I Don’t Belong Here

Right after Ellis was born, Dave and I had a fight. I wanted to buy a nightlight and Dave insisted that we didn’t need to. He had one, somewhere tucked away. He just had to find it. I was sick of banging my thigh on the bed in the middle of the night and figured our budget could handle the $10 it would require to save my post-partum thigh from late-night bruisings. But he insisted we shouldn’t spend money frivolously when we had a child. We were parents now. We needed to save.

So, I waited.  Not because I was a good wife, or patient, but because I kept forgetting to buy a nightlight every time I went to the store. Finally, one evening, Dave disappeared into the basement and appeared 20 minutes later, triumphantly bearing a small plastic circle. “I’ve had this thing forever,” he said, which in Midwesternease is high praise.

I plugged it in. And that night, when I got up for the 2am feeding, I almost had a seizure. The plastic orb was blinking like the neon lights in a horror movie.

“The hell!” I said and yanked the nightlight out and threw it into the trash.

The next morning, I went to Target, bought a nightlight (only $ 6.99) and learned to stop jacking my thigh on the bed. I chalked that crazy moment up to sleep-deprivation and I wouldn’t have even remembered the argument, except that this week, at my mother-in-law’s, I got up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.

I snuck down the hall, groping furniture, and caressing the wall, too afraid to turn on the lights because I didn’t have pants on. When I opened the bathroom door, the room was lit with a flickering orange strob light. The same broken nightlight.

“Oh hell no,” I mumbled turning on the lights.

Maybe I don’t understand because I lived most of my formative years in Texas and my mom never washed plastic bags or reused disposable forks. Maybe it’s because I don’t hold onto things. I don’t see in a piece of plastic a heritage and home, something worth holding on to. Or maybe it’s because I give up too early. It could be a character flaw or a cultural thing. I don’t really know.

But I think the bottom line is, no matter how many pans of tater tot hot dish I make, I’m just a Midwestern poseur.

Writing and Blogging Opportunities!

I don’t like showing my inner working so to speak and not because I’m so mysterious, but really there isn’t much glamour in writing out Twitter copy for two hours just to make a few dollah bills, y’all.

But lately, I’ve been approached by people who want to know if I know bloggers who will…write, review, talk…and often these opportunities fall outside of what my mother might call my “core competencies.”  Like, food, DIY, being smart, etc. Or I’m just too busy to write for another blog. It’s true. (Although, I can be bought.)

And I want to pass along these opportunities to everyone who wants them.  But I don’t want to be spammy. Consequently, I created this humble little form for you to fill out. So, I know you won’t unfriend me on Facebook if I email you.

Here are my promises.

  • I will not sell this list.
  • I am the only person who knows your email.
  • I will only pass along opportunities that I like/are interesting/or are great.
  • My first rule is: If I think it’s awful, then I won’t pass it along.

Also, if you are interested in being in a PR network, my friend Cassie Boorn (a top-notch, PR woman and she works for Babble, so she knows all the things) started one here. 

No Pants 2012: Month Four

I am well into month four of my No Pants 2012 Challenge. (Read last month’s update here.)

But if you’re too lazy to click, and I know you are, basically, for six months I vowed not to spend one cent from my clothing budget in order to pay down my remaining school debt.

Here are the highlights:
I muddled through a photo shoot with old clothes;

I wore Pajama Jeans;

I got rid of lots of clothes; and

I paid off a loan.

It used to be that I would browse the clearance rack of stores. Like a stalker ex-girlfriend at her ex boyfriend’s wedding to a newer hotter girl, I plotted ways to win my love back. I could hide that purchase in the grocery budget. Perhaps if I asked that person to purchase this for me and then paid them in hilarious memes? What if I killed Dave and used the Life Insurance money for new clothes?

I got through those moments by promising myself a Coke when I got home or sharing a container of animal crackers with my baby. I’m not proud that I used empty calories to satiate my shopping desires, but I am an American. I can only be so ungluttonous before I need to consume yet again.

Now, I stroll by the clothing section of stores easily and I find that I have little desire to purchase. But it’s given me time to think  about why I spend money.

I grew up the second oldest of eight kids and while we never went without, I didn’t have a lot of new clothes. Especially in college, when I was so poor I lived off Doritos and peanut butter for three weeks and used handsoap as shampoo, I never felt like I had those little nice things that everyone else has. A stylish belt. A fabulous dress. Sassy little rain boots. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that while other people go hungry, you’re coveting rain boots.

And then, when I got a job and made money, I was so excited to spend it. But my inborn sense of cheapness wouldn’t allow me to splurge, but neither would it allow me to pass up on a deal.  And these two desires–the urge to find a deal and the confusion of wants and needs–meant that I amassed piles of cheap clothes.

I never hid my purchases or lied about them. I don’t think I was compulsive about any of this, but it’s so easy to see how money can slip out of your control.  Because it’s never just about things, is it? Sometimes, when I shop I feel like I’m that 20-year-old girl again. Hair smelling of industrial handsoap, trying to calculate what she can buy before she overdraws her account, while the cold nausea of poverty settles into her stomach. Or when Dave talks to me about the budget, I turn 9 again, with skinned-knees listening to my Dad explain why the bank owns our house, why he was let go from his job and why I can’t have Jellies.

And yet, even that is hard to admit, because we never went hungry. We were never unclothed. But money is never just money is it? Spending is never just spending.

Recently, I also quit Facebook. I think the two endeavors are related in a very tangential way. In the same way, I don’t find value in amassing “great deals” is the same way I don’t think there is much value in the way that my relationships were becoming a string of meaningless “Likes.”

I’m tired of mindless clicks and mindless purchases. I crave intention.

I’m also thinking of expanding my goal of not purchasing clothes for six more months. That’s right. A whole year. And you know what’s stupid. There are people in this world who go a whole year without a roof over their head and here I am on my little blog, writing from my upper-middle-class-privileged saying, “It sounds soooo hard!” But, um, it does.

I’ve also been thinking about trying the 1 month, 6 pieces of clothing challenge.

Also, I’d really like a new outfit for when I speak at BlogHer12. But that’s also what the capitalists want me to say.

What I've been wearing this month.

 Could you give up clothes shopping for a month? Six months? A year?

 

Cloth Diaper 101: Gratuitous Poop Talk

Back in the olden days, when I was great with child and eating my weight in fried egg sandwiches, I told Dave I wanted to use cloth diapers. He grimaced. “But think of all the money we will save!” I said.

I know the way to a Dave’s heart.

So, I researched. Read. Schlepped my fat self on down to the local cloth diaper store and tested some models out. Made a decision to go with a cloth diaper that grew with the baby, had optional disposable inserts (for those times when I become lazy), showed the Dave and started buying. Once Ellis was actually here, I freaked out because I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO WASH POOP! But then she pooped on her clothes. And I washed that no problem. The doctor’s office told me that breastmilk poo was water soluble, so I sucked it up and started washing.

It’s so easy. I mean, once you wash your first poo, there is no going back. You become practically Evangelical about these things. No one just uses cloth diapers casually, people run up to you and say things like LET ME TELL YOU HOW THIS BUM GENIUS AIO CAN SAVE YOUR SOUL, YOUR TRASHY, WASTEFUL, DAMNED-TO-DISPOSABLE-HELL SOUL.

I was at a baby shower and this woman started polling people at the table. “Do you use cloth?” She asked while affixing her child to her chest with what can best be described as a large piece of cloth. “Yes, I do.” I said proudly.

I felt like I was answering some missionary at my door. “Do you know the Lord?”

“Yes! AMEN!”

But I was raised Baptist, so I should have known, it’s never enough to just know the Lord. You have to know the Lord. So, of course, my “yes” wasn’t good enough.

She sighed. “Yes but what kind of cloth? You should buy the ones I make. They work way better. Here, let me show you.” She then unaffixed her baby from her chest and changed her diaper, right there on the table. She was a true believer.

Apparently, I didn’t know the Lord of cloth diapering as my personal savior. I’m just one of those only-on-Sunday type of conversions, because I haven’t tested every brand or made my own. I don’t rinse the diapers in the toilet or own a sprayer. Instead, I just use liners and flush the poo. But I do love them. It’s just that if there were a cult, I probably wouldn’t be the one mixing the Kool-Aid.

This week is apparently cloth diaper week, which continues an American tradition of arbitrarily naming days, weeks and months as the official day of this thing I’m being paid to shill. (That reminds me, tomorrow is get a penguin drunk day. DO IT FOR THE PENGUINS!) And my local cloth diaper store is a host-site for some sort of event where a bunch of moms will get together and change cloth diapers, in an effort to trump the world record of most cloth diapers changed at one time. The world record is held by the Duggars and will probably be hard to beat. But Lord love them for trying.

I mean you have to give it to the atheist disposable diapering parents. They’d never get together and say things like, “let’s wallow in poo! Hooray! Suck it, Duggars!”

But I still love me some cloth diapering, not only for the money we save, but because we aren’t generating that much waste and and the poo thing? Seriously, just buy some diaper liners and flush that crap. No one needs to be wallowing in the toilet. In any case, even if you don’t drink this poo-laced Kool-Aid. That’s alright. I WILL PRAY FOR YOU!

Happy cloth diaper week! Here are some great links and articles that are way more helpful than the drivel I just wrote. And remember that tomorrow is get a penguin drunk day!

Almost Free Cloth Diapering – Cotton Babies Blog

Round up of the best cloth diapers – Babble.com

Our CD Journey– Hoo Goes Where

Let’s Talk About Poop – Bakersfield Mom

No Pants 2012: Update

Three months ago, I decided not to buy clothes for six months. This year, Dave and I are really focusing on my our debt. And while, I don’t think the $50 a month I have budgeted for clothing was really going to add much to our efforts, that wasn’t the point. The point was that my clothing budget had become a kind of catch-all for spending–books, more books, race registration fees, chicken nuggets–and honestly, I’d look in my closet and my life and think, what do I have here that’s worth that money? The answer: Not much.

The point really wasn’t clothes. The point was consumption. I’m married to perhaps one of the most frugal people alive (except for that lady who makes her own toilet paper, she’s just crazy. There is a Rubicon we will not cross and that starts with our poo). Dave doesn’t spend frivolously…or at all. Seriously. Born during the great depression of 1983, Dave believes you can live off chicken breasts, frozen veggies and thinks splurging on Suave all-in-one body wash/shampoo/conditioner is a luxury item. I met a girl who was telling me her husband was so frugal that he bought his own chickens, harvested the eggs and then slaughtered them.  When I told Dave he just shook his head, “Where’d he get the start up costs? Did he recoup his losses? How much did he spend in feed?” After crunching some numbers, including the price of grocery store chicken, Dave decided even crazy chicken-slaughtering frugality was too expensive.

And it’s one of the things I love about him. He is frugal, but he isn’t cheap. He is one of the best tippers I know and his presents for Ellis and me always surprise me with their thoughtfulness. Also, because of his frugality, we haven’t had to do into debt for our vehicles or our furniture and he helps me manage Lyz Ink (yes, that’s the name of my business that I use when I file taxes) so that I am able to do whatever the crap it is I actually do.

So, here I am, three months into not buying clothes (or any extras) and it’s starting to wear on me (ha! puns). And the fact that it is wearing on me, is wearing on me. Am I really such a consumer that I need to frivolously spend? Why is this so hard not to buy a neon bag because zomg the internet tells me neon is hot this summer and I think I need it. I haven’t updated before because any update would go something like, “I went to Target, wistfully browsed the clearance rack, thought about how to hide the purchase of a kimono dress under groceries, decided against it. Went home and sulked.”

Repeat multiple times each month.

And yet, this weekend, I decided to get rid of more clothes and discovered that despite my terrible attitude, I am learning some things.

No matter what I have, I have enough: Before I began this journey, I went through my clothes and sent two bags to Goodwill. And I was all, “Bah! How will I survive?” But after three months, I realized, I still have too much. I have things I am not wearing, not using and not needing. Yesterday, I went through my clothes and prepared another bag and my closet is still full. So, much so, that this exercise in not spending has forced me to find items that I forgot about. This colorful skirt from Old Navy and a fluffy black Gap skirt that I wore on Easter.  And yeah sure, newsflash: Middle-income, white mom, living in middle American says she has too much. Breaking news. I’m no big spender by any means. I expected to be scrimping and struggling. Instead, I’m awash in good things.

Grow the eff up: I’ve also learned that I need to stop buying clothes like a teenager. I’m a grown woman, not some pre-pubescent girl who’s going to grow out of that shirt in a year, so why am I buying cheap crap that’s just going to get holes in it after three washes? And why do I think that I really want to rock trends. I don’t. I’m not trendy. Yeah sure, every once in a while, I’ll rock a pair of jeggings or a sweater vest, but I need to start focusing on buying solid basics. Basics that will last. Not trendy items that get me mistaken for a teen mom.

It doesn’t matter where it’s from, it’s how it’s made:  I want to clarify my use of “cheap crap”, some of my best clothes, I’m discovering are the pricier items, but they are also Target items. I have a black knit dress that has lasted me two years. I wear it all the time in so many different iterations–with cowboy boots, a bright scarf, belted. A Gap maxi dress I bought from Goodwill three years ago is still going strong.  It’s not where you bought it that matters, it’s how it’s made.

You don’t need a brand name, you just need good construction. Jackets need to be lined. Shirts need to be flexible, breathable and long enough. Pants need a waist that won’t lose it’s shape (marked by that weird stretching that shows the zipper, you know what I mean).  Spending $50 on one good solid item that will last for years and through seasons can be a better bargain that your whole sackful of crap that you got for $25.

 

This whole project gives me a bit of anxiety. I feel it’s all very “navel gazey” and reeks of middle-class privileged. It does. It is. But I also think, that so much of the time I want more. I want more work. I want more furniture. My house needs better organization. I need to read another book. And so much of writing is this is what you need to buy, what you need to do, what you need to say! How often do I (does anyone) ever take stock of life and say, “This is good”?

This is good.

*UPDATE* Another loan bites the dust.

 

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