Money in My House

Math lesson: “Mom’s money is Mom’s money and Daddy’s money is Mom’s money.”

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Boy: Counting, recounting the money he earned folding laundry this month. Saving for a tablet. “$7.50. I have a long way to go to get to $200.”
Mom bites lip, looks up at ceiling. He doesn’t know she borrowed the $120 he made as a child study in a psychology program. Last year.

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Tonight

Daddy: “Daddy’s sad because he lost his wallet.”
Boy: “Oh, that means will be poor now.”

My Obituary

When she was young, she lived on her last dollar and books and dreams.
She worked as though her life depended on it.

She watched and smiled, said yes I’ll marry you.
She died and birthed her boy.

She played her heart on that piano and her husband heard
and loved her again.

She questioned, ate disbelief. She wept.
She prayed and prayed. She received.

She slow danced with ideas

She was frail, a leaf the wind turned over, and
a rock you couldn’t move in her convictions.

She sang blues and hymns and dreams.
She struggled to get off ground some days, and
wrote her way into the clouds, drank their rain.

She asked God for one more day because she erred, wounded, and grieved.
She loved deeply. She didn’t love enough.

She hoped her life was enough.

 

Comments all yours if you’d like to write your own here.

I May Be a Man

What is UP with the drama? Look, I don’t need any. See me way over here sitting quietly on the end of the girly, feminine spectrum by the zero mark? My gravatar is a pathetic attempt to cheer myself up, comfort the ragged face in the mirror. I don’t wear make-up, hate shopping, clip these nails the moment they’re long enough to go. If you want to torture me, force me to endure a bridal or baby shower and make me play the games – your idea of fun. I have nothing to add to inane talks about your favorite TV shows because I’m a bore who doesn’t watch TV or movies. I’d rather be writing a book on the meaning of life. Are you getting this? My head’s in the sand, I’m not a busybody, I don’t know pop culture, I don’t gossip. And I still attract drama.

Because I’m a woman.

Ugh! The sad part is it doesn’t matter that I am confident and secure. Problem is the insecure mamas don’t like that. Whether it’s watching how I take care of my son or seeing that I would cook for them! I mean, who in the world would slam you because you sent them a surprise dinner made with love? Only women. Can you imagine men being so convoluted? They’re not multilingual. They don’t count facial expressions, pauses, intonation each as a language so the first minute of chatting with a friend, guys haven’t just broken out in four languages. Oh, to be a man! When life is as simple as the pork juice on your chin and the beer bite on your tongue. To be able to say yes and no and know your buddy is not saying no and no. To enjoy the peace of mind that a few minutes of exchange will never spin into a saga. Why in the world did I spend those months investigating the sport of fighting, wondering why men punched one another and then hugged? I so wish I could use my martial arts on a woman who pisses me off, shake hands, know she’s good, I’m good, all is well with the world and then have some honest fun with her in a mean game of bball on the court the next week. Only with women could a BFFship of years dissolve in one hard acid day.

And how do you men take your nice, strong arm and sweep the clutter of To Dos off your mental table? It’s a gift – the amazing ability to check in with yourself, distill competing voices down to your need in the moment. Why did I ever complain of your one-track mind? Food, sex, game that’s on, sleep. You just roll over, close those eyes, and…”Honey? Honey? I was saying –” You’re gone. Way off in a deep sea of sweet nothingness. I’m jealous. I’m stupid. I mean, why wouldn’t I want sex or sleep? Ah, but I happen to have the million-dollar answer. Hostage to hormones. People say that time of the month like it’s one day. It can run a week, people. And that’s all just the fun prelude to the bloody show. Did you know many of us also feel discomfort and can get emotional when we ovulate? How many clear and free days does that leave us in the month? I’m pleased not to be one of those women who’re able to call up tears at will. But catch me on the right days and I’m a bawling mess. Weeks like this, I’m not sure which is worse. To be a woman or have to live with one.

Lessons from My 30s

I learned not to expect anything from anyone – not even friends – but to give. Not because I don’t have amazing friends but because people are busy, have their own burden. I am grateful that anyone should stop to think of me in some way. Wish I had known earlier not to impose standards in my relationships, to free people in their weakness. Free God to grow them.

It was the decade I fell in love twice. With the man I agreed to marry and the baby boy I found myself cradling. I realized my guys have been my 30s. With an I.V. needling sustenance into my broken body on my 30th birthday, I had yet to imagine I would meet my husband the following year – on the dance floor. While some of the most excruciating trials darken this period of my history, these 10 years have been the best. That I should be given a companion to come alongside, hold me up and provide for me, depend on me in the mundane. That I should experience the ineffable wonder of growing a person inside and bringing forth that life from my own body. My hands, given to help fashion a mind and soul, feed and grow health in the person God had knit in my womb.

It was the decade I lost myself. When I plunged headlong into motherhood, Diana disappeared – in her stead a little guy’s personal Hometown Buffet. Everything-From-Scratch MOM. Homeschooler. Walking Unmade Bed, way too tired to care about looking presentable.

P1030732Better late than never: on the threshold of the next decade, I began to recover that self. I hadn’t realized how I’d let myself go until I lopped off the hair that was brushing my low back last fall. I—felt—human. Eating right did not exempt me from looking okay. A photo of me and Holistic Husband when it was the two of us presents a woman accessorized and made up. Make-up? I’d forgotten I not only once wore it, but sold it. Sigh. Last month I parted with the clothes I’d worn over 12 years. Closet bare! Thank God for Winter Clearance. With the testimony of earrings and a top that doesn’t hang on me just because it was a freebie from a friend, I now pass for a female. I blow the dust off the gifts that shape me, so I can serve God the way I was meant to.

With the intent studies in health and natural living, I came to understand how to eat the way my body needs to. Sixteen years in the formal education system impart absolutely no working knowledge of two of the weightiest matters in life: how to eat and how to manage money. I can see why Israel’s desert wanderings lasted 40 years. Some lessons take that long. I’ve learned the kind of care my body needs. How relationships and my response to life affect me.

I’ve developed a compassion entirely alien to my nature and temperament. Hard to go through near-death training and have no empathy for those who suffer. It’s been one dogged climb against a steady rain of impossible setbacks. One step forward for every 2, 3 in reverse. I can’t figure the math on how I’ve ended up on higher ground, except for the grace of God and the stints of running He’s blessed. I have plumbed unchartered dimensions of heartache and blackness. Laid bare the nemesis fear, have come to see just how deeply it runs beneath upsets.

It was the decade I should have known better. Paid heavily for some stupid decisions. But there is no stumbling block that cannot transform into a stepping stone.

But He, Being Poor, Has Only His Dreams

TapestryWmMorrisHe Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Published 1899. William Butler Yeats, Irish poet.

 

Contour
The poem runs line to line, on patterns of sound and rhyme, one long thread. The single period shows we are not meant to stop at the end of each line until the end. The first cloths physically slides right off the tongue onto the enwrought. (Try it.) The silver light finds its rhyme mate night one-and-a-half lines down. In other words, Yeats is embroidering his words. He breaches a vigorous dictum of mine, to avoid word duplication, with a masterful reiteration of rhymes and words like light, feet, dreams. They unfold in a rhythm that carries us one line to the next as they intone a lover’s yearning.

Shape
The stanzas take on the shape of their metaphor: rectangular patches of cloth. The lines average nine syllables. Though soft, the embroidery is tight.

9 Had I the heavens’
9 Enwrought with
9 The blue and the
8 Of night and light

9 I would spread
9 But I, being poor,
9 I have spread my
10 Tread softly

Texture
This poor man could have declared, “If I had the heaven’s embroidered cloths…I would spread [them] under your feet.” But opening with h builds the poem upon a sigh, the sound of breath. We feel the dreaminess in the echo of soft consonants.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,

The sounds knit smooth, silken cloths.

Attribute
The repetitions accentuate the simplicity of the poem that reflects a man with only hat and heart in his hands. Without means, he offers his beloved his best. An embroidery of words, as delicate as his hopes.

But Money CAN Buy Happiness

Does money buy happiness? I’m not sure, but I do know it bought the $200 dollar suit, $40 leather shoes, and $20 dollar hair cut I absolutely needed to get hired. Money bought the civilized means that erased condescension, the social capital to tell my wealthy coworker he was an idiot. To be poor and respected – that’s possible only with the credible threat of violence and most people seem to prefer I avoid the thug life.

My body is made of money. Money buys fresh vegetables instead of bulk Top Ramen, which is another way of saying it pays for my normal, unmedicated blood pressure and didn’t pay for my hypertension as a 19-year-old. It buys my trips to the gym for basketball and medical care when I break a foot or sprain a wrist. Money means I’ll be able to walk when I’m 70. It renders the cost of laundry trivial. Money relieves stress, which is to say it saves me from the void of hopelessness sucking at my stomach. Money frees me from my second and third jobs.

It buys the presumption of innocence from police officers and, failing that, it buys lawyers. Lawyers make you innocent, as I learned firsthand in a rural Nevada jailhouse. The justice system suddenly became my friend. Money buys me car insurance or, when I’m in Korea, housing in the communities that have functional public transportation. In other words, I’d otherwise have no legal means to get to work. Money bought me real estate far enough away from the meth labs that I no longer hear the explosions.

Money buys me weekend getaways and first dates in nice coffee shops. Money buys, in some order, sex, marriage and offspring with a chance to be something in the world. Money makes a family possible. If I’m able to secure enough, money will give me a place the grandkids will want to visit someday, and not the mold-infested dump my grandparents died in. It will keep my future wife from crying softly over a checkbook and spare my children from lying like I did to protect the family honor.

I reflect and wonder if, perhaps, we buy a little more happiness than we’d like to admit.

Ben Garrido at Literary Adventures in Korea

My Husband Threatened Me

Mr: I’ve had these thoughts on death. If I ever blogged, it would be a post. I think death is necessary because “….” What do you think, honey?

Mrs: Nod. Hmmm.

Mr: So can I guest blog on your site?

Mrs: Without missing a beat. Nope.

Mr: What did you say?

Mrs: Nope. (Writing’s not exactly his forté, as good as he is at everything else.)

Mr: Well, with the WordPress password you’ll be giving me, when you die I’m going to put up all sorts of poorly written posts with bad grammar.

*PROGRAM UPDATE*
So no one’s getting my password. I’d rather die and leave A Holistic Journey a sealed vault of aspiration than let anyone spill a careless word in it. If you don’t hear from me for three months, know that I’ve been dining with CS Lewis. I’ll be looking over your shoulder as you blog. Keep those standards up or I’ll get mad and rattle your window.

Related post Ode to My Readers

She’s Not Sorry She Has Money

Wow. As a wealthy person, that’s a harsh post! I wasn’t born wealthy. I have earned every cent I own. I don’t hide it but I don’t flaunt it. We are not all bad, snobby, arrogant or abuse our employees. There is a vast proportion of the wealthy who, despite the long hours we work, also spend a huge chunk of our personal time doing pro bono work, and donate a good proportion of our money to help those less fortunate than us. We create jobs and contribute to consumer economy. We work hard and make personal sacrifices for our income. Please don’t begrudge what enjoyment we get out of it (like buying nice things) or judge us as if we didn’t deserve it. Money doesn’t dictate who I am or the type of person I am. It doesn’t make me evil. ‘Poor people’ can be equally rude, abusive, obnoxious and judgemental. Money or no money, both the Rich and the Poor can be bitter and twisted, depending on how you view life in general. I am as content now as I was when I was surviving dollar to dollar as a medical student with $100,000 debt.

Said Tiffany, our resident surgeon, in response to Mark who posted here the day before she did. I love seeing walls come down, people speaking their truth and embracing new perspectives, connections being forged. Had to share the rest of their dialogue. Here it is, off the comments board:

Exile on Pain Street says:

This is a fascinating comment. In all the drafts I had to submit for this, it never once crossed my mind that anyone could take offense. It’s a good thing you didn’t see the Genet play with me! You think *I* was being tough?! He brutalized the upper crust.

My attitudes (like ALL of our attitudes) are a product of my upbringing and environment. I didn’t have the financial wherewithal (nor, if I’m being honest, the grades) to attend college. When I got to Manhattan, I would routinely be dumped by girl after girl when it became clear that I was never going to be rich enough to support them in the lifestyle they felt entitled to. These things have a way of burrowing themselves deep into your psyche and they have formed my opinions.

I didn’t mean for this to be so one-sided. Some of my closest friends are über-wealthy. But when I was asked to write about my experiences with money, this is what bubbled to the surface. All apologies if you’re fired up. That was not my intent. But I stand by the post. These have been my experiences. I don’t like irritating anyone, all appearances to the contrary. I grew up in Ohio and we’re taught not to do that. I can see how you might feel your lifestyle was being attacked, but I have no malicious intent.

Surgeryattiffanys says:

Please don’t apologise! It’s a really honest post coming from the heart and as you said, all the experiences which shaped you. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and opinions are naturally one-sided. We all get a little twisted about something.

I don’t apologise for the fact that I have money, and that I pay ‘homage to conspicuous consumption’ (literally! Those things ain’t cheap). I love beautiful things, and I have finally overcome feeling guilty for spending money on myself. Judging me by what I wear/own is like judging a book by its cover. The only reason the post ‘irritated’ me (which it didn’t – just made me think about all this rich-poor thing), is because I am actually sick of people trying to make me feel guilty for being wealthy, and for spending MY money.

Mark, I appreciate beautiful things, like a crafted piece of jewellery with a flawless gem, or assembly of textures involved in designing a bag. The difference between me now and me fifteen years ago, is that I get to own and treasure them instead of admiring them from afar. It’s no different from the fact that you appreciate photography, visual art and plays. All of which I love, too.

I used to be a musician in an orchestra, and I contributed to the creation of beautiful symphonies. Now, I sponsor specific artworks to be displayed at the art gallery, pay for my state orchestra to employ the best concertmaster in Australia, and provide annual scholarships in the state ballet company for promising young dancers. So that these art forms can be enjoyed, and be more affordable for the general public. [I'd love to] prove to you that you cannot judge me by my Tiffany wedding ring, my LV purse, and Louboutin shoes, or at least share a few laughs about how ridiculously expensive these things are, and how stupid I look trying to walk in my Jimmy Choos…I swear they are made to be displayed as art pieces, not to be worn.

Happy to report they’re on great terms.

The Scholarship Kid

It was obvious her uniform was from the secondhand shop in school. The grey dress and blue blazer were a size too big. Her school hat had a stain just below the back rim. She stood timidly by the door to her new classroom.

“Everyone,” the teacher rested her hands on the young girl’s shoulder, “this is the New Girl. We are very lucky to have her in our class; she is the only student to have ever been awarded two scholarships at our school.” Mrs K pushed the young girl forward, who stumbled into her seat in the front row. Sniggers were hushed instantly. She bent her head and concentrated on the workbook in front of her. She knew study was the only reason she had been allowed into this exclusive Finishing School for Girls.

The bell rang and the students filed out of the room. The New Girl followed suit. She stood hesitantly in the doorway, looking out at the playground lawn. Girls ages 12 to 17 milled about. They huddled in groups, some giggling, others screeching with laughter. It wasn’t long before she realised that most of them were whispering, staring and pointing at her. She caught murmurs of “the scholarship kid”.

A girl approached. She had short dark hair, wore tortoise-shell glasses and stood awkwardly tall. “Hi, I’m Sam,” she smiled, showing a mouthful of braces. The New Girl smiled back, revealing the same. They laughed. “I am a scholarship girl, too,” Sam said, as if that explained everything. When the only response she got was a blank stare, Sam sighed and turned to face the playground.

“You see that girl over there with the red hair? That’s Hayley; her family owns all the big-chain department stores in the country. And that’s Summi, a boarder. Her family owns oil rigs in Saudi Arabia. The one with that funny laugh is Joanna. Her Daddy makes movies and she spent the whole summer break in Paris with him. Georgia is the one holding court under that big gum tree; her Step-Dad is a Senator in the Upper House…” the list went on.

The New Girl understood. She was a scholarship kid. She wasn’t just a nerd, she was poor – an outcast amongst the privileged. Why did her mother choose this school? She didn’t belong here. But she knew why. It wasn’t for the etiquette classes, the connections, or even the prestige. This school provided unimaginable learning opportunities. And for her, it was all free. It was only through fine education that she would catapult herself into the upper echelons of society, where these girls looked down on her from.

In that very moment, the New Girl decided she would do her utmost to rise above the snobbery and ridicule, become somebody worthy of respect from society’s most wealthy and powerful. And once she got there, she wasn’t going to look down on anyone.

When she grew up, Tiffany was going to be a doctor.

Tiffany from Surgery at Tiffany’s