Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bitter pill

This blog could alternatively be titled after Cyndi Lauper's 'money changes everything', because, well, it does.

We moved here, to Redneckville, to the province of milk and honey, to this place (lovely and fabulous in-laws notwithstanding) that we never in our wildest dreams would have chosen, so that L. could follow her dream of doing something she felt was worthwhile with her law degree.  We knew the cost of living bump would be a killer, even with generous help from our peeps. 

But, we also reasoned that with a government job, though not a goldmine, we could be reasonably assured that it wouldn't be uncomfortably tight for too too long. And woah boy, wasn't that a cosmic joke on us. Enter the austerity period in Alberta, where the phrase 'wage freeze for senior management civil servants' somehow translated to wage freeze for entry level crown prosecutors. And the period of uncomfortability stretched, and stretched and stretches still.

I've never, not ever in my life been in a situation where money was comfortable. So you would think I would be used to it by now. But I still get a slightly nauseous feeling everytime I have to buy groceries, or clothes for the kids, or realize that L. really does need another suit for work. 

So, you'll just have to imagine with me the feeling of lightness I felt when L. called me from work last Thursday to tell me HR had realized that she was entitled to an experience based pay raise, with 7 months of backpay to boot.  It was pretty incredible.  Now don't get me wrong - I didn't have any delusions of grandeur.  No new clothes or vacations.  I did, however, begin to imagine a lack of nausea when buying groceries and going slightly overbudget.  I thought about that big girl bed Girlio will be needing.  I thought about our house full of windows that need replacing.  I thought about our last-legs furnace.  That raise was the difference between struggling all of the (f*cking) time, and sorta kinda making it work.  I'm not sure I fully realized the toll of the struggling part until I felt the utter relief of the idea of sorta kinda being able to make it work.  I felt.... relaxed.

And then - four days after we found out about the raise - we found out the raise was in fact, a mistake.  A decidedly and profoundly human error.  An ooooops, as it were.  HR giveth and HR taketh away.  Ed Macmahon was just joking - he wants the sweepstakes cheque back. etc. etc. etc. blah, blah, blah.  We can't fault HR - the money they're taking 'back' wasn't really ours to begin with.  That doesn't seem to make it suck any less.  (It's a bitter pill in other worky politic-y ways, too, but that ain't fodder for my blog - so... 'nuff said). 

Goodbye windows and/or furnace/and/or big girl bed.
Hello again shopping nausea. 

Hello again reality.  (You're kind of overrated).


  1. I hear you. Believe me. We make good money between us but life is so freakin' expensive right now that it always feels tighter than it should. We are above average income and yet we struggle? Doesn't make sense. I think we should introduce families living together. Wouldn't that be awesome to have extra income and support? Sorry about the raise, er non-raise. That really does suck.

  2. I so hear you on this!! I don't want to be rich, ok well that would be great, but I'd settle for being able to get what we need, plus the occasional what we want, without breaking out in a cold sweat when I swipe the ole debit card. Like you, I keep waiting for our furnaces to give up the ghost (they are 25+ years old), and try not to think about the growing number of windows that need replacing. When we bought our place, it was a fixer-upper for sure, but we were both working , and we saw it as a long term project. Two gorgeous but expensive kids, and one severe case of chronic fatigue later, and we are a one income family, who really shouldn't be struggling, but yet we are.