Wheels of Change

It was 1996, three years before I heard of Dave Ramsey.  We had 2 cars, one was paid for, and I decided I needed a truck.  Lori had just delivered our second child, fifteen months after the first.  We had my law school loans and foolish credit card debt, and we were sitting on 3 vehicles.  We had been trying to sell one of the cars, and were going to wait until we did before we purchased the truck.  But it was a good deal, so we went ahead and bought it anyway.  It was a couple months before we found a buyer for the car, but we finally sold it.

Then in 1997, we saddled ourselves with a mortgage. And I still hadn’t heard of Dave Ramsey, yet it was as if he had whispered his oft-given advice in our ears, “Sell the car.” To the chagrin of family and the disbelief of friends, we decided we didn’t need two vehicles.  We sold the truck.  Lori stayed at home with the babies and I drove to work, 60 miles away.  Her grandparents were only a few blocks away and we had both sets of parents within a few miles.  If there was an emergency they couldn’t help with, she could call 9-1-1.  Lori would put the kids in a little red wagon and haul them to the library or her grandparents.  She thought it was fun.  Her girlfriends, and everyone else in town that saw her, thought she was crazy.

You know, you’ve got to decide to live like no one else, so that one day you can live and give like no one else.  Ten years had passed, and Lori and I were reviewing our spending for 2007 when we realized we GAVE more that year than we MADE in 1997.  If you would have asked us then if that were possible, we might have said no way.  But with God, all things are possible.  This path to becoming debt free is part of a walk of faith.  With less debt comes fewer worries and more time to focus on more important things.  This journey is awesome.  Let’s finish strong.

Photo credit, brettneilson

A Texas Tale

I was on a men’s retreat a couple of months ago.  We would break out into our small group of twelve and talk about what we had just learned in the big group, what we thought.  The men’s ages ranged from twenty-something to 60-something.  We got to talking about high school and cars and and other manly things.  This question came up: What was the first big trouble we got into with a car?

You know the difference between a fairy tale and a Texas tale?  A fairy tale begins, “Once upon a time…”   A Texas tale starts, “Oh hell, that ain’t nothing.  One time…”

The guys began telling their stories of when they were in their junior or senior year of high school, when they were drag racing.  Then it was my turn.  My story took place at an earlier age than theirs did.  A much earlier age.

I was in the 7th grade.  I’m from the country.  I drove the old blue Ford with the 390 and 4-speed over to the big stock pond.  My best friend and I, with our parents’ approval, were going to fish all night and camp out in the truck.  At about 2 AM, we decided to go exploring.  In the truck.  We were drawn to that nearby booming metropolis of six thousand and wanted to check things out.  It was only six miles away and we used the graveled county roads as much as possible.  Turning off one of those roads onto the paved highway made this trip a memorable adventure.  I turned too sharply and we were lurching into space and crashing into a crater. I had securely lodged the truck into the culvert.  Two rat terriers and .22 rifles tumbled out as we did, through the passenger window.

I’ve been stuck before, but this was a long walk from home.  And how was I going to sneak a tractor out of the barn and drive it all this way and pull out the truck without the cops catching us?  Then I realized, what if cops come by here before we get it out?  Luckily, a fellow who had a good truck drove up.  He was a mature man of wisdom.  He was old, twenty-something.  If he wouldn’t have been so drunk, I don’t think I would ever have been able to convince him to get a running start with the long tow chain I provided and jerk that damned truck out of its tomb.  I had to resurrect this truck and this night, or my dad would kill me.  The guy finally followed my directions and we were free.  Handshakes and hugs later, I was driving back home.  That drive and arrival to the Back 40 was pure bliss.  A few days later, my dad commented, “That passenger door is hard to open and close now.  Wonder what’s wrong with Old Blue?”  I didn’t tell for years.

Photo credit, Irargerich

Estate Planning In the Face of Death

It was a cold, wet day when Yvonne and I presented at the Ecumenical Center, a great place smack in the middle of the South Texas Medical Center that opens its doors to many groups:  patients, caretakers, family members and organizations.  The local ALS Association had invited us to present basic estate planning to its members.  We were warmly welcomed.  We talked about wills, trusts, powers of attorney for legal, financial and medical decisions, HIPAA releases, directives to physicians, and declarations of guardianships.   We answered a lot of questions.  I revealed that my father’s twin died of ALS some years ago.

A few weeks later, a husband and wife who had attended the presentation set an appointment to come in and talk.  They asked and we gladly affirmed that their adult daughter was welcome to join us in our meeting.  The three of them worked through the issues with me, gently deferring to each other on decisions of who would do what, and when.  It’s different to do this when one of the clients is truly facing death.  The person holding the roles of wife and mother was graceful; strength personified in the midst of her mortality. The daughter seemed to have the steely reserve of her mother, yet as we progressed through the process, she began to soften, often sobbing gently.  The directive to physicians, a.k.a. the living will, was not some hypothetical discussion in this setting.  It was concretely real and we all knew that soon it may need to be shared with others so they would know what the writer really wanted at the end.

We quickly produced the documents, yet just days later when the couple returned to sign their plan, we could see the matriarch’s decline.  As they left, with our hugs, well-wishes and prayers, Yvonne retreated to her side of the office.  When I followed her and found her crying, she responded, “The woman. She’s so beautiful, so sweet, so brave.  She’s dying Matt.  And we’re seeing it.  I feel so sorry for her and her husband and her daughter.”  I tried to comfort Yvonne.  I felt the weight of our work and the honor we have to serve.

Photo credit, Ms. Abitibi