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!

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Would the lotto change everything?

    When I was In The Trenches if someone would have asked me what did I need often my answer would have been "Mo Money".  Each day as I looked around and stressed over the next payment or expense the only creativity I could muster was that money would solve the problem.  Of course to a degree that would provide a temporary solution and change and solve my immediate needs but as time passed I learned that there was far more to be learned and gained from the experience. 

    Somehow the friends I made during those rough times primarily seemed to be older and in my parents and grandparents generation.  Maybe in retrospect this was because they had reached a place in life that they not only had the time for friendship but also that they were not as apt to measure or assess a person by the outward appearance or lack of appearance of prosperity.

    Those that I met had been through the Great Depression.  They had weathered the storms of life and whether they were now prosperous or just making it they recognized that a better measure of a person was by their integrity and not by the kind of car they drove or clothes they wore.  The stories of their experiences made anything I was going through seem like a mere inconvenience or just a part of life and a challenge to overcome. 

    Today as I contemplated those who have now worked so hard, so long, and felt discouraged or angry and maybe like things were never going to get better I though of the lotto.  The ultimate "Mo Money" proposition. 

    If given the chance would you trade what you are now gaining in experience for winning the lotto?  I suppose many would as evidenced by the number of tickets that are sold.  I admit that I have succumbed to the temptation myself for a total investment/waste of $10 throughout my adult life.  Maybe it's because I like numbers and statistics I just can't get past the crazy odds.  I figure my chances are much better at finding a job or otherwise improving my situation than winning the lotto.

    Just out of curiosity and a memory of a show I once watched about lotto winners I did a little googling  and found that even with so great of odds against winning up to 1/3 of the winners ended up worse after winning than before.  I include the following not as a roundup but to substantiate the thought that more money is not always the answer:
    Why Lottery Winners Go Bankrupt
    1 in 3 Lottery Winners Broke Within 5 Years
    Powerfall - $27 Million Dollar Lottery Winner Broke

    So what then is the answer?  For those who seek to find one it will be as personal as the circumstances and may not be apparent until the situation changes.  Not meaning to sound ambiguous however this is what happened to me.  It was not until months and even years later that I was able to appreciate and see what I had learned.  Yes, at the time I was learning some very practical skills but what I did not recognize at the time was that the experience was in fact changing ME and not just my finances.  This is what took me longer to see or understand.  When things did turn around I was making different choices, I responded to things with different emotions.  What I thought of as hardships had refined and changed me.  Some things I appreciated more and some had value no longer. 

    Whether you are now in the recovery stage, plodding along, or still feeling like you are in free fall in the end there will be change and experience.  If you have received some lemons you will know how to make lemonade. 

    Would it be fun to win the lotto?  Yes.  For now we may have to be content with a nice tall glass of lemonade.  And, who knows, in the end we may be better off for it.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011


    Did you know?

    • That the older the egg the flatter the yoke lays?
    • That free range chicken egg yolks are almost orange and the corn fed caged chickens produce eggs whose yolks are pale yellow?
    • That a chicken only lays one egg a day, usually in the morning?
    • That chicken's prefer to roost at night?
    • That possums, coyotes, and weasels are natural predators for the flock?
    • That a red dot in the egg is the sign of a fertilized egg?
    • That the number of hours of day light determine whether a chicken will lay an egg therefore they do not lay in the winter unless artificial light is added?
    • That the difference between a brown egg and a white egg is only the breed of the chicken who laid it?
    • That in a farm environment a good ratio between roosters and hens is 10/1?
    • That eggs that are past good float?
    • That the incubation period for chicken eggs is 21 days?
    • That eggs come in many colors and sizes?

    • That Winlock, WA is the home of the world's largest egg and every year they have an Egg Day Parade and all day events?  And, for many years it was the major industry of the town and they shipped eggs and chicks throughout the entire country?

    These are a few of the type of things that one might learn while In The Trenches.  For others the learning process might be doing their own yard work, cutting children's hair, changing the oil in their car, or ironing a shirt.  Things that one might have previously paid someone else to do are now all up for the DIY test.   Teaching the kids as soon as possible thereafter also raises their knowledge and experience :)

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Thanksgiving Dinner

    Here are a couple of our family traditions that if you haven't thought of already you may enjoy:

    1.  When we sit down at the table each person shares something that they are thankful for.  This is especially fun with kids because one never knows what might come out of a four year old's mouth.

    2.  Invite over people we know that may not have family living close by.  There is always plenty of food to go around and in my mind no one should have to be alone on this special day.

    3.  Call the out of town relatives.  My morning is not complete without talking to each of my grown children. 

    4.  Put all the worries and projects aside at least for today.  There will be time enough for that tomorrow.

    5.  Share one of your favorite recipes.  At our family dinners each person has their special contribution.  I can't think of Thanksgiving without thinking of my friend Tammy's cherry cheesecake, Aunt Rosie's mincemeat pie, or Mom's sauerkraut relish.  If you feel like giving a treasure write out the recipe and pass it on.  If you want it to remain your special secret I get that too, the memory will not fade.

    6.  Smile at and hug everyone who walks through the door and when they leave,  even if or maybe especially if you don't like them.  No one can get enough hugs.

    These little things make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday of the year.

    Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are able to enjoy the bounty of family, friends, and food.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Are you content?

    And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.  I Timothy 6:8KJV

    I can almost picture the pilgrims and those from all generations saying this as a prayer, a declaration, an admonishment, and a reminder.  I love the King James Translation not is spite of the strange and different wording but because of the eloquence and officialdom of the that somehow grabs my thoughts and makes me chew on it just a little longer like a savory bite of food. Sometimes I have to grab my dictionary just to look something up but even that seems like finding a hidden treasure. 

    In modern English the same text might be said like this: 

    But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. NIV

    I did not know contentment until I lost much.  What?  That does not seem to even make sense.  It was during the season of my own personal battle that I began an exercise that changed my thinking.  When I was without running water, heat, or an income I would conduct the following on a regular basis.

    Write down 20 things you are thankful for.

    At first this was difficult because I was so focused on what I used to have and now did not.  I would take my spiral notebook and pen and sit there and ponder.

    My children -oh yes, I love them so much
    Electricity - things would even be more difficult without lights, a frig, and a stove
    The sunshine - that was nice too, bright, cheerful, not so cold today
    Food - I did have some food

    On and on I would write until I got my 20 things I was thankful for.  I did this almost daily for a time and then gradually did it less often.  The list would include everything from the fresh air, the cute birds, my favorite bathrobe, my friends and family, and even the good and bad experiences I had had in the past and expected I would have in the future.

    An amazing thing eventually happened.  I became content.  That didn't mean that I did not still have big plans and ideas for the future and hopes for recovering some semblance of what I used to have, like running water, but I knew things were all okay.  I knew that even with little in the material sense I was okay, life was okay, and I was content.

    I realized what a powerful thing contentment really is.  Not only is each day brighter but much of the anxiety goes away leaving behind a clear head not as easily swayed but panic, enticements, and that grouchy attitude that makes everyone want to clear the room when you arrive. 

    Contentment and Thankfulness.  What better ways to start this Thanksgiving week.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Food round up

    Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday so what better way to start this round up than with an article about how to put together a budget meal.   The other articles are ones I have picked up either because I thought they were funny or timely.  So hopefully there is something for everyone and will introduce or reacquaint you with some worthwhile financial blogs to add to your reading list.

    The Saved Quarter...Budget Thanksgiving Dinner: 3 hours, $30, holiday meal for 8

    Everyday Tips and Thoughts...My Unfrugal Confession: I Am A Food Waster (Occasionally)

    Food prices are expected to go up. The drought in Texas is one reason because the agriculture industry has been hit in the billions. Optimists are saying 5% and others are saying up to 30% on some items. Regardless of what the actual numbers may end up being food is something we all need, and in many ways it is one of the expenses we have the MOST control over depending on our choices.

    Fiscal Fizzle...Why I Expect 10% Food Price Inflation

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Who is Occupy?

    Occupy protesters march nationwide; 300 arrested  AP News story in Yahoo.

    Many of us have heard the rumblings in the news about Occupy.  They are creating quite a national stir and I for one had not heard of them until a week ago.  So I'm posting this background from Wikipedia as a starting point for my own learning and thought you might be interested as well.  I have no feelings for or against this organization and would be interested in hearing if you do.

    With the millions who have been affected and the diverse objectives of the players, as I noted in my Animal Farm post, it is not surprising that mass protesting would emerge.  What really caught my eye as I begin to read is that the founders of this group are from Canada.  What's that about?

    I have written a number of posts in the Soap Box and American Economy sections that discuss where we have been and where we were headed.  In April 2010 I wrote a post titled - American Economy One Person at a Time .

    Yes, there is still much to be done.  Above all I just want to express my feelings that I love this country, I grieve for this country, and I hope we can keep the integrity and courage to move forward to a strong recovery.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    The good ole days

    For those of us who read financial blogs we know that often the comments, discussions, and arguments of the readers are often more interesting than the blog post itself. 

    The Changing Value of Hardwork posted by The Simple Dollar on October 27 was one such article.  Trent threw out an idea and the readers seemed to pounce on it and then on one another in the fray.  Below is a portion of one comment made that stirred me to jump in.  I am not trying to misrepresent the writer in any way so please go back to the link to read in it's entirety if you are interested:

    "...In the not so distant past, middle class Americans could afford to have a servant (live-in or daily) and meet basic needs on ONE income. Now that is no longer true. To meet basic needs for a family takes TWO incomes, and I don’t know many middle class homes with servants. Though dishwashers, laundry machines, etc. take over some of that labor..."

    My Response:
    As a child raised in the 50's and 60's I can definitely state that what was considered "the basics" and supported by one income is not what people now consider the basics.  I was raised in a well off suburb and most of the families had one car, 1 b/w TV, no computers, no clothes dryers, did not drive the kids all around because we were expected to walk or ride our bikes.  We watched a movie as a treat maybe once every 1-3 months.  We reused our lunch sacks, had one phone, and long distance calls were for emergencies (like deaths) only.  The hired help was usually a teenaged girl getting paid 50 cents an hour and happy to have the opportunity to earn some money.  The boys helped with yard work.

    The "need" to have two people working to support a home was created primarily by my own generation who wanted and expected it all the day they moved away from home and wanted even bigger, better, and faster - even if it meant going into debt to get it.  That is one of the major reasons we are now dealing with what is called the "American Economic Crisis". 

    What stuck me full force with her comment was that in retrospect only one generation prior to mine even in the well off suburbs of America the spending habits would be considered frugal by today's standards and actions.  Go back one more generation and we had those who lived through the depression as adults and worked from before dawn to long after dark in homes that had wood heat, often no insulation, and were just getting electricity.

    As a child I remember we went to Seattle only once or twice a year to shop or visit family because it was "too far away" and gas cost money.  It was all of 10 miles. 

    We are probably living in the most lavish time and generation that has ever lived.  We have the most and we take the most for granted and call it a necessity.   Someone recently said "there are millions around the world who would love to come to America just to be poor".  Point well made.

    If there is one vivid memory of the way in which we were raised it was that we were expected to bring home our brown paper lunch sacks daily and keep them in the condition that we would be able to use them for a week.  Waste of any kind was discouraged and the expression "Waste Not, Want Not" was oft repeated.  People didn't talk about green or frugal living but lived by the motto "A penny saved is a penny earned". 

    It was a top priority that a mother was able to stay home and care for her children so people were willing to do without in order to accomplish this.  It is not so much that our economics have changed as it is our priorities and standards have changed.

    My mother was unusual in that she was divorced and did not remarry, this was very uncommon among the kids I went to school with.  Mom received no child support and on her single salary made sure that my brother and I had good medical care, braces on our teeth (not covered by insurance), music through the school, annual family vacations, and my brother played soccor.  We always had food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in.  We were able to attend summer camps but were expected to do any "earn your own way" options that were available.  We also earned our own spending money.  We did not have everything that the families who had a father as the head of the family but one thing was always clear: we were my mom's top priority.  I don't ever remember her going out for the evening to have a good time without us.  If we were not all together she did not go.

    Although mom was gone when I came home from school, making me one of the original latch key kids in our area, all the neighbor mothers were home and I shared in their home baked cookies, went to the girl scout meetings hosted in their homes, and shared in their after school activities until mom came home after a long days work.

    Beyond that our lifestyle was not much different from one another and often when it was time for their fathers to come home it was my signal to go home so many of the fathers I never met.

    Every family on the block had a hot meal waiting. One could hear the call to dinner as mothers stuck their heads out the door to call the kids.  For some it might have been macaroni and cheese and for others steak but nonetheless it was the way we lived.  Nowadays many people may laugh at Leave it to Beaver but it was definately a good way to grow up.  Parents worked hard and sacrificed much to provide this model of home for their children.

    I share this mainly to set the record straight.  It is easy to draw conclusions and assume that the rise in the two parent working family is a necessity while overlooking that it is a choice made up quite possibly of a series of many little choices.   I just can't imagine Wally and the Beav or anyone I knew for that matter being in what is now being referred to as "generation rage". There was just not that much to be mad about.  Even in areas that were experiencing difficult times would work through them in hardworking decent ways.

    Making these little choices today is just as possible if not more so than they were in the 50's and 60's.  It all depends on our priorities. 

    For more about the lifestyle of the good ole days:
    In The Trenches - Recycling

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Pneumonia round up

    I started to feel just crappy and went to the doctor.  As I suspected I had gotten pneumonia from being out in the cold too much the previous weekend.  They actually gave me a shot in the rump!  I was indignant.  This was the first one I remember having since I was six.  But, I guess I deserved it as I should have had enough sense to get in out of the cold.

    Pneumonia is a strange thing.  It makes one so very weak.  Especially when combined with the codeine cough medicine.  So I am on my 4th day of sleeping and sitting.  As long as I do just those two things I tell myself I am getting better but if I get up and walk around within 5 minutes I feel weak and am coughing. 

    I don't feel like reading, t.v., or talking on the phone.  Being in ones bathrobe for days though comfortable eventually makes one feel sloppy. I thought of knitting a scarf but could not find my needles.  It's amazing that one can actually just sit in a chair doing nothing and the clock continues at the same pace as when one is very busy and getting things done. And, I'm not doing much writing because my mind feels so la ti da.

    The good news is that it gives one the opportunity to contemplate their life and I feel so much more thankful for my job and will be glad to get back on Monday.  I am thankful for my comfortable bed, chair, and that I can turn the heat up when I am cold.  I am thankful that I can go to the cupboard and find a can of soup. And, I'm thankful for doctors and medicine. 

    One thing I have been able to do in spurts is to read other financial blogs and there is some really good stuff.  I'm surprised how many coupon blogs there are.  I'm not much into that because my goal is to stay out of the stores as much as possible.   I wish I would have thought of this sooner but as I mentioned my brain is somewhat on delayed reaction.  So here is a round up of my favorite stories so you can enjoy them also.

    Going bananas on my debt: A look back at how debt-obsessed I was From Fabulously Broke. If you need to feel inspired today here is your story.

    Lower Your Grocery Bill: 3 Secrets From ChristianPF . What I'm enjoying about this in addition to the post is the comments and discussion of the readers.  A number of home grown options are being reviewed.

    Got $50 bucks? Green your house From Cool to Be Frugal.  Sometimes we all need a reminder to do the small practical things that can save big money.  Another thing I noticed about this blog that may be of interest to our readers is that the family is managing on one income, a feat some would say is impossible in this economy.

    Thoughts For Thursday: How Do You Handle Eavesdroppers? From Kris at Everyday Thoughts and Tips.  This just brightened my day and made me chuckle which is a good thing when not feeling well.

    Of course my staple diet of financial blogs are Personal Finance by the Book where Joe has just concluded his series on doing a flip house.  A daring undertaking in this economy.  Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme can be counted on to make me think and make me laugh all in the same sentence.  His book is having extreme sales as people delve into thinking about finances in a new way.  He is modest and would probably deny it but it's a tough market out there for a new author.  Once we realize that money is merely one of many tools we are free to make choices in an entirely new way.

    The moral to the story is that winter is here.  If you are going to be outside...take a coat.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Thank you.

    There really are no words to express the gratitude I feel toward the brave men and women who have served, fought, and died for this country and our freedom.  It goes beyond whether I support or agree with specific military policy or action. Their sacrifice has touched every generation and most of our families in one way or another. 

    Thank you.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Gold man

    Riding the bus provides an almost daily element of interest and stories of the people in the city.  Last week was no exception.  I looked up from my book and noticed a man farther toward the front wearing a straw hat that had been spray painted gold.  Interesting but a little tacky for my tastes I thought.  As my stop came up I walked toward the front and noticed with interest that his clothes were also spray painted gold.  Hmmm.. Of course I wanted to unabashedly check him out but good manners prevented me from a full stare.  In walking past I couldn't help but glance down because I wanted to see his face.  What kind of person would wear painted clothes.  And, there it was...his face was painted gold also!

    I continued to work and mentioned it to my coworkers.  "Oh yes, we have seen him downtown" they all replied.  Completely baffled I asked why would a person do such a thing?  They responded that people give him money.  Totally perplexed I had to affirm, "you mean people give him money for spray painting himself gold?"  My past 20 years in a rural area had not prepared me to even contemplate this possibility.  They assured me it was true.

    I was totally impressed.  How much creativity did it take to come up with this idea?  Does one just wake up one morning and decide they want to be a gold man?  Or, was it one of those In The Trenches decisions made out of desperation of being down to ones last dollar?  Either way I had to give him credit for his ingenuity.

    So are you low on money?  Get out your tablet and make a list of all the ideas that pop into your mind for making some extra money.  (Legal and moral of course)  Let gold man inspire you to new levels of creativity.  You may just come up with something brilliant.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    How many cans of Mushroom Soup can you use?

    “Hey, did you hear that Smith’s has a sale on Campbell’s Mushroom Soup for 49 cents?”  That was the lead in that began the conversation to start a food storage program.  The concept stirs a number of responses and reactions from survivalist extremes to grind your own wheat but I think the best reason to begin a food storage program is that IT SAVES MONEY.  There are many ways and methods to begin and the free on-line book outlines a simple way to begin.  My friends at Food Storage Made Easy can give even more advanced plans and ideas. 

    So what would one do with 50 cans of cream of mushroom soup?  Here are my family’s top easy preparation recipes that even the kids can help make:

    Tater Tot Casserole
    Brown 1 to 1 ½ lb. of ground beef
    Drain and layer on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
    Cover with tater tots
    Spread mushroom soup over the top.
    Cover with grated Cheddar cheese.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour covered with foil or without.  I prefer without.

    Serves 4 to 6 people.

    Chicken with Mushroom soup gravy
    (This recipe also works with pieces of round steak)
    Wash chicken pieces and pat dry.  Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
    Cover with flour.
    Brown in skillet
    Place in baking dish
    Cover with 1 or 2 cans of mushroom soup depending on how many are being served and how much gravy is desired.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

    Serve with rice or stuffing and vegetable of your choice.

    Chicken Rice Soup
    Boil chicken pieces in water until tender.  I use the pieces that are not the family favorites such as backs.  Thighs make the tastiest soups. (You can save the breasts for the recipe above.) Place in refrigerator overnight.  The broth will cool and any grease will rise to the top.  Skim off and discard.  Remove meat from bones and cut meat into small pieces.  Return to broth in pot and reheat.

    Here is the SECRET to tasty soup: In a separate pan sauté your favorite or left over vegetables.  My favorites for this are garlic, fresh ginger, onions, celery, and mushrooms.  Even a few water chestnuts make a nice addition.
    Add sautéed vegetables to soup base and add any additional vegetables you might like such as broccoli, frozen mixed vegetables, or asparagus.

    Continue to taste soup and add salt and pepper to taste.  I use Patis as a substitute for salt. It is a Pilipino seasoning.  If you try this be very careful!  It is very salty and a teaspoon goes a long way but I prefer the flavor which is incidentally made of anchovies.
    About 15 minutes before serving add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup or so of rice. Too much and you will have a casserole. These two ingredients are what will turn the soup from an accompaniment to a rib sticking meal.  Serve with cornbread; garlic French bread, or grilled cheese sandwiches.
    I have purposefully not listed specific amounts of each ingredient first of all because this is the way I learned to make soup and second because my best tasting soups have been ones that I have dug through the refrigerator looking for leftovers and by the time I thought of writing it down had forgotten all that I had put in.  Each one was different and unique.

    Food storage step one?
    • 12 cans corn
    • 4 cans green beans
    • 4 cans French cut green beans
    • 10 cans Cream of Chicken
    • 38 cans Cream of Mushroom
    • 6 Low sodium chicken broth
    • 8 cans Chili
    Total cans = 82
    Total cost = under $44 dollars.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    The quiet invasion of America

    Sometimes being right makes me sad and in this case it just ticks me off.  Consider this new article from the Wall Street Journal -

    Foreigners' Sweetener: Buy House, Get a Visa

    In essence it is new bi-partisan legislation that will further attract and reward the investment of foreign money into the purchase of land on American soil.

    Remember what we used to say daily with our hands on our hearts?

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.
    And to the Republic for which it stands
    One nation under God
    Indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

    A nation can be taken in many ways.  The two most common are militarily and financially.  I am a  supporter of legal immigration but believe it should be done with knowledge, conditions, and with stipulations. My own great grandparents immigrated from Germany.  It is essential for someone who lives in America, and, especially one who purchases land to know and be required to pledge allegiance to the Constitutional principles this country was founded on.  Further they need to defend them as the needs arise. This goes beyond merely speaking the words and includes a history of life and practice dedicated to those principles.

    In a review of my soapbox articles I warned that a foreign take over of land would be the next big step coming in the housing crisis.  Some time has passed and there are new readers to the blog so I wanted to raise the attention again hopefully as a siren to those who still love this country and in recognition of those who have served and died to defend and protect it.

    Remember that banks now own outright over 12 million homes taken through foreclosure the last time I looked and they have one goal: to make money. 

    Posted October 6, 2010
    Did you see this article in Time Magazine? I thought the writer did a good job researching home ownership trends back as far as 1900 and outlined government involvement through tax advantages and loan programs. After Housing Bubble, the Dark Side of Homeowner Dreams - TIME.  In reading the comments it can be assessed that many were rattled by the article.  I'm not sure if it was her statistics or her conclusions that jarred people.  Although I don't necessarily agree with her conclusions I did think she brought up some valid points.

    I am going to suggest that there is a plan in motion that is so diabolical that it would seem to come from a "I'M GOING TO RULE THE WORLD" action flick. This is the question that I have been asking myself lately and chewing on the possibilities. "After Housing Bubble..." What next? If you have been reading my previous posts on the U.S. Economy you know that I believe the housing crisis was no accident and part of a bigger plan. So what next? Where are we going from here? I would like to share a few observations and thoughts that I believe deserve further research.  If you know any resources or links you can point me in the right direction I would appreciate it.  I believe this topic is HUGE and this my first attempt to identify the next step of this UFO that is overshadowing the American Economy.  I can see it but am not yet sure what it is.

    A short summary of the housing crisis so far and what I think Phase 4 may bring:

    As an investor, what would you do if you owned a number of homes and the prices were down? Would you sell low or would you hold on to them and rent them out until prices and buyer demand went up again? If we can answer that simple question maybe we could figure out what is going on in the national economy. What works on a scale of a few would also work on a scale of millions.
    Phase 1 - The bubble. Banks loosen credit requirements and people are investing all they have in homes whose prices are going up at a record pace.  Many are getting rich in the process. People try and buy before they go higher thinking that if they wait they will miss their chance at a home and a investment opportunity.  For some this proved to be true.  For millions more it did not.

    Phase 2 - The bubble bursts. Millions of foreclosures with banks taking 100% ownership of properties and all the cash down payments and monthly payments that have been made. Personal credit ratings ruined so people will not be allowed to buy for 5 to 10 years.

    Phase 3 - Home prices and interest rates lowest in decades but news articles saying that homes are no longer a good investment and individuals discouraged to buy. See cover story of Time magazine. The almighty credit rating of so many has been ruined by the first hit so even with money available they are unable to jump on the BUY LOW INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY.

    Phase 4 - This is where I'm watching for the next move. What I suspect is happening is that now that banks own so much property they will hold it and go into the property management business through secondary sources. Since they own the homes 100% the rent received will be pure profit (less taxes) and no equity is acquired by the resident. In a few years people have their credit magically improved and/or will realize that they have been scammed again and will start buying but prices will already be on the rise.

    The scenario makes me shiver.  How much power and money is enough? 

    One important note to make is that the term "home ownership" is very misleading. 

    I was vividly reminded of this about 2 years ago when I forgot to make a $15 line of credit payment.  I received a notice from Chase that my home was now in default on my mortgage!  It took me hours of canned music and false starts to even find what the problem was and when I found the mistake I immediately paid the line of credit payment with the late fees.  But guess what?  That was not enough.  Chase had reported to the credit bureaus that my actual mortgage payment was late and my credit score was dropped by more than 100 points with a red flag on my mortgage even though my mortgage payment was on auto-deduction and therefore NEVER late.  I spent at least 60 hours making phone calls and writing letters and even contacted an attorney.  I was told that the way Chase reported it would stand even though I could clearly show two separate account numbers.  C'est l'vie. Am I still angry?  Not so much, but it did open my eyes and I started looking around and asking the logical question "What in the world is going on here?"  And then I got furious!  

    Shrouded in mystery.
    Understanding the economic crisis is like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle without the benefit of the box top.  By looking at the colors and patterns of the individual pieces little sections begin coming together.  As a person who enjoys good detective novels and has been employed as an analyst it is an interesting task.  The most fascinating part of the entire thing is that a person would want to believe that all are seeking the truth so that good solutions would be found.  Not true.  The goal of many is clearly to make the most money possible before the rest of us figure it out.  Politicians want to stay in power.  The media wants ratings.

    Watching MSN and then FOX about the same news stories it is obvious that they are not reporting the news but that they are promoting an agenda. How can two recountings of "eye witnesses" be so different?  Sifting through the rubble of information and words is challenging.  No wonder so many end up turning off the t.v. and getting on with their lives.  Worse are those who repeat what they hear without question or thought.  To put it bluntly - they are almost all a bunch of liars.  Do you remember the old game show "To Tell The Truth"?  This is the game they are playing with the American people.  Most I believe (or hope) are not even doing it on purpose.  We can all miss the forest through the trees and have our own viewpoints interpret what we see.  I'm just as susceptible as any to this and that is one reason I try to receive information from both ends of the spectrum on any subject that interests me.

    Unanswered questions.
    It is amazing how difficult it is to find the answers to specific questions with all the abundance of information on the Internet.  To know if what I am referring to as Phase 4 I need answers to the following questions:
    1. How many homes have been foreclosed by bank?
    2. How many homes does the bank now own 100%?
    3. How does that compare to previous periods?
    4. How are these distributed between the BIG bankers and the community bankers?
    5. Are foreign investors allowed to purchase these homes?
    6. How many "qualified" buyers are there now?
    7. What is the average amount that credit scores have dropped since the crisis began?
    8. What % equity do home buyers now have in their homes?  Underwater, break even, equity percents?
    9. What is happening with bank owned homes?
    10. Are banks freeing up credit for private investors to purchase multiple homes if they meet credit requirements? 
    11. Are those who have been foreclosed have high debt balances from shortages of funds collected?
    12. How much cash money have Americans actually lost in down payments?  (I talked to a neighbor who lost $100,000)
    13. Why are the bankers fighting so hard against the efforts to provide home buyer bailouts?
    14. Why are these numbers so hard to find?  Is someone trying to hide something?
    My theory.
    If I am correct about Phase 4 we will continue to see a trend of bank foreclosures, stagnant loan modifications, media discouragement to buy homes, and the banking industry stepping in as "property managers".  Of course they will continue just enough "business as usual" to camouflage what they are doing.  Why split the profit if by holding their investment they can gain far more?  It's too early to answer the question but not too early to ask.  And watch.  Am I a conspiracy nut?  Not really but when I smell something fishy I begin looking for fish.  You may not agree but you can throw out the theory in a discussion and see if others get riled up.  I'm willing to take the rap as "the crazy one".

    If you have any book recommendations or links to statistics on this subject please let me know.

    Included are the comments from the first time this was posted that give more of the statistics that were located.