Every year I go through the sacred ritual of "worry about what everyone wants for Christmas and how to pay for it only using cash" followed by the annual "anxiety-ridden state wondering if everyone is happy with everything I purchased." If I wasn't already an insomniac, I wouldn't be sleeping.
As my children age, each year becomes more expensive. No, that isn't quite true. What I should say is every year the true spirit of Christmas becomes more about what was spent instead of the holiday itself. Realizing I didn't want to bankrupt my family, I became more frugal as the years passed. I began setting limits. I stopped using or or buying anything on credit.
Last year was my first year for setting an exact limit. This was mainly due to the fact that we were doing all of our complete interior and exterior home renovations plus landscaping in cash. Nothing palatial, but things which sorely needed to be completed. (things that still need to be completed, but that's another blog) So, the limit became $300 per kid. $300 for their own list, but I could get a few surprise extras. Inexpensive extras. Stocking stuffers, slippers, pajamas ... things along that line.
Now because I am really good with finding bargains, my children still received a lot of stuff last Christmas. My daughter received over twenty articles of clothing from her two favorite stores -- Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. (jeans, long-sleeved shirts, etc.) My son received everything on his list and even a few things he mentioned in passing.
But it takes work. A lot of work. A lot of reading. A lot of researching. A lot of online alerts, frugal bargain shopping websites ... special discount coupon codes, closed sales, auctions ending at 3am. If my time were being factored in, I'm sure it would be a thousand per kid.
Still, I was ready to give it another go, another year, another almost breakdown until my son said $300 simply wasn't enough this year. I asked my daughter if it was enough and she agreed with her brother. I said, "What's wrong with 300?" to which she answered, "The 3." Ugh. Both kids say my husband and I are out of touch with the real cost of things.
This has my husband rather livid. While he didn't go into a tirade in front of the children, privately he said Christmas had completely lost the meaning, that every "big gift" we ever bought the children ended up being ignored or resold (by them), and that they never consider the fact that he works for the money, and on and on. I agreed with him. I gave up on the idea of a "real Christmas" years ago. Greed has clearly won out. This is what I told hubby, along with the extra information of being sick and tired spending frenzied weeks trying to find the absolute best price on every last thing that goes under the tree. How everything I do for the holidays IS work, work that also goes unappreciated.
This brings me to my point. Do you believe in setting limits for Christmas? What do you think is a reasonable dollar amount per teenager? Per child? Do you believe Christmas is so important you should run up the charge cards for it or do you also believe in paying in cash for your items? Since my children feel their father and I are a bit out of touch, a bit too "cheap," I'd like to get some opinions from all of you out there. Real dollar amounts. As always, I would greatly appreciate any comment relating to the questions in this paragraph. (this is how I find out who skims or only reads the first paragraph ... haha) Seriously though, all help/info would be terrific.
As I child, my bedtime routine was more akin to no routine at all. I was not bathed, put into pajamas, and helped to brush my teeth. I never had a strict bedtime and I never, not once in my entire childhood, was read a bedtime story. I heard the phrase "tucked in," but it was something never done in my own household. My parents, my father normally, might shout, "Get your asses to bed," when we were being particularly loud, but otherwise, the routine at bedtime was more of a non-routine.
I think this may be partially the reason why my children always had a bedtime ritual. Bath time, brush teeth time, followed by story time. I also sang a song to each child, one special song for each child each night, before kissing them good night, tucking them in, and turning off their respective lights.
Doing this wasn't because I felt like I got gypped, but I suppose there was something missing. A certain hunger, a constant craving. I was born an insomniac, so without a bedtime ritual, there was just little Beth staring up at the ceiling, wondering when the next Child of the Corn or vampire would attack. Still, I didn't miss a bedtime ritual. How could I miss something I'd never known?
Then came Wednesday, 8pm, and ABC station's, "Pushing Daisies." All of a sudden, a voice like an angel came out of the television telling me about a young boy named Ned, who has the power to bring back the dead to the living with one touch and send them back again with another ... for good. If he does not touch the undead within one minute of the first touch, someone else must die to take their place. Someone else in close proximity. Aha. Plot thickens.
This narrator is so wonderful, I wish the voice could narrate my own life. I stole that quote from my son. His exact quote, "I wish that dude talking would narrate my life." And the narrator's voice must be particularly good ... J. K. Rowling uses him, full name Jim Dale, for the audio adaptations of her Harry Potter series.
Every Wednesday night at 8, I feel clean, brushed, tucked in, and ready to go on a magical adventure with Ned, Chuck, killer crash dummies, southern-accented China men, or whatever else they deliver to my television set. Jim Dale's melodic voice sets the stage and the incredible actors deliver stellar performances. I'm a child again and nothing is too farfetched. I believe all of it.
From the beloved pie maker, Ned (Lee Pace), to the quirky love interest, Chuck (Anna Friel), the whole cast is riveting, the colors are not just colors, but techni-colors, and the story is always so delightful, so strange, so dark, so whimsical, that it's completely appetizing. As appetizing as the homemade pie you can find at Ned's restaurant, hilariously named -- The Pie Hole.
So ... I hope I've convinced some of you to join me for one of my beloved bedtime rituals every Wednesday night. If you already have, terrific, let's chat about it, and if you haven't, why not? This show is by far one of the best on television and that's not just my opinion, The New York Times, Variety, Newsday and a host of other publications agree.
OK, hope I'm doing this right. Fermicat, a blogger I just happen to adore not only for her amazing cat photos, but for being a genuinely nice blogger to be around tagged me for this SEO (Search Engine Optimization) MeMe.
UPDATE: LINKS ARE REPAIRED!
The skinny is (taken from Fermicat's blog): "This seo meme was conceived and designed by Bobby at Revellian .com. This is a new fun seo meme ride for us all. This is based on the seo theory that links to posts inside your blog are more important than links to your home page. I have selected three posts I want to promote along with my site’s name. You will do the same thing. Let’s keep it simple and spread our good work around to both share and build some ratings! Make sure you pick three posts that you feel are your best. You could also select 3 posts you simply want to promote. Your site name is listed with your 3 selected posts beneath. Once you have your post up: Add the sites and post links of the folks you tagged onto your post. Try to add the site and post links to anyone involved to maximize the effectiveness. Tag a minimum of 5 people. Try your best not to double tag people so it will spread better! Please actually read the posts from everyone so you can see some really good work from our beloved blogging friends! Make your title a little different from mine to avoid repetitive titles."
As you can see above, I have chosen my three. Scott picked number two. Number one is personal and I just quick-picked number three because I think it's funny. Funny and embarrassing, but funny ... at least to me.
I have to tag three people. Still hope I did this right. I'm tagging SpunkyMunky, Hoodie, and Quoibles. Three newcomers. Don't you just love me now?
We interrupt our regularly scheduled winterizing for some much-needed torrential downpours.
Ah, it's okay. My heart wasn't in it anyway. And my back would rather have been out of it all together.
In case you don't read my blog, I took a break from it to winterize outside -- mulch and whatnot, rebuild a rock wall. Fun stuff like that, but the rain decided to derail my plans. Ho hum. Oh well.
In lieu of winterizing, I have been catching up on some sewing projects with my new sewing machine AKA Goddess of Stitches. Having a sewing machine that works after using one for years that didn't is an eye-opening experience to say the least. I thought it was normal to have your machine make the traditional whirring noise, move the fabric along, but not have any stitches on the fabric when you were complete. Or to only get 5 inches into your project and have the thread break ... again and again and again. I used to think "Sewers" (alternate name for seamstresses my mother uses, not to be confused with sewers, which stink and contain things like urine and fecal matter) had an insane amount of patience and talent.
I've figured you out, Sewers. I've caught on to you. You're not so great. You just have a great machine. And now I do too and here I am sewing along -- cell phone cases, coasters, a baby's quilt for my niece, some new throw pillows. When will it end? Probably when the rain does. =/
P.S. And because I am admittedly a nosey gal, where has everyone been? No one visiting or no one commenting? Which is it? Well, if you visit this time, perhaps you can share what little hobby you have in your life.
Since things are looking up on the homefront, I'm just changing the post. Not writing an entire new one, but this should suffice ... for now. I'll be back sometime next week ... hopefully. I have to winterize all the flower beds, mulch like mad, and rebuild a rock retaining wall that took months to build in the first place. Time to tear it down THEN rebuild it again. Blargh.
In the meantime, smile on your brothers, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.
My brain is a bit burned out. As some of you know, my husband suffers from bouts of depression. I believe his family suffers them more than he does, but that's besides the point, I guess. The clinical way to describe my husband's condition is "suffers lows due to bi-polar disorder."
Anyone who is connected and living with someone who has bi-polar disorder has a certain amount of shame for it. I mean, essentially you're saying out loud that the person you married is a lunatic. Not all the time, but some of the time, and well, you picked your spouse, so what does that say about you? And the fact that you continue to live with him? Hmm. And since Movies of the Week make bi-polar disorder look like Joey Buttafuoco on crack, it's not something you tend to scream from the hills.
The thing is though, and I write this knowing of the backlash it may receive ... I don't believe in bi-polar disorder. I'm sorry. I just don't. I believe bi-polar disorder is the new catchphrase for "behaving badly with a written excuse."
My husband received his "get out of doghouse free card" or errr, was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in his early 20's by a family doctor who didn't know boo about the mind. Since he fit the bill of being manic, she gave him medication. If I'm going to be brutally honest, this woman was actually trying to save my marriage. My husband was behaving so irrationally, I told her I wouldn't be able to stay in the situation. She saw me with two young children and said, "I can take the demons out of him with a couple of prescriptions." I was grateful because without the anger, he became the guy who loved me and his children once again. The guy who couldn't believe how terrible he had been. Problem solved. Right?
Then we moved around a bit and every doctor since then agreed with the diagnosis, it was just understood that my husband was depressed, but it wasn't truly looked into until we had our year long stint in Iowa. Our insurance changed, and the diagnosis needed to be re-evaluated. Contrary to what you may have heard, Iowa is not a hotbed of analytical thinking, so basically my husband was sent to some small town psychologist who asked about ten questions and then said, "Yup, you've got bi-polar disorder. Here's your prescriptions."
It didn't take long for all the medication my husband was on to turn him into a complete zombie. He could work, he could watch TV, he could dress and feed himself, but it was a lot like having Frankenstein for a partner (minus neck bolts). So, we both decided this was not a good thing and slowly but surely, he weaned off medication and started feeling good again. Jokes were funny again. Pain hurt. He was feeling life and not just existing. Sure, we fought, but that's normal. That's what normal married couples do every once in a while. They fight, they make up, they move on ... right? No need to engage in sex with others, take a vacation you can't afford, or pummel your partner into the ground ... just get it out and get over it. Move on.
Yeah, that was the plan for a bit.
Then my husband just kept being angry. Daily. Nightly. Hourly. His family -- the children and I -- just weren't up to snuff with his work ethic. His son didn't do enough chores. His daughter didn't help out around the house. I didn't do enough around the house. (and since I'm a bit of a clean freak who cooks two meals daily, this boggles me) OK, in reality, I do enough around the house, but even though my husband makes more than double the salary of most professionals in this area, and even though we don't have any money problems, he thinks I should work outside the home as well. Just, well, just because ... it isn't fair that he's the only one that works outside of the home. I mean, the work done in the home just isn't enough. Meals, laundry, cleaning, fresh linens, taxi driver to kids to and from school, to all events, all errand running, bill paying, sewing, dishes, and the like ... that's just trivial stuff. It isn't make money stuff. In fact, to not have a 9-5 job where you are paid actual dollars makes you a lazy pig. (this is husband's phrasing, not mine)
Let the vicious cycle BEGIN! Usually it lasts for two weeks and then it's over. My family would just breathe a sigh of relief and not have to worry about it for another six months to a year or so. Yeah, that was the way it used to be.
2007 has been a banner year of change in this household. My husband now pouts nightly. Not for a couple of weeks. No. Try months. Try four months ... then five. Finally when my patience has reached a limit where even Mother Theresa would've been screaming, "Oh enough already, you big baby, and get over yourself," after I get dead tired of his yelling while I'm trying to relax and watch some TV, I do the only thing I can think of and, well, it isn't original, but I yell back. It's like Pavlov's dogs. It's the reaction my husband has been patiently waiting for all these months, hell, the whole year in fact. Oh joy! Time for him to yell back, say terrible things to me, then stomp outside for his much-deserved cigarette break.
Then later, here it comes, his well-timed "after son graduates from college, we'll sell house, split the profit and go our separate ways" speech. It would upset me if it weren't so, oh, I don't know, predictable. If it hadn't been said before or if there were some reason for it all. If he had an affair on the side or had secretly been blowing wads of cash on crack or even crack whores. You know, if he had true reasons for behaving badly enough to make an ass out of himself.
I mean, even my own mother, who is what I believe actually crazy to look like says, "Oh Jesus, in another week he'll be kissing your feet telling you you're the love of his life. Why does he feel the need to go through all this bullshit to get there? What a waste."
And yes, Crazy Mommy Sea Hag Extraordinaire is right ... what a waste. My husband is my best friend. To be quite frank, he's my only friend. I'm not really a people person, after all, but a part of my brain keeps screaming, "This is not supposed to be your life! It shouldn't be this hard. Move your ass, get over your fear of people, your social phobias, make some money, and get out! No friendship even connected to a marriage is worth your spirit."
Is that the truth? Or after 21 years, do you just stick it out? This is what's been keeping me up at night lately. Or keeping me down, whichever you prefer, and I thought blogging it out and getting some intelligent feedback might be the way to go.
UPDATE:First, let me just say thank you to the people who left comments and sent e-mails regarding this situation and depression in general. Hearing exactly what was said about depression and about your own personal situations was probably the main reason why my husband is going to his appointment with the idea of asking for help instead of ignoring the obvious. Last night was the first night in MANY nights where he seemed so much lighter, actually relieved, almost as if admitting there's something truly wrong with his brain and me not saying he needed to just take control, well, it was just a different scenario for us. He talked a lot and in depth about his thinking and how he's been feeling. I'm amazed every time this happens and just how much he's twisted things in his brain, to the point of feeling myself and the children are against him just wanting to be rid of him ... and because of you all, I sat listening thinking he wasn't lying to me, he was confessing to me. It was a different way to feel. It was a relief for me too. So, he is getting help and hopefully things will be very different in our future. At least I feel hopeful, which is better than tragic.