I’ve Paid My Dues vs. Feeling Entitled

This post has been a long time in the making. It has evolved and changed a lot since I first typed it up. Living in our remodel has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done emotionally. Now that we are over the hump (read: I don’t have to do dishes in a bucket) I want to share some thoughts on the process. I’ve had lots of help and discussions on this post and I finally feel like it’s ready for you.  Thanks for reading; I’m so excited to share this with you.

I had a little meltdown a while ago. Nothing big and messy, just a teary conversation with Thomas. Of course it was about our house and the fact that we still live like squatters after eight months in this house.

In six years of marriage we have acquired three degrees and three babies; we’ve lived in seven apartments and one crazy house and bought a shanty. I blog with a six-year-old camera, I have no kitchen, and my computer is over seven years old (read: slow as molasses on a cold day). For three years of our marriage, we were on-site apartment managers for a fifteen-unit student complex in Provo. It was the perfect job for a stay-at-home mom, but it was hard. Anyone who has done property management will attest to this. Being on-site meant that we lived and breathed that building and the tenants. It consumed everything—time, thought, and energy. While I managed the building I also sometimes cleaned houses at night, putting my husband through his undergrad and Master’s program.

Once Thomas graduated, I imagined us moving on to bigger and better things: real life.

Fast forward two years and here we are living in half a house and making do with tight space and limited amenities. I don’t even have a kitchen sink, for crying out loud.

I know this is what I’ve chosen. We sacrificed in college so we could graduate debt-free. We bought this house so we could turn around, fix it up, and make a profit in order to pay off our land in Orderville and build our dream house one day. That’s our dream, and this is a step on our way to that. I know that.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to remember why I chose this. Sometimes I just want to live in a place I can be proud of—a place where I can express who I am and what I love. I want to decorate a room—paint the walls, hang a picture, buy furniture that matches the room and fits the space. I want a kitchen where I can prep, cook, and clean all in the same place—a place to create. I want a closet and cupboards so my things have a home.

I don’t just want them. I feel like I deserve them.

I’ve worked and sacrificed for years. For what? A dumpy house? Very little debt? Why don’t I have what I see 90% of people my age have? I’m not asking for a mansion with a pool and tennis court. I just want something that I can be proud of. I’m not asking someone to hand me something I don’t deserve, but I’m having a hard time understanding why I don’t have things that I feel like I’ve worked for and earned.I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. What things do you want desperately? To lose that last ten pounds? A baby? Time to yourself? A full night’s sleep? To not live paycheck to paycheck?

As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve realized that we all have dreams and we’re at different points on the path to those dreams. Dreams take time and steps. The pyramids weren’t built in a day and neither was my chicken coop. As long as I’m on the path and moving forward, I’m going the right way. I don’t have lots of what I want, but I do have parts of it. I am collecting my dream piece by piece. Case in point: I have chickens! I have wanted chickens for years and I got them just a few weeks ago. They are part of my dream (a stinky but egg-producing part)

The key is to learn to be happy while still collecting the pieces. I’ve come up with a few things that I hope help me (and you!) be content even while still in pursuit of the dream.

1. Take joy in the journey. I know I’ll look back at this time and see the things I was meant to learn. It’s one of those things that I’ll be grateful for having done but would never choose to repeat.

2. Focus on the blessings. Life could always be worse. In my family, we have the light of the gospel in our lives, we are healthy, and we have each other. I’m not alone in my dream and the journey to reach it. Thomas and I have the same vision and the same goals. I refer to our pillow-talk time as when we “dream our dreams.” We love to plan, talk, and envision all of the things we want for ourselves. I also have my babies. They are why I have the dreams I do. They are also terribly fun companions; I would be so lonely without my kids.

3. See the big picture. I struggle with realizing that life is a phase. Nothing is permanent—things ebb and flow. That’s life. I have gotten good at remembering this with my kids (they grow out of everything—the good, the bad, and the clothes), but I have to remember that about myself, too. Things will change. They always do.

4. Don’t forget the important things. I’ve seen an object lesson that involves a cup of beans, ping-pong balls, and a glass jar. First, the beans are poured into the jar and then you try to add the ping-pong balls. The balls don’t fit. The jar is emptied, the ping-pong balls are added first and then the beans are poured over the top, filling in the gaps. This time, everything fits. The object of the lesson is that when you put the important things in your life first (ping-pong balls) then all of the other things fit around them. I have to remember my personal ping-pong balls of prayer, scripture study, and family recreation and then all the other things will fit. I’m not sure why this works, but I know it does. It must be one of those laws of the universe. It just works. Every time.

5. What-ifs and comparisons just aren’t worth the time. What-ifs aren’t productive and comparisons are even less productive. Must. Not. Do.

I believe we really can be happy regardless of the situation we’re in (even when the situation may include doing dishes in a bucket). These are things I want to focus on, and hopefully they’ll help you be happy in your situation, too, even if you haven’t quite reached your dream yet.

I’d love to hear about your dreams and what you do to be happy while still collecting the pieces.

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About Melissa

I have a lot going on, and I’d much rather spend my time enjoying my messes than fretting about what I’m going to make for dinner. Over the past few years, I’ve nailed down a few strategies that helped me keep my kitchen running like a well-oiled machine, so I started Bless This Mess to help other mess-loving parents solve the nightly dinner delimma—no stress, no drama, just really great food your whole family will love. Read more...

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What a great post!! And congrats on the chickens! That’s a dream of mine too! Thank you so much for linking up to Simple Steps to Healthy Living! xoxo

I LOVE your blog facelift! It looks cheery and GREAT!!! AND I really like this post. I think about that all the time too. Here I am 29 and we have moved 8 times, and been in like 10 different wards. All I want is a PERMANANT beautiful Indiana home in the country with trees, space, animals, and FAMILY!!! We’ve been so close 3 different times thinking that we were finally there, permanant in Indiana, and now here were are. Temporary AGAIN in New York. I have to keep my head up, and look at all of it as a BIG ADVENTURE! There are things at each place that I can’t get anywhere else, and dog gone it, I’m going to enjoy those things while I can! I LOVE your post! You are fabulous! And SOON you’ll have EVERYTHING You want and deserve, and then you’ll probably look back and realize that being “in pursuit” was half the fun!!!

Great post Melisssa!! I know how you feel, and will soon know even better when Derek and I move for his MBA program. We’re currently selling everything we own to afford the move… I’m struggling with what crafting supplies to let go, what baby clothes to get rid of, and how I’m going to survive in a dumpy apartment for 2+ more years. I would love us to graduate debt free, but school itself is 35,000…. a YEAR. Here’s to 2 years of Ramen Noodles.
I heard a great talk the other day at church about stages of life not lasting forever. He said on his mission, he had a hard day where he was knocking doors to no avail, was hot, tired, sweaty, and feeling like he would NEVER be off his mission…that it would last forever. The reason it stuck is I was tired from a sleepless baby night, and I thought “Zoey will NEVER sleep through the night!!” She still doesn’t…. but I have hope 🙂
Anyways, your blog is amazing. I love the redo. I love your posts!! How you find the time (I know how time consuming it is!!) I don’t know! You are a wonder woman!!

I’m so happy to hear I’m not the only one who feels this way! We ended up surprisingly expecting another child! The problem is our house is tiny as well but luckily there was room to create a bedroom in our attic! Right now we are penny pinching trying to cover the cost of renos and prepare for baby and it feels like nothing will be done in time, the house will be in a constant state of renovation, or that we’ll always be struggling! It’s hard to focus on the positive aspects and enjoy the journey but one must remember we’ll always look back and smile over how hard we thought things were, and be proud that we made it through!

Oh Melisa– I completely understand! I’m with you, except Matt is almost done with his Bachelor’s so we still have a few years to go. Sometimes I hate that frugality consumes so much mind effort. Sometimes I hate that some of the way we live is out of necessity– like canning, few electronics, buying a house that needs a lot of cosmetic work, Matt working nights because he gets paid more. There are days when I definitely hate that. Other days I realize that it is good for my girls to grow up knowing that money and good living take hard work, sacrifice and that you don’t need a lot of money to live well. It’ll all even out in the end. We’ll have more money in the end because we’re not paying off loans or credit cards when we’re 50. You’ll get there!

This is such a great post. We all have moments when we just have to cry and we feel like it’s the end of the world. (But it never is!) I think it’s VERY AWESOME that you guys have such a beautiful family and you don’t have school loan debt! I am 30 and haven’t gone to college because the debt scares me so much. If I can’t pay for it as I am going, it’s never going to happen! When my husband & I remodeled our home 5 years ago, it really tested our marriage. We were so young and just married and jumped head first into a house with black mold and half a roof. It molded us into the couple we are now, and even though it was awful going through it, and it was hard, it made us stronger in the long run! I am so happy for you guys! You are the right track and I believe you will build your dream home someday. 🙂

I agree 100% about the marriage strengthening because of a crazy project. It’s been something we have worked so hard together on and we’ve gotten closer because of it.

Bart and I have this conversation sometimes…but then I remember that we have very little debt, and it makes me happy. We have our modest little house and no fancy vacations, but I’d rather not be stressed with credit card debt and no savings. (I still have to convince Bart…and myself sometimes…when he wants new gadgets and vacations where we don’t just visit our families.)

My dream is starting to come true….after waiting for so long, we’re finally starting our family! I want to raise my kids to love the Gospel, be grateful for an eternal family, and know their Heavenly Father loves them….that’s my dream!

Oh Amber I’m so pleased with your announcement! After having cancer and having to wait to start a family you sure have paid your dues. You deserve to have a wonderful family and I’m so happy that is in your future. I totally agree about the vacations to not see family too. One day…

I really love your posts, I feel connected to you…I have been doing this for four houses now. One thing that gets me down is that once the house gets livable it’s time to get our money out of it and start again :). I have always had a kitchen sink, but I did tiptoe around the teeny tiny, sticky sublfoors of an 800 sq ft townhouse trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of us re-doing the flooring in the kitchen. I won’t forget that feeling. Quite a memory! I’ll be honest, now that I have four kids it about drove me over the edge mentally this last time. I’m trying to be a lot more gentle with myself.

I too struggle with feeling like I can’t complain to others because I “picked” this–although in some ways we had no other choice financially. But feel free to chat with me anytime. I know what a challenge it can be even on days you feel so grateful for it too!

Oh, and to answer your question–prayers and scriptures have gotten me through, but this year I’ve also had to get prescription treatment for depression and anxiety. I’m very thankful for that too!



The not being able to complain or even ask for help because this was out choice has been super hard. It’s such a weird feeling, huh. And you you all experience the strange feeling of guilt whenever you aren’t working on the house but should be? We haven’t done much of anything fun for the last 9 months because we feel so obligated to works on our project. I’m not sure if I could make it through 4 houses, you are a good woman for that.

The amazing thing is that I think through all that you live through you manage to always hold your head high, smile, look for the good, have fun, stay grateful. And I know none of that is fake…it’s what gets you through. You do have a lot on your plate, you have sacrificed a lot, & life is not always peachy. I think we all have times that we just want to throw our hands in the air & scream or bury them in our face & cry. Reading a post like this (or when I read Jasmyn’s or your friend who passed away) reminds me that life is grand, Heavenly Father loves us. It is up to us to come to Him for inspiration & have faith that all will be well. You never cease to amaze me Melissa. You are truly one of my heroes!!

My dream? Is to live every day grateful for what I have & able to serve in full capacity-to happily serve. I want to help create a childhood for my kids that is simple yet memorable. To teach my kids to always be grateful, to work hard, to be obedient, to be kind, to love their Heavenly Father. I’d really love for time to stop sometimes or to know that nothing tragic is in my future – but I have to tell myself almost daily that is impossible. Grrr. I guess that is too much to ask for!!

I’d also love to work in my yard better & become a gardener.

I was hoping you’d let me in on your dream Sarah… I think of you often. Serving happily is a tough one. I’m guilty of being grumpy about my husband’s serve too, which I need to work on. Thanks your kind words. I sure like you 🙂

What a fantastic post. You have been, and always will be, a wonderful example to me. It’s so hard to not get caught up in wanting to feel entitled to something. Here I have a pity party all too often because we only have two bedrooms & it’s SO hard to have our boys sharing a room…and yet here you are, happily & willingly living a life without even a kitchen sink! (not anymore though!) 🙂 I really appreciate this post, and you brought up so many good points. Everything is just a phase, and sometimes you have to go without or give some things up on your way towards your goals. Thank you for your example, and your candid thoughts. I really do love your blog! (And congrats on being one of the new additions to the HoneyBear Lane blog team!)

2 bedrooms IS hard Holly. You all are so smart though by renting our your basement. You could have more room and more debt, but you are sacrificing too. Thanks for all your help and your party pictures 🙂


This is such an excellent post. I just want to add that I’ve been inspired by reading your blog. I am amazed with both you and your husband for your hard work. The fruits of your labor will pay off, and you are both so wise for being so young. Paying for three college degrees and not having much debt afterward is a HUGE accomplishment in and of itself.
My husband and I lived in a nice mobile home addition in Indianapolis when we were first married. Several people were shocked at this because I had a good job as a RN. The simplicity of it and being able to pay bills without living paycheck to paycheck was nice. I only wish that we had saved back more money when we lived there before moving to a house.
The pingbong balls/beans/jar example is a great one. It was used at work once. I need to remember that more.

Way to live in a mobile home 🙂 Thanks you for reading, it’s so much fun to have you comment too. I just love getting feedback. Are you all still in Indy? I miss Indiana daily…

What a wonderful blog! Very inspiring. I am getting ready to go back to nursing school at age 32. I am scared that I won’t be able to do it but I am so tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Can I really change careers? Have I finally figured out what I want to be when I ‘grow up’. I think so and why not get another bachelor degree! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Megan from Indianapolis

Whoot whoot for the Hoosiers! Oh how I miss Indiana. Is the corn up yet 🙂 Thank you for your comments. You can change careers… it might just be tons of work. Good luck on the pursuit, but I bet you’ll be a great nurse.

Thanks! I appreciate your kind words. I am heading down to North Vernon/Seymour area this weekend. The corn is starting to come up a little. It is going to be a HOT HOT weekend!

(friends/family with Jeanette Hoffman)

Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.