I. Want. More.

I’ve described my mother as a “defiant non-compliant diabetic.” She ate what she wanted, when she wanted, blood sugar be damned. After decades of neglect, her body began to deteriorate and finally shut down completely. I found a receipt in her wallet dated just days before her death. She had driven through Burger King on the way home from dialysis and ordered a BK Stacker (22 grams of fat, 700 mg of sodium.). She was suffering from congestive heart failure, taking 14 different medications and on dialysis 3 days a week, but she wanted a BK Stacker, so she got one. There were more fast food receipts in the pockets of her clothing and on her desk.

Time and time and time again she chose immediate personal gratification and a comfort zone, over long term goals, discomfort and inconvenience – and not just with food.

She bought what she wanted when she wanted it, even if she didn’t have the money.
She wanted a warm, inviting home, but she focused on the house and its contents more than the people who lived in it.
She wanted passionate relationships, but was controlling and plagued with pride.
She wanted to travel and experience new things. But instead, she booked the same vacation for years.
She loved to play the piano. But she didn’t make time for it.
She loved to sing. But she only sang in the house. And rarely.
She wanted to write. But she didn’t.
She wanted so much, but she settled for so little.

Her desire for the things she wanted made it challenging and sometimes impossible for her to recognize, much less appreciate, the blessings she had. Her inability to see that she had power to change her circumstances if she stayed true to her long-term goals kept her firmly rooted in mediocrity and the status quo.

I paid attention. And I learned quite a bit about what I want for my life by watching her choices.
I still pay attention. And I look for consequences – good and bad – so I can learn from other people’s choices. I learn a LOT about what I want as a result of my OWN choices and their consequences.

My mother had a stroke and blamed her doctors and her medication. She had a stroke and I got a personal trainer. Before and after her stroke, she relied on medications to make herself feel better and to lengthen her life. Before her stroke, I was following in her footsteps. After her stroke, I began relying on exercise and lifestyle changes to make myself feel better and to lengthen my life.

I had a choice. I could continue to go with the flow and eventually find myself at risk for a stroke or I could intentionally and consistently walk backwards against the current. If you know me, it shouldn’t surprise you that when I’m floating in a lazy river, I will at some point, become bored and walk backward against the current. It’s a metaphor for my life. I intentionally choose to view every experience God has allowed in my life – good AND bad – as a blessing. Together, these blessings fuel me with determination.

I’m a big believer in benchmarking. When I want to learn how to do something, I find people who do it well and I copy them. But I also learn what not to do by watching the things that people, myself included, do poorly. I pay attention to choices and consequences – good and bad. I call it opportunistic learning and it helps me discover what I want in my life.

I want more than immediate gratification and a well worn spot in my comfort zone.

I want MORE than the comfort of air conditioning, dry, pleasant smelling clothing, a good hair day, less laundry and an extra hour every day. I don’t consider a handicapped sticker on my car to be a well deserved ticket to a great parking space and the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded scares me more than a hurricane warning. The inability to walk up a flight of stairs at all scares me more than an actual hurricane.

I want a stronger body, even if it needs two showers in one day, generates smelly, wet laundry, “wastes” 30 minutes or more of my day and requires a longer walk from the parking lot. I want to get stronger as I get older, not weaker. I want to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with. I’ve experienced the limitations of a body that won’t do what I want it to do and I hated it so much I NEVER want to experience it again. I’ll do anything I can to make sure that my body doesn’t deteriorate due to neglect.

I want MORE than a 6 inch high plate of nachos with a phenomenal cheese sauce or the most decadent, melt in your mouth chocolate lava cake in the world. I want MORE than the thousands of milligrams of sodium and double digit grams of fat in the restaurant food that saves me from cooking dinner when I don’t feel like it. I want MORE than a bedtime snack of ice cream or a Grand Slam breakfast from Denny’s. I want MORE than a BK Stacker.

I want unblocked arteries, normal blood pressure and stable blood sugar. I want my 7 day pill case to be filled with vitamins and supplements instead medications. I want to model good nutritional choices for my children, especially my daughter. I want to live a longer, healthier life than my mother did. I’m not swayed by spoonfuls being shoved in my face along with an exasperated voice telling me to “just taste it.” It’s not that I secretly want it and am just denying myself. I really don’t want it. I’ll never be convinced to abandon my long term nutrition goals just because someone belittles me for not eating something they want to eat. I’ll never belittle them while I watch them eat – but I also won’t sanction their choice or cave to middle school level peer pressure by picking up a fork and joining them.

I want MORE than a good marriage. I want MORE than candy and flowers and jewelry on Valentines Day and my birthday. I want MORE than a husband who handles car maintenance, toilet repair, heavy lifting, jar opening and high shelf reaching. I want MORE than a “good” sex life and a husband who does what I want in order to get it. I want MORE than a husband who agrees with me to avoid conflict and who spends time with me because he’s supposed to.

I want a GREAT marriage to a man I can’t go a day without talking to. I want to be the person who respects my husband more than anyone else in the world and I want him to know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I want to come to the end of my day and be confident I didn’t say a bad word about him to ANYone. I want to be the kind of wife he wants to come home to and I want to be genuinely happy that he’s home when he walks in the door. I want a partner – a LIFE LONG partner – who tells me the truth in a gracious tone of voice, motivated by love. I want us to share EVERYthing without holding back: our thoughts, our ideas, our weaknesses, our fears, our passions and our bodies. I want to share household and parenting duties and I’m thankful that I figured out early in our marriage that different isn’t wrong. I want us to be able speak in idioms and always understand each other. I want us to be able to communicate with facial expressions and eye contact. I want to stay married to my best friend for the rest of my life and I’m thankful that we are both willing to run to a marriage counselor the minute our relationship can be described as “fine.”

I want MORE than compliant children who make good grades, keep their room clean and behave appropriately at all times. I want MORE than happy, safe children. I don’t want my children to do what they’re told because I say so.

I want to hear about everything that interests them, because I know that if I don’t listen with interest, they will stop telling me. I want to be challenged by their mind, fascinated by their discoveries, respectful of their ideas, convinced by their reasoning, inspired by their passion and exasperated by our differences. I want to always strive to respect them as individuals instead viewing them as extensions of myself. I want to be comfortable with their potential to embarrass me for the sake of their (and my) learning curve. I want my children to learn life lessons from remorse and disappointment as well as from pride and achievement. I want to equip them, not protect them. I want them to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, even when nobody is looking.

I want MORE than the ability to pay my monthly bills. I want more than a nice car and a big house with a screened pool. I want more than great vacation destinations. I want more than stuff.

I want to be debt-free. I want to own my home, not hold a mortgage. I want my car to start every time I turn the key, and if it does, I don’t care how many miles are on it. I want to be a good steward of my financial blessings. I want to save and pay cash for the things I want. I don’t want to pay interest. I want to teach my children the value of a wise financial choice. I want to teach them that delayed gratification ultimately makes them happier and more secure than an impulse or convenient purchase. I want to give God MORE than 10% of what he entrusts to me and I want my kids to want to do the same.

I want MORE than to help lead a “good” praise set on Sunday morning. Lukewarm makes me restless. Holding back makes me unsettled. Trying to please everyone is deeply discouraging. Settling for fine wears me down. I don’t want to give God less than my very best. No one is drawn to mediocrity.

I want to work my butt off to prepare and when Sunday morning comes, I want to block out all the logistics and make myself open and available for God to equip me for service. I want to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, not the body language of someone in the congregation who is missing His presence because they are preoccupied with what someone else thinks. I want to allow myself to be saturated with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Satan doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of distracting me from my goal of bringing as many people with me as I possibly can while I abandon myself to authentic, consuming praise. I want to go all out and see what God will do with my all.

I want to use everything God has given me – the good and the bad – to serve Him. When I write, I have no idea if the result is a cathartic purge or if someone will identify with something I say and be encouraged or changed by it. It’s just as possible that what I’ve written will alienate or discourage someone. I have no idea if God will use it to reach someone, but I pray He will. I don’t want the words I write to be in a vacuum.

I. want. MORE.

Do I always get it right? Not by a long shot. I do not find all this to be intuitive. These are determined choices I make, over and over and over again. And when I screw up, I start over, even if I have to start over multiple times a day. But I’m not going to stop striving. And I’m willing to wait for whatever God hasn’t entrusted me with yet. I’m willing work for it.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness,knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 5-8

“Never neglect what you’ve seen God do in your life. Take a careful look at these things from God’s perspective, all the way from your birth to where you stand right now. They’re all significant.”

Experiencing the Spirit
Henry and Melvin Blackaby

poor jack.

I’ve murdered jack.

cut him up into small chunks.

Now, I’m boiling jack.

pureeing jack.

and freezing liquified jack.

soon I’m going to bake him in a few loaves of bread.

later this month, we might even turn him into soup.

poor jack.

(and his friend, Harry Potter.)

Check out the recipes – both with a print-friendly version in PDF:
Bread Recipe: jack-o-bread
Soup Recipe: Mom’s Pumpkin Soup

(After spending so much money on pumpkins, I can’t, in good conscience, just throw them away. Have you SEEN the price of canned pumpkin these days?) eek!

NOTE: If you BLEACHED your pumpkin to make it last longer – do NOT do this.

there’s no coming back from this.

NOOOOO! FirstHusband taught FavoriteSon how to make Ramen Noodles!!!

800mg of sodium a serving! It’s WRONG. wrong, I tell you!

It’s like a drug dealer – giving an unsuspecting innocent child a “free sample.”

It’s like Microsoft in the 80s – giving schools free copies of MS Office.

It’s like giving someone a single Lays potato chip.

I was coerced into trying them – about three noodles. That should do me. For life.

(I’ve been told they make a low sodium version, it’s my only hope.)

fine dining.

Made Cheater’s Chicken Parmesan tonight. Calls for chicken nuggets.

We used DINOSAUR shaped nuggets. Because we’re classy like that. (and because they were BOGO)

I may have thrown a little too much at our debt this pay period. We’ll be eating VERY frugally for the next week and a half. SUPER cheap recipes are hereby desperately solicited!!

Me to FirstHusband: “WHY did you buy Ramen noodles?”

FirstHusband: “It’s for me and the kids.”

Me: “You could have just gone to the Tack Shack and gotten a salt lick.”

FirstHusband: “It was only 17 cents!”

Me: “and worth every penny.”

I just can’t do it, even if they are only 17 cents a package. 800mg of sodium. PER SERVING. (2 servings per package.)

four minutes with God: Deuteronomy 16:17

a Quote:
“…understanding ownership was half of my lesson. If God was the owner, I was the manager. I needed to adopt a steward’s mentality toward the assets He had entrusted – not given – to me.

A steward manages assets for the owner’s benefit. The steward carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages. It’s his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will.”
(from The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn)

my Prayer:
Lord, scheduling tithe checks on bill pay is some serious fun! Thank you for the joy we feel in this obedience. THANK YOU for the provision of my husband’s bonus and THANK YOU for the opportunity to give even more than we normally do. The feeling that comes from giving back some of the money you’ve entrusted to us is like an adrenaline high! Thank you that we never regret it or begrudge it. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to serve you this way. We pray that we’ve interpreted your will correctly and sent your money where you wanted it to go. We pray that you will abundantly bless the efforts of those to whom you have sent it and we trust you to work all things for your good and your glory.

Our continuous prayer is that you help us to be good stewards of everything you entrust to us and to help us achieve our goal of becoming debt-free. Thank you for this answer to our prayer. Thank you for providing a means for more debt reduction. We profoundly understand what a blessing this job is and even more the blessing of this bonus. Thank you, Lord.

the Word:
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.”
Deuteronomy 16:17 (NAS)

the lyric:
“Rich or poor God I want You more, than anything that glitters in this world. Be my all, all consuming fire.
You can have all my hands can hold, my heart, mind, strength and soul, Be my all, all consuming fire.
All we need, all we need, all we need is You.”
from All We Need (youtube link) by Charlie Hall (amazon link)

This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.

God’s perfect timing? or my sad, sorry time management?


Two weeks ago, my client sent me an updated training packet from their software vendor. I just opened it today…and found the client’s check for my January invoice inside too!

That’ll teach me to procrastinate on work! If I had started today’s project for them two weeks ago, I would have found the check then.

God’s perfect timing? or my sad, sorry time management? I think we know.

Thank you, Lord, I needed that. Both the lesson and the check.

it’s the little things.

PinkGirl dropped our binoculars a few months ago while jumping on the trampoline. I know, I have no idea how she can look through binoculars and jump at the same time, but…

Anyway, it was a real bummer because we back up to a pond and the woods and a river, so there’s great wildlife to see and I wasn’t seeing it because the binoculars wouldn’t adjust focus anymore. Since I’m so Ramsey frugal these days, I was thinking I needed to find myself some binoculars at a garage sale, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it.

Friday night, I told FirstHusband: “I’m going garage saling (I’m just making up words today) in the morning.”

He took PinkGirl to rehearsal on Saturday morning and called me from the truck: “Did you know our neighborhood is having a community wide garage sale today?”

Now that’s just too much of a coincidence. I can’t remember the last time I actually took a Saturday morning to shop garage sales. It’s been over a year. Maybe two. or more. Seriously, a LONG time.

So I write FavoriteSon an I.O.U. for the $30 I take out of his wallet to supplement my available cash,

(what? like I haven’t ever emptied my wallet for HIM. Besides. He’s a teenager. He never needs any cash on Saturday mornings, he’s in bed.)

I get my coffee and I’m off.

First stop, is about 8 houses away and what do I see? You got it.

Binoculars. $5.

And these aren’t the cheapo plastic kind you find these days, these are the honkin big, heavy kind they used to sell when I was a kid. SO much stronger and better than what PinkGirl broke.

Thank you Lord! I should have made a bigger list!

Then, Saturday afternoon, PinkGirl was sporting new jeans, new shirt, new jacket, the periwinkle manicure I gave her Friday night, a new haircut…and ratty old nike shoes with my old laces.

She wanted boots. This from a girl who would go barefoot 24/7 if I let her. I anticipated an unproductive shopping trip in my immediate future.

We went to Payless. nothing. Some big shoe store in the mall. nothing. Sears. Bingo. Clearance rack. She found a pair of black ankle boots in less than 5 minutes. Bonus. So did I. They were marked $19.99 and each rang up for $9.99!

Thank you again, Lord! I really should have made a bigger list!

This isn’t the first time God has been my personal shopper! When I pray for him to help me make frugal choices with the money he blesses us with, he answers hands on!

family expense audit: termite bond

Total Annual Savings as a Result of my Family Expense Audit: $878.84

Annual Savings on our Termite Bond: $39.56
Service Changes: Bond increased from $250,000 to 1 Million

We’ve had our termite bond with Hometeam Pest Control for as long as I can remember, maybe even since the purchase of our house. I called to tell them I was happy with their service, but with the economy as tight as it is, I felt it was pragmatic to get quotes from their competitors and I wanted to start with their best price. I also asked what was unique about their services so I could accurately compare.

During that phone call, our rate was lowered from $94.89 per quarter to $85 per quarter and they raised our bond from $250,000 to 1 million. I’ll spare you the details of the bond, but they were good.

Total savings? $39.56 per year. (Not much, but it’s all adding up, let me tell you!)

Being pragmatic, I wanted to get quotes from two other companies. Hopefully two solvent companies. I searched: “termite bond” and clicked the first two non-sponsored links.

Orkin: I dialed *67 to block my phone number and called the Orkin toll free number to get my “free quote” as stated in the web ad I found.

Customer Service didn’t win me over. Inefficient. The kiss of death for a vendor in my book. Do NOT make me go through an automated phone system and then ask me the same questions in person when a customer service rep gets on the line. Just don’t do it. Then they wanted to schedule a visit. No quote without a visit, an inspection and a meeting with their representative. No sending someone to do an inspection and then sending me a quote later. no… I have to BE there. Conversation over. Can he “have my name?” No thank you. (uh…that’s what the *67 was for)

I will never be able to stress enough how much I HATE being invaded and held hostage by a sales representative in my own home. High pressure sales? In my own home? I don’t think so. I’m bad cop. I embarrass FirstHusband, “Mr. Good Cop.” Further web searching indicates more than a few customer complains and reviews and the rates nearly double that of Hometeam.

TERMINIX: I searched via swagbucks (and won 7 swagbucks in the process) and was led to this ad:

TWO MINUTES! Could it be true? I clicked. An online quote! A fill-in form! Asking for my address, square footage of my house, the foundation and exterior wall types.

Then I did something bad. I typed in a nearby address.

Dear unknown, undeserving, unsuspecting neighbor, I apologize for the junk mail you will now receive. I am truly sorry.

Not surprisingly, the next screen reads:

“Sorry, your home did not qualify to get a quote online. But we would be glad to give you a no obligation inspection. Please enter your info below.”

ummm hmmm.

So, a glutton for punishment, I dial *67 to block my number again and call the toll free number. Customer service was better but no over the phone quotes for me – not even a RANGE of rates. Nuthin. They want an appointment. To come to my house. To inspect it and then sit around my kitchen table with contracts and discuss ….. ewwwwwww! nope. sorry. and again. NO.

I search a little more and find this language on a Terminix ad:

“Be protected for as little as $35 per month.”

hmmm. $35 per month. a little math…. that’s $105 per quarter. And we have. . . a loser. That’s $20 more per month than my current vendor. And if you read the fine print in the footnote, that’s a best case scenario quote.

And we have a winner. Hometeam Pest Control, we’re staying with you.

Check out my other posts in my “Family Expense Audit” series in my “debt free living” category.

family expense audit: cable/internet/phone service.

Total Annual Savings for Cable/Internet/Phone Services resulting from my Family Expense Audit: $839.28
Vendor Choice: Brighthouse
Service Changes:
1. Switched from voice mail to an answering machine on our main line.
2. Dropped our second phone number and got a free Google Voice phone number with free voice mail instead.
3. Eliminated the Showtime premium movie channel.
4. Added benefit? I NEVER have to deal with At&T customer service again.

(Regardless of vendor, I found it impossible to separate the cable, internet and phone services and get any kind of affordable rate quote. Everybody wanted to pitch a “bundle.”)

Background: I’ve been calling all our vendors. I start something like this:

“I’m doing an expense audit, going through every bill we have and making sure we’re spending our money wisely. I’ll be getting quotes from some of your competitors and before I do, I just wanted to make sure we’ve got your best price. I also need to know what sets [insert company name here] apart with regard to services so that when I get quotes from your competitors I take into account any special or unique services you provide.”

The Process: Evaluating and changing our cable/internet/TV services took the most time and it got confusing, so bear with me, I’ll try to make sense of it for you.

During the course of my family expense audit, nearly all of the vendors I called lowered their rates to keep us as customers. The two who didn’t were AT&T and AT&T Wireless.

Let’s focus on AT&T – our residential phone service. I ditched them. As of yesterday. We now have a Brighthouse/Road Runner Bundle.

AT&T: By FAR, AT&T had the LONGEST wait time on the phone during the entire expense audit process. Multiple phone calls, multiple representatives. All terrible listeners. Even after starting with my standard opening about looking to lower our monthly expenses, every quote they gave me was HIGHER and the way they presented the quote sounded like they were making the changes as we spoke. Very pushy.

Brighthouse: Truth be told, I was already leaning toward Brighthouse. We are long time customers, customer service is excellent, my cable modem serves me well and we have a level of familiarity with the TV remotes and guides that is difficult to ignore. And the price quotes were excellent. My biggest obstacle was that the bundle required me to switch from Earthlink.net to Road Runner. I originally said “no thanks.”

All I could think was: (imagine a whining voice) “I’ll have to update all those email addresses. All those logins. All those websites. I don’t wanna.”

Seriously, the number of places I would have to update email addresses. The number of email addresses this family uses. The task seemed overwhelming. And if I actually DID go through the exercise of changing all those email addresses, I never wanted to do it again. But then I realized. My website hosting with GoDaddy includes 100 email addresses across all domains I own. hmmm. So I bought a domain just for email, for a total price of less than $70 for 10 years. I spent about a week going through my SplashID listing of web logins, nicking away at the changes. Then I watched my inbox and every time an “earthlink” email came in, I decided whether I wanted to update it. Some I changed, some I’ll let die.

So that took care of the one obstacle. If I was ready to move from Earthlink to Road Runner, I was in a position to save money with a cable/internet bundle. But if I added phone, I could save even more. There were two issues:

1. I wanted to ditch our second phone number, which I used exclusively for work. I replaced it with Google Voice and Voicemail. It routes calls to my cell phone without requiring me to give out my cell number. In a nutshell, it’s a free phone number with voice mail that gets transcribed to text AND email messages. It’s got a LOT more features, but that’s another post.

2. Would our home alarm system work with a digital phone? Again with the nutshell, Brighthouse thought it would and our alarm company thought it would, but there was no way to tell until it was switched and tested. If not, we had the option of installing a cell phone transmitter for the alarm system for an extra $10 per month (and a $200+ installation fee) The alarm worked with the digital phone perfectly, although I’m still thinking about the cell phone transmitter. And even though the cable modem has it’s own backup battery, we put it on a kick-butt uninterrupted power source for added measure in case of a power failure.

So yesterday we made the switch. Everything works perfectly and as an added bonus, I got a phone jack installed in my office at no charge! We had been running a L O N G phone line from another room for years.

Briefly onto AT&T Wireless: I’m keeping them. No change in price, but some modifications to our plan which better suit us. And I still refuse to get a data plan on my phone. I’m not paying for internet on my phone until and/or unless I have absolutely no choice. But I digress. Here’s some reasons why we’re staying with AT&T Wireless:

1. FirstHusband’s work provided cell phone is AT&T so all mobile to mobile calls with him are free and his company has an agreement with AT&T Wireless that provides some nice benefits to family members on a plan with them – the latter of which I found out during this expense audit process.

2. AT&T’s coverage map works for us. We rarely have dropped calls and no matter where FirstHusband travels, we have been able to reach him. This is a big deal.

3. Customer Service is OUTSTANDING and wait time is very short. (and I have a lot to compare to after making all these vendor calls.)

4. I’ve been a customer since 1994 because I’m so happy with them. They take ownership of a problem and help me solve it, whether it’s finding a free replacement for the $1.99 (each) directory assistance calls my dad made by innocently dialing “411” or back dating a plan change to help me avoid overages or making an appointment to call me two days before a cruise to activate an international calling plan or meticulously scouring a bill to help me understand every single charge…they’ve built customer loyalty with me.

Check out my other posts in my “Family Expense Audit” series in my “debt free living” category. I’ll be adding more over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back!

Find more ideas over at Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family. MY previous Works for Me Wednesday posts are HERE.

Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.