PRIORITIES

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George and I have been discussing priorities lately.  Our discussions focus on two areas, our children and our marriage.

As parents, he and I have very similar views regarding priorities for our children.  During the week it is homework, family dinner, showers and bedtime.  Our girls are all in the third grade.  Two of them, K & C need significant sleep to function. When K doesn’t get enough sleep, she has difficulty focusing on homework, chores and getting along with others.  C’s lack of sleep usually results in her retreating somewhere by herself and then going to bed.  The third girl, G, does well with structure in her life. Chaos and loose ends weigh heavily on her little mind.

Recently, we have had to make some choices regarding extra curricular activities after school. Activities that interfere with homework, dinner, showers and mostly importantly, bedtime.  We certainly do not feel children should be denied time to attend some of their meetings, outings and other extra-curricular activities, but we do not believe they need to attend EVERYTHING.

It seems to us that in recent years there has been an emphasis on letting children do everything they want.  Running children from place to place at all hours of the day and night. Dinner and lunch provided by fast food drive-thru windows. Weekdays and weekends. To hell with what they need, let’s give them everything they want.   And to hell with what the other members of the family need, as long as our little angels are happy.

I realize that many parents will never understand our commitment on this subject.  Just as we will never understand why parents spend hours in the car, eating on the fly, losing themselves and their marriage, and even ruining themselves financially while trying to give their children every experience possible.  It is ok to say no sometimes.  It is ok to spend the day at the park being silly. It is ok to tell your children to read a book.  It is ok to be honest with them and tell them that some days there is not enough time for everything.  It is ok to tell children that sometimes mom and dad simply can’t afford to do something. And it is more than ok to say no because it simply isn’t the best thing for them or the family.

Along the same vein, we are both believer that our children are NOT entitled to material things. First and foremost we give them food, clothing, shelter, emotional support, love, compassion and understanding. We teach respect and manners. THINGS must be earned. And since they don’t have jobs, we own EVERYTHING, so we have the right to take it away.

I recently read a post from a Facebook friend entitled 9 THINGS WE SHOULD GET RID OF TO HELP OUR KIDS. These jumped off the page for me:

1. Guilt: Often we give into our kid’s requests out of guilt. We need to stop feeling guilty for not giving our kids everything they want. It’s hard to swallow, but we foster the attitude of entitlement in our homes when we are ruled by a guilty conscience.

2. Overspending: I think it’s good for our kids to hear us say, “We can’t afford that” Or “We will have to save for it.” Because that’s real life. We don’t have All The Money to Buy All the Things. I’ve known families before who are working multiple jobs to keep kids in extracurricular activities, when honestly, the kids would probably be happier with more family time.

4. Making our day-week-month, our world about our kids-Working in the non-profit world has redirected our extra time. We simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ. Child-centered homes don’t help children in the long-run.

5. The desire to make our children happy (all the time). If you visited my house, you’d find out pretty quickly that someone’s always unhappy. It’s not our job to keep our kids happy. Don’t carry that impossible burden. Typically when our kids are unhappy, it’s because we are standing our ground. And that makes for much healthier kids in the future.

7. Fixing all their problems: I don’t like to see my kids struggling. There’s a part of every parent that longs to make things right in their child’s world. But it’s not healthy to create a false reality. You won’t always be there to do so and not only that, if you’re doing it all for your child, why would they need to learn to do it themselves? Fixing all their problems is really only creating more challenges in the future.

9. Unrealistic Expectations: My girls are always asking for manicures. I didn’t have one until I was married, pregnant and 27 years old. I’m not opposed to the occasional treat, but it’s the attitude of expecting it because you as a parent or others have it. Just because I have an iPhone, doesn’t mean my children will get one. We don’t have to give our kids everything we have. It’s okay to make them wait for things in life.

AMEN!

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IT HAS BEEN QUITE A YEAR

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IMG_5448I haven’t written anything in one year.  Technically, 371 days.  I have a lot to say, just not a lot of time to say it.

So, here is what has kept me from writing for the past 371 days.

1.  I was married on December 30, 2012.  I spent a little time being a newlywed (about 3 hours) and then it was back to reality.

2.  I spent most of the year trying to build a business.  ANGEO INTERIOR PAINTING is something I never thought I could do.  I never thought I would own a business.  It has been a series of trials and errors when it comes to spreadsheets, advertising, invoicing, estimates and painting.  I want this to be a success.  I need this to be a success.  I need to contribute.

3.  Depression.  It has been a thorn in my side for a number of years.  I don’t think anyone needs to hear these things that are swirling around in my head.  They confuse me.  I can only imagine how others would react.

4.  It seems selfish.  Spending time alone upstairs in front of a computer seems selfish to me.  There are a hundred things during the day/evening that need to be done.  Writing seems to be an excuse not to do what needs to be done.

5.  Some of the things I want to say are not particularly nice.  I don’t think I am ready to be that person.

6.  Some of the things I want to say are probably not very interesting to anyone but me.

7.  Exposure.  Am I ready to give myself to everyone?

8.  Reaction.  I have little self-confidence and everything scares the hell out of me.  I take everything personally and even a hint of disappointment from the people I love would send me into a tailspin.

9.  Topics.  The file folders in my head are full.  How on earth do I choose?

This may take baby steps.  Maybe a blog about cooking or crafts (NO, I  am not a Pinterest person) but do enjoy a craft now and then.  And I love to cook.  Or I can always write about cleaning.  I have been called not-so-nice names because of how I keep house.  But I have seen the alternative and no thanks, it isn’t for me.

So I am going to cross my fingers and see how this goes.  Who knows, maybe this is a start of a beautiful relationship.

Happy New Year to all.  Here is hoping 2014 is just as wonderful as 2013.

Angie

P.S.  I hate snow.

Living Life on a Budget

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“It is both foolish and wicked to teach the average man who is not well off that some wrong or injustice has been done him, and that he should hope for redress elsewhere than in his own industry, honesty, and intelligence.” – Theodore Roosevelt

There has been considerable conversation in our household over the last 24 months about money. More specifically, living within a budget and what exactly we “owe” our children.

Over the last 24 months, there have been several months that the money we made did not meet our needs. And by needs I mean, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, you know, the basics. After we paid our mandatory bills and gave our tithing to the church, there was NOTHING LEFT. No extras. No movies, no restaurants, no clothing for ourselves (our children were always taken care of first), nothing. We became quite proficient at making healthy meals for 6 for less than $10.00. We have become experienced bargain shoppers and can find the unworn Gap, Ralph Lauren, Gymboree and Children’s Place clothing at a Goodwill in no time what-so-ever. What led to our lean months took quite some time to resolve (a long story left for another time). But what we learned during this period in our life was indispensable.

- we learned that money does not make memories. From a picnic over-looking the city, or running in the snow on the golf course, or going downtown to the Christmas Tree lighting, some of the best times we have had cost little or no money. One of my favorite pictures of Carissa has her sitting with one of the Big Painted Pigs found around the city. I know George will always remember exploring the pigs with her that summer morning.

- we learned our girls love to read. eBay offers thousands of chapter books at a fraction of the price purchased new. And of course, there is the library. Imagine a place that will let you take their books to read for FREE!!!

- I have learned I love to cook. Cooking inexpensive meals that don’t taste cheap has become an obsession for me. At the same time, our children have learned to eat new things. And believe it or not, one of Grace’s favorite meals is Salmon Patties and Broccoli.

- our girls have learned to swim. We managed to take the old dirty swimming pool out back and make it swimmable again. Our girls have become little fish, each of them learning to swim in our very own back yard. Long hot summer days spent around the pool laughing and swimming. Each of us falling into bed each night exhausted.

Also during these months, George and I have had many discussions about what we “owe” our children. Many people have called the Baby Boomers the “me” generation. I had to become self-reliant out of necessity. My father was strict when it came to teaching us about money and providing us the tools to take care of ourselves. When I was 16 my father began talking to me about employment, cars, insurance and college. All those things were to be my responsibility. He would, however, provide me with the tools to make sure I could get what I wanted. It began with a work ethic. I worked weekends, holidays, school breaks, and summer vacations. He taught me to be frugal, save and eventually I put myself through college. Once I turned 18, I never looked back.

I know that my parenting decisions are based upon my upbringing and my view of the world. I know that my parenting priorities are not going to be another parents priorities. In our house, choices need to be made and there is no way we can give our children everything they believe is owed to them or those things that other parents may believe are owed to children.

I do not believe we owe it to our children to make their life easy. I do not believe that we have to financially ruin ourselves to give our children what they feel they are owed. I believe learning to manage your own life financially (living within a budget) builds confidence. And I believe that our children will have to work just as hard as we have to get what they want. It is not my job to give them what I have worked my entire life to build. It is their job to find their own path and then figure out how to navigate that path. As parents we will help them navigate the treacherous waters of life and throw them a life preserver once in a while, but at some point, they either sink or swim. It is up to them.

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So, I got married yesterday….

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with very little fanfare and just 13 friends and family, we staged a small “flash” wedding yesterday around 4:30 p.m. at the Krohn Conservatory here in Cincinnati.  I have been volunteering at the Krohn since this past spring and while walking around one particularly slow day during the Holiday exhibit, I thought it would be a great place to have a wedding.   We invited a few people to come with us and check out the Krohn before having a small impromptu ceremony.  

Once we arrived, most people seemed more interested in the wedding than checking out the exhibit, so we quietly slipped into the Bonsai Room and began our wedding.  Dressed in jeans, we exchanged vows in front of friends, family, and mostly complete strangers.  Everyone was respectful, quiet and when the ceremony was over, they erupted in applause.

The most important part of the evening, dinner (yes, I am joking), was just as wonderful.  Lots of good food, wine, laughter and desserts.   And even a chorus of “Going to the Chapel” from the staff.  

It was an understated day.  There was very little planning.  Very little money was spent.  But I will always remember it as one of the BEST DAYS EVER.  

 

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What does it all mean?

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Each year holiday preparation comes earlier and earlier.   We become consumed by excess and all things material.  Our children get excited by the mere thought of multiple christmas celebrations (more gifts than ever).  There is never enough candy at Halloween even though most goes uneaten.  The same is true for the endless Easter baskets and birthday gifts.  

Most of the time we feel the need to show off and compete with our Facebook friends.  Which family has the most obscene picture of the family christmas tree with gifts stacked around the tree and several feet high?  Who is taking the family on that expensive vacation during the holiday?  Which 7 year old is getting an iPad, iPhone or other expensive gadget that most adults don’t have?  What are we teaching our children?  That all this crap will make them happy?  It won’t.  That they have a RIGHT to have these things.  They don’t.  That they can’t live without these things?  They will.  

It has been said a thousand times before me and will be said a thousand times after me…this is not the true meaning of Christmas.  I am happy to be with someone who agrees with me on this point.  This is our third year of “the twelve days of Christmas.”  Our christmas tree and decorations do not go up until December 13.  Not a day before.  And this year we have taken our distain for the commercialization of Christmas another step further.  Three gifts and three gifts only.  Our children will receive three nominal gifts each along with a modest stocking.  PERIOD.  We have told the children this and as you can imagine, their response was less than thrilled.  And when they asked why they are only getting three gifts, our response….”it was good enough for baby Jesus, it is good enough for you.”  

So let us be reminded:

First the Gift of Gold:  The heart. Matthew 6:21, “. . .for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

The Second Gift of Frankincense, the Fragrance of the Christ:  When we remove all forms of evil from our heart, we spread the fragrance of Christ.  

The Third Gift of Myrrh, Unchanging Faith:  We give to the Lord that which does not perish.

Our renewed outlook of our faith has changed our lives and the way we live each day.  We are not perfect and on any given day at any given moment, we fail.  But we continue to learn and follow our path.   Hoping to be better people and better parents.  

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GIVING IT A REST

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I had decided after my last post in July, to give blogging a rest. I had a lot to say and most of it was hateful, hurtful and downright mean. So stepping away was a good idea. My mouth and temper are quick and if not filtered properly, I can blurt out some very mean things to dig the knife deeper. Add a bit of depression to the mix and the recipe turns out dry and tough to swallow. I immediately feel awful afterwards, even when what I say is true. So how do we get past hurtful words said in anger? Especially when they come from someone you were close and never thought would treat you that way.

The people closest to us have the ability to hurt us in the deepest ways. I know when I am hurt I take it very much to heart and relive it and relive it, not on the outside but in my head and heart. I think at these times we just need to excuse ourself from the situation before we have a chance to respond badly. If we stop and cool off for a time both people are more likely to respond better. So I decided to give it a rest. Find a way to deal with all the hurtful and angry words.

So after two months have I discovered anything? Well, yes. I have discovered that the person who says hurtful and angry things is only human. He or she may be struggling with things I know nothing about. Depression, illness, anger, bitterness, self-loathing, and fear just to name a few. What sets me apart from this person is that I have the ability to forgive. To be a better person. I don’t pretend for a second it is just that easy. It takes work, a lot of work, each day. Forgiveness is a choice we make each day through a decision of our will. We forgive by faith. Seeing that person through a new heart lets me care for that person. God doesn’t withhold his foregiveness from me, what right do I have to not forgive others?

It is normal for us to feel anger towards injustice, however it is not our right to judge.

I was minding my own business….(warning, adult language)

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Weird things happen when you least expect them. For the second time in as many weeks George heard stories about him from two different sources. One source is someone he hasn’t seen in over two years. The other source is someone he has NEVER met.

The first involved his former sister-in-law saying disparaging things about him to one of George’s fellow firefighters. His friend simply told this woman it was none of his (their) business and ended by telling her that in the 15 years he has known George, he has never seen George this happy! (take that!).

The second was when I was volunteering at Krohn Conservatory and took my position at the exit door. About 45 minutes later a young man, all of 16 or 17 years old came to help. As we were working, an employee of City Parks, who manages the green space, came walking through the exit. George and I had met him while planting flowers with the CFD earlier in the spring. He and I began talking and he remembered George but could not remember his last name. I reminded him that his last name was Bredestege. We chatted a few more minutes and then he left.

The young boy working at the exit with me then said to me…”I know someone named Bredestege, she is my math teacher at LaSalle.” I said “Yes, I know her.” Without prompting, or knowing who I am, he proceeded to tell me what a “terrible time” Mrs. B. is having with her divorce and that she and her children are “suffering” at the hands of her husband. He indicated that her students have been offering her guidance and advice and that he, in fact, is her “mentor” thru all of this. He continued to tell me that everyone at school, including all of her students, knows what a “tough time” she is having and what a “terrible man” her husband is to her and her kids.

He finally stopped and asked me how I know Mrs. B. To his surprise, I told him that I live with Mr. B. His eyes widened, his face reddened and he said to me “well I hope you have better luck with that man than she did.”

That comment was the last straw. I had stood there quietly listening to him talk badly about George, say things about the divorce that were completely false and that George is a bad father. I looked this boy straight in the eyes and politely said to him…”I am positive that you know NOTHING about George B. or what kind of a father or man he is. And for you to stand here talking about him in this way is slanderous.”

I also told him that while he may have heard his teacher’s side of the story, I was positive that he had never met or talked to George directly or ever heard George’s side of the story. And that while he was hearing Mrs. B.’s interpretation of events, I was also positive that he was unaware of the full truth of Mrs. B.’s behavior during the marriage and also since the time she had asked Mr. B. for a divorce. I also let this young man know that I spend significant time with their children and he could rest assured that no one is suffering. I politely told him that Mr. B. is a caring father that loves his children and they love him as well. Finally, I told him I was fairly certain that his continual gossip was a direct contradiction to what he is being taught at LaSalle High School. A place where young men go to practice and build their faith. I doubt parents send these young men to this expensive school to be caught up in a teacher’s personal life and gossip.

At this point things became quiet between the two of us for several minutes. After which I approached the young man and asked him if he had heard me say anything hurtful or mean about Mrs. B. during our conversation. He answered quite simply, “No.” I told him that is how I and Mr. B. have remained. While George and I both have frustrations at the lack of this couple’s ability to come to a solution on how to raise their children together, he and I have kept our mouths shut about Mrs. B.outside of the walls of our home. Some people who know George didn’t even know of the divorce until a year or more after their separation, that is just how much he DOESN’T talk. Unfortunately, we are not being afforded the same courtesy. We know the names that George and I have both been called by Mrs. B, her family, and her friends. Everyone is eager to pass that information along to us and we have seen it in writing via text messages. George has been called an asshole, a tool and a mother fucker just to name a few. Me, I am a whore, a slut and a home wrecker (despite the fact that we didn’t date until after their separation.)

I have been waiting to say this for a long time, but let’s get some things straight right now. George and I dated AFTER Mrs. B. asked for a divorce in June 2010. They have been operating under Shared Parenting since that time. Mrs. B. has now asked for full custody of their children. Since June 1, 2010, George faithfully financially supported his family by giving all of the monies he made to them until December 21, 2010, only keeping enough money to eat. After December 21, 2010, he gave his family HALF of his pay for the next three months. During this time, he went into debt creating a home for himself and for his children to spend HALF of their time. In January 2011, Mrs. B. filed for divorce. In April 2011, he made the house payment for Mrs. B. because she said she was unable to afford the payment. In April 2011, Mrs. B. obtained a 75N Order from the court and Mr. B. was ordered to pay child and spousal support of over $1,500.00 per month. At that time Mrs. B. stopped making the house payment and their home went into foreclosure in September 2011. Child support has been deducted from his paycheck each week without fail. George has continued to care for his children HALF of the time. Spousal support was discontinued when it was determined that she should no longer receive that money and child support continues to this day for three of their children (one emancipated in April 2012 when he turned 18). He has NEVER been an absentee father, nor is she destined to raise these children all alone as one of her family members is quick to point out to various patrons at a local bar. And she has been faithfully receiving child support since May 2011 contrary to what his former sister-in-law is telling people.

We have been largely quiet about this situation. Until now. We have been talked about behind our backs by people who are cowards and don’t have the common decency to talk to us face-to-face. Most of them have NEVER met me and most have not seen or talked to George in over two years. So, here is the deal. We are through being treated like crap. While we have no intentions of being mean or spreading gossip, the next time someone approaches one of us and begins to tell us the stories they have heard, we will talk back. We will tell them the truth. We will tell them everything. And I mean everything.