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Saturday, December 17th, 2011
Last night, in a completely believable dream, I lost a tooth for no good reason. I thought, “With this being the weekend, how am I going to get this fixed?” Then I lost another tooth, and then another; it was like a falling house of cards but with most of my teeth instead.
This has been a reoccurring dream I’ve been having since I graduated college; but now, as a dad and husband, it’s so much more vivid.
Dreams are interesting in that they reveal something that our subconscious is trying to sort out while we are asleep. When I Googled “dream about losing teeth,” the most consistent interpretation was not that this dream tells of a preoccupation with one’s vanity, but instead an ongoing worry about money.
Do I worry about money? I’ve said it before, “I hate money.” I’m the kind of guy who could never buy a brand-new car. I refuse to pay for cable TV; surviving on the 8 dollar a month Netflix package through my Wii. At least half of the clothes I wear are over a decade old. My iPod was bought refurbished off of Amazon.com 4 years ago and its screen is completely covered in a spider web-like crack.
But while I don’t care about money, it’s pretty obvious that my subconscious knows something that the rest of me is not so aware of: Like a lot of people, I’m sort of terrified on a daily basis of not being able to provide for my family; of being without a job, again.
Yeah, I know it- that’s nothing knew. Most people throughout the history of the world have felt that way. It’s what drives the free market.
I’m not assuming I have a unique story, but I do feel scarred from my not-so-distant 4 month stint of unemployment. I call it my “Vietnam.”
Perhaps another reason I keep dreaming about losing teeth is the fact that my personality and skill set have led me to a life where quotas and statistics matter.
I’m horrible at math, science, or anything technical. But when it comes to carrying on interesting conversations, influencing people’s opinions, and translating engaging thoughts into blog form, I’m your man. That’s one thing I can do with confidence.
Or is it?
Both my “real job” in sales where I’m on the phone all day in an office and my “side job” writing for The Dadabase on Parents.com have something very serious in common: My performance and livelihood are measured in numbers.
At my sales job I am highly pressured to “meet quota” every month in order to remain employed. As for daddy blogging, the pressure is applied by myself, not my editors, as I check my “views” at the end of every day, hoping to see that more readers are tuning in to The Dadabase than the week before.
In fact, it’s my personal goal each day to write a Dadabase post that beats August’s, “The Half Abortion: Only Keeping One Twin.” Nearly everyday, it remains the #1 viewed post.
Despite not being a numbers guy, numbers measure my income as well as my sense of career accomplishment. So yeah, it’s a wonder I don’t dream about losing my teeth every night.
If only in the dream I could remember to read this exact blog post so I could remind myself that I didn’t really lose my teeth and that it’s just me subconsciously worrying about money again.
Then the only dreams I would have to worry about then would be the ones where I wake up completely bald or where I’m only a few weeks away from graduating college but forgot to attend that final math class all semester.
I was an English major. You do the math.
Image: Man in Santa hat, via Shutterstock.
Speaking of not worrying and just being happy, it’s time for a book giveaway. Hurry Less Worry Less at Christmas, by Judy Christie, is a book to help us get out of that frenzied, out-of-control frame of mind that we can find ourselves in during the holidays. This book helps us begin to have a deeper understanding of the joy of the Christmas season and how that can be a starting point for a more abundant life in the New Year.
Want a free copy of this book? Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to email@example.com.
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
I’ve read that my generation (people who are currently around age 30) will be much like our great-grandparents, who lived through The Great Depression.
As history repeats itself, we shall become society’s new shrewd penny pinchers to our kids that our great-grandparents were to our grandparents.
We will remember back in the 2010′s when the only way you could sell your house was to basically pay someone to buy it from you. Back when we were anxiety-ridden anytime we had to pick up a sick child from daycare for fearing of jeopardizing our jobs.
Thankfully, there are talented financial gurus like Dave Ramsey to help us to simply and legitimately figure out how to manage our money. In my personal life, which has been dramatically featured here on The Dadabase, I have had to learn some tough lessons about money:
Buy an espresso maker and save Starbucks only for special occasions. Avoid eating out at restaurants as much as possible. Don’t move back to your hometown to be close to family when your first child is born because you nor your wife will be able to get a job there. You will end up blowing through your savings just to survive until you ultimately have to move back to Nashville. Just keep your good job in the big city and suffer putting your child in daycare.
You know; little lessons like that.
When it comes to life lessons about money, I have been shamed, I have been humbled, and I have been made a wiser person because of my uneducated decisions.
I have survived my own Great Depression of 2010 and now every single cent I earn has a place. I say “no” a lot more to people. I don’t worry about hurting feelings by doing so. I know if I don’t tell my money where to go, it will tell me where to go.
Just in time, Tommy Nelson Publishing has released the perfect book for us to help kids learn how to manage their money; from a very young age.
This is a book I definitely feel should be mandatory reading for all young children, but more importantly, it should be mandatory for all parents to read and discuss this book with their children… regularly.
The book is simply called Three Cups. I don’t want to totally give the story line away, but basically, on a boy’s 5th birthday his parents give him three cups. As he begins earning an allowance, he becomes responsible for deciding how much money he wants to give away, save for the future, and spend. Accordingly, the three cups serve as appropriate piggy banks for the three categories: give, save, and spend.
In the likeness of 25% of all of Brad Paisley’s songs, the book ends with the now grown-up boy reliving the story through his own 5 year-old son. It’s perfect.
Three Cups even comes with a Parent’s Guide to help us individually talk to our kids about the book’s lessons.
Needless to say, I strongly personally endorse this book. It couldn’t be more appropriate in every way. Even the illustrations are right on. I love the disappointed look on the boy’s face when he first sees that his parents got him three cups for his birthday.
Buy it. Read it to your kids. Give them three cups.
Here’s the website for Three Cups:
Of course, this wouldn’t be The Dadabase if I wasn’t giving a copy of this book away to one lucky reader… so you know what to do!
Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Congrats to Brandy W. of Austin, TX for winning this book!
Sunday, September 18th, 2011
Let me be up front about what this post is not about. I’m not going to be talking about how, despite whatever amount of money we make as parents, that ultimately our value to our children is priceless. Instead, I’m literally going to be talking about the invisible dollar sign each one of us has floating over our heads. It’s that simple; and for me, it’s that deep and fascinating.
From December 2010 to April 2011, my wife and I were worth zero dollars. We had left behind our respectable jobs in Nashville and moved to Alabama to be close to my family and we were both jobless, yet desperately looking. Our education, professional experience, resumes, and determination carried no weight in this different town. Finally, I got a job, but it wasn’t enough for me to support my wife and son- we literally couldn’t afford to pay the bills.
So we moved back to Nashville in July. After returning to my old job, I began making over $15K more a year than the job in Alabama. As for my wife, her old position at Vanderbilt no longer existed, but she was instantly able to get a different job there paying more than I get paid now and more than she was paid before moving away (not to mention benefits for the whole family).
Oh yeah, and I have my sanity back now. I, for one, was in a very dark place there for a while. There was such a hellish, demonic, heavy feeling of worthlessness I experienced when I couldn’t financially provide enough for my wife and son, knowing that I was qualified, capable, and willing. If it wasn’t hell, it was at least purgatory with a broken thermostat.
For months, we had no income; zero. Now collectively, we make over two and a half times more than I alone made in Alabama.
It’s literally a case of “double or nothing.”
Granted, the cost of living is a bit more in Nashville. We are obviously spending a lot more on gas now. My wife’s 20 mile drive to work each day often takes well over an hour (thanks to traffic) and we recently had to buy a newer, more dependable car for her. Plus, our son is now enrolled in a wonderful daycare; as compared to free child care back in Alabama, when my wife was unemployed.
As a family unit, we spend much less quality time with each other throughout the week, as we earn our living. But I have to admit, the time I do spend with my wife and son on the weekends has never meant more to me. I savor every minute.
I had thought our valuable jobs skill and “big city job experience” from Nashville would have helped us tremendously in finding jobs in Alabama. But it didn’t, whatsoever.
Instead, the two of us are worth much more money in Nashville; despite the higher cost of living. I guess it’s just weird now to think about how it was only a couple of months ago that we couldn’t afford to pay our bills.
Today as I was thinking about all this, I reminded myself that finance guru Dave Ramsey actually went bankrupt twice; it was part of his necessary life lesson to became the expert he is today. And thanks to his teachings, my wife and I are able to put his practices into daily use.
Like he says, “Debt is normal. Be weird.” Trust me, I want to be weird, so badly.
My wife and I are now so dedicated to (and educated on) being the best stewards of our income, as we build back our savings, pay off our debts, and regularly tithe to our church and sponsor a child through World Vision.
I hate money. I wish I didn’t have to think about it. But it’s kind of hard not to when I have an invisible dollar sign floating over my head that increases or decreases when I cross the state line.
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
As a dad, I have fears. Something I have learned in life is that when I say my fears out loud (or “type them out loud”), I can get a better handle on them, putting them into their proper perspective. It’s my way of controlling my fears instead of them controlling me.
I’ve written before here on The Dadabase about my fear of not being able to financially provide for my family, as well as my fear of being responsible for my son being seriously injured or killed. But today, instead of focusing on a financial or physical issue, my featured fear is a psychological one: It’s my fear that I will somehow “mess up” my son.
I get it. No parent is perfect or has this whole parenting thing all figured out, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I know; part of what helps us mature and have realistic expectations in life is when we are forced to be strong. And of course, any parent who would be sensitive enough to worry about somehow messing up their kid is the exact kind of parent who probably won’t mess up their kid. I am aware of all those things.
Still, the longer I am a parent, the more I realize my potential to really prohibit or injure my son’s full potential in life. Sometimes it just starts to really sink in that I’ve brought a human life into existence and that my decisions greatly effect how he turns out. And he has a soul, too. So it’s not just an earthly issue, but an eternal one, as well.
God evidently believes in my capabilities more than I do.
It was one thing when I was a single guy with no peripherals. But now, every tiny and humongous choice I make can ultimately mold my son into the person he will become.
How did I become qualified to be so powerful and influential in both my son and my wife’s life? Like Jack Shephard on Lost, I often feel like I am a reluctant leader who realizes the seriousness of the role I must play, as others depend on me to do so. I am so not qualified for this job. So undeserving.
Instead of falling through the chaotic vacuum of life unconnected to anyone who needs my care, my love, my guidance, and my providence, in reality, I hold the hand of a beautiful woman and a magical son who depend on me.
They don’t care about my imperfections. They don’t care about how little money I make. They don’t care about the fact that I am lucky to just be one step ahead of the game of life each day, if that.
As a man, I understand the importance of not dwelling on these fears. I was wired to be strong. I was wired to say, “Here’s what we’re going to do…” when a new problem arises, then I make sure that the plan gets carried out. I can’t worry about the very real fact that I opened up the most cosmic can of worms when I became a husband and father.
My job is to create an atmosphere of confidence, strength, hope, and faith, despite the clusterfog that often surrounds my family of three. And regardless how I may feel about my lack of qualifications or merit, the fact that I stay intact and refuse to ever think about giving up on them is perhaps one of the greatest signs that I do indeed have what it takes.
Wow. I do feel better now.
Categories: Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Spirituality, Story Bucket, Storytelling | Tags: daddy blog, family, fatherhood, fear, God, LOST, money, parenting
Thursday, July 14th, 2011
After all the plotlines my wife and I have lived through in accordance to our move from Nashville to my hometown in Alabama, and now back to Nashville again, it’s only natural for us to wonder: Why?
Q) Why did we spend seven months and [x amount] of dollars to live here in my hometown, only to have to go back to where we came from?
A) It took moving away from Nashville to cause us to become positively changed people so that we could go back to Nashville as the necessarily improved versions of ourselves. But we didn’t know any of this when we left Nashville.
I can confidently say that living in the small town of Fort Payne, Alabama has caused us to fully adopt the millionaire mindset (living as frugally as possible.) Because we became Dave Ramsey followers shortly after we got married and have since been living on a budget, we thought we were doing pretty well when it came to financially planning our lives.
But we had much more to learn. And I know for a fact I would have never learned to be this much of a penny-pincher if it weren’t for my unemployment and my wife’s inability to get a job, despite having a Master’s degree.
The move to Alabama has been the most humiliating process I have endured in my life: Note that when I used the word “humiliating” just now, I meant it in the sense of being humbled and disciplined, not embarrassed or shamed. (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.”)
Looking back, I can see how our former budget allotted my wife and I too much “blow money” (Dave Ramsey’s term for extra cash for personal enjoyment), too much “gift money” (money spent on gifts for birthday and Christmas gifts for our friends and family), and too much “food money” (money spent on eating out at restaurants and going out for coffee on the weekend). Not only that, but now we have learned to ask the question, “What will cause us to earn/save the most money?” when making any decision, big or small.
The version of me from a year ago just didn’t care about money. I only cared about happiness. And that was an epic flaw in my thinking. Now I realize that without conservative financial planning, I will not have sanity. And without sanity, I can not be happy anyway.
The truth is this: Without moving to my hometown and being psychologically broken down, I would have never been a responsible enough decision maker when it came to finances. Moving to Fort Payne was the only cure for my disease.
It’s more than just refusing to use a credit card or to buy name brand products. It’s a matter of taking my finances nearly as seriously as I take my love for my wife and son, health, and my religious beliefs. So now as we rebuild our lives again, we will be able to be better stewards of our income. Our money will be better saved, better spent, and better given away.
Photos courtesy of Moments in Time Photography in Fort Payne, Alabama:
Categories: Deep Thoughts, Home Life, People, Recaps, Spirituality, Story Bucket, Storytelling | Tags: Alabama, baby blog, budget, budgeting, Christmas gifts, daddy blog, Dave Ramsey, finances, Fort Payne, happiness, income, money, Nashville