Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Death By Plastic

My friend Tony Lewis, who is the father of the cutest child born in 2004, has created a new blog, "Death By Plastic."

He's using this blog to discuss the perils of today's easy-credit, instant gratification society, in an easy to read and follow format. Speaking as one who has fought plenty of credit battles in her life, and who (with the help of some common sense, a good marriage, and a little bit of Paxil there for a while) has emerged on the other side sane, whole, and debt-free, let me encourage you to read what Tony has to say and take it to heart.

Debt and credit are probably among the most important issues facing American society today.

Well, sure, there's the war, and drugs, and environmental decay,and a few other issues...but economically speaking, personal debt affects every single citizen every single day. I see this in so many ways.

Fortunately, my friends are the smart ones who know how to act with credit. I don't think any of my really good friends are careless with credit. Hopefully, they've listened to enough of my cautionary tales to make a difference in what they do. But there are so many others...

People I see who live above their means, then apply for yet another credit card to try to keep the whole house of cards standing, to hold on the SUV, or the country club membership, or the HOUSE, for another month. The ones who are regulars at the check-cashing stores, or the payday loan companies, or the pawn shops to try to hold it all together. The ones who go out of town to file bankruptcy so it doesn't show up on the Lamar County Court Recorder.

We check credit on everyone who wants to live in one of our rent houses. What an eye-opener. MUCH of what we see is medical debt...but my feelings on health care in America are for another post. But we also see plenty of collections or judgements from places like Friedman's Jewelers...Household Finance...various auto financers...Sears...JC Penney...shoot, if Dollar General had a private credit card, we'd probably see collections from them too. We don't disqualify someone simply because of bad credit, but we do look at time since their more recent problems, how extensive the problems are, and things like that, before we trust them with one of our houses.

And when someone applies for a Quiznos franchise, their credit is checked. If their FICO score is below 670, they aren't qualified. That means, if they really want a franchise, there will be some pretty substantial hoops through which they must jump. They could - and in many cases, do - have a half million dollars in the bank, but if their credit score is low, we make 'em prove how much they want to work with us. It is always surprising to see the number of people who meet all the other financial qualifications - $250,000 net worth, $70,000 cash to invest - and yet their FICO score is in the weeds.

And if they've ever declared bankruptcy? Forget it. They will not be awarded a Quiznos franchise.

Donald Trump? Not qualified, sorry.

I honestly believe that consumer finance ought to be a required course in every high school in the United States. No kid should graduate from high school without knowing how to create a useable budget, keep a check register, balance a checkbook, how and when to apply for credit, and to use that credit wisely.

I think that's one of the most valuable tools we can pass on to our children.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The DaVinci...Conundrum

We went to see The DaVinci Code while we were in Gulf Shores. I didn't like it quite so much as I liked the book, but I did enjoy it. Tom Hanks needs a new hairstylist.

What I don't understand is this: what's all the fuss about?!?

In the first place, it's a novel. I guess one might categorize it as an historical novel, based on things that either happened, or might have happened, or were rumored to have happened. But still and all, it's a novel.

But if there were truth to it...why would that necessarily be so bad?

If Jesus and Mary Magdalene HAD been married, and if they HAD had children together, what, exactly, would that change? I don't understand all the controversy, all the...drama. Why would this be a secret that would change the world?

I'm sure I'm just so religiously unsophisticated that I'm not seeing the main picture here, but if we accept that Jesus was both human AND divine, how would his being married or fathering children compromise his divinity? How could He be more human and less divine, if we already accept that He was both?

If His mission was indeed to live among us as a human, to experience all the joy and heartache, delight and frustration that comes with being human, then it seems to me to be a logical extension that He did, in fact, fall in a human might, a human might, father a a human might.

To me, it makes it all the more poignant and breath-taking that He might have had what I, at least, consider to be a happy and fulfilling life - companionship, children, love - and yet, He was willing to give it all up. To sacrifice Himself on our behalf. To leave behind all the happiness His human life contained, for all of us to be able to achieve eternal life.


Now if someone were to posit that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross and wasn't resurrected, well...THAT I'd have a problem with, because that WOULD, in fact, change everything. But if Jesus, the One who said "suffer the little children to come unto me" was actually a Daddy, that makes not a whit of difference to me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sand Between My Toes

We just got back from a few days in Gulf Shores. Perfect weather - not too hot, nice and cool in the mornings, no rain.

Rumors abounded that there were sharks in the water, but we never saw any.

We went to the zoo this time - never been there before this trip. This is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. What fun!

If you've been watching "The Little Zoo That Could" on Animal Planet, then you already know Patti Hall, and Cyndi Johnson, and all the folks who evacuated all 300+ animals...THREE times in the past year to protect them from hurricanes. Their story is amazing, and their zoo is terrific!

They are hand-raising three Bengal tiger cubs this summer, and the cubs come out to play twice a day. These kittens are just too cute. Patti and Cyndi take them home every night to bottle-feed. The cubs are on loan from a private breeding facility, and they'll be in Gulf Shores until the end of August.

It is worth a trip to Alabama just to see them!

And, plus...there's the beach...