Owning Up, to Ownership

Owning Up, to Ownership.png

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

Hold on Mama

Peeling, yellow walls. One bunk bed. A bathroom shared with three other families. Pajamas for the kids and oversized clothes from the hospital for me. No money. No home. No hope. Just a big, empty void. 

Hold On Mama.png

That was how I started my journey into single motherhood. 

Let me tell ya, sister. I see you. I see the struggle to put food on the table sometimes.  I see the frustration as you have to miss event after event for your kids.  I feel the pain of another holiday with no one to make it special for you. I know there are tears when you have to tell them that there isn't time,  there isn't money,  the isn't... whatever they want. 

I feel your pain. I know it feels like the hard is never-ending. 

But hold on, Mama. You have what it takes, and you are exactly what those kids need.  They were born to you for a reason. You are the only Mama that can mold them into the humans they were meant to be.  You, your struggles,  your victories... you were meant for them. There is no mom that can do better for them than you can.  Because they are yours. Their hearts beat in your womb before they ever experienced this world.  And your heart beats with them as they go through this life.  They know that.  

And ya know what? They will love you no matter what. And your life is all they really need.  It is enough.  You are enough.  In fact,  you're more than enough.  You are good.  You are necessary.  You are beautiful.  And you get to change the world as you hold these small people into responsible adults.  

You may not be able to give them a trip to Disney right now, but you can watch a Disney movie and eat the food that they probably ate in the movie.  

You may not be able to take them on an extravagant camping adventure,  but you can make a blanket fort in your living room and dream up crazier adventures than real life could ever hold.  

Your kids don't need the money and things.  Your kids need YOU.  They need you present,  they need you while they need you happy.  

So Mama, don't feel bad when you can't give them things or when they have to sacrifice.  They are learning about life,  about reality... they are watching you.  

Be the best you.  For them.  Take care of yourself.  For them.  Love yourself.  For them.  

I know it can be hard for us to value ourselves sometimes.  But you absolutely must find your value.  For them.  And for you.  

You are worth it, Mama. You are so loved. 

Shannon Joy

https://roughhewndiamond.com

God Provides

IMG_0683.PNG

As a working single mom, the ends don't always meet. I have a full-time job, opened my own business as a virtual assistant, and volunteer with a local Christian single mom's group. If I were dependent upon my income from my full-time job, I'd never make it. I think most parents are aware that child support cannot be depended on or used as a catch-all, because there are times when it can be delayed, or discontinued-- without notice. As well, there are always unexpected situations that require money. They always require money. Thank the Lord, for His mercy and grace. Every month, my ends meet. Today, my cup overflows.

There is a Buddhist foundation that supplies a food pantry once a month. The announcement is made through our school district. I was intimidated at first, and felt a twinge of shame. I was convinced that others needed it more than me, but that's not the point is it? Every month they service approximately 700 households with a healthy bounty of groceries. There is always something unexpected, like dragon fruit. Or fennel bulbs. But there is also a staple of pantry items that includes: white rice, pinto beans, dry pasta, and sauce. The most impressive part to me is that they always give fresh fruit and vegetables.

The first time we attended was about nearly two years ago. We went through the registration process and were seated in a high school auditorium. I was a little confused. But then we were welcomed with a song of love that was also translated into sign language. We were then advised that we could proceed to receive our donations. As we wound through the snake-like line, we began to see the bounty from which we would receive. All of the volunteers wore vests, and the majority of those handing out food items were teens or tweens. They were kind and spoke to everyone. I left there that day feeling so loved. They really gave from their heart and shared without expecting anything in return. They were courteous and helped elders and women take items to their cars. They all bowed and smiled and said thank you repeatedly.

Yesterday, we received goods from a separate and equally generous foundation. I believe they were also Buddhist. Let me explain how unprepared I was for what I would receive. I've been to food donations before, and I've always taken my own box-bags. They’re reusable bags, that fold up for storage and have a very sturdy bottom. Previously, all of our goods fit within two of those boxes. Yesterday, I used three and still had to ask for another box. I was completely overwhelmed by what was given to me. It filled in every gap within my cabinets and refrigerator. When I left, I sobbed a little. It's just so amazing to be provided with $200+ dollars of food for my family.

Here is what we received yesterday: 12 fruity Cheerios and 8 rice Chex single serving boxes, 2kg of Masa, 6 organic Matcha Latte, 3 organic Roar electrolyte waters, 12 Kind bars, 2-10ct trail mix, 4 small bags Tostito rounds, 2 Kroger brand Wavy potato chips, 2 heads of romaine lettuce, 3 heads of iceberg lettuce, 2 large heads of cauliflower, 5 of the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen, no less than 18 gigantic apples, 2 fennel bulbs, approx 18 avocados, 24oz of pickles, 2 cans peeled tomatoes, 4-60 watt LED light bulbs, a 30-count jar of prenatal vitamins, a 5lb bag of frozen French fries, 3lb bag of white rice, 24 single serving whole grain frosted cereal, 8pk of Hansen’s sparkling lemon water, a dozen fresh roses. Oh, and two jars of "grains and fruit". It seems like an overnight oats type thing. That's nothin' to shake a stick at.

At times, the single mom job is one that pulls from us every emotion, feeling, and strength. We make 4,278 decisions every day. Most of those decisions have to be weighed against the greater good and the long term health and wealth of the family. Our decisions affect us, our children, and their futures. At times, the sheer number of questions, answers, and decisions leads us to a place of hands-in-the-air ready to give up. It's those days that we sob in the shower. Having to always make something from nothing is beyond nerve-racking. The decision to receive donations was hard, the first time. I have never thought it was hard since then. There's nothing shameful about needing food, and there's certainly nothing shameful about sharing and being generous. I am so grateful and we are beyond blessed.

Tanisha Ware

BrownSugarBritches.com