Daily Writing Challenge

Renewal: Debit Free Living


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Note: This blog or blog post is not in any way connected to Dave Ramsey or Financial Peace University other than being written by a student of Financial Peace classes. This blog is not being reimbursed for this testimony. 


Living with debt is sheer nincompoopery (the bad kind, not the funny kind), and believing there is no way around living in debt is sheer nincompoopery (still the bad kind).

My husband and I actually started the journey to becoming debt free two years ago. We were both on the verge of turning 50 and started to look forward to retirement. We needed to dump our debt. The first year, we tried some conventional ideas: paying off the card with the highest interest rate first, making a stricter budget, reduce spending, etc. However, we just weren’t getting anywhere. We didn’t make a dent in our debt.

Feeling a discouraged, some of our friends and family told us about Finacial Peace University, a system not only for getting out of debt but to also live debt free.  We signed up, paid the minimal fee, and started the classes.  It was a bumpy year. A very bumpy year. It taught us more than we had anticipated about debt, finances, and teamwork.  That is why I am adamant that living in debt is sheer nincompoopery.

Living in debt is sheer nincompoopery, and believing you have to live in debt is sheer nincompoopery.

We paid down over 20% of our debt last year, and with renewed focus and motivation, we are ready to be debt free by the end of 2017.

From Whence We Came

This time last year, we were looking at a debt of over $230, 000 (including two mortgages). Without our mortgages, our debt was a little over $50,000. Ouch. Just ouch.

After making a slew of mistakes, false starts, and restarts, we buckled down, made some hard choices, and finished the year with a total debt (including one mortgage) of a tad over $200,000. Without the mortgage, our debt is a smidge over $40,000. Better, but still ouch.

A $10,000 difference in our non-mortgage debt doesn’t seem very substantial; however, when we did pay off is taken into account, it does turn out to be a pretty good start.

We moved across the country in 2008, leaving us with two mortgages on two houses in two different states. By following the steps we learned in Financial Peace, we were able to pay off the mortgage on our first house effectively moving that from the debt column to the revenue column.  On top of that, we were able to pay down our unsecured debt.

It doesn’t look like much, but it puts us in a good position for the start of 2017.

Debt Free by the End of 2017

Starting today and continuing every other Thursday in 2017, I will be journaling our road to renewing our financial lives. Some posts will highlight memories of last year’s journey, and some posts will run concurrent to this year’s journey.   It is one way for us to stay accountable and at the same time encourage others.This is how we started:

If last year taught us anything, it taught us that walking this road is not easy, so blogging is one way for us to stay accountable and at the same time encourage others

First Steps

This is how we started.

  • We enrolled and attended a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class near us.
  • We went to the class every week without exception.
  • We did all of the homework no matter how brutal or exhausting, and it is brutal and exhausting.

No Regrets

My husband and I do not regret starting down the path of debt-free living. We do regret allowing ourselves to fall into debt in the first place. We both turned 50 in 2016 and are more determined than ever to cut out all debt.

If you are facing retirement, come along on this journey with us. If you are newly married, learn from our mistakes and don’t fall for the debt trap (there’s a reason why it sounds like “death trap”). As Dave Ramsey’s says, “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”

No matter if you are young and single, married and set to retire, or somewhere in between, come along with us on this journey. The more the merrier!

Who’s with us?

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Personal | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Writing Challenge Day 23: If I Won The Lottery

First, let it be known that if I won the lottery, it’s because someone bought me a ticket.

So if I won with the ticket someone had given me, I’d scream. Long and loudly. There might be some jumping and squatting mixed intermittently with the screaming, but screaming and jumping would happen.

Like 70% of the people who suddenly come into large amounts of money, I’d probably end up being broke within 3 years by blowing the winnings on paying everything off and taking multiple trips to Europe.

Because I have this problem being identified “status quo,” I did a little research on how to get overwhelmed by the riches (assuming that the ticket garnered millions).

Maria P. Duffy writes in her article “4 Steps to Protect a Windfall” on Bankrate.com that adjusting to a life-altering experience such as the inheritance or winning of large amounts of money can take up to 5 years.  During that time, Duffy advises to put 90% of the money in a hard to access place such as a Certificate of Deposit for at least one year, until one’s status can be reviewed with the help of an unrelated financial planner.  10% of the money, Duffy suggests, should be used for “fun money;” although she advises spending it on making memories and not stuff.

Although I found Ms. Duffy’s steps helpful, I wanted something more specific, so I looked to Forbes.

Debra L. Jacobs, author of “10 Things to do When You Win the Lottery,” suggests the following:

1. Remain anonymous, if possible – this will keep the crazies out of your front yard, including needy family.

2. See a tax pro before cashing the ticket –

3. Avoid sudden life changes – okay, so there goes selling this house and buying into the Biltmore Estate.

4. Pay off all debt – not having to pay debt is a total life change. I may not need to touch the winnings if I could actually life debt free, which of course, I’m trying to do.

5. Assemble a team of legal and financial advisers   – *brrrring, brrring* “Hello, Warren? From one Nebraskan to another….”

6. Invest prudently – “While I have you on the phone, Warren,…”

7. Live within a budget – It should be easier now that I don’t have to pay credit cards, right?

8. Take steps to protect assets – “Ummm… one last thing, Warren, before I let you go, …”

9. Plan charitable gifts – this doesn’t mean Aunt Susie and cousin Mel. Although they may be charity cases, they do not constitute what Jacobs terms as “charitable gifts.”  She does suggest that when one does donate a large sum to charity, to do it anonymously in order to escape being badgered by requests (see #1).

10. Review estate plan – what Jacobs meant to say was make an estate plan. I’m thinking, and I may be wrong about this, that most of the people who play the lottery don’t have an estate plan to begin with; otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be playing the lottery.

Again, although extremely helpful, I was left wanting a percentage breakdown of the money: how much to spend, how much in short term investments, how much in long term investments, etc.

Carle Richards writer for Bucks blog and author of “A Financial Plan for Misbehaving Lottery Winners” (which I would assuredly be), suggests taking 10% of the winnings and going crazy with it – blow it freely and get it out of your system – and then put the remaining 90% in investments. The key, says Richards, is putting “two or three steps between you and your ability to spend the principle,” meaning placing the designated principle amount in an investment that isn’t readily available to you and living comfortably off the interest.

This plan sounded better. I could do that. Just tell me how much I can blow immediately, how much to squirrel away, and how much I have to live on and I can manage. I would have to work, though. There is no way that I couldn’t work and be a happy individual.

I don’t know if I would continue to teach. I may just become a professional writing retreater and attend writing retreats, conferences and workshops all over the country. That sounds like a dandy of a job!

I want a lottery ticket.

What would be your long-term plan if you won the lottery?

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Recommendations | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Writing Challenge Day 21: What Makes Me Sad

Sadness is not an emotion I allow myself to experience frequently.

I do get sad. I have been sad. I was sad when my mother had a heart attack. I was sad when she was diagnosed with cancer a year later. I was sad the entire year she battled for her life, and I was devastated when she died.

Up until then, I’m not sure I really experienced sadness.

I was sad again ten years later when my dad didn’t recover from heart surgery, but I didn’t cry at his funeral. I didn’t cry at all, ever.

I don’t allow myself to feel sad for an extended period because I can’t do anything with it. It doesn’t motivate me to do things, change things, or think things. I just sit there being sad. Normally I have no problem sitting for long periods of time doing nothing because I’m actually very active. I’m planning. I’m pondering. I’m meditating. I’m fixing. I’m deciding. Sitting and doing nothing wears me out!

None of that happens when I’m sad. I stew on what makes me sad, and then I become even more sad, and then I stew some more. It’s a vicious cycle of nothingness, and I don’t like it. I am so adverse to sadness, I have no clue what to do when someone is crying. Most of the time, I just scream in my head “God help me!” when I have to console someone who is crying, even my kids. Most of the time, they just want someone to listen, and that I can do. Sadness just makes me uncomfortable. I can deal with it, and I do.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’d much rather sit around and talk about my mother being obliviously funny (like the time during Thanksgiving game playing when she pronounced Grand Prix “grand pricks” or the time during an annual Christmas game of UNO when she said B. L. would have a better jump shot if she lost 20 pounds so she could actually jump) rather than the inequitability of her being plagued with both heart problems and cancer. I’d much rather sit around with my friend and talk about how her husband used to fish naked than how he so swiftly left this earth.

I know I sound callous and heartless, like I don’t care about those who are sad. I do care. I care very deeply about those hurting. Sadness is something I wish no one had to experience.

Even now, I struggle with closing this post with the usual restatement of the question to the reader because I don’t want to know what makes other’s sad. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s because I don’t want to feel sad, too.

So what makes you laugh?

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Writing Challenge Day 20: What makes me happy

What makes me happy? Hmmmm… It really depends upon who you ask.

If you ask my husband: little to nothing. Or a new refrigerator. (Okay, I really didn’t ask him, but this is what I thought he would say.)  What he actually said when I asked: a good conversation and Gilmore Girls.

If you ask my oldest daughter, G: proper grammar, good spelling, and quiet.

If you ask my youngest daughter, Effy: books, coffee, and Kim Flanagan.

If you ask my youngest, Z: he and Effy getting along and doing their chores.

I’m really not sure what makes me happy, but I do know that I find myself happy while I’m doing the following:


I like to travel and I love to learn. When the two come together then I’m one happy girl.

My dad made sure we went on a vacation every year, even if it was camping on the same lake in the Black Hills for several year in a row. The first “real” vacation I remember taking was when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, and seven of the ten of us  (#1, who was busy with her own brood, #2, who was stationed in Germany, and #3, who lived in Houston and raising a daughter) went to Indiana to visit our paternal grandpa. I loved that trip. We were all stuffed into the car, and either sat up front between Mom and Dad or I was wedged in the far back between #8 and #9. That’s when my dad walked through downtown Evansville with a paper bag on his head and ate a brain sandwich. One particular vacation, I was sleeping in the front seat between my parents, when my mother woke me to see the lights of Saint Louis. Through blurry little girl eyes I saw tiny little lights dot an otherwise pitch black backdrop. Instantaneous amazement. It was beautiful, like a twinkly Christmas tree. At other times, my mother would point out the multicolored stripes of the granite as we drove through the Smoky Mountains. My dad would take us to memorials and monuments. He would make us all get out of the car to absorb the “scenic outlook” because one never knew what one would see.

With every vacation I plan (the tradition of a yearly vacation is happily carried on in my family), exploring new places and gathering new information is mandatory, even when we went to Disney World. One of my friends nicknamed it “veducation:”  vacation + education.   I’m okay with that. That makes me even happier.

A good laugh

I love a good laugh. Amy Poehler (of SNL fame) and I share the belief that laughing adds years to one’s life. That’s why I love Kim Flanagan.* After spending an afternoon with her, I am bound to live to be 512.

My wonderfully witty friend, Kim.

My wonderfully witty friend, Kim.

We can go from serious topic to uproarious laughter in the blink of an eye. That’s why I can’t sit next to her in church. If she’s sitting next to me, it is too easy to lean over and whisper the inappropriate stuff that flits through my head. Yes, it happens even when I’m focused on God.  This is why I sit in a pew all by myself, except when Kim decides I need company. I have begged her husband to ban us from sitting next to one another, but he hasn’t done it. Or he has and she hasn’t listen, which could be the case, too.

*I have many friends who fill this roll: Kim Honey, Laura Michelle, Stephanie, and my dear sister just to name a hand full. Being my friend requires a forgiving sense of humor and a willingness to endure inappropriateness. Oh, and the time to have 3 hour lunches.


A small joyous flutters in my chest when I crack open a new book.  The smell of new books, the smell of old books, the smell of a well used library are all little things that make me love being human.

The little time I get to actually sit down and read a book is precious to me, and when I pull myself out of the pages of a good book, I usually have a smile on my face.


Tucked quietly in a box of my parents’ very old things, My sister, #8, found the first story I had ever written. The handwriting was almost illegible, but it was mine. I remembered writing it when I was 9. Jaws opened in theaters in June of 1975. It was the talk of the summer, and it was the one movie my parents wouldn’t allow my brother (#9) and me to see.  By the time school started, every kid in the universe saw Jaws except me. Since I couldn’t join in with the rest of the kids talking about it, I did one better. I wrote my own story: Jaws 2.

And that is how it started. After writing that story, I felt like writing about everything. It made me happy.

And I did.

And I still do.

photo credit: mednetstudy.com

photo credit: mednetstudy.com

I write on everything and about everything. I have plot points scribbled on the back of grocery reciptes. A miniature hardback notebook (thanks Jude) is tucked snugly into my purse alongside four pens. Runaway napkins cannot be thrown out of my car without first inspecting it for word like scribbles. The top shelf of my bookcase houses some of my journals, old ones that I couldn’t bring myself to store and crisp new ones waiting, impatiently, to contain something.

I buy a case, yes a case, of college ruled notebooks, covers varying in color, every August. The color the notebook cover determines it’s content. Red is my Bible journal; Yellow is my church notes, purple contains notes and records of the my various teaching jobs; black is reserved for a ideas for a leadership group; and green, my favorite color, is my beloved writing journal. It holds quick plot ideas, character sketches, snippets of plot twists, love interests, scene clips, and bits of information that might be useful somewhere.

There are some moments during the scrawling down of the madness in my mind where, in the periphery, I realize I’m enjoying myself. I am happy.

Going for walks (by myself)

Being a homeschooling mom gives me very little alone time, which translates into very little quiet time. Writer’s need alone time, and will spontaneously combust with out it.  I remedy my lack of silence with walks around the neighborhood. This time alone allows me to explore sights, sounds, and feelings. Sometimes I listen to music, and other times I don’t. I always take my digital voice recorder. I have to have something to record my words when inspiration hits.

I always come back from a walk happy.

When everyone gets along

This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s pure bliss.  When I hear my kids chatting, I think of my mother and wonder if she felt that warm glow in her heart when her children had ordinary, everyday chats with one another. I want my children to be friends not just siblings. The moments when I catch them being friends is like holding a warm cup of coffee in my hands. It’s comforting to know that they like each other, and that they can get along without me. That makes me happy.

That is what makes me happy. Pretty simple, huh? I guess my husband and kids know me pretty well (except for the grammar thing – that is only if you are my student; otherwise, I just correct it in my head and move along).

Oh, and ice cream, but that really goes without saying, doesn’t it?

What are some of your favorite things?

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Writing | 1 Comment

Writing Challenge Day 18: A photograph of myself


Our “Happy New Year” cards.

Why “Happy New Year” instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”?


This one was taken after the Christmas Eve service at our church.

2014 family photo taken after the Christmas Eve service at our church.

1. We get our family picture taken on Christmas Eve because it is the one time of year we are all together and dressed in color-coordinated clothes nice enough for photographing and mass distribution.

2. By the time I get them to Walgreens for printing it is after Christmas and before New Years.

3. New Year’s Day arrives and I remember to pick them up from Walgreens.

4. January 5th rolls around and I have time to put them in an envelope and address them.

5. It’s about January 17th and my sister has texted me asking if I am ever going to send out the kids’ school pictures. She’s not curious, but bumped into my mother-in-law at Casey’s and was questioned.

6. On or about January 20th or April 3rd, I remember to mail them.


 My Uncle Jerry and me


My Uncle Jerry and me. Taken at Golden Corral the beginning of December 2014.

December 2014.

Next to my husband and children, Uncle Jerry is my most favorite person on the planet. We have been best buds since I was eight years old. The summer of 1982, I wore a Meatloaf (the band) tshirt to his house, and he called me Meatloaf until I graduated from High School. Uncle Jerry makes the world a much nicer and more humorous place to live. I love him.


Happy New Year!

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Family, Holidays, Parenting | Leave a comment

Writing Challenge Day 17: My favorite blogs

I subscribe to 113 blogs here at WordPress and a handful of others from miscellaneous other sites. The following blogs are not in order of importance, and the only reason they are alphabetized is because I keep my Reader alphabetized.  Easily found things helps me combat my ADD.

1. Against All Grain – This food blog changed my life. I have suffered from a grain intolerance my entire life and didn’t know it.  I never knew that how I was feeling wasn’t normal. It took being diagnosed with hypothyroidism cause by Hashimoto’s disease to get me researching.  Danielle’s story, although much more dire than mine, connected to mine, and her transparency helped me to find the answers that I wasn’t getting from my doctors.

2. Brevity – The literary creative nonfiction blog that coincides with the literary creative nonfiction magazine of the same name.  Inspiration, challenge, craft development are the reasons why I read this blog. Plus, they publish some awesome essays. 🙂

3. Bad Christian – Created and maintained by Matt and Toby from Emery and a pastor by the name of Joey Svendsen. Breaking through the ideal many Christians have about the way Christians are supposed to act and think. They are honest and crisp and will clip you off at your knees. I love this blog and podcast.

4. The Book Shelf of Emily J. – This chick read 72 books this year. 72 books! This is one of my favorite touchstones when deciding what to read.

5. J.S. Park – His byline reads “Atheist turned pastor: A blog for the busted-up, beaten down Christian (like me).” Read the “Bad Christian” blurb above. Same goes.

6. Morning Story and Dilbert – This blog inspired my “Monday Morning Coffee” series. Which, by the way, I need to start writing again.

7. The Thesis Whisperer – Because one cannot read too much about writing.

There you have it. My favorite blogs in no certain order.

If you have a favorite blog, please leave it in the comments below. I am always interested in new things to read!


Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Monday Morning Coffee, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Writing Challenge Day 16: My thoughts on education


I am the mother. I am my children’s life-long teacher.

When I decided to have children, I made their education a top priority.

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Education, Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Challenge Day 15: Where will I be in 5 years

Achieving goals has always escaped me. I make goals (I have tons of plans, from book lists to household projects to retirement. You name it, I have a plan for it.), but chaos seems to find it’s way into the middle of my achieving said goals and throws me off track – if not derailing me completely. Sounds like an excuse, huh? That’s probably because it is.

Where will I be in 5 years?


I would love to be in up-state New York, sitting in an Adirondack chair overlooking the lake, writing a second novel.

But this is where I will probably be:

In West Tennessee wishing I was in up-state New York.

With F visiting colleges with excellent theater programs or outstanding softball programs.

Teaching Sunday School to Jr. and Sr. high school students.

Teaching English Composition I and II to community college students.

Still working on my first novel.

Skyping with G who is on the mission field somewhere.

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Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Photo Credit: wordpress.com

Photo Credit: wordpress.com


Three years ago today, I apprehensively started this blog to prove to myself that I wouldn’t die if people read my writing.
It took a long six months to determine what my purpose for writing would be: bad decision make good stories. My mother passed when G was only two, and she didn’t get to see much of my father. He passed away when Effy was only 8 months old. I guess  I came to the decision to write about the silliness of my childhood so my children would know a little about their grandparents and the family I grew up with.  I wanted my children to understand that they were going to laugh about the bad decisions they made, and the punishment was something they were going to laugh about, too.

Three years later, that seems inadequate. Am I going to while away the hours just informing the world of all the stupid mistakes I’ve made, or is there a greater purpose to all of this (I’m flourishing my hands in an all-encompassing manner for effect)?

At this point, I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll continue to post so my children have some written record of how inane their mother really was. Or I’ll continue to write because maybe one day one of my decedents will be interested in what their great-great granny had to say.

Whatever the reason may be, here is to another three years of blogging! cheers leo

Categories: Awards, Bad Decisions, Daily Writing Challenge | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Writing Challenge Day 14: 3 healthy habits

I’m going to assume that the inventor of this challenge wants to me to identify 3 healthy habits in which I partake and not to just list three healthy habits. That would be a waste of time.

3 healthy habits:
1. Diet.

I have tried for a long time to eat clean organic/gluten-free food, but it hasn’t been until recently that I bumped up my effort. I have recently become aware that I have a mild to severe reaction to grain products and some other hard to digest carbohydrates such as potatoes and legumes. I’ve known for about 15 years that I have a bad reaction to white wheat; however, it has been in the last 6 months that I realized that all grain, even rice and soy, cause an allergic-type reaction in my body. It doesn’t just happen in my stomach and my intestines. My body swells as if I had been stung by a bee (although I can still breathe). Since ridding my diet of 95% of the grain I was consuming, I have dropped a pant size; I have more energy; I can focus longer on one task; My memory is better,and I’m less gassy.  The transition wasn’t that difficult, as may be assumed. A few minor adjustments to the ingredients used, and I can eat almost everything I did before.

2. Exercise.

I’m not as consistent as I should be, but I do try to exercise three times a week. I have recently fallen in love with yoga, but I also love to run. I hate aerobics, Pilates, and Insanity.

3. Relaxing.

This is a must and is usually done by lying on the couch with my feet propped up on the back of the couch; however, I have found that yoga helps with distressing, too. I need at least an hour of down time before going to bed. If I don’t get time to relax and brush off the day, I carry to bed with me and it either keeps me awake or I have a fitful sleep.

What are your healthy habits?

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Exercise, Food | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment