Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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No longer riding on the merry-go-round. I just had to let it go.

I feel frantic and I'm not sure why. As if something important, something crucial is slipping away and I need more time! I feel like I'm sleepwalking much of the time and I want to be very present in my life just now. It doesn't take Freud to conclude that I feel like I'm missing out on Violet's life and it bothers me. Constantly.

I guess I don't mind telling you I'm flipping out. In a very private, quiet way. In fact, I haven't acknowledged to anyone, including myself, that I'm flipping out. Let me try and figure it out as I type here, to you...

I think I had what I'd term an epiphany several months ago. An epiphany about what's important in life and what I'd like to spend my life doing. I don't want to live in the suburbs. I don't want to live in the city either. But I want to live near a city like New York City, the greatest fucking city on the planet, so I can visit monthly. I want to be a full-time mom and run a proper household in which I can offer significant portions of time to my children and gardening and cooking and baking and shopping on the cheap. I don't aspire to be wealthy, to have a big house, I want a cozy house. A happy house in a place where the nearest neighbor is a half-mile down the road. I want Serge to be near his brother because no matter how much they fight, I think they both lose something essential when they aren't around each other. Near enough to share a coffee and a smoke three or four times a week.

I realized I could sit around hoping these things naturally occur or I could work really hard to make them happen and avoid waking up in ten years still trapped in a debt-laden life, working to pay for all the shit we don't need and wondering what the fuck happened. I think that's where the frantic feeling comes in. I don't know what else I could be doing to obtain the debt-free goal. Well. There is ONE thing I could do. It is a scenario that terrifies me to contemplate and Serge would shit himself if he knew that I was considering REALLY buckling down in 2010, buckling down so tightly that it would require a move to Mom's place. But lately I'll admit that the speed with which we could eliminate debt if we moved into Mom's place (TEMPORARILY!) is turning me on more than Jared Leto in 1995. Speaking of which, oh my, did anyone watch Conan O'Brien last night? This girl did too and, my goodness, hello Jordan, I mean Jared. Where have you been hiding? Did you know I once slept with a guy because he reminded me of you? He was the guy that cried after sex so that was no good, but still!

Speaking of shopping on the cheap, because I was speaking about it a few paragraphs ago in case you forgot, I've become obsessed with coupons, as of late. By combining manufacturer's coupons (the ones issued by the product maker) with store sales and store coupons you can really cash in. Last week I got, like, ten boxes of cereal for the price of one. As Serge eats cereal like it's been discontinued, this was a good item to stock up on. I'm learning what things regularly cost and so when I see inserts in newspaper advertising a "huge" sale on something, I know whether or not the sale price is actually a good deal or not. But to really score on couponing you have to be highly organized, something I haven't been able to figure out since commencing with the couponing.


I've turned into some crazy tightwad who has heart palpitations every time she is required to purchase something. I actually hate spending money which is so weird. Back in my twenties I'd feel a little blue and spend a day trying on clothes and buying a couple snazzy outfits to lift my spirits. Now, that'd cause me to hate myself for a week. In fact, I don't think I could do it, which means, oh my God, Violet will grow up with weird, tightwad Mom. Which is kind of okay by me. I mean, I grew up extremely poor but with no sense of financial responsibility. Often, poor people are fucking terrible with money because when they have any significant amount they lose their minds and buy some bullshit item because they're so sick of being poor and they convince themselves they deserve it because they're poor. That's my experience, anyway.

I hate that I owe money. I suppose that's where Little Black Dress comes in. It's a way for me to take action and feel like I'm doing something when I don't really have time to do anything while working nine or ten hours a day. If you think it's a "stupid idea" or ridiculous or whatever else I read in the comments yesterday, that's fine. It's certainly your prerogative. I'm not certain I'd leave a comment like that on someone's blog, someone who seemed excited about her project, but again, that's the nature of the internet and I understand that. Little Black Dress doesn't have to make sense to you. It makes sense to me. It gives me something to hang all these pent up emotions on. It helps me feel like I'm doing something. And that feels good. Something is better than nothing. Also, if you think wearing the same dress for six months is easy you're out of your damn mind. I have serious doubts as to whether I can do it, but I like the concept of frugality and sustainability and the opportunity to show people you don't need a huge wardrobe and tons of new clothes to be presentable and dare I say stylish?

I don't want to run ads on this blog. I want it to feel like mine, my place, my corner of the internets without some fucking flashing McDonald's arch or some seizure-inducing button that urges you to "click here and lose weight fast." However, I will acknowledge that if I thought ads would net me any significant amount of money I'd paste the golden arches to my nipples and pole dance for y'all... fortunately I don't see that or ads happening here any time soon.

Reader Comments (25)

Be kind to yourself, Monica.

Also, I popped in to say that I am really inspired by the black/brown/uniform dress idea, and am tempted to try something similar myself, while I'm still in my last semester of grad school (not that my field, social work, is all that fashion-conscious - but I should probably stick a jacket on for job interviews, you know?) and then donate the money to a somewhat woman-friendly, yet not exclusively woman-oriented charity.

I actually started hunting for a black dress, and wondered what you'd found. It seems to me that one would need something loose enough to wear tops and leggings underneath while it's cold, and conservative enough to cover everything up in an office when it's warm. I have to say also, I do think getting more than one dress is forgivable, but I respect your decision to get one!

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterL

Ok, ignore the mean comments. That's just ridiculous and rude. I think your idea is great, and if it works for you (or doesn't) then who is anyone to judge?

I understand the frantic. I feel like I'm drowning in debt and working to barely keep my head above water. This is not how I want to spend my life.

Good luck to you!

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie

Monica, this is my first ever blog comment. I've been reading for a few months and admire the way you and Serge are trying so hard to be good parents, and, dare I say, good people too. It's not easy. Take a deep breath and relax. You are making progress with the debt, and you are doing everything you can think of to save money. You are doing a good job. IMO there is a line that shouldn't be crossed though and that line would be moving in with your mother. That is almost never beneficial to a marriage and should only be considered as a last resort. Do you have a list of what has to happen before you can move back to the east coast? (I live in Chester County by the way, right next to Lancaster, one of the most beautiful places anywhere.) Do you have to be out of debt completely and have a certain amount of money saved? Or can one or both of you look for jobs back here, and slow down the pay-off of the debt and save money for the move? You're a nice person; I hate that you are feeling so overwhelmed.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

i completely get your situation, Monica. you JUSt want a pecie of the stinkin pie dang it. yes?You aren't asking for much for pete's sake. Just a nice little life where you don't have to scrimp and save Well you are well on your way, though sometimes it's like WHEN?! When are these things gonna happen? I am 47, a nurse for cryin out loud, with a decent income. I've been prequalified for a mortgage which would have bought the cutest little craftman style home in a quaint little hamlet a few years back. Golly gee, if I can't find a stinkin house to suit my simple needs. I can't even find a HOVEL. oh man, should be blogging and not commening about this but believe me, I think you have all of the means you need to take your dream and RUN with it...First of all, you have a dream, an clear visual of where you want to be. WIthout a dream, people go NO where. Second, you speak it out. Write it out. Talk about it. That's half way there. Thirdl, you are motivated by love for your husband and family. You realize what is MOST important, what you were created to do.m and you want to keep it simple. You love your guy and your baby and you want to BE there, in the midst of this joy, living the life. Yeah! So just write out the steps you need to take, short term and long term, what do you have to do ,in order to get you to uh.....New Jersey or wherever. i think tax is cheaper there. Pray. I know you have your doubts about God and all that on account of the church but forget all that religion and just ask God to show himself to you in a real simple practical way like for instance, answering your prayer for some direction and an open door? Here's an idea for extra cash.... . there is this jewelry company called Silpada. You have these home parties..I went to one recently. The stuff is nice and peolpe will PAY for nice stuff. You aslo get all this free stuff. Check it out....anyhow. Go for what you want. You wind up making mistakes along the way but that's life. Your wriining is refreshinjg and honest and i wish you the best. G.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina

i;m also half blind, so please overlook my typos.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina


December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina

That's a great song that you used for the post title. One of those lyrics that pops into my head while I'm writing or thinking.

OMG on Jared. He's been on WRXP for the last two days, talking about the new CD, and just his voice made me swoon. As for the ads, I have no problem with them as a reader, and everything you do is totally up to you - no criticism here.

Love that you're dreaming your life into being. :-)

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEDW

Thanks EDW. It's always a comfort to me to know you're still out there reading. You been around these parts from the very beginning and I really appreciate all your well-thought out comments and advice.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

What song is your title from? Something from Tom Petty? Richard Marx?

They are the only artists I have ever heard of.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSanto

It's so frustrating to know what you want, have it dreamed out in your mind, and then have to wait for it. All the while, your little one getting bigger. Thanks for being an inspiration to all of us kids who grew up poor, never learned how to handle money, worked really hard to get a little of it, then had no effing clue what to do with it besides try not to look so poor. You are teaching your daughter something special and real, and you deserve a lot of credit for that. I wish my mom had been the example you are being to her. Then maybe I wouldn't still be living one broken radiator, or vet trip, or bad tooth away from dead broke. Keep your chin up, because you have it figured out, that's a lot closer to freedom than most people will ever get.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShenoa

Oh yes, get the ads! Why not. I would definitely do that.

December 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterL

It's so frustrating to know what you want, have it dreamed out in your mind, and then have to wait for it...that's what someone else said, and while this is entirely true, if it weren't, no one would appreciate what they have. We appreciate things more when we have to work for them, and wait for them. Waiting makes it better when it finally does happen...God has three answers to everything: yes, not yet or I have something better mind mind. That's my belief anyway. So, being debt free overnight...or even in one took you years to get into it and will probably take you years to get out of it. I know that sucks and is so not fair, especially when you're working so hard at it, but it's the goal itself and progress that counts! Patience IS a real viture and sometimes we're forced to learn it the hard way at the most inopportune times. This is one of them for you, and for me in other ways. One day at a time, make a list of the PROGRESS you're making, the things you ARE accomplishing and focus on that--we're all lacking and lapsed in some way (money, marriage or otherwise) and NO ONE has all their shit together all at once--no matter what they say What counts is trying to get together, seriously--which you are! And that is so amazing!

As for the LBD idea, personally, I never wear black so having to wear it EVERY DAY, would suck. I think perhaps not spending money on clothing for yourself for 6 months is a better idea....or at least buying 3 of the same dress because believe me...if you LIVE in something (especialyl with a baby/toddler), it WILL get stained, dirty, etc....have swap outs, please, definitely! are right, this is YOUR blog, YOUR little section of the Internet and you have every right to do (and post) whatever you would like. I think the challenge is challenge in and of itself and if it makes you feel better, than by all means, DO IT! Screw what everyone else says and do what YOU need to do! The only person you are responsible for is YOU (and Violet, of course, but I'm talking about personal actions and others' opinions about them), YOU have to be able to lay your head down at night, no one else. I commend your wanting to get out of debt, that is awesome and a fabulous goal! I don't like spending money either, but I do. It's a fact of life, but I too clip coupons, do my own manicures/pedicures/hair cuts. I grocery shop only once a week and since this has now become a way of life for me, I quite like it. I LOVE having/saving money, not to be rich, but to be more secure. I can't say I get to save much of anything at all, but even just $5 helps, you know! I wish more people were concious about their spending habits. Spending money isn't a bad thing, it's just what it's spent on that counts. Food, housing, husband and I live with my mother (she lives with us, rather, in OUR house) and it is difficult at times, but it saves money--so it's worth it. It's not a horrible idea you living with your mom for a while, but think it over a little more. Living with your mom as a married adult (and with a baby now too) will bring up all sorts of shit you haven't sorted out from your childhood, just a warning. Maybe you have, but most of us have not. Think about it. Just realize that you're doing EVERYTHING you can, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. And do what it best for YOU....not what we all think or suggest. Because, you are doing FABULOUS--even if it doesn't feel like it. Having this blog holds you accountable in SOME way and that's a very good thing!

Seriously, Monica, I wish you the best of luck on all of your endevors, experiments and money-saving WILL pay off in the future!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! Remember that! Take care, persevere and God Bless!

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year,
-Sarah Liz :)

December 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Liz you may have been sent to this blog before, but this guy was in over his head with debt, had a financial meltdown, and decided to do something about it and did. There is a lot of great advice there which may help you out! He also talks about balancing enjoyment of life with frugal living and getting out of debt which is rather helpful. Good luck!

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah


Found a really versatile dress you should look at on-line. Norma Kamali - Women's All-in-One Jersey Dress: Women. Here is the link: The best part is it's $24!

You should take a look.

- YM Warfield

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterYM

I type to you this evening from our lovely new three-generation home. After a very American-story story, we moved from our 60K underwater, not-worth-it house to the family manse -- and now we are six! In our case, this happened to work well for all involved (if we leave aside my Mother-In-Law's valiant struggle to be patient with my abysmal housekeeping skills. I'm trying, I really am.) Very best part -- free and readily available childcare! But I understand why it's a stress-fest... you know where to find me if you want to obsess (my favorite pastime!)

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterohthatdeb

It's a wonderful life, ain't it?

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Want to have tons of blog fodder for weeks or months? Want to save money? Want to have more time to write about said blog fodder and said saved money? Quit drinking for a month or six or 12. Maybe you'll get sponsors! Maybe you'll like it! Maybe frou frou herbal tea purveyors will be falling all over themselves to get you to try their version of a nightcap.

You've been dancing around your ambivalence to drink for months. Why not give it a shot?

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

This experience of breaking the debt cycle and using the Black Dress experiment would make an amazing book! I hope you are shopping book proposals and that you will journal in addition to blogging so that you could write a book about it. From the moment you decided to change your life through this experiment and BEYOND... so didn't mean to end that on a toy story note but that's kinda where it took me.. oops.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

85K visitors a month? Mostly female 18 and up? Your idea of selling ads is a great one. I'm trying to think of what I can possible sell to your demographic but I won't have anything until after my divorce goes through unfortunately. (a more detailed breakdown would come in handy, BTW)

I really like "The Great Experiment" and have been looking for a structure to support a similar project that I have been working on for a while. I hope to enter the contest next month. It looks like a lot of fun.

I found your site searching for squarespace stuff and just in case you didn't know, you can ad an affiliate link to your site you can earn a free month of service for each person who signs up through the link. I would think you would do well on that front. I have no affiliation with them other than that I use their service too.

Anyway, great job building such a nice community and I wish you well with your endeavors.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I can't post on your most recent post, so I will post here. I have already deemed 2010 as such:


Feel free to use it at will!
You can do it!

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter"Gush"

Monica: (so weird b/c my little sister's name is also Monica)
I wanted to let you know that you have seriously inspired me. I'm in my last year of law school and will be graduating in May with something close to $150,000 worth of debt. It's huge, but I view it as an investment. In addition, I'm also theoretically planning a wedding, however, because of a serious lack of $$$, there is no way to know when we'll actually be getting married. What I want to do is avoid making my debt bigger.
Anyway, on to how you inspired me. I want to join you on your little black dress challenge, but do it my own way. I have a pretty great closet full of clothes. Sure, there are things I should/could add to it, but that's not really the point. The point is that I want and NEED to not spend money and save whatever I can for my future. So my plan is that other than anything interview or special occasion related, I'm going to try to spend my last semester in school not shopping for clothes. I will live out of my closet for roughly 5 months and chronicle as I go on my blog.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterA-C

Oh wow! So cool! I am beyond thrilled that I've inspired you! Keep me posted, please!

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

Oh I will! I still need to finalize the details, but this is really cool and I'm really excited.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterA-C

I haven't heard anyone use the expressing "flipping out" in so long. For some reason it reminds me of like, 1990, and my cousins.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I so hear you on this one. Actually, Matt (my fiance) and I are moving in with his dad and stepmom with our 8 month old son because we owe A LOT of money and honestly? I'm also tired of owing it. I don't aspire to be rich either, just to afford living expenses, a roof over our heads and have some left over at the end of the month to save.

2010 will be our buckle down year too!

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastica

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