Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

On Monday night I did the grandfather thing - I attended my youngest grandson's Tee-Ball game.  It was the Orioles against the Blue Jays.  Fortunately they have special rules.  Each inning everybody on the team bats once.  The inning ends when all have batted.  It's good that it doesn't end when there are three outs because an inning might then last an hour or more.  Actually four or five of the 30 who played actually caught a batted or thrown ball in the field.  And it is good that they don't keep score or you might have scores like 230 -175.  And it is good that they don't count strikes or there would have been dozens of strike-outs.  And, fortunately, they only play four innings.  A coach pitches since few if any of the players could throw a ball that far.  And after four misses by the batter they place the ball on a Tee (thus the name of the game) and the player swings until he hits it fair off the tee.  The tee itself probably was hit more often by wicked swings than the baseball.  Now I never had a chance to play this "game".  I'm not even sure if this game even existed when I was growing up and if it did I probably didn't know about it because we moved so often until I entered fifth grade. I learned to play baseball by playing pickup games with neighborhood kids.  That was the way I spent  most of my summer days. I guess nobody does that anymore.  When I got to junior high I earned some money serving as an umpire in little league games.  That wasn't always fun because it showed me how nasty some parents can be.  I've often thought the spectators should not be allowed to attend little league games.  Most of the time in junior and senior high I covered little league games for the local newspaper and that is where my newspaper career and my writing began.  I did help coach the local Teener League team when my brother played and we actually won the championship.  After I was married, for a couple of summers I helped my uncle coach a little league team in Sunbury - the mighty Mosquitos - an interesting name for a baseball team.  My brother once asked me to help him with the Warwick Girl's Softball team which he coached.  He wanted me to be the hitting coach, but I turned him down.  But maybe that would have been fun.  But Tee Ball is different and parents and grandparents come out to cheer on their sons and daughters - yes there were a few girls playing - as they begin their path to the major leagues.  Or at least they dream about that happening.  But they have a long way to go, a very long way.  Most can't catch.  Most are slow and have no baseball sense.  Few can hit. Some can hardly even hit the ball off the tee. Most can't throw the ball to any base or even back to the pitcher.  But there are two things that they can do.  First, they can give and take "high five's" from coaches and players, no matter what they have just done.  And secondly, they know how after the game to line up on the baselines and then pass the other team and say "good game".  They did that well.  It really wasn't too bad of an evening but a serious thought did pass through my mind.  I would have liked to know how many of the boys in particular had fathers living with them.  I would have liked to know how many of the boys had fathers who ever played pitch and catch with them or showed them how to hold a bat.  It was very obvious that some had no idea about the basics.  Some didn't know where to stand at home plate.  Some didn't know how to hold or swing a bat properly.  Many couldn't catch or couldn't hold their glove properly when they tried to catch.  Unfortunately, so many kids have been abandoned by their dads and since nobody plays neighborhood pickup games anymore, young boys know very little about the fundamentals of what used to be the national pastime..   And that is sad.  And I guess Tee-Ball is now the organized substitute to attempt to teach these fundamentals.  Or maybe it is society's way to replace the many parents who don't care or are too busy to spend time with their kids.  And if that is the case, that is even sadder.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

College Days

For those faithful readers who have stuck with me after two recent blogs about finances, please hang on.  Hopefully this will be the last on that topic for awhile.  I recently went to purchase a pair of shoes.  As I was trying them on the salesman began to unload about his daughter.  It seems that she chose to go to Marywood University to major in art.  According to the university website, the costs for four years there would be about $372,450!  Wow!  Hopefully she had some financial aid or scholarships.  But he had agreed to pay her way and was now working hard to try and pay off this debt.  The bad news is that as an art major, the only job she has been able to get so far is working as a cashier at Lowes.  She could have gone to Kutztown and earned an art degree for $69,760, a difference of $302,688 - and she still could have gotten a job at Lowes.  He told me that he now regrets not having said "no" to her when she made the choice.  The Brookings Center on Children and Families has recently said that 1 in 5 colleges had a negative return on investment. The lifetime earnings of an education or arts major working in the services sector are lower than that of a high school graduate.  Actually 14% of high school graduates earn at least as much as people with bachelor's degrees. Recently I heard Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru, say that the biggest mistake that parents make with their children is letting them as 18 year olds choose where they want to go to college, especially when the teen only has about $60 in the bank.  I personally think that the second biggest mistake is agreeing to pay for their education. I don't think parents owe them that.  Look at these recent college statistics from American Student Assistance. *Approximately 20 million Americans attend college. *Approximately 12 million borrow money for college. *Approximately 37 million former students owe money today. *Of those under 30 years of age, 14 million former students owe money. *An average student loan is $24,301. *About 25% borrow more than $28,000, 10% more than $54,000, 3% more than $100,000 and less than 1% (167,000) more than $200.000. *Of the current students paying back debt – 40% are under age 30 and 42% are older. Seventeen percent are older than 50. *30 percent of those who took out loans haven't finished school.  When it was time for me to go to consider college my parents couldn't afford to send and pay for me.  However, they agreed to pay my room and board for four years whether I commuted or went away to school.  I chose to go away but I had already been saving for college for several years by working numerous jobs.  In addition, I earned scholarships, worked on campus, and held summer jobs to pay my bills.  I did borrow about $1,000 but that was paid back within a few years.  When it came time for my three boys to attend, I made the same agreement with them.  They chose to commute but they were still responsible for tuition, books and other fees.  I think accepting the cost of my education made it more important and meaningful to me.  And in earning my way I learned some valuable life lessons.  Personally, I don't think parents owe a college education to their children, but I guess I am in a minority today.  Prospective college students should work for scholarships and hold jobs to earn what they need.  They should choose a college which they can afford.  They should choose a major which will be marketable.  Or maybe they could skip school for a year or attend a community college for a year or two.  There are many sensible and financially sound ways to get a degree. College is still a possibility and one can graduate without a lifetime of debt for the student or parents.  And it is possible to earn a degree that can get you a job.  Anything else is a very sad use of time and money.  Unless, of course, our government is your model for your finances.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


When my boys used to say something was boring I would tell them that boring is a state of mind and that they should find something constructive to do.  Well today I will need to take my own advice since this may be one of the most boring days of my life.  For the 16th election I am serving as Judge of Elections for my precinct.  It is a primary which is usually of little interest to anyone.  But this time there are no contests at all on the republican ballot and only one on the democratic ballot.  For many of the positions nobody is even running, including me.  I have chosen not to run again for Judge of Elections.  So why would anybody even come to vote?  If we have 200 voters show up today I will be surprised.  So for 15 hours I will need to find things to keep myself awake - probably some reading, some writing, some talking and some eating.  The good news is that I have a great team of workers and they bring great food.  Generally, in my estimation, primaries are not only a waste of time but a real waste of our tax money.  After 16 elections I still get upset with the regulations.  For example, yesterday when I set up my precinct I was required to post  10 sample ballots, 10 brochures on how to vote, an election news poster, an introduction to voting poster, 3 notices of voter rights, 3 individual rights under federal law posters, 3 notices of prohibitions and penalties. three poster of general information and instructions about voting rights and responsibilities of elected officers and one poster about election officers and provisional ballot procedures.  Most of these are in English and Spanish.  These are in addition to required signs concerning cell phones, entrances and exits.  Now have you ever read any of these when you voted?  Some do check the sample ballots but nobody ever reads the others.  What a waste of money and time.  Then today I will need to deal with all sorts of forms and envelopes.  I have forms for statements of complaints, provisional ballots (labels, envelopes, forms), voter registration, affidavit of voter ID, election officer oaths (two), affirmation of elector forms and envelope, challenge of absentee elector forms, record of assisted voter form, list and envelope, election affidavits for challenges, numbered list of voters (two), absentee voter ballots and envelope, JBC canceled booth forms, e-scan spoiled ballot forms and envelope, election result forms (four) and payroll form.  Plus I have separate envelopes for opening and closing passwords, keys, zero tapes and MBB's.  Oh yes, we also have forms to give to those who don't use a photo ID - which isn't required anyway.  And finally I have lists of numbers to call when I need help about voters who aren't in our books and also a list of instructions of where everything must go when the polls close.  Now after 16 elections I finally have a rather good idea how to use most of these and I am usually organized.  But I wonder how many precincts and judges ever get all of this done properly. And maybe I'm not doing it right either.  In all of these elections I have never had any feedback at all except when I placed some items in the wrong box after the election and also from some democrats who refused to show a photo ID.  I guess working with the public you need to expect that you will never be told that you do a good job.  The only feedback you will hear will be negative.  But elections are typical of government bureaucracy - plenty of paper work and regulations and wasted money.  My recommendations?  First, have parties conduct primaries by mail.  Second, hire somebody to devise a plan to eliminate or at least reduce all the paper work and regulations.   My personal solution?  Don't run for reelection.  That is what I have chosen.  One more election to go in November and then I will "retire".  Seventeen will be enough.  I will miss seeing many of the regular voters and I will miss working with my good team.  But that is all ... except maybe the food!  I think I'll try to take a nap.
P.S. - We had a grand total of 78 voters today!   That is less than a 4% turn-out.  Unbelievable!  For our precinct alone that is probably about $13 a voter that we taxpayers will have to pay for this election.  And that doesn't even include the costs of training, equipment, ballots, posters, rovers, technicians and election board staff.  That is a very high cost for voter apathy.  Let's not be too quick to put all the blame on government when citizens don't do their share.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Controlling Your Finances

In my last blog I shared my concern for what I see happening to so many folks who are overwhelmed with debt.  It is so sad.  I am by no means a financial expert, but there are some lessons which I've learned and applied over the decades.  I have never held a high paying job and I have often worked extra jobs to support my family.  My wife has never held a regular job outside of our home.  We've raised three boys.  God has been good to us and has always provided what we've needed.  There are some things which we have given up, but nothing that we regret. To do this we have always lived on a written budget.  Since we were married we have kept a monthly accounting of all of our expenditures and worked to keep them within our written budgeted limits for each category.  And our budget accounts each month for expenditures which may only happen once or twice a year, such as taxes, insurance, vacations, dental expenses, car replacement and repairs and Christmas.  So each month something is put aside for these expenses.  We never make purchases that can't be covered through our budget and our savings. We could never have survived our married years without this written plan which is revised annually.  And thank the Lord, we have reached our senior years without any debt, with adequate savings, and with all that we really need.  I don't know how anybody can survive today without a written plan.  There are several other practical things which we have followed as well.  We have always taken care of credit card charges within the 30 or so days allotted before any charges are added.  That has been a priority - credit card companies have never made a cent on us.  When they send us checks to borrow money, we immediately destroy them rather than be tempted to use them.  We shop for bargains and use coupons.  And a personal choice for us is that we don't frequent expensive restaurants.  Thankfully we don't have the taste for expensive meals since that would certainly blow our food budget for the month.  We have always tried to budget funds each month for savings.  As a math teacher I know the power of compound interest and so, even in the days of raising our children when we could barely afford it, we regularly put money into savings.  Now after all of that, let me come to the most important lesson that we have learned about finances.  We have always put the Lord first in our budget.  When we plan our budget, giving to the Lord's work is always the first thing that we include.  I remember talking to my dad a few times about the struggles with bills when things like medical bills and auto bills seemed so hard to predict and handle.  He advised me to take those things to the Lord while continuing to honor Him with our giving, knowing that He would answer and provide.  And He always has - especially when things seemed almost impossible from a human view.  God does not neglect His own when we trust Him and honor Him with our finances. My dad also taught me that all of our possessions really were the Lord's, not ours. That is a principle which I've never forgotten.  I wonder if maybe the checkbook might be the best test of one's spiritual condition.  Probably none of you really care about my financial experiences, but if I were ever asked to give advice to a young couple I would say put the Lord first in your finances, live on a written budget, tear up your credit cards if you can't pay them off each month, and evaluate and control your "wanters".  "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you".  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Growing Debt

I continue to be utterly amazed at the amount of debt that folks have today.  The desire to have the best of everything, immediately, just drives so many people into debt that they will probably never pay off.  Those desires, coupled with the lack of financial sense, cripples folks and our nation as well.  Here are some alarming facts from the Employees Benefit Research Institute which illustrate the problem. (1) 28 percent of Americans - the most since the annual survey began 23 years ago - say they have no confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement. (2) The survey showed that an alarming number of Americans expect to have to work well past retirement age.  (3)  59% of credit card holders carry a balance from month to month.   (4)  68% of American households live paycheck to paycheck.  (5)  The median household net worth of Americans is $57,000.  (6)  One third of retirees live on Social Security alone (average monthly social security $1,230).  If that isn't alarming enough, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) published the results of a survey about the importance of financial planning that add more light to the problem.  (1)  56% of U.S. adults lack a budget (68% live paycheck to paycheck).   (2)  40% of U.S. adults were saving less in 2012 than in 2011 (they use their credit cards for emergencies).   (3)  39% of U.S. adults have no non-retirement savings.  (4)  In 1991 only 11% of American workers expected to retire after age 65. In 2012 that percentage had risen to 37%.  Today folks are living with foreclosures, bankruptcy, huge credit card debt on several different cards, and loans which they may never be able to pay off.  For some this debt driven life begins with huge college debt in earn a degree. Many will never even find a job in their field. Then they'll spend most of their life just paying off this bill.  Often this problem explodes when couples get married.  Today they need a huge wedding ceremony with loads of flowers, expensive gowns, fancy locations, elaborate receptions, and loads of pictures.  Then they need an expensive honeymoon to some exotic location.  And suddenly they are already thousands in debt ... or maybe their parents are now deep in debt.  We were married using a borrowed gown and a regular suit in a church ceremony with flowers just for the wedding party. All who wanted to attend the wedding were welcome. A friend took our wedding pictures as his wedding gift. We had a reception in the YMCA serving  sandwiches made by the ladies from the church.  We left for our honeymoon at Watkins Glen on Saturday night and returned Monday.  And we still have wonderful memories, without any debt, and in June our marriage will have lasted 51 years.  That is a sharp contrast to what often happens today with weddings and marriages.  And if that isn't enough, today newly married couples need to immediately buy their own house and fill it with expensive furniture and, of course, purchase new cars as well.  Their parents and grandparents probably went decades until they had what many newly married couples get immediately today.  Unfortunately, today we live in a society where our "wanters" are far bigger than what most can really afford ... but there are always the credit cards and loans.  And our federal government leads and models the way to debt.  There is so much more that I would like to get off my chest on this subject - maybe I'll devote another blog or two to this topic.  In the meantime - pay off those credit cards now and evaluate and control your "wanter"!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Buckle Up!

Almost three weeks ago we were traveling south on 501 from Lititz, headed for 30.  We pulled onto the ramp, behind a van, waiting for the traffic to clear on 30, after the light changed.  When it finally changed, the lady in front of us pulled out and I pulled out.  Seconds later she jammed on her brakes - I still don't know why.  Dianne screamed and I hit the brakes to avoid an accident.  The seat belt pulled tight across Dianne's chest and she had trouble breathing.  Later I took her to the doctor who felt nothing was broken.  But a few days later the pain got worse and the doctor sent her for x-rays, all of which were negative.  It was diagnosed as a very bad bruise, even though there are no visible signs of bruising. But, despite the pain pills and muscle relaxers, the pain has continued.  She's been unable to sleep in bed for over two weeks.  Now as I write this blog there is some improvement, but she is still in pain.  I am just amazed at how much damage a seat belt can do, especially at just a couple of miles per hour.  But who knows what might have happened without the belt - maybe she would have hit the windshield, although I can't imagine that happening at that speed.  As I've searched the internet I've found that seat belt injuries are common and often very serious.  But I think the alternatives to wearing a belt can be much more serious, especially in a serious accident.  And I am amazed at the number of people of all ages who don't wear them.  I often have had to tell adults riding in my car to buckle up.  Some just won't do it or they wear them incorrectly.  Young folks often refuse to wear them - I guess they feel they are invincible.  And yet it is the law.  And folks who fail to wear them are breaking the law.  It is so sad to see born again Christians who have this attitude and willingly break the law.  When I read about auto fatalities I often look to see what it says about the use of seat belts.  Quite often the victims were not wearing their belt and that contributed to their death.  So despite this bad experience with belts, those who ride in my car will be asked to wear theirs.  First, it is the law and as a Christian willfully disobeying would be sin. And I don't want to be prosecuted for the sins of one of my passengers.  Second, despite the risks, the possible alternatives could be much worse.  So buckle up!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Helping the Unemployed

Dear employees:

As the CEO of this organization, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barack Obama is our President and that our taxes and government fees will increase and in a BIG way.  To compensate for these increases our prices would have to increase by about 10%.  But since we cannot increase our prices right now, due to the dismal state of the economy, we will have to lay off sixty of our employees instead.  This has really been bothering me since I believe that we are family here and I didn't know how to choose who would have to go.

So, this is what I did.  I walked through our parking lot and found sixty Obama bumper stickers on our emploees' cars and I decided that these folks will be the ones to be let go.  I can't think of a more fair way to approach this problem.  They voted for change ... I gave it to them.

I will see the rest of you at the annual company picnic.

Now if this letter were true, it would be both funny and sad.  And what would you say to a person who voted for Obama and then lost his job?  Well, here are ten things that you might share with such a person.

1. "Hey, at least that successful Mormon businessman didn't win."
2.  "At least you can still buy and use marijuana since he won't enforce the federal laws against it."
3. "Look at the bright side. Gay marriage passed in four states and he won't enforce the federal marriage laws."
4. "Hey, Big Bird still has a job. Isn't that the important thing?"
5. "I am sure Obama cares deeply about your situation. Maybe he'll send you a postcard from Hawaii."
6. "Well, look at the bright side. Rush Limbaugh is getting a tax increase."
7. "You won't have to worry about not getting social security or medicare.  He won't cut it and the bill for that will be the responsibility of your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren, your great-great grandchildren and future generations."
8. "Isn't it worth losing your job just to know that religious organizations now have to pay for abortions and contraceptives?" 
9.  You'll have medical insurance.  Hopefully the insurance that you will be required to purchase won't cost too much or maybe your fine will at least be less than your unemployment insurance.  
10.  "Forward!"   

Now I'm sure that you have some comments that could be added to this list so why don't you include them as comments to this blog.  It would be interesting to read what you think.