Since I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 19, I was poor and struggled every month to pay the bills. That didn’t change once I married the hubs. Sometimes I look back 12 years and wonder how we ever survived some months. I know that I have been incredibly blessed to have parents and parents-in-law who have never failed to help us when we needed it. I remember when my oldest son and second child was a newborn and my Mom came over to watch my daughter so I could take him to a doctor’s appointment (he has just gotten out of the hospital with RSV and still had oxygen attached to him) and she confronted me when I got home because we had no milk or bread in the house. She was mad at me that we were struggling, because I was on unpaid maternity leave, and I didn’t come to her and ask for money. She immediately handed me a wad of cash and offered to watch my children longer so I could go buy groceries. I am forever humbled that we always had the safety nets of our very loving families to fall into when we came up short.
Even after I graduated from college and had a better paying job, and so did the hubs, we still spent months paying off the credit card and medical debt we got ourselves into being young and poor with children. We paid it completely off, put money into savings, and bought ourselves a house. But our mortgage increased our monthly house payment (re: rent) by 3 times and we counted on every hour I worked to pay our mortgage. Even though it was difficult, we felt very sure that this is where our Heavenly Father wanted us.
Then the hubs was recruited to work for a High Tech Company at the end of August and it increased his salary by almost 70%. And suddenly, for the first time since I was 19, I don’t have to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. I choose to work because I love my job, not out of necessity. What an incredible blessing.
But I literally can’t wrap my mind around it. I can pay all my bills at once now. I’ve never had that. I don’t even notice when my mortgage payment comes out anymore. I used to watch it like a hawk and budget, budget, like crazy. I don’t know what it’s like not to struggle every month, and I don’t know how to get used to it.
My entire paradigm of life since I was 19 years old has changed. I’m still in the coupon clipping, buying only the cheapest store brand, live and die for sales, save save save, mind-set. Which I think is good, because you never know what the future will bring.
However, I feel like I’m finally able to pay back all the people who helped me out. I’ve been donating to charity like crazy. I’ve paid for meals at restaurants for people who have quite frequently paid in the past for me. I’m giving more generous tips. I’m trying to pay forward a blessing I feel completely undeserved and humbled by. I always told myself that if I ever had any sort of disposable income, I would be generous with it, and I’m trying to live up to that.
I had an experience lately that blew my mind, and I’m still reeling thinking how can this be my life now? The hubs went up to his office in the Seattle area for work meetings and end-of-the-year meetings. To top it all off, since they had all the employees in America together, they threw a holiday banquet and invited spouses. We had a voucher from Southwest and I was able to fly up there to join him for free. He was already up there and stuck in meetings and couldn’t come pick me up the airport (and didn’t rent a car in the first place). So I told him I would just catch a cab like I do when I go to NYC. The hubs instead gave me the number to a car service. I’m sorry, but I don’t get picked up from the airport by town cars to be driven to hotels where my car door is opened by bellhops who also handle my baggage. The thing was, the company put everyone up in a 5 star luxury hotel. I’m not used to bellhops helping me with my bags and ordering room service. I’m used to checking into Motel 6 and driving your car around the side to be closest to your room which has outside access. Our freaking hotel room had granite counter tops in the bathroom!
The gym in the hotel was nicer than the Gold’s Gym I go to in my home town. The treadmills had touch screens! They had refrigerators with wet towels so you could towel off after your work-out. They had an Olympic-sized lap pool! I stay at motels where you swim in the pool outside because you have no other option, not that it’s a good idea or even sanitary.
While the hubs was in his boring work meetings, I scheduled myself a hot stone massage at the hotel spa. It was possibly the best 90 minutes of my life (barring all the other great times I’ve had with the hubs). I left happy and relaxed with all the knots worked out of my back. Then I went back to my expensive hotel room, got in bed, ordered a funny movie and ate lunch that I had bought at the deli in the hotel. I also bought some popcorn, intending to pop it, but then realized when I got back to the room our room was sans microwave. I was pretty sure that if I called room service, they would pop it for me. But that felt incredibly bratty to me. While I stayed there my whole two days, I tipped the crap out of people because it wasn’t that long ago I was in the service industry depending on the kindness of my customers.
Then came the night of the holiday party and I have never attended a party so nice in my life. They held it at a Conference center near our hotel. It was cocktail attire so my bestie, K, helped me pick out a dress before the trip. While we were waiting in the lobby to get out name tags, they had 2 open bars and waiters in tuxes going around serving hor’dourves and wine. The bar was literally open and you could get as many drinks as you wanted all night long. I think the hubs and I were the only non-drinkers there. So we carried around our Sprite in fancy glasses.
Next they had a cocktail party for an hour or so. We went into the one Conference banquet room and it was decked out like a high-end lounge. They had two more open bars, a live-band playing Christmas songs, and a huge ice sculptor with the company name. The furniture was fancier than I’ve seen in most houses, let alone a holiday party.
Then they opened up the curtains for the banquet area. I was blown away. They had three jumbo screens with pictures of snow falling, a DJ, a chandelier that was a square of falling lights, and the tables were decked out to the nines. It was banquet style and the spread was amazing. The meat choices were salmon, roasted turkey with cranberry chutney, and a special chef making the prime rib. Hello! They also had a mini-dessert spread that was fantastic. The waiters that had been serving us hor’dourves earlier were now collecting plates, refilling wine and water glasses, and serving coffee at the end of the meal.
After dinner they gave out awards and I zoned out for a bit. Then they had a raffle. The hubs’s old company used to do that at their Halloween party, and they do it at the FSA Conference every year, so I was used to it. The only thing is, the nicest thing they ever gave out at the hubs’s old company party was an iPad (which is freaking nice), but they were giving out tickets to the Mets game with airfare to NYC included. Hello! I turned to the hubs and said, “where do you work???” Of course we didn’t win anything, and I would have been happy with whatever he had won if he had won anything. Next, they rolled out the dance floor and a few of us shook our booties the rest of the night. One great thing was the hubs works with a lot of Indians and they were doing their Bollywood style dancing right there and it was so cool to watch. I’m glad the hubs indulged me and danced with me. He said if I wasn’t there, he would have just gone back to the hotel room and played games.
But you want to know the best part was? Every single person that I met who is a co-worker of the hubs was exceptionally nice. They all told me how much they loved him, what an asset to the company he is, and how funny and kind he is. Of course, I had to agree. One of the women on his team (after shaking her booty with me all night), told him that she loves him, but she thinks she loves his wife even more. I’m glad I made a good impression. She told me that if the hubs ever has to go to her city for travel, she wants me to come with so we can go to dinner and do some shoe shopping together. We both spent a fair amount of time admiring each other’s shoes.
I had so many “who’s life is this?” moments during that trip. I don’t stay in 5 star hotels, go to fancy parties, have the possibility of winning a dream trip to New York, get massages while the hubs is in business meetings, and get driven around in fancy town cars. That’s not my life. It’s never been my life. I am having a hard time adjusting because it feels so completely undeserved. I was also very humbled to know that I have a mother-in-law who was willing to take my kids on for two nights so that I could go and have fun. I brought her back some Iver’s famous clam chowder to thank her.
I’m feeling very humbled and small by this greatness. And part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. One thing I’ve noticed is that people treat you better when they perceive that you have money, and that really bothers me. Why do I deserve better treatment than a bum on the street? The truth is I don’t. I’m ever more reminded that where much is given much is required. And if my family is being blessed in a way that is competely foreign to us, we need to give back. We also need to enjoy and appreciate it while it lasts. I told my incredible MiL that I’m not going to take a second of this ride for granted, and ever I come to expect this to knock me back down.
I just feel incredibly grateful for all the blessings I’ve been given since my Mom died. It feels like she’s still taking care of us even though she’s not here. And now, I feel incredibly grateful I can finally give back to all those who helped our family during the lean years.
Who’s life is this? Well, it’s my life now. And I’m going to have to figure out a way to recitfy my old self identity with this new reality. I’m going to have to figure out how not to wear my blessings on my sleeves and brag and instead give back even more. Now is not the time to rest on my laurels but to prove that I can be the person I always thought I would be if given this chance.
And mostly I’m incredibly proud of the hubs who got here on his own. He did not graduate from college. He is self-taught. He got here through sheer determination and hard work. He is an amazing man. I’m so glad someone is finally recognizing how awesome he is, besides me.