Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Do you live with shame? Do you feel shame? Are you ashamed of anything?

The dictionary defines shame as: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

Ashamed is defined as: feeling shame; distressed or embarrassed by feelings of guilt, foolishness, or disgrace.

I carry shame. I often find myself feeling ashamed that I have not taken proper care of our finances. I feel shame when I see people from my childhood for things that I never knew about, that I never did, but that other people who were related to me did. I feel shame that I cannot afford to live in the town I grew up in or the town that my husband grew up in. Both of these towns are very affluent and highly desirable locations to live. I feel shame a lot more than I care to admit.

In fact I blog anonymously. At first I did so because I was warned of all the evils in the world. And I agree there are many people who are wasting otherwise useful talents on harming other people, stealing identities and the like. But I am done with that. I am Betsy. I have three children, Merriweather, who is 6.5 and pretty fabulous, Wilton, 5, who is mostly fabulous, but sometimes more frustrating that I care to admit and finally Oliver, who is 3.5. I am married to Jeremy, a Jew. He is beyond words fabulous and I am lucky that love and hate are so closely related, because we sure hated each other in college. We are an interfaith family, trying to figure out what that means.

To the outside world, it may look like everything is ok here at our house and in our lives (which is technically not true because I am an open book and anyone who knows me knows we are not ok) but really, we are a work in progress. I am proud of the fact that our lives are filled with analysis and that we strive to be better than we are. Better than we learned to be. Better. Constantly better. Stagnation only lasts for so long before we attack it. I may be the force behind the attack but our family and my marriage are far better for it.

Our financial situation is just barely short of the edge. Truly. We are very smart people but never learned to handle money. So we are learning to handle money. We enrolled in Financial Peace University, a program started by Dave Ramsey that empowers people, evidently millions of people, to take control of their money. I started another blog at the beginning of the year to track my progress on the many resolutions I made for 2010, including our progress in the class. It is only slightly less anonymous than this one.

98% truth is still a lie. Did you know that? I heard this last night at the preview of Financial Peace University. I was reminded of this tonight, and frankly? It pissed me off. So here I am blogging about it to get it out of my heart and soul.

Tonight I found out that the couple who is facilitating the class has a son, who attends the high school where Jeremy teaches. In fact the son is one of Jeremy's students. After I relayed the small world story to Jeremy the following thought passed through my mind, which was and is the impetus for this post.

"I wonder if they will put two and two together and figure out that Jeremy is their son's teacher. Hmm. What if they tell their son, then they will know. The students will know that we are in the course because we are poor." SHAME.

Why would I feel this way? That I don't know. I am working on trying to figure it out. I believe it is very deep rooted in the fact that I am the daughter of a physician, who did not handle money properly. As a result we lived a facade that was perpetuated by where we lived and by his vocation. There is without question conclusions to be drawn when you hear, "My father was/is a physician." Today, I am 41 and when the conversation goes to childhood and parents, I still get it. "Oh you must have been rich." And on and on it goes. I was beat up by a boy who went to school in our town, but who lived in another, less affluent town. He called me a "rich bitch" when he found out that my dad was a physician. We were not rich. Not at all.

I vividly remember when Jeremy and I decided to get married standing in my now in-laws kitchen talking about wedding plans. It was a few weeks after we had announced that we were to be married. I don't recall the exact conversation but I know it was the first time I cried in front of them. They were waiting for my father, as in father of the bride, to make a declaration with regards to the finances of the wedding. I recall being dumbfounded. I mean dumbfounded. And full of shame. I knew what they did not know. He would not be providing any monetary support for my wedding. Words cannot describe the depths of shame I felt that day. It was horrible. They were kind loving and supportive and to this day? They continue to be so. I am very lucky. We are very lucky to have them and their unwavering support. For the record, my father loves me, dearly and deeply.

My children ask me all the time if we can move to a bigger house. My response has always been, "When you grow up and buy a house you can buy a big house. I grew up in a big house and I don't want to live in one now." The other answer? We can't afford to live in a larger house than we do. But truth is that I do not want to live in a bigger house, it makes me too anxious and I love the smallness. My house, the one I grew up in, in hindsight was big enough, but there were a lot of kids, so it had to be big. Then we moved to a bigger house. 18 rooms to be exact. Big.

I am Betsy. I am ashamed. But I am working on not being so. Because I will no longer live in 98% truth. We live pay check to pay check. We are taking control. We will provide for our family and our children better than we have.  We will pay off all of our debt. And when our daughter gets engaged, her father will be right there to offer our financial support for the day of her dreams.

So you see this class is about Financial Peace only it is evidently about so much more than that.


Melanie Gao said...

Sold! I will register in FPU. :)

Loved the post.

Kathy Pomaville Pate said...

Wow. Great post. Sounds like you're on the right track financially.

3XMom said...

wow. I went and read your other blog, and girl, you are trying to change A LOT at one time. Stopping smoking, eating less, changing your financial picture. That is really overwhelming for me to even think about at one time. Good luck to you. We are here to support you. But make sure to give yourself a chance to be fun - to be you - in all that. You better is great - but you now is not bad either!!!

Mrs. CPA said...

You go! Y'all are going to be ok. You're doing a good thing for yourself and think of the rewards your children will reap because you did all of these things. Hopefully they won't have to go through the hard money lessons as adult that you did.

And still, I love your children's names so much I would like to marry them.

Rebecca said...

I honestly would be very surprised if you have anything to worry about regarding the student/teacher connection. The boy in question is a super kid, very mature for his age. The boy's parents went through the program themselves before the dad started teaching the class. So effectively he would have to also admit, "My parents didn't know how to handle money either."

I honestly think that way more people are in your situation than you realize. People just don't like to talk about it. There are a lot of facades out there. I am very proud of you for taking the steps you need to in order to regain control.