After 2 years of write ups I thought it might be interesting to introduce who we are. After a particularly negative comment about Margaret on the Blue Ridge Parkway post it really hit me that people are forming opinions of us that could be incorrect. The blog focuses on our riding activities but still leaves a blank when it comes to figuring out what kind of lifestyle we live outside of riding. When I was buying parts for my bike at our local dealership one of the parts counter guys said, "you're always in here buying stuff, what do you do for a living?" That question came from someone we know in person that we see at least weekly, so I figured anyone reading this blog might be wondering about us outside of the ride. So, here we are.....
Margaret and I have been married for 20 years but were together far before the "official" marriage took place. We have 3 kids. Our daughter recently graduated from college with a bachelors degree in marketing, our first son is a body builder and just finished his second year towards his physical education degree. Neither of them live at home and are fully independent. The youngest still lives with us and has finished his first year in college and for now has his sights directed at entering police academy after he acquires an associate degree.
Neither of us have careers as executives that make hundreds of thousands of dollars before ridiculously high bonuses are applied. Life just didn't play out that way for us and as a result we have had to work very hard to make ends meet and pay for what we have. It would be nice to have an abundance of cash flow that we could lavishly spend at will but we don't. We have struggled as blue collar middle class working Americans and fought through the mental and financial burdens during hard times. We know what its like to live from paycheck to paycheck and not have the income to pay bills at times. Through the grace of God, we persevered, paid things off and got out of debt. We slowly improved our skills in our trades and worked our way for many years into a better financial situation.
I went to college and studied Information Technology, passed the CCNA certification through Cisco and passed an MCP certification through Microsoft. For 15 years I installed fiber optic and network cable systems for companies and newly constructed buildings. Most of that work was done on construction sites and because of that I learned a great deal about project management, construction trades, and process. I became a project manager for a company for a few years in the design and installation of communication networks before ending up where I am now. Currently I am a construction project manager/ communication tech/ maintenance tech working for CBRE in a contract position for a division of a Fortune 500 company. I serve as the general contractor and project manager for all construction projects onsite. I am also responsible for all communications in regards to our Cisco switch and router network, VOIP, cabled infrastructure, and building maintenance such as plumbing, lighting, electrical, painting, HVAC, and most facilities oriented tasks. Like most people, I work long hard hours and most of it is physical labor related. It can be exhausting and I look forward to weekends to unwind by doing something riding related.
Margaret has a degree in the medical industry and worked for many years in sleep research. Eventually she turned her hobby of sewing into a business and now runs that full time. She has multiple online outlets for selling her items and teaches sewing classes outside of the home. An entire room of our house is dedicated to her work and it's loaded with embroidery machines, sergers, and sewing machines for a variety of sewing related needs. Most weeks her work load from online orders and fulfillment of stock for some companies she works with keeps her working all day and all week to complete so we can have time to ride our bikes. Often she is putting the final stitches on items just minutes before we head out on a ride. She also has a pattern line of little girls clothes that she designed which a company purchased this summer and is marketing for her for which she receives royalties from the sales.
We live very conservative, not frivolously spending money on our every whim and desire. We simply don't have the income to do so. If we want something, we save and pay cash for it not wanting to put ourselves into debt. We are both hard working and have had our up's and down's with employment as have many Americans. Through the hard times and good times we were careful financially and weighed our spending decisions carefully. We often wanted to try and fulfill the American Dream and move to a nicer house on a bit of land in a nice area, purchase nice new vehicles, and fill that home with eye candy. That was until we put the numbers to paper, calculated the interest, and was able to see the deep amount of debt it would have landed us in and how long it would take to crawl out of that debt, if ever. Life has a way of hitting people hard at just the wrong time, we understood that, and didn't want to get so deep into debt that if something happened it could ruin us for the rest of our lives. So we stayed in our older home that was built in 1963, paid it off years ago, and have slowly made home improvements on it especially in the areas of the things you don't see but take for granted, basically the engineering of the home. The plumbing is new, the electrical has nearly been completely replaced including the breaker panel, we had central heat and air installed, new roof, attic insulation, etc. Because of my profession in trades I was able to do most of it myself.
Both of our vehicles are paid off and we have no plans of trading them in for a "New" vehicle just to begin assuming payments again. Our philosophy regarding vehicles is pay them off, save the payment you would have made to make repairs as you need to. My Explorer is now 16 years old with 195K miles and it still runs great. Margaret's Explorer is 9 years old with 100K miles. I do all of the maintenance on both vehicles and most of the repairs unless its electrical. Could we get new vehicles? Yes, but it would again mean debt which we don't want. We have one credit card which has a zero balance that we carry for emergencies. Everything thing inside our home is paid for. We believe debt is enslavement. Your not free when someone else, a loan company, credit card company, or a banking institution owns the things in your life. I have heard many people talk about the things they have and "own" yet they are making payments on those things. How many people have you heard say they "own" their home but are still making payments on it? If your making payments on them, then you don't own them, someone else does until its paid off. Try not making anymore payments on those items and see how long you keep them. It's an older home but we own it and are not enslaved to a bank that can put us on the street by foreclosing on us if we miss a payment.
The only debt we have is our bikes which we are working hard to pay off early. Financing them was the only way we could both have the bikes we wanted. We could have purchased used metrics at a third of the price, but for this one desire, we went ahead and got the bikes we wanted. We figured since they were the only debt we had, if something bad happened financially we could always give them up and we would still have our vehicles.
We are conscience of our diet as to what we put into our bodies. We want to live as long as possible and we believe what we consume is a major factor in life longevity and prevention of continuous medical issues. We are somewhere between almost being vegetarians and vegans, eating meat only 1 meal a week and not having any dairy products or eggs. This post Healthy Living for Healthy Riding goes into much greater detail on this subject.
During the time the kids were still at home our focus was on making a living and raising them. Now that only one of them is still at home and he is pretty much independent we have more time to do things together. It can be difficult for some couples to adjust to the change in life outside of children. Once the focus of raising them is gone many couples seem to have a hard time with their relationship because of different interests. We were fortunate because we already had many common interests and eventually Margaret developed a desire to ride which has given us another activity that we can enjoy together.
This post was completely unrelated to riding and is out of the norm but it will give you some insight as to who we are and how we live. It just seemed the appropriate time to put it out there. I also hope it will be an encouragement to others that might be having a hard time as we have had and know they're not alone. This is who we are, just average people trying to make it and do the best we can through life.