Monday, December 26, 2011

Free Copy of In The Trenches - 1 year later

It has been almost one year since the free copy of In The Trenches became available in an on-line version. After it posted I took some time off to adjust to new changes in my own life. To the best I can tell over 5,000 copies of the book have been viewed through readers passing the word along. Exact numbers are not available due to the way I originally set up the links. Far more have looked through the daily and older posts. First, I want to say Thank you! Thanks for sharing and passing the link. Thanks for continuing to refer people to the blog even though I was not actively posting for a while.

Officially the American Economic Crisis is over.  Realistically we know that millions are still having a difficult time and things have changed and are continuing to change.  For many these changes are leaving them hopeless, confused, and angry. Worse is that many are still looking for someone else to fix or improve things not realizing that improvement can only come as we strengthen the economy family by family. 

Many still think of cell phones, internet connections, and cable as basic necessities when they don't have enough for basic housing, clothing, or food.  They look to others to fill in the gap instead of recognizing the need to be self reliant and manage within their own budget.  This thinking and actions will cost generations to come to pay off the state and national debts incurred.  Some help and assistance may be required for a temporary period but the sooner we are off the better.  Those who have followed the blog know that it is my belief that to win this battle we must persevere while naming the names of those who masterminded the crisis itself. (See the soapbox and American Economy categories for more on these topics).

Truly there are huge challenges for the country yet to face - rising health care costs, misuse of tax payer funds, outsourcing of jobs, and the decline in manufacturing and food growth in America to name a few.  These are the problems that we cannot improve on our own and have every reason to expect our elected officials to address. 

Since resuming posting in August 2011 many new visitors have come to the site from throughout the country and the world.  I thought it fitting to let everyone know that the free book is available and ask that you would pass it on to those going through hard times and might benefit from adding this to their knowledge base.  Click on the right hand side for the screen and the full size worksheets are below.

In my own small circle of life recently I have become aware of still more well dressed, productive families currently going through foreclosure and/or dealing with unemployment. It goes to show that waiting until someone hits the need for public or private assistance is often long after the need was first identified. Please take the opportunity to post this and other information on facebook or other sources.  It is said that things look darkest before the dawn but it is also true that they can appear bright and cheery just before the fall.

"Happy New Year!

For many of us 2010  (2011) has been a challenging year! I for one have moved to another state, been unemployed for a time, found new homes for all of my horses, had health problems, and financial challenges. And all the while I kept on blogging. Sometimes with good readership and feedback and others where it seemed so quiet. But I watched the map and saw that my words were reaching all over the United States, Canada, Russia, Europe, Australia, and Asia. So I kept on writing. I watched the news and saw the millions of foreclosures, and 20 million on food stamps, and watched the unemployment rates and cried and kept on writing.

Now I'm going to ask something of you: Included in this blog post is a link to a free online copy of In The Trenches - Financial Survival During Times of Hardship. For months I have thought about how to reach others with this information at no cost and so now I ask you to forward the link to this post to anyone you can think of who might be interested and ask them to forward it on as well. If each person would send it to six people in no time at all it would reach 1 million - that is the goal, but I need your help.

The story behind In The Trenches
The greatest challenge of dealing with financial hardship or poverty is the despair and frustration that comes with it. It is sometimes difficult to share our personal stories especially on-line and after much vacillation I have decided to go for it with the hope that it will assist someone else in their own time of need of encouragement, faith, or comfort.

I remember a number of years ago laying on the hideabed couch that I was using as a bed to be closer to the woodstove. The chimney had gotten so plugged up that very little heat was emanating. The temperature outside was 18 degrees below freezing and what windows that were not broken were covered with ice on the inside. The children had been sent to a relatives and I was in the pit of despair. I cried out to God that if this what was to be my life than let me die. His answer came clearly to my mind as if He was standing directly in front of me; "Praise Me," He said. I answered just as loudly; " I will not praise You". Again He said; "Praise Me". Even more forcefully I said; "I will NOT praise You!" His words were quiet this time. "Do you worship your comfort more than you worship Me?" My heart was cut to the quick, and with sobs coming from my soul I began to sing the song I knew so well; "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen"

From that moment forward things began to change. Big changes and little changes and over the course of the next few years our lives improved. Yes, there was still hardship and penny pinching. And, not only did we learn how to build a fire, plant a garden, and raise a steer but more importantly I learned that we can prosper and improve from wherever we are.

I came to understand that by building my life on consumerism and debt spending I had erected a house of cards that was just waiting for a strong wind to blow it all down. I learned that living life on the installment plan or counting on today's income to go on tomorrow was a recipe for disaster. And, I knew just as certainly that the same fate would come upon the country as a whole at some point in my lifetime.

During this period of rebuilding many of my life long dreams were able to be fulfilled as I had the opportunity to work with flowers, home remodeling, ornamental birds and horses. All the while I was accompanied by my dogs who were my constant companions.

The Goal of In The Trenches
The mission of In The Trenches is to reach out and show people that financial hardship can be the beginning of the most amazing journey a person can fathom. In it we are challenged to learn who we are, what we can do, and to set our sites on where we want to go. We can learn what is important and what is not. The strategy begins with a basic financial assessment and although it seems to be about money it is really about life. Though the process of evaluating our goals, choices, and plans we not only survive but we are finally able to thrive.

It is the goal of In The Trenches to reach 1 million people and assist them through the personal challenge of enduring and adjusting to a time of unemployment, for the single mother struggling on her own, to give ideas to those who are sick and tired of being on welfare, or just want our hard earned dollars to stretch further. The book is not about telling people what to do. The challenge is to encourage one another to rise up from our own despair and financial misconceptions and realize we, have choices, options, and personal power. "

It is our privilege and responsibility to get through this in a way that will better things for our children and grand children.  One does not always choose the circumstances in which they might find themselves but we do choose our response.

God Bless and Happy 2012 New Year!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Homeless Boy Steals The Talent Show

Some stories must be shared and I stumbled across this one.   11 million have watched this video and there are sure to be more. 

  Homeless Boy Steals The Talent Show

Any words I might add to this amazing story would merely detract from it's power. 

After you watch it once you will want to watch it again and share it with your friends. 

There is a facebook link on the bottom or if you copy the actual link once you get to utube the picture will show on facebook. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Air Jordans Cause Shopping Frenzy Across U.S.

You won't believe this story released by the A.P.!

New Air Jordans Cause Shopping Frenzy Across U.S.

And, here is another:

Air Jordan Fans destroy property, trample shoppers in search of new shoes

It has all the drama of a cattle stampede:  Doors being ripped off, people being trampled, and shots fired!

This is American consumerism at it's finest.  The scene is played out in Seattle, WA (my home state) which is known as one of the friendliest, most livable cities in the country.  Watch how that all changes over a pair of new Air Jordans. 

Don't miss the video shown by Fox News.  Maybe your state has caught the fever. 

This is what In The Trenches is NOT about though if brawling is your idea of a good time then it might be fun.  Instead of going to the mall we could say we are going to the maul.  Could be a new sport - physical contact shopping, it would be a cross between shopping and football.  Wonder what we could call it?

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Iraq War: Last US Troops Return Home

Welcome home!
In the hussle and bussle of our daily lives it is easy to miss even the biggest and most important events.  Our troops are finally home from Iraq!  What a joyous reason to celebrate.
Thank you for serving with honor.  What a wonderful Christmas gift for us all. 
Iraq War: Last US Troops Return Home (SLIDESHOW)

Weekly Address: Honoring Those Who Served in Iraq

Soldiers return to Fort Hood, say they’re glad to be home for holidays and out of Iraq

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Salvation Army - Hear the Bells Ringing?

It's that time again so I wanted to share this post originally written last year.  
We've all seen them and in our bustling shopping schedule it's easy to walk right on by.  Sometimes we may throw in some spare change as we pass.  This year I got curious to know more about the Salvation Army including it's history and impact.  What I found amazed and astounded me and if you have a few minutes I hope you too will take the time to learn a little more about this wonderful organization to whom one of the wives of the McDonald's company thought worthy enough to donate $1.6 billion dollars.  I know I will dig a whole lot deeper into my own wallet each time I see a kettle. 

The Salvation Army is the Number 1 non-governmental charitable organization in the United States and has locations in 122 countries.  They have been feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, on the battle fields, and burying the dead after disasters.  In 1906 they were there after the great San Francisco earthquake and more recently have assisted 1.7 million after Hurricane Katrina investing $365 million dollars and countless hours in rebuilding the lives of those affected.  The list of where they have been and the help they have given is extensive for more than a century.

Amazon Link
Founded in 1865 in the United Kingdom by William and Catherine Booth as a mission organization to reach out to the alcoholics, drug addicts, and prostitutes.  While William preached to those outcasts of society his wife spoke to the wealthy gaining financial support for the work.  Surprisingly their work was met with the throwing of rocks, rats, and tar along with assaults on their workers because they were affecting the livelihood of the bars and other individuals who profited off their misery.  Read more about the history and current outreach in  Wikipedia .  In Australia alone the Salvation Army has housed over 30,000 needy children.  William's goals were simple: Soup, Soap, Salvation.

His passion and mission has encompassed the world providing food, clothing, and shelter to those in need and rapid response in times of crisis.  We have the opportunity to participate in this work simply by taking a moment to pause and donate to the kettles and thrift stores thoughout our communities.  The story is exciting and encouraging and never more appropriate than in this season of giving.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reflections on winter - Emotional Grasshoppers

One of the wonderful things about life is that each day when we awake we have the opportunity to decide whether we want to do things differently or continue on the same course.  The gift of freedom and choice are never to be taken for granted or ignored. 

Typically the New Year is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.  In some ways the date is arbitrary but in another it is a reminder of the fresh start we have been given.  The middle of winter has not always been my favorite time of year.  The cold days and the short amount of daylight are something that at best I try to tolerate but not embrace. 

A friend of mine changed my perspective.  When I would moan and complain about yet another winter she was excited and ready.  What was the difference?  She was a quilter. Her family spent the fall stacking the wood, canning the food, and preparing for the winter.  If snow were to come she would be happy to be not leaving the home for weeks at a time.  And while she was home she was working on what she loved - quilting.

I, on the other hand, loved to be outside.  Digging, mowing, planting, and trimming - this was my idea of a good time.  I would practically press my face against the glass waiting for a break in the weather so I could get outside.  When the winter was finally over and the flowers started popping up I would be so relieved and feeling thankful that "I would never have to do THAT again"  only to be shocked and dismayed when winter would come the following year.  It took me many years to realize that this was inevitable and I chose the option of those in the sky and twenty years later flew south.

So what was the difference between my friend and I?  It would be easy to point to the obvious but what I learned was that it was the classic story of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  The fact was that we were both going to experience winter every year and she had done a better job planning for it.  I was not a complete Grasshopper as I also had my wood stacked, food in the pantry, and had prepared for the physical needs of my family.  But what I had not planned for was the emotional impact that the winter season would have on me and in not doing so had contributed to my own misery. 

I decided to PLAN.  I loved to plan.  That is what I had done in much of my previous career and I could spend hours with my pen and tablet making lists, prioritizing, making phone calls, brainstorming, and studying.  One year I planned my house renovations, another a horse training program, on and on it went.  I would make lists of things I could do in the house when I thought I would go nuts.  I collected books of interest to be read.  When winter came the next year I was ready.  My main winter project became making plans for my projects throughout the year.  And when winter came I was ready.  Amazingly enough I look back many years and can say I actually enjoyed myself. I even made a couple quilt tops.

Many people who are In The Trenches financially approach it the same way that I approached winter.  "oh, no" "This is horrible".  "It will never end".  The fact is that most of us in the course of life will go through financial seasons just as we go through annual seasons.  There will be ups, downs, and in betweens.  Many are waiting for their financial spring like getting a new job just like I waited for the flowers to bloom.  When spring comes the smiles reappear and it is easy to forget that a financial winter will come again.  This may be in the form of a decline in income or and increase in expenses.

The most important thing I learned was also the simplest.  Life has it's seasons.  We can have our favorites all we want but that does not prevent the other seasons from occurring.  Acknowledging this and PLANNING for it not only financially but emotionally can make the difference between our joy and misery. 

Which of the four seasons are you in today? 

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Independents Day Awakening the American Spirit book review

My recent book choices have been primarily found at the library, book sales, or garage sales.  I bring home a bag of interesting titles and read them when the mood strikes.  Independents Day - Awakening the American Spirit by Lou Dobbs was one such book.  Amazon currently has the book on sale for the bargain price of $1.30.

 The only way I can think to describe it is that I finally saw the elephant.

I am probably one of the few people who tries to stay abreast of developments in the United States but had never heard of Lou Dobbs, formerly of CNN news, until I picked up this book.  That may be surprising but it was around 2007 that the more I watched the news on t.v. the more the bias and slant was clearly visible to me.  So I quit watching.   (For the record, I know nothing of the man beyond this book so I make no representations of his character, etc in case some major scandal breaks out or he holds some crazy viewpoints I am unaware of.) Since then there are certain topics I follow but do so by watching headline news on the internet, reading books, and doing my own research on the subjects.  Some I write about and some I don't.  Included are:
  • The banking industry
  • The housing crisis
  • The U.S. economy
  • Outsourcing of jobs
  • Illegal Immigration
  • Education
  • The Welfare system
  • Politicians
  • The impact and future of all of the above
Some of these topics and the books I have read are written about in this blog.  At times it is somewhat annoying to both myself and others because in the midst of the conversations about everyday things and events I have to bite my tongue to not start in what people classify a "political" discussion.  Especially among women there are few that I have found who want to engage in these topics.  So I keep my nose in my books and keep reading.

 Along comes Lou Dobbs and in one book he has chapters on ALL my favorite topics:
  1. A Superpower Struggle
  2. Inflection Points
  3. Two Parties, No Choice
  4. Power to the People
  5. The Imperious Presidency
  6. Debtor Nation
  7. Shadow Government
  8. God and Politics
  9. Crossing the Line
  10. Eating Our Young
  11. Nation in Denial
  12. Media Madness
  13. Independent Thinking and the American Spirit
His approach is what he defines as nationalism which is seeing America (and all countries) as independent, separate entities whose policies should meet the most important needs of their own nation first.  Contrast that to what is now often referred to as the Global Economy.  The difference between the two mindsets drastically effects the choices and decisions made on all policy, military, and economic fronts.  One of the most challenging and persuasive subjects covered in the book is Who is Running the Show now?  What are their goals?  And why are the voices of the American people not being heard though they are speaking louder and louder?
A man who FINALLY gets it. Lou Dobbs describes himself as an Independent populist.I am grateful to Lou Dobbs for writing this book as his work substantiates and documents my own viewpoints and Lou has had a full time job and staff of researchers to document his findings.  I say this because so many of us watch and see what is going on but then the news and reports that deny or spin what we are able to see with our own eyes.   If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a duck...but in this case an elephant.

So what is with the elephant?  For years I have read about, thought about, and discussed all the pieces but it was this book that opened my eyes to see that all of these topics are part of the same animal.  This book pulls together what may seem to be unrelated topics and shows how they are all interrelated and yes, have the same source for their cause, are no accident, and not even negligence.  They are purposeful ruination of the American culture and ideals by those same people who are flying around in their golden parachutes.  I would not and did not see how the pieces fit together but the picture is now crystal clear. 

    On other occasions my book reviews have expounded on the details of a book but in this instance I would encourage anyone who has an interest in education, the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs, illegal immigration, politics that seem to offer no choice or action, or any other topic that is of major importance to this country -- read the book.  Whether you choose to read a chapter or cover to cover I think you will find that Lou Dobbs has expressed the voice of the American people that others have tried to ignore.
    I look forward to reading his other book War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back . The book is also available at a reduced price in Kindle format or free from the library.  Another interesting title is Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas If you would like updated news here is the official website that has daily news feeds.
      Time is moving forward.  Could it be that our progress is hindered by the forces whose goals are contrary to the best interests of the American people?  It would seem so.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    It's The Thought That Counts

    We have all heard it said "it's the thought that counts". Our financially lean years test this because as a giver we can feel badly that we cannot do more and as a receiver we can feel slighted. Our age is no matter because even children can look around and see what friends have received. Yes, it is petty and something we may not want to admit about ourselves but it definitely can happen.

    I remember years ago. I was a single mother and funds were tight. There was no money for extras. That Christmas my brother was doing well and when I opened a Christmas card from him he had given me a round trip ticket to Hawaii. I burst into tears. At that time in my life I had never even been on a plane let alone travelled to paradise. I held on to the ticket for a while and in the end traded it in so that I could buy food and pay basic expenses after asking him first if that would be okay.

    The next year rolled around and it was Christmas again. The gifts were being opened and my brother had bought me a big winter sweater. It was a nice sweater but I remember feeling surprised at how much my brother's financial situation had changed. It was almost as if the gift giving was giving a window into the financial lives of others.

    More years passed. We got together for dinner at mom's house as usual and it was so good to see my brother and have us all together. I have no recollection what gifts were exchanged. All I know is that the next day I got a phone call that my almost 25 year old brother had died. It was a life changing Christmas.

    Christmas - it's the thought that counts. As this season comes up love those you love as much as you can. Be thankful for each and everyone sitting around the table. Whether you are gifted with a trip to paradise, a warm sweater for the cold, or being in the presence of someone you love it is a joyful time. And remember why we celebrate. Christmas. The name says it all.

    I wanted to share my two favorite Christmas movies and hope you have a chance to catch them again or for the first time. Usually they have been on Lifetime but I see one has moved to CBS

    The Christmas Shoes
    Home by Christmas

    I just found that Lifetime has a neat feature where you can find your movies and in addition to seeing the times it will be showing you can also receive an email reminder. You can tell I'm easily pleased. :) I also love sticky notes, my walls and computer can become wallpapered with them. Wish I would have invented them.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Mr Willowby's Christmas Tree

    Looking for a new tradition? This is my family's favorite Christmas story.  I received it as a gift in 1963 and we have been reading it ever since.  I posted this last year but too late for most people to obtain a copy.  This year we are set and ready to go.  The family will love it.  And for the reader it is a chance to use their stage voices as they express each of the characters. 

    Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree is the story of a man who purchased a giant beautiful Christmas tree that was too tall so he chopped off the top.  And, the top continued to be chopped and was passed along to many families until it finally reached a little mouse family.  It is a wonderful story of surprises, delight, and making the most of what you have, and being happy!  The illustrations make the story AND they are now IN COLOR.  Imagine that...

    Amazon has both the original black and white drawing and new versions available and both have the same story and illustrator so take your pick.  They also have the "look inside" feature if you would like more information.

    It just wouldn't be Christmas without Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Wells Fargo passes Counterfeit $100

    After cashing a check at Wells Fargo the funds were taken to Chase to make a mortgage payment.  Among the bills a counterfeit $100 was detected!   After almost an hour of review and completing forms the bill was confiscated for the Secret Service .

    I am out $100 with no recourse!!   I went back to  Wells Fargo and was told that since I cannot PROVE the money came from them they would not replace it.  Now if by some small chance after 4 bank employees at Chase having reviewed the bill if the Secret Service were to decide they had made a mistake I would get the bill back in a month. 

    I hope this makes you as angry as it made me.  If we cannot trust our banks to pass out real money than something is terribly wrong.  Now regardless of whether I can PROVE it or not if I had wanted phony money I would have dug into my Monopoly set, not gone to a bank.

    Yes, I'm stewing on my next soapbox post and will have it up soon.  Please don't jump to the conclusion that "See, debit cards are better" before you read it.  As I mention on the sidebar I was in banking and worked in the computer center of a major bank.  I was one of the small fry people working on EFT at the birth of what was called Merchant Services in the early 70's.  This eventually became what is now called the debt card. That is why I DON'T have one.  Now my some small chance after 4 bank employees at Chase having reviewed the bill if the Secret Service were to decide they had made a mistake I would get the bill back in a month.

    I wanted to keep this short and simple as the story is, the title says it all:

    Wells Fargo passes counterfeit $100!