Tuesday, October 14, 2008

St. Callistus I

St. Callistus is today's saint of the day. He was a pope in the very early Catholic Church and the second martyr after St. Peter. According to americancatholic.org (http://americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp), he was a very forgiving man, while still upholding the moral truths which are so important to the faith. He was criticized by Hippolytus (the first anti-pope) for being too lenient. Here is a list, from americancatholic.org of the things he forgave.

(1) Callistus admitted to Communion those who had already done public penance for murder, adultery, fornication; (2) he held marriages between free women and slaves to be valid—contrary to Roman law; (3) he authorized the ordination of men who had been married two or three times; (4) he held that mortal sin was not a sufficient reason to depose a bishop; (5) he held to a policy of leniency toward those who had temporarily apostatized during persecution.

It is interesting to me the old forms of penance, and reconciliation with the church. I feel so blessed that they have lightened the penances, and increased the ease of reconciliation with the church. I don't always think 10 hail mary's is enough, but I think public penance is over the top. Way over the top.

Note to myself for today: be lenient with others faults, and stick to my guns about morality in my own life. I'll try to take the log out of my eye before I tell someone about the speck in another's.

The Pro-Life Issue

So, I had a major disagreement with a family member today about the sanctity of human life. This person contends that it is a tough decision and that my opinion should have no weight legally, as it is not my decision. I used to agree. I used to think things like the government should not make legislation on my body or that of anyone else. I always thought, "well, I'd never have an abortion myself, I think it is not the right thing to do, but who am I to tell another what to do with her own body and baby."

I now think I was wrong. Because it is not about the mother. When mothers have mental problems or other health problems and they don't want to be pregnant because of it, I am sorry, but I don't care. That is terribly harsh sounding, perhaps, but I really believe that she gave up her right to be sovereign over her body (temporarily) when she decided to make that baby. People don't get pregnant by accident, it is what happens when human sexuality and fertility work properly. It might be a surprise, they were hoping to get by without consequences, but it is not an accident. The baby must come first. As I am now 34 weeks pregnant with an unintended consequence of irresponsible actions(which my husband and I are thrilled about...now), I have given up sovereignty over my own body. Not because I like playing second fiddle within my own skin, but because my son deserves it. He has a right to life, and the best life I can give him right now. If I were murdered today, it could be tried as a double homicide, and rightly so. He is alive, he's certainly human and just as anyone outside the womb has a right to be alive, so does he.

The only medical reason I've ever heard of to terminate a pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy where the fetus is growing outside the uterus, either in a fallopian tube or attached elsewhere). The Catholic Church says that to take the drug to kill the fetus, even though the mother's life could be destroyed is still immoral, but to remove the damaged fallopian tube with the unintended consequence of a termination of the fetus is moral. I think this is splitting hairs. If the mother's life is truly in grave danger, but the fallopian tube can be repaired, I think it is silly to remove the fallopian tube. Maybe I'm missing something, so I guess I'll defer to the church's teaching, since I just quickly looked up this nuanced moral issue and haven't looked it up in the Catechism or asked a priest about it yet.

Some people argue that children who will be born with birth defects and genetic issues should or understandably can be terminated. These are not good arguments. I tend to think special needs kids bring so much more to the table than is realized at first glance. For example, I suspect that everyone has seen the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GziL6UiGvY) about Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick is Dick's son and was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Due to the lack of oxygen for an extended period of time, he was born unable to ever walk or talk, or move much for that matter. However, Dick started exercising at his doctor's insistence when Rick was young. Dick and Rick have been doing triathlons together for quite some time now. This has cemented their bond, enriched both of their lives, and probably saved Dick from many health problems. I believe Rick has a degree and a job and is to the best of his ability a productive member of society. (note: I am reciting this story from memory, it makes me cry to watch the video, so if some of the details are wrong, forgive me)

Also, I used to be a nanny for a family of five kids. The eldest has Williams Syndrome, a medical condition which is not dissimilar to Downs Syndrome. This young woman (20 years old at the time) was the sweetest, kindest and funniest member of the family. She brought out the best in all of her family members and taught me so much. This family is naturally one of the most self-centered, narcissistic group, but the oldest did a great job of bringing them down to reality on a regular basis, and taught them (almost constantly) to be kinder and gentler to those who could easily be preyed upon.

Finally, there are so many families who would love to adopt a baby. Why not be unselfish for 9 months, and then give your baby to someone who can and will love it? I personally think everyone should adopt. I would love to. My husband wants 7+ kids, maybe this would be a way to get me to go for more than 4. There is nothing more unselfish than raising someone else's child and loving them as your own.

The issue of life is so central and so important that it cannot be overlooked or dismissed as distracting from "real issues." If the weakest and least able to defend themselves are marginalized and removed due to inconvenience, what does that say about our society? It certainly does not show that we are compassionate, or that we care about human rights. It shows that narcissism rules and personal responsibility does not matter. It also shows that that which is inconvenient isn't worth it. I think that America is better than that, and I think our morals are, too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama Vs. McCain Moral Issues

It is obvious from my last post that I am in the tank, so to speak, for McCain. However, I would like to take the time to explain why, morally, I will vote for Senator McCain.

Let's start with Mr. Obama's policies with which I struggle. First and foremost, he is pro-abortion. I subscribe to the philosophy that if you're not against it, you're for it. He says on his website that he is pro-choice and has voted for a bill that allows babies of botched abortions who survive the procedure to die, rather than to intervene medically. I just cannot get behind that.

Second, I fully admit, previous to marrying a military man, I never cared one way or the other about the military. I guess I had no reason to care. Now, I do. After learning more about the military, what it does, and more about the two major military operations (Iraq and Afghanistan), I am convinced that leaving on any specified timeline from Iraq and/or decreasing military programs as Senator Obama would like to do is a terrible idea. Obama would like to decrease missile defense, "An Obama-Biden administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public." (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/defense) I see this as a thinly veiled disguise to get rid of the missile defense program, carefully and vaguely worded so that Mr. Obama can do whatever he likes and justify it.

Thirdly, equality as a major value, drives me crazy. We do not have a class system any longer, and we never had the terrible class abuse that the French endured (they value equality, fraternity and liberty as a result), so I cannot justify such an obsession. Nor, by the way, do I think it did anyone any good in France to value that, much past the early 1800s, after the three estates were abolished. I digress, the point is, everyone in America has the capability to either be great or not. There are so many success stories of people who have overcome their pasts to become great in this great country. I do not buy into whining about being a woman and making less than a man, or someone of a certain ethnicity not being able to make it like a white person would. Everyone has obsticles, get over it. To insist that the government intervene on some minority's behalf is absurd and frankly, makes that person or group of persons seem weak. I don't want any crutch or leg up. I can do it myself, thank you.

Fourth, and I almost hate to bring this up, but I think it is too valuable to ignore. Senator Obama has some rather unsavory relations. He cannot claim ignorance to Jeremiah Wright, a hate inducing pastor, Tony Rezko, a convicted felon, and William Hiers, an ex-terrorist whose only regret is that he didn't do more to stop the Vietnam War. Okay, so he went to a church for 20 years where he had no idea what the pastor believes? He had an acquaintence who started his political campaign in his living room (Hiers), but had no qualms about the guy's past actions or his idea that he didn't do enough? And, then Tony Rezko, what is his excuse for his relationship with him? I have no idea. Frankly, I could dismiss one of those acquaintences easily, but three terribly unsavory characters? I have a hard time looking past that. If one can be judged fairly by those whom he knows, then why can't Barack Obama be judged for these relationships? I frankly would not be caught dead in a room with these three people, or anyone else with terrible reputations, for that matter. One's reputation matters, especially when running for a public office.

Just an aside: someone called into the radio the other day and brought up the point that Obama could never get a job with the CIA or FBI due to his Hiers relationship alone. Hmmm...

On to John McCain, who is not perfect, he cheated on his first wife and had some Karl Keating problem (for which he was exonerated) in the early 90s. He graduated nearly at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. However, he's also been married to Cindy McCain for 28 years, and has adopted 3 kids, if I understand correctly (his first wife's 2 kids and a little girl from Bangladesh).

John McCain is pro-life, anti-stem cell research (from embroyos) and pro-adoption. Since I have heard many physicians say that there is never a MEDICAL reason to abort a baby, I have no qualms with women going to term with their pregnancy and then giving their babies up for adoption. A baby has its own unique genetic code, from the time of conception, and starts to look like a baby (alien baby maybe) very quickly. There is no justification for killing someone who cannot even defend him or herself. If a woman is pregnant with a baby who is wanted, and is murdered, the murderer can be tried for a double homocide. Double standard?

John McCain also has over 20 years of military experience and was a prisoner of war for six years at the Hanoi Hilton. With this experience, he understands tactics, strategies, and the importance of winning. I do not necessarily think it is crucial for someone to have military experience to be president, but I do think it is a darn good idea, especially in this wild world we live in. He knows about sacrifice, and honor and is just the person I would want to be leading my husband. I also have more faith that he will take care of the servicemen and their families better than Obama, that might just be opinion, but as a member of the elite, I doubt that Senator Obama understands the needs, stresses and concerns of those involved in the military.

Lastly, Senator McCain believes in retaining the traditional view of marriage. I know a few gay people, and my heart goes out to them, but I am Catholic, and agree with the judgement that marriage is between one man and one woman. I do not believe that people should not be allowed to make their own choices, but I can't get behind it. Also, never in any major religion (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hinduism) has ever defined marriage as anything other one man and one woman. Lame justification, maybe, but sometimes I will defer my judgement to the Church and the past.

Those are my reasons for supporting McCain morally. Agree or disagree, McCain agrees with the majority of my beliefs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Debates and the Financial Future

I listen to talk radio for probably 5 hours a day. I mostly listen to Dennis Prager, who I think is the most fair and polite radio host out there. The point is, I feel pretty abreast of the issues concerning this election. Thus, from my perspective, John McCain did a great job last night showing the flaws in Obama's policies. However, I am not convinced that those without a firm grasp would be convinced by his arguments. Thus, I am going to attempt to give you my take of the financial future in a McCain vs. Obama presidency.

Let's start with Obama's tax policies as I understand them. First, Obama says he wants to cut 95
% of American's taxes. I can't remember the exact figure, but the lowest 50% (I think) of earners in the US do not pay taxes. So, Obama will take from the "rich" and give checks to the poor. I am personally no fan of a real life Robin Hood. I am not jealous of the top 2% (who, by the way, pay 67% of the taxes). I would rather be one of the top 2%, not take their money.

Obama also wants to impose tax hikes on anyone who makes more than $250k/year. This again is to help his Robin Hood cause. Also, though, many of the jobs that are created are created just a few at a time, and if you're significantly increasing the taxes of those who make more than $250k/year, they won't be able to hire anyone.

Now onto Senator Obama's economic policies: first let me state that he is the top annual beneficiary of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Chris Dobbs over his lifetime has earned more, but yearly, Barack is raking in more from these terrible institutions. To paraphrase Dennis Prager, when you make compassion the source for policies and not standards, the overall effect is less compassion on the whole. This is a case in point. Lowering the standards and being compassionate, like the Democrats wanted, got us into this mess. You cannot give huge mortgages to people who neither have the credit history or the income to support them. You must keep your standards intact or everyone will suffer.

Second, Senator Obama wants $860 billion in new spending. We already owe $500 billion or so to the Chinese, do we really want to spend another $860 which we do not have? Senator Obama says that he wants to cut spending more than add to spending, so the overall would be a spending cut, but with all of his expensive programs, that is simply unsustainable. His idea for getting new jobs is road and bridge projects. Government jobs do not invigorate the economy. Private sector jobs do. He also says that college affordability is a high priority. Not only are colleges too expensive, ineffective and liberal, but unnecessary. The idea that the only way to get ahead is to have a degree is ludicrous. Bill Gates dropped out of college...there aren't too many people doing better than he.

Onto Senator McCain: overall, his idea is that you cannot raise taxes and spend more money during a recession. His ideas for economic solvency have to do with lightening the tax burden to increase productivity and boost job creation.

McCain would like to keep the income tax rates as they are. However, he would like to cut the business tax. We pay the second highest business tax in the world. There is no wonder that jobs are being sent overseas. Who wants to pay such a high tax to run a business? And to paraphrase John McCain, Ireland pays 11% in business tax and thus their economy is now booming. Seems like a good idea to me.

As far as personal taxes go, he would like to give a$5k tax credit for health insurance. The details of this elude me, so I will let John McCain's website describe it, "While still having the option of employer-based coverage, every family will receive a direct refundable tax credit - effectively cash - of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance. Families will be able to choose the insurance provider that suits them best and the money would be sent directly to the insurance provider."

And, John McCain would also like to double the tax credit for children from $3500 to $7000 for each child. With our first on the way, that sounds like a good idea to me.

Now, onto the economy. Senator McCain would like to keep our $700 billion per year which we send to hostile countries for oil. He wants to build nuclear plant facilities, drill for oil and come up with anything else to keep our energy money at home.

As far as the current economic crisis, he wants to use the bailout money to buy and re-negotiate bad home loans so that people can stay in their houses. He wants to keep the current $300 billion tax cuts, plus $200 billion going to corporations and about $4 billion of that to go to oil companies (which, despite their large profits, earn a pretty small rate of return, per dollar spent).

My favorite part is, however, that he wants a spending freeze, and he wants to eliminate programs that are wasteful. Our government is too big and too bureaucratic, this couldn't come too soon.

Obviously, I am partisan, but I really think that Senator Obama will ruin our economic situation and that the tax-allergic McCain can only help.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Not to do to Fix Your Finances

My father's favorite line is, "you may as well learn from others' mistakes, you'll never live long enough to make them all yourself." Here is one set of lessons I have learned from him.

My dad is an intelligent man, very intelligent. This post is not to make you think he is an idiot, he is just happens to be terrible with money. Here are five examples of what he does wrong, and five solutions to these conondrums.

What not to do:

1. Problem: Have no emergency fund, and instead throw every spare dime into your retirement. Now, my dad started saving for retirement at about 45 years old, so he is understandably trying to make up for lost time. However, the issue is that if something goes wrong, which in his life it very often does, he has no back up plan. He is great at earning money, but because he either spends it or puts it in his untouchable retirement accounts, he never has money for any type of dilemma or emergency.

Solution: Suspend for three months the donating of funds to the retirement account. Even late in the game at 51 and saving like mad for retirement, he needs funds to fall back on. He should be putting 10% of his income into a savings account (preferably something that pays decent interest such as INGDirect), until he has at least 3 months worth of cash to live off, should he do something silly like #2.

2. Problem: Work for an unreliable employer. My dad, if he is not working for himself, is constantly working for a company which either does not pay him, or does not pay him on time. Often my dad has to pay for all of his business expenses, and then constantly pressure his employer to reimburse him.

Solution: Find a suitable employer. One who is honest, has a good reputation and who values his emplyees. It may take more work, but in the end, it is a lot less headache and is better for financial solvency. Research who you are looking to work for. If they are not reputable, find another place to work.

3. Problem: Start multiple businesses without thinking them through fully, or having enough time to dedicate to each one. My dad has started his own freight brokerage, great right? It would be, if he were at home often enough to be able to send out invoices, do his books and keep on top of it. However, he also has a full time job (always for some goofy employer), which keeps him out of town 90% of the time. No one can keep track of all of the business they do and collect for it, if they can't keep it organized. I suspect that he wastes quite a bit of time and effort, simply because he forgets to collect on his work.

Solution: Either trade up jobs on the constantly out of town full-time position, or find a way to organize the part time business. For my dad, his full-time gig is trucking, so it would be difficult for him to stop constantly to write down who owes him what, but he could maybe use a voice recorder and each night put all of his commissions into a spreadsheet, so when he gets home, he can do his billing. Or, my dad could take a big leap of faith and do freight brokering full-time. A lot of people do it, and can be quite successful (as I suspect my dad would be if he dedicated more of his time/mental energy toward it). This would also allow him to be home more, so he could lead a more productive, organized life.

4. Problem: Paying debts late: I am going to use the example in his financial life that I am most familiar with: child support owed to my mom. I am 25 years old, 7 years past 18, when normal fathers are done paying...my dad: still paying off my mother. He has almost always been self-employed, and thus has never had his wages garnished, so he felt free to pay my mother when it was convenient for him. Well, for about 5 years, it wasn't, so he didn't. I suspect that this also has to do with his #3 problem of working for bad companies, they don't check into the fact that he is still deeply indebted to my mom. The point, however, is that the county through which his child support debt is paid, has doubled the interest rate a few times. Thus, the money he could have had paid off without any interest 7 years ago, is now growing and growing. He pays about $1000 every 6 months to a year, but at that low frequency rate, it keeps adding up and doens't go down.

Solution: When you owe a debt, pay it every month, pay as much as you can and get it over with. Not only will you save yourself quite a bit of money, but you'll save yourself the headache of having a never-ending debt. In my dad's case, this has literally cost him thousands of dollars, all due to his fiscal laziness.

5. Problem: Trusting others with your money. This goes back to not keeping track of what people owe you, working for bad employers, and for my dad, with his small businesses, he lets people whom he simply likes handle his books, because he doesn't have interest in doing it himself. This has cost him dearly over the last 5 years, at least. It is part of the reason he lost his most successful enterprise (a company which grossed over $1.5 million in its most profitable years). People will take advantage of you if you're lazy and do not keep an eye on your own money. No one else will always work for your benefit, there are a lot of people who want a portion and who will act in unrespectable manners to benefit themselves. I am not saying everyone is going to take your money, but it certainly does not make sense to not keep tabs on it.

This post helped me to understand not only my father better, but also the consequences to laziness, and to trusting others with your money. Keep tabs on your assets, your net worth and watch who you trust. It only makes sense.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Today's Saint: St. Pacifico of San Severino

This man, a Franciscan friar, from the 17th century lived quite the austere life. He ate soup, bread and water, always in a continual fast. He caught a disease which left him deaf, blind and crippled. Yet, through all of these trials and self-imposed hardship, he remained faithful and offered up his sufferings for others.

Wow, reading about saints, even when their sinfulness is omitted, makes it clear that I still have a long way to go toward sainthood. I am always in awe of those who give their entire lives to others. The message for me today is that I should give something up for someone else, or do some work of charity. I do not have an outside the house job, this shouldn't be too difficult.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why I Started This Blog - Part II

Reason #1, improve my faith life. But, reason #2 is a pretty close second. Our finances are not in great shape. In fact, they're in bad shape. My husband makes about $60k/year, I can't find a job to save my life, and now that our first child is coming, I won't be working once he is born. So, we have $60k/year and much more debt than that.

We are also lacking in willpower, as demonstrated by our grocery bill. I cook more like Martha Stewart than Rachael Ray, so our bill is always higher than necessary. I tend to make elaborate dinners and desserts, plus I am gluten-intolerant, which makes trimming that bill difficult.

We are both college graduates, so combined, we have $80k in student loan debt, 2 late model cars and payments to go with them, and about $8k in credit card debt. Yikes, I don't even like to think about it. But, if we don't, we certainly will never own a home, have a nice retirement, or be able to travel when we're old. We're still not sure if we're going to help our kids pay for college, and if so, how much.

Thus, this blog. I am going to write about some strategies that I find, whether or not they work, and our progress toward the goal of being debt free and financially solvent.

Wish us luck!

Why I started this blog - Part 1

I am a twenty five year old homemaker. I am seven months pregnant and my husband and my financial situation has much to be desired. We are faithful Catholics, who are quite conservative and I would like to see our faith and financial situation improved.

We attend weekly Mass, and when I have time/energy, I like to go to daily Mass. We tithe (much to our checkbook's dismay) and try to remember to pray at meal times and for loved ones. Before we were married, we spent about 15 minutes a day together praying for our family, friends, faith, freedoms and anything else that seemed pertinent. Now, we pray at meals and rarely remember to pray any other time. This is not okay.

We also have dropped off of our religious reading commitments. Between January and April, I had read 4 religious books (my husband had read at least 2). I haven't read any since, neither has he. My faith has not grown much since I moved to Colorado Springs to get married. I blame this mostly on personal laziness and exhaustion from being pregnant. But still, this is not okay.

So, first and foremost, my goal is to write about something spiritual every day (Monday through Friday), and focus mostly on Catholic theology, saints, and interesting books I read. I would like to engage in theological discussions with other believing Catholics and also with non-believers and protestants. My world, faith life and depth of knowledge can only expanded and I am excited for the prospect of learning more about Catholicism and debating it with others.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.