Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It has been so long since I have written that I couldn't even remember the password to log into the Frumpter blog account. What sparked me coming back here was an e-mail I saw from months ago telling me that I should remove the semi-porn photo from this blog. Not remembering putting up even a provocative photo, I thought to myself, "the blog must have been hacked." So I logged in, and I started reading all the posts about my wife's grandmother, my document review position (now long gone), the fights my wife and I were having. The more I read, the worse I felt. This blog is not good for my shalom bayis, and I'm glad my wife didn't have the interest to ever look it up.
In short, at some point last year we had a fire in our home. Nothing major, some damage to my books and some items in the kitchen, but nobody was hurt. At the time, my Rabbi told me that there are sources in Chassidus which teach that when someone has a fire in his home, it is usually a sign that person and his family will shortly become wealthy. The logic is that an outbreak of a fire ("Aish") contains so much concentrated Gevurah (lit. severity) in one place, that there is no choice but that the fire ends up bringing down Chesed (lit. kindness/mercy) in equal proportions, often in the form of money and wealth. Obviously no doubt a jew should never fortune-tell his future based on events that happen, but still it is something to smile at and wish it would be true.
Well in short, I was working crazy hours while working the document review project full-time. I was commuting back and forth from Crown Heights by way of the subway (eek, think hand sanitizer every day), and I was getting home around midnight almost every evening. Why? Because after document review, I would go to the nearest Starbucks, and I would sit there for hours and make phone calls because I was starting my law practice. In short, I was working two jobs -- the document review full time, and the law practice almost full time as well.
I was too afraid to start the law practice without having at least six (6) months equivalent of document review salary available -- the logic was that if I worked the law practice every day for six months after leaving the document review project, I would be able to find another one if I saw that my efforts were not bearing fruit. Funny enough, since the project I was on was only producing something like $30/hour (maybe $25/hour, I cannot remember at this point), all I needed for 6-months of salary was $30,000. Since all the money from the document review went into just basic living expenses, I saved this money by working nights at the law firm and taking on new clients. As soon as I saved this 6-months of salary, I quit the document review project, and I went to work full time on my new law firm.
It was February 2011 when I left the project and hit the ground running on my firm exclusively and full time. I still kept time sheets as if I were still working the document review because I didn't want to slack off and work fewer than the 40-50 hours I was working as a minimum each week at the project. However, the firm quickly became successful (with a huge amount of effort, obviously), and now I have more people calling than I can take on as clients. I have focused my practice into one little niche area, taken on a bunch of clients, and now this is all I do each day from morning to evening. I am a bit burned out from all the effort, but I am just keeping my routine and thinking of my practice as my good-paying job. In four hours of work (billable hours, that is), I make as much as I would have made in a week of working my butt off in the document review project.
I work from home, and although my wife and I have agreed to very strict boundaries of when the closet (and a majority of our bedroom at times) in our Brooklyn apartment is my office, and when the closet is just a closet, I spend a lot of time with my family during the day. Since I do patent work, most of my clients are over the internet, so I am fine being situated with a scanner, my laptop, a printer, and some office supplies. I am obsessively organized with my client's paperwork, and I keep everything as organized as possible. I say "as possible" because I have piles of papers which I no longer need, but I simply have not had time to digitize and scan them into electronic format and file them away.
Being that I work from home, I am able to spend time with my wife and now FOUR KIDS (our most recent child -- boy -- was conceived on/around Rosh Hashanna last year, and he was born early May, 2011). My wife likes the fact that we are no longer struggling to pay the rent, and she also likes that she can each week tell me the dates and times she needs me for whatever purpose, and I simply block that time as "unavailable" to my clients so they cannot book appointments for those times. She is also completely excited that after five years of marriage, we are finally going to be replacing her current sheitel with a nice (and unfortunately, but I am happy for her, expensive sheitel). Her current one still looks good, but for those of you who wear sheitels, with the amount of hair pulling that has happened over the years, she has needed to change the style a few times now to cover over the areas of the sheitel that are starting to get "bald."
Being financially well off -- remember, this our fourth month of having good parnossa -- we both understand that this is a gift from Hashem and that it can end at any day, at any moment -- for now has been something that the two of us have had to acclimate ourselves to. Our first inclination when money started coming in was to start spending and buy ourselves the things we always wanted. However, after a few clothing sprees for the kids and seeing a few multi-hundred-dollar expenses show up on my credit card, my wife and I quickly had the conversation that money is not there to be spent -- it is there for times we need it, and for times where it would make us more comfortable.
Perfect example -- the most recent hospital stay when my wife was giving birth. My wife didn't want to share a room with some stranger as she has done in the past, but the cost of a single room was quite expensive. I told her to book a single room anyway because it is for times like this that the money is best spent. Similarly, I have been looking at an English Gemara set on Amazon.com so that I can learn the Hebrew text line-by-line, and so I spent a few hundred dollars and bought the set.
(As a side topic, the author is a questionable academic with views of Judaism which comparatively delve into other religions more than I would like (and more than I would be comfortable reading about), but just as I often learn Gemara from the online Soncino version on the well known, anti-semetic Come And Hear website, if the Gemara doesn't have New Testament, Yoshka, or comparative texts from the Koran pasted all over it, I have nothing wrong with reading G-dliness (Oral Torah) from an author who might not be a follower of Hashem. As long as he is not skewing the meaning of things or interpreting things in view of non-Jewish texts, I have nothing wrong with learning from his translations. Torah is Torah, regardless of whether it is written by a G-d fearing Jew, a pious gentile, or even when quoted by a Hitler (mach'sh'mo). [Maybe I am way off on this statement. Something feels wrong about writing that.])
As far as shalom bayis is concerned, for now my wife and I are okay. The newest boy is a screamer, and he keeps both my wife and myself awake most of the night, so we're pretty much pulling our hair out from all the stress and lack of sleep, but then again, I don't have that much hair to lose and hers is covered anyway. ;) The underlying issues are still there -- she treats me more as a roommate rather than a husband, and she sees her role in life as only a mother and she forgets that she is also a wife in a relationship that needs to be nurtured, so she forgets the simple things like, for example, talking to me once in a while, but things for now are fine.
My Rabbi told me that the best way to deal with this is to continue to act towards her like I would like her to act towards me, and that I should buy her flowers frequently (at minimum, every erev shabbos) and little things to show her that I think of her and that she's loved. He told me to do this always, even when things are good, but not to expect any results in terms of her opening up to me and showing a change.
For now, things are good. I'll post again in a few months. ;)