out how I was gonna get to work the next day so I could have money again. But it’s even worse now that I’m responsible for other people.

Instead of constantly hitting rewind and critiquing all the moves that got us here, however, we accept that we are here. We’ve come this far. No matter how much debt there is left to pay or how bad our financial choices of the past were, we’re still here.

Alive and kicking, for better or for worse.

And we plan on keeping it that way.

So I’m not interested in any of your money. This might sound like an odd statement to make, but I need to make it.

I need to to make it, because too many times I simply wish I had what “they” have. Their house. Their salaries. Their living situation. I just want their life to translate over into mine.

Someday, I tell myself. Someday their life will be mine.

What. A. Load. Of. Crap.

Nobody’s life is JUST theirs. Nobody’s money is JUST made. Nobody’s salary or living situation simply MATERIALIZES.

Everyone has a story – I’ve heard a lot of them, and now it’s time to live mine. Because my husband and I – we’re alive and kicking!

So I’m not interested in any of your money! Unless you’re buying something from me or paying for a service I provided, I don’t even want to know how much money you make.

I need to stay in my own lane here, block out all the distractions, and work toward financial independence for me and my own family.

Because financial independence is a big deal. And so is not having it.

But here’s the thing: it’s a big deal to accomplish financial independence. Once your there, though, money is not the point. It’s who you become on the way that counts. 

So, again, not to sound like I’m beating a dead horse or anything, but I’M NOT INTERESTED IN ANY OF YOUR MONEY. I’m interested in becoming the person capable of earning and managing the finances that my family needs. 

So here I go.

 

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