We’re Debt Free!

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I moved into our new home. After that move, we had one goal. That was to get rid of our consumer debt.

We started out by paying $700 extra on the one consumer loan that we had. It was a student loan that totalled somewhere near $32,000. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. Somehow, I managed to ignore the fact that I was that deep in debt.

I also started this process by reading Dave Ramsey‘s book “The Total Money Makeover.” While reading it I felt pretty good. I had not car loans. Our credit card was paid off every month, and I felt that I was on the right track.

Then came the section on Student Loans. That when it hit me hard that I was not different than other people. Sure, my interest rate was less than most. But the reality was that it was still that terrible four-letter word, DEBT.

Eventually, through pay raises and some other tightening of the proverbial belt, we started to pay $1000 every month towards the student loan. We also used the tax refunds and part of a company bonus to help us pay down our debt.

Finally on April 15 2008, I made my last payment on the student loan. I was debt free (at least on the consumer side, I still owe on my home).

I say was, because I then did something sort of stupid. I bought a new computer that cost almost $1000 dollars. I did this because I knew that buy the time the credit card bill came due we would have the money, and because our last computer was literally on its last leg.

Thus, I am waiting until today to officially announce that I am debt free. I paid of the computer and other credit card balance (like I do every month), and I can honestly say I am debt free.

Our next step is to build our financial reserves and my wife and I are adding food storage.  But we need a break from discipline.  So we are buying a few wants over the next few months.  These include a tent trailer (already purchased), a new computer (also purchased), a new washer and dryer, some furniture for our family room, a safe, and some other incidentals.

I just hope these next few months of “frivolity” don’t have us regretting our decision.  But starting in January, we will get really serious about our financial and food stores.

Just as a final note. Dave Ramsey does not condone the use of credit cards, and for the most part I agree with him. However, after 14 years of discipline has shown, my wife and I can handle credit cards. We don’t use them, unless we have the money to back up the purchase, and we always return to a zero balance at the end of each month. I only recommend credit cards if you KNOW that you will pay them off each month, and will use them wisely.

Shadow Children and Government Control

I recently just finished the Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The first in the series is Among the Hidden. In this book Luke Gardner is the third born child to his parents in a society where parents are only legally allowed to have two children. This law is enforced by the death of all people who are third born.

This law was create in response to a drought which meant that there was very little food for the people. A group of politicians decided that if they reduce the number of children per couple to 2 children, then they could better control the shortage of food.

However, even after several years of better weather and a situation where food could have been better produced, the law remained in effect. I won’t tell you much more except to say that the series of seven books follows the experiences and lives of Luke and several of his third born friends as they work to overcome this evil power that threatens their lives.

While the books aren’t excellently written and to a certain extent rather predictable, they are fun and exciting to read. But more important than the read is the message that is taught. Simply put, government control over our lives no matter what the reason is not good. The wrong people will get a hold of that government and it will be at the loss of freedom and rights of every citizen.

It was great to have a discussion with my daughter and my wife (both who have read the books, long ago) about how easily we can lose sight of what is important all because of a drought or security or other disaster. It lead me to thinking about Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. Roosevelt’s intentions were good. He wanted to help the people in a time a great trial. However, his deal with American became the biggest disaster of our country’s history.

We are slowly losing more of our freedoms to the government. The more time that passes with the new deal mindset in government, the more our will be like the lives of the citizens in Haddix’s fictional world. Sure, Haddix’s governmental control was a lot faster spread than ours is. However, it shows that power in the hands of government isn’t ever a good idea. It should also stand as a warning at how much of a slippery slope we are on.

I strongly encourage everyone to read the books. If you have children, have them read it too; it is juvenile fiction and a fairly easy read. After your children have read it. Have a great conversation about how government can become our worst nightmare.

P.S. You see that I couldn’t even last two weeks without talking politics. Oh well, I am sure there is a lot more politics to come.

2 for 2

Okay, this is not about the recent Jazz wins. Sorry Jazz Fans, but I am not a big follower of Sports, except for baseball.

Instead I just wanted to brag a bit. Well, I don’t know if this is something to be proud of, because some times those who write Letters to the Editors can be a little loopy. However, I have written only two Letters to the Deseret News (or any other newspaper). Of those two letter, exactly two have been published.

The main reason that I mention this is because I considered writing here about the Deseret News’ recent opinion on television viewing, but I just didn’t want to write that day. So instead I made a quick comment to the Deseret News.

Now I get to make the point here where one person will read it, and it got read by about three more people via the Deseret News. I am just tired of the people who keep commenting that it is anything other than decency as to why people are turning of the television. It’s amazing how many people I talk to who don’t watch TV because they are sick of the indecency. And they aren’t all Mormons.

Finally, if you are curious about how much they “editorialize” my comments, here is the original letter I sent:

I agree with the Deseret News’ opinion that “television needs a tuneup” ( May 10). However, I don’t agree with your explanation as to why people are tuning out. People are turning off the television because it is too offensive. There is too much sex, violence, and foul language on TV. People are getting sick of bringing this junk into their homes.

Apparently, they don’t like to be called the Deseret News anymore…

Finally, the other Letter to the Editor that I had published was about the over glorification of Mark Hacking in the media.  I was tired of hearing how wonderful a murderer was.  He killed someone, why must the media deify him. Unfortunately, it is still happening, need I point out the media love for Cho and Talovic.

Marriage and the Big G

Almost two years ago, my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary by attending Education Week at Brigham Young University.  Yeah, I wanted to do something more exciting like at a lake or on a cruise, but my wife won out.  Good thing she did.

While I didn’t really want to go, there were a couple of classes that really struck my interest.  One was on finance and retirement savings and it ended up being a great class and very entertaining and informative.  The other was Brett Latimer‘s course on American Culture.  This four-part course discussed American History and how our culture has been influenced by Hollywood, our constitution and government across history, and homosexuality.

That last item on the list gets me ahead of where I want to be, but it tells you where I am going.  Also the lecture notes that I linked to earlier (and here), are slightly different than the ones from the class I attended.  But the idea is basically the same.

The first lecture (PDF) was basically a discussion of how Hollywood has an agenda.  Hollywood, anymore, isn’t about entertaining people as much as it is about indoctrinating people.  He presents some interesting statistics about the increase in number of R rated movies and the decrease in attendance at theaters.  While, I am not sure that there aren’t flaws in his presentation, I was awe struck by what I learned.

The second lecture (PDF), which I believe I missed, but figured out from the third lecture, was about moral relativism and its negative effects on our culture.  To state it rather simply, there is an absolute truth (the big G, as Latimer called it).  However, society tries to teach that all things are good (the little g in Latimer’s words).  And throughout history the big G and the little g have been at odds with each other.

I don’t see it in the notes that Latimer provides currently, however, he paralleled the Civil Right’s movement to the Homosexual movement.  He said that in the case of the civil rights movement the liberal (meaning not conservative according to the time) cause was the big G.  It was a movement towards a correct principle that all men regardless of race, religion, and color were created equal.  And because this was a big G issue that the 15th Amendment was passed and ratified.

So, the questions come down to this.  Is the Marriage Amendment that is up for vote on June 6th a big G or a little g?  Is marriage between a man and a woman an absolute truth?  Or is it just a winds of the time concept?  For me this is a big G.  And although many are having a problem with this amendment for many reasons after serious reflection on this subject and on the lecture from Brett Latimer, I will be following the counsel of my religious leaders and I will be writing my congress asking them to vote for this legislation.

Broken TV – Marriage

One more thought on bent and broken television before I move on.  I was originally going to include this with my discussion of Without a Trace, but it didn’t seem to fit, and I now feel that it merits it’s own entry.

How many television dramas portray happily married couples?

As I am writing this the only show that I can think of is Seventh Heaven.  I am sure there are others, but contrast my list to this next one.

How man television dramas portray discontent marriages or divorces?

My list is: Without a Trace, Law and Order, CSI, Desperate Housewives (just a guess, I have actually never seen an episode), and I am sure there are more not to mention the countless marital problems on the daytime soap operas.

Marriage is being attacked.  Maybe at first it was in the courtrooms, maybe at first it was a small movement.  But now you can’t turn on a TV show without marriage being a huge problem for many of the characters.

Also, if you watch closely, TV also seems to say that marriage will only get in the way of one’s career.  The sentiment is that marriage and career are mutually incompatible.  Even though millions of Americans have proven just the opposite, TV still can’t portray a working person with a happy marriage.

By TV portraying marriage as the worse part of society, people are less likely to pursue it as on option.  Instead the will seek alternatives.  You know the option of the highly successful (please note sarcasm here) living together arrangement (separation rate is significanlty higher than marriage).  Or there is the even less effective single for life option (age of death decreases significantly for singles).

I am not sure what TV gains from non-married couples (perhaps they spend more time in front of the TV without the commitment, I know I would).  But there is a definite message being sent by TV, and that message is, that marriages don’t work, so don’t even bother.

Most of the successful marriages are portrayed in comedies, and the only reason that these are successful is because the dad is so stupid and the wife always saves him (but that’s another column).  These marriages are usually fairly solid (i.e., Home Improvement and Hope and Faith) but often is a brunt of the comedy.  However, there is a big move towards portraying marriage as negative (i.e., Two and a Half Men).

The reality is that marriage works.  Most people who are married are happy.  Sure they have hard times (and TV should portray these hard times), but usually people bounce back and love each other more after an argument.  Instead, television likes to portray divorce as the only option and that marriage is always doomed for failure.

Broken TV – Without a Trace

I loved this show.  A year ago if you had asked me what my favorite show on TV was I would have said the Amazing Race, but this was a close second.

However, it was about a year ago that this show started going down hill.  I remember writing a letter to CBS telling them that one of the reasons that I watched TV was for a little entertainment and to see that good does happen in the world.  Then I explained to them that Without a Trace was starting to focus too much on the evil, and not providing the viewer with much sense of hope.

I am sure that it hit the trash can faster than I was able to hit the send button, but I had to say it.

Well, about a month ago, I finally gave up on the show.

Its darkness got too dark for me.  Okay, I have to admit that the show that finally broke me from this show was the lesbian kiss at the end.  I just couldn’t handle that.  I don’t want it on my TV and I more especially don’t want it in my home.  Call me a homophobe if you like, but it was the straw that broke the camels back.

After I finally gave up on the show, I remember getting an email from a conservative group that touts it’s efforts to get Without a Trace fined for its episode that was semi-pornographic and had a sex scene involving teenagers.  I remember the episode and was ashamed that that wasn’t the straw in my case.  Oh, I was disturbed by it, and I remember thinking about writing CBS again, but I hadn’t thought to just give up on the show.

This show, although it leans towards bent, is broken, because there continues to be a theme that evil will prevail.  While, I know in the real world the good guys don’t always win, I don’t want my entertainment to always portray that.  I want the good guys to win about 90% of the time (if not more).  The way that Without a Trace is going I wouldn’t be surprised if the good guys win in about 50% of the cases.

I have given up on this show, and I hope that others will too.  Not the CBS will get the picture. It will still keep producing demoralizing and inappropriate shows.

Bent TV – CSI

I used to watch CSI.  I probably gave it more time then it was worth during the first couple of years.

During that time, one thing consistently bothered me.  Crime Scene Investigators don’t make arrests!  Yet, Grisham always ended the show in glory, by being at the arrest and flaunting his glorious mind.

I started to give up on the show because of that, but its bent direction finally turned me away for good.

Admittedly, I haven’t watch CSI for years.  I really have no idea what is going on with each character, and I really don’t care.  Thus, all of my observations come mostly from either the 2nd or 3rd season.

What finally turned me off of the show was during the end of one of the seasons there was an insinuation that Grisham was having an affair with a lady who ran a porn house (and I am using a PG term to try and describe it).

Granted it seems that every promotion that I see for this show has to either involve a strip club, a whore house, or some other sexual activity.  And that really should have been enough to turn me off.  However, it wasn’t until the main character pursued evil and made this show a completely bent story, that I finally gave up on it.

What really disgusts me with this show is that these are supposed to be the good guys.  However, Hollywood can’t have any truly good guys any more.  They have to have bad guys who are playing the good guy role.  This is perhaps the best definition of a bent story.  I truly yearn for the days of the good cop who busts the bad guy.  To a certain extent the Law and Order stories fit that category, and if I have time, I don’t mind spending a hour watching them.