Thursday, November 03, 2011

In the 45 minutes before the next class. . .

here is my November list of small things I am thankful for:
  • the alum that just walked through my door to pick up his yearbook. His compliments to our school have put a smile on my face that won't be fading anytime soon. Interesting--he was not one of my students.
  • the ability to be creative. I love teaching, but my real creativity comes out when I work in the arts.
  • my cleaning person. When I go home this evening, my house will be spotless, so I can concentrate on being with my husband and preparing for guests this weekend. I won't be frazzled by having to make sure the house passes the white glove inspection.
  • facebook. While facebook may make our lives too transparent, it has given us the ability to stay in contact with people we don't see regularly--but would like to.
  • my iPod. It has to be on my list of those unnecessary possessions I would hate to live without. Right now, Brahms is playing in my office.
  • interruptions. Since I obviously can't prevent them, I'll try to enjoy them. One of the reasons God gave us the church was so that we would be connected not just to Him, but to each other. Every interruption is a chance to connect with another person, usually a brother or sister in Christ.
  • ears that work. For most of the last month, my ears have been plugged up, so my hearing has been distorted. I am appreciating being able to hear with clarity.
  • new friends--and old ones. New friends are always exciting, since there is so much to find out about the other person. Old friends know you and your flaws. There is no awkwardness, since your flaws are already known, and you have the joy of a shared history.
  • the Coffeepot of Consolation (the Keurig machine in my office). Sheldon Cooper might joke about offering a hot beverage to someone who is depressed, but being able to be hospitable in a small way is a great joy. There are not many more pleasurable activities than sharing tea (or coffee, or hot chocolate, or chai, or--you get the idea) with someone along with a conversation. It's even better when there's a little leftover Halloween candy in the drawer.
May you all find small things that enrich your life.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Path Back

I have not always been a good money manager. If it weren´t for my husband, who is good at money, and the radio advice of Dave Ramsey, I'd be far worse off than I am. But through hard work and discipline, I can say that the family funds are pretty healthy right now. Discipline is not pleasant; our culture preaches the value of immediate gratification, and credit cards make purchasing our "wants" now all too easy. Eventually, though, the day of reckoning will come, and the hard choices have to be made--and they will be even more painful since we have become used to living beyond our means.

If a household is spending more than it takes in, there are really only two choices: cut spending or increase income. Digging out of the financial hole will be quicker if you do both methods at once, but even with a second job, you're in for an austere time. Instead of eating steak, it will be Aldi's brand Chicken Noodle soup, with generic peanut butter on no-name bread. No eating out, no vacations, no new clothes, no luxuries until the bills are caught up.

With this in mind, I would remind our elected officials--who have been spending like teenagers with a new credit card, paid for by Daddy--that the bills will come due. Our national debt is disgraceful and dangerous to our security, and we must mend our ways. Unfortunately, this means cutting spending and/or increasing revenue. Since no one in Washington seems to grasp this concept and put forth a plan, here is mine:

Immediately chop the budget of all departments 10%, across the board. (Note that 10% is in today's budget, not the expected increase in the budget.) Each department head decides where the 10% comes from, whether to lay off employees, reduce salaries, or turn off the air conditioning.
Eliminate pension benefits for all federal employees under age 45. They will have the ability to use IRAs just like the rest of us. Pensions for those between 45-55 will be only 1/2 the current amount. Those over 55 will receive whatever pensions they have today.
No new federal programs--for anything--unless a federal program is eliminated, and the savings must meet or exceed the cost of the new program.
Every wage earner must pay federal income tax, with a new minimum tax rate of 5%. When all pay, fewer people will clamor for benefits paid for by others.
Every federal worker must contribute, out of pocket, to his/her own health insurance plan.
Pensions for congresspeople, and senators will be prorated, based on 20 years of service. Anything less gets a smaller pension--just like the rest of the working world. Their pensions will also be subject to the pension rule above: if you're under 45, you don't get one.
Forget "prevailing wage" rules. Contracts go to the lowest bidder, and if that means carpenters made $25/hour instead of $30, so be it. We can no longer afford "Cadillac" payouts.

This is obviously not a complete plan, but it is, at least, a start. As I tell my English students, it's easier to revise something that exists, so get something down on paper and go from there.