Before you read this, you should know that Hubs and I are doing just fine financially.  We have some [minimal] student loan debt (currently deferred) and a mortgage.  We do not have credit card debt and we have savings in the bank.  We will not be grad students forever.  While I know all this in my rational mind and realize that we are SIGNIFICANTLY better off than many people, what I need to write about is my anxiety around money, which persists in spite of all rational evidence against it.

Hubs and I went to his high school reunion on Sunday.  I was kind of anxious about it (having never met most of the people that were going to be there), but also excited because it was at a fancy restaurant that we don’t go to often and because I usually have fun at parties.  So we got there at six and realized we were going to be paying for our own drinks.  I thought, “Oh, hey, no big deal.  We’re paying for our drinks because the money we paid to be there [$75] was for dinner.”  So I happily drank my six dollar beer and waited for dinner.

Around 7:15 food was set out and it was four different types of appetizer of low to medium tastiness and low to medium temperature appropriateness.  I had a couple of things, but didn’t love them and so I just hung out and chatted and waited for dinner.  But dinner NEVER came.  The four small trays (for 40! people) of appetizers was dinner.  I was pretty hangry (thanks for the highly appropriate word Jen) and getting hangrier, but we still had maybe an hour or so of reunion left.

I hung in there, expecting to get to go home and eat leftovers, but then everyone was hungry and they really only get to see each other once in a blue moon so it really made sense to all go somewhere to eat.  And I was happy for Hubs to get to hang out with these friends, and mostly I enjoyed the people we were with, but on the drive to the second restaurant and in spite of the promise of real food, I started to FREAK OUT about the amount of money that we were spending (basically our entire month’s fun budget in one night).

Rather than chilling out and enjoying the company of a very talented and interesting group of people, I felt like I could only focus on the impending doom of spending more money.  I didn’t enjoy my food (cheese fries, I should have loved them), and my anxiety spilled out to Hubs in the car on the way home.  He was surprisingly patient with my catastrophizing, but we’re both at a bit of a loss on how to handle me around the money issue.

Some friends and family have offered good perspective and suggestions:  the mantra, “Don’t believe everything you think; fear lies,” and the idea that we have to let money go, so that it can come back to us.  I’ll of course be taking this specific instance of awfulizing to my counselor (along with my tendency to awfulize in every challenging situation), but I’d love any feedback or ideas you all have to help me find more peace with our finances.

Birdy Craft

Y’all, if I didn’t have SO MUCH FUN making this craft!  The pattern is free, the fabric was estate-saled, a tree fell down in our yard right as I needed a branch, and this little birdies are cute as pie.  Combine that with the chance to give something to some dear friends for their soon-to-be born wee babe and I was pretty happy with this whole project!

Up next:  sewing baby clothes with the serger I found for a STEAL at the same estate sale the fabric came from!

The Red Tent

The red tent (in addition to being a fantastic novel by Anita Diamant) is a tradition found in many cultures.  In the red tent or moon lodge (the equivalent found in some Native American traditions) women gathered during their monthly menstrual periods to celebrate their feminine energy and support each other.*  Since the publication of Anita Diamant’s novel, red tents have sprung up all over the US as a way for women to connect to each other and recharge.

This past weekend I went to an every other year red tent retreat.  It was awesome to be in nature with other lovely ladies (including my mother- and sister-in-law).  We yoga-ed, sauna-ed, hot tubbed, and ate lots of amazing vegetarian food.  We had an opening circle where everyone shared their intentions for the weekend or their lives and then a closing circle where we reflected on what we had experienced in the company of our sisters and shared womanly wisdom.  It was a very powerful weekend for me, not only because I realized how joyfully grateful I am to have the in-laws I have, but because in the closing circle, it really hit me how much I enjoy communicating and processing with other women, how much I need time for the red tent in my life, and how maybe the enjoyment and affinity I have for red tent type activities and relationships could be a hint about my calling.

Hubs and I have had some pretty intense conflict in the recent past, which is currently being handled in an ongoing way (with the help of a counselor), and while it’s no fun at all, I am SO THANKFUL for the support from the women in my life around the conflict.  In one 24 hour period, I talked to two out of town friends and my mom on the phone (each for an hour at least), was walked to AND from work by my heart sister here in Nashville and received a supportive email from another friend.  If I hadn’t felt their bracing love, I would have been non-functional that entire day (as it was, I actually did science).  I realized at the time how lifted up I felt, but I didn’t realize until this weekend’s retreat how amazing it was and IS to have so many women that I feel comfortable calling on and that are willing to support me at the drop of a hat.

Several of the women retreating with us this weekend don’t have one woman that they can call in times of need, let alone three or more!  They don’t have great relationships with their moms, let alone with their sister and in-laws.  They grew up in a time or family that stigmatized mental health, struggling with body image, coping with abuse, and lady business.  They kept taking care of their families and working their jobs and pouring themselves out for roles that they are increasingly too empty to do, until they couldn’t take it any more and hightailed it to the retreat center to fill back up.

The red tent can fill you up, whether you have a virtual red tent or a real life one, but for me, it has to happen more than every other year.  Here in Nashville, I have been meeting with a group of women casually calling ourselves the red tent, but it may be time for me to get more deliberate about it.  I’m going to keep thinking about how all women can find ways to empower themselves and empower each other to fill our emptiness up, and see what I come up with.

Do you have the support of the red tent in your life?  What ideas do you have about how you can cultivate this kind of support for yourself and the women you love?

*In my limited reading, I haven’t found any evidence for menstrual synchrony (either of women synchronized with other women or women synchronized with the moon), in spite of the significant anecdotal evidence for roommates and sisters menstruating together.  In fact this review of some scientific evidence concludes that menstrual synchrony is probably random.