Tag Archives: economics

Silver Linings

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that a few months ago my husband lost his job and we lost our house. We moved into a one bedroom apartment with our children and pets. While this is certainly not ideal, we’ve experienced some unexpected benefits. To save space, we bought my son a loft bed that has a bookshelf and play space underneath and put it in the living room. He thinks having his bed in the living room is SO COOL. He’s never been a good sleeper, but he has slept better and slept in his own bed more consistently since we moved than he ever has in his short life. The cats like to sleep on his bed now since it is up high, which has helped them warm up to him and is also super cute. It’s much easier to put him to bed on the nights when he falls asleep on the couch; his bed is only two feet away instead of up a flight of stairs. And all of the children get to enjoy the playspace under his bed freely, since it is in the shared family area. They call it “the cave.”

Some other surprise benefits: our upstairs neighbors got a swingset for the back yard, which our children are free to use any time. They have LOVED it. The upstairs neighbors also have a dog who is good with kids, so they have become best buds. And really, although it is a little cramped and often feels a bit crowded, we’ve been very happy here. The kids don’t seem to mind the small quarters most of the time, usually only when the weather’s been nasty and we’ve been trapped inside a lot. God’s grace has covered us during this lean time, and we are blessed.

 

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Real Life

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Sometimes Real Life happens and it gets in the way of blogging. My last week has been very Real. Here’s what I haven’t been blogging about:

1) Boring, unpleasant health stuff. Migraines, an injury, illness, the whole shebang.

2) Work. My husband started his new job and has been away more, so I have been busy with the children. I’ve also been working on a side project to try and make a little extra money.

3) Arts & Crafts. I’ve been writing a book for some time and have been really focused on that this week. I’ve also made some fun items for a care package, and I’m knitting a little something just for me. Like many yarn crafters, I rarely make anything just for myself, but I found some beautiful unique yarn several months ago that I fell in love with. I’ve been searching for just the right project for it, and finally found a suitable one.

4) Prayer and study. God has been reaching and calling to me in this season, and I have hungered for Him. He has brought us so many blessings in this season that no one would choose for their family. He’s allowed me to participate in some exciting areas of ministry, and in the process my family underwent the most powerful spiritual attack we have ever seen. But God opened up the heavens and kept us safe. We experienced many wonderful surprises and crazy blessings.

So, that’s what’s been going on on this side of the blog. I hope to share some more details of what God is doing in, for, and with my family soon. Bless you all.

Another page in our new chapter.

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Just some odds and ends for you tonight. Everyone seems to have finally adjusted, at least somewhat, to our new life here. There have been some bumps in the road:

1) Lost our insurance unexpectedly, which really put us in a jam when we had a serious medical issue come up.

2) My best friend of half my life, who held my hand and prayed me through some really bad stuff, and for whom I did the same; who is like a sister to me; who knows my secrets; with whom I have shared more laughter and adventure than probably any other person in the world, is not speaking to me. I really don’t know if the friendship will survive this time. I am praying and will fight for this friendship, and I think she will do the same, but I just don’t know.

And some unexpected blessings:

1) Husband is doing some contract work that is turning out to be a much bigger project than originally anticipated, which translates to more money for our family.

2) Reconnected with an old friend who had some very good news to share.

3) Got a small windfall that will help us get by for awhile.

4) Family relations are going better than I would even have dared to hope.

I am working on Part V of the Food for Thought series, but this one is the most painful and challenging yet, so bear with me. Also working on a short story and some other projects.

We made it.

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We survived the move in one piece, as did ALL of our belongings (as far as we know, will let you know for sure when we finish unpacking!) One child and one pet got car sick, but other than that things have actually gone pretty smoothly. The children love our new home and seem to be mostly adjusting well. Little one and I have been sick since we got here, but not deathly ill. Boy child thinks it is SO COOL that our living room has a bed in it.

There has been some crazy family drama, and I’m sure it isn’t over yet. I mean, I knew my family was crazy but we just got blindsided by this one. PSA: Legal documents should not read like a blog post. I wish I was exaggerating. I also wish I could just post the thing for you, but alas, I cannot. And then, when poor little one couldn’t stop throwing up, there were some damning things said, things that still give me chills, that I just cannot fathom as a mother, as a human being.

But I am not blameless here. I admit, I have trouble seeing the log in my own eye here, but I have been praying through it and God has been showing me some of these eye-logs of mine and beginning to slowly ease them out. He’s also really working in me on leaving others’ splinters in His hands.

Husband has found a contract position that may or may not offer benefits starting next month. If they don’t he will only work there until we can find something better.

I am exhausted. I still don’t know how we’re going to make this work, but for the time being it is working. Sort of. It kind of has to, for now. Had a nice outing today and seeing family and friends all this week while we work on getting settled.

Decluttering

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I feel like this is a constant battle in my house. Husband and I were both packrats before we got married and brought a lot of Stuff into our family. Over the years, every time we’ve moved (and we have moved quite a bit) we have shed some of that Stuff and accumulated very little by comparison. This time, with an eviction looming and economic hardship at our door, we are preparing to move from a two bedroom townhome to a one bedroom apartment. With kids and pets. Hopefully it will be a very temporary situation. Our parents have graciously offered to let us store some things at their houses, but neither set has much space to offer. So when we found out what exactly we were facing this time around, we began to declutter with abandon. Husband has finally let go of fifteen year old t-shirts for bands he hasn’t cared anything about in at least five. The kids and I have shed close to half of their toys and books. My wardrobe has shrunk by about a third. We’ve culled DVDs and wedding presents that haven’t seen enough use to keep. There have been things we had copies of for upstairs and downstairs that we’ll only need one of at the new apartment. Some of it has been hard to let go of, but mostly it’s been very freeing. A lot of it I’ve been meaning to take to the thrift shop/animal shelter/women’s shelter for ages, but never got around to it. And the more we get rid of, the more I hate Stuff.

We live in a society of excess, and this is never more apparent to me than when preparing for a move. Each time, I am amazed and disgusted at the things that have been gathering dust since our LAST move (those things never accompany us for a second move). God has slowly, painstakingly molded me from a packrat to a minimalist over the past decade through many moves, and through showing me poverty. He has sent me to barren lands where the people make do with so much less, and seem happier for it in some cases or just cannot comprehend the luxury in which we live. One experience that sticks with me is from a mission trip I went on with my youth group. A girl about my age noticed I was wearing different jeans from the day before. She was enamored with them, wanting to inspect the hems, touch the seams. She gushed about how new they looked. And then she asked me if I had more. I blushed and lied: I said I had seven pairs, but in reality at the time I probably had more than ten. Her eyes opened wide, she called me rich (I’d never thought of myself that way before) and asked where I kept these seven pairs of jeans. So we began to talk about closets and dressers, and how even the poor kids at my school all had two or three pairs of jeans. That week, my world began to change.  My worldview, my normal, shifted. What is your normal? What do you think is normal in terms of possessions for any ordinary person? Do you crave more, or are you constantly fighting for less? What role does Stuff play in your life, and what role do you think it should play?

Now I See.

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

A part of God’s plan for our family became clear today. A tragedy struck an old friend last night. Soon, because of the eviction, we will live close by to help ease their suffering. Obviously I’d rather have a better reason than eviction, but I am glad and grateful that we can be there in time to bring some holiday cheer.

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

TheWeekendBrewButton Essential Fridays Linkup

Family Economics

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Mother had a stable but low-paying career working with children. Daddy worked at the family business, with a few short breaks. It was an extremely profitable but seasonal business. We maintained certain standards year-round: If we wanted a new toy or other luxury, we could either get it with our allowance or wait until Christmas/our birthday. We occasionally got a small amount of “allowance credit,” but were not taught anything about long-term planning. We didn’t go out to sit-down restaurants or order pizza very often (although we did eat a lot of fast food during the busy season.) We didn’t attend many movies, skating rinks, Chuck-E-Cheese, or other places that charged money for entertainment; except for special treats. And even during the brief time we were on food stamps, Mother always made sure to put a little something in the offering plate at church. My parents also maintained some luxuries whenever possible, even if that meant forgoing groceries or other necessities: Mom’s hair was always salon-dyed (as was mine once I reached the proper age), nails always painted, make-up always done. Mother forced me to have my hair dyed for years, but I could manage to avoid the nails and make-up if I really worked at it. She bullied me and sometimes withheld privileges if I failed to comply. We occasionally received hand-me-down clothing from our cousins, but we never purchased clothing or toys second-hand. Dad frequently traded his sports car or pickup truck for a newer model, owned the biggest TV on the market, and had a personal computer before anyone else on the block, in addition to the recreational drugs. We had a cleaning lady most of the time, but would occasionally cancel her services for a few weeks during the slower months. Even when the cleaning lady was on hiatus, we had very few chores.

During the busy months, Mom and Dad saved for the slower months, but it seemed they never put back enough. They kept a specific fund that could not be touched unless a dire emergency arose: the Christmas fund. Christmas was an elaborate celebration in our family. We wore brand-new matching outfits to the Christmas eve service at church. We opened our brand-new matching Christmas PJs Christmas eve, to wear to bed and then for pictures Christmas morning. Mother prepared a feast for our extended family on Christmas day. And the gifts, oh, the gifts. Each year we prepared a list of desired presents at Mother’s prompting. This list had to be long enough to share with the extended family and still leave enough to flood the house with gifts from Mother, Father, and Santa on Christmas morning. If the first list wasn’t long enough, we had to add to it. Gifts would be piled everywhere, under the tree, on the furniture, under the dining room table, around the hearth. Mother would choose the items from our lists that she found acceptable and would pass some of them on to extended family to purchase for us. The rest, if she deemed them acceptable she tried to find them at the best possible prices. If she could not glean enough gift ideas from our lists, she still felt compelled to drain the Christmas fund, so she purchased things seemingly at random, or things that fit her taste, things she wanted us to like.  As an example, once I reached the appropriate age, I usually received large amounts of make-up, especially kits, either from expensive department store brands or even occasionally drug store brands. Mother trained us not only to smile and say thank you, but to effuse over each gift and spend some time playing with it enthusiastically for the camera. Christmas meant more than just gifts, of course, but I will save the rest of the traditions and memories for another entry.

So even though an abundant Christmas fund sat in the bank, if the money ran out during the slow season Mother and Father would not touch it unless a true emergency arose. This meant that sometimes we ate nothing but pasta and hamburger for weeks at a time. Other times it meant we had three meager meals and no snacks, left with rumbling tummies for much of the day and night. Complaints about hunger elicited a number of responses, ranging from denial to charges of ungratefulness, belittling to annoyance. Meal and snack times and amounts were set and they had better be enough or we could “get over it.” Sometimes I would sneak food, even hiding boxes and wrappers in my room or in strategic places around the house. If I got caught I was reprimanded, and punished by missing the next snack or meal. As I got older, I would gorge myself in secret on grocery day so that at least for one day I wouldn’t go hungry.

We also had to wear worn-out and out-grown clothing and shoes until Christmas, and then whatever we got for Christmas had to last us until the busy season, growth spurts not being accounted for. This meant that some years we went without winter coats, appropriate shoes, and occasionally no socks and one fitting pair of underwear. If we got down to no underwear that fit, then mother would pick up a few pairs, but that was pretty much the only exception. Child Services got involved on a couple of occasions, but that would only fix the clothing situation for that year. The following winter we reverted to the old way of doing things.

During the busy season, we lived the high life. With Daddy’s first big paycheck or two, Mom and Dad would catch up on the mortgage and any other lapsed bills. Then, right before Spring Break, we’d go on a huge shopping spree for our Spring wardrobes. We shopped the sales racks first, but after exhausting those we paid full price for the remainder. We’d get new water shoes or flip flops, sandals (sometimes two or three pairs for the girls), hiking boots, sneakers, at least two pairs of dress shoes, at least two swim suits and a cover-up each, church clothes, school clothes, and of course, play clothes for the long summer. We’d also each get one especially fancy outfit just for Easter. After Easter, the special outfits might be worn to a Summer wedding, but we usually only wore them once or twice and then donated them. We always did something for Spring Break; sometimes just an inexpensive camping trip to the lake or a park, other years Disney World or the beach or a water park, depending on how the busy season started out that year. We would have another huge shopping trip at the end of the school year to replace any outgrown clothing and fill out our Summer wardrobes. During the Summer, we always made at least one trip to an exclusive beach resort or theme park. We stayed in luxury suites, condos, or even rented a townhouse. We attended lots of summer camps: some VBSes, some educational day camps, and some sleep-away camps. We did lots of what people now call “staycation” stuff, seeing local attractions and such. And some years, we took an educational trip, such as visiting Washington, D.C.; Colonial Williamsburg, VA; the Grand Canyon; Mt. Rushmore, to name a few. Some of these trips early in the season went on credit cards that my parents then ended up making payments on into the Winter, contributing to our economic difficulties in the lean months.

My parents saved for retirement, but a tragedy wiped out most of those savings in my teen years. More on that later. They did not, however, save for our college educations and even with an upper-class income between the two of them, they paid for a lot of things with credit for a long, long time.

My Junior year of college, Mother called me out of the blue one day to tell me that there was no more money. And that was that. I’d chosen an intense major and didn’t even have time to look for a job, let alone actually work one. It was too late in the semester to drop any classes without penalty to find work, so I did the only thing I knew how to do: I paid for everything with credit. Car insurance and gas, cell phone, prescription medication, and any incidentals that came up. That semester I flunked out, mainly for unrelated reasons but it would be naive to say that stress had no effect on my studies. I don’t know how my brother managed to get by. My sister managed to pick up more hours at her part-time job, and allowed her boyfriend to help her make ends meet. Mother has no recollection of this. She and Dad managed to get through that Winter somehow.

“Heart Sisters”

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When I was three years old, my mother needed to raise three babies with no job, no family nearby, and a transient husband. She also suffered from a slew of medical issues. She needed help. Right around this time, a family friend’s sister lost her husband. She had nowhere to go. We had a spare room. Our family friend wisely put us together, and her sister and three-year-old niece moved in with us. So now our family consisted of two mothers, sometimes a father, and four children under the age of four.

Ellie fit in seamlessly with my siblings and I, and we grew up as a close-knit sibling group of four. We did everything together: vacations, family portraits, holiday celebrations, the works. And Ellie’s mother, Nancy, became fast friends with my mother and like an aunt to us kids. She and my mom shared the load equally whenever my dad left, each acting as a parent to all four of us. When Daddy lived at home, he treated Ellie as one of his own and she called him Daddy. Family meetings and discipline included all four children.

At some point, we decided we needed a special term to describe our relationships because, in our limited experience, there just didn’t seem to be a fitting term. “Oh, so you and your sister have different dads?” “Yeah, and different moms too. But nobody’s adopted, and we all live together.” Those discussions drew a lot of confused looks. So we coined the phrase “heart sisters” and “heart aunt,” terms of endearment we still use as adults. But mostly, we’re just a family, no modifiers needed.