My Brush with a Possible Serial Killer

This happened in 1982. I know this because it was our first vacation with my new dog, and she was still a puppy in the summer of 1981. I was 11. We were heading for a week long stay at a rustic cabin in Tennessee somewhere. Along I81 in the eastern part of Tennessee somewhat near Knoxville, we pulled into a rest stop. While everyone else went into the bathrooms, I took my dog not too far from the car but in the grass. I was attempting to give her water by squirting it from a baby bottle into the bowl of a spoon.

A man approached and knelt down. Instantly every cell in my body went tense and my dog growled at him, backing up away from him a bit as he stretched out his hand as if to pet her. I knew: this was not a nice man. He tried to be friendly. Tried to smile, act disarming. Told me: “What a cute doggie. I have a puppy in my van. Want to come see it? She’s real cute.”

Yes, he actually said that. I remembering thinking “he must think I’m really stupid.” He motioned across the way toward a van. I want to say it was white, but memory can be a funny thing. I definitely remember him pointing it out, looking at where he pointed to see it, then focusing back on him and before shaking my head no. I did not want to talk to him. I wanted him to go away.

Sweeter smile and a cant of the head. “She’s reeeeeeal cute. You’d like her. Come see.”

It was that this point that my Mom arrived. Remember, 1981. A very different world. Kidnappers and serial killers weren’t everywhere yet. A few weeks ago I asked her if she remembered this incident. She immediately recalled it and right off said “your dog really did not like that man.” He tried to pet the dog again while she was there and Mom warned him he would likely get bitten if he tried to push it.

You, of course, don’t know this dog. She was super friendly and outgoing, a bold terrier mix. This was the only person in the entire length of her life that she did not like on sight.

I don’t remember my Mom talking to the man, or what was said. Mom said he was working his way to excuse himself, but that he was cordial enough. She thought him odd, but was more alarmed by the dog’s dislike than any sense of her own dislike. I do remember that his entire demeanor changed the moment he caught sight of my Dad heading toward us. He immediately excused himself before Dad got there. Mom confirmed that part of my memory.

With the odd man gone, we put the incident out of our mind and went on with our vacation.

It pops back into my mind from time to time. I realized in my 20s that this man had a very practiced approach: he looked for a young girl, alone in a potentially chaotic situation like a busy rest stop; had a quick exit strategy onto the interstate where he could vanish pretty fast; and a line which today would be super cheesy and immediately raise warnings, but back then was just a friendly conversational question. In talking with Mom, she agreed. He was very confident, practiced, and  women (Mom) didn’t threaten him enough to scare him away from his potential prey (me) but men (my Dad) sent him scurrying immediately.

I told Mom that my suspicion is that this was a serial killer in some form. It never crossed our minds in the least to report this scenario to the local cops. I mean, really, why would we? But we saw him. Saw his vehicle – not that I could describe either now with any degree of certainty. I know without any doubt whatsoever he wanted to do vile things which even my vivid imagination refuses to consider.  I often wonder how many little girls did he succeed in stealing? What happened to them? Since he was practiced and smooth in his approach, how many before me did he lure willingly to his waiting van? And worse, how many after?

My Mom was horrified by this idea. She had never thought about it like that. I’ve done some looking and found no known activity in this area at that time, but most serial killers of this type have a range and maybe the pattern was too spread out – there are 6 states accessible right there (TN, VA, NC, GA, KY & WV). Perhaps he was never caught, never stopped. Or perhaps he was and my search just didn’t turn him up. My Google-foo isn’t the greatest.

Emotions, Money

Is it better to take a loan or pay from savings?

There are many within the FI (financial independence) community who abhor debt in any form. “There’s no such thing as ‘good’ debt” is the mantra.

Is that really true? My husband is absolutely in that camp, but I think there is most definitely ‘good’ debt IF a few conditions are met. For me, here are the conditions:

  • 0% loan — these are everywhere, just automate the payments and NEVER miss one. EVER.
  • Already have the money — if something happens, I already have the money to pay this off if necessary. I’m choosing not to pay off the debt to take advantage of using the lender’s money rather than my own.

But, again, is it true that there’s no such thing as good debt? Am I better off financially by paying a 0% loan upfront or by keeping savings where it is and then pay the loan out of the future savings payments?

Here’s the test. In 2010, I bought a new car for $0 down and 0% for 5 years as part of Toyota’s desperate “our cars are safe!” campaign. Let’s say the car, with all taxes yada yada, came to a nice even $25,000.  Quandary: take that loan, or liquidate savings to purchase it free and clear?


  1. Starting with $50,000 in an index fund as long-term savings (nice round figure)
  2. Earning a lower-than-average 6% stock market return per year – just to play it safe
  3. I’ll pay the annual $5,000 payment to investments to repay myself the purchase cost
  4. Calculated using a very simple, straight forward calculation to figure totals


MY Solution: Are you CRAZY? Take the freaking loan!!


Notice the Total remains high at the event of purchase – because I took the loan – and it increases every year by the average % gain. I’m not making additional payments though because that’s going to the finance company via automated transactions to guarantee it’s never late or missed. What a pretty ending balance at time of payoff!

Husband’s solution: I loathe debt. Pay for it now. NOW!


Notice the Total dropped at the time of Purchase to cover the entire cost of the car, with annual payments making back up the original sell-down total. While that ending balance is still pretty, it could definitely be prettier – $5.5k prettier in fact. Of course, this does not include the possible tax hit that selling $25k long-term stock may have garnered.

Compounding being the engine that it is, unless I’m paying myself MORE in the second scenario over the long term than in the first, I’ll never make up that difference. Indeed, the gap will continue to grow and the peace-of-mind that hubby got from paying for the car up front is actually costing me peace-of-mind knowing exactly how much that decision cost us.


Ultimately, it is a combination of numbers and emotions. Is the emotional value of knowing you have zero outstanding debt higher than the emotional value of knowing savings will grow faster? Or vice versa? It’s YOUR decision, but weigh the long-term pros/cons on the WHOLE  amount (not just the payment, that tells you nothing) as well as the emotional costs of your decision.

When a couple has different weights of measure on this score, I’d recommend picking the battles and compromising as much as possible. Be creative! In this case, we split the difference. I took the loan and paid on it for 2.5 years before selling stock to pay it off. He had to deal with the emotional weight of debt for 2.5 years and I had to deal with the emotional weight of loss to principal (though considerably less than the full price!). Neither was 100% happy, but neither felt resentful for the decisions either.

Emotions, Money

Retail Therapy Musing

After doing my post on comfort eating, I started thinking about those folks who shop to make themselves feel better. You know – “Retail Therapy”. Given the insight I had on comfort eating, I wondered why buying things might make people feel better. A few options sprang to mind.

One is for people who have “gifts” as a love language. I give and keep sentimental gifts, but gifting in general doesn’t really make me feel loved or valued per se but I know plenty of people for which gifts is absolutely a statement of love. So maybe giving yourself a gift is the motivator? Gifting things to yourself to feel loved? It’s possible.

Another reason I could come up with was as a means of filling a hole. I think my mom is in this category. An addict of the Home Shopping Network and QVC, she buys EVERYTHING, and she needs none of it. She constantly complains about the clutter, and yet almost compulsively buys more clutter. My hypothesis is that she’s attempting to fill an emotional hole without actually having to confront that hole. Thus, it’s a means of distraction.

The final reason I came up with was as a means of feeling capable – a permission or recognition that I can have the things I want. I don’t really like shopping, but there is one activity I do like — internet or catalog browsing. I am on just about every junk mail list you can imagine, and there some truly entertaining catalogs out there! When I’m in the mood to indulge my inner child, to choose a site or a catalog which catches my fancy. I then pick sizes, colors, styles, whatever and fill up my cart or the order form. In the case of the order form, I even fill it all out and put it into the envelope before tossing it into the shredder. For an online cart, I close without saving. The point is not to spend money, but rather to have the satisfaction that I could get everyone on that list if I really wanted to. It’s like a head-fake, where I shop and thus feel full but then don’t actually follow through because the purpose isn’t actually about buying junk to fill up my house. All the satisfaction for me, none of the regret.

Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Thinkin’ Big Thoughts

Listening to someone speak quite passionately about how certain people are a waste of time, and one of the reasons cited was “intellectual bankruptcy.” Got me to thinking: What makes someone a “big thinker”, one of the cognitive elite? What makes someone a “petty thinker”, one of intellectually bankrupt?

Is it someone who cogitates upon Deep Thoughts, searching for the meaning of life, the universe and everything? (42, btw) Is it topic specific? Like philosophers or physicists are automatically Big Thinkers, while fashion gurus and hair dressers  are automatically Petty Thinkers?

In my experience, it’s not about the topic of thoughts per se but rather the purpose of the thinker. Is the intention of the philosopher to destroy those around him/her in an effort to feel big/important/smart? Then said philosopher is a Petty Thinker. Does the fashion guru empower those around them to find their confidence  through owning their personal style and thus express their best selves? This then is a Grand Thinker. Is it the spiritualist exploring ideas that will help free people from their personal demons and become more balanced individuals? Another Grand Thinker. Is it the makeup artist who uses their craft to belittle and demean with a smile on their face? And here, another Petty Thinker.

If you take the examples I cited, my view boils down to whether or not the thoughts pondered will Empower and Disempower those who are exposed to them. Hurting, scared people metaphorically seek to stand on the corpses of those around them in an effort to feel bigger, stronger, more in control, less scared, important. In other words, they actively work to disempower others and their thoughts are weapons. Empowering is just the opposite – working to make those around them bigger, stronger, more capable, more confident. It takes a strong person to give others a hand up, to genuinely enjoy watching a fellow human stand on their own. To me, petty thinkers seek to make others smaller (hence ‘petty’) and grand thinkers seek to make others bigger (hence ‘grand’).

When you find yourself expounding on your ideas of how the world works and why, do those words empower or disempower those who may be listening?

Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

I was at a Masonic conference when I heard one of the attendees tell this to someone. Of course, it was both funny and unexpected, so I burst out laughing with delight. What a wonderful saying! I therefore immediately stole it and now use it all the time.

See, I have learned that when my BRAIN thinks it wants something but the HEART is like “naaaah” that’s when SHOULD comes into the picture. It can be reverse too!

I SHOULD eat more veggies … but I don’t want to.
I SHOULD exercise more … but I’m not going to.
I SHOULD do this thing … meh.
I SHOULD not eat that cake … but I WANT IT!! GIVE ME THE DAMN CAKE!

Again, and again, I will espouse that we humans pay attention to both our brains and our emotions. Emotion without brain is a run-away car weaving all over the road and making a damn mess, if not being outright dangerous. Brain without emotion is either a dead car or a car inching along at best. So now when I find the word SHOULD popping up in my thoughts, I’ve trained myself to stop and consider the contradiction that this word inherently brings with it.

What attitude or ideal is my brain attempting to adopt? More importantly, WHY is it attempting to adopt this? Why is the brain saying “but … I should be more or less like this….” So far, I have found that it’s because of outside influences. Ex: I SHOULD wear makeup because some lady made a random comment that I found hurtful and want to ameliorate that hurt by conforming to external ideals. So again, ask 2 questions every time SHOULD comes into your thinking process:

(1) What attitude or ideal is my brain attempting to adopt?
(2) Why am I attempting to adopt this?

Ok. So that’s the head which has now been listened to. Now the heart gets its say. So I ask myself “why don’t I want to do this thing?” Then, again, listen to the answer. Ex: Because that exterior condition doesn’t align with my internal compass, and I refuse to betray my personal value system.

*blink*blink* Well. Ok then. See, listen to the heart and it gets to be this blunt with you. Aaah, good times. *snerk* So again, the next question to ask is:

(3) Why am I actually not interested in adopting this?

The final question is the “money shot” question. It takes strength to the get to the place where these shoulds do indeed get resolved, and it happens one should at a time.

(4) Now that I know my mind and heart, how am I going to release this should so that it stops coming back?

Once you’ve made emotions your allies by actively listening to and working with them, this “Shoulding all over yourself” will start to decrease dramatically. I’ve also found that once I started to align my brain with the interior values, that I became less interested in the shoulds overall. Almost as if I am becoming less confused about who I am and what I am about, what I am and am not willing to compromise on. On the other hand, there are plenty of times I’ve had the “should” conversation and realized, yeah, I really do need to adopt that change for my overall well-being. That’s when the conversation shifts to reframing the “should” into something the internal value system can embrace and run with.

I’m currently working with a friend who is chronically shoulding everywhere. OMG. Every. WHERE. Last time she did it, I stopped her and said “You know what my response will be to that statement?” *thinks* “I’m shoulding on myself again, aren’t I?” “Yes, dear, you are.” So yes. Use your WORDS. They will tell us all kinds of gloriously rich things if we just but pay attention.

Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Listen to the Words

I have a friend who is facing some serious personal relationship crises. She’s a great friend and an awesome person, but she does indeed have issues. Then again, who doesn’t?? By the time you get to adulthood, if you haven’t been kicked around a bit and thus have some baggage, you haven’t really been living. But I digress.

She had a recent breakup, which was the first relationship she had after getting divorced from an abusive asshole. This new guy was not abusive, but she was lamenting the situation and she made a statement that had me asking her “why do you say that?”

Essentially, by listening to the words that she was using to describe things, I was able to ask very specific questions that helped drill past all the “I’m such a mess” junk and start really digging into the core of the lifelong pattern that we ultimately discovered in the bedrock of every single relationship with men she ever had.

When that hidden core belief was finally given a voice, she was stunned. She kept saying “this is huge”, still trying to process it. In our case, this could be done because she trusts me enough to be honest not only with me but with herself when she’s with me. Trust is what allowed her reveal this truth to herself, so that she could see it and now, finally, she stands a chance of not repeating the same painful pattern yet again. I helped her find her Story Through The Mirror.

In the end, she said she needed someone else to point out the obvious to her. I said, no, that’s not true – but being able to do it for yourself is a long road of practice, work and reflection and it suuuuuucks but it’s worth it. I then shared my Hall of Mirrors self-training with her, in which step one is about taking back all of the projections. I could help her in this way because I’ve worked with myself enough to recognize that her crap is not my crap, and vice versa. I could actually say “that’s an interesting word you used here. Why did you choose that word? Let’s explore” and not be emotionally personally impacted by her situation.

So I’m going to add, not a new step, but a new tool to the Hall of Mirrors toolbox:

Listen to the Words being Used

If I’m trying to figure out why I went crazy in this situation, I talk to myself but writing it down works just fine too. From there, I pay attention to the words and any emotionally charged word or the pivotal word in the concept is the one I need to look at. In the case above, the word was “important”. It proved to be the pivotal word on which everything else hinged. “Important” took us down the rabbit hole.

What word or words take you down your personal rabbit hole? And if you don’t yet have the emotional strength to do this, that’s ok. Even recognizing that much is big! As I told my friend, emotions are our allies and they are always trying to protect us. That’s their JOB. If I don’t think they are doing that, then I need to start paying attention. Perhaps the guidance system that the emotions are using isn’t the one I consciously want them to use. But until I have the courage to ask these questions, I’ll always be unknowingly vulnerable – and we Westerners are TERRIFIED of being vulnerable. 😉


About the Featured Image: This image just cracked me up when I saw it on this post. My friend was texting me and I said something that made her bark out a laugh … in the audience of a school play. After she told me, I replied “the best place to laugh is inappropriately.” Turned out, it was a play set in a funeral parlor. How … appropo.

Emotions, Personal Growth

Pondering Comfort Eating

I never understood the concept of comfort eating — even when I was doing it. I never understood it because I don’t particularly like food that much … so why does eating bring me comfort? Why use eating as a means to distract me from loneliness or heartache? Other than the search for food, but hunting down ice cream is hardly that challenging.

Then I heard Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin on Hilary Hendershott’s Profit Boss podcast talking about it. She described it thusly (paraphrasing): our first experiences in life as a baby are of being held as we were fed. On a primal, visceral level, eating brings with it this initial sense of connection to those who cared for us. Eating brings back, even temporarily, that feeling of being connected to others, of being loved, of feeling cared for, of being important.

Well shiiiii. Now I understand it! Absolutely. Plus, I can now see exactly why I was doing it myself. Holy moly! Interestingly, the very next day I’m standing in 7-11 with my Big Gulp refill mug, looking at the Dr. Pepper button and think “Ew, I don’t want that today.” This is my go-to drink for the morning jolt of caffeine and sugar. Even just the day before, this same trip was almost like an addict taking their first drag of the day. Now I’m suddenly emotionally like “nah, don’t want it”. *boggles* Did just being aware of why I am reaching for this comfort drink make that big a difference?? Well, heck, next time I’m thinking about stopping by DQ for a cone, I’m gonna call a friend instead. My wallet and my waist will thank me!


About the Featured Image: swiped from a Cooking on the Weekends blog post. Looks nummy, doesn’t it?