Month: November 2016

With Great Gratitude

This year was the most hectic year in our lives.

We started the year with my wife and I getting sick at the same time. It lasted about a week. It’s bad enough to get bedridden. It’s worse when your spouse is also bedridden and not able to take care of you. We passed that one, thank God!

Plentiful blessings went our way. The amount of blessings we receive year after year are unbelievable sometimes. Not in a materialistic sort of way but rather in amazement that were getting blessed with so much.

We’re thankful (with credit to my sister in law M.A. who texted this last night) for the things that we didn’t receive. It is a truly a blessing.  For example, if I won a $100M lottery – I consider it more of a curse than a blessing. Of course, I might change my mind if I actually win. I don’t buy lottery tickets so there’s zero chance it will happen!

We are thankful for having a rather pleasant life. I mean many things can go wrong yet they don’t. The other day I had a flat tire while driving at fast freeway speed. I still drove for another 7 miles before deciding that it’s time to pull over because there was a “blap-blap-blap” noise coming from the tire.  Eight years ago was my last flat tire before this one. The 2008 flat tire event happened within 50 feet of a tire shop. How cool is that?

Among the many highlights of this year was the birth of my granddaughter who was born prematurely. Premature babies need an immense amount of care and love just for them to survive. Everyday we experienced peaks and valleys of emotion. By God’s grace and through the prayers of numerous prayer groups, churches, friends and families, our miracle baby got through those trials and is ever improving.

We’re grateful for the trials that God allowed to happen in our lives. Without it, we won’t have patience, perseverance, wisdom and an understanding of how God operates. It helped (and is still helping) us to optimize and prioritize our time and resources. It allowed us to be completely dependent on the Lord

Trials give us character. Prayers lift us up to God. Every good thing comes from Him. We have nothing but Praise!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

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Don’t Buy

Just recently I have been thinking hard about finances. It involved short term and long term planning, mostly a general picture for the future. I know even the best laid plans don’t amount to success but it’s still better to have a plan and then adjust as obstacles show up. It’s always good to look five, ten years into the future and make a financial plan.

During my deep thought process – I came across something that’s been the common denominator of any personal finance – beginning with mine. It’s spending in general, spending wisely in particular. I’ve seen many people with very high incomes yet can’t maintain their lifestyles for more than a year if their income stop. So the expenditure portion is equally important to the income and investment part of finance planning.

Here’s a few instances where spending (or not) is highlighted:

Case #1 – After preaching about minimalism, I ended up owning three bikes.  I bought the first of the three bikes in 1999. The three bicycles do different things – trail riding, cruising and fast road bike – I think I won’t be riding enough each one to justify the cost.  What’s the common denominator? I bought them. Things would have been simpler if I stayed with one bicycle. Now I would have to get rid of two…

Case #2 – I pick only a few colors for clothes so I don’t have to think much what I’m going to wear next. However, I always end up getting a new one unplanned. Common factor:  I bought a few every time I see a sale price. My justification? Buying before I need one ensures I get the best price on things.  Justified? This one is and does not require much cash outlay so it’s OK.

Case #3 – I almost bought a new car just a few days ago. It was the estimated cost of the repairs that prompted me to look at a new car. I agonized over the decision – should I buy it? I prayed for guidance (especially for major purchases). In the end I was still in doubt so I decided to cancel it and just do repairs on my 8-year old car.  My conclusion: Repairs are still much cheaper than the monthly principal and interest payments. I patted myself on the back after.

Case #4 – When choosing produce or groceries, we opt for organic food instead of the regular ones. It is more expensive but in the end it’s cheaper because it will save us from unnecessary medical costs.

For major and minor stuff, I made a list of things that I really need (and want) like tools, clothes, equipment and just purchase them whenever there’s a sale (after rethinking it a few times). Of course not all of them will be on sale. I also know from experience that some of them will be discontinued in the future so buying them today would be prudent (See Case #2 above).

For the things I consider superfluous stuff (Cable TV, Watching Live Sports, Zip Lining, TV in backseats of cars, electric skateboards, lottery tickets, chips for casino slot machines) I practice what I preach at least 95% of the time:  I don’t buy them.

How about not spending on personal items for the next six months? Hmmmm.

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A Fresh Start

It’s been a few days now after the national election – and we have a new President. Mixed emotions are all over the news – from joy to shock and anything in between and beyond. That’s the beauty of a democratic society – we all agree to disagree in our choices but in the end the guy we elected will run the show and we either love or despise him or her for the next four years. Then it’s time to pick another one hoping our candidates will be elected.

When I first arrived in the U.S. I was happy that the President was Reagan. He started the process to build a 600-ship navy.  That means I’ll have plenty of choices for duty stations.  I think Reagan was a good president especially because I compared him to the President of the country that I just left. We’ll call him President X for reference. He was proven to be corrupt and gathered so much wealth even though his official pay was less than my pay while in boot camp.

I was super happy to have left my old country because the President X’s government was corrupt and there’s no checks and balances. If you’re poor you can be a victim anytime. If you’re rich and you’re not in their inner circle, they take away your possessions. Armed military ran the show and there’s no freedom for regular folks.

Before I came to the U.S. I already had this intense desire to live here someday (just like millions of people around the world). I read up about a thousand magazines/books/publications about the U.S., excelled in my U.S. History and U.S. Government classes, and (you’ll love this one) I watched only U.S. made movies for years just before my feet touched the LAX tarmac.

When I arrived, I felt like I was part of the culture already. Of course, since English was not my first language – I had to think what I have to say first in my old language, do a quick translation in my head and then talk. After a few years, it’s the other way around.

Now back to this election – I have an unwritten rule of not saying who I voted for so I won’t. To me it is a fresh start again. I personally prefer that every four years, we have a new President, as well as members of congress, mayors, etc. – I think it’s more dynamic that way and better for the nation.

In my humble opinion, the U.S. government is the best government in this flawed world. Is it perfect? No!  Is it the best form of government? No!  Is it less corrupt than most government? Probably. However, the U.S. will not be the most powerful nation on earth if its government is just average.

The local and national news are full of people with different reactions to the newly elected officials, especially the President.  I don’t control other people’s opinion but I had to be accountable for my action. In short, what should I do?   Let’s refer to the Bible’s teaching on how to deal with leaders:  Treat them with proper respect and pray for them. I would do that regardless of any country I’m in because that’s what my Maker wants me to do.

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