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Welfare recipients you didn’t know you knew. August 16, 2010

Lately on Facebook, I’ve noticed several posts and likes to pages such as “Make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients”. I understand the frustrations and sentiments of people who, in times such as these, do not wish to see their tax dollars used in frivolous ways. I also understand that many people who make these claims or like these pages are unaware who exactly these welfare recipients are. Well, let me introduce myself. My name is Mandy and I have food stamps. This used to be a supremely humiliating statement to make and when I would hear or see people make comments towards those in need of the welfare system, I would find myself dying of embarrassment on the inside.

Before you stop reading, please allow me to further explain my “use of your tax dollars”.  As a young teenage  parent, I was first introduced to the welfare system by my OBGYN. After a couple of years of struggling financially, I was proudly and finally able to get off of welfare. Ben and I were on the other side of the fence, paying into the system. Finances were rocky, but there was food in the fridge and insurance for the family. Well, what happened?

In November of last year, I lost my job. We moved into an apartment to save money, which allowed me to stay home with the kids and go to school while we waited out the bad economy. Finances were a little tight, but we were doing OK on Ben’s income.  In January of this year, the kids and I became extremely ill with a virus in our lungs. A 4am trip to the ER due to labored breathing  for the three of us cost us $300 in co-pays and I had to ask my parents for help with the co-pays for our prescriptions. Ben took care of the three of us, causing him to become ill himself. Unable to afford another $100 dollar co-pay, Ben took my prescriptions (rather than paying still more money for his own) and called his work. He was a well liked employee and never had an attendance problem in over 5 years with this employer. Thinking all was well, he returned to work only to find out two days later he was being  fired for what? NOT HAVING A DOCTOR’S NOTE! Now if we could have afforded his employer’s medical co-pays, we would have had one!

As we all have noticed, this economy is a terrible time to have to job hunt. I knew it might be a while until Ben found another job and I also knew I had to keep the kids fed and medical needs met in the meantime. So, pride pushed aside… off to the welfare office I went. While I was there, I noticed a different crowd of people than I had several years before hand. There were many obvious first timers, having recently suffered from economic blows and pulling on the last strings they knew. Many had the look of humiliation and failure, while they knew they were only there to help their families. These were people who never thought in a million years they would find themselves sitting right in the middle of those they had, themselves, criticized for “milking the system”. I found myself walking a couple of people through the lengthy application and explained all of the documentation they would need to provide for assistance.

It began to dawn on me that many of their friends and family or mine, for that matter, would ever know what it’s like to be put in that position. It also occurred to me that I had nothing to  be ashamed of. I am keeping my children well fed and medical needs met. With all of Kaitlyn’s medical issues over the last year (Neurologist, EEG, sleep studies… and we aren’t even finished) I would never have been able to afford the co-pays on Ben’s previous employer’s medical plan.

So there you have it. Here is a face to go with the comments. I thank you for paying your taxes, for paying into the welfare system, for making sure that children like mine in times like these have food on the table and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing Kaitlyn to receive the medical attention I wouldn’t have been able to provide for her if I was still standing on the other side of that fence. I also encourage you to be kind with your words and statements. These times are tough and people are doing the best they know how. The people you make statements about may be sitting right next to you in church or at work and they too might be dying of embarrassment on the inside when they hear you say them.

 

How to build a stronger marriage in a few short weeks. Part One August 4, 2010

Filed under: marriage — paintingmama @ 9:49 pm

This is a post that Ben and I are working on together. All the jokes among friends about having our own TV advice show has lead to the posting. These are steps that we have taken and feel have strengthened our marriage. Miracles don’t happen over night. This takes patience and practice. Take one or two of these steps and commit to practicing them for one week. One the second week, add one or two more steps, gradually adding more along the way. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to do them all right away. It will wear you out, making you resent the process or even worse, your spouse. Also, it is important to note… do not expect your significant other to immediately reciprocate. It will come with time. It’s like giving a gift, you don’t give a present to someone and immediately expect them to give you one in return.

1. DROP THE DRAMA! Every little thing is not worth nit-picking. You know that you don’t like to be criticized, so why would you do that to the person you love the most? Life is just too short to constantly bicker with each other, so save the drama for things that actually matter. You’d be amazed at just how much less stressed you will find yourself when you stop the constant little arguments.

2. DATE NIGHT! Yes, we all know that this is an important one, but how many of us actually commit to doing this? I don’t mean fancy restaurants that break the bank and further stress you out. I mean simple things, like having dinner in your backyard or on your balcony. Don’t rush to do the dishes afterwards, stay and talk or play a game.

3. TRUST EACH OTHER! I hear from friends about how many fights they have started over a misconceived text message or email. Ben and I do not check each other’s phones or emails. Doing so would mean that we don’t trust each other. No spying! Again this is a source of a lot of stress among couples. If either of us has a night out with friends, we don’t play 20 questions when the other returns. The point is… they returned… to you! FYI, trust is given where trust is received.

4. SELF-ESTEEM! This means you! We tend to criticize our significant others when we don’t feel good about ourselves. Look in the mirror, are you daily in baggy sweats with a sloppy ponytail? This doesn’t mean you need to fix yourself up for him, you need to fix yourself up for you! I know it may sound a little 50’s housewife, but instead of getting up to do your chores in sweats, try a sun dress. Do  your make up even if you aren’t leaving the house. You don’t have to do this everyday, but try it… see if you feel just a little bit hotter. If you feel hotter, he’s going to notice. This works for guys as well! I tend to notice on the days I put a little more effort, he disappears to the bathroom to do his hair or putting on cologne.

5. PAMPER YOURSELF! This goes along with the previous advice, but it’s important on it’s own. Take time out for yourself to destress. Take a bath or a nap, read a book, or go for a walk. 15 to 30 minutes of “me” time daily  will do wonders when it comes to stress relief. A less stressed you will lead to less arguments.

6. COMPLIMENT THE LITTLE THINGS! Thank you’s go a long way in my house, especially for everyday activities. This one is easy and has a lot of pay off. Guys: have you ever thanked your wife for doing the dishes or the laundry? Ladies: Have you ever thanked your husband for taking out the trash or going to work everyday? Thank your spouse (don’t go overkill with this, you’ll sound sarcastic) for everyday things they do around the house such as cleaning or folding the laundry or for balancing the checkbook and paying the bills.

7. MAKE THE MORNINGS EASIER! Neither Ben nor I are morning people, so this works great for us. If Ben knows we are going to have an unusually busy morning, like early Saturday morning soccer games, he’ll set the coffee pot timer and have it ready to go. When it’s time for Ben to get ready for work, I’ll lay out his motorcycle gear and other things he needs to grab on the way out the door.

This is a great start to appreciating your spouse. I’ll post part two in a few days, but this is more than enough to get started. Take your time and don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. I believe the expression is, “Cities aren’t built in one night.”

 

Love Language

Filed under: marriage — paintingmama @ 6:16 pm

Love language may be one of the most recently overused phrases in marriage advice books and classes, but there is a lot of truth behind it. The first year or two of our marriage, I would get so upset with Ben whenever he would intentionally or even unintentionally do something hurtful towards me and then NOT APOLOGIZE for it. I wanted a concrete, sincere, verbal “I’m sorry.” It was in complete frustration I told his mother about this. She smiled and said, “You just need to learn his love language.” At this point a lot of people would roll their eyes, still frustrated by this mysterious phrase.

However, I began to pay attention. I began to notice a pattern with Ben. If he had a bad day or was feeling particularly cranky or snappy, I began to change my behavior. In the past, I would yell at him that his bad day was not my fault and there was no reason to take it out on me. I know that whenever I am feeling particularly hormonal, I don’t feel the need to justify my behavior (selfish as this may sound, we’ve all done it). So I began to grant him the freedom to “have a bad day”. I calmly respond to his questions and generally just leave him alone, not demanding an apology for anything.

And then the next morning, I would have a nice breakfast waiting for me and/ or the house would be immaculately clean. This had always happened, but I would be so angry over not getting an apology that I failed to recognize that this WAS the apology. Over the years, this realization has diffused many would-be arguments. Healing and bonding took place. Understanding replaced anger, accepting human nature instead of demonizing it. It also awakened me to other non-verbal communications from my husband. Little acts such as a kiss on the neck while I was doing dishes meant “I love everything about you!” or remembering to buy the face wash that I ran out of meant ‘I was thinking about you while I was out.”

Intimacy is often unspoken and subtle. Love is in the details. Pay attention, you might be missing “I’m sorry” or “I love you” everyday.

 

It’s the little things he does…

Filed under: marriage — paintingmama @ 5:23 pm

This is going to be an on going post. It is to remind myself of all the little things that Ben does that make me love him just a little bit more everyday. I’m not talking about romantic dinners or bringing me flowers, but as they say “it’s in the details”.

1. While at the store, he remembers that I am out of face wash. Not only does he remember to buy it, but he knows exactly what brand and what type!

2. I am allergic to soy. He does a lot of the grocery shopping and most of the cooking. He checks labels to make sure there are no hidden “boobie traps” in my food.

3. I have recently become Messianic Jewish. I no longer eat pork. He bought a pizza that had pork on it, so he meticulously picked off every little piece of pork.

4.  Katie bought me the first two books of the Vampire Diaries for my birthday. When he noticed I had finished the book, he stopped by the book section at Walmart and bought the next two in the series.

5. Inevitably, girl “issues” arise in the middle of the night. Without complaint, he goes off to the store alone to purchase “girl products” without being  even remotely embarrassed.

And the list will go on…

 

How HENNA Saved My Marriage August 1, 2010

Filed under: marriage — paintingmama @ 6:17 pm
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About two years ago, Ben and I hit a serious rough patch in our relationship. I lost my job in November, my last paycheck came in December, unable to make a car payment any longer we lost our only car in January and were drowning financially by March. Our only transportation for the next year for our family of four was Ben’s motorcycle. This meant that I was housebound for several months, staying home with my son who was too young to ride on the motorcycle. The tension in the house began to build, compounded by cabin fever and juggling bills. After a very heated fight one night, Ben and I stopped talking. This went on for nearly six weeks. We were like room mates who barely acknowledged the others existence. This was the first time in our relationship that I was worried we wouldn’t make it.

For years I have been fascinated with Mehndi henna designs (youtube it, it’s amazing). Even though we were barely speaking, Ben noticed I was researching it. I came into the bedroom one night and found Ben researching it and looking for kits online. We finally decided to go to Micheal’s and buy a kit to try. We barely spoke in the car there and back or in the store. That night, after mixing the henna Ben asked me to lay on the bed so he could try it out. It took about an hour for him to finish the design and another half an hour for the paste to dry. We didn’t speak the whole time, but this was different. The closeness of our bodies while he carefully created the design, requiring me not to move a muscle created an intimacy we were not expecting. For two hours we were able to be together, not speaking a word. Nothing sexual, but total intimacy.

The tension began to lift almost immediately. We repeated this for the next couple of nights until we ran out of henna. Neither of us wanted to lose this time together, so we found an Indian market near our house and bought a huge box of henna powder. I would get a lot of compliments on his designs when we went to the grocery store, which gave me an opportunity to brag on my husband. We would give each other a knowing smile while we talked about the process with total strangers or our close friends. It’s been two years since then, but henna is still one of our favorite things to do together. It’s cheap (about 4 dollars a box, plus a bottle of eucalyptus oil from the health food store) which makes it great for date nights during this struggling economy and my friends have been getting in on it, coming over to have designs done. I love to share this story with them while I apply their designs.

It doesn’t have to be henna (however we will give you the recipe and application tips if you would like to try it), but find an activity that you and your love can do together. Find one that you can do without speaking, develop your intimacy. Having a healthy sex life in your marriage is one thing, but intimacy… this is what fuels that fire and fuses the bond.

 

The Best Marriage Advice I Ever Recieved

Filed under: marriage — paintingmama @ 5:18 pm

At the church were Ben and I were married, we were required to take pre marriage classes. Now being that I was several months along in my pregnancy and juggling prenatal classes and pre marriage classes it seemed a bit much at first. I now realize this was vital to the ups and downs of the coming years. Our classes were taught by Pastor Greg Massanari, a father figure to both Ben and myself. A loving man with a wonderful wife, he had many great things to offer in our class.

It was one single, simple statement that he said in one of these classes that has stuck with me for years and it is advice that I have given to many of my friends facing ups and downs of new relationships. Well here  it is… never say the “D” word. Divorce. Never say it, never threaten it. Many times in the heat of an argument, couples often say “Well if you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave!” or “If you’re gonna be like that, then why don’t we just get a divorce!” Most times, once they calm down, they know they didn’t mean what they just said. I have found in my own marriage that threatening it, even joking about it makes it a reality or a possibility.

For many couples I know, threatening to leave or actually doing so after an argument is a common theme. It becomes habit. It is hurtful and a last resort for getting a “dig” in. Name calling is just as bad. When you have nothing left to say, are getting no where in the conversation or just want to hurt the other person because they hurt you… don’t resort to name calling. It’s easier said than done, believe me. But with discipline and practice, removing both name calling and threats of leaving will remove so much stress from your relationship. Don’t believe me? Try it for a month, after that commit to six months, a year… I stand by this 100%.

If you don’t say it, don’t threaten it… it’s not an option. No matter how bad an argument is between us, we know that we can “have it out” without worry of this being the conversation that ended our marriage.