Renew:Debt-free Living


In the last installment of this series, I talked about routinely taking stock of one’s finances which is the first step in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.

Routine, routine, routine. It keeps my life from going off the rails and crashing, leaving behind a red, hot ball of firey flames rivaled only by the entrance to hell itself.

The next step in Ramsey’s Financial Peace class is gathering an emergency fund of at least $1000 as quickly as possible.

It sounds simple, but have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? Hold on to your hat because there’s more than one law – there’s 8 actually – about things going wrong, and we experienced most of them.


Step #1 of Ramsey’s Baby Steps is to save $1000 as soon as possible.  He advises students to cut out extras and sell stuff to raise the money as quickly as possible.

We sold everything that didn’t have deep sentimental value, or we weren’t using.

We consolidated our children’s books into one case and sold the extra bookcase. We purged our daughter’s dressers, putting everything on hangers, and then sold the bedroom set. We also found some miscellaneous things in the attic that we put on the local Facebook swap page.

In addition to selling things, we agreed to cut out extra entertainment such as renting movies, going to movies, eating out, etc. until the emergency fund was in place. We pared down to the bare necessities. I even stopped using my Keurig and started brewing coffee by the pot again (lest you think otherwise, this is a BIG deal).

Within the month, we had raised $500. We were off to a good start, and we were excited.

To complete the emergency fund, we planned to use my income as a community college adjunct to pay off a couple of small doctors’ bills, and whatever was left over, would go into the emergency fund.   In the meantime, we were going to set $25 a week for the next 5 months to make up the rest.

We thought we had a good plan.

But Murphy had other plans.

Stupid Murphy.

Murphy’s Law

Almost immediately after we agreed on a plan to accumulate the emergency fund, the first and most well known of Murphy’s Laws kicked in right away with the second and slightly lesser known law following close behind.

1. If anything can go wrong it will go wrong.

2. If there is a chance of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.

The list started with the refrigerator dripping water and refusing to cool, and continued with the front and back brakes on my car needing replaced, my molar chipping in half while eating popcorn, the TV in the playroom braking, the garage door rollers beginning to fall off, some of the windows in the house starting to lose their seal with white filmy yuck accumulating in them, and ended with my mind reeling with so on, and so on, and so on.

Well, craptastic! Which one to do we fix first?

The inside of my fridge had turned into the likes of the cavern behind Niagara Falls. At certain times, I could actually hear the water pouring out of the freezer onto the top shelf of the fridge. The poor girl was incontinent! Mopping up the mess was a daily chore. I put small pans in the back to catch the water, but if I didn’t empty them daily, there was always an overflow to clean up.

In the past, we would have run to Lowe’s and bought a new fridge on their “No money down/12 months same as cash” plan. Then we would have used some of the emergency money to replace the brakes.  But we had pledged on the first day of Financial Peace class to not make any new purchases until we had our emergency fund in place and we had saved the money to pay cash.

 Well, craptastic!  Stupid Murphy. Stupid pledge.

Okay, the pledge is actually not stupid. It forced us to either give in or buckle down. We decided to buckle down.

Determined not to break the pledge, we decided to try and nudge the fridge along with minor self-repairs so we could replace the brakes on my car. Having the brakes replaced was the most pressing to us because the safety of the family was at stake.

But what about my tooth? Wasn’t that also the most pressing?

Not exactly. Thanks to my atrocious pre-adolescent oral hygiene, the tooth was completely packed with silver amalgam, so I wasn’t experiencing any pain or sensitivity. Plus I hate the dentist (read about it here), so fixing the tooth was shoved to the back burner until we gathered the emergency fund.

After prodding the fridge along for a little over six months, the old gal gave up the ghost. She just stopped working. Not much we could do but get a new fridge.

At that time, the emergency fund almost had the required $1000. The 12 months same as cash idea was very tempting. We could get a fantastic fridge if it wasn’t for that pledge. We talked it over, each of us playing devil’s advocate to the other until we landed on the solution.

Sticking to the pledge, we went to Lowe’s with $500 in hand and bought a small fridge that would get us by for two years until we were debt free and had saved the money for the fridge of our dreams. At that point in time, we can either sell the $500 fridge or retire it to the laundry room to hold water bottles and such.

The Lowe’s attendant was flabbergasted that we not only refused to finance, but we also had the cash in hand. When I asked him if something was wrong, he remarked, “No. It’s just people don’t usually pay with cash.”

That’s when I remembered Ramsey’s mantra: Live like no one else, so one day you can live like no one else.

After that purchase, I started approaching our purchases with stricter boundaries between needs and wants.

a. We haven’t replaced the upstairs television. We have to share the one in the living room. Gasp!

b. My molar still isn’t fixed. It still doesn’t hurt, but it is next on the “fix-it list”.

c. My husband contacted a garage door company and they sold him new rollers for little to nothing. He Googled how to replace them himself.

d. We had one of the windows on the front of the house re-sealed and decided to install new windows when – you got it – after we are debt free.

Most of the emergencies we call emergencies are really not emergencies. They are just real life we didn’t plan for. We knew we were going to have to replace the fridge at some point; we just didn’t plan for it. Brakes need replacing, too. We just didn’t plan for it.

Now we not only have an emergency fund deposit each paycheck, but we have a home/auto replacement account as well. That’s a topic for a later post.

How difficult has it been to grow your emergency fund?

Categories: Education, Family, Humor | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Why Turn Off Apps While on Vacation?

My daughter G and I recently took a mother/daughter vacation to New York City. We tried to take in as many sights as a leisurely week would allow. We had no schedule, no time table, and it was glorious.

One bit of advice I will pass along is to turn off your phone apps before depositing said phone in any pocket. Here’s why:

G and I were walking from Park Ave and 5th to the American Museum of Natural History on 80th and Central Park West. A pretty straight shot, but I used my Google Maps app to help navigate in fear of getting sidetracked talking and ending up at the Hudson River. For easy of retrieving the map, I just left Google Maps on and clicked the screen off before depositing my phone in the back pocket of my mom capris.

I assumed that would work for me because it has worked for everyone else. It could be that I just suppose it works for everyone else when, in fact, there is a step of which I am not aware – or my cellulite has a mind of its own and acts like fingers – because I ended up with a bunch of butt screen shots!

It all started at 11:48 a.m, as you can see, when I thought I had shut the screen off. Instead I somehow hit Google Play Store and found the Google earth App.

Continue reading

Categories: Bad Decisions, Family, Humor, Vacation | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing Challenge Day 9: What is in my purse



What is in my purse? Really?  Trust me, no one cares what is in my purse, unless they want to rob me.

For those who want to snatch my purse (besides being chased down and having a writing pen lodged in your temple), here’s is what will happen when you burgle my handbag:

You will be very disappointed.

For a bag that weighs in at 20 pounds, there is surprisingly very little in it. The weight you are feeling is from the two notebooks and 17 pens I carry with me everywhere I go (you never know when inspiration will strike).

One thing you will most certainly NOT find in my bag is money. Even if you try to use the credit card, you will be able to pay for a #3 meal at Chic Fil A and that’s about it.

Oh, and good luck using my ID. I have an unpaid speeding ticket from who knows how long ago, and I’m pretty sure my license has been suspended. So you really are running the risk of going to jail for me. I guess I should be thankful that you are willing to do such a thing for a total stranger. What a giver you are!

That’s okay, you say? You’ll just steal my identity, you say. Well thanks for that, too. My credit is so deplorable that it can’t go anywhere but up.

So… what’s in my purse?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.



Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Humor | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Challenge Day 1: My Blog’s Name

photo credit: Battlefield 3 Funtage

photo credit: Battlefield 3 Funtage

Why did I choose to call my blog Nincompoopery?  Stupid crap happens to me all the time. Some of it, I’ll admit, is of my own unintentional making; thus the tag line “bad decisions make good stories,” but some of it just simply happens while I’m standing there.

Let me explain. One of my latest stories, “Nincompoopery at the Dentist,” was about a ridiculous situation in which I most certainly unintentionally placed myself. I thought I was a grown up, but I’m not. However, some of the weird stuff just happens to me. Before I started writing this post, I checked my stats and noticed that someone in the world googled “urinating romper” and found my blog. What?! Urinating romper? That’s how someone comes to find my blog?

I googled it myself: “urinating romper.”  I searched four pages and no sign of my blog.

How far did this someone search before they found me?  I was kind of impressed with this person’s persistence and dedication.

I googled “urinating romper nincompoopery” and ta-dah! The very first one on the list. I clicked on it and went straight to “Caught with my pants on” (a cute little story posted two years ago about a conversation with my oldest daughter and the inconveniences of wearing rompers, a.k.a. jumpers).

We can see

photo credit:

I reread it and fondly remembered wearing rayon. It seriously feels so good against the skin. I miss rayon.

Even after all the reminiscing, the fact that someone googled “urinating rompers” really bothered me. Not only that, but as an English instructor, the phrase just didn’t make sense. First, rompers do not urinate, so the person’s search terms should be insufficient, and thus turn up “nothing found.” Google is perpetuating bad language skills. I should write a strongly worded letter.  The terms should be “how to urinate in a romper” or “mishaps while urinating in a romper.” Although, I suppose those search terms are insufficient, also. One doesn’t urinate IN a romper. Yuck. One has to urinate while wearing a romper, so really the person is trying to find information on “how to urinate while wearing a romper without urinating on one’s self.” I suppose that phrase is too long and is why the person just googled “urinating rompers.” Still.

And I’m still not completely happy that my blog popped up.

And that is why I named my blog Nincompoopery.  Maybe I should change the tag line to “sometimes you make it happen, sometimes it happens to you.”

What do you think?


Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Humor, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Nincompoopery at the Dentist

I went to the dentist a few days back to have a crown put in and a cavity filled.

I thought I was okay.

What I found out was that dentistry has changed since the last time I had a procedure. They place this large rubbery doohicky in your mouth that has a suction tube attached to it, so the dentist wastes no time removing his hands in order to allow the hygienist to suction out the water and saliva. The dentist can work to completion virtually uninterrupted.

An idea that is really good on paper, but horrible in reality.

They told me to breathe through my nose, and normally I do; however, at the moment that breathing through my nose turned into my only option, it stopped being a sufficient way of getting air to my lungs. Thoughts of suffocation started rolling around in my head. I started to question the design of the human form: how on earth can two small holes deliver enough oxygen to my lungs to sustain life? It seemed logical to me that the gaping hole that the dentist was now blocking with his rubbery suction tube and his hands was the only way to retrieve enough air to stay alive.

To top it off, I don’t know if it was me or if he had given me so much Novocaine that my uvula was numb. The more I breathed through my nose, the more it felt like my sinuses were draining and welling up in the back of my throat making it impossible for me to breathe. I knew I was going to die in the dentist’s chair from suffocation by mucus blockage.

I motioned for the dentist stop, so I could spit out the wad of mucus piling up in the back of my throat.  He told me to wait a minute.

Wait a minute? Wait a minute?! I could be dead in a minute. Honestly, couldn’t he see the ginormous snot ball blocking my airway. For Pete’s sake, he had a better view than I did!

He finally stopped and I spit. There was only saliva. No suffocant.

I apologized sheepishly and laid back in the chair. I did tell him that I didn’t like the rubber suction thingy and asked if there was any other way of propping my mouth open. He kind of huffed and put a huge metal clamp in my mouth. The dentist went back to work, and the hygienist went back to tapping my nose with her pinky finger and telling me to breathe through my nose.

Almost instantaneously, I felt the wad of mucus return to the back of my throat.  I chanted, “It’s not real. I’m okay. It’s not real. I’m okay,” over and over in my head.

That didn’t work either. I swear I heard myself gurgle, and all the thoughts of suffocation came racing back.

The second time I made him stop, he asked in a slightly perturbed way if I needed to have gas.

Sure, why not. Let’s do that.

Out comes the gas doohicky. They presented the mask before I had completely calmed download
down. The hygienist placed it on my face and I immediately said, “Yeah, I can’t do this either,” and placed it on my forehead.  She sighed and started messing with the dental instruments on the counter behind me.

When my blood pressure returned to 120/80, I put the mask over my nose and started to inhale with a fervor, pulling the nitrous oxide deep into my toes. After filling my lungs past capacity five or six times, I started to relax.

Then I started to get paranoid. “Oh dear God,” I silently pleaded. “Please don’t let my heart rate slow down so much that I die at the dentist. Please, God. Please, God. Please, God.”  I started crying inside my head.

I couldn’t ask him to stop a third time. I was frightened of what the dentist would do, so I started chanting to myself again. “Just relax. Float on the cloud. Just relax. Float on the cloud,” I told myself.  Soon I was slowly chanting, “Float on the cloud. The cloud is good.” And then, “Stay here. Here is good. So very good.”  I chanted so long that the voice inside my head started to sound like a stoner. I was okay with that.

Before I knew it, the dentist announced that he was finished and the hygienist put on the finishing touches, including adding more oxygen to my nitrous oxide. What a total a bummer, dude.

As the effects of the gas wore off, I realized I had acted like such a ridiculous nincompoop during this visit. I was so embarrassed now that it was over.

“So,” I ventured after the hygienist removed the gas mask, “we’re going to use that stuff again when I come back to get the rest of my crowns, right?”

She looked at me, blinked twice, and said dryly, “Yes.”



Categories: Bad Decisions, Humor | 2 Comments

Negative breeds negative

I have a saying. “Negative breeds negative: positive breeds positive.” I say it to my kids all the time, when they’re misbehaving, making bad decisions, or experiencing one of those Contrary Mary days. (side note: I am fully aware of the shortcomings of such a philosophy; however, I’m dealing with children who are not aware that cracks in philosophical underpinnings exist, so please cut me a break.)

I’ve spouted this little nugget of wisdom enough that they’ve taken to saying it to each other and to their friends.  That’s when I really laugh – when they say it to their friends.

Late yesterday morning, we were piled in the car on our way to Memphis when I asked Z if he knew how to do an evil laugh. He of course looked confused and answered, “No,” in a way that intimated that he thought it was a stupid question to begin with, so I asked F.  She answered the same way but added that maybe if a person did their laugh a tad higher in pitch than they usually laugh, that might do the trick.

While I was getting her to demonstrate an evil laugh for me, Z asked me if my interest in evil laughing had anything to do with the auditions for the Wicked Witch in the community theater’s production of the Wizard of Oz (he didn’t say it quite that intellectually. He is only 8).  I confirmed his thought and was starting to explain that I thought it would be fun, but I didn’t know how to do an evil laugh when I saw flashing blue lights in my rear-view mirror.

I looked at the speedometer and sure enough I was doing 47 in a 35.

Poop. I started looking for a place to pull over. The road I was on was curvy with no shoulder, so I started to look for a side road or parking lot to pull off.

I came around the corner, and there was the Munford Funeral Home’s parking lot. I pulled in far enough to allow the police officer to pull in behind. I thought by being courteous he may go easy on me.

After I had given him the requisite documentation, I leaned over to the passenger seat to put my billfold back in my purse when I notice about twenty people staring back at me from the other side of the parking lot.

Oh, crap. This isn’t the parking lot.

I had pulled into the mortuary’s back lot where cars were being queued behind the hearse for the funeral procession that was getting ready to leave.

Oh, dear God, please let the officer be quick about giving me the ticket I so deserve.  

I fully expected that by admitting my guilt and how I deserved the worst punishment, God would turn the heart of the police officer to 1) notice time was of the essence since there was a funeral procession lining up and we were in the way, and 2) have grace upon the cotton-headed ninny-muggins who turned into the lot.

Neither happened.

By the time he finished writing my ticket and telling me to slow down, more cars were queued and I had to maneuver around them (going the opposite direction of the queue, of course, which added that much more humiliation to that which I was already experiencing).

Each time I passed a car, I raised my hand in apology and said “Sorry” as if it was a magical word that adequately explained the entire circumstance and that I wasn’t just some inconsiderate, unfeeling nincompoop.

It didn’t work.

Grieving people can give very nasty looks.

A minute or two down the road, Z pipes up from the back seat and says, ” You know how you always tell us that negative produces negative? Well, maybe if you hadn’t been talking about evil laughs, none of that would have happened.”

Well, thank you for that tidbit, my little putter together of all thoughts.

It is such a joy to have one’s children uses one’s words against oneself.  Wouldn’t you agree?




Categories: Bad Decisions, Family, Humor, Parenting | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Life’s Divisions

Yep. Pretty accurate.


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Random Thoughts Friday #31

Random Thoughts

What I’m thinking or saying when I’m driving:

1. Pick a lane, dude. Just pick. a stinking. lane.

2. I can only go as fast as the car in front of me. Driving up my tailpipe is not going to make me go any faster.

3. Are you an idiot? Why, yes. Yes you are.

4. People! The left lane if for passing. The right lane is for driving. Get. Ooooover!

5. Oops. Sorry. My car has a horrific blind spot. Rule of thumb: if you can’t see the driver’s face, he or she can’t see you. Just putting that out there.

6. No, really, take your time crossing the street, and when you get to the other side you should write and thank your congressmen for giving pedestrians the right of way.

7. It’s called a blinker. It wants to be used by you.

What I say when I’m a passenger:

1. No. I’m good. Other people’s driving doesn’t bother me.

What I’m thinking when I’m a passenger:

1. Just look out the passenger window and you’ll never know what’s happening.

2. Put the phone down. I value my life even if you don’t.

3. I wish I had a break pedal on this side.

Thanks you, Zack Arnstein and Larry Arnstein and

Thanks you, Zack Arnstein and Larry Arnstein and

4. And a gas pedal.

5. And a steering wheel.

Have a wonderful weekend and drive safely!

Categories: Humor, Random Thought Friday | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Have Tissue Handy

There is too much to say about this video, so please just watch.

Reblogged from Toemail.

Categories: Faith, Family, Humor, Parenting | 6 Comments

Monday Morning Coffee and a Conversation

G was dramatically lamenting how someone had lied to her, and was fake mortified that it had happened for the second time.  Playing along I told her to be the bigger person and forgive them.

G: I do forgive them.

Me: Then you wouldn’t keep a record of wrongs.

G: I don’t try to, but it’s a natural thing for my worldly mind to do.

Me (trying to sound scholarly and parental but sounding slightly confused and unsure): Well, then do not be conformed by the renewing of your mind…

G: (laughing) That’s ‘Be transformed by the the renewing of your mind,’ Mother. What you said was the direct opposite of that verse.

Me: And that’s why I don’t talk before 10 a.m.

Categories: Humor, Monday Morning Coffee | Leave a comment