Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Revenge of the Turds

The house that I'm working on has been vacant for a while. Apparently, they had a cat there. I saw a couple of cat poopy pebbles in one of the bedrooms. They lived in that room for a while because they were dry. We had to pull the carpets up, so I used a stick to flick those dry poopy pebbled into the middle of the carpet. Skillfully, I rolled the carpet up. But, what did I see? Yup - one of those pebbles trying to escape. Oh no you don't I thought to myself as I tilted the carpet so that it would roll back in. One of my workers helped me throw that carpet into the dumpster. Would you believe that one of the pebbles jumped back out and hit him on the shoulder? I didn't have the heart to tell him. Hey, I'm not that bad. I did buy them lunch...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Oprah and her debt diet series

Oprah is having this debt diet thing every couple of weeks I believe. I'm not really sure when it comes on because wifey TiVos it and she calls me in to watch it. First of all, it took some guts for these guests to show America (the world) how much debt they are in. I've been in debt - serious debt. I wanted to mention that because I'm not this rich, upper class guy who is preaching to the little people.

The shows brought to light some very real, very interesting issues. Let me also mention that I'm not one of those "what Oprah says I believe, praise be to Oprah!!" kind of people. I have to say that she is doing a great job in this particular series. Things that they were mentioning are so true and I have either been through it or witnessed it in my friends and family.

Let's get specific...
1. People are in debt because they want the lifestyle of the rich and famous but don't have the money to support the lifestyle.
2. People are in debt because they buy stuff in an attempt to fill some void in their life.
3. People are in debt because they are carrying on the legacy and teaching from their parents.
4. People are in debt because they MUST maintain the appearance that they are doing well financially.

It got me thinking about the people around me and myself. Here are some of the things that I have witnessed. I make no apologies for stepping on people's toes.

1. A person says her car is acting up and she needs a new one. She really doesn't want to make a lateral move (one compact car to another). She is eyeing cars that she really can't afford because "they are so pretty". I wonder what she is going to do. This same person mentions quite often that "she deserves..." fill in the blanks "because" fill in the blanks. How many of us have said that?

2. A person is looking for a home. Her requirement is that it has to be over a certain square footage. She wants a big 5 bedroom home for her family of six. Her and her husband make decent money, but that mortgage will still be quite large. There are no college funds for the kids. She wants out of her line of work NOW. Hubby is starting his own business soon and she wants to start a business. Are they doing the right thing?

3. I have seen a woman buy barrels of stuff to send back to Jamaica even when she couldn't afford it so that her mother and others can be comfortable and don't look like "heng pun nail". When visitors come to her house, she will entertain like she is the richest person in town and complain about the money spent later.

4. A couple sold a perfectly good car that was paid for and bought a new one with payments because the other car "was getting old" and "didn't look good anymore". Yes, this one was me and wifey.

5. I know a man that says he will never have a credit card (like Visa or MasterCard), but he has one high interest store card (Sears) that he uses all the time. By the way, did you know that Sears makes more money on credit than on the sale of their merchandise?

6. I know person who gets financial aid from the government and spends it on clothes, going to clubs, vacations, etc.. She also complains about not getting enough hours at work, so she's broke.

Why do I have more examples of what people (including myself) do wrong financially than what people are doing right?

Everybody I know that have excused debt are in debt.
"You'll always be in debt..."
"You can't take the money with you when you die..."
"I haven't bought anything in weeks..."
And the list goes on.

When surveyed, 75 percent of the Forbes 400 said the best way to build wealth is to become and stay debt-free. Very interesting that the rich folk think a little differently than the not-so-rich.

I could go on and on about this because I am very passionate about this subject. Maybe I'll create a new blog just for this subject...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

To make a short story long...

So I have a building contractor that I have befriended here. He worked on a house that I was selling and I liked his work and I trust him. See. Short and sweet. To the point. My contractor friend, however, is quite the opposite.

"Ben. I sorry I cooldn't mek it to yoo toodeh." (That's my best Trinidadian accent).
"That's alright, man. What happened?" (Dang, why did I ask!!).
"I got di floo real baad." (Whew - this'll be a quick call).
"Tursdeh, I cooldn't get up. I had pen all ovah mi body." (Oh no).
"Frideh, still cooldn't get up. I had pen all in my bones."(Sigh. Sit down, BdaB).
"Satoodeh, I crawl to di baatroom to brush my teet. I was on di floh, brushing my teet." (He getting worse)
"Sundeh, I feel a little bit bettah." (Woohoo!!! He's getting better!!)
"Mondeh, I try to pick up the kids from skool. I drove down di street and had to tun back. I told my wife bebi - I caan mek it." (Oh no - relapse!!)
"Toosdeh, I get up. I caan leave my werkers on di job by demself." (Oh yes, he is healed!! Well, kinda).

I went to show him the house that I bought so that he can give me estimates. The place does NOT smell very good. Me and wifey had masks on when we put the garbage in bags (42 50-gallon bags - that's another story). We didn't take the car with the masks in the trunk and guess what. Yup. He got to talking in the smelly house. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and the cocktail of not-so-nice odors was really getting to me. My eyes were watering. My lungs were contracting. I tried breathing through my ears, but they heard how bad the smell was and refused to partake. I had to remain conscious - there was NO WAY I was going to collapse on THAT floor. There was a break in the conversation. Me and wifey walked very very quickly outside. We were free!!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Well, I drove down to my old stomping ground for the weekend. I met the old work peeps and got the same question over and over again - "so how's Jacksonville?" That's okay. I was expecting it. Wifey said that visiting Ft. Lauderdale affirms that we made the right decision to move. We don't miss it down there at all. I saw my old bosses and the only thought that was in my mind was "I don't have to answer to you all any more!" One of my work peeps finally admitted to me that he was gay. I admitted to him that I was black. We are very much at ease now that we are both out of the closet. I did a quick trip around town to say bye to the important people in my life and then we headed back home. I would've stayed a couple of days more, but I had a house closing to go to. Remember that house that should have closed a couple of weeks ago? Yup, I finally had to go give up my money. Today is the big day - I'm going to work y'all!! I already have one potential setback to deal with. The utilities people turned on the water and turned it right back off because water was running somewhere in the house. I am so ready for this. I am driven to conquer the seemingly unconquerable. I hate to lose. Y'all feelin' me?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Man and Machine

I put the key in the ignition and started the engine. The roar was intoxicating. I looked around to see if anyone was watching. Should I? Oh, what the heck!! I put in in first gear and it stalled. That's okay. I started it up again a put it in first gear and it popped a wheely. This ain't so bad. I tried to engage second gear, but I hit third by accident. It popped a bigger wheely. Now we were going really fast - too fast. I fumbled trying to gear down. I was running out of room. How do you steer this thing? The tree in front of me was getting bigger and bigger. It was one of those moments that God would have looked down and said "You so stupid, boy - come on home...". I dodged the tree. Tank ya, Lawd!! Tank Ya!! I put it back in neutral to catch my breath and to spit the dirt out of my mouth.

Can somebody please tell me why my 70+ year old daddy went out and bought this lawn mower?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Going Back To Work

I am going to close on my first deal tomorrow. This is it. This is why I quit being an engineer. I wanted to do my own thing and I'm finally doing it. On Monday, I'm going to get to work. My own work. I'll realize the fruits of my labor in a couple of months when I sell the house back. A couple of years ago, I heard on a gospel CD the statement "Its hard to be big when little has got ya." I've held on to that statement. I have learned to think outside of the traditional. Entirely too many people that I know have made it in life while I looked on. By the way, don't equate "making it" with making a huge paycheck - it goes waaaaay deeper than that. Oh yes, I was a senior engineer for a multi-billion dollar company, but I didn't feel successful. Right now, without making a dime, I feel success flowing through my blood. Why? Because I managed to take the first step - I shrugged "little" off my shoulders. You see, "little" instills fear, self doubt, low self esteem, lack of confidence and low self worth into us. Here are some of my thoughts...

1. You cannot continually blame everything and everyone but yourself for your situations. I was a victim of mortgage fraud. Let's just say that my losses were more than a few thousand dollars. I blamed that guy for many months. I now realize that I made fundamental errors that enabled a person like him to do what he does.

2. ALWAYS manage your money. House(s), car(s), land, wallet, business, etc. It all boils down to money and it is yours. This was one of my fundamental errors. I left MY houses (MY money) alone and expected everything to be okay. Trusting someone to overlook things for you is irrelevant (and some people may say stupid). I had 15 days vacation, and 10 personal days to oversee my money and I didn't do it. When things went wrong, I started blaming instead of taking control. Now, I am Supreme Overlord of my money.

3. Stop spending more than you make. Why don't people see that if you have less debt, its easier to be financially comfortable. Why did you need that dress, skirt, shoes, rims and tires, shirt, suit, oversized house, fancy car? Why is 20% off of something that you can't afford a good deal?

4. Money is a faithful servant, but a cruel master.

5. Hanging on the coat tails of someone who is successful doesn't automatically make you a success. Putting in 5% percent of the work and claiming 50% of the glory is pretty pathetic, and quite offensive.

6. Everyone has a different path to success and everyone defines success differently. So why are you trying to be like...

7. You have to actually work at being successful. People who just sit around spectating don't make it. "I'm gonna" people don't make it either.

8. Motivate yourself, dang it! Stop waiting for husband, wife, mom, dad, pastor, arch-bishop, bishop, pope to motivate you. Does everyone need to hold a cattle prod in their hand to move you?

I have become less tolerant of "I'm gonna" people and I normally respond with "So why don't you?".

I have stopped sugar-coating things for people because it doesn't help them.

I define success as financial freedom, more time to hang out with my family and friends, and being someone who people can see as a good example to others. It's different for everyone, but a good start is working on need and eliminating greed. Go for it!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Najah, warrior princess

My daughter. My little two year old. The apple of my eye. My sweetheart. I went to go and pick her up from the daycare and her teacher said that she pushed another girl to the floor. They gave her timeout (which she doesn't like at all). I asked her teacher a few questions about the prelude to the incident, but it was hard to concentrate when she kept adjusting a wig that was obviously too small for her head.

What the other kids may not know is...
1. She receives superhuman strength from her finger sucking, and
2. She has been trained at ghetto temples across florida. She has had a black belt (with some pink flowers) since 1 1/2 years old.

I tried to talk to her, but she denied everything. I have to keep an eye on it because I don't want her to be the class bully.