Friday, January 30, 2015

Housekeeping Fail

Back in June, in the days before the advent of this blog, I tackled a housekeeping project that haunted me for nearly two years: the paperwork. I am the family record keeper. Dave pays the bills, but I am the one who records receipts, balances accounts, does the taxes, and keeps up with the budget. Before I was pregnant with Marian, I had a filing system in place for all the paperwork that didn't work very well for me. I loved it; it seemed like the right way, but I had a cycle of boom and bust with maintenance which meant I might have months of paperwork stacked up waiting to be filed at any one moment. The problem with the old system was that it required too much detail and I didn't have the time to sort as finely as the system called. It was just easier to dump it in a pile.

I was probably already behind--who can remember--when I got pregnant with Marian and then all filing ceased. All everything ceased except surviving moment to moment. The pile grew. As my energy returned a bit, I had a large belly interfering with my ability to properly sort the piles on the floor so I didn't. The pile grew. I used empty diaper boxes to remove the stacks of paper off of my desk to pretend action had been taken. Marian was born. Who has time to deal with paperwork with a newborn? The pile grew. I used more boxes. I had to go back to work and all my spare moments were consumed with baby. The pile grew. Our schedule normalized, our sleeping developed a pattern, my energy increased and I had a big problem: this pile of paperwork was too much to deal with in any one sitting and impossible with children present. The pile grew as I contemplated a solution. Months passed. The pile grew and earned its own name: the Paperwork Pile of Doom.

(While searching FB looking for these pictures, I also ran across one of my comments that might be interesting since we've been discussing money lately. "Found Dave's very first paystub from a teaching job in 2000: $621.40 paid twice a month. Remembering why I went to grad school."  Yep, we lived on under $1300 a month at the beginning. And you wonder why teachers quit.)

Finally a solution presented itself. In June, my parents took the three oldest for a week of visiting at their house. I took several days off of work while most of the children were gone, and Dave and I had a multi-day extravaganza which was well documented on FB. It was glorious to have the space back. We didn't get completely finished because we still had multiple bags of paperwork to shred which didn't happen for at least six months, but we won't mention that part. All in all though, I was pleased with the results. After we finished I finally felt like I had a grip on the possibility of keeping the paperwork filed appropriately. I developed a new filing system that wasn't as elegant as the old one, but was a reasonable way to handle the monthly paperwork and keep the monthly receipts organized and ready to shred when necessary.

I rocked the new system for the first few months and felt competent and excited. I never wanted to face the Paperwork Pile of Doom ever again. The normal cycle of paperwork is that the papers stack on the desk until I have time to sit down and attend to record keeping. In my perfect world, I would input receipts and file paid bills as soon as possible, daily even, but that is not possible. What usually happens is that a couple of weeks pass and then I sit down and attend to the pile all at once. The filing part of this routine would take only a minute or two. Then something terrible happened.

In the fall, Marian started climbing and she loved climbing the computer desk. One day when climbing around, she grabbed and dumped about two weeks worth of unprocessed paperwork onto the floor and into a pile of the kids' assortment of paper goodies. Oh papers, papers everywhere. Important papers intermixed with children's drawings. Papers and trash and little bits of paper because children love to tear up paper into bits. Papers and crayons and coloring books and tear-outs all in a big heap. Paper.

I was crestfallen. This job of resorting the papers was more than I could bear. It would not have taken *that* long, probably an hour, but it just seemed so much more than the minute or two I was ever willing to spare handling paperwork. The paper sat mixed up in the floor for weeks. Rather than pick it up, I let it lie. If I wasn't going to pick it up, the rational response would have been to start fresh with the next month, keep the filing system going, and then get to the pile in the floor whenever I could. I didn't do that either. Instead I started piling paperwork on my desk, just like the old days.

So now I am back at the beginning. Right now I have about three months worth of paperwork piled on my desk and am just about at the point where I might, if I had not walked down this road before, grab a diaper box and toss it in there until I could get to it later. I resist. I am not too far gone. This job will require two or three hours of work without the children. Maybe I could get Grandma to take them for the afternoon sometime soon. 

I still think this new system will work, but I *have* to keep up with it and need to find a better response than denial when a wrench is thrown in the system. The silver lining is that I did keep the monthly receipt system going. The receipts haven't been shredded yet--we have a shredding problem, but they are organized and ready to go. I only need to tame the seeds of what could grow into another Paperwork Pile of Doom.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Work as the Highest Good

The outrage of the day has been the Attorney General confirmation hearings going on in the Senate right now. This exchange between Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions is getting a lot of play.  I am alarmed by what she says, but not for the reason you might think. Here is what she said again:
Senator, I believe the right and the obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here, and certainly, if someone is here—regardless of status—I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace.
The obligation to work is shared by everyone. Obligation. Does everyone have an obligation to have be in the workplace?

Since I am in the workplace, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about the purpose of work. I think all people have the obligation to provide for their family in the best way that they are able given their nature and inclinations. I believe that only in a subset of people does this obligation include having a job. More and more I realize, I might hold a minority opinion on this matter. Non-income producing work is almost totally dismissed and having employment is held as the highest good.

On the ole Catholic Working Mothers page, there has been some discussion about mothers discerning whether they should work full time now that all of their children are in school. Some think they should work to bring in more income, not because they have to and not because they want to, but because they feel obligated to be "productive." I am not a member of the "you go, girl" club so I actively discourage them. I do not think they should repress their natural inclination to be present for their children before and after school in order to be "productive" during school hours.

Why should the peace of their homes and the continuity of their schedules be disrupted in order to produce income? Obligation? No. I reject it. Why are the benefits of a homemaker dismissed? Because they do not come with a paystub? What a narrow definition of contribution and benefit we have. There is dignity in creating a warm and stable home, but we don't seem to see it.

So I am chilled by Lynch's words and the worldview they represent. The world where work is the highest good.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Career Choices

I talk about my job a fair bit while taking care to try to obscure exactly where it is I work. I don't need HR breathing down my neck. I know as you have read these angsty and annoyed posts, you must be wondering one thing: Why didn't I quit or retrain years ago? I am going to try to explain why.

As I have said in the past, I started my career with a certain salary expectation. I decided before we had children that it would be an acceptable trade-off for me to be the breadwinner if I could make enough money for us to live very comfortably. I never thought I would be making the mega-big bucks. I know myself; I am not that ambitious, but in my mind I envisioned that it wouldn't take too many years before I was making something in the 70s. This wasn't an unreasonable expectation. If you look up my old job title on, you find that in my city, someone with my experience has a projected salary of $71869-$77403. I can't find my new and improved promotion/demotion job title on That's encouraging. Here's a similar job that has a projected salary of $65541-$70595. Here's a link to my actual job title on I don't know if this average of $75069 is accurate or not considering there is no job description for me to compare. Needless to say I don't make anywhere near any of these numbers. I make over 10K less than the lowest number you see up there. So why am I still here?

When I began, my starting salary was the lowest number that I would accept, a little under 40K, but I was happy to have a job and a significant raise over Dave's teaching salary. He made about 30K after teaching school for seven years. Even though I was a little disappointed to start at the bottom of what I thought I could expect, but I didn't think it would take long for the numbers to start rising. It did.

I thought I would be eligible for promotion after I had worked for two years. I felt like I had mastered my given job duties and was ready for more responsibility, but I had also had a baby during that second year so I wasn't terribly surprised when there was no talk of a promotion at my yearly evaluation. I know that theoretically childbirth is not supposed to be a factor in a job evaluation, but I'm not stupid, I know it is. I also thought I was, perhaps, being impatient. The promotion schedule called for one every two to three years. Maybe two years plus a baby was too early to expect it.

The stock market crashed.

The next year rolled around and I was submitted for a promotion. We were told that promotions were tight that year and not everyone who was eligible was going to be approved. Each work group had a limit on how many promotions could be granted. There was someone else in my group who was also submitted in the same year who had more seniority. His promotion was approved; mine was not. I tried to take this in stride, but I was very disappointed. I wanted to be a team player and not cause problems. I knew the economy was in bad shape and I felt it was petulant of me to expect a large raise in the midst of such turmoil. If there wasn't enough money, there wasn't enough money. My turn would come.

Even though I had not been promoted, I began to accumulate more job duties and soon I was doing as much as would be required for the next job up the ladder. I was encouraged. I thought this increased responsibility would put me in a good position to not only get the promotion, but to be able to negotiate a higher salary when the time came.

The next year rolled around. It had previously been announced that the salaries for upper management positions would be frozen.  My immediate supervisor wanted to submit me for a promotion, but my promotion papers would have to be signed off by my supervisor's supervisor, whose salary had been frozen. She was extremely unhappy and refused to sign my paperwork. She announced, "If I am not getting a raise, nobody is." I was very upset. I was also very pregnant. I did not have the mental or physical energy to do what I should have done. This decision was made known to me in June 2010. Sam was born on July 1.

A lesson I have learned over the years is that one of the dangers of having a childbearing woman as the breadwinner is that it is hard to fight for position at work when all of your mental and physical reserves are consumed by pregnancy and then a newborn. I had enough energy to do my job. To do my job and also fight for my due was more than I could muster.

Our finances were extremely tight. Since raises are only doled out once a year, this lack of a promotion meant I would still be at the same income level until at least July 2011.  I never had the expectation that I would still be making in the low 40s five years after I started. When I returned from my maternity leave, there was a lot of talk afoot that the department was going to attempt to force out the supervisor who had been such a thorn. That they just would not fire her and decided to play mind games was a sure sign of the dysfunction in my department. I was assured that she was the real problem and that as soon as she was gone, things would be set right. In a spectacular show of naivete, I believed them. In retrospect, I should have started using my copious free time at work to train myself in other database suites and started looking for another job. Four years is more than enough time to figure out if an employer is going to treat you well.

In June 2011 the odious supervisor announced her resignation. I was informed of my promotion within the week. I was elated. Finally, finally events were in my favor. I thought they had kept their word and all would be set right.

At the end of June, I was informed what my new salary would be. They set it at the minimum. I had assumed the full duties of this job without the accompanying salary for two years and when they finally formalized the promotion, they set me at minimum. I was angry. Even though it was a ten thousand dollar raise, I was insulted. I went to my supervisor, explained my position, and requested that my salary be reevaluated. I wasn't asking for much, only that I be set a couple of thousand dollars higher than minimum. I wanted something to indicate that they understood that I had been previously shortchanged and they were going to try to make it right. A week or so later, my supervisor came back with the verdict: I was staying at the minimum. There wasn't enough money; it was policy; there's nothing she could do. Whatever. I tired of the routine of five years in one afternoon.

I knew then that this job would never amount to anything. We had a little breathing room in our budget now, but any ambition I had ever had for a career was dead. I had also come to the conclusion that the money wasn't worth the trade-off of being away from my children. That the money was not coming and I still had to be separated from my children was insult added to injury.

In retrospect, it was at this time too that I should have devoted time to making myself employable elsewhere. I did not. Instead I surfed the Internet and decided to emerge from lurkdom and met most of you. Well, I guess I should say I announced to you that I existed. It was then that I decided to engage consistently in the comboxes instead of reading, staying silent, and only leaving a comment every now and again. From the fall of 2011 until the present I considered myself a short timer. If there is one piece of advice from the loathsome "Lean In" that I should have followed, it is not to leave before you leave. I've been gone for years.

“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there's no room for the present at all.” -Brideshead Revisited

In that first year, I strongly believed that I would be home within the year. This was mostly self-delusion. There was nothing happening at home that would have rationally given me that idea. I was scared to attempt to change jobs. It isn't terribly difficult to find a job in my field that requires 80 hours a week. I was safe in the knowledge that no matter what was going on at work, I could walk away in the evenings and over the weekend. I was scared to find a job with more income. What if we became reliant on an even higher income? Would we get too comfortable? Would I have to work forever? If the income came where I was at, I would be happy, but I was afraid to seek it out. We were already going to likely take a pay cut; I didn't want to have so much income as to be unwilling to take the required pay cut.

In that second year, I was pregnant again. I had no reserve to even think about retraining or finding another job. There still was nothing happening at home that would indicate that I might be able to come home soon, but I still blindly clung to the hope that I would. I hoped that I would be home before the end of the pregnancy, before the end of maternity leave, by October. Each milestone passed and nothing changed. Again I was deluding myself. It was during this time when I was promoted/demoted. I received a small raise, maybe two thousand, and a title change in order for them to avoid paying me another ten thousand dollar raise that was due later in the year from market pay adjustments. This stunt only reinforced my cynical attitude towards work. I was done, done, done. And again I was very pregnant and lacked the energy to go fight for myself.

In that third year, last year, it really seemed like we were on the verge of a breakthrough. The whole year consisted of getting this close and having it fall through again and again and again. I didn't want to look for another job in order to quit it in a few weeks later. These interviews were real tangible events; I wasn't deluding myself, but still nothing happened.

And now in this fourth year of having checked out from ambition, we still seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough. With the real estate option, I am probably a few months from being able to quit. I think it is really real this time. I only have to be patient enough for the pipeline to be built.

I am by no means blameless for the situation I find myself in at work. I have known for years that my job is going nowhere, but I have never taken proactive steps to rectify the situation. I am not entirely sure I am *that* underpaid because I am severely underutilized. It seems silly to expect 75K for a half-time job. I have had the same job duties, month in and month out since 2009. I can do most of it at half attention and in my sleep. If I had known from the beginning it would take this long, I might have made different choices, but it is hard to see into the future. Even now it seems like a reasonable choice to wait it out, so I am biding my time. I don't know if this is the right decision or not. Get back to me in a year and I'll let you know.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Stick Update

I have been trying to write this post for the better part of two months. Since the last update on the sticks, the situation has evolved.

To refresh your memory, the jobs as we last left them were:
Lunch boxes put away
Shoes and socks where they belong
Room responsibility
Cat food/water or scoop cat box
Get ready for bed when told without nagging

I have finally (FINALLY!!) gotten Olivia's pictures printed so she can have an easy job list. She hasn't asked me what her jobs are or moaned that she doesn't know what to do once since the pictures were put on her door. The funny thing is that I don't really think she looks at them. Grace has taped something on top of one of the pages. Maybe she looks, but I am inclined to believe her pleading ignorance was a delay tactic.

So how are we doing?

As soon as I assigned the bathroom job, they promptly stopped using their bathroom. This is frustrating. Their not unreasonable thought is that if they don't mess it up, there is nothing to clean. This is true except Sam is the only one consistently using that bathroom now, so it is a mess still. Why must children drip soap all over the place when washing hands? Why must the soap be blue so that we have blue splotches all over the bathroom? That idea pretty much went up in flames. I think we will adjust the job to the more concrete 'hang up your towel and washcloth after bathing' rather than the abstract 'make sure the bathroom is clean.' Perhaps they will start using their bathroom again.

After two months of them keeping their room up, the crud in the corners and in the cracks got to be too much for me. One afternoon I decided to clean out the crevices, but I didn't give myself enough time to do it which turned out to be a disaster. I am astounded by how much stuff Olivia keeps tucked in her bed. I was about 75% done when I ran out of time and the room looked awful. I nearly despaired. It seemed like all our hard work had gone up in smoke. It took a couple of weeks to get it back in order, but we managed eventually. Since I am the one who made the mess or at least brought the mess to the forefront, I didn't penalize them for it, but their room still isn't back to the condition it was before I had to rock the boat.

I am struggling with how strict to be with the room. My inclination is to be a hard-butt about it. For the room to be put back perfectly everyday. My better judgement says this is unreasonable. So where do you draw the line? How do you explain that this particular piece of toy crap on the floor was acceptable yesterday, but that particular pile of toy crap is not? So I tend to let things slide. To err on the side of mercy. I don't feel like I can impose too harshly on their room when the whole rest of the house is a disaster area. It's too hypocritical. So I should probably accept that their room is going to require periodic clean-outs and I should schedule plenty of time to do it, but at least the floor is clear most of the time now.

Also look how many pencils I pulled out of their room. This would be 62 writing utensils and an assortment of sharpeners and erasers. The foot long ruler is for scale.


Another ongoing issue is the evening time crunch. I really don't like having to ride herd all evening to get the jobs done and having these jobs be the last major interaction we have for the night. There is also the problem of finding infractions after they are in bed because it is too disruptive to bedtime to stop and do a thorough inspection beforehand. We are trying two approaches to see if we can mitigate some of this. First, I identified two jobs for them to complete as soon as they get home from school: the cat job and the lunch boxes. These are tasks that, once they are completed, can't be undone later in the evening. I want them to have these done before I get home from work. It is going to take some reminding to get into this rhythm and I might have to send a reminder via chat to Dave for him to remind them. I think we are trying to cram too much stuff into the period right before bed. Moving a little bit to the afternoon should ease things.

The other thing we are going to try is to set the kitchen timer after dinner for 30 minutes for them to complete their remaining jobs.We are usually finished eating and up from the table by around 7pm. If we set the timer then, they should be done by 730 which will give us the better part of an hour to wind down. We had previously attempted to require that their jobs were done by 830 which theoretically is bedtime. This did not go well because they would procrastinate to the last possible minute and then run around like mad chickens and inevitably either a) get angry when we told them time was up or b) freak out on their own when the clock struck 831 even if we hadn't called time yet. We hope by compressing the time in which they have to work, they will be more efficient instead of dragging out the agony, I can do inspections and pull sticks if necessary and then we CAN MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES! We will have time to do other activities besides chores every single night.

Sam is still lobbying for his own sticks and jobs. I have taken to calling his normal nighttime routine his job, but I am not interested in formalizing anything with him right now. He sometimes will jump in and do a job for one of his sisters so it seems like we should do something for him. Maybe a sticker chart. I think he wants sticks more than anything. For now, it seems like too much (for me) to add him into the mix.

Grace has asked for a raise. She thinks they should get a nickel a job each day which would equal 35 cents a day and $10.50 a month if they did everything every day. She also wants everyone to know she did that math in her head. I think that is veering too far into chore chart territory. I told her she hasn't been required to do more so we weren't going to pay more. She also thinks we should move into an earning stick mode instead of losing stick mode. I explained to her why I thought losing the sticks is better: she gets more money that way and isn't penalized for my laziness. But both of these suggestions indicate that the system is not working as well for Grace. I can see the problem. Grace does her work, mostly on her own, with only a small amount of moaning and whining. I am still having to pull Olivia along. The difference is in their ages, but I can see where Grace feels like it isn't exactly improving for her.

I am also having a moral dilemma about their cash payments: they don't really care. Now that's not really true. They love their sticks. They love keeping up with how many they have lost and what that means for the cash at the end of the month. They love getting paid. The disconnect is that once they have their money in hand, they promptly drop it anywhere and everywhere and don't keep up with it at all. I have a pile of cash sitting on the computer desk that belongs to them, but they haven't missed it. I guess the real problem is they still have no concept of money. I am sorely tempted to reuse the money I already paid out to them, but that would be wrong. Right?     

The reason it has taken me so long to write this update is that after the room fell apart, Christmas came and then we were out of town and then we were all sick. There were several weeks in there where almost nothing was getting done, but I wasn't doing any inspections either. They kept their sticks because I wasn't enforcing the work. After the falling apart, we are slowly trying to ease back into the routine. The newness has worn away so we now have to buckle down to the hard work of creating habits while not being excited anymore. For January and probably February too, I don't anticipate the jobs changing.

Stay tuned and see what happens next...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

GFLN Week 17 Jan 11th-17th

Linking with Melanie again.

I'm still struggling to get back in the groove here. Honestly chatting with the children has not been happening a whole lot lately. With all the schedule upheaval at my house, anything beyond the necessities tends to get pushed aside and, when we do have interesting exchanges, I forget to type them up. Hopefully soon, I'll have more of substance. In the meantime, something did happen last week which always fills me with angst. Report cards were issued.

Both girls did extremely well. This is great and problematic at the same time. All of Grace's grades were 95% and northward. They don't give grades proper in first grade, so as best as I can understand the convoluted rating system, Olivia had equivalent scores. The girls, Grace especially, are very conscientious about their work, but honestly we don't work very hard or very much with them on their schoolwork. They achieve these grades mostly on their own. I know that home environment contributes to success in school so I am not discounting our input into the equation. I am only noting that when it comes to the actual work itself, we do not have much to do with it.

This situation can only mean one thing: school is too easy. They aren't being challenged at all.

I am not one who thinks school needs to be at the most challenging level all the time. I think children need room to be children: to play and observe and not constantly driven to achieve. But what about the opposite? When school is never challenging? I don't think this is healthy either.

It may look fine now, but habits and expectations are being laid down. The expectation of easy learning is the one I worry about the most. How long do we have to wait before we hit the challenge and what will their reactions be? If the first challenge comes years and years into schooling, the reaction is often not good. An intellectual laziness many times takes hold. The expectation is that learning should always be easy and when it is not, there can be denial and refusal to work through the problem.

The other major concern is boredom. For now at their age, the girls are relatively content going to school and getting along, but at some point they will not like having to constantly wait for everyone else to catch up. Preteens are not universally known for their selflessness and Grace is fast approaching that age. Boredom in school is met with resentment: at school, at the busywork, at the teachers, at the parents. There is a restlessness that comes when nothing is ever challenging. Restlessness that can lead to acting out and arrogantly ignoring the learning you need to do on the presumption you already know it.

While I am proud of their work and achievements, they also fill me with dread because I know what is likely coming. I wish I had more control over their schooling, but for now, I don't. So I watch and wait and hope.


One funny (stupid) thing on Olivia's report card is the score she received in this content area:
Presents knowledge and ideas in detail verbally, written, and with visuals.
The teacher circled the word verbal to give her a separate grade. For written and visual details, Olivia got the highest grade she can get, 4, but for verbal detail, she received a three. Now I promise that Olivia can give just as good detail verbally as she can writing and visually, but she is an introvert. She is never going to talk the ear off an authority figure. She is not going to do it. So essentially Olivia was docked for being an introvert. Poor O. I am sure from the teacher's perspective she gave the appropriate grade because I am sure that Olivia did not meet the standard for a four. Not because she can't, but because she won't.


The one interesting conversation I remember from the week was about van Gogh. Grace was studying him in art class and we had a lively conversation about the ear chopping incident and whether or not the poster I own is of "The Starry Night" or "Starry Night Over The Rhone." For the record, it is "Starry Night Over The Rhone" but Grace disagrees.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Patron Saints

For several years I watched the Catholic blogosphere choose their annual patron saint with the assistance of Jen Fulwiler's Saint Name Generator.  (Am I misremembering or couldn't you used to get a Patron Saint badge to stick on your blog?) Anyway, I had seen for years people picking their patron saints and was fascinated by how many times the patron fit the situation. Even though I looked forward to seeing what others would draw, I never used the generator myself until last year. Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to try it.

Now I will not pretend I am holy and pious. The truth is that I was looking for confirmation that my prayers were going to be answered. It wasn't my finest hour. I go through the established procedure and my patron saint for 2014 was Margaret of Hungary. I had never heard of her. I read through her bio and I was sorely distressed. I wanted no part of having a saint known for severe penance following me around all year. I wanted a sign, but not this one! You can see my meltdown in progress in the comments on one of Melanie's posts.

I read a little bit about St. Margaret. I can't say I delved very deeply into it, but it did keep the notion of penance at the forefront of my mind. I added her, when I remembered, to my own personal litany: Mary, Undoer of Knots, St Joseph, St. Margaret. As it turned out, 2014 was not the year. In some ways it was a very hard year, always on the verge of a breakthrough--the high and then the crash over and over again. In other ways, it was a healing year, to know we were doing our best and that there must be a reason for the wait. Whenever I would get discouraged, the concept of penance was never far away. Even if I wasn't happy about the situation, it wasn't completely meaningless either.

Now we have come around to a new year again. I decided to give the Saint Generator another go. This year I am definitely in a better frame of mind, but I confess I still kinda want the big sign though I'm not depending on it. I go through the procedure again and pull Margaret Mary Alacoque. Again I have never heard of her, but my immediate thought is that Margarets must have a thing for me. I feel badly because I don't love the name.

I click through to her bio and the first thing on which my eyes rest is that she is the patron against the death of parents. Death Of Parents?!? Oh wonderful. Immediately the recurring specter that haunts me springs to mind. I fear that one day I will finally be able to put in my notice and then will be killed in a horrible accident while commuting those last few days because the fates demand it. I am not superstitious about it and don't actually believe it, but it does represent the note of despair I carry with me.

After I push those thoughts away, I look more closely to see what else there is to see and find she is the originator of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. That's interesting.

My own favorite devotion is Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy is what pulled me back into the church. In those days while I wandered, for inexplicable reasons I would turn the TV onto EWTN--which I had never heard of before I was married and found by accident channel-surfing one day--and listen to them sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3pm. It was so beautiful to me and I would find myself singing along, alone in my apartment. Of course I mangled the words. Then I had to research the words so it wouldn't be so embarrassing to mangle the words. I learned the words and sang along for months and months, but slowly they did their work and the rest, as they say, is history. Mercy is what I needed more than anything else.

My favorite image of Divine Mercy is not the insipid painting you normally see, but the image in an iconized form:

If you look closely you will see that the Sacred Heart is included in the icon. Isn't that something?

So I am taking this as a sign that I should learn more about the Sacred Heart devotion and hoping I can ignore the bits about dying parents and polio for the entire year.

I Remember When I Used To Remember

On Thursday night I went to a church thing and brought the Girl Scout cookie order form to hawk some cookies. A few people ordered some boxes. One person gave me cash and another wrote me a check. I put all the materials back into the file folder I brought them in and drove home.
As I drive home, I glance into the folder and don't see the money. I think that is odd, but it is dark and I figure I would find it when I get home. I get home and take a good look through the file folder. The money is not there at all. I am less than pleased and say unpleasant things.
I wonder what I should do. We are definitely going to have to eat the cash, but if I call the woman who wrote the check, will she still want the cookies or will she just cancel the check? I am not looking forward to admitting that I lost her check within minutes of her writing it. I decide to call the church office on Friday and see if it is laying around. The office hours at church are 10-2.
When I get to work in the morning, I want to make the call immediately but have to wait. I hope to call as soon as possible so perhaps she can look in the parking lot before too many people drive through, although I expect that if it was in the parking lot, it has probably been picked up or blown away. I promptly forget. It doesn't spring to mind again until 220. I call, desperate that someone might pick up. Nobody does.
In desperation I tell my sister about my conundrum and ask if she will go to the church and look around the parking lot. She said she will after the baby's nap. I feel bad that I have sent her on such a hopeless errand with children in tow, but I won't be in the area again until after dark which would be a really hopeless errand. I decide to put it out of my mind since I have done what I can do. If it is still in the church building, it would still be there on Sunday. Now I have to wait for the chips to fall where they may.
On Saturday I spend a lovely afternoon out. I took Dave's smartphone since it had the better camera on it. I get home in the evening and see my cell phone sitting on the table. Dave had gotten it out to send a text. I pick the phone up to return it to my little holding case which is in my dresser. I open the drawer, pick up the case, and open it to put the phone back into it, and there in the case is the cash and the check.
I completely forgot where I put the money for safekeeping within ten minutes of doing it and still have no direct recollection, but I must have done it because there it was. All is well again. I used to have a short term memory.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Community

This post is inspired by Melanie's lament at lacking a common culture at the parish level, but it is not really about living liturgically in community. This is about the basic expectations of community.

When I was pregnant with Grace, we didn't go to church. Dave was the assistant band director at a high school and we both spent a lot of time at the band room with both students and parents. I expected that as the wife of one of the band directors and being relatively young, my pregnancy would be met with excitement and the mostly older parents would watch out for us. I was completely mistaken. I expected the band boosters might throw us a baby shower. They did not. I expected some of the parents might bring us a meal. They did not. Grace was born right at the beginning of marching season which basically meant Dave was working 12 hour days, six days a week for the first two months of her life. I was left alone with a newborn without a clue as to what to expect or what I was doing, totally sleep deprived, and I was devastated. I thought I was a valued member of a community and found out the hard way at the most vulnerable time in my life that I was not. The only acknowledgement from anyone in the band program was an extremely generous gift from a *former* band parent of some infant portrait sessions. I was so grateful for them, but I did not receive this gift until Grace was over six weeks old so I spent the hardest weeks of my life feeling like I had been utterly forgotten instead of mostly forgotten.

When I was pregnant with Olivia, we still didn't go to church. I had only been been working at my job for around a year when I delivered her. We had only lived in our house for a handful of months. We had met the neighbors, both of whom were pregnant. We were all in this boat together and yet separate. We didn't really know each other yet. At work, they threw me a baby shower after I had inexplicably lost all my newborn clothes in the move, later found under Christmas ornaments. This party still stands as the only baby shower I have ever had that I didn't give to myself. After Olivia was born, I didn't expect anyone to bring us meals and they didn't except my parents for the first couple of days. After having my expectations so completely crushed the first time around, I had none the second time. The baby shower at work was so appreciated, moreso because I never expected it. The newborn period was much easier this time around since Dave was home and it didn't all fall to me.

When I was pregnant with Sam, we were regular church-goers. I had joined the ladies group at church which mostly consisted of empty-nesters and retirees, but that was what was available in my schedule. We had made friends with a family from church who had five kids. FIVE KIDS?! The very notion of it impressed me and blew my mind. We knew all of our neighbors. Our kids played together. The people at work bought me lunch one day in honor of the new baby. After he was born, it was wonderful. Our neighbors brought us meals. People from church brought us meals. The ladies group sent a gift card to help buy necessities. I truly felt loved, included, and cared for. At long last I had found a community. Part of what made it so wonderful was that it was completely unexpected. My expectations had been set by previous experience which had taught me not to expect much.

When I was pregnant with Marian, our situation had not changed much from when Sam was born. Our friends with five kids had sadly moved home to New Orleans, but we were still at the same church, we had the same neighbors, I was at the same job and a member of the same ladies group. At work the pregnancy was met with thinly veiled hostility, but I didn't care and wasn't surprised when the entire pregnancy passed without anyone at work doing anything special to acknowledge it. When Marian was born, once again nobody brought any meals. We received no food from the neighbors or anyone at church. Having babies was pretty old hat by now so we didn't need the help, but it was so odd that no one offered it.

At church the week before she was born, the communications person with the ladies group sent out an email saying that she was going out of town for a month, but that I was due at any moment and she encouraged the women to bring us food. Nobody did. The only response to the email was a phone call two days before birth from the oldest member of the group--she is well into her 80s--apologizing that she would not be able to bring us anything since she was also leaving town. Several months later she made up for her inability to help us at the birth by buying us a huge box of diapers. I don't really understand why nobody else responded. I wasn't mad about it because a) we truly didn't need the help and b) my expectation level had been utterly obliterated by my experiences after Grace. But it was so, so odd. Why would a group of women think a postpartum mother didn't need a meal or two. It kind of hurt my feelings, but I wasn't angry for myself. Really. Mostly I was confused and a little outraged about what they didn't know. It is true that I didn't need the help, but they didn't know that. What if I did? Why did no one except an 80-something year old woman feel any responsibility towards me? I might have been desperate for a meal and some help for all they knew, but they all carried on with their lives as if nothing happened. It is hard to talk about this without sounding like I am whining about being overlooked. I'm not. I'll whine about the band parents not the ladies group. My concern mostly revolves around the fact that that kind of thing doesn't happen in a real community, but, apparently, the women at church are just as myopic as the band parents were years ago. I didn't expect that.

So what does this have to do with parish life? I don't really know except to say that our culture fails at community in so many different places--at work, in the neighborhood, in small clubby groups--that it isn't really surprising that parish life fails in the same way. Except sometimes the stars align and it all comes together and you feel like you belong.

Cognitive Dissonance and Welfare

I have realized that I hold two views on welfare that might be incompatible. Being that I earn less than the magic 75K, I'll tell you that my income is very slightly north of the US household median income. I know the median includes scores of single mothers so I do wonder what the median is for married couples with a single income and for dual income married couples and for single people.  I'd love to see it all separated out, but as it is, that's where I stack up with the country as a whole.

Baffling to me is that at this income level, which is tight but comfortable--I don't worry about eating or paying the utilities, but do wonder how to save for a car--our children qualify for reduced lunch at school and we get a fat tax refund every year for taxes we did not pay. That's a nice, dignified way of saying we get a welfare payment from the government. The Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit are refundable meaning even when you owe nothing in taxes, you can still get a tax refund also known as welfare. It has been an odd (to me) feature of my paycheck all these years that the line for federal tax withholding always says $0. I understand the purpose of these refundable credits is to reimburse low income people for their FICA taxes. The refund we get is well over and beyond anything I pay in FICA so it truly is out and out welfare. The reason our particular check is so high is because we have an above-average number of children and our income hits what my father-in-law once called, "the sweet spot in the tax code." What I don't understand is how someone with an income north of median could be considered 'low income.'

I don't really like this state of affairs. It seems absurd that we can make as much money as we do and quality for welfare, but more absurd is that I accept it. It is a humbling blow to my pride to acknowledge that accepting the money is the better choice for our family. While it is true that all of our immediate needs are covered, it is difficult to save over and above for long term needs. We manage to save for Christmas and save to keep our cars in good working order and put token amounts of money into the children's savings accounts, but we struggle to save more. The fat refund check is what pays for replacing large broken appliances like the washing machine or the annual life insurance bill or the patio door that rotted out and needed replaced. If we didn't have that money set aside, we would have to find a way to further tighten our budget which would probably mean forfeiting petty luxuries. My desire for broadband internet is stronger than my disgust at the fact that welfare is available for solidly middle class families. I don't think this money should be available to us, but we accept it anyway because I am a hypocrite.

For the past two years, Dave has been an affiliate blogger with Troy-Bilt. With this association has come a little bit of income. More like a gratuity. He is not here right now for me ask if he cares if I disclose the amount so I won't be specific, but I will say it was less than 5K. There was a list of tasks, assignments, and expectations that came with the money which took a fair amount of time and effort. This relationship was only slated to last two years and is over now. Last year, as I was doing our taxes, I realized that this little bit of additional income had an almost dollar for dollar reduction of our tax refund/welfare check. When I saw the reduced amount, my first response was that he could have just not bothered which would have given him more time for homestuffs and we would have ended up with the same amount of money anyway. My second response was horror at my first response.

I strongly believe the welfare system should be set up in a way that encourages work, achievement, and the betterment of the individual. If the benefits are reduced in such a way where a person can choose to work or not work and still end up with the same amount of money, the benefit reductions need restructured. You should be better off when you earn income regardless of how much welfare you get. I've not put a whole of thought into how you might set it up, but that is my overriding principle. Earning income should be worth more than not earning income. If the welfare benefit only reduced at half the rate of the additional income, i.e earn two dollars and only lose one welfare dollar, you would see a benefit to working without having the rug pulled out from under you. It would also discourage "Now why, exactly, am I busting my rear for no reason?"

Here is where my point of contention comes into play. Can you gradualize benefit reductions and not give support to people who have solidly entered the middle class? I am in favor of both those things: gradual benefit reduction and not giving money to people who don't absolutely need it. I am not sure you can do both. If you are going to gently wean people from support that means you are probably going to have to offer some measure of support even after they are technically self-sustaining. In plainer terms, middle class households are going to get welfare for the societal gain of making work more attractive to those further down the ladder.

Now I still think we get to much money given our income and I am still chagrined that we take the money anyway and I still think the whole welfare/tax system needs restructured. But maybe I am less outraged by the prospect of basically self-supporting people still getting a little handout.

Tell me where I am going wrong.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Random Observations

The problem with egalitarian marriages is that every unpleasant task you have to do comes with the slight undercurrent of resentment that your spouse left you with the dirty work.

In fairly traditional marriage where roles are relatively defined, there are pleasant and unpleasant tasks that come with your role, but it is just part of the job. If your spouse steps in to help you with some unpleasantness or something you just can't do right now, the action is met with gratitude that your spouse is lifting your load.

When every task, pleasant or unpleasant, is open for a negotiating free-for-all, every task you do is because your spouse did not do it. This means when you do something unpleasant, it is directly because your spouse did not do the unpleasant thing which can feel irksome. When your spouse does do the unpleasant thing, the response is not necessarily gratitude because it was part of the expected job anyway. Everything is your spouse's job so nothing your spouse does seems above and beyond. Everything is also your job so there is nothing you can let go. The temptation for score keeping must be higher when everything is always up for grabs.

Nota bene: This observation was not generated from any particular real life event.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

GFLN Week ?? Jan 4th-10th

*Forgot to link back here*

Trying to get back in the groove here. What week is this again? We have been extremely busy these last few months so we haven't had much interesting conversation involving the children asking questions or the like. Or the little we had, I hadn't the energy to write it up. So I begin again. Tentatively.


Sick. We have been sick and sick and sick some more.


It was the girls' last day of Christmas break. I asked Olivia if she was ready to go back to school. She said yes and no. I asked her what she was most looking forward to at school and she said lunch. I asked why she was looking forward to lunch and she said because the day was almost done at lunchtime. Something tells me Olivia is not looking forward to being back at school, but she doesn't hate it either. She is an introvert and I think all the ruckus of school unnerves her.

At supper we talked about Brioche. What is it and what makes it that way? Brioche is bread that has butter kneaded into it after a first rise. I had just learned this little bit of information from GeekLady and then by happy coincidence we had brioche rolls for hamburger buns at supper. So we talked bread and King Cake and made plans to try to have one soon.


Olivia explained the difference between an ostrich and an emu to us. Ostriches are larger, weigh more, and run faster. This was the only thing I could pry out of either girl about school today. We spent most of dinner discussing the word 'quorum' and how you can't change the definition of the word just because. After listening to me rant on it awhile, Grace finally says, "I don't really know what quorum means because I have never heard the word before today, but I believe what you say is right, Mommy, because I trust your judgement." Think I should have a T-shirt made?


Grace came home with a packet of papers from December that needed reviewed and signed. I flipped through them and found a report she wrote on which of the 13 original colonies she would like to live. She choose Maryland because she is Catholic.  Interesting because she never mentioned they were talking about religious freedom in class at the time she wrote it.

I thought the bit about New York was funny.


The girls were off from school due to the bitter cold weather--it was 3F--because of concerns about the buses not running. Dave already had a busy day planned for himself so they all were brought to Grandma's for the day. They lobbied Grandma to make King Cake. She declined citing no receipe, but they did make a layer cake from scratch with chocolate icing. Grandma is pretty invested in teaching the girls how to cook. I suspect it is born of her truly enjoying cooking and wanting to share her skills and also ensuring that they not turn out like their mother. Grandma cut out a portion for her to enjoy and then sent the rest home for us.

At supper we decided to find out the history of King Cake so Dave read to us about it while the children sat entranced. No, actually they didn't pay much attention after hearing it mostly came from France, but I was interested.

I also had a random thought while looking at one of Olivia's papers. She had a piece of notebook paper where she had written a list of a few words and her teacher noted that she needed more words listed. She was supposed to list ten r-controlled words, that is words whose vowels are controlled by r like horse or car. My thought was 'What purpose does this serve?' Why do young children need to spend time learning about r-controlled words? I mean not that they don't need to know about the words or even how to spell them, but why to they need to know they are r-controlled. And I started thinking about a lot of the early elementary work. They spend a lot of time learning about all the different categories of words, word families, blend families, and I wonder if this emphasis on categorizing has any value at all. Not that they shouldn't be exposed to the words, but do they really need the gritty details. I don't really think so. I've decided this is make-work for six year olds to justify their time in school. What do yall think?


I don't remember much from Friday, but I did sit with Sam and read to him out of Winnie-the-Pooh which was delightful.


Grace wanted me to make French toast with her for breakfast, but the prospect of managing that task in the 4'' x 8'' space available countertop was too much for me to bear so I declined. Dave and Grace and Olivia all made French toast for us which seems pretty educational to me. We spent the rest of the day shopping for eyeglasses for two girls.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mystery Solved

You can sometimes spend years wondering about something and then, out of the blue, find out the rest of the story.

This week a coworker and I were discussing the general atmosphere of working where we do. It's not the healthiest work environment there is. We were discussing how your advancement or lack thereof depended on the label that got attached to you. If you have a reputation for asking questions, life does not get easier. If you have a reputation for knowing an important person, life does get easier. Gladhanding works better than working. There is a strong atmosphere of cronyism here.

Since we were already being a bit forthcoming with our work troubles, I decided to volunteer what I thought my label at work is. I said, "My label is 'the pregnant lady.'" He looked confused for a moment and then the light of recognition came across his face. "You're right," he said. "You're right! And that's bad around here." We then had a little bit of talk about how wonderful these people are in affirming your choices in life as long as you make the choice they want you to make.

And then he said, "Do you remember A_ who worked for D_?" The name did not ring a bell. He then told me the story of a young woman who had a baby and came back to work and then decided very quickly that she could not bear to be separated from her baby and quit work. The point of his bringing her up was that when she returned to work, the people around her were very invested in which daycare she should choose (had chosen) and when she started expressing misgivings about the arrangement, there was a lot of rah-rah talk about the greatness of having a career, how wonderful the daycare was, how it would get easier over time, and she needed to stick it out. They thought her desire to be with her baby was ludicrous. He said that when she quit, they were furious, especially since they had gone through all the trouble of setting up a lactation room for her.

The lactation room! I mentioned the situation of the lactation room in this post about my nursing/pregnancy streak.

I had pumped for years making do with whatever arrangement that could be found and all of a sudden this other employee had the red carpet rolled out for her return from maternity leave. I was miffed. So this coworker knew about the creation of the lactation room from about four years ago and I sprang at the opportunity to find out more. And now the rest of the story:

It turns out that before she had her baby, she was shown my humble little bathroom. She told them the bathroom wasn't good enough and that they legally could not force her to use it. I knew that technically my bathroom did not meet legal requirements, but it wasn't in active use and I was just happy to have a place, any place, to go and a key to boot. Getting the key was victory enough. I didn't want to press my luck on the rest of it.

But she had an ace in the hole that I did not have. Her husband is a lawyer who knew someone important higher up the chain. Apparently after she had her baby and was on leave, her husband talked to someone who talked to someone who declared that a lactation room must be created. And that's when they made the mad dash to officially turn the sad, neglected bathroom into an official lactation room before she returned from leave. Her husband knew someone who could rattle some cages.

When I was consulted about what such a room required, I was insulted with their obvious concern in getting the room remodeled before this woman returned from leave when I was already using the room every single day. There was zero concern for me, only that this other person had an acceptable place. I have always felt conflicted about that room. I was grateful to have it. To have a clean table on which to put the pump. To have a place to sit down and a lamp to use so I did not have to pump under the harsh glare of florescents anymore.  But the nicer condition also represented my status in the department. Those happy arrangements were not really meant for me. I was not their object. I only had use of them.

I always wondered why this particular person was considered such a valuable employee that they turned a room upside down for her. Especially since we were in the same chain of command and had the same boss-boss. (You know, the boss's boss.) Especially since she was so quick to leave again which made me think she wasn't a high-charging career type. Not that I knew her; that was only a supposition. But why, when I had shown loyalty and perseverance in the job, why was I such an afterthought? And now I know. Her husband knew somebody and that, around here, makes all the difference.

Blogging Problems

I have noticed an ebb and flow in the blogging. Sometimes I have said all I have to say and then wonder if I will ever have anything to say again. And then other times it seems I have so much to say that I don't think I will ever finish. Now is one of those times. I have six posts in draft mode so stand by for the onslaught. Assuming, of course, I get them all done.

Do others have this problem of nothing and then seventeen things at once?

Update 2:21pm
      I have published one of the posts and now have seven in draft. This is going in the wrong direction. :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I have never considered myself someone who makes New Year's Resolutions. I don't have anything against them necessarily but they aren't my bag. I am still not sure I am a New Year's Resolution kind of person, but Bearing's post about them has gotten me thinking.

Last year at the beginning of January, I began an exercise in getting to work early. I kept track of my time and made a real improvement in my quality of life. And I more or less have kept most the gains from the hard work although the work really never ends. I am waiting for that moment when getting up in the morning is easy, but I am pretty sure it is never going to come.

Even though I started this project last January, I did not think of it as a New Year's Resolution. It was more an accident of timing. My commute schedule had been out of control the previous fall. I was spending three hours in the car a day as I hit the worst of the traffic coming and going. I was six months postpartum so the newborn craziness had died down and my sleep was improving. I had just had some time off of work for Christmas and it was a good time to make a fresh start. It was definitely a resolution of some sort and it was the new year so I guess the label fits. Maybe I am someone who makes New Year's Resolutions.

In Bearing's post she offers a reflection on the results of her resolutions from 2014 and makes this summation:
I lowered my standards -- and life is better for everyone.
Maybe you should resolve, in 2015, to lower your standards too!
In response I left this comment:
I'm not sure my standards could get any lower. Maybe my resolution should be "Accept the chaos" but I also don't really want to accept the chaos either. Perhaps the resolution should be to accept that I need to accept the chaos. Is that meta enough?
Anyway, my real resolution should be to be more intentional with the time I use for household tasks. It is easy for me to get overwhelmed with what I need to do and spend a lot of time spinning my wheels avoiding it. I could accomplish more if I just did it instead of thinking about how much there is to do and then escaping online. It's the old 'how do I find the least amount of downtime necessary?' problem. I need downtime, but probably not as much as I take. If I designate an hour or two for a certain task, I need to work diligently at that task instead of spending as much time avoiding as I do working. I'm never going to get the whole to-do list done, but I could get more done.
I mulled on this topic about time management and housekeeping for awhile longer because it is forever the thorn in my side. Then I read what Jamie had to say about trying to refrain from fixing all the things at once. The line the really resonated with me was:
I spent the next several weeks observing the outsize impact of these things on my mood: dealing with small annoyances has a big effect. ... (W)e're actually better at dealing with big irritants than small ones, because big irritants trigger coping mechanisms. 
Oh yes! I recognize that problem. And it reminded of the frustration I voiced about trying to get ready for Christmas but having work weeks evaporate without accomplishing much. I said then that "week after week, I make big--or actually quite small--plans about certain tasks I want to accomplish during the week and night after night, I find myself zoned out unable to overcome the inertia in order to act."

A thought occurred to me. What if even in my weekly plans I am still overthinking what needs to be done? A whole week is a long time. What if I tried to accomplish one tiny task each evening?  If I could do a single, very small, unobtrusive task each night after work, I might have enough momentum to overcome my general inertia.

I have decided to do another experiment. My goal is to complete one negligible task each evening after work. Nothing that would take more than five, maybe ten minutes. Just something that needs done which eats at my mind.

On Monday I taped up the boxes that had Amazon returns.
On Tuesday I (finally) taped Olivia's job pictures to some card stock to hang in her room.
On Wednesday I filled out a contact reimbursement form.
Tonight I intend to decide which brown shoes I am going to buy. (Okay this might take more than ten minutes.)

I am not under the delusion that taking these small steps will eliminate the housekeeping problem because a house needs more attention than one five minute task a night can give, but it might fuel a feeling of accomplishment rather than overwhelmed hopelessness. When I can do one thing, I am absolved from feeling like I do nothing. I can excuse myself from thinking about everything that needs done because I cannot realistically do more than this one small thing in the evening. One and done and my mind is at ease. A very small New Year's Resolution: I am lowering my standards some more.

We will see if it helps.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Litany

About a month ago, Grace announced that she wanted to add a litany of saints at the end of bedtime prayers. Well she didn't really say that. She said she wanted to say "St. So-and-So, pray for us." I told her that was called a litany. The children loved the idea and jumped on it. In the past I have had the passing thought of adding a litany to our prayers but had never acted on it.

The first few nights were very fly by the seat of the pants. We had to figure out who to include. It was around St. Nicholas Day so he was a natural. Also Mary, Mother of God, and St. Joseph. Olivia has a St. Rose holy card so she wanted to add her. Grace wanted St. Lucy for the cat. Then they figured out that Marian and Olivia's middle names were covered so that meant everyone's middle name needed added. So at this point we had:

Mary, Mother of God
St. Joseph
St. Nicholas
St. Rose
St. Elizabeth
St. David
St. Lucy

Then Grace wanted to add St. Gabriel. She has always loved St. Gabriel. Loves the Angelus. Really loves the collect for the last Sunday of Advent and has been able to recite it for years. She is not impressed by that. "Of course, everyone knows that prayer." Sure, Grace, if you say so.

But I kept forgetting to add him which means they had an opportunity to jump in. I would begin and then random children would interrupt with whomever they wanted next. The chaos irked me a bit. SSSSHHHH!!!!! I say this part and you say that part! OKAY?!

Sam decided he needed St. Mary. St. Mary as in Mary, Mother of God.

Me: Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
       St. Joseph,
       St. Nicholas,
       St. Rose,

Sam: St. Mary!
Olivia: Sam, we already said that. Mary, Mother of God!
Sam: No! St. Mary!
Olivia: SAM!
Me: It doesn't matter. If Sam wants to say St. Mary, we can say it.
Grace: There's probably another St. Mary anyway.
Sam: No. Jesus's mother!
Olivia: We already said her!

      St Mary, pray for us

Olivia glowers.

Sam: Jesus, pray for us.
Me: Sam, that's not the way it works. You ask Jesus to hear you. Say "Jesus, hear us." I think. I have to look it up.
Grace: I think we should end with "Lord, hear our prayer."
Me: There's actually a right way to do this, but I don't know what it is.
Grace: Well, find out.

I haven't yet. Grace has now decided that she wants to do a "Saint of the Month" where a new saint will be added every month. I'm not clear if the old saint of the month gets rotated out or not. I'm supposed to find out who the most interesting saint in January is and tell them. We can add the person to the litany and maybe find a prayer card.

Here is where we currently stand:

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
St. Joseph,
St. Nicholas,
St. Rose,
St. Elizabeth,
St. David,
St. Lucy,
St. Mary,
St. Gabriel, 
All ye angels and saints,

This has taken on a life of its own. I am not displeased.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Money Talks

Here is a random observation. This started as a one or two liner and then got longer so I changed the title:

The more income a person has, the less comfortable he is discussing it with general company. When there is disparate income between relatives, the higher income person really, really does not want to discuss money. There is a certain level of income above which nobody wants to discuss it unless they are quite certain that everyone around also makes a similar income. I am ballparking this income amount around 75K when all of sudden the topic falls to the verboten category, but that's not a hard and fast guess. When the topic of money comes up, the people who have it fall strangely silent.

Now why is this? I think there are two things at play. First I have heard that around 75K of income is the level where money stops being an issue. At that income and above, you can afford all the basics and a reasonable amount of luxury on top of it. I wonder if the topic falls away because money just isn't really a concern anymore for those who budget wisely. Nothing to talk about. Second I think there is some level of guilt, especially with family, from having more than others. I'm not saying that people who make more think they don't deserve their income (or that I think they don't deserve their income), but that when you are in a position of having and others, especially family, who come from similar circumstances as you but don't have as much income or actually struggle to make ends meet, there is some feeling of guilt about the situation. Why do I have this money while others don't? I think there is a self-consciousness about the differences in circumstance that makes the higher income person clam up.

I would also imagine this scenario happens when most of the company has lots of money and there's that one guy who doesn't. The conversation is all about their venture capital investments while the poor guy is hoping that nobody notices that he is just smiling and nodding. I would guess that happens too.

Agree? Disagree?

(See, I like to talk money, but I've found that almost no one else does.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Strange Thoughts

Sometimes I think I'd like to have another baby someday and then I get a nauseous stomach virus for a few days and I wonder what the hell would make me think such a thing. Why would I voluntarily sign up for four or five months of the equivalent? They say you forget, but every virus is a reminder.