Thursday, January 26, 2012

In response to bitterness

All I can say is that this woman definitely makes me feel less alone.  The only thing I don’t agree is the idea of more or less loving.  I see it more as an issue of different styles and compatibility.

A great example is my own relationship with my mother.  We are very far from an ideal, and I had a very rough childhood, but one thing I know for sure, is that my mom loved me in the best way she knew how.  Was it the way I needed to be loved? Not really.

My mom and I are plain and simple not compatible.  To give a quick summary, my mom got pregnant at 19 with a man that didn’t love her because he was still getting over his ex-wife.  They both had drug and alcohol problems, and my mom’s own parents were alcoholics who were either abusive or absent.  Needless to say, she did not have any tools, support or positive parenting examples, what she did have was an intense love for her baby.

My mom did always believe in me, and was always proud of me, told me often that I was beautiful and smart.  Unfortunately, she had her own demons which I will not get into here. 

Take any young single mother with as many challenges and no support, who grew up in a physically abusive home with a kid like I was, and I dare them to do better.  I was (and still am) very headstrong and rebelled at any imposed authority, and I could be very mean and manipulative.  In many ways I understand that my mother lashed out.

Most of my examples of positive parenting came from outside sources, and I, as well as my mom, am forever grateful.  Does this mean that my mother loved me “less” than these other people, or that they loved me “more”?  Absolutely not!  It simply means that these people were more compatible to me and had a different skill set than my mom.  The fact is that everyone has a different way of doing things, especially parenting, and no one method of parenting works for all children.

My step-kids are a great example of this.  The oldest is very much a Mama’s boy.  He needs constant interaction, reassurance, and praise.  The slightest sign of displeasure from an adult will send him to tears.  His mother’s style of parenting is perfect for this; she is a hoverer, a mother hen type.  The second boy, he is quiet and independent, sometimes he wants interaction, others he wants to do his own thing.  His mother’s hovering drives him crazy, and he often lashes out at her.  Me, I have no problem with him, because I understand the need to be alone, and believe in letting kids do their own thing and being there as needed.   The mother sees the silence of the second as an insult, whereas I find the oldest very demanding.  The result is that the oldest often wants to stay with his mom, while the second can’t leave fast enough and gets very upset when it is time for him to go back home.

Neither child is more or less loved by their mom or me, we just have different styles.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Goal #3 – Get back down to a decent weight

I feel fat.  There, I said it.  For the first time since I was 16, I am not OK with my body.
Although most people don’t believe me, I currently weigh just a notch under 200lbs.  I have never been one of those weight obsessed people, yo-yo dieting and constantly worrying. 

For the most part I have had an attitude of ‘’If I feel good, can wear stylish clothes still in standard sizes, and my current partner finds me attractive, then it’s all good’’.  I eat pretty well, better than most people actually.  I have been ovo-lacto vegetarian for the past 9-10 years, and don’t tend to keep pop or junk food in the house.  That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a dessert or pop when I’m out with friends or at someone’s house and I’m not a militant vegetarian who demands that people conform to her either.

My main issue is activity, or lack thereof.  I hate exercise, hate it with a passion, hate it almost as much as cleaning.  I have tried many many sports, and hated every single one of them except kickboxing, which is a pretty expensive sport, especially when you are poor and in debt.  I have just never been a person who enjoys physical activity.  Actually, that is kind of a lie, I usually enjoy it once I’m going, and I feel good after, but neither feeling is enough to make me excited about exercise.

I’ve tried a personal reward system, tracking my exercise goals with webapps, cell phone apps, you name it.  I also don’t have any friends with the same issue, so a workout buddy is hard to do. 

I think the problem was mostly that I still felt OK about my body, I still had energy, my clothes still fit, and people always commented on how I didn’t ‘’look’’ my weight.  But now we have gotten to a breaking point.  I DO NOT want to see that 200 on the scale, I want to feel decent in a bathing suit again; I want to find pants that fit.

So my goal is 5lbs per month until I reach 150lbs.  I have yet to figure out a long term plan to get motivated about exercising, but I’m going to try and start just by building a habit, 10 intense minutes per day for the next 10 days.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bitterness that I just don't understand

I read it this morning and it took most of my strength to resist commenting and harsh words.

She says in the article that “I am adamant that whatever the future holds, my son will not be raised with step-parents, step-siblings and a host of other people who have been brought into his life as the result of a flight of fancy. If my ex chooses to marry or have more children, I will still insist that any time he wants with his first-born is carried out as it is now — on a one-to-one basis.”

She is the exact type of woman that caused me to completely avoid men who had children until this year. 

When I started dating my BF, we took things very slow, we started dating at the beginning of February and his children (and ex) had no idea I existed until Easter.  The reason was that we wanted to make sure it was becoming something real before involving the kids in any way.

When I did start bonding with the kids, it caused a lot of friction with the ex, and my cousin (who is a mother of 3) kept me grounded and patient by constantly reminding me of the mother’s point of view.  She would remind me that it couldn’t be easy for the mother to accept another woman caring for and getting affection from her children.
My BF and I were very very careful about the kids’ feelings.  I did activities and spent time with them when he had them on weekends.  He would take the kids to his mom’s so that they could keep a good level of stability in their lives, I never spent the night.  We made sure to tone down the PDAs, our entire focus when the kids were around was them and their comfort.

A few months ago, we started having the kids over one night at our place, and one at his mom’s, gradually increasing my presence, all the while making sure they have time alone with their dad.  In the past year, we have not advanced a single step unless the kids had either asked (they wanted to stay over at my apartment) or we felt it was necessary (I would spend the night at his mom’s fi they needed reassurance).
It wasn’t easy, it took a lot of patience, but it was worth it.

While we are in no way buddies, after almost a year we are at least solidly on the same team.  I have proven to her that I am not a flight of fancy, that I truly love her children and that in no way do I want to replace her.  The kids tell me they love me, but they never have, and never will, call me mom.  I completely agree that they have one mom and one dad, no matter how many more people get added into the mix.

All of that being said, if the kids’ mom had not stopped being hostile and jealous (much like the woman in the article) my relationship would probably never have worked.  Dealing with a woman like that on a regular basis is very draining.  Having someone constantly trying to cause problems in your relationship that you can in no way EVER get rid of is a future that no woman would agree to, especially when you know that she could at any time make your partner choose between you or his kids, and if he is the right kind of guy, you will lose.

The worst part in all of this, is that she is damaging her own son the most.  He will always be at the outside of his dad’s new life.

One of my step kids mentioned the other day that they are lucky, they have three families, their mom’s, their dad’s and mine.  My entire family has accepted the kids and don’t treat them any different than the kids born to the family.  They get invited to all the parties and get Christmas and Halloween goodies. 

It took a lot of hard work on everyone’s part to get there, but we are at a point where everyone just wants happy kids.  If the mom were still jealous and hostile like the woman in the article, I hate to think of all the love and family and fun that these kids would have missed out on.

So today I am thankful that my BFs ex got past the hostility and even though she still drives us crazy at times, is way better than before.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things I was grateful for last week

  • That I have a positive relationship with my in-laws
  • That I have good neighbours who will help me push my car when I am stuck
  • That my boyfriend loves me and finds me attractive even if I don’t
  • That I love and enjoy spending time with my step-kids
  • That I am alive and mostly healthy

Monday, January 16, 2012

Goal #2 – Get out of debt

Right now I am carrying a lot of debt.  Part of the reason I’m still in debt is the relative instability of 2011.  Four jobs in one year with various periods of unemployment, mixed with the fact that I have yet to establish an emergency fund meant that I was unable to reduce my debts.  On a brighter note, they didn’t increase much, only by about 250$ total.

I don’t know why it freaks me out so much to put the total amount here, maybe because I talk to no one about my financials, not even my boyfriend, but here goes.  As of today, I owe 9562$ total between credit cards and a loan (it was just over 10 000$ at Christmas). 

Wow, it looks like a lot when I put it out there, which is the main reason I am doing this.  I want to make myself more accountable.

My goal is a two parter.  The first is to be debt free for 2013, with a medium term goal of being credit card debt free for July.  I picked July because that is when my BF and I are going to be moving in to a bigger apartment, and I’d like to have squeaky clean credit cards by then.  Even though we already live together, it feels more like a real beginning in July since it will be ‘our’ place, with room for everyone, and not my single gal apartment that we all just cram ourselves into.

I know that my situation does not seem major compared to most bloggers in the personal finance genre, but the main difference (at least from what I have seen) is that I have no formal education past high school, and therefore make significantly less  than a lot of PF bloggers.  I make about 32000$ per year, and this is relatively recent.  A year and a half ago I was making 23000$.  Last year I didn’t make much at all since I was unemployed for a big chunk.

Also, up until a few months ago, I had not lived with another person in about a decade, so I was making a very basic salary as well as paying all expenses by myself.  No matter how frugal you are, you get to a point that you can’t scrimp anymore.  I also grew up in a household on welfare, with no knowledge of credit etc., so I have been learning most stuff as I go.

The best thing about growing up poor is that your notion of what is essential is very different than a lot of people.  I never had a washer or dryer at home, never had a dishwasher or air conditioning, never had cable on a regular basis, and anything extra I wanted I had to figure out a way to pay for it myself.
So this year is the year I do it, so far since Christmas I have put 500$ towards my debt, and plan to keep throwing everything I can at it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

That darned cat

I am seriously thinking of offering to sell my 6 month old kitten to Iran, or any other country that would want a weapon of mass destruction.  I think I could make a fortune, she is pretty inexpensive to maintain and seems to have an unlimited supply of energy and every time you think she is at the peak of her destructive powers, you get a surprise.  Though that would probably lower the price; the fact that she is completely unpredictable and uncontrollable. 

She even has thumbs, and while the vet keeps assuring me that they are not opposable or functional, I have my doubts.

My older cat, let’s call him H, is a very mellow cat.  He never tries to eat your food (unless it’s tomato basil rice cakes, green olives, or blueberry flax cookies), never jumps on counters or anything higher than the couch or bed, is afraid to go outside, and restricts his play to things I plan to throw away anyhow like Qtips or wrappers.  I’ve had him since he was 2 months old, and I swear, he came that way, I never even had to show him the litter box.  I don’t think I ever fully appreciated him until recently when we got the kitten.

The kitten, little S, will eat anything she can attain (even a salad isn’t safe), will play with everything, and I’m starting to think she is afraid of the floor since I don’t recall the last time I saw her at ground level, unless she is making a mad dash to run outside before we have a chance to close the door.  Seriously, if you want to find the kitten, jiggle a doorknob.

I have seen her open drawers to get to stuff; I even woke up to her trying to pull an earplug out of my ear in the middle of the night to play with it.

Her most recent act of kitten destruction, she managed to knock over half (though how she got the two halves apart I’ll never know) of my drawer storage in the bathroom.  Not the half that contains the bigger items like spare bottles of shampoo, no, of course not.  She pulled down the half that had all the little things in it, like makeup, jewellery, hairpins, etc.

5 full drawers all spilled out onto the bathroom floor. When did she do this you ask, well I don’t know exactly when she did it, I found it at 12:30 AM after an exhausting family party and an hour long drive home in crappy weather.  Did I mention I had to work the next morning?  Just as I dropped my arms in despair, a small black bundle of very guilty looking fur came slowly out of the bedroom looking as guilty as a cat can possible look, and I instantly melted.  I gave her a snuggle and she watched, very calm and not daring to approach the scene of her crime, while I picked it all up.

I think that would increase the price, I mean a nuclear bomb can’t be cute after all of its destruction now can it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

This year I made a different kind of resolution, the resolution to be grateful.  Of course I also made the usual fitness and money related goals, but instead of trying to be ‘more’ I have decided to focus on what I have.

I usually make resolutions to be more organized, or to learn more of something, or to be better at something, and I rarely keep them.  This year I’ve decided I’m going to focus on what is already in my life, and the skills/knowledge I already have.  I guess you could say that I plan to fine tune.

I also want to shift my focus from the things I could have or should have ‘if only….’

While this goal/resolution does have some practical applications (like getting my acquired skills recognized as education) it is more directed towards people and relationships.  In the past 3 years most of the relationships in my life have either been added or dramatically changed, mostly stemming from a series of events almost 4 years ago that resulted in me placing myself in a suicide watch.  Needless to say, this sent a ripple of shock through my family and friends.  People I thought I could count on let me down, and others that I never would have thought to lean on, were rocks.  This lead to me becoming much closer to some people, distancing others, and in some cases creating relationships where I never thought I would.

In the past 3 years, I have seen my life become more solid and full that I ever thought possible.
So this year, I am going to focus my energy on all of the wonderful things and people I have in my life that I would have missed out on had I made a different choice on that day almost 4 years ago.

The first step will be to live 100 days of gratitude, I will write down 100 things I am grateful for by April 30th.  I know it’s not exactly the way it’s supposed to be done, every day for 100 days, but I know myself (and if you read the previous failed experiment you do too lol) and I think it will be more realistic to do any 100 days instead of 100 straight days. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

….and so are my 20s

During the festive season, I turned 30.  Yup, now I’m a real grownup, I can’t get away with the stupid and irresponsible crap I once did, or so they tell me.

To be honest, I think turning 29 is much harder.  When you turn 29, the panic sets in; I was overwhelmed with a feeling of ohmygodionlyhaveoneyearleft!

Not only was I not where I thought I’d be at almost 30, I had yet to figure out where I thought I’d be at almost 30.  I was still single, in a one bedroom apartment, with my almost 10 year old cat, who was my most healthy and enduring relationship with a male.  It certainly didn’t help that people actually started with the old maid jokes, or that both my parents thought I was already 30 and I had to argue with them and prove it, which was made worse by the fact that there are not together, so they each made this assumption independently.  I was going to become one of those old spinster aunts who cooks for her cats and dresses funny.

But then I thought what if I wanted to be the crazy aunt? Did I? Then my life went all crazy and I had no more time to think about it, which in my case was probably a good thing.

And now here I am at 30, and while in some ways it feels like a whole year can’t possibly have passed since then, in others it feels like a lifetime has passed.

And I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So 2011 is over….

This year has been a big for me, and though I am fairly used to my life being a rollercoaster, this one was crazier than all the rest but one.

For starters, in 2010 I decided to make the shift from taking jobs for experience and to help figure out what I want to do when I grow up to finding THE job, the one I would stay at for more than my record 2 years, and I thought I had found it.  Then 2011 began.

Long story short, I lost that job at the beginning of the year due to the department being sold.  I then went through 2 more disastrous jobs before the year was out. My year of job stability turned into a year of instability, unemployment and more rejection that I have ever faced on the job market.

As you already know, I also added a 2nd cat, a boyfriend and three young step kids into the mix.  Top it off with a stint in prison for my dad, and the more recent grandma with cancer, and I think that counts as a helluva challenging year by anyone’s standards.

I think that the hardest part, in all of this, was the fear.  I have a lifelong history of depression, anxiety, and past suicidal tendencies, and for the majority of the year, I have been scared as hell of falling back in.  With every challenge I would worry; “Is this the one that will send me over the edge?”  My boyfriend has been fantastic through all of this, but it is a fairly new relationship (though it is going at light speed compared to my past relationships) and there was also the lingering question of “will this be too much for him?”

To my surprise, the proverbial shoe never dropped, I stayed on this side of the depression cliff (though at times I was hanging on by my fingernails), the BF and I are not only still together, but still moving and growing, and our little every other weekend family is slowly but surely getting stronger.  I also started a job in mid-December that looks pretty promising.

So my big resolution this year (apart from the usual financial and weight goals) is different from past years where I have tried to be “more” something.  This year, I’m aiming for gratitude and contentment.  I want to live the life I have fully and truly appreciate what I have.