Posts Tagged With: 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 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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Scraps of the Past

In the dining room of my parents’ house on 1100 Jackpine there was a built in china cabinet. Behind the glass doors were shelves of trinkets my siblings and I bestowed upon my mother over years. Below the glass doors were two heavy wooden drawers where my mother piled all her scraps of fabric. By the mid-1980s, those drawers where packet with fabric commemorating 20+ years of Easter, homecoming, prom, birthday, Christmas, and wedding regalia my mother had stitched together by herself.

photo credit:

photo credit:

I am no seamstress (my 7th grade Home Economics teacher will attest to that). All the same, here are my scraps. I started collecting them over a year ago, because, like the old saying goes, “you don’t know when you’ll need them.”

Instead of letting them pile up for the next 20 years, I thought I would share them with you (Yay!). Maybe, just maybe, there is a writer out there who is apprehensive because nothing they write sounds just right. I’m here to tell you that I am standing right here with you. Nothing I write sounds highly impressive in the first draft (or second or tenth or ever), and there are sections that I have to cut out of the final draft completely. Cut and move along.

But hold on to the scraps. You never know when you will use them.



Life Lessons Learned 4/17/13

This weekend taught me a couple lessons, or should I say, I learned a couple lessons this weekend, since technically weekends cannot teach a person anything. Rule #1 in writing: Make sure your subject can actually do the action.

Now you understand why it takes me a week to write a post, constantly editing as I write. Rule #2 in writing: Do not self-edit while you write.

Whatever. Easier said than done.

Lesson #1 It’s easier to talk to your children about compassion toward others than to teach them by action.

Lesson #2 God doesn’t always get even with you by blessing you with a child just like you. Sometimes it’s much more heinous.

It’s All in My Head 6/25/13 

I started this blog to face my fears about publishing my writing.

Another reason for this blog is to journal family stories as I remember them, or was told, or experienced them (that should cover any lose ends with the fact checkers).

I have come to realize that not all family stories are funny, nor do they involve bad decisions; although those are still the stories I like to tell. When I remember a good one, I jot it down and wait for a great time to publish, but I can’t do that anymore. I need to write and click publish all in one action.

So here goes.

When I Am Old 8.1. 2013 (unpublished draft)

In the beginning of August, I found some folders of my writing from the summer of 2000. At the prompting of my community college creative writing instructor, I applied and was accepted into the Nebraska Summer Writing Institute that was being held at Wayne State College (not to be confused with Wayne State University in Michigan).  I felt I had really come into my own at the mention of a stipend in the acceptance letter. I was being paid to write!

When I walked into the commons area of the Humanities building, my confidence left me as I looked around at everyone who seemed to know each other, and I instantly believed that everyone in the room had known each other for decades and all of them were seasoned poets and essayists. They were going to find out that I didn’t know what I was doing and revoke my acceptance into the summer institute.  I sunk into the background and stayed as quiet as I could.  Everyday, I listened to what the others said about line breaks and rhythm, voice and tone, style and imagery, hoping desperately for a nugget of information that would instantly catapult my confidence to a place where I could talk myself into believing I should be there.

During the opening session, I silently prayed that we wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time on poetry. I have read poetry. I have recited poetry. I have made my students study poetry. “Please, oh please,” I prayed, “do not make me write poetry.” That’s when the institute’s facilitator explained that poetry and prose would be given somewhat equal time and that it was expected that everyone would participate.

Oh joy.

Over the next three weeks, I was delighted when the presenter passed out examples during the teaching. I clung to these examples and depended upon them to keep my charade going. I was desperate for the others to not find out that I was a fraud.

One attendee chose to teach us a mini lesson using Jenny Joseph’s Warning as an example

Hashimoto’s Disease 12.3.13 (unpublished draft)

(In my friends’ defense, I know they would have listened, commented, asked questions and would otherwise shown every sign of being totally engaged and concerned, and I love them for it.)

Although I agree with a couple of these, other topics are hold conditions as to whether or not they can be interesting topics of conversation. While I listened to the podcast, I found myself writing a rebuttal paper in my head.

Random Thoughts Friday ????? 6.1.14 (unpublished draft)

Recent Examples:

Halloween night I was scanning Facebook for cute pictures of family and friends’ children and grandchildren (I love the creativity of some of the parents) when I came across a friend’s post about her husband, Mr. Generous, giving out too much candy when an old acquaintance/friend thought it appropriate to hold Mr. Generous’s feet to the flame for claiming to be against the celebration of Halloween.

Pahleeeze! Can we all get off our high horses for one second to enjoy each other? Is it such a hard task to withhold harsh criticism to delight in the amusement with a friend? Can we dispense with taking to task every jot and tittle of a persons life and show some love and friendship? Goll… what a moron. Pull your head out! (So, okay, it is a tad bit hard.)

Daily Writing Challenge: How do I feel about education 12.18.14

When I decided to have children, I made their education a top priority. I promised myself and them that I would give them every chance at a solid knowledge base that my pocketbook could afford. It all started with buying books when the kids were newborns, and yes, the first books were Dr. Seuss. When money was tight, the library card was used more; however, I stayed mindful of the books to which they gravitated and those were kept at the top of the list.

My kids could read by the time they were four years old.  The girls, G and Effy are veracious readers, interested in almost anything they can get their hands on. My boy, Z, on the other hand, likes to read about farts, so Captain Underpants, Dork Diaries, Dragon Breath and Big Nate tops the list.

Making the kids into early readers was not my intent. It started with G coming to me and asking me to teacher her how to read.  Who in their right mind would tell their child “No, wait until you start school”?  So my husband and I saved up $300 and purchased Abeka PreK-K5 curriculum, so I could teach her how to read. After a couple of months, she was off and reading by herself. By the end of the year, so was reading at a 4th grade level, doing third grade math, and writing in script (cursive). Throughout school, she excelled in math and English and could memorize material after reading it over a few times.

There are nine years between G and Effy and Z. I did the same with them as I did with G and with the same results.

I am not a hardcore, “push my kids to excel at any cost” kind of mother. I expect them to do their best because I have laid the ground work for them to do their best.

Nor am I a “let the school do all the teaching” kind of mother. I have never expected the public school system to teach my children everything they need to know.

Common Core Curriculum will be the death of American education.

photo credit:

photo credit:


There they are. My scraps in all their error-filled glory. It took me awhile to get used to cutting chunks out of my writing. Choosing what was ultimately going to stay in my post and what was to be cut felt like choosing which one of my children I was going to keep and which I would give away. How does a writer do that? My solution was to create a scrap pile. Those precious snippets are all in a place I can find them if I ever need them.

What do you do with your writing scraps?

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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?

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Writing Challenge Day 12: My favorite childhood book

As I explained on Challenge Day 2, I didn’t really learn to read until I was in the sixth grade, so I didn’t really have a favorite book until I was in high school. I do remember trying to read from an old reader that one of my brothers or sisters forgot to return to one of the schools they went to, but I can’t remember the title.
I do have two favorite books that I loved reading to my kids when they were small. I bought them the entire collection of Dr. Seuss, but the two books we read every night were I Love You This Much and The Kissing Hand.

I Love You This Much is about a little brown rabbit who tries to best his mother’s love. What he doesn’t understand is that a mother’s love is about as big as it gets.

The book we had was an enormous board book that was just about the same size as she was. She loved turning the big pages. We read it every night when she was little, and when we adopted F and Z, we read it every night with them.  The binding has fallen apart and has been re-secured with clear packing tape and the pages have had water spilt on them, but it will be forever one of our favorites.


This is a heartwarming story of a little raccoon who is afraid to go to night school. Although his mother tries to convince him that he will have fun and meet all kinds of new friends, he doesn’t want to leave her side. To reassure him that she will always be with him, she places a kiss in his hand. We read this so much that the night before Z went to Kindergarten, he gave my palm a small kiss so I wouldn’t miss him.

I wouldn’t give up my life with books for anything.

What are your favorite books?



Categories: Books!, Daily Writing Challenge, Parenting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Writing Challenge Day 8: My top 5 goals

According to the 30-day Blog Challenge list, today I am supposed to divulge 5 of my current goals.

Current goals? Okay, but my current goals are rather unimpressive, so I’m going to post “5 Easily Attainable Current Goals” and “5 Not-so Easily Attainable Current Goals” just to save face.

5 Easily Attainable Current Goals:

1. Finish painting the laundry room (This project has been in the making for about a month. I ran out of paint three quarters of the way through and completely lost all momentum. If you find it, will you please send it back to me. I’d really like to get this project in the bag.)

2. Clean my house without professional help. (I don’t actually see this one happening, but the list just said “current goals.” It said nothing about goals being possible to attain.)

3. Making it to the end of this challenge without missing too many days. (I did a 7 day Grateful Challenge on Facebook and totally forgot to post on day 7.  I have a tendency to not finish what I start. See #1)

4. Lose 5 pounds before October 4th (My niece is getting married in Texas, and who in America doesn’t want to lose at least five pounds. It’s more a matter of solidarity than vanity. Really.)

5. Make it through yet another one of Effy’s play productions without eating my weight in popcorn

Photo Credit: The Historic Ruffin Theater

Photo Credit: The Historic Ruffin Theater

(She’s one of the Wicked Witch’s cats in The Wizard of OZ – based on the books not the movie. The theater makes the best popcorn and it’s only $1. It’s like they don’t want me to reach my #4 goal and are conspiring against me. I thought we were in this together?)

5 Not-so Easily Attainable Current Goals:

1. Get out of debt (Again, I see this as an All-American goal – as in all Americans are trying to get out of debt. We are doing David Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, and we should be debt free by 2016. Yay! How about you?)

2. Finish the book about my parents (Whew. This may take awhile. I’ve been working on it for a few years. I am in the research stage, but that tendency not to complete thing keeps looming over my shoulder….)

3. Finish raising two well-adjusted people who will be productive members of society (I’ve heard that adulthood now begins at 25 years of age instead of the traditional 18. That’s much longer than I anticipated. Prayers are welcomed.)

4. Finish my education by getting my Ph.D. (This has actually been a life-long goal. I keep putting it off to do other things, like get married, have kids, move across the country, homeschool, etc. One day it will happen. One day.)

5. Take a trip to Europe (One month is all I need.)

Everyone has goals, and it is important to identify them. I’ve also heard that identifying a date of completion helps one to achieve the goal. I’ve never found that to be true, probably because I can easily change the date and I am lenient with myself; whereas, I am more inclined to complete a project or achieve a goal if I have accountability imposed upon me from a stern outside source that is not my husband.

How about you? Do you and I have any of the same goals?

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

Challenge Day 6: My fears

Note: I apologize for the post being late. No excuses. It’s just late. I should have posted yesterday, but I chose to go to bed instead. Sorry if that offends.


My one fear is dying by suffocation – drowning mainly.  I am slightly claustrophobic, so knowing where my oxygen is coming from is important to me.

Other than that, I don’t have a lot of fears, and this may sound cheesy, but I fully embrace 1Timothy 1:7 “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind.”

Yes, there are times that I worry, but I don’t allow myself time to fear things.

Life is short. I don’t want to spend my time and energy on something negative. If I am afraid of doing something, I try to do it in order to overcome it.

I don’t want something negative controlling my life. I’ve witnessed too many people remain stuck because they allowed fear to run rampant. To me, being afraid is giving away my freedom and giving away my self-control.  Nope. Can’t let that happen.

I don’t want to look back on my life and see that I didn’t do things because I was too fearful.

What a waste for that to happen.

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Gearing up for National Novel Writing Month!

I feel a little stupid.  I decided to take part in the National Novel Writing Month again, and I wrote a draft stating my intentions.  My declaration never left my drafts folder, but I posted my first entry for the Daily Post.  Here is the declaration!

I have decided to take part in the National Novel Writing Month.  My oldest daughter and I started last years challenge but didn’t finish.  This year, I am getting ahead start by joining the Post a Day challenge.  I will be posting on this blog once a day for the rest of October.

I promised myself that I would become vulnerable (see “Hello World!”).  Posting what I write will be intimidating, but hopefully it will also be inspiring, awesome and wonderful, not to mention fun (see again “Hello World!”).  I will be making use of The DailyPost and as much of the community of other bloggers with similar goals as I can to help me along the way.

Wow! This is progress.  I’m not only standing vulnerable before my small little audience, but I am now inviting people to come gauk.

I covet your comments.  I will be using them to encourage me along the way.

Thanks in advance,

Sarah Mandl

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