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! 😊

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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.

Reading the Classics

This post is sparked by something I recently posted on Facebook.

My daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, has been reading the classics and various assigned reading material. Last year it was “Romeo and Juliet,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “The Outsiders” (not sure I’d call that one a classic) among others. As this year starts, she’s reading “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding.

It made me think back to high school (I had to think really hard) to some of the books we were assigned to read. I still keep in touch with some of my high school friends (we just had our 30th reunion – not sure how that happened), so I asked them what they remember reading. It’s been one of the best responses I’ve ever had to anything I’ve posted before, so, just for fun, I thought I’d bring it to my blogging community.

The list is varied, considering some were in honors classes (now called Advanced Placement), but my classmates clearly have a much better memory than I do. I don’t remember reading half of these!

I thought it would be interesting to see what some of my followers from around the country (and world) remember reading in high school (as assigned reading).

Here’s the list my classmates came up with so far. Please feel free to comment which were your favorites and add to the list in the comments below. I think it would be really interesting to compile an International List (unless there’s one already) and I’ll share it with my high school classmates, who are now scattered all over the world.

1984                                                                                             Animal Farm

Grapes of Wrath                                                                       Moby Dick

Don Quixote                                                                              Handmaid’s Tale

Of Mice and Men                                                                     A Tale of Two Cities

The Great Gatsby                                                                     Les Miserables

The Scarlet Letter                                                                    Catch 22

Hamlet                                                                                       Julius Caesar

Death of a Salesmen                                                               Cather in the Rye

Wuthering Heights                                                                  Sound and the Fury

Huckleberry Finn                                                                    Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Canterbury Tales                                                                     Brave New World

Secret Life of Walter Mitty                                                   Black Like Me

Cannery Row                                                                           Siddhartha

 

Also, are there any that you loved and you could read over and over. My favorite was probably “Cannery Row.”

This is just for fun. Hope this brings back some fond memories. By the way, I have to admit that Cliff Notes were my friend during the Shakespeare unit! LOL

No Opportunity Wasted

Where I live, I am surrounded by over-achieving adults, and they’re passing that on to their kids, not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you have that kind of drive, more power to you.

But sometimes I think we look too far ahead to the “end product” and miss a whole bunch in between.

We miss the opportunities that happen our way, and consider them a waste of time or not worth the effort.

But life isn’t about the “end product,” it’s about all the stuff in between birth and death, and what we do with every opportunity we get.

There seems to be a big portion of the population, mostly millennials (sorry guys, I don’t mean to stereotype you, but it’s what us “old people” see – and by “old,” I mean middle-aged), who are reaching for the brass ring and missing all the silver, pewter, and aluminum rings on the way.

One thing my husband and I are teaching our kids, is that no opportunity should be wasted…ever.

Every opportunity, whether it works in your favor or not, should not be wasted.

But what does that look like?

For kids: Say you didn’t make it into the advanced placement math class this semester. Disappointing? Yes. Tragic. No. Any opportunity? Definitely. First, figure out why you didn’t make it in to the class. There are those moments when you just weren’t “smart enough” I suppose, but more likely, you just didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t study as hard as you could have. You didn’t take the opportunity for the extra credit questions because it didn’t seem as interesting, or fun, as your video game.

We carry this into adulthood too.

How many jobs have we passed up because the pay was “beneath us?” Now if you’re unemployed and have a family depending on you, chances are this won’t happen. If you’re unemployed, and the sole provider, you’ll take any job you can get. But every job can be looked at as an opportunity. Maybe it isn’t what you want to do for the rest of your life, or even for the next month. But what can you learn from it? Nothing, you say? Don’t be so sure.

You may learn how to work with people, especially the ones you don’t like. You may learn a new skill. Maybe this job is just a stepping stone to the next job…a better job. Maybe it inspires you to be the entrepreneur you’ve always dreamed of being. Maybe you’ll make connections that can help you further down the road. You may even learn something about yourself, if you’re paying attention, that is.

Opportunities stretch us, and grow us into the people we need to become. Don’t waste them.

Life rarely turns out the way we plan, but sometimes the plans are better than we could have ever imagined. But not unless we take the opportunities given us.

Have you ever passed up an opportunity and you wish you could have a “do over?”

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.