Monday Dare: C.R.E.A.M. aka Cash Rules Everything Around Me


Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn more about its origin.

This week: Spend wisely

Between 7:46-7:49 every Tuesday and Friday evening, I cycle through intense waves of disappointment and depression as I digest the fact that I have, YET AGAIN, ¬†been passed over by the California Mega Millions Lottery. It used to take a lot longer for the tightness in my chest to subside, but I’ve condensed the grieving process down to less than five minutes these days. I guess that’s what happens when something as fragile as hope is sullied over and over again. It becomes hard and ugly, and each new assault is less apparent.

Harv will rub my back and say some bullshit about how I have to buy a lottery ticket in order to win. “The lottery is a ‘pay to play’ deal. That’s how they get the jackpot in the first place. How do you expect to win if you don’t even have any numbers to match?”

This “pay to play” idea scares me. It’s not that I’m unwilling to fork over one whole dollar twice a week. I just don’t trust myself when it comes to making solid decisions about my dolla dolla billz.

Money, or rather, the lack thereof, ruled my life for a long time. Whoever is going around perpetuating the myth that money doesn’t buy happiness is either really rich and doesn’t give a shit or really poor and self-soothing. Being poor is fucking miserable. Working a series of low-paying, soul-sucking jobs colored every decision I made.

Cash ruled everything around me.

When Cal was five, a young photographer offered to do a Mother and Daughter photo session for $75. I was working the front end at a dry cleaner, settling tabs, rifling through pockets, and noting stains for $8 an hour before taxes, and the thought of wasting two days’ wages on something we couldn’t eat or put on our backs seemed ridiculous and unnecessary. I didn’t even give the offer a second thought.

A friend who had taken advantage of the photographer’s offer challenged my decision. This homegirl’s background in advertising really helped as she campaigned for me to change my mind, unafraid to mention that I would regret not having “nice pictures” someday.

My hands shook a little as I wrote the $75 check, mostly because I was afraid it wasn’t going to clear, but also because I was mentally scrolling through everything I would have to give up for the next few weeks to make those stupid pictures happen.

When it came time to order pictures, I passed on most of them, ordering just a handful in 5×7.

What I didn’t realize then…What I know now, is that I should have been glad to sift through dirty suit pockets, extracting crumpled receipts and used condoms (come on guys, what the fuck compels you to put these back in your pocket?) for the chance to capture this slice of time with my kid.

My favorite 5×7 is clipped to a floral pinboard, and each day, when I’m looking around my office instead of doing real work, my eyes land on it. I am reminded of the time when it was just the two of us.

When I got married, I let cash rule my life again. I suddenly had more. And I was determined to spend the shit out of my newfound cash flow. I didn’t even know what I was buying most of the time, but damn, it just felt good to buy it. YES, I WILL TAKE THAT CAFTAN IN EVERY SINGLE COLOR. Do I wear caftans? Fuck no. But I have ’em, just in case.

I am now coming to a middle place. A middle place where I know the real value of a dollar fluctuates, determined by the experiences I trade it in for. I emailed that photographer. I hope she still has our pictures on file. I plan to buy the biggest fucking size of every single shot.

View more slices of life like the Mother/Daughter picture above on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress).
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  • neal call

    That’s a great photo.

    They say that when someone takes your picture, it steals your soul. So, it’s nice to have pictures around so you can point to them and say, “See? There it is! I told you I had one!”

    I actually hate posing for photos, but a great photo has a similar settling effect to watching your kid sleep. Grudgingly, I admit they can be worth it.

    • you gotsars!

      I LOVE the response to the stolen soul. (My dad get’s his native american panties in a wad about that sometimes).

      • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

        But how can I prove I have a heart? Some people are questioning its existence. ;)

        • you gotsars!

          I had mine tattooed on my arm so I can always find it. Admittedly this may not work for everyone

          • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

            I die.

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I read this in a book once as a kid. I also read that if a witch walks around your bed three times, you will die. Both ruled my life for a period of time. Not that I know a lot of witches or anything, but you never know. Luckily, the picture thing only lasted through my truly awkward buck teeth coke bottle glasses years, so maybe it worked out for the best.

  • Mel

    That’s a really great photograph. My mom hates having her pictures taken, and I wish that we had done something like that when I was younger.

    I’m the same way with money. For the past several years, I worked two jobs: tutoring and being an assistant to a home appraiser. Although the tutoring paid well, it wasn’t steady; I needed a steady stream of clients throughout the year to keep my income up, and summer just happens to be a really dead time for tutoring. The assistant job was nice, and it was steadier but paid less.

    Even though I was super grateful for those two jobs, I thought about the money I spent in terms of how many hours or students. A $100 expense is probably three students and an hour at the appraisal business. It’s basically a week’s worth of money. I couldn’t depend on making it back as soon as I’d like, so I had to weigh everything really really carefully.

    Now I have an office job where I get paid $12.50/hour, and a paycheck is deposited to my account every two weeks. I work more, but I get paid more, and I get a steadier income stream. Yet, I’m still super super careful with my money. The apprehension is still there, and I think it will continue to be there for a long time. Maybe when I graduate and start working full time the apprehension will subside, but for now, I’m definitely not that much looser with my money.

    The only thing that has changed is how I approach gifts for the people I love. I could spend a little more to make people happy, and I’m more willing to do that.

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      My mom had (actually still does) a complex about her perpetually tanned skin and we would really have to push her to take any pics with her lighter skinned kids. And my dad didn’t want to be in the picture because he didn’t want anyone to touch his camera.

      Girl, we must trade tutoring war stories. Those kids….dear Lord….some of them were sweet and well-meaning but, uh, not really, uh, school people. Some of them were wicked smart. More emphasis on the wicked.

      I used to break down expenses but the number of kids I would have to put up with…I mean…tutor as well.

      I think it’s pretty rad that you are know the value of a buck and are careful. But…I totally think you should splurge on yourself every once in a while. Other people aren’t the only ones who deserve a little something good. xoxoxoxo

  • Misty

    I have spent more money on pictures of my kids than on shoes. True story. But I don’t regret a dime of it. I hope one day I will be able to look at their adorable faces, in frames on my wall, and think of a simpler and happier time. And it will also give me an opportunity to point them out to visitors as I say, “That’s them. Those boys up on the wall. Those are the bastards that put me in this home! Now, where did you hide my vodka and cigarettes?” Ahh, memories.

    • you gotsars!

      maybe not cigarettes, but I got you covered on the vod- I mean potato juice front!

      • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress


        Misty, please help S TM this right now. It’s too brilliant.

        • you gotsars!

          Vodka = potato juice. Well they have to do some shit to it, but that’s how it goes

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      DAMN. Coming from you, I can only assume you’ve dropped a grip on photos if the cost outdoes your shoe collection. Imelda Marcos would be jealous. Random side note: Whatever happened to that homegirl? I wonder what happened to all her shoes.

      Hopefully, we end up in the same home together. Our children will be off doing great and important things because they had such fabulous mothers, and we can keep each other company because they’re Big Timing us.

  • Becca (aka SMC)

    Amazing photo! Cal looks wonderful!

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Thanks, mami! Miss you terribly. xoxo

  • Vivian

    Ugh, I hear your money woes. I used to throw money out the window like it was nothing when I was young, not literally, of course. But now as a mom, every penny counts. BUT it’s worth it to spend on memories like that. I seriously need to invest in MORE pictures of me in FRONT of the lens w/my family instead of behind the lens taking pics of them!

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Lol, you just reminded me that in almost every single one of my childhood pics, my dad is nowhere to be found because he was usually the one behind the lens. He had a thing about not letting people touch his camera, so it pretty much looks like we were a family of 3.

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    Dude – I think you’re *gasp* maturing! :)

    Fantastic photo…

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      It’ sort of scary, this maturity thing. I kind of…like it. =)

  • Sabina Olszanowska

    Let us know if the photographer still has those pictures on file, I hope for your sake they do :)

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed. She hasn’t messaged me back…which I am hoping doesn’t mean she discarded them long ago.

  • leanne koh

    that photo is adorable. I really hope the photographer still has them. Do you have a place ready for the biggest photo ever made?

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I got a whole bunch of walls cleared just in case. =) Just wish this homegirl would email me back!

  • Knotted Tresses

    Beautiful pic. Money problems suck the big one. In my youth I squandered money. I was never really taught the value of a dollar. I know that now hindsight is 20/20. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. Peace out.

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Homegirl! Miss you!

      Not repeating my mistakes is something i’m still trying to figure out…in all areas of my life.

  • Miss Britt

    I think we all eventually do this with whatever our issues our – swing from one extreme to the other before settling in the middle.

    I’m kind of still waiting to settle in the middle with my money fears.

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I don’t know what’s harder…getting to the middle or staying there. I have problems with both.

  • you gotsars!

    That photo is amazing. 5×7 or whatever it is a memory of more than money spent, it’s time you can’t return to physically but was captured none the less.

    • you gotsars!

      Oh! And costco will take that bitty photo and blow it up onto canvas yo! You can have a pimp style “painting” without waiting for it to dry!

      • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

        FORREALZ?? I love this idea. Thank you for telling me about it.

        • you gotsars!

          hookin a hooker up – it’s what I do!

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Some things are just…priceless….I’m glad I learned the lesson now, rather than even later. <3

  • unitedstatesofbecky

    That is a really beautiful photo! Unfortunately, Shawn and I are still living pretty heavily in the hand-to-mouth/C.R.E.A.M. (as you call it) phase. Someday we’ll have more wiggle room/comfort/an actual balance in our savings account . . . but for now, a lot of our decisions are cost-based. Great post.

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Thank you, B!

      Even though it was a really tough time in my life, I’m glad I went through a phase of not having enough dough because it’s taught me to appreciate the things I have now. Well, it also gave me a hoarders mentality, so that’s not a “win,” but I guess you don’t get somethin for nothin.

  • mommyonthespot

    I love this post! It is so true how cash has the power to rule over our decisions and how we think of ourselves. Once you hit a rough spot in your financial life, it is hard to move past, like it’s always hanging over your head.

    Also, I love love love this photo!

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      So true. I know a few guys who were really defined by their dollar value and when they hit bad times in the last few years, it’s like they changed their core- felt like less of a man, didn’t come around as much, maybe even felt paranoid that friends would accept them less.

  • Roller Scrapper

    That is a great photo! I thought about how you have changed my life while I was on vacation. I did not buy one single souvenir…not one and it’s all because of the inspiration of your buy nothing year. However I took a ton of photos, b/c those are the best souvenirs possible, I’m not sure how I didn’t realize that until now :)

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      With a kid THAT cute, I’d take a ton of photos too.

      But seriously, dudette, not ONE souvenir?? Major props, mami.

  • RaeAnn

    You just made me cry with your last paragraph. No kidding.

    • Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Much love to you, R!

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