Values Essay

It has been a while since my last post.  Some of it has to do with a little writer's block as well as some stressful family times as my wife is now a full-time stay-at-home mother (she had been working from home with a salary position bringing a steady paycheck).  This caused us to overhaul our budget but we worked it out.  I could not be happier having her at home taking care of our son and pursuing some of her hobbies.

While trying to formulate another post I started digging around in some of my old college essays for inspiration.  Most of my college essays were written on pure emotion and it lights a fire sometimes when I'm looking in the dark for a little inspiration.  I found an old essay that was a favorite of mine.  For some reason the ideas going through my head at the time really had an impact on how I view the world.  I decided to clean it up a bit and post it here for a more public critique and discussion.  Enjoy! (and don't make fun of me too much):

  "In this essay I would like to discuss values.  I would like to talk about where our current notion of values comes from.  Are they intrinsic to our human nature, or are they constructs?  I do not wish to create an argumentative or persuasive essay but merely a discussion.  I am not doing much research other than what I think I already believe to be true.  I simply would like to write about how I think and feel towards this notion of value.
    In order for me to understand value I need to travel back to man's beginning as neanderthals.  The values they embodied were much different than those of today.  Mostly, the things that were most valuable were those that helped to survive.  Food, water, shelter, and the various tools invented to make these things more easily attained.  As rocks gave way to clubs and other early-history tools, values changed.  When hunting and gathering turned to agriculture values changed.  When nomadic tribes became settled in one area and developed a society values changed.  Throughout the history of man values seem to be transferred from one thing to another.  One cannot say the same for most other species of animals.  Have a shark's values changed any during his millions of years in the earth's oceans?
    For me, it seems that there are a few crucial shifts in values that have shaped man's perception of these values as they are today.  The first major shift would be that of moving from valuing materials (such as food, water, tools) to spiritual values.  When man placed more value on the God(s) in which he worshipped than the actual things that gave him life, perception changed.  The second major shift that I see as changing our perspectives is one where man placed value in money.  Monetary value.  These two words have become integrated into the world so much so that without them it would cease to function as we know it today.  Whether it be gold, silver, jewels, paper money, or imaginary figures in bank accounts these things have real value.  Where did this value come from?
    This monetary value comes completely from our minds much like any other form of value.  Without us placing value on or in something there is none.  A piece of paper that I can trade for food has no more value than that stone club which was used to get food before.  Our values have changed.  Our values will always change, it is not a static thing.  Society has told us that money has value, whether or not this is true is another matter.  In order to survive in what we consider civilized society one needs some amount of money.  In most countries and societies money is a necessity.  Money has become part of the food, water, and shelter mode of survival.  This is not true in places where indigenous tribes are still active.  Most tribal communities do not rely on money at all, and function quite well.  Trading goods and services has become a thing of the past.  We have added money to the mash.  In order to give or receive goods or services, one must use money as the mediary.  How has this value system changed society?
    Some of the obvious answers would be that a great deal of greed, power struggles, deaths, and oppression have come about due to society's desire for more money.  Something not as often looked at is the fact that money has no natural value.  There is nothing about a piece of paper or a coin that helps us survive other than the value that people place on it.  Native Americans did not use money in the contemporary sense, but rather traded goods and other things that they had in their possession.  Native Americans valued the preservation of their future.  They valued the health of the earth because they understood that all life comes from the earth and it should be taken care of.  Many things that we value today are imaginary and can disappear in an instant.  Our entire global economy is based on this monetary value.  The same monetary value that is completely imaginary and could be transferred to anything.  If I tell someone that one coconut is equal to three bananas, and they agree, then both the coconut and the bananas have value other than that of nutrition.  Our entire system of monetary value can come back to this simple principle.  If everyone agrees that something has worth, than it does.  But what would happen if suddenly everyone decided that money did not have value?  Instead we switched, and gave value to things with less imaginative worth, such as food, goods and services. 
    Sure our economy would crumble and many people would probably die from poverty and lack of food but what would come next?  We would have to revert back to being true societal beings and relying on one another for survival.  Some people would call this a destruction of civilization, I would venture to say it would be the start of it.  Imagine a world where you could build a house for someone and in return that same person would provide food for your family.  Money has turned us into independent beings.  No wonder so many people have social problems, depression, and loneliness.  Our society is structured so that you have the ability to live completely alone.  The Internet has made it possible for people to survive without ever actually leaving their home and having no human contact.  While some may wish that upon themselves, others are suffering due to the innate human desire to interact.  It is only in times of despair that people begin to look at the society they live in and question it.  Nobody is going to save us from ourselves.  What better time than now to question our current value system and see if we can't figure something out that's better.  There is no proper place to stop this discussion but it must stop nevertheless.  In our state of a failed world economy, I shall end with a simple question:  What now?"

The end still makes me laugh a little.  Why was I so ominous?  Feel free to start a discussion in the comments section, and/or critique the essay, and offer any constructive criticism you may have.


We the People

This blog is intended for what I like to call the 'We' Generation.  People currently in their early teens to mid-thirties are in this generation.  I would like to talk about some stand-out features of our generation as compared with those before us.

Our generation has unlimited access to seemingly unending information.  Libraries are pretty buildings in nice neighborhoods or in the heart of downtown.  The Internet has not only connected us to overloads of information, but it has also connected us with each other.  When there is a problem and someone needs advice they can turn to the collective knowledge found on the Internet.  People can share similar experiences with each other and help advise on how to handle the outcome of any given situation.  These principles have existed with past generations but on a much smaller scale. 

Our Grandparents and Great Grandparents could get the same type of advice, but were limited to their family and friends.  It is my belief that the 'We' generation needs to use the information they have available to great benefit, both personally and professionally.  While it is a great waste of time to gossip with friends and family through your computer, you could be using the resources handed to you in a much more beneficial capacity.  Use the Internet for research.  Not simply academic research that is assigned, but anything you might want to know more about.  HowStuffWorks is a fantastic website to do just that.

The current economy has caused some on our generation to become severely frugal.  There is a minimalism movement similar to that of the 1960s.  People are choosing to 'do without'.  As the current generation builds wealth I can already see major differences in this and the previous generation.  Most of our grandparents lived through the Depression or grew up towards the end of it.  This caused them to spend money cautiously and live modest lives (hence the smaller home construction in the 1950s).  As that generation had children (these children would become our parents) they expected the children to finish school, work hard, and start a family.  This is exactly what they did.  The only problem is that they wanted everything their parents had immediately.  Finishing school meant getting school loans and going into debt.  Having a good job meant getting a nice car and going further into debt.  Then a promotion leads to a big home and even more debt.  Start adding kids, nice clothes, swimming pools, etc and you get a family that lives well beyond their means.  All this and most of these people did it all by the time they were 30!  So what happened?

This is all speculation and personal opinion (much research has been done and you have Google now to give you the facts) but I suspect that with a rapid growing economy, a booming technology industry, more TVs and more advertisements our parents generation were a product of their environment.  I am not giving reprieve to anyone, but the rapid growth in technology enabled people to have access to information about more products and 'stuff' they 'needed' to own.  So after school loans, multiple car payments, large mortgages, credit cards, and kids where do you think it was headed?  When most of our parents were entering their forties the economy crashed.  Mortgage Banks went bankrupt, people lost their homes then their jobs, and even banks went bankrupt.  Shocker!  Of course hindsight is 20/20 but have our parents learned anything from it?  Some have, but others went right back to what they were doing before.  It is up to us as a generation to break the cycle.

We are the kids.  We are the children of the generation that broke the bank so-to-speak.  How many of us got a car when we turned 16?  How many of us got a brand new car when we were 16?  And how many of those brand new cars got totaled shortly thereafter?  All the money for those cars were from loans carried by our parents.  This is a small example but you can see how our parents' generation wanted to give us everything they didn't have due to their parents trying to live modestly and have some sort of savings.  I do not care how much money you make, a 16-year-old kid has no business driving a brand new car.  As a matter of fact, in most states, 16-year-old's can work and save up some money for their own car.  It is all about teaching effective responsibility to prepare our children for life outside the home.  Let him save up enough to pay for half the car, then you match him.  I bet you won't have a wrecked car in a few months.  When you pay for something yourself you generally have a better appreciation for it.  How many friends did you (or do you) have in your school (college and/or high school) that have never had a job?  What do you think will happen when school is over and they try to enter the workforce?  They will have to start where the 16-year-olds started.  Not very much fun when you are a college graduate with mountains of loan debt and have to work retail on top of bar tending nights just to make your loan payments while you still live at home.  I think I have made my point, but there is not much that is more important than preparing your children to be fiscally responsible in our current world economy.

My wife and I try to model our lives after the way our Great-Grandparents lived theirs.  For us, our Great-Grandparents were born shortly after the turn of the 20th century.  They tackled a world at war and the Great Depression head on and made it work.  Our individual parents were products of their own economic destruction and had no means to help us pay for college.  We had to get loans.  Since graduating we've paid off all our credit cards and we're getting close to paying off both of our relatively new cars.  After the cars, we'll pay off the loans.  We plan to be debt free (excluding a respectable mortgage) by the time we are thirty.  I don't want to have to make $100,000 a year just to pay our bills.  By the time we pay everything off, my wife and I could each have part-time jobs and still manage to live comfortably if we wanted to.  Think about how much time we would have to spend with our son!  It is important to build wealth, but it is even more important to build it constructively.  My wife and I plan to be able to put our children through college and retire comfortably.  This is most likely everyone elses goal as well.  The faster debt is overcome and smart saving begins, the quicker this dream becomes a reality.

I have rambled quite a bit while trying to get my thoughts down.  Feel free to leave comments or questions about anything I talk about.  There's is plenty more floating around this head of mine but my tangents get a little convoluted :)  If you would like to share personal experiences feel free to use the comments section to offer advice of your own that may help the 'We' generation in fostering more responsible homes.


Book Review: The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect by Todd Freiwald and Shawn McQuaid.  Rating 3.5/5

The subtitle of this book 'A father's guide to training his son to survive in the wild and in the world' accurately sums up the intentions of this book.  With my first son being born a little over three months ago, I thought this book showed up at exactly the right time.  Mr. Freiwald actually promoted it at Mt. Ararat baptist church in Stafford, VA where my family and I attend regularly.  I was able to purchase the book from him and get an autograph with a little personal message to help me on my journey in preparing Everett for the world.  The book is short and to-the-point (124 pages) but serves as a perfect back-pocket-guide for spending true quality time with your son in the wilderness.  Freiwald is a retired Marine and an avid outdoors man.  The book uses four basic survival principles (food, water, fire, and shelter) and compares them to christian living, all the while providing guidance as to how a father can teach all of these principles while camping with his son.  Freiwald gives detailed instructions on how to build a fire, make shelter, and find food and water.  As he does this he provides Bible verses and christian principles to talk with your son about while both of you are engaged in the survival techniques.  In an age where technology overwhelms culture and anti-Facebook outcasts like myself seem stuck in the past this book was a welcome relief to unplug for a while.  I am excited to getting out in the wild with Everett as he grows up and hopefully instill in him an appreciation for God's nature that can be seen without a computer monitor or a television screen.   In the book, Freiwald uses examples from training his own boys and how they dealt with their coming-of-age moments in life.  While not a book of literary prowess, the matter-of-fact style helps get the point across without too much fluff.  To put it simply, it's a man's man-book for quick-tip guides on how to use hiking and camping to stir father-son conversations on profound christian principles.  I highly recommend this book for any father that wants to train his son to be prepared for world we live in today and to keep the Bible at the forefront of his decision making in life.


Slowing Down

Everyone knows that we live in a face-paced world.  We hear it all the time.  So much so that most of the time we wish people would stop talking about it so we could move on with our day.  In modern society, it is almost a status symbol to be busy.  If time is money, then the busier person with less time has created a higher value for what little time they have.  I have travelled to a few of the major metropolitan areas around the U.S. and have seen that this phenomenon is mostly true across the board.  You have to travel to mountains, farmlands, or other rural areas before you see things start to slow down.

In my opinion, one of the major catalysts for the unstoppable acceleration mentality was the industrial revolution.  Since then, most of the world has been on a theoretical rocket ship with no plans to slow down.  Most people are happy to be busy all the time.  If they weren't, they would not know what to do with themselves.  When I was in my last two years of college I went to school full-time and had a full-time job.  In between all of that, I had  gotten married and moved in with my wife for the first time.  'Busy' was my life.  I barely had time to think.  I was just going through the motions until I could lay down for four or five hours and start it all over again.  Hands down the most stressful time in my life thus far.

Then my wife and I graduated.  Suddenly there was no homework, no three-hour classes to attend, and no looming portfolio deadlines.  Neither of us knew what to do with ourselves.  We had made the decision to move back to our small hometown and start to settle down.  Within a month or two both of us had full-time jobs but we still had more time than we knew what to do with.  Instead of working from 7am to 3pm, then going to school from 4pm to 10pm, and still having homework to do, we got home between 4 and 5pm and had the evening to ourselves.  We had unwillingly slowed down and were actually stressed out because of it.

At first, I always had a weird feeling that something was due and I needed to be working on it.  It took a while, but those feelings began to subside.  Eventually I began to pick up small hobbies and keeping more of a clean home.  As I began slowing down more and more, I became more and more anxious.  Nothing changed until a weekend getaway in North Carolina.

My Mother lives in Greensboro, N.C.  It is not quite rural, but if you are not in downtown most of the outlying areas are much less busy than I am used to.  I planned a weekend to go down and visit her by myself.  I decided to take some back roads and avoid the highways.  I needed some time to think and wanted to lose some of the built-up anxiety.  I enjoyed the drive there, but the change did not start to happen until that Saturday.  My step-dad and I woke up and hit the golf course.  Generally, golfing makes people frustrated and is the opposite of relaxing.  I used to be that way but have since used it as an opportunity to relieve stress.  No matter where you are, golf courses offer some of the best views of the area.  You could be in the middle of a city surrounded by nothing but concrete and steel.  Find a golf course, and it's pure scenery.  Anytime I find myself getting frustrated with the game I just take a look around and remember how beautiful it is and that there is no other place I'd rather be.  There's always more golf balls so the woods can have as many as they want. 

After golf, my Mom, Step-dad, and sisters and I went out for some good 'ol North Carolina BBQ.  This is where it all started.  First of all, whenever I'm with my Mom she makes me drive.  Not sure why, but I guess she feels I'm more used to busier traffic.  I don't know how that applies to anything in NC but I just do it anyway.  Turns out I couldn't have picked a better time to drive for my Mom.  On our way to the BBQ joint I was starting to get angrily hungry (my blood sugar drops and I get pretty irritable).  It was at this point that I could not understand why everyone was going so slow!  Being from Northern VA, I'm used to traffic all the time and everyone trying to go faster than everyone else.  North Carolina just isn't like that.  People will get where they're goin' when they get there.  I'm the only one in the car that is upset about this.  I start to realize how ridiculous I am being just because I'm a little hungry and we can't speed to the restaurant.  My mind starts to slow down.

We eat our delicious BBQ while our waitress takes her time refilling our drinks.  At first, I was upset but just kept reminding myself that things are a little slower down here.  It was then that I began to see it.  I noticed that people took their time to pay attention to one another.  Instead of checking email and text messages on a phone while having a conversation, people were genuinely engaged in each other.  This was remarkable to me.  I started to see what I had been missing.  I went to bed that night with a plan to start seriously slowing down my life.

I went to church with the family Sunday morning, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and was off again headed back home.  I took the same back roads as before, but this time decided not to see how fast I could get home but rather took my time and enjoyed Virginia's beautiful scenery.  I turned on the radio and could not get anything to come in that was not Country.  I was not a big fan of country music but I decided to give it a go while I traveled through farmland.  As I gazed through my windshield and windows at the trees curving around the road, the horse farms, and small towns that consisted of a block or two I listened to that country music and started to really slow down.  By the time I got home I was at peace.  I started a list of books I wanted to read, and decided to take my time reading them and to really enjoy them.  I started cooking a lot more and used that as another way to slow down and enjoy time with my wife. 

It has been about a year since I finally stopped being so busy.  I still work in close proximity to fast-paced D.C. but the small town I live in and grew up in keeps me grounded.  I have begun to spend more time with my family and just being outside.  We might just grab a couple chairs and hang out in the front yard but it's peaceful.  If we don't have plans to visit family on the weekends, we just stay home or peruse antique shops and make up funny accents while wearing old hats.  The only thing left for me to do is to slowly try and move my job closer to home and continue to spend time doing things that keep me calm and relaxed.

Do you want to slow down?  If not, no biggie, not everyone does.  But if you do, what do you think you could do in your life to start taking more time to enjoy the things that are truly fulfilling?  I would love to hear other stories similar to mine especially from people living in metropolitan areas.  How have you taken the time to slow down?


Family Leadership

This post is geared towards a specific type of family structure, however, the principles can extend to other types of families.  I want to focus today on the married couple with one or more kids.  The family structure that I am trying to build is the more 'traditional' one of a Husband, Wife, and kid(s).  The concepts I explain can be applied to same-sex couples as long as one person is willing to take on a leadership role in regards to the family/couple itself.  Onward!

It is my profound belief that there needs to be a strong and engaged leader in every family.  In my current family structure I feel that I (the working husband) need to fulfill this role.  I am by no means a natural-born leader, in fact, I am more of a 'I'm-gonna-do-what-I-want-but-I'll-go-with-the-flow-for-now' type of guy.  On the other hand, my wife is definitely a leader.  She is a talented organizer and knows how to start a fire in people.  In our current situation my wife works from home and cares for our son.  I have a hefty commute to an office job.  Because I rely heavily on my wife to take the best possible care of our little one and our home, I feel that it's up to me to take more of a leadership role. 

I do not want to suggest that I should 'take control' of my family, but rather be a guiding force and strong decision maker.  This comes very unnaturally to me and I am constantly having to work harder at being better.  I feel that a marriage is meant to be like a team.  We each have our different positions/roles to play without which would create a losing effort.  However, every team has a Captain.  It is the Captain's job to motivate the team and point them in a winning direction.  My wife and I definitely work together on creating Financial Peace and reaching life goals for our family.  It is becoming more clear to me that I need to be a brighter guiding light.

A good husband should be able to provide for his family (in my family scenario) as well as setting the family on a path to living comfortably.  I do not mean that every man should strive for a big house and fancy cars.  For most families this type of lifestyle leads to mountains of debt and an eventual financial crash and burn.  A leader of an average family should strive to create a home that is suitable for the needs of the family while creating a sound foundation for the kids to grow up in.  This home should also be a place that kids want to return to again and again after they have left the nest.  No mother and father could ask for more.  Here's my 5 quick tips on how to lead your family to a comfortable life.

1:  Get completely out of debt as soon as possible.  It may seem like a steep mountain to climb, but if you get the right gear, even Everest's summit can be reached.  As a leader, you need to set your family up to be financially stable.  This isn't to say that you need a lot of money, but rather that the you do have be put to the best possible use.

2:  Make informed decisions that are best for your family.  Approach your wife/husband whenever a life decision needs to be made and agree on that decision as a team.  It is the leader's job to recognize a choice needs to be made and initiate the discussion.

3:  Take advice lightly but with good conscience.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE will want to give you advice on what you and your family should do.  Some of it may be good and some not.  The key here is to take it with a grain of salt.  Each family is different and one person's advice does not necessarily fit your situation no matter how good the intent.  Use advice as research in your family's decision making process rather than following in someone else's footsteps.  A leader forges his own path.

4:  Create the best possible environment for your children.  Only parents know how to raise their own children.  Do everything in your power to create an environment for your kids to be successful.  Your job as a father/mother is to train your kids to enter the jungle of this world.  As a leader, you need to make sure they are ready to face the challenges ahead on their own and be their own family's leader someday.

5:  Love unconditionally.  A good leader is kind-hearted and merciful.  Family comes first.  This is a common saying but nothing could be more true.  As the family leader you should be able to show compassionate love in everything that you do.  Making decisions for your family out of love may not always be easy but you can rest assured you are on the right path.

What are some of your suggestions for being a good family leader?  Feel free to comment or email me with any questions! I'm also always interested in books that can help me lead my family so feel free to offer up any suggestions.


Travelling With A Baby

As many young parents may already know, travelling with a baby is quite different than travelling alone or with your spouse or friends.  This post is for those of you out there that may be expecting a little one, already have one but have yet to travel, or if you have tons of experience travelling with babies and just like to laugh at us 'first-timers'.

First things first, planning and preparation.  This is the second most important step for travelling with a baby (travelling safely would be the most important).  I definitely should have taken an extra day off work just to plan, prepare, and pack for our week-long family beach trip.  My wife and I scrambled to get everything together the night before.  I had to work the day we left and she met me with the baby when I got off so we could be on our way.  Needless to say there were a few things we forgot.  Nothing too important, but the egg-crusted frying pan left in the sink for a week was a rather scurvy smell to come home to (oops!).

Tip #1:  In addition to making sure you pack everything you'll need on your vacation, make sure you tidy up the house a bit before you leave. Don't leave anything on the counter or in the fridge that you would normally clean up or throw away in a day or so.

Packing for your first 'family' vacation can be daunting.  Babies nowadays seem to 'need' a ton of stuff.  On top of all the cool games to play at the beach that you want to bring, and all the swimsuits and sundresses, babies have all sorts of fold-able, inflatable, and pop-up gizmos and gadgets that have to come along.  I started ditching the beach games in order to fit the baby hammock, playpen, suitcase (the baby's suitcase was about as big as mine.  He is currently smaller than my thigh...).

Tip #2:  If you can't think of three situations in which you will need a particular baby item, do not bring it.  This may depend on how long your vacation is but if you're only packing one car without a trailer you probably are not going to be gone for more than 7-10 days.  Focus on what you plan on doing while on vacation and try to find at least three different times you may need a particular item, if you can't, toss it.

My son is a breast-fed baby.  That being said, timing has become an essential element to all of our activity planning.  When did he eat last?  Do you want to bring a bottle?  Will you be able to feed him while we are out?  Luckily, my boy is pretty laid back and goes with the flow most of the time.  However, his necessity to eat every couple of hours definitely dictates when we can do certain things.  My mom, sister, and step-father were also at our family vacation.  My mom likes to plan things.  No, she HAS to plan things.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, just gets a little overwhelming sometimes.  I also like to mess her plans up sometimes just to see the reaction (shame on me but I get to have fun too right?).  These plans usually involve way more activities per day than the standard 24 hours can accommodate.  Add a new baby to the mix and you get some interesting situations.  Kind of hard for Momma to ride the Teacups at Funland when Daddy doesn't have a bottle to feed the screaming baby.  Despite the challenges we managed to keep everything together and have some fun while we were at it.

Tip #3:  ALWAYS plan activities around when your baby needs to eat and/or nap.  A baby that stays awake all day while you are at the beach will normally be way too tired to go to sleep later and make for a pretty cranky night.  It's also hard to get through a round of putt-putt at the Sea Shore Sea Shell Shop with a screaming baby strapped to your back, and no where to sit down and feed him.  Bottles are nice to have but can be a pain to keep cool and even harder to warm up if you are out and about.  Just remember to try and plan your activities in 2-4 hour increments with time in between to feed the baby.  This will eliminate the need for any emergency feedings in the out-of-order bumper car.

As always, when it comes to babies, safety should be your number one priority.  I strongly suggest you do your research and decide for yourself what is safe for you and your new miracle to be doing.  Younger babies shouldn't wear sunscreen, so make sure you plan your beach outings accordingly and try to stay out of the sun as much as possible.  Babies have a higher body temperature than adults so traveling around town all day on buses with no air conditioning might need to be avoided.  Babies don't have the ability to tell you when they are hot.  They might cry, but feeding or changing him/her won't cool them off.  These are just a few observations that I made on my recent family vacation.  You may want to browse your local book store for more advice on what to plan for and expect when taking your little one on his/her first trip.  Have fun and be safe!

Feel free to email me with questions, or leave a comment and I can respond as soon as possible.


Life Planning

Sometimes we, as a generation, struggle to take the time to slow down and seriously think about where our lives are headed.  The rush of everyday life in today's society tends to make us keep our heads down, and before we know it college is over, bills are due, and we still haven't come out of 'party mode'.  While having a good time is never a bad thing (in moderation of course), there comes a time in life when planning is crucial to pursuing peacefulness and happiness as life goes on. 

Financial planning is one of the big elephants in the room that no one likes to talk about.  But if you are starting a family (or plan on it in the near future), obtaining financial peace is critical.  Not having to worry about money will reduce stress (especially within a marriage) and actually help you live longer.  Stress can have devastating physical effects.  My suggestion to everyone, especially those in the 'we' generation, is to get out of debt as soon as possible.  I strongly suggest taking a Financial Peace University class.  My wife and I took this class about a year and a half ago.  At the time, we both made around $30K/year and just started having to pay back our $100,000 in student loans, on top of credit cards and car payments.  In about 10 months we paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt, and we're on our way to getting out of debt all together.  We realized very early on that we needed to structure our lives in a way that would allow us to do the things we want to do with our family later in life.  If all goes to plan, I should be debt-free before I'm thirty.  I also plan to mostly retire by the time I'm fifty.  Wouldn't that be nice!  It all starts with making long term life goals, then setting up smaller goals to achieve on the way to the big prize.

Life and career planning is an area in which advice is thrown at us from every direction.  Fortunately, America is a country that allows its citizens to, more or less, work in any occupation they want.  My personal tid-bit of advice would be to find something you think you will enjoy doing and start at the bottom.  If you start small and realize you want to do something else, there isn't much to lose by switching gears.  Also, you do not have to make a lot of money to live and retire peacefully.  You just have to plan accordingly.  Look at your life currently and evaluate it.  Then think about where you want to be in 10, 15, or 20 years.  Now figure out what you can do right now to put you on that path.  Personally, I would like to be an entrepreneur.  For me, it would be much easier if I gain valuable experience now while I pay off debt and save up to start a business, giving me every opportunity to succeed.  I spend as much time as I can with successful business owners and investors to learn the little things that will help me later.  This strategy can work in any occupation.  For example, my sister wants to be a bartender for a while.  She is only 20 and would like to make a little money so she can finish school.  For her, the best option would be to find a bar or restaurant that seems like a good place to work and start as a hostess or waitress.  Before she knows it, she'll be behind the bar mingling with her loyal patrons and making great tips, all the while finishing school.  It seems easier said than done, however, all it takes is initiative and a little perseverance.

I hope some of this heartfelt advice inspires a few of you to go out and chase a dream.  While I may not be in a career that I love right now, I'm still on the path to achieve my life goals.  I know that my family and I will benefit for years to come from the planning that my wife and I have done these last two years.  Feel free to email me with questions, or leave a comment and I can respond as soon as possible.


Life comes at all angles

Life is forever continuing; creating new challenges and opportunities for you to embrace.  My son is now 8 weeks old and has nearly doubled in size.  My family is growing closer than ever, my career is moving along superbly, and my wife has the opportunity to work from home to give the best care possible to our little one.  All of this seems like a wonderful place to be in life, with many happy moments to share and new experieinces to relish. 

For the most part, I am in a fantastic place in my life right now but it is not without daunting worries of the present and future.  One of my biggest fears is to become complacent.  Also, one of my biggest goals in life is to find a peacefulness and happiness that (more or less) creates complacency.  I struggle everyday with trying to find light in the dark and stay in a peacefull state, all the while trying to always better my position and not become stagnant.  I think I have come up with a few ideas that might help myself and others that may be in my position or currently on their way there.

Life is challenging, plain and simple.  It is how you meet these challenges that determine your emotional well-being.  However, the magic in the challenges is what keeps you from becoming complacent.  If you constantly face obstacles in life, you are constantly forced to overcome them and inherently further inner peace and happiness.  It was this realization that helped me to realize that the only real way to become emotionally stagnant is by turning everything off and shutting out the world.  If you strive for peacefullness you will have to constantly pursue it, therefore always making some sort of progress.  Admittedly, my progress has been a lot of two steps forward and one step back but it is progress nonetheless.

I have found that in certain times I have to actively find challenges for myself that will keep my progression in the right direction.  This blog, for example, has been a constant challenge to keep at the forefront of my mind and not let life's clutter get in the way.   Creating small (attainable) goals for yourself can keep you from sliding backwards when all else in your life seems to be going the way you feel it should.  This practice will also keep you prepared to handle any challenges that may arise unexpectedly.

In conclusion, do not be fooled by apparent easy-goings in life.  There is always another door at the end of the hall that may open easily or need to be broken down.  Keep your emotions in-tune by creating small challenges for yourself inbetween the harder ones.  Pick up an insturment, start that book you've had in your head for months, teach your dog some new tricks, take that class on Renaissance Art History you've been yearning for, take a family hike to discover the beauty of nature in your own backyard.  Anything to keep you engaged in life and striving to want more will help you on your journey.  Until next time, keep active (emotionally, mentally, and physically) and accomplish those smaller goals on the way to a few big ones.


New Addition

     Regrettably, a little more time has passed than I had hoped for since my last post.  It seems I got a little caught up in the 'hum-drum' of the day job and helping my wife through her last month of pregnancy.  That being said, I am proud to announce a new addition to our little family!  Everett Mark Thompson was born on May 22nd, 2011 at 7:01am.
     My wife and I elected to wait until he was born to find out the sex.  Being the last male in my family with the ability to pass on my name, having a firstborn son was definitely a blessing.  My wife instantly became the mother she's always wanted to be.  Becoming a father changes a man.  I instantly felt that I needed to seclude my family and protect them from the hoardes of friends and family that flocked to see the new baby.  It shocked me to realize how much I just wanted to be alone with my little family and for everyone else to just go away.

     Bringing a little one into the world has not altered our priorities much since the pregnancy was planned and we've had this goal since we got married.  We are moving closer and closer to paying off all of our debt and living a simpler life.  Having a son now makes the urgency to achieve that goal ever more apparent. 

     We hope to build or buy our first home in the next two or three years.  Being financially stable and mostly debt free is the only way we can move towards this goal.  All in all, we are happier than ever and we are taking some time right now to fall into endless parental love.  My job requires me to travel, so soon it will be off to the next city for me and I will have to leave my wife and son for a little while.  Being home for a few weeks has made all the difference in the world. 

     I will keep posting and sharing insights into my family life and how we move closer to living simply and spending more and more time together as a family.



The Message
            This blog is intended to serve as inspiration to the Generation Y population.  I intend to use my life and my family to demonstrate that goals can be achieved and peacefulness in life can be attained.  I am an average college graduate with mountains of student loan debt between my wife and I.  We will have an additional family member with us shortly and have set clear paths in the direction we want our life to grow.  We embrace unexpected detours and strive to get the most out of every day.
            My mission is to share my thoughts and plans on how I design my life and use it as a tool to help others that may need guidance.  I plan to use this blog to actively chronicle my life as I live it, rather than reflecting on the past.  Our parents’ generation seems to have lived their lives with personal progress in mind, and worked hard to achieve status in life.  Our generation is starting to progress in a totally new way.  We are relying heavily on each other and spring-boarding from the success of those around us.  The recent collapse in economy and housing market has spurred a simpler lifestyle; one that doesn’t necessitate the high-profile job and large bank account.  In order to measure one’s success, you first need to gauge what you value against that which is deemed successful.
            I define the ‘We’ generation as one that has been fortunate to be able to utilize the internet and social media in ways that have daily profound impacts.  Being able to rely on each other for inspiration and wisdom, as well as having unlimited resources for information have given our generation a distinct power in numbers.  ‘We’ are constantly working together to enhance our way of life and improve upon traditions and customs of old.  I plan to offer my thoughts and actions to the collective pool in hopes that we can all achieve a simpler, happier, and overall better existence.

Thanks for reading!