Month: November 2012

Little things count

There’s probably very few people in the world that checks their credit card balance every single day. I know only of one person. But I am happy to tell you that every expense in her credit card statement is accounted for to the last cent. That results in no unexpected expenses and in turn better money management as evidenced by a high savings rate.

I bet 99% of us doesn’t have the inclination, patience or desire to do what she does. We are more geared to look at the “big picture” and we define “big picture” as something that favors whatever is convenient for us.

If we really pause and think about it, the big picture is always made up of little things. Look at your flat screen TV or your computer monitor. There are millions of dots there a.k.a. pixels. If a few of those pixels are not reflecting  light, the screen looks like someone scratched out a few micro dots and it looks blemished. In our familiarity with “high resolution display”, having that blemish could be something that will vex us endlessly.

If you notice, it’s the same with our finances. All the little credit card charges here and there add up to hundreds. All the hundreds add up to thousands. And when the monthly bills come, we suddenly wonder how come our credit card balance is so high? Maybe it’s time to switch to an envelope budget system?

Now let’s go to the other side: investing or saving. Every little dollar bill that we don’t spend today, gets into our savings. Having savings gives us a peace of mind knowing that if we need funds for emergencies, we have savings we can get into. Or in investments: If we buy a few shares of stocks, mutual funds or bonds every now then, before we know it, they have increased in value and it seems that our funds are ever increasing.

To further illustrate this, my grandson James has a bank balance of over $250.00 and that’s mostly from dimes, quarters and nickels that we accumulated when we empty our pockets at the end of the day and also from collecting all the change that are laying around in our car. And this is only a few months worth of effort.

So if we keep on saving instead of spending, the more we’ll have control over our finances. The more we invest, the more we have money working for us, instead of us working for money.

The same is true for any endeavor. Someone said “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Actually it will be a total of about 1,760,000 steps for 1,000 miles (thanks to the pedometer app in the iPhone ). But every  step of that journey is important in reaching the 1,000 mile point. That is also the reason why it takes several years before we can get formal or vocational education. To be skillful in a professional endeavor, hundreds or even thousands of hours are necessary to be proficient.

Unfortunately, society and technology has made us believe that things can be easily manipulated by only a push of a button or two. Instant gratification is the norm. We want our material things (or even skills) and we want it now. Some of the things we want we can have instantly, but it takes years to pay for the consequence of getting it before we can afford to have it. The thrill of the purchase typically last days, weeks or a few months. But the consequence last a few years. That’s why it’s great if the item you bought can be returned for a refund, because you can still correct that irrational decision. But most big ticket items are non refundable. You can only get rid of it at a great cost to your bank balance.

Gone are the old days when we save up for something, then we purchase it cash. There’s still a few people who does that, but they are probably 5% of the Western population.

When a ship sails from one end of the globe to another port 3,000 miles away, the rudder is constantly corrected to maintain course several hundred times a day. All those corrections are necessary to reach the destination. Without that steering input from the helmsman, the ship will be adrift or get shipwrecked eventually. Our lives should mimic what the helmsman is doing.

This can be done by being vigilant daily with our finances, with our goals and monitoring the process we have selected to achieve that goal. We also have to nurture our relationships daily, by thinking what’s good for the other person, and not the Janet Jackson approach of “what have you done for me lately?”. These are all necessary to have fulfilling lives. Having this kind of life puts us in a better position to empower others to have fulfilling lives also.




A life extension

In my last post, I mentioned about the reason for my delay in posting new blog. I had an angiogram followed by a major heart surgery. To continue…

While I was at the waiting room, awaiting for the other surgery to be done, I had a chance to think quietly and pray/ask God about my life. At that point, I was thinking only of the procedure. Specifically, Would I survive this surgery? Am I ready to die? I prayed for it to be successful but also wondered if I am ready for God’s kingdom if I died. I think I have enough selfishness, lust and pride in my being that I still have long ways to go. Despite that I still asked for God to accept me and asked for forgiveness. This may be one of my deepest prayers ever. Just before I was wheeled in to the Operating room, I had this feeling that God will grant me a life extension.

When I was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for a few days after my surgery, I had a chance to think that my life lately hasn’t been very productive for God. All I did was work day in and day out and hasn’t been doing anything else, other than ride my bike a few days a week. I concluded right there and then that I needed to do more. Much more than the past few years.

I was really impressed by Scripps Green Hospital that I decided that one of the things I could do is to volunteer there after my recovery. The doctors and nurses and most of the other medical professionals that took care of me were genuinely concerned about me and their other patients. They are one of the top hospitals in the U.S. but in my book, they are the #1 hospital for surgeries and post surgery care.

A few people warned me about getting depressed during my recovery. I was thinking, why should I be depressed when I should be thankful that I have this new lease on life? I have this thinking that most depression can be overcome by a feeling of gratitude. I have a million things to be thankful about. If I concentrate on being thankful, I can eliminate depression. However, I don’t really know all the causes of depression so I do self-analysis on a daily basis. I can’t be all cocky and find out later that I am depressed.

I found out later that some of my relatives organized prayers and fasting for me. A few friends were praying for me also without getting prompted. I was really awed by the number of people who were praying but I didn’t find out until later. I had at least three churches and a ministry praying for me. These groups are full of people who I haven’t met yet. Also, my relatives were in constant communication with my wife offering support all through the hard times (This actually made me start liking the iPhone finally )

So my continued existence was primarily due to the unconditional love of God and the unconditional love of the people that prayed for me.  Yes, I believe that the more people prayed for me, the more God leaned towards sparing my life for now. That was awesome!

That’s what makes this Thanksgiving Day all the more special! Eternal gratefulness to God and to my loving family, relatives and friends (even if I haven’t met them) for my earthly life extended.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!



A life changing event

I have not posted a new post for over a month now. I’m sorry about that. I just had a major heart surgery in the first week of October. Thank God that it was successful, I have been granted an extension of my life.

I had been feeling chest pains for several months – maybe a year – but I largely ignored it. I thought I was just getting old or just getting stressed. But the frequency increased so that led me to see a doctor. I went to the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital first, where they did a stress test. They didn’t like the results so they had me do another stress test a week later with a radiactive contrast. (Note: please do not ignore chest pains, see a doctor immediately)

Days later, the VA doctor called for an appointment. The doctor was young but he spoke with a sense of urgency. He told me that I need to undergo an angiogram due to severe blockage in my arteries. One of arteries he referred to as the “widowmaker”. I told him I would ask for a second opinion.

I told my primary doctor at Scripps Clinic, who immediately got me an appointment with a cardiologist. The cardiologist insisted that I should get an angiogram and referred me to another cardiologist who does angiograms.  Supposedly it is an easy procedure and I could be out on the same day. I went to Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla for the procedure at 5:30 AM.  The nurse that prepped me and the Medical crew that brought me to the operating room were very nice so I was feeling at ease. During my stay in this hospital, I had this feeling that this is probably the best hospital in the world due to the attitudes of both the nurses and the doctors.

The angiogram did not give me the result I expected. The doctor informed me that we need more procedures because the blockage cannot be fixed by stents. I was groggy with the anesthesia so I didn’t really paid attention to what he said.

I went to the recovery room, was pampered again, and later was moved to a room in one of the Wings of the hospital. That was when my original cardiologist called and said I needed a bypass operation. Then the angiogram surgeon came and talked to my family about the urgency of the situation. I was undergoing mapping of my veins on his first visit so I wasn’t there. The doctor made a trip back to the hospital from home just to let me know the urgency of the situation.  Then a heart surgeon came and said that he has an opening the following day at 2:30 PM.

Things are all happening at a very rapid pace and I needed to make a decision. The doctor wouldn’t release me from the hospital because he said that I am days away from a heart attack. I prayed for guidance and wisdom on how to arrive at the correct decision. I didn’t how God would give me the guidance but I waited. Within hours, three doctors and a nurse said I would need to do it. My family was for it too, afraid that if I didn’t do it soon, they would lose me. I decided to do it the following day.

With limited time, I started to ask people to pray for me. My wife texted or called family members who had their churches, families and friends praying for me. Some of them who prayed I haven’t even met.

At this point, a lot of things became last priority in my life. Everything else was just trivial matter compared to what is going to happen the next day. My biggest question is will I survive this procedure? I have not thought of having surgery before in my life – and this is one where your heart is stopped for several minutes. It was an overwhelming and shocking experience.

To be continued…