Category Archives: Life

12 ways we keep our blended family marriage strong

My husband and I dated for a few years before we got married, living in separate households and reveling in the excitement of coming together every weekend. We’d both been married before, and were now living as divorced single parents. I longed for the time when we could finally blend our households and things could become much simpler.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. Things were bumpy when we finally did move in together, mostly because blending a family is hard work. But the other hard part was learning how to work together as a team in every decision when both of us were so used to being independent.

Marriage only made this worse.

Our first year of marriage was really rough. I loved being married to Shawn, but I also recall the many fights we had, the loneliness I felt as I clung to stubbornness, the continued struggle of being two different families in one house, and the daily realizations over how different we were in so many areas.

Things finally did settle down, and our family has learned how to come together in many ways. We still have differences, as many families do, but mostly, we’ve learned which battles are worth fighting and which ones aren’t. I won’t pretend we’re perfect — we’re not. But the place we are now is paradise compared to the darkness we experienced in the beginning.

The biggest reason, I believe, things are much better is because Shawn and I have come together as a solid team through all of this. Every year I’m amazed at how much more I love him than the year before, and how there’s still so much we get to learn about each other. He’s my biggest champion, and I’m his. It makes me excited to see where our marriage will be by year 10, 20, 50 and beyond.

The other day I was thinking about the things that makes our marriage so wonderful, and the following things came to mind:

1. We compliment each other often. When I look in the mirror and am disappointed by what I see, he’s right there behind me to let me know how sexy I look. Just this morning I was bummed out about the number on my scale. He didn’t know this when he asked me to stop what I was doing and take a turn for him. “Damn, I’m a lucky man,” he told me. I know we’re supposed to love ourselves and all, but it sure is helpful when the man I love reminds me every day that he finds me sexy. It goes both ways, too. I think my husband grows more handsome and sexy every day, and I tell him so. It goes beyond looks, too. He’s my biggest cheerleader to the things that mean most to me, helping me to see the positive when I’m stuck in the negative. I tell him how proud I am of him, from the big things to the small. We both try really hard to notice what the other person is doing, and acknowledge those things with words of affirmations.

2. We respect each other’s seasons. Let’s just get right to the point: sometimes I’m not in the mood to have sexy time, especially at the end of my cycle. There’s a particular week when there is nothing he can do to awaken the sleeping dragon. What I love about my husband is that he understands this and is completely respectful about it. However, it would be completely selfish of me to let this mood control our sex life. There has to be a give and take when it comes to sex. Sometimes I fight through my “don’t touch me” feelings for his benefit. And vice versa, when I’m in the zone and he’s not, he’ll make sure I’m taken care of. The benefit? More times than not we’re in the same space, and I firmly believe it’s because we understand the give and take, and respect each other’s moods.

3. We spice things up. Right now, our lives involve a very busy household, teenagers, hectic jobs, and we just moved his mother into our home. All of that is a combination for passionless nights as we collapse into bed so we can do it all again the next day…even with everything I mentioned in #2. Luckily, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I won’t divulge our secrets here, but if things are feeling fairly routine between the sheets, perhaps it’s time to get a little creative. Is there something you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t because it feels a bit too naughty? Maybe it’s time you let down some of your guard. You might be surprised at what happens. 😉

4. We plan for uninterrupted time daily (even if it’s just 10 minutes). Our lives have only gotten busier since our earlier days. Two out of three of our blended kids are in college, plus I started college two years ago. We both have demanding jobs. Plus, we’re caretaking for his mother. Life is crazy busy. There are some days I only see him in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and in the evening when we go to bed. Still, we make it a point to ask about the other person’s day, and then LISTEN, phones away, completely focused. This is one of my favorite things about our marriage, that we still have so much to share with each other every day, and this uninterrupted time becomes some of our best conversations.

5. We support each other as much as possible. Shawn is a gardener. I am not. But I love the outcome of his efforts when we have fresh tomatoes in the summer. Usually, he’s the one out there watering. But (when I remember) I’ll go out and water, too, simply so he doesn’t have to. I wanted a dog. Shawn did not. Guess what? We have a dog. And despite his repeated insistence that he never wanted a dog, he still takes the dog for walks regularly. We’re both writers, and we are each other’s first readers. We attend events that are important to the other person, even if they’re not our personal cup of tea. We only talk kindly about each other to others, never slamming the other person (how many times have you been uncomfortable around other couples who do the opposite?). We build each other up and cheer each other on. I can truly say Shawn is my best friend, and he says that about me, and it’s because we truly support each other.

6. We put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. One of the secrets to our happy marriage is our level of empathy. I’m not going to lie, we still have our fair share of fights. But these fights never last long. One of the reasons is because we have a high level of empathy for the other person, willing to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This isn’t easy, admittedly. However, we both know each other’s true nature. When I’m mad at Shawn, I also know he’s not a bad person. I know his reasoning isn’t to be malicious, but because he has his own reasons for acting a certain way. I try to see what that reasoning is, and if there is something I should bend on. Shawn is the same way. Even more important, he knows how to say he’s sorry when he’s wrong, and has been a great model for me so that I can learn to do that, too. And man, is that hard!

7. We recognize each other’s strengths, and remind each other of them. I’m the worst when it comes to knowing what I’m good at. I’m really hard on myself. That’s why it means so much to me when Shawn stops everything and tells me all the things that are special about me. I need to hear this, because I forget. In the same way, I often tell Shawn what I admire about him: his confidence, his way with words, how he carries himself, how personable he is, how much people appreciate his wisdom.

8. We date each other. If I had my way, Shawn and I would go on a date at least once a week, if not more. However, we live in the real world, and that is rarely possible. We do make time for each other regularly, though. This could be a movies date, or time at a coffee shop, or even, and I’m not even joking, a Costco shopping trip. It’s mostly about the time together without anyone else so that we can talk and have fun together. It keeps our friendship alive in our marriage.

9. We are social together. There’s something so romantic about being with Shawn among a group of friends, from quiet dinners to group outings, laughing with friends and having him close to me as we experience the same thing. I always feel so proud of him when we’re out together, and we often come home feeling closer than ever before.

10. We’re social apart. We don’t have all the same friends or interests, and that’s completely okay. I love that Shawn has no issue whatsoever when I enjoy time with my girlfriends or some solitude time away from him and everyone else. Likewise, I don’t have a problem with him going to the ball game or the movies with his friends while I stay at home. We both enjoy a healthy amount of time away from each other and by ourselves, which makes our together time that much more special.

11. We work as a team. Earlier this year, Shawn’s mom moved in with us. This change in our household held all the promises of stress on our marriage, and yet, I’ve never felt closer to him. We have divided the duties, trying to avoid burnout. We are talking so much more about real feelings through this, being open and honest, even about the hard stuff. We give each other breaks. We build each other up. We do every single thing on this list. I can honestly say that his mother moving in has brought us so much closer, which, seriously, astounds me.

12. Our shared faith is at the center of our marriage. I recognize not every married couple is lucky enough to share the same faith. I feel fortunate that Shawn and I do. I’ve been in relationships where the faith is different, whether because someone didn’t have faith or we shared completely different faith altogether, and it was HARD. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it definitely takes work to be in a loving, committed marriage, and share vastly different ideas about God and what that means for humanity. So in that, I feel very fortunate that God is our partner in our marriage, that we both view God through loving eyes, we see our duty as to love all people, and we do all this together.

What works for you and your spouse in your marriage?

Advertisements

10 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

writingletter

With a household of young adults aged 15-20, I am in the final years of my hands-on parenting stage, and the empty nest is getting closer and closer. If I think too hard about this fact, I am liable to burst into tears. However, sometimes this revelation is a light in a tunnel of teenage moodiness and rebellion.

Each stage of parenting has both pros and cons, and these later teen years are no exception. I love that my kids are so independent now. I no longer need to coordinate their every move, or ensure they are properly entertained. All of my kids are capable of jumping on a bus or driving a car downtown to go hang out with their friends, and they earn their own money to pay their way for non-essentials. They make many of their own meals and keep track of their own homework. And I thoroughly enjoy conversations with them, because they are at a level where we can discuss things from current events to their natural day-to-day.

However, their growing independence comes with a price. Being so close to total independence, my kids tend to believe they should have the kind of absolute freedom all adults have, even while they are still a dependent in our household. They fight certain rules and obligations, and the power struggle is real. They have reached an age when forcing them to do anything is no longer realistic, and I have to rely heavily on the ideals I’ve raised them with, and hope with all my might that these ideals possess some sort of pull in their current decision making.

There are many times when I feel like just throwing my hands up in the air, and maybe even giving them the house while I move to some deserted island. But just when I have reached my breaking point with these rebellious, stubborn teens, they do something to remind me that they are really just brilliant human beings that I cherish more than anything, and they are only testing their wings before they are ready to fly.

I came across an article I wrote when my daughter was 13. In it, I was going through an especially difficult time with her, and I was frustrated with how far our relationship had fallen in such a short amount of time. But then I put myself in her shoes, remembering what it was like when I was 13 years old. I ended up writing a letter to my 13-year-old self, telling my younger self all the things I would have loved to have known back then. You can read that letter here.

My daughter is now nearing her high school graduation, my son is finishing his first year of high school, and my stepson is figuring out his career goals after college. It’s so easy to place my adult ideals on their day-to-day actions, and grow frustrated when they don’t do things the way I would do them. However, if I look back at the person I was at their age, and remember what it was like as an older teen getting ready to leave the nest, I gain a bit of perspective about their role in life.

I also remember all the things I grappled with at their age.

So in favor of understanding my teens a bit better, I took a stroll down memory lane and wrote a new letter to myself from way back when. Here’s what I came up with:

Dear 18-year-old Crissi,

At this moment, you are preparing for high school prom, graduation, and the moment when you can pack your bags and leave your over-controlling parents and all of their ridiculous rules. I get it. You can’t wait for your freedom. These are exciting times. However, as your 38-year-old self, I feel it my duty to share a few things I’ve learned about us in the past 20 years. I hope you will take some of these things in consideration.

1. If you are given the choice between moving in with that exciting bad boy or getting a college education, CHOOSE EDUCATION. Trust me on this, it’s going to save you a lot of headaches. That being said, I know you’re not going to listen to me. See #8.

2. Smoking does not make you look cool. Just stop.

3. Pay attention to who your real friends are, and stop wishing you were hanging out with the “cool kids.” Years from now, those cool kids won’t even know who you are. But your real friends? They’ll still care for you 20 years after you graduate.

4. You don’t have to fall in love with every boy who pays attention to you.

5. YOU ARE NOT FAT.

6. Right now, you believe you are completely plain and forgettable. But years from now, you are going to find out from several people that they looked up to you, had a crush on you, or wished they had been better friends with you. You are not as invisible as you think you are. However, the biggest takeaway I want you to gain from this knowledge is that you should really be kinder to yourself. You’re kind of awesome.

7. You will have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU. Sorry. And congratulations.

8. That boy you’re dating is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you. He is also going to be one of the best. Through him, you get to have two really awesome kids, and you are also going to gain a real life education.

9. You are going to be way too young when you start having kids. You are going to make countless mistakes. However, you will also learn so much as you all grow together. And when they are older, you will get to be the cool, “young” mom, and you will share a unique bond with your kids.

10. You will one day be friends with your parents. Right now, you don’t get why they are so strict, and why there are so many rules. You are even plotting all the ways you will be a much better parent than they are. Trust me, they actually know what they are doing—at least for the most part. One day, you will reach a point in your parenthood when you understand why they did things a certain way, especially when your own kids are being buttheads. You will also have many days when you want to call them and apologize.

If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say?

10 ways to unplug this weekend

flying kite blogThis weekend, Petaluma is encouraging everyone to detach from their devices and join the community for some unplugged fun. From April 10-12, Petalumans will be out and about, enjoying picnics together, enjoying the waterfront, strolling downtown and more.

There will also be plenty of unplugged events to choose from this weekend. On Friday, you can treat yourself to a self-guided tour of Petaluma’s waterways, or unplug with tea at Aqus Cafe from 4-6 p.m. On Saturday, there will be a hike at Helen Putnam Park, sheep shearing at Petaluma Adobe State Park, and sing-alongs at Aqus Cafe. On Sunday, Steamer Landing Park will be hosting free boat rides from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a kite flying picnic from 1-4 p.m.

To see a full list of events, visit petalumaunplugged.com.

Of course, you don’t need to go anywhere to enjoy a technology-free weekend. Here are a few things you can do to occupy your time when you’re not plugged in to your device.

1. Write a letter to a friend, your grandparents, a teacher or a relative. You know, the old-fashioned, snail mail kind. Tell them something fun that’s going on with you, or let them know why they’re important to you. Who knows, they may even write you a letter back, giving you the surprise of something nice coming in the mail among all your bills and advertisements.

2. Get lost….but in a good way. Explore your town, but leave the GPS at home. Find places you’ve never discovered before, and don’t worry about losing your way. After all, you can always ask someone for directions if you get lost.

3. Go outside and play. Take a hike in the hills. Go to the beach. Play on the playground. Go for a bike ride. Take the dog to the dog park. Strap on some roller skates. Build a fort. Play hopscotch or jacks (do you remember those?). The possibilities are endless!

4. Sit and do nothing. Seriously. Remember what it was like to NOT pull out your phone when you had idle time? Think of the things you could now do with that time. You could watch people walk by. You could stare at the leaves in the trees. You could try to make shapes out of clouds. Or…you could do nothing.

5. Color. As in, the kind where you have to stay inside the lines. Or don’t stay in the lines. Heck, scribble all over the page, if you want. Just grab a box of crayons, a book of pictures, and have at it. Coloring is an awesome way to just get lost in the moment.

6. Play board games. What’s the most obscure game you used to play as a child? Chutes and ladders? Pick up sticks? Risk? Clue? Candyland? Or perhaps you like some of the newer games like Apples to Apples or Cranium. Find a game you used to love, or discover a new one. To get you started, check out this list of 76 board games you can play.

7. Learn a new recipe. But not the kind you look up online. Grab one of your grandma’s old cookbooks and find the most interesting recipe you can find. Then make it for your family or friends.

8. Read a book. Not your Kindle, but an honest-to-goodness book, the kind that emits a light scent of paper, ink and glue.

9. Take a nap.

10. Journal. There’s a major difference between blogging and journaling. When you blog, you’re sharing your inner thoughts without eh whole world. But when you journal? Those thoughts are just for you. It’s here that you can get down your deepest thoughts without censoring yourself, being absolutely honest because there’s no one to offend and no one to make you feel stupid. It’s just you. And magic happens when you journal – you learn more about yourself than you thought you already knew. Try it every day for a week, and find out what happens.

What do you do to unplug?

Good friends and Prosecco

Jonathon, Soskia and Gina, chowing down on Mexican food and Prosecco.
Jonathon, Saskia and Gina, chowing down on Mexican food and Prosecco.

Every Tuesday, a group of friends and I hang out, taking part in a shared meal before settling in with a video series by Rob Bell, an emergent pastor with some simple, yet huge, ideas. Two months ago, many of the people in this group were strangers to me. But something happens when you spend week after week with a group of people, breaking bread with delicious food, revealing your struggles and passions through whatever that week’s topic is….you become friends.

This was definitely true last night. We gathered around the island in Gina’s kitchen, talking about our highs and lows of the week over burritos and bubbly. Usually we drink wine with our dinner. But I had a bottle of Prosecco from Barefoot Wines I was dying to try. So we paired our Mexican meal with a glass of sparkling wine.

Prosecco1Let me pause here to rave about this Prosecco*. I had never tried it before, so I had no idea what I was in for. Gina popped the bottle and I poured us each a glass. The first thing we noticed was how light and refreshing it was. It has just a hint of sweetness, but leans more toward the dry side. We all agreed how good it was. Jonathon, who admitted to not being much of a champagne fan, even said that Prosecco was the way to go when it came to sparkling wine. And while I’m sure it would be a great accompaniment to a meal with light flavors, like seasoned veggies or salmon, I was quite impressed with how it tasted with our burritos. 😉 I will most definitely be drinking this wine again.

At any rate, Gina mentioned how this was the second to last week our group will be meeting – all the more reason to break out the bubbly. But it was also a bittersweet bit of news. It’s been so short since we started hanging out together, learning more about our faith, as well as who we are as human beings. However, this group seems to have melded together really well, celebrating in each other’s milestones and happenings. At one point, we all sat in the living room, admitting our most awkward times in our youth, realizing how unoriginal each of our childhoods really were. And I looked around the room and saw good friends, people I knew would drop everything for any of us.

All in two months.

My friend Gina (left) and me.
My friend Gina (left) and me.

I owe this, first, that we’re just awesome people. 😉 But I think there’s a little more to it. Any time you pair good people with excellent food and something delicious in your glass, you’ve got the first few ingredients of a promising friendship. Week after week, this has proven true. Tonight’s burritos and Prosecco just happened to be another one of these magic combinations.

*Barefoot Wines sent me a bottle of Prosecco to review. However, these views are completely my own.

15 things I want my kids to know before they’re adults

A mom recently made a list of 44 things she wanted her kids to learn before they hit adulthood, which is something we should all think about as we’re raising our own future adults. I know for me, there are certainly some major values and skills I want for their lives. So without further ado, here are 15 things I hope to instill in my kids before they hit their adult years.

P.S. Have any you want to share from your own list? Leave it in the comments!

1. Honesty is always the best policy. Best way to not be caught up in a lie is to not do anything worth lying about. But if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re tempted to fib your way out, DON’T. It might make things uncomfortable in the moment, but trust me, you’ll be better for it in the long run.

2. The first step to something great will likely feel insignificant. This goes for anything – learning a new skill, saving money, beginning a new project… But it especially goes for getting a new job. You cannot expect to enter the workforce and be given an impressive job title and high salary right off the bat. The reality is you will probably be paid far less than you want to be paid for a job that only hints at your interests – if you’re lucky to get that close to your dream job. Do it anyway. Even the most successful chefs started out washing dishes in the back. With experience comes knowledge, and that will help you not only learn more about where you want to be in life, but will help others easily recognize your potential. Which brings me to #3….

3. Take pride in your work. I don’t care if it’s sweeping the floor, working a minimum wage job, or climbing the corporate ladder – always put your best effort into what you are doing. After all, if you can’t handle the smallest of tasks with finesse, what makes you think you can handle the bigger ones?

4. Handle your money like an adult, not a kid. Keep your checkbook balanced. Do not rely on credit to get the things you want. Save for expected expenses, and unexpected ones, too. Never pay a bill past its due date. Avoid borrowing money like the plague (but if you must borrow, always pay it back). Live only as large as a portion of your paycheck – not the whole thing, and definitely not more than you make. And regularly give to charity.

5. Learn to cook one meal really, really well. By all means, learn to cook in general. But find that one dish that will impress. There will come a day when you will need to pull that ace out of your sleeve (cooking for your significant other’s parents, inviting the boss over for dinner, contributing to a dinner party…). Wouldn’t it be nice to be prepared beforehand?

6. Do your best to only speak about your spouse in kindness. Not only will badmouthing your spouse kill your marriage, it will also kill your friendships. Trust me, there is nothing funny about being stuck in a room with someone who can only say snarky things about their husband or wife, even in jest. It’s just uncomfortable and terrible, and no way to treat a person you love.

7. Never stop learning. Read lots of books, take a class, learn a new language, study a culture or religion, challenge yourself to a new word a day, pay attention to the news of your community/state/country/world…. Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” This is truth. Live by it.

8. Figure out your passion. And once you do, don’t let life get in your way of pursuing that passion. If you love singing, then join a choir or band. If you’re a writer, join a writing group. If you’re an artist, take classes. If you love to build things, go fishing, play golf, then do it!

9. Make time for fun. Once we get into adulthood, sometimes this part is forgotten. There’s a job to go to, a house to clean, bills to pay, errands to run, committees we signed up for, a family to care for, life to contend with… All of those things are important. But so are you. Schedule in a portion of your week when you can enjoy the things you like to do so you can be a better worker, friend, mom or dad, etc.

10. Treat everyone as you wish to be treated. We all want love, kindness, equality, generosity, honesty, dependability, and more wonderful traits from the people around us. Be this to the world, and the world will be this to you.

But on the same token…

11. Do not give anyone permission to walk all over you. You are your best advocate. Stand up for what you believe is right.

12. Abuse is never okay. Be it hitting, using derogatory names, or making dangerous threats, these are not the actions of someone in love. These are actions of someone who wishes to control their partner. If you are tempted to take these actions against someone else, get help immediately. If someone is mistreating you, get out of the relationship. Don’t walk, RUN. Because if you stay, you are giving that person permission to treat you in a way no one should be treated. You cannot change them. It is not your job to change them. But it is your job to look out for your own safety, because no one is going to do it for you.

13. Appearances DO matter. Sure, we say beauty lies on the inside. But can a potential employer really see the inner beauty of the person they are interviewing? First impressions can never be taken back, regardless of the situation. So always leave the house wearing clean clothes. Keep your hair and teeth brushed. Shower regularly. And seriously think about where you place artistic expressions on your body.

14. Don’t forget me when you leave the nest. I want you to be independent and make it on your own. That is my biggest goal for you when you leave this house to create a home of your own. But call me once in awhile, okay? Let me know how you’re doing. Keep me in the loop about what’s important to you, what you’re struggling with, who your friends are, what’s going on in your life. I’m your mom, and I always will be. And you’re one of my favorite people in the whole world. Keep in touch.

15. Love your sister/brother. He/she shares your history. He/she is your closest link to our family. Be there for each other, celebrate each other’s families, cheer each other on. Don’t ever take your sibling for granted. When I leave this world, nothing will make me happier than knowing you have each other to lean on.

The argument for SAHMs, and against Amy Glass

SAHM1

This week, the blogging world exploded when Amy Glass blatantly put down stay at home moms (SAHMs) when she wrote a blog titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry“.

Here are a few token quotes:

“Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.”

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

What can I say about Amy Glass?

Well, first, what can I say about my own experience?

I am one of the lucky moms who have experienced both SAHM-dom and being a working mom. Both have their perks. Both also have their downfalls. As a working mom, I look with envy at SAHMs. I’m envious that they have time to make their kids lunches every day before school, and are home to help them with homework when the kids get home. I’m jealous that they get to join the PTA, or volunteer in the classroom, or have the time to really investigate what’s going on when Johnny’s grades start slipping. Some of the SAHMs I know are the ones whose kids look the most put together, and have socks that actually match, while you can see my kid’s socks peeking through his holey sneakers because I haven’t actually found the time to take him shoe shopping.

I feel like I’d have so much more time as a SAHM. But then I remember what the reality was.

I did the stay-at-home mom thing in the first year of my daughter’s life, and in the first several months of my son’s. We moved to a new city and I had no friends. I spent my whole day being mom, talking to babies, cleaning up messes, keeping the kids entertained…. I was jealous of my husband who got to go out and make a living and talk to other adults while I stayed home in sweats and smelling of spit-up. I had dreams, too. But those got put on the back burner while my husband became the breadwinner, and I kept the home straight. My expertise became vested in keeping the household running and the kids thriving. But my self-worth? It mistakenly plummeted. I felt like I a big fat nobody. I mean, how do you incorporate your homemaker skills onto a resume? How do you keep up with the world when the majority of your news media exists on PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon? How do you not feel jealous when you see attractive women exiting their cars to walk towards their big office jobs, wearing pencil skirts and carrying briefcases, when I’m juggling a baby on my hip and breakfast remnants in my hair?

It was our meager finances that finally dictated my need for a job. But honestly, I was relieved to get back to the work force and take a break from the littles. My new job became my vacation from my real job. And whenever I get a little jealous over a few of my friends who are lucky to be able to stay home with their kids, I remember how much I suck at keeping a stay-at-home schedule, and how hard it was to get time off from a job that was pretty much around the clock.

Mom kidsAs I reflect on this opinion that Ms. Glass has, I can’t help but feel like she wrote it simply to attract a ton of attention to her blog, and nothing else. I mean, if you look now, there are more than 10,000 comments both applauding her stance and blasting her words. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it’s apparent she feels the need to bring herself attention by slamming a whole group of people for a significant choice in their life – a choice that means the world to their family.

And I can also only guess that she doesn’t have children. If she did, she’d understand the miracle that exists in their very first breath, and the way it feels to see the world through their eyes, and the Jekyll and Hyde emotions of wanting to strangle said kid when they’re being total buttheads while simultaneously willing to give them her very last breath if it meant they could keep on living. She’d understand the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, of sometimes feeling like the world is on one realm while she’s stuck in the land of tikes, even while understanding that this is where it is most important for her to be. She’d understand what it’s like to give up a career and a paycheck, throwing herself into her child’s future instead. She’d understand that fine balance of devoting time to the family while keeping her self-worth, and the daily struggle of not putting her whole entire identity into being the mom of her child.

I guess I can’t be mad at her, either, though I do feel a little judgey about her writing such an obvious ploy piece to gather hits for her blog. I can’t fault her. I clicked. I read. I’m responding.

Truthfully, no person – mom, or not – should be looked down upon for their life choice if that is what their calling is meant to be. If you are meant to backpack Asia, awesome! If you’re meant to work full time while also raising a family, good job! And if you devote your time to your kids as a stay at home mom, fantastic!

We all would do better to pull each other up instead of putting each other down.

Note: I became aware of this post by Amy Glass when my cousin posted her own rebuttal. She is much more eloquent than I am, and definitely more forgiving. Read what she has to say HERE.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Taking control of your finances

I few months ago, I did Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey through my church. As a former single mom, I thought I knew pretty much everything I could about stretching my dollar. And I had a good start, but I was far from knowing everything (and I still have a lot of new-to-me ideas to hone in on).

My husband and I took this course at the urging of several friends and my own sister. When my parents decided they wanted to take it, we decided it was as good a time as any to sign up, just to get everyone off our backs. But it didn’t take long for us to realize we’d just made the best decision we could.

Whether you decide to follow suit and find a FPU course of your own to join (and yes, it’s Christian based. But there are real life habits the course teaches that every person, regardless of faith, should learn), here are the three biggest take-aways I want to share with you about gaining control of your finances.

1. Tell your money where to go. This is also known as the “envelope system.” Every month, I take my paycheck and split it up into categories of where it will be spent. Dave Ramsey suggests going to a cash only system (putting money in pre-labeled envelopes) so you can actually feel yourself spending money. When you use your debit card, it’s easy to be immune to what you’re spending. Actually taking the money out of your wallet and giving it to someone else for a service or product keeps the awareness on how much you are actually spending. Personally, I use a hybrid of using cash and debit. For things like gas and bills, I use my debit card (as even DR does). For things like groceries, our family only uses cash. We have managed to shave $400 off our family’s food budget just by doing this alone! I also plan for large expenses like summer camp, my son’s braces, vacations, birthdays, etc. Each month I set aside a small amount for each item, and over time it builds up.

This first rule is, in my opinion, the most important of all financial decisions you can make. I am never caught with an empty wallet when it comes time to pay the piper, and I’m always prompt with my payments. It’s a really good feeling to be able to give my kids’ summer camp $300 of my hard-earned money and not feel pinched by it because I’d planned for it ahead of time.

2. Cut up your credit cards. I know. You want to build your credit up so you can have a nice credit score so you can buy big things. But how about, instead, saving money to buy those big things? There’s a more in-depth description at FPU detailing how you can even buy cars and houses without credit, but I’m not going to go there. But I will tackle the smaller topic of using a credit card for things like groceries, electronics, gifts, “emergencies”… When you pay off those things you used credit for, you are also paying up to 22% more in interest. That’s such a waste. If you follow the first step of planning out your money’s path, step two will be easier. And if you don’t have the money for something, DON’T BUY IT.

Note on emergencies: We’ve all been there. The car breaks down. The roof has a leak. The kids need new clothes. The dog falls and breaks his leg (true story). FPU’s true first step is to save $1000 and put it away for EMERGENCIES ONLY. In the case of the broken dog, we had to shell out $400 for x-rays (before the $3200 surgery bill….yikes). Thanks to our emergency fund, we were able to pay that first $400 right away.

3. Snowball your debt payments. Gather up all your debt and become clear what you owe on them, and what the minimum payments are. Pay the minimum on each one except the smallest one. On that smallest one, pay the most you can each month until you’ve paid it off. Then apply that amount to the next debt. And so on. With each debt that’s zeroed out, momentum starts to increase. And soon it will actually feel possible to get out from under all that debt.

Further money making/saving ideas:

If you’re in a bind right now, look through your things and see where you can save. Are there areas you can trim in your food budget? Are you paying too much in the entertainment department? Are there things you can live without for the time being (like a data plan on the cell phone, or cable/internet, or…..)? Search your house for things you can sell on Craigslist. Consider taking up an odd job or two for a little while, like cleaning houses or baby/pet sitting.

Do you have some tried and true methods you’ve used to keep your budget low? Share them in the comments!

Enhanced by Zemanta