Of Mice and Money

Between increasing housing costs, medical, and school loans; it’s no wonder that so many American’s are facing problems with debt. The subject of finances is nothing new and one that usually causes the most stress. (According to an article on eHow.com, marriages in America “at this time have a 50/50 success rate potential…one of two marriages potentially heading to divorce due to a money issue.” This is not good news.

Speaking of news, did you happen to see this article from CNN that talked about how 1 in 3 American’s are in debt collections? Now, I know the data collected might have all different kinds of contributing factors, but how often have you met with someone who had money problems? It’s not unheard of for me to start talking with someone and they end up mentioning something like their mounting student loans or overwhelming medical bills. It can almost make you feel that you don’t even stand a chance, which is pretty scary.

I know that companies are even now checking applicant’s credit before interviewing. Following this train of thought, you might be someone in debt trying desperately to work your way out, but you can’t even get an interview for a job because your credit isn’t great.
I know this is an unusual topic for me to blog about, but when I read the headline, something just grabbed me and I couldn’t stop myself. I really wanted not to go on any kind of rant about the state of the economy or anything like that, but I was thinking maybe I could encourage a collection of wonderful money saving ideas on this post, so if you have some ideas – PLEASE SHARE THEM BELOW.
So, here is a personal story of mine when it comes to money.  I have noticed that I never seem to have a financial emergency until after I spend a good amount of money on something else.  For example, we just recently got a new dining room table (it was needed our old one was falling apart), but the day after we made that purchase, my husband and I hear “scurrying” noises coming from above our head in our bedroom at night. (And yes, you could hear the theme music from Halloween here.) Sure enough, after calling our pest control company, it was discovered that we had mice in our attic. (Insert girly scream…three times….by me, not the hubby.)
You remember Indiana Jones and his fear of snakes?

Still of Indiana Jones Raider's of the Lost Ark (1981) from www.imdb.com

Still of Indiana Jones Raider’s of the Lost Ark (1981) from http://www.imdb.com

Yeah, imagine that multiplied by a thousand or so. (This is what I think of when I hear mice.)

Still from The Princess Bride image courtesy of www.imdb.com

Still from The Princess Bride image courtesy of http://www.imdb.com

I know it’s silly, but I just can’t seem to control it. So when our unnamed pest control person quoted us a price tag of $1500 to seal up “multiple wholes” for the “infestation”  in our attic, not even to set traps, I was this close to discussing payment plans, just to get the process started before I lost my mind. Luckily for me, my very level-headed husband, who is not afraid of mice, was like, “Uh, no,” and we got a second opinion from a good friend who not only came over and put some traps in our attic for free, but helped us look around and find that we really only have one or two places that we might need to cover to fix this problem. (God Bless our awesome friends – we have the best.)

So, aside from flesh-eating, zombie-killing mice, all is right in our world again….for now.

Going with this theme, I recently read a book called, America’s Cheapest Family, that if you ever get the chance to read, I highly recommend it! This family survives on an income of less than $40,000 a year and they are very happy. They’ve got some really great suggestions in there that I believe everyone could benefit from.

So, what about you? Have you had any mice emergencies lately? What are some great money-saving tips that you would suggest for those out there trying to save?

Tagged – A Glimpse into “A New House”

My friend, Diana Beebe tagged me (and a few others) in a blog post about what other writer friends are currently working on. For myself, I have a couple of mansucripts going at any given time, which allows me the chance to work on a little bit here and there – where ever the inspriation flows.

Reminder

So in consideration for this “tag”, you are supposed to go to page 7 or 77 of your current manuscript. Scroll down to line seven and post seven lines from there…exactly as they are. Okay, my first instict is to put something more “polished” on here, but I think the intent of this exercise is to provide the fun and new, so here is an excerpt from a work that I had actually placed aside until recently, called, A New House. (The name is subject to change.)

Turning her head to see where the noise had come from, she locked eyes with a man, a very handsome man she admitted to herself, who was standing at the end of her driveway with an amused expression on his face as he watched her struggle to lift one of the boxes filled with books. He was tall, though she couldn’t be sure how tall, given the way that she was bent over the trunk, but she would guess a little over six four, and he appeared to be really fit with his black collared shirt and tan slacks.

He had eyes the color of a sweet looking caramel macchiato, which had her considering her still brewing coffee, and a smile that was confident in it’s ability to set you at ease. Thinking back, she was sure that she probably could have lightened this load of books if she had just listened to her mother when she recommended that she go through her collection and get rid of the ones that she was never going to read again and maybe that would have saved her from this moment of embarrassment.

She was ridiculously stuck over a bunch of books in her trunk, her ever expanding ass hanging in the air, and her hair constantly falling over her face since she forgot to pull it back into a ponytail this morning. Lessons learned. Instead of letting the moment get to her though, she attempted an air of authority and perhaps a degree of mirth when she replied, “Can I help you?”

The man took a moment with this, it appeared that he was weighing his next words carefully given the frown lines that began to show on his forehead, which was wonderfully tan like the rest of his face giving the impression that he spent a great deal of time outdoors. “Actually I was going to offer to help you.” His voice was rough like he was holding back a chuckle at her expense. She narrowed her eyes at him showing that she was on to him. He just smiled and waited for her to make the next move.

And the last part of the tag says that I have tell you five things about my protagonist, Rachel:

1.  Rachel prefers to handle things her way.

2.  She is embracing a new change in her life to try to gain some control.

3.  She doesn’t believe in ghosts.

4.  She has some drama in her family.

5.  She doesn’t trust strange men.

 

So, that is the glimpse into my old but new manuscript, A New House.  I really hoped you enjoyed it and learning a little bit about Rachel.  For all my friends out there, consider yourself “TAGGED” for this! *evil laughs*

What about you?  What kind of projects have you got going on right now?  I have a friend who is currently redoing the floors in her house and is thinking about redoing the bathrooms as well.  This seems to be the season for repairs.

Dream Date Night

Thinking long and hard…what’s the best date you’ve ever been on?  Are you married?  How long have you been married?  Do you still have date night now that you are married?

I shot this on St. Thomas...talk about a "date night."

I shot this on St. Thomas…talk about a “date night.”

My family and I just recently got back from a Family Retreat at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, where we had a Chaplain talk to us about our marriage and things like that.  One of the books that he recommended (and you all know how much I LOVE books :)), was called, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.  Have you read this book?  I think the one on the link that I listed is a bigger book than the one that I have but the lesson is the same…everyone has a different way that they express love, so even though you might be wondering what is going on with your spouse and why are they frustrating you so much…there is a method to the madness. *smiles*

For example, in my case, when I think about how I show my husband that I love him (not that way people get your mind out of the gutter *laughs*), is by conversation.  I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this, but it’s true.  I try to set aside time to listen to my husband and spending quality time together.  (Not when both of us are on the coach watching TV and checking Facebook – and one of you just thought, “How does she see me?”)  What I mean is sitting down and having a real conversation with my husband.

Do you remember when you first started dating your significant other?  Do you remember how special and wonderful it was just to get the chance to spend time with them talking?  Well, that’s what I mean when I say that I try to set aside time for us to talk.  And it’s not easy.  With both of us working, I know that sometimes the last thing that I want to do at the end of the day is anything other than getting dinner going and crashing on the living room sofa, and maybe catch an episode of The Good Wife.

So, with quality time in mind, I downloaded a list of questions that we could ask ourselves..something like a writing prompt for conversations asking questions like, “What’s your favorite memory of us?” or “What was the first music album you owned?”

****** Wait a minute…first music album…I have to share*****

Real quick, I wanted to share (knowing full well that I open myself up to public mockery), the first album that I owned was the soundtrack to the movie, The Adams Family Values.

Photo Courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo Courtesy of IMDB.com

I don’t know if you remember this movie or the music from it, but just in case, here’s a link:

–Let the laughing commence…

*****Okay, back to topic*******

So, basically, my husband and I are going back and forth talking like we did when we first met and it was great!  Really.  (I still see some of you rolling your eyes.)  I’m finishing that book, but was wondering along this same line…have any of you had an experience like this?  Have you read a book that changed your marriage?  What kind of book (aside from Women Are From Mars) would you suggest?

How about inexpensive date night suggestions?  How do you make it work?

I’m Distracted

So, I’ve read in many places that a good idea if you want to achieve a goal is to write that goal down, whether on a scrap piece of paper, on the edge of buisness card, or on the blackboard, but write it down in place that you can see it everyday.  I like this idea, but to expound on that, I’ve also heard that it might be even better to have some kind of mission statement to better explains what your goals are.  Do any of you do this?

 List

I’ve been giving a lot of thoughts to my “long range” plan lately.  When I was in the Air Force, I was a scheduler, maintenance scheduler, and I got used to having plans, both long range and short range.  (Basically, I was responsible for tracking and scheduling maintenance on all weapons, aircraft, and engines.) But what makes me laugh is that even when I have these plans at work (day job), I have not applied this to my “home/professional” life. 

Calendar

I’m really good at excuses.  I am pretty good at procrastinating.  (It’s a little funny when I use laundry as avoidance for my work in progress – even if we ALWAYS have laundry!)  In fact, here’s a list of my favorite things to do when I should be doing something else:

1. Social Media (Yes, Facebook and Twitter are my first two, especially since I have them on my phone now and can see them anywhere!)

2.  Reading (I count this because even though I could justify it and say it’s good for an author to read, I still read more than I probably should right now.)

3. TV – It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but sure I’ll kick back with an episode of Dr. Quinn when I’m folding laundry.  Who doesn’t? *smiles*

4. Household chores – The funny one because I’m not a real fan of any kind of cleaning, but sometimes I will gladly dust than get back to my revisions.

5.  Daydreaming – I think looking out the window or daydreaming should be counted as time towards writing – SQUIREL! – but being honest I would admit not ALL my daydreaming time is focused on my writing.

What about you?  Are you easily distracted?  What are your distractions?

Checking In

Good Friday morning everyone!  How have you been doing lately?  I tell you, not to complain, but it’s been busy in this mama’s life with work, revisions on my submissions to two agents (where I have been feverishly working to either delete or rework a character), I slipped in a quick family vacation down to San Antonio, and now I am enrolled in a two-week Fast Draft Course with the wonderful Candace Havens that is totally blowing NaNoWriMo away!

Phew! *wipes brow*

Insert also into this time busy time the fact that the hubby and I have made some major life decisions – just to make it a little more interesting.  First, the hubby and I have made the decision to get a better handle on our financies and we evaluated how much money we spent for the last year.  I don’t want to say how much I spent on books (it was a LOT), but I seriously must have lost my mind.  One of the driving forces for this review is not just because it’s important, in my mind, to have a good household budget and stick to it, but also because this leads to another life change that the hubby and I have decided on…and that is we are going to homeschool our four-year old daughter.

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I know that many of you are going to have varying opinions on this matter, and I appreciate that, but this decision was not made in haste, it is actually something that I’ve been researching for the last year or so. (Hubby took a little extra convicing, but we made the decision together, as a family.)

So now that the decision has been made, I’m going to have to figure out better ways to save money on books, becasue I mean, come on, I HAVE to have books.  I need to be surrounded by them and always have options of what I’m going to read next.  Are you that way?  I like to have all kinds of books at my finger tips because I never know what I’ll be in the mood for and thanks, in part, to a wonderful writer and friend, Roni Loren, I’ve been expanding on my reading list into other wonderful genres that I would have never given time of day to before.  It’s been so amazing getting out of that comfort zone.

On that note, I’m going to give you a quick review of three new books that I have read recently, in case you are interested.

1)  “Hold on to Your Kids,” Gordon Neufeld, Ph. D. and Gabor Mate, M.D. 2006 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition

     This book was referred to me from another friend’s site and basically the premis is that our society is raising a bunch of peer oriented children.  Basically children that look to their peers for “their values, identifty, and codes of behavior.” (back cover)  I don’t know that anyone would argue this basic fact, given the media attention given to so many examples, the most notably the Miley Cyrus scandals that have been on TV.  Now, as a parent, I constantly struggle with being the primary influence in my daughter’s life while not overwhleming her and becoming that “helicopter parent.”  It’s a balance,  But until now, I’ve never read a book that so eloquently discusses what the problem is, how it begins, and what you can do to help fix it.  The only critique I have for this book is that it is a little in-depth, and doesn’t flow as I would prefer, but really that’s just a preference.  If you haven’t had a chance to glance through this book, parent’s I highly recommend it!

2)  “The Brainy Bunch,” by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, 2014 Gallery Books

     What an interesting book – another one that I pulled from a blog.  The pull for me was when another mom told me about this family that homeschools their ten children and all of them have started college by the age of twelve!  All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind about whether or not this was even possible, let alone a good thing, but the book (written jointly by both parents with inserts from the kids), gives an overview of the families values and teaching methods that allows each of their children to pursue their dreams and gather education in areas that interest them.  Among the children are a Navy Doctor, an Engineer, and an Architect.   The parents stress over and over that their children aren’t geniusus but that their achievments are made by allowing their children the pursue what interests them and to ensure that they are always challenged.  It gives you an interesting persepective about how you will look at your child’s education and the education system today.

3) “Smart Money, Smart Kids,” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze (his daughter).  2014 Lampo Liscensing, LLC.

    Now, I believe almost everyone has heard of Dave Ramsey and his secrets to “financial success,” but I never knew that his daughter, Rachel, was also a financial educator.  Their book, co-authored, gives a unique perspective on money that many parents might not have given consideration to before – how to help your kids make the best decisions when it comes to your finances.  As I said earlier, financial peace is something that even my husband and I struggle with today.  But Rachel and Dave explain in their book how to be a good role model for your kids and how to set them up for financial success.  They talk about not using the word, “allowance,” but instead having children work “on comission.”  It’s an interesting conecpt and a very easy read.  I highly reccommend this book!

How’s your Friday going?  Ready for one of these?

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Continuing the 2014 Reading Challenge with John Grisham

How have I gotten to this point in my life without reading a book by John Grisham?  I can tell you that I have seen many of his books-turned-movies like The FirmThe Client, and The Pelican Brief.  All wonderful movies, and I’m sure even better books.  My husband is a huge fan of his and on one of our weekend trips, he had us listen to the audio book of Playing for Pizza, which I have to say was really interesting.  But nothing compares to when reading something that is what I consider, essentially John Grisham, a story about a trial.

So, when my reading group decided on Sycamore Row for our book for the month of February, I jumped at it!  It was going to be a new experience and I couldn’t wait.  I admit, I was a little nervous because sometimes when you hear about a famous author you come into their books with these high expectations.  You know?  So needless to say, mine were really high with this one…but I didn’t need to worry. This book was everything I expected and then some!  I wouldn’t have thought that there was so much about wills that I didn’t know about, or that you could even make them that interesting, but trust John Grisham to give you a story that catches you immediately and seamlessly keeps your attention throughout almost five hundred pages!

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Image courtesy of http://www.jgrisham.com

 

 

I read the synopsis of this book and realized that it was a prequel to the book/movie, A Time to Kill.  I rented the movie to make sure that I understood this new book and I was shocked by how much that story moved me.  I was glad that Grisham kept the interesting characters of Jake Brigance and Sheriff Ozzy.  I guess the only disappointment that I had with the story was that I hoping for an appearance, even if it was small, from Carl Lee Haley, but that’s okay.  It’s still an awesome story.

If I had to say just one thing that I liked about the book (and there were many), I would have picked that I really liked how you didn’t even know where the title of the book came from until you got to the end.  It was a clever way, I think, to keep the story rooted with you when it was done.  I’ll certainly never forget the importance of Sycamore Row. *smiles*

What about you?  Have you read this book?  What did you think?  Have you read John Grisham before?  What’s your favorite?

First Review

So, with action still being the name of the game, comes the first of the book reviews that is part of my “challenge” this year.  I’m participating (I can’t remember if I mentioned this before) in a reading challenge from a fellow author named, Roni Loren (www.roniloren.com), where she suggested that you challenge yourself by pushing your reading boundaries.

First of all, I started reading many moons ago, when my father would take my sister and I to the bookstore once a week to get a book.  We could get any book that we wanted, but for that first time, I believe I chose a version of Betty and Veronica.  I never realized that I was delving into the realm of graphic comics or what it would do for me and my life, but I can say that it changed everything.  

It wasn’t too long after that when I picked up my first novel, Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey, that I discovered my love for romance.  (I would like to add at this point that many of the books that I was reading for school at the time like, Anne of Green Gables, grew on my as I got older.)  But, I picked up this first novel on at a bookstore at the airport and thought it would keep me occupied for the long flight overseas and thus began my love of books.

I was a pretty stick romance fan for a few years and slowly but surly have begun to push my boundaries. *smirk*  I read all of the Harry Potter books when they came out and at the encouragement of friends, tried The Hunger Games and loved it.  I took the Percy Jackson series on a whim and have realized that maybe there’s more out there than I originally thought.  

So, when Roni Loren suggested this 2014 Reading Challenge, I eagerly, (if digitally) raised my hand and the rest is history.  (or so I’ve heard)

I put together a list of genres that are in my wheel house, pushing my boundaries, and just flat outside my comfort zone; and will slowly be working my way through this list as the year progresses.  Eventually, I’m going to have to work my way to Stephen King and I’m really not looking forward to that.  (NOT because he’s not an amazing writer – because he is, but because I’m the worst wimp when it comes to horror.  Just wanted to clarify.)

Okay….so the first book that I chose was YA and that is defiantly in my wheel house, but I always get a little nervous reading YA because I’m never exactly sure what to expect.  

 

The first book I chose the book, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I am so happy to say that it was amazing.  It’s funny, because my husband and I saw the trailer for this movie due to come out this year, and we decided that we wanted to read the books first before it came out but I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.  

So, we downloaded the book to my husband’s iPhone and listened to it as we drove for almost twelve hours to visit my family over Christmas.  The book is great.  I was curious to see how it would be because I was expecting some similarities to The Hunger Games, but it was very different and written very well.  My husband and I, who have never downloaded an audio book before, hung on every word that the narrator was saying and that was the shortest twelve hour trip that I’ve ever taken.  If you haven’t had the chance to read this book yet, please do, because it is just awesome.  I’m never quite sure how to explain because I don’t want to give it away (for those that haven’t read it yet), but I will say that the story hooked me from the start and I really cared about the characters and what was happening to them.  We immediately downloaded Allegiant, and since we are home now, are slowly working our way through that.

So, I started in my wheel house.  The next book is going to be a little bit more outside my comfort zone. *smiles*

How about you?  What are you reading right now?  What genres are your favorite and which are ones you would never read?

 

Year in Review

Having a birthday on New Year’s can certainly put your life in perspective, especially when you miscalculate how old you are going to be and discover you are going to be older than you thought. (yes, that did happen this year)

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Image Curtesy of http://starwars.com.

 

Not mentioning any numbers, but what I found really stressful is that I thought that I had at least one more year to enact my “plan.”  You know, when you think that you are going to have A, B, and C done by the time that you turn….*fill in the blank.*  Well, now that I am at least a year behind in that schedule, I gave myself a stern lecture about time management and have made some new promises for myself with the dawn of 2014.

It got me thinking, where in the world did time go this year???  Why does it go quicker as you get older?  Mystical questions seem to be in high demand when you are pondering your life’s direction. *smiles*  I can say that last year was a little rough at the beginning and our family definitely had some challenges, but in the end we had quite a handful of great things going on as well.  We got to go on a few trips and spend some great time with family.  My husband got promoted *woot-woot* and I won some awards at work. 

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Also….I finished my FIRST book. (I put “first” in caps because there will be more! <insert evil laugh>)  So…before the craziness of 2014 fully commences, (with the upcoming force shaping in the Air Force, things might get more….stressful), I just wanted to take a quiet moment and be thankful for all that had going on.

…..Quiet moment……thoughts…..hmmm, I’m hungry……snack…….coffee…..Uh oh, baby girl is awake….<End Quiet moment>

 

So, everyone talks about resolutions now.  I was watching Good Morning America yesterday (abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books) and I swear I’ve searched high and low for the who the author was on that show but couldn’t find his name (I’m sorry I forgot), but he was talking about his new book and basically he was saying how everyone always has these impressive resolutions and instead of having a long, wordy resolution, to choose one word to live by for the rest of the year.  Examples that were given were “Faith” and “Patience,” and he had a three step process to finding that word (and I swear I’m going to try to keep looking for this because I thought it was really good advice).  After a few moments of thinking I decided that my word for this year is going to be….ACTION.  Yes, action, because if you know me at all, you know that I am very good at making plans, but as far as resolutions am horrible about keeping them.  So, my thought for the year is to ensure that I DO something about my resolutions and not just talking about them. 

With that thought in mind, I wanted to share that I will be involved in a writing and reading challenge this year.  I’m going to “Push my Boundaries” (roniloren.com) by reading outside my comfort zone this year, so will be deferring to my knowledgeable friends about different books to try later.  (I’ll post the spreadsheet tomorrow.)  

I refuse to have a resolution about fitness because I never stick to it *must eat chocolate,* but I’m going to try to adopt a slightly healthier lifestyle.

*WHEW*

Sorry, this was so long! 🙂  But it was a lot to cover for the end of a year and the beginning of a new one.  What about you?  What are your resolutions this year?  Did you have a good 2013?

I am a writer, that is a constant

When I sit down and talk with friends and family about what our favorite books are, I am always amazed by the fact that the list is a growing and ever changing one.  It’s not a stale list that has the same favorites that it always had, it is something that is living and changes as often as the world revolves around the sun.  And I like that.  Who wants to talk about the same books, every day, for the rest of our lives?  Isn’t it amazing that things like this are living and they are always changing?

I was giving some thought to what is constant in my life and life in general.  At this point (and isn’t that funny when I say at this point because that in itself goes to show that this wasn’t always the ‘contstant list’), I’m a mother, a wife, a writer, a Civilian government employee, a daughter, a sister, and a pet owner.  There are a ton more, but I won’t drag that on.  The point that I was trying to make that even this list of constants, changes.  I wasn’t always a mother, for example.  But the second that I became one, you can be that the order of priorities in life changed, and even the job of being a mother is an ever changing one because your kids don’t stay the same age forever.  (Ohhh, if you could pick an age, what would it be?)

Applying this school of thought to my writing, the lesson that I get out of it is that my writing changes every day.  And thank the Lord for that.  If my writing was the same as when I first started (back in high school), things would be pretty bleak for me.  I can start everyday fresh and even if the previous day all I wrote was caca, I can begin again and work through that to something even better.  Or who knows?  Maybe what I wrote before isn’t that bad, and just my inner critic was yelling at me because they are jealous?

Have you been getting bogged down by your inner critic lately?

Book Hangover

I’m at the point of time known as the ‘book hangover;’ the time after I finish a good book and can’t decide which new book I want to read.  I have a couple of craft books that I need to finish, but even that seems like too much right now. 🙂  My favorite genre’s are romance and YA, but, as I’m waiting for another Nora Roberts book to come out, what should I read?

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(Image from Google Images)

Have you ever been at that point?  I love to read.  It’s one of my favorite things.  When I was younger, it could also be known as my time waster because I would rather read than do anything else.  (Even a book that I don’t really care for.)  

I’m told that a love of reading is crucial to anyone that wants to write, and I can see why.  You know?  How else are you going to be able to tell your story if you haven’t read what a story is yet?  My favorite room in my house my little library where I house the majority of my books.  However, I have little stacks all over the place, of books that I want and need to read.  Does anyone else do that?  Right now, I’ve got a stack on my nightstand, my hope chest, and my kitchen counter.  I’m not counting the end table in the living room, because that’s only writing magazines. 🙂  Do magazines count?

How about you?  What book are you reading or what book have just finished?  Any recommendations for a new YA book?