Hello world!

Selfie1Welcome to The Michigan Wonder Woman!

Let me introduce myself…

My name is Chrissy. I’m a proud native Michigander. I live 20 minutes north of Detroit. I was born in Flint and raised by a single mom which was still kind of unique in the 1970s.  My upbringing gave me the strength and courage to raise my daughter on my own.

I was blessed to be the mom of a smart, kind, funny, beautiful, intelligent daughter. My Alexa Rose brings me joy and makes me proud every day. Together we have tackled the challenge of overcoming dyslexia and dyscalculia.  And, more recently, the challenges of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Learning differences and mental health awareness are two topics I am passionate about and will write about often.

I’m a passionate person. I care deeply for my family, friends, and my neighbors. I consider every living creature on earth to be my neighbor. I am a social justice warrior. I am a feminist. I support LGBTQ rights. My writing often includes my views on current events, politics, religion, faith, and all the things we’re not supposed to talk about but need to. I welcome all comments to my posts. I welcome dissenting opinions and opposing views. I believe that we must talk about difficult subjects if we are going to solve problems and change the world but I also believe that we must listen to all sides of an issue if we are going to develop solutions that work. So please don’t be afraid to disagree with me or question me. And, never apologize for doing so. Participating in the conversation does not make you a jerk it makes you part of the change!

My blog is more than just parenting and politics. I was a cosmetologist for 15 years and I worked in the beauty care lab for a global chemical company. I am developing my own line of bath and skincare products. I am excited to have a platform to share my knowledge, skills, and expertise with you!

I left the beauty industry for the auto industry. I’ve had the privilege of working in the automotive sector for the last 5 years. I have a degree in international business. I will be sharing career advice and business insights with all of you.

I’m more than just a single mom who works in purchasing and rants on Facebook.  I’m a fur mom to three cats named Daisy, Willow, and Blue. I flood my social media accounts with pictures of them. I really am the crazy cat lady. I am an aspiring writer. I’m researching the Underground Railroad and Detroit history for my first novel which I plan to self-publish on Amazon. I love art and music and cooking and gardening and baking. I’ll share it all with you! I am becoming a little bit obsessed with fitness and so if this blog wasn’t eclectic enough I’ll also write about exercise, diet, and health.

Like the description says this blog will be a little bit of everything with the occasional love letter to my beautiful home state of Michigan, her unsalted seas known as the Great Lakes, and  life in the Paris of the American Midwest aka Detroit.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you find something here you like. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear what’s on your mind, and if you’re so inclined, please follow along and share the journey of this thing called life with me 😘

Ciao!

Chrissy

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Because They Deserve It

That’s what I say when people ask me why I invest so much time and money into feeding my cats.

First, you must understand that, to me, my cats are not just animals and most certainly not my pets. They are first and foremost my family. As for them being animals, well so are humans.

So now that we understand each other let’s talk about how to feed your feline family members. Pet nutrition is really a new concept here in the United States. Growing up, we just bought a bag of kibble for our cats and let them free feed. If tuna fish was on sale you might buy a bunch of cans and feed that once a day. But it’s 2018 and we’ve learned a lot about feline nutrition. While most of the research in pet nutrition has focused on dogs, research in feline nutrition is quickly catching up which is a good thing because cats and dogs have very different dietary needs. Below are the five keys to understanding feline nutrition.

1. Cats are obligate carnivores. What the hell does that mean? Well from a physiologic perspective it means that cats have a shorter and more acidic digestive tract than dogs and because of this it is much more easy for a cat to digest meat than plant based foods.

2. Cats require taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid that comes from meat and fish. Without it cats can go blind, suffer heart failure, and die.

3. Cats require 5 times more thiamine than dogs. Although they are obligate carnivores, cats require a large amount of this B vitamin. Without thiamine cats can develop a head tilt, suffer seizures, and even die.

4. Unlike dogs, cats need a food source that supplies linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. These essential fatty acids give cats energy and help their body absorb vitamins.

5. Most importantly, remember that cats should never fast! In the wild, large predators go long periods between hunting where they don’t eat. So, when they do take down a kill they gorge themselves. However, common house cats have evolved past the need to fast and as a result their digestive system is no longer designed to process large amounts of fat all at once. Their livers become overwhelmed and they will go into liver failure. So if your cat stops eating take it to the vet as soon as possible.

Now that we know the basic principles let’s talk food. What to feed and how to feed.

1. Cats are meat eaters. Plain and simple. At a bare minimum 50% of your cat’s diet should be protein and that protein should come from meat. Poultry is best because it is a rich source of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. This is probably why cats naturally hunt birds.

2. As I mentioned above cats should never fast, but they really shouldn’t be allowed to free feed. True cats have evolved past the need to gorge themselves when food is available but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Cats are very opportunistic and if you keep a bowl of food always available they will overeat which results in vomiting, and they will gain weight which can lead to diabetes, kidney failure, and death. Cats should be fed on a daily schedule with a measured amount of food. I find my three adult cats thrive best on 1/3 cup of food served in the morning. They graze lightly throughout the day and then finish up their bowls at night before bed. In fact, they now identify the sound of my alarm clock as a dinner bell 😂

3. What kind of food is best? Dry, wet, raw? Should I make my own or buy commercially made food? Hopefully by now you understand that cats have very different nutritional needs than dogs, but like dogs the general rule of thumb is raw is best, canned is okay, and kibble is better than starving to death.

First, let’s talk raw. This is really the easiest. You can make your own. There are lots of recipes on the internet. You can buy frozen raw at pet food stores, or my favorite is freeze dried raw. My cats grew up eating kibble because I didn’t know any better. Switching cats from kibble is really hard. Commercial kibble is treated with artificial flavoring that to a cat is delicious. Some call it kitty crack. Think of it like feeding a kid McDonalds every day. They won’t starve to death but it’s really not good for them at all. Now, if you take a five year old child who has been eating happy meals every day of his life and suddenly switch him to a diet of fresh food chances are high that kid is not going to be happy. And this is the case when you switch your cats food. They may stop eating, they may throw up, or worse, they may act out by peeing around the house. My cats made the transition with freeze dried raw because the texture was closer to their kibble.

Canned cat food is the next best option but be careful! This is where pet food companies try to trick you. Never feed your cat any canned food recipe that has gravy or cheese. These are the equivalent of kitty crack. It’s super yummy but the amount of protein in those recipes is actually very low. Your cat will devour a can and come begging for more. This might seem great except what they are eating is a high carb diet that leads to obesity. If you are going to feed canned food always buy the recipes that have the words classic, pate, grain free on the labels. Fancy Feast classic chicken is a decent canned cat food.

Now, let’s talk about kibble. The truth is there really is no cheap dry cat food that is good for cats. Even the bags that say grain free still lack the vital essential nutrients cats need. Cats reactions to the wrong food can vary. Frequent vomiting is common. We cat owners used to think this was just something our cats did. But research is showing that frequent vomiting is the result of an allergic reaction to dry cat food. Common cat skin conditions are now being linked to dry cat food. So what do you do? Well, if the only two options are feeding a bag of kibble or letting your cat starve to death buy the bag of kibble! But, if you can afford to spend a bit more please consider the new freeze dried raw foods. I’m feeding my cats a chicken formula from a company called Instinct. An 11 lb bag cost $35 but it feeds my three cats for a month. I was feeding them freeze dried raw patties from a company called a Vital Essentials but unfortunately this food has become very difficult for me to find. My cats love the freeze dried raw. My oldest cat Daisy was my puker and always had dry itchy skin. Since she started eating freeze dried raw her skin has cleared up and only vomits if she has a hair ball or she’s mad at me (I’ll write about that in another post). But the biggest difference I noticed is in her overall health. Daisy is my 15-year-old senior cat. Prior to switching to raw Daisy was overweight, lethargic, and showing signs of feline diabetes (frequent urination, thirst, and sticky urine). Since going to raw her diabetes symptoms have disappeared!

A few final tips on feeding cats:

1. Cats do not require milk or cream or any dairy for that matter. They just like the taste. However milk provides no nutritional value to your cat. Feeding your cat a dish of cream is like feeding your kid a bowl of Oreo cookies for dinner.

2. Cats, unlike dogs, will not be poisoned by eating chocolate. In fact, cats lack the necessary taste receptors for sweet. But weirdly, they love chocolate. I have no idea what chocolate tastes like to them but there are cats who go berserk for chocolate, and my Willow Jane is one of them. She has stolen many candy bars and Oreo cookies which can be found in her hiding spots licked completely smooth.

3. Cats do eat grass, herbs, and plants but be careful! Some plants are very poisonous to cats. One plant that is safe for cats are spider plants. But good luck trying to grow one. I’ve yet to put one in a spot that my cats can’t get to and eat the poor plant down to a stub.

4. Kittens need at least 2 times as much food as cats. Kittens are kittens until they are a year old and they should be fed anywhere between 2 to 4 times a day depending on how active they are.

Lastly, let’s talk about water. Like all other life forms cats require water. Wet food whether it is raw or canned will provide your cat with most of their daily water requirement so don’t be surprised if your cat drinks less when you switch them. On the other hand cats who eat dry food whether it be freeze dried raw or kibble will drink more. You can try to add some water to dry food especially freeze dried raw. But whatever you are feeding always make sure you have a source of fresh water for your cats to drink.

I hope this helps. Please know I am not being paid by any company or organization to share the brands mentioned in this article. I mention them because I have tried them and believe in them. I hope your fur baby likes them as well. Bon appetit!

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💯 Real Talk

I’m so tired of scrolling through my social media newsfeeds and seeing the memes and posts about YOLO #livinmybestlife and the gratitude and positivity. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I want a newsfeed full of angry depressed people.

What I want, no, what I long for is authenticity. Real people living their real life with all its ups and downs, successes AND failures. I want to see the bad days as well as the good. I’m so tired of the selfies with so many filters women look like plastic fashion dolls from a dollar store rather than the beautiful women I know they really are.

I’m tired of all the coaching about choosing positivity and how a bad day is a choice. The truth is sometimes we have shit days. Sometimes we have lazy days. And in between the shit days and the awesome days are just – days.

This is not a lack of gratitude. I’m grateful for every single day. I know that no matter if I’m having a shit day or a lazy day or a tough day or a stressful day or a wonderful day that I am blessed to have that day and blessed to be able to feel all the feels of that day. I know that those with major depression would love to have the variety I am blessed to feel.

This is about what and how we share our days. It’s the ones who share all the posts of themselves eating super healthy meals, meal prepping, and drinking shakes but never show the pic of that fast food lunch they indulge in because it’s taboo to admit you eat McDonalds now and again. C’mon! I know you crave those fries as much as I do and once in awhile you indulge!

I’m so tired of all the perfectly made up faces artfully contoured displayed across a heavily filtered photo with the perfect backlighting. I’m loving the no makeup, bedhead selfies.

I’m tired of the constant bible study pictures. I love scripture and I read daily devotions myself but like most others I read other books throughout the day. I see endless pics of highlighted bible passages from folks I know read 50 Shades of Grey back in the day and loved it as much as I did! So what is everyone reading now? What silly fluff fiction are you struggling to put down? It’s okay to admit to reading something other than the Bible or classical literature.

I’m fed up with the 24/7 gym photos! Especially the non sweaty, perfect makeup/ponytail gym selfies. For God’s sake if you want me to be impressed show me your sweaty face with your makeup melted off struggling to catch your breath after that HIIT class you just took. Or, show me the pic of you sprawled on the sofa binging on Netflix when you were supposed to workout but you just didn’t make it there. I can relate to both.

I want to see you frustrations and your bad days as much as your gratitude and good days. We’re all humans with a full range of emotions. I’ve read a lot of research pointing to smartphones and social media as a culprit for the rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide and it got me to thinking. When you’re having a shit day and you scroll through your newsfeeds and all you see is the persona of what we want the world to think is real it can make you feel pretty lonely. I think this is why a person can have 5000 friends on Facebook yet be incredibly lonely. It’s hard to scroll through a newsfeed and only see pictures of perfection. How is anyone supposed to relate to that? Aspire to, yes; but relate to, no.

Everyone wants to blame bullying as the culprit. But hell, I am almost to the point where I like the bullies because at least they are showing me their true colors even if they are ugly. Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to bully. It’s not.

I’ve been active on social media almost since its beginning. From the days when MySpace was the giant to the earliest days of Facebook. I’ve watched it evolve. When I first joined Facebook it was primarily where all the kids were. As more of my age group began to join I watched it evolve first to all the interactive Zynga games. How many farm invites did you get? Then my newsfeed evolved again to a sales platform as all the real estate agents and car dealerships discovered its potential. At one point my newsfeed transformed into a running cookbook and recipes were shared over and over again. My newsfeed shifted into a political platform with the 2016 election and while we were all distracted by the Hillary vs Trump debate, quietly, in the background, came the rise of the ‘influencer’.

Influencers are motivational speakers, fitness experts, life coaches, stay at home moms, and mainly, entrepreneurs. Ultimately, they’re all selling you something. Sign up for… use the promo code… follow the link in my bio! Some of it is bullshit. Some of it is pretty damn good. Some of it inspires you to roll your eyes, and some of it just inspires you. But influencers are trying so hard to sell us perfection that authenticity has been lost. No more candid photos. Now, perfectly choreographed staged shots captured in the perfect setting under the perfect lighting. The message is we all have bad days and that’s okay but don’t live there. Embrace gratitude! Choose happy! And that is a great message, but sometimes we need to see the ugly. Sometimes we need to know that someone else in this big wide world is having just as shitty a day as we are and they too are feeling overwhelmed and ready to say fuck it! and have a pity party in a quart of ice cream. And rather than a lecture about making better choices it would be nice to see more of yeah babe, I’m there too. I’m gnoshing on birthday cake. What’s your flavor?

I’ve been on social media since it began, but I’m a late arrival to the tribe of influencers. My blog, like me, is a work in progress. My social brand? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out, but I do know this. I choose authenticity. You are going to see the real me. The unfiltered, imperfect, sometimes raw, 💯 real me. I choose to embrace and celebrate authenticity. And I want you all to know that the real you is always welcome in my space. The fat you, the tired you, the bloated you, the crabby you, the weird you, the nerdy you, the emotional you, the lazy you, and especially the silly you! Whatever you are today I will celebrate with you.

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The Starting Point

Recently someone I love very much asked me for help starting a fitness routine. Now, I am no fitness expert and certainly not a personal trainer, but I decided to help this person because I know how intimidating the world of fitness can be. There are so many different ways to exercise. There are so many different variations of an exercise. Our social media feeds are flooded with self proclaimed fitness experts and wellness coaches. It’s hard to separate the truth from all the bullshit. But that is an area where I can help.

The key for beginners is to start slowly and gently. Build up to that fat torching, sweat drenched workout. You see the mistake most beginners make is starting out too big too fast. Sure, you slayed that boot camp day 1; you might have even survived day 2, but guarantee that by day 3 the pain of a new workout will have set in. Muscle soreness doesn’t adequately describe the pain a newbie feels the morning after that first hard fitness session. The pain is usually coupled by fatigue and that’s when you get derailed. You skip your workout because you’re too sore and too tired. You say you’ll do it tomorrow, and you really mean it. But tomorrow comes and goes and you’re back where you started – sedentary.

There is a better way to start. A good beginner workout should be quick. You shouldn’t have to plan more than 15 minutes. Everyone can find 15 minutes in their day no matter how busy they are. This eliminates the excuse of “I don’t have time.” A good beginner workout should consist of body weight exercises. This eliminates the need for equipment. It also means a person can do the workout anywhere. This eliminates the chance of getting derailed while traveling. Lastly, a good beginner workout should be challenging and elevate the heart rate but not to the extent that it leaves a person too sore and exhausted to move the next day. This frightens people off exercising.

If you google ‘beginner’s workout’ you’ll find no shortage of beginner level exercise plans. I suggested the five exercises below because together they work the whole body. They burn fat, increase strength, and build endurance. It’s a great starting point. I suggested this person perform the workout below five days a week for three weeks. By then they will have built up a habit of consistent daily exercise, stretched their muscles, and learned how to engage their core. Videos demonstrating proper technique and form for each of the exercises can be found on YouTube.

The Daily 5

1. 15 second plank.

2. Squats x10

3. Reverse lunges x10

4. Push ups x10

5. Jumping jacks x10

Rest 30 seconds

Repeat all 5 exercises

Rest 30 seconds

Repeat all 5 exercises

Remember to warm up and to cool down!

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Tuesday Tip! Money Saver

How much money do you spend on laundry a year? I go through a lot of laundry soap. A bottle of laundry soap is around $12. A typical bottle, which is supposed to be about 32 loads lasts me roughly two weeks. If you do the math this comes out to nearly $300 a year. That’s just the soap. Add to that the cost of fabric softener and dryer sheets and oy!

I never promote a product I haven’t used and I would never endorse a product I don’t believe in. Once again, I am not being paid for this endorsement. Now that I got all of that out of the way let me say I will never again buy a bottle of Tide or Persil or any other name brand laundry soap. I am in love with LA’s Totally Awesome Laundry Detergent. Okay, its a goofy name. But its a serious laundry soap. It’s sold at Dollar Tree and Dollar General, and you guessed it, retails for $1 a bottle. Each bottle has 32 loads and let me tell you, that one capful of soap cleaned the hell out of my clothes.

First you should know that 90% of my clothing is black. I almost always wear black, and black clothes pick up everything. I have three cats so by the end of the day my clothes are covered in cat hair. I’m a messy eater. Basically, by the time my clothes end up in the hamper at the end of the day they look like they’ve been worn by a five foot toddler. I am a laundry soap snob. My mother swore by Tide. In her eyes no other brand was as good and laundry soap was one of those items. you didn’t pinch pennies on. You bought the good stuff so your clothes would last. With that in mind I only bought the bottle of Awesome because I was a week away from payday, broke as a choke, and my daughter used up the last of the laundry soap washing her bedding. I decided to get a bottle of the dollar store stuff with the intention of restocking my popular brand on payday. Was I in for a pleasant surprise!

First, the Awesome soap doesn’t have much of a scent. It’s a thin clear-yellowish liquid that is completely unimpressive. I was doubtful as I loaded up my clothes. But when I pulled those clothes out of the washer to put into the dryer I was shocked at how clean they were. The soap is not harsh. My clothes are no worse for the wear and I’ve been using this soap for a month now. It doesn’t bother my sensitive skin. It works well in any temperature of water. I don’t miss the smell of popular brand soaps. I use liquid fabric softener anyway and honestly, I think the lack of perfume makes my clothes softer and cleaner.

I looked up the company online and learned that all of their products are made in the USA. Bonus! They have manufacturing and distribution centers in Arkansas and California. The company has a whole line of household cleaning products which have earned an A from the Environmental Working Group which rates the toxicity of personal care products. Apparently the company’s All Purpose Concentrated Cleaner/Degreaser Spot Remover has a legion of loyal fans with their own group on facebook. I haven’t tried it myself yet but its on my list for my next dollar store visit.

Cleaning products that are affordable, effective, and made in the USA = WINNING!!

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Advice for the People Pleasers

I’m not a competitive person. I hate party games, board games, trivia games, and athletic games. Sports bore me to tears. As a child I was always the last kid picked for the team. This was 50% due to the fact that I lack any kind of athletic skill but also 50% due to the fact that I just didn’t care if the team I played on won or lost. I thought this wouldn’t matter in my adult life. As a grown up I can decide for myself whether or not I want to participate in a game. But I’ve recently come to realize that my lack of competitiveness affects me in a very important area of my life – my career.

I’m a people pleaser. I thrive on collaboration and tranquility. I love being surrounded by people who are happy, motivated, and working together rather than against each other. Unfortunately, the world of business is fiercely competitive. It’s a race to get noticed and get ahead, and in this environment agreeableness is a detriment. So how does a people pleaser survive in an office full of competitors?

First, understand the value you bring to the team. You can’t expect your boss or anyone else to appreciate you if you don’t know what it is you bring to the team. People pleasers are misunderstood. We’re thought of as pushovers who will let anyone walk over us to avoid a conflict. But not necessarily so! As people pleasers we value relationships more than outcomes or tasks. Because we value relationships so highly we are better at building cohesive teams and maintaining that cohesion during stressful times. People pleasers are valuable assets to a team because we are great at not only building but also repairing relationships. We intuitively know how to make angry customers and suppliers feel heard. We thrive on collaborating with our customers and suppliers to solve problems.

This brings me to the next strategy – build your personal brand around collaboration. Today’s workplace is more project-based than it was 10 years ago. Successful project work is not a zero sum game. The key to success in project based work is your social capital in the office. When managers are getting ready to kick off a project they look for someone to lead it who can quickly build a cohesive team that can get things done. Focus on honing your collaboration skills and your name will be at the top of the list when management is looking for a project leader. Stop thinking of yourself as a people pleaser and start thinking of yourself as a relationship builder.

When you stop thinking like a people pleaser and start thinking like a relationship builder you more easily avoid the traps people pleasers fall into. You make better decisions because you make your decisions based on what is best for the relationship between the customer and the company rather than trying to please an individual. Remember, the the biggest key to success in any business is relationships. Every single task, business deal, supplier-customer relationship, all depend on the strength of the relationship between two or more individuals in order to succeed.

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46

Today is my birthday. Its not a milestone but I’m definitely on the other side of my 40s, approaching 50, and that got me to thinking. The human life span is supposed to be 120 years old. I’m not sure I want to live to see that number, but I’ve always hoped to see 100. I was thinking about 46 and if I’m aiming for 100 then I’ve lived 46% of my life. That’s not even half! And, when I think about it like that I really don’t feel old. I was thinking about all the things I’ve done and seen these past 46 years and all the things I still hope to do and see. This got me to writing a list, which is just…typical Chrissy! I’m always making lists! Anyway, I decided to share one of those lists with you. Below are the 46 things I’ve accomplished in my 46 years.

1. Learned how to ride a bike
2. Learned how to rollerskate
3. Visited Copper Mountain Michigan
4. Seen pictured rocks in Michigan
5. Visited Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan
6. Traveled to Toronto, Canada
7. Traveled to Prague, Czech Republic
8. Traveled to Beijing and Shanghai China
9. Stood on the Great Wall of China
10. Attended the opera in Prague
11. I have been to the ballet
12. I’ve seen the Flint Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform live
13. I’ve seen a fair amount of the works of Picasso, Monet, and Rodin while traveling
14. I’ve fallen in love
15. I’ve given birth and raised a child
16. I’ve experienced thunder snow!
17. I’ve earned a college degree
18. I’ve taught Sunday School
19. I learned how to drive a car
20. I’ve learned how to bellydance
21. I learned how to play the piano
22. I learned to shoot a gun
23. I learned how to ride a horse
24. I learned to swim
25. I learned how to garden and have grown beautiful flowers
26. I learned how to make stained glass
27. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon
28. I’ve seen the California Redwoods
29. I’ve stood in the Pacific Ocean
30. I’ve been to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior
31. I’ve been to the Bahamas
31. I’ve been to the Guanajuato, Mexico and wandered the streets of the most beautiful city carved out of a silver mine
32. I’ve traveled through the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico
33. I’ve been to Disney World
34. I’ve been to the Art Institute of Chicago
35. I’ve seen Neil Diamond perform live
36. I’ve seen all of the Star Wars movies in the movie theater
37. I read all the Harry Potter books when they were first published
38. I was alive the day MTV launched on the air
39. I’ve watched technology advance from a phone on a wall to a miniature computer in the palm of my hand
40. I voted for the first African American President in American history
41. I started a blog!
42. I’ve been a cosmetologist, a medical transcriptionist, and a laboratory technician
43. I’ve been on TV and interviewed by a newspaper
44. I’ve survived 3 car accidents
45. I’ve voted every year since I turned 18
46. I’ve reinvented myself at least a dozen times

Not bad for 46% of my life. Maybe not as impressive as others. I haven’t traveled the world but I’ve seen a few pretty places. I haven’t tackled any extreme sports but I still have time. I haven’t climbed any mountains but I’ve traveled through a few by car. My life hasn’t been perfect. It hasn’t been easy. But then no one lives a perfect life. And anyone who tells you life is easy is selling you something. Life is hard, and its fragile. Life is terrifying and awful, and incredibly beautiful. Ultimately, its totally worth living. I’m looking forward to the next 54 years. I have a long list of things I want to accomplish. There are still places I would like to visit, things I would like to see. Fifty four years is a lot of time. The one thing of my youth I hope to shed is the sense of urgency and idealization of busy. I want to slow down and take time to appreciate all that is around me. I want to spend less time looking at the world through the lens of my camera phone and more time really watching the sunsets. I want to spend less time watching nature documentaries on TV and more time hiking the trails and being in nature. I want to improve my piano playing. I want to be a stronger, better swimmer. I want to learn how to ride a horse well enough to lease my own and trail ride through the woods in the fall. Still so many things to do and thankfully, still so much time.

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Confessions of a Trailer Park Girl

I’m a trailer park girl. I was born in Flint Michigan where we lived in a Section 8 housing apartment complex called Rollingwood Manor. When I was a teenager we moved to a small town in Northern Michigan called West Branch. The only thing my mother could afford was a small 2 bedroom mobile home that was probably 30 years old when we moved in. I considered it to be an upgrade from our life in Flint. We had a small yard. At the time we moved in most of our neighbors were senior citizens and no one was selling heroin out of their kitchen, which was a nice change of pace for me. It was so quiet at night. Positively peaceful. It didn’t occur to me that I was a ‘trailer park girl’ or what that even meant.

Trailer parks have a well-earned bad reputation. Mobile homes are lopped in close together and left to slowly decay as one tennant to another moves in. As assisted living facilities and senior apartment complexes became more affordable my retiree neighbors began moving out. The thing about a mobile home is that their resale value is shit. No one with money and a decent credit score wants to invest in a mobile home because mobile homes are not investments. Besides, most banks and mortgage companies will not finance a mobile home. This limits the pool of potential buyers for mobile homes. Its a recipe for a sterotype of all mobile home residents being poor white trash.

I lived in the mobile home park for 15 years, and to tell the truth I was always happy. I really liked my neighbors. One of my neighbors was a deputy for the local sherrif’s department. Several of my neighbors worked at the local hospital. Unlike other mobile home parks the one I lived in had well-spaced lots so we were all given a yard to enjoy. There was a pond in the middle of the park and it was home to ducks, turtles, and a regular stop for geese every fall as they traveled south. What we all had in common was poverty. My mother never had much money. She worked as a waitress and relied on tips. My mom never had money in the bank. She never had emergency savings to fall back on. She was always one step ahead of disaster. She paid the utilities just enough each month to keep them from being shut off. Most of the time. My mom had no idea how to manage her money. She frittered her money away as fast as she earned it. When your poor you live paycheck to paycheck, moment to moment. You can’t think about next month or next year or retirement because you’re too busy worrying about right now. Will the car be repossessed? Will the heat be turned off? Do we have enough groceries? This drives compulsive spending.

My mom was a compulsive spender. If she had money in her wallet she had to spend it as quickly as possible. My mom was so used to long periods with no money that when she had money she spent it as soon as she earned it. That’s the thing about poverty. Its a vicious cycle. It fucks with you mentally. You are constantly chasing your tail. You are broke because you spend what little you have because you are tired of being broke. Someone once said to me that people on food stamps should not be allowed to buy steak. Well, let me tell you. I grew up on food stamps and we rarely ate steak. Steak was a treat. My mom spent her hard earned cash to buy us steaks to cook on the grill when she should have used that cash to pay a bill. Why didn’t she pay the bill? Because when you spend day after day, week after week, month after month, depressed because you can’t pay your bills and you’re only eating ground beef because its cheap, well once in awhile you say fuck it! and you buy the damn steak. And I”ll tell you, those steaks on the grill that my mom made for my siblings and I are some of the best I’ve had in my life. Not becasue they were cut by a great butcher. In fact a lot of times they were the cheapest steaks in the counter. They were wonderful because of the memories made eating those dinners with my family. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’m not ashamed to be a trailer park girl. I’m rather proud of her. She and I have been through a lot and I’ll share those experiences with you on future blogs. But today I want to focus on the topic of money management.

When you live paycheck to paycheck you are living moment to moment. You can’t think about the future because its taking all you’ve got to figure out today. And, if you’re not thinking about the future then you can’t learn how to manage money. And, if you don’t know how to manage money then you are doomed to stay in the cycle of poverty forever. Why am I telling you all of this? Because this summer I realized that like my mother, I do not know how to manage my money. I’ve spent my entire life living paycheck to paycheck, and to be honest, I don’t know how to live better. I have a well-paying job with a 401K, paid vacation, paid sick days, and weekends and holidays off. I should be alright now, right? Well, I should be. The thing is, I’m not. I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. I have direct deposit. I get paid twice a month and I’m usually broke within 3 days after I get paid. Yes, the cost of living in Southeast Michigan is very high. Average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is between $1200 to $1500 a month. Groceries are expensive. Gas and electricity are high. But I’ll tell you, in spite of all that I should not be broke 2 days after payday. I’ve had a lot of financial disasters of my own making these past six years. Fortunately, my family has been there to bail me out. I’ve created budgets. I’ve promised myself I would stick to them. I’ve cut costs and reduced monthly expenses. This spring I was well on my way to financial comfort. Not wealth. By comfort I mean knowing that all my bills were paid on time, my groceries were bought, I had gas in my car, and $200 to last until the next payday. I thought I knew what I was doing. I created a budget with the 50/30/20 principle and consulted my Aunt who is smart with money for help. I finally felt like a grownup. And it was going really well, until the Lavender Festival.

The Michigan Lavender Festival is an art and craft fair held at Blake’s Farm every summer. I love art and craft fairs. I’m usually broke when I attend them. This year the fair fell the day after payday. Yahtzee! Being the much wiser woman that I thought I was I paid the monthly bills on Friday and headed out to the craft fair with my sister and daughter on Saturday. And that’s where it all fell apart. I told myself that I wasn’t going to spend any money. I had a rough idea of how much money I could spend. The thing is all the bills I paid had not posted yet so my account balance was deceptive. When I got to the fair something in my brain clicked, and unfortunately, the rest of my brain turned off and my inner trailer park girl was unleashed! I treated myself to bundles of dried lavender, spices, handmade jewerly, and lavender chocolate. I bought lavender plants for my yard. I bought packets of culinary lavender to bake yummy lavender treats. As long as the debit card was accepted, I shopped. Trouble is, all those swipes were credit charges. Not debit charges. The following Monday I checked my balance expecting to see a low number, probably less than a $100. I knew I lost my mind at that festival and I was feeling guilty and stupid. When I saw the three digit negative number that popped up my stomach hit the floor. I had overdrawn my checking account by $400.

Yes, you read that right. By the time all the bills I’d paid and all the shopping I had done had posted I was $400 in the hole. I felt numb staring at that number realizing that payday was a solid 2-1/2 weeks away, and I hadn’t grocery shopped yet. Now what? My daughter asked me if I was going to call my Aunt and ask for money. How could I? I knew better! I felt utterly stupid. I was mad at myself. How could I have done this? I took a quick mental note of the stock of food in my freezer and cupboards and realizing we were not in danger of starving until my next payday I decided that no, I was not going to ask for help. We would suffer through. Perhaps a reminder of what it felt like to be poor was exactly what I needed! I figured a couple of weeks reliving the struggles of trailer park years was exactly what I needed to straighten my head out and get back on track. My daughter wasn’t excited about this plan, but I figured it was a good lesson for her too. Learn from my mistakes and all that. So, did I learn? Well, no and…yes.

During that 2-1/2 weeks we went without daily comforts. Again, I’m not talking about steak and eating out. I’m talking about TV. The payment for all the streaming services we watch couldn’t process because my account was negative. So, we didn’t have TV. I subscribe to meditation and fitness apps that I use daily and those montly subscriptions couldn’t be renewed, so they ran out. Toiletries began to run out and my daughter and I began rationing a bottle of shampoo and bar of soap. I dug through my spare change and got a bottle of laundry soap at the dollar store so we could wash our clothes. Every day I scolded myself. I had to be careful with the food in the cupboards and freezer so I went without lunch and breakfast. I couldn’t wait for payday! I promised myself I would never do this again. This would be the last time I lived like this. So, what do you think happened?

Payday was last Wednesday. I paid my utility bills that were late. I restored all of my streaming services and app subscriptions. I steered clear of Amazon. I told myself there would be no luxuries or fun stuff. This was all about getting back on track! On Thursday I went to the pet store and picked up cat food, flea medicine, and a new scratching box for Blue so he would stop trying to shred my sofa. I paid my gym membership which was late and tacked on another set of swim lessons. That night I treated Alexa and I to dinner at the new Italian resturant downtown because after all, I deserved it didn’t I? Hadn’t I been so much more responsible (hint, not really)? After dinner we went to Target and stocked up on toiletries for me and Alexa and household items. I was too tired to grocery shop so I decided I would do that on Friday. Friday morning I woke up and as per usual checked my bank balance. I stared numbly at the screen which read back to me -$36.00. How? I asked myself. How could I have done this AGAIN? I scrolled through the items posted. Yes, I could see all the items I had spent. I also realized that in doing my math I had not accounted for the fact that when my direct deposit hit it would first cover the -$400. See, when I open up my account on the mobile app it shows me my account at the present moment. But that balance doesn’t account for all the transactions still pending. I hadn’t accounted for that on Thursday. I’ve been ruminating on this all weekend and yesterday I came to this conclusion. I simply do not know how to manage my money. I am overwhelmed by the whole process. And, like my mother, when I have money in my account I spend it before I think about it. I live in the moment rather than thinking about next week, the next two weeks. What makes this really infuriating to me is that I do not have to live like this. My income is not unpredictable. I know exactly how much money will be deposited into my checking account each payday. I’ve budgeted my monthly expenses. I know what I need to pay out and when. There should be no reason for me to miss a bill, or be without a few dollars in my account. So, what the hell am I doing?

Last night, I had a long talk with my inner trailer park girl. I reminded her how hard we worked to get to where we are. I reminded her of all the nights we dreamed of this life now, of earning a salary all my own that would be enough to support me and Alexa. This morning I spent 2 hours doing an online course on money management provided free of charge by PNC Bank. The course is called Foundations of Money Management. I highly recommend it. The course is well-written, easy to follow, and goes back to the very basics. It explains what a checking account is, how it works, and most importantly, how to manage one. I learned how to reconcile my bank statements. I learned that even though I use my debit card and have a mobile banking app, these tools do not replace an old fashioned check register. In fact, a check register is even more important in this age of swiping a card. I discovered a great tool offered by PNC called a paycheck planner. Its a simple form that allows you plan out your upcoming expenses from one paycheck to the next so you keep your future responsibilities in front of you. I got a refresher on budgeting although frankly, I like my 50/30/20 approach better.

I read a couple of online book summaries on money management. I want to share those tips with all of you. I will write a blog post about financial fitness in more detail later but I want to share with you the most important lesson I learned today.

Thinking back on all those years in the trailer park when we were so poor I realize its not things that make you happy, its experiences and the memories they create. Living in that trailer park I would shop on Amazon and create wishlists. I would put items in my cart and imagine hitting the button to complete the purchase. Yes, I longed for things but even if I could have hit the button to buy that would not be the memories I cherish today. I look back on all the times spent with neighbors and friends laughing, cooking hot dogs on the grill, and I remember family dinners with my mom, sister, and daughter and how happy we were around that little table in that little mobile home. Its the experiences that brought me joy, not the things. The memory of those experiences is what drives a lot of the joy I feel now every day. I feel very blessed to have had so much happiness despite so much hardship. And that is the lesson my inner trailer park girl wants to share with all of you this Sunday. The amount of money you have really only has a minimal influence on how much you smile, how much you laugh, and how much you enjoy yourself on a daily basis. During the poorest years of my life I experienced incredible joy, love, and laughter on a daily basis. Over the last two weeks when Alexa and I were rationing two boxes of graham crackers we laughed and smiled every day. It was difficult but not the worst thing that has ever happened to either one of us. So, if you are living paycheck to paycheck and feeling overwhelmed by your finanaces or lack thereof, I highly recommend the online course from PNC. You can find it by googling Foundations of Money Management by PNC. You do not have to have an account to take the course. The course is free. I will learn to manage my money so I control my finances without feeling overwhelmed or worse needing another rescue deposit on my PayPal account. But more importantly, I am going to try to gather more experiences than things because happy memories are worth far more than anything that you can buy at an art and craft fair.

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