Hope for your financial life and beyond

Beauty and Function From a Beast

Dining Room Cabinet

A cabinet base and top, bought separately at auctions, molded together into one.

Have you ever experienced an embarrassing moment because you or someone in your family was trying to do something frugal?

Like…I don’t know…your father gets a swing set from the dump that is missing the A-frame support on one side. To support it, he bolts the end with the missing side to a tree in the backyard so you can use it. (That’s a true story…on my wife’s side.)

The base of this beautiful cabinet that sits in our dining room had real ugly beginnings. It was so ugly in fact, that my mother wanted nothing to do with it. You can see how bad it was by clicking “Continue Reading” below.

Then head on over to my guest post today at Frugal Rules to read about how I helped make an auction purchase of my dad into an embarrassing frugal moment.

Do you have an embarrassing frugal story?

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My Fantasy Football Obsession: Finding Life Balance

fantasy football obsession

Hidden Nuggets Series #8

The NFL season kicked off last night with the Denver Broncos playing host to the Baltimore Ravens. The long, tedious summer of Major League Baseball is coming to a close and there is no better remedy than good old-fashioned football. Let’s be honest, MLB doesn’t hold a candle to the NFL (or college football for that matter) in popularity.

It also doesn’t compare in fantasyland.

I started playing fantasy football in 2006 in an 8-team league with some of my friends. I won our leagues’ inaugural championship going 12-2. Since then, I’ve lost in the championship game two other times and have only incurred one losing season. My overall record stands at a healthy 60-36.

If you have never played there is something you need to understand…fantasy football COMPLETELY changes how you watch an NFL game. If you are not careful you may develop a fantasy football obsession.

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Adjusting to Change

“Air ball…Air ball…Air ball!” I hadn’t heard that in a long time. I would have to do some adjusting to change the way I was playing.

adjusting to changeThe mocking chant rang from the guys lips on the sidelines who were waiting to get their turn in the pickup game. I turned and acknowledged the humorous jeering, nervously chuckling over what had just happened. “Did I just shoot an air ball?” Perplexed, I strolled back down the court to pick up my man on defense.

Granted, it had been awhile since I had laced up the sneakers and touched a basketball. Two years to be exact, since the last time I led a practice as varsity boy’s coach. My commitment to take up the reins at home for Mrs. Luke1428 as she pursued a new career had put an abrupt halt to my 10-year coaching run.

Several possessions later I found the ball in my hands again, wide open just beyond the three point arc. I launched the shot again, as any great shooter would do. Short again. What’s going on here? I felt like I couldn’t even get the ball to the basket.

I knew my shooting motion was sound. You don’t forget a motion that has been hardwired into your synapses since middle school and led you to average 30 points a game your senior year at a small town private high school. Thousands of shots through the years produced a perfect motion. Knees bent…elbow tucked…release…follow through. Yet something was missing. My mind continued to process.

It took me another half-dozen misses to understand the sad reality of my struggles. When the thought occurred to me, everything made perfect sense.  Resigned to my plight, I signaled for a sub to come in the game for me and walked off the court towards the bleachers muttering to myself,

“I can’t jump anymore.”

Adjusting to Change Diagnosis

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Should My Daughter Separate Her Toes? (Syndactyly)

syndactylyThis past week Miss LukeTeen28 (my eldest daughter) popped the question my wife and I have been anticipating for the past 12 years since the day of her birth. No, she doesn’t want to have a boyfriend. (We’ve told her she can’t date until she’s 30!) Her interest is in a cosmetic surgery to correct a condition known as Syndactyly – the fusion of one or more toes.

Syndactyly 101

“Syndactyly” is the medical term for this condition. Hers is a simple fusing of soft tissue between the second and third toes on both feet (the left is more pronounced than the right). The issue appears to be genetic in nature, as I know of one other person in my extended family who has this condition.

She is in no pain or discomfort from her syndactyly and the risks are miniscule. The surgery would be completely for cosmetic purposes. (So when she wears her sandals the doofus middle school boys at school aren’t tempted to call her “four toes.”) Maybe the fact that she is almost a teen is figuring into her asking about the procedure now.

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Post Beach Vacation Blues

With the kids on a sandbar at low tide

50 yards from shore on a sandbar at low tide

Our family was blessed last week to enjoy a beautiful vacation on the shores of North Carolina. We spent the week in a gorgeous beach house with some members of our extended family. Just a stone’s throw away.

Each morning I would get up early, go for a run, then sit on the second floor balcony of our beach house.  There is nothing like a change of venue to get the old writing juices flowing. In fact, last Friday’s post “Infamous Days Are Not Showstoppers” was penned as I watched the waves break onto the shore line and felt the gently ocean breezes against my face. Ahhh…vacation.

Now I’m back writing in my usual spot…the basement. No beach scenes here. Just spiders.

Once vacation is over I’m ready to be home. But I dread the week following vacation. The week is always out of whack. First, I’m always a little tired and rundown from all the vacation activities and travel. Then there is a whole day to do laundry.  Wife back to work. Kids bored to tears because the things to do around the house don’t hold a candle to chasing crabs after dark on the beach. A huge trip to the grocery store to restock the cupboards. (The checkout clerk actually made a joke about how full my cart was. Ha…Ha…”Yes, ma’am…I shop for six. Just bag the groceries please.”) Are your post-vacation weeks like this?

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Luke1428 Celebrates 1-Yr. Blog-iversary! A Special Thank You

Designfolio ScreenshotWhat a year! It all started with this post on July 3rd, 2012. If you like the Finding Nemo seagulls, then check out the video at the bottom of the post. See how long you can bear to listen. I give it 30 seconds tops.

Oh, and the post had a uniquely spiritual message about ownership that I continually have to revisit to this day.

I’m not sure what I was expecting last year when I started this blog. All I knew is that I had an idea, a passion and had finally worked up the courage to share those with others. Some people have no problem sharing on such a public forum like the Internet. I did. It was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome when starting Luke1428.

So in many ways, July 3rd is my personal independence day – the day I broke through some mental and emotional barriers and became willing to open myself up to the world.

Some things have changed here in the past year, including the free theme you see in the screenshot above. I’ve realized since my upgrade how un-functional that theme was. That’s part of the blogging learning process though, and I don’t regret using that because a great looking theme was not part of my original goal. RIP Designfolio.

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The Beach vs Pool Debate

Summer vacation trip #2 is headed our way soon as the Luke1428 family heads to the beaches of North Carolina. We had great fun on our June camping trip and are looking forward to a week with some extended family members as we share a house at Holden Beach. Being here though once again brings up the beach vs pool debate in our family.

beach vs poolTonya who blogs at Budget and the Beach often shares about her love of all things beach related. A lot of people hate the beach (my wife) and would prefer to soak in the sun’s rays lounging by the pool.  I grew up around pools and even was a lifeguard at one for several years. So if I had a choice I would lean the pool direction. However, I always look forward to going to the beach and usually enjoy myself while there.

The Beach vs Pool Debate

Here are some of the pros and cons that might help you figure out which side you lean on in the beach vs pool debate:

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Don’t Chase Hungry Bears Through the Woods


Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I turned over in my sleeping bag longing for a few extra minutes of sleep. It had been a great hike the day before but my body was rejecting the thought of carrying that backpack on another days trek. Not this early in the morning. Light had begun to filter through the canopy of trees and into our tent. I sensed it would not be much longer before my stomach would expect breakfast. Yep, there it is – grumbling.

Our young dog was lying at the foot of the tent snuggled up like a child between my wife and I. Her legs twitched back and forth as no doubt she recounted in her dreams the events of the previous day’s hike. What sites, smells and sounds she had encountered on this her first weekend backpacking trip. She was snoring, fast asleep until she heard the same thing I did.

Her head snapped up, ears on full alert.

Perhaps it’s just our backpacking friends in the tent a few feet away getting up and ready. But a closer listen revealed it didn’t sound like tent noises. More like scratching and clawing.

I’m beginning to rouse my wife when I hear my friend zip open his tent. Then something that sounded like a thud, followed by scrambling bodies and my friend uttering something like “Oh crap.” I quickly zipped open our tent to see one of our food sacks swinging like a pendulum on the limb we had secured it to the night before. Funny, we had hoisted up two food sacks last evening. Why was there only one now?

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Is It Worth It to Be Inconvenienced?

Off Air

“Oh no! My favorite TV program isn’t on!”

What is the one modern convenience that you couldn’t do without? I see on many discussion boards people detailing the possessions they have sold or the services they have surrendered with the intent on using the freed up money to pay off personal debt. Ken Ilgunas even went so far as to live in a van to save money while attending grad school at Duke University. You can read his incredible story here.

Frankly I think we don’t truly appreciate our modern conveniences. I guess that is only human – our natural desire to take things for granted. We don’t give a second thought to getting a glass of cold water, pulling up a webpage or driving across town. In many parts of the world those things don’t ever happen.

Nobody likes to be inconvenienced. But I’m going to make the radical suggestion today that, on occasion, it might be good for us.

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Thesis vs. Genesis – It’s All About the Cup Holders

2007 Chrysler SebringEvery car that I have ever shopped for has the same basic components. Four tires. Car body. Engine. Steering mechanisms. Those components help me get to where I want to go. Now the quality and configuration of those components varies greatly among manufacturers but the basic essence of the machine itself remains the same from model to model.

If you have ever shopped day after day after day for a new vehicle you know that sometimes all the models begin to blend together and look the same.  So we look for ways, sometimes really silly ones, to differentiate between models to help us make our decision. I’ve seen this happen in my own life and I call it the “Cup Holder Syndrome.”

In essence the Cup Holder Syndrome says that it’s the ancillary things that sell the car. You slide in for a test drive, see 10 places in the vehicle to put a drink and think that’s cool. Or maybe you’re impressed by the lights on the dash, the color scheme, the power seats, or the way the stereo sounds. These things have little to do with the functioning of the car and are not the main reasons we purchase a car. But they do stick in our mind and can help sway our decision.

I found the same principle at work when trying to decide between the Thesis (by DIYThemes) and Genesis (by StudioPress) frameworks for my recent blog upgrade.

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Geocaching: Our New, Cheap Kid Activity

Logo_Geocaching_color_300Are you looking for a fun (and cheap) summertime activity to keep the kids busy until they go back to school? Then geocaching may be for you. Never heard of the term? Neither had I until about a month ago when my wife mentioned it. I think my initial comment was, “What the heck is that?”

Do you remember the days of playing pirate as a kid, searching for buried treasure? In essence, that is what geocaching is. Here’s how it’s described at Geocaching.com:

“Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

I have to admit I was skeptical when I read about this. I mean who are these hobbyists who traipse all over the wooden glen and urban street corners looking for hidden containers with small trinkets inside? Then I saw a map where all the caches are hidden – in the entire world! Then I realized this was a bigger deal than I thought. Yes, there are some in Antarctica if you are in the neighborhood.

Here’s how you play.

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