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Legacy of Change
by Chris Padgett
Marriage matters and I am not willing to resign myself to business as usual, because a legacy of selfishness is not a legacy worth repeating.
My parents got divorced when I was five years old. Whether I wanted it to happen or not, and let me be clear, I did not, that decision over forty years ago changed my life.
Let me be clear. I love my father and mother, and I know they love my sister and me, but I always wished they could have found a way to love one another. I am thankful for their efforts to love amidst the mess, but I always wanted healing in my home. Sometimes family life can be messy.
I remember looking at other families wishing mine would “work” like theirs. I would watch television and wonder what it would be like to have a father who loved his wife, or what going on a family vacation could be like. While I could not articulate what the problem was within my mother and father’s marriage, I knew that their divorce was not the way things were supposed to be, and even as a small boy I didn’t have the ability to pretend that everything was okay. I was also aware, even as a child, that I did not have the power to fix what was clearly broken.
When I met my wife, I didn’t doubt for a minute that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her; rather, I wondered what it looked like to be a great husband and a father who would be present in my children’s life on a daily basis. Even though so much was unclear to me, one thing I did know, and that was that I never wanted my kids to have to go through what I did in watching my family embody a soon to be all too common growing trend of dysfunction.
Maybe you too come from a broken home. It is possible your parents stayed together, but everything about your experience screams dysfunction. I want to remind you of a simple truth that has kept me sane these many years of marriage and family life: I Serve a God of New Beginnings! This has been a family phrase that has reassured us when we didn’t know which path to choose, encouraged us when we made a wrong decision, and breathed new life into us when we thought it impossible to change. With this in mind, I’d like to give you three practical things you can do to help make those new beginnings a reality in your life. We will all leave a legacy; as for me and my house, I’d like it to be a legacy of not only functionality but joyful holiness.
First, let me remind you of the importance of prayer. I am actually pretty bad sticking to a specific time of organized prayer, but I try every day to either lead my family in prayer or remember them in prayer. Evenings are usually the only time in our family that we are all together, and so, usually right before we yell for our kids to get into bed, we will yell for them all to come in to the living room to pray. It may be a quick, prayer for the Pope, his health, intentions, and pontificate, or it may be the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet. Over the years it has been faithfully administered, and at other times an epic failure. What is consistent is that we know that if we got derailed along the way, we can always start over and get back on the right path. Pray with your family and for your family. I remember my wife saying to me, “If your not praying for me, then who is?” It was a powerful reminder of my call and responsibility to pray.
Second, bless your family. I stole this from a friend of mine, and we’ve been doing this every day that I am home with my family. I will ask my boys, “Who are you?”
They respond, “I’m a warrior.”
“Why,” I say.
“Because I’m your son, God’s son, and my heart is strong.”
I do the sign of the cross on their forehead and off they go. Usually it is a very fast mumble on their part, and often I am standing at the door leaning in to tell them to turn off their lights and go to sleep, but it is important to me, so I bless them. Why? Because I want my sons to know who’s they are! I want them to remember where they came from and what is important in life.
For my girls I ask this question. “What are you?”
To which they respond, “Daddy’s diamond.”
“Because I’m beautiful and worth so much.”
Again, it is fast and often mumbled as they are running about getting ready for bed, but it is important to me, so it happens. What is important to you? I am here to tell you that the legacy of blessing your children is a greater investment than the best stock. The dividends are eternal!
Finally, I continue to date my children’s mother. Part of the gift, in fact maybe the greatest gift I can give my children, is the fact that I love their mother. It is something I never saw in my childhood. In many ways that love is what I longed for my entire life, and the lack created an intense commitment in me to counter it with a determined steadfast resolve to offer a new legacy to my family. Love your wife; love your husband. Because it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.
In the end, there are many family dynamics and extenuating circumstances that make your life what it is today. We want to be a blessing and help to you right where you are. Let us know how we can pray for you and assist you along the way. We would love to cheer you on because I know that God is able to do the possible with seemingly impossible scenarios. I serve a God of New Beginnings! There is nothing He can’t do in and through us. There are many Goliaths that are mocking our God and His people. Let us rally with a conviction that this day our God has given to us the victory which will lead countless others into the hope of a new way of living.
Welcome to the FAM!
Chris married his high school sweetheart Linda over twenty-six years ago. They have nine children, two grandchildren and live north of Syracuse, NY, where Chris is likely shoveling snow from last year’s winter. Chris is a lay evangelist, author, musician, and teacher traveling the world offering missions, lectures, keynotes, and concerts. Together, Chris and Linda provide marriage retreats, offer Pre-Cana courses for their home diocese and are constantly looking for new ways to encourage families and marriages. Chris’s most recent books are
Holy Marriage, Happy Marriage
Why the Eucharist Matters for Your Life
(The Word Among us), and
I’m Not Ok, You’re Not Ok, but it’s Ok
(Dynamic Catholic). Chris also teaches university courses for Catholic Distance University.
Never Stop Peddling
by Lisa Perron
Never Stop Peddling
Several years back, my husband Bob and I took up bike riding. We used to go to the trail a few times a week, putting many miles on those wheels. There was something beautiful about experiencing the splendor of nature while getting much needed exercise that made those times together on the trail priceless.
Marriage is a lot like riding a bike. At the beginning of your relationship, pedaling is easy. The excitement of new love and a new relationship keeps you pushing up the hills and enjoying the exhilarating glide down them. After a while, pedaling becomes more difficult. There are some hills that are so steep, you feel as if you’ll never reach the top. But if you press on, you will be rewarded by the other side.
Not long ago, we heard about a couple that is very dear to us who had just separated. This couple was the last couple that we ever dreamed would separate. Bob and I had looked up to them as they built a beautiful family and, what appeared to be, an amazing life together. It’s so easy when you’ve been married a long time to take your relationship for granted. You get bogged down by busyness of family life and work and stop focusing on the importance of your relationship. Somewhere along the way, indifference set in, mistakes were made, and after nearly thirty years, this precious couple stopped pedaling.
This news breaks our hearts for several reasons. We’re devastated for the couple. They both are people that we admire greatly and we knew that this must be incredibly painful for the both of them. We also ache for their children. As hard as this news is for us to accept, I can’t imagine how terribly difficult this must be for them. We also know
that this situation has shocked and caused pain to their extended family as well. After the initial shock, we were overcome by fear when we heard about this couple’s separation. If it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone. And if it can happen to anyone, it could happen to us.
We at Catholic Family and Marriage, Inc. want to do our part to help stop the growing epidemic of failing marriages. First, we want to help pre-married and newly married couples to lay a strong foundation on which to build their family. Second, we want to encourage couples as they pedal through the difficult terrain of exhaustive parenting of very young children, through the busyness of making sure their older children make it to whatever practices or lessons they need to attend, and through the bumpy road of dealing with teenagers as they begin to step out in the world on their own. Third, we want to remind couples to take time to examine their foundation, determine its weak spots, and make necessary repairs so they can continue to build on what God has blessed them with. We want to prevent families from getting to the same place that this couple has found themselves. We pray daily for strong families and, when those families are faced with difficult times, we pray for God to fill them with strength.
We ask that you join us in praying for this special couple. We know that God is more than capable to repair the damage their mistakes have wrought and give each of them the ability to forgive, if only they would open their hearts to receive the gift.
Always remember, when it comes to your marriage, never stop pedaling.
Lisa has been deep in the trenches of youth ministry as the wife of youth minister Bob Perron for over 28 years. She is the author of the novel “Among the Reeds” and co-author of “Lessons Learned from a God-Sized Family.” Lisa also has a blog at www.lisaperron.org.
A New Year's tradition that will grow your faith
By Linda Padgett
“Oh Lord, does this mean it’s going to be a bad year?” That was my exact thought when I opened the small piece of paper and read the name on it. St. Stephan was the name and he was the church’s first martyr.
For years, my family has kept to the annual tradition of selecting new patron saints in January. We have a large collection of papers that contain the name of a saint, their feast day, and patronage. We believe that it’s not the person who does the selecting; rather, it’s the saint who chooses us.
In 2006, when I was pregnant with our 8th child, St. Stephan selected me.
There is little known about this young man other than the fact he was an early member of the new growing church, a deacon serving it, and was stoned to death at the instruction of Saul, who later became St. Paul. His blood helped to lay the foundation that thousands of future martyrs were able to stand on. He is a true gift to the church.
In the years that we have practiced this tradition, I have had saints that I feel were not very influential in my journey. For one reason or another, the year passed without much interaction with them. Of course, the loss was mine. Every saint has something to teach us, if we allow him or her into our hearts and thoughts.
In other years, I have noticed my patron saint inspiring and encouraging me at certain points throughout the year. One such time was about two years ago. I had spent a good part of the year praying about what direction the Lord was leading me in ministry. When it became clear that I was to start training for a Spiritual Direction certification, I had that “DUH” moment. My patron saint for that year was St. Ignatius of Loyola, who developed the spiritual exercizes, used in most spiritual direction courses.
But 2006 was a different experience completely. Half way through the year, I went through a trial that shook me to the core. I made a terrible, embarrassing mistake that caused a huge backlash of criticism and attacks to flood in. In the midst of that suffering, I was reminded that my patron saint was St. Stephen. I recognized that I felt like I was being stoned. Though the reasons for our attacks were very different, it was comforting to know that I had a big brother in heaven praying for me and encouraging me. He was a constant presence of love during that difficult time.
The Catholic Church is blessed to have such a large cloud of witnesses at our disposal. These holy men and women are not just sitting up on clouds being disconnected from what is happening on earth. Rather, they are given to us as gifts—sources of wisdom, experience, and a correct eternal perspective. Similar to the intercession we receive from fellow Catholics here on earth, the intercession of saints can provide a peace of mind to us as we journey through difficult times.
So, how can you tap into this resource through an annual tradition of patron saints? Do you have to research, type out, and print dozens of names? Thankfully, our collection was a gift.
In this virtual age world, there is a great online resource created just for this tradition. Saint Name Generator is a simple website that will provide you with a saint for the year. After saying a simple prayer asking the Holy Spirit to direct the results, you just click the button and a name will appear. If you believe that God’s hand is in this experience, you will find that the saint who chooses you is the perfect companion to provide encouragement throughout the next calendar year. Even if you are unfamiliar with the appointed saint, there are lessons to learn.
After you receive your name, write it down and put it somewhere you can see on a regular basis. Make note of their feast day and patronage. As the year goes on, read about the saint and possibly read some of their writings, if they have any.
The saint who chose me for 2018 is St. John of the Cross. This excites me because I know the Lord is leading me into a deeper contemplative life.
This year can prove to be an amazing year of growth and enlightening if you tap into the wisdom and guidance of this brother or sister in Heaven. Find your partner and enjoy the journey.
Saint Name Generator
I spent the first 50 years of my life apologizing for who I was and the next 30 not giving a shit. I deserve to be the crotchety SOB I am today. God hasn’t exactly been generous in the answering prayers department. In fact, he’s been downright stingy. Eleven days ago I prayed my most desperate prayer yet, and nothing. The man upstairs and I aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. I’m the kind of guy who refuses to see his dying wife in the hospital. This shouldn’t have surprised my daughter; however, it didn’t prevent her from giving it one hell of a try at persuading me otherwise. Elizabeth had spent what seemed like hours first begging and then demanding me to see her mother. She’d allowed virtually no time for pleasantries when she first arrived before she started into her rant. That girl had some nerve to speak to me the way she had. She has her mother’s redheaded fiery temper but my dark hair and eyes. Go figure.
Elizabeth finally stopped for a breath about thirty minutes in. She was getting nowhere with this stubborn old man. I had taken my place in my recliner and pretended that her words weren’t getting to me. I nodded and raised my eyebrows a lot; all the while, every organ in my body throbbed. I had learned a long time ago that it did no good to try to match the intensity of my daughter or her mother when they ranted. They were too good at anticipating and too used to winning every argument. Acting as if I didn’t care about what they were saying was the best way to infuriate them, and I excelled at that. I didn’t want to accept the fact that Millie was dying and I wasn’t, which really pissed me off. “I can’t see her right now,” I’d said, which really riled her up.
“What do you mean you can’t? Blah blah blah blah blah!” She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to yowl some more. Instead, she became distracted by the state of my kitchen. “When was the last time that you cleaned this place up?”
“I can’t remember.” This obviously displeased my daughter. Elizabeth’s mouth hung open for a moment before she launched herself towards my kitchen and grabbed the trashcan. I really couldn’t remember the last time. Elizabeth didn’t know that I’d hired a fellow resident’s granddaughter to come every Saturday morning to clean my apartment. I’d never taken to cleaning up after myself, much to the frustration of Millie. Having Sarah come by and doing it for me provided a way for me to continue avoiding the dreadful task. Yesterday, when Sarah arrived, I told her I was sick and sent her away. I wasn’t really sick. I just couldn’t bear to have anyone in my apartment.
I usually ate dinner in the dining hall at the retirement home where I lived. But for the last week and a half, I’d been eating ninety-nine-cent Banquet microwavable meals in my apartment. The last thing I wanted to do was to go to the dining hall and make trivial conversation with people I can hardly stand. Hell, I couldn’t bring myself to have any conversation with anyone. Not even Elizabeth. Although I’m not sure she was in any state to have a back and forth exchange. Any communication happening in my apartment at the time was entirely one way. “How can you live like this?” she asked as she slammed the week’s worth of boxes and containers into the trashcan.
My stomach jolted. My daughter was really starting to piss me off. “Who do I have to clean up for?”
Elizabeth stopped her trash thrusting to flash me an indignant look. “For you! Do you not have any self-respect? Geeze, Dad. This place is disgusting.”
My intent was to leap out of my chair and confront my daughter in my kitchen. However, it took me so long to get to a standing position that my action lost the intimidating effect that I’d hoped for. I stomped toward Elizabeth. “It’s none of your damn business how I live.”
After Elizabeth had filled two trash bags, she flung open my dishwasher and started filling it with exaggerated movements. “You know, you don’t have to dirty a new glass every time you get a drink.”
I’d had enough of Elizabeth’s bullshit. My voice shook as I spat out my words. “I can use as many damn glasses as I damn well please because this is my damn house.” I know I could have been more creative with my explicatives but I was rather flustered. Plus, Millie had beaten all of the more colorful cuss words out of my vocabulary years ago. I grabbed a coffee cup off the counter and tried to squeeze past my daughter to put it in the dishwasher. I must not have had a very good grip on it though because it flew out of my hand and shattered on the floor.
Elizabeth gave me an apologetic look. “I’ll help you clean that up. Where’s your broom?”
“I’ll get my own damn broom and clean up my own damn mess.” My ears burned from a mixture of fury and embarrassment. “I’m not going with you to see your mother today, so you might as well just leave.” I had one hand on the counter to steady myself. I felt as if my knees would give out at any minute, and I certainly didn’t want Elizabeth here to witness it. “Well?” I yelled in the best get the hell out way I could manage.
Elizabeth’s eyes watered up. “You really are a jackass. Do you know that?”
“Yep,” I’d said, matter of fact like.
She let out a huge breath, shook her head at me and said, “Mom deserves so much better than this.” She stormed out, slamming the door behind her.
I bent to gather the slivers of my smashed cup only to realize it was my favorite one. My “World’s Greatest Dad” cup the kids had given to me for Father’s Day decades earlier was shattered along with any respect that they’d had for me over the years. I hadn’t realized how fast I’d been breathing until after Elizabeth had left. I started to feel a little dizzy. I sat on the floor to catch my breath and wondered when it was that my kids stopped looking up to me as their heroic daddy and began to see me for what I actually am.
I had a hard time slowing my breathing down to normal. I felt a tiny spark of hope leap in my chest, thinking maybe I was having a heart attack and would never have to clamber up off this floor. But then I remembered that God was much too cruel to let me off that easy.
I’m not sure how long I sat slumped on the floor of my kitchen. Eventually, I used a chair to pull myself up. It didn’t take as long as I thought to load my dishwasher and get it started. I even wiped off the counters. It’s a good thing Elizabeth hadn’t needed to use my bathroom. She thought my kitchen was dirty.
At least I didn’t have to worry about any other pesky visitors today. My kids took turns seeing me every other week. I used to look forward to those visits but now, every time I look at my kids, all I see is Millie. I miss my wife every minute, but somehow her absence feels greater when my kids are around. I poured a fresh glass of iced tea in my last clean glass and collapsed into my recliner. I resumed my never-ending pastime of staring at nothing. Aging is a lonely job, especially when your wife of fifty-eight years doesn’t recognize you anymore. My days are filled with just waiting to die, and it’s taking too damn long to happen.
TO BE CONTINUED...
What I really want to know...
Interview with Chris Padgett
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard late night talk show hosts, news reporters, and television anchors ask authors or actors questions and felt in the end it was a waste of time. So many wasted opportunities to ask the really important questions. It is like the interviewer has no idea who they are even talking to! What I really want to know is, how did they come up with that idea? What were there influences? Were they ever afraid or worried what someone would think about their art? How long did it take them to write that book or record that song?
I have had some wonderful opportunities to sit with people I respect, authors and theologians, preachers and musicians, successful, sinful and saintly people, and ask them why and how they excelled in particular areas or endured difficulties with such grace. Those talks helped me to feel motivated and encouraged. I want you to be motivated and encouraged too, and so that is why I wanted to contribute these monthly interviews; to offer you a perspective of what it could be like if you had a chance to sit down and really get to know that particular person. So, I hope you enjoy this series as much as I’ve enjoyed doing the interviews. In case you really wanted to know, that’s the reason why I interviewed . . .
Meet Cartoonist Dan Reynolds
I met Dan a few years ago after I did a presentation in Brewerton, NY at Divine Mercy Parish. After wowing the crowd with my amazing humor, this guy comes up and talks to me about writing comics for places like American Greetings and other greeting cards. It was a great meeting because Dan was not only extremely talented and kindly complimentary to what I was doing, but he was also vulnerable. He shared about his cancer, and how God had done a great work in his heart. It wasn’t until later that I realized how famous this guy was.
Honestly, I’ve seen his comics everywhere, and so have you, even if you didn’t know it. Dan is very humble, truly a man pursuing holiness, and a joy to be around, even if he can get a little out of control with his puns. I loved asking him these questions and was blessed reading his responses. Dan lives in Central Square, New York and attends Divine Mercy with his family. You can find more about his work at
Buy Divine Comedy NOW!
1. Tell me a little about your sense of humor? Was it always so punny?
I think my humor has always gravitated towards the pun. I'm not sure why. It could be genetic. It just seems to be in my bones. I guess that might explain why I'm "humerus."
2. You have a ton of religious themes in your cartoons, was that always the case?
Actually, it wasn't until after many years, I looked back and noticed there has always been a string of religious humor in my cartoons, but not at the present rate. I guess this is because you do what you know.
3. What is the greatest compliment you have received concerning one of your cartoons?
The greatest compliment for a cartoonist is to see (or hear about) your cartoon(s) posted on someone's refrigerator. Refrigerators double as family albums so to see one of your cartoons on someone's frig is to become one of the family.
4. What are some of the stories behind your cartoons? Any favorites?
When I had cancer and was just operated on and having been wheeled into the post-op room, the nurse asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was a cartoonist. She said, "Oh, I love cartoons! There's the funniest cartoon on the door in the next room." I asked her what it was, and as she described it to me, I realized it was one of mine that had appeared in the Reader's Digest. As I rolled out of the post-op room, sure enough, there was my cartoon on the door. Small world. Then, there are some (not many but some) which are taken from real life. For example, one day I went to the hardware store with Father Chris. We needed some mops and other equipment as I was going to do the tile floors in the church basement. As Father stood with a mop in his hand, wearing his priest collar, and talking to the store worker, he asked, "Do you have any stripper here?" I drew this cartoon as it happened and added one of the women from the church in the background looking all aghast.
5. Has anyone ever gotten mad at your over a cartoon?
Currently, I'm in the "witless" protection program so I can't divulge this information or my family will have to move again. Seriously though, (don't you love it when humorists say,
like now we're going to get all Walter Cronkite-like) people will get mad at you for saying "God loves you." Fortunately, since I'm not a political cartoonist, my hate mail is usually far less than it could be. Usually, the only person mad at one of my cartoons is myself if I feel it isn't up to what it could be. Those cartoons are soon "drawn" and quartered.
6. Who are your influences? I see a lot of Gary Larson. Has any one of your influences or heroes seen your work?
Gary Larson is an influence, however, what most people don't realize is that Gary Larson was totally influenced by all sorts of sources himself: Mad Magazine, the New Yorker cartoons, etc. So, every cartoonist is an amalgamation of many influences mixed into their own personal style. It's sort of a humorous inbreeding kind of thing. Like the world's population, we're all sort of related at some point. I trace my laughter lineage to "Og" the caveman cartoonist who used to draw funny pictures on the cave walls at night by fire. Truth told, my very first cartoon really was of a caveman named "Og" holding a spear with a cat tied to it, ready to throw it at a mouse. The cartoon was entitled "Og invents the first mousetrap." It was drawn in December of 1989.
7. I know you had a bit of a wake up call, even a reversion to your faith. Does that show up in your work?
The whole DIVINE COMEDY presentation and the influx of a much higher ratio of religious cartoons are a result of my re-enlightenment of my Catholic faith, and this was as a result of my personal suffering and battle with cancer.
8. You do presentations around the country highlighting some of your work. What can someone expect from an event you are putting on?
The DIVINE COMEDY presentation is an amalgam of my religious cartoon work, jokes, my own personal faith journey, and a live art demonstration (I can't describe this part as it is a secret and to reveal it would be to tell the punchline before the joke.) all working together to relate the message of the importance of humor and joy to enrich one's faith life.
9. What is your work habit like? Do you wake up at a certain time to sketch? Is there ever a time you don’t travel with a tablet and pencil?
Like the gunman of the Old West, I have to carry my guns . . . er. . . my pencils in my holster and be ready to "draw" at anytime. Creativity is a gift from God, and since God exists outside of time, He's open 24-7. There is no time I travel without paper and pencil . . . or eraser.
10. You have had a number of your comics put into volumes for people to buy. How many are there, and is that every comic you’ve sketched?
I believe I have twenty-seven published books to date. They do not hold every cartoon I've ever done. I haven't counted all my cartoons (because I probably can't count that high), but it must be somewhere north of 10,000.
11. About how many comics have you drawn?
Refer to question number 10 and add one.
12. Did you always know you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Absolutely not. Here's where I depart from just about anyone else regarding cartooning as most were born with a number 2 pencil in their mouth. I never drew cartoons (or ANYTHING, for that matter) until just before I turn thirty years old. I didn't know I could draw. I spent most of my time wondering what I'd be when I grew up.
13. How often is your work stolen?
Everyday, probably every minute of the day around the world. The internet for the cartoonist is like a burning city where the mobs run into the stores and loot all the valuables because there aren't enough cops to stop them. I just stand there with mouth agape. Ironically, I often receive viral humor emails which have a number of my own cartoons in them. I currently have one of my licensees patrolling the internet for my cartoons, which they license from their site in order to help keep them "honest."
14. Are there subjects you stay away from? Politics?
Yeah, I stay away from politics usually because political gags have a very short shelf life. Notice, with the downfall of newspapers, most political cartoonists are out of work. I also try to stay away from anything too graphic.
15. Which comic of yours do you think Jesus likes the most?
The first one that comes to mind is the one with Jesus standing in a "Lost and Found" booth hugging each person as they come up to Him in line.
16. How often do you not complete a sketch? Do you have a drawer where you put all the questionable drawings?
My goal is always to have completed at least one a day. Yesterday, I did three. Tomorrow, I might not do one. With increased responsibilities like travel, diaconate training, and church work, it becomes more of a balancing act. Fortunately, God does not give us more than we can handle.
17. What question do you wish I would ask?
"Whose your barber?"
18. What question do you hate having to answer?
Besides this one? Well, traditionally, there was the most ubiquitous question asked of a cartoonist, "Where do you get your ideas from?" If you're a cartoonist who buys gag ideas from a gagwriter, that's an easy answer. If you're a cartoonist like me that does my own writing as well, it's not always an easy answer. In recent years, I've come to the correct answer. I get my ideas from God, who is the only original author and writer. Everything that has ever been or will be written was first conceived in the mind of God. So, I have the best gagwriter in the universe: God. He is a God of surprises.
19. Does your wife ever look at a comic and think it isn’t funny?
All the time. Those are the ones I don't do. (My wife says that's a lie!)
20. I notice one of the priests in your comic strips has a strong resemblance to Father Chris Celetano. Is there something you want to say?
Guilty as charged. Like I said above, you do what you know. Some people have better cartoon faces than others. You, Chris, for instance, have a perfect cartoon face. From a cartoonist, that's a great compliment! Lots of times people say to me (usually from fear), "You're not going to draw me in one of your cartoons are you?" No one should fear my pencil. I try to use it for only good.
My husband Bob and I have spent most of our marriage living month-to-month. Usually we ran out of money before we ran out of month. Several years ago as I sat on my couch channel surfing, I stumbled upon an episode of
on television. I wasn’t a huge follower of the show, but this particular episode caught my eye. For those of you not familiar with this sitcom, Rosanne and her family were always scrimping for money. Several of their bills were coming due and they did not have the funds to cover them. Rosanne told her husband Dan how she was going to take care of the problem. First, she was going to put the check for the gas bill in the electric bill envelope and the electric bill check in the gas bill envelope. Then she was going to send an unsigned check to the water department. By the time all of this mess was sorted out, they’d have money in the bank to cover it. I remember wondering if that technique would work and contemplated trying it. I can remember doing similar acrobatic acts with our finances when we were first married. Determining which bill was the most urgent to pay and juggling all of the rest caused me many sleepless nights.
We thought that the solution to our problem was that we needed more money, when actually what we needed was to spend less. In marriage prep, our instructors stressed how a majority of marital conflicts in marriages were caused by finances. We talked about the importance of living on a budget. It sounded like a great idea at the time because we had never lived on our own and had no idea how much adult life costs. Once we got married, budgeting got pushed aside by another word—survival. The very thought of trying to budget seemed an impossible task. When we added up our expenses and subtracted them from our income, there just wasn’t enough there to cover everything. So our solution was to ignore the issue and continue the destructive pattern of money mismanagement.
I always thought that a budget would be so restrictive. How could it not be? A budget is going to tell me that I can’t spend money on the things I need, or more likely, the things I want. The word budget gave me the same heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach as the word diet (which I need to point out
a four letter word). Finally, after nearly thirty years of avoiding the dreaded B word, we decided to give budgeting a shot. We found an app for a zero budget program. In this budget, every penny that you spend is accounted for and every dollar you make is planned for. At the end of the month, you should have nothing left over. That doesn’t mean that you have to spend everything that you earn, it means that if you don’t spend it, it needs to be put into savings for an emergency fund. I had my doubts about the whole budget thing, but I was determined to give it my best effort.
The first thing that I noticed about following a budget was that it was so freeing. Instead of it dictating what I could not spend, the budget gave me permission to spend. If our son needed a new pair of shoes, we could buy them because we had budgeted and reserved money for these types of situations. We could go to the movies and eat out because we had money allotted for these activities. We weren’t making any more money than we had before, but it felt like we were. Before, if we splurged on a nice meal or a new coat, we would always feel guilty—as if we were taking that money from more important needs. Now we can actually enjoy those experiences. And if we wanted to see a movie, and our movie category was already depleted, we could either refrain from going or choosing what category we could take the money from. We were finally able to see and take responsibility for what we spent.
Instead of tackling our biggest bill and trying to pay it off, we took our smallest. We made minimum payments on the rest and put everything we could into that one bill. It’s amazing how the success of paying off a bill, any bill, can boost your confidence and encourage you to take on the next bill. The weight of our dealing with our expenses has decreased immensely. Instead of focusing on all that we couldn’t spend or the bills that we couldn’t pay off as quickly as we’d liked, we focused on what we could and that made all of the difference.
I just realized that I have been describing this budgeting plan like I’ve heard others try to sell me on a diet plan. Oh wait. The correct terminology is not diet, but a new way of life. That’s exactly what living on a budget has been for us over the past fourteen months. We communicate more openly about our wants and our needs, which allows us to plan for them. We sometimes still feel like we’re running out of money before months sometimes, but the reality is, as long as we keep to the budget, we will make it.
Bob's Obsession of the Month
Bob Perron is known to obsess on occasion (okay, almost always.) Once a month he will share one of those obsessions in the magazine. This month it is Canasta.
by Chris Padgett
What do you think of when you hear the word “family”? I’d be amazed if it included your priest. Recently, out of curiosity, I posted a question on Facebook that asked, “What one word describes your priest?” I received tons of answers. What I was looking for, was whether someone would use the word "father" when they thought of their priest. Out of the many words, and some were not positive at all, only two people identified their priest as father. In a way this is so sad to me. One of the areas I will focus on over the next few years will be the role of Spiritual Fatherhood. Why? Because, God has a unique way of creating family dynamics out of seemingly impossible scenarios. The Perron’s wrote a whole book on having a God Sized Family, because when you allow the Lord into your relationship, His idea of the
family can often look a little different than our initial dream. These priests are truly fathers to their parishoners and are fathers to any who come to them for the sacraments. They may be younger than you, but their journey of sanctity necessarily demands that they lay down their life for the bride of Christ (that’s you and I) and minister to the children of God (you and I again). In this interview, I asked these fathers how their families played a role in their decision to become a priest.
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