How This Family Paid Off Debt Using Unusual Tactics.

It seems the media is full of impressive testimonies on how couples paid off debt by tightening their financial belts. But none of these tales come close to matching the hardship and ingenuity of Brad and Angie Dickerson, of  Parsimony, New Jersey.

The Dickerson family knew they were in trouble when they no longer had money at the end of the month to pay the mortgage on their 4,000 square foot home.

“It was rather alarming,” Angie said, “I’m not sure how it happened. Brad and I have always been frugal.”

The Dickersons point to how they chose the base model Porsche Cayenne, skipping certain luxuries so the ticket price would hover around $60,000.

“And restaurants? We never use valet parking. We park our own car and walk. Even in the winter,” said Brad.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. The Dickersons knew their credit score would be squashed if their lifestyle continued. So they cut back.

“The first thing we did,” Brad stated, “was sell our house. Got rid of that pesky mortgage for once and for all. The only problem, though, was that we realized after the closing, we didn’t have anywhere to go.”

The Dickersons went to the nearest homeless shelter, where they were warmly welcomed.

“We were each given a cot, so we pushed them together to make our own queen sized bed.” Angie said, “it was romantic, in a depressing sort of way.”

The next step? Unloading the Porsche and Angie’s BMW. The Dickersons soon found themselves in a quandary: they had no way to work now that their vehicles were sold. The Dickersons brainstormed and decided to try public transportation. But there was a problem.

“Do you know you have to pay for public transportation?” Brad was incredulous, “have you ever been on those buses? Why would anyone pay to ride those things?”

The Dickersons went back to the drawing board. They decided to rely on friends and family.

“I started asking friends for rides to work, or asking to borrow their car,” stated Angie.

Cell phones, with hefty service plans, were another financial drain on the Dickersons. They quickly cashed those in and now communicate through the use of Native American smoke signals.

“It is inconvenient,” Brad admitted, “especially when I’m in a meeting and see Angie signaling me. I’ll have to excuse myself and go outside to answer her.”

Food bills are no longer an issue for the Dickersons. The homeless shelter provides free breakfast, and most churches offer lunches and dinners.

“It requires a lot of networking,” Angie admits, “the Methodists are fond of baked hams on Tuesdays, while the Protestants? Turkeys on Thursdays. Non-denominationals are anybody’s guess.”

But there are certain things the Dickersons can not part with, such as their Hyannis beach house and membership to the Tennis Club.

“I mean, come on,” said Angie, “we may be thrifty now, but we’re not stupid.”

 

The Underground Writer Reporting

 

A Strange, New Form of Home Security

Residents across the nation have turned to a new type of home security: surprise parties. As with many inventions, the creation of Surprise Party Theft Deterrent was accidental. John and Linda Sandford of Marietta, Georgia hosted a family birthday party for their four year old daughter. That night, an intruder broke into their home.

“I thought I heard someone,” Sandford said when interviewed, “and when I went downstairs to investigate, there was a man standing in our living room! The bizarre thing was, he saw all the party decorations that were left up from my daughter’s birthday party and he thought they were for him! He forgot all about stealing our stuff.”

The Sandfords proceeded to wake up their children and defrost leftover birthday cake.

“It turned into one big, happy event,” Sandford said, “we decided to leave the decorations up in case it happens again.”

Initially, police were skeptical of this rather unorthodox home security system.

“Honestly? I thought they were all a bunch of nut jobs,” Lieutenant David Jefferson of the Los Angeles Police Department said, “but then I heard it started working. Don’t get me wrong – I still recommend a traditional home security system over this surprise party thing.”

Surprise Party Theft Deterrent can also be a rewarding experience. The Sanfords formed a relationship with their home invader and have since invited him to family dinners and holiday gatherings. Aside from a missing laptop and some “misplaced” silver, their home intruder is like a member of their family.

“Sure, we don’t leave him alone near the checkbook .. or let him borrow the car … but he’s like family to us!” Sandford states.

One criticism of Surprise Party Theft Deterrents is the possibility of the home intruder being armed with a deadly weapon – and using this weapon if startled by the surprise party.

“I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind every time I crouched behind the sofa, waiting to jump up and yell, ‘Surprise!'” Peter Anderson of Mesa, Arizona confessed, “but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

“Especially when you see the look of astonishment on their face,” Esther Anderson chimed in, “why, after a rash of break-ins in our neighborhood, one intruder started to cry when he climbed through our den window and was welcomed with noisemakers and Peter and I yelling, ‘Surprise!’ He said no one had ever thrown him a surprise party before.”

While the expense of maintaining traditional home security systems can be what drives some people to use surprise parties as theft deterrents, others do so for different reasons.

“Personally, I find home security systems a bit … alarming with their obnoxious sirens. It could easily disrupt an individuals inner chi.” said Destiny Light of Woodstock, New York.

Surprise parties were the perfect solution for Light – even though crime is rare in her neighborhood.

“Never the less, it is simply delightful to have my kitchen decorated for a birthday party every day, said Light.

There are some downsides with Surprise Party Theft Deterrent. Having your house decorated for a birthday party year round can be a hassle. It’s also confusing for children.

“Every morning when my son woke up, he kept thinking it was his birthday,” Heather Burns of Grand Rapids, Michigan said, “and when it finally was his birthday, well, the birthday decorations didn’t excite him anymore.”

Sagging crepe paper and deflating balloons can not only be a nuisance, but also an additional expense. But not nearly as much as the monthly fees charged by home security services.

Reactions of home intruders to this new form of theft deterrent vary.

“At first, I be like, ‘whats that?” Larry Johnson of Southtown, Illinois said when interviewed in the Greater Illinois Detention Center, “they all be going, “Surprise and sh-t! I there to rob a house, ya’ll. If I wanted a party, I’d go to a party! So I say, “Gimme that flat-screen! Gimme that Macbook!”

The result?

“The old lady? She starts bawling. She starts saying, “He was supposed to like the party.” What do I look like? A four year old? Like I say, If I wanted a party, I’d go to a party. I there to get stuff!”

Andrew Anderson  had a different response.

“I loved it! When I pried open that screen, and climbed through that window, and there was a party waiting for me? And not the police? I’d have to be crazy not to like that family.”

Party City stocks have soared since the introduction of Surprise Party Theft Deterrents.

 

The Underground Writer Reporting

 

What Dogs Think About Humans

“I’m a bit concerned,” she said.

The dogs sat on the couch. Talking dogs. Seriously. I had been asked to interview four talking dogs on a rather delicate subject matter. They wanted their voice (non-barking) heard, and they thought my blog would be the best venue. (Who knew canines read The Underground Writer? Who knew, for that matter, dogs could read?!)

“About what?” I ask.

Daisy is a mixed-breed. A cross between a Boxer and Pittbull. She shakes her head – her dog tags clicking together.

“My humans. My ownersThey’re … getting … strange.”

“Not mine!” the Golden Retriever interjects, “my humans are the best.”

“Well, of course you would think so. You think everyone is the best. All Goldens do.”

The Golden Retriever is suddenly distracted, his snout raised in the air, sniffing.

“Do you smell bacon?” he asks.

Daisy raises a furry eyebrow at me and leans forward, her front paws sliding on the slipcover.

“As I was saying … my humans adopted me from the animal shelter, which was great! I love them, really, I do. But now … but now they’re acting like they’ve saved the world! All over their minivan are bumper stickers that read ‘Rescue Dog Mom’ and ‘I Rescued My Fur Baby’ and ‘Don’t Breed – Adopt.’ As though taking me into their home has made them better people.”

Daisy glances at Trixie – a Yorkie who has started gnawing on an old running shoe.

“Then there are my humans,” Ace – a Siberian Husky – says. “Bought me from a breeder. Paid a fortune, I might add. Now it’s like I’m their kid. I have to go in their car all of the time. They call it ‘car rides.’  They’re always taking my picture with them. ‘Smile Ace!’ they say, ‘smile for the selfie!’ Apparently I even have my own Facebook page – whatever THAT means.”

“I love going for car rides!” says the Golden Retriever, “My humans have a bumper sticker that says their dog is smarter than your honor student … what does that mean?”

“So what exactly is the problem?” I ask, “Daisy, you would rather have been left in the animal shelter? And Ace? You have a problem with being so loved?”

The dogs (except for the Golden Retriever, that is now licking his genitals) all shake their heads.

“I told them not to hire The Underground Writer for this!” Daisy hisses.

“You’re right,” Ace whispers, “she is a little slow.”

“The problem,” Trixie says, after she has swallowed a tattered shoelace she managed to dislodge from the running shoe, “is how the humans view us. My great grandpa Oscar used to tell me about sleeping outside on the back porch, or eating table scraps. Now I sleep on some fancy thing called a ‘dog settee’, and my human buys me organic dog food.”

“Speaking of food,” Ace interrupts, “have you seen what they feed us? What happened to meat? I like to eat out of the garbage can whenever I get the chance.  And if it’s really smelly, I like to roll in it. Now, my humans feed me froufrou stuff they think will taste good.”

As if to prove his point, Ace nods towards the packages lined up on the table next to the couch.

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“Pumpkin and Berry flavor? Gluten free? I just want a bone with some ham still on it!” Ace starts to drool, his saliva forming little pools on the slipcover that is now coated with dog hair.

“What’s with the vanilla sandwich cremes? I’m a dog for crying out loud! And apple cinnamon flavor biscuits?” Daisy asks, “why can’t they make stinky fish flavored biscuits? Or steak flavored?”

“Ohhhh! I LOVE stinky fish!” the Golden Retriever sighs.

“It’s like … humans are trying to make us human,” Trixie says.

“Human are trying to make dogs … human?” I repeat.

“Yes!” Trixie, Ace and Daisy say in unison.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Trixie continues, “I do love my humans, especially the kids. But sometimes I think the adults forget that I’m a dog.”

“Just look at the picture my human bought.” Daisy turns and looks at the picture hanging on the wall behind her.

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“I think that’s great,” the Golden Retriever says. He is scratching his left ear with his hind paw. “I can’t wait to teach my humans how to fetch, and sniff stranger’s crotches, and beg for apple cinnamon flavored biscuits.”

Daisy, Ace and Trixie exchange looks.

“Exactly.”

 

Photo Credits:

Froufrou Dog Treats – Underground Writer venturing into the crowded pet food aisle of local store.

“Everything I Learned In Life…” picture: Google Images/Etsy.com

Gays Banned From Celebrating National Event in Ohio

Closely following the wake of gay and lesbian groups being banned from marching in the New York City and Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade, gays have faced another setback: they are not allowed to participate in Brunson, Ohio’s annual celebration of National Welding Month.

“Everyone knows that April is National Welding Month, and here in Brunson, Ohio, this is a celebratory event. It is also a family affair,” Hester Oleger, chair organizer for the National Welding Month festivities, stated. “And here in Brunson, we have traditional values.”

Activities at the National Welding Month Celebration include the opportunity to try your hand at welding (it’s B.Y.O.W.G. – Bring Your Own Welding Gear), an aggressive game of musical chairs, as well as a contest original to Brunson: The Miss Weldie Beauty Pageant, where young Brunson gals strut around in flame proof skull caps with safety shields and fire resistant aprons, and are voted who is the most attractive. (The winner receives a pair of safety goggles.) While munching on refreshments of graham crackers and sipping apple juice, guests will enjoy music performed by a harmonica quartet called “Harmonicas in Harmony.” Lastly, a riveting sock puppet show educates party goers on the history of welding. (Socks catching on fire is not uncommon during the welding reenactment and has been rumored to be the main reason people attend the celebration in the first place.)

Traditionally, the turnout to Brunson’s National Welding Day extravaganza is minimal. While the gay population isn’t known for attending this celebration for welding, Oleger and others want to be on the offensive.

“We wanted to make a public statement that just like the St. Patty’s Day Parade – if you’re openly gay – don’t come. This is a day to celebrate welding, not draw attention to being gay. You can be quietly gay – just not loud about it,” said Oleger.

And what exactly is quietly gay?

“You know, just like, walk far away from each other … or don’t act like you love each other or anything. And God forbid! Don’t bring your children! We don’t want their children here having fun! Again, we’re about traditional family values.”

As expected, the National Welding Month celebration’s ban on openly gay couples has caused outrage.

“Everyone should be invited to everything,” said Jessica Bright, chief spokeswoman for Everyone Is Invited Union, an offshoot of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s outrageous that openly gay couples can not participate in Brunson’s celebration of welding. Completely unacceptable! They miss out on the Weldie Beauty Pageant! And sock puppet show! All because they’re gay?”

Bright is working toward a civil lawsuit – after she has finished organizing protests and picket lines outside of the Brunson’s American Legion Building, where the welding celebration will be held.

When gay couples were interviewed about the ban on their attending Brunson’s welding festivities, the response was unanimous.

“Like I would ever want go to that,” Mark Holdsburg said when interviewed, “a welding contest? Are they for real?”

“Welding? Can it get any more boring?” said his partner, Adam London, “please. Thank you for banning us!”

– Underground Writer Reporting

Young Shakespeare

After reading my post THE TRUTH ABOUT SHAKESPEARE, I received a request from a reader asking that I write about Shakespeare’s great grandson updating Shakespeare’s manuscripts for the sake of today’s teens.  

Chad Shakespeare hated his last name. It seemed he couldn’t make it through one single day without someone asking,

“Wait. Shakespeare. Are you related to the Shakespeare?”

“If you mean the Shakespeare, as in William Shakespeare, then yeah, I am.”

And the flurry of questions would ensue. Do you write? (No.) How are you related to him? (He was his great, great, great et cetera grandfather.) What’s it like being related to the greatest writer in the English language? (What’s it like being related to some dead relative you never met?)

Chad considered changing his last name. Chad Shake. Chad Speare. When he mentioned this idea to his mother, she clutched her throat as though she were choking. (At first Chad didn’t notice. He was in the middle of playing Grand Theft Auto and his mother had to bang on the coffee table to get his attention.) Changing his last name would kill her, she announced. Forget her high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes! Those were no threat compared to the notion of removing the beloved Shakespeare name from the family. That would put her in the grave quicker than any stroke.

Something had to be done. When Chad asked Kelly, a coworker at Moo Burger, out for a date, she wrinkled her nose and said,

“Umm, no thanks. I’d rather not go back to your mom’s house and play video games.”

Chad quickly realized he needed to use his last name to his advantage.

“How about going back to my place and you can read some of my Grandpa Shakespeare’s sonnets instead?” he asked.

Kelly paused, her hand suspended over the Moo Burger cash register. “Grandpa Shakespeare? You call him Grandpa?”

“I mean Grandfather. Would you like to read some of my Grandfather Shakespeare’s sonnets? We got all of them, since he was my grandfather. And all of his plays. Those too.”

Kelly studied him for a moment. “No thanks. I can read his sonnets anywhere. Plus, I’ve already read most of them.”

Chad’s shoulders slumped. He had been hopeful that Kelly would have agreed to the date after she helped him refill the ketchup containers earlier in their shift. He could have sworn she purposely brushed her wrist against his when they were stacking the paper Dixie cups into towers. But of course she had read the sonnets! Who hadn’t? That was the whole reason it was such a big deal being related to the old fart. Everyone loved what the guy wrote.

That night, Chad took one of the Shakespeare Sonnet volumes down from the bookshelf in his den. By looking at it, he would never have known he was related to the author. The pages felt brand new and were adhered to one another as though they had never been touched. In fact, the book still had the price tag stuck on the back (bought at a discount store, by the looks of it). Chad flipped through the pages and skimmed the words.

Whoa! What have we here? Faults by lies we flattered be? Forbear to glance thine eye aside? And thous shalt find it merits not reproving? What the hell was he reading?

Chad lowered the book. Chicks dig this stuff? Kelly had read all of these? Chad’s eyes flickered up to the portrait of Shakespeare hanging over the mantle. Suddenly Shakespeare’s eyes seemed taunting. Chad could almost hear his voice whisper,

“I can get the girls but you can’t” (though even Chad, in his confusion, knew Shakespeare would probably say, “I get the wenches whilst thou get nary!)

That did it. Chad stood and walked over to the desk. Pushing the household bills his mother had left in a muddled pile over with his elbow, Chad snatched a pen and flipped open the book of sonnets. He began to write. As his Bic pen touched the pages, images of Kelly punching the keys of the Moo Burger register danced in his mind. This was his inspiration. Every now and then Chad would pause and look up at his Great, Great, Great (et cetera) Grandfather Shakespeare and give him a triumphant grin.

Kelly was wiping down the Holstein cow patterned tables when Chad approached her the next day at Moo Burger. She straightened, cleansing cloth in one hand, cleanser in her other. Chad looked disheveled. His hair was greasy and he still wore his Moo Burger uniform from the previous day. He also smelled like Moo Burger from the previous day. Kelly took a light step backwards.

“Look,” Chad said.

He was holding a large book, and when he opened the pages Kelly could see text crossed out and words written in the margins.

“Since you read all of Shakespeare’s stuff , I thought I’d change it. Make it more modern.”

“Change it? Make it more modern? What do you mean?”

“His stuff, like, doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s all gibberish. With the ‘thous’ and ‘thines’. Who talks like that?”

Before Kelly could respond, Chad balanced the book on his knee and pointed to a sonnet with his finger.

“Like, listen to how much better this sounds now.” Chad cleared his throat. “Sonnet eighteen. You’re like a summer day. All nice and hot. It’s almost like you’re summer forever, which is pretty cool. Because then there’s no school. So, as long as dudes are alive, you’re hot. The end.”

He flipped the pages and started to read his next revised sonnet.

“Sonnet hundred sixteen. Two smart people shouldn’t get married. Things shake and there’s a star and a dog barks. Love changes ’cause the dude works a lot, and she’s got rosy cheeks and lips. And then there is doom – like this really bad ending. The end.”

“Or this one – I made this one a LOT better: sonnet one hundred twenty four. The kid didn’t have a father and looked like a weed instead of a flower. He also didn’t shower. But then he got into some bad stuff, like robbing banks.”

When Chad looked up at Kelly that perfect nose of hers was wrinkled again. She chewed on her bottom lip a moment before saying,

“That was interesting, Chad. But … um … I don’t think Shakespeare’s work needs any updating. That’s the beauty of it. So fare thee well in thy travels.”

“Huh? Travels? You going somewhere?”

And with that, Kelly turned and walked into the Moo Burger kitchen.

Special thanks to Stephanie Lewis for this creative request. Click HERE to read her wonderfully written confession on being an eavesdropper. 

The Cold, Hard Truth About Kindergarten

You can imagine my surprise and delight when Little Learners Preschool asked that I give the commencement speech at their graduation. (Granted, I wasn’t their first choice. Raffi was performing a concert elsewhere, and the clown from The Big Comfy Couch had a previous engagement.) I did not take this responsibility lightly. Having been a preschooler myself many years ago, I knew what awaited these children and I wanted to do everything I could to prepare them for the road ahead.

The graduation fell on an unseasonably cold, rainy day. Thankfully the ceremony was held indoors in a classroom that smelled of crayons and Play-Doh. After a lovely reception of apple juice and graham crackers, one of the teachers clapped her hands and asked that all students sit on the classroom rug.

“Criss cross applesauce!” she hollered. Eleven children scrambled to their spots and sat Indian-style. After Joey and Olivia stopped bickering over who got to sit where, I took my place on the child-sized chair a teacher had placed in front of the rug. With my knees hitting my chin, I cleared my throat. The audience was rapt. Aside for Theodore (who stuck his hand down the back of his pants), no one moved.

I began my speech Al Gore style:

“My fellow preschoolers. We are gathered here today to recognize a momentous occasion. These past ten months, you have faced many challenges and have gloriously overcome them. You share better. You now color in-between the lines. You deftly constructed Christmas ornaments out of pipe cleaners and Popsicle sticks. Some of you had pink-eye, strep throat or colds, yet you returned once you were symptom free for twenty-four hours.”

I paused to let Liliana – who was suddenly struck with an allergy attack -stop sneezing before I proceeded.

“You have learned the letters of the alphabet and how to tie shoelaces. You know the days of the week, and the seasons of the month. You should be commended for your efforts and accomplishments.”

There was noise. I looked up from my speech to find Matthew whispering to Peter, “What is she talking about?” Matthew looked over at me and I raised my eyebrows. He clamped his mouth shut and I continued.

“Yet, you have only just begun. Kindergarten, my little friends, is no joke. It is there you will be expected to learn how to read. You will even have tests. What are tests? They are a set of questions where you are supposed to know the answer. If you don’t know the answer you receive a bad grade, which is like a punishment.”

Now I had their attention. “Punishment?” Peter said, clearly worried. (“Shhhh!” Liliana shushed.)

“You will be expected to write your name – and not in all caps.”

I wasn’t exactly sure about that, but I still forged ahead.

“Do not be deluded. Kindergarten is the start of real life! Just as life isn’t fair – neither is the big K. The kid you sit next to may not invite you to their birthday party, but they invite everyone else. Your mom might pack you gross snacks like raisins while your friend has yummy snacks like popcorn or brownies – but your friend refuses to share these delectable snacks with you. You may lose your blue crayon, only to discover that the kid behind you stole it. Girls, you may have to sit next to a boy with cooties. Boys, you may have to sit next to a girl who never stops talking. Then she claims you never listen to her.”

Pausing briefly, I glanced at the graduates. They sat wide-eyed and open mouthed. (Except for Nina who was now sucking her thumb – her index finger curled protectively over her nose.)

“I have faith in your ability to handle these challenges! You know the names of colors and have braved an apple picking field trip. These are vital life skills that will help you walk into that kindergarten classroom. So go forth, my graduates, and seize the day! (Just, whatever you do, DON’T eat the spaghetti and meatballs in the cafeteria. School meatballs taste like cat food.)”

Silence. I looked at the teachers who were both frowning. Jacob began to cry. Olivia slowly raised her hand and asked if she could use the bathroom.

“Of course, Olivia. Go ahead,” The teacher turned to me, “Um…thank you Underground Writer. That was … interesting.”

I was presented with a honorary preschool graduation diploma that was framed in dried ziti noodles and fruit loops. The teachers thanked me for visiting and escorted me to the door. When I turned to ask if I could return and give the Little Learners Commencement Speech of 2014, I found they had locked the door behind me.