OtherWomanNoMore nominated me for a Liebster award (here). While I am hugely, overwhelmingly flattered by the nomination, I really feel unable to comply with the rules of acceptance. I do follow other blogs, yet I cannot think of any that have not recently accepted a Liebster award or have the required 200 followers or less.

So it’s not that I’m declining to accept the award so much as I am unsuccessful in following the rules. Still I am pleased to be nominated and will do what I can, which is answer the questions presented.

OWNM had the following 10 questions:

1. Why did you begin your blog?
For several years now I have been regularly reading blogs in the personal finance realm. One day I finally found my courage and began commenting, and my interaction and online friendships with a couple of bloggers began. From there I started to strongly desire a place to express my own thoughts and ideas, since the comment section seemed so limited. At that time I thought it would be more personal finance, budget, money related, but it has spiraled out of control and into the mish-mash it is now.

2. Has blogging helped you in your journey?
Enormously, although I was not quite sure what my journey was at first. I remember thinking and telling myself the blog was for me, that it didn’t matter if anyone else was reading. That lasted until I began getting likes and comments from strangers, and enjoyed the attention so much I feel as if I tried to go off the rails. I began brainstorming ideas to make my blog content more worthwhile and readable. As those first heady days and weeks evolved I recognized how fake I felt trying to fit into any generalized category, and I briefly considered abandoning my blog. Once I completely let go of the preconceived notions of what I “should” be writing about I began to enjoy and appreciate the process, finding it both rewarding and meaningful to me. This blog has become a safe and not always sane place to download my thoughts, feelings, ideas. It’s my bouncy-house, where my own brands of mundane to crazy, spirit-soaring uplifted to soul-sucking desolation, my shopping and spending to decluttering and purging … and all of life’s messy nuances above, below, inside, outside, in-between come to roost. My thoughts and life’s events are filtered down to a post (or two, or three) most days and a whole spectrum of color is crammed into each. I journaled off and on for years, but blogging satisfies my craving to gut-check myself to ensure I in the ballpark of okay.

3. What inspires you?
Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me in real life or reads just a few of my blog entries – my husband and my family, which includes those I have adopted into my tribe. M is a truly amazing person who dreams big and yet is probably one of the most grounded, realistic, practical, and creative people I have ever met. Each of us is on our journey with trials and tribulations, success and failures. I love hearing the stories. I love knowing there are people who are trying, failing, and then getting up, trying again, succeeding. The quests are endless and provide so much hope.

4. What is your favorite day of the year?
Our wedding anniversary is Valentine’s day, and it comes with so many amazing memories. We got married in Reno, Nevada in 1998. It was a Saturday, and while M and I were pretty casual in jeans and long-sleeved button-down shirts, there were so many brides and grooms in wedding finery sharing our day with us. We got married at 8:30 in the morning, had a buffet breakfast at one of the larger casinos, and then took the kids to the Circus Circus arcade to play games and then to another property outside of downtown. Everywhere we went there were happy couples, just like us. The kids had a blast and came home with a bag of stuffed animals and toys from the arcade, and I actually won $125 on a quarter machine while I was waiting for M and the kids to finish a driving game. I had only put in $2, so I cashed out my winnings and called it a day for gambling. It was a great, fun day for all of us. While I hate the commercialization and expectations that come with Valentine’s day, I love that it is our anniversary.

5. What is the thing about your blog that has surprised you the most?
Complete candor – that anyone outside my family and close friends reads it, much less leaves me kind comments or likes anything I might say. It has felt like a great, precious, fragile privilege to have this space to share slices of my life and times, and that others – complete strangers! – take the time to read, to like, to comment. I frequently marvel that other “real” bloggers reply to comments I make on their blogs and come here to read and to like things I post. I live my life and understand how … invisibly average I am in comparison to so many gifted, talented writers with different day-to-day experiences and lives than my own. While I find other blogs fascinating and am so enriched by the opportunity to peek into other lifestyles and circumstances, I know my own life is equally rich and rewarding in its own way. There is minimal drama around here, though … unless M is doing something that is driving me bat-shit crazy. But even then, wanting to retain useless items because he “might need them someday” is not exactly a marital felony offense.

6. What would be the first thing you did if you won the lottery?
I am taking some response liberties with this question, because OWNM probably does not yet understand the depths of my practical, hyper-responsible, accountant mind. I am quite certain she means what would be the next thing I would do if I won the lottery AFTER I called our CPA (to discuss tax implications, what steps should be taken to ensure we are covered on that front, and the options for gifting money to the kids now versus after our deaths), our financial advisor (to discuss options for this amazing windfall and investment strategies for us and if we chose to give money to the kids to enjoy now), and our attorney (to see about updating our will and trust documents based upon the new information). So after all those phone calls were done and we completely understood how much money we actually have now and into the future (depending upon how it is distributed – lump sum or over 20 years), our default position is we would give away 10% to what we consider worthy causes, spend 10% without guilt or remorse, and save/invest/gift to the children the other 80%. Kind of boring when put written out in black and white, but it is a fun fantasy we have discussed many times. The bulk of our “worthy causes” are charitable organizations – the local food bank, the local SPCA, St. Jude’s, Sloan Kettering, Komen Breast Cancer, etc. – but a small percentage of that would be given directly to those we know or have heard about with specific financial need. Maybe it would be a random act of kindness. Maybe we would just drop $100 bills into the street performer cups we like in downtown San Francisco. It’s exciting to imagine what fun we could have just giving generously because we can. As for the 10% spend without guilt, M has been dreamed of a personal aircraft his entire life and I would love for him to finally have that happen.

7. What is the best compliment you ever received?
This is hard, because I have such difficulty accepting compliments. Thinking about this for several days now, I would say it is actually a tie, so I am including both with the back story.
The first – “You are the kindest person I have ever met.” – from the only business associate I have ever dated and the one man I know for sure was well out of my league. He was (and is) very intelligent, accomplished, fit, handsome, well-dressed, articulate, charming, funny … OMG he was then and remains now someone special to me. But he was also on a Big 8 (at that time) CPA firm competitive career trajectory, which meant a lot of travel, ruthless focus workaholic, and a desire for a less responsible, more “fun” woman to date than a struggling single mother with 3 young children. Still, the 4 months we dated were an intriguing peek into a life very foreign to me, and one I know I would have been ill-suited for on so many levels. While I was the one to end our romance – preemptive strike to prevent big giant heartbreak – he remains a good, albeit geographically distant friend to this day. He paid me that compliment shortly after I met M and was obviously falling in love and very happy, as part of in a rare moment of completely unguarded honest regret for not trying harder to make a relationship with me a priority when he had the chance.
The second – “Janelle has been the heart and soul of this office, she breathed new life into it, brought cohesion and community to this group of desperadoes, and she deserves a lot of the credit for its ongoing success.” – was from the chief operating officer at my previous firm, defending me against a new office director who despised me. When I was hired as an administrative manager, the branch was losing talent, hemorrhaging money, and was full of children in adult bodies squabbling over resources to protect their place in the pecking order. The office was in chaos, the managing director who participated in hiring me was replaced in the first month I was there, and the COO took on the direct oversight role that lasted nearly 2 years. It was a tough job, so frustrating having to work so hard with stubborn people who wanted what they wanted without ever having to compromise. I am a practical person and in general have a no-bullshit type of directness, which was apparently quite refreshing to my corporate bosses and a little shocking to the ego-driven managers I was working with at my home office. I do try for diplomacy, but I tend to be open, direct, and somewhat unfiltered in the ways I interact with and talk to people. Within my first 18 months and partly due to my efforts, the office had turned around. Managers and staff were happy, motivated, bringing in and managing work and resources so the office was in the black. I was well-liked, respected, and most of all trusted by my associates and superiors alike. When a new managing director was hired, we had almost instant personality clash (he was a politician, telling people what he thought they wanted to hear, then shifting responsibility and blaming others when his promises failed to materialize) and I knew my days with that firm in that office would be numbered. Sure enough, 10 months after his hiring my direct reports were removed, a bonus I had earned had not been awarded, and I was looking for another job. This compliment was almost an afterthought for me, relayed to my immediate boss by the COO during a dress-down meeting. I was deeply unhappy and had announced my intention to leave, and my boss was verbally reprimanded for not arranging a cash bonus the president of the company wanted awarded 6 month earlier. I still ended up leaving – he was a practice leader, I was an administrative manager, so I knew who ultimately was more valuable to the firm – but I have never forgotten how ferociously my COO stood up and defended me.

8. If you could witness any event ever, what would it be?
The birth of my children. I mean, I was there, I remember it pretty well, but all three times I took my glasses off (this was pre-laser surgical enhancement), closed my eyes tightly to concentrate, and I was terrified that if I had to watch the birth I would not be able to go do what was necessary to give birth. Looking back, I wish I had been braver and more willing to accept the risk. After all, it is not like I would have had a choice once my body decided it was time to deliver.

9. What is the most important lesson you have ever learned?
How true the phrase “life is fragile, handle it with prayer.” I am not a particularly religious person, but I have a deep, unshakeable faith in a master plan for my existence and time on this earth. My life has not been simple or easy or painless (understatement of the day), yet I know how fortunate, how truly blessed I am, and I do not try hard not to take it for granted. I know it changes in a blink, have written about it as candidly as I can here in this blog. But even if I could change the hard parts, the painful events, the scarring experiences, I am not sure I would. Because those things make me the woman I am today. I’m a better wife and partner for M because we went through the dark times. I’m a loving, compassionate, and objective parent because my kids are imperfect and have had to have the room to make and learn from their mistakes when everything in me wanted to shield and protect them. I’m a good friend and community member because I was neglected, lost, abused for an extended period. I truly believe that every positive quality I possess was born in a moment of regrettable experience. When stuff does not make sense no matter how hard I try to rationalize it or excuse it or explain it, I find enormous comfort in leaving it in God’s hands to sort out when it seems well above my pay grade. I have faith that there is balance out there, even if I cannot see it, feel it, or understand it in my lifetime.

10. What cheers you up when you are down?
Being down for me frequently involves a sense of hopelessness. Losing hope is like having the air sucked out of my universe, and it has the power to bring me to my knees. With that said, my method for cheeing myself up and overcoming this is to get lost in a formulaic romance beach book with its mandatory happily ever after. No matter how much drama ensues between page 1 and The End, there will be a joyous, probably unrealistic conclusion to the story. Usually by the time I have speed-read through the couple hundred pages my own problems are back into a more realistic perspective. Distraction helps me, nearly always. Then of course family, friends, animals – I particularly love friendly, happy dogs – and just being around other people who have no idea I am unhappy helps.

My genuine and sincere thanks to OWNM for nominating me for this award along with my regrets for being unable to accept it by complying with the rules. I am hopeful you were able to hang with me through this long reply to your 10 questions.

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