The Millionaires’ Club

I am a fan of Dave Ramsey.  Most of his advice I agree with, but just because he’s a millionaire, doesn’t mean that if we disagree on something, that makes us wrong (even if we’re not millionaires…yet).  He recently published a piece on millionaires that I found too cherry-picked:  http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/recognize-a-millionaire.

First on the list is Hilary Swank, who clips coupons.  I don’t clip coupons out of the newspaper, I print them off the computer.  It costs you either way, whether you factor in the price of the newspaper or the ink and paper one uses to print.  I prefer the convenience of the latter.  Hilary Swank doesn’t think of herself as wealthy (as the article claims), but just because she doesn’t think she is doesn’t mean than she’s not.  I don’t see how this mindset has factored into her being (and remaining) wealthy, because there are plenty of people who are filthy rich and know it, and they stay rich.  I do think clipping coupons (and sometimes, not buying something at all) isn’t a way to get rich, but rather a way to get a good deal and save money.  I use coupons, but I end up spending what I’m saving on something else.  I just get more bang for my buck.

I think Dave Ramsey is under the false impression that a lot of people spend money to impress people they don’t like.  I admit, I like having a nice house to have friends over, but I also like having nice things for my own pleasure.  I enjoy decorating my home and making it a place that is comfortable and functional.  The main thing for me is keeping it clutter-free.

Next on Dave’s list is Dave Cheriton, a Google investor.  This guy is a billionaire.  He saves half of all his restaurant meals for the next day.  One could say, why eat in restaurants at all?  Why not just brown bag it?  I’ve heard that most restaurant meals (when you factor in appetizers, free bread and the dessert) would feed a family of four in most third world countries, but if I did what Mr. Cheriton did, the food wouldn’t taste as good the second time and I’d still be hungry upon leaving the restaurant.  This just seems like the equivalent of a millionaire not upsizing his fast food order every time.

However, I do think Warren Buffet was worth mentioning.  He lives in the same, paid-for home he bought fifty years ago.  If my husband and I didn’t have to pay for housing, we’d be sittin’ in butter.

Now this segues into one of the few things I disagree with Dave Ramsey about.  I don’t think it’s necessary to rent until you can buy a home outright (especially if you don’t make the kind of money most of his callers do).  After all, the rent my husband and I are paying is paying for our landlady’s mortgage.  That’s like paying interest right there.  What’s more, when you rent, your landlord can raise your rent every year, but if you had a fixed house payment, there wouldn’t be that worry.  I hear all this claptrap about don’t buy homes you can’t afford (one might have been able to afford it when they bought it), but you still have to live somewhere, and sometimes mortgage payments are cheaper than rent payments.  I do think, if possible, one should save up to buy a house, but for us working class folks, that might take us twenty years, and in twenty years of mortgaging, we might be able to have a paid-for house, because what we used to pay in rent, we apply to the mortgage.

My husband and I live in a rental house, and after just one year, we’re going to have to move, because our landlady can’t afford to stay in the house she’s in (talk about the sins of the landlords trickling down to the second generation of tenants).  I don’t understand why anyone would want to have two house payments.  That is no way to live!

Now the bit about Mitt Romney (I don’t care how you feel about him–this is not a political blog) shopping for blue light specials on golf clubs at K-Mart, that’s great.  Why spend more for something you can get for less?  However, the man does own several homes, but that was after he became a millionaire, so that brings me full circle to the title of my post.  Some thrifty habits one keeps, even after they become millionaires, but as for owning several homes, unless he got a really sweet deal on them, I think that sort of dwarfs the money he saved on the golf clubs.  I just think if I ever became that rich, I’d prefer to put spend my money on vacations and classes–experiences rather than things.  Of course, one can have a pretty nice experience in a vacation home.

Mr. Wonderful Full of Himself, Wordsmith Stars, and Perfect Sense

I happened to catch an article (wish I had kept the link) that suggested a book doesn’t sell as well if it won an award.  My theory is that when people see a book won a prestigious award, they assume it’s boring (or overrated, like some classics).  Most people don’t like highbrow stuff.  They don’t want to think, they want to be entertained.  At least one out of every ten books I read is for pleasure, though I am challenging myself to read at least one nonfiction book a month (which I am 99% sure will be about writing, though the last nonfiction book I read was a biography of Marilyn Monroe, which read like creative nonfiction).  As you can see, I am not an egghead, nor will I ever pretend to be, but I am educated and do believe in lifelong learning, whether it be taking a class (I am hoping English composition will be one of the first classes I have to take when I go back to school) or teaching ourselves something new (I am getting ready to make my first batch of handmade soap).

Though an award would be an honor, I’d prefer to have the sales (unless the award came with a big payout).  I’m like Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) from “Shark Tank” in that way, though only in that way.  I will forever care about the quality of the writing that will be published under my name, whether I write for Harlequin Romance or a scholarly journal.

I’ve been on a “Little Women” kick lately.  I tried watching the 1933 version, but I just can’t stand Katharine Hepburn, so after about fifteen minutes, I had to pass on it.  I’ve always liked the 1949 version, even though I’ve never been a fan of June Allyson, who plays Jo, and then I watched the 1994 version with Winona Ryder, who made a less annoying Jo.  Her spouting “Christopher Columbus” all the time in the earlier versions was annoying, and seemed put-on to make her more of a tomboy (though I realize this was probably how she was portrayed in the book which I read a VERY long time ago).  Though the cinematography was far more realistic in ’94 version, I still prefer the ’49 movie.  The ’94 version just didn’t have the charm its predecessor did.

I like “Little Women” because the protagonist is a writer, but I relate to her because she is a female writer.  However, one of my favorite films of all time is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”.  I fell in love with it as a little girl; Francie Nolan was just like me.  She had what her teacher called imagination.  My third grade teacher, Ms. Cahoon, was the first person outside my family who recognized my talent, and will be one of the first people who will receive a copy of my book.  Every morning, we had to write in our journals, and I would always write about my summers up in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, when I stayed with my grandparents.  My aunt, uncle and cousins lived right next door to them.

I wrote about what I knew and loved.  I still do that today.  Oh, I’ve fancied myself writing some nonfiction piece about a subject I know nothing about (writing creative nonfiction is a great way to learn something new through research), but personal essays are one of my favorite mediums to write in because it is a story no one else can write.

That teacher scene with Francie after class still brings a tear to my eye.

Now though I am not a fan of Stephen King’s books (or even most of his movies), I did enjoy his novel, “On Writing”, and I like his personal story of how he got where he is today.  It is very inspirational.  I’ve noticed he likes to make authors his main characters, as in “Secret Window”, “Misery”, and “The Shining”.  (I liked those.)

Cuba Gooding Jr. played a struggling writer in “A Murder of Crows”.  I don’t think it was a hit, but it drew me in like a Lisa Jackson novel.

While I’m on the subject of movies, there is one that I believe everyone must see for the experience, if nothing else, and that is “Perfect Sense” with Eva Green and Ewan MacGregor.  It’s like poetry on celluloid.  I will say nothing more.

The American Dream in Black and White and Living Color

i-love-lucy

Every year, when the mood hits me, I dig out my “I Love Lucy” collection.  I generally rewatch my favorite episodes–from the pilot episode to the last Lucy-Desi comedy hour.  Maybe every ten years or so, I’ll watch the entire series straight through.

A long time ago, I read that the series personified the American Dream.  An immigrant comes to America and falls in love.  They get married, making two lifelong friends somewhere along the way.  Years pass and they have a son (though they were happy and content before–I think people were more accepting of their lot then, whether they wanted to have a baby and couldn’t, or vice versa); Ricky’s career progresses, and we see the Ricardos move from a modest apartment in the city to a spacious home in the country.  The only thing one might see amiss in this scenario is that Lucy wanted a career in show business, which she gives up in Hollywood when the chance is offered to her.

As a somewhat modern woman (who doesn’t think stay-at-home moms are relics who have outgrown their usefulness), I was bothered that Ricky laid the guilt trip on her in California, instead of letting her at least pursue the opportunity, but I get it–his career was what put the bread and bacon on the table.

In the comedy hour with Paul Douglas (towards the end of the series run), Ricky has mellowed and Lucy gets a job on a television show; Ricky, at long last, admits to her that she has talent.  It is only then that she realizes a showbiz career means sacrificing more time with her family than she is willing to, and she is finally satisfied in her role as a stay-at-home wife and mother.  I like that it ended that way, with it being Lucy’s choice, and not her husband’s.  Maybe all she ever really wanted was for Ricky to acknowledge that she had talent.

Last night, while I was holding my sleeping baby after her bath, I was on “Lucy is Enceinte”, and it was just one of those perfect moments.  That episode still brings tears to my eyes when I watch it.  (Just like the scene where Ricky tells his son the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” makes me smile, for there is nothing sexier than a man who spends time with his children.)

I know the American Dream means different things to different people–for some people, it means owning a home, for others, it means being able to travel and rent wherever they please.  For some, it means getting married and having a family (or not having a family), or having the freedom to leave the U.S. and live abroad.  You can live the Dream anywhere.  However, if I ever slip up and ask someone how they’re doing and they say, “Living the Dream”, I assume they’re being sarcastic.

Musings on log cabin stories, stay-at-home momhood, and the art of regifting

They say (and by they, I mean certain political pundits) that anymore, a candidate needs a log cabin story to “relate” to the voters.  I don’t believe one has to have been born in poverty get elected.  Let’s face it, even if they sprung from humble beginnings, most of them don’t relate to the common people anymore by the time they reach the higher echelons of office (they are not public servants–our taxpayer dollars serve them).

I love it when new words (I like shelfie) or phrases are coined, though I have to say, my favorite thus far is still “Bush derangement syndrome”.

I do loathe the term “mommy blogger”, though.  Stay-at-home moms are already maligned by modern society, but at the same time, I don’t believe having and raising five children is not a qualification to be elected President.  One of my favorite things that Greg Gutfeld has every said is that women are equal to men, but different.  Women don’t have to be like men to be equal to them.

I would actually prefer my husband to expect dinner every night upon coming home from work, just so I felt I was earning my keep.  When I don’t bring home a paycheck, it is hard for me to feel I am contributing to the family, even though I take care of all my daughter’s needs when he is away, and sit up later to take care of her when he is trying to sleep, so he can go in to work rested.

I feel like if he expected more, I’d be more motivated to try new recipes, but he’s happy with a peanut butter sandwich and beer.  I admit, I hate cleaning, so I try to keep everything as clean as possible all the time because that’s just less big cleaning I’ll have to do later.  I try to make as little mess as possible when I cook.  I am an anti-hoarder because I don’t want to have to worry about sorting through a bunch of junk later.  I try not to own too much stuff (no more bath towels or plates unless one breaks or we can’t use it anymore) because the more stuff you have, the more there is to clean.

I am a huge regifter, and have never bought a Christmas present for my husband’s family’s Dirty Santa parties (there’s a shrimp deveiner that’s been regifted for the past twenty-five years).  I used to collect scented candles and have far more than I could ever use, so I’ve been regifting those for the past few years.  I also coupon, so I can always throw together a personal care package in a jif.

I have already decided instead of putting money in a Christmas club, it’s just easier to buy on sale throughout the year, because money set aside for one thing ends up getting spent on something else.  I’m all for whatever makes life easier.

Set the Scene with a Three-Picture Story (from The Daily Post)

I have a feeling I’m breaking the rules here (or at least adding a definition to what a three-picture story is), but I believe these three pictures in sequence tell a love story (not a romance–of which there is a big difference, according to Nicholas Sparks).

I’m not sure if these pictures are worth a thousand words, but they do show a progression from a simple romance to what I consider one’s highest calling.

The waning day.JPG

The Kiss

Pink bundle.JPG

Daily Prompt: West End Girls

I wrote this piece awhile back when I was working overnights at Walgreens (partly the inspiration for this story) and submitted it to the local writer’s group of which I am a member.  This piece was meant to be dark and humorous, but one of the other members had this to say about it (from behind her keyboard, of course):  I must admit I was captivated to keep reading to the end.  However the piece is so depressingly biased I wonder about the mental health of the writer.

I had meant each stanza (resembling a haiku) to be a true haiku, but I’m more of a limerick girl (it’s the Irish in me, I suppose).

One could say that this not-so-purple prose juxtaposes with the photograph at the end.

Emerald Coast Blues

Ghetto and white trash,

salt and pepper the city,

like dross and refuse.

Strings of chain restaurants line the streets like dirty laundry on a clothesline, and trash from the transients collect like fermented sewage.

Everywhere, letters are burned out in signs.  The affle Houses are open, the dingy windows emitting a pallid, yellow light onto the roads where roadkill might bake for days in the scorching sun.  The overnight cashier at CVS harmacy stands like a sentinel as a couple of pot-heads run in, their graffiti-like tattoos streaking past like a Van Gogh painting.  They are thieves.  One loses a nose ring on the way out.

It is the wee hour, when half the populace are red-eyed zombies and the other half are just going through the motions of life in a dying town, a town that only manages to stay alive by sucking the life out of everything and everyone.   

The purple shadows cast under the streetlights are like the half-moons that appear below one’s eyes. 

Little Chicago;

mores in fifty shades of grey,

ever blackening to ashes.

The days are so hot and humid, one feels like they’re walking into a sauna.  A chocolate candy bar on break is goo by the time one gets to their car.  The blacktop shimmers in the boiling heat.

The sand on the Bay Bluffs beach below, right past the railroad tracks, where a motley collection of litter is strewn about, is yellow, as if urine from a Mountain Dew drinker saturated it.  The water past it is murky, almost as if sewage has seeped in. 

The tower on Scenic Highway, where the homosexuals go to congregate, stands like a Phallic symbol, a giant middle finger to the place that has more churches than any other county in the state; inasmuch as there is a softening of morals here, there is a coarsening of the culture. 

The counterculture is becoming the culture.

This cesspool is like a whirlpool, making one dizzy with despair.  

Lower Alabama by day,

post-Apocalyptic by night–

the colliding of hells.

The homeless on the corners look like refugees from Manila as the preachers in white shirts, waving Bibles, scream hellfire on the opposite corners, sweat running in rivulets down their red faces. 

The ECAT (Escambia County Area Transit) bus rumbles past them.  The interior smells like sweat.  Someone runs over one of the many potholes that cover the streets of the city like old acne scars.  A copy of the Pensacola News Journal lies abandoned on one of the cracked vinyl seats.  Shooting in Brownsville is the lead story. 

A McDonald’s sign is advertising the McRib Sanwich.  Spelling is optional here, because after all, who would notice? 

Our cashier, one of the many drones that populate this place, rides this bus daily.  What would take twenty minutes by car takes an hour by bus.  She lives in the Warrington area, where the military live.  It looks like Detroit.  Many buildings are abandoned, ready to be condemned.  There are no trees. 

The ValuePlace across town on Pine Forest Road, one of those pay by the week lodges, has been evacuated, for a couple of meth-heads have just blown up a lab. 

It has started to rain.  Hurricanes visit like an annoying relative, leaving a horrendous mess in their wake, except the mess is cleaned up just enough to get by.  Tree limbs are left to rot, like human limbs on the battlefield.

She opens a dirt-streaked window.  Sometimes when the wind blows, she can smell the foul odor emanating off the paper plant out in Cantonment. She clutches her plastic gallon jug of water, as the water in Escambia County is the worst in the country. 

The sun goes down, but the heat remains. 

No, one has to die to go to hell if they live in Pensacola, and if they go into the Ensley Wal-Mart in the middle of the night, they’re in the hottest part of it.

Armpit of the South;

a prideless anthem I sing,

and elsewhere I dream.

Photograph used with permission from Tammy and Johnny Salaza, admins. of the Facebook page: Pensacola LIFE–The Page

Photograph used with permission from Tammy and Johnny Salaza, admins. of the Facebook page: Pensacola LIFE–The Page

Quirks make a character

Every character has to have quirks.  Quirks add character.  I have had several blond moments in my life, from thinking panhandling was a regional thing (which, to me, is doubly funny, considering I live in the Florida Panhandle) to thinking rabbits laid eggs (confusing it with the Easter bunny).

Since I just read lists of odd numbers are funnier, I will post a few [quirks] of mine:

  1. The lines in the screws in the switchplates in my house have to be slanted the same way.
  2. If the ice in my glass came from an ice tray that wasn’t covered, I have to rinse the ice first, or “pre-crack” it.  (However, I don’t use ice at home anymore except to freeze coffee to make frappuccinos.)
  3. I like all my hangers to match (no wire hangers!).
  4. I am convinced that crushed ice because of its rough edges keeps soda fizzier longer and that the smooth edges of “home ice” make it go flatter quicker.

Whether or not I fall in love with the characters determines whether I will keep a book or give it away.  That is why I have kept my Linda Hall books (whose characters are offbeat and complex) and not Mary Higgins Clark’s (whose protagonists are often bland).  I am the same way when it comes to movies.  It helps even more if I strongly identify with one of the main characters, which is why movies like “Kitty Foyle”, “Clash by Night”, and “How Green Was My Valley” stick with me long after I’ve watched them.

All of my protagonists are different incarnations of me, even though all my “heroines” (as they refer to them in the romance world) are very different people.  I am a puzzle, of which there are many pieces.  Everyone has layers, and to keep characters interesting, we have to create characters as much, so they become real people in our minds.  There is a fine line between adding a layer to a character and having them act “out of character”.

A great author knows how to strike that perfect balance.  I once forced a character in a book to act out of character to satisfy a plot point I wanted to use.  When my mom read the book, it was the only thing she said was off about it; I agreed and changed it back.

What are some of your quirks, or characters that just made a book or a movie for you?