Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brief Hiatus and Controversial Topic of the Week…

You will, of course, forgive me for not posting the next few weeks. Josh and I close on the 4th and move on the 12th, so we’re busy children.

I promised Scotty I’d go more in depth with this later, but I want to mention it now while the topic is fresh. I have a general feeling of good will towards people most of the time. And I at least genuinely mean people no harm most of the time. And I’m not so sure what to think about all this racial reconciliation stuff. I mean, no one sits down and defines terms so one person means one thing and another means something else… just confusing enough to make me want to avoid the topic all together. So, here’s the controversial topic of the week:

Let’s say you have a gang banging punk who goes and plants pipe bombs under cop cars and goes and robs a bank with the gang and some innocent mom gets killed. Then let’s say the gang banging punk goes on the lamb for twenty odd years. Eventually, the gang banging punk gets busted and sentenced. Now, let’s pretend this gang is a "protest group" from the 60's and 70's, and the punk is a white woman named Sara Jane Olson.

Regardless of what you think about affirmative action and the like black men do have a legitimate beef here. White women are not held to the same standard under the law. And this does need to change.

This week in the life of baby…

Sorry I haven’t posted much in this series, lately. Baby weighs in at 2 lbs at some point this week. Baby can also hear what is going on both in and outside the womb. Not that Baby gets a good listen, but can probably enjoy music and some other things. Supposedly also Baby can distinguish between lightness and darkness. I’m not so certain I’ve given Baby good opportunity to do so, though, because it is still too cold to wear anything but sweaters. And, most importantly, Josh felt Baby kick for the first time. Baby does aerobics from 4 to about 6:15 every morning (wake up, Mommy, I’m hungry!), off and on. And this morning, Josh actually felt Baby! He compared it to a little muscle spasm. Baby turns 27 weeks old. I’ve already made my 28 week appointment for some gestational diabetes testing and a nice shot of RHOgam in the arm.

As always, from

Life is beautiful…

Can you imagine waiting to bring this precious girl home for a new life while the church celebrates its new life in Christ? Turns out the Joneses did get their phone call and are going to pick their new daughter up. Pray for them and their travels!

And remember to continue to pray for those who haven’t been born yet, particularly as we celebrate the the annunciation of our Lord .

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pray for our new brother...

Pray for our new brother. It is one thing to quietly convert, it is an entirely different thing receiving baptism during Easter Vigil from the Pope . He proclaimed Christ without shame in front of the world.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

He is Risen!

Indeed He is Risen! (OK, day early, but I'll be busy all day today and into tomorrow, so...)

I give you: I Corinthians 15 ... all of it. May it provide comfort to Josh's family as Grandpa is spending his first Easter at rest, and also to others that they may find hope.

The Resurrection of Christ
15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

The Resurrection Body
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blessed Substitutionary Atonement Day

I leave you Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:

He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions
13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday Hymnody...

OK, technically not a 'hymn,' but nothing says Palm Sunday like hearing Beethoven's "Hallelujah!" from Mt. Olivet.

And it made me cry.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On legalism...

I thought I'd make a quick post (darned pregnancy insomnia) on legalism in churches. Personally, I prefer Divine Service (and have occasionally been known to, when out of town, go to Latin Mass at the nearest Catholic Church); Josh on the other hand, does not. Our preferances reflect our church backgrounds, rather then strict theology.

We go to a church that is more casual in its practice of Divine Service. They don't have hymnals in the pews. And sure, I have a problem with that, but compared to other problems churches have, it isn't that big of a deal.

Our church gave Josh fabulous pastoral care when he was in Iraq. If Josh called, even during a staff meeting, really in most instances as well, Pastor dropped what he was doing to talk to him, or Josh was passed around to various pastoral staff members.

There are a couple of things I attend Lutheran Church and expect to experience. I expect a Law and Gospel sermon, to recite the Creeds of the Faith, to recite the Lord's Prayer, to confess my sins and receive absolution, and to RECEIVE Holy Communion. Apart from that, if a Pastor wants to do a series on, say the 10 Commandments, or the Apostle's Creed, and it isn't "that time of the year" or whatever, why shouldn't he? And if a church practices all aspects of Divine Service, just not "in the right order" is that OK?

So, if I like my church so much, why don't I disclose it... Actually, I do link to a ministry my church is starting with the help of the Lutheran Hour... see if you can find it on my side bar. I don't come out and say expressly who I am for a variety of reasons. Those most important to me... we have the same last name as a high ranking officer in the MN National Guard, and I don't want to say something that could get Josh busted. Also, I'm pretty sure I'm it, or at least I am the most visible spouse of someone who was recently deployed in our church. I choose not to identify myself for personal safety reasons. (Even in the best church environment, you never know who walks in the door.) Anyway, it is mostly for safety reasons that I don't disclose much.

But, if you're looking for a good church in the "south metro," I know of one, and may even tell you which one it is.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A few more reasons to celebrate

Don't forget that, apart from Palm Sunday, tomorrow is also St. Urho's Day . Of course, Palm Sunday is certainly more important, but since Sundays don't count during Lent, I invite all non-pregnant people to indulge in wine and remember that the grape crop is only a grasshopper plague away from destruction.

And special to HG, though this is late: Happy Pi Day ! I link for you 1 million digits .

On hymns…

I have come to terms with the idea that my children will not be singing, “We’re going to the mansion on the happy day express,” in Sunday School. Lutherans don’t believe in a pre-trib rapture, and I discovered that I don’t as well, so a lot of the revivalist songs are right out. I was reading Putting Out the Fire, and Frank points out that Evangelicals sure know how to sing hymns. Yup. I’d have to agree. Unless we’re talking about Mount Olivet LCMS in Washington, DC , it is a fabulous church, if you’re in the area, by the way. They sing hymns like no one else. It does sadden me that Josh and my church doesn’t have a set of hymnals in the pews. And it saddens me that we don’t sing more hymns and songs with theological meat to them as a culture (our church is about half hymns, all four to six verses, and P and W). Our church is pretty enthusiastic in singing. Josh and I will have to teach baby more hymns then what we sing in church. Just like everyone has fun watching people square dance, everyone loves a hymn sing. And so, for your ear worm delight, I offer you some hymns, some of perhaps more evangelical theology, to hum to yourself all day (and if these lines don’t do it for you, get thee to a hymnal straight away).

“Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” (wonderful the matchless grace (the matchless grace of Jesus))…
“Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”
“There is Power in the Blood”
“There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
“On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”
“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less then Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness” (the hymnal I was thumbing through was particularly non-confessional, but it is fairly easy to change a bit)
“I Love to Tell the Story,” (ever hear Emmy Lou Harris and Robert Duval sing this one? It’s a great rendition.)
“Be Thou my Vision”
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
“Now Thank we all Our God”

And for your Holy Week humming pleasure…
“O Sacred Head now Wounded” (yes, even Evangelicals know this one)
“Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (any melody, pick your favorite)
“Up from the Grave He Arose…” (you REALLY want to get hymn singing Evangelicals excited about singing, sing this one followed by “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”)


A few things about the mortgage “crisis”…

An article in today’s Star Tribune talks about how foreclosures in a poor area of Minneapolis are not necessarily due to interest rates going up as part of an ARM . However, a law professor from the U of M, Prentiss Cox, says, “The lenders really invented and aggressively sold all these things. Are individuals responsible for their choices? Yes. But so far individuals in their houses and their communities are the only ones who have paid the price.”

I can’t speak for “all” foreclosure situations, but I can speak a little on the foreclosure we just bought. The county we purchased in has free and easily available property information on-line. So, we know the purchase price the last owner paid. Assuming the previous owner resisted temptation and did not take out a home equity loan, the bank is either going to take a loss for our property OR they are going to break even. Let me explain…

When the house went out on the market, it was listed at roughly 25% higher then the price Josh and I are paying for it. Plus, the bank is paying our realtor’s commission, the closing costs, the VA loan origination fee, utilities until we close, property taxes until we close, and a couple of minor repairs. When one subtracts all the other fees the bank is paying, they are just a few thousand above the previous purchase price. Now, this is not counting things like property taxes from the time the previous owners vacated, the costs of eviction, and stuff like that. So, is the bank profiting? I’d say probably not.

And who, may I ask, are “the lenders?” Sure, we have a loan officer who works for a mortgage company. But, where does this money come from? Remember the bank run scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Jimmy Stewart had to tell his savings and loan customers, “I can’t give you all your money, it’s in his house and his business.” Now, Josh and I have a savings account. This money is not sitting in a vault in our bank. No, we put our money in the bank in hopes of getting some little bit of interest (we have some money in savings because we want it easily turned into cash, there are better ways of making your money work for you). But, where is our money, if not in a vault in the bank? It is in someone’s college education, in someone’s small business loan, in someone’s HOUSE.

Then, why isn’t your savings account rate higher? For a variety of reasons. First, we pay loan officers to find worthy people to lend money to, we pay for their office, their staff, and their office supplies; we also pay for tellers to give us money when we want it, we pay for ATMs, we pay for bank locations, and stuff like that. Second, we sacrifice higher interest in favor of being liquid. Third, interest rates are low as it is. Forth, our bank is publicly traded, so we have shareholders to contend with. So, what’s the big deal if someone defaults on their loan? Our money is FDIC insured. The big deal is Josh and I may get our principle back, but if there is less profit to share, our savings account rates suffer; as do the rates of other “safe” vehicles of investment. The big deal is, we’re not talking about a soulless entity; we are talking about hard working people who put their money in a bank. And so, if interest rates fall to a certain rate, people may begin putting their money in their mattress instead of banks. Or they’ll seek higher interest vehicles. Or money to invest in students, businesses, and HOMES becomes harder to obtain.

And what of these shareholders? Well, do you participate in a defined contribution retirement account through work (like a 401(k))? Do you have an IRA? Josh and I do. And we own mutual funds that invest in our bank.

Are ARMs and other loans bad for people to take out? Josh and I have a fixed rate loan. But… most sub-prime, high risk loans are not in default. I’d say there are people who are benefiting from more relaxed lending standards. We can’t judge the entire population of these loans based on the relatively few who default. I’m sure there are first time home buyers who are making these things work. And we shouldn’t take the American dream from them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

New meaning to an old hymn…

We sang “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation,” in church this weekend. And being with child, “let all that is within me adore Him,” has new meaning. It was a nice prayer to sing.

I wouldn’t sign either…

I agree with this judge about one thing… there are some things in life a guardian shouldn’t sign for on behalf of a minor child. Yes, I understand that if you go to basic before your senior year, or start showing up to weekend meetings before you graduate, you increase your rank. But, there are two good reasons, other then politics, the judge could have used:
1. Buyer's remorse. Face it, young adults change their mind all the time. That's why they have a hard time picking colleges. That’s why college students change majors (like I did) or 20-somethings change jobs. Military service is a rough thing to get buyer's remorse over, and at a minimum, a person should have to sign his or her self so they can’t go back and say, “Hey, you could have told me what it would be like and that I wouldn’t like it. Those recruiters painted a different picture.”
2. We should not establish the precedence of anyone representing the state (a judge, politician, anyone) to sign enlistment papers on behalf of a minor. That begins the slippery slope to the draft.

Josh and I have differing opinions on what we will do should 17 year-old Baby tell us “I want to join the active duty service.” Josh would sign in a heart beat, but just for Reserve service. This way a 17 year-old has opportunity for buyer’s remorse, but not in regards to a full time job. I wouldn’t sign strictly because of buyer’s remorse. Should something happen to the kid, my name would be on the paper, and that would be rough.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Don't forget...

To pray for those genuinely less fortunate then we are ! We live in peace and safety, and the worst thing that can happen to us is we can loose our shirts in a bad economy. We've at least tasted peace, safety, and freedom.

I'm sure King will keep us posted as best he can.

God be with those in Armenia, protect them from persecution, and give them the freedom they so desire.

And the belt tightening begins…

Sure, Josh and I will be living on a different budget a month from now, let alone when Pvt. Baby joins us, but the belt tightening I’m referring to is on the end of banks. Citi is going to reduce its residential home mortgage portfolio by 20% (WSJ Subscribers) . A lot of that, they report, is going to come from not replacing loans as they mature, but they are also going to exercise more restraint in lending.

King posts, and via King, Stephen Landsburg , remind us of the people who are out of the media’s view regarding foreclosures (that’d be people like Josh and me who benefit from cheaper housing and next year’s Josh and Liz who will have a harder time getting financing). I’d like to remind everyone of other people out of the news who are hurt by tighter credit, people who want to move because their family wants to move into a bigger house, namely Chad the Elder and family. (Reminds me of a dad and mom who took their three daughters and moved into a bigger house 22 years ago.)

I feel sorry for people who are caught up in bad financial circumstances, either through unwise borrowing decisions or through changing job circumstances. But, Landsburg is right when he says: "None of these foreclosed houses is going to disappear. After a foreclosure, one family moves out, and another moves in. We see the sad faces of the people moving out, but we don't as often see the happy faces of the new homeowners moving in. Nevertheless, those happy faces are out there, and we should not discount them. That's important, and it's important in a larger context. Often when it comes to economic policy, some effects—in this case, the genuinely moving stories of good people who can't afford to live where they've been living—are highly visible, while others—the genuinely moving stories of good people who can now achieve their dreams of home ownership—are less well-publicized. That doesn't make them any less real."

When praying for those affected by the market, don’t forget to ask God’s blessing on those who are outside the view of the media, sellers and buyers alike, and those who hold savings accounts, and…

As an aside, if there's a first time home buyer looking for a place in the west metro, I hear these guys know of one...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On Ethanol…

I’m wondering if we’re really thinking this whole ethanol thing through . No, not from an environmental way or a renewable fuel way, but in a competition way.

What makes ethanol? Beans and corn. What do cows eat? What do chickens and pigs eat? And horses… and what’s in dog food? What about soy based infant formula? And for the vegetarian types and those who like tofu… what’s in tofu?

Josh and I are in the process of switching to biodegradable cleaning products . We have some more selfish reasons for using them, I’ve explained to people. I have some problems with asthma and allergies, and a lot of cleaning chemicals bother me. “Green” products don’t bother me. Josh also has allergies. And we just want to reduce unnecessary irritants Baby is exposed to.

And we try to make decisions that are responsible. Since I commute, at least in our neighborhood, we have a Cub, Target, Kohl’s and other stores we need. We eat a variety of protein products, Josh not so much on the tofu front, but he will eat tempeh. We hope to garden next year… little things like that.

But we make these decisions on our own. I’m not sure increasing ethanol mandates is really the way to do things. Or at least, I’m not sure it is the way we show love to our neighbor. We show love to our neighbor by looking out for their interests as well as our own. And I don’t think increasing demand for food and feed products is really looking out for or neighbors best interest. Food is a need. And I don’t think people care as much for ethanol as they do for milk, eggs, beef, chicken, ham, etc. I think that we should also explore nuclear energy and other energy resources before doing something that is going to increase food prices.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I second the nomination...

I hereby concur that Pianomomsicle is the best local blog . I'll try to get my "vote" in at Shot in the Dark later.

Way cool! Congrats at the nod!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

On sanctification…

Just as a refresher, Scotty was Josh’s best man at our wedding…

You know, I really like Scotty. He’s a great guy. Though I don’t think I have the entire ins and outs of his testimony, I am amazed at him and his life and his attitude.

Scotty gives us food for thought on sanctification . And I want to encourage all, particularly during the Lenten Season of the forgiveness of Christ for our sins, first of all. I trust Scotty completely when he says someone was not exhibiting Christian behavior. But I do want to offer as a reminder to all, let’s not get judgmental of those who generally exhibit Christian behavior. There is nothing wrong with enjoying beer, wine, or cocktails, or cigars, or chocolate dessert, or ones vice of choice. And my guess is that misunderstandings between Scotty and other people revolve around simple lifestyle things like vice or music or something equally superficial.

There are some far more harmful sins. And our pastor, today, said during Bible hour, something to the extent that in order for godly behavior to be a reflex action, we need to practice godly behavior in real life situations. And it is humbling to remember that I don’t exhibit godly intentions, even when I manage behavior that my parents would not be ashamed of (and let me tell you, though my parents are good people, when I resort to talking about behavior my parents wouldn’t be ashamed of, we’re not talking about the law of God, we’re talking about the law of man) it is filled with sinful intentions. A couple of my friends told me on my recount of my most recent near episode of temper that “at least you didn’t do it.” Yeah, I didn’t do it outside, but I did exhibit temper on the inside. And it took me a while to “get over it.”

The more I think about it, the more Christian life is about confession and rededication, receiving absolution and a reminder that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory, but we are offered forgiveness through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus. May God continue to change my heart.

And as an aside, this also shows my ignorance of lent and stuff like that, what is the point of giving up candy or alcohol or TV for lent? No, hear me out, would it not be more prudent for me to try to, say, work on anger management stuff during lent? Sure, I’d utterly fail if I said, “I’m giving up my temper for lent.” No judgment on those who give up candy or whatever for lent. I didn’t make a pledge to give up anything or work on anything. Just a thought, though.

This week in the life of Baby…

We are now 23 weeks along! Baby is about 11 inches and 18 ounces. I’m starting to be able to feel Baby kick from the outside, but that doesn’t mean everyone else can. Actually, I would bet Mom might be able to, but I haven’t seen her within a half hour of me eating recently. Some of it might be psychological, though, since I do know where Baby is kicking from the inside. Oh, well.

As always, from

Home buyer’s journal take four…

Josh and I have had a very busy couple of weeks. When I say we’re aggressive buyers, we’re aggressive buyers. We looked at houses, put an offer on one, and have signed a purchase agreement contingent on an inspection and also a VA appraisal. We showed my folks the house, as well, and they see nothing horribly wrong with it.

We don’t want to take advantage of people and rip them off, but we also want the market to dictate our housing price. We’ve been watching prices… well, I have been watching prices for the past year, but Josh only since July. But, we had an area in mind, what people around here call “south of the river.” Our hope was in an area that is still developing, we would find some better prices. It seems to be the case, at any rate.

Some observations, just from someone who has been looking for a home… no advice for either buyers or sellers, just observations. Josh and I were looking for a house with fewer things to do then more things to do. In other words, we didn’t want to get in over our head with major repairs. Flip the property shows do teach a valuable lesson: get an inspection because there are a lot of lemons out there on the market.

We have now learned, thanks to Dad, what “they don’t build them like they used to anymore,” really means. My parents live in housing that was built to suit the needs of the Greatest Generation, so post WW2/Korean War suburban development. Regardless of reasons, either due to the speed which modern houses are built, or that construction materials and labor are more costly, framing is not as substantial as it used to be. Josh and I did view several houses from both a modern era and the post WW2/Korean War suburban development, and our problems were basically some combination of projects and neighborhood.

One house was in pretty decent shape. The couple who lived there was there for forty years and the man had training in construction. So, structurally everything was great. But the appliances were old, as was the furnace, and about everything else. And the basement looked like it hadn’t been touched in 40 years, but it was finished. Josh and I considered the house on its own, which would have actually been a great deal, but the neighborhood was, to be polite, tired. The neighborhood my folks live in has twelve houses that are, for all practical purposes exactly the same, and in fact, exactly the same as this one house. And everyone has a nice yard and a nice exterior. And the neighborhood looks great! This neighborhood had none of the pride of ownership and there were six to ten other houses for sale. There was this house in a neighborhood Josh and I used to rent in. It’s close to a school, a Cub, a Target, a bagel shop, a couple of coffee shops, and an air plane themed restaurant. Same type of Greatest Generation suburban housing. If you take one of those ramblers, cut off the attached garage and bonus bed/bonus office in the back, that’s the house. This house had pride of ownership, as did many of the houses on the block. The owners had recently added on a half story, and it was a great bonus. The basement was finished, and had a couple of little things… there was essentially nothing wrong with the house. Everything was new. BUT, it was also the nicest house in the neighborhood and there are several foreclosures nearby. The house was not priced accordingly.

The options for Josh and me didn’t just involve type of house. In some aspects, we really could have moved into any style of house, but we were looking at neighborhood and quantity of projects more than anything. Also, we have to keep in mind Josh’s chosen vehicle of public service, the National Guard. We figure, depending on who becomes President, and depending if/when Josh starts officer candidate school, a minimum of three more calendar years before his next deployment. So, any place Josh and I live in has to have the, “I am OK leaving my wife and kid alone” feeling to it.

There is something to be said about “location, location, location.” There is something to be said about the good bones in houses of yesteryear. And there is something to be said on how first house should get ones feet wet in home maintenance and ownership, but not be a horrid experience. The above houses, the one we actually bid on, the house in a tired neighborhood, and the nicest house on the block, were all actually OK possibilities for Josh and me. We opted for the one with what we feel is the least perceived risk. Too bad we couldn’t get location, good bones, and fewer projects all in one, but we bid on a good house.

Now, why buy now… I’m 23 weeks pregnant and will be just entering my third trimester when we actually move. So, what’s the deal? I’ve said before, shelter is a voluntary financial transaction between parties that mutually benefit from the transaction. Josh and I are currently near the point of financial indifference, when tax benefit of ownership comes to play. That’s actually a hard point to figure out. Without seeing the terms of what would be our next lease here, I can only speculate. But, with other factors, a baby on the way, the market seems to be good for buyers, interest rates are low, and Josh and I have no debt (I can say that for four or five more weeks), it seems like a good time to buy, and if we’re not at a market low or at a point where renting is more expensive, it is pretty darned close. We crunched the numbers and the numbers look good.

Needless to say, we’re going to be very busy people the next month or so. I’ll try to get some weekly posting up, but Josh also needs the computer and internet for his classes, so he gets priority.

OPSEC matters…

And Matt Drudge crossed “the line.”

Congratulations to Prince Harry for doing what all too few in our generation accomplish: selfless service. And I can kind of understand how people want to put those who engage in selfless service on a pedestal. Fine, but wait until the deployment is bloody well over.

Loose lips sink ships. As Lutherans we ask: what does this mean? It means that when my soldier is deployed, he doesn’t tell me what he’s doing and where he’s doing it. Because if a military wife tells her three best friends in the world about a mission, and these best friends tell their three other best friends who in turn tell their three other best friends who tell… you get the point. Eventually, due to the way we communicate in this generation, the mission is compromised and men and women die unnecessarily.

I had to explain to a friend of Josh and mine how it was inappropriate to say, “I wish the Bush girls were in Iraq.” Yes, our friend said the statement out of grief and missing Josh, but that doesn’t keep in mind security. The media would disclose the whereabouts of the Bush girls and they would be targets, as would those around them.

I’m glad Prince Harry is a servant. There are far too few in the world. But, our “right to know” about what high profile people are doing is MUCH less important then the right of Prince Harry and his fellow soldiers to engage in a mission in as safe a manner as possible. If ANYTHING were to have happened to the Prince or any of his comrades due to Matt Drudge’s reporting, he would be complicit in murder. We are talking about people’s lives, not Prince Harry and when he wore a Nazi outfit to a Halloween party or getting sloshed or whatever. And that is the difference.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

You can fool some of the people some of the time…

And Mrs. Chad T. Elder won’t buy it.

OK, I had to, but I’d sign up for a PAC against taxing clothes. Hello, expectant mother here. (Note, garage sales are THE place to go for baby clothes, but kids eventually become fashion conscious.)

So, which would you rather do… pay 6.5% as everything stands, or 5.95% on everything as it stands and also clothes? Here’s the economics question of the day for you. You will be paying a lower rate, but on more stuff. So, when you sit down and crunch the numbers, does this half percent decrease in rate really cost you less, or will it cost you more? Keep in mind all your clothing purchases that don’t come from a garage sale.

Let’s say you don’t know where to even begin to answer this question. OK, so let’s say you’re going to need to do some clothes shopping. And let’s say you do so for every season shift, but are responsible and buy stuff that has some overlap value. Save all your receipts. Then, take a typical month of your other spending (CDs, taxable food, books, stuff you pay sales taxes on… keep your receipts). Number a scrap paper from 1 to 11 and here’s what you do:
1. Add up all your clothes spending, it’s almost spring, so you will probably have some. (Let’s say $100)
2. Add up all your taxable spending, be careful if you are pulling stuff off of a Cub receipt, because most of the stuff on there isn’t taxable. (Let’s also say $100)
3. Add up all of the sales taxes that you paid under the current system. (100*0.065=$6.50)
4. Take your taxable spending and multiply that by 0.0595 (the new tax rate) (100*.0595 = $5.95)
5. Take your clothes spending and multiply that by 0.0595 (the new tax rate) (100*0.0595 = $5.95)
6. Take your answer to number 3 (your current sales tax for a month) and multiply it by 12. (6.5*12 = $78)
7. Take your answer to number 4 (your forecasted new tax rate) and multiply it by 12. (5.95*12 = $71.40)
8. Take the answer for number 5 and multiply it by four (remember, we assume four seasons, so four times you are buying clothes). (5.95*4 = $23.80)
9. Add together your answer to 7 and 8. Is it bigger or smaller then your answer to question six? If it is smaller then question six, then you are OK with paying a lower rate on more stuff. But my guess is it’s bigger, so to do a good analysis, we have one more step… (23.80+71.40 = $95.20; our number is bigger, so…)
10. Subtract number 7 from number 6; and that is your savings on stuff you currently pay taxes on. (78-71.4 = $6.60)
11. Take number 10 and subtract that from number 9. Is THIS number bigger or smaller then your answer to question number 6? If it is smaller then question six, then you are OK with paying a lower rate on more stuff. But, my guess is it’s bigger, so you should be against this new tax proposal, or should spend less on clothes. (95.2-6.6 = $88.60; this is still bigger then the $78 you would currently be paying).

Well, Liz, wouldn’t there be a time where you would be indifferent towards the tax? Sure. This requires a bit more math.

Let’s say x = spending on stuff that is currently taxable and y = spending on clothes.
Currently, the sales tax you are paying is: 0.065x+0y
The legislature wants you to pay this: 0.0595x+0.0595y
So, if you want to figure out which spending levels will give you the same cost you are paying now…
0.065x+0y = 0.0595x+0.0595y
0.065x = 0.0595x+0.0595y
0.065x-0.0595x = 0.0595y
0.0055x = 0.0595y
0.0055x/0.0595 = y
0.092x = y

So, if x = $100, in order to pay the exact same amount of sales tax, you could only spend $9.20 on clothes!

And we must remember, though this *seems* like a tax decrease, the entire point is to raise more money. As the TV show asks, “Deal, or no deal?”

As an updated aside, yes I realize I made clothes spending dependent upon other items. I did this because the tax on clothes is going up, and the tax on other stuff is going down, so naturally, it would be tempting to spend more on other stuff and less on clothes. Furthermore, one does't *need* CDs or candy; so the above example shows the strong increase in a family's budget a sales tax increase will have. A creative budgeter will make the personal decisions between how much to spend on clothes and how much to spend on other stuff. And that person will figure out how much sales tax they currently pay, and how much they will end up paying. My example isn't any good for anyones personal budgeting decisions and I certainly won't be using it in my own budgeting decisions. It is just an illustrative example on how much the tax increase stands to become. Furthermore, though I do know how to take my illustrative example and customize it to the value people place on clothes verses the value they place on other stuff (called utility), it has been a really long time since I've done it, and it doesn't advance my point that much. I'm just showing friends how to crunch the numbers and get through the political jargon. I think they can make their own budgeting decisions.