Chapter 2: Why Can't Money Grow On Trees?
Red was scared, for herself, and for her family. Having to deal with personal finances for the first time is scary. Especially if you believe you need a finance degree to figure it out. Yes, it's human nature to have a fear of the unknown, but feeling you have to face it alone makes it even worse. Red knew that her sister, Black, was there for her, but it wasn't in the "warm and fuzzy" and sympathetic way that Red wanted.
P.S. – If you were expecting banter between Red and Black, then this Book Bite might surprise you.
We thought it important to acknowledge that although when facing a challenge – financial or otherwise – Black's extremely pragmatic and likes to address it head-on, Red learned that recognizing how you feel about something can be as important as the specifics of the situation.
I knew Black was right – I wasn't going to win the lottery. There was no book that would instantly solve my financial problems. And as Black bluntly told me, sympathy wasn't going to help either. She also made it painfully clear that although I wanted to keep my head in the sand, I needed to face reality. That left me with no choice, but to get on with it. And so I decided I had to do it Black's way. She was doing her best to help me clear my head of the emotional aspects of the situation, trying instead to make me look coldly and honestly at the critical issues we were facing.
I knew we were in a huge financial mess, not because of the specific details of our situation, but because neither Nick nor I really knew where we stood. And as uncomfortable as it was, I decided to offer to help Nick with our financial matters. This "transfer of responsibility" was tricky because I didn't have any financial experience. Although I had worked for a number of years before I got married, I never had to spend my money on necessities because I lived with my parents until the day I married Nick. For the next 15 years nothing much changed except Nick paid the bills instead of my Mom and Dad. Then suddenly, I'm being forced to deal with the financial well-being of my family.
Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.
The last thing Red needed in the middle of her "crisis" (her husband being unexpectedly fired) was to get sick, but that's exactly what happened. (Is there ever a good time to get sick?) And although she had walking pneumonia, her instinct as a mom was to put the needs of others, especially her children, ahead of her own. Luckily, Black, being pragmatic and unemotional, knew the advice she was about to give her sister would initially seem counterintuitive, so included what she hoped would be a memorable analogy …
||You must be joking. Dr. Fields means well but doesn't understand that doing nothing is a luxury right now — not an option.|
||Well, "Wonder Woman," I think it is you that does not understand. It is not an option. It is a necessity. Let Nick handle things for a few days. Trust me, everyone will survive.|
||But there are so many things I need to do. Life doesn't stop just because I'm sick.|
||True. But the bottom line is that unless you take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your family.|
||I understand the logic, but it's difficult for me to just stop and crawl into bed, as much as that's what I want to do. I feel like I'm letting the family down. I'm not trying to sound like "Wonder Woman," I'm just being honest.|
||Let me give you an analogy. If you were on an airplane with the girls and you lost altitude and the oxygen masks came down, would you put the mask on yourself first or the girls?|
||I'm not sure I feel up to one of your stupid quizzes.|
||Humor me. Answer the question.|
||OK. They say that adults should put their mask on first and then help their children, though I must admit I have never understood that since my instinct as a mom is to help my child first. Did I pass or fail?|
||Airline one, Red zero. The airline knows it is in the best interest of the child for the adult to be safe and secure. If the adult is not stable and calm, then helping a scared, helpless child is going to be extremely difficult.|
||Great. The next time I'm on an airplane and the oxygen masks fall down, I'll remember this conversation. But what exactly is the point you're trying to make? Maybe it's the fever, but I don't understand.|
||If you do not take care of yourself and you get sicker, then you will be of no use to anyone. For now, that means following doctor's orders and taking a few days to rest. But even after you get over this, you need to start taking some time for yourself to make sure that you stay healthy – both physically and mentally – so that you can be there for everyone that needs you. Get off the computer and climb into bed. Now! EOM|
FYI, EOM = Black uses EOM to indicate "end of message" ... in this case, to tell Red they've come to the end and there's nothing more to be said.
Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List
"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.
P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …
||I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!|
||If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.|
||Type faster. What's the secret?|
||There is no secret. The best you can hope for is to balance the demands of your "To Do" lists against the reality of how much time you have.|
||Great. Another "clear as mud" comment.|
||Not really. More like another "statement of the obvious" comment. First, I look at my calendar to see where I have appointments or "non-negotiable" demands on my time. This allows me to visualize where I have open blocks of time. I then review my high-priority tasks to determine what absolutely has to happen — whether on a specific day or sometime in the immediate future — and I get that planned. At that point, I have a pretty good feel for how much unclaimed time there is for me to try to tackle other things on my lists.|
||Makes sense. In the past, I best-guessed different tasks for different days, often just randomly assigning them. I definitely didn't plan my time, but that might have been because I didn't have as much that needed to get done. It sounds like I need to start thinking about what I have to do in light of what each day holds. Or at least as best as I can predict it.|
Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice
Three months into her "crisis" (Red's word, not Black's), Red looks back and begins to realize the impact of the lessons she was forced to learn were truly invaluable. And that as much as she initially fought having to face reality and actually make changes, vs. just hoping she could "wish" everything to be better, that would've fixed nothing. In fact, it would've only made things worse. Of course, she'll always question how Black could have been so optimistic, going so far as to say Red's crisis was going to be the best thing that ever happened to her.
P.S. – Red still questions Black's optimism, but that's because she's come to realize her natural tendency is to initially focus on the negative. She claims it's because she's "wired" that way, but that's ok because she has learned that just means she has to work harder to overcome the negative and focus on the positive. And challenging times are the perfect time to remind herself that although this mindset and approach may seem hard to do, the results can be so much better than initially hoped for.
|I'm surprised to find you online again.|
|Why? Typical Saturday night. Done with dinner and no one to talk to once I get home. Only tonight home is a hotel and there is no one snoring on the couch.|
|No reason to be. Everything will work out. One way or another.|
|That's what you told me when Nick was fired. In fact, you went so far as to say you thought it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Did you really mean that, or were you trying to make me feel better?|
|Maybe not THE very best, but it was definitely a good thing. What is that cliche' about when life hands you lemons ... make a lemon drop martini?|
|Gee, and I always thought you were supposed to make lemonade! But are you saying that because you're trying to find a positive side or because you genuinely believe it?|
|Both. It does not cost anything to look on the positive side of things, but focusing on the negative can definitely have a steep price. Think about where you might be if you had chosen to wallow in your misery rather than taking a proactive approach. Think about where you are today and your outlook for the future. If Nick had not gotten fired, what would have made you look at your priorities? Not to mention your spending habits and all the other lessons you have learned. Do you think you would be in the same place? Doubtful. So yes, I genuinely believe it was for the best.|
|You're very philosophical tonight. So you really believe things happen for a reason?|
|Absolutely, although at the time we may not understand the reason. One day we may be able to look back and understand why things happened. Or we may never understand. Regardless, life goes on. And you need to make the most of each and every day.|
|OK, Miss Eternal Optimist, that's all fine and good. But what do you do on the days when you can't see the bright side? Then what?|
|Then imagine how things could be worse and be thankful for the fact they are not. Like I tell Mom when she is looking for sympathy and starts whining about problems or ailments ... "look on the bright side, at least you are not dead."|