Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Well, there goes that

I got a letter yesterday.

It wasn't a good one.

The mortgage company sent me a nice letter to inform me that they've cut our equity line of credit because the value of our house has gone down. Its fair. Its the right thing to do.

There goes our cushion for the year.

We had about $20,000 left in the equity line, got a pretty hefty tax refund, and really trimmed our expenses. All of that combined with Dave's income gradually increasing every month meant that we felt we had enough cushion/supplement to weather the economy this year - or at least for 9 months anyway.

We always said we would take this Jones thing to the last penny. The last penny just got moved up about 6 months in my estimation... and we don't have a plan B - plan B got laid off a few months ago.

So back to the drawing board with the expenses. We can't really make a budget because we never earn enough to cover the monthly expenses. So we just trim and trim and trim. After this, there is honestly nothing left to trim, except internet and tv. We are cancelling the subscription to the Trib, trying to cut our household/groceries by $200/month, cutting out counseling, cancelling our family vacation for this coming July, cutting out entertaining at our home. Etc. Etc. Etc.

So here we are. In the thick of this economic mess:) I am thankful, though, that Dave has a job and that it is pretty secure. We don't have the threat of unemployment looming at this point. God has provided all of these cushion funds and has remained faithful and for that, I am thankful.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

fast - like this?

I mulling a couple of things/ideas over in my head... trying to figure out if I'm ready to commit to such huge ideas. I have some time to think about it since I wouldn't start until my birthday on April 1st. And I'm not sure how practical these things actually are.

Thinking about:
1. Giving up all forms of news media for a year
2. Giving up all television for a year - including watching shows on the internet
3. Giving up coffee (gasp!)

For Lent, I gave up the radio. This is kind of a huge committment for me since I listen to talk radio basically all day... in addition to my propensity for turning the car radio up loud enough to drown out the whining or fighting in the back seat;) I'll tell you one thing - if the purpose of giving something up for Lent is to think about Jesus everytime you miss what you gave up, then its working for me. I have really thought about Jesus a lot in the last couple of weeks. Honestly.

The biggest thing that I've noticed is how loud the silence is. And wonderful it is. And how much less scrambled my thoughts seem to be.

Another thing that I've noticed is that I feel more positive about the state of the world and less anxious about things. I think this is directly connected to my lack of exposure to talk radio. While I definitely miss my daily dose of Roe Conn, I don't miss the cynacism and skepticism that comes along with him - even if I do happen to agree with much of it.

So I've already given up the radio until April 12th, I don't watch the news really except for having the picture on while I'm running in the morning, so the only thing left is the newspaper. This is where my dillema comes in - I love being informed. I love sitting down with my oatmeal, coffee and newspaper. But I don't love the anxiety that it brings me when I read about the housing market, the unemployment rate, the stock market, the economy, the government - I guess that basically covers everything, right? I find that - on some days - I start my day out happy and positive and then I read the newspaper and I'm pretty sure the world is never going to get better. So i've been thinking of cancelling our subscription, however, I'm not sure if it is a good thing to stick my head in the sand and live as if this stuff doesn't exist.

I guess part of my issue is that I feel helpless and hopeless for change. And before anyone makes a snotty comment about Obama, I'm going to go on record as saying its not his fault any more than it would be McCain's if he were in office - or Bush's fault for that matter. The reason we are where we are is because of individual choices, not because of government. When I read the newspaper, all that runs through my head is the interconnectedness of all of the issues and the incredible scale of all of our nation's problems - and how in the WORLD are we going to change? And why are we not allowing people and companies to fail?

Yet at the same time, I find the stimulus money to be a necessary evil. We're either going to pay for some of these infrastructure improvements with the stimulus money now, or those things that are in disrepair or in need of funding will be paid for later - at a much greater cost (and I'm not talking about financial cost).

So I don't know. I've got a lot of thoughts out there right now and am doing a lot of serious discussing with people. I'm just not sure that my reading or listening to the news promotes healthy and honest opinions... but then again, how would I form an opinion if I didn't hear the news? Therein lies my quandry.

As for giving up tv for a year... I'm more and more disgusted with how people's lives revolve around the television. And I guess I feel comfortable saying this because mine used to be. It wasn't all that long ago that I tivo'd two soap operas a day, oprah, the view in addition to my prime time shows. First I cut out the soap operas. Then we decided not to add any new shows to our already full list - that didn't last very long:) Pretty soon I was tivo'ing the view, oprah, and 3-4 shows a night. We were staying up much later than necessary in order to watch everything. I was holing up in my bedroom twice a day to watch my daytime shows - but I was doing laundry at the same time so it was okay. Our sex life took a hit. Our family was suffering - because of tv. Hello?

So we gave up the tivo for financial reasons. And I felt free-er. We no longer have a VCR either so there is no recording shows that we miss. Then we gave up tv for September - that was the catalyst to huge change in our home. We've since added it back in, but it is not the default activity of choice. I used to argue with a friend that I knew tv was bad, but I needed the mindless entertainment at the end of a long day of children. When it came down to it, that wasn't true... I don't need it. A book is far more entertaining and energizing. Playing games or doing puzzles with Dave at night has been much more satisfying than sitting next to each other on the couch staring at the tv.

So we've curbed our television viewing to the point of we only watch 5 shows (to Dave's credit he only watches 2 every week) and if we don't catch them when they're on, we wait until we have some time together and watch it online. Why am I considering giving it up entirely for a year? Because I've been saddened by how much I see the world/culture revolving around it... I heard on the news that the average person's tv viewing has significantly increased because of tivo (they quoted a number of hours that was absolutely ridiculous, but I don't remember what it was). I saw so many facebook statuses regarding the Bachelor last week that it made me kind of ill - I've been all about the Bachelor in the past, but when I realized I was watching with my hands over my eyes I knew it was time to leave that show behind:) Then a number of articles in the Trib this morning... it just saddens me that a new rule on American Idol can generate this amount of news.

We are anesthetizing ourselves with television. Where is the outrage at the amount of taxes we are being charged? Where is the indignation at the fact that community after community refused to allow a homeless shelter permanent space because they didn't want "that" in their backyard?

So I'm considering giving it up. If I'm truly going to be outraged at the amount of influence the television has on our culture, then I should do something to make sure it doesn't have any influence on me.

But I don't know how that would work out with the family... things to consider.

I hesitate to write any of this for two reasons: 1) I'm sure to offend someone without intending to because this is not directed at anyone in particular... these are things I'm working on for myself and 2) I'm sure that I will be exposed as a hypocrite in some manner without intending to be:) I'm just putting it out there - the fact is, if I'm being hypocritical in any way, I want someone to point it out to me (in a loving way, of course) so I can change. I've thought about not posting this. About leaving it in draft so as not to offend anyone, however, when I went private I was all about being authentic... so here it is: me in all my authenticity and vulnerability:)

And the coffee? Yeah, I don't know if that is going to ever happen;)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Words Kids Need to Hear - Chapter 7

I Love You

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

We must not assume that our children know that we love them - silence communicates something entirely different to a child. The idea that "they already know that I love them" is simply wrong - love matters too much to leave it unsaid.

We all aim to love our children unconditionally and want them to know that. However, our inherent desire to feel loved ourselves often prompts us - the parents - to prompt the child to say I love you in response to us saying I love you to them. This does not demonstrate unconditional love. This may seem like a stretch and going a little far, but remember we're talking about the way a child perceives things rather than a rational adult. It is not the responsibility of our children to ensure that we feel loved. Rather the higher goal should be that we hear our children say, "I believe you love me."

Three tips on expressing I love you:
1. Be Clear. "The supreme happiness of life is the conviction we are loved" - Les Miserables
2. Be Deliberate. Make this a part of your routine, daily life.
3. Be Steadfast. Do not stop saying this to your children. Even as they grow up and become more and more independent. Do not stop.

Words Kids Need To Hear - Chapter 6


No is important. No provides clear boundaries rather than the wishy-washy Maybe or I'll think about it. No needs to be clear, needs to be followed through upon, and needs to be serious so our children learn to obey it. This also means that it can't be the only thing out of a parent's mouth. Saying No too often leads to a desensitized kid who thinks the word is meaningless. Saying Yes is also important because a parent's approval of something is much more appreciated when there was actually a possibility of No.

Three Reasonable Responsibilities -

1. Be the Adult, Care Too Much: Basically, I care too much to allow you to cross this boundary. Testing the boundaries is normal, it is our responsibility as parents to make those boundaries strong and be consistent with enforcing them. "Limit testing really means 'please show me there is someone in my life who will not cave in and surrender every time I creat a test. Please be the adult, so I can relax with being a child.'" (psychologist Chick Moorman - Parent Talk).

2. Be Willing to Do Something: Be consistent, be clear and be swift. If we fail to act until the 9th time we say No, we teach our children that they can ignore the first 8 No's.

3. Know How to Resist: We need to be able to set a limit/boundary and be compassionate and empathetic toward the child while still maintaining the boundary. Just because we are saying NO, does not mean that we have to be heartless about it. Compassion and empathy are important, yet we still need to be clear with our No. "We'll talk about it." or other distracting and wishy-washy responses lead to confusion. Our decisions should not be made based on our fear that our child will not like us - kids will still like us even after we say No.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Words Kids Need to Hear - Chapter 5


"Strong reasons make strong actions" - William Shakespeare

We give our children courage and bravery by providing them with an authentic rationale for why they should believe what we say. We live in a world where people declare their own greatness and they get paid unbelievable amounts of money without really having to prove why they're great or worthy of being paid that amount of money (pro athletes, musicians, actors, etc.) Our children are bombarded with shallow messages in advertising, television, movies, etc. and we need to be their authentic voice of reason telling them WHY they are great and worthy and treasured and believed in. Children are more likely to believe us when we give them reasons and justification for our comments to them.

Write your child a note. On the top of the paper write: "I believe in you because" and list several reasons. Repeat with "You can count on me because" and "I treasure you because". Share this with your child at some point - and allow her to keep the note. Every couple of days reaffirm what you said - "Do you know why I believe in you so much?" And then every couple of months reaffirm your comments.

(while I believe what the gist of the chapter is all about, I have to say this has been a weak chapter in terms of explaining, but did provide many examples. It was difficult to summarize without quoting.)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Words Kids Need to Hear - Chapter 4

I'm sorry, Please forgive me

I'm sorry, please forgive me means being authentic and sincere when asking for the forgiveness of my child - not flippant or offering excuses for that which I'm apologizing. Apologizing and asking for my child's forgiveness - sincerely and authentically - teaches my child to sincerely and authentically apologize and seek forgiveness from others. By receiving this gift from me, she understands what it feels like to be on the other end of it - a take on the Golden Rule. By treating my child with this level of respect I am demonstrating the level of respect that I expect her to have for others... if you want to be respected, you must be respectable.

Important aspects of an apology:
* Humility - everyone messes up and has reasons to apologize. Being able to acknowledge a mistake or an error to my child increases her level of respect for me. I'm sorry means nothing when I'm cornered or forced to say it. Children tend to live by a variation of the golden rule: Do unto others as has been done to me. If I want my children to be humble, sincere, authentic, and able to admit her mistakes to others and take responsibility for those mistakes it is I who needs to teach her what that means and how it feels to be on the other end of it. It is I who needs to show her with my actions that it is important to respect others in that way and that it is important to own up and bear responsibility.
* Making no excuses - this is something that personally drives me crazy... when someone apologizes followed by a "but" or an excuse for his/her behavior. I'm sorry, please forgive me means absolutely nothing when the person goes on to rationalize or justify his/her bahavior. Allowing for a reason for the injustice committed against me. If I am sincere in my desire to seek forgiveness then I don't need to explain to her why I acted the way I did - I was wrong. Period. I accept my wrongness and ask you to understand that I accept it and accept me in return.

In other words...
* apologize out of a sincere and heartfelt desire
* apologize in a timely manner - the apology has less impact the further away from the incident
* speak clearly and concisely
* keep it brief - she'll receive the message if it is brief, the potency of the apology diminishes with every syllable following the apology
* say it no matter what - when a child has been disappointed by an adult he/she may downplay the circumstances or excuse the adult's behavior on his/her own. Even if the child says, "its okay" to your explanation, it is important to apologize.
" Children who hear no such apologies - and instead learn to dismiss the legitimate liability of others - will eventually do the same for themselves. Play that chilling thought out further, and you'll see no-fault kids who grow into adults unable to take responsibility for their own actions. To combat this possibility, apologize early and often and to all to whom it's due." (page 71)

- "to all to whom it's due" = other adults as well. It is just as important for our children to hear us say I'm sorry, please forgive me to other adults.

"How we handle ourselves after our errors forms lasting impressions in their young memories. Someday, they'll recall that picture when they consider whether or noth they want to move closer to God - or to keep their distance... to that end, what example do we set?"

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Words Kids Need to Hear - Chapter 3

I treasure you

Kids long to feel special. We can create that feeling by being deliberate and repetative with our "I treasure you" message. It is not about quantifying the child by grades or abilities, but letting her know that she is special because she is - and reinforcing that message often. It is not about congratulations or shallow praise for a job well done, but a message of "If all the girls in the world lined up, I would choose you."

"The treasure message... communicates a high sense of worth - and children who feel worthy are more likely to respect the worth of other people."

Strategies for putting the I treasure you to use:

* Keep it simple. More explanation = less comprehension for a kid. Keep the message real, authentic, sincere and simple and offer it on an ongoing basis and the child will internalize it and believe it about herself.

* Time and Attention - these are time tested ways to fuss over a child without spoiling her. Giving her time - going to a dance recital, a ballgame, a preschool show - and attention - taking the opportunity to really celebrate her success - shows that you are paying attention to her life. An example that the book explains and that our family is going to adopt is the celebration candle.

* Making it Personal - creating personal, shared memories with her signals how much she is worth. Taking personal time with each kid also allows opportunities to say the words she needs to hear - or listen to the words she needs to speak.

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