Monthly Archives: May 2009

Under the cloak of frugality…

Half Full

I don’t know about you, but I often find it easy to lament about what I do or do not have.  Do you ever feel like when you are around other people there’s almost a sense that it’s a competition to see who has the tighter budget, is saving the most money by using coupons, or who is just plain old the most frugal?  We go around looking for sympathy because we’ve had to cut back to going out only once a week for dinner or limit our spending.  No one is talking about being evicted from his apartment or wondering if she will get her next meal.  Instead, we live in a society that seems to equate preference with poverty.

When in the heck did we develop such a screwed and inaccurate view about what it truly means to be poor?  Complaining because we don’t get to eat steak and shrimp at every meal when we have a full fridge and pantry is ridiculous.  Whining because we only have one bedspread and can’t buy the pretty new one that would look so amazing in our room is ridiculous.  Complaining about how we have “nothing to wear” when we can’t fit all of our clothes into our closet is ridiculous.  So why do we do it?  And, why do we encourage each other to do it?

The reality is that we each have a different budget, different expenses, debts and the like.  I’m not saying that each and every person’s financial situation is the same.  You might be struggling with paying some of your bills right now and want to give me the finger for bringing this up and I welcome that.  Aim it at the screen, get it out of your system.  But, chances are if you are pissed off that means that there is some truth to what I am saying.  We all make choices.  For example, our family chose to have my husband pursue a career as a doctor and therefore we have some student loans.  Do I complain about them, of course I do, but at the end of the day we made that choice.  No one forced him to apply and take on the debt of earning his M.D.  And if that means money is tighter for a few years, that’s how it is.  For some people it’s a house in a certain neighborhood, or having two cars, or a certain type of car, private school for their kids, clothes that don’t come from thrift stores, travel, eating out, and on and on and on.  We each have our own opinions about where and on what we spend our money.  And to be honest, I don’t really feel there’s a place for judgement there.  The place where I have a problem is when we begin to think that we are somehow entitled to everything on the list above and more.  And that if for some reason we don’t have all of those things, we have a right to complain.

I once learned about the terms “relative poverty” and “true poverty.”  They probably seem obvious, but I’ll define them just so you know where I am coming from.  “Relative poverty” is the type that is all comparative to where I live and those around me.  While I might feel that I don’t have as much as others, I still have.  “True poverty” is the raw reality where I have nothing.  There isn’t any room for preference or choice.  There is NOTHING to eat, NO WHERE to sleep, and NO CLOTHES to wear.  Basic needs are not met.  Why in the US have we started to place our overindulging selves into the latter category?  Why do we think we suffer so much?  You know I love me some iced coffee from Starbucks, but is not being able to get one everyday really a hardship??  Of course not.

I think I’m most worried about what is going on in our hearts, friends.  In my heart.  I claim to be frugal, spend time thinking about the things I want and don’t have and meanwhile clutch my savings account for dear life.  What am I really saving money for?  Is it so that I can be a better human being or more accurately live out who I think God has called me to be?  Is it so that I can write a bigger check at the next fundraiser I attend?  Or is it so that I can buy a new dining room table?  We constantly see celebrities giving away money on t.v., urging us to do the same.  They smile, they nod, they do the publicity stuff and act as if they have cured cancer.  Then they drive away in a rented limo, designer clothes and to their multi million dollar homes.  It’s a LOAD.  They aren’t missing that money!  Giving is supposed to hurt- we are supposed to write checks that we want to tear up.  It should be a sacrifice that leaves our hands empty.  It forces us to realize the truth about it all- in this world we truly have nothing.

This morning I heard it put so beautifully in Garrett, one of our pastor’s, sermon.  He basically said (more poetically and powerfully though) “Even the biggest bank account never stays with the owner.  He dies and it passes on.  That person dies and so on.  We truly are like landlords of our assets here on earth.”  I don’t want to completely spiritualize this, because I know that for some readers that will provide an opportunity to tune out this entire message.  So, I will emphasize that nothing in the quote above is from the Bible.  Anyway, just because we have a higher paying job than our neighbor does not mean that we are entitled to nicer vacations, homes, or things.  There are so many factors that went into you being who and where you are today and I would say that about 90% of them had nothing to do with you.  When we start to use terms like “deserve” for the abundance in our own lives we enter a scary place and imply that those who do not have also “deserve” their fate.  We all know that this is not true.  There are too many people in the world who suffer due to circumstances far outside of their control.  Just as no child should grow up thinking he’s done something so wrong to live in poverty, no child should grow up thinking she’s done something so right to grow up in wealth.

I was starting to think about what would happen if we all start to throw more of our resources into one big global pot.  Can you imagine if the playing field were to truly be leveled?  Not just through a onetime gift, but indefinitely.  No one would cling to their stuff and I think the overall whining level would diminish.  In my frugality I can find excuses of why I can’t give and do you know what’s really sad about that?  Rather than this mindset increasing my assets, it strips them bare and leaves me even more impoverished than when I began.  When we choose to spend our time amassing wealth, we end up so empty.  We are never going to be satisfied.  We’ll never make enough money to buy all of the things we want and let’s face it, when we do earn more money we just make new goals or find more things that we want.  I don’t want to live like this!  I’m done.  Aren’t you?  I want to choose to live openly with my life and my stuff.  All those boxes in my basement, take them.  What I was saving for a “rainy day” is coming out now.  How sad to think that a life could have been impacted by something that I had but was too cheap to relinquish.

I’m challenged today and I want to change.  If you aren’t giving regularly to anything or anyone it’s time to start.  All that stuff you were going to sell on Ebay, go donate it instead.  Purge those closets, call 1-800-Junk to cart the stuff away and you will be amazed at the freedom you will find.  It won’t be easy, but the investment is sure to payoff regardless of the economy.

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Ain’t no sunshine…

 

Sunshine girl
Sunshine girl

It was a rainy, gloomy day today.  The only thing sunny about it happened to be the yellow and orange hair clips I stuck in the girls’ hair.  That’s it.  Not the weather, not the mood, nothing.  By 8:14 a.m. we were ready to get the heck out of the house.  But before that happened, I ran out to the car “briskly” to get BQ’s beloved blue snack trap.  When I got back to the door I could not get in.  That’s right, she locked me out.  Luckily, Molé was contained in her highchair, so I didn’t immediately break into a cold sweat and start completely freaking out.  At first I tried to calmly ask BQ to unlock the door.  Her reply?  “I don’t know how.”  Sweet.  Then I proceeded to YELL, “Open this door RIGHT NOW,” as if that was really going to help, right.  Luckily my upstairs neighbor hadn’t left the house yet and I was rescued.  Thank God for two family homes with shared basements.  I immediately put BQ in a timeout and went to the kitchen to cry.  

After we all recovered we headed out to Target, which went surprisingly well.  After that we met up with some friends at the library and even had a lunch date at one of their homes.  Fabulous.  I was hoping that the drama of the morning was over and done with.  And yet, it was not to be.  So now they are asleep and I am worn out.  I literally think my brain is partially friend.  Tomorrow morning it will begin again and God help me if the mood has not changed.  So I’m venting to you and glad that tomorrow is another day.  Good night!

A Deo No No

*Hey, update to this post on 6/14 to say I actually got a comment by a CVS worker saying that I could take the product back even without a receipt for a full refund.  Not a bad deal, huh.  Anyway, kind of creepy too, don’t you think?

I am all about buying generic, do it all the time in fact.  BUT, I wanted to alert you ladies to something I just bought that is just not worth saving two bucks!!  

If you sweat like I do, then you are a big fan of all of the “clinical protection” deodorants that are now on the market.  I used to use a prescription in the past that pretty much fried my pits and smelled like something toxic.  So, I am beyond pleased to have powder fresh or shower clean options.  At any rate, I bought this last week to save two bucks rather than buy my usual Degree version.  BIG MISTAKE.  While it did keep my dry, it was all crumbly in my armpits and smells like bug spray!  Not cool.

So, for my sweaty friends out there, I bid you a warning.  Suck it up and spend the money and then save elsewhere.

Are we there, yet?

I think we often associate the above phrase with squealing children in the back of a station wagon on vacation.  You’re still about 6 hours out and they are done.  I know I was one of those kids in the backseat, but in addition to asking “are we there yet” I was probably whining that I also had to go bathroom.  I’m sure my day will soon come.

Lately I find I am asking this question.  Yes, 30 year old me.  I look at our girls as they get put into time out for the same minor infraction for the millionth time that day, throw food across the room, spill beverages out of “big girl” cups, whack their heads on the coffee table, and just plain old whine and wonder about when we will at last be “there.”  And by there I mean that magical place where children understand the fundamentals of wiping and can handle a change in the afternoon’s plan without a complete meltdown.  The place where we can be a bit more spontaneous, leave our beverages out without fear that our children will consume espresso, and use the bathroom alone.  (yes, I mention this one a lot because I miss it that much!!)

Are you there yet?  Some of you might be and maybe you could remind us all about how sometimes when we finally to get there, all we want to do is get back into the car.  Right now it doesn’t feel like we are ever going to get out of the metaphorical car and I just want to scream along with the children, “ARE WE THERE YET!!??”  

So I’m working on it.  Working on savoring these days, even though I kind of want to hit fast forward.

Twitter

Hey, any of you on Twitter?  I just started and am wondering what you guys think.  I think I have like 2 followers, aka people who are stuck listening to my ramblings.  I’m sure it’s just another computer thing to get completely sucked into, right?  Anyway, if you’re on I’m answertowhy.  Tweet on!  (or something like that).

Things I’m enjoying these days…

Giggles and squeals coming from the girls’ room

Strong iced coffee with cream

Spontaneous bbqs with neighbors where I can spill half a bottle of salad dressing on my pants and it doesn’t matter

Red wine in big, fat, round glasses

Windows open, all the time

Date night

Flip flops and no socks

Wild cherry diet Pepsi

Showers without background noise or little hands moving the curtain

Mother’s Day Out Wednesday mornings

Going to the bathroom alone

Hearing BQ repeat something I’ve been drilling her on without prompting

Afternoon smoothies

Molé’s sweet grin while swinging at the park

Parents and in-laws who visit frequently

The not too far off reality of living near family

Actually keeping my house fairly clean (big accomplishment for me)

Clothes involving a waistband

Ponytails on little girls

Irish Spring body wash (have you tried it????)

Easy Mac

My chocolate brown double stroller and its precious cargo

Dreaming about a third child (no announcements, I said “DREAMING”)

The sound of the door opening when my hubby comes home

The feel of my bed at the end of the day

And nap time

 

What makes you smile lately?  Write it down and remember it on the days where smiles seem elusive.

Memorials

Today has been the perfect day.  Weather, amazing.  Girls, tons of fun.  And husband…ACTUALLY OFF WORK!!!  We were able to go to the park which sits right on the river.  Stroller ride, playground time and a picnic all with the most perfect weather.  Heavenly.  Because of my sweet husband’s schedule, I am often unaware of holidays and the like since they don’t usually change his schedule or give him additional time off.  Today though, I was reminded that it is in fact a holiday (partly due to the fact that when we went to buy a bottle of wine we were totally denied.  No alcohol sold on Memorial Day.  I know, this state can be a bit, shall I say, “whack.”)

At any rate, I think it’s only fitting on a day like today that I do take some time to think about why there are parades, dark store fronts and shelves of wine covered by metal bars.  To say “thank you” to those who deserve to be thanked and to remember those who should never be forgotten.  Regardless of what we think politically about war the reality is that in between the party lines there are the lives of men and women just like us.  Moms and dads, children, brothers and sisters.  At the end of the day it’s the people and nothing else that matters.  I want to teach my children that life is precious and that each and every life matters.  Whether that means working hard for justice in far away places, or remembering a soldier who died away at war I want them to always put people first.  All people, without thought of who they are or from where they’ve come.  To simply memorialize that fact that they were.

To those who are grieving, I am holding you closely in my heart today.  I promise that though pride and politics might muddy the waters, I am one who will never forget.

And then it happened…

You know how parenting is often like gardening?  Yah, yah it’s cheesy, but you know.  Preparing the soil, spreading the seeds, providing ample sunshine, watering, pruning, thinning, and on and on.  Then FINALLY, you get some cute flower or tasty thing to eat.  This is after weeks of waiting, doing a bunch of work, and not seeing any results.  Is the pay off worth it, sure.  But do you kind of want to quit and do a little slash and burn in the process, heck yah.

I don’t really do this much, but today I’m going to so sorry.  Talking about the things my kids do well/early/or that might make them possibly the next Einstein or Michael Jordan is not how I roll.  Believe me, if you are a person who writes about how your kid knew his ABC’s at a certain age I am scrolling quickly down your blog rolling my eyes.  Save it for the grandparents, right?  So to be a total hypocrite, I have to share that BQ has started to really show and understand sympathy.  Mommy whacks her knee and writhes in pain on the ground and BQ is right there saying, “Are you okay, Mommy?”  She starts to jump on the couch, catches me watching and immediately gets down and says, “I’m sorry Mommy,” before I even have to yell!  (still gets the timeout, but still).  

All this to say that there is some fruit in my garden at last, people.  The sweet taste of victory, if you will.  The knowledge that maybe I’m not raising completely self absorbed little people.  Cool, huh!

So, to encourage those of you with the wee ones who steal your food, whine at you for taking 10 seconds to go to the bathroom, wake you up at 5:30 after you’ve been up with a new baby all night and again whine because you are taking so long to get out of bed, or force you to watch the same episode of Word World everyday for a month until you fear your head might explode or you might actually scratch out your own eyes, HANG IN THERE!!!  Keep being the diligent gardener, because before you know if you’ll look out and see what you never thought was possible- a big fat crop.

Out of it

Do you ever feel like you are walking around in a fog?  In a world where we have incredible access to information on what’s happening in our city and world you’d think we’d constantly be in the know, right?  I have to admit, I am feeling acutely aware of just how out of touch I am.

We moved here almost two years ago (wow) and, well, I’m going to be brutally honest.  Up until about, um, let’s just say recently I could not have told you the name of our governor, which county I live in, or who my town’s mayor is (actually I still don’t know that).  And yes, I have internet access, a functioning t.v. and I’m breathing.  In the past, I not only knew the answers to these questions but had opinions about them!  Not that politics is even my thing, because it’s never been.  I simply enjoy being “in the know” and being able to add something intelligent to conversations.  So what happened?

I’ll tell you what- I went pro in motherhood.  I sort of changed from being a person who knew a little bit of something about a lot of things to a highly skilled, trained, experienced and focused professional.  Do you have questions about nursing, sleep training or potty training?  Bring it.  I have more opinions than you could ever want to hear.  Having trouble finding the right swaddle blanket, let me show you mine.  I now spend my down time reading parenting what not and the occasional People magazine that so wonderfully arrives on my doorstep each Friday afternoon.  In many ways, I’ve become what I never wanted to be.  A one hit wonder, if you will.

I love that I have put so much energy into this job of raising children, but if I am to truly excel in it I have to look beyond my front door.  I have to force myself to read about what my town council is voting on regarding education, learn and care about global needs and injustices, and know the names of my neighbors and their pets.  How sad to think that I could create a world so small for my kids in the name of being a good mom!  Being a good mom is about so much more.  It is about teaching my kids to care more about others than themselves, to not sit around waiting for others to act but to take initiative, and to raise people that are going to impact this world for good.  I want to raise peacemakers, hope bringers, and love givers.  Don’t you?  I am challenging myself to get back into the world and to rejoin society and if you will join me we could totally have a new excuse to go get coffee.  And, we might actually find things to talk about that don’t involve stool color/texture, or how two day old macaroni sounds when trampled under unsuspecting feet.  I’d love a friend to chat with, to ponder with, and to learn from so let’s do this.  

I’m off to look up the name of my mayor and decide whether or not I like him/her.  🙂

Doing my 40%

At a mom’s group a while back I heard a speaker say that we as parents only really have to be right “40%” of the time.  Basically for all of the times that we completely blow it, if we are at least breaking even with our stellar “mom of the year” moments we are good to go.  I’ll admit that I found some comfort in the thought.  I thought to myself, “If that’s the case, I totally rock.  I’m on like 80%, baby.”  Who was I kidding?  This was all while I had one child who at that point was maybe all of 6 months.  Prior to becoming a mom I probably would have been appalled at the notion that moms were allowed that kind of wiggle room.  I mean come on ladies, you’re raising the future, aren’t you?

Well, as we all know after we become moms, our “pre-motherhood” and “pre-age or stage” opinions don’t mean jack.  When I think about the ways in which I would look at parents and think “I will NEVER do that” before we had kids I almost have to laugh.  I don’t care how much you babysit or if you are a full-time nanny, it just isn’t the same.  I’ll allow you to offer some “input,” is that fair?  The same goes for stages.  When BQ was one, I had my opinions about how 2 year olds should and should not behave and how mine would definitely never act like said child over there.  Again, I’d never lived or attempted to maintain sanity in the presence of a two year old for more than a couple of hours.  I had no clue.

It all goes back to the universal life concept that we truly cannot ever fully grasp another person’s experience or really be in her shoes.  Same with kids.  Not only are they all so different, regardless of whether or not they share genes or not, but they can have different struggles at different stages.  I’ve never had a teenager, so why in the heck would I think I would have any advice to share with a parent who currently has one?  Why not instead spend my time listening and LEARNING.  

I am hoping that the next time I hear my critical voice turn on in my head that I will be able to remember that I don’t have all the answers and that maybe, just maybe, I am witnessing a mom in her 60%.  And, if that’s the case, maybe I should go buy her a latte rather than glare and stare.  We have so much to learn on this journey as moms and rather than shooting each other down at every turn, why not lend a hand and encourage each other to keep going.  Spur one another on to be the best we can be.  I know when I’m down I don’t want the jerk coach up in my grill telling me how much I suck.  I want the, “You’ve got this.  You’re a winner.  You can totally do this,” guy who makes everyone cry and they stand up and do a group fist pump.  

So, fists in the air, “Let’s rock, ladies.”  And hey, imagine if we all were able to push each other even to be 41%-ers.  The possibilities could be endless!!