Make home improvements OR remain happily married?

 

Years ago, I worked at a carpet store, where I constantly heard stories, nightmares really, of how miserable it was to go through a home improvement. Couples couldn’t agree on carpet color or texture, and deciding between hardwood floors or laminate proved equally objectionable.

My husband and I have never gone through anything as extensive as a remodel, and I dread the day that we do. I think moving might be a better choice than coming to verbal blows over tile or hardwood.

It’s that time of year for us when the H.O.A. (Home Owner’s Association) makes its annual assessment of our properties. HOA’s are great for keeping property values up, I suppose, but their “improvements” never seem to improve my checkbook or my marriage, and this year is no exception.

This year, it’s our deck. Though it can hardly be called a “deck,” rather more like a balcony. It’s on the second level and measures all of 6’x8’. We never even use it because it faces our neighbor’s living room, and unless we suddenly develop an interest in peering in on our neighbor’s lives, we will continue to not use it.

Now my husband and I complement each other, in that his strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa. It’s how we work. But when it comes to working together on a home improvement, we’ve learned that it’s best if we stay out of each other’s way.

I’m usually the DIY person around the house, so I was really surprised when he said that he wanted US to do part of the improvement. What?! Is he crazy?! We can’t do that! We’ll kill each other! Not to mention that we don’t have the proper tools, or expertise to do said improvement.

We compromised: we hired a handyman to do the actual repairs, but my husband insisted that we could do the painting. I was skeptical to say the least. That meant renting a ladder (we don’t own an extension ladder) and one of us would have to go up that ladder and do the painting, and it wasn’t going to be me…not this time. But he assured me that we could get it done.

I called my brother who happens to be a handyman in another state (he inherited my Dad’s skill), and I was feeling pretty confident. Maybe we could do this. Maybe if we pulled together, and had a plan, we could work together and paint the balcony, without ending up in divorce court.

That was two weeks ago.

Since then, we’ve argued about getting it done, having enough time to get it done, doing it right but quickly, getting it done in the timeframe the H.O.A. allotted.

Just to add more stress, my husband suddenly got really busy at work, I got a new job, and time was still ticking. Tensions were running high!

I started with a coat of primer on the deck today, and realized…we are in over our heads!

I put in a call to a handyman, and he’s coming tomorrow.

Now, maybe I reacted to soon. Maybe we could have done it ourselves. Maybe we could have done it without killing each other.

But it just seems like a couple hundred dollars for a handyman will be much less expensive than marriage counseling would have cost.

How about you? Have you and your significant other ever attempted a home improvement together?

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Taking a Poll…

I’m taking an informal poll, based on something I heard.

 

Without going into details, I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of what my readers think:

What income bracket do you consider to be Middle Class?

 

Thanks for participating. Have a Happy Friday the 13th! 😊

Forever a Church “Visitor”

 

I’ve forgotten how to “do church.”

It wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do. On the contrary, I love church, I love fellowship, I love God and all He stands for. My family and I were part of a “church family” for 15 years. We stayed after on Sundays and helped clean up, we filled in where needed, we washed dishes at the annual church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner, we helped with the youth, we served time in the nursery (some of you will relate to my wording there), I sang in the choir, I sang on the worship team, I led a women’s Bible study, whatever we were asked…we did. Because that’s how a church body works.

And then we moved 2000 miles away from our church family, and had to start over. That was 5 years ago, and I still feel like a “visitor” in what we call our “home church.”

We have been to 5 churches, and it’s downright embarrassing when someone asks us “where we’re going to church now?” But we can’t find our “fit.”

I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not working on an emotional response. I’m not trying to replace my “first love” of our last church, because I know it had flaws too. But I’ve never before experienced a point where I just didn’t feel compelled to go to church. And my kids feel it too. Of course, they’re older now, being pre-teen and teen aged, and having to get up on the weekend and get ready for church doesn’t exactly elicit cheers from them. But it’s more than that.

There is no connection. No real, connection.

They don’t even know the names of most of the kids they go to Sunday school with, and they NEVER mention them…ever!

The churches where we live tend to be much bigger than we’re used to, bordering on mega-church status. And I have to admit that, though large churches have their advantages of a vast number of “activities,” I find that people get lost in all that “busyness.” It’s easy to fall through the cracks, even if you do try to get plugged in, it takes so much longer to make any real connections than in their smaller counterparts.

I’m really at a loss as to what to do. We can’t keep searching. My daughter caught me checking out a smaller church, closer to our home, and she flipped. Not because she has made so many good friends at our current church (she can’t even name one of them) and she would hate to leave them, but because she’s just tired of switching, as are my husband and me. It isn’t fair to them, or to us.

I’ll admit that the big churches are intimidating to me, and I’m a rather social person. But getting plugged in to the right connections seems nearly impossible.

I want to lean on one another, and experience each other’s lives. Not just the cleaned-up version that people present on Sunday, but the dirty version you are on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week.

I can’t figure out if it’s a symptom of the area we live in, or if it’s a symptom of the age were living in.

We’ve prayed about this, believe me we have. And we’ve had no clear answers.

So, I wonder what church we will “visit” tomorrow? Should we go to our “usual church” and blend into the background, smile politely and shake hands, knowing that those relationships will probably never go any further than that? Or should we let the kids sleep in, and just my husband and I go to the “new” church up the street?

If anyone has any useful suggestions as to how they changed churches successfully, I’d love to hear them. Because I’d like to get rid of my “visitor” name tag one of these days.

A Lesson in Grocery Shopping

Let me start this post by saying that my husband is a wonderful man. I love him with all my heart. We’ve been married 18 years, as of next month, he’s a good husband, father and provider. But a housewife, he is not.

When he changed jobs last year  our monthly income went down quite a bit, as did the way we get paid: I get paid bi-monthly on the same dates, and he gets paid every two weeks, regardless of the date. Which makes it hard to figure out a budget since every month is different.

Yesterday, we sat down, and really worked on a manageable budget plan (thank you Dave Ramsey). It’s tight, but do-able.

One of the things included in the budget is, of course, food and grocery shopping, which has always been my department, except that he is forced to go to the grocery store with me, since I don’t drive. But he’s never really been part of the planning process for weekly meals, other than to eat the meals. I’ve always been the one to figure out how to stretch one meal into the next using leftovers, and things like that. But after doing our budget, his eyes are opened to our food budget.

There’s nothing worse than making my weekly meal plan only to find out the grocery store doesn’t have the particular cut of meat that I planned on using for several meals. That’s when I have to do some quick planning in my head, on the spot, to come up with a different idea, and still stay in budget. That happened today. They didn’t have the cheap cut of beef that I was going to use to make chicken fried steak, much to my husband’s disappointment. But they did have some bottom round cuts that I could tenderize the heck out of, but I didn’t want to spend the money. I wanted a cheaper option. Remember…trying to stay on budget.

He suggested a parmesan pasta (from DamnDelicious.net) that I make which is very easy, only he wanted to add sausage or peppers to the recipe. Mind you, sausage doesn’t agree with my daughter or me, and he is the only one who likes peppers, of any color. So, the “additions” would strictly be for him, and I wouldn’t be able to use the sausage for any other meal. I mentioned that by the time we bought the noodles, the peppers and the sausage, we may as well buy the steak. He didn’t believe me, so I challenged him.

The steak, was on sale for $5.94 (I told you, it was a cheap cut). The pasta: $0.79, the peppers (any color) were $1.79 each, the sausage (and here’s what pushed him over cost) was $4.99, and that was the cheapest one he could find. He doesn’t like the uncooked, sausage in a tube…he wanted premium kielbasa or something similar to that, bringing his “Noodles Parmesan” total to $7.57!

Now, my husband and I can be a bit competitive at times, in the nicest of ways, and I can tell you it felt great to win! For once, I got to explain what is going on inside my head while I’m shopping for food. Sometimes it’s not as simple as following a list, and throwing things into a cart. In fact, it’s NEVER as simple as that. And any corporate mogul would be lucky to have a SAHM who can think on her feet as part of their team.

By the way, we STILL got out of the grocery store $22.00 UNDER budget, thank you very much. AND we get to enjoy steak, baked potato and green beans for dinner tonight. Just don’t tell my daughter about the green beans…she hates them. You can’t please everyone, right?

I Don’t Feed My Kids…according to my Mom

Mothers and daughters disagree…A LOT.

And it doesn’t stop when we/they get older.

My mother thinks I don’t feed my kids enough, and she’s mentioned it numerous times. When I mention what we’re having for dinner in casual conversation, there’s usually a pause. I know she thinks I’m “not feeding her grandchildren.”

Okay. My kids are 11 and 15. They eat when they’re hungry, and they don’t spend the day snacking because they’re at school. I also make they’re lunches, so I know what they’re eating (unless they are throwing everything away).

Now, I’m not one of those mothers that send my kids to school with a Bento box, no offense to the “Bento Box Mom,” I just don’t have those skills or that kind of motivation. We’re a sandwich, chips or crackers, fruit, and juice or water sort of family. It works for us. They’ve never asked for more, but they are certainly welcome to it if they want it.

I assume that if they were starving, they would ask for more food, or help themselves. I mean, as I said, they’re 11 and 15, they are perfectly capable of figuring out if they want more food.

We eat dinner together as a family most every night. They eat the same portions as my husband and I do, albeit the 11-year-old still takes a little encouragement to finish the parmesan chicken that he hates. (Who doesn’t like parmesan chicken…it’s basically a giant chicken nugget!)

Now in her defense, my mom lives with someone who requires meat and bread with every meal…I mean EVERY meal. He will go to the store before a meal specifically to get bread if he’s out. And he has to have meat…no pasta, no quinoa, no vegetarian, only meat. So, I can see where she might be a little “judgy” about what we eat.

Over the years, in an attempt to save money and stretch the budget, we don’t always have meat at every meal. But that’s perfectly healthy. I know lots of families, like us, who have “Meatless Tuesday” or “Vegetarian Wednesday” or “Spaghetti Friday” to save money as well as simplify their lives.

She’s also from an older generation where food equaled love. How much you fed your family was equivalent to your love for your family. And though that’s still true in some cultures, it’s gotten to be sort of old-fashioned.

So, I think my mom and I will have to just agree to disagree when it comes to food.

What about you? I can’t be the only one who disagrees with their mom.

Who Knew I Was A Cool Parent?

Most of the time, I feel like a dinosaur.

I still own a flip phone (my friend tells me I should donate it to the Smithsonian), I prefer talking rather than texting, I don’t drive a car (they won’t let epileptics have a license – with good reason), I’m always at least one season behind in styles and technology.

I even parent in an old-fashioned style: my kids don’t have cell phones (ages 11 & 15 – though the 15 yr old will probably get one this year), they don’t have ipads, or the latest in fashions either.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we live in a relatively wealthy area, but we aren’t wealthy. My husband and I joke all the time that we’re bring the property values down. My kids probably won’t go to Ivy League schools, like many of their classmates, unless they get a full ride scholarship. They don’t get to join every club and every sport around…it just isn’t affordable. And I’ve always felt a little guilty about that…not enough to keep me awake at night, but enough for it to bother me.

I am not the definition of a “cool mom.”

So, when my daughter had a friend spend the night this weekend, she “allowed” me to hang out with them. Actually, I told her that she could have a friend over, but that I wasn’t going to go hide in the bedroom, and be pushed out of the living room, so that she and her friend could take over the TV and the living room.

It was one of the few chances I got to talk to her and her friend. Since I don’t drive, I miss out on eaves-dropping on their conversations while running them from place to place. As we sat on the couch, channel surfing, I tried not to insert myself into their conversation, unless I was invited. I even waited until the next day for my daughter to explain some of the slang they were using, including one term that in my generation (GenX) meant something completely different than it does now.

My daughter has told her father and I that she tells her friends that her parents are “cool.” Truthfully, I thought she was just giving us lip-service for the next time she screws up. But even her friend mentioned that she heard we were “cool.” (Unless her friend is in on the scheme – but I’m choosing to believe that’s not the case).

Apparently, my husband and I have decent taste in music, and that scores big points. And I guess it helps that my husband is a gamer, and the two of them can talk for hours about RPGs and stuff like that. I have always been a little jealous of that.

I guess it’s nice to be “cool” in your kids’ eyes. I mean, we all say it doesn’t matter, and we’re the parent and not their friend. But I think it does matter to us that they like us. Hopefully, they’ll like us enough to come to us with the hard questions, and the hard problems of life.

Who knows how much longer I’ll be “cool.” I’d better enjoy it while I can.

Summer is Near the End…and it’s Mayhem!

It’s nearing the end of summer, only a couple weeks until school starts again.

And it seems that ALL the rules have been thrown out of the window:

  1. Bedtimes don’t exist.
  2. Mealtimes are never on schedule, if cooked at all.
  3. Kids have stopped following any rules.
  4. I seem to have lost all most of my authority.
  5. Being active is non-existent, partly because it’s either hotter than blazes or it’s pouring rain.
  6. The kids are torn between being excited to go back to school to see friends, or dreading having to go back to school because…well…it’s school.
  7. Screen time limits seemed to have run a muck.
  8. Fighting has reached an all time high.
  9. Beds aren’t made and laundry isn’t done.
  10. And Mom is just plain tired.

The only ray of hope left was back to school shopping, and the thought of a new wardrobe. But even that had to be pushed back a week because the car needed a new set of tires!

So, we are counting the days, until life goes back to normal.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this summer is that our family NEEDS a schedule. Otherwise, we run wild when left to our own devices.

Anybody else ready for school to start again?