Have you ever gone seven entire months without balancing your checkbook, to make sure that the amount of money you claim you own is greater than, or at least equal to, what the bank insists you have?
Have you ever gone four full months without writing a single transaction in your checkbook, whether it was a deposit or an extraction of dollar bills?
I used to be this nit-picky girl, who balanced her checkbook TO THE PENNY, month in and month out, every month of my life. When I married Hubs, his version of reconciling his checking account was to call a nice woman named Stacy, who was obviously the head resource person for ALL THINGS CHECKING at his bank. Hubs would simply ask Stacy what his account balance was, and he took her response as a gold brick of truth, because Stacy was the grandmotherly type who wouldn’t dare to lie.
(Also? Because Hubs and I are very elderly, ONLINE BANKING didn’t exist when I met him. Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, or at least he hadn’t made it available to the common citizen.)
“You have sixty-four dollars in your account.”
Blam! He believed it.
“You have fourteen million, seven hundred thirty-six thousand, four hundred eighty-one dollars and twelve cents in your account.”
Boom! Hubs wondered how he’d managed to save that much, but Stacy was an angel, so it must be true, and dang! He was going to go ahead and buy that new transmission for his ’68 Camaro after all.
This habit of Hubs’, which was his way of life when I met him, made me want to beat my own head against a brick wall and dip his check register in Germ-X to purify it. So, when his last name became my last name, I literally emptied out his checking out, emptied out MY checking account, and put whatever dollar bills we had into a brand new checking account.
It was called the JOINT ACCOUNT, and I wanted to cry happy tears, because LOOK! We are married, and we are so in love, and we have pooled all of our money together, and both of our names are embossed in a fancy script on our personal checks!
I took full responsibility for the checkbook, because Stacy had retired from her job at the bank so that she could use her senior discount at Perkin’s for an omelet any time of the day. Plus, our bank was coming of age, so it started charging people to check their account balances, because apparently that was how all the fancy Swiss banks were doing things these days.
Life was good.
And then it happened.
One month, with a busy toddler and a busy teenager and SERIOUSLY? THEY ALL WANT ME TO COOK DINNER, TOO, EVEN THOUGH I HAVE SUCCEEDED IN KEEPING TWO CHILDREN ALIVE ALL DAY, AND I EVEN MADE IT THROUGH WALMART WITH THE MAJORITY OF MY SANITY IN PLACE!, I didn’t balance my checkbook when the bank statement arrived in the mail. That was all fine and dandy, because I’d just do back-to-back reconciliations the following month, because my math skills are capable of that.
And then that next month came, and I was busy pulling out my hair, because WHO THREW HIS BEDROOM DOOR OPEN SO HARD THAT THE DOORKNOB WENT THROUGH THE SHEETROCK, and NO! WE ARE NOT BUYING A FULLY AUTOMATIC RIFLE FOR YOU, BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT IN THE MILITARY, AND I DON’T CARE HOW COOL IT WOULD BE TO SHOOT ONE. I didn’t balance the checkbook that month either.
And pretty soon, those two months slid into seven months, and that is how we arrived on yesterday. To add insult to injury, four months ago, I was busy juggling a toddler at the Walmart cash register, and I didn’t write the expenditure in my check register. I’m a champion at multi-tasking, but that day, I couldn’t hold the BUT I WANTED A NEW THOMAS TRAIN ENGINE, AND I WILL SCREAM MY DISPLEASURE ALL THE WAY HOME child and the gel pen at the same time.
And THAT supposedly isolated incident turned into four months of I DIDN’T RECORD THE EXPENSE OR THE DEPOSIT IN THE REGISTER, BUT LISTEN. I KNOW WE HAVE SOME MONEY IN THERE, AND WE DON’T BUY ANY TREATS OTHER THAN STARBUCKS, AND THE BANK HASN’T SENT US A STATEMENT THAT SAYS OVERDRAWN, SO I THINK WE’RE GOLDEN.
I had never needed Stacy’s help more.
Sometimes, when you’re looking at an out-of-control project, you get a little overwhelmed, and you don’t even know where to begin to make things right. This was exactly how I felt; I had somehow brought shame upon my family because we no longer new exactly how many pennies we owned, and I wanted to apologize to Hubs for poking fun at him in our dating days for the checking method that worked for him.
And then there was yesterday.
We went to church. We came home. Thing 2 laid down for a nap… the boy packed up his golf clubs and headed off to the golf course… and I sat down at our dining room table at 11:15 with my piping-hot cup of chai tea.
At 8:45 last night, I had entered four months’ worth of transactions into our check register. I had gone through seven entire months’ worth of bank statements, and reconciled our checking account, and I was only off $10.89.
And eighty-nine cents!!!
My old self would have stayed up every night for a week, redoing the math and burning the batteries up in the calculator, until I had found that amount, but my Yesterday Self said, “You know? It’s probably an adding error, and we don’t even want to open that can of THIS WILL ADD ANOTHER FORTY-EIGHT HOURS TO THE TIME YOU SPEND AT THIS DINING ROOM TABLE worms.
So… I subtracted $10.89 from my checkbook, and the bank and I were in total agreement with one another.
Every muscle in my entire body ached from sitting at my dining room table for nine and a half hours, but I felt like I had just won an Iron Man Triathalon when I finally closed the checkbook and said, “It is done.”
And THAT is how I spent yesterday, people. Riveting, I know.
In other news, Hubs and I journeyed to the wilderness on Saturday morning to retrieve the boy and our neighbor, Andrew, from camp. The boy had been gone an entire week. I had missed him terribly, but I was kind of impressed that his bathroom had remained clean for seven entire days and my pantry was still full.
The boy bunked with Ben and Andrew all week, along with seven other boys from three different states and their counselor. I knew in my heart that their cabin would smell of death and bowel decay when Hubs and I arrived to collect our child, but IT. DID. NOT. The boys’ counselor had a rule, and that rule was, “Y’all will take a shower every day, or you can take your sleeping bag outside for the night.” And that little college freshman stuck to his guns, which makes him one of my favorite people in this entire universe.
Except, this college freshman should also know that when you show impressionable thirteen-year-old boys that if you coat your hands in Germ-X and hold a lit match to them, your hands will catch fire for a split second like a magician’s… there really WILL BE some LET’S TRY THIS AT HOME, EVEN THOUGH WE WERE TOLD NOT TO! Apparently, this is the sort of stuff that camp memories are made of… this entire concept of doing things with fire with your camp counselor and nine cabin-mates in the middle of the night around a campfire that your mother would suffer a stroke from hearing about.
It’s why mothers are not camp counselors. We have lost our spontaneous FUN GENE, that thinks HANDS OF FIRE AT MIDNIGHT, using an accelerant and a Zippo lighter, is a fun and hysterical way to pass the time.
When Hubs and I showed up at the boy’s cabin to help carry out STUFF, we were amazed that the smell was PEACEFUL and CLEAN and NOT BAD AT ALL, and no one had third degree burns of any kind.
I also realized about fourteen miles into our trip to the wilds that I had forgotten my Canon camera at home. I was shocked, because it felt exactly like I had left one of my sons behind somewhere. I had to make do with my iPhone, and my iPhone is worse at pictures than Hubs and I are at our joint checking account.
This is the boy (on the far left) and his counselor (right next to him, in the orange shirt), and our neighbor, Andrew (in the long-sleeved, green shirt), and a couple of their brand new buddies. Ben had to leave camp late on Friday night, so he could help with his family’s branding at 6 AM on Saturday, because that is what real ranchers do, so he didn’t make it into the LAST DAY OF CAMP snapshots.
The boy had a fantastic time at camp all week! They fished. They canoed. They frolicked and played games and dared one another to swim down a creek, even though this is the wilderness area of Small Town, USA, which means our water isn’t warm enough for that until the middle of July. They jumped off of rock cliffs into snow drifts in their shorts, because this is the wilderness area of Small Town, USA, and we have snow in the highlands until the middle of July. They went trap shooting. They participated in archery. They never went to sleep before 2 AM. They did arts. They did crafts. They played kickball. They hiked. They hiked some more. And then they hiked a bit more after that. They had home-cooked meals three times a day. They did Bible studies, and learned more about Jesus, and prayed for one another, and sang worship songs with the band made up of talented counselors. The boy even said, “Mom, one night, our counselor was doing a Bible study with all the guys from our cabin. It was supposed to be from 7:00 to 8:00, but it was so interesting, and we all got to talking about it so much, that we didn’t finish our Bible study until 9:30 PM, and we missed the camp store! We didn’t get to buy candy bars that night, because the store had closed, but we didn’t care, because it was the best discussion about Jesus I’ve ever been in.” And THAT, people, made the cost of camp something I didn’t care about, because my boy was totally engrossed in what he was learning about the Bible.
And, of course, they made some really good, NEW friends at camp.
The difference between a teenage boy making a new friend from out-of-state and a teenage girl making one goes a lot like this…
TEEN GIRL MAKING A NEW FRIEND FROM A NEIGHBORING STATE: When she leaves camp, she has her new girlfriend’s email address, cell phone number, landline number (if her parents are still old-school enough to have one), and mailing address. They have followed one another on Twitter and friended each other on Facebook. They know where to find one another on Instagram. They will each have a matching friendship bracelet on, that they made in crafts earlier in the week. They will have pictures of themselves together on their cell phones and will call one another THAT VERY NIGHT, after they’ve gotten home, because they already miss one another.
TEEN BOY MAKING A NEW FRIEND FROM A NEIGHBORING STATE: “Hey, Mom. This is Chris. He’s great.” After shaking Chris’ hand and drilling him with WHERE ARE YOU FROM, CHRIS? and DID YOU HAVE A GOOD WEEK HERE, CHRIS?, it is time to go. I asked the boy, “Did you get Chris’ address or cell phone number?” To this, the boy replied, “No. I don’t need it. He said he’s coming to camp again next year, so I’ll see him then.”
It’s exactly like saying, “Since we’re leaving for vacation, let me just phone Stacy really quick-like and see how much money I have, and then I’ll grab the Germ-X and Zippo, because that’ll be a good time!”
I don’t understand boys. I don’t understand how their brains work, or even why said brains work the way they do. But I’ve learned to just go with it, because I adore them, and because sometimes I abandon the checkbook for seven straight months, too.