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Hope Deferred

“Honey, have you seen that dark spot on the driveway?” Amazewife asked some weeks ago.

I opened a mental command prompt. I navigated to the “stuff seen in driveway” folder. It was nestled in the “miscellaneous” directory I keep in my mind. You know what I’m talking about. You also have one on your computer. Don’t lie.

I then issued the command to scan the contents of the “stuff seen in driveway” folder and added, “Make it snappy.”

My search engine crashed somewhere after that and all I got were old fishing pictures and a copy of ‘PCDownloadFIXITturbo.exe’.

“No, I hadn’t, honey. I will take a look at it,” I said.

Turns out there was a dark spot. And it was big. I couldn’t tell what kind of fluid it was. I wondered if it was motor oil.

Time passed. The snow truffle-shuffled into town. The small blanket of white gave a better glimpse of what the spot was. It was red.

Transmission fluid.

The transmission in the Ford started clunking while coming to a stop that day or the day after. The rotors had been pulsating while braking, so we were planning on a mechanic visit anyway.

“How much will it cost?” Amazewife asked. She was doing the February budget.

“Rotors will probably be about $350,” I answered. She punched a few keys.

The car went in to the shop during snowmageddon last week. My awesome boss even came and picked me up so I wouldn’t miss too much work. Didn’t take them long to call me back.

“Rotors were at discard level,” said Bob at Buchanan’s. (402-393-2722, on 79th and Dodge. I recommend them.) “We could resurface, but it would not be too long before you had worse damage than you started with. Parts and install, $250.”

I did a happy dance. $100 less than budget!

“On the transmission, I found a leak on the dipstick tube and the o-ring. It appears to have come loose from where it is fastened to the block. It was 2.5 quarts low on ATF, so we topped it off and it works great, but that needs fixed. Comes in at abooooout-“

I want you to picture that ‘about’ in your mind. Listen to it. It’s a car-mechanic ‘about’. You know what it sounds like. It’s a crap shoot whether he’s going to ask for the change out of the nonfunctional ash tray  to fix a tail light or your firstborn child to reinstall a flux capacitor.

“-comes in at about $150.”

I kept happy dancing, but a little less. We were now over budget, but nowhere near what I was expecting. We’re still WAY in the black, and not even touching the emergency fund.

“Yep, so about $450 total for those two after tax,” Bob said. “Then I found something else in there.”

My stomach dropped.

“I noticed a coolant leak. I saw that antifreeze was dripping onto your starter and traced the source. Your intake head gasket is leaking.”

I’m not a mechanic wiz. My dad is. I don’t know what a lot of the parts are. The movies and other important sources have taught me, however, that the ‘head gasket’ is to a car what nuclear reactors are to society. If they at any point leak, the world is going to end.

I asked how long we had before that had to be replaced.

“We’re there,” said Bob.

$550.

Total tab for fixin’ the Taurus: $1050.

But wait! Turn that frown upside down! Bring that sadness into gladness my friends. Why? We did it in cash. We did the math. No car drama. No headache. No nothing. Done. Paid for. We’re good!

Two hours later, Meredith learned that we owe $1,850 in taxes.

Then moments after picking up the car from the shop for the first round of repairs – the dipstick tube had to be ordered, so we took it back today – the rear of the car started to make terrible noises. Turns out the sway bar mounts are probably busted on one side. $250.

The saying that things ‘come to a head’ is in reference to infections. Minor skin infections tend to ‘come to a head’ at the worst time of their existence. Think acne. It’s a gradual process. It’s painful and looks yucky. It both points out that there is a problem and presents an opportunity to alleviate the issue. The same goes for my emotions about money. These expenses really brought things to a head.

The infection for me started before the question about the spot in the driveway. Amazewife brought up candid concerns about what happens when we’re out of debt. Those concerns opened my eyes to how closed my eyes were in the first place. I had been in La La Land. I thought finishing Baby Step 2 of the Total Money Makeover would make Baby Step 3 happen in a way that would not require me to earn so much extra income, e.g., working a second job. I had convinced myself that my days of working 70 hour weeks would be over when that final payment was submitted.

I had forgotten that Dave himself repeats over and over – and quotes scripture to support – that Financial Peace is a marathon, not a sprint.

I know that now. And I feel better. But that conversation weeks ago brought me down low. It put me way down into introspective, moody, whiney-baby land.

The bus between La La Land and introspective, moody, whiney-baby land is not that great, either. Think MAT bus, but with that one smell and the occasional random profane outburst from the guy with headphones.

Anyway, I felt hopeless. I pushed Amazewife out of my misery and I wallowed. Or wallered. Depends on how redneck you want to imagine it. She has helped me de-waller myself. The truth hurts. It’s hard to have hope when you don’t want to.

Life is hard. Stuff happens. Things don’t go as planned. Stuff breaks and ruins EVERYTHING. But if we’re prepared, we’ll be ok.

That’s what Meredith and I have been: prepared. For the first time in our individual and married lives, we’ve been financially prepared. The unexpected will be covered. The emergency fund will be touched, then replenished in a month. We will pay off debt a bit slower, but we will be okay. And we’ve come so very far. We’ve killed a credit card, and Meredith’s student loan is below $2,000. Mine will be close behind. The fruits of our past hope are obvious, and delicious.

What about after debt? Am I woe-is-me about having to work extra still after getting out of debt? No way. You know what changed it?

Vision.

Right now, I bring in over a thousand dollars extra per month. It goes right back out the door to debt. We watch a balance go down, and the money in our pockets doesn’t change.

Just today, in my mind’s eye, I changed the dynamic. I imagined grease-sliding and tossing cheese gluten and watching the money stay.

I imagined what it would be like to just pile money up where we can keep it. That changes things. It’s a whole new feeling. It’s not as tiring. It’s motivating. Uplifting. It’s our money, and it’s going away safe as insurance against the unexpected. Or at least it will be, when we’re debt free.

That change in perspective, that vision, took care of the emotional inflammation I was dealing with. The head was off. Things cleared up and the pain is subsiding.

I know there will be more issues. I know I’ve got more work to do than I originally thought. But I’ll make it. We’ll make it. The scripture finally makes more sense.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick:

but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

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