#55 - Check This Out

My friend Melanie started a blog recently and invited me to be a contributor. I've decided to do just that, so if you want to read my thoughts on spiritual things, go check it out.

We Seek After These Things

#54 - Change

My iGoogle page just changed in the blink of an eye. One minute it looked one way. I clicked on a link and then it looked another way. I liked it the old way.

So, did I hit the wrong button and my settings got changed? If so, I just have to find that same magic button and change it back. Or, did Google just decide to change the way their page looks, wrote new code, and implemented it recently?

The point is, I liked the way things were and I want them back that way. I don't like when things change.

Is it possible that I will come to like this new way? Maybe like it better than before? I'd have to say yes. Anything is possible.

Of course, this applies to things that are way more important than my iGoogle page. Ward boundary changes, for example. That's something that affects my life more directly. But, it still pales in comparison to moving to a new state where you know no one. Moving to a country where you don't know the language. All of those things, in turn, pale in comparison to the death of a loved one.

But, big or small, the only constant in life is change. How do you deal with it? How do you roll with the punches? If you could go back, or change things back to the way they were, would you do it? Or maybe, more importantly, /should/ you do it?

I have a source who shall remain anonymous who says that there are two kinds of people: Those who wallow in the misery of their circumstances, and those who do everything they can to change their circumstances. But I say, isn't there another kind of person? Are there people who learn to find joy in their circumstances, whatever they are? If so, how do they do it? Has anyone found a secret?

With all that said, though, I'd really like to get my iGoogle back to the way it was. LOL. Does anyone who uses it know what's going on? Was the format of your iGoogle page changed today as well?

#53 - $700,000,000,000

"As far as this $700 billion bailout is concerned, they keep saying 'we have to act now, we have to act now.' It's like a bad TV offer. Just ten easy payments of $70 billion each, operators are standing by, but you have to act now!" –Jay Leno

I want to spout off on my opinions, but I do have to give a big disclaimer here - I haven't watched the news much in the past, and I don't really know a lot about politics or economics. So, why am I writing this post? I guess I just wanted to rant a little bit. :) With that said...

I've been watching the news the past couple weeks about the economic disaster we're in right now, and, frankly, I'm astounded. Did you know our country is in debt $9.6 trillion dollars?

I also read an article that says the deficit for 2009 is almost 1/2 a trillion dollars. And that number doesn't include tens of billions of dollars in Iraqi war costs. It also, obviously, doesn't include the $700 billion bailout. So, the debt is going to be - what? $11 trillion this time next year? Something is wrong with this picture.

Today's generation has an entitlement mentality. We want what we want and we want it when we want it. I know, that's hard to make out, but I liked saying it that way. And since I wanted to, I did it. I'm entitled to that right as the blog owner. :D

So, the government wants to buy something, they buy it. They don't have to worry about where the money's coming from. They just say, "Put it on our tab." Now, in the olden days, if you went to a store and had them put something "on your tab" and you went in day after day after day, racking up your tab and never paying a penny back, they'd come to the point where they'd refuse to put anything else on your tab! What happens when everybody realizes they're never going to get paid back? Wait, maybe they already have. That might explain why the dollar is losing value faster than the government can say, "Here's 700 billion dollars!"

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and something occurred to me. I remember hearing a lot about WWII, and how everyone in the country was expected to sacrifice to help fund the war and keep supplies going to the troops. Here's a good article I found that talks about it. Sugar rationing, recycling, scrap drives, etc. were some of the means the government used to fund the war. Here's a quote from the article: "While life during the war meant daily sacrifice, few complained because they knew it was the men and women in uniform who were making the greater sacrifice."

Now, fast-forward to the war on terror. What have we been called on to sacrifice in order to support our troops in the middle east? How have the American people banded together to make sure they have the supplies they need? Oh, that's right. We don't have to sacrifice anything because the government just uses its big, giant credit card with no credit limit on it to pay for the war so we don't have to sacrifice anything. In fact, they've been cutting taxes to help stimulate the economy. What financial adviser would tell you to cut your income and increase your spending at the same time? It makes absolutely no economic sense whatsoever.

When the economy slows down, the government goes to great lengths to stimulate it. Lower taxes! Lower interest rates! They want the American people to spend money, so that there will be more revenue, jobs will be created, the government will collect more taxes. When people slow down on their spending, the government "stimulates the economy" again. We've got to get those Americans to buy more stuff! Let's lower the interest rates and get them buying more houses and cars and boats... And here we are, with tons of people foreclosing on their houses because they spent more than they could afford. Maybe the whole "get people to spend as much money as we possibly can" mentality is part of the problem.

There's this whole idea that if you cut taxes to stimulate the economy, then businesses will make more money, there will be more jobs, people will make more money and spend more money, and in the end, the government will get more taxes because of all this. Does it work??? That would be a big no. Just look at the rate at which the debt is rising for the answer to that question.

Here is a pretty cool article about who and what caused the economic crisis we're in right now. I'd recommend scrolling down to the bottom of the page. There's a little section called "The Real Deal" that lists the problems that led up to this mess and I found it interesting. I certainly don't know what the answers are, but I'm pretty sure of what they aren't. And if I hear another politician telling me we need to go into debt to "stimulate the economy," I'm going to lose my lunch.

As far as what we can do as citizens to help our own financial situations, and in turn help America, I wanted to recommend a book I read a few years ago - Debt-Free on Any Income. It has a debt-payoff system that accelerates over time to help you pay off all your debt, including your house, in a very short time (we're talking, 10 years short). The thing I really loved about it is it comes with a CD-ROM you put in your computer and it helps you track all your debt payoff, income, spending, etc.

So, there you have it. This is my $.02 worth. Although I think I deserve more than $.02 when the government can throw around $700,000,000,000! :D

#52 - Gender Wars

Disclaimer: This post is referring to the traditional roles of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker. Single parents, two-income families, etc. are a different matter that I'm not going to try to account for here.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. There are so many women out there who think their husbands have it easy because they don't have to stay home with the kids all day every day. They get to go to work for 8 hours, and then come home and put their feet up while their wife still has to make dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed, etc.

While I do believe it's true that most men don't understand how challenging it is to be in that role, I don't agree that they have it easier than us.

First of all, it really is a stereotype that when a man comes home, he just watches sports, plays video games, or whatever and doesn't pitch in to do any work. Even if they don't generally help clean the house or whatever, a lot of men are still doing a lot of stuff when they get home. Most of them are expected to fix things that break, mow the lawn, etc. There are a lot of them out there who coach their kids' soccer games and help with homework.

But, even if he did just rest in the evening while his wife continued to work, does that mean she worked more than him that day?

Let's be honest with each other here. Think about the time your husband is gone at work. Are you /really/ working that whole time? How much time do you spend reading books, hanging out at playdates, talking on the phone, watching TV, blogging, surfing the 'net, etc.?

Most of our guys go out there and work when they're at work. They're not hanging out at the water cooler shootin' the breeze. A lot of them do very physically challenging jobs. Many of them are doing very mentally challenging work. They have to deal with co-workers, bosses, meetings, paperwork, and all kinds of stress.

And, speaking of stress, how much pressure they must feel to know that their family is counting on them all the time. They have to keep productivity up if they want to keep their jobs. They have to worry about whether they're going to get a raise, how they're going to fund their children's college tuition, what they need to have saved up in case they lose their job. They have to be constantly striving to do better, improve their skills, etc. in order to get a raise or a promotion that will help them support their families better.

I'm not really trying to get on a soapbox here, because this particular box is way too high for me. I'm at least as guilty or more so than most of the people reading this. The biggest reason I'm saying all this is because I feel guilty. I spend way too much time on the internet, reading books, etc. After a load of laundry or washing a sink full of dishes, my back hurts and I feel tired and stressed. So I go and sit down for a little while. I'll grab a sandwich or something and sit at the computer to read blogs because I might as well be doing something while I'm eating. Of course, long after the last crumbs have settled on the plate, I'm still hunched over my computer, typing replies and laughing at my friends' jokes.

Maybe some of you really do work most of the day and your husbands really are lazy; just doing the minimum at work and sitting on the couch after they get home. But I can tell you that's definitely not the case over here, and I doubt if it's the case in most of the rest of your lives either.

My husband works /hard/. He is under constant stress at work, trying to solve difficult problems and get things to work. He is often asked by coworkers and his boss to help them solve problems as well. When there are deadlines at work, he has to work extra hours - sometimes a lot of extra hours. This isn't a 9-5 and then you're done. He has to get the work done before he's done.

It's true that a woman's work is never done. When you've just emptied the dishwasher and the last spoon is in the drawer, the kids come and make a sandwich and it starts all over again. You vacuum and the next time you turn around, there are more crumbs on the floor. It's frustrating that nothing you do ever stays done. But is a man's work ever done either? Yes, he finished that project and closed the file. He never has to do that one again. But there's a new one waiting. It's true that housework is mundane. But is that really worse than always having to come up with new solutions, always having to figure out new problems?

There's always a huge uproar if a man says that the money is /his/ money because he's the one who made it and the check is in his name. But I hear a lot of women say that they do a little job here and there, sell Avon, baby-sit, or whatever, so they can have their own money. Isn't that just as bad?

And in my house, my husband doesn't sit down and relax when he gets home from work. He always has projects he's working on. Right now, he's moving his office to the basement, helping me move my office and library to the basement, and cleaning out the garage so I can park in it again. Yes, when he gets home, I still have to make dinner, clean up, help the kids with homework and chores and baths and bed. But a lot of the time he's at work, I'm avoiding doing what I should be. Is it really fair to read blogs while he's working, and then expect him to help me make dinner or vacuum when he gets home?

Oprah, Dr. Phil, et al. do these shows where they make the husband take over for the wife for the day. She gets to go to the spa for the day because she just really deserves a break because of all the hard work she's done. The husband is shown as a bumbling mess because he can't keep everything together, get the kids everywhere on time, make dinner, change diapers, etc. At the end, he admits that he really didn't understand before just how hard it was to do her job.

I'm probably going to get blasted for this, but I really think if we switched places for the day, we'd learn our lesson just as much as our husbands would learn theirs. What if the husband was sent to the golf course for the day while the wife had to do his job? She'd be just as overwhelmed and just as humbled as he would be in her place. But that's just so not PC to say.