Monday, October 29, 2012

So, I'm Going to Talk About Money

I wake up too early, with a start. Realize all of a sudden that it's a day later than I thought it was. Still Monday, but the date is a number ahead of the number in my head. Meaning, an automatic withdrawal for a monthly bill is happening today, not tomorrow. No time to teach a private yoga class and then rush that check to the credit union before closing time tomorrow. I've been counting on that check to cover the withdrawal.

Now I'll be counting change.

I turn it into a homeschool lesson. Pour the change jar onto a blanket on my lap and the kids help me separate coins. We talk about the worth of each coin, the difference in sizes, copper versus silver. My husband brought to our marriage a series of red plastic coin containers. We fill them up to the line at the top, and the coins slide right into the paper sleeves in the perfect amounts, all ready to go.

We have more than we need. Means we can put some gas in the tank this week. Not a full tank, but a half tank will do.

My emotions, during the course of this exercise: Worry and anger over what I keep seeing as our lack. A simple pride that I can turn it into a lesson and allow my kids to help. A certain sense of detachment, of knowing it will be okay, and that I needn't be overly attached to the details. Just count the pennies, Katy, and collect them in the sleeves. Just do the thing before you to be done. (That's all there ever is to do. How many times must I learn and relearn this?)

* * *

Sitting on the bench at the beach with two stay-at-home-moms of my recent acquaintance. The short-haired brunette is watching her two children climb on the slide. The long haired brunette is watching her only son dig in the sand and fill a dump truck. I suppose I'm the medium-haired brunette in this vignette. And my eyes are darting across the playground and back to the sand, because I have three kids to keep an eye on. No, I don't have three kids of my own, but I babysit to pay the grocery bill, so I spend less time sitting and talking, more time moving quickly to and fro, counting three heads, three heads, three heads. Everyone's accounted for.

* * *

I often think about how I wish I didn't have to do childcare. I'm so over the ten hour days. Then my husband comes home and I toss the children in his general direction, hop in the shower, and rush out the door to teach an hour or two of fitness classes every evening. My coffee intake is strategically planned to the hour of each day. I eat in the car, sometimes, to be sure I have enough energy to make it through the evenings. I miss bedtimes for work. This is precisely the full-time-work-life I never, ever wanted.

But I spend all day with my little ones. And they are so happy. They love this life, full of friends who arrive first thing in the morning, stay all day, go with us wherever we go. I resent it sometimes, but they think it's simply wonderful.

* * *

Suddenly I hear the long-haired brunette finish the tail of sentence I'm sure I must be misunderstanding . .. since I'm trying to keep the grocery bill to $50 or $60 a week. 

I take my eyes off all three children, and plunk my backside right back onto that bench. I lean in, and ask: Did you say $50 or $60 a week? For groceries? She nods. How do you do that? I ask, We spend $250 a week for groceries and gas. Both heads whip in my direction: short and long-haired brunettes, faces aghast. I mean, I hasten to add, $100 of that is gas, so... but then I spurt out the rest: If I make $300 a week, we easily spend that

They look at me like I'm crazy.

I mumble something about organic meat. They nod knowingly. The long-haired brunette assures me she could get my grocery bill down to $70 a week. I wonder in my head if she could possibly be serious.

* * *

Later, I ask my sister, who assures me that she spends about the same amount as I do. So does our other sister, she confides, and I feel better about it.

I think it over, and realize I would not trade my too-busy, babysitter-by-day, yoga-instructor-by-night, life for the simpler pleasures of factory farmed meat.

Funny, how I can feel scarcity in the face of such obvious abundance.