Thoughts On Adoption

I don’t intend for this blog to be overly political or flooded with contemporary issues, but I’ve had a few conversations lately that have inspired this post, and I really have nowhere else to share them.

Those who know me know that I am adopted. I have a younger sister who is also adopted (Katie*). I have an even younger sister who is my parents’ biological child (Kelsey). While adoption has always been an element of our family, it has never really mattered much until recently. Continue reading

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An Unwelcome Addition

I confessed not long ago to being a Harry Potter fan. Well, it’s time for another confession.

{I watched the Sex and the City 2 movie.}

While the premise was ridiculous and the entire movie was a two hour excuse for SJP to wear outlandish clothes, there was one scene that stuck out to me.

In celebration of their wedding anniversary, Mr. Big presents Carrie with a brand new TV to be located in their bedroom. She’s appalled and he’s confused. What could possibly be the problem with having a TV in the bedroom?

Carrie and Mr. Big

I wrote off the movie as a waste of time and didn’t dwell on it again until recently. Over Christmas NC purchased a new TV for the living room. While I don’t harbor the appreciation for the finer, technical aspects, I was keenly aware that this meant that we suddenly had an extra TV lying around.

It’s had been a few weeks and the extra TV stayed put in the closet. About two weeks ago NC pulled it out and set it up in the bedroom.

Suddenly all of my disdain for Carrie’s reaction was erased and replaced with my own fears about what this possibly meant about my relationship. Were we, in our 20’s, suddenly taking on the lives of an old married couple?

Could it be that my efforts to keep our relationship fresh were wasted?

The first night when I came home from work I found NC in bed with a bag of Chex-Mix watching a movie. It was as if all my nightmares were staring me in the face.

I’m not implying that every relationship needs daily cuddling or falling asleep together to be sustained. But there has to be a balance. There has to be understanding that ultimately your partner is there with you, and you can record whatever program is so important to you.

NC and I had to set boundaries. He watches TV in bed when I am at work, and I watch TV when he’s gone. If we start watching TV in the living room and move to the bedroom that’s also acceptable.

The most important point is that we don’t turn the TV on every night.

After a few weeks I’m starting to mind its presence less. I’m still not a fan of bringing media into the bedroom but I’ve become more open to compromise.

Unlike Carrie and Mr. Big, it seems the TV in our room is a permanent fixture. Well, at least for now.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

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As any dog owner knows, there are many benefits and joys to having a four-legged friend. They love unconditionally and are comforting companions.

Mud is a lab-mix rescue that NC adopted several years ago. He has become my best friend, and I’ve since taken on responsibility for his care. When NC is away at work, Mud never leaves my side. He hangs out in the kitchen while I’m cooking and sleeps in bed with me at night.

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A few weeks ago NC decided it was time (finally) to buy a new bed. We had been using a 20 year old full size mattress, and it was far beyond worn out. So, we journeyed out and bought a queen sized foam mattress and comforter set. I chose a silky comforter, and warned NC before we left the store that Mud would no longer be allowed on the bed.  

{The Process}

As soon as the bed was set up and the new comforter in place, I shooed Mud out of the room and closed the door. My theory was that if I eliminated his access, I could prevent the problem.

My mistake was in assuming that NC and I would remember to close the door every time we left the bedroom. Unfortunately, we’re both busy people and creatures of habit. When you live with doors open for years, it’s harder than you would think to start closing them.

For the first two weeks we mostly kept up with it. There were a few cases in which we forgot, but for the most part we kept Mud in whichever room we were in.

Gradually, I started leaving the door open more often. Whenever Mud left the room I checked on him. If I caught him on the bed I scolded him with a firm “No,” and sent him back out to the living room.

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NC gives Mud everything. They’ve been together for years, and he treats him more like a friend than a pet. Every time I kicked Mud out of the bedroom or tried to discipline him I was met with protest.

“He’s just a lonely dog. He misses his room.”

“Poor little guy, he’s so abused!”

I couldn’t imagine a dog with an easier life. He has his own room complete with his own bed for crying out loud! (It’s the guest room, but we never have sleepover guests.)

Should he decide not to sleep on the bed in his room, he has free reign over the couch and two doggie beds. Must be rough.

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Despite his protests, I kept up with my training and Mud no longer jumped on the bed. I could chalk that up as success. Old dogs can learn new rules after all.

As J-Term approached, I was confident that my training would stick, even though I would be away at school for four days of the week. I would miss Mud and NC, but I wasn’t worried.

{The Result}

The first Friday in January I sped home after class. When I walked through the door, neither NC nor Mud were there to greet me. Unusual. Even if NC is busy in the office, Mud always meets me at the door with tail wagging and love.

Confused, I went searching for them.

I found them in bed watching TV.

As soon as he saw me, NC looked at Mud. “Run! She’s gonna be angry!”

Mud scampered out of the room.

I left for 4 days and all of my training went straight down the drain. It turns out as soon as I left the house NC had allowed Mud back on the bed.

So much for preserving the quality of my new comforter.

I learned a valuable lesson here. If NC and I ever have kids, I’ll never be allowed to leave the house if I expect them to retain any sort of discipline, and I’ll never again choose to buy an expensive comforter.

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The Joint Checking Dilemma

Money

{Background}

There is a scene in my favorite movie, Sweet Home Alabama, where Jake (Josh Lucas) comes home to find that his recently returned wife, Melanie (Reese Witherspoon), has redecorated his house and replaced all of his furniture, food, and décor.

The scene includes a married couple, but it gives some idea of what happens when a relationship is failing and money is involved.

Jake: Whatever blows your dress up darlin’. You go right ahead and spend your money.

Melanie: Oh but darlin’, I thought you said we should think of it as our money? Just a guess, but I’m thinking the words “joint checking” are flashing into your head right now?

Situation and film exaggeration aside, whether or not to use a joint checking account is a decision faced by couples. It may seem like a good idea, but as Reese Witherspoon demonstrates, that’s not always the case.

{Cohabitation}

So, you’ve decided to live together. You’re splitting bills, sharing food, and investing in furniture. While it’s an exciting time in your relationship it is important to remember not to rush into any financial decisions.

You might be tempted to combine your money into a single account. After all, you’re splitting all of your bills equally, right? Wrong. Unmarried couples have a variety of expenses that do not affect their partners.

  • Student Loans
  • Car Payment
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Insurance
  • Clothing
  • Recreation
  • And so much more…

Personally, I don’t know anyone who is willing to freely contribute to paying off a partner’s previously incurred debt.

Additionally, 40% of cohabitating couples break up within the first five years. When there’s no legally binding agreement to stay together, couples are far less likely to work out problems and stay together. It’s much easier to move out than to get a divorce. Separating finances in this event can get messy. Should you split everything evenly? Base it on the percentage contributed? My tip: skip the drama and keep your money separate.

While couples who live together are likely to have similar incomes, both partners will not be making equal contributions or have equal outside expenses. Save yourself the fight.

{Compromise}

Is it going to be difficult to use joint accounts while cohabitating? Yes. Can you make it work? Yes.

Create a “Bills Account”: This is an account specifically designated for paying bills including rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, neighborhood fees, etc. When the bills roll in each month, each partner deposits half (or whatever amount you agree on) into the account. This account is not used for other purposes, and it is up to each partner to budget and insure that they have enough to contribute each month.

Take it one step further: If you’re both responsible enough (and you should be if you’re living together) you can also use the joint account for specific joint purchases. This is food, household items, furniture, etc. Make sure that each person is contributing equally, and that your purchases from this account fall within the guidelines you create together.

Whatever you choose, make sure that you keep the majority of your finances separate. Build a savings account and keep a checking account for personal purchases and emergencies.

Personal Note: Having guidelines and saving recipts may seem like you’re expecting the relationship to fail. Understand that you’re really only protecting yourself if things happen to not work out. It’s a little like signing a prenuptial agreement.

NC and I have an agreement about our finances. We share a phone plan (which he pays for) and divide expenses for food, household items, and pet care. When a bigger item comes into play we save receipts. Our arrangement outlines who gets what should we break up. It also includes how our phone bill would be paid, etc.

I do not expect that we will break up, but we’re young and there are no guarantees. I’m happy to know that we’re each protected, just in case.

{My Advice}

Whether or not to use joint accounts is a decision not to be taken lightly. Talk to your partner and establish guidelines and expectations. Be open and honest. You don’t have to hand over your paycheck, but your significant other should have an idea of what you can expect to contribute. You can’t live a six figure life on a $12, 000 budget. If you’re not comfortable talking about money, you probably have no business living together in the first place.

In the end, no one can tell you what will work for your circumstances and relationship. Be realistic and understand that you should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst where money is concerned.

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