Owning Up, to Ownership

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My first memory of postage stamps was when I purchased them from the local pharmacy. I think their value was 18 cents then. The price had just increased, and my grandmother was nearly offended at the additional three cents. I have always been amazed at the United States Postal System. In 1981, you could put a few handwritten pages inside an envelope, address it, and have it hand-delivered anywhere in the country. Door to door, for a full 18 cents. Even today, with postage at more than half a dollar, the statement stands true: Door to door. Quite extraordinary, don't you think?


With that said, I despise checking the mail. For one reason and one reason alone, I am terrible at managing money, and the mail is proof. The only things I ever find in my mailbox are notices, statements, and remittance slips for things I cannot pay. They come in a variety of colors because colored paper is threatening. They come with statements, claims, and words like "past due," "final" and "attention" written on them in bold, because bold words are equally threatening. They burst out of the mailbox when I force myself to open it because there are so many crumpled envelopes from one week, or two weeks, or more weeks. The threats and warnings can barely be contained within the metal box to which only I hold the key.


I work. I earn. I spend. I have been a poor money manager for all my years. My grandmother used to say, "that money's burning a hole in your pocket." And it was. It does. But I cannot live this way any longer. I have children, and their future is tied up in pink and green and grey paper with big, bold words on them because I don't have the ability to think more than a day in advance. I didn't even start saving for retirement until I had worked for 20 years. I have been stuck in a never-ending cycle of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" (also something else my grandmother used to say). I know that some of you are quite shocked, but I honestly didn't know to choose any better. It's true. I did not think far enough ahead to worry about how anything was going to be funded. Not even when it came to owning a car or having children. I used to just quickly think "it'll work itself out." But I know better now. I do.


I am owning my irresponsibility. I am owning my selfishness. I am owning my ignorance. And I am making changes. My first step was to open all. of. the. mail. You would think I had cut down a tree, but no, it was just a month's worth of notices. I addressed the most prominent and worked backward. I addressed and dismissed my shame and owned my tardiness. I spoke to so many people and explained all of this to them. I made arrangements and asked to have reminders in the form of mail, email, and texts. I even asked for patience. I accepted the fees, the late fees, the reconnection fees, and even the "it's been turned over to collections", and the "sent to litigation." It was so hard. By the time I was done, I was in tears. My notepad littered with amounts, addition, subtraction, months, balances, due dates, question marks, and many sad faces.


How could I do this to myself? And to my kids?


The truth is, it doesn't matter how I got here. What matters most is that I am aware that the fault is mine, and the responsibility is mine. I have to forgive myself, create a plan, get on track, and stick with it. Of course, it's not going to be fail safe to begin because I'm learning, but it's a start. I've been investing in my retirement for many years at the maximum level. I have payment plans set with everything that was past due. I'm eliminating a few amenities until I am back on track. I'll be cooking from a limited menu and focusing on household favorites until we can loosen our belt a little because I know they will be eaten and enjoyed, with limited waste. I'm aiming for very few extraneous purchases until the holidays. And even then, I plan to cut back.


The best part of this process has been the love and understanding I have received from my kids. I sat them down and explained it all. I told them the mistakes I'd made and how it evolved into this predicament where I have to make some hard choices. We talked about the past, the present, and the future in relation to jobs, money, earning, bills, spending, and saving. Of course, they don't understand the nuances of finance, but they understood enough. We agreed to work as a team toward a constant goal of spending less money. We talked about long term goals like college, vacations, cars, and weddings. And the definition of "needs" versus "wants."


It's not going to be easy to change my spending habits or save money. Certainly not as easy as putting postage on a letter and having it travel across the country for a few cents. But it will show my children that sometimes grownups make mistakes -- that it's always good, to be honest, and take responsibility for your choices (or lack thereof). It will also prove that our needs are met, goals have to be set, plans have to be made, and money has to be saved. Some money has to be saved. I know better, and I can do better, and we will all reap the benefits. As long as someone checks the mail.

Tanisha Ware

See more of her blogs at BrownSugarBritches.com

Small Accomplishments

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This summer, I was able to take my kids on their first real vacation to Kansas City, MO. It was the first vacation I paid for with my own money as a single parent. It was just a simple three-day vacation over a weekend, but for my kids and I, it was a huge deal. I never thought it could happen, because I started out a part-time job that barely covered anything and I was sure I would never see vacation ever again. As silly as it sounds, it was a significant accomplishment for me.

For me, it was a moment. I felt all the time and effort I put into something to give to my kids worked out. I scraped and saved, and I sold a few extra paintings just so I could pull in the last bit of funds to cover gas and have plenty for meals and a few souvenirs. All my hard work in the months prior had paid off, and I had something to show for it.

It is these small victories that can be a ray of hope in the challenging life of raising kids alone. These small accomplishments truly feel larger than life when you start at the place where keeping the lights on is hard enough. When the time to sleep is a luxury, it becomes so discouraging to think you will ever get to the point of seeing progress or reward for all your hard work.

Six months after my separation, I was hitting my lowest point. My part-time job was not giving me enough hours for some weeks, and too many for others. I didn't have a car. My paychecks could barely cover the bills. I was so exhausted from work and trying to keep a stable life for my children. I felt hopeless.

In my early days of being a  single parent, I found comfort in Psalms. Several verses reminded me of God's compassion and grace toward those who are broken-hearted.

"The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace." Psalm 29:11

"The LORD is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

I think God holds a special place in His heart for single mothers -- these strong women who take their roles as mothers to a whole new level. God made us courageous, resourceful, and incredibly strong. He doesn't make life easy, that is for sure. But He certainly did not make it for us to give up. He created us to thrive, and to live to the fullest. Sometimes, it will take one small victory at a time. It can be the first day you wake up full of ambition, the first paycheck you earn yourself, or even the first time you actually get a full night's sleep in a long time. It can also be when your children come home from school with smiles on their faces, excited to tell you about their day or simply getting them to eat vegetables. It's these little victories that show we are warriors, builders, and dream makers. God gives us hope and walks beside us, building a brighter future.

Closer to a year after my separation, I got a new job. The pay was not much more, but it had regular hours, and I could get home in time to get my kids off the bus. I was also crazy enough and decided to go back to school to finish my degree. I am scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2021. I still live paycheck to paycheck, but after a lot of hard work and prayer, I do see the small accomplishments of rebuilding a life for myself and my children.

NaTacia Z.

See more blogs from her at her site https://blessedsinglemom.wordpress.com

Enjoy the Journey

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It’s August. The weather is hot. Kids are bored. And school supplies are filling the aisles! Our school district has started calling parents and sending emails with updates on transportation and schedule pick-up. The High School football schedule has been released.

Some families are ready for school to start. Other families wish there were a few more weeks left to prepare! For me, I’m ready for the start of a new school year. It’s just easier to keep my Munchkin and me on a schedule.

My son told me last year some of the things he deals with at school. It is definitely a different world out there. It’s funny how different things are. I went to the same high school. But my kids have seen more things then I did. For one, we didn’t have smartphones and social media.

However, we don’t have to walk in fear and worry about our children. Now is a great time to have some talks with these kiddos. I have boys, and I’ve found that some of our best conversations have happened in the car or when we were cooking dinner together.

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What was the worse thing that happened to you last year?

What helped you get through it?

What was the best thing that happened last year?

What are you looking forward to the most?

What things do we need to work on for this next year?

Now, don’t get concerned if you don’t get detailed information or if they look at you like you’ve lost your marbles! It may be a few days, but at some point, they’ll tell you things. Maybe not all of it. But, the fact that you care will help them through the hard times.

The other important thing is to start praying about the upcoming school year with your kids. Every night, pray over their school, pray for good friendships, and pray for them to know that God is always with them.

The last thing I would recommend is asking them what they want to accomplish this year. Maybe it’s something simple, like not falling asleep in class. Or maybe, they don’t want to cuss. Perhaps they want to meet a person who likes doing the same things they like to do. Whatever it is, put it down on paper and hang it somewhere, they can see it every day. Then remind them that nothing is too big for God and He loves us so much that He wants these good things for us.

Buying school supplies and new clothes is exciting, but when it comes to preparing for a new school year with your kids, remember that some of the most essential things are communicating with them, praying with them, and encouraging them to dream big!

Whether you’re sending your oldest to kindergarten or graduating your youngest from high school, remember to have a great year and to enjoy the journey!

Gwendolyn Irene