Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dave Ramsey & Jon Would Be Proud

So I was talking to my financial planner today, Jon, and after we discussed the important business at hand he told me I need to update my blog! I figure since we are trusting him with our financial future, I better do whatever he says - even with regard to my blog!
Since I am on the subject of finances, I might as well camp here a moment. First, I will give a shout out to my forward thinking husband who began planning for his retirement the day he graduated from college. Conversely, I used the 401k I accumulated during my tenure with the United States Senate to buy a nice red Mustang. After all, isn't that what every single girl needs? Unfortunately, for women good financial planning usually involves getting married. That is a very dated and flawed perspective, but many women still plan for their financial future that way. The good part of my Mustang story is, (besides the fact that the car was awesome) the year that I cashed out my 401k I didn't work therefore I didn't pay the penalties on the early withdrawal. Then, I sold that Mustang before I moved to Hawaii for grad school and I used the money I made on the convertible to fund grad school (and by 'fund grad school' I mean pay for an apartment in Waikiki) which was a long term investment in my future. So see, cashing in my 401k wasn't THAT bad of an idea. Right?
Turning to my serious tone, it is astounding the amount of people today who fall into my camp versus Jason's camp. My camp being those who never consider long-term financial planning. Of course once Jason and I got married he got me on board with a reasonable savings and retirement plan and I am hooked! We are firm believers in the basic philosophy of financial guru Dave Ramsey. We do not use credit cards, we pay in cash. The average American has $8,000 in credit card debt. We have zero. We have no debt other than our monthly mortgage (which does not leave us house poor like so many of our friends who are endeavoring to keep up with the Joneses' - who are the Joneses anyway?) And we have enough savings built up to stave off several months worth of disaster, should disaster arise. Plus, we have college savings accounts building for all four of our children. Believe me, those months I really want a mani/pedi instead of contributing $$$ to my 1 year old daughter's college fund do hurt sometimes, but I know this small sacrifice now will pay untold dividends down the road. And truth be told, if I want a pedicure I can get one. It's all a matter of prioritizing resources and sometimes a day at the salon gets priority! Jason and I make serious sacrifices in order to provide a sound financial future for our family. We conserve, cut corners, & clip coupons. We don't take our kids to Disney World on borrowed money and we don't spend February's paycheck to give our children an outlandish Christmas. To quote our buddy Dave Ramsey, we live like no one else, so later we can live like no one else.
The Bible teaches that we are not to live in debt. Therefore, I believe if God lays out a plan for us then he will provide a way financially and otherwise. Case in point, when I felt God leading me to move to Honolulu to attend graduate school at the University of Hawaii. All of my circumstances were indicating this was His plan, however, the money to pay for it all was not available. I was seeking His vision and clarity with all of my heart. It was June of 2000 and I had been accepted to start UH in August, but with no scholarship. It was time to sell my car (yes, the Mustang) and move out of my duplex in Montgomery and pack my belongings and move to Honolulu. But, the money was still not there. I called an amazing prayer warrior friend and told her it was time to get on our faces before our omnipotent God. I went to her house and for two hours we talked, prayed, and read scripture crying out to God to move in this situation.
I left her house, drove home, and when I got home I went straight to the computer to check my emails. I still get teary eyed thinking of opening up the email from the Chairman of the History Department at the University of Hawaii and reading the words, "Ronda, we have reconsidered your request for scholarship and I am pleased to inform you that you have received a full scholarship to the University of Hawaii". I literally tripped over my own feet running to the phone to call my friend and share the miracle!
If God reveals His plan to us, he will also reveal His provision.
Jason and I are far from the Rockefellars, but we live in the black and that makes us rich. Dave Ramsey says that regardless of how much money you bring in, if you are able to live in the black and contribute to savings each month then you are building wealth. I guess the opposite of building wealth would be getting poor so I feel good about what we are doing.
I will end with the quote from my financial planner's voicemail, Jon ends his message with the line, "and please, take the time to plan for tomorrow".
Yes, let's all do that!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


When I was little, one of my favorite things in the wide world was getting a Surprise Plate for a snack or lunch. Mother would hype it up and I'd get all excited to see what surprises were on my plate. Somehow eating an odd combination of foods made perfect sense and it managed to get me to eat things I might not otherwise enjoy. The staples on our plates were always marshmallows and olives. Guess we always had both of those on hand! Beyond that it could be anything edible!
Eli and MJ have been a little run down today so I decided we needed a Surprise Plate as a pick me up! Too bad I didn't have any olives.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name

When I was a little girl growing up in Montgomery we had the most amazing rose bushes in our yard along the front of our house. Of course we had azaleas too, we were in the South after all. But I was just mesmerized at the size of our rose bushes - much taller than I was - and the perfect, beautiful blooms they displayed were stunning. It seemed that half the year we had enormous red roses in our yard. I was an adult before I learned that what I always thought were roses were actually Camellias.
The Camellia is the state flower of Alabama and you can see them blooming all over the state during the winter. The first state flower was the goldenrod, but that got put aside in 1959 for the lovely Camellia. Although the Camellia is our state flower, it is actually an Asian import and probably arrived in Alabama via some European settlers. Thank you European exploration!
The Camellia and Hydrangea are my two favorite flowers. I can just sit and stare at their beautiful blooms. In fact, my wedding cake was covered with Hydrangeas, which has a great bloom in August, the month I got married. Of course when I married a man with a degree in horticulture, I immediately began to lobby for a yard full of Camellias and Hydrangeas! Fortunately for my husband, we purchased a home that already had both in the yard! Jason did transplant both of our Camellias and our Hydrangea to more suitable spots for their cultivation. In our backyard, nicely viewable from our porch area we have a lovely dark pink Camellia. Today is a warm sunny day so Josey and I went out and took some pictures of it. We have a light pink Camellia on the side of our house, but it isn't faring too well. Perhaps it needs additional cultivation. (that is an inside joke between my husband and me, please excuse the indulgence).
An aside: I have a cousin named Camille. I always thought she was named after the flower, but she was also born around the time Hurricane Camille slammed into the Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana Gulf Coast killing 143. Either way, I think the name Camille is as beautiful as the Camellia flower.
For nostalgia's sake, I loaded the babies up in the car today and drove to my old house...the one with all the Camellia 'rose bushes' in the yard. Sadly, there wasn't one in sight. Perhaps they bloomed already, or perhaps they've been replaced by some lesser bush. Whatever was there appeared to have the big green leaf of a Camellia, who knows.
Okay, I believe I have exhausted my discussion of the Camellia. I'll conclude with some pictures.

This is the Camellia bush in our backyard:
The color has begun to fade, but you can still see how beautiful the bloom is:
Jason & me cutting our wedding cake in 2004 - it was covered with flowers, mostly hydrangeas:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Birthday TO ME!

The tradition in our family is to have birthday cake for breakfast when someone is celebrating a birthday. Here are the pics of Eli & Margaret Jane enjoying my birthday cupcakes:
Jason has been out of town for the past five days for a work project in Georgia. I am not used to him being away like this and I am not a fan! Fortunately, he is not very far away so Monday night he came home to have dinner with us for my birthday! He got here around 6PM, I didn't realize how much I was really missing him until I saw him. He walked through the door with birthday cupcakes, a beautiful card, and a fun new cd for me! The kids hugged and kissed on him and we enjoyed a nice dinner. He had to leave out early the next morning and I'm hoping he'll get home tonight.