Friday, August 31, 2012

The State of Relationships and the Death of Values in America

             This being an election year we hear a lot from the GOP about the "Death of Traditional Marriage" with a lot of focus against the same-sex marriage movement. After listening to this for some time now and watching the community around me I have come to realize that 'Traditional Marriage' and our value system is in fact dying but I don't mean 'Traditional Marriage' as in one woman and one man but rather two people sticking through things and working things out and acting as a partnership. I remember exchanging vows with my husband and I'm pretty sure it said 'Til Death Do You Part' not 'Until the Honeymoon is Over'. I'm not saying that people should be stuck in a loveless marriage or where there is abuse taking place but rather that instead of running at the first signs of things being bumpy that they see it through. Many relationships seem to break down over two key things: Communication Break Down and Financial Stability. Though these are not the only reasons.
            As I look around at the people I have come into contact with I'm noticing my generation (I am very sad to admit I'm apart of this generation) is extremely selfish and their ideas on relationships seem a bit off. They think there is some magic bullet that makes them instantly fall in love with someone else, that the level of passion should continue through all the years the same as their first few and that they should be able to maintain the same level of independence and not try to share in their partners passions. I've also noticed a great number of divorces and single parents.
            Now I want to make this very clear sometimes divorce is unavoidable and beneficial to all members of the family so I'm not saying everyone is wrong for getting a divorce just that it shouldn't be the first step and my husband and I almost made that same mistake so I'm not looking down upon people just trying to relay what lessons I've learned for my own life. I'd also like to make it clear that single parents can do an excellent job raising their children and I know they work very hard and it is very stressful so this isn't to bad mouth them I give many single parents great deal of props for all that they do.
            What does bother me is there are so many throw away relationships with single parents and divorced parents they go through so many relationships and I can only wonder what their children will think when they start having relationships of their own. My point of view may be bias because admittedly my parents have always been married to each other and never split up and the same with my husband's parents. Now I don't care if the relationship is heterosexual or same-sex I think that this applies to both because I don't think that it is your gender that matters but rather the love, care and work that is put in to maintain a stable household. Children thrive in stability and in the end that is who I'm worried about.
            The entire society really has started to evolve into this 'throw away' generation though where it is cheaper and easier to toss away your old TV’s, clothing, computers, etc. than it is to make or repair items yourself or through local business. This idea of not striving to make, reuse or fix anything has translated into relationships and the work place where people are sticking out their hand expecting others to give while not working themselves. Thankfully that is not everyone otherwise we'd be in a whole heap of trouble but it is enough people that it puts a strain of everyone else so we've become more closed in and less likely to go that extra mile to help. We are more likely to stop to watch an accident site than we are to pull over to help someone with a flat tire. That's just WRONG!
            We need to treat each thing in life as a gift and not abuse the gifts in which we receive. We need to think beyond ourselves and think of the examples we are setting.
            Hard work should be rewarded in all aspects of our lives and we should respect ourselves and respect our families. If you have people dependent on you then they should always be taken into consideration and be shown not everything in this world is disposable but rather everything has value.
            People used to take pride in their work it was a sign of adulthood for young men to be able to go into the work force so they could have families of their own and women worked and struggled not very long ago for equality and the chance to enter the work force yet today even I’m guilty of, ‘ho hum I have to go to work again, I don’t want to go to work’. We take this chance at making a better lives for ourselves for granted and that is partially because there are so many people around today that are handed so much stuff. Now don’t get me wrong I appreciate the social programs we have in place and without many of those my husband and I would not have had the chance to succeed but we also had to use that chance and work very hard on having the ability to succeed.
            People used to take pride in their homes because it was something they had to work so very hard for. Now my husband and I did benefit from not having to make a 10% down payment on our home but we also bought within reason (which is also why our home has so many problems you get what you pay for) but many other people are thinking “Oh I can make a home payment that is 50% (or more) of my income,” not factoring in all the other costs, saving money, or anything else they look at it more like ‘well everyone else has one’ instead of what is best for their family.
People used to take pride in their neighborhoods and know their neighbors and watch out for each other but now we are too focused on ourselves and too selfish with our time (I’m guilty of this one too).
            People used to take pride in their families and never aired dirty laundry (oh I’m so guilty of this one! And I know it). Yes, they were just keeping up appearances and there might have been many internal conflicts but they treated their families like people today treat smiling. Many people will say even when you don’t feel like smiling you need to smile to help yourself and for the people around you well that same concept used to apply to the family home.
            We may have moved forward in some social aspects but along the way we’ve lost some key things. I’m not saying we need to go back to the classic TV view of the 1950’s because that would drive me nuts personally! What I am saying is we need to take pride in ourselves, our relationships, our homes and our jobs. Stop sticking our hands out and do for yourself. We all need a little help once and awhile but make sure it is once and awhile and not all the time. Let the programs be there when people are down because we all know it is a hard time these days with so many layoffs but don’t rely on it or count it forever. If you are able to get off programs don’t whine because you don’t have that help or that you are receiving less help now be proud that you have worked yourself through a hard period because these things aren’t owed to you rather they were built with the good intentions of your fellow citizens.
            It does not matter your race, religion, gender, nationality or sexual preference we are Americans and we can do this we’ve just lost our way a little bit and it is time to regain the morals and values that we once had!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting the School Swing of Things

It's not just kids that have to get used to the summer break being over but parents too. I'm already stressed out about everything that is going on and starting into our 3rd week of school I still haven't gotten the homework thing figured out.
I've kept my youngest daughter in the After School program because I'm not sure what my work schedule will be like through the year and though I've been getting home in time to catch the bus I can't promise that I can keep that up depending on what lands on my desk at work. Having Katherine in After School also means that when I get home I can start picking up the house and have some time to help Brielle with her homework when she gets home because she has the harder homework but last night was a key example that I'm not in the school swing.
I've been trusting Katherine pretty much about her homework but when she told me for the second day in the row she already had her homework done I decided to ask to see it I wanted to see what they were doing. Well come to find out she didn't quite have half of it done, many things were wrong and she has a spelling test and vocabulary test this Friday and I can already tell she wasn't sure on some of the meanings of the word. What does this mean? That we need to get back into our nightly habit of going over every word and doing pre-tests at home... I guess my evenings of being able to rest after making dinner are gone for awhile.
What also amazes me is they are already pushing to have us sell stuff and truth be told I'm already sick of it. It's a bunch of junk that none of us really want but we buy one or two things just to keep our kids happy but if you buy from one of your kids then you have to buy from the other. It's all a horrible mess that puts more strain on the parents.
So it's time to rework my time schedules and try and get my ducks in a row. Thankfully I've started to use more often so I'm not killing so many trees with my sticky notes and calendars.
I've worked out the menu for the rest of this month but although my groceries have been under budget this month my eating out budget has exploded with various different things. I'm really hoping that next month will be better in control. The sad thing is, is a lot of it I didn't have control over or Peter was suppose to be paid back for but I'm never sure if he is or not so it throws everything out of whack. I'm going to try and make a month's menu for September because I highly doubt to see any big sales that are going to change my mind on the menu.
*crosses fingers* Let's see how this goes because I keep trying to make cut backs in our lives and it seems that something is working against me. The kids have started eating Breakfast at home most days so in truth while it does put more of a strain on my grocery budget it, it is over all cheaper on me. Lunch is still cheaper through the school though because my kids would like more than a peanut butter sandwich every day I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coming to Terms

Coming to Terms: How Much Are Friends Worth?

Sounds like a horrible title doesn't it? I mean "how can you put a price on friends", that's the saying after all. Perhaps it is that we are just guy shy but I'm not sure who other than our friends would blame us for that.

Boils down like this. A friend of ours found bed bugs in their house, bed bugs they thought they had solved half a year ago and who got them from the same location we did. It's not that we want to get rid of our plans but once again we are hearing "we have it under control" and we shutter at the thought of if those bugs get back into our house the cost, stress and time are long lasting.

The truth is I know our friends are, to put it bluntly, poorer than dirt but we've never held that against them and try to include them on things but when you are talking over $2k then stuff gets real. We have started canceling some of our services, been cutting back on our food stock and just planning around exactly what we have and clearing out the cabinets to have a bit of financial relief. We've had a bathroom remodel, then go hit by bed bugs, then had to have our central air system replaced... can't afford to be hit by bed bugs again.

You'd think this was cut and dry but these are our friends and we don't want to just kick them to the curb and it is emotionally tearing Peter and myself apart. The other problem is we just invited their daughter to my daughters sleep over and if we allow the girl to come over then we need to figure out how we are going to handle the situation with as little embarrassment put onto the little girl because it's not her fault what her living conditions are.

In the end I know that my family needs its financial well being and that emergency fund we've been scraping together for years with every little tax return or every little bonus paycheck needs to be rebuilt. Right now if something serious was to happen we couldn't handle it and we would be the ones with our hands out asking for aid and the sad thing is as much aid as we have given it'd be only a couple family members that could give some back.

I like our friends and I'm not trying to say choose your friends by where they are in the world money wise but it does make a difference we are finding out. We were the dirt poor family and we associated with others like us and as we moved up to middle class we tried to take the same friends along but some how this perception that we are 'rich' got started. We are not rich we just are very lucky to have good jobs, both of us work and we budget! Every time the electric bill would spike or we had another expense come up we'd tighten our belts and count every penny but people we are dealing with aren't doing that. I know people that have made in one government tax check what I make working all year long and then they blow it and stick their hands out again. So maybe this concept of how hard it is to save money for emergencies is just beyond their comprehension. I don't know. I still like our friends and that makes this extremely hard.

In the end I will choose my families well being over my friends and I know that but I need to come to terms with it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sometimes debt cannot be avoided

My husband and I have never had to sit down and work out a plan to be debt free. The truth is we never tried to be 100% debt free because we came up from being very poor and living on a great deal of government assistance so we took what loans we needed so that we could dig ourselves out of the poverty hole. We took small loans for medical expenses when needed and paid them off as quickly as we could, we took out two auto loans because very quickly both of our cars died but thankfully only after we had started to see the light at the end of the tunnels which was my husband getting a good job. We took a loan out for the house we are living in but we didn't go for the max amount we were being offered back before the housing crash but we worked out what we could afford reasonably and found a house in the school district we wanted. We took a loan out for my education though I went to a community college so we have since paid it off.
I learned to budget at an early age and to pinch every penny but it is true what they say the more you make the more you spend. 10 years ago we could have lived off of $800 a month now we run a nearly $3k/mo. household. What happened to us? We got comfortable. We were still putting money back but not as much as we could have been and we got used to having cable TV, gym memberships and eating out every time we felt too tired to cook. I was shopping deals but I was buying more than we needed and over stocking all the cabinets. We may have been living within our means but it wasn't healthy living and we were barely staying within those means.
With the bed bug treatment, Brielle needing new glasses, a $350 electric bill, school starting back up among other things we got hit bad in our savings. Thank goodness we had some savings but now we have to start the rebuilding process. Also, our air conditioner broke and we were told we would need to replace the outside unit and the inside furnace due to the age of our current set up. My husband decided that instead of limping through on the rest of the summer and then using our furnace (which still functions) until spring to go ahead and bite the bullet and purchase the new central air system. Friday we will be having cable TV turned off, I've held off on purchasing too much food and have worked out the menu for the next few weeks working with what we have on stock so that we just have to buy a minimum amount of stuff. My hope is to keep the grocery budget around $50 a week instead of the $100. The kids have started eating breakfast at home which was their own choice I had already paid up school lunches and breakfasts but it will definitely help stretch that lunch money a bit further.
Sometimes debt can't be avoided but being smart about how you handle that debt is key. We could just keep going how we were and and add another bill and start breaking even but instead we started making cuts to give room for the loan payments plus some extra to start recovering our savings and paying more back on the loan than the minimum payment when can.
Most families are one accident away from financial ruin and I've recently seen a trend where people are trying to be debt free but instead of putting that money away for those unforeseen problems instead they plan a fancy vacation. Debt free is great but if you can put money aside for the problems you don't count on and remember there is good debt and bad debt. Using a credit card to buy Christmas gifts? Bad debt, work within your means and remember it is the thought that counts. Taking a loan for education or needed home repair, good debt but never get a loan for more than you can comfortably afford.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Skin Has Thickened to Stress

So let's run through this...
Monday was Holiday Camp but the YMCA didn't tell me they moved the camp to another location other than at the YMCA where it is normally at so I drove up and down the road after getting very vague directions for 30 minutes before finding the location. After work I went and got groceries and got my free rental from Redbox and then picked up both of the girls to take them down for their appointments to have their eyes checked. I got Brielle's prescription and the good news her eyes have gotten better and Katherine still has great sight. The girls got into their appointment 30 minutes late because they were so busy at the doctors office. We went to EyeMart because normally we can have the glasses ready the same day but because it was so late and they were so busy the glasses wouldn't be ready until Tuesday. When we got home from EyeMart it came to light that Katherine had left her YMCA bag at the center so by time I got down there everyone had already left and some very nice ladies there tried to find the bag inside for me but they were unable to. Okay well Katherine has another swimsuit. Tuesday morning we were getting ready for Holiday world and I started getting ill Monday night but Tuesday since everyone took off of work and it was the last day of of Summer Break we still went. Getting the bag ready to go to Holiday World Brielle then brings to light that she also left her bag at the Holiday Camp so I had to drive down there to pick up the bags before we could head out to Holiday World. We had a good time though I was pretty out of it and was constantly in fear of losing my stomach but everyone else seemed to really enjoy themselves so it was a good day. We left the park early to go pick up Brielle's glasses and then pick up dinner and get home so the kids could get through showers and I could pack backpacks.
Today my voice is gone, I'm pretty dazed and I took the day off of work. As Peter put it, "You have sick leave for a reason and you sound horrible." I don't like using my sick leave if I can help it because I feel guilty but it is probably best I try to rest. I almost went outside and started working but that kind of defeats staying home sick.

Today we got out to the bus without a problem and the girls were really very excited to start school again.

In other news I am trying to deplug some from Facebook I was posting about too much of my life and apparently some people didn't realize my humor. Also, Peter is turning off cable TV today so we can save money. This past weekend our central air system died and we were told that because of the age of it and due to how it died they could not repair it or replace it in kind so we are having to have a whole new system put in. I'm trying to make some big cuts in our grocery budget, cut out how much we are eating out because it got bad this past month with everything that has been going on. We reused a lot of school supplies that were still in good condition from last year. It is going to take some time to try and rebuild our stability and I have found out that my skin has thickened to all this stress because more than once I said I was going to break and I was so ready to break down and start crying yet the tears haven't come yet. The more I go through the stronger I get I guess.