In the Blink of an Eye

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in the blink of an eye

This was a post that I never thought I would be writing and one that I certainly do not relish writing. To be completely transparent, I am just a bit embarrassed by this, especially as I wrote a few weeks ago about how I had spent quite a bit of money on fireworks.

Before I get started, I do want to mention that if you enjoy fireworks, PLEASE handle them responsibly. In regards to the finance aspect of it, I know some people hate them and will not spend one dime on them and others love them and spend all sorts of money on fireworks. I am not on either extreme, but I do love fireworks. As I shared in the previous post, I remember shooting them off with my Dad as a young kid and we would entertain the entire neighborhood each 4th of July. That has translated into 25 + years of handling fireworks and I have always been comfortable with them.

Back to the finance aspect, I know some consider it a foolish waste of money and I will cede that point – but only to a certain extent. Life is meant to be enjoyed and as long as you can afford the cost, allocate for it and handle them safely I have absolutely no problem with spending on them. If that is what floats your boat, go for it as long as you can do it within reason. I believe it’s a personal choice which is the important thing to remember – personal finance is personal.

My Fireworks Mishap


Like I said earlier, I have ample experience in handling fireworks. I don’t do crazy stuff like build massive sparkler bombs like my brothers do, but I enjoy fireworks nonetheless. I have always handled them responsibly and have always read about people who have had bad experiences with them, like Laurie’s husband who had a NASTY experience with a sparkler blowing up right before him. Maybe it’s part stupidity and part thinking I am indestructible, but I never thought that it would happen to me. Well, this past Thursday night, I realized just how wrong I was.

It was nearly 10:00 pm on the 4th and I was nearing the end of my show. I know, it sounds a little silly, but I have always enjoyed it – so there is a method to the madness. My finale was going to be three separate types of artillery shells I had purchased along with a huge 500 gram cake firework that was going to light up the sky.

The youngest two members of the Frugal Rules household had long given up the fight and were in bed asleep; our oldest was doing her best to stay awake, oohing and aahing with Mrs. Frugal Rules, but I knew that I needed to get done quickly. That was the crucial part of my mistake, rushing through doing the fireworks as I was obviously not thinking clearly.

As anyone who knows what an artillery shell looks like, you have a shell a little larger than the size of a golf ball that has a rather long fuse wrapped around it. You’re supposed to unwind this fuse, stick the shell inside a provided tube and then light it. The idea is that the fuse is plenty long enough for you to light it and get out of the way with a bit of time to spare.

Well, in the felt hurriedness of getting it done I idiotically side stepped unwinding said fuse – thus cutting the amount of time I had until detonation to a second or two at best. This worked, somehow on the first two shells and I was able to get away in time. I was not so lucky with the third artillery shell.

I remember going up to the tube with the shell in hand and bent over to light it and all I can remember is BOOM! Suffice it to say, the artillery shell blew up within five feet of my face. I don’t know if it was induced by the large explosion, but I feel as if I saw my life flash before me in the blink of an eye.

The next 30 seconds or so, I remember feeling frantic and concerned about the impact and what, if any, injury I’d have. Thankfully one eye was nearly closed, but my open left eye took the brunt of the explosion. Nothing, short of a piece of ash, landed in my eye.

In the craziness, a car was passing by and they instantly jumped out of their car (according to Mrs. Frugal Rules) and had phone in hand ready to call 911. Thankfully, after the initial shock passed, I could tell that I could still see! We instantly went inside, took out my contacts, rinsed my eyes significantly and used a cold compress.

As it turns out, according to my good blogging friend Kim, over at Eyes on the Dollar, it just might be the case that the flimsy and thin disposable contacts I wear may have saved my eyes from significant corneal injury – to which I am immensely grateful for.

I am also extremely grateful to Kim for taking the time to answer the questions I sent her about my eye and guidelines for taking proper care of it after the accident. Short of some slight discomfort and swollenness, the worst part is that I am wearing my big dorky glasses for a few days as my left eye returns to normal.

Moving Forward


Like I said in the beginning of this post, this is embarrassing for me to admit, but ultimately it happened because of my own poor decision making. I put time before my own safety. If I would’ve allowed myself time this likely would not have happened and life would go on.

As I look back at this experience, two days removed, and see all that I have been blessed with (regardless of how much I have always enjoyed fireworks in the past) having a loving family and eyesight I can safely say that I am done – done for good. No firework, no matter how big or colorful is worth giving up any of that – or worse yet, putting my family in a situation where they have to provide special care because I am part pyro.

Please know that this is not meant to be an anti-firework post, but simply sharing how even someone who has handled them for decades paid the price for doing something stupid. As far as my family and I are concerned, next 4th of July we’ll be enjoying fireworks safely from our lawn chairs at one of the many free displays in our fair city.


Photo courtesy of: SPCBrass

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • OH my goodness, friend – I am SO glad you are ok. SO, SO glad. This is exactly how we feel about fireworks now. Not anti-firework, or anti “others can have fireworks”, but anti “us having fireworks”. Once you see a loved one (or experience yourself) a serious (or what could be serious) injury, it scares the crap out of you and gives you a whole new perspective on life, doesn’t it? As much as we enjoy fireworks, seeing my husband suffer for weeks with 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his hand was just not worth it. He too, like you, is super cautious and also had at the time 20+ years of experience as a firefighter, but no matter how cautious you are, mistakes can happen. We’re all human and non of us is infallible. John, the Frugal Farmer family is so very glad that you are okay and that your eye will recover.

    • John says:

      Thanks Laurie! I could not agree more. I was definitely scared straight. The enjoyment is simply not worth it. Plus, we’ll get to save some money to boot. πŸ™‚

  • Wow that was too close for comfort. Never every rush with the fireworks better be safe and slow the speed and sorry. I really enjoyed fireworks growing up as a kid but you get tired of seeing them every birthday. I don’t spend a lot of money on them but I know the kids enjoy seeing them so we take them to the show that is close by. At any rate I have seen my share of bad firework mishaps. One tip I remember growing up was that whomever was lighting fireworks had to wear goggles or protect work glasses and gloves. Glad that things are ok and your eye will not have any damage and if you haven’t I would still go get your eyes checked.

    • John says:

      Yea, I know you should wear goggles, though never have. I am sure that goes back to the whole feeling indestructible aspect. I am just thankful my eye is doing much better.

  • I’m a bit paranoid to start so when the fireworks start coming out and some of my dopier friends start shooting them off I’m always “on guard” for things that can go wrong. You illustrated here that even an experienced fireworks handler can make a mistake in a split-second decision. I definitely hope people heed your words and NEVER rush their firework displays! I’m glad that you are all right and it’s amazing that contacts can help you so much in situations like these.

  • I have never even thought about owning or operating fireworks. You just hear all those horror stories and just don’t want to become yet another injury statistic.

  • Yikes John! I’m glad to hear that you are OK. That is a little too close for comfort. We did our own fireworks show as well, and one of them landed on top of our roof. Luckily, it had burned itself out by the time it landed. Also, Kim is awesome isn’t she? So glad to hear that you are alright!

  • Wow, glad to hear you’re okay! Pretty scary stuff. And it’s great that Kim was able to be such a helpful resource. But you’re absolutely right that this is a great lesson for us all. We’re always looking for shortcuts, but it’s often true that the shortcuts are more harmful than being patient and making sure things are done right. Thanks for sharing.

  • Holy crap! I’m glad to hear you are okay! I used to love fireworks as a kid. But as an adult and a parent I just see them as sticks of dynamite now. I still enjoy them and love to watch them, but they freak me out as I know they have no mercy. Thank God you are okay.

    • John says:

      I know, I am thankful as well MMD. It really was my own stupidity that did me in. Next year, we’ll just go watch someone else do them.

  • That looks nasty but if the worst thing that comes from this is getting scared/paranoid for a bit and having to wear glasses for a week or so then that’s not too bad. Glad to hear you’re alright and that nothing serious happened.

  • Mrs. 1500 says:

    I have never liked fireworks. I like watching the big displays, but when they are canceled, I am not too broken up about it.

    I am sorry to hear about your accident, and even more happy to read about it as a warning to others. All too often, people don’t share their lessons learned the hard way, out of embarrassment. Glad to hear you are still sighted!

  • That is SO SCARY! I’m so glad you are okay and that both of your eyes are fine, because that could have really been bad. You are fortunate!

  • Liquid says:

    Wow, that’s pretty hard core. Thank goodness you are okay now and it wasn’t more serious. Pretty cool that contacts could function as a safety apparatus, who knew. Thanks for sharing this cautionary tale. We should all be reminded of how dangerous fireworks can be if we’re not extra careful handling them. Hope you still managed to have a great weekend celebration despite this incident πŸ˜€ And just voted :0)

  • I’m so glad that everything turned out fine. Most eye injuries are like that. You’ve done it a million times, but it’s the one time you get rushed and aren’t careful and then something goes wrong. I’m glad I was able to help. You never know what you might find when you join the blogging community!

    • John says:

      I agree, so much of it did come down to that which just shows me how I can just be an idiot at times. Great point on the blogging community Kim, just another benefit of it. Thanks again for all your help, it is greatly appreciated!

  • Sorry to hear about the mishap John. That is some scary stuff, but I am glad you are OK. I don’t mess with fireworks because they are explosives. Anything can happen with them and you can be seriously injured. I guess we can say that something always happens when we rush and I am glad that nothing too severe happened to you.

  • Michelle says:

    I am so happy that you are okay. Fireworks really scare me, and some people think that I’m just being a baby. I don’t think so!

    • John says:

      Oh no, I don’t think that at all Michelle. At the end of the day they’re explosives. Definitely not something worth being called a baby over.

  • awe glad you are OK, but don’t beat yourself up over it! Just take it as you are, which is a reminder to slow down. πŸ™‚ I wish I was there to see the fireworks..sounds pretty awesome!

  • pauline says:

    What a scare! Glad to hear you are ok John. This is typically what could happen if I handled fireworks so I keep away from them and anything that requires a meticulous setting. Hope you had a nice weekend still.

  • That’s nuts man. Please be safe. You’re not indestructible anymore and your family depends on you.
    I’m really glad you came though it ok.
    Fireworks are a ton of fun, but we don’t play with it too much because our kid is too young. I’ll be safe when we try it next year.

    • John says:

      I agree Joe, it’s lessons like this that show me that again.

      They’re fun, and we’ve learned that our 5 year old is finally to the point where they do not downright scare her. They just do not understand the noise and it scares them.

  • Yikes! Close call John, but I’m so happy to hear that you are OK. I’m sure your big ol dorky glasses aren’t that bad πŸ˜›

    • John says:

      Ha ha…if you could only see them GMD. They’re terrible and an old prescription to boot so I feel so blind. Thursday can’t come soon enough!

  • Daniel says:

    Wow, glad you are ok! I’ve seen people get too close to a grill while they’re pouring more lighter fluid on, I can’t imagine being that close to a firework going off!

  • Greg@Thriftgenuity says:

    Glad to hear you came out of it ok. As you mention, sometimes, you have to prioritize risk to reward, and there are times when it is just not worth it. I must admit, I fall on the side of being too cheap to buy fireworks. I don’t think it is a waste of money, just not for me.

    • John says:

      I agree Greg. It does come down to looking at the two to see if it’s worth it. For me, the enjoyment I get is no longer worth it for many reasons.

  • Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says:

    Wow, that’s pretty scary. Good thing you don’t have any permanent damage. It’s pretty crazy how dangerous fireworks can be if you don’t take all of the necessary precautions. I know I’ve had a couple of close calls and each time it’s taught me a valuable lesson.

  • Holy crap dude! So glad there is no permanent damage or blindness or worse! That could have went MUCH worse. Fireworks are explosives, straight up. And as much as I enjoy them as well, safety is definitely more important than a few seconds of gettin’ your pyro on. Totally respect your decision to stop and just enjoy other fireworks. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      I agree Jacob, it could’ve been much much worse. I know, now I get to figure out where else in the budget that money can go now. πŸ™‚

  • OMG! How scary! I’m glad you are okay!! I love watching fireworks, especially over water. But I generally let others handle them. They intimidate me a bit and are hard to get in California anyways. Glad you you are the mend!

    • John says:

      Thanks Shannon, it was and am SO thankful it was not much worse. I remember living in San Diego I could not get anything, I was going through withdrawals, Lol! But, there is a VERY good reason why they’re not legal there.

  • Yikes! I’m glad you are okay John.

  • E.M. says:

    Wow, glad you are okay John!! I can’t imagine how scary that must have been. This is definitely a great reminder to always be careful because we never know what might happen, even if we think it can’t happen to us. So thank you for sharing, as embarrassing as it may have been. I hope the swelling goes down sooner! I much prefer my contacts over my glasses.

    • John says:

      Thanks E.M. It was scary, but it could’ve been much worse. The swelling has gone down a lot, and other than some singed eyelashes and a bit of a bloodshot eye I am just fine. πŸ™‚

  • Wow I am glad you are OK. I never gave much thought to safety until I worked at a manufacturing plant where they drill it into you. Now I try to be safer in my everyday life. I am just super glad you’re OK!

  • anna says:

    Oh my gosh, that is utterly scary!! I’m so glad to hear that your eyes are okay – I was totally trying to be funny about the singed eyebrows thing, I didn’t know that such a remark would hit close to what actually happened! I’m glad your peepers are fine and that there were people around to help just in case.

    • John says:

      Oh, that’s ok Anna – you had no idea of knowing. πŸ™‚ It was my own idiotic mistake and am very thankful to still have my vision. πŸ™‚

  • Oh dear! A very narrow escape for you for which I am truly grateful!

    We are always very careful with fireworks but I suspect that in Health and Safety concious Europe we can’t get artillery shells anyway. Every year on or about 5th November we ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes’ night which commemorates the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London – more specifically King James 1st who, despite being Catholic, was wise enough to accept the country as he inherited it from Elizabeth 1st – fundamentally protestant. The plot failed – or it was a set up job anyway in this land of smoke and mirrors to promote antagonism against those remaining catholics – but gave rise to the annual event where we launch rockets and stuff into the air. Of course it is rather darker than in July so averything is generally over by about 8pm.

    • John says:

      Yes, it was a narrow escape, but one I am very thankful for.

      Thanks for the history tidbit, I did not know that at all. Very interesting to know that. I know the Guy Fawkes name, though I did not know exactly what it went back to.

  • Really glad that you are ok John. When I was growing up we used to shoot off fireworks all the time for the 4th and I was always afraid that would happen to me.

    • John says:

      Thanks, I am as well. πŸ™‚ My Dad was always very careful to not allow me to silly stuff like shoot them at others. Interestingly it was my stupidity that got me. πŸ˜‰

  • Catherine says:

    Holy moly John, glad you’re ok!! When I was a kid we were playing around with glow sticks and one exploded getting glass and dye in my eyes, not fun, thankfully my friends mom worked at the ophthalmology clinic and could help me.

  • Crap, that sounds like it went sideways really quickly! Glad you’re okay. They don’t really sell a lot of fireworks up her in Canada anymore (at least that I’m aware of) – maybe for a good reason?

  • Wow, glad you’re okay! That had to be very stressful for that short period of time, worrying about what damage could have been done. Now, you have a good story and example to share about the dangers of these things ( I used them when younger, on the 4th, so I know).

    • John says:

      It was very stressful, especially as we were getting inside to determine what the damage was going to look like. Thankfully what I did get will heal soon. πŸ™‚

  • Sadly, I’ve hear so many stories like this about at home fireworks. Personally I’m terrified of fire and I don’t even like lighting sparklers. I’m so glad that you’re OK, what a scary situation!

  • John glad to see you still have your eyes! (pun sort of intended since you seem to be ok) That sucks that it blow up so close to you. I haven’t had anything blow up right in my face, but one year we did something really stupid with bottle rockets. For some reason we decided to cut the bottom of the wooden stake off and put them in the launcher tubes we had for roman candles. Well it worked for about the first 10 feet of flight and then took a 90 degree turn right into my neighbors siding glass door, exploding on their porch. The neighbors lights came on, we bolted, and I hope to this day the neighbors thought it was the other neighbor kids who set it off lol.

  • Derek @ says:

    Glad to hear that you are OK.

    I burned my foot on sparklers pretty bad when I was a kid. Did you know those things get up to 1600F? Anyways, since that point in time I am always extremely cautious around all things fireworks.

    It’s good that you’re changing your habits to become safer.

  • jim says:

    Yikes – glad you’re going to be ok. I was very touched by Kim’s kindness, giving you the benefit of her years of sacrifice (studying and paying for med school) and expertise. We recently were on the receiving end of similar generosity and we will never stop being grateful for it.

    • John says:

      I am as well Jim. πŸ™‚ Yes, I was VERY thankful for Kim and her willingness to help out. Not only did it save me money, but she put my fears at rest which I was and still am very grateful for.

  • Kendal says:

    Oh my! How scary! I love fireworks but I don’t handle them out of fear. So glad to hear you will recover with no significant injury. I think getting complacent about potentially dangerous activities happens all the time, and it takes things like this to wake us up. I commute 120 miles round-trip to the City a few times a month, and when traffic suddenly comes to a halt or I drive by a horrible accident, I remember how careful and focused I need to be while on the road. Take care of those eyeballs!

    • John says:

      It was and you’re right on about becoming complacent. Thankfully I am back in my contacts and the only way you could tell something happened would be by seeing a few singed eyelashes.

  • John says:

    You’re exactly right Jenny. It does not take much to cause a problem. I have lived most of my life in States that allow them, so I can imagine how much of a change that would be for someone if they did not experience them often.

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