Separate & Equal

Arguing over $$$!Courtesy of google.com

Arguing over $$$!
Courtesy of google.com

“You do what?” K.L., my friend,  was incredulous.

We had known each other a few years and I had not recalled ever seeing him look so surprised. I wondered why he was making such a big deal out of something my wife and I saw as practical and helpful.

I repeated, “I said we keep separate bank accounts and share the bills.”

“What are you roommates?”

I laughed.

Certainly there are many stresses on a marriage. A survey of counseling professionals conducted by Your Tango.com. found that “74 percent of experts polled agree that the number one predictor of divorce is differing values around kids, money and/or sex.” (http://magazine.foxnews.com/love/expert-survey-reveals-number-one-reason-couples-divorce#ixzz2WlNQhWCh).

However, it can be argued that money causes the most stress on a marriage. In fact according to a study by Jeffrey Drew at Utah State University, “Of all these common things couples fight about, money disputes were the best harbingers of divorce. For wives, disagreements over finances and sex were good predictors of divorce, but finance disputes were much stronger predictors. For husbands, financial disagreements were the only type of common disagreement that predicted whether they would get a divorce.”  http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/money-fights-predict-divorce-rates/

I can also speak based on empirical evidence. My parents had different perspectives when it came to money. Unfortunately, when they had financial challenges on top of their different perspectives, fuel was added to the fire and caused stress.

Between the studies and my empirical evidence, I take the money issue seriously.

My wife and I make around the same amount of money. By the way, I would like it noted that I would be quite fine if she made much more. My manhood would not be offended or threatened if she becomes a mommy warbucks.

Now, that that information is out there, let me get to the bigger issue at hand. My wife and I have different spending habits. She makes no attempt to keep up her checkbook. If you asked her how much she had in her checking account, she may be in the ballpark. She enjoys shopping. And as I have joked before due to her online habits, my children’s first three letters learned were UPS.  I always get the receipt when going to the ATM to check my balance, make and follow a strict budget, and shop only when necessary.

Clearly, we are opposites and there is every reason to believe that money could be a real issue in our marriage.

I responded to K.L. “It just works for us. We have different philosophies on money and we make around the same amount.”

“But you are a couple. Isn’t everything both of yours?”

“Of course. But having some independence is a good thing. Besides, I know that S (my wife) likes to shop. I don’t always agree or think it’s necessary (see the bench http://larrydbernstein.com/to-the-bench/). But I also know that she is a wiz at online and rarely pays full price for anything. Anyway, this saves us from arguing over her every purchase. I just bring the UPS packages in the house.”

“And the bills?”

“We split them.”

“What do you divvy everything up at the end of the month?”

“Pretty much. Look, it’s not as if we split it down to the penny or count everything. The point is we have a system, and it works for us.”

“I guess so.”

And that is the point, it works for us.

What about you? How do you handle money issues in your marriage?

Thinking Traffic

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go, go, go. My family and I hurried out of the house shortly after I got home from work on Friday. Our destination was the Philadelphia suburbs.

We left our house in North Jersey at 4:45. Drives on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpike would comprise the mass majority of our trip. This 100 or so mile trip typically takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Our arrival time on Friday was 7:55 or 3 hours and 10 minutes after we departed.

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

I have a question: Why?

I’m not clairvoyant, but I know your answer: Rush Hour. Yes, I knew we were traveling during the terribly inappropriately named rush hour where movement is often nill.

Despite that, I don’t understand why the traffic moves so slowly if everybody wants to move fast. The speed limit on both highways is never below 55 and is often 65. Now, of course some people are willing to go faster 75, 80 and even higher while some go as slow as 50. So if everyone is willing to travel at least fifty miles per hour, why does the traffic slow down?

There were no accidents (Thank G-d) that I noted. There were no crews working on the highway (anybody else flash to the Springsteen song?). So, there was no need for a mass of cars to merge into another lane.

So, I am still left with the question why. These days there is one action people take when faced with such a dilemma: GOOGLE it! So, I did just that.

According to one website (http://www.skaggmo.com/newsletter3a.htm), “Drivers should be looking well ahead instead of concentrating on the car that they are following too close to. It’s easy to see the big picture if you are not tailgating. When you tailgate, all you see is a back door.” He goes on to note that people who try to go faster than the flow of traffic can cause traffic jams.

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_congestion) stated, “Traffic research still cannot fully predict under which conditions a ‘traffic jam’ (as opposed to heavy, but smoothly flowing traffic) may suddenly occur.”

Freakonomics (http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/03/10/what-causes-traffic-jams-you/) discusses Japanese scientists to shockwaves. “One driver’s slowing down creates a ripple effect that moves backwards through traffic, grinding everything to a halt for miles.” It goes on to note that as human error causes the problem then humans should be able to come up with the solution. In this case, “the classic ‘slow down and keep a constant speed’ method, which seems to be effective in breaking these shockwaves.”

Well, if traffic experts who have spent years researching the topic can’t come up with the solution, my simple Google search surely won’t lead me to an answer either.

However, I have learned a few things from my research that can be applied to real life.

First, it is necessary to consider the big picture. If we only worry about what is going on right in front of us at each given moment, we will not be able to go beyond said moment. If we want something grander, we need to step back and think about the greater possibilities.

Second, we are all in this together. Sometimes, we get so involved in our daily lives – often for good reason – we forget about the world around us. Despite what we may be dealing with, life is not me, me, me. If we give greater consideration to those around us – weather they be less or more fortunate – we will all ultimately benefit.

Lastly, sometimes issues come up that seem insurmountable and problems arise with no answer. Yet, if we consider how we got ourselves tangled up in the problem, there is a good chance we can unwind the situation and make it solvable.

I’m certain my greater understanding of traffic jams will not allow me to avoid them. Hopefully, though the next traffic jam will lead to similar thoughtful helpful, philosophic moments. That and the car snacks my wife has packed will get me through.

 

The Fabulous Baking Bernstein Boys!

That is our new moniker. Kindly refer to my boys and I as such.

Let me tell you of our exploits and you will surely agree we are worthy of such an esteemed title.

My boys and I entered the kitchen, and together, we produced a cake.

It gets better. The cake was edible. Shooting for the moon there – I know. Anyway, success becomes much more achievable if you have no standards and low expectations.

Let me back up. Yesterday, I decided I was going to take my rapidly browning bananas and make a cake (http://larrydbernstein.com/bake-me-a-cake/). It was a hasty decision for this self-proclaimed unskilled cook.

While driving to get BR from karate, I asked SJ if he wanted to join me in baking a cake. After answering a few of his questions (Who is going to make a cake? Why are we making a cake? Who is going to eat the cake?), he said, “Sure!” He suggested we ask BR. I was skeptical. BR rarely is interested in helping me prepare dinner. On the way home from karate, SJ and I asked BR if he wanted to help us make a cake, he consented – after a series of questions (Why are we making a cake? Who is going to eat the cake? Is mommy going to help?).

Silly Fabulous Cooks

Silly Fabulous Cooks

The boys were excited to start, so we began as soon as we got home. Well, that is after four phone conversations with my wife and mother. Where is the recipe? Is orange juice really needed for this recipe? We have no oil, but is that really necessary? If we have no baking soda, can I just put in more baking powder? My mother was flummoxed – “Most people make sure they have all the ingredients before they start.” My wife just laughed, “Sure, try it.”

I made an executive decision. I would add an extra cup of milk and another egg. We had sugar, flower, eggs, bananas – I figured everything else was optional.

SJ adding flower

SJ adding flower

BR gathering ingredients.

BR gathering ingredients.

Together the Fabulous Baking Bernstein Boys toiled – we gathered the ingredients we had. We took out the measuring utensils. We poured in the ingredients. We mixed the concoction, poured it into the pan, and placed it into the oven. One hour and fifteen minutes at 325 degrees – just as the instruction said.After eating some of the leftover batter, each of us bakers went off to do his own thing.

At 8:00, I received a frantic call from BR (I had gone to the library). “Daddy. Mommy wants to put SJ to sleep, and the cake is still in the oven.”

“I’m two minutes away. Ask mommy to hold off putting SJ to bed.”

I ran into the house, turned off the oven, and gathered my family. Plates, forks, and slices of cake were served.

Fabulous Bernstein Baker Boys sample their fare.

Fabulous Bernstein Baker Boys sample their fare.

A mmoment later the reviews were in. SJ – “You can have the rest of mine, Daddy.” BR – “It’s good. I just don’t want anymore.” Mrs. MMK – “It’s good. Really. I think we should take it to your Mom’s house.”

Oh well – more for me. I like banana cake better than them anyway even if it is dense as a rock.

Bake Me a Cake

I will save you brown bananas!

I will save you brown bananas!

BR is a finicky eater. For a week straight, he will want a particular kind of breakfast and then get frustrated if we run out of the item. My wife in her desire to keep him happy and bulk up our too thin son will instruct me to buy extra of said item while food shopping. Well, BR’s fancy will pass and the item is left to be eaten by my wife or I or thrown out. One of his passing fancies is bananas, and they come in and out of vogue with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Due to BR’s latest passing fancy, there are five bananas that are turning browner and softer with each passing moment. The bananas are slipping away and will soon enter the realm of inedible.

Did  you know that according to an article in OnEarth Magazine, <http://www.onearth.org/article/how-to-wage-war-on-food-waste) “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans waste 30 percent of all edible food produced, bought, and sold in this country.”  This may be on the low side as “The National Institutes of Health (NIH), published estimates of 40 percent or more. Add up all the losses that occur throughout the food chain, the NIH researchers say, and Americans, on average, waste 1,400 calories a day per person, or about two full meals.”

Am I the only one who is thinking about a mother wagging a finger in a child’s face telling them to finish their food because there are poor kids starving in Africa?

My mother takes great pride in getting every ounce of every jar of food. To this day when my mother visits, she insists that I pass her the jar before it hits the recycling container. While scooping it out with incredible patience, she tells of my grandmother who apparently was even more gifted in the use of every ounce of food society. Due to this insistence to use every drop of food, the numbers noted above must sicken my mother. Please don’t tell her – I want my mom to stay healthy.

So what can I do to make sure that the bananas don’t become part of the 30 or even 40% of food that is wasted in America? In memory of grandmother and in honor of my mother, I can not let that happen. I must save the bananas. Move over Superman.

What to do? What to do? Hmm. I could push them on SJ who loves bananas. No, six is too much even for him.

I could make multiple peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Even I, who has eaten peanut butter nearly every day for lunch for twenty years, think that is crazy. Besides, the bananas would go brown and the sandwiches would not taste fresh.

I could drive over to grocery store and stand outside the door and sell the bananas at a reduced rate. Nah –not enough money. It is also a little too kooky for me.

I could freeze them. Or maybe I couldn’t. I don’t even know.

I know what I should do. I should make a Banana Cake. Me, the man who is a disinterested, impatient, and unskilled baker (and cook) should somehow make a cake. We have the ingredients, milk, eggs, sugar and of course bananas.

Yes, I will save the bananas and satisfy my sweet tooth. Unless – one of you could use some bananas? Let me know right away otherwise you will have to settle for a piece of cake whether it’s good or not.

P.S. I was recently interviewed by guys over at the Life of Dad blog as part of their 30 Dads, 30 Days series. Here is the link for those wanting to hear about some of my fatherhood thoughts and experiences: http://www.lifeofdad.com/blog_post.php?pid=11276