This time it was different.

Caught up with someone last night we hadn’t visited with for  5 years.    Over the years whenever we’ve talked,  I would come away from those conversations feeling like I’d been interrogated.   (And judged.)

Last night was no exception,

Since it had been five years, there was a lot we caught up on….

Another grand child on the way, my good health compared to my peers in  construction, honey bees, wife’s involvement with hospice work, personal debt,  the normal every day stuff you might expect…

At some point, the topic of conversation came around to retirement,  She’s looking forward to retiring this Spring.  Where was I at with all that?  The pro’s and con’s of drawing social security early?

And that is when that sense of having to justify myself, rather than just catching up for catching up’s sake kicked in….I could hear that familiar slightly judgmental tone in her voice.

But this time it was different.

I laughed.

We were talking about me wanting to take an active roll in how we handle these choices, rather than turn it over to an expert.  Our accountant has been a lot of help, because that stuff is always changing..but other than that, I am very interested in personal finance.

Side note… I think with a little more education, I would make a great financial planner. JMHO 😉

I said ,”Listen,  It is not rocket science.   Years ago, I picked up a book called Sound Mind Investing, that  is what’s next after getting out of debt.  It was  highly recommended by Larry Burkett (Pre- Dave Ramsey/ Mary Hunt/ get out of debt guru’s) )…  At the time, Larry, said a person needs to be thinking about goals after getting out of debt, or there is a good chance you’ll go right back where you started if you don’t….

(So the Sound Mind Investing book, has been sitting on the shelf for at least 10 years, as we’ve moved in the direction of getting debt free, and in the last several months I have been rereading it again.  (I ordered the updated copy  which I would highly recommend if you’re at all curious about this topic)

I then rattled off a handful of other things that gave me confidence I have some sense of what we’re doing….

I have been talking with our tax guy.

The fact that my construction business is a Sub chapter S, gives us way more options.

The fact we home schooled the kids for 9 years, gives me  confidence  I have the ability to learn something new, and do it well.

I  talked to her about our risk tolerance when it comes to money management (neither one of us are risk takers), so we’re not doing this blindly.

And finally, I said, “Well, check back in 10 years and ask me how it went.” 🙂

I love the confidence that has come with getting older.

DM

Historical perspective on money and personal debt

Hey John, ( and anybody else who cares to listen) 🙂

This picture caught my eye the other day and I wanted you to  see it.

I wanted to plant a financial seed in your minds eye if I may. 🙂

It is the home of Dr Lebron Lackey, still standing after a 250 mph hurricane.  Notice his neighbors…

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When I was studying early Iowa history one of the things that struck me, (and we never covered in school), was the number of other recessions and depressions that had taken place.

All I had ever learned about was The Great Depression of 1929.  

We never talked about the Panic of 1837, that lasted until 1843 – (6 years).

“The Panic of 1837 was one of the longest and deepest depressions of the 19th century. It was a period of pronounced deflation and massive default on debt.”

Then came the the Panic of 1857  that  didn’t really turn around until after  the Civil War – (7 years).

“…the years immediately preceding the Panic of 1857 were prosperous, many banks, merchants, and farmers had seized the opportunity to take risks with their investments and as soon as market prices began to fall, they quickly began to experience….. financial panic”.

Or The panic of 1873 that lasted until 1879   (6 years).

Since you didn’t bring this topic up, I am kind of reluctant to get too preachy,  but knowing what I know,  it would be just wrong of me to not say something.

Back in  January of 2014, I was  at my wit’s end (financially).  To use a word picture at the time,  I felt like I was flying a 747 and we were about 10 to 15 feet above the ocean.

Yes we were still in the air, and yes we were still moving, but the waves were lapping at the wings, and I was tired.   Being self employed, my income can vary a lot from year to year…as much as a 1/3.   I  sat down, crunched some numbers and realized we had been spending $700 a month more than I was making for a couple of years.  Our budget was based on the incomes of better years. Those extra expenses were going  fun things like heating bills, medical bills and medical insurance.

We’ve never been big on going out to eat, yada, yada….

So there you go, and it was right in the midst of that craziness that I came across the book by Mary Hunt called  Debt Proof Living.

Within a month of reading it, I had hope.  Finally had some practical ideas on how to get some distance between myself and the water.

Our income hasn’t change all that much, but (knock on wood) we’ve been able to pay off all of the credit card debt, our car loan, a line of credit loan, and the loan to build that little extension on my shop.  Over $30,000 worth of debt, on the same income…we switched medical health insurance coverage that saved us $400 a month, and replaced the 20 year old furnace/ shut off the heat to the 2nd floor of our home and whacked another $300 a month off expenses.

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So when I see that picture of the house still standing when the neighbors have all been blown away, I see someone making different financial decisions than the rest of the culture.

Pop culture says, debt is just a normal part of life.

I say we are living in a fools paradise.

Historically, things go in cycles.

We are way past due for another financial $@#% storm.

Get out of debt and stay out of debt.

It is possible to raise a family on one blue collar income.

You can take that to the bank.

Why I’m optimistic about 2019

I just ordered  2000 Red Burgundy  Organic Onion seeds this morning.

When they arrive, I’m going to fill a flat with them and watch them grow.

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CS Lewis wrote a little fictional book called The Screwtape Letters.  It is my personal favorite of all his writings.  He was a master story-teller.   He talks in there about worry, fear of the future, fears of the unknown.   If you struggle with fear, and love a good allegory, I can’t recommend it enough.

I think it has shaped my thoughts on this topic as much as anything I have ever read.

Well, I feel a nap coming on.

Later! DM

 

 

 

 

Lois

I met Lois 13 years ago.

She and her friend Floe had signed up for  a class I was teaching at our local community college  called “Bible for Dummies.”

Lois was 80 years old.  Farm wife.   She had a couple of hundred chickens/ sold eggs on the side.  Sharp mind.  Quiet, sweet personality.  I remember thinking no way is this lady 80 years old…65 maybe. Floe told me on the side Dave her husband could be a little “overbearing.”  Said Lois didn’t get away from the farm much.  Hard worker.  It was “good she was able to take a break and get away from the farm for a few hours.”

After that class ended, wife and I would occasionally stop by Lois’s farm and buy eggs.

We read in the obituaries a few years ago, Lois’s husband had died.   I think we may have gotten eggs from her one time after that.  I think of Lois every time I drive by her farm.   Christmas night, feeling nostalgic  I googled her name to get the address of her farm.  I was thinking about dropping her a note.     Two addresses came up for Lois.  Her place that I knew about  and a 2nd local address.  It was a care facility.  White pages said she was 93 years old.

As I was driving past the exit to the care facility  this past Thursday morning I thought, what the heck, I’m going to stop and ask if she lives there.  No harm in that.

Walked up to the front door. Doors were locked.  Needed a security code to get in.  Off to the right, were the instructions and code numbers.   Punched them in, sure enough, this time the door opened.  Straight ahead was an office with two secretaries and a resident, so I popped my head in the door and asked, “Does a Lois, so- and so lived there?”

The secretary in charge looked at me as shook her head slowly  and said “Nope.”

I went on to tell them the details of why I there…It was spur of the moment.  Wasn’t even sure she was there, just that the computer said so.  Told her about the class Lois was in years before with me.  Told them I’d occasionally stop by her house to buy eggs, but it had been a while…

At this point, the secretary does some non-verbal signals with her eyes toward the resident sitting in the chair next to her desk, three feet in front of me….

It was Lois.

I did not recognize her.

Different hair style and her face was puffy.   I’m guessing she’d put on 20 pounds.
I asked how long she had lived here?  Secretary guessed maybe 3 years.

All this time Lois just sat listening to me banter, then reached up and grabbed my hand…didn’t let go until I left.  I looked her in the eyes and asked “Lois, do you remembered me? 

 “Yes” she said in a quiet voice.

We all  had good laugh.

Secretary said she thought I was joking initially.

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I’m still processing that little adventure.

I did write Lois a letter last night and pop it in the mail.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine going from the  active lifestyle that I have currently… where I can do whatever I want to do, make home-made bread, have a big garden, tend 80 apple trees, build furniture in my wood working shop, ferment sauerkraut, have a dog…..to moving into one room where all of my earthly possessions have to fit.

(And I couldn’t bring my dog).

Libby (our dog)

I watched a friend of ours (Helen) transition from living on her own, to moving into two different care facilities as her health declined…She pulled it off with amazing grace.  I’m not so sure I want to wind up like that.

(Not so sure I  have too much say in some of those details either.)

Radio DJ Friday morning was talking about her grandmother.  Grandmother lived through the depression of 1929-1939.  She said her grandmother had a remarkable cheerful disposition, in spite of all she went through. She asked her grandmother how she did it?

Grandmother told  her… “It is a choice.”  

Would love to hear any thoughts any of you have on this issue of aging, transitioning from one  season of our lives to the next.

I am taking notes 🙂  DM

 

Of Grit and Bone 11/13/18

About the title…

Read this first

Much to be thankful for.

The Honeybees

Where do I start?

I took the lid off the hive yesterday to finish insulating the top and return two frames of honey I’d thought about keeping for myself until I remembered they were in the hive when I treated for mites back in September.  The temperature  yesterday was in the mid 20’s so I assumed the bees would be huddled down in the bowels of the hive trying to stay warm.

Nope.

Hundreds of robust looking honeybees milling around the top frames on the hive. I find it fascinating and  exhilarating to be able to approach a bee colony with tens of thousands of bees and work with them.   I freely admit being a “new bee” when it comes to raising bees.  The learning curve is crazy steep.  I still feel like I really don’t have a clue.  Fortunately for me,  there are two new local bee keepers who have been willing to share with me their experiences, and the Internet.

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Remodel

I have been on this current  project for 3 months. Should finish up tomorrow unless the home owner wants our help on insulating or trimming. Other than some help issues and a very rainy  fall, it has been a treat to work on this project. 90% of the time it doesn’t feel like “work.”  I love what I do and I don’t take that for granted.  We took a 1120 square foot ranch, and turned it into a 2000 plus square foot home.  Added a 3 stall garage, and new 4 seasons room.

Want to say something about work and attitude.

We stopped by my aunt’s this past Saturday for lunch.  She mentioned in passing her son (my cousin) is planning on retiring after the first of the year. He is 4 years younger than I.  He’s worked in a factory setting for 30 + years.  Great union benefits.    I heard that and found myself battling feelings of failure.   That is not the first time this has happened.  Rather than just be stuck in those negative, energy sucking thoughts, I decided to tell some friends that we get together with on a regular basis about it.  Just as I’d suspected. Every last one of them (5) confessed to battling similar thoughts at one time or another.

“So what do I do about it?” I asked????

Be thankful.  (And they proceeded to list off a plethora of things in my life I do have to be thankful for.)   Just admitting those feelings of comparison and inferiority out loud to another human being, (and in this case to 5 people) then being thankful for a host of things removed the sting.

It really did.

Here are a few before and after pics of my current project…

Original house:

Back of house:

 

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Finances

In 2014 I wrote a series of posts on the financial stress I was feeling.

I sometimes think it word pictures in case you haven’t noticed. 🙂

The word picture I had at the time in my mind was this….

I felt like I was flying a loaded 747 and we 15 to 20 feet off the surface of the ocean.  Yes I was still in the air, but the waves were licking @ the wings, the weight of financial stress was nonstop and I was getting tired. Credit card debt, car loan, medical bills..etc.

Then we  stumbled across a book on personal finances that was a God-send.

Here’s a portion of the chart I put on the wall in front of my desk:

 

The chart showed where we were currently,as well as where I wanted to head.

Flash forward to today.

Our financial situation has  changed.  Same job, same basic income….

Credit card is paid off.  Car loan is paid off.  Medical bills are currently all paid off and there is a surplus in the medical checkbook.  (Although that could  change in a heartbeat).

Today there are two  different word pictures in my head.

First, the one with the airplane… We have created distance between those waves  and our plane.  Today we are at 10,000 feet and climbing.

The second word picture in my head is that of a beehive.

Imagine that 🙂

I feel like a bee going into winter with multiple frames of honey stored up.

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Well, I guess I need to wrap it up.  If you’re reading this post, I would love to hear from you as well.   If nothing else, tell me three things you have to be thankful for.

Later!  DM

 

Family reunion talent show update

Saturday night was the long-awaited talent show at my wife’s family reunion in Grand Island Nebraska.

Read this first  to know the context of what follows.

Three fourth’s the way through the program it was my turn.

While I had the normal pre-performance jitters,  I was actually pretty calm and relaxed until I had the floor.

As I stood in front of the group,  I got choked up.

A wave of emotion  hit me out of nowhere,  and my voice started to break.

 

100% happy/ positive good stuff going on inside..but  wow…

Took me 20 seconds to compose myself.

(Talk about a hook to get people’s attention) 😉

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It all started back in July of 2015 when I watched a little girl, (I’m guessing she was about 4)  sing a solo in front of 90 people, most of whom she didn’t know.

The next morning when I complimented her on her performance, she  asked me a question that has followed me around for 3 years…”Why hadn’t I signed up for the talent show?”

Her question caught be  off guard, and whenever I thought of it, it felt like God (or the universe if you prefer) was gently asking me that question.

Why not? Why hadn’t I put myself out there?…And the bigger question,  not just at a family talent show but in a hundred other situations in life as a whole.

What am I afraid of?

The truth was, is,  I fear of making a fool of myself.  I fear I have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

These kind of thoughts  normally keeps me safely in my seat,  hidden in the middle of the audience.

But in the weeks leading up to this family reunion, that question continued to challenge me.   I realized I did have something (possibly several somethings ) I could share) Maybe my “talent”, didn’t  fit into the standard box at a talent show..(sing, play a musical instrument, or dance) but that’s OK.

I opted to tell a short story.

Yea, I took several of yours advice and told a story.  Condensed something that normally takes me 30 minutes to tell into 3 minutes, so it was a little abbreviated, but that’s OK.

I pushed past my insecurities and fears and did it.

To use a biblical word picture,  I heard a voice calling me to step out of the boat, and  walk on water.…

What

a

rush.

Picture of Mary and I afterwards.

 

 

 

What Mary Said

Every three years, my wife’s  extended family gather in central Nebraska for a family reunion.  It  starts on a Friday night and ends Sunday after breakfast.

Saturday night is the talent show.

Singing, piano songs, tap dance, guitar.  One of the uncles brought some pottery pieces last time and talked about that. It’s open to everyone.  You just never know what to expect.

We’re about a month out from the next reunion…

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I was sitting in the lounge area three years ago, waiting for my wife at the end of the weekend.  One of her cousins with two little ones sat down on the couch opposite me.   The older girl  had performed in the talent show the night before. Her name was Mary.

I told her she’d done an awesome job in the talent show the night before.

Takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of seventy people, you barely know and sing a solo.

Mary singing in the talent show - Copy

Mary singing  in the talent show.

“Thanks.” she said.  “What’s your talent?”

Took me totally off guard.

She looked at me with the most intense, matter of fact expression.

 “Did you perform  in the talent show?” 

“No.”

“Why not?”

I mumbled something lame about being good in the audience.

Her question caught me off guard.  I remember mumbling something about promising to do something next time.

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I have thought about Mary and her questions for three years.

What’s your talent?

And why not?

The talent show is not about being better than the next person, or winning a prize.  It is about sharing a piece of my life  for the encouragement and enjoyment of the rest.

I am not a great singer.  I dabble in music.  Yes I was in choir, until the teacher asked me to be apart of a guy/ girl singing group where I would have to dance and sing.  I didn’t think so.   Yes I had 5 years of piano lessons and 2 years of organ lessons.  Yes I played the trumpet in jazz band.  Yes I know some basic chords on the acoustic guitar and can read music.  But sharing any of that in a family talent show?  None of that really lights a fire in me now.  So for the past three years I have been wracking my brain about what talent or story or hobby to bring with me to the next talent show, because I gave my word to Mary you know.

Yesterday morning it clicked.

I know what I am going to do. 🙂

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What about you? What would you say to Mary? What part of your life could you share with the rest of us  and sitting on the sidelines was not an option?  Because, here’s the deal.  I believe, in the big scheme of things,  each and everyone of us is a walking, talking repository of life stories, life skills, life lessons, meant not just for ourselves to hoard, and keep stashed away, but to share as well.

Where does the fire burn?  Do you love to garden?  What are some of the favorite things you grow and why? What are some gardening tricks you’ve learned over the years?  Art, do you love to paint, draw, work with your hands? Give me details!   Have you been given abilities to fix things with your hands?  Tell me a story about something that had you stumped, then figured out how to fix.   Are you good with children, older people, the sick?  Tell me a funny story about that.  Do you love the outdoors?  Why? What is it about the outdoors that brings you joy?  Do you live in a big city?  Tell me a story about life in the big city that will make me laugh…or surprise me because of the kindness of a stranger.

You’re up next. 🙂   DM

 

Here’s a link to a blog post about this same encounter written three years ago, right after it happened. To be totally honest, I’d forgotten I’d written it.  It showed up on my screen this morning after I posted the new one.  Maybe my clutch is starting to slip.