Hope for your financial life and beyond

We’ve Been Robbed! Dealing With a Theft at Our Home

basketball goalLast Saturday I pulled out the leaf blower for the first of several fall sessions of blowing leaves out of the yard. I went around the side of the house to begin clearing leaves out of our secondary driveway. As the motor roared to life I looked around and something didn’t seem right. It only took a few seconds before the puzzlement lifted.

OMG…our portable basketball goal had been stolen!

You know the five stages of grief people experience when dealing with a relationship loss? I went through all those in about 30 seconds (except I skipped bargaining). Honestly though, after reaching acceptance, I reverted to anger for the rest of the day. That’ll make sense when you find out the details.

So, step 1…inform the wife, so she can experience the five stages herself.

Step 2…get on Realtor.com and start looking for another house. OK, that’s not exactly what we did but wouldn’t you feel that way? Talk about feeling violated and insecure and vulnerable. It’s a sickening feeling knowing people have been traipsing around your house.

We decided to call local law enforcement and a sheriff arrived within 10 minutes. We knew the likelihood of getting our goal back was close to zero but felt it was our responsibility to report the theft. I want to live in a secure neighborhood and the more they know about the area the better.

He asked the basic questions you would expect for a police report. When was it stolen? What did it look like? How much did it cost? How long have you had it? We answered as best we could and then thanked him for coming. Dejected, I went back to my leaf blowing wondering how and why someone would do such a thing.

My Discovery

[Read more…]

A Sobering Takeaway From the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash

Hidden Nuggets Series #49 – “See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15

rocket launcherTragedy always catches our attention.

So my thoughts have been perked this past week as the news outlets have reported the gruesome scene at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. 298 people were gone in an instant, their bodies littered with the airplane debris over the Ukrainian countryside. Their families will be impacted forever, perhaps never finding resolution.

Like you, I’ve flown countless times. The tranquility of cruising at 30,000 ft. sets the mind at ease. We can find relaxing peace there, sipping our drinks and gazing out the window. The sun shines brightly on the clouds below, magnifying the beauty of God’s creation.

To be in that moment and have it be your last is more than I can bear to dwell on. I can’t imagine what those last seconds were like as the surface-to-air missile struck the plane.

Outside of the TV series 24, who does this? It’s shocking. It’s inhuman.

Except that it’s not inhuman because it was accomplished by at least one human. Which brings me back to a sobering conclusion that I’ve known all my life – the world can be a very evil place.

[Read more…]

How Being Flexible Saved Our Vacation

being flexible

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier

Two Saturdays ago, I’m standing along the first base wall at Great American Ballpark watching my daughter get an autograph from Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. It’s the first day of our family’s 8-day vacation that will take us to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, OH, on to Niagara Falls, NY and back through the Smokey Mountains as we return home.

The weather is warm and sunny and the look of excitement on my daughter’s face as she gets the autograph makes me realize why I love vacations. What a memory she will have of that moment. I can’t think of a better way to get our vacation started.

I strike up a conversation with a couple standing next to us who were visiting from Columbus, OH. I’m interested in asking them how long the drive is from Cincinnati to Columbus because we intended to drive there after the game and spend the night on our way to Cedar Point. What they said next shattered my “this-vacation-is-starting-out-so-well” feeling.

According to a news report, Cedar Point had a major water main break. The park was closed Saturday and would be Sunday and possibly Monday. “Nooooooo!” I screamed on the inside. “Those are the exact days we plan to be there!”

The kids were going to have so much fun and now would be incredibly disappointed. Perhaps the couple misheard the report and it’s not as bad as they let on. I tried to console myself with this notion.

During the 6th inning my wife received an email from Cedar Point stating that it was indeed as bad as we had heard. Our reservations to stay at the park had been cancelled. Our plans foiled.

What would we do now?

Well, we learned the importance of being flexible.

Being Flexible Can Make or Break A Vacation

[Read more…]

A Memorial Day Task: Teach Your Kids to Remember the Fallen

Memorial Day cemetaryDuring one of my classes this past school year, I happened to mention the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I was a little surprised my descriptions of that tragedy and its aftermath didn’t elicit the kind of reaction I expected. Not that the students were indifferent, it just didn’t seem to draw out the same emotions that I was feeling while sharing that story.

Then it hit me…they are only 14 and 15 years old. How old were they on 9/11? One? Two?

They didn’t live through that day like the rest of America.

They don’t know many of the details.

They have no emotional connection to it.

They were too young for that event to have significant meaning. It’s not their fault. It’s just the reality of when they were born.

So many people died that day. Many more fell in the resulting wars that followed, as they fought to defend our way of life. Today’s youth need to be reminded of that fact.

[Read more…]

Moving Back In With Your Parents at 50? It’s Happening A Bunch

moving back in with your parentsHave you ever thought about moving back in with your parents? This past weekend the LA Times published an article detailing the number of Californians age 50-64 who are doing just that. You heard that right. Middle-age adults (and their kids) living back at their parent’s home, perhaps occupying the same bedrooms they had as teenagers.

The big details of the study are this:

“For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents’ homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. That jump is almost exclusively the result of financial hardship caused by the recession rather than for other reasons, such as the need to care for aging parents…”

It’s not all that uncommon for adult children to live with aging parents. My aunt has been doing that for years with my now 100 yr. old grandfather, and it’s been a beautiful situation for the family. This arrangement most often happens because of a health issue or the desire for the elderly parent not to end up in a nursing home. So, parent and child come together again in a single home and the child serves as caregiver in their parent’s later years.

According to the study, these middle-age kids are moving back in with their parents because of hard economic times. They lost their jobs as the economy collapsed and are now finding it difficult convincing employers to hire them. They have exhausted their savings and simply have nowhere else to turn.

Questions on Moving Back in With Your Parents

I have all sorts of thoughts and questions after reading this news:

[Read more…]

God’s Giving Nature Shines Brightest On Easter

Hidden Nuggets Series #37 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

a cross stands on a hill with a sunset in the backgroundDo you love to give? Ever wonder where that desire comes from?

I’m quite sure it’s a character quality God possesses Himself and bestowed on mankind during the days of creation so many years ago. The book of Genesis describes how we are created in His image. It would seem a logical conclusion that God passed on His giving nature to humanity during that creative process.

How can I be so confident God is an extreme giver? It’s because of verses from the Bible, like the most famous one of all:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

We see in this verse that God gave. He didn’t receive or take anything from us. He gave something very valuable so that humanity would get the chance at a relationship with Him. It’s such a staggering concept – giving up your only Son to die for the sins of mankind – it hardly makes sense. Never could you or I have come up with this kind of plan to bridge the gap between God and man.

[Read more…]

Spring Break: Glorious Rite of Passage or Undisciplined Waste of Money?

spring break

Having a blast on spring break?

This week and next, thousands of high school and college students will embark on the annual ritual known as spring break. They will fill hotels, crowd beaches and party in clubs long into the night. With the sheer number of young people present in these locations – the majority of which will be slightly to heavily inebriated – anything can happen.

That anticipation of the unpredictable defines the allure of spring break. And the alcohol…and the chance to “hook up.”

I’ve participated in three spring break trips in my life. The first was my senior trip in high school to a resort in the Bahamas. The next two were in college. One was with a group of guys (and my dad) to go caving in central Kentucky. On the other trip, I went with a co-ed group of friends and the future Mrs. Luke1428 to visit her father in south Florida.

None of those trips were to what I would call party central locations.

Each trip cost me hard earned money that could have been used for other purposes. I considered them worth it though for the memories they created. After all, isn’t the creation of memories a fundamental aspect of taking a vacation?

I can remember my spring break trips with perfect clarity…a hilarious photo of my high school friend sunbathing next to a gorgeous woman in the Bahamas…the onset of panic when one of my stout college buddies became stuck in a tight crawl of a cave…Kim and I enduring the ear shattering buzz of an air boat ride as we dodged alligators in the Everglades.

[Read more…]

We Are One Heartbeat Away From a Life Changing Moment

Hidden Nuggets Series #33 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” – Proverbs 27:1

life changing

Sports fans watching their Wednesday late night highlight reels witnessed some stunning footage of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman being drilled in the head from a batted ball by Kansas City Royals player Salvador Perez. It’s a “Gasp…OMG!” moment, as Chapman lay sprawled on the ground, writhing in pain.

For those able to stomach grisly injury videos, the scene can be found here at ESPN.

Reports today are that Chapman suffered a few fractured bones and a mild concussion. He will have surgery to implant some steel plates in his head and miss about 6-8 weeks of the regular season. I’m amazed that’s the extent of his injuries and am thankful he is fine.

Let me rephrase that…I’m thankful he’s alive.

The speed and suddenness at which this incident happened, reminded me of a Monday night football game I watched in 1985. On that night, Giant’s linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacked Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, snapping his leg in two. That fateful flea-flicker play that took only a few seconds ended Theismann’s career. Anyone who was there or watching on TV will say it’s the most gruesome sports injury ever.

Events like these remind me we are one heartbeat away from a life changing moment.

Reacting to Life Changing Fastballs

[Read more…]

On My Birthday, I Have So Much to Be Thankful For

Hidden Nuggets #31 – “Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” – Psalm 107:8

things to be thankful for“I remember like it was only yesterday when you were born…”

Some time today, I’ll get a phone call from my mom who will start the conversation with the above sentence. She usually does call to say “Happy Birthday”, so I’m not expecting this year to be any different. Mom, if you are reading this, I’m waiting.

I don’t know how you feel when that annual day comes around. Some are more unique than others I suppose. Last year was a big one for me. Now, I’m just treading water again, slowly inching upwards for nine years to the next important milestone.

I do reflect a little on my birthday to see where I’ve been and how I’ve grown in the last year. I also project, thinking about what lies ahead in the months down the road. However, the biggest thing I do every year is spend a few moments in silent reflection thanking God for all the blessings He has poured out on my life.

Things to Be Thankful For

[Read more…]

Our Emotional Pet Purchase Is Now Causing Frustration and Sadness

Five years ago, I found myself in the place no pet owner wants to be – the veterinarian’s office watching our beloved pet be put to sleep. Kes, our dog of nine years, had developed cancer that was rapidly spreading through her body. She had quit eating and by the look on her face was beginning to experience pain. Although sad, we had no regrets about ending her life in that way. It was simply the best alternative and most humane thing to do for her.

After about a year, we began to experience empty dog syndrome. Having always been dog people, my wife and I were intent on having an animal around the house. So we started the search to make a pet purchase – buying a new dog.

Not long into our quest we found him. A beautiful, all black, lab mix named Axel. He was part of a litter of puppies that was up for adoption. We made an arrangement with the foster parent to meet him and assess whether or not he would be a good fit.

Upon arrival, we were not disappointed. In every way, Axel lived up to the description we had been given. So cute, cuddly and playful…he was an instant hit with our kids.

What we didn’t anticipate though was our emotional reaction when we saw his twin sister Alley. That emotion led to a decision we are now regretting.

[Read more…]

Global Shares Plunge! OMG…The World’s Coming to An End!

ID-100178554It’s another typical early morning. With a busy day ahead, I’m getting a bit of writing done before the kids drag themselves out of bed and downstairs for breakfast. I’m clicking around the Internet and wiping the sleep from my eyes when I’m greeted with this headline from Yahoo Finance:

“Global Shares Plunge as U.S. Slowdown Adds to Emerging Markets Woes”

I quickly pulled up a stock chart and noticed the financial markets have been in a free fall since the start of January. As of this writing (the morning of 2/4/14), the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen over 1,200 points (about 7%) since Jan. 1st. Many are calling for another 3-5% drop from here. Yikes!

Well, faced with that news what could I do? I grabbed my shotgun, some bottled water and my case of Ritz Crackers ‘n Cheese and headed for the bunker I’ve built in the basement. It’s fully stocked for Armageddon. The wife and kids will have to fend for themselves.

Clearly the world is coming to an end.

[Read more…]