Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Problem with Christians

image from
Here's a thought:
If you are going to profess to be a Christian you might want to not deliberately disobey the rules.

Case in point:
I work with an evangelizer, a Christian who lets everyone know she is Christian not necessarily in deed but in word. It's not hard to pick her out of a conversation since she often speaks in Christian-ese, "I am so blessed", "I asked the Lord to help me", "I can't work my shift on Saturday because church is in the morning."

There is nothing wrong with speaking like that
this same Christian also apologized to me, her supervisor, for taking a longer break than everyone else but because she was sharing Jesus with a coworker she thought I should understand. And she laughed when she knowingly admits to breaking 2 company policies. "No one has ever said anything to me yet so I'm just going to ____ until I'm corrected."

In other words, since she is a believer it's OK to make the unbelievers late for their breaks. Obviously, HER break is more important. Also, she doesn't have to dress like everyone else because, while she knows she's not meeting dress code, no one has ever pointed out the error to her.

And we (meaning Christians) ((yes I am a follower of Christ)) wonder why the message of God's Good News seems rejected by the "world".

Of course we should tell people about Jesus
we should also
-and maybe more importantly-
live like we follow Jesus.
Be on time.
Do the right thing.
Pick up trash.
Don't complain.
Obey your superiors.
Lighten other's loads, not burden them.
Follow dress code.

Maybe if we were hard workers with kind spirits others would be attracted to the Good News, not avoid us in the break room.

Just a thought .....

"We Christians are debtors to all men at all times in all places, but we are so smug to the lostness of men. We've been "living in Laodicea ", lax, loose, lustful, and lazy. Why is there this criminal indifference to the lostness of men? Our condemnation is that we know how to live better than we are living." ~Leonard Ravenhill

"Unless we have invested a great deal of time in our secret ministry to the Lord then the shallowness of our public ministry will be very evident. Today it is abundantly clear that not enough time is spent ministering to the Lord, and way too much time is spent ministering to people; hence, most of what is done in the name of ministry is performed in a fleshly, human way which never bears any lasting fruit." ~Chip Brogden

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Commercial-free Christmas

(This article orginally appears in The Daily Review Atlas as a part of my Practical Parenting series)
The most stunning thing has happened in our home this week. I had to force my children to sit down to the table and write out their Christmas wish lists. Unheard of I know! You think I'm making it up but I am not! Much to the chagrin of their grandparents who start Christmas shopping in July, my kids did not know what they wanted this year. And I can only attribute this freak phenomenon to one thing; we've cut out our cable.

A few months ago, recognizing we all spent way too much time in front of the Telly (and thinking I could use an extra sixty bucks in my wallet) I singlehandedly decided to call the cable company and asked them to disconnect us from the magical switch in the sky. I was cutting the cable.

Now before you think I'm on some moral high horse let me absolutely clear about what happened next. My family hated me. It was like telling a gang of heroine addicts I was no longer dealing. It got ugly. We were all instantly in rehab and the detox was beyond uncomfortable. We stumbled around the house. We bumped into each other like zombies. Sometimes we even sat down on the couch and flipped the remote expecting to find Dr. Phil or a Disney channel pop star lip syncing and gyrating to twinkle twinkle little star. Needless to say the level of boredom in our home rose to substantial proportions. The TV was gone and I never felt more anti-American in my life.

I mean it felt as if we were literally subverting common culture. The blank stares I got when others found out we were a TV free family was, I imagine, as similar to me announcing I want to have more children.

I'm not against television. I just sensed my family was on the brink of permanent couch potato status and I knew I had to intervene.

The latest statistics from a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundations report that children between the ages of 8 - 18 spend 7 1/2 hours a day in front of a screen. That's more than an entire school day. Heck, that's more than some children sleep at night. And if you've actually paid attention to the programming on your set you'd agree with me that the majority of what we watch is about as good for us as eating raw chicken. I mean if Charlie Sheen's character in "Two and a Half Men" was your kid's uncle you'd never let them spend a day alone with him and yet we, along with our young impressionable children, watch his womanizing antics in syndication and laugh. Something is wrong with that.

So without constant commercial watching it turns out my kids don't know what they want for Christmas. Without the glossy marketing campaigns and snappy jingles my kids are forced to explore themselves and decide on their own what it is they are interested in. A very uncommon action, I assure you. For once in their life they were given an opportunity to decide for themselves what they wanted and they didn't know. We've bombarded our kids so much media and advertisements that they're losing the ability to filter and decide for themselves what they individually value.

I know, I know, lighten up! It's just a wish list.

However, personally, I was stunned. I just wanted to watch less TV and save a few bucks. I had no idea when I limited our television viewing I was saying no to the marketing gurus in their glass towers.

Don't get me wrong, I fully intend on participating in the most wonderful time of the year. I enjoy giving and getting gifts and I will certainly wrap up some presents and put them under the tree but I won't be buying what the TV tells me to buy. I will be free to shop this year for the things I think my children want.

There's nothing wrong with TV It's not evil. I still enjoy the big game on the weekend and a bowl of popcorn with my favorite sitcom but without 200 channels to choose from my time becomes more of my own. I never get sucked into watching mind numbing, completely irrelevant television shows. So what are we doing with all this supposed free time? Well, funny you should ask, the most amazing side effects have kicked in. For example, homework tends to get done without a struggle, we read more, play family games and as I've already mentioned the marketing geniuses no longer have a hold over us. It's been completely and surprisingly freeing. Turns out my life isn't better with over 200 channels to choose from. Turns out more isn't necessarily better. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Finance Friday

Happy Friday.
Black Friday.
Finance Friday.

While you're reading this I am doing one of 2 things....lounging on my couch or sleeping on it. That's because I worked 1 a.m. - 9 a.m. on Black Friday.
For finances.
For my family.
So my own bottom line will be in the Black this month.

Can I just be honest with you for a moment?

It's been brutal.
Beyond the swollen ankles, missing my kids in the evening and the overwhelming feeling that I've bitten off way more than I can chew there's my pride.

Just when I thought I can't feel any more humble

Not because I work retail. No! No! Don't get me wrong it's not the job.
It's hard earned money, respectable work.
No, it's people. And their perceptions of my new job.
Allow me to explain.

I live in a small town. Been here for fourteen or more years. I've had a very public job with the school district all that time. I've met a lot of people. I'm not saying everybody in town knows me ...  it's just that the combination of my community work, my husband's former public job and the size of our town means that a lot of people here know my name.
And my business.
So to see me in the "uniform" of our one and only retail store in town is of course, to some .... surprising. It's like when you see your dentist at the video store. You can't explain it but it looks and feels a little like the universe has shifted. You know, famliar faces in strange places.

I get that.

But it's more than that for me.

Each time I saw someone who knows me either from school or ministry life I got this

Or at least my insecure nature believes I did.

And then I was asked, "What are you doing working here"
in a "I can't believe my eyes" tone of voice.
I'm not kidding.

I've been asked that question 50 times in the last two weeks and all but 2 individuals have managed to ask me in a condecending manner. (Those 2 will forever be my new best friends)

And that's not all.

Others pitied me and my new job. They offered me condolences not because of the extra work I took on but because of where it was, and what it would require and because I took it right before the busiest time of the year. I think they think, "Things must really be tight if Stephanie's working retail. At Christmas. tsk. tsk. tsk."

But guess what? There are some days you do what you want to do. And then there's most days when you do what you have to do. Not everything in life feels good. And we shouldn't avoid the things that require hard work. Or the things that suck sometimes. And require extra effort.

Let me tell you something. There's nothing wrong with working hard. There's no shame in doing what you have to do. And there's no reason to allow the perceptions of others to worm their way into your thought life. You want to know what I think is required? I think we should work to make sure our hearts are pure. And to vigorously love our loved ones.
And be kind.
And work hard.
And make time to rest.
And live a life of gratitude to the Maker of Heavens and Earth who grants you another day to
and do it all again.

If you're retail, blue collar, a student, a mom, a professional ... if you're over skilled or under skilled for your job it doesn't matter. What you do does not make up who you are. Who you are is found in the substance of your soul. And that's the truth.

Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people. Colossians 3:23 ISV

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Menu Monday

Hi friends! Welcome to Menu Monday. I'm a list maker with a huge responsibility ... to feed my 5 kids dinner every night! I have to do it on a budget! I'm compelled to make it relatively nutritious and it has to be quick!

At our house this week we have: 2 kids on 2 separate basketball teams, a teenager with a job and slew of extra curricular activities, a daddy who's a full time student, a mommy with 2 part time jobs and I havent' even mentioned the twins yet! Needless to say we're busy! And hungry! This is how we do it ....

Taco Meat for Tacos, Nachos or Taco Salad with Velveeta Queso Blanco Dip

Pork Chops 'n Apple Sauce with Fried Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli and Corn Bread
(leftover potatoes make excellent breakfast skillets! just rewarm and pair with fried eggs and toast! likewise, leftover broccoli will top a baked potato for my lunch at work this week!)

Italian Casserole (from the loving hands of Lauren Ragone!)

Chicken Viola!
(seriously, it doesn't get any easier than this!)

Super grilled cheese sandwiches (super = cream cheese, tomato, ham slices, provolone cheese or any combo there of!)

Butter Cake

Fried Fish, Cheesy Potatoes, Biscuits and Corn
Butter Cake for Dessert

*No menu Monday next week! It's Thanksgiving of course! Enjoy your Turkey & Leftovers (but be sure to take the time to acquire leftover Turkey ... some great recipes coming up)

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I am very thankful you choose to read mine!
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Italian Casserole

This recipe comes from the kitchen of Lauren Ragone. She lovingly made this dish for my family and graciously allowed me to share it as a part of Menu Monday! Thanks Lauren! xo SS

1 pound of hamburger
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of sugar
2 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 8 oz package of egg noodles
2 Tbsp of butter
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz of sour cream
cheddar cheese

Melt butter in skillet and brown hamburger with crushed or finely chopped garlic. Add salt, pepper, sugar and tomato sauce. Cover an cook slowly for 15 - 20 minutes. Meanwhile cook noodles and drain. Chop onions and mix with cream cheese and sour cream. Layer half the noodles, cream cheese, tomato meat mixture and remaining noodles. Top with cheddar cheese and bake 350 for 40 minutes or until bubbly.

*my hubby loved, loved it! Also makes a great leftover!

Butter Cake

We had this at a potluck this fall and loved it! It smells awesome as it bakes up (better than any candle you could ever light!).

1 box Duncan Hines Butter Cake Mix
1 stick of melted butter
2 eggs

Mix these ingredients together and spread out in a greased 9x13 pan

8 oz of cream cheese
1 box of powdered sugar
2 eggs

Mix these ingredients well and pour over cake batter
Bake for 350 for 35 minutes
Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and let cool.
Store covered loosely!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You Didn't Ask for it but here it is Anyway Black Friday Survival Advice

image from
(this article originally appeared in The Daily Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)
     It's the time of year where the hunters and gatherers are mentally preparing, scouting their territory and checking their credit card balances. I'm not talking about deer hunting. I'm referring to Black Friday shoppers. Earlier and earlier every year the retail stores leak bargains that can only take place at predawn and electronic deals worthy of a stampede. Tis the season.

In anticipation of the shopping season I have some unsolicited advice I'd like to give.

First, leave your kids at home. Not alone. Just don't bring them with you. A). it is ill-advised to allow them to see your mind go numb with such toxic consumerism and B). they're just going to get in your way anyway. Then you'll be crabby and yell at them and really none of it is their fault. They should be home in bed anyway.

Secondly, don't use a cart unless you have to. It will only slow you down. And you could run over somebody's ankle which is painful. They might be carrying a weapon and really no gift is worth dying for (although I was super glad in the Christmas of '83 when my Dad knocked down an old lady for the last Cabbage Patch doll in the great St. Louis area). I don't know remember the doll's name or where she is now but it sure was worth it twenty three years ago!

It's also bad form to drink alcohol while shopping. It is after all, generally a bad idea to stand outside in the middle of the night in a dark parking lot but to do so with alcohol induced, sleep deprived stay at home moms is off the chart dangerous. And lest you think I'm making that up I'm not. I watched a gang of women outside a Wal-Mart one year share the same flask for over an hour.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let's Talk Salary...

Welcome to Finance Friday
(If you're new to my Finance Friday entries you can catch up here)

What is Finance Friday (other than a self disciplined writing prompt?). It's my humble opinion on money matters, how our personal recession is affecting not only my psyche but my Tribe (5 kids) and how we survive with a monthly deficit. Also it's the occasional heartfelt, semi-inappropriate over sharing blog.

It is what it is.

Now ... let's talk salary.

Are you getting uncomfortable yet? It's a social faux pas isn't it? 3 things we don't talk about: politics, religion or salary.
But I'm ready to talk about it. Let's bust the lid off this taco!

(am I really about to reveal how much we make???)

Ummmm ... no! But I will tell you that it's recently come to my attention that I am GROSSLY underpaid.
I'm mean I've lived my whole life aware that I am worth more than I am bringing home but I've seen the figures for 2011 and I am appalled.

According to a recent report the average annual earned income for stay-at-home-moms should be in the ball park of $115,000.
That's six figures folks!
The report also revealed that most stay-at-home moms work about 97 hours a week and
generally function in 10 major job descriptions:
  • laundry mat operator
  • facilities manager
  • house keeper
  • cook
  • teacher
  • childcare provider
  • psychologist
  • janitor
  • CEO
  • nurse
And if you work outside the home don't be offended. It gets better.
If you work outside the home you do all of the above AND more therefore you get to add $60,000 to your $115,000.

Do you realize this is a game changer? If I could just collect on $175,000 we'd be in business at our house. Since we've scaled back our outgoing costs to practically nothing ... if I brought in $175,000 annually AND we continued to spend at our current rate, we'd be WEALTHY by the time we were retirement age!

Well, I'm not collecting $175,000 anytime soon. We know I'm being silly. But I am doing what I can do to help my family and since we're on the verge of the holiday season that means retail.
Yep1 I'm now dually employed. I parent educate by day and I retail by night. Uniforms. Time Cards. 15 minute breaks. Supervisors. Customers. Crabby holiday shoppers. Black Friday. Rain checks. Scanners. Weekly Advertisements. Price Match Guarantees. Late Nights. Early Mornings.
And I can assure you it doesn't pay $115,000
or even the supplemental $60,000
In fact it's minimum wage-ish.

But when it's Christmas morning and my tree has presents under it that I own (not Visa or Mastercard) it will all be worth it! It. Will. All. Be. Worth. It.

In the meantime if you get a number on who to contact about collecting that Stay-At-Home-Mom Salary will ya let me know? They owe me some back pay!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

To Write a Better Story

St. Louis Arch Museum - Captain's Wheel
I love the name of my blog! Do you know how I got it? (If you're new here you might want to read the back story here.) I believe whole heartedly that we are active participants in our own lives.

Whether we believe we are or not.

Whether you feel like you are or not.
You are.

You are sailing along.
Walking a journey.
Running a race.
Or my favorite: writing a story.

I believe this is very important for us to know as we live day by day. You see, I am convinced that whether we are conscious of it or not we are the captain of our own ship. No one is going to steer my ship unless I let them. I have access to drive this life or drift through it.

So if that's true, why would I not live an intentional life?
Why would I not have a plan?
or a goal?
Why would I not be aware of the conscious decisions I am free to make that could help or hinder where I want to go?
Do I think I'll be a published author on accident?
Or shall I work, write, hone my skills and otherwise do what I can to see that happen?

Sure I literally want to write a great story  - maybe one that will be send me on a book tour someday (although with the way the world of publishing is shifting I may need to adjust my dream) AND I want my life - when it is over and my loved ones are gathered around my grave - to be one that inspired others. I want my children to know I loved them deeply and I want them to be proud of of the legacy I'm leaving them. So if that's what I want ... when do I start to make that happen?

When I'm 50?
I think the answer is NOW.
Today, when my son is in bed with a fever I need to love him. When my husband wants to go back to school I support him. When my coworkers need an encouraging word I give it. When the trash blows in my yard I pick it up. When my girlfriend needs a shoulder to cry on I'm there. When my family needs to eat food I gather them round the table and serve them up a meal. And if I'm inclined to share my thoughts, I'll do so in the utter hope that it inspires you, lifts you ... encourages you to write your own story.
Write it.
Live it.
Run your race.
Experience your journey.
Be you.
Chase your dreams.
Love your loved ones.
Try something new.
Give yourself a break.
Start over.
Be brave.
Say you're sorry.
Buck up.
Look towards the heavens.
Love yourself.
Be kind.
Write a better story.

But what about those voices in your head? More on that next time .....

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Five Great Danes

Yesterday's article entitled I Swear It's Not Funny is about the fact that our kids who do what we do and say what we say. It was actually originally inspired by my BellyBean (in addition to her fake texting conversation she had with her twin sister).  Bell has had a burst of interest in writing lately and I couldn't be more thrilled. I'm sure it has to do with all the time she sees me writing OR (and probably more likely) it's the face that as a 2nd grader her spelling and writing abilities are blossoming at an amazing rate! So cool right? Well Belly leaves half written papers all over the house. And I literally mean "ALL over the house!". I found this one the other day and it made me smile and feel blessed ... she's writing as I am writing. She is inferring that sharing stories in print is meaningful. I think it is and that's why I'm sharing it with you ...

The 5 Great Danes
By Isabel Sikorski (7 years)

Once there lived five Great Danes. Their names where Dan, Abby, Isabel and Aille. Aille saide there was a flood. Dan fell off the roof. Aille laughed crasy. There where at the roof of the White House. They played tag. Then Aille fell off the roof too. It was funny. I love playing tag because it is funny when people sip and fall. The Air Force got us and Aille and Dan. One of the dogs moved to Texas. I wish he came back. His name was Annied. His parents workered at Texas. He loves Texas. The other dogs lived in MOnmouth. Texas is one day to get there. Texas is very far away for Abby.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's the Voice in Your Head?

Made a wrong turn once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's alright
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss 'No way, it's all good'
It didn't slow me down.
Mistaken, always second guessing
Underestimated, look I'm still around

You're so mean when you talk About yourself. You were wrong.
Change the voices in your head Make them like you instead.
So complicated,
Look happy, You'll make it!
Filled with so much hatred Such a tired game
It's enough, I've done all I could think of
Chased down all my demons
I've seen you do the same
Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're perfect to me
(that is an edited excerpt from a song entitle F***ing Perfect - check it out on YouTube here)

Maybe you recognize that song. Maybe you don't. Maybe you like Pink. Maybe you think pink is a color. REGARDLESS
how powerful are the words?
"Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead"

Yesterday's blog was my opinion about being intentional with your life. Making a difference with what you've been given. (read it here) But how does one do that?

I'm a firm believer that the biggest enemy of ourselves is ourselves.

I call her my "IN-a-ME" (pronounced enemy)

That voice in our head that says you can't
you'll fail
you'll suck
you'll embarrass yourself
people will laugh
that's a dumb idea
who do you think you are...
it's THAT voice that keeps you from freedom.

Did you know you can change that voice?
Did you know that voice doesn't rule you - you rule it!
It's true!
I'm not talking about the power of positive thinking
I'm talking about thinking about what you think about.
Your thoughts don't have to be wild and free and damaging
The voice inside your head can be tamed and taught and changed.

I was reminded of these very things this week as I read a blog by Michael Hyatt
(Please consider reading it the full link)
Here are his 5 suggestions for changing the story in your head:

  1. Recognize the voice in your head. It doesn’t matter where it is coming from (your parents, a teacher, an abusive spouse); just recognize that it is happening.
  2. Jot down what the voice is saying. It might be something like:
    • “You’re too young.”
    • “You’re too old.”
    • “You’re uneducated.”
    • “You’re over-educated.”
    • “You don’t have enough experience.”
    • “You don’t have the right experience.”
    This could be literally anything. Listen carefully and write it down word-for-word.
  3. Evaluate whether this story is empowering. Is it enabling you to accomplish the outcomes you want or is it preventing you from doing so. Be honest. (Sometimes, people are addicted to their problems and the stories that create them.)
  4. Write down a different story. I’m not talking about a bunch of positive thinking mumbo jumbo. I am talking about telling yourself the truth. And often, this is simply a matter of shifting your perspective.
  5. Start telling yourself the new story. Every time your inner narrator begins telling the old yarn, stop him. Say, “No! That’s baloney. Here’s the truth.” Then repeat your new story.

Why did I take the time today to write about this? Because P!nk's song is right on the money! You are too important to your loved ones and this planet to spend one more minute of your life believing the negative voices in your head. You are perfect!
To who? To yourself.
You are perfect for you.

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I Swear It's Not Funny!

(as seen in the Daily Review Atlas)

As I've spent the last thirteen years working with families and young children I have always felt privileged when I've shared in some awesome parenting moments. Moms and dads have allowed me to witness their baby's first steps or first words, we've celebrated the first time mom, er I mean, baby slept through the night and those treacherous first days of school.

I am so thankful for these times and will always cheerish those moments.

However, for every quality instance a family has shared with me there have been a handful of awkward ones as well. Like when a family dog urinated on my home visit bag or a child mistook my purse for the bag of toys, "Miss Stephanie, what's this big band-aid for?" (can you guess what he pulled out?!).

Most of these moments have been laughable mishaps albeit one: the swearing child.

When a toddler drops an F-bomb or a hearty D@mn-it every embarrassed mother drops her jaw in fake astonishment, puts her hand to her chest and says something along the lines of, "Oh my! I have NO idea where he heard that!"

A-hem. Yeah right! He heard it from you and the other very important grownups in his life. How do I know? Because research tells us kids never say things they don't hear. It's true. Your preschooler will never ask to borrow your encyclopedia unless he has heard you use that word. Likewise they'll never tell you off unless they've heard that same slew of obscenities.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Monday

It's Menu Monday and I have a choice to make. I can report to you a menu that will knock your socks off and impress you and your mother ... or I can be honest and say we are in a ridiculously busy season (ala Mommy has a new job).

So? We ate. Granted it was a lot more pre-made food than I'd like (sorry Jaime Oliver). Quick food. Food that Aaron can prepare in my absence. So you're not about to be impressed but it is what it is, isn't it!

Cinnamon Rolls for brunch
YoYo (your on your own) all day
Cereal Sunday for dinner

Chicken Patty Cordon Blue with Blue Box Mac n Cheese
(frozen chicken pattys cooked & topped with slices of ham and swiss cheese)

Leftover Beef Stroganoff over buttered egg noodles
(I always buy more roast than we'll eat the first time and then save it for stroganoff. To make it you put combine cooked meat with a can of cream of celery soup and a can of mushroom (or onion soup) and warm through. Serve over noodles or toast or mashed potatoes. Whatever's your pleasure!)

Tenderloins with Sweet Potato Fries
(Frozen tenderloin pattys fried up and nasty oven sweet potato fries
why so many sandwiches you ask? because at last week's potluck I bought waaaay too many buns. Throw them out? Never! We use everything!)

Pizza Hut

PF Changs
yep! from frozen food department.

Steak Fajitas with Queso Blanco Dip and Chips
(ok this I cooked! I sliced peppers, onions and ribeyes, salt and peppered them and put them in a screamin hot cast iron skillet. easiest 12 minutes of my day!)

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Finance Friday

I took on this topic a few weeks ago because it was very heavy on my heart. You see, we're pinched. Things are tight. We are like so many people who are doing their best with what they have. And when you're 40 years old with 5 kids you just don't expect to be at a point in your life where you learn to do without.

We've been through the emotional ringer as we've made choices that have been both brilliant and unexpectedly disappointing. I've had a pantry that is full of food and nights we're we've had the last blue box of Mac 'n Cheese (made with water, not milk). I've swallowed my pride and stood in lines at the Department of Human Services, called for information on heating assistance and filled out free and reduced lunch applications. I've applied for jobs above and beneath my skill level as has my husband. I've skipped some of my kids sporting events to avoid the $20 dollars it takes to get in and recently cut the cable to save $53 bucks a month.
The journey has without a doubt been

When you don't have your

  • fancy lattes and
  • new clothes and
  • cable and
  • lower gas mileage cars and 
  • movies and
  • expensive birthday presents

you miss out on

  • coffee with girlfriends and
  • the opportunity to feel good and
  • you go less for more and
  • have no dates or
  • exciting gifts to give your loved ones...

Which is sad until you experience the most amazing shift...

You are forced to face yourself.
You must ask yourself if you are you because you have the latest electronics, fashions and cars.
I'm not kidding.
When you're at home because you don't have the gas to even drive across town you have a swell of negative feelings and you come to the place (or at least I did) where you must find out if what makes you you is your ability to afford to consume
are you you because of your inside ... your soul?

Here's the truth:
Up until our recent financial bout I would have never, ever, in a millions years thought I was a material person.
I mean, I've been through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University for cryin out loud!
We choose to live without credit cards years ago.
I charged nothing long before I couldn't not afford it!

But when you have no new purchases, no new electronics, no cool cars ... only old, used and sometimes falling apart personal property you find you have no-things to distract you.

Listen, the marketing gurus have done a FABULOUS job!
My kids are convinced they are suffering with out cell phones and cable and video games.

But they are not.
We are not.
We're discovering both individually and corporately as a family
our life is not more valuable when we own cool things.

Life is valuable because we have each other. And love. And breakfasts together on Sunday. And a family connectedness that only comes from enjoying time together. We have fun. And a warm nurturing home where we bake and play and work together. There are lots of things to do that don't require admission or $12 bags of popcorn.

Regardless of where I work (and I just got a supplemental retail job ... more on that later), what card I carry, what benefit we qualify for or how long this financial slump lingers
I am doing ok.
My kids are doing ok.

So what?
I can't eat out more?
I don't pay $7 bucks to see a mediocre movie at the theater?
My kid doesn't have his own cell?
I don't go buy another pair of black shoes? 3 will have to be enough?

This is rough?
This is suffering?

Let me ask the mother of 5 in Haiti if I am suffering.
Or the family on the other side of the tracks who's furnace isn't working.
Or the woman who checks me out at the grocery store who's son is incarcerated.
Or the neighbor children across the street who's mother won't let them out to play because they live in fear of being discovered as illegals.

What is suffering?
What is doing without?

Do you feel better about yourself today because you have iPhones and manicures and new cars and another new pair of shoes and vacations?

Give them all up - involuntary or otherwise - and watch how you wrestle with yourself.

I may have been angry at the beginning of our financial journey. It may have been painful being stripped of all the consumerism I attached myself to. It may have even gotten a little ugly while fighting over late fees and grocery bills.

But now, with a plan on paper and a future that looks brighter everyday I know of that which is my substance. I know what makes me me. And I'm raising my kids not of privilege but with work ethic and understanding and compassion. At least I hope and pray I am.

It's Friday friends. Finance Friday. And these are my thoughts.

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