Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ahhh… the Joys of Normal Life

It was a return to normal life this week. I had a fun time with a couple of families and their financial plans. I was able to figure things out after a devastating year in the market for them. I love designing their finances into plan where they can enjoy ample retirement income, have money for emergencies, handle the risks if something unforeseen comes along, and take care of inheritance. It is a beautiful thing when a plan comes together. But you know the old saying, “How do you make God laugh? Tell him you plans”.

The huge snow storm on Thursday helped dim the glow of my sun tan from our trip to Bonaire. It was pure misery with car accidents on nearly every block and a chilly 18 degree temperature. But the sun came out on Friday and life was good again.

It is great to have the house full of kids and activities again. Melissa Vaughn is visiting from Southern California and she is delightful. She is full of energy and the excitement and optimism of a newly baptized member of the church. Don is lucky to have met her. Then Austin is developing his social circles and the kitchen table is covered in laptops from a LAN party last night and the dining room table is littered with the casualties of a Heroscapes battle fought earlier. Life is good.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guilty Pleasure

Mom is so wonderful to me. Before Christmas she crafted a trip to Bonaire with my sister and her boyfriend for a Spring Break diving trip. She carved out a glorious week in the Netherland Antilles 50 miles north of the Venezuelan coast (part of the A,B,C islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curiosa). She wielded my credit card and voila we had a trip planned.
Austin dropped us off at the airport in Denver at midnight on Fri March 14 and after a couple of sleeping pills, a two hour wait in the airplane in Atlanta (we were number 32 in line) and ten hours of flight and two very sore bums we arrived at the Bonairian Pink Flamingo Airport. Paulette was there to greet us and whisk us off to our orientation dive. Wow, everything here is oriented to diving – everything. Within one hour of arriving at the airport we had our tanks on and were easing our way into the clear blue warm waters of the Caribbean. Now that is a vacation. Suspended in a blue medium hovering above jagged coral bathed in multicolored fish swirling with the flow of life. Ahhhh…….
We stayed in a tiny two bedroom apartment near the small but main town of Kralendijk (Cry-l-dike). The whole island’s population is 11,000 and apparently none of them eat out on Sat night. Very few places are open all the time – some only on Tuesday and others serve meals on Mon, Wed, and every third Friday between the hours of 8 – 10 am then 6 – 10 at night. We followed lots of signs for Bar-B-Que or Fish Fry only to find out it was only open some other day of the week. They need to publish a program for the neophytes who don’t know the system. But once we found two ice creams places open all week we were good to go.
Diving places ring the islands and are marked by large yellow rocks with the names of the sites. There are tons of maps to direct you to the most glorious self starting shore diving in the world. The dive shops have multiple locations around the island, so when you use up the first tank you just drop by a shop and trade it in for a new one and away you go again. No waiting for boats, or fighting waves, or hanging in a large group, and no dive masters. You just go and do what you want when you want.
Boat dives are good for easy entries and learning shore entries was a little tricky at first because there weren’t nice sandy beaches just coral rock. You’re carrying 40 plus pounds of awkward tanks, weight belts, mask, and flippers, then wade out barefoot on slippery rock through the waves to get to the deeper water. All of us would sit down to put on flippers only to have the waves batter us up onto the shore side and then the out going wave would drag us back across the coral out to sea desperately holding onto the flippers, trying not to lose the mask, and trying to find the regulator so you can breath something other than saltwater. Thus we discovered the second most popular activity in Bonaire. People would gather around to watch the new divers trying to enter the water and then yell out scored for how awkward they looked (just teasing). Mom figured the large bloody gash on her arm would help attract fish for us to see. What a sacrifice.
I’ll mention two dives in particular. Hilma Hooker is a large wreck sunk in about 100 foot of water and it was spectacular. We were swimming with some very large shinning silver tarpon at the wreck. It was a really cool feeling. I did do a boat dive over at a nearby island and got to see rays, eels, and turtles in addition to the typical fish covered reef. Mom most enjoyed the snorkeling right along the public walkway in town.
Some other things of note:
1. Paulette had rented a truck for us to get around the island and everybody else’s rental trucks look the same. We had heard how bad the crime was in raiding trunks when someone goes diving. We had parked the trunk, loaded up our gear and headed off to dive, but couldn’t dive there and were back to the trunk in just a few minutes and everything was gone, including Robert’s dirty shorts and my glasses. We went to report the theft when mom discovered we had returned to the wrong truck. Boy did we feel silly.
2. Best cultural experience was going to church Sunday morning. Tiny branch speaking four languages – Papiamento, Spanish, Dutch, and English. One of the missionaries translated for us, and the music director operated a boom box with CD’s of church music. The branch has just experienced the first baptism of a Dutch man the previous day and it was a big event. We were loved and welcomed into the branch.
3. My favorite activity other than diving and spending time with mom was finally trying my hand at windsurfing. I actually did pretty well in one direction which unfortunately was away from the starting point and I couldn’t bring the board back with wind power. I also hit a few swimmers while running the wind surfer.
4. We had some great sunset dinners right on the water.
5. We explored the island one day and ran into lots of wild donkeys and goats. We also saw some ancient Indian pictographs. It is very much a desert island with cacti being the main plant and everything seemed to have spines and thorns.
6. The island was a salt producer and the Dutch had imported African slaves to work in the heat of the day to manufacture the salt. They lived in these tiny little shacks in their field of work. Working in the salt fields would have been a miserable life. I don’t think much of colonial Dutch and their brutal treatment of slaves.
7. It was a great and relaxing week and I have had enough diving to last until this coming weekend when Melissa and Austin will be visiting me at the aquarium.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Day – I refuse to think about politics all the time

What a great day!!! Don’s Melissa is getting baptized today. That is such good news for Melissa and for Don. Austin mom and I talked to Melissa for about an hour on Thursday this week and her family is giving her all kinds of grief about joining the church and her relationship with Don. She has studied with the missionaries and attended church and knows that she wants to be baptized. She has a good start on building a testimony and she has had to fight for it. Her family, particularly her Grandma, has thrown all kinds of anti-Mormon stuff at Melissa, so it would be good to send some support her way. You can reach her on Facebook.
It was Austin’s homecoming talk today and he did a great job talking about Charity. He was very impressive and geared his talk toward his friend Joe to try and inspire him to go on a mission. Austin is having a hard time letting go of his mission. He has taken upon himself the noble task of fellowshipping a young lady from his YA ward who just got baptized. After his talk he actually invited her over for dinner and is entertaining her this evening. Rebecca is very cute and competitive and athletic. She runs marathons.
Not much news from the home front other than mom and I are fasting about a new business that mom is considering starting. It is a home care business and could be fun a profitable, but a lot of hard work. Pray for us. We will be heading for Bonaire next week so we won’t be able to write to you.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Unsettled Thoughts

I’m in a funk this morning. I want to chat about the week’s fun and interesting activities: Austin’s first date, his dismantling his computer so he can read more, or his fellowshipping an inactive friend. I could bloviate on a recap of a racquetball game or my trip yesterday to the Aquarium. I could also talk on mom’s birthday and how much I love her or our trip in two weeks to Scuba Diving heaven – Bonaire. But I’m weighed down this morning with the direction of our country and what our generation is leaving to you our kids and grand kids. I’m frightened about our head long rush into thinking government is the Santa Claus and Savior of our way of life.

I’m so distressed that in one month of this new administration more government spending has been proposed than the combination of World War II, both Iraq wars, and the offensive in Afghanistan (millions of it going to protect the Marsh Mouse in San Francisco or billions to dishonest ACORN offices). Look forward to a reduction of the home mortgage deduction plus charitable donations are also falling out of favor and will lose part of their taxable deduction. This is a titanic shift in priorities and direction of our government – CHANGE that is crushingly bad for the future.

There were problems with the previous administration and I wish they had done a few things differently but it doesn’t call for the wholesale abandonment of key principles of democracy, free enterprise, and entrepreneurship. We needed to edit some of those mistakes not gut the ideals that made us great. It is democracy and capitalism that made this country great. Ours was the first democracy on this earth since the ancient Greeks and God’s hand helped establish the freedoms and strengths we enjoy today.

It is the role of government to create a safe environment where individual freedoms are enjoyed and business can flourish with an equal opportunity for all to participate in the American dream. It is an equal opportunity not an equal outcome that is promised. This stupid administration wants an equal outcome and that can’t be done at this time in this current world.

This blinded and demigod administration with the cooperation of the media is trying to rip out the very heart of what is good about this country. They feel justified to turn us into a socialist state because of isolated greed of a few powerful individuals. Punish those individuals, throw them in jail, make them pay for the destruction they have introduced….but don’t overturn our effective society’s values. It is pure madness and is helped along by an ignorant population that wants government handouts instead of earning their own bread or sees those that are successful as the villains. Hitler used the same mentality in his inciting the German populace to slaughter the Jews.

There is a full out attack on the entrepreneurs, small business owners and individuals willing to take risks to build this country. They want the 40% of the population that doesn’t even pay taxes to grow even larger and do it on the backs of the top 5% who pay 50% of the current taxes. We are doomed as a country if this continues. We will become Europe where there is high unemployment, little motivation to make progress, shrinking population, little regard for religion, and a stagnant economy. I don’t want that for my children or grandchildren.

If you owe a large sum of money, you can’t get out of that debt by borrowing three times that money. We can’t borrow our way out of this problem. Move back to “Mark-to-Value” accounting (instead of “Mark-to-Market) as it was before 2007 when the Democratic congress changed the rules and killed the banks. Lower Capital Gains taxes, lower corporate tax rates, incent small business (not punish), set up insurance of loans not tax payer give aways. These ideas will stimulate the economy without leaving a crushing tax burden upon our children. Nothing to say of the inflation that will decimate this country in about two years.

The Obama administration has some good ideas and I would be a fool to ignore them. I think alternative energy investment is good along with tapping our own oil resources (which they have stopped), repairing our infrastructure is important, and safeguarding our environmental future is critical. It is their overwhelmingly tone and direction that is terrifying – building a government where half of the people live off of efforts of the other half and it is an expectation that government will take care of you.

I’m ashamed that this has happened to you my children and grandchildren. It is my hope and prayer that this prevailing liberal mentality passes quickly and we returned to our senses without too much damage. We value God fearing morals, equal opportunities and a land where hard work is rewarded and not punished. More government is not the answer.

Pray and fast for this great country today – I am.